Category Archives: Valentine Mountain
Even though I definitely should be working right now, I felt a sudden pressing need to update the world a.k.a. my three readers on Amicus’ progress because I typed in my name to google and some of the blog entries came up saying, “Amicus is definitely a fearful dog,” and while that was true at the time I wrote it, I want to strongly vehemently vigorously (you get the idea, right) stress that Amicus is definitely NOT a fearful dog any more, nor is he an aggressive dog. He has been doing brave, wonderful, and sweet things and that is the current truth of Amicus. We just visited my best friends, and Farther, their nine-year-old pit bull/lab cross, and Amicus are now sensai and student, respectively, and fast fearless friends. Amicus and I climbed Valentine Mountain using only deer trails and sheer will power. Amicus has charmed both trainers in town because they’re smart observant experts who know a good thing when they see it. Amicus does stick up for himself if he has to, but if you love him, he loves you. He gives what he gets and he’s a work in progress. Amicus is not a destination, he’s a journey. Amicus loves dogs, except for two or three out of 100, and frankly my guess is they’re assholes, anyway, or maybe they just like mixing it up a bit. He frolics, romps, and gambols – yes, gambols – when he meets other dogs and his big goofy mouth stretches back in a mammoth dog grin and his fluffy tail with its tiny tip of white goes awiggy-waggy. He only occasionally barks at people when they come up behind us in the forest and that’s his job, right, and he shuts up pretty darn quick if I speak clearly to him in Dog. So the current “in the now” truth of the matter is that Amicus is just a normal, happy, slightly reactive, and delightful houndie hound and, as for me, I am doing swell learning how normal, happy, slightly reactive, and delightful I am, too.
Yesterday, I took Amicus to Mowatt Bay, where it is nice and isolated, and we were having a great game of fetch (chuck-it) when this pickup arrived and guy and dog disembarked, a big brown mastiff, and the guy threw his ball and Ami wasn’t looking and suddenly this big dog ran into Ami`s play arena area and, because he was surprised and protective of his ball, he attacked the bigger dog, and of course the dog fought back and I just got back from the vet.
Ami’s got a bloody scratch on his face just under his eye, but luckily it’s neither deep nor serious, just a surface wound and I have anti-bacterial cream to apply twice a day, plus it was a good opportunity to talk to the vet. We both agreed that the pickup guy should not just have recklessly thrown his ball over into Ami’s area especially when Ami wasn’t even aware they’d arrived. Although he must be taught that aggression is not ever appropriate, it was not a normal aggression situation. The vet agrees and thinks Ami is super smart and super trainable and he gave me good advice about two trainers in town who give classes where you go and there are other dogs there which the vet says is much better than isolating a dog.
I left a message for one of the trainers, and she phoned me back and we talked for about 20 minutes and she gave me some excellent advice about how I must make Amicus see me as completely in control of everything and how to do that. Unfortunately right now, she’s only teaching a puppy class, but she did let me know about another place in town that has ongoing classes, so I will investigate that. She talked to me for free and I garnered so much useful information from her and she was very good at explaining things clearly to me (probably why she`s such a good dog trainer).
So last night, it began and my dad is totally on board now, also. Now, before he throws the ball (we play a lot of fetch in the house because my dad can’t walk particularly well) he makes Ami sit, then praises him, and he’s getting more alpha with Ami which is good because my dad was being too much of a softie with Ami.
This morning I decided to go the seawalk and implement the dog trainer’s advice. Instead of saying no and pulling Ami away, I growled and roared at him like a demonic jackel (which is strangely satisfying and got some very perplexed looks from passersby) and yanked with fair ferocity on his leash when he wanted to rush at a dog. It really worked!
Dog training is really all about people taking Dog as a Second Language classes. Dog is a beautiful, simple, and clear language and I am honoured to be learning it. Saying “No, no, no, no,” or yelling things in English is pointless, she says, and when I mean no, I have to speak vehement growling dog and when I want him to do something good, I say in a high sweet loving voice elongating vowels, “Siiiiit,” or “Coooome,” or Staaaay,” and then give him a treat. She recommends I reintroduce treats back into his training and his walks, but instead of giving him additional treats, to give him like half of his breakfast and dinner.
Now, I make him do almost everything on my terms. Boundaries and limitations, and he’s not allowed on the couch or my bed for a while (which is a tough one, ’cause he’s my scooshy pooshy) and I have to make him sit and stay before eating, leaving, entering. He tends to sigh deeply sometimes, like I’m sure I would if I ever joined the army and someone started ordering me around, but he is actually very obedient when he understands the command. The dog trainer said German Shepherds and Collies (Ami’s two halves) are amazingly trainable if you speak Dog well and she also said that he doesn`t sound aggressive, per se, but just not thoroughly trained and vying for dominance because he is still unsure of his place in the world because of his unstable and “sheltered” background.
So I feel so much better to have received some expert guidance that actually works and to be implementing solutions. It makes me feel confident, more self-assured, and not alone. I will keep you posted on investigating and instigating ongoing classes for Ami and how that fares. Importantly, my friends and family have also been giving me really helpful and supportive advice. It is touching and soothing to feel firmly that Ami and I are definitely not alone on our journey and that people want to help us.
I am also learning that if what I think is fully informed and functional, then other people’s opinions have less power or I give them less power, and know that what I am now doing is right.. There is so much to be said, in my opinion, for having full facts and expertise on my side, even if that expertise isn’t mine -yet.
I also think receiving help and being able to give help may be another huge lesson that Ami and I are learning.
I am also learning what being out there involved in living is like and what other people feel and think and how much we’re all actually alike, and how I need to let my guard down, open up, and stop judging myself and others so harshly. We’re all on this adventure together and maybe we’re specifically all here to help each other out.
I am also learning just how important clarity is; how so very important. No one is a mind reader and some people/creatures don’t share my language. Clarity is so simple and yet so easily dismissed. Let me give you an example. To say to someone, “Blah blah blah blah,” in a really loud voice means nothing, but to say, “Don’t do that,” in their own language might produce an actual result that can be repeated.
To explain to someone what I really mean also lets them know that my shit is all about me and there’s nothing for them to take personally because what I say and do and how I react is all about me. I have to work on being clear and non-reactive in the “moment,” which is the hard part because that’s not my default. I think it is really important also to stay engaged with other people, not to hide or shy away, but to talk things through, to find common ground, to be kind rather than right, but maybe I’m getting off track now, and if I am, that’s okay, too.
Basically I guess I am slowly striving to reprogram my defaults or at least reset them to what they perhaps once were. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I am learning, just that I am and that every so often I go, Oh, wow, so that’s what I just learned. Amicus is like a whole self-help university all in one dog. I’m so glad I met him and so glad he’s my good friend. Canis Emeritus Amicus.
I want to write about the computer virus I just went through, visiting Valentine Mountain with Amicus, buying a new computer, and all the leaps and bounds of progress he and I are experiencing, and I will write all that down, but right now, I feel like talking about something else because it’s on my mind and whether it comes out clearly or not maybe doesn’t matter.
I am an imperfect dog owner and I have an imperfect dog. That may seem like an obvious statement and perhaps everyone out there but me just automatically accepts that about others and about themselves, but I find it quite a leap. Of course, it’s not all about dogs and owning them, but really more deeply about just accepting my imperfection in everything.
I am realizing that no matter how good I may be at something which in some cases is stellar and in others not so much, but it doesn’t matter, I may, in fact, be an expert in some things, but no matter what it is, I will NEVER be perfect at it. It’s impossible. I’ve never really gone that far; maybe only so far as to accept, yes, we shouldn’t really strive too much to be perfect, thinking because it’s too difficult a journey and usually we’re not up to it, but I now realize that it’s not too difficult a journey, it’s an impossible journey and a colossal waste of time, energy and spirit.
It’s a laudable thing to improve and to grow, but unless I allow that large open room of imperfection to sit comfortably within me, to furnish that room with pictures of all my loved ones and to know that it is a very human room in which I will spend a large portion of my life, I will forever be creating distance between myself and others by actually living with some irretrievable fictional hope of what something/someone should be, should look like, a picture that will never ever realize itself anywhere but in my worried insane high-standard of it’s just not good enough.
Well, this is again something that Amicus is teaching me every day. He teaches it by being himself 100 percent 24/7 unflinchingly imperfect and thereby downright loveable. He needs to work on things and so do I. He’s scared of people and I have a lot of fear, as well. Sometimes he is not very clear and because of confusion something goes wrong; well, I’m not very clear sometimes, either, and people can’t read my mind. When I am calm, clear, and confident, Ami does exactly what he should do all the time. When Ami is clear, I know I better get him outside real quick or buy more carpet product, that sort of thing.
I don’t know if I’m explaining this coherently or not, but somehow accepting this concept of imperfection feels so good and so overdue. Like, for example, since I got Ami, the actual room I live in is messy and crazy whereas before everything had a specific place and there was no room for anything out of place. Now, I’m like all those people in movies I’ve always admired. Whenever I see a house or an apartment in a movie, I like to check out the furnishing, decoration, lived-in-ness, and I have often thought, boy, those movie sets look more lived in than my real place. I wish I could be like that.
Well, now I have one of those messy comfortable imperfect places where a body can come and go and really live, that wonderful crazy comfortable room of imperfection that Amicus and I now live in, the house that Amicus built.
It’s real estate I highly recommend.