Saturday, December 23, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing...

As I watched Kirby's relentless play-assault on Baxter, I realized that the main thing that makes puppies different from dogs is they haven't yet learned when to stop. Most of their behaviors, when honed, will help them be successful adults -- running, jumping, stalking, pouncing, chewing, shaking the living daylights out of something. They just don't yet know when they've had too much of a good thing (at least from the perspective of those around them). Dog behaviorists say that while many of a dog's skills are hard-wired, how and when they apply those skills is learned entirely through their social interactions.

This got me to thinking of similar bouts of excess in the human world...those times when something good, done to excess, is not so good. Of course, the first thing I think of is eating chocolate -- something that can be a heavenly taste experience or an expressway to thunder-thighs if not done in moderation. My mother is a chocoholic (I know where I get those genes from), and at one point she had a "bag-a-day" semi-sweet chocolate chip habit. She'd carry a little bowl full of chocolate chips around and eat them throughout the day. She didn't have any other vices to speak of and, fortunately, she's one of those naturally thin people, so she wasn't aware she had a "problem." Finally her doctor made an intervention (of sorts) when her cholesterol climbed well over 200. She cut back to a couple handfuls a day and the numbers dropped. Now, years later, she's moved on to a few squares of European 70% dark chocolate a day. She figures if she's going to cut back on chocolate, it might as well be the good stuff. I couldn't agree more.

By far my favorite "done to excess" story happened while I was at a music retreat with a small women's choir a number of years ago. One of the gals was knitting an afghan for a boy she knew who loved all things John Deere. It was bright green and yellow and the gal was having so much fun knitting, the afghan just kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally, one evening, we decided she needed a "knitting intervention." We surrounded her and told her to put down the knitting needles NOW. Then one of the choir members said something that still makes me laugh to this day. As the knitter sat there, looking rather perplexed, with the giant afghan sprawled out at her feet, a quick-witted gal spoke up, "You really have to stop knitting this thing, because at this point you could use it for a tractor cozy."

We all laughed so hard, most of us were in tears. Laughter. Now there's something you can never have too much of.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Terrier Genes

Watching Kirby gradually grow into his own personality has been an ongoing and amusing lesson in nature vs. nurture. Kirby is, as previously noted, of mostly unknown lineage. We know from the shelter that his mother was a medium-sized shepherd mix who looked mostly shepherd, but might have had a bit of lab or some other floppy-eared dog mixed in.

While Kirby's looking a bit less like a dachsund than he did as a younger puppy, his diminutive size (he's 5+ months old now and still barely 15 pounds) suggests that Papa was a pint-sized Romeo. Whether he was a dachsund or a schnauzer or a yorkie or some mix thereof, we're not quite sure. All I know is this little guy is a terrier through and through.

Nurture. We have a pretty calm household, and the environment isn't appreciably different from when Baxter was a puppy. If anything it's calmer. One difference is the birth order thing...Certainly Baxter's early upbringing was a bit different because he was an only puppy, thus most of his actions were focused on us. Kirby has Baxter to chew on. Still, we do our best to treat both dogs fairly, recognizing that Baxter holds a senior pack position. And it is our hope that Baxter will instill some of his calm, soulful, obedient qualities in the new puppy. I believe Baxter is having some influence on the little guy, but it's tempered by the fact that Kirby is just wired differently.

The Puppy Thing. Baxter and Kirby each have their own set of unique, endearing qualities. And I realize that some of Kirby's quirks are just puppy qualities. When I get frustrated at Kirby's relentless play-battles with Baxter, I just need to remember that wrestling was also one of Baxter's favorite puppy pastimes, he just didn't have a canine rival around 24/7 to jockey with for pack position. Once we got around other dogs, I have to admit Baxter was pretty gonzo. He could wrestle for hour on end at the dog park, if we'd let him. And another of his classic puppy behaviors was to find the oldest, grumpiest dogs at the dog park and run circles around them, play bow at them, jump up on them and try to instigate a snarl or maybe a good chase. Now the tables are turned and seven-year-old Baxter doesn't think it's so funny when Kirby tries the same thing.

Nature. Classic birth order and puppy behavior aside, there is definitely a bit of nature coming through here. Even though Baxter was a bunctious puppy, he always had a retriever-type personality: a pretty good listener, responsive to commands and focused on pleasing us (most of the time).

As we watch Kirby grow, we see a little terrier emerging from Kirby's deep gene pool. I know terriers pretty well. Growing up, my family had a Cairn Terrier, Katie, and we all fell in love with her spunky terrier personality. Kirby's personality is so much like Katie's, there is no doubt in my mind that Kirby's father was an earth-dog. Here's why...

Kirby's Top Ten Terrier Traits (not in any particular order):

1) Independent. Kirby likes to be held and petted, but it's always on his terms. He's just as happy most of the time to lay under the couch or run around and squeak his toy while we're watching television.

2) Quick. I've never seen a dog move as quickly as Kirby. Nothing passes him by. And he can go from zero to top speed in fractions of a second.

3) Going to ground. In the house, this translates into going under anything he can squeeze under, the tighter the squeeze the better. Katie came into our house as a puppy and immediately claimed the space under the sofa as her nest. Kirby did the exact same thing.

4) Smart. Just like Katie, Kirby is smart as a whip. He learns quickly and is a very good problem-solver (e.g. figuring out how to escape his pen on the first day we had him home).

5) Strong-willed. And just like Katie, he may understand a command, but whether or not he actually DOES what you ask of him is based on some internal compass, not any sort of desire to please you. That said, he has learned something -- perhaps from watching Baxter -- that we never adequately taught Katie..."Give." If Kirby has something in his mouth, even if it's something he really, really likes, he will give it up without a fight when we tell him to. "Come" is another story, however.

6) Near-sighted. It's fun to compare and contrast the eyesight of the pointer and the terrier. Baxter sees remarkably well at a distance. He can spot something small moving in the grass many yards away. Up close, however, he can't find something that sitting right in front of him unless he does it by smell. He also tends to run into furniture. Kirby is just the opposite. He barks at my husband when he's a few yards away and then looks embarassed when he approaches and realizes it's alpha guy. But Kirby can spot the tiniest insect movement in the grass or a speck of something on the floor and pounce on it. He navigates around the furniture at high rates of speed when he does his evening "Kirby Derby" and never runs into anything.

7) Talkative. Baxter didn't bark until he was well beyond Kirby's age. He whined and howled occasionally, but barking just wasn't his thing (and still isn't, except for announcing the UPS guy and the neighbor in the backyard). Kirby, on the other hand, already has quite a vocabulary of barks, which he uses quite effectively. The one I hear most often is the one that accompanies a direct stare into my eyes, and I'm pretty sure it says, "I demand your attention this very instant because I want something and you are paying attention to the computer instead of me!" I should temper this by saying that, thank goodness, Kirby doesn't bark all the time. He seems to have a pretty good sense of when a bark will help and when it will not. Baxter's influence is definitely helping this. When the neighbor's Mini-Cujo chihuahua-pom is ripping up the fence next door, Kirby now barks once or twice and stops. The first couple of weeks, he barked in unison with Mini-Cujo, ready to join in the fight. Baxter never barks at the neighbor dogs, and Kirby seems to have taken a cue from this. Kirby still has to register his disapproval, however. After all, he has some terrier dignity to uphold...

8) Driven to dig. Baxter has, on occasion, dug holes, but it's not a major pastime for him. He's far more interested in what's happening in the shrubs or up in the trees. Katie, on the other hand, was born digging, I think. She dug up all sorts of interesting things, and had a particular interest in moles and gophers. Enter Kirby. From day one, he has been nose-to-the-ground every time he goes outside. And if he hears or sees something interesting down there, his first reaction is to start digging. We're trying to nip this in the bud, but there's no denying it's his natural instinct to move earth around.

9) Intense. Baxter has always had soulful eyes. People comment that when he gazes into their eyes, it's as if he's reading their thoughts. As a pup, Baxter's eyes were golden amber, and with age they've mellowed to a light brown. But they still have that soulful, pensive expression. When you look into Kirby's eyes, you see a whole different guy. Just like Katie (whom the neighbor boy used to call "The Fire-Dog,") there's a wee bit of fire in Kirby's intense, dark eyes. It's a terrier fire. I'd know that expression anywhere.

10) Charming. No matter how many times a day I have to tell Kirby "NO!", he still charms the heck out of me. When he sits there looking up at me with that scruffy little face, I melt.

It all makes sense.
Most of these things make perfect sense as inbred qualities for a terrier dog, whose traditional job has been to hunt small, ground-dwelling vermin. If you're a terrier, you need to work independently, after all, the farmer's not going down the rodent-hole with you. You need to be able to see up-close, move quickly, jump at a moment's notice and be even more crafty and willful than the varmint you're chasing. Purebred terrier groups still hold "going to ground" competitions as a way to showcase these qualities. Had he a fancier pedigree, Kirby would be right up there with the best of them, I'm sure.

Likewise, Baxter's qualities make perfect sense for a pointer-retriever. When your target is a pheasant, you need to be able to spot it from far enough away not to scare it, pay attention to what the hunter wants you to do, approach quietly and patiently hold a point until the hunter gets within range. Then you need to remain calm as the bird bursts out of the grass and the hunter shoots his deafeningly loud gun and then tells you to go fetch the bird. That takes nerves of steel and a keen awareness of what's expected of you at any given time.

It's going to be fun to watch this combination of nature and nurture develop as Kirby grows up with Baxter's calm, patient influence. Kirby will never be a bird dog, but maybe it will bring out his inner shepherd...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Baxter's is Better

Or so it would seem. Kirby is absolutely relentless when it comes to wanting all things that belong to Baxter. No matter how many toys and rawhide bones Kirby has to play with, he insists on trying to take away Baxter's. Even if Kirby is busy playing with a toy of his own, the second Baxter picks up a toy, he's on him, trying to pull the toy out of Baxter's mouth. And Baxter, being a "soft mouth" dog, isn't very good at holding on to things. So most of these minor scuffles end with Kirby running off with Baxter's toy and Baxter sitting there looking at me with a hang-dog expression. The only time Kirby will sit quietly and chew is when he has a toy and Baxter doesn't. Nice.

Of course, Kirby is a puppy, and puppies are pretty notorious for doing just about anything to get what they want. But I'm trying to figure out what I can do to teach Kirby some manners. I scold him and pull him off Baxter, but seconds later he's back with gusto, cheerfully yanking on Baxter's toy until he wins.

Baxter is also trying to teach Kirby some manners, to little avail. Most toys Baxter doesn't fuss too much about, but the pressed rawhide bone is another story entirely. Baxter does not give this up without a fight. So Kirby has resorted to some more creative tactics, one of which is the stealth approach...

Kirby leaves his little rawhide bone and crawls on his belly, edging closer and closer to Baxter until his nose is right under Baxter's, within a tongue's lick of the big rawhide. Once Kirby's in Baxter's peripheral vision, one can hear a very low growl. As Kirby approaches, Baxter's growl gets louder. Once the growl reaches a serious decibel level, Kirby rolls over and pretends like he's only stretching. He looks up at Baxter as if to say, "Who me? After your rawhide? Certainly not!"

Then as soon as Baxter stops for a breather, Kirby strikes like a little cobra, grabbing the bone (and sometimes Baxter's moustache) in the process. By this point Baxter's growl has developed a bear-like quality, with a hint of that Cujo-esque frothy sound. This is accompanied by a showing of teeth unlike anything I've ever seen Baxter do previously. (Honestly, for years I wondered if Baxter was capable of showing his teeth...I guess he just had no reason to.)

Of course, Baxter is all threats and no action. He may sound frightening enough to make the puppy pause for a second (and the hair stand up on the back of my neck), but then, in the midst of all the teeth and growling, Baxter lets the puppy reach right into his comparatively giant mouth and pull the rawhide out.

I'm very pleased that Baxter doesn't crush Kirby's head, as he's had many opportunities to do so. But there's also a part of me that wishes Baxter would inflict just enough fear or pain (nothing requiring stiches or bone-setting mind you), to teach Kirby that it's NOT OK to just come and take whatever you want.

Perhaps my occasional interventions are hampering the process. Perhaps Baxter knows he has to behave around me, and if I weren't around, the puppy would be learning his lessons a bit more quickly. But at this point, you can bet I'm not leaving these two alone in the same room with a rawhide for more than a minutes at a time.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh the...Peace?

After spending a couple of hours intensely focused on writing a press release for one of my technology clients (yes, I go into the "flow" zone when writing press releases...if only I could do that writing a novel...anyway...), I closed the document and was startled by something I hadn't experienced in a silence. I experienced a brief moment of panic.

You see, when I started writing, both Baxter and Kirby were in here, amusing themselves with the array of toys I have scattered about my office. But when I "awoke" from my state of concentration, I heard absolutely nothing. I looked up to see if the gate had been breached (Kirby is an escape artist). Nope, just like I left it. "Where are the dogs!?!" my mind raced... I then noticed that Kirby and Baxter were both stretched out on the floor sleeping - Kirby under the desk and Baxter on the other side of it. It was a beautiful thing to behold, such peace. No wrestling, no squeaking, no scratching. Just blissful canine sleep.

Kirby's now jumping up at me, his signal that he's back up and at 'em and wanting a biology break, so I'm calling it a day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Kirby Derby (aka Oh the Squeaking...)

My husband's brother and his wife and young daughter gave Baxter and Kirby a really cool present at Thanksgiving... It's a gingerbread house made from a soft-but-sturdy brown, plush cloth with fleecy trim. Inside the gingerbread house you can put three small, coordinating squeaky toys. The idea is that the dogs will be kept busy trying to get the shapes out of the gingerbread house through the little doorway opening at one end.

Baxter didn't have a chance. Once Kirby laid his eyes on the gingerbread house, it was his. It took him all of about 10 seconds to figure out how to get the toys out, but he thought it was a kick. Since that time, the various pieces have mainly lived in the office, a couple in the living room and one put up because it's in need of repair.

By far, the gingerbread man is Kirby's favorite, and he knows just the "sweet spot" to bite on to make it squeak. We know this because every evening, as we sit down to relax on the sofa, Kirby starts what I've been calling the "Kirby Derby." This involves running laps around the living room...from the doorway to the sofa, around the ottoman, over Baxter (yes, this dog is bound for agility), under the chair, past the sliding door, around the other side of the sofa, under the piano bench and back. All the way, he is repeatedly squeaking the toy at a rate (and volume) that rivals a car alarm. This goes on for at least 5-10 minutes, with only minor breaks to reverse direction or look out the sliding door, before Kirby finally settles under the sofa with the toy and mellows-out (sometimes the squeaking continues...).

While we both greatly appreciate this kind gift, and Kirby thinks it's the best gift ever, we've decided we're going to get their toddler a drum set for Christmas...

Model/Rival Works Like a Charm

In an earlier post I mentioned the model/rival technique of teaching. While I'm applying the term pretty loosely to my puppy education with Kirby and Baxter, I'm here to report that even my less-than-rigorous application of the process seems to work like a charm.

Like many children, Kirby doesn't like to go to bed at night. He can't keep asking for a glass of water or another bedtime story, but his way of communicating that is picking up a toy and running away with it. The word "come" might as well not exist when Kirby sprints from under the sofa to under the chair, as one or two adult humans chase him around the living room. He thinks this is really fun. Knowing they have to get up at 5:30am, the humans do not find this particularly amusing.

Contrast this with Baxter, who thoroughly understands the bedtime ritual. In fact, if we don't head for the bedroom at our usual time (say on a weekend when we're watching a DVD), Baxter will go in by himself and curl up on his bed for the night.

Hoping to inspire this type of behavior in the puppy, last night, instead of chasing Kirby around the living room, I followed Baxter into the bedroom. Of course, curious as he is, Kirby couldn't resist following me...albeit from a distance. I went over to Baxter, and as Kirby stood in the doorway, I started praising Baxter for being such a good boy and getting into his bed. (I really went overboard on this. ) Within about 20 seconds Kirby was standing next to me, watching all the hugs and compliments being lavished upon his rival. Kirby looked at Baxter, looked at me, turned around and walked into his crate and sat there as if to say: "Ok, now it's MY turn!" Of course, I then turned my praises to Kirby, shut the door to the crate and everyone went to bed.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Oh the Wrestling

Most of today has been spent with one eye on the computer and one eye watching the whirling mass of black, tan and gray fur on the office floor in front of my desk. Baxter and Kirby have decided that non-stop wrestling is a fine form of entertainment. I don't know if it's because Kirby and Baxter are now on a more even footing hormone-wise or if it's just because Baxter is getting used to the little guy, but the wrestling matches seem a bit less about Baxter fending off the little guy and a bit more like play. Baxter is actively engaged in the process.

In the past couple of days, Baxter has even been laying down on the floor to get closer to Kirby's height (probably in part to keep Kirby from jumping up at his face), and he lets Kirby crawl all over him. Kirby always obliges by pouncing on him and making play-bites to Baxter's neck. When Baxter's had enough, he jumps to his feet, flips Kirby over and holds him down at the neck until he stops squirming. Of course, being the relentless terrier he is, Kirby usually pops right back up and starts again. When Baxter has had enough, he lets Kirby know and, much to my amazement, Kirby is now occasionally backing off.

Of course, it's always a bit daunting for peace-loving humans to watch two dogs wrestling -- it seems like such a rough and, at times, near-violent activity. But for dogs, it's an important part of learning their boundaries and establishing their places in the pack order. I have to resist the urge to break up every tussle, because Baxter and Kirby need to sort things out in their own way. I do step in occasionally, when things get a bit too rough and furniture is in danger or when I think Baxter deserves a break.

Baxter seems more secure of his place now, but Kirby hasn't given up trying to move up in the pack order. Sorry, Kirby, you may be tenacious, but Baxter gets to keep the "top dog" designation.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Kirby's Promise is Fulfilled

When we adopted Kirby, we signed a form that said we intended to have him neutered within six months of adoption. Yesterday was the big day... We decided to take him in at five months of age, rather than six, because his baby canine teeth were not coming out and were pushing the adult canines out of alignment in a way that could have consequences for his jaw development. His vet, who happens to have an interest in dentistry, thought it best to take out the little teeth ASAP -- another month and he could have some serious tooth problems -- and while he's under, we might as well have him neutered.

I kept recalling what is probably the most famous dog-neutering cartoon ever...the Far Side panel with the dog hanging his head out the car window bragging to the neighbor dog that he was going to get "tutored."

Kirby was so cheerful about going in. He's cheerful about everything. I felt pangs of fear as the assistant took him into the back, his little tail wagging. We picked him up in the late afternoon and he was one groggy little puppy. It's the first time we've seen him move that slowly. He curled up next to Baxter and wanted nothing more than to cuddle. What a sweetheart. Today he's up and at 'em and you'd never know anything happened. We're trying to limit his activity while he heals, but now that he and Baxter are on equal footing hormone-wise, it's going to be interesting watching the interactions over the next few days and weeks.

Dogs definitely know the difference. When Baxter was intact, the year-old neighbor dog, Phoebe, acted like she was afraid of him. Whenever he came around she would immediately get down on her belly and submit to him. Baxter thought this was pretty cool, being a puppy and all. But after he was neutered, Phoebe's demeanor changed completely. Suddenly she was the dominant one, putting Baxter in his proper place as a newly minted neuter puppy. Eventually things evened out and Phoebe and Baxter became friends and daily walking buddies until we moved away.

Kirby has definitely been attempting to usurp Baxter's position in the family, and Baxter has seemed pretty conflicted about it, at times almost deferential to the puppy. So this will be interesting.

I'm just glad it's over and done with and Kirby's healing well. The vet says Kirby's teeth should move into position now...and perhaps his social position will shift as well.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Learning by Watching

Ok, I'm going to brag a bit on Baxter's behalf...Baxter is a model dog in many ways. His eagerness to please makes him an easy dog to train and to live with. He's good-natured and extremely polite. This isn't just coming from us...we've heard this from many friends and relatives, some of whom don't even like dogs as a rule. "I'd get a dog if I could have one like Baxter," more than one person has told us. He doesn't jump on people, he shares his toys and his food willingly, and if we put him behind a gate he could easily jump over, he stays there because he knows we want him to. Some of this is because we've spent a lot of time working with him, but I think a lot of it is due to the fact that Baxter's nature makes him easy to work and be with.

It is this good behavior that made us want to get a puppy while Baxter is still young enough to interact well with a youngster. It was our hope that Baxter would model the behaviors we hoped to cultivate in a new puppy, even if the puppy was a different type of dog. To some extent, getting a puppy that has a very different personality from Baxter's is a true test of this "learn by watching" approach, because it separates some of what is innate in Baxter or his breed from what is learned.

I'm a big fan of Irene Pepperberg's work. She's a friend and former professor of mine, and she has done groundbreaking work with an African Grey parrot named Alex. Alex has learned a tremendous number of words and concepts through a model/rival technique that involves watching his trainers teach each other and be rewarded. Like children, animals seem to learn pretty effectively by watching others.

This has certainly been true already with Kirby. He has been a breeze to housebreak, I think partly because he watched Baxter ask to go outside and then be praised by us for a job well done. I tried teaching Kirby "sit" by having Baxter repeatedly sit and then get a biscuit. (I think Baxter thought I was crazy asking him to do something that simple for a biscuit, but I didn't see him complaining.) After about four rounds of Baxter's demo-sitting, Kirby looked at Baxter, looked at me, looked at the biscuit and then sat down. Wow. He has done it pretty consistently ever since. We have done the same thing with "down," although it's a bit more challenging to give Baxter a biscuit when he's down in Kirby's direct line-of-sight (thus, the next challenge).

The one that seems to be a bit more difficult for Kirby, and I think this is due to the nature of the dog, is "stay." Baxter is a pointer, so having the ability to freeze in a position is one of his genetically-encouraged abilities. This ability is one reason William Wegman chose Weimaraners as his subjects. By the time he was 12-14 weeks old, Baxter would stay in the living room while we went upstairs to hide one of his toys. He'd stay there until we gave him the "go get it!" command, then launch himself into a joyful hunt that could go on a very long time. We were amazed at Baxter's patience and his ability to focus on the hunt at such a young age.

While Kirby is very much a mixed breed, his personality appears to come from whatever terrier genes he has in there. He's bold, independent, lightning fast and jumps at the smallest movement (all benefits when your job is hunting rodents). Staying still when there's a toy to be played with is a painful thing. He's actually pretty good at paying attention (perhaps the German Shepherd genes are making a wee bit of an appearance), and he knows the command...we've been able to get as far as 10 feet away before he lunges for the toy. But to stay while we hide it out of sight in another room? No way. At least not yet.

And yet Baxter still models the perfect behavior by staying behind as Kirby follows me into the back room. This is one area where terrier training and pointer training diverge. And it's a skill that's apparently quite difficult to teach via the "learn by watching" method... expecting Kirby to learn by watching Baxter when all Baxter is doing is standing still is asking a wee bit much. In Kirby time (which is akin to New York time), that's like watching the grass grow.

The Power of the Cone

So far we've been really fortunate that the puppy hasn't done any damage in the house. He has, however, done some damage to our older dog, Baxter. At least we think he has. Last week we noticed some blood on Baxter's face, on the cheek behind his mouth. It was a scratch and it was pretty enflamed. In all fairness, it's possible he got it from a shrub (Baxter has a tendency to go through shrubs rather than around them...something Griffons are known for). But a more likely scenario is an unfortunate encounter with one of Kirby's dew claws. Kirby came with a set of cat-sharp dew claws and an unquenchable desire to jump up and bat at Baxter's face.

In any case, the wound wasn't healing. Every time it would get a scab, Baxter would start scratching it and open it up again. We took him to the vet when Kirby went in for his shots last week and the vet shaved an area around the wound to get a better look. This only made things worse, because every time Baxter scratched, he'd create new wounds on the unprotected skin. (I never realized just how protective that hair is...)

We knew it was time to get a cone. Quite surprisingly, Baxter didn't object to it at all. I figured there would at least be a struggle getting the thing on him, as there usually is when we try to put on his Gentle Leader. Nope. I think this is because of two things: 1) psychology and 2) the antler effect.

1) We decided to try a bit of psychology on the dog first by making the cone a good thing. Jamie put it on himself and I praised him profusely. Baxter was intrigued. Then we put it on Baxter and praised him profusely and gave him a biscuit. It seemed to work because Baxter has worn the cone pretty much day and night for two days and has never even made an attempt to get the thing off. When we take it off to let him eat or chew his toy under supervision, he sits calmly and even sticks his neck out to help us put it back on him afterward. It is amazing.

2) Methinks there is another reason Baxter likes his cone, however. He has discovered it can be an effective, antler-like weapon (i.e. puppy repellent), when used properly. The first time Baxter, with his cone on, approached Kirby, the little guy ran and hid under the sofa. When Kirby finally came out, Baxter put his head down and charged at him. Kirby took off, tail between his legs. Even now that Kirby has sort of gotten used to seeing Baxter with this thing on, he still gives him a pretty wide berth.

And Bax has discovered that the cone offers a few other advantages as well. When he wants something and I'm not paying attention, he's found that coming up behind me and butting me with the cone usually has the desired effect. The cone also acts as a sort of parabolic dish for focusing-in on new, bark-worthy sounds coming from down the street. And, perhaps best of all, it serves as an isolation device when he wants to keep Kirby away from a toy or a piece of food.

Yes, the cone is a weird and wonderful thing. I think Baxter will be glad when it comes off for good, but for now, he's taking advantage of the situation. And my husband and I have experienced a few bouts of side-splitting laughter watching Baxter and his new-found "antlers" charging the puppy and bouncing off the furniture. It's rather like a circus around's all in good fun as long as nobody gets hurt. And the clowns really do make us laugh.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Shoestring Scruffy

Another positive aspect of dog-mania... raising money for cancer research.

The “Puppylove” project challenged 36 artists from around the world to put their creative talents to work designing dogs...Starting from Eero Arnio’s minimalist plastic dog, the artists used a variety of materials, from shoestrings (seen here) to flowers to computer hardware components. The results are some pretty cool looking puppies that are being auctioned off to raise money for cancer research.