Well, yesterday sucked. We had to “clean up” after the weekend ice storm… and in IT when your client base suffers multiple power outages over multiple sites over the course of two days there’s a lot of cleaning up to do. We’re still trying to get on top of it all, and of course two of our people are out of town on an important installation. I typically work half-days on Mondays: yesterday I logged nine hours in total.

Then, of course, there were was the bombing at the Boston Marathon. There’s nothing like a terrorist attack all over every news channel to completely jangle what little calm I’ve managed to gather… and of course I’m news-obsessed with an internet connection, so I was troubleshooting on one hand and watching the horror on the other. By the time I was able to leave the office I was pretty burnt out.

Fortunately, some friends of ours just got a new puppy (and by just got I mean at noon that day) and they invited us over to meet him. We went sans dog; not that our dog wouldn’t want to meet the little guy, but he’s a really little puppy and she’s still learning that a bounce-and-tackle isn’t necessarily the best greeting for all circumstances. So a pleasant hour of of puppy cuddles ensued; he’s a lab/shepherd cross and just old enough for adoption, so lots of small and cute and adventurous. He seems to be bonding nicely with our friends, and they’ve been keeping our Facebook community entertained with a constant stream of adorable.

I never used to be a dog person. I was raised in a family full of cats and we never had a dog growing up, so aside from the dogs of friends I was never really exposed to them, and of course as I grew up and moved away and lived on my own I never really understood what the appeal was: cats are small and clean and relatively low-maintenance; dogs are big and need constant attention and walkies and such. My fiancée is a dog person, but we were living in such a small space that it wasn’t practical to have a dog. But with the move to the new house (this was last October) we decided that a dog was do-able, and I’m glad we did.

We ended up with a dog we named Kara. She’s a leonburger/shepherd-keeshond-chow cross and it took her less than 24 hours to completely worm her way into my heart. I literally couldn’t imagine our little family without her. If that sounds sappy, well… tough. I’m not apologizing for it: She’s awesome. Kara was about eight months old when we got her, she’s about fifteen months old now. That means she’s got her full growth, or at least we hope so: 60lbs is plenty of dog, thank you… although purebred leonburgers have been known to get up to 130lbs so we were wondering for a bit.

One of the things we budgeted for with dog ownership — and this is something that I heartily recommend — was professional training. Not some idiot with a “class” and a choke chain, either. Do some research and find a reputable trainer who’s willing to do one-on-one training and is able to adjust their training to accommodate you and your dog. We had an initial bad experience where the “trainer” (and I use those quotation marks deliberately) insisted that we use a choke chain even before the class started (not a martingale collar, which is safer, but a choke chain) sight unseen without even knowing what breed of dog we had; choke chains can be dangerous to the dog in untrained hands and they can be deadly on dogs with delicate neckbones, like whippets. Knowing that, we decided to find a competent trainer rather than go with them. The guy we worked with was excellent and if you’re in the Peterborough area I can’t recommend him enough, even with the steeper cost for private lessons. Anyone whose philosophy is “I’m going to teach you to teach your dogs so that you never need my services again” is doing it right and deserves to get paid what they’re worth.

So now we have a dog who’s obedient and well-behaved, who pays attention to us and accepts her place in the pack hierarchy, which is below the humans and well below the cats. And she’s happy with that because the one thing which stresses a dog out is not knowing where they stand. If a dog doesn’t feel like they’re in a stable hierarchy, they’ll start pushing to be on top, and that ends up with all manner of bad behaviour as they try and establish their dominance and enforce everybody else’s subservience. That’s how you end up with a “problem dog.” And we don’t want a problem dog, we want a happy and loving dog who doesn’t pee in the house and heels on command… most times, anyway. The attention-span vs. excitement issue is still a work in progress, but we’re getting there.

Kara in the snow