Monday, January 29, 2007

Looking at what shows to enter Hope in tonight, since the next batch of deadlines are coming up and I want her to have as much experience as possible while still a youngin', I came to a realization. Ready for it? Shows are on Sundays. (I know, mind-blowing isn't it?) So is Sierra's obedience when it restarts. Bugger.

I'm sure it just highlights what an utter blond I am not to realize this before now but there you have it. I've also been thinking a bit more about what areas of sports I want to concentrate on. Having had "tastes" of each of the sports I'm interested in over the past year and a bit I'm having to prioritize. I can still do other stuff later when money and bubbys allow more.

For Hope, the first bit is easy: conformation showing. Secondary to that we've just started negotiations, so come April the dogs will be gainfully employed working stockdogs and expected to help with chores on our farm. *snoopy dances* Last will be Freestyle, which we'll be able to work on independently among the level IV's. Since it's on the same night as Sierra's Friday Level II class, it saves on petrol (level I was only on Wednesday nights this time) and at $5 a week it's an inexpensive solution to puppy-training and socialization. So that eliminates the issue of puppy class for her, one of which was too expensive and the other of which was on a bad day/time and would mean having to budget for an additional night of driving a fair ways. Sad about that but what can you do?

For Sierra, the first two will be of course Freestyle and helping me deal with the sheep. The last will be agility which is why I signed on to the comp obed wagon in the first place... they require you to have gone through their obedience classes to a novice level before they'll let you do agility. However, since we won't be that terribly far from KCC, I'm toying with the idea of looking into the classes there.

Anyhow... shows:
Pet & Animal Expo on the 3rd & 4th
Classic Dog Show on the 10th
Ballarat Dog Show on the 11th (my birthday! could there be a better way to spend it?)
Lyndhurst Canine Country Club on the 17th at KCC (can't remember if I entered this or not... bubby ate my checkstubs :-?
Berwick All Breeds KC on the 25th at KCC

Then in March it looks like there's a LOT of double/long weekend shows! Wonder if they allow camping on the grounds or have a motel nearby? Thinking about Bendigo KC/Eaglehawk KC in Bendigo's showgrounds on March 3-4 but may pass on those for the double weekend shows in Noorat on the 10th and 11th... and the Camperdown at Noorat on the 12th.
18th Yarra Glen at KCC (double show again)
24th Eltham & District at KCC

Still deciding on ones after that because I like the idea of country shows but need to know where in the country they are first! ;-) Must find my map tomorrow!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Just a brief little post, to say...

I think we've found our house! We went back out to see the Green house again and I have to say I'm really sold on the place! It's just soooo gorgeous and with the forest all around it's got such a magical fairy-tale atmosphere. I'm so excited I just want to move right now and invite everyone out to see how cool it is!

There are a few things to do... eventually we'll add a third bedroom onto the main level when we have bubba number two. And I got to scout the sheeps paddocks today. The story is that the people who had it built were quite savy, did a nice job designing and made a nice start, but then they sold it to the current owners who are retired yuppies who had rather romantic ideas of what it would entail and haven't managed the pastures as well as they might, haven't really maintained the gardens (ex-nursery sight) etc.

So I have a crap-load of blackberries and bramble to clear and a couple of places I want to re-work the sheep fencing. IE gate on the end of second pasture leading to pasture 3 (currently you have to take them back out the other end of 2 and all the way down to pasture 3) and fence in the sides of pasture 3 which are only fenced along the neighbors boundry so the sheep are currently "on their honor" not to meander.

BUT it's so beautiful and I'm sooo excited! Just wait till the sheepdogs get to be real sheepdogs everyday! :-)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hope's first show and Bubbly La pics

Miss Hope had a lovely first show today and we had such a lot of fun! :-)

The indoor venue at the fairgrounds was nice as we got to stay in the shade instead of bake in the sun, the buildings had a nice cross-breeze going and weren't too echoy either. The judge, Mrs. J Hunt from Canada, was exactly the sort of judge I wanted for Hope's introduction to the show ring - lovely woman, nice soft hands, said hello to Hope before examining her and was very kind and gentle with her. While I've worked a bit on getting Hope used to the odd things she might encounter... people who might be rough or slip, may wear big hats, sunglasses, dangly necklaces/jingling bracelets, flappy raincoats and the other sometimes intimidating/odd stuff... I didn't want her to have to deal with it her very first time out. Just the environment is enough to get used to for the first time with dogs and people and grooming equipment and trollys everywhere!

At any rate, she got first in her class but it was rather default though we got a pretty blue ribbon for it. Didn't go further than that as the BP Dog (an unspeakably cute little blue merle ball of fluff!) won that. She handled it so well though, I'm really just tickled pink with my girlie! Next shows will be the 3rd and 4th of Feb at the Pet Expo and we can't wait to have fun again! (I will say though, I'm in total envy of the people who've got the trollys with the grooming tables on them... those are nice - I want one! And the big pin brush I saw... nice!) I'm including a couple photos from the day, but unfortunately most of them didn't come out well!

And of course my bubbly bubby Lala...

Co-sleeping bliss! ;-)

"Filling" the dog's water dish... just so!

Bubby Lala pretends to squirt me! (Hose is OFF! LOL)

My gardening help

Looking a lot more innocent than he is considering 3 seconds later he turned on the hose at full blast...

And Mister Cheeky Boy helping me with the house-work by riding on the vac!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Well, hopefully this has worked. I've switched this blog to invite-only after temporarily, until I can switch it over to a new address. At any rate, Sir Bubby La has not been happy these past few days. This came to a head Monday, along with the tips of two new teeth, which we'd suspected was the issue. I got him the paracetamol the other day and within a few minutes... blessed peace, sunshine smiles and cheerful chattering resumed. Gods bless Harmon Nothrop Morse!

There was a particularly cute moment in when Lala filched a carrot. Steamed carrots are recent additions to La's Favorite Foods. It raw though, so he bit down and was rather offended when it crunched. Still, it looked like a carrot, so he tried again and was rather disgrunted to discover it still crispy. "La, the carrot isn't steamed yet. Give it to me so I can steam it." He held it up but when I took it changed his mind and shrieked. I quickly chopped and put it in the pot. "Bubby, it's not steamed yet remember? Do you want cherios instead?" Lip still trembling, he pointed to the pot and in this low, heartrending, mournful little voice says, "Nuuuuuuuu.... yum yum cawwo yum yuuuu-uuuu-mmmmmm..." that last bit broken by hiccuped sobs. Poor mite.

Am VERY excited about our first show tomorrow! *dances around* I have been bouncing around all week giddy and I can't think of a nicer way to spend Australia Day than a show with my pup, bubba and DH! I've no idea how she'll do since she's dead-center in the middle of the gawky-gangly-lanky-no-coat-and-ears-dancing-around-everywhere stage. She looks positively coltish but I intend to have a lot of fun! I'm really hoping to find a pair of shoes in the resale shops though, I'm dying to get a nice pair of Hush Puppies 'silhouette' style or 'isis', that I can run in anyhow for daily life but I really don't want to go in wearing my kumfs walking shoes with a dress suit!

Starting up Freestyle again on the 2nd of Feb! Can't WAIT! I've missed it so much! Sierra is going into Level 2 this time and Miss Hope will be practicing with the Level 4's. (No, she's not in that level though, this is just for me to socialize her in a setting with other dogs training and doing some Level 1 training since I can't make the Level 1 classes which are on a different day!) I have a ton of Bubby La photos I'll post later tonight hopefully! Still trying to find time to resize them!)

Am currently reading 3 of Alfie Kohn's books. I read the one, Punished By Rewards partially a few years back after it was recommended as interesting on a training list. I started reading it and found it one of those books I got annoyed with and put down every few sentences because I disagreed with how he put this, that or the other. This time I'm determined to finish it as I do feel like I agree with him on a lot of his concepts and precepts, in a round-about way but I find the way he frames it contrary. The first page in and I've got the deep-seated urge of wanting to talk with the man and argue his wording. *sigh* His examples of rewards for example aren't rewards but bribes - this for that, dangled in front of the people - BRIBES by his own wording. A very different thing than a reward! Even the most staunch behaviourist will admit bribes are a poor motivation scheme! Second, when you're dealing with human beings of course things aren't as black and white as a skinner box with rats. Is that honestly a revelation to anyone??? Seriously??? There -are- definitely parallels in learning, some quite close together... heck Stanford University recently proved that African Cichlids (a type of fish commonly kept as pets here) have the ability to use transitive inference which humans achieve at 4-5 years old and the ability to infer through an abstract representation and logically arrive at the correct answer isn't something you'd typically think of when you think fish!) but humans are more complex by far. What we consider rewarding, non-rewarding or punishing can be hugely intricate. In humans, a reward might be the satisfaction of a job well done and a sense of accomplishment - which you might argue isn't one applied externally in the classical sense (but which could be considered so in a non-classical sense in that the teacher/director/manager may have set the environment and student up in such a way as to lead them to it as a natural conclusion and thus they've applied it via the domino method...) it's still a reward and it's only because the internal reward (satisfaction) is interrupted by the external reward (praise, reinforcement, whatever) that it becomes an aversive. IOW it's not a matter of the external reward but a matter of the teacher(director, manager, whomever) not being skilled in observing the correct timing and delivery! And anyone who has spent more than 2 minutes studying behaviourism knows that a reward or aversive is defined by the individual being rewarded/punished - not the one applying it! So if the interruption is aversive because of bad timing (but not because of the external reward itself) then by definition even though the teacher may have intended it to be a reward it is in fact a punishment. *grump grump grump* Slightly apart from this, I’m also feeling really annoyed with seeing it said that you either punish or reward as if one is the direct opposite of the other. Grr! The opposite of reward isn't punishment or vice versa! Anyhow, time for me to log off and go get some groceries so there's something for dinner!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The weather held out somewhat for today, just intermitent sprinkles. Lang Lang is a pretty area, with all the Queen Anne's Lace on the side of the road, the grassy fields lined with old windblown pines as windbreaks fading out as far as the eye could see and the Angus and Galloway cows everywhere, it reminded me a lot of the south-western parts of Michigan. The show itself, reminded me of a UKC show atmosphere-wise and we also got to see a fair bit of horse events as well. We got to see Miss Kinta again, though Leo had to stay home this time and several of the other dogs we'd seen at the shows last week. Shocking how fast some of the pups have grown, even in a week!

Hope did pretty well when I was puttering around working on reinforcing various concepts, much nicer than the last week, though she's still slower to turn away from the reallly-super-interesting distractions than I'd like a couple times! (But she IS only 5 months-ish... so really, that's very nitpicky!) I was mostly trying to watch the shows though, so didn't do a huge amount. What we did work on however was:

1.) Give me attention and focus even when there are distractions, lots of 'em and big'uns. (IOW when cued give me sustained eye contact, ignore the distraction -and- if you're looking at something, no matter how interesting, give me attention and focus when I say your name.)
2.) Self-Restraint and Asking Permission Politely is how to get the things you want. (IOW Diving for food or other obnoxious behaviour won't work. Momma will set it up to ensure heathenous behaviour can't, doesn't and won't pay... the only way to get what you want is to rein in your cute puppy brains, ask politely and wait for permission.)
3.) Other dogs around your food is a good thing! (Them being nearby means it's happy-hour at the treat bar! HUZZAH! Them going away means party is O-V-E-R and life will be boring. If you are snarky, not only will it NOT pay off (you get nothing) but being good and ignoring them and ignoring the food till you've got permission for it will ensure you DO get it and extra goodies to boot!)

We'll be sticking with working on those skill sets and stacking, reviewing the steps we've done up till now which are:

* standing - nothing fancy here, not being specific, just heavily reinforcing the idea of standing and staying in that position while I move around her
* clicking for head being held and able to be moved (clicking for the muscle tension relaxing iow)
* clicking for it being able to be moved with minimal finger pressure left, right, up, down, forward (out from the nose) and backward (toward her shoulders)
* clicking for turning the head and using that to shift the weight from left to right foot and vice versa
* clicking for weight being shifted, then legs being manually (by me) lifted and legs being set back down in position
We are working on freestacking but it's taking longer because I'm not getting the correct arc in contrast to where the rear legs are and so when I have her target my hand, it's always too shallow or too deep, so she ends up stepping backward or forward a bit. Poor dog, stuck with a doofy handler! Seperate from that however we've worked on Backing off body pressure a bit but not heaps.

We're also working on various bits of gaiting: eg clicking for really pretty trots, clicking for moving at a really pretty trot slightly ahead of a heeling position and Keeping Your Head Facing Straight Forward while doing this even though she has to be aware of me. (Vs. heeling where it's "polished" for a dog to give attention while heeling about.) That's as far as we've got with that, so not far at all! ;-p

Updated: PHOTO! See? I did put up the photo I promised the other night! The background was bad though, so y'all have to put up with my lousy ability to cut out and paste on another background on an ancient crappy program. (Snap Shot Express, from 1998!)

Speaking of whom, tonight he came out with a new word, "Geen" (Green) To no one's great shock I'm sure. LOL Clever little monkey has been showing off how smart he's getting too. Tonight I asked him to help me get his plate for his sandwhich but instead of heading to the dining room he bee-lined for our bedroom. I was seriously puzzled until I went in there and found him popping out his Bunnykins bowl, which he'd gotten this morning when I gave him (dry, no milk obviously) Cherios so I could fold laundry. So he remembered it from that long ago! Second smartie-pants story: our fireplace mantle is one of the antique ones, the insert has a raised wreath of laurel leaves and the decorative bricks feature tulips and leaves. I also have a vase of silk tulips, roses and greenery. Sir BubbyLala was pointing from silk tulip to the tulip on the brick repeatedly, chattering and showing me how they were alike, holding them close together and showing me they were alike. Then he plucked some of the leaves off and showed me proudly that they were very like the leaves on the tiles and then pointed again to the laurel leaves on the insert. The thing is, although they are obviously alike, they are also somewhat different. The silk flowers are yellow and white and 3D of course. The tulips and leaves on the bricks are very art noveau and quite stylized, as well as being red tulips (v. gold) and flat. The leaves on the insert are raised but are solid black as is the whole insert, unlike the green of the leaves on the silk flowers and the tiles! I just love when he makes some leap like this and pieces thigns together, teh developmental stuff is just so COOL! LOL
Had a pretty good day today, despite a slightly wobbly start. Morning came far too early for my taste when La woke me up at bloody early o'clock for a marathon feed and then got up at 7:30... blerg. Equally promising was the fact that the second his feet hit the floor - literally - the whinging started.

My normally happy, cheerful, helpful boy whinged to get down, then whinged because I let him down, then whinged because I picked him up. Whinged and flipped his way through a nappy change, getting dressed, being carried/walked to the kitchen. Sobbed "unna cacka!!!" for a cracker, then threw it away. "Jooooosss!!!", he hiccuped (juice) latching onto a bottle of hot chilli sauce and attempting to uncap it. (I told you, the child's a lemming!) Finally, he fell into a tantrum at breakfast when the toast was made before the rest of it and I didn't immediately hand it over. (Because we eat at the table...)

That turned into total melt-down with a full fledged tantrum, complete with an agonized shriek of disbelieving outrage (YOU'RE TAKING THE TOAST AWAY!!!!) when I took the toast to the table so he could eat it. Said shriek was followed by laying/falling on the floor, kicking, rubbing at his ears in agitation and crying until he decided following to get the toast was a better option than bawling about it in the kitchen.

Mercifully Sif saved us from early mummy-head-implosion-due-to-whingy-child by having us over and we had a nice time catching up... thank the gods for friends with children and tea! LOL Sir Bubby Lala is a social butterfly, so with Bryn and Kaeden around, not to mention the older boys Erik, Luey and Elijah who are delightful with him he was a much happier bubba. He really seems to delight in interacting with the big boys, they're just so darn cool you know, being big boys and all! ;-)

Tomorrow should be a lot of fun though since we're going to Lang Lang with Hope, again just to watch and work a little with Hope in a show setting, since our first show is coming up in only a week! (EEP! Start praying to whatever gods you believe in for me... if you don't believe in any, humor me and ask St. Jude. He's the patron saint of hopeless causes, so well suited to me even if I'm not Catholic! *G*)

I'm going to have to work with Hope a lot more on her stacking but it seems there's not enough time in the day some days. Mostly we've been working on eye-contact in the face of distraction and her tendancy to be snarky around other dogs near food sources. IOW We're doing a lot of changing her views from, "OMG... another dog near my food! ACK! He's gonna steal it!!!" to "OMG... another dog near my food! YAY! Mum is gonna making something wonderful appear!!! Please, come closer to my food strange dog, you make manna rain from heaven!"

I'm also doing a lot of rewarding her for not diving at food in general, not diving at dropped food, not diving towards other dogs when I feed them, food zen, how to ask for something politely (bumping my hand with your nose to remind me you're there and want a treat is not polite Hope!) and wait till given permission to eat it etc. etc.

The other big thing we've been working on is convincing her that the mist-bottle (she gets a light misting with a bit of conditioner in it before brushing out) is not an evil alien entity that eats puppies. (This from the pup who is so unaffected by the noise that she won't move her tweenager-scrawny bum when I'm vacuming...) Anyhoo, enough rambling. To bed, to bed...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hope, Bananas and Houses

Lovely if HOT day today!

With the country shows having fallen through, Miss Hope's first show is the 26th - Australia Day and we've begun her grooming routine to get her coat, such as it is (all puppy fuzz with a mini-mohawk of adult fur along her spine) all pretty for the shows. Actually, 'grooming routine' makes it sound way fancier than it is... she's getting some bath-n-blow-drys, a daily brush-out and misting, and some line-brushing every other day. A bit before the show she'll have her (very fuzzy!) toes and toenails trimmed up too.

This morning Laurent, after a good long breastfeeding session pulled off, looked at them studiously and pronounced them, "Anana!" (La-to-English Translation: Banana) Between laughs I told him no, that was milk but he just jabbed me again asserting, "Anana! Anana! Anana!!!" while giggling. Quite pleased with himself, he's called them such at every feed so far today. He still calls the fruit-type bananas the same though (he's a banana fiend, second only to watermelon or strawberries) so who knows what's going on in that noggin of his! Doubling the fun, he also started chanting "Anana!" today when we were out looking at houses. Real Estate Dude thankfully thought he meant the fruit and I was happy enough to let him keep that delusion to avoid explaining my squidglet was looking for milk... really! ~_~'
Which provides the segue for the next bit - which is that we were looking at houses in The Patch today, which is part of Monbulk out Belgrave way for those not familiars. Veeerryyy pretty area, we took the long way in on the tourist road winding through these rows of ancient looking gums, stately old souls going out as far as the eye could see. I got to see my first wallaby up close... cute little critter came over the road and hoped away! I still go geeky-tourist when I see wildlife! ;-) The town itself has a very small town feel (VERY) and of the two houses we were looking at, one on 5ish acres and one on 1 acre. It is of course very hilly, which worries me a little for La... it'd be easy for him to take a tumble and hurt himself.
The first house, on 5 acres, I have to say I *really* liked... it's at the end of a no-through road, GORGEOUS views of the mountains, it's faced so that it'll get sun in winter but not in summer, lovely period feel to the place (despite it being only 6 years old), a little green-house and veggie patch, a fenced off place for the dogs, lots of fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, lemons, limes, grapefruit etc.) and.... *drumrolls*.... they have sheep, which may well come with the place, so there are already a couple paddocks fenced in for them and go-betweens to move them from place to place! I almost fell over because one of my big things is that I want a place I can have sheep! It's so quiet and peaceful, just the birds and the wind. The house itself is green (!) inside and out with a gorgeous period-country feel, sort of twisty turny in how it's built and not too big! (My weird thing, I know most people like big ginormous rooms but I prefer everything cozy so I can feel nested! Homes with huge spaces make me agoraphobic...)

The other house is very nice as well... it's a lot bigger for one, pretty french windows, the living area is very central, to-die-for kitchen (Nic was DROOLING), pretty slate tiles throughout except the bedrooms. Overall I suppose it would generically be the more desirable "family" house, it's got more space for the dogs and La inside, the kitchen/living/dining area is beautifully central so I could be in one and still be part of what's going on and it goes out to the verandah, but I didn't "click" as much with it for a reason I can't quite pinpoint. :-? It's still got an acre, it's a gorgeous house, a nice big space in the front that's flat to lay out the agility yard, big garage/shed, more rooms like for example a small study and a laundry room that you could walk into (this was a big one for me because I really want a place other than the livingroom to put the dogs crates)... but it's dubious if we'd be able to have sheep. It's owner built, owner is a builder by trade and at the back it's left so you can add on if you want. (But gawds, it's so huge why'd you want to?!?) Nic thinks it's better for entertaining and he's right butttt.... butttt... no sheep and it doesn't click as much.
So, the plan is to get more information on both places, keep eyes peeled for other places in the same region, look at kennel permits for both, look at zoning permits, look at if it's possible to add on to the first place if we wanted to and then go back for a second look in a few days. Both are hooked up, mains, water etc etc. Both houses are well within budget for us, so that's no worry. AND the cool thing is, it's close to Belgrave station for Nic to take the train (8-10 mins) ANNNNDD both places have a bus that comes by and will take you into Belgrave, every hour so all you have to do is a short walk to the end of the road! So for Mr. I-Keep-Saying-I'm-Going-To-Learn-To-Drive-But-Never-Do it still works. :-D How cool is that?!?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Hope post, photos at the end! ;-p

We had a nice day out yesterday at KCC, taking in a show. Hope wasn't entered but this was to help get her used to the sights and sounds. My main goal was wanting to see how she'd do in a large crowd of various dogs after her twice barking at dogs while on walks, my secondary goal to work on getting and keeping her focus in a distracting environment.

The first is due to the aforementioned times of barking at the Golden and Labrador/Poodle cross. Right now it's a normal part of puppy socialilzation. I reinforce the idea that weird stuff is likely to equal rewarding etc. This way when she's an adult, she's more likely to react less to novel stimuli, have a milder reaction to startling experiences, be better able to cope and be less likely to be traumatized by bad incidents etc.

At any rate, she did really well with that, walked around the shows without alarm and with only polite passing interest in the other dogs, giving me nice focus and attention several times. We visited some of the other Aussie's there and I FINALLY got to meet Amanda's new pup Kinta!!! She is gorgeous and sweet as sugar... if I didn't know better, I'd swear you were fibbing about her being shy that first day Amanda! LOL We also got to see several other liddle puplets, who were just gorgeous as well and made me wonder at how fast Hope has grown! It really wasn't that long ago she was that tiny!

Hope did illustrate that we DO need to work with her on food around other dogs by snarking at an older dog who got close to the food. Now I don't mind if my dogs use normal body language to fend off polite queries... that might look like a dog walking up with soft body language and giving an interested sniff, "Can I have some?", while the dog who has the food turns it's head or gives a look saying "No, I don't want to share!" which the other dog respects... possession is 10/10ths of the law for dogs and even the lowest ranking dog will not have something grabbed out of it's mouth. (Though they may be intimidated into giving it up if it's not important enough to quarl over.) But Hope is using more force than she needs to in order to say 'nope' and is doing it when it's not directly in her mouth but in my treat pouch - so it's inapprorpiate resource guarding. I *do* know how to deal with that and have known I needed to work on since she first gpt too pushy with Cade and Sierra. Unfortunately you wouldn't know it, as I haven't actually DONE anything, since I've been feeling so lousy these past few weeks that it's just been doing the bare minimum to get through the day and nothing more. (This is not just in regards to the dogs, my bills and files are in utter chaos, I have a mountain of laundry to do etc! *eeps*)

I *think* at this point I can comfortably say it was an infection from my tooth getting into the blood. I'd felt so lousy and exhausted and just couldn't remember anything... then when I got it out I was abnormally tired - I crashed the better part of 2.5 days. This morning was the first morning I've felt really decent and been able to think clearly in I don't know HOW long!!! At any rate, hoping it stays this way so we're back on the training wagon and all three dogs have been having a blast. Even Cade added a new trick to his bag - it's a hybrid twirl/leap/twist thing! Looks neat! Hope is also getting really nice and sharp with her twirl and leg weaving too! Such a blast seeing how much they love it and have missed training!

Then today, I took little Miss Hope to the Camberwell Open Air market. Lots of people and lots of dogs, lots of scents and weird looking things going on, street musicians etc. So we worked on loose-lead walking, walking-by-me-and-being-aware-but-not-looking-directly-at-me, auto sits, free-stacking, doing tricks in distracting environments and most importantly we worked on 1.) the more distracting the situation the more you should pay attention to me, 2.) other dogs approaching and being ignored pays off BIG time no matter where they sniff you or how rude they are. One guy got a little bit upset that while she sat to allow him pets no problems, she wasn't looking at them but staring straight at me and she didn't waver even when the guy made a sound and snapped his fingers to try and get her attention! Very proud mum here! (Not that I expect that regularly for a little while yet... she's still early in training but it was darn impressive seeing this scrap of a pup give such solid attention!!!)

Now for a few new pics of the imp!

This is a typical photo of her: 2" from the camera lense, practically sitting on my toes. She is constantly right next to me! LOL

This is the look I got upon asking her to back up and park it so I could get a shot.

Which perked up at the promise of walkies and bye-bye car-car.

Okay, now these next photos aren't here for their photographic merit so much as the body language they contain. There are two series, I clicked as the dogs were rough-housing. They are probably semi-boring for the non-doggy but I think most of the doggy-readers will probably find them more interesting! ;-) The first three are a series of Hope playing tug with one of her squeeky toys with Sierra. Watch the eyes, the angle of the head in these three.

Now this is a series of her playing with Cade, who has revoked her puppy liscence somewhat and is firmer anyhow. (For my non-doggy friends, this is wrestling, not a fight, honest!) At the start, Cade and Hope have been wrestling around and Cade has indicated she's getting too excited and he wants her to tone it down. She isn't interested in listening and continues to bounce and wrestle...

Neat deflection on Cade's part! Look at her eyes here.

Hope flipped herself here, which she is quite good at, in response to him. His mouth isn't actually on her leg but parallel to it. She is, despite having rolled herself, still being rather cheeky as you can see by her eyes, tilt of her head, mouth and general body language, though the lips are loose. She is not scared in the least. She doesn't want to start anything serious but doesn't want to give in totally either. Also notice Sierra in the background, laying down, ears slightly tucked, giving lots of calming signals and avoiding their eye contact, telling them she's not interested in being involved.

(Since she wasn't yielding, he holds her loosely - she could pull out if she tried - and vocalizes what I recognize from Cade to translate as, "Hey pup, listen to me! I wasn't kidding ya cheeky brat, so pay attention!" This is a trademark Cade move and vocalization! Cade is very good at using the correct body language and correct degree of it to get the message across, which is valuable for a pup learning to speak her native (body!) language! This started with a subtle 'okay, tone it down', which when ignored progressed up gradually until this stage where he's giving the message a bit louder that it's not just a token 'sorry' that worked as a little pup he's after - but compliance. She is, as you can see, still going to see if she can get away with it...)

("Enough!" A short sharp 'shout' from Cade convinces her he's not letting her get away with this one and she moves her head to the side and they relax to engage in a mutual grooming session afterwards.)

The interesting thing is that in the midst of all this, Laurent is right nearby them. (As am I!) All of the dogs in their games, no matter how wound up, will carefully avoid bumping into us or getting to close to them as an example of good body awareness!!! If he wades into the thick, they break up and stop and don't resume till he's moved past. (This is not to say everything isn't VERY closely supervised btw!!!)

Now unrelated...

This is my cheeky boy near the TV, after getting into the DVD/videogame players. The white patch you see is the "babyproofing" latch - neatly undone. I have heaps more Lala photos but some of them are nudey-bum and I've got to blur out his bits before I put them online for safety reasons. ;-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Well after all my worrying, surgery was a cinch. Jeeze... I got topical to numb the area before they did the locals, two rounds of locals after the first didn't provide full numbing, closed my eyes, heard a pop and DONE. I thought they were just inserting a spacer or something when I was tapped on the shoulder and asked, "Well that was easy wasn't it?" Sheesh, I knew it wasn't going to be as bad as my worries but that was just positively anticlimatic!

On the other hand, the tooth was DEFINITELY in need of coming out! Nic said I was exadgerating, he had a chip once and knows that they always feel huge but end up being really tiny. Well, for those who aren't squeemish, take a look!

The yellow bit on top is the 'root', while the thin white edge over the big gaping hole is the actual 'tooth' that showed. About 3/4 or more of the enamel is simply missing with the pulp (the dark stuff) completely exposed. I can't believe it didn't hurt - it looks like it should have hurt... but it didn't, not once! I'm *hoping* this is what was causing the tired/lack-brainness - constant low grade infection - and now that it's out, it'll be resolved.

The price wasn't horrible - they only took the one that was cracked out, so it was $160 including pain meds and something for anxiety beforehand. They were also willing to do a payment plan so that was cool. (And yeah Sif, I'm totally good to come to Amber's on Friday)

Amanda, I can't believe that all the puppy classes are free and NO ONE called!!! *wails dramatically* We put Hope on the waiting list for puppy class and specifically said if possible I'd like to be in your class - in OCTOBER!!! No one has called! I know your class would be ace and I know I wouldn't have to worry about arguing clicker w/ you *VBG* but I figured she needs to get into one and I can't wait and wait and wait until CDODC has an opening if it's going to be like that. I will say, that as expensive as the other lady is, I've seen her classes and they are run nicely as well and would be closer atm.

Hey if you want to get Kinta more people socialization, Hope, La and I are always up for that. We could always head down to one of the shopping strips or the city at some point. Yeah, planning to come to KCC on the weekend... Hope is decent with people (thinks they're all there to meet her actually... *rolls*) but dogs are another matter and I intend to nip that in the bud!

Meanwhile, I've got a consolation prize for my sore jaw - my new shiney Clicker Expo DVD arrived in the mail this morning! (It's a late arriving Christmas prezzie!) I have to see if I can find a script for it though... they recorded sound off the camera's mic rather than one attached to the speakers and of course the camera is at the back of the audience, so the sound quality is very poor which is terribly disappointing for what it costs. There's no subtitles and they're panned out far enough I can't lip read even if the speaker did stay in one spot and the camera person could decide on what lighting setting to use! At least Steve White is clear and precise enough I can tell what he's saying but everyone else is impossible! X-o

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stuff From Today

Laurent apparently likes beets. Who knew? His whole face is stained red from his enthusiasm.

I have been trying to incorporate some of the Montessori 'practical life' attitude and letting Laurent help as much as possible. He's really quite taken with it and today has "helped" me carry his breakfast plate and cup from the dining room to the kitchen, 'select' his banan, 'carry' the milk jug for me (well, tumble it out of the bottom of the fridge anyhow). He helped me hang the clean laundry back up by flipping through the pile, picking something up and presenting it to me. (Which though I know I'm looking to do all of my shirts, then all my skirts, all of Nic's stuff etc. it probably looks like I'm randomly flipping through to La.)

And he's apparently helping me when I vaccume as well.... while I vaccumed, he grabbed the wand extension and began moving it back and forth making "vaccume" sucking sounds, complete with the occasional "thhhphh!" of a bunch of doghair being sucked up! ROTFLMAO!

The downside: Sir Wiggly Wigglesalot has also discovered he can take his pants and nappy O-F-F. He spent the morning sans pants. He spent the afternoon nudie-bum in only the t-shirt, socks and shoes after a dozen re-nappyings resulting in the tabs being torn.

I have officially HAD IT with not having a brain. I cannot - and I am being quite literal here - remember things for more than 5 minutes. It's completely driving me batty and interfering with my ability to get things done! I don't know if it's low iron from Meniere's or infection from this tooth is causing short-term memory to be shot or it's a hormone thing from breastfeeding or just plain over-stressed and sleep depribed (though I'm getting more sleep than I have since before La was born now!) but I am seriously OVER waking up more tired than when I went to sleep... and NO memory. It's beyond normal scattered-brainness but I'm not sure who I'd see? Doctors? With the symptoms being general exhaustion and lack-brainness, they'll tell me to get more rest and try not to worry. BTDT. I haven't had the best luck with naturopaths/homeopaths etc and quite frankly don't have the money to be blowing on something that provides no tangible results.

The latest victim to my memory: I forgot to get the full set of dental x-rays I was supposed to before having my wisdom teeth removed. Surgery was supposed to be tomorrow but will now have to be put off further, which I don't need as I already spent the week psyching myself up to deal with the idea of dentists (ickIhatedentistsICK) and surgery (super-creepy-I-hate-dentists-and-the-thought-of-surgery-makes-me-queasy-paranoid-thoughts-level ICK) and now it's for nothing, plus I've got to hope they're not going to charge us for canceling at the last moment! X-/ Not to mention how expensive it is! Turns out Nic didn't ASK if they do payment plans like I told him to when he called them up in the first place as well... eep! I don't even wanna KNOW how much it's going to cost... $200 just for the evaluation, plus 2 xrays last time!

Money is also quite frusterating atm. With Nic not having worked over Xmas and overspending on gifts for his friends (who are single and don't have tons of bills and a family to worry about and so can afford to spend lots on gifts and expensive dinners out, unlike Nic, despite his doing so) money is super tight, which of course means I have to have this big honking dental bill, car rego, rates, taxes etc. To add to it, they are really diddling around with his commissions coming through! Standard pay comes through fine but commissions are months behind with NO accountability because half the office is in freaking SA and don't bother to report to the Vic office, even when it's the Vic office setting their contracts for them AND the guy in charge of taking care of it in the Vic office doesn't CARE about business-to-business, only residential... he only took over B-t-B because it adds a stripe on his arm and knows nothing about it or how to run it! Argh!

It seriously sucks that everything is so darn expensive! It also means unfortunately the puppy cla$$ I was looking at for Hope is nixed. It's a GREAT class, esp since I can't seem to get her to Croyden and she needs the socialization asap - but it's $400! (18 weeks, so it's actually good value, it's just way out of budget!) The casual class is $120 + a $50 initial eval/private which is much better but still out of budget atm. She does need the socialization though, she baroo-rooed at a dog at the vets today again, this time a chocolate labradoodle. And there is a Tellington-Touch workshop I want to go to which is probalby also out of budget at $100...

****crosses fingers I find a winning Tatt's ticket tomorrow****

The good thing is that having played with Hope, Cade and Sierra in training recently after my slacker-style holidays I'm continually amused how SMART Hope is! While we were waiting for Nic and La to get out from Safeway, I diddled around with teaching her a leg-weave. BINGO. Five minutes. Seriously smart little girlie!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Well it appears what was sold to me as a purebred Australian Shepherd, is in fact part PIG.

Hope's crate wasn't securely latched last night as she escaped and broke into the bathroom. We found her half dozing, half pathetically attempting to swallow a few last pieces of kitten food before we got there to take it away.

The glutton consumed 1.5 KILOS!!! (Not a typo, that's 1.5kg!) She apparently consumed as much as possible, dozed off on the bag when her stomach couldn't physically fit one more bit, woke when she heard us coming and resumed attempts to cram more in her still too-full stomach. Her stomach seriously looked like a beachball... just this HUGE, round, gut hanging - visibly sagging - on four gawky puppy legs.

She's fine, if gassy... and completely unrepentant. So full she could hardly move, she still waddled over to make googly-eyes at our breakfast. By tea and lunch she was seriously offended and we've not yet broke the news she's skipping dinner.

Still looking at unis to see if I can find what I want. If not, maybe I can just take some of the courses seperately (as in, not for a degree... which would suck) or maybe they let you do online stuff internationally? It's either that or move back which I'm not super keen on.

Found two more houses we're going to look at when they're on market, these two in The Patch out Belgrave way. This one on almost 5 acres at $465+ (and check it, the house is GREEN, inside and out!!! LOL) and this one on an acre, which is a pretty Federation style which is $520K+. Need to read up on the area, geostability, water/electricity/services/rates, how far it is from train-station, look at if the area is nice/yobbo and if it's got the making for a decent kennel, dog runs, agility yard, sheep, chooks, bubba space and veggie patch. But look at those mountain views... it's pretty anyhow!!! ;-) Looked at another in Blackburn (very nice but small room sizes and asking high $500's/low $600's!) and making an appt. for a 2nd in Blackburn too.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Well... bugger.

Okay, so thinking about the educational thing and gearing back up for that, I've been trolling the 'net looking at what sorts of courses I'd like and what major I'd pick to get those.

So I flipped through a few of the "look at descriptions of various majors" pages. How WEIRD does it feel to be looking at this stuff again? Last time I worried about this, I'd just turned 18, was green as grass, and was freaking out trying to carry a full load, maintaining a job, car, insurance, petrol, rent, utilities and somehow being able to afford my staple diet of ramen, tuna, mac-n-cheese and discounted produce at Walmart! =:-O Granted, I'd love to just be able to stay at school permanently and continue adding degrees in various things for the rest of my natural life, so maybe it's not so weird.

Anyhow, flashback aside, I browsed. Hn. Animal sciences didn't seem to fit... too geared on labratory animal management. Moving along... veterinary science... well, it covers a lot of my interests but it's too round-about since I want to focus more on behaviour and studying it. Could just look at psych stuff but that's not entirely it either. Da da da da...oh. Oh! Hey. What's this? Behaviour. Ethology. For animals. Well... that's certainly right up my alley.
"Scientific and objective study of animal behaviour." Yes, that sounds nice. I adore sinking my teeth into a juicy piece of theory and just plain watching what they do. I'd been wanting to add a sense of anthropology into the mix. Da da dum dum... "covers a range of scientific disciplines all concerned with what animals do and the neural mechanisms that enable them to do it." Ohhhh.... my inner geek sat up and paid attention - this might be something worth the look! Da da da da da, "...piles on some serious science... classes like anatomy, biology.." hmm, not bad! "...genetics, neurobiology, neuroscience..." helloooo nurse! That sounds yummy! "...behavioural evolution, zoology, cognition and sensory perception." Oh. Geeze. How soon can I sign up? My brain was drooling at the idea!

The rest sounds just as fun... jobs basically involve a lot of research projects to observe and attempt to understand animal sensation, cognition and behaviour.

Then comes the kicker:

As far as I can tell, the only universities to offer this as a major are in the States. *grumble mumble grumble*

Still researching of course and I know all those courses are available here seperately but I needed to gripe about that. Y'all have no bloody idea how ANNOYING it is, every single freaking time I find something really super cool - it's back in the States!

Other than that it's been quiet. Too HOT to train the dogs today. We all just flopped in melty-mode under the fans... three humans, three dogs and a cat together! Tomorrow I'm going to the dentist to deal with my wisdom teeth. I've avoided it for *mumble mumble* years because I really get the heebie jeebies about dental-work but now I've got no choice. The right top one has cracked, crumbled and is liable to get an infection if it hasn't already. It may have already, which may explain how frigging tired and thick-brained I've been feeling for the past few months. I've been getting way more sleep than I used to but feel 10x as whipped!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The past week or so Hope's had little leaks throughout the day. This wouldn't be completely atypical in a dog her age, sometimes you see submissive urination or excitement urination in youngsters but this really didn't seem to be either. No apparent irritation or excessive licking, no scalding, she's eatting and drinking fine, acting like her normal self, she's in tact so of course spay incontience isn't an issue and the amounts were small enough that a prolapse wasn't a concern. She's got a mild temperature, so infection is suspected in the neck of the bladder. She'd already gone so we couldn't do a needle aspiration and Dr. Kohler recomended just waiting a week to see if it resolved so we didn't need to put her on antibiotics unnecssarily. Meanwhile we follow her with a mop... ;-p

We also had a run in with a VERY scarey (in Hope's opinion) Golden Retriever. As far as I could tell the Golden was the steriotype of his breed: gentle, mild-mannered and not even paying any attention to her while he swished along aside his owner but according to Hope those big, yellow, fluffy things are frea-ky!!! We were walking ahead of them and she kept looking back, eyeballing him and barrooo-roooing 3x. She's never seen a Golden type dog and hasn't, due to the holiday season, been in puppy preschool so she's not been around every type of dog there is yet. She's fine with BC's and Greyhound/Whippet looking dogs, even Collies and ACD's don't merit much attention, though little white malti-shi-apoo types seem to puzzle her. ("It's a dog? REALLY?!? You sure mum? It doesn't look like a dog...")

Note to self: must socialize her around more dogs of different breeds! LOL I need to find older bossy bitches to expose her to, fluff-ball of a pup that she is, she still is more pushy than either Cade or Sierra and has been getting a bit big for her britches lately! Managed well, she'll turn into a wise elder bitch, a useful leader and a great puppy-manners teacher... the kind most dog people know are worth their weight in gold for teaching pups the in's and out's of canine social graces as there are some things humans just can't do. Allowed to run rough-shod though, she'll lack the diplomacy to do so and just be a royal brat! LOL

Monday, January 01, 2007

ramble (with photo-bribes at the end!)

Where to start... where to start... it seems like so much internal stuff is going on, it's hard to wrap those quicksilver emotions and impressionistic thoughts into tangible, printed words!

The day before new years found us with Laurent feeling chucky. Not ill, not grumpy, no fever... he was happy as a lark but spewing. He nailed me twice getting it all over my face, in my hair, shirt, skirt and bra as well as his face, his hair, his shirt and pants and the chair, the carpet, the papers and everything. Then again all over my study and me. I tell ya, it's a damn good thing I worked at a vets and daycare before I had a kid or that woulda really grossed me out...

Today was a lot nicer as we got to get together with Justin and ended up going to Chinatown for Yum Cha! Nummers! Bunny Lala did pretty well at his first yum-cha and when Justin e-mails me the photos I'll post them! (I forgot my camera!!! Lucky he had a camera phone!)

Also as a minor update- the little game Nic and I started playing is actually working quite nicely. Not that huge changes happen overnight but there's a lot more happy-family moments for sure and changes ARE happening slowly but surely!

But that aside, the past few days have been intensely introspective for me. I know several people have found this year to be one where they've made big changes in their life and strode toward the things they wanted for themselves. I don't feel as if that's been the case for me, if anything this year was one where I felt more like the passanger than the driver and it's felt like a year where I've spent a lot of time internally reorganizing, redefining, reprioritizing and in general just drawing within before acting on what I feel that all is leading up to in THIS year. I have such a strong sense this year will involve enacting a lot of strong, positive changes in my life. Nothing huge or dramatic... more of a righting of polarities, finding the balance that has been missing.

I'm eager regarding our new home. I've spent a lot of time looking at the reality and laying it out, trying to find a place that will be the balance I need as an individual and we need as a family. On paper, it's a pretty insurmountable, complicated and complex issue that swirls around my head. It's easy to get mired in and more than once I've felt rather dispairing it would work out which is not typical of me. Usually once I decide I want something I'm pretty bloody singleminded about it and just plow toward it until eventually, one way or another, I get it through sheer mule-headed persistance and determination.

I'm guessing that a lot of the waffling about is probably a reflection of my having moved countries. When I first got here, I really wasn't fussed by any of the differences or changes, because they were all rather novel and part of the adventure of discovering the country. However when the novelness of the adventure wore off and the process of assimilating a new
culture and letting go of an old one hit, I think it really knocked my sense of equilibrium for a loop and I resisted the changes, casting about for a firm direction and ways to define my new self within this changed context. That's my best guess anyhow! ;-)

So... going after the life I want and we'll figure out the rest of the crap as we go to some extent. We still may end up in Box Hill or Blackburn at least temporarily but if I look at what I feel is necessary, it's simply not legally accomplishable in the suburbs due to zoning. I'll be annoyed if I have to move again in a few years to accomplish what I want as I'm very ready to feel settled... but if we can't find the right location for it this time, there's nothing else for it I suppose.

Dog wise, Hope will be showing and attending a puppy class and a puppy freestyle class if I can. Sierra will be training with an eye to be competing by the end of the year towards obedience, agility and freestyle titles.

I will be researching to find out what courses I'm after for how I want to pursue my education for formal credentials for animal training. Part of this would be working towards formal credentials such as Delta Society qualification and the others like APDT and CPDT and IAABC. Part of this would be informal and wandering into the realm of human learning theory, cognitive development, psychology etc. Not required but for personal interest and rounding myself out, I'm also really eager to dig in to such stuff as Precision Training, TAG Teaching etc. to add the hard science to the theory. *G* I like my data and numbers and graphs and charts to back me
up. *G* Sort of releated, I also plan to attend a Clicker Expo and have a small vacation this year in Queensland. Not sure where but some sort of remoteish tropical beach-grotto-rainforest sort of thing.

I will join a yoga class once we've moved and settled again as I loved the class I was in and miss it! Working to a DVD is not the same!

And to round up, having been reading a lot of Montessori stuff recently, I'm taking a lot of the bits I like out of that and planning to create a really gorgeous play-living area in our new home! Not just based on Montessori stuff but also using elements of Steiner and Reggio Emilio and things I've observed through day-care and at parks etc. So really super thrilled with that!
Likewise, we're being more health concious this year... continuing some of the good things we started in 2006 and improving on them! I'm happy to say that with our focus on fresh, whole, organic fruits and veggies Laurent so far he loves every veggie and most fruits we've introduced him to! :-)

And last but not least, we're still a bit up in the air discussing Bubba #2. The ease with which I became pregnant with L was a bit of a shock since I'd been told I may have a lot of trouble. Hopefully that means a Bubba #2 is a possibility in the future. If not, I won't feel like I'm bereft but I'm rather charmed by this captivating creature and wouldn't mind another littlie at some point. We'd originally thought a space of about 4-5 years would be ideal, iow starting TTC #2 when he was 4ish. That way if I have another horrid pregnancy he's old enough to do some self-care, understand if I can't attend every need, is developmentally able to empathize hopefully making the transition from only child to one of two easier and if I was really sick he'd at least be in school part of the time giving me one-on-one time with the new bubba. OTOH I'm not sure I *want* to wait that long and my bloody clucky (EVIL, LYING, SADISTIC) hormones go nuts over every little bubba I meet and whisper in my ears how nice it'd be to have a second in a year or two and that we really honestly MISS being pregnant... (This is how I know they're lying, evil and sadistic hormones - I hated being preggers and spent most of the time threatening to spay myself with a rusty spork to ensure it never, ever happened again!!!)

Now... pics...

A few from Lala's birthday, which yes was ages ago but I finally finished scanning!!! *shocks* I absolutely love the feel of these photos and the way they journal the day, they were SO worth it! These aren't all of them of course. I won't scan them all as I ordered a LOT of prints... but these are a few of them and there is one more that's colour that I'm going to do and post in a day or two!

Laurent playing with the pot pre-tree-planting ceremony. The tree is to the left of my knee and I'm reading the speech we prepared.

One of Nic, myself and Lala walking down the path. Just because it was pretty.

And kissing, while I was muttering threats under my breath to Nic! ;-)

During the reading, Laurent decided to play peek-a-boo under my coat and ham it up!

Mister Lala having a chat, my sweet boy!

One of the general gathering. :-)

A closer-up shot of L looking into the pot and chattering!

Nic with the tree after. :-)