Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lessons Learned at a Waterfall/ Waterfals for everyone!

Well, I have had waterfalls on my mind, so I wanted to blog on it!

We visited the mother of Michigan Waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, in July when we camped in Mackinaw City. Truth be told, we were motivated by the fact that there is a micro brewery in the park, and and micro brewed beer is a bit of a hobby for my husband and me.

But I also had fond childhood memories of visiting the falls, so after dinner and a beer, we decided to walk to the upper falls. It was a beautiful evening to see the falls. It was peaceful and very zen-like. Until we hit the actual falls.

See, there were very odd looking steps that you had to climb down to get to the viewing platform. It is well-known that some retired racers have a hard time with stairs, because, quite simply they have never been exposed to them. In puppy classes we do environmental conditioning (have the dogs go through tunnels, or walk over platforms) so they learn to navigate unusual environments with confidence. But Kharma didn't have this type of exposure as a pup. She was on a training farm for race dogs, where the schedule and environment are typically pretty consistent.

I didn't think it would be an issue... she does the stairs in our house every day and night. But these stairs were grates. They sounded different, looked different and felt different. Her nails weren't getting an traction, and she felt completely insecure.

So the dog I always describe as the "confident one" froze. Sparky, my freak job, didn't even bat an eye lash at the scary death trap. But then of course, he had been through lots of environmental conditioning as a pup. And boy did it show. So he went ahead with dad, while my daughter and I stayed with Kharma

So I tried to coax her down. I knew it was bad when she wouldn't take Spam. She was shaking. And then I was in a dilemma. My 3-year-old had run ahead, and I couldn't see her. My dog was frozen. So I had to make a choice... be a good mom, or be a good dog trainer.

As a trainer I would NEVER pull and yank any dog in a fearful position. This is known as flooding. And to put it in perspective, if you were afraid heights, and I pushed and yanked at you until you were on the edge of the Empire State Buidling, your fear wouldn't be cured... and you wouldn't be loving me much at all.

But Mom trumps dog trainer, and as I was yelling for Lily to stop (which REALLY didn't help Kharma's mental state!). I had no idea how far ahead her father was. I was yanking at Kharma to move, which was doing nothing but creating tension at her neck. So she was REALLY stressed, but I just wanted her to physically move.
Just then a group of ladies were coming up the stairs. One must have had training experience because she told me I needed to stop forcing my dog down the stairs immediately. Of course she was right, but again, I am back to the big choice of being a good dog trainer and a good mom. If I hadn't been panicked, I would have been embarrassed (and would have never told them in a million years that I train dogs for a living).
Luckily, my friend Kathy came up from the falls to let me know that Lily made it to her dad and offered to hold Kharma so I could go down and take a look.

Khara wouldn't budge until I got back to her, and then she ran up the stairs like a pup. Sidenote: these picture were taken after I determined the kid was safe.

So here is a picture of my scared pup, and the big scary stairs. And a tip to anyone that plan to take their dogs to Tahquamenon Falls to find steps to practice on first... make sure they can see through them... perhaps on bleachers. Kharma does our carpeted stairs every day of her life, but the grated stairs were a whole different ball game as far as she was concerned.

However, in just two weeks we will be heading up to our beloved Keweenaw Peninsula. The house my grandfather built and my mom was raised in is just about our favorite place in the world, and we haven't had a chance to go in almost 3 years! And the best part is we will be doing some great waterfall hunting. My mom recently sent me a link to a site that describes waterfalls throughout the Great Lakes Region.
We can't wait. It has been two month since we have camped (although we won't camp here, we will stay at the family home), and we are itching to get on the road!

Great Link for Dogs Visiting Mackinac

I wanted to post this commet on the front page, because this link is great:

"Hi ya,

There is a great site for everything dog related on Mackinac Island, Mackinac Island Dog & Pony Club. Most shops are fine with canine visitors and there are three pet friendly hotels on the Island too.

Mary & Sally the Mackinac Island Coonhound"

Thanks Mary & Sally!