Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back home, with a different dog

We have a few photos of Vermont, which I'll post in a future installment, but for now can I just tell you how different Mimi seems? She's not perfect by a wide margin, but she's better than she was. She's willing to settle down in a room we're occupying, which means she can be allowed out of the crate for longer. We also think she's housebroken, but that's one of those "how do you prove a negative" situations, so all we can do is continue to reinforce the good behavior and watch out for the bad.

She was such a good travel companion, always happy to be in the car with us. For big trips between venues, her crate was folded up and wedged between the front & back seats, preventing her from trying to join us up front. That still allowed her to rest her chin on either my left shoulder (I was usually the driver), or Starman's right shoulder. We realized that we need a "Dog is my copilot" bumper sticker. Mimi started out barking occasionally in the car (potentially deafening!) but we figured out that if her leash & choke chain were still on her, we could correct that behavior with pretty good results.

We stayed in two Holiday Inn Express hotels -- neither charged us the "non-refundable pet deposit" (an oxymoron in my book), so that was nice -- and then at the TopNotch Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vermont. I'd never been that far north in Vermont; it was great to be within day-trip-distance of the Shelburne Museum. Mimi was welcome everywhere she went, provided she behaved herself. It's evident that TopNotch caters to guests with dogs; we were on "dog row," a ground-floor hallway in the main hotel section. Which was fine until a dog went along the hall and all his/her neighbors started barking in protest/greeting/group dynamics!

We were startled at our first breakfast to see a fellow with three Shetland Sheepdogs at his feet. Then a St. Bernard wandered by and the Shelties got moving: four, no -- five Shelties. This guy (one half of a gay couple, we later realized) had a complete pack with him! The real issue, though, was that there wasn't anything much to do with Mimi at the resort, or even nearby. There was a bike path, but it wasn't quite wide enough to bike with Mimi, so while we both walked her along the path, this proved to be an exercise in control more than a nice stroll in a pretty mountain setting. What would be good would be a dog park at TopNotch, so that Mimi could play with the five Shelties, among others.

We're big fans of the dog park concept, and Starman in particular has gotten good at researching "dog-friendly" travel possibilities. One has just opened up in nearby Scranton, so we figure we will combine a trip there with some yoga for Starman. We're also going to take Mimi with us to Philadelphia for an overnight visit with Hub 1.0. Don't worry -- this time, I asked him first!

So why do we feel like we have a different dog? Well, it's a question of attitude, I guess, or maybe energy. Mimi seems to be more "with us" now that we're back home. She's a bit more attentive, a bit more relaxed, a bit more mature. I suspect we'd have gotten to this place eventually, but it is nice to see her developing into the dog we want.

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