Six Word Dog Memoirs

In my off-time, so frequently a dog blog. But also work words and culture. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn

I love the Six Word Memoir Project. It’s just what it sounds like: a life in six words. In my last workplace, one of the pieces of my job was to help our clients write their stories to share with peers in a newsletter. It helped them reflect on what they felt was was important and helped to build community. In six words, I’d describe my role:

Word worker honoured to highlight lives. Read more

The Adopted Dog Reveal

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Happy Miller-versary to our beloved, curious long-low-white! He loves toys and his inner circle of select beings. He is fearful and crabby to strangers, 999/1000 dogs, scooters, skateboards, the mailman, any and everyone that squeals “He’s so cuuuute!” (I warn those that start to lean over.)

Miller was adopted 3 years ago today and we’ve learned and loved this guy so much. He is, in a word, earnest. He throws himself into the Search For The Disgusting on every walk and wander. He plays hide and seek with a smile; rips toys apart with great joy except for the first one we gave him, which he is very enamoured with, still.

If he’s curious about something he is all in. If he’s afraid, ditto. The typical reaction to stress can be fight or flight; Miller puts the fight into it with gusto, barking and lunging to distance things that alarm him. He also will fool around – the mouthy grab of a leash, for example. (Learn more about the four Fs of Fear.)

Over three years Miller has wonderfully shown what I call the Adopted Dog Reveal. Patricia McConnell talks about 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months in the settling in of a newly adopted dog (and three ways to prevent problems); in our case I’m noting 3 years. So much has happened over a slow period of time with Miller. Read more

Yoga Joy, Balance, and Miller Man

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I’ve learned through yoga that balance is not stillness, as I first thought. As I waver on one foot and hundreds of micro movements happen in one pose, I’m in a process, not a static pose. It was a great discovery when I learned that, and each time I hope I’ll manage a tree pose, I remind myself trees move.

I’ve come to think about this in relation to Miller too. His state of balance is constantly changing. As a dog with many fears (other dogs, strangers, skateboards, and oddly shaped mail carriers with flapping rain capes among them), his physical balance in the world shifts all the time. Read more

Pausing for Paws

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This morning as Miller and I walked I was reminded of Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy, one of my childhood book loves. Somewhere in the lines about Henry Huggins’ scruffy mutt was a description of his nails clickety clacking on the floor. It was one of Ribsy’s characteristics in more than one of the novels, if I remember correctly. Miller was clickety clacking this morning as we walked finally sunny sidewalks on our early outing.

Miller has great paws. The front ones are larger than the back ones and look like platters in comparison to the back. He often stands with them at second position, so I tell him he has plie paws. What does he care what I say about his paws if I’m holding a toy? Read more

The Sweetness of Saturday Morning

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Early Saturday mornings can be magical. I’m an early riser, up and out with Miller before the streets are streaming with cars or pedestrians. This morning the prediction was for rain, so I got us going immediately to walk while it was merely gray. It wasn’t gray and broody but light behind the clouds; very nice.

The neighbourhood was loud with little birds and crows, all sounding busy. It was Miller, me, and the occasional cyclist or runner. Miller was very good about both cyclists and runners; we’ve worked with him a lot* and he’s come along well in his response to them. These days it’s mostly a non-reaction (he may not even look at them), whereas when we first adopted him he would lunge and bark at both. I have counter-conditioning to thank for his response these days. Changing his reaction by giving him great food when something alarming appears has worked well. See a runner? Here’s some food. See a cyclist? Here’s some food. His response has changed so much that I don’t need to reinforce with food every time anymore. Read more

Geo Dog

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Yesterday Tracy and I went geocaching. Miller came along as a distraction.

If you don’t know geocaching, welcome to the wacky world of getting excited about finding tiny containers in the woods. Or you might find one on a city street, in which case you need to be super stealthy so the Muggles (the uninitiated) don’t see what you’re doing. A rule of the game is to protect the caches for others through careful searching, so geocachers the world over are trying to avoid detection as they use GPS coordinates, narrative descriptions and clues to find things hidden everywhere you can’t imagine.

There is probably a geocache not far from where you are. According to the official geocaching site, there are over 2 million hidden in the world in over 180 countries. When I introduced my friend Jenn, after her first find, she breathed, “It’s like there’s a whole world people don’t know about!” That’s the fun. Read more

I’d love to meet your dog. My dog wouldn’t

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I love dogs, and enjoy meeting them if the dog wishes and their owners say ok. It’s not something I do with Miller. He doesn’t like dogs. Many dogs he growls and barks at on sight, even from a distance. It’s one of his things. He has fair reason. In the first few months that we had him, he was accosted twice (same dog) and charged by a third. I say accosted because it wasn’t a fight, but it obviously alarmed Miller.   Read more

The Dance of Dog Training

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The other day Miller trotted around a corner and encountered one of his people at a doorway. He growled a little. In Miller’s case, he didn’t do this to be “dominant” as some people might suggest (will that idea never die?), but because he was expressing discomfort with the situation. A growl was his way of saying “Too close.”

As I’ve written before, Miller needs space. We train* him to deal with it, using different cues and behaviours depending on the scenario. In this case, his human moved a step back, asked Miller to hand target, and he did. This moved him out of the compressed space in the process. Human and dog continued on their ways and all was well.

Space: Miller’s frontier. At every opportunity, we build Miller’s confidence and trust. Read more

A Dog’s Breakfast in Space

This morning Miller had his breakfast in a tunnel. It’s all part of our plan to help him feel better about space and touch, two of his sensitivities. He is a dog who needs space even with us, which we respect. Given how sensitive he is, we’re not surprised he lost whatever home he had in his first year- people generally expect to be near and able to touch their dogs. His comfort with us has changed a lot for the better with training and time, which takes patience. Read more