When Deleting Your Spare, Whether Jeep or Inline Skate, You Just May Need Them

Ok, so it’s a weird collision of things that happened.

I was thinking of how My Sport was back in the 90’s.  Inline Skating was one of those things that grew rapidly and massively, and I mused often about how fun it would be to open up a Pro Shop for Skating.

Then, the market changed, people left the sport, that dream vanished like the team that I was friendly with over the years.

I still skate, and people are coming back but not like before.  The meets are gone, the teams are terminated, but still I roll on.

I was out skating at the Pompano Airpark the other day.  I looked at the car, and leaned against the spare while trying to get all the crap set up to be able to “Skate At My Level” in this day and age.  A pint of ice water per 4 or 5 miles of South Florida Heat.  Two spools of surgical tape.  Scissors.  Allen Key.  Phone, headphones, padding to be able to listen to music.

 

Spare axles and bolts wrapped in plastic sit under the water in the “fanny pack” to carry all this nonsense.

I need to find another one that large.  While Fanny Packs are ludicrously out of style for most people, if you’re on a trail working out, they can be a requirement.  You don’t have enough hands to carry three sport bottles of water, and a Camelback Bladder gets “spoiled” after a couple uses.

When I was competitive back in Philadelphia through to the mid 2000s, I would skate 33 miles, three times a week during season.  100 Miles.  162 Kms.  April to November.

That is why I have all that equipment.  I used to carry spare wheels in case I threw an axle or a wheel or…

“SNAP!”.

What is going on?  I’m only two miles out. This is nothing of a distance.

Vibration transmitted from the back wheel of my right skate boot.

“Something is going on with the push wheel, got to check at Three Mile Bench”.

I was in limp along mode until then.  Vibration got really bad.  I was worried that push wheel would lock up and I’d be 100 KG of Moose Meat slamming onto the pavement.   Slowed down and sat.

I was presented with a wheel that had literally shattered and the hub had disintegrated into trail dust.

“Ho Lee CRAP! and no SPARE!”.

Yes, I deleted the spare.  Just like the people who like to mod their Jeeps to go with those tires that resemble donuts.  I was stuck on the trail and no spare to roll on.

8 wheels is now down to 7.  I removed that push wheel and moved a similar one on that boot to that spot.  I was using up my leftover wheels from the competitive era.  Down to the last of the 20 year old wheels, I was now using something I removed from a pair of cheap skates, literally.  They were set on top of a trash bin on bulk trash here.  While those boots were shredded, I was able to rescue the bearings and the wheels and use them both.

But that was years back.  I ran through all my “trash skates” and back catalog of old wheels.  They were from so long ago that the rigid plastic hubs turned into magic trail pixie dust that would trip some other poor soul if the hit it.

“Sorry!  On Yer Left!”

Got back on the trail and went a half mile.  Vibration started up again.  My Right Leg was vibrating enough to be an annoyance and looking down I saw I was back into that same problem again.

Sat down at Kevin’s bench.  Wheel 2 is now shattered.  I had to scavenge a wheel from the left boot and do a trail repair to be able to roll back to the jeep to get the spare skates.  Now down to Three Wheels On Each Boot.

Yes, I thought that having a spare pair of skates two and a half miles away was a good idea.  Usually when an inline skate wheel dies, it’s due to the Urethane pulling away from the hub.  Not ancient plastic shattering away from the bearings.

Got back on the trails again and you guessed it.  I replaced that shattered push wheel again with a wheel from the left boot, and moved things around.  The Two Front Wheels were from an older set of wheels that strangely were holding up.

My last mile was in Limp Along Mode.   I had two wheels out of four on the right leg, three on the left.   Speed was shot, I was hot and tired from sitting in the sun repairing skate trucks and moving wheels around.

I rolled back to the Jeep and thought about that deleted spare.  That’s why when you rework your skates, and remove one from the Truck, Rails or Frames to you noobs, you save two of them.

In my own experience, you rest on your heels, push from them and sweep the leg so that the foot leaves the ground from the toe.

The Push Wheel ends up being the back wheel on an inline skate and wears out fastest.

Save that one in case of emergency…

Like this.

I won’t delete my Spare again.  More crap to carry but it’s worth it.

Now that I am home, I have work to do.  Each boot needs two wheels each.

A Smart Dog to Knows What To Do With a Drunk

There is just something about having a smart breed of dog.

No matter what, they learn. If you allow them to, they will learn you.  They will focus on you like a laser.  They’re adaptable.

When I got my dog, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM), his spirit was crushed.

His fear level was over the top, and the first time I ever moved a trash can with him along, he flattened on the ground and shivered.

He’s past that, well past that.

In fact he did something I saw my Lettie, the McNab and Border Collie cross do before him that shows just how well they watch.

You see, there are some breeders of dogs that have a closed mind.  A dog is for a task they will tell you.  If you don’t exhibit what their definition of that task is, then they won’t recommend that dog to you and may not sell you the dog.

Many herding breed dog breeders are that way.  I don’t agree with that at all.

Yes, a herding breed dog needs a job.  Actually, scratch that, ALL dogs need a job.  After all, deep down, a dog is a wolf in fancy clothes.

In our case, Rack’s job is me.  He treats me as a pack leader, or rather his pack leader, and his job is to watch over and support me in what I do.

Never sell a dog short, because if it does not live up to your expectations, it’s probably because you aren’t making your needs understood.

I’m at the point where if I speak to him in English, I simply expect him to understand.  I just have to make sure I use what I personally consider Dog Command Words and he will get them right.

He also speaks English.  As in, if I am saying to someone that I want to go to a specific place next, he goes there without being directed.

I was out walking him and we needed newspapers.  I said “Lets go to the drive and get them then”.

He did.  No muss and no fuss.

One of his favorite things in the world is a Ride In The Car!  As in I can’t say it strongly enough in text how much he likes a Ride in The Car.  He loses his mind.  I have to tell him “Sorry, you get to stay home and watch the house, Rack” to get him to calm down if he is not coming along.  Otherwise he does “math” to figure out whether he’s included if I go out.

The other morning, we went out for a walk an hour before sunrise.  That’s normal.  I have a set route.  I have a set routine.  We know it well.  If I say “you need your leash” he goes to his crate and waits for me to get the thing or he will come back there if I am standing there and flip the harness over his nose in order to get me going.

We left the block and headed into the darkness to the little M.E. DePalma Park near the house.

I’m walking in my pre-dawn haze and all the sudden Rack is in front of me and won’t move.

That is the herding dog signal for “Human, stop, danger is ahead”.

Lettie did it once and there was a wild animal up ahead.  She would not allow me to go until danger was past.

In this case, Rack spotted something very strange.

A Foot.

In the flowers.

Yes, a foot.

He told me I was not going somewhere until I acknowledged it.

“What the actual hell is this?”

Rack went Off Duty.

I realized it wasn’t just a disembodied foot.

It was a body.

Then I realized from 10 feet away, literally, it wasn’t a body, it was a person.   Male, under 40, about 5’10” in “Bar Clothes”.

Snoring.

Smelling a thick haze of alcohol from down wind, I realized that it was a drunk who passed out in the flowers in the park.  He was about 1000 feet from the bars, staggered off, found the park and collapsed into a drunken heap.

Don’t light a match, there will be an explosion level of Alcohol on the Wind.

I muttered to myself “All a part of living in a tourist area”, and then I touched the instep of his foot with my right boot.

Yes, bare foot.  His shoes had been knocked off and ended up somewhere else.  Maybe even back in the bar, who knows.

I have been trained in First Aid and maintained my certification for about 20 years.  There are courses for that and literally the first thing they tell you is that “You are under no obligation to act”.

So I acted.

Actually the drunk groaned, pulled his foot away, and rolled over.  Made a rather nice pillow out of the flowers there and went back to snoring.

Sheesh, yet another drunk.

Rack realized the danger had passed, and I was just… well I realized I wasn’t able to help him any more.

I left the guy to sleep it off.  It was an hour and a half to sunrise and I really didn’t want to try to help hoist some guy to his feet so he could sleep it off.

Besides, the sprinklers are scheduled to come on shortly in that park.  If he hasn’t awakened by then, the ground water would make sure he did.

“Rack come on, let him sleep it off.”

We left.  Rack had gotten bored with it all.  The drunk was in what I felt was a safe place for the time being, and we had our own drama to finish with.

After all, you can’t fix stupid.

If you want to live your life like a Jimmy Buffett song where you “threw off your flip flops” in a park in South Florida, just make sure it’s a safe spot to pass out.

We went on our way.   “Come on Rack let’s go”.

Off we went.

My morning walk is a 30 minute loop around town.  We came, We saw, We watered a tree or three, and We came back.

But Rack, knew what I was saying when I said “Let’s go to the park”.  He took me right there.

The drunk tourist had moved on, as did the sprinklers.

When I said “Ok, we’re done, lets go home and get you your food.” He looked up at me.

“Hungry, boy?”  With a wag or three, he knew where to go.  Back home.  No more drunks, we’re done.

The Anatomy of a Severe Wipeout On Inline Skates – Or Why I Am Selective About Who I Train

I am sitting in the middle of my living room on the most comfortable chair in the house for my current condition, an Ikea Poang from the early part of the century.  It’s proportioned for a man of my size, a fit 6′ 4″ or 193 CM man.  The Recliner, a Lazy Boy, won’t do.  I need full support.

It’s because I wiped out last week.   Bad.  I have skated 21,000 miles.  33,800 Km.  Add a few hundred miles for what I have done since January.  Most of that was in marathon workouts, as much as 50 miles a day and 200 a week.

I have trained people, and been paid for the pleasure.  The sport now is down to a core of us who truly love it, a few new folks, and a lot of people staring at their skates and wondering if they can again.

Yes, you can, but pay attention.

If I can fall, so can you.

So getting to an elite level in any sport means concentration, repetition, and a little bit of skill.  The first thing I tell anyone interested in skating, including Inline Skating is “You WILL fall”.

Included in that is you will get hurt to some degree, learn how to take it, I can tell you what I do, but you won’t fall enough to develop that muscle memory to stop major damage unless you do it a lot.

If you make it past about 1000 miles, you probably will be able to be a skater for life.  It’s an awesome exercise, makes your heart unbeatably strong, lowers your resting rate from a normal 72 to a very leisurable level.  Mine was 42 resting when I was competing.  My doctors always asked.

But losing concentration is bad.  Really bad.

I’m now returning to a regular level of workouts.  Not a marathon, but a more leisurely 20 miles a week.  Heart rate is dropping, weight is dropping, clothes are changing.

No really, the pant legs get very tight as the waist gets loose.  You have to go up a pant size.  Yes, it’s strange.

Most of those miles are with earplugs screwed in my ears.  It blocks out wind noise, and I already have enough ringing in my ears.  It always is fast music since my heart rate while exercising will synchronize with the music and you get this fascinating runner’s high where it can even be an out of the body experience.

Competing I had a runner’s high from April through November every year.  Runner’s high make you really mellow.  I mean amazingly “chill”.

I can be kind of intense normally, rather competitive.  Always have been even if it is focused towards specific behaviors and challenges.

When I was skating I pushed myself hard.  Competing I would cruise at more than 15 MPH on skates.  Good music will add another 10 percent.  I would schedule my first rest and water stop at an hour in, minimum, and then every half hour thereafter whether I needed it or not.

Armin Van Buuren, Classic Disco, lately some Mexican Norteño or Grupera music too.  The fast music is awesome when cruising, you just have to trust me.

The trail here is a 4.5 mile square aligned on the compass rose or close to it.  My broad back would catch the wind coming off the ocean and if it’s with me, I can wind-skate and peak speeds are as high as 20 MPH without really breaking a sweat.

Well it caught me, without my realizing it.  I came around the corner, and noted a barricade way off in the distance.  I looked down to check the music, and all the sudden I clipped that barricade.  The wind had pushed me to full speed and one foot grabbed the one corner.

I went down hard on my tailbone.

Being at peak speed is a funny thing.  Your muscle groups are doing their things, they’re working hard to move your mass along.

Hitting the ground sent a shockwave through each one of those groups.  When my body stopped sliding and the world came back into light as well as color, I could tell you exactly where each muscle group was on my body because they were all shrieking in pain.

Left and right side of the neck, lower back, right upper leg rear, every one of those abs that are hiding behind Thanksgiving Dinner of years past, Pectoral muscles.

Every blessed muscle that I worked so hard since the accidents that threatened to turn me into a quadriplegic in my teens and again in my early 30s screamed to taunt me.

About the time I was able to reboot myself, I saw an older man and his workout partner.  The first one was talking to me to try to get my head going again, the second had his bike shoe on my left foot’s boot front wheel to stop me from sliding my leg.

I did an assay.  Yes, my muscles were screaming in pain, focus was returning, however nothing was broken, my own First Aid certification from years past told me that.

These two French Canadians helped me back on my feet after too long and I was able to skate the two miles back to the Jeep and get home.   They may drive strangely on our roads, but they are always helpful and polite.

When asked why did I fall I said “I was distracted by the music and I was trying to translate a song from Spanish into English”.

I need to leave the Spanish tracks at home I guess.   Maybe stick to instrumentals?  That and pay better attention when I skate.

After all, if I can screw up that badly, then so can you.

While nothing is broken, it took me four days to get flexible enough to be able to do a full look over my own body.  This was one of those falls that make you look like Nick Nolte in the first scenes of North Dallas Forty where this utterly worn out football player is shown slowly lowering himself into a tub of water while cutaway scenes of him getting slammed on a football gridiron over and over show you why you may want to consider a non impact sport.

My lower back has a deep black bruise where my body made first contact with asphalt.

Skating is non impact, unless you fall.  And hey, you can get a tiddly stuck in your eye if you are too competitive in Tiddly Winks too, right?

It took four days to be fully mobile, for the muscle groups to be smooth enough that I was able to roll in bed without screaming out in agony, for my digestive tract to relax and be “regular”.

Never had that happen before.

But anyone in any sport, especially at a beginners level or an elite level can injure themselves.

Take an elite level participant starting over and you just might want to leave the music off and at home.

The skates, helmet, pads, and skate pack all hit the floor.  Everything but the skate boots made it into the closet.  I left the skates out to tell myself I will be on the trail again.  Just not today.  Maybe the day after tomorrow.  Maybe next week.

That’s the thing.  Recuperate like you need to but get on the trail.  Besides, I have a 25 year old Xmas dinner to work off next time out.

A minute on your lips, a decade on your hips, a workout leaves it on the trail.

Trust me on that one.  All at 100 calories per mile at my level.

So how about it?  Ready for that training session?  Yeah, give me about a week, I’ll be starting out slow.

To Teach Success to Your Dog Is No Harder Than Building A Team

Hey!  Rack!  Want to go Out Front?
Blank stare.

I know what you really want.  I just choose to ignore it.  I have chosen my own reality.

The smarter the breed, the more mental stimulation that they need.   Sure, you gave your dog food, water, shelter.  You take them for walks hopefully with bags to pick up after them.

Things happen the same time every day, so now you have established a routine.  They don’t know why you get up and do things in a certain order, ice cubes to cool off the coffee after you brew it, why you go outside to check the yard at a specific time of day because the sprinklers come on.

 

They just like the order.

So when you throw the order off it gets strange results.

Mid morning mug of coffee happens because you think taking an afternoon nap at 10 AM is just a bit too … decadent for a busy day.

But you too need a break.

The feet scrape on the floor as you push from the desk and…

The dog trots to the back door.  Back door means that Rack can go explore, water my pots of Basil that keep sprouting in strange spots along with all the other involuntary plantings.

Wash the Basil well before it goes onto the Pizza, ok?

I sigh.

Rack, Front Yard.   I’m not sure if it is a request or an order.

Go water the rock!

*grumble*

There’s a duck trying to walk across the yard anyway, I have to convince that beast to go “elsewhere”.

Rack walks to a spot and stops.

I go outside take a step off the porch, the duck walks across the street and draws a box watching me every flap of those feet.   I take a second step when it stops and convince it otherwise.  I’m really tired of pressure washing the concrete because a duck parks itself there when I am not watching.

The duck dance ends with the beast five yards down.  I need my coffee anyway.

Rack hasn’t moved.  He’s bored.

By the time I have taken the first sip, he’s looked out back again, came over sat down and is looking at me through the side of his eye pretending he’s not being seen begging for attention.

He may think he’s being slick but I think that’s the Reality of Dog when you are a herding dog who does not know how to herd, nor chase any other creatures.

Except me of course.

Second sip happens as I take my hand away from petting him, turning his head, telling him that he’s the Goodest Boy Ever But You Are Not Surprising Me A BIT!

I think aloud “I’d take you in the Jeep somewhere but not just yet”.

Shouldn’t have said that.  Now he’s glued to my side thinking he put the words together saying that a ride was happening RIGHT NOW.

Maybe later, I tell him.  Dogs have a really awful sense of what “later” is.

You can indeed have a highly active, highly intelligent Herding dog in a small house in the suburbs.   You just have to be trained.

Cesar Millan is right, people can be trained.  The dog knows how to Dog.

Herding dogs need a job.  I am Rack’s Job.  Truth be told, anyone in the house is family even if they aren’t or at least by the second visit they are.  Family is the job.  Even that noisy as hell parrot in the back room’s window, Oscar.

But Oscar is a very different story indeed.

I move my feet off the footstool at my workstation.

Mistake.  The whole cycle starts over.  Rack thinks that Things Are Happening.

Yeah, I’m grabbing the headphones so I can listen to that Norteño music from Mexicali Mexico that I find I like even if it is “educational for me”.  Time to go to the kitchen

After a fashion he’s right.  Potatoes go in the oven for the Roast Pork Lunch that he is waiting for.

Of course he waits for it.  He gets to do his sad little Me Too Routine so that he gets some pork, excellently cooked even if I do say so myself.

Not every herding dog could do it.  After all, support dogs don’t always make the program.  I don’t need that much support, companionship is about the extent of it.  Just don’t raid the trash or the recycling.  You won’t get away with it because the house is too small for that.

Besides, a metal bowl on top of the trash can’s lid makes a heck of a sound when it crashes to earth.

But this is how we solved a completely broken down mental state when we got him.  I’m a big loud man.  I never decided that we would change, but he would be given every opportunity to learn how to live with us.

Teach success.  It’s best for dogs, people, even you and me.  Given the chance to excel, most will make an effort to reach your expectations and then leave them in the dust.

It’s a team building exercise.  Not one bit different than how I taught programmers how to be systems analysts so I could go off and be a project manager in a traditional setting.  Your Systems Analyst just has black and white fur and a wet nose.

When we got him, his first walk in the neighborhood was on his belly slinking across the street one paw at a time, to meet Lisa and Bill, our former neighbors.  He never learned that people can be fun and exciting.

Until he met us.  Now everything is an opportunity to learn.

Teach success.  It’s easy.

If your dog is barking like it’s insane, you’re not keeping its mind active.

But it is also your responsibility.  A dog that knows his place in the family, or the pack, lives a longer happier life.

So will you.

Once Again, Walk In The Grass, Rack

A Police Officer who was a dog handler once said: “On their best day, they’re still a dog.”

Then again, I heard of a rancher who once said: “If you can’t train a McNab, you can’t train a dog.”

Toe-may-toes, Toe-mah-toes.

You see, my boy Rack has a problem.  He’s got horrible aim.

Oh, sure, he lifts his leg often.  But as we’re walking along, I make sure that my own leg is well away from his.

I don’t think I need to be watered, I’m quite tall enough.

Stand upwind, about 4 to 6 feet away, and watch where he’s going.

He’s pure black and white, with a bit of yellow on his feet after a walk.

Oh I have heard many male dogs suffer from bad aim.  You can’t really train him to “sit down” while he pees, I would expect the problem move from one of his feet to a big ol’ stripe down his white patch on his belly.

I gave up obsessing about his aim.  After all, he’s about 5 now.  He’s doing what he’s going to do and that’s that.

Early on, we realized we had a problem with him being crosseyed when he’s pointing, figuratively of course.  Since there’s a porch in front of the house and the water spigot for the garden is right there next to the porch, we solved it.  A Semi Permanent addition to the porch is a garden hose with a spray attachment is sitting draped over the iron railing and charged with water.

Water saver, of course.

We fell into a routine.

I would successfully get out of the way of his watering efforts, then when we get home, I would use the hose.

Every.  Blasted.  Walk.

Three.  Times.  A.  Day.

I take him to the hose, soak down his feet.  The white part of his legs, all four of them, turn from yellow to white.  He is no longer a “Yellow Footed Collie” but a “Wet Footed Collie”.

Originally we would go inside at this point but that left little paw prints of water everywhere and I found myself going to find the mop more often than not.

Then I got the bright idea to walk him once around the tree in front of the house.  I stopped that when I realized my own feet had tramped down a path making the house look wrong.

So Training the Dog to walk around the yard on his own was successful.

Him walking in the grass would get extra water off his feet and brush his toes to get any extra detritus from between them.

A strategically placed mat inside the door soaked up what was left.

However, “On His Best Day…”  He would act like a kid.

Once out into the yard, he’d start cutting corners.  Shorter loops around the car, and eventually he is skipping the grass all together.   More things are getting tracked indoors.

Does this sound like a five year old kid to you?

Eager to please but needing an adjustment, I started telling him to go back out and do it again.

And again… until he manged to walk the grass.

Turf, really, this St Augustine Grass we have in South Florida is more like a carpet or that fake astroturf stuff they put in football stadiums that isn’t all that pleasant to fall on.

It’s taken him about a week to get used to the routine, but Dog Logic being Dog Logic, it’s not completely perfect.

He now thinks that you do it twice.  Once to cut corners, a second time to actually walk the grass around the car.

At least it’s getting done.

He seems to like the routine.  As he’s doing it “wrong” the first time, he’s got a smile on his doggy face.

“Nope!  Walk in the grass, Boy!”.

Brown eyes flash at me, smile resets, and he does it right.

When he gets out to the tail of the car “Good Boy!” and I get a “wag right” to prove that he’s happy about it all.

Happy dog wags tail right, not-completely-happy dog wags tail left.

Ok, so it’s not perfect, but it is entertaining.

Wag Right For Yes, Left For Maybe Not, or How I Talk To My Dog In The Predawn Hours

There was this BBC Article that made a splash a while back.  It said that dogs are like people, their brains are wired with a preference to sides.  Left Hand and Right Hand.

There’s a difference.

With dogs, it’s Right Hand is Pleasing, Left Hand is Unsure.

Human says nice things to me and I understand so my tail wags towards the right.

Human says something I don’t like or don’t understand, I’ll wag my tail towards the left because my human is great.

Or something approaching that.

But hey, we can work with that, right, Rack?

Rack being my McNab SuperDog(TM).

The first walk of the day can be as much as two and a half hours before dawn here.  Sometimes I am even awake at that ludicrous hour.  Four-Stupid-Go-Back-To-Bed-O’Clock-You-Moron is what my watch can say.  I almost never sleep in until sunrise.

It seems that the stupid is strong in my head at that time because I tend to talk with Rack at that hour more than I do when it’s a little later.

I may not be as lucid as I would normally be later on in the day, but this works.

I go on about our circuit of the city, walking around in a big loop and I’m muttering along.  Why not, the only person awake at that hour is my dog, and perhaps the cleaning crew in the stores and bars here.

Nobody seems to mind.

I do have to be careful when I’m talking and telling jokes and generally muttering along because Rack listens.

Having read that article while trying to clear out my folder of web links, I will say that this time, it stuck in mind.

Rack is one of the happiest dogs out there that I have ever met.  He’s constantly wagging his tail.  If your dog, whether a herding dog or not, does not have a tail, you are missing something.

We’d be walking along and I’d ask him what he sees.  Sometimes I know already, its’ that cute Border Collie “teen” girl down the way. He’ll wag right because he really likes her even if he’s now a full adult and she isn’t quite.

Other times, I ask, and he isn’t sure, so he wags left.

He heard someone talking and recognized the voice, but heard some banging as well, so it started wag right then left.

There are some incredibly badly trained dogs around here.  He’s now learned how to spot them.  Some are seen every day or so and he knows them by scent.  After all, Dogs are primarily led by their noses.  If he catches that scent or hears their bark, the tail wag stops completely.

Just this morning, an hour and a half before dawn since I slept in a bit, I said “when we get home, we’re going to open up some of that new food.  You like that new food, don’t you?”

Well at this point I knew he was listening.  He looked back and did that dog-smile with mouth agape and wagged strongly to the right.

Trust in Dog, they know what they want.

I am sure it won’t work for everyone.  Some people just never figured out a strong bond with their dogs.  Other dogs are just too happy for words and you can’t really convince them to say “no” to anything.  Not us, he knows.

Last night I wanted a late snacek.  A piece of cheese off that block of Jarlsberg that I use in my Mac and Cheese.  It tastes like Swiss and has a strong scent to it.

Rack was laying down and asleep.  I had carved off three slices of the cheese and sat down in the chair.

About mid way through the first slice, he stood up.  Deciding to come over, he wanted some but was definitely not sure whether he should beg for it.  After all we have a no begging policy here that is unevenly enforced.

Wag left.  Wag strongly left.

Definitely unsure but since I did not chase him off, that shifted to an equal wag, then a decidedly strong wag right.

He had his head wedged between my leg and the arm of the chair.

“Rack what do you want?”

He really wanted that cheese.  Strong wag right.

“You know you should not be begging!”  Wag Left.  Strong wag left.  Walked away practicing Avoidance.

I finished part 1 of 3.  Setting the rest of the cheese on the handrest of the laptop, it was out of sight.  Not that that matters to dogs, mind you.

He walked over to his mat and instead of sitting on it, he sat next to it boring holes through me with twin brown laser beams.  His tail was back to wagging right.

I took a tiny piece of cheese rind and sat it on the arm of the chair.

I had some fool idea that a high value treat like a morsel of Jarlsberg was going to work for training him to stay put.

It was gone in a flash.

“Are you sure you don’t have some Labrador Retriever in you?”

I don’t think he understood that but definite Wag Right behavior there.  He was convinced that he was getting more cheese.

He would be right.  But only when I finished.

I did give him that cheese eventually but this just goes to prove.  If you watch your dog closely, and learn what he is saying to you, you may be able to have a conversation with them.

You just have to listen.

 Wag Right!

Careful What You Say In Front Of Your Dog – They Learn, Rack Did

I remember once I was watching my neighbor’s dog, Ellie.

Ellie was trained, pretty well.  She knew to put her paw on you when she needed something.  She was just not too good at explaining what she wanted.

On her best day, she was a dog.  Don’t expect them to be human, they don’t speak English.

But, they do understand it.  In fact I think it is fair to say, they understand it better than you might expect.

When my nephew Jon was a toddler, he thought I was James Brown the Soul artist.  You see, I can do a pretty good imitation of JB singing “Static!” from the song that was popular back then.

Now mind you I could not pass for James Brown at all, and while I am a fan of his art, I can’t say that a 6’4″ 220 pound White Dude could lead an iconic Soul group.  Just don’t have the “background” for it.

That’s the thought that I had in mind lately.  You see, Rack is learning English and doing so quickly. 

The other day I was telling a friend how clocks work and some of the mechanical theory behind it.

For example, A Pendulum where the string or the shaft that holds the weight that is exactly 39.1 inches or 994 mm long is a special pendulum that swings once per second and back in another second is called a Second Pendulum.  Connect that to an escapement wheel and a gear with exactly 60 teeth and you have your second hand.

Rack heard me talking and describing all this, walked over and sat down at my feet.  He then looked up at me with rapt attention like I was describing the mechanics of the universe, and everything, and finished it with the meaning of life.

It is 42, just ask Douglas Adams.  You can’t, he’s gone, but if you ask the mice and they give you an answer, you may do best to get a towel and prepare for the Vogon Constructor Fleet and the subsequent demolition of Earth.

The point is that Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) Is a superb dog.  He knows how to Dog.  He’s a dog of a lifetime, but that is because while I talk to him, I don’t expect him how to Human.  This isn’t Family Guy and he’s not Brian.

Although if I could just talk to him with full comprehension for 15 minutes… please?

Oh well.

However that Non-Human-Person presents an interesting school of thought.  People learn Language through repetition and what is important to them.

The first thing I start to teach a dog is “Show Me”.  They will learn other things first.  But “Show Me” is very important.  If you show me correctly you get what you want.

My first dog, Lettie, learned this in a week or three.  When she got older and lost her hearing all I had to do was to put my palms upward and she would walk to what she wanted or needed and I’d give it to her.

Much more efficient than rattling off a long list of things and being frustrated.   She knew that and Rack does too.

But he’s not quite as perfect at it.  Where Lettie was a lead of the pack Alpha, Rack is a definite Beta at the back of the pack of the beta dogs.  He is learning that when I say “Show Me” I am giving him permission to ask for what he wants.

It’s not perfect, on his best day, but he gets things across.

And that’s the Dog in him.  There’s miscommunication, lack of desire, and sometimes they just want attention.   As you can see, Rack sometimes just sits at my feet or stares up at me with twin brown laser beam eyes and wags his tail looking for a little attention.

Attention is a good thing.  Builds the bond.  Even if it is just sitting next to the chair you are in while you’re surfing some mindless web page.

That is how I learned “BC” is Rack for “I am going to the front door and look to see if I can find my friend the little wiggly Border Collie from down the block”.

Rack met a young female Border Collie shortly after that dog moved into the neighborhood.  She’s also a bit submissive, and her energy is the same as Rack’s is, so they get on extremely well.

Apparently I refer to her as The Bee Cee frequently because while paging through the internet, I made an aside comment under my breath.  I said “oh, BC”.

Rack got up, looked out the window, came back and gave me a confused look.  He’s far too passive to give me attitude.

“Oh, another thing you learned!  How about that!”  I’m learning Spanish so I can get out of the house without alerting him on the weekends.   For other reasons too, but teaching the people in the house that “Listo!” means I am ready to go is so far something he has not learned.

On the other hand, he knows I’m going somewhere because of the order things happen in preparing to leave.  I get full on ears up, tail wagging, brown laser beam eyes, and that gaping mouth open smile we all know.

 

“Sorry, Rack, You Stay Home and Watch The House” results in his leaving the room after dropping the act with ears dropping, tail drooping and him begging other people.

Yes, Saturdays and Sundays can be annoying unless I actually find somewhere we can take him with us.

I’m in trouble when my dog learns Spanish.  Maybe Sign Language next, although dogs understand that.   We’ve already resorted to texting in the house so as not to tip off the boy.

So yes, on his best days he’s Still a Dog, but Oh What a Dog!

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!

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.

Four Paws and Bored? What do you want, Rack?

I putter in the yard a lot.

When you have a string of pots with 25 species of plants in an average sized suburban yard, it tends to take a

little bit of time to do a yard inspection.

I’m out there twice a day, at least, and every day regardless of the weather.

Ok, there really are exceptions.  I don’t think I went out there that day that Hurricane Irma was blowing her nasty head all over the entirety of the Florida Peninsula, but cut me a little bit of slack.

We have, all over the perimeter of the yard, plantings.  They have been discovered by my dog, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM), as well as Lettie who proceeded him and came down here with us from Philadelphia.

The plantings have also been discovered by the creatures that are trying to live in this yard.  We’ve got two species of lizard here on a daily basis.  They’re small enough to be entertaining and not a threat.  There have been rare snakes, opossums, raccoons, iguanas, and of course neighbor’s cats that come through here.

The cats don’t belong.  If you want a pet, keep them safe inside your home or on a leash.  Can’t manage that, don’t have one.  It keeps them alive longer.

For the most part whenever Rack explores, and I rattle around the plants, we don’t see anything out there.  They hear us and move away.

With all this propagation going on, I’m kept entertained.

Monarch butterflies spot the Mexican Milkweed and eat it all to sticks.  When the sticks get long, and begin to re-leaf, I take cuttings and stick them in pots.  If I get seeds, the park gets them scattered there to return the favor of the original milkweed plants from years back.

Orchid pots are designed to rot away so that the plants can eat the nutrients.  When they do, they need re-potting and you can split the plants into two or more.

Banana trees constantly regrow and are bursting through the pot I have them in.  I’ll need a better solution but frankly unless you want to live in a banana grove that won’t happen.  Pots it will be.  Bananas are growing too, so I’ll have a treat further down the line.

All the while that I am doing that I am being watched.  Granted, there are flocks of feral parrots that fly overhead screeching their call to flock, and a random scrawny squirrel that dines on Palm Nuts out of the trees on the property.  Those squirrels would be laughed at up North.  They’re about half the size of the ones up there.

No, I mean by my own dog Rack.

You see he goes through and does his own plant inspection and waters pots too.  Thankfully not my food crops, but he does have his spots behind the hedges and under the Podocarpus.

Sometimes he’ll want to start running around so I’ll get distracted from considering the pruning of the Condo Mango tree that isn’t supposed to get more than 10 feet tall but is getting close.  Usually we’ll get into our dance where he’ll run around like crazy to burn off steam.  When he does, he will make these sharp turns around the obstacles in the yard at a speed that a hockey player would only dream of, and with grace a ballerina would aspire to.

In a short blast of air, he vanishes into a wormhole and visits his alternate family in the alternate universe.  Coming back out of warp, he slows down to conventional speed and will run around some more.

Meanwhile, I’ve gone back to being boring and puttering around the yard.  Fretting over the black mold that will grow on the concrete in cold seasons, or debating whether to break apart the Lemongrass that is now over 8 feet tall and swaying in the breezes making me want to make Thai food.

This is when I will feel the weight of his eyes.  He will appear.  He will tell me that he wants something else.

Inside.

You see, instead of having a kid running around screaming at me, I have a four footed McNab Dog staring me down.  Smartest of all breeds, along with all the other smart ones, he knows how to get his point across.

If I ignore him, I do so at my own peril.

He was mistreated before I got him.  Most likely removed from his mother too early, and then the first owner tried to convince him to be a hunting dog, he was an owner surrender.  I would say that his allergies to grain and poultry based food had a lot to do with that.  He came to us with worms that had to be treated three times, and a crushing fear of everything that he still shows from time to time.

However, I am his main person.  Wherever he is, he is watching me, or at least where I am.  If I am doing something and he wants a change, I find two brown eyes staring holes through my soul.  He will sit at my feet and block me from moving on.

That is a herding behavior, modified.  As a result of his rough start, his play drive is warped as well as his herding drive.  If we are out and not going where he wants us to, he circles in front of me, looks up, and blocks my path.

Usually I give in, but that cuts my own walk short.

In this case, we’re in the yard. I’ve bored him.  Plants are for peeing on, not for propagating to make fresh herbs for a pizza.

Come on, lets go! I’m Bored! say the brown eyes.

Just like a kid.  “Ok, Rack, Show Me!”.

He trots to the door with a smile on his face.

“Show Me” is something I have always taught dogs.  They can’t talk but they surely are expressive.  They will take you to what they need or what they think you need.  It isn’t always treats, it can be just the door or the leash.  This makes things simple.

It also stops the bored dog by giving him a hand in what he wants to do.

Show Me, indeed.  “Ok Boy, I’m coming, let’s go in.”

“Anybody want to go for a walk?