Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Multiple choice question

What breed is the dog in this photograph?

a) Afghan Retriever
b) Salukidoodle
c) Something else

The answer is c). More specifically, this dog is Allie after receiving her post-swimming haircut. Although she appeared to enjoy her swim at Quiet Waters Park, that dip and a subsequent roll in the sand of the dog beach turned Allie's golden tresses into dreadlocks. The kindest way to undo this 'do was, in her groomer's words, to "make her look like a Lab."

Allie appears to like her new look. She's friskier than she's been for quite awhile. And I don't miss having to vaccuum up all those golden dust bunnies. I suspect the "summer cut" will be her June-through-August coif for many years to come.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Read this and marvel

The cover story of today's issue of The New York Times Magazine is a fabulous article by Charles Siebert describing what scientists have learned about the apparent efforts of gray whales to communicate with the human beings who study them in the Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California, Mexico. In the article, Siebert describes asking noted behavioral/wildlife biologist Toni Frohoff whether the actions of these whales might indicate that they've forgiven human beings for having slaughtered gray whales in the past. Her response:

"Those are the kinds of things that for the longest time a scientist wouldn't dare consider. But thank goodness we've gone through a kind of cognitive revolution when it comes to studying the intelligence and emotion of other species. In fact, I'd say now that it is my obligation as a scientist not to discount that possibility. We do have compelling evidence of the experience of grief in cetaceans; and of joy, anger, frustration and distress and self-awareness and tool use; and of protecting not just their young but also their companions from humans and other predators. So thee are reasons why something like forgiveness is a possibility ... I'd put my career on the line and challenge anybody to say that these whales are not actively soliciting and engaging in a form of communication with humans, both through eye contact and tactile interaction and perhaps acoustically in ways that we have not yet determined."

Here's the rest. Allow yourself to be awestruck.

Dear Tito

Here we are, retrieving balls together in the South River near Annapolis this past Thursday.

I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention to you when we encountered each other that day. You seem to be a really nice nine-month-old Labrador Retriever--and, as a six-year-old Golden Retriever who's quite experienced in the ways of dog-dom, I can tell you that meeting truly *nice* young guy dogs doesn't happen all that often. But the thing is this: when I am retrieving, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE BALL. I'm not interested in anything--or anyone--else.

Your almost-friend,


Friday, July 10, 2009

Three Amigas

Yesterday, Allie, Julie and I took that day trip to Annapolis to give Allie some quality swimming time and to give the three of us some family female bonding time. Both were great.

Yes, Allie was reluctant to get into the car, and I'm having to get increasingly creative in designing incentives for her to overcome that reluctance. Yesterday's jackpot: a small bowl of venison jerky treats, which proved quite effective. Good thing she got plenty of exercise, both in and out of the water, to work off those extra calories. And Julie proved a good partner in the let's-get-Allie-into-the-car effort, not to mention helping me navigate my way back to where I was supposed to be driving at least twice. (Did I mention that I am geographically impaired?)

Pictures will be up as soon as I can get the photographer (i.e., Julie) to email them to me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Goin' mobile, beep-beep

Since the past weekend, Allie and I have taken several two-block trips to a nearby park in The Allie Car II. Puppy-girl was shaking like a leaf during the first two trips, but much less on subsequent excursions. And today, a major milestone occurred: we used the new seatbelt in the car for the first time (previously, I'd put her in it just in the house so she could get used to it, and drove the two blocks sans belt. No flames, please), and drove a couple of miles. No shakes at all from Puppy-girl this time, although more inducement than usual was required to persuade her to enter the car: not just the Orbee ball, but also some treats and one of the regular tennis balls she found during our walk yesterday.

Tomorrow, hopefully, another milestone: Julie and I will take Allie to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, where there's both a great dog park and dog beach that Allie loves. After that, we'll head to a dog-friendly pub in the heart of the town for a late lunch. If Julie remembers to bring her camera, I'll have pictures with my report.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Getting Allie into the new Allie-car

Allie's never been a big fan of cars, and after last week's misadventure on I-270, that lack of enthusiasm morphed into a no-way-no-how-am-I-getting-into-one-of-those-things-ever-again attitude. I couldn't blame her. Not only did the unwelcome contact of an SUV with my car's back end destroy Allie's seat belt, sending her to the floor between the back seat and front seat, but she also had to stay in the car as it was being loaded onto the tow truck, because there was no room for her in the cab. Then, when we got to the gas station where the tow guys dropped us off, she had to clamber down the ramp of the truck bed, with my help. By the time Stan got to the gas station to drive us both home, Allie had to literally be pushed into his car.

The very next day, I started walking around the car with Allie on leash and a clicker and treats (cheddar cheese--yum!) in one hand. The first day, we merely walked around Julie's car, and would stop every few feet for her to sit and for me to click and treat her. The next day, I opened the car door, and placed some cheese on the very edge of the seat. After some hesitation, she tentatively took the cheese. For the next few days after that, I made a Hansel and Gretel trail of treats halfway across the back seat -- first in Julie's car, then in my new set of wheels. In either car, Allie was willing to put her front paws on the seat and reach for the cheese, but that was as far as she'd go.

Then I remembered how I'd persuaded her to come into a local creek and swim. No treats were involved. The inducement was a tennis ball. I waded into the middle of the creek and held the ball out for her to see. That sight was enough for her to overcome her water-based timidity (yes, she is a Golden Retriever. But clearly an unusual Golden Retriever) and discover that she actually did like swimming, particularly when ball retrieval was involved.

So for the past three days, I've taken Allie's favorite pink-and-orange Orbee ball and tossed it onto the opposite end of the Allie car's back seat. With just a little coaxing, Allie has jumped into the back seat to retrieve the ball. The first day she managed to get past me and run with the ball into our back yard and make a fool of me playing keepaway. But I didn't get upset, I just thought "Great! She's getting a great real-life reward for venturing into the car!" And eventually, she did give up the ball and come back into the house.

I didn't make that mistake again, though. Yesterday and today, Allie again hopped into the car to get the ball, but I went in right after her and grabbed her leash. We sat on the back seat together and I let her gum the ball for a couple of minutes. Then we headed up to the nearby middle school field to play a rousing early-morning game of fetch, after which we returned home and I put the ball into a tote bag I'm keeping in the Allie car.

We haven't gone motoring together in the new car yet. That'll probably occur over the weekend, after the new back seat cover arrives and I install it. We'll take some short trips to local parks where Allie and I can play fetch, and we may even venture over to that local creek for the first time this year. But in any case, I have high hopes that Allie's and my travels together are not a thing of the past. Fingers crossed....