RUNTRAILS' 2021 JOURNAL

 

  

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia

 

   
 
 
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  CASEY, HOLLY, & DON:   
  A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF OUR LAB PACK

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

"Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; ease loneliness;    
encourage exercise and improve your overall health. For example, people with
dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart
disease. Just playing with a dog has been shown to raise levels of the
feel-good brain chemicals oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive
feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet."
 
 
 

In the previous post I talked about the ways that Dapper Don has been able to comfort and bring joy to people in a variety of public settings as a certified therapy dog.

However, pet dogs can also provide substantial emotional well-being to their human parents in their private homes. Don and our two Lab girls, Casey and Holly, are Jim's and my indispensable "fur-kids." They are family and an important part of our psychological support system. It's mutual -- we are also their emotional support humans.

I've included a lot of photos of all three dogs in previous entries in this journal. I'll repeat a few of those pictures here but most in this entry are new.


L-R: Don, Casey, and Holly in the golf cart with Jim, enjoying the view at Lake Peachtree


"Mmmmm, is that popcorn we smell? We like popcorn, too!"


L-R: Casey, Holly, Don during a July 4 photo shoot

Casey and Holly were whelped at a private kennel in Virginia that breeds Labradors for show and hunting. Both came from championship lines. Casey's sire is Holly's paternal grand-sire, so they are aunt and niece. They don't look closely related, however.

We got both girls when they were eight weeks old. Casey turned nine years old in August and Holly was four in June:

 


Holly still has a puppy face.

 

Casey still has a puppy face, too!

The girls are energetic, lovable, and smart but they can be a challenge sometimes with reactivity to other dogs, chasing wildlife, and displaying other types of impulsive behavior.

I've written a lot about two-year-old Don since we got him at 13 weeks old in the fall of 2019. He was purpose-bred at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida to hopefully become a guide or service dog. Like other accredited assistance dogs schools, SEGD breeds for excellent health and suitable working dog temperament and not conformation (i.e., looks, as for a show dog).


Don in an elegant "dating app" pose on one of the beds when the sheets were being washed


"Dapper" Don in one of his many bow ties; he loves going up and down these
playground steps where we practiced when he was a guide puppy in training.


Handsome dude in one of his holiday bow ties

We were Don's volunteer puppy raisers and trained him with the Atlanta SEGD group. He was released at the beginning of the pandemic last year at not quite ten months old and we happily adopted him.

Don was determined to be too low energy, low confident, highly sociable, and highly scent-distracted to be a working dog, but those very qualities make him the perfect pet for us older folks and a doggone fine certified therapy dog. He has excellent manners, doesn't chase wildlife, and wants to please.


Don (and Casey) both got the kissy gene!


Don is curious about other critters, like this bird at one of the facilities we visit
for pet therapy, but he never wants to chase other pets or wildlife.

As different as their personalities suggest, all three of these dogs get along great. Casey and Holly accepted Don readily into their pack. The dynamics are often amusing and not always what we expect.

As Casey gets older, she plays less with toys and other dogs but several times a week she initiates a game of keep away with "the kids" (Holly and Don). I call her the Instigator because she teases them, then hunts for a safe place if Holly gets too rough.


Holly and Don play tug with the Bumi while Casey watches.


Maybe I can hide up here on the sofa . . .


Casey's opinion of her July 4 photo shoot

Holly is insatiably energetic. She's a manic ball-chaser but we have to limit her activity after finding out she has dysplasia in both front elbows. She had surgery to remove a bone spur. That helped her limping but if she walks or runs too much, she'll start limping temporarily. So far she hasn't needed pain meds, as long as we limit her activity.

With her high physical energy squashed, we have to keep Holly more mentally stimulated with training and games. And we joke that she "needs a puppy," our standard comment when one of our dogs has needed more activity with another active dog.


Holly jumps out of the puppy pool with a ball while Don watches.

Holly has a soft, vulnerable side, too. Ever since she's been an 8-week-old puppy she's had a stuffed puppy to cuddle at night or for an afternoon nap.

What's different than any other dog we've had, however, is that she will suck on the puppy's head while holding it still with her paws and rocking a little bit. She'll do this for several minutes until she goes to sleep. It melts our hearts:

But usually she's a live wire!

Unfortunately for Holly, Don is wired to be a couch potato. He has never been a really playful puppy, even when he was just a few months old. He'll play with Holly for a few minutes, even running zoomies inside or out, but he's done pretty quickly. He loves to play keep away and tug with Holly but again, only for a few minutes.

The "kids" do share an interest in watching any kind of animal on TV. They especially like to watch dogs or similar creatures:

Don is also my Velcro Dog and even though he's the newest member of the pack, he resource-guards me from the girls.

I think it's mostly his temperament, although as a guide puppy in training I had to keep him close to me unless he was in his crate. If one of the girls is next to me on the couch, or in the dog bed closest to my desk, for example, Don will nudge me and give me imploring looks to make them move out of "his" spot.

Based on size alone, you'd think Don is the alpha dog in our pack. Based on personality, however, I'd say it's Holly even though she's the smallest in size. She's one spunky, silly, smart girl.

Both Don (below) and Holly love to nap upside down,
legs akimbo, on the furniture or their beds.


Don's an "old soul" but he's got a silly side, too.

We walk the dogs every day, rain or shine, hot or cold. They help to get us out more than we might on our own (especially me, since I'm no longer training for foot races). Most of their walks are on Peachtree City's extensive network of paved multi-use ("cart") paths, but we also take them on hikes at nature areas and parks.

Jim is still competing and wants to put in more miles/day than I do, so he usually walks the girls either separately or together. He can also handle them more easily than I can if they get snarky with another dog. They are more leash-reactive when he's walking them together than when they are alone.


Jim with the girls on a hike


Holly on a walk with Sue


Casey on an autumn walk with Sue

Even though Casey is older, she can easily put in 4-6 miles/day. Holly wants to walk more but we limit her to 1-2 miles/day because of her elbows.

We keep all the dogs on leashes on the cart paths in our neighborhood, and the girls need to be leashed all or most of the time on trails because they are impulsive and their recall isn't as good as Don's.

Above and below:  Casey on different walks with Sue
near one of the ponds in our neighborhood

Don is soooo easy to walk. He loves every person and dog he sees but he stays by my side if I tell him to "leave it." He can judge the body language of people better than other dogs, and it's the humans he wants to greet after a cursory hello to a dog. 

Don's recall is near-perfect even when he's running loose by himself or with another dog. He never chases wildlife, doesn't go running up to people, and doesn't jump on anyone. I can hike with him off-leash on trails but I put the leash on when I see someone else coming, and I keep him leashed on the cart paths in town. 


Don posing in sunbeams one morning in our neighborhood


Don's cute head tilt on a hike at Line Creek Nature Area


Playing with sticks in Line Creek with our friends'
Golden retriever puppy, Moses, who likes water better than Don

Sometimes we sit for friends' dogs or go hiking with them.

Holly loves having canine company; Don and Casey get along well with other dogs as long as they aren't overly exuberant.


L-R: Holly, Casey, Aloha, Igor, and Don watching intently while I fix a snack


L-R: Don, Aloha, Igor (in back), Casey, Holly

We are approved sitters for our Atlanta puppy raising group for Southeastern Guide Dogs but we haven't needed to sit for one of those pups yet. It's a lot easier to sit for our friends' pet dogs for several days than it is to be responsible for the training and restrictions that a guide program puppy requires.

We have a happy life with our lovable Lab pack. As they say, dogs aren't our whole life, but they definitely make our lives whole!

Next entry: photos from Jim's ultradistance foot races this year

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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2021 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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