The Whippenberg

 

For Picchu’s second birthday Sunday we went on a mountain-climbing extravaganza in the Catskills. 

Bob and the Birthday Girl, Picchu

Bob and the Birthday Girl, Picchu, on our latest Catskills adventure

Bob, Biski and Sesame on the trail up Wittenberg

Bob, Biski and Sesame on the trail up Wittenberg, cliffy in parts

Destination: Mt. Wittenberg, the most massive mountain in the Catskills, so it is referred to as The Wittenberg.

We were wondering if a whippet pack has ever scaled it before, and in honor of our expedition, decided to re-name the mountain The Whippenberg.

Two nights, three day-long hikes, all meals and accommodations, um, carried by everyone but Picchu.

 

C-Biscuit and Sesame, sherpa whippets

C-Biscuit and Sesame, sherpa dogs

 

Sesame and Biski look for a way around the rock-scaling, but there isn't one

Sesame and Biski look for a way around the rock-scaling, but there isn't one

 

Why the pack wears harnesses/backpacks: "Ok, hoist them up!"

Why the dogs wear harnesses/backpacks: "Ok, hoist them up!"

 

The Whippenberg: Shira and the whippet pack atop Wittenberg

The Whippenberg: Shira and the whippet pack atop the mountain formerly known as The Wittenberg

 

Biski billygoating on top of the mountain

Biski billygoating on top of the mountain: "Will a pack member with opposable thumbs please step forward to release my lunch!"

 

Shira, Sesame, Biski, Picchu: Brrrrr

Shira, Sesame, Biski, Picchu: Brrrrr

 

Bob herds the whippets on a side excursion to Cornell Mtn

Bob herds the whippets on a side excursion to Cornell Mtn, overlooking Slide Mtn

 

The dogs huddling in the tent, shortly before moving into our double-wide sleeping bag

The dogs huddling in the tent, shortly before moving into our double-wide sleeping bag

 

There's one in every pack who refuses to observe check-out time

There's one in every pack who refuses to observe check-out time

 

After two nights in arctic temperatures, Bob & the packette are ready to head home

After two nights in arctic temperatures, Bob & the packette are ready to head home. Next stop: Rockettes audition!

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City Dogs, Country Dog

 

The House Whippets' Border Collie friend at home in the country

The House Whippets' Border Collie friend, Sasha, at home in the country

The House Whippets are urban dogs, but like any New Yorker, they do love a weekend in the country!

 

Especially when it involves a house in the woods, excursions to orchards, and a friend.

 

Shira, Roya and the whippet-border collie mixed pack

The House Whippets practice their "Charlie's Angels" routine, pretending to protect Shira, Sasha and Roya from the nearby fruit trees

 

Divide & Conquer: Bob, Sesame and Biski take one side; Roya, Sasha the border collie and Picchu the other side

C-Biscuit says, "I couldn't help but notice our new pack member is wearing a coat, and it looks like formal wear at that...are we underdressed?"

 

Sasha and Sesame didn't, uh, see eye to eye - they spent the weekend nipping or ignoring each other

Sasha and Sesame didn't, uh, see eye to eye - they spent the weekend nipping at or ignoring each other

 

Sasha says, "Leashes off!"

Sasha says, "Leashes off!"

 

House Whippets say, "Now this is a dog run!"

C-Biscuit (right): "Now THIS is a dog run!" Sesame (left): "I will keep look-out for danger, that is surely all around us." Picchu (back): "Do you still love me, in a green field?"

 

The border collie plays Herd the Whippets!

The border collie plays Herd the Whippets!

 

The whippets say, "Full speed in opposite directions - the collie can't catch us!"

C-Biscuit and Picchu: "Full speed in opposite directions - the collie can't catch us!"

 

Cerberus? Or House Whippets?

Cerberus? Or House Whippets? Country water does strange things...

 

What a hostess: Sasha braves the rain so the house whippets can have, well, the house

What a hostess: Sasha braves the rain so the house whippets can have, well, the house (Sesame isn't so polite. "And stay out!" he says.)

For all of that wide open space and yummy country air, the country getaway had its downsides: thorns that went nearly all the way through Biski’s ears, rocks that ripped Sesame’s thigh, and the ultimate house whippet horror: they were not allowed on the furniture.

Country road, take me home: Same designer as the Brooklyn Bridge, but a much slower pace

Country road, take me home: Same designer as the Brooklyn Bridge, but a much slower pace. (Specifically, 15 mph.)

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Tree Climbing with Dogs

Bob is a major tree climber. He climbs for work, then climbs for fun. If we pause on a hiking trail, it’s common to lose Bob to a nearby tree:

Bob disappeared into this oak tree in no time

Bob disappeared into this White Oak tree in no time

On hiking trips, this is a common scenario for us:

Bob: "There's an amazing view up here!"

Bob: "There's an amazing view up here!"

Shira: "Get back down here, the dogs are going nuts!"

Shira: "Get back down here, the dogs are going nuts!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dogs can’t believe he can go where the squirrels are, and they can’t come. C-Biscuit especially is determined – when Bob goes up a tree, she runs up the trunk a good 6 or 7 feet.

Where the squirrels are: Bob and C-Biscuit attempt a tree climb

Where the squirrels are: Bob and C-Biscuit attempt a tree climb

We’d love to do more climbing together, but who would whipsit?

Bob has roped me into tree climbing

Bob has roped me into tree climbing

Doubleback Harness from Ruffwear

Doubleback Harness from Ruff Wear

Bob’s idea is that the dogs should be harnessed and brought up with us. Until this week I’d thought that was a joke. But our favorite outdoor gear company for dogs, Ruff Wear, just came out with a climbing harness for dogs! Woo-hoo! 

It’s described as a “2000 lbf strength-rated harness built for lifting and lowering in extreme and exposed areas.”

Dog ready to rock climb in Ruff Wear's new harness

Dog ready to rock climb in Ruff Wear's new harness

There’s a video on the site that shows a lab being strapped into the harness – it has leg straps and everything – and belayed up a rock face. Bob’s nearly unheard-of response: “Let me buy it!”

Seeing as the harness is $125 (!) – the whippet who most wants to climb will need to come forward and make a strong case before we get one. And even a climbing harness won’t mean the dogs can follow Bob in every climbing situation:  

In addition to trees, Bob likes to tango with bridges

In addition to trees, Bob likes to tango with bridges

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Dog Voodoo?

 

Oh, Picchu

Oh, Picchu

Am I a victim of dog voodoo? At the very least, I am a victim of dog doo. (And I hope that my ex-husband, who doesn’t like dogs because “they are dirty and don’t belong in the house,” does not read this.)

This morning, moments before taking her out, Picchu soiled the entire living room rug. This was way worse than just “an accident.” I’ve never seen such a mess, even on the street, where, fortunately, almost all clean-ups occur.

Doo, or voodoo?

Doo, or voodoo?

These things happen, pets will be pets, so after taking the dogs out and then gating them in the bedroom, I spent a half-hour scrubbing the rug with vinegar. Finally I sat down for a first sip of tea, turned my head, and what did I see, on the WALL? On. The. WALL. Three or more feet off the ground. How is that even possible? Is no surface safe?

Bob and I have cleaned up a lot of messes in the past year and a half, and not once have we had to scrape off anyone’s car, or the side of a building, or for pete’s sake a passing pedestrian. No vertical surfaces at all. For which I am now, I suppose, feeling quite grateful. 

I’m all for pet parenting, whole hog, challenges and all. I’m just not sure what the lesson – or message – is in this case. All I know is, I don’t want to hear again that the dogs are “just dogs.” If I am being tested for “real” parenthood, I consider myself passed. And Picchu, if you’re trying to communicate something, please use alternative methods. 

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The Dogs’ September Expense Report

Our three dogs were only slightly less expensive this month than last. Here’s the breakdown:

The Real House Whippets’ September Expenses

  • Food/Treats:                   $257

    Play-doh Piggy by Shira

    Play-doh Piggy by Shira

  • Supplies:                             $10
  • Clothing:                           $175
  • Books/Video/Mags:       $106
  • Toys:                                     $48
  • Interceptor/Frontline       $97

Total expenses:                          $693

 

Shira and the House Whippet Packette taking a breather in upstate NY

Less expensive than Disney World: Shira and the House Whippets at a "dog amusement park." upstate NY

Food/Treats: 

We stocked up on Dogswell chicken strips, which were on a great sale for about half-price this month. It was time to reorder the big bags of dry food (our current mix is Wellness, Orijen, and Taste of the Wild). We also buy 10 cans of food a month – the dogs split 1/3rd of a can each night for a gravy.

 Clothing:

Picchu, Biski, Sesame: What do you expect us to do, get jobs? We are Real House Whippets, not working dogs.

Picchu, Biski, Sesame: "We are Real House Whippets. What do you expect us to do, get jobs?"

I feel like I’m back in Catholic school: To confess, or not? Granted, the dogs had all the coats they needed to get through the fall, winter, cruisewear season (I think they call it in the fashion industry…at least they did on “The Bold and the Beautiful”), spring monsoons and any other season that will ever come upon us again. So this month’s clothing expenditure is a total splurge. I did get a discount for ordering coats for the three together, but admit it was still a lot more practical to splurge when we just had the one dog!

A dog who insists on riding shotgun, from the back seat: Priceless

A dog (Sesame) who insists on riding shotgun, from the back seat: Priceless

This month’s lesson: I might have splurged on unnecessary clothing, but… since I’m out walking the dogs half the day, I don’t pay for a gym membership anymore, so really it works out. We work out, all together.

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More Cow Pajamas!

 

Sesame dons the communal dog pajamas

Snuggly Whippet: Sesame dons cow-print dog pajamas by Decotogs

If you want to see a grown, outdoorsy man melt, put a dog in cow-print pajamas.

I am the midwesterner and Bob is third-generation Manhattan, but somehow he is the one in love with our dogs’ cow pajamas.

He has little to say on the topic of dog clothes, except, “More cow pajamas!”

He is the Christopher Walken to our dogs’ Will Ferrell (watch the classic SNL skit “More Cowbell!” here).

Bob walking our whippet in cow pajamas, trying to blend into Northern Michigan

Passing for normal in Michigan: Bob walks C-Biscuit in her cow pajamas

When we got a second whippet, we decided we had to go minimalist on the dog clothing. I was deciding on the basics for a dog’s wardrobe: raincoat, fleece, winter coat.

Bob added, “And cow pajamas!”

C-Biscuit wears her pajamas very rarely, such as when we visited my dad in northern Michigan and the thermostat was set just high enough so you couldn’t see your breath. 

Yet, Bob insists they are a dog wardrobe essential. He has practically been pestering me to order cow pajamas for Sesame and Picchu. His idea for halloween? All three whippets in cow pajamas!

I wouldn’t deny him, except – horror – Decotogs, the Missouri company that makes the dog pajamas, doesn’t have the cow print anymore! All we can do is wait, and hope that there will be… more cow pajamas!

Bob admiring Sesame in the cow pajamas

Sesame: "I am a show dog, not a barnyard animal."

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Sighthounds Don’t Sit

 

Fact, or Fiction? The Simpsons' greyhound sits

The Simpsons' greyhound sits: Fact, or Fiction?

The main problem we’ve had with dog training is that so much of it starts with “Sit.”

  • Want your dog to learn “stay”? Have them sit. 
  • Want your dog to be calm at the door? “Sit.” 
  • Teaching your dog to pause before crossing the street? “Sit.”
C-Biscuit crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

C-Biscuit (top left) crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

“Sit” is so easy for most dogs, it was taught on the first day of C-Biscuit’s obedience class. All of the fluffy puppies threw their behinds on the floor (Comfy!) while our sleek whippet stood and looked at us confused. When we enticed her by moving a treat over her head so she had to scrunch down to get it, she just moved away from us – Get that thing out of my face, you crazy people!

Even the very experienced trainer had no luck getting Biski’s athletic bottom onto the hard gymnasium floor. Her diagnosis? “That’s okay. Sighthounds don’t sit.”

Her recommendation was to use “lie down” instead. That makes much more sense for low-fat sighthounds, who do lie down naturally. Of course, they lie down on something padded, not a bare floor. The trainer advised us to bring a towel or mat to class.

Want your sighthound to settle? Better bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer on Giant Ledge.)

Got whippet? Bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer atop Giant Ledge.)

The next week, while all of the other puppies sat eagerly on command, Bob and I rolled out Biski’s giraffe-print dog cushion for her to recline on. This is more like it, Biski thought as she lay down. The other dogs’ owners glanced over at us with disdain, Spoiled yuppy puppy! Hadn’t they heard? Sighthounds don’t sit!

“Lie down” is not nearly as versatile as “sit.” Because of the padding issue, it’ll work on the living room rug, but not next to my desk (wood floor), at the front door (wood floor), in the kitchen (ceramic tiles), on the street (please…), etc.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

So we use “lie down” when we can, to settle the dogs and teach them patience, for example, but more or less we’ve just moved on without it.

Biski did eventually start sitting, once she saw it as “lying down half-way and getting the treat even sooner.” Our other two whippets? Forget it. But I find they will “stay” and “wait” while standing. That’s good enough.

As long as you’re communicating with your dogs, they know what’s expected and are under control, there’s no reason to get stuck on “Sit.” 

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