Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring is Here!

Sure, spring means it's time to start mowing again, and keep mowing until August or September. It means raking all the gravel you plowed with the snow off the grass and back onto the driveway. And yeah it means time to get off your ass and exercise a little. But what good is any of that if you can't pause at the end of the day and soak in a little sun on the deck?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Matter of Etiquette

She does this all the time, leaves three kernels of food in her bowl. Sandy, of course, thinks she is odd. But I've found plenty of etiquette guides like this one that say "it is polite to leave some food on your plate." So, I'm going with that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning

A couple of warm, early spring days have confirmed that Winnie has a low tolerance for heat. She's got a lot of hair, that's for sure, so I thought it would be a good time to work on her coat a little bit. She'll look better and hopefully be a little cooler.

I didn't take a 'before' picture but trust me: this is a drastic improvement! The birds will have more than enough nesting material this spring from the pound of hair I stripped off her!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kayaking with Winnie (Part 1)

I have set the lofty goal of teaching Winnie to ride on the kayak with me.

"But Ed, what ever happened to Fetching a Beer, Part 1 and Fetching a Beer, Part 2?"

Okay, I deserved that. You're right. I have set lofty goals for Winnie in the past that have fizzled out along the way. Hunting birds comes to mind, in fact. But the beer thing probably had less to do with Winnie not being capable of the trick and more to do with her trainer consuming the test subjects until he lost interest in the game.

But riding along in the kayak is - if you can even imagine - even more useful to me than fetching a beer.

Okay, let's go with as useful.

I decided to break it down into small steps and use clicker training and lots of praise. I think if I keep doing this, she will be excited around the kayak. Then hopefully it will translate to the water. At first I had her approach the kayak and touch it with her nose. Click/treat. I started with that really basic step because you never know with her or any dog, really. She could have been afraid of a big piece of plastic in the yard that wasn't there yesterday. But she was fine with it.

Next was to put her in a sit on one side of the kayak while I went to the other. Then I'd call her and when she walked over it, click/treat.

After a few of those it was time to show Winnie her seat. Note the special custom 'W' just for her!

One paw, click/treat. Then two paws, click/treat. This was honestly about as far as I expected to get in this first session, but we had only spent about four minutes to this point, so we kept going.

It was surprisingly easy to get her to climb all the way up and sit there. My friend and fellow HWV owner Chris emailed me today and we were chatting about how great the clicker is for stuff like this, and how the dog seems to really have fun trying to figure out which behavior you want, what will make you click that clicker!

Finally I sat in the kayak and had her repeat the exercise a few times!

I know there is a lot of work ahead of us, but this first session just couldn't have gone any better. And I have to admit, after some frustrations over the past few months, it warms my heart to be reminded that this special dog does whatever I ask her to.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I took this yesterday evening. The river didn't crest until this morning so the entire shelter ended up totally underwater. Crazy.

I'm wondering how big the brains are that can predict - with thousands of tributaries feeding a river with a watershed of tens of thousands of square miles - at what time and at what level a flood will crest. Mind boggling to me.

Well in another week or so we can go down there and collect our treasure. This typically consists of coolers, deflated basketballs, plastic barrels and lots and lots of mud.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good Riddance!

Well the snow is just about all gone, thanks to warm, rainy days. But it has to go somewhere!

Remember this flood? Well it's a good thing I retrieved that kayak a couple weeks ago because this one's even higher and it hasn't crested yet.

I will say this about Winnie. Even though she doesn't look particularly thrilled here, she has shown to be pretty resilient when it comes to weather. Rain, snow, cold, she really doesn't mind it.