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[Koira icon] This page contains archived entries from   January 12 through March 25,  2003

[Koira icon]   January 12, 2003 — Beginnings

     When you weigh less than three pounds, almost everything seems bigger than you. But today was a very big day by any standards. Today I left the home where I was born and set out for parts unknown. At first I was scared and confused. I missed my dog Mom and sister and the rest of my pack, and I missed my human Mom and Dad, too. I love them all very much. But on the long drive to the New World, I got to know my two new people and began to really like them.

     After awhile I quite enjoyed watching the scenery roll by outside the car. At one point we slowed down and drove up to a building with some big yellow arches. To my amazement, a loud voice came right out of a hole in the wall, and my new humans talked to it! Then they got bags of something that smelled delicious. They wouldn't let me have any, but it was awfully interesting, just the same. Do you have any idea how loudly french fries speak?!

     A few hours later, we picked up another dog — a big, yellow guy. They said he was my new brother, Lumi. Soon we arrived at a house, and Lumi and I were formally introduced. He's cumbersomely large, but a swell playmate, and a real pushover. I'll have no trouble being the alpha dog around here! After Lumi and I played for awhile, I was introduced to the concept of a backyard — someting totally foreign to me until now. It was awfully cold out there, but the place has potential. Back inside, my new Mom held me on her lap until I got sleepy, then I conked out for the night in my own personal den. I guess I'm home.

[Koira icon]   January 23, 2003 — Settling In

     I've lived with my new family for almost two weeks now, and I've pretty much learned the ropes. I have to admit, though, that I don't always understand the way these humans think. For example, they're always lecturing me about the importance of housebreaking. But when I try to break in the house, they gasp in alarm, come dashing over with a paper towel, and proceed to blot out my hard work. The inconsistency of it is just maddening! And every few minutes they whisk me out to that backyard place, which is getting annoying. I just start to get really involved in a rambunctious romp with Lumi, and suddenly I'm airborne, out the door, and plunked down in the snow. What's up with that?

     Mom and Dad do know some good games. My favorite one is called clicker training. Here's how it works. They point this little white box at me, the box makes a cute, snappy noise, and then they give me a treat. At first I thought the box itself was spitting out the treats, but I quickly realized that the person holding the box was the source. (And I know who the real Santa Claus is, too.) It's a pretty simplistic game, but maybe later I'll teach Mom and Dad some tricks to go along with the clicking. That would make the game more interesting.

[Koira icon]   January 25, 2003 — Introductions

     I've met several other humans in the past week. The first bunch was nice enough, but their house smelled suspicious. Their alpha was named Vet. I liked her personally, but the visit ended badly. She was a little too direct in making a point. I had better luck when Mom took me to her meeting of a group of people she called Puppet Ears. I really don't see what was so special about their ears; mine were superior, by far. But they were a nice pack of humans, and I got to sit on six different laps.

     I was also introduced this week to a fellow named Mr. Punch. He was rather garish, a bit eccentric, and undeniably vertically-challenged. Mom says I'll be working with this guy in the future, but I'm not sure I trust him. He doesn't seem to have much common sense. I mean, look at him in this photo. Mom is always telling Lumi and me to "Be careful!" But you don't see either of us perched precariously on a one-inch thick wall. All the king's horses, buddy!!
[Humpty Punch]

[Koira icon]   February 1, 2003 — Dogsitting

     Over the weekend I learned I have an Uncle Paul Eide, and he came to take care of me while Mom and Dad were off with that Punch guy in someplace called Ely. Paul is part of that Puppet Ears group. My new uncle and I got along famously. We're both very distinctive, what with him being paul-eyed and me dog-eared. I taught Uncle Paul one of my favorite games: Try to Catch Koira When She's Being Evasive. He was pretty good at it and would usually run around for several minutes before I'd let him grab me. He has a great stomach for taking naps on; there's a pillow built right in. Hey, Uncle Paul! You can dog-sit for me anytime!

[Uncle Paul]

[Koira icon]   February 13, 2003 — Now We're Clicking

     I've been playing the clicker game with Mom and Dad a lot lately, and they've learned some useful tricks. For example, I taught them to click and give me a treat when I sit or lie down. For some reason they want to tell me to do the thing first, and then I get the click and treat. Sure, fine, whatever. You want me to lie around and get a treat for it? No problem! I'm more than happy to rest on my laurels. They made up one odd little game themselves: they click and treat me if I touch the end of a dowel stick with my nose. Is this Wood Shop? Will I be making a napkin holder next?

     I've also started going to school at Good Dog! Training Services. (They must have named the place after me. I imagine they're referring to how well I've trained Mom and Dad.) The first class was a little scary. There are a bunch of other puppies in the group who are bigger and rowdier than I am, so I was reluctant to play with them. But this week I made friends with Nutmeg, a terrier puppy who's closer to my size. We got to romp around in a separate area so we wouldn't be stampeded by the other guys. That was fun. But I was a little disappointed that there weren't better snacks. I just got my usual little clicker niblets, and I had to sit for them. I thought kindergartners were supposed to get juice and graham crackers and stuff!

[Koira icon]   March 2, 2003 — Milking the System

     My brother, Lumi, is an old hand (er, paw) at this training game. He's given me a few pointers. Lumi says success with clicker training comes from a simple, three-part philosophy: 1) Don't do anything for free. 2) Hold out for the good stuff. 3) Why take one treat when five will do? Words to live by! First of all, I've stopped performing for boring little bits of kibble. You want me to work? Let's talk turkey, baby! Or cheese, or liver biscotti, or Teddy Grahams. Second, you must convince the humans that you can only learn a new behavior if they break it down for you into parts, each of which is reinforced by clicks and yummy treats. I tried this on Mom and Dad, and they fell for it hook, line, and sinker! For example: Even though I like being held, I've always been a little shy about being reached for. I would run away a lot when someone tried to grab me. (It's a pretty fun game, actually.) So Mom and Dad decided to train me out of this phobia. Instead of just giving me a treat every time they caught me, they broke the whole thing down into steps. For the first few days, I got clicks and treats (c/t) any time I walked in the trainer's direction. Then for a few days I got c/t if I walked up to the trainer and touched his or her hand with my nose. Then, a few days later, I got c/t for touching the hand when held over my head. Then, c/t for touching the hand and then allowing the hand to pet me. Then finally, I let them pick me up and got a jackpot of treats. Just think of how many treats I got during this whole drawn-out process! Lumi says he's been working the system like this for years. (Well, two. He's only two years old.) Thanks, bro! You're a genius!

[Koira icon]   March 13, 2003 — The Voice of Reason

     I used to be the strong, silent type, but lately I've had to become more vocal. There are so many unexplained sounds in the world! There are chirps, squeaks, squeals, creaks, caws, honks, low voices, etc., and they could all mean danger! My humans just ignore all this, so it falls to me to warn them in a piercing, yappy voice. Lumi is pretty useless at this job. Granted, he'll bark if someone comes to the door, but he doesn't seem to notice all the other scary noises. I mean, I know I'm the Alpha Dog and all that, but hey! A little help here, okay?

     So anyway, you'd think Mom and Dad would be grateful for my efforts, but no. They want me to be quiet. When I start barking, they tell me to stop. If I don't, they give me two choices: either 1) lie down quietly on my mat and get a tasty bone to chew, or 2) go into my crate for some "quiet time." I prefer the mat and bone, but the crate is a comfy den, so it isn't so bad. Still, it's frustrating that I can't just speak my mind. And I'm a little ticked at Lumi for not backing me up. When the going gets "Ruff," he goes off and naps in the basement. "Maybe he just wants some peace and quiet," Mom will say. And then she'll stare in my direction. Hey! You lookin' at me? Are you lookin' at me?

[Mat Time]

[Koira icon]   March 22, 2003 — Blogging Backward?

     It's come to my attention that most blogs are written with the newest entry at the top of the page and the oldest at the bottom. My blog arrangement is just the opposite. So am I doing it wrong? I don't care! I'm a Rebel! A Rebel With Paws. Except when I'm in a yapping frenzy; then I'm a Rebel Without A Pause.

[Koira icon]   March 25, 2003 — Literary Relativity

     Mom says that her Mom is coming to visit us soon. Mom's Mom is excited about meeting her new granddog. (I am grand, it's true!) Grandma (that's the proper term, I think) sounds pretty grand herself. She's just had a book published, called Looking for the Lights and the Music. It's about growing up during the Great Depression and World War II. This book is marvelous; readers say they couldn't put it down. What I like best is, it's got dogs in it.

     (Did that first paragraph sound like a plug? I'm sure it isn't. I've been told never to chew on plugs.)

     According to her book, Grandma and I had some pretty interesting relatives, back in the day. One, an Uncle Volney Phifer, was an animal trainer. He traveled around with all sorts of exotic creatures, including a feline called Leo the MGM Lion. Leo got famous by roaring at the beginning of MGM movies. (Is this fair? When I make noise I don't get famous, I just get scolded. And why did people find this cat so impressive? Sure, he weighed 700 pounds, but he barely had any ears at all!) Cousin Leo was also an actor, and he made personal appearances. Uncle Volney took the lion all over North America in the 1930s to advertise MGM movies.

     So now I know where my acting talents (and Mom's animal trainer whims) come from. Mom says it's our roots. (Hey, I like roots. They're delicious when dug up in the backyard and consumed with a side of rotted leaves.) Mom is so interested in this lion trainer uncle that she's writing his biography. Grandma's got a book, Mom's got a book... shouldn't I write one, too? "You are writing one," Mom assures me. "Your blog is the autobiography of a dog star, in serial format." I think that means she's going to feed me cereal on my mat. Awright!!

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