Watery Wednesday

A few weeks ago, we went to the Australian Shepherd Meetup at Cherry Beach.

Meetup.com is a great site to find people with similar interests on.  In my case, I’m part of two GTA dog groups, one of which happens to cater to Australian Shepherds.  The group has every possible colour combination of Aussie you could imagine – they are such pretty dogs, and 15-20 of them all running around and playing together is a very cool sight.

This particular Aussie Playdate was at the offleash dog park at Cherry Beach.  Our fearless Meetup Leader, Suzanne, is also a fantastic photographer, whose photos I snagged from the playdate page.

Gwynn stands out a bit, being taller and curlier than his half-siblings, but they all play the same, and it is hilarious watching a big group of Aussies (or any breed, I’m sure) playing together.  Making it a day at the beach – the off-leash Dog Beach, no less – makes it doubly fun.

Cherry Beach is located at the end of Cherry Street in downtown Toronto.  The dog beach is not fully enclosed – the water end of the fence is easily gotten around by dogs – so if you do go there and are concerned that your dog might be a runner, keep him on-leash until the second section of beach.

The beach stretches quite a ways, broken up by patches of shrub, and the park extends back into the trees, perfect for cooling off in the shade, and drying off before heading back to the car.

There’s a ton of parking down there – if the parking next to the dog beach is full, there’s a long gravel parking lot running parallel to the not-for-dogs beach on the other side.

Ninja Dog Defeated by invisible opponent

Suddenly became an animal magnet…

Totoredaca Park Frenzy

This weekend, we went on a trip to Totoredaca Park in Mississauga.  The Australian Shepherd Meetup group had an event there – an Aussie Frenzy, in fact – and we wanted to be a part of it.  I love going to a dog park and knowing that we’ll run into a few dogs we know/like and that play well with Gwynn.

You can see Gwynn off in the background. He might not be fully aussie, but he always has fun playing with his half-brethren.

The park is HUGE, with a big field, a forested area, a small-dog area, and a fenced in field that is supposed to have agility equipment in it.  Well, this sunday, all they had out was one pretty boring tunnel, but apart from that, I have no complaints.

Aussies in Frenzy!

There is seating scattered all around, along with things for the dogs to sniff and explore.  It was ridiculously windy, so I’d imagine that, if you’re going in the winter, you’ll want to bundle up.  There are some sheltered areas for people to huddle in, if it’s really bad, but they aren’t ideal for being able to see your dog if he’s running around off in the distance.

boss, can i get off the bench yet?

In warmer months, they have a water spout for filling dog bowls.  Despite the unnaturally warm fall we’ve been having, they’ve already shut that off, so bringing water for your pooch is a must.

part of the open field area

We stayed there for about two hours, and from what I saw, all the dogs and owners were behaving well.  If a dog was getting too aggressive, it was called off and redirected, and, while most people were standing around in groups, no-one was ignoring their dogs.  Gwynn spent a good hour stealing a squeaky toy from another dog, and, once I found out that it was ok with the owner, he got to continue running around chasing and being chased by the yellow lab, depending on who had the squeaky dragon ball.

Afterwards, we swung by the petsmart, a less-than-ten-minute drive away from Totoredaca.  I’d count that as another nice feature of this park.

One thing I will warn about – going West towards Totoredaca, you pass the less-obvious parking area that’s on the north side of the park.  The west-side parking area is packed.  And likely to always be packed at the usual take-your-dog-to-the-park times.  The north-side parking lot has an entrance as well, and is just about empty.  Next time I go, I’m going to skip the busy lot and go to the north lot first.

Get more information on Totoredaca Park here: http://www.totoredaca.org/

Most of the pics I included were taken by other Aussie Meetup members.  They all have amazing cameras that let them get great shots of Aussies at high speeds.  So, if you see that a picture is a bit grainy… it was probably taken on my phone, with the settings unchanged from when Doodle was trying to take night-shots with no flash.  Not ideal, but it still gets the point across.

It was the Creature from the Black Lagoo-OO-oon!

Be seeing him again real Soo-OO-oon!

After his last intended did the dirty o-on him,

didn’t last five minutes in the-e swim!

Last weekend, my sisters and Gwynn and I piled into the car and headed North.  Up into the wild blue yonder of Scotsdale Farm, there to trek epically and mightily through rain and cloud and patches of sunshine with a group of like-minded adventurers bipedal and quadrupedal alike.

We did somewhere between 12 and 15 km of hiking, on the Scotsdale Farm property and along sections of the Bruce Trail system, and were out and about for about 4 hours.  There were hills and rocks and brief walks along the side of a country road.  We walked down to a waterfall, through a field and alongside a small escarpment. 

about 5 minutes into the hike... and the last time Gwynn was mostly-clean

Gwynn ran around with a dozen other dogs big and small, older and younger, through woods, puddles, creeks and mud.  He cavorted, pranced, splashed, stomped, gallivanted and even monkeyed around a bit.  There were shenanigans. 

River froliking with his partners in crime... the cleanest soaking he recieved that day

Gwynn met a horse… his response was such delight that he did a little two-legged dance and then tried to slap the horse on the face.  Do we have pictures of that?  No… I was too busy making sure that this laid-back Mr. Bill didn’t try to slap Gwynn in the face in retaliation.

Gwynn and I... united in MUD... relaxing by the waterfall

He was, at times, thoroughly soaked, thoroughly coated in mud, and varying degrees between.  My pants were, at times, thoroughly soaked,  coated in mud, and varying degrees between.  They required two runs through the washing machine to get clean.  I wish sometimes that the dog could go through the washing machine.  I seriously considered taking off my pants and putting them in a bag before getting into my car… but then I realised how awkward that would be, since Doodle and I would be switching positions part-way through, and I’m pretty sure I’d end up arrested for indecent exposure during the switch.  I did insist that my sisters and I get barefoot before getting into the car, though… our boots were relegated to the trunk.

Doodle and Gwynn on the road... he is hypnotised by the dried bananas she's snacking on.

The most bizarre and extreme part of the journey happened when we were on yet another boardwalk.  The boardwalks throughout the hike had been over slightly muddy areas, or shallow creeks.  Gwynn loved it – he’d leap enthusiastically off the boardwalk, if he made it onto it at all, and frolic in the oozing black gook, or prance and splash through the creek, luring other dogs to follow him in.  This boardwalk was different, though.  It was a small projection that jutted in a U shape over a big semi-marshy pond.  The water was crystal clear, and you could see mud a foot or two below the surface.  Now… this mud.  I recognised it as what it was – the kind of mud that you just sink down into, so that you end up almost waist high in mud by the time you stop your descent.  It’s just about gelatinous for the first few feet, then progresses to a gluey sucking consistency the deeper you go, until finally solidifying.  This is the kind of mud that tightly laced up boots get left behind in.  But the bottom looks like it’s just there… just a foot or two below the water’s surface, which is itself, only about a foot below the boardwalk.



Don’t pretend you don’t know what’s about to happen here.  I should have realised what would happen… but I figured he’d recognise the type of mud like I did.  Have I mentioned it’s been less than two weeks, at this point, since Gwynn actually started swimming… all four feet off the ground? 

He jumped about equidistant from the shore in either direction of boardwalk (you knew this would happen…)… and he sank like a stone.  He landed about 5 ft from the edge of the boardwalk, and plunged down into the murky waters, only to bob back up a few moments later, hair plastered to his head, and entirely covering his eyes.

Gwynn covered in mud... after he'd shaken off a lot of it

 He paddled his way back to the boardwalk and realised his dilemma – no way to get back up onto the boardwalk.  And I had about the same chance of luring him to swim all the way around the boardwalk to shore as I did of teaching him to use the toilet in our house for its intended purpose… and flush.

So I grabbed him by his slimy black mud-coated harness and hauled him up.  Safely ashore and having come fully up onto the boardwalk right between my legs, my beloved pooch, coated in a thick layer of dark slimy mud, did what any beloved pooch from the black lagoon would do… he shook.  You’re probably now understanding why I seriously considered dropping trou before getting into my car, despite it being a public parking-lot. 

It was a great trip, and we were all thoroughly pooched by the end of it.  Our reward for a day of hiking and adventure?  The food of champions – Timbits and Iced Caps!  Gwynn got a peanut butter sandwich, since the food of champions is way too full of sugar, caffeine and chocolate for a dog to safely eat.

sockfoot, grubby and triumphant!

Bike update:  As this is posted (hopefully, if scheduling works properly), I am biking… and have been for several hours.  proof of this will be forthcoming, with photos of the beautiful Niagara on the Lake region we’ll be biking through all weekend! 

Stripping and Strutting

The jitteriness and self-doubt came back the day I went to drop Gwynn off for his epically long haircut. 

“Maybe he’ll be fine with his hair just staying this long,” I suggested to my family.  They just shook their heads in disgust and asked me what time I needed to drop him off at the groomers.

“Well, what if I did it myself instead?” I offered.  They asked me what the address was to the groomers, they’d take him over there for me.  They collected all the scissors in the house into a pile and guarded them like a hyena guarding a carcass. 

It isn’t that I wasn’t happy with my final choice of groomer… it’s just the idea of Gwynn being cut down to an inch of hair that freaked me out a bit.  That, and leaving him somewhere.  I wasn’t blogging at the time that he got neutered, but this anxiety was almost as great as the anxiety leaving him at the vet’s office.  And they kept him for two nights, one before the surgery and one after… and surgery has the possibility of ending in a very bad way.  Whereas a bad haircut will just grow out.  Or so I kept telling myself.

When we got there, I’d resigned myself to finding out that he was a particularly not-nice-looking scrawny dog under all that fur (I’d love him anyways, of course), or that it would turn out that the fur was hiding just how obese he had secretly become.  But, having walked around for about 45 minutes in the sun, with the temperature reaching maybe even 20 degrees Celsius (that’s ‘almost too chilly for a t-shirt and jeans’ weather for those of you who can’t picture this temperature), Gwynn was seriously panting.  We hadn’t even done any fetch or running around.  He definitely needed a haircut. 

When we got there, the first thing the groomer said was, “I wanted to check something…”

She reached over to Gwynn, and with both hands, she started pulling out his hair all down his back.  And it came easily.  I brush this dog alot.  So this couldn’t possibly be a serious case of winter-coat coming out.  It was her testing and proving that he did in fact have a wire coat.  Underneath that wire coat was about 1 inch of silky fuzzy soft fur kind of like puppy fur.

A few examples of dogs with wire coats are Scottish terriers (ie scotty dogs), west highland terriers (ie westies), Brussels griffons, and border terriers.  It isn’t a silky soft coat – the term wire coat is really a reasonable description of the coat. You’ll notice that nowhere in those examples can you find Poodle, or Australian Shepherd.  That would be because Australian Shepherds have a fur coat that is medium texture, straight to slightly wavy, weather resistant, of moderate length with an undercoat, and Poodles have a hair coat that is either curly or corded.  How Gwynn ended up with a wire coat is beyond me. 

We discussed it and decided to strip his coat instead of clipping it. 

When you’ve got a wire coated dog, the following information should be considered when deciding whether to cut or strip his coat (I got some of this explained to me by the groomer, and some of it I found on the sites I list further down the page):

  • The short coat underneath is more natural looking after stripping than a shave would produce
  • Shaving softens the hair, which causes it to mat much more easily once the dog has been shaved once … Stripping doesn’t change the hair, because it just pulls the hair out, allowing new wire hairs to come in.  Wire hairs are soft at the root and wiry at the end, but cutting them means that the soft part just keeps growing out.
  • Stripping doesn’t hurt the dog, if done properly (neither does shaving, so I suppose this one is neither an argument for or against stripping)
  • Plucking out the old hair stimulates the dogs’ skin and allows for new hairs to grow in.  The wire coat will come back, which is especially advantageous for people who like the wire coat on their dogs.
  • For dogs who have a particular breed look, stripping accomplishes that look easily and naturally, whereas shaving requires you to form that look.
  • Stripping is a considerably more time-consuming method.  If you’re doing it yourself, you can do it with your fingers or a stripping knife, and you don’t have to do it all at once (called rolling stripping), you can do it as hairs start to look scraggly. 
  • If you’re hiring a groomer to do the stripping, it costs a lot more… some sites said up to twice as much as a shave would cost.  Gwynn’s shaving+bath+ear cleaning+nail clipping would have cost about $65 CAD… his stripping+everything else+ a bit of shaving in sensitive regions was $100. 

Check out these sites for a bit more info about the process:

What did Gwynn get done?  He got most of his body, most of his rear legs, his tail and his head stripped.  She used the clippers on his stomach and on a large part of his legs because those areas are a lot more sensitive, and he wasn’t happy having his legs stripped.  She shaved his armpits and around his private bits, and cut down the hair between his toes.

Oh wait… you want to see pictures?  Well… ok.  Cue Music!

I do my little walk on the GRASS, yeah on the GRASS

I shake my little tail on the PA-ATH, on the PA-ATH!

Yup… I was being irrational and silly to think that he might actually not look cute anymore!  It is like the groomer took 10 months off his life (which is alot for a 14 month old dog!)… he looks like he hasn’t grown out his puppy fur yet, and it feels like puppy fur.

Meetup and Regenerate!

A while back, I read a post by Youdidwhatwithyourweiner  that mentioned meetup.com, and the post mentioned using this website “to find fun activities for you and your dog”.  I have no friends in the city who have dogs, and very few who are as outdoors obsessed as I am, so the idea of using a site to meet friendly people to do some doggy type things with immediately struck my fancy.  I was pretty hopeful that this site would have some things to do in my area, and, wouldn’t you know it, there were!

This is how I ended up driving with Gwynn and Peanut (aka Short Sister) to a doggy daycare on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  It was an Australian Shepherd Bonanza!  And, luckily for us, they consider Aussie mixes like Gwynn to be acceptably Aussie to go to the party.  Surrounded by beautifully coloured Aussies (They all looked like they had just won prizes at a dog-show), he still got plenty of compliments for his rocker hair and general adorableness.  He is good at standing out in a crowd, that’s for sure!

Before this, I had never been to an indoor dog activity center, or doggy daycare, or anything like that.  To be honest, it seems kind of silly… However, given the opportunity to let Gwynn romp around with a room full of dogs, the opportunity for me to socialize with a few people who are clearly as obsessed with their dogs as I am, and given the opportunity to NOT have to go for a long walk in the rain, I was sold on the idea of attending. 

The dogs all look like they're mid-Timelord regeneration... maybe they're regenerating into something better suited to an entirely Aquatic Ontario

Have I mentioned on the blog that Southern Ontario has apparently developed a new season?  It’s Monsoon Season!  We have gotten so much rain that there is a family of ducks living in my neighbour’s pond.  This pond used to be his yard, but the yard is now submerged enough that they are paddling around in the grassy water without their feet on the ground.  Gwynn really really wants to meet them, and I really really plan to continue to crush that dream.

Gwynn had a blast romping with the other dogs, running through the tunnel, jumping through the tube through the wall, and chasing all the rubber toys scattered around. 
I apparently was a failure at photography that day, however.  All my pictures make the dogs look like demons that are regenerating, Dr. Who style.  To give you an idea, I’ve included some of my photos.  I blame the dogs for moving around too much!  Then again, with that kind of excitement, how could you hold still long enough to pose anyways?!

Maybe i'll be a golden-doodle next! I've heard that blondes have more fun...



demonic eyes and regeneration-energy auras! And a cute little 4-month old puppy who held just still enough to be in focus

After Gwynn had thoroughly tuckered himself out, we made our way back out, through the little doggy boutique, and stopped to pick up a few things.  I was pretty ecstatic to find that they were selling DEXAS popware for pets.  I read a review for it at According To Gus, but our petshop didn’t carry it (yet… I’m going to give them the brand name and suggest it, because it’s super handy!), and I try to avoid excess shopping.  I got a small travel bowl for Gwynn, which will come in handy for my camping plans, as well as being handy for all of our long walks – it looks far classier than the Tupperware container I was using.  I realise that having a bowl like this is entirely unnecessary (The Tupperware was quite effective), but this has a hole in it for attaching it to a carabiner, so that it can be on the outside of my bag.  Valid reason for unnecessary purchase?  Maybe not… but it’s too late now, and it wasn’t too expensive. 

Doggy Cocaine!

We also got a squeaky ball with feet.  This ball is some kind of drug for dogs, and I’ll admit, I had some ball-envy.  It seems like every dog in the creek valley had one last summer, and all of them love it, long after the squeaker has died.  I wanted in on the action!  Also, Gwynn actually chases it, EVERY TIME I throw it.  EVERY TIME.  The only disadvantage is that we had to take it away from him while inside the house, because he was well on his way to prying those feet off entirely.

Training Update: Instead of biking last night, i went to a Dance/Body Sculpt class… which translates to Alex jumps around, trying to copy what the instructor is doing, and tries to not kick anyone while gasping for breath and turning the colour of a tomato… To Music!  I’m hoping that cardio things like this will help me with my cycling, so you’ll be hearing about these as well.  I also went on two 1hr ish walks with the dog in the evening – before- and after- class.