Sunday, January 31, 2010

You know your dog understands a command when...

** He is able to peform the command that was given 200 miles away OVER THE PHONE. A few weeks ago, when I was home saying goodbye to Jarod and called my husband to say 'goodnight,' he told me to give Darwin a command over the speaker phone to see what he would do. I said 'Down,' and down Darwin apparently went! I was rather impressed.

**This morning my husband took Darwin along for a breakfast run and stopped to get gas on the way. Through the rear hatch window, Darwin was given the hand signal for the 'Down' command, and through glass, executed it perfectly.

Yes, you know your dog understands a command when he can perform it by only hearing your voice coming out of that strange and mysterious box that does not smell at all like the person speaking (And just how his people fit in there, he will never know) or through a glass window in a gas station parking lot via a hand signal, he gets it.

Was working with Darwin on his 'wait's and 'stay's tonight while out playing frisbee in the new snow we recieved today. He performed a perfect 'wait,' even with me tossing the frisbee a short distance. This is the first time we've ever tried this command with that kind of a temptation. Go Darwin! His 'stay's were also lovely tonight.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

*Also, I realize this is the first post I've made without a picture of any sort. It makes me a little sad, but I will make up for it tomorrow with movies and pictures of Darwin and his new method of obtaining his dinner.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Six Words.

*Note: I did not reduce the size of some of the pictures for this post. I apologize for the bits that got cut off.

Patricia McConnell has written some wonderful books on dogs and has been an inspiration to me for the last few years since I discovered her. She has a blog entitled The Other End of the Leash. One of her dogs, Lassie, passed away a few days ago, and so she decided to summarize Lassie's life in six words, similar to Hemingway's challenge to write the shortest story possible. (His was: For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.)

I have decided to take up this challenge for each of the three dogs who have been a large part of my life.


Childhood companion. Always happy. Ball keeper.

Murphy was my first dog. A golden retriever who was far from perfect, he was still the love of my life as a child. Most of my stories and art revolved around him, and I spent most of my afternoons either taking him for walks or playing with him in our backyard. I'd loved dogs since I understood what one was, worshipped them, and had to wait until I was eight years old before actually having one in my life full-time. All of my play as a child revolved around stuffed dogs, my invisible friend was a dog uncreatively named 'Spot,' and I read as many books on dogs as I could get my little hands on. And when Murphy came into my life, that was it. He only strengthened my love for these wonderful animals. He was big for a golden, 95 pounds and did not have a lot of obedience training, but that didn't matter to me. He was my companion, and I have not forgotten him, even though he has been gone for eight years. Of course, he had that happy golden retreiver personality and a love of tennis balls, so he was always carrying one around. He was my first dog, and is therefore, very special.


Rescue. Agility buddy. Therapy dog. Teacher.

Ah, Jarod. I still can't belive he is gone. I am actually thinking about starting a blog for him where I post all my photos (as I got my first digital camera about the same time I got him and took many wonderful artistic shots of him) and tell stories that may eventually go into a book for myself and my mom, his two favorite people. I miss him dearly. He was my first dog after Murphy, and I think I needed him as much as he needed me. He was a rescue from the shelter, had been there a week, was a stray, and did not approach me when I went by his run. But, looking for a dog that might be similar to a golden retriever in breed character, as he looked mainly like a lab, I took him to the "Get-to-know-you" pen and he soon let me pet him. He came home with me, and helped me get through one of the roughest years of my life. We started agility together and he helped me get hooked on the sport, at least until his hips started to go. He was my therapy dog in that he provided me with something I, who was suffering from extreme anxiety about life, needed to function. He taught me so much about how to teach and communicate with a dog. I feel so grateful that he came into my life. He had to move in with my parents for his last year, and I think he was my Mom's heart dog. He is so sorely missed.


Darwin's is a bit more difficult, as his life has barely begun and we still have so many journeys to make. But I'll give it a try...

Mirth maker. Frisbee catcher. Occasional trouble.

Darwin. Well, I don't think I need to say much about him here, as this entire blog is based around him, but he is my first cardigan welsh corgi, fulfilling a dream I've had for quite some time. I've spent the last day pondering Darwin's six words. His were the hardest to write of the three dogs, as there were so many facets of him to put up here. Other options were: Silly, sunshine boy - to account for his joyful, often humorous approach to life; Love on four legs - because that is what he is to me, Constant companion - as he is at my feet 95% of the time and follows me when I move from place to place, he's only out of eyesight when he's feeling like getting into a little bit of trouble; Dream come true - because he is my first corgi and has fulfilled pretty much all my expectations about him, I do believe that the cardigan is definitely a heart breed of mine now; Ray of sunshine - also came to mind, as he is always happy and ready to go in the morning, giving me the biggest smile as we step out the door for his morning potty and frisbee session (I swear, that smile is a great way to start every day); Future journeys or Learning together are others I could have chosen; and there were others, but those were my top choices.

Suffice it to say, Darwin means a lot to me, and there are a lot of aspects of him I consider important in summing him up. I love his herding instinct, his desire to learn, even when I'm not the clearest in teaching him, the way he can be scooped up because he is not too big of a dog, the way he loves affection and gives affection back, his daily bout of zoomies which are triggered by the oddest things, his talking the classical cardigan language about everything under the sun, the way he needs to take any obstacal such as going around a tree or over something to return to me, even when there was a path free of such things, his stubby legs, his beautiful head, his nice, even gait when he runs, how he is curious about the world, going on adventures with him, having him lay next to me in the car or put his head on my leg when we are sitting on the couch, just having him be there when no one else is around is such a comfort, and every day is better as long as he is a part of it. I honestly could go on, but I think I will stop for now. He is such a wonderful little dog and I love him so very dearly. He has made such an impact on me and we have not even had him a year yet. We have so many things we will do together during his lifetime, and he is teaching me further how to be a better trainer and companion to any dog. I love him.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Darwin photo with frisbee by Diane Hargreaves, all the rest of the photos by me!

Happy Birthday Darwin!

You were 1 year old yesterday! We are so proud with how you've made the transition from something that resembles a blind guinea pig to the handsome dog you've become today!

For your birthday, we made you a cake. In the grand tradition of dog birthdays under your Mom's watch, you were given a biscuit "cake" cemented together with peanut butter. Sure, not the best thing for you, but it's your birthday! Also, as sad as this may seem the "no people food" rule also applies on your birthday (excluding peanut butter)...

The "cake." I'm used to working with larger biscuits, so this is a little more awkard looking than the structures of the past. But is is complete with dog hair! And a "1" made out of a biscuit sticking out on top! Looks appetizing, right? Darwin certainly thought so, and spent the preparation time at my feet vocalizing his desire.

"Mom, I've been waiting a really long time. Can you tell Dad to let me go, so that I may eat my cake? You're not supposed to torture puppies on their birthdays, after all."

He is not focused at all on his goal.

Chowing down. The only thing that exists is Darwin and the contents of the bowl. The rest of the universe might as well be empty.

The Leaning Tower of Biscuits has been efficiently felled and is rapidly disappearing.

Sad face and empty bowl.

But hope springs eternal as he makes a second check to get the few remaining nanoparticles within.

Happy birthday to my buddy, my companion, my little corgi who has fulfilled so many wishes.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

*Side note: Tonight we went to Petsmart to work on our Stays, Heels, and Come from a Wait. Darwin did really well! Of course, tomorrow the distractions will be intensified, so we shall see how it all goes. He understands the commands for the most part, it is really extending the Heel that we need to work on at this time (and not pulling on the leash when we see another dog)...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Worshipper of the Divine Frisbee

This is Darwin's goofy, happy, "I worship the frisbee and everything round and able to fly through the air like the frisbee" face. As you can imagine, I see this face quite a bit. Such focus in his eyes, even though the rest of his body is asking for a break (read: that rather large tongue sticking out of his mouth).

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Obedience class was a little rough on Saturday. We had seven other dogs in the class and were working on our training in the middle of Petsmart. It had been awhile since Darwin had been in that kind of environment and he was a little bit overwhelmed for the first half of the class. His "Stay" was among the top of the class, though, so our work lately has been paying off...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dirty Corgi + Bath

Arriving home from a very enjoyable walk, Darwin senses that his Mom has evil intentions.

"You've tied me to the door. This does not bode well."

His Mom leads him to the bathroom and removes his collar. She never removes his collar.

Uh, oh.

Soon, the water in the tub begins its thundering cascade.

Darwin lies as still as he can and hopes somehow to develop the ability to blend into the floor mat. Perhaps the dirt will help.

(Note the muddy belly and feet. The harsh bathroom light does not do them justice.)

"I'm not here, Mom."

As disturbing and deafening as the sound of the tub filling is, what is worse is the palpable silence as the knob is turned off and the faucet slowly settles into a quiet and periodic drip.

In one sudden movement, Darwin is lifted up and placed in the lukewarm water.

"I'll have you know, this is puppy torture. See my eyes? Yeah, that's me being melancholy. Watch as I cripple you with my epic woe."

"That didn't work? Then I suppose I will survive." *heavy puppy sigh* "If I must."

The aftermath.

And one clean corgi prepped with the wet-dog zoomies. He always likes to get his Mom back for this torture by running around the living room, spreading his dampness to everything he touches. And in record time!

And that is that...

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Note: Tomorrow we start advanced obedience. Wish us luck! We are rather out of practice with our heeling and staying....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Walk finale

And as an end to our walk, with an increasingly muddy corgi at hand, I attempt to get a picture of Darwin with the statue people that live on campus (see top of the photo). However, Darwin cares not for things that lack motion and is instead much more interested in a moving person out of the photo frame. Ah, well.

Though I must say, he seems to make a pretty good statue himself.

On our way back to the car, I was amused at the little corgi-sized tracks being left on the pavement.... So, naturally, I had to take a photo.

However, Darwin denies any involvement in the making of said tracks...

"C'mon, Mom. My feet are much bigger than that. Honest."

Coming up in the next post: The aftermath. Wherein Darwin gets an impromptu bath and makes some very unimpressed faces.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Afterthought: This walk was a really great thing for both Darwin and I. We play and train together, but it has been awhile since we have just gone out on a good ol' fashioned adventure. I think we will try to do one of these every weekend in a new place.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is this new form I see before me?

Further on into our walk from Sunday, Darwin discovered Something New! Something Amazing! Something Herdable!

But like all great scientists (and I strongly uphold that dogs can explore their world in the trial-and-error scientific method of discovery), he had a few dense moments prior to his discovery.

Darwin: "Corgi-scan initiated. Hum, what's up ahead of us? Nothing interesting. Just fog, fog, and more fog."

Darwin: "Corgi-scan to the right... What's this magical little thing in front of me?" *Note: look in the tree*

*Darwin and the creature eye each other for a moment*

*Darwin takes a second to woof at the newcomer to see how it will react. The small, furry creature shoots further up the tree.*

*Not a big fan of this third picture, as it was snapped rather rapidly, in an attempt to capture the action, but it fits the story.

Darwin thinks about this for a moment before proceeding... "Well, it's smaller than me, which is good. It's furry like that cat-thing that lives at home. It's fast, which is basically an invitation for me to chase it. And it is up in a tree like those flying things I love to try and catch, though never can. Classification: herdable."

And there you have it! The remainder of the squirrels we saw that day had to run in fear of the mighty corgi attempting to herd them.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**This really was Darwin's first recognition of a squirrel. They have suddenly exploded in our town, and while he had had the opportunity to see one before, he never really NOTICED them until now...

Fog Walk Continued

Continuing on with the walk photos from Sunday... (Incidentally, the weather looks like it does in these pictures again today... after a few clear days in between.)

No Darwin in sight! That would be because he was hanging around next to me when this picture was taken. This is the UM University (Main) Hall, looming out of the fog.

Darwin posing next to one of the many sculptures that line the campus. I wanted to pose him a little better but his expression was just cute enough, I let him be.

*Note: The above photo was taken before he found all the muddy patches on campus. His belly and paws are still pristine. A bath was in order when we got home, which Darwin was not entirely appreciative of.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Monday, January 18, 2010

Darwin v. Grizzly

I had to work on campus for a few hours yesterday and so took Darwin with me. He got to wait in the car while I checked on my cultures in the lab. Watching him out the window, he just sat in the front seat and kept his eyes on the door I had used to get into the building... totally ignoring the bowl of kibble sitting unguarded in the back seat. Priorities, I guess...

When I was finished, we took a walking tour of campus in a morning fog. It was an eventful walk, and I will post a sprinkling of pictures from it over the course of this next week.

But first, here is Darwin and the UM Grizzly, both looking off into the distance.

Darwin wasn't quite sure about me putting him up there at first, but did as I asked and gave me a "sit" and a "wait."

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Contained joy...

Darwin is so focused on his frisbee that one does not see his joy expressed in his tail during the game. However, when he is given a moment to rest... the full extent of his happiness is expressed. And it doesn't stop until he gets up to bring me the frisbee for the next throw.

Such a happy boy.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

Monday, January 11, 2010

And finally....

Darwin's third and final Christmas present was his new 'Park it' blanket. We are working on training this command and, as the cat decided to claim his last one as her own and the previous one belonged to Jarod origninally, Darwin was given a new one that is all his own and put away when we are not using it so the cat can't get it. I really love the colors in it (Of course, I picked them out, but my mother-in-law put them together nicely).

Darwin, looking less than enthused. Still in the sweater, having to 'park it,' and no frisbees in sight. Truly, he is a tortured puppy. And on Christmas day to boot!

Later on in the day, Darwin found a bone and decided to lay on his Uncle Max's feet to chew said bone. Uncle Max can be a very patient dog, to have a corgi butt on his front feet and no bone of his own.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Photos by Diane Hargreaves

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mad, mad corgi style

You may remember the green sweater from the final picture in yesterday's post. It is the feature of today's. Darwin's Grandma made him a sweater for those days when the cold was enough to force Darwin's humans to look like the Michelin man. It was green in color to reflect the verdant hills in the lands of the Cardigan heritage. Plus, it just looked nice on him ;).

Putting a sweater on a corgi is a multi-step process. And, of course, there should be treats involved.

Whew! Houston, we have a sweater.

Posing in his new duds. "Aren't I cute?"

"Okay, Mom. I've been on display long enough. Can we take this thing off and get back to those frisbees from earlier?"

"Really now. Maybe if I shift my head and give you sad eyes from a different angle, you'll yield..."

"Okay. Belly rubs are an acceptable substitute, I suppose."

(This last one is my favorite... Love that expression. And the stretched out legs.)

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Photos by Diane Hargreaves

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Were you a good little corgi this past year?

Turns out Darwin was. For the most part. But what can you expect. The occasional spell of trouble is half the fun, right?

So, for Christmas, Darwin was given a variety of things... the first of which, being....

You guessed it. Frisbees. Darwin, as you can tell, was ecstatic.

Finally getting around to posting the Christmas pictures. This is post 1 of 3. Will still do a Jarod memorial post, but tomorrow, as I am really tired tonight.

And what to wondering Corgi eyes should appear? No, no, not reindeer. A pair of frisbees. "Is that what I think it is, Mom?"

"Tastes like frisbees. Yes I can taste them through the plastic. They call to me."

"Well, what are you waiting for. Open them up!"

"Can we play now? See, I'm being such a good boy." Unfortunately, Darwin, no, we cannot. We still have more gifts to unwrap for you! See, look at this lovely green corgi-sized sweater!

-Mel, Corgi-keeper

**Photos by Diane Hargreaves

Friday, January 8, 2010

Back on track, at last

Wow. Sorry I've been so absent from the blog lately. School has finished, but then there were the holidays (which I have pictures from, I just need to download them), and my former dog, Jarod, being diagnosed with lung cancer and my having to rush back to my hometown to visit him one last time, and, now, after several weeks of traveling on my weekends, I finally feel like I'm getting back to my normal life. I also haven't had a lot of time to take pictures of Darwin during the scant daylight in the evenings, so I'm working on that now as well. He is nearing one year old, only 20 days to go!

As for Jarod, I will be putting up a special blog post tomorrow, as he was such an important dog in my life. He taught me a lot about the canine mind, how to teach it, and the true meaning of the canine-human partnership. He got me interested in agility and, while we never competed, helped me learn how to train in that (at least preliminarily) as well. He was my first rescue dog, and came a long way in the five years since we rescued him from the shelter. He was good to Darwin, and though he had to go live with my parents because he couldn't mentally deal with the stress of apartment life and enjoyed the solitude of their house instead, was never far from my mind. And he gave so much to my parents, particularly my mom, that it was really the best move I could have made, even though I missed him.

But I will talk about him in greater detail tomorrow. He passed on last night after only a week-long struggle with the worst of the cancer (i.e. he was symptomatic), and my parents tell me that he was dignified at the end. Truly a gentleman to the last. But, thankfully, we all had the chance to spoil him and enjoy all his favorite things with him for a final amazing week.

Here is a photo of him from this summer:

Thank you, Jarod. You definitely left some big paw prints to fill.

-Mel, Corgi-keeper