Arm Charms

I’ve had the pleasure of taking care of many dogs over the years, but when a friend asked me to take in their city dog, a toy poodle,  for two weeks while they went on vacation, It wasn’t without some hesitation.  I was used to dogs of a more “rugged” nature – ones that were independent and could find their way around a trail.  What was I going to do with an “arm charm” for two weeks?  Was she going to want to sit in my lap and be carried everywhere?  The answer was yes….until she discovered she was a dog. 

Bailey arrived for her two-week stay at our hobby farm fresh from the groomers fashioning a pink bow at the top of her head.   We welcomed Bailey with open arms and bid farewell to our friends as they headed out on their vacation.  It wasn’t soon after they left that I realized Bailey seemed most content when she was in our lap or being carried from place to place.  She wasn’t terribly motivated to do much on her own, so I thought I would try a little canine experiment. 

The first thing that went was her fashion accessories. I didn’t cut out her lap privileges (a selfish move on my part), but I did start making her use her own four legs to get from point A to point B.  I also started taking her on hikes with my own dog, Charlie.   We condensed them somewhat to compensate for her size, but during the hikes, she was left to walk on her own four paws.

I could tell by the look in her big dark eyes that she felt out of her comfort zone on more than one occasion, but she always embraced whatever challenge I put in front of her. It wasn’t long before Bailey started realizing her own doggy potential.  She started putting her ears, eyes and nose to good use chasing bugs in the hay field.  She learned how to fetch pebbles on the beach by watching Charlie. And to my surprise, she discovered that not only were her  legs made for walking, but they worked just as well in water.  While wading in calf-deep water one day, I felt a bump on my leg and it was the arm charm paddling through the cove like she was born to swim. Bailey

Every day, I sent my friends daily updates and photos of Bailey’s adventures.  While they were a little disappointed Bailey didn’t take her first swim in their pool,  they were amazed to see  that she was capable of doing anything big dogs could.

Bailey comes and stays with us a couple times a year now, and while I haven’t completely convinced my friends that their arm charm is in fact a dog, they do appreciate the things Bailey has learned during her time with us.  They have accepted that the pink bow mysteriously disappears on the first day of each of her stays; that unless it is 10 below, she will not be wearing clothing;  and that her pristine white coat may be a little discoloured on their return.  They have willingly traded their urban arm charm for a happy, adventuress, confidence canine that is only too happy to get a little dirty.

For more dog stories and the lessons I’ve learned from them, check out the October issue of Paws For Balance. Paws For Balance – October 2012


Do Dogs Smile?

When we brought Charlie home from the Truro SPCA six years ago, he was an easy going nine-month old puppy.  He didn’t chew our favourite shoes, he wasn’t rambunctious and his favourite time of day seemed to be bed-time when he could stretch out at the bottom of our bed.   We always just thought that he was a low-energy dog who really didn’t need to be walked or exercised.  So, other than the odd stroll on the beach during vacations, we really didn’t take him for walks.  And since we live on a hobby farm, we thought we could just throw the door open and he could exercise himself.

It wasn’t until I started hiking for my own benefit and taking Charlie with me, did I realize the impact that a good hour-long romp through the woods had on my dog.  Along with the new sleek figure he was developing, I also noticed he was just acting more like a dog!

He got better at sniffing out squirrels, manoeuvring at high speeds through brush and fallen trees, and he even overcame his fear of water and started swimming in the river that winds through our trails.  His confidence level was also growing off the trail.  His nervous ‘accidents’ all but disappeared and he became less timid of other dogs.

My low-energy mopey mutt has turned into a confident, fit and much happier hound thanks to his new-found love for the trails.   So, even on summer days when I would rather avoid  those annoying deer flies  or  the ice that covers the ground in February, I persevere, and head for the woods.  It’s so worth it, to see the corners of Charlie’s mouth curl up into what I truly believe is a big smile.