The Hellhole

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Last night was Week Two of puppy class. I didn't blog about it, however, because we had a change in weather which, coupled with blooming ragweed, made me a totally miserable girl in spite of sinus and allergy medications both oral and inhaled. I barely made it through class.

The puppies are learning basic commands. Both are quick to catch on, mostly. Mister Fusspot, however, has certain...blocks, I guess. For example, he steadfastly refuses to sit, one of the most basic dog commands ever, that even stupid dogs can learn. He won't respond to any of the sly training tricks to get him to sit and realize what we want. Not gonna. But on other commands, like "look", "leave it", "wait" - he not only gets it but will keep doing it for a VERY long time, both much longer and much earlier than even our trainer expected.

Brief explanation if you don't know: with beginning clicker training you give the command, like say, "sit" and as soon as they do it, as in the very second the doggy-butt hits the floor - click, treat. Then you get the pup to hold the behaviour for two seconds - click, treat. Then five, etc. working up until they don't break the command until they're told to do so. Well, Esme and Mister Fusspot have proved quick to understand what we want, or more probably quick to learn that if they do what we want, it's followed by a 'click, treat'. But Esme is quite young and easily distracted by other dogs, random noises, people in the store (the class is held in a ring set up in the back of PetCo) so although she is maybe even a bit quicker to learn a command than Mister Fusspot, her concentration is easily broken. His refusal to sit notwithstanding, last night Mister Fusspot was "leave[ing] it" on command the tastiest meat treats we offer, completely untouched in my outstretched hand for absolutely AGES, as long as I chose to wait before telling him he could break.

When working with the puppies at home, we've included our older dog, Sprocket. He is responding well to the clicker and sort of obliging us. He already knew some basic commands but he is spoiled (my fault entirely) and the result is kind of funny. When one of us is giving Sprocket a command, he'll kinda glance sideways at the other hoomin, like "does she really mean it?", "do I hafta?" and if he gets nowhere, he'll rather grudgingly but good-naturedly do the trick/behaviour.

On a different topic, there was a book I read as a child that has reverberated with me ever since. I couldn't remember the title or author, though I remembered large swatches of text, main characters, intriguing details. This book was so delightfully spookeh, scary enough to create that little frisson of real fear late at night when strange creaks emitted from a different part of the house as the eldritch moon cast monstrous shadows on my walls...I wanted it, preciousss, I wanted it. So I Googled the main characters and a detail or two, and discovered that my coveted book was The Figure In The Shadows, by John Bellairs. Amazon broke the news that this was part of a series, the precursor of which was illustrated by none other than EDWARD GOREY. (A is for Amy who fell down the stairs! B is for Basil assaulted by bears! C is for Clara who wasted away!)

I was fortunate enough to find 'Figure' published in one volume with The House with a Clock in Its Walls and The Letter, The Witch and The Ring. There are others in the series, apparently begun by Mr. Bellairs in part or at least in outline form and finished posthumously by others. I haven't investigated any of those yet. I bought the 3-book volume from an Amazon reseller which, as it turns out, is Goodwill Industries of NY & NJ, so I'm helping a charity while helping myself! I am as delighted by the story as I was decades ago, though I have to admit I think the first one is much better - but that's kinda like saying Chateau Lafite Rothschild is better than Silver Oak: it's all fabulously wonderful. I'm about midway through the last book now. I love rediscovering books from childhood and, far from being disappointed, being delighted all over again, to eleven.


  • The puppy training is very interesting! It's very similar to how we trained Anthony to go to bed by himself.

    I had the same feeling rereading Jane Emily and Children of Witches recently. I'll have to look for the book by Bellairs. I still really enjoy good juvenile lit. Before Anthony when I had loads of free time, I used to sometimes sit in the young adult section of the library and read an entire book before going home.

    By Blogger Nancy, at 8:00 AM  

  • Nancy, I need to hear more details on training a child to go to bed.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:07 PM  

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