Snow day!

Ice day, actually. After several hours of sleet, my entire neighborhood is a skating rink. While I have not been brave enough to lace up my snowboots and go for a walk, the dogs are taking the slipping and sliding in stride.

Frankie chased squirrels and generally ran around like it was springtime. I was worried about his bum leg, but I never saw him slip or fall. Yay for physical therapy that works!

Frankie, trying to find that evil squirrel.

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JoJo always acts like the snow is no different than grass. And like Linus and his blanket, she is rarely without a toy. This time, it’s the filthiest dog toy in the history of dog toys. You’d think her mom would wash that thing, wouldn’t you? (Pssstt! She’s getting new dog toys for Christmas, but don’t tell her!! Well, they are all getting toys, but she will assume all the toys are hers. I just tell her she has to share and it all works outs.)

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My girl has put on some muscle! She weighs the same as always, but she looks much heavier in these pictures. We’re not discussing the ever-increasing white fur on her face. She’s only five and a half, after all.

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Ginny and Chassie played their usual stalking game they play each and every time they go outside. So much fun to watch!

They hide behind trees and shrubs and then pounce on each other.

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Here’s Ginny, patiently waiting for Chassie to finish her business so they can get on with the game.

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And the chase is on!!

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Cold weather is really not my cup of tea, but when the white stuff falls from the sky, the resulting landscape can be awfully pretty. I wish I had a better camera because the ice-covered branches along with the last remnants of autumn leaves were breathtaking. I accidentally captured the Evil Squirrels who torment my dogs in this picture. They make fools of JoJo, B’Elanna, and Frankie, who all run around barking long after the squirrels have moved on to the neighbor’s trees.

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The Mexican petunias were still blooming three weeks ago, so I had not yet cut them back. They’ll be back next summer, I’m sure. I don’t think anything can kill this plant.

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Winter in Texas is nothing compared to real winter in other states. This is about as bad as it gets, usually. But it happens infrequently enough – not even every winter – that it pretty much shuts down the whole place. Cities don’t have the equipment to clear ice-covered roads, so schools and businesses close. We stay home, play in the white stuff, snuggle by the fire, drink hot cocoa, and say prayers of thanks for central heating and flannel sheets. And in my case, also for 60 lb. dogs who nap in my lap and keep me warm and toasty!

Update on the cross stitch project: Finished!! Also? I found my threaded beading needle lying on the floor by the back door. With my eyes, not my bare feet.

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Posted in Chassie, Frankie, Ginny, JoJo, Playtime!, Snow Days | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The perils of doing needlework with a dog in your lap

Last night, the biggest little lapdog in the clan was hanging out in the chair with me while I worked on a cross stitch gift. The gift I’m making includes both stitching and beading. I’m coming down the home stretch on this one with only the beading left to do. And I’m encountering a few little snaggles.

  1. Cross stitch needles are large, thick, and rather blunt. Beading needles are small, thin, and quite sharp. I stitch without a thimble. Always have. Did I mention that beading needles are sharp?
  2. To stitch beads into a design, you start the stitch, add the bead on the needle, then finish the stitch. This necessitates having an open container of beads at the ready. I hold the bead container and the cross stitch project in one hand and stitch with the other. This can be a bit precarious if there’s a restless dog in your lap who bumps your hand, causing you to slosh beads all over your lap. This has not happened. Yet. Perhaps I’m testing fate?
  3. Beading needles are small. Did I mention that? Yes? Well, it takes me for-freakin’-ever to thread the dang needle because the teeny-tiny eye is kinda hard to see without going cross-eyed. It takes even longer when there’s a giant head leaning over my shoulder, breathing hot doggie breath down my neck because “Hey! It’s my turn to be petted, Lady!!” Apparently, I do not thread needles well under pressure.
  4. And then there’s the old using-your-dog’s-back-as-a-table thing. Not a big deal when your lapdog is snoozing away blissfully. It’s another story altogether when the snoozing dog suddenly hears barking outside and decides it must be investigated right this instant and all your supplies that were arranged on her back go flying. Which is exactly how I lost my newly threaded beading needle last night. Lost, as in I have no idea where it is. I looked and looked. It’s nowhere. Fortunately, I did not find it this morning when I walked barefoot through the living room. Because, did I mention those beading needles are sharp?
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Can group training work? You betcha. Sometimes.

Over and over, I’ve read that if you have multiple dogs, you should train them individually. If you try to train several dogs all at once, you’re just asking for trouble. And if you try to train one dog at a time while the other ones are right there in the mix, you’re probably asking for trouble, too.

I break this rule. All the time.

Why? Oh, I might have a lazy bone or two. Or, perhaps I’m overly optimistic. Or, I suppose it could be that I’m trying really, really hard to develop that thing called “patience.”

Sometimes, it’s so completely exasperating that I wonder why I’m such an idiot. I make a pinky-swear promise to myself that I’ll never, ever attempt to train my all girls at the same time again.

And then I break that promise. Because sometimes, it’s magical. Like, for example, a few weeks ago when I taught the big dogs “paw.”

It all started when Frankie kept whacking me with his big ole paw. It hurt! I mentioned this to a lady who’s dog-savvy. She said, “Why don’t you put it on cue? Then he’ll stop doing it at inappropriate times and only do it when you ask for it?” Well…duh!! Why didn’t I think of that?!?

So I did a little research on how to teach a dog to put his paw in your hand. It went something like this:

Step 1: Put a treat in your hand and show it to your dog.
Step 2: Close your hand, but hold it close to your dog’s face so he can smell it. He’ll try to get it. First, he’ll use his mouth. When that doesn’t work, he’ll use his paws.
Step 3: Click-and-treat when he raises his paw to your hand.
Step 4: Continue clicking and treating for paw raises, eventually turning your empty hand over and asking for the paw.
Step 5: When the behavior is solid, add the cue.

Simple, right? 

I started with Frankie. The girls were watching very carefully. Because, you know, Mom has a whole lotta treats and how do I get her to give me one?

Frankie learned the whole thing, cue and all, in about five minutes. Maybe less. See? Simple!

Next, I turned to JoJo. She was totally lost. She just sat there patiently waiting for me to GIVE HER THE TREAT ALREADY BECAUSE I’M SITTING, LADY!!!

Uh…okay…

Next, I tried Chassie. Same response. And Ginny. Exact same response.

Never in a million years did I think I’d ever be typing this sentence: Ginny, Chassie, and JoJo were all too polite to paw my hand. Too polite!

Now, in case you’re new here, “too polite” has never been used to describe these girls. Excitable? Sweet? Exuberant? Energetic? Oh yes. There’s a reason I call Chassie my Tigger dog: she’s bouncy-bouncy-bouncy!

So, I went back to Frankie and we polished the behavior for a couple more minutes. JoJo was watching veeeeeeeery carefully, so I turned to her. “Paw,” I said, and wham! She slapped her paw right into my hand. I thought it might’ve been a happy accident, but no, she had it down.

Next, I worked with Chassie again. She still had no idea what to do. But she wanted those cookies, so she switched to goofball mode. Being cute always gets her some positive attention (she makes me laugh!) and sometimes gets me to give her treats. Finally, she reached up and pawed at me. Click! Treat! A few more minutes, and she had the behavior down, cue and all. Score!!

Next it was Ginny’s turn. And that’s where we hit a snag. Now, Ginny’s not a dumb bunny, but she’s not as quick on the uptake as her sisters are. It was a no-go that day. And the next day. And the next. And the next.

We’ve been practicing intermittently for several weeks now and every time, Ginny just stands there sweetly or sits there looking pretty.

But then…

Out of the blue this week, she put her paw right into my hand! I jumped up and down, squealed with delight, and gave her every single treat I had in my hand. Which was a lot – enough to be a jackpot. But then she wouldn’t do it again.

The next day, same thing. She gave me her paw exactly once and she was done.

A couple of days later, it was an entirely different story. She tried to give me her paw when I was working with Frankie and JoJo. A good sign! She gave me her paw every time I asked her that night.

And now? Well, we just finished a training session and she gave me her paw every single time! It took her a while, but she learned from watching Frankie and her sisters. And they learned from each other.

It is, unfortunately, next to impossible for me to train Callie Sue and B’Elanna when the others are around. Since they’re little, they get shoved out of the way by the big dogs, so they tend to spend the whole training session running around in circles trying to find an open spot to catch a treat. My plan is to work with the two of them together while the others are hanging out in their crates. We’ll see how it goes.

Since I don’t have any training photos to share with you, here’s a picture of B’Elanna, who says, “Hey, I live here too, ya know!”

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Happy birthday to my beautiful twins!

Six years! It’s hard to believe almost six years have passed since Ginny and Chassie came into my life. All of three months old, they were scrawny, full of parasites, had scaly skin, and coats that felt more like scratchy polyester than puppy fur. But, oh, they had heart!

Ginny and Chassie, soul sisters from the beginning.

Ginny and Chassie, soul sisters from the beginning.

The ensuing years have brought one adventure after another, including some I would prefer to forget, like nearly losing both of them to abdominal obstructions less than six months apart. But, I wouldn’t trade them away for all the money in the world.

Happy sixth birthday, girls!!

Chass (l) and Gin, six months old. Such innocent faces!

Chass (l) and Gin, six months old. Such innocent faces!

Chassie (l) and Ginny, telling me the sprinkler valve broke and oh! what fun they had!

Chassie (l) and Ginny, telling me the sprinkler valve broke and oh! what fun they had!

Still the best playmates!

Still the best playmates!

Chassie, my goofball Tigger dog

Chassie, my goofball Tigger dog

Ginny, my gentle, easy-going girl...except, um, when it comes to puppies.

Ginny, my gentle, easy-going girl…except, um, when it comes to puppies.

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Wordless Wednesday: Playtime!

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Wordless Wednesday: Standoff

Jool and Frankie

Jool and Frankie

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Labor Day Weekend Labors

It was so dang hot this weekend! I hibernate from heat whenever possible, so the girls, Frankie, and I spent the weekend in the great indoors. Frankie and Ginny played endless games of bitey-face. Chassie jumped into the play a time or two. Saturday evening, Frankie got everyone except B’Elanna to play with him – quite a feat!

We awoke this morning to rain. Blessed rain!! And with it, a little bit cooler temperatures. The pups have been able to play outside a little bit more today. I’ll be sweeping up all the mud before I go to bed, but it makes my heart happy for them to be able to play.

And me? Well, I’ve been watching a Doctor Who marathon and finishing up a Christmas gift. Here’s a sneak peek before it’s framed:

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What have you been up to this weekend?

Posted in Chassie, Foster pups, Frankie, Ginny, Maybe possibly pet related | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment