Monday, December 19, 2016

Our Catahoula Schedule Keepers : Lucy

click this link below to read on Niume
Niume Post : Lucy and her schedule keeping 

Living with Catahoulas, you quickly learn they are timekeepers without watches.  They know your schedule better than you do, and many of them are apt to keep you to it.  This story is mostly about Lucy, one of our youngest Catahoulas.  We have six Catahoulas (and a bluetick coonhound), and each person in the household has their own personal timekeeper (my husband has two!).  

This is a wonderful trait for herding dogs that were meant to bring in the cows and pigs at night, and bring them back out to the fields in the morning.  They understand when something is 'wrong', and alert their people to things that are not following schedule.  When things break tradition or schedule, they are genuinely worried and show their distress by nudging, whining and trying to tug or push their people into understanding what needs to happen that hasn't yet.

This is Lucy, one of our youngest pair of Catahoulas, sitting at storytime with our daughter.

But, in a household environment, large or small, a Catahoula timekeeper will be just as insistent.  This is something to be highly aware of when you are training them - or else, they will 'train' you.  There may be no 'livestock' to tend - but they will still insist that their people be up at a regular time, to bed at a regular time and if mealtimes stop happening at a regular time, they will make their thoughts known.  Their aim is to keep everything running smoothly, as much as possible.
Lucy is my daughter's dog.  She assigned herself to that a young age, knowing that our poor Loula (who was hit by a car) had vacated the position and none of the elder dogs had filled the place.  Catahoulas do this, too - in our experience.  They fill niches and assign themselves responsibilities if their trainer has not laid out a specific set for them to learn.  A Catahoula should not be left without guidance, either by an aware and observant trainer or at the very least, a stable environment and an elder dog that has been trained well.

Once a Catahoula thinks you need something (which you may not), getting that out of their mind can be difficult!  Best to train them up well and be aware that you are setting an example and training habits much like you would if a human toddler was watching your every move.  Catahoulas are pretty high on the dog intelligence scale - they learn by watching us, and show great surprise when something goes against the habits they have learned.

Lucy on her way to growing up.  She has two blue eyes and a white with blue merle pattern.  She is one of the more naturally shy Catahoulas we have, although she has had more success to leash training and dog park visits than her sister Freckles has.

Lucy's self-assignment was endearing and simple.  She would make sure our daughter went to bed on time, by escorting her every night along her routine and seeing her to her door.  At that point she was not yet sleeping at her bedside.  We encouraged this by making a large fluffy dog bed for her to sleep on in the bedroom.  Esme, our daughter, encouraged this by reading a short bedtime story to Lucy every night after the rest of the routine, with her invited to sleep upon the pillow.  And now, Lucy goes to sleep there at night, and rises with her every morning. 

Two sisters and a niece.  Lucy is in the middle here, a puppy learning how to do things from her aunts.

Lucy LOVES bedtime.  That is said often in our house.  She will come upstairs to us parents and poke our knees with her nose and turn in a circle - indicating something must be done.  She will do this with increasing frequency as the actual hour of bedtime approaches (daylight savings time messed her up, as she is sort of sunset-based).  She will continue to pace and bob between our daughter and us every fifteen minutes or so.  When ignored she will sigh and curl up in a ball or place her nose on her paws at the exact place between us, ready to spring to action when we do.  She puts on a very good 'depressed' attitude when bedtime is being later than she thinks, like on school breaks.  When the routine does begin she guides our daughter through each step, pointing to the next thing and sitting in the hallway outside the bathroom.

But Catahoulas follow our habits, as well as our schedule.

This morning, even I was surprised.

It is Pajama Day at school today.  And our daughter was wearing her Pajama outfit to go to her class party.  Lucy was confused.  Normally Lucy has a morning routine she follows to the letter.  She will get up, wait for our daughter to get dressed, and then she will be let outside the room and collect her sister to stand together and ask to go outside the house to the yard.  Then they both return to the house and go upstairs to curl up with their mother on the couch.  It happens this way so much I barely notice it anymore.

But this morning, Lucy saw something that made her wonder, and she did not return upstairs.  Instead, she came back and sat outside the bathroom in the hallway pointing at our daughter's room.  Our daughter had eaten her breakfast and was brushing her teeth.  Lucy walked up to her and traced her nose on the back of her knee, inspecting the pajama outfit.  She then returned to her place in the hallway and sat.  After a few moments I realized there were gears turning in that furry head.

Lucy thought our daughter was going back to bed, and she was waiting for her duty.  In her mind, she was still needed.  

I tried not to laugh when it dawned on me. (Catahoulas get quite embarrassed when they are laughed at, a little like cats.)

Lucy (right) and her sister Freckles (above) with their brother Hunter.  Freckles has assigned herself as 'Timekeeper in training for house activities' to my husband, understudy to her uncle Spud.

Even funnier, was when I told her that no, in fact, she was not going 'bedtime', but to the school bus.  Lucy pointed again - nose to girl - nose to bed, sit square on her haunches.  I said it again, so she was certain, and asked my daughter to tell her as well.  No Bedtime, School Bus.  Lucy whined and turned in a circle.  Then she went upstairs, but not to lay down.  A moment later two noses poked around the bathroom door edge.  She had gotten her sister Freckles to come see.  I told them both - with more whining and doubletakes.  Finally, they both went upstairs.  I'm sure they were shaking their heads in dog language.

We all had a good laugh about it - except the dogs, of course.

So, Catahoulas are the timekeepers.  But sometimes, humans do the strangest things, and even they don't know what to make of it at all.  It's another reason I am so enamored of these dogs we have bred and come to know over the many years here in Tennessee.

If you haven't had a pair of Catahoulas - (and one just isn't enough to see it all) - it really is a whole different kind of experience.

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