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Friday, October 30, 2009

Hot Dog on Salad

Will you look at that carnage!!?? My gotu kola pot has been converted into Milo's strong box for leftover bones. He makes a mess burying his bone and he makes even more of a mess digging them up again. And we've all learnt not to look at him when he is hiding his calcium treasures... because if he catches on that we've caught on to his secret hide-out, he will promptly dig up his bone to make sure that it's still there.

And that makes twice the carnage. Here he is with a look that says "What can a dog do to get some privacy around here?"

I reckon that the other reason why he loves the gotu kola pots are that gotu kolas are soft and cool to lie upon when the sun is high and the day is hot. Of course, another way of staying staying cool on a hot day is to get the alpha bitch to put out an umbrella, and open the door so that someone's ferocious looking black snout can get some aircon.

Now, is anyone else getting the impression that I am raising a doggie wimp... or is it just me?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No Paws in the Forbidden Area

Here's Milo telling me, "My paws can't come in. But my head can!" This is a dog that interprets the fine print very finely indeed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Alpha Bitch

Putting together bits and pieces of advice from friends with more dog training experience than I, I'm getting rather good at speaking one sentence of doggie language:

"I am the alpha bitch!"

Oh my! Now I've gone and been vulgar! But I mean it quite literally as in "I am the top dog and female". There are several ways to be a an Alpha B and all of it are stuff my kindergarten teacher taught me never to do...

First off, who eats first is of utmost importance in Dog World. As the Alpha B, I get to eat first. It follows therefore that if I expect Milo to be obedient to Alpha Dog (aka The Husband), Beta Bitch (aka The Daughter), and Gamma Dog (aka Little Boy) these lovely people should all get to eat before Milo. To this end, I have institutionalised a rather ridiculous meal time habit in order to communicate to Milo that we are alpha and he ain't.

Before every meal, everyone troops out into the rooftop terrace holding a tiny plate each laden with 2 pieces of protein. We walk leisurely around nibbling on one piece of protein and Gamma Dog (aka Little Boy), a person with immense initiative, smacks his lips and licks his chops for good measure. When Milo gets to close to our plates, we growl "No!" whereupon Milo retreats to a respectful distance and watches us politely. Then, we each deign to take the other piece of protein from our plates and place it on the floor in a neat pile. If he approaches before we say "Come!", he gets growled at again and stared down. Then we leave him to enjoy his titbits whilst we all troop downstairs to eat our meal as humans normally do.

It is very amusing because it works like a charm. Willingly, Milo now rolls over to expose his neck and belly to Little Boy... and Little Boy is such a gentle child (having always been gently treated) that I feared very much that Milo would not heed him at all. And Milo no longer nips at Little Boy.

Next, when I play games with Milo, I will place my arms around his neck. Us humans read that as a bear hug, and it is a gesture of friendship and equality (unless of course a human male hugs a human female without permission). Milo however, responds by rolling on his back and exposing his neck and belly to me telling me that I am dominant. I respond by placing my hand on his throat. This happens about 3 times every day... and whaddaya know... I have now a dog that pulls back from whatever he is doing whenever I clear my throat at him.

Like I said, if I did this to friends in kindergarten, I would have gotten my ears soundly pulled. So, I made sure I told Little Boy that leadership of people follows quite different rules than doggie leadership. For one, it wouldn't do to swagger in front of friends, plate in hand, saying "I have yummy food and you don't!". And then, one doesn't go around putting hands at people's throats so that they'll toe the line. And then, if I keep clearing my throat in polite company, my irreverent friends may just pool funds together and buy me a spittoon! Little Boy, of course, rolls around laughing and tells me "Mom! I know that! I'm not that dumb you know!"

But well... I just had to make sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All the Way My Saviour Leads Me

After 40 years of wandering in the desert, God did not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land. It was not in God's plan. To me, it seemed like a cruel thing for God to do to Moses. Why did not Moses rebel?

I have been a Christian all these years and I never understood the extent of God's love for me until now. Of course I knew God loved me. As a Christian we all know that God sent his only beloved son to die on the cross for us. Christians pray to God, our Heavenly Father and Christians know therefore that God love us as a parent. Even then... there is knowing and knowing.

But now, I know.

This week I offered to The Daughter a plan for her good. I proposed a project that would bless her and keep her safe whilst she is away at university... far from my mother's arms that have protected her jealously all these years. I proposed to buy her a house near her university to stay in. Without hearing me out, she rolled her eyes as if to say "I can take care of myself". After hearing me out, she proposed to pay me rent for my trouble.

A jumble of thoughts crowded into my head. None of them good. Waves of emotion crashed upon my heart. None of them pleasant. It was a combination of her dismissive attitude and the cavalier assumption that she will pay me back. For a moment I was speechless. I, the wordsmith of the family... the winner of every argument... was at a loss for words.

And when I found my tongue, I said "I only want what is best for you. I have devised a plan that will benefit you and make life good for you. But in your arrogance and your pride, you see the worst in what I intend." How does one describe the mix of emotions compressed in a raging ball inside my small little ribcage? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And I will tell you that I felt scorned. There was hurt too... like someone took a paper cutter and scored a deep gash into my soul.

But I did not write this to speak badly of The Daughter, for as daughters go I am first to admit that I have a wonderful one. She is as loving as they come. She is responsible and wise beyond her years. And she is beautiful... oval face, soft brown hair, jet black sparkling eyes and porcelain skin. But she is a teenager in the same way as I am human. And we are both rebellious. She and I are not horrible people. But we are both rebellious.

I know now how God feels every time I assert my human will against His divine will. He only has plans to prosper me but I in my limited wisdom scorn Him and I, in my arrogance, think I can pay him back for His grace. The truth is, there is no way to pay it back to God and I only know this deeply and with conviction because it was at the tip of my tongue to hiss poisonously at The Daughter ,"You can never pay me back the full measure of what I have given you out of love. Never! The debt cannot be repaid!" And in this poignant moment of my own pain I have come closer to my God because I now know what it means when people say that God wants what is best for me, and that I must accept His plan for me as His gift of love to me.

And I only understand Him now because I am a mother who wants to sing to her daughter the following song adapted from the hymn "All the way my Savior Leads Me".

All the way your mother leads you
What have you to ask beside?
Can you doubt her tender mercy,
Who through life has been your guide
Homely peace, the softest comfort
Here in love, you came to dwell
Don't you know whate'er befall you
I will try to make all well?
Don't you know whate'er befall you
I will try to make all well?

So... I guess Moses did not rebel because unlike me, he knew that God's timing and methods do not have to conform to our expectations. This is something I am only just learning.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Milo Sees My Line of Action

It has been 2 weeks and Milo has grown. His back leg muscles ripple as he runs and he has developed a v-shaped body with a nicely filled out torso, a lean waistline and a taut butt. Yup! That's a darn good lookin' dawg I got. He's a hunk! And he's big. At 4 months he is the size of a neighbour's beagle.

I'm no connoisseur of dogs you know... From the beginning, The Husband and children made clear to me that they wanted a REAL dog... and not one of those tiny, fluffy toys... or tiny hair-less toys. If you ask me, I would have preferred a tiny, fluffy toy over a REAL dog because at least I would have had the advantage of size, and tiny fluffs appeal to the girlie aspect of me. But The Husband looked upon those with some disdain because he had grown up with REAL dogs... with size, spirit and with character.

What I did not know is that that means TROUBLE for me.

Milo no longer listen to my sedate pleas to stop pawing at us. He leaves long scratch marks along The Daughter's thighs and calves. He nips at Little Boy's ankles. Of late, when I say "No" rather firmly he barks back loudly as if to say "When I grow up, I'll do that and you won't stop me". He INSISTS to put his front paws into the Forbidden Area, and this morning, he nipped me at my throat. I don't speak doggie language very well so I am not sure what the nipping at the throat means, but I would be rather more comfortable if he kept at a respectful distance from my throat.

I think Milo comes from a bloodline that has somewhat more character and dominance than what one normally finds in the popular breeds of dog such as beagle or labrador etc... Milo is an intelligent and strong-willed dog. And because we speak so softly and only tap his forehead lightly when he is naughty, he has come to realize that there are no real consequences to misbehavior. Sigh! It's motherhood all over again.

I decided to adapt some child-rearing techniques and use them on Milo today. I guess it helps to have had to deal with 2 intelligent and strong-willed children back then and even now. Our cane is more than a decade old. It is very little used and so it is hardly worn down at all, but we have on occasion used it on our children.

Cane in hand, I went to get Milo's favorite snack - 3 nice big prawns the size of my thumb, stir-fried to al dente perfection in a bit of garlic and olive oil. I placed 1 piece of yummy in the middle of the Forbidden Area. Milo bounded into the room. I said "No." in a low but firm voice. He looked at me and barked loudly and defiantly. I walked over and gave his nice taut butt one sharp stroke of the cane, and I said "No" in a low quiet voice.

I know it must have hurt, but our tough little Milo did not yelp. He gave me this startled look and he retreated quietly and with some dignity back into the patio where he stayed put. After 10 minutes, I picked up the yummy prawn and walked into the patio to feed it to Milo. I repeated the whole process with the remaining pieces of prawn, so the entire lesson took about 30 minutes.

An hour later, I placed an entire pork rib in the middle of the room. It's one of those that have been dried and cured by enterprising people who sell doggie treats. This time, two paws came into the Forbidden Area and when I said "No", the paws went back out with nary a bark. After about 5 minutes, Milo barked at me. I said "No" and I cracked the cane on the table. He shut up and went to lie down in a far corner of the patio. After another 10 minutes, I walked out and gave him his pork rib.

Yet an hour later, I put out a piece of chicken strip (the sort that comes in bags covered with Japanese words). This time, no paw came in at all. He sat just outside the patio quietly and politely for 20 minutes before he got his treat.

I guess what works with kids, also works with puppies. When the children were little, I realized that they were very good at discerning where my line of action lay. I define line of action as the point beyond which I am angry enough to punish. I decided then to bring my line of action forwards. I didn't have to wait till I was angry before I passed into action. I pass to whole-hearted action after a cue is not obeyed. For Milo, the cue was the low and soft-voiced "No"... because dog or not, I have no intention of becoming a screaming shrew. Apart from being inelegant, yelling stresses everyone out.

Children and dogs should be cued to obey when softly spoken to... and if the action is redoubtable enough (i.e., not half-hearted action but whole-hearted decisive action), there is no need to pass to action too often. A single experience seared into the memory circuit is enough because pain is most feared when remembered. This explains why the cane has been used less than 1o times with 2 children over more than a decade.

I hope it works on Milo... I still don't know if it does. Maybe dogs are different than kids.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Milo the Good Little Boy

It's really funny the kind of things Life makes you learn about yourself. I would never have thought I would ever grow to love a dog. I never had a dog growing up and I always thought they were smelly and filthy creatures. I approached this whole dog business with some apprehension. What if it shitted all over the house? What if it brings home fleas?

And when Milo started jawing us, I was seriously concerned because I knew that Milo has a BIG DOG destiny. Everyone remarks on the size of his paws, and someone even said that his black snout portends a certain ferocity. I worried... I was still kind to the dog because we had brought him home and I felt that I needed to make him feel loved... but I worried.

But after Termite shared some small tips about dog language, I managed to bridge the communication gap somewhat. And Milo is now such a wonderful dog. He still jaws me occasionally, but he is so careful and gentle that I hardly feel his teeth. He responds to a softly whispered "Sit" and when he puts his paws into the Forbidden Area, all I need to do is to say in a lilting sing-song voice "No... no... Milo", and he will drop his paws back into the patio and look at me with his head cocked to the side.

I realise too that if he thinks I am angry with him before bedtime, he'll paw at the patio gate, whine and even bark a lot. My children used to do that too. They would be anxious and refuse to go to bed until they knew that I still loved them as much as before. So now, if I have been angry just before his bedtime, and he has shown he is sorry, I will put him on my lap and cuddle him for a while before I get up to close the patio gate for the night. Then he will lie down outside the gate and fall asleep quietly.

He is a dog that is so easy to love. I think I have the best doggie in the world... but of course, every doting dog owner will think that right?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Milo and I Communicate

Here was Milo sitting outside the Forbidden Area, watching me as I blogged. I must admit that this whole dog training process is quite challenging for me. I don't speak dog language and I could not decipher his look. When the first rain drops splattered onto the patio, he placed 2 paws into the room... and then I understood. He wanted to come in out of the rain. So I went out and invited him into his kennel. He clambered in gratefully and chewed on the pork knucklebone that I gave him yesterday.

He amused me greatly last night because he threw a puppy tantrum in his kennel. Somehow, his soft kennel bedding comprised of 2 or 3 discarded t-shirts had all disappeared into different corners of the patio, and had become wet with the late afternoon rain. There he was on the the hard floor of his kennel sans softness and sans cuddliness, with just his knucklebone.

As I retired for the night, I heard a huge hullabaloo from the patio. There were puppy growls and frustrated barks and a lot of scratching and turning about in his kennel. At first, I thought he was playing some obscure game with his knucklebone and so I didn't interfere. But the hullabaloo continued. I went out to investigate and I finally figured out that he was upset because there was nothing soft to lie on. Spoilt baby! I went and got him a set of fresh bedding and he flopped down with an air that said "It's about time! What took you so long to make my bed, huh?" If only I could understand him better.

But he doesn't seem to have problems understanding me. Last week, this patio had greenery everywhere. As you can see, there is not a spot of green left on this patio except from the hanging baskets which he cannot reach. My monstrous lemon balm with bushy citrus scented leaves has been pruned to stumps. I have carried my echinacea out of harm's reach and as you can see in the photo above, he is having a good go at my morning glory. When I opened the patio door, Milo looked up at my face, decided that I approved of his gardening strategies and went back to work.

I can't believe I wordlessly stood by and watched him decimate my green darlings. In fact, I can't believe that I actually took a photo of him doing plant murder. My priorities in life seem to have changed somewhat. I don't know what to approve of anymore.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Didn't Work!

Alright! I confess! I admit! I concede the point! Looking sad doesn't work on Milo at all. He was very badly behaved yesterday. He listened to me very little, nipped people left right centre and tried a few times to enter the Forbidden Area. Sigh! So... I bowed to the wisdom of the website and gave him a sharp knock on his head with my knuckles. He has begun to take me seriously again.

I towered over him with a handful of dog feed and required him to sit politely before I would bend down and give him his food. He now responds to the command "Sit!" He is a very intelligent dog and figures things out in no time at all. He took about 5 minutes to learn to sit calmly and get fed.

This morning, he has not once tried to bite me and when he tried to grab my slipper from my feet, all I did was bend down and glare at him like I used to glare at my children. He let go and walked away apologetically. I am determined to do a good job bringing up this dog because we all like him a lot, and we want him to grow up into a pleasant member of the family. Otherwise, when he grows up, he may hurt the children or other people, and we would be forced to remove him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Milo Comforts Me

We played rough this morning with Milo and his puppy bite hurt even though it didn't draw blood. I yelped and then I whined and whined... and then I turned my back him to nurse my hand. He ran around to look at my face, stopped for a moment and then he padded over to lick my face and comfort me. A while later, he licked the spot on my hand that he had hurt.

He is a strong little puppy and will grow up to have a formidable bite. I need to teach him bite control or he will grow up into a biting dog. Normally, dogs learn bite control between 3 to 8 months if they grow up with a litter. As they clown around, brother and sister dogs bite each other and hurt each other inadvertently. Over time, they learn to jaw each other gently. I don't like being jawed at all so he will just have to learn not to jaw me. The internet recommended to give a yelp and then a "No!" and a cuff. But I think I shall use on Milo, the strategy I accidentally discovered when trying to get Little Boy to put away his toys many years ago.

In those years, I was unused to life as a stay-at-home mother. It is far more stressful than most people think. Little Boy just would not obey me. I was frustrated and so I sat down on the sofa and cried real tears. Little Boy walked up to me and looked deep into my face and then he patted my knee a few times. After that, he waddled off and put away his toys. Every one of them!! Bingo! I had struck lottery. For years after, I got Little Boy to obey by looking sad. It's time to try that on Milo... Hee! Hee! Hee!

You see... the men in our family (Little Boy included) don't like to be told what to do. But they will do anything to protect their womenfolk from hurt. It looks like Milo is like that too.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Milo's Little House on the Patio

When we got Milo, I had not reckoned that my plants would have to make way for him. Sigh! Anyway, the small shady patio is now his space and the larger sunny terrace patio is for the plants. He didn't like his new house at first but with the hot sun on the patio at noon, he went and curled up inside the house for a nap. We covered the roof with shiny aluminium foil and the little house is quite cool inside. It gets about 1 hour or 2 of direct sun before it becomes shady again. When it rains and the wind blows, his little house is relatively shielded from the elements by the walls all around.

The doctor took a look at the size of his paws and declared that he would be a big dog in time to come. I reckon that he'll outgrow his house. But by then, we would have moved to the new house. He would be able to sleep under a covered patio in a big dog basket and look out benignly on the world. Crooks who don't know him will probably be deterred by his size, and I am sure that when push comes to shove, he will do what all the gentle and kindly men in our family do to protect the hearth and home.

Right now though, he needs to learn not to play bite or nip at us. I suppose that like most babies, he explores the world with his mouth... and his world includes his pack of humans - us. Every time he play bites any of us, we give a sharp yelp of pain followed by a stern "No!". Then we ignore him for a bit like we're angry. He has an endearing way of putting one paw on our knee or lap and look at us with his big doleful eyes whenever we do that. That look says "Sorry... I didn't mean to be naughty."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Milo Adopts Us

Milo has adopted us. He thinks we're his pack and makes sure he comes running to where the pack is every time we walk away. He gambols and he plays and he rushes around licking toes and ankles and knees. The children don't mind but I've seen him licking his own pee, so I mind a lot. The smart little thing has already learnt to leave my toes alone, and even knows the word "No".

We bought him a pee tray, a squeaky ball, a rope toy, an edible chewie, ear cleaning solution, toothpaste and toothbrush. Having a dog in the house is no excuse for poor hygiene... maintains the finicky Petunia. He has a packet of Japanese snacks that we give him when he pees and poos in the right tray. But accidents do happen, he went and pooed on the lower rung of my metal grill shelf because it looked a lot like his pee tray. He wanted to be a good dog and made a mistake.

He is a gentle and sedate dog (like a labrador) with a nice deep bark i.e., not the shrill yipping that grates on the nerves, which he uses only when he really needs to. There's a bark that says "I don't want" which he used when I tried to entice him to walk on the hot pavement. There's another bark that says "I need to go pee". He's a dog of few words and fits right in with our family because we like quiet and reflection. More than that, he fits the profile of 3 generations of family men - men of few words.

He's a good little boy that'll grow up into the tradition of our menfolk.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Meet Milo

Here is Milo. He's a new addition to our family and is all of 3 months old. It's nice to a have a baby to mother again. He is a smart little thing so I think we'll get along. I was quite impressed that he had figured out in the first 5 minutes how to slip the loose collar that I had placed around his neck. He's collarless now because he was so traumatised by his bath that he trampled all over the earth in the pots... and then all over my lap and t-shirt as I tried to comfort him... and then he stuck his nose under my arm and fell asleep. I sat in the sun for 10 minutes baking uncomfortably.

Then I shook him awake, placed him in a corner, took of my smelly t-shirt and gave it to him. He promptly put his nose into the shirt and fell asleep again.

Here he is. Sleeping.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Attack of One Slimy Snailbag

I woke up this morning to a tray full of chamomile seedlings sans leaves. Only stalks were left sticking out of the little eggpots!! So, after I finished replying to Leah's email at about 10pm, I went to look at the tray in the dark with my torch. Lo and behold... a snail was perched atop a helpless chamomile trying its best to ravish the poor defenceless seedling subjecting it to a fate worse than death.

That DISGUSTING snail!! Here it is... CLOSE-UP.

Will you just look at those shifty eyes and that horny head and slimy hands caught in the act of ... of ... of ... I can't say it. I have never been so angry at a snail before. I only managed to save the last seedling. All the others have perished at the hands of this thief come in the night to rape and plunder at my seedling tray. Of all the seedlings in the tray, this good-for-nothing went straight for the most delicate... most elegant and sweetest plants. It left the periwinkles quite alone, crawled disdainfully over the dandelions and the enveloped as many chamomiles as it could in its repulsive embrace.

And I was so looking forward to distributing seedlings to my friends!! Now all my chamomile ladies have been ravished and I will have to start over. Sob! Waaaaaaaaaaah! I now understand why people in the days of yore invented the "draw and quarter". I seriously contemplated the "boil and herb butter" way of processing that snail.

Anyway, if it's any consolation for those of you who took dandelion seeds from me, snails don't like dandelion leaves.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dandelion Puff

Here's my dandelion puff. As puffs go, it's an ugly one but it's mine... I grew it from seed to leaves to flower to puff.

The French call the dandelion "le pissenlit". This translates into pee-in-the-bed and reflects the good old country wisdom of the French rural regions where old men fart noisily as they sit on benches in the evening breeze. This plant is a very strong diuretic and blood cleanser. For me, it is a monthly life saver.

I am prone to bad bouts of premenstrual tension. Two weeks before my menstruation starts I can put on up to 2 kgs of water weight. My muscles become flabby. I experience headaches and nausea, and extreme tiredness. It's like being pregnant for 2 weeks out of every 4.

Last month, it was particularly bad. Normally friendly, affectionate and sociable, I sat apart from my friends at Bible Study and refused to participate very much in the discussion - like a spoilt sulking child. The extreme discomfort of last month's premenstrual tension made me resolve to take dandelion tea this month.

And so I did. I set an alarm on my calendar to take the first mug of tea 2 weeks after the start of my last menstruation. Everyday, for the past 4 days, I've had a mug. On the first day, I had cleared liquid black stools the next morning. On the 2nd day too the stools were very soft and black. On days 3 and 4, the stools became progressively lighter and firmer. I am now smack in the period of when I should be PMS-ing. But I'm alright... no water retention, no flabby muscles, no tiredness and no weepiness.

It isn't always that I get diarrhoea after drinking dandelion tea. If I've been conscientious enough to drink it every month, I don't get diarrhoea. This time though, I had missed taking dandelion tea for the past 3 months and I guess toxins had accumulated in the bloodstream such that when dandelion tea flushed the toxins out into the lower digestive tract, the body quickly ejected the toxic waste.

Anyway, from now on, I will set an alarm to remind me to take 4 doses in mid-cycle. I don't want to repeat last month's experience with PMS.