Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Mastiff's Best Friend

I have been excessively lax in my writing of 1,000 words a day. Like most habits I try to build, it went strong for about a month then collapsed under the weight of life. It is still a goal, however, and I do intend to try to move back toward it. I have different distractions now than I did a month ago. First and most important, Mira!

Mira is two months old as of Sunday. I am fairly convinced that she is the best puppy ever. As they say, a parent’s delusions of their child’s beauty, intelligence, personality, etc. is what keeps us from drowning them at birth. Ha ha. Mira is a great dog for being as young as she is, though. She isn’t housebroken yet, but we are working on it. On the other hand, she likes to stay close, cuddle and I am breaking her of her biting habit finally. For all that I have been working on it for just a week, it was a long week of frustrating biting whenever she wanted to play.

If you’re new to the discussion, Mira is a mastiff, (1/2 English, 1/4 Brazilian Fila, 1/4 Newfoundland). If you ever decide to raise one, throw out everything you think you know about dog training and start researching. (I recommend, where everyone has already asked every question you can think of.) Some things remain the same, but they have a peculiar temperament that requires specific behaviors from their owners. Mira’s biting habit is a perfect example.

I tried a firm voice, repeating “No.” to her. No luck. Mastiff’s, in spite of their strong desire to please their owner, don’t respond well to negativity and they’re stubborn. The more you tell her not to do something, the more she tries to do it. I can out-stubborn her, but it’s easier to distract her. When it came to biting I read a suggestion from someone who recommending yelping and walking away so the puppy would know that if she bites, playtime was over. I didn’t go so far as to walk away, since often the biting was taking place in my lap. I did start saying “Oww” in a loud, high-pitched voice every time Mira bites me. She doesn’t like it, and I think she understands that the sound means it hurts when she bites. She just wants to play, without hurting anyone. So she’s been biting less and less and stops quickly when I start saying “Oww.” She will try a couple times after the first time, as if to test me, but I repeat the sound and she stops. It did result in more puppy kisses though, but I am not going to make the effort to train that one out of her.

One of the best parts so far is Mira’s response to crate training. I didn’t actually have to make any effort to teach her. My mom, who is understandably in love with her, took her to a luncheon she had with several of her friends. On the car ride she put Mira in the dog carrier. When I was preparing to stop sleeping on the floor with the puppy, I put the carrier next to my bed. About halfway through the night I grew tired of being eaten during “playtime,” slipped her into the kennel and closed the door. She didn’t complain, just curled up and went to sleep. She still gets me up about 5 am, but that’s a blessing compared to every couple hours or so. The only real problem is the fact that she’s going to outgrow that carrier REALLY fast. There’s a good chance she’ll be 30 pounds by the end of the month. I haven’t weighed her this week, but she’s definitely getting harder to carry around. Great exercise though, since we don’t let her go up and down our main stairwell by herself due to it being hard on her joints. We will see how I feel about that when she weighs over 90 pounds this winter.
The Brazilian Fila mastiff is the lightest of the three breeds Mira is descended from. She is only a quarter Fila though. I figure she will have a final weight ranging between 90 to 200 pounds. The other two breeds are true giants, however, so it is likely she will end up in the middle of that range. I am ok with that. People keep pointing out that her food is going to be somewhat expensive and her poop huge. Not such a big deal to me. I want a big dog. She is going to be perfect for me. I wish I could spend more time with her, though. That will get easier when she is housebroken and older, however. My work allows people to bring their dogs on Fridays.

If you can’t tell, I am very happy to have my puppy. She will be the first dog I have raised all on my own. So far she is everything good about a mastiff without any of the socialization problems they sometimes have, particularly the Brazilian Fila. I think it helps that we have had a lot of company in and out since I got her, and she’s been on a couple of social visits and she’s yet to have an adverse reaction to anyone. She always comes back to be close to me, though, which is exactly what I expected from the reading I have done.

Beyond spending as much time with Mira as I can to strengthen our bond, I just finished our final performances of The Music Man. I played Charlie Cowell, the antagonist, and made the most of it. Of course, singer and dancer that I am, I somehow was cast in the only pure acting role. I did my part and did it well, so no one can complain if I express a little disappointment. The role became one of things that “Is what it is” rather than any source of pleasure, really. Then again, I don’t really act for the love of acting. I enjoy meeting people, the validation of those who appreciate my talents, and having my time full of something more than sitting in my apartment. I was nervous less in this production than I ever have been. I just did my part and knew I would do it better and better each time. Whether we had 250 or 450 people in the audience, it was simply what I had committed to doing in the moment. So I did it. Charlie Cowell was a slimy, arrogant jerk, but he was still trying to do the right thing. You have to pity him a little, he was trying to protect people from a con man and got shafted due to poor circumstance. Any other town and he would have been a hero. That is how I saw him, so that was how I played him. It is hard to imagine we haven’t all felt that way at some point.

The play is over now and I am excited to see what I do with the time I have free. I will be starring in a short film written by a local come the first week of August and a family of actors from Music Man asked me to play a British character named Froggy in a comedy called the “The Foreigner.” The rehearsals and timing of the later have yet to be determined. Beyond those two things, I am done with theatre for a while. I have things of my own to take care of. Like Mira! That may mean saying no to the people who want to cast me as Orson Wells in a radio play rendition of War of the Worlds. Well, knowing how to say no is just as important to one’s happiness as saying yes.

Forty-five minutes before I get to head home to my puppy! Always exciting.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


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