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.

What does your dog make you thankful for?

Are you doing stuff with food that will result in me having some? #dogsconstantthought
Are you doing stuff with food that will result in me having some?

We’re with my family for this Thanksgiving holiday. While I was gearing up for this trip AND our move, I’ve been stressed, yes, and Pyrrha has also been stressed, but when I stop for a moment, I realize that we have a LOT to be thankful for.

Thinking just about Pyrrha this season, during our second Thanksgiving with her, I am thankful that:

  1. She is so easy. We never worry about her getting into stuff in the house, making messes, or causing general headaches.
  2. She is patient with us.
  3. She is healthy!
  4. She is so food-motivated. This makes training (and coercing her to love Guion) a whole lot easier.
  5. She adores other dogs.
  6. She is quiet.
  7. She’s become much more calm about visitors and house guests. Although she’d still prefer that they didn’t touch her, she warms up to them a lot faster now, particularly with men (who are never her favorites).
  8. She’s always looking out for me.

Pyrrha continues to make lots of progress! It’s amazing to me to look back to last year’s Thanksgiving and realize that that was the first time she showed interest in retrieving. Crazy! Fetch is now one of her favorite games. It amazes me how much shy dogs can change, as static as they can seem sometimes. Yet another thing to be thankful for.

#gsd #germanshepherd #souschef
And again with the food-wanting face in our messy house.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you US-based readers and pups!

How does your dog inspire gratitude in your life?

Thankful for the dog blog community

Let me out now
Dude, let me out!

I’ve been thinking about how I am thankful to be a (relatively insignificant) member of the dog blogging community. Just wanted to say that I really like you people.

Dog bloggers are a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere! There is so much vitriol and contention on the Internet; everyone seems to be either composed of total idiocy or rage, or both. But not dog bloggers. Yes, there are debates, and we may not always agree with each others’ decisions or training tactics or feeding choices, but at the end of the day, the dog blogosphere is a peaceful place to be.

Thanks to each of you who have encouraged me during my foray into this wide world of dog bloggers. Your advice has always been so deeply appreciated, and I am particularly thankful for how gentle you have been with me as I’ve made mistakes (of which I have made plenty) during my first time adopting and raising a dog of my own, and now fostering.

In the real world, I get made fun of for having a dog blog, and I frankly don’t tell that many people about it (unless they secretly reveal themselves to be just as dog-crazy as I am), but this is a little place I am grateful for. I’m not trying to get famous or super social-media-powerful from it; it’s just an encouraging outlet for my primary life obsession: DOGS. So, again, just thanks to all of you, readers and bloggers — for being a breath of fresh air.

(SIDE NOTE: Rainer’s trial with his adopter seems to be going well! I recently heard from Cody, and he said that Rainer was quite shy at first, as we told him he’d be, but that he was really warming up to his new home. We’re very happy!)

Have a great weekend!

Thanksgiving recap: First trip to in-laws

Pyrrha had a wonderful first Thanksgiving with us and a very successful first visit to her other set of “grandparents,” my husband’s parents. I was very proud of her.

She thinks she owns the place

General recap:

Pyrrha handled the revolving door of new people with grace and aplomb. We had tons of relatives and new people in and out of the house all week, and Pyrrha was marvelous with everyone. She still hung back in the beginning, when people showed up, but she did not seem disturbed at all by the constant flow of strangers in this new house. I felt like that was a big victory. Everyone also kept marveling at how calm she was. I think this is because a) she is fundamentally lazy, and b) flopping down in a corner is less scary than having to go up and engage with new humans. However, she wanted to be wherever people were, and she was always planting herself down in the middle of the kitchen or living room, keeping an eye on the action.

She also met children without (too) much fear. Guion’s young cousins, aged 12 and 7, attended the Thanksgiving meal and they were both very interested in Pyrrha. (Their family had recently acquired a young, energetic German short-haired pointer.) I always monitor her interactions with young children VERY closely, because I can tell that she is still pretty unsure of children. Guion’s cousins, however, were really great with her. They are calm, quiet children and they seemed to make her feel a little less anxious about their presence.

After the photo below was taken, I took Pyrrha out in the backyard on her leash and the kids followed. In the yard, she sniffed and circled the kids and even kissed their faces and hands. It helped a lot that both kids had been eating sausage biscuits right before! Now if I can just get all young children to cover themselves in sausage before interacting with Pyrrha, I think we could have her fear of children mostly solved…

Rollie IV meets Pyrrha

We took lots of long, brisk walks around the neighborhood. They have a lovely, mostly flat neighborhood that’s great for walking and Pyrrha got at least two miles of walks in every day we were there. (This also surely contributed to her general behavior of calmness and placidity in the house.)

Following birds

Pyrrha also showed interest in retrieving for the first time! My in-laws have a great, spacious, fenced-in backyard and Pyrrha just loved it. Their yard is chock-full of squirrels and there’s lot to explore. Plus, the yard backs up to a golf course, so she spent many hours quietly observing the golfers.

But retrieving! That was great. She’s never really retrieved before, except for chasing the thrown item, picking it up for a moment, and then getting distracted by something else. But this long weekend, she was retrieving actively — running after balls and actually bringing them back to us multiple times. She seemed to really enjoy this a lot.

Fetch with Guion

I was delighted, of course. Retrieving is the best way to exhaust a dog without having to expend any of your own energy. I hope she’ll keep up an interest in this game.

Retrieving at last!

And a semi-dog-related event we attended: The Blessing of the Hunt. My in-laws live in a big equestrian town, and every Thanksgiving morning, there is a “fox” hunt and a blessing of the horses, hounds, and riders by their Episcopal priest. Hundreds of people turn out for this event and I was delighted to attend — particularly as there was no actual fox being chased. They drag around a fox scent before the dogs are released.

We heard, however, that the hounds aren’t fooled by this faux fox scent. They don’t really seem to follow it, according to the riders, and really just like to run around in a pack with the horses. I find this kind of adorable.

Release the hounds!

Hounds setting off

Riding off after the "fox"

Hope you all had nice weekends! Whew! I am looking forward to a few weeks of respite before the holiday traveling circuit starts up again…

A Thanksgiving trip with Pyrrha

Bored with this

This week, Pyrrha will be taking her first visit to her other “grandparents,” my husband’s mom and dad. They were here the first few days we had Pyrrha, when she was still a nervous wreck, so I am excited to have them meet her again and see such a different dog. Yes, she still has her fair share of fears, but I think she’s transformed significantly since they last saw her.

My in-laws are great dog people and they have recently had a rotating door of foster puppies and dogs for their local lab rescue. Their most recent foster just got adopted out this week, so Pyrrha most likely won’t have a canine playmate over the holiday, but she will be lavished with lots of attention and peaceful walks around their pleasant, wooded neighborhood.

In the spirit of the holiday, here are some things I am thankful for, with regard to Pyrrha:

  • I am thankful for Pyrrha’s sweet and gentle spirit, for the fact that I have never seen her display aggression, even when she is faced with one of her fears. She shows a lot of self-discipline that I don’t think even I would be able to exhibit in her condition.
  • I am thankful for her growing relationship with Guion.
  • I am thankful for how content she is to be in her crate when we are gone, that she has not shown any signs of separation anxiety.
  • I am thankful for how well she gets along with other dogs now, something that I really didn’t expect a few months ago.
  • I am thankful for her playfulness, for her vestiges of puppy energy (even when they can be frustrating!).
  • I am thankful for her quietness.
  • I am thankful for her growing ability to accept strangers, particularly men.
  • I am thankful that she now likes to cuddle with us on the couch, an activity that previously frightened her.
  • I am thankful that she is healthy and fit.
  • I am thankful for her considerable store of intelligence, even when it gets her into trouble.
  • I am thankful for how much she has grown since May. Every day gives me more hope for her progress in the future.

What are some things you are thankful for, regarding your own dog(s)?

My perpetual society

First edition cover of Virginia Woolf's biography of Flush. Click for source.

“He & I are inseparable companions, and I have vowed him my perpetual society in exchange for his devotion.”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Flush

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone! I’ll be out of commission for the rest of the week and am looking forward to spending some quality time with Dublin & Co. and Aoive. Hope your weekend is peaceful and bright. See you Monday.

Pup links!

Dog walker in Central Park. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives.

Happy almost-Thanksgiving to U.S. readers and pups! Some canine-centric links from around the Web this week…

The Smallest Acts of Kindness. In this season of gratitude, it’s nice to remember that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a big impact. (Modern Dog Magazine)

Meet My Evil Bathtub. These photos are endearing and funny, mainly because Chix’s displeasure is written all over his face. I’ve never met a dog who loved getting a bath. (Love and a Leash)

Orvis: Pre-Race. A cute, short video of our wedding photographer’s lab, Orvis, on race day. (Meredith Perdue)

How to Measure Your Dog for a Martingale Collar. I’m a big fan of martingale collars–we use them a lot at the SPCA, owing to our large number of hounds–and they have saved my sanity on many occasions. This is a great video tutorial from the makers of beautiful martingale collars, Classic Hound. (Classic Hound)

How to Prevent Dog Leashes from Becoming a Pain in the Neck. Some tips on mitigating the problems that often occur on leashed walks. (Inquisitive Canine)

Cancer Part 4: Hemangiosarcoma. This series of sobering posts about canine cancer has been eye-opening. My attention was caught by this one in particular, because my research of the GSD has indicated that hemangiosarcoma is an unfortunately common cancer among the breed. It sounds dreadful. But it’s good to know the facts. (Borderblog)

Recognizing the Signs of Bloat (Video). Another serious topic, but one that people with big, deep-chested dogs are always aware of. I’ve also read about this being a quick and terrible killer of GSDs, and so this video and the corresponding facts were very helpful. (The Bark)

Healthy, Homemade Sweet Potato Chews for Dogs. An easy recipe for roasting yams for your dog. (Raise a Green Dog)