Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Dickens enjoyed his weekend at Doggy Camp, but he was glad to be home again where he can relax.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dickens The Displaced

I'm traveling this weekend and so I took Dickens and Daisy to the kennel, which I call Doggy Camp. I board them with Sue, the daughter of a woman I used to train dogs with. Sue lives on a big piece of property in one of the more rural parts of rural Oregon, where dogs can run and swim and play, hence Doggy Camp.

Although Daisy is a seasoned Doggy Camper, this is Dickens' first stay. I realized as I was driving them there that every time in Dickens' short life that someone has put him in a car and handed him off to someone else, the first someone has never come back. I had no way to make him understand that wasn't going to happen this time. Dammit, I miss them both already.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Daisy The Devious

"Who, me?"
In my two novels, the lead character has a dog named Boswell. I named the dog after James Boswell, the 18th-century biographer of the English literary figure Samuel Johnson. Boswell’s name has become a synonym for a constant companion and observer, which neatly defines the role that dogs play in our lives. If Dickens hadn’t already had a splendid literary name, I would have renamed him Boswell.

Daisy has certainly been observing Dickens since he arrived, and I’m worried that she’s picked up some of his bad habits. In this house it’s the policy that old dogs get privileges. After a certain age everyone, human or canine, earns the right to slack off a bit, so I don’t ask things of older dogs that I demand of younger ones. Before Dickens came, I offered Daisy the privilege of getting up on the furniture to sit with me; but a lifetime of conditioning was impossible to overcome, and she was never comfortable anywhere but the floor.

This morning, though, I walked into the living room and found Daisy curled up on the recliner as if she’d been sleeping there since the day she was born. I said, “Hey!” and she looked up as if to say, “What? He does it.” True, I’ve walked in the front door after a trip into town and found Dickens stretched out on the couch, but there’s no way my reaction could have been interpreted as anything but disapproval.

Dickens needed some energy burned off him this afternoon, and Daisy needed a break from him, so I left her home with a Kong full of treats while I took him to town. When I got home Daisy was at the door to meet me, but there was something about the look on her face that made me feel the recliner. It was warm.

I’ve never really known what went on here when the dogs were home alone, except for the times Dickens tried to deconstruct the couch. I assumed Daisy slept while Dickens contemplated violence against home furnishings, but I never gave much thought to where she slept. Now I know, and I’m tempted to blame Dickens for being a bad influence.

Or it could just be that Daisy is craftier and more observant than I’ve ever given her credit for. She’s been watching me for 11 years, and probably knows my habits better than I do. Oh, you’re leaving? Have a nice time. I’ll just sleep here on the floor like I’ve always done. Never on the recliner. Nope. Not me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dickens And The Small Miracle

There's no other way to put it: today Dickens was a very good dog. He came when I called him in the middle of a barking contest with the crazy dog on the other side of the fence; he sat quietly by my side as I worked; he stayed alone in the house twice without making a fuss; he heeled nicely during a training session, and came to heel position in response to both signal and command; and he played with Daisy. It's as if I was given a quick peek at Future Dickens to let me know all the frustration and backward steps will be worth it if I just hang in there and stick with the program.

I really like Future Dickens.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dickens And The End Of Innocence

Dickens will be a year old on Sunday, which by the human-to-dog-years standard means he'll be seven. He's showing signs of growing up already, but it's time to step up the program.

I've been tolerant (more or less) of his puppyish outbursts, his assaults on the couch cushions, his barking mindlessly at the ball he himself kicked under the deck. No more. From now on when he acts out he'll get a time out in the form of a down-stay. We'll train more, and he'll earn his free time. Unlike some dogs who live out their lives doing as they please (I'm talking to you, dogs on the other side of the backyard fence), Dickens has a greater destiny, to bring comfort and happiness to people in hospitals and care facilities. For that he'll need discipline, and maturity, and respect for me.

Rest up, buddy. You're going to need it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dickens In Development

Still hasn't figured out the ball thing yet, though.

Tomorrow is Dickens’ one-month anniversary here. Today I re-read some of the early entries in this blog and it’s like I was writing about some other dog--which in a sense I was.

Dickens has been having light-bulb moments every day. This afternoon I put him in the car for a run to the supermarket, and when we got back I opened the tailgate expecting the usual furry red missile to bound toward freedom. What I saw instead was Dickens in a very nice sit, waiting patiently for me to give him the all clear.

In fact, Dickens seems to have decided that sitting is the equivalent of saying "please." It gets my attention faster than barking or running around in circles or making Wookiee noises. I’m encouraging this every chance I get.

Aside from the couch-related incident of a few days ago, Dickens has been good when left alone in the house. Today when I left in the early afternoon to go for a motorcycle ride he seemed to know he was going to be on his own for a while and stretched out on the floor instead of following me around the house trying to get me to play. Dogs are good at recognizing patterns of behavior and what they lead to, so maybe he’s figured out that when I put on those boots, and that jacket, and pick up that helmet, I’m going away for a while.

Dickens will be a year old on the 11th of this month. I look forward to the dog he’ll be by the time another year has gone by.