Saturday, May 18, 2013

Let's Give Them Something to Talk About

This morning, Barley and I met with our reactive dog trainer again.  She was doing a make-up session for the dog behind the sheet and she needed another live dog to be a distraction, so she let Barley have a little bit more practice.  We learned several new games that will help us with our agility send-outs and also helped us work on focus.  Since we were already out near a lot of the places in Doggin' Cleveland and the weather was relatively warm (although kind of blah and overcast), I decided it would be a good opportunity to try out one of the parks we hadn't been to yet.  We've been meaning to visit #41: Chagrin River Park  since we got the book and it's the only one in the county closest to us that we hadn't been to yet, but from the description, I couldn't tell if it was a park with much shade and since we got the book mid-summer, it was too hot to risk going to a place with no shade.  So, today was the day we tried it out--and there was shade aplenty!

I wouldn't necessarily call what we did today hiking, but we had a really lovely almost-4-mile walk.  The book states, "As crushed stone, multi-use trails go, this is one of the best to hike with your dog" and I would have to agree.  It was such a beautiful, peaceful trail.  It was a little busier than most of the trails we use, but the few dogs we saw were with very responsible owners who gave us lots of space.
Water break! Tired pup!
Probably the best part of the walk was that several people commented on how well-behaved my Barley girl was.  Since these were complete strangers, they had no idea about her struggles, so they had no obligation to compliment her to be polite.  First, we saw two middle-aged women struggling with energetic beagles, so we pulled off the trail and Barley sat and watched me; the one of the women told their dogs: "why can't you be a normal dog?  see how good that dog is being." (I chuckled a little when the words normal dog were used in the same breath as a reference to Barley.)  Then they told me how impressed they were with her focus.  A little while later, we passed two men and a chocolate lab for the second time and one of the men said, "That's good training" as we passed.  The best compliment, though, was when we passed a couple without a dog for the second time and they said, "Does she do agility training or something?" When I said yes, they said, "She is just so focused on you and it's so cute how she looks to you for direction."  Barley sat calmly beside me during this convo and they told me that she was "just so sweet."  

I'd say we've made some major progress when not only can my girl walk in public without incident, but complete strangers point out how well-behaved she is.  Yay Barley girl!
I love exploring new places!
The trail also offered lots of glimpses of wildlife.  We saw a lot of birds (and I still have no idea what any of them are--hint, hint, a bird book for my birthday would be awesome!) that were really cheerful--my two favorite mystery birds were small, about the size of the finches our neighbor kept when I was growing up, and one was bright bright blue and one was bright bright yellow and black (Cue Wiz Khalifa.  You know Barley and I couldn't see black and yellow without singing a little Wiz.)  We also saw several deer alongside the trail.  Normally, Barley barks her head off like a fool when we see deer. (One time, when we were on the trail near my parents' house, we saw a deer cross the trail and disappear, and Barley sat down in the middle of the trail and barked her head off; the only way I could get her to move was after I knelt down and hugged her and pet her for several minutes, and even then, she continued looking over her shoulder for the deer.  I can only imagine what the other trail uses thought.)  This time, Barley saw the deer, and when I stopped to pull out my camera for a quick picture, she sat down and waited patiently.

Between an hour of focus games and over an hour of walking, Barley girl was worn out.  In the short amount of time it took me to clean the litter box when we got home, she passed out with my Nancy Drew quilt and with the exception of a quick potty break, she hasn't moved much since.

All in all, I'd say the Chagrin River Park is awesome!  We'll definitely be going back since we're in that area all the time.

Yesterday, we got a quick walk in near the covered bride and had a little nature photo shoot, so I'll leave you with some of the funniest pictures.  Hope everyone's having a beautiful weekend.
If you thought my dog was always photogenic, here's proof that she's absolutely not.
"Yellow flowers make me so giddy."
"Chewing on grass is way better than taking pictures."
"Oh, you didn't want me to pose like a vulture?  Oops."

Thursday, May 16, 2013


After getting two more notes from my creepy neighbor last week that made it very clear that he watches my comings and goings closely, I finally reported him to apartment management.  The apartment manager spoke to him, so hopefully I'll never come home to another note on my door again.  I feel really relieved that I won't have to spend all summer in hiding.  But until the dusts settles, we're trying to avoid neighborhood walks for a few days.

Luckily for us, today was another gorgeous day for a walk at the State Park.  We went a little earlier than usual, so we only saw about 3 other people on the trail.  The first girl we saw was walking a German Shepherd, and she was great about keeping him away from Barley, but she threw me off when she asked, "Is she nice?"  Usually, people ask if she's friendly and I can honestly say no, but it caught me off guard when she said nice--I think my dog is exceptionally nice . . . as long as you're not another dog.  I swear, Barley gave me a look when I said "No."  So I quickly threw in, "She's a little unsure around other dogs" over my shoulder--I'm sure the girl thinks I'm a lunatic.

Since the beach was completely empty and we wouldn't disturb sunbathers, we went down to play in the water.  I could try to describe how much fun Barley had splashing in the waves, but a giving you billion pictures is probably easier.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Because of final grade deadlines and a quick Mother's Day trip to see my mama, I haven't had time to brag about my Barley girl's recent success, but it was a huge milestone for us, so I'm taking the time to brag now!

Last week was week six of agility, and you know what that means: running a mini-course in class.  As I've mentioned before, this is not Barley's forte.  While she's gotten better over the last several weeks, she still struggles with patiently waiting her turn.  I was extra anxious about our class because on the way out the car my neighbor's little grandbaby ran up to Barley and threw his arms around her--who knew someone who hasn't been walking very long could move so fast?!  The only thing I could do was put Barley in a headlock so she couldn't get to his cute little face until my neighbor could get the kid (I have since learned to go outside with pockets full of cheerios so Barley can be distracted)--Barley's never hurt a kid before, but she gets nervous around things that are small and move quickly without letting her herd them, so we've got very clear rules for the neighborhood kids when they want to pet her: she has to sit, they have put down their bikes or scooters and walk slowly up to her, then they have to pet her one at a time without putting their faces in her face while I shove treats down her throat.  After about 30 seconds, we move on with our lives.  Barley can only be good for so long, so I was afraid that by not eating the little boy she'd used up all of her good behavior for the day.

My fears were for naught.  We did a crazy course during class, so there was plenty of opportunity for a crazy dog.
16 obstacles!  Woah!
The entire course had six obstacles--lots of jumps (including a tire jump), the dog walk, and a tunnel.  For the first part of class, we did the first half of the course.  For a second, when it was time to go into the tunnel, Barley decided to bolt, but she came back and we did the course well.  Then we learned the second half.  Barley was with me the whole time.  We even made it through 4 obstacles without reinforcing come to hand with a treat!  Woo!  Then we put the whole course together and did all 16 obstacles without incident.  (I even remembered where we were supposed to go for the whole course!)

The real success wasn't the course, though.  The real success was our off-course behavior.  If you recall, Barley has really struggled with waiting her turn on the course in the past.  Last week, she was perfect.  She stayed in a down beside my chair the entire time we were waiting for turns (with some treats every few minutes, of course).  Every now and then, she'd even forget she was excited and slip out of sphinx position.  I knew she was being good, but I was surprised when our trainer called attention to her behavior.  While other dogs were pacing and barking, Barley was lying calmly beside the chair and our trainer said "Do you see what Barley's doing?  That's what every dog should be doing.  Barley is relaxed, and she couldn't do this two months ago, so look how great she's doing."  She even called her an example of doggie zen (I don't know that I'd go that far, but we'll take it).  One of the dad's of the barking dogs commented on how it was only because Barley was getting treats, but our trainer was not letting him take our victory away from us--she pointed out that being relaxed around other dogs was extremely hard for Barley and that's how you train and that you work up to using fewer and fewer.  She said her dog will wait in a down beside her chair for 15 minutes without a treat, so now Barley and I will be building to that.

I was so stinkin' proud I could have cried.  In fact, my eyes did tear up a little bit when we got in the car and I hugged my pup.  I know how far my dog has come, my family knows how far she's come, but it was so validating to have someone who only sees us once a week in a class with several other students in it see a change in my pup.  I know that we still have a long road ahead of us and that we'll always be working on her reactions to other dogs, but this was a huge moment for us and I could not be prouder of my baby girl.

Since last week was finals week, I had a different schedule than usual and didn't have to go to campus at all on Tuesday.  I decided my Barley had earned a celebratory walk at the Arboretum, so we ventured out to enjoy the day.

Things were in bloom!
This crabapple was a nice shady place to rest before hopping back in the car.
I did something to ankle, so I wasn't up for our usual hike that involves a billion stairs, but we had a great 3.5 mile walk through the rhododendron garden, the crabapple collection, and around the ponds between the two.  The sprinklers were on in the rhododendron garden, so it kept us nice and cool for the whole walk!

Barley's success continued in class again this week.  We're doing one more session of intro and then most likely moving up to beginning agility--our trainer said that if Barley would follow the rules, we could move up now, but that the trainer for beginning is tough (if she's tougher than our intro instructor, we're in trouble!!) so if Barley wouldn't follow the rules, she'd say no.  We decided to do one more intro session; it's only 5 weeks long with Memorial Day, so that gives us a few weeks of summer to get really focused and responsive and then we'll move up.

This Monday, we were back to strengthening our skills.  I'm finally getting the hang of things--and the little maps and charts and diagrams are finally starting to make sense.  I'm sure I'll feel like I'm back at square one when we move up, but for now, I'm feeling confident and that makes me a lot more confident that I can help my dog stay relaxed during class.

I like that the little dog looks like Barley.
Now that we're officially on summer vacation, we can relax and pick up where we left off with Doggin' Cleveland when the weather quit cooperating with good adventuring weather.  Today, though, we went to our good old state park and walked a couple miles before romping on the beach.  We had real summer vacation weather today with highs close to 80, so my pup needed a quick splash in the lake today.

It was really windy! Look at those ears!
It wouldn't be a day at the beach without chomping the water.
This picture does not do this dead fish justice. It was huge. Like bigger than Soth.  I was too grossed out to get a closer picture, but too fascinated to not take a picture.
 I hope that Mother Nature has helped Spring find her way to everyone's houses by now--I was worried on Monday when it was 50 degrees, but I'm trying to believe she's here to stay now!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

New Toy

Keeping track of our resolution milage has been relatively easy the last few months.  We've stuck to the neighborhood walks for the most part, so has been great.  I can track which roads we walk on and it keeps track of how far we've walked for the entire month.  The downside to the website is that it doesn't have any of the trails that we like to walk on--I can do the Geneva State Park because I know where the parking lots are and the trail goes along the lake for the most part and the trail has mile markers, so I can figure out a path that's pretty close to accurate.  At the Arboretum, I know which ponds we walk by, so I can track some of our walk by figuring out which ones we walked by, but I'm nowhere close to accurate for the whole walk because most of the map just comes up as a sea of trees.  There are a couple trails that has bright green lines for bike paths, but most of the trails show up like the Arboretum's sea of trees, and we just have have to guess how far we've walked based on how long we were out.

I didn't want to have to do that all summer when we adventure several times a week, so I splurged and bought a Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch.  My sister got one for Christmas and she showed me how it makes a map of exactly where you've walked and keeps track of your pace and milage and all kinds of other stuff.  Technically, it's for running, but it doesn't care how fast your pace is, so it's perfect for our adventures.

While we were at class yesterday, the mailman delivered it (and tracking info said it wouldn't be here until Monday--yay!!), so Barley and I took it for a spin around the neighborhood to see how it worked. Then we took it to Girdled Road Reservation to try it in the woods today.  I'm so in love with it!

It took a little while for it to find our location when we arrived at the park, and there were a few dogs in the parking lot, so Barley and I went on this like .1-mile trail to an overlook to sit on a bench and wait for it to find our location in peace, so our map shows us starting and ending in different places, but I promise my car didn't change locations without us!

The simple line on the map makes our hike look so much easier than it actually was--this is the park with all of the caution: steep hill signs--but it's neat that it tracks calories burned and that we have accurate milage to count towards our month goal!  I forgot to set the auto-pause to kick in when we stopped, so the pace has lots of water breaks (and breathing breaks--as someone who spent the first 11 years of her life living 13-inches above sea level, I will never be fond of any amount of elevation) included in it--but Barley and I really don't care about the pace, part of the joy of our adventures is that we can take our time and enjoy nature, so if taking breaks to splash in streams or look at birds and flowers means we walk a 22-minute mile, that's totally cool with me.

Another neat thing about the Garmin Connect website is that it lets you set goals, so I can always see what percentage of the way we are to our monthly goal and how many days we have left to do it in!  (I know the goal for this month is 61.1, but we'd already logged over 13 with, so I set the goal for what was left after that.)

In addition to our really fun new toy, we had a really great walk.  I always forget just how tough the trail is at Girdled Road.  Big chunks of the trail are constant up and down with very few sections of flat land, so my legs hated me.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day, though, so I really can't complain.

Taking a break after reaching one of the few flat spots!
One of the best parts of our walk was that there were horses on the trail!  Barley was so funny about them.  We were walking along and all of the sudden her ears perked up.  I could hear people ahead, but the trail curved (and the leaves are back on the trees!), so I couldn't see anyone.  I figured there was probably a dog with them.
Starting to crouch as we get closer to the noises.
Barley sort of crept along until we got around the bend and then I saw that there were 2 horses and a pony drinking from a steam along the trail.  I wasn't really sure what we should do.  Barley's never been around horses before, except for passing Amish buggies on the way to my friends' house--and Barley does NOT like Amish buggies.  I'm always afraid that her hysteria in the car is going to cause an Amish child to wreck his cart!  It looked like the horses were getting ready to start their journey again, so I had Barley sit and we practiced "What's that?"  She did great, but she was intrigued.

I let the horses get a bit of a head start and when they'd gone around the next curve, we got moving again.
There are big animals up there and I want them!
For the most part, we couldn't see the big horses, but two teenagers were walking the pony.  I don't know if they were training it or what, but they were just leading this pony down the trail and walking beside it, so we kept getting pretty close to them.
Look at her ears!  She's definitely giving the pony the border collie stare.
At first, I would stop and we'd have a little water and let them get farther ahead, but eventually we had no choice but to pass the pony.  It was easier than passing another dog on the trail!  Barley looked straight at me instead of the pony and acted like it was perfectly normal to pass a pony.

Then we got to a place where the big horses were waiting on the pony and we had to pass the big horses.  Barley was equally fantastic.  The riders even commented on how relaxed her reaction was.  We continued up the trail until we got to a place Barley could splash in the stream.

Wondering why the horses are also coming to the stream.
When the horses pulled off the trail at the stream, too, we decided it was a good time to get back to our walk.
Best walk ever!
 We took one last look at the horses before heading back up the massive slope to the car.
One horse and the pony in the stream
Barley wants a pony of her very own.
I planned our walk so that by the time we finished Starbucks Frappuccino Happy Hour would be going on.  There's nothing like a happy frappy!  For less than $2, I got a delicious mocha cookie crumble frap and I think I earned every last sip of that thing!

Then we came home and lazed around the rest of the day.
I think I broke my dog--she's been doing this almost all day since we got home!
Barley and I might have been lazy, but Soth was busy staring down pink leopard mice.
Handsomest boy in the world
I'm so excited to continue trying out our new toy as we start going back to our warm weather trail walks!