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The Balrog Blog, Entry 3: The Nights

Just under two weeks ago, I brought home a tiny dog. Well, huge for its age, but you understand my meaning. I had made a decision to follow a set of exercises/ rules laid out in this PDF. Having been used to puppies doing a lot of indoors toiletising at first, I was dubious at first about its claims of “errorless house training”, but the reasoning in the book seemed really good to me and I decided to go for it.

As you know, I awoke the first morning to a… not so pleasant surprise. I was down. I was seriously frustrated. I had made all these preparations and had failed. So now what?

Over the past weeks since I got Balrog, I’ve made a lot of changes and adjustments and I’ve learned a lot about myself and about keeping a puppy on your own. I’ll go through individual elements in separate posts. Now, for the nights.

The second night, I decided to sleep next to Balrog’s enclosure so I could hear when he needed to go and pay attention to his nightly rhythms, etc. I put some cushions on the floor and wrapped myself in a blanket and tried to sleep.

There wasn’t much sleep to be had that night, though. The interesting thing that happened early on was that Vera, our ginger cat, came to visit! While Balrog slept, Vera first watched him from higher up, then jumped into his den and even drank his water!

Vera watching over

The Silent Watcher In The Night

Our largest worry adding a dog to the house was how Vera and Cthulhu would react. Seems that – at least in Vera’s case – that worry was unfounded. More on that later, though.

During the night, he got up a few times and did his business on the paper/ grass laid out. It really wasn’t ideal, however, as he’s pretty big for the smallish den I was able to make and didn’t quite keep himself off his own leavings, urine though they might be. Another element was the cleanup the next morning, which was nowhere near as bad as the first time, but still a nuisance when you have a well rested dog bounding around the living room. At the end of that day, I decided to try putting him in his cage with a locked door.

I’ve been hesitant about this, because the idea that puppies can hold it in all night just because they’re naturally disinclined to go to the toilet in their sleeping area was at odds with the idea that you have to take them out every half hour to an hour during the day. However, my dad and several others said that this is the done thing and it’s fine, so I gave it a go.

I slept with the sofa pulled right up close to the cage so he’d feel safe. He didn’t really notice me putting him into it as he was so sleepy when I picked him up. So that’s good! How’d that third night go? Purdy darn swell! He’s wake me up every now and then with a sort of “I’m alone and uncomfortable and need to move a bit and I’m not sure I’m okay with this locked cage-thing you’ve put me in” whine (I know. I speak Dog well) but didn’t get truly desperate for a wee until early next morning, at which point I made him go outside then popped him back in the cage for another hour or two of sleep (for myself).

Balrog in Cage

Resting in the cage

So I kept doing that. I slept on the sofa until this past sunday morning, moving it to its normal position on the wednesday. Mostly, these nights have been uneventful, apart from waking me up with a more intense whine when he really needed to go to the toilet around 6-7 am.

One of the nights, Vera was being a total asshole, though. Just as Balrog had started to settle after whining about being put to bed for a half hour, she jumped into the living room, meowing and being loud as she went to noisily drink his water. Of course he woke up and started his yammering all over again! It took a good half hour before he calmed down, after I’d moved the water out of sight of the cage. I was not a happy sofa-camper.

Me being my usual naked dinosaur self.

Me being my usual naked dinosaur self.

Camping isn’t a bad analogy, actually. I certainly didn’t see myself naked for a good four days after I got Balrog into the house, and four days after that too! If you know me, you know my preferred state is naked as a mole rat (I’m not quite that wrinkly, but nobody’s perfect. Give me thirty more years). However, when you’re sleeping on the sofa and might have to jump up to get the dog into the garden ASAP (As Soon As Possible) for ASAP (A Shit And Pee) and your duvet is too big to bring with you on the sofa AND it’s the middle of winter, you might as well just keep your clothes on and use the thickest blankets and throws you have. I didn’t bother with showering as I’m fortunate enough not to need showers every day in order to not smell. Also, who the hell am I supposed to smell nice for? That little Fecal Fountain, Balrog?! So yeah. It felt a bit like camping out for a week. I didn’t even enter my bedroom aside from getting fresh undies and socks a few times. Suffice it to say, the showers I did have felt wonderful.

Since the start of this week, I’ve been sleeping in my bed, which is situated right at the other end of the house, up one floor. The first night of that experiment, I was going to get up at four-fiveish to take him out, but he wasn’t making any noise, so I opted not to. As I came down in the morning, I found him wet on one side, however. He’d peed in his bed. This was an order of magnitude better than the very first night he was here, so I really didn’t mind all that much. I made a mental note to definitely get up in the middle of the night.

Well, that’s not always so easy, I missed out on the nighttime toiletising once more, but when I can get up around five, I get to sleep until about 9 in the morning after that with no accidents, so it’s all good! :D

Not all pups need to be taken out during the night. My mum and dad’s cocker spaniel Ronja never needed to. She’d happily go for seven or eight hours from the start, according to them. Balrog will need a bit more time. I’m going to try removing his water a couple of hours before bedtime tonight, though, to see if that helps. Either way, I’ll continue getting up at five for a few days, then try moving it a half hour, and incrementally get it up to a full night’s rest as his bladder and control grows.

So night time is not a bad time, and neither are mornings any more.

I will say this, though: Forget about sleeping in. It ain’t gonna happen. Sleeping in with a puppy is getting up at nine instead of seven. Every. Day. They have no idea what a weekend is, nor what a hangover is. Thank shit I decided on teetotalling for a year before I got Balrog (I’ll tell you about that later).

So that’s it about nights for now!

Puppy Diaries Entry 2: I Was Not Prepared

I thought I was prepared, but I was wrong.

What happened during the night? Nothing! From my perspective, at any rate. Balrog didn’t wake me during the night at all, so I came down, thinking “GREAT! I’ll just wake him, carry him out and let him do his bidniz. What a great start we’re off to!” But what met me was an enclosure with diarrhea EVERYWHERE. In the crate, on the toys, on the newspaper. Crusted and dried on Balrog. There were three “source puddles”, one in the bed, one on the floor and one, with an extra helping of pee, on the newspaper.Not the tiniest bit on the grassy patch. It was like a joke image. Next time some big accident happens, I’m taking pictures, because this is the side of things you rarely see on the web.

Balrog's space for the night. This is not how it looked when I got up that morning.

Balrog’s space for the night. This is not how it looked when I got up that morning.

I gave him a bath, took him out, nothing. Of course not, he’s empty. Then I discovered the vet ordered in the wrong food. It was adolescent food, not puppy food! I wonder if that’s got something to do with the tummy, in addition to the stress of moving house, separation from mum, etc. I couldn’t get his cordon cleaned out because he was wild with energy and even when he wasn’t, I didn’t dare take my eyes off him in case he went again.

At this point, alone in this situation, having had no time to eat or drink any sort of liquids, I think I hit “bottom”. I sat against the wall and just cried. I’m not generally a crier. Some movies do it, but aside from that, I haven’t properly cried more times than I can count on one hand in fifteen years. So why did I? I felt like I was letting down Balrog, like I had made a huge mistake. I care so much. All I ever want is to give him a good home with people who can make him comfortable and happy. The plan I was following was NOT working, and I felt completely overwhelmed there and then.

Thank His Noodliness Lizi was here to help. Once she arrived on the scene this morning, I was able to get some food and coffee in me, and even get the area cleaned out. I brightened up a bit. Liz even did me a massive favour and went out to get me a housetraining spray that teaches pups where they’re allowed to smell, as well as a pet-appropriate disinfectant and odour remover, for cleaning up stains. She got new food, proper food bowls and some extra chew toys, since he seems completely obsessed with hair and furniture for some reason. I don’t know if this is a breeder-taught habit, but it’s yet another thing I have to keep in mind.

Liz enjoying a well-deserved rest

Liz enjoying a well-deserved rest

We’ll get this sorted, though. I’ve clawed my way back up, thanks in large part to Marit – who was there on Google talk, my lovely dog-owning friends on Facebook – who’ve been very supportive and made a lot of good suggestions, and finally Liz – who was incredible and helped me get to grips with everything by taking care of everything that I couldn’t right then. She’s even furnished me with ready meals for the next few days, which is good as my body seems to forget telling me I’m hungry today and I don’t have time to MAKE food, which is usually my wont.

Playtime!

We’ve had plenty of lovely time together today. We’ve played a lot, he likes his new toys, we even practiced sitting for about two minutes before he got bored. I can see more clearly that things will be all right with the right adjustments, but I can also see it’s a lot more work than I expected, even though I expected it to be more than I thought… If you get me.

Puppies are cute and lovely and adorable and so much fun… But – like a child – that’s only 20% of the time. The rest of the time is hard work and constant watching in the early days. From now on, I’ll take photos of any large mishaps. Because you know what? 99.99999% of puppy photos are cute and clean and lovely, but that is NOT representative of what owning a puppy is like most of the time.

If you want a puppy because of internet photos, don’t get a puppy. Just don’t. I came into this with lots of reading material and lots of preparation and having raised a golden retriever with my family and lived with an adult one was I was little, and still it’s a LOT harder than I could ever have imagined. It probably wouldn’t be so hard on me if I didn’t care so much, but that’s not an option.

Balrog whining as he's put in his pen.

Balrog whining as he’s put in his pen.

So be warned.

In more positive news, he has finally started to accept the grass outside the house as his toilet. He now consistently goes for the grass to toilet both inside and out.

To let him get accustomed, I’ve let him kind of have the run of the kitchen/ livingroom area of the house, which is probably a mistake in hindsight. The cats have no “safe” path from the back door to the stairs in that arrangement, as they have to go through the kitchen. I made a day-time cordon at the sofa so he can’t access the areas the cats need to get around. He was an asshole about it for a bit but accepted it reasonably quickly.

Tonight, I’ll cordon him off again, but I’ll sleep on some cushions just outside the enclosure so I can hear him and he can hear and smell me. Hopefully, this will work. If that’s still not enough, we’ll see what I do.

 

EDIT: As an added bonus, someone made the connection between that shot and The Shining. Well, that set my Photoshop finger itchin’. The result:

Balrog was trying to get out of his den. The photo of him necessitated Photoshop.

Balrog was trying to get out of his den. The photo of him necessitated Photoshop.

Puppy Diaries, Entry 1: Coming Home

Sleepytime

I’m tired of everything you see about dogs online being “PUPPIES ARE SO CYOOOOOTE!!” These posts will be a warts’n’all account of getting a dog. I’ve always been of the opinion that people who want puppies are not ready to have one, because they’ve conditioned themselves to think of dogs in terms of a cute, fluffy creature from pictures and videos that never portray the reality of housetraining such a creature. Of course you also want the puppy, but your goal should be to get a DOG, which is the state it will end up in.

I have incredible love for all flora and fauna. I would never do anything to hurt (most) animals, be it human or dog. Some bugs get the short end of the stick with me. I apologise for that to the universe. What I mean to say is that while I’m open about the negatives in this diary, it’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I care SO MUCH that it matters to me beyond anything that people don’t go into owning pets blindly.

Balrog and Me - Day 1

Balrog and me, on the way home from the breeder on Day 1

After years of pining and thinking and discussing and pining some more, me and Marit finally decided to get a dog. We are at a place financially and personally where we feel we are ready to give it all it deserves and needs. Many breeds were discussed, but we finally settled on the Bernese Mountain Dog, a pretty durn big breed, but one that’s amiable, eager to please and fairly calm. On average, at any rate. Also, it’s a gorgeous breed that Marit has been in love with for years. In my family, I’ve had two golden retrievers growing up, so this isn’t new to me, but this is the first time we housetrain a pet on our own. Exciting times!

To prepare, we have a breed-specific book, two books on puppies and we’ve read several articles on the subject online. We’re going into this heavily armed with various theories and ideas on how puppies should/ could be raised.

Since Marit is working offshore right now, me and my good friend Liz picked Balrog – because that is his name now – up from the breeder in Montrose (always adopt from assured breeders or rescues. DO NOT ADOPT THROUGH GUMTREE OR NEWSPAPER ADS! Those breeders are almost exclusively speculative people who don’t really care about the dogs at all.).

Balrog in the window

Balrog in the window

On the way back, the only position in which he got comfy was in the window, stuffing his snout into the back, upper corner of the window with a slight crack open. This information has no bearing on anything. He’s just adorable.

Well, I say “just” adorable. That’s not quite true. More on that in a bit.

At home, he has a cage, or “crate” as people who feel “cage” denotes captivity. We’ve cordoned off most of it so it’s an appropriate size for a puppy. Part of the challenge ahead is to make him comfortable in the cage and to accept it as a bed for himself. I’m keeping nice things in it for him, and occasionally invite him in by offering food or treats or particular chew toys in there. Hopefully, this’ll work out. In the first night, he would go into it to sleep every now and then.

I tried to do what some have said and lure him into the cage with a treat or chew toy smeared with a puppy-formula squeezy cheese. Once he was preoccupied, I closed the door behind him and left him to it. Once, I left the room for a few minutes to train him to accept separation. He howled a bit, but that’s part of what you expect. When I came back, he’d defecated on his bed, on top of one of his toys. First accident! Crap. I was told this one thing I was following was an “errorless” plan. Still, only one, it’s fine.

Vera spies a Balrog

Vera spies a Balrog

After sleeping and after meals, I take him outside to go to toilet on some turf I’ve laid outside the house. I don’t have grass of my own, so I stole it from a public bit up the road. Yeah, I did. I want to teach him to go on grass and gravel, not asphalt and stone slabs.

Balrog loves grass, it appears. He just seems to have an aversion to peeing on it. I think the softness reminds him of a bed. He keeps going OFF the grass and THEN do his bidniz, which is annoying. I’m almost tempted to pee on it myself just to show him…

At the end of the day, I got tired of trying to get him to go on the grass, so I moved him to the public green just across the road. Now, I -know- you’re not supposed to get the dog near other dogs or their faeces until vaccines are done with, but it was late and I was frustrated. He did a tiny bit of smelling around and defecated almost immediately. SUCCESS!

With that bit of business over and done with, it was time to go to bed. I made a cardboard enclosure for him earlier in the evening with some grass in it, some newspaper and water. I knackered him out and let him fall asleep outside his cage, and then snuck off to bed.

Now, ABOUT BEDTIME…

There are loads of theories on this, and they all sound reasonable in and of themselves. Half of them are some variant of “sleep in the same room”, be it with the dog in your bedroom or you on the sofa in his “home room”, or even you in the bedroom with a finger on the cage so the puppy can wake you easily!

The other half, predictably, suggest that this only worsens separation anxiety and that – even on the first night – you should get them used to being alone at night and pronto. I know that my parents had trouble getting their spaniel, Ronja, to settle down alone after having her in their bedroom for several nights. She’s also very anxious about either of them leaving at any time of day, so I was keen to avoid that.*

I was going to set my alarm to get up two or three times during the night so I could check on him, but figured I would hear him from the bedroom with the doors open, should he get anxious and whiny. I wanted to leave him there as much as possible so I don’t give him the impression that he can just whine and I’ll be there, so I resolved that I’d be only too happy to get up and soothe him should he get seriously agitated. With that idea, I set my alarm for the next morning and went to sleep…

What happened in the night and the next morning? Stay tuned…

*Note that Ronja is a LOVELY dog with a fantastic personality in so many ways and my parents do a LOT of things right with her and their previous dogs. No dog owner is perfect, however, so I wanted to try to learn from what might have not worked that well for others.

Telling of Tales is back!

As an actor, there is a lot of downtime. That kind of stuff can get on your tits if you don’t have anything constructive to do with that time. I don’t want to fill my time with something that’s completely useless to me, however, so this is what I’ve done:

I’ve finally started Telling of Tales back up again!

“What’s Telling of Tales,” some may ask!

Telling of Tales is my weekly audiobook podcast where I read the short fiction I find around the web or that gets submitted to me. Some of the stories are classics, like the recent episode The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. Others are by up-and-coming authors or folk who just enjoy writing and who wrote something that appealed to me in some way.

I’m currently just trying to get the word out, so if you enjoy this sort of thing or know people who might, do check it out. I’m quite proud of some of my most recent recordings and have a really lovely story coming this friday.

Rageman-debate

A Calm and Rational Debate About Gun control? No way!

YES WAY!

My dear friend Kerry Bailey posted this on his Facebook a few days ago, in response to the “discussion” going on since the horrific Sandy Hook elementary school shooting:

This is the only thing I’m going to say about those who are engaging in the “gun debate” right now. I’ve lived half my life in Kentucky and experienced first-hand the hunting culture there, but I’ve lived the other half in Los Angeles where guns are mostly used to shoot other people. I think the biggest problem that the opposing sides in this debate have is a lack of empathy with the other side’s point of view. The anti-gun people should concede that some guns are useful (for food and sport) and the pro-gun people should admit that we really don’t need semi-automatic weapons available to every wack job on the street. This “they’re taking our guns!!” vs. “Get rid of all the guns!!” mentality isn’t getting us anywhere.

Most responses were in agreement, except one guy whose first line was “Leave my second amendment alone!” I thought he was joking, but he basically turned out to be exactly the kind of guy Kerry was talking about being annoyed with. That dude kept posting similar things for a while. But then there was Bill*. I was so enamoured with Bill’s ability to argue his side without getting insane about it, that I wanted to share it with the world**. What follows after the break is my discussion with him quoted verbatim*** with no further comment. I would love to hear your opinions on this, but please: Extend Bill the same courtesy he did me and be respectful and rational.

In response to this discussion, and because I’m so smart, I came up with a witty, clever slogan that isn’t stupid at all: Be a debater, not a debaser!

WARNING: It’s really long! Like, longer than my essay about Doctor Who.
Continue reading

Donate button added

I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I’ve created a Paypal donation button to allow people to donate to me if they would like to. I’ve resisted doing it for a long time, but I figure it can’t hurt.

Basically, I make very very little money right now, and every video I make takes three to six hours and I make maybe a pound off each of them in the long run. At this rate, I need to find some kind of paying work which would ultimately make it difficult for me to keep making videos as a lot of my spare time is used trying to find acting work, trying to finish my university work, etc etc.

I’m thinking I’ll probably do something to honor those who donate, especially those who donate substantial amounts. Maybe I’ll send them little thank-you notes with doodles or something. Or maybe one of my origami things from my videos.

I doubt I’ll actually get much money this way (if any), and certainly not the fifty-sixty quid a video I’d need to justify not taking the first job that comes along. I might as well try, though, and I might get some trickle funding out of it. If I don’t, at least I tried.


And without further ado, here’s the button: