A No Dog Vacation

I’m on vacation with NO dogs. Not one! I know you can’t believe it, but it’s true!

It’s our thirteenth anniversary next month so my mom and step-dad gave us a weekend away at a great condo in the mountains.

It’s been at least three years since I went on a trip with out a dog. That means in three years I have not had one day with out 4legged companionship.

The best part? I’m having a blast! Yes, I’m sure it would be wonderful to have them here with us, but I seem to be surviving without them. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t still subjected my poor Mehusbandy to more than his fair share of dog talk, but he’s a good sport.

The view from breakfast.

So far we’ve done a whole lot of. . . nothing! Which is the best part of vacation. I’ve never been one of those pack it in type of travelers. I’m the boring type who likes to get up late, eat leisurely meals, read and watch movies and other generally lazy things. Hey, we did play frisbee, toss the football and even swam today, so we haven’t been totally sloth like.

Tomorrow we may even take a hike in between yummy breakfast, yummy lunch and afternoon naps. Or maybe not. That’s the other beauty of vacation, you just get to live in the moment and it really doesn’t matter if none of your plans get done.

I was going to leave Maizey and Magnus with our trainer. She boards dogs in her house and they get to live and play with her pack of 4legged friends. We felt it would be a good chance for her to evaluate Maizey away from me.

It didn’t work out to leave them there so my mom took them for the weekend. I’m sure they’ll be fine, at least Magnus will. But it’s so weird to be without them. My mom’s already humored me by sending pictures and video and I’ve only been gone a night. I have very good family.

Two more days and then it’s back to the daily grind. I’m not looking forward so much to that, but I’ll be so glad to be back with my puppies again!

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Walking Challenge

A challenge is, “A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking.”

So far the 2011 walking challenge is living up to its name for me. Testing my abilitity to not be a wimp about weather, my resources of winter walking gear, demanding I get out there and walk with the pups and certainly stimulating me to do so.

I’m so glad I made this a year long challenge. It seems much less about the miles and much more about just getting the dogs some exercise. That’s not to say I’m not technically behind in the one mile per day quota. With 48 days of the year gone I should have 48 miles. The 9 miles completed is not too close to 48.

The great thing is I don’t feel behind and thus overwhelmed. I hope the challenge is having the same effect on all who are participating. We have all year to get those goals accomplished.

My Favorite Walk So Far
Did you know elephants lived in the desert? Well, one does anyways. His name is George. In my life all my favorite elephants are named George.

My family has a long history with George. My grandparents used to live close to where George has lived for what I suspect has been thousands of years. When we would visit my grandparents they would take us on a walk to see him.

It became somewhat of a tradition to gather up the family and hike up to see George. As we got close my grandma would excitedly say, “Can you see it? Can you see the elephant?” Everyone could see him, he stands tall into the desert air. A red sandstone giant against a deep blue sky.

Everyone but me that is. In the fashion of children who don’t want to let their elders down and don’t want to be left out of the fun I started saying I could see our friend George. What I could see was a tall stack of red rocks sticking up from a relatively flat desert area, it did not look like anything resembling an elephant.

So this trip I decided to come clean. I admitted my childhood inability to see our friend George decided to walk up and visit him again.

We started out in warm sunny weather through deep red sand. Passed dormant winter rabbit brush and sleeping sage brush.

The dogs loved the freedom of loose long lines and no side walks to dictate their route. I loved the quiet desert air with only the sound of our footsteps and the chattering of my aunt and mom to listen to.

As we approached George towering into the sky, waiting for us like an old loyal friend the only thing missing was my grandma’s excited voice asking me, “Can you see the elephant?”

It’s hard enough when we see our 4legged family limited by age, but far worse when our 2legged family can no longer clamber around with us as they did in their younger days.

Thankfully my mom took up the torch and piped in right in time, “Can you see it? Can you see the elephant?”

And I could! I could see George stoically observing us from on high. What a relief!

Now I can check a couple more miles off my Walking Challenge goal, have another nice memory of another nice walk, and know I kept a family tradition alive.

"We're waiting, please tell us your stories!"

How ’bout all of you? How is the walking challenge going? Do you have any fun, motivating stories or tips to share? Is there any suggestions or requests you have to make this challenge easier for you?

If you have a walking story post of your own share it with your progress in your comment and I will post the links so we can all hop through and see how we are all doing. Most importantly now is the time to update us on your progress, so leave any miles with your comment too.

If you’d like to join the Walking Challenge we welcome you. Just set whatever goal seems realistic for you and your 4legged friends and I will add you and a link to your site to the sidebar.

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Trips and Travels

I like to travel. Not as much as I like to stay home, but a trip now and then is fun. Especially if my 4legged friends get to go.

Traveling is a lot of work though. Especially if my 4legged friends get to go.

We are going on a short trip this weekend. I have family coming into town and we all become snow birds and get out the city to a warmer clime.

I guess it’s the home body coming out in me, but today the staying home option seemed like a lot less work and a lot more fun.

I’m sure it’s not, and I will be thrilled with the projected 60 degree temps, the sunshine, long, leash free walks in the desert, good food and good company. . . hmm. . . this is looking better after all!

It’s not the first trip I have taken with the two fluffy pups together, but I’m wondering how it will go. Crowded house, four dogs, lots of family coming and going. . . hmm. . . maybe staying home is a good idea after all.

So how ’bout all of you? Do you travel with your 4legged friends? If so, what do you do to make it a fun time for all? Bring on the travel tips! I’m sure I need them if I’m going to make a success of traveling with an adolescent boy puppy, and a Princessface Maizey.

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Not So Wordless Wednesday: Tugging Mania

"Wait! Wait! I know it's surprising, but you're not in the wrong blog! I am making a guest appearance with my buddy Magnus the Destroyer."

"Look out these Shelties are crazy tuggers!"

"Twist here has an amazingly big jaw!"

"And Dare wants MY toy all to herself!"

"Shhh. . . Don't tell her I'm back here! I have to be sneaky with these smart Shelties around."

Good thing I'm Magnus the Tough, I can handle these tugging professionals!"

Meanwhile on the couch, “I’m really a big dog” Magnus’ sisser did her best Princessface Maizey impression:

"These crazy tugging dogs really wear me out."

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The Rest of the Cow, Goat and Horse Reactivity Story

As promised here is the rest of the story with this weekends reactive journey.

In Truth I Think I am The Reactive One
I must start with the admission that I am a reactive person. Go ahead laugh, but it’s so true! I am a chronic, anxiety addicted, over thinker. Because of my tendency towards feeling constantly alarmed it wouldn’t surprise me a bit that Maizey learned that from me.

I only bring it up because I think that one of the biggest challenges to teaching Maizey not to react to everything she sees like it is a big scary monster that she is going to out scare is teaching myself that. Or at least acting it convincingly enough that she is reassured.

My Then and Now Reaction to Maizey Reacting
Based on my own reactive personality, what is my instinctual reaction? Well picture her jumping out of her skin, lunging and barking. Then picture it in human form: me jumping, lunging and barking- at her! Not helpful to say the least!

Thus the 4legged lesson she is teaching me? When she reacts I don’t. And I mean literally DON’T, at all. For every symptom she shows my goal is to show the opposite. I think in the psychology world they call this “modeling the correct behavior.” I think in the real world we call it “fake it ’till you make it.”

So it used to look like this: she jumps and lunges, I would jump and lunge to grab her and keep her safe, or tighten the leash or whatever other startled physical reaction possessed my body. Now I stand still. Unless I need to move to keep her safe like backing away from a dangerous dog.

It used to be she barks and alarms go off in my head and my instinct is to bark at her, “MAIZEY! blahdy blah blah.” Or what ever. She can’t hear me over the alarms going off in her head so it doesn’t matter what words come out. It’s the tone, which is never one of anger, but surprise and alarm that gives her the message, “OH NO! Even my crazymomlady is alarmed so I better be bigger, badder and meaner to get this scary thing away from me!”

The Effect
Honestly time will tell the total effect on her, but I can tell you the effect on me is huge. I feel more in control because I am, or at least look to her, more in control.

(Although I must admit to people not in the “reactive know” tend to look at you like, “Why are you not waving your arms and screaming at your dog to stop throwing that god awful fit!?!” I just try to let that one go as judgmental ignorance not worth my energy.)

Another benefit I feel this is having is I feel like a refuge from the storm that Maizey is trapped in and I think that has contributed to her being able to return and reorient to me better.

The Anecdotal Evidence
This weekend provided a great chance to see all of this in action. We traveled south for a fall getaway and encountered many things that Maizey has seen before and not reacted to at all. The aforementioned cows, horses and goats.

This time was a different story. These pictures are presented with time stamp in the form of hour:minutes:seconds. You’ll notice it takes only seconds for things to change.

1:34:22 Immediately when arriving at the goat and cow pens she showed no reactivity to them, although the tail position indicates perhaps slight hyper-alertness.

1:34:56 34 seconds later she got startled by something only she knows and lunged over to the cows.

1:35:05 She really didn’t like those cows!

I immediately knelt down, and gave a quiet “Maizey, leave it” it took her a few more seconds then she came to me. Looking back I should have left the area right then. She appeared to calm and move on, but I still should have left at that point. Lesson learned. Again. Sigh. . .

1:38:08 and 1:38:09 She startled again and this time to both cows and goats.

1:38:09 This is a whiplash turn where she tried to come to me, but literally in the SAME SECOND her fear overrode her sensibility and she went back to reacting.

I was so scared she would just charge right in with the cows and get trampled I basically herded her back from that and worked on her reorienting to me, which she did okay with.

At that point that my friends mom, who ranks as one of the most wonderful women in my world, quietly made a statemtnt that will be my reactive episode mantra from now on, “Let’s move on to the next thing.” So we did and hopefully will continue to do.

For now, as you give me the benefit of your thoughts and insights I will work on the next chapter of this reactive maymay novel: Maizey and Relaxation Protocol.

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Post 100: A Trust Walk

100 posts! Stories of fun and many lessons learned. Some happy some frustrating but all illustrating the value of loving a dog.

Stories like this one that starts with a long, long drive through Wyoming. The drive home from vacation is often so much longer than the drive to a vacation location, though the same in distance and route.

Is it because you played too hard and are tired out from the swimming, hiking, canoeing, and all the exhausting time spent eating marshmallows around the fire at night?

Whatever the reason Wyoming seems a big state when you are hauling a tent trailer and your husbandy and your Meeka are already home waiting for you and the little princessface.

It seems too that when you are traveling tired is when your Grandpaman decides the perfect place to set up camp will be at the reservoir that is 27 miles down a twisty tiny two lane road instead of the one that is five minutes off the highway with the oh-so-beautiful camp sites within seeing distance.

And so you and your crazymomlady blast the Moody Blues, childhood memories blossoming, and settle in for the long haul with little complaining.

Grandpaman deserves that kind of respect.

Until it starts to rain. And you are setting up camp at the reservoir 27 miles down the twisty road only two camp spaces away from two big dogs crazier than your own Princess-Of-The-Shrill-Bark. Then the complaining starts, even if only in your head and, okay, a little out loud.

But the tent trailer gets set up and the crazy dogs keep to themselves, you rescue the turbo from digging up that red ant hill before she is in too much trouble and thinking you deserve a break from all the wonderful togetherness, you set out.

It’s sundown, and with the lake blushing into pink you realize it is a much prettier and less populated lake than the ever so close to the highway one that looked so attractive earlier. Less populated with humans, but overrun with cottontail bunnies. Who thankfully are smart enough to know when to stop hopping and blend into the sage brush scenery before Turbo turbo’s off after them.

Down the hill to the beach you tromp, following the wagging Cavalier ears and tail, both of you so glad to be free of the truck and the leash. Following little bird foot prints in the sand until you are alone with your little dog and her happy tail.

Onto the rocks you both climb, sinking into the silence with only the waves lightly lapping against the rocky shore. Laughing and laughing when she gambols down to the waterline only to turn and give you the, “Hey hurry up crazymomlady! There are sniffs to be sniffed here!” grin.

So you let her follow her spaniel nose, she too has earned a break, but then she stiffens. Another cottontail? No, just the silhouette of tall ears and glowing eyes. Eight alert ears, and eight yellow eyes on the heads of two does and two babies.

They too have stiffened when they spotted you, not with your ears standing alert, but with two human eyes glowing and two Maizey eyes locked onto those deer. But not a sound is made.

Not a peep of a bark or wine, nary a growl, barely an exhalation of breath. Just watching you and your 4legged best friend, as they go back to grazing and getting a last drink of the night in the now still and darkened lake. Then they move, nibbling their way up the beach away from the water.

And you move with them, willing your pup to be silent, affording you more time to watch these beautiful 4legged friends of another variety. She moves with you, quietly. Perhaps sensing to pace her movements from the quiet delibertness of yours.

Then you see it, the yearling buck with his antlers so new and still covered in fuzz. He is so lean and carved of smooth muscle, and he is wary of you. More so than the doe’s and babies were. He appears and then disappears into the brush, leading them with him to more safety, away from your prying intruders eyes.

So on that breath of beauty and peacefulness you give your pup a “lets go” and set off for camp. Except now it is dark and of course in your haste to be off you never grabbed your flashlight. The rocky beach you clambored over cant be a good way back in the dark, can it?

But the road must be right over that hill, and it will take you both straight to your camp and your bed.

Or so you think when you set off across the hill, winding your way through sage and barely changing rabit brush and still following that waving white tail of your friend.

But it is very dark and even she can’t see where she is going too well, plus she doesn’t know the dangers of the prickly pear cactus. How will she know to avoid it? The worry starts. Not for you but for her little fuzzy feet.

Then you realize you are no longer following her waving white tail, but she is following you so close as to touch your left ankle now and then, but not close enough to get stepped on and trip you both up.

How does she knows to trust your judgment of where to step and what to avoid? When did she become so wise to know to keep quiet and observe? She must be growing up!

What could spell trust better than following your 4legged friends’ lead into a wonderful walk and then leading her through to a safe warm dinner and bed? And because that trust should never be attacked by a prickly pear cactus you pick your friend up and carry her to that elusive road. Then you let her go and follow her tail straight back to camp and a hot dinner cooked by your not so little anymore little brother.

In the end what do you realize? That crazygrandpa man was right again! This walk of friendhip, trust and wild 4legged beauty was worth the extra miles and the rainy camp setup.

And what else do you know? No matter how little your happy pup is, no matter how close and wonderful your 2legged family is, trust in the form of 4 legs and a happy tail is invaluable too!

(Post 100 is a special for my Mom, who is also my friend, and my Grandparents. Without whom I would never had what turned out to be one of my favorite walks ever.)

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Training Challenge Week 4: CGC Prep: 2legged Greetings

As stated in the last challenge we posted for there were two areas of CGC prep that will be challenging for Maizey: Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and Test 10: Supervised separation.

On our trip there was plenty of chances to work on both but for this weeks training challenge I thought I could show you some of the progress made in Accepting a friendly stranger.

Ahhh. . . this greeting a friendly stranger thing is nice!"

Technically for the CGC Maizey will need to sit and ignore a stranger that is friendly to me. I felt this was going to be too big of a lump for her to train all at once so we started with helping her develop more manners and self control when people greeted her.

I felt this especially important for in our real world interactions people generally bypass me and head straight to her, making it important she knows how to respond appropriately. I can’t say I really blame them, I mean who am I compared to her glory?

It was suggested that since she has such a good leave it that I apply that to help her not greet people that may not want greeted. (A totally foreign idea to my little social butterfly!) I started this when it would be easiest to help her succeed, while we were walking past people. It worked well, as I could keep her moving and use natural rewards of a destination along with treat rewards.

I also worked hard to be assertive in talking to people that wanted to greet her. Maybe I am so used to people crossing the street to avoid greeting my Meeka that the liberty people take to greet Maizey never ceases to amaze me. I mean I can understand people wanting to greet her pretty princess face, but the way people swoop in over her with their high squeaky voices to grab her long ears makes me want to jump on them!

So before we left I scripted some brief sentences I could use to direct the 2legged members of the meetings in more appropriate behavior. I tried to use language that helped them feel like they would be doing her a favor and not me, since it is her they love so much.

“Ooohh your dog is so cute!!”

To which I respond with a simple, “Thank you, she really likes to be petted under her chin.”

But the most successful was a simple, “Thanks! She is practicing for a test to help her be a good girl so could you please pet her only when she is sitting?”

Obviously we all know 4legged members of our environment often prove themselves easier to train then the 2legged ones so this wasn’t always successful, but it was good practice for me and I think my assertiveness helped Maizey feel more confident that I had things handled.

You can tell in the pictures she is not always sitting, but she is learning self control. I also tried to adjust the the criteria to the circumstances so if it was a high distraction situation I lowered the criteria from sitting to just keeping all four feet on the ground.

While still need to practice in a formal CGC Test type setting I am happy with the lessons we bothed learned and confident we will be able to practice enough to pass that area of her CGC, eventually.

"Sitting isn't as much fun as smothering you, but thanks for petting me anyways!"

TRAINING CHALLENGE WEEK 3,4
DATE and TIME: August
LOCATION: South Dakota
SKILLS TRAINED: Sit for greetings from 2legged friends and strangers, sweet solitude
SUMMARY: While still need to test in a formal CGC Test #1 setting, using a “leave it” to prevent greetings altogether and assertive direction on how to greet her to the people involved we saw good improvement. Her supervised separation may prove more challenging. Left her with mom several times, will bark if she can see me. Left her in trailer, and on long line all supervised by family. Does settle eventually. Big test was day took mehusbandy and meeka to city to go home, was gone from 8:00am-3:00pm. She did good. Went on walk, had two reactive episodes, but was calm on my return, not stressed and happy to see me.

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