Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy First Day of Summer

On a beautiful summer afternoon, what could be better than going to the lake?  The Ozarks are full of lakes, and right now, they're full of water from recent rains.  Most places require dogs to be on lead, but Alfie's long line gives him plenty of freedom to play without getting into any trouble.

Alfie's wading in the shallows, tail wagging, as he tries to grab something out of the water
Alfie enjoyed wading in deeper...and deeper...his favorite thing was grabbing little twigs and leaves floating on the water!


Alfie's in deeper now, up to his tummy, and is alternating wading and paddling
Dog-paddle!  (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun...)


Katharine and Alfie stand at the shore, watching the little waves lap over their feet
Magical day.


Alfie trotting on his long line across a seemingly endless field; he looks like he's laughing!
Enjoy your summer, everyone!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Official!

Alfie, what have you got there?  Something you want to mail?

Alfie's on leash, sitting on the porch, a white envelope between his front paws.

Oh, look -- it's to Guide Dogs of Texas!

Now he's holding the envelope in his mouth and you can see it's got the GDTX logo on it.

Here's what's inside...


close-up of the top of a white sheet of paper emblazoned with the GDTX logo, titled Owner Agreement, with my name written in the Owner blank.

...yeah!!  Okay, I know Alfie's really been ours since February.  But somehow in all the flurry of activity we didn't get an official owner agreement on him until just now.  Larry Gelvin called me to let me know he was sending it...now it's signed and on its way back to Texas.  Feels great!


closeup of Alfie's face with a big happy smile!
Let's celebrate!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bark In the Park

This morning Alfie, Charissa and I enjoyed a visit to Springfield's Bark In the Park, a fun event for dogs and their people benefiting the local dog park.

On the way, I enjoyed stopping by some of the Master Gardener demonstration gardens.  I'm trying to learn more about gardening in this zone, in hopes of having my own garden soon!

Alfie in a down stay in front of a colorful bed of flowers
Okay, okay, I'll pose in front of the flowers...

We weren't really sure where to go at first so I let Alfie lead, figuring he'd sniff out the excitement sooner than we could.  Sure enough, as we topped a little hill we saw it all set up...a bunch of vendors, a stage, some music, and a whole lot of dogs of all different shapes, sizes and colors.

a big shaggy black-and-white dog stands waving his tail and panting
Shaggy dogs...


close-up of a red and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's face
...silky spaniel dogs...


...sweet dogs!

There was a little talent show where people and their dogs were going up on stage to perform, but apparently not too many had signed up so one of the organizers went out looking for participants.  On the spur of the moment, Charissa and Alfie joined in too.

It was so fun watching the dogs on stage...I don't think any of them quite did what their handlers wanted right off, but hey, it was a crazy distracting situation!  They were all having fun and that was the main thing!


A fluffy white mountain of a dog sits and smiles and offers a paw to his handler
Love that smile...


a big muscular tan dog stands on his hind legs, reaching up for his handler's hand
And this guy was a real ham too!


Alfie on stage with Charissa, prancing and wagging
Alfie's turn!

When Alfie and Charissa got up on stage he looked out on the audience and had his usual "ohhh...cute..." effect on the crowd.  Major distraction!  He didn't do what Charissa wanted right at first so she improvised, having him "stand high" and finishing by putting him in a down stay, sprinkling treats around, and having him "leave it."  That is not a trick per se, just good doggie behavior, but it got an approving round of applause from the onlookers!

All in all it was just a lot of silly fun and a chance to meet a bunch of new friends.  Cool!

After all that excitement Alfie was pretty worn out on our way back to the car.


Alfie and me walking back through the park; he's on a very loose leash, panting, ears and tail down and relaxed...looks tired!
Think I'll go home and take a nap!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Critters

Here's a cute little critter we encountered on last night's walk (Alfie's latest word:  bunny !)


A tiny brown rabbit is barely visible; he's in a mown area right next to tall brushy grass
Can you spot him?
(Hint:  toward the left, right next to the tall grass.)


Close-up of the rabbit huddled down in the grass; he's got big black eyes and the sun is lighting up his ears
Enlarged so you can see the little guy!


Alfie wagging his tail and looking the direction the bunny ran off; I let him sniff where it was but didn't let him chase it of course!
Wait -- where'd he go?

Yeah, I know, he's super hard to see.  Alfie didn't see him at first, just  smelled him.  Mr. Rabbit was stock still til we got right up next to him, then jetted off with a flash of white tail...I said, "Bunny!"...and since that moment, I cannot say that word (b-u-n-n-y) without Alfie going on High Alert

Then, the other day we were in a new park and I saw a giant lump of brown next to a pond, which I at first took for a stump.  Charissa said she thought it was alive...turned out to be a ginormous woodchuck.  Honestly, he must've weighed more than Alfie.  I'm glad he lumbered off into the woods while we were still a long way off!

Much smaller and cuter are the tiny spotted and striped ground squirrels, which seem to be everywhere around here.

And of course, you can't have small mammals without their predators...I've enjoyed watching some amazing hawks, and, if I'm up early enough, owls.  Less appealing to me are the snakes.  Last night Alfie spotted a (harmless) garter snake slithering in a panic across our path, where he'd been sunning himself.  While house hunting recently, the girls saw a stunning red milk snake -- you know, the ones that look almost exactly like the deadly coral snake?  So we're standing around reassuring ourselves with, "Hmmm...'Red on black, venom lack/red on yellow, kill a fellow'...that IS how the saying goes, right?!"  The Missouri Department of Conservation assures that the coral snake does not live in this state -- out of the 40-odd species of snakes here, I only really need to worry about the cottonmouth, the copperhead, and 3 kinds of rattlesnakes.  How comforting...?  Ah well, good reason to look where you're going.

Out of all the critters so far, though, the most annoying have been ticks.  Alfie's on tick preventative/repellent, so they don't "bug" him (I comb him to make sure)...it's US they like, aarrgh!  Thank goodness for Deep Woods Off.

Alfie and I walking along on one of our favorite trails, a paved hike and bike trail that goes through thick woods
Ticks or no ticks, there's nothing like a walk in the woods!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Life With Alfie

Alfie lying on the back deck, looking alertly upward

Having Alfie means...

  • Always having someone to keep an eye on me -- almost literally!  When I open my eyes in the morning, he's standing there, wagging, watching me...when I come out of the bathroom he's sitting at attention.  Okay, it might drive some people crazy, but it makes me laugh. 
  • I know someone is always listening to what I say.  I don't mean to say that he obeys every single word, at least not immediately (he has amazing obedience skills, but also a healthy mischievous streak!)  Still, it means that he's constantly picking up new vocabulary:  kitty, neighbor, buffalo, and Grandma's room are some of his latest.  More to the point, he understands things without my saying them:  like that I'm about to get up from the table, put on my shoes, or make a phone call.  It's quite uncanny!
  • Resigning myself to reclaiming stolen items from him several times a day.  He has still not outgrown this!  I've learned that a single stern look usually does far more than the verbal command, "drop it."  He's just doing it for attention...but really, really doesn't want me to be mad at him!
  • That if something needs my attention, he'll be sure to tell me.  Whether the kettle's boiling on the stove, the kids are having a spat, or a bottle of detergent fell over in the garage...he'll rush up to me, poke me with his nose, and make sure I check it out!  Funny dog.

Every puppy I've raised has been a real individual, but Alfie takes it to a whole new level.  He's so smart and observant that he has easily been the most challenging of all my  puppies:  not difficult to train, because he learns things with few or no repetitions; the hard part is keeping him from learning the things you don't want him to learn!  But by the same token, he's bonded to me like some kind of canine crazy glue.  He is intensely curious about everything we do and just wants to be in the middle of everything, all the time...participating, giving his opinions, working his hardest, and just enjoying life. 

In other words...no, he's not a "perfect" dog...just the perfect dog for me!  He makes me laugh, keeps me company, and probably teaches me just about as much as I teach him.  A pretty good arrangement, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Aged Trail

So far Alfie and I have been working "runaways," where he actually watches his target run off and hide, and "fresh trails," where he cannot see the target run off, but still goes right to work on the trail as soon as the target is hidden.  Today was our very first "aged trail," where the target lays the trail and then we wait, allowing the scent to "age" before allowing Alfie to work it.  For today's assignment, Charissa was our target and we allowed the trail to age just 20 minutes before we began.

Alfie knew we were up to something but was very puzzled when Charissa left the house alone and I went back to my other activities.  Twenty minutes later, I harnessed him up, took him out, and gave him the scent item with the "smell" command.  He was definitely up for the challenge and responded to the "find" command by practically dragging me across the lawn!  (Mental note:  check with Charissa to see if she actually crossed the front lawn, or is Alfie taking shortcuts?)

Soon he slowed down and began to work much more carefully.  He decided to lead south, but kept glancing west across the farm road with increasing frequency.  We came to a church parking lot, which he gave a cursory check before definitively crossing the farm road west, into a cemetery. 

After that he seemed puzzled, sniffing the ground in wide circles, then totally stopping to air-sniff.  I figured it was time for encouragement:  stopping him, I showed him the scent item again and excitedly cheered him on with, "find this!" That was just what he needed -- with typical Alfie enthusiasm, he not only sniffed the little gauze scent pad, but grabbed it and licked it and tossed it around before beginning to circle purposefully once more with a "We can do this!" sort of attitude.   He widened the circles more and more until...yeah!!...he settled in again, leading me right to where she was.

Alfie in harness, standing and panting hard in front of Charissa, who is seated on a park bench.
Good dog!

...And, yes, she crossed the front yard.  And went pretty much exactly the way he led me.  What a dog.  We're having so much fun!