Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tornado drill!

We had been concerned that perhaps we had socialized Dempsey a little too well to scary stimuli like tornado sirens and thunder. Last night, our fears came true.

Dempsey's sister Angel was visiting, and Dempsey and Angel had just finished dinner and were busy playing chase around the house, completely oblivious to the loud thunder outside -- yea! -- as well as to the tornado siren that went off.
Doreen turned on the TV to find out what was happening. There were reports of golf-ball size hail about two miles from our house, and the newscaster said that our house was in the most dangerous area, near the edge of the cell where tornados were most likely to develop.

It was time to put some the puppies' skills to the test! The first skill is what we call the "really reliable recall." The idea here is that you want the puppy to come to you no matter what, and we train for it by giving the puppies really yummy, special treats, followed by 20 seconds of uninterrupted praise. What we want the puppies to learn is that coming when called is going to be the highlight of their day, the best thing that can possibly happen.

And it worked! More or less. Both Dempsey and Angel stopped chasing each other and immediately came running over to us to collect their special treats. However, we were not able to give them 20 seconds of praise, because the best thing that can possibly happen to a puppy is getting the very special treat, and then immediately returning to playtime with another puppy.
We tried again -- same result. The thunder was getting ominously loud, so we knew we had to use the nuclear option, the only thing in the world that is more interesting to a puppy than yummy treats and another puppy. That is, we had to use the cat.
Doreen picked Bailey up from her bed. Bailey was not happy about being awakened only 19 hours into her 20-hour nap, and she meowed loudly in protest. This got the puppies' attention; they stopped their chase and dashed over to follow Doreen to the basement as she carried Bailey.
I followed the four of them downstairs, and quickly snapped on the leashes. I was in a hurry, because Bailey was getting very nervous, and our basement is unfinished and quite emphatically not puppy-proofed. In my haste, I put Angel's leash on Dempsey, and Dempsey's leash on Angel.
Dempsey started pulling me hard to the left, while Angel, ominously, began sniffing the floor very intently. We all knew what this meant, but of course with the storm and possibly a tornado outside, we couldn't take the poor girl outside to the bathroom. While she was busy pooping on the concrete, I dropped her leash and tied Dempsey to a post. When Angel was done, I brought her to another nearby post, and tied her to that.

I thought I finally had the dogs under control, until I noticed Dempsey was suspiciously quiet. The reason: He had been chewing up Angel's leash. Aargh!

I had to get the puppies' attention, but in our rush we hadn't brought any toys. Doreen had just finished putting Bailey in her kennel and was now busy hooking up the spare TV so we could follow the storm. While Doreen worked, I tried making funny barnyard-animal noises and shadow puppets to entertain the puppies. I don't know why I even thought to try that, except that I had been thinking about Laura Ingalls Wilder earlier that night. I can report that today's dogs do not find shadow puppets to be even remotely amusing, even if I can do a pretty good shadow bunny.

Luckily, we both had our treat bags with us. We started looking around for objects to practice retrieve. It's a basement, after all, the graveyard for everything we don't use but might possibly need someday: a chain saw, a blowtorch, a 3x6 piece of Sheetrock. All pretty heavy, alas.

We looked around some more and found a giant jug of Drano Max from Costco and a bottle of Bug Getta Slug and Snail Killa. Hey honey, has Dempsey ever practiced retrieving dangerous poisons or pesticides?

We kept looking and found a VHS tape of Richard Simmons, a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and the "inspirational" poster that human resources gave to everyone one year for Christmas instead of a bonus. Since we got most of Dempsey's retrieve objects at the dollar store, we're already worried that we're teaching him to retrieve only cheap, tacky things. No, inspirational posters will not do.

By this time, Dempsey had coiled himself around the post and was barking, and Angel had pulled so hard her collar came off. Bailey was still howling. And, of course, the aroma of freshly laid puppy poop was filling the room.

I decided I had to risk life and limb to run upstairs for some emergency supplies: a bag for the poop; extra treats, chew toys, and water for the dogs; a bed for the cat; an aromatherapy candle for Doreen (did I mention the pervasive aroma of dog poop?); and a bottle of beer for me. It was worth the risk. Within five minutes, everybody was a happy camper.

I think we now know what we need to add to our emergency kit in the basement.


  1. Too funny....every emergency kit should have a beer, or two!

    It was good to see you all on Saturday.

    Rosie and of course, Loti the Wonder Dog

  2. Wow! What a crazy night you had! But a good experience for the pups...I think?