Bear watches Dec prepare his kong.

Without guidance from the expert, banished from her property because of the dreaded parvo, we have made progress.  Training sessions have become less frequent, though the routine remains pretty similar.  Skills that remain since the beginning of time, from Bear’s perspective, are sit, down, stand, and circle.  Skills from nearly the beginning of time are scent signals (pawing, doorbell, and the dongle), leave-it, nice-walking, and watch me.  Skills introduced in the last two sessions pre-parvo include army crawl (Dec’s favorite), rollover, stay (Bear is nailing this one), nice-walking without leash, and go to bed.

Upward Trending

Walks have been enjoyable for the most part.  Aside from the occasional distraction of the dog across the street or the leaf in the middle of the sidewalk, Bear gets the mullet walk.  If the leash is in the left hand, then it is all business.  He walks at our hip, matching our speed, and sitting down when we stop.  Impressive, I know, but keep in mind that he is getting clicks and treats along the way.  When the leash transfers to the right hand then it is time to sniff and roam around a bit.  To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of this set up, but I see Bear looking back to check and see what hand the leash is in, and going to business or party mode depending on left or right hand.

During the walks we’ll stop two or three times and do some drills.  This lets Bear know that reacting to commands is not done solely in the living room or our home.

The sidewalk repertoire includes sit, down, circle, stand, and stay/come.  Of all these, “down” is the most difficult for Bear.  Unless he sees or smells the treat in hand, he glances at me while I give the voice and hand command, and looks away in disinterest.  If he senses the treat, then he will cock his head to the side, as if asking me what is this “down” word you say.  I’ll repeat the command, lowering my hand nearly to the ground.  This is when he usually makes it to down, putting a paw on my hand as he goes.  Bear is best at the stay command.  At home or on the sidewalk he’ll watch me from 20 feet, waiting for the okay to be released.

Not the best picture, but Declan is getting Bear’s Kong ready, putting peanut butter on the inside of it, before taking it to bed.

At the opposite side of the activity level from walking, Bear is spending more time in Declan’s bedroom at night.  Dec goes to bed earlier than everyone else, and Bear will follow us down to his room, settling into his den under Dec’s bed.  Dec tells us he moves between the den (under Dec’s mattress), the trundle bed, and Dec’s bed throughout the night.  Bear will wake Dec up around five most mornings.  Dec was low one of these times, but I think Bear is getting into the habit of moving around at five, and Dec is accommodating Bear, bringing him upstairs at that time, whether he is low or not.

Holding Steady

Walking without a leash with the pointer clicker, and go-to-bed have not progressed.  I’m afraid that we have missed the next step of these skills and he is learning something entirely different.  For instance, the go-to-bed command is meant to get him onto the “bed”, which is a blue-foamy mat with paw prints on it, that feels like a yoga mat for animals.  To condition Bear to go to bed, we lay the mat out and stand so the mat is between us.  As soon as he touches the mat I click and give him a treat.  At this point he goes into a sit before getting the treat.  To release him from the mat, I throw some treats on the floor and say “okay.”

We have done this drill a lot.  And now we say “Go to bed” as he approaches the mat.  However, I think Bear may be conditioned to go to the mat only if it is between us.  If I release him with treats on the same side as me, then he’ll saunter around, checking out what Ashley is doing, or look out the window.  It was my understanding that if the mat was on the floor then he would automatically go to it, yearning a click and the treat that follows.

“Go to bed” is a crucial command for Bear.  In school, at a restaurant, in a theater, or in a plane, the mat will be put down on the ground with the command, and Bear will plop down on it, staying there quietly until released.

Downward Trend

Unfortunately, the pairing of a low scent and signalling for the scent has digressed.  Pre-parvo Bear was a star at seeking the scent hidden in a pocket, tucked under a sleeve, or stuffed in a sock, and then signalling with either a paw or grabbing the dongle.  Now Bear finds the scent most of the time, but he will mouth it, trying to grab it.  We have had to go back to holding the scent sample in our hand, presenting it to him, and getting him to paw after.  The dongle and door-bell signals have gone to the way side in the pairing.

Bear is very lackadaisical with this work, often times plopping to the ground or looking at his favorite couch while I try to engage him to pair.  Heather and I have to remind ourselves and each other to keep it fun for Bear.  It is very frustrating when he puts his head down.  It feels like a personal affront.  What we’ve found is that simply moving him to another room and giving him energetic pets and tussles puts him in a more receptive state.

Falling off the Cliff

Not sure why, but Bear has taken to making a couple of deposits in the basement each week.  I am unwilling to accept that he is finding the basement a better place to poop than outside.  He sleeps in the basement with Dec most nights.  I cling to the hope that Bear is finding a second best place to poop.

Two nights ago Bear left a pile in the laundry room and one in the common room (both in the basement).  After cleaning it up, Heather found a small piece by the back door.  That small piece gives me hope that he was trying to get outside to the preferred spot.  Unable to get outside, Bear found the laundry room, which probably feels like a good place to make a deposit to him.  The laundry room has a concrete floor.  In the middle of the floor is a drain.  When the pump decides not to pump, then water spews from the floor drain.  Though we can’t smell it, Bear might pick up some septic smells from times when the pump quit working.  I am holding on to that logic.  I do not want a dog that feels comfortable pooping inside.

Bear and I go to a lesson this afternoon.  We are not meeting at Kristin’s place, but we found a park in between that we can meet at.  I have a lot of questions about how we have been doing and what direction to go.


Turf Wars

It has begun.  I woke Saturday morning to see the note.  Scrawled on an envelope it was clear Fiona had been wronged.  It said, ” Bear is no longer allowed in the basement.”

Since the end of summer Bear has had an all-access pass to the house.  He ventures down to the basement to escape the heat.  He also finds a lot of treasures in the kids’ rooms.  He’ll often come up to his favorite couch in the living room and tear apart the remains of a bag of corn nuts, or lick the inside of a Kit Kat wrapper.  It makes me wonder what other living creatures are feasting on the remains of summer in the basement.

Bear also runs to the bathroom as he hears cat food being poured into their bowls in the safety of the bathtub.  He’ll lay impatiently outside the tub, waiting to devour the food.  He hasn’t gone over the tub threshold.  The cat food remains safe in the tub.

The First

I don’t think it was planned out.  It was more of a third degree offense.  Bear needed to relieve himself and the tarp smelled like the outdoors, so he went ahead and made a steamer in Maggie’s room partially on the tarp.

Maggie had been vocal about not wanting Bear in her room.  He had chewed up a book of hers, eaten quite a bit of stashed goodies, and spread her garbage across her floor searching and finding more treasures.  So it is not shocking Maggie attempted to revoke Bear’s visa to her room.

It is worth noting Bear had been mining treasures in Fiona’s room as well.  However, the state of Fiona’s room prohibits any sort of detection of foraging for treasures and spreading garbage around the room.  Maggie’s room, however, resembles a military cadet’s room who happens to have a lot of colorful clothes, makeup, and a lot of purses.

Though I was upset Bear had an accident indoors, I was partially tempered by the fact that it was done on the tarp, and that it was mostly a healthy poop.  I chalked it up to not letting him out on time and the tarp resembling the outdoors; in a dog’s odorous world, smell dominates.

The Second

Not sure when it happened, but the result I saw was the note scrawled on the envelope.  Bear had an accident in Fiona’s room.  Again, I don’t believe this to be a premeditated crime, more of an accident of coincidence.  Say Bear had a big meal, had a nap, woke up to find some dessert in Fiona’s room, and suddenly the meal is done processing.  To the victim, however, it is an assault on the sanctity of her room.

A line has been crossed.  Suddenly the presence of Bear in her room is very obvious.  Though he’d been foraging in her room for days, and some chips and crackers and cookies may have gone missing, this is the first time Fiona has really felt Bear’s presence in her room.

At this point I am a bit worried.  Though the basement often looks like a dumping ground with Legos, clothes, towels, and papers scattered around, I do not want Bear to think it is his dumping area.

Fiona is not happy, and she lets Bear know.  She glares at him and tells him to get away.  As a puppy, I am not sure that Bear picks up on any of the subtleties of a teenager’s verbal and nonverbal cues.  Maybe an “angry” scent is released, keeping Bear a safe distance from his new nemesis.

The unfortunate thing is we are to drive to Seattle for a family celebration.  We have a room reserved and Bear is coming with us.

It’s a three hour drive.  There is a fair amount of positioning in terms of who sits where.  The preferred seat changes depending on the age of the kids.  A few years back, Fiona and Declan preferred the backseat so they could annoy and beat each other up as we crossed the Rockies.  Last year Fiona and Maggie preferred the second row as they were able to help choose the playlist, and at the same time staying away from Declan.  With Fiona’s recent musical tastes straying from Maggie’s tastes, and with Fiona’s anger still bubbling over, she chose to sit solo in the backseat.  Sitting in the middle of the backseat allows her to stretch her legs as she blasts Watsky on the iPod.

The First Counter Action

Bear is getting bigger.  In fact, at his last visit to the Vet he weighed 45 pounds.  As he grows he prefers human furniture more and more.  Early on during car trips I tried to get him up on the seat, thinking that it would be more comfortable and less apt to car-sickness (being able to see the horizon).  He would whine on the seat and find his way to the space between the seat and the sliding door.

Soon after departing on the three-hour trip to Seattle, Bear was eyeing the right-side of the backseat as a nice napping spot.  All would have been smooth had he not recently pooped in Fiona’s room.  Fiona eyed him with contempt, wanting nothing less than to have him share her seat.  Though there was room on the floor, Bear now preferred a seat.  He pushed his way up onto the seat.

Bear sipping water at the pumps

Fiona continued to glare at Bear, complaining about how much space he was taking up.  Now is the time that Bear began reacting to all this negative energy coming from his seatmate.  Instead of settling down and sleeping, Bear sat up, staring out the window.  And he began drooling.  A lot of drool.

“Ohhhh GROSSSSS!  He is drooooooling!” Fiona screamed.  This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but being an experienced road-tripper, Fiona has a setup in the backseat with all her stuff, which appears to be most of the contents of her room.  She has both ends of the seat laid out with books, sketchpad, shoes, makeup, and other sundry items.  Not seeing a solution, Heather suggests that Fiona put her stuff all to the left side of the seat.  This keeps the drool from her stuff, but it doesn’t take away the already drooled on stuff, nor does it take away the poop from yesterday.  The glares continue.

It takes a while, but Bear finally settles down and goes to sleep.  We arrive at the hotel, change for the party, and find out we are in someone else’s room, which would explain the grapes on the table that Maggie ate to treat her low blood-sugar, the suitcase on the couch that wasn’t ours, and the toiletry bag that resembled a lunch box that also wasn’t ours.  They will find us another room, but in the meantime we have to pack our stuff.  I am amazed how quickly we can fill a room with our junk.  One bed is completely covered with Fiona and Maggie’s clothes.  There are five pairs of shoes by the closet, and Bear’s pen is set up in the corner.  We pack everything back into the car and head to the party.

Counter Strike Two

Again, I don’t think it is premeditated, but Bear strikes again.  Because of all the people in the party, with food and drink everywhere, Bear stays in the car while we go inside.  This may seem cruel, but in actuality is much kinder to Bear, where he can enjoy the entire backseat to himself.  Granted he is alone, not his preferred state, but he is not bombarded with strangers and noise and smells.  Overall, a healthier place for him to be.

And he did not stay there in solitude the entire time.  Like parents in a previous era who would go to the bar and drink while their kids played in the car, we came out occasionally to take Bear on short walks and make sure he was alright.  Also, some people at the party wanted to meet him.

At 1130 we piled into the car with Leer, a friend of Fiona’s from camp.  She lives in Seattle and came to the party to see Fiona and was coming back to the hotel with us.

Fiona, Leer, Maggie, Dec, and Bear in the van. Bear sits on the side that he puked on.

As they climbed to the back of the van, Leer noticed the vomit.  Bear had thrown up on the seat and on the toiletry bag.  Had it only been on the seat and the floor of the van, it would not have been so bad.  But all our stuff, including the toiletry bag, was back in the car.

Not sure what to say at this point.  I don’t even want to consider some stomach ailment.  In fact, I only think that he was nervous.  A car ride, being glared at, a hotel room, back in the car, and then all alone.

We cover it up with a blanket and get on to the hotel.


Bear is back on the bland, low-fiber food until things firm up some more.  I think he actually prefers that food.  After getting to the hotel room, I take him outside to do his business.  Since he pooped on one of the walks during the party, I am not concerned that he doesn’t poop.  But it is strange.  He normally poops several times a day, and he has pooped once.

And the next day he only poops once.  And then the next day he doesn’t poop at all.  That low-fiber food is doing its job.

Then Bear puts one pile on a some Legos and two more piles close by.  And the basement officially becomes the dumping grounds.  So maybe he actually only weights 140 pounds now.

This brings us back to the opening note scrawled on the back of an envelope. I need to put the gate back up so he doesn’t wonder back down there and leave a deposit.

Bear is no longer allowed in the basement.