activities & sports
Dog's Life: Travel
Doggie adventures on and off the the slopes.
We were overdue for a vacation when my fourth-grader pleaded that we go away for Thanksgiving break.“Anywhere. Even somewhere cold,” Jacob tendered as a concession, knowing that our Dalmatian, Sketch, and I preferred brisk air, whereas he, a southern California native, tended to chill when the mercury dipped below 70. I had barely felt like getting out of bed, let alone town, since the blistering day months earlier that JP, Sketch’s father, shed his last hair in the parking lot of a Palm Springs veterinary clinic.
In the three years since I’d adopted Jacob, he had grown to love my dogs, and especially JP, almost as much as I did. “I miss him, too. But he’s gone,” he said in the resilient tenor of a boy who had endured more heartache in his 10 years than I in my 40.“Far away.”He looked up to the heavens, and I realized that it was not only grief that had numbed my nomadic nature, but also guilt at the thought of leaving behind the spirit of my spotted traveling companion of 14 years.
* * * * *
Heavy flurries were blanketing the mountainside’s majestic evergreens and slender, white-barked poplars when we arrived in Aspen, Colo., a getaway our family had always found to be welcoming to dogs and kids—and surprisingly affordable for passers-through—despite its ritzy reputation. Sketch bounded out of the car and over a snow bank to greet an elderly Schnauzer,who was exiting the lobby of our hotel, the Limelight Lodge, and nipping at the soft flakes falling all around her. She made an obliging,wobbly effort at meeting Sketch’s playful advances lunge-for-lunge. “Getting old is tough on them,” said her owner, a young-looking, middle-aged woman, wincing at the obvious discomfort the activity caused her pet.
Tougher on us humans, I thought.Sketch still had the temperament and energy of a puppy, and was seemingly not prone to his breed’s hip dysplasia or hyperthyroid conditions. But he was going on nine, and I was determined that he would be the third and last dog I would love … and outlive.
* * * * *
The following morning dawned bright and frosty, and Jacob’s and my sights were set on the powdery slopes. There was no shortage of dog-walkers-for-hire or canine activities at Sketch’s disposal— dog trails, off-leash parks, dog-watching in the pedestrian mall, even an après-ski wine-and-cheese “yappy hour” for dogs and their people at a neighborhood tavern— but I was intrigued by the hotel manager’s recommendation of a day of pampering at Aspen Wags to Riches. The proceeds of the pet salon sustain its adjacent no-kill shelter, which rescues dogs and cats from around the country.
We were greeted by Bo, the shelter’s cheerful, 13-year-old mascot, a retired sled dog. One of his floppy ears stood straight up and he sniffed the air, but he appeared otherwise indifferent to Sketch’s faux alpha posturing and close inspection of his stomping ground, particularly the glass-walled cat room in the reception area. The latter is a zoo-like haven that houses a dozen or so adoptable felines, some playing with toys or comrades, others napping on lush cat beds or window seats … and all, like Bo, unfazed by our assertive dog’s probing nose.
* * * * *
Seth, the shelter’s director, gave us a tour of the facilities and suggested that we take one of the many itinerant (and immaculately groomed) dogs for a walk along the hillside that flanked the play yard while Sketch was introduced to the pack. The shelter encourages prospective adopters—as well as local volunteers, and even visitors who needed a dog-fix—to check residents out of the kennel for leisure time. Jacob chose Lola, a very old Malamute/Lab mix. She was timid, but her eyes twinkled as hopefully as those of her mates.
Once outside, Lola eagerly led us up a steep, unshoveled path. Like Bo, she had worked many thankless years as a sled dog, hauling tourists across the snow, but still had a zest for life on the mountain. She took in the cold, thin air with a more grateful and less winded pant than ours, all the while casting proud glances back down at the fenced-in dogs.Among them was our youthful Sketch, as content in his captivity as Lola was in her few moments of independence.
* * * * *
Later, on Snowmass Mountain, we soared for several petrifying minutes down the practically vertical,double-black-diamond trail that I’d inadvertently steered us to …off the more apt, blue-square intermediate route.
“Yes!” Jacob shouted, as he came to an impressive parallel stop. “We’re alive!” He thrust a clenched fist into the air, exhilarated by his newfound ability.
“For now,” I said tentatively.We were at a fork that would allow us to veer onto a single-black-diamond slope, which I prayed would lead us to a beginner’s green circle!
“Now is all that matters,” he whispered to himself invincibly, propelling his skis toward the white abyss. “Don’t worry. Just…I don’t know…try to think like a dog or something,” he said to me.
Okay…now! I gathered my wits, and plunged.
“But later,” he called back. “Can we adopt one of those old dogs?”
Maybe, I thought.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The ways my pets have inspired me to try new things
When I wrote about the ways my dogs have helped me connect with other pet lovers, it made me think about how many experiences in my life that I have my pets to thank for.
The first time I drove a car by myself was to go to a pet first aid class at a local community college. The first time I used a power tool was to attach jump cup strips to my agility jumps. And the first time I finished an official race, I had Nemo to thank for running every step of the way with me. Sense a trend?
My dogs have inspired me to learn new things and embark on adventures that enrich our lives together. Studies have shown that dog lovers are more active than the average person, but I think that our relationship with our pups extends beyond increased physical activity. My dogs give me unconditional love and I want to be the best person I can be for them.
Does your dog inspire you to learn new skills or test the limits of your abilities?
News: Guest Posts
It started with hand-beaded dog collars
A funny thing about being a writer is that some assignments become part of your life. Seven years ago, I wrote about a community-based micro-enterprise program called BEADS (Beads for Education, Advancement, Development and Success) that was helping Maasai mothers in Kenya sell hand-beaded dog collars in the United States as a way to pay for their daughters’ tuition. (“Good Deeds with Beads,” Bark, Winter 2004).
Without education, many Maasai girls end up in arranged marriages as the second or third wife of an older man, expected to have many children—neither able to provide education for their own daughters nor improve the family’s standard of living. Even a high school education can break this cycle.
The beautiful patterned collars are what first captured my interest (I still love the one I bought—they make great gifts), but after talking with BEADS cofounder Debby Rooney, I became interested in doing more to support the program’s education goals through direct sponsorship.
My husband and I began paying school fees for a third grader named Lynn. At the time, BEADS sponsors were covering tuition for 127 students, most of whom were the first girls in their family to attend school. Today, more than 320 are sponsored, and Lynn will enter ninth grade in January.
On Friday, I am leaving for a trip to Africa, which will include nearly two weeks in Isinya, Kenya, where Lynn lives and attends school with many other BEADS-sponsored girls. It is also where BEADS is in the process of building its own high school (more on that, when I return).
My sister Whitney will be joining me and, along with Debby Rooney and Rukia Kadidi, who was the first BEADS college graduate and now manages the program, we will celebrate the eighth grade graduation, lead journaling, writing and reading classes for 40 girls, help build a traditional Maasai hut on the grounds of the future school and much more. I will also have my first chance to meet Lynn and her family, and offer in person my congratulations for her accomplishments so far.
I’m happy to have been given an opportunity to support the work of BEADS—first with a collar, then a sponsorship and, now, in person. I look forward to sharing a few stories when I return.
Hand-beaded dog collars help send Maasai girls to school
For a young Maasai girl in rural Kenya, the future often looks like this: If her parents can afford high school, her brothers will attend in her place. At puberty, she’ll be forced into an arranged marriage to a much older man, as his second or third wife. She’ll be expected to bear as many children as possible. Once a mother, she will be in no position to educate her children or improve her family’s standard of living.
“But if you get a Maasai girl through high school, she’s probably going to pick her own husband, probably going to be the only wife, and probably will have far fewer children,” says Debby Rooney, cofounder of BEADS for Education, a nonprofit business development, conservation and education program in Isinya and the Amboseli region of Kenya. With education, she says, these girls will find careers, run businesses and take charge of their futures.
In a little more than ten years, Rooney has found a way to send 127 Maasai girls to private school, and her success has a most unlikely launching pad: dog collars.
As a New Jersey–based environmental educator traveling frequently to Kenya, Rooney recognized that many tribal families wanted to educate their daughters but couldn’t afford to. She decided to help create a sustainable solution—a community-based micro enterprise for Maasai women, most of whom were illiterate and had no business experience.
One day in the early ’90s, she took a friend and drove down a dirt road south of Nairobi, stopping to talk to the first woman they saw beading. “We asked her if she’d like to bead dog collars, which is a hysterical thought,” says Rooney, who’d realized that collars might have a better profit margin than belts. “They don’t name their dogs, feed their dogs, and rarely put collars on them. It’s a ridiculous idea. But that’s where it started.”
Since 1993, the 25 beaders in the Dupoto Women’s Group have been creating dog collars with tribal, snake and traditional patterns for sale halfway around the world. They live with their families in traditional mud huts or small wood and metal homes on dry plains. Gazelles, zebras and other wildlife from nearby Nairobi National Park migrate through their lands.
In the past, the women would attempt to sell their beadwork at crowded tourist markets—mostly in vain. Through BEADS (Beads for Education, Advancement, Development and Success), their collars and other beaded products are sold online and at a few museum and zoo shops in the U.S. All of the profit is returned to the women. It is their primary source of income and helps underwrite school fees.
“But it’s not just a financial difference,” says Karen Zulauf, co-owner of Safari Africa, an adventure travel company that began arranging small group visits to the Dupoto project last summer. “The whole program really transforms these women. It takes them from soft-spoken and retiring to people who are positive about themselves and positive about the progress their families can make.”
In 1998, Rooney expanded the program's reach by launching a direct sponsorship component. Sponsors commit to sending a girl to private school at a cost of roughly $30 per month. BEADS, which is affiliated with the Africa Wildlife Foundation and the International Women’s Democracy Center, also supports AIDS/HIV training, conservation education and internships.
The headmaster at a BEADS-affiliated school recently told Zulauf, it’s time to sponsor boys. “Now we have all these really intelligent girls and we have no one for them to marry,” he told her with a smile. “Once our girls get educated, they want to marry an educated man.”
It’s the sort of problem Debby Rooney will be happy to tackle next.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine surfing event in California
The list of activities we do with our dogs continues to expand. Over the weekend in Huntington Beach, Calif., the Surf City Surf Dog competition took place. If you know anyone who thinks of surfing as a sport in which only humans participate, these pictures of dogs catching waves will prove them wrong.
Dogs competed in heats lasting 30-40 minutes. Judges awarded points to the dogs for each ride, with standing on the board worth more than lying down, and riding backwards richly rewarded. Even recovering from nearly falling was a way to score extra points.
These dogs are clearly channeling their inner Gidget—to the delight of all the spectators.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Build the bond with the newest dog sport
Like most dog people, I do not live on a farm, nor do I have l ivestock, unless you count the chipmunks squatting in our garage. This is one of the great disappointments of my dog Ginger Peach’s life. She’ll herd anything — people, other dogs, Jolly Balls, even the cats. Our friends in law enforcement insist she’s a Dutch Shepherd mix. No doubt she’d love to be out rounding up bad guys.
Short on both sheep and criminals, I eagerly signed us up for a Treibball (pronounced “try ball”) workshop at Wiggles ‘n’ Wags in Lombard, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. A new sport, Treibball is best described as urban herding: from varying distances, you direct your dog to move large exercise balls into a goal, like herding sheep into a pen. All dogs are welcome to play, regardless of breed or age. While the distance skills and verbal cues are similar to those used in agility, Treibball makes almost no physical demands on the handler, and so people of any age and athletic ability can play.
Treibball, also known as drive-ball, originated in Germany six years ago when Dutch dog trainer Jan Nijboer watched his Australian Cattle Dogs push their rubber water dishes around the field after finishing herding lessons. The dogs, who clearly still had energy to spare, had created their own game. He wondered if they would also push large exercise balls, and found that they easily took to the new “sheep.” After Nijboer introduced the game to his herding students, it quickly spread across Europe and then to the United States. In 2007, Sweden hosted the inaugural international Treibball competition.
“As a trainer and behavior consultant, a lot of the behavior problems I’m asked to address stem from the sad effects of dogs who are bored … who are expected to simply lie [around] while their owners watch TV,” says Stearns. “Most dogs are problem solvers. They need an outlet for their intelligence and energy before it gets funneled into destructive chewing, digging, barking and fence running.”
Stearns enjoys the challenge of Treibball with her own four dogs: Terry, a still-feisty 13-year-old Westie; Chance, a nine-year-old Black Lab/German Shorthaired Pointer mix and demo dog extraordinaire; Huerro, a sweet, sixyear- old yellow Lab; and Fin, a one-yearold Border Collie/Aussie mix who, she jokes, is “currently suffering from teenage brain.” (Watch Stearns and Fin in action at youtube.com/americantreibball.)
“Chance and Fin have different approaches to the balls and to the game,” says Stearns. “I’ve had to adapt my training to each of their different learning styles. Because Treibball is a problem-solving game [in which the handler directs] the dog to go after a specific ball depending on where that ball rolls, both handler and dog must continually correct their positioning. It’s been a major problem-solving exercise in creative thinking and teaching.”
That was certainly the case when Ginger Peach (GP) and I followed our Treibball instructor’s directions. Since we have competitive agility and discdog backgrounds, the verbal and physical cues I used were different than those suggested in class. I made some adjustments and decided how to match up cues GP already knew with the various Treibball maneuvers. GP took it all in stride, eager to work on “sends” to her mat from 15 feet away and down on command at varying distances, and to target various objects — even a toy dump truck! — in preparation for our first ball.
We both pouted when we realized we wouldn’t get a ball right away, but like any canine sport, it’s important to master foundation skills first. Also, GP habitually retrieves her Jolly Balls with her mouth, which is frowned upon in Treibball. A dog who bites the ball will be eliminated; driving must be done with the nose only.
Through the ATA, Stearns hopes to offer a solution for high-energy dogs whose owners cannot match their activity level. “Our sedentary lifestyles are often at odds with what our dogs were bred or have evolved to do,” she says. “Most dogs need a job, and a thinking job or game that increases their bond with their owner in a nonaversive manner is a natural.”
The ATA, a young organization, is in the process of training Treibball instructors to increase the number of classes being offered around the country. Members are also drafting official rules for competition, which Stearns says will likely debut in early 2012. And Treibball enthusiasts will soon be able to register their dogs and earn points toward titles.
Ideally, GP’s and my skills will have progressed so that we’ll be ready to compete. Some of our classmates plan to play just for fun. Whether you pursue Treibball competitively or recreationally, suburban and city dogs will enjoy the physical and mental stimulation of tending to their inflatable ball flock.
News: Guest Posts
Enter Greenies’ “Show Us Your Pet’s Healthy Smile” Contest
It’s more than a little obvious that we love smiling dogs here at Bark. From big toothy grins to impish smirks, we can’t get enough of them. So we’re thrilled to be a part of Greenie’s “Show Us Your Pet’s Healthy Smile” Contest, which launches today! The prizes are way cool (more on those in a second) but the message is even more important—increasing awareness of the importance of keeping our pets’ teeth and gums healthy and celebrating the happiness pets bring to their lives.
This year’s contest is open to both dog and cat participants. To enter, just upload the best picture of your dog or cat showing off his or her pearly whites at smile.greenies.com and then encourage your friends and family to vote. A winning dog and cat will be selected from among the top ten vote-getters by a panel of judges, which includes Bark creative director Cameron Woo, veterinary dentist Dr. Jan Bellows and Dorian Wagner, author Your Daily Cute.
The winning dog will be featured on the cover of our January/February 2012 issue, and the big smiler's family will receive a free one-year subscription to Bark along with a year’s worth of free Greenies Canine Dental Chews. Winner of the “cat”-egory will also take home a year’s worth of Feline Greenies Dental Treats and be featured in an eight-page feline insert in The Bark plus a year's free subscription. (We know cats are always very curious about the lives of dogs, even though they won’t admit it.)
The “Show Us Your Pet’s Healthy Smile” contest starts today, August 24, and runs through October 21. For full official contest rules and contest entry visit smile.greenies.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A hike turned into an overnight excursion for a couple and their dog
A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine ended up carrying his 50 pound dog for two miles after the poor pup tore the pads on his paws during a trail run. I wondered what I would do in the same situation. Unfortunately, I'd probably be stuck because I don't usually carry first aid supplies and I definitely don't have as much upper body strength as my friend. The ordeal certainly got me thinking.
Even the most well-conditioned dog can become injured on a hike or run, so it's important to have a plan if something should go wrong. This is even more important if you're trekking in a remote area.
A couple in California learned this lesson the hard way while on an afternoon hike at Angeles National Forest last weekend. During the outing, their Labrador mix, Baxter, cut his pads and soon grew too tired to complete the hike. The couple couldn't carry the 80-pound dog, so they were forced to call the police and wait overnight for help to arrive. The next morning a rescue helicopter airlifted the couple and their dog to safety.
I don't run or hike in remote areas, so I usually rely on the fact someone can come get me if there's an emergency. But after hearing this story, and knowing what happened to my friend, I think I'm going to start carrying a few basic supplies with me. Torn pads are fairly common for active dogs, so bringing disinfectant and gauze on our next outing is probably not a bad idea.
What do you bring with you when you run or hike with your dogs?
News: Guest Posts
A little like dock dogs with more laughs and fewer rules
I have found a competition for which my dog is actually qualified. It involves clambering around objects and falling in the water. It’s all about “style and pizzaz,” there are practically no rules and cheating is encouraged. Was this contest created for us?
My only problem is that the unconventional World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials (on August 14) take place all the way across the country in Rockland, Maine, an awfully long way to travel to prove a point. Plus, Bark magazine is a sponsor of the competition, which probably disqualifies us—but then again, cheating is encouraged.
Still, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and for folks who live in the Northeast, the Boatyard Dog Trials sound like a worthy adventure. So, even though we’re stuck far from the action on the West Coast, we want to send some Mainers, New Hampshirites, Vermonters or visitors to the area into the fray. (Feel free to report back!)
► We’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets in a random drawing. Enter here. The ticket giveaway runs through August 10; winners will pick up their tickets at will-call.
► Meanwhile, if you have a photo of your dog in/on/near the water that you think is championship material, submit it to our Water Dogs photo contest.
The trials will take place on Sunday, August 14, during the ninth annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show at Harbor and Buoy parks in Rockland. The winner will be featured in the Boatyard Dog column of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, and has the honor of displaying the “Pup Cup” trophy until next year’s trials. Please note: the field of competitors has been pre-selected, and non-competing dogs are not invited.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
The ABCs for your first runs together
You like to run, your dog likes to run. It seems like a no-brainer: How about the two of you running together? While you might be concerned about your dog’s ability to run a reasonable distance, the most common hindrance to sharing this passion is your dog’s ability to stay at your side.
Start with a hands-free set-up such as the Buddy System, or with a regular four- to six-foot leash that you hold while keeping your bent arm at your side in normal running position. You can also use a head halter or a harness with a front connection to help guide your dog. Whatever approach you choose, the leash should be long enough to hang in a U when you’re standing next to him. Have some kibble or small treats and, with your dog sitting at your side, give him several treats in a row until he’s in a stable sit/stay. Then, move forward at a power-walking pace so it’s clear you want him to come with you.
When he’s walking next to you and looking at you, reward him. If his feet get ahead of yours, stop before he gets to the end of the leash. If you’re holding the leash in your hand, be sure to keep your arm glued to your side rather than extending it forward. When he reaches the end of the leash, he’ll likely pull and pull. Stand stock still and wait him out. When he turns to look at you, lure him back into a sit in front of you. Give several treats in a row until he’s focused just on sitting and looking at you. When you’re ready, move forward again at a brisk pace. Repeat this every time he charges ahead, until he understands that getting in front of you causes the walk to stop, and sitting and looking at you causes the walk to resume.
Next, work on about-turns and U-turns to train him to stay by your side. For the about-turn, walk forward in a straight line, turn 180 degrees to your right so your dog is on the outside, then head back on the same line. Do this randomly when he gets even one foot ahead of yours. Make the turns more fun by jogging a few steps and then rewarding him when he catches up and looks at you.
Rules of the road
Keeping your dog hydrated
Knowing when to stop
So, that’s the recipe for creating a great canine running partner: Start with training, maintain good manners, follow the rules of the road, stay alert to your dog’s condition and, when in doubt, take a break. Now, get out there and run!
Copyright © 1997-2017 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc