Dogs in the wedding

We took a weekend trip, with both pups in tow, to attend a friend’s wedding. It was a lovely outdoor affair, and the couple are a happy, athletic, dog-loving pair. They have a pair of Brittany spaniels, named Eolus and Maple, who are their heart and joy.

At the rehearsal dinner, each table had a paper silhouette of one of the family dogs on it, which naturally warmed my heart. During his toast at the rehearsal dinner, the bride’s father said he knew that she was in it for life when Matt, her groom, bought her a dog (little Maple). And then, after the ceremony, both dogs were brought in to get family photos with the bride and groom. Here is a poor photo I snapped of Maple, the younger spaniel, giving her mama a kiss:

Maple gives her mom a happy wedding kiss #cheers2thechisholms

Although the dogs didn’t participate in the ceremony itself, they were certainly important members of the family. And I think this was rather an ideal way to involve pups in a wedding. I don’t know many dogs who would actually enjoy being in a wedding, but I’m sure they wanted to be around for at least part of the fun. Maple and Eolus had a handler assigned to them during the reception, and so they got to hang out for a bit and mingle with guests.

Did you/would you have your dogs in your wedding? We didn’t have dogs when we got married, but I imagine we’d certainly want them around to be included in the photos, as our friends did.

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Meanwhile, our dogs had a nice vacation with my parents. They both get tons of exercise when my dad is in charge of them, and so they are always very happy and content. As you can see, they are both very devoted to him:

Ever devoted to grandfather Jak #germanshepherds

We got some more off-leash practice, including some romping at the shores of a lake, in the afternoons. They both did quite well, although they seemed especially excited to be FREE and were a little less attentive to us than they were on our recent hike.

Hanging out in Davidson #germanshepherd #babygurrrrl

How were your weekends?

Review: Primal Venison Lung Puffs

Primal lung puffs review | Doggerel

We’re big fans of limited-ingredient treats over here, and so we were excited to try this offering from Primal: Venison Lung Puffs. (The name makes me laugh a bit. “Lung puffs” sound like what a baby dragon might do when learning how to blow smoke…)

Primal lung puffs review | Doggerel

The treats are dehydrated and come in a variety of sizes and chips, but they are easy to break up (without excess dust or crumbs).

Primal lung puffs review | Doggerel

I’m not sure if the dogs have had venison before, but they were BIG fans! This is purely anecdotal, too, but they really seem to go crazy for treats that are solo ingredient (i.e., just meat), much more than the ones that have grains or other fillers in them.

Ingredients list? Venison lung and ascorbic acid. You can’t really beat that!

Additionally, these treats offer:

  • Venison raised in New Zealand without antibiotics or added hormones
  • Single-source protein
  • No preservatives
  • Grain and gluten free
  • No added salt or sugar

Primal lung puffs review | Doggerel

These treats are currently on sale for $6.99 a bag at Chewy.com. We will be adding these to our shopping list for future treat purchases!

Do your dogs eat limited-ingredient treats? If you don’t make them yourself, what are some of your favorite sources/brands for these kinds of treats?

Disclosure: We were provided with a bag of these treats by Chewy.com in exchange for our honest review.

After an Illness, Walking the Dog

(c) Georges Dambier

(c) Georges Dambier.

After an Illness, Walking the Dog

Jane Kenyon

Wet things smell stronger,
and I suppose his main regret
is that he can sniff just one at a time.
In a frenzy of delight
he runs way up the sandy road—
scored by freshets after five days
of rain. Every pebble gleams, every leaf.

When I whistle he halts abruptly
and steps in a circle,
swings his extravagant tail.
Then he rolls and rubs his muzzle
in a particular place, while the drizzle
falls without cease, and Queen Anne’s lace
and goldenrod bend low.

The top of the logging road stands open
and bright. Another day, before
hunting starts, we’ll see how far it goes,
leaving word first at home.
The footing is ambiguous.

Soaked and muddy, the dog drops,
panting, and looks up with what amounts
to a grin. It’s so good to be uphill with him,
nicely winded, and looking down on the pond.
A sound commences in my left ear
like the sound of the sea in a shell;
a downward vertiginous drag comes with it.

Time to head home. I wait
until we’re nearly out to the main road
to put him back on the leash, and he
—the designated optimist—
imagines to the end that he is free.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have not been sick lately, but I love this poem, and I feel closely connected with Kenyon’s observations: how the aftermath of an illness seems to bring ordinary things into sharper focus, how we cherish simple things, such as our dog’s “frenzy of delight” or the look of “his extravagant tail.”

Hope you have peaceful weekends ahead of you.

Review: What the Dog Knows

What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working DogsAs soon as I heard about Cat Warren’s book, What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, I added it to my reading list. The book combines several of my favorite things: canine science + German shepherds + North Carolina.

And this book certainly did not disappoint! Part history, part scientific narrative, and part memoir, What the Dog Knows delivers a compelling account of working with cadaver dogs — dogs who are trained to work with law enforcement and their handlers to find bodies.

Warren, a German shepherd enthusiast, found a new working-line shepherd puppy after her previous dog passed away, but he came with some reservations. Solo, as he came to be named, was a singleton puppy (aka a solo puppy without any littermates). Warren was well aware of the warnings that come with singleton puppies, from Patricia McConnell and other dog experts, but she and her husband signed up for the challenge.

Solo turned out to be a very driven, stubborn, nose-oriented pup and caused Warren to cry to her husband on the first night that she didn’t like the puppy. But, as you can expect, their relationship grew and strengthened dramatically as Solo grew up and as Warren found the perfect profession for him: cadaver dog. Solo remained a headstrong, determined dog, but Warren quickly learned that he had the ideal personality for this work. As one of her trainers told her, the perfect working dog is one who is basically an asshole.

In cataloging her experiences of training and working with Solo, Warren also provides valuable research about working dogs and their history. Her anecdotes are also humorous, engaging, and thought-provoking. While reading, I was repeatedly recounting stories to Guion from this book, usually followed by the exclamations: Can you believe that?, that’s insane!, and dogs are SO cool!

As an aside, it’s also a pleasure to read a dog book that’s well written. Dog lovers abound, but not many of them are also great writers. Warren is a journalism professor at NC State University, so she certainly knows her way around a sentence. The book was a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed its language and narratives from start to finish.

Warren also maintains a great blog, with more working dog stories and photos of her beautiful shepherds, Solo and Coda.

If you’re interested in working dogs, or even if you just want to know more about how the dog’s nose and brain work, this book comes with our hearty recommendation.

Disclosure: I was kindly provided with a review copy of this book by the author, but she didn’t request a review. I just really liked it! All opinions are my own.

Practicing “off-leash” recall on a hike with the dogs

On Sunday, we took the pups on a much-needed hike at a nearby park. We found trails in the mountains that took us about an hour and a half to complete, which was perfect, as we needed to get back to town in relatively short order.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

The best part, though, was that the trail was completely empty, so we got to practice some much-needed off-leash recall.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

We had both girls on long drag leads, and we were outfitted with bits of cooked, real turkey, which proved to be a very strong reinforcer.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

I have to say, I was so impressed with our girls! Living in the city, they are very rarely off-leash, so this is not a behavior that we often get to practice. But they did so well. They stuck to the trail and came back to us every time we called.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

Pyrrha’s recall (to me) is pretty foolproof. During the latter part of the hike, she just walked right alongside me. We still need to work on her coming to Guion (as you can see from the first picture of the dogs in this post, she is still nervous about interacting with Guion), so we practiced with him being the only one to reward her when she came back to us.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

Eden still needs to work on the actual coming to us, but she always stopped to wait for us to catch up during the whole hike — and she always stopped to reorient and turn to us when we called her. It was very cute, and it put us both at ease, as she never allowed herself to get out of sight. We worked on only rewarding her when she came right up to us (instead of rewarding her as we walked closer to her), and she seemed to catch on to this gambit rather quickly.

I love using long drag leads to practice this behavior, because you still have the reassurance of control if you need it, and 30-foot leads mean that they can never really get too far away from your reach. The only trick is not stepping on the lines while you hike!

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

We came home with two tired and very happy pups!

How do you practice off-leash recall?