September 3, 2023: a play date for Chai
Activity level: average
We only spent 15 minutes at the almost empty Fresa Parque: Game crashed into a park table/chair, whined and stopped putting weight on her left front paw. So we headed right back home, she got a dose of Rimadyl and is now sleeping on the couch. Pobrecita!
Chai stayed home alone for Game’s shortish noon loop (trying to let her paw recover – luckily no limping for now, but I can’t tell if that’s the Rimadyl or her body recovering).
Noon and PM: Chai’s solo adventure
Once I finished work, it was time to head out and meet a colleague and their dogs for some dog geekery. Chai got to hang and play at Dead Poultry Park for 4 hours. She is passed out on the floor now! I had hoped to do some morning shaping (but work got in the way) or afternoon shaping, but I suspect we’ll just let sleeping dogs lie today! This was a lot of exercise and fun! Lucky Chai found a stinky water hole to get muddy in, played with my colleague’s dogs Hilo and Nemo, earned lots of treats for staying within a mostly approved-by-me radius, found a tasty bone and did really well hanging out next to a park bench while the humans had tlacoyos. Good puppy!
Dirty dogs are happy dogs!
September 4, 2023: a formal recall success, 3 parks and a little shaping
Activity level: average
The three of us had 25 minutes of fun at Fresa Parque. Chai got to play with a young Mal and then found something to eat somewhere behind some bushes where I couldn’t see her. (Of course, my informal pup-pup-pup recall didn’t work because found food is EVERYTHING to Chai and I am not using my formal recall in real life yet.)
Game was running around cheerfully again even though I haven’t given her a painkiller yet – looks like she’s all good! YAY! So glad! That “I am in so much pain” face and whining as she came back to me after crashing into the park chair/table really had me worried for a moment. She usually dismisses pain entirely if it happens while she’s having fun, so that was a strong reaction for her!
Chai stayed home alone briefly while Game and I walked errands.
Solo adventure and formal recall success!
Chai and I spent 20 minutes at Toy Play Plaza. We started out by repeating last time’s recall on a long line … and succeeded! Go Chai!
Then there was a taco de birria for the bestest girl and looping around the park, briefly greeting two dogs and playing in the fountain (our personal public baby pool) twice before heading back home.
We worked on the sit up trick. Unfortunately, I believe I got what Silvia calls an “ugly sit” again but didn’t see it in real time: Chai’s back paws weren’t facing directly forwards but to the side. I’m going to have to experiment a bit more to learn how to see the perfect position in real time!
We also worked on one object in another on the roof. The smaller container I’m trying to use instead of the last one isn’t working either … I’ll have to find something else. It may be time to go shopping for more kitchenware and look for bolitos in all the sizes! (I’m very much not someone who gets excited about shopping … unless it’s for dog-related stuff! Or plants!)
I had planned on also working on 4 in as well, but work got in the way. Hopefully tomorrow!
Kiba’s park with Game
Game, Chai and I went to Kiba’s Park to run around dogs, screaming and running kids and large umbrellas for half an hour:
They also did a lovely job waiting for me outside a pharmacy.
September 5, 2023: park time, formal recall oops and a little training
Activity level: average
We started the morning with 40 minutes of park time for Game and Chai. Mornings tend to be enrichment-based (unless Chai is in a mood to play with other dogs): both dogs will scavenge all over the park, finding scraps of what folks left behind the previous night and pieces of bread and tortilla chips the bird-and-squirrel lovers sprinkle like perfect scatters in certain areas in the morning.
Scavengers in their element! Now that Chai’s stomach isn’t as sensitive anymore, she gets to have all the food-finding fun as well.
Chai stayed home alone around noon when Game and I went out to get Chai’s recall taco.
Today’s solo adventure was short – just long enough to get a formal recall oops in! But a solo outing is a solo outing, and we’ll take it!
Tricks and obediency stuff
PM at the park
Before it started raining, both dogs got to go back to Fresa Parque for another 40 minutes. Together with Chai’s solo outing, we’re at our solid 1.5 hour outdoors average (not counting noon and evening pee loops).
Chai found a cup of consomé and opened it for Game and herself, and they shared it. It smelled delicious and from what I could see, it tasted just that way as well.
Chai then went on to do her afternoon job: steal the balls of all the dogs in the park she could steal from to bring to me and trade for treats. She’s a busy Border Collie with a lot of jobs!
September 6, 2023: a typical BC fun-and-training day
Activity level: average
We spent 40 minutes at Fresa Parque and Chai had a good time with her park friends. Game did great taking treats for just letting everyone be, and then both dogs wrapped up with a little sniff-and-scavage fun.
Chai stayed home alone while Game and I ran errands for 20 minutes. She hasn’t been home alone for longer periods of time lately, but we’ve been doing a good job keeping up with multiple weekly 5-30 minute home-alone sessions (without Game). Normalize, normalize and normalize again!
Afternoon park adventures
Chai, Game and I went to Fresa Parque, waited outside a store and practiced foot-on-leash downs at a papelería for 1.5 hrs. The walk there took us quite a bit because Chai was in the mood to pull on her back-clip harness, resulting in many, many circles! I’m really happy Game is an off leash dog, allowing me to focus on Chai when I circle!
On the walk back from the park, Chai walked partly in collar mode. I reinforced every 5 steps today – that way, I needed hardly any nose bumps even though Game was off leash ahead of us us!
At the park, Chai played a bit with two new dogs, both her and Game scavenged and both worked on the tunnel cue since we had the dog park to ourselves. No solo adventure today, but a good day for dogs! Especially for Chai who got an easy formal taco recall (when she was already looking at me!) to super-charge “Schnee!”
Good dogs waiting patiently at the papelería while someone is trying to figure out how to print a page without margins for me.
September 7, 2023
Activity level: going for low today to catch up with work and make sure every week has its low energy day! Let’s see if we’ll succeed …
Note from the future: I succeeded! Low it is!
Game and Chai spent 30 minutes at Fresa Parque, scavenging and, in Chai’s case, playing a bit with her friend Sam the Doberman. Game got brushed at the park: she is blowing her coat and there’s Malinois fur everywhere.
Chai got bullied a bit by another dog and came back to me to be protected. I love that she trusts I will look out for her, reinforced and did my best to keep the bully at arm’s length.
Happy morning play with Chai’s friend Sam!
Training – just a little bit!
We allowed ourselves a single sit-up session. I forgot to hit record, so no video. In any case: a single sit-up session is totally okay for a quiet day! We’re still within the boundaries of calm-day-ness!
The briefest of solo adventures
We went out briefly to practice a formal recall on a back tie at our usual spot and marvelled at a squirrel together. (Tip: show your dog that you share their interests!)
Chai stayed home alone briefly while Game and I ran an errand, and both dogs stayed home alone when I went inline skating at night.
Watching Chai on a calm day
Chai has been really good! She played a little with what’s left of the dolphin toy tonight, tossing it up in the air and pouncing on it. She has been really good about relaxing and isn’t being a pushy, demanding pup at all, but totally able to entertain herself. I’m very happy with how she’s developing!
September 8, 2023: lots of training and fun with friends
Activity level: average
We spent 30 minutes at Fresa Parque. Chai played a little with now 5-months-old little Doodle Pipa and the dogs enjoyed their urban enrichment jungle (aka finding food and sniffing stuff) for the rest of the time. I ran an experiment with soaked tortilla-chip pieces someone had left for birds and squirrels by sprinkling kibble on top. These two food items seem to be the same value.
After I worked a bit, we did sit up on the floor and then I shaped a sit on a crate. I hope the crate is narrow enough to “force” Chai to keep her back legs facing forwards which, in turn, would allow me to work on the sit up trick ON that platform:
The video above ends right where I should have ended the session. Start to finish sit on a platform – perfect. Leave it at that; take the fact that a treat got stuck under my
suitcase kitchen door as a good moment to end.
That’s not what happened in real life. See me continue for a few more minutes and Chai’s response below!
Chai and I went to Kiba’s park to meet up with Alan. I got another successful recall away from Kiba before saying hi and we both worked our pups – Alan on leg weaves and downs and me on downs and stands, and both girls got to play single-toy fetch with Kiba’s ball.
We walked part of the way back in collar mode (5-20 steps between treats).
Chai also met Loki, a mix she enjoys playing with (see middle picture below), and found a dog food bag to climb into. Maybe she’s telling me to change our kibble brand!
September 9, 2023: out of the city with friends!
Activity level: high physical
Both dogs got their own morning loops today and then hung out at the house while I worked a little. Before it was time to leave on Chai’s solo adventure, Game got another brief pee loop by herself.
Solo adventure at Los Dinamos
Kristen, Kala, Luca, Chai and I went to Los Dinamos for the better part of the day. Chai and Kala played A LOT. Chai saw horses and mules – both grazing freely and with horseback riders – sheep, goats, got rushed by 4 of the shepherd’s dogs and recovered fast, saw various groups of suddenly appearing people and had no feelings about them, rolled in horse poop, played in the river and ate parts of an apparently delicious head- and partially legless rotten animal. It was mostly skeleton with little flakes of rotten meat stuck to it – probably either a small sheep or a mid-sized dog? I don’t know, but on the drive home, the entire car smelled deliciously corpse-like. Chai did not throw up on the drive there and back and did not get frustrated about Kala being squeezed in right next to her crate before getting to properly greet her. She was gentle with Luca and didn’t bother him at all, and interested in sticks and stones a kid tossed into the river for Kala and her. She also did an excellent C-runs-away easy taco recall – meaning the next one gets to be a distraction one again! The conversation with the shepherd was fascinating, and Kristen and I had a fun time. This may be the last time we’ll hang out because they’ll be moving abroad, but we sure made the most of it!
Left: Chai and Kala explore the river. Right: Luca is practicing being the cutest boy e-ver!
The last time Chai saw a horse, she got spooked. This time, she first contemplated this mule from a distance and then decided it was safe to go closer and sniff. (I didn’t worry here because Chai’s body language lets me know I’d be able to call her off and the mule doesn’t mind her presence.)
Chai and Kala came across a flock of sheep and goats!
The flock and two of the shepherd’s 10ish dogs. They are all related and puppies are raised with the flock, like lifestock guardian dogs traditionally are. Young dogs learn from older ones. They both guard and are able to keep the flock together. When nothing is going on, they doze in the shade. They are out with their human and the flock for ~6 hours a day. I learned so much from this shepherd, who was kind enough to hang out for a bit and answer all my questions about living with sheep and dogs as a small-scale subsistance farmer.
Left: right before Chai got rushed, she got just a little too close to the flock and the dogs made it clear to her. Right: watching the sheep from a distance after the shepherd has communicated to their dogs that we are friends. Chai’s herding instinct didn’t kick in – but it’s also possible she is still recovering from getting rushed and would have reacted differently to a flock without dogs. In any case, I’d venture it is safe to say that Chai is not magnetized to sheep. In the background story I have been told, her dad is a working sheepdog, but I am somewhat doutbful about the truth of this story.
I could have spent another hour talking to them, but didn’t want to keep them too long. While what I said above is what they told me, what follows are observations and parts I pieced together based on what I’ve read on this way of life in other parts of the world – it may or may not actually be the case for this particular shepherd and their flock.
The dogs and the life of subsistance farming (observations and thoughts):
The dogs are shepherdy-looking mixes about Game’s/Kala’s size; some with slightly more coat. From what this shepherd said, they are all related – so they have puppies and the puppies learn from their parents.
It is interesting to me that the dogs who are actually used for herding by people who do this for a living are not a particular breed of herding dog or even a landrace. I’d venture the most common breed in Mexico that is widely recognized as a herding breed is Australian Cattle Dogs (they are everywhere in the city, but usually not used to herd sheep), followed by Border Collies (used to herd sheep by people who do it for fun but not by people like this shepherd) and Old English Sheepdogs (who I don’t think are used for herding, but are a popular family dog breed around here). I’ve seen Australian Cattle Dogs throughout economic backgrounds while Border Collies and especiallyOld English Sheepdogs are fancier-neighborhood-dogs. I also have seen one ACD who was actually herding, but I was only passing by. I had the impression that this dog was an actual sheepdog, not a rich person’s hobby herding pal.
I found it extremely interesting that the dogs of the shepherd we met had a bubble around the sheep. There was clearly a boundary outside of which they allowed other dogs, but inside of which they would guard. Chai overstepped the boundary and their behavior changed immediately. Once they had chased Chai back of the bubble, they went back to chilling. I asked if the shepherd had taught the concept of the bubble to their dogs, and they said no – the dogs are doing this naturally.
It was also deeply fascinating to me that the dogs seemed to naturally surround the flock, protecting them from all sides. The flock did not seem bothered by the dogs at all and the dogs seemed very relaxed. The way they surrounded the flock kept the flock together and the invisible bubble kept intruders (like Chai) out.
I asked the shepherd if Chai and I might approach a little more so we could test how she’d react to the sheep when being closer (this is just something I’ve been meaning to test). The shepherd had control of their dogs – once they invited us into the bubble, the dogs stood back. (The shepherd had a stick and used body language to communicate with the dogs, but not in an aggressive way at all – they just communicated clearly that Chai was a friend to be welcomed into the bubble.)
I would love to spend a day with this shepherd, the flock and the dogs. I wonder what their everyday life looks like: how far from the green space do they live? How much do they walk? Are they always on the move or do they stick to one general area? How often is there a potential conflict? And is it always with visiting dogs or is there also wildlife or other pets to look out for? Maybe even humans? Is everyone on the same page about the shepherd using this (public) land for their sheep? What do the dogs eat (feeding 10 mid-sized to large dogs is a lot!) Do they have other sources of income or is it based on the sheep alone – on their meat? What does community or family structure look like? How much interaction is there with the wider capitalist society a subsistance farmer, whether they want to or not, is necessarily embedded in? If this shepherd had a kid, what opportunities will the kid have? Is it necessary for the kid to work as soon as they can walk in order to feed everyone or are they able to go to school, graduate, study; choose a totally different path in life?
I am curious about all of this, but it’s not my place to ask. I’ll probably never know. From the outside, to me, it’s easy to romantisize this life: it is calm. It has nature, animals, movement and little to no technology. It is physical and human-powered, not fossil-fuel-powered, and there is so much to observe about your animals, their interactions, the people you see, the changes of the plants, birds and insects around you through the seasons. I know there is a version of me who’d enjoy this life – its physicalness; the nailing of wooden planks to create a barn; the walking. Naming and observing your dogs. Keeping their puppies (the ones who survive); seeing them grow up. Observing local plants, birds, lizards; how their behavior changes with the times of day and year …
It is easy to romanticize because I wasn’t born into this life. If I were, I might feel completely different about it – after all, as it is, I did not keep the life I was actually born into and the same thing might have happened had I been born into a different life. And spinning that thought further: the life I was born into was a privileged one that allowed me to leave it behind. If I was born into the life of subsistance farming, leaving that life may not be an option. Or it may be just as much an option as it was for me and the live I actually got! I don’t know, but I can’t help but enjoy leisurly following these threads of thought as I’m clening up this pst at 2:30AM in the morning, a day before I’ll release kt.
Check the dog social post for today’s video of Kala, Chai and Luca!
Chai stayed home alone for Game’s morning and pre and post solo-adventure walks.