081. No Really, Leash Your Fecking Dog

Ben and I hiked Musconetcong Gorge over the weekend. The late start on Saturday left us with only an hour before dark, so we finished the entire loop Sunday morning. It’s a lovely hike with a moderate section of switchback trails to the summit.

Twice on Sunday we ran into unleashed dogs – rather, they ran into us. There are a few larger boulders down at the creek crossing, and I was taking advantage of the photo op with Mulder. I heard Ben mumble something and grab Honey, and when I turned around we were face to face with an unknown black dog of mixed breeding. He/She had locked eyes with Mulder, hackles up, growling and creeping closer. Mulder, still up on the boulder at this time, started reacting – also growing and growing anxious.

With no owner in sight and no idea of the strange dog’s reactivity, I blocked Mulder behind me and bellowed up the gorge: “YO, GET YOUR FUCKING DOG ON A LEASH! I’VE GOT A REACTIVE PIT BULL!” Way up on the top trail a  young golden retriever crest the hill followed a moment later by an old man, maybe late 50’s or early 60’s, trailing behind. I yelled “Leash your fucking dog!” one more time before the owner started down the hill and called off his (still growing) dog. He leashed them and made a mad dash up the trail past us. No apology, no words – not even eye contact.

We encountered him later on the trail and he scampered down to the train tracks, dragging the grumbling black dog and young retriever with him.

Two minutes before the unknown dog ruined my photo shoot.

Two hours later, as we approached the trail head, I noticed a mess of vehicles, people, and dogs. A loose dog, looking like an unshaven poodle or labradoodle of sorts, spotted us and bounded over. I yelled “Leash your dog! We have dogs!” Ahead of me, Ben had Honey and the dog thankfully went to them first.

The lady walks over, casually saying “Oh he’s friendy”.

I snap “I don’t care, your dog is supposed to be leashed – especially at the trail head!”

She stares and says “It’s fine”.

Me: “No, it isn’t. I have a reactive dog and I have no idea if yours is friendly.”

Her: “He is.”

Me: “But you have no idea if mine is or not. He has leash reactivity, he’s a rescue and he’s in training.”

Her: *blankly staring* “So. . . ?”

Me: “HE. HAS. FEAR. AGGRESSION.”

Her: “Oh. . . so you want me to move?”

Me: “That’d be great, yeah.”

Mulder this whole time is sitting at my feet, albeit whimpering anxiously. Managing to get by her and the rest of her party without incident, I praised the holy fuck out of him and turned in time to see the entire group head out on the trail without leashed dogs.

To be honest, I fibbed a little. Mulder doesn’t have fear aggression toward people or other dogs. He does, however, have leash reactivity and expresses a mild level of frustration when greeting other dogs on a leash. For this reason, I am training him to ignore other dogs and do not want him to greet other dogs while leashed. Meeting new dogs on leashes is stressful, and the straight on approach can be aggressive to some dogs. Energy levels do not always match, and there are very few people who are able to successfully read dog body language.

Now, let me making this clear: I don’t have a single issue with incredibly well trained dogs off leash. I used to run my family’s GSD’s off leash constantly. Willow and Grissom are exceptionally well trained, responding to verbal and nonverbal cues despite any amount of distraction. And yet, I still leash them when we encounter other dogs.

It’s what you do as a responsible, knowledgeable dog owner.

Other dog owners do not know my dog. They do not know I’m training a rescue with a sketchy background. They don’t know if he’s neutered, has a bite history, or has reactivity. And yet, even when I tell people to back off, they reply “Oh, it’s fine.” and continue to approach with their straining, whining mess of a dog.

No, it’s not.

My dog does not have to meet everyone to socialize. This includes people, dogs, children, etc.  It is my number one priority to keep my dog safe. To keep him safe, I need to control his experiences. Why do other dog owners so willing to put their dogs at risk by greeting  someone who does not want to interact with them?

This is why dog fights occur.

Furthermore, this is how bites happen. I place myself in between Mulder and strange dogs to keep him safe. What happens when your “friendly” dog tries to go after mine and bites me instead?

Well Lindsay, you might say, how ’boutcha don’t walk your dog where you’ll encounter other people?

Well you ignorant bag of dicks, I’ll say, why should I have to change my behavior when I’m the one following the rules? My dog is always leashed, always under control, and is not a danger to society. I am actively training him and use my hikes to further our training. I should be able to walk down the street (or trail…) with Mulder without harassment or molestation.  I do not hike to be social with other dogs – I hike for physical activity, training, and to strengthen the relationship I have with my dog. I should not have to ask for common courtesy or basic boundaries.

If you’re a dog owner with a dog that “just wants to say hi” – You. Are. An. Inconsiderate. Asshole.

We just wanna hike and be left alone.
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080. No-Stirrup November: Bareback Edition

As Halloween decorations are replaced with Thanksgiving decor and the last leaf falls silently from the old oak, there’s a voice of dread whispering on the tail of the cool autumn wind: No-Stirrup November.

It creeps slowly, tentatively feeling its way through. You remember last year’s debacle through a nostalgic filter. It’s not that bad, you reason. Remember all the late nights with friends, playing tag and giggling at each other while trying to master an extended trot bareback? Wasn’t that fun? Wasn’t it??

Nakai says “Well, shit.”

Admittedly, I’m late to the party. The rainy weather combined with adulting made the first week of November barely ride-able, and when Wednesday rolled around I gritted my teeth and ditched the saddle. Nakai felt great and I impressed myself with my stickiness and hip work. We tackled 2 1/2 miles in a half hour with a good portion of that working on trotting. Cantering bareback with Nakai is a dream, but his pony jackhammer trot leaves much to be desired. M grabbed Rose toward the end and we went for a little walk through the fields. I could not resist one last canter up the hill.

Encouraged and energized with how well Wednesday’s bareback ride went, I went for round 2 last night. It started off a bit rocky – Nakai was adamant that he eats before riding, not after, and I witnessed a dazzling display of irritation on the crossties. The poor lad still doesn’t seem to realize that the only thing more stubborn than himself is me. Off we went, working through some initial balkiness. He slipped behind my leg, trying his best to plead his case that it’s dinnertime (not at 3:30pm…). Fortunately said temper tantrum lasted a whopping five minutes and then we were off to the races.

Once we warmed up, Nakai felt wonderfully forward and engaging. My thighs, however, screamed and it was more difficult this ride to half-halt and ask for roundness and softness. I rode another 2 1/2 miles, and now this morning I’m walking like Yosemite Sam. I’m making it a goal to ride bareback at least once a week anyway, but I’m hoping I can do this 2 or 3 times a week over the winter months. Now, if I can convince some of the other barn ladies to do the same…

 

Finally, dinner. “I’m dying from starvation” – Nakai, dramatically.

 

079.

Exercising Mulder is a full body work out.

Case in point: we hiked Glen Onoko on Friday. It’s an almost 2 mile loop that goes straight up and straight down. We opted to take the exterior trail first and come back down via the falls trails. In total, we climbed over 800 feet in elevation and finished the loop in under 2 1/2 hours.



The falls trail is notoriously dangerous; people are injured (and some killed) each year. The trail’s technical footing and tendency to washout made this not only a physical workout but also a mental one.

The trail is straight down




As for Mulder, you ask?

He handled it perfectly. He’s learning “wait” and was still bouncing off the wall when we finished… so much that when we returned home I took him for another 3 mile walk. I’m not going to trust him off leash until recall is 100% and he gets better at ignoring distraction. Even with the 25 and 50 foot leashes, running on them is not a viable option due to the dense undergrowth and pricker bushes that is Southeastern Pennsylvania. I don’t know if Mulder has ever gotten the chance to really run (puppy play dates don’t count, IMO). I need to increase his physical exercise and brainstormed the best way to do it.

With the rail trail nearby, I loaded up Mulder and Ben’s mountain bike to see how he would handle it. He shows no interest in bicyclists while we walk, but trotting and loping next to one is a whole ‘nother adventure.

As seems to be the usual, I unnecessarily worried. Mulder gobbled up the high value treats as we walked with the bike. I couldn’t resist and popped on. Immediately he settled into a trot as if he’s biked a thousand times before. I pushed a bit and he offered a quick sprint with me. No pulling and no desire to cut out in front or lag behind.

We only did 3/4 of a mile before calling it quits. Mulder’s covered hundreds of miles hiking, but we haven’t worked on wind and I wanted to keep this a positive experience.

For the first time after exercising, he slept.

I guess biking is our newest exercise routine.

076. City Dog Meets Farm Life

My horse and the lifestyle that comes with equine ownership takes up an ungodly amount of time. I feel guilty when I’m at the barn for hours or off on a ride knowing Mulder is waiting at home. We hike multiple times a week and he gets plenty of exercise, but eventually I would like to bring Mulder to the barn while I school in the ring. I think he’d love to snoop and follow on the trail while I get some miles in, too. While there’s many more months (and years, probably) before that happens, I decided to bring Mulder to the barn Sunday to test the waters.

He has progressed to a reliable recall on leash although I don’t trust him yet off leash. He does not have the “pleaser” personality that I am used to (having grown up with GSDs), and he’s not bonded to me yet. He’s not motivated yet to come back just for physical touch and praise, so until this is established he is strictly an on leash dog.

Though only in the seventies, the humidity made the air so thick you could practically swim through it. It felt like a steamy July morning instead of an October afternoon. Ben came with me to help and sat quietly with Mulder while I retrieved Nakai. The chickens puffed up and wandered around, not sure if Ben would feed them and inquiring about Mulder. I think the was Mulder’s first time seeing chickens; he was interested but regarded them with some hesitation and backed off immediately when asked to “leave it”.

He whined and paced a bit while watching the horses and Beamer came over to investigate. Beamer looked over almost quizzically, seeming to realize this wasn’t Maria’s dog, Brody. Mulder listened well as we kept our distance – he can watch and absorb without having to be in everyone’s personal space. He walked quietly with me past Nakai a handful of times and kept his focus.


I had just put Nakai away when out bounced Zsasz and Spoot! Zsasz (I hope I’m spelling this right) is M’s newest pup and he too is learning the basics of farm life. Poor Spoot seemed annoyed at having yet another dog at her house and promptly rebuked Mulder when he pushed into her personal space. Mulder handled Zasz bouncing around and initiating play quietly, and I put him on the lunge line so they could play. What resulted was the perfect example of Mulder not quite knowing how to ‘dog’. He’s still learning to play correctly, and you can see Zsasz look at him funny a few times:


Overall, the experience went perfect and was just enough mental stimulation. Mulder ran to his crate when we got home and spent the next 10 minutes or so self-soothing. I think he may have been taken from his mother too soon; he’ll grab a mouthful of blanket and kneed with his paws similarly to how a cat does. It’s how he seems to comfort himself after a stressful day.

073. The (Flying) Home Invasion

I’m not frightened of many things. I dislike deep, quiet water and have an aversion to heights. There’s this little voice that shows up when I look over the edge, tickling the back of my neck as it coyly whispers “jump”.

However:

I am terrified of wasps and hornets.

I used to lump bees into this category, but as I’ve grown we’ve come to a mostly working relationship. I understand the importance and impact of honey bees on our environment and leave them alone. I have a temporary cease fire with the carpenter bees at the barn. This is the first year my face hasn’t been flown into, and I haven’t gone after them with fly spray or the fly swatter (yet).

But.

Wasps? Hornets? They’re giant twats who I swear can smell fear. They’re the equivalent to the entitled mother of three with the A-Line bob haircut who cuts you off in the grocery line, screaming at cashier because they won’t use her 2 month expired coupon. They’re not satisfied unless they’ve ruined the day for everyone else around them.

Ben and I have noticed wasps swarming the porch light in the early morning hours. This is especially upsetting as they end up blocking me from the door.  Up until recently, we hadn’t been able to locate the nest. The other morning I found it! The back corner of the house, second story, in the corner under the siding/soffit. My ah-ha moment lasted only a second as I watched in growing horror the amount of wasps entering and leaving (and swirling in large, irritated masses).

I should probably mention that I’m allergic to stings. One sting is enough to make me shivery, clammy, and I break out into a rash. Three or more stings makes me physically ill – my chest tightens, I shiver, and I am nauseous. Sometimes I  vomit. I swell, itch, and I break out in a rash that lasts a week after the stings. The last time I got stung I had a hard time controlling my breathing and worked myself up into a panic attack.

Since I have a “kill it with fire” mentality when dealing with anything that flies and stings, Ben called Terminix and we had them come out Saturday. Russell, our tech who apparently also has a degenerative disc disease, tried to assuage my fears.  Our infestation was “no problem” and he’s seen “way worse”. I hid in the house while he went to battle. Ben watched them plummet to their death, and we assumed all was well.

At this point, I should also mention that the back bedroom (our future master bed) shares a wall with this corner. And we could hear them. We have plans to tear down the drywall for renovations, and I broke out in a cold sweat imagining tearing down the wall and thousands of wasps rushing inside the house. Russell again assured that they weren’t really in the wall and that it was fiiiinneee.

All was fine – until we came upstairs to find FORTY-FIVE FUCKING WASPS in the bedroom!

Armed with two cans of wasp spray, Ben unleashed hell and I hid in our current bedroom. I’m still finding wasps in the house – in twos or threes, looking mighty confused before I snuff them out with a well aimed flip-flop.

I haven’t slept in two days. I wake up every 20 minutes in a panic, thinking I hear or feel them. Ben’s furious because I’m a neurotic mess and that the problem isn’t solved. The nest is still active, and I clutch wasp spray in my hand as I move about our home.

We have another appointment this afternoon. I might be bunking with Nakai if it they’re unable to get them all.

 

072. Catching Up

Whilst starting this post I somehow managed to delete the draft of my 2017 book reads. (Side note: It’s been that kind of disgruntling Wednesday.)

There’s nothing exciting to report on the Nakai front. It’s been the same routine and really, who wants to read about that?

We are currently stuck traversing the barn’s 2 main fields and the wooded trails as the surrounding fields have sprung up corn forests.  We’re corn-locked. It’s painfully boring to do the same loop four or five times to get a measly 4 miles, so rides consist of ring work.

All the ring work.
While Nakai’s been superb, I’ve encountered my own mental roadblocks. Lead changes have always been the best example of this. I focus too much on each stride, Nakai anticipates, and we both end up flustered. The most frustrating part is that I know we can do this! I haven’t successfully nailed changes these last couple weeks, and the other day I decided to ride in a halter and lead, promising myself I would stay out of his way.

Nakai rewarded me all evening with perfect little changes in the pen and out on the trail.

On another night, Ben accompanied me to the barn and I convinced him to hop on for a quick spin. It was only his second time riding Nakai, his fourth time riding altogether. I love how Nakai takes care of his riders. The attitude disappears and he kindly humors them. The horse that will gallop off with a whisper now needs extra encouragement to walk forward. I think Ben would be a natural rider, but alas his preferred horse power comes from vehicles.



We finished off the week with a toddle around the fields with Rose and General. It was the first time he’d been out with Rose in ages, and as we cruised up the fence line I could feel the familiar competitiveness surge through him. We did a nice slow loop working on manners and headed back to the barn to help Diane get General through some initial barn sour stickiness.


Now, it’s three days since and I haven’t ridden for various reasons (adulting being the main one) and I’m desperately pining for autumn.  All I want is my normal riding schedule back.

070.

Since my last update, I’ve had a some awesome rides and some not so great rides. The less than stellar rides stem more from the issue that is Summer. Nakai loathes summer as much as I do and between the bugs, heat, and humidity he feels sluggish. We had a couple days of decent weather which allowed us to have productive schooling sessions and pound out some miles. When the oppressive heat returned, Nakai turned into a cranky toddler. For the first time this year, I had to nag him to get moving (he is a horse who will normally use any excuse to move out). My workaholic was now the grumpy old man who sighed plaintively when he saw me coming to collect him from the pasture.

And oh have we been cranky. I struggled through a few rides where everything I asked initially was met with a resounding ‘No!’ Like the good soul he is, Nakai acquiesces to my requests only after voicing his opinion (over and over and over…).

In attempt to remedy this, we did a few short fun sessions of free lunging, baths, and hand walking to graze and refresh some ground work.


Wednesday evening gave similar results. I’m still struggling with ankle pain and experimenting with possible solutions, so the goal was a quick schooling ride in exercise capris and my terrains. We lasted only 2 1/2 miles because the black flies were terrible. They bombed Nakai’s face any time we slowed down from a trot. I ended the ride there (really not wanting to risk an ERU flare up from the irritation).

I’m crossing my fingers this weekend yields better results.


On the domestic front, Ben’s started building my walk in closet and we’re almost finished pulling out the awful hedges surrounding the house! Once the last three are gone I can finally start creating flower beds! Speaking of plants: Khoshekh’s hellbent on destroying mine. He tried to murder my aloe pant (breaking the pot in the process) and gorged himself on my lemongrass until he puked (and I moved them outside). The cacti haven’t phased the kitty tyrant, either. I’ve caught him itching on them.

I also received a huge promotion at work. I am so happy that sometimes it doesn’t feel real.

We had friends over for a pre-fourth of July bonfire. While I’m still waiting on Mulder kisses, he practically drowned our friend in them.



But I’m not irrationally jealous or anything.