Tag Archives: time out

Pup Psychologist Anyone?

It’s been quite awhile since the dogs have made much of a blogging appearance, and now they’re back with a vengeance. Our brother and sister pups, Zac and Rosie, are now about 9 months old and let’s just say, have developed plenty of “personality”. Personality, which has had me searching the depths of Google for parenting support. While parenting courses for young humans are usually free with at least a yummy morning tea thrown in, training your pups is expensive and so we’re trying to muddle along on our own. I think the pups are onto this are expanding their horizons well beyond desired bounds and it’s time to ignore those puppy dog eyes and for nice cop to become tough cop. Put my foot down, even if a paw or two gets stepped on in the process (which happens quite a lot around her with twelve paws under foot.

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Rather than offering any solutions to the difficulties of puppy training, I’m just going to let it all flow …a bit like a glass of red wine on a white carpet. Or, a pink fluoro highlighter pen which has been chewed into a puddle of pink with splashes of ink on the guilty party’s paws.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our dogs, there are three of them. Lady, a border collie x cavalier is about 6 years old and we’ve had her since she was two. She’s a rather mellow dog and about the size of a Border Collie with the Cavalier’s floppy ears and facial appearance. She’s mostly black with a tip of white on her tail, chest and paws. Isaac “Zac” and Rosie are both 9 months old and are supposedly Border Collie x Kelpies but we suspect there could well be some greyhound in the mix. Zac has the long legs of a ballet dancer, and can look rather statuesque when he strikes a pose. Zac also happens to be our resident lap dog. He’s very snuggly and I had been thinking he had an innate sense of intuitive compassion, but I’m also wondering whether he just likes a warm lap in the cooler weather. Rosie has white legs and face with black spots, which are rather cute. She’s evolved into a feverish fetchaholic. Of course, we’ve all seen one of those in action, but rarely at rest.

Bilbo with ball

I had to honour a fallen hero. Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

So, I guess you could say like around here isn’t dull and that’s why we need a resident dog psychologist and in their absence, there’s me…and Google.

Firstly, there’s chewing. Of course, prevention is better than cure. So, most dog owners know that anything on the floor is fair game and that just like toddler proofing your home, you need to put things up if you don’t want the dogs chewing it up. However, not all dogs have read the manual, and Rosie has had no qualms about making choice selections from our kitchen table and exercising puppy power. I think perhaps her most impressive achievement to date, has been taking a pink highlighter pen out of the jar on the kitchen table and chewing it up until there was a pool of pink ink on the tiles and splashes of ink on her front legs. There was no denying that crime. She was caught in the act.

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A scene of canine carnage in our lounge room.

Of course, providing your pups with a steady supply of bones is a good idea. As I said, prevention is better than cure. However, sometimes I’m flat out getting to the butcher for the humans. Moreover, when I have bought bones, they’re instantaneously gnawed out of existence. Don’t ask me how they do it. I didn’t know bones were a fast food. Indeed, I thought they were supposed to keep your dog occupied for hours. Silly me.To think I had the audacity to think of myself as a bit of an expert on dogs. Clearly, I know absolutely nothing about them at all.

However, clearly the same can’t be said about them, because they can read me like a book. Indeed, they can read my soul much better than most humans. They really are amazing.

This takes me onto their next issue… our in-house Fetchaholic.

If our experience is anything to go by, this addiction all starts out in a fairly understated way. Someone in the household can’t resist giving that adorable little pup a tennis ball. Before that one corrupting tennis ball appears across it’s radar, that pup was pre-programmed to chase sheep, rabbits, and rid the world of rats. However, now all of that’s changed. That very same pup has suddenly had all that genetically pre-determined brain circuitry re-wired, and if your dog is very particular like our Bilbo was, all they’ll see is a green sphere. In hindsight, that was a blessing because Rosie isn’t particular. Tennis ball, half a tennis ball, felt of tennis ball right down to the very last remnants of fur of tennis ball, she’s back. Or, she’s dropping a bit of stick over the top of my laptop. I guess she thinks I’m just as addicted to tapping away on this thing and need a diversion. Indeed, she probably thinks she’s doing me good and giving me exercise.

She’s wrong.

Her pestering is only annoying in the end, but just as I’m getting fed up and about to confiscate the ball, she gently taps me with just one paw pad  and it’s so much like she’s tapping me with a finger, and that she’s not a dog, that I can’t resist.

That said, I’ve just put the ball up and told her to sit. However, in true fetchaholic fashion, she’s returned with the remains of a toy mouse, which had a pull the string wind-up mechanism some time ago. After ignoring that, she’s returned with a bit of stick…a remnant of a bit of stick…and its offspring. We’re talking desperation on both sides. How do I get this dog to leave me alone?

I dropped the ball over onto my son’s lap, he just passed it back.

Humph. It’s definitely time to make myself a cup of tea and perhaps that will  break the cycle. Just had to rethink that. Zac is now sitting on my lap, and while you’d think that might provide a sort of barricade in between Rosie and I, she’s now dropping her paraphernalia on the top of him.

At this point, you’re not the only one asking why we adopted two pups and why we didn’t just stick with Lady. Apply the KISS Principle…Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well, I wouldn’t know how to keep it simple and I clearly don’t know how to say: “No”. I just keep going until I fall in a screaming heap.

This brings me to my next issue…a fear of other dogs.

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Lady and Zac running along the beach in January.

Usually, our dogs socialise with other dogs as a pack and feel quite comfortable with each other’s support. If anything, they can intimidate a lone dog on the beach. However, yesterday, I took Zac to the beach by himself and while he initially loved running and really got some great exercise, it was quite a different story when he saw other dogs. He was cowering behind me like a young child hiding in their mother’s skirts. He even jumped up behind me putting his paws on my shoulders. He was terrified with his tail between his legs and then that fear turned to aggression and he really got narky and was snapping and snarling at the other dog, who retaliated and they both ended up back on their leads. It was time to go home, a time-honoured parenting trick.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running yesterday before we bumped into any dogs.

I have also taken Rosie walking on her own and she’s also quite cowardly in public and walks much of the way with her tail between her legs. It’s been quite a concern because you want your dog to be happy and have positive interactions with their own. Fortunately, Zac and Rosie are fine when they’re together.

I’m think the answer here could be taking them out more by themselves, so they can build those social skills. They are very much like twins and miss each other terribly  when they’re apart, even if it’s only for a short time.

Zac Seal

Zac swimming looking like a seal. You can see how this character wouldn’t go too well on a lead.

Just when I thought I had everything covered, my last gripe is tugging on the lead. We seem to be having some success with Rosie on this front, and it is Zac who turns into a racehorse as soon as the lead goes on. Indeed, “pulling on the lead” is an under-statement. We have tried a Halti collar and he’s somewhat getting used to it but he doesn’t like it. The funny thing is that he is so placid without the lead, and I can’t really understand what fires him up so much. Of course, he loves going for a walk but this is more extreme. This is like a canine Clark Kent going into a telephone booth and emerging as Thor.

Lady kids coffee

The funny thing is with all these canine antics, they provide us with endless entertainment way better than any television show and they’re our critters. They might not be our own flesh and blood, but perhaps that’s part of their appeal. Dogs live with us are part of our own families and so much like us and yet they’re not. Despite all our attempts to humanise them, they’re still dogs. And we love them, perhaps even because of their foibles or perhaps it’s us who have actually fallen under their spell and we might need to consider who is Master. Our dogs can be very proficient trainers. Indeed, my dogs have trained me.

Chewing, ball chasing and lead pulling, I wouldn’t be without them.

Do you have a dog and do you have any recent posts you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Walking to Luna Park…

I’d like to let you in on a little secret. I have found the perfect time out location… not for the kids but for you. Better still, it’s not going to cost you the earth. It’s absolutely free. Now, that’s one for the record books, isn’t it?

I wasn’t actually looking for time out on a conscious level when I found this spot. It’s school holidays. I had just been to the dentist and I was walking to Luna Park with Mum and the kids and  feeling rather exhausted.

Anyway, that was when I found this perfect little spot to relax. It isn’t the park under the Harbour Bridge but that’s a critical part of the plan.

You see, step one is to ever so kindly deposit the kids in the park with your partner (or some other obliging grown-up other than the local stranger danger). This isn’t as bad as it sounds. The park is fully fenced and is nestled right underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge with stunning views across the harbour to the Sydney Opera House. Being just an easy stroll down hill from Milson’s Point Station and on the way to Luna Park, this park is definitely has location. The kids can even go train spotting and listen to the trains rumble over the bridge. I assure you they will all have a ball and won’t even notice you’re gone.

Step two. Tell them you’re just ducking off to the loo.

Well done! At last, you’re a free agent.

So where are we going? Well, I wasn’t lying when I said you were off to the loo but this is no ordinary loo. This loo does everything except serve you a barista style cappuccino.

Nestled under the Harbour Bridge under the shade of what is either a huge weeping fig or a Magnolia Grand flora (my husband and I couldn’t decide), you will find the Fitzroy Street public toilets. These are almost as entertaining as visiting Luna Park itself and my kids just love them. Fortunately, as I mentioned before, they are over in the park with Grandma or they would be pressing all the buttons and I would be strung out instead of relaxed.

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Made of stainless steel, the Exyloo resembles some kind of alien spaceship which has just zoomed in from another planet. You press a button to get in and another button to close and lock the door. Then, speaking in a friendly but robotic tone of voice, the toilet kindly lets you know that “your maximum use time is ten minutes”. At that point, the door opens automatically and I guess you face the risk of being caught up in its self-cleaning cycle if you don’t get out quickly enough.

Anyway, I sit down on the toilet and start enjoying the music: What the world needs now is love sweet love… Yes, it’s definitely music of the elevator variety but I love it. I’ve never been to a toilet which not only talks but also plays music before. It’s so much fun!! I feel like a big kid. This toilet is so amazing that it even dispenses the toilet paper automatically at the touch of a button and flushes automatically when you wash your hands. You press the button to open the doors to leave and then best of all, the toilet even cleans itself.

A toilet that cleans itself… I’ve been hanging out something like that. If only I could find myself a good crowbar, I could possibly take the Exyloo home. Not that I’m about to become a toilet thief but it would accessorise perfectly with my stainless-steel cooking appliances if I’d ever got around to renovating my kitchen!

Anyway, there I was sitting on the throne feeling like the Queen of Milson’s Point when I remembered that I had a book in my bag. For some unexplained reason, I suddenly felt almost compelled to read my book in the toilet. Don’t ask me why. I never read in the toilet at home but perhaps that’s just my point. I can’t even sit on the toilet at home without being interrupted. It’s like there’s some alarm system which goes off as soon as I sit down. Suddenly the kids, who up until this point have been playing quietly, suddenly grab each other by the throat and in what’s yet another case of he said she said, I’m playing Justice of the Peace all from the sanctity of the toilet. Somehow, even the dog manages to open the bathroom door and let himself in. I mean this is the bathroom. It is, after all, meant to be private. Yes, I know there’s such a thing as a lock but we haven’t quite got around to installing one yet and to be honest, I’m so used to chaos in the bathroom that I’m usually oblivious to it.

So ironically, this public toilet was the most private toilet I’ve been to in ages!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I really needed to recharge my worn out batteries. I was tired and exhausted and when I experienced more than a moment’s peace, I over-compensated. Being able to read in the toilet, was such pure, unadulterated indulgence. It was the sort of serious decadence that could only be compared to eating a hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows and a chunk of Toblerone on top (I had one of those recently at mid-station Perisher and I can assure you it was the very epitome of decadence. It was divine!!)

Even though I wasn’t reading War and Peace, I did feel dreadfully guilty about reading my book in the toilet while Mum was minding the kids in the Antarctic winds outside. But I wasn’t in there long. I didn’t even use up all my ten minutes. I was literally out of there in a flash…just a slightly delayed flash that’s all. I was only reading a couple of motivational quotes and looking at the pictures but when those precious moments have been stolen, snatched away… they feel amazingly good but also amazingly bad. I must confess that even I went on just a little bit of a guilt trip and felt like I’d just been caught stealing the last cookie from the cookie jar. I was indeed a bad, bad girl!

However, I had just had the most hell-raising train trip with the kids and I really needed to detox for a few minutes. The train can be such an adult environment where the kids are out on display and have to use their very best behaviour. They’re expected to sit still. Not put their feet up on the seats. No fighting. No bouncing on the seats or turning around and staring at the person behind. No sticking sticky fingers all over the seats and no drawing on the seats either. They are expected to act and behave like mini adult statues. When the kids, heaven forbid, actually behave like kids, can’t you just feel the dagger stares piercing through your equilibrium? It’s not the kids that are being judged for their behaviour. It’s you. You are the bad mother who can not achieve the impossible. You can’t control your kids. I have to admit that I was a bit flummoxed too. I couldn’t understand why my kids just couldn’t look out the window and recite the names of the stations like other normal kids. Why did they have to rip each other apart…especially in public? The kids were so bad that the man sitting opposite us even moved to another part of the carriage.

Sometimes, I feel like handing the kids over to these well-intentioned strangers and letting them have a go. They always seem so convinced they could do a better job!

So you understand that after traveling all the way from Woy Woy to Milsons Point on this never-ending train trip why, even with my mother’s assistance, I was going totally crazy. Reading in the toilet was certainly a much better option than all the alternatives!

Our daughter on the carousel.

Our son on the Ferris wheel.

To finish the story off, we had a wonderful time at Luna Park. My six year old daughter somewhat conquered her fear of heights and went on the Ferris wheel with me. I managed to survive my fear of fear and went down the slide in Coney Island and we all spun out of control on the Spider. It was great fun and the kids almost went to sleep on the train home. That was worth a trip to Luna Park in itself.

Postscript:

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Photo: my husband at the park bench.

Yesterday, I went back to Kirribilli with my husband to photograph the amazing Exyloo for my blog. Much to my surprise, not everyone shares my fascination. It had just completed its self-clean cycle and a woman was complaining about the floor being wet. There was nowhere to hang her handbag. I was also chatting to a mother with young kids who I thought would love my story about reading in there. However, she just stared at me as though I had two heads and I was the biggest weirdo she’d ever seen. I guess people are a little bit circumspect about strangers photographing public toilets these days.

This made me reconsider my perfect location just a little. Without the stress of the kids, I noticed a park bench that was only metres away from the park. With all those perfect views, you don’t really want to lock yourself away in the loo. You want to make the most of it. So might I suggest instead taking turns watching the kids with one of you in the park and while the other one chills out on the bench. Who knows? You might even get through the Saturday paper.

All it takes is a little bit of smart planning.

xx  Rowena