Gary, Susan and I have just returned from a six week trip to the southern states.
This trip only reminded me that I still have more work to do. I hate to admit it, but Susan and Gary aren't perfectly trained yet. The trip started well. They stopped at restaurants to go hunting and brought me the best portions. Susan took me on some great hikes and didn't always make me "go behind."
But then we parked at a campground on the Alabama/Mississippi border. The park was nice enough, a big lake, trails through the forest. But someone had let CATS into the park. And Gary would not let me off my leash to chase them out of there. And then, after we had gone into the camper for the night, Susan filled a plate with scrambled eggs and other wonderful tasty treats. I was so excited, certain she was fixing it for me because I had been such a good dog. But, no. She carried it out and put it on the picnic table and let that CAT eat it!
And then there was the morning I couldn't get Susan out of bed. She is getting rather lazy, if you ask me. But Gary was up and he offered to let me out to do my morning peemail. I stood patiently while he attached the long outside cable to my collar. Then, he told me to go. But, he hadn't unlooped the cable from the handle that the humans need to get into the camper. I nearly hung myself before he untangled it.
And there were many times they forgot and left me in the camper. Sometimes for days. Well, that's what it felt like.
But we did have some good times.
Hiking in the marsh in Louisiana.
Running in the Gulf. Oh, would someone please figure out how to get all that salt out of the water! So disappointing when you lap it up.
Gazing at the mountaintops in Georgia.
But the best place of all is home sweet home. My couch, my unlimited naps, my snowy yard. Ahhh. I'll worry about more training of the humans later.
Susan doesn’t intend to be mean. But, sometimes, she just doesn’t understand.
A few weeks ago, I was on a delightful walk with my best friend in all the world, Teddy.
Isn’t he just the most handsome dog ever?
We were walking the Out and Back Trail in Carlisle that goes through the Lost Forty timber near where we both used to live. Teddy’s mom, Amy, and Susan had graciously let us off our leashes and we were taking advantage of all the sniffs. Even though it was chilly, we also took a dip in the pond. Ahhh, refreshing.
I found an interesting skull, but Susan made me drop it.
We'd reached our turn-around point and were on our return journey, when I caught a whiff. And just like that, I hopped off that cement trail, dashed into the woods, under an old barbed wire fence, and found it. An entire deer. Dead, but still fresh. I was ready to dive right in when I heard Susan call. I wanted to obey, but the deer was right there in all its meaty goodness. I took a nibble.
I could still hear Susan calling, but she'd moved down the trail and the sound of her voice was fainter. I could easily catch her when I wanted. I knew where she was going, she never gets off the path. I settled into some serious dining.
After a bit, I heard the voices again. Louder. Teddy, Amy, the kid Sophie, and Susan were all tromping through the woods to find me. I did what every obedient dog does. I tried to come and bring the dead deer with me. But all my tugging and pulling didn’t move that deer one inch. Susan caught me in mid-pull. I just knew she would help drag the deer back to the car so we could both enjoy it. And maybe share it with Teddy and his family.
Then, she did the unthinkable. She snapped on my leash and pulled me away from it. She left the deer!
So, if you’re walking the Out and Back trail and go into the woods at the top of the hill, that dead deer is MINE.
You may bring it to me at my house by Easter Lake. And then, I will be thankful.
I did it. I walked Susan and Girlfriend (Leigh) the whole length of the Appalachian trail through Shenandoah National Park. It took me 13 days to do it. Girlfriend had to leave on day 11 and Angela joined us for the last 4 days, but I did every step.
Umm, there was one day I developed a tiny sore on one of my paws. Now mind you, this was a day I dragged Susan almost the entire way. And the next morning she forgot to take me. But I'm sure they got lost that day, wandered around, and made no headway.
When we are hiking I do not like to "go behind" but I found it did give me a good perspective of the trail from both up ahead and behind. So, it was my choice.
It worked out well except for the day we met the dog-eating horseflies. One of them took a bite out of my fluffy side and then I refused to do that silly "go behind."
While hiking, it is important to stop now and then and drink. I am proud to say, I carried my own water - 2 bottles on each side of my pack. But the best stops were when Girlfriend, Susan, and Angela brought out the beef sticks, cheese, or peanut butter. I sometimes had to remind them that I had worked harder than them and I deserved a treat. Girlfriend remembered better than Susan, so I sat by her.
One of my favorite spots was the summit of Little Calf Mountain. It was a wonderful wide open space with so many sumptuous smells. Susan even let go of the leash for awhile and I wandered a bit. I enjoyed that so much that when we got back on the trail I jerked the leash right out of her hand to chase a critter that needed to be chased. I don't know why she had that frantic look on her face when I came back.
But my favorite day of all was the day we found Ivy Creek. We'd been climbing all those mountains, and here was this wonderful pool of water. I demanded Susan take off my pack and let me swim. She did.
Immediately after swimming here, I may have gone a bit crazy in my joy over the water, and I just may have slid down a rock into a pool where I needed a bit of help getting out. But that is a story for another day.
Traveling with your human tops everything else. You can go camping or hiking. You see and smell and taste new things. But there are a few things you need to teach your human so you both can have the best experience ever.
Yesterday we were at Salt Fork State Park in eastern Ohio. I took Susan for a 4 mile hike in the woods up and down and all around. Wonderful!
Today we came to our last stop before we get to Shenandoah Park. There is a famous trail here that runs through the campground. It's called the Allegheny Passage. I took Susan for a walk on it. And then she let me go in the Youghiogheny River. Pronounce that one if you can!
Hiking at Salt Fork State Park.
I'm worn out from hiking. Gary???
Lake at Salt Fork.
When Susan first brought me home, I trusted no one. If Strangers came to the house, I hid. But some of those Strangers came again and again. And brought deer sticks. And had a wonderful way of scratching my ears.
So I began to make friends. Slowly and cautiously because you never know where a Scary Man might be lurking.
Then, one Friend started hiking with Susan and me. Yipee! When we were with her, we went on longer and better hikes to lakes where I could swim, and forests where they let me run off leash. I call her Girlfriend, but Susan calls her Leigh. And she is going to Virginia with us to hike the Appalachian Trail.
She has long legs and can walk faster than Susan. And she always shares her treats with me. She is a True Friend.
If Susan doesn't shape up soon, I may go home with Girlfriend.
Oh, how I love to go for a walk! Many of you know that I plan to take Susan to Virginia and hike the section of the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park. So we are doing lots of what she calls training. I call it glorious.
My favorite way to walk is off leash. Susan doesn't allow this very often, I'm not sure why. So we usually compromise and she takes me on the retractable leash. This allows me enough freedom that I can do lots of sniffing, maybe a quick roll before she pulls me up short, and even a tiny bite of something forbidden. (I really do not understand humans' objection to goose poop.)
But sometimes, Susan tells me to "walk behind." I do not like to do this. She doesn't move fast enough, she doesn't stop to sniff, and she never rolls in the grass. A few weeks ago we were hiking some mountain bike trails, and she would allow me to lead and pull her up the hill, but then at the top, just when I could really get out and move, she would give me the dreaded "go behind."
What's up with that?
So, now I am working to teach her to walk on a leash. I always lead, I set the pace, we stop where I want to stop, and we go where I want to go. Remember, I have my PhD. (Professional human-training dog.)
This is something you need to learn early and practice often. When I first moved in with Gary and Susan, I was given dog food. As you know, ordinary dog food is hard, dry and tastes like cardboard. The humans had plates and bowls and an entire refrigerator filled with Real Food. I had to put them through rigorous training before they learned to give me Real Food.
While they are eating the Real Food is the best time for training. First, you must master The Look. Your eyes must remain on your human (or possibly the Real Food in their hand.) Use your eyebrows to make your look as sad as possible. Here is my patented look that I give my humans.
If The Look doesn’t accomplish your purpose, a paw on the knee can alert them to your request. Be careful. Too heavy a paw and it may scratch them and your whole training routine backfires.
Next use your voice. I suggest a subtle whine, a muffled bark, or I have even been known to use a sneeze to get attention on me and my need for Real Food. Again, be careful. Too loud of a bark and you may be put Outside, or horrors, into The Kennel.
As a last resort, you can pray. This is my praying position. Perhaps, praying should be used first.
When you are offered a delightful morsel, remember to take it politely. Humans never do seem to understand when you accidentally bite them. They are rather unforgiving, in my opinion.
If Real Food is seldom given, you may need to help yourself. Look for Real Food on the counter, on the table, or on a plate left unattended. Of course, there is always tasty Real Food in the refrigerator, but I am still working on learning to open that door. I can, however, open zippered backpacks to extract beef sticks, plastic bags to find crackers, and even a 5 pound bag of flour inside a grocery sack in the back of the car. I wouldn’t recommend flour. It’s rather tasteless and oh boy, the dry mouth that follows!
I have my PhD (Professional human-training Dog) in obtaining treats.
Susan calls me a Laborgi and says I am a rare Italian breed. I may be a rare breed, but I don’t think it’s Italian. My mother was a Labrador retriever. My father was a traveling salesman with short legs and a fluffy tail (probably Corgi, perhaps part border collie). I was born under the porch of a farmhouse and shared my home with thirteen other puppies and two mother dogs.
At first, life was good. The people who lived in the house above didn’t bother us (or care for us), my mom fed me, and I had lots of playmates. But after we were weaned, we got hungry. I learned to catch mice and eat all kinds of things Susan won’t let me eat now. Even with these tidbits, our stomachs were never full. So, the moms and puppies traveled down the road to the neighbor’s house and helped themselves to chicken dinners. I’m particularly fond of wings – no hot sauce, please.
For some reason, the farmer who owned the chickens, became angry and used his shotgun to kill some of my brothers and sisters. Loud noises and tall men still frighten me.
After that, the people in the house called an animal rescue, Second Chance. They came to get the puppies. What a day! The momma dogs were barking, people were running and shouting. I am faster than a speeding bullet, or maybe a chubby person with a net, and I escaped capture the first day. The next day, the rescue people came back, and I was caught. I learned a little about people from a kind foster family.
Then Susan came to the shelter. I could tell as soon as I saw her, this woman needed help. So, I crawled into her lap and she took me home. I’ve spent the last five years trying to train Susan and her husband Gary. They are mighty slow learners. But they open the pantry door and feed me my dog food on a regular basis, they know where the treat container sits, and they give me Meaty Bones when I remind them, so I put up with their disabilities.
Now, I have undertaken the responsibility for teaching the rest of the world how to train your humans. This is a big job for a short-legged dog, but I am smarter than the average canine.