May 27, 2010

Riding The Shuttle (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, we took Ruby to downtown Denver to get some experience riding the 16th Street Mall Shuttle. We didn't realize that the following weekend, her puppy class was to take the very same outing. It was interesting to see the contrast of how she behaved on her own and in the company of her puppy cronies. I'll take this one; Mr. Raiser will tell you about the group trip in a second post.

16th Street Mall is a popular downtown Denver tourist destination. It's a traffic-free, pedestrian-friendly strip with 16 blocks of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Since cars aren't allowed to drive down the Mall, free shuttle buses run continuously, making stops at every intersection. It's a great training area for a young service pup.

While we waited at the shuttle stop, we practiced adding some "distance" to the "sit" command – I would walk to the length of the leash in different directions, then return without her breaking the sit. She did extremely well.

Shuttles come very frequently so we weren't waiting long.

I had her sit until the doors opened and she boarded really politely, no problem at all.

The shuttle was pretty busy since people got on and off at every block, so I had her practice both "down" and "sit" as space afforded it.

I was really pleased at her focus, because there was a lot going on – constant movement, noise, people talking, shifting places, etc.

Taking public transportation with a service puppy in training guarantees you an audience – people are constantly asking questions. I encourage these dialogues, because I believe that service puppies are in public to educate as well as be educated. I was especially happy that Ruby did not break her position even if I was talking with someone, because she sometimes takes that liberty. It's as if she's thinking, "Hey, Mom made a friend, that must mean it's my friend now too, so I better go over and say hi!" But not this time. She was an awesome little ambassador.

We disembarked and set off for a little loose leash walking, which, as you all know, is not her strong suit in the great outdoors. But she must have been in the zone, because she walked nicely, with minimal pulling. Who was this dog?

So, surprisingly, she was much more focused and calm that day than I thought she would be. We had fun wandering along, you never know who you'll encounter walking down the street.

Really. You never know.

May 24, 2010

May 21, 2010

Having A Heart-To-Heart

Ruby, now that you're a year old, the time has come to discuss the birds and the bees. We understand the temptation. But please stop chasing them. Especially the bees. We know you think they're your friends, but trust us. They're really not.

May 19, 2010

Ruby's First Hotel Room

Ever since Kiva came into our lives nearly 12 years ago, all our vacations have been dog-centered. She's traveled with us to 21 states, criss-crossed the country a few times, and has frolicked everywhere from mountain meadows covered in wildflowers to cool, coastal beaches.

Kiva n' Me, Outer Banks of North Carolina, 1999

Kiva's an excellent traveler – I always say that of the three of us in the car, she's definitely the most well-behaved!

We wanted to make sure Ruby is at ease on long car rides and staying in unfamiliar places, so we planned a weekend getaway to Steamboat Springs, CO. May is my favorite month to travel with dogs because most destinations are still off-season. No crowds, cool enough for dogs to hike and walk around comfortably, and very easy to find pet-friendly places to stay at reasonable prices.

Cabins are great fun and would've been our first choice, but for this trip we wanted Ruby to experience a regular room, so we chose one of the typical chains.

We definitely had a lot of practice having Ruby wait to enter/exit through doors,

and calmly walk down hallways.

Ah, that exciting moment before you first open the door to your room. Will we have a good view? What kind of amenities will be provided? Maybe there's a shower cap!

Ruby dashed in and immediately rubbed against the bed, I guess to mark her territory,

and Kiva claimed her spot.

Years of road trips with a dog means you don't expect the super-deluxe room. For the most part, you get what they give you. We had called and booked something a bit larger (they knew we were traveling with two dogs) but when we arrived, they said pets were not allowed in the room we booked. That's fine. When you're with the pooches, you just roll with it.

If you've ever traveled with a dog, you know that in this setting, their keen sense of smell is both hilarious and frightening. They find certain spots to be very...intriguing. 'Nuff said. We don't even want to know.

Kiva is particularly concerned with hygiene when we travel. She felt the bathroom might've been somewhat suspect. And there's Ruby finding

The "view" was of the pool, which, being May, was thankfully deserted. But when we arrived, she did see some kids splash around. We couldn't believe it, because we thought it was pretty chilly, but I guess kids don't care. If there's a pool, they're in it!

All in all, it was totally fine for our purposes and both Kiva and Ruby made themselves at home right away. I would have liked the larger room because we always eat meals in our room with our dogs, we never leave them alone. But that's ok, we were all pretty cozy.

May 16, 2010

The Results Of Our Eye Test?

We passed!!! Well, Ruby passed. The doctor confirmed that her eyes are perfectly healthy. If she had failed her tests, she would have been released from the program, so we're very thankful that everything went well.

We went to lunch afterward to celebrate. And celebrate we did, until someone spied another little celebration happening outside the restaurant, and was not at all happy that she couldn't join their party.

In the spirit of this post, let's take a closer look.

I couldn't argue with her, they were having a great time out there. She, however, argued with me. Loudly. This is only the second time she's barked inside a public place (here's the first), and it's absolutely not funny. But it is kind of funny. So as I mortifyingly cringegiggled, I managed to divert her attention away from the dogs and quiet her down.

She was in, they were out, life's not fair.

Many treats were awarded for this indignant resignation. But I can only imagine the kind of dog swears going on behind those big, beautiful brown eyes.

May 13, 2010

Ruby Discovers The Art Of Upper Management

But the worker bee doesn't mind at all – her favorite thing ever is to go for a swim!

May 5, 2010

Furry Scurry

Every year, our local shelter, Dumb Friends League, holds a fundraising event called the Furry Scurry. It's really a sight – thousands of people and dogs walking together through the park. Thousands. Of dogs.

As you know, one of Ruby's biggest challenges is learning how to control herself around other dogs. I'll be honest with you, I was of two minds when I thought about bringing her to this event: 1) It's going to be a disaster. 2) It'll be so overwhelming, she'll just go with the flow.

Either way, it would be a valuable (and unique) training opportunity, so we decided to go.

When we arrived, she could see, smell, and hear all the hubbub in the distance, so I thought it would be good to do a little basic training before we hit the big time.

And she was great, she listened, she was her awesome Ruby self. Then we made our way to the route and the closer we got, the more excited she became. Of course, the second she spied all the dogs, she made a break for it – no pix, but I do have the leash burn to prove it.

How to describe her level of exuberance? Not a politician on the campaign trail...that's apathetic in comparison...

Ah! It was the canine equivalent of big dinners at my grandmother's house when I was a kid. In order to get to the meatballs, you had to make your way through the gauntlet of love – your own grandparents, other people's grandparents, your aunts, uncles and cousins – kissing, hugging, and embracing everyone along the way. Ruby was like my entire gigantic, affectionate Italian family rolled up into one exhilarated yellow puppy, rushing around, pinching all the other puppies' chubby cheeks.

So, yes, lots of this. I could have been wearing a bacon suit with a cheese hat, she couldn't have cared less about me.

Undeterred, I persisted. The crowd thinned for a moment; this was my chance to get her attention.

Bingo. I had her.

And then? Check this out:

Look at that droopy leash. Droopy leash! With two long-lost cousins just inches away! Unbelievable. I know it may not look like much to you, but the utter joy, excitement, and encouragement I get from this photo – seeing her glance at the dog but making the choice to just walk right by him – is indescribable.

Already feeling triumphant, we approached the starting line. A look ahead,

and a look behind. This was my first Furry Scurry and the amount of people and dogs is really unbelievable.

Ruby actually wound up being pretty good as we walked with the masses. Occasionally somedog or another would strike her fancy, but for the most part, she stayed the course.

I walked Kiva for most of the route. She was my perfect girl, as always.

A shot with both of my girls. The little imp turned around, of course.

I'm really glad we decided to go. I'm working hard on getting her used to being around other dogs without going crazy and I feel we made some progress here. And it was just so much fun being around all the dogs.

A few more shots of the day...

A volunteer was handing out poop bags at the finish line. Very cute.

May 3, 2010

Happy First Birthday, Sweet Girl

I wasn't sure what to expect when Baby Roo arrived on our doorstep last year.

I really only had one worry, if my precious 11-year-old dog would adapt well to having a nutty puppy in the house. My angel, Kiva, calmed my fears right away (she always has) and taught me what patience really means.

With that settled, Team Ruby was on its way!

We went to school,


met some very important people,

made new friends.

And with all these experiences, we started to grow.

We're learning so much about the world. Some lessons are smooth,

some challenging,

some are sorrowful,

and some are subtle,

but all are memorable and held deep in my heart.

And sure, we may make a few mistakes along the way,

but whatever happens, it always ends in smiles and laughter!

So, happy first birthday, my sweet baby, Ruby. It's the only birthday you'll spend with us, and the gifts I hope to give you are but a fraction of all the gifts you have already given me.