Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Best Lessons I Ever Learned Were From the Dog Trainer

Doggie Boot Camp.
We had to do it.
For our teenage rescue dog Neela.

I must admit, putting a high-energy pup into the mix of moving with 3 willful cats and a 16-yr-old deaf cocker spaniel isn't my idea of fun.
So during our recent vacation, we sent Neela to resident dog training, otherwise known as "Listen Up Cause Things Are Going to Change".

Our trainer, Gina Hayes, is in fact, something of a miracle worker. What we left was a high-energy, lovable but willful teen pup. What we got back... Well! Can you say Wonder Dog?
That got me thinking.

Could the trainer's techniques be used on human nature? Cause I gotta couple of humans around here...

Let's see if it works:

1. Easy Eyes
You know that look animals get, human-like? Wide-eyed and all bushy tailed? And you think, awww Well, nuh-uh. Nothing doing mister. That doe-eyed look means one thing - the equivilant of 3 cups of sugar in a youngster. High-per-act-ive. Orange alert. Defcon 6. I have my eye on you, and I don't trust you one bit.

The trainer says when a dog gets that look, it means they are on high alert, can't relax and it's one short step to uh-oh-ville. Like when kids start to wrestle fun-like, but in the twitch of an eye, someone has hit too hard and a fight breaks out.

The idea is to have the dog so relaxed that their eyes appear soft, almost almond-shaped. Then you know they trust and like you, and they aren't on alert all the time.

Can this translate to humans? I think - yes.
You've all seen this happen at a social gathering. Maybe it's even happened to you. You walk in, you don't know anyone all that well, and you think, "I can handle this" and you straighten your spine and plunge right in. But I'll bet dollars to donuts, you have that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. And you send a straightforward message: I am wary.

So look for the easy eyes when you want to use the "Honey Do" jar on the weekend.

2. Common sense is a beautiful thing.
There is entire world of training between just bribing and punishing. Don't be fooled into thinking there is nothing else. Maternal training and common sense fall into this nether region. Human example? You want to the new dress? Give the training subject a "cookie."
This is a true story my mother, of all people, overheard, right here on the island. Apparently the woman in question, an attractive blond, had taken her husband's beautifully restored yacht out for an afternoon spin with the girls. And she had mistakenly "bumped" into another moored boat, leaving an obvious gash in the side.

How was she going to explain it to her husband - who had admonished her many times before about being careful with the merchandise - asked her lunch partner? She replied, "I don't know how I'm going to explain it, but I do know I'm going to be naked."

3. Even toned voice - eliminate the frustrated tone, the yelling, the screaming.
Oh would that I could. :)
Ok we all know you get more flies with honey. But keeping an even tone to your voice no matter what, actually works with humans! Who knew?

4. Short and sweet verbal commands
Well we all know this works well with husbands lol. The more you talk, the less they do. See Sidebar comic. 

5. When all else fails, there's the GEM method - gentle electronic training method.
IE the vibration collar. Not an electric collar per se, but use of the vibration portion allows the trainer to communicate with the animal to tell it what to do.
OK, well I guess this one won't work.
Obviously, this is not a choice.
But imagine ... the possibilities lol.

Have a good one. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Escape Claws

It goes like this. The rescue dog is minding her own damn business, but happens to walk near, past or just this side of Los Angeles where a family cat is reclining.
Then there's ss, sss, SSS, HHISSSSSSS. A lot of prancing and dancing and bobbing and weaving and ... we really should put the dog in boxing gloves cause I have never seen moves quite like this except on a boxer.

Rescue Dog Neela
Then there's a lot of yelling and pulling and separating and everyone going to their respective corners for canine timeout. I'd like to say this is a rare occurrence, but it's not.

Since moving to the island, this is a typical day in pet paradise. Maybe it's because we have taken so long in setting up the lower level "granny flat" for our commercial fishing, young adult son who is the owner of the rescue dog.

Certainly living even temporarily in close quarters with 3 cats and 2 dogs, each who spans opposite ends of the age range, can put a damper on individual freedom. But recently it has escalated into all-out animal guerrilla (sorry about the pun) warfare around here.
Door in Question

So it's no surprise that in the middle of a dark and stormy night over the weekend, when the back door blew open from a 40 mph gust, two of the three cats, Hermione and Diesel, decided to throw caution to the wind (again, sorry with the pun), and took advantage of an open door to temporary freedom.

Problem was, the door banged shut.

By 4 am, Ms. Diesel (I know, don't ask), was found hunkered down by the lower level doors, sopping wet and raising a ruckus. But Hermione.... not a sign.

Morning dawned and still no Hermione.
Lunch went by, an event rarely missed by this feline, and no Hermione.
Out went our son and Rescue Dog, out into the adjoining wildlife preserve, down the Brightwood Trail to the harborside to sniff out the MIA enemy.
Brightwood Trail
Still no sign.

It was then it dawned on us that Hermione might have invoked the Escape Claws - that little-known and rare family pet document, that says that now that we were living in one place, and the cats ever decided that they could not take the rambunctious newcomer, they had the right to choose outdoor living.

We were stunned, but noted that Hermione, of all cats, was the most independent, and if she felt strongly about not subjecting herself to constant irritation and living on tabletops, then so be it.

Hans Christian Anderson once penned, "Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

Resigned, we vowed to abide by our little butterfly of a feline Hermione's decision, and sadly stopped looking.

I was lying on my bed well into the evening that night reading, when I heard a rustle, and my son plopped a very happy-looking Hermione down beside me. He had heard a persistent mewling at his apartment door and went to investigate.

I could say that it was her decision to come back. I could also say that I prayed, used reiki and called in all my angelic friends for a little persuasive action.

I could say we all learned a lesson in relationships and freedom. Living here on the island, you can sense a different attitude towards things like this. People are more readily able to allow freedoms you would seldom encounter in Urban American Living.

But in the end, I think, our little butterfly found a loophole in her Escape Claws.

Have a good one. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lessons in the Springtime Schnoobles - Things to Do When You Don't Want to Do Work

That's what I said.
My own invention.
It's that time when you are waiting for something to happen, but nothing seems appealing, and you just don't know what to do with your free time. Or any time.

I would say doldrums, but that's left to summer.
For seasons, it's that time right now. Now quite spring, not really winter.
It's a time of being impatient. Waiting.
Waiting for your tax returns, waiting for warmer weather, waiting for something to stir things up a bit.
Oh you have plenty of routine things to do. But nothing... interesting. Engaging. That you haven't done for a bit.

Not so very different from times like these on the mainland. Except here you have to be creative.

In that spirit, Class, I give you my list of Things to Do That We Didn't Do on the Mainland But We Do Here When We Want Something to Do. Pay attention. There might be a test later.

1. The Vineyard 500.
This is when you take the older generation of the family for a ride "up island".
Up Island isn't really up, it's west, but whatever. Actually there are two popular theories as to why it's up-island. A) Prevailing winds are westerlies, so you have to sail up-wind to get there from "down island". B) It's a matter of numbers. Aquinnah (see map above) is a higher longitudinal number than down-island towns.
This drive involves a loop from roughly the center of the island to Aquinnah and back. And it involves feeding the gulls at the little fishing village, Menemsha. It is not 500 miles, but sometimes feels like it. :) This is an old-school "Immelt" (my family name) family tradition, and a very popular choice when you have time on your hands. Let's just say the gulls recognize the car.
Gay Head Cliffs, Aquinnah

2.Go to the mail box/post office. This is a popular choice for me, because I forget to get the mail. A lot. Because it is down the lane at a remote spot. But my town post office is very tolerant of me. Other family members have in-post-office-boxes, and tend to remember to get their mail, but never pass up an opportunity to "pick up the mail". Sometimes there are bags of candy involved to give to the counter people, because it's very easy for mail to get set aside, say holiday cards, and once we got Christmas Mail in May. So candy keeps them on their toes, according to my mother and aunt.

3.Go to a coffee house. There are several. Each has its foibles.
At Espresso Love, a shop favored by "certain celebrities" (initials MR come to mind - she's dating a former rock bad boy?), has really good specialty coffees and is also a cafe - killer shepherd's pie and pastries. But you have to deal with youngish, "I'm here on a summer work visa from overseas" help, who don't always know the specials.

At Beetlebung coffee house, they have, in my opinion, the best morning coffee - all day long. And their sandwiches are awesome. And they have live music, which can be an issue, if you want to talk - it's a small shared space. Also, you have to park in the post office parking lot, if you are driving.

                    Beetle Bung Coffee House

 At Mocha Motts (2! locations), it's a lot like Cheers - everyone here knows your name. You can usually get the straight skinny on any island gossip, and their Everything Bagels are the bomb. They serve their coffees hot and strong, there are booths to read the paper in, and the VH location is a popular after-school stop for the high-schoolers (coffee drinking starts early here - I'm guessing cold weather).

Black Dog Tavern by

3.When in doubt, we meet at the Black Dog for lunch. This can kill quite a bit of time. They let you linger. At Black Dog Upper as we like to call it, on the outskirts of town, you know the help's first names and their next-of-kin, they know your preferences for drinks, and the food is good. It's cafe counter service, it's roomy, and you can use their wi-fi and check Facebook while you are at it. (Come on, you know you do it.)
Black Dog Tavern - Travel Pod
At the Tavern, in-town proper, you can sit on the porch and watch the ferry traffic, or sit in captains chairs by the large fireplace and have perhaps the best cup of chowder on the island. Their breakfasts are inventive, their menu consistent. Be prepared to wait on rainy days, which is not a bad thing when you are in the Schnoobles. And also, pick up a t-shirt - same one made famous by a former American President given as a present for his - ahem - "friend".

The Newes - by Kelly House
4.If we want English Pub atmosphere, we try The Newes From America. It's the small, but atmospheric down-under pub of the Kelly House. Still located in the original 1742 building, it has it all for a rainy day: rough hewn beams, brick walls, New England hearth. The calamari is awesome, the burgers filling, and you can get regional draft beers here. Best of all, the staff is congenial and helpful, which is handy if you are visiting and need touristy information.

As you can tell, a lot rides on food here on the island when there's time at stake.
Notice that these things we do are things we sometimes take for granted elsewhere. But here, anything is an event.
Also notice that on a day that involves schnoobles, the word "work" is not in it. :)

So in conclusion, Class, remember: when you are down in the schnoobles, think creatively, think island-style. Hey, maybe you will even find your own new country drive, your own new favorite coffee shop, or your own new tavern or grill, to while some time away while waiting for Spring.

Have a good one. :)