Hiking in Shenandoah with dogs

We enjoyed GORGEOUS weather this weekend (bright, sunny, with low humidity), so we finally took advantage of all of the beautiful mountain scenery around here and went hiking in Shenandoah National Park with our friends James and Sara and their sweet Great Pyrenees mix, Silas.

Hiking at Shenandoah
James, Sara, and Silas.

Silas was the first dog Pyrrha met after we adopted her, and she was terrified of him during that initial meeting. So it’s encouraging to see her interact with him now (e.g., zero fear and lots of invitations to play). Silas is a stoic 5-year-old, so he was less interested in play time, but they licked muzzles a few times and were generally very companionable on the day hike.

Hiking at Shenandoah
Excited to be on the trail!
Hiking at Shenandoah
In the stream.
Hiking at Shenandoah
Watching Guion scale rocks.

We did a little practice with her retractable leash — which is something I ONLY use very sparingly on solitary walks. Whenever I use it, I am reminded of how very little control you have over the dog. So, we just used it on the hike down, when the trail was empty, and she could practice a little recall with it.

Hiking at Shenandoah
Silas and Pyrrha (on retractable leash).

On the way back, we saw lots of dogs, and so it was a little tricky maneuvering to let them pass, as the trail was very narrow in places. Aside from one barking incident, however, she did very well with the leash reactivity. I think Silas’s calm presence may have helped.

Something I was impressed with: We saw two different pairs of standard dachshunds hiking the trail. Watching these little dudes scale rocks was very impressive! I confess, I kind of had no idea that dachshunds were capable hikers. I didn’t get any photos of them, unfortunately.

Hiking at Shenandoah

We had a lovely day on the trails, and we came home with two very tired pups!

Hiking at Shenandoah


Another Sunday play-date with Roland

Roland, who is quickly becoming one of Pyrrha’s BFFs, came back yesterday afternoon for another great play-date. As you can see from the photos below, they had a great time!

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

Getting some love from the ladies.

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

I am so thankful that Pyrrha finally has “friends.” The first few months we had her, I was worried that she would never get along with other dogs because of her fear. It’s amazing what some time and gentle encouragement can do! She now loves nothing better than romping with a canine pal. I’m grateful for Roland and his mama being in town!

Sunday play-date with Roland

Sunday play-date with Roland

Pyrrha meets Roland

My friend Sarah called me on Monday night and said, “So… I just adopted a dog.” She was driving back from our local SPCA with this cute little dude in the back of her car:

Photo credit: Sarah Y.

Roland (or Victoire! She hasn’t fully decided on a name yet) is a 1-2 year-old spaniel/hound mix with the sweetest little disposition. He’s probably about 50 lbs. and had been dropped off by his former owner, who said she was sad to give him up but wouldn’t take him with her on her move. Sad for Roland, but happy for Sarah!

Last night, she brought Roland over to my house during small group, to meet friends and Pyrrha.

Their meeting went very well, I thought. Roland was a bit overwhelmed for the first few minutes, and Pyrrha was all up in his grill. It was strange to see her being the overly excited/gregarious one! But after some time, they acclimated to each other and tails started wagging and wrestling commenced.

Here are some terrible, fuzzy pictures of their encounter (dark in the house, plus I didn’t pull out my nicer camera):

Roland charms small group
Roland charming the ladies.
Fuzzy photo of Roland
Checking out the kitchen.
Pyrrha meets Roland
Girl, you are making me a little anxious here…

I was so impressed with how sweet and laid-back he was. There was a lot to take in–seven strange women in a room plus a pushy German shepherd–and he took it all in stride. He did pee on a rug, but you can’t blame him; dude’s only been out of the shelter for a day!

In short, it was a great introduction and I think Pyrrha has found herself a new playmate. I hope we’ll have Roland and Sarah over for a dog romp soon. I also think these two would be great hiking buddies. So, we’ll have to set that up in the future. Happy to welcome a new dog into the community, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Roland continues to grow and develop in Sarah’s care!

Eating in with guests (Evening of Carnage)

Evening of Carnage

We had our good friends Matt and Liz over for dinner last week, for what we called an “Evening of Carnage.” (Guion roasted an amazing chicken from a local farm and then we watched “Kill Bill: Vol. 2.”)

Evening of Carnage

As you can see, Pyrrha joined us in the sunroom/back deck/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for the meal. She has been an increasingly good sport about our frequent house guests, and I think she’s starting to even enjoy it when people come over–especially when they’re associated with the wafting scent of roasted chicken. (She’s not allowed to be fed anything from the table, but we did give her a few scraps after we finished eating…)

More dog stories from this weekend coming up…

Pyrrha handles a big party at our house


(I don’t have any photos, unfortunately, because being a hostess precludes one from being very active with a camera…)

Last night, we had about 25 people over to our house to celebrate Guion’s birthday. This was our first big party at our new house, and it was definitely the most people we’d ever had over in Pyrrha’s presence.

We have lots of visitors and weekend house guests, so Pyrrha is used to having strangers show up, but we’ve never had this many people descend at once. My initial plan was to keep her inside, especially if some of our friends brought their toddlers. (*Pyrrha has done well with children above the age of 5, but younger kids tend to make her pretty nervous. For the safety of all involved, I thought I’d keep her in the house.) However, no kids showed up, so I decided to let her go in the fenced yard with all of our guests.

At first, it was clear she was overwhelmed by all of these people. Thankfully, however, we have low-key friends (and a lot of dog lovers among them). Most people tended to leave her alone, or greet her calmly, which helped her a lot in warming up. After 10 minutes or so, Pyrrha started to chill out and kiss up to everyone. She started going around the circle of chairs and greeting each person (and then trying to lick their plates).

Tangent on shy dogs preferring women over men:

Throughout last night, it was clear that Pyrrha warmed up to women much faster than men. I think this may be generally true of shy dogs. One of our guests asked me why this was, whether she liked the smell of women more than men, etc.

My best theory is that there is a marked difference in male and female body language and in the way that men and women greet dogs. This is gender stereotyping, but in my experience, men tend to greet dogs more gregariously: Rougher pats on the head, grabbing toward the face, leaning over the dog, trying to incite them to rough-house, etc. Men also have deeper voice registers. In contrast, women tend to greet dogs in a slower, gentler manner: Holding out a hand for the dog to sniff, crouching down, speaking in a soft and high-pitched tone.

Some of Guion’s guy friends have teased him about the way he calls Pyrrha and greets her. He’s started mimicking my higher-pitched voice and slow, bending movements. It’s pretty adorable. “Oh, Guion, get out your ‘Pyrrha voice’!” They happily mocked him. And he does. In his defense, I heard him retort, “This is the way Abby calls her, and she loves Abby, so I thought I should try it!” It’s pretty cute, but she also responds to it! Acting like a lady may just get a shy dog to warm up to you faster…

Anyway. Have a nice weekend, all! Stay cool!

Inter-species friends

Source: Cute Overload.

Inter-species friends are my favorite, favorite thing in the whole wide world. Animals playing with different animals! This thrills me to my core and I become like a six-year-old girl whenever I see an example of this, the most glorious feature of life on planet Earth.

I recently watched the 1988 film adaptation of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (featuring a rakish Daniel Day-Lewis and a perfect Juliette Binoche). The couple, Tomas and Tereza, adopt a puppy (played by a totally charming Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen) and name her Karenin, after the novel they were reading when they first met. After the Soviets invade Prague, Tomas, Tereza, and Karenin flee to a farm in the Czech countryside, where Karenin befriends the farmer’s beloved pig, Mefisto. The scenes of Karenin and Mefisto just lounging together in the grass, the dog lovingly sniffling the pig… ah! My favorite. I wish I could find a screenshot to share with you. (M.C., I kept thinking about you and your canines in film project! This could be one for your review.)

Does your dog have a friend from another species? (Excepting yourself, of course.) In the examples I’ve seen of dogs and cats living together peaceably, it seems that the cat is most definitely the overlord and the dog understands his or her place as the humble serf. And maybe “friendship” is too generous a term there, but coexistence is still heartwarming between a pair so often painted as eternal enemies. I really, really hope our future dog makes some inter-species friends, although this seems less likely with a German shepherd, who seem to want to chase and strangle most things that move…

Musings aside, here are some more examples of inter-species snorgling, because I can’t help myself! Dogs, being friends with other animals, as featured on the matchless Cute Overload:

Puppy and cheetah friends! Cute Overload.
Puppy and budgie friends! Cute Overload.
Corgi and imprinting ducklings! Cute Overload.
Hound and orangutan friends! Cute Overload.
Dog and bear cub friends! Cute Overload.
Dog and iguana friends! Cute Overload.
Dog and baby bun friends! OMG. Cute Overload.
You may not touch the dog. Puppy and monkey friends! Cute Overload.

OK. I have to stop. I need to go do something with my life, because I could do this for hours and hours on end…

Pup links!

A lady and her English cocker spaniel. Source: LIFE magazine archives.

Dog-related links from around the Web:

If the Characters in Downton Abbey Were Portrayed by Canine Actors… A friend shared this on my Facebook wall, and I just had to share it here, too. If you watch the period soap opera Downton Abbey, you will appreciate these comparisons. I think they’re pretty spot-on. Matthew is totally a golden retriever and Mary makes a lot of sense as a poodle. And, poor Edith! The Bedlington terrier! (Dogster)

How to Properly Care for Your Dog’s Teeth. Canine dental hygiene is usually pretty terrible, and, from my experience, it’s an easy thing to forget to take care of–and not exactly fun when you do. This is a thorough article, however, that reminds us all of why it’s very important to care for our dog’s pearly whites. (The Whole Dog Journal)

Investigating Halitosis. Related to doggy dental care, here’s a veterinarian’s list of possible causes of your dog’s terrible breath. (The Bark blog)

Where’s the Beef? Subtitle: “Why your dog should never eat another Milk Bone or Beggin Strip, and you should avoid the Slim Jims.” You won’t ever want to buy those products again after you read this article by Amy Renz. (Goodness Gracious Treats)

Identifying Merle. I grew up with a beautiful tricolor merle Australian shepherd and I’ve always had a fondness for merle coats, especially when they come from conscientious breeders. But I learned a ton from this post and learned that I’ve been incorrectly identifying some dogs as “merle” that really aren’t. Fascinating stuff. (Musings of a Biologist and a Dog Lover)

House Rules and Time-Outs. Aleksandra shares her wisdom about how they use “time-outs” to teach their newly adopted pitt, The Dude, some house manners. Great, gentle, and effective advice. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)

Binq Design. If I was in the market for a tiny dog, and had a lot of cash to spare, I think I’d definitely consider these functional and attractive side tables + dog beds. They look like they’d be a nice place for a toy breed to hide out during family commotion. (Dog Milk)

Bambino vs. Fido: On Loving Dogs Less. Shauna, a pregnant blogger, reflects on how her relationship with her dogs will change–and stay the same–when she welcomes her baby into the world. I found this post very reassuring. As someone who hasn’t had kids yet but plans to one day, I confess I’m frankly terrified of the idea of emotionally displacing my future dogs. But, as she points out in this post, you don’t displace your dogs in your heart; you just make room. (Fido & Wino)

BFFs. Greyhounds snuggling on the couch. So cute. (Hiking Hounds)

Religious Dog Bumper Stickers. OK, pretend bumper stickers, but these still made me giggle. My favorite: “I’m Catholic but my corgi is affiliated with the Church of England.” (Dogs of the Interwebs)

Dog Refuses to Go Into Pool to Get Tennis Ball He Desperately Needs. In need of a laugh on this fine Tuesday? Look no further than this very, very determined golden retriever and his quest for one slightly out-of-reach tennis ball. (Best Week Ever)

Play date with Bo and Zoe

While their mamas were out of town, Zoe and Bo got to have a play date. My friend Celeste and I, acting as their temporary caregivers, organized a little play date with the two. My dear friend Angela was also in town for the weekend and so the three of us enjoyed our afternoon with the dogs. It was a beautiful spring-like day and I think they had a lot of fun romping around Zoe’s yard.

Slideshow below:

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Zoe was initially a little taken aback that we had introduced this gregarious, blond ruffian into her yard. Bo would try to chase her around, tackle her, but Zoe primly refused. After a few minutes of unsuccessful romping, Bo quieted down and they calmly followed one another around the yard. Zoe ended up seeking us for belly rubs while Bo, in typical fashion, rummaged through the compost heap (despite our best attempts to stop him).

After half an hour of play time in the yard, we took Zoe and Bo on a walk through the nearby neighborhood, which I think we all thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t wait to get to do this kind of thing with my own dog!

Do you ever organize “play dates”? Do you have any recommendations for making them go smoothly? Bo and Zoe were a pretty good match for one another. Even though Bo’s energy level exceeds Zoe’s, they’re both very mild-mannered and easy going pups. I hope I’ll be able to find one of those myself…

A weekend with Ava

This is Ava. She is darling. Source: Me

This weekend, I had a mini college reunion with friends in Virginia Beach. I went to visit my dear friend Catherine and we were joined by Jonathan. Catherine has a one-year old lab/German shepherd* mix named Ava. (*I posit she’s got GSD in her somewhere. She looks mostly lab, but look at those ears! Adolescent GSD if I ever saw one.) Catherine and her husband, Russ, adopted Ava from a shelter in Pensacola, Florida, when Ava was 7 weeks old.

As you can see, Catherine and Ava are very devoted to one another.

Catherine and Ava. Source: Me

Russ is in the Navy and is frequently deployed, so Catherine and “Ava-rice” are constant companions in their apartment (aka Balboa Towers) in downtown Virginia Beach. This pair makes having a big dog in a high-rise apartment look like a piece of cake. I know it’s not, but they manage it well. On Sunday morning, we took a leisurely and enjoyable walk around town with Ava and saw many other dogs and their people.

Ava's perch
Watching over the city. Source: Me

Catherine, Ava, and I all shared a (seemingly small) double bed over the weekend. I think this was the first time I had shared a bed with a dog for a night and let me tell you: It is no easy task. They are reluctant to yield their ground. Ava, however, was very responsive to Catherine’s requests to move up, roll over, turn to the side. To my surprise, I actually slept very soundly. And Ava looked like she did, too.

She’s an extremely affectionate dog. She wants to be sitting in your lap, licking your face, or leaning against your knees all the time. Most people would find this annoying, but it was delightful to me. She does jump and beg for table food constantly, but apart from that, she seems pretty near perfect. (I also feel like Ava and Bo would be best friends.) I had a great time with her and wished we could have taken her with us everywhere.

As is expected by now, I left the weekend with my longing for a dog ratcheted up to another level.