My decision to go cheap and use velcro sticky dots to attach the foam hextiles to the wall worked for seventeen whole days … and then half of the main board fell off overnight. I laboriously swapped out the most messed-up dots and rehung the board … and less than two days later the other half of the board fell off. Two more days, and the first half fell off again.
Well, okay, that’s clearly not a working solution. Some of the velcro comes apart each time, and a few dots peel off the tiles, but a majority of the dots fail by coming unstuck from the wall. Part of the problem — and maybe all of it — is that the plaster-over-masonry construction of Mexico does not lend itself to perfectly smooth walls, so someone in the US who has smooth-painted wallboard might have a better shot. The small board — currently two tiles and four buttons — has been fine so far, although I suspect that it will eventually need help too, well before it’s up to five loaded tiles.
At least having a camera focused on the board meant that I could go back and watch how it came down, which turns out to be mostly peeling away from the wall starting at the top and upper outside edge. It always comes apart at the single tile in the middle where (for now) there is just one jigsaw-style interlock. This last time was a slo-mo ten-minute process where, if a human had been awake, we would likely have caught it before it came all the way down. (The cats were awake and seemed quite alarmed by this development.)
So now I have a compromise plan that doesn’t involve spending ~US$100 on 3M Command strips in Mexico: Jak has flown up to Austin this week to see his family and pick up some US-purchased stuff — things to tide us over until our postponed car trip happens in April. Among the items coming back is a small FluentPet shipment that I bought on their Black Friday sale, including a set of the black hextile edge pieces. I added $23 worth of large 3M Command strips to Jak’s load, which I will attach, one to each edge piece, along the top of the board and the outside edges of the top outer tiles.
So the current velcro situation only has to last a few more days, and then fingers crossed that our walls are smooth enough that the Command strips will stick and bolster the insufficient holding power of the velcro.
If that doesn’t work, then … I don’t know what I’m going to do. Throwing more Command strips at the problem is unlikely to help if the base problem is wall texture. Get someone to sand that section of the wall flatter? (That’s exactly the kind of work I cannot do myself, thanks to all my denervated shoulder muscles.)
Ah, Jak has another idea: get a piece of plywood, screw it into the wall and then attach the tiles to the plywood. I’d paint the wood first, but yeah, that’s probably an easier plan.
My opinion of corporate social media was on a years-long downward trajectory until finally in 2022 it hit something like ‘abhorrence’, and I started trying — pretty successfully! — to cut it out of my life altogether. But then along came a dog, and now for several months I’ve been lurking on Instagram watching talking pet videos, which are not only entertaining but — for someone working with her own pets — often useful and informative.
I have deeply mixed feelings about this, but I guess that’s not new — I sometimes order from Amazon, too, and I think they’re pretty terrible. The problem is that I find myself really liking the AIC community, and a whole lot of that community activity takes place on Instagram and Tiktok. Sadly, the Fediverse alternative for video social media is a ghost town.
So I’ve compromised with myself: I created a new Instagram account dedicated to button pets, from which I can follow and respond to button pet accounts and — every once in a while — post a video of my own. (I made a Tiktok account too, grabbing the username just in case, but I may never use it — so far I hate the Tiktok experience too much. It feels like a crowd of strangers having manic episodes IN MY FACE.)
So if you use Instagram and want to see the very, very occasional video of Tashi using his words, you can follow @talkingwithtashi. (Note that I will only follow back from that account if you too are posting talking pet content. I’m very serious about tightly curating my experience.)
Watch my learning curve in real time! Because I am entirely new to posting video-based social media. I have been learning new video editing software and am starting to not just watch videos for the AIC lessons they contain, but also paying attention to how they are designed. In December, while Tashi was in cone-mediated regression and I was holiday-depressed, that all seemed way too difficult. But now my usual interest in learning new things has kicked back in, and I’m a little bit into it.
I also was recently admitted into FluentPet’s Guide program, which is a sub-community sponsored by the company for people who are … I guess I’d say … both serious about and somewhat successful at this button communication thing. It’s a prerequisite for being a FluentPet affiliate which gives discounts on purchases and commissions on referred purchases. Which would be a nice perk, because this equipment is not cheap.
I had to think through the decision about whether to become an affiliate or not pretty carefully, because the agreement contains language that says affiliates are not allowed to “publish any oral or written statements that are negative, disparaging, or derogatory about the Company or which place the Company in a negative light before the public.”
Which first of all, probably explains why I hadn’t heard about most of the problems with the Connect system until after I’d purchased it and my own experience drove me to talk privately with other users. And second, it means that I am barred from writing blog posts like this one in the future.
Anyone who’s known me for five minutes has probably picked up on the fact that honesty is Extremely Important to me. In fact, if I thought that the company was outright terrible, there wouldn’t even have been a question about what to do — they could keep their money and I would say whatever I wanted.
But I do still think FluentPet produces the best quality buttons currently available — it’s why I bought them! — and I am much less salty about their tech support now than I was a few weeks ago. A pleasant fellow has now followed up with me twice, and they have attempted to solve the problem where a high percentage of presses were not being logged by the app. I still have not spent the hours required to review a big block of camera footage and collect hard data on whether/how much the app is missing, but my feeling is that it’s significantly improved over the situation in November and December.
So here’s the compromise I ended up with: I signed on to be an affiliate, and I will abide by the agreement, but I explicitly encourage anyone who is considering a FluentPet purchase to contact me privately — by email, or by private message on Discord or Mastodon or Instagram — and I will give you my honest answers to any questions you have about the current state of FluentPet products. Even if it means you don’t buy them!
After half a century learning how to live in this body and in this world, I have accrued a lot of calm and patience that I did not start out with. Like, a good two orders of magnitude more patience and calm than I had in my twenties. I now consistently have more calm and patience than Jak! and he’s by nature a pretty steady, low-reactivity guy.
But by early November, I was at the very end of my cope rope with Tashi, and it was slipping through my fingers fast enough to burn.
At that point Tashi was eighteen kilos (about 40 pounds) and counting, and when I didn’t do what he wanted, he would lash out in frustration and anger. My thighs were constantly ringed, front and back, in green and purple bruises from being bitten. My right hand and thumb joint was bite-injured in a way that I feared might be permanent (it wasn’t, but it took three whole months to heal). I lost count of the number of skirts and dresses Tashi had ripped holes in (while I was wearing them), but it was at least six. Jak got thigh-nipped too, though less often — being much larger and louder and stronger meant that Tashi was less able to bully him.
When Tashi was riled up — which was often — redirection of any sort rarely worked. He also didn’t seem to give a flying fuck when I expressed hurt and pain, in sounds or words. I combed the internet and library books and asked people I knew with dogs for advice … and every single thing I tried ultimately failed. Sometimes it would seem to work at first — like when I tried to deter biting by squirting him in the face with a spray bottle of water. But after a couple of days the surprise wore off, and then the water just made Tashi more angry, so that he’d double down on the attack.
He would regularly back me up into a corner in the kitchen and I would be trapped, trying to dodge teeth and failing. I started carrying a giant padded oven glove around with me so that I could slip it on if he went after me and use it like a shield to block. Jak was somewhere between irritated and furious most of the time and I was despairing. And then, finally, a breakthrough.
More than ten weeks on, I think we’re safely past the risk of backsliding; this time the change has stuck. I finally found the key, the right combination of empathy and communication for his particular personality, and our relationship has been transformed. It happened, like most things, both very slowly and then all at once.
And what we have now is a true sweetheart of a dog. Not a perfect dog (because there is no such thing), but a very, very good dog who is generally well-behaved and who listens and learns and constantly improves. There was a time when my worst fear was that I could never love this dog, because he kept badly hurting me and didn’t seem to care, which is the kind of behavior from humans that’s caused me a lot of trauma in the past.
But now we understand each other, and we’ve built up trust, and I do, I do love this dog; I enjoy him immensely, and I’m so glad he’s in my life.