Monday, June 20, 2011

Roast Beef

We have a dog trainer. He said that for our first session with Cherry Blossom we should bring roast beef to class. He has seen a dog owner train with lettuce as a reward, but he wants to make a clear impact in one specific instance, so we are to bring the treats we normally train with and roast beef. Thus yesterday at the grocery store we looked at roast beef. The first piece I picked up cost $18! Found a cheaper piece, but we were puzzled over whether or not to cook it. My husband said no, I said yes, so tonight for my consideration we are cooking it.

Last week we met with the trainer without our dog. Been practicing our homework, although, since it wasn't demonstrated I'm a little confused over whether I'm doing it right. Doesn't matter, all that Cherry knows is that after I say her name, sometimes, she gets good things to eat. And while I'm popping treats in her mouth I'm saying "yes". So this is what the power of "yes" tastes like! Been working on sits, downs, and stay commands, even though this was not part of the homework.

The total power in Cherry's gaze when I give a stay command and step away. I keep our eyes locked and she is totally alert, waiting, for me to return, give her the treat and say "free". She doesn't really get the release command yet, she stays in place for extra measure usually after she's gotten her treat.

In order to emphasize our dominance, we are putting her in her crate while we eat dinner and feeding her only after we are finished. The first night we did this she sat in her crate with her back turned toward us! She dissed us! I said to my husband that this little exercise certainly made an impression on her, or else she would have just lain down in her crate and rested as usual. Ultimately, what we want out of Cherry is to go lay down in a corner of the kitchen as we eat our food. But since she really doesn't yet know the stay command, we crate her. My husband was in the habit of feeding her before he made our dinner, it was to his mind a soothing order, eating while knowing that all the chores were taken care of. He was so resistant to changing the order of who gets fed when that I had to insist upon taking the responsibility myself of feeding Cherry. So now I make her dinner after our dinner. I believe in the trainer's rational that this establishes dominance, and I witnessed the psychological impact it had on the dog. She has never, ever, sat in her crate with her back turned toward us! My husband worried that I would complain about having the responsibility to feed her, but I promised to never ever complain.

I'm afraid that most of the discipline in our house comes from me. It isn't in my husband's nature to discipline. I'll give you a shocking example. When his young daughter brought home a note from her teacher saying that she had not been doing her homework, he sent back a note saying it was his opinion that she didn't have to do her homework if she didn't want to. I have never, ever, heard of a parent saying that they sided with their child in not doing homework. I think that rather than confront his child, he felt more comfortable confronting the teacher! So if he cared so little about disciplining his child, imagine how little he cares about disciplining his dog! If there are to be rules in the house, not only do I have to lay them down, I have to enforce them. (His child had to do an extra year of high school because she was such a poor student. My husband has a genius IQ so he could do well in school and never study much, alas, his daughter does not have a genius IQ.)

Today I couldn't paint. I was planning on painting the body of a huge bug. Maybe all those shades of brown turned me off. My head wasn't in a painting place. I took a shower. Yeah! Score one for small victories! Then I took Cherry for a walk so that I could practice the commands outdoors where there are more distractions. Had some nervousness about leaving the house and pounding the pavement. A schizophrenic friend I have has trouble leaving her apartment too and simply going for a walk. She knows she needs the exercise. She knows that the area she lives in is green, safe, and inviting. And yet, twinges of paranoia. Unless I'm going someplace fun (like shopping) it is hard to step out into the world. It takes a pinch of courage.

Now that Cherry is bigger (almost seven months old!) my husband and I are going on nightly hour walks. The route we take is about three miles long. I know the exercise is flattening my stomach and helping me to lose weight. I'm still not back to the same shape I was in last summer when my husband and I were swimming for 50 minutes stretches and doing water aerobics, but close. Now we don't have the money for a swim membership and we have a puppy. What is helping me get fit the most has been dropping the Seroquil and adding more Geodone. My eating habits are altered. After I eat dinner I stop eating before sleep. My appetite is no longer stimulated by the evening dose of Seroquil, and even if I'm hungry, I can ignore it and stick to my diet.

My mom is 71 and very svelte, yet she eats tons of food. Its her energy level that keeps her in shape. She is always going, going, going. It shocks her how little I eat, and yet, I'm slightly overweight. I keep on telling her that I don't have her metabolism. My illness or the drugs keep me sedentary. I read, watch movies, paint, or cruise the internet. I don't have the mental energy to move my body around too much. Oh, there is a mind body connection in me. Tax my mind and I know my body doesn't want to move. Completely overtax my mind and I'm driven into catatonia.

Cherry Blossom is a challenge to me because we have no back yard for her to run around in, her usual form of exercise is to be walked. Last week the dog trainer asked us what was the number one method of keeping a dog well behaved. It was to exercise them, and not just walks! A tired dog is a good dog. He said walking a dog is not enough, they need to run, they need aerobic exercise. So I try to do the next best thing - give Cherry two walks a day and make them as long as possible. I recently read in a dog magazine that there is a town in Italy that will fine a dog owner if the owner does not take his dog for three walks a day. In my mind is a dreadful, powerful guilt over not giving Cherry the exercise she needs. I'm prompted, I'm harassed, and I'm chased by the specter of my duty towards my dog. And somewhere in this desire to give the animal the best quality existence is the happy knowledge that I'm doing my own body a good as well.

Cherry Blossom is keeping me healthy in big and small ways. My heart, as a pumping muscle organ, as a pretty metaphor, as the center of my existence, is strengthened by the challenges of loving Cherry.

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