Pack Walk with Cesar Millan and Scooby Doo

At the Pack Walk start line before everyone else

Last night after work, we packed the Chihuahuas in the car- forgetting most of our stuff but remembering Yuuki’s meds and our toothbrushes- and made a late night trip through horrific traffic and torrential downpour. It was for a great reason though.

Event set up on the National Mall

Today was Cesar Millan’s Second Annual Family Pack Walk which took place in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall this year. Last year it was in California, and who knows where it will be next year. After some debate (I’m a little worn out from my recent international and regional travels) and important encouragement from my work-b.f.f., I decided I was just going to suck it up and make the drive. It was totally worth it. I would say that, in all honesty, I was a little disappointed with the post-walk event, but the chance to walk with Cesar with worth it. I know some people have their issues with him, but I don’t and I’m totally okay with that!

The twins are marveling over how big the Wolfhound was

We stayed with my friend, his mom and his twin girls. The dogs were not particularly happy with this arrangement, and Yuuki launched into demon-chihuahua mode at each of the girls at least once. Chilly is always nice enough to make up for Yuuki’s bad behavior.

We got up early and drove into the heart of D.C. to find parking and make our way to the National Mall. There were more dogs there than I’ve ever seen in one place in my life. As my friends all know, Chesapeake’s Bark in the Park (happening next week) is my favorite dog festival of the year, but this one certainly had that one topped in dog size and variety. It was like a parade of all the breeds you only see on Dogs 101. How often do you find yourself pressed against someone with two Irish Wolfhounds? A full parade of Mastiffs in all assortments. A passel of greyhounds. Chihuahuas in all shapes and sizes. It was worth it just to see the parade of dogs!

Yuuki’s sporting his new Scooby Doo bandana

Because we got there so early, we had some time to waste and wandered around a bit. We got free t-shirts, the chihuahuas got bandanas and we got a ton of free poop bags. I got a little bit of judgement (only whispers and looks, no actual comments) because I was carrying Yuuki around in his pouch. My mom made this bag that he rides in– originally because he occasionally tweaks his

Yuuki in his pouch

back and can’t walk, now because his heart condition has dramatically reduced his walking stamina– and it makes me look like one of those people that carries her dog in her purse. In my defense, he enjoys his pouch and he lets me know when he wants to get out and in again. Some media guy took a photo of me holding Chilly with one hand and Yuuki in his pouch. I wonder if that’ll go up somewhere…

It took a while to get started, so we visited with other dogs near the starting line. Cesar gave a little talk (Thomas got a video of it on his phone) and then…after about 40 minutes of waiting…this mob of dogs and people began to move! It was super fun. There’s something to be said about a good dog parade with mostly well-behaved dogs.

Mobs of people and dogs waiting at the start line for the walk

Cesar and Scooby doing the pre-Pack Walk pep talk

Pack Walk around the National Mall. Yuuki made it most of the way- though we dropped to the back with the other fat/old dogs…

After the Pack Walk, we wandered around, but if you were older than 5, there wasn’t much to see. I sort of expected something like Bark in the Park with vendors and people selling t-shirts and crafts. The vendors were mostly D.C.-based tourism institutions (like the National Children’s Museum opening this December) or the event sponsors (Purina, Vetericyn and Scooby Doo). The girls played with parachutes and made crafts and visited the Scooby Van, but other than that, there wasn’t much to see. We stayed a couple hours admiring the amazing breeds passing by and then headed back through horrific traffic (I don’t get it– why is I-95 full of traffic for no reason on a Saturday afternoon??).

The Chihuahuas are passed out now, and it turns out that Shizuka actually missed us! I left her behind because I figured she’d rather be hunting (and she hates the heat), but apparently she sulked for the 24 hours we were gone. Maybe we’re bonding after all!

It was totally worth it, and I always love a good Cesar event. And Yuuki got more exercise than he’s gotten in a long time thanks to the relatively cool weather. Can’t wait to get my doggy vendor fix next weekend at Bark in the Park though!

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Ten down, nine to go!

I know, I know. Two posts in one day is too many. After a long absence though, and the fact that the last post was technically a re-post from my international travels, plus the urge to write about this because it’s a story I love so much, I’m going to post anyway!

The Operation Chihuahua Airlift has successfully resulted in 10 local adoptions of California toy breeds! Nine more, and Portsmouth Humane Society will have successfully saved 19 doomed toy dogs (mostly Chihuahuas) from one of California’s very Chi-inundated shelters. Hooray for saving Chihauhuas! I’m not spreading any new news here, but while shelters on the east coast are packed to the brim with Pitties and Pit-mixes, CA is bursting at the seams with toy breeds. According to a local news story, the Humane Society in Pasadena put out a call for help because they couldn’t handle the flow of Chihuahuas coming through their doors. PHS rose the challenge, and less that 24 hours after adoptions have opened (at noon yesterday), over half are already on their way to forever homes! Puppies and seniors and muts and pure breeds. It’s a little dog mania!! Adoption stories don’t get any better than this.

In March of last year, the ASPCA in NYC did a similar chihuahua airlift project (not their first) and there was a line waiting around the building to adopt the little ones. Last November, “Operation Air Chihuahua” saw 30 toy dogs rehomed in Houston from Los Angeles. I remember reading a while ago that even actress Katherine Heigl got involved, sponsoring 25 toy dogs to fly across the country to areas where they were in higher demand.

It’s an incredible exercise in supply and demand as fundraising efforts and generous donations from airline partners attempt to rescue these tiny companions from an untimely end. A Santa Cruz newspaper recently noted that thousands of toy breeds are being euthanized each day in CA due to overcrowding in shelters. I heard- though I think it was a blip on a reality tv show, so no factchecking here- that some CA shelters can’t keep these little guys more than 3 days because they’re so full. They’ve had to retro-fit cages to keep them from escaping the big-dog kennels where they can be kept in small packs (rather than the tiny mouse-box that I got Yuuki from).

Anyway, enough of the sadness out in CA (which we experience here with our masses and masses of Pitties waiting for adoption), I’m so proud of PHS for all they’ve done to get these toy dogs shipped across the country and rehomed so fast! They’ve got a great marketing guru over there and an amazing volunteer staff. Oh, and as a side note, while looking at their site for more information about the chihuahuas (because I’m obsessed with their little faces!!–for a full photo tour, see their Facebook page), I noticed they host birthday parties at their newly rennovated (and long awaited/deserved) shelter. Do you think I’m too old??

Leashes Optional: Adventures in Taipei

I’m reposting this from my travel blog to keep all my pet-related stuff together. Think of it as saving it for posterity.

I’ve noticed that dogs are an integral part of Taiwanese life. Ever since my travels to Rwanda where dogs are not a common household companion, I am really conscious of how people interact with their pets and what exactly constitutes a pet.

Excuse me miss, is that a dog in your tote bag?

Shizuka, what are you doing here?!

That’s not to say that some people don’t use leashes, it’s just that most people don’t and their dogs wander around with them without incident. With so many Americans struggling with their dogs on leashes, I can’t help but wonder what’s different here. If anything, you’d think the bustle of motor vehicles would motivate people to use leashes. I almost got hit by a moped today, and I can understand (sort of) traffic patterns! I wonder why that Chihuahua is sitting on a stool with a sign all in Chinese except for the word “money.”

So, the very well cared for dogs lounge about adorned with decorative collars and without a fear of strangers. Do you think maybe all the dogs who are not good off-leash dogs have just run away? Maybe you would just cut your losses and move one until you found a dog that didn’t require a leash?

I’m sorry, is that a dog in your shopping basket??

Yesterday, I was sitting on a bench at the university- which is very modern and very clean- and a dog loped by. No collar. Very dingo-like. “Ah!” I thought, “That’s what would happen to my big dog if we lived in a leashes-optional culture. She would’ve run off and joined a ferrel pack.” They looked like her and acted like her. I say “they” because shortly after the one went by, another that looked exactly like it wandered by. Obviously from the same litter. They look like the dog in the picture above, only with hound-dog (blue tick) markings. They don’t seem to bother anyone, or the pet-dogs that walk with their owners off leash around campus. The university does post signs not to feed them though. “Don’t feed the dogs or the pigeons.” At least that’s what I imagine it to say. Your guess is as good as mine. Minus those two urban dingos, all the dogs I see laying about the sidewalks and streets trusting the many passersby to not step on them, all the dogs seem well cared for, happy and healthy. It’s actually really refreshing what a natural, symbiotic relationship with their canine companions. Yet another reason I think I could live here…

A “Don’t feed the dogs” sign on a bench at the university

Cancer…

The final diagnosis on Sir Ouch-a-lot’s foot is that he has cancer. It’s pretty localized, so we have two options: amputation of the foot (with the hopes that it hasn’t yet spread to places we can’t see) or keep him medicated and comfortable until the end. Our wonderful vet, Dr. Silverstone, called his various exotics-speciality colleagues and what’s really standing in Sir Ouch’s way is his age. If he were 1, we’d amputate and assume he’d adjust. But he’s 5. For an animal with an average expected lifespan of 6, our vet and his colleagues all agree that at this point there’s a quality of life issue that makes the recommondation not so clear cut. He’s older, so it will probably take longer to heal if we amputate. He told me that while amputation may extend his life some, it extends it in hedgehog time, which may be the equivalent of several months in human time. Is it worth him not being able to run on his oh-so-favorite wheel for most of his remaining time? I’m leaning toward medication and comfort over amputation. I don’t think I could bear to take his leg and he never recovers to run on his wheel again. What to do, my prickly little friend…

Dock Dogs: To jump or not to jump

This morning, bright and early on a Saturday, Shizuka and I ventured off to Dock Dogs Orientation. Though I had a feeling she wouldn’t jump, we went anyway in order to devote ourselves to the challenge we made with friends over dinner one night. 365 days committed to just one dog sport (instead of our usually willy-nilly approach to dog sporting). An interesting array of dog breeds showed up: Rhodesian Ridgeback, English Bulldog, Fox Terrier (ish?), Pit Bull, Black Lab– and that mystery breed known as Shizuka. It was super hot and it looked like all the dogs wanted to be in the water. Here we go. Begin 3 hours of Intro to Getting Your Dog to Jump of a Dock Into Water as a Sport.

We were second in line. The Rhodesian Ridgeback before us almost took the plunge, but in the end, it was a struggle for them to get her to swim even from the ramp. Shizuka, on the other hand, waddled right in from the ramp and paddled around in her usual casual crocodile style. The Dock Dogs club had a trainer there who’s apparently known for getting stubborn dogs off the dock. Shizuka walked to the edge, looked down, yawned. We tried different toys…we tried squeaking toys. The President of the Club, standing chest-deep in the pool, irritatingly squeaked her toy right in front of her face over and over. Squeaky Squeaky SQUEAKY!!!! Shizuka looked away. Boring. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” he mutters. I explain that while she’s got a very high prey drive, she’s not got much of a play drive. Toys only occasionally interest her…but not predictably.

As we were collected around the end of the dock encouraging Shizuka to jump in, and she peered around us to see the other dogs playing in the yard, the trainer sat down and started with “I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I don’t see a dock dog here.” They were really nice about it as they explained that without toy drive, she’ll never jump and that most non-jumpers have a confidence problem and that’s why they will eventually take the plunge, but Shizuka has total confidence around the water, she just chooses not to jump. They offered to fit me in free of charge to another orientation in the event I ever find a toy that she loves (probably not going to happen). And they offered to let me stay and watch the others practice (which, for some reason, at that point sounded more like torture for both of us). The three-hour orientation began at 9:06 and we were back in the car, tears in my eyes, by 9:30.

Why am I so upset that we basically got kicked out of a dog sport orientation? Maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities. The ones that echo in my head that I could be a better dog-companion, or that I personally don’t like to be told that I can’t do things so I don’t want my dog to be told the same, or some other voice that haunts me. I know she doesn’t really care. And I know that nothing they said about her was incorrect or new information. It really stung though, and I’m just disappointed.

Driving around in tears (yes, for most people this is an overreaction), I rewind in my mind all the things we’ve crossed off the list of doggy activities. When she was a puppy, I wanted her to grow up to be a therapy dog- she does not have the personality for that. Obedience class- full of yawns and walking slowly towards me when the other dogs run at the sound of “come!” Rally– more yawns and a bit of irritation. Agility- and the instructor pondering that perhaps my dog has some sort of psychological disorder (she doesn’t, I’m sure, but she’s just not your typical dog- my fault, maybe?). Here we are at Dock Dogs. She loves water. Water is the only medium in which she will fetch something. I thought we were on our way. I keep reminding myself that she did well on her one run last week at Lure Coursing, but I have a feeling that once she realizes that she’ll never catch the bag, she’ll lose interest. I really wanted a dog that wanted to hang out with me and do fun things. I think of all those border collies locked up in the prison of suburban American that are on prozac because no one wants to play with them. And then there’s Shizuka who wants almost nothing to do with me and possess all of the physical and intellectual traits required to do any dog sport I could want to play- minus desire to please. I’m spiraling- this happens- when I look back and think about how I maybe picked out the wrong dog for me, as so many first time dog owners do…

So, here’s my conclusion. Shizuka is the dog for me. I don’t want a dumb dog, or an overly people-pleasing dog that won’t leave me alone–ever. My dog keeps the yard free of things that eat the precious fruits of my garden and things that might be dangerous for the chihuahuas. Shizuka and I do like the same things: gardening and hiking. Yes, most dogs like to hike, but Shizuka loves to hike because it’s mobile backyard hunting. She may seem bipolar to some trainers, but we can rock an indoor agility course like nobody’s business. Also, though she hates it, we can really rock an obedience class. Bring it. Patty was right when she started training us three years ago, Shizuka is a “neat” dog. She’s funny and super smart (this is why we suck at alot of things, I think)- she climbs trees and talks to me (and can communicate her desires). Like Cesar Milan says, you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. I guess that’s us. Without me, she probably wouldn’t have survived puppyhood. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work through my control-freak issues!

So, after the tears and judging of her and cursing my dog choice 5 years ago, I’ve resolved to push forward. I will watch and re-watch the borrowed Michael Ellis videos on top of my DVR and find a way to channel her prey drive into play drive. We may never compete, but we’ll keep going on the quest to pursue one sport for 365 days and see how it turns out in the end. Also, eventually I’ll probably give in and try dog sporting with Chilly because she does have the desire to please me- most of the time- and would make a great agility dog. To ten more months of Dock Dogs!

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)