Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Three years of public school French have enriched my life. I can go to any patisserie in Paris, say, "Je veux" and point-making the biggest croissant in the case mine. I am not able to carry on more than a one-sided conversation, centered around my own selfish (and often food based) demands but that is how most native English speakers treat language in America, so I figure I even out the scale.
No, the real linguist of the family is Viggo. By way of being a dachshund, Viggo will tilt his head when Peter and I speak and stare directly at us with his unblinking round eyes. He lives in a constant stay of awareness (disproving any ludicrous theories that napping is for the lazy.) When we talk he searches our words for meaning. He desperately wants to comprehend, which is obviously why he was built with such a long neck to crane. He listens, quietly, for trigger words. These include: go, out, trip, Sammy/Rocky (best pup mates), treat, and walk. As soon as one of those words is released into his ears he starts to party. It starts with running a victory lap around our place and is followed with him lunging up our legs-as if to say, "did YOU hear what I get to do?"
As a modern pup mom, I am very proud of his ability to process information but I am also riddled with guilt that I am not doing enough for him. Should I be looking for bone scented flash cards? Should I even be speaking English to him-what if he prefers Japanese? These are questions that will just have to remain unanswered for now.
I would share these fears with anyone that is looking for a dachshund to parent as its not easy having gifted child.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
We give Viggo the world or at least a Northwest, Continental USA portion of it. This weekend we took him to beautiful Cannon Beach where he frolicked in the sand and rain. To repay us for his much needed holiday he locked us out of the Jeep while we popped in for a quick coffee. Probably wasn't Peter's slickest move, leaving the keys in the ignition-at the very least I am concerned Viggo has intuited how to drive (isn't sticking ones head out the window of the car the first thing teenagers do when they are street legal? See, step one: passed)
Luckily Viggo didn't move the car but he did do a very curious thing. Rather than thrash and whine (like a drunk prostitute brought in for questioning) as he does when left alone at home- Viggo was calm during the hour we spent waiting for the lock guy. We spent much of the hour at the door window, like fools, trying to coerce him into pushing his paws on the unlock button. We probably looked like a backwards zoo. The small guy in the passenger seat serenely observed us as we flailed the hand not holding a latte around in the air. I guess we weren't much of a show though, at one point he took a nap.
Considering how Viggo loves nothing more than to impersonate a guard dog, I would have thought he would have been worried for us. Here he was, ensconced in leather and bags of snacks and there we were, under a rain cloud and near other small dogs dressed in sweaters. But no, he didn't seem to mind in the least bit that we were in harms way.
Oprah tells us that Maya Angelou once said, "you never truly know a person until you see them deal with lost luggage." Today I met my dog. He's crafty with tools and calm under pressure.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Some people complain that they just can't seem to get what they want out of life. To these people, I suggest changing tactics. For example, my 11-pound dog really likes steak. But begging for steak gets him nowhere. Last night he tried out the move above. The result? Steak with a side of potato.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Dogs are nothing if not literal. When a dog barks in a movie, that made-for-tv- dog is as good as in the room. When Peter calls on the phone from out of town, he is standing in the living room Star Trek style as far as Veegs is concerned. I, of course, feel sorry for all the stress this confusion of reality causes Viggo. (Except for when the fire alarm goes off when I cook and Viggo alerts us to the danger. That is just smart.)
I also feel sorry when I meet a person who is severely literal. They are always painful at conversation and usually inadequate at dressing themselves but I will stop here.
The point is, dogs aren't jaded. What they see is what they see and hearing the same way. They don't question every little thing, over-analyze, or even walk away from their emotions because they are scary and they would rather not confront this today.
Its no wonder you don't see dogs in self-help groups. They may create unnecessary angst for themselves but the fact is they know how to really cope.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Dogs bark. Viggo barks and barks. We diagnosed this as little man complex. He is quite impressively huge when he puffs up his chest and lets the collective roar of the animal kingdom channel through him. But it annoys the neighbors.
We took Viggo to meet with his breeder. I know breeder is a bad word in pet communities but let me explain Marilyn is no ordinary pup pimp. Marilyn loves dogs (dachshunds in particular) and she has many that she shows professionally around the country. Peter has the best analogy-she loves dogs the way a mechanic loves cars. Its a different love but just as fierce. And she is clearly who we turn to for tips in dog psychology.
Since we don't have TV (scholars that we are) we were unversed in the phenomenon that is the "Dog Whisperer." We quickly caught up. There are 2 kinds of dogs-followers and leaders. Leaders walk ahead of their owners, barking at others as a form of protection for their pack. This has been Viggo. But yesterday, Viggo learned to be a follower. We kept him behind us on the lead and I'll be if that little dog didn't submit to us. Its a small adjustment but made a substantial difference to our relationship to him and his public behavior.
One would assume that this type of role reversal would require a fight for power but as we found out, dogs live in the moment. No matter the dogs age or habits, they can change. And change quickly.
Why can't people do the same? No amount of cheese or bacon can get some people out of their habits. But then again, how many of us can own up to our own barks. It takes the courage that our 4-legged friends never once doubt that they have.
Maybe we think we are too old to change. I'm reading an amazing book on learning and creativity by a man I heard speak once, Ken Robinson. He says, in "The Element":
For the most part, people seem to think that life is linear, that our capacities decline as we grow older, and that opportunities we have missed are gone forever. Many people...don't understand their constant potential for renewal.
Viggo is smart. I should follow him more often.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Having a dog present in the house creates more than just "cute" moments, I believe it makes you more meditative. This morning I was watching Viggo chew on a bull penis (yes) and I felt, what we would call in acting class, the "truth" of the moment.
You see Viggo's life comprises of moments that you and I would consider small: peeing, chasing, walking, sitting in laps, eating. And he loves each activity- fully exerting his 10-lb body to each task. When its done, he patiently waits, happy for what is to come.
As an observer its easy to dismiss his actions as meaningless, afterall, outside of this house, people would classify him as an animal and not to be held up to human standards. Maybe this is true, but shouldn't we at least hold our own standards up to that of Viggo's now and again?
Can we each say that we spend each day devoting ourselves to the things that hold value to us? Are our own days "work" really that much grander or more important than Viggo's? We attempt with all our actions to achieve what feels good and to make those that we care about feel the same, if not better than ourselves. Dogs do this each day... and they don't even need to twitter about it.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Peter and I agreed early on that we would never feed Viggo off the table. But in the kitchen, Viggo acts like a very anxious sous-chef on his first dinner shift. It was just a matter of time before a piece of meat slipped off the counter and into his waiting jowls. And I can't tell you how my heart warmed seeing my sweet pup enjoy a bite of bacon. It was a lot like when I watched that documentary on Amish teens during rumspringa (the year when they enter the "mainstream" world and basically go on highly encouraged drug binge.) Once I saw Viggo enjoying the forbidden fruit..er, meat, I couldn't let it stop there. I wanted him to have steak. No, I wanted him to try filet mignon. Then I wanted him to sleep in bed with us. No, I wanted him to have our bed and we would sleep on the floor.
I wanted to give him everything he has ever desired because it felt good to watch pleasure that you were solely responsible for.
So yes, chances are my future children are going to be Type-2 Diabetics who suck their thumbs until they are 19.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
It must be difficult, not having the ability to reason. I meet people without this function all the time but I seem to have more sympathy for the animals these days. Often we put Viggo in situations that test his limits:
-In front of a full length mirror he wonders who that pup is that lives on the other side and why, when he puts his paws on the glass, can he not walk through? (Profound my dog is.)
-In the car he must wonder why this particular seat makes scenery and smells go by at 60mph? And why does this seat drop him off at his best pup friends (Sammy and Rocky) house while the couch at home has no such power?
-He loves to chase birds. But they fly away. "Where are my wings?", he seems to ask me with his contemplative eyes .
-Today Viggo encountered his first squirrel. I have often seen squirrels cower at the sight of my dog but today was the first day he spotted them back. The squirrel ran up a tree and my dog tried to follow. He made a good effort but, again, "why does gravity hold me back?" He searched for the answer to that one on the tree itself. Once distracted by another dogs tinkle at the base of the tree, he forgot the question. I imagine the best philosophers operate in a similar manner.
-It probably took me to the age of 8 to question why my popsicle disappeared, but at 11-months Viggo is forced to deal with hard realities. The ice cube that he plays with and then puts under the bed is sadly not there when he returns. Its not for lack of looking as he will search the house for it. Of course this always reminds me of the overly depressing "Frosty the Snowman" cartoon. I do hope Viggo doesn't name his ice cubes. I would hate for him to get so attached. Kids can deal with this seasonally but loss like this on an everyday basis is just to much to ask of him. Physics is devastating isn't it?
I wonder if Stephen Hawking has a dog and if he is able to enlighten his pooch by answering questions about Earth/Space/Time? Perhaps his speech panel has a special high-pitched dog mode. Well, as I keep telling Viggo, anything is possible.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
One daschund trait that infinitely amuses me is their love of sunny spots. You could easily tell time off of Viggo's migration patterns as he moves around the house to which ever direction it is strongest in. I can't help but think of hotdog associations when I see him passed out like this. He really does look like he is cooking on a spit. But of course, while he loves to be sun drenched, he doesn't like extreme heat. Yesterday was 107 here in Portland-insane. The asphalt gets hot, which makes it hard for his paws. He basically wants to be carried around and fed ice chips (I will admit to indulging him in this.) He also wants to check-in to hotels that have the AC set to 65, which we obliged. He is a luxury pup afterall.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Before Viggo even came to live with us, we have been buying him things. Admittedly he has a lot of stuff for an 11-month old. But of course we felt that every piece of pup paraphernalia serves a purpose: a chewy saves our shoes, a venison treat persuades him to "stay", and of course a fluffy blanket makes him cosy. We have a basket in our living room in an attempt to store his toys away when friends come over (especially friends with actual kids that would have actual reason to laugh at us.)
Viggo loves to go in to Peter's office during the day when he is working. He enters early in the morning with 1 item from his chest and approaches Peter. He is trying to entice Peter away from his own work to engage in a game of chase, with the toy as the bait. Peter of course would love to spend hours throwing squeaking ferrets across the room but of course he is busy. So slowly but surely, Viggo will bring another toy in his office. And then another. By the end of the workday we will find 6 or 7 toys sitting on the office floor (yes, I told you we spoiled him.) We like to think that he recognizes the office is a place of work and for Viggo, toys and the chasing and chewing they require are his day's work. So you could say he has too many toys but we like to see it as too much work.
Post originally written: April 29,2009
Viggo is almost 8-months old. A dog trainer we know refers to this as, "the teen years." This is my first experience with dog parenthood so I had no idea they were capable of such developmental complexity.
But sure enough, Viggo has gone from teething to stealing the car in a very short window. All kidding aside, he does exhibit classic teen behaviors:
* He choses whether to listen when we give him a command. And he generally choses not to.
* He is more inwardly directed (see attached photo: spends much more of his time off contemplating issues pertaining only to him and refuses to discuss these issues.)
* He gets so upset when we bring him home from his best mates house, (Rocky and Sammy) that he sulks for a day and goes on a puppy-food strike (at which time he demands more lamb treats and gets them. I admit to this.)
* Not kidding about the driving. He sits on Peter's lap in the car and puts his paws on the steering wheel. He also licks the wheel but hey, I wasn't sure how to drive either when I first started.
* He destroyed his bed like a rock star.
* He talks back a lot more. (Seriously, the barking is embarrassing when we are in public.)
* We worry he has an eating-disorder.
* He looks in the mirror a lot more. Of course he does this because he thinks another pup lives inside the mirror, but still its more than usual.
* He is highly secretive. Especially with my socks. I can never find them.
* He has perfected a 'look' that makes him appear perpetually disappointed in you.
Our trainer tells us this teen phase lasts about 3 months. We just hope he doesn't get a female pup pregnant in the meantime. Neutering is on our to-due list but Viggo keeps eating that list.