Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Great Dog Swap

I swapped Lomax for his brother Liam for a few days after Thanksgiving; it's good to move the dogs around a bit to get them used to adapting to new environments and schedules. Besides, I wanted to get a more objective assessment of how Lomax is doing, and I trust Liam's puppy raisers. They hold their dogs to a high standard and do consistently good work, so this was also an opportunity for me to compare the two boys and see what I can reasonably expect from Lomax in terms of obedience.

From all reports, my little yellow dog did very well and was quite adaptable! He walks a little fast sometimes, and could stand to be more attentive to his handler, but these are issues I knew about. We've been working on them daily and really concentrating on them in our weekly obedience class. Hopefully it's just a matter of maturity. I have heard many puppy raisers say that sometimes the light will just go on one day: "Ohhhh! I get it now. You don't WANT me to chase birds!"

It was fun to see how similar the two of them are, personality-wise. They can both be wiggly wonders, happy little dogs with big smiles and long tongues and wagging behinds. The night we switched back, we let them run around and play in my apartment. They were two furry peas in a pod, tugging and running and wrestling and slobbering on each other with what I perceived to be great brotherly affection.

I love sweet Liam, but I desperately missed young master Lomax, and have been showering him with hugs and kisses ever since his return.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hairy Potter and the Goblet of Fur

Today Lomax turned 14 months old, so I took him to see a matinee at my favorite movie theater. It was a nice respite from the ridiculous heat we're experiencing right now in Southern California (Accursed Santa Ana winds! I want to wear my turtlenecks!), which has brought on a response from Lomax's Emergency Hair Shedding System. He's like one of those cactus plants that shoot their needles at you if you get too close.

We got there early and took a seat, called my roommate to brag about what a good theater patron Lomax is, and fielded a few questions from the nice family sitting next to us. My favorite, from the little girl:

"Your dog is very cute! I've never seen a dog at the movies before. What if it's scary? Will he be scared?"

I told her that Lomax is very brave.

This theater has plenty of space between rows, so he was nice and comfy. The stadium seating allowed him to peek between the chairs in front of us whenever he wanted to lift his head and see something. He slept through much of Harry Potter, but he was quite interested in one particular preview shown before the film. I saw what was coming and looked carefully for his response...still in a "down/stay" position, but ears up, brow wrinkly, eyes bright, and tail wagging subtly.

Sure enough, it was a preview for the almost-certain-to-be-beyond-lame Tim Allen remake of The Shaggy Dog, complete with requisite "Who Let the Dogs Out?" soundtrack. I told him we could rent that one, but I'm not paying ten bucks to see it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Runs in the Family

He's lived here for weeks now, nearly two months. All of a sudden, he starts doing this, which is another habit he has in common with brother Liam.

It's like when twins are separated at birth and raised in different adoptive families, separated by miles and borders and cultures...and they both grow up to be tap-dancing ornithologists who speak Portugese and collect antique fishing tackle.

He doesn't drag other blankets or towels around, just the one from his crate. At least it picks the hair up off the carpet as he goes. If only I could teach him to use the Swiffer on the bathroom floor.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lomax's (Not So) Secret Love

A few posts back, I mentioned that Lomax's first puppy raiser warned me to watch out for a water bottle fetish that ultimately, at least in my experience, he seems to have overcome. But our trip to my church's "Fall Festival of Fun" carnival enlightened me as to a few of his other interests.

For example -- and Joanna had also warned me about this one -- he does enjoy balloons. One of the kids had left a very small balloon on the ground behind a table, and Lomax spied it just before I did; fortunately, a quick "Leave it!" did the trick.

Secondly, there's the basketball obsession. Our obedience class meets at a park next to a basketball court where there's always a spirited pickup game; we were placed at the end of the line one night, which I thought would be good because there would only be dogs on one side of us. Lomax was perfectly focused and alert...until the game started and a pack of wildly flailing, smack-talking, "BOOyah"-ing young men sped past us, laughing and swatting at each other on their way to the hoop nearest us.

BOIIINNNNNGGGGG! Lomax snapped. Lunge, wag, spring, pull. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Jenny responded. Pop, command, correct, control. I did get his focus back, but every time the guys were on our end of the court, he wanted to go play.

I thought it was the running and excitement that had captured his attention, but at the Fall Festival, I noticed a similar theme. We heeled past the bounce house full of giggling and shrieking kids, no problem. Tables full of food, didn't even look. Speakers blasting music, no big deal. Free-throw shoot, BOIIINNNNNGGGGG!

Hmm. Let's try this again. Bean bag toss, been there. Ring toss, done that. Bowling with some 2-liter soda bottles and a basketb--BOIIINNNNNGGGGG!

I suspect Lomax's real ambition is to become a point guard for the Lakers.

Don't get me wrong, I'd be fine with that if I thought he would use the exorbitant salary to pay his share of the rent, maybe pitch in for the gas money I'm spending to drive him around town all the time. But I suspect he'd get swept up in the sports celeb scene and fritter away his millions on balloons, babes and bling. He's very smart, but I'm concerned about his financial savvy and his discernment when it comes to gold-digging Golden Retrievers.

So we've had a long talk, and despite his initial protestations that "Air Bud" was very successful and popular with the chicks, I think we've agreed that guide work is a much more noble and important career. I assured him that girls find him plenty attractive without the uniform and the tattoos. But in a spirit of compromise, I'm letting him keep this.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Backyard Buddies

Lomax and I went over to Trooper's this afternoon so his puppy raiser Madeline could attend a function dog-free. While the boys are members of the same puppy group as well as classmates in Tuesday night obedience, we hadn't yet been over for a playdate; I was unsure what to expect, because even though Lomax is an appropriately submissive dog, it's Trooper's turf and he can be a little pushy. But I had nothing to worry about. Taking advantage of the fact that Madeline has an actual house with an actual yard, the handsome boys of boundless energy spent a hefty chunk of time in boisterous run/tug/tussle/fetch/snort mode, with nary a sign of aggression.

I was very pleased with Lomax's attentiveness! I asked him to "drop" his end of the toy several times in mid-tug, and he was very good about that (unlike "Lockjaw" Trooper, who surrenders what's in his mouth to NO man). He was also quite willing to come to me when I called, even in the heat of, playtime. His fine efforts were met, as always, with heaps of praise and kisses and ear- and bellyrubs.

Lomax has also been more affectionate with me recently. It's not that he was standoffish or shy before -- or that I didn't try to encourage affection -- it's more that he was acting like a proper English gentleman: polite and dignified, not overly emotionally demonstrative and kissy, and respectful of a lady's boundaries. (This is how Amy and I came to refer to him as "Lord Lomax.") I think, though, that he and I are continuing to bond as time goes on. He's more likely to cuddle up next to me on the floor unbidden now, more likely to be an enthusiastic ear-licker if I'm within range. And I think I may retract my assessment that brother Liam is the "happiest dog I've ever met," because my sweet Lomax is an absolute joy machine with smiles and wags and wiggles for all.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Does This Photo Make My Butt Look Big?

His work ethic knows no limits. His creed? "On concrete or carpet, towels or turf, I will sleep the deep slumber of the waiting springboard of potential energy -- the working dog -- ready at a moment's notice for the instruction, the treat, the potty break, or the beloved release command! Onward! Zzzzzzzz."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Collateral Damage

My black tights, which I am wearing today because it's raining and I'm in a skirt, do not enjoy the velcro strap from Lomax's puppy jacket, which made ferocious contact as I was hurriedly removing said puppy jacket so said little dog could pee quickly so we could get out of the rain. No good, I say. No good.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

And Some Days, We Are Just Spoiled

Ciao, Bella!

Last night Lomax and I attended a barbecue -- hot dogs, of course -- in celebration of Bella, a sweet little female Lab who's being turned in for formal training today. After a nice out-of-jacket, off-leash few minutes of greeting and sniffing and running with lovely Bella, Lomax was once again relegated to working status.

I could tell it was hard work for Mr. Happy (one of his many nicknames). I had him back on leash and in jacket, sitting or lying at my feet, the rest of the time we were there. He does love everyone! Perhaps it's simply the force of his wagging tail that propels his happy hiney out of a nice sit position, but calm greetings are still a challenge for us. I know he'll get better at it -- Bella's people were saying that two months ago, she was the same way, and that something just clicked one day in terms of maturity. She sat beautifully still...perhaps contemplating her impending time at college?

It was a fun evening, and good practice for both of us. All I could think, though, was that this "night before turn-in" will be upon me before I know it. I am already dreading the moment I will switch off my bedroom light with Lomax next to my bed for the last time. It will be a horrible and beautiful thing, letting him go.

I spent the rest of the evening watching TV with Amy and cuddling on the floor with an exhausted dog. Good work, little man.