New year, same old me

I’ve been living with myself long enough now to know at least one thing for sure: I suck at keeping resolutions. Especially those that involve weight loss and/or dieting and/or exercise. So let’s just dispense with the “new year, new me” nonsense forthwith because that is not happening.

new-year-new-me

However.

I do have some plans for 2015, a few modest ambitions that may redound to my greater good if executed properly. A little determination, a little luck, a lot of persistence, and possibly by this time next year I’ll be able to pat myself on the back for all I’ve accomplished.

On the professional front, my single goal for the year is to grow my existing revenue streams and develop new ones. Business Management 101, in other words. I figure I need between 6 and 10 new steady clients to keep me in the black. I know that doesn’t sound like very many, but real estate photography is kind of a big-ticket item. The key word here is steady; I need clients who can consistently give me three or four jobs a month. I have some ideas about how to find them. We’ll see how it goes.

On the personal front, I am leaning toward leaving Weight Watchers soon because it makes no sense for me to pay $42 a month and not follow their plan. I don’t have a backup plan, though, and I don’t like what I’m seeing in the mirror lately.

watching-my-figure

On the domestic front, I gave myself a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated for Christmas and my plans mostly involve cooking: using my new KitchenAid stand mixer, developing my knife skills to the point that I can make a decent tournée, learning how to make the five “mother sauces” of classic French cuisine (Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, tomate and velouté), and perhaps figuring out how to make decent beef and chicken stock (I’m not interested in ever making veal or fish stock). I would also like to try making bread, although for some reason the whole yeast thing kind of intimidates me. I definitely plan to keep getting my CSA box every week and sharing it with my neighbors because the only thing I enjoy more than eating is feeding other people—which is really saying something, considering how much I do love to eat. 😉

If I were going to make a resolution, it might be to figure out how to balance my passion for cooking with my desire to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. I’ve heard rumors that such a thing is possible, but I remain skeptical.

never_trust_a_skinny_cook

And finally, on the spiritual front, I plan to appreciate my life, exactly as it is right now, and remember that every day is a gift. As my boy dog ages into his teens and my parents pass the midpoint of their 70s, I realize that we don’t have all the time in the world ahead of us anymore. No one does, of course. This world and this life deserve my attention and my appreciation minute by minute and day by day. That’s the only way to make the passing years mean anything at all.

 

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The baddest breed

I read today that PetSmart does not allow any pitbull-type dog to participate in its PetsHotel Doggie Day Camps.

petsmart-daycamp-requirements

The Huffington Post article by Arin Greenwood makes the case better than I can as to why this policy is absurd in theory and in practice, but it boils down to two things:

  1. Nobody can say for sure whether a mixed breed dog is a “bully breed” without a genetic test.
  2. Even if it is a bully breed, a dog is a dog is a dog.

Greenwood also points out that this discriminatory policy, which PetSmart only vaguely justifies, helps add to the stigma against bully breeds, which die by the millions in this country every year because they cannot be rehomed.

Ironically, PetSmart’s nonprofit division—PetSmart Charities, which describes itself as having the mission of finding “a lifelong, loving home for every pet”—recently released a report cheering the increase in pet adoptions but lamenting the barriers that stand in the way to reducing euthanasia.

This is a rather chilling excerpt from the report’s intro:

“The public continues to vastly underestimate the number of pets who are euthanized annually in the United States. An estimated 8 million pets enter U.S. shelters every year and only 4 million ever find homes. Cats, kittens, Chihuahuas and bully breeds are particularly at risk for euthanasia.”

The fear and loathing of pit bulls runs deep. Looking for statistics on dog bites in the U.S., I came across DogsBite.org, a site so rabidly (ahem) biased against pit bulls that it might almost be funny. Unfortunately, from what I can find online, it appears their central premise is correct: pitbull-type breeds are most often involved in dog bite injuries and fatalities. The second most-guilty breed in that category is Rottweilers. As many of you know, my first dog was a Rottweiler who never hurt a soul, but she frightened a lot of people just by being the breed she was. I had a client once who literally shook with fear just seeing her sitting in the back seat of my car when I stopped by his office to say hello. He wouldn’t come within 20 feet of the car and contorted himself to avoid turning his back on her. I was embarrassed for him; she was just sitting there, not doing anything but looking at him.

But I digress.

What I want to say is, I personally don’t like pit bulls as a breed (although I have liked individual ones when I got to know them). I think they have, with few exceptions, an exceedingly unattractive body type, from their blocky heads to their weirdly attenuated toenails and whip-like tails. Generally speaking, I don’t trust them, I’m afraid of them, I doubt I would ever own one myself, and I’d be nervous living next door to one (more for my dogs’ sake than for my own, because my two little terriers, believe it or not, can act exceedingly aggressively when they’re on their own side of the fence).

All that said, I grieve for the plight of all pit bulls in this nation and this world, where their innate characteristics—courage, physical size and strength, protectiveness, “gameness”—have been perverted into dangerous aggression by too many careless owners for personal gain, to the horrible detriment of the breed. A Facebook friend of mine who reposts stories of shelter dogs in need of rescue from being euthanized includes dozens of pit bulls every week. Most of them are puppies or very young, and most of them have no chance of getting out of the shelter alive no matter how sweet their temperament or how highly the shelter staff recommends them. Their breed alone dooms them. And I have to acknowledge that this is, in part, because people like me who own and love dogs won’t even go near them.

baby-pitbull

I have to admit, the blue-grey ones with the blue eyes and white socks are awfully cute. And there’s almost nothing cuter than a pit bull puppy.

A pit bull is just a dog, the same as any other dog, despite the myths surrounding it. I know that in my head, but can’t stop the convulsive clutch of fear I feel when I am out walking my dogs and we encounter a loose pit bull. “This dog could kill both my dogs. It could kill me.” I can’t help thinking this. I would think the same if we encountered a loose German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Chow-Chow, Akita, American Bulldog, English Mastiff, Cane Corso, or St. Bernard. All these dogs would scare me spitless in uncontrolled circumstances. Then again, so would any nondescript cur that comes running and snarling at us. Breed and aggression are not inherently linked.

But my personal feelings are simply that, and I don’t have the right to impose my own fears on other people or other dogs just to make myself feel safer. Therefore, I don’t support breed-specific legislation that prevents people from owning certain breeds of dogs, nor do I support rules or regulations that say that only certain breeds of dogs are acceptable or welcome. I’ve been denied rental housing and told by prospective landlords that my well-mannered, well-trained dog posed an unacceptable risk solely because of her breed. Ha.

Ruby_kiss_2003

What a beast.

I do enthusiastically support education on how to be a good dog owner and I would support laws that punish people for allowing their dogs to run loose, or to menace other people or animals. People who mistreat, mishandle or misdirect a dog should not be allowed to own one. Preventing dog bites and dog-bite-related fatalities is a job for people, both those who own dogs and everyone who interacts with dogs.

Just to be clear: I am in favor of education. I am in favor of rescue. I am in favor of dogs. All dogs. I am not in favor of discrimination against animals that have done nothing wrong.

raise-them-right

As for PetSmart , I get my dogs’ food there because they’re the only chain that carries that particular brand, so I’ll probably keep shopping with them. But I will never patronize their day camp. I take my dogs to Camp Bow Wow, which has a more enlightened policy about what kind of dogs they welcome: “Every dog must first complete an interview process so we can see how they interact with other dogs. They must be over four months old, must be spayed or neutered if they are over 6 months old, and must be current on their Rabies, Bordetella (for canine cough), and Distemper vaccinations. Additional vaccinations may be required based upon regional location. They must be in good health, flea/tick free, friendly to all dogs, and generally love to play.”

Fair enough.

Sweet fall treats

It’s October, which means the pumpkin spice mania is in full swing. You can find it in Oreos, M&Ms, Kahlua, and a few other things you might not have thought of, such as this, this, this and, um, these (for real?).

pumpkin-spice-everywhere

I’m happy to get on that bandwagon in my own kitchen, so here’s my contribution. I would love to give credit for this recipe to the creator of it, but I’ve had it in my files for years and don’t recall where I found it. I like it because it actually contains both pumpkin and spice. The texture of the bars is moist and dense like a brownie, but since these contain no chocolate, it doesn’t seem right to call them pumpkin brownies.

Pumpkin Spice Bars with Salted Caramel Sauce

pumpkin-bar-with-caramel-sauce

Ingredients

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 c pumpkin puree
3/4 c all-purpose flour
Chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
 .
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in spices, salt, egg and pumpkin.
  3. Sift the flour into the bowl and stir mixture until just combined. Add nuts if using and stir to distribute evenly.
  4. Pour batter into baking dish and spread into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the center is set. Cool in pan before slicing.

For the sauce, I used this recipe from the Cooking Channel. It’s very simple.

Ingredients

1 c sugar
1/4 c water
3/4 c heavy cream
3-1/2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp gray sea salt, crushed or kosher salt

Preparation
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  2. Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the unsalted butter, and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool.

My first batch of caramel seized as I was stirring in the cream, and most of it hardened around the edges of the pan and into a candy ball inside the whisk that took quite a bit of work to untangle. I think this was because I added cold cream gradually to the hot sugar mixture. On my second round, which was successful, I heated the cream slightly in the microwave first, and poured it into the sugar mixture all at once (it foams up like soda when you do this, so be careful and stand back).

If you are a little bit nervous about cooking sugar to super-high temperatures, as I was, watch this short video to see how to do it just right. She recommends swirling the pan occasionally to even things out. I found that if you mix the sugar and water together thoroughly before pouring it into the pan, you won’t have to stir it or swirl it to make an even layer.

The pumpkin spice season will soon be over, so enjoy it while it lasts!

pumpkin

Pain management

This summer has been a bit challenging for me on the physical front. Every morning, I wake up hurting in numerous and various ways, almost always for reasons I cannot immediately identify. I’ve lived long enough to have first-hand experience with all the usual flavors of pain: overuse, injury, illness, repetitive strain, I’m-coming-down-with-something, and, ahem, overindulgence. But the way my body feels lately has no obvious connection to any of these.

I’ve always been strong, if not also fit/conditioned. I’m a trouper, always have been, and I get stuff done. I am not ill, as far as I know, so when I tell people I am in chronic low-grade pain that makes me not want to do much anymore, sympathy is pretty thin on the ground.

One of my friends told me the reason I feel bad is my “lifestyle,” meaning the one where I work from home—doing housework, yard work, and pet care every day, among other things—instead of, say, getting up at the crack of dawn five days a week and commuting to a cubicle where I sit in front of a computer for eight hours. She stopped short of calling me a lazy bum, which I certainly appreciated, but her implication was clear.* Apparently she believes that all I do all day is recline on the divan and eat bon-bons, or whatever passes for near-criminal indolence in 2014.

you-mock-my-pain-animated

I have had low-grade pain in my lower back for so long I can barely remember what it feels like to bend down and touch my toes without hurting (although, for the record, I have always been able to touch my toes without bending my knees). Bending and stooping repetitively is agonizing for me, yet that’s what I have to do when I clean house, mow the lawn, do laundry, make the bed, all that stuff. I huff and groan a lot. Lately, I’m noticing some pain in my hands that surely cannot be caused by keyboarding, mousing or clicking a camera shutter. My grandmother had terrible arthritis in her hands. Is that in my genes? I worry.

Yesterday I laid down on the yoga mat after breakfast and starting cataloging aloud all the places on my body that hurt as I went through my stretching routine. I cried along the way, not so much from the pain itself but from frustration at how it saps my energy and thereby limits my life, and from fear of where it might go. Is something actually wrong? Will it get worse? Am I going to be okay? I worry.

life-is-pain-animated

I figure, right this minute, there are probably three major culprits: PMS, overuse (weekend yard work), and neglecting my yoga just a little too long. Ordinary aging may or may not have anything to do with it as well.

I felt better after stretching yesterday, and even better after stretching today. I have not been doing yoga lately because I guess I somehow got it in my head that I don’t “really” do yoga—I just stretch and do a few simple yoga poses such as Downward Dog. My sister does “real” yoga, the kind that makes me sweat copiously and ache all over the next day when I try to do it with her. The moves she does build strength and flexibility. The moves I do just maintain my muscles in their normal state rather than bunched up tightly and tender to the touch.

I’m going to try to get back to doing my little 20-minute routine every day because it’s the only exercise I’ve ever done that actually makes me feel better rather than worse—which is probably a big part of why I don’t see it as “real” exercise. Ever since I was forced to run laps in P.E. as a kid, I have associated exercise with physical pain, both during and after. When I wake up in the morning hurting in a dozen different places, the last thing I would ever want to do is make it worse by exercising. So my yoga is the perfect thing: not really exercise, not really painful, generally beneficial.

It’s time to get back on the mat.

130924-funny-yoga-position

Comic by Louise Wei, Panda & Polar Bear.

 


* Most people seem to believe that “working from home” is not really working and that a person who owns a home-based business doesn’t actually have a job, so I can’t hold that against my friend. I don’t bother to argue with anyone who thinks that anymore. They can think whatever they like about my job, my life, my “lifestyle” and how I spend my time because they really don’t know the first thing about any of it.

 

Vegging out

I am not a vegetarian nor was meant to be, but vegetables are a dieter’s best friend, and can be amazingly satisfying when properly prepared.

favorite-vegetable-is-pudding

Tonight I made Cauliflower Chowder from Damn Delicious, which was (mostly) all about the vegetables. Even with the addition of flour and milk AND topped with bacon bits, it was still only 4 Weight Watchers points per serving.

cauliflower-chowder

You can get the official recipe by clicking on the image or the link above, but here is how I made it.

Ingredients
4 slices bacon
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 c all-purpose flour (I used Wondra)
4 c chicken broth
1 c whole milk
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Fry bacon in a large skillet until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. When cooled, chop into 1/4-inch bits.
  3. Break up cauliflower into uniform small florets and spray or toss with olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil or a Silpat mat and roast for 30 minutes or to desired degree of crispiness (I roasted mine just until there was some color on the bottoms).
  4. Melt butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in roasted cauliflower and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in flour and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and milk, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. (The original recipe says to “whisk” the liquids in gradually, but I couldn’t figure out how to whisk such a dense and chunky mixture and it didn’t seem to make a big difference.)
  6. Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove bay leaf.
  7. Before serving, dip out 3-4 cups of soup and purée it in a food processor or blender. Return purée to the pot and stir thoroughly.
  8. Serve garnished with chopped bacon.

To lighten this up, you could leave out the flour and milk (and the bacon, too, of course, even though it is soooo good) and simply purée a larger percentage of the mixture to add thickness. Either way, this is a wonderful recipe, really a keeper.

I had two helpings for dinner and was stuffed to the gills. I sent the rest over to my neighbors and told them it was my best ever and that I wouldn’t be sharing it with them if I didn’t like them so much because it was just that good. In fact, I said, “if you don’t like it, just give it back to me so I can eat it.”

David texted me a little while later, “Awesome.” I texted back, “I know, right?!”

 

Odds and ends

I don’t have enough news for one whole blog post, so here are the briefs from the past couple of weeks.

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Rudy’s foot has healed up nicely, and he is 100% back to normal in every respect. He was mighty happy to get that cape off at last.

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I have managed to mow my lawn four times so far this year and yet have mentioned it on social media only once. But the season is still young and this is Going Forward, so …

lawn-mowing-posts

😉

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A couple of my readers are keenly interested in knowing this: I am averaging more than 7 hours a night on the CPAP machine, with no real problems to deal with. It’s amazing what one can get used to. When I first started with the CPAP, the mask caused pressure sores around my nose, the pressure blew my mouth open all night long, the air flow dried everything out, and I could not find any comfortable position in which to sleep other than flat on my back. I usually ended up tearing the mask off after less than an hour.

Now, I put the mask on, turn on the machine, roll over and go to sleep, and it’s still on my face when I wake up 7 or 8 hours later. I hardly notice it anymore, even when I sleep on my side, and it leaves no evidence of its use in the morning. The air flow coming into the mask is equivalent to a small hair dryer on a low setting—no wispy draft, in other words, but rather a brisk torrent—yet as long as my mouth is closed, I don’t even feel it. I was not sure this thing was ever going to work, so I’m grateful to have finally made peace with it. I don’t (yet) feel any different when I wake up in the morning, though, and have no way to gauge whether it’s helping me or not. I guess I have to assume it is!

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When I visited my parents several weeks ago, my mother sent me home with several goodies, including her last African Violet plant, which was not doing well since she’s been unable to take care of things around the house as well as she used to. It was a pale, droopy, sick-looking thing that hadn’t bloomed in living memory. I repotted it as soon as I got back to my house, and have been fertilizing it every week with African Violet food. It’s doing great!

african-violet

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I’m on a Mexican food kick lately, and I found an inexpensive molcajete (stone mortar and pestle) at the Big Box Store a few days ago that I just had to have. The care instructions say it needs to be “seasoned,” meaning you have to essentially sand off all the loose grit by grinding up a few batches of uncooked rice in it before making, say, guacamole. I tried that and got nowhere—rice is a heck of a lot more abrasion resistant than you might expect—so I went to the internet to find better instructions. The Mija Chronicles told me what I needed to know, although I didn’t like it a bit. This is how she says to season a molcajete:

Note: This is going to take a few hours, so make sure you’re well-nourished and rested when you start.

Gather about 1 cup each of dried, split corn and dried beans, and 1 1/2 cups of dried white rice. In Mexico, you can find these things at almost any mercado.

Toss a scant 1/4 cup of ground corn into your molcajete. Grind until it turns into coarse flour. You don’t want it too coarse—I’ve found that just when you think you might be done, you should grind for another 20 minutes or so, just to get a better texture. When the corn is done, scoop it into the trash. Repeat with the next round. Do this four times.

Repeat with the dried beans, which will also be ground four separate times, until they’re completely dissolved and flour-like. On the third turn of beans, start soaking about 1/2 cup of your white rice in water.

When you’re done with the beans, move on to the dried rice and grind it four separate times. Then grind the soaked rice three times. When you’re done, rinse your molcajete under water and use a little brush or small hand-broom to clean it. Turn it upside-down to air dry.

It took me an hour to get through three batches of beans before my arm pretty much just fell off.

Turning this…

molcajete-with-beans

into this …
molcajete-with-bean-flour

is some hard work. You can pound on those beans for 10 solid minutes and there will still be dozens in the batch that look as though they have never been touched by a human hand, let alone a stone pestle. And the worst part is that even after three rounds of grinding dried pinto beans into muy fine flour, thank you very much, the damn thing is still gritty. I learned too late that cheap molcajetes sold in big box stores are often made with (relatively soft) concrete and never lose their grittiness. Yay. We’ll see how my first batch of guacamole comes out before deciding whether to keep this thing.

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The first anniversary of my mother’s stroke came and went at the end of April. She was apprehensive about it, but I encouraged her to mark the day by celebrating all that she has accomplished since the morning she woke up in the hospital and could barely move. She couldn’t even sit up straight without assistance for weeks and couldn’t walk for months. Now she gets around her house quite handily with a walker and wheelchair (and has walked with a cane with her rehab therapist), is able to handle all the washroom chores on her own, and helps with meal prep, washing dishes, and many other household tasks. She and my dad have started going to the rehab gym at the hospital and working out three days a week, she’s able to get up and down the entryway stairs and walk with a walker from the house to the garage, and she’s even taking a t’ai chi class and talking about driving again. She’s a remarkable model of strength, courage and perseverance. She doesn’t consider herself brave or in any other way remarkable, though. She just sees herself as playing the hand she’s been dealt as best she can. Well, we’re proud of her anyway.

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And finally, I have for you a fantastic recipe! Big Oven makes a Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce that will knock your socks off.

chicken-in-basil-cream-9

It is by far the best thing I’ve cooked all year, and I am looking forward to making it again tomorrow night. I followed the recipe for the most part … I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper before breading it because otherwise it’s always too bland for my taste. Also, I used Peppadew peppers instead of pimentos because they’re easy for me to get and OMG-so-delicious: sweet and just a tad spicy. Try ’em if you can find ’em!

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Enjoy your weekend, everyone, and Happy Mothers Day to all the moms! 🙂

Follow the leader

When I was out with the dogs last night, we passed my neighbor Tony’s house and they both started their usual routine of wildly lunging toward and yapping at him as he stood out in his driveway. I tried to pull them away quickly, but Tony was already heading toward us.

“Oh, now, hold on!” he said with a grin. “That won’t work. Lemme show ya.” And show me he did, taking the dogs’ leashes and snapping them gently to attention, one on either side of him. He strode off down the sidewalk without a word to the dogs or a backward glance to me, with my indefatigable puller and my insistent sniffer both trotting along neatly just off his heels with their ears forward and their heads up. He went about half a block, turned around sharply, and returned them to me in the same fashion. As a family of cyclists approached and the dogs’ heads turned, he again gently snapped their attention back to him and they made not a peep. He even managed to get them to completely ignore a cat walking through his yard with just repeated quick tugs on their leashes.

He didn’t hit them or yell at them or haul them around or do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. He did consistently require them to keep their attention on him, and they seemed remarkably willing to oblige. At one point he squatted down and put Reggie by his side but slightly behind him. She sat down calmly and quietly gazed around her. Then he moved her to slightly in front of him, and she became instantly alert and distracted by activity on the street, completely oblivious to both of us. I was flabbergasted at what a difference 12 inches one way or the other made in her demeanor. He explained that when the dog is in front, she sees herself as the leader and therefore the protector of her pack, and that brings out her guarding and challenging behaviors. When I am in front of her, she no longer feels herself to be “on duty” and can simply relax. This is why it is so essential to walk the dogs at heel and not allow them to run out the length of the leash.

As I stood there watching this display of what Tony repeatedly called “calm, assertive leadership,” I think my jaw fell on the ground. I could not believe that my own two incorrigible little dogs were happily following this man, whom they’ve met only once or twice, and were so quick to do every single thing he directed them to do. Astonishing.

Tony’s dog-training rap is lifted straight from Cesar Millan, of course, and I’ve heard it hundreds of times: you have to be the leader of the pack if you expect your dog(s) to follow you. I understood this perfectly with my Rottweiler and practiced it well, so training her was a breeze. But with the little dogs, especially headstrong and independent Reggie, I’ve given up trying to control them on the walk because I just don’t want to put the time and energy into managing them every step of the way. It’s been easier for me to zone out, let them go where they want to go, stop where they want to stop, and act however they please toward the people and animals they encounter along the way. I know their bad behaviors are my own fault. But I really didn’t know until yesterday how to correct it. Tony not only corrected it completely but also made it look so easy that I felt acutely embarrassed by what I’ve been tolerating for so long.

Rudy has always been an easy dog to live with and to walk, so being a calm, assertive leader with him has always been easy, too. When I tell him to do something, he responds quickly, and he remembers when he’s been corrected. Reggie, on the other hand, has been a challenge from day one, and she has never responded to any of the training tricks I know. After months of trying and failing to curb her pulling on the leash, I just abdicated control of the walk to her. My contributions heretofore have been limited to perfectly useless asking, pleading, whining, admonishing and berating with many curses. Even when I’m telling her for the 50th time to “slow down” or “stop pulling,” I know she doesn’t understand a word I say apart from her own name and I feel stupid for doing it but I don’t know what else to do!

what-dogs-hear

It is useless to ask a dog to do something and inadequate to tell her to do something. One must actually make the dog do it, one way or another. And it’s also high time I admitted that not yelling or swearing or visibly freaking out is not the same thing as being calm, or assertive. They deserve better leadership from me, and I know I can do better for them.

I resolved to be that better leader and put an end to the arm-stretching pulling contest with Reggie on this evening’s walk. I put a leash in each hand and positioned the dogs beside and slightly behind me, and away we went at a brisk clip. Rudy fell right into line, of course, and although I had to gently correct Reggie most of the way, let me tell you: It was a miracle. They didn’t pull my arms off, they didn’t stop to sniff at every tree and fence post, and they didn’t make much more than a cursory yap at any of the people or animals we passed. Astonishing.

This video demonstrates how to walk a dog “the Cesar way,” and covers all the points that Tony made to me about redirecting the dogs’ attention to keep them calmly moving forward.

I am ready and willing to reclaim my position as pack leader so that my dogs can retire from that role and simply enjoy their exercise without having always to be on guard and ready to rumble. Reggie’s shrieking, squealing challenges to all comers are audible for blocks around and we walk nearly every day, so I think every single one of my neighbors will (silently) thank me for finally getting my dogs under control.