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.

Squirrel Watch: the Sequel

***For every comment* left on Love and a Six-Foot Leash posts from December 15th-December 31st 2010, we will donate one pound of high-quality dog food to Lollie’s sugar daddy, the Montgomery County Humane Society. Together, by spreading the word about adoptable Lollie Wonderdog, we can find her a forever home!!***

*up to 250 lbs of food

Now that winter is upon us and the leaves on our giant oaks have fallen, Lollie’s Squirrel Watch has reached new heights, so to speak. The disappearance of the leaves has further exposed the routines of those furry little beasts to Lollie, who now focuses her full attention on their chasing, leaping, and flying across the treetops.

You may not have already known this about Lollie, but she is a nature lover, a skilled gardener, an avid birdwatcher and protector of all feathered friends. And so, she has been reading a classic gardening book, Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels, and she is starting her war on squirrels with the basic, foundational strategies suggested in the book: watch, listen, learn. Here is a depiction of the first few minutes of a typical morning walk:

 Keep it up girly. You’ll get those squirrels someday!

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