Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Books about dogs

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Books about dogs

I read Cesar Millan’s Be the Pack Leader with great interest. My dog and I have a special bond and always want to learn more about dog psychology. This book helped me understand more about Smash’s need to have a strong leader. It also helped me understand Smash’s desire to be first on the trail when we are hiking and how he needs to have a purpose in life to feel fulfilled.

Before I read Cesar’s book, I never realized the inbred need to have a purpose that dogs have. I know I must have a definite purpose in order to feel good about my self, but I never thought about Smash needing one. I thought he was content just to lie around and eat between walks to the creek.

I began helping Smash to find his definite purpose. I noticed that he is very loving and affectionate with me, my friends and family. He strikes and aggressive pose toward strangers however. I realized that he has a natural tendency toward being a guard dog. I now tell him every night as I go to bed that he is to be on guard dog duty. He seems to really like having a job. I can also tell him as I leave the house to be a good guard dog and he instantly wags his tails and prances around proudly. If I neglect to tell him to be on guard dog duties, he will whine and try to go jump in the truck with me.

I have also found that if he barks at night, he will only get louder if I try to ignore him. If I go outside and compliment him on his good guard dog barking, He will prance around proudly before settling down with very little more barking.

I think Smash is a pretty well-adjusted dog. He seems happy living he rural life where he is free to run and explore. But he really does seem to like having a job. I would not have thought of that if I had not read Cesar’s book.

Recently I read Jack London’s Call of the Wild. I was sure I had read it before but if I had I am sure I would have remembered that the story is written from the dog’s point of view. The story is told by Buck the St Barnard German Shepard mix that is stolen from his comfy home and is sold to be a sled dog in Alaska. Buck’s travels, trial and tribulations are the story up until the point where he heeds the call of the wild and joins and eventually becomes the leader of a wolf pack.

In reading Call of the Wild, I began to wonder if Cesar got some of his ideas about dog behavior from this classic novel. In the story, Buck and the other sled dogs have a strong sense of duty. In some cases the dogs preferred to die in the sled traces rather than running free because they had such a strong sense of duty to their jobs.

The pecking order of dogs is explained from the dog’s point of view as well. Each dog had its place it the sled traces or in the wolf pack. If a dog stepped out of line or exceeded his boundaries, he was punished by the other dogs. If he needs helped, he as aided by the other dogs; but only if he had earned the help.

Bucks struggles to earn his leadership position are clearly document in the book. Buck earns the lead dog spot in a violent struggle and refuses to accept any other position once he earned it in the way of the dogs.

Another book by London – White Fang – documents more clearly the life of the wolf or the wild dog. While it never says so explicitly, the reader is lead to assume that the wolf in the story if a direct descendant of Buck. The struggles of her cub to learn the hard facts of life are the subject of the book. However, again London gives details of the way that the order if kept in the wolf pack and how each member has to earn his own place in the pack.

Reading these books has helped me learn more about Smash and how to relate to him. It has also helped me learn more about myself and how I can better elate to others around me. Cesar used the term “calmly assertive” when describing how to relate to a dog. I think this is a good way to approach many situations in life.

The metaphysicians teach us to form an image of our desired outcome in our minds before taking action. Being calmly assertive requires this image. By knowing what outcome you want and being assertive enough to make it happen cause many more positive outcomes than simply waiting for something good to happen. This way of thinking allows a person to take control of many situations that otherwise appear to be out of control.

In White Fang, London talks about how the wolf cub lives in the moment. He eats when there is meat and he goes hungry and goes hunting when there is no food. He does not stop to complain or worry, he just goes hunting.

I think we can learn a lot from dogs. The two most import lessons I see from these books is to live in the moment and have a definite purpose in life.

Flea and Tick control

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Smash is starting to collect tick already this year. Every afternoon during a pet the puppy session, I pluck off a dozen or so ticks.

I hate to use chemicals but I am seriously considering using K9 Advantix flea and tick medicine.

According to their web site, Advantix kills not only ticks but other parasites for up to a month.


Absolute Lowest Prices on Pet Supplies

Promoting Interest in Safety

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Promoting Interest in Safety

One of the common subjects in any safety reference is how to get people interested in safety. Apparently, not getting hurt is not enough motivation for people to be interested in safety. Personally, I prefer to avoid getting injured whenever possible so working safely is just part of my work ethic.

Looking at a 1964 issue of the National Safety Council handbook, they suggest using “a pretty girl” to promote interest in industrial situations. They also recommend “a shaggy dog.” I guess there were not as many women working in industry back in 1964 as there are today.

The 5th edition of the Accident Prevention Manual suggests Using Pretty Girls to promote safety.

I notice that from internet search data that promoting safety is still a big concern for managers. Safety slogans and other safety promotional ideas still rank very highly.

However, it is my observation that all such safety promotions are basically useless. Unless you change the fundamental culture of the workplace, accidents will continue to happen and people will continue to get hurt no matter how many pretty girls hold up safety banners.

In order to create a safe working culture, we first need to consider why people get injured at work. Often injuries are caused by inattention to the job or by taking short cuts. Next we must consider why people take chances with their own safety either by not paying attention or by taking shortcuts.

I often see managers who perceive those who get hurt on the job as being lazy or who are otherwise not trying to do a good job. Often, however, the exact opposite is true. These people want to do a good job but due to their own lack of skill or understanding of mechanical principles, they take unnecessary risks. They may not realize how much danger they are facing; they are simply trying to do the best job they can with minimal effort on their part.

People who get injured may also be unconsciously punishing themselves. It the work environment is oppressive and devoid of positive reinforcement, they may injure them selves in an unconscious effort to prove that they are working as hard as they can.

In order to create a safe working environment, we can begin by placing clear expectations on the work that is to be preformed. By providing clear and detail work instructions that describe the safe and effective way of doing the job, employees will be less inclined to experiment with potentially unsafe methods. Supervision can play a huge role in insuring workers follow the safe work procedures by observing the work. If the procedures need to be changed to match current practice, then the revisions need to be investigated and implemented without delay. Employees should not be allowed to deviate from the prescribed safe and effective work instructions.

Care must be taken by supervisors not to reward unsafe procedures either by actively supporting unsafe practices or by ignoring them. If safety shortcuts are allowed to become part of the routine, a safety culture cannot be established.

For more information on creating a safe and effective working environment, see my other articles. Safety promotions become unnecessary once a safe and effective work environment has been established.

Stone Door

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Stone Door

I have wanted to visit The Stone Door for years. I was never quite sure where it was although I had seen the brown signs many times as I traveled to Middle Tennessee. One very cold day I decided to go.

The Stone Door is located in the Savage Gulf wilderness area. The entrance is in Beersheba Springs, TN. Once you find Beersheba Springs, just follow the brown signs.

There is a very nice Ranger Station at the entrance with large clean heated restrooms. There is a large parking area so I suspect that this place gets crowded in the summer. We pretty much had the place to ourselves on this cold December day.

We loaded my dog Smash in the back of Bertha our GMC Suburban. There had been snow a few days before but we found the roads clear. Jennifer brought along her boys Hunter and Caleb, and she and Janice packed us a picnic lunch.

I managed to make one wrong turn along the way and followed a sign to Savage gulf instead of waiting for the sign to Stone Door. That lead us to another nice picnic spot that I will revisit when it is warmer. There is a trail to a waterfall there. We simply used their restroom facilities and let Smash get a drink. Then we headed to the other side of the gulf to find the Stone door.

Right behind the ranger station is a very pretty waterfall called Laurel falls. It drops off an under cut rock. Due to the extreme cold there were lots of very pretty icicles hanging off the rocks. We did not spend a lot of time here; just enough to see the falls. There was ice on the trail that made walking hazardous and we were concerned that the two young boys were getting a bit close to the edge. The trail makes a loop that returns to the ranger station.

Next we took the trail to the Stone Door. That is what I came to see. The trail begins as a narrow paved walkway. There is what looks like an old Jeep trial that runs parallel to the trail. Smash and I hiked part of the Jeep trail and really wished they would let us drive on it.

Smash was very excited to be there and seemed to forget some of his leash training. He wanted to run ahead of every one and tugged on the leash a bit. After a few reminders, he clamed down and behaved. He still did not like it if one of the boys tried to walk in front of him. He preferred being the lead dog.

We traded out who held the leash and it seemed whomever had it always ended up out walking the rest of the group. But we managed to stay close together. The pavement ends at a beautiful overlook of the gulf. We could hear the water rushing in the creek below. The view of the cliffs and the lush forest was breathtaking. So was the cold wind so we did not stay much longer than required to take a few pictures. Smash was also very impatient.

The trail winds through the woods along the edge of the gulf. There was one very interesting gnarly old pine tree along the way. Smash gave it a sniff and continued on along the trail.

Eventually we reached the Stone Door. It did not seem like much at first then I stepped in between the rocks and realized the magnitude of it. The Doorway is a very narrow passage between two rocks that tower at least 100 feet above the canyon below.

There is a narrow staircase formed form rocks leading down to the valley below. Icicles hung from the cliffs above and ice coated many of the steps. I had to be very careful walking and holding Smash’s leash. He was in a huge hurry to get to the bottom and I did not want either of us to fall.

Once we made it safely to the bottom and looked up, I saw how truly amazing the place is. The tall rocks seem to dwarf the narrow staircase.

Once every one made it down we took some time to explore the ledge below the cliff. There were some interesting overhangs and little caves in the cliff walls. There were more stairs leading to the valley even further below but we did not continue down. The boys had fun exploring the rocks and ledges and breaking off icicles.

We finally decided to hike back up and out. Hiking up the slippery steps was actually easier than going down.

At the top I explored the rocks that I had ignored on the way down. There is an interesting gap between the main mountain and the edge of the cliff. It looks like the cliff edge has slid off some creating a gap. There was also a very interesting looking sinkhole that Smash sniffed.

Once back on the trail Hunter lost some interest in hiking and decided he was tired. He is only five. But when I told him he had to look out for bears and growled behind him he took off running back toward the ranger station.

Back at the Suburban, we unpacked our picnic and commandeered a table. We dined on sandwiches and chips and pork rinds. Smash enjoyed a few snacks as well.

We ate briskly due to the very cold temperature. We were all very happy to be back in the warmth of the Suburban for the trip home.

Wicked – book review

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked is Gregory Maguire’s back story of the life of the wicked witch of the west from OZ. Watching the movie in TV growing up, I was always scared of the green skinned wicked witch. She represented pure evil to me. I never stopped to think that she had a mother and a father. I never even gave much thought to the fact that her sister is killed at the beginning of the movie and that a valuable family heirloom was lost when Dorothy stole the ruby slippers. She had reason to be upset.

Gregory Maguire must have considered all those elements of the story that most of us just pass over. So he created an entire history for the wicked witch. He even gave her a name. I never realized that we never know the witch’s name in the movie. I have never read the book by Frank Baum but apparently he did not give her a name either. She just went by her title.

Maguire creates parents for her. She is a preacher’s child. I thought that was funny, having known a few preachers children in the past. They did always seem to be the evil ones. Of course they decide that her green skin is a curse upon the family.

The West Witch is the first born and the East Witch is her younger sister who also has a birth defect. The story of how they both overcome their physical limitations is a great character study in the beginning of the book. The briefest mention of her parent’s polyamary lifestyle was also interesting to me. Her actual biological father hood is held secret until near end of the story.

I found the story of her being college roommates with Glinda the good witch to be quite an interesting twist. The fact that they might have been good and close friends until she gave away the slippers had never occurred to me. I had just assumed them to be life long enemies.

The Wicked Witch’s life story seems to be one of failures and near misses. She seems to get very close to achieving her goals and then is thwarted in some way. Even her famous death scene in the movie is more of an accident than an assignation.

I loved how Maguire worked important elements of the original story into his story as well. For example you get to read how her sister was the one who enchanted the axe that turned the tree cuter into the tin woodsman. Possibly it was one of her dear college friends that built the scarecrow. And the lion was one she had helped rescue as a cub.

The wicked Witch is portrayed as an animal lover and a strong supporter of animal rights. The flying monkeys were her biological creation based on her study of life sciences in school. I almost cried when the Tin Woodsman killed her dog that she had sent to welcome Dorothy to the castle.

The troubled life of the Wicked Witch resonates with many people I am sure. Reading the story made me think of my own failings and near misses. There are a lot of religious question posed by the characters in the book as well. These resonate with me also.

I got the feeling that Maguire’s own religious beliefs changed as he was writing the book. Or maybe he was afraid to pose the questions early it in the work for fear of alienating the readers. There is a strong metaphysical tone that underlies all of the religious discussions. My favorite part was the creation theory that involved a Dragon dreaming OZ into existence. I assume Maguire was posing his own personal questions about the nature of life through the voices of the characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book. One drawback was the vocabulary. Maguire used a lot of words I am not familiar with and I had to infer the meaning from the context or be distracted from the story to look them up. Then there was his tendency to make up words. So sometimes I was faced with not knowing if it was a word I did not know if it was one he simply made up. I felt like I missed some of the intricate details of the story because I tended to just skip those parts after a while.

I think my favorite part of the story was the time when the Wicked Witch was involved in a rebel movement to help restore the rights to Animals. The thought of the Wicked Witch having a passionate love affair had never entered my mind before reading Wicked. But I was confused by the story of her child. I am not sure why Maguire chose to be so vague about the child. I felt more confused than mystified by the description.

Now, I have to read the original Baum version of OZ. I am sure that when I reread Wicked it will seem like a completely different book. I also thought it was funny that the next book I picked up to read began with a story of someone comparing his boss to the Wicked Witch of the West. I so wanted to yell at this fictional character to tell him that there may be much more to this person’s personality that you see.