Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Really Kinda Stupid

Which shall we start with? Problems make for better stories, and the good stuff did happen first ... so I guess I'll start there and work my way down!

The sun was out yesterday morning, and the temperature was perfect. I took Freddie on a longish walk to Charleson dog park — the one with the big field for romping & fetching and the shallow ponds for wading (not pictured below). One of my goals was to tire him out, in anticipation of a restaurant meal in the evening. Another goal — same one that's in effect every time we leave home — was to manage Freddie's responses to skateboards and other dogs in ways that would prevent adrenaline and cortisol spikes (in both of us).

Nofo Summer 1

All in all, the outing was a success, and I returned home with a seemingly tired dawg and a satisfied sense that I'd nudged Freddie a little further along on his journey to canine social maturity. The tripe in the Kong was opening our mailbox to find the handmade safety vest I'd ordered from Jen at Stylish Canine — to make Freddie more visible in the forest, where his colours tend to blend in with the surroundings.

 Bit o' shameless blog promotion!

Jen is a dog blogger of a much higher order than I am (pay her a visit at Dogthusiast.com!), and my connection with her is one of the groovy things that have come out of Walking With Freddie. She's also a crafter of fine collars, leashes, and other doggie apparel — including Freddie's stylish and rugged new visibility vest. If you're looking for dog gear and would like to support a groovy small business, get in touch with Jen! (Stylish Canine URL added to the vest at my request — support for the little guy!)

Nofo Summer 2

Anyway, yes, all of this was GOOD — as was reconnecting with our good pals Ros and George, who looked after us in La Paz, Mexico, two winters ago, and are in town for a brief visit. The evening's dinner engagement, as well as a pre-dinner walk in Stanley Park, was with them.

Big Sky 1

Now, a competent photo blogger would have made sure to get some photos of Ros and George (think Rosalind Russell and George Clooney) and, perhaps, of our al fresco dinner at Adesso Bistro ... but the BAD (and, ultimately, STUPID) dog trainer in me conspired to keep photography to a minimum and dog-related anxiety on high.

For starters, Freddie had never been to Stanley Park before, and the idea that this off-leash forest ranger would understand that walking these woodsy trails requires a leash, or that Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake are not open for swimming was, well, a tad ambitious (read: stupid). I'd managed to muster up enough brain cells to put him in his canicross (ie. pulling) harness, but he was still way out of sync with the rest of his party — morning exercise be damned.

But wait: it gets better (stupider). On arrival at the bistro, we were given a choice of patio tables. I wasn't not thinking about Freddie when I suggested the corner table next to the hedge — smack-dab in the middle of patron and server traffic wouldn't have been good — but the main force at work was my own preference for cozy, peripheral nooks.

Big Sky 2

A competent dog trainer, in tune with Freddie's tendencies and alert to potential difficulties, would have noticed that the hedge next to our table was not thick, that there were gaps at the bottom, and that the other side of the hedge featured a pedestrian walkway with — you guessed it — dogs, skateboards, bicycles etc. passing by at regular intervals, impossible to see until they were right upon us, occasionally with snouts poking through the gaps in the hedge. A smart dog trainer would have anticipated all this and asked her party if they'd mind sitting next to the wrought iron fence.

Dog Days

Under the circumstances, Freddie did OK. Just not service-dog OK. Halfway through my misto di mare appetizer, he sprang up and woofed at a skateboard (only to find himself unceremoniously stuffed back under the table). He managed to chill through the gallina affumicata and even ignore a number of passing dogs, but, as we sat digesting and awaiting coffee and dessert, four hours of frustrated impulses took their toll on young Freddie, and a cross-hedge bark 'n' lunge fest broke out.

I squeezed myself and Freddie between the hedge and the fence, took my leave of our charming dinner companions, and beelined outta there in search of a Car2Go. Apparently our host and server, Gavin, was very understanding, for which I am grateful.

I've said it before (though maybe not on this blog): Freddie and I would flunk out of a guide-dog training program. Neither of us has the temperament for that kind of work. The temperament Freddie does have creates some obvious challenges for the public access part of his diabetic alert gig ... but his prey drive, his powerful attraction to novelty, and even his stubbornness also make him very well suited to sniffing out particular smells and telling me about them. He's still young; we're both still learning.

However, lest you be left with a lousy impression of Freddie's and my own overall competence as canine and human beings, here's photo evidence (above) of a recent good deed. Two of the cyclists above — nine-year-old girls — had become separated from their group in Pacific Spirit Park. With the assistance of modern technology, I made contact with the mom, and Freddie and I escorted the girls along trails now very familiar to us to a happy reunion on the other side of the park.

FINIS (for now)


  1. What a busy day and I love the new vest!

  2. What an adventure! I *love* that walk through Stanley Park (we used to live on the English Bay end of Gilford St, so pretty much on the edge of the park), but boy I have two dogs that wouldn't handle parts of that walk at all! The restaurants we take them to are a work in progress as well, and we learnt so many things the hard way. Mort has a new issue with being under tables, so yet one more thing to work on :) Learning the hard way on that one was particularly embarrassing!

    The phrase "his powerful attraction to novelty" is perfection. That sums up Mort to a T. It gets his hackles up. "Oh it's a THING and I'm not sure yet to intensely fear it or love it, I must *be there* and sort it out!" But fun things that are determined already to be fun? He's your dog.

    I'm not sure what it is about skateboards, I heard about that elsewhere today about a dog who has a real problem with the things. Tig hates anything being ridden, but Mort is just turned on by skateboards with rapt fascination - he just about went insane when he saw Tillman the dog riding one (and I started to teach him to ride one we borrowed temporarily too.. I need to purchase one I guess). But someone/somedog else on one drives him nuts, but nuts positive. So weird, he doesn't react like that to other ridden objects. So I think there's something about skateboards and dogs in general.

    Anyway, blabbing on. Thanks SO much for the Stylish Canine shoutout in the post. So appreciated, and Freddie is a true dog model.


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