Chain Reaction

dog training, Wellness
May you greet every day with Christmas morning excitement.

Fayston, Vermont. The holiday season’s wishes of peace and goodwill have a different spin during a pandemic: How we treat others and how they feel as a result is highly contagious. I’ve found that the same holds true for my dogs.

Charlie Brown, my spanador foster fail, was never particularly brave, but he is always wagging and is super affectionate with just about everybody. However, in the last several months, he has become more fearful of other dogs that display reactive behavior. I trace this to my neighbors’ golden retrievers. Those dogs are never leashed and bark and snarl at us when we go by. They often follow us into the street. The youngest one has lunged at us. Hubs has spoken to their people; I’ve heard yelling at both dogs and humans by other neighbors out for a walk.

The neighbors with the reactive dogs are second homeowners, but with the pandemic, they have been here more often than not. Their dogs are not the only ones who raise their hair at us: The pandemic has brought more people and their dogs to my usually quiet street as folks move to the country.

Charlie starts barking when he sees unfriendly behavior from another dog. So far, he waits for the other dog to display before reacting. To break this chain, I have been redirecting him. I walk him out of view of the oncoming nasty encounter. We duck down a driveway or into the trees. I have Charlie and Lucy sit as I shower them with treats or dry dog food until the snappy passes. I’m teaching them “touch” where they must tap my hand to earn a treat. Distraction is working! I can now have them focus on me and my kibble pocket while in distant view of the passing would-be antagonist.

To paraphrase a tv preacher, Charlie let go of the conflict to find his peace and cookies. I haven’t been sleeping much lately, and “release your conflict to find your peace” was the phrase I first heard when I absently turned on the TV just before 4 am last Sunday. I don’t think I’ve ever watched tv church before, but this phrase made me sit down and listen. Like Charlie, I have been feeling anxious. I am bundled stiff in layers of sadness, loss, and frustration, topped off with an itchy cap of feelings that I been deceived and pushed around.

One of my anxiety layers is caused by common COVID confinement that keeps me from my family and from doing many things I enjoy. But underneath that, I am grieving for a friend who entered hospice care last month. She passed away earlier this week. Additionally, my office is undergoing a reorganization. Although I have been offered a spot while others will be unemployed come January, I have been demoted and must learn a new job, my third in five years, while finishing up my duties in my current position with a smile on my face.

I don’t think I can tell doggo Charlie to turn his troubles over to God, but we are breaking the negativity chain by redirecting his attention to allow good thoughts to fill the space between his floppy ears. Focusing on positive interaction with me keeps him from reacting to another dog’s anxiety. Plus, I’ve met a neighbor who has offered friendly socialization with her happy young Labrador. Maybe we will start a new chain by inspiring local dog owners to work on training and socializing their dogs, but I’m realistic.

As for my emotional conflict, I mindfully attempt to let go of the negative thoughts. Like Charlie, I’ve found that cookies are a wonderful distraction tool, especially when paired with brisk long walks to work off the extra cookies. Talking to my family and friends also helps me release some of the negative emotions even though I can’t be with them. I know that my family members are healthy, and I look forward to seeing them in the new year, once we’re all vaccinated and travel is safe.

Further, I will honor my friend’s memory with the care I take to do my work, whatever that becomes. Memories of her sass will keep a smile on my face, or at least a bemused smirk. I know that I must also allow myself to miss her and feel sad sometimes. As for the recent office changes, I’d be worried about me if I wasn’t bothered. I am navigating the transition with practicality and some semblance of grace and humor.

Walking – literally putting one foot in front of the other – helps me focus on the present. By doing so, I won’t slip on the metaphorical or real ice as I wander back to peace, enabling me to radiate my calm vibes forward.

I highly recommend pocket cookies while embarking on a moving meditation with your dog. Take deep breaths; listen to the trees. Or, in my neck of the woods, hear the hum of snowmaking that vibrates across the valley and sing along.

 I wish you peace this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

About my photos in this post: Red shed images taken with my old Canon 7d; other images shot on 35mm film with an even older Canon AE-1 Program. Linus in the chair is on Kodak Portra 400 film; black and white photos of Charlie Brown and Alice the Cat are on Lomography Lady Grey.

The Tomato Thief, and Other Stories

dog training, dogs, humor, pets, photography, vermont

Charlie, Lucy, and Linus

Fayston, Vermont. Something stole our tomatoes this year. After a wet June and a coolish July, the tomatoes struggled to produce fruit.  We only grow cherry tomatoes, which we plant in the sunniest and warmest spot in our backyard, hard by the dining room windows. It’s difficult enough to grow them at our 1,900 ft. elevation, but something was snatching the small fruit just before any ripened.

What critter could be doing this? Chipmunks are scarce, due to the vigilance of hound/lab mix Linus. Birds scatter with lab/spaniel mix Charlie as the flusher. And golden girl Lucy is too busy chasing butterflies to notice much else.

Or so we thought.

One day, I caught Linus chewing on a mystery something outside, then I saw him gently pull a tomato off a plant. Stop, Thief! It wasn’t long before the others met him at their living salad bar, all three lined up each at a plant, tails wagging.

Tomatoes are not toxic to dogs, but the plant itself can be. My pack plucked the sweet fruit and left the bitter stems. The tomato season is just about over. I’m glad that our blueberries are fenced.

I am also grateful for the Farmers’ Market.

Holiday Revelry

Please, please bring a leash with you when you walk with your unleashed dog. Yup, it happened again: A “very friendly” unleashed big black dog was running free over the Labor Day weekend and we encountered him during our morning walk. I had never seen him before. Lucy and Charlie were leashed.

At first, I didn’t see the unleashed dog’s person. The dog was running up the middle of our street, happy in his freedom, zig-zagging up the hill. I signaled to a passing car to slow down. Luckily, the driver saw the black dog despite the dark morning shadows and slowed down, nodding an “affirmative” to me as he passed by.

The dog ran into an adjacent field, and I assumed home. Nope. Farther down the street, he came bounding at us, with the owner’s “He’s very friendly” call hanging in the air. Before I could reply, Lucy, who is usually behind me, put herself between me and the incoming dog. I was moving slowly that morning because of some pain. With a vocalization from Lucy that was halfway between a bark and a growl, the black dog stopped its advance. I asked the owner to please leash her dog.

She didn’t have a leash with her.

In my town, dogs must be leashed unless under voice control. A dog’s friendliness does not negate the need for a leash or proper training. My heart skipped a beat when I saw a loose dog and an on-coming car that might not see the dog. Why do people forget their brains – and their good citizen manners – when they are on holiday?

WAGMOREVT Photo Booth, and more!

Save the date! On Friday, October 11,  from 3-6 PM, WAGMOREVT and Product Think Tank will host a Pet Photo Booth to benefit Pawsitive Pantry and Golden Huggs Rescue. Halloween costumes are encouraged! Suggested donation of $5 per photo/$10 if I take the photo so you can be in it, too. Product Think Tank, which sells locally designed natural fiber clothing for men and women, is located next to the Waitsfield, Vermont Post Office, in the Mad River Green Shopping Center, Route 100, Waitsfield.

I will also be in the shop with my greeting cards and photo prints for sale. Most prints will be matted and ready for your frame; a few will be framed. If you are in the Mad River Valley for the long weekend, I hope you will stop by. I look forward to seeing you.

Also, I plan to enter only dog photos in the Green Mountain Photo Show (GMPS) this year.  The GMPS opens September 13 and runs through October 6. It will be held in the barn at Lareau Farm – home of American Flatbread – on Route 100, Waitsfield, Vermont. The show is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-9 PM; Saturdays-Sundays from noon-9. Admission is free. My entered photos will be framed and ready to go to their new home – yours!

You can also find my greeting cards at Artisans’ Gallery on Bridge Street, Waitsfield, Vermont, and in the Pro Shop at Sugarbush Resort Golf Club in Warren, Vermont.

Charlie hears someone in the kitchen

Linus in the daisies

Happy Lucy



Butterfly in our garden

Country Manners

dog training, dogs, pets, travel, vermont

Linus makes use of the ice in our backyard

Fayston, Vermont.  It’s snowing. Again. The streets haven’t been plowed or sanded. Large white, fluffy flakes swirl in the air, sticking to my windshield and covering up our tracks from our our morning walk, which was taken before most folks have had their coffee. I’m returning home after a mid-morning grocery and dog treat run.

Despite the snow, walkers are out. It is a holiday, after all. A young couple with an energetic Golden Retriever try to make him sit as I drive slowly by. Then, on my street, I see my neighbor, with a friendly wave. Just as I turn into my driveway, I spot another walker, a stylish woman with her ear to her phone trudging up the last hill of our street. Cautiously I made my way down my driveway as it is sometimes slippery under new snow. Cream on scream is what we call it in the ski school.

A happy yellow lab in a pink collar is running full smile down my driveway at my car. Not one of my dogs. I see her in time to stop, but I am shaken. I’ve never seen this dog before. I think perhaps she belongs to Phone Woman.

Not long ago, I had a run in with a seasonal neighbor’s three dogs, who came charging down their driveway into the street after us. I was walking with Lucy and Charlie, both leashed. Surprised, I slipped on the ice and let go of Charlie’s leash as I slid. Charlie charged back, pinning one of the dogs in the snowbank as the other two dogs stood a few feet from me and Lucy. The two neighbor’s dogs were growling and barking at us. Lucy was quiet and hid behind me. I quickly called off Charlie – the dog (bigger but younger than Charlie) was pinned but unharmed – which Charlie did, only to stand at the end of the neighbor’s drive and bark at said neighbor. No doubt scolding him. I picked up Charlie’s leash and pulled him along to the sound of my neighbor’s apologies.

Town is crowded with tourists and seasonal homeowners here for a ski holiday. Even though you are on vacation, please remember to leash your dogs while out walking the streets and trails. Even if your dog is friendly. Because my town has a leash law. Because Charlie will try to protect me. Because I might not be able to stop.

And if you’re driving on our scenic country roads, please slow down when you see us – or anyone else – out for a walk.

What’s Your Dog’s Walk Profile?

dog training, dogs, humor

Each of my dogs has a distinct personality, even when confined to a leash

Fayston, Vermont. Despite the fact that spring seems slow in coming this year, my dogs and I are enjoying more time outside now that the snow is (mostly) melted. I am looking forward to walking on the hiking trails and public paths once those ways are dry enough for foot traffic. Meanwhile, we are meandering out on the roads, and I have noticed that each of my dogs exhibits at least one “walk profile” type when on a leash. Others have told me about their dogs’ distinct behavior while leash walking.

Recently, I devised a set of “walk profiles” to categorize dog behavior while on a leash.  The profiles are not exclusive to each other – dogs may show characteristics from more than one profile. Dogs may also morph from one category into another completely. Training is the biggest variable, but weather may also have a role in which behavior is exhibited. Equipment such as a special harness or lead also plays a part in behavior.

What type of “walker” is your dog?

  1. The Investigator. This dog loves to sniff EVERYTHING, even if the walk is on the same route taken earlier in the day. All of the day’s news is contained in the grass, but it takes time to weed out the gossip from the important stuff. This dog is thorough and curious as well as social. Perhaps even a little stubborn… Motivating to move along can be a challenge.
  2. The Fire Chief. Works a little faster than the Investigator, but is sure to put out each inflammatory remark with his own stream. The Fire Chief boasts an amazing reservoir to ensure coverage.
  3. The Motion Detector. Chases blowing leaves, butterflies, birds, and moving squirrels, the Motion Detector is energetic and enthusiastic. The Motion Detector needs frequent “SIT” time-outs to collect herself while on a leash. Can be difficult to handle in a wind gust.
  4. The Collector. Souvenirs of every walk line the driveway: sticks, dropped rotten apples, and even big branches are picked up and carried by the Collector during the walk and dropped once back at home. Sometimes these items are held in the mouth while in Motion Detector mode (see above). A collected item often serves as a pacifier. The Collector is known to carry multiple items at the same time. Caution: Large collected items can become a club – “drop it” is a good command to avoid being hit behind the knees with a large stick.
  5. The Tugboat. Harnessing the power of this type of walker is necessary, and with training, the Tugboat can become a well-mannered Pleasure Cruiser. The Tugboat is out in front, excited at being outside and stimulated by all he sees. His specialty is pulling arms: Avoid injury by using a no-pull harness/lead and engaging the tugboat in training to stop his pulling.
  6. The Hunter. Similar to the Motion Detector, but instead of chasing movement, the Hunter is scenting rodents. Squirrels, chipmunks, and gophers better beware if the Hunter is off-leash. The Hunter type is often paired with the Tugboat type, so a harness and training help keep hunting season closed during leash walks.
  7. The Pleasure Cruiser. With training and frequent positive reinforcement, this is the height of evolved dog walk behavior. The Cruiser is focused on his or her handler, does not pull or lurch or jump, and makes exploring the neighborhood a joy of companionship. Each of my dogs has flirted with this walk type, but none has committed fully to it. Yet. Our pursuit of Cruiser-ability is on-going.

What type of walker is your dog? Do you have any other types in your house? Please leave a comment!

Line Item Missing

dogs, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Lucy, Charlie Brown, and Linus in their orange vests on a recent walk in a Vermont state park. Their leashes are at my feet.

Fayston, Vermont.  My apologies for once again not sticking to my first-Wednesday-of-the-month schedule. Our power was out for a couple of days last week, and our internet was down for over a week. I’m finally back on-line with a new, faster modem. But leash lines, not power lines, are this post’s topic.

Do you carry a leash?

My town’s leash law allows dogs to be off-leash if they are under voice control. I have yet to meet a dog during our wanders who is actually that obedient. Admittedly, mine are intermittently obedient. Know that I love to let my three dogs off leash. It is wonderful exercise for them as they run at least three miles to each one I walk. They are very happy to explore and play with each other. I have a couple of places where I can do that without too much worry, but the best place is on my own property, which is mostly wooded and has a trail looping through it.

We are working on the command “come.” Each of my dogs does fairly well when I work alone with one of them, but when they are together, not so much. Linus and Charlie Brown have selective hearing. They are usually not far; they are too busy to come. We have much work to do.

When we are out (and my dogs are on leash), we occasionally encounter unleashed dogs. “Oh, he’s friendly” – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that line from an owner of an unleashed dog. That might be true, but one of my dogs is reactive.

Linus meditates…

Linus is not always friendly. He barks at dogs on t.v.  While we are working on that, too, it is the top reason I have him on a leash when we leave our property. It is also why I time my walks to avoid the other “regulars” in my neighborhood. Sometimes we meet, however, and it’s hard. My neighbors are extremely patient and understanding. 

So, while your dog might be friendly, another dog might not be – please keep that in mind when you let your dogs off leash on a public trail. Always carry a leash, and leash your dog when you come across others. Please.

Another reason for keeping dogs on leash during November in Vermont is because it is hunting season. My dogs look adorable in their orange bandanas and vests, but underbrush could conceal and camouflage them. A tired hunter might react simply to movement. To be safe, I keep my dogs leashed.


Charlie perches atop a hay bale for a portrait

Third, some folks might not want to meet your dog, even if doggo is very friendly. About a month ago, I brought Lucy to the reservoir to swim. The park had just closed for the season, but it was a warm, sunny day. Lucy was on leash as we walked to the water. About 50 yards away, another woman was working with her young dog. The dog was much more interested in Lucy than the owner’s commands and treats. The lady persisted in struggling for his attention. Lucy was oblivious as she just wanted to swim.

Swim she did. I had brought my camera and started to take pictures. I noticed a hilltop that would provide a scenic backdrop for a Lucy portrait. After a bit of swimming, I leashed her to walk up the steep hill to see the view. At the top we were immediately and enthusiastically greeted by two off-leash black labs. Their owner was calling them to no avail. The meeting was friendly, but I was overwhelmed by our new friends. In the happy frenzy, I became tangled in Lucy’s leash between three large, wet, jumping dogs and was nearly knocked to the ground. The owner asked me not to unleash Lucy because her dogs had been attacked by off leash dogs.

Oh, the irony…

Lucy at the Waterbury Reservoir, post swim and Lab greeting

Jumping Jacks


Ghita and Ziggy with Betsy

Ghita and Ziggy with Betsy

Fayston, Vermont. With Jack Russell Terriers (JRT) Ghita and Ziggy, both under two years old, and their person, Betsy Carter.

Ghita is his aunt by breeding. They both came from the same breeder. I really liked the breeder. I was so happy with her, I got another one.


Ghita in action!

I started gong to a puppy kindergarten with Ghita at Show Me the Biscuit in Williston. They do a lot of agility training. They said that she’d be great for this because she has so much energy and that was about a year and a half ago. It takes about a year to get them ready for competition.

So you started her when she was very young! I started her with a “good manners” class, which is like an intro: This is how you sit, this is how you use the clicker. Then they had one called “prep school,” where they go to the next level to teach you a lot of the foundations for agility. We actually started classes when she was about 9 mos old, 10 mos old? We’ve been doing classes a couple of days a week since then. I do two with him every week, then one agility class with her and one obedience class – so four total.

How did you find the classes? On-line search. There’s not a lot out there in the area. I knew I wanted to do training. I’ve had a JRT before and I trained her with a choke chain and a prong collar. I wanted to go a different direction with it. They do all positive reinforcement. I think it’s resulted in happier dogs. Not that Daisy was unhappy, but it forces them to think. Because, a lot of time we do what’s called “free-shaping”: You stand in just look at something, and they’ll try all sorts of different behaviors and you click and reward the behavior you want.


Ghita weaving poles.

That’s how you teach the weave poles. You come over here and stand, and wait for them to go around the first one, then click and reward. Then you continuously up your criteria. It takes a longer time to teach things, but it makes the behavior more solid.

I’ve always had a dog growing up. When I was in college I got my first JRT from a rescue. I’m from Atlanta. Daisy came from a rescue. She was about 3-5 years old. I just wanted a companion dog. She passed away two years ago, but I had already decided to get Ghita then. I wanted Daisy to have a little sister and for Daisy to teach the other dog, but the timing didn’t work out.

[To the dogs] But now I have you guys!

They are cute and they know it.