Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's from the Poop!

May your 2008 be chock full of Little Buddies.

...and Giving

Added to the list of Dachshund stuff we already have, we got the following:
  • More Dachshund calendars (of course)
  • Dachshund towels
  • Dachshund bank
  • Dachshund cutting board (I'm not kidding)
  • Dachshund note pads
  • More dachshund books
  • Another dachshund stuffed animal
  • Another dachshund figurine
  • Dachshund straw hat
  • Dachshund ring holder (I couldn't make this stuff up)
  • I am sure I inadvertently missed somethings.
Couper's haul:
  • Soccer ball
  • Football - Just like the ones that come over the wall from the neighbor kids that Couper likes to play with. It usually takes me a couple of minutes to get it away from him. So Santa got him his own.
  • Squeaky blanket
  • Dangerous Book for Dogs - I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. However Couper is already well skilled in barking, begging skills, and playing fetch. Thankfully he is too small for crotch sniffing.
  • Turkey Jerky - I can't recommend this strongly enough either.
  • Doggy cookies
  • Peanut butter biscuits
  • Biscuits
We are truly blessed. I know that there are many families out there that got no dachshund merchandise for Christmas. Please keep them in your minds and hearts in 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Poop

Merry Christmas from Couper and all of us at Couper's Poop. May Santa bring you the finest in dachshund presents this Christmas.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

We got Couper in September of 2003 (No, this is not the long rumored “How we got Couper” post). The first major gift-giving holiday for our family after getting Couper was Christmas. Gift-giving holidays are always the toughest. The non-gift giving holidays are easy. For example the Fourth of July, what do you do for that holiday? Buy beer, grill hot dogs, drink beer, watch fireworks. Takes about a minute and a half of planning. Christmas on the other hand takes a minute and a half just to come to the obvious conclusion that you should have started planning in September rather than on December 21. For the record, the gift-giving holidays are: Birthdays, Valentines Day, Easter, Mommy's Day, Big Buddy's Day, Arbor Day, and Christmas. Non-gift giving are: New Years, MLK, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving. You may wish to argue. That's fine. If your family gives gifts on Nixon’s Birthday, more power to you.

It was that first Christmas with Couper that I came to a chilling realization; my Christmas shopping tripled in complexity. I figured out that not only did I add buying presents to give to the Little Buddy, but being the generous puppy that he is, I also had to buy presents that were from the Little Buddy. I have enough trouble shopping on my own. Now I had to get into the head of a little dog who does not communicate much other than, “feed me” and “play with me”, to buy presents from his perspective. Couper and I would have conversations like this:

Big Buddy: {On computer} Couper, what do you want to get your mommy for Christmas?
Couper: {Chews his bone}
Big Buddy: We could get her a nice scarf? What do you think of this one?
Couper: {Finds toy to play with}
Big Buddy: I’m not big on it either. What about this sweater?
Couper: {Hands Big Buddy his toy} Ummmmmm!
Big Buddy: {Throws ball} OK, not that one, how about these gloves? She could wear them while she walks you.
Couper: Fine with me Big Buddy. Can we use your credit card???
Big Buddy: Sure, I guess this time.

(I am guessing he has the same conversation with his mommy too).

As it turns out, what Couper really likes to give as gifts is dachshund merchandise. I wish I could remember the first dachshund item we found. It eventually got buried with the 100s (literally) of others that we have gotten since. Given that I barely knew that dachshunds existed when we got Couper, it amazes me that there is all this dachshund stuff. I have to assume it was there before we got Couper (I mean, we did not start this industry, we just keep it afloat), but I guess I never noticed it. For all I know, there is a lot of Airedale Terrier merchandise. I have no idea. I do not want to find out. For this reason, we can only get dachshunds from here on out. It is all we can afford.

Anyhow, over the years we have found: dachshund shirts, dachshund socks, dachshund hats, dachshund magnets, dachshund pens, dachshund mugs (neither Couper’s Mommy nor I drink coffee, we have over ten dachshund mugs), dachshund figurines, dachshund picture frames, dachshund CD holders, dachshund ornaments (we have a full ornament tree with just dachshund ornaments…most branches are doubled up), dachshund stockings, dachshund gift bags, dachshund calendars, dachshund greeting cards, dachshund postcards, dachshund books (adult and children’s…by adult I mean for readers over 12, not sold in adult book stores, that would be gross), dachshund stuffed animals, dachshund corn holders (head up front, hiney in the two hiney corn cobs, Couper's Mommy won't allow it), dachshund salt and pepper shakers, dachshund pillows, dachshund blankets, dachshund signs, dachshund bumper stickers, and dachshund dog toys. I am sure I missed something. I once got a box of poop bags because it had a dachshund on the box. It was twice as expensive as the poop bags we usually use, but I had to buy it.

It is now impossible for me to walk by a rack of greeting cards without looking for a card with a dachshund on it. It doesn’t even matter if nobody’s birthday is coming up or that we don’t know anybody graduating (for example). I buy them and store them. I have to.

One of my favorite quotes from Couper’s Mommy is, “You know, nothing says that we have to buy every item that has a dachshund on it.” Never was a statement so right and yet so wrong. It is scary walking into a store, seeing four dachshund items, and saying, “got that one, got that one, and that one…”. However, there are enablers. Amazon has a link called “Recommended for you”. You buy one dachshund item, and it recommends others. This has been great for Dachshunds kids books, that Couper gets for his mommy to put in her classroom. There are even sites outside of Amazon like this just for the breed.

The worst moment of dachshund gift giving came on Couper’s Mommy’s birthday a couple of years ago. A couple of days before her birthday, I came to the realization that most of her gifts were dachshund gifts from Couper. Knowing that I had already gotten a couple of dachshund figurines from the Hallmark store earlier, I figured it was safe to go in there and look for candles or picture frames or something like that. As I walked in, there was a display in one of the front aisles that contained not one dachshund figurine, but a series of dachshund figurines. They are called Hot Diggity Dogs and basically are dachshunds dressed up as various things and named with a punny phrase (Cocktail Weiner pictured right). Not only that, but there was a birthday weiner in that collection. I walked out of the store that day with three of these things. I had to go back the next day to get the candle. It gets even more evil. It turns out that there were more than just those that were in the Hallmark store that day. As they got more in, we bought them; until we had the whole set (I think there were eight). End of story? Lord no. A few months later they had a whole new series of Hot Diggity Dogs. They have been having about two new series a year for a couple of years now. They now have mugs, banks, picture holders and Christmas ornaments too. We have just about all of them. When we were looking for houses this summer, we found one that had built in display shelves in the entry hall. Couper’s Mommy said, “We could put our dachshunds in those.” Guess which house we bought? Guess where our Hot Diggity Dogs are?

So, in the end we are a bit out of control. My advice to you: if you make something, anything, put a picture of a dachshund on it. We'll buy it. And I did not mean to imply that we bought all the dachshund stuff we own. (No we didn't steal it, wait for the next sentence will you!). We are very willing recipients of dachshund presents from friends and family. So, are there dachshund things left to give this Christmas? Yes. Somehow. Couper has to have something to give. He never did get his mommy those gloves. Turns out they weren't dachshund gloves.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 8

Everybody was excited about the last day of Kindergarten. We all got out of bed a little early (yes, five minutes early still counts as early). Whenever one of us said to Couper, “Are we going to Kindergarten today?” he would run to each of us to make sure we were all ready and going. Just like week 1, I was conflicted on what to wear. I wanted to wear my “I love my Weiner” shirt, but I did not want to jinx my Little Buddy. I also knew we were at least going to take pictures with Santa, if not graduation, and did not want to embarrass Couper when he sees those pictures in high school (I also did not want to piss off Santa this close to Christmas…apparently the shirt has some sort of double meaning and Santa supposedly checks his list more than once). I went with the boring blue dachshund-less shirt.

The day once again started with rain. The walk from the parking lot was done quickly and was fairly uneventful, though not exactly barking and pulling free. On the way in, Couper did stop to go #1 on a tree. It was not his last #1 of the trip. We got in the store a bit early. Since Couper was a bit barky, we decided to walk him around with yummy rewards to get him calmed down. He did calm down, but just about every time he walked by a support post in the store, he hiked his hind leg. Not much came out, but he did about 4 or 5 markings. Our guess was that he was either nervous or knew it was his last class and was leaving his legacy. I guess it was Couper’s Senior Day.

For the last week, let’s take attendance. Ms. Puppyteacher – here. Couper – here. Big Buddy – here. Couper’s Mommy – here. That’s it. No affenpinscher. Amazingly, no German Sheppard. It was obvious that Couper was the attendance winner, with perfect attendance no less. However, my dream of a big prize was just that, a dream. I guess if showing up is half of life, it is the half empty glass (mixed metaphors that don’t even make goofy sense – it has been a long eight weeks).

So this week is just a formality and we play games, drink champaigne, and get our graduation certificate, right? Well, that theory looked good when Ms. Puppyteacher opened the classroom cabinet and pulled out a Petsmart Frisbee. It looked less good when she flipped the Frisbee over, showing us the final taped to the back. It was our worst nightmare. I suddenly felt like I was in that dream where you don’t study all year and then realize there is a final and you show up to the final naked. If I did not spend an hour earlier in the morning deciding which shirt to wear, I would have sworn that was the situation. By the way, there is a name for that dream. It is called Junior year. It seems so real…

I still have no idea why the final was on the back of a Frisbee, but there it was. There were about ten items of which we had to do seven. (Ethical note: From this point on, I am going to describe the Petsmart Beginner final. If you have a dog in beginner training, or plan on having a dog in beginner training, or are going to set up a beginner training course yourself, you really should skip the next few paragraphs. I will leave it up to you. Good luck sleeping at night if you cheat for your dog). He did not have to get a treat from the groomer or get weighed by the vet. I am not sure why he did not have to do those. Maybe she liked the groomers and vets working that day and knowing how Couper reacts to strangers, did not want to subject them to him. The third item that we did not have to do was “down”. We had an agreement that we could substitute 10 second stays for “down” since he could/would not do “down”. Stay was already on the list, so it was like eliminating an item.

Item one was the name game. This is where we call his name and he has to make eye contact with us. We had to do this five times in the toy aisle. I am sure Couper’s Mommy was confident, as Couper listens to her, but I was petrified, especially in the toy aisle where he has so many fun distractions. Couper’s Mommy called him first. “Couper”. He looked right at her. We let him wander and then it was my turn. I gulped, “Couper”. He looked right at me. I almost fell on the floor (and would have except I knew he left his legacy somewhere in that aisle earlier). We went back and forth and each time he looked. I am sure the yummies in our hands helped, but that was not breaking the rules. It did kind of make it like an open book test, though. We were one for one on our test items.

Item two was three sits in the toy aisle. This one we were confident about. We knew he could sit for a yummy and he nailed three without sweating. We were two for two.

Item three was a two minute loose leash walk in the fish aisle with 5 stop and sits. As luck had it, the fish aisle was one of the places that we were walking him right after we got in the store to calm him down. However, we had not practiced sits on stops in a while, even with "sit" prompts (which was legal for the test). Ms. Puppyteacher said, “I am guessing he will just sit when you stop.” I replied, “I wouldn’t count on that”. We loose leash walked perfectly to the aisle and then up the aisle. At the end of the aisle, we did our first stop. To make sure he saw me stopping, I did a little stomp before stopping. I stomped, he sat. My jaw almost hit the floor at the same time as his hiney. We walked back down the aisle and I did the same thing. He sat again. He was so good, I am pretty sure we did not do two minutes of walking or 5 stop and sits. Maybe we did. I was pretty much in shock by that point. Three for three.

Item four was come when called. We did this in the back aisle with the cat food. This was another command that Couper’s Mommy was better at than I was. However, we would have to call him back and forth, so I had to be involved. As I had him on the leash, we let him go to his mommy first. “Couper come”. He went right to her and got a yummy. Although we worked well together in the name game, I was sure if I said, “Couper come”, he would at most look at me and stay with his mommy. I gave it a shot. “Couper come”. He looked right at me and immediately trotted over. At this point I was wondering if this was indeed a dream. I was indeed dressed, so I assumed it was indeed not. We had him go back a forth a couple more times than needed, just for the satisfaction of it. One time I got cocky and hid my remaining yummy in the test Frisbee just to see if he would come. He did. This was easy. Four for four.

Item five was our ten second stays. He had been nailing this all week during homework. We were even able to give him a stay command, walk out of the room, and he was staying when we returned. I was fairly confident in this one. So, he nailed this too? Not really. He did fairly well with his mommy and less well with me. We eventually did get three 10 second stays, two with her and one with me. Ms. Puppyteacher was satisfied. “Couper is OK with staying”. Whew. Five for five.

Item six had us all nervous; friendly greetings. We had to find a person in the store to come up to him and have him sit. No matter how well he had done to this point, I figured there was no way he was going to do well with this. In fact, I feared he would bite somebody and get expelled a half hour before the end of the last class (would we have gotten 1/16th of our money back?). We found an employee that he had no biting or growling history with, handed her a yummy, and gave her a warning not to pet him at the end. She came up to Couper. I tensed my grip on his leash. She showed him the yummy and said, “Hi Couper”. He looked up at her. She said, “Couper, sit”. He sat. She gave him the yummy. He took the yummy politely. She stepped back with all 10 fingers. Couper’s Mommy whispered to me, “Is that our dog?” He did the same thing two more times. We were not going to press our luck it any further. The employee stranger ran back to her work and we went on our way. Six for six.

Item seven was three sits at the front entrance. The key to this was distractions. We got to move aside a little bit, so it was kind of in the reptile aisle. There were fewer distractions there, so Couper nailed this as well. Seven for seven. Ms. Puppyteacher asked if we wanted to do the treat with the groomer or the weighing. We were fine without it. The test was over. Couper not only passed, he kicked ass.

We went back to the classroom to get his certificate. Ms. Puppyteacher signed his certificate and took our picture with it. Ms. Puppyteacher picked up Couper to congratulate him and say goodbye. Couper thanked her by farting. It was too late for her to fail her, so no harm done (to us at least...I wouldn't want to be her). We were done. Couper passed Kindergarten. Being the only graduate, Couper was valedictorian. After week four, we would never have guessed this day would come. Couper’s Mommy and I later commented that we had never been so proud of him; and it is not like we aren’t proud of him to begin with…our house is a Couper/dachshund shrine.

So in the end, Couper’s Kindergarten adventure was a little like the classic Simpson’s episode where Bart has to take Santa’s Little Helper to obedience school in order to keep him (Bart’s Dog Gets an F). Santa’s Little Helper is a maniac at the beginning of class:

Bart: Now... Sit!
I said, Sit! [Santa's Little Helper walks away]
Um, take a walk. Sniff that other dog's butt.
See? He does exactly what I tell him.

As Bart is about to lose his failing dog, he plays with him one final time and something in Santa’s Little Helper's head clicks and he understands everything. The next day he passes the class final. Something we did between week 4 and week 5 must have gotten to Couper and he somehow went from a spray bottle target to valedictorian. See, just like the Simpson’s (Except we were never going to lose Couper. And our class was based on treats, not choke chains. And the teacher was not English (Tracey Ullman). And we are not 10 years old and have not remained 10 years old for the last 18 years. And we are not animated characters. And we have more than three fingers and a thumb. And we are not on TV. OK, it is only vaguely like the show. It was the best I could come up with).

Couper becomes the first member of the household to graduate puppy Kindergarten (yes, both Couper’s Mommy and I graduated human Kindergarten). We are very very proud of him and can see a little bit of a difference in how he reacts around the house. The experience was definitely worthwhile. However, we did not take all the mischief out of the dog. As I typed this, and his mommy worked, Couper created the destruction in the picture to the right. He may be all grown up and educated, but deep down he is still the same Little Buddy he always has been.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bee Movie Review

When movie is relevant to Couper, and we have seen it, and we have the time and energy to write about it, we will review said movie. Our first (and only???) movie review: Bee Movie

On a nice late September Sunday afternoon when Couper was a little boop, Couper, Couper’s Mommy, and I were playing outside. In Arizona, late September means temperatures over 100 and dry. When temperatures run hot, we make a pool for Couper using a baby pool from Walmart. He is not crazy about water, but even when little he learned that jumping in a pool and cooling off was a great way to keep playing outside. It is even a very delicious source of drinking water. Apparently water out of a hose that has made contact with one’s hiney is tastier than fresh R.O. water with R.O. ice cubes.

As we found out, when the air dries out in late September, another group that likes the pool water is bees. There would often be one or two buzzing around the pool. Occasionally one would fall in and we would have to scoop it out. We did not like it, but we could not figure out how to get rid of them. On this day, there were a couple zipping in and around the water.

As we were playing that September day, Couper suddenly let out a loud yelp and was furiously rubbing his head on the ground. When we picked him up to see what was wrong, we saw that his left eye was completely swollen shut. It did not take long to figure out that he had been stung in the eye by a bee. We looked up on the internet how to treat this and did what we could. Being late on a Sunday afternoon, vets were not open. As Couper was actually playing and eating, the vet said that he could wait to be seen on Monday. However that night we had to look at him struggle to open his eye as puss flowed from it, wondering if he could see out of it or if he would be able to keep it.

As it turned out he was stung not on the eyelid, or near the eye, but directly on the eyeball. The bee got him before he could even blink. The vet gave him medicine and proved that he could still see. He was able to keep his eye and in a week or two, you would never know that anything happened.

The Bee Movie is an animated tale from Dream Works and Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld). It centers on Seinfeld’s character Barry who upon graduating bee school finds out that a bee picks a job that it keeps for life. Unsatisfied with his choices, Barry unofficially latches on with the commando squadrons that leave the hive to gather pollen from flowers in the outside world. You know the kind of squadrons that sting poor innocent little dachshunds directly in the eyeball. Don’t wait for that point to be brought up in this movie however.

Over the course of the movie’s 84 minutes Barry befriends a human (Rene Zellweger - The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), learns that humans eat honey, learns that humans make honey in honey farms with captive bees, sues the human race, wins, frees bees, inadvertently kills off all the earth’s plants, decides that’s not so good, steals a Rose Parade float, flies a jet plane, re-pollinates the planet, and lives happily ever after with his human friend in a cushy Central Park West locale. Along the way, we learn the following bee facts (many of which were not covered in fourth grade science): bees make honey; bees have one job; bees work hard; bees can’t fly in the rain; bees drive cars; bees have apartments in their hives furnished like the Jetsons; bees use elaborate gizmos to collect pollen; bees speak English; bees have their own TV networks; bees have their own Larry King (Larry King of Larry King Live); bees are essential to the survival of the planet.

However, nowhere in the movie shall you learn that bees sting poor innocent little dachshunds in the freaking eyeball!!!! Like this doesn’t even happen. Except for one small problem. It does. It has. And it could again. I guess if Dream Works and Seinfeld ever make a movie about Charles Manson it would go something like this: He’s nutty; he gathers hippies in a camp; they become a "family"; they listen to Beatles songs; the end. Something’s missing, isn’t it?

I give Bee Movie 9 paws way down.

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 7

So we took our own advice from last week and re-read our blog before going to Kindergarten. Well, actually we remembered what was in the blog. These posts are way too long to actually read. Either way, as we recommended last week, on Saturday both Couper’s Mommy and I were armed with a handful of yummies upon pulling into the Petsmart parking lot. We intended to bribe Couper into good behavior from the start of his walk into the classroom. There was, however, one obstacle to our well thought out plan. Big Dogs? No. Traffic? No. Mailmen? No, but on the right track. Rain.

If you do not know, we live in the desert southwest. Couper is definitely a desert southwest dog. He does not like rain (or baths, or showers or water for that matter; although he will get into a baby pool in the summer). He does not like the cold. He does not like wind, especially cold wind. I do not know if he has ever seen any, but I would bet he does not like snow. He does, however, like sitting in the sun, even when it is 110+ degrees outside.

When it rains, Couper does whatever he can to avoid getting his delicate body wet. When he has to go potty, he faces a challenge. Get wet and do his business in the yard as he is supposed to or stay dry on the covered patio and risk getting in trouble for doing business where he is not supposed to. On Friday night, we told him it was OK to go on the patio (but definitely not inside). We apparently did not communicate that in a way that he could understand, as he paced the patio and looked at the wet yard for twenty minutes deciding where to go. When he could finally hold it no longer, he did eventually opted for the patio. Apparently it was better to risk punishment than to get wet. He of course did not get punished, he got rewarded, but this decision process went on all weekend with the rain.

One final note about Couper and weather. Last February we had the unique opportunity to move from Arizona to Michigan. It wasn’t unique because the Michigan job was ground breaking or involved a giant promotion. It was unique because I am pretty sure nobody has moved from Arizona to Michigan since air conditioning was invented (I think this is an official Census Bureau statistic, but I would not quote it). There were a lot of reasons for taking the job in Michigan. One of the reasons against going was Couper. We had a fear that he would not pee or poop between the months of October and May (maybe September and June). The thought of him ballooning up while in potty-hibernation was too much to take. While it was not THE reason we did not go, it was certainly in the mix. Yes, we love our dog too much.

So, the bottom line is it was raining and Couper does not like the rain. For a tough guy, he is very delicate. However, he is smarter than his Big Buddy who went out in the rain on Friday (no, not to go potty) and has been sick ever since.

So as we got out of the car at the Petsmart parking lot, we had a dilemma. Couper’s Gramma Buddy earlier suggested that we carry him to the door in a blanket. That is just like Grammas; always the most protective. I wanted to try our yummy-bribed-walk theory, rain or not. Couper’s Mommy offered the compromise: he could wear his little rain coat on the walk in. I am not big on dressing dogs, but I have to admit that his rain jacket is cute and does offer him some protection from the hated rain (it has a little hood for his head, but his hiney is uncovered - I guess so he could poop if needed). So we tried that. Loose leash walking went by the board as we all wanted to get in out of the rain quickly. As there were not many people in the parking lot, there was a minimum of barking. So, did our yummy-based walking work? Hard to tell. I think it was rained out.

In our mad dash inside, we did not get to stop outside and do our usual business on a sign, tree, or tire (By we, I mean Couper. Apparently there are civic codes against Big Buddies or Puppy Mommies doing their business outside). When we got inside, Couper clearly needed to go. Petsmart is a giant store. About half of it is dog items with the other half having cat, bird, rodent, whatever stuff. In the dog section alone, I am sure there are thousands of items. Not to mention all the floor and aisle space. So what does Couper decide to target for his pee? A stack of plastic stairs exactly like one we bought months earlier to help him to climb into bed. Of the thousands of items, he picks one exactly like something that sits in our bedroom? I am going to have to check the carpet around those stairs more closely. I guess it could have been worse. Since it is plastic (and his aim is rotten), nothing got damaged. At least we did not have to buy pee-stained merchandise.

This week was our last regular week of class and it was a review week. Talk of extending the class a week has died off. I think they have taught our puppies and us all that they can stand. The German Sheppard was again the only other puppy in attendance. Ms. Puppyteacher was there despite having to go to the ER on Thursday because a lab in another class injured her. Say what you will about Couper, but he has not sent Ms. Puppyteacher or Ms. Puppysub to the ER (to the bar, perhaps…). I think facts like that should count for his final report card.

For the past couple of weeks, Ms. Puppyteacher has been working with Couper to get him to not bark and lunge when something distracting goes by. To do this she has him sit, then runs by him with short loud steps. The first time she does this, Couper goes into attack mode. She quickly turns around and yells, “Uhhhhhhhhh Uhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Couper stops in his tracks. The second time she runs by, Couper goes into a less enthusiastic attack mode. She again turns around and yells, “Uhhhhhhhh Uhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! The third time she runs by, Couper just sits there. That is exactly the point of the exercise; the only problem is that we have to repeat this three step process every week. We were supposed to practice this at Thanksgiving with his oldest human niece, but we did not have a chance. He was too busy chasing all the activity going on around him. Hmmm, I guess this problem is on us.

We learned a new concept this week called target. The way it works is you hold out your hand at his nose level, say “target”, wait for him to hit your hand with his nose, and give him a reward from your other hand. As I understand it (and I don’t), it is a variation or extension of the “come” command. Couper loves “target”. “Hit a hand with my nose and get a yummy??? Cool!!!” He was great at “target” in school. Couper’s Mommy has even had success at home getting him to “come” using “target” (again, not so much with Big Buddy, he looks, takes a few steps, then continues barking at neighbors). I am waiting for a breakthrough from the scientific community to be able to compare how much Couper loves “target” the command against how much Couper’s Mommy loves Target the store.

Most of the class was review on stay. Ms. Puppyteacher has said that since Couper (and most dachshunds) will not do “down” (lying down, see week 5???), he can substitute that with a twenty second “stay” on the final next week. Great. I hope the calculus section isn’t too difficult either. Couper is not good with “stay”. I am sure that part of it is his natural ADHD. I am definitely sure the other part of it is our inability to understand how to teach “stay”. How do we reward him while he is doing nothing, when the act of rewarding him has him do something, but we are rewarding him for the nothing? Then we have a release word? How to reward that? It seems that we have to reward on the release, I think. We had a little success in class, but Couper got tired and distracted.

Big Buddy: Sit

Couper: {Sit? I know sit! I get a yummy for sit!!! Especially here in this big yummy barn! I should do that!} (sits)

Big Buddy: Stay

Couper: {Stay? What the heck is stay? Hey, he’s got a yummy in his hand. Would he give it to me already?!? I’m sitting right here Big Buddy!!! Just like you asked! Hey there’s my mommy!!! I wonder if she has a yummy too? I’ll go look…}

Big Buddy: Stay

Couper: {Again with the stay? What’s that all about?? Oh yeah, my Big Buddy has a yummy!!! I should look at him in case he gives it to me! Why is he slowly backing away??? I’m back here Big Buddy!!! Maybe I should follow him…}

Big Buddy: Stay

Couper: {This stay crap is pissing me off! What does that even mean??? Does my Big Buddy still have a yummy??? I can’t see! He is too far away! Forget him! Look, there is some dog food on the shelf! That looks good!}

Big Buddy: Stay!

Couper: {What did Big Buddy say? I bet it was that stay nonsense! Who knows? I’ll go see if my mommy has some yummies!!!} (gets up and walks towards Couper's Mommy)

Big Buddy: Uh Uh!

Couper: {Uh Uh? That’s not good! What did I do??? Hey mommy!!! Do you have any yummies for me??? Big Buddy is acting strange!}

The German Sheppard? He was a pro. Ms. Puppyteacher was purposely distracting him with bags, passersby, and puppy talk and he still did not move. He can do “down” and stay for 20 seconds. We definitely have our work cut out for us.

One bright spot is our homework explicitly said, “For next week, dress nicely and bring your camera for graduation.” If Couper was not going to graduate, I think we would have gotten a homework sheet that said, “For next week, dress like crap and bring one of those Men in Black memory erasers to forget you ever took this class.” I am taking this as a good sign. Then again, it is forecast to rain again next weekend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 6

Sometimes people ask me, "How is Couper doing with his training?" My first instinct is to say, "Aren't you reading the Poop?" (this is what insiders now call this website). There are few things on the planet as well documented as Couper and his training. However, I generally give an overview of how he is doing, re-tell some of the "jokes" (They aren't reading it anyhow. To them it is as if I am coming up with all new comedy on the spot. So what if the line I just "thought up" went through seven re-writes the week before), and politely refer to the blog. This week it became apparent that there are two important people who are not reading the blog, or at least are not paying attention to the recurring theme.

Let's see if any of this sounds familiar:

As we walked into the Petsmart last Saturday for week 6 of Kindergarten, Couper was pulling on his leash and barking at everyone/everything. As we were supposed to be loose-leash walking, we had to stop every two steps to rein him back in. As we got in the store, he continued pulling on his leash and barking at the cashiers and customers.

I more or less have written the same paragraph every week. If it were a better or memorable paragraph, I could sue myself for plagiarism. However, that would require getting two lawyers, and that sounds expensive and annoying.

Let's continue our week 6 story.

Halfway between the cashiers and the classroom, we had to stop to try to calm Couper down. As Couper would not pay attention to us or even sit (remember, he "knows how to sit now"), we decided to get out the jar of Pupperoni to entice him. One look at the jar of yummies, and Couper was a new dog. He sat. He walked along side us. He did not bark at anybody.

At that moment, it kind of hit us. He needs the lure of yummies to be a good boy. Is this a new concept? Lord no. I write about that every week as well. So who isn't reading the blog? I guess Big Buddy and Couper's Mommy aren't.

We vowed next week to start with yummies in the parking lot. Hopefully next week, I can write a new opening paragraph.

I spent the better portion of last week's entry writing about attendance awards and plotting Couper's path to academic glory through attrition. Well, forget about the second part. The German Sheppard was back and the Affenpinscher was gone. Our chance to be Valedictorian is about done. However, we really do like having the German Sheppard in class with us. We get to learn what works with other dogs and try to apply it to ours. And the German Sheppard is having control problems walking into class as well. So with competition comes better learning. However, we do still want that Attendance Award. Badly.

For the record, Ms. Puppyteacher was there too. This week's first lesson was about combining loose-leash walking with other commands - in this case, sitting. We were to walk around the store and have our dog sit when we came to the end of an aisle. Hopefully the dog will learn to naturally sit when we stop on a walk. As we had yummies in our hand for this exercise, Couper did great. He even once actually sat on his own as we stopped. As Couper excelled in this exercise, Couper's Mommy commented, "He sure has been good in class lately." His Big Buddy commented, "What the hell am I going to write about in the blog when he is doing so good???"

Fortunately for blogging, there was a second lesson this week, meeting strangers. This exercise involved a stranger coming up to Couper, having him sit and then rewarding him. For the stranger, Ms. Puppyteacher volunteered a Petsmart clerk. At least we knew that the "stranger" was getting paid for this. I was not sure if the store clerks get medical insurance.

Amazingly, as the clerk approached Couper, he was calm. More amazingly, when asked to sit (using AKC approved hand signals), he sat. Couper's Mommy and I were shocked. He always is aggressive when new people approach. This was a minor miracle. The clerk then took the next logical step, pat the cute puppy on the head. Couper was not as OK with this. He nearly took her hand off. I guess that was pushing it a little too far. When asked if she would try this again, she politely declined. I guess they do not get health insurance.

As both Couper and the German Sheppard were having issues with coming into the store and
dealing with people, Ms. Puppyteacher suggested that we come into the store on off days to help acclimate our dogs to people and the surroundings. I guess having her say this in week 6 made me a little less cynical than had she said this in week 1. I understand that we cannot take our dogs into Neiman Marcus and have him adapt to people and surroundings (unless the dog fits in a hand bag, that somehow makes it OK). However, could we not go to the park, or on walks, or even Petco? Do we really have to go all the way to Petsmart? Should we pick something up while we are there?

Our homework for the week, besides shopping at Petsmart, is to get our dogs to politely "greet" other people. We can do this with people we know or with strangers. Being new to town, we do not know that many people. Based on what we saw earlier in the day, we are not sure that having them greet Couper is the best way to introduce ourselves. "Can you help us with our homework, all you have to do is pet our puppy...he hasn't successfully bitten anybody so far". It would be a lot easier to ask of neighbors if we lived near Ray J. Johnson, or Ray J. Johnson impersonators. (Maybe we do, who knows).

More importantly, the lesson for the week is to carry yummies wherever we go. Even if Couper is not around. Just in case. Kind of like the Sienfeld where Jerry puts the mutton in his jacket ("What exactly is mutton?" "I don't know and I don't want to find out") and Elaine - without knowing there is mutton in the pockets - borrows the jacket and dogs follow her everywhere. Maybe we can at least make dog friends in the neighborhood.

Maybe the most important lesson for the week is to read our own blog, so we don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Perhaps we will delegate that task to Couper.

Side Note: Last week I mentioned that we had 20 people over for Thanksgiving. How did Couper do? Great (there goes the comedy). He had met all the guests previously, so there were no surprises from either him or the guests. Once he gets over people coming in his house, he is interested in one thing only - playing. And play he did. For reasons unknown, we have an artificial turf putting green in our back yard. Well, that isn't entirely true. A known reason is that it came with the house. We are not really golfers, but we thought it would be a fun place for
Couper to run around. It turns out that he loves golf. When somebody tries to putt, he swoops in and intercepts the ball. He has great recovery time, because when you think he is out of the way, and you attempt another putt, he swoops in and steals that one too. With 20 people, including actual golfers and kids, at the house, the green was in use most of the time. Couper was non-stop in getting in on the fun. For the most part, people thought this was fun. However, Couper's eight year old human niece kept trying to get him inside away from the green. I guess he was ruining the integrity of the game. As I was in charge of the dog, I did get him inside a couple of times, only to have him run out and back into the game whenever somebody opened the screen door. I can only do so much. I was in charge of the football games on TV as well. At the end of the day, the humans who did cooking and organizing (not me) were exhausted, but nobody was more exhausted than Couper. After six straight hours of playing, he was a lump of puppy passed out on the floor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving from Couper's Poop!!!

From everyone at Couper's Poop, have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Please remember this important Thanksgiving safety tip:

This week it is crucial that you do not let you dachshund (or any little buddy) dress up as or act like a turkey!

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 5

I could start out with some of the same old things this week that I have detailed in previous weeks. Yes, Couper got out of bed lazily with his Big Buddy. No, he did not eat breakfast (however he did not throw up like last week). Yes, he barked on the way to the Petsmart. Yes, he was a pain in the hiney on the way in, barking at everybody and pulling on his leash. However, this week was different. This week was the best week of Kindergarten ever!!!

First, Ms. Puppyteacher was back. This is not to imply that Ms. Puppysub was bad or a problem. It is just that puppies need consistency. More importantly, Big Buddies and Mommies need consistency. The last two weeks have been confusing. Explaining what we have and have not gone over (or more importantly, remembered that we have gone over) and varying philosophies of teaching/training have been dizzying. Hopefully we will just be able to focus on the course from here on out.

Secondly, the Affenpinscher was back and the German Sheppard was absent. This in no way means that we like the Affenpinscher better than the German Sheppard. Nor does it mean that we like the Afenpinscher’s owners better than the German Sheppard’s owner. Nope, this is all about grades, awards, and graduation.

Couper is the only dog to attend all the classes. Since we are not planning on being absent in the future, we should be graded at the top of the curve on attendance. In addition, we should be in line for a Perfect Attendance award. No one has actually said that there is a Perfect Attendance award, but after five grueling weeks, I need incentive to get up early on Saturday mornings. Plus, since nobody has mentioned a Perfect Attendance award, I can only imagine that the award is pretty darn good. Like a box of biscuits or a new car or something. How do I come to this conclusion? Well, if they told you there was an award, everybody would show up every week to get the award. By not telling us there is an award, they assume people will have no incentive to show up every week. Therefore, they can get super-valuable prizes that they figure that they will never have to give out. They did not figure on the Couper family being way ahead of their little game. (I should win an award for such thinking. Since there is no known award for thinking, the prize must be awesome...).

With the Affenpincher’s reemergence, Couper is no longer at the bottom of the class. To be honest, Couper had no chance competing with the German Sheppard. The German Sheppard sits, and lies down, and is calm, and comes, and stays, and drops, and leaves, and does not have to be sprayed five times a class. Couper has no chance against all that. With two puppies in the class, Couper and the German Sheppard, Couper is at the bottom of his class, and probably won’t graduate. However, the Affenpincher can’t even sit if she wanted to, she is too little and fragile. And she doesn’t want to anyway. With her back in the class, Couper is at least in the middle of the class curve (puppy classes are graded on a curve, right? Don’t puppy teachers have to pass at least half their students to keep their certification?). So, it has never looked better for Couper to actually pass this thing! If the German Sheppard has dropped out, Couper is class Valedictorian. Who had that in their office pool five weeks ago?

Side Note: Last week I worried about the Affenpincher’s future as a Kindergarten drop-out. I apologize for jumping to conclusions. However, if my rant (can one sentence be a rant?) can get one puppy back into one Kindergarten, I think it is all worth it.

Week five of Kindergarten was review week. With the German Sheppard out and the Affenpincher way behind, Couper got almost all of the attention. Couper was great. Maybe it was because he loves attention. Maybe it was because we met Ms. Puppyteacher in an aisle before class and he got reacquainted with her. Maybe it was because he did not eat breakfast and would do anything for some food. For the record, we are going with all the homework and training from his Big Buddy and Mommy. We are going to pretend that the great behavior did not shock us. We knew it was there all along (newcomers, please do not read previous blog entries, just take my word for it).

The same teacher who in week one told us “Couper does not understand ‘sit’” told us this week, “Couper no longer needs a treat for sitting. He has that one down.” She taught him to stay by having him sit, then walking with a yummy, to his side and towards his hiney. He stayed. On each side. It was amazing. He came when called. He left things when told. Half way through Couper’s Mommy said to me, “Did we bring our dog?” When he got feisty, he always gets feisty at some point, Ms. Puppyteacher picked him up and held him. She held him for about five minutes. He squirmed at the beginning and a few times in between, but for the most part, he was relaxed and gave puppy kisses. My homework is to pick him up and hold him for 30 minutes a day. This is supposed to show that I am in charge and help him understand that he should pay attention to me every once in a while. At least until he gouges my spleen with his little but strong legs.

At the end of the class, Ms. Puppyteacher asked if we wanted to extend the class a week, because of the absences. We will officially vote next week, but essentially agreed. Had we been thinking, we should have asked for the final right there and then. He would have gotten Valedictorian, we would have gotten our Perfect Attendance award, and we all would have gotten to sleep in next week.

After class, we decided that Couper was so good we should reward him by buying the salmon yummies that we had eyed two weeks ago, but refused to buy because he was a pain in the class. As we went down the yummy aisle, he thanked us back by pooping on the floor.

All in all, this was by far the best week yet. If he keeps this up, I am proudly wearing my “I Love My Weiner” shirt to graduation.

(Administrative Note: With this week being Thanksgiving, and with us having 20 (yes, 20) people over for Thanksgiving, and with last week’s class being a review week, there will likely be no Week 5 Homework entry this week. If Couper does something fun with 20 people over, I may make an entry. Or I may spend the rest of the week wondering why we had 20 people over to begin with).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Couper Goes to Kindergarten - Homework Week 4

As we were doing homework this week, Couper continued a trend that has been driving me insane since we started this Kindergarten stuff. He listens to Couper’s Mommy, but only occasionally listens to his Big Buddy. He may not always do what Couper’s Mommy tells him, but he does at least give a glance before deciding that whatever he was doing is just fine, thank you. When Big Buddy barks a command (barks, get it?), Couper usually just goes about his business. As we are only supposed to call a command or his name once, that leaves me the options of whistling, or snapping my fingers, or stomping my foot. I look like the stereotyped construction worker when a hot babe walks by (Did this ever really happen? Did it ever actually work? Can it still happen now with harassment lawsuits? This has a Dateline NBC investigation written all over it).

I am glad that Couper listens to his Mommy; at least he is getting something from this class. However, I get very frustrated when he does not listen to me. A big part of the frustration comes from not knowing why he listens to me sometimes and not others. Is it the pitch of my voice? What he is doing at the moment? Where I am relative to him? What’s on TV (“What was Big Buddy saying??? I was paying attention to the latest about Brad and Angelina on ‘Extra’. I sure hope they adopt again. Why is Big Buddy whistling and stomping his foot? Does he need to go potty??? Does he think Angelina is hot??? Hey, there’s a Mr. Hiney!!! I should put it behind the stereo! That would be fun… ”)? So at least once a homework session I have a pity party. “Couper, you always listen to your mommy and never to me. You don’t like your Big Buddy anymore. I quit.”

This week, Couper’s Mommy finally had enough. She sat me down and spelled the situation out for me. It went something like this:
"Look, this is new for Couper. He is not used to hearing commands from you. You and he are playing buddies. You have taught him plenty. Think of all the games you two have made up. He is used to me giving him commands. I have been doing it since I got him. It is just going to take more practice coming from you."
It was well thought out, polite, and to the point. It should have been. She had four weeks to practice it. Couper’s Mommy has always been, well, the mommy. Big Buddy has always been, well, the buddy. And you thought these names were just noms de plume for this blog.

Couper has the good fortune of being the first dog I have ever had. How we got Couper, and why I never had a dog before him, is for future posts (like I have this all planned out or something). For the purposes of this post, let’s just say that I have always loved dogs and we lucked into the best dog in the whole wide world (I know what you are thinking, “Who is this pompous jerk who says his dog is the best in the whole wide world. My dog is the best in the whole wide world!” Well, my claim is in writing on the internet. The same internet that brings you football scores and naked pictures of “High School Musical” starlets (no link, sorry. Find it yourself). Your claim is in your mind. The same mind you erode with a case and a half of beer each weekend and which last week said to you, “Let’s watch this repeat of ‘Charles in Charge’. How bad could it be?” I rest my case).

If not the best in the whole wide world, Couper at the very least is a heck of a lot of fun. Couper loves to play and I am almost always happy to oblige him. Even when I am lying on the sofa half asleep, if he sticks a Mr. Hiney in my hand, I will throw it. Couper also loves attention and I have transferred my 38 years of not having a dog into attention to him. (Too bad he can’t read. He would love that he is getting 1000+ words written about him twice a week. To him writing this blog is just something that Big Buddy does between throwing a Mr. Hiney.) Couper’s Mommy calls us “two peas in a pod”. I hate peas. I had epic arguments over peas when I was a child. I refuse to eat peas as an adult. But she is absolutely right and I like when she says that.

So most of what I have taught him involves us playing. But just what have I taught him? And is any of it helping anything?

The first thing I did when I first met an 11 month old Couper four years ago was recoil at this cute little thing barking at me (hasn’t changed much, has he?). The second thing I did was get him a bowl of refrigerated RO water with ice cubes that he ignored. The third thing I did was go get a tennis ball to see if he would play. Third time’s a charm. I threw it, he chased it, and we became instant best buddies. He loved chasing the ball, but stunk at catching it. Yes, his mouth was a little too small for a tennis ball at that time, but his timing was all off and he was all over the place. Tens (hundreds?) of thousands of throws later, with various balls and toys, he has gotten really good at catching. Sometimes he makes really amazing catches. I wish catching were part of Kindergarten.

I think playing catch is good. It at least has bonded us and has led to other games (below). And so far, I have avoided arm surgery despite throwing more balls than Warren Spahn (You thought I might go blue there, didn’t you? Bad you!).

Not Bringing the Ball Back.
Couper has this strange habit of nudging around with the toy just thrown to him in the area where he catches up to it. He makes it look like he has no idea how to pick up the toy. I have this strange habit of being impatient and wanting to throw the toy again. Probably the fourth thing I did after meeting Couper was go retrieve the ball I threw. I quickly found out that he could not only pick up the ball, he could take off with it. So what he really wanted out of this situation was to play “Chase the Puppy”. Eventually he trained me to throw the ball, walk to where he and the ball were, and then either chase the puppy or pick up the ball and throw it again. Couper’s Mommy is fond of saying, “I remember when he used to bring the ball back, before you taught him this.” I don’t really remember him ever bringing it back, but I go along with it. I hope she doesn’t read this thing.

This is undoubtedly bad teaching. He is controlling me. However, maybe he wants to make sure that I get some exercise too.

This is a variation of playing catch, but instead of picking it up the ball and throwing it, I do a three point stance over the ball like a football center and long “snap” it back between my legs (like for a punt). Before I snap the ball, I say “3-46-3-46-hut-hut-hut”, as if I am calling a play. The original point of the game was he would stand in front of me until I snapped the ball, and I would pretend to block as he whizzed right by me.

As time went on, he would jump “offsides” as I went into my “3-46” call. I would then pretend to be a referee calling offsides, complete with hand signals and the announcement to the crowd, “Offsides defense. Number 3. Five yard penalty. First Down!” Couper’s Mommy would groan, but Couper would anxiously wait for me to go get him and the ball. Over time, Couper wouldn’t even wait for me to call “3-46” and upon my doing my center stance, run to the spot where I usually snapped the ball, even if my hiney was pointed in an entirely different direction (the ball follows the hiney).

I guess this is good teaching. He would do something based on either my bending over the ball or calling “3-46…”. If he jumped early, there was a penalty for offsides (bad actions have bad consequences – 5 yards in this case). I have not figured out if running to the usual spot is better or worse than understanding the ball goes where the butt points. (I would love to tell you that “3-46” was some famous play like the Packer Power Sweep, but it is just the first two numbers that popped into my mind. It sounds like a solid football play though, doesn’t it?)

Joe Namath wins the Super Bowl
This is roughly the same deal as “3-46” except:
  • I actually throw the ball overhand, like a football pass.
  • We have to use Couper’s tennis ball football.
  • In my “Howard Cosell for Puppies” voice, I yell, “Here goes Joe Namath to win the Super Bowl!”
Couper has learned to take off to the corner of the yard where the ball is thrown. The rule is if he catches the ball before it comes to a stop, he scores a touchdown and Joe Namath wins the Super Bowl. We have a big celebration. If it comes to a stop before he gets it, Joe Namath loses the Super Bowl. Both results are announced by “Howard Cosell for Puppies”.

A couple of things to note:
  • Yes, I did play this game in my parent’s back yard when I was 7 (without the puppy).
  • Yes, I am old enough to have seen Joe Namath win a Super Bowl (I was 3) and hear Howard Cosell call a game.
  • No, I never grew up.
  • My “Howard Cosell for Puppies” voice announces because a regular Howard Cosell voice might scare and confuse puppies. “Howard Cosell for Puppies” is essentially a cross between Howard Cosell and Mr. Rogers. Researchers at independent test labs worldwide have proven this combination of voices to be puppy friendly (please do not look this up).
I think this may be my best teaching game. Couper reacts to “Joe Namath to win the Super Bowl” by running to a selected spot. He learns a real life lesson about winning and losing. “Howard Cosell for Puppies” exults/ admonishes his win/loss; again, just like real life. Finally, he learns history; Joe Namath winning Super Bowl after Super Bowl (all on the last play) and Howard Cosell announcing them (please don’t look-up those “facts” either).

In our old house, on the patio, we had stucco columns. On these columns, there were rounded ledges (they probably have an architectural name, but I am too lazy to look it up). The ledges were just tall enough that Couper on his hind legs could reach them. We found that we could hide toys on these ledges and when Couper would find them, he would make sure to knock them down (example right with Mr. Hiney). We took this activity to the next level with the “Do-dee-do-dee-do” game.

The game plays as follows: I would pick up a toy and start walking around the columns. At the same time I would start whistling a “casual song”. The song made it seem like I wasn’t really doing anything special, just casually walking around, whistling, like usual (actual time I have spent walking around whistling outside of this game: 0 seconds). Couper would follow me, all the while looking up on the column ledges to see if I put the toy there. At some point I would leave the toy on the ledge, but continue the walking and whistling. Couper would have to keep looking until he found the toy. He got very good at this, again proving he is smarter than his Big Buddy.

Why is this called the “Do-dee-do-dee-do” game? It isn’t. It is called the {whistle the song} game, but I have no audio to insert for “{whistled song}”. It kind of sounds like “do-dee-do-dee-do” and I had to type something. The song is essentially lifted from a tune played constantly in the toy store FAO Schwartz (the toy store in “Big”). When you walk in, you hear a song that goes: “Welcome to our world, welcome to our world, welcome to our world of toys”. If you have been in an FAO Schwartz for more than six seconds, you know exactly what I am describing. If you worked in an FAO Schwartz, you are doing 20 to life for aggravated assault/murder because you heard that song over and over and over throughout your shift (Sorry for reminding you of it. Have some more therapy. Does the warden know you are on the internet???). “Welcome to our World” is to FAO Schwartz what “It’s a Small World” is to Disneyland (This should be an official SAT analogy). So what better song to incorporate into a game of hiding Couper’s toys?

This was a good teaching game as well, I think. I was in charge. He was following. I was whistling a song that leads to heinous felonies. Sounds like good clean fun to me.

Havlicek Stole the Ball
This game starts out with me dribbling a tennis ball while humming “Sweet Georgia Brown” of Harlem Globetrotters fame. There are no similarities between my dribbling and Curley Neal’s or between my song and the actual song. But to Couper, that doesn’t matter. He tries to steal the ball. When he does, we completely shift basketball gears. In my “Howard Cosell for Puppies” voice, I shout, “Havlicek stole the ball!!! Havlicek stole the ball!!!” (a reference to a 1965 playoff game that I probably missed because I was spitting up formula). When I say, “The’re gonna get Havlicek!!!”, a full-fledged Chase the Puppy game is on.

We are going to count this game as good too. I am marginally in charge while dribbling the ball. Couper knows to steal the ball. We all learn about the Globetrotters, the 1965 Celtics, and that Howard Cosell announced every significant sporting event of the 1960s. Even when he wasn’t there. Howard wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wee Wee Woo
This game was born of necessity during Super Bowl XXXIX. I kind of wanted to watch the game. Couper kind of wanted to play. Going outside to play was not going to happen. No TVs outside. Couper was deeply into his tennis ball football only phase. It was the only toy he would play with. Watching TV and blindly chucking that toy across the room, with its strange bounces, was asking for disaster. So I needed a game that was closely contained so that the fine china was safe (paper plates can be fine china, it is all relative).

Wee Wee Woo works as follows (Feel free to try this at home with your little buddy. If you don’t have a little buddy, get one. I’ll wait):
  • Sitting on a sofa, cross your feet. Keep the outside edge of both feet on the floor. Being left-handed, I cross my left foot in front of my right. (All game instructions from here on will assume that you are left-handed as well. If you are not, please become left-handed now. I’ll wait.)
  • Take the toy ( the tennis ball football really is the best for this game) in your left hand and set it on your left knee.
  • If you drop the ball to the right, down your left shin, yell “Wee”. Somewhere in this drop, Couper attempts to pounce on the ball. Usually while it is rolling down my leg, causing 12 pounds of force with claws to tear up my calf and/or foot.
  • If you drop the ball to the left, down to the floor, yell “Woo”. This side is usually less painful. Be careful if anybody is sitting on the sofa to your left.
  • Soon the little buddy will know the difference between “Wee” (attack your leg) and “Woo” (attack the person sitting to your left).
Amazingly, Couper took to this game. He brought the ball back every time for more. He was mesmerized by the ball sitting on my knee, trying to figure out if a “wee” or a “woo” was coming. So during important plays, it was OK to just leave the ball sitting there. In the end, I got to watch the Super Bowl (and many a sporting event since) and he got to play.

Summary: Educational: Yes. Human in charge: Yes. Painful: Yes. Bottom line: Good

So what have we learned?
  • I actually have had some good influence in teaching and leading Couper through playing. I somehow need to transfer this to our Kindergarten training.
  • I am using our dog as an excuse to play games I used to play in grade school.
  • Howard Cosell impressions (even puppy-modified) never get old. If Rich Little were still alive, he would be doing “Howard Cosell for Puppies” on the Mike Douglas Show.
  • Nothing significant in the world of sports has happened since 1970.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 4

The morning of Week 4 started out poorly. Nobody wanted to get up. Not even Couper. Sometimes when Couper does not want to get up, it is OK; he does like to cuddle in the mornings. Sometimes it is bad news. On Saturday, it was bad news. Within a half hour of finally getting out of bed, he threw up three times. Once outside. Once on the floor. Once on the carpet. The ralphing hat trick. If we weren’t afraid of him throwing up in the bed, we would have called in sick and gone back to sleep. The possibility of him throwing up in Petsmart was much less disgusting. So we went to Kindergarten as scheduled. As it turned out, he did not throw up again.

He was, however, not in a good mood. The walk in was the worst ever. We assumed we were supposed to be loose leash walking into the store again. We did not park as close to the store as last week. After getting out of the car and leashed up, we stopped about every two steps on our way to the crosswalk in front of the store. Remember last week at the crosswalk, where he was good and there was no car traffic? That was so last week. This week he was pulling and barking as a parade of cars went by in both directions. When finally a couple of cars stopped, letting us cross, we could not be bothered with loose leash nonsense. Couper pulled us right across, barking the whole way at the drivers who stopped. I think if we had practiced loose leash walking techniques and stopped, they would not have thought twice about running us over. By week 4 of this, shouldn't this be getting easier, not harder?

We had Ms. Puppysub again. Apparently Ms. Puppyteacher will be back next week. Ms. Puppysub was better this week about teaching the curriculum for the week, rather than dwelling on what we had not been taught. Maybe there was a sub plan. Also for the second week, it was just Couper and the German Sheppard. I guess the little dog has dropped out. We don’t mind, as Couper gets at least half the attention in class now. On the other hand you feel bad for the little dog. What kind of future can a Kindergarten drop-out have in this day and age?

This week we plowed ahead with more commands.

This one is a classic; the ultimate dog command. It is probably the key to the entire course. We don’t stand a chance.

At least twice now an instructor has said, “Don’t say stay unless you can release the dog. So don’t say stay when walking out the door to go to work, because the dog will eventually release itself and the command is lost.” This cracks me up every time. I imagine a dog sitting there for six hours, then saying, “screw it, this guy’s not coming back. I’m gonna rip up the couch”. I imagine Couper sitting there for six tenths of a second and thinking, “What does ‘stay’ mean? Hey, there’s a Mr. Hiney!!! I’m gonna go get it, put it somewhere unreachable, and then bark about it until my Big Buddy comes back.”

The classroom exercise involved having him sit with a yummy in hand (week 1 exercise that Couper has not mastered) and holding the yummy in front of him while saying “stay”. Couper is already good at sitting and staying for a yummy. Often he sits and stays when we don’t even know he deserves a yummy.

Couper’s Mommy: Couper is sitting on his yummy mat staring at me, did he go potty while you two were outside?
Big Buddy: Huh? I dunno. On internet. Uh, yeah, I'll have ranch dressing.
Couper’s Mommy: Fine. Here’s a yummy Little Bud.

When he gets the yummy, off he goes. If that was the point, we would be home free. It isn’t. And we are not yet at a full fledged "stay". At this point, we can only take a step back while he is waiting. If he ever gets good at it, we can increase distance and time. We will be sitting with a yummy in his face for a long while, I fear.

We are supposed to make “come” the better alternative to whatever he is doing. In this case, having a yummy is the alternative (What a surprise, right? Didn’t see that coming did you?). Also, we are to bring him in close to us and give him a big playful rub on the head and say, “yes!!!” Is this better than smelling poop? So far, not really. Let’s spell it out mathematically:

Big Buddy + Couper’s Mommy + yummy + head rub + “Yes!!!” < Smelling Poop

That is not a good equation if you are on the left side. If you are poop, you are feeling pretty good about yourself.

Since the German Sheppard already knew down, we got full attention for that command. Down is making the dog lie down by luring him to the ground with a yummy. This works great with a big dog like a German Sheppard that has to move his whole body towards the floor to follow the yummy. For our little wiener dog, following the yummy to the floor is a matter of dipping his head. Ms. Puppysub could not get 'down" to work with Couper. However, if we ever want him to bow his head in prayer, this could be the trick.

Each of the commands that we learn also have AKC approved hand signals. It isn’t bad enough to remember what to say, we have to remember how to gesture. I think more often than not, I wind up giving referee signals. He may not sit, but he might pace back 5 yards for illegal procedure.

Sit: Move hand from side, straight up 90 degrees. (Not pushing his hiney to the ground as I had been doing)
Stay: Arm out, hand pointed upward.
Come: Arm up in the air and hand in a moving into a fist. Couper may not come, but cabs keep stopping for me.
Down: Arm down with hand straight out.

Don’t quote these signals. I likely have them wrong. However, I have known since I was 4 that both hands on hips is “Offsides”.

The last thing we did was practice loose leash walking in the store. Our distractions this time? Customers, employees, and debris in the store. I got to wondering if being a dog training distraction is part of the Petsmart job description…

Interviewer: Your resume looks good. Can you stock shelves?
Interviewee: I sure can. I help my mom unload the groceries all the time and I make sure to stack the soup with the soup and the beans with the beans.
Interviewer: Excellent. How about pricing? Can you put stickers on things?
Interviewee: Can I ever. Man, one time in high school, I put Motley Crue stickers all over my geometry book. There were like so many, they wouldn’t even take it back.
Interviewer: Great. Now, our trainers have people who own behavior problem dogs walk their dogs around the store during peak hours. Can you stand there like a dweeb while you get barked at and potentially attacked?
Interviewee: Well, in 4th grade, I was an extra in a school production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. Stood right there on stage like a statue.
Interviewer: Outstanding. If you can clean up poop, you’ve got the job.
Interviewee: Well I have a little brother, and one time he, like, ate, like, 30 cans of beans and...

Amazingly, Couper was great during the around the store loose leash walking. He did not bark at employees. He did not bark at customers. He did not bark at dogs. Did not pull. Did not try to pick up toys or food. He has never been better. Ms. Puppysub was very impressed. We went back to the classroom, got our homework, and were dismissed from class. On the way out of the store, he barked at employees. He barked at customers. He barked at other dogs. He pulled the entire way. He went after store items. It was as if he knew he was no longer in class and could revert back to his usual self. The walk back to the car was almost as long as the walk back in.

We are now half way through our class. I think we are doing OK, but I was glad there was no midterm. I have a bad feeling there is going to be a final. At least we haven't been expelled. Or dropped out.