Friday, July 30, 2010

Leash Up and Go

I did more dog walking today than I have ever done in my life.

Mable's mom is away, so I am walking her several times a day this weekend.  We walked this morning and this afternoon.

Spirit and Bailey take walks with me twice a week.  We walked for a long while this afternoon.

And my own girl, Marge, got to go on a spur-of-the-moment, 45-minute, approximately 2 mile hike this afternoon!  We decided to venture to a brand-new location.  Instead of driving to the park and starting out there, we parked on a street and picked up a section of the White Trail.  We plan to traverse the entirety of the nearly 8-mile trail once the weather gets cooler, but today decided to acquaint ourselves with a small portion of it.

We were initially worried - the trail was much too narrow for our liking and was littered with downed trees.  I thought we were going to have to turn back and find somewhere else to go. We took this picture on our way back, but we had to cross through this mess and several others to continue on the trail.

But, alas, the trail widened, there were no more downed trees, and we followed the trail markers down the trail.

We had to cross several small streets.  This portion of the trail runs right alongside a busy avenue, which intersects with several almost desolate roads.  Marge did not mind the asphalt whatsoever. We even had to pass by some houses, but I guess she was in hiking mode, and barely gave them a second look.

Marge chugged down the trail, with my sister leading the way.

Then, as usual, I posed her on a boulder.  Most of these boulders were supposedly left behind from retreating glaciers at the end of the ice age.  There are many of them in these woods.

We reached a footbridge.  I see this footbridge every time I travel in my car down the road that runs parallel to this trail.  It was cool to see it from a different perspective.

We continued on for a while into completely new territory, the trail twisting and turning, and at this point, joining up with the yellow trail (hence the multi-colored blazes on this tree).

We reached a point where several trails converged, and our trail, the White Trail, veered off into completely desolate and very dark (note the camera flash) woods.  Though I am excited to explore this trail in the near future, I didn't plan on going this far, so stopped we here for one last pose, and headed back the way we came.

We retraced our footsteps, hidden below the treetops.  We didn't see a single soul on this trail.  If not for the sound of traffic, it would have been completely silent.

I pointed out this fungi on a tree to my sister.  She took a photo-op.  She was a bit disappointed in this trail, since there was no wildlife or bodies of water to photograph.  It was a bit blasé, I'll admit, but I'll take even the most plain of forest trails over sidewalk any day.

 Marge eagerly looked ahead at my sister, who was, once again, leading us down the trail.  Marge likes everyone to stay together when we're out in the woods, and always keeps a close tab on all the people accompanying her.  After a short time, we were back at the car.

Except for a short potty walk for Mable tonight, no more dog walking for me today!  Suffice to say, I am pooped!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fahrenheit and Fear

There are two big things in this world that Marge does not like.

Heat is one of them.
Noise is the other.

Heat produces a sluggish, unenthusiastic, not-so-food-driven Marge.
Noise produces the same.

How, then, do I tell a hot Marge from a scared Marge when we're out walking?

In the wake of our recurring summer troubles (thanks mostly to 4 PM fireworks one afternoon), it's really been difficult to tell the difference.  She is always somewhat hot - either it's the sun beating down on her black coat or the oppressive humidity that gets her panting.  I'd walk at night, but the risk of fireworks is just too great.  So, when does Marge cross the line from being just hot, to hot and scared at the same time?

I have been trying to wake up earlier in the morning to beat the sun and the sounds in my neighborhood.  This morning - an overcast, rainy morning - was perhaps the best walk we've had all week.  I wanted to keep walking her, but I cut it short after about 10 minutes because I really didn't want to end the walk with Marge getting scared of something.  There was some noise, but it didn't really affect her much.  Head down, tail up.  That's the Marge I like to see.

Yesterday afternoon, we walked across the field.  It was HOT. She was on her long line.  Her tongue was hanging out the side of her mouth, but her tail was down (droopy, really).  She was taking bits of string cheese, and was more than happy to go sniff the trees on the other side of the park.  When we turned for home, she was sluggish, somewhat responsive to me, but definitely not happy and definitely looking to get inside.

Of course, there is no doubt about what a panicky Marge is feeling.  We have had a couple of panicky walks, too.  But could it be that her reaction to what ever bothered her was brought on by the fact that she was hot - in other words, that her fear threshold was somehow lowered by being uncomfortable in the heat?

Her summer noise fears are definitely intertwined with the temperature.  On a cold day, she reacts a whole lot less to her triggers.  The question is how they're intertwined, and to what degree.  Is she reacting simply because the summer is noisier?  Or, does the heat itself play a role in her behavior?

Interesting questions, for sure.  If any one has any thoughts or similar experiences, I'd like to hear about them.

In the mean time, here's Marge this morning lounging on her spot on the couch.  I wish we could have walked more, but quality time bumming around with each other does have its perks, too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Training 38

I actually have a ton of training news to talk about - from walks, to teaching class, to training Marge - but I'll just stick with a couple of things for tonight since it's so darn late.

Rally Practice
Walks have been few and far between lately (I'll get in to it some other time - let's just say that the summer has started to catch up with Marge a bit), so I took a ring rental on Monday before I helped out with the pet agility class for some training and exercise time.  Marge and I covered a little bit of everything - worked on some fronts/finishes, some handling stuff in agility, and ran an APDT Level 2 rally course.  Here's one of our attempts at the rally course.

As you can see, I rewarded her often and carried the treats in my hands.  Since Marge will be off leash at our next trial on August 14, I really wanted to reinforce her staying close to me and keeping her attention on me.  She hasn't been formally trained to heel, but she is getting closer and closer to doing so (I still do ponder about a career in Novice Obedience for Marge, but that's for another day, too).

Her only error was on the Call Front - Finish Right sign.  She anticipates the finish. I don't want her to get in to the habit of doing something before I cue it, so that's why we went back and did it again.  Her turns were absolutely lovely, though!  I still need to use my hands and exaggerated body motions to cue the turns, but still. Look at those 360s at the end of the course!

O Little Playmate
Marge waited very patiently in a crate for about an hour while I taught the class.  Afterwards, I invited one of the students (a fellow club member) to stick around for a few minutes to let her Chihuahua, Napoleon, play with Marge.  They have met before and absolutely adore each other (and I REALLY like Nappy, he is an awesome dog with a very bright future in agility), and I thought some off leash playtime would be good for Marge.

They did very well together.  Marge allowed herself to be chased - she's usually the one doing the chasing - and did lots of play bowing.  I saw that after five minutes or so, Marge started to get tired; Nappy still wanted to play and tried to egg her on, but good girl Marge just ignored his behavior.  Seems like they might be really good playmates for each other - perhaps we'll do the same thing again in a couple of weeks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mozying Down the Trail

There is nothing quite like a walk in the woods, I'm convinced.  We got to go on another hike this morning.  My mother came along with us this time, which was a little challenging because Marge and I practically power walk, while my mom and sister wanted to walk slowly and look at everything around them.  We did hear some construction noises which slightly bothered Marge, but I don't think it ruined our outing completely.

My sister spotted this guy sunning himself at one of the ponds.  Marge actually did a fair bit of wading, but I didn't snap any pictures.  She also threw up while there, perhaps from ingesting a bit of pond water (she's fine now).

Posing alongside the pond.  I can't wait to return to this spot in the fall, when vibrant shades of yellow, red, and orange frame this body of water.

There were many butterflies and moths around, too.  My sister waited patiently to get a perfect shot of this one that was hovering over swampland (Marge and I were not so patient, and wanted to continue!).  We also saw snakes, frogs, and a chipmunk.

We didn't walk too far, since my sister and mom felt hot.  Marge and I could have continued, but we'll be training later, anyway, so heading back early wasn't a big deal.

I snapped this shot right before we left.  Marge had just had a blast chasing my sister down the trail (on leash, of course.. did I mention that we met THREE rude hikers with offleash dogs?).  Shortly after, we left the park, just as an enormous group of camp kids were coming in.  Perfect timing.

Later, we'll be practicing some agility and rally before I teach class at the club.  But, for now, Marge got some more much-needed exercise!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Morning Entertainment

This beats watching cartoons, I think.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Birthday Hike

I don't have much time today, but I wanted to get this post up before the weekend to show you all these lovely pictures.  Seems like a lot of people have been gone this summer from their blogs, and that only gets worse on the weekends!

The weather gods finally convened and gave me a good afternoon for hiking this Thursday, one day before my birthday, which is today.  My sis, Marge and I all hopped in to the car around 3.  We knew we couldn't stay too long, but a later afternoon hike was better than nothing.  The majority of these pictures were taken by her.

We made the short trek down to Walker Pond.  I really wanted Marge to wade in the pond, but the banks are unbelievably muddy - they're practically quicksand.   She perched up on this rock instead.  Not a great pic, but look at all of that mud behind her!

Definitely not ideal for swimming.

We gave up on that idea for the moment, and looked up as a blue heron soared over us.

One more pose along the trail (look at the mud on Marge's legs!) and we left for yet another body of water.

We had her pose in the woods, too.  Do you recognize these ruins that Marge is standing on from a post last year?  We visited them the first time we ever went on a hike, which, unbelievably, was almost a year ago.

We reached paradise.  The lake! You could feel the temperature drop a few degrees as we approached this several-acre lake.

We did get Marge to wade in this water.  She got her legs, face and body wet, which helped to keep her cool.  I saw a few sandy banks in the distance - you might be able to spot it in the above picture, over towards the right - I'm thinking that they might be a little bit better for wading.

We had company, too.  These guys were friendly (mostly, they were looking for me to drop bits of dog cookies in to the lake for Marge).  Any one know what kind of fish they are?

Marge posed on the little wooden barge that they keep on the lake for fishermen, with the beautiful scenery behind her.

We meandered along the lake for a bit more.  Marge took one final dunk, wet her face (and blew bubbles with her nose) and then we decided to head back.

It was really nice to take an hour to get away from it all.  It was the best birthday gift I could have received - a nice day out and a dog who was able to fully relax and enjoy her wooded walk.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Training 37

Rally and Manners
Here's Marge hanging out in the car before we went in to class.

I was completely determined on Sunday at Rally to keep Marge from barking at our Golden Retriever classmate.  So, we waited waaaay back away from the door as he came in, to prevent Marge from being right in the line of Golden-happiness fire.  It worked!  We enjoyed a very peaceful class and I rewarded Marge every time she showed interest in him (she even snuck in a few sniffs).  Marge gave a lip curl to one of our other classmates, but it was my fault for putting her in the situation, any way.  She "redeemed" herself later on, by sneaking away from me when she was offleash to go over to him and play bow.  Silly girl.

We also had one really huge moment.. Marge was in a down-stay across the room while I was helping to clean up the Rally equipment with the rest of the class.  One of the handlers' significant others (a man) walks in to the room, and Marge begins to growl and her hackles raise.  But, she did not budge.  She was obviously threatened by the situation and may have felt even more restrained by the fact that she was in a stay, so I quickly went over to her, fed treats, and released her.  She had no problem after that.  Despite the growl, I think she handled herself very well, and I think I handled the situation correctly, too.

The Rally itself was very good - her best so far in the class.  She is doing pretty well with being offleash.  We've learned a lot of new signs, and nothing's stopped her so far.  We'll be back in the APDT Rally ring on August 14, in hopes of accumulating some points in the 1B class and debuting in the 2A class (which is off leash).

Training, But Not Marge
We began our second session of the Pet Agility class this week, which I am assisting in.  Because we've got a full house of dogs (seven) of different sizes, we split the room in two.  I had three big dogs that I was working with - a Gordon Setter, the fearful Mix from last time (who has absolutely blossomed), and a reactive Shepherd Mix.

It's a lot of fun teaching people new skills and showing them ways to bond with their dog.  Marge stayed home this time, because I didn't think the excitement of a brand new class of dogs (new to both her AND me) would be a very good thing.

We did have one incident where the Shepherd Mix suddenly broke from his handler and went off to the other side of the room, which really scared the hell out of a poor Dachshund, but thankfully a scuffle was avoided.  His owner was really upset, but I told her that I'd been down the reactivity road before.  I'm going to help her out and teach her some clicker/conditioning games so that we can curb this behavior using positive methods.  He seems to have a bit of a chase drive, and doesn't have much tolerance for rudeness from other dogs. But he is also very in-tune to his mommy, and has a superb recall. Honestly, he's a bit like Marge (I say that a lot, don't I?).

The dogs got to practice recalling over 8" jumps and running alongside their handlers.  They also learned  how to go through a short tunnel and picked their legs up through my agility ladder.

Back on the Field
We finally had agility tonight.  Marge was just as happy as I was to get back out there.  The time off was really good for her - she was definitely a bit worn out from agility after our last trial (Marisa even said the same tonight).

Nice little course.  Very flowy (probably what we needed to get back in to it)...

  • Started with Marge on my left, pushed out to 2 and then ran down the line to 5.
  • Front cross 5-6, ran ran ran to the tunnel.
  • Up and over the A-Frame just fine.  Hit her contact BEAUTIFULLY (and didn't creep too much, either)
  • No problem out to the double, and hit her weave entrances each time.  She did weave a little bit slowly, though, and popped out once when I got too far ahead.  Weaves are something we'll work on during our next private lesson.  My hunch is that Marge is not liking having to switch back from 24" weaves at trials to 22" weaves while practicing.
  • No other problems what so ever on course.  Lots of pulling.  The 18 tunnel wasn't bad at all.. she only missed it once when I changed direction before she committed.
She was a little speed ball tonight.  Didn't sniff, didn't wander off or make up her own course.  I think it helped a lot that there were only two other people there (her PWD friend, and Spirit, a Golden who I walk a couple of days a week, who Marge is mostly tolerant of). I got to run Spirit, too, and we did really well together.  She's such a neat dog!  

And I will now end this post with a picture of my dear cat checking out a foot-long zucchini that we grew in our backyard.  It was tasty, and we've got more of them on the way.  Notice she is sans cone - finally, the nose has healed!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Busy Little Bumblebee

I suppose this can count as my first-ever MargeBlog product review!

A couple of months ago, I went on a little Amazon spending spree to get some new stuff for Marge.  We tried out some new treats (which were good), tried a new treat-dispensing toy (which was returned, won't get in to that), and, for the first time ever, an interactive plushy toy.

The Hide-A-Bee!

I had seen this toy before, but never ordered it.  I saw it for the low price of around $9 on Amazon, just enough to get me free shipping on the rest of my order.  Since the summer time is when we don't get to do as much training and walking, I thought it would be a good time to give it a try.

When we first got it, Marge wasn't really sure what to do with it.  Instead of pulling the little bees out, she was perfectly content with walking around, squeaking the entire bee hive with the little bees lodged inside of it.

To keep it novel, I only bring it out once every couple of weeks or so.  Tonight, after a not-so-good (AKA extremely stressful) walk out in the field (fireworks at 4 PM in the afternoon - saw them with my own eyes, the immature, inconsiderate idiots - and I tried to call the Park Service on them, but there was no answer), I thought we needed to have a little bit of fun.

Here she is getting to work.  With a little bit of practice, she now understands that the idea is to pull the three little bees out and then squeak the heck out of them.

She still does like to stick her head completely inside of it every once in a while.  Sometimes, she even walks around with the bee hive covering her face.  It's very cute.

And, finally, with the ultimate prize - a perfect sized bee to chomp on.  They have gotten a bit worn, especially since Marge is a moderate chewer, but using them sparingly has definitely elongated their life. The squeakers inside of them are very powerful, though - all three still work.

- Affordable, comes in many different varieties (Hide a Bird, Squirrel, etc)
- Good way to keep your dog mentally stimulated without the use of treats
- Takes a familiar toy (squeaky toys) and spins a whole new concept on them
- Replacement bees available should yours get worn
- Good size for most dogs (except the very tiny or very large, perhaps)

- Not suitable for aggressive chewers; bees do fray pretty easily
- Might get boring if used too frequently
- Some dogs will need encouragement before they pull the bees out

Maybe it will work for you, too, and you can use it to give your dog something fun to do without having to go out into this oppressive, unwavering heat (and, for some of us, the darn fireworks that go with them).

Disclaimer: This post was not, in any way, endorsed by the Kyjen company.  I have had no contact with any one - this is my own review of my own experience with this product, no strings attached.

Friday, July 16, 2010

High Steppin'

With the help of both my boyfriend and my father, I constructed a brand new agility ladder last night.  I primarily made it because we need new, simple obstacles to use in the non-competitive agility class that I teach, but I am pleasantly surprised at how Marge has taken to it, too.  It took her about two minutes to figure out what to do with it, and I think if I use it on grass, it could be a good workout for her legs (perhaps if I make it higher, also?). This makes me want to keep it, and transport it each week to class for use there.

You can find the plans that I used for it here.  It cost me about $20 to make, and the only tool I needed was a saw to cut the PVC (that's where my dad came in).  You can glue the pieces together, too, using PVC cement, but I haven't done so yet and don't really think it's necessary because mine is staying together just fine.

I'm not really crazy about her using it on the concrete, but I didn't want to move it to the grass solely to make this video. I think it was fine for a couple of reps.

What do you think? Does it look like she likes it?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Training 36

Advanced Rally Class
We had our first Rally class on June 20th, then skipped two weeks (one because we were too tired after the SIKC agility trial, the other because the class was off on July 4th).  Sunday was finally our return to Rally.

Marge is doing much better in this Rally class than she did in her first one - partially because she already knows most of the other dogs, partially because we're in a newer, bigger training hall than we were last summer, and partially just because she is less stressy and fearful than she used to be.

She DID have a lot to say to our Golden classmate, though, who also takes agility class with us.  He barely pays her any attention, but something about him bothers Marge.  Tremendously.  Thankfully, that was her only snark of the night, and we were able to use the Golden to play some Look At That.  Oddly enough, she is able to sit on the sidelines next to him with no problem - even wanted to sniff him, but I verbally marked her attempt to do so, so she came back and got a cookie instead.  It is only the first few minutes when he first comes in that she reacts.  I think it's because he's excited to be there and see everyone, and she's the reactive sourpuss (kidding kidding) and wants none of his happiness.  My goal is to get her to stop reacting to him.  Hopefully, we can do it, between both Agility and Rally.

As for the actual Rally, this is AKC Advanced/APDT Level 2 Rally, so lots of new signs are being introduced, and everything is off leash.  So far, Marge has handled everything swimmingly. We've done a lot of it on our own at home, purposely.  Heeling around food bowls filled with treats was a little rough, though.

Performing for an Audience
Last night was the last week of this session of the non-competitive agility class I'm involved with.  I brought Marge along, since she hasn't been getting out much due to the heat/fireworks/whathaveyou.

The other teacher and I arranged a competition between the students.  We set up a short, one-sided (ie. no crosses) agility course and timed each team to see who could run it the fastest.  I had gone to the store before hand and picked up a whole bunch of squeaky toys, so, depending on who had the best time, they got to choose their prize first, second fastest chose their prize next, etc.  I think every one liked their toys.

After the competition, every one took a break to check out their toys and eat some treats.  Marge came out to run the course.  She didn't even look at the people sitting across the room.  She was so excited to see the agility equipment (and the treat in my hand) and ran like the little speedy girl that she is.  She even held her contact on the A-Frame, which was set very low for the students.

She also made great friends with the Chihuahua in the class.  What a nice combination - a tiny dog able to keep up with a big gal, and a big dog gentle enough to play with him.  They made for quite a funny pair, but it was adorable.  I wish I had pictures.  I hope Marge can play with him again sometime.

All in all, it was a very good night, and proof of how far Marge has come.  I got to brag a bit, too, telling the students about the titles Marge has earned and how she came from less-than stellar beginnings.  I told them that even some of the most unlikely of dogs can do sports like this, with just some time and dedication.

Around the House
I have a hunch that Agility is going to be cancelled again tonight, as it just downpoured here.  Since last week was cancelled, I was really eager to get back out there, but perhaps we'll have to wait another week.  We'll find out in a few hours, I guess.

In the meantime, let me introduce to you Marge's newest trick:

We've been working on this for a few days, but today was the first day that we tried it with the actual tissue box.  Eventually, I'd like to be able to say "Achoo!," have her go out to the tissue box on her own, and bring a tissue back to me.  I have a feeling that this trick will be a hit with my family.  I'm most eager to show it to my grandmother, who recently broke her wrist and is feeling kind of down.

A thunderstorm rolled in just a little while ago, and Marge hunkered down next to me on her mat next to the back door.

She wasn't all that scared, though, and took cookies as I threw them to her.

So, that's what we've been up to lately - trying to keep busy and beat the heat all at once.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Walking as the Sun Set

Sorry for my prolonged and frequent absences from BlogLand.  I feel as though I'm in a bit of a blogging slump.  Hopefully, I'll shake out of it soon.  Please know that even if I'm not commenting on your posts, I am reading them.

I just thought I'd share the very limited number of photos that were taken during our walk along the beach last night.  It's been a long time since we'd been there.  We went this morning, too, and I am pleased to say that Marge enjoyed herself both times, for the most part, which is impressive because of how long it's been since we've walked there.

We saw this big guy, and my sister and I naturally went in to our mood of happiness/sadness/anger/excitement that only seems to come around when we're near horses.  She used to ride, too, on occasion.  For the first time in, oh, probably about 2 years, I laid my hands on a horse's neck.  How bittersweet it is to see them out and about and recall all of the things that still swirl through my mind so many years later.  But you guys don't want to hear my emotional rambles again, do you?

Really nice cop, too.  Said it was his first time stationed on the Island, and that he liked it.  We struck up a bit of a conversation as I got my horse fix.

He invited us to bring Marge over, and indeed I tried (what could be better than my two favorite species mingling with each other?) but she dug her little paws in to the ground and would NOT go near him, so I didn't push it.  I think she was totally bewildered by being so up close to him.  What is this big dog?  Why is there a man on his back?  For what it's worth, a lot of people were passing by us right at that point, so I think the stress of the whole situation that got to her.  So, we moved on.  And, I won't lie, I lifted my palm up to my nose several times and inhaled that heavenly horsey smell that I know so well.

Here she is right after our horse encounter.  You can see just a tiny bit of worry in her face.

And then, before we left, we walked by the shore for just a little while.  Marge was hot, but happy.

It was pretty nice to get out and go somewhere different for a change.  Hopefully, our summer will be filled with lots of peaceful outings like this.  I wouldn't mind the Mounted Police being around again, either.  A large part of me wants to go back tonight to see if they are there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday Training 35

I didn't get a chance to update last week about our agility class. Unfortunately, I don't remember the whole course so I can't post a map, but it was an Excellent Jumpers course and definitely one of the harder courses I've seen

We didn't do a horrible job at it, but it wasn't one of our best nights, either.  Though she was running quite fast, I didn't feel like Marge was really in to it, and I didn't feel like we were working as a team.  She made up her own course a couple of times, and sniffed a couple of others.  She also popped out of her weaves 10 zillion times (which I was a bit concerned about, especially thinking back to our doomed Open Jumpers run last Sunday at the trial when she did the same).

Things got better by the end of the night - I made sure to end the weaves on a high-note will all 12 done and we worked the A-Frame contact a bit.  She seemed MUCH better.  Marisa speculated that the cool temperatures - the first in quite some time - might have been partially to blame for her spaceyness.  Marge was in a great mood - able to sit calmly next to her least favorite dog at class (a great opportunity for playing "Look at That Dog" with her) and completely social with everyone.

So, it didn't seem like her issues were caused by stress - a big relief.  Instead, I think it's highly likely that she was simply all-agilitied-out.  After two days of trialing in the extreme heat, I can't really say I blame her.

Today, the temperature is near 100 degrees.  It's extremely likely that agility will be cancelled tonight (last night's classes were), but, if it's not, we're going to take a self-imposed holiday.  It's really hard for me to make the decision to stay home from class, since I like going so much and I paid for it.  But, between the heat and the threat of the last illegal fireworks from the 4th, it just seems like the smart thing to do.  Besides, my hope is that she'll be raring to go next week at class after this short hiatus.  Agility is supposed to be fun, after all.

Speaking of the 4th...

We managed, I guess.  All in all, it was one of the quietest Independence Days I can ever remember, but that doesn't mean Marge wasn't affected.  We got caught by some July 3rd fireworks on an afternoon walk ($#^&#@ -- couldn't you wait until the next day?), and then I knew that the walks had to be put on hold.  We also got caught outside around 5PM on the 4th in the yard.  Things got pretty bad around 9 PM, and Marge just could NOT settle down.  I had music on quite loud, but it didn't completely mask the noise. At one point, she paced throughout the whole basement, looking for a place to hide.   On the positive side, there wasn't really any time where she refused all food - so, I kept chicken breast, roast beef, and cheese cold-cuts on hand and threw them at her every time a blast went off.

Eventually, she went in her crate, which I covered in blankets in an attempt to make it as snuggly and sound-proof as possible.  I zipped up the door about halfway, leaving a section open so that I could continue to toss treats to her.

I made use of the NYPD's e-mail hotline to report illegal fireworks, and was really pleased when I looked out my window to see them in my neighborhood.  I have absolutely no problem being a snitch or a rat or a tattletale.  I will NOT just sit there doing nothing as my dog panics, and I sincerely hope that they caught people in my area.  It is completely unfair that other people (and animals) must be disrupted by these individuals' unlawful behavior.

We walked for about 10 minutes this afternoon, but it's really too hot for anything else.  Perhaps we'll do some training indoors later on.  Stay cool, everyone.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Weekend (And Summer) Ahead

We battle fireworks year-round here, but nothing compares to July 4th.  Since it falls on a Sunday this year, I have a feeling we're going to have an unpleasantly extended holiday weekend over which we'll have to deal with the blasts.  Unfortunately, it usually doesn't stop there.  The month of July was absolutely awful last year, and unless something major happens, I don't think that will change very much.

Marge's walks have definitely decreased in frequency and duration.  Not only does she not want to be outside because of the heat, the threat of fireworks scares me indoors all through the late afternoon, evening, and night.  We walk in the morning, or sometimes around noon.  Occasionally, we'll sneak in a walk at night, but only if it seems really quiet (usually rainy nights work well - no one wants to shoot fireworks off in the rain) and never on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, since they seem to be the most frequent nights for fireworks. Unfortunately, though, our ritual of walking regularly at night has stopped indefinitely, until at least September or October.  It stinks, because Marge really does enjoy walking at night.

To compensate for the decreased activity, Marge is eating less, and many of her meals are dispensed from her Kibble Nibble.  I've tried to find other mentally stimulating food dispensers and toys, but so far, this one takes the cake as being her favorite.

It's too hot to train (even indoors), so practice for Rally has pretty much come to a halt - no pun intended.  I did set up two jumps in my yard and grabbed a piece of cheese, but Marge seemed pretty lackluster doing agility, too.

In terms of the weekend specifically, Marge's meals will be cut drastically to make way for the many treats that she'll get as a part of counterconditioning her to feel a bit better about fireworks.  In some ways, the predictability of these fireworks is good.. maybe, just maybe, I can make a small dent in her fears by pairing fireworks with yummy food all weekend.

Her supplement, L-Theanine, will likely be increased a bit.

We'll hunker down in the basement, too, where Marge can enjoy her soft crate and I can turn up the volume on the television to drown out the blasts.

Hopefully, we won't be having any company this year - last year, we had quite a large crowd in celebration of my grandmother's birthday, but that event seems to be moved to a restaurant this year.   I just have to keep my fingers crossed that no one winds up here afterwards (the restaurant we're likely going to is up the block from my house)...

Ah, well, we'll make the best of it.  Hope you all have a happy, safe 4th, and remember to keep your pets contained and on-leash, especially if they are noise-phobic like mine is.

(P.S. - I haven't updated on my cat, Layla, in a while.  Her nose is healing, slowly but surely.  It looks pretty good today. I'm anticipating another week or so of cone-time before she can go back to being a normal kitty again. Keep your fingers crossed!)

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