Disdainful beagle at a café

Getting some major side eye from this beagle in our neighborhood in London. He was just enjoying his latté and would like to be left alone, thank you very much.

Beagle at tea

Enhance!

Beagle (c) Abby Farson Pratt

I love him.

He also seems to prefer to dine in a chair, like a proper gentleman. I saw him again about two weeks after I snapped this picture, and he was at a different café, sitting once more in a chair, looking around with an appraising eye.

Dogs at Hampstead Heath

Hampstead
Dog heaven, am I right?

This past weekend, we walked for about 12 miles in and around Hampstead and particularly enjoyed Hampstead Heath.

Hampstead HeathI was, naturally, fixated on observing all of the dogs, who get to run around the gigantic park off leash. Hampstead Heath is like an enormous, boundary-less dog park, and the dogs all appeared to be in heaven. And per usual here in London, they were all behaving beautifully. I didn’t see a single fight or tussle. Many of the dogs ignored each other, and if they did stop to greet each other, it was very brief and polite.

HampsteadQuick phone photos of a small fraction of all of the dogs we saw:

Dogs at Hampstead HeathHampsteadHampsteadHampsteadHampsteadDogs at Hampstead Heath(*The only anxious dog I saw was a German shepherd puppy. Go figure. We asked to pet her, and she was a fluffy bundle of nerves, about 12 weeks old. She was crying because she couldn’t bite the wheels of a child’s tricycle. Her back hocks were horribly misshapen and she had no strength at all in her back end. I hate seeing that. I really do.)

Hampstead HeathMore than anything, this park made me wish our girls could have been raised in London. I daresay they would have been so much more well-adjusted in public, if they had had regular access to such immense and beautiful off-leash places. Definitely something to keep working on once we come home in August.

Visiting this park inspired me to visit more of the parks in our area back home. We don’t have an off-leash space quite to this degree of magnificence, but we do have some safe trails to practice recall. I am inspired!

Do you have an off-leash area near where you live?

Pup links!

Three danes in a room. Click for source.

Dog-related links from around the Web this week!

What Dogs Want. This might be one of the best things I’ve seen on the Internet. Cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt shows us what dogs really want: To chase pigeons with hot dogs in their beaks. A tennis ball bride. A house made of old fish. (The Hairpin)

Dog Walking Bliss. Karen London reflects on why it’s always good to take a walk. (The Bark)

Is a Half-Hour of Exercise Just Enough to Make a Dog Hyper? Professional dog walker Lindsay shares her experiences and thoughts on the topic that a typical walk may be enough just to rev your dog’s engine–not to wear him out. This makes me feel guilty for thinking my 20-minute walks with the SPCA dogs are enough to sate them for a few hours. If only we all had more time! (That Mutt)

The World of Dog Walking: 5 Surprising Facts. Another professional dog walker shares some interesting bits of new research about walking dogs. For instance, dogs tend to act more aggressively when they are walked by men. Interesting… (The Hydrant)

Dog Photos by Mark Peckmezian. Charming and faded photographs of dogs by photographer Mark Peckmezian. (Miss Moss)

Sleeping Dogs Lie. A collection of photos of sighthounds sleeping in piles. (DesertWindHounds)

The Welcome Decline of the German Shepherd. Quoting from Susan Orlean’s new book, Rin Tin Tin, which I just finished, this blogger reflects on why it might be a good thing that the GSD is not as popular as it once was. (The Hydrant)

I Got to Get Better. One trainer’s ambitious and inspiring list of her goals to become a better dog trainer. (Raising K9)

Diversion Dog. That is one crafty beagle. Have you ever seen a dog pull a stunt like this? I think I have… Just proof that dogs know how to get what they want! (Animals Being Di*ks)

SPCA Day: The joy of Pooch

I confess that I went to the SPCA for my day of dog walking somewhat reluctantly this past week. The weather has been brutally hot here and last Saturday was no exception. The heat index on Saturday was showing something like 102 degrees Fahrenheit for the majority of the day. Even though I was sweating my face off, I was happy, because the dogs are always happy.

Pooch

My most memorable dog of the day was Pooch, a young male pit bull. Pooch was one of the last dogs I walked on Saturday. Unlike most of the dogs, he didn’t jump or bark at me when I stopped at his kennel to take him out. He quietly sat by the door and just watched me, somewhat shyly. I crouched down and put my hand out for him to sniff. He ducked his head in an anxious way when I put his leash on, but as soon as I turned around to walk, he bolted out of that kennel like a rocket. The kid was ready to GO!

Like most pits, Pooch used his low center of gravity and strong pulling force to drag me all over the trails. I wasn’t much use trying to calm him down, so I took him to one of the enclosed “agility” areas. As soon as I snapped his leash off, he went wild with excitement: Racing in circles around the perimeter, looking for things to chew and balls to chase. He was especially enamored with a stuffed lamb toy that had been left in the pen. To amuse himself, he would toss it up in the air and then jump and catch it. I was delighted to just sit there and watch him play. If I wasn’t engaged in the activity, however, he was sure to let me know that he wanted my full participation. If I sat down after throwing the ball, he would charge up to me and impatiently throw his paws on my knees, grinning the whole time.

Pooch taught me a few things on Saturday. First, that dogs can behave very differently depending on their environments and situations. Pooch was shy and still when in his kennel, but as soon as he got out, he was like a totally different (and energy-packed!) dog. Second, Pooch reinforced that many pits and pit mixes have almost boundless energy. Compared with the different breed mixes I’ve met at the shelter, it’s the pits who seem to be the most gregariously energetic. And third, Pooch reminded me of what a thoroughly delightful thing it is to just watch a dog play. It’s encouraging to find the dogs at the shelter who are able to maintain their play drives to such a happy extent–despite their circumstances.

I hope Pooch finds a great home of his own very soon.

Beauty

I was also taken with Beauty, a sweet-faced female hound of middling adult age. We have a ton of hounds at our shelter. I’d never seen so many in my entire life. This is because of the area in which we live, where there are many hunters and who go out with packs of hounds. These hunters don’t always take the best care of their hunting dogs, who may often get separated from the pack or breed with each other without any regard for what will happen to the bitches or their puppies.

I don’t know Beauty’s back story, but I do know that she’s a quiet and lovely soul. Many of the hounds I’ve met show little to no interest in people. I don’t know if this is because this is a “hound thing” or if it’s because of the way they’ve been raised, but it’s often hard to get a hound’s attention–mainly because they are usually following the scent trail of something that’s about a hundred times more interesting than I am. Beauty was an exception to this aloof, uninterested hound trait.

As we walked, she paused every so often to stop and just look me straight in the face. Not in a challenging way, not in a fearful way–but a look that communicated calm attention. I’m anthropomorphizing here, but to me, Beauty’s look also communicated gratitude. Every time she stopped to watch me, to follow my eyes, she seemed to be saying, “Thank you.”

I don’t know what she was actually saying, but I’m going to believe that for a while longer. She deserves a family who will appreciate and cherish her gentleness and goodness. I hope she finds them soon.

Finally, another favorite moment of the day was with the tiny beagle mix puppy that I got to cradle for a few minutes. (I don’t have a picture of him, which probably means that he got adopted!) He was in a small carrier on the floor while his kennel was being cleaned and the poor baby was just crying his heart out. I was in between shifts of walking and I couldn’t help myself when I heard him. I stopped, sat down on the ground, and let him walk out of the carrier toward me. I didn’t want to reach in there and grab him, as he already seemed very frightened and confused. He cautiously approached me and I picked him up. He had brilliant blue eyes and those sweet, velvety beagle ears. I held him for a few minutes and spoke softly to him.

I could have sat there all day, but there were big dogs who needed walking and so I reluctantly put him back. My wish for him is that he will find a family who will raise him well and give him a long, happy life in one household.

I’m looking forward to my next volunteering weekend and to all of the new things that I will undeniably learn!

(Also: Some exciting news about Penny, the hyperactive dog that I thought no one would adopt: Apparently, she was adopted by the DEA to be a drug enforcement dog at the airports! I’m excited for her and I hope this job will provide a great channel for her boundless energy.)