Thursday, 31 October 2013

Smitten!

We had a house guest at the weekend and Polly is smitten!  
Stuart's eight year old grandson loves Polly and Polly loves him right back. 


Wherever he went, Polly went too.  If he sat, she laid at his feet and when he watched tv, she watched with him.


They played footie together at the park ...


Crunched through autumn leaves together ...


And even smiled for the camera together!


Then when Polly's young pal went to play in the playground, she waited patiently outside the railings for him to come safely back.


Polly weighs in at a fairly hefty twenty seven kilos now and easily has the strength and size to knock or pull a child over, yet she trundled round the park at meandering boy pace, played enthusiastically but gently, waited patiently and proved what a sweet-natured girl she is.

She may have pulled a hole in my best rug recently and always be the last in class to recall, but I can't fault her where it really matters ... yes, our Polly is growing up to be a very good girl!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Party Polly!

Polly's social life is taking off!  She accepted an invitation to her first Halloween party last weekend and as her buddies Bugsy the German Shepherd and Marley the labrador were both going to be there, I decided to embrace the opportunity to 'bomb proof' my pup further and set about making her a Halloween collar to wear (flashing orange with a pretty orange ribbon frill.  I also bought her a pair of sparkly black fairy wings to fix to her harness!)

My laid back golden girl

Needless to say the collar lasted all of two minutes on arrival and with two boisterous playmates in high Halloween spirits to dash around with, the wings were never actually attached, so I'm afraid I didn't manage to catch a photograph of Polly in her Halloween costume.

Dressed for Halloween party fun!

My first concern was that Polly might not recognise me (even my nieces didn't recognise me until I spoke!) or would be spooked by my odd new look, but I was surprised to discover having 'mum' morph into a grey-haired, pointy hat wearing, long frock swishing witch, didn't phase my girl in the least (I wonder what that says about how she thinks of me usually?!)

The Purple conservatory Witch

My sister's house was completely transformed into a sensational Halloween haunt, with all manner of mystical, eye-popping, flapping, dangly creatures making strange noises, including a life size cackling purple witch parked in the conservatory.  The children (and some adults!) shrieked to a spooky playlist, and from a pup's eye view, there were an awful lot of strange legs to be negotiated.  We're talking full-on party chaos here and amazingly, my golden girl coped well with this frantic All Hallowes Eve madness!

Me 'n Stuart
  
First of all, she ran off steam in the huge country garden with her pals, chasing around happily with the visiting 'dog-confident' children and entertaining herself by pulling out a garden ghoul to play with!  Then when eventually tiredness caught her out, I looked down to find Polly had navigated her way through the house full of party people to find me, plonked herself at my feet and fallen fast asleep.  Aw!

My monster girl having a cuddle with Polly

I was anxious to ensure Polly was on her best behaviour with so many strange guests and ghostly goings-on, in what was a very challenging environment for such a young dog, so was hugely relieved to hear she had been well-behaved with everyone whilst out of my sight.  Way past the witching hour, Polly climbed back into our car with my monster daughter and Stuart's ghostly grandson, then our three weary Halloween spooks conked out together in a jumble on the back seat.

Ghostly Grandson and Grandad

I think it's fair to say a good night was had by witches, spooks, monsters, ghosts, ghouls, pups and all!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Polly Come

I swear even my aches ache after obedience training!  Yes, me and Polly were back at it today after our week's holiday in Cornwall and to top things off, I was forced into the dreaded 'long winding reverse' on one of the narrow lanes leading to the training field, groan!  Fortunately, after watching my hesitant attempt to back along the muddy lane, the oncoming delivery van eventually took pity on me, deciding to reverse his vehicle instead ... I reckon watching my clueless girly struggle was simply too painful for him!


Polly couldn't wait to get onto that training field with the other dogs today.  I clipped her long training lead onto her collar and off we went for some more of the dreaded 'recall practice'.  Now bearing in mind I know perfectly well 'Miss Polly Playful' knows exactly what the word 'come' means because at home she returns in a flash almost always when I call her and proved to me on a walk round the nature reserve last week that she can race back to me when called, I have to assume at obedience class she chooses not to 'come' because she's having way too much fun with her new pals ... even after they have all trotted back to their owners like perfectly well-behaved doggies! Hmph.  I wonder how many lessons it will take before she registers 'Polly come' means 'get back to mum pronto girl - at school as well as at home'!!!

It was our eighth lesson today and quite frankly, I felt as though I was pulling Polly from pillar to post to position her for the activities because she was so distracted, preferring to tune my instructions out.  I absolutely hate having to tug Poll into place when she doesn't do as she's told ... other dogs, the ground, horses in the next field, you name it, she was determined to get to it, so my arm felt as though it was being yanked out of its socket much of the time.  There were glimpses of hope as the session moved on, including a nice 'down stay' at the end, but all in all, today was physically and mentally hard work, not to mention frustrating, given Polly is usually so well behaved and responsive at home. 

Mind you, when I first met Polly's instructor Kevin a few months ago, he asked me what I hoped to achieve from her training and I remember telling him I would like 'a polite, happy dog' ... which to be fair, Polly is.  She may be a long way from performing on cue in school, but these days I can rarely fault her at home, or when we go out walking, so I won't be losing too much sleep over it.  

Incidentally, I also asked Kevin for a strong recall, which as you know, we have yet to cement ... so we won't be beaten, we'll be back up to his bloomin' field for more of the same next week!

Training sure is tiring!

One thing's for sure, training days certainly wear my girl out ... this was her a couple of minutes ago, snoring her little heart out on my living room carpet, aw!

Monday, 21 October 2013

A postcard from Cornwall

We travelled to St Issey near Padstow with Polly last week, for our very first 'dog friendly' holiday and had a lovely time exploring the rugged North Cornwall coastline.  The off season weather was mostly kind to us, bathing the countryside in glorious autumnal sunshine during the afternoons and soaking it with an occasional heavy downpour during the night.

Me 'n Polly, enjoying the autumn sunshine in Cornwall

Polly coped really well with the long car journey (about six hours) and seemed to enjoy travelling with us.  She wore her 'Click Safe' car harness and settled happily across the back seat, resting her nose on the armrest between our front seats.  Every now and again Stuart and I would receive a gentle lick or two on the back of our arms to let us know she was still there!  We wondered how Polly would behave in her strange new holiday surroundings when we arrived, but needn't have worried as she relaxed into our barn conversion straightaway and didn't even complain during the night - in fact, at bedtime, she just grabbed 'lambie' in her mouth, trotted along the stone floored hallway to her bed and then hopped into bed waiting for me to pull her fleecie blanket over and tuck her in  - yes, I do know I'm a big ol' softie!

Walking 'The Camel Trail'

Each day we enjoyed a long walk together taking in the fabulous Cornish scenery.  At just seven months old, holidaying is a brand new experience for Polly, so I was delighted that she excelled herself whenever we went out and about, making great efforts to be polite and friendly to the many unfamiliar people and their dogs she met on our travels.  One of our first walks was on 'The Camel Trail' into Padstow, a long walk bustling with bicycle riders, dog walkers and even the occasional horse.  I think Polly found the cyclists a bit of a concern to begin with, but gradually realised they were coming along the trail so frequently, it really wasn't worth the effort of fussing over each one, so before long she let them pass, walking sensibly to heel by my side.  Two very large horses were an entirely different matter though ... she sat and stared hard at the great beasts as they passed by, then excitement and stress overcame her and she hauled me erratically along the trail in the direction they had come from, with her nose firmly pressed to the ground and me flapping at the end of her lead - she sure is strong these days!  The horses weren't in the least bit interested in our Polly though and went on their way without so much as a backward glance in our direction.

Soggy sandy doggy!

I think my favourite holiday memory is the day we took Polly to visit the gloriously long, golden sands of Padstow Beach.  She was so excited and immediately started digging frantically in the sand, then spotted the sea and had a whale of a time leaping in and out of shallow waves.

Splish splash splosh in the sea on Padstow Beach!

It was such a delight to see Polly playing in the sea ... as her recall isn't yet reliable and the beach was very long with lots of other dogs running around, we kept her on a lead and harness, but she didn't let that stop her from having fun!  Hopefully next year I will feel more confident about letting my excitable miss have a little more freedom when we're out and about, so it's back to training later this week to work on that bloomin' recall some more.

On Padstow Beach

We didn't only play on the beach, we also visited some dramatic North Cornwall coastline, putting some of Polly's agility training commands into practice where necessary to encourage her 'up' and 'over' stiles and some rather challenging cliff path steps.  She cottoned on very quickly and also soon learned that 'steady' meant 'hang on a bit Poll, you're too far ahead of me on these steps and might pull me over!'.

Walking the cliff path at Trevone Bay

Of course, as we all know, dogs aren't always perfectly behaved and Polly happily lived up to that reputation by dragging me hither and thither across a beautiful cliff top at Bedruthan Steps where it seemed every step threatened a fresh cow pat for her to either roll in or eat ... big yuk!  After fighting against her pulling for a time, it slowly dawned on me that perhaps training treats and clicker might help solve the problem and save my arm from being yanked from its socket into the bargain. I delved into my pocket, asking for 'nice walking Polly', then flashed the doggy treats and as if by magic, my naughty pickle turned on her charm and tiptoed daintily across the grass ignoring those nasty cow pats - I could hardly believe the transformation!

Visiting 'Doc Martin's' house at Port Wenn ... er, I mean Port Isaac!

Besides the wonderful wide open spaces, we also visited some quaint Cornish fishing villages and I must admit, I was really pleased with Polly's behaviour when meeting strangers ... she received so many friendly pats and compliments as we walked along, that eventually she looked up at any passer-by who didn't say hello, just to check if they had actually noticed her - cheeky eh?!


In seven short months, Polly has learned so much. She loved having our undivided attention on holiday each day, plus lots of fresh air, exercise and interesting things to do and we loved sharing Cornwall with our enthusiastic guest.  In terms of 'Polly's Progress', this holiday has proven our lovely girl is now capable of tackling new experiences without us worrying about how she will behave (with the exception of coming back when called, which is improving but needs more work).  It has also given our holiday experience an entirely new dimension which has been hard work in terms of keeping Polly clean, safe and organised, but even so, immensely rewarding!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Putting the wind up Polly!

Polly's rebellious streak came to the fore during this week's obedience training session. Chilly wind whipped across the field as Kevin put us through our paces and although Polly was eager to take part (and actually did quite well in some of the activities -including the scary collapsible tunnel and heel walking, yay Polly!) it seemed the wind had also whipped up a case of the 'right herberts'.  (As kids, me and my sisters were often referred to as 'right little herberts' by our Dad to sum up our mischievousness!)  So when Poll decided she would rather be doing something else, or would prefer not to return to the car between segments, she simply plonked herself down on her belly and refused to budge ... she wouldn't even be lured with treats, the little monkey!

Butter wouldn't melt!

That wasn't madam's only misdemeanor either!  Whilst practicing 'sits, stays and recalls', a drill Polly usually manages reasonably well, she took an unexpected change of direction part way through one recall, deciding she would prefer to invite herself to play with the dog next to us, rather than complete her recall to me.   Much to my surprise, I found myself in a rather inelegant sliding tackle as I lunged to retrieve my naughty miss - thankfully each of my creaking bones remained intact and all I sustained was a slightly bruised ego ... bottoms up eh?!

The odd thing was, as I was tramped back to the car at this, the end of our seventh session, pondering whether this week had been a backward step for me 'n Poll, one of the more advanced dog owners I haven't seen for a couple of weeks, said how lovely it was to see Polly progressing and how she looks as though she knows what she is doing now ...  

So, hopefully between us we are taking steps forward, even though I can't always see it at the time.  One thing's for sure though, as Polly matures, I can clearly see her working hard to fathom what I want from her ... but it reminds me of when my kids were teenagers, even though they may have tried to understand me, whether they decided to do as they were asked usually depended on their mood that day!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Pack Walk

When my son moved out to buy his first house almost three years ago, I was proud and sad, all at the same time. The house was so much quieter without his bulk clomping around, not to mention his music thumping through the floorboards.  That was definitely the start of my mid-life 'empty nest' syndrome and even though my lovely daughter still lives with me, she was working long hours, so daytimes were quiet and yes, I confess, a wee bit on the lonely side ... and I think that was the beginning of my dream to own my first goldie.


Back then, I promised myself and my kids that every now and again I would gather us all together to do the kind of things we've always enjoyed ... and last Sunday afternoon, not only did I scoop up my kids, my son's girlfriend and of course Stuart, I also roped in my sister, her fiance, my niece and a few of my in-laws, to tramp around the grounds of beautiful Knole Park with us.


Naturally Polly wanted to invite a friend too, so her special buddy, the very handsome 'Bugsy', also joined us on our hike.


The dogs happily lead their pack for a two hour stroll in the autumn sunshine, with me trailing at the rear nattering most of the time and Polly delightedly walking up front with another of her special friends, my son Anthony - pictured above standing to command with his Auntie Fo!


The dogs were so well behaved (give or take the odd lunge at fresh horse poo by my mischievous pup!) and seemed to really enjoy their pack walk.  Knole Park is Kent's last Medieval deer park and absolutely glorious at this time of year and although the dogs had to be lead walked, they didn't mind at all because they were having so much fun with their humans!  


Usually when we visit Knole, I take photographs of the deer, but this time we walked at dog pace and understandably, the deer steered clear of us, so I'm going to cheat and add a snap of one of the deer pics I took on a previous visit!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Getting into our groove!

As we missed our regular training session while we were both poorly last week, Kevin (dog training instructor) kindly invited us to join his Saturday afternoon puppy class today and I am very pleased to report that apart from Polly taking the opportunity to poo on the agility field, this session went very well.


I can't tell you how much I have to psyche myself up for dog training each week ... I'm not really sure why, it's a bit feeble of me really as everyone is very friendly, but I guess I've just become too used to my own company after being self-employed and doing things my own way for far too long, so joining a group was always going to be a stretch.  Polly loves going to class though and it seems to be doing her the power of good, not to mention helping us both keep fit, so I'm determined to stick with it.  I'm sure I'll settle into my dog class training groove soon enough.


I love that each lesson brings forth a little more understanding for us both.  Today Polly seemed to pull on her lead much less than previously and she worked hard to respond to my instructions.  Whenever she slipped up a little, it was usually because I managed to confuse her.  Also this time, I noticed her resisting the temptation to drag me towards the other pups, which made the session much easier on my shoulders.


Polly also managed far better on the agility equipment this time, noticeably loving the jumping and running through windows, tyre and tunnel and she even impressed me with an enthusiastic circuit of hurdling!  We became slightly confused with another of the jumping circuits which was new to us, so we moved on to practice our control over the little A frame instead ... this is coming together quite nicely now, but will no doubt improve when I work out how to walk quickly backwards whilst managing a training lead, without tripping over my own feet, ahem.


Poll's 'down stays' and 'sits and stays', are cementing well, as is her returning to heel position - there's no doubt, those drills each session definitely pay off.  Best of all today though, was the first really noticeable sign of a positive recall when playing off lead with other pups ... my Polly may not be the most responsive when called, but she did eventually leave those gorgeously bouncy playmates and head towards me when I called and that was a strong step forward, making the nail biting drive along those bendy country lanes well worth the trouble and effort today!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Phwoar!

I'd hate to give the impression our Polly is a ladylike miss, with perfect manners ... if only that were true!

  


After staying home for the past couple of days while we were poorly, I took pity on Polly this morning and we nipped along the lane to our local playing field.  It was a lovely mild autumnal morning, the sun was shining, leaves were turning golden and despite my cough, I was enjoying our walk as Polly trotted along contentedly beside me. 

There wasn't a soul to be seen when we reached the playing field, so I took the opportunity to let Polly off lead for a good run ... and boy did she run!  She joyously raced in wide athletic circles, impressing me with two perfect recalls between races!  Result!


Feeling pleased with us both, I let Polly go off to play one more time, but halfway through one of her magnificent racing circles, she stopped to sniff, then sniff some more, so I called her back several times, but she didn't so much as glance my way before rolling belligerently onto her back, all four goldie legs a-wavin' in the breeze! Alerted to naughtiness, I raced over to take charge, but this really was a case of doggy ecstasy beyond ecstasy and there wasn't a hope of me being obeyed!  

As I reached for madam's collar to haul her unceremoniously back to standing, the over-powering pong of something revoltingly unmentionable wafted up at me ... yes, my pretty cream, only bathed-and-blow-dried-on-Sunday, fresh as a daisy goldie girl, was rolling delightedly in, horror of horrors ... a sloppy puddle of POO!!!!!

So today I am afraid there are no pretty Polly pics to share with you ... she did the walk of shame back home absolutely stinkin', was hosed off in the garden and is now drip drying her way back into my good books while I recover my sensibilities with a hard-earned cuppa.  

Shame on you Poll!

Bloomin' dogs!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Doctor's Orders

What a pair of old crocks we are this week!  The cold I moaned about last Thursday went on to zap me full throttle and is now rattling annoyingly on my chest and poor ol' Polly picked up a nasty tummy bug over the weekend, the revolting details of which I will spare you ... suffice it to say, big stomach churning yuk!


So, now we have to follow doctor's orders and for Poll, that means antibiotics and no grub whatsoever today, then plain chicken 'n boiled rice tomorrow.  Somehow I don't think I'm going to be Polly's favourite human until breakfast time tomorrow!
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