Saturday, 17 August 2013

A mystery object for the OP Pack

Wheek, it’s me again! Thought Melon had stolen my blog? No worries, I’m still here.

What's this?

My hooman Melon’s friend went to Alaska recently and brought it back… I wonder what it’s for?

Every time I see it I think of the OP Pack, for some reason…

Hey Jingle, what is it for?


Wow. He sure seems to  like them!

I'd rather eat lettuce...

Wouldn't you? 

P.S. This post is for the OP Pack, especially Thunder, who Jingle resembles and is sorely missed, and for Phantom, whom Jingle Phantom is actually named after (Melon’s friend A bought him for her after she went on and on about Phantom…), and who we are sending some POTP at the moment. Phantom, we love you!

Friday, 16 August 2013

MAA: A Better Day

Thanks to everybody who left me comments both informative and supportive over the past week or so. My biggest struggles are with Anxiety at the moment – every week or two I complicate things in my life and they become so big in my head that I can’t deal with them and then hide away from the world for a few days. That’s when my parents take over care of Cocoa until I emerge vowing to be consistent and do all the things regularly needing to be done for the pets… until the next time anxiety kicks in. But I’m working on it (meds, therapy).
That also explains why I can be slow in replying to your comments – mostly I do receive them on time but it can be a few days before I’m ready to reply them. It doesn’t mean I don’t read and appreciate each and every comment you leave me!

So, onto this girl:

Yes that is a Sit. It is rarely seen and never for longer than a second, but I can make it happen

I was happy with my progress with Katie today. Last week I had, in a very vulnerable mood, gone over just to play with Katie in her yard, because the weather didn’t look promising and I wasn’t really up to a walk. But she was so excited at the prospect of a walk that I gave in, thinking I’d just take her down the street and back. It never happened because I didn’t have the patience to wrestle with her long enough to get her harness on!

But today was miles better, for me and for her. The funny thing that happened at the beginning was her putting on my messenger bag in her attempt to get the treats out of it. It was definitely photo-worthy, but sadly my camera was inside said bag at the time so I couldn’t get a photo!

I’m feeling more confident about walking her and training her because today I discovered that she is more responsive than I thought. She looks at me when she hears her name, which I discovered as I chatter to her while I walk (although her hooman tells me she responds only selectively), and I haven’t had any issue telling getting her on and off the road and stopping when I need to. I bought a real clicker today so I’ll keep it on hand, but at the moment I think I ought to just work on getting accustomed to her for a bit, since the clicker stuff is new to me too.

I’m trying to pay attention to the words I use and keep them consistent – come for getting her to go in a direction, up and down for getting on and off the kerb (there aren’t always footpaths so I switch her between the road and people’s front yards as appropriate). It’s not easy though, for example usually I say hup but I’ve also heard myself saying come on, up and off the road, Katie!

It’s fine to keep reinforcing these commands (the simple ones, consistently) when she does things even before using the clicker right? Because I still need to walk her even before I begin training with the clicker.

Thanks again, all!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

MMA: Our First Walk


So my friend A has just moved interstate for college with her dog Katie staying behind at the family home. In six months the family may be reunited again in a house in the new location. In the meantime, the family are feeding her and so on, of course, but they don’t have the time to walk her. So I’m doing it.

Yup, that’s right, me, Melon. (There was a suggestion originally for me to consider ‘fostering’ her for those six months at my house to save me the trip over to my friend’s house to walk her, and boy would I love to, but we decided against it because we don’t know what her prey drive would be like with Mister Cocoa.)
You may have heard of Katie as my demonstration animal when I learnt How To Bathe A Large Dog. She’s a 10 year old Labrador.

So how was my first walk yesterday? Well. I arrived at my friend’s place and Katie was so excited, jumping around and running in circles, that I didn’t think I’d ever get the harness on. I had been warned of this, but as I struggled I really thought for a moment I would have to turn right around and go back home again! Luckily, I managed it. In fact, I ended up so focused on trying to get the harness on the right way that I only belatedly realised that she had calmed down.

The other thing you need to know is that I had discovered, on a trial walk when my friend was still in town, that Katie hasn’t really been trained to follow commands. She’s asked to wait for her dinner and before leaving the gate, and she does the former well but not so much the latter. But my point is, she won’t do even a basic Sit. Now, I’m not so comfortable walking a dog that I can’t control with at least a Sit, Wait and Come.

Which is why I came to my first walk armed with a clicker I’d downloaded onto my phone and an oh-so-attractive bright orange bumbag full of bacon bits. First lesson would be simply to charge the clicker: click, treat, click, treat until she associates the sound with the reward. Sounds simple, right? WRONG. At a random place on the street I'd stop, get out my phone, press the clicker on the screen, then I'd fumble around for the bacon bits, dropping some in the process which Katie could happily lick up, and then in using both hands to try and pull out the bag of bits to get to them I'd accidentally press the clicker again... I think you get the picture! I did get Katie's attention with treats, but I doubt she even noticed the clicking noise. She even sat once or twice, all by herself, when she realised I had treats, but instead of rewarding that like I should have, I thought, wait! We're not up to that yet! I'm supposed to be charging the clicker! And proceed to initiate another click-treat-failure. Oops. And after the whole walk and a bagful of bacon bits I know for a fact that charging the clicker didn't work because after we got home I clicked it and she paid exactly zero attention to me.

So why am I bothering with the training? Well, I basically just want a way to communicate to her, when we’re out walking, when she’s doing something I like as opposed to when she’s doing something I don’t like. I think I need that to be comfortable with her on the street, knowing she’ll get off the road when I tell her to, knowing I can get her attention when there’s another dog around, and so on. I’m starting to realise, however, that she probably has 10 years of ignoring commands ingrained in her. Is there another way I can achieve this peace of mind, or should I keep trying with the clicker (in a quiet place this time)?

Thoughts and advice, as always, much appreciated.

Monday, 12 August 2013

MMA: Of Dogs and Guinea Pigs But Mostly Dogs


Since I’m on sabbatical (ie. taking time off for my health) I've started some volunteer work with children. A lovely older lady drives me once a week. I think I must have mentioned my trip to the park to her, because all of a sudden she's urging me to get a dog. They really are great for mental health, she says. With my son [who had depression etc], she says, it was like a miracle. He really credits his dog for saving his life, saying some days she is the only thing he gets up for. At first, the lady told me, she was saying things like 'that dog will not come into the house', but within a week, she said, the dog was lounging on her bed!

Now, don't worry, I'm not going to jump into it that quickly - getting a dog is a big commitment and nothing I'd do in a hurry. But I do have thoughts of getting a dog in the future, if I'm living with my boyfriend. Before this week, my psychiatrist, who has been working through issues with me regarding guilt and taking care of my guinea pig, had said to me that a dog might be a good pet for me in the future because it certainly won't sit and let me ignore it. It seems like my older friend is saying the same.

Volunteering at an animal shelter/rescue might be a good way to go for now. I haven't decided to go guinea pigs or dogs, but I'm leaning dogs at the moment. We'll see.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

MMA: A Chance Meeting and an Old Friend


So today I went to a nice big park I've never been to before. It was a lovely day and there were many people out with their children and dogs enjoying the weather. I wandered around, walking with particular interest near the dogs playing. (I'll try to get some photos next time!)

Through the cover of some trees I saw a large white dog running around. Looks kind of like acd6pack's Breeze, I thought. Emerging, I spotted a woman with her laptop computer seated at a park bench. Every five minutes she'd look up from the screen, use her plastic stick to throw a tennis ball out away from the bench, and her dog would run after it, bring it back and wait next to her, sometimes depositing the ball onto the bench alongside her. Her dog would wait for her to throw it again, and every few minutes she would do so, looking up from the computer screen. I was amazed at her multi-tasking. I approached, enjoying the spectacle.

She looked up. Your dog is very patient, I said.
He is, she agreed. I've been here for hours.
She told me what a great dog he was. He loved to play fetch, and play in mud to cool down to prevent overheating. He was probably an American Bulldog x English Staffordshire terrier, or was it English Bulldog x American Staffordshire Terrier? He was deaf. She had had him for four years.
She met him through volunteering at an animal shelter and fell in love. She meant to take him home just for a weekend but, as you can imagine, he never returned to the shelter.
I told the woman I love dogs and had thought about volunteering at a shelter. She encouraged me to do it, going so far as to find a nearby dog rescue for me on her laptop.
She told me about having to wave frantically to get her dog's attention when he ran over to strangers, which made me think of the acd6pack's Azule, who is also deaf. I mentioned the blog, and as she seemed quite interested I eventually pulled it up for her on her laptop.
She sat stunned when she saw the photos. I suddenly realised why.
She pointed open-mouthed at Breeze. That is incredible! she said. That is just amazing! The likeness is really uncanny.
So I was right, I thought. I had initially thought it was just my unfamiliarity with dogs which made a lot of them seem similar to me. After all, I doubt in a lot of instances I could tell between examples of the same breed. But nope, she was surprised to find a lookalike for her beloved dog.

I had been throwing the ball for Kudos, the dog, and chatting to him as I did it. I had been talking to him for a little while before I remembered that he couldn't hear me. But it was just instinct; I couldn't stay silent while interacting with another being.
Kudos was a dog who drooled a lot, and his tennis ball (and my jeans) soon resembled a soggy mess. He is disgusting, the woman kept repeating with affection.
She told me about using hand signals to communicate with him. Like pointing to herself, then to her heart, then to him. I was surprised that she communicated abstract emotions like love as readily as concrete concepts like sit.

I patted Kudos on the head each time he returned to me. I still feel a disconnection when I look into a dog's eyes - with humans, there is a sense of recognition when you make eye contact. I always feel like I am staring into blankness when I look at a dog. I wonder if that will change over time. (After all, I can't ever remember feeling that way about a guinea pig.)
The woman was very friendly, and we chatted for a while longer.
It was time for me to go, so we promised to keep in touch and I left.

Since I'm on a sabbatical at the moment, I've been thinking it would be a good idea to pursue some volunteering at a shelter or rescue. I had been leaning towards helping with guinea pigs, but since I want to know where my interest in dogs might lead me, that might be a good opportunity also.

My other achievement of the day was to bring this guy some pig trotter chews:

Jackson! The old dog (he's 13) who lives at the house of a friend of mine but does not get much attention. (My friend is not the owner of the dog - he belongs to one of her housemates.) I try to do what I can to brighten up his life. (My friend does too, what little she can do under the circumstances.) As I shopped for snacks to bring to our girls' movie night, I picked up a bag of treats.

It was only after we were done with movies that the dog appeared on the porch. (I had called for him, with no response, but I was told he was mostly deaf now.) What I should have done is go out to the dog by myself first, sans treats. See, Jackson's previous experience with me involves lots of treats (there weren’t any dog biscuits left or much in the fridge or I used cheese) and a subsequent bath. So I can understand if he'd be a little confused about me – cheese lady! I like this one! Wait, why am I all wet? Last time, because I know he's been at least somewhat trained, I insisted he sit before I give him treats. So I wanted to know if he would remember me this time.

He certainly followed me and of his own accord sat over and over again for me, but whether it was because he could smell the trotter in my back pocket or he remembered that I am a giver-of-treats I couldn't tell.

The next morning I checked and couldn't see any sign of the trotter, so I assume it was either eaten or stashed away or buried somewhere.

I did, however, find a Jackson doughnut:

I think I'm really growing to love this guy.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Melon's Animal Adventures: About A Dog

Some of you may have seen this post before: I took it down for privacy reasons but it should be fine to talk about it now…


Cocoa: What? You thought this blog was about a guinea pig. Well, let me tell you, me too.
But I'd better hand over to Melon for this one

Melon: So a friend of mine, J, is living in a share house with her boyfriend. They have inherited from his parents, along with the house, a golden-retriever type dog named Jackson.

Now, it has come to my attention that Jackson is never walked. He is not let into the house because he smells, because he is dirty. His two dishes (one food, one water I assume?) were completely empty last time I saw them. (But dogs only get fed twice a day right? Not like guinea pigs?) There were dog food bags on the counter though.

So here's my idea: to offer to walk their dog regularly. I came up with the idea that I could walk their dog, and had a whole bunch of questions for you guys about whether it was a good idea and how I could do it, my mind jumping ahead to how I could handle the dog and how I could blog about developing a bond with him and getting my dog-fix. But now I've rethought: my doing the hardest part just to make sure it gets done will not ensure that its other needs are met. I’m going to start by reminding the owners what should be done for the dog – making sure it always has water and 2 meals a day, keeping it clean so it can come inside, and walking it. If they don't do that then I will urge them to return him to their parents, if I can gather that they will care for him properly. Because I’ve been wanting more experience with dogs (I’m considering volunteering for the RSPCA) I’d love to get involved by offering to walk him, but that’s not a long-term solution for the dog. He need someone who will take responsibility for all his needs. Only if they won’t do those things and they refuse to rehome him, then I will offer to do as much as I can to help the dog out, like coming round and walking him myself. Does that sound right?

My friend has already accepted my offer to come and help bathe the dog, which I’m starting with because I’m pretty sure if he doesn’t smell he’ll be allowed inside the house. To prepare myself I’m off to another friend’s place in a few days to practice the b-a-t-h thing with her Labrador!

I’ll keep you guys updated on how this goes, and I will be grateful for any and all advice.


Note, Added Later: Both baths went well. (My friend and I got into a car accident on the way home from Jackson’s, but that’s another story.) It was getting late by the time we were done with Jackson so we took him just up the street afterwards because he’d been hankering for a walk, and boy, did I know it! He planted himself at the end of the street and I had to coax him to turn around, poor guy! You’ll hear more about both dogs to come.

Melon's Animal Adventures

Welcome to Melon’s Animal Adventures. I apologise for the lack of photos that will be in this section of the blog. I’m sure you guys know how hard it to get a decent photo if you’re out training with your pet or when you spot an interesting dog on the other side of the street. But I will do my very best to make up for it by describing things in vivid detail so you can imagine them. I start by posting a few of the older posts over the next few days so you know a little bit more about me and my relationship with animals.

Hello again

Hey, wheeek, it’s me! I’m back! Yup, me and Melon tend to jump in and out of Blogville, mostly ‘cause of her Issues. But one thing you’ll quickly learn about us: we’ll always be back!

How am I doing, you ask? Quite well, thank you. I’ve been home, no one’s taken me back to the weird place with the poking and the coming home all sleepy and stuff. Melon says my chest where the stitches are looks good – all I know is, it’s not bothering me! – and she seems happy with what the number machine tells her too. So back to life as usual for me. Wheeek.

So what’s the big news now? Well, Melon and I have done a lot of ne-go-tia-ting and I’ve finally decided to let her put some posts on my blog too. I know, I know, why did I let her steal MY megaphone… but she’s a hooman and sometimes you just gotta humour those hoomans.

So… get ready for some words from Melon here too. I know what she has to say isn’t as important as what I have to say, of course, but do me a favour and humour her too, okay?