Count Your Blessings

…if you have a dog that you can walk any time of the day, anywhere, and your walks are actually pleasant.

…if you have a dog that calmly exists around other dogs without going absolutely berserk if one looks at him funny.

…if you don’t have to do U-turns when you’re out walking your dog because another dog is coming toward you.

…if you don’t give a sigh of relief when you pull into an empty daycare parking lot.

Which is what I did when I pulled into daycare today–gave a sigh of relief because the lot was empty.  I was going to get Pongo into daycare and off to my early morning meeting stress-free. But, we all know things don’t necessarily go the way we expect them to.  As I was unloading Pongo, I realized someone had pulled in to our right.  The driver and I made eye contact and gave me a little nod, which I read as: go ahead and finish unloading your dog; I’ll wait.  I unloaded Pongo, walked up to the door and all of sudden Pongo was going nuts.  I thought he had noticed the dog getting out of the car that had pulled in.  I think I’m pretty good at reading non-verbals but I guess I was way off today because when I turned around, the dog and owner were less than 2 feet from us waiting for us to go in the door.  There was NO way Pongo was going to make it in the door calmly so I walked down the sidewalk, telling the owner and dog to go ahead.  While Pongo continued to flip-out, a car pulls into the parking lot with two big dogs barking at him through open windows.  That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  There was no reeling Pongo in; no getting his attention in attempts to calm him down.  So I awkwardly scooped Pongo up, got him into his kennel, and told him, as I backed out of daycare and drove to work, he could spend the next couple of hours in the car thinking about his poor behavior.

Living with a reactive dog is frustrating and exhausting at times.  What is most frustrating is not knowing what’s going to set him off and then not being prepared for the reaction you get.  It is very apparent Pongo chooses when to be leash reactive and when not to.  If he’s working (i.e. Nose Work) or has other distractions, he is 95% OK with being on a leash around other dogs given he has enough distance between him and the other dog.  If we are just walking or he sees another dog out the window, he immediately amps up and is out of control.  It’s embarrassing and I’m more than sure pretty scary for others to watch. He spins, he lunges, he growls, he barks all out of pure frustration.  But, less than 20 seconds after he’s had his blow-out, he’s fine.  I, on the other hand, have to deal with the residual feelings of my own frustration and anger.  The self-doubting and ruminating of what I could have done differently, and the constant questioning of WHY?  WHY such a sweet, tail-wagging, kiss giving little guy can be hell on wheels when he’s around other dogs?

Just an FYI: Pongo did make it to daycare today and had a good day.  I do believe he was somewhat remorseful about this morning’s outburst…or at least it makes me feel better thinking he felt just a little bit guilty.

How Do You Spell Relief?

P-A-P-A…who came home last night, even though he left yesterday morning with packed bags and surveying equipment.

See, there was no need to stress-out, be a little hellion most of the day, and refuse to settle down once you were home.  He came home, just like I told you he would.

*Sorry for the poor picture quality: low light and taken with an iPhone.

Take A Whiff of This Weekend

Pongo spent this past weekend fully immersed in Nose Work.

On Saturday he took his Birch Odor Recognition Test (ORT), which is a test he must pass in order to compete in any Nose Work trial.  The ORT is a basic box drill where there are 12 boxes lined up in two rows of 6.  The dog is on-leash and walks up and down the rows sniffing for the Birch scent that is hidden in one of the boxes.  Pongo is a pro at this drill and we have practiced it many times both in class and at home; nonetheless, I was still very nervous when we entered the training facility to take our test.  As soon as we entered, Pongo knew what he was there to do and targeted the hide within 24 seconds.  I gave a huge sigh of relief because that was all he needed to do to pass his Birch ORT.  Steve came in with us to video his success but  unbeknownst (well, known to us but forgotten-I know, I should have read the rules again the night before the ORT) we were not allowed to videotape or photograph the ORT.  Steve immediately erased the video but it was not clear if that faux pas had disqualified us from the ORT.  We had to wait a good 45 minutes while the entirety of our group finished the ORT before learning that Pongo had in fact passed!  Never, ever again will we go into a competition without first reviewing the rules–lesson learned!

Since I don’t have any footage of his ORT, here’s a picture of what a box drill looks like and his scorebook with the most glorious letter: P.

Then Sunday, we spent 4 hours in an Advanced Nose Work seminar with Jean Richardson, who is a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI) from Oregon; she is also the one who officiated our Odor Recognition Test on Saturday.  We were able to run our dogs for three different types of scenarios and hides: 3 low hides, 3 high hides, and a paint can drill. The guest instructor used both Birch and Anise for her hides. Anise is one of the three target odors that dogs can search for.  What surprised us the most, and really made us proud was Pongo has never smelled nor searched for Anise before and the two rounds that had Anise in them, he found it as his very first find.  We now know we can move on to Anise and can hopefully do the Anise ORT in the Spring.  Pongo loves Nose Work.  It’s his job.  What we love about Nose Work is that he has fun while doing it and is completely tuckered out afterwards.

It Could Have Been Worse

Everyday, Pongo has been sitting at the front window waiting for hours for Papa’s truck to pull into the driveway; disappointed when it doesn’t.  He has really been missing Steve this week so Reid, Pongo, and I drove out to Big Lake last night to spend some time with Papa.  Our moping, miserable Cattle Dog turned into a bouncing, yelping, fiend who could barely contain himself when he saw Papa walk out of the rental house!

Steve and I decided to take the dogs out for a short hike after dinner.  We chose somewhere where we knew we could let the dogs run free, where no one else was going to be around.  We drove to a quiet, deserted area Steve had recently surveyed and walked into the woods. Both Pongo and Reid love being in the woods: running free, jumping over logs (that would be Pongo, not Reid), and exploring all the smells that come with hiking in a new place.  It was refreshing to be in the woods, after a long work week, spending time with Steve and watching the dogs enjoy themselves.

As we were hiking along, Pongo began frantically running around in wide, sweeping circles with his nose to the ground.  I commented, “He’s on the trail of something,” with images of cute little squirrels foraging in the area going through my mind.  We called Pongo to us.  He came but caught the scent again, and was off.  Then, what was suppose to be a peaceful evening hike turned one of my biggest fears into reality: Pongo + Porcupine = DISASTER!

I look over to where Pongo is sprinting around and see a porcupine, ever so slowly attempting to climb a Spruce tree as Pongo is closing in on his prey.  Steve is running toward the tree with the climbing porcupine, in hopes to intercept Pongo.  Steve is on one side of the tree, Pongo is on the other, the porcupine is in the middle c-l-i-m-b-i-n-g at turtle speed.  Pongo jumps up to grab the porcupine.  He misses.  He gives one last adrenaline-fed superman jump as the porcupine continues to work its way up the tree.  As this whole scene plays out before my eyes, I hear myself screaming, “Pongo, leave it!”  And when that doesn’t work, “PONGO, NOOOOOOO!!!!!” knowing well enough that when Pongo is in prey-drive, there is no stopping him: listening ears are off and wild dingo mode is on.

Steve is finally able to grab Pongo, leash him up, and carry him to a safe area away from the porcupine.  We check him over not knowing if he was able to make contact with the porcupine.  No quills protruding from his face–check. No quills on his underside–check.  Then we see it…a paw scattered with porcupine quills.

Steve immediately pulls out his Leatherman and gets to work.

I’m more than sure it hurt like hell having those quills pulled out but Pongo was a trooper–keeping one eye on Steve’s Leatherman and one eye on the porcupine sitting in the tree 50 feet away.  He sat quietly as Steve pulled out each quill, for the most part giving an occasional flapping of the paw or yelp.  And all I could think of to myself, as Steve pulled each quill out is…It could have been worse.

Labor Day Weekend

Sadly, Summer is quickly coming to an end.  We are moving into our split-second Fall and then onto our never-ending Winter. We decided to take advantage of the long weekend by packing up the trailer and the dogs, and head down to Discovery Campground in Captain Cook State Park.

It was a weekend full of…

catching up on our pleasure reading, 

walking along the beach with the dogs,


and just plain relaxing, which is what both of us needed the most.

We even tried to go for a hike but as you can see…that was quickly thwarted by fresh bear scat on the trail!