Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holidays . . . here we come

Noisemaker 3

Sales RackOutdoor LightsTime flies when . . . 
CookiesComputer3D Magical SnowmanTangled Lights
Christmas Lights
Walking Dogyou have ENTIRELY 
Grocerytoo much to do!

The good news is that, at least so far, I appear to be on top of everything -- or at least I am not yet snowed under! 

The problem is really that much of what needs to be done involves me NOT going out and about.  Things like getting cards out, grading the final papers that were just turned in, attending meetings, finishing up those hand-crafted gifts, Holiday baking -- oh, and writing a Holiday Letter.  I just didn't get started on the cards soon enough to individualize them all and it has been a busy year, so rather than have my hand become one huge, ugly, and painful cramp I am opting for that time honored tradition of writing a general letter and then personalizing the card with a short note. (postage be D*%#$D).   I am probably leaving out something else that needs to be completed before the end of December -- but I am either not going to think about it or have decided not to share!

Back to 'the problem' . . .
With me working on things that involve a lot of sitting and very little moving, it leaves Cura with very little to do but lounge. 

      <--- Case in point! ---> 

 So, I am trying to make sure that the times that Cura is working, she is getting a real challenge!  We have been doing a lot of off-lead work when we are outside.  Frequently, if the situation is right, I am dropping the leash and expecting her to stay by my side.  Which she does -- though not always 'in place'.  Cura likes to be about 4-5 inches ahead of where I would prefer her to be.  But, as Rick and Heather have pointed out, that is probably my fault because where she is tending to place herself is right where she was initially placed before I realized that the position  I initially chose was not good if Cura is wearing her pack.  So, basically, I am trying to undo what I put into place in the very beginning.  Slowly but surely, Cura is repositioning.  She just needs to be reminded every once in awhile.  The good thing is that the reminder is usually just a verbal correction or me stopping or changing direction -- especially when I am working with her off-lead.  That is actually one of the benefits of dropping the leash -- no physical correction is possible so I have to find a way to communicate to Cura what I want without relying on the leash . . . same goes for her, she has to concentrate on me more so that she catches the signals I am giving her -- so she tends to forage less.

We have started using a new piece of equipment -- as well as reintroducing gear that she has worn before, though not for awhile.  Now that the weather has turned cold, she is back in a coat (the difference being that this one is to keep her warm rather than keep her cool) and she has to wear her boots again.  Most of the time she is less than pleased about the boots (LOVES the coat!) -- apart from our trip up to Madrid last weekend -- she was glad for the boots then!  More on that trip later -- there are some pictures running around some place of Cura in 'full' gear that I will share in another post (in the spirit of trying DESPERATELY not to be long-winded in this one).

The new gear is a Gentle Leader.  I must admit that I quite like it.  It works very well with my physical limitations and Cura and I work together even better than we did before (which is saying something, because if Rick and Heather are to be believed, we are doing pretty darn good -- I chose to believe them, not that there is not room for improvement!).  

There are just a few problems that we have to work out . . . 
1) When she has the Gentle Leader on, she will sometimes try and rub it off her muzzle.  This is a rather significant problem when she decides to use my thigh to rub up against!  On a good day it is simply inconvenient -- on a bad day it could be dangerous.

2) After a couple of days with the Gentle Leader on, as directed by the instructions provided in the packaging,  Cura started showing signs of wear on her muzzle with a little bit of hair loss.  No redness or other irritation, but still . . .  We have loosened the Gentle Leader significantly (pretty much ignoring the directions provided -- now, I feel that I must be clear that we are not really using it to prevent pulling or lunging AND this decision is being made in consultation with professional and experienced trainers so the usual disclaimer applies . . . DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME, BOYS AND GIRLS -- if you are not a professional or are not being advised by one, you should follow the directions provided by the manufacturer).  We have a play date on Thursday, so we will reassess the Gentle Leader then.  If the irritation persists, the plan is to try a Halti, which is another 'head collar' with a slightly different design that will fit differently and may not irritate Cura's muzzle.

3) Regardless of the fact that the 'damage' is hardly noticeable, I feel horrible that this new tool is obviously a physical irritation to Cura.  I have even caught her rubbing her muzzle (against the carpet or her bed) when she doesn't have the Gentle Leader on and hasn't had it on for hours -- this is new, since we have loosened it -- or maybe it was happening all along and I just now noticed it (say it isn't so!). 

One of the difficult things about Cura and finding gear that works for her is that she tends to fall in between sizes.  Frequently, she is right at the edge of a medium and a large -- or between a large and extra-large.  So, it is very possible that just changing the size of the gear will solve the problem.  Unfortunately, vendors do not give individual's the option of testing the equipment for a realistic period of time to determine if it is successful.  They either require that you shoulder the costs of returning the equipment that proves damaging in the long run -- sometimes with a 'restocking fee' added on -- or do not accept the return of a 'used' piece of equipment at all.  Fortunately, I have great trainers who are willing to trade things out with me -- if something does not work, they will take it back at no cost!  I realize that they can still use it as a training tool, but it is still a perk that I appreciate and feel compelled to call your attention to because it is NOT standard operating procedure (at least in my experience) and if you are in the market for a trainer -- be it for a Service Dog or a Pet -- you may want to ask if your potential trainer is willing to provide you with this kind of service. 

Well, despite my attempts, this post is on the long side . . . maybe it is time to start thinking about stepping up the pace a bit and providing bi-weekly posts. (especially since I have not yet managed to share the details of our trip to Madrid last weekend).  Your thoughts, my phantom readers -- and those who are NOT phantoms -- on this would be appreciated.  Should I keep the posts short, but post more often. . . OR should I stick to once a week and let the posts get longer and take the risk that much of them will not be read?  Hey, I follow several blogs . . . I know what I do with long-winded posts -- be HONEST!).  I would love your feedback so PLEASE leave comments that will give me some indication of the best way to proceed when developing this blog.  Is it time to provide more frequent posts?