Puppy walking

An adventure in looking after a puppy until it is old enough to be properly trained as a guide dog for the blind.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Today we took Rockwell out in his jacket, mostly because it was SO nice out there - it went up to 22C. Most places still don’t have their patios open so we went to Marshy’s for a beer and then left so we could go home and sit on our patio - which IS open for the season.

I think today was the first day this year where Rockwell has had to pant because it was so warm.
finally warm enough to pant
At one point, he thought he’d check out our waitress as she went by and he actually got his nose under the edge of her skirt and touched his wet nose to her leg. Much giggling ensued.
being a boy
He just plain looks good in this next photo.
a happy face
Here, he looks like his is puckering up to give Peter a big wet one.
pucker up
And finally, here I am telling him what a good dog he is.
who's my sweet dog?

If March came in like a lion (which as I recall, it did), it is going out like a lamb. Today, they are calling for a high of 18C on the weather channel and 20C at Environment Canada’s web site! Of course, it’s supposed to rain all weekend but anyway.

Normally in the mornings, I stay snoozing while Peter gets going and leaves for work. This morning, I decided to get up too, mostly because I had felt what I thought was a spider on my face in the night and this morning, I felt a strand of web on my face and it freaked me out so I got up and had a shower. I went downstairs and as I feared, got in Peter’s way while he was trying to organize himself out of the door. Peter leaves and I’m standing at the open door, waving like a dutiful wife when Rockwell makes a break for it. He dashes down the driveway toward Peter, I yell and Peter turns around and nabs him. Crisis averted! Peter starts to bring him back to the house but Rockwell isn’t ready to go in just yet and he goes into the limp noodle posture that he learned to use to avoid being crated. I go out and take hold of his collar and Peter runs off for the bus. Rockwell goes all noodly again, lying on his back on the driveway with my hand around his collar. Now I’m laughing and partly out of relief that he didn’t get away. He gets up and I drag him a few steps and down he goes again. Finally, Peter glances back and calls his name and Rockwell jumps up and I am able to haul him back into the house.
Sunset and the patio beckons
For your viewing pleasure, Peter took this picture yesterday afternoon while I was teaching and after he had set up the patio furniture outside for the season. There’s another, similar one at Flickr if you’d like more.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Boy oh boys, I’ve got nothing to blog about. No news is always good news I suppose. We’ve been walking around the “big block” - the route that takes about 45 minutes - every morning, and it really wears him out. He actually sleeps when we get home. The ice has gone and today, I saw that “they” had been by with sweepers, cleaning the sidewalks of all the accumulated sand from the winter. It was very pleasant to walk on a clean sidewalk. Small things amuse me.

After he got home from work, and while I was out teaching, Peter took the patio furniture out of the garage and cleaned it off and put it on the patio! Then he sat outside with Rockwell and enjoyed the afternoon sun. Rockwell is jumping at every bug on the grass so he’s kind of twitchy but he’ll get used to that instead of the frozen expanse he has been dealing with all Winter. We lurves Spring.

Monday, March 27, 2006

We have been casually working on this one for some time. It was something Uma used to do - and, I am sure, many other dogs. I say “where’s your toy?” and he just looks at me. Last week, I saw a flash cross his face and he made some sort of connexion. Just now, I asked him very quietly, “go get your toy” and he turned and ran for both his kongs! He tried to get both of them in his mouth (as in the photo from last time) but when he finally just grasped the small kong, he came and laid it in my lap. Man.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Peter took this great series of photos which show that Rockwell is still getting bigger - or at least his jaws are!
hooking his jaw on the big toy
gathering up the smaller toy too
his toy collection

Friday, March 24, 2006

This morning on the way to the gym without Rockwell (I can’t quite see him in yoga class), I saw four mating pairs of Mallards and two juvenile males, all wading in a big pond of melt water near the transit station. When I went back later taking Rockwell with me, he saw four or five ducks and freaked out looking at them.  They took off and I was dragged almost into the pond by my enthusiastic ward. He also stood and watched the boys at the skateboard park. When he listens to me a little better, I’ll take him a little closer to the boys so he can get used to the sights and noise.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

There are no tulips yet, but the Hill is starting to look a little Spring-like.

Change of plans. Rockwell was to go for an overnight assessment, starting this morning. I was on my way to rent the car when CGDB called to say the person doing the assessment was sick and would have to reschedule. I’m glad they called when they did, before I’d actually rented it but it put a screeching halt to everything else I thought I was going to do today - and tomorrow. In fact, I had been saying to Peter, “we’re going to be dogless - without dog - for the first time since September! We can run around the house naked!” Anyway.

I was trying to get some nice close-ups of Rockwell in the next two shots. I see expressions on his face that never seem to translate into photos. The way the pix turned out, I thought they sort of looked like mug shots - full face and profile. Of course, Rockwell looks too good for these to be mug shots - his hair should be mussed and he should look hung over or beat up.
What is he thinking?
I titled this last one “what is he thinking?” because it really does look like he knows SOMETHING, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I have been using the double leash configuration for some time now and I really like the way it makes ME feel safe. I don’t think Rockwell even notices, much less cares that I have two leashes on him but I know I feel better. However, I noticed while walking him today that it does make me feel like I am walking a small horse. All the snaps and loops and jingling of tags and the balanced lead configuration - he reminds me of a little (predatory) horse.

Yesterday, he was trying to catch some rays on the stairs and I got these two awkward looking poses within 20 minutes of each other. I thought it looked like he was going to cut off the circulation to his head on the second one. And how does that ear stay up there?
ear flap defies gravity
cutting off circulation?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A few observations.
Rockwell and I were on our extra-long walk this morning (it’s about 45 minutes) and I was thinking, what brief advice might I give someone who was going to raise a puppy as I am? As I was trying to haul him away from some bit of interesting garbage, I couldn’t think of any one piece of advice that would work with all puppies - such as “haul this way” or “haul that way”. I think you have to observe each dog for the individual it is and work with his personality. And some days he is better than other days. Just like people.

I was also thinking about how I have explained to people that Rockwell is going to live a restricted life so they should not feel sorry for him that he cannot chase tennis balls or get table scraps or go swimming. He has to get used to his future restrictions. That’s when it hit me - he will have far more liberties than pet dogs! He already gets to go places no pet dogs get to go. And he will be given more and better attention than most pet dogs. We passed some pet dogs who were out in their fenced yards without human company and I thought, Rockwell will always have human company. Whether he likes it or not. :)

Thirdly, I have been wondering why this pulled muscle (or whatever it is) on my left deltoid still hurts after a year and (I can be slow at times) it occurred to me that I have a dog pulling on my left side every single day! Maybe next year it will heal.
the eye

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I heard Peter playing with the dog so I grabbed the camera and went to see what I could see. I loved the way Rockwell was sitting with his bum one step up. He was poking paws through the railing but I didn’t manage to capture any of that action. Peter tried to help by offering Rockwell the carrot he was eating.
Tempting him with a carrot
Then Peter switched from the carrot to kibble and I got this next photo. Fun stuff.
Treating him with a kibble

Friday, March 17, 2006

I think I have figured out a way to feel secure about Rockwell when I am using the balanced lead. I attached Uma’s old blue leash to his collar as well as the leather leash. I then slip the loop of the blue leash around my wrist so that it will act like an old-fashioned “safety harness” like we used to have on skis. If my hand slips off the leather leash, Rockwell is still attached to me by the blue leash. I think it is so simple and yet remarkably clever. :) I am sure the Guide Dogs would not approve but it’s for me, to feel Rockwell is safe.
leashes configuration
Yesterday when Peter got home, Rockwell saw him coming through the sewing room window and ran downstairs. I ran after him with my camera and got this nice shot of the “welcome home” greeting at the door.
happy ears
On his way up to change out of work clothes, Peter stopped to play “bones” with Rockwell and I managed to get a nice shot of Rockwell, almost doing a back flip off the step. Uma is watching (sort of) from above.
play time

Thursday, March 16, 2006

This is what Rockwell looked like last night, after his adventure at puppy class:
zonked dog
He often wakes up when we take pictures but I got this one of an ear defying gravity:
how does that ear stay up?
Then he rolled on his back for a change of position and caught me in mid-snap:
Hey!  Are you taking my picture?
Finally, he woke up and something on tv caught his attention and he deliberately went over and lay down in front of the set to watch what was on. This is a terrible photograph - it was dark so I lightened it and it looks even worse but at least you can see some detail. I see that I didn’t even have the camera straight. But I am posting it because you can actually see him watching television. I don’t know why, but I find this so charming.
watching tv

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We had a very successful puppy class this morning, in spite of a power outage and me forgetting the camera. Not that I would have been able to take pictures anyway, because my hands were completely full with Rockwell.

I had picked up the car yesterday so this morning, it was merely a matter of loading him into the passenger seat, after I covered it with layers of towels, and heading out. Because of the power outage, the traffic lights were out and I had to do a four way stop manoeuver at every light between here and there. But we made it without incident. The power was out at the little barn where the puppy class was held but we had light if not heat and we were enthusiastic.

There were three other dogs and their puppywalkers there - Rockwell’s sister, another female yellow Lab and a little black Lab female. Rockwell’s sister barked the most and the little black Lab had been to the most classes and acted very grown up. Rockwell initially was ballistic and I let him off the leash for a few minutes. Then we had to start work. He lunged at everything that went by him, including the instructor. There were some children there too and they served as great distractions for the dogs. I noticed that Rockwell’s sister was the same in terms of being easily distracted, so I didn’t feel so bad about Rockwell.

Once he settled down a little, he showed some of the benefits of our work together. In fact, he was the best on the class at “stay”, of all things. I had to make him sit at one end of the little arena and wait while I walked to the other end and then call him to come. I left him there and he looked off to the side at the other dogs but stayed in his spot. When I got to the other end I said his name to get his attention and asked him to wait some more. The tension grew appreciably and then I called him to me and he ran down the carpet and into my arms! Practically Hollywood.

I am most encouraged by this class and it shows that the baby steps are paying off. I expect by the summer, Rockwell will be a wonder dog. Sometimes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We went out today to do a few errands on foot. I put his jacket on before we even left the house, as he had had his poop so there shouldn’t be a need to go do that (and there wasn’t). Rockwell was first distracted by our neighbour and wanted to go greet him. Robert was kind enough to ignore Rockwell for me and so we carried on. He had a little hissy fit before we even left the neighbourhood but I got that under control pretty fast. Then we hit the main road and the wind distracted him. To be fair, it is gusting to 60 kph and it must feel funny when it blows up under your tail!

He maintained and we walked to the city hall where I paid our property taxes. We had to wait in a line up and he was pretty good. He didn’t sit much, preferring to be on his feet so he could whirl around if circumstances demanded it. There was a small child colouring at a kids table as we came in but Rockwell listened to my “leave it” command. When I stopped paying 100% attention to him to chat with the ladies behind the counter, he started misbehaving and chewing on the leash so we had to leave. It was a bit of a struggle to get him to walk out calmly because it is March Break week and there were kids coming and going left and right. Finally outside again, we headed for the drug store where he was mostly good. He sniffed the candy display which is unfortunately right at dog nose level. But since he doesn’t GET any human food, he didn’t try to snatch any of it.

Then we walked to the bank and again he had to wait in line. Somehow, without me even trying, he has learned the word “wait”. I started using it on him at the front door. he would pull me right out the moment I opened the door and so I started saying “wait” and making him wait. Now, I use it anywhere and he stops what he is doing and waits! Of course, he doesn’t wait very LONG but there is some waiting. So progress is being measured in baby steps.
defying the big dog

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Today was the first truly warm day this year. Officially, it only went up to about 10C but in the sun, it was about 16C. We went out for a walk at about 2pm, wearing jean jackets! And running shoes, which of course, got wet. We used the balanced lead on Rockwell and it was partly that, partly the weather, and partly the fact that Peter was holding the leash, that made Rockwell behave SO well. We walked for over 45 minutes and passed several people and Rockwell wanted to jump on them to greet them but he didn’t. And he pulled a little here and there but that balanced lead works so well that he walked practically perfectly all the way.

Dad, next time you are here, I’m setting you up with the balanced lead. I haven’t used it before with you and Rockwell because it was winter and it is so easy to let the leash go on ice and with mittens (as I did one day) but you will be amazed when you first walk Rockwell with this leash configuration.

Then, we sat on the patio. Bliss in the sunshine. Peter had to put a new battery in the weather station he got for Christmas (thanks again Graham!) and today was the perfect day for it.
first day on the patio
Rockwell stayed on the snow for most of the time, playing with rocks. He finally figured out that we weren’t going to grab him and make him go inside, so he ventured onto the warmer patio stones and chewed small stones. I told Peter we were going to rename him Demosthenes.
rolling the stone around in his mouth
getting a good chew angle
sniffing between the stones
pouncing on rock
Peter decided to make him run around in the tiny space and got some fun shots of that too.
Woo hoo, this is fun!
I know he’s blurry but man, he was in motion!
good thing he's got traction
Three feet in the air!
butt tuck run in mid pounce
And he was investigating all the mysterious sounds and smells.
what's down here?
I'm thirsty

Friday, March 10, 2006

Yesterday, we had freezing rain most of the day. I went out in the morning to get groceries and slipped and fell on the ice (I am going to have a cell phone shaped bruise on my bum in a few days). I decided Rockwell should stay in so we spent most of the day in the sewing room, looking out.
freezing rain 1
freezing rain 2

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The afternoon of the 8th:

Well, sorry to disappoint but there is no magic solution. The PWS calls his bad behaviour a temper tantrum and ascribes it to his age. It’s like a 2 year old pitching a fit in the grocery store - nasty while it’s happening but you know he’ll grow out of it. Her advice is to try to nip it in the bud. The moment he starts, I have to show him that this is not acceptable. I have to use the leash and snap it downwards to keep him on the ground. And if it takes getting angry, then so be it. When I do get angry, he knows and he gets submissive. So it’s up to me to get angry in an instant. Whew. I hope he outgrows it fast!

We went for a walk and she watched as I walked him and then she walked him herself and he was golden. She told me that all my hard work was paying off and not to be worried about the aberrations. So there you go. As for getting his attention, you just have to keep working on it. Making him sit and wait while something is distracting him is a good way to deal with it for now. So if we are out walking and someone with a dog goes by, I will make Rockwell sit and wait. Then, if he tries to jump on the dog as it goes by, I will have more control to stop him.

Next week, I am going to rent a car and we are going to puppy class! There is a place out in the boonies with a converted barn and they do agility work there. Wednesday mornings, they have puppy classes for guide dogs and so Rockwell will get to learn to behave with other dogs in the room. He will also get to run free because it’s an enclosed space.

Then the following week, or some time soon, he is going to go into kennels for a day or two and be assessed that way. So there’s lots new coming up for him. Never mind whenever he gets scheduled for neutering!

It’s like when your tooth hurts and you finally decide to go to the dentist about it and the tooth keeps hurting - right up until the day you go to the dentist, and then it stops. Today when we went for our morning walk, it was uneventful. I only worked at getting him to not pull so much and mostly I succeeded. I also let him sniff around a lot instead of making him always do what I wanted. So today, he didn’t balk and chew the leash and jump on me. Dare I say it? It was pleasant! Of course, I am still going to ask for advice on the two things this afternoon when the PW supervisor is here: 1) how to get him to walk at MY pace, and 2) how to get him to listen to ME when faced with terrible distraction (i.e. almost everything). Then we’ll work on that for the next month.

In the meantime, my cell phone rang this morning while I was sewing and after fending the dog off a few times, I shut myself in the sewing room and him outside in the hall. I was able to finish my conversation quietly and didn’t hear a THING from the hound outside the door. Finally, when I was finished, I slowly opened the door with my camera ready and saw this pathetic creature.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Last night, he fell asleep by the couch as usual but this time, he was so fast asleep that he didn’t wake up when we took a bunch of photos. His head was propped up on the side of the couch and it looked awfully uncomfortable. We tried to capture the feeling in the photos, but it really looked worse in real life than it does here.
That just doesn't look comfortable.
Isn't he getting a kink in his neck?
View from the top.

He’s an interesting little dog, that’s for sure. He really knows when he is doing something wrong - or at least something we humans consider to be wrong. He’s trying to get my attention so we can go out (which we will as soon as I finish my coffee). He does this by racing around with his toy and stopping every few circuits to bark at me. Then he goes up to lie on the landing. This time, I finally notice him up there and he has got my neck gaiter off the bench and has it in his mouth. He’s not chewing it, just hanging into it. I ask him, “what is THAT?” and walk up the stairs toward him. Instead of taking off as he would if he was chewing his toy, he shrinks down and rolls on his back. I retrieve my neck gaiter and sit down beside him and stroke his face. We both know he’s not in deep doo-doo and I have given him a little attention. As soon as we go out for “the walk”, he is going to get a LOT more attention from me - hopefully, it will be the good kind.

Monday, March 06, 2006

So I see the PW supervisor on Wednesday. I am going to discuss why I cannot get Rockwell’s attention in public if he is faced with any distraction whatsoever. We just got back from an unpleasant walk. It didn’t start that way but at the mid-point, that’s where it deteriorated. I had to get angry and loud to get his attention and I don’t think that should be necessary. Once I had his attention, he listened to me but if he became distracted again, I had to be the heavy again. And I hate being the bad guy. And it’s no fun. I have blogged about how when he wears his jacket and I put him on the balanced lead he transforms into a really good dog. But I should be able to have his attention without those props. I recognize that it’s something that I need to work on, not the dog. I just need to find something that works for us because whatever I am doing isn’t working. sigh.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My parental units came for the weekend and have now left and Rockwell finds just the two of us (and even more so, just me on Monday) so boring. Mum played with him on the stairs because she got to hide behind the bars and he got to run up and down and up and down. When my sister and her husband came over on Saturday and Rockwell had SIX people in the house, he was in heaven. He is very social and the more people, the merrier.
Playing with Mum 1
Playing with Mum 2
Playing with Mum 3
Just now, I saw him lying all forlorn on the stairs, probably wishing my parents were still here.
I'm just a lonely dog, lonely and beige.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It’s March! Does this count as “in like a lamb” because it’s not snowing or blowing? Or is it a lion because it’s FREEZING out there? I mean, with the windchill it feels like minus 25C (or -13F). Sure, it’s sunny but who cares? Still, I know I have to walk Rockwell but I don’t have to put on a second pair of pants for the long walk like I did yesterday.

Yesterday, I had to go over to the college and I thought it was too cold to take Rockwell. He may enjoy frisking around in the cold for a while but I worried that he might start to feel the ill effects of the cold halfway through the walk and then what was I going to do. So I put him in his crate for the short time I was out and when I came back and went to let him out, I noticed the mat inside the crate seemed to be piled up. He was actually resting his head on it like a pillow. After I let him out, I inspected it and it looked to be folded up! I had to take a picture of it because it looked so odd. Too bad I hadn’t taken the picture before I let him out but I didn’t think of it and anyway, I don’t like to leave him in there after I get home.
dog folded pillow
How did he do that anyway?

Then this morning, I noticed him sitting on the stairs, looking UP at something. I followed his gaze and realized he was admiring the stripes of sun on the bit of wall over his head. It’s not a brilliant picture but I had the back of my head flat against the wall behind me, trying to get him in the frame. I tried to get him to look back up at the stripes of light but he wouldn’t oblige. I also turned the flash off to see what it would look like. Photos are rarely as good as what you experience in real life.
pensive pooch