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It’s been a while since I posted — work has been busy. Not insane, but busy. We’re still shorthanded, and that’s been exacerbated by the fact that various employees have been cycling through their vacations and/or sick leave. For those of us still on duty, it’s been a bit of a strain… not least of which because we’ve got an on-call schedule to maintain. In fact, for the last six weeks I’ve been either the primary on-call tech or the backup tech… without a break. It’s a constant, low-grade strain, and it’s starting to add up.

On the other hand, it could be worse. We’ve had a run of good luck in terms of emergencies lately — the few that we’ve had have been relatively easily to resolve (touch wood) and we’ve been able to keep on top of things. But I’m looking forward to the pressure coming off a bit if (when!) we finally do some hiring.

At home the new dog has been keeping us on our toes. Training Ty has been a bit different than training Kara. What worked with her doesn’t necessarily work with him — largely because he figured out that, if his training collar is off and he’s out of arms’ reach, we have no way to correct objectionable behaviour. This has led to several situations where we’ve told him “stop” or “no” and he’s given us a considering look, then gone back to what he’s been doing… and if we approach him to correct him it all becomes a delightful game of “chase the husky.” It can be frustrating.

Last weekend we changed the parameters of the game — Ty got a new radio-controlled correction collar. It works on the same principle as Kara’s bark collar: a startling but not-really-painful jolt of static electricity. The difference between the bark collar and the correction collar is that we have the ability to deliver the jolt at will. It’s got three buttons: tone without jolt, standard jolt, and jolt “+2”. There are sixteen settings for power — right now we’ve settled on “Low 6” as the best option, and the +2 setting will bump it up to Low 8 when his attention is particularly hard to attract.

Ty is a clever dog, so he learned fast that there are three stages to escalate to. We give the command, give the command with a tone, and give the command with a correction. After a couple of remote-control jolts he’s started obeying the initial command most of the time, and rarely do we have to progress beyond the warning tone; I’ve only used the +2 setting on him twice. The first time we used the collar, Ty was visibly startled that we were able to correct him from across the room, and clearly decided it was a fluke to be ignored… which earned him another correction. He now watches us with a wary, awed sort of attention: Evidently he is owned by some variety of ever-vigilant wizards. But his behaviour has definitely improved.

That’s not to say that we spend all our time electrocuting our dogs, of course. Bad behaviours earn a correction, yes, but good behaviours earn praise and liver treats… and we’ve been burning through treats at an astonishing rate. If the dogs have been particularly good, then certain extremely special treats occur — they’re allowed up on the bed or the couch for cuddles.

Couch cuddles
Couch privileges… and in front of the fire, too.

With the early onset of autumn the nights have been pleasantly crisp, so a glass of brandy in front of the fire has resumed its place as one of my favourite evening activities. I find myself hoping that the dogs are well-behaved so that I can have the pleasure of their company on the couch… and by and large they’ve met my expectations.

Which is good. We’ve got a very busy couple of months coming up: over and above the workplace issues (which are considerable) we’re heading back into our regular SCA meetings/practices schedule; we’ve got weddings, funerals and family reunions planned; The Wife™ is getting her RMT practice up and running; and I think I agreed to joining her for riding lessons at some point in there. It’s going to be a busy, busy season for us, so I expect that a few minutes of peace and quiet here and there are to be treasured.

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