September 29th, 2008


At The Beach

Ahhh, my second morning at the beach. Came down Saturday night with Zodi and Devon for a week of blissful relaxation. Unfortunately, at the last minute, hubby couldn't come until later in the week (the price of being self-employed). But I'm not feeling lonely. I thought I might feel a little weird being here alone but I guess having been here so many times before makes it actually very comfortable. Plus there are a lot more people around than there usually are at Christmas. It's also a lot warmer than it is at Christmas which is a little too warm for me--it's sunny and in the low 80's by midday. I brought my kayak to do some paddling but it's too warm to be paddling in the middle of the day and I'm just not an early morning person.

I actually got up at 6:45 this morning and took the dogs for a walk on the beach. I thought we'd be the only ones out there but there were a couple of joggers and shell hunters. But as I got to the end if the island I looked across a gap in the dunes to the other side along a creek and saw a pair of foxes playing. I almost couldn't believe my eyes but there was no mistaking those silhouettes. Naturally, the dogs had no clue since they were way too busy sniffing every piece of jetsam and flotsam. Zodi especially likes to smell everything, so much so that our progress down the beach is incredibly slow.

Anyway, I'll possibly go paddling this evening depending on the tide. I have to be sure to choose a time when I won't get stranded in the mud by the tide receding on me. I can't imagine how anyone could get to me to rescue me since there's nothing but sea grass, water and mud out there. I'd just have to sit there and wait for the tide to come back in which would be way too long in a kayak.

But I did go out scouting put in places yesterday and found this marina which was busy storing boats for the winter. It really kind of blew my mind the way they were doing it. They had a fork lift that lifted the entire boat and stuck it in a slot on these huge steel shelf-like things. I had to try to get a couple of pictures:

The marina wasn't a good place to launch my boat but I did find a couple of good spots and then I went back to the house and took the dogs for another long walk. this time I remembered to bring my camera so I took a couple of shots of the "yard". There are all these cacti in bloom (I guess that's what these red things are) right now which I think are really cool.

As soon as we reached the beach we ran into a woman walking her two Labradoodles. We joined up with them and walked to the end of the island to let the dogs run off leash and play together. They had a great time and Zodi exhibited her unique play style which includes stalking and then sitting on the other dog.

I've never been a fan of these new so-called designer breeds but these two dogs were really sweet, well-mannered, happy, friendly beautiful dogs. The woman had done some pet obedience classes with them but I could tell they had naturally nice temperaments. I couldn't say about their structure though. One of them looked like he might have hip problems in time but they were very fast and powerful looking running around on the beach. And they love the water! The sun was setting really fast and I'm not exactly the best photographer but I had to try to catch the beautiful color of their coats.

Both the dogs are sound asleep and the clear blue sky and beautiful blue ocean are working their magic on me, too, so I think I'll have another cup of coffee out on the deck and listen to the gulls while I watch for dolphins fishing in the surf.

Training Insights from the Beach

That title sounds a little grandiose but I did learn something important about Zodi today.

Lately Zodi's been doing a lot of fear barking when she sees a person or dog show up unexpectedly. For example when we go hiking and someone else comes toward us or from behind us. She even barks if we're at the place we train and someone walks up in the dark toward us.

Since we've been here she's been barking at people who're walking toward us on the beach once they get within about 20 or 30 feet. She barks when we first come over the dunes onto the beach as soon as she sees someone on the sand. The more suddenly they appear the more violent is the barking fit. Her hackles go up and she won't stop barking for food even if it's cheese. So today I decided to try putting her gentle leader on to see if that would help but she still barked and tried to get around to see the person or people.

I really hate this behavior. Not only is it obnoxious but it gives people the wrong idea about Dobermans who already suffer from enough bad press. And she has such a deep voice that she sounds scary and bad.

So this evening while I was walking her along the beach I decided to try playing with her as we approached people. I just picked up a piece of seagrass and started playing tug with her and she completely ignored people, dogs, children, boats and bicycles. I couldn't believe how well it worked.

Was it that she had somewhere else to direct her attention? Could it have been because I was unconsciously signaling her by my own tension? Was it simply that she likes playing so much that she forgot about her fear?

I do know that I could feel my own tension just melting away when I realized how well it was working. Even when a woman came toward us with two Pugs straining at their harnesses to get to Zodi, she just happily played with me as they went past. At one point when I was playing with her, I looked up and saw the Pug lady glaring at me as if I was walking a Pug-eating lion along the beach. I don't know if she was angry that her Pugs clearly wanted to join in the fun or if she realized I was distracting Zodi and thought it was because I was worried that Zodi would eat them.

It's so different walking Zodi than walking Devon. When I walk Devon everyone I pass smiles at him and at me. Most people either comment on how cute he is or tell me about their terrier or their brother's terrier. Most people don't ask if they can pat him they just do it.

When I walk Zodi I see people sometimes cross to the the other side of the street or draw their children or dogs closer to them. Not everyone reacts that way and of course if she's barking people can be forgiven for keeping their distance. But even when she's just walking along minding her own business people just don't react to me or to her the same way.