Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Walking Dogs

I'm still trying to recap our super fun month in Asheville, but it's taking some time.  Mainly because there's so much to say that I keep losing my focus.  But I'm working on it- because I want to preserve those precious memories for myself, here.

But today, I wanted to give a quick updated report on how Lucy and Ricky are doing now that they're back in boot camp.  I had written a post here about that monkey-like behaviors they expressed while on our trip, and how that was going to change.  We were going back to basics with dog training and we were going to fix this problem we had fallen into.

We've been doing fun, positive focus games- one puppy step at a time.  They're certainly not puppies anymore (although they still seem like it to me!).  They're actually so much easier to work with while we're "training" now that they're more mature.  This probably wouldn't be the case though if they hadn't had a lot of training as young dogs- so my hard work from back then paid off, even if we've lately gotten a little off track. But they focus easily, and they seem very eager to please.

Today, the four of us (Lucy, Ricky, Fermin and me) went for a walk.  First, Fermin and I took just Ricky.  Ricky is the most hyper when we take him out together somewhere.  I figured he needed the practice the most.  It was very low key.  So low key that after we walked about a mile and a half, Fermin asked if I wanted to swing back by the house and get Lucy.  So we did. This would be our first walk with the two of them together since our trip.

Fermin and Ricky continued walking past the house while I ran up and got Lucy.  They walked one direction and Lucy and I walked the other, and then we met up on the next block.  There was no crying, no howling, no pulling.  Just treats, treats and more treats dispensed by the dog walkers!  Our dogs are very food motivated, so they stayed very focused on that.  And once we all got together, everybody was calm.
hypnotized into good behavior by FOOD
After we all walked together for about a mile, Fermin and Ricky went home, and Lucy and I walked another mile or so.  And there was no drama.

I'm not saying they're perfect.  We still haven't had the distraction of seeing other dogs when all four of us are together.  But this is huge progress that the four of us could all walk together this morning, and even go opposite ways and walk on opposite sides of the street, without major drama.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Beauty of Asheville

It's really beautiful everywhere you look when you're in Asheville.  And there are many small towns just outside of Asheville and they're ALL gorgeous.

It's one of the best places to enjoy the outdoors, for sure!  Although I know there are lots of hiking trails, I only found a handful this time around.   So we took some hikes, plus we walked around the lake near our house often, and I walked in a nearby town called Montreat a lot.  Montreat had nice paved sidewalks with lots of shady trees to keep things cool.

Here are just a few of the beautiful scenes from the outdoors in Asheville and it's surrounding towns.
Fermin and Lucy at the little lake by our house- Lake Tomahawk
Trees that go on forever
An overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway
The golf course in our neighborhood. There are lots of gorgeous golf courses all around Asheville.
Lake James- from my cousin's dock.  So peaceful out there!
Fermin and his best hiking buddy, Lucy, on a hike in Montreat.
This was the view from the deck of a brewery we stopped in- the town of Chimney Rock.
I could go on and on.  But I think you get the idea.  Green trees and mountains in view from just about anywhere.  I think the best view in all of Asheville was probably from the Grove Park Inn. Or maybe the Biltmore.  Both were majestic!
Looking out from the Biltmore Estate
Fermin and me, from the Grove Park Inn, looking out onto Asheville
It was comfortably warm in the day- in the upper 70s/lower 80s, and then cooled off in the evenings.  Perfect!  And this was June!!! I got so spoiled by the weather, and by those views.  Coming back to Dallas in July has been a sad adjustment.  But I keep telling myself we'll be back there soon...

Friday, July 7, 2017

Back Tracking to Asheville ❤️

First of all, there MUST be a better way to move pictures from my iPhone to my laptop, in iPhoto.  The way I did it seemed slow and stupid.  But I finally transferred all those photos (and videos!) I took while in North Carolina to my computer.  Ugh.  But now: Yay.

I guess I'll tell of my travels in sequential order.  At least mostly. So, I'll start at the very beginning, and that was the packing!  Packing for a month might sound slightly challenging, but I had few things working to my advantage.  One, we knew we would have a washer and drying at the house we would be renting. Two, we did this last summer- packed pretty minimally for a month, and loved not having many choices on clothing once there.  And three, North Carolina is not at all a third world country. If I forgot something, or I decided I needed something that I didn't have, all I had to do was go to a store and buy it.

So this is all I packed.
Just as many books as shoes.  As long as I have a few comfy pair for walking, I'm good to go!

This is a pretty small suitcase, but I had plenty of room for a months worth of clothes.
Because the weather app told me the weather was in the 50s at night, and 70s in the day, and I get chilly easily, I only packed two short sleeved shirts and no shorts.  It ended up being a little warmer than I had expected as the month wore on, but with the washing machine, it all worked out fine.  There was one day, or maybe two, I wished I had a swimming suit, but if it had been that important to me to have one, I would have bought a cheap one at Target.  It wasn't essential.  But next time, I'm bringing one for sure.  It takes up no space-- What was I thinking!? I would have loved to have floated around at least one day in the French Broad River!

Traveling from Dallas to Asheville is about a 14 1/2 hour drive, so we broke it into two days.  Ricky loves car trips- He sees it as a time to take long naps in a mobile bed.  Lucy, on the other hand, is not a big fan.  She's gotten better over time, and at least, on this trip, she laid down most of the time.  Never slept or even closed her eyes, but she did lay down the majority of the time.  And that, my friends, is progess!

Bathroom stops, for us or for them, as well as meal stops, are complete chaos.  They get all whiney and pant-y and think having to wear a leash near highway traffic is lame.  It sucks completely.  So we don't stop as much as we should.  By the time we make it to our final destination of the day, it's a circus.  But once they settle in the hotel room, they're happy.
Traveling is exhausting!
The hotel we stayed at when we passed through Memphis was our nicest pet hotel yet.  It was a La Quinta, as usual, but this one was new so it didn't smell doggy and it looked and felt very clean.  (That is, probably until we left!)

The next day, we drove the rest of the way and made it to our house in Black Mountain, which is about 20 minutes outside of Asheville.
Oh My Gee! We're finally here!
Again, monkey business ensued when we first got out of the car, but once we got inside, things calmed down quickly and we all felt right at home. Especially these two...
See? Sometimes we act normal. 
The house we rented was on a quiet street.  And just beautiful!
Our street, for the month of June.
Well, quiet in the city-sense of the word at least.  There wasn't traffic or street noise. But there were lots of chickens and roosters, and outside dogs that barked all through the night!  Believe it or not, the house we stayed in didn't have A/C, so we slept with the windows opened.  The first few nights, the dogs (not ours, OF COURSE, but the barkers outside) drove me crazy.  But somehow, we got used to it.  I loved the sound of the chickens and roosters cock-a-doodle-doing, and now that I'm back in Dallas, I sure am missing that little choir we heard on a daily and nightly basis.
The Choir of Black Mountain~ Gladys Night and the Chicks
That's the "getting there" portion of the North Carolina recap.  I'll get into what we did and saw in my next post.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I'll Be Going To Carolina...

Because I was having so much fun in Asheville and all the days were perfect for being outside I didn't write as many blog posts as I had figured I would.  But I did write a few! :) But the good news for me is, it's still fresh on my mind.  And I've got lots of pictures on my phone. And lots of stories to share.

Before the memories fade off into the sunset, I want to spend my next few posts writing about some of the things I want to remember about that trip- because, it seems it's the beginning of a new chapter in my life.  And it seems important.

It's grossly hot here in Dallas, as it always is in July.  And August. And September.  I no longer want to be outside all that much like I did during June, while we stayed just outside of Asheville, for the entire month.  Now is a great time to sift through these memories and write them down here. This way, I'll be "Going to Carolina in My Mind" all over again.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dog Training Progress Report - Day 2

As I wrote about yesterday, me and the pups are back in basic training.  They aren't puppies anymore, and we aren't beginners at this- but we are loving going in with the "Mind of a Beginner" approach.
They still look and act like puppies a lot of the time! :)
I'm revisiting all the first things we learned about 6 years ago when I was first training them.  Little fun stuff like walk and sit beside me, "touch"- aka Bonk Your Nose on My Hand, and "go to your mat".  It's easy, they're successful, they're getting loads of treats and we're all feeling great about ourselves and each other.

I asked Fermin to join Ricky and I for a short walk today.  Ricky tends to get overly excited because it's usually a rare or special occasion that Fermin comes on a walk or anywhere else with us.  Ricky gets wild-eyed and pant-y.  If Fermin walks off- HIGH ALERT: Ricky gets extremely agitated. Howling and monkey business ensue.  It's quite a scene, and we all hate it.

So today, no big deal.  Just a short, slightly boring walk. With Fermin.

What was amazing to me is how focused Ricky was on me.  He's highly food motivated, and because we had been doing a lot of fun training sessions with treats, and he knew I had them with me for the walk, he definitely focused on me when I asked him to.  But he wasn't overly obsessed either- which can occasionally happen if I use treats that are too enticing.  So I just used his kibble.

I had Fermin walk off from us a few times.  The first time, Ricky watched closely at what was happening, seemed slightly agitated, and pulled on the leash a bit.  But I redirected him with the "touch" game.  He quickly refocused on ME.  We did this a few times, where Fermin would walk off and then rejoin us a few minutes later.  And by the 4th time, Ricky didn't seem to care at all.  In fact, he didn't even notice until I had him turn around in Fermin's direction and sit.  Then he patiently and calmly waited for Fermin to re-join us.

My dogs LOVE fun training sessions- They're really more like playing/snacking sessions, so what's not to like?  And I'm loving how easy it feels- Lucy and Ricky are so smart.  They remember things we haven't even practiced in years.  And they catch on quickly to new ideas too.  And more than anything, I know this focused attention time together builds our bond in a healthy way.
Taking a little break during our walk today. ❤️