Thursday, October 15, 2009

A demo dog speaks her mind

Every week for my dog training apprenticeship, I need to teach an exercise, and this week's exercise is "wait." This exercise differs from "stay" in that "wait" simply prompts the dog to pause in whatever he's doing and not move any further forward until released. On the other hand, "stay"-- which is usually paired with a sit or a down -- requires a dog to not only pause but to remain unmovingly in position until released, which is quite difficult for many dogs, especially puppies, to do.

(There's half my spiel right there.)

Public speaking is not really my forte, but I perform much better when I prepare beforehand. To that end, I've written and practiced my spiel, and have been coupling that with actually pretending to teach the "wait" cue to Allie. As I will suggest to my students this evening, I've been practicing at her mealtimes.

Allie is not exactly thrilled with being my practice demo dog for this exercise. I taught her this manuever years ago when she was a puppy after she mowed me down one too many times in her eagerness to eat start her dinner while I was still setting her dish on the floor. But she waits like a champ now -- and her reaction to having to wait longer for her dinner than usual as I pretend to demo the exercise to an invisible audience is difficult for me to ignore.

She barks. Loudly. I can practically hear her saying, "Dammit, I know how to do this. You've been making me do it for years. I do it right. Why in hell are you making me wait so long all of a sudden? Just gimme my dinner, will ya?"

Eventually, of course, I do. I tell myself that it's good to practice amid distractions -- and my Golden girl's diatribe is indeed a distraction. In any case, though, I've probably practiced enough. Undoubtedly Allie will be relieved to have mealtimes go back to normal.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Live ... from the Patriot Center ... it's ...

... Cesar Millan, bringing "his enlightening and hugely entertaining Brand New live show to major U.S. cities this fall" -- including the George Mason University in Fairfax, VA (outside DC) on December 6.

According to the announcement from Bill Silva Entertainment, which is producing the tour, “From Sheepdogs to Schnauzers, Poodles to Pomeranians, Cesar Millan will have audiences spellbound as he shares his amazing insights on dog psychology and how people can inadvertently play a role in their dog's behavioral issues."

I can only imagine what behavioral issues the dogs in the tour might experience, going up on a live stage and becoming "balanced" in an arena that's normally reserved for rock concerts and basketball games.

Here is the rest of the announcement. I, for one, will not be going.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sounds of Silence

Several friends of mine have recently faced, or soon will face, the death of a beloved canine companion. It's with them in mind that I share today's Washington Post story about how, "amid the din of health-care reform, nuclear proliferation, insurgencies, and politics as normal, unnoticed but felt profoundly by a neighborhood, an era has passed on Capitol Hill."

Find yourselves some Kleenex, and read the story here. And to my friends (you know who you are), hugs.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Three reasons to be happy today:

1. My neurosurgeon gave me a clean bill of health this morning! He did suggest that I try not to bump my head in the future. But that's something I want to avoid anyway.

2. I checked the sales figures for Housetraining For Dummies, 2nd Edition -- and apparently in just two months, the book has already earned back half the advance.

3. Stan and I are meeting friends for dinner tonight at the restaurant of this executive chef. He comes off as a bit of a d-bag on TV, and a not-so-talented one, at that. But his real-life food is amazing. And the company will be fun, too.

Life is good.

Next morning update: The food was delicious and the company fun. Because I am easily starstruck, I was pleased to exchange a thumbs-up with Chef Mike as he checked on the lamb roasting in the kitchen, which I could see from our table. Later, as our party left, I saw him posing for pictures with a group of very excited female diners. I found this amusing and somewhat ironic, given that he's being portrayed as something of a woman-hater (at least in the kitchen) on Top Chef.