desoto_hia873: (Bella)
Yesterday was Canada Day, and it was, for a change, warm and sunny all day long. I think that's the first day that it hasn't rained since April. I'm not kidding. This has been the wettest and most overcast summer I can remember since that volcano blew in the Phillipines in the early 1990s.

In celebration of said sunny weather, I spent most of the day hanging out in the backyard, reading a mystery novel, and throwing things into the pool for Bella to retrieve. Our pool is an old concrete one, and it has a ladder rather than steps for getting in and out. Out of necessity, Bella has developed a surprising skill: she can climb a pool ladder all by herself. How she can do this when she has no fingers and a heavy dokken (fake dead duck) in her mouth, I have no idea. But she can:



Bella Can Climb a Pool Ladder!

Other activities yesterday included helping MiddleJim buzzcut his hair and throwing a dead pigeon around the yard for Bella to retrieve. Yes, you read that right--a dead pigeon. Why? Because I'm hoping to get Bella to the point where she can enter field trials, and that means she has to like retrieving dead birds. :-P

I have weird hobbies.
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
How to lose weight:

* Go to Italy. Walk until you drop every day. Spending time in Tuscany's hilltop towns is particularly effective--some of them have no level streets at all.

* Come home. Wake up at 5 am for the next week and get to work really early. Skip a few dinners because you're falling asleep early in the evening.

* Spend first weekend back home at a dog obedience trial in suffocating humidity. Don't eat due to nerves and loss of appetite from the heat.

* Contract a stomach bug and resulting, as my mother would say, "collywobbles."

My clothes are looser on me than they have been in quite some time, I can tell you.

On the upside, Bella and I did well in last weekend's rally obedience trials: we qualified on Saturday with a score of 95/100 and again on Sunday with a perfect score of 100/100(!). We were in a trial in Peterborough in May (score: 99/100), which means that Bella has earned her very first title. She's now known as Tollwest's Spice of Broadway RN. She's a registered nurse! :-D
desoto_hia873: (Buffy and Giles - mangofandango)
Dumbest. Survivor. Ever )

In other news, Bella and I did very well at our rally trial last weekend. They split the novice class into rookies (Novice A) and others (Novice B). Because the paperwork making me Bella's co-owner hasn't gone through the CKC yet, I had to compete in Novice B. There were several very experienced dogs and handlers in the class of 12 dogs, one of which gained two Utility Dog legs at the obedience trial (Utility is the highest level in obedience trials) the same day. My main goal was not to flub up the course like I'd done in the match and to get a qualifying score (anything more than 70/100 points). I rubbed pepperoni on my fingers so that Bella's attention would be focussed on me (she LOVES pepperoni!), and she performed like a dream. We finished with a score of 99/100, which tied us for first place! The other 99-point scorer was a dog who also competes at much higher levels in rally, and her round was faster, so she won, and Bella and I got the second-place ribbon. As it turned out, 99 points was also the highest score of the day, so we also tied for High in Trial.

I was completely blown away. Bella's SUCH a good girl! She's not exactly the retrieviest of retrievers--unless you throw the bumper into water, in which case she's quite interested (she loves to swim)--but I think she has a bright future in obedience, rally, and hopefully agility.

PADOC Rally-O Trial

~*~

In other other news, less than two weeks before I leave for Italy! I looked at our itinerary the other day, and man, the trip over is going to be a bear. I'm driving up to Ottawa on the evening of the 21st. We board a bus for the Montreal airport at 2 pm on the 22nd, and our flight leaves at 8 pm. This means that we have a four-hour wait in Dorval before we even get on the plane. We arrive in Paris at 9 am the next morning, whereupon we have another four-hour wait for our connecting flight to Milan. Then we have to get on a bus to Venice. Gads! That's about 24 hours of travelling to get to Venice. I'm not terribly impressed with the company who has arranged this tour. Granted, it's probably not easy getting nearly one hundred people from Ottawa to Venice all at the same time, but still. 24 hours!

Assuming that I am not catatonic after all that, plus the jet lag (and, frankly, that's a rather rash assumption), I'm going to try to go to Bolzano on Sunday, May 25th to see Ötzi the Iceman. It's a three-hour train trip to get there, which means I'll be giving up an entire day in Venice, but I will be so disappointed if I don't get to see him. My sister thinks I'm nuts. It's quite possible that she's right.
desoto_hia873: (Spike - Reading Is Sexy - vampkiss)
And still so very unposty. My life has kind of gone to the dog lately, so all the action's been over at [livejournal.com profile] spiceofbroadway. We're entering a rally obedience trial (our very first) on Sunday. I should be in a state of high nerves by Friday at the latest, even though I know that Bella can do everything she's supposed to, and the greatest danger of flubbing up will come from me. We were in a match (which is to say a practice trial) a few weeks ago, and I managed to miss a station entirely, and we wound up with a non-qualifying score. ::facepalm::

In non-dog news, the date of my departure for Italy approaches. I'm flying out of Montreal on May 22. This will also put me in a high state of nerves--in fact, it's started already--as I worry about what to pack. Also, I'm a white-knuckle flyer.

I'll be spending the first 10 days in Venice, Florence, and Rome with my mother, and then we're meeting up with my sister, her husband, and my father at a farmhouse in Tuscany. We're all readers, and my sister has very sensibly suggested that we each bring one or two books so that we can trade and thus avoid buying very expensive and hard-to-find English books in a non-English country. I'm bringing my book on the Iceman, which unfortunately is in hardcover. I'd like my other books to be paperbacks, but I think I've read everything I have in paperback.

So, paperback recs, anyone?
desoto_hia873: (Buffy & Spike - Porch - _jems_)
Attempting to start posting regularly again. Funny how it seems as natural as breathing when I do do it, but then I can't think of a thing to say if I've been away for awhile.

Peterborough has apparently decided to skip spring this year. We went from umppity-nine feet of snow in never-ending blizzards to summer in the time it takes to wonder where you put your Birkenstocks. I'm not entirely convinced that we're done with winter, mind. Alberta is still getting hammered with snowstorms, and April is awfully early for shorts weather. However, the long-range forecast is pretty good, so I shall hope.

Building management apparently didn't believe the good weather was here to stay, either--we've spent the last four workdays stewing in our cubicles and wondering just how many clothes we can peel off without getting slapped on the wrist (or other tender parts) by the workplace harassment folks. Frak, but it was hot in here! I have a chocolate bar in my (closed) desk drawer, and it was starting to melt. They finally capitulated today, however, and turned on the AC this afternoon. I can breathe! I might even be able to stay awake.

In other news:

* Bella is FINALLY no longer in heat. ::does the dance of joy:: I think we navigated that minefield safely. The only chance she has at being pregnant is if Daughter o' Jim's Yorkshire terrier puppy took advantage of her when I wasn't looking. However, given the height difference, not to mention the fact that he is very young and completely clueless, that seems unlikely.

* Said Yorkie puppy is cute, but is growing increasingly yappy, and he pees every 17 minutes. This is far more often than Daughter o' Jim takes him outside, and I'm getting tired of stepping into warm puddles. There's a reason we didn't get a Toller puppy, and this is it. Daughter o' Jim didn't actually ask permission to bring a puppy home--she just showed up with it at midnight one evening and claimed to be dog-sitting for a friend. Yeah, right--that was well over a month ago. I think Yorkie puppy's days are numbered--he needs to go to a home where he will be provided with a proper doggy upbringing, 'cause he's not getting it from D o' J.

* They say that women living in the same house will wind up with sychronized hormone cycles. I'm hoping mine sychronizes with Bella's--twice a year would be nice. :-)

* Battlestar Galactica is back. Woot! It's become must-see TV for me, all the more precious because this is its last season.

* New House next week. Woot!

* Ozzy got kicked off Survivor last night. Unwoot. :-( I wasn't exactly deeply invested in who won, but now I care even less. I think Ozzy's cute--he's got that Ethan Zohn/Mr. Universe/Mika dark, curly, floppy hair thing going, and that always reels me in.

* Bella and I went to watch field training for the first time on Sunday. We came away with a sunburn (on my face) and two dead, frozen pigeons which I'm supposed to toss around to see if I can whet her interest in retrieving (she's a rather unretrievey retriever). Yes, I have dead pigeons in my freezer.

* I couldn't have gotten a poodle?
desoto_hia873: (William the Bloody - awmp)
Really, still here, still alive. Just, well, kinda quiet lately. I've been going through a bout of dysphoria, which sucks, but sucks much less than full blown depression would. I'm pretty sure I know what's causing it, and there's not much to be done but ride it out.

At least spring is here--sort of. The snow is melting, anyway, although that happy fact is revealing a dog-created mess in the back yard. That would be the downside of Bella-ownership. But that and the fact that she's not quite finished her heat cycle are the only downsides of her. She continues to delight me everyday in every way.

My life in bullet points:

* The Loudest Woman In The World retired last Friday. Woot! Peace reigns at the office.

* Bella and I are entering a novice obedience and novice Rally-O match on Sunday. A match is different from an official trial in that it's just for practice and doesn't count for anything. Although it will determine if we enter the trial in two weeks' time. All good obedience karma gratefully accepted. :-)

* It is daylight for more than an hour when I get home from work now. It makes me feel like a chrysalis preparing to leave my cocoon. I want to spend time outside in my yard, see what survived the winter in the flowerbeds, plant tomatoes, prune dead branches from trees, and then burn them in our chiminea.

* Bella greeted spring on Monday by running across the semi-frozen pool and falling in. :-)

* My trip to Italy is fast approaching--I leave on May 22. Egad! I actually have to start thinking about packing and how I'm going to fit all my stuff into the one suitcase I'm allowed to bring. Anyone have any suggestions for suitably touristy clothes to wear in Italy in late May/early June?

* I finally got my copy of the cod book I edited during the summer of 2006. Holy mackeral, that sucker is thick! 592 pages! And I read them every one of them, three times.

* I'm oddly obsessed lately with the For Better or For Worse comic strip. I've read most of the strip in the online archive, and I can't tell you how many games of "Dig" that I've played. This is the sort of thing that my brain does when it's not quite functioning right.

* I'm really enjoying reading the entries at [livejournal.com profile] joss_las. The ones in this round are particularly good. I'm quite entranced by entry #3. When this round is over, someone tell me who wrote it!
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
Bella had a great day at the All About Pets Show yesterday. Going into another weird, echoey building filled to the brim with people and animals of all shapes and sizes didn't faze her at all, and she was noticeably braver at greeting unfamiliar people than she was last weekend at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show. By the end of the afternoon, she was lying down and accepting belly rubs from passersby and playing with a stuffed cow that one woman pulled out of a bag for her. I'd say that this experiment in really-weird-places socialization has been a success.

She also got to meet lots of other dogs, which she always likes. When we arrived, she was immediately surrounded by nearly half a dozen Tollers, several of whom were very interested in her. I mean, VERY interested. One of them, by name of Cassidy (an intact male), liked her so much that he started screaming every time he saw her.

You know what this means, of course: my little girl is becoming a woman. ::sniffs:: They grow up so fast! ::wipes a tear:: It seems like just yesterday...

(Okay, okay, I have no kids of my own--I had to have one chance to be the weepy mother. :-)

Yup, she's in heat. If Cassidy's screaming weren't enough of a dead giveaway, his owner went off and found another fellow with two males (one intact) and brought them back for a litmus test. The intact boy's lips immediately started quivering, so it was a positive. I knew she was due to come into heat anytime, but I was still a little surprised. I had her in a room full of dogs at the obedience club on Wednesday evening, and none of them paid her much attention at all. Also, I've read that it's common for females to change their behaviour when they go into heat (I guess dogs get PMS too), and she's been her usual Bella self. Still is, for that matter. Anyway, I'll have keep her on the leash for the next few weeks, which is kind of drag because she does like to run around in the snow, and keep an eye on her when she's in the backyard. She's never tried to escape before, but that doesn't mean she won't now.

Jim took a couple of nice shots of me and Bella near the end of the afternoon. We gave her a bath on Friday night, so she was extra fluffy and soft on Saturday.

All About Pets Show, March 2008

All About Pets Show, March 2008


A couple of women commented on how well her leash matched her coat. It's important to accessorize properly, you know. :-)

By way of comparison, this is Bella greeting audience members in January at an Atlantic Voices concert:



She wasn't upset, but she was pretty much glued to my legs. You've come a long way, baby!
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
Bella and I did make it into--and, more importantly, out of--Toronto alive last weekend. We even did it without getting lost. I gave myself tons of extra time and set off clutching Jim's backup cell phone, but it turned out to be a relatively easy trip. The traffic was MUCH lighter than it had been the day before, although we had to search for a parking space that wasn't as far away from the door as Peterborough, we did eventually find one.

We met Bella's half-sister Miso (and Chris, her owner) at the Ontario Toller Booth. Bella and Miso have the same sire and were born just six days apart, but they look very different. Miso looks very much like her dad, and she's taking a long time to grow up, because she also looks very puppyish. Bella, OTOH, seems to resemble her grandsire, who was longer in back and limb. Bella doesn't have her full coat yet, but she's made a good start on it, and no one would have pegged her as the younger one. Which just goes to show: genetics is a crapshoot.

I also discovered that Bella is relatively tall for a Toller. I hadn't thought she was, but she was by far the tallest Toller I saw there all weekend, and she positively towered over the little female who competed in the retriever trials. She's still not all that big--she weighs just 35 lbs.--so I was quite surprised by this.

It turned out that Chris knows the Minneapolis breeder, at least in a virtual sense, and had told her that he'd check out Bella's front assembly. He's shown both his dogs, so Bella got an impromptu lesson from him in dogshow posing:

Bella - Front

Bella, Stacked 2


Because the traffic was so bad on Saturday, I didn't get home in time to bath her before we went back on Sunday, so she doesn't look as fluffy in the photos as she could have done, and her tail looks downright stringy. :-(

By way of comparison, this is Miso:

Miso


Bella is a very good-natured girl and she loves all other dogs, but she's a bit shy about meeting strangers and children. She was a bit nervous at the start of our shift, especially after someone dropped a bucket nearby with a loud bang, but she accepted lots of treats from unfamiliar people and eventually relaxed enough to lie down on the floor and go to sleep. So we both learned something that day: she can hang out in a really weird, echo-y building and not only be okay but well fed, and I can drive to downtown Toronto without my head exploding. I'm calling it a win.

We're repeating the experience this Saturday afternoon at the All About Pets Show. If you're in the neighbourhood, drop in and say hi!

~*~

On a completely unrelated note, someone on one of my email lists "took umbridge [sic]" to something that someone else had written. So now I finally get the play on words that was Dolores Umbridge's name in the Harry Potter books.

I'm a little slow, but I get there eventually.
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
Jim, the boys, and I went to the Toronto Sportsmen's Show today to do guy things, watch the various dog sport competitions (that would be a girl thing, in this case), and scope the place out since I'm supposed to take Bella there tomorrow afternoon to greet people at the Ontario Toller Club booth. The show had lots of things to see and do, but getting there--my God! The traffic was a nightmare, parking was a nightmare--it took us three hours to get from Peterborough to the front door instead of the usual a little over an hour.

Driving in Toronto terrifies me--I just have no internal map of the city at all, and I'm not used to its traffic. So I will set out with Bella with lots of time to spare tomorrow morning, and I'll probably still be late and completely frazzled by the time we get there. Or I'll never arrive at all and spend the rest of my days wandering around the lakeshore and hoping that Bella can catch the odd duck for us to eat. Even odds, at this point.

However, in the event that I do make it, if you're going to be there, come to the Ontario Toller Club booth (it's not far from the rare breed show ring, where we saw just the ugliest Sharpei today) and say hi. We'll be there with Miso, Bella's half-sister.
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
For them what can't get enough news about Bella, I've made her an LJ: [livejournal.com profile] spiceofbroadway. We're in the middle of obedience lessons, and I'm hoping to work our way up to agility training and possibly competitive obedience. Both of our obedience instructors have told me to keep a training journal, so of course, being me, I decided to make it an online one. It amuses me to no end that I found a layout with a picture of a fox on the banner. :-)
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
I've been thinking vague thoughts of entering Bella into some dog shows. According to the breed standard, she has a little too much white on her front legs--her kneesocks go right up the inside of both forelegs to meet the white on her chest. However, a well known breeder told me that that can be okay if you find the "right judge," and I know of another Toller with too much foreleg whiteness who got his Canadian championship.

I emailed the Minneapolis breeder yesterday to ask if Bella was show-worthy, not counting the extra white, because I know NOTHING about this stuff. Her reply was that, conformation-wise, her only other reservation about Bella was with her "front assembly," which is a bit narrow. Which made me laugh because:

(a) it sounds like Bella's paws need to be realigned so that she doesn't go thump-thump-thump when she runs; and

(b) it makes me think I should start doing that "We must, we must, we must increase our bust!" exercise with her. :-D

One of my colleagues at work, upon meeting Bella, said we look like a Fido commercial. Considering my own underdeveloped front assembly, I guess that's even more true than she knew.
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
There are a lot of dogs on our street. There used to be an old Irish Setter named Gus on our right, but he had to be put to sleep because of acute arthritis last summer. To our left is a black mixed breed, named (coincidentally) Bella. Next over to Other-Bella's left are the two enormous dogs that I thought were huskies, but which are in fact Native American Indian dogs. One more jump to the left finds another Toller by name of Chelsea. Her owners learned this week that we'd gotten Bella, and they came by last night with Chelsea to meet her. We live on a quiet dead-end street, so we let them off the leash to play. Other-Bella joined us, as did Hoover, a spaniel of some sort that Chelsea's mom is dogsitting for her sister. Chelsea is very toy-focussed, so she spent most of her time retrieving a thrown ball and barking at us to throw it again. My Bella currently fails at retrieving and was more interested in tussling with Other-Bella and making occasional grabs at Chelsea's ball as she scampered by.

Toller breeders are generally a fanatical lot, and they've built Tollerdata, a Toller genealogy database. Bella's page is here and Chelsea's here. You can trace Bella's roots right back to the mid-1950s when the breed became firmly established in (of all places) a Saskatchewan kennel.

The pedigrees of Bella and Chelsea also show a common ancestor: Westerlea Superstar At Berdia is Bella's great-grandmother and Chelsea's grandmother. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] doyle_sb4 and [livejournal.com profile] fenchurche, who (unlike me) do not fail at genealogy, I can now say that Bella and Chelsea are first half-cousins, once removed.

This amuses me greatly. :-)
desoto_hia873: (Effulgent Spike - red_sunflower)
::crash landing::

The last few days have been a wee bit busier than I normally like my life to be. On Friday, I had a meeting in Toronto during the day, followed by a three-hour drive to Ottawa that evening. All told, that represented ::counts on fingers:: about seven hours in various cars with a four-hour meeting in the middle of it all. Yargh. Jim, Bella, and I arrived at Mom's house in Ottawa around 10 pm, which gave me enough time to say hello and suck back a glass of wine before I went into a state of collapse.

I got my hair cut on Saturday morning and then took Bella to Bruce Pit, a huge off-leash dog park with fields and forests and about a hundred other dogs of all shapes and sizes. Bella was intimidated by the newness of it all for about five minutes, then leapt into the fray and ran around like a happy, crazed thing for an hour and a half until her feet iced up. She was walking around with snowballs the size of walnuts between her toes by the end of it--I must get her a pair of Muttluks.

After that, we repaired back to Mom's house for Christmas, The Sequel. My sister and her hubby spent their Christmas in Indiana with hubby's parents, and I stayed in Peterborough for mine, so this was our somewhat belated family Christmas together. Bella got to hang out with Xavier, my sister's border collie/basenji cross, and Jilly, my mom's sheltie/corgi cross, and a good time was had by all.

Sunday was a late-getting-up day, followed by an Atlantic Voices concert in the afternoon. They have a Newfoundland dog as their official mascot, so I phoned one of the board members to ask if Bella could come as honorary assistant mascot seeing as she's a member of Nova Scotia's official breed. The answer was yes, so Bella got to meet lots of people and listen to a concert in an echo-y church, so it was a great socialization experience for her. She was very well behaved, and no accidents were had in the church (phew). Then it was time to drive back to Peterborough. I was so tired by this point that I spent most of the trip dozing, which I don't normally do because it's nicer for Jim if he has someone to talk to.

Yesterday I felt like I'd been run over by a truck and couldn't really do anything. Fortunately, I'd anticpated this and had booked the day off, so home I stayed and did very little other than nap and occasionally eat. My various past afflictions have left me with less stamina than I once had: a weekend of mild exertion to most people is a marathon for me. I've been doing better in this regard in the past couple of years, but last weekend saw me pushing--and exceeding--my limits. Hence yesterday's collapse. It's annoying, but I'm used to it, and fortunately I have a job with floating days off that I can rearrange into "collapse days" when I need them.

Bella's training kind of fell off the itinerary too, which is unfortunate. She had her first group session with PADOC last Thursday and wasn't really at her best. Being in a room with ten other dogs was VERY distracting for her, and she had a complete brain dump of previously learned manners. ::sigh:: I get kind of upset about that if I spend enough time thinking about it, so I have to keep reminding myself that there are other things she needs work on--like her timidity--that did get worked on this weekend. The concert was a great experience for her, and so was Bruce Pit--every dog deserves some fun now and then. And so I'll take it for what it was and put our noses back to the grindstone this week.

Also, the Canadian Figure Skating Championships were on this weekend and I saw NONE OF THEM. ::weeps:: AND I forgot to set my VCR before I left Peterborough. ::wails:: I can't even remember the last time I didn't watch Canadians. I am welding myself to the TV set for Worlds in March.

Also also, we discovered last week that the VCR in my bedroom doesn't record, and I missed my chance to tape Victor, the film about Victor Davis starring Mark Lutz. WAH! If anyone has it on tape and wouldn't mind making me a copy, please do let me know.

Time to go home and practice heeling.
desoto_hia873: (Jayne - ligeres)
Bella LOVED doggy daycare yesterday. She had the biggest smile on her face when I went in at lunch and at the end of the day to pick her up. She was so cute. I need to win the lottery so that I can bring her in there every day. Of course, if I won the lottery, I wouldn't need to go to work and could stay home with her myself. Must buy more tickets.

Choir rehearsal last night was a mixed experience. We did an interesting adaptation of a traditional Italian song, but I've come to the conclusion that I dislike madrigals. They're squeaky (if you're a first soprano at the edge of her range) and repetitive and don't do a thing for me. I was all crankified by the time I got home and went to bed an hour earlier than usual.

Speaking of Italy, my brother-in-law booked a farmhouse in Tuscany for us all to stay in for a week in May. I can't believe a place like that is real. I may never come back to Peterborough again.

Lost

Jan. 14th, 2008 12:15 pm
desoto_hia873: (Sawyer)
I finally watched the last two episodes of last season's Lost last night.

Lost spoilers. Is there anyone left to spoil? )

In other news, Bella is at doggy daycare for the first time today. She's settled into our household routine well, and we're better at speaking each other's language for sure, but she's still a little timid when confronted with new people and things. She spooked when a truck used its air brakes as I was walking her to daycare this morning, so she arrived there feeling kind of jittery. I could see her thinking, "And what fresh hell is this?" as she was led away from me. She does love playing with other dogs, though, so I know she'll have a good time there when she loosens up. And I'm going to go and pay her a lunchtime visit ::checks watch:: right about now to see how she's doing.
desoto_hia873: (Anya - o_O - eyesthatslay)
When I decided that I was going to get a Toller, I joined the Raw-Toller Yahoo Group. A lot of Toller owners feed raw food to their dogs and request that their puppy buyers do too. I did some reading, thought "Why not?", and now trot down to a nearby pet store every other week to buy frozen, nutrionally balanced patties of raw food for both Bella and Lucy.

I occasionally give Bella raw chicken necks and other bits, too. (Chicken bones don't splinter until they're cooked, so raw chicken bones are safe for dogs.) They're slightly ickier than the anonymous meat patties, but I've been well trained by my father, the ultimate carnivore. He loves chicken and turkey necks, as well as all those other organ-y bits that are wrapped in paper inside whole chickens and turkeys. He boils them up and then takes great delight in grossing me and my sister out by sucking the spinal cord out of the vertebrae. If I can watch him eat a turkey neck--well, watching Bella eat one scarcely even registers on my radar screen.

However, there's a discussion going on at the group now about where to locate whole heads to feed their dogs. Yes, heads: chicken heads, lamb heads, and cow heads. Which they casually toss into the backyard and watch their dogs excavate and devour.

I like the raw diet. It's a little less convenient and a little more expensive than feeding tinned food and kibble, but I know that Bella's getting quality meat, not just processed bits that humans don't want. I've started feeding Lucy raw food, too--and her persistent case of dandruff has cleared up and her coat is much shinier. She's also not as neurotic as she was last winter. Raw food advocates say that dogs and cats weren't designed to eat large quantities of grains (i.e., carbohydrates), and eating processed carbs leads to higher and more variable blood sugar levels. So, who knows? Maybe the raw diet is responsible for the improvement in Lucy's behaviour, too.

But entire cow heads? In my backyard? ::shudders:: No, I'm just not going there. Sorry, Bella, that's just one "treat" you're going to have to do without.
desoto_hia873: (Absolut Spike - awmp)
I'm starting to think that I need to rename this journal something doggy as that's all I've been talking about lately.

I have my first group lesson at the Peterborough and District Obedience Club (a/k/a PADOC) tonight. No e-collars for them, although they do request choke collars. The Minneapolis breeder doesn't like them, either, but Bella is such a gentle and responsive dog that she takes all the choke out of choke collar. I'm still getting used to this side of her personality--Linus was a bull in a china shop, if there's such a thing as a 30-pound, beagle-shaped bull. He just kind of barged his way through everything. Bella, OTOH, is rather more timid than your average Toller, I think, and her general instinct is to do things gently and quietly (she doesn't even bark when someone comes to the door!). Except when I get home from work and let her out of her crate--then she explodes into excited, bounding, happy puppyness with her white knee-socked paws flying everywhere. And also when she finds another dog to play with--there's nothing she likes more than an all out, rough-and-tumble playfight with a willing canine companion.

Choir rehearsals start up again next Monday evening, which means potentially long and very boring days for Bella because Jim curls on Monday nights so he's not home either. So I investigated the doggy daycare down the street from my office and brought her in yesterday evening for a brief get-to-know-you session. I can't afford to take her there everyday, but I can't let a nine-month-old puppy sit at home by herself for 12 hours every Monday, either. When I knew I was going to be out in the evening in Ottawa, I'd drop Linus off at my (retired) mother's house on my way to work. However, that's not very practical anymore since she now lives three hours away, so doggy daycare it is. It'll be good for Bella, too--she'll have other dogs to play with, new people to meet for continuing socialization, and she'll get used to being with people other than me and that'll hopefully short-circuit her slight tendency towards separation anxiety.

Last night we practiced lots of indoor commands since outdoors it was windy enough to blow us to Kansas, Toto: we reviewed sit, down, and shake paws, and started in on stay and "on your blanket." She's a smart dog and catches on pretty quickly. The trick, as with all dogs, is getting her to obey when she'd really rather not. Presumably PADOC will provide guidance on this.
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
For them what can't get enough of looking at Bella, I've made her a Webshots album here.

Bella had her first session with the retriever trainer today and did very well. The trainer has over 20 years' experience with Labs, but I think Bella is the first Toller that she's worked closely with. She seemed impressed with Bella's personality and responsiveness, and invited her to her weekly "dog social hour" with past graduates from her training program next Sunday. Bella is going to love that--running around with other dogs is the best thing ever to her. It's fun watching her run, too--she bounds through the snow like a fox.

Happy belated New Year!
desoto_hia873: (Bella)
I'll change topics soon, really. Just not quite yet.

I've had a week to get to know Bella now, and she's proven herself to be a very nice and well-behaved young lady. She's perfectly housetrained, which, yay! A thousand times yay!!! I hate housetraining dogs--I find it really stressful because you have to walk a fine line between communicating to the puppy that it's done something wrong when it relieves itself indoors and not being so stern that you wind up creating a phobia. Through my inexperience, I almost did the latter when Linus was a puppy, and I'm very relieved that the whole issue has been taken care of for me with Bella. She doesn't have a very strong "I need to go out" signal, but neither did Linus, so I'm used to guessing when a dog needs a pee-break, and she hasn't had a single accident. Which is pretty impressive given that she's only nine months old and has been dealing with the stress of a major life change herself.

Tollers are generally high-energy dogs, second only to border collies. Of course, they all have their own personalities, and some are more high-energy than others. Bella, thankfully, is not one of the high-strung, perpetual-motion types. She's quite happy to lie on her pillow next to the couch when I'm reading or on the computer. She walks beautifully on the leash. She'll wander off to sniff things when she's on the extendable leash, and occasionally she'll try to dart after a squirrel, but otherwise she pretty much just walks beside me. I don't think she really knows the command "heel"; I think this is just her way. She's a very gentle dog and only needs gentle corrections.

She's also a pretty quiet dog. She sometimes barks when she hears strange noises (like the huskies howling next door), but not very often and not for very long. She's all wriggly happy in the mornings and will play-bite my hands, but she has a soft mouth and hasn't come close to hurting me. She hasn't shown any kind of aggression at all. I had to take a paintball out of her mouth on Christmas Day, and she let me do it without complaint. Her sit command is coming along really well. I've just started making her sit and wait before she gets to eat her meals, so that'll help even more.

I took her to a retriever trainer a couple of days ago, and she gave me several exercises to do with her. She actually does most of them already: she'll lie quietly beside me when I sit down, she makes eye contact readily, and she kind of knows "wait," so it's not hard for me to get her to follow me out the door instead of the other way around.

Her retrieving instinct isn't very strong--sometimes she'll run after a thrown ball, but she'll just as often ignore it. We'll have to work on that--I like throwing things for dogs and having them bring it back to me, and it's a good way to tire them out. She definitely needs work on her recall, and I hope we (i.e., the trainer and I) can deal with this soon because I want to be able to let her play off-leash in appropriate areas. And she's decided that she likes chasing the cat, so I've had to be more strict about that. She's great with Jim's brother's dog. He brought her over on Boxing Day, and the two of them chased each other around the backyard at top speed and then got into a serious rough-and-tumble wrestling match, all in play.

Bella's two biggest problems are that she likes to "counter-surf" (she's very food-motivated) and she's rather timid around new people, especially children. She often comes and stands behind me when MiddleJim, LittlestJim, and their cousins are around. She's still tied to my waist when she's indoors, which takes care of the counter-surfing, and I've told Jim's kids to give her treats often when they see her, so she'll come around there too.

Linus, bless his furry little heart, was an insatiably curious, excitable, perpetual-motion dog. He was filled to the brim with joie de vivre, which was fun to watch but could also be tiring after a while. Bella's not a couch potato, but she does have that all-important off button, which makes her a remarkably easy dog to live with.

Bella in the Backyard, Dec. 28, 2007

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