Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Teaching the Dog to Think by Kimberly Davis

Teaching the Dog to ThinkTeaching the Dog to Think by Kimberly Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part memoir, part self-discovery, and part relationship help, Teaching the Dog to Think chronicles Davis' year of agility training with her young collie, Willow. Brought up in the old, punishment based training methods, Davis was used to choke collars and leash jerking to "train" and control her dogs. Reluctantly at first, she begins to see that the reward based training methods used by her agility instructors worked far better, and faster. She starts out with a nearly uncontrollable young dog, and ends up with a training partner who worked with her cooperatively. She also discovered the joy of owning a dog who is enthusiastic about training and work, not just obedient.

But the book is more than that. It is an insignt into Davis' own transformation. Her first instinct is to believe these "new-fangled" methods can't work. Even as she discovers how well they do, she is honest about her falling back into old habits and ways of thinking. The growth is both the dog's and the author's, and we are shown every step.

In addition, Davis outlines how she began to understand how the methods she was using with Willow could be put to use in her relationships with other people. Beginning with her son, and continuing with her creative writing students, Davis starts using positive reward techniques and finds they work as well with people. Her son becomes more cooperative and their relationship grows. Her students are less discouraged and able to move forward more quickly.

The book is a wonderful testament to what can be achieved in dog training, and also a lesson in people skills that everyone can benefit from.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Rolling Along

I almost can't believe it is the middle of August already. Where did the summer go? And it was another weird one, wasn't it? If it wasn't hot and humid, it was raining cats and dogs and frogs and lizards, with a nice bit of thunder and lightning tossed in for good measure.

The weather has been so wacky, we haven't gotten out on the bikes much lately. We did get a ride in on Friday,  Saturday, and yesterday. I hope it stays good for a while so we can get more in.

We've had Krysta's chihuahua/toy fox terror mix, plus their two finches here for the last few days. Kryss, Kleber, and Will are in the UK, visiting his brother and family. Murphy is not too thrilled with Nikki- I think he can't figure out why he wants to run and jump and be annoying all the time. We just have to convince Nikki that the cats really, really do not want to play, and when they run away and hiss, that is not a "Chase me!" invitation. He does listen quite well, knows "leave it," and is getting better. A little. And the cats need to learn that the finches are not mobile kitty treats. Never a dull moment.

Speaking of my Old Dog, he's been worrisome again. He doesn't want to come in the house at all lately. Probably some of it is Nikki, but he was getting more that way before Nikki came, so I don't know. He still doesn't eat well and he's had- ummm- digestive issues, also. But he still walks about a mile early in the day with me, and then down the street and around the cul-de-sac later. The joys of Old Dogs, I guess.

We are off to Wells, ME on Friday for the ME State Cook off. Not cooking this one. We are running the judging area. Wells is such a nice town. We are planning a potluck supper at the hotel we and several other cooks are staying at for Saturday after the cook off. It should be fun. Last year, we sat around for a while after the cook off, but then people all took off to find food. So we figured this year, we'd see if people just want to bring food along and we can relax all evening. There's a pool and nice hot tub there that sure feels good after a long day at a chili cook off! We're home again on Sunday. Then there's CT State in New Haven in September. We head to Charleston, WV in early October for the Worlds Championship. It's a long drive, but we did it a few years ago, and will take two days heading down and two coming back. After that is the first qualifying cook off for our area the weekend after Worlds, in Kingston, NY. That will be the return of Rock'N'Roll Chili, since I plan on competing next year again.

End of summer will be busy, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Bait Dog (Atlanta Burns #2) by Chuck Wendig

Bait DogBait Dog by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with the first Atlanta Burns story, Shotgun Gravy, this is a firecracker of a ride that doesn't ever let go. When we left Atlanta at the end of Shotgun Gravy she had dealt with the bullies that threatened her friends. Or so she thought. Then Chris, her gay classmate, is found hanged. Suicide, the police say. Atlanta and Shane don't think so, but what can they do? And then along comes another classmate, who wants Atlanta to investigate the torturing and murder of her dog. And that leads Atlanta right into the very unsavory world of dog fighting. And that leads her right back around to the people responsible for Chris' hanging.

This is not a pretty story. Nor is it for those who can't handle the bare knuckles reality of the world it portrays. It's cruel, harsh, and ugly- for the dogs, and the people invovled. It's heart-wrenching- more than once I was reading with tears in my eyes. It's gritty- no pulled punches here. This is not a YA story that tones anything down. Drugs, violence, hatred, cruelty are all here in full measure. But it is not a story without hope or good. They're there, just buried under the nail-biting reality of life.

Wendig's style is a lot like the plot: staccato, sharp, and quick-moving. The words come at you like the pellets from Atlanta's squirrel gun. They sting like a slap. And they are perfect for Atlanta herself, because she's quick and sharp and reactive. She's flawed and hurt and doesn't trust easily. She also knows what's right and what's wrong, and if she doesn't always pick the former, she never puts up with the latter. He also has a way of pulling you into the world he creates, dark and scary as it is, and of building tension until you can barely stand it. There is one part near the end of the book, (No spoilers, I promise)where you will want to scream "No NoNoNONO!" and toss it across the room (not recommended if you are reading on a computer or other ebook reader). But you WILL go get it immediately, because you have to know what happened next.

Now I come to the hard part: If I loved the story so much (and I did), why not 5 stars? Because the e-book copy I read had errors. I know you rarely get a book these days without one or two, but there were too many to just ignore. Misspellings, tenses that changed mid-paragraph, words that seemed not to fit, as if they were missed on editing or revision. Maybe some were intentional, but they tended to pop me out of the story as I sorted them out. But still, read it anyway. It's that good.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Playing Catch Up

*cough cough* Wow! It got dusty in here, didn't it? Sorry about the neglect. I haven't been around here a lot lately. And, the funny thing is, it's not because things got busier. It's because, to some extent, things slowed down. The BaldMan was on a six week sabbatical, something they give everyone every four years where he works. He went back to work on Monday. I did two posts while we were away for the first two weeks of his sabbatical, and then I just kind of drifted away from all the online stuff for the rest of the time. Not that we were going, going, going all that time. It just felt kind of good to relax, do what I wanted, and not worry about Facebook, Twitter, G+, email, and blogging. Sure, I was on all the social media sites sometimes, just not as often. And, you know what? The world didn't stop, I didn't curl up and waste away from not knowing what everyone was doing every second of the day, and I do believe everyone survived very nicely. But, now, it's back to the daily routine for all of us.

The garden is starting to produce some good stuff now. A lot of it got a late start because of some problems I had with the plants I started indoors, but the tomatoes and peppers are producing nicely now, and I've been harvesting zucchini regularly. I don't plant muc zucchini, as Steph and I are not overly fond of it, and there are only three of us here, so there is only so much we can use! Peppers can be dried or frozen, or the pepperoncini and hot cherry types can be pickled. And tomatoes can very well. I don't worry about having too much of those. Here's a picture of some of what I am picking:

Looks good, doesn't it?