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Posts Tagged ‘dog walking’

I starting taking more regular walks again with Jasper. We both need it. I am pathetically deconditioned.

Today, I decided I would march around the path at the dog park, as I used to a year ago. I was going to barrel along, working up a sweat and raising my heart-rate. It didn’t go as I expected. Do you ever have dreams where you are trying to run and you just can’t get your legs moving? I used to get those a lot, although ironically not since the Big Nap. Trying to stride along quickly was like that. My legs just wouldn’t go fast. It was weird and annoying. I couldn’t work up a sweat. I did get a back ache, though.

I ran into another doodle mommy. Her guy, Oscar, is about a year younger than Jasper and they had a lovely time running wide circles around us. As we walked, kinda slowly, several other people all caught up with us and there were suddenly a great pile of dogs all chasing each other around.

Caught up in the mix were two young boxers. Oscar who, like Jasper, clearly doesn’t know his own size, was chasing one the boxer pups and bowled her over. She yipped like she was being murdered, but then popped up and was right back at him. This happened a couple of times. Now, when Jasper does this, I try to call him off, but if I really only worry about it if the other dog appears to be distressed, and a dog that throws itself back into the fray is clearly just a drama queen.

Suddenly, a large man turned to my walking partner and said quite aggressively, “You need to leash your dog now.” She asked why and he said that obviously her dog was hurting his dog and so she needed to leash him. She pointed out that his dog kept going back to hers and so it seemed unlikely that she was being injured. He announced that he did not see it that way and she had to leash him. She announced that she wouldn’t, and he was welcome to leash his if he were concerned.

We walked a bit ahead (still not fast enough to break a sweat, sadly) to get Oscar away from the boxers and were continuing our talk when we heard the man say behind us, “Wow, you really are a cunt.” Isn’t that sweet?

We wheeled on him and both told him that he had gone beyond the pale of even an uncivil discussion. He said he could use any words he wanted and we said not if he wanted to be taken seriously by anyone. And so on. At one point, it occurred to me that we were in the woods, an old, fat woman and a young skinny one, in a heated argument with a large young man. Maybe not so smart. But, really, who the fuck did he think he was?

Fortunately, who he was was someone who found himself actually cowed by two women who did not let him get away with using that language, and when my friend once again suggested that if he had a problem he could leash his dogs, he said something like, “Well, maybe I just will!” as though he’d won the argument, and went off to get his dogs.

We might stand up for ourselves, but we aren’t stupid, and when we reached the parking lot, we just hung out for a while until he had gotten in his car and driven completely away, before getting in ours.

I’d forgotten how much action there is at the dog park!

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yay me

I’m feeling better today, thanks for asking. I even took Jasper for a decent walk. We went to the dog park and I marched right into the deep woods, most because I wanted to stick to the shade. It is actually hot today. I discovered that the mosquitoes are out in force already. When I stopped to talk to another doodle owner, we were immediately surrounded in a cloud of mosquitoes. I exaggerate not one bit. Hundreds of them. But when I walked fast enough, they left me alone.

The thing that was so great was that I could walk fast enough. I actually walked fast through the woods. It wasn’t even my heavy-footed fast for me but slow for everyone else kind of walk – I passed a couple of people. Now, those people were at least 150 lbs overweight each, but still!

Up until recently, I had this weird sort of stomp to my walk, like my shoes were made of cement. But I noticed, as I beetled through the woods, that I have managed to shed that. I still trip a lot, but I look like I’m walking normally.

So I’m kind of thrilled. It wasn’t long ago that I just couldn’t even imagine walking in the woods at all. Now, granted, my zippy walk was only about half an hour long, but it is still amazing.

I wonder when these accomplishments will become old hat to me? How long before I start taking for granted that I can walk up stairs? Because I swear, every single time I make it to the top of a staircase, I am impressed, like a little kid. Look what I did!

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The other thing I did was get a new pair of shoes for Boo. This is more impressive than it sounds. One of my first outings, after I was freed from the hospital, was for sandals for Maya. It took many shoe stores and much pain, spread out over days to accommodate for my lack of energy. (There is nothing new about Maya and parental shoe torture.) In one of the stores, we found adorable shoes that didn’t fit Maya, but would fit Boo. They were sandal-like in lightness and really, very cute. See? –

Now, truth be told, I do have a perfectly good pair of hand-me-down sandals that will probably fit her, but they are black. Basic and black. Asher hardly wore them, with the speed his feet grow. I knew she’d hate those sandals and love these ones and I couldn’t really blame her. They were more expensive than I like to pay but there was Maya, like the devil on my shoulder, saying, “You have to buy them. She’ll love them.”

So I did. And she did. She has worn no other shoe since. Until yesterday, when one strap snapped.

My old self would have been sad and annoyed at the expense and gone out and bought more sensible sandals this time. But I’m not like that any more. I am not sure exactly when it changed or what brought about the change. Possibly I have just become – dare I say it? – less WASPy over the years. Or maybe I just aged and decided it was time to stand up for myself.

I took the shoes back to the store and told the nice saleschild there that I yes I was having a good day, only I had this little problem I hoped she could help me with. I showed her the shoes and the bill I miraculously found, demonstrating the shoes to be 3 weeks old, and she gave me new ones, just like that.

Now, of course, I am risking these ones lasting 3 weeks too, and playing the shoe-exchange game all summer, but I think the problem actually stemmed from Boo’s extremely bad habit of not undoing and doing the shoes up again, preferring to just ram her feet in (so yes, technically the breakage was her fault, but 3 weeks? Come on). So I told her those were the very last ones in her size (small lie)  and if she wants to keep them, she’ll take her shoes off and put them on like a civilized human being. I think she will. She was so happy. Her sheer shoe delight made spending the money on those crappy shoes worth it. I’m getting soft.

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My lovely doggy is being a bad boy. It started a couple of months ago, when I started walking with a nice woman and her nice Golden/Newfie mix, Max. We would find ourselves at the dog park at the same time a lot, and the dogs are both only a year old, so all seemed good. Only Jasper developed a obsession with Max. He is madly in love with Max.

Whenever we meet up, Jasper starts pulling on Max’s ears and biting his butt. He even has tried nipping at Max’s heels. Incessantly – in a desperate bid to get Max to play with him. (Jasper loves nothing more than to be chased, and indicates this with bum-biting.) But worst, he humps poor Max as often as he can. Since Max has problems with one back leg, that is bad. And just generally annoying. The humping really kicks in if Max dares to pay attention to any other dogs, as though Jasper is trying to make it clear that Max is his and his alone.

We hadn’t run into Max and his mom for a little over a month, and then when we were at the dog park on Saturday, in this huge field with at least 100 other dogs. Jasper suddenly darted away from me through the crowd and, sure enough, he’d spotted Max.

I was putting up with it – we’d joke about Jasper’s stalker behaviour – but then I walked with a former teacher of Maya’s, who happens to have an aged Golden. The Golden didn’t feel like running after Jasper, who responded by becoming utterly annoying and tormenting the poor old guy, pulling and biting at him, and then he started with the stupid humping. The Golden and his mommy were less than amused.

I realized his annoying behaviour is getting worse and I don’t want one of those dogs that everyone else at the park talks about – “Can you believe she lets him do that?” So today when we ran into Max, the moment Jasper started being annoying, I grabbed him and put him back on his leash, forcing him to walk close to me for a bit. Then I let him off and he went straight for Max again. Back on the leash. Repeat.

Teaching him to distinguish between his ball and his rope, then touch the correct one on command is far more fun, I have to say. And way cuter.

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Guess where I was at that time last night? I was walking through a huge park near here. A year ago, if you’d told me I’d be having a nice stroll through the park in the middle of the night in winter, I’d have thought you were completely bananas. But Jasper and I didn’t get our walk yesterday and he started begging. He makes his wishes very clear.

So off we went. I got the coolest things for the bottom of my boots. They make it very easy to walk on ice, so I can stomp confidently over anything.

The reason I wanted to go to the park was so that Jasper could run around off-leash. Of course, the by-law says he’s not allowed in the park at all, but I figured there wouldn’t be too many by-law officers hanging around at that time in winter. It did occur to me that, being a woman, walking in a deserted park late at night might not be considered to be a particularly smart move, but I figured I had the dog as apparent security (I call it apparent, because if anyone appeared remotely threatening, Jasper would come and hide behind my legs). Also, I have these impressive metal studs on my boots, and since Jasper was off-leash, I had his leash in my hands – a nice flexible rope with a big metal clip on the end of it. I was quite willing to whack anyone who bothered me. As it was, I saw no one.

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I’ve been watching the first season of The Dog Whisperer. I think Cesar Millan is cool, although it isn’t necessarily the way I’d do things. I’ve watched a lot of shows made by another dog guru called Stanley Coren, who was dealing with doggy psychology when Cesar was in diapers. His show did exactly the same thing – help people deal with messed up dogs. Naturally, they face some very similar problems and deal with them in completely opposite manners.

For example, if you take a dog who fears something irrationally, like the noise of a vacuum cleaner, Cesar would turn it on and force the dog to stay in the room, then make the dog get closer and closer, himself staying completely calm, until the dog realizes there is nothing to fear and relaxes. By not reassuring the dog and remaining completely calm, he helps the dog calm down. It works, and fast.

Stanley would take a different tact, putting the dog near the quiet vacuum and rewarding the dog with treats until its calm, then turning it on from a distance and repeating the process, ramping it up until the problem is solved. His method is to take away the negative association and replace it with a positive one. It takes a little longer and also works.

They are both firm on the idea that you have to make the dog realize you are the boss – the pack leader – by requiring the dog work for everything you give him. For example, Jasper doesn’t get dinner until he does something we demand, usually sit and wait until we give him the okay. This keeps them understanding that they have to listen to you and prevents them from developing anxious behaviours that result from thinking they have to be the boss.

Cesar and, to some extent Stanley, also believe that when you walk your dog, it should be slightly behind you with its head at your side, because the pack leader goes first. I don’t enforce that, letting Jasper wander all over. But I’ve noticed lately that when Jasper is uncertain about the situation, like when we are walking along a busy street, he naturally falls back and lets me walk just ahead of him.

Another advantage of a submissive dog is that you can dress him like an idiot and get away with it.

New Year’s eve, 12:30 am:

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Adventures in dog walking

The main beneficiary of my fitness kick is Jasper. Actually, he is currently the only one benefiting, as I am exhausted all the time, so J and the kids aren’t seeing anything positive, neither am I. (But I soldier on!)

Pretty much every day, rain or shine, I go to the off-leash dog park near here and walk Jasper for an hour or hour and a half. This place is huge – a big hunk of forest and field. The main area is somewhat fenced in and frequently very busy. But you can head out past that into more dense woods and go for kilometres, should you be so inclined.

A couple of days ago, just as I was getting ready to leave (coaxing Boo, who is feeling much, much better, out of a tree up which she climbed about 25 feet – irk!), a dog that looked like a little rottweiler came trotting purposefully past and towards the parking lot. I spotted no owner, but sometimes dogs get ahead of their people. Still, as I waited for Boo to descend, I watched the dog, who had an air of panic about it. It popped out in the parking lot, then headed back my way.

It became pretty clear the dog was lost. If I hadn’t had to pick up the kids from school, I would have leashed her and gone looking for her owner, but I didn’t have that time. However, I also didn’t want her than near the parking lot (and adjacent highway) alone. So I took her with me.

She was a sweetie, very friendly, and when my kids met her, they wanted to keep her. I think Jasper did too. I had to explain that this wasn’t some stray we’d found wandering down the road and possibly abandoned. She came from a dog park, where people who love their dogs go to give them exercise.

The owners weren’t smart enough to put a tag with her name and their number on it, but at least she did have her rabies tag, with their vet’s number on it. I phoned and gave her tag number and, thankfully, they had her in their database. They called the owner, the owner called me, and Myrtle was home soon.

Today, I upped the ante by rescuing a lost person. The main area of the park is, as I mentioned, busy, which is good for Jasper because he gets to meet and play with a lot of dogs. But it isn’t so good for my exercise agenda, because I have to stop frequently while he plays or I answer questions on what kind of dog he is. So I often head out into the wooded area and march around there in relative peace.

I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere when I encountered someone else with his dog. He was up ahead, but his dog ran back to say hi to Jasper. Jasper was delighted. Just then, they reached a fork in the path and headed right, further out. I was torn. I wanted to go that way too and Jasper clearly wanted to play with the dog, but I figured it would look weird and stalkerish to be following this one guy in this huge forest.

Left or right? Jasper looked at me with his big sad eyes, begging for permission to go after the dog. I couldn’t resist and told him, “Go say hi.” He bounded after the dog and I followed. After a few minutes, I’d caught up to the guy and his dog. I said a polite ‘hi.’ He said a polite ‘hi.’ Then he said, “Can you tell me, which way is out of here?” I asked, “Do you mean, to the parking lot?” Yup. I pointed – really far that way. “I am lost,” he admitted.

The forest is criss-crossed with dozens of trails intersecting with each other. There was no way I could just say, “Go that way, then turn left.” I mean, the poor man was walking straight away from the parking lot with the belief he was walking towards it. His sense of direction was clearly non-existent.

So I led him back out. We had a nice chat, during which he swore he was never leaving the main area again. Turns out he’s a shift worker and had been up all night. He planned to give the dog a quick walk so he could get some sleep. He was a walking zombie. I hate to think how far away he could have gotten had I not found him. Jasper was delighted. The two dogs played together very well.

He was a lovely man, thanking me very politely and shaking my hand formally when we reached civilization.

Maybe next, I could find money. That’d be good.

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