Suzanne was away for the past several days, so Bear joined Sophie and I in the tiny house. (Suzanne got a petsitter for the other animals, but Bear is not really the kind of girl who nonchalantly accepts random strangers wandering into her house. Or her yard.)
If I’d thought about it ahead of time, I would have assumed that Sophie Sunshine would be delighted to have her bestie staying with us and would happily ignore me entirely in favor of Bear. Not so much, actually. She was happy enough to have Bear visit us, but more than once she did her best to let me know that it was time for Bear to go back to her own house now. And I got excellent Sophie Sunshine snuggles because of the Bear competition. Sophie usually hangs out under the bed, often joining me on the bed after I turn the lights out at night, although usually at the foot of it. With Bear sprawled across the majority of the bed, Sophie felt it incumbent upon herself to establish that she was top dog and basically sleep on my neck. Fine by me, it was lovely to have dog cuddles.
Notable things about Bear as an almost 2-year old: she is extremely well behaved at meal times. She knows to sit and wait patiently until I put the food on the floor and then gesture at the bowl to let her know that it’s hers. I’ve made no attempt to teach Sophie that behavior because usually she’s the only one eating, no competition from cats or other dogs, but the two of them together in my small space did really well at respecting one another’s bowls, mostly because Bear was so good.
Bear is also such a smart girl. We went to the dog park in McKinleyville, which is a great place to roam with active dogs — lots of trails where dogs can be off-leash — and I played an off-leash game that I play with Sophie, where as soon as she gets too far ahead of me or disappears around a curve, I turn and start walking in the other direction. I’ll find a corner to go around myself if I can. As soon as Sophie finds me, I reward her with a treat and some praise. The goal, of course, is for her to always be paying attention to where I am. She needs to know that it’s her job to keep track of me, not vice versa, and that I will not always follow where she leads. It took Bear maybe three times to figure out the game and then she was always the first one back to me. She’s a little faster than Sophie when she wants to be, so possibly she was using Sophie’s decisions as a trigger, but I think she was paying attention herself. She’s not very treat-motivated usually, but she wanted her share of the duck jerky!
She also did really great with other dogs. She’s more reactive in general than Sophie, who’s pretty mellow about interacting with other dogs and quite capable of ignoring them if she feels like it, but we had two great incidents of solid Bear behavior. Hmm, both of them were when she had a ball in her mouth (she likes to carry it back to home/the car after we’re done playing), which is possibly worth noting — she’s a pup who likes having a job to do. But in one incident, we walked through a pack of dogs, probably four of them, all around her size and off-leash, on the path coming back from the beach, and she basically ignored them. She was on-leash and I was reminding her that she needed to hang on to her ball, but still, she did great. There’s also a dog that I call the junkyard dog (not really fairly) who races up and down a chain link fence barking at us on a section of our walk to Creamery Field. Bear’s had a very hard time ignoring that dog in the past, but this time she dropped her ball, then picked it up again and simply walked away. Yay, Bear!
Walking the two dogs together, though, still feels a little more like work than fun. (Outings with them = fun; just walking = kinda challenging.) Bear on-leash drags me as she tries to catch up to Sophie off-leash and/or Sophie mopes because she has to be on-leash to walk next to her buddy. Around Arcata now, Sophie is pretty much entirely off-leash. She roams ahead of me, but pauses at every street corner and waits for me to catch up and check for cars coming. I’ve noticed her checking for cars herself, too, which is really adorable. She looks both ways, then glances back at me as if to say, “Looking good to me, you agree?” I still have her wait until I can see, but she also clearly recognizes the difference between a trafficked street and a quiet street. On a busy street, she keeps her eyes on my face until I look down at her and nod to confirm we can go, and on a quiet street, she sniffs around and checks things out until I start walking. She loves exploring when she’s off-leash. Every new street is an adventure.
This afternoon, Sophie and I start a dog training class, called Training for Real Life, Level 1. It’s a foundations class. My real goal is to get into the classes that come after the three foundations segments — agility, games, and fitness, because I think Sophie might enjoy them and they might give her an outlet for some of her energy — but it’ll be interesting to see what we learn to begin with. The third section of the class — the one we’d be taking sometime in September, most likely — is where you work on a solid recall and retrieve, so Sophie’s ahead of the game in some ways. That said, she doesn’t have a “joyful stay” which is part of what she’s supposed to learn in Level 2, and I don’t know what she knows or doesn’t know from Level 1. The only specific they mention is “disengagement from scary things” and I don’t know that Sophie finds anything particularly scary. We had a seriously impressive thunderstorm last night and she was pretty dubious about it — incredibly loud thunder! — but I gave her a bully stick, and told her we didn’t care about those big noises, and she seemed perfectly willing to forget about it.
My list of things to do never seems to get any shorter: email, blurb revisions, update marketing graphics, write a book or two or three… all the usual stuff. I decided it was time to start using a literal to-do list, opened an Apple app, and realized there were things on it that still needed to be done from 2021. Ugh. In one sense, they probably weren’t important (send a letter re translation rights, update books where the rights have reverted to me), and in another… well, I used to be really good at getting things done. I was very efficient when I was an editor! I’m not sure why I’ve become so inefficient now, forever spinning my wheels, when it would surely be simpler to just Get Stuff Done. But I think I will try to check off at least an item or two on that list before heading off to our training class. Wish me luck!
I’ll wish you luck with Sophie and ask you to wish me luck with Pinellas Writers tonight. I’m reading a new flah fiction piece titled The Ferret Business Meeting. It may be good or it may be something only my convoluted brain appreciates.
Oh, I hope it went well! I’m sure you were great!