Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Lessons learned from a near-disaster
One crisp winter day, my friend Kate and I went walking on nearby farm land. The two of us had taken this walk many times over the years; that day, we had eight dogs with us. The four dogs in my charge were all “grand-dogs,” as were three of the four accompanying Kate.
After about an hour in the brisk, 20-degree air, we headed back to our cars. As we neared one of the farm’s three ice-covered ponds, Kate noticed that Philip, a Shih Tzu mix, was missing. Running ahead, she called his name. Then we saw him—he was walking on the frozen pond. Just as Kate called to him, the unthinkable happened: The ice broke and he fell in. She let out a shriek, and both of us ran. My Dachshund, Cindy Lou, wearing her warm red-plaid coat, dashed ahead of me onto the ice to save Philip. Instead of saving him, she joined him in the frigid water when the ice broke underneath her.
Circling the pond to get closer to where the dogs were trapped, Kate called them by name, urging them to paddle to shore. But there was no shore—there was only ice. Unnoticed by either of us, Kate’s other dog, Willy, a Terrier mix, had followed her and now he was on the thin ice as well. Little Willy, all seven pounds of him, fell in.
“No, I have three dogs drowning in a pond.”
“Where are you located?”
I knew the road I was on and the name of the farm, but not the exact address. It would have helped if I had. We were in the middle of 200 acres; there were three dogs drowning and three ponds on the property, but between my hysterical state and the 911 operator’s confusion, I wasn’t even able to tell her which pond it was, let alone the address.
Kate tore off her boots and socks and called out to me that she was going in. I told her no, that help was on the way. I told her emphatically that she would drown. But she ignored me. As I watched, my best friend walked onto the ice.
Just then, I noticed an old blue canoe hidden nearby in the brush. Calling to Kate, I asked her to come back and help me get the canoe. As she came toward me, I assured her again that the fire department would be there soon—I had also called Kate’s husband, who knew exactly where we were, and told him to come quick. I tried hard to not look at Cindy Lou or Philip or Willy as they continued to struggle to keep afloat. I knew I had to concentrate on the rescue.
I pushed the canoe onto the ice and Kate leapt in, barefoot and gloveless. This broke the fragile surface, and she and the canoe were in the water. I gave her a stick to paddle with.
I couldn’t look. I couldn’t look and see a blank space where Philip had been, or wet Willy or my poor Cindy Lou with her heavy coat, struggling to keep their heads above the icy water. I couldn’t look at anything but the dark water in front of me.
So I did the only thing I could think to do: I took off my coat and sweater and went in. Rosie, my Chesapeake Bay Retriever, followed me, then immediately turned and swam back. From the shoreline, the other three dogs barked relentlessly. As I reached the canoe, which was only five feet from the pond’s edge, I realized that the water was too deep for me to stand up, so I grabbed the ragged back of the canoe and kicked. It didn’t budge.
I became weak very fast. My breathing was deep and strained, my heart raced, and my arms and legs felt like lead. It felt as though I were having a heart attack. I told Kate I had to go back. As I slowly got myself back to the land, I felt like a complete failure. Once I was out of the water, it took me a while to catch my breath.
Finally, realizing that Kate was going nowhere, the two of us clumsily pulled the rusty canoe out of the water and relaunched it in another section of the pond. I gave her a tree limb and as big a push as I could manage.
In a burst of anger, she broke the ice in front of her and made it through to the center of the pond, where she found Philip still paddling for his life! Grabbing him by the scruff of his neck, she threw him into the boat, then did the same for Cindy Lou and Willy.
Wrapping them in her coat, she made her way back to me and the other dogs.
We put the shivering bunch close together. While I ran for the car, Kate lay on top of them to warm them up with her body heat. Then help arrived: Kate’s husband and son, the EMT and the fire department. We declined treatment and rushed the dogs to the veterinary hospital, where they were treated immediately. It was only afterward, at the vet’s office, that we realized Kate had cuts all over her hands and arms from the ice and the sides of the old canoe. She had also ripped a fishing hook out of her arm, a gash that required stitches to close—that first stick, it turns out, had been a makeshift fishing pole.
Later, I learned from the EMT that when a person goes into ice-cold water, the body shifts into survival mode, closing down circulation to the arms and legs in order to keep the core warm and the heart pumping. This is why so many people drown when they break through the ice—arms and legs are the first parts of the body that stop working, and it can happen within two to five minutes. I didn’t know this, and neither did Kate.
What I do know now is that old blue canoe, which I had seen so many times before as we walked past that pond, saved all of our lives.
Dog's Life: Travel
Pack up and head for a Winter Escape
Asheville, North Carolina
When it’s time to settle down for the night, there’s a raft of options, starting with Barkwells’ fabulous cabins, acres of fenced meadows and dog-loving amenities. For a historical venue, check out Applewood Manor Inn B&B, the Reynolds Mansion or the Biltmore Village Inn, which is closest to the Biltmore Estate. There, don’t miss Cedric’s Tavern (named after one of George Vanderbilt’s beloved dogs), or the Creamery, both of which have outdoor seating your dog can share with you.
Marfa may be small, but it has a dog-friendly eatery. Squeeze, across from the Presidio County Courthouse, serves up a mean breakfast and lunch as well as an astounding list of healthy drinks and smoothies; enjoy them on the patio with your pal. The Thunderbird, a retro 1950s, locally run hotel, offers a pool and unpretentious, dog-friendly hospitality. However, the go-to spot for intrepid travelers and their dogs has to be El Cosmico, 18 acres of funky coolness dotted with refurbished vintage trailers, modern yurts, safari tents and teepees. Liz Lambert, who opened El Cosmico in 2009, calls it “part … campground, part creative lab.” An open-air bathhouse and cooking area are among its charms. (Not quite so charming are the goatheads, spiny seeds that can play rough with dogs’ paws; if your dogs will wear them, bring booties.)
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The social patterns of a dog park
The West End cemetery is full of old dead sea captains and soldiers from the War of 1812, kids that died of cholera and wives that, after six or eight or ten children, just gave up. There are rich people under monuments, the Longfellow family in a vault, and paupers without so much as a wooden marker. No one’s been buried here since the middle of this century, and so the place has fallen into disrepair. You see a lot of the marble and shell headstones in puzzle pieces on the ground or standing at crooked attention. About ten years ago the cemetery was a popular hang-out for prostitutes and junkies—but now it’s just dogs and their owners.
When I first moved to town a couple years ago with my girlfriend Sara we walked our dog in the cemetery. There was this guy there named Jeff, a big brawny American Indian, from the Duckwater tribe I think, who sort of qualified as my first friend in Portland. He told me how he grew up in Nevada and was adopted by white parents and then raised in a little redneck town where people really didn’t like Indians. He’d moved around a lot and I pictured him as I was now, the stranger in a strange place. He walked with me in the cemetery, sometimes twice a day, whatever the weather. Or rather, we were both being walked by our dogs. His was a wolf mix named Keana, with a vacant, slightly menacing glint in her eye, who liked to rough up young puppies. And mine is a simple mutt named Trout, whose passion for chasing squirrels follows her lifetime commitment to rolling in poop.
It seemed like Jeff was always at the cemetery, sometimes up to eight hours in a row. He said he worked at night, supposedly for a local scuba-diving outfit, and that’s why he had so much free time during the day. He told stories, endless stories, about his high school football exploits and the blown-out knee that ended his college career at safety. He talked about fishing, how he gill-netted in the rivers of southeast Alaska and then how he and his girlfriend had bought a house and now they weren’t together anymore, and she had the house and he was here, a country away, walking his dog with people like me. He didn’t seem angry at all. No, in fact, he seemed happy. Like every day he was as happy as he’d been the day before. And because of it he was good at drawing people out, at connecting the various factions inside the cemetery so that everyone stood around, nodding dumbly, listening to Jeff, our oblivious mayor, holding forth on Keana’s new collar or perfect shampoo, while Keana took her pound of flesh out of some hapless pup.
This is not the way things usually work in the cemetery. The mere fact that I knew Jeff’s name was unusual. Usually people didn’t interact that much. Instead, we knew each other by handles. There was Dalmatian Man, father of three speckled dogs, one to whom he spoke in sign language. There was Greyhound Lady, regally walking her trio of Greyhounds until the day that Lightning, her beloved, dove through a plate-glass window during a thunderstorm and died. There was the man who walks and reads, and Frisbee Dude, and the Lawn Chair Family: an old father and his fifty-something son who daily set up their folding chairs near the cemetery gate. And the Pickup Artist, around whom no one was safe. And there was Crazy Shouting Man, owner of three ragtag mutts and an elder statesman of the cemetery, who, when I finally talked to him wasn’t Crazy Shouting Man at all. His name was Al.
“There are loads of people up there that I see all the time, some of them I’ve been seeing for years and I don’t know their name. I recognize them and they recognize me, we talk about all sorts of things, and it just never really occurs to you to ask their name because you know their dog’s name.
“As a matter of fact, I’ve always had these funny occasions where you run into people that you talk to a lot at the cemetery—you meet them somewhere … we were down at Granny Killams when it was open one night and this woman came over and said, ‘Al, how are you? how’s the dogs? how’s all this?’ and I was with a bunch of friends and I thought, ‘And this is …,’ and I realized I had no idea, it wasn’t that I had forgotten her name, it was that I’d never known her name. I knew her dog … I mean, I had no idea. And, this was not somebody that I just knew very casually, this was somebody that I probably walked with three or four mornings a week. But you always find you know a lot more dogs than you know people, which, I think, says something about who’s worth knowing anyway.”
Even today what strikes me as amazing about the cemetery is that there are people here, people who show up twice a day and see other people here twice a day for years and many of them just don’t know each other’s real name, let alone what the other does for a living, or dreams of at night, or loves or hates. They just know each other’s dogs’ names. So when they refer to one another, they might say, “Circe’s mom said Milk Bones are full of preservatives, which is why she cooks her own.” Or when they bump into each other downtown Christmas shopping, they’ll say, “Ellroy’s mom!” and then when nothing’s left to say, say, “Uh, how goes it?”
Was this intimacy or a complete lack of intimacy? Sometimes it felt like both at once. You had the warmth of intimacy and the comfort of hiding behind your dog. And yet every day you saw people at their most naked, talking baby-talk to their hounds, kneeling to pick up poop. I asked my friend Julie, Reuben’s mother, about this.
“I think I really get a sort-of window into people’s … well, into people’s souls. You watch people very contentedly walking around, throwing the ball, interacting with their dogs or totally ignoring their dogs, and going at their own pace and every once in a while yelling for their dog and ….”
Here’s Al again: “I mean, I really judge people by how they behave toward their dog. When I see people hit a dog, I’m really sort of appalled and amazed that you would do that.
“I mean, I know who really, really likes their dogs and who doesn’t. I know people who’ve got trophy dogs and people who’ve got the scruffiest, ugliest dog, but they really, really love that dog.”
I think it was the love part that kept me going back to the cemetery. And then it became my social hour, my escape, where, more often than not, I’d find Jeff and Keana. The minute Jeff realized I was a writer he went to the library and over the course of a week read everything I’d ever written. And then, to my horror, wanted to talk about it. And he did this kind of thing with others, too.
When the leaves began to change during my first October in the West End cemetery, Jeff was already talking about a Christmas card he was planning—a photograph of Keana and himself. He brought it up obsessively, about how Keana was going to have a haircut and shampoo and have her nails clipped, and how he had arranged for a photographer, and how they were scouting locations. There were ups and downs in the saga as it played out over weeks—a good location that might not work out the day of the shoot if a nor’easter hit, the need to time everything just perfectly so that Keana would leave the beauty parlor and then immediately sit for her picture before she could come back to the cemetery and get muddy.
In retrospect there were little clues even then that something strange was going on with Jeff. While he said he owned a truck, I only saw him at bus stops around town. And the scuba-diving … later when I called various outfits in Portland, no one had ever heard of him. In the end, he had the photograph taken at Sears, he and Keana in the stiff, unsmiling pose of a Civil War-era husband and wife, he in his familiar blue sweatshirt hulking behind Keana who was perfectly coifed. He was beaming when he handed the Christmas card to me, literally beaming.
After Christmas I left the country for several weeks and when I came back, some time after a massive ice storm, Jeff was nowhere to be found. The cemetery glittered with glazed headstones. It took days to unravel the story because people didn’t seem to want to talk about it … didn’t seem to want to talk about anything. Everyone just bundled into themselves, and Jeff … he was a very touchy subject, one that suddenly made us all feel defensive. What I learned was this: he’d had health problems, an infection of some kind. He went to the hospital at the same time that he was apparently forced out of his apartment. Money was tight. He’d asked someone from the cemetery to put him up, another line crossed. But that hadn’t worked out. Keana was taken to a kennel by Megan, Matty’s mom. And now she was calling the kennel regularly to see if Jeff had picked her up, but he hadn’t. Week after week she called until it was clear that Jeff couldn’t or wouldn’t pick up Keana, that he was gone. That’s when Keana was adopted by someone else.
Here’s Megan: “You start talking about this stuff with somebody and then you realize, “I didn’t even know this person … like with Jeff, I mean, it was like you knew everything about his life but in the end how much of that was actually true? And, you know, you didn’t even know this person … it was like August to December and he was gone. But it seemed like forever.”
There were completely unsubstantiated rumors that he’d robbed a bank. Someone knew someone whose cousin had seen his photo on a Boston newscast. Maybe. But then most people were quick to accept this as fact. In a weird way, I wonder if we felt betrayed. Betrayed because Jeff had broken the simple rules of the cemetery. He’d become too intimate. Now he was gone and it was hard to say hi, let alone catch someone else’s eye. During those dark winter months the cemetery became a kind of haunted, trustless place. In one of the endless conversations we had about him later, some people worried that he knew where we lived … someone threatened to track him down. But what for? So that he might never again bamboozle other hapless dog owners in other seaside towns into chatting about doggy shampoo?
Sara and I kept the Christmas card on our refrigerator right up until a couple of months ago, actually, when it quietly fell to a new rotation of refrigerator photos. We kept it there in hopes, I think, that he would come back and explain where he’d been, for I was pretty certain that he couldn’t have robbed a bank. And if he had, I told myself, maybe it was because he had to. Maybe he’d been inches from a life he imagined for himself, with a dog that gave unconditional love, with friends he was guaranteed to see every day and he’d had a couple of bad breaks—got sick, ran out of money, lost his dog and then panicked.
Now time has passed. People come and go and every six months the galaxy inside these gates breaks apart and reconfigures. Dogs die, people leave for nursing homes, others move, more arrive and every day, today even, people are here walking in spectral circles like they’re in Mecca. Circling the Ka’ba. In general I’d say things are back to the way they were—intimate but not intimate. We stand around in dumfounded joy with ten, twenty, thirty other gaping grown adults, reveling in the simplicity of stupidly entertaining dog play. Dalmatian Man still flashes sign language at his deaf Dalmatian, the Pickup Artist still works his magic, the Lawn Chair Family still sets up by the cemetery gate each day, covering their legs with wool blankets.
Fact is, even without somebody like Jeff pulling people together, if you stand on a corner with a bunch of strangers, eventually something happens that brings you together. Sometimes something small. The other night I went to the cemetery at sunset. There were the same broken headstones, the same sea captains and paupers, and there were all these living people, too, who only know me as Trout’s dad, or as the guy who stupidly named his dog Trout, or however they see me. The dogs were playing hard, racing in circles, not wanting any of it to end, and a gigantic moon came up, came up tangerine. It was the kind of moon that stills everything, and we stood in a circle watching it rise. For a minute or two we just stood there glowing orange, the dogs didn’t exist at all.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A few months ago, one of our dog-park friends passed away unexpectedly while backpacking. Her two dogs — an older Husky and a young Jack Russell Terrier — were at home with their dog sitter at the time. There were no instructions or nearby relatives to help decide what to do with her dogs. Luckily, the Husky was quickly adopted by a friend, who had his sibling, but fi guring out what to do about Dexter, the JRT, was a little more of a challenge.
His immediate needs were met by his sitter, who was able to stay on with him for a while. Then another friend offered to foster (and possibly adopt) him. It didn’t take long for this friend, who already had four dogs, to realize that a very active, ball-loving, two-year-old terrier was a little too much for her. That’s when “Operation Rehome Dexter” — mounted by Dexter’s dog park “aunties” — went into high gear.
We crafted a charming bio and took great photos that displayed his sweet impishness. We posted him on FB, blogged about him, asked anyone who had a hankering for terriers if they had room for another. We struck gold when yet another friend who does rescue work offered to post him on Petfinder.com. Within minutes, we had our fi rst applicant, and more poured in for this eminently adoptable pup.
It was only a couple of days from the time we came together to find Dexter a home to the time we reviewed applications and made a date to meet Jody (the first applicant, who was looking for her first-ever dog). The meeting couldn’t have gone better. Jody loved him, and she had a good throwing arm! His aunties unanimously approved, and the match was made. He went to his new home the next day. But that was just the start.
This is where I think we hit upon something noteworthy. Altogether, our group had more than a century of dog “know-how” to offer a rookie, and, boy, were we eager to share it. Jody, perhaps sensing that she had no alternative, graciously accepted our coaching/mentoring offers. She upheld her end by asking many questions and providing us with updates on how she and Dexter were doing. For bonus points, she e-mailed us delightful photos. This made for a smoother transition into a new life-with-dog routine. I’m confident that she could have done it without us, but she said that knowing she could rely on us gave her signifi cant peace of mind.
Wouldn’t it be great if other dog adoptions, especially to first-timers, came with this sort of support? Kind of like Apple’s “genius bar,” people with experience could be called upon to provide useful, field-tested advice. Adopters would know they had a safety net, which could really reduce a shelter’s return rate.
Do any of you know of shelters who’ve developed this sort of auxiliary? Or might like to? We’re guessing that among our readers, there’s way more than a millennium of combined expertise. We need to come up with a method to put it to good use in our communities for the benefit of all the Dexters out there, and all the novice adopters who, with just a little coaching, could confi dently take them home
Dog's Life: DIY
Recently, a bark reader turned us on to Ravelry.com, an incredible online community for knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers and those who simply need a dose of inspiration to get started. Beginners can find instructional videos, and numerous groups and forums offer personalized advice, expertise or just enjoyable crafting chat.
A search for “dog” returns a long list, ranging from “Dog Rescue Knitters” and “Big Dogs Need Love Too” to “Spinning Dog Fiber” and “Gone to the (Small) Dogs.” The Snuggles Project, with its mission to make comforting blankets for shelter animals, has a group there too. There are also patterns galore; some are free, while others are available for a modest fee.
When we visited the site, we came upon these fabulous, eye-catching designs for three adorable doggie sweaters. Knitwear designer and knitting maven Lorraine Hearn created the patterns for her charity e-book project, which helps raise funds for her daughter’s school, the Aspley Guise Lower School in Bedfordshire, UK. The human models are students at the school and the Pug pup, beguiling Gladys, is now the school’s mascot.
All of Hearn’s charity e-book designs, including those she created for the children, are made with Cascade Yarns’ Ecological Wool (Cascade, along with Rico Design, supports Hearn’s cause).
Karen Parker took these charming photographs. Catch the video and slideshow of the photo shoot on mypdfpatterns.com, and while there, be sure to purchase an e-book and sign up for Ravelry.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog-specific GPS takes the worry out of exploring
Early one morning as I was running trails with my Aussie Finn MacCool and my friend Suzanne, the three of us rounded a bend and were greeted by a woman who said the words I always dread hearing: “Have you seen a dog?” We were in the heart of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park outside of Seattle, a 3,100-acre protected area with 36 miles of trails winding throughout its thickly wooded and hilly landscape. The dog could be anywhere.
As we gathered details from the woman — the dog’s name (Boone) and description, if he was tagged with current contact info, where he was last seen, where her car was parked — Finn sat patiently beside me. Around his neck was a bright neon-orange collar with an antenna extending from it. It made him look kind of like an enormous bug.
Finn was sporting a Garmin DC 40 dog-tracking collar, which uses GPS to transmit information to my Garmin Astro 320. This snappy bit of technology lets me know where Finn is, whether he’s moving or stationary and, if moving, which direction and how fast — all via an on-screen display. While I didn’t pile guilt on top of the poor woman’s distress, I thought to myself, If Boone had been wearing one of these, she’d know exactly where he was.
Initially, the Astro seemed like just a really cool, high-tech toy, similar to the gadgets many of my running friends wear on their wrists to track their own mileage. Faced with the lost-Boone scenario, though, I realized its broader and more critical value for those of us who take our unleashed dogs out into the big world: being able to find them quickly if they become separated from us. Whether you’ve had your dog for years and she normally stays close, or you’ve recently added a new dog to your household and aren’t sure how he’ll react off leash, this “toy” can prevent hours, even days, of misery.
GPS-enabled dog-tracking devices aren’t new; there are several types on the market, all designed to do one straightforward thing: help you find your lost dog. But with most of those products, you pay a monthly fee (roughly $15, depending on the product) to access the GPS signal, and the only information you’re given is where your dog is at that specific moment.
The Garmin Astro 320, on the other hand, will track both you and your dog (up to 10 dogs, actually), recording tons of fun data along the way. It logs distance, speed, stopping time, elevation change and map coordinates — as well as a number of other optional variables that you can program in — all while creating a track, or map, of your movements. You can toggle back and forth between your own information and your dog’s while the two of you are out walking, hiking, horseback riding or cycling (you, not the dog), or running. Then, after saving the tracks, you can upload them to your home computer and view them either in one of Garmin’s programs or in another, such as Google Earth (which is free). The Astro 320 retails for $599, but you never pay a monthly fee for GPS signal access. In three years of use, the unit will pay for itself over the other GPS tracking options.
The Astro is also more reliable and accurate than smartphone GPS apps, which rely on a combination of cell towers and satellites. Garmin Astro’s 12 parallel channel receivers quickly lock onto satellites, and they maintain those locks even in dense foliage or urban settings with tall buildings. Also, smartphone GPS apps have an accuracy of about 50 feet, while the Astro’s is generally accurate to within three feet. I tested this out while running with a friend; he used his smartphone app and I used the Astro. My distance data closely matched the Green Trails topographic map of our route; my friend’s data was off (short) by about 20 percent. (Besides, the smartphone app can’t track your dog.)
Back to the question I really wanted answered: How far does Finn actually travel? I was surprised to learn that he typically runs only 10 to 20 percent more than I do, which was much less than I expected. Apparently, training him to stay close has been successful. But I was even more surprised by the difference in our respective elevation gains. I’ve always joked that Finn is part gazelle, and it turns out I might be right. According to his GPS data, on a run during which I cover 6.7 miles with 1,399 feet of elevation gain, Finn covers 9.0 miles with 5,651 feet of elevation.
The brain of the device — the GPS receiver — is housed in a small black box from which a long, thin VHF antenna extends and transmits signals to the Astro hand receiver. The antenna curves with the collar so that it’s positioned above the dog’s neck. Finn, a small Aussie, weighs about 45 pounds, but the collar and its antenna don’t bother him or slow him down as he crashes through thick undergrowth in enthusiastic pursuit of ever-elusive squirrels and chipmunks. He associates the collar with fun!
The Astro 320 is designed for use with hunting dogs, and it took me a little while to get used to the terminology. For example, when I start a run, I select “New Hunt” and mark the starting point as “Truck” (although I could change that if I wanted to take the time). The factory default settings include various alarms to let you know if, for example, your dog has stopped moving; the first time I used the Astro with Finn, the only settings change I made was to customize it with his name. Another bit of hunting terminology came up after a run with friends, as we returned to our cars. My well-trained friends always offer treats to the dogs in the group. Hearing a chirping alarm on my Astro, I looked at the screen. It said, “Finn MacCool has treed his quarry!” Indeed: His quarry was Tracy, who was holding out a treat!
“When the GPS has said ‘Pukka has treed quarry,’ I’ve been able to bike over to where he is and spy on him: lying on a friend’s deck waiting for them to come out and play fetch; over at Buck’s house, taking a snooze; or at the Kelly Café, hoping for a handout from the tourists.” (Ted’s new book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, is due out February 2013.)
While my passion is trail running, there are many uses for GPS with dogs — driving to and touring new places, geocaching, even kayaking, for example. Cecil Moore, who works for Garmin and cheerfully answered all my questions, said he once put the Astro GPS collar on his small dog Jack at the start of a 5K race and handed the receiver to his wife. Because his family knew exactly when Cecil and Jack were nearing the finish line, they were able to jump in and run the last several yards together. He also uses it on family vacations to the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, a large area where dogs are typically allowed off leash in campgrounds and on trails.
Finn wore the Astro during a recent session of my Maian Meadows Dog Camp, which offers a weekend’s worth of off-leash fun: hiking, swimming, lots of games, stick-chasing and playing. Campers were intrigued by the Astro, and impressed that the collar was waterproof (although the GPS antenna on the collar will lose satellite reception if it’s totally submerged). The final tally at the end of the weekend: I covered 10.9 miles; Finn covered … 54.3! Each morning, we did a hike of about 3.8 miles to a nearby lake. Romping with the other dogs and fetching sticks in the lake meant that Finn covered nearly four times my distance. No wonder he’s tired. Finn’s “route” on Google Earth from that weekend of dog camp looks like a child’s wobbly drawing of a lollypop (swimming and playing in camp) on a stick (the morning out-and-back hikes). Garmin, headquartered in Kansas, is known for its personal product support. Friends who use Garmin’s running and mountain-biking products rave about its customer service. I found that also true with the Astro, which has lots of bells and whistles. Availing yourself of their customer service will help you get the most out of it (plus, they love dogs at Garmin).
And Boone? Within half an hour, a hiker found him and called the phone number on his tag, and the woman’s husband drove to the park to pick him up. They were very lucky. With the Astro, I can relax while running through the forest with Finn, knowing that if one day he disappears after a deer, I can at least track him until we’re reunited, eliminating guesswork, worry and dependence on Boone’s sort of luck.
For more info on the Astro 320, go to sites.garmin.com/astro
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Whether you’re feeding your dog kibble, canned food, a raw diet or home-cooked meals, how you feed him can also make a difference. In his new cookbook/nutrition guide Feed Your Best Friend Better, Rick Woodford has some basic tips for setting the table at floor level that can be applied to all dogs.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New products for dogs and their humans.
Hold That Bag
Keeping It Clean
Rock Your Brew
On the Run
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Scouting out the wild world of pet products
It happened so fast. Our first visit to Denver’s Dumb Friends League was supposed to be a scouting trip, a quick spin through the facility to become familiar with their adoption process and take a peek at the pups on hand.
We didn’t expect Daisy to be there. The little blonde mutt with black ears came in the meet-and-greet room, plopped down under my legs and that was it. We had been chosen.
Though my husband, John, and I come from dog-owning families, we’d both lived dogless lives since leaving home. Even so, we realized that a couch and some old cereal bowls were not going to cut it when Daisy trotted into our apartment. All manner of necessities and incredibly cute toys and accessories beckoned, signifiers of a well-cared-for and loved animal. Suddenly, we had a shopping list.
After the adoption papers were signed, Daisy remained at the shelter to be spayed, so we had a few days. Stopping at a pet store on the way home, we were mildly overwhelmed by all of the options and price points. We wandered the aisles, then shrugged our shoulders and left with a simple food bowl and water dish. It wasn’t until Daisy’s homecoming that we started buying in earnest.
John picked out a collar and leash at the shelter’s supply shop, a matching marigold-yellow set made of hemp-cotton corduroy that’s both incredibly easy on the hands and super-strong. The color looked smashing against Daisy’s golden coat and, as a bonus, the set was made by a local company. It wasn’t cheap, but that’s what credit cards are for, right?
Following the advice of my parents and their years of Labrador experience, we bought a harness, too. Within a week, Daisy had figured out a way to slip out of it—on an “emergency” 4 am walk, no less. Back to the pet store we went, this time to get an old-school head-halter.
Once we had the basics covered, we took it to the next level: little luxuries. As tempting as it was to let the Daise cuddle with us in bed, we opted to provide her with her own sleeping arrangement. Daisy would have surely loved a deluxe, fleece-lined, canopied princess bed, but, alas, such extravagance was out of our price range—and would have looked ridiculous in our tiny apartment. We chose a far less posh item at the mega-pet-store, a bed that was really more of an oversized, paisley-print pillow. At about $10, the price was right, and the pillow fit cozily inside the crate a friend gave us. We were able to fashion a canopy bed for our little princess by stuffing the crate under a side table in the living room. Voilà: a new standard in naptime glamour.
One afternoon, the three of us took a long walk to Denver’s LoDo district, where we popped into an upscale pet boutique. Daisy busied herself with the array of smells while we gazed at the kaleidoscope of doggie toys and trinkets for sale. Everything was totally hip, slightly cheeky and ridiculously cute. And, unlike the stuff at big-box pet stores, these products had personality. Wouldn’t it be nice to get Daisy just a little something, a sassy treat to match her spunky attitude?
By this time, we’d learned that Daisy, a former stray, is a tough pup to spoil. She may enjoy a sumptuous sleeping experience, but in waking life, she’s a no-frills kind of gal. The must-have toys we bought her—a squeaky octopus, the sturdy chew sticks and bouncy playthings— went largely ignored. A purple bandanna (which we got for free) is about as far as she’ll go for fashion.
Nonetheless, we figured out ways to show her the high life, mostly through her stomach. At the pet boutique, we bought her a daisy-shaped dog cookie, complete with decorative frosting, and relaxed on the boutique’s patio, where she lapped water from a cool bowl. Sometimes, I pick up a bag of her favorite treats, which are pricey, when I snag a new bag of food. Sometimes.
There’s one item on our shopping list that we really want, but mostly for our benefit: a high-end grooming rake recommended by a trainer. Though she sang its praises, we initially ignored it. Fifty bucks for a dog brush? Yeah, right. And then Daisy blew her coat—everywhere— and we had blonde fur covering our clothes and seasoning our food. For now, I’m using a tool my folks gave us, a shedding blade made for horses. It works OK, but I still have visions of the super-efficient model. Someday, we’ll buy it. Maybe when we get a second dog.
In our initial ventures into canine accoutrements, we explored all options, from plain to over-the-top. In the end, though, practicality, price and Daisy’s personality won out, a reminder that it’s not totally up to us—with some pet products, the dog decides.
Dog's Life: Travel
Have Dog, Will Travel
If dog heaven were a place on earth, it would look a lot like the Oregon coast. All 363 miles of beach are publicly accessible and only a few are closed to dogs. Endless trails through lush forests offer a respite from the wind and salty sea. Hotels vie for the privilege of pampering you and your dog with complimentary chew toys, cozy beds and fireplaces.
Best Dog Beaches
Surfsand Resort, the Ocean Lodge and the Inn at Cannon Beach are noteworthy family-friendly places in Cannon Beach that celebrate your pet’s arrival with a welcome basket. Warm pet washes with towels are available throughout the properties for sandy dogs. Jacuzzis and fireplaces are provided for humans.
Great news for glampers: 15 yurts and four cabins in 13 Oregon State Park campgrounds along the coast opened up to pets in 2012. Visit Oregon Parks and Recreation Department online for a list of pet-friendly yurts and cabins and to make reservations.
Dog Events Worth a Trip
Travel Kit for a Smooth Visit
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