Monday, January 29, 2007

Birthdays and dog days and work

Well my bigger girl is 11 and I find it astonishing. not exactly an original thought, but there it is. She had a crappy morning at school, but a good afternoon, and gave out lollipops to all her classmates, then took the dog for a walk in the mountains, didn't have homework...thank god, and got some gifts that I hope she likes.

Her Great Aunt, who lives in Canada at this point gave her an amber necklace, and her parents got her some spectacular shimmering iridescent fabric, all golds and blues and yellows and reds (if I do say so myself). Also two books that I adored when I was her age, Dragonsinger and Dragonsong by Anne McCaffery. They are stories of a girl who is not accepted by her family for who she is and her marvelous talents, and her voyage to where she can become who she will be. This reflects nothing on my family, as they were endlessly supportive and encouraging coupled with high expectations for which I am always grateful, I think it speaks more to the problems facing any young person heading into the changes and creation of themselves that they work their way through as they become an adult in a sometimes hostile and unsupportive world. Anyway, that sounds all very deep, and maybe it is, but they are great stories, with dragons, and smaller pet size dragons, and singers and music...well, I loved them, and I've been waiting for her to be old enough to enjoy them. I haven't read them in years, I hope I won't be disappointed reading them with adult eyes.

The dog - Chuck. He seems to be doing fairly well today. I had to carry him up the stairs the first time this morning and then I did a little research, and found a great website aimed at people bringing home adult dogs from the pound and how to tackle some of the issues. The stair issue? Food bribe. Dogs are complete suckers for a treat, and it is supposed to work. So off we go to the doggie store where Chuck gets nipped by another dog..instead of any sort of aggressive reaction, he pees on the floor. Good? Bad? I don't know, I prefer it to him turning into a ravaging pit bull. Anyway, got back to our apartment with it's four flights of stairs. No go on climbing up. None. So I show him a little snack..."Oooohhh" his little doggie brain thinks...he reaches forward a little, and I toss it up onto the landing. Up we go! Then he lays down and cowers at what he has done. Repeat on the next flight. At this poing he thinks he has done enough. Lovely door mat to lie on, potted plant to pee in, why go farther? I have to hold the treat in front of his nose as he climbs up for this one. Then again for the last, but he made it on his own two feet! Yeah for him, and for me for figuring that one out.

Next time we go up, he climbs the first two without even seeing the treat, but needs to be lead up the second two. Third try, does it all the way, looking unhappy, but accepts the treat, then this evening....all the way up at a brisk walk, no cowering no apparent fear, and went all the way in almost forgetting the treat!!!!

He is mostly coming when I call him, not so anyone else, and is occasionally following me slavishly around the apartment. Wonder if I could teach him to cook? He responds more to snapped fingers than claps, and thinks that when I say come here in Catalan when we are outside that it means come here. When we are inside, he thinks it means go lie down in the front hall. We are still having a little trouble getting him out of the front hall. He will now come in on sufferance, but returns as soon as he can gracefully. I think he was not allowed in the main house wherever he lived before, and the reinforcement was sufficiently strong that he is unwilling to break it. Give him time.

He refuses to obey sometimes, simply lying in place stubbornly. We don't know enough about him, or dogs to know if this is his personality, or if he hasn't got a clue about what we want, what with the language barrier...he responds to Catalan words, not English.

Anyway, significant progress has been made, and he is not showing any unpleasant traits or aggression. I have managed to get him to sit down beside me when a car goes by, which in his book is VERY scary..given that the sidewalks here are about 8 inches wide, who can blame him. He had one go at counter-surfing, after I had made the kid's salami sandwiches, but that was quashed fast, and we are having a little debate about whether our beds are fair game. He hasn't tried the little one's, the only one up off the floor, but the older child's he wants..we had to remove him four times in a row. He also thinks that my bed is fair game...again it is on the floor, and I had to remove him four times...he kept sneaking back on again.

I am glad to see some personality emerging, he is getting a little more comfortable anyway. It is a little like having an ESL toddler moving in...little understanding, little communication, and a fairly high discomfort level. My only concern is that he may be a bit too calm for his age, he is like a middle aged dog, but is apparently only about a year and a half...I don't know.

Good news on the work front as well, the language school in town called this evening, in between the birthday greetings that the birthday girl got, and I have been asked to come in tomorrow for an observation...this is me sitting in on a class to see how they teach it. Standard practice, and it is a brilliant one. I get to see how the school handles things, and where things are, and the kids don't have to sit through quite so much of my learning curve. This is good too, because it means they are considering hiring me...though I haven't seen a contract, I have obviously passed some sort of hurdle. Yipee!


Helen said...

Dogs are very good for everyone I think - and often are very nice people as well. Going back to the social situations - in the UK dogwalkers are a whole subgroup and talk to other dogwalkers in a way that is quite alien to non chatty Brits. YOu stop and talk to people because they are dog walking whereas if they had no dog you would ignore them. As the owner of a refuge dog it takes them a month or so to really relax and feel at home I think. Hope so - and happy birthday to the 11 year old.

Beth said...

Books for the birthday girl - perfect!

Chuck sounds like a sweetie - and very trainable. You too are a sweetie - very patient with your new "baby."

Best of luck tomorrow with your "observation."

traveller one said...

I promise you that getting the dog will turn out to be the best thing you've ever done. We didn't have a dog for our kids but got one 3 years ago when we had an empty nest, and Peter now says that not having a dog for the kids is his only regret in life. I'm sure he'll adjust to your family very soon and you'll wonder how you ever lived without him.

Good luck at school!

oreneta said...

Helen: A month hmm, well that will give us all a chance to get up to speed. Good to know, he is getting more dog like and less scared everyday which is good to see.

Beth: Thanks, she seems to be liking the books so far. Lets wouldn't be an event if they didn't get a book!

Traveller one: We never had a dog growing up, I hope this works out well, the kids are certainly happy.

Anonymous said...

Gromit has always been a nervous dog with an old head on young shoulders. Now he has an old head on old shoulders. I think some dogs are just born that way. He did the puppy thing for a few months and then settled down happily to middle aged life and about 15 months!

Beth said...

Just keep it up with Chuck...he'll come around, I'm sure. Maybe his last Parents weren't too nice to him and he has to feel you guys out a little bit. BUt he sounds like such a sweetie.

Congrats on the observation! Good luck and let us know how it turns out for you!

Great gifts for Older girl, by the way. I love getting books.

Nomad said...

Ditto Ditto Ditto to everything...!!!

Re the bed and dog thing, if you think of yourselves as a pack it is really easy.

One good thing to keep in mind-
physical location has alot to do with leadership. The higher up ...the higher up.(If you get what I mean). The other issue is if you want him in your bed it will ALWAYS be that think through it carefully. We always perfered to keep them at floor level..(he is clean now ...) but of course it is very personal, (especially with beds)and I know lots of folks love snoozing with their pets...I guess our dogs were always farm dogs too...

It might help him to bond with you if he slept in the room with you..or maybe the kids...the pack thing again...might help him with his anxiety level too..sweet soul! Can't wait to meet him!!

Yay for you all!!

Joanne PL said...

ditto as well.
my experience with dogs also strongly confirms the pack theory. make sure you keep the hierarchy! but also think dogs are great - and loved having one - and do think that it is great for kids. also most dogs are pretty puppy brained until they are 2 - as in not too logical and/or sensible - at least that's what i heard.cute eh? instead of baby advice - now you get dog advice!

im already adoring chuck. sorry about the typing. doing it left handed as TTT is sleeping on my right arm.
great news about the observation! hope you like what you observe ;-)
love me

oreneta said...

Beth: He is getting better and better so far....the observation went well, they are very friendly.

Boo: He is getting less nervous, for which I am glad, but he is still a stragely sensible young dog, we'll have to see how he goes...updates to follow

Nomad: I don't have to think about it, I don't want him in the bed. Period. No brainer there. My kids were in bed with me for years, and it was WONDERFUL, but I also like the room I've got now.

Sis: I can do problemo...he is also not testing me very hard. Yet. I am getting pretty used to having the hierarchy tested with my kids, I now instinctively hang onto my position. I'm gonna lose my ALpha status with the kids gradually, as it should worries with the dog.