Monday, December 11, 2017

dog curiosity

By the side links on a regular right-wing website I landed at Ideal Media, a click-bait site, here and recommended, it's loaded with interesting things that can easily snag you with wildly varying items of interest, right up my alley, in politics, science, urban archaeology, and dogs sticking their heads through cat doors to see what's going on inside, here, less interesting, all the dogs look kind of dumb.

And that reminded me of something so insane and so brilliant it blew me away and I can never let go of this image. The visual imagery is permanent.

I had just bought a house and people were interested to see it but it was hardly ready to be shown to anyone. The back porch opened to the garage and ran the length of the dining room and the kitchen. Two sliding doors in each room and window over the sink. If the porch were a room, it would be the best room in the house. All I'd have to do is extend the roofline in glass just 18 inches or so, for a blister greenhouse with south-facing glass wall looking out to the yard that was very well landscaped. I did build that out. And it was the best room in the house. I loved that room. It was fantastic. A very large ficus tree grew in there like crazy and a regular cactus grew right up the wall to the most outstanding specimen I've seen in a home.  An aloe vera plant grew outrageously large and bloomed for three months. It was spectacular.

But before that was built I tested the idea with a prototype made of thick plastic that you get from Home Depot on rolls. A test greenhouse. This was winter, later in December, close to New Year. This is where I got the idea to host a New Year party. And that turned out to be unbelievable. We had so much fun it developed into an annual thing. And that grew outrageously too. Friends brought their friends. Year to year they showed up regularly. It became part of a New Year circuit and people would make sure to end up at my house for 12:00.

Over time, though, the people who showed up en mass were seen only once a year. At my house. I did not really count them as friends. My house was just a party place to end up. And there I was annually paying the alcohol bill and doing the catering myself. Since the crowd really weren't my friends, since they didn't return invitations for me to attend their gatherings, it became so much a burden as fun. I got too old for that crap.

My second Belgian sheepdog was still young. And I must say she was a gorgeous creature. She'd be in the yard sitting there like a sphinx and I'd look at her, stare actually, admiring her lines, caught up in her beauty. All three of them were like this, and their movement is poetry. Except when they slink along like a wolf. They look for all the world like a storybook evil wolf. They radiate evil. Except for that one atavistic trait, all three dogs were pure beauty in conformation lines and in movement. All three were from champion stock, but Tina was too small to show. Comparatively, of the three, Tina was most like a little princess, the least rough in play.

She taught me to go very easy on training. Simple suggestion will do. She's already eager to please, she's already mentally right there to do whatever I want of her. But there can be no corrections. The usual training will not work. It cannot be happy jubilant childish praise combined with sharp correction. It can only be mild steady encouragement, or else they go wild with excitement, and withheld praise as correction. The absence of encouragement equals correction to this breed. And gentle encouragement with physical contact equates to high praise. So then, low key "good girl" and touching the tip of her ear between my fingertips equals high praise. And not doing that equals sharp rebuke of correction.

That's what my dog taught me in two minutes training with her. And that's how I handled the dogs thereafter.

The sheepdogs are keeping track of my position, and they hate being separated. They want to be right at my side. Attached to me if they could. They put their paw on my shoe, they shove their shoulder into my knee. They settle down and behave if I just touch their ear.

Setting up the plastic greenhouse that year between Christmas and New Year separated the dog from me and a friend who was there helping with a space heater to warm the room for the party. I was standing in the open room as my friend cut the plastic for the space heater to exhaust. The dog was running circles in the back yard excited and none too pleased being separated. She wanted to be with me inside the room. The dog is a continuously circling blur in the background as the knife slices through the opaque plastic wall. When he pulls the knife from the slot that he cut, it has a dog's nose attached to the tip exactly as if the knife pulled the dog through the slot into the room. We were both stunned by the dog's precise timing and her boldness of pushing her head through the slot. Were she a millisecond too fast then she would have sliced her own nose.