Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Huntress

 Inbetween morning walkies and lazing in the air-conditioned room, Claire is a cicada huntress in the garden...fewer and fewer each year as the city crows lurk early morning to catch them on their first flight...meanwhile Mummy is chasing the perfect moment to express her beloved kimonos. Thank you photographer Tuyoshi Kiuchi and Gumyoji Kurumayagofukuten for setting up this photo-shoot, and check out his entrancing blog of Japanese beauty, Yawarakai Ashiato (Treading Lightly).

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dogged Cynicism

 I lost interest in Pokemon Go when I realized stores have to pay to lure Pokemon to their vicinity in the hopes of gaining new customers...all about the money. No wonder there are hardly any Pokemon in Hokkaido here in Japan. Likewise, sadly, what began as the idea of free education for all in global moocs is also turning into a business racket as Udemy, Coursera, Edx all have fewer and fewer courses available free. 
Which leaves me with Open University to explore for my summer study...not quite so sexy, but one of those sexy Twittered Coursera courses had me downloading and reading piles of free stuff from Open University anyway. Since I have enjoyed successfully completed two free doggie courses in Coursera on Animal Behavior and Welfare and Dog Emotion and Cognition , I began by searching for dog in the Open University search. 
 And found a highly rewarding wee read by Carolyn Price, Senior Lecturer in their Philosophy Dept., on the meaning of cynicism, explaining that it 
 "...derives from an ancient Greek word meaning 'dog-like’ or ‘doggy’... a philosophical movement that began in Ancient Greece. The movement started with two men – Antisthenes and Diogenes of Sinope....philosophers who called themselves dogs.
Why dogs? One reason has to do with their rejection of conventional values.  For the Cynics, the conventional markers of a successful life – wealth, privilege and power – were to be despised, rather than admired.  A successful life, they held, is a virtuous life, lived in accordance with nature; to live this kind of life requires only the most basic necessities. ... When someone asked him where he was from, he replied ‘I am a citizen of the world’....For Diogenes, being truly human means living like a dog.
...Cynics were like dogs in another way too: they barked at people. That is, they said exactly what they thought, without fear or favour. ...
...the Cynics left an important legacy. Their emphasis on simplicity, self-sufficiency and living in accordance with nature were taken up by later philosophers, especially the Stoics. Many of their concerns -- free speech, personal liberty, cosmopolitanism -- are still pressing issues today.  And, of course, the Cynics have given a word to the English language, one that reflects their growling impatience with the rest of humanity, but not their dogged pursuit of virtue. "
Sweet, thank you Open University. A stream of clear knowledge, free at the source...
Photos by Lelantos

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Mountain

Wearing my favorite tank top from The Mountain's Dean Russo collection. Just love having a cat among the dogs...
 It's getting hot, so I drove over to the end up having to pay for parking, so it's not really viable every day, but the park needs upkeep, so I guess it's okay.
 When I'm tired like this morning, I dither and drop the leash...Sherlock was off like a speeding arrow down the path in the woods, but fortunately there are fewer people around at this hour, particularly in the woods, and after a short while he came back, so all was well.
 There's a big smile on his face with the excitement of it all...
Photos by Lelantos

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rain again?

This was supposed to be our day of strenuous walkies to make up for being cooped up in the house yesterday...and it's raining again...seriously? Oh no! Just one walkies in the drizzle for an hour, to unload mountains of poopie and empty the bladder and get a whiff of all the scents to the east...and now it's already time for supper. Where did the day go? All towelled dry now and waiting patiently...what's with the typing Mum, are you testing my patience? Don't set me up for failure here, do I have to bark for supper? I'd better go to maintain this positive success in our training regimen, Sherlock is managing to control himself very well now for meals and walkies, a miracle I didn't think possible just a week or so ago. Thank you Laura VanArendonk Baugh! The downside...while Claire and Sherlock made a point of peeing outside even though it's raining, Nobunaga has been secretly peeing on the upstairs spite of the pet sheet, it has somehow formed a lake behind and under the sheet...
Photos by Lelantos

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Heartworm Prevention Day

Once a month Sherlock gets his slow-kill heartworm meds, so I have to stop blogging and get him his breakfast and give him the meds. Claire and Nobu get theirs during summer mosquito season with a final dose in November, and I always stick to the 27th for them, but Sherlock had his first dose the first time the vet checked on him, after making sure there were no adult worms wriggling around in his heart yet, the doctor whammied whatever was in his system with an instant first dose of the meds, and I keep it up every month until he gives me the okay, or November as per my other setters, if by then he is clear. Unfortunately the medication is horrifically expensive, but of course, it's worth it to keep the sweeties safe. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Aromatherapy for Setters

I've been talking with a friend who also has a "Fired up, frantic and freaked out" dog. Over and above clicker training while perusing this fantastic book, I suggested aromatherapy might help, and I'd like to share my mistakes and successes. 
When Sherlock first came, I was rubbing chamomile loaded in olive oil all down his spine...this worked, but I was kind of blowing his senses, way too strong, his nose would drip and drip...then one day when I used it again after an interlude, he fled outside to disperse the scent, and I had to carry him back in after a while, so unfortunately I've created distressing connotations.

I use lavender to wipe down the floors, so I didn't want to use it as a calming agent, jasmine and neroli are too expensive and I don't have them, which left me with bergamot, marjoram and frankincense. I put one drop each in a saucer of coconut oil, and decided to rub it on my own arms and face before bedtime, rather than on the dog, so the scent diffuses in the room, not directly on the dog's fur where he can't get away. 
Some sites suggest a doggie bandana, or the dog collar. Fine if you know the right dose that isn't too pungent. I would also recommend experimenting with finding a smell your dog really likes that visibly calms their behavior, rather than using a mix of three and winging it like I'm doing...

That quizzical look

 I am lurking deep in the overgrown garden greens calling the dogs to take pictures...after breakfast and a great walkies they're like, are you really asking us to come and get eaten alive? Yer what?
It's so hot, what's the point? Much better to get back behind the green curtain of bitter melon and laze in the shade...right?
Sherlock woke me from a deep slumber at 0100 with the jingling sound of his pee in the kitchen...alas, not on a pet sheet...nor in the hall, his seemingly favorite area...more swipe petsheet, spray and wipe cloth cleanup...evening bedtime walkies at 20:30 all in vain, he can't seem to last the night. I'm going to investigate doggie belly bands, see if they're humane...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nighttime Alarm Barking

I am reminded of a poem by Spike Milligan from his Silly Verses for Kids given to me by loving and inspired parents, that has stayed with me over these fifty years:

"Things that go 'bump' in the night
Should not really give one a fright.
It's the hole in each ear
That lets in the fear,
That, and the absence of light!"

I digress, but Sherlock is so aptly named: such finely tuned powers of observation in sound, scent and sight, the intensity of input makes you slightly neurotic. Couple this highly sensitive individual with (probably) being chained up outside day and night, with no way to go and investigate what all those noises are, and a family that walks on by or uses fear-based training sessions to obliterate you into submission...
So what can be done to help a dog that alarm barks frequently and vociferously at all hours of the night and lately day? And of course their tormented family...
Thinking Holmes and violin, I am trying music (not fond of white noise) during the day, finding that sadly some of my high paced Latin dance music can make him a little hyper, while the softer rumba and ballads stuff is okay. I need to go for Mozart or Vivaldi, I guess...or doggie music? 
My other technique during the day which I have used so far successfully with Claire, is going along together to investigate what is causing the noise, followed by a thank you for guarding the house and it's okay to relax now, we've checked and it's nothing threatening. If Claire continues to bark outside I say enough and bring her in the house.  That's easy of course, I'm awake...
My third technique at night is to whisper to the dog, "shush, enough, please don't bark now, it's bedtime" while I grab Sherlock as he goes sailing by on the warpath and bring him to a down next to me on the futon. Needless to say this doesn't really work because he is still fearful of and alert to the continued bumps in the night, but it's about all I feel up to in my drowsy state.
The most helpful of the internet research I've done on reducing night barking is from a Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue site in an article by Rose Stremlau. She says we have to acknowledge the Pyrenee breed is a night-time guard dog. Not that a setter is a barking guard dog, on the contrary they are ninja stealth snipers operating secret missions during daytime to ace the bird...all the more reason to hope!
...but obviously Sherlock has had a bad start in life. I don't think it's brain disease or bee stings or pain, although it could be a habitual response to dull the itchiness of being left to be eaten alive by mosquitos in summer (he is recovering from incipient heartworm) and delicate skin. The most important point that I learned from this article by Rose is, see your dog, accept what you've got, work with it:
"We can’t change hundreds of years of canine evolutionary adaptation. Instead, we changed our response, and it worked over time to reduce this unwanted behavior."
She suggests fixed bedtime protocols as with a child: a bedtime peewees, a biscuit, leading the dog to bed (far from noise), singing a lullaby, a goodnight kiss.  If and when the dog wakes, going with him to investigate the noise, gently asking what is up, telling him it's okay, thanking him for guarding, and going back to bed together.
Beautiful. So encouraging and exactly the kind of gentle approach I like. I just need to wake up enough to implement this...
Another site that I found helpful is reading the late Dr. Sophia Yin's blog entry on excessive barking - angels do watch over us. Again, it's the tone as much as the substance that I find encouraging. 
"it was clear she needed primarily to learn to pay better attention to Ashley. This required Ashley to ... teach the dog that she had to earn everything of value by politely, and automatically sitting as a way of saying “please.” First, we taught Kaya in the house to sit automatically for treats, and once she understood, we then also required she sit automatically and remain seated for other things she wanted—to go out the door, to get her leash on, to get petted. She had to sit and focus on Ashley’s face prior to receiving treats, meals and attention and to be let out into her yard. It seems so simple but the training is important. These Learn to Earn exercises teach dogs self-control and to look to their owners for guidance.
In other words, more of what I've been doing...counting my blessings, I have hardly any barking as I prepare for meals, and the walkies barking is coming under just a matter of time and perseverance for night-time barking too. It's the hole in the heart along with the ear that lets in the fear...
Chiaro di Luna beams me some loving, healing moonlight energy from the rainbow bridge, go on, she says, you love the little blighter in my stead, just like I'm telling you. All will be well.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Peewees Chart

I have had the brilliant idea of keeping a peewees chart to see when Sherlock needs to go pee and time zones where accidents are happening. Walkies is not at the same time every day, depending on what's on the agenda:
As of 2100 mini-walkies which I aim to do about four times a day as it includes leash and leaving the house quietly training, he had a peewees.
0400 Peewees on the wooden hall floor secretly when all lie sleeping
0600 Peewees on a petsheet in the hall
0600~0730 Park Walkies poopies no peewee
0830 Garden peewees after breakfast
1000 Miniwalkies + peewees
11:07 Garden peewees
1200 Miniwalkies + peewees...
1405 Garden peewees
1700~1900 Park Walkies peewees 1855
1930 Garden poopies
Looks like a peewees every one and a half far...
Dogs from the pound do go through a period of readjustment and it takes a month or two for them to adapt, but this is pretty radical, and three months into his stay with us. No wonder the poor little mite was abandoned...
Meanwhile researching relaxing aromatherapy for dogs, (and avoiding teatree, ylangylang, peppermint and cinammon), I found an insect repellent recipe of eucalyptus, cedarwood, citronella and lemon grass. For calming and relaxing hyperactivity in the dog, it seems I can choose from Bergamot, Frankincense, Lavender, Jasmine, Chamomile, Lemon, Neroli and Marjoram. Neroli, Jasmine and Chamomile cost a fortune, but I do have Bergamot, Frankincense, Lavender and Marjoram, so that gives me ample choice to play around with a scented nightrub to soothe Sherlock into a sleep to last til morning. The entire list for those interested at dogs.the funtimesguide
The good news is, Sherlock is barking less at the door and gate, which encourages me to begin addressing the next hurdle, alarm barking at night...More on this tomorrow.
Photos by Lelantos

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Barking at night

Yesterday was a frustrating repeat of nasty old habits: crazy barking at the door and gate, peewees in the house in spite of optimal treats on garden visits, alarm barking half the a result, the morning walkies was up the spout and every bone in my body seems to ache...I admit I was too tired to implement training protocols for evening walkies when I came home...I have been consistent with treats for outside peewees and going often though, Ian Dunbar techniques, not quite so infallible as his reassuring persona suggests, but praying for success in the long haul. 
Ah yes the door. The more I interact with Sherlock there, the more I realize he gets jumpy with Claire and Nobu around, fearful they may get taken on walkies instead? Nobunaga seems to realize this and hangs back, while Claire will come and sit next to Sherlock, so I'm working on clicking and treating there for both dogs to get Sherlock used to body heat and potential jostle- this being Japan I need to sit my bum down and put on my own shoes there too. He needs to get just a little bit more patient with Mummy's itsy bitsy process: clip on poopy bag waist pouch, sit down, put on shoes, tie up laces, get the leashes, unravel them, clip collar on three dogs, reach for the doorkey...and then, once out the door, wait for other dogs to come out too...wait for Mummy to lock the door...before we go down the steps, wait on the landing, wait at the gate...OMG that was sooooooo hard, but I'm getting there. With a few reruns.
When I'm home and not distracted by work, I can also do the threesome clicker training sessions of down and touch, so that just like mealtimes where we have attained a modicum of silence save for a final joyful burst at the end, Sherlock realizes he'll have his turn and treats, just go ahead and try the down or the touch and not to worry. Nobunaga cozied up to Sherlock on the floor, head on his buttocks, good job, Nobu, you are something of a genius, knowing what to do. 
We've had three going out the door with mini-walkies sessions today already, every two hours, gets the peewees outside thing reinforced naturally too....although my Baker Street crazy likes to pee on top of Claire which is another issue I have yet to resolve...I'm so happy he's actually going peewees on a walkie, I don't want to stop the flow, as it were...
And next stop, alarm barking at night, at least four or five times. We've tried the throw treats thing, but he's dream tripping so hard he doesn't register. Back to internet research...this nighttime barking seems to be a biggie that has not been well addressed so far. I'm thinking I'm going to have to jump up too, go with Sherlock down the hall, praise him, say thank you and take him back to bed...I get woken up blurry-minded anyway, so I may as well jump on the wave and ride it out, rather than wishing it would go away and let me sleep...working with the triggers during the daytime doesn't seem to register...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Proud Dog

Sherlock back from walkies, proud as punch sitting on the entrance step saying, "Look at me, I did it, I didn't bark, did I? I love it that I am learning what to do, so I can do it well. I can sit here all right, sure I can!" In the words of Chani Nicholas :
"This week try to remember what is good, what is solid and what is stable while in the face of what is changing, what is breaking and what is becoming. Things need time to take shape. They need time to reacclimatize. They need time to find their way. And they will."

My new bible

Been out for the count with headaches, and Nobu has been down for a week or so with vomiting and diarrhea after ingesting quite a large quantity of lavender garden fertilizer bitten open courtesy of master Sherlock. After days of cleaning lakes of greyish foul poop and vomit from the couch, the futon, the hallways upstairs and downstairs, the sitting room floors and then some, two visits to the vet for an IV drip and meds, finally everyone slowly back to normal...meanwhile, Sherlock has made it to the throne of thrones, the armchair, which Claire has abandoned in the heat in favor of the cooler wooden floor.
I'm so pleased with my new book, Fired Up Frantic and Freaked Out by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, which seems to be written especially with Sherlock in mind, and is, as the author says, "a guideline for practical application, a sort of follow-along-at-home resource" for "dogs which are basically over-aroused for one reason or another - aggression, fear, fear-aggression, joy, or just plain over-stimulated".
"Inside the agitated dog, emotion and stress (whether good or bad) have taken over and are inhibiting some cognitive functions of the brain." The book aims to "teach the dog how to interrupt and manage his own arousal". Excellent, and of course always with positive delicious non-invasive no-walloping methods.
I haven't started from scratch which requires a mat, and I have to go buy one from the 100 yen shop, BUT, I realized that I had to get between Sherlock and the door, the moment he goes crazy, and reel back to begin in the kitchen where he's calm and able to sit. He's pretty proficient at sit, so I back down the hall from the kitchen toward the door, stopping every few paces for a relaxed moment of sit which he will offer himself as I hold up a treat, click for good and then slowly, gently, calmly, move closer to the door again, stopping on the doormat. There I just turn my back to him and then face him again, clicking for staying in the sit, then turn and a hand on the leash and back to face him, then touch my walkies waist pouch. Tiny steps, then calmly clip on my pouch, slip on sandals for extra speed, and again, after we've put on his leash, I again back down the stairwell between him and the gate, finally offering a tiny wee walkie together to the local park as the biggest reward for being able to control his urge to bark wildly. If he's alone with me it works a dream :) 
Unfortunately with the happy energy of three dogs it goes a little haywire, so I'm going to keep working on it throughout the day just him and me over the next few weeks. Best book in the world! 

Photos by Lelantos

Sunday, July 3, 2016


I read and learn and read and learn, and then I make supper...reject cuts of tuna boiled in konbu seaweed broth, cut up small, and added to kibble with tofu and grated organic carrots, ginger and a smattering of beets and greens...
 ...a final evening walkies in the welcome cool air of darkness, and the look on my furbabies` faces reminds me that loving is easy, and my dogs are here to be adored, the miracle of their company savored, their beauty a blessing and their presence a gift.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

If it ain't broke...

Sherlock was so tentative on our walkies with a harness, compared to this photo of him on the leash...he's happy with our walkies, in fact we are all so well-adjusted to the threesome system right now (Nobu behind me and Claire in front, lined up, leash clipped together over my shoulder so Sherlock can whisk left and right underneath) that I've been able to take along the camera for these pictures. As a result, I've decided I'm not going to put him to the stress of learning a new body gadget just yet...the collar it is. If Sherlock's neck muscles are tense, I can massage them.
Meanwhile training speak on the doorstep on the return of our mini-walkies was a complete disaster, so I used it to train shush, and reinforce sit and down...I made a point of apologizing to our neighbor again, they're very strict with their own dog about barking, but equally quite pre-disposed toward being understanding about rescue. I'm working on it, I said, the pound is very traumatizing but I'm doing my best. All will be well.