Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cats and Hurricanes

My household feline companions are finding this tropical storm formally known as Hurricane Irene to be the most amusing thing. At various points during the day I've caught them transfixed staring out the window. Here is Iggy standing atop the dryer looking at all the various treats blowing across the skylight.

I bet he wouldn't be so amused if he had to be out in the rain.

The View From Here: Are you Nuts (?) Edition

I think my human has lost his mind. He seems to think I'm going to go outside into this mess. Is he nuts? I'm staying right here on my little tuffet until the weather conditions improve.

The View From Here: Irene's Morning Wind Edition

My human predicted that this was going to happen. I woke up this morning and poked my head out the front door, sat down inside the threshold, and looked up at my human. Who is he kidding thinking I'm going outside? He finally coaxed me out the door and off the porch. I just stood there amazed at how the wind would pick up and make my ears go aloft. It's a cute trick. I bet you wish your ears could do that!

I'm currently refusing to do any outdoor business until conditions improve. I can wait. Really.

Anyway, here is the beginning winds of hurricane Irene. I'll periodically direct the human to capture a clip of the weather as long as it is safe to be standing in the front yard. As you can see, the oak trees are likely going to look very threatening as the day goes on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mindful Dog Walking

Today I'd like to talk to you about something of the utmost importance: mindful dog walking. Those of you who live in more rural areas might have a different experience, but here in the city I've had repeated experiences that are just too disturbing to remain silent about. That's right.

It's time we get serious and talk about those of you who walk your dogs in urban areas paying no attention to your surroundings.

On three separate occasions yesterday I was accosted by leashed dogs. Their owners were wandering around in la-la land and allowed their dogs to run right up into my face. On rather frightening beast snarled and exposed his teeth at me. I'm being generous here because at least one of the humans (companion to the snarling beast) was aware of what was happening and didn't do anything to stop the behavior.

How do you feel when a stranger runs up to you and sticks there nose in your face?

You don't like it? Well we dogs don't like it either. There is a certain dance well socialized and well behaved dogs do when they meet each other. We use very loud and obvious non-verbal language to communicate with each other. I let people know I'm submissive, for example. I usually will crouch down and look to the side when I see another dog approaching. My tail will go down between my legs. I'll lick my lips. In doing this, I communicate I am not dangerous, I am a friend, and I will not hurt you. I wait for the other dog to signal their intentions: when they do we will circle each other and sniff. That's how we shake hands. Then and only then we will play.

Back to the nose in the face. Yesterday these three dogs payed no attention to my non-verbals and ran right up into my face. This signifies and attack of my personal space and a potential attack of my human. I will respond. You can expect barking, you can expect teeth to be exposed. I will fight if I must, even though I'm little and very scared. I will protect myself and my human as best I can.

You can also expect that my human will respond very rapidly by placing himself sideways between me and the other dog. It's usually enough to stop the other dog when he blocks, prevents the two dogs from having eye contact, refuses to make eye contact with the dog himself, and provides a stronger non-verbal to the approaching dog.

Knowing that I don't have to protect I will run behind my human and cower. I'm an easily frightened dog.

The human is also known to verbally bite. He's tolerance has run out for these sorts of interactions. Beware as he has not yet had his rabies vaccinations. I'm not sure if you can get rabies from him yelling at you. Be on the safe side thought, okay?

What's my point here?

Too many humans are watching dog trainers on television and think they have it all figured out. You don't have it all figured out. Just like children need to have adults supervise their play on the playground to learn important social skills, dogs need to have adult supervision on a playground so they can learn proper canine interpersonal skills.

The adult humans, by the way, need to have supervised play with their dogs too. This learning, which only can happen with the guidance of an excellent human coach, helps humans become aware of how to safely support their dogs when approaching new dogs.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dogs and Disabilities

I've been so busy barking at the dog across the street I've forgotten to tell you about an experience I had the other day. There is a small park across the street from my office. On short breaks the human will run me across the street so I can sniff, meet the public, and do some other business in the bushes.

The other week I met a dog that was busy hiding between her human's legs. I barely noticed her poking her nose out from under the human's skirt! The human was a little wary. This small auburn colored curly haired dog looked a little scared and had it's back arched up. I wasn't hesitant at all so despite my human's complaints, I went right up to the dog.

I circled around a few times like any well mannered dog does. We sniffed as we got closer. The dog came out of hiding and we ended up spending a few minutes nose to nose sniffing.

It was at that point, as our noses were touching, that my human started talking to the other dog's human. It turns out my new friend was 16 years old, deaf, and blind.

The human thought it was pretty amazing that my new friend and I knew exactly how to approach either other. He found it particularly interesting that I somehow knew to reign in my usual exuberant greeting for this senior dog. I was slower and more gentle than usual, but I really didn't appear to care that there was something different about this dog.

If only the humans could figure this out so easily. Encounter difference perhaps a little slower, a little gentler, but approach nonetheless, and do so with an open mind, wagging tail, and gentle smile.