Happy Fourth Of July, Now, Please Go Protect Your Pets

I am beginning to see the truth in the way New Jersey handled this back in the day.

They banned anything that went “bang”.

Luckily we have some “doggy downers” from the vet in the house.  I have learned to dose him about a half hour before sunset which takes the edge off.

Rack, my McNab SuperDog (TM) is like just about every other dog I can think of.  He hates Thunderstorms and Fireworks.  It turns him into a shivering mess.

This is the day where more dogs go missing than any other.  He will be hiding in the corner, trying to merge with the couch.  It’s where I sit at night until the sun comes in the front window, then again where I reappear when the sun goes behind the taller buildings to my west.

I expect that since the rednecks down the block are staying here instead of going to someplace else where they can get bit by mosquitoes and go Fish in’ and Hun tin’, they will be shooting off an obscene amount of fireworks tonight.  If not them, someone else will pick up the slack.

Rack is in for it.

Mind you, I like fireworks and the way they look.  Ooh and Ahh and all that.  I used to go to a park in Cherry Hill NJ near the house and watch a number of professional fireworks from a chair or in the comfort of my car.  A good friend Laurie cued me into that you can park in a lot in Cooper River Park and see more fireworks than you could possibly consider firing off in a lifetime from there.  Plus the reflection on the river itself was rather nice.

Bring a camera, preferrably a time lapse one.

So since sundown here is 8:16 PM, We will have gotten our walk in, and I’ll give him his happy pills about a half hour before that.  Hopefully we will get back before they turn this street into a war zone.

Then again, it is wet season and we have an 80% chance of rain.  I’m praying for rain.

On the other hand, I do have a time lapse camera and a porch, and I know how to use them.

Watch over your dogs.  This is not a night to leave them out.  Cats too should be brought inside, well every day since an Outdoor Cat is merely a stray.  People can be evil to strays.

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How to Break Your Dog Using Generic Store-Brand Cereal

I’m on a quest.

You see, every time I go to the market, I buy a different brand of Generic Cereal.   The stuff that looks like if you planted it in the backyard, you would get a bagel growing.  Bagel Seeds.

I mean, Cheerios look like bagel seeds, so you end up getting … well never mind, that simile is stretched to its breaking point.

However you could do worse.  One Gram Of Sugar, It’s Not A Lot.  Per serving that is.  I’m taller than average, so I have one and a half grams in my own Moose Sized Servings.

However, Rack, The McNab SuperDog (TM) knows though that I can be a soft touch.

He follows me around the kitchen and watches.  Since the world is not sized for my own Six-Foot-Four-Inch-One-Hundred-Ninety-Three-Centimeter, 220-Pound-One-Hundred-Kilo frame, I drop things.  Constantly.  Reach into the ice bin in the fridge and I get my five cubes for coffee and drop one.

That hardened into a ritual where he hears the freezer door open, listen for the rattle of my right hand grabbing those cubes, and he gets up and pads into there and waits.

Which is to say I get twin laser beams of brown eyes staring a hole through me.

First mug of coffee ONLY.  I merely say when I hear him get up, “Nope”, and he sits down when I go in for the second mug of coffee.

Being a dog of a lifetime. he currently speaks English well enough that I am learning Spanish to avoid him knowing when I am doing something.  Yeah right, he has figured out that he can also go into the kitchen when I am getting a snack.  Bilingual dog in the making.  What’s next, sign language?

Like those Bagel Seeds.   Generic, of course.

The Generic ones come in various kinds.  The best tasting ones are the ones with mostly oats, and wheat instead of only oats.  The “real” cheerios are Gluten Free and taste like cardboard, only cardboard.  Ok, not quite so bad, they taste like Only Oats which can be fine in making oatmeal with milk and a blob of lemon curd on top and …

But the Generic-with-wheat fake-Cheerios that I like taste sweeter.  No more added sugar, I hope, but I’ll eat them out of hand standing in the middle of the kitchen dropping them on my damn boot as they roll under the refrigerator.

Being a dog, he’s also part vacuum cleaner.  He’ll trot in there and vacuum up the things.

Being me, I upgraded him.  Once.

I took a handful of the bagel seeds and put them in his bowl.   Add milk.  Just a splash.

Now, my dog, is broke.   This dog who has the genetics of being the smartest creature in the pasture has learned that I have the power of milk.

Yes, you guessed it.  He won’t eat them if I don’t put the milk over them and merely gives me That Stare.

“Where’s my milk?!?!?!”

Indeed.  “I didn’t even give myself any milk!”

I ignored him and put the cereal away.  He walked to his hiding corner next to my big green chair and waited.

When I finally sat down he decided it was not going to happen, fifteen minutes later, and had his treat without milk.

I have GOT to stop feeding this dog people food!

It’s bad enough that he knows that the rawhides are stored within reach of my desk.

He’ll do the same thing.  Walk to my left elbow.  Wag his tail for attention.  Stare holes in me, wait for me to ask “What?  Show me!”.  Pad over to the rawhide bag and then lasers.

A beggar of my own creation!

 

Training your Fearful Dog – Rack Rides In The Jeep and gets a Bonus Tornado Warning

I’m sitting here with my foot up on the arm of the couch like I am not supposed to do.   I catch myself doing it and put my foot on the floor.

Why?

We just had a massive storm come through.  It’s strange because April is the driest month.  There was a confirmed Tornado touchdown in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and confirmed touchdown at the Airport in Fort Lauderdale, or Hollywood.

Mind you, this is strange, and the last major storm that we had approaching this was back last year before the end of Hurricane Season.  I guess November or October.

Driest Month.   At least my grass will get watered.

You see that’s the thing.  All these atmospherics and the worst of it is that I’m stuck inside at the Dog Walk Hour with Rack next to me.  He’s not freaking out and shivering, just laying there on guard.

Much better than he was.

I still have video on one of my servers somewhere of Lettie, who predated him, running from room to room in my old house in a T Storm in Philadelphia barking at the skies at every thunder clap.

Rack is too laid back for that.   That is a good thing.

As terrified and fearful as he is, there are things that he just will push the fear aside and do.  That is something that speaks volumes.  You see, some dogs never get past their fears.  They sit in a corner and shiver at the slightest provocation.

I know some people like that.

One thing Rack likes is a Ride In The Car.

To say like is a gross mis-understatement.  It’s like the world likes its electrical gadgets and its internal combustion engines – an addiction that thinking people, even here in the US know, will come to an end… or else.  That’s the thing about Science, it is true whether you believe it or not.

Period.

If I mention that I want to go for a ride in the car in any context, Rack will proceed to

speak in tongues, vibrate, make unintelligible noises, and generally lose his … cool.

Since I only drive my own car very rarely, and normally to keep the battery charged, it only gets out about once a week.

Now, on his best day, Rack is still a dog.  I’m not delusional, but McNab Dog is as intelligent as many children I have met.  Toddlers not being very focused, and a good herding dog will be.

If I say lets go for a ride in the car, he is at the dog, speaking in tongues.  I open the door and he’s out to the regular car.  A Sedan.  And will sit next to His Door waiting to go in.  It’s not all smooth sailing, if a truck gets too close, he dive bombs into the back wheel wells and hides.

On the other hand, I say “Lets Go For A Ride In The Jeep” and he is torn.  He understands the Jeep-ness of the situation and isn’t quite so excited.

The last time I invited him to the land of Jeep, because as you know, anything else is just a car,

He took me up on it.   He walked to the Jeep and gave it the suspicious eye.  Opening the door he hesitated to step in but in he did go.  Parked himself on the Passenger seat and proceeded to give the look of fear that you see in dogs that are excited and terrified at the same time.

I drove out of the driveway and down the street to the first major intersection and he was fine.  I give him what he needs, a way to find success.

In this case it was to go for a ten mile circuit of the area and back.  Nothing special.  About 16 or so KM.

He managed to even relax.  Having him on two lane roads helped since there were few large trucks with evil diesel engines.  He will avoid those even on a walk.  He will try to tear my arm out of its socket trying to get away from those.

Once a few years back on a similar loop, he dove under my feet on the Interstate 95 which was actually terrifying especially since I need both feet to pilot the car.

Manual Transmission which means here in the US it won’t get stolen.

In the intervening years, he’s had plenty of exposure and while it didn’t look like it mattered, it did.

The solution is to keep exposing your dog in safe and small ways to things they dislike.  Eat some of your peas, kid, they’re good for you.

Rack found out, they are good for you, and he got to actually enjoy a ride in the Jeep.  He was still tense, but visibly happier at the end of the experience.

At this point “Do you want to go for a ride in the Jeep” is not a sentence of fear, but an invitation for excitement.  Sure he wishes it was a conventional sedan, but here he can go with Dad In A Ride In The Jeep!

And isn’t that all a kid wants?  Even furry kids?

Now that the rain has stopped… Hey Rack, Hungry yet?  Time to eat!

Good boy!  Gooood Boy!

Training Rack at Lowes or Lost in Hardware

To train a Herding dog you have to keep their minds busy.  Physical exercise and mental exercise.  You know, like a Greek Athlete.

I don’t think that my little McNab SuperDog (TM), Rack will ever throw a discus or take a philosophy course but he’s an amazing creature.

He just wants to help.  He wants to be involved.

He wants to come along.

But we have a long term project.  Low voltage lighting.

You know that weird stuff that can run off of a car battery.  Since it runs at low voltage it doesn’t need quite as much protection and anyone can do it.

We figure that we have about 40 watts of the stuff and you can read on my front porch at midnight due to them.

I have a couple of those three AAA battery lights that are basically a flashlight, and they can be converted over to this system.  I have done that already to a coach lamp that is on my fence.

The rest come piece after piece.

This weekend was a Big Project though.  Run 20 feet of conduit, sink a lamppost in the front of the house, and rehang the mailbox.

Don’t think it’s much?  Stand outside in the front yard holding a post for a solid hour when reinforcements are sent off to the store to get some quick drying concrete.

Since it is winter, do it in full sun, on a cloudless day at 80F/26C.  Give or take a C.

All this activity had Rack confused.  He wanted to come along.  Anywhere.  When he thinks he’s taking a ride in the CAR!!! he starts to burble and basically speak in tongues.  Its comical.  He starts running wind sprints back and forth from the front to the back door whining and making weird coffee-percolator sounds.

Sometimes he is right.

We stopped work so we could take him to the Vet.  That’s fine because it’s one of his favorite places to go.  We went, he got fussed over and we came home.

But there was a stop first.  We needed another piece of conduit to glue to the first pieces laid in the trench I had dug that morning with Rack sitting at the front door looking hopeful.

We took Rack.

You see, Lowes Hardware has a policy of allowing dogs into the store.  This seems to be as official as can be, and it isn’t like some idiot taking a dog into a supermarket, this is a hardware store.

Securing a cart, I picked Rack up off the ground and placed him in the blue plastic apparatus.

He didn’t like that.  Immediately tried to get out.  I did because I didn’t want to be asked to leave because my dog decided to water the plants.

We walked into the store with a 47 pound black and white dog being disrupted by the rattling of the cart across the asphalt.   Getting into the store, he wanted no more of that.

When I say SuperDog (TM) I mean it.  He is a McNab Dog.  One of the most intelligent dogs on the face of the Earth.  But he is fearful.  Fearful means to run.

Or in this case, to leap.

From a sitting position.

Inside of a cart.

Right in front of the orchids.

When he landed on the concrete floor, he was flat, legs pointing to the cardinal points on the compass.  Confused.  Looking very surprised that It Worked.

I put him back in the cart and looped a thumb under his harness and we went about our business.

He was thinking “Hmmm.  To attempt this again or not?  Not completely sure.”

But, by the time we left, he was enjoying himself.  Not acting quite so crazed.  He actually smiled at a kid walking past.

Yes, certain dogs smile.  Others grimace.  I can tell the difference.

But this was a training expedition.  Rack got about a C+ grade.  A little better than average.   Form on the High Dive was a solid 9.

Not olympic form, but a good solid performance.

That’s what training dogs is about.  Taking steps and keeping their minds engaged.

Sometimes all it takes is two sections of PVC Conduit, and a couple bell end 90 degree sections.

(You, British people!  Stop giggling, that’s what they’re called here!)

Rack Can’t Help Fix A Cellphone, or Can He?

I’m that guy. I can repair a piece of electronics down to “the board level” and replace the components that are on it.

Lets be fair, some of the components are beyond me, smaller than a grain of sand. But the larger things are possible.

If I go out and buy a piece of electronics, I look into how repairable it is. I’ve replaced volume controls on a transistor radio, and the USB port on an external hard drive case.

I guess I was lucky that time, everything was spaced out just so.

Some of that can take a small forever to fix too, but I will give it all a try.

Once the warranty is up, I’m going to at least look inside the case of something.

In this case, it was much more involved. “It” was my HTC One M9 Cellphone. “It” was also rated “Very Difficult” to work on by www.ifixit.com and that was fair.

You see these days, you find things sealed up, glued together and made so that you the owner never have a chance of putting a knob back on something. Specifically I am thinking of anything that comes out of Apple these days.

It’s also why I don’t use Apple laptops. I’ve had to replace bits on my own Thinkpads, Dell, and HP computers. There’s a limit with those too, but I demand the ability to easily replace the hard drive and the memory.

Try that on a Mac. I’ll wait.

Didn’t think so!

I waited for the house to be empty. Had to. Humans being social, they demand attention. Since the replacement of the battery on iFixIt was rated “Very Difficult” and at 30 minutes, I knew that I would probably have to take double the time to put a new battery in the phone.

It took a half hour alone to find the tools to do the job, and I have the tools. We keep them here specifically to do this sort of thing.

Started the whole mess at about 10:30. It would give me time to get it done, shower before lunch, and do it in a leisurely manner.

Nope.

That first half hour of very carefully taking off the plastic fascia, and a few very strange screws had me stressed.

Then the wet nose happened.

Rack was checking in. He padded across the tile floor in the quiet house without my knowing. I had a tickle at my elbow and looked over at the familiar black and white face.

Then I glanced at the clock. 11:30. I frittered away an hour getting tools, and a plastic sliver off the top of my phone.

Oh and two “T5” Torx screws from the top of the thing. I wasn’t completely lost.

Basically I was taking it slow. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware, but it’s ridiculously difficult to work with.  In comparison, my older Samsung Galaxy S4 snaps open with a plastic cover in the back I can run a fingernail under.  The battery is user replaceable as well as my SIM and my memory chip.  Done in seconds.

I took the rest of the time to Noon to get the entire case open and splayed out in front of me.

Sighing, I got up and let Rack out for a walk in the back yard, and to make my lunch.

Lunch, Shower, and back at it in about a half hour.

The disassembly of the phone is a fourteen step process.

Remove screws.

Remove antenna wires.

Remove ribbon cables held in by ZIF connectors.

Lift motherboard.

Remove battery.

It was about 3 in the afternoon before I had the thing disassembled and reassembled.

Each half hour I had a wet nose looking in on me. I guess that I was worried, Rack probably smelled it. He’d come in, look in on me, sit down, make me clear my head.

I’m glad he did. Oh he can’t handle a screwdriver or a soldering iron. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs. But he did serve a very good purpose.

He made me pause and look around. These pieces are so small that in some cases I used another cell phone to take a picture, zoom in, and look at it.

As a result Rack stopped me from having total vision failure from eye strain induced by bad design and teeny tiny itsy bitsy electronic parts.

Well, great! Time for a Smoke Test. You know, press the magic button and see if it comes on?

Oddly enough I had bumped it trying to seal the back and the phone came on before it was snapped in place.

Camera did not work. Flashlight did not work.

Rack came back. I paid attention to him. Set that phone down. I couldn’t see the monitor without

being right on top of the thing now.

When Rack left, I pried it all apart and re-seated all the connections.

Success! I could tighten those screws down and begin to charge the battery.

That half hour repair took me six hours.

Including lunch and a shower and letting Rack out when he needed it.

I think I needed that pause more than he did but I’m not letting him know that.

Trust In Dog, They Know.

That’s a mantra here. There’s a certain something that having a Herding Dog around the house will enhance. They learn. More importantly, they learn YOU. They also know when you need a distraction.

It’s not a weirdly bark at anything that moves thing. He actually knows when there’s too much going on, time to take a break.

There’s that wet nose.

Postie coming by and you’re involved in something? “Moof.” Rack says. Pay attention. Go get the mail, there’s a wee little box in there as long as some circulars and a J. Peterman catalog.

Like I said, Trust In Dog, They Know.

Now the Parrot? He’s shady. Needs to be watched over. He’s got his eye on the woodwork in this house…

Teaching Rack to Eat – A Slow Eater Gets Much Better With Water and Heat.

Rack is a fascinating character.

My dog, Rack, has some quirks.  Some of those quirks are endearing.  He greets me in the house, despite other people living there, first.

Mind you since I’m the one that tends to grab the heaviest bags from the back of the car, that’s not always comfortable.  That wet nose has found itself in places it never should have been.

He sleeps in his bed, but only until I have drifted to sleep.  Many nights, in the glow of the clocks and

Dogs live by their noses, and will curl up next to their favorite people, and barring that, their clothes so

that they are comforted by the scent.

lights in the bedroom, I open an eye and see that he’s moved to the bath mat I keep next to the bed and my boots.  I would have thought it is more comfortable in his bed that is chock full of foam rubber, but he’d rather curl up on a flat mat next to my shoes and my bed.

Ok, Boy, as long as you don’t chew anything.

But one of those quirks has bothered me since day one, and is something I will have to watch for the rest of his time.

Food.  He’s a terrible eater.

Many dogs are too fast.  They eat so fast that they bloat and you end up turning the bowl over, or get a Maze bowl to force them to slow down.

Lettie was fine, although she was a bit too quick on snacks.  Just watch your fingers, she thought her snout was shorter than it actually was.

In Rack’s case, Food is an Afterthought.

He has severe food allergies.  Grain and Poultry are a definite no.  We went through quite a few meals followed by projectile “Soft Serve” and diarrhea until we figured that out.

Cheap food is full of grain.  Dogs don’t need grain.  They are omnivores, but more toward being a carnivore than we are.  So cut out the grain.  Chickens and Turkeys eat grains.  So whatever was in that grain gets stored in the muscle tissue, and whatever else, that is used to make the dog food and more “Soft Serve”.

We found a couple of foods that he could eat safely, but the damage was done.  He gets extremely picky.

Since one of the foods was a dry kibble, he would take as much as a half hour or more to eat on a normal feeding.  Twice a day and I was spending an hour tapping and shaking the food bowl to motivate him to eat. I would get frustrated, start nagging him to eat.

Not good.  Nobody likes to be nagged.

So I hit on an idea.

Take the food in the bowl, ours is purple plastic, and add an ounce of water or so.  Just enough to puddle a little bit in the bottom of the bowl.  Coat all of the food with the water.  Shake and stir it around.

Then microwave it for 15 seconds.  Just enough to warm things.

The last dry day he had was 27 minutes of crunching.  Lettie would have had that done in short order and ask for more.

The first wet day he was done so fast that I had to do a double take.  It took three minutes.

So the rule is that he gets bored and needs variety.

The main rule is that even just an ounce of water to warm and soak things is a help.

Reading this you may say to “Give him 10 minutes then remove the food, he’ll eat when he’s hungry”.

No.  “I mean are you stupid? No.”

I have a dog with a very low prey drive, and a very low food drive.  He will starve himself.  As in “I’ll lose 20% of my body weight and still ignore that food.”

It simply is not a priority and removing food from a dog is unnecessarily cruel.  Better to try something positive and see if you can change things.
Of course we’re also dealing with a dog who was still growing when I got him from the rescue, so he

You see, Puppies are wonderful and beautiful balls of love.  However taking a dog away from Mom means that it does not learn what is acceptable in a pack.  Feeding is one of those things that is effected and you end up with a painfully fussy dog.

He was almost certainly taken from his mother early and not socialized properly.

When your pup is in a pack of 8 brothers and sisters, you eat or you go hungry.  Being picky means failure to thrive.  If you aren’t taught that lesson, it may linger.

In our case it did.

So a little water, and 15 minutes in the microwave may just do the trick.  It did with us.

The Colder The Weather, The Tighter The Dogball

Cold is relative.

No really, it is.

You ask someone who lives in a place where they get wild swings of temperature when you don’t, they may tell you you’re crazy.

But if your dog gets cold, it gets cold, no matter where you are.

In my case, my dog got cold, and so did my relatives.  Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM), handles it in style.  He simply rolls up into a dogball and parks himself in the corner.

He does it wrong, but he doesn’t care.

Last night, watching an old sitcom, I saw the ritual of the nest.  I’ve got a mat for him to lay on to protect him from the cold slab that the house is built upon.  Yes, I know, Cold is Relative.  In this case, it’s relative enough for me to be wearing a pair of Doc Martins any time I am not in bed, or a shower, or shaving in front of a mirror.

But that’s normal for me.

The one time I tried to put my own Docs on my dog’s feet, he looked up at me with all knowing brown eyes and basically told me I was an idiot.  Taking one foot out of each shoe, he slipped away.

Good for me, I was able to finish dressing.  Sitting on the edge of the bed means that I generally have a 46 pound, badger black and white dog weaving his frame in and out of my legs.  Like a cat.  Which I can’t.  I’m allergic to cats.  That’s why we have a dog.   A Good Dog indeed.

Who’s a good boy?  Hmmm?  You are!

So as he’s pawing on a mat that has to weigh as much as a bag of flour, not having much luck, and basically making a mess, he manages to roll it up into a ball.  Then, Plop! He’s settling in next to it to sleep.

That Dog Sniffing His Tail position that McNab Dog owners are so familiar with.  The tighter the dogball, the colder the weather.

But cold is all relative.  My relatives.  One in the Philadelphia Area, My Sister Pat at least doesn’t laugh at me when I tell her it’s cold out.  She does remind me that while I may be feeling cold and it’s 50, I also went to Kelly Drive and would have a skate workout when there was ice on the trails in a T Shirt and Boxer shorts with a sweatshirt if it was windy.

Just a short workout, mind you, only 9 miles, but you can do it too.  Come on, it was only 25, and I wasn’t crazy.  Really I wasn’t.

The other one is in the middle of the great plains.  The Middle of Nebraska.  Les Nessman’s dream state.  Where it was minus-freaking-25 Farenfreakingheit.  Too Freaking Cold.

So cold that it doesn’t make too much sense to take the effort to convert the temp to Celsius because it is roughly the same.  And my mind may be going from all that cold anyway because I could be getting the temperature wrong, oh never mind, let me have my damn coffee, it’s too cold to think about that!

Replace Freaking with whatever intensifier you wish.  I have one in mind.  Four bold letters.  Describes the situation perfectly.  Survival gear to go to the mailbox cold.

No.  Just No.  I’ll take solace in that it will only get colder here, and we’re expecting two degrees above freezing.  Yes, 38F or 2C.

So this is the dry season.  How I know is that it has been raining for two days in a row, and my banana tree sprouted a flower that just popped open.  Just in time for near freezing temperatures.

The storm forms in the Caribbean, where the water is still warm, relatively.  It does that pirouette dance to spin up into what my Sister will be calling a Nor’Easter, and wondering if it will get above freezing before the storm hits there.

Dunno, Pat, I remember once riding my motorcycle this time of year through the NJ Pine Barrens with just a T Shirt and Jeans because it was 70 with snow banks on the side of the road and ice patches in the shadows.

Dress for the Slide, not the Ride.

So it’s all relative.  I will hide from my cold.  You hide from your cold.  Here, have some coffee.

Did I tell you that the freeze line is 8 miles north of me?  Yeah, Clint Moore Road in Boca Raton according to the National Weather Service is as far south as freezing temps get.

Take that Boca!  Hah!