Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Ziva looks at camera and rests her head on banisterI know, I know — I missed you too!

I didn’t realize how long it has been since I last blogged. It’s been an incredibly busy couple of weeks, and included a week away from home for me. While I was at a conference in Colorado, Ziva stayed at home and my wife kept the home fires burning. No mean feat when it involves working a very physical full-time job and then taking care of our lively girl. But they did a good job taking care of each other, and I missed them both terribly.

My flight home on Friday was delayed by weather, and I got in so late that we didn’t make it to our Saturday morning Obedience class. I felt bad missing it, but I let them know on Friday afternoon while I was sitting in the Denver airport that it was looking doubtful, and they said no problem. So I tried to keep working on what we have been learning, in preparation for our final test. Ziva has been doing pretty well with the sit and stay and the down and stay (better with the down and stay). She will have to do both for a minute while I leave the room in order to pass the test! We also need to do “watch me” with her making eye contact when I give that command.

We’re doing pretty well with those, and every walk we’re making progress on the leash work. She is still always so excited to be out for a walk that I do a lot of corrections for the first 10 minutes or so. And this is after about 5-10 minutes of behavioral down inside in the hallway, and then 5-10 minutes of “yield to me, follow me” in front of the house. A walk with her is no small commitment but it is so worth it — her entire disposition is so much better after a walk. She’s both more relaxed and attentive, if you can imagine that.

So then we finally made it to class again last Saturday. And I was kind of a mess.

One of the reasons I have enjoyed this training experience with Ziva is that is has also been very eye-opening for me and my own behaviors. As in, what stresses me, and what do I worry about? Because I was worried about a lot of things on Saturday morning and it slowly started to manifest itself in things going wrong. For one thing, I felt behind on being ready with her training treats (hot dog) and having everything ready for Saturday morning. Which included having given Ziva a chance to ride in the new car. Which I totally had planned to do at some point in the week, but the week came and the week went, and Ziva had not been in the new car. And Friday night I was looking for straps to lash the crate in the back (it’s a Honda HR-V and I love it, btw), and where the heck are all the straps? Well, I had two good ones and thought I had it strapped down well enough.

So Saturday morning I loaded Ziva in the crate, hoping that being in the same crate but in a new car was no big deal. But is was kind of a big deal. I have a picture but I’m not going to post it because it looks bad. We had left the house for about 5 minutes when she flung herself to one side and the crate fell over on its side. She was fine, and actually seemed pretty relaxed — she probably had more room with it on its’ side — but it was wobbly and I didn’t want to get on the highway with it like that. So, I pulled over and got the crate upright and strapped it down again.

And Ziva was not liking the new orientation of the crate. It was different. Which is stressful. Which winds her up.

So I’m driving and saying “Can you get easy?” and Ziva is barking and barking and pawing at the side of the crate. (But it stayed strapped down — yay for that!)   We were now running a little late and got to the parking lot with enough time for me to gather my things and give her a quick potty break so she could pee. But then we stepped inside the building, and I said “Sit!” Have you seen that cartoon where the dog is squatting and the owner is saying “No no no! I said Sit !”  Yeah, well, Ziva squatted and pooped right inside the doorway. I was completely confused about what to do. I didn’t have any bags, I didn’t want to go back out to parking lot and get one from the pole where they provide them because I was afraid someone would come in and step in it. I was just … Ack! What to do???!!

The walls in this part of the building are only shoulder high so I tried to get the attention of one of the assistants on the other side of the building to get me a poop bag, but lo and behold the person who saw me was Tecla herself. And as I explained “Well, she pooped and the crate fell over and the new car and …” Tecla said “shh shh shh. Look how tight your leash is.” And indeed I look down at my hand and I’m pulling the leash tight. And dear Ziva is just standing there putting up with it. I relaxed my grip and Tecla said she would have someone clean it up, and sent me on to the Pack to Basics room. And Ziva, not having been there for a couple of weeks, did great. She was excited but behaved herself. She trotted around the room at double time, but she didn’t get into any trouble.

And then she did very well for the rest of the morning as well — as usual, in Obedience class it was on me to correct behaviors. The class we missed was kind of an important one — recall and “name game.” Ziva knows her name really well, but she needs to know her name really really well. Like, say her name and her whips around kind of well. And recall. well, that is not really a strength for her, but is one of the tings I really hope to get out of this training. Because if you say to her “Ziva, come!” She will come about 50% of the time. Or 0.05% of the time if there are distractions nearby.

So we are essentially 1 week behind on this but have been trying to catch up. I get home from work, we go for a walk, and then we practice, practice, practice. Our final class — and test — is this Saturday. This is an intense week of training for us. I’m even taking a day of annual leave and enlisting a friend to help us get up to speed on these things! I know we can do it, if I just keep calm, loosen up that leash, and have fun with it. She is such a sweet girl, and she’s so happy when you give her a command, she completes it, and you give her lots of praise. Next month it will be one year since she came to our family, and I cannot believe how much we have learned in that time.

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