Traveling Dog Lady: April 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Today is my 47th birthday. It's the first time, ever, that this day doesn't feel like my birthday, and I keep forgetting that it is my birthday. I have always put great stock in birthdays, particularly my own. As the baby of the family, and the only girl, and born on my father's birthday and on his aunt Annie's birthday, it was such an important day in my life. I was fortunate to always have my birthday during school vacation week here in Massachusetts, and got quite accustomed to having that day "off" from obligations such as school, work, etc. In my adult years, I started taking that day off as my own personal holiday from work, and eventually took the entire week off as a present to myself. This year is different. I used up my April vacation in the unpleasant city of Las Vegas, and have to work today, a Saturday no less! All because I want to es-Cape to Cape Cod tomorrow in a mini-celebration-vacation. It's the best I can do.

This past week, a horrendous nor'easter pummeled Cape Cod with gigantic waves which destroyed the 45-step stairway from Nauset Light Beach Road to Nauset Light Beach. The only entryway to the beach, Mother Nature has ironcally solved a problem for me -- my fear of taking the dogs onto the beach and encountering angry people who don't quite get the concept that the dogs outweigh me and are really quite goofy and friendly. Ah, well, I don't have to worry about that for the time being. There is no indication in the news whether the steps will be rebuilt. For now, the only way to Nauset Light Beach is to jump off a cliff, or walk all the way to the Coast Guard Station and walk up. Problem is, you have to go all the way back to the Coast Guard Station after that. I will most likely do this tomorrow or Monday, and will take some photos and video. Unless the beach is too littered with debris, or the tide is too high. Stay tuned!!

Here are some photos of the steps. I got both of these from the Cape Cod Times web site, having apparently never myself taken any photos of the steps (how strange).

This photo was taken in 2005 during/after a late-October storm that brought the ocean swirling to the bottom of the steps. I remember The Weather Channel being parked in the parking lot, and my friend Craig calling me to tell me. I turned on the TV, back in Spencer, to discover one of the Weather Channel dudes standing on "my" steps, reporting about the storm! Here's the photo:

The next photo is one taken this week, which I found on the Cape Cod Times web site. It's an aerial view of the steps in the midst of being destroyed. The waves, gigantic. I have never seen them so high. Not a great picture, due to the size. It looks better on the Cape Cod Times web site. Here it is, anyhow:

Finally, here is another photo from the Cape Cod Times, showing some folks having a "Disappointing Day At the Beach" this past Thursday. As you can see, the boardwalk is cordoned-off by a barrier so as to prevent people from going down the now non-existent steps. The waves, as recently as Thursday, still pummeling all the way up to the dune. Other parts of the Cape, most notably Chatham's "North Beach" have been changed forever. Parts once reachable by car as recently as a week ago, are now an island reachable only by boat. Here are the disappointed folk:

Sunday, April 1, 2007

dog whisperer: truly an inspiration

Yesterday, I finally broke down and started deleting some of the Season 2 episodes of Dog Whisperer from my very-full DVR. The DVR has been acting up, unable to function at times, because of so many Dog Whisperer episodes being saved onto it. During this process, a very interesting thing happened. I became inspired all-over-again by Cesar's true gift. He trains people, oh yes, he does.

I had recorded episodes all the way back to March, 2006 on the DVR. I started watching the segments that pertained to me, saving the ones that really pertained to me, and deleting whole episodes if nothing in any of the two-or-three segments related to my situation.

To reiterate: I have been immobilized by fear and unable to walk my dogs on longer walks because they have pulled me down on the ground in pursuit of cats or other dogs. I have been injured physically, and even got into some scuffles with humans during these incidents. The dogs even killed a cat (by accident) exactly a year ago this week.

A wonderful thing happened yesterday. I started taking snippets of information away from the various episodes I watched, committed them to memory, and took the dogs for a walk around the block.

In the "Bearz" episode, I heard Cesar say that you should go down the stairs slowly. I captured that in my brain for future use.

On to "Greta and Hoss" -- claiming the door. Well, I've pretty much mastered that, but there was information that I needed to hear again, and it helped.

The "Eppie" episode (eppie-sode!) reminded me of the fact that I have to keep my eyes forward, and that the dog has to pay attention to me, not the other way around. That I can feel what the dog is doing without looking at him.

My very favorite episode has always been "Major Jones." I cry every time I watch it, so inspired and in awe of what Major Jones and his owner accomplish in such a short time. I got the most out of that one yesterday, because Cesar said that if there's a trouble spot, you need to work in that area over and over and over again until it becomes second nature. In the case of Major Jones, it was going in and out of the gate calmly. In my case, it's passing the next-door neighbor's house, where the cat was killed last year, and two more houses on our regular walking route where cats congregate. I realized I can just keep walking, back and forth, back and forth, in the cat areas until the dogs become so acclimated to gentle, calm walking that they will no longer become excited and get into "chase" mode.

I took the dogs for a walk yesterday, after watching all of these segments of Dog Whisperer. I looked straight ahead, and didn't "scope out" looking for cats. I stayed completely calm, shoulders down, head forward and up. I didn't allow Hector to "scope out" for cats, either.

Hobie always walks with a slack leash, but Hector likes to pull in front and scope out the situation, in his hound-dog way. I know I have to use the backpack with him. Yesterday, I kept thinking a thought over and over in my mind, silently: "Slack leash, Hector." Within minutes, Hector was walking "in the zone", head low, as relaxed as Hobie, with a slack leash. I had spent a lot of time with Hobie during the year before we adopted Hector, and Hobie has always been very obedient on-leash, except when he's competing for a cat or strange dog's attention.

After our walk, we went for a very long drive. When we returned, the next-door neighbor's cats were in the yard. Same exact situation as last year. Hobie saw the cats as we drove by, and he perked up. Not wanting a repeat (and anyway he wouldn't be off-leash) but not wanting excitement, I gave Hobie a bite and a stern "Hey!" as we drove by. (I imitate Cesar's "Hey!" that he uses on the show.) I made sure my energy was right before getting out of the car. I calmly put the leash on Hobie. I got out of the car first. I left Hector in the car, and put Hobie in the yard, safely away from the kitties. Then, I let Hector out of the car, on-leash. A far cry from last year's incident, when I thought they'd follow me (the non-pack-leader!) into the house, loose, and instead they ran next-door and chomped down on the cat critically injuring it so it had to be operated on and eventually euthanized, at great financial and emotional cost to me.

This morning, I woke up and the old dread came up again when I thought of taking the dogs for a walk. But I said, no, I'm going to beat this thing. I started thinking about the things I heard Cesar say on the show. Things like, "If you only go one step, that is an accomplishment." For so long, I had been setting my sights on a one-hour walk (like we used to take). But thanks to Cesar, I realized I don't have to do that. If I walk only five minutes, that is an accomplishment. And, it's up to me to decide. I don't have to feel bad for the dogs because they're not getting an hour-long walk. That is attaching human emotions to the dogs. If I decide the walk ends after 12 minutes, then the walk ends. We live in the moment, and maybe we'll do a second walk later.

As it turns out, we took a 45-minute walk this morning. We even encountered a running cat, and I was able to turn the dogs around and go in the other direction, then walk past the cat's house a few minutes later with both dogs "in the zone", heads low, leashes slack.

And me, completely in charge.