Tuesday, January 15, 2008

dog du jo(u)re

Caninaturalism is immensely gratifying: I’ve learned so much letting Ari be my guide in the natural world, and I’d like to believe that we’re both better for the experiences we’ve had. That is, unless you consider her need to expend tremendous amounts of energy and my commitment to cardiovascular fitness. Neither gets accomplished when you’re wandering around an oak tree, waiting to see if a vireo or a chipmunk might stop by.

Ari and I love to run and ski together, so after talking with some great folks already in the know, we decided to begin a formal project of skijoring and canicross. Both involve a sledding harness for Ari, which is then tethered to a nine-foot bungie rope and, in turn, a thick belt worn by me. The former, not surprisingly, involves skis and snow; the latter just a good pair of running shoes and some untrammeled geography to explore.

To get started, we visited Perry Greene Kennels, home of Mainely Dogs sled gear. They initiated us by fitting Ari with different sizes and styles of harnesses.

This took considerably longer than you might expect, largely because Ari was convinced that the stuffed dogs in the above picture were not only real, but about to attack and eat her. Hackles raised and teeth bared, she made an admirable attempt at holding her ground while shouting at the stuffed huskies to back off! 20 minutes later, they still weren’t best friends, but she was willing to hang out with them long enough to try out her first harness.

Once home, and still sweating the confrontation, we practiced wearing the harness. Dogs show stress by exhibiting what behaviorialists call “calming signals”: they avert eye contact, pant, lick their nose, lower their ears, and do anything else they can think of to prevent another individual from continuing aggressive behavior.

Here’s a fun game for the kids at home: how many of those signals can you find in the below photo?
This is not a happy dog.

But this is a dog who loves to run. We practiced a few laps in the driveway until Ari’s tail migrated out from between her legs, and her ears found their way upright. Then we decided to take advantage of the January thaw and try a few road runs.
The pup was tentative, but enthusiastic. After a few jogs, she didn’t even retreat to her crate when the harness came out of the closet.

On Monday, the snows returned.
We were ecstatic. And very, very eager.

Hitched, harnessed, bundled and bound, we made our way outside for our first jore. We had a few directional missteps:

But 20 minutes in, we found our stride. Ari loved it—and I was impressed with her pulling power, particularly downhill (anyone have a better ‘whoa’ command than “Oh, Sh*t!!!” ?)

I began dreaming about Olympic events and cover photos on Dogs Illustrated and the heaps of trophy bling awaiting my genius dog.

And she is a genius. But she’s a cananaturalist genius, and she always will be. By the end of the first jore, she was much more interested in shopping for voles than she was keeping up our heartrates.

Am I discouraged? Absolutely not. If this brilliant canine has taught me anything, it’s that any day out is a great day out. I can’t wait to try again tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow...you really let Ari PULL you? I can do this event in my driveway with my squat, duffle bag of a dog. I find "waitwaitwaitwait!!!" an interesting command variation on "whoa". Ineffective, but then so are most commands with Bentley except, "want to go for a ride?" I admire your energy and enthusiasm. And Ari looks so pretty in her harness:)

Get ready for more snow on Friday.

Maverick the Pirate said...

Harrrr Ari
Lookes like you had lots of fun Matey Harrrr
Cap'n Maverick the Pirate

Triona Trog said...

Hi Kathryn, Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed looking at your blog - it looks very original and interesting. Here I thought that euphonium-playing-environmentalist educator-with-a-fondness-for Celticism were an endangered species. ;-) Turns out there's at leasta few more.

Ari, looks like you had quite an adventure in the snow!

I will be back to read more of the blog. (Waves from Canada)

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

Looks like fun!

PA is missing a key element for that much fun -


Keep up posted on your progress!

Wags and Wuv,

Gus and Louie said...

Wow that looks like so much fun. I don't think Louie and I would make very good pulling dogs, we are heelers. We would probably try to herd Mom rather than pull her...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Majchy and Živa said...

I love the photos...Especially the one on which you are both with Ari. :)

Enjoy and have a lot of fun.

Kisses for Ari from Slovenia from Živa. :)