Friday, June 28, 2013

A New Leash

A couple weeks ago, The Yellow Dog Project Facebook page posted a link to the store Cody's Creations.  The store makes all kinds of fun collars, leashes, harnesses, and treat pouches.  They made a leash inspired by the Yellow Dog Project that's bright yellow with "I Need Space" printed on it.  I ordered one, so today I just want to give a big shout out to Kerri, the owner of Cody's Creations, for coming up with this leash!

I ordered the leash on Sunday and it was here by Wednesday, so we took it for a spin today (it was too rainy on Thursday for walking and it came after we walked on Wednesday).  We didn't see anyone with small children or other dogs to fully test out it's effectiveness, but the colors are bright and it's easy to read from a safe distance, so I'm hoping that when we do end up near possible triggers for Barley we can pass without people insisting their dogs meet her.

As a leash, it's great!  It's not as thick as our other leash, but it's still sturdy and comfortable to hold.  Since it's thinner, it's easier to hold on to when I have Barley reeled in and need to hold on to 5 extra feet of leash.  It's still 6-feet long like our other leash, so there's plenty of room for Barley to go out and sniff things when there's room.

The only downside I can see to it so far is that it's only a one-sided design, so when the leash twists, sometimes the design isn't visible.  I'm sure it's one-sided so that the leash isn't as slippery when you have it folded up in your hand to reel the dog in--the yellow material is a little slippery and the other side has some traction, so it makes sense to only have yellow on one side.  We'll just have to learn to keep the leash from twisting around, especially when other dogs are around.

We also got an awesome squirrel collar.  
Here's the picture from the Etsy store--Barley's neck is too fluffy to get a good picture of it actually on her :)

According to our instructor, dog's can't wear tags in the agility ring (we still have a lot to learn!), so I thought we should get an extra collar so we don't have to try to take our tags off and put them back on  again if we ever do get around to competing. We did have a backup collar that we use while her regular one dries after bath time, but I figured if tags aren't allowed bottle openers probably aren't either.

So, a big thank you to Kerri and Cody's Creations for making us an adorable collar that captures Barley's personality and a leash that will hopefully help keep my pup happy, healthy, and safe!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

The last several weeks haven't actually been lazy or too hazy, but they have definitely been crazy.  I am sitting here tonight feeling completely overwhelmed by the fact that I have absolutely nothing I have to do this weekend.  For the last four weekends, I have either been out of town, preparing for company, or both.  It's been exciting and fun and exhausting, so here are the highlights.

Father's Day weekend, my dad and Maz came up to go to a beer festival at the Cellar Rats Brewery.  9 local breweries were there, so I got Dad tickets for his present.  We got 12 tasting tickets, 2 food tickets, and a sample glass.  I wimped out after using 8 of my sample tickets (apparently stuffing myself with nachos at a late lunch when Dad got to town didn't leave enough room for beer!), but we got to sample some really good beers and some interesting beers.  I'm also more convinced that I need to marry a brewer.  Craft beer guys are cute.  My favorite beer was the Thirsty Dog Citra Dog IPA, so I can't wait until I can find it in the store--as soon as I have my Citra Dog label, I'll start my dog beer art.
Tasting glass and beer art supplies!
The next day, I took Dad and Maz to stroll on the Lucky Stone Loop.  We had a great 4+ mile walk and then came home to get an Old Mill Winery wine burger before Dad and Maz hit the road.  We had a really nice time and the dogs were well behaved minus Maz's decision to open the treat drawer and pull out three partially used bags of treats, shred the bags, and eat all of the treats.  I couldn't even be mad at her because opening the treat drawer without the use of hands takes some real skill :)

Then on Monday, my grandpa and one of my aunts from Denver stopped to spend the night on their trip from Grandpa's high school reunion in Wisconsin to my baby cousin's high school graduation in eastern Pennsylvania.  It was a short visit--they didn't get to town until after Barley and I had left for agility class, so by the time I got home from class they were pretty tired from their drive, but it was nice to get to chat for a couple hours.

Soth made sure the bed was nice and comfy for Grandpa.
Then my aunt and Grandpa were stopping at my parents' house on Saturday to spend the night, so the pets and I packed up to spend some more time with them.  Since I hadn't seen Grandpa since I left New Mexico 3 years ago, I thought I should spend as much time with him as possible while he was this close.
My sister and nephew pup came to visit, too!
The last time I saw Grandpa was on our trip to Roswell!
We did the usual week six course last Monday, and as usual, it was an adventure.  Things started off on a rough note.  There was a new dog, who showed up for the first time in week 5, that we didn't know--and who is also a yorkie, so it's Barley's nemesis by default.  I had put our chair in the back of the room, far away from the other dog.  The yorkie's old man owner just couldn't resist strolling over to see why we were sitting away from everyone else.  When I said Barley was nervous around other dogs, he said, "There's not much to be afraid of with this little guy" and tried to stick his dog in Barley's face.  He looked really hurt as he slinked back to his seat, but I'm trying to embrace the whole "being a bitch for my dog" idea.  I think the reason we have so much trouble during week 6 is because we spend so much energy staying focused and controlled while we wait for our turn that she's brain dead by the time it's time to run a course and just can't follow commands anymore.  The most entertaining moment of the evening came when Barley became a skateboarding dog.  A rolling cart was siting behind the tunnel and Barley skipped the tunnel, jumped on the cart, and rolled across the room.  The whole class was in stitches.

Some time in the recent past, two white ducks started living in the neighborhood pond behind my parents' house.  They wandered up onto the driveway and we bonded.  My dad, my sister's boyfriend, and I got bread and feed them.  When we ran out, the ducks just let us pet them.  I haven't felt that kind of just pure joy in ages.  We giggled and smiled and I loved every single second of it.  They were so cute.

My loves!
According to my sister, they came back after I went home to play cornhole with the family :)

Soth has been extra cute lately.  I'll just let you see for yourself.
Enjoying his new new fishy bed! So cute. 
Helping me sew.  Sound asleep. 
No words necessary.
The family took a trail walk on Sunday and my poor puppers got stung by a wasp!  We stopped at a bench off the trail so she could have a drink of water and while I was pouring in the water, she sniffed a wasps' nest.  She made a noise I had never heard before and leapt back from me.  Dad checked out her nose and mouth and we couldn't find any place where she had been stung.  Luckily, her face didn't swell up and she hasn't had any other problems, but I felt terrible!

On Monday morning, my mom, my sister and her boyfriend, and I took the three dogs to the trail for a walk before it was time to pack up and head home.  As we were walking from the car to the trail, a little dog walked by.  Barley started off doing really well, but the dog didn't pass us quickly enough and Barley lost her focus.  My legs took quite a beating and I have three big black and blue spots on my right leg and another one on my left leg.  I keep telling myself I'd rather take a beating from my dog than let another dog feel her wrath.
Luckily, it's been raining cats and dogs, so I've had a good excuse to wear jeans to work instead of dresses.

Over the last two days, we've gotten more than 2 inches of rain.  The lights have flickered multiple times.  My backyard has turned into a swamp again.  This morning, there was a torrential downpour when I took Barley out.  For the amount of time it took to coerce her out into the yard, I should have just brought my shampoo and conditioner out into the yard because we were drenched by the time we came in.

I've also had the joy of having the bed all to myself because my poor puppy has been terrified and curled up under the bed every night.
Scared puppy.
I think I might be investing in a Thundershirt tomorrow.  I got a coupon in my email, so I figure it can't hurt to try it.  I'm sure we'll have more thunderstorms in the near future and we have fireworks to look forward to next year, so if it ends up not working, I can always return it, right?

Somehow, my summer is halfway over and I'm not sure how that happened.  My summer class is 3/5 of the way done.  This might be my only free weekend for the rest of the summer between trips to Mom and Dad's, a possible trip to Denver to see my grandma who couldn't travel here, a visit from my sister, and a visit to my sister's.  Any suggestions for how I should spend this glorious, free weekend are welcome!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

There are very few things that send Barley over her threshold.  Even though she gets excited and/or anxious frequently, most of the time I can get her calmed down and responsive with a couple doggy pushups or the one-hour down game.  The few things that send her into wild dog mode are thunder, fireworks, gunshots, and my parents' cat, Missy.

Being a herding dog, Barley watches everything that comes into her territory.  She is protective of her "flock."  She's also very interested in things that are small and move without her permission.  Missy, on the other hand, was my grandma's cat that we adopted for her when Missy was 6 months old, so Missy spent most of her life living alone with an old woman in complete peace and quiet.  My dog is a little bit intense for Missy, so when Missy sees Barley she does one of two things: runs (which leads to a chase) or growls (which makes Barley even more interested).  

Over the last year, Barley has gotten better.  She doesn't always give Missy the border collie stare.  Sometimes they can be in the same room together, but usually when Missy realizes Barley's in the room she reacts and gets Barley's attention.  But, Barley has gotten more responsive even though she's really close to crossing her threshold.  Usually, if she starts to chase Missy, I can call her to front and she listens.

This week, I pet sat for my parents while my mom and brother went apartment hunting (my brother finally found a job!) since Dad works too many hours a day for their dog to be home alone.

One morning, I was sitting on the couch happily eating my coconut yogurt (yum!) and all of the sudden the blanket on the couch started wiggling and growling. I about jumped out of my skin.
Look who was under the blanket!
Barley, who had been fast asleep on the floor, popped up and started looking for Missy.  She had no idea where Missy was.  Normally, Missy hides under the couch, not on it, so Bar started poking her nose under the couch and couldn't figure out why she couldn't see Missy.

I decided this was a great time for us to work on our mat work and try to get Bar to relax even when Missy was growling and carrying on.

When we started, she was raring to go.  She was in sphinx position and her tail was wagging (not her happy-go-lucky wag!) and she was panting like crazy.

Soth was supervising again.
We'd spend a few minutes working on calming down on the mat and then get up and do a little heeling to give her a break and then I'd send her back to the mat.  Her drive to the mat is getting significantly better--but we learned that wood floors are not great for having good drive to mat!  They slide around way too much!

If I walked too close to the couch while we were working, Missy would growl and squeal.  This got Barley all revved up.  She got into a crouch that I had never seen her in before.  She was wound so tight--she was pulled back on her back legs and had her front legs pulled in as close as she could get them so she could leap up and pounce at any moment.  She was like one of those toy cars you pull back to wind up before letting it zoom off across the room.

Ready to pounce!

That seemed like a good time to release her at work on heeling again.  She was doing great with 360s in both directions and about turns, so I'm really proud of how focused she's getting with off leash heeling--even if it will never happen anywhere except in the house and in class.

A few minutes after we got back to mat work, she got into a much more relaxed position.  She was still panting and her tail was still doing the slow, anxious wag, but she wasn't in sphnix position anymore, so I call that progress!

It looks like she's smiling, but that's her anxiety face.
We worked on mat work and heeling exercises for probably 45 minutes, and Barley was worn out for the rest of the day.  We've also had very few run-ins between Barley and Missy this week.  Later in the week, I sent Barley to her mat just for a little relaxation and she was so excited to go to her mat that she got all tangled up in it as it slid across the floor.
"This counts as being on my mat, right?'
A tired dog in a tiny bed.
This can't be more comfortable than her own bed.
After we were done with mat work, I put Barley in her crate so I could make a video that captures Missy's growling and squealing.  She makes such strange nosies, so it doesn't surprise me one bit that Barley's interest is piqued every time Missy makes a peep.

Since Barley was calm, Missy made her way out from the blanket pretty soon after this and found another place to avoid interacting with my pup.

When my mom and brother got home, we made an Ikea trip to look at furniture for my brother's apartment.  We found these cute dog butts that I'd seen used on a leash holder on (and had ordered for my best friend when he got his puppy), so we got some and Mom made me my own leash holder as pet sitting payment.  I can't wait to hang it up and stat using it!
I love having a crafty mom!
Hopefully our training sessions this week were a good step in the right direction for peaceful cohabitation when Bar and Missy are under the same roof.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I don't want easy, I want crazy

Once upon a time, there was a dog named Barley.  She had been doing agility training for a year and half.  When she first started, she always had to work on leash because she got distracted by other dogs too easily.  After months of hard work, Barley could work off leash but she would make her owner crazy because she'd get what some trainers call "the zoomies" and run figure eights around the classroom until she couldn't run anymore; nothing her owner said got through to her.  Finally, she learned to focus and come to hand consistently and she could work off leash without any trouble and didn't react when other dogs barked or got the zoomies.

Barley's classmates were so impressed.  Her teacher called her the perfect example of doggie zen.  One of the other owners in the class said, "I think she's maturing."  Another owner said, "You're my inspiration.  Every time I think my other dog will never be able to be around other dogs, I think of Barley."  Barley smiled and wagged her tail and looked to her owner for treats.

I wish I could say that this story ended with "and then they all lived happily ever after," but after hearing all of that praise, Barley lost her mind.  The other owners wished they could unsay the things they had just said and Barley's owner wanted to curl up in a corner and hide.

This week's class was a strange one for my pup.  We started off well.  She was great on the teeter and did pretty well on the dog walk--we even got a really good stay in at the end of the walk on our last time over.  Then it was time to practice serpentines.  Serpentines are not my favorite--mostly because in our first session ever we learned them a really weird way that never did make sense to me and we have only done them a couple times in the last few months--we have done way more pinwheels, so serpentines are still kind of unfamiliar territory.

The serpentine was set up with a tire jump, a double jump, and a single jump.  Barley was last in line.  We watched all of the other dogs go through the tire, come to hand over the double for a treat, and then get sent over the single jump.  They made it seem easy.  In theory, this should also have been easy for Barley.  We weren't doing any weird crosses and she usually likes the tire jump--we first started jumping with a hula hoop when we took our tricks and games class, so she's used to that kind of a jump.  In reality, nothing with my dog is ever easy.

First, she refused to go through the tire.  She'd crouch and squeeze between the tire and the pole.  Finally, our trainer put some mats up against the poles/edge of the tire, so those spaces were blocked and Barley went through the jump.  Then she did fine going through the tire and coming to hand on the other side of the double, but she refused to go over the single jump.  Eventually, I threw a treat over the jump and she went, but she had no interest in going over that jump.

Then we worked on blind crosses over the double.  Barley didn't want to blind.  She went through the tire, but refused to jump over the double.  She kept coming between the tire and the double.  So our trainer put a little gate between the two.  We thought we'd thwarted Barley's cheating tendencies.  Instead, she found a new way to avoid doing what I asked her to do.
A double jump looks something like this--in our class the stanchions (the sides) are a little different. You can order this one on Amazon.
Instead of going over the double, Barley went through the opening in the stanchion!  The whole class laughed and laughed and laughed.  Eventually, we got through the blind over the double, but she still just wasn't interested in the single.

Despite our difficulties, our classmates kept complimenting how calm she was while waiting her turn.  One of our classmates is working with her very reactive German Shepherd in the reactive dog class we just finished, so she was telling us how Barley inspired her and we talked about some of the difficulties Barley and I have overcome.  I was really proud of my pup.

Then it was time to practice going over the A Frame and pulling into the tunnel (wrapping the dog around your body to send into the tunnel) and then flipping into the tunnel (turning the dog away from you and into the tunnel).  The last time we practiced this, Barley did pretty well (once I figured out my left from my right and knew which direction we were supposed to go in), but this time all hell broke loose.

We were supposed to practice doing the pull and the flip on the left and the right, so we started with the left because that's most natural for me and Bar since it's the side she walks on.  We did ok.  Then we switched to the right.  Barley decided not to go over the A Frame at all.  Instead she ran past me, ran past the serpentine we'd been working on earlier, and zoomed around the room.  She didn't care that I asked her to down or sit or come front.  Then as quickly as it had started, she came back to me and sat down.  We tried again.  The same thing happened--skipped the A Frame, ran past me, and zoomed around the room.  The time, she added a little extra excitement.  Instead of just zooming around, she decided to fly over the gate that the trainer had put between the tire and the double.
Our gates in class look a lot like this--this is 3 feet tall (and can also be found on Amazon--maybe next summer I'll get some).
It was exasperating to say the least.  I am positive that every one of our classmates wished they could take back the things they had said about her good behavior.  Once I got ahold of her again, the trainer had me put her on the bottom of the A Frame on the tunnel side and just pull her into the tunnel.  We did not do the flip on the right side since we didn't want her to think that running around like a chicken with its head cut off was part of her training.

Not quite sure what was going on with Bar this week--maybe she's off because we were at my parents' all week and it threw off our routine (although usually being around my parents' dog makes her less likely to misbehave around the dogs in class).  Maybe she misses her brother cat who stayed at my parents' since I'm going right back to dog sit for them and we try to reduce the amount of time he spends in the car.  Maybe she was just having an off day and was tired.  Maybe she was just hot and thirsty.  My worst fear is that she has lyme disease again--the last time she was really obstinate in class was right before we found out she had lyme and I've found three ticks on me so far this summer and today I found a dead one in the spare bed where Barley sometimes naps, so keep your fingers crossed that this is just another bout of my hypochondria and that pupperoo will not need any more bloodwork in the near future!

Regardless of why she was nuts this week, I still love my pup and in the grand scheme of things, she's made a LOT of progress during the last six months.  So, in the words of our theme song by Hunter Hayes, "I've searched the world and I know now, it ain't right if you ain't lost your mind.  Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy.  Are you with me, [Barley]? Let's be crazy."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Doggin' Pittsburgh

Even though I talk about Doggin' Cleveland all the time, it wasn't the first book in the Doggin' series by Doug Gelbert that I bought.  When my parents first got their sweet girl, Maz, I got them Doggin' Pittsburgh for Christmas.  To my knowledge, they've only been to 3 of the 50 parks--and one of them, Mingo Creek, I think they went to before I got them the book, so it doesn't really count.

Since Barley and I were visiting for a week (and since we've covered most of the really cool Cleveland-area hikes), I decided we should tackle something from Doggin' Pittsburgh.  There are so many little towns near my parents' house that I really didn't have a clue how far away any of these places were from their house, so instead of mapping them all like I did with the Cleveland hikes, I just flipped through, found the ones with the coolest pictures, and stuck post-its on the pages.

Last Monday, I convinced my parents that I absolutely needed a picture of Barley in front of the mansion at Hartwood Acres.  After all, we have a castle picture, so why shouldn't we have a mansion picture in the collection?

"I'd be happy living here, Mom."
The house and the yard were absolutely gorgeous.  Lots of views of rolling hills and endless grass for my pup to romp in.  Despite the fantastic house, this was not my favorite hike ever.  I think a lot of factors contributed to this.  First, it was kind of a grey day, so it wasn't the prettiest day to be outside.  Second, Barley and Maz were both acting like they had never been out of the house before; Barley wouldn't watch, wouldn't heel, wouldn't sit--and usually when we hike, I don't make her heel unless there's another dog approaching or we're going down stairs or a hill as long as she'll listen to commands like watch, but if she is being unresponsive, she can't just wander at the end of her leash or it's too hard to get her under control if we come upon a dog or a child.  So, it was a battle of the wills between me and Barley.  Eventually, she got under control and we had a nice walk . . . until my dad and Maz got ahead of us and we couldn't see them through the woods.  When Barley's "flock" gets separated, she gets really anxious and once Maz and Dad were out of sight, she was back to pulling and tugging.  Third, Dad was a little cranky that Maz was pulling the whole walk, so he wasn't the best walking companion, either.  Fourth, and the only point that actually has anything to do with the park itself, the trails were really confusing.  There was a trail map (of course, Dad ran ahead and looked at it while I was getting Barley out of the car and was ready to go before I got a chance to look at it) and we had a printed version, and Doggin' Pittsburgh mentioned two trail names that were supposed to be good, but the only trail labels we found were numbers and there were no numbers in the book or the printed map. Every time we'd get to a fork in the trail, there'd be a new set of numbers and it wasn't clear where any of the options took you.  I would most definitely not have wanted to be there on my own because I am not a numbers person, so even if it had been clear which numbers connected to each other, I would not have been able to remember which numbers I'd chosen on my own!  Even though it felt like we traipsed through the woods for ages, somehow we walked less than 2 miles.  It looks like there were plenty of trails to try, though, so maybe on a prettier day with more patience and better Barley control, it would be a good place to visit again.

Later in the week, Mom and I took the dogs to Fort Necessity (Doggin' Pittsburgh's vote for the most historic walk with your dog out of the 50 options in the book).  Mom loves forts, so I thought this trip could be a way to make up for the times that we stopped at historical sites in my youth and I fussed or pouted and sat in the car.

The fort, which I guess George Washington built, was kind of dinky.  It was super tiny and all wooden--I'm used to big stone, brick, etc. forts like Fort Pulaski and Fort Frederica (my favorite!), so it was kind of a let down to see the actual fort.
The entire fort's behind that fence.

Even though the fort wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it was a great adventure!  In addition to the fort, there was a tavern nearby that had been in use then, so we took the short little trail there.
Barley wishes she could get a drink at the tavern! Hot dog!
We wandered around the tavern for a minute before actually visiting the fort.  Then it was time for the real walk.  We had a trail map and these trails were more clearly marked than Hartwood Acres, but not every option was labeled, so it was a lot of guess work (and neither Mom nor I excel at reading maps!) to figure out where we were.  We knew that there were two meadow trails that both connected to the forest trail to form a big loop.  We decided to take the meadow trail (we ended up on the inner one) half of the loop first because it was already close to 80 degrees at 9 a.m. and it was a sunny day, so we figured it was best to do the shady half of the loop later in the day.  The meadow trail was really pretty. It was sunny and everything was green.  There were great views of the hills.  My GPS always takes me through this area when I visit my sister and I love that drive, so it was fun to actually be out in the hills with my pup.
Maz was too tired to hop onto the bench with us.
Spazzy Mazzy is excited about being in the woods.
I'm not sure what Barley's weird face says about her feelings about the historic Braddock Road. 
Maz is happy about the road as long as it means she can cool down for a minute.
We had a really nice walk that ended up being a little over 2 miles and both dogs were totally worn out by the end of the walk.  But, our adventures didn't end there.  A few miles down the road there was another part of the park that had trails, so we decided to go check out Jumonville Glen.  There were pretty rock ledges and LOTS of shade for the pups, so we walked another mile and a half or so there before stopping for turkey sandwiches for lunch.
Two hot dogs on the way to the glen.

Pup and I have matching smiles!

Maz loves being a trail dog!

Overall, we had a really good day.  Despite the heat, the trails were shady enough that it was great hiking weather.  The dogs were really well behaved, too, so it was enjoyable all the way around.  I'm not sure we'll go back here very often because it was over an hour away from the house and it was $5 per person to get into the park, but it was definitely worth a visit!

I decided that Bar and I definitely have the best hikes in our neck of the woods, though!  Most of the ones in Doggin' Pittsburgh are not actually all that close to Mom and Dad's house--both of the parks we went to were an hour or more away (and in opposite directions!) and there were several that you had to pay to visit.  In Doggin' Cleveland, most of the parks are within 30-40 minutes from our house and I think the only one you have to pay to visit in the Arboretum (and we love it so much we're members, so we just pay a yearly fee and visit any time we want).  Clearly, Northeast Ohio is far superior to Southwest Pennsylvania (kidding! Pittsburgh has my beloved Pirates and PNC Park, so it will win every time!).

The pups weren't the only ones that got to have fun on our visit, though.  Last Saturday, we took a trip to Pittsburgh's Strip District to visit Wigle Whiskey.  Mom wanted to get Dad a whiskey aging kit for Father's Day, but she wanted to be sure he liked Wigle's whiskey before she bought it, so we went out to do a tasting.


Mom and I got cocktails since neither one of us likes whiskey enough to taste several different kinds on it's own.  Dad and Ben got to sample 3 different kinds and the gin that Wigle makes.  Dad liked it, so he got the aging kit and one day after whiskey's been aged in the barrel he'll put beer in it--so I'll take advantage of this present then ;)

Ben and I also had some sibling time at PNC to watch the Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers.  It was a really exciting game (and the Pirates won! Raise the Jolly Roger!)--we were playing one of my other favorite teams (I love Prince Fielder and even though he wasn't pitching Wednesday night, Justin Verlander is my favorite current baseball player, so I always root for the Tigers if they aren't playing the Pirates).  We were also sitting super close to Miguel Cabrera's home run--Ben says we made it onto Sports Center, but I haven't actually seen proof of that.  I probably don't want to see proof of that because I was probably cowering/screaming.

So, overall, it was a great trip home and we got to experience several things we hadn't done in the 'burgh before.  Now let's just hope that my pup isn't so worn out that she can't focus in class tonight!