Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Looks Cool in the Morning

Back in 1986, when I saw my backyard fence look like this, I was sure I had an irresponsible neighbor who was surely going to set the property on fire.

After our drenching rains soaked the world of California, this morning the sun came up in a cloudless sky, and steamed the excess wetness out.

Back in pre-1985 Pennsylvania, fences didn't steam, and February was a month of cold slushy days and dirty snow. Twenty years later, here in the Central Valley, I now know that a smoky-looking fence is a sure sign of spring.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tools of the Trade

From the left: grooming mitt, leather gloves to protect my hands from cold and potential leash-burns, a thin (and cheap) kennel lead. Then a short black goat-lead (yes, goat, you read that right), two chain collars, a green nylon collar for a dog to wear when he's riding in the car, a leather leash that originally belonged to Babe, and a 10 foot training leash.

Not represented is a soft red slip lead because it was in the car.

Bernie made me this cute wooden rack for Kermit's stuff. It hangs on the wall behind the bedroom door, perfect for a left-handed grab while my right hand signals Kermit to sit or lie down to get ready for an outing.

The mitt and gloves are pretty understandable, but why so many things, and what is their purpose?

The thin kennel lead is something I can tuck in any pocket (I have one in the glove compartment of the car, too) and use to show Kermit what I want him to do, such as lie down and stay put in any given place instead of pestering people. It's a slip lead; it has an eye at one end and a handle on the other. That way it can hang loosely around the dog's neck if the dog is calm, or be tightened under the dog's ears to control his head. What Kermit has learned from it is that he is to pay attention to what I want him to do. It's not a punishment, it's a permit to relax and not have to think things out for himself.

The goat lead is a nylon handle with a snap end. It hooks to Kermit's chain collar. At that arm-length and dog-height, he doesn't need to put any pressure on it to walk properly at my side. Lillian had one when she was showing goats for 4-H, and I knew it could be a useful tool.

The two chain collars ... one was Howie's, and fit Kermit when I got him. A "choke" collar like that should have a four-inch drop -- uhh, that is, if you tighten it up high on the neck under the dog's ears, there should be four inches of chain running to your leash. This kind of collar is not to choke a dog, but a quick tug makes a clanking symbol to Pay Attention Now. Babe's old chain collar is in a secret place in my studio, too big for Kermit, as Kermit doesn't have the heavy thick neck pelt that Babe did. But Howie's chain collar is now too small for his froggy successor.

The nylon collar is simply for car travel, so Kermit can still his head out the window and not put nicks in the glass with the chain collar. I don't like what nylon collars do to fur, so it's strictly a car outfit.

The leather lead is what I use most often lately; the 10 foot training lead is handy for when we're out in the woods and I don't want him off leash to chase squirrels, and was invaluable when Kermit was just learning how to go for a walk -- I could use it as a slip lead to control his big head, but the long length was good for letting him sniff the new world he found himself in.

But lately, he's been "getting it" and walking pretty darn gentlemanly with the leash hanging in a loop, putting no pressure at all on my hand. Makes me feel good, seeing my big dog padding along at my side, checking on my attention to make sure he's doing right.

Right now, he's coiled on an oversized ottoman by my knees, waiting to see what we're going to do next, dozing until I'm ready to move. Oh, good dog.