Saturday, January 07, 2006

Year Of The Dog Is Every Year

I don’t pay a lot of attention to the noisy box. Sometimes my human companions watch the screen and laugh, or become very sad. Other times they talk or even shout at the box. It is very strange. The other day I was lying and resting and someone on the noisy box kept saying ‘dog’. That got my attention.  Posted by Picasa

This talker on the noisy box was saying that this is the Year of the Dog. My first thought was “you mean that some are not?” I’m still working that idea through. I don’t think that I would be happy to hear about a Year of the Cat. I have to confess that I am not positive what the human sound ‘year’ actually means. The lady voice went on to say that when someone is born during Year of the Dog they share certain traits. Once she started listing them, I realized that she was talking about me!

Honesty, dependability, and loyalty would describe those of the Year of the Dog. I may not be perfect but if I violate a rule of the pack den, I own up to it. Sometimes before my companions even know that I did something wrong. I can’t help myself there.

If the little box by the bed makes a ringing sound and a human companion doesn’t wake up, you can depend on me to lick their hands or feet, even jump on the bed to help them. If I receive a treat every night around six chimes you can depend on me to remind anyone and everyone if they forget.

It is just part of my nature to be faithful and devoted. I’ll stand by any member of my pack den if they are sick or sad. If I sense that someone or something might harm them I put myself between them and the threat in less than a heartbeat. I protect those I care about, no doubt about that.

I am a good listener and keep secrets pretty well. I listen carefully when a human is talking to me. I learn a lot by how they look and move when they speak, and I understand the meaning of a lot of their sounds. I hate to brag but I am sure that I understand them better than they follow what I am saying sometimes.

I do not hold a grudge; do not understand those that cannot move on from trouble or disagreement. Open-minded—yes I do not judge anyone by the way they walk or talk or the scent of their shoes until I have a chance to know them a little better.

The talker in the noisy box pointed out some qualities that are not favorites of my companions. I can be very nosy. I like to sniff out pockets, bags, and boxes as soon as they are brought into the den. I do not like the idea of missing something good that a forager has brought us.

When everyone in my den seems upset, I become very anxious. Or if someone doesn’t come home at the same time, they do on most days it makes me nervous and I tend to pace back and forth.

I’ll be keeping my ears open to learn more about the Year of the Dog. As best I can tell it means that there will be more creatures like me on the planet. I like that idea. It’s time to declare celebratory treats for everyone! Happy Year of the Dog to you!

Time of Great Scents

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It seems we have ended that time of year that I think of as The Time Of Great Scents. It is a time when the pack's den is filled with fun and adventure. The hot box with the door in the kitchen seems to have great aromas coming from it all of the time. I walk by and breathe out to clear the nostrils then take a big gulp of air. Then I can taste meat, cake, or cookie. If I hang back and stay quiet, I can usually swoop in and get something that drops on the floor while humans are moving it around. We have had plenty of ham and beef and chicken. Heaps of the cookies humans like to eat. It is cold and the days are dark most of the time. However, I have felt happy and satisfied with a good full belly.

More people seem to come in and out visiting our pack den. I can lie down by the front door and inhale the smell from everyone’s boots. Some of them reek of strong people scent or horse-droppings. Others are a mystery to unravel with whiffs of one place and traces of another. A few of the boots smell of other animals. Sometimes I recognize the scent of a dog friend. Other times they reek of cat. I keep busy for hours trying to picture the starting point and details behind the smells.

Many packages with crackly paper are lying around. I enjoy opening those, but I have learned that I am not supposed to do that unless it is handed to me. I place the package between my paws, find an end, and then rip the paper off with my teeth. Sometimes it is hard; especially when a human overdoes it with that sticky stuff they call tape.

Once I learn what it is (food or play toy) I jump up and shake it in my mouth then prance around so everyone can see my treasure. If I think I am not getting enough attention I set it in someone’s lap or hand.

My packages had bones of all sizes; some were shaped in circles or covered with ridges. One tasted like chicken another like ham. There were treats with a savory tang of bacon, and other ones with a yummy liver flavor. I also got a fluffy doll to tear apart and a new pull toy rope with a ball in the middle.

Humans give each other these packages too but I seldom find them interesting. Well except for the one with different kinds of cheese. It seemed like that should have been one of mine. I could dream for hours just about the smells inside. I was in big trouble when I enjoyed that one without asking.

I get lots of attention too. Just about any human that visits can be coaxed into giving me a belly rub or butt scratch. If I play it right, they might slip me a bit of their food too. The absolute best was the human male (I will not tell you who) that slipped me a whole hamburger. I gulped it all even the buns.

Our days are quieter now. I know that is a sign that this happy season is over for a while. It was great while it lasted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Sister is A Star Too!

My sister is on the cover of the latest Town Crier, that's the local newspaper. She is with her human companion Mary, and they are ski-joring down Main Street.

Skijoring is when a dog pulls a cross-country skier. It's kind of like me pulling my trainers off the bicycle and through the air. Except more controlled. And with cross-country skis--not bicycles.

Unlike me, Neeko likes to run and pull. She is good at things like that. Her name means 'free spirit' and she (and Mary) are pretty athletic.

A few years ago she even helped train the Island's soccer team by running with them to help build up endurance. She loved wearing out those human kids!

Her life has been different than mine, she has lived in Colorado while Mary studied to be a Doctor. And she accompanies Mary on some of the local races, running along and even sharing the prizes!

Here's the picture--

(the rights to the picture belong to the Mackinac Island Town Crier/St. Ignace news)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rant From A Snow Dog

What is with this snow? Somehow I manage to forget every year how often it comes and goes. In the past few weeks we’ll get great white stuff. I’ll just be getting into the joy of playing in it, and boom it’s gone.
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It’s happening again today. Last Sunday night it started snowing, big beautiful wet flakes. Lots of them. Snow that is perfect for prancing and running. One of my human companions took me out with the snowmobile and we had a great run. I love loping through snow drifts.

I kept a pretty steady pace; I’m thinking about 15 mph. Not bad for the start of the season since I’m not in my top physical condition yet. By Spring I can go around the Island several times, keeping up the same 15 mph or even hitting twenty at times.

I was made to jog and tow. I’m not happy about hauling anything. I put my paws down about that enough that my human family gave up. One of the things they tried doing was to harness me and have me pull someone on a bicycle as practice. I played along for awhile. Then I would see a rabbit or a squirrel and take off.

The human would go flying through the air and had to let go of my lead. It’s not like I was mean about the whole thing. I would wait until we got around a pile of bushes or something before I took off. It would break their landing. After dashing off like that a few times they finally gave up. Now I can run and run with no stupid harness to hold me back. Or heavy weight to lug along.

Keeping my paws crossed for more snow!

Monday, November 28, 2005

My Mackinac Treasures

  Posted by PicasaI like to collect gloves. I can spot a glove or a mitten available for my collection faster than a bee can sting. When I find one I carry it proudly home in my mouth. I then have to think for awhile about its proper placement in my yard. I might dig a little here or there until I find just the right spot. Then I quickly dig, slide it in, cover it carefully and lie over the top for a while.

Two of my favorite additions came with a little bit of excitement...

One snowy morning when I was just a pup I was walking with one of my human companions along Market Street downtown. I spotted a little girl human sitting on the back of a snowmobile with some nice big fuzzy mittens. She didn't seem to like them, she was pulling at them so I thought I would help her and myself.

My human companion was talking to someone and I knew that sometimes that meant my leash wasn't being held very tightly. I gave a quick jerk and I was free and running toward the girl. I jumped really fast and grabbed the mitten hanging off her hand and took off. I could hear lots of yelling and the girl crying so I didn't look back. I hurried to my yard and buried the mitten as best I could in the snow. I could add it to the rest of the treasure later. Then I disappeared for awhile. I knew I would be in trouble when I came home again and I was. It was worth it. It is one of my favorites to dig up again. I let it lie underneath my muzzle and think about how much fun I had that day.

I even impressed myself with this one...

Gloves and hats are a necessity for northern humans and I don't know why they lose them but they do. Around here if someone finds something like that on the road they hang it from a nearby tree branch or post so that the owner can spot it and retrieve it.

One day I was strolling down Cupid's Pathway. Because of the laws here I was on a leash. I know this path well and any deviation quickly catches my eye. There was something not quite right with one of the tree branches that were hanging over the road. It was up pretty high, I wasn't sure if it was a bird or squirrel. Then, I don't know if it was a whiff of scent or the breeze stirred it enough for me to see the shape. I sailed into action.

I moved so fast my human companion couldn't keep up and lost hold on the leash. Then I flew into the air, I mean I was airborne! I grabbed that work glove off that high branch and landed smooth as silk. I have to admit I did some strutting and parading after that one. The humans who saw it were excited too. "He must have been five feet in the air!" I heard one of them say. This glove has great memories because I've heard one of my human companions retell the story a few times. And the original owner must have had it for a while because there are still some great scents attached!  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 24, 2005


It has occurred to me that I might offer some wisdom to you young pups out there. You may be just at the beginning of your relationship with your human companions and are just beginning to realize how important it is to train them.

It Takes Dedication

Don’t expect it to be easy. Sometimes they are very slow to learn. Or obstinate. Perseverance and determination are important. Don’t give up. Eventually they will fall into line. 
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How To Get Them To Move Quickly

One of the ways to get a human's attention is through urgency. Want to go outside? They are terrified that you will poop or pee in the house. So out of the blue go running up to him or her dancing, whining, jumping around and acting as if you are having a genuine panic attack. Then run to the door. If necessary, repeat.

A Fun Game

Another way of enjoying the great outdoors and amusing yourself is playing with the distracted human. Are they busy typing away on the computer? In the middle of some complicated and only understandable to them project? See how many times they will let you out and back in, out and back in without realizing it. The key is to wait until they are obviously absorbed. You don’t have to begin with urgency. Just use your traditional way of indicating you would like to go outside. For me it is sitting down next to the human, staring intently, and if that doesn’t get a response I give off a little sound. Kind of cross between throat clearing and a whimper. If that doesn’t work I lay my head on whatever body part they are using. If typing, the arms or even hands work well. I continually move more and more of my body into the area. I weigh seventy pounds so it’s hard to ignore me. If you are a smaller dog you might have to adapt other behaviors.

The human will get up and let me outside. I like to vary the times before I give a few sharp barks to come back in. Sometimes it’s as soon as I can hear them resume their task. Other times I give them a few minutes to become absorbed in what they are doing first.

Barking Can Be Productive

Unless you live in the middle of nowhere most humans won’t leave you out there to bark because it disturbs the neighbors. So they will let you back in. Take a few minutes, and then repeat the process. How many times can you get your human to do this before they catch on? That’s the fun part, keeping score.

Now I don’t bark very much anyway. But I have learned that it can get a faster response, especially if it is late at night. Realistically humans often react negatively to barking, so you have to apply your barks judiciously or they may punish you by shunning or banning of treats.

An alternative to barking is moaning. Not whimpering. Groaning and sighing and behaving as if you are put upon and oppressed beyond any imagination. Sounds odd but this seems to amuse them enough to respond as you wish.

Treats Glorious Treats!
  Posted by Picasa The moaning works really well if you want a bonus treat. Go to the place the treats are kept and stare intently. Sigh, moan, and whimper as if your heart would break. Get your human’s attention and repeat. Stay in that spot and look desperate. They usually resist at first but enough repetition will break them down.

Well that is all for today. This is a big human holiday so chances are there will plenty of people and food around to help you practice. Keep your paws clean!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Adventures on Mackinac

My life is full of adventures. The story of one of them is in a book called Mackinac Mystery: The Secret of the Talking Cave. I thought it would be fun to offer a little bit of that story every once in awhile.

It all started when my human companion Casey and his cousin Maureen went for a walk in the woods one day. It had just rained and the air was crisp and fresh with plenty of great scents to track. I was doing just that, heading off here and there while still keeping an eye on my human companions when the strangest thing happened.

First I will give you Casey's version from the book. I'm skipping the parts that don't have anything to do with me of course.

"...Scuppers was clearly having a great time running through the woods. He would stop back and check on us, then race off again. Just as I realized that I hadn't seen him in a while, I suddenly heard his bark. And it wasn't his usual happy Woo Woo Woof he used to chase squirrels. It was a deep, angry WOOF WOOOOOF. Over and over it rang through the woods. This tone, and the fact that he didn't bark much, definitely worried me..."

"...The dog's deep whoofs stopped almost in mid-bark. In the eerie silence there were no crows cawing, birds twittering, squirrels scampering, or rabbits rustling. Suddenly, on our left came the sound of something crashing and tearing through the thicket. Before I could react, Scuppers dashed through the under brush and ran up to me. He stopped, stared intently at my face, and gave three quick, distinct barks. He quickly turned and dashed back up the hill. There was no doubt his message was to 'come this way'."

From the book: Mackinac Mystery: The Secret of the Talking Cave by Pamela Lach

Back to my story. So what was happening? Well if you have a human companion yourself you have already learned that they are sometimes slow in understanding what you are trying to tell them. And when you are not sure what it is you have found it's a little hard to get the point across.

They can't hear what I hear

I was minding my own business checking things out when my ears picked up a high pitched noise. And when I say high pitched---remember we dogs can hear a lot more than humans--this was high enough to hurt my head. I kind of headed in that direction, following it to its source. I wanted to warn the others—so I called them to my side, but in a way they should know to move forward with care.

I started forward little by little, still calling the other pack members to join me in hunting this down. I was very suspicious. I wasn't interested in taking on this new strange thing by myself. That's what packs are for, working together. When they didn't come running to my side I had to leave the chase and search them out.

When I got back to Casey I couldn’t understand why he was still so far away. And he did not look like he was moving very fast either. Why wasn’t he hurrying to help me? Did he not hear me somehow?

I looked intently at his face to make sure that I had his attention. Then I said “Help! Emergency! Follow Me!” I exaggerated my moves, turning around and heading back toward the sound. I looked back several times to make sure he started heading my way. He did, I had finally gotten through to him! 
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Sunday, November 20, 2005

I Like Mackinac Winters

I'm a snow dog. It's not only my bloodline, it's my passion. A few mornings ago I went outside and there was snow. I danced and ran and leaped in excitement. I love snow. I went for a long run in it and it wore me out. Haven't had this much excitement in a while.  Posted by Picasa