Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Night School

Exciting news! Last night, I started school. We arrived in time to see Maggie, a rescue corgi, graduate from intermediate school which was really cool. She is a beautiful dog.

My class includes a dachshund named Lulu. Some think dachshunds are funny looking because they have long bodies and short legs ... to me, they are really beautiful.  

Rogue is a boxer and based on his energy level, I think he may be a contender.  It looks like he spends much of his time doing road work, towing cars.

Roscoe is a small dog that seems to be all hair. It was windy last night and I imagined him flying like a kite at the end of his leash as they crossed the parking lot on the way to class. No wonder Roscoe looked a little nervous. 

Zoey is our teacher’s sheltie and she is SMART. She has every move down cold. At first, I was a little envious, but then I realized that she probably studied ahead. 

JT, our instructor, gave us a mini-seminar on training methods. One approach is the “old school” method called negative reinforcement. The idea is to “avoid negative stimulus.” Yikes!  

Another approach is the “new school” method called positive reinforcement, where “good behavior is rewarded.”

Howl with me now: “Neeeeewwwww” school. I didn’t need to worry as JT teaches the positive reinforcement approach. Still, my paws were sweating so badly, I had to lay down for a minute.

It turns out that school is easy. While the alpha dogs have several complicated commands to remember, it seems like I get a treat every time I turn around. Do you know the favorite word of every new school student? Homework.  

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Turkey-less Thanksgiving

We went for a walk today on the bike path near the White Lake Library. 

Occasionally, we see wild turkeys near the path, or at least their footprints where they cross the pavement in a muddy area, but today there was nothing. It was eerie, or so it seemed until I thought about it. I realized why I wasn’t seeing any turkeys today; it was raining. The only wildlife we saw was a Labrador Retriever; they’ll walk in any weather. 

Still, it was a great day for a walk. The pavement was like a mirror, so I could look down and see the sky. I ran back and forth kicking up spray as I imagined I was flying through the tree tops. Look! Up in the sky, is that a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Supercorgi!

Oh, and when you get thirsty, you can just stop and lap. It was like walking in a giant water dish. 

By the time we got back, I looked like a failed lab rat experiment. I was worried that my coat would never look quite the same. However, two towels later and a quick nap and everything was as right as rain.

This is my first Thanksgiving, but I still have a number of things on my “thankful” list. My list is long, but the top five would have to be:
  • My pack finally seems to be accepting me as Supreme Leader. Cesar Milan writes that you can teach older dogs new tricks (but he didn’t mention that you have to be very patient). Still, I think I am bending them to my will.
  • The Corgi Union. Millie, if you read this, thank you for giving me a run-down of the basic rules of the Corgi Union. I want to be a fair and benevolent leader. I especially like the Corgi Union’s ruling on...
  • Toys. According to the Corgi Union, each corgi is to have no less than two dozen toys waiting at all times. Anyone who has gone into a pet store knows that there is a wide range of dog toys available, so two dozen seems like such a small selection. (Memo to self: At the next Corgi Union meeting, bring up the topic of increasing the minimum number of toys.) 
  • Cheese. Wow! What can you say about this wonder food? I’ll do anything for the smallest piece of cheese. If one of the big dogs says “cheese Bronte”, my mind goes blank and when my head clears, I’m in my room with cheese breath. (Hey, you don’t think ... ?)  
  • The word “oops.” While I am still working to expand my vocabulary, oops has to be my current favorite. Oops means “Bronte, it’s snack time!”
  • Sticks. There are millions of these in my garden and I am becoming very good at walking around while carrying one in my mouth. 
For you overachievers who were counting, I will point out that one of the big dogs in my pack has a sweatshirt that reads “I’m an English major, you do the math.” As for me, I haven’t even been to puppy obedience school yet. 

Puppy Love Ambassador?

A couple of weeks ago, I met Jack and Karen. Though I didn’t get to meet the four other members of their pack, they talked about them: Hilaryandben, Tracyanddan, Bella and Buddy.

Yesterday, Karen sent me an email mentioning that they are thinking about adding another dog to the  pack. How cool is that?

I’d like to think that they took one look at me and thought “We need to get ourselves a puppy like Brontë.” (This may not be how it really happened, but that’s how it works in my version of the story.) I’m not a breedist, so any kind of puppy would be great. But imagine what it would be like having a corgi puppy...

A secret message for Buddy: You may be the deciding vote on the type of dog, so I will give you five good reasons why you want it to be a corgi puppy:
  • Think of the possibilities of a “You go low, I’ll go high” strategy.
  • You want people to say “Look at the cute dogs!” rather than saying “Let’s walk on the other side of the street.”
  • One big dog, one small dog. The perfect make-up for a comedy team.
  • Two words: Prick ears
  • The best for last: Finally, you’ll have another dog smart enough to understand your jokes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pembroke Welsh Porky

Today, I visited Dr. Heaton, my veterinarian, for a checkup. The good news is that I passed my exam (and I didn’t even study). The bad news is that I weigh 11.8 pounds. Dr. Heaton said “This is perfectly normal for a 15 week old corgi puppy” but I remember when I weighed less than 10 pounds. As I was leaving, Dr. Heaton offered me a treat, but I just couldn’t do it.

To celebrate passing my exam, we drove to Grand Haven and went for a walk in Duncan Park. What a fun place! There were squirrels and deer, but I didn't notice them. The really exciting things were the leaves. There were leaves everywhere and they make crunchy noises when you walk on them.

Queen of the Night

After my last post, a reader recommended several singers I could use as role models. Her list included Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne and others, but I have yet to make it past the first singer on her list. I listened to Sumi Jo singing the “Queen of the Night Aria” from the Magic Flute; it was amazing.
I can’t seem to get the coloratura passages out of my head. Unfortunately, I don’t understand German, so I have started transcribing the libretto myself. Soon, I’ll be the Queen of the Night ... once they let me stay up late.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk

I think some of the success of Welsh writers and poets like Roald Dahl, Richard Llewellyn and Dylan Thomas is due to the Welsh tradition of storytelling. The rhythms and lyrical phrasing of a good Welsh story have their roots in our rich history of song. Who can listen to the cadences of someone speaking Welsh and not think about music? Have you have ever heard Bryn Terfel sing the Champagne Aria from Don Giovanni? That dog can sing! 

So, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I can’t sing. I don’t mean that I can’t carry a tune, I mean that, apart from a weak little whimper, I couldn’t make a sound. Image how frustrated this made me. As a Welsh Corgi, I am descended from a rich musical tradition. What was I going to do? I decided that if I couldn’t sing I wanted a drum set, or at least a plastic bucket and some sticks.

For some reason, the alpha pair in my pack weren’t taking my request for drums seriously. However, fate was kind to me, because when we visited Karen and Jack, they presented me with a great gift. To the untrained eye, Max looks like a normal squeaky toy but no, dear reader, Max is a finely tuned musical instrument.

As I explore its potential, I realize that I have an instrument with a broad dynamic range. With a quick paw strike, I can make sharp percussive noises. With a sustained push, Max’s air bladder allows me to make long notes that seem to go on forever. By stretching Max a little, I can vary the pitch. I am learning the meaning of shaping notes. I can even make sounds like a cow bell. (Don’t you just love the cow bell? Maybe its my herding dog heritage, but a cow bell really does something to me.) This is no plastic bucket; I am the proud owner of a whole percussion section.

With a vision of becoming a great musician, I have been practicing my instrument ceaselessly.  I imagine myself in smoky jazz clubs improvising new combinations all night long. I want to play Max until dawn, sleep for a few hours and then start playing again.

I was working to develop my own unique mix of Asian, African and Celtic rhythms when I heard a tentative vocal accompaniment. To my surprise, it was me. My bark needs work, but I am no longer a mute drummer! 

So I’m working to combine my singing with my drum work. I’m trying to develop a sound that has more “bite” to it than Phil Collins, Don Henley or even Debbie Peterson of the Bangles. If you have any suggestions for role models, I’m all ears. (Or, mostly ears. Have you seen photos of me?) 

Oh, and one other thing: You have you seen Max? I seem to have misplaced him recently... 

Friday, November 13, 2009

CorgiAid: Because Unconditional Love is a Terrible Thing To Waste

Welcome dear reader to my blog. I want to reassure you that no corgis were harmed while making the images used in yesterday’s posting. They were not photographs of real dogs. They were, in fact, cookies.  Let me explain...

CorgiAid is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to rescue corgis and corgi mixes who are in need of help. They do amazing work and they deserve a lick of gratitude from every corgi.

I want to do my part to help this great organization. It turns out CorgiAid has a fundraiser and they are looking for things to auction.  So I called together my creative team, and together we came up with the idea of making decorated corgi cookies.

Each team member contributes to the process. After some trial and error, I decided to let other members of my pack do the baking and decorating. (I confess that the mixer makes me a little nervous and it takes a long time to get dried icing out of my fur. Please don’t ask me how I know this.) My responsibility is quality control and, since we eat all the rejects, I am very critical. 

If you have the time, please go to the auction site and look around. There are many great corgi related items available (and Christmas is coming!) While you are in the giving spirit, please hug a corgi. Unconditional love is a terrible thing to waste.

A rare Holstein-Corgi mix