It was less than a month after our short but enjoyable trip out to Philadelphia that we were again getting ready for a vacation: this time with Scout. In the meantime, we had been all over town looking for places where Scout could run around and get rid of some of her excess energy. This was supposed to be part of the therapy for her possessive aggression. I tried many tennis courts (this was a recommendation from the behaviorist). None of them had gates we could close. Finally discovered that there was a little playground right next to the church. If I brought a piece of rope with me, I could tie the gate shut, and let Scout run around for awhile.
The behaviorist also told us that as soon as possible, we needed to take Scout to a Dog Park, to let her learn valuable social skills with other dogs (and people). However, the websites all recommended that a dog be 4 months old and have a rabies shot. So. Not quite yet;
In the meantime, I was looking forward to the next trip, which would be a car trip with the puppy. I was looking forward to it because it would be 1) over a week, 2) less expensive than Philadelphia, 3) a chance to be with Scout in a house that had a fenced-in-yard! 4) Bonus: the Chicago people were/are Dog People. They have many dogs and are not anxious about dog behavior at all.
As it turned out, set set out just 3 days after Scout turned 4 months old. She had her rabies shot, and had been to a dog park twice.... at about 6:00 in the morning. She ran away from the two other dogs she met there. Not an auspicious start.
We took our time driving out and back. We stopped at a "dog-friendly" hotel in Madison, which turned out to not really have a good place for a dog to .. er.. eliminate. As well, the SUV broke down the next morning, so we paced a lot in the service center of the dealership. Pacing and pacing with a puppy who has the attention span of an amoeba. We will never stop there again.
We had a couple of incidents early on... one in the hotel where Scout ate a little piece of left-over brownie with plastic... we tried to get it away from her but of course she growled at us. Again, she tried to eat a small bar of hotel soap. Growled menacingly, but one of the "dog people" caught her and held her jaw so that she could not swallow the soap, until we found something (a piece of cheese) she wanted more. The rest of the week we managed much better.
And I have to say: this vacation ended up being possibly the best vacation of my entire life. Better than the cruise with Husband and boys. Better than all of the wonderful places we have visited together (San Francisco, even). Better than Disneyland, even.
I had the chance to get to know my dog. Despite her flaws, which were still vexing, I loved her friendly smile and her playfulness. I loved how she got to be friends with her dog cousins. I saw how she responded to being in a house with people who understand dogs and aren't anxious. And I spent time reading Patricia McConnell's wonderful book, The Other End of the Leash, which helped me to understand both her behavior and mine.
I loved the dog people for being so relaxed and relaxing, and for going with our training program (no verbal commands, remember, just hand signals). I think Scout loved them, too... and especially the hundreds of dog toys that she took out and left all over the floor! But most of all, they loved her. They doted on her, thought she was beautiful, took hundreds of pictures. I think they knew she was my baby.
I was sad to leave the dog people after a little over a week. I thought -- if we could live here, I know that Scout would be all right.
But we had to go home.
Next installment: "Dog Park Days"