Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Warm Weather Stress

Well, our weekend was both relaxing and stressful.  How is this possible?  Our air conditioner is currently broken and this weekend was particularly warm.  There was nothing we could do except lie still and keep the fans on full speed.  By the end of the weekend we were so hot we couldn't stand it any more and abandoned the house to seek shelter at my parents' house.  Luna, Mike and I were so happy to be in a cooler environment.

To beat the heat today, I took Luna to work with me so she could sit in a slightly air conditioned office.  My office mate, Kathy, occasionally brings her Siberian husky, Libby, to work.  Libby is a sled dog and show dog who is very well behaved.  Libby and Luna have met a few times before, but our schedules are always off so the dogs have never shared the office together.  We had a few territorial moments, but overall the dogs were fine.  Mostly the issues came from Libby feeling greedy about her cookies and Luna ignoring Libby's body language.  (Spoiled?)  After a short time, both dogs understood they had to lie next to our desks and stay there quietly.  To give Libby a break from the crowded office, Luna sat in two meetings with me and was very well behaved.  

Good dogs just hanging by their people.
Libby is happy to be inside.
Hopefully, our air conditioner will be fixed by the end of the week.  (Fingers crossed.)  Until then, it really is unsafe for Luna to stay at our house so she will have to either come to the office with me or stay at my parents' house.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thank Goodness for Three Day Weekends

Looking at the big picture, Mike and I can't really complain about much.  We are both working, living in a great neighborhood, and have a healthy dog.  This week has just been tough for all of us, but hopefully we can recover this Memorial weekend.  

Both Mike and I have been working long and crazy hours.  Mine have been the most outrageous this week.  Yesterday, I traveled an hour and a half to south Jersey for an all day meeting.  After the meeting, I traveled two and a half hours (thanks to heavy rainfall and traffic) north to my office to run a youth program in the evening.  I didn't leave the office until after 9:00pm.  Ugh.  On top of my long hours, my car was in the shop because something didn't feel right.  When I get that feeling it is usually for a good reason so I always take it in.  This time it was the tires so it's an easy fix.  In the mean time, I've been driving my brother's car which neither one of us is happy about.

In addition, the weather this week has been awful.  Last weekend was perfect with sunshine and cool temperatures.  This week we have had downpours, thunderstorms, drizzles, and intense fog.  This has limited Luna's outdoor time to the bare necessities.  If the thunderstorms aren't enough to shake you up, our neighbors are having their porch mended so there is a lot of construction noises and strangers walking by.

So poor Luna has spent her week inside, alone most of the day, listening to some scary noises.  No wonder she has been showing some signs of stress (stress yawns and pacing).  My hope is that this weekend will be beautiful and we can all relax with some time at the park.  Personally, I would love to take a nap in the sunshine.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sous Chef

I always joke that Luna likes to think she is helping in the kitchen.  She is very good at watching for anything that might fall on the floor or cleaning messy fingers.  However, her extra help can get a bit overwhelming at times.  When we are moving around the kitchen a lot, we ask her to go into her crate.  She is very good about staying in the crate when we are rushing around the kitchen which makes life easier for all of us.  We don't trip over her and she doesn't get a hot water bath.

As a reward, I usually give Luna a nice treat after I'm done in the kitchen.  We are a bit short on cookies lately (somebody needs to make a run to the pet store) so I brought out an even better prize.  She got a nearly empty jar of peanut butter!  Usually she licks the jar in her crate since can be messy, but I decided to see what she would do if it kept rolling away from her.  Here is a video of her solution.

Picnic Time for Greyhounds

Do you know "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" song?  If not, check out this video so we're on the same page.

This weekend was the spring Greyhound Friends of NJ picnic.  Tradition (started by my Mom) dictates that we must sing "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" song replacing all references of teddy bears with greyhounds.  It actually works pretty well, but it quickly becomes the only song you can sing all day.
There were way more tents set up.  I just couldn't get it all in one shot.
 It was the perfect day with plenty of sunshine and cool temperatures.  Mike, Luna and I went with our friends Brian, Michelle and their greyhound Renny.  You may remember Renny from the GFNJ Craft Show back in the fall.  To celebrate the picnic, Renny wore a hot dogs and cheeseburger collar.  Luna sported a fiery chili peppers bandanna.
Keeping a watch in both directions.
We checked out the vendors, admired the new dogs available for adoption, and ate plenty of good food.  Michelle and I tried to convince Brian and Mike that we should adopt a matching pair of greyhounds.  Both were white with some light brown spots.  They didn't buy into our idea. 
In line for Bobbin' for Biscuits contest.  Luna did ok, but she'll need to practice for the next picnic.

I offered a Greyhound Training 101 demonstration which was pretty well attended.  I talked about how to keep training fun, positive, and easy for greyhounds.  Luna demonstrated her sit, eye contact, and retrieval.  Because I was shouting, I couldn't keep talking for very long so I cut out teaching the fun tricks.  Oh well.  At least I'll have something to talk about at the fall picnic.

Relaxing in the shade.

Renny is too excited to rest.
 All too soon the picnic was over and it was time to pack up.  I wish we could have stayed all day.  Even though I'm sad that the picnic is over, I'm looking forward to our next greyhound adventure, Grapehounds Tour in NY.  Will any of you be there?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Out of the Box

Car ride!
Remember last summer when I left Luna alone for a couple of hours and she destroyed the bathroom?  Since then, Luna has stayed in her crate during any of our absences.  Over the year, she has figured out the routine and will willingly go into her crate when she sees me gather up my shoes and purse.  Since she has settled into our routine so well and she does not seem as nervous when we leave, Mike and I have been testing her staying out of the crate while we are out.  So far, everything has gone well.  This week, we took the tests to the next level by letting her stay a full work day out of the crate.  When we came home, we found a happy dog enjoying her pillow and peanut butter kong.  We will continue testing her to make sure there are no problems leaving her out of the crate, but we hope to take down the crate soon.  We'll keep her pillows and blankets in the kitchen, but it will be nice not to have so much of the kitchen taken up by the crate.

To reward Luna for her good behavior, Mike and I took her to the local dog park after dinner last night.  She was very happy to go for a car ride.  She did a little bit of running around, but I guess it was getting close to her bedtime because she was not as enthusiastic as I would have expected.  Here is a video of her running between Mike and me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Not Again!

I have been very cautious about letting Luna loose in dog parks because I don't want her to build up too much speed or forget that she needs to focus on her feet placement.  I have also been very worried about other dogs crashing in to her.  Some dogs are just too big or play too rough.  For these reasons, Luna and I have only been visiting the smaller (and less popular) dog park by our house.

However, yesterday Luna came to work with me and it was a beautiful day.  I decided we should take a break to visit the much larger (and much more popular) dog park by the office.  Luna was very comfortable at the park and actually interacted with a few dogs at different times.  A rottie mix was very interested in Luna and it looked like they wanted to play together.  Sadly, I had to be the bad guy and break up the would-be fun.  A rottweiler is just too big to play safely.

So, Luna and I went to a part of the field that the other dogs were not playing around.  We were enjoying a little bit of our typical playtime growling, chasing, and spinning.  I found a large mesh ball and decided to give it a toss for Luna to chase.  What I didn't see was the pit mix who also wanted the ball.  As Luna reached the ball the other dog crashed into her.  Luna let out a scream/yelp and I flashed back to our December accident.  Luckily, the other dog was half Luna's size and was not running fast enough to knock her over.  Luna was just scared by the incident which caused her to cry out.

Obviously, Luna was not interested in sticking around.  She quickly trotted away towards the exit (constantly looking over her shoulder).  I didn't want her to leave on such a negative note, so I encouraged her to come back to me which she did.  She then mingled with a few overweight labs before we left the park.

This experience has solidified my decision that Luna may not run at a dog park when other dogs are present.  I'm thankful that neither dog was injured, but it is obvious that I cannot trust Luna's safety to other park users.  It is also unlikely that we will visit this particular park again since it is so popular.  I would prefer to stay at our smaller park where we can play safely.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Play Time!

Over the past few weeks, Luna has been developing her sense of play.  As part of her rehab, I've been taking Luna to a small fenced in area for her to practice running.  The first few times I let her run, she had a few trips and slides.  She had not realized that her body is different because of the accident.  After a few trips to the park, she was starting to get the hang of her new body.  You can tell when she is focusing on her feet because she runs more smoothly.  When she is paying attention to something else she will trip up.  For this reason, I prefer to let her run when there are no other dogs around.  She has also figured out that she needs to run much slower than she used to.  No more high speeds for this puppy.  I'm sure she would forget that rule in a heart beat if another greyhound was around, but for now she is respectful of the slow speeds.  To compensate for slower speeds, she does a lot of spinning and circling.

Through all of these running sessions, I have become Luna's play buddy.  At first, she was not a very good playmate.  She would spin her body into my knee taking me down.  Now that we've had plenty of practice, we are much better at playing together.  Our style includes a lot of play growling from both of us.  Yes, I look like the crazy lady at the park, but it makes Luna happy.  I have also discovered that she likes me to give her body a push.  She will sometimes use the push to spin around to face me.  A funny thing about Luna is when she is playing with me, she places her open mouth on my forearms.  She never closes her mouth so I wouldn't call it mouthing.  She just leaves me with a lot of slobber on my jacket.  If, by accident, she does catch a tooth on me it is game over, so she has learned to be very careful.

Today, my Mom and I took Luna to the park for a run.  Unfortunately, it was very sunny with no breeze.  This made it too hot for Luna and her black coat.  She had one good run, a small play session, and then called it quits.  We'll have to try again for a better video.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Photo Shoot

Before sending in Luna's paperwork to become an official therapy dog, I needed to get a current and decent picture of her.  Obviously, I have taken plenty of photos of Luna for the blog so this should not have been a problem.  However, the photo will be used for her ID card so it needs to be one where she is looking at the camera (and doesn't look silly).  So we had a quick photo shoot and here is what we got.
Focusing on the treat.
I think we used this one since her eyes were not glowing as much.
Perfect except for the glowing eye.
How adorable is she with her head tilted?
After I got the picture I needed, Luna was still looking for treats so we started doing some fun shots.  I just love the way her face is so expressive.  Here are some shots I took holding the camera at weird angles and heights.
Pretty girl.
Ruler of the office. This reminds me of a CEO on the cover of a business magazine.
Whatcha lookin' at?
 I haven't talked too much lately about Luna's current tricks so here are pictures of some of her favorites.  Obviously, they're better to see on video.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Auntie M and the Gemtones

This weekend, Luna traveled just about everywhere with me.  She ran errands with me, shopped at a variety of pet stores, and visited Mary Pat and her pack of girlies.  You will recall that Mary Pat took care of Luna while we were away at Christmas and her girls encouraged Luna to get up and walk.  It was nice to have a reunion on a beautiful spring day.

Opal, Tanzanite, and Emerald were happy to welcome Luna back to the club.  Joining them was a new addition to the family.  Crystal is a 12 year old greyhound who happens to be the niece of one of Mary Pat's passed treasured dogs.  Crystal has only been in New Jersey for about two weeks.  Despite being sick, Crystal was eager to get some petting, show Luna how to bark at gunshots in the distance, and go wadding in the kiddie pool.  We gave all the dogs plenty of treats while they enjoyed the sunshine.  
Opal keeps watch from her throne on the hill.

"Hey!  I said no pictures!"

Luna waiting for Auntie M to come back with the treats.

Crystal and Luna keeping a watchful eye.

Crystal enjoying a rawhide in the sun.  This is paradise.

It was wonderful to see Luna's extended sisters and meet Crystal.  We will definitely be back again to have a romp in the big yard.

Friday, May 4, 2012

School's Out!

Yesterday was Luna's last day at Attention & Handling class.  I originally signed her up for the class to help her get back to obedience training, but also as a way for her to continue some physical therapy.  At first, I wasn't sure if this was money well spent since our first night was pretty rough.  She was the only greyhound (no surprise) and she was the only dog wearing a harness.  She also struggled with sit and down which made us stand out a little more.

Over the past two months, Luna improved so much.  She was really holding her own around the golden retrievers, border collies, labs and poodles.  Her eye contact was fabulous.  She would stare me down with her ears perked up.  The trainer frequently commented on how great Luna's eye contact was.  Nothing could distract Luna when she was in a stare down.  Her good attention led to improved performance with basic obedience.  She would lie down and sit when asked, heel attentively, and leave an item alone even when it was a tasty treat.  All of these improvements were crucial to our success earlier this week at the therapy dog test.

So what's next for Luna?  Logic says we should continue the obedience class, but the primary focus of the class is to prepare dog and handler for competition.  Since her accident, Luna has shown that she has some physical limitations.  Her sits need a whole lot of work, she is slow to lie down, and she sometimes trips up when running.  To me, it isn't worth the aggravation to overcome these quirks to make her perfect for competition.  Luna has already overcome a lot and I want her to keep having fun with training.  Focusing on these details would not be fun for either one of us.  For now, school is out for Luna, but I'm looking at signing her up for a tricks class.  Who knows what our next big show stopper will be?

Maybe the fiery hoop is a bit much for Luna. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Testing Her Good Behavior

It's been a busy week for Luna and we're only half way through!

On Monday, Luna went with me to a 4-H Cloverbud meeting to teach Pet Care.  She behaved beautifully around the young kids.  Each member gave Luna a treat, pet her, and had her perform a trick.  We talked about dog safety, what you need to care for a dog, and basic obedience.  The only part Luna had trouble with was with the pet rabbits.  She was VERY interested in meeting them.  After the rabbits were done with their presentation, we put them back in the car so Luna would not be tempted.  She was an angel after they were gone.

Continuing on Luna's good behavior, Ashley and I took Luna and Chewie to be tested as therapy dogs this evening.  It was a pretty crazy environment, but both dogs handled the other dogs, kids, and adults perfectly.  During the test I was not allowed to use treats so I was a little nervous about keeping Luna's focus.  There really was no need to worry because Luna completed all the trials beautifully.  She even resisted a giant treat on the floor when I told her to "leave it".  What I was most impressed by was her stay and recall.  I wasn't sure if she would listen, but she did great.

Chewie had a little more trouble with the test.  She is a very good dog and will make a great therapy dog, but she was a little nervous.  To start, the judge touched Chewie's tail and ears which set her off on the wrong foot.  Next, Chewie had to demonstrate a sit and down.  Sit was no problem, but Chewie never learned down and she had to perform a down if she was going to pass the test.  By pure luck, Chewie finally went into a down.  Yes!  The rest of the trials were fine after that.

So both dogs have passed their therapy dog tests and are on their way to going on visits.  Luna's still got more planned for her week.  Let's keep up the good behavior!