Lure Coursing – Trying a new dog sport

Despite the vague instructions on the club’s website, my mom and I took Shizuka out to Bennett’s Creek Park in Suffolk, Va. early this morning to try our paws at lure coursing. A few weeks ago I stumbled on to the Sight Hound Organization of Tidewater’s (SHOT) website while looking for information about activities Basenji like to do (I’m still convinced this is part of Shizuka’s mix). The club meets on the last Sunday of every month at Bennett’s Creek park and, if you’re a newcomer, the first run is free. Though I had serious doubts that the area was fenced in and that I’d actually feel comfortable letting my tiny hunter loose on her own, we went anyway to give it a go.

Eager not to miss any information (there was none- don’t hold your breath), we arrived at 8:30 for a 9:00 meeting time. Hardly anyone was in the park, except for a group setting up for some kind of party. We wandered around for a bit, and eventually saw some people with dogs in their cars. Naturally, we followed and 4 other cars convened in a parking lot down the way. Everyone was a newcomer though, and with no sign of an actual setup, we were all a bit worried. Funny thing- I wanted to go to a sight hound organization to see if Shizuka fit in, but not a dog in that parking lot was an actual sight hound. Around 9:15, a trailer rolled up on the far side of the park and just sat there for a while. The five cars in the parking lot (ours included) wandered over to the trailer, which turned out to be the SHOT equipment.

First off, it turns out that SHOT is one of the only organizations of its kind for quite some distance. Around 9:45, sight hounds started to pull up in cars with license plates from North Carolina. A passel of Whippets, a Saluki, a woman with 5 adorable Basenji in tow. Closer to 11, an enormous Rhodesian Ridegeback arrived and did a beautiful run. The Virginia participants came from as far as the other side of Richmond. I guess it just takes them a while to arrive. Note to self: if we go again, don’t show up until 10.

We unloaded a wagon from the trailer with a set of pulleys that get nailed into the ground at various spots. Apart from the woman driving the trailer, the sight hound club members didn’t arrive until 10:00, so that’s when setup began. Needless to say, by 10 am on a late July morning, it was hot. Shizuka was bored. No one seemed to know what was going on. That aside, another newcomer and I helped a man wheel around a little red wagon and create a giant figure eight out of pulleys and string that spanned at least the length of a football field. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I sort of thought it would be a little more contained. It’s not. It’s pulleys with string in a field sheltered on one side by woods, one side by a parking lot (backed by Bennett’s Creek), one side with houses and the other side with the one road that leads into the park. My dog is not the best when it comes to recall, so I was starting to reconsider letting her run at all…

If you’re expecting an actual meeting with an introduction that lets newcomers know what the rules are, the etiquette, what membership entails, or what the point of the sport is, you should probably look it up on the internet before you come (I didn’t). With the lure set up and a test run complete, a sign up sheet is put out on the small table behind the ladder that allows the person operating the lure to see the entire course. With the whirr of the generator in the background, don’t expect that you’ll hear your name called. Go up and keep track.

A few experienced sight hounds made a go of the course, and it was totally worth the two hour wait. A few newcomers were non-starters. Their dogs chased for a few yards and lost interest. I don’t know that there’s any mentoring or teaching that goes on. Your dog does it or doesn’t. Luckily, though I was worried she’d get bored in the middle and run away, or poop, Shizuka took to the sport like a Lab to water. She dashed the length of the figure 8–soooo far into the distance– completely focused on the little white bags whipping by. Just in case, I even had my mom park the car on the opposite side of the field in the event that Shizuka dashed off for the creek. No need though. She came all the way back, grabbed the bag and killed it, and then joyously returned to her leash. Holy cow- one of the proudest moments of my doggy-companionship life! I can’t believe she did it! It was beautiful- seriously. I only ran her once. Partly this was because she didn’t run as fast as I knew she could, and I think that was due to her being extremely hot, and partly because I wanted to end on a high note.

I don’t want to speak too soon, but I may have found a sport for Shizuka! Membership fees are very reasonable at just $25 a year, so I think I’ll sign up and take her when it gets a little cooler. Next time I’ll be there at 10. Now for Dock Dogs Orientation next weekend…


Calling in sick today

Seems like everyone’s coming down with a bit of something or other in this house. Yuuki’s been having allergy flare-ups to the point of nearly chewing through his paws. He’s been sentenced to little foot wraps laced with bitter apple at night to keep him from messing with them. Once they’re on, he boycotts our affection– he’s a grudge-holder.

Yuuki wearing his anti-chew tape

And Sir Ouch-a-lot’s foot is on the mend, but not as quickly as his doctor would like. We’re going to wait two weeks for the next check-up, and hopefully the toe will be on track to heal normally. In the meantime, here’s the cutest picture ever that his vet had on file.

Sir Ouch-a-lot at the vet’s office being put under to have a full examination (without the puffing tantrum)

Yuuki bit me! (and other housesitting drama)

Thomas with our pack and Sisi

Not the first time…not the last…Yuuki sank his little gila monster teeth into my hand. As usual (except for one time when I stuck my hand in his kennel and tried to pull him out- I earned that bite), my hand interfered with his intended target: this time, a dopey lab who was overly curious up in his face. We’re house/dog sitting and the resident dog, Sisi, is your typical old lab. She’s set in her routine (potty breaks at 7 am and 4 pm; daily rawhide between 6-7), relatively unconcerned with the world around her and always looking for a good snuggle. Actually, we’ll be lucky if Thomas doesn’t steal her at the end of this- he’s gotten quite attached!

So, Yuuki was perched on my lap in his usual place, cone encircling his tiny head in an attempt to keep him from chewing the allergies out of his paws, when Sisi moseyed up to sniff his face. Yuuki growled a confident, “Get out of my face, old lady!” But, not speaking much “dog,” Sisi ventured closer until her muzzle was nearly entering the cone. I stuck my hand out to push her head away when my little hero launched his attack. Honestly, it hurts my soul more than my hand. That my doggy-soulmate tore two little vampire nicks into my hand reminds me that he’s still a little demon- still an angel in progress. We made up a little while later. He had no idea he’d bitten me. Better my hand than Sisi’s face, I guess. Yuuki and I can make up, but his actual intended targets (throughout his time with us, in particular the 60 lb pit bull foster he bit me for twice) may not have been so forgiving.

The big dogs enjoying the sun

On the up-side, Yuuki and the rest of the pack have taken well to housesitting. Shizuka’s got a new yard to patrol with animals that haven’t yet heard of her prowess for murder. (If you think that’s harsh, please consult the two opossums she ravaged in our yard earlier this year- one walked off without a lower jaw– serious stuff!) Plus, Yuuki now has three flights of stairs in the comfort of central air to climb every day as a workout. It doesn’t seem like much, but each stair is taller than he is, so it’s a significant jump for a tiny little lump like him. For each little leap, you can hear him puff out a little breath- a little umph to help him along. I’ll be totally honest though, he only goes up the stairs because going down’s a little dangerous for his tiny self. He can do it, but it takes a long time and I’m a little afraid he’ll hurt his back. So…he harumphs his way up and I tote him back down again. I’m sure up is what requires the most energy anyway, right?? I can’t wait to see if it’ll help him shed a few extra pounds in the next few weeks! If only the weather would cool a little and we could combine that with some hiking…

Heat Wave

The heat wave continues with temperatures over 100 degrees well into the acceptable dog-walking hours. Since Yuuki’s not supposed to be out in anything over 85- cardiologist’s orders- we’re house-bound. It’s a terrible condition to find ourselves in if we’re going to meet his weight-loss goals! We’ve taken to playing “find-it” with some soccer cones in the house which our man-human, Thomas, has been kind enough to video and post to YouTube. I’m using Zuke’s chicken mini naturals which, according to the company website, have about 3 calories per piece- he searches for them 1/4 at a time. They’re nice because I can break them up, though I hesitate to use “chewy” soft treats because he’s supposed to avoid salt. It’s not as much exercise as he should be getting, but it’s better than laying around all day! Any ideas for other indoor games? Yuuki’s working on learning to “weave” between the soccer cones, but at the moment, he gets a bit frustrated. More to follow on that fun later. Most recent weigh-in at the vet: 10.5 lbs– we’re down a little…

Sir Ouch and the Sore Toe

Sir Ouch-a-lot running so fast the camera can’t get him

It’s hard for a tiny hedge-pig to tell his humans that his toe is hurt. In particular, Sir Ouch-a-lot is the toughest little hedgie that you’ll ever meet, so he can trooper-on when his toe has swollen to twice its size because he’s tough- but, also because he’s so fast we hardly ever see his tiny little feet whizzz by. The fact that we missed his boo-boo until his bath two days ago is based partly on the commitment I made when Sir Ouch entered our lives.

He was kept as a teenager’s tortured pet at the start of his life, and then relegated to the cold garage when the boy no longer found him interesting. He existed entirely off dried meal worms in a cage not big enough to comfortably house a finch. When I offered to take Sir Ouch from their hands (I don’t even think he had a name other than “hedgehog” before us!), I promised him that since he didn’t like to be held, I wouldn’t take him out and try to make him cuddle. I would give him a big cage and let him live out the rest of his years in peace. I would love to give him free time to run around in a safe room, but my hunter-dog, Shizuka, has twice proven that isn’t a viable play alternative. Probably a boring life for a hedgehog, but he doesn’t much like to be out of his cage- when he is out, he just curls up and goes to sleep. We talk to him and he comes to the bars to wiggle his little piggy nose, but in general, I don’t handle him unless its to (tooth)brush some poop off his quills or clean his cage.

I noticed the foot during his last bath, and we immediately made an appointment with the vet to have it looked at. Hedgies have sensitive, vulnerable little toes. Onward with a regimen of twice daily antibiotics and weird foot creme. We’ll see how it goes! On the up-side, he has no idea he’s been injured so he’s continued to run around all night. Also, despite all the dreams I had about animal control coming to get me in the middle of the night for allowing my hedge-pig’s toe to get all red and swollen, the vet acted like this type of injury is totally normal. The hedgehog will now be subject to daily body inspections to ensure no one will have to witness me crying over my hedgie’s toe ever again. Maybe I should’ve considered the karmic implications of naming him “Sir Ouch-a-lot” when I got him– I was just trying to be funny, not usher in a future of casualties!