Monday, July 28, 2014

The demise of the Evil Hedgehog of Doom

Banner has made himself at home. I think Phoenix has quit looking for the receipt so he can return him when I'm not looking. I even caught the Farmer holding him this morning. They were having quite a conversation. It mostly consisted of "You're awfully cute. Stop biting me."

Being cute and biting things are what Banner does best.

Today, he killed the Evil Hedgehog of Doom.

The  Evil Hedgehog of Doom (EHD) had been the bane of many obedience classes I taught during the last couple of years. I used it for proofing scenarios. There could be 20 toys on the floor and dogs would deliberately go clear across the room to avoid the EHD. I have no idea why.

Fear not, obedience dogs of eastern Iowa. The Evil Hedgehog of Doom has been vanquished by Banner the Bold. Okay, actually, Phoenix the Wild brought it down. Banner just finished it off.

P.S. The tug he was playing with in the first photo of my last post was made by Several people had asked.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Banner: Day 2

Day 2: trip to the vet for a well-puppy exam, visit to the newspaper office, ride in the Gator to check cows (cows are VERY exciting, if you didn't know), practicing quiet time in a crate and lots of playing outdoors once it quit raining.

Toys are a big hit. Any toy. Any time.

Dog trainers' mad skills mean they can tug with one hand and take pics with the other. 
Method not recommended for dogs weighing more than 10 pounds.

For the record, he CAN fit a full-size tennis ball in his mouth.

A little soft focus here but that's what you get when 
a 10-pound projectile is launching itself at your head.

And finally, Phoenix is notably absent from these photos. He is trying so hard to ignore Banner it's almost pathetic. Okay, he's not just trying, he's SUCCEEDING and it IS pathetic. Phoenix likes Banner - when he's in a crate or an x-pen. But when "it" is loose, he finds somewhere else to be. Banner is fascinated by Phoenix but has absolutely no idea that jumping on someone's head is neither appropriate nor appreciated. I'm keeping the two carefully separated until Phoenix starts to show genuinely friendly - or at least tolerant - interest. There's no rush.

Until then, Phoenix is pretty sure Banner's only redeeming social value is that he has a lot of cool new toys that Phoenix is allowed to play with and also, when Banner has a yowling fit (LEMME OUTTA HERE RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE DO YOU HEAR ME!!!!), Phoenix gets cookies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Introducing . . .

CedarWoods Once Upon a Time

Banner came home to Iowa yesterday.

The cats are horrified. Seriously. Totally appalled.

Weezel is pretty much the only one who will have anything to do with him.

The beginning of a bad idea.

Mutual fascination.

Collars? We don't need no stinkin' itchy collars.

There will be more pics coming. Right now we're trying to get a handle on the simple stuff, like mastering the step at the back door, the concept of being quiet in a crate and not jumping on Phoenix's head. You know - the stuff that will keep you alive.

Already this morning he has met my teenage niece (much gushing, cooing and cuddling), met my brother-in-law (who asked "Are you going to try to train this one, too?"), 4 cats (3 of whom looked at him like "WTH?" and one who had an absolute hissy fit meltdown), watched a tractor, went for a little walk, tried to make friends with Phoenix (hard to make friends with someone who ignores you) and is now having a nap.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eight days and counting

I am absurdly, ridiculously, wildly excited about the prospect of a summer puppy. Taking a walk down the frozen, ice-slick memory lane of Phoenix’s arrival explains a lot.  He was not a summer puppy. He was a February puppy.

I took a week off from work for puppy bonding after he arrived. I got puppy bonding all right, along with a major ice storm that hit within hours of getting home from the airport with him. It knocked out power in eastern Iowa for the better part of a week. We were off the grid for six days. No lights. No heat. No computer. No TV. That was the week I cooked a pizza on a gas grill. You haven’t lived until you’ve grilled a pizza by lantern light and eaten it with a malinois puppy stuffed inside your coat in a house where you can see your breath in the air. Good times.

During the day, I sat on the living room floor, wearing a parka over insulated Carhartt bib-overalls, a stocking cap and gloves and played with Phoenix. In the evening, I sat in my recliner and read by lantern light with him snuggled under a blanket on my lap while the Farmer listened to Iowa Hawkeye basketball on the radio.

Then we went to bed and crawled under every blanket we owned, topped by my sleeping bag, with Phoenix wedged comfortably (for him) under my arm. If anyone had to pee in the middle of the night, we crawled out of our snug nest, shoved feet into cold boots, made our way through the cold house by flashlight and found the human toilet (I was hauling water from the cattle tanks so we could flush) or went outdoors into the black infinity that is Iowa in February at 2 a.m. The average temp outdoors that week was between 30 and 32 degrees. The average temp in the house that week was about 40 degrees.

I’ve never had a summer puppy before. Never. Ever. Jess came in March (cold, dark, wet, fog, snow), Connor in November (cold, dark, wet, fog, trying to snow), Jamie in late September and Phoenix in February. Jamie was the closest thing I ever had to a summer puppy but his arrival at the end of September coincided with quickly diminishing daylight hours that restricted outdoor activity and dropping temps made middle-of-the-night trips outdoors a goosebumpy affair.

The idea of bringing a puppy home when there are warm temps and long hours of evening sunshine fills my heart with such paroxysms of joy I can barely stand it. Really. You have no idea. Bottom line, I’m looking forward to being able to make outdoor potty runs in the middle of the night in a T-shirt and flip-flops and not get frostbite or get clunked on the head by an ice-coated tree limb crashing down.

No, I don’t know which puppy is coming to Iowa. Yes, it’s driving me crazy. Yes, that’s a short trip. No, I don’t have a problem with it. The breeder is doing all she can to help me decide. I’ve seen the puppies exactly once, for five wonderful hours earlier this month. She has lived with them for nearly 8 weeks, watched them grow and change. Although any given puppy might be “the one” on any given day, I trust her judgement to help me choose the right one based on two months of interacting with them daily. Honestly, the day I visited the litter, I often found it difficult to look beyond the forest to study the individual trees - the presence of nine bouncy, outgoing, fuzzy puppies made it hard to focus on a single one for very long. Sitting on the grass with puppies tumbling in and out of my lap pretty much reduced my brain to oxytocin-saturated mush.

Even worse, after years of Belgian-blinded vision, it was damn near impossible to tell the five blue merle boys apart and think I only identified the four black tri’s correctly about half of the time. Unless the puppy in question was facing me and held still for longer than 2 seconds, I had a really hard time identifying the little beasts (smallest tri girl, wild tri girl, dilute blue boy, full white collar blue boy, solo tri boy, etc., etc.) and remembering what their puppy call names were so the breeder and I could have a sensible conversation about them.

My puppy-picking skills have never been based on scientific approach or strict behavior evaluations. I picked Jess out of his litter when he was five or six weeks old. I chose him because he was the only puppy who did not have a full white collar. Connor picked me. Truly. He was an accident - the puppy I wasn’t looking for and didn’t need but met by chance and suddenly desperately wanted. I picked Jamie - it was a simple choice between him (already showing promise of grace and elegance at 8 weeks) and his brother (who was a short-legged, lumpy sort of pup). Phoenix’s breeder picked him for me.

My current quandary is not which of nine puppies to choose but which of two puppies to choose. Or maybe three. But probably two. One is a boy. One is a girl. When I saw them at 6 weeks, they were both lovely - animated, tuggy, follow-y (is that a word? it is now), kissy and engaging. Social. Bold. Lovely structure. Pretty markings. Over the top stinkin' adorable.

Friends who always have boy dogs tell me to get the boy. Friends who always have girl dogs tell me to get the girl. Friends who have had both tell me to pick the one that I feel is right. I’ve always had boys. I thought I wanted another boy. Now I’m not so sure. But a girl is an unknown quantity. A boy is a known quantity. Sort of. I thought Phoenix was a known quantity. He was only too happy to prove me wrong. I don’t want the boy vs. girl debate to cloud my decision. I need to pick the puppy who is right for me, never mind if it has outdoor plumbing or indoor plumbing.

The Farmer is no help. He rolls his eyes and says, "Get the one that makes you happy." Phoenix is no help. He just fixes me with that Malinois/Jedi stare and I can hear him thinking, "Cat. In the house. You want a cat. In. The. House."

Since I’m already making a drastic switch in appearance, maybe it’s time to really switch it up and bring a girl home. A little estrogen in the house would be a fine thing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Puppy-proofing the house

I was thinking I needed to puppy-proof our house before the new little critter arrives later this month. Then I looked around and realized the military grade puppy-proofing I inflicted on our home following Phoenix’s arrival 7 1/2 years ago is still in effect. Seriously. After you’ve mali-proofed your home once, there’s really not much else you can do to it.

The toilet paper went into hiding under the bathroom sink when Phoenix arrived and hasn’t come back out since. Over the last 7 1/2 years, when people came to visit I’ve occasionally had to yell through the bathroom door to inform the occupant where to find the potty paper. People who visit frequently know where to find it. Chances are, they are dog friends and could figure it out themselves because that's where they keep theirs, too.

The hand-woven baskets and dried floral arrangements went out the door (often in a trash bag) after Phoenix arrived. Ditto for throw pillows. Fabric rabbits. Lace-edged doilies. Home decorating magazines touting creative ways to display hand-woven baskets with dried floral arrangements, throw pillows, fabric rabbits and lace-edged doilies. I waved good-bye to the days of having rooms that looked like Better Homes and Gardens photo shoots. Okay, so they weren’t exactly BH&G material but still . . . I liked my dried flowers. As it turned out, so did Phoenix. Nice to know we shared the same aesthetics, although for totally different reasons.

And it wasn’t like Phoenix was allowed to run amuck in the house without supervision. The casualties happened when I WAS watching him. He was THAT fast. God forbid I ever turned my back on him. The house would have come crashing down over our heads while he happily chewed through a supporting wall.

Phoenix actually may have done me a colossal favor when it came to keeping our house neat and tidy. He made it clear that if an object was important, you put it away where it belonged - in cupboard, filing cabinet, dresser drawer, closet or on top of the refrigerator. Or out in the machine shed.

As a puppy, he believed anything not red hot or nailed down was fair game for a spontaneous tournament of keep away. I called them tournaments because they involved a great deal of time and skill by both parties before a winner could be declared. And frequently that winner was not me.

Initially, these tournaments did not end well for the object Phoenix possessed. Later, when he learned purloined items could be exchanged for a treat, the snatch and grab habits continued, but by then I had wised up and the number of things that could be subjected to his petty thievery had been greatly reduced.

Mundane everyday stuff that might be found casually laying about on counter tops, night stands or end tables — like note pads, pencils, drink coasters, boxes of tissues, tubes of hand lotion, coffee mugs, paper napkins, spatulas, dish cloths, the day’s mail, jewelry, scissors, glasses cases, yesterday’s mail, hot pan holders, boxes of crackers, mugs holding ink pens, loaves of bread, bottles of honey (the honey, omg, the honey), keys, cell phones, TV remotes, DVR remotes, computer mice, weather radios (yeah, seriously) and any number of other household miscellany including potted plants — found its way into Phoenix’s mouth before I enacted Malinois Rule #7: if you don’t want him to get it, PUT IT AWAY. This was a difficult concept for the Farmer to grasp. My previous dogs all went through chewy stages as puppies but they paled in comparison to Phoenix’s reign of terror.

The items he took weren’t consumed . . .  just . . .  re-purposed. Okay, they were ripped, shredded and mangled, with the pieces cheerfully strewn about the house. But to his credit, he never ate any of them.

Over the last 7 1/2 years, I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping the house much tidier than I ever did pre-Phoenix. Whoever penned "A place for everything and everything in its place" must have had a malinois. Although I’m not an obsessive neat-nik, in a couple of weeks, the puppy will come into a house where there entertainment potential of available inanimate objects is fairly low.

But there are still the cats. I haven’t told the cats about the puppy. I think I’ll let that be a surprise.