August 26, 2009

The First Ten Minutes

finally calm

I realized something today. All of you out there who read my blog and see the photos of the day, but you don’t really get a full-view sense of our time with each client. You might, through my stories, come to understand the dog-a-nalities of each client, but there is a lot more that is packed into an hour adventure or even a half hour walk.

So, to help you grasp the complexities of each dog, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you those first ten minutes — a time of excitement, silliness, and a bit of chaos.

Today’s dogs included Wilson, Bella, Ollie, Gemma, Oshi, and Perrito as well as Monty (who is still living with us) and myself. Yes, that’s seven dogs. Luckily for Gretchen, Ann pitched in to help and met Gemma, Ollie and me at the park with Oshi, Perrito, and Monty in tow. Before I tell you about the excitement at the park, I’ll give you a quick synopsis of those first 10 minutes with each dog.

First up, Ollie. Ollie has a dog door so he is free to go from inside his house to his backyard at his leisure. sky  highWhen we arrive, Gretchen calls out his name and the furry ball races out the dog door, peers at us over the porch railing, and then bounds his way down the stairs to meet us at the gate. And this is when the bouncing happens. Not just short bounces, but mile high touch the sky leaps of excitement. In an attempt to reinforce the “off” command, Ollie has learned NOT to jump on Gretchen, but rather next to her. Unfortunately, he hasn’t learned the same with me and often he leaps right in my face he’s so happy to see us.

Once leashed up, Ollie settles right down though he has a spring to his step that continues throughout our walk. He also spends a lot of the first ten minutes checking in — looking at me then looking at Gretchen — not quite certain where we are going or who we are going to see.

Today we saw Gemma next and once we rounded the corner to her house, Ollie bounced even more. Hetongue tied really likes Gemma and so he is thrilled when he knows that’s the path on which we are headed. Now Gemma isn’t as bubbly when we first walk in the door. She sees us, wags her tail a bit, and then races around the house waiting for Gretchen to retrieve her leash from the front closet. Of course, the whole time she’s saying, “Let’s go, come on, let’s go. Time to move. Open the door Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

Being the good dog walkers that we are, we don’t head out the door until Gemma is sitting and waiting, which she does fairly quickly. But that’s when the real action happens because Gemma lives next door to a not very happy dog. The unhappy dog next door lunges and barks at the fence and that stirs Gemma’s blood. She goes a bit crazy though we move as quickly as we can down the stairs and on our way. It’s a little spooky at times, but luckily there’s a huge fence between us and I model how to ignore unhappy dogs. Gemma hasn’t quite learned that yet, but we’re working on it!

For the next few minutes, Gemma hops down the street looking for things. She looks for our car because sometimes we go on field trips, she looks for other dogs because sometimes we bring other friends, and she looks for squirrels because she, like me, loves a good squirrel chase.

Oshi and Perrito each have their own unique behaviors during the first ten minutes. When Gretchen togetheropens the door, Perrito leaps at her legs and says, “Where have you been? I thought you forgot about us!” and Oshi saunters over wagging his tail (unless he’s on the couch and doesn’t feel like walking…then he just lies there!). Once they’re leashed up, they race down the steps, say hello to me or whoever is with us, and pee like wild horses. Yes, the first ten minutes of their walk is all about lifting legs again and again and again until finally, it’s all released and they can focus on something other than relieving themselves.

I suppose I should share Monty’s first ten minutes even though he’s now living with us if only temporarily. When we walk him on his regular days, his first ten minutes almost always start wstanding tallith a loud woof from the window when he hears us coming. And then, if we listen carefully, we can hear him thunder down the stairs of his townhome where he meets us at the front door. That’s when he starts dancing, spinning around the foyer of the entryway, backing up into the other room. Once out the door, he prances down the street and always stops at the corner wondering which direction we’ll head — to the park or to the trails?

Unlike Oshi and Perrito, Monty is very particular about where and when he pees, but let me tell you, when he lifts his leg, it’s a long pause in our walk. That boy can pee like a real race horse and Gretchen often jokes that he’s trying to spell his full name — Montague.

Bella, being a puppy, is all about trying to do the right thing. When we arrive at her house, she is pausegenerally wiggling like mad in her kennel, but she knows she’s supposed to wait before she comes out. That’s a hard thing for Bella, but she really, really wants to do the right thing so she controls herself until Gretchen gives her the okay.

Gretchen also makes her wait on the landing before the door and once again, Bella knows exactly what she’s supposed to do, but her body makes it hard for her to obey. She wiggles and squirms herself into a sitting/waiting position, watches the door open with quivering anticipation, and contains all her excitement until once again Gretchen gives her the okay.

The rest of the ten minutes are devoted to remembering “heal” but once those ten minutes are up, Bella does really well at healing with an occasional bolt to the left or right. But she IS getting better — now if only her body didn’t have different intentions than her mind!

pretty boyFinally, this afternoon we walked Wilson and he, too has his own ten minute style. Two things to remember about Wilson — he’s big and he’s young. Not quite a year old, he struggles with his body moving in the direction he wants it to go and containing his excitement on slick hardwood floors.

At Wilson’s house there is an alarm so Gretchen most calmly walk to the system to punch in the code all the while trying not to step on or be run over by a very big and very happy Golden. Once the leash is on, Gretchen must reset the alarm, calmly walk out the door, and make sure all locks are locked. Wilson is very patient with this process, but once we start walking, he is all bubbles and glee. “I’m so glad you’re here. I just can’t tell you how happy it makes me.”

There are other dogs and other first ten minutes to tell you about, but covering today’s clients is enough for now. I shall share the rest of our time through photos with a special nod to a new client we’ll be walking starting Monday — Saber — a 13 week old black lab who is actually silver coated. We ran into Saber today out with his dad and Saber was not overwhelmed at all by six dogs in the park. In fact, he and Gemma fell madly in love and Ollie joined in creating balls of puppies all over the park.

ball of puppiesballs of puppies2

balls of puppies3love affair

They had their calm moments, but only after they raced and chased and romped making us all very, very tired just watching them!

saberthe new kid

chase me!racing

Oshi and Perrito weren’t so excited about the racing, chasing puppies and they pretty much stayed out of the way. Monty and I did the same letting the younger generation wear each other out!

so much activityall together

I'll stay over herehere I come

tired yet?I can run too

more runningI think he's tired

Are they done?no, not yet

Saber is very young, but he’s going to be a big boy when he grows up. I’m certain he’ll have his own wayI'm a puppy of spending the first ten minutes of our walk that will be uniquely his own. I’m sure he’ll pick up a thing or two from all the other dog clients, but we are very individualistic so I imagine he’ll have his own first ten minute stories to tell!

After we took Ollie, Gemma, Oshi and Perrito home (with Ann walking back to the house with Monty and me), Gretchen made her way over to Bella’s house. They went for a nice walk, visiting with Christy, the mail carrier along the way. Bella seemed a bit tired today, but once she got on the road, she was very alert and excited. They walked over to our house, where lo and behold, we had visitors of our own. Visitors of the human kind!

LiamThis is Liam and he loves to visit our house with his mom, Mary. He likes dogs, too, and photography as well and helped Gretchen give us water, take a few pictures, and make certain we weren’t playing too roughly.

Bella was very good with Liam (and visa versa) and really enjoyed when Liam filled the pool for a quick, refreshing dip on another hot day.

Liam hung out with Monty because Monty was kind of tired and needed some sun time on the deck. Meanwhile, Bella and I did what Bella and I do of late — we played!

on the decksun time

water timesplash time

refreshingfun times

runningwanna play?

Monty joined us at one point, but decided that Bella was way too fast for him…

she's still moving!stand still...

oh, there she goesMonty never did get Bella to stand still in one place for very long. Monty has a habit of wanting to smell everything and everybody, but sometimes there are things to do as Bella so diligently illustrates every time we’re with her.

Gretchen walked Bella through the park practicing her heel the whole way. By the time Bella got home, she was actually happy to climb into her kennel and take a nice nap. I guess she eventually does run out of steam.

Our day was not over, though, for Wilson was still left to walk. After a nap, Monty and I went with Gretchen to retrieve the big guy and he was thrilled to see us all on his doorstep. After a walk, we ended up at the big field, which is a place we love to play, but is often in use with kids playing soccer or Ultimate Frisbee players practicing. Today, nobody AND Mt. Rainer was out so Gretchen thought it was the perfect back drop for fetch and photos.

in the shadow of the mountainthe last fetch

Is that my ball?yeah, that's mine

happinessreally happy

will you throw it for me?got it!

all togetherall together again

The first ten minutes are unique, but then again, so are the last. We dropped Monty off at the house and Wilson and I walked the long way back to his home. We were tired, for sure, but we were also happy andmountain shot content knowing we’d played well and played hard. Along the way, there are photo opportunities that Gretchen just can’t pass up and with the mountain calling to her, she let us rest one more time while she snapped this photo. I know it’s hard to see, but in the distance, tucked between the trees and looking as if it’s sitting on top of the house is Mt. Rainier.

I wonder what its first ten minutes of life were like? Ours? Varied and different, unique and special. It’s all in a day’s work, no?

Until tomorrow,


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