Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Love: There is No Divide

I love candid shots of my companions sharing a moment together. The gentleness in Janka's demeanor is so touching, and a reminder of just how special she is.

While it is not unheard of for different species to form a friendship, for me to be a part of it is humbling and amazing. This trusting relationship is a product of their upbringing based on compassion, patience, kindness and understanding. It is an achievement which I hold with quiet pride as Alpha and caregiver.

But such sweetness is an innate trait, a highly attuned self-awareness that cannot be imparted by me. There are some dogs that will never attain that level of understanding with all the training in the world. Despite Janka's bravado and strong will, the amount of love and gentleness that she is capable of giving is astounding. She has, what a spiritual had observed, an old soul.

Yet this keen level of intelligence in Janka is hardly appreciated by outsiders. It used to niggle at me. Janka - the Deeply Misunderstood. But I realized that what others objectify her as is no matter to me. It does not affect her nor the unique relationship she has within our pack. I do not need everybody's approval, nor do I seek to prove her worth to others.

Boastfulness is a sign of insecurity and lack of dignity.

Janka, we are better than that, aren't we?

Your Mama

King Comfort

Andre Puff Biggles
The Mightiest, Puffiest of Them All

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Family's Foster

Peeps on her last night here
I know I keep promising to be more committed to this blog but life gets in the way with its (mis)adventures and responsibilities, so it makes it challenging to post regularly. But I will make it a point to upload an entry a few times a week.

Peeps is no longer under our care. We fostered her for just over a month before we rehomed her at a wonderful farm in Jamul that was recommended by a dear friend. It is a huge property over-looking the valley, nestled within mountains. There is a wonderful chicken hut with a covered run so Peeps can be a ranch chicken without fear of predators. There are horses, ducks, donkeys, dogs and fruit trees all around. It is beautiful and serene, where animals come first.

It is owned by a lovely lady, Anita Worthington, and her husband (whom we didn't meet) who was on 'Whale Wars'. People with huge, sincere hearts. We hit it off immediately, and I knew Peeps has found the perfect home. In fact, all sadness, uncertainty and reservation melted the minute we pulled onto the property.

I have not seen Peeps since we dropped her off at her new permanent home two months ago, and I think a re-visit is due soon to reconnect with Peeps and for a good photo opportunity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Part Deux

So I previously had included the complete list of commands that Janka understands as well as my personal philosophy on how I train my own dog in the last entry. But it was such a long post, I decided to break it up and create a new entry just for Janka's vocabulary and her training.

I teach new commands using positive reinforcement and adopt appropriate corrections when necessary. I use different training equipment, from a soft tool (flat collar) to a training aid that allows for instant, well-executed correction (e-collar). I make it a point to rotate them, with the addition of using the reward system to reinforce a desired behavior. It takes more work, but I do not believe in sticking to a specific method all the time. The importance is consistency, variation and expecting the same results on all platforms. Besides, it makes it more stimulating and enjoyable for me and Janka.

I also believe in using the lowest resistance (starting with a flat or martingale) that achieves the desired results before moving onto something stronger, depending on the dog's personality and soft/hardness. If one chooses to use an e-collar, proper handling, understanding and knowledge of how it works is a MUST. I did not jump to an e-collar right away. I held off till I tried all other methods of corrections to encourage her to toe the line, and I certainly would not use that to teach a puppy or a new command. The e-collar's function, in my opinion, is to correct an undesirable behavior. Nothing else.

Would I do the same over with my next dog? No. Because we all learn from experience, and I do not expect my next German Shepherd to be an exact clone of Janka. Different strokes for different folks, it is all about custom-fitting to the dog's personality.

Janka's Commands:
*sitz (long)
*platz (long)
*steh (long)
*halt (long)
*place (long)
*rats (bark on command)
*up (jump with all 4 legs off the ground)
*over (jump over obstacles)
*free now
*through (going through the legs)
*watch me

(I am not a trainer. I am not giving advice of any kind. I am merely talking about my own experience with my German Shepherd.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Understanding the Misunderstood

Gentle Janka with Peeps
So much for being vicious and dangerous, eh? Please end BSL!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Candid Elegance

Gentle Andre looking contemplative. However, deep thought is not his forte. Andre may be breathtakingly beautiful, but there is not much depth behind those sky-blue eyes. It does not matter, he is still my darling Puffy-kins.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

There Is No Nobler Friend Than A Dog

On a Spring hike at Mission Trails State Park, 2011
Here is Janka at 3 years old. Without reeking too strongly of parental pride, I continue to maintain that she is one of the best-looking German Shepherds I have the privilege of knowing in my life.

She is the epitome of this versatile, handsome breed: beauty, courage, loyalty, utility. A testament to the dedication of her breeder, Grunenfeld German Shepherds.

Yet she charmingly infuses these traits with her own unique brand of humor and endearing mischief. She is affectionate in a hectic way that could only be described as "Janka", and focuses her intelligence in finding ways to bend the rules and push her limits. She is obnoxious and dramatic, big-hearted and joyous.

While she may cause us to throw our hands up in exasperation at times, she has also taught us about loving big, not sweating the small stuff and forgiveness. Grudges are like old socks, best to be buried and forgotten. Rewards are most enjoyed through hard work and honest effort. And surely nothing beats beating a bad day than a sincere hug and a lick.

She is my best friend and role model, my muse and confidant. But most of all, she is the love of my life.

I love you, Janka-Pie. And thank you for loving me back.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Milestone

Dear Shalom,

Happy Belated Hatchday. A few days ago, you celebrated your first decade. We have been together for 10 years, although it doesn't feel that long. You have been by my side through the highs and lows, asking nothing more than to be loved and to love back. That has to be the greatest gift Mankind could ask for, and I thank you for this lesson in humility daily.

Because I am only human, I could never give you what you have given me. But that is the beauty of it. You do not hold any expectations or obligations from Mankind, except that we live up to the best of our potential to those around us.

Here is to another decade of Love, darling. I love you.

Your Mama

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peeps: All About Second Chances

Taken April 13th, 2011
This is Peeps, a chick I rescued last month from the ranch. She was injured with a badly infected leg. My friend and I found her struggling to keep up with her brood, fighting to stay alive despite the odds stacked against her. It was heart-wrenching.

We rescued her, and I nursed her back to health. Now, much bigger with most of her yellow fluff gone, Peeps is ready to move onto better things, and live her life out as a chicken should: where the sun shines, the grass is green, and soft rich dirt to scratch around in. Ideally, I would love to keep her. But we do not live in an ideal world and have to make tough choices that benefit those we love most, even if it means letting go.

So now comes the decision to choose the best home for her, and wish her the best with our blessings.