My 200th Post: A Time to Sit and Reflect? Nope, Just a Time to SIT!

This is After Gadget’s 200th post! It’s almost two years since I started this blog. With about 100 views a day, and over 32,000 views total, there’s a lot I could write about. I started writing a thoughtful, reflective post about how this blog was a way for me to grieve, and the activism I’ve ended up doing on Lyme and MCS, the resources I’ve provided on ticks, and the community I’ve gotten to know — and helped forge — of assistance dog bloggers. I was going to delve into how grief-stricken I’ve been lately, and how I’ve avoided blogging about it, but how I want to dedicate myself to that kind of self-care now.

Then I thought, “Nah! Let’s do something fun!”

So, instead, I’m hoping this will give you some idea of how far I’ve come as a trainer, and Barnum’s come as a learner, and we’ve both grown as a team, by participating in what seemed like a very silly contest.

Sue Ailsby, the dog trainer whose Training Levels program I follow, decided to launch a contest for Training Levels list members. Inspired by the trends of “planking” and “owling” (yeah, I’d never heard of them either), where people lie stiff as boards or sit crouched like owls in “unusual or dangerous” locations, Sue has launched a contest called “sitting.”

Here are the rules of the contest, where you can also see several pages of entries. The funniest part of many of the entries is Sue’s hilarious captioning. I was not planning on doing much for the contest, but once I started seeing the entries and laughing really hard at the captions, I became more interested in fanatically obsessed with training and capturing more and better Barnum stunts.

I started out with an old standby — Barnum sitting in the bathtub. You might recall this one from my post about training to make baths more enjoyable, and its photo essay addendum, “Bouv in a Bathtub.”

Barnum sitting in a white fiberglass bathtub with a large white grab bar on the edge of the tub closest to the camera.

I have totally mastered this one.

I’ve also sent in this one, just because I think it’s a cool picture, although obviously this is from before the contest started, so I don’t know if it’s viable. Maybe it could be used on the “For Exhibition Only (FEO)” page.

Barnum, King of the Hill, surveys his domain from atop his snowy peak

I Can See Russia from My Backyard (*totally* stole this caption from Sue Eh?)

But, after that, it was training time! I knew there would be a lot of cool, impressive photos of border collies and other agility stars who could leap onto tall objects, so the first hurdle (pun not intended) was teaching Barnum to hop up onto surfaces. The only surface he is used to jumping onto is my bed — a self-taught skill from an early age. Most people are not impressed with a dog on a bed, though.

Therefore, I decided to start with the coffee table. Barnum already knew how to put his front paws on the table (“Paws up!”), but since hind-leg awareness is a much bigger deal for him (and for all dogs), teaching him to get his fear feet up was what took the twenty minutes of shaping.

Barnum sits on a black, dinged, painted-wood coffee table. He is sitting the long way, so his paws are at the narrow end on one end, and his butt is about two-thirds of the way down the table. His head is tilted to the side, looking quizzical.

Ta dah!...Wait, is this right?

By the next day, if we wandered into the living room, he’d jump onto the coffee table, uncued, just in case I felt like clicking that.

A black-painted wood coffee table with Barnum sitting on it. He's looking directly into the camera. It's a rectagular table, and Barnum's is sitting mostly on the narrower part, but cheating a little by being slightly diagnonal, so his butt is at one corner and his right front paw is just barely hanging over the middle of the other side.

I can do it this way, too. This is harder. Can you tell?

(I’m hoping to condense the process in a time-elapsed video so you can see how that shaping was accomplished, and why it became such a successful foundation behavior for what came later. However, I am still trying to figure out my movie software, and I want to get this post published before the new year. Thus, today will only feature stills.)

From there, we moved on to sitting on the couch (I know this is not something most people have to shape, but I did have to actually click and treat Barnum a few times to let him know that, yes, his presence on the couch was desirable).

Barnum sits on a brick-colored three-cushion couch. He is sitting on the middle cushion, body facing forward, but head turned to the right to face the camera, with mouth slightly open in a questioning way.

Spud Puppy

And then there was no stopping us! (Cue gay disco anthem, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead, to play over and over in your head. You’re welcome.)

Barnum sits behind a glass door on a tile floor, with white molded fiberglass surrounding him on the other three sides. There is a metal handle on the door and above his head, a shower knob. Two bottles of shampoo sit in the corner.

"Chief O'Brien, energize!" Wait a minute. . . . Is that *shampoo*?

I don’t think Medicare will cover this use of durable medical equipment. . . .

Barnum sits on gray vinyl foam van seat of power wheelchair. He is sitting very tall, right in the center, with his back against the back rest. Black foam armrests on either side, cherry-apple red base, gray wheels, and black foot plate. Barnum's expression is one of a dignified bouvier.

Ooh, look how tall and distinguished I look. . . .

And then we pulled out all the stops. . . .

Before I show this next picture, here’s some background for those unfamiliar with Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels: “Zen” is the name for teaching a dog self-control. (For example, the usual doggy zen cue is “Leave it.”)

A low black table (the same coffee table as in previous pictures). The right side of the table is set with a tangerine-colored placemat and an asian-style wide bowl, with a pair of chop sticks sticking out of the bowl. A takeout menu for a restaurant called "ZEN" stands behind the place setting. Barnum sits on the left side of the table, holding a metal dumbbell in his mouth, from which hangs a printed sign. It says, "ZEN is not just a Levels behavior. They also make great sushi. (Hint, hint.)"

That's a "hup," "take," "sit," and "stay," ladies and gentleman! (And continue to stay as I take multiple shots because my hands shake, and eight-out-of-ten pictures were blurry.)

In case you don’t get the joke, here are some closeups on the props:

Closeup of Barnum holding the sign so the text is more visible Closeup of the menu for Zen restaurantSee? It’s a play on words. A jeux de mot. It still makes me really hungry, though.

Actually, though this was a lot of fun, it wasn’t just fun — some of these behaviors have useful applications. I plan to write about that soon.

I hope you enjoyed this, my 200th post for After Gadget! Thank you for reading! Please celebrate with me in the comments!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT, living up to his acrobatic name

P.S. Doesn’t it seem like this would be an appropriate post for the next Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, the theme of which is “Achievement? Well, I already wrote my post for that, but it’s not too late for you! You still have time to submit your post for the ADBC and for the Patients for a Moment/PFAM Carnival!)

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8 Responses to “My 200th Post: A Time to Sit and Reflect? Nope, Just a Time to SIT!”


  1. 2 Annieke Lamers October 20, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Yay! LOVE the shot on the table with all the props. 😀

  2. 3 Sharon Wachsler October 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you! (That was actually harder to do that it looked. An unexpected challenge — getting him to sit in exactly the right spot on the table, facing the correct way, etc.) But it was a lot of fun!

  3. 4 Sharon Wachsler October 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    RememberingNiko,
    Thank you!

  4. 6 Sarah October 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Congrats on your 200th post and your cute Bouvie lad!

  5. 7 Sharon Wachsler October 20, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you Sarah and megangiselle!

  6. 8 Cyndy Otty October 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Congratulations on 200 posts! (I really should fix the database on my site; I have no idea how many posts I’ve really made in the eleven years I’ve been blogging…) Love the photos. I think Barnum is really living up to his name. 😉


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