Friday, August 22, 2014

The Tajji Diaries: Alarm Clock

Dogs, like many other animals, are Creatures of Schedule. They seem to feel most secure when recurring events are predictable – the sun comes up, monkeys get up, we go walkies, then breakfast, then nap, then playtime…and so forth. They love rituals, like the one Dave has created for putting on the harness. It’s a version of Keepaway, with great romps through the living room, corridors, and open dining area. Her body language says it’s great fun, and she stands willingly when it’s all over. Interestingly, Tajji understands that this is a game to be played only with Daddy Monkey. Mommy Monkey is all business when it comes to gearing up, hence the harness is donned not in the living (Keepaway) area but in the mudroom.

To everything there is a season…
A time to pounce on cats, a time to be rubbed against,
A time to nap, a time to romp,
A time to cuddle on the monkeys’ bed, a time when doggies are not allowed on the bed…
A time to be lazily retired, and a time to impose order on the household.

Now that Tajji has settled into her new family, she feels it is incumbent upon her as the resident dog to impose some degree of order upon her monkeys. We noticed very early on that if either of us closed the door behind us and it did not latch, Tajji would very shortly poke her nose in, ascertain we were okay, and then withdraw. She was keeping an eye on us! (This was a little disconcerting at first in the bathroom.)

Monkeys and doggie do not always agree on what constitutes a proper daily schedule. Dave gets up quite early, but especially when I’ve had a rough night, I’ll sleep in, hauling myself out of bed between 7:30 and 8:00 am.

Tajji has other ideas.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

And Now A Word From The Cats…

Shakir and Gayatri
I’ve been blogging about Tajji, our newly-adopted retired seeing eye dog, all the training we’re doing with her, how she’s recovering from the stress of many years of service. The cats have played no small role in helping her to adjust, and she in turn has provided them with interest and amusement.

“What’s that? Oh, you’ve brought us a dog to play with. She’s very big and very, very furry.”

“Um, this dog is exceptionally rude. She moves too quickly and looks directly at us.”

“Um, this dog is also exceptionally stupid. Sure, she’s finally understood how to greet us politely and that we don’t like big things moving fast in our general direction. But when we tell her we’d like to play, she acts brain-dead. And what’s with her bowing to us? What the heck does that mean?”

“Shakir has finally educated the dog to the point where they can romp, even if the dog does get carried away. He bestows upon the dog the great honor of grooming her, despite getting a mouthful of fur – the dog is incredibly furry! But she seems oblivious of his signals that he’d like her to groom him in return. Gayatri is of the opinion that being slobbered all over does not constitute grooming.”

Both cats have now marked the dog as Theirs by rubbing their jaws along her muzzle or feet. But cats have lives beyond taking care of the dog. They engage in various typically feline behaviors, each having staked out several prime napping areas (that vary according to seasonal sunlight).

Gayatri has turned out to be musical. She’s an extremely vocal cat and will meow loudly under many different circumstances:

“Where have you been? How dare you neglect me for this long?”

“I’m starrrrving!”

“Out! Now!”

"Pick me up! Nooooowwww!"

“I know you want to nap but I want to knead your stomach more.”

“Piano! What is that sound! I must sing with it!”

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Tajji Diaries: “Cats and Dogs Living Together…”

Shakir invites play

In recent blog posts, Dave and I have discussed Tajji’s progress in dealing with other dogs. Tajji is our newly (5 months) adopted retired seeing eye dog, a 10 year old German Shepherd female who had major reactivity issues, especially with small dogs. The extraction of a fractured tooth has resolved her chronic pain, and enrollment in a reactive dog class (“Reactive Rover” taught by Sandi Pensinger of Living With Dogs, using only positive techniques, never punishment) has given us all tools to continue progress. 

It’s time for an update on Tajji’s adventures in Living With Cats. For the 8 years of her working life, she did not live with cats, although we assume she was exposed to them as part of her early socialization and training. We introduced her to our two dog-savvy cats in stages, beginning with barriers and progressing to escape-places for the cats and lots of human supervision. After some initial confusion on the part of the dog, because cats and dogs interprets many body-language signals in different ways, communication was established and détente soon followed.

The next phase was entirely the doing of Shakir, our black male cat who has a history of being extremely fond of large dogs. He adored our previous German Shepherd Dog, who was too intimidated to let Shakir cuddle with him. Tajji is of a much more phlegmatic temperament than our previous dog, and it wasn’t too long before she would curl up at our feet at the dining table and Shakir would come over, approaching her politely (no direct eye contact, curved path, looking away, soft eyes). A sniff became a rub, and soon he was polishing her feet, her muzzle, and the sides of her head with his jaw. Purring loudly, he’d pass under her head, turn and repeat, and I’m sure the banquet of kitty-butt smells was delightful to the dog.