Ode To Cowboy And Lucki

I was perusing old posts and rediscovered this one about two of my very first clients. It makes me happy to watch, so thought I’d repost. It’s also a cheap and gratiutous way to force people to listen to me singing.

Pawprints

Cowboy and Lucki are ex-clients (their parents moved) who are very special to me, in part because they look and behave like dogs my family owned when I was young, but also because they’re both rescues with amazing stories. They still stay with us often enough to keep me from going through withdrawal. I recorded this re-lyricized cover of a Broadway tune a while back with a friend when we had down time in a studio, on a whim (the lyrics are easily explained: Cowboy was attacked by a Pit Bull in a dog run years ago and I broke it up, and Lucki loves to howl at fire trucks and chase squirrels). It’s spoof-y and silly…but also very true.

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Puppy Steps

Two-month-old Parie has now pushed Emmie out of position as the youngest member of our group (and in case you’re wondering, Parie is spelled phonetically so that people will pronounce it the way Parisians say “Paris” 😊). I can’t fairly say she’s the cutest little puppy nugget I’ve ever laid hands on, because I’ve enjoyed a steady parade of cuteness over the years. But today’s lesson in how to navigate stairs had my synapses firing serotonin like it was the 4th of July in my brain. This was her very first time going down stairs on her own. Lionel and Finnegan were like big brothers showing her the ropes. 

Face Your Fears

I won’t claim to know whether this is a tried and true dog training technique or a shot in the dark, but it seemed to work for puppy Emmie, the newest addition to my crew. She’s beginning to show fear during walks, in reaction to noisy busses, moving billboards and subway entrances. From a puppy’s point of view, I imagine that an underground train stairwell must look like a scary black abyss that’s swallowing her beloved treat dispensers (humans). So when she balked at passing the N/Q entrance next to Madison Square Park today, I first used a happy, excited voice to redirect her attention and change her mood, and then I held and petted her while she watched people go down and come up the stairs. After a few moments, and some major help from folks who reached up and petted her (positive reinforcement!), she was wagging her tail and seemed to be viewing it as a fun game. Yay for overcoming fears!

Peachy Georgia

I’m in NoHo once again to care for Georgia, a sweet Pointer/Lab mix, and this time the reason is a pretty big one…mom and dad got married yesterday! I wanted to show Georgia a great time while her parents made memories at Martha’s Vineyard, so we trekked all over SoHo, NoLiTa and the East Village. And what a gorgeous weekend, for us and for the wedding!

Georgia’s breed mixture makes for pretty intense games of fetch. In a human, this would be called OCD. In a Pointer/Lab, it’s adorable.

Our expedition through the treacherous, tourist-clogged, MALLified shopping distict on Broadway. I did love how Georgia’s intimidating (to some) size parted the crowds like a hot knife in butter. I will take her shopping more often! Oh, and I have no idea why she wanted to get on the 6 train, but she froze there for quite a while. Maybe she has a boyfriend in the Bronx.


Down time after a long day of walking and fetching. I’ve never seen a dog watch TV with such interest and focus before! I think it had a lot to do with the bright colors, vivid images and stimulating sounds of the cartoon. Note to fellow dog owners, if you want to leave the TV on to entertain your pup, tune it to the Disney Channel!


I discovered in a guilt-inducing way that Georgia won’t eat her meals until she’s given permission. I prepared her dinner the first evening then walked away, assuming she was chowing down, but when I returned moments later she was staring at the bowl and drooling so much that a puddle had formed beneath her. Her parents have obviously trained her extensively, plus I think she’s just a very good girl by nature. Fun training tidbit: behaviorists call these “life rewards.” Requiring a dog to sit and wait for a command to eat meals, get leashed for walks and start playtime is key to reinforcing good behavior.

A Corgi pup walked up to us from a storefront on Crosby and initiated a fun, impromptu play session. I love that the photos depict how it all started with a slap from Georgia, then it was ON. That Corgi was tough, and Georgia ultimately submitted. I have to mention that I’m normally hugely against off-leash dogs, but since Georgia beckoned the pup with her come-hither-and-play stare, this felt light-hearted and safe.

 

What a fabulous holiday weekend! The only drawback to staying with Georgia is that her neighborhood is too fun and not cheap. I seldom go home with any pay. But I consider it a mini vacation. I think I deserve some frivolity while the rest of the country is cooking out and partying! A party of me and Georgia suits me just fine.

Walking Safely Isn’t A No-Brainer

After a dramatic incident involving an escaped dog today, a re-post of this entry about walking safety seems timely.

I walked into the building where most of my clients reside a little over an hour ago and was met with a shocked look on the face of Carmen, the lovely daytime concierge. She told me a dog had just run into the building with NO HUMAN IN TOW and entered an elevator, presumably in an attempt to ride up to his apartment. The building’s management team scrambled to figure out who the dog belonged to after securing him in an office and sending an intranet alert, and the owner came forward quickly. Then the poor dog walker wobbled into the lobby, sobbing and hysterical. She was unconsolable, because despite the fact that the dog was ok, she will surely lose her job.

This situation is precisely the reason I verge on having OCD about equipment safety. It’s the reason I pester my clients about having harnesses that I approve for security and quality. Because A) every dog walks differently with a stranger than with his or her owner (this also makes a case for hiring a consistent dog walker rather than a service that will send different people…a bond is invaluable in times of emergency and can decide whether your dog bolts or stays put and waits to have a leash re-attached), and B) it’s better to make your dog tolerate the feeling of a strap against its skin than to see it escape and…nightmare of nightmares…get struck by a car. It’s moments like these that prove my control freakishness is justified (ok, about this, but maybe not so much about my husband’s loafers being in the middle of the floor, I could probably relax a bit there).

Pawprints

I marvel at the many dog walkers I see wearing headphones or talking on the phone, dogs attached to belt loops, while crossing even the busiest intersections. I’m safety obsessed, probably due to my vast, and sometimes unfortunate, experience in all facets of animal care. I’ve rushed badly injured dogs into vet clinics, sobbing owners in tow, and assisted the vets as they fruitlessly attempted to save fading lives. Seeing the results of auto injuries and dog fights day after day as a veterinary technician was more than I could bear, because an animal in pain is sheer torture for me. You can explain injuries to at least adult humans, but animals have only to fear the worst.

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(This walker is sort-of famous all over Chelsea/The Flatiron/The Village because he always has 10 to 15 dogs with him, and they miraculously stay exactly where he places them in the pack…

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Summer Lovin’

I very, VERY seldom take time off since it means leaving my clients to fend for themselves (that’s a lengthy subject fit for another post), but when I’m given a chance to see a special dog who moved and left a hole in my heart, I GO, with my amazing clients’ blessings. I like to think it’s not every canine caregiver who has plane tickets bestowed upon her so that she can travel to an ex-client-now-friend’s home and reunite with her pooch pal. That this was done for me by Summer’s parents, Elyse and Tom, is so touching that there are no words. I’ve stayed in contact with many past clients, even facilitated play dates between their pups and the pack mates they so sorely missed, but I’ve never flown to see them, nor have I been invited to stay in their families’ homes purely for the fun of visiting. The trip I took to Summer’s phenomenally beautiful Florida home created a precedent that I hope will become the rule, not the exception. 

Murphy, Riley and Nico were Summer’s walk partners, so their thoughtful mom sent me off with a gift from them.

My original flight to Tampa was canceled due to bad weather, but Summer tossed some of her good karma my way and I was able to board an extremely iffy standby flight the following morning.



Summer’s reaction when she saw me get out of the car was hysterical. She made noises like a deranged wildebeest as she raced toward me, then she knocked me to the ground and covered me with sloppy kisses from head to toe. We didn’t film because some moments are meant to be experienced, not documented.



This home is like paradise…or rather is paradise. No need for metaphor or simile. It’s a cluster of Spanish-style stone buildings, which Elyse aptly calls casitas, that surround a tile and garden courtyard. I’m a lover of flowers, so the colorful, frothy bougainvillea and mandevilla were candy for my eyes. Tree frogs sang at night and lizards scurried by day (I’m not the sort of girl who’s skeeved by these creatures, they fascinate me!). It’s heaven on earth. I’m so happy for Summer that she’s traded hectic NYC for this.

We dined out and explored St. Petersburg, which is delightfully dog-friendly. Every restaurant has outdoor seating with ginormous fans to circulate the stagnant air, and many offer dog beds and bowls of ice water. Tucker was licking leftover bacon grease from his nose in the last photo. Or maybe he was putting it on his nose for later. Hard to say.




It was a wonderful visit, but too short. After I packed my bags, both pups stuck to me like glue. Summer buried her head in my lap as if to avoid seeing me go. I scratched her ears until she felt better and then waved goodbye. But only until the next time.