The dog’s first Christmas

Enjoying her cow ear by the fire

We had a wonderful first Christmas with Pyrrha and a great holiday away for about two weeks. She is just a gem when we’re on the road and I think she prefers living with our respective families: She gets lavished with attention, multiple daily walks, and multiple family members slipping her food.

General field notes from our first Christmas with Pyrrha:

Walking and dog wrangling

Pack walk

Dog wrangling

My siblings were dog sitting for two neighborhood dogs while we were there: Dally, the Miss America of golden retrievers, whom you may recall from last year; and Spike, the workhorse black lab. And then, of course, there was Dublin, my dad’s surrogate dog, who also plays a big sister-like role to Pyrrha. We spent hours with these dogs, often on crazy pack walks (which, as you can see from the photos above, we weren’t always the smoothest at handling).

The almost constant company of other dogs is so good for Pyr’s confidence. She seems to blossom around them. She is afraid of fewer things; she doesn’t react as much to small children or strange sounds. AND, the big surprise: She peed on a walk for the very first time! This has never happened before. I think she was finally learning from the other dogs. Needless to say, we were shocked. She is still full of surprises.

Losing her for half an hour

Let's go

The absolute WORST part of our entire holiday occurred on a pleasant, sunny afternoon at my parents’ house. We were all lounging around the living room. I stood up after a spell and looked down the hallway. The back door was wide open and Pyrrha was nowhere in sight.

My parents live on a very busy street with an almost constant stream of cars, and I immediately flew into panic mode. I ran outside and could not see her anywhere. She wasn’t next door, waiting at Dublin’s fence. She wasn’t in the front or side yards. She wasn’t across the street.

Everyone split up in every direction and started looking for her. Guion got in the car; my brother-in-law started running toward campus. I grabbed a bike and started down one of the back residential streets, sobbing and calling her name. I was convinced: This is it. She’s gone for good this time. We won’t ever find her. She’s been hit and killed by a car. She will never be found…

I was biking and crying, calling her name, biking some more, and I had almost reached the next intersection, about a block and a half from the house, when I heard the blessed sound of tags jingling. I couldn’t see her, so I kept shouting her name. Then, out from behind a house and its backyard, my stupid, happy dog comes bounding up to me, having heard my calls. I have never been so happy to see her stupid face.

Lessons learned: a) My parents’ back door does not shut all the way, even when it appears closed; b) Pyrrha will wander off without a sound, c) But she will come to the sound of my voice, which is immensely relieving. I wasn’t even sure that would happen at all. I’m also relieved I’m the one to find her, because I’m honestly not sure she would have come to anyone else in the family, much less a well-meaning stranger. All in all, we were very, very lucky. But that is an experience I really don’t want to repeat ever again. Sheesh.

Practicing off-leash recall

Partially inspired by frightening afternoon of the lost dog, my dad and I decided to practice a few off-leash/recall exercises with Pyrrha. Dublin has the most perfect recall of any dog I’ve ever met; the girl will stop on a dime if you call her name. Our idea was to get in a big field with the dogs, and the various family members, and tie Pyrrha and Dublin together with leashes. If they wandered, we could always call Dublin back in a pinch.

I was delighted to learn that Pyrrha came to me every single time I called her, even when she was a good distance away. This, obviously, could be because of the unusual circumstances, but I was pleased nonetheless.

Things to work on: 1) Actually having treats with me when I try this again, and 2) Training her to come to other people, namely Guion. Right now, I am the only person that she will come to. Obviously something to improve.

Snuggling surprises

Snuggle buddies

For all of her sweetness, Pyrrha is not a very cuddly dog. This, obviously, is a function of her natural shyness. However, our two weeks away taught us that there is some snuggly people-love residing somewhere deep within our shy dog.

I was ASTONISHED one night while we were all watching TV as a family. The fire was blazing and my sister Grace (pictured above) was on the floor with Pyrrha somewhat nearby. In a moment, I was surprised to watch Pyrrha crawl up next to Grace and put her head on Grace’s legs, lining her body right up next to Grace’s. It was almost like they were spooning. Definitely a first for Pyrrha, and a heartwarming one at that. As my Dad said, on watching this cuddly scene: “It looks like P-dog has decided that she likes people.”

Nom nom

All in all, a happy Christmas for our pup. We all learned a lot, I think. (Lock the back door!)

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