Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Race Day!

Indianapolis has 12 months, just like most places, but they're known here as January, February, Mud, April, Welcome Race Fans.... I'm not a race fan myself, but every year I attend a cousin's traditional Race Day Party. This year I took Laev, for socialization.

It was great, great socialization. Close to 100 people, but lots and lots of space (many acres) to get away if necessary. Laev got to see friendly people, indifferent people, drunk people, happy people, people playing volleyball, people with other friendly dogs, a big pond to drink from, a big field to play chase and recalls in, and a volleyball to pounce on. Much fun. She was very well-behaved, offering sits and downs whenever she saw a plate of food instead of jumping up, and took nearly everything in stride. She was clearly having a wonderful time for hours.

The only trouble came at night, when it was announced that we had fireworks. Fireworks! Not little firecrackers, but real, professional-like fireworks that hurt the ears and turned the black sky red. There was nowhere to escape to and little warning, so I simply snatched a leftover brat and treated Laev at each boom. She didn't seem to care. Then I started having her do sits, downs and palm touches for the brat bits, and she still carried on like a trooper. She didn't even flick an ear when the fireworks burst overhead. It was only after about ten minutes that she started hesitating a bit before responding.

Crud, I thought. It's starting to affect her.

My sister fetched more bratwurst for me, but we were losing her. Yeah, she'd been fine, but it was just going on too long. She wasn't getting a chance to relax or bounce back. When she started looking genuinely worried, trying to move away from the booming, I took off running with her. We ran down the drive, me letting her get about 20 feet ahead of me and then calling her back for brat, and then continuing in the same fashion. I found a stand of trees that deadened the noise somewhat and tried playing with her there. My husband and sister joined me, good helpers that they are, to try and distract the puppy. Jon fortunately had our tug toy in his pocket, and I devised an emergency plan.

"This dog is genetically engineered to vent stress through her mouth," I said. "Tug with her, letting her win at the moment something booms. Immediately somebody else grab the toy and restart the game, so she doesn't have time to think about what she's hearing."

This worked. We had a few rough moments where we missed grabbing the toy in the dark, or when Laev, stressed and in the dark and not aiming clearly, grabbed skin instead of toy, but I was more than willing to look like a heroine addict in exchange for helping my puppy weather this unexpected storm. By the time the fireworks ended, we were all exhausted, human and canine, but the puppy was not showing any ill effects.

My sister Alena was called inside to help settle another dog, one whose heart rate was dangerously high and who wouldn't come out of his hiding place, tramatized by the sounds. I was very happy we'd come out as well as we had. I will test later to see if Laev carries ill effects related to loud noises, but not for a long while, to give her maximum recovery. At least she had a good bounce-back at the time.

I don't know the moral of this story -- it would have been silly of me to forego such wonderful socialization and training opportunities as this presented, and indeed with the exception of that half hour Laev enjoyed the entire thing, but I would not have knowingly exposed her to the fireworks at this age. I guess the moral is, keep a tug toy handy. ;-)

By the way, I was counting on Laev needing to sleep the next day after over six hours of party and the fright of the fireworks. Indeed, she slept an hour late the next morning, and she did move just a tad slower when running up the stairs the next day. That was it. She didn't even take her afternoon nap on time. Sheesh! What's it take to wear out this dog?

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