Win-Turned-Whiny Wednesday

This post will be a bit of a mess because I’m a bit of a mess. But, I’m not apologizing (reader who asked me not to apologize for being too sick to blog, take note)! I’m just sayin’ — point of information.

The Wins

Disability-Access Related:

My Waspish Wednesdays are actually causing change! I didn’t really expect it.

Not only wonderful response from wonderful readers wanting to know more about MCS and safer products (THANK YOU!!!), but also. . . .

I got an email from a software developer who says his software eliminates CAPTCHA issues. I have set up a deal with him for After Gadget readers whose disabilities make CAPTCHA difficult/impossible to use, to try it for free. Wanted to post about it today, with all the details, but too sick. Will soon, though.


I’ve mentally nicknamed Barnum the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. (Don’t Panic. I’m listening to That Most Remarkable Book — one my favorites, ever — thanks to DVD version from Mom and Dad).

No, not because he’s so mind-bogglingly stupid that if I wrapped a towel around my head he’d believe he couldn’t see me, but because he is ravenous. He is actually showing — in certain areas — mindbendingly surprising mental acuity, along with ravenousness.

Ravenous examples and highlights:

  • He is trying to catch treats in the air, sometimes almost succeeding. Soon, I think he will actually be snatching them out of the air.
  • He dives under furniture to try to reach treats.
  • Last night, while trying to tick-check him, he kept picking things up (the bag of treats, the clicker, the blunt-tipped curved grooming scissors I use for the thickets between his toes) so that I would click for picking up, holding, or dropping. I had to try to hide everything that could possibly be picked up, until I finally just turned it into Zen practice.
  • He was so antsy to train, and so hungry, that he couldn’t keep still. I finally solved the problem by dropping a piece of cheese on the floor and telling him, “Leave it.” Then he stood still, staring at it. STARING HARDER. HARDER! Reaching toward it. Closer. Closer. Stretching his neck until he was practically doing a giraffe impression. Not actually eating it, but trying to get as close as possible, to WILL it into his mouth, I think. (Sue Ailsby — you said his Zen falling apart was the best possible sign. Well, hovering over a treat, deciding whether or not to steal it, is not my idea of good Zen! So this mess is a TERRIFIC sign, eh?)
  • I laughed a LOT during this mess of a tick check. This is MY KIND OF PROBLEM DOG!
  • Wish I could video us practicing with the dumbbells and floor targeting. He grabs the DB, I flick or toss a treat as far as I can. He runs and leaps after the treats, but because of slippery floor, looks like a cartoon character.

Signs of breakthrough problem-solving or cue recognition:

  • Created an undesirable behavior chain of jumping onto my bed so I will tell him to get off and he can get a treat for “Off!” I’m extinguishing it, but it’s taking many sessions a day, many days. He’s gotten sneaky. I love a sneaky dog.
  • Last night, set up two standing targets, an Alley-Oop and a Manner’s Minder. Alley-Oop next to me, MM several feet away. Wanted him to go back and forth, touching one, then the other. After no clicks for touching Alley-Oop repeatedly, touched, mouthed, pawed the ball, stick, base, etc., till I finally got him to look at touch MM. Ran to it, c/t. Two more like that (maul AO, finally figure out to try MM), and he was ping-ponging between them. He’d NEVER have figured that out a few weeks ago.
  • Yesterday  took him out when he was NOT indicating he needed to go out, NOR was it a time of day when he urgently needs to pee. Took him near his toileting area (gravel), but NOT right on it. Gave him release. He hung out, sniffing the air, whateverishly. I gave him his pee cue, “Hurry up!” and pointed to a patch of grass next to the gravel. He startled, looked at me, trotted over, and peed in the grass. WOOOOHOOOO! (More breakthrough pottying stories another time, which, I’m sorry to say, will be accompanied by pictures. You’ve been warned.)
  • For a couple of weeks, I was constantly calling Barnum “Gadget,” or just catching myself before I said it or after I typed it. I think this is because he was acting more like Gadget. Now he is still acting hungry and eager and smart (still not as smart as Gadget, but much better!), however he is also showing extra, extra goofiness and acrobatic stylin’ that is just the epitome of Barnumness (and how he got his name), that I’m back to calling him Barnum. This makes me happy.
  • Because of Barnum’s improved LLW, recall, and other aspects of self-control, he is now getting 2-3 long leash walks per week and 2-3 long off-leash runs at the pond per week. Hopefully when I get my pchair (in working order) and van back, and if I am doing better, functionally, I will be able to take him to the pond or on long walks or for short training field-trips, too.

Writing Related:

  • Just had a piece accepted that means a lot to me for an anthology that pays better than most.
  • Have been writing, writing, writing, whenever my brain is capable of focusing enough, for another antho for an editor with whom I’ve worked before. She might take several pieces. I’ve written FOUR new pieces of flash/short short fiction. I didn’t know if I still had the ability, but I do!


Because of my current level of excited overachieving, I keep not getting enough sleep and also crashing.

For example, today I can’t really do much but lie in bed because of immobilizing pain, and my voice isn’t working. Unfortunately, I had to make some important, time-sensitive phone calls. However, just a few days ago, my PCA and I packed away my TTY, because I thought, “I don’t need this anymore”! Argh. So, we had to unpack it and set it up. Frustrating and disappointing, but not crushing. Just a little joke from the gods, I think.

I keep thinking I’ve finished my submission and can send it in, but either my brain isn’t clear enough, or I’m too tired, or I discover errors (where I’ve used words that don’t make sense, for example). The frustration is not so much that I haven’t finished this task, but the causes of my inability/slowness in completing the task.

Barnum WANTS to train. I WANT to train him. I know that if I could do three sessions a day, instead of usually just one, we would be going so much faster, but every time I try to add more sessions, I’m incapacitated the next day. Argh. Plus, when I’m lacking more function is when I’m so aware of all the help he could be providing if he knew what to do. So. Hard. To. Be. PATIENT!

I want to reply to all the comments I haven’t yet, especially about MCS and products. I want to write my blog posts about tick-checking dogs and people, about other Lyme myths, about all the MCS stuff that’s come up in the comments, about all the stuff that’s been happening with Barnum, and to write Part II of my Typical Atypical post before I forget everything that happened that day(!) and the CAPTCHA-related posts, and more bird posts. The grief and bereavement resources that are so desperately needed. I haven’t been able to keep up with the daily tired-trainer tips. I haven’t been able to keep my training log updated. But all I can do is lie around.

Those are my whines. Whine, whine, whine. All in all, I’m pretty happy. These are good things to whine about.

Also, I think whining is underrated. Griping is therapeutic. I think more people should revel in bitching about irritating crap. Plus, it’s good to have a hobby.

And now that I’m sufficiently drugged, pain-wise, I’m going to try to take a nap. Goodnight.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget (who got hurried through too many skills, and therefore did not have the solid foundation Barnum will, I hope), and Barnum, Ravenous SDiT

P.S. Phone conversation transcript with vet yesterday:

Sharon: Barnum’s stitches (from neutering) have not disintegrated yet.

Vet: (Explains that it takes several months, and as long as they’re not bothering him, it’s not a problem).

Sharon: OK, good.

Vet: How is Barnum doing?

Sharon: Great!

Vet: Has he mellowed out some?

Sharon: (laughing) Oh YEAH.

Vet: Good. So that should help him be a better service dog, right? Help with training?

Sharon: Yes! Definitely! (more laughter)

7 Responses to “Win-Turned-Whiny Wednesday”

  1. 1 Kathy June 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    My son is really smart. But really, really lazy. He is somewhat food motivated but not enough to train. He’s been out of work for several years and just got a new job but he’s already doing stupid stuff like showing up for work late.
    Barnum is doing so good I wish I could take my son to the vet and have the same procedure done. Probably not a great idea but oh I wish something would happen to make him wise up!

    So happy for Barnum’s improvements. And your’s too (thanks for not apologizing!) I hope lots more laughing happens!! Laughing is awesome. Thank you for sharing!

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler June 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Kathy, all dog trainers say it all the time, and it’s no joke: Dogs are so much easier to train than people!

    Yeah, as a raunch-minded former humor columnist, you don’t know how many jokes/commentaries I’ve been holding back on this topic. (“Testosterone poisoning — turns out it’s real! [In dogs, anyway.]” “Castration: Why the bad rap? [For dogs, I mean.]” “Bitches Rule!” [No really, we do.])

    On a somewhat more serious note, have you read Don’t Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor? It won’t change your son’s habits at work (assuming he’s an adult and not living at home), but you can still affect his behavior insofar as your relationship with him by using behavioral psychology. The book was not actually written for dog trainers/training — it’s mostly about how we modify (or fail to modify) people’s behavior, including our own, and how we can do it more effectively and humanely. I have used it on myself and on other people (usually, but not always, with their agreement/cooperation). But, basically, what I learned most from Pryor/clicker WRT dealing with other people is, if you like what someone’s doing, give them a reason to keep doing it. If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t respond and find something else to reinforce instead. If you have to change an undesirable behavior, provide an opportunity/information to succeed another way.

    I cannot remotely claim to live up to this all or even most of the time, but I do try, and it does work when I make the effort. It even works when people know you’re doing it, as long as what you’re offering is sincere. That’s the most important thing. Even if you have “personal motives,” if you also mean it when you praise, reward, etc., if you are truly pleased, any social being (dog, human, parrot, etc.) is gonna feel that. It works incredibly well with children. They really know how to play the slots. Your son’s not a kid anymore, sounds like, but the good thing about Pryor’s approach is, you don’t do any harm by trying it.

    OK, stepping down from soap box. (Too high. Makes me dizzy. ;-b)

  3. 3 Karyn June 8, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Barnum is way ahead of Thane where the dual manner’s minder is concerned. Thane still wants to lick those and really is a dog that needs direction in order to do something. He does not do much thinking for himself. Too bad he was already fixed! Giggle
    Seriously though I’ve tried to get him to earn his ball by doing new things- it can be maddening for days or weeks and then he will do something that just makes me so proud or makes me laugh so hard that I pee.
    I get the balancing act with your health and training against the need of tasks. Its so hard to be patient. There are so many more in home tasks I’d like to train Thane to do and yet finding the time, energy, and comprehension of the best way to do the training for how Thane learns just seems unbelievably large.
    I think the biggest problem though I am encountering is that Thane has found his voice this year- ARG
    I kick myself for playing all day long with him in an attempt to teach him to play when I first got him. I made him the ball obsessed dog he is- somehow I am determined that this will somehow benefit us in further training
    Your escapades and journey make me realize how many holes I left in my training of Thane. Its a good thing but makes me want to start all over sometimes grin
    You’ll find your balance Just as I did. Its tough though huh?

  4. 4 brilliantmindbrokenbody June 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I was laughing so hard at your description of Barnum’s zen-fail with the cheese that the fiance asked what I was reading. When I read it to him, he cracked up, too.

    My my, you are Miss Busy lately, aren’t you?

    On an unrelated note, I saw this shop and thought of you –


  5. 5 Sharon Wachsler June 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I was worried about Barnum being vociferous because he was always whiny, and then when he started barking, oh boy. But putting barking and quiet on cue really did make a difference. Even tho he is, by nature, I think, a more vocal dog than Gadget was (and of course, Jersey, who was totally silent), I have much more control over his vocalizing than I did with Gadget. It took real dedication and work, over time, but I was very motivated and knew the danger if he became a talker. One of those instances where I learned from my mistakes with Gadget.

    As for training holes and such, now that I am more confident in my training abilities, I do believe more the saying, “Anything you train with a clicker, you can untrain with a clicker.” The author of Control Unleashed has BCs, and one was ball-obsessed from day one, and she wrote about using the toy obsession to make him more food obsessed; she had to use toys to get him interested in food. I used food to get Jersey interested in balls. So, I do think there is a lot you can do with Thane being ball obsessed. You have a powerful motivator — a lure, a reward/reinforcer, etc. I bet you will find a way to channel that.

    I attended a teleconference with Shirley Chong a little while back, and she said this great thing about how each dog, she says she’s not going to make the same mistakes as the last dog. And I thought, boy do I relate to that. Every time, I say, next time, I’m doing that, not this. I felt better that this expert makes mistakes, taht means I’m not a screw-up if I do. She said having had and trained so many dogs, she has learned all the little mistakes not to make, so now she makes really unusual and BIG mistakes! So she said we should just go out there and make our mistakes. Like, take charge and just throw yourself into those mistakes. I’m not quoting her; she was more articulate and funny than I’m being. But it was very liberating. I felt like, OK, yeah, the professionals make big mistakes, it’s natural I’ll make mistakes, too, with every dog, forever. Part of the game. You train the mistakes, and you have to figure out how to untrain them, and that makes you a better trainer.

  6. 6 Sharon Wachsler June 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Kali, Oh, good. Glad I could give you a laugh. And that I conveyed how really silly he was. He looked like a vulture, hovering over it. Very focused, very funny. Yes, I have been busy! (Busy for someone who spends most of their time in bed. It’s hard to explain to ABs.) And that is why I keep having these bad crashes. Today I’m watching DVDs on my computer and going to sleep EARLY I hope. Too sick to make my PCA to-do lists and errand/shopping list for tomorrow, which is not good, but, oh well….

  7. 7 Karyn June 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I know people who swear by putting barking on cue. It failed miserably with Met- He was actually pretty quiet until I did that- then I NEVER got control again. I know, it was probably something I did- but since I am beginning to realize a lot of Thane’s is boredom- I think I am going to go from that direction instead for now because for a BC, Thane is actually quite quiet.

    Oh is it liberating to hear about these big whig trainers making big mistakes.

    I look at everything you have done in your foundation training and feel like I really screwed up or something because I did not spend all that time working all those things. I know if I could just get my head around how to approach more in terms of targeting and position (something I’ve just recently discovered requires my hand for Thane to get) I feel like a lot of what I need/ want from him that does not happen the way I hoped for would be resolved
    In some ways I feel like I did better by Met and in others I know I learned a lot through him to do better by Thane
    I suspect a lot of the holes I see really are because of the process of grief and training.
    I think when its years between trainees like the decade I had- you really do ummm forget what needs training and how to go about it. I’m speaking for myself. My folks are always praising how he turned out and yet sometimes the very things they are praising I feel like it just is so crappy.
    For me, and I know its the case for you, I find the hardest part is to find the time when I have the energy to put into him the training that could improve the holes. Sometimes I have both and yet, I just am not sure how to go about the stuff so we really get nothing done or minimal at best. Its not always that way- but thats how I feel about it now that I am not working on some major task because I’ve taken time off to just accept him for who he is and to enjoy this time of year which goes by way way too fast in the Pacific Northwest.

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