Last week people on my team at work flew in from around the country. While everyone was here we decided to take a little time out from work and get outside to see some of the beautiful outdoor sights around Portland. We chose Multnomah Falls as our destination. The Falls are about a half hour drive outside of Portland. In exchange for being one of the drivers to get our team out there, I was told A.J. could come along.
We got a kayak last week. And, wanting to include A.J. in our outdoor activities, we got a three-person kayak to make sure we had plenty of room for him to ride along. The only concern we had was – A.J.
A.J. loves water. He gets near water and all he wants to do is swim out and retrieve something. We’ve had some pretty serious training sessions at the shoreline because he gets so excited that his brain doesn’t always work very well. We weren’t sure how this excitement would mesh with sitting in a kayak.
We bought him a life jacket. (Safety first!) I put the life jacket on him at home and let him wear it around the house to get used to it. The kayak we bought is inflatable, so before we took it out we inflated it at home to make sure everything was working right and we knew what we were doing. After it was inflated I sat down inside and called A.J. in to join me. We spent some time sitting in the kayak, rocking it back and forth, and getting in and out. We bounced a tennis ball to get him excited, and told him he had to stay in the boat until I told him he could get out. We did everything we could to prepare without being in the water.
We’d decided for our first outing that we’d launch from a park alongside a very lazy river. We got up early in the morning; we wanted to get out before the park got crowded. We found the perfect spot to set up, inflate the kayak, and put it in the water.
As we were getting ready, I kept A.J. on the leash. He was doing really well. He was excited, but he was behaving well and being very patient while we inflated the kayak and got organized. I put A.J.’s life jacket on him, we got the kayak into the water, and I let A.J. off the leash. He immediately jumped into the water and started swimming after whatever he could see floating on the water.
We called A.J. back to shore and I got into the kayak while Greg held it close to shore. I called A.J. over to the kayak and he jumped right in.
Then he jumped right out.
I got him to jump in again just as another dog jumped into the water nearby chasing something its owner had thrown in. A.J. started crying. We tried moving the kayak and distracting him, but I finally told him he could go, and he jumped back into the water and started swimming over to where the other dog was.
Greg stayed on shore while I pushed off and paddled out into the river, seeing if A.J. would want to come with me if I started moving away. We called him back and he swam to shore, and immediately started running around looking for me. I was about 20 feet from shore, and when I called to him and he realized where I was he ran down, leapt into the water, and swam to me.
Now for the tricky part – can we get A.J. into the kayak once we’re away from shore? The answer is: No. He swam to the boat, I grabbed the handle on top of his life jacket, and as I pulled he scrambled at the side. It didn’t work.
A.J. quickly gave up, and with me still holding onto his jacket he simply turned around and pulled me to shore.
We tried a few other things. I thought that if we could get him into the boat from the water, he could just swim along with us until he wanted a break, then we’d haul him in. Greg got in the kayak to see if he could get A.J. in, but that didn’t work either. We wound up just paddling along the shore while A.J. alternated between swimming alongside and running along the shore. We didn’t go very far because A.J. quickly ran out of shoreline.
It looked like kayaking with A.J. was just not going to happen.
After we got home I was looking online to see if anyone had hints on how to get a dog into an inflatable kayak away from shore. I couldn’t find any. But what I did find was a video of another dog who was doing exactly what A.J. had done. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INB2rUzmM7w)
So maybe it’s not completely hopeless after all. We just need to let A.J. be A.J.
When the weather cooperates, on Saturday mornings we go for a long walk, stop for coffee and donuts, then let A.J. run loose in the park. It’s always an enjoyable way to start the weekend.
In the two years we’ve lived here and been engaging in this Saturday ritual, we’ve come to know some of the other dogs and their owners who regularly visit the park. Today a woman we see and speak to often arrived while we were there. As usual, A.J. was running around frantically searching for squirrels. This woman spotted us and came over to visit.
She’s an older woman who needs the aid of a walker to make her way around the park, but she brings her adorable little dog there regularly. While I sat and gave her dog a scratch under the chin, she proceeded to tell us about the start of her weekend. And it wasn’t going well.
She had managed to bump into another car while backing out of her driveway. Her grandson, who she is very proud of and says is very smart, had failed the test to get his driver’s license. She’d been having political disagreements with her family. The minor incident with the car had happened that very morning as she was leaving to come to the dog park.
As she was telling us all of this, she looked over at A.J., still as busy as ever with his squirrel hunt. She said “I’m so glad A.J. is here. It makes me happy to watch him running around. He’s so focused and determined!”
I once lived next door to a man who had a dog that got physically ill when someone would rearrange the furniture. Dogs like routine.
Fortunately, I have what must be one of the most adaptable dogs on the planet. A.J. has been through a lot so far this year, and he’s been absolutely fabulous through it all.
I picked A.J, up from daycare the other day. The person checking us out told me “A.J. is so funny.”
Yeah, I’d noticed that.
“We had him in the quiet room with the smaller dogs. When we brought him out into the room with the larger, more rambunctious dogs, he walked around greeting every dog in the room.
‘Hi, I’m A.J.’
‘I’m A.J. I’ve met you, nice to see you again.’
‘Hello, it’s me, A.J.’
He’s very polite and just walked around to everyone saying hello. He’s like the Mister Rogers of dogs.”
Yes, that’s my A.J. – everybody’s best friend.
We’re halfway through February, and so far this year has been a little rough on A.J. First he had a very scary accident. As a result of that accident, the area of the park we most often frequent where A.J. is allowed to run off leash has been cut in half.
While he was still recovering from his accident, he was running in his newly restricted area and, for the third time in less than two years, he tore off his dew claw. He spent several days in a bandage, then a couple more days wearing a “cone of shame.” As a result of that accident, A.J. now has a nice new pair of skid boots.
Thanks to Kathleen at Z-Control for the new skid boots. Hopefully A.J. can remain accident-free for a week or two – or, if we’re lucky, maybe even three.
Yesterday, after almost two weeks recovering from his accident, A.J. got to run off leash. After chasing squirrels around the park (well away from the road), I hooked the leash on and took him home. But before we left, I noticed he was bleeding from his dew claw.
He has ripped off his dew claw twice before, both times while trying to climb up trees after squirrels. This time I thought we got away lucky. The bleeding stopped shortly after we got home, and he seemed to be fine.
Later in the day we took A.J. for his afternoon walk. We had gone a couple of blocks when I decided to check his paw. He was bleeding again. We cut the walk short and went home. I was still hopeful that it wasn’t too bad and the bleeding would stop soon. No such luck.
A.J. was licking at his paw most of the evening. At bedtime he actually got worse. When he laid down to go to bed he couldn’t even figure out where to put his paw so that it wouldn’t hurt. It was another long night.
This morning he was still licking at his paw, and it was still bleeding. So after giving him his breakfast and taking him for a very short walk so he would go to the bathroom, we put him in the car and headed for the vet’s office.
Today is Sunday, so we had to go to a different veterinary office, the closest 24-hour vet. When it was our turn we went back and I explained to the vet tech what had happened. I also let her know that he was still recovering from being hit by a car, and explained what happened there. After I had explained everything, she said
“So, really, we can blame the squirrels for all of this.”
I laughed. “I like that, that’s much better than blaming mom.”
Like everyone else, she insisted none of it was my fault. (Just before we were called back, Greg said to me “You’re such a helicopter mom, but your dog is still hurt all the time.”)
Since this is the third time A.J. has ripped off this same dew claw, we knew the drill. They took A.J. back, sedated him, cut the nail off, wrapped his foot all up, and sent us home with pain killers, antibiotics, and a very woozy dog.
So, one more week where we have to work from home because A.J. can’t go to daycare. One more week with a sad and sore dog. One more week with a sad and stressed-out me.
Because this story is so terrifying, I’m going to give away the end: A.J. is fine.
Now we can begin.
Sometimes having a dog is as much about other dogs as it is about your own. Being a dog parent introduces you to other dog parents and to a whole world of dog-dom. And that can be very entertaining.
Today A.J. went to daycare. Most days when I pick him up the person who checks us out will tell me what A.J. did that day, or have some little anecdote about him. Today his anecdote was about the dog that checked out before us.
The man in line in front of me was talking to the daycare worker. I wasn’t paying much attention, but I heard that his dog was a large puppy who seemed to be in the “I’m much bigger than I think I am” stage of puppy growth. They brought the puppy out – a very adorable little Golden Retriever.
After they left, the daycare worker said “I have to tell you what just happened.”
“When I went to check him out and he told me which dog was his, I thought ‘that can’t be your dog.’ But then I realized the guy had an Australian accent.”
It turned out that someone had put that Golden Retriever into the system as an Australian Shepherd, because, well, what other kind of dog would an Australian have?