Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lulu the beagle makes her mark in Winter Park, FL

UPDATE: Winter Park is still very dog friendly. However, The Doggie Door closed down in 2017. 

I want Lulu to be one of those trendy dogs I can walk around those trendy little downtown areas.

I know, I probably should have gotten another kind of dog then, right? That's not really what a beagle is for. Still, I think Lulu can be stacked up against any of the other dogs that prance around those places. So Tuesday I bathed Lulu, put on her most fetching bandanna, and took her to Winter Park.

Winter Park is one of the most dog-friendly areas in Central Florida. It's a small city just north of Orlando that was built in the 1800s as a haven for the wealthy. It's now a trendy home for people looking for that old Main Street USA feel -- except Main Street here is called Park Avenue.

People walk dogs of all kinds along Park Avenue, where fresh water bowls are outside many of the shops for the dogs to get a quick lap as they follow their human friends. There's The Doggie Door, a shop dedicated to chic pet stuff, and this year there will be a doggy festival.

The first thing I did when we got there was make sure she knew she had to listen to me (well, at least try to get her to understand that). I stepped on the leash, and told her to sit. I didn't go anywhere until she did so.

Once she finally got the message, we met my friend at Shoooz. I called ahead of time to ask if it was okay to bring Lulu inside.

I knew the store's owners had a dog who hung out at the store, so I had hoped she wouldn't be too much of a bother. But the minute she smelled the other dog, look what she did:

I was incredibly embarassed. The managers were very nice about it, but I was so ready to go home, right there and then.

Fortunately, the dog's young golden retriever came out from the back to meet Lulu, and told her what's what in the nicest way possible -- assertive sniffing. Lulu kinda calmed down after that.

After we got the shoes, we decided to get some lunch. We chose Paris Bistro, which has outdoor seating along the avenue. We got a table, and they brought a bowl of ice water for Lulu.

We sat and ate, and I fed her little bits of bread with some of the sauce from my beef burgundy. She sniffed about and watched, but was generally pretty good, eventually just sitting down. We only had one scuffle with a dog she didn't like where I thought she would pull the whole table down. She seemed to like the other dogs she met.

She even got to look at some fish while I got to give myself a treat at Le Macaron.

And since she did reasonably well, I stopped at The Doggie Door on the way back to the car and bought her a treat.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt for doggies. They just lick it, so it lasts a while.

And with that, we got on the elevator at the parking garage and drove away.

Winter Park is just north of Orlando, and is easily accessible from I-4 off the Fairbanks Avenue and Lee Road exits. They have a great farmers market on Saturdays, and festivals throughout the year. Dogs are welcome on Park Avenue and at the farmers market, just keep them off Central Park.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Putting Lulu the beagle's nose to work: airport food tracker

You know, dogs are expensive. Far more expensive than cats. I'd eventually like to see Lulu, my 2 and a half year old beagle, at least partially earn her keep. (Which reminds me: please click on the ONE ad I have on my blog page when you get the chance. The more click-throughs I get, the more I can keep Lulu in gourmet doggy treats).

I've already considered getting Lulu a job as a bed bug beagle, but it is tough to find training info. You probably have to train them as a puppy anyway. This morning, however, I found a job on the Associated Press that is perfect for her:

Airport dog finds illegal food stowed in luggage

Perfect! She already hunts food down better than any dog I've ever met (she found an unopened Natural Balance beef roll and ate the whole thing this weekend. And it wasn't one of the dollar rolls either). It would be a cinch to track her for that. Now if I can just get her to not pay attention to everything else going on in the airport.

Look at this picture:

 (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Lulu could do that! And this beagle is six years old, Lulu is only almost three!

And I can't imagine a better place than Florida for an illegal food tracker. Orlando is one of the busiest international airports in the country, and with all our agriculture keeping food that could harbor an insect or disease that could be potentially dangerous to our crops is paramount. Like the article mentions, the Mediterranean fruit fly just loves oranges.

Wondering if TSA or the FL Dept. of Agriculture will accept a food tracking beagle on a freelance basis....

UPDATE: 4/25/12 -- Christie
Hey! I know a lot of people have been looking at this recently. Unfortunately, the page where this story was apparently doesn't exist anymore. I will try to find another site for the article link.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lulu the beagle goes to Barnett Park in Orlando -- well, almost

I want to try and check out as many of the dog parks in the area as possible, not just to see the different parks we have in Central Florida, but also as an excuse to take Lulu out for rides, which I think we both enjoy (she seems to enjoy them, at least).

We've been to Dr. Phillips Park, and we went to Barber Park once before I started the blog (I will go back to get pics and do a write-up at some point though, it was awesome). I figured we'd check out Barnett Park on Wednesday. It's just west of Orlando off State Road 50, and is one of Orange County's larger parks, so I figured the dog park must be pretty cool.

I should have lowered my expectations.

First off, when we got there, we couldn't find the place. The signs point to all of Barnett Park's amenities EXCEPT the dog park. I happened to catch it behind one of the playground areas, tucked away in the corner. The big banner on the fence helped, or I never would have known what it was.

From what I could tell, the park is split between a section for small dogs and a section for large dogs. A trail runs in between the two sections.  It looked like there was a covered area for humans, so there was more shade, but other than that it didn't look much different than Dr. Phillips Park, which was disappointing given the size of the park.

But it was hard to tell, because it was so inaccessible. The closest walkway from the parking lot was a bridge over a canal. That bridge on the day I was there was closed for some reason. The only other way to reach it was to walk all the way around to the trail. And since there were no other dogs there anyway, I decided not to do it.

I don't mind work being done, but considering how far away it is from the parking lot and other accessible walkways, some more signs would have been nice. We will try to go back over the weekend. 

Instead, I took Lulu over to Dr. Phillips Park, where she had a grand time until it rained.

Barnett Park is located on State Road 50 (West Colonial Drive) next to the Central Florida Fairgrounds and Exposition Hall. It does have some amazing facilities -- playgrounds, a skate park, a BMX track, a splash park, ball fields, etc. Just wish the dog park was easier to get to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Listen to your beagle

As I've said before, I asked for Lulu so that I could have a watchdog.

Well, today Lulu may have served her purpose -- but I wasn't interested in paying attention.

This morning, at some point while I was asleep, I heard Lulu howl. I instantly woke up, but only to tell Lulu to go away. It was light out, so I just assumed she was barking at squirrels, like so many other times.

She may have been barking at burglars.

There was a break-in in my building. First floor, in an apartment caddycorner to mine in the back of the building. Same MO as my break-in -- broke the windows, carried electronics and jewelry out of the house through the front door.

Did Lulu see them? I don't know. It's entirely possible though. And I sort of feel that, because I was too lazy to want to check out what she was seeing, I missed something important. I could have helped catch the people who robbed my neighbor's apartment, maybe even the people who robbed mine.

So, I learned my lesson -- next time, pay attention.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lulu the Beagle's enemy No. 1: the squirrel

I got Lulu as a watchdog, to warn me when there's unwanted company.

Unfortunately, that includes squirrels. Even at 6 or 7 in the morning. 

When she's outside, she has to chase the squirrels. She'll forget about what she's supposed to do when she's outside, especially if she thinks she can catch a squirrel. It hasn't happened yet. 

Take today. There was a squirrel on the fence at the doggy park at the apartment complex. She practically tried to climb it! 

And she'll sniff it out long after the squirrel is gone:

Beagles are trained hunters, and especially hares. We don't have any of those around, but we have lots of squirrels. I sometimes wonder what would happen if she caught one, but honestly, I think the squirrels are faster than she is. I sometimes wonder if they're even laughing at her.

That, and the desire to let her catch one in the hopes she gets it out of her system, led me to get one of these:

I found it at Publix Supermarkets for $5.49. And it has squeakers in the head and tail. 

The minute Lulu saw it, it was in trouble.

I've tied a string to it, and every once in a while I'll let the squirrel out and let her chase it around and eventually catch it. 

Here's hoping it calms her down. Sick of being woken up because a squirrel got a nut outside.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Running with the big dogs at Dr. Phillips Dog Park in Orlando

It's tough being a medium sized dog with a big personality. In Lulu's case, it makes it tough to figure out where she belongs sometimes.

Case in point, dog parks. I took Lulu back to Dr. Phillips Dog Park Saturday, if nothing else to see how busy the park is during the weekend.

The trouble is, the park is split between dogs under 30 pounds and dogs over 30 pounds. Lulu is right on the cusp. 

We went into the small dog area again Saturday. Lots of little dogs to play with, including a dachshund, a long-haired mutt and two pomeranian-chihuahua puppies. The only problem was the more dogs came in, the smaller they seemed to get. 

Since Lulu was the biggest dog in the area, the smaller the dogs got, the more annoyed the owners seemed to get with me. I decided to give the large dog area another shot, since all the big dogs had left already.

It wasn't long before Lulu had lots of new friends to play with though in the big dog park -- including a beagle mix, a rottweiler, a lab, and a couple of mixed breeds.

I decided this side is probably better for Lulu. There's more room to sniff and run, and there's a plastic pool to cool off in. Which I was surprised Lulu actually got into.

Lulu didn't seem to mind even the bigger dogs this time around. I think it helped that she was one of the first there. 

All in all, another great day at the dog park.

Again, Dr. Phillips Community Park is on Buenavista Woods Boulevard on Apopka-Vineland Road, not too far north from the Downtown Disney entrance. It's open every day from 8 a.m.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beagle Tracking Training Update

Lulu is picking up the magic cup trick so fast I may have to move into tracking sooner rather than later.

If you remember, the magic cup trick is when I hide a treat in one of four cups and Lulu has to figure out which cup it's in. I was a little disappointed by her first attempt, since it took her so long to find the treat.

But on Wednesday and today, Lulu's made up for that first try.

I put a heart-shaped apple cookie in the cup and let her sniff it inside. Of course, she tried to get at it any way she could. (SIDENOTE: The cookie was from Woof Gang Bakery, and she really liked it. Check it out!)

I moved Lulu into the bedroom (she went happily, no problems! She knows what's coming), and arranged the cups, putting the cup with the treat in the third spot.

I let Lulu out of the room, and before I could to the kitchen she already had the third up picked out.

We played again, this time using a bigger treat -- a bone cookie, also from Woof Gang Bakery. I hoped the bone might throw her off when moving the cup because it's heavier. I also put it in the last cup, which I hadn't done before. 

Lulu nudged the first cups out of her way and grabbed that cookie from the last cup like it was nothing!

After that, we tried some minor sit-stay exercises. For this, I pulled out a Natural Balance beef roll, which the trainer at PetCo suggested. You can get it for a buck at the store. The trainer called it puppy crack, and I believe it. Since she already had done these exercises with the trainer, the minute she saw the roll, she knew what she had to do. Easy. You just give her a little piece of it, wave it under her nose, and she sits no problem.

Just hoping she can sit and stay when she needs to, and not for a treat.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday -- Beagle Edition

Galadriel the cat and Lulu the beagle. My furry children. As close to at peace with each other as I'll get.

Lulu made some progress today with the cup trick, by the way. I'll tweet about it this afternoon. Follow along on Twitter. #lifewithbeagle

PS: Totally admit I kinda blew off today's blog post to finish rewatching season 1 of "Game of Thrones." Winter is coming, folks. So, so, good. New post Thursday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lulu the beagle checks out Dr. Phillips dog park, or "how dogs say hello"

Oftentimes to me Lulu seems very lonely. Beagles by nature are very social creatures -- they want to say hi to anyone and they hate being by themselves. At my parents' house, while she was alone 8 to 10 hours a day during the week, she also would have the cats to beat up on, and most of the time she would have my niece to wind her up. She could also go out in the backyard, where neighbors would come by just to say hello to her.

At my house, all she has when I'm not here is my cat Galadriel. Who hates her. Passionately.

I was strongly reminded of this today when I took Lulu for her morning walk. She was doing her business in the doggy area when a couple came walking by with a small dog on a leash. Lulu did what she usually did -- running back and forth along the fence, barking like mad. If the couple had planned to come in, I'm pretty sure that changed when they saw her.

So I decided it was time to get Lulu some puppy socialization.

In southwest Orange County there's Dr. Phillips Community Park. It's a nice little park tucked away from everything. It also has the closest dog park to me (that I could find). I'd never been there before, and it was a Tuesday morning, but maybe I'd get lucky and we'd find some dogs.

The doggy park is away from the playground and splash park, along the fitness trail. Along the way we met a lady with a puppy who was quite nervous about Lulu sniffing her dog, and another lady with a beagle named Ruthie (sadly they were just leaving).

The park splits up big dogs and small dogs (under or over 30 pounds), with a wash area in the middle. Since the lady with the puppy was in the small dog area by herself, I decided to let Lulu try out the large dog area, which was bigger so she had more room to sniff and run on her own.

As soon as we got in, these two huge dogs came right over to Lulu. I don't know what they were -- they looked like wolves. They were beautiful. And they wanted to get to know Lulu. Except she was afraid to get to know them. As they began what I can only determine is the traditional doggy greeting (is smelling a dog's butt really the equivalent of shaking hands?), Lulu backed away, tail between her legs. Fortunately they weren't too forceful, but since she was clearly uncomfortable around them, I decided to move her to the small dogs area as soon as there were more dogs.

She definitely seemed happier there:

Dr. Phillips Community Park is off Buenavista Woods Boulevard, off Apopka Vineland Road. On top of the dog park, they have a fitness trail, a playground, a splash park, ball fields, a pavillion and other amenities. The dog park area itself is tiny for little dogs, and there's no shade other than trees. But there are water fountains and dog bowls, and benches for us humans. Overall it was really nice, and I think Lulu and I will be returning.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Putting the nose to work: A prelude to beagle tracking

If there's one thing I would marvel at when it comes to Lulu, it is her nose.
It's this strong, black, vaccuum-power-sucking machine. Sometimes I think it guides her more than her head does (if at all).

This is common in most beagles -- it's their super doggy power. And I'm determined that Lulu uses hers for good, not evil.

Experienced beagle trainers train their dogs to track. It utilizes the dog's powerful sense of smell, and it's supposed to actually be fun for them. Here's more about it from the National Beagle Club.

Tracking, however, seems a bit complicated for Lulu right now. She's three years old and she's never done it before. I figure baby steps are required.

On the website BeaglePro, they have an intelligence training game called "Magic Trick." I decided this might be a good starting point.

I took four of those red Solo cups and a Beggin' Strip. I let Lulu smell the treat in the cup, and then I let her watch me put the cups on the ground in the kitchen. Then I took her out of the kitchen and rearranged the cups, with the treat in the third cup.

I let Lulu back in. My hope was that she would catch it on the first try. Unfortunately, not so much.

I thought maybe it was because I had dragged the cup with the treat on the ground when I rearranged it. So maybe I had dragged the scent of the treat across the ground too. But when I tried it again, she had the same trouble finding the treat right away.

I'm going to keep trying, and seeing if Lulu improves. If she gets really good and I can upgrade to tracking, maybe we can start doing some bigger tracking projects. Maybe she can be of service as a rescue dog. And at least that nose can be used to do good.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rainy Day Women -- beagle in the rain

(with apologies to Bob Dylan)

I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning to the crash of rain. Pouring, pounding rain. I love when it rains. It gives me an excuse to stay inside under the covers.

Can't do that with a dog. I have no fenced in yard, and dogs must do their business (note to self: look into toilet and/or litter box training for Lulu).

Lulu jumps and paws and knocks me down and licks until I finally give in to taking her outside. I grab my hoodie and my shoes and pick up my big-ass black London Fog umbrella.

Lulu sniffs the curved wood handle and regards me with that head cock of hers that clearly says "there's something wrong with you."

You see, beagles are of English descent, and hunters to boot. In my mind that means they are likely genetically predisposed to trotting about in cold, wet climates. Rain? Mud? Wet? Pshaw! Any beagle fears not these things.

But the problem is -- Lulu won't poop on the leash.

Sounds weird? It is, but not uncommon, apparently. I have had a PetCo trainer and an employee at the SPCA tell me that some dogs simply don't like to be watched doing the doo.

I have, on extreme occasions, when no other option was available to her, been able to get Lulu to poop on the leash.

Twice. In the two years I've known her.

And after spending close to an hour outside in the rain, with Lulu on the leash, even knowing that she had to poop, she still did not. Until she was on my carpet and I was not watching.


So when it appeared she had to go out the second time, I bit the bullet and took her to the little fenced-off area in my complex where dogs can walk off-leash. The place had puddles even on a dry day and, as expected, it was a sloppy, spongy, muddy mess when we got there today. What I was dreading.

Lulu did okay, avoiding the puddles, getting a little dirt here and there but nothing major.

Then she saw someone walking a big black dog on a leash outside the fence.

Suddenly no puddle went unsplashed, no muddy spot went unpawed. She ran and jumped trying to get the attention of that dog, howling all the way.

So the doggy did what the doggy had to do.

And now the owner has to do what the owner has to do.

You know what's funny? All that time in the cold and the rain and the mud -- and it's a nice warm shower that really bothered her.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Barking Mad

I love dogs. They're funny, loyal, generally sweet. I grew up with dogs of all shapes and sizes, so it's not that I don't like dogs.

I just don't like taking care of them.

Dogs are needy. They need to be walked to go to the bathroom, or else they make a mess in your house. They need to not only be fed and watered, but it needs to be controlled because they will stuff themselves. They require training. They are not independent. This is why I have always preferred cats.

Until I was robbed.

I came home from a late night at work the day before New Year's Eve 2011 to find my front door easy to unlock. I walked in and noticed some things on the floor that shouldn't be there... and my cat, Galadriel, was particularly loud. Something was wrong.

Someone had cut the patio screen open, broke open a living room window, RANSACKED my apartment, stole several important things (my grandma's ring, my beloved Canon Rebel G camera, my new laptop and new Nintendo Wii) and walked out the front door.

I was invaded. I was violated. And I didn't even know who they were.

The police were no help. In talking to neighbors, no one heard anything. My poor cat was traumatized. All of a sudden she hid from people coming to the place.

So I called my parents and asked for Lulu.

Now -- who is Lulu?

Lulu is the beagle my parents got at the Orange County SPCA when she was six months old.

From the minute I saw Lulu, I was in love. I always figured that if I got a dog, it would be a beagle.  My parents had decided, after their black lab died a year ago, to get a dog who could tell them if something was wrong in the house. My mom is not fond of the beagle howl, but Lulu was a generally quiet puppy at the shelter, and she was sooooooo cute!

As far as alerting my parents to problems in the house, Lulu fulfilled her primary role to a tee. Maybe too well.

Cat on the table? Howl!

My niece doesn't want to play anymore? Howl!

Squirrel in the yard? Howl!

Kids riding their bikes in the neighborhood? Howl!

See, the problem is, beagles are notorious for being tough to train. And Lulu is especially stubborn, and obnoxious.

That's in a house. Imagine Lulu in an apartment.

Can I survive this? Will my cat survive this? I'm determined to turn Lulu from an undisciplined beast, to a somewhat disciplined noble friend. She's halfway there. So far it's been quite a comedy. Won't you join me?