I live near a small hamlet called Ardrossan. It's mostly a rural area that was once farms but is now commuter acreages for the city. The hamlet consists of schools, a state of the art recreation facility, a small store, gas station, fire station, post office and houses. It also has a senior (55+) group that my dad is quite active in. He gets great joy out of the community parade. Me? Well, I tend to avoid the whole situation.
My plan for today was to hunker down with my laptop and work on report cards. There I was sitting in my pjs, minding my own business when my mom pulls up. (I live about 2 miles from the hamlet.) She needs binder twine. So I fetch her binder twine. Then she tells me she wants to bring Ryder to the parade. She wanted to bring him to show him to all her buddies. I get them situated with chain (mom isn't very strong so I wanted more than a collar - just in case), leash, ball, and treats. Off they go. What this means for type A, control freak me is that off I also go. So hair in pony tail and public appropriate clothes on I follow. Initially mom thought Diva should also go. That idea I didn't support. It would be easier for me to concentrate on one animal.
When I arrived mom and Ryder were sitting in the senior complex visiting. Ryder was happily playing with his ball much to the delight of those around him. As I suspected would happen the novelty of carting around the dog wore off leaving me to cart around the dog. She took off with her friends and I sat at the senior's with the dog. When she came back Ryder and I trotted around with her. Mom was in her glory. She seemed to take great delight in watching others play with him. And Ryder, Ryder was straight awesome! He handled people of all ages and sizes, dogs, and all kinds of noises and spectacles. He let out one large woof when a black lab went past in the parade. Otherwise he did an excellent job of ignoring all the dogs. Even the rude ones. I've discovered the ball (one of those larger holey ones) acts a bit like a soother for him. He's able to relax quicker and takes things in stride when he has it with him.
I was very proud of how he handled the strangeness of everything around him. He's turning into a dog that is a joy to own. One I can confidently take places without worrying something will happen. I'm sure it helps his sister was left at home, but he needs to develop confidence without her. Today has cemented my thought of taking him into some old folks homes. He's such a gentle soul I think he'd make a great therapy dog.
Here in Alberta all grade three students write provincial achievement tests. These are long and hard. Some students find them very stressful. To make thing even more complex yesterday our area had some very severe and unusual weather. We spent the final hour of our school day "on alert", basically locked in our classrooms. It has been a busy couple of days. My group of eight year olds handled this incredibly well.
My "kids" have been nagging me to "meet" Ryder and Diva. I made a sneak attack plan with my mom. At 2:30 she was going to show up at the school with Ryder. Now, I was more than aware this could go either way. Ryder has had virtually no experience with children. That being said, the only way to get experience with kids is to be exposed to them.
With no warning I barked at my kids to drop their books and line up. I told them to go outside and sit on the cement. With the school emergency plans having been activated recently they were freaked. Then my mom and Ryder walk towards us. The kids eyes light up, huge smiles breaking up their faces. Grabbing Ryder's leash and toy I bring him around front of my class. I've told them enough Ryder and Diva stories they felt they knew him. I give them a brief "how to meet and greet strange dogs" lesson. I also talked about what to do if you're scared of a dog.
I was having Ryder show off some of his manners: sit, stay, hide and seek, pretty. I look up and two classes of students are coming around the corner. They were on their way back into the school and they wanted in the door we were in front of. As a couple of grade fives dived towards Ryder I snarked at them to get back. This is one of my peeves in life. If I don't give you permission to approach my dog don't you dare touch him/her. Deciding we were headed for a train wreck I asked my class to move away from the door. I'm walking away and behind me is a pack of kids chasing me, circling around me. Yikes. Ryder handled it all like a super star.
He was nervous but appropriate. A couple kids made some sudden and erratic movements and he tucked his tail and scootched away but never showed any negative behavior. The kids lined up and threw the ball for him. He even tried to include a parent who was waiting to pick up their child in our game. Mom didn't bring any treats. Next time I'd love for each kid to give him a cookie.
As it was, he rocked it. He was really, really good. I was so proud of him. I was also proud of how well my very excited little munchkins listened. They really wanted to pet him but he wasn't interested in going up to them. Time will change that. As soon as this dog figures out that kids like to play it'll be the end of his nerves. And a life long love affair will be born.
Normally, my house is a quiet place with "regular" visitors such as my parents. On the weekend I had a couple come buy some rocks. (I KNOW!! ROCKS!!) I was out in the yard playing with the dogs when they arrived. Ryder let out a couple of deep woofs, but with my hand on his collar, he stopped. Diva ran behind my garbage cans. Warning them that Diva was not friendly I made sure Ryder was steady (he likes to jump on people) before releasing him. The most amazing thing occured. Both dogs were far more interested in the toy we had been playing with than the new people. Ryder respectfully and cautiously approached them for a sniff before trotting off with his tail flagged, toy in mouth. Diva remained focussed on the toy and kept positioning herself to watch where I (and the toy) went. There was no crazy barking, no running at them, no bad behavior. Both dogs demonstrated good and appropriate manners towards the strangers.
Last night I had surprise company. My friend arrived with infant in tow. Ryder and Diva have had virtually no exposure to children or babies so I wasn't sure how this was going to play out. As she approached the front door, I asked the dogs to "get back". With each request the dogs backed up, giving her room to enter my house. Both dogs got a bit bug eyed at the carrier but didn't give a negative response. Ryder cautiously approached her to sniff her hand. Then carefully settled in to try (and successfully) lick her hand. Diva kept a close eye on the carrier and didn't approach Jeanne but also didn't give any reactions. Ryder got a little spooky when the baby cried or moved in the carrier. He just wasn't sure about it.
Can it be? Can my dogs be devoloping manners? Can all this hard work be paying off?
My three year old nephew is terrified of dogs. For obvious reasons this breaks my heart. Today my dad carried him out to see the sheep. Bella came and met them then followed them out. Rather than scream bloody murder (his normal response upon seeing a dog) he eyed her curiously. This evening just before they left he went with my dad to have one final look at the sheep. Bella followed them back to the house. I stood in stunned disbelief as Bella stretched her nose towards him (their heads are level), and he didn't freak out. He leaned curiously towards her.
I want to be clear. When it comes to dogs and kids I am very aware. I watch closely and there are very few dogs that I truly trust with a child. Bella is one of them. I know if Bella gets freaked out she'll jump back and run away. She's a shy and gentle dog. With that in mind I also understand that dogs and children are unpredicatable and it's my job to keep both child and dog safe.
Bella was amazing with him. She was quiet and gentle letting him get his confidence up. He even reached out and touched the fur along her neck. She wagged her tail. I wish I had a picture of the two leaning nose to nose. Beyond cute. I taught him how to put his hand out for her to sniff. He even tried it!
Heartwarming for me to see that he is less fearful of dogs. I'm hopeful that Bella can continue to teach him how to not be fearful.
I've been indulging my horse obsession lately. One thing I've been putting a lot of thought into is what I want. The strangest thing has happened. There's a deep part of me that wants time (and money) to travel. That wasn't the strangest thing... The strangest thing is that I kinda, sorta think I may want to move back into the rodeo world. Barrel Racing and Team Roping. The other thing that I've really been thinking that I want to do is to have a couple of brood mares. Why? Well, I kinda enjoy raising babies. Time wise it works. I can also easily winter them at the farm.
So I've been doing some research.
*cough* It's not like I don't have anything else to with my time. *cough*
I started out by looking at bloodlines, and how much horses sell for with a variety of bloodlines. I was amazed at how much people think their animals are valued. There are stallions with OK bloodlines that are only halter broke selling for $7500. These animals don't necessarily have performance proven bloodlines. Say what?? You see a lot of broodmares with no recognizable names mass producing babies. I started this with no preconceived ideas. I just knew cutting horses were going to be out of my price range to do it right so I wanted to see what else sold. I'll admit I've become a horse pedigree snob. There are so many horses out there that have never been broke and are herd sires and brood mares. How can you know whether a horse is worth breeding if you have no idea of it's trainability or working personality? It's athletic ability will have never been tested. It's been quite the eye opener. I still haven't decided how I want to focus my energy but it's been an interesting journey.
I love my flowers. The pansy's bring back such strong memories of going to my grandparents farm. Love them. These guys are actually quite filled out given the amount of rain we've had. Some of my plants are not enjoying this so much...
These guys are lovely purple and white petunias with a gladiola in the middle. They're a little bedraggled with all the wet. Watch them bloom with some sunshine!
I can't wait for the gladiola to bloom because I think it'll almost be a perfect match for the center of the pansies.
Silver and hot pink wave petunias. Also a little bedraggled right now...
This is on my north deck. The begonia, ivy and bacopa love it there.
These guys are hating the wet and cold right now. They need sun and lot's of it. White geraniums and red portulaca.
I'm really excited for these pots to finish filling out and bloom. There are silver wave petunia, black petunias, spikes, and purple nicotia in them.
These barrels were just planted today and are a bit scraggly still. In it are hot pink wave petunias, white bacopa, and flax for eye appeal.
Stay tuned for summer flower shots. I also planted sweet peas in my garden to climb my garden fence, and marigolds by my tomatoes to keep the pests away.
Insert perfect weather. Imagine sunshine, light breeze, 21 C (about 70 F). Next create a pastoral scene with a flock of sheep grazing peacefully in the field. Add in a dog and a girl. Perfection.
I had gone out to the farm with intentions of walking the dogs in the grazing reserve with mom, but my mom's got a more active social life than I do and she was going dancing. My father, who's busy trying to kill off my dog sheep wanted me to go look at one. Off to the barn yard I go. This is one of the sheep that had an unfortunate run in with a round bale last winter/spring. He had broke his leg, dad splinted but he's still not using it. It looks like the hoof is dead. It's all shriveled up. I'll call Ken but if the sheep isn't going to heal right then it's time for him to be put down.
Seeing the flock of lambs grazing a bad thought entered my head. While I know I'm supposed to be taking it easy I've been feeling some intense cabin fever. Ryder spotting the sheep pretty much sealed the deal. He stood still. A paw in the air. Ears perked up.
Intent. On. Sheep.
I couldn't deny him.... so we went to work.... and it felt awesome to be doing something!
We had a bit of a rocky start. I'll admit I really missed Tessa. The sheep were quite flighty (they're lambs), and Ryder got chasey and didn't want to get around and cover. After I got him settled, the sheep settled and I pretty much stood still and let him work at keeping the flock (around 30 sheep) together. It was great for him to think and work. You can see he lacks confidence still and I'll need to work on that but he is such a gentle and quiet worker. I *heart* Ryder.
I was a bit concerned about my ability to control Diva but felt she deserved a work as well. I walked her out on her leash. Got in nice and close before releasing her. She was fast and tight but quickly settled into working the sheep. She has so much power. It's amazing to watch how easy it was to move this flock. The sheep once they settled became quite heavy and would challenge or ignore the dogs. This meant the dogs had to work to drive them towards me. She listened quite well, amazingly well given the lack of body pressure I was able to put on her. She had the biggest doggy grin when I pulled her off the sheep. I *heart* Diva.
I had so much fun. I'm still smiling even though we really didn't do much from a training perspective.
Tomorrow we may have to repeat the activity and I'll bring a camera...