Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Restoration with the pups

Hard to believe but its Nutcracker season again, which means Florian's always in the studio spinning little ballerinas around. Fortunately, Florian's dance contacts all seem to have ballet schools in beautiful little towns near the Potomac, so we try to make the most of it by bringing the dogs along and being ready for a hike.




I love the Potomac this time of year, wide, flat, and spooky. 



And there's hardly anyone else on the trail, so no worries with the pups. 

Big bonus for Florian is that there are no snakes when its this cold on the trail.

I kind of love seeing snakes but for some reason our intrepid yodeler from the neutral territories is terrified of them, perhaps because he grew up with poisonous vi-pairs pursuing him as he leapt among the Alps picking mushrooms as a child. 


You wouldn't get this Swiss hiker out on these sorts of rocky surfaces in the summer, because he is convinced that under every rock, twined around every tree stump and even lurking in every shallow puddle is a copperhead.

On this hike, we didn't see a single snake 


but we did enjoy a perfect day and some really pretty foliage. 

It is so restorative to be out in nature, especially when there are few signs or sounds of human activity.


















Things have gotten so crazy lately that I feel a little bad taking a whole day to just be out somewhere with the dogs. 

Spending time with Uncle Johnny and Dad and my sister and niece, working often evenings and weekends on a really engaging project on public lands livestock grazing for my nonprofit job, working with a steady stream of grooming clients and trying to make time to visit my mom's grave.

Trying to contineu to work with Fozzier on skateboards, and Dahlia on controlling her many impulses

Two weeks ago I went up to New York to drive Uncle Johnny down here, and since then its been good fun to have him around, get him settled into his apartment, and go looking for good deals on furniture. 








I've been getting a steady stream of dog grooming clients, and have been working on a really engaging project on public lands livestock grazing at my nonprofit job--which is what I worked on 15 years ago when I lived in New Mexico--that keeps me happily looking at satellite photos of the Western U.S. and writing complaints to federal agencies for violations of environmental laws many an evening and weekend. 

Spending time with Dad and my sister and niece, and trying to make time for training with Fozzie and Dahlia. 











I'm not complaining about being busy. No, not me! I am grateful to have fulfilling work and to be surrounded by family members, even if they are crotchety and difficult. 



It just can make you feel a bit guilty when you take a day, or a weekend, to not work or take care of anyone or do much of anything besides go space out in the woods or on the river.  








This is another reason why dogs are our salvation, because they force us, or at least give us a really good excuse, to do the things that are important for our own health and wellness anyway. 


Thanks kids! One more weekend before even more madness with the holidays and plans to make a series of very complex vegan hors d'oevres. Where should we go THIS weekend?

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Bland Post about A Pleasant Weekend

The weather in these parts has been absolutely amazing lately. I say that not to gloat, but to quietly celebrate October because the other 11 months of the year in the mid-Atlantic are just about insufferable.

So please just indulge me as I post about our weekend in the sunshine, 













when we hiked around the Triadelphia reservoir on the Pawtuxent river. 

We'd brought my dad there on a drive the day before, and it was so beautiful and peaceful we decided to come back with the dogs and more time to explore.










Sometimes you really need a hike where you see almost no one, 



and where the dogs can run and swim off-leash. 

I felt totally confident that they would stay close; my only worry was that a deer would show up and Fozzie's over-the-top prey drive combined with Dahlia's drive to do whatever Fozzie does would be bad news for that deer.


 But we didn't see any deer,

in fact we didn't see anyone except a few kayakers out in the water.



We've barely gotten to go out this summer in the kayaks. Which is too bad, because I think Dahlia, with her compact size, would be a natural.  



I think the dogs are probably just as glad not to be in the kayaks, 



and to choose their own means of interacting with the water or just staying on land. 

We were lucky that weekend to have two perfect, sunny, pleasant days, and on Sunday the dogs and I accompanied Florian to teach a master ba
llet class in Virginia. While I was waiting for him, I bought a couple of orchid pots. I know, almost too exciting to imagine but again, bear with me.

To help me recover, Florian took me to the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac, which is one of our old favorites. A trail that I associate with my scrappy, snorty, compact little female dogs like my beloved old Tashi, who accompanied us there during the last few months of her long life, 




and Sandy, who went on an epic trek with us once along the rocky, no dogs allowed sections of the trail. 

Because sometimes, you just have to break the rules.


How do YOU like to shake things up?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Solid Gold Turkey Jerky Dog Treats from Chewy.com

 The tasty treats from Chewy.com keep comin', and my dogs certainly don't object to playing the role of product testers. 


Solid Gold Turkey Jerky Dog Treats



This month, we had the pleasure of sampling Solid Gold Turkey Jerky Dog Treats. Like everything we've gotten from Chewy.com, these treats have pretty normal-sounding ingredients like turkey, oats, and cinnamon. 



Top-notch ingredients are all well and good but they don't really tell you how these things taste, now do they?

Product testers, your services are needed. 

To really put products to the test, I like to see if my dogs will work for them. So we brought out the old Pilates ball and sure enough, Fozzie got one whiff of those turkey jerky treats and positively launched those front paws up.


I then tried getting out some of those fancy organic raw treats I've been using on walks lately, which Fozzie likes, but compared to the Solid Gold Treats there wasn't nearly the same enthusiasm.

I love training multiple dogs at once, which is such a fun exercise when you have good enough treats to hold everyone's attention. Dahlia was able to keep her cool and hold a sit while waiting for her treats and watching Fozzie do some more Pilates. 














Dahlia herself wasn't quite ready for the Pilates ball, enthused as she was for the treats. 

No worries squirt, you get one of the really good treats anyway. And yes Fozzie, you can have another one too!



Thanks Chewy.com for the awesome treats! These are some winners for sure. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Skateboard: Fozzie's Next Frontier

After 3 years of persistent work with treats and all sorts of techniques for working with reactive dogs, Fozzie has been slowly making discernible progress with staying calm in the presence of other dogs.

When we see other dogs on trails or neighborhood walks, where once Fozzie would have lunged, barked, and trembled at first sight, now he can sometimes keep himself together. He can accept treats and refrain from barking as long as the dog is at a reasonable distance, isn't also reacting, and isn't a large, pointy eared dog like an Akita or a Malamute.

He still trembles and gets very excited, and if we don't have time to prepare and a dog appears near us suddenly, Fozzie still puts on quite the display--so we still have work to do on Fozzie's responses to other dogs.

With skateboards, I'm afraid we have even more work to do. For some reason the combination of the sound and the sight of a person, upright and looking like a person in most ways, but moving in a way that is so unbelievably strange, is too much for our poor boy. 















So we are trying to set up practice opportunities for skateboard reactivity too. 


Fortunately, Florian enjoys the opportunity to get on a skateboard in front of our house and zoom around while I give Fozzie high-value treats.
















Still, even when Florian pets him beforehand, gets on the skateboard in front of him, and then skates off slowly, Fozzie still barks and lunges, and snatches the treats with none of his customary gentleness.  

It's funny, because Fozzie can stand on the skateboard himself and even move with it a bit, but once someone else is on it he just can't keep his cool. 

I am going to try just going out on the skateboard by myself with Fozzie, moving it around just enough to make the skateboard noise and delivering organic raw salmon treats.

With enough repetition of that, I don't see how we could fail to make progress.


 Or maybe it's just time Fozzie go on doggie Prozac! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall camping in Green Ridge State Forest

Last weekend we got a break from family and work obligations and decided to take the dogs for a camping trip. 

It feels like forever since we've been camping. While we love our easy Sunday excursions to some beautiful place, there's something magical about getting away overnight. 

We decided to go to Berkeley Springs, WV, one of our favorite towns and one surrounded by forests and protected areas. We were pleasantly surprised to find the town in the midst of its Apple Butter festival, and took some time to check out the booths and buy some amazing apples.

But crowds are stressful for Fozzie, and pretty soon it was time to get ourselves to the woods. Green Ridge State Forest is enormous, and we drove for what seemed like hours on marginal, rutted, dirt roads until after dark, when we finally found a place to pull off. 

We were in the van, so had a thick foam bed and a warm enclosure, but for some reason neither one of us had an easy time getting comfortable or falling asleep. 

Still, as I lay there listening to the quiet, a tremendous feeling of well-being came over me. 












Here I was in a van in the forest, alone with my sweetie and my dogs. 

Far from civilization, my job, household tasks, or family responsibilities. No one knew where I was, and there was no one I needed to email, nothing I needed to do in the morning. 








If I opened my eyes, all I could see was darkness. 

If I listened, all I heard was crickets, Dahlia's snores, and an occasional, strange, very wild-sounding animal's cry. I have no idea what it was. Maybe a coyote? 










When we got up in the morning, our backs were so stiff we could barely move. How is it possible that I used to stretch out my sleeping pad--one of those thin, hard, corrugated gray and black ones--on the side of the road in some wild and woolly corner of Texas or New Mexico, and wake up in the morning next to a drilling rig pumping away to a haunting rhythm, or a cow chewing her cud practically in my ear, refreshed and with nary an ache? I guess that's what 20 years will do.

In any case, though hardly feeling refreshed Florian and I knew that the best way to shake off the stiffness was to get moving. So we courageously overcame the challenge of bending over to tie our hiking boots then took off along the road again until we came upon a trail. 






We'd actually seen a lot of hunters and other campers along the road, but in this area we didn't see anyone so we felt good letting the dogs run free.  


Until it would occur to me that Dahlia is deaf, and so if she ran off somewhere with Fozzie I'd have no way of calling her, which thought would lead to panic. So I'd call Fozzie, and leash up the piglet when she came charging and humping down the trail. 

But she never failed to charge and hump back in my direction every time I called Fozzie, and didn't seem interested in straying far away. 


She sure does love her Fozzie. 

Even with an entire forest to explore, she was most interested in being with him. And yes, usually humping him. 











And Fozzie, as always, was such a good sport. 

After our hike, we staggered back to the van and slowly made our way back to civilization, and a five-star dumpster diving experience that yielded a freezer full of organic raw dog food.  What a healthy interlude for the whole family. 

What's YOUR favorite way to pretend you're 20 years younger?

Monday, October 13, 2014

When a deaf dog is a good listener

Daria came to us with an unusual name, and none of my friends and family who have met her could remember it. So they ended up calling her variations on Delia, Doria, Dorito, and Dahlia. It's hard to motivate to decide on a name for a deaf dog; after all, you're not going to be calling her. But you do need a way to refer to her, and for a foster dog you need something catchy that will make would-be adopters stop and take a look.  

I like Dahlia; it's a bit smoother and more feminine than Daria and so that one has stuck.  

Dahlia is really settling in with us--she is very attached to me and Florian and has adjusted well to our routine. She is still a wacky little pill in the evenings, though she settles down more quickly for sure. The other night, she was pestering me and barking and without thinking I told her to Sit! and that little butt hit the floor faster than I've ever seen it on any of my dogs or past foster dogs who could hear perfectly fine. 

It was almost as if she could hear.


But I think what really happened is that she is very tuned in, very treat motivated, and very eager to please. She sat just because she is a smart little thing who thought it was a good bet that a Sit would bring a treat.

For me it just brought home a little more how not a big deal her deafness is. In a few short weeks she has been readily and easily trained in the basics--and she's got them down better than many of the hearing dogs I've had. 

So proud of my little deaf piglet-pill!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Primal Jerky Nibs: an Excellent Training and Desensitization Treat

We are really enjoying the chance to sample a variety of high-quality, high-value dog snacks from Chewy.com. This month, I asked to try some Primal Jerky Chicken Nibs



Since my beloved Lamar passed away, I am committed to having a steady stream of foster dogs to keep saving lives. And because having just one dog would be way too quiet. 

So there will no shortage of opportunities in the foreseeable future for putting new treats to the test training, socializing, and encouraging better behavior. 


As for Daria, she still gets into her evening wackies most every evening. The main difference between now and the first week or so I had her being that at some point, Fozzie decided he wanted to play with her. So as long as they are both having fun, I let them play. 







When, inevitably, Fozzie tires before Daria, I shake a bag of Primal Jerky Nibs in her face and point to her doggie bed for some training time.  

Primal Jerky Nibs are made of chickens who have been raised organically and without antibiotics or added hormones, and the tiny bite size is perfect for rewarding a long-duration stay. For tossing, one at a time, onto her dog bed as she chooses to remain there rather than nip compulsively at Fozzie's hind quarters. 






Fozzie, for his own part, got to enjoy the power of these tasty nibs during the last thunderstorm we had. 


Fozzie is terrified during thunderstorms, and manages his fear generally by climbing on top of one of us, trembling, and drooling. I suppose I should really work on this by getting one of those thunderstorm tapes and playing it at low volume while giving him treats, but I haven't gotten around to getting one yet. 





So for now, I try to play some nice music to drown out the thunder and just give him really good snacks. Primal Jerky Nibs were a perfect size and high-value enough to take the edge off Fozzie's anxiety. 

Thanks, Chewy.com for the great all-purpose high-value treats!