Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lost In Translation

As expected, Ellen's report card last night was not glowing.  This time it said "Needs to work on walking and control."  I am not surprised.  Ellen neither walks, nor has any control.

However, I do think we are both making progress.  There are some commands Ellen will respond to now (albeit with the promise of sausage), and I think I am learning to understand the teacher a bit better.  Like Confucius, his wisdom is sometimes cleverly veiled in seemingly simple phrases.  For example, Confucius said "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."  What he really meant by this was, "If  you love marine biology, pursue it, but you will never find a job.  Aim low, Grasshopper."

But I digress.  These are some of the things our teacher said last night, along with translations of what he actually meant:

   Words Spoken With Forked Tongue   
    The Real Message   

This course is all about you forming a better working relationship with your dog. It's not about who learns to drop the quickest, and whether you graduate to the next class.

You. With the labrador. You are going to fail.

In the short time you've been doing this I've seen you all make real progress..........

.....except you.  With the labrador.

Now see what those two [pointing to Weasel-face and Ellen] are doing?  That's "socialising."

You.  With the labrador.  Keep your @#$% dog away from the others while I'm talking.

He's a little nervous [pointing to The Hound of the Baskervilles].

Don't go near that dog if you value your face.
You'll notice a great improvement if you practise this at home.
You.  With the labrador.  I know that rather than spend the necessary time training, you sit around watching Hitchcock movies together and reinforcing each other's bad habits.  

Now this exercise is a little tricky.

I know you haven't mastered the basics yet.  I'm doing this because I hate you.

Be careful with treating your dog.  If they think they'll get a treat every time they do something, they'll stop obeying you.

You. Labrador girl.  Don't think I haven't noticed your dog pretends she doesn't know you unless you have a sausage between your eyes.

Now, I want you to run to the fence, turn and run back.

This is not really necessary.  I'm doing this because I hate you.

Adolescence in labradors can last up until they're two years old.

Your dog is a lost cause.  Have you considered getting a standard poodle instead?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Helpful Household Hint #1: How To Get Your Fella To Do The Dishes

Scene: Fella is sitting on couch watching cricket.  Dishes, including a pan from an egg-poaching experiment gone horribly wrong, are sitting on kitchen sink.  Cricket is scheduled to finish some time close to dawn.

Step One: Start singing Mr Mistoffeles, sotto voce.

Fella will smile politely at your child-like exuberance.

Step Two: Leave a pause long enough for your Fella to relax and start watching cricket again.  Start singing Don't cry for me Argentina.  Inject some passion.  Stand up for the chorus.

Fella will smile again, but this time with a hint of murderousness.

Step Three: Shift the tempo with Mein Herr from Cabaret.  You probably don't know all the words to this one, but it's OK to substitute all the missing words with "Mein Herr."

Fella stops smiling and turns up the volume.

Step Four: Treat him to The sun will come out tomorrow in your best Little Orphan Annie holler.  Make sure you emphasise "Tooo-morrrrahhhhhh" in a way that will get the cat's attention from the other end of the house.

Fella will turn off the TV and go into the kitchen.

Step Five: Turn the TV back on and watch something interesting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Focus And Control

Ellen's second class was on Thursday night.  I can no longer claim she is "not the worst" dog in the class.  She even made The Hound of the Baskervilles look like a a baby cocker spaniel.

At the start of each class we get to look at what the teacher has written on our report cards for the previous week.  Weasel-face got "A good start!" on hers, according to her proud mum.  

Ellen got "Needs to work on focus and control."  The handwriting was a little shaky, like he was very, very angry when he wrote it.

The first thing we did was more work on leash-control.  The teacher made us do an exercise where all the dogs stood in a circle, and each dog, in turn, weaved in and out of the circle to complete a circuit.

Like this:

Of course Ellen struggled a little with the concept of doing this quietly and without molesting every dog in the circle.  The teacher rolled his eyes, and said rather patronisingly, "Here.  Let me show you how." 

Heh heh heh.

This is the path Ellen led her teacher on:

I am looking forward to seeing next week's report card. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Characteristics, Instructions And Warnings That Apply Equally To Me And Various Products Or Tools In My Garage

  • Repels possums
  • Wipe clean with a damp cloth
  • May cause a rash
  • Keep out of reach of children
  • Kills crawling insects
  • Use in a well-ventilated area
  • Not a toy
  • Never place anything sharp in top opening
  • Will not sink, shrink, split or fade
  • If swallowed, do not induce vomiting
  • Contains peanuts

Saturday, August 15, 2009

School Of Dog

Ellen was very excited to be going to her first day of school on Thursday after her Very Big Adventure, and was even more excited when she saw the bag of sausages and cheese I'd packed for her play lunch.

The instructor was right last week.  Every dog was very, very excited, and there was lots of power-wagging, butt-sniffing and rolling over to present bellies to bigger, more frightening puppies.

We were placed in the "Beginners' A" class, which is for dogs that aren't puppies, but are keen to continue their education and better themselves.  Unfortunately this meant we weren't in the same class as the ferret dog, so I can't report on what it looked like, but this should give you some idea:

Despite the lack of ferret, Ellen has some interesting class-mates.  Her new best friend is the smallest dog in the class.  Not ferret-sized - perhaps adolescent marten, or even stunted pole-cat (marbled, that is, not the steppe pole-cat).  We shall call her Weasel-face.

The largest dog is a german shepherd that was described by his handlers as "nervous," but is, in fact, a psychopath and had to be kept ten metres away from the rest of the class.  Occasionally I saw him licking his drooly jowls and fixing Weasel-face with the same look I have been known to direct at a plate of pastizzi.  We shall call him The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The rest of the class is pretty much comprised of staffy-crosses, with the odd small bristly terrier thing.  We don't have names for any of those.

The first class was focussed on communication, and getting your dog's attention.  The way to do this is to hold a piece of sausage between your eyes.  

I can report that it does not work without the sausage.  I'm not sure how to fix this.  Sure, it's OK to get around the house with a frankfurter taped to my forehead, but I can't really maintain that if we go out.  Sometimes I accidentally have smallgoods stuck to my face, but the Fella usually makes me remove them if we're in company.  I may have to go with a discreet smear of lard.

Another thing we practised was walking on a loose lead.  Well, when I say we "practised" it, I mean that eleven dogs walked nicely across the grass, and I was dragged on my face, screaming and trying to wield a sausage of obedience.  The instructor said not to worry, it was just adolescence.  That was good news.  I will only have to wait until Ellen is two years old for her to grow out of it.

The last thing we practised was getting our dogs comfortable with us touching them all over.  Why, we asked?  Well, the instructor said, it's in case we ever need to remove a tick from their anus.  Of course!  I was hoping that was one of the things on the syllabus.  I'm thinking that if The Hound of the Baskervilles gets anything in his anus that his owners will be pretty happy to leave it there.

Am excited to learn what vital skills we'll pick up next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I have never been as pleased to clean up dog vomit before breakfast as I was this morning.

The chain of events leading to this started yesterday with a string of burglaries, a long and sad walk around the suburb, a ride in a police car, and finally, a big kiss for Ellen in spite of the grave bacterial danger.

When I arrived home with groceries just after lunch, I steeled myself for the usual jumping, slobbering, smiling attack of someone who knows there are bones for her in one of the bags.  It didn't come.  I dumped the bags on the kitchen floor, and went around the side of the house to where Ellen had masterminded her two previous escapes, and found that the side gate had been opened, and Ellen was gone.  A pile of bricks had been moved to open the gate, so I knew my girl hadn't done it herself.  

Hoping that she had simply escaped through the opened gate, and not been taken, I called the Fella, and he came home to walk around the suburb with me.  No luck, but lots of false alarms - it's amazing how many barks sound just like Ellen's.  The Fella had to go back to work, and I was left forlorn to type up a lost dog notice.

As I was sitting at the computer, a policeman walked past the window.  I ran outside, and he told me he was checking to see if we'd been burgled, as there had been a string of break-ins in the street.  I told him no, but that someone had come in, and our dog was missing.  He said he'd heard a dog was missing, and figured it must have been from our house, as he'd looked through the kitchen window, seen the dumped groceries and assumed I'd arrived home, left everything on the floor, and gone out looking for her.  I was impressed at his detectiving skills until the Fella pointed out that get to the kitchen window he would have walked past an enormous kennel, stepped over another dog bed, watched he didn't stumble over chewed sticks and rubber toys, and leaned over an enormous water bowl.  It might have occurred to a more experienced policeman a little earlier that this was a house of dog.  Also, if he knew us, he would know there are always groceries on the kitchen floor.

Anyway, he said to me "Was it a black labrador?"  I confirmed this, and then he said "We may have some bad news about a black labrador."  I can't describe how I felt as he told me that they had picked up some associates of the burglars, who told the police that the burglars had boasted that they'd killed a black lab.  "It's not confirmed though," he said.  "For the moment we'll treat it as a missing dog, rather than a murdered dog."  Not comforting.  

After checking out our neighbour's property, which had also been entered, he told me to wait, and they would go to the scene of the alleged crime, and let me know what they found.  

longest. wait. of. my. life.

Finally he returned and asked me if she was wearing a purple collar.  I said yes, and he said they had found her.  

He then told me "We would have brought her back in the car, but she was too manic."  

That's definitely my girl!!!  I started running around in circles and whooping, and then the policeman took me to where she was.  Turns out she'd chased the would-be burglars down the street, jumping all over them, and they had put her over someone's fence.  Who needs a fierce guard dog when you've got a really annoying one?

Ellen came home, gnawed on an enormous bone for the rest of the afternoon, and was a bit bemused by all the cuddles she was getting.

A lot of excitement for a girl on her first day of school.  But more of that later.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Parents' Night

Last night was Parents' Night at Ellen's new school.  Along with lots of other proud mums, and a few young fathers, I attended a talk on what to expect from obedience training, and what rules we all need to follow.

The rules are basically the same ones that apply at any school: pick up your child's poo, don't approach someone else's child if you see it tied to a pole, and don't bring your child to school if she has distemper or is in heat.  Nothing about leaving your child at home if she is a nutcase, so I guess we're OK.

The introductory lecture was held in the clubhouse.  As you'd expect, there are lots of photos of dogs on the wall.  Most of them look a lot calmer than Ellen - some are even holding ribbons in their mouths and not tearing them up.  There are also hilarious stickers that say things like "Dog trainers don't die, they just drop on recall."  I don't know what dropping on recall is, and Ellen sure as hell doesn't, but I guess we'll both learn, and have a good laugh at the sticker when our year is up.

So.  Dog people.  Our instructor came into the clubhouse wearing a big woolly jumper, hiking boots and shorts.  One of the first things he said was that we should dress warmly, as outdoor classes on Canberra winter evenings can get a little nippy.  To demonstrate this, he put on a beret.  He then spent 45 minutes talking about pieces of cheese and other choice treats we need to bring along to next week's class.

Next, he spoke a little about the type of collar and lead we should have, and asked if there were any questions.  One girl put up her hand and said that her dog was so small she couldn't find a collar to fit, so it wore a ferret harness, and was that OK?  Beret man asked if she was embarrassed.  I don't think he was joking.

So, to finish, he said that we would find that next week our dogs will be the worst behaved that they've ever been as they'll be incredibly excited about everything.  

God help us.  Oh, and God....please don't let Ellen eat the ferret dog.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

10 Pieces of Advice For Stuart

In a few days it will be one year since I got Stuart.  In that time we have both put a lot of weight on, but only one of us has a belly that brushes against the ground.  Stuart has certainly settled in, but like Ellen, there are things he should be told.

1.  Last night you stole half a capsicum from me when I was making noodles.  This doesn't please me.

2.  Some cats do adorable things that result in funny photos that can be made into hilarious LOLcats.  You are not a LOLcat.  You are more like a WTFcat.

3.  If you need to use your bowels, you should just go.  You don't need to stand there with your legs crossed until I've cleaned your tray.

4.  Standing on my pillow at 5:00am and licking my hair will not result in an earlier breakfast.  It doesn't work for the Fella, and it won't work for you.

5.  You can't kill me with your stare.  Even if your eyes are really, really narrow.

6.  Spending an hour noisily licking your forearms does not constitute a comprehensive wash.

7.  If the dog breaks the window because you're sitting on the other side teasing her, you will be the one at fault.

8.  Beetroot leaves are neither delicious, nor essential for cat health.  You do not need to steal them.  When my bags are on the floor after I've returned from the farmers' market, and you're making honking noises as you're stripping the stems, I can hear you from the next room.

9.  Talking to a moth will not kill it.  No matter how much you chatter your teeth.

10.  If the only time you tell me you love me is in the half hour before meals, I may start to doubt your sincerity.

He is attacking my feet as I write this.  Sigh.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Properties Of Various Products In My Bathroom Cupboard That I Could Not Convincingly Or Honestly Apply To Myself

  • Rich
  • Pleasant smelling
  • Light, non-greasy
  • Does not contain alcohol
  • Hard working
  • Soft and gentle
  • Suitable for babies and children
  • Water and dirt repellent
  • Practically invisible
  • Economical
  • Will not stain clothing
  • Product of France

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