Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Harry Paints the Town Red

Schuylkill Banks Dog Park has become a weekly stop for us.  It's the easiest way for us to completely exhaust Harry without exhausting ourselves.  Last week we made a bonus stop on Thursday, and Harry frolicked and sprinted with a brindle pit mix named Bella and a teenage boxer named Logan.  While we were there, I noticed a flyer posted to the dog park fence for a Phillies Pup Rally on Sunday as part of the Phillies "Paint the Town Red" week.  On a whim at the end of the baseball season last year, I picked up a Phillies jersey for Harry at our favorite stop Fairmount Pet Shoppe.  We decided since we were bringing Harry to the park on Sunday anyway, we might as well dress for the occasion.  As you'll notice, it's a little snug.  Harry has grown.

Harry burst into the park with endless energy.  Sprinting like crazy in his jersey, he managed to get the top button undone, showing off his manly heavage.  Only one other dog in the park had Phillies gear on, so I immediately assumed we would win the costume contest at the end of the parade.

Around 1:00 we made our way over to the playground next to the dog park where a crowd was forming.  Upon our arrival, there were plenty of pooches donning Phillies gear to the extreme.  Not only were there jerseys just like Harry's, but there were t-shirts, homemade costumes, dogs wearing socks, even a dog painted green (not that I condone painting your dog).  My only hope was that Harry's whiskers and in your face personality would win over the judges.

I signed us up by filling out a waiver and getting our sticker that the judges would use to score us.  Then what seemed like endless waiting ensued.  Having not had the chance to exude all his pent up energy in the park, Harry was psychotically pouncing, jumping, and pulling toward every dog in costume.  Perhaps it was a tactic to ruin their outfits and increase our advantage, but I think he was just being overly outgoing.  If the judges were witnessing this, then surely we weren't going to win for good behavior either.

Being the dog freak I am, I circled the competition and took pics of my favorites asking strangers if I could take pictures of their dogs.  These were my kind of people, as they were happy to oblige and even returned the favor by snapping some shots of Harry.  Then the crowd shifted as the red Phanatic made his way into the parade.  More people were snapping photos of their dog with the phanatic than of their child with the phanatic.  Again, my kind of people.  I swooped Harry up into my arms (swooped is actually making that process sound easy...it's more of a squat, adjusting his arms onto my shoulders, wrapping my arms under his bum, and using my legs to lift myself up.  Then I support all of Harry's 45+ pounds on my lower back) and waited patiently in the crowd for our turn to snap a pic with the Phanatic.  

In a dramatic turn of events, Harry abruptly squirmed which threw my grasp off balance causing me to DROP him in front of everyone.  And he didn't fall gracefully like a cat, he fell like a clumsy dog right on his back.  Of course he flipped over, was fine, and attempted to get in everyone's face again.  I on the other hand, was mortified and convinced that everyone thought I was a bad mom.  Shamefaced with hot eyes, I escaped from the crowd to the back of the parade line and proceeded to make Harry sit in my meanest mom voice.  The boo pointed out that most of the dogs were much better behaved than Harry and we didn't have to do this parade, but I was set on competing with Harry even though our chances were pretty slim given that 8 other dogs were wearing the same thing as Harry except behaving like heavenly gentle therapy-like dogs.  

Eventually, the parade began.  We all lined up behind the Phillies ball girls and in slow progression, made a tiny loop around the Phanatic.  And then we all stood there not knowing where to go.  My grip on Harry's leash was fierce, but somehow the boo captured me looking quite calm cool and collected.  The entire process was completely worth the struggle when Harry and Phanatic met.  The Phanatic squatted down on the ground and Harry crept towards him with ears perked in curiosity.  Then Harry danced forwards and backwards, not sure if this beast was A. a dog, B. a toy, or C. a monster.  Surprisingly, he didn't crash to the ground in his fear pose which he does when we pass the statue in front of the old GlaxoSmithKline building.  The whole moment was captured by Comcast SportsNet cameras, so I'm obviously stalking them to see if they'll post a video of my baby.

After the touching moment, the event announcers determined the winners over the loudspeakers.  First place went to a bulldog dressed as a $1 Dog Phillies hot dog.  His parents made his costume, and he looked happy to wear it.  2nd Place went to a Phillies eye patch wearing beagle (see pic 5 in link).  His parents made his costume as well....and apparently the dog did need an eye patch which makes me sad.  And third place doesn't ring a bell, because in the words of Ricky Bobby, "If you ain't first, you're last".  Harry came in last.  We'll be back next year, hopefully with better manners, and definitely with a serious costume.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt a Running Buddy

A couple of years ago I was desperately seeking canine companionship.  Having moved out of my parents' place and in with the boo, I was no longer surrounded by fur beasts or "the noses" as my niece lovingly calls my parents' three wooly mammoths Australian Shepherds.  My boo is a relatively sedentary person, and being the complete opposite I'm always wanting to go for a run or walk about the city.  Back then, this amazing volunteer effort caught my eye called "The Monster Milers" where you can basically rent a shelter dog for an hour to accompany you on walks and runs throughout the city.  The dog wears an "Adopt Me" vest, gets his exercise, you get the reward of companionship and volunteering, and you both receive lots of friendly attention from potential parents who spot you running.

My experiences surrounded the PAWs shelter on 2nd and Arch street.  On a weekly basis I'd run to the shelter, take a pup out for a stroll or a run (depending on the pup), and run home.  It was ideal except that I wanted the pup to come home with me, every single time.  After adopting Harry, I haven't been back to PAWs mainly because I've got to run and walk my own fur-baby.  However the organization has grown and spread to a number of shelters in the city, which makes me really happy. 

If those paragraphs didn't convince you to go out and adopt a running buddy or at least volunteer with a shelter, maybe the following will.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt a Running Buddy:

1.  Availability 24/7
Harry runs at 5:30am, in the afternoon, and as late as 9pm.  Maybe he's a little slower the earlier he rises, but he's never turned me down for a run.  That kind of flexibility just isn't common among human running buddies.  Harry also will run in the snow, in the rain, and in hail even with 30 mph winds.  He makes the same squinty face I do in the elements.

2.  Potential bodyguard
Running with a dog I've noticed I get less cat calls (hey guys...dog & cat pun).  "Girl, you ain't doin nothin wrong", kissy sounds, "Can I run witchoo?", "HEY WHERE ARE YOU RUNNING TO?  WHYYYY ARE YOU RUNNING!!??" from vagrants and creepers on the streets of Philadelphia.  As far as this city goes, it seems like 40% of the population is intimidated by dogs...at least that's what it looks like when Harry goes in for a rushed tail wagging greeting.  Most passersby flinch as if he might attack them while I'm repeatedly apologizing for his behavior.  Even though I need to work on Harry's "friendly greetings", I'm pleased with the intimidation factor.  Back off creepers.

3.  Guilt-free Breaks
Say you're pushing out 8:30 minute miles, acting like it's no big deal, you're not tired.  Yet you are dying for a light to turn red so you have an excuse to stop.  Dogs need to do their business (in Harry's case multiple times) and greet every one of their dog friends on your route, giving you ample time to pause your watch and catch your breath without feeling like a cheater.  Oh I did 8:30s for 3 miles and it took me 45 minutes?  That's not what my watch says...

4.  Distraction Factor
Nothing beats good conversation during a run.  The miles fly by with little effort, and you're left socially and physically satisfied.  It's a similar story with dogs, except it's less awkward when you're wheezing your words or run out of things to say.  You'll also find that your conversations are completely different than they would be with your human running buddies.  For example, I can say out loud "oh Harry look that's a nice stick!" when the same statement would result in an odd stare or possibly desertion with a different species.  Plus, one ends up distracting themselves by keeping an eye out for what I call Harry Hazards like chicken bones, pieces of hair weave, birds (both alive and dead), goose poop (Harry's latest craving), and other dogs.  Ah the streets are alive, Philadelphia!

5.  Kill Two Birds with One Stone
Speaking of dead birds, running with your dog accomplishes two things.  Your workout is complete, and your dog is likely pooped.  A tired dog equals a happy dog, and a tired dog means he won't be getting into mischief when you're away.  If I can get a 5+ mile run out of Harry, chances are he'll sleep the rest of the day. 
Quick photo shoot at a stop light - Harry poses dramatically
Bonus:  Unanticipated Speedwork
Track day or tempo day is a day I dread.  Speedwork definitely improves your pace, but it is painful.  What better way to incorporate sprints into your run than by sporadically sprinting after a squirrel?  It's common for me to do a few blocks of faster paced running based on a dog walking ahead, birds, cats, or if the grass smells really good that day.  I've also realized that running with Harry adds some strength training to my workouts.  Running uphill is hard, but running uphill while pulling your 45 pound mutt is harder. 

Harry has definitely improved my running habits.  I've found myself being motivated by him to pick up the pace, and even myself motivating him to keep up.  Both have made my runs more fun and rewarding.  At the end of our runs, when we're two blocks from home I can yell "Go Harry!  Go!  Go!  Go!" and he'll take the leash into his mouth and sprint ahead pulling me to the finish.  What other kind of running buddy will drag you towards a strong finish any time of day?  Are you sold yet?  Get on petfinder.com already!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Doggy Deals: Amazon.com Pet Purchases

For a few weeks Harry and I have lusted after Fab.com's toy selection.  Always the bargain hunters, we found some of the same items for cheaper on Amazon.  These toys made for great belated birthday gifts and like the best toys, they're both educational and fun.  Did I use educational in dog toy reference?  I did.

Dinosaurs roamed the Earth a long time before Harry got here.  So in order to teach Harry about the Earth's trials and tribulations, Nylabone stepped in with a T-rex dental chew.  Harry quickly named him Tony and I find them embracing on the carpet at nighttime, likely exchanging stories of extinction and commiserating over the lack of forearm functionality. 
For $6.02 and free shipping eligibility, this archaic chew toy teaches Harry that dinosaurs are tough, but they can be destroyed over time.  Plus, I was excited to get a Nylabone in a different shape than boring old bone - which ends up being shaped into a shank by Harry's methodical chewing.

Although Harry is pretty excited over all of his new toys, his IQ Treat Ball is likely his most absorbing possession.  Featuring a screw off top and an adjustable panel, the IQ Treat Ball will dispense treats if it's bobbled about strategically.  Harry didn't care for it at first, but when I showed him there was food in it, and kicked it around until some treats fell out, he became obsessed.
Now he can be heard noisily batting the plastic ball across the hardwood floors until it gets stuck under the couch.  My favorite part about it is that you can adjust the 'skill level' depending on how smart your dog is, or maybe for how long you're going to leave him playing with the toy.  The panel can open up to a wider opening so that treats flow out more freely, or you can shrink it so more work is required to get a treat.  After seeing Harry play with it, I feel like I should have gotten him a bigger size.  He actually can fit his mouth around the ball and will carry it around and slam it to attempt to get more food out.  Since getting this toy, it's been our vessel for feeding Harry breakfast while we're at work.
Our final birthday indulgence, was probably the most ridiculous.  It's called "Hide a Squirrel" and it's 40% off at Amazon.  This is something that I can't let Harry play with by himself unless we want dead unstuffed squirrels laying around the house.  But when we do play together, Harry is mystified. 

The game starts by introducing Harry to his three squirrel friends...or enemies (I'm not really sure how he feels about them).  They each have a squeaker inside, so obviously they each say hello to Harry before jumping into their tree trunk - a stuffed trunk with holes on the sides and top.  The squirrels squeak while they get in their trunk and once inside, the trunk is handed over to Harry who has to pull each squirrel out.

We played several times in a row and it didn't get old.  Harry got faster and faster getting the squirrels out and sat like the perfect gentleman while I told the squirrel story and set him up for trunk navigation.  The product offers up "problem solving skills" as a benefit, but I think they should also add patience and squirrel education, since Harry learns all about their native habitat when he shoves his face into their home.

Harry is definitely satisfied with his new toys and I think the variety has created more opportunities for interactive play rather than just chewing.  All three of these toys were purchased for a total of $26 on Amazon, which also qualified me for free super saver shipping.  It's a doggy deal!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fido Flick: K-9

On a lazy Saturday I found myself enveloped in the 1989 classic, K-9.  Starring Jim Belushi and a manly German Shepherd named "Jerry Lee", the film follows the typical cop movie.  It's almost like Lethal Weapon except Mel Gibson is Jerry Lee.  Belushi and Jerry Lee are partners, as Belushi was assigned a K-9 unit.  The two pursue a drug case, which I am pretty sure is based on marijuana (lame) and criminally master-minded by rich old white dudes (unrealistic). 

Belushi is downright rude to Jerry Lee.  Acting as though the addition of this dog is just the end of his life.  Sure Jerry Lee messes up a few choice pieces of his classic car, but the jealousy factor created by Jerry Lee being fawned over by Belushi's girlfriend was a little over the top. 

It was entertaining to hear the comical dog groaning -which is pretty much how Jerry Lee communicates in the movie - and seeing Harry respond with head cocking side to side.  The groaning was dubbed in, obviously.  I don't think the director could've captured any timely real groans in the frequency that they occurred.  Plus, Jerry Lee very much resembles my fur-nephew, Jager.

The preceding fact probably explains that (as in all cop/dog movies) when Jerry Lee was shot (spoiler alert) I completely broke down within 5 seconds.  Even though I knew the end of the movie, I absolutely hate it when the dog gets hurt.  Here's a picture of me and Harry during my emotional breakdown after the dog dying in the hit ABC series Revenge (Harry's comforting) just to prove how raggedly emotional I get:

Which is worse?  That I get this upset, or that I document it and send it to the boo when he's not home?
Without completely giving away the ending, I came away from K-9 feeling pretty good.  Maybe I even laughed a few times.  However, as far as dog movies go, the 90s (Beethoven) and the 2000's (Marley & Me) did a better job.  K-9 is a classic, but it's cheese.  And although it's rumored to be a copycat of Tom Hanks' Hooch - it actually came out 3 months before.  Otherwise, Harry thoroughly enjoyed it, until he fell asleep.