a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 1994

Saturday, September 17, 1994

"New" Dog Update

SUMMARY: Having fun with Remington! (And Sheba)
Backfill: Posted 9/27/19 from email of Sept 17, 1994 -- 25 years ago, hard to believe!

We took both dogs (Sheba and Remington) up to the dog park in Sunnyvale (behind ElCamino and Mathilda?) and I don't think it was as big as the one in Santa Clara that I've been going to--and it only had 2 small benches, while the Santa Clara one has several, including picnic tables. Sheba had never been before but seemed to really enjoy herself, although she spent the whole time scouting the perimeter probably for possible escape routes. She said hi to some of the other dogs, but mostly enjoyed just having someplace new to check out.

I'm really having a blast working with Remington on doing neat stuff. It gets to be a habit--

Earliest photo of my nephew that I have
scanned in... from a year after this post
Saw my new nephew last night for the first time; my first instinct was to reach out my hand and say "Shake!" He flailed his hand wildly into my palm and I said "Good BOYYY!" and looked frantically around for a Jerky Treat, but none were to be found.

We were trying to count Remington's vocabulary last night. I used to be pretty proud of my old dog, Amber, because she came when she was called, she heeled on command (not as fancy as at the dog shows, but good enough for neighborhood work), and balanced a biscuit on her nose. I had her for 14 years.

I've had Remington for 4 months, and he does well at (although most have rough edges):

-heel (we call it "with me", as a friend suggested)
-stay (in any of the above 3 positions)
-come (most of the time except when there are squirrels involved he has
to think about it a little)
-shake or paw (same thing)
-hold (a biscuit, a book, whatever on nose or head)
-flip it (toss and catch the balanced biscuit)
-Bang! (He's actually starting to get fast at it even from a standing
position. Loves tricks that don't involve any WORK. Wish I got paid
for lying down on the job!)
-reach (like begging but standing up, sort of)
-paws up (e.g., front paws on chair, stool, husband, whatever)

I also think that he knows what "get it" means but he gets things only VERY selectively--i.e. when he FEELS like it; "where's dad?" seems to get him going but he gets so excited that even when he can SMELL that human dad's in the room somewhere he's moving in circles so fast that he can't get the detail of WHERE in the room (e.g. behind door)--he's learning all of dad's hiding places, but that's not the same as actually finding him by scent.

Having so much fun and wondering why I never did this with Amber.

[Answering in 2019: I think because (a) the AKC club obedience training I attended once with young Amber was so negative that I was turned off on any kind of training, and didn't even think about looking for more books on the subject.]

Monday, August 01, 1994

Remington Learns Tricks and Obedience

SUMMARY: He's mostly a good boy.

Backfill: Oct 22, 2007
Remington's training is going great. If you'da aksed me on Saturday, I'd have moaned and beaten my head on the nearest concrete block. Consistent, you know?

He's pretty good on basic stuff in the driveway when it's just me & him. (Add Jim or other friends and it goes to heck.) So I decided that he needs more distractions to practice with.

There's an AnJan Pet Supply about a 5-minute walk from here, so last week I started taking him down to their parking lot every day. Lots of distractions! Of course, to him, someone driving by is a Major Totally Awesome Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity to See Something Really Interesting. Let alone people opening and closing car doors and walking by in the distance.

Other dogs are yet another level higher in Fascination Quotient.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it was like he'd never been on a leash before and as though "Sit" had suddenly been translated to Swahili. Or maybe Martian. I was very discouraged.

We took a break from going there on Sunday, and this morning when we went, he was a *sweetheart*!

We've been learning tricks gradually, too; he learned "Shake" in about 2 shakes. Easiest thing I've EVER taught a dog! He loves it-- "Gee, all I have to do is lift my foot, which I'd probably do anyway, and I get FOOD! Good deal!"--as opposed to having to actually WORK for goodies in things like balancing the goodie on the nose, crawling across the floor, or begging--all of which he's making progress on but is still a bit wimpy at. (Actually goodie-on-the-nose showed great improvement over the weekend--finally!--we've been working on it for 2 months!)

Anyway, I'm still doing a lot more than we've covered in class, but it's great to have Pam's experience and suggestions for things that are giving us trouble.

SHE thinks Remington learns things REALLY QUICKLY--that's because he is on his absolutely best behavior (now) in class so that he can impress the Babes. Little does she know what devils possess him after we leave--

Tuesday, July 19, 1994

Dogs Who Tug On Leashes

SUMMARY: Remington tugs on the leash.

Backfill: Oct 22, 2007
I am so distracted by Remington. I haven't been enjoying walks nearly so much lately because it's constant tug-tug-tug-tug and I'm so tired and so sore by the time I'm done with the walk, and so distracted from full attention on the conversation, that I just don't want to DO it any more.

So I've been on the verge of not wanting to walk at ALL (because it's nice to take the dogs out because it keeps them entertained so they're not tearing up the house or whatever but it's not fun to take Mr. R out so screw it anyway).

Fortunately, this turn-and-quick-tug bit is really actually showing improvement in Mr. R, and I can work up a sweat but I'm not pulling my shoulder & neck out like i have been constantly (and he's not choking thru half the walk).

So now I want to get him straightened out so he's not pulling on the leash or getting in the way so I trip over him, and I have hopes now that it's actually do-able, and in a fairly short time span, even.

Thanks for your help this afternoon; I know that this isn't much fun for you or Jim (although tonight I'm going to ask Jim to take Remington while I take sheba). The problem with Remington is that when I take him out in the morning with just the 2 of us, he's BEAUTIFULLY behaved on the leash! And if I take him and sheba, he's not that bad (although it's hard to correct him with 2 dogs on my arm). It's only when sheba & someone else are out with us that he really starts being the tough dog, so I can't teach him the right way to walk without getting someone else involved.

Little twerp.

Anyway, it is hard for me to concentrate on other things with this in my head all the time.

Wednesday, June 29, 1994

Crates and Remington the Half-way Dog

SUMMARY: No crate for Remington; stopping halfway

Backfill: Oct 22, 2007
Didn't buy a crate, although I've pondered it many times. What we did with sheba way back when was to install a dog run--essentially a wire between 2 trees with a pully and a leash attached, so she had about 30 linear feet by about 6 feet that she could move around in.

Unfortunately one of the trees we used for sheba is no longer there, so we'd have to construct some other way to fasten the other end of the wire. No easy answers anywhere...

Remington is learning ever so slowly. He heels pretty good now--in the driveway! The real world is still FAR too distracting. Obedience class starts July 11 and i can hardly wait. He also has this quirky way of doing things HALFway that I've never seen with any other dog. When he sits, he gets halfway down--and stops. When he lies down, he gets halfway down--and stops. Looks pretty stupid, and I've told him so, but I think he just forgets what he's doing. (REALLY short short-term memory.)

So we keep working.

Monday, June 06, 1994

I Really Hate Dogs

Backfill: Oct 20 '05

I hadn't forgotten how much energy a puppy has--Amber would go and go and go until i thought I'd die, and i got her at 7 weeks or so. And the housebreaking was exhausting.

The thing i had forgotten was that when I got amber i didn't own anything hardly, had no garage or yard (lived in a townhouse) and so although she was sometimes destructive, there was very little for her to get at and it was pretty easy to remove everything except the furniture from her reach.

Now we have so much stuff in the house, the garage (which doesn't have a door), and the yard, that it has nowhere to go except where it already is. There's SO MUCH for him to get into and every time we think we've plugged one leak another appears.

He's fine if i spend a couple of hours with him, making him play HARD, before I leave the house. But I don't always have the time to do that, and then he's got energy left over and I never know what I'll find when i get home.

Or, like saturday night, he was so zonked when we left that he was falling asleep sitting up--but we had dinner and a play, so were gone for 7 hours, (and left early w/out after-play snacks) which was too much time for him alone.

I told him yesterday as he was following me around cheerily watching me pick up from the night before, "Remington, in a year we'll look back on this and laugh."

Then it occurred to me that if it's as long as a year, i'm going to kill myself first.

It is MUCH harder training the dog when it's already 50 lbs. when it arrives! 7-week-olds are so much easier to confine, to move things out of reach, or to barricade against.


Then when i sat down outside, exhausted, to read the paper in the sun, he crawled half onto my lap and snuggled right up to me and sighed contentedly and it was so WONDERFUL to have him there.

I really hate dogs.

Remington...and Sheba...

Backfill: Oct 20 '05
I might take up axe-murdering if that darn dog doesn't
stop tearing my life apart. Grrr...

Did i ever tell you that i hate dogs? And especially puppies?

Sheba has pretty much written him [Remington] off. She's just really too old for
a puppy. She mostly sleeps; they say that dogs sleep 14-16 hours a
day but I think she's got it up to about 22, with breaks for walks
and sometimes eating and visiting the back 40 for important personal
business. Although i'm beginning to suspect that she's really awake
most of the time and keeping an eye on us--and him--just in case we
try to sneak out for a walk without her.

We haven't had the dog-on-the-table trick recently; thought we had
taken care of the what's-on-the-kitchen-counter trick until jim lost
a ham sandwich when he turned his back the other day.

Sheba hates water, hates baths. We went walking down along los gatos
creek yesterday, where the water is kind of green and rancid, and it
was a warm day, and her tongue was hanging out about 40 inches, and
she just plunged right in and stood there looking at us. Not that we
care that her coat is like a sponge and doesn't dry for 3 or 4 hours
and we had to take her home in an upholstered car.

Dogs and dirty water have this magnetic attraction somewhat stronger
than buttered bread and a dirty floor.

Remington has been occasionally pondering our squirrels and
investigating whether it is possible for dogs to climb trees.
However, up until yesterday, his little pea brain figured that once
he couldn't see the squirrel any more (e.g., if it was sitting still
on a branch), that it had ceased to exist in this known universe and
he could go back to pushing his milk carton around on the driveway.

However, today for some reason he has Discovered Squirrels. They don't disappear--they actually are sitting up on the branches and leaping from tree to tree and running across the roof from one side of the house to the other and zipping along the tops of the fences. Quite a glorious discovery! He's been out there for 2 hours, racing madly from one corner of the yard to the other, trying to keep up with them, and, when he loses them momentarily, standing with his nose pointed almost straight up in the air, waiting for them to give another hint as to where they've gone.

I'm not convinced that they aren't leading him on! They sit up on their branches with this little twinkle in their eyes, watching him watch them.

And, in the evil mother tradition, i've been scolding him severely
whenever he's started barking at them. How CAN he communicate with
them if i make him shut up?

Other training is going slowly.

Tuesday, May 17, 1994

How I Carefully Chose the Dog--And the Results

Backfill: Posted on Oct 20 '05 from email dated 5/17/94.
Have been doing all kinds of research on what kind of dog i might want to try this time around. Hadn't decided for sure, but thought that maybe an australian shepherd or border collie would be neat.

Waffling on whether to get a puppy again (like Amber was) because they're SOOOO CUUUUTE and you can mold them from day 1; or an adult again (like Sheba was) because you bypass all the destructiveness and frantic training.

Jim was inclined to get a dog from the shelter or an animal rescue place again rather than to find a puppy in the paper. (If we HAD to get a dog; he was pretty sure Sheba wouldn't be happy about it and maybe we should wait til Sheba wasn't around any more.)

Told Jim that when we got back from Hawaii it would be time for ME to have another dog because i couldn't bear to have an empty house when Sheba goes to the great goodie cabinet in the sky. Got back on May 2 and was sick for a week (hate when that happens) and have been trying to catch up ever since, so I wasn't going out of my way to look for a dog.

On Saturday, we had a coupon for dogfood at a different pet-supply store than we usally go to. Turns out when we got there that it's an anniversary celebration & they're having Events and one of the events was the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation being there with all of their adoptable dogs.

We wandered thru, looking & petting & asking questions, and then there in the last cage was a dog that looked a LOT like Amber (who died 2 yrs ago).

So much for all the research & everything.

His name is Remington; he's 9 months old. Appears to be housebroken (we've only had one accident, and that was the 1st day, and I caught him in the act; I'm keeping my fingers crossed). He's half shepherd and half lab (maybe); Amber was half shepherd and half golden retriever, so it could be the same thing here. He's for sure still a puppy, but on the teenage side: pretty much full-grown but really gangly and still a
bit awkward; loves to pick things up & chew on them.

Understands "no" and "drop it" really well. (Thank goodness! I remember with Amber as a 7-week-old pup that she didn't have a clue about "No"-- "Hmm," she'd be thinking to herself, looking at me with that puzzled expression. "Mom made this loud obnoxious noise at me. Wonder what it means? Oh well, think about it later," and she'd go right back to what she had been doing.)

Doesn't know much of anything else, although we're making rapid progress on "Sit." The nightmare is yet to begin, I'm sure. He really wants us to be around him; he hasn't been alone in the house yet. He's somewhat upset when we first go to bed (we keep him out of the bedroom for allergy & flea reasons) but has been sleeping the night thru just fine.

This morning I left him alone downstairs while i went up to get dressed & curl my hair--and everything was quiet. I thought "How wonderful! He's already getting used to me being up here without him! After only 3 days!" Foolish me.

Because then there came the clang of glass hitting tile floor and a crash of other debris. I rushed downstairs--

So when was the last time YOU saw a 50-pound dog standing on the dining table?

We both have a lot to learn.

And Sheba is NOT a happy camper, although I think she's doing a little better every day. I'm pretty sure that we'll all survive this.

Sunday, May 15, 1994

What Have I Done?

Backfill: Added Oct 20, '05

I have the following responses (so far):
  • ZzzzzSnorkzzzzzzz
  • Throb throb throb (headache)
  • Wild hysterical laughter while playing keep-away-tug-of-war
  • Wahhhhh! (When viewing dog who looks like Amber from behind)
  • Ohmigod what have i done to my easy relaxed life?!
  • Wow this is really neat. I've really missed having a REAL dog around.

We Got A New Dog

Backfill: Oct 20 '05
We got a dog. Quite by accident. Went to buy dogfood (for Sheba) and the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation (Narf! Narf!) was all set up in their parking lot with the most desirable batch of dogs you've ever seen in your life. Looked at a lot of border collie and/or australian shepherd mixes, but when I saw the one that looked a lot like Amber, he made the others kind of wash out.

Remington is 8 months old (sort of a compromise between a puppy and an adult); he looks a lot like Amber--claims to be a shepherd/lab mix, where Amber was shepherd/retriever--but he's got a Don Johnson two-day shadow, which Amber didn't. I wanted to call him Donjohnson, but he was already Remington and Jim liked that better, so Remington he'll stay.

Not clear whether he's housebroken (that's a story with a long background that I'll generously omit for now), but I've been taking him out back on a regular basis and he does his thing very nicely. Only one puddle so far in the wrong place and I caught him in process, so we might get lucky.

No other training that I can tell, although he doesn't fight the leash like a never-leashed dog would.

Loves to cuddle. Learned to use the doggie door very quickly after his first view of Sheba passing through it froze him to the spot in astonishment. (Amber never really learned to use it comfortably even after 10 years.)

He's zonked out on the floor next to me.

He really likes Jim (I'm just an acceptable substitute when Jim's out of reach ) and loves to play ball & chase & tug-of-war, all of those things that Sheba never did.

And Sheba seems to be adjusting as well as one can expect.

(Sorry, Barry, no poodle this time!)