Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures with Barley

The week started off really well. We had temperatures in the 70s a couple days at the beginning of the week, so after noseworks class on Sunday, we decided to try out another one of the parks from Doggin' Cleveland, Frohring Meadows (#45).

When we pulled up, we saw several dogs walking in one direction, so we chose the other direction through the meadows instead of through the woods. I was delighted to see lots of birds throughout the meadows.

Maybe spring really will stick around?
I also got to enjoy sitting in the backyard with both of the pets. Soth immediately went to the grass to try to eat it, so he was confined to my lap. Even though Barley was on her long lead, she refused to leave us. She'd hate to miss out on the deep conversations Soth and I were having.

Then on Tuesday, it snowed. Again. It wasn't super cold--the temperatures stayed in the 30s, but I just couldn't handle it anymore. So, we skipped a day of walking. I didn't feel too bad about that since I knew we had agility that evening, so she was still going to get to run off some energy.

Agility was great! There's a very large, very loud dog who comes to our class and he sits in a pen with his owner and they practice his reaction to distraction while we work. When he first started coming to class, they kept a sheet over the pen so he couldn't see out. He's gotten so much better that now he can watch the other dogs work. Barley's gotten better, too--when the other dog would bark, Barley used to get very anxious with her ears pinned back and her eyes wide. We've worked on our "what's that?" every class for weeks, and now she hardly notices when the dog barks. Usually, his pen is in the corner of the room where he's out of the way. This week, they had his pen set up right behind the tunnel. I was positive that when Barley came out of the tunnel she'd turn and go to the pen instead of coming to the jump, but she didn't even notice  he was there. I was such a proud mama!

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse on Wednesday. Since I don't teach until the afternoon on Wednesdays, we usually take a nice long morning walk after I've done a little prep work for the afternoon. The morning started out fine--I graded several papers and then we took off for our walk. We had 3 miles of a lovely walk and then turned on the last road we needed to go down to get home. I saw a loose dog up ahead--one that we've never seen before--so I turned around to take the long way home, but the dog was faster than we were and it was on Barley before we'd gotten back to the end of the street. This wasn't the normal loose dog, either. Instead of just trying to sniff her, it grabbed her and wouldn't let go. Every time Barley slipped away from the dog, it went for her again. I didn't have my spray shield (I mean, thanks to the cold we've had the world entirely to ourselves for the last 4 months, so I've gotten out of the habit of carrying it). I'd taken my pepper spray off my keys when I handed them to the cashier at the grocery store to scan my rewards card the night before and forgotten to put it back on. There wasn't anything around I could use to hit the dog, so I just screamed. Thankfully, someone came outside to see what was going on--and even though he was wearing socks and no shoes, he jumped over the railing on his porch and ran across several muddy yards to get more people to help us. As soon as multiple people started coming our direction, the dog froze and then it took off in the other direction and I took Barley to opposite way as fast as I could. I have never felt so helpless in all of my time with Barley.

Luckily, Barley is physically fine. Once I got her around the corner, I gave her a quick once over to make sure she was ok to walk the rest of the way home. It looked like she was just slobbery and since we were less than .25-miles from home, we just rushed back home where I could get a closer look. When we got home, I got a damp washcloth to get all the slobber off of her and investigate more. There was no bloodshed and she didn't seem to be in pain at all, but I wasn't sure if there was any mental damage--I knew I couldn't stop shaking afterwards, so I was really afraid that this might really set us back a lot in our training. The first thing I did after making sure she was ok was to email our trainers to let them know we might be starting from scratch again--our first trainer (and our current noseworks instructor and agility classmate) is so wonderful and emailed me back immediately and said we'd work on whatever Barley needed to feel safe in the world again.

We took Wednesday night off from our usual post-work walk because I wasn't feeling ready to try the neighborhood again yet. Honestly, I'm still not.

Right now, I'm trying to assess how Barley's been affected by this. After work yesterday, I decided we should try a fun walk at the lake instead of sticking around our neighborhood. I wanted to make sure she had lots of positive moments on her walk instead of the constant barking of neighborhood dogs to distract her.

We had a great 3+ mile walk and it was in the 60s again, so Barley got to splash in the water a little bit. She was all smiles. We only saw two other dogs on the trail and we just pulled over and I gave her a bazillion treats and everything was fine.She was all smiles the whole time.
I was all smiles, too, because I didn't have to wear a jacket!

Today, I decided to see how she'd do in unfamiliar territory. I figured the more information I have about how she's responding to triggers, the better. At first she was pretty wound up when we got to a new park, Tinker's Creek State Park (Doggin' Cleveland #40). She started barking crazily before we got out of the car--and not her "OMG I'm so excited" bark--and she refused to sit and stay in the backseat, which is our routine anywhere we go--she sits while I get ready and then I let her out of the back door. Instead, she leapt into the front seat while I was getting our little walking pack on and she tried to slip out of the car. Then she refused to heel when we started walking, but before long I got her attention back on me and we had a lovely (but pretty muddy) walk. After she got over the initial excitement, she seemed pretty normal. She wouldn't "come front" and sit facing me so I could take pictures--she seemed reluctant to turn her back on the trail ahead of her, but besides that she seemed happy to be on an adventure. There were a couple off leash dogs, but I don't think Barley could see them over the tall grass along the trail, so we just sat and waited until they were out of sight and then went another direction to put more space between us.

Such a pretty place to walk!

She was not going to look at me, no matter how many treats I might have offered her.

We were both pretty disgusting by the time we got home.
We got in a little over 3 miles today, which puts us at 22.27 miles since last Friday and at 22% of our goal completed for the year. We're definitely gaining on it and if the weather keeps being as beautiful as it is today, we'll be caught up (and maybe even a little ahead) in no time! We're going to stick to parks this weekend, and maybe by Monday I'll be feeling brave enough to stroll in our 'hood again.

In addition to our adventure today, we came home to find a BarkBox on our front step! Barley was pretty pumped to dig into it, but she was patient enough to let me take a picture before she ripped into it.

She made out with some really good loot, and I think she's a little angry that I won't let her have everything that came in the box right this second!

Soth's also been loving the spring weather since he's been able to have the windows open and chirp at the birds several days this week!
He's cool with just chillin' it.
Happy Easter from me, Barley, and Soth!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Welcome, Spring (Please Stay)

I'm almost afraid to say "Welcome, Spring!" because with the way this year has been going the second the words leave my mouth there will be snowflakes in the air again. I'm going to risk it, though, because this week has been fantastic for having a little outdoor time with my favorite girl and opening the windows a bit for my favorite guy.

After the dreary, rainy weather at this time last week, the weekend brought in some better weather. It was still colder than I'd have liked, but the sun was shining so on Saturday we got in 2 good walks to total over 6 miles for the day.

On Sunday, the weather was warm enough and dry enough that we could play outside during noseworks class! Barley had so much fun being outside and trying to find her snacks. We got to practice a little outside at home this week, too.

It's been so fun to see her starting to use her nose more. She's really started sniffing all over the place and not worrying so much about what else is happening around us when we're outside. I can already see a huge difference in how relaxed she is when we're in the yard now instead of doing her usual scanning of the area for her nemesis, the neighbor's Jack Russell.

After class on Sunday, we made our first Arboretum visit of 2014. We didn't get to explore all of our favorite places there--the rhododendron garden is closed while they do some work on it and coyotes are denning in the maple collection I love, so I decided not to risk running into one--but we had an excellent 4.6-mile walk in the other parts of the Arboretum.

Selfie by the lake!
My girl was just 100% happy the whole time. She trotted happily at the end of her leash without pulling and frequently came back in to check-in with me. I didn't have to remind her to heel or give her any corrections.

We got another sunset walk along the river in after agility class this week. Again, there were a ton of deer out at the park, but this week they were even closer to the trail than usual! Barley wasn't phased at all.

We got in walks every day between Saturday and today and ended up at more than 25 miles for the week! We're determined to make it back into the 8% of New Years Resolution Completers again this year and if we can keep up with weeks like this, we'll have no problem!

Yesterday, my poor girl had to spend a lot of time alone because I went to a poetry reading by my very favorite poet, Ted Kooser, after work. He was kind enough to sign 3 books for me (I left 5 others at home, so I was happy I didn't have to narrow down any more than that!) and while he signed them, he told me how much he loved one of the collections (coincidentally, my favorite collection) because his dog appeared in the illustrations throughout the collection. I'm not sure how he decided that I would appreciate talking about dogs during our brief conversation, but it further convinced me that he is my poet soulmate. 

Today, I figured I should take my pup somewhere more fun than our neighborhood, so we went out to the State Park for our walk. We hadn't been since the ice melted off the lake, so it was nice to see grass and blue blue water and skies.

It was almost 60 degrees, so I opened the windows a crack for Soth so he could get some fresh air, too. He loves sitting in the windows and chirping at the birds and squirrels.

Then we all stretched out in the sunshine on the carpet for a little while. My pets are so easy to please.

We start the next session of noseworks this weekend, so we're looking forward to making our outdoor searches even more advanced (and possibly learning car searches!) over the next 5 weeks!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Resolution Progress

I finally have hope that spring might really be here (even though there are snowflakes on my weather app for tomorrow). Here's how I know: we had multiple days in the 50s this week, baseball is back, and Barley's been chomping at bees every time I take her outside.

Rain has kept us from walking the past two days (remember, we're talking about the Diva Dog who failed her therapy dog test because she wouldn't lie down in the wet grass--it's enough of a struggle to get her to go out to potty). But, I'm feeling good about our progress with our resolution so far.

Now that it's staying light a bit later in the day, we had time to go for a walk after agility on Tuesday (yay for having beautiful parks just a few minutes away). We got to watch the sunset over the river and saw at least 15 deer along the trail. One even hopped right across the path about 6 feet in front of us. I saw it coming and had Bar sit and she just calmly watched it go by. I'm so proud of that baby girl.

Everything looks a little different than it did with the snow on Sunday, but this is the same trail.

They're well camouflaged, but we enjoyed seeing Barley's deer friends in several spots along the trail.
We also had a beautiful sunny morning on Wednesday. Since I don't teach until the afternoon on Wednesday, I was able to get my girl out for a nice, long morning walk in our neighborhood. We had a brief moment of panic when a loose hound dog of some kind ran up to Barley and started following us--but I was able to keep Barley moving (even if she was watching over her shoulder the whole time) and in typical hound dog fashion the loose pup caught a whiff of something more interesting and gave us a chance to turn a corner and get out of sight.

Since we're 1/4 of the way through the year, it seems like a good time for a New Year's Resolution update as we link up with To Dog With Love, SlimDoggy, and Peggy's Pet Place for FitDog Friday. As you may know, I set a goal of 1000 miles with my pup for the year. That's a little over 95 miles more than we did last year when I set a goal to walk more each month than I had the month before.

So far, we're a little bit behind having reached 17% of our goal to have 173.38 miles out of 1000 for the year. I'm not upset about being behind, though.  This year has had some crazy weather (last year we might have had snow, but we had few days where it was so cold we couldn't at least get out for a short walk) and there have been 20 days that we haven't gotten a walk this year--either because of weather, sickness, or work. We're also way ahead of where we were at this point last year. At the end of March 2013, we had 148.64 miles--so even though we're a little behind the 25% we'd ideally have at this point, I'm really proud of how much walking we've gotten in this year!

We had another reason to celebrate on Wednesday. It was sweet Soth's 6th birthday! A while ago, I'd found some birthday catnip toys at Petco--the package came with a cake, a cupcake, a donut, and an ice cream cone--so, of course, I bought it and put it away for his birthday! We had a little celebration with extra snuggles, a couple extra treats, and his new toys. I think he would have been content to just nap his birthday away, though.

I love him more than rainbows.
I can't believe how quickly the years with my little guy have gone by! Hope everyone else has had moments to celebrate this week!