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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Faux, Mine is a Fun Fur

Tomorrow, I will be 14 weeks old. That’s like ... 14 weeks in dog years!  Because I am approaching the big ONE-FOUR, I’m starting to feel a little sad and nostalgic. Where has all the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was celebrating my tenth. That makes Billy Collins’ poem “On Turning Ten” even more poignant.

I had a happy childhood. I was born at Kallista, the famous kennel run by Millie Williams. She is the author of The Watching series. Several of my kin have had starring roles in those stories over the years. I’ve even heard a rumor that one of my litter mates has a cameo role in the new book that is being published this year. (You can bet The Watching, a Corgi Christmas Tale is going to be on my Christmas list.)

My parents are Kallista Forever After “Simon” and Pemintenn Kallista Diablotin “Jasmine.” Simon is tall, red and handsome and Jasmine is a tricolor and she is a real beauty. 

(Hi Mom and Dad! I keep meaning to write or call, but I have been really busy lately. I have a woodworking project that has been driving me crazy.)

There were 6 puppies born in my litter, four of them tricolors like my mom. 

My sister Arianna is a red & white like my dad. I know that many dogs love the look of a fawn coat, the blondes of the corgi world, but with her pretty kohl eye lines, you can tell that Arianna is going to be a real hound killer when she grows up.

Occasionally, a corgi is born with an extra special fluffy coat. 

I think the most famous fawn corgi ever was Farrah Fawcett, and she was a fluffy.

While I’m on the topic of color, a sable coat is very chic on a corgi. 

If I lived in a big city and hung out with the opera crowd, I think I would want a sable coat. However, I live in a small town and the closest we get to opera is when Redeye plays at The Local Pub, so sable wouldn’t really work for me. You are probably asking yourself “What type of coat does The Literate Corgi wear?” Whenever I go anyplace, I cover myself in excitement!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sand In The Swim Trunks

I have had a really busy weekend, so I thought I would post three blogs to describe the highlights of each day.

Today, we went to the beach. It was my first time and it was great! I was able to run to my heart’s content. (The photograph doesn’t do me justice. I run like the wind!)

Anne Tyler once wrote that a corgi walks like it has sand in its swim trunks. That stuff ends up everywhere. 

Dateline: Douglas Michigan

On Saturday night, we went on a road trip to Douglas, Michigan. It is a great looking town with art galleries and nice restaurants. I was excited because I was going to meet Jack & Karen, a pair of alpha dogs from Washington D.C. Then it happened. I saw the name of one of the restaurants: Wild Dog Grille. I got very quiet and tried to look as docile as possible. When we got to Karen & Jack’s house, they explained that they don’t really grill dogs at that restaurant but I was still a bit shaken.

We were going to go to dinner, but I decided I wasn’t hungry. They didn’t eat at the Wild Dog Grille but at a place called Checkers instead. I’m not a political animal, but I thought “Wow, a town with art galleries and a restaurant named after Richard Nixon’s dog.” It turns out the restaurant’s name was Chequers, an English style pub.

Bee Stings, Pirates and Buried Treasure

Friday night was a new experience. When I came back inside from my stroll in the garden, my eyelid was all puffy and my nose was starting to look a little lopsided. I immediately thought the worst, that I was going to have to wear an eyepatch for the rest of my life. While that look might work for some dogs, I just couldn’t picture myself wearing one. We placed a frantic call to Dr. Heaton, my veterinarian, who was kind enough to take an after-hours call.

He diagnosed my problem over the phone: I must have been bitten by a bee while sniffing around the garden. Dr. Heaton said he treats a number of bee stings in cooler weather when bees aren’t as active. (Apparently, bees don’t like to be sniffed.) He recommended one half of a Benadryl to counter my reaction to the sting and reassured us that I wouldn’t have to wear the patch. 

After the call, I had a peanut butter and Benadryl snack and then started feeling drowsy.  There was an David Pogue article about cameras that I was interested in, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. So, I gathered some of my toys and drifted off to a fitful night’s sleep dreaming of pirates and buried treasure. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Story So Far

I was born in August with five litter mates, 1 boy and 4 girls. Ours was a large pack and every waking minute was playtime. However, we were raised with a sense of purpose and each of us were eager to leave our mark on the world. The first puppy to leave the den was my sister Goer, the most outgoing of our litter.  She joined a pack in St. Louis. I was the second to make my way in the world.

On Sunday, I woke early and had a bath. I was still toweling off when two new dogs arrived. I was immediately drawn to the alpha female. She and I played for a long time and I was adopted into their pack. I had my first long ride in a car, which was exciting at first but then I fell asleep. 

On Monday, I woke up in my new home, which I think I really enjoyed because I spent most of the day falling asleep so I could do it again. I also met my new veterinarian, who gave me a physical and checked my weight (8.2 pounds - Do my ears look big to you? I may have think about going on a diet.) He thought the long car ride might have worn me out. I was too tired to argue.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear. I found my inner corgi and was ready for adventure. I explored the kitchen and played with Super Cow. I’m a herding dog, so I have a thing for cows and sheep, but Super Cow is special. See how she appears to be flying? If I lay on her back and rest my head on hers, I’m soaring in no time. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

Welcome dear reader to my blog. I have just moved to a new home and thought I would use this blog to remain connected to my old pack and perhaps make some new friends too.

My name is Brontë. I was named after the authors Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, who wrote Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I thought that if I were going to write a blog, its name should be something special. So, after going through a long process of elimination, I decided on The Literate Corgi. That was a joke, because I don’t have a long process of elimination. You see, I am only 12 weeks old and I am not even house broken yet.

I did spend some time trying to come up with a great name for my blog. I decided against several of my ideas because they seemed obvious or redundant, like:
  • The Playful Corgi
  • Cute Puppy
  • All the World is a Chew Toy
  • Warm Fuzzies
  • Brontë, Queen of All She Surveys
Several of the really good names I considered were already taken. Examples included:
  • CorgiTales, which is a blog about Dockers, Nikita and Cody. I am a little sensitive about the subject of tails (you see, I’m a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and we are a tailless breed). Then again, I have a tendency to over-think things, unlike my sister Bad who just puts stuff in her mouth and figures things out as she goes.
  • Confessions of a Corgi is a blog about Winnie. Frankly, I’m glad this title was taken because I think that name would have inspired me to post some things that would have come back later to embarrass me during a job interview or something. Winnie is a beautiful tricolor corgi just like my mom.
  • A Million Shades of Gray. My vet says that all dogs see things in black and white, but I see shades of gray in everything. I have a confession to make. When I first saw this title I thought it read "A Million Shades of Gravy", which sounds like paradise to me. I may save that name to use when I start a company.
Still, some may ask why I chose to name my blog The Literate Corgi. That is a really good question, because I don’t read. Before you jump to any conclusions about the negative influence of technology on the youth of America or cite me as an example of the failure of our educational system, I feel compelled to point out two good reasons why I don’t read:
  • I’m only 12 weeks old.
  • I’m a dog; a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Besides, who has time to read these days? I don’t even read newspapers. Which is surprising, because I spend time going over several newspapers each day. I guess the only reason I can give for choosing The Literate Corgi is that I was named Brontë, though I like the idea that the title is aspirational.

My AKC registered name is Kallista Where Roses Grow Wild. My namesake, Emily Brontë, wrote a poem about love and friendship that starts with the line “Love is like a wild rose-briar...” So, as Juliet says in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “...What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet...”

Do you know what makes this really ironic? My new home is in a town named Montague...

Full Disclosure:
We wanted to write a fanciful blog from the perspective of a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. However, since I can neither read nor write, I assembled a creative team to help me put it together. Each of us is responsible for the part of the blog that falls within our area of expertise. While I make sure all the smells used are correct, I leave everything else to my ghost writers. I’m working on my communication skills, but our mutual vocabulary is still a bit limited. So, please let me know if there are any errors.

Full Disclosure

We wanted to write a fanciful blog from the perspective of a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. However, since I can neither read nor write, I assembled a creative team to help me put it together. Each of us is responsible for the part of the blog that falls within our area of expertise. While I make sure all the smells used are correct, I leave everything else to my ghost writers. I’m working on my communication skills, but our mutual vocabulary is still a bit limited. So, please let me know if there are any errors.

This was originally included as part of the post "A Rose by Any Other Name." Later, I published it as a separate post so that it would be easier to reference.