Warmth has returned to the Gulf Coast. I’m not sure what I think about that. We went from freezing to needing the air conditioner, which is hardly fair! Still, its nice to be outside when the no-see-um gnats aren’t dining upon us. Unfortunately, they like to bite me and I react with massive welts and intense itching. Hydrocortisone cream and allergy pills are my friends this week. I also need to get my summertime fragrance purchased and starting wearing it…good old Sportsman’s Repel. If the gnats are devouring us, the mosquitoes will soon join in on the buffet known as our skin.
On a happier note than gnats ever bring, there is the issue of Sissy’s barking. I was getting desperate as her choruses seemed to go on longer and longer every day. Here, we’re not close enough that it really gets on anyone’s nerves too bad, mostly because they aren’t forced to hear her at night usually, but it was making GM crazy with her refusal to ever shut up. The barking starts making him edgy fairly quickly, whereas I can usually tune it out unless I’m stressed from some other source at the same time. I guess that is a result of decades of “mom-training.” Still, it was obvious that she was going to alienate anyone who was too terribly close with her persistent yap yap-yap, yap, yap-yap-yap…
So, via Ebay, I bought a shock collar that was to produce a tone, then progressively bigger zaps until she stopped for at least two minutes. My daughter was sure that it would soon have to deliver a fatal dose to her, and no one thought that it would do anything but turn her yaps into a series of “yap, yap-yap, OWWWWWWWWWL, yap, yap, yap….OWWWWWL” which would surely be worse. But, I got the collar at a bargain price through some lucky providence (under $10 including shipping and handling.) It was coming to me straight from Asia, and I already knew, things coming from Asia are usually shipped on a slow boat.
I got a surprise. It arrived today, and we duly installed the battery (included) and adjusted the collar to fit Sissy’s neck. It didn’t seem to be working. We heard no tone, and the LED light didn’t seem to light up. We double checked to make sure the battery was inserted correctly and then it was determined that a test was in order. Keep in mind, there are three men and myself puzzling over this piece of cheap equipment. One of the guys yapped into a small hole on one end, and sure enough…the LED light lit up and we heard a tone. Next, he places the electrode points on GM’s arm and barks again, zapping GM appropriately. GM was thrilled and quickly trained to steer away from yapping men armed with zapping anti-bark collars, so we can safely say that it accomplished SOMETHING, right?
SO back on to Sissy goes the collar, which has been adjusted for a snugger fit. She barks, nothing happens. We know the collar works, but it seems that her barks (she’s a 25 lb. feist) aren’t loud enough for this anti-bark collar to notice them. They are loud enough to annoy GM into fits of aggravation and me into pounding headaches, but not to activate this collar?
Sighing, and thinking that ‘s what I get for Ebay bargains…we headed into town to get groceries. A bit over an hour later, we return home to a silent Sissy. I’m in shock, she normally starts yapping before we can get out of the mini van and continues for 45 minutes after we’ve been home. She remains silent, without so much as a whimper. We make a fuss over her, and she contentedly heads into her dog house for an afternoon nap…in silence. The nuisance barking has nearly stopped already. Even with a less-than-reliable collar! She did have some short (and quieter) sessions of yapping at various things such as the garbage truck, school bus, etc., when the other dogs barked…but she didn’t continue for 15 minutes after all of the other dogs are back into nap mode.
Why didn’t I do this 6 months ago?????
I know why. I thought it was “cruel” to use an automatic shock collar to stop her nuisance barking. It wasn’t until we were in a situation where it was quite obvious that if we were ever in a situation with neighbors close by, we could quickly end up being forced to move or have her put to sleep, and that was definitely cruel! We had to do something, and continued “kindness” would be potentially fatal for Sissy. None of the traditional training methods for the nuisance barking had ever even made an impression on her, and often, we’d been forced to banish her because of the continual barking and refusal to stop. That has gone on for years, and it could have been stopped in less than an hour with one of these collars!
Not to say that Sissy is a bad dog, a stupid dog, or an intractable one. Her barking is partially for attention, even though it had the opposite effect usually. Her unknown history before she joined our little family probably set the stage for her bad habit, and our previous location had not let it be a problem at home before. Her nuisance barking had only been noticeable when we took her into public, and it had resulted in her usually being left behind because nothing could induce her to behave appropriately. Obviously, all that did was let the problem continue.
All in all, just like I had to revise my opinion of the use of crates for training, I now have to revise my opinion of automatic anti-bark collars for nuisance barkers. Used appropriately, an anti-bark collar can get a situation in hand when nothing else works. In Sissy’s case, she may realize that it is the collar that does it, but even if I have to use that collar to convince her to be quiet, I consider it a success! NOTHING has ever stopped her barking before, except a command to do something (Like sit, go in your house, etc. and that only worked at home) and then it only worked for a few seconds. I have never used one of the collars that sprays citronella, having suspicions that Sissy would ignore it, just as she ignored a spray bottle of water when in a barking frenzy. I assumed that if she could ignore a steady stream of water into her face, she would ignore an unpleasant aroma too. For many dogs, the citronella spraying collars are effective, and I’d definitely try those on a smaller dog first, as I’m still leery of even the small electrical zap the collar delivers on the idea of a toy dog receiving it.
My cheap collar is not consistent at the tone/zap delivery after a barking session starts, but it does eventually activate it. That eventual activation seems to be effective in her case, and for a change, I’m not the “bad guy” delivering punishment yet again. In a way, I really like that part! It isn’t any fun to always be the disciplinarian.
So with silence, we are also enjoying spring here in Mississippi. I don’t know what you have noticed at the grocery store, but I’ve noted skyrocketing prices. Like today, if I wanted a bell pepper, they were $2.44 EACH! I used to let my kids eat bell peppers like apples, but that was an incredible price. So, I have several packets of heirloom tomatoes and pepper seeds, along with those seed starting “greenhouses”. I’ve arranged to “share crop” some garden space, and it is time to start planting those seeds. Actually, it’s about a month past time, so hopefully they will get off to a good start.
I hope that my excursion into heirloom gardening goes well, and that my helpers in the project remain helpers through the entire season. We’re months away from the eating portion of the gardening project, and remembering the story of the Little Red Hen and her bread…yeah, enthusiasm can quickly wane before the eating starts. It would help if we don’t have the scorcher of a summer that it is looking suspiciously like we’re apt to get. Temperatures in the upper 70s in February don’t bode well for hurricane season OR for weather in July, August, and September. The sooner that Gulf of Mexico begins to heat up, the more likely it is to feed another whopper storm. I don’t ever want to go through another Katrina summer!
My grumping over everything is hopefully over. I am normally always optimistic, but the past month has been tough for me, and maintaining my optimism has not been easy. Short tempers breed short tempers, so GM obviously isn’t exactly the happiest camper either when my optimism goes on vacation. Maybe it goes over to that old cliche’…”When Mama isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy…” I’m putting more effort into maintaining my personal tranquility, and renewing my commitment to daily meditation too. It’s funny, when I need that meditation the most, is when I’m most likely to abandon it as “unhelpful” and “unimportant.” It is important, and it does help, especially when things are not going well. (That inner child is now pouting and demanding to know whether meditation will get rid of this horrible itching from the gnat bites!)