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we move to canadalaura khttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05524593142290489958noreply@blogger.comBlogger6505125
Updated: 22 min 16 sec ago

35 survivors of cosby assaults speak out in new york magazine

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 04:30
In a powerful show of courage, strength, and feminist solidarity, 35 women (of the 46 total) who have officially accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them share their stories in New York magazine.

Read, watch, listen.

preparing for the inevitable and diego's mid-term report card

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 15:30
As the days count down until we move from house to apartment, I'm having trouble shaking my sadness.

I'm very aware of the privileged position I'm in. We were able to find a really nice apartment, and although moving is expensive, we'll be able to absorb it. Right now we have a ridiculous amount of space for two people, so it's not like it will hurt us to downsize. But all that awareness takes place in my rational brain. In my heart, I am so sad, both for myself and for Tala.

We lived in apartment with dogs for almost our entire time in New York. I always said dogs could have a good life living in an apartment, as long as their people are committed to getting them enough exercise. It was true then and it's true now.

But when I see Tala relaxing in the grass, or even staring out the window at passers-by, I fear that I'm about to ruin her life.

Tala willing the hose to spray herDiego will be happy wherever we are. He doesn't much like to stay outside without us anyway. He wants to be with his people, full stop. But Tala is an independent kind of dog. She's sweet and affectionate, but she has her own mind. Sometimes it seems like she has her own plans for the day. Let's see, today I'm going to make Mommy hold the food bowl while I eat, then get Daddy to spray me with the hose, then make Diego play with me, then spend some time outside in the shade.

I have a real fear - irrational, but very potent - that after we move, Tala will become depressed, and go into a decline from which she will never recover.

It's ridiculous. I know it's not going to happen.

I think I know it's not going to happen.

I might know that. Might not.

University of Diego

We are working hard to get Diego apartment-ready. It's still difficult to imagine him regularly passing other dogs in the lobby without melting down, or sitting calmly when an elevator door opens, but we've made real progress in the two or three weeks since we started, so... I am cautiously optimistic. Although still quite anxious about the whole thing.


...must stay... must stay... must staFor motivation, along with heaps of praise and love, we are using this amazing stuff called Rollover. When doing serious concerted training, it's common for dogs to gain weight, and also to overdose on salty or fatty snacks, causing all kinds of problems. But Rollover is nutritionally complete dog food. However much we use for the day's lessons, we subtract a certain amount of regular kibble from their dinners.

It comes in a giant roll, like an enormous cooked sausage. We cut off a thick slice, then chop that up into bits. We keep a day's worth of treats in packages in the fridge, so we can monitor what he's getting. You can freeze it long-term, too. It's even made in Canada, from Canadian beef (or New Zealand lamb) and Canadian grains, processed in Alberta.

Rollover is what the trainers call a "high-value reward". A lot is being asked of Diego, so we have to reward him with something really special. From his reaction, I'd say this is about as special as it gets. Both dogs are absolutely wild for it. I've started to rub bits of the stuff on Tala's medications, then throw the pills in her dinner. She's eating with an almost Diego-like fervor.

And the big boy is getting lots and lots of Rollover! There's the leash training, walking-past-dogs-and-distractions training, and there's regular command ("trick") training, which our trainer says is an essential component of this whole project. Diego is not only learning new associations and new behaviours - he's also learning how to learn. Supposedly all the training works together.

Yesterday Diego heard a dog bark behind a fence, and looked at me! Today he heard the neighbour's gate - a huge trigger that usually sends him crashing down the space between houses, barking and jumping like a maniac. He took two steps towards the sound, then faced me and came running over for his reward. A+!!!

If you're curious about the process, our trainer sends us videos as background materials. Here's a quick one, counter-conditioning a Jack Russell Terrier away from aggressive behaviour. Here's a beautiful Tala-like dog learning not to bark, and doing the emergency U-turn. Here's some trick training: the paw-target touch. Diego learned this in about two seconds, thwacking his big paw down with great gusto. Whoo-hoo, hit this with my paw, get Rollover!

We have a weekly schedule, to be sure that one of us is working with Diego every day, and to build progressively more challenging scenarios. The trick is to move the training forward but not go so fast that he has setbacks. We're told that the adrenaline and cortisol rush that occurs from a negative encounter has lasting negative effects.

Buster feeling safe insideThe training has made me think of our beloved Buster, for whom walking outside was an ordeal, every single walk of every single day. He really only felt safe and secure inside. And because he could never play in a dog park, he never got enough exercise, so he had little opportunity to release his energy and tension.

Thankfully Diego will not have that problem. Living in an apartment will be great motivation to take them to the dog park more often. If we can just get him down the elevator and out of the building.

dogs, apartments, and anxiety: in which diego returns to school

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:00
As I mentioned (almost a month ago now), our pack of four is moving to a new den. We're going to stop renting houses, as we have done for the past ten years, and move back to apartment life. Although I've adjusted to the idea, I'm no happier about it. I'm heartsick that we'll no longer have the private oasis of a backyard.

We've found a great apartment: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, well-maintained building, lots of green space outside, dog-friendly building (it's the law in Ontario, but not always followed or enforced), good location for both driving and transit. Honestly, had I seen this apartment when I lived in New York, I would have considered it luxury. Now it just makes me sad.

But there's another factor involved in this move, a big, drooling, barking factor named Diego.

Drooly BoyIn our old house, before the flood, we were working with Diego on better on-leash behaviour, especially his reactions to other dogs. Off-leash at the dog park, Diego is playful and well socialized; on the leash, a barking, pulling maniac.

This is a common issue. We were working with a trainer when the flood upended our lives. We ended up moving, and we never resumed training. This meant I stopped walking Diego, except when the four of us walk together, and Allan can take the big boy while I walk Tala. I couldn't manage him at all.

As soon as we realized we were moving to an apartment, in a building full of dogs, I knew we needed to re-boot Diego's education.

The amazing trainer we had been working with has moved out of the area, but we are working with her by email, phone, and video. We've got a fridge full of Rollover, something this trainer turned us on to: a training treat that is nutritionally balanced, and can substitute for your dog's regular food. We're using a complicated harness-Gentle Leader-collar combination that gives me maximum control, and produces a calming effect on the dog. And we're working daily in our neighbourhood.

Buster posing with some antiquated technologyDiego has already made a lot of progress. It's hard for me to imagine him walking calmly past another dog we might encounter in the lobby, or not going nuts if the elevator door opens and a dog appears, but every walk is a training opportunity, and we'll just keep at it.

And there will be plenty of opportunity! We'll have to walk Tala and Diego separately for the foreseeable future, and we're on the 19th floor of a 20-story building.

But wait, there's more. There's yet another factor at play: my own anxiety. Many years ago in New York, we had a very bad experience with Buster, our pit-mix rescue who had severe fear-aggression to other dogs. This resulted in many things, including a four-day hospital stay for Allan, a famous animal behaviourist donating time to us, and a pitbull on Prozac.

And it resulted in one more thing. Walking Buster became a source of great fear and anxiety for me... which is how I learned more about post-traumatic stress syndrome. Apparently once a person has experienced a state of extreme emergency, their neural pathways are permanently changed. The threshold to trigger the fight-or-flight response is much lower. So I'd wake up in a state of anxiety, just before I had to walk the dogs. Buster and I both needed medication to go on walks! (If only he could have understood rationally. Buster was a dog of extreme obedience - a soldier who lived to follow orders. If he could have controlled himself to please us, he would have done so in a heartbeat.)

Whoever thought she'd be the calm one!And here we are, 15 years later. It's a different dog, who is not an emotionally damaged abuse survivor, but a part of my brain doesn't know that. Dogs, of course, sense your anxiety and react to it. If their person is fearful, there must be something to be fearful and vigilant about. So Diego has to calm down for me, and I have to calm down for him.