Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Adventurous Little Life....For A Dog

     Lots of my customers and friends will be traveling in the next few weeks.  It’s a popular time to ditch Maine for warmer climates and a healthy dose of adventure to banish the winter blues we’ve all been plagued with.   One customer just returned from France and another from Panama.  A couple will be headed to Ireland next week for a 10-day adventure.  Yet another is heading out for a week of sailing off St. Thomas.  I have a friend getting ready to depart for Dubai, Egypt and the Maldives, too.  My list of adventure-seekers is topped by a final couple who will be flying to Japan with an older men’s (40+) hockey team sponsored by Yosaku to play some hockey and have some fun.  Wow, right?  I’m totally jealous and would love to crawl into ANY of their suitcases and come along.  

Related to that last adventure mentioned, I also have a school dog who will get to have an adventure all his own while his parents travel to Japan.  Marty the Chihuahua Mix will be staying at a fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania, where his (human) brother, Reid, is a sophomore!  Yep, it’s true.  Marty’s owners own a fish brokering business and Marty’s hopping on a truck headed toward the Philly area with one of their trusted employees and will be delivered into the waiting arms of their son to spend a week hanging with the boys.  Oh my!

A couple of months ago, my customers, Dick and Dore Doughty, traveled to Philadelphia with their dog, Marty, to visit their son, Reid.  When they returned, they told me how much Reid and his friends enjoyed having a dog in the house at Kappa Sigma.  Marty made quite an impression on them.  They were really good to him and wanted him to stay for the rest of the semester.  At breakfast on their final morning in Philadelphia, Reid had a presentation to make to his parents, hoping to convince the Doughtys that he and his friends could be responsible care providers for Marty.  The Kappa Sig brothers had researched available vet care, dog parks and dog day cares where Marty could socialize with dog pals.  They had worked out a plan for Marty’s exercise, feeding and other needs and they were all willing to pitch in.  Amazing!

Of course, Dick and Dore high-tailed it out of there before Reid could even finish the presentation.  The thought of leaving their baby in a FRAT house?!  No way!  We’re all thinking back to our own college days and remembering what went on in those houses, aren’t we?  Ironically, this dog Marty....he’s THE life of the party here at DWD every single Tuesday without fail.  When I write the progress report for the day, I always credit Marty for exercising the entire class.  He is such a party animal, always stirring things up and goading the whole pack into chasing him round and round the playground.  My photo albums on my photography site are filled to brimming with images of Marty’s antics each week.  Truly, if dogs had frat parties, Marty would be the one wearing a lampshade and dancing like a crazy person by the middle of the evening.    And if a poker game started, he’d be the dealer and he’d a have a cigar hanging from his mouth while telling lie upon lie.  He’d be known campus-wide as THE dog to party with.  You’d always know there’d be a good time to be had wherever Marty was.  And the girl dogs would swoon in his wake.  So....it’s kind of hilarious that this whole adventure is happening to THIS dog, right?  Wait til the other dogs in Marty’s class find out....

Since his parents have come back from that road trip to Philly, Reid hasn’t let up.  In fact, there’s talk about adopting a pup in need of rescue this spring so that Reid can train him this summer (and I can have the pup here at DWD of course) and then bring him back to the frat house to live permanently in the fall.  Of course if this plan DOES happen, I’ve offered to fly to Philly for a weekend to work with the frat brothers on dog training, proper socialization, etc.  That would be TOO FUN and my son (recent college grad) would be horrified to learn of it!  But anyway...my point is that these young men are SERIOUS about wanting a house dog at school.  It makes a ton of sense in terms of the benefits of having a pet around in stressful times.  Dogs are known to be soothing and comforting.  Caring for them can take your mind off your struggles and stressors.  And, truth be told, this is a pretty upscale college and this particular fraternity is across the street from the prestigious Wharton Business School, I’m told.  I'm sure there are parties and good times, but maybe this could benefit both dog and frat boys?  And I totally love how earnest these young men are about providing a good home and solid training for a pup.  With good supervision and coaching, this could actually work!

      In the meantime, they’ve been granted a “trial run” with Mr. Marty Fancypants next week.  I cannot wait to hear the stories about how it went.  I wonder if Marty will become famous on campus.  I’m imagining him wearing a bandana and playing frisbee on the quad with the guys, attracting all the cute girls for cuddling and kissing (he loves to give kisses).  Back at the frat house, I’m also imagining him wandering from room to room, hopping up on everyone’s beds to greet them in the morning, getting into a little mischief in the yard.  He loves to dig, boys...so keep an eye on him!  Ahhh....if dogs could talk, Marty would have so many stories to tell on his return to quiet, small town life, huh?   

I’m pretty impressed and excited that Dore and Dick have decided to give Reid this opportunity to take care of Marty for the week.  They were hesitant, but Reid was persistent.  He made his case, dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s and did a thorough, responsible job of convincing his parents that he could take good care of their precious bundle on a college campus and in a house full of guys.  Reid and the other Kappa Sigs will have the chance to experience all that goes into looking after the needs of a young dog while managing their school work and social lives, which should give them the “real life” taste of dog ownership necessary before making a bigger commitment to bring a dog into the house in the fall.  It’s a win/win opportunity, if you ask me.  Can’t wait to report back on how this all falls out.  I hope Marty has packed his sunglasses and his toga.  And I hope the boys take lots of photos!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Walking In the Woods With Dogs

     Today I had the pleasure of tagging along with my husband, Michael, who runs our "Hike With Mike" program here at Dances With Dogs.  He was headed to Pratt's Brook Park on North Road in Yarmouth with ten dogs for a two-hour, off-leash romp through six miles of wooded trails on a gorgeous tract of preserved land.  Open to dogs and people year-round, this park tends to be fairly quiet on week days, offering the perfect opportunity for Mike's pack of canine hikers to enjoy the freedom of the woods and not encounter a ton of people.
     Our hiking program is in its second year of existence and represents the highest privilege earned by the small breed students of our school, who begin their social training in our puppy nursery school, graduate to our small breed adult dog day care program and then develop off-leash skills in the woods with a small pack guided by Mike and our two adult Labs, Casco and Tonya.  It's an amazing experience for the dogs as well as the pack leaders.
     Mike learned his pack leader skills by accompanying me on hikes for about a year and now he's out on his own, leading hikes three days per week for the school.  It's been wonderful for me to see how he's grown in his leadership skills and how responsive the dogs are to him.  I bubble with pride as I watch him at work, and am happy to capture the action and interaction with my camera when I accompany the crew on occasion.
     I am asked all the time, "how is it that you keep the dogs together if they are off leash in the woods?"  Great question and the answer lies in the relationships we've built with these dogs for months and sometimes years prior to trusting them without a leash in the woods.  We know each of our hikers personalities and quirks very well.  We've coached their owners on how to work with them outside of our program to build recall and listening skills and we're very careful about who gets to join the hiking program and when it would be appropriate to do so.  Our entire program is built around the "power of the pack" and this extends to our hiking classes as well.  What I mean by "power of the pack" is that dogs learn from each other, giving and receiving subtle and not-so-subtle cues which inform and drive behavior and choices in their social interactions.  In the woods, we are with a pack of dogs who love and enjoy each other -- i.e. they want to be with each other.  We also use our own two adult Labs as assistants with our packs of hiking dogs.  Casco and Tonya are very experienced in the woods and have great off-leash skills.  They help set the tone and their calm, confident energy keeps the younger, smaller dogs together.
     Mike and I are also working with our hikers continually on recall skills while we're in the woods, offering incentives and rewards for sticking together and for checking in with us every couple of minutes.  Our hikers are never out of our vision, and we use a squeaker (the kind used in squeaky toys for dogs) as our recall signal.  When our hikers hear the sound of the squeaker, they know a treat is coming, so they high-tail it over to us to get their reward.  Perfect!  Most are also under voice command and will come to us when they hear their name or the word "here" or "come."
     The squeaker is also extremely helpful when we run into other people with or without dogs on the trail.  Dogs alert to the sound of a collar jingling or voices coming toward us, and their natural tendency is to run towards it and/or bark.  We use the squeaker to call our pack over to us and we interrupt their attention from the scary/exciting thing coming toward us by tossing kibble onto the ground for them.  This shifts their brains into the "forage mode" and draws their attention away from the new people/dogs.
    Honestly, our most challenging moments on the trail have little to do with our own pack and everything to do with the people we run into.  We are like a circus sideshow, I guess.  People aren't used to seeing a pack of mostly small breed dogs romping in the woods together, so...they get excited and start yelling to us and to the dogs in loud, happy, excited voices.  This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what we'd most like them to do.  Dogs always take their cues from people....and if the people are waving their arms, hollering about how cute they are and making a loud fuss, the dogs tend to start jumping around, barking and lose their sense of calmness and control.  Sigh....  It happens all the time, unfortunately.  On those rare occasions when a person stays calm and silent, we can pass them in the woods without any fuss at all.  We just keep moving and the pack sees it as a non-event.  Perfect...but quite rare -- due to the people, not our dogs.
     On the best of days, we don't run into a single soul in the woods and we have two to three hours of uninterrupted freedom from all distractions for us and for our hiking dogs.  We live for and savor those days.  Our hiking adventures allow us to experience dogs at their very best and most happy.  Dogs are in their element in the woods....sniffing out the scents of wildlife, foraging for interesting tidbits, plunging into brooks and streams.  It is amazingly exhilarating and rewarding for us!  They chase each other over and under bushes and downed trees, flying through the leaves and snow with such grace and ease.
     Today was a great one for me, because I got to see my husband enjoying his work, demonstrating mastery of the fine art of pack leading and encouraging his buddies to run like the wind and live the best life possible for a few hours.  These are lucky, lucky dogs....and we are fortunate to be able to spend time leading them....and enjoying ourselves immensely in the process.  Nature is so wonderful for all of us.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday Hike Report for 7/15/11

Another fantastic day on the trail for our Friday Hikers! The weather was just sublime and we were comfortable all day. Today, we went to Pratt’s Brook Park in Yarmouth from 8:45 until 11:00 a.m. and then to Fuller Farm in Scarborough from 12 to 2 p.m. Both locales offered a ton of fun for the dogs! At FF, we ran into the crew from Portland's Paws and I was so pleased that our pack was so social and kind to the 5 dogs hiking with the PP folks. Yay!

OSCAR Yorkie was hiking with us for the first time today. He’s still pretty young and is just about to transition from the DWD Puppy School to our Graduate Program for Small Breeds next week. He was a superb hiker! Initially, we had him drag a leash until we felt comfortable that he knew how to “check in” with us and would come back to us when we squeaked our squeaker. Once he knew that treats were involved, he was THERE consistently! Yay, Oscar! He made friends with Duke Puggle, who will be in his Tuesday Pack, and also really enjoyed Angus Cairn Terrier. Oscar is welcomed to join us for Friday hikes whenever his parents can send him! Welcome aboard, Young Man!

JETHRO Choc Lab returned to the pack today after being absent just before the school vacation week. We missed him!! Jethro is crazy in the woods and especially in the fields with the tall grass! It totally turns him on to bounce around in those fields! What is he looking for? We just don’t know, but it makes us laugh time and again. Jethro managed to find a TENNIS BALL in the woods at each location today, and then he had to do all sorts of crazy stuff with them....like try to bury them, make mud pies with them, play some sort of fetching game for one (himself) in the water with them. It was nuts! We were glad to have our buddy back! Rosie wants him to be her BFF but he just raises his lip at her and shows her his big wolf teeth, which also makes us laugh out loud! Poor Rosie!

ROSIE Black Lab was her usual crazy self on the trail today. Thanks again to Dukey for putting up with her wild antics which usually involve tackling him, biting his neck, stealing his sticks and other assorted mayhem. Rosie had a blast and ate a ton of grass, gnawed on half a forest full of trees, swam in every water source, including mud puddles, and was just full of energy, as usual. We love you, Rosie...and it’s a good thing you’re so darned beautiful, baby!! Lola Sharpei Boxer has become a great pal for Rosie, and we are loving that....because Lola is about the same size as Rosie and can go paw-to-paw with her without us worrying that she’ll get hurt. Thanks, Lola!

LYLA Italian Greyhound/Min Pin was outstanding on the trail today, as usual. She is totally in her element in the woods and she and Lola are ALWAYS hot on the trail of some vermin or other! Addie is usually right with them, too. Lyla always returns as soon as she’s called and LOVES all the food rewards. Lyla is definitely getting the hang of our hikes and loosens up and enjoys her pack mates more each time she’s with us. We love this! She’s always a frontrunner and trailblazer, for sure!

LOLA Sharpei Boxer gave us a little trouble in the field after our first outing at Pratt’s Brook Park, because we couldn’t get her to come to us to get leashed for the last leg of the journey to the car. I decided to “trust” her that she’d come along with us safely and she did. But...then we had to coax her with some water in the water bowl in order to get our hands on her to put her in the car. Success! And a leash...ha ha! We outsmarted her at Fuller Farm and caught her BEFORE she knew what was up. HER leash was the first to go on. Other than that slight blip, she was wonderful and silly and fun! She is continuing to build some nice relationships with her pack mates and we can totally tell that she really likes certain dogs now. She will play bow and slam her paws down on the ground in front of Addie or Angus or Duke and get them to chase, wrestle and play with her. It’s adorable, as is she! We love her!

LILY Pomapoo had her first off-leash hike on Monday with the DWD school dogs and her second today. We think she’s wonderful in the woods. But, let me tell you -- she ONLY has eyes for Brody. These two are in LOVE! It’s ridiculous, really. She has to sit on his lap, pose for pics with him...and she’s always turning around to make sure he’s right there when she’s marching down the trail. He loves her right back, which is kind of heart-warming. Lily played with all
the big and small dogs in her class and she’s not shy about telling any dog who is too rough to buzz the heck off! I love that about this little 4.7 pound gal, don’t you? Lily, of course, road on Brody’s lap in the car. Good gawd...these two are joined at the hip!

MOLLY Morkie had a blast, as usual, on our hike. She really loved having Lily PP along and they shared Brody toward the back of the pack most of the time. Molly and I have actually grown pretty close on these hikes and I like to have her alongside me as well! She just makes me smile all the time because she’s such a rubber band...jumping over roots and boulders and bouncing like a bunny through the fields and forest! And she loves the water! Molly has a crazy bark when we meet up with other dogs/people in the woods and occasionally when we are in the car and she sees something. So, we’re working on that. Otherwise, she’s perfect and we ALWAYS love having her joyful heart along with us on these hikes. Wouldn’t be the same without her, truly!

DUKE Puggle was great again today. Other than whining in the car here and there, and excitedly barking here and there, he’s a dream to have aboard. He puts up with Rosie’s rough love all day and reluctantly shares his sticks with her. He’s nice to all the new dogs who join our group. He has more energy than almost any dog in the pack. He is obedient on the trail and never takes off on us. What’s not to love? Oh...and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a super cute baby, right? Duke seems like he was made for the Maine woods. He’s a true outdoorsman, or...outdoorsdog! Seriously!

ANABELLE Sheltie continues to be a favorite of the Pack Leaders and the pack members alike. She is just so steady and reliable on the trail and she is full of fun when we stop at the watering holes. She loves to be chased through the underbrush at break-neck speeds by the entire pack. It’s amazing to watch....and challenging to catch with the camera! This gal can MOVE! Anabelle gets into the water up to her belly, but she’s yet to truly swim with the group. That’s okay! We really enjoy having her along and she’s been such an amazing student at DWD that even THIS writer is thinking about maybe getting a Sheltie in the future.

ANGUS Cairn Terrier is yet another favorite of everyone! Angus has been beautifully behaved from the get-go with our hikes and he is completely at ease and in his element in the woods. His terrier build was made for the rocky terrain and he easily scrambles up and down banks to get to his favorite thing: swimming! I get so much joy from watching this sturdy boy dog paddle with his little head just above the surface. He’s been wonderful in the back seat, too....as long as he gets a window seat! I think he missed Casco and Tonya this time out! Sorry, Angus...

ADDIE Schnauzer...last to get written about, but I assure you...NEVER last on the trail! Addie is very independent and curious in the woods, but she’s been really dependable on recall and we feel confident in her in the woods. She does venture off to explore the areas adjacent to the trail but she returns when we squeak our squeaker. Addie does like the water, even though she’s not gotten ALL the way in. She did a lot of rubbing of her snout and back in the grass when we got to areas that were good for this. It DID make me slightly nervous, as Addie missed our last hike because she had a serious allergic reaction to something environmental (we think an insecticide on someone’s lawn) about two weeks ago. But, she seemed fine other than the occasional back scratch! Addie sat in the back seat on the floor behind the driver (me) in the car and squeezed her snout in between my seat and the door so she could give my hand a few kisses....and accept a few stealthily-dispensed pieces of kibble during the car rides! Hee hee...that’s just part of being one of the teacher’s pets, right?

ABSOLUTELY great hike again today, folks! I will post a photo album on FB and send those of you w/o FB a link so you can see all the terrific photos taken by me and Brody on our outing. I am so grateful to ALL of you parents for funding your dogs’ weekly adventures. They are truly so lucky to have all of you!! XO

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hike Report for Friday July 1, 2011

WEATHER REPORT: Wow! Have we EVER been lucky with the weather for our Friday hikes so far. If it rains, it pours so there’s been that ONE cancellation, but...the rest of our Fridays have been EXCELLENT and today’s weather was no exception. Clear blue skies, plenty of sun and temps that didn’t faze the dogs one bit: we’ll take it!

LOCATION: Today we hiked in two great spots - Fuller Farm in Scarborough and Pratt’s Brook in Yarmouth. BOTH were exceptional and we didn’t run into a single human being or dog in either place, so we had them all to ourselves!

You already know all about Fuller Farm and I still highly recommend you take a trip out there. Your dogs will show you all around! Pratt’s Brook is yet another AMAZING find and we will be going back there regularly. We could’ve stayed and played for hours today, but the dogs were tired from the earlier jaunt at Fuller Farm. To find Pratt’s Brook, take Rte One through the center of Yarmouth. Go past the Hannaford Plaza on Rte One (McDonald’s is in the corner of this mini mall), go under the overpass for 295 and then take a LEFT at the light just after that. You’ll go up a little hill to a two-way stop. Take a RIGHT and then a quick LEFT onto NORTH ROAD. Go about a mile or two and look for the sign for the trailhead and parking area on your RIGHT. Plenty of parking and a kiosk with site map await you. My advice is to LOOK at that map and decide on your route before entering. There’s a lot of trails in there and we sort of lost our way momentarily before finding our way back out!

The terrain at Pratt’s Brook is quite easy to hike....more of a woods walk than a mountain hike for sure! You can wear Teva or Keen water sandals, athletic shoes or hiking boots and you’ll be fine in any of them. We wore long pants for bug protection and were glad we did. Bug spray is recommended....for your dog as well!

NEW PACK LEADER: Today we had Pack Leader In Training (PLIT) Brody Cullenberg along for his first hike. He's fresh from the streets of Istanbul, Turkey where he just spent five months doing a semester abroad. He was an excellent navigator in the car as well as in the woods. The dogs all loved having him along and want him to come back and hike again next time. Since he's getting paid....he most likely will! Thanks, Brody, for being such a great helper today.

HIKER REPORTS: Oliver Fluffy Mix had his FIRST hike today! He won’t be a regular part of the Friday group, but joined us today as an audition to be sure he could handle being out off leash with a group. He’ll now hike with the DWD small adults on Mondays. Oliver had some fear of crossing bridges and we got him through that eventually (many bridges to cross). He lost his off-leash privileges for ignoring our recall requests and heading into someone’s yard and garage at Fuller Farm. He dragged a leash the remainder of the day and was excellent and obeyed recall from there on out. He had a blast and was in the front of the pack with Lyla most of the day. We think he'll make a fine little hiker with his Monday class!

Molly Morkie was so happy to have her pal Ollie along today. She’s not seen him in a while and today she had him all to herself. Of course, she prefers to stay at the back of the pack near me, so they only played when we stopped to rest, etc. Sometimes Ollie would walk with her when he wasn’t at the front of the pack. Molly went swimming again! Yay....she loves the water. She got independent after a couple of hours and stopped traveling alongside my ankle, which is always wonderful for her. She had some serious fun chasing and being chased when we stopped at the watering holes!

Lyla Greyhound/Min Pin Mix will now be a regular Friday hiker and we’re happy to

have her aboard! She always blazes the trail ahead of us and she’s super-reliable on recall. I trust her immensely and she never lets me down. She loves treats so comes running whenever I squeak my toy for her! She loves everyone in the pack, but keeps away from the wild young Rosie because she’s afraid to get hurt I think. Lyla went in the water a lot today....not swimming but definitely wading and running along the shallow areas. Great to see...

Angus Cairn Terrier is an excellent swimmer and keeps right up with the Labs. He had yet another fabulous hike today and we trust him off-leash for sure! He did have one bobble....when we took a wrong turn at Fuller Farm and the trail ended at someone’s horse farm! Angus went right under the fence and went in to say hello to the horses. Brody was able to coax him (and Lola too) back out. Silly! Angus can sometimes be pesky in the back seat because he MUST have a window seat. Molly didn’t like being stepped on by him, lol! Angus is terrific to have aboard and he is totally in his element in the woods. Oh by the way....umm...Angus got a Benadryl before we left in the morning by accident. I was attempting to give it to Lola in a piece of cheese but she was refusing and I dropped it. You-know-who was right there and snatched it and swallowed it right up. Damn! But he wasn’t harmed and was his normal self all day.

Lola Sharpei-Boxer Mix had a lovely time today. There’s absolutely NO WAY I’ll be able to give her Benadryl, though. She won’t eat anything I’ve tried. So, she’ll have to have it before leaving home on future hikes. I don’t feel comfortable having her with us if she’s not had it, honestly, and it’s not something that’s going to leave her feeling drugged out or lethargic, so I’d just as soon have her take it as a precaution. I will carry a bottle of LIQUID Benadryl with a syringe-type dispenser for emergency use. In any event, Lola didn’t have a reaction to bug bites today, thankfully. On the trail, she’s ridiculously energetic and veers off the trail regularly, usually with little Lyla following or leading. We trust Lola to return to us, but she did have a hard time resisting the urge to join the horses in their corral and we had to coax her back out! Silly girl, she wanted to play cattle dog!! Lola got in the water a lot and she also laid down in a mud puddle or two with Tonya and Rosie. Lola is making good friends with the rest of her pack and you can see how much she enjoys being with all of us. Awwww.....

Duke Puggle is just the BOMB on our hikes. He was the object of Rosie’s affection all day, and that’s a big job for a Puggle! She was all over him all day, wanting to wrestle and bite him and wanting to take his sticks and wanting to get on his back in the water. Seriously, Rosie?! Duke takes it all so well and just keeps on trucking. Duke had a new experience in the car today....he got to ride in the “way back” with some of his pals on the way home! He did okay...only whining for Auntie Ju Ju a little here and there. I got some great photos of Duke practicing his balance beam act for his next gymnastics meet. He managed to walk gingerly across a stream on a downed tree limb...and it was skinny...and he ALMOST made it w/o falling in!

Rosie Black Lab is officially a teenager. She was impish and wild and rough here and there. We’re giving her a warning today! All of her pals can only take so much, after all. Rosie has boundless energy and she’s all over everyone all day. They are mostly indulgent and tolerant of her, but once in a while they yell at her in annoyance. She tends to rip down the trail when she’s excited (which is most of the time) and takes out the smaller ones, who now step aside in fear when they know she’s on the way. Good news, everyone....Rosie gets spayed on Tuesday and that might simmer her down a bit. Let’s not forget she’s the BABY of the group, even if she is one of the largest now. And she means well. And she LOVES all of you so much, doggies!! Rosie swam like a champion with the best of the swimmers today...even if she did try to climb on Auntie Tonya’s back and drown Angus with love while doing it! Good grief... Rosie is good in the car. She always rides in the “way back” and we do our very best to wear her out for the ride home. Thankfully she’s better on the leash than DUKE is, so she gets extra points for that...

Anabelle Sheltie gets another Gold Star hiking award today. Anabelle is never a moment’s trouble on our hikes. She ALWAYS gets to sit near Casco in the car because she’s nice to him. She keeps everyone happy when we stop for play time in the woods because she flies around and wants everyone to try and catch her as she nimbly jumps tree trunks and water obstacles along the path. She takes treats very gently (Rosie, please take lessons from her!) and doesn’t hurt our fingers. And she indulges us by wearing a bandana around her neck, even though she really doesn’t want to. THANK YOU, Miss Anabelle, for being such an amazing presence on our hikes. The joy that Anabelle gets from being in the woods and keeping us all in line is evident. And, she’s pretty special to Uncle Mike, who always brings her home last so he can have her little head on his shoulder for a little while as they travel to her home at the end of the day.

Tonya Bernier should get a special mention today, and I hope you all take time to read her paragraph as well as Casco’s. Tonya is just an amazing Momma dog for our hikes. She is quiet and steady on the trail. She never yells at Rosie when Rosie insists on kissing her for the 100th time each hour. She sits and waits for her treats and

doesn’t expect special treatment because she’s so pretty or because she’s the owners’ fur daughter. She supervises all the young-uns swimming lessons, and she’s just the best car traveler, sitting and napping on the floor of the back seat so Angus and Casco can have the window seats. THANK YOU, Miss Tonya, for being all that you are. We love you to pieces.

Casco Bernier has also been a wonderful presence on our hikes, but we have a very sad announcement to make: today, he is giving up his bandana and retiring from our program. He just can’t keep up with the young dogs on the trail, try as he might. He has tried to keep it from us, but today, he was limping and when we’d stop for the kids

to swim or play, he would lie down on his side and really had us worried. His exhaustion was too much for us to bear and we’ll be allowing him to stay home on the couch from here on out. He will celebrate his 10th birthday this summer and we always knew that this time would come eventually. We’ll miss our boy so much on our hikes!! XOXO Casco!

ABSENT: Jethro Choc Lab and Addie Schnauzer will rejoin our program after the school vacation next week.

DWD is closed from July 4 through July 8. We look forward to seeing our Friday Hikers again on July 15! Sadly....there will be NO video of our hike this week, as my iMovie program is acting up. I will TRY to get this fixed over my vacation. I know how much you all love the videos, believe me!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pleasant Mountain - Take Two!

Today we went back to Pleasant Mountain in Fryeburg for another splendid hike. It was the first time for a couple of our newest hikers, and they loved it just as much as the rest of the gang! We hit the trail at 9:45 a.m. and got back to the car at about 1:15 p.m., so we had a solid 3.5 hours of hiking. Mike and I were very sweaty by the time we got to the top! Lots of very interesting things happened along the trail today...

The gang treed a chipmunk and they were quite proud of themselves. Angus, Lyla and Jethro were among the leaders on this hunting expedition. I got one decent photo of our little chippy pal, and he was shaking a bit!

Mike and I spotted a snake on the trail and we took video and photos of it...even getting one with its red tongue (ewwww) jutting out at us. The dogs were completely unaware of its presence, nearly stepping on it!!

The bugs (black flies as well as mosquitos) were out in swarms today and that made the hike difficult for the humans and a few of the dogs as well. Tonya kept rolling around on the ground for relief and we sprayed her with our own human bug spray. Lola has hardly any fur on her face and the bugs really attacked her. She swelled up with hives toward the end of the hike and we were incredibly worried about her. She dipped herself in the water and dragged her face on the ground, poor dear. We think she might be allergic to bug bites and hope her vet can provide some relief for her, as we are too afraid to bring her back out on the trail until we have some advice and a plan.

When we got to the summit, we were greeted by a lovely swarm of dragonflies. They are wonderful to see because they eat the mosquitos and black flies!! Yay! You will see a lot of them in our summit photos today! We also encountered two couples on the summit. Jessie and Rosie were all over one couple, who I think were finishing up their lunch! We had to put leashes on them to keep them from ruining our reputation on the mountain.

We had no trouble with showers, thunder or lightning while hiking, thankfully. Almost everyone is swimming now, and Angus was just a total joy to watch in the pools at the bottom of the waterfalls. He loved it! Jessie and Rosie are getting the hang of it, and in the photos you’ll see all FIVE of our Lab hikers swimming together. No surprise there. You can see Casco giving the babies the eye, though. He didn’t want to serve as a life preserver for them!

We had a few mud hens among our pack today. Jessie and Angus and Sophie found a nice mud hole to roll around in. Jessie was black up to her shoulders! I think perhaps the mud provided a bit of relief from the bugs....but boy, did it stink!!

Speaking of stinking....we had a gassy dog in the car today, and wouldn’t you know it, she was sitting right on my LAP! We had Lyla Italian Greyhound/Min Pin Mix with us today as a favor to her momma, and she had the worst gas on both the trip up and the trip back. Thanks, Lyla, for your contribution!! Lol...

We had a case of “human error” with our seating arrangements for today’s hike. Won’t make that mistake again! We decided to try having all the dogs in one area by folding the back seats forward and moving the safety gate behind the front seat. Well, what that did is allow Jessie to try and wrestle with Rosie the whole way to Fryeburg. And when they got done with that, they decided it would be great fun to try and chew the seat belts, the bed liner, etc. Duke joined in on the wrestling, too. The older dogs were very unhappy with all of this. They just wanted to rest and relax while waiting to get to our destination. We even had to move Casco up to the front seat (imagine CASCO on the floor in front of my passenger seat) because Jethro was squishing him and he was crying and threatening to jump out the window. So, it was a mistake, as I said, that we corrected before loading everyone back up for the ride home. Nice, quiet ride on the way home....despite having to stop five times along the way to check on Lola to be sure she was comfortable and breathing normally (due to the swelling/hives).

Anyway, ALL of our hikers are fantastic once we hit the trail. Jessie is a monster on a leash, though, and this made it really challenging for Mike on the bottom portion of the trail when ALL our hikers except Casco and Tonya go on leashes. He had six dogs and I had five on leashes. Jessie nearly pulled his arms out. Not sure what we can do about that.....but it was really challenging not to fall over or get hurt.

Everyone stayed together at all times. Sometimes Lola and Lyla would wander on either side of the trail, but they always came when called or signalled with the squeaker. Lyla LOVED the food rewards. Sophie labored a bit coming up the trail, but that’s likely normal for her breed and we stopped a lot to be sure she had herself under control. She loves to hike! Addie was wonderful yet again and is just terrific all day long. Duke is probably our happiest hiker all day long. He can’t resist eating grass and chewing sticks all the way up....and all the way down. He and Rosie fight over sticks and then Angus comes over and settles things by stealing the stick. Perfect.

Angus continues to amaze us with his love for the trail, and now for the water, too! I just love to watch this boy swim! Molly continues to grow in confidence and had a wonderful time today. She follows Mike now as much as she follows me! Love it! And she’s spending more and more time NOT velcro-ed to our ankles. Yay!

We cannot say enough good things about our Anabelle, who has grown very attached to Mike. She loves their personal time in the car when she’s the last to get dropped at her house, leaning on Mike and wanting a little petting. How adorable is that? And we truly love having her herd the entire pack as we move up the trail. She is at her best in the woods, as are many of our hikers.

Jethro is all about the food as well as swimming and thrashing through the brush beside the trail. He is a front runner at all times and he enjoyed having Lyla along today to help with that! Lyla was just ridiculously independent in the woods and she, I think, would love to LIVE in the woods so she could hunt 24/7. Nice to have her along today. She got along so well with everyone and had a BALL at the summit playing with Duke. The photos show this!

Mike and I are going to scout a couple new hikes out on Sunday morning so stay tuned for info about that. And there will be NO HIKE on July 8, as DWD will be closed for vacation that week. Of course, we’ll be out scouting locations for future hikes then as well! We’ve decided that it’s probably to dangerous to hike on rainy days, so please use the usual check-in methods if rain is forecasted on a hiking day - check Facebook or the DWD website anytime after 6 a.m. for a message, or call my phone 632-1863 or Mike’s phone 831-9341 to check with us personally after 6 a.m.

THANK YOU all so much for the confidence and trust you have placed in us by allowing your dogs to hike with us. We get so much pleasure out of watching them, guiding them and just being part of their joy on these Fridays! Of course, we’ve both never worked so hard in our lives, but it’s a good way to spend our day! And Casco and Tonya both are doing well as Pack Leaders as well. Casco is sore in the shoulders/paws tonight so we’re not sure if he’ll be able to come every week. After all, he IS almost 10 years old (don’t tell him!).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hike #2 - Fuller Farms Nature Preserve, Scarborough, ME

It hardly seems possible, but we had just as much fun on this week's hike as last week's. Perfect weather, seriously awesome hikers, and another excellent location. This program is turning out to be the absolute HIGHLIGHT of our week!

The Location: Fuller Farms is a 180-acre tract of preserved land placed in the Scarborough Land Trust back in 2001. It is truly a hidden gem. Take Broadturn Road from Rte 1 in Scarborough at the light just after Dunstan School Restaurant where Pine Point Rd intersects Rte 1 on the L and Broadturn intersects on the R. It's a few miles out, on your R. Lots of beautiful meadow land and rolling fields lead to wooded paths, with wooden bridges over some nice streams for swimming. The trail is about 1.5 miles and we did three loops. There are some trail choices once you are in the woods, and we explored them all. The hikers liked the stream and small ponds the best and we spent a lot of time there, letting them play, splash and swim.

The Hikers: This week, Bailey Yellow Lab stayed home to rest. We added two smalls - Addie Schnauzer (Casco's BFF) and Sophie French Bulldog. Jessie Yellow Lab had her first hike as well! Returning hikers included Jethro Choc Lab, Lola Shar Pei/Boxer, Angus Cairn Terrier, Duke Puggle, Rosie Black Lab, Anabelle Sheltie and Molly Morkie. Ten hikers plus Casco and Tonya for an even dozen. Great group!

Jessie was well-behaved and joyous all day long. Like Bailey last week, she took a header into the stream and I caught it with the camera. This scared her but did not deter her from getting back into the water again and again. She traveled really well in the way-back of the Trail Blazer with Rosie, Jethro and Lola. Jessie lost her pink bandana in the water with the help of our bandana-stealing dog, Rosie. Later, Rosie stripped Sophie of her orange one so we put it on Jessie.

Duke had another fabulous hike. Since he and his Mom scouted out our location last Sunday, he blazed the trail and showed his pals where to find all the good stuff! He likes to eat grass... Duke loves the water, the mud, and especially sticks!

Anabelle once again thrilled us with her joyful running all around in the fields and woods. She is truly in her element in the wild, this one! She is a wonderful and responsible hiker. Concerned at all times that the pack stay together when we're moving along the trail, she's a good helper for sure. Then, when we stop for swimming and relaxation, she goes nuts and leads everyone in crazy chases. Love it!

Lola went nuts straight out of the car and worried us at the outset that we wouldn't be able to keep her in control, as she ignored all voice commands and just ran like a crazy woman, bouncing like a wild bunny through the tall grass. But, it wasn't long before she came into line and decided to allow us to get to know her better and build a little relationship. She slipped out of her collar (she's good at this) twice before the hike even started! So...Mike and I would simply put a hand on her whenever we could to get her to trust that coming to us isn't going to restrict her freedom. As the day wore on, she came to us more easily and allowed us to put her collar back on and later, to attach the leash to it to go back to the car. Lola doesn't eat ANY of our treats during hikes. She sniffs and turns away.

Rosie, like Jessie, fell into the water and it scared her but didn't stop her from going back in again and again. They are getting their water wings, these young Lab girls! Rosie is a fiesty hiker. She loves to pull on everyone's bandanas...including her own. She eats grass and mud and chews on sticks along the trail, and she's not opposed to stopping to wrestle with Jessie or Dukey at every opportunity. Bugs seem to love Rosie and I removed horseflies and a tick from her face along the trail.

Molly again impressed us beyond words as our littlest hiker. She felt much freer this time to get out and explore the woods and she even went swimming on her own! She waded right in, swam a bit and then climbed out. Nothing to it! She still prefers to stick close to Mike and I, which is totally fine. Sometimes, the other dogs trample over her as they fly by! She's really great for us and is also good at telling her fellow hikers to buzz off if they annoy her. When we stop for play, she's crazy and runs all over the place, which delights her pals.

Addie had a truly amazing first hike. She is wonderful off leash and stuck near the front of the pack all day. She had no problem with coming back to us when asked...even if it took her a time or two to "listen" to the command or squeak from our recall toy. She ate treats throughout the day and got into the water to cool off. She is perfect for our group and we want her with us from now on!! Casco, of course, was delighted to hang with her for the day!

Sophie Frenchie is seriously athletic and was really happy all day. She runs crazy-fast. She road up front on the floor at my feet with Duke and they are now inseparable. They cuddled all the way home! Sophie does get winded and we stopped to let her catch her breath here and there. She ate treats through the day and drank water as needed, but not as much as I would've liked. I worry about her getting overheated. We'll keep an eye on her. She's a total swimmer, too! Wow!!

Jethro was great on the trail. He's all about Julie's treats, for sure. At the house, he seems a bit anxious and uncomfortable, but I gave him an unbleached rawhide bone post-hike and that helped him relax and chill out. Jethro is learning NOT to jump on the gates and walls at school so please help him with this and don't give ANY attention to him when you come to get your dog or drop off your dog, thanks. It's been a while since he came to the house... Back to the hike - Jethro is independent and we trust him in the woods. He returns to me easily. His greatest joy is racing with Lola and Casco for the lead as we go along. Good boy!

Angus had another stellar day and was just terrific. Judy - if you could establish email contact with me, that would be great. Danceswithdogs@maine.rr.com. Thanks. Angus loves Molly and they stick close during the day. He also was delighted that Addie joined us. Angus rode in the backseat with Addie and Anabelle and Casco and Tonya. They arranged themselves in different piles and were good riders. Angus loves to swim!! We love to watch him do it, too. Angus was simply made to be in the woods. He's totally in his element and is a wonderful hiker.

Precautions: I sprayed all the hikers pre-hike with Earth Animal's Bug-Off! organic tick and bug spray and will continue to do so before every hike. You MUST do a thorough check for ticks after we hike, please. We check but can't guarantee we got all the crawlies. I put paw soothing Musher's Wax on Lola. If your dog's paws seem beat up from the trails and woods, let me know and I'll do their paws pre-hike too. Offer lots of water to your dogs post-hike and expect that their poops will have lovely things like GRASS in them. WHY they insist on acting like cows, I do not know. Casco threw up in the woods and it was mostly grass, for goodness sake! Such goof balls!

Next Time: Not sure of your destination yet, but we're busy scouting.... Can't wait to do it all again!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our First Big Hiking Adventure with Dogs!

The Hike: Pleasant Mountain via the Firewarden's Trail, which is located on Wilton Warren Road off 302 in Fryeburg, ME. 2.5 miles to summit. 3.2 hours round-trip for our group. A pretty tame hike with waterfalls, streams and pools for cooling off.

The Weather: Couldn't have asked for better - 60's, sunshine and a nice wind blowing on the top 1/3 of the hike. The black flies and mosquitos were out but not too pesky.

The Pack: Age range - 4.5 months to 9.5 years. Size range - 6 pounds to 85 pounds. Breed range - Morkie to Puggle to Sheltie to Lab. Leg length - 3 inches to a yard! Experience range - years of off-leash hiking to first-timers! These dogs totally bonded as a pack, got along famously and were amazing together!

The Car Ride: About 1.5 hours to get there, as we had construction and a.m. commuter traffic to
contend with. Duke Puggle road on the floor, front seat passenger side. Molly Morkie road in Julie's lap. Anabelle Sheltie was supposed to be in the back seat, but inserted herself between the two front seats on the console so she could "help" with the navigation and supervise
Mike's driving. In row two, we had Angus Cairn
Terrier on the left sharing the view out the window with senior hiker, Casco Bernier. Anabelle's hind end occupied the middle of the seat. Tonya Bernier had the right window so she could feel the wind ruffle her ears. In row three (the "way back" gated rear compartment) we had Rosie Black Lab, Jethro Choc Lab, Lola Shar Pei Boxer and Bailey Yellow Lab. Everyone rode really well...with only a few whines of "are we THERE YET?" The ride home was rrrreeeeeaaaallllyyyy quiet.

Hike Highlights: The saints and angels conspired to make this quite a spectacular day in every way possible. We had absolutely NO mishaps, issues or problems. The weather was gorgeous. The dogs were incredibly well-behaved, happy and downright joyful to be free in the ME woods. Mike and I slowly and steadily let our fears and worries float away as we headed up the trail. This pack was amazing. At the summit, we were almost tearful as we watched our whole pack zooming around enjoying the beautiful views, the meadow-like lushness of the mountain top and the wind zipping along. We were at the top of our little world! Along the route to the summit, we encountered a foursome of hikers with a Shepherd named Lara. They were so impressed with our pack and Lara wanted to continue up with our crew! We shared snacks
and a bit of lore from our travels and continued on up. When we got back to the car post-hike, they'd left a note in the dust of our back window -- "bark bark!" Indeed!

The Hikers: Lola was ridiculously energetic and happy on arrival. She tore through the woods
non-stop, zipping up and down the trail, buzzing through streams, leaping over fellow hikers -- it was hilarious. She was a pack leader for most of the way up, blazing the trail for us. She probably got 50 miles to our 5 under her belt for the day with all the running around she did!

Jethro was another trail blazer and hike leader. He is so fit and agile, we were truly in awe. He showed the younger Labs all about water play and swam several times in the shockingly cold pools below the waterfalls. Like Casco, Jethro loves to tear through the pucker brush alongside the trails. He stuck close to Casco and the two became good buds by day's end.

Rosie was our youngest hiker...but she is already well-versed in the art of hiking with humans. Her parents take her out almost every weekend. Rosie was a riot in the water, which she loves
but isn't completely comfortable in just yet. She got in over her head and was splashing up a storm. Hilarious! And she made sure that no stick was left untasted along the trail's edge. She and Duke and Bailey had fun carrying them together and playing tug.

Molly was our tiniest in size...but that means NOTHING. She has more energy than anyone in the pack. She took her time getting comfortable being off-leash and free and stuck close to Julie's ankles for most of the way up. When we got to the top, though, she went wild and showed us just what she's made of. Lola couldn't get enough of chasing her 'round the mountain top with Angus. On the way down, Molly was relaxed and traveled ahead of Julie with the pack!

Bailey is a goofy goober. His big body doesn't quite move the way he wants it to at times...and he lost his footing (or Angus pushed him -- who knows?!) and he splashed face-first into a pool at the beginning of the hike. The photos of this are amazing! He got himself sorted out just fine and wasn't opposed to more water fun later on. He's a great hiker and stayed with the pack at all times. Bailey did seem to be limping a bit near the summit...maybe in the right front leg.

Since he's such a big, hearty boy, I would recommend supporting his joint health with a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. Casco's been on one for years and we swear by it for keeping his joints and bone structure healthy. Ours is vet-prescribed, so ask your vet about it ASAP.

Angus was simply fantastic all day long. He was off leash very quickly after the hike began and never ever waivered from staying with the pack. He interacted well with everyone in the pack and loved the whole experience. He loved riding with Casco in the back seat and they are now good pals (yay). Angus got into the streams and waterfalls with the rest of the pack and just loved getting wet and cooling off. He worked hard, played hard and was bleary-eyed and blissed-out on the ride back home.

Duke Puggle was the BOMB on this hike. He'd NEVER been off-leash before and let me tell you, you'd never have believed it. He is a master hiker and outdoorsman. The whole experience was just fantastic for him. He loved being with Bailey (his BFF) again as well as with Rosie. They shared sticks, ran through the woods and streams and at the summit, had a wrestling contest. Duke rode like a champ in the car, too. Mike and I thought he had the best space - on the floor at my (Julie's) feet all cozy on a soft towel. He looked so content!

Anabelle Sheltie also amazed the human pack leaders on the hike! She stuck close to us at times and always brought up the rear...making sure that the pack was together and all were accounted for. But....there were times when Anabelle couldn't resist going bonkers and ran through the woods and fields along the trail with wild abandon. The rest of the pack couldn't help but chase her, which she loved. The photos of these rampages tell the story. She was an absolute delight to have in our pack, in every way possible. When we got back to the car, we loaded everyone in....but Anabelle didn't want to cooperate. I think she wanted to keep hiking! I sat down on a log and waited with her until she decided to accept a cookie and a promise that we'd bring her back to the mountains soon.

The Next Adventure: The Pack Leaders are still plotting and discussing the next adventure...but we will say this: EVERYONE is invited back next Friday! We were so energized and thrilled by their love of the trail and their ability to stay together. Couldn't be more pleased!! Drop 'em off here next Friday between 7 and 8. Who knows what's next.... Our first hike experience will be tough to beat, that's for certain.