Posts filed under Adventures of ballwalkpark

Sage's right of passage

It's no secret that I love puppies, and one of my favorite parts about puppies is watching them grow and develop over the years. Being a part of a pack fulfills a much needed social aspect of our pups lives.

Just like high school kids, there are "cliques" within the pack. There is a general divide between the puppies and the older dogs that are too cool to put up with puppy play. One of the many milestones of a growing puppy is when an older dogs decides they are worthy of playing with. Welcome to the big kid clique, Sage.

When an older dog decides to play with a puppy, it is a reward for good behavior on the puppies part. It means that puppy has learned how to play properly, read body language and know how to play by the rules.

Gus, although still pretty much a puppy himself, wanted nothing to do with Sage when she first joined the pack. When she came charging past at turbo speed, he would tell her to slow down or get out of the way, but other than that, she was invisible to him. Yesterday, Gus engaged Sage for an awesome session of doodle dancing. I was so proud of little muppet (Sage) growing up so fast, and proud of Gus for being a patient and gentle teacher. I love nothing more than to see these relationships develop. GOOD PUPS!!!

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Why do I take pictures?

If you follow ballwalkpark on facebook or instagram, you already know this, i take A LOT of pictures. I always have, whether it be of dogs, friends, things, whatever. I have always felt the need to have a camera in my hand to capture whatever it is I am seeing and share with others. Over the years, I have become a bit obsessed with taking pictures of my dogs, and I recently asked myself why I have over 30,000 pictures of dogs and what is really the point of all of this. I realized that to me, taking pictures is much more than just reporting back to clients.

I take pictures because:

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 This is the one. I die laughing every single time I see this picture, and that has to be over 100 times. Sitting by myself, literally laughing out loud as I write this.

This is the one. I die laughing every single time I see this picture, and that has to be over 100 times. Sitting by myself, literally laughing out loud as I write this.

1. I love it. I absolutely love it. I hate to say this, but I take them for myself more than my clients. I love watching the relationships between dogs in my pack develop over time, I love looking back and seeing how much my puppies have grown up, and I love laughing at the pictures! I remember one night I was sitting on the couch with Michael, he was watching tv and I was going through my pictures of the day. I couldn't stop laughing and would interrupt him every 30 seconds because he had to see this one. He does a really good job of acting interested and has perfected the courtesy laugh, but he finally asked me how it was possible that I never got sick of looking at dog pictures. It really hadn't occurred to me before. I see them as being completely different dogs, different relationships, different circumstances, etc. Apparently I'm easily amused, but whatever the reason, I truly love taking these pictures. 

 How can you not laugh at that face?

How can you not laugh at that face?

2. My clients love it. Dog walking is a funny thing in that I meet with a new client, they give me a key to their house, then I go on and develop this whole relationship with their dog and they are rarely ever see me again. For all they know, they could have just sent their doberman out to prance around with a pack of chihuahuas in pink coats. I love the community my clients have built on my facebook page. I love that they have come to know each other's dogs and comment on them. They all track the progress of new puppies and send well wishes for pups with injuries. It's such a fun little community that wouldn't exist if these pictures didn't illustrate the relationship their dogs have built within the pack at the dog park. 

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3. I learn so much from these pictures! Things happen fast at the dog park and as attentive as I can be, I have come to rely on these pictures to tell me even more about the interactions that are happening right in front of my eyes. There have been so many times that two dogs are playing seemingly fine, and I look at pictures later and see a look of pure terror in one dogs eyes. Or conversely, today, I thought Jambo and Achilles were playing a bit too rough and I was concerned Achilles was bullying Jambo. I was closely monitoring their play, but when I looked back at pictures, every single time Jambo was going back for more. I could obviously see this while it was happening, but the pictures confirmed Jambo's body language that he was relaxed, happy and showed no signs of stress. This is also how I found out that our sweet little angel, Bambi, had a bit of teenage angst inside. Before this picture we thought little Violet was the one terrorizing Bam!  When the dogs are playing and wrestling, they are moving so fast and making so many strange noises (especially the frenchies) it's impossible to get as close of a look as you would from a picture.  Dogs use body language for so much of their communication that it only makes sense to freeze those moments in time and take a closer look. Of course these moments are in the past, but since I have a consistent group of dogs going together, it helps me understand the development of relationships amongst the pack. There are definitely times when the expressions are misleading, like when Bonita and Jambo are wrestling and I catch a picture of the vicious golden teeth. In real life, they really aren't playing that rough and they aren't vampires, they just make for great action shots :) There is no scientific or behavioral based evidence behind any of this at all, but it's just my thoughts on why I find taking pictures so valuable. 

I spend hours a day going through pictures, I take about 500 pictures a day. During the summer, I take my phone out into the water with me and everyone asks if I worry that I will ruin it. Of course I do, and I have ruined a couple, but for me, the risk of taking it out and getting those pictures is worth it for the rewards I get from these pictures.

I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoy taking them!

ballwalkpark's 3rd birthday!!!

Three years ago today was my first day of ballwalkpark! I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has believed in, supported, and shared your pups with ballwalkpark. I love this business, I have the most amazing employee, Nancy, the most amazing clients and of course, the most amazing dogs. I can't believe how fortunate I am to have all of these people and dogs in my life. Thank you to all of you who have grown with me over the years and patiently taught me how to run this business better. I have learned so much from my clients and their dogs, and am lucky enough to call many of them great friends and some have even become family.

Several times a week, I can't believe that this is really my job. I used to be the person that would beg to come over and meet a friend's new puppy, now people I don't even know call me and pay me to come play with their dogs!

IMG_5467Even after the worst days, I can't help but laugh. When I tell my fiance about my day and tell him I got pushed down in a mud puddle, tripped, bit and had to clean up puke out of the front seat and diarrhea out of the back of the truck, I can't help but laugh. After a hot shower and a good dinner, I have totally forgotten about the day and am ready to see the pups again in the morning. It feels so good to wake up and want to go to work every day!

The absolute best thing that I have experienced in this business is gaining the trust of my clients. There is no greater compliment than when I ask my clients if I can take their dog somewhere or do something and the response is "whatever you want, I trust you". 555187_10151431046967433_1598840581_nEven more than that, being trusted to take a pup to the dog park. I know that Nancy and I love these dogs and truly do treat them the same (if not sometimes better!) than our own dogs, but for our clients to know and believe that means so much to us. Watching these pups grow up, learn new tricks, and develop a bond with the pack is such a rewarding way to spend the day.

377076_10151202575917433_1405572849_nWhen I started dog walking three years ago, there were about 20% of the dog walking businesses that there are now. Back then, dog walkers had a reputation of being weird, fanny pack wearing, socially awkward with a manly voice (which was never really true to begin with, but the stereotype was definitely there). I have consciously reminded myself to brush my hair, occasionally lint roll the dog hair, put on clean clothes even if they are going to get immediately dirty again. In many ways I have resisted letting myself be the stereotypical dog walker (and will continue to!) but I admit that I have really adopted certain parts of the dog walker lifestyle. Here is what 3 years of ballwalkpark has done to me:

  • I always speak for myself and the dogs, even when I am alone, (i.e. can you hold the door for us?). People must think I have an imaginary friend.
  • Every coat pocket has treats and poop bags, if the pocket hasn't been chewed out yet
  • I can pick up a poop, kick a ball, and tell a dog to stop humping, simultaneously, all while on auto-pilot
  • I know every single back street route between Queen Anne and Magnuson park
  • I make the weird dog walker sounds at the park. I don't know why or how this happened, but it has. Anything to get those dogs to follow me!
  • I am able to identify each of my dogs by their bark and their poop
  • My natural reaction upon walking in a dog owner's house is to drop on the floor and play with the dog
  • I should own stock in Lululemon and laundry detergent
  • I have over 30,000 dog pictures. My computer has crashed numerous times. My external hardrives are full.

Three years feels good. I feel confident while still challenged. I am so grateful for all of you who have helped me get to this point, your support has meant the world to me. I don't know exactly what the next three years will look like, but I have some ideas I am pretty excited about. Stay tuned!

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The sacred orange Chuck-it ball

In my afternoon trip today, I was down at the water with three ball obsessed dogs equipped with three orange rubber chuck-it balls. We were off in the corner by the big tree enjoying our retrieving relay races. A man standing next to us had a retriever who also had the same orange rubber chuck-it ball. There were a couple times during our rapid fire fetch that one of my dogs would get his ball on accident. He explained that his dog was particular and only liked his own ball so I made sure to always get his ball back from my dogs. It's a bit of work juggling three dogs and four balls but it's not this guy's fault that my dogs can snatch up a ball in .0003 seconds. My dogs were the only guilty ones here, his dog would snatch up any ball nearby but would then immediately spit it back out once he realized it had cooties on it.

After a few minutes of this call juggling I decided it was time to go. I do not enjoy retrieving as much as my dogs do. Just as my last dog clears the gate to leave the beach I hear someone calling after me. It was my ball patrol friend. He told me that one of my dogs must have his dog's ball because he threw the ball out in "the ocean" and his dog refused to go get it. Obviously, the next logical thing to do would be to track down the dog walker. If I had the nerve/time/patience to track down every dog owner at the park that may have potentially stolen a toy of mine, I could have saved literally hundreds of dollars. Maybe even Thousands!

So anyways, to get the taste test of balls set up just right I have all three of my dogs on leash, and managed to have them all cough up at their orange rubber chuck it balls. The guy takes the first ball I hand him and throws it out into the water about 10 yards. The dog swims out to the ball, grabs it, spits it back out. "whoops, guess that wasn't it" the guy laughs. I'm starting to feel like the retriever again. Good thing we have two more rounds to go.

Meanwhile, the ball connoisseur is swimming out into "the ocean" and retrieving the original ball in question. He brings it all the way back to the store and then drops it for another one of the balls that my dogs gave up. I was too preoccupied with that combined 250 pounds of leashed dog who were trying to get in on the ball buffet to notice which ball the dog actually decided it was his. Whichever one it was it only lasted for about 50 yards before he gave it up again and tried to start the whole game over. As much fun as it was, my least dogs and I were ready to move on.

I tried very hard to stay pleasant about the whole situation, reassuring him that this was all a part of the fun of working with dogs. He was very nice and pleasant, and no doubt a very devoted dog owner.

Bottom line, what's yours is yours and if your dog wants his own ball then you have every right to get that ball for your dog. I just wish your dog could accurately detect that sacred ball, and in an ideal world it wouldn't involve 3 other balls. Maybe just one other to narrow it down from would be helpful. And if your dog is able to detect his own scent on a ball so well, couldn't he just go ahead and put some smell on there that will deter any other dog? That would be really helpful. Thanks.

What does the wind do to the dogs?!

**I have no scientific evidence or dog behavior theory to support this post, it's just my thoughts and comments are more than welcome!** Right as we got to the park today if got really windy for about 20 minutes. It has been sunny and beautiful earlier in the day, and as I drove closer and closer to the park for the afternoon trip, I saw dark gloomy clouds rolling in. By the time I got to the park, it was dark, windy and starting to rain. It's a common saying among the dogwalkers that the wind make the dogs go crazy, and on any windy day at the park, you will see a more chaotic scene than normal. Today was just about the epitome of that.

Almost as soon as the dogs bust out of the back of my truck, the wind gusts were blowing through the trees, almost as if it were blowing the dogs into the park. Normally, there is a big explosion of excitement and chasing, barking, jumping when we first get inside the gates, and it usually settles within a minute or two. Not today. And not just my dogs. They bounced, chased and wrestled their way across the big field over to the side field (we call it "the dome") where I hoped we could settle down out of the way of everyone else. The next 20 minutes were absolute chaos.

Normally I wouldn't write a blog to broadcast my lack of control over my pack, but since I feel these are dogs I normally have under control really well, and I know it was just the weather throwing them (and every other dog) off, I'm OK with sharing my less than role-model-dogwalker moments.

On a normal day at the park, you will see dogwalkers with their packs calmly walking along with maybe 1 or 2 dogs running ahead to catch a ball, maybe a little barking, but all in all pretty calm. You will see a dogwalker off in a field playing fetch with his/her pack. You will see a dogwalker neatly filing their pack through the gates to the water. Sprinkled in between packs are park patrons with their one or two pups who are either chasing their ball, sticking by their owner, or making friends with dogs in the packs. Despite how many dogs are in one place, it's actually pretty structured and calm.

Now, have you seen Mean Girls? Remember when the "Burn Book" got out an everyone breaks into madness in the halls? That exact scene crossed my mind. Sammy was trotting around in circles like a horse with the ball in his mouth. Chesa was right at his heels. Salty was wrestling some puppy he met. Kato was barking at Salty trying to get in on the action, and resorting to humping when he wasn't getting his way. Josephine had found another puppy (less than half her size, of course) to play with. Cooper was intermittently body slamming and humping them. This was just my pack. Another dogwalker across the dome had his back who were wrestling, barking, humping and chasing. Park patrons were calling after their non-responsive dogs who were gleefully doing laps around the park with no regard for their name being called. This is what the wind does to the dogs.

I don't know what it is about the wind. I googled it and didn't find anything worth relaying. I've heard that the wind kicks up all the smells in the dirt and grass and throws the dogs off. I've heard the sound of the wind is too much on their ears and makes them go a little crazy. I tend to believe the kicking up smells theory... I imagine the dogs all going crazy because all of a sudden everything they knew got turned upside down. The dogs can't tell who smells good enough to hump so they hump any random dog, they can't tell what human has the treats so they just go jumping on everyone, and they can't tell whose ball it is so they just grab anything or leave everything to be found by another confused dog. Again, there is no scientific basis on any of this, it's just my dog-crazy brain trying to make sense of the chaos. Regardless of the reasoning, the dogs made sure there were no dull moments this afternoon. I have a feeling they all went home very tired today.

If you do know anything about why the wind does this to dogs, please comment! Let me know!

adventures of bwp: caught in a downpour!

I feel like I generally have pretty good luck avoiding major storms when at the dog park. More often than not, the weather either turns for the worse as I am just leaving the park, or happens to clear up just as I am arriving, as it did this morning. Apparently I jinxed us when I posted this pic of the clear skies when arriving at the park for the morning trip. The poor pups and I got absolutely nailed this afternoon! This afternoon I had Bailey, Sammy (Dobie), Gracie (Swissie), Josephine (Great Dane), Cooper (black lab) and Kato (Vizsla puppy). They're a pretty tough group and were playing hard all the way down to the water. When we were at the water it started raining a little, but not bad. When we got to the park it was 52 degrees and sunny, I wore my sunglasses into the park and debated not even brining my raincoat since I was already too hot.

As soon as we left the water and got through the gates, the downpour hit. It was like someone turned on a faucet. Sammy, the toughest looking of the crew, is a huge baby and is afraid of the rain. He started frantically spinning in circles looking for somewhere to take cover, but there was nowhere. Anticipating a Sammy meltdown, I put him on leash so I would have one less thing to worry about. A dogwalker a few feet ahead of us starts running with her pack. At the time, I thought that was a kind of unnecessary. Less than 30 seconds later the hail and wind kicked in and I was running right behind her.

Josephine was scared of the hail and wind, her eyes were huge and fearful and she was looking for cover too. The saddest of them all was tiny Kato puppy. He had no idea what was going on and was freezing. He was literally trembling as we ran. I actually considered for a minute taking off my coat to wrap him up, then I realized that was definitely taking it too far.

Right before the pathway to the water there is a small pagoda/shelter area. As soon as we got in there, I sat on the bench, Kato jumped into my lap, and I hugged him to try and keep him warm and stop his trembling. Sammy and Josephine huddled up next to us too. It's so funny that these huge tough looking dogs are actually such babies when it comes to something as simple as a little rain/hail storm.

After waiting a few minutes, and no improvement in the weather, I decided it was time to take our next sprint to the car. We took off running and everyone was great sticking close with by me. My sweet little Bailey was right on my heels, trying to trip me every 5th step. The last thing I needed was a face plant.

As we crossed the field I realized every single person in the park was huddled under one of the two shelters. There were probably 15 people and their dogs huddled under the shelter by the front gate. I've never seen that before!

When we got to the gate by my truck, all the dogs were lined up, eager to get into the truck. Except for one. I looked back and Bailey is standing about 10 yards away, in rain, hail and wind, with the ball in her mouth and her sad little puppy dog eyes begging me for some one on one time. Of course she would.

Everything was absolutely drenched. What a mess... As soon as we left the park and drove  by the U-village, I could see over Queen Anne it was nothing but blue skies... Guess you can't win them all! I don't know what exactly about that whole scenario was fun, I wouldn't exactly call any of it fun, but for some reason, it makes me smile, and I already know it's on my mental "best of the dog park" memories.

Hope you stayed dry today!!!

adventures of ballwalkpark: no toys = no fun? no way!

I was looking forward to writing this blog all last week but somehow time has passed me by once again and here we are, almost onto the next week! This past week or so I did an experiment with the dogs - no toys. I wanted the dogs to get back to basics; running, playing and interaction with one another, not relying on me for their fun.

My toy philosophy used to be the complete opposite - I had a whole array of the newest, coolest dog toys to spoil my dogs with at the park. I picked toys from my collection based on what dogs were on that particular park trip and who would want to play with which toy and who was going to get the most exercise and most fun with whatever toy. I know a lot of dogwalkers who have certain toys that they can't go without because it is a tool necessary to keep a dog focused and well behaved. Or we get stuck into the routine of having a squeaky cuz ball with us so that our dogs don't steal a squeaky cuz from another dog at the park. It's almost as if the dogs and their owners or dogwalkers have developed a dependence on these toys. I decided it was time to break the habit! At least for the week...

Miles loves the frisbee, Chesa loves the Jolly Ball, Harley loves the squeaky Cuz ball, Milkshake loves the Chuck-it... Each dog has a particular toy that really gets them going. I love finding these toys and seeing what makes that dog "tick" so I can understand them a little better and know the best way to get them exercised and have fun. While I love watching the dogs play with their favorite toys, it changed the whole dynamic of the group, and the dynamic between myself and the dogs. The dogs would look at me just as the toy and treat lady. As soon as we got to the park they would just stare at me and bark because they knew I would eventually give them the toys they wanted. So, out of curiosity and frustration with the barking, I decided to forgo toys (at least 90% of the time) for the week.

The results were amazing! The dogs stopped barking and became much more responsive to me. I was worried they would just ditch me and steal other dogs ball to play with but they actually listened to the "leave it" command better than ever. The most wonderful part of this experiment was seeing how the dogs played so much differently without the distraction of toys. They ran and ran and ran and chased each other and played and wrestled and were just dogs! Even the dogs who normally would just sit and stare at a chuck it were playing.

Here's one of my favorite videos of the dogs doing their favorite run at the park. Julie, look for Tucker in here! Favorite part of the dog park!

I hear from my clients all the time that when they take their dog to the dog park on their own that all their dog wants to do is play fetch with them and not really interact with other dogs. I totally understand, Bailey is very much the same way. One of the really cool things about having such a strongly bonded pack is that they play with each other. Not just chasing after the same ball, but chasing and wrestling and play bows and all of that. This type of play  is really important for ongoing socialization and fulfilling a need for interaction with their own kind.

The dogs treated me with much more respect since it was clear I was the pack leader, rather than the toy distributor. It's funny, giving them less of what they want, they actually had more fun with each other and were better behaved for me. I loved watching them just run and be dogs... instead of throwing the ball I was standing on the sidelines as their cheerleader trying to get them to keep running!

While I think there is a time and place for toys and we will definitely still be using our favorite "tools" like the chuck-it and frisbee, it is nice to know that we can kick the habit and enjoy the simple life a few days a week.

So you want to be a dogwalker, huh?

{note: if you are offended by the word "shit" or do not like reading about or thinking about the topic, then please, read no further} You know those (rare) days in July/August when it is 80 degrees out on a Tuesday morning and you are heading to the office thinking you wish you could trade jobs with me and get to go play with dogs all day? Well days like today makeup for days like that.

Basically what happened was, Harley was riding in the back of the truck with the big dogs and he took a protest poop. He, and all the other dogs, proceeded to walk through this poop tracking it through the rest of the truck and getting it stuck into the rubber mats, while somehow managing to smear it on the sides and windows of the truck. All the other dogs were staying as far to the opposite corner as possible. Ok Harley, I get it, you don't have to ride in the back ever again.

I started putting Bam back there as a suggestion from a trainer, Jeff Tinsley, to help with her little bulldog attitude and thinking she is queen of the pack. Harley was starting to do some of the same "I"m better then you because I'm French" behaviors, so I figured I would give him the same treatment. backfire. Any other dog and I may feel bad thinking they didn't get enough of a chance to use the bathroom before I put them in the truck, but not this little man. He knows exactly what he is doing. One morning, his dad was dropping him off at my house, put him in his crate and before he was all the way up the stairs heard Harley peeing in his crate, just to make a point.

Of course I make this discovery while I am picking up Milkshake, and run into his dad and very overdue pregnant mom, in the driveway. Like a lot of my clients, they like to say hi to all of the dogs in the back while I load Milkshake in, and as I opened the tailgate we were all in for a surprise. Harley and Bam were dancing around in it, the other dogs were huddled away from it, Bonita was in her crate staring at it wishing she could eat it. I was disgusted and humiliated, and while I couldn't do much about the ground-in-grate-shit at the moment, I opted to put Milkshake in the backseat to at least save myself from cleaner 4 less paws and saving his poor sensitive sense of smell.

Soo.... what to do now. I have 6 dogs in my truck, on my way from Eastlake to Phinney Ridge, nowhere near home-base to clean up. How am I going to get all the dogs out? How am I going to clean "it"... Ugh! The problem solver in me comes out and texts my client closest to the park and asked to use her back yard as a 5 min dog park while I hose out the truck. So very grateful she quickly replied and didn't mind! I pulled up to the house, grabbed as many leashes as I could find, strapped on my handy bright orange gloves, and tackled the truck. I leashed the dogs and unloaded them one at a time, Bam and Harley jumping up on my legs with their shitty paws. Once all 6 dogs were out of the truck, we "walked" to the backyard, i.e. I was extremely close to going face first on the pavement (pre-dog park excitment doesn't make walking 6 big dogs any easier!), but safely got them in the backyard. Well, almost safely. I wasn't confident that I would make it up the 2 steps without going face first as the rate they were pulling me, so I had to let go. The dogs went in the back and ran around and drug the leashes through poop in the yard. Great, like I needed more poop in my day! I hosed out the truck very thoroughly, every little hole in that rubber mat. Now I had to go back and get all the dogs, plus Chesa, and load them back in the truck. Of course these poor guys (minus bulldogs, they are gross and don't care) aren't exactly thrilled about getting back in the truck after this experience so it took some coaxing, all the while strategically dodging the now shit-caked leashes. Ahhh... loaded and ready for the park.

The park started out great. We didn't take the Chuck-it today (rare, but a nice change of pace once in a while) and the dogs played really well with each other and the one frisbee Coco and Chesa were trading back and forth. We walked down to the water and back, and on the way back I was so impressed with how clean everyone was. I should have known better than to jinx my day like that. Coco rolled in not one muddle puddle, but three, each one grosser than the last. As we are almost to the water bowls for our last drink before we load back up, the whole crew decides to run the laps by the mounds - it's their departing tradition that has apparently been on hiatus for the past few months. I love the mounds, the dogs love it and run their hearts out and play, play, play... The only problem is the mounds during the winter is that all of the "valleys" between the mounds are giant mud pits. In a matter of minutes I went from a perfectly clean pack to a bunch of mud-caked mutts. Everyone got washed off very well before they went home today.

Having learned my lesson on the way to the park, I put Harley in the back seat, on top of Porter's dog bed I was bringing home, and wrapped in a towel. He's a hard guy to please, but I finally did it. Either that or he was feeling a little guilty for the shit-show earlier. Judging by the pouty lip in this picture, I think he felt a little bit guilty...

One of the funny things about working with dogs, is that they totally feed off your energy and play on your weaknesses. If I am in a good mood, things are going well, then we will have a great day and they will be angels. If I am sick, tired, stressed, irritated, or anything they can take advantage of, they will! I have never been given such a look by dogs before, but clearly they were not pleased with the condition of the truck because they are giving me the stink eye if I have ever seen it!

By the end of the day, I had really let this poop incident get to my head and I started thinking about tall the potential things that have been contaminated. I had the dogs taken care of but that was only the beginning! So, like any normal person (....?) I proceeded to put all of the leashes, towels and seat cover in the laundry. I took the truck to Brown bear give the back a good deep clean. I washed and scrubbed all of the toys with hot water and soap. I cleaned my gloves, my phone, even my keys... I am now home and have cleaned myself up, changed clothes, washed my hands 10,000x and am finally feeling better about life. Thanks Harley-man, spring cleaning came early for ballwalkpark!

On a positive note, everything is clean, clean, clean and I am loving it! That is one of my downfalls as a dogwalker, I am secretly a neat freak. I seriously streamlined my Brown Bear truck hosing procedure. Ten time as efficient in half the time, that's something to be excited about.

Before the cleaning frenzy, I took a short afternoon trip to Woodland Park with the pups staying with me, as well as Miss Bonita. I ran into a good friend of mine there and had to tell him what was on my mind. How come dogs have such amazing senses - they can sense cancer, earthquakes, what dog walked down the block that day, etc... How can they not sense stepping in their own shit!?!? How is it possible that they can step in their own shit, mid-shitting, as they awkwardly shift around in circles. It shocks and disgusts me every day. My friends answer was disappointing, but very true, they just don't care. As a self-proclaimed neat freak, I wonder how I can watch a dog step in it's own shit and cuddle with him on the couch hours later (true fact, happening right now, after I cleaned!). I guess this is just another example of how love is blind...

At the end of the day, whether it's this day or that wonderful summer day, I wouldn't trade jobs for anything in the world. And to be honest, this isn't the first time this has happened (not quite on this scale), and this isn't uncommon in this line of work.... any dog walker you talk to will tell you at least one similar story of their own. Among all of my shittier thoughts of the day, I realized I have yet another trait in common with Bailey, my neurotic retrieving lab. Like Bailey, every time I throw the ball, I can't wait to do it again. I can't wait to see how far I can throw it, who will get it, if it will bounce and they will jump and crash into each other, or if they will lose it and I have to help them find it.... I don't know what it is about it, but I just can't ever get enough of these dogs. Michael laughs at me every night when I go through my pictures of the day and  can't hold my laughter in, he rolls his eyes every time we play with Bailey and I beg to throw the ball just one more time....  All this poop talk may have altered your perception of the glamorous life of a dogwalker, but I'm already looking forward to tomorrow. Sans poop.

Drowned in Double Dog Park Trips

Whhewwww it was a wet one today! My second day back since the "dogwalker in a boot" saga and it was a full 8 hours of soggy doggy park trips and fun. Before I get into the exhilarating adventures of the dog park today, I have to share by amazing find with any of you who have suffered from wet, numb, filthy dog park hands. Dogwalkers, listen up, this may be as life changing for you as it was for me. These gloves, Atlas Snow Blower gloves, are the best gloves I have found, and believe me, I have been through many. They are completely waterproof with a cozy fleece lining. You can still bend your fingers and clip a leash, pick up a toy, and yes, even open a poop bag. The best part is, you can hose off your dogs and not worry about getting your hands wet and dirty at all! I know what you're thinking, getting your hands wet and dirty is not the end of the world, but when it is 36 degrees out and you have 6 filthy dogs to hose off, those fingers go numb really fast and it makes it pretty hard to work! I bought these gloves at City People's on the way to the dog park. I highly recommend them! Oh, and they are bright sexy orange ;)

Ok, on to the good stuff. We switched things up a bit this morning and I took Jambo and Pepper with my crew, they usually go with Nancy's. Pepper had fun chasing after Bonita's tail while Bonita was chasing Mokee for the frisbee. Jambo was stepping up and chasing Porter for the new rope/ball toy which I impulse purchased at City People's as well. I made it through an entire day without losing it, so it was a success! Porter and Dexter kept taking it and having a tug-o-war hold out where they just stood there and stared at one another with the toy in between them... Miles was super excited to catch the toy and have the whole crew chase him - he can really run fast when he has 7 dogs running after him! Coco made it through the whole park trip without rolling in a mud puddle - I was so proud of her! But then as we were walking out the gate to the truck, she ducked off to the puddle 15 yards away and flopped like a fish out of water, just enough to get a good coating. One of these days I am going to video her in action rather than try to get her to stop. Might as well provide some entertainment for all of us! I was really glad I had my new gloves at that moment. I took a few pictures, but it was so grey and cloudy nothing turned out very well... I really wanted to get a picture of Gracie and Porter, who looks like Gracie's mini-me!

Now for the afternoon trip... I picked up my trusty helper Michael and our little menace, Bam. We also got her sidekick, Violet. Our 2nd to last stop before the park was Cooper (yellow lab - not to be confused with Cooper black lab who was already in the back seat). Cooper's brother, Tucker, recently started going to the park as well, but they go on different days so they both get their own separate play time. This is one of those time it would be really nice to be able to talk to dogs and explain why this girl comes and takes them to the park but only takes one of them and why only one of them should be getting excited because the other one is about to get a door closed on their face.... Poor Tucker, hopefully it will make more sense tomorrow! I'm sure it won't, but at least he won't be the one getting the door closed on him!

By the time we got the park, it was absolutely dumping rain. It must have been refreshing for the dogs, because they were going 150%! It was like they all flipped a switch to Tasmanian devil mode (not really devils, you know what I mean). Luckily, they were a great group of retrievers (or at least dogs that like the game) so it was just pure running for an hour and a half. Those dogs got tired today! Considering I am just getting back into the rhythm of the park, my first big mistake today was forgetting to bring a squeaker toy for Sammy. To be honest, it crossed my mind on the way to the park, but I figured since I already stopped and bought my gloves and impromptu dog toy purchase for the day, I was not going to to buy another toy.... Probably not my best choice. When Sammy doesn't have a squeaky ball, he hounds every other dog that passes by with one. And by hound I mean he runs along side them with his big head right by their mouth, almost as if saying, "give it to me, you know you want to give it to me, come on, come on, come on!!!", which results in me going through a whole ringer of tricks to get the ball back. Over and over and over. Note to self: you DO need the squeaky. Even if just to keep in my bag as bribery, I can't go empty handed!

The highlight of my day had to have been while I was hosing off the dogs (with my new super cool gloves), and Chesa came up while I was bent over hosing a dog and jumped up on my face, knocking off my glasses and somehow licking inside my mouth... GROSS! I tried to wipe off my mouth but then realized my new super cool gloves were actually just wiping more water/dirt on my face. I can't tell you how often I get back in the truck to find mud wiped across my face... and I always wonder how many people I encountered who opted to not tell me! I love Chesa, but not enough to make out with her. That was really more than I had bargained for today.

As I was getting orally assaulted, Michael couldn't stand to see his little frenchie babies so wet and cold, so he took them back to the truck, turned on the heat and wrapped them in a towel. Actually, tied them in a towel. Like a two little baguettes in a basket. He is ridiculous.

It was a very soggy day and the dogs were unusually rowdy, probably still working off some cabin fever from the snow days, but regardless, it felt so good to be back at the park. There is nothing like walking around an empty park playing with 8 of my best four-legged friends. The best part about when it rains, is the park is totally empty and nobody knows the extent of the conversations I have with my dogs.... Commands? Yeah right... We've had a lot of catching up to do! Looking forward to the rest of the week, rain or shine!

Seattle dogwalker vs. Seattle snow

This is going to be a rant blog. Well, a rant and an apology blog.  I am so incredibly frustrated with Seattle's weather and the forecasting abilities. I understand that due to the ocean and mountains and other geographical elements this is a very hard area to forecast weather for, but seriously, this is ridiculous.

Based on the ever-changing forecasts and conditions on Sunday night, I cancelled all services for Monday. Turned out to be clear roads and no snow.... Today everything was planned to be on normal schedule until I got to the dog park and there was at least 1" of new snow on the ground and covering all the roads. To avoid getting stuck later on in the afternoon when the snow was originally forecasted to begin, I cancelled the afternoon park trip. I am now sitting at home on top of Queen Anne and there is not a bit of snow on the ground and the sun is shining. I am 0-2.

These pictures were taken at the same time - Kendal at Magnuson Park, and myself leaving Queen Anne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know it seems that this shouldn't be such a difficult decision, but here are the factors that come in to play for us dogwalkers:

  • The majority of my driving is on neighborhood streets, alleys, and other lower traffic roads that are more likely to have snow and ice still
  • Just because I can pick up all of my dogs and get them to the park doesn't mean conditions couldn't drastically change over the next 3 hours and make it difficult to get home. Stuck with a truck full of pups in freezing temperatures is a recipe for disaster.
  • Precious cargo: a big factor in how well my truck handles the snow is how much weight is in the back, weight = precious cargo = your dog. If I had a truck bed full of sand bags I may not be so hesitant, but I do not want to risk it with the pups in the back. The tail end sliding out around a corner could be devastating... something I hope to never experience!
  • Brrrrr... it can get cold in the back of the truck! It is pretty well insulated and with all the heavy breathing on the way home from the park it stays pretty toasty, but not so much on the way there. Plus, at the park, snow gets stuck in the hair in between the dogs toes and can get really uncomfortable! See this article for some more tips on keeping your pup safe in the snow.

All in all, this "snow day" game is often more work than it's worth, and this city does not make it very easy to accurately plan for! Believe me, I love snow more than just about anyone. In fact, I woke up almost every hour last night and looked out the window like a little kid.... One of the many wonderful things about this job is that a snow day + work is even better than a snow day without work - I love going to the dog park on snow days and watching the dogs frolick and play. It is so much fun and something I look forward to all year long. Being able to safely get there and back is the issue....  If I am going to cancel park trips and walks, I want it to be a legit full-on SNOW DAY where there is obviously no way anyone is going to make it to work. A repeat of 2008 or nothing at all.

So, in summary, I would like to sincerely apologize to my clients for all of the hassle and inconvenience this week. And hopefully, third time is a charm and I will make the right call tomorrow!

adventures of bwp: ballwalkpark family

I can't believe how lucky we have been with the dry weather lately. It really makes life easier when I don't have to wrap the boot in Saran wrap and duct tape for each park trip, and save a ton of time hosing and toweling off the dogs. Not to mention less wet dog smell for all. I don't want to curse it, but I hope this trend keeps up! ballwalkpark has been going through some changes in the past few weeks, with Kendal joining the crew to help me while I am slightly gimpy, and Nancy has started taking daily park trips with Pepper, Jambo, Mokee, Woody and sometimes the little schnauzer puppies - Heinz and Rommel. Kendal is doing so awesome taking over the pack and the dogs just love her. She has just the right mix to discipline the dogs and still have the fun exuberant energy to play and have fun with the dogs. Nancy's dogs are are absolutely obsessed with her. They are her shadows, her entourage, her loyal followers. They get so excited when they see the other pack, it's all wiggles and fun, but as soon as Nancy starts to walk in another direction, they are like magnets, right by her side.

The newest addition this week has been the mini-schnauzer puppies, Heinz and Rommel. They are tiny, and shy at first, but have really opened up and seem to be having a lot of fun at the park! They are doing great in Nancy's pack. I have to admit, when she has them on leash, it looks pretty funny since they are so little and their legs move so fast and they wind in and out between each other!

Rex and Bonita have been on a roll lately. They have both been relentlessly stealing balls, dabbling with a little poop eating, and digging the occasional hole. Somehow those two always seem to get dirtier than the rest, even the other goldens.

Bonita has been pretty ridiculous about the ball stealing, to the point the other dogs have learned not to drop the ball when she is around, so I have enrolled her in my own version of bootcamp. In this case, I will call it "Bootcamp Bonita". What this means is basically that Kendal and I make sure to focus a lot of energy on the behavior we want to work on or change with Bonita. Every single time she steals a ball, we make her leave it and give her a treat and start over. In a normal situation, if she steals a ball that the other dogs didn't seem to care about anyway, she would take it over and seduce Harley into playing mouth-tug. Not this week. Bootcamp Bonita is learning to drop the ball like a big girl :)

Walker has rejoined the pack after spending the last two weeks at boarding while is mom is traveling. We ran into him at the park a couple times during those weeks, but we were so happy to have him back. He is sporting a new snazzy red coat. He had a great time running and being chased for the big blue ball with the Coopers, Sammy, Floyd and Bam.

Floyd, our new labradoodle, has been with the pack for a few weeks now. In the beginning he was very very attracted to Rex and was humping him nearly non-stop. He was recently adopted into his new home, received a new name, and has a lot of adjustments to go through. We moved him from the morning group to the afternoon group on Tuesdays so that he could meet some other pups and give Rex a break. He is doing much better in the afternoon group! He and Sammy are great retrieving/chase buddies. They both love the squeaky toy and it keeps them going in circles forever. I get tired just watching them. Floyd is very intense for the first 20 minutes or so - it's almost like he can't stop running even if he wants to - he just sprints in circles - round and round. There is almost no stopping him. After the initial period, he calms down and is a really well behaved pup who has learned recall pretty well and drops the ball and plays with the other dogs great. His owner texted me after the park today and asked how the "Furry Fury" had been - I definitely laughed at that! He was great :)

Milkshake was bouncing with energy. When he gets super excited he is literally like a Mexican jumping bean - bounding in the air on all fours. He got super excited when we found a huge stick that had probably been blown off a tree in one of the wind storms. He ran in circles almost taking other dogs out trying to invite them to play tug. He was missing his buddy Max, I'm sure!

In the past two years I've watched my pack change a lot and have gotten used to the ebbs and flows of new dogs and puppies adjusting to the pack and then eventually being the veterans who welcome the next generation. This constant flow makes for periods of time that can be very difficult, working to get new pups adjusted, or super easy going with all veterans. I love mixing up the easy times with a new challenge, and then I love when I realize the "new challenge" has settled in and things are running smoothly again. While I am used to this with my pack, I am not used to this with my humans (aka employees) and had a realization today. I was walking with Kendal and her pack, and realized my foot hurt and I would rather hang out with Nancy and her pack in the other field. All of "my" pack, even my own dog, Bailey, stuck with Kendal as she walked the other direction. I walked up I saw Nancy's pack attentively perched at her feet waiting for a treat. As I was walking in between the two, being that awkward person at the dog park without a dog, I realized that ballwalkpark is no longer just a girl with her pack of dogs. It's still all the same great dogs, but now spread between three girls who shower them with that much more love, attention and affection. I had that realization today that everyone is settled into the routine and things are pretty easy going right now... It's a great time to rest my gimpy foot, take some fun pictures of the pups playing at the park, and spend time with my amazing ballwalkpark family :)

Posted on December 7, 2011 and filed under Adventures of ballwalkpark.

Adventures of bwp: thanksgiving week

Yesterday was the downpour of all downpours! My rainproof gear passed the test, the boot failed miserably. I don't think have never been that wet in my life. I would try to wipe the water off of my face and by the time I did it was dripping wet again! The dogs stayed clean despite running in lakes of mud because it was raining so hard it was like a non-stop shower. That was a perk! The morning trip was raining, but nothing compared to the afternoon. We brought Floyd for his second park trip, his first with my pack (was with nancy yesterday). That dog has so much energy! He's a young labradoodle,so I'm not surprised. He was just adopted into a new home two weeks ago and was named Floyd- it fits him very well! He seems to be a very smart, well trained dog, but still is adjusting to a lot and very very excited about the dog park! The main thing we are working on is recall and considering he is still learning his new name, and has a pack of new friends, it's understandable that he's not totally reliable yet. We kind of had a break through yesterday and discovered that he may have been trained "touch" instead of "come" as ER have been using. He heard me say " touch" to another dog and came running over and sat perfectly at my feet waiting for a treat. And did it again, and again... I love moments like that :)

During our drop offs and pick ups, or "lunch", we found a lost dog walking in front of my house. He was a little chug (chihuahua/pug) and his name was Larry. We called the number on his tag and left a voicemail. I posted on Facebook and twitter. We kept him with us waiting to hear back from the owner. Long story short, he snuck out of my neighbors yard who was dog-sitting and after some cuddling in the car with me, he went home safe sound. He was a sweet little guy with a Mr. Fletcher-ish underbite.

So, I'm having kind of an off week, and am apparently physically falling apart. I was lifting a dog in the truck on Monday (which I do 15x a day, every day, and have never had a problem), and pulled something in my back. I've never done that before and feel like I'm turning into an 80yr old! I learned my lesson on lifting. I have been so lucky to have Kendal helping me- I thought the boot was difficult, but this is much worse. I think, in the world of "everything happens for a reason", it's helped me let go of a little bit of my control freak ways and let Kendal take the reins. She has been amazing and it is really good for me to stand back and watch a bit... I can't believe how much she has caught on to the crazy chaotic life of the dogs. All the dogs love her and listen to her and she has been such a trooper with the long days bad weather. That's how you know someone truly loves the dogs!

Yesterday afternoon, I had to take a break and sit down and rest for a minute. I had been chasing the dogs around trying to get their toys to throw and finally gave up. As soon as I sat down, every single dog came over and said hi and checked in on me. They are so sweet. Milkshake brought his ball, dropped it, and barked in circles around the bench, in protest of my resting moment. If a barking dog dancing in circles doesn't get you back in action, I don't know what does. He's intense!

The rain either energizes and excites the dogs and they just go crazy, or sometimes they have just had enough. Pepper was over it. Her sad little eyes said "I'm not cut out for this. Take me home to cuddle!" I posted a video on YouTube and facebook of the pups romping in the rain.

In other news, Cooper took the worst smelling poop I have ever smelled. Even after it was bagged and thrown away, I could smell if for a good 50ft radius. What did he eat?!

Nancy walked Mokee yesterday afternoon, in the downpour, and apparently did the best towel off job ever! His mom texted me last night asking if he went to the park (he does both on Tuesdays) - she said he looked like he just got back from the groomers he was so clean! Good job, Nance!

Ok, back to the park to test that rain gear again....

Posted on November 23, 2011 and filed under Adventures of ballwalkpark, Uncategorized.

Adventures of BWP: Tuesday 11/8

It was such a beautiful day at the park. I would trade summer for an entire year of days like today. I know the exact moment when a puppy turns into a teenage - it's almost always the same. It happened to Rex today. As we walk from the water station to the gate to leave the park, all the dogs follow me in a nice little pack and we go through the gate and they jump in the truck. It's that moment when the "teenager" stops a few paces short of the gate and stares at me that I realize he's grown up. He realizes that he actually has a choice whether he follows me or not. It's when he actually considers the fact that there might be better things in the world than the scraps of treat left in my coat pocket. If he bolts, he just might be able to steal a few more minutes of precious play time. The older dogs, that have gone through the teenage days, know the golden rule: I always win :) Well Rex, let the games begin. Sweet little Gracie still thinks the most exciting thing in the world is about to happen when I call her - why do puppies have to grow up?

Tucker has been adjusting since his partner in crime, Stella, moved to Boston last week. The first couple trips were rough - he was clearly confused and didn't really know who to hang out with so he got kind of bully-ish. It's kind of like the kid in high school that got separated from his friends so tries to act super tough and mean so other kids don't think he's a loser. To help him adjust, I switched him to the afternoon group 2 days/wk, so he has a whole new crew to bond with, not just life without Stella. I know this may sound ridiculous, but those two were close. As soon as Stella's parents started packing up their place, two weeks before the move, Tucker started acting out. Stella didn't act funny until her last park trip when her house was literally empty of all belongings.

For the most part we had a really mellow time at the park on both trips. It wasn't too crowded, not too many mud puddles to avoid, we didn't lose any toys, we didn't steal too many toys, all around it was a good day! A special thanks to Bickie (Coco's mom) for making my favorite Quinoa salad today! She is so sweet - she makes my favorite salad every Tuesday because she knows it is my first long day of the week and that I never have time to get lunch! She makes my day every time - Thank you Bickie!!!

Outside of the dog park: Little Stella, the king charles cavalier, who goes on walks with Nancy, had to go to the emergency room last night. She was throwing up blood and they still have to run some more tests to see what it could be. She is on medication and is doing much better today after a few visits and lots of love from Nancy. Just a reminder that if you don't have pet insurance, right now is a great time to do it! I recommend Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, Trupanion, or Embrace.

Sometimes my clients say the funniest things about their dogs... since you all say them, I figured you might like to hear what other people say about their own dogs, so I would like to start a "client quote of the day" section. This will of course remain anonymous and I will take the dog's name out of it as well. To start us off, here is a quote that had me literally laughing out loud to myself in the car all day:

client quote of the day:

"(my dog would) steal a cookie from a kid and then knock the kid down in order to get a faster route to eating poop"

Don't forget to check out pictures of our day today on the ballwalkpark facebook page!

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