Posts filed under magnuson park

Sage's right of passage

It's no secret that I love puppies, and one of my favorite parts about puppies is watching them grow and develop over the years. Being a part of a pack fulfills a much needed social aspect of our pups lives.

Just like high school kids, there are "cliques" within the pack. There is a general divide between the puppies and the older dogs that are too cool to put up with puppy play. One of the many milestones of a growing puppy is when an older dogs decides they are worthy of playing with. Welcome to the big kid clique, Sage.

When an older dog decides to play with a puppy, it is a reward for good behavior on the puppies part. It means that puppy has learned how to play properly, read body language and know how to play by the rules.

Gus, although still pretty much a puppy himself, wanted nothing to do with Sage when she first joined the pack. When she came charging past at turbo speed, he would tell her to slow down or get out of the way, but other than that, she was invisible to him. Yesterday, Gus engaged Sage for an awesome session of doodle dancing. I was so proud of little muppet (Sage) growing up so fast, and proud of Gus for being a patient and gentle teacher. I love nothing more than to see these relationships develop. GOOD PUPS!!!


Sticky Situations at the Dog Park

{As always, I just want to preface this post with the fact that I am not a certified dog trainer, these are just my opinions based on my experience. }

I hear many people say that they took their dog to the dog park when they were younger, and then they got attacked, so they stopped going. While from a loving parent/owner perspective, this totally makes sense, but it makes me so sad to hear. That dog doesn't deserve to miss out on the hundreds, maybe thousands, of fun times at the park and positive social interactions because of that one incident that wasn't their fault. 

I witnessed one of these incidents at the park this afternoon. A woman and her younger lab were in the big field, playing ball and wrestling with pups passing by. A guy was sitting on the table on his phone, where he had been for the last 20 minutes, as his dog ran wild in the main area of the park. There's lots to be said about that alone, but for now, just stating the facts. This guy's dog approached the lab and started circling while the lab, who had been outgoing and playful with other dogs, stuck to the woman's legs. After a few more circles, the lab got brave and stepped out to play with the other dog. Within seconds the play escalated to the other dog attacking the lab. The guy nonchalantly walks over and kicks his dog, leashes her up, and walks off. Both dogs were OK, it was more noise than anything, but clearly scary for the lab's owner. 

When Bailey was younger, and obviously so was I, I am sure I would have acted the exact same way at the lab owner. Uncomfortable but not really sure what to do, feeling very helpless. Between practically living at the dog park for the past nearly 4 years, knowing infinitely more about dogs than I used to, and being responsible for other people's dogs, I have become quiet comfortable taking charge in and trying to prevent these situations before they even begin. So, for whoever happens to stumble across this post, here are my suggestions:

  • always match dogs to their owners, as soon as you see the dog coming near. You want to know who to talk to if you need to.
  • speak up! If someone's dog is making you uncomfortable, ask the owner to get their dog! If their dog is obviously acting in appropriate, I just ask them flat out to come get their dog. If it is something that I am just uncomfortable with, or the owner is obviously oblivious, I make up an excuse that my dog has a problem with white fluffy dogs (or whatever their dog is) and ask if they will hold onto their dog while I walk away.
  • Shoo the dog away. People often hesitate to bark commands at other people's dogs, and rightly so, but when you feel threatened or like your dog may be in danger, by all means, tell that dog to go away! I am honestly surprised how often it works, I always assume if the dog doesn't know me, it won't listen, but if you use a stern tone and just "no" or "go" and point back to where they came from, they almost always go!
  • use your body language. If a dog is approaching your dog and you aren't sure about that dog, use your body to step in between your dog and the oncoming dog. If a dog is viciously charging at you and you just know it is going to bite you, I wouldn't suggest doing this, that is a whole other level I'm not prepared to address, but I will tell you that has never happened to me.
  • know appropriate play. Check out the APDT's article on Dog Park Body Language for a refresher. A couple simple guidelines: 1) both dogs should be having fun, 2) balanced play (take turns chasing, being on bottom), 3) Mutually initiate play and frequent rest breaks, and 4) no ganging up, 1:1 play is best
  • Last, but not least, if it would make you feel more comfortable, you can carry a bottle of SprayShield Animal Deterrent with you. It is forceful citronella spray that is very effective at breaking up dog fights, but completely safe for the dogs.

If you are timid, it may cause your dog to be more timid, which may make them more of a target for bully dogs. Again, I'm not a trainer, but this is something you hear a lot, and I believe it to be true from personal experience. So be confident and know that you are in charge and no dog is going to mess with your pup! Now go find the nice dogs that just want to wrestle and chase and let your pup run herself tired! 

Honeymoon at the dog park

Every new dog park pup that I've taken has what I call a "honeymoon" period. At first they are calm, sweet, responsive, just perfect angels. It usually takes about 3 weeks for them to fully adjust, be comfortable, and come out of their shell. This is when their true colors shine and I see what kind of pup they really are. I love to see a new pup starting to play more, beat the other dogs to get the ball and just generally having fun! Here is Heidi on her first day:


Here is Heidi 3 weeks later:



The sacred orange Chuck-it ball

In my afternoon trip today, I was down at the water with three ball obsessed dogs equipped with three orange rubber chuck-it balls. We were off in the corner by the big tree enjoying our retrieving relay races. A man standing next to us had a retriever who also had the same orange rubber chuck-it ball. There were a couple times during our rapid fire fetch that one of my dogs would get his ball on accident. He explained that his dog was particular and only liked his own ball so I made sure to always get his ball back from my dogs. It's a bit of work juggling three dogs and four balls but it's not this guy's fault that my dogs can snatch up a ball in .0003 seconds. My dogs were the only guilty ones here, his dog would snatch up any ball nearby but would then immediately spit it back out once he realized it had cooties on it.

After a few minutes of this call juggling I decided it was time to go. I do not enjoy retrieving as much as my dogs do. Just as my last dog clears the gate to leave the beach I hear someone calling after me. It was my ball patrol friend. He told me that one of my dogs must have his dog's ball because he threw the ball out in "the ocean" and his dog refused to go get it. Obviously, the next logical thing to do would be to track down the dog walker. If I had the nerve/time/patience to track down every dog owner at the park that may have potentially stolen a toy of mine, I could have saved literally hundreds of dollars. Maybe even Thousands!

So anyways, to get the taste test of balls set up just right I have all three of my dogs on leash, and managed to have them all cough up at their orange rubber chuck it balls. The guy takes the first ball I hand him and throws it out into the water about 10 yards. The dog swims out to the ball, grabs it, spits it back out. "whoops, guess that wasn't it" the guy laughs. I'm starting to feel like the retriever again. Good thing we have two more rounds to go.

Meanwhile, the ball connoisseur is swimming out into "the ocean" and retrieving the original ball in question. He brings it all the way back to the store and then drops it for another one of the balls that my dogs gave up. I was too preoccupied with that combined 250 pounds of leashed dog who were trying to get in on the ball buffet to notice which ball the dog actually decided it was his. Whichever one it was it only lasted for about 50 yards before he gave it up again and tried to start the whole game over. As much fun as it was, my least dogs and I were ready to move on.

I tried very hard to stay pleasant about the whole situation, reassuring him that this was all a part of the fun of working with dogs. He was very nice and pleasant, and no doubt a very devoted dog owner.

Bottom line, what's yours is yours and if your dog wants his own ball then you have every right to get that ball for your dog. I just wish your dog could accurately detect that sacred ball, and in an ideal world it wouldn't involve 3 other balls. Maybe just one other to narrow it down from would be helpful. And if your dog is able to detect his own scent on a ball so well, couldn't he just go ahead and put some smell on there that will deter any other dog? That would be really helpful. Thanks.

Dog park karma

I am not an overly superstitious or spiritual person, but one thing I do believe in dog park karma. There are two main rules of the dog park (in my opinion) - they are:

1. Never leave the park with a toy that you didn't bring. Either a very generous park patron (i.e. park god) intentionally left toys for all the dogs to enjoy or someone lost their new fancy overpriced toy within the first 10 minutes of getting to the park. Either way,  it's not yours. Does that mean you have to deny your pup the pure bliss of the overpriced brand new toy? Not necessarily.

When my pups and I find a gift from the park gods, we ask everyone around us if they are missing it. If nobody is, then we play to our hearts content right up until we leave the park. Then we leave it right inside the gate for the next lucky pup to find. Because of this, I believe, we are lucky enough to stumble up on fun, exciting, overpriced dog toys at the park at least a couple times a week. If you think I'm crossing over into the crazy dogwalker world then you try keeping track of those toys at $15 a pop! They are like gold!

Moral of the story: obey the rules and the park gods will reward you. Break the rules and you will be cursed to lose every fancy toy you bring to the park before you can even blink an eye! (this is based on experience, I'm not trying to scare you into leaving toys for me at the park, I'm not that cheap ;)

2. This is the important one. I actually get a little OCD about this. PICK UP POOP. Dogwalker's often get criticism from the public that we don't pick up all of our dog's poop. For 90% of us, that couldn't be farther from the truth. While we may miss a dog half way across the field, we are picking up 10 poops for the 2 poops in the area that actually came from our dogs. Not to mention we have monthly work parties to come pick up poop on Saturday mornings - voluntarily - now if that's not dedication, I don't know what is! But seriously, on behalf of the 90% of dogwalkers that I work with, we do more than our share of poop scooping.

We proudly advertise this fact by carrying disgustingly full clear plastic bags of poop around the park with us. It could almost be considered a dogwalker's accessory. We really need to work on placing garbage cans closer together...

At some point in the past 3 years I got in my head that if I were to ever walk by a poop and consciously decide to not pick it up, I was docked a couple dog park karma points. In reality, I can't pick up every poop I pass if I'm running after a dog or have 5 dogs on leash or whatever the case may be, but when I am just strolling along and I see a poop, I feel obligated to pick it up. I'm human, just like the rest of us (except the dogs, of course), and I don't always do what I am supposed to - especially if I don't have a bag nearby or perhaps I am just feeling especially anti-overachiever at the moment. What happens when you don't pick up poop? You step in poop. I was reminded of that lesson today moments before leaving the park after a logging in a combined 4 hours.

Moral of the story: dogwalker or not, you've probably missed a few piles before too, so buy yourself some karma points (and promise of clean shoes) and pick up whatever you find. After all, we're in this shit together, right?! Oh, and if you want to come down to Magnuson for the poop scoop parties (yup, it's a party), they are the 1st Saturday of every month from 10am-1pm, the more the merrier!

Tricks of the trade: follow the leader

Some of my avid readers (if such thing exists) may recall a blog I wrote months ago about when a puppy reaches the teenage phase. If you haven't, you can read the blog here, but this pretty much sums it up:

It’s that moment when the “teenager” stops a few paces short of the gate and stares at me that I realize he’s grown up. He realizes that he actually has a choice whether he follows me or not. It’s when he actually considers the fact that there might be better things in the world than the scraps of treat left in my coat pocket.

Sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself standing at the front of the dog park, ready to leave, hopelessly calling your dog who is essentially giving you the middle finger while running victory laps around the park? Have you yelled "Ok, Bye Fido, see you later...." hoping for a response? Well I have a little secret for you... they're on to you! They know your routine and they know it's time to go and they don't want to!

I've been very fortunate to have had so many puppy clients and been able to help raise and train them. Inevitably, puppies will turn into defiant teenagers, and well trained adult dogs will have a stubborn streak. It's all a part of the fun! I'm sure you can imagine what a mess it would be if all 8 of my dogs protested leaving the park at once (it's happened), so I have a few tricks to avoid this debacle that you can use on your own pup.

Always keep them guessing. I never walk in the direction at the park. Some days I walk straight to the water then come back to water bowls in front, then to the big field, then to the side field, then out the gate. Sometimes we go to the side field first, then the water, then the side field again, then the big field then the gate. You get the picture... I don't have an order of the way we walk the park, that way, just because we are playing close to the gate to leave, doesn't mean we are leaving. When I decide it's time to leave, I can start leashing up some of the ones who I know will protest, and then start walking to the gate with the rest.

Check in. I always like to work on recall with my dogs, even the older well trained ones, just to have them check in with me and know that I'm watching them. I often call them over and have them sit and wait for a treat. I pet them, touch their collars, and hold on to them just to get them used to it. This way, when I want to put them on leash, they aren't expecting it and are less likely to put up a fight (not literal fight, stubborn fight).

After party. When the dogs get to the gate and are ready to leave, I give them a treat (not everyone, just the ones who are new to the routine or having a hard time remembering why I am so convincing) and lots of over-the-top cheerleading praise. Leaving the park is just as much fun as going to the park, RIGHT!??!

Leash 'em up. If you have any doubt that you are going to be able to get your pup out of the park incident-free, just leash 'em up. Once they experience the thrill of the chase and the anger in your face, there is no going back, they will want to make it a regular thing. Once you've had enough successful exits and cheerleader praise, and you feel that you trust him a little bit more, you can try and get closer and closer to the gate before you put the leash on.

Some dogs this is never a problem for and some dogs this is such a problem that their owners never take them to the dog park and never let them off leash. That's no way for a city dog to live, in my opinion! I hope this helps! Remember, you always win! 

Tricks of the trade: drop the ball!

ImageOne question that I am constantly asked is "how do you handle 7 dogs at once?", and like every dogwalker, we have our secrets. In this series of blog posts, "tricks of the trade", I will be sharing a few of my secrets that you may be able to use with your pup at the park! Drop the ball! 

If you're pup is anything like Bailey, or any other ball-obsessed lab for that matter, who refuses to drop the ball, try this trick:

blow softly into their ear. keep blowing. It will mess up their pressure and make them start moving their jaw to pop their ears, just like we do on a plane. While moving their jaw, they are bound to drop the ball! The key here is to be very patient and gentle.

*I learned this wonderful trick from my fellow dogwalker, Gretchen Jannenga, and this trick has made getting Bailey in the truck ball-free possible on numerous occasions! 

{of course, the ideal scenario would be to teach your pup to drop the ball properly in the first place... I'll talk about that in a future post!}

What does the wind do to the dogs?!

**I have no scientific evidence or dog behavior theory to support this post, it's just my thoughts and comments are more than welcome!** Right as we got to the park today if got really windy for about 20 minutes. It has been sunny and beautiful earlier in the day, and as I drove closer and closer to the park for the afternoon trip, I saw dark gloomy clouds rolling in. By the time I got to the park, it was dark, windy and starting to rain. It's a common saying among the dogwalkers that the wind make the dogs go crazy, and on any windy day at the park, you will see a more chaotic scene than normal. Today was just about the epitome of that.

Almost as soon as the dogs bust out of the back of my truck, the wind gusts were blowing through the trees, almost as if it were blowing the dogs into the park. Normally, there is a big explosion of excitement and chasing, barking, jumping when we first get inside the gates, and it usually settles within a minute or two. Not today. And not just my dogs. They bounced, chased and wrestled their way across the big field over to the side field (we call it "the dome") where I hoped we could settle down out of the way of everyone else. The next 20 minutes were absolute chaos.

Normally I wouldn't write a blog to broadcast my lack of control over my pack, but since I feel these are dogs I normally have under control really well, and I know it was just the weather throwing them (and every other dog) off, I'm OK with sharing my less than role-model-dogwalker moments.

On a normal day at the park, you will see dogwalkers with their packs calmly walking along with maybe 1 or 2 dogs running ahead to catch a ball, maybe a little barking, but all in all pretty calm. You will see a dogwalker off in a field playing fetch with his/her pack. You will see a dogwalker neatly filing their pack through the gates to the water. Sprinkled in between packs are park patrons with their one or two pups who are either chasing their ball, sticking by their owner, or making friends with dogs in the packs. Despite how many dogs are in one place, it's actually pretty structured and calm.

Now, have you seen Mean Girls? Remember when the "Burn Book" got out an everyone breaks into madness in the halls? That exact scene crossed my mind. Sammy was trotting around in circles like a horse with the ball in his mouth. Chesa was right at his heels. Salty was wrestling some puppy he met. Kato was barking at Salty trying to get in on the action, and resorting to humping when he wasn't getting his way. Josephine had found another puppy (less than half her size, of course) to play with. Cooper was intermittently body slamming and humping them. This was just my pack. Another dogwalker across the dome had his back who were wrestling, barking, humping and chasing. Park patrons were calling after their non-responsive dogs who were gleefully doing laps around the park with no regard for their name being called. This is what the wind does to the dogs.

I don't know what it is about the wind. I googled it and didn't find anything worth relaying. I've heard that the wind kicks up all the smells in the dirt and grass and throws the dogs off. I've heard the sound of the wind is too much on their ears and makes them go a little crazy. I tend to believe the kicking up smells theory... I imagine the dogs all going crazy because all of a sudden everything they knew got turned upside down. The dogs can't tell who smells good enough to hump so they hump any random dog, they can't tell what human has the treats so they just go jumping on everyone, and they can't tell whose ball it is so they just grab anything or leave everything to be found by another confused dog. Again, there is no scientific basis on any of this, it's just my dog-crazy brain trying to make sense of the chaos. Regardless of the reasoning, the dogs made sure there were no dull moments this afternoon. I have a feeling they all went home very tired today.

If you do know anything about why the wind does this to dogs, please comment! Let me know!

adventures of bwp: caught in a downpour!

I feel like I generally have pretty good luck avoiding major storms when at the dog park. More often than not, the weather either turns for the worse as I am just leaving the park, or happens to clear up just as I am arriving, as it did this morning. Apparently I jinxed us when I posted this pic of the clear skies when arriving at the park for the morning trip. The poor pups and I got absolutely nailed this afternoon! This afternoon I had Bailey, Sammy (Dobie), Gracie (Swissie), Josephine (Great Dane), Cooper (black lab) and Kato (Vizsla puppy). They're a pretty tough group and were playing hard all the way down to the water. When we were at the water it started raining a little, but not bad. When we got to the park it was 52 degrees and sunny, I wore my sunglasses into the park and debated not even brining my raincoat since I was already too hot.

As soon as we left the water and got through the gates, the downpour hit. It was like someone turned on a faucet. Sammy, the toughest looking of the crew, is a huge baby and is afraid of the rain. He started frantically spinning in circles looking for somewhere to take cover, but there was nowhere. Anticipating a Sammy meltdown, I put him on leash so I would have one less thing to worry about. A dogwalker a few feet ahead of us starts running with her pack. At the time, I thought that was a kind of unnecessary. Less than 30 seconds later the hail and wind kicked in and I was running right behind her.

Josephine was scared of the hail and wind, her eyes were huge and fearful and she was looking for cover too. The saddest of them all was tiny Kato puppy. He had no idea what was going on and was freezing. He was literally trembling as we ran. I actually considered for a minute taking off my coat to wrap him up, then I realized that was definitely taking it too far.

Right before the pathway to the water there is a small pagoda/shelter area. As soon as we got in there, I sat on the bench, Kato jumped into my lap, and I hugged him to try and keep him warm and stop his trembling. Sammy and Josephine huddled up next to us too. It's so funny that these huge tough looking dogs are actually such babies when it comes to something as simple as a little rain/hail storm.

After waiting a few minutes, and no improvement in the weather, I decided it was time to take our next sprint to the car. We took off running and everyone was great sticking close with by me. My sweet little Bailey was right on my heels, trying to trip me every 5th step. The last thing I needed was a face plant.

As we crossed the field I realized every single person in the park was huddled under one of the two shelters. There were probably 15 people and their dogs huddled under the shelter by the front gate. I've never seen that before!

When we got to the gate by my truck, all the dogs were lined up, eager to get into the truck. Except for one. I looked back and Bailey is standing about 10 yards away, in rain, hail and wind, with the ball in her mouth and her sad little puppy dog eyes begging me for some one on one time. Of course she would.

Everything was absolutely drenched. What a mess... As soon as we left the park and drove  by the U-village, I could see over Queen Anne it was nothing but blue skies... Guess you can't win them all! I don't know what exactly about that whole scenario was fun, I wouldn't exactly call any of it fun, but for some reason, it makes me smile, and I already know it's on my mental "best of the dog park" memories.

Hope you stayed dry today!!!

So you want to be a dogwalker, huh?

{note: if you are offended by the word "shit" or do not like reading about or thinking about the topic, then please, read no further} You know those (rare) days in July/August when it is 80 degrees out on a Tuesday morning and you are heading to the office thinking you wish you could trade jobs with me and get to go play with dogs all day? Well days like today makeup for days like that.

Basically what happened was, Harley was riding in the back of the truck with the big dogs and he took a protest poop. He, and all the other dogs, proceeded to walk through this poop tracking it through the rest of the truck and getting it stuck into the rubber mats, while somehow managing to smear it on the sides and windows of the truck. All the other dogs were staying as far to the opposite corner as possible. Ok Harley, I get it, you don't have to ride in the back ever again.

I started putting Bam back there as a suggestion from a trainer, Jeff Tinsley, to help with her little bulldog attitude and thinking she is queen of the pack. Harley was starting to do some of the same "I"m better then you because I'm French" behaviors, so I figured I would give him the same treatment. backfire. Any other dog and I may feel bad thinking they didn't get enough of a chance to use the bathroom before I put them in the truck, but not this little man. He knows exactly what he is doing. One morning, his dad was dropping him off at my house, put him in his crate and before he was all the way up the stairs heard Harley peeing in his crate, just to make a point.

Of course I make this discovery while I am picking up Milkshake, and run into his dad and very overdue pregnant mom, in the driveway. Like a lot of my clients, they like to say hi to all of the dogs in the back while I load Milkshake in, and as I opened the tailgate we were all in for a surprise. Harley and Bam were dancing around in it, the other dogs were huddled away from it, Bonita was in her crate staring at it wishing she could eat it. I was disgusted and humiliated, and while I couldn't do much about the ground-in-grate-shit at the moment, I opted to put Milkshake in the backseat to at least save myself from cleaner 4 less paws and saving his poor sensitive sense of smell.

Soo.... what to do now. I have 6 dogs in my truck, on my way from Eastlake to Phinney Ridge, nowhere near home-base to clean up. How am I going to get all the dogs out? How am I going to clean "it"... Ugh! The problem solver in me comes out and texts my client closest to the park and asked to use her back yard as a 5 min dog park while I hose out the truck. So very grateful she quickly replied and didn't mind! I pulled up to the house, grabbed as many leashes as I could find, strapped on my handy bright orange gloves, and tackled the truck. I leashed the dogs and unloaded them one at a time, Bam and Harley jumping up on my legs with their shitty paws. Once all 6 dogs were out of the truck, we "walked" to the backyard, i.e. I was extremely close to going face first on the pavement (pre-dog park excitment doesn't make walking 6 big dogs any easier!), but safely got them in the backyard. Well, almost safely. I wasn't confident that I would make it up the 2 steps without going face first as the rate they were pulling me, so I had to let go. The dogs went in the back and ran around and drug the leashes through poop in the yard. Great, like I needed more poop in my day! I hosed out the truck very thoroughly, every little hole in that rubber mat. Now I had to go back and get all the dogs, plus Chesa, and load them back in the truck. Of course these poor guys (minus bulldogs, they are gross and don't care) aren't exactly thrilled about getting back in the truck after this experience so it took some coaxing, all the while strategically dodging the now shit-caked leashes. Ahhh... loaded and ready for the park.

The park started out great. We didn't take the Chuck-it today (rare, but a nice change of pace once in a while) and the dogs played really well with each other and the one frisbee Coco and Chesa were trading back and forth. We walked down to the water and back, and on the way back I was so impressed with how clean everyone was. I should have known better than to jinx my day like that. Coco rolled in not one muddle puddle, but three, each one grosser than the last. As we are almost to the water bowls for our last drink before we load back up, the whole crew decides to run the laps by the mounds - it's their departing tradition that has apparently been on hiatus for the past few months. I love the mounds, the dogs love it and run their hearts out and play, play, play... The only problem is the mounds during the winter is that all of the "valleys" between the mounds are giant mud pits. In a matter of minutes I went from a perfectly clean pack to a bunch of mud-caked mutts. Everyone got washed off very well before they went home today.

Having learned my lesson on the way to the park, I put Harley in the back seat, on top of Porter's dog bed I was bringing home, and wrapped in a towel. He's a hard guy to please, but I finally did it. Either that or he was feeling a little guilty for the shit-show earlier. Judging by the pouty lip in this picture, I think he felt a little bit guilty...

One of the funny things about working with dogs, is that they totally feed off your energy and play on your weaknesses. If I am in a good mood, things are going well, then we will have a great day and they will be angels. If I am sick, tired, stressed, irritated, or anything they can take advantage of, they will! I have never been given such a look by dogs before, but clearly they were not pleased with the condition of the truck because they are giving me the stink eye if I have ever seen it!

By the end of the day, I had really let this poop incident get to my head and I started thinking about tall the potential things that have been contaminated. I had the dogs taken care of but that was only the beginning! So, like any normal person (....?) I proceeded to put all of the leashes, towels and seat cover in the laundry. I took the truck to Brown bear give the back a good deep clean. I washed and scrubbed all of the toys with hot water and soap. I cleaned my gloves, my phone, even my keys... I am now home and have cleaned myself up, changed clothes, washed my hands 10,000x and am finally feeling better about life. Thanks Harley-man, spring cleaning came early for ballwalkpark!

On a positive note, everything is clean, clean, clean and I am loving it! That is one of my downfalls as a dogwalker, I am secretly a neat freak. I seriously streamlined my Brown Bear truck hosing procedure. Ten time as efficient in half the time, that's something to be excited about.

Before the cleaning frenzy, I took a short afternoon trip to Woodland Park with the pups staying with me, as well as Miss Bonita. I ran into a good friend of mine there and had to tell him what was on my mind. How come dogs have such amazing senses - they can sense cancer, earthquakes, what dog walked down the block that day, etc... How can they not sense stepping in their own shit!?!? How is it possible that they can step in their own shit, mid-shitting, as they awkwardly shift around in circles. It shocks and disgusts me every day. My friends answer was disappointing, but very true, they just don't care. As a self-proclaimed neat freak, I wonder how I can watch a dog step in it's own shit and cuddle with him on the couch hours later (true fact, happening right now, after I cleaned!). I guess this is just another example of how love is blind...

At the end of the day, whether it's this day or that wonderful summer day, I wouldn't trade jobs for anything in the world. And to be honest, this isn't the first time this has happened (not quite on this scale), and this isn't uncommon in this line of work.... any dog walker you talk to will tell you at least one similar story of their own. Among all of my shittier thoughts of the day, I realized I have yet another trait in common with Bailey, my neurotic retrieving lab. Like Bailey, every time I throw the ball, I can't wait to do it again. I can't wait to see how far I can throw it, who will get it, if it will bounce and they will jump and crash into each other, or if they will lose it and I have to help them find it.... I don't know what it is about it, but I just can't ever get enough of these dogs. Michael laughs at me every night when I go through my pictures of the day and  can't hold my laughter in, he rolls his eyes every time we play with Bailey and I beg to throw the ball just one more time....  All this poop talk may have altered your perception of the glamorous life of a dogwalker, but I'm already looking forward to tomorrow. Sans poop.

Drowned in Double Dog Park Trips

Whhewwww it was a wet one today! My second day back since the "dogwalker in a boot" saga and it was a full 8 hours of soggy doggy park trips and fun. Before I get into the exhilarating adventures of the dog park today, I have to share by amazing find with any of you who have suffered from wet, numb, filthy dog park hands. Dogwalkers, listen up, this may be as life changing for you as it was for me. These gloves, Atlas Snow Blower gloves, are the best gloves I have found, and believe me, I have been through many. They are completely waterproof with a cozy fleece lining. You can still bend your fingers and clip a leash, pick up a toy, and yes, even open a poop bag. The best part is, you can hose off your dogs and not worry about getting your hands wet and dirty at all! I know what you're thinking, getting your hands wet and dirty is not the end of the world, but when it is 36 degrees out and you have 6 filthy dogs to hose off, those fingers go numb really fast and it makes it pretty hard to work! I bought these gloves at City People's on the way to the dog park. I highly recommend them! Oh, and they are bright sexy orange ;)

Ok, on to the good stuff. We switched things up a bit this morning and I took Jambo and Pepper with my crew, they usually go with Nancy's. Pepper had fun chasing after Bonita's tail while Bonita was chasing Mokee for the frisbee. Jambo was stepping up and chasing Porter for the new rope/ball toy which I impulse purchased at City People's as well. I made it through an entire day without losing it, so it was a success! Porter and Dexter kept taking it and having a tug-o-war hold out where they just stood there and stared at one another with the toy in between them... Miles was super excited to catch the toy and have the whole crew chase him - he can really run fast when he has 7 dogs running after him! Coco made it through the whole park trip without rolling in a mud puddle - I was so proud of her! But then as we were walking out the gate to the truck, she ducked off to the puddle 15 yards away and flopped like a fish out of water, just enough to get a good coating. One of these days I am going to video her in action rather than try to get her to stop. Might as well provide some entertainment for all of us! I was really glad I had my new gloves at that moment. I took a few pictures, but it was so grey and cloudy nothing turned out very well... I really wanted to get a picture of Gracie and Porter, who looks like Gracie's mini-me!

Now for the afternoon trip... I picked up my trusty helper Michael and our little menace, Bam. We also got her sidekick, Violet. Our 2nd to last stop before the park was Cooper (yellow lab - not to be confused with Cooper black lab who was already in the back seat). Cooper's brother, Tucker, recently started going to the park as well, but they go on different days so they both get their own separate play time. This is one of those time it would be really nice to be able to talk to dogs and explain why this girl comes and takes them to the park but only takes one of them and why only one of them should be getting excited because the other one is about to get a door closed on their face.... Poor Tucker, hopefully it will make more sense tomorrow! I'm sure it won't, but at least he won't be the one getting the door closed on him!

By the time we got the park, it was absolutely dumping rain. It must have been refreshing for the dogs, because they were going 150%! It was like they all flipped a switch to Tasmanian devil mode (not really devils, you know what I mean). Luckily, they were a great group of retrievers (or at least dogs that like the game) so it was just pure running for an hour and a half. Those dogs got tired today! Considering I am just getting back into the rhythm of the park, my first big mistake today was forgetting to bring a squeaker toy for Sammy. To be honest, it crossed my mind on the way to the park, but I figured since I already stopped and bought my gloves and impromptu dog toy purchase for the day, I was not going to to buy another toy.... Probably not my best choice. When Sammy doesn't have a squeaky ball, he hounds every other dog that passes by with one. And by hound I mean he runs along side them with his big head right by their mouth, almost as if saying, "give it to me, you know you want to give it to me, come on, come on, come on!!!", which results in me going through a whole ringer of tricks to get the ball back. Over and over and over. Note to self: you DO need the squeaky. Even if just to keep in my bag as bribery, I can't go empty handed!

The highlight of my day had to have been while I was hosing off the dogs (with my new super cool gloves), and Chesa came up while I was bent over hosing a dog and jumped up on my face, knocking off my glasses and somehow licking inside my mouth... GROSS! I tried to wipe off my mouth but then realized my new super cool gloves were actually just wiping more water/dirt on my face. I can't tell you how often I get back in the truck to find mud wiped across my face... and I always wonder how many people I encountered who opted to not tell me! I love Chesa, but not enough to make out with her. That was really more than I had bargained for today.

As I was getting orally assaulted, Michael couldn't stand to see his little frenchie babies so wet and cold, so he took them back to the truck, turned on the heat and wrapped them in a towel. Actually, tied them in a towel. Like a two little baguettes in a basket. He is ridiculous.

It was a very soggy day and the dogs were unusually rowdy, probably still working off some cabin fever from the snow days, but regardless, it felt so good to be back at the park. There is nothing like walking around an empty park playing with 8 of my best four-legged friends. The best part about when it rains, is the park is totally empty and nobody knows the extent of the conversations I have with my dogs.... Commands? Yeah right... We've had a lot of catching up to do! Looking forward to the rest of the week, rain or shine!

Seattle dogwalker vs. Seattle snow

This is going to be a rant blog. Well, a rant and an apology blog.  I am so incredibly frustrated with Seattle's weather and the forecasting abilities. I understand that due to the ocean and mountains and other geographical elements this is a very hard area to forecast weather for, but seriously, this is ridiculous.

Based on the ever-changing forecasts and conditions on Sunday night, I cancelled all services for Monday. Turned out to be clear roads and no snow.... Today everything was planned to be on normal schedule until I got to the dog park and there was at least 1" of new snow on the ground and covering all the roads. To avoid getting stuck later on in the afternoon when the snow was originally forecasted to begin, I cancelled the afternoon park trip. I am now sitting at home on top of Queen Anne and there is not a bit of snow on the ground and the sun is shining. I am 0-2.

These pictures were taken at the same time - Kendal at Magnuson Park, and myself leaving Queen Anne.








I know it seems that this shouldn't be such a difficult decision, but here are the factors that come in to play for us dogwalkers:

  • The majority of my driving is on neighborhood streets, alleys, and other lower traffic roads that are more likely to have snow and ice still
  • Just because I can pick up all of my dogs and get them to the park doesn't mean conditions couldn't drastically change over the next 3 hours and make it difficult to get home. Stuck with a truck full of pups in freezing temperatures is a recipe for disaster.
  • Precious cargo: a big factor in how well my truck handles the snow is how much weight is in the back, weight = precious cargo = your dog. If I had a truck bed full of sand bags I may not be so hesitant, but I do not want to risk it with the pups in the back. The tail end sliding out around a corner could be devastating... something I hope to never experience!
  • Brrrrr... it can get cold in the back of the truck! It is pretty well insulated and with all the heavy breathing on the way home from the park it stays pretty toasty, but not so much on the way there. Plus, at the park, snow gets stuck in the hair in between the dogs toes and can get really uncomfortable! See this article for some more tips on keeping your pup safe in the snow.

All in all, this "snow day" game is often more work than it's worth, and this city does not make it very easy to accurately plan for! Believe me, I love snow more than just about anyone. In fact, I woke up almost every hour last night and looked out the window like a little kid.... One of the many wonderful things about this job is that a snow day + work is even better than a snow day without work - I love going to the dog park on snow days and watching the dogs frolick and play. It is so much fun and something I look forward to all year long. Being able to safely get there and back is the issue....  If I am going to cancel park trips and walks, I want it to be a legit full-on SNOW DAY where there is obviously no way anyone is going to make it to work. A repeat of 2008 or nothing at all.

So, in summary, I would like to sincerely apologize to my clients for all of the hassle and inconvenience this week. And hopefully, third time is a charm and I will make the right call tomorrow!

Whoaaa dogs!

The dogs were very amped up today - all day. Either they really missed me and didn't realize it until today, or there is something in the air. It wasn't a bad day by any means, the dogs were all being good, but just at a very very high energy level. They were acting the way they do when they first get to the park and run in circles and explode with energy - but it never died down. Especially the afternoon group - I thought I would never tire them out! After almost two hours they finally started to show signs of wearing down! Here are some of the highlights of today (please see ballwalkpark facebook page for pics):

  • Arten, who is normally a wader at the water, saw a duck who he felt the need to track down - he took off for a nice long swim before giving up and heading back into shore.
  • Tucker was so excited about his orange ball he wanted to show every person we walked by - in the form of hopping around them in circles. He confused quite a few people, unsure why this dog was bounding around them in circles.
  • Oliver found a pink cuz ball which he loved chasing - he would drop it at my feet and do his dance of anticipation - he looks like a praying mantis or something - very un-sophisticated and un-Oliver like.
  • Bonita took a sharp turn into the bushes and then proceeded to take herself on a 15 minute self-guided tour of the park. She met back up with us just in time to go for a swim. We don't really encourage this type of behavior....
  • We also learned that although the mud has dried up, rolling in the dirt and bark right after a swim has a similar effect in getting the dirt to cake in their fur.
  • Stella really wanted to play with the big Jolly Ball Coco was carrying around. She tried a little too hard and Coco wasn't having it - she turned to bark at Stella and scared her so bad they both crashed into the garbage cans, sending the lids flying and onlookers laughing.
  • Cooper spent his afternoon tangled up with either Chesa or Bonita (he's not too picky about his blondes, either one will do) and Pepper was always chasing close behind to get in on the action - making her gremlin sounds all the while.
  • Bailey held the Jolly Ball most of the trip - kicking it around like a soccer ball and running up and tripping me with it to get my attention when I wasn't throwing it. Oh B, love you little girl!
  • Milkshake spent his day frantically digging for the ball he was either trying to bury or pick up, or chiming in on Bailey's barking to get me to throw the ball more.
  • Otis held the orange ball this afternoon, which produces surprisingly less drool than your average tennis ball. noted for next time.
  • Walker kept himself busy trying to get in on any of the three balls in circulation throughout the group, while also heading many of the chase-offs throughout the park.
I've had people at the park tell me "wow, you have your hands full" or "that's quite the pack" before - and normally I kind of down play it, because while they are all big high energy dogs, they are normally pretty calm after the first half hour. Today, not so much. Today I did have my hands full and I had quite the pack! But luckily, it was in the good way, everyone was well behaved and just having a lot of fun. I had a tornado of dogs circling me nearly all day. We were in control, just a high energy control, and it was a lot of fun. Between trying not to trip over Bailey and making sure the dogs were somewhat watching where they were going and not crashing into people or objects, I was laughing and smiling all day. They're a handful of puppy energy - but I wouldn't have it any other way! 

adventures of bwp - 5/18

The park was surprisingly quiet this morning for how nice the weather was. We got a parking spot right in front and wasted no time getting to play. While I was doing the honors of cleaning up after these little monsters, Coco and Chip took off for the mud puddles at the end of the field. Sooo.... off the to beach we went! Not without getting a few brushes of swamp mud across my legs from Mr. Chip, of course. The water wasn't too crowded either, which was really nice. Bonita made friends with every other dog at the beach and high-jacked their ball. She was nice enough to give it back as soon as she saw someone else's ball being thrown. Chip was a super swimmer today, getting the frisbee as far out as I could throw it. Milkshake was yelling at me so I eventually found a ball and threw it for him - I didn't realize until I was mid-throw that it has a hole and was full of rocks so it sank.... he and Dexter spent the next 15 minutes diving for it - gotta love the determination of a retriever!

Arten's buddy, Toby, had his last day as his parents are back from Hawaii tonight. He went out with a bang! Of all the toys at the beach, Toby chose this log as his must-have of the day. He kept talking/whining at me to do something with it, so finally I picked the thing up, with several people around me laughing at me, and I threw it as far as I could. About 5 feet. Sorry Toby :( It was good for a laugh!

We were about to leave, everyone had just finished their last water bowl visit, and the dogs persuaded me to stay for just a few more throws in the big field. No one was around, they were playing so well, and it was a gorgeous day, so I figured why not. Within a few minutes I realized I was missing a Chocolate lab.... I call Mr. Chip, and within seconds he came bounding up from the mud puddle. Ugh! So close... Time to load everyone up and give Mr. Chip a hose-down.... You gotta pay to play!

This afternoon Bailey and Bambi hosted after-park care for Bonita and Cooper. They usually go on two park trips, but since we only did a morning trip today I brought them over to hang out. Bam got to show off her new car wash toy, Bonita and Cooper gnawed on each others faces like the teenagers in love that they are, and Bailey tried to show the kids that she was still hip and cool. This was mostly made possible by the fact that Michael was at work all day... there is nothing more he loves than to come home to dog park in the back yard. If you've ever met Michael, you know it's all a front and he loves the dogs as much as I do :)

* I was having a bad picture day for some reason.... I took a lot, but nothing really came out! Sorry, check back tomorrow!

adventures of bwp - 5/17: It's a great day to be a dog walker

Today was such a good day. For the past six months that I have stood in the rain, wind and cold with mud splashed across my face, smiling and nodding when people say "you have the best job", today made up for it all. I really do have the best job (not to brag.... it is hard work!), but today was one of those days where I had so much fun running around and playing with the dogs, and watching them play, run and chase to their hearts content. The weather helped, but the main reason my day was so great is because of my dogs - I really do have the best dogs. I know I say it all the time, but it's true!

As soon as I got to the park this morning, Michael showed up. It's always fun to have company at the park (read: if you are around during the day, come hang out with me!) and he has really bonded with my Viszlas lately.
He knows how much I love the breed, and he has said he could never own one because they are "too hyper and wiggly". Thanks to Mr. Cooper, we have finally won him over - today he said someday he could see himself owning a Viszla! Don't worry, not anytime soon, just a "someday" is all I needed. Cooper literally jumped into his arms, and was so relaxed and happy as Michael carried him around. It was hilarious - he was like a little baby.

Speaking of Cooper.... we have a new member of ballwalkpark, Cooper! Yeah, I know, it's going to be confusing... Cooper is a 3yr old lab and he is just like Chip but a different shade of the lab rainbow. He is big (100lbs), sweet, playful and a true retriever! He fit right in the pack and had a great time swimming today.

Despite Bonita's little mishap yesterday, she was playing like it never even happened today! Those puppies have never ending energy! They run, wrestle and tumble so much it makes me dizzy! This afternoon I had Cooper, Walker, Stella, Bonita and Chesa all in one group - that is 5 dogs all under 18 months! The good news is, everyone was slurping up the water bowls and dragging their paws on the way back to the truck - I finally exhausted them! It didn't hurt that my phone died while we were at the park and I lost track of time, so we were there for over 2 hours!

My morning and afternoon crew were all about the water so we spent the majority of our day at the beach. The pups were having a lot of fun with the frisbee I brought - unfortunately I didn't think about the fact that I am horrible at throwing a frisbee when I bought it. Luckily the dogs didn't laugh at me - they just swam after it no matter where it landed - people on the beach were another story. 

Today was just an all around good day. Didn't have to wait for a parking spot (either trip), we didn't lose any toys, we got a new (awesome!) friend in the pack, no one got hurt (even my rough-n-tumble puppies), and everyone went home happy and tired. 

Check out the ballwalkpark facebook page for more pictures of our adventures!

Frenchie Meetup

We went the monthly Frenchie Meetup in the small dog park at Magnuson this weekend. Bam had the time of her life. There were so many Frenchies there - the most I have ever seen! Must have been almost 30 at one point. There was just a constant chorus of grunts and snorts. A few frenchies took naps under the chairs to find a little shade. Here are a few pics from the event. [gallery link="file" columns="5"]

adventures of bwp - 4/27 : Swamp Monsters

Today we had a one-trip-Wednesday. The crew consisted of Cooper, Chip, Dexter, Pepper, Milkshake, Walker, Coco and Arten.  Shockingly, we didn't have ANY puppies today - or at least by ballwalkpark standards - everyone was over a year (not by much...).  We started the day out with a nice game of 4-way-tug in the dome area. The sun was partially out, I wasn't wearing rain gear, things were going pretty smoothly.

We headed over to the main field because we had a new toy - the flying squirrel  (see Walker doing the proud dance with it) - and due to my poor aim, unless we are far far away from any type of fence, we will lose it. Within a matter of seconds, Coco pulled her classic move - the mud dive. You will never see a dog fly into mud like this pretty little English Cream Retriever. Imagine a chef battering a piece of fish - flop, flop, done. That's exactly how she does it - just enough to get completly filthy, then she is off to the next activity.

Not only is Coco absolutely filthy, the stagnent water this time of year smells horrible. That kind of smell that sticks to your clothes and hair with only the slightest contact. So, the second I saw what Coco had done, we took off running for the water. I had to get this mud off of her before it had a chance to dry! If there were an award for the dirtiest dog at the park, I'd say Coco wins it every single time. The funniest part is, she is a goregous light blonde dainty prissy girl with a pink collar and a white couch to sleep on, why does she insist on getting so filthy?! Needless to say, she got a nice soak in the lake followed by a bar-soap-hose-bath at the park before heading home.

On the way back from the water, in the midst of a spring downpour, I did the unthinkable and threw the ball over the fence. In order to redeem myself to the crew, I jumped the fence and got the ball. You can see their amusement as I retrieved the ball for a change.

Chip and Milkshake were at their usual game of tug - I swear those two were separated at birth. They played with this toy, both attached to it at all times, for at least 30 minutes straight.  My chocolate chip milkshake :)

The dogs, especially Dexter and Pepper, have figured out what the fanny pack is all about  and are not letting me get away with stowing treats so close to their reach.  Those little sharks - can't get anything past them!

All in all, it was another great day at the park! Now.... if it could just stop raining so the mud puddles could dry up and the swamp monsters can be a thing of the past!

Jambo's Dog Park Debut! 4/22

ballwalkpark's youngest pup, Jambo,  made his dog park debut today! At first he just stuck right by his mama's side but it didn't take long for him to gain his confidence to go and run with the pack. He had excellent recall, Jennifer uses the command "touch" and that little man would come running from anywhere when he heard that. Good boy!

After only a few minute of romping around the park with the big kids, Jambo was exhausted. Luckily, he got his second wind, and then his third wind, and was able to keep up just fine. The first friend he made was Mr. Cooper, no surprise. Cooper offered to share his Chuck-It retrieving toy with Jambo - he didn't quite understand the game but appreciated the gesture. Jambo was very curious - sniffing lots of butts and greeting lots of humans.

As we were walking through the park, Chip offered to give me the retrieving toy, a trick I have fallen for many times. He either wants to just show off his prized possession, or wants me to attempt to play tug of war, at which I always lose. I just can't put my whole body into and make it a fair match like Milkshake can.

Finally, the moment we had been waiting for, Bonita and Jambo found each other! They are from the same breeder and from the day Jennifer contacted the breeder and found Jambo the parents have been dying for the pups to meet. They rolled around the ground and wrested and played for quite some time. Is there anything cuter than two golden puppies rolling around?

After Jambo went home, Bonita kept the party going with her buddy Cooper. They ran in circles around the mounds and wrested. She even invited Cooper up to the top of the mound - where the princess usually likes to rest and observe. What are we going to do without Cooper - always the life of the party :)

We stopped by the water bowls for a quick slurp - all the chasing gets you pretty thirsty! Check out Milkshake's tongue! That thing probably dries out flapping in the wind like that - gotta rehydrate! After a water break we were off to the truck - concluding another great week at the park.

I am so glad that Jambo and Jennifer had such a great first park experience. He is going to be such an awesome little park dog! He has lots of big brothers and sisters to watch out for him and show him the ropes. Jennifer should be a proud mama - she has put a lot of work and love into this little man and it shows!

Warning for dog owners!!!

An article in the West Seattle blog today warned dog owners of a deadly disease called leptospirosis. If you don't follow the link to read the full article, at least read this part: "Dogs usually contract the disease by coming in contact with rat urine, which can be found in still water such as a backyard rain puddle. In both cases the dogs threw up; then appeared to recover; then later became ill a second time. One of the dogs had killed a rat; the other dog is believed to have come in contact with rat urine in the yard. This disease can fool you. It first appears as a simple, 24-hour ‘doggie flu,’ after which the dog appears to be normal and well while the disease works in the background. Then the dog becomes ill a second time — in my dog’s case, about a week later. At that point he went from seemingly healthy to irrecoverable in just over a day.”

There is a vaccination for lepto, but it is a "recommended" vaccination at most vets, and not required as a part of the normal vaccination series by most dog walkers, doggy day cares, boarding facilities, etc.... My vet encouraged me to get it for my dogs - he said he had lost two clients in the past year to this disease and that was all it took for me!

Vaccinated or not, it is good to be aware of this disease as it sounds like there isn't much warning!

Posted on February 28, 2011 and filed under Dog Health, magnuson park.