The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

November 6, 2009

A Battle of Wits with an Eight-Legged Opponent

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:38 pm

Sometime tomorrow, my parents will be returning home from their latest sunny tropical adventure (and from the looks of the forecast, they should have some LOVELY weather waiting for them when they get home) which means that my recent dogsitting stint will soon be coming to an end.  I will say that although there have been a couple of issues here and there, for the most part Imola and Minardi have been pretty well behaved this time around, in spite of my occasional lack of diligence on the evening walks.  They do have one particular habit that they have no apparent intention of ever breaking though:  They still love to dig at the dog park.

This isn’t to say that they’ll just go dig holes at random.  Usually there’s a couple of particular spots that get their attention, and one spot that you just can’t seem to drag them away from.  Out toward the back corner of the Marymoor Dog Park, there’s one particular hole (hereafter referred to as “The Hole”) next to the trail that these two will sprint to from 50 yards away, and I suspect if you let them they’d dig halfway to China in this spot.  I have no idea what’s supposed to be so appealing about this particular patch of dirt (Maybe there’s some sort of dead animal in there or something,) but Imola and Minardi just can’t seem to get enough of it.  You can try to chase them away, they’ll run right back to this little pit.  You can try to bribe them away with treats, but at first they’ll just ignore them (which considering the usual response to offering treats for these two, is quite odd) and then they might eventually follow you, grab the treat, and as soon as they can get away with it, sprint right back over to The Hole.  About the only thing I’ve found that’ll get them away from The Hole is to just slowly walk away, not look back, and eventually they’ll figure out that I’m not there anymore and maybe move along before I decide to just leave them there (although if I did, I’m pretty sure I know where to find them when I come back.)  Even then, most of the time I have to get their attention with a treat (not a big deal, since this is the part of the walk when I usually give them a treat anyway,) make sure we’re all quite a distance from the hole, and then give it to them, so they don’t just grab it and run back (it’s happened a time or two,)  Usually if I can get them past this part, the rest of the walk is pretty routine. 

With ss much of a time commitment  as it takes to keep these two happy and healthy (and that’s just the daily dogsitting tasks like feeding and walking, not the other stuff like vet visits, baths and whatnot,) I still have serious doubts at times if I’d be ready to keep a dog of my own at this point.  On the other hand, it’s always nice having a couple of dogs around.  They’re always happy to see me (then again, that may be because I’ve never tried to give them a bath,) they put up with my occasionally scatterbrained substitute pack leader impersonation and my somewhat off-the-wall schedule, and they only occasionally bark half the night these days.  Another nice side effect of the whole dogsitting bit is that even with the morning walk,  I’ve gotten into work at least 45 minutes early every day this week.  I’ve been wondering what the whole “go home at 5” thing was like…  I’m sure I’ll be back to my usual “up at the crack of Ten” schedule soon enough, but at least it will be my own bed that I’ll be groggily rising from…

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November 2, 2009

Beagles Don’t Come With a Snooze Button

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 7:46 pm

This week, with my parents off to yet another sunny and exotic destination (well, compared to around here at least,) I find myself once again taking care of Imola and Minardi for the next week or so.  I’ve already been on this particular dogsitting stint for a couple of days, and I can tell that even though I pretend to be a responsible dog owner for roughly 2 or 3 weeks out of the year, apparently I’m familiar enough with the whole routine that one of the regulars at the Marymoor dog park saw me there yesterday, and immediately asked, “Where did they go this time?”  It worries me slightly that I even recognize any of the regulars at the dog park, not to mention the fact that I might be in the process of becoming one myself in spite of not even owning any dogs of my own.  While it’s kind of nice to get a chance to spend time with Imola and Minardi every once in a while (and they seem to enjoy it too, or at least tolerate my presence in their territory well enough that I can usually manage to avoid getting any limbs gnawed off) it does definitely take some adjustments.

As most people who know me can probably attest, I’m a serious night owl.  These two are, for lack of a better term, morning dogs.  This means that I usually end up waking up with a faceful of dog noses at an inconvenient hour.  At the slightest hint of wakefulness, both of them will jump in (well, maybe not jump per se, they generally save that particular behavior for feeding time) and start face licking.  Granted, I’m pretty sure that’s mostly a greeting behavior, but I’m sure there’s at least a slight undertone of “will you get up and FEED us already, you lazy bum?” in the whole thing.  If the hour is too ridiculously early (depending on one’s definition of course) you might be able to pretend that you didn’t notice a faceful of dog slobber and roll over for a few more minutes of pseudo-sleep, but you generally won’t get away with that particular routine for too long.  Generally, the end result of this is that you end up waking up a lot earlier than you might like, and you’ve got a couple of overly energetic dogs waiting for breakfast and their walk.  Eventually you manage to shake off the cobwebs and (sort of) catch up, but if dogs have a tough time waking up in the morning, they sure don’t seem to show it at all.  They also have no concept of such esoteric concepts as Daylight Savings time, so you start getting the whole wake-up routine somewhere around 6 AM or so.  Most of the time, these two have actually been pretty reasonable though, and even seem to put up with my off-the-wall schedule (to some extent anyway, It’s probably a lot easier to do when you sleep eighteen hours out of the day in the first place and don’t have anything on your schedule except for feeding time and walks.)  

Sure, they’re excitable, easily distracted and will bark for 15 minutes straight at anything that isn’t nailed down, but all things considered, they’re actually being pretty well-behaved this time around.  I’m still pretty sure I’m not ready for full-time dog ownership at this point, but I would like to think that I wouldn’t be a completely disastrous pet owner at this point if I did actually have dogs of my own…

April 25, 2009

Confessions of a Deadbeat Substitute Packleader

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:29 pm

As it usually does, the whole dogsitting bit seems to have settled into a routine after a while.  I get up, feed the dogs, go to the dog park, go do some stuff, come back feed the dogs, go to the dog park, do some more stuff, go to bed, get up, feed the dogs… You get the idea.  As I’ve mentioned previously, the dogs have been behaving reasonably well during the last week, and aside from the occasional digging in the dog park there haven’t really been any problems to deal with.  I’m starting to get the suspicion that they probably think I’m just a bit lazy though.

Exactly how anyone who manages to sleep sixteen hours a day would consider anyone to be lazy is beyond me, but I suspect that I’m probably not doing a particularly good job of following their usual schedule here.  Most of the time they’re going to be out for their morning walk sometime around 8am or so, and feeding probably takes place not long after that.  Afterward, the evening walk comes around 5 or so, and dinner won’t be long after that, followed by a couple more hours of lounging around before finally heading off to bed at some ridiculous hour like 9pm or so.  Given the fact that I tend not to even be up most mornings until 9 (give or take an hour or so,)  don’t usually get around to the evening walk until 6 on some evenings, and go to bed at some ridiculous hour of the night (and don’t even get ’em started on what happens if I start messing around with the big shiny white box in front of the TV,) I’m pretty sure my schedule doesn’t exactly correspond to theirs.  Still, they seem to patiently put up with my antics, and are always happy to be fed no matter when I actually remember to feed them (I do try to be at least somewhat consistent with that one though.)  Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated, I might even forget about the evening walk, but given the fact that they generally don’t seem to be following me around the house carrying a leash in their teeth or anything like that (although I do have to admit that woiuld be cute, in a guilt-trip inducing way) they can deal with that as well.  Still, even though they don’t seem to say or do anything to indicate it, I still get the sneaking suspicion that the dogs probably think I’m lazy.

Every time I dogsit over here, there seems to be at least one brief moment where I begin to think that the idea of getting a dog for myself really wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  The notion never seems to last more than a few minutes or so, and I always end up talking myself out  of it in one way or another (at this point I really don’t think I’m in a position to properly take care of a dog of my own) but I somehow get the feeling that at some point I’ll probably end up with a Beagle or two of my own.  For the time being, I like the current arrangement where I  get to come visit these two whenever I want, and only occasionally need to take care of them full time.  When people ask, I just tell them that I timeshare on a couple of Beagles.  Still, the main thing that keeps me from seriously considering dogs of my own (aside from living in an apartment, which is a situation where Beagles generally don’t do well in) is the first few years.  Sure you get the whole cute puppy bit, but you also get a bunch of your stuff chewed up, you get messes in places that you’d really rather not have messes show up, you get barking at all hours of the night, and all sorts of other miscellaneous headaches. 

Imola and Minardi have definitely mellowed out over the years (especially the last year or so,) but it took three and a half years for them to reach that point, and there are still some areas in which I don’t quite trust them (for example, I’m still pretty sure they’d head for the proverbial hills if I ever let them out the front door of the house without a leash on, and I’m not exactly in a hurry to try the north entrance of the dog park again at this point.)  There are other breeds that don’t have those tendencies (for example, my aunt has a Black Lab named Bella who is less than a year old, but you can basically leave the doors of the house completely open and she wouldn’t ever leave the yard,) but at this point, I don’t see myself ever getting any dog besides a Beagle if I do ever get one.  In many ways, the personalities of Imola and Minardi are similar to my own.  They love to wander around and explore, tend to get easily distracted by things and become single-mindedly transfixed by something that grabs their attention, and have been occasionally known to persist in an inadvisable course of action in spite of knowing better.  On the other hand, they’re also (usually) fairly laid back, very loyal, and even though they wander on occasion, they ultimately know where they’re going and get there one way or another. 

I have to be honest, taking care of Imola and Minardi (even for a few days at a time) definitely requires commitment and occasional sacrifice to meet the needs of the dogs.  In particular, it seems at times like I’m spending half the day at the dog park (although the total time probably amounts to about an hour and a half).  At this point, it’s also been more than two weeks since I last slept in my own bed (although half of that is my own fault for driving down to Utah,) and there’s still a couple of days more before I will be able to do so again.  Still, I actually don’t mind doing this every once in a while.  If nothing else, it means I get to spend time with the dogs, which is always a good thing.  On the chance that I ever find myself raising a family (to be honest, sometimes i’m not so sure about that one yet) it’ll probably be good practice.

April 22, 2009

A Year Older, A Year Wiser

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:54 pm

Roughly a year ago, I spent a week and a half dogsitting Imola and Minardi, which is the first time that I had ever been directly in charge of taking care of (or, for that matter, any living being larger than a gerbil) them for more than a couple of days at a time.  Although Imola and Minardi know me well and don’t seem to have any issue with me pretending to be a pack leader every once in a while, at that time they definitely provided a few challenges to deal with.  For one thing, even though they were a couple of years old at the time, they still hadn’t entirely figured out the whole housebreaking bit, and at the time they were generally kept in the crate during the day in order to keep them from maknig too big a mess of the house while the humans were gone.  If they didn’t get their two trips to the dog park every day they’d be up half the night running around, barking at the neighbors late at night, and generally just being rambunctious.  In other words, pretty much acting like Beagles. 

Just about a year later, I find myself dogsitting once again as my parents drive down to Arizona to visit my Dad’s mother, and then up to Utah for Brooks’ graduation from BYU and the blessing of Baby Brooks.  Although Imola and Minardi still require a fair bit of attention (the two trips to the dog park per day in particular takes a fair bit of time and planning to deal with) I have definitely noticed that overall, they seem to be a lot calmer and more mature this time around.  I can leave them out of the crate in the house during the day, and be reasonably certain that nothing will be destroyed when I get back (more so than usual anyway) and I can even eat a meal every once in a while without Imola constantly trying to grab food off the table (she’ll still be lurking about and sniffing, but she seems to be a lot less inclined to try to snatch things.)  The dog park has never really been a problem for these two, although I have noticed that they seem to have some issues with digging lately.  There seem to be a few particular spots in the dog park where if you let them, they’ll happily dig to China.  Digging is, of course, against the rules of the dog park, but apparently Imola and Minardi didn’t get the rules on that one, and there are certain holes in the place where these two will dash over from some distance away to go dig before I can get there to chase them off.  I suppose this is an improvement over, say, dashing out of the off-leash area, through the parking lot and into the woods, but it’s still a bit of an issue.

Nonetheless, these two are definitely becoming a lot more mellow and a lot better behaved in general as time goes on.  I suppose if we’re talking in dog years this time period would represent roughly the transition from ages 17-24 (give or take a year or two) so some maturing and calming down would definitely be expected.  All I know is that it certainly makes them a lot easier to deal with.  Now if only I could figure out how to improve that much in a year…

November 2, 2008

Beagles in the Mist

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:08 pm

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, this last week my parents went down to Cancun for the week, along with my brother and his wife.  Owing to a combination of work schedule and the fact that I just spent a bunch of money on building a new computer, I ended up being unable to join them for the trip, which meant that once again, I found myself taking care of Imola and Minardi, which included their twice-a-day trips to the Marymoot dog park.  This time around, I haven’t bothered doing a whole lot of dogblogging, mostly because I used up most of the good topics on the last couple of dogsitting stints, and because for the most part the whole thing has gotten to be pretty routine by now, although the earlier sunsets did make for a bit of a time crunch to get the evening walk in before it got too dark there. 

With Autumn settling on the land and the days getting shorter, the weather has definitely been getting colder.  In fact, a couple of days this past week there was frost on the ground in the morning.  Fortunately the weather mostly cooperated, with daytime temperatures in the upper fifties and lower sixties, and we managed to avoid getting rained on this week (in fact, it started raining pretty heavily about five minutes after we got home from the last walk on Friday before my parents got home in the afternoon.)  The mornings were still fairly cold though, and the morning fog made for some interesting scenery at the dog park.  After the jump, a few pictures from the morning walk on Thursday.

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August 22, 2008

The Marymoor Dog Park Revisited

Filed under: Dogs, Redmond — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:00 pm

Wait, you mean it isn't a prairie dog park?

The last time I was here dogsitting back in April, I put together a brief tour of the huge off-leash dog area over at Marymoor Park here in Redmond.  As I said when I previously wrote about the dog park, having a huge place to allow the dogs to run around unleashed makes the job a lot easier, especially when you have high-maintenance dogs like Beagles to deal with.  During the warm weather months, this place can be especially popular, although even on the dreariest of days (a couple of which seem to have shown up this week) you’ll find the diehards and their canine companions out for their morning walk in spite of the weather.

As with many other things, the dog park tends to change with the seasons, and a few months can change quite a bit out here.  To show some of these changes, I thought i’d take a few more photos  and show some of the changes that come with the season.  After the jump, a look at the dog park in late Summer.

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May 8, 2008

A Quick Video Leftover From BeagleFest 2008: Feeding Time

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:48 pm

Here’s one item I meant to post last week back when I was still watching Imola and Minardi over at my parents’ house, but never got around to cleaning up to post it.  In order to show the different personalities of the two dogs, I recorded a short video of how they react to feeding time.  As you can see, they both get pretty excited, but react in different ways.  Imola always likes to follow the people around, and when it’s time to eat, she starts to jump around excitedly.  Minardi, on the other hand, isn’t quite as animated as Imola is, but in this video you can hear the cute little howl that she makes when she gets excited (it’s either that or she starts barking loudly, which usually happens upon arrival at the dog park.)  Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t seem to let me embed videos from Photobucket on their pages yet (and I’m too lazy to go sign up over at YouTube) so I’ll have to link the video for now.  The link to the video can be found below:

Feeding Time

I hope to gradually start adding more video to the site, but I’m still getting used to using the new digital camera.  For some reason, the mic on the camera is really sensitive to breathing, which could probably get annoying after a while.

May 2, 2008

BeagleFest 2008: Wrapping Up

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:56 pm

Seen on a Random bumper sticker in town earlier this week:

“Lord, let me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

I’m pretty sure there was a time at some point in the past when if you told me that I’d not only spend ten days dogsitting, but that I’d be blogging the wole entire thing, I’d probably think you were crazy.  Of course, there was also a time when I thought that my parents would never have a dog, but that one went out the window years ago.  To briefly summarize the whole thing, here are a few statistics I probably made up out of thin air for the whole thing:

  • Days Spent with the dogs: 10
  • Trips to the Dog Park: 18 (give or take one or two)
  • Average Hours of Sleep per Night: About 6
  • Accidents in the house: 4
  • Uncontrolled Barking Fits: 3
  • Bad Habits Picked Up: 3 (I think the dogs might have picked up a couple of those too…)
  • Dog Treats Consumed: Don’t ask.  And no, I’m not THAT crazy….

I do have to admit that the whole thing turned out not to be quite the ordeal I was expecting it to be though.  The dogs seemed to quickly accept me as their packleader (of course, it’s not like I was exactly a stranger to them going into this) and for the most part managed to remain pretty well behaved during this time.  I think that the frequent trips to the dog park really helped out here.  To be honest, I think the dogs might be just a little bit spoiled by being able to go over there all the time like they do, but given how difficult it is to get them from the front door of the house to the car without them getting distracted by one thing or another, I suspect it;’s a lot easier to get them their exercise this way than it would be to take them out on a walk through the neighborhood.  Besides, the place is practically in our backyard anyway, so why not?

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BeagleFest 2008: Sometimes You Just Have to Let Go

Filed under: Dogs, Personal Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:58 am

 As I’ve spoken of a number of times here, Beagles are by their very nature explorers.  Much of their time at the dog park is spent investigating whatever catches their attention, be it a scent, a molehill or even a particularly interesting (and/or tasty) plant.  This means that they tend to spend a lot of time wandering off in one direction or another.  At times, they’ll venture into the bushes, or into tall grass that takes them out of my sight.  When I first started taking the dogs to the park, this worried me to no end.  After all, the last thing I want to have to do at this point is tell my Mom that I lost one of her dogs, and it’s easy to get paranoid about this type of thing.  The advice that I was given on the topic was to just go ahead and let them wander into the bushes, and trust that they will want to stick close enough to the pack leader that they won’t get themselves lost.  I was also told that whatever I do, I should not try to chase them into the bushes either, as they will then think that they are the ones leading the way and go further in.

To be honest, i still worry just a bit when the dogs wander out of sight, but as I’ve gone through this last week and a half, I have found that this piece of advice has been true.  Even though Imola and Minardi may chase something or another into the bushes and out of my sight, they won’t wander far enough away to lose sight of where I am, and so far at least,  they have always come back.  The trick seems to be for the pack leader to just stick to the usual route, and although I do slow down a bit to make sure they can find me when they come back, you can’t just watch them the whole time.  If you do that, they’ll start to think that you are looking to them for guidance, and they are likely to head off in a different direction than you had originally intended.  As you walk along the path, you can see them glance back at where you are every so often, looking to you for direction.

You have to realize that the dogs are going to look to you, the pack leader, for guidance, and that as long as you can trust them to follow your lead, you should be fine as far as actually having two dogs with you when you get home from the park.  You’re not always going to see where they are going, and you’re not always going to be able to follow them there.  For that matter, on many occasions it turns out that following them is just going to cause problems.  Of course, the fact that I came into this already having the trust of the dogs was a big advantage.  In fact, it surprised me somewhat just how well the dogs accepted me to be the one in charge while my parents are away, even though I only see them occasionally.  My Mom was expecting them to be stressed about about her being gone for at least the first couple of days, but as far as I can tell, this never happened, and the dogs have just stuck with their usual routine, even if the pack leader looks a little different than normal.

May 1, 2008

BeagleFest 2008: Living in the Doghouse

Filed under: Dogs, Uncategorized — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:19 am

If my calculations are correct (and if someone at American Airlines manages to figure out how to get an airplane or two off the ground, I’ve got about three days worth of dogsitting remaining before my parents get home.   On one hand, I will definitely be glad when I’m done with this, and can go back to not waking up at 7am.  On the other hand, this whole thing hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I expected it to be.  The dogs have been surprisingly well behaved throughout the week (although a built-up immunity to dog slobber probably helps out some in that regard.)

In some ways, this whole thing is almost like a bit of a vacation, even though I’m only about a mile from home.  Sure, I’m still going to work like I normally do, and downtown Redmond is not exactly my idea of a sunny tropical destination, but every once in a while it is kind of nice to break out of the usual routine for a bit and have an excuse to get outside more often than I normally do.  For the most part, I’ve had to limit my technology use to the portable stuff (most of my blogging this week has been on my notebook.)  Even though I can go home pretty much whenever I want, I haven’t spent more than a couple of hours there at a time, and that was really only because I needed to do laundry.

In order to entertain myself, I’ve had to resort to something that I haven’t done much of lately:  Watch television.  When I’m at home, I normally don’t watch a whole lot of TV, and what little TV I do watch is the stuff that’s recorded on my DVR.  Not having that luxury available to me, and having Imola just wanting to sit on my lap and take a nice little nap means that I have done a lot more channel surfing than I normally do as well.  Apparently I’m not missing much these days, but what else are you going to do when you’re sitting on the comfy chair in the living room with a contented dog napping on your lap?  I get the impression that there’s some basketball and hockey playoffs going on, but beyond that I don’t think I’m exactly making any new discoveries in my TV viewing habits.

It’s not exactly a tropical vacation, but in its own way, it’s kind of a nice break from what I’d normally be doing, which is sitting on the computer all night.  On the other hand, I’m thinking that sunny tropical vacation is starting to sound pretty nice around now…

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