Monday, July 9, 2007

With the Dog People in Chicago






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"

14 comments:

Gannet Girl said...

That must have been a very reassuring time for Scout.

Ruby said...

We took our new puppy everywhere we could for the first few weeks we had him. He's been with us for a couple of months now and he's incredibly calm and friendly. Sounds like you did the same!

mompriest said...

I have learned so much about loving and raising healthy dogs since I got my Roxie. She is the second dog I've owned, and the first one I learned to "train" or I should say realized I needed to be trained in order to raise. Now we have a another dog to keep Roxie company, my third dog. It is so special to learn how to raise a good, happy, healthy dog. And much of that comes from understanding dog nature. I am forever grateful for my "dog" lessons.

Looking forward to more of the growing up of Scout and her parents...

Jan said...

What a nice family, especially "mom", Scout has.

DogBlogger said...

So nice to have someone who understood both the dog and the person! We had a similarly helpful friend at that point.

LOVE the pic of Scout with her big puppy ears!

Serena said...

Oh, how wonderful. I am so happy for you and Scout ... understanding why our animals behave as they do is so important to being good parents. Like Mompriest, I look forward to more of the growing up of Scout and her parents.

Barbara B. said...

I love reading about Scout :)

Kievas said...

Persistence (and a lot of love) pays off!

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

What big ears on a tiny puppy! This week I have had three stray dogs on the church steps right next door... three! One returned to his owner... and the other 2 I don't know if the town hall guys found their owners or not. Mocha Java Puppy might be the best evangelist in town at this rate!

Diane said...

I personally think that dogs can be the greatest evangelists. I'm working on an animal blessing this fall. (scout will help.)

Diane said...

gg -- scout has been back to the "dog people" several times and seems to remember it and get very excited.

ann.markle said...

I am so glad you found the adorable parts of Scout. I have only in the last 7 years become a "dog person" (I was a definite cat person before), and encourage you not to be anxious about doggie behaviors. You're still bigger than she is -- a helpful perspective with kids, and even more helpful with dogs! Hang out more with dog people -- they'll help you know how to be!

lj said...

Diane, I can't keep up with all your blogging! Esp. having been away from my computer for a bit. But I'm so glad to be catching up on the Scout story. What a good dog!

zorra said...

((Scout))
Thank God for dog people, who understand.