Friday, November 30, 2012

The Dog Park Police

I had to go into the office an hour early yesterday, so I was able to leave an hour earlier than usual and take Margot to the dog park while it was still sunny outside.  Yay!  The poor little thing was feeling rather pent up from not being able to go to the dog park for two whole days.  I decided we would walk to the dog park rather than drive because I’m trying to burn some calories these days.  I took the long way around the perimeter of Ritter Park, which is a route Margot isn’t familiar with, so she mostly kept her head down, sniffing at the ground as we walked.  As soon as we started up the hill beside the tennis courts, though, which Margot has walked several times on our way up to the dog park, it was obvious that she knew were we were headed.  She would actually turn around and look at me periodically with this funny little open-mouth smile that she does when she gets really excited, as if to say, “Do you mean it?  Are we really going to the dog park?!?”  She even picked up her pace and started letting out excited little yelps as soon as the dog park came into view.  I couldn’t help but grin.  I just love how much she loves that place.

As much as Margot and I love going to the dog park, though, I’d like to take a minute to vent about a trend that I’ve been noticing lately that bothers me.  It seems that some dog owners have been taking it upon themselves to act as the Dog Park Police whenever they come to the dog park, and it isn’t just one certain dog owner who always acts like an expert on dog behavior and training, either (although, I will admit that Dog Park Police is the nickname I have given one particular dog park patron).   I have witnessed a few incidents when certain owners have scolded or physically handled other people’s dogs or had words with other dog owners about their dog’s behavior.   

Now, in the Dog Park Police’s defense, I will say that there are some people who bring their poorly behaved and/or aggressive dogs into the dog park who do not always step in to control their dog’s behavior when necessary, and I believe that those people deserve to be scolded, especially if their dog hurts another dog or person.   I don’t have a problem with that.  What bothers me is when the Dog Park Police monitor all of the dogs, including the dogs that aren’t theirs, make comments about how each dog is behaving, and then take it upon themselves to step in whenever they feel that “a problem” MIGHT be developing, or if they simply do not like a certain dog’s behavior. 

Here is a prime example for you:  A few weeks ago, Justin and I were at the dog park, sitting at the top of the hill.  A couple was sitting on the bench close to us, watching their Australian Sheppard mix play with a group of dogs at the bottom of the hill.   A couple of Dog Park Policemen were also standing at the bottom of the hill watching the dogs play.  The Aussie mix was barking a lot at a Great Dane, to the point that her owners started calling her name from the top of the hill and telling her to settle down.   Mind you, the dog wasn’t being aggressive in any way;  she was merely barking and running around the Great Dane.  After a few minutes, we heard the Dog Park Police call this couple’s Aussie mix by name, telling her to calm down. 

When the dog continued to bark, one of the policemen actually took this couple’s dog by the collar and started walking her up the hill toward her owners, saying something like, “Your dog seems to be having some trouble.”   

The owners, who were obviously offended, replied, “Could you please let go of our dog?”

From the bottom of the hill, one of the other policemen yelled, “She’s giving the Great Dane some trouble,” and the policeman who had taken the Aussie mix by the collar added, “She keeps barking in my ear.”   (Note:  the Great Dane did not even belong to these policemen.)

The male owner of the Aussie mix replied, “She’s a herding breed.  She thinks the Great Dane is a horse.  She’s doing what she’s supposed to do.”

At that point, the one policeman let go of the Aussie’s collar and re-joined her fellow policeman at the bottom of the hill, but a minute later her partner yelled up to the owners, “It’s not the barking that concerned us.  It was the growling.” 

The female owner then repeated, “She’s a herding dog.  She is not aggressive.” 

The whole incident was, of course, witnessed by everyone else who happened to be at the dog park that day, and the tension became palpable after that exchange.   You could hear the other dog owners whispering about whom they felt was “right” in the situation, and the offended owners of the Aussie mix even made sarcastic comments about their dog’s “aggressive behavior” the rest of the time they were there.  It was just extremely uncomfortable and ruined what could have been a very pleasant afternoon watching Margot play with her dog park buddies. 

Another example:  Just this week, I watched as an aggressive dog made it difficult for one owner and her dog to even enter the gate of the dog park, and then proceeded to harass several other dogs by growling, humping, and barking.  The owner of the aggressive dog did nothing to control her dog’s behavior, but finally decided to leave when it became clear that the other dog owners were getting upset.   She put her dog on his leash, left the fenced-in dog park, and was walking down the street towards home when one of the offended owners decided to yell after her, “Way to watch your dog!  Yeah, that’s some great dog handling there!” 

Now, as I mentioned above, I have no problem with someone scolding another dog owner for not controlling their dog’s aggressive behavior.   The problem I had in this particular situation was the fact that this guy chose to wait until the owner of the aggressive dog was practically out of earshot before passive-aggressively yelling at her.  It was extremely immature and, once again, made everyone a little uncomfortable.   

Those are just a couple of several examples I could give, but I think you get the picture.  It’s just such a same that certain dog owners have managed to ruin what could be fun dog park experiences for me and possibly others.   Now, even if the owners aren’t fighting with each other, I’m still uncomfortable listening to the Dog Park Police analyze everyone else’s dogs’ behavior, as if they think they’re Cesar Milan. 

“Oh, that wasn’t an ‘I’m playing’ growl; that was an ‘I mean business’ growl.  We should probably take the stick away from that dog before he causes trouble.” 

Yesterday, the Dog Park Police decided that Margot was starting to upset a smaller dog she had been playing with because they felt she was playing a little too rough with the smaller dog.  Even though the smaller dog never showed any indication of becoming upset with Margot, and the dog’s actual owner had assured me that Margot was not playing too rough when I asked her earlier if it was okay, I decided to just bite my tongue and move Margot to another area anyway, mostly to get her away from the Dog Park Police.   Thankfully, they never really say too much about Margot’s behavior, or else I would probably turn into one of those crazy, screaming, offended dog park owners, too.   In a heartbeat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vote for Suvi! (Plus, an Overdue Update)

I apologize for neglecting to post any updates about Margot lately, but I have been insanely super busy over the last month or so.  On top of my regular busy schedule with trying to juggle a full-time job and also manage my photography business, I’ve recently made a pretty big decision in terms of my photography business in general, which requires a LOT of planning and preparation.  Not only am I currently redesigning my photography website from scratch, but I’m also trying to get a ton of other things ready in time for the big Bridal Expo, which is taking place at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, WV on January 27, 2012. 

Vote for Suvi!
Before I give you an update about Margot, however, I’d actually like to ask a favor.  If you followed by previous blog about Lexie last summer, you may recall that her second eye surgery was almost completely paid for by the generous donations that we received through my blog and also through a blog that Chad Dressen so kindly posted on his own famous dogs’ website,   Chad’s adorable Doberman and Chihuahua, Ramsey and Pablo, have drawn a nationwide following over the years, and recently a beautiful Pit Bull, named Suvi, joined their little family via Chad’s girlfriend, Brandy.  Suvi is currently in the running to become a Pit Bull Super Hero Breed Ambassador and help the Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue, but she needs your help!  Voting is taking place on the American Dog Magazine’s Facebook page until November 30, so please click here and vote for Suvi!  She, Chad, Brandy, Ramsey and Pablo are already super heroes in my book, so helping Suvi become an ambassador for her breed is the very least I can do for them.  Again, please spread the word and vote for Suvi as often as possible!

Ava and Margot on Thanksgiving
As for Miss Margot, she is getting so big!  I’m not sure how much she weighs right now, but she’s about as tall as Sam, and her crate is looking smaller and smaller.  She’s such a good girl, too.  On Thanksgiving, we took her to Justin’s parents’ house where they were hosting a small family gathering.   Justin’s second cousin, Ava, who is only 19 months-old, was fascinated by Margot.  After watching her for a while, Ava decided that she wanted to pet Margot.  I’ve seen Margot interact with children at the dog park, and she’s always been great with them, but Ava was much smaller than any other child that Margot has ever encountered.  So, I will admit I was a tad nervous at first, simply because I didn’t know if Margot would become too excited and accidentally knock Ava down by trying to smother her with kisses or something; however, Margot couldn’t have been better behaved.  She did surprise Ava with a kiss on the face once or twice, which sent Ava running back to her father’s lap for safety, but after a minute or two, Ava wanted to go pet the doggy again. 

Granted, Margot ignored Ava for the most part because she was so distracted by all the wonderful Thanksgiving food, but Margot was even a good girl in terms of begging.  She didn’t whine.  She didn’t paw at anyone.  She didn’t jump up onto anyone’s lap or even try to lay her head in anyone’s lap while they ate.  She would simply lie down at one corner of the table and watch everyone eat for a few minutes, and if no one offered her any scraps, she’d try her luck at another corner of the table. 

Margot is also still very well behaved whenever we take her to the dog park, which we are still trying to do as much as possible.  She absolutely LOVES to socialize with all of the different dogs and, of course, their owners.  I’m very proud of the way she manages to stay out of fights, too, as there are often little “spats” between some of the dogs.  Whenever trouble starts, though, Margot always high-tails it out of there!  Sometimes, if a fight starts happening in another area of the dog park, Margot will become curious and run towards the commotion, but she always stops as soon as she sees what’s going on and never tries to take part in it. 

The only time I really have to keep an eye on Margot is when an owner brings a smaller dog into the big dog area because Margot tends to obsess over little dogs.  She’s very curious about them and wants to sniff them incessantly.  Sometimes, this worries the little dog owners, so I will try to step in and redirect Margot’s attention towards a stick or something else.   There have also been times when a little dog that Margot is interested in will actually try to play with her a little bit, and despite Margot’s best efforts to play more gently with the little dog, sometimes she just can’t reel in her excitement enough, and so I’ll have to step in again.  Thankfully, it isn’t difficult to redirect Margot’s attention, which I can tell the little dog owners appreciate. 
Big girl teeth!
For the most part, Margot will spend several minutes socializing with as many dogs as possible, but inevitably she will always end up with one or two BFF’s, whom she will wrestle and play with until it’s time to go home.   She’s made BFF’s with all shapes and sizes, too, from a giant Mastiff/Labrador mix to a little Bassett Hound.  As long as they’re willing to wrestle with her, all dogs are friend-worthy in Margot’s book.

The one thing that Justin and I would both really like to see improve is Margot’s willingness to come when she is called.  I’m actually disappointed in myself for not keeping up with her obedience training very well, but the reason I’ve slacked off with her training at home is because I still fully intend to sign her up for some professional obedience classes after she gets spayed, which will hopefully be during Christmas break next month.  (I’m still waiting to hear back from the vet about how much the medications will cost to treat her for Von Willebrand disease both before and during the surgery.) 

After-bath swaddle.
All in all, Justin and I really couldn’t be more proud of our little Margot.  She’s such a joy to have around.  My favorite moments are when she’s sitting on the couch, lying half-way in my lap, and just calmly watching TV with me.   (We refer to this as her “zen puppy” state.)  It’s so funny to watch her actually watching television.  She’ll stare at the TV for a while, yawn, look at me with those soulful, almond-shaped eyes, give me a quick kiss on the face, and then turn her head and go right back to watching TV.   It cracks me up. 

Sam is Margot's favorite pillow.
I also LOVE finding Margot and Sam all snuggled up together on the sofa.  It’s so sweet the way Sam has finally adopted Margot, the same way she eventually adopted Lexie when she was a puppy.  It seems like only yesterday that we were actually considering letting Sam move in with Justin’s parents because she was so annoyed by Margot, and now Sam will let Margot do just about anything to her that she wants.  If Margot wants to wrestle, Sam wrestles.  If Margot wants to play tug, Sam will play tug with her.  If Margot wants to nap, Sam will patiently lie still while Margot climbs all over her until she’s found a comfortable position (usually right on top of her).  Sam has even been known to leave food in her bowl during the day and wait until Margot has been let out of her crate so that they can eat together.  

They’re both such sweethearts.  I’ve definitely been blessed with some of the best dogs anyone could have ever asked for, including Lexie and Jocie, whom I miss very much and still think about every single day.  Hug your puppies tight, folks.  :)

I am a human mattress.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stop! Cuddle Time!!!

I jokingly refer to this as mine and Margot's MySpace pic.
I have no problem admitting that I love that Margot is a Mama’s girl.  I especially love the fact that she always kind of has to be wherever I am, even if she’s not giving me 100% of her attention.  Like, when I’m sitting on the living room floor in front of the fireplace (aka “my spot”) and she’s romping around the living room, playing with her toys, eventually she always gravitates over to where I’m sitting and ends up playing with that toy on my legs or in my lap.  I especially love it when she tries to climb into my lap after she gets tired of playing, like she used to when she was tiny.  She’s too big to fully fit in my lap anymore, but she still tries her best by curling up into a tight, little ball.  If she can’t get comfortable, she’ll settle for lying on the floor beside me and resting her head in my lap, even if the nice, big, soft couch behind me is completely empty. 
She always ends up in Mama's lap.  :)

Margot has also recently started “helping” me with housework.  She’ll follow me from room to room as I straighten up, and she especially loves to help “pre-wash” the dishes by licking the pots, pans, and plates that are within her reach as I’m loading the dishwasher.   It’s all very, very helpful, and I’m constantly thanking Miss Margot and telling her that I’m not sure how I’d ever get the housework done without her.  ;)

As much as Margot seems to prefer being by my side more than anyone else, she’s still very much a Daddy’s girl, as well.  In fact, when it comes to giving kisses, Justin is definitely her favorite person in the whole wide world.  Most people, including myself, can only take so many of Margot’s kisses before we have to push her away, but Justin loves receiving her kisses as much as she loves giving them, which absolutely makes her day.  As soon as she jumps onto the couch and starts licking his cheek, Justin says, “Kisses?!?!  Thank you, Margot!”  Hearing this positive feedback always gets her very excited, and her little nubble (aka her docked tail) starts wiggling back and forth as she continues licking him all over his face.  Without fail, Margot’s excitement and bombardment of kisses always sends Justin into a giggle fit, which only excites Margot more.   I have to say, it’s pretty stinkin’ adorable. 

Cuddle pile with Justin and Sam
Justin is also Margot’s go-to person whenever she’s really cold and needs major cuddles in order to get warmed up.   Whenever she gets a bath, as soon as I’m finished towel-drying her and she’s released from the bathroom, she always lets Justin wrap her in a towel and a blanket, and then he holds her until she eventually stops shivering and usually falls asleep in his arms.  Also, if it’s not very cold in the morning when I let Margot out to use the bathroom, she’ll usually come back inside and immediately start playing with Sam.  However, if it’s an extremely cold, frosty morning, as soon as I let Margot back inside she makes a beeline up the stairs and jumps into the bed with Justin so that he’ll cuddle her under the blankets.  That pup does NOT like to be cold!  (Most Dobes don’t.)

Speaking of Sam, she and Margot are continuing to get along extremely well.  They basically just play, cuddle, eat, and sleep together.  I still cannot get over how much Sam plays now.  It cracks me up sometimes because Sam almost looks like she’s annoyed with Margot and wants her to stop bugging her, but as soon as Margot stops, Sam gets her started again.  I also have to laugh every time Sam puts Margot’s whole head inside her mouth, and Margot just lets her!  I have no idea what that’s all about, but they both seem to enjoy it, so whatever! 

Sam's method of shutting Margot up is quite effective.

Anyway, as far as developmental milestones go, the only thing I really have to report is that Margot is continuing to do well with housebreaking.  I think she’s starting to understand that Justin and I let her and Sam out on a pretty regular schedule (first thing in the morning, in the afternoon when Justin comes home for lunch, as soon as I get home from work in the evening, about an hour after dinner, and then one final time before bed).   If she needs to go in between any of those scheduled times, she’s been pretty good about making her needs known, either by giving us “the look” or even whining on occasion.  She’s had very few accidents in the house while we’re home, although we do still occasionally find a mess in her crate, which sucks.  However, I’m pretty sure that she does try to hold it for as long as she can because she doesn’t use the bathroom in her crate regularly.

21 wks-old!

I’m hoping to get Margot scheduled to be spayed during the week of Thanksgiving, but that all depends on whether or not I book a wedding this weekend (I have two consultations lined up today and tomorrow).   So, cross your fingers for me/us!