Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dog Day Afternoon 2013

As I mentioned here, we love taking Lily to doggie events. This past weekend we went to Dog Day Afternoon, a free annual event held in Columbia, MD. The weather was great for this event last year, albeit a bit on the hot side, and this year we really lucked out and got the same beautiful sunshine and clear skies with a slightly cooler, more comfortable temperature. The event ran from 11am-2pm. We arrived around 12:30pm and, after signing in, were greeted by this sign detailing the day's schedule of events:

I'm a little bummed we missed the biscuit eating contest; I'm pretty sure Lily would have had no problem winning that one.
Lots of dog-related businesses, rescue groups, and other community organizations had booths at the event. Lily had a great time walking all around the big field in which the event is held and visiting each and every booth. She was particularly gratified that the people manning each booth almost all had treats that they were happy to share with her.

This mobile pet spa was offering nail trims for $10. We just had Lily's nails trimmed about a week ago, but our friends got their dog's nails done.

free pet ID tags sponsored by Russel Subaru
magnets for sale at the Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue booth to raise money for their rescue efforts
tennis balls (and more magnets) for sale at the Chocolate Chip Dalmatian Assistance League booth to raise money for their rescue efforts
Great price for microchipping. They were also scanning already microchipped dogs for free to ensure that the microchip was still in place; we got Lily scanned and they found her chip easily!
Lily also enjoyed greeting all of the other dogs walking around with their families.

Lily discovering that no matter how badly she may want to, some dogs' butts are just too high off the ground to sniff.

One of the most popular "booths" (with the dogs, anyway) was the doggie "ice cream" truck. We ran into some friends at the event, and they bought a cup of the "ice cream" (really dog-friendly frozen yogurt) for their dogs, who lost interest in it pretty quickly. So, they generously offered it to us. Lily, of course, was more than happy to help out by finishing it for them.

There were also two off-leash areas, so Lily got to run around (okay, mostly she walked around, sniffed, and then sat on her butt) in one of those as well.

We love that the Columbia Association sponsors this event for the community; it's a great opportunity for pooches and their people to get out and enjoy the lovely spring weather together!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Will She or Won't She?: Lily and the Dog Park

I have heard horror stories about dog parks in other parts of the country, mostly due to unenforced rules and/or irresponsible, inconsiderate owners. We are lucky that our local dog park is wonderful. Dogs must have either a day pass or an annual pass to get into the park, and either pass requires proof of rabies vaccination. The park is divided into two separate, enclosed areas: one for larger dogs, and one for small (approximately 25 pounds and under), timid, or elderly dogs and puppies. We usually stay in the small dog area. Lily is fine with bigger dogs, but I sometimes worry in the larger dog area that she might get accidentally trampled, especially when there is a large group of big dogs stampeding around in a pack.

Unfortunately, the "local" dog park is currently the only one in our county (two more are in the planning stages, but as far as I know no dates have been set for their opening), and it does take us around 15-20 minutes to get there. If we're going to make the drive, then, I want us to "get our money's worth"! As usual, though, Lily has her own plans.

Sometimes when we go to the dog park Lily romps around, playing with all the other dogs, running and bouncing almost non-stop from the time we arrive until the time we leave.

And sometimes when we go, she spends a few minutes sniffing around the perimeter of the enclosure and then plops down in one spot and refuses to move, ignoring all the other dogs completely. There is no way to predict ahead of time which way she will behave on any given dog park trip. It is a total guessing game. If I didn't know better I truly would think she's messing with me. It makes it beyond difficult to decide whether or not to make the drive out to the dog park since I can have absolutely no idea until we get there whether or not it will be a great social activity for her or whether she will get there and spend the entire time lying by herself in the dirt, which she can do just as easily in our backyard without me driving 20 minutes each way.

Lily being anti-social

Don't ever let anyone tell you that dogs don't have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dropping a Spoon

No, "dropping a spoon" is not a euphemism. This past Friday afternoon, I literally dropped a literal spoon on the literal floor and what happened next was cause for celebration.

I was emptying the dishwasher in the kitchen, and Lily was lying a few feet away on the floor in the den enjoying the Kong that I had given her a few minutes before. As I picked up a handful of silverware to carry it over to the drawer on the other side of the kitchen and put it away, I accidentally dropped a metal soup spoon on the tile floor. You may be thinking, "What's the big deal? That probably didn't make that loud of a noise." If you are thinking that, it is because you have not lived with a fearful dog for the past year and a half. (Read more about Lily's fears here and here.) Six months ago, the sound of that spoon falling about five feet and hitting the tile floor would have caused Lily to abandon her Kong, run to her downstairs "safe spot" on the living room sofa, and refuse to move for anywhere from approximately ten to twenty minutes. A year ago that same sound would have caused Lily to abandon her Kong, run all the way upstairs to her ultimate "safe spot" of her bed in the master bedroom, and refuse to move for probably around an hour or two.

Instead, this past Friday when I dropped the spoon Lily glanced up (without even moving her head, just her eyes), saw that there was nothing going on that she needed to worry about, and returned her attention to her Kong. She didn't even flinch. I had to stop myself from doing a victory dance.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lily and the Grass Seed

This past weekend, Peter planted new grass seed in large sections of our backyard where the lack of grass was causing the soil to start to erode. Lily wasn't allowed to be out there until he finished, because she thought it was great fun to dig up the seeds as soon as they were buried. So, she spent hours sitting at one of the back windows, watching him and whining piteously. It was, shall we say, not the most conducive environment to getting work done, as I was trying to do inside the house.

After Peter finished the planting and Lily was released from the prison house, she decided that her contribution to the grass seed planting endeavor would be to lie on the newly planted seed and share her body heat with it in an attempt to hatch the grass like a chicken egg.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Naturally Well-Behaved?

As I've mentioned before, Lily was somewhere in the range of 3-4 years old when we adopted her, and we really don't have much information about what happened in her life before she was rescued by Lucky Dog. We have a variety of speculations, including that she may have spent some time as a stray (when she's outside she likes to "nest" in piles of leaves and/or hide in tall grass; sometimes, more so when we first adopted her, she hides her treats around the house as if saving them for later in case there's no steady food source). We also think she might have possibly been abused, either by a former owner or a random person (if she was a stray). We think this for a couple of reasons, including her fear of strangers and certain loud noises, as well as the fact that anytime anyone, including Peter or I, picks up a vaguely stick-like object around her (a broom, a mop, an antennae, a log for the fireplace, etc) she cowers down in fear. It's also feasible that perhaps at some point she belonged to a hoarder, which could explain why she's more comfortable with other dogs than with most people. However, the reality is that beyond the fact that she had at least one litter of puppies and ended up in a high-kill animal control facility, we simply will never know for sure what happened in her past that contributed to the various personality characteristics and quirks that made her the dog she is today.

Lily likes to hide and/or nest in foliage
One of these characteristics that our lack of knowledge about Lily's past puts us at a disadvantage to explain is the fact that she is remarkably (naturally?) well-behaved. Peter and I will be the first to admit that we really had very little to do with this. As I mentioned here, Lily is entirely non-destructive. She has never chewed anything except her toys, and she did not need to be taught not to chew other things. She has never tried to get into the trash, go counter-surfing, or steal anything off of the kitchen table. When we first brought her home she would occasionally try to take a sock or pair of underwear out of the laundry basket we were using for dirty laundry; we went out and purchased a taller hamper with solid sides (rather than basket weave) and she has ignored the dirty laundry ever since. Also, she initially would not get on any of our furniture, almost as if someone had trained her that she was not allowed on the furniture. It took me several demonstrations of picking her up and placing her on the sofa with me, only for her to immediately jump off, before she figured out that she is welcome on the furniture. Now, of course, she rarely uses her downstairs dog bed, generally hanging out on the sofa instead.

hanging out on the sofa in the den

keeping Peter company on the sofa in the living room
Lily is a sensitive dog, and it is possible that some of her good behavior that we enjoy is actually a result of her fear of angering or upsetting us, though I would like to think that by now she knows that we would never hurt her, no matter what she does. There are a few common doggie obedience commands that we never really taught her, including "leave it" and "off," because she responds so definitively to the simple use of the word "no" said in a stern, authoritative voice. When she hears the word "no" spoken that way, Lily generally immediately stops whatever she is doing, drops whatever she has in her mouth, etc. Again, this is not something we taught her, she has been doing this since the day we brought her home.

We have done some training with Lily. We taught her how to walk on a (mostly) loose leash and how to sit, and she will generally come when she is called unless she's on the trail of a scent, in which case forget it (although from everything I've learned it sounds like this is a pretty typical beagle trait, which is why conventional wisdom is that beagles should never be allowed off-leash in an unenclosed area). We had a series of private lessons with a trainer which were specifically geared towards helping Lily overcome her shyness and gain confidence. These sessions were most helpful, I think, in educating Peter and I about how to understand canine communication and respond in kind, although the trainer also helped us teach Lily hand targeting, AKA the "touch" command. This can sometimes help us re-focus Lily if we sense her level of fear starting to escalate. We also completed a group beginners' obedience class (more on this in a later post).

Lily showing off her "sit" skills
Lily demonstrating her loose leash walking skills
Since Lily is my first dog, I don't think I fully realized how lucky we got in terms of her good behavior until we started fostering, visiting the dog park, and generally spending more time around lots of other dogs. Lily is certainly not perfect, but it sure is nice, as a dog owner, to be able to accidentally leave a favorite pair of shoes in the hallway when you leave for work in the morning and come home to find them undisturbed, exactly where you left them. Especially when you never even had to teach your dog that self-control in the first place!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lucky Dog Easter Egg Hunt 2013

One of the many things I enjoy about having a dog is the opportunity Lily presents for me to socialize with other dog owners. I love cats, and grew up with them, but having a pet cat is a comparatively solitary activity. Having a dog, on the other hand, especially a dog-friendly dog like Lily, has provided me with lots of chances to get out of the house and participate in activities we can both enjoy. We do visit the local dog park regularly (more on this in a later post), but we also like to attend "doggie events." Now that it has been approximately a year and half since Lily joined our family, there are some events that have become particular favorites. The annual Lucky Dog Easter egg hunt is one of these.

This doggie Easter egg hunt is a great time for both dogs and humans, and it benefits a fantastic cause too. The event is held on a generous volunteer's big, beautiful property in Potomac, MD. The property has an enormous yard with a tall, secure fence, and the dogs are allowed to run around off leash in the yard while the people mill around, eat yummy donated refreshments, and enjoy watching the dogs' antics. The actual hunt for Easter eggs (filled with dog treats) takes place at the beginning of the event, in a park across the street, and of course the dogs are leashed for that. The cost of admission (only $10 per dog), as well as the money from any additional purchases like raffle tickets or professional photos with the Easter bunny, all goes to Lucky Dog.

on the hunt

scent hound at work
found a green egg
and a pink one
"Why yes, I am very good at sniffing out treats, thank you for noticing!"
While the hunt itself is entertaining, in my (and Lily's) opinion, the best part of the event is the off leash "party" afterwards. The dogs clearly have such a good time running and playing to their heart's content in such a big space, and I personally just love witnessing how happy they all are, especially since the majority (if not all) of them are rescue dogs whose lives just as easily could have ended in tragedy if not for the intervention of Lucky Dog and other similar organizations. Lily seems to enjoy events that include off leash time more than events where she has to be leashed the whole time; being off leash allows her to wander around and follow her beagle nose, and many other dogs feel more comfortable interacting with other dogs off leash rather than on, so she gets more canine interaction and play time. However, the fabulous setting for this event also lends itself well to providing a good time for human attendees, with plenty of comfortable, shaded seating and beautiful scenery. Lucky Dog volunteers outdo themselves each year with tons of delicious, mostly homemade food, including sandwiches, cookies, cupcakes, etc.

some of the agility equipment set up for the dogs to play on
Lily's not-so-secret admirer-- this sweet pup spent quite awhile following Lily around
playing with new friends
over and around

This was our second year attending this event, and it was just as wonderful, if not better, than the first. We hope it will continue to be an annual tradition!

And in case it wasn't clear from the previous photos how much Lily enjoyed herself, I give you a series of photos I am affectionately calling "doggie ecstasy":