Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things That Are Not About Dogs At All

Sup? I've been summering - around all the crappy work I have to do. I become so disenchanted with work in the summertime. I'm all, but I wanna go outsiiiiide! Instead, I sit at the computer and stab my keyboard malevolently.

Anyway, as I am not with child, we have decided to make this summer as epic as possible (given all that damn work I have to do). We made a list of Things That Will Be Done This Summer, and it includes lots of camping. We've gone once with the dogs - that trip involved fly fishing*. We'll go backpack camping this weekend. I'm so excited to hike several miles into the bear-infested boonies to sleep on the ground that many of my friends think I should be committed. And later we'll camp at Heyburn State Park and ride our bikes on this insanely beautiful trail that crosses lakes and railroad trestles and it just makes me so damn happy!

*Note: fly fishing kind of sounds pretentious, so I should mention this was only my second time and, due to an angry yellow jacket, I ended up diving into the river to save my sunglasses. There. Had to get rid of any notions that I'm cultivated.

Also, next week we are going...wait for it...ziplining! R is afraid of heights, so he's got some mixed emotions (though it was totally his idea, so don't think I'm torturing him). I, on the other hand, can't wait to fling myself down a thin cable high above the ground.

Plus, there's been swimming and hiking and lots of walks. Picnics and yard games and reading books. This means that my laundry pile is as big as me and we've eaten just about all the meals I'd stocked away in the freezer. I've also had to do all this while wincing because, if you recall, those damn hormones I'm having to take have given me the most painfully swollen rack. Seriously, I never thought I'd rather have my smallish boobs but damn, I miss them.

Finally, we have friends coming Labor Day...which sounds like a long ways away until we think about the list of things that we need to get done before they arrive. This includes buying a couch so that the futon can be moved into the spare bedroom. This is especially complicated because R and I cannot agree on a couch because he wants something that reclines and I want something that isn't fugly. I'm guessing that they make reclining love seats that don't look like over-stuffed carnival rides, but we haven't seen any yet. So, somewhere in between the fun stuff and my damn work deadlines, we've got to go furniture shopping (again, because we have gone but only to the stores that sell fugly). Aww, first world problems.

Of course, there's serious stuff going on too, but it's neither funny nor entertaining and I'm doing my best to ignore it. Instead, look at this picture and drool over it's glorious outsideness:

The St. Joe River.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dobermans - What It's Like To Own One

I wanted to write something factual about what's near and dear to me - my dogs. Also, as a researcher, I wanted to share what I learned by scouring websites, reading books, talking to Doberman owners, and my direct experience as a Doberman's person, about the Doberman breed.

The Doberman are commonly regarded as the fifth smartest dog breed in the world, and are one of the best guard dog breeds - rated second only to the bull mastiff. The benefit of the Doberman (also the Rottweiler and German Shepard - both among the top 10 dog breeds for both intelligence and guarding tendencies) is that the breed is smart enough to discriminate between friend and foe. Our dogs (one full Dobie, and one Rott-Dobie mix) accept strangers into our home with their tails wagging. They take their cues from their owners (as long as you've trained your dog and they respect your judgement!) and they want people to visit as long as you want them there. Our dogs won't even bark when someone knocks on the door, as long as we've told them to expect visitors (seriously, SO smart).

Though these breeds can be suspicious by nature, training and early exposure to lots of different situations/people/places/noises often produce well-balanced and very friendly dogs. Our dogs LOVE people. However, when they are out of their territory, on walks for example, they go 'on duty.' They will allow people to touch them, but they remain aloof, watching everything to make sure their owners are safe. Even people that they know and love are largely ignored when they are out of the house. But come in our house and it's a whole different scenario. They just want  NEED love, love, love. It's worth noting that some of these dogs are very aloof with strangers, though I've never met any.

You were gone for almost a minute and we missed you SO much!
Both our dogs are bonded very strongly to our family. However, Odin, our Doberman, especially loves his mommy. If someone is at the house, he'll often stand between them and me - in a friendly way, usually trying to get petted. Most people don't even notice what he's doing. This tendency becomes more apparent if the guest is an unfamiliar man and my husband isn't home. This is not something I trained him to do, he does this instinctively. Dobermans do not need to be trained to be guard dogs, they have been selectively bred to guard their people (and property, though that's secondary) since Louis Doberman began breeding a dog to protect him on his tax collecting rounds in the 19th century.

Our Rotten Dobie keeping tabs on the neighborhood.
Though our dogs are very well trained, they are reluctant to take orders from anyone outside of the family. If someone else gives Odin a command, he will either ignore it or look to me to see if it's mandatory that he listen. Karma, our Rotten Dobie, is much more likely to listen to someone besides my husband and myself because she wants the attention. However, you can't make that dog do anything. You can ask, and she will do it because you ask, but she's very stubborn (this is a Rottie tendency).

Speaking of training, these breeds tend to be 'social climbers,' meaning that they are always jockeying to be top dog. As a responsible owner, you have to be consistent with obedience training and do it regularly. If you stop making them do things, they'll start testing your leadership. These are not breeds for someone who is not committed to obedience (if you think it's mean to give your dog commands these breeds are NOT for you!), and are generally not a good breed for an inexperienced dog owner. Training is not optional for these breeds, it's mandatory. If you are going to have a smart dog with strong, protective tendencies that is as athletic as a Doberman, you need to be able to control it!

However, it's worth mentioning that as working breeds, Dobermans and Rotties love to have a job to do and obedience is a good job to give them. Our dogs love obedience! They love the direct attention and they love to please (the treats don't hurt either). The fact that they are smart breeds means that they learn fast, too, so it's fun for both dog and owner.

In this instance, obedience = drooling while thinking about how cruel mommy is. So very, very cruel.

There are other aspects of the Doberman breed that are a little quirky. First, the Doberman needs its people, all the time. They do not like being left behind - after all, it's their job to protect you. This means that some dobies get separation anxiety. This can make it hard to leave your dog to go on vacation or even leave it alone all day while you are at work.Odin, for example, will sometimes stop eating if I'm away for a few days - talk about a guilt trip!

A typical day: one dog on my lap, the other under foot.

Doberman are super smart dogs. They need to be kept busy. They get bored. They can keep themselves amused (and if you haven't trained them well, you will seriously regret this tendency!) but they'd prefer you interact with them. This is especially true if you are on the phone. Basically, it's like having a toddler forever.

This breed is also super sensitive - emotionally. That's right, Dobermans are big babies. You can easily hurt their feelings, and that means that training needs to be upbeat and focus on rewards, not punishment.

Odin needs love...all the time.
Dobermans tend to be super lovey. They really want to be lapdogs, and will be if you let them. They are often called 'velcro dogs' because they are stuck to their owner's side. I am followed into the bathroom, I am watched while I get dressed, and my foot often becomes a pillow as soon as I stop moving. Guests frequently remark that Odin never takes his eyes off me, and that's the truth. Most of the time he doesn't have that far look, either, because if he's not laying on me he's leaning against me. If you need your space, a Doberman is not for you. A Doberman is always going to be all up in your business.

Odin leaning up against my husband while he does the dishes: a regular occurrence at our house.

Doberman are not quiet dogs. Now, they can be taught to be fairly discriminating barkers. Our dogs learn who are neighbors are and do not bark at them (because of that training we've been talking about). We have also taught them to stop barking if we acknowledge what they are barking at and reassure them that it's not a threat (they will bark initially, though, because it's their job). BUT, it's not the barking I'm referring to. Doberman are talkers. Odin grunts, whines, whistles, woofs, yops, squeaks, grumbles, and has a variety of barks to let us know what he wants. He likes to communicate. He'll let you know if he's happy or unhappy. These are not quiet dogs.

There are other random Doberman tendencies that make this breed unique. Doberman generally don't like water and are not strong swimmers. Even though they have tight lips, many Doberman are messy drinkers. They can be finicky eaters. Doberman are high energy dogs, and it's generally recommended that you have a large, fenced yard so they can get plenty of exercise.

Energy, I has it.
Many people are intimidated or afraid of Dobermans, so even if your dobie is the sweetest, best behaved dog ever, there will be people who are uncomfortable around it; this can lead to complications with neighbors, guests, etc.  Like many guard breeds, most landlords will not rent to someone with a Doberman. Many insurance companies have blacklisted this breed. These are important things to consider before getting a Doberman! It's never easy on a dog to be given away by an owner, but because of this breed's strong emotional bonds with it's family, it can be devastating. Please, don't get a Doberman unless you are committed to keeping it for life.

In conclusion, Doberman are great dogs for the right owners. They require a lot of work, especially in those first four years when they are maturing. They are high maintenance, requiring much more of your attention than most other breeds.

 If you would like additional information on the breed, please check out the following sites [] or contact a reputable Doberman breeder or Doberman Rescue near you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bits of Summer

I like to think that the quality of my summer can be measured by the amount of sunscreen we've gone through. Three cans down so far. Things are looking good.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Starting A Garden

As I mentioned in my last post, we have started our first garden this year. I'm giddy.

I should confess that my history with keeping plants alive is a bit sordid. Recently, I've been much better because I realized that I could, you know, look up what each plant needed rather than rely on guess work. Research to the rescue once again! With that in mind, I approached gardening with some mixed emotions. But (so far) things seem to be going well; see Exhibit A.

 Exhibit A: Two 4'x4' raised beds filled with (LIVING!) tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, kale, squash, pumpkin, carrots, and more. We went with 4'x4' beds because it allows you to reach the whole plot from outside the box.

Exhibit B: A planter filled with herbs and  a bowl of lettuce and arugula sprouts.

R and I built the beds out of cedar planks and posts. There are tons of websites that provide instructions on the best ways to do this.* Then we spent a week determining where we wanted the beds (based on sun/shade), and then carefully thought out where to place them in the yard = measuring to make sure the lawnmower could get between them, as well as the fence.

*I say ways, because each one seems just as good, though some are easier than others. We simply bought four 1'X8' planks (two for each bed), which we got cut in half at the home improvement place. We also bought two 4" square cedar posts and had each cut into 16" chunks. These we used in the corners to brace the planks and to bury in the ground for additional support.

We went the organic route with the soil, which we purchased at a home garden center. We relied on the people working there, and learned a lot, including bio solids = human waste. Yeah, that might be 'organic' but the last thing I want is people droppings. The whole point of organic is to avoid hormones and pesticides, and based on what people eat, plus medication, I don't think bio solids are likely to be very healthy. We decided to get our nitrogen from chicken poo. Mmm, because nothing rouses an appetite like chicken poo.

Most of the plants were purchased at our local farmer's market when they were just tiny things or were given to me; though I did get courageous and start a few things from seed, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. We could probably fit more plants in there but we thought we should start small and see how it goes this year. We didn't want to get carried away and then have WAY too much produce to eat/freeze. Also, I had no idea how big the different plants would eventually get and wanted to leave plenty of space.

It's been surprisingly rewarding since the actual harvest is still a long ways off. Just seeing things grow (and not die) has been a confidence booster a lot of fun. More importantly, for a modest investment (roughly $60 to make and fill the beds), we are going to be producing lots of food. Buying heirloom plants**, when possible, also means that we'll be able to plant the seeds our plants produce this year and grow them for free next year.

**Many plants have been cultivated in such a manner that they are effectively sterile. So forget what you learned in kindergarten about seeds. Also worth mentioning, there is a trade off. Heirloom plants often produce tastier varieties but are more prone to disease (the plants) and have shorter shelf lives (the fruit/vegetables).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Day After the 4th of July

Things I have been doing instead of blogging:

1) Work...yep. Even after the 4th of July because it was on a Wednesday. Lame.
2) Enjoying the great outdoors. Hiking, the beach (just the beach because the water temperature is currently between I've just gone numb and Holy shit, why did I get in this water?!, strolling through our neighborhood, yard work, and gardening.
3) Gardening! I'm so excited! I promise to share pictures soon because, get this, things are living! And not dying at all, and presumably will be delicious (eventually). Hippy fist-bump (peace bump?)
4) Helping one of my relatives get through a rough patch. This hasn't been much fun. In fact, it's emotionally draining but, unfortunately, that's part of life. Sometimes people need a hand up and I'm glad we are in a position to help.
5) Visiting family and friends. This usually involves alcohol. No complaints here.

I'd also like to give a shout out to America. Good job U.S.A.! As a woman, I may not have been able to do many of the things on this list if I had been born in another country. So happy birthday to you! Also, I love what you've done with your fireworks this year.