Monday, August 31, 2009

As usual, two steps forward, one step back. Frantic barking last night when the moon rose. It's a half moon and this time of year hangs up there for a while. I spent a good part of the evening calling him away from the window, telling him to lie down and stay, giving him a treat, only to repeat a few minutes later when he rediscovered the moon. More work needs to be done. The neighbor's dog also sets him off when she barks, which is often.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Learning to accept the moon

Good run today, after some initial hesitation. Went in the other direction, towards the rose garden, and ran the entire time, with a few stops to sniff the bushes. Passed a few dogs and each time I pulled him off the path and told him to sit. He's getting pretty good about that, although sometimes it's obvious he's struggling. I'm being somewhat of a coward: I usually put plenty of distance between us and the other dog, and if there's nowhere to go sideways, I put us in reverse. We did see a little white dog this morning that I think he's tried to jump in the past with Denny (maybe he thinks it's a sheep) but we managed to avoid any problems by detouring onto the ballfield.
When we got back, he ran around the yard and didn't want to come in right away, which is unusual. I finally put the leash on him and brought him inside. We still have a lot of work to do with recall. He pretty much comes when he feels like it now.
The moon (waning crescent) sets around 10 this week, which means it becomes visible above the trees around 9-9:30. I've been letting him out in the yard when it's out, which leads to some running around and barking, but it's not as frantic as it used to be. Sometimes, we go for a moonlight run. I've read that you shouldn't let your dog get too agitated close to bedtime, but wonder if that mainly applies to puppies. Zorro has been sleeping like a stone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the road again

I haven't written for a few days because things have been delightfully normal, or as normal as they're ever going to be with a border collie. Zorro's fears seem to be abating--maybe the Prozac has kicked in--and we've been going for good runs all week. Or as good as they're going to get in August, when it's 90 degrees and humid. He has even gone into the park after work, which is something he hasn't done for months.
He was somewhat hesitant this morning, which didn't surprise me, because the forecast calls for thunderstorms (and Zorro is better than the Weather Channel at predicting bad weather). He didn't want to venture far from the gate, so we took a couple of runs to the corner.
I was about to give up on the park when a young woman ran by with a small BC mix. She immediately recognized us because back in May, on one of our first walks, Zorro jumped that dog. The woman was very understanding because hers is a rescue dog, too. She said Zorro seemed "stressed" which was an understatement.
Today, I got him in a "sit, stay" and he behaved himself as they went by. Once they were in front of us, we followed them into the park. On the way back, we saw about five dogs coming our way--6:30 must be prime time for dog walking. I was able to get Zorro instead our gate before we got too close. He has been behaving pretty well with other dogs, but what was coming our way looked an awful lot like a herd, so I decided not to press my luck.
He's also gotten much better about barking at the window. He really wants to, but knows he shouldn't, so often it comes out as a slightly strangled yelp. When he does give in, he'll usually respond to my command to come away, so I feel like we're making real progress there. The real test will come when the moon returns.
YouTube is replete with examples of borders that are much weirder than ours. Here's our current favorite:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy feet launched a pet blog today. The dog paws in the photo illustration at the top belong to Zorro. Not sure whose cat that is. Zorro was very patient while Denny took many pictures of his feet.
Quiet night last night after a raucous night before. I usually hang a sheet over the bay window but this week the moon is an angle that causes it to shine through the window above the front door. I became aware of his fact around 1 AM, when I was awakened by an explosion of moon barking. It took several "come aways" and cloud cover to calm him down. Last night, I taped a pillow case over the window.
Storm clouds this morning so Zorro was initially reluctant to go far from the back gate. We loitered there until a woman with a little black curly-haired dog strolled by and followed them into the park. Then, jackpot: a guy sped by on his bike, with his dog running along side him. It just doesn't get any better than that. We ran after them for a while, then took a detour by the tennis courts, where we picked up a woman running with a large terrier. Returned home tired but energized.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Murmuring at the moon

When I opened the door this morning, the moon was clearly visible and Zorro let out a couple of barks. But he's beginning to understand that he's not supposed to do that, even before I say "enough." He swallowed a yelp, and then he stopped.
He is energized by the morning moon, though. We dashed out the fence gate to the sidewalk. At first, he didn't want to go into the park, but a couple of women ran past us, and that was enough of a distraction, so off we went (fortunately, he doesn't try to herd runners). Down to the park, across the bridge, over to the tennis courts, and then in the other direction to the soccer field. Even though it was pretty humid and it stormed last night--prompting him to seek cover in the basement--he seemed unfazed and unafraid. Prozac? The waning gibbous moon? Who cares? It was a good run.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eyes on the prize

Zorro needs a job. If he has something to do, his fears disappear. So I'm constantly looking for distractions.
On Saturday morning, he didn't want to go far from our driveway in WV. So I loitered around the road with him until the guy who lives above us, Bill, made his daily trip to pick up the newspaper. He drives a red pickup truck and takes his dogs--three yappy little beasts--with him. They bark all the way down the hill.
I pulled Zorro over to the side of the road, and Bill yelled hello above the barking. Then, once he was past us, Zorro and I took off after the truck, following it down the hill for a vigorous run.
I realize some this may sound like I'm encouraging my dog to chase cars. But I don't think Zorro was interested in the truck. He was interested in the dogs inside it. (who are cowards, by the way. If you so much as look at them sideways, they take off into the tall grass).
This morning, I caught an even bigger break that did not involve moving vehicles. On our first venture out, Zorro didn't want to go past the woodshed, so after he took care of his business, I brought him back inside. Then, after we finished breakfast, Denny saw a guy and a black lab run past our house. We're pretty sure he was renting a place nearby because we had never seen him before.
The road deadends at the top of the hill, so when they came back down I was ready. I slapped the leash on Zorro, who was watching them with intense interest from the porch, and we were off. They had enough of a head start that we didn't catch up to them--don't want to scare the tourists--but that didn't deter Zorro. We tore down the hill and didn't stop until we got to the mailboxes. Zorro would have gone farther but it was hot and I was feeling the effects of two cups of coffee and bacon and eggs. So we turned around and ran home. We were both out of breath by the time we got back so I felt we got our exercise for the day.
The forecast this week is standard August torpidity: temps in the 90s and the possibility of thunderstorms later in the week. If Zorro wants to stay close to home, he won't get an argument from me.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Zorro went out on the porch this morning, looked right at the almost-full moon (which hadn't set yet; have I mentioned we've become very cognizant of when the moon rises and sets?) and did ... nothing. No barking or stomping. Is it the Prozac?
I've had pretty good success this week in getting him to stop barking by saying, calmly, "Enough," calling him away from the window, and giving him a treat once he's quiet. Patrician McConnell recommends this is "The Other End of the Leash" and it's pretty effective, as long as I get him before he gets really excited.
Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way to discourage him from barking in the first place. Last night, our neighbor was in and out of her front door several times and every time her screen door squeaked, he barked. Each time, I called him away and he calmed down. Then the door squeaked and we went through the exercise all over again. Finally our neighbor went to bed and so did we.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A good impression

We had our first houseguests since adopting Zorro this weekend and he acquitted himself extremely well. No jumping or barking, and when we had dinner, he sat quietly off to the side. I did close the curtains when the moon rose above the trees; I didn't want to worry about a moon meltdown when we had company.
We had a big thunderstorm in the middle of the night and this time, he sought safety in the bathroom instead of the basement. Fortunately, none of our guests got up in the middle of the night to pee; finding a big black and white dog in the shower at 3 AM could be alarming.
He did have some barking eruptions on the way home, apparently because he thought he saw the moon in some cloud formations. But Denny managed to get him to lie down, so I feel like we're making progress. When he quiets down, he gets a treat. Hopefully he hasn't figured out that this is an easy way to score lots of treats.