Thursday, July 1, 2010

Miss You

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Recently, I received a sweet note from a fellow blogger saying “miss you” and wondering if the puppy had me “cornered”. This post is partly to say I have missed all of you and, frankly, I am missing me. This puppy-raising experience has been quite an education. But. my friend was closer to the truth than he may have suspected. I have been cornered, in a sense.

To begin with, the challenge has reminded me why I retired from a career that I truly loved—have I mentioned lately that I still miss teaching all those fascinating actors? My days are getting pathetically short. I simply can’t go the way I could even five years ago. Of course I could take a number of shortcuts with bringing up this pup; but that isn’t in my nature. I don’t want to miss a moment of his puppiness—maddening as it occasionally may be. Moreover, I want to give him every possibility at growing into a confident, happy, and well-behaved dog.

Not surprisingly, I am also confronting, for the umpteenth time, my obsession with learning. Do you have any idea how much information is available on the new techniques for training animals? Let me tell you it will keep you busy accessing even a smattering of it. Thanks to another world wide web friend, I was encouraged, early on, to pursue the new techniques and I have the stack of books to prove it. Each tome is stuffed with post it notes marking the most delicious tidbits of information, and the stack of books continues to grow. I can’t seem to stop myself.

The upshot of what I get from my crash course is that the old “yank and crank” methods (as one of the authors puts it) have been left in the dust and positive reinforcement, shaping, luring, marking (No! not that kind of marking! Pay attention, now!), and rewards are the new currency.

Since the new philosophy squares perfectly with the approach I used in teaching for several decades, I have plunged headlong into this without reservation. My enthusiasm has resulted in the contribution of a small fortune to Amazon. Furthermore, I have belatedly discovered YouTube. Before Galen came into our lives, I could have listed the YouTube videos I had viewed on my fingers—perhaps a toe or two. Now, you will find me, at least once a day, soaking up tips from training videos produced by people who work wonders with their canine companions. What pleasure I have gotten from immersing myself in a world I had never visited. And, I haven’t even gotten into the dog agility thing. That’s a small universe of its own.

So, now you know why I have been such a slug when it comes to visiting and posting. I have been all about preparing and shopping for treats (rewards), studying, and testing theories in my very own little puppy-training laboratory. All this besides the fact that I have to take Galen out what seems like 120 times a day. Each visit to the yard requires constant supervision, since he would make a tasty morsel for the coyotes that roam our area. I have days when I wonder why I’m doing it all when it’s so challenging and days when I’m exhausted by sunset (getting up and down off the floor is a lot harder than it used to be). Still, I haven’t played so hard and laughed so much since I was five! Dogs really are gifts from God.