Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What are you thankful for?

The economy sucks. Our country's standing in the international community is equally crappy. Most people's financial investments have gone into a deep dive over the past couple of months. Unemployment is trending upward. Nevertheless, I feel grateful for so much this Thanksgiving. Some examples:

-- A husband and daughter who give me lots of love and support -- and who know exactly when to be sappy and when not to be.

-- A dog (yes, Ms. Allie, I'm talking about you!) who teaches me something every day, and who lavishes love upon me even when I make mistakes.

-- Work that I still enjoy doing, even after nearly a dozen years of doing it.

-- Good health: not just mine, but also throughout the rest of my family (knock on wood).

-- No worries about keeping a roof over my head and good food on the table.

-- My mother, brother and nephew being able to join us this Thanksgiving (assuming they'll survive the day-before-Thanksgiving madness on I-95).

-- Reason to hope for better times, especially after next January 20.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My blog is my mirror

A website called Typealyzer claims it can illuminate the personality of a blogger by analyzing her blog. This is what the site said about me after I typed in the URL for The Allie Chronicles:

ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical outdoor activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Other than frequent engagement in "physical outdoor activities," that analysis actually sounds pretty accurate.

See what your own blog supposedly says about you by logging onto the Typealyzer site.

Re-thinking doggie boot camp

Just got an email from Cheryl Panillo, of the production company that was developing Doggie Boot Camp:

The posting has been pulled and all development on the show -- which was not greenlit, by any means -- has been postponed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My dirty little secret

So, do you think the writer's life is one filled with inspiration and creativity as her flying fingers bring brilliant prose from brain to keyboard to screen?

That does happen. Without such occurrences, the writer would not write, much less generate income.

Frequently, though, I find that getting to that place, that zone, that feeling of flow, requires the employment of a special technique beforehand: procrastination.

It's now past noon, and I have been employing that technique with great diligence. So far I have:

-- been to the gym to do my 20 minutes of cardio work on the treadmill, after which I always feel quite virtuous;

-- showered and gotten dressed;

-- done the dishes;

-- looked at other blogs, including this one, this one and this one;

-- lusted after gorgeous clothes that I won't be able to afford until they go on sale, and probably not even then;

-- repeatedly guffawed at this recent skit on SNL (warning: do not watch this video if you are drinking anything. If you do, you risk shorting out your keyboard);

-- watched movie trailers, including this one (can you blame me? I've been a fan of this franchise for more than 40 years!!!!) and -- most especially -- this one.

I am confident that all of the above activities will result in a creative outburst at some point. I just don't quite know when.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Come again?

Seen on Craig's List:

Do you love dogs, and training them? Can YOU run the ultimate bootcamp? Do you have proven experience in being able to train those aggressive breeds who go from trainer to trainer and never seem to learn how to sit or stay still? Then we want YOU as our next drill sergeant!!!!Varuna Entertainment is currently casting for a dramatic reality docuseries for the Animal Planet. Candidates must be able to take a stern and militaristic, yet positive attitude towards dog training, and can show us on video or in pictures. Think "Celebrity Fit Club" or "Biggest Loser."

I can just see it now, can't you? Move over Cesar -- the next generation of Dog Whisperers is on deck.

But then, at the end of the ad is this little caution:

Please read this casting notice fully, and realize that we are NOT looking for trainers who use physically aggressive techniques to train their animals. We want trainers who can separate themselves from the batch we usually see on TV -- aside from Victoria Stillwell, whose methods are quite similar to what we are looking for -- who use treats, clickers, etc., which are also, of course, successful methods as well.

So they don't want Cesar wannabes, then? They want trainers who espouse positive reinforcement, but they also want them to be drill sergeants and run a doggie boot camp?

Don't misunderstand me: I'm VERY happy that the company want trainers who espouse positive reinforcement. Somehow, though, I don't think such trainers are going to want to adopt drill sergeant personas, even to acquire 15 or more minutes of fame.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Allie's statement

Allie, being a Golden Retriever of strong conviction and healthy self-esteem, would probably have a few things to say in response to my confession/tribute of yesterday. But instead, here is a a post from another blog in which I didn't feel as though I wrote on her behalf -- I channeled her.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A confession and a tribute

I recently met a Golden Retriever who seemed to me to epitomize what a Golden Retriever should be. For one thing, he looked so resplendent that I realized that Allie's overdue for some grooming. (Yes, I made the appointment today. The Golden girl will be beautified on Thursday.) Anyway, this dog was a joy to behold: happy, confident, compliant, incredibly precise as he worked. I was enthralled.

So I was a little surprised when I learned later this dog's owner apparently isn't all that crazy about him. She feels that he's not like the other Goldens she's had and that he's just not at the levels of those other dogs. Someone remarked that owners of show dogs are sometimes like that; they don't necessarily love or even like all their dogs equally. And certainly more than a few show dogs go to other owners when they retire.

And yet, I wonder, how different are the rest of us who have lived with and loved more than one dog? Can we really claim to love all of our dogs equally? Patricia McConnell speaks of one particular dog, Luke, as being her soul-dog. To me, such a characterization implies a kind of hierarchy of affection with respect to the other dogs who've been in her life. And author Jon Katz has made no bones about loving the dogs in his life somewhat unequally. On at least two occasions, he's placed those less-loved dogs in other homes because he just didn't feel as connected with them as with the other dogs he had. And I'm not saying I approve of Katz's doing that; just that he did it.

Even I am guilty of at least appearing to play favorites. As an adult I've lived with three dogs: Molly, whom I consider to have been the dog of my soul; Cory, whom I've characterized as the dog of my heart; and now Allie, whom I call the dog of my life. But while I fell in love with both Cory and Molly almost immediately after they came to live with me (and with Molly, that was a good thing, because our first year together was full of problems), I didn't fall in love with Allie nearly as fast. My relationship with her has been a lot more complicated than with the other two dogs I've lived with.

Allie was a challenging puppy--and even as an adult, she's not always easy. Yes, she's smart, loving and confident. But she also can be demanding, mischievous and stubborn. And she definitely has a mind of her own. I'd hoped that Allie would be a dog with whom I could learn to compete in a dog sport such as agility, obedience, or flyball. However, Allie made it clear that she wasn't interested in group training to learn any kind of sport or other pursuit. Even now, we still have some issues, particularly with respect to her behavior while on the leash. We're working on those, and are coming along well.

But in all fairness to Allie, we probably got her too soon after Cory's sudden death. That wasn't Stan's or Julie's fault -- the fault was all mine. Cory's death devastated me, and I could not handle being without a dog (how do you write full time about dogs without a dog nearby to inspire you?). Still, I'd find myself grumpy and angry at Allie simply for not being Cory--hardly her fault. It took me a couple of years to fully appreciate Allie for who she is and what she's teaching me (and continues to teach me). But up till then, I was uncomfortably aware that she had turned out to be *so* not the dog I wanted. And yes, I considered taking her back to her breeder. But I knew that if I did that, someone else would benefit from all the work that I was putting into helping her become the best dog she could be. Egotistical little so-and-so that I am (heck, I'm only human), I couldn't abide that prospect.

So when I was told that this other Golden's owner wasn't nuts about this dog, I not only was surprised, I was a tad uncomfortable. It hit a little too close to home. I remembered all the times I heard people exult over how wonderful Allie was and think to myself, "If only you knew." I remember wondering if I would ever love her as much as I'd loved the other dogs I'd raised.

So, do I love her as much? Yes, I do -- now. Did everything work out? I think so. For one thing, my trials and tribulations with Allie have inspired some of my best writing. And when friends see us together now, they marvel at the bond we have. Their reactions help me to look at our connection anew. I'm not sure what made things all work out in the end. Time? Probably. Maturity? Certainly for Allie, and undoubtedly for me, too.

When I was in college and given to self-important pronouncements in an effort to affect a wisdom I'd had yet to earn, I defined love as the ultimate form of acceptance. Actually, even now, I think that's not a bad definition. Now, when I look at my Golden girl stretched out on the same old sofa that Molly and Cory loved, I feel the same degree of love for her that I did for those other two dogs. But I love her for who she is: a loving, feisty, intense, persistent, intelligent companion who very much has her own ideas. Today, my bond with Allie is no less strong than it was with Molly and Cory. It just took a whole lot longer to build.

With Allie, I've learned that you may not always get the dog you want, but "if you try sometimes you just might find, you just might find" (thank you, Rolling Stones!) you get the dog you need. She was and is the dog I've needed, even when I haven't known it -- and I love her for that, and for so much more.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sigh ....

If I had $9,000 to spare, this is what I would want to do with it.

A good weekend

I spent all of yesterday and part of today at a seminar featuring certified applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog. Aside from the fact that McConnell is just as engaging in person as she is on the printed page, I really learned a lot over these past two days. I now have a good idea as to why Allie, as intelligent as she is, does *not* do well in group classes (I think she gets bored when it's not her turn to perform -- typical of any diva) and how I can teach her to be behave better when she walks on leash.

But my Golden girl is getting impatient for an overdue (to her, anyway) run up at the local school field. Maybe on the way there I can put at least the latter lesson into action.

Monday, November 3, 2008


It's hard, even for me, to focus on dogs and writing when the most important presidential election in at least a generation takes place tomorrow. But still, I've got some news to share:

-- I've just signed a contract to write the second edition of my first book, Housetraining For Dummies. HTFD 1 has sold over 160,000 copies in the six years it's been in print, and still generates some more-than-welcome royalty checks. But I'm looking forward to writing a new, up-to-date version -- and hope (of course!) that it does as well as the first edition.

-- In January I'll be starting a training apprenticeship with one of the best dog trainers in the United States, Pat Miller. This is a step I've been contemplating for a long time, but until other people convinced me that I've done well with my confidence-busting Golden girl, the incomparable Miss Allie, I questioned whether I had the stuff to become a trainer as well as an author. I guess now I'll find out -- but I'm a lot more hopeful that I've got what it takes than I ever was before. I'll still write, but now I can put what I write into action.

-- Allie turned six years old yesterday! Her birthday gift from me: 14 tennis balls to destroy whenever I give her the opportunity. So far, I've given her two, and her speed of demolition is becoming most impressive.

-- My daughter finally got her absentee ballot and got to cast her first vote after all!