WOOF! Holiday Challenges

Welcome to the latest WOOF Blog Hop. We’re Working Out Our Fears about holiday challenges!
bug hut.jpg

We put our presents on top of Leo’s hut instead of under the tree. He’d open them otherwise.

My biggest challenge is leaving the dogs behind. My preference is to spend every single second with Mia and Leo. They’ve gotten so well-behaved when we take them to Rob’s parents’ house. As long as we put the butter in the microwave and out of Leo’s reach, he doesn’t get in any trouble at all. Not since last Thanksgiving, when he made off with a turkey drumstick after we finished eating.

Leo gets his own couch at the grandparents'.

Leo gets his own couch at the grandparents’.

This year, Rob and I are going to see my family in Southern California. Fortunately, Rob’s dad, Jerry, is the best ever dog sitter and stays at our house. Even though his own TV is twice as big, I think Jerry enjoys spending quiet evenings here with Mia and Leo, watching Netflix on our 40-inch TV.

I was feeling kind of guilty for making him stay here Thanksgiving eve and Thanksgiving night, but actually, maybe he’s happy to get out of whatever Black Thursday shopping Rob’s mom has in store.

We’re a little too reliant on Jerry when we go out of town, which became clear last month. We had two weekend trips planned for October and I had just purchased our Thanksgiving plane tickets when we learned that Jerry had to have surgery on one of the weekends we planned to be gone.

At first, Rob’s mom, Alice, said she’d stay at our house that weekend, but that quickly became ridiculous. We decided to board Leo at a place he’s stayed before where dogs get to play outside during the day. I’d hate for him to be kenneled all day. Leo is such a live-in-the-moment kind of guy, I think boarding him is harder on me than it is on him.

Because we had to leave early for the airport, we imposed on Alice to drive Leo to and from the boarding facility. This worked out great for me, because I didn’t have to suffer the agony of leaving him in the play yard and driving away.

I knew Leo would be fine. Leo is always fine. Still, I fretted. I called Alice as soon as we landed to make sure she didn’t forget to take him. And then I waited, expecting her to call me after she dropped him off. I knew she had a lot on her mind. Jerry’s surgery was the next day! When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I called their house again. Jerry answered again. I think this was the third time I’d called, the day before his surgery, to ask something about my dog. I had to. My chest was in knots. The last time I’d seen Leo was at 5 am and his big brown eyes looked so sad as he watched us load our suitcases in the car. (Rob said Leo was just sleepy.)

When Alice came to the phone, she described Leo sitting on the front seat of the truck. “He’s so tall!” I pictured long, lean Leo, head almost touching the car roof, smiling out the window, and that image replaced the lonesome one I’d been holding onto since we left the house. My chest relaxed. I actually shed a little tear.

That left Mia, once believed to be our perfect dog, but lately revealed to be a house-destroyer. It’s possible that Mia would be fine if she were boarded with Leo, but more likely she’d squeak and whistle and cry, and possibly tear apart the walls of the kennel.

Lucky for us, Joyce, the pet sitter who stayed with Mia when Rob’s parents took us to Hawaii (the last time we boarded Leo) agreed to take Mia to her house. I said, “If you have to leave her alone, probably you want to put her in the backyard.” And lovely Joyce said, “She won’t be left alone.”

How comforting is that?

Joyce picked up Mia after we left, and brought her back after Alice had retrieved Leo on the day we returned, which meant that our pups were waiting for us when we got home! Alice reported that Joyce and her sister and her little dog had “fallen in love with Mia. She can stay with them any time.”

I know how lucky we are to have such wonderful dog sitters. My chest doesn’t have to be in knots the whole time I’m away from them. Still, I always feel most relaxed and safe when we’re all home together.

What do you do with your dogs when you have to be away? Does it break your heart to leave them behind? Is it harder on you than it is on them?

Oz the TerrierDo you have a reactive or fearful dog? Please join us and share your story. The Blog Hop is open through Sunday, November 16, hosted by Oz the Terrier and Wag ‘n Woof Pets.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

WOOF! Traveling with a reactive dog

Whenever I’m preparing for a trip, I get a twisty, angsty feeling in my chest because I hate leaving my dogs behind.

Lots of places in the Pacific Northwest welcome dogs, but they wouldn’t necessarily welcome leash-reactive Leo. Since I don’t consider it socially acceptable to take him on walks where he barks and lunges at our neighbors, I hardly consider it socially acceptable to take him to a crowded dog-friendly campground or motel.

I searched and searched for an appropriate place to take the dogs for the Fourth of July. I was leaning toward tent-camping in the middle of nowhere until I discovered the Chevy Chase Beach Cabins in Port Townsend, Washington:

Chevy Chase Beach Cabins and the adjoining beach is a haven for dogs! We allow dogs at Chevy Chase Beach Cabins because we are dog lovers ourselves and love to vacation with our furry friends!

Dogs are welcome in all seven of the cabins, and the beach is private.

Scout is the resident dog at Chevy Chase. We were lucky to inherit Scout from the previous owners (life is too good for her here, no one could picture her as a city dog!). Scout is very friendly, loves children, tolerates other dogs, and loves meeting and greeting guests. 

My fantasy was that the grounds would be one big dog park situation, where leash-reactivity would not be an issue. Leo is well socialized and plays nicely with other dogs off leash. He only barks and lunges at them when he’s on leash, sees them from afar and can’t get to them. This is called barrier frustration.

We booked an adorable yellow cabin for two nights. No one was around when we first arrived. We strolled downhill to the private beach, which was everything I hoped it would be. I’ve let Leo run free at an uncrowded beach before, dropping his leash and letting it drag. Here, we truly let the dogs off leash and they romped in the water. No joggers or bicycles lured him into temptation.

Back at the cabin, we needed to let the dogs dry off before we let them inside. Mia remained off leash, we tethered Leo to the cabin door with a 30-foot leash, and we sat in the Adirondack chairs on the porch. Total perfection.

Until a landscaping lady, to whom Leo already had been introduced, headed straight for us. Guess who barked at her?

And guess who got anxious when the guests in the other cabins returned? Me. It was me who got anxious. These guests included several small children and no large dogs. When the first little girl raced for the tree swing near our cabin, I hustled Leo inside.

Was that my plan, to run and hide every time another guest went by? No, I remembered. I brought cheese for this very reason.

I took Leo back outside and gave him cheese every time a new person came into view. He smiled, took the cheese calmly, and didn’t bark at any of the strange people. Not even when they ran.

He did, however, bark at people who walked by our cabin when we were inside. And he barked at Scout, the resident Lab mix. I had gotten so excited by the description on Chevy Chase’s website that I glossed over a code word: tolerates. Scout merely tolerates other dogs. She had no interest in playing with Leo and Mia. She lurked in the yard by the main house, as was her right, and every time he saw her, Leo barked his scary bark.

So that wasn’t ideal.

But this weekend away was about the best an owner of a reactive dog can get (without the angsty feeling of leaving the dog behind). Leo got to do fun things like romp off leash on a beach. We sat in the sand and read our books with our dogs beside us. If the worst thing Leo did was startle a few people by barking from inside our cabin as they walked by, I’ll take it!

Why it worked:

  • We found a fairly secluded spot that was exceedingly dog friendly.
  • I used potential triggers as opportunities to counter-condition Leo.

Epilogue: Leo usually wears a Calming Cap in the car, but we took it off him for the long winding island road, not anticipating we would see so many bicycles. I created a secondary reinforcer by saying, each time Leo noticed a bicycle, “Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, Good boy!” I had no cheese in my hand at the time, but it did have a reassuring effect on him, and now I’ve added that cue when I give him cheese in the presence of bicycles.

Do you have a reactive or fearful dog? Please join us and share your story. The Blog Hop is open through Sunday, August 17, hosted by Oz the Terrier and Wag ‘n Woof Pets.

Oz the Terrier

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Cookies! (Just one)

Just one cookie. That’s all I’ll eat. Just to taste to make sure Rob will like it.

Just one cookie. All I need is for one cookie to look remotely like the NinjaBread Men on the cookie cutter packaging.

Well, they taste good anyway. Made some for the doggies, too, and they seem to like them.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: One.

Thanksgiving pride and joy

Lately, when we bring the dogs to Rob’s parents’ house, they behave very well and wind up calmly lying down: Mia on a throw rug while Leo helps himself to the couch. In the past, Leo’s countersurfing has been a problem, but since he seems to have matured a bit, I was eager to bring them both to Thanksgiving dinner.

Our gathering was small: me and Rob, Rob’s parents, Rob’s uncle and aunt, and a delightful six-year-old girl Leo has known since he was a puppy.

Here he is, getting ready to pull her wheelchair like it’s a sleigh.

And here he is pulling her as Mia cheers on.

I know, normal people post pictures of their meal.

I didn’t realize that Rob’s aunt had never met the dogs. I felt a cold stab of guilt when Leo and I opened the door for her and she recoiled, saying “I’m quite terrified of large dogs.” A year ago, I might have panicked and stuck Leo in the car and made him wait out the rest of the celebration there, but I had faith in my boy, who has no history of snarling at anyone while off leash. I murmured to Rob to make sure Leo didn’t pester her at all, and Auntie clarified that she was terrified of dogs she didn’t know. Rob asked if it would help if she petted Leo, and she said it would.

Leo did a fair bit of polite wandering prior to dinner being served. Nothing inappropriate, but to someone afraid of dogs, I know Leo’s size is intimidating.

During dinner, Mia lay down underneath the table, a little closer to Auntie’s feet than I would have liked, but I’m not sure Auntie even noticed. Leo lay down on a mat behind Auntie at first. Then he did a cursory counter check while the kitchen was unattended. When he returned, he lay down on the other side of the table.

A perk of Rob’s and my never actually eating meals at our kitchen table is that our dogs don’t beg. At all! So kudos to us!

After we finished eating and the older men returned to the football cave, however, Leo stood and wrapped his teeth around the drumstick end of the turkey carcass still sitting on the dining table.

“Ha, ha, anyone want turkey leftovers?” I could afford to joke, because I don’t eat turkey.

No one was overly troubled by this transgression. After all, the turkey was at the exact height of Leo’s nose when he stood. What’s a dog to do?

Then, just as Rob’s mom congratulated herself for getting the rest of the food put away quickly in Leo’s presence, my boy propped his paws on the counter and licked a stick of butter in a dish.

“Just throw it out,” said Rob’s dad. (Leo is a repeat butter-stealing offender. Once he ate the whole stick before we caught him.)

“He only licked the top stick of butter,” I defended.

And Auntie agreed. “It’s true. I saw him.”

After that, I put Leo’s leash on, to keep him away from the counters and to play reindeer games. But then his leash got caught on one of the wheels of the wheelchair, so I detached him and was distracted long enough for him to snatch a wing from the turkey (now on top of the stove) and race around the house with it.

“Just let him have it,” said Rob’s dad. Yeah, that’s how permissive my dogs’ grandparents are.

“The bones are cooked; they could splinter,” I said.

I retrieved the wing bones from his mouth and gave half of his booty to Mia.

When I got home, I laughed at this post about countersurfing on Victoria Stilwell’s Positively blog. That might have been useful to read before dinner. But I already knew, the failure in management was ours. You can’t get mad at a dog for doing what comes naturally. (Honestly, I can’t get mad at Leo for anything. He’s just Leo.)

At the end of the day, I was thankful that Leo waited until after we’d eaten to showcase his naughty side. And I was beyond thrilled when Rob’s mom reported that Auntie was very impressed with how well-behaved our dogs were. Even after witnessing Leo’s antics!

I know I’m a little late to the Monday Mischief party, and Thanksgiving seems like it was ages ago already, but maybe some of you are still catching up too.

Anyone else have a countersurfer attend Thanksgiving?

Snoopy's Dog Blog

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Biggest fears, part 2: Arachnophobia

I used to hate spiders as much as the next guy, but after last summer’s cocoon rampage, I just can’t muster up any real arachnophobia. As summer cooled to fall, lots of my Facebook friends cringed virtually about the number of webs and ginormous octopeds around their homes. Not only did I not mind the spiders barring our front door, nor freak out when I walked through an invisible, stringy web (Not like Rob, who actually cried out, “Ahh! Is it on me? Is it on me? Please, just check!”), I have let a spider dangle above the couch for, like, weeks. He’s not bothering me, why should I bother him?

spider

I used to have an “It’s them or me” policy about bugs, which came back to me the other day when I noticed something dark in the corner of the shower. What is that, a spider? I thought idly, then looked directly at it, and then, yes, I screamed a little.

“Sorry, dude.” I tried to sever the web from which she dangled, to lower her into the shower spray, but she just hung from my finger. I redirected the showerhead to spray her directly, but she just worked her way back up to the ceiling. I watched as she wriggled her front legs while she walked across the ceiling. What’s she doing? Is she trying to dry off, or is that how they spin webs? I watched fascinated as she worked her way toward the vent at the center of my shower ceiling, my mouth agape. Oh, god, what if she falls directly into my mouth? I pinned myself against the wall, hoping she’d work her way all the way out of the shower, but she just taunted me overhead.

I remembered a water glass I’d left in the bathroom windowsill (Remember the little girl in Signs, with her abandoned water glasses? That’s totally me). Stepping out of the shower, I dumped the days old water in the sink and pressed the glass around the spider. She fell into the bottom of the glass, which I then tipped upside down in the sink while I finished my shower, feeling a little guilty because what if she suffocated or drowned in a drop of water still remaining in the glass? Would serve her right for attacking me in the shower, I justified.

She lived to tell the tale and met the fate of nearly all the spiders I’ve had to remove from the premises. I let her out the back door.

That other guy, though, he’s still hanging over the couch. Maybe he’s dead. How long do spiders live, anyway?

What’s your biggest fear?

People overuse the term “biggest fear,” but mine is having something terrible happen to the dogs. Specifically, I worry about them escaping the yard and getting hit by a car. I saw that happen once in Olympia, or rather, I heard it, a dog running out a front door onto the busy street in front of the newspaper where I worked. I remember the owner’s scream as the dog ran out, and her scream after the dog got hit.

While home sick, I let the dogs into the backyard while I watched Tattoo Nightmares. After the dogs had been out there a while, suspiciously quiet, I expected to find them sitting right by the back door, but they weren’t there. I called out “Doggies!” into the empty backyard. Nothing.

Oh, god. Is this the day they get out and something terrible happens? Is this going to be another saddest day that ruins our lives?

I put on my boots and a jacket and started up the hill toward the chain-link fence that separates our yard from Interstate 5. Leo’s red skull-and-crossbones bandanna peeked out from behind our martial arts studio building. Phew. At least Leo was safe. I worry less about Mia getting out, because I don’t think she’d go anywhere. I imagine her being like my mom’s Lhasa apso, Barney, who would sit on the front porch and wait to be remembered if you accidentally left him out there.

leo

Leo zoomed around me and the gazebo a few times, kind of like Mia does when Leo is getting into trouble, except Mia usually barks too.

Where was Mia?

There isn’t much space between the studio building and the chain link, and most of that space is pierced through with blackberry branches. I held onto the chain link as I crept along the retaining wall on the dirt barely-a-walkway. Mia was back there, at the very corner of the yard, digging under the fence … LITERALLY my biggest fear. She ran toward me when she saw me, but I kept walking to the edge of the yard to see how much progress she’d made.

Not much, as it turned out, but enough to reinforce my fear that given enough time, she could escape under that fence and onto the freeway.

Mia, why? Why would you try to escape? You, whom I trusted!

leomia

And Leo’s just going to stand there and watch. What a bad influence Mia is on him.

How about you? Any of your biggest fears ever come true?

Stay tuned for Big Fear, Part 2: Spiders!!

pet-blogger-hop-badge

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…