Stella totally pwned the first night of her new obedience class

Stella is back in obedience class, this time taking one for dogs 10-24 months old called Manners Matter. It builds on the skills we learned in STAR Puppy and teaches different ways to get our dogs to focus on us and to stop pulling on their leashes, barking, jumping, etc.

The first class was Tuesday, and after the introduction we were told to make a large circle with our dogs and get ready to practice having them focus only on us for 10 seconds. I immediately got nervous and expected Stella to make a fool out of me, since in past classes most of the other dogs completed their tasks effortlessly while Stella’s tried to run around the room like a crazy asshole.

But I’ll be damned, I got her attention and said “Watch me!” and that little turd looked me dead in the eyes for 10 seconds! So I gave her the treat, and we did it again. I was afraid the first time was a fluke, but no—she focused on me again! We tried a few more times and occasionally another dog would bark and break her gaze, but for the most part she focused on me for as long as I’d ask her to (as long as it wasn’t more than 10 seconds or so).

The second skill we practiced was teaching our dogs that patience rewards you and demanding what you want means you get nothing (so basically the opposite of real life). I had to hold a treat in my hand and let her smell it, but she couldn’t have it until she moved her head back away from my hand and the treat. She could nudge and lick my hand, but as soon as she tried to use her teeth or if she touched my hand with her paw I had to put my hand behind my back and say “Nope!”

Knowing how impatient Stella is I figured she would not be on board with this patience exercise, but she surprised me again. She put her paw on my hand twice, but that’s it—the third time, and every subsequent time, she moved her head back after only a few seconds and waited for me to give her the treat.

I was so excited I yelled “Holy shit, Stella, you are so smart!” and the couple with two young kids and a German Shepherd glared at me. Their dog was whining and barking the whole time and had to have a barrier between it and the other dogs so I think they were already in a bad mood. Sorry guys, I was just celebrating how smart my shelter dog is.

No joke, after nine weeks of classes where Stella was always one of the worst-behaved dogs, this time she was the best. She got a little restless in the last five minutes of class, but otherwise she was completely on-point. If I could have high-fived her furry little paw and yelled “SUCK IT HATERS!” I totally would have. Actually, that might be a trick I try to teach her.

Things are getting better all the time

Stella has been calming down some, at least during the day, which means that she isn’t having to be crated all day long while I’m working. (For those not familiar with my situation: I work from home, but I had been crating her because it is impossible to work and monitor a puppy’s every move.)

Lately she’s been putting herself in her crate after our morning walks, but since she puts herself in there I leave the door open and she mostly just naps until around lunchtime. In the afternoon she gets a bit restless, but I only put her back in her crate now if she does the whole inside/outside/inside/outside thing too frequently. She doesn’t quite understand yet that mama has to work and can’t be interrupted every five minutes to let her out or in.

But while she had been crated the whole time I was working with a break every couple hours, she’s now only being crated maybe half the day, if even that. She loves her crate, though, which makes me feel like we’ve done the crate-training thing right.

Last weekend my mom came to visit, and as soon as she left (like, within hours) we noticed BK hanging out on the dining room table while Stella was out in the living room. And then later she sat on the coffee table in the living room and the two of them touched noses.

This doesn’t sound like much, but ever since we adopted Stella, BK has confined herself to her 7-foot-tall cat tree or one of the spare bedrooms upstairs. Up until last weekend she made sure that the only time she was on the main floor of the house and out of her cat tree was when Stella was safely contained in her crate.

BK and Stella

But ever since last weekend, BK has been spending more and more time out and about while Stella’s roamed free. There have been several instances where BK has been sitting on the coffee table in the living room and Stella has walked up, smelled her face and then walked away without incident. Every once in a while BK will meow when she sees Stella walking near her, but Stella hasn’t chased or provoked her and BK hasn’t swatted at her. And that actually surprises me, since Gordo punches her in the face every time she’s within arm’s reach of him.

I have no idea what changed. It’s like all of a sudden BK remembered she’s this giant, majestic cat who rules the house. And without any fanfare, she returned to us.

I’m not going to question it, though I do continue to marvel at how each cat interacts differently with Stella.

Joy

There’s this thing Stella does when she gets really excited. She jumps in the air, all four paws coming off the ground, and spins. She runs in front of me to do it, and looks back to make sure I’m watching. To make sure I see how happy she is.

When we first got her she used to do this at mealtime. But I guess now she’s figured out that she’s going to get fed twice a day no matter what, so it’s not that exciting anymore. At least not enough to warrant a goat jump.

But she does it for walks. She knows now in the morning that when I walk past her crate to grab my glasses, it’s almost time. She knows when I’ve put my glasses on and let her out of her crate we’re about to go for a walk. She’ll wiggle her butt when I ask her to sit before leaving the crate; it’s almost too much for her to handle. And then she’ll goat-hop out of the bedroom in front of me, looking back and smiling, making sure I see how excited and happy she is.

She’ll lead me to her leash, in case I forget where it is, and if I walk past it into the kitchen she’ll follow me, hopping some more. She smiles so much that we’ve started calling her Smiley Cyrus. With her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, the nickname fits. I hope the butt-wiggling isn’t her version of twerking, though.

She’s such a happy dog. I ask Ian a lot if he thinks that she loves me, since I’m always the one enforcing the rules and laying down the law. But every morning when it’s time for a walk and she looks at me with pure joy in her eyes, hopping and spinning and smiling at me, I’m pretty sure she does.

I fell in love with New York City

A couple weeks ago I took my first trip to New York City. I was going for a work conference in the middle of the week, but since I’d never been before I decided to take some time to explore the city on my own before I had to get down to business. Despite having grown up in a big city, I was nervous about going alone. New York sounded daunting, and while I like spending time by myself I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d feel spending three days alone in a city I’d never visited before.

NYC

As it turns out, I was fine. I was better than fine. The thing that struck me most about New York was that it’s an amazingly large city, but it was so easy to be and feel anonymous there. Every day I was surrounded by a sea of people, but I felt more invisible than I’d felt in years.

I loved that.

Once I figured out the subway system, I felt like I could do anything. Unfortunately, I only had a few days to myself, so I hit some highlights. I went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum; had brunch on Bleecker Street; walked the High Line; had some drinks at a cool bar called Brass Monkey where a guy bought me a drink because I was “nice” (and didn’t try to harass me!); visited Grand Central Station—specifically for the Apple Store but I also had a Magnolia cupcake while I was there; almost had a panic attack walking through the throngs of people in Times Square; visited the American Museum of Natural History; walked miles and miles through Central Park; and did a ton of walking around the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village and SoHo. I ate some great pizza, awesome bagels and one really amazing corned beef sandwich.

Grand Central Station was crazy

I can’t believe I waited so long to visit, and I definitely want to go back. There is something about that city… I can’t put my finger on it, but now I know why everyone is so enamored with it. I was surrounded by so many people, but I was completely in my own world. It was so freeing. I was alone, but I never felt lonely.