Happy pups at summer camp

As I’ve mentioned, our dogs are living it up at “summer camp” with my parents while we are in London.

My dad faithfully sends us tons of photos and videos, which naturally make me very happy. (For example, he sent 13 dog videos in one day over WhatsApp. Thirteen.) I’m not sure how pleased my dear, tidy mother is about having our monsters for a whole summer, but my father, who is as crazy about dogs as I am, is over the  moon about it.

Dogs at summer campLook how happy these goons are!

Dad’s favorite activity is taking the girls and Dublin (the neighbor’s lab, who is Dad’s de facto dog) out on long walks, all tethered together in this crazy system of ropes:

Dogs at summer campHe still uses the girls’ Freedom harnesses, as you can see, but he eschews standard leashes. To each his own. (At least they are not retractable leashes, which I loathe to no end.)

Pyrrha’s happiness has been the big (very welcome) surprise.

Dogs at summer camp
Dad’s caption for this photo: “Bring it on, world; I ain’t afraid of nothin’!”

She, the dog who tends to mistrust men, has reportedly become very attached to Dad. She brings him toys as an invitation to play (what? Pyrrha?), and she even lies down outside his bedroom door in the morning, waiting for him to wake up. Color me stunned and so, so pleased.

Eden is his trusty athletic companion, however. Dad takes her rollerblading around the neighborhood and on morning trail runs and spends plenty of time perfecting her Frisbee skills. He likes to tell me that Eden is just him in dog form: constantly moving and ready to play 24/7. Sounds about right.

Even though I miss them very much, it brings me a lot of joy to know that Pyrrha and Eden are so happy and so well cared for in our absence. I have full confidence that they are loving life at summer camp, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I expect them to be somewhat disappointed when we come take them back to “normal” life with us at the end of the summer! I think they will grieve. I know my dad will…

Does your family ever watch your dogs for you? How does it go?

A successful first trip with the dogs

On the heels of my post about the dynamics between our two girls, I am happy to report that we had a successful first road trip with both of them.

They were both a little antsy about being in the back seat of our little hatchback, but eventually they settled down and were able to sleep. Finally, THIS even happened, which blew my mind:

2 shepherds in a tiny car.

Pyrrha is very touchy about her personal space, so I was kind of amazed that she let Eden do this. It’s also really adorable.

Family weekend
Dad and Eden interacting, as my sister Grace watches.

EDEN REPORT: My dad is in love with Eden, and the two of them were inseparable the whole weekend. He essentially took care of her the entire time we were there; it was amazing! Every morning, they went for a run together or went rollerblading around town, and then in the afternoons, he played Frisbee with her and Dublin. (I shouldn’t have been worried about how Dublin and Eden would interact; Dublin is a champ, and she gets along with everyone.) Because of this, Eden had a rather hard time calming down indoors, because she was following Dad around the entire time, waiting for him to go outside and play with her.

PYRRHA REPORT: Pyrrha seems really comfortable at my parents’ house now, which is so encouraging to see. My immediate and extended family showed up at various points over the weekend, and we had a noisy house full of nearly 15 people. But Pyrrha just took it all in stride. Just about everyone came up to me to say how impressed they were with how much she’d calmed down and how easygoing she seemed. It always warms my heart. It’s hard for me, being so close to her, to actually recognize her progress, so it’s encouraging to hear it from people who don’t see her every day and can track how she’s grown in confidence and calmness.

Here she is getting some love from my cousin:

Family weekend

On Saturday morning, Guion and I walked Pyrrha to the farmers’ market and Dad rollerbladed there with Eden. We kept Pyrrha on the periphery of the event, because there were a lot of people, dogs, and children, but she was admirably composed. She even met a little girl who was specifically afraid of German shepherds and quietly and calmly licked her hand. She had just one outburst, toward a maltese on a retractable leash (ugh, bane of my existence), which was my fault for not getting away quickly enough. It’s hard to get away when those dogs are on those idiotic leashes! But, in the wider scheme of things, I was proud of how she handled all of the dogs and little kids. (Edie continues to be untroubled by crowds, kids, and other dogs, which we are perpetually grateful for.)

Family weekend

Overall, it was a good excursion to bring both girls to my parents’ house, as my parents will be watching them for three days at the end of this month while Guion and I are at a wedding. Fingers crossed that they have another good experience with our crazies!

Easter with lots of Frisbee practice

We had a lovely and relaxed Easter weekend with my family, who came to stay with us. The dogs were really well-behaved, likely because Eden got tons of exercise (and because Pyrrha is almost always easygoing at home).

Easter weekend

My dad, as I’ve mentioned before, is who I got my great love of dogs from, and he loved being with the girls.

Easter weekend
Dad and the girls.

Dad played several daily games of Frisbee with Edie, and I daresay her skills are improving demonstrably. Dad trained Dublin, their neighbor’s lab, to be a consummate disc dog. And as I’ve mentioned before, Dad just seems to be able to “speak dog,” despite the fact that he’s never done any kind of formal training with a dog. They just always seem to understand each other perfectly.

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Watching Eden has also made me realize that she’s the most herding-dog-like of any German shepherd I’ve met or watched. The intensity, the focus, the stalking postures, the quick circles, even the barkiness all strike me as hallmarks of dogs who are actually supposed to be herding sheep. Even my Dad said, after playing with her for a while, “I wonder if she has some Australian shepherd in her…” — referencing our childhood Aussie, who had a lot of herding drive.

Easter weekend

Unsurprisingly, Eden bonded VERY strongly with Dad over the weekend. As soon as he stood up to do anything, she was at his side, giving him this intense stare, waiting for him to make a move to the back door. When he and my mom left, she started to whine when he got in the car to drive away.

Easter weekend

Pyrrha, my little self-contained lady, prefers to be a spectator of the sport.

Easter weekend

Or, she is just the grubby fan in the stands (who, in this case, found a bowl with tiny bits of biscuit dough left unattended):

Easter weekend

What a weirdo.

Regardless, it was a great weekend. It’s fun to see Eden’s blossoming disc dog prospects, even if it’s only for a fun way to wear her out at home!

Have you ever had a dog who worshiped the Frisbee? What were some things you learned to develop disc dog skills?

My father and dogs

Floor time with Juju
My dad, on the floor with Pyrrha. He quickly learned that she was far less afraid of him the lower he was to the ground, and so down on the ground he got.

“My father… was a man who understood all dogs thoroughly and treated them like human beings.”

— Flann O’Brien in The Third Policeman

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

My father is also just like the father from this Flann O’Brien quote, and today is his birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to honor my dad with a dog-centric birthday post.

With Juju and TT
The first time my parents met Pyrrha.

Growing up, Dad would help us kids fall asleep last night by telling us stories. Whether the stories were imaginary or from his own childhood, they almost always involved dogs as major characters. My favorite stories were about his childhood, which was spent on a farm in rural Indiana, surrounded by a menagerie of dogs and horses. His childhood sounded like a dreamy paradise to me, an animal-obsessed and dog-less kid.

Dad has always had great instincts with dogs, even though he’s never read a single animal behavior book or taken a dog to a training class. Some people, I’ve found, are just like that; scientific training or no, their instincts are almost always right when it comes to communicating with dogs. I feel like I’ve had to learn my way into being a successful canine communicator, but Dad was born with this skill.

Currently, his true dog love is Dublin, our neighbor’s chocolate lab. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you may be familiar with Dublin, as Pyrrha gets lots of play-time with her when we visit my parents.

A recent photo Dad texted us of him running errands with Dublin.
A recent photo Dad texted us of him running errands with Dublin.

He’s shaped Dublin into a masterful disc dog, a loyal companion, and a running buddy. Dublin is as devoted to him as he is to her.

One of our favorite recent family stories was told by my disgruntled mother. Dad had just come home from a long business trip, and Mom was really looking forward to sitting down and talking with him and spending some quality time together. When she asked him if they could talk, he said, “I’m sorry, I can’t; I have a lot of important stuff I have to do now.” She was sad, but she said she understood. Ten minutes later, as she was passing through their bedroom, she stopped and looked into the neighbor’s backyard. There, on the trampoline, was my father, lying down next to Dublin, stroking her head and talking to her. This reunion with Dublin was, apparently, the “important stuff” he had to do.

“I never thought that the woman I’d be jealous of would be the neighbor’s dog,” Mom said.

Pack walk
Dad and me trying to wrangle four dogs on a walk.

I’ve certainly inherited my Dad’s dog-craziness, and I bear that trait as a badge of honor. He, in turn, is as dog crazy as his parents were, and as his mother’s parents before her. (The photo of my great-great grandmother with her dogs on a farm is one of my most treasured family photos.)

When we talk on the phone, our first and last topics are the dogs: Dublin, Pyrrha, Eden; what we’ve seen on dog walks; funny or weird things the dogs have done lately; intriguing dogs we’ve seen around the neighborhood. He likes to joke with me that if we ever have kids, he’ll always love the dogs more.

Pyrrha and Jak

Happy birthday, Dad! Thanks for being the best, and for giving me with this strong inheritance of dog craziness. I love you!

Does dog-craziness run in your family? Where do you think your love of dogs comes from?

Watching Fiona, waiting for snow to melt

We had a lovely, loooong weekend here, waiting for the snow to melt. My parents came up and helped us with a lot of home improvement projects, and we were dog-sitting Fiona, so we had lots of fun with the three girls.

Walk with these 3 crazies. Sweet shades, @jfarkle.
My dad and Guion walking the three crazies.

Pyrrha and Eden were very sweet during the busy weekend, and Fiona is always a joy to have around — and the perfect energy-level match for Edie.

The girls

Eden and Fiona would play for hours in the yard, hardly taking a break to breathe. It’s so fun to watch them wear each other out.

Untitled

Pyrrha, meanwhile, liked to do her own thing. She’d wander around in the yard with the young’uns, and occasionally join in their games of tag, but for the most part, Pyrrha likes to keep to herself. I was especially interested to note how comfortable she was with my parents, particularly my dad. While he was installing our new disposal (YAY), she was at his side constantly — surely thinking she was being a great help.

Pyrrha consults while Jak installs our disposal.

The little ones got tired very quickly! Which was blissful.

Untitled

Untitled

As a side note, I particularly noticed this weekend that Pyrrha and Eden have been doing very well together. For a few weeks there, I was worried that we had two dogs who didn’t like each other. There was a lot of daily squabbling, and I felt tense about their relationship. But over the past few weeks, they have been so great together: calm, appropriately playful, respectful of each other’s needed space, etc. The tension is way down, and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other now. I think we were just going through a settling-in period, and they were just figuring each other out. After all, we’ve still only had Eden since the end of December, so I imagine they’re still learning about each other — but they’ve been making great progress, and I’m proud of them. Thanks to you all for sharing your stories and advice about living with multiple dogs (particularly two females)!

Weekend away: Little dogs in Ohio, our dogs at home

We had a weekend with my family in snowy Ohio, and the girls were able to stay at our house with our WONDERFUL, saintly friends and their pup, Fiona, who you probably remember seeing in play-date pics.

While I very much missed our little monsters (more than I thought I would, ha! Absence makes the heart grow fonder… and forget the annoying puppy mischief-making), we enjoyed the company of Sadie, my aunt and uncle’s “corgeranian” (corgi + pomeranian).

Fuzzy bullet. Sadie! #familytrip #corgeranian
Sadie! Fuzzy bullet.

Sadie is one of the happiest dogs ever. She may not be the brightest dog I’ve ever met, but this is also probably why she is the cheeriest. She doesn’t worry about anything! Sadie just wants to skip and hop and sleep on the sofa. Here she is comforting Guion, while he was battling a migraine:

Sadie comforts Guion during his morning headache. #ohio #familytrip

Dog whispering. #familytrip
With my brother-in-law, the dog whisperer.

I wish I had video of unbelievably adorable habit of hopping and flipping in the air when she’s excited (which is often). She was VERY excited to meet her cousin, a 3-month-old toy poodle named Bailey.

It's been a weekend of adorable little dogs. #poodlepuppy #familytrip
Bailey.

They played very well together, and Sadie was very gentle with him. Their play session showcased these two stuffed-animal-looking pups acting like proper dogs: play-bowing and chasing and grinning at each other.

Meanwhile, back home, our girls had a great time with Fiona in the house. Sallie was so sweet to send me photos throughout the weekend of their time together:

Eden and Fiona
Fiona and Eden share a bowl of water.

Fiona and Eden are, as you can see, BFFs, and they really get on well together. Pyrrha resorted to her typical moping behavior (in my absence), but she didn’t seem too fearful. I think the presence of the other dogs (and the fact that she knows Chris and Sallie well) was comforting to her. SO inexpressibly thankful for friends like these, who will watch our dogs for us when we can’t!

Fiona and Edie
Love the coordinating reds of their coats.
Sallie with the girls
Sallie with all three girls in our living room.

How was your weekend? Ready for SPRING??

Pyrrha’s best Christmas ever (Part II)

The second part of our Christmas holiday was spent with my family.

On Christmas day, Pyrrha got to meet and play with her “second cousin,” the handsome chocolate lab Marley.

Christmas in Norwood
Marley and his dad.

They had too much crazy energy for me to get many great shots of them together, but they had a wonderful time romping in the basement.

Christmas in Norwood

Christmas in Norwood

Marley became rather obsessed with Pyr (he’s intact), so we had to keep him at bay from time to time. But they were great pals and got along swimmingly, as I expected they would.

Christmas in Norwood

Apart from that, Pyrrha had a great time begging in the kitchen:

Pyrrha helping Guion and Ma-Maw in the kitchen. #christmas

Watching squirrels:

#christmas #latergram #gsd

And hanging out with my cool kid sister:

Christmas in Norwood

Christmas pals. #hotties #latergram

This holiday vacation made me thankful for Pyrrha in a way that I haven’t been before. As those of you with anxious dogs know, you spend a lot of your mental energy and emotional bandwidth worrying about your dog — especially when the environment changes, when you’re around new people and animals, etc. I felt like this was one of the first trips with her in which I was able to really be calm and appreciate her for who she is.

My heart was warmed by two things: (1) She seemed to be really enjoying herself, and, (2) other people seemed to notice this as well.

1: She got lots of exercise and canine play-time over the holiday, which always makes her incandescently happy. I was around her all day long; she rarely if ever had to languish alone. And when she wasn’t napping or playing with dogs, she was getting slipped decadent holiday food from my generous relatives. (I caught my sweet grandmother giving her a big hunk of the expensive, prized beef tenderloin before we humans sat down to eat it. Needless to say, Pyrrha was her shadow for the rest of the evening.)

2: Many members of our immediate families kept telling me, “She is really doing so well,” or, “She’s like a different dog from when she was last here.” Hearing this meant so much to me. It’s hard to recognize those subtle improvements when you’re working and living with your fearful dog day in and day out. But hearing them say such things helped me to recognize her progress too. She really has come a long way from that crawling, terrified dog who hid from me in corners of the house. And she keeps making those subtle steps toward confidence and balance.

Hope you were also able to acknowledge your dog’s progress in 2013 — subtle or not — over this season of rest and reflection.

More to come about our adventures in Pyrrha’s off-leash training over our holiday!

Pyrrha’s best Christmas ever (Part I)

We had a very busy Christmas, and I’d like to say it was Pyrrha’s “best Christmas ever,” because she seemed to be so happy and confident (most of the time)!

Christmas shepherd is all tuckered out.

Part I: Visiting my in-laws and the house of three dogs (Pyrrha, Georgia, and Adelaide)

Having three young dogs in a small, one-story house lends itself to craziness, but I was proud of all three dogs: Pyrrha, Georgia (my in-laws’ 1-year-old “petite golden retriever”), and Adelaide (my brother- and sister-in-law’s 5-year-old cockapoo).

Christmas 2013
All three dogs clamoring for treats from Papa Mike.

Particularly, I was proud of how well Pyrrha and Adelaide did together.

Christmas 2013
Adelaide!
Guard dog cockapoo. #thinksshespeople @tracydare @windleypratt
Guard dog cockapoo.

Both P and Adelaide are anxious dogs, and when they first met, they seemed to make each other more anxious. Pyrrha seemed especially perturbed by Adelaide’s body language, as it is quite hard to read (her eyes are hidden by hair, her tail is docked very short, and she is quite small).

Christmas 2013
Adelaide with her grandfather.

This time around, they coexisted much more smoothly. There were a few exchanges of growls from time to time when one of them felt cornered, but overall, I felt like I was able to relax a lot more and not have to constantly keep tabs on Pyrrha during our stay.

Adelaide wore a Thundershirt during busier days, and that also seemed to help her a lot. She seems to really enjoy wearing it and even gets excited when Win (her human dad) pulls it out. Adelaide and Pyrrha figured out how to maneuver around each other, and they even laid near each other on separate occasions. They were also pals on our walks, always running to sniff the same spot.

Christmas 2013
Adelaide in her Thundershirt, checking out the presents.
Christmas 2013
Brother Win giving some love to Adelaide and Pyrrha.

Georgia and Pyrrha remain great playmates, and they wore each other out during our stay. Georgia never seems to tire of throwing herself at Pyrrha’s face and inviting a wrestling match. It’s pretty adorable.

Christmas 2013
G and P on guard.
Christmas 2013
G and A.

We also got to take the pups on lots of walks around the neighborhood, which they all very much enjoyed.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013
Love Georgia’s little photo-bomb here.
Christmas 2013
Her ambivalent ears.

A house full of happy, largely peaceable dogs: No better way to spend a holiday!

Coming up next: A recap of our Christmas, Part II!

Thanksgiving with the shepherd

We had a lovely, lazy, long weekend with my family, and it was great to spend the holiday away from work/life/moving madness!

Shepherd on guard at her grandparents' house. #gsd #thanksgiving
On guard at her grandparents’ house.

P got cozy and spent plenty of time napping:

P knows what Thanksgiving is all about. #napping

More #thanksgiving napping. #gsd

She seems to have grown increasingly comfortable with visiting my parents. Despite all of the noise and plentiful amounts of people, she is easygoing and engaged there. She also loves her frequent play-dates with the neighbor’s dog (my father’s surrogate dog), Dublin, who has been featured here regularly.

We had lots of walks, including this particular one:

In Which Pyrrha Saves a Dog

On one of our daily family strolls, we set out from the house. Almost instantly, we noticed a commotion: A frantic lab mix was darting back and forth through traffic and a man was desperately trying to catch the dog, to no avail. My parents live right on a fairly busy street, and so we were all instantly terrified. My first thought when I heard the phrase “loose dog” was to turn around, not wanting to risk some reactive outburst from Pyrrha. But I’m glad I didn’t.

I reasoned that a loose dog might not come to strange people, but a loose dog would almost always come to another dog. So we started to walk straight toward the dog, who was still in panic mode and darting dangerously between vehicles. Mercifully, the dog honed in on Pyrrha and ran straight up to her, giving us the chance to grab his collar. His grateful owner was right there and thanked us profusely. And Pyrrha didn’t have a bit of reactive display; she seemed fascinated by the whole ordeal. I’m thankful that we had her with us!

Pyrrha and I wait for food. Photo: (c) Grace Farson.
Pyrrha and I wait for food. Photo: (c) Grace Farson.

All in all, a great escape. And now… let’s MOVE! More to come, when I get the chance!

Homeward bound. #lilfamily
Homeward bound.