Angela Bocage

Hot, muggy, alive!

Love this weather! The puppies and their women at the dog park (today we magically got there at an all-dyke, almost-all-smaller-dogs moment!); my sweet lovely-mannered gentleman dog; the Single Carrot Theatre in Baltimore and their razor-sharp play, Crumble: or, Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake; and lots of things in Baltimore, like my new studio, the community garden, the mutually helpful neighborhood spirit, and my old-school feminist pal Carolyn, and all the awesome people at the Creative Alliance’s Charm City Kitty Club, where I got to see one of my favorite performers, Bitch! I love her violin playing, her gutsy, no-compromise-with-bullshit songs and stories, and the fact that she was wearing awesome glittery eyeliner and so was I totally made me happy! hee hee!


Seconds like these; Mosquito girl; and dogs like Merle

What a fantastic week. Full of energy, with my Berekiah dog feeling good and eating well, I’ve been drawing and writing and talking to fantastic people who feed my brain and heart, and reading great books. Some who know me will understand my pleasant surprise and delight at a new level of ability to quiet the over-thinking, anxious, horrid-scenario-pumping-out, noisome chatter of my monkey mind. Meditation, yoga, music, dogs, exercise, fresh vegan food? Or–or could my Official First Mosquito Bite of the Summer earlier this week have been……..radioactive?!

[Comicbook fantasies duly cued—Watch out, hatahz: it’s Mosquito Girl! Capable of annoying the hell out of any one person, even the Dalai Lama! Or  a whole roomful! Like the Kolot Chayeinu congregation on a Day of Awe!  She can fly (erratically, but yeah, guess you’d have to call it that)! On broadcast media she can annoy the hell out of millions at a time! Not only by her essence-sucking curiosity, but even at a distance, via Mosquito-humming with the exact opposite of perfect pitch… Ahem. Anyway. Silly’s part of it, honesty’s part of it, but the key might conceivable be mitigating the merciless self-loathing a tad; it’s so distracting…]

Am increasingly thankful for my awesome housemate and the loving, smart, sneaky funny dogs who share our lives. We do our best to listen to them and learn from them, but she can seriously read their minds, I’d swear to that in court, so she was demonstrating her considerable kind wisdom by lending me Merle’s Door, by Ted Kerasote, and thinking I’d like it. An account of a man’s adoption of a young stray and their subsequent life together, this book blew me away—super-nutrition for the mind of any dog lover, trainer, or anyone who works or lives with canines.

I am a right snot about dog books, and do not apologize. What we know about, do with, and teach our dogs is literally a matter of life and death for them. If you never read another word of dog lit, flip through Ian Dunbar’s gentle, witty masterpiece, How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks just to read his brief snapshot-like selections from the brief biography of a badly socialized, haphazardly trained dog. And note how normal it sounds. And then, if you like, check the statistics regarding how many “pet” dogs are euthanized before their second birthday.

For over a decade, I’ve been studying with APDT-member trainers (the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, one of whose founders is Dr. Ian Dunbar), formally observing classes taught by CPDTs (Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the APDT certificate of expertise as measured through broad knowledge, substantial practice, and requiring continuing education), assistant teaching now and then, and taking both my canine friend and several foster kids through CPDT-taught puppy, “teen,” pre-agility and obedience classes. My first teacher, the awe-inspiringly quick, intuitive, dog-observant Deb Manheim, could see the fascination thus inspired, and introduced me to the APDT, the Dogwise book site, and the required reading list for CPDTs. Vast, eternal gratitude, Deb! The balanced, thorough, and scientifically current approach taken by this training organization and the breadth and quality of the literature they recommend opened my eyes to the minds, behavior, and whole world of dogs in ways I could never have foreseen.

When I began Merle’s Door, I admit to some trepidation that this would be another example of poetic wankage (see, e.g.,  Jeffrey Moussaieff [ck splg)…full of testimony to the author’s being a sensitive dude and an excellent writer, but far lighter on real insight into the canine mind.

Slap my face and call me Susan: Kerasote’s the real-ass thing, citing real anthropology, real science, even tracing the twists and turns the science has taken in our own adult lifetimes. A few examples: he cites the Belyaev study, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, Patricia McConnell, and Dr. Dunbar, reviews the recent archeological thinking on the human-facing-canine burial finds, and manages to tell a good story in which he seemed to, hallelujah, actually listen to what his dog was teaching him! Highly recommended.

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