When I dip, you dip, we dip…

July 2014

Guys! Guys! For like…ohhhh… three years I’ve been asking James if I could get a wading pool for myself the dogs.  And for three years he’s been all, “it will kill the grass” and “but, mosquitos” about it.  But this 4th of July, to celebrate the successful completion of some grueling DIY home improvement stuff, he finally caved.  Mostly because I was driving and I didn’t ask for permission.  We went to Trader Joe’s for sustenance, we stopped at Petsmart for a replacement dog bed, and then to Toys’R’Us for a pool.

And he’s excited about it.  I know, because he put this picture on Facebook:

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The pool wass bent and squished and wedged (and shoved) into the backseat of The Car.  Surprisingly, it made it home in one piece.

At first, we had to coax the dogs into the pool with cheese.  They weren’t too sure about the big blue bowl on the patio.  Once they were in, they were reluctant to get out!

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Of course we have videos!

Some lessons we’ve learned:

1.  If you’re sitting with your feet in the pool, one or both dogs will scratch your shins until you remove your feet, thus allowing more romping and splashing space.

2. Tennis balls must taste better when they’ve been dunked in hose water.

3.  MJ can become possessive of the pool after being splashed in the face by her brother.  And while we corrected the behavior, I don’t blame her snippiness.

4.  Dogs cannon-balling into the pool will move said pool half way across the patio, which may or may not be part of the fun.

5.  That pool is really, really heavy to empty.

6.  Dry dogs will break out of the sunroom to run through the murky, drained pool water.

7.  Seriously, this is the best $18 we’ve ever spent.  They both love the cool-off option on hot days.  And mosquitos were not a concern.  Neither was dead grass. I win.

Moving on up

November 2008 through January 2009

When we first moved into our Urban Village apartment, there were only four other units filled. The building had originally been constructed as a condo complex, but the tanking housing market forced the building management to adjust their model from sellable units to rentable apartments. For James, Athena and I, it meant we had a sick place to live with a too-good-to-be-true monthly rental rate (plus parking and pet rent). When it rained outside, we could let Zozo scamper around the halls after a tennis ball without worrying that his bounding would disturb the neighbors, because we didn’t have any. And then we did have neighbors, and they were jerks. When our lease was up for renewal, the rental rate increased by almost $500 per month.

I may have actually asked the rental consultant if she was high, asking for so much more money.

But the building was filling up with people whose attitudes could only be described as “entitled,” so we took our cue. After almost a year in our awesome little place, we were on the hunt for a new home.

We liked the area very much: it’s a big dog community, and there’s a pretty good dog park (except for the sewage stream that runs alongside of it). There are shops and restaurants and a grocery store we could walk to. Coming home from work on Fridays, I’d park my car in the garage and not need to drive again until I left out for work on Monday. Ideally, we’d stay around the same zip code and nestle back in.

We take a look around (through the internets) and realize that for less than we were currently paying for an apartment we could rent a house with a little yard and another bathroom. We find an incredible house 3/4 of a mile away from the apartment that allows pets, and we pack our mountains of books and move.

Man, woman, cat, dog.

Doodle now has a wrap-around yard that is entirely fenced in, in which he can run and chase bumblebees and lose tennis balls. He discovers the glory of landscaping groundcover. He has his own room with a tiled floor, so we are able to introduce “out of crate” time when we’re out of the house. This room also has a huge bay window, which Zo can look out of if he hops onto the couch. He does this with increased frequency once he meets his arch nemesis: the black ninja squirrel. Athena becomes the basement beast, only occasionally coming upstairs for her kibble and a head bonk.

Yes, he pulls up his crate bed and covers himself.

Yes, he pulls up his crate bed and covers himself.

We empty boxes and buy throw rugs and push a lawnmower. We establish new routines now that we have a yard for puppy-exercise. We throw ourselves a housewarming party. Zo begins sleeping on a cot beside my side of the bed. We hunker for the winter.

And one day in late December, Zozo decides he will no longer walk on leash. He starts digging in his haunches when we try to leave the driveway for walks, but we’re able to coax him along with a treat and excited chatter. This lasts about a week.  Then we reach a certain driveway, and he’ll refuse to go any further. He tucks his tail between his legs, drops his head and pulls with all of his might. One night, he pulls his head out of his collar and bolts back home, leaving me running after him in tears with a limp leash and collar flapping in the wind. We try to change up our walk path, but the traffic on the new route makes him more nervous. Even in the fenced safety of the yard, outside noises freak him out: car doors slamming, motorcycle motors revving, the mail truck. He makes for the back door and whimpers to be let back inside.

We try to figure out what’s happened, if something we saw or did set him off: some gesture or emotion he picked up from us while we were outside playing or walking. We’re beside ourselves. Our awesome trainer from Petsmart has moved West with her husband, and it doesn’t look like there are classes readily available that meet our needs.

James remembers driving by a dog training place on his way to work, Olde Towne School for Dogs. We sign up for a consultation with a trainer and learn that our issue isn’t unique (apparently, it never is) but Zozo’s sensitivity and anxiety is fairly severe to have arrived so suddenly. The earliest they can take us is February, but they’ll let us know if they have any openings sooner.

We return home with the knowledge that we have three weeks to get through with Zo. If we can keep him calm and alleviate some of his misery during that time… we’ll be alright. Just three weeks.

 

Schooled

 

yhst-17366611854461_2245_126063759                                                     September through October 2008

Zozo’s found his curl-up spots around the apartment where he and Dragon can snuggle and wrestle.  He’s established some form of truce with Athena, the intricacies and boundaries of which I don’t understand.  He’s known since Day Three which apartment is ours, so as we exit the elevator we drop his leash and let him trot happily along the hallway and sit by the door until we make our way home.  We’ve had to carry him back to the building after a particularly long walk when he decided he wouldn’t take any more steps.

He’s 9 months old.  He’s doubled in weight since July and his fur is growing out into a lovely Zo-fro.  He’s happy.  Also, he’s trying very hard to be a good boy and we’re trying very hard to not let him see when he’s pushed our buttons.  The training manuals and online videos aren’t working for us.  It’s time to call in reinforcements.

During one of our weekly excursions to Petsmart, I loitered by the floor-to-ceiling glass to watch a puppy training group roly-pol through socialization exercises.  Zo’s a monster compared to those pups.  His paws alone…  But we’re here ALL THE TIME now.  Might as well ask someone if Doodle (that’s nickname number two, for those of you keeping score at home) could possibly be allowed to participate in a smaller class. 

Lo and behold: his condition is not unique!  There are plenty of non-puppies who need a little obedience love.  We’re registered.  Tuition has been paid.  High-value treats have been procured (Zo’s very food motivated, which is just another way we know he was meant to be our dog).  We now have a real weekly date at Petsmart. 

We are Beginners.  We are proud.

At our first training session, Zozo becomes enamored with our assigned trainer, who has recently immigrated to the States with her doctor-husband after having an illustrious career as a dog whisperer in Korea.  She’s superb.  She’s commanding.  She comes bearing liver snaps.  Instant BFF.

Slowly, Zo starts to retain the lessons.  He’s a little ADD so we may be working on sit wheeee—SQUIRREL.  What were we doing?  Oh, right. 

We master “sit” and we’re trying to finesse his “down” so that it’s not a belly-flop followed by an eruption of loose fur.  He’s ok shaking his left paw, but he’s not interested in adding the right.  (I’m left handed; we’ll have a life of oppression together.) He’s fine walking on-leash loosely in the store, but the minute we hit the outdoors it’s all out the window.  Something to continue working on.  He’s learning to leave his treats until prompted to eat, and to share his toys with the other dogs in class.

By the way, say “loose leash walking” five times fast.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Zo’s favorite new skill is double-high five.  We put our hands up, palms out, by our shoulders and he’ll pop up on his back legs to touch his front paws to ours.  Sure, his aim is bad and occasionally we end up looking like middle-schoolers slow dancing, but it’s worth it for the little kiss on the nose he throws in. Every time. 

The six weeks fly by as his confidence grows in leaps and bounds.  The final class is a culmination of the program, a test of the skills and tricks we’ve been working on.  We’re overachievers.  We’ve been doing our homework.  This exam is ours!

Zo passes with flying colors.  For all of his hard work he’s rewarded with a certificate– ahem, diploma—and a whole hot dog.  He inhales the hot dog but doesn’t give the diploma a second sniff.  We (I) get a little misty when thanking our trainer.  As we’re driving home, we’re still praising Doodle.  We’re applauding ourselves.  We’ve made it over the first training hurdle and we now have a consistent vocabulary to use moving forward.  What a great night.  What a great two months!    

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Zozo must share in our excitement.  He pukes in the backseat of my car, sharing the hotdog with us.  How considerate of him.