Where There’s A Willow, There’s A Way

                                                                                 How Could You??

The puppy is now about a year and half old.  She has come a long way from berserk. four pound sheep hunter to wily, seventeen pound combination persistent nuisance to all things and loving, loyal member of our home pack.  She still has miles to go before we all sleep well, but the girl is on a good path.

I know a lot more now than I did “B.W.” (Before Willow).  My two other Jack Russells lulled me into a smug sense of security that time and training would produce a calm, stable, companionable dog in a year.  Willow has dispelled any notion I had that nurture can override nature, sort of like the false security you have that your software will protect you against Heartbleed or some other such insidious virus.  She has a prey drive second only to a hyena with the scream to match, and only another piece of prey can pull off one scent to another. There’s yet to be a cookie invented that can compete with a chattering chipmunk. Perhaps if I rolled myself in raw meat, I might have greater appeal to her, but I have this image in my mind of being taken down by coyotes or bears, or at least every other dog in the neighborhood save mine.

Her recall is spotty.  I don’t chase her any longer.  Long gone are the days when she would take off through out rural area, this mostly small white streak, with me in pursuit (usually in my bed slippers), through horse pastures, cow pastures, pig sties, and chicken coops.  If she leaves the farm perimeter (which is, admittedly, less often) for far-flung fields, that’s her choice.  It isn’t that I don’t care or that I don’t worry:  I’ve simply learned that the less I holler for her and simply take Martha and Gus inside or continue playing with them, the game is over.  She can’t stand not being the center of attention and comes back of her own accord out of curiosity about what she may be missing.  Like the new raw food treats.

She’s also taught me you can put everything you’ve got into a dog, but the dog has to want to meet you halfway.  A  dog makes choices, good and not so good.  Sometimes, you just have to wait until the brain is more mature and just hope the dog survives its less stellar choices.  Willow isn’t Gus, who walks at heel through the forest off leash, looks up for permission to chase a squirrel, and, now that he has the Tasmanian Devil as a little sister, has the patience of Job.  Martha, blissfully deaf and much less patient with Willow’s antics, snarls.  Any resemblance to my own human family life is purely coincidental.  Or maybe not.

I am hoping one day, in our dotage, to be glad after all that I brought her home.  I want to look back and, like labor, not really remember how the early days of our lives drove me to the brink of psychosis.  I want to be able to buy good sheets again without resigning myself to the holes that will be chewed in them.  And I would like to answer the front door like a normal person, not hiding behind the tiny crack like a hoarder, with dogs snapping at my heels to charge the unseen intruder.  I’m certain at this point, we’ve been removed from the Jehovah’s Witness visitors list, and I must admit, I miss having someone to talk to occasionally.

The Worst Dog Challenge

For all of my fellow dog bloggers, here’s a challenge for this month, inspired by one of my favorite dog sites, http://www.dogshaming.com (sorry, since I am not “techy”, I can’t get the “add a link” thingy to work in that cool way the rest of you can – pffft!):

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Please post a photo (or two or three) and tag it “Dog Of Shame” (so we can find each other) of your dog’s worst crime against, say, your new love seat or roll of toilet paper or shoes. Even if you have the perfect pooch, perhaps that pooch has a past and evidence of that past will qualify you to join the challenge.

In this case, nobody wins or loses anything, but we can have some fun. And while you’re at it, have a look at Dog Shaming (especially on Fridays when they post adoptable dogs).

And let me know when you’ve posted. It will be so nice to know I’m not alone.

It Had To Be Ewe

I think I may have mentioned somewhere here that Willow is the Spawn of Satan.

I awoke this morning with a sinus headache that would have killed an elephant. The medication for that makes me a bit loopy (okay, dopey) but it worked, and off the dogs and I drove to our weekly private training session with the World’s Most Amazing Dog Trainer, hereafter more simply referred to as MPS (my personal savior, to whom I have given over not only my puppy but, after today, my soul). He is my Cesar.

MPS is teaching me to teach Willow leash manners and a chain of command strategy upon which we will build so that we might override with training the strongest prey drive I’ve ever seen in an animal not on the National Geographic Channel. The method is gentle but firm, all about teaching her impulse control through obedience. But before sessions begin, MPS believes that she benefits from a short time to exercise her so-called restless spirit by allowing her to run and play with a giant fluffy white LabraDoodle in a fully fenced area of about an acre. Fully fenced except for the teeny space about the size of a toddler’s hand between the galvanized steel gate and the moss covered cedar gate post through which she made her escape this morning.

You know that feeling of watching the horrific event unfold in seemingly slow motion but also at the speed of light? And the equally awful awareness that seeps into your consciousness that you are helpless to catch the puppy running at a break neck pace toward the neighbor’s sheep pasture because in your slowness and haste the humans are crashing into each other and bashing the gate closed with each attempt?

We are running like sprinters wearing clown shoes over slimy leaves toward the sounds of sheep baas, small dog yips, and cloven hooves pummeling the ground. MPS has leapt over the fence already. I can see as I skid to a halt at the fence a tiny white dog herding unsheared, dirty brown terrified sheep, and a man in a formerly pristine black Patagonia fleece now covered with sheep muck chasing the little white dog chasing the sheep.

Willow! Willow! We call. Her name could be anything. This is The Best Thing she has ever experienced in her life. This is the E Ticket at Disneyland for hunting dogs. The Grail. Discovering Atlantis.

For the man, the sheep, and the woman who owns the sheep and who has now come to the pasture with a shotgun, this is most definitely Not The Best Thing.

Willow has culled one ewe from the herd and has her cornered. The ewe butts her a few times but the dog is not dissuaded. Willow is, however, standing her ground, and MPS quite nimbly swoops in and scoops her up by the collar. I hop (okay, I don’t hop, I scramble, my days of leaping anything taller than a twig long past) the fence and grab Willow from MPS. She is unharmed, the sheep are unharmed even if unnerved. We apologize to everyone and take what seems like our first breath since the Great Escape.

Back at the training barn, the correlation between her chances of survival and the need for more accelerated training is glaringly obvious. Willow is moving in with MPS for a month. I made a commitment to this dog the day I brought her home. For her safety and the safety of anyone else, she needs a truly experienced hand. Although I have always trained my own dogs, were I to let my ego rule, Willow will never be the kind of dog she deserves to be: alive, safe, obedient and a good companion. As a client of mine once said of his personal manager, “he might be Satan but he’s our Satan.”

Ironically, her breeder sent me an email yesterday with photos of the available puppies from three new litters. Since Willow was doing well in her training, he wondered, did I have any jealous friends who might want a puppy just like her?

Maybe I should send him this story.

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Rosemary’s Puppy

I am losing my mind.

Think Damien from “The Omen.” The head twisting horror of Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”. I am living with Rosemary’s Puppy.

It's Alive It’s Alive

Don’t let this sleeping dog lie–she’s as alert as a highly caffeinated college junior during finals. We just returned from what can loosely be called a walk (she dragged Angus, poor Martha and me down our “practice” road, the one so boring it gives me a small chance of getting a tiny portion of her attention span) and while everyone else is knackered, she is merely cuddled next to Gus, pondering her next fiendish move.

We begin puppy school next week. In the interim, I’m supposed to be loading her with a Marker Word. And it can’t be “Nooooooooooo!” Damn. It’s actually “Yes”. I say “yes” and then shove tasty treats into her mouth.

The idea is any time she does anything that could remotely be construed as good behavior, I say “yes,” shove food, and she will magically make the connection between the word, the desired behavior and the food. Uh huh.

I’m meant to ignore all undesirable behavior. Digging up the plants in the garden. Chewing my sandals. Chewing the legs of my chairs. Chewing her crate. Jumping on Martha. Basically, ignore her at this point.

She does sit. She learned that the second day. So I reward that. “Yes,” I say, and shove food into her mouth.

I will either have the fattest, worst trained dog on the planet, who sits on command but tears my arm out of its socket when I walk her, chases cars, bikes, cows, horses and chickens, or I may have to start looking for a priest to perform an exorcism on a tiny puppy.

A New Leash On Life

Willow is learning about the leash. She needs boundaries. Badly.  She has no clue about property lines, roads, cars, or the cows and horses that live around us on the neighboring farms. Given that she’s a terrier, all of these things are curiosities to be examined, chased, or played with. She’s incapable of perceiving them as dangerous. Hence the 15 foot web leash attached to her harness. She pulls like a little freight train and goes in so many directions at once, it is a lot like capturing tiny balls of mercury after the thermometer has shattered. Her fascinations and desires extend so far beyond being with me, unlike my older, educated dogs.

Like shampoo instructions, “lather, rinse, repeat” and get out of the shower. You’d think being the center of the universe would have some appeal, but what lies beyond the end of the lead is as compelling to her as the allure of dead fish is to my lab. Sigh.

Did Someone Say Cookie?

Did Someone Say Cookie?