Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy 6th Gotcha Day for all of us

Six years ago today, we decided we'd take my mom downtown for a pint of beer. We were a couple of miles up the road and Steve said,"let's go see what puppies are in at the SPCA."

We did. And we brought home the baby Beast, formally known as 'Boscoe' and currently known as "Bugsy". Or Beastie, or Monkey, or MacGillicutty or Kramer or.....

We had a lot to learn, fortunately he is a great teacher, so we've got most of it down.

I've shared many escapades here and I can only assure you that the funny ones were actually a lot funnier.

Today I've been thinking about all the changes in our lives that are attributable to adding him to our family.

Any dog owner can tell you about the hair, toys, fluff, slobber, travel issues and various other 'negatives' of dog ownership. No doubt things are different, my home is not as neat and guests are greeted a little too exuberantly.

However, the changes I have been thinking about are the good ones; the ones that have put this goofy grin on my face.
He makes me laugh out loud at least once a day, usually many times a day.
His joy for life is contagious.
EVERYTHING is exciting.

I've learned so much about dogs: their behavior, abilities, communication methods and most importantly I've learned how to work with them to elicit their best.

It was Bugsy's mischievous nature that led me to a dog forum where I have made many friends, good friends, and where I learned which books to read and was able to debate the methods of working with him.

Bugsy's energy level has dictated that he is walked or run daily (twice daily when he was at his craziest) and this brings me to another wonderful thing he has done for us.

Having walked him daily for 6 yrs I've met pretty much everyone who ventures out for a walk around here. I am the lady with the big black dog. The other day I went out on my own and 4 people (2 in cars) stopped to ask if he was OK.

Through these walks and people wanting to meet Bugsy I've made great friends.
The friends we will celebrate Christmas and New Year's with, and birthdays and Thanksgiving and pretty much every holiday and some ad hoc gatherings too.

I could go on for a long time about all the wonderful things he has brought us and all the wonderful people who are in our lives now because of him but it would bore everyone to tears (some of you have probably already hit that mark).

He has been so much more than we expected: in size, energy, & mischief but more importantly in love and smiles.

Thanks Bugsy, I sure hope we have many more healthy, happy and insane years ahead!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Duke : take 2

We were very happy to have been selected to return to the Duke Canine Cognition Center, especially when we were assigned to the impulse control study. If you've met Bugsy you know he isn't a master of impulse control so we were sure it would prove interesting.
Today was the day and this is my attempt to write up what occurred. I must first say that Bugsy has been flat since the end of last week and although he seemed more chipper today he still was clearly not totally himself. This actually helped us out I think.
The handler only weighed 5lbs more than Bugsy and we all had a concern about this, although as I assured them he would, as soon as she asked him to work he was very focused on his task.

In the first task one tester was behind plexiglass panels. She had a treat. She called him in a very excited manner and once released he ran up to the screen and then around it. His time was just over 2 seconds.
No matter how they positioned the panels he quickly went around them to receive his treat.
One time he ran up to the panels, stuck his head in the gap and took the treat- this caught the person behind the screen by surprise,..... but not as much as when he then continued around the panel and kissed her.

Apparently many dogs take a bit to give up trying to get through the panels before going around them. The panels are see-through so dogs tend to not process why they can see the person but not get the treat.

Then there was a 2 minute break to settle down (and seemingly for them to get more organized).
Then they ran the same study however when they called him they did it with the flattest affect possible.
It was quiet funny to watch him, he clearly wasn't too sure (think furrowed brow and chin scratching, hmmm) but he went to her, around the panels and got the treat. I think his times were in the 5-7 second range.

I believe that they are allotted 30 seconds to complete the task so his times were quick.
More importantly to me he was very well behaved and focused.
He had caused some chaos on his way in and as we tried to discuss the process; it wasn't as ridiculous as last time but it still put a pit in my stomach that he wouldn't settle down.

Despite them being disorganized (enough so that I lost interest so I have no idea how Bugsy hung in there!!) we finished early and they asked if they could do another test with him.
Of course I said yes as it was clear Bugsy was still enjoying the tests and testers.......and treats!

In the second test some food was placed in a tupperware bowl which at first was not fully closed so he could bang it open and get the treat.
Then they fully closed it and it couldn't be opened.
The tub was placed in the middle of the room and the two testers were in different positions in the room; one looking forward and the other looking away from Bugsy.
They were monitoring what he would do once he realized he couldn't open it; who would he go to for help?

Of course this meant he had to first come to terms that he couldn't open it.
This took a bit of time but eventually he gave up and went over to the girl that had filled the tub and kissed her. He also went to the other girl and stared at her.
They did 8 different variations of this and in each case one or both testers got kissed.
He did give up sooner as the test went on and he started to pay less attention to the girl that did NOT fill the tub, and IMHO more importantly, she NEVER OPENED the tub and gave him access to the treats.
He did not seem bothered about the direction the testers were facing and I feel confident that he saw the one girl as the treat dispenser so that is who he went to for assistance.
On the 8th try he didn't even push the tub he just looked at each tester, quickly licked the 'chosen' one and collapsed in a heap in the middle of the floor. LOL

When we reunited I apologized for him quitting and they said he was the first dog to complete all 8 tries!! Yea Bugsy!!

Once again it was fun to watch, although this test felt less organized so a little less interesting to me. There also wasn't much wrap-up compared to last time and that was the best part for me.

Bugsy performed well and loved doing it. He'll remain in the database and be available for additional studies. Both of the students LOVED him and of course he ate that up.
I do think his energy was subnormal but it was plenty for what he was asked to do. Another fun experience for both of us!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Life does not pass Bugsy by, he makes the most of every moment.

After a week of monitoring the movements of a mole and a hawk that wanted the mole, he won the prize, capturing and killing the mole.

If you do everything at warp speed you can add more to your day

His philosophy is clearly never be thwarted by the wishes of humans, even if they say they don't want kisses, just kiss them. Barge your way in, keep your tongue licking, and distract them with much wiggling and various frenetic activity. Just when they think they've got you beat, you'll get a full tongue on their lips. It's worth any damage that occurs to your tail.

Lastly stuffed toys are for destroying. Sometimes you might keep them intact for a while but then you just destroy them. Because that IS why they exist.