Yesterday was our annual Vizsla Fun Day, hosted by the Vizsla Club of Long Island. Every year they hold a picnic at a local park, so that all of the club members can gather to socialize, enjoy a nice lunch, and watch our dogs interact with one another. Most of them are off-leash, except for a few, (like Meadow), who are not reliable off-leash for one reason or another.
Each year there is a speaker, and this year, it was actually my Nose Work instructor, Susan Scelzi of Blue Ribbon Dog Training, who came to Vizsla Fun Day to speak about teaching basic obedience to our dogs. Unfortunately for Susan, it was a hot day, and her star dog, Rikki, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who has titles in Obedience, Rally, Agility, Lure Coursing, and Nose Works, did not want to cooperate by doing even the most simple commands, such as “Down.” Aren’t dogs lovely sometimes?
After Susan’s talk, the president of our club, Stephanie Fischer, announced that nearly fifty percent of the owners who showed up for the event had rescues. How awesome is that for a purebred dog club? It is actually one of the reasons Nick and I are in the club…
When we adopted Meadow from the Vizsla Club of Central New England, Stephanie Fischer assisted them by conducting our home visit for us, and then she offered us free membership in her club for the first year. We accepted, figuring we would stay for the year, and then probably bow out, only because Nick and I are not really club people. Firstly, we are not really “social” – meaning we prefer small intimate gatherings with close friends and family over huge events. And as for purebred dogs – we really don’t see the allure in conformation, (which we can never be part of with rescues anyway), we are not planning on hunting, (could you imagine Meadow in a field with guns going off?), we are not at all interested in politics (and with clubs come politics) and we are not even tied to a certain breed. Sure we love Vizslas…but we also love Labs, Shepherds, Dobes, Hounds, Huskies, Mixes and More…
But when we saw how heavily this club is involved in rescue, thanks mostly to the hard work of Stephanie herself, we decided to stick around – and I’m so glad we did. What a great group of people to be associated with! Everyone is so accepting of one another, overlooking differences and coming together for the love of our dogs. For example, my mom, sister, and niece showed up at yesterday’s event to surprise me since my sister was visiting from out of state, but they had thought there would be food vendors (there were none) and they would have ended up watching us all eat if Stephanie hadn’t been generous enough to allow them to join in our meal (paid for by the club). Plus my niece had a blast playing with Susan’s new Rhodesian Ridgeback pup, Racer, while the rest of us dined.
Besides Susan’s two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, the only other non-Vizsla was a sweet Labrador named Cody…and while the Ridgebacks blended in from a distance – the big boned chocolate lab with a perpetual tennis ball in his mouth did not. Maybe he wouldn’t have felt so alone in that sea of red had I brought Toby along, but this year I decided to leave him home.
While I love to have him along with me, I thought it was best for him. The past two years when I brought Toby to the fun day, many of the intact males thought it was great fun to hump him, and one dog in particular seemed to be obsessed with harassing him. (You do know Toby wears a “kick me” sign around other dogs right?) Because of this, I didn’t want to subject my dog to that treatment again this year and we left him behind. Instead, we only brought Meadow, and for the most part she did quite well – with only three negative experiences.
The first thing that freaked her out was watching the men set up a huge tent to shade the tables. When Meadow saw that monstrosity going up, she completely shut down. She stood panting, would not give me eye contact, and would not even take food. I thought we were going to have to leave after only being there a half hour, but I decided to try something first. I brought Meadow back to the Jeep and let her sit in her crate until she calmed. Ten minutes later, her reset button went off, and she was like a new dog. She pranced back to the picnic like nothing had happened, only balking a bit when we got near the tent again. But with a little help from some cubed roast beef, she was eventually lying under the tent and appreciating the shade.
The other scary event came in the form of a person. One of the club members, someone I’m not familiar with, kept coming over to us and asking questions about Meadow, saying how impressed he was with how calm she was behaving. I explained she was afraid of strangers, and gave him some beef to make friends. But he was a person with a loud voice, and unfortunately the steak did not help cancel out that attribute in Meadow’s eyes, because each time he tried to pet her, she shrunk in fear. Nick and I gently explained several times that she was afraid, and for some reason, this individual kept trying. I think sometimes people feel that all dog’s need to like them, and can’t accept it when a dog like Meadow doesn’t. But for whatever strange reason, this man suddenly came up behind Meadow, hugged her, and said “Gotcha.”
Yup. Someone did that to Meadow…
Poor Miss Meadow tucked her tail to her chin and raced to Nick for protection, and he went from politely asking the man to leave Meadow alone to raising his voice and asking the man to go away. Surprisingly, Meadow recovered from the event enough to relax again. She even joined us on a walk with my sister, my friend Mary, and her dog Dottie, during which Meadow trotted happily along, stopping to roll in the grass every few steps. I was relieved to see that the scary experience didn’t affect her much, and we returned to the picnic – just in time for a dog to get his leash wrapped under the dessert table and send the table, cake, and cookies flying…
While the other dogs dove for the goodies, poor Meadow nearly jumped out of her skin.
The good news is that, other than the tent, she recovered from the other two scary events all on her own. Additionally, Nick heard fireworks way off in the distance, and if Meadow heard them too, she did not react at all. I have seen such a difference in her turn around time since we started her on the low dose of Prozac last year, and it really is a joy to see our dog not being completely frozen from fear anymore. Will we wean her off of it eventually? Maybe. But I’m in no rush to test her and possibly watch her fall apart again. Right now my gut tells me to leave well enough alone.
Please enjoy the following photos from Vizsla Fun Day (Meadow is the one wearing the bandana). Click on any of them to start the slide show.