Baby Steps

Bosco is broken.

Or so he claims.

Bosco: It’s an absolute fact just look at me I can’t even lift my head I’m ruined.

photo 5Long story short – my company developed a wellness program that’s pretty cool. Check it out at mindful.sodexo.com.   A couple of weeks ago, I joined an activity group that the office set up.   I’ll be honest – the free Fitbit was quite the incentive. All I have to do is try to walk 10,000 steps every day.

That doesn’t seem like much at all – unless you have a desk job. And all day long, while I’m not walking, there’s this big guy sleeping on my sofa. And he’s grown a bit too soft and cuddly.

photo 1Bosco: In dog culture you’re supposed to have extra padding because it means you have a good house and good food and surely you want everyone to see me and know that I have that because it also means you’re a good person see there’s something in it for you too and it’s not so bad see I haven’t even eaten this snack so it’s not like I have a problem.

Yeah. Anyway….

To get my steps in, I need to take a couple of lengthy walks every day. See where this is headed? I thought this would be great for both of us. Time together, exploration, socialization, etc. We do not, however have a unanimous decision on this approach.

photo 1Bosco: A walk means I go outside and turn left and then I walk halfway up the block to do my thing and turn around and go back inside to eat a snack and go back to bed and besides that sidewalk is very cold in the morning and doing anything else would seriously cut into my nap time and a great way to spend time together is sitting on the sofa while you rub my ears.

We’ve been walking every night when I get home from work, usually around 7. The distance varies – it’s a minimum of 8 blocks, but I have to hit 10,000 steps by the end of it.

photo 5Bosco: I have been very busy snoring all day and I am worn out and I don’t want to walk around in the middle of the night 7:30 is my bedtime and this makes me late for nite nite and then I’m too tired to go up the stairs to my bed so I have to nap on the floor first and it just throws my whole schedule off.

This past week I added a morning walk. We crawl out at 6, and do anywhere from 8 to 10 blocks. Nothing major, just enough for Bosco to do what he needs to do, and prevent any “using the laundry room as a bathroom” incidents while I’m gone.

photo 2Bosco: I don’t know who’s doing that in the laundry room I’m upstairs sleeping the whole time and I sleep very soundly it must be the mailman and 6 am is still nite nite unless I’m hungry and then I want you to get up right away.

I do have an ulterior motive to our activity. This horrendous winter limited Bosco’s interaction with the outside world. He’s made great gains in his confidence when he’s safe inside the house. But he lost ground about being outside, seeing different people and encountering unexpected events. Walking more, and in unfamiliar places will help him understand that there’s still nothing to be afraid of when he’s outside.

photo 2Bosco: For years I walked two blocks to the pier and looked at the water and then walked back and took a nap I don’t see why there needs to be more I bet you don’t drive to work taking longer and different routes every day do you I thought not I’m gonna trail along behind you and act all grumpy and when people laugh at us it really hurts my self esteem.

In the last two weeks, I’ve logged about 50 miles of walking, and a little over half of it has been with Bosco. He is cooperative, but not happy. Yesterday we took a long walk in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Later that night, I got cold and put on a hoodie. Bosco interpreted that as an indication that we were going for a third walk. He ran upstairs to hide.

Bosco: I may not not know much about the world but I’m not stupid.

But we’re doing good. We’re starting slow, and taking a lot of breaks. Bosco gets very happy when we stop, and drinks directly from my water bottle, which I find both hilarious and disgusting. He still pesters me to go for a walk, and soon he will get used to the distances and be enthusiastic for the whole walk.

photo 3Bosco: Maybe we can get in the car and drive around and I can look at things that way and eat snacks without having to walk at the same time and we can circle the block where the cute cocker spaniel is and I can put my head out the window and say hey baby and impress her that I have a chauffeur.

 

Babbling Bosco

photo 1

Bosco’s talking!

It took 19 months for him to have an opinion strong enough to verbalize.

Normally he communicates with snorts and huffs and every so often a very soft sound that sounds like “berf.”

But a week or so ago, he had something to say, which was:

“I like pork.”

It all came about when I was eating stir-fry pork. Bosco thought it smelled good, and dropped some hints that he’d like to taste it.  He put his head in my lap and  stared up at me with huuuuuge eyes. Really subtle. Then I offered him a vegetable. He eagerly reached for it – then realized that wasn’t what he wanted. He sniffed again, curled his lip, and shook his head.

Being a jerk, I laughed at him. And then he spoke up, and ran around in little circles.

A few days later, we had the same scene – but this time it was grilled chicken. After submitting his request, Bosco accepted that there would be no chicken for him, and went off to watch from a distance. Then I called him over and gave him a piece. This is a loose translation of what he had to say:

“Yay it’s chicken I’m eating chicken and it tastes soooo good and I’m so happy I’m going to run around the room and yell because I’m eating chicken and it tastes so good and this is the best day of my life because I had chicken.”

Or something like that.  Something so wonderful happened to him that he finally forgot himself and all his anxieties and was a big happy dog. A one inch piece of chicken did all that.

photo 2

In the last few months, he’s been seeking affection, asking to be petted, and to have his ears rubbed.  He doesn’t get as nervous when I cuddle the stuffing out of him, and seems slightly disappointed when it stops. But …. then there’s the smooching. He’s so cute, and so tall, and I love to plant a big kiss on the top of his head. He haaaaates the smooching because it comes with sound effects. Yesterday I smooched at him from across the room.  He ran backwards and “berfed” at me, wagged his tail, then ran forward. Repeat repeat repeat. He wanted me to know that it would be more fun to run around the house than smooch.

I was eating trail mix yesterday, and Bosco wanted some. He was unconcerned that everything in trail mix is bad for dogs.  He made his eyes 600 times their normal size, and looked from me to the container, and back again – After I’d put it away, he kept it up for another hour.

Let’s just say this- I’m pretty thick sometimes. He wasn’t telling me he wanted nuts and raisins. He. Had. To. Go. And I wasn’t getting it. So he resorted to the classic way to get my attention.  He put himself at eye level, reached out with a big ol’ paw, and smacked me.

Message received!

Bosco’s Blatant Ripoff

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Dear blogger: I am 7 years old.
Some people say dogs don’t know about Santa Claus.
They think Christmas is for silly hats and stripey knit sweaters.
But please tell me the truth; do dogs get to have Santa?

Bosco de Lazzara
Allentown PA

Bosco, those people are wrong. They are skeptical people in a skeptical age, unable to believe anything other than what they see. Their little minds think Christmas is nothing more than an excuse to play dress up with fine fellows such as yourself. In this great universe of ours, these thoughts are limiting, contradictory to the bountiful truth and magic of the season.

Yes, Bosco, dogs have Santa Claus.

Santa exists as certainly as the love and generosity and devotion of those two generous women who saved you at your deepest point of despair, who imagined for you a life of beauty and joy. How dreary the world would be without them! It would be a dreary world with too few good dogs, without the faith and poetry of companions in this existence. Without them, the lives and light of thousands would have been extinguished.

No Santa for dogs! You might as well not believe in saints!

You might look in every window to catch sight of dogs and people, but you will not see saints. The most real thing in the world is what you will not see. Do you see the shelter staff and volunteers on the lawn? Of course not, but they are there. Nobody can conceive or imagine the wonders they have created, unseen and unseeable, in the dog-loving world.

You can tear apart a squeaky toy to find what makes the noise, but there is an armor created by these unseen people, the strongest men and women who have ever lived, and no one can tear that apart. Only their faith and love can push aside the wall of neglect and cruelty, and picture the beauty and glory to come. Oh, Bosco, they created your world, which is real and abiding.

No Santa! Thank God he lives forever in these people. Years from now, Bosco – and ten thousand years from now, they will continue to protect the lives and make glad the hearts of big good dogs.

– with thanks (and apologies) to Frank Church of the New York Sun, 1897

Bonus/Bogus

It’s the holiday season.  Last year was probably Bosco’s first Christmas, and he had no idea what to make of my rituals.

This year, however…. He’s seen it all before. And he’s formed opinions.  And he’s quite willing to share them.

The main thing I do is put up a fake tree that probably has more lights and ornaments than the other trees on my block – combined.

tree

Last year I half expected Bosco to wipe it out, but with a few exceptions, he didn’t bother it at all. Once was the intentional removal of one ornament, for the sole purpose of seeing my reaction.  Note that this year, the bottom section does not have the same ornament density as the rest of the tree.  That’s because Bosco’s tail is very strong. A good wag cuts through an ornament like a hot knife through butter.

He wanted to participate this year.  He likes the ornaments, and enjoys sniffing the boxes – since they’re all from my family or thrift stores, I imagine they are quite stinky.  I never ever want to know what he’s smelling.  He thought the bead garlands were a lot of fun, and enjoyed trailing behind them as I wound them around the tree – until I didn’t see him, and stepped on him.  That was the end of his decorating dreams.  He promoted himself to supervisor and watched from the other side of the room.

The holidays are running 50/50 for him.  Either something is wonderful, or it’s dreadful. Every event has a little bit of both.

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BONUS:

I got a present!  A blanket of my very own.

IMG_2097.

BOGUS:

My person’s blanket is bigger.  And it matches me. It should be mine.

big quilt.

BONUS:

We got another present! It was a big box of cheese and baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaconnnnnnnnnnnnnnn…..    I got to play with the box.

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BOGUS:

I only got to play with the box. No cheese or bacon for me.

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BONUS:

I got another present!  It was sitting on a table and I found it and I played with it all day. It was soft and squishy.  Since I found it, I got to keep it.

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BOGUS:

sweaterIt wasn’t a toy.

poutingI was so traumatized that I took my teddy and went to bed.

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BONUS:

sitThe tree is done! Now I get to pose for pictures and practice my “sit” and get rewarded.

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BOGUS:

hatI should have eaten this hat last year.

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BONUS:

normal poseI got some cheese!  I am very handsome.

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BOGUS:

santa photo

The only reason I’m doing this is that it’s damn good cheese.

And I’m gonna eat the hat.

A Part ……. or Apart?

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Trying something new today – a podcast.  Okay, to be honest, I recorded this last night while I was driving, and I don’t want to transcribe it.

Part 1:

Bosco touring Lisa's enormous yard

Bosco touring Lisa’s enormous yard

The book I mentioned is called “I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship.” Ummm…  yes you are.

Part 2.  I lost patience with garage band and trying to split this up into sections.  So somewhere around 3:14, scroll down and look at the next photo:

the view

the view

Part 3:

Ownership

ImageWe interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a very special announcement…..

Emotionally, Bosco became mine as I drove on I-78, somewhere around the Hellertown exit. Legally, he became mine three weeks later when I handed some cash to BARC shelter and swore I would always do what’s right for him.

I’ve always loved my dogs with all my soul. I’ve also always had this Peanuts cartoon stuck in my head – the one where Lucy says (of Snoopy) to Charlie Brown, “He only likes you because you feeeeeeeed him.” God, Lucy’s a jackass.  But it made me wonder what the dog/person relationship was like from the dog’s side. Is it just food, shelter and security?? I didn’t know.

Until last weekend…..

I became Bosco’s.

Something clicked and took away any remaining doubts he had.  And for once, I actually noticed when it happened. We were on the sofa. His head was on my leg, and I was rubbing him. He twisted around, tilted his head up and we locked eyes.

Yep. Dogs love.

Ever since, he’s never been more than a few feet away. If I go upstairs, he’s coming with. Taking the garbage out? Maybe I should make that bag a little lighter for you and eat something in it. How come I can’t go to work too?

My favorite thing in the whole world is our weekend morning routine. I drink coffee and screw around on my iPad, and he sits with his head in my lap. Having been awake for an interminable 30 minutes, he falls asleep almost immediately, and has woofy, ear flicky dreams, and he eats in his sleep.

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Hanging on a Sunday

The bond really sunk in last Monday. We were out for our morning walk, which is at the same time kids walk to school. There were two girls half a block behind us.

Remember how I said Bosco is a freak deterrent?  Well… I noticed a guy, and my spidey sense told me he wanted to play some “hey baby” game with those girls.  Of course I wasn’t going to let that happen. So I stood 10 feet away from him until they went past, ruining his game.

And Bosco? He picked up on it – and moved so he was standing between me and the freak.  This is the dog who hides behind me when he sees a goose or a group of children. But a freak – a potential threat – he took the lead. And the freak went away.

Bosco knows now, that aside from nose buttering, he has nothing to worry about when he’s in the house. And he’s been a cuddly clown, prancing around and making sure I notice him. He HATES my new workspace, and does everything he can to pull my focus away, mostly by asking for (and receiving) affection.

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“hi”

His last resort is to play “sofa shark,” where he pretends to give up and go sit on the sofa. Then he suddenly pops his head up, and the cutie faces start all over again. I have to explain that work means money, and that means snacks, and he sighs and flops down in resignation.

Image But the best part, when I know that I’ve done right for this dog, and that he is happy, is when I catch his eye. There’s no caution, no worry. No fear.

It may not be a cute YouTube video, but to me, it says “I love you” loud and clear.

#^%*!

Sleeping is serious business for Bosco.

Sleeping is serious business for Bosco.

Special irony must be noted – I’m writing this while leaning against The Golden Theatre, about half block from where I first met Bosco. He’s home sleeping. Or pouting. Or both.

Okay, every blog I’ve written has been about progress. This time we’re talking about a little different type.

I’ve been so proud of how Bosco’s confidence is growing and growing. But I’m not praising his latest boost.  Last week he growled at me.

And Bosco learned no matter how confident he gets, he will not be top dog.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me dial back the drama. Here’s the big picture:

As you know, he’s adorable. As you know, I can’t keep myself from cuddling the stuffing out of him. And this dog is VERY serious about his sleep. He puts himself to bed every night at 7:30, and he’s done. The only way to move him then is with a leash and firm commands.

Every night  I spend a few minutes before I go to bed cuddling him. I hunker down and pet him and tell him he’s a good boy. This is usually just before midnight, and he wakes up when I come upstairs, and he gets his cuddling. I always thought he liked it.

But not last week. Maybe he was on edge because nice weather brings squealing children outside and back into his environment (neither of us are particularly fond of them, but alas, their parents seem to want them to play in the sunshine). Maybe he was  mad ‘cuz I’ve been sitting on the sofa and working instead of cuddling him, and when I finally have time for him, he’s not in the mood (God I made that sound like a marriage, didn’t I?). Maybe he decided it’s time to tell me that he hates it when I nod off with my head on his bed.

All very valid points, but he missed the main one. He is not in charge. Not for a single second.

So….

I will admit that I was a little scared when it first happened. It was a very soft growl, and I had to double check to be sure I was hearing it. The look on his face was the same as when he found green beans in his mouth, so I knew it was serious.

My first thought was that I had no clue what the time frame was between Bosco’s warning, and a physical reaction (if there was going to be one). I probably withdrew for a few seconds, which gave him the impression that growling works. I gathered myself, gave him the “no finger” in his face, and spoke sternly. And then I put myself right back where I had been when it started, figuring I didn’t want him to think he’d won.  A few minutes later I resumed cuddling.

And he growled again. Again, we had a firm conversation about roles and responsibilities in our household.  He seemed to get it, and gathered himself for five minutes of cuddling before I turned off the light (oh geeze, that sounds like a BAD marriage!).

The next morning we sat on the sofa together, and had our regular cuddle session. And he growled. I know his issue was that he felt pinned in the corner, but let’s remember – this is nothing new, and he doesn’t get to respond that way.

So again he was reprimanded – more forcefully. I hooked my hand through his collar so he had to look at me. I used the same words as the night before. I kept my voice low and firm. But this time I added a twist – every other word was the f-bomb. That’s what happens when I get mad. Bosco’s never seen me mad.

Here’s what I learned – Bosco knows the f-word. And my meaning sunk in.

Don’t get me wrong – I recognize that solving this issue is totally a two-way street. I have modified my cuddling enthusiasm, and do ease off when he starts getting uncomfortable. But I don’t let him think the two actions are connected.  And I let sleeping dogs lie.

This was a minor hiccup, and our issues have passed. Bosco’s been super affectionate ever since. And I know he knows that “snack” means he’s a good boy, that “suppertime” is an event to celebrate, and “walk” means he gets to run around and leap up in the air.

And that the f-word means game over.