I have not been around much lately. I apologize. My colleagues and I are trying to respond to a request by a local school district and we need to process the paperwork and try to be in and out of schools before April, before testing season. The last thing teachers and students need once testing season begins is a bunch of outsiders asking them to do ONE MORE THING. So I am working feverishly.
My dog Lola is by my side.
Athletic, smart, playful Lola. Her support goes something like this:
Lola: OK. I am going to sit here very quietly and stare at mom. I am going to look very earnest.
(5 seconds pass).
Lola: Let me try my furrowed brow look for extra earnestness.
(5 seconds pass). Lola rearranges her butt on the floor.
Lola: Well, maybe mom does not see me here needing some attention.
(Big. Fat. Doggie. Sigh)
Lola: Damn, what is wrong with her. Maybe some ear piercing whining will help.
(Whining and whimpering ensues. If you speak dog, you'll make out Lola saying, "Whatcha doin'? I'm BORED.)
Lola: Darn those positive training classes she took!!! She knows better than to respond. Maybe if I show her what I want.
(Lola goes over to the table where the laser light is, jumps up a few times and then goes to the bottom of the staircase and looks at me).
Lola:See!!! All you have to do is shine that light up and down the stairs and I'll show you how fast I can run up and down the stairs.)
(15 seconds pass. Long exasperated sigh. Lola plops herself one her office dog bed. And proceeds to pout.
Lola: OK. OK. I'll lie here and play with my chew toy but I am not going to like it.
And so it goes. She has her doggie play group but these days 3 hours (on days that are not so cold) of running around the yard, playing tag and ball and chase and running up and down the basement steps are not enough to wear her out.
As I watched her with her nose in the air today, a day warm enough to melt the snow, I saw her so excited to be able to SMELL STUFF again. She smelled the air, the bushes, burrowed her nose in the muddy yard, dug up some toys, ran around and played catch all by herself. I joined her and she romped and ran and seemed so proud to show me she could run and squeak her ball at the same time.
But a girl's got to make a living and I realized we needed to find more enrichment for her. This is one smart doggie. All of a sudden I am reminded of all that victorian chick lit - you know, the novels where the beautiful smart corsetted within an in of her life heroine is locked up in some big house ,her only relief going out for a breath of fresh air on the balcony that overlooks the cloistered rose garden. There, we find our heroine. Longing, longing to break from her mind stiflingly dreary existence.
My Lola is swooning over her proverbial doggie balcony, longing for some excitement, poor girl.
After discussing some of this with OS Catherine Forsythe, the most phenomenal dog reader I have ever met, I started with mental exercises; armed with Catherine Forsythe's fabulous liver treats Tonight, Lola learned two new tricks by shaping her behavior with clicker training. I was struck once again how much smarter she is than many people I know. The point of "shaping" is to click and treat dogs any time they make a step in the direction of a behavior you'd like them to learn. You can watch a video of shaping and clicker training here.
It was fun to watch the wheels turn as Lola tried to figure out what behavior would get her a treat, first trying moves that had been rewarded in the past, like touching a ball with her paw, or rolling a toy on the floor with her nose. She groaned with indignance when these behaviors were not met with a reward (I was trying to get her to turn clockwise). She eventually got it.
And then passed out with exhaustion.
So I will continue with obedience training and shaping. And as the weather gets warmer, we are going to start running. But I know what Lola really loves is to play with other dogs.
We all need our peeps people.
I have relied on a small playgroup run by her sitter, but as the weather improves, her sitter will be taking up her lawn business and since I will only leave her at play group when the dogs can be supervised, Lola's socializing may be curtailed.
What to do? I am not a fan of dog parks because the humans are unreliably trained and most doggie daycares have dozens of dogs wandering aimlessly in small enclosed areas.
It's hard out here for a pup.
So I have been contemplating a second dog. I daily torture myself by scouring local dog rescue sites for possible good matches, cheering when dogs that have stayed a bit too long at the shelter finally get adopted.
Catherine Forsythe said to me a wise old dog trainer told her a smart dog will make you a smarter trainer. But I am still learning and I feel as though I have let Lola down in the training department. So while I know she would love a companion that would run and play with her, I am torn. Another dog will still mean a significant investment of my time and energy, particularly while I am establishing house rules etc. The Italian fatalist in me ponders the worst case scenario of my dying and how hard it has been to find friends able to care for one doggie orphan, much less two.
What to do?
There are those who say, there's more love to go around. And others who say, are you out of your @#$$%^ mind?
So all you dog lovers out there (and all you dog and cats with blogs who'd like to weigh in on your experiences) - what have your experiences been with multiple dog households? Twice as nice? Or double the trouble?