Waiting her out

Downtown mall walk

Sniffing around Court Square.

Last Wednesday, Pyrrha and I took a long walk downtown–to visit Guion at work, and just to get out and stretch our legs for a few hours. I love these long, quiet walks with her. I feel like my mind is able to unwind after a day at work. I love watching her gain confidence on our walks, with her mouth hanging open and her tail swishing back and forth.

On our way downtown, we encountered a woman and her gorgeous malamute/shepherd mix. He had the coloring and build of a light sable wolf, although he was about Pyrrha’s height. As they approached, Pyrrha tucked her tail and bared her teeth at the dog. I started to apologize to the woman, but she said, “He used to do that all the time, too,” pointing to her handsome dog. I was surprised. He looked so calm and friendly.

We started talking, and it turned out that she’d adopted Chino about three months ago and he’d made great progress since then. I loosened Pyrrha’s leash as I talked to the woman. We discussed rescuing, our shy dogs, and the progress they gradually make. Throughout this conversation, Chino was placid and unconcerned by Pyrrha’s toothy display–and, as I was relieved to note, his human seemed to be equally nonplussed.

Downtown mall walk

Nearing the downtown mall.

Perhaps two minutes passed, and suddenly Pyrrha’s tail unwound; her hackles released; and she threw down a goofy play-bow in front of Chino. He responded in kind, and then the two were happily romping along the sidewalk (while we were trying to keep them from darting into the road). She even started kissing his ears. My dog, in a state of utter fear just a minute ago, was now smitten with this stud of a canine. We had to actually drag them apart, so we could continue on our merry way.

As I walked away, I turned to Chino’s human and said, “Thank you for waiting her out. That means a lot to me!”

I explained. Most dog owners, when they see Pyrrha’s lips curled back in fear and those bared teeth, gasp and run in the opposite direction, trailing their dogs behind them. I don’t blame them. A German shepherd in that posture is a fearful sight to behold. Because of this, however, Pyrrha rarely gets to move beyond that threshold of fear into that state of initiating play. Most people aren’t willing to wait it out.

But Chino’s lady was–and I was so grateful to her for that. Pyrrha needs all the positive dog-on-dog interactions she can get. They are hard to come by. I hope we’ll continue to run into Chino and his person, so my girl continues to learn that there isn’t anything to be afraid of after all.

Have you ever been grateful for someone–even a stranger–who understood your dog’s special needs?

Pup links!

Chihuahua mix on the bed. Source: SF Girl by Bay

Two little Pyrrha stories from today:

Story One: On our  morning walk, we met a man and his super-handsome, studly 18-month-old German shepherd (big ol’ head, definitely from European lines), Zuma. Pyrrha might not be a breed-ist after all, because she was terrified of him. He was very friendly and gregarious, but her tail was tucked and her lips were curled back in a snarl… and YET. She kept rushing up to him to sniff him. What is that about?? She was very interested in him and didn’t want to walk away from him… but her posture and facial expression was one of utter terror/fear aggression. What does this mean? How do I combat it?

Story Two: After I walked out the door to go to work, I had to come back in a few seconds later, to give my husband his keys. Normally, when I leave for work in the morning, Pyrrha watches from the window with a tight (I read it as sad) expression. However, when I unexpectedly walked back in the door this morning, she was OVERJOYED to see me. Actually jumped in the air toward me! (Never seen that before.) Wiggling and wagging all over the place, totally ecstatic that I was “back” from work after 10 seconds… Made it really, really hard to get back in that car. I do love our special-needs shy dog; she keeps the emphasis on the special.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

The Power of a Walk. My thoughts exactly, Kristine! I was feeling this way so much this morning, about how calming and centering it was to begin my day outdoors with my dog at my side. (Rescued Insanity)

Exposing a Shy Dog to New Experiences. Now there’s an inventive socialization endeavor: Kayaking! I really have no idea how Pyrrha would react to that… Looks like it went well for Pager, though! (Peaceful Dog)

Dogs in Need of Space. A helpful poster for “DINOS.” I feel like we’ve all kind of been there with shy dogs before… If only more people could see this! (Will My Dog Hate Me?)

A Poppy Weekend. A recap of a weekend exposing Sage to a toddler. This sounds like a good idea. Pyrrha is OK with older children, but toddlers make her very nervous. How did you expose your shy dog to very young kids in a safe, controlled way? (The Misadventures of Sage)

Learning to “Speak Dog”: Why You Should Care about Understanding Your Dog. I loved this post, because it felt like a recap of everything I learned and read in this past year. A helpful, easy-to-read synopsis of why it matters that we understand our canine companions. (Tails from the Lab)

Dog Camping Heaven in Upstate New York. Um, can we go NOW? This looks incredible. Have you ever taken your dog to a place like this? (Go Pet Friendly)

Able Mabel, Revisited. These photos of this fit, healthy bulldog are so encouraging to me. Now this is what bulldogs should be able to do! Run around and play and breathe naturally. (Pedigree Dogs Exposed)

Fresh Dog. This sounds like an interesting product: Dry shampoo for dogs. Especially intriguing since Pyrrha detests baths… Do you think it would work? I’m intrigued. (Pretty Fluffy)

Wacky for Watermelon. These photos crack me up. And I tried it today with Pyrrha, too! She may not have Pixel’s level of obsession with watermelon, but she was definitely very fond of it–especially since our temperatures soared to 97 F today. (Many Muddy Paws)

Pyrrha and I visit Guion at work

One of the things I’ve been learning about Pyrrha is that she needs a lot more exercise than she lets on. (She’s a healthy 1-year-old German shepherd, after all!) Most of the time, she lazes around the house, getting up only to patrol the front windows or wander into the kitchen to see if we happen to drop something tasty.

However, it’s clear that she has a whole reservoir of energy that’s lying mostly untapped. I think she could run for hours, were she so inclined. In an attempt to tap into this hidden energy reservoir, I decided to take her on an hour-and-a-half walk last week. After I got home from work, we decided we’d walk downtown to meet Guion at work and run a few errands with her.

An evening walk

An evening walk.

Walking with Pyrrha tends to be somewhat slow-going at first, because she has to smell every other plant and shrub and piece of trash. For now, I’m very lenient toward this behavior. I know some people who only give their dogs permission to sniff on command, but I don’t see sniffing as a vice; rather, it’s her way of reading the daily news. In time, I think I will introduce a command to get her to leave something alone or to move on, because she does have a tendency to linger, but for now, the walks are slow, because the girl is laboriously sniffing.

An evening walk

Alert! A dog ahead!

Despite the fact that she’s very new to leash walking, I think she’s in really good shape. She’s very responsive to me while on leash and doesn’t pull (except when a squirrel or bird is tempting her). The main thing she needs to learn about leash manners is not crossing in front of me constantly and tripping me; she has a bad habit of walking right in front of one and stopping. Anyone’s dog ever do this? How would you train away from that behavior?

Guion works part-time at a wine co-op downtown. He manages the quiet office there, so once we arrived, he invited us in while he closed up. Pyrrha seemed fairly anxious about this new space, but after she patrolled the borders for a few minutes, she laid down by the door and started to calm down.

Pyrrha visits the Wine Guild

Visiting “Dad” at work!

Pyrrha visits the Wine Guild

Checking it out.

After we helped Guion close up, we went to the library (where she waited outside with Guion) and then Pyrrha and I walked home. It was a beautiful, balmy summer evening and I was only too happy to spend a large chunk of it walking my good dog.

I think we’ll keep her.

Pyrrha visits the Wine Guild

What a good girl.

Rhythm of his water drinking

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein walking their poodle, Basket, in Paris.

“Basket although now he is a large unwieldy poodle, still will get up on Gertrude Stein’s lap and stay there. She says that listening to the rhythm of his water drinking made her recognise the difference between sentences and paragraphs, that paragraphs are emotional and that sentences are not.”

– Gertrude Stein,
from the perspective of Alice B. Toklas, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (her punctuation and spelling preserved)

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

I just liked this little passage from The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, as it reminded me that our dogs can sometimes teach us things that we don’t expect. Have a lovely weekend! We’ll be dog-walking for our rector and his family this weekend and I, of course, am looking forward to it (even though our rector’s wife told me it was regrettable that she couldn’t tranquilize the dogs for us; apparently, they’re quite a pair).

A long walk with Bo

Bo

Bo.

Yesterday afternoon, I took Bo for a peaceful hour-and-a-half walk. We strolled around our future street/neighborhood, which was absolutely beautiful; everything is in bloom right now. All the trees are pink and white and green; everyone seems to have tulips or wild violets or little pansies springing up in their yards. (I didn’t get any pictures, unfortunately, because it looked like it was about to pour the whole time and I didn’t want to jeopardize my camera…)

The walk made me even more excited to move to our future house and to get to live in this part of town. It’s such a pretty and pleasant network of streets and houses. We walked down to a tiny park (under 5 acres), about two blocks from our future house, and I envisioned taking our dog down there for our morning walks. The park isn’t exactly spectacular (just a basketball court, a playground, and a smattering of picnic tables), but it is a bit of grassy space to provide at least a small reprieve from the sidewalks.

Bo is delightful company. After about half an hour, he stops tugging and heels quite nicely. He’s a very attentive boy and likes to pause every so often to look up at your face, as if he was checking in on you, just to see how you were feeling; it always warms my heart. Bo also thinks all people are out just to strike up a friendship with him. Par example: A runner passed us on the road and glanced our way. When Bo caught his eye, he broke into what can only be called a smile and sprung up happily, almost skipping with joy after the runner. He’s adorable.

I am really looking forward to getting to do this kind of thing with our future dog, of course, but for now, Bo is the perfect substitute.

Lessons learned from Dublin and Aoive

We had a peaceful and very pleasant Thanksgiving with our families this year. Along with all of the food and family time, I also got to spend some quality time with Dublin, my family’s surrogate dog, and Aoive, my husband’s family’s dog.

Dublin is our neighbor’s chocolate lab mix, whom my father has practically adopted as his own. Dublin’s family was out of town for the weekend, so we were watching her. She spent most of her time at our house throughout the weekend, and so I got plenty of time with her.

Family + Dublin

My family + Dublin.

I woke up early on Thanksgiving morning and took her for an hour-long walk/run through the local university campus. We chased squirrels and tromped through the woods and had such a peaceful, happy hour together. For all of her muscular energy, Dublin is very good at moderating her strength to the person who is walking her. I’ve seen her walk slowly and calmly next to her young charges, ages 6 and 10, without pulling at all. With me, she walks a little more briskly, but it’s never uncomfortable. I think this quite a skill for a young dog to have.

Dubs and me, post-run

Dublin and me, post-run. I'm looking a little rough, but she looks lovely.

On Friday morning, my mom and I took her on another long walk through town and she was a great companion on the walk. (She did exhibit some gastrointestinal distress, however, which was clearly the result of all of us being too indulgent with her on Thanksgiving.) She politely greeted a shimmering pair of West Highland white terriers on our way back. Their human was apparently impressed with how calmly his dogs were when they met Dublin. That’s generally Dublin’s effect on humans and dogs, I think: She just chills them out.

Later on Friday, we went to visit my wonderful in-laws and there had a reunion with the beautiful Aoive. I hadn’t seen Aoive in quite a while, and I was startled by how much gray she had accumulated along her muzzle and face. She is about 8.5 years old now, but you’d never guess it. Her coat is still the softest and most velvety coat I’ve ever felt and her energy is seemingly boundless.

That to say, she was on her best behavior for all of us over the weekend. When she’s in the house and can’t be next to Windy, my mother-in-law, she stays tethered to an armchair. If Windy is out of sight, Aoive instantly gets anxious. I’ve never seen a dog more attached to one person than Aoive is to Windy. But this extreme attachment seemed quite moderated this weekend.

Aoive's true love

Aoive with Windy, my mother-in-law, her favorite human on Earth.

On Saturday morning, all of us took her on a 2.5-mile walk around the local reservoir. It was a gorgeous, warm, and sunny day, and I think we all had a marvelous time. Aoive even got to wade along the creeks and banks. She was taunted by a flotilla of Canada geese and agitated by their serene movements just a few feet from her snout. But the prospect of having to actually swim in the reservoir was enough to keep her just frantically pacing back and forth along the bank.

Old Aoive

Sweet Aoive waits patiently to be let back in.

Big lessons learned: I’m thankful to have dogs in my life. Even though I don’t have one of my own yet, I’m thankful for the ones that I get to encounter when we visit family. They bring a lot of light and joy into all of our lives.

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)

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)

My companions

Source: antipodeuse.blogspot.com

“You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself, that my Father bought me–They are better than Beings–because they know–but do not tell.”

– Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Thomas Higginson

Happy weekend, everyone! My productivity at work is totally shot today: My boss brought in his 4-month-old Pomeranian puppy, Immi. I will be getting nothing done today…

Pup links!

May I help you? Source: coffee-and-tea-and-sympathy

Dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Charlotte Dumas: Retrieved 9/11 Rescue Dogs. Beautiful, moving photographs of the dogs who served on search-and-rescue teams in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. (Dog Art Today)

Anthropologie’s Pet Project. One of my favorite clothing stores, Anthropologie, is hosting a pet adoption/shelter supplies drive around the country. Check it out and see if there’s an event near you! Unfortunately, there aren’t any drives in Virginia. Would give me a good excuse to shop and donate… (Anthropologie)

Producers, Take Note. This writer wants to see a production of Waiting for Godot with an all-dog cast. Beckett would have loved it. I’m in! (The Hairpin)

Weight Management Made Simple. Veterinarian Shea Cox provides a helpful, thorough guide on how to get your pup into top shape. (The Bark blog)

Walking with Some Slack: A Loose Leash Success Story. I’m always searching for good tips on how to encourage dogs to walk calmly by one’s side. Some great pointers here. (Kona’s Touch)