a breakthrough and a new friend

Over the past few days, we’ve had a big breakthrough with Lollie. While it only took her a day or two to master the concept of a leash (we suspect she had never been walked on one before), she has always had trouble staying focused on the task at hand in the presence of her greatest all-time nemesis, the squirrel. Last weekend though, we noticed that the anti-squirrel training I had been doing with Lollie was finally starting to pay off.

For a long time, the mere shadow of a squirrel (or the sound of a squirrel, or the shadow or sound of a leaf that looks or sounds like a squirrel) would be enough to send Lollie — literally — into backflips on the end of her leash. It was a state of excitement that wouldn’t diminish for the duration for the walk. It was enough to make her forget to pee entirely.

But suddenly, something clicked. Maybe it was my consistency at not letting her pull toward a squirrel, or my attempts (usually in vain) to redirect her attention toward me, but all of a sudden, Lollie gets only a little excited when her nemesis presents itself. Tonight we were even accosted by two squirrels playing a noisy and flamboyant game of chase around a tree trunk mere feet away from where we were walking, and while Lolita let out a little squeak and a miniature hop, she quickly moved on. I have scarcely been prouder.

Also on this evening’s walk, Lollie made a friend. Her new friend was a stick. To be specific, her new friend was this stick:

Lollie has never showed a strong interest in sticks, even during play. So you can imagine my amusement when we were walking quietly along, and upon crossing the path of a two-foot branch of an oak tree, Lollie stopped, dug in her heels, and let me know that she was not interested in continuing any further.

We stood there in the lamplight for a minute or two, each holding our ground. In the end, we reached a compromise. Lollie would continue walking with me, but only if she could bring her new friend with her. So we walked the remaining few minutes home with her proudly toting her new friend the two-foot oak branch.

I thought that her fascination with the stick was so bizarre that I let her bring it inside and play with it for a while. At first, she whispered sweet nothings in its ear and lovingly caressed it with her tongue:

She even gave it a little play bow: 

Unfortunately, the stick did not reciprocate her invitation to play, and so she did what any normal dog would do to a stick that doesn’t want to play. She ate it.

I guess it was a short-lived friendship, but it was full of passion.

24 responses

  1. Ah the joy of a stick, the more rotten the more tasty!
    It took Quizz forever to learn not to go into over drive with the squirrel/bunny/raccoon issues in my neighborhood. I eventually it turned into him ‘spotting’ and me recognizing him for a ‘good spot’. Then we could go on our merry way. The day we came face to face with a fox, with a breakfast bunny in her mouth, was a miracle. Everyone just stood there. Quizz just looked at me. I said ‘Good Spot’ and he just stood there. The fox finally realized we weren’t going to interrupt her breakfast and we continued on our walk. That was a morning to remember.

    • Leila, can you tell me about spotting and how you train it? Lol has gotten much better with the neighborhood nemeses, but she is still far from perfect. I would love to learn something like that to help us cope.

  2. The stick! Layla has a stick friend she would carry around with her everywhere. She only wanted to play fetch with it and then it broke. So what did she do? She ate it! I bet her and Lollie would have a blast together!

  3. If Lollie is into sticks, I can guarantee that there will be a steady supply of new sticks in her own backyard every day! It’s one of the joys of all those trees.

    As far as Lollie’s quest to find a permanent home, I have to put in a plug here. Lollie seems like such a sweet dog. She and Flash are really loving each other at the back fence, doing lots of tail-wagging, sniffing, and licking during those exciting times when they are out at the same time. And, she’s willing to wear a hoodie. Sounds like she has a cooperative spirit.

    Sorry to see that we missed the comments for kibble deadline!

    • Just because you are our very special neighbor friend and Flash is Lollie’s biggest real-life crush, we will include your comment in our fundraiser. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement!

  4. LOL @ Lollie and her awesome pittie ways….my 2yr old pit female Beauty on at least one of our two-a-day ten block walks she finds a 3-4 ft tree limb that she scoops up in her mouth and carries all the way home. Down blocks, thru crosswalks, with people from their cars beeping and thumbs up’ing at her adorable persistence to maneuver that thing all the way home. Even to walk right into the door frame and be stopped by the width of the stick. But ten quickly figured out to drop it, go thru the door, trn around and pull it in length-wise, those little smarties that they are. One particular stick she found her first summer (2008) and is still present in her outdoor doggie kennel even now. Its a permanent fixture on her landscaping out there. Way to go LOLLIE! ur just toooo cute

  5. BTW Lollie…ive noticed your foster mom’s camera takes the most beautiful and genuine looking pictures of you…do u know what kinda camera she has?

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Janeen. Beauty dragging her long stick for an entire walk must be quite a sight to see. Do you have any photos? I think Lollie could use her as a role model!

      As for my camera: I shoot with a Nikon D300, but a good lens is even more important. I’m saving up for a few great lenses, and in the meantime am shooting with some mid-range primes that do pretty good work under challenging, dark indoor conditions: a 50mm f1.8 and a 30mm f1.4 (this post was shot with the 30mm). Stay tuned later this week or next for a post on photographing your pets!

      • Well, sure. We all know that eventually all pit bulls will turn without warning (for instance Toni and Téa will occasionally switch places on the couch for absolutely no apparent reason – it’s harrowing!). But I like how she lulled the stick into complacency first, tricking it into putting its stick guard down. Otherwise it might have attempted to beat her about the head or something to defend itself. Very clever on her part.

  6. Hahahahahaha!

    When we first adopted Shiva she wasn’t interested in toys at all. She just looked at them like they were some sort of alien species. It took a little time but now, well, you’ve seen how much she enjoys them now. It’s hard to keep her away from them.

    I love this post! It rocks a lot harder than mine.

  7. Oh, Lollie! I likes your new furend. Even if he/she/it didn’t “stick” around for very long. BOL!

    And I also think it’s Most Clever of you to lull your mom into thinking that you don’t have any more interest in squirrels. Yes…Most Clever! Only a few more days and you’ll have her right where you want her. She’ll loosen her grip on that leash and then BAM! Bye bye, squirrel!

    Wiggles & Wags,

  8. That is very impressive that she isn’t getting so excited about squirrels any more. I need to learn to do that with Miss M (when people look at her and she thinks they want to pet her) and Mr B (when he hears little dogs trapped in cars or behind store windows). It must have been funny to see her dragging the stick on the walk; maybe she’ll take up woodworking in 2011?

    • I wouldn’t say she isn’t so excited about squirrels, I would just say that she has longer and longer stretches of self control. It’s still up and down, but the trajectory is definitely in the right direction.

      Chick is EXACTLY the same as Miss M about strangers. He goes totally bonkers when somebody so much as looks in his direction or takes even one step toward him.

      I will make the woodworking suggestion to Lolita. I fear that it will be difficult without opposable thumbs, just like sign language has been.

  9. Good hunting, Lollie! Daisy understands your squirrel habit…she still hasn’t actually caught one and is horrified that we never get them in our yard. Still, she holds on to hope that ONE DAY she’ll get one in her greedy jaws!

  10. “I guess it was a short-lived friendship, but it was full of passion. ”

    I missed this the first time around! What a great line!

  11. Thank goodness that there are many sticks in the trees :-)) Now watch out if she wants to start hanging out with a log.

  12. My new adopted dog loves sticks! He also has little nubbin incisors and I have to wonder if he wore them down by eating sticks!

    I just love looking at your beautiful photos of Lollie. Your witty commentary is also wonderful!

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