This is the third October that Vince and I have visited Cape May. We like to go to the ocean after the summer season is closed, when there are less people. We keep our camper at our friends' house (who we met through a foster dog's adoption.)
It has been a little tricky in the past to enjoy beach-going with all three dogs. Molly is a challenge because she becomes very overstimulated at the beach and enjoys: chasing her ball and body slamming the other dogs (and me). After Perri's injury, I am extremely vigilant to not allow Molly to rough house Ein or Perri. This means keeping Molly on a leash, or keeping Ein on a leash. I used to let them both off leash and then run screaming at Molly flailing my arms and "Stop! Stop!" while she enjoyed a perfectly good divebomb. File that under "useless human behaviors" of mine.
Keeping Molly leashed means being jerked down the beach by a 60lb kite who has no manners, lurching around and digging through the sand, jumping on me. Molly is a Bad Dog on the beach. Ein is a Good Dog. He minds his own business, he pees on stuff and smells all the stink and has his own adorable little agenda. I want to have my camera and play a little ball with the dogs and take Instagrams with my phone and enjoy the ocean. This is not possible with Molly. And if any other person is walking down the beach, all dogs have to go on leash. No fun.
Last year, Molly came fresh off of an agility trial and she was a little tired. This year, she had been resting all weekend. And she has also not had half as much exercise or training time as usual, because I am so consumed with Perri's rehab. The whole drive down to the beach, Molly was back and forth in the truck seat, smashing into Perri and knocking her off balance and if she wasn't doing that she was trying to crawl into the front seat relentlessly. When we arrived at our friend's house, I let her off lead in their fenced in yard and she raced around like a demon, took a huge crap in their flower bed, and pulled a new plant out by the roots with her teeth, followed by more crazed running. I may have remarked before how Molly is a "Button Pusher", and she was pushing all my buttons like an elevator. To say that Molly overwhelms me is an understatement.
Perri was to have a strict regime of No Fun on this trip. Rehab exercises, no beach running, no pouncing, No Fun. This meant staying in her soft crate while we took Molly and Ein to the beach without her. I was beyond anxious about her separation anxiety rearing its ugly head. The first night we were there, we crated her and took Molly and Ein to Cape May Point to burn some energy off. We crated her again to go out to dinner with our friends. (Where I consumed multiple alcoholic drinks and complained about Molly.) Perri was an awesome sport about her crate. We returned at 9:50pm at night, I still had to do Perri's rehab exercises and despite 10 minutes of walking, she refused to even poop. I actually started crying I was so frustrated. I did not finish the torturous exercises until after 11pm. It only worsened the next day when Perri did not want any of the four different treat varieties I had brought along for her stretches and exercises. (She normally goes on anorexic strike on vacation.) If she didn't want the food, we couldn't do anything. And if we can't do her exercises, she can't get better. Meanwhile, we were in our tiny camper. Molly was perfectly willing to do rehab exercises for any of those four types of treats and she was like a pogo stick on and off the bed (where she was supposed to be holding a down stay.) and butting into reluctant Perri's exercises. I said to myself, "Do the best you can. Do the best you can." over and over again and tried not to disembowel Molly and tried to stay encouraging for Perri to do her exercises. Back to the crate for Perri, brunch and a long trip to the zoo with our friends. Perri back out of the crate. Started her evening heat and massage and begged Vince to go buy ham at the grocery store. Ham is the bomb diggity for Perri. If ham didn't work, it was time to give up.
Everything got better for the ham. She did every stretch, she even did her back up exercises. And yes I brought cavaletti poles on vacation. We got all of her exercises done by 6pm and back to the crate. (We were only having dinner in our friend's house, but I didn't want Perri unsupervised with Molly where a wrestling match could break out, or bouncing on and off the bed could occur.)
Our last day we wanted to take Ein and Molly to the bay again. We finished breakfast with our friends and pottied our dogs and my darling husband said to the dogs "Do you wanna go for a ride?? Wanna go to the beach??" You bet Perri did! Her tail started wagging and she even yodeled with joy. Here's the issue: Perri wasn't going to the beach, she was going to her crate. I was furious, but the damage was done. Ein and Molly got loaded into the truck and I zipped Perri into her crate and locked the camper. The predictable, hysterical separation anxiety screams began within a second. I could understand! Perri had been a good sport but now this was ridiculous and she wanted out and she wanted to go do whatever exciting thing Daddy was jazzing her up about!! I took about fifty deep, cleansing breaths to give myself patience and got Perri out of the crate and took her for a ten minute walk. She was very excited and I petted her and praised what a good girl she was and we walked way away from the camper and truck to get her mind cleared. Back to the camper and I gave her an awesome chewie and a chicken jerky and thank dog, she was quiet and satisfied with that. Awesomest poodle.
I was determined to enjoy the bay with Ein and Molly. I only let Molly off her leash if she was playing ball. All I could think while watching her plow through the sand was "Cruciate Tear. Cruciate Tear." I am so fearful of another injury now. When I decided Molly was tired, I put the ball back into my backpack (I have learned that the best way to switch Molly off of the ball is to get it out of her sight. I could train Molly's impulse control forever and ever. She never runs out of boundary testing for the ball.) Molly accepted this instantly and settled into a nice leashed walk on the beach, she did not try to yank me all over the place. She was pleasant. We walked out .6 miles to a geocache while Vince metal detected.
|Elbows were having gravity-control issues.|
We decided to take Ein and Molly back to the camper, where they collapsed into a nap, and took Perri at last for her truck ride. She could not go on the beach in the sand, but we went to Cape May Point. I took Perri to just sit by the ocean with me while Vince went out again with his metal detector. We sat there for well over an hour and Perri just stared at the ocean and people watched. She loved that. I think she would have sat there with me for many hours. She is such an interesting, deep dog. She sometimes reminds me of Atticus from the book Following Atticus. The Little Buddha. We went shopping and left her sit in the truck, which she loved. Perri loves riding along, she would live in my car if she could.
I felt really great that we were able to give all the dogs a nice day, and end on a good note at last. Perri did her exercises well that evening and we all settled in and watched Christine on our DVD player.
We definitely had a lot of nice times on our vacation, but it was overall very stressful for me. It goes without saying that having an injured dog on our vacation was extremely stressful. I did not want to cancel, however, because our friends were so looking forwards to seeing us and the feeling was mutual. I knew it would not be easy but I did my best and I learned to just bring the ham.
The more difficult thing is that this may be Molly's last time coming to the beach. We are considering a winter visit when (optimistically) Perri's shoulder is better, and Molly will definitely be staying home for that trip. It is to the point where yes Molly has a good time, but it is very much at my expense. Her self control is nonexistent at the beach. We work very hard on her overstimulation and low frustration threshold at home with a lot of success, but at the beach it all evaporates. I have no doubt that we could get better behavior if we visited the beach more frequently, but since we only come 1-2 times a year...it is not really fair to me to spend what should be an enjoyable vacation on constant training for Molly. Another factor is that Ein will be 11 soon. How many more beach trips do his hips have left? (the sand is a lot of work for him. You would never know it while we are there, but he needed Rimadyl in the evenings.) Ein loves to play ball at the beach and we absolutely cannot enjoy doing so when we have Molly with us. I can stand on her leash or hold her back while he chases the ball, but her screeching and yanking and screaming is unbearable and it is all I can do to stay on two feet and keep her from pounding Ein when he returns to me with the ball. Hard decisions. Guilt.