Monday, December 26, 2011

Magic Shrimp

I took the family to the stables this morning to feed the horses. It's only three horses currently in the stable so it's not a very time consuming job. There's a certain zen about being around feeding horses, the noise of horses munching on hay is the most soothing sound I know of.

After a lazy day watching the wind and snow outside the windows, me and Bella hit a real breakthrough in our hind leg pivot training. We had tiger shrimp for dinner and with bits and pieces left Bella was hard at work earning her bonus meal. I have been struggling to get her to just move her hind end and there was a pattern emerging the past few days. Tonight she moved without me moving and I ended the session after an almost 180 degree turn which was a solid jackpot moment for her. Sometimes a different treat can make all the difference!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Christmas Day is a day of perfect laziness. My fiancé's daughter came today and we decided to go out into the snow with the two children. I harnessed Bella in front of my son's infant sleigh. I had to help her pull at first but once she got into it she just started running with him. It was a lot of fun and Bella certainly managed to burn off some of her excess energy.

My only problem was jealousy! I kept thinking I should get a larger dog so it could pull me. Later tonight the solution dawned on me, I need to buy a harness for my horse for some horse powered winter skiing!

Of course, Bella has her own ideas about the sanity of that plan. AKA the look as seen below.

Bella's Stare

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Merry Christmas everybody!


In Iceland we celebrate Christmas on the 24th, this is the first year me and my family are staying in our own home and it's going to be a wonderful night. Maybe me and Bella will sneak out and walk to the stables late tonight once it's all finished.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Tricks Continue

I've been putting more effort into the pivot training with Bella the past few days. I'm rather impatient myself so after the initial success which turned into a complete status quo I've been fighting to remain enthusiastic and optimistic about it. As impatient as I am I make up for it by being extremely stubborn. No matter how frustrated about the lack of progress I can get I refuse to give up no matter how much I want to.

However I do believe that me and Bella are now getting to a place where the sideways movements are not just a fluke. I did change the pedestal from a box to a thick book so I have seen a slight setback but not by a lot and we're getting back to where we were. She has offered me a few times in a row some hind leg movement tonight so I'm optimistic again.

Inbetween she lies down and doesn't even twitch as she stares at me wondering why I'm not throwing her treats, or she tries to eat the book. Another thing is the occasional jumping up on me which is a result of me being too slow a few times. That and running off to find something to bring me.

Bella's picking up trick proved to be convenient for me last weekend when we came home and realized that my son's sock was missing. I took Bella with me to search for it as I knew it was somewhere on the way from the car to our doorstep and when I found it I made her pick it up for me and carry it inside. She was so proud. Hurray for useful dog tricks!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Things They Put Up With

There is always certain insanity surrounding the holidays. When I was a teenager I had grown out of the children's fascination with gifts and had a rough several years where I thought December was one of the worst times of year. All the pressure to be happy when I wasn't.

Lately I've come almost a full circle since being a child. The holidays stopped being the enemy and I started realising I could have December however I wanted it to be. If I truly wanted to I could stay at home and eat frozen pizza. How fun is that...? Instead I figured I could do all sorts of bizarre out-of-the-ordinary things for one month and everybody thinks it's just great.

Ugly sweaters, santa hats and tacky ornaments are all okay in December and of course the family dog can't avoid it.


Bella has a santa hat and this year I bought her a bell collar that makes her sound like one of santa's reindeers. Wearing the full dress we went to a pet shop yesterday and received a christmas gift from them. Today my fiancé's daughter celebrated her birthday with us and she was excited to dress the dog up (she herself was dressed up like Snow White, not my ideal role model for her but oh well!). I vetoed the hat for Bella as she doesn't really like it and I only make her put up with it for a short amount of time. The reindeer bells however are just fine!

Now the apartment is clean and all gifts have been bought and giftwrapped so next week promises to offer plenty of walks and relaxation.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bella's Big Day

My one eyed "Discount Dog" turned two last Wednesday on the 14th of December.

Bella Two Years Old

She has been with us for a year and a half already and I am incredibly happy and thankful for having gotten pretty much everything I wanted in a dog in Bella. Here's to many more adventures and several other birthdays! We're just warming up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Word of the Month is Busy

It's 13th of December already and I have no idea where time has gone! It's incredible how time seems to speed up the older I get.

We will be hosting a small birthday party for my fiancé's daughter next weekend so this week is planned for cleaning the apartment. Not to mention buying presents for the aforementioned daughter, one for her birthday and one for Christmas. It's difficult enough finding a single one!

Bella has been a little neglected lately and when we did go out to the stables two days ago she nearly got herself beaten up by my dog-savvy horse. I'm not sure if it's her being absent minded or too focused but she ran in front of him without taking a look and without hesitating or batting an eyelid he swiped his hoof and hit her in the head. It was a very soft blow since I had started pulling her back and my horse wasn't acting out of aggression. It was more like swatting a fly away. I don't think he takes my terrier very seriously (much like my fiancé then).

Anyway, I didn't get to go out for a walk with Bella yesterday as I wound up sicker and stayed at home from work. Then onight when I was wrapping up my to-do list I saw how Bella was lying in front of the door to the hallway and looked at me with her one eye as if she was the world's biggest victim. My heart broke then and I threw the wet laundry into my fiancé's arms and told him I had to take her outside just for a short walk.

As usual, going out late at night makes everything I tend to get absorbed in and think matters the most, it's all forgotten. We started running like idiots and then I went farther than I had planned and to where I could allow Bella to run loose.

Life's not bad. Tomorrow it's the stables again and this time make sure my animals don't try to hurt one another. My horse is unshod so I have actually been taking him on short walks for his own sanity. I would like to allow Bella to enjoy those as well but won't if she means to learn a lesson about respect for the big guy the painful way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lazy Evenings

I am slowly getting used to work during the day. I am now fighting to stay awake and it's not that late. Bella has been the biggest worry of mine with those new work hours but my fiancé who has very flexible work hours has been going home for her. My plan is to allocate some walking time before work and soon after coming back home. Tonight we walked to the stables and fed the horses. The photos were horrible since the flash died on me.

Here's one shot from yesterday. I didn't catch Bella when she was lying on top of the dog. She's been bringing me an entire zoo in hopes of earning herself candy for cleaning up for me. She looooooves bringing me stuffed toys because she loves them herself. She got lucky when the soon-to-be seven year old daughter of my fiancé brought a few toys from her room declaring that there just wasn't enough space for them there. Bella was quick to take advantage of that and seems to enjoy the company of the stuffed toys. Incidentally, that dog came with a nametag... her name is Belle.

My problem is that I think the only space available for the stuffed toys is the kid's room! While I figure that dilemma out they've been chilling in the sofa. If they end up somewhere else Bella is quick to locate them and bring them back to me. Ah... the joys of training a dog that really enjoys it and constantly tries to engage me into "training her"!

Even toy stealing couch dogs get tired. This picture sums up how I am feeling tonight. Time for bed!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Horses and Agility

Today was one of my absolute favorite days of the year, the day my horse returns to the stables! I took Bella and the kids by foot, I forgot to take the time but it's pretty much just crossing one street and we're there.

Bella was very curious and cautious to begin with. She wasn't sure how to react and all the foreign smells were exciting. The horses were interesting as well, interesting enough to watch and assess.

Calm is what the mood was with the horses. Bella's behaviour was so good that they weren't bothered at all by her. The dark bay one is my Nökkvi, or Beast as I often call him. He is FAT FAT FAT.

Bella was very very curious! The horses were so calm that she let curiosity take over and went for a sniff of those big guys. It was all very exciting and different.

In the end she didn't care so much and went sniffing around in case she'd find something edible. The horses didn't pay her much attention, they probably didn't take her very seriously.

It was fun to see and of course I'm over the moon that my fuzzfaced horse is back. I have no idea how to get a saddle on him since he's FAT.

In the evening me and Bella went for our first open agility class. It was somewhat of an experience... it started so well and then Bella charged across the riding area we train in to where an Icelandic Sheepdog and an Australian Sheepdog were training. She ran half the course with the Icelandic one and after that first incident she must have charged across two or three more times to rendezvous with the Australian Sheepdog. Barking and behaving like an idiot (in my books). Oh the shame. Things would go really well and then she was off like a rocket.
We're not going to give up though, maybe someday she will make me proud when it comes to behaviour among other dogs. Even if it will be only once I will die happy!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Obedience Test

Last Thursday marked the final Clicker-Obedience class. Me and Bella were unfortunate enough to miss three out of six, due to work, Berlin and me being sick. The last class was a series of a few tests and I was doubtful I should show up. I knew I wasn't fully prepared and wouldn't pass all of the tests but this is just for fun so I wasn't going to bail out with a bad excuse.

Bella was really quite good. We passed most of the tests and it was fun. Perhaps the biggest test we are starting to pass most of the time now is the "let's not bark at other dogs all the time if they come close" test. It wasn't a part of this little trial except in the sense that Bella's attention is on me rather than the other scary dogs.

It was a fun night and a nice pressure to do some small exercises as a part of a test to create a better motivation to pass. I'm very pleased with the course and am going to continue with most of the exercises at home. I also want to finish the hind end awareness exercise. I think that's one exercise that will be very useful if we master it. I am getting there slowly, I have been stuck with getting her to realise what the hell she is supposed to do while on the box but during the test she has a small breakthrough and I am working on continuing from there now.

In other news, my horse is coming tomorrow! Yes, I have a horse and he has now had over a year and a half off due to my pregnancy. I am very excited by this, it will be very interesting to see how Bella reacts to him. I probably should be more worried about how my horse reacts to her, he learnt a few years ago how to scare and beat up dogs after striking an ankle biting Border Collie. For a while I was certain he must have broken the dog's jaw, the noise was awful and the dog ran away like lightning. After I tracked it down there was some blood but he was unbroken. The dog didn't go near my horse after that. Smart Border Collie because after that my horse chased all the dogs that were near. The nice Border Collie cross included that wouldn't harm or harass anyone.
It's a good thing Bella is not a herding dog and she is not the type to harass and attempt to chase someone who is much bigger and heavier than she is. I think the two of them might get along. One thing is for sure, I will find out soon enough!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Goal

December is less than four hours away and so the November numbers are final.

51.43 km and almost all by bike. My goal was 60 km which would have been easy if not for my extended stay in Berlin and the pests I've been dealing with. I'm gutted I didn't make the goal because it is easy to make the numbers by bike!

I will go from there and pledge 100 km for December! That's on average 3.2 km per day. If I bike to work that's 20 km in one day so I would only need to do that five times to fulfill my goal.

The main challenge will be to figure out how to exercise Bella well enough now that I know I will be starting daytime work next Monday. Better use the next two days and the weekend well to get a good headstart!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dog Culture: Europe vs Iceland

Monday is here and I had to stay at home with baby Magnus as he was pulling his ears like crazy last night. Today he seems a lot better so I'm crossing my fingers that he may be fit for daycare tomorrow. If not I have a nightshift so I will at least be able to go to work. My fiancé is having meetings all week, his PhD instructor is in Iceland this week to work with him.

Home Sick
Bella and Magnus taking a look at a box of sweets. 

I finally got around to uploading two photos from Berlin. Not because they are of superior quality but rather as they are dog-themed. Living in Reykjavik, Iceland, I am always a little sad returning back from a trip to abroad. In Copenhagen and Stockholm this summer and now in Berlin, I always see such a mature dog culture in the cities.
I say mature because the dog culture in Iceland consists of bans and more bans. We have leash laws which do make sense. It isn't so long since dogs were prohibited in Reykjavik city because of diseases. Today that has changed but there is still a really restrictive list of rules to go by if you get a dog. In short, they are not wanted anywhere. You can walk a leashed dog in most places, except the main walking streets in the city. There are a handful of locations within the city that allow dogs to be off leash. Not in malls, not in stores, not in public transport. If you own an apartment rather than your own house, you need 2/3rds of your neighbours to agree that you can own a specific dog. Yes, they must agree before you get the dog. Less than a year ago you needed 100% of all the other apartment owners to agree, nevermind if it's for no reason other than they don't like you or if the owner of a single apartment in the building happens to be a bank (they never give permission as a standard procedure).

The difference between Icelandic dogs and dogs I have seen in other European cities is vast. Icelandic pet dogs are neurotic and run to sniff whatever passerby they meet. Barking is frequent, many bark at both people and other dogs. They pull their leashes a lot and are generally overexcited.

And why wouldn't they be? They live pretty isolated lives within the walls of their homes. They can't be taken by foot to the stores, it's not allowed to take them in and it's not allowed to leave them tied outside. Of course it's also a liability issue as many Icelandic people think dogs can be approached and petted wherever, whenever.
Another factor is that Iceland has become very car friendly as opposed to the frequent use of public transport in many large European cities. So either dogs go for a leashed walk in their neighbourhood or are driven to some place where they can be let loose, usually that means going somewhere outside the city where no one is.

It's a very big contrast to the dogs I met in Berlin. I met a few in the trains, I saw many in shops and they were also in parks or on the streets. Many were on leashes and some were off leash. I was impressed that most people didn't seem to care there was a dog there and didn't approach them. The dogs were calm, even when meeting other dogs. They were close to their owners and paid attention to what was coming. I didn't see a single neurotic looking dog during my 7 days there and we saw a lot of dogs in public. Below is a picture I took inside an expensive mall in the basement where there was a gourmet food shop. No fuss, no excitement, just a calm dog waiting for his owner.

Dog in LaFayette

Another thing I noticed was how much fewer pedigree dogs I saw than here in Iceland. No Border Collie types. I'm actually not sure why they are so common in Iceland, they make horrible pets if you consider the fact that over 75% of all dogs I see being rehomed are Border Collie mixes with the most common description being "needs a country home".

I think the two gentlemen below summon my experience of European city-dogs:

KaDeWe General

Maybe someday Iceland will stop thinking of dogs as feral creatures that ought to live in the countryside. I often think about what I, as a dog owner, could do to move in that direction apart from the obvious responsible dog ownership I try to practice. Maybe someday I'll find the answer to the question.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sick Sick Sick

My household has been down with all kinds of pests since last Wednesday. I thought I was getting better but no, I had to stay at home from work today due to a really bad sore throat that cropped up yesterday. My son had it the worst, his sore throat turned into an infection and on top of that infection he got an ear infection.

I feel really bad for Bella. She's being a good sport but now she's starting to need her exercise. Yesterday I used the opportunity while giftwrapping two Christmas presents (I'm early this year!) and made her help me clean up in the living room. She's actually really good at it. I really ought to find out how to make her drop items into a container. I confess I haven't done it before because I can't decide what kind of a container I want to use for the training. Maybe it's an excuse to be lazy?

On Thursday we missed Obedience class and today we will miss Agility. I'm gutted! I really looked forward to both.

I have a big change coming up at work this month. I have been asked to be in the school unit from December until March to begin with. That means I will drop the shifts during that timeframe. Weekends off and more family friendly work hours.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Back from Berlin

I went to Berlin for a long weekend on 11th November, only to miss my flight and me and my fiancé ended up staying there for a whole week.

Things have been hectic since then, a sick baby waiting and getting our bikes winter-ready. Oh, and Bella now refuses to eat her food. She's pretty much been starving herself since last Friday except for the bites she snatches off of the floor when baby Magnus drops them. I do feel like a mean person for not giving in but we once went the route of giving in when she tried the same and suddenly my dog was the biggest prima donna in the household, she refused or ate food purely based on her mood every day. This is food I used to be able to use as treats and am trying to finish as we are changing to another brand.

I admit I often sneak her tastier treats but we had a good rule going on, no treats unless she had eaten her dog food. It worked for the past year but the week away wrecked our nice agreement.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Biking and Tracking

A week into November and me and Bella have already covered 18 km so far. A good start to our 50 km goal!

My fiancé overslept this morning so instead of him taking baby Magnus to daycare we split up and I biked him to destination. Bella was pulling the trailer like a husky, she's amazing.

Bella in the Morning

I took her with me again when I returned to pick Magnus up and my fiancé was with me this time around. We're giving alternate routes a go, in the morning run I found out just how much traffic there is in the area. I did consider leaving Bella at home but she had planted herself in front of the front door so how could I? She ran like a champ although we did go a lot slower on the way back, she was running low on gas!

We were both feeling pretty cozy after that and thinking nice thoughts of the sofa when I remembered I had made an appointment after noon. Yes all the biking had happened before noon, 8 km in one day. I scheduled meeting my cousin because she was going to teach me how to track with Bella. She has two dogs and has trained them both for tracking, she has done considerable search and rescue training with them.

I really enjoyed this, even if there was a storm approaching and pouring down rain. We laid in total three short sausage laden tracks for Bella and I really enjoyed seeing her improve with each one. I have spent a long time wondering how to teach a dog to track and now I am starting to understand.

Seeing the trained dogs work was interesting as well, for the younger bitch she laid a track for her to follow and with the older one she asked me to head to the trees nearby and lie down. What amazed me was that she explained pretty much how the dog would go before finding me. She looked like such a pro, she ran downwind and when she caught a whiff of me she ran almost straight towards me and when she saw me, ran off to let my cousin know and together they came back.

Seeing people work their dogs is not a common thing but it is actually one of my favorite type of dog-watching. I like beautiful dogs but more than that I enjoy seeing a dog in the 'workzone'. A dog who is happy as a clam having a job to do.

I wanted to take my camera with me but because of the awful weather I didn't want to risk it. Thus, I only have camera phones of Bella! Maybe next time.

Bella Waiting to Track

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Birthday and My Monthly Goals

Today's my birthday. As I get older the less faff I want to surround this yearly event. Yet there is always this childlike feeling when my birthday approaches. It is nice to be remembered, just as it is to be forgotten. Thanks to Facebook, those who do forget tend to get lost in the flood of those reminded. I cherish the calls and texts most.

I took Bella and baby out for a walk. It's my shift break so I like to use the few hours of daylight available. Unfortunately Iceland has reached the time of year where normal daytime work means people go to work when it's dark and come home when it's dark, missing out on the only hours of daylight. Exercise in daylight is so much more invigorating.

The walk was refreshing, we managed 2.7 km which is a nice start to reaching our November goal. In October I aimed for 30 km tracked (final count: 32.27 km) and with the bikes in action again I've upped the goal for 50 km in November. That's only 1.7 km per day, nothing extraordinary when I set it up like this.

I can't stop appreciating how far I've come. I took the ability to exercise for granted before my pregnancy and now I have a whole new outlook on how important it is to keep physically fit and enjoy the time spent outdoors. Biking to work, running an agility course with the dog, walking in a snowstorm... I still feel some aching now and then but it's stopped disabling me from doing most of the things I love and enjoy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Family Biking

Bella threw all my carefully laid out autumn plans in the bin early this week and went into heat. I was braced for it all to start in December but she's almost 6 weeks earlier than I anticipated. We missed our second obedience class but received the notes for the second class and will continue to practice at home.

It hasn't been all doom and gloom in our house though, on Friday my parents came home from a journey to Los Angeles. Me and my fiancé ordered a Chariot bike trailer called Cheetah 2 for them to bring to Iceland. It was an older demo model that was offered at a discount. This venture saved us at least $800 USD.

We have gorgeous Trek FX 7.3 bikes that make biking a pure joy. After getting Bella we soon realized that biking with a dog on a leash was not a compatible thing. Bella had little situation awareness and if she saw something didn't hesitate to try to run in front of the bike or inbetween the wheels. Very very dangerous and very much not the kind of a bike ride we are going to enjoy.

The trailer, so far, seems to solve that problem. Tying her to the handlebars on a short leash means she can't run in front of the trailer and has to be on its side. She once tried to run to the other side by going behind the trailer but had to keep moving forward. The move posed no risk to anyone. We're going to continue to give this a go. I am still very alarmed to the possible risks and will monitor her extremely well to see if this does and will work out for us.

The other alternative that a trailer brings is of course the fact that if it doesn't work out, Bella can be put inside the trailer and we can bike with her risk free. Since it's a two kid model, there's room for her and baby Magnus.

Finally, here's one photo from yesterday morning when we all rode together!

Bike Tour!

Monday, October 24, 2011

On Top. Next?

Me and Bella are making progress with our rear end awareness program. As the photo below shows, she is now able to stand on the box and stay. I need to do a bit more refining to make her stay long enough to be able to focus on pivoting but so far so good. It's all going according to plan and even quicker than I expected or hoped for. 

Bella on a Box

 Here's another photo, this time to display how colour coordinated we are as a family. Bella matches our floor perfectly! She's performing a very devoted LIE-STAY there. She's also able to SIT-STAY a bit now without lying down. Things are going really well now, I also feel that a big part of it is that I am more motivated and commited to the training than I have been for a long time. 

Hide'n Seek

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gadgets and Exercise

Today was a glorious day, one of those fantastic early winter days that crop up once most of the fall storms have subsided. Me and Bella took a walk around a nearby lake. It's very small actually and is more like a large duck pond. It gets more shallow with every year.
This walk was somewhat of a milestone for me personally. I haven't dared walk this far for over a year now so I'm excited to see what I will be like tomorrow. The walk clocked in as 4,85km.

Now I have a GPS tracker in my phone and bought a bluetooth compatible heartrate monitor for the tracking app (Sports Tracker). I used it on my walk and later I got the idea to attempt to track my heartrate and calorie burn during mine and Bella's agility class. Surprisingly enough, I received a GPS track as well and found out that me and Bella managed to run and walk 1,45 km during the class. Below is a link to the workout on . When I zoomed in I noticed it would seem I ran through walls. It's inside a riding arena and I only tracked inside it. So there's clearly some inaccuracy in the tracking. Generally I'm very satisfied with the results.

I'm competetive by nature so having the GPS tracker and HR monitor motivates me into competing against myself and the beauty of it is that I can use so many areas to improve on. These days I'm focusing on amount of km and getting into a better shape (lowering my HR).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Extinguishing Fires

Yesterday I attended a lecture on how to evacuate the building I work in during times of crisis, mainly in case of fire. A part of this meeting was allowing us to use fire extinguishes and seeing how the different kinds of extinguishers work. That part was actually rather practical for at-home scenarios. I own an old extinguisher that the previous owners of my apartment left and it's last checked 2006 so I plan to have it looked at after this event.

The Reykjavik Airport Fire Department hosted the exercises and here's one shot from it, with a Fokker 50 from Air Iceland taxiing on the runway of Reykjavik Airport in the background.

With a family of one and a half child (step-daughter) and a dog, this is one area I'm more aware of in recent years. I would encourage anyone to give this subject a thought. As an Air Traffic Controller a lot of my training was about teaching the right reactions in case of emergencies. A sudden fire is known to cause panic and even more so when you have absolutely no idea what to do. Thus it's always good to have some idea about what you can or should do in case of a fire.

Of course, the first rule of thumb is always to call for help and get people away from danger.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bella and the Box

After yesterday's obedience class I dug up a green plastic box to practice the rear end awareness exercise. She went straight to sniff and touch it and got her clicks. At that point we moved on with the program and for some reason she thought I was asking her to bite the box. Possibly because I've worked so much on picking objects up.

We got as far as her raising a paw around the box. She can eat the box if she wants as I have others but it's moving in the right direction so far. I also worked on LIE-STAY and just SIT. I will need more time on just sitting as I tried once to do SIT-STAY and she laid down.

The dog walk is tomorrow. I think I'm going to go. Will see.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Clicker Obedience

Me and Bella started our new dog training class tonight. There are four other dogs taking this class, a Pomeranian, Labrador, Cavalier and a Schnauzer.

I am really proud of my dog, she was so well behaved coming into this class. After the initial excitement which was very mellow for her she didn't make a sound and was more than eager to do tricks for clicks (and treats). I did have to keep her attention almost continuously so she wouldn't start trying to pull at the leash and go for the other dogs (mainly the Pomeranian who incidentally is the smallest dog). I tend to keep her with me by by keeping on the move, walking in small circles or back and forth. It works.

The more I do with her and for her the better I see how much she enjoys working. The clicker was no problem for her tonight. I'm the one who has to stay more focused, one time I had given her the food before I realised I hadn't clicked so my brain told me to click. Argh! Well, more food for Bella at least.

Tonight was an intro into heel position training and staying. The heel position training looks very promising. Waiting is a bit of a muddle at the moment but I think the clicker can help me this time around. During agility when I started training STAY again after avoiding it for a while, Bella started lying down if I say the command. Normally I wouldn't mind but when one agility obstacle can be to SIT-STAY or LIE-STAY it's rather awkward if all she ever does is lie. That's something I need to break down.

Like a proper school, me and Bella now have homework. I'm enthusastic about it. I see a lot of potential in my dog. Next up is the dog walk on Saturday and then Agility on Sunday. Tomorrow is Friday and I've got the weekend off, whoopee!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sunday on a Saturday

Even though tonight's a Saturday it feels like a Sunday. I have a six day work week ahead of me, a busy shift tomorrow and then a whole week of simulator instructing. My first experience of teaching Air Traffic Control. I am looking forward to the experience and hope it will go well.

Next week also promises to be a doggy week. I am scheduled to start a new clicker-based obedience course on Thursday. I have mentioned my (un)success with clicker training while training Bella to pick objects up for me. In short, she didn't understand the connection and I had to use a different method and haven't used the clicker since. Therefore I am moderately enthusiastic about the clicker aspect. Maybe things will click (he he) for us in the coming weeks. I like the premise of the course and welcome every chance to socialise Bella more. One of the objects of the course is obedience training under distractions, something I am very keen to work on.
The course will also be an intro into rally-obedience. I don't know much about that sport but it might be fun to give it a go.

As well as the weekly obedience on Sunday (tomorrow's class is cancelled, which is convenient as I'm working) there is a dog walk downtown a week from now on Saturday. I believe it is hosted by the FCI approved Icelandic Kennel Club (HRFÍ) but am not sure. Either way it's a nice way to show some doggy support. The rights of dogs and dog owners in Iceland are abysmal. That subject is fodder for later writing.

I'll end this with two photos taken with my mobile (to explain the image quality) earlier this week. This is our most common place to go to, only 5 minute walk from home where Bella can sometimes be loose if there's no traffic.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autumn Walks

I went out for an almost-midnight walk with Bella tonight. The sky is clear and the stars are out. Earlier tonight when I came home from work and the moon was already out, I noticed an aircraft trace in the sky. I couldn't help smiling as I might have been able to know which exact aircraft had left this trace. Fortunately I am not crazy enough to memorize my air traffic.

The walk with Bella was a good one. I believe I have at some point mentioned my liking for late night walks. Now winter is creeping up on Iceland and the bright summer nights have become dark. It gets darker with every day now. For me and Bella this means fewer people and that she gets to wear her bright yellow reflection west. I can't recommend those enough, especially when Bella is loose.

Now my lovely fiancé is making me hot chocolate. I dislike the dark but winter brings a lot of benefits as well! Hot chocolate, a good book and a warm blanket being among those.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


It's Sunday so that means agility day.

A sign of our beginner status is probably that while we're improving with every class we're also very inconsistent as a team. After some runs I'm about to do a victory dance and then after the next I am despairing.

I jokingly suggested that the instructor do one dog-free session for us owners to learn to do the turns and twists around the items correctly. At one point today I leapt over Bella, which on hindsight was very stupid. Alas, the quickest lessons are when owner-misjudgement results in the dog going around items or stopping. Like the leap I did, Bella was left confused about what she was supposed to do.

Another aspect is seeing the other dog/owner pairs do their runs. I'm taking a class with two other dogs, a Chihuahua and a Papillon. They are very different characters and face different problems. The Papillon specifically seems really unmotivated, it has made me wonder if some dogs just aren't cut out for agility or if motivation is something that an owner can work on. Maybe the bitch just doesn't see the point in any of this.

Bella is however a bit of a terror. She has calmed down but after dominating the Chihuahua two sessions ago she took the Papillon on today. Of course the poor dog just rolled over but I do feel ashamed that Bella behaves this way. When it happened she was focused on me and we were doing a weave, then the next moment she's gone to take on a dog less than half her weight. Iceland is very dog-hostile and I find it a challenge to socialise her properly. We have come a long way but I really don't want to own the Border Terror.

Finally for a funny moment, when me and Bella did the bag-tunnel we were supposed to do a U-turn coming out and do the bridge. I don't quite know what happened but it seems she didn't spot me and looked around like she was lost, then she ran back to the opening and went through the bag again! Came out and still had that lost look and went to the opening again. I came back to her and she came to me and we crossed the bridge, then she took a beeline to the bag-tunnel and ran through it two more times before coming with me to complete the course. I think I know what her favorite item is! Must be those terrier genes talking.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Today was a hectic day at work. With a fairly big day scheduled a neighbouring area experienced some technical difficulties. Everything went well in the end and when the shift was finished I was able to go home and hopefully enjoy a three day weekend. I'm on standby on Sunday so I will at least get tomorrow and Saturday off.

Exhausted after a long day, me and Bella decided to go out for a run. She's a very willing running partner and was bouncing around as I prepared to go.  Granted, we did not go very far as I am testing my body. I also went yesterday after being rather pained earlier this week. After yesterday's run I was pretty good today. I'm curious about tomorrow.

My only complaint is how dark it is outside in the evenings. I need to get myself a light.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Life and Agility

Sunday evenings are becoming my favorite time of the week. The only thing that shadows the time with my dog is the status of my hips. I'm getting so tired of this thing! If somebody told me I'd have trouble running 8 months after giving birth I probably would have reconsidered having a baby. Of course I love my son more than anything and believe he's worth this continuous pain.

After last week's agility session I was so bad that my fiancé told me to take pain killers and dug up the crutches I bought during the last weeks of my pregnancy.
Tonight I took the painkillers before the session. I'm not sure if that helped or what it is but I can still walk. I really need to start my weightlifting program to see if it helps. I also want to be able to run in my neighbourhood with Bella so I've got to figure this pain out. I'm not giving up without a fight.

Aside from my half-crippled hips the agility is so much fun. Bella is quite good at it so far. Enthusiastic and runs the courses well. The courses are getting longer and more complicated with every session. Our biggest trouble has been the table, today she started jumping on it without hesitation. Yay! Of course she suddenly unlearnt lying down on command while on the table. Oh well, one session at a time.

Bella at the end of August

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

OJTI and Greasing the Brain

I returned to work after my maternity leave two weeks ago. It was both pleasant and exhausting. I've been fortunate enough to get a chance to exclusively stay at home with my son for 7 months. It's been a great time but I was ready to get back to reality and start my life as a working mom.

Upon my return I was thrown right onto a two week course to become an On Job Training Instructor, or OJTI as my abbreviation happy profession calls it. I enjoy training horses and dogs so getting a paid course on how to train people on the job was a fun insight and experience. Many interesting lectures and also some roleplaying exercises. No one can become an Air Traffic Controller without putting in the hours on the job and it's the same with being an instructor. The roleplaying was valuable and often amusing but I know that the real learning experience will come if I sit with a student as his or her instructor.

First, however, I must myself sit down as a student. Returning to work after nine months away means I'm not let loose in the centre on my own just yet! Thankfully, I must add. I feel very much like someone who was in peak form but hasn't exercised for months... I'm out of breath just going out! I'm awfully slow but with every hour I put in I can feel my brain tracing down old knowledge and starting to shape up. It's just this awful feeling of knowing I've been better that bothers me... and motivates me. I'm sure this won't take too long!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Agility Session 2

Tonight's training session proved to be better as I had hoped for. Bella started out pulling at the leash and being overexcited but after I jogged around the area once she was calmer and not making a sound.

The focus was already better but when we started trying to work more off-leash Bella started running for the other two dogs (we were still only 3). First it was friendly but then a familiar spiral of dog-aggression started which ended in an almost-fight before she came back to me. After that she was much more focused, maybe because I decided to use whatever feelings I had on the training and being firm and decisive.

Bella was often easily distracted but I found out that what she needed was for me to be quicker. I can safely say that I was dripping with sweat after the one hour session! The faster I was able to go and give commands, the better Bella ran the obstacles.

She had one more run-in with the Chihuahua she tried to attack earlier and before I knew it he was on his back and Bella frozen on top of him. The bullied turns into a bully! Poor guy was terrified of her after that. In spite of that I was pleased with the session itself. I hope that Bella will relax even more next time.

Unfortunately I'm still a bit of a mess, my left hip-leg joint is still really owwie after I run, especially with all the sprinting, stopping, sprinting and twisting my body and turning while running. It's a sign I need to return back to the gym and do lots of squats and strengthening excercises. I refuse to accept that a single pregnancy will ruin my ability to sprint and run.

 Finally, I was extremely pleased to be able to use dog food as treats tonight. We recently changed to the Canadian Orijen brand of food and use one type as her normal food and also bought a sack of fish-food for treats. Bella loves fish and lobster so we figured it might work as treats. I love the idea of normal food for treats and so far so good.

Agility and Socialization

Autumn is setting in and this time around I'm really looking forward to it. Today's weather is stormy and raining and Bella doesn't want to be outside more than she needs to be. At least not on her own.

Two weeks ago I started an agility training course with her.  Unfortunately last week's session had to be cancelled but we're heading back tonight for more. When we showed up Bella was very tense and on edge and couldn't stop staring at the other two dogs, a Chihuahua and a Papillion. Towards the end things were getting better and I'm curious about what tonight will be like.

Yesterday we did get an unexpected few minutes of agility training. I took Bella to a small breeds dog exhibition where the instructor of our agility course was present as a part of an agility introduction. I had the only dog at the time and Bella surprised me by giving me her full attention. That was great! Even my fiancé who was present had a change of heart about Bella's chance of success in this sport.

The small breeds exhibition was a fun event. I went to one last year and Bella started by barking her lungs out before finally calming down a little. This time around I had prepared for another barking session and as we walked into the building she was filing her claws trying to pull me in faster. In we went and surprise, she remained alert but calm. No barking, no silly behaviour. Hurray!

I've become better at seeing when to stop an encounter with other dogs and when it's alright to allow them to meet up. I have had to be very picky because Bella has had some unpleasant encounters and I'm trying to socialise her to stop the insecurity. There was only one bad run-in which happened to be with Bella's full sister from an older litter. Owned by my colleague who says hers is Border Terrier aggressive. No harm done it was just a bit of growling that quickly subsided. After the event Bella hadn't barked once. I'm so proud of her!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Horse Who Didn't

I once whacked a horse across the head with a whip.

I started thinking about that this afternoon when I went out for a long walk. I was in a foul mood, something that I sometimes do if I get angry. I went out for over an hour long walk with Bella. A wagging tail, good weather and a long walk is something that's hard for me to stay in a foul mood over.

Within five minutes by foot I can reach the outskirts of Reykjavík city. Very late in the evening it's rare to ever meet somebody so I am often tempted to set Bella loose. I did today and we only met one person. Bella was very happy and used the opportunity to race back and forth like a lunatic. Now that we're home she's content lying next to me in the couch. It was a very good walk for both of us.

The horse I mentioned earlier was called Viking. A calm fellow and a very good children's horse. I don't remember what exactly led me to use the whip on him but he wasn't obeying and a person I thought was my mentor at the time told me it was the only way to make him see the light. Viking was the only horse I ever did this to. After the act I found out that this wasn't who I am or wanted to be. I didn't believe in this method of trying to hurt another being to make it please me.

When dealing with Bella, I use a lot of the things I learned from dealing with horses. I found out the hard way that the harshest methods don't usually result in the best results. That whips and a cruel mind don't create an obedient horse. Another horse who would evade the bit turned into a great mount when I started using a normal bit with him again and treated him with gentle forgiving hands. I did learn from experience that anger is never an asset when it comes to animals.

This is why I try to not do much if I get angry. I may sulk or be in a foul mood for a bit but I try to withdraw to the best of my abilities and wait it out until I get over it. When I get angry I start thinking illogically. If Bella is making me upset I often start thinking that she's doing it deliberately to piss me off, or when my horse is spooking in the same corner on a windy day I sometimes decide he's being a little shit and doing it just to spite me. So through other mistakes I've made earlier in my life I try to breathe and figure out how to stop whatever I'm doing on a good note, no matter how insignificant it may be, and call it a day.

I hate watching animals behave out of fear. So with me often getting angry easily, I've had to learn to back off before I do something I regret. Sometimes it's difficult but when I later return to train and am greeted with a happy dog or a calm horse, I know I did right. Anger isn't a good way to train. Anger is a cue for me to do something for myself and no one else.

Anger, however, is a great excuse to take the dog for a walk.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Enthusiasm and a Happy Back

It must be the always-tired brain of a new mom at play but I can't understand why I didn't get Bella to pick up the children's toys for me earlier. Two days after I started making her do it for me and this morning she started picking them up from a distance with me sitting in the couch.

One disadvantage of a one eyed dog is that I must always be very careful to make sure she's paying attention to where I'm pointing her to. It's easy for me to forget her handicap and be pointing on her blind side and wondering why she's not getting what I'm asking her. She also gets so enthusiastic and eager that she sometimes gets ahead of herself and forgets to pay attention because she just wants the treat.

I think I wrote late last year in this blog that I did not think she was food motivated. Of course that turned out to be a misunderstanding, she had no idea what I was asking. Now I am using her regular food as a treat. We changed to Orijen dog food recently and she loves it. She actually prefers it over raw chicken which is a first.

Anyway, now it's time for a walk.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The tricks from past fall

Before I gave birth I was very intrigued with trick training Bella to pick up items for me. It did go well and then the pace of our training got slower but every now and then I'd make her do so and she is always eager to. She picks up reliably and normally returns to me right away but doesn't always drop on command.

This afternoon has been a slow one. We went out for a walk this morning and the weather is fairly boring. Trying to think of ways to give her her food by hand (so to speak) I decided to try her aptitude with picking up my son's toys and bringing them to me. Sure enough, it was no problem. She gets so enthusiastic and willing, I always feel bad for her once I end the sessions but I figure it's better to end on a good note than continue until she gets bored or distracted.

It's a very fun and handy skill if I can get her to pick the toys in my place but there's now issues I need to think through: 
First is how to get her to pick up the toys, do I point at them (I wonder if a laser might work) or identify each with a name. Is it possible to tell her one command to pick up the toys? I imagine that would be harder as the toys change. 
Then there's the fact I need to work on teaching her to place the items in the basket. Maybe the basket is too tall for her but I could possibly make her bring them all to the same place.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Of The One-Eyed Terrier

With her harness on, Bella does a good job of pulling the baby stroller. Once she's had enough, she becomes the perfect dog, walking calmly beside me. 

Afterwards, at home, she's even better. A tired terrier is a good terrier!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

From Worse to Good

In May I mentioned my pelvic pain being worse than I expected. I was feeling rather depressed but went to see my physiotherapist to discuss this with her. As soon as I met her she was nothing but positive and told me this was nothing to worry about. In short, the front ligaments of my hips had shortened during my post-pregnancy recovery. Apparantly it's not so uncommon as new mothers sit a lot with their newborns. The pain I was experiencing wasn't true pelvic pain and with a few appointments and some at-home exercises I'm doing much much better. I'm not perfect but I can now officially go for fairly long walks.

The next step is joining a gym and getting some work done to build up the muscles that wasted away during the time I couldn't exercise. I'm back to being an optimist and am well below my pre-pregnancy weight. Here's a picture taken of me and Magnus yesterday when he turned 6 months old.

With Bella, I missed out on a Rally Obedience course I've been waiting to participate in for a few months now. Autumn is soon here and then I plan to do an Agility course. I think I'll also aim for the Rally Obedience in the autumn if offered.

My maternity leave is now over and I'm now using my summer holidays until September which is when I start work again. Can't believe there's so little left! A ton has happened since I was forced to quit in late November last year. That's 8 months already! Phew. It'll be fun to meet my work colleagues.

Routine Work

I enjoy having a dog that is low maintenance. Stripping is a 2-3 times per year affair and today it was time.

The last pic has the war wounds from last night. That was nail clipping time. I've tried several approaches and nothing seems to work well. I've just resigned myself to the fact that it's never going to be easy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Deja Vu

Here we go again. Another volcanic eruption has reared its ugly head, this time in Europe's largest glacier.

I must say that the pictures are impressive. Here's one from shot by Steinunn S. Jakobsdóttir. 

The size and power is amazing, this is the largest eruption since at least 1947. This is a lot bigger than last year's Eyjafjallajökull eruption. So far, it is not causing as much havoc.

I do not tend to discuss my work much, not here or in real life. Air Traffic Control is much like Accounting - no one really wants to listen as long as you're doing your job properly. This eruption however reminds me of the events last year and the impact on my work.

When I was in training, we were told about the normal protocol when it comes to volcanoes. About the first closures of air space and the role of the London VAAC (Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre). I worked the nightshift the same day it all started last year and by then the airspace had been pretty much shut down already. It was very strange seeing this in action all of the sudden. It was the start of the biggest aviation interruptions known. In my job it meant long hours of clear skies with nothing to do. It was very boring and boring is something most Air Traffic Controllers don't like very much.

The days that followed were very much like that. I deal with transatlantic flights and due to the so-called no-fly zones the airlines were going south of the Icelandic airspace. I was trying to wrap up my additional radar qualifications at the time so I was unable to clock very valuable hours.

Then political pressure started increasing. Closed airports and enormously large areas of airspace being shut down didn't sound good and caused the massive interruptions. So some changes to the no-fly zones were introduced. Now that was a pain. Drawing up three different areas, different airports opening and closing for business and domestic flights jumping through hoops to keep operating.

Finally, towards the end of the eruption the winds shifted causing a massive surge in air traffic. What the air traffic controllers achieved was a feat we're unlikely to repeat anytime soon (well, maybe we might!). It's also very unrecognised. In an area where 300 aircraft on a normal day is a lot, for the air traffic to spike to one thousand aircraft over a period of 24 hours several days in a row, could only be achieved with a joint effort by everybody. Us Air Traffic Controllers are often said to be lazy but not a single person wasn't ready to drop their plans to help make this happen -and it did.

This time around I'm on maternity leave and thus staying on the sideline. All flight in Iceland has been cancelled, at least until tomorrow afternoon, but I gather that international flight is mostly unaffected. I hope this will be a short lasting eruption. Especially as I have a holiday planned in June!

Here is another photo from, a NASA satelite photo of Iceland and this year's eruption and ash cloud.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Countryside

I returned to the summer cabin at the start of May with my family and Bella. Summer is dragging it's feet but we did catch seven good days out there.

My pelvic pain is getting worse when I thought it was supposed to be getting better. So me and Bella didn't get around to walking or frisbee-ing too much. We did enjoy a cool wading session one afternoon. It was perfect.

On the weekend we stayed there my parents came to visit along with my little cousin, Sindri. He's got ADHD and is somewhere on the autism spectrum. He and Bella have a somewhat strange friendship, she loves playing with him but he is very impulsive and it occasionally scares her. So my promise to her is to always watch over their playing and stop it if he's crossing boundaries with her.

Now that we're back in Reykjavík my fiancé has left for a month to study in Denmark. Me and Bella are taking care of little Magnus together. With my luck this year, we took a walk on our first day alone and I've been off since then. It was a good walk though, we walked past one barking dog and when past it we walked right into another one who was growling at Bella. My insecure dog didn't make a single noise, just walked right ahead. Bravo!

Today I will be going to see my physiotherapist and see if she can do something for me. I haven't gone since before I gave birth so here's to hoping she can give me some guidance about how I can overcome this.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Every day is a new challenge

Me, Bella and family have returned to the countryside once more. It's an amazing feeling to return, especially as spring finally arrived. We relocated our frisbee again and Bella was even better at it this time. Maybe it's the post-pregnancy hormones but I was so touched and proud to see my terrier chasing that frisbee like a Border Collie might. With short terrier legs, she's also much better at bringing the frisbee back, either by putting it around her neck or in the air as she runs.
I am very proud of my little dog, especially seeing her give chase. I believe her 3D vision is impaired due to being one eyed but she didn't show it at all today.

Another trying thing we did so far this month was to attend a celebration of the dog school we went to. The owner was celebrating its first year of operation and owners and dogs were invited on the afternoon of 1st May.
Bella is very insecure and I haven't found enough opportunities for socialization. Thus I was uncertain if this would go too well when we entered the house and sure enough, Bella started barking and whining. We had to take a break and went outside to cool down a bit. I did at one point consider throwing in the towel and putting her back in the car but my stubborn side came through and back in we went.
The second time I made sure to keep her on the move, turning away from the other dogs as soon as she started getting upset. After two minutes we got near a few dogs and before she managed to get riled up and act silly we got close enough for her to meet them and be polite. We first met a Rottweiler pup and that was a breeze. Bella didn't make a sound after she got to meet the dogs. However, at least three dogs snarled and snapped at her so I had to handpick what dogs she could be near. The good part was that a lot more dogs were very polite so overall we left with a positive experience.

Having an insecure dog and seeing how other dogs react to her, it is obvious how smaller dogs tend to be more dog aggressive than larger ones. It's not too hard to understand, my own dog gets scared of big bouncy dogs and it is difficult to deal with but I will keep at it. With more experience I have gained a better understanding that in the world of dogs there are some that get along and others that don't.

Finally, our first of may event seems to have left some kind of an impression. We came across five dogs today and apart from the normal whiney behaviour, with the fifth dog Bella turned away from it and stopped making a sound as if it didn't matter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Time flies when you're having... fun?

Of all the things I envisioned myself doing after giving birth, returning to the hospital with an abscess in my breast was at the bottom of the list.

My infection remained in some form for 7-8 weeks before it flared up in the form of a nasty abscess. I found out the hard way that the treatment for it hasn't changed much since medieval times. This was six days worth of bad experience I will never forget but thanks to skilled doctors&midwives, strong antibiotics (through IV) and anxiety medication I got through it. I don't go into details with anyone, some things are best left unsaid.

The very excellent news, however, is that I am finally getting back to normal after pregnancy and birth. My baby loves sleeping through the night like his parents and my energy is back in full force. It's wonderful!

Me and Bella have started going out with the pram and our backpack and recently we went out of town where we found a nice empty patch on a campsite to do a little frisbee work. My little terrier is amazingly good at it, always retrieving the frisbee. I however know that if she got a moment with the frisbee it would fly-no-more.

Today, to celebrate the first day of summer, we took the mountain bike and went for a short run in the neighbourhood. It feels wonderful to finally finally finally be able to take proper care of my precious little dog.

Here's to an active (& healthy) summer!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's been a while

I haven't written anything since mid-November. A lot has happened since and at the same time a lot didn't happen.

I had to quit working before the end of November with two months until my due date. Things went downhill quickly and I couldn't really go anywhere without enduring pain for a while after. I became a couch potato. That meant I had a lot of guilt towards my dog although I tried to go where she could run loose while I stood around like a lazy owner.

In mid-December Bella went on heat the day before her 1st birthday. She lay next to me all day long not wanting to do anything for days! When it was over... it continued. I got a little worried but as the end of my pregnancy drew nearer I started wondering if she was maybe responding to that. I was low on energy and got sick, Bella seemed to mirror that and showed little interest when we took her out. She really wasn't her usual self.

Finally, one week overdue, on the 29th of January, I gave birth to a dark haired boy. On hindsight it went well although at the time the word torture came to mind. It's true what I had heard that it's all quickly forgotten once the baby is born. The pain is now lost in some breastfeeding coma.

And now what? Well, the little one is doing well and I'm slowly getting adjusted to the new routine (what routine??). This includes walking again! That's when I starting to notice that Bella is going back to her normal self. I am inclined to think she suffered from pregnancy depression. Now she's bouncing around the house again and trying to get me to play with her. She's also bouncing again when we go out and she loves the fact I am now walking her somewhere rather than standing around like an idiot.

I've also signed us up for an agility class. We're on a waiting list but I hope to be able to go this spring. Until then I'm going to go for lots of walks and get my health back.