Saturday, May 20, 2017

Downstairs bathroom: tiled and grouted!

Not much to update here, but it always feels like such a milestone when the new floor is laid and grouted!

I'm so glad we put that tile to use! (Was originally meant for the Man Cave project, but Dennis changed his mind.)

I walked around on the new floor, and my feet didn't stick to yucky stained laminate flooring. It felt good.

What is next? To be honest, I'm not sure. We are going to paint that wood around the shower. We were going to leave it the way it is, but it doesn't seem to go with light grey too well.

Other than that, new vanity or slatted ceiling....not sure which will be first but it will be exciting to find out!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Phase 6 bomb

I finally did my Phase 6 evaluation. I wish I could say I did well, but I didn't.

It didn't help that I was driving through two severe thunderstorms. I was planning on rehearsing what I was going to say on the way there, but instead, I was white-knuckling my way through a typhoon.

But if I'm being honest with myself, I probably would have not done well anyway. For one thing, I didn't do the Leave It command correctly. And I was very nervous, had to stop halfway through to ask for a moment to catch my breath, since my heart was hammering through my chest. And then, with the last command, I messed up and totally went blank. Ugh.

But, it wasn't a total loss. The first three commands went pretty well; I was able to teach without feeling like I was going to pass out, and that is always a plus. Ace was great too. And my mentor complimented me on "choosing the right dog". She said that choosing the right dog to be a demo dog makes a huge difference in teaching.

My pros were that I spoke clearly and slowly--a big plus, as most people rush through, or so I am told. Me, I'm just trying to buy time and try to figure out what I need to say next, haha.

She said that I was also pretty clear and simple in my teaching--also a good thing, as it is easy to over-explain things and get people confused.

My biggest con is my confidence. People want a confident teacher and obviously, it doesn't show through with my teaching. I have never been good with public speaking though, and I'm not very good at my role of "teacher". I feel so inadequate and every insecurity that I've had since I was 15 comes rushing back when I try to "teach."

So I don't know if I passed. I really screwed up with "Leave it" and I think she was pretty lenient when she circled "demonstrated but needs practice" rather than "needs to work on it." At least now, I know what I did wrong, and if I have to take the test again, I won't make the same mistake again.

Something I decided I'm going to do: I'm going to get an internship job as an assistant for dog classes. Whether I decide to lead classes in the future or not isn't a huge thing on my list, but I want it to be an option in case I need more income. Up until now, I felt like I could never teach a class because I'm not confident enough. Not a good reason! And I want to get over this fear.

For an exercise for myself, I'm going to show you the command "Leave It." This is more for me than it is for you, but you never know, maybe it will come in handy for you one day too.

Why this command is useful: Good to protect your dog from harmful situations (things that fall on the floor, broken glass or something poisonous). Good for protecting your own possessions. Also good to use on people who are not "dog people", you can tell your dog to "leave it" and he will understand not to touch that person.
How to teach "Leave It":
 1. Get a treat that will tempt your dog enough to want to work for.

2. Holding it in front of him (not too close, but not too far away either), tell him "Leave It."

3. If the dog tries to snatch the treat (which he will), close your fist and say no, and try again. Tell him "leave it."

4. Wait for the dog to back off. The moment he backs off, tell him "Yes!" or "Good dog!" and immediately give him the treat.

5. Practice 3-5 more times, but no more than that.

The point of this exercise is to teach the dog that when he backs off, this behavior will reward him with a treat. That's why it's important to reward him the moment he backs off. Don't test him by waiting to see how long he can wait. That is for more advanced training down the road. Right now, we have to keep it easy for the dog to learn.

Part Two of Leave It

Once the dog has Part 1 down well, you can move on to Part 2. Don't move on to Part 2 until you're sure that your dog understands that "leaving it" gives him a reward.

1. You will need a bag of treats. With one had you will be rewarding the dog, and the other hand, you will be covering one of the treats on the floor.

2. Put a single treat on the floor. (I screwed this part up and put multiple treats on the floor. Don't do this, it is way too tempting for the dog to "leave it"! This is for more advanced training down the road.) Be ready to cover this treat with your hand or your dog will assume he can eat it.

3. Cover the treat with your hand and tell the dog "leave it."

4. If he paws, or nibbles at your hand, keep your hand firmly over the treat. No need to say "leave it" over and over. Silence is best.

5. Wait for your dog to back off. He will figure this out eventually. When he does back off, you can reward him immediately with the treat on the floor.

6. Repeat about 3-5 more times, keeping it positive and successful (this is so the dog will want to keep practicing.)

"Down the Road Training"

When your dog has this "game" figured out, you can start to put your bait on the floor and tell the dog to "leave it" without covering it up with your hand.

Eventually, you can wait for longer periods of time before giving the dog a treat. This will teach him impulse-control.

Further down the road, you want to teach him that he won't always be rewarded by food. For instance, if there's shards of glass on the floor. Would you reward him with a piece of glass? Start praising him instead, and alternate between treats and praise, and eventually fade treats out altogether.

Generalizing: pretty soon you can start generalizing items with your dog. Practice on things that aren't too important to you. An old pair of socks or a hair brush you never use. The dog will learn that it's not always dog treats he should leave alone. You can teach him to leave the garbage can alone, or your plate of food that you set down alone. Or as I said before, you can even tell him to use people alone. Anything you tell him to "leave it" immediately becomes your possession and not the dog.

Yes, even a pile of some other dogs poop. :-) 


Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Spot of Mercy

We may not always understand each other, we may not always be "holy" and act like it. But we are all called to be merciful. It's what we can do if we choose.

Sometimes it seems that there's never a moment of pause or rest, just ongoing (internal) suffering. But then someone does an act if mercy.. I call that a spot of mercy. Or a moment of mercy. It feels like when just for a moment, you get some shade from the hot sun before the cloud moves on. Or just for a moment, you can rest your feet and enjoy the relaxation before you are called to run again. It's only for a moment, but those moments are the best.

A kind word here, or a moment of understanding (or just acceptance) there. Those are my spots of mercy. I need those spots in my life. I know others need them. Why do we deprive each other from these spots of mercy? Why do we prefer to accuse rather than understand? Even when someone is a jerk to us, why don't we search deeper? What made them so angry, so hurt, to want to hurt back??

A lack of mercy. A lack of relief. Constant pain from one another.

I had a spot of mercy this morning from someone. I was hurting about something very deep and the worst part was that I couldn't talk about it (and still can't.) It is one of those things that people won't understand; one of those things you can talk about only in Confession. It's a burden to suffer like that, to not be able to unburden yourself to someone, to have to carry it on your own.

But then this person called me to see how I was doing. I told her that I wasn't doing very well. She didn't really understand or why I felt so angry inside. I couldn't explain it to her because I didn't understand it myself. But the fact that she cared enough to call, to the fact that she wanted to understand. It was a moment of mercy, where, just for a moment, the burden was lifted. Just for a moment, the burden was shared. It reminded me of how important it is to be kind and merciful to one another. Just to love one another. It's the only thing we've been called to do. One task, and yet, we won't do it.

I love my little book of Secret to Happiness. This man was so imperfect and so good at allowing others to see it. What if he tried to hide it all? We would never be inspired to be good.

From Pope John XXIII

"Since we are called to do good rather than to destroy evil, to build up rather than tear down, I seem to find myself in the right place to continue always seeking the good without looking for different ways of understanding or judging life. Ah, the saints, the saints....How they were practical, fervent and good--above all good!"

Let us be good too--strive to find good in everyone, even in their worst moments. To love them when they are unloveable. To wait for them when they push us away. To forgive them even when they don't say they're sorry. This is love--true love! We have to suffer in this life, but if we loved one another the way we're called to, think of all the spots of mercy we would enjoy!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Max saves Crazy Clyde

After failing my Phase 7 test, I retook it and I'm happy to say that I got a 93%! Very happy to put that behind me.

So now I'm taking my Phase 8 exam and it's not nearly as hard as Phase 7. In the meantime, I'm in Phase 9 (they let you go ahead even when you're taking the exam on the last phase) and in this phase, we learn about shelters and adoption. They also require that you do an externship at a shelter or rescue, which I'm already doing with the veterinarian that I'm volunteering at right now.

We've been volunteering there for almost a year (it will be a year in October) and I feel like I've grown a lot in experience with all sorts of dog breeds. I've met friendly dogs, well behaved dogs, and not-so-friendly and not well behaved dogs. I've met with dogs I liked right off the bat, and other dogs, not so much. (I've gotten over the guilt of not liking EVERY dog I work with. Just like people, you're not going to click with everyone!)

So today, we worked with Clyde, who is a Pit Bull mix. Clyde is a super friendly, high energy dog, that acts like he's never been exercised in his life. In fact, he has so much energy and stamina that he gets the entire play pen to himself while the other dogs are stuck in their kennels. This makes it difficult to exercise other dogs, because not all the dogs like Clyde's insane high energy (and I don't blame them.) The first day I walked into the play pen, Clyde scratched up my arm and drew blood even though I was wearing a jacket. He jumped repeatedly on me, nipping at my arms and hands with a hard mouth. I told Max to "be a tree!" which means to stand still (preferably turn away) with his arms crossed. He never even got to play with Clyde.

Today, Clyde was there again and I dreaded trying to play with him. As usual, he jumped and nipped and scratched. He was so crazy that I couldn't even bend down to get the ball for him. So after five minutes of being mauled, I told Max I had enough and we left to go visit the other dogs in the kennel.

Max felt sorry for Crazy Clyde. He has a soft spot for dogs that aren't liked very much, and he knows that I'm not crazy about Clyde. So when we decided to go walk Libby--a Golden Retriever--he asked if we could walk Crazy Clyde too. I said no. I wasn't even sure how we could get a leash on him without him scratching and biting our hands.

Instead, we walked Libby, who turned out to be a terrible walker. She too, was hyper, and wanted to chase after anything that moved, which meant every bird and squirrel she saw. So I was yanked around all over the yard, with Max following. My hands had turned numb from holding onto the leash so tightly and I got calluses on my hands. But, it was good practice for me, because leash pulling is one of the most common reasons why people call trainers.

We had to walk by Crazy Clyde a couple times. Yes, I felt sorry for him (sort of) as he watched us (making all sorts of racket) through a six foot fence. But I didn't feel too bad. He had the luxury suite of the entire play area, plus fresh air while the other dogs were cooped up in their kennels.

After we walked with Libby for a while, we brought her back to her kennel, where she happily went into because she was nice and tired and thirsty. It's always a good feeling when you can bring a dog back to their kennel willingly!

It was time to go and we stopped at the play pen where I left my purse. I noticed that Clyde didn't come bounding toward us, being all crazy like he normally does. We looked around but didn't see him, so on our way out, I asked the people at the front desk if Clyde had been taken our of his pen for some reason. A lot of times they take the dogs out of their kennels to get the dog washed and groomed for their owner to be picked up, so I assumed this was the case with Clyde. But they said no and then (with dread in their voices) asked why I had asked. "Because he's not in his play pen." I said, and then I saw their faces turn white.

Well, then everyone pretty much went running to check with everyone else to see if anyone had taken him anywhere and me and Max stood there, not sure if we should stay or go. In the midst of the chaos, someone thanked us for letting them know, and so I assumed it was fine to leave. As crazy as Clyde was, and him not being my favorite dog, I hoped that he was ok.

So we left and on our way to the car, Max suddenly said, "There he is!" and pointed to a dog across the parking lot, looking very happy and free. Max ran back into the clinic to let the staff know while I stood there, hoping for once, that Clyde would come tearing at me like he always did before. I stood stalk-still, hoping that I wouldn't get Clyde running in the opposite direction, because right by the clinic is a busy highway. Instead, I began to call Clyde in my most hyper and fun-filled voice, "Come here, Clyde! Come here, buddy!!"

Then the staff came running outside and all of us began to chirp, "Come on, Clyde! Come here, boy!"

Boy, Clyde just loved it. His ears perked up and his tail was wagging but he didn't want to give up his free walk. Instead, he began to walk toward the highway, which just made us chirp even louder, "Come on, Clyde! Come here, boy!"

And of course, five super happy people all wanting to "play" was just too much for Clyde and he came tearing across the parking lot and zoomed straight into the building (as one of the workers held open the door.)

We all breathed a sigh of relief. Did I mention his owners are supposed to pick him up today? Can you imagine if Clyde was lost?

We concluded he must have wanted to come on the walk with us so bad that he climbed the fence. The fence is very tall--about six to seven feet--but then, Clyde is also very hyper. And any dog that wants to get out bad enough will. And he did.

Max loved it. He loves a happy ending. He loved how everyone got worried and concerned over the dog that no one liked. And now Crazy Clyde got to get out AND get a lot of attention, just like he wanted.

And that is how Max saved Crazy Clyde (and got everyone to love him)


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A new start

We visited the elementary school today with Luke, Anna and Henry. It was a basic school, nothing that I was really blown away by. At the same time, I liked what I saw.

The Principal was very nice and friendly. She gave us a tour of the school and we got to see the bottom level and upper level of the school. Luke was more interested in the upper level, since that's where the older kids are.

I guess I was waiting to have some sort of gut feeling but I didn't really get any. It was sort of a "one way or another" sort of feeling, not really a pull to go to this school but I wasn't repelled either. I was hoping that I could walk out of the school with a confident feeling that we made the right decision.

But when the Principal went in the office to send home some paperwork for us, I silently put my thumb up, then sideways (neutral) and then thumbs down to the kids. They knew I was asking for their honest opinion about the school and I know I can get an honest answer from them. I got a thumbs-up from all of them--even Luke! He said out loud, "I think it's great!" That's a big thing coming from non-committal Luke!

Things that I liked:
  • Good quality education is important but I didn't get the sense of panic or stress about it, which is what I get from our current school.
  • The classroom sizes are small. The students were friendly but not hyper. The teachers seemed to have good control over them but not overly controlling either. At our current school, you are punished for talking in the hallways.
  • They have a library at the school. The kids especially liked this. Our current school doesn't have one.
  • They have a HUGE playground! Again, our current school barely has anything. They have four swings for 50 children playing at a time. At least at this school, everyone will have a chance to play and they won't be left standing around.
  • They seem to have a good Special Ed program. This, I heard from our social worker, who is familiar with the school.
  • Most of all, it will be a fresh start. I hope and pray that it will be a positive experience for Luke, who has been through so much lately. He barely even talks to people anymore. He doesn't trust them. I pray that he will be able to open up next year and gain some friendships.

I looked to Dennis and he gave me his nod of approval. I knew he hadn't exactly been blown away either but he would have objected if he didn't like it.

So we enrolled the kids right there.

It is official. All five of my little flowers have been transported to different gardens today. May they grow, prosper and may there be very few (if any) weeds to stunt their growth.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Small improvements: the downstairs bathroom

Much of the work that is being done in the downstairs bathroom is done by Dennis, things I can't really contribute to.

Dry wall in: check.

But, I can always paint!

When Dennis informed me that the bathroom was ready to be painted, I was excited--it is the one area that I can do on my own.

I picked out a sandy-gray color with a green undertone to it. I call it: "The color that really isn't a color." I mean, what color is this???

With the green floor and the bad lighting, I couldn't figure out if this was gray or a very light green. Now that it's dry, it almost looks blue-ish.

Still don't know what we're planning on doing with this thing...

Dennis told me there's no way of undoing this awkwardly placed light bulb. Maybe a trendy cage light??

Well, anyway, it's painted (after the second coat is done.) Which is exiting because that means that the floor will come in next! Finally, the tile that I bought a year ago will finally be put to use! Whoo-hoo!

Next: the floor.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Families are my speciality

I am almost done with Phase Eight in my training and my wheels of "what will I do when I'm done?" is constantly turning in my head. Too many times in my life, I have started something without finishing it, or completed something but then did nothing with it. I don't want to do the same thing with dog training so I'm constantly forcing myself to make plans, just so I have one--even if they change or don't work out. 

My latest plan is to specialize in working with children and families. This is what started this whole dog training thing to begin with; when we first got Joey. I thought it would be easy to train the children--it's not. It's like training five puppies plus the actual puppy.

I have a special empathy for those who have children and a new dog and want to make it work, because I've been there. I was the one with the "good intentions" and then regretted my decision of getting a dog. I was the one who wanted to make it work but I didn't know how. I did not feel like a dog trainer. I didn't even feel like a dog lover. Joey took all the love and patience out of me, with his persistent diarrhea literally every 15 minutes on our brand new carpet. "Marking" (or so I thought at the time) and being "territorial" in every room. Biting my kids non-stop. (Play biting.) My girls having to give up wearing nightgowns because Joey would go after the flowing lace (ripped it to shreds.) Was an obsessive chewer. I didn't realize that most of these problems were a combination of typical puppyhood, stress and poor management.

And then you have the kids. As I said, five "puppies." They were constantly on Joey and I never could take my eyes off of them. It seemed that every 10 minutes someone would come crying to me about a scratch or a bite. And Joey was never left alone. There was always someone holding him, petting him, cuddling him, kissing him. I was always saying "Leave the dog alone!" That dog never got a break.

That was when we called in a dog trainer for help. He was a nice guy and I liked his training style. But it was obvious he didn't like kids. Though he spoke to them nicely, it was obvious he had never worked with them before. He expected the kids to sit quietly on the couch while he taught his half hour lessons. The kids eyes glazed over and they didn't remember a thing he said. He became frazzled and impatient easily.

So the trainer was a disappointment, and I knew I was on my own. But it forced me to dig deeper into dog training and management techniques. This is what initially led me to dog training, and I discovered a genuine love for it--and dogs!

It's always stayed in the back of my head that "there should be more help for families." I couldn't get that trainer out of my head. I had felt so hopeless at the time and didn't feel much support from him. I wondered if there were any trainers out there at all that specialize in families.

Surprisingly, there aren't. (There are a few, but not many.) As I've gone along in my studies, I've been surprised to learn that most trainers don't know how to work with children and they don't want to work with children. There are some that even purposely choose not to have children, because their dogs are their "children."

I find this amazingly contradictory! If children are the leading victims in dog bites (rather provoked or not), and dogs are being euthanized because of it, you would think this would make more trainers want to help families. But instead, they believe that the parents should train the children.

Parents have enough to do! I can still say (with much exasperation) that the "advice" I got from the trainer that I should "train my kids and train the dog" felt like he had just given me a mountain of laundry to do. Or given me a sinkful of dishes to wash. I was overwhelmed with the thought of teaching what I didn't know and most parents will feel that way too--and therefore, will just "deal with it" the best they know how.

A book I'm reading for school, Kids and Dogs, a Professional Guide to Helping Families, is one of the few trainers that specializes in working with families. Instead of working around the kids, she works with them. She teaches them dog body language (and I should add the parents are there learning too.) She teaches stress signals to prevent bites. She also teaches obedience, management techniques and plays games.

Kids who are hyper? She uses them as distractions. "Let's see how many cartwheels you can do by Brody and we'll see if he still stays in his sit-stay position." 

Or the Red Light, Green Light Game. "Red Light" means the dog has had enough and needs a break. "Green Light" means the dog is good to go! (I use this technique with the younger kids, especially!)

And so, I've found my specialty, I think. I want to be a trainer that will help families, and hopefully a trainer that shows her love for children as well as dogs.

I will end with some good advice from this book that I've come to love:

"Dog-training books say, "Control your kids,' and they expect parents to control them to a level that seems pretty unrealistic to anyone who has ever been around a two year old for more than 20 minutes. Parents are exhorted to make sure their kids don't run, don't scream, don't make loud noises, avoid abrupt movements, and never look a dog in the face. Who could ensure that none of those things happen all day, everyday, for the next twelve or more years? That's not very realistic advice when you're actually in the same household with children and dogs."

"The advice we give parents must be realisitic, and it has to be as easy to understand follow as you can possibly make it. Sometimes, trainers create extraordinary behavior modification plans and proudly present them to the client, only to hear the client say, 'I can't do this. It's too hard.' The kid-and-dog issue is similar. Parents have a lot on their plates. They need to feel that we are making their lives easier, not harder. The easier our ideas are to implement, the more likely parents are to follow through. This factor alone makes a huge difference.

Seventy-seven percent of dog bites to children are on the face. That's a big deal. Almost all those bites could be prevented if parents know how to interpret what they are seeing. Dog aficionados (dog lovers, trainers, teachers) have an obligation to prevent as many injuries as we can."