We’re in training! Next year, we’re going to attempt to climb all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot mountains. The AMC lists 48 of them in the White Mountains. Some people have successfully climbed all of them in a year while others take years to finish. We’ll probably be in the latter but that’s OK. It’s not a race; it’s a goal.
Sophia and I aren’t in any condition to blunder off half-cocked on this new adventure. Actually, it’s more like I’m not in any condition to attempt them. Sophia just needs to wait until her growth platelets are fully fused. Until then, we can’t really do too much intensive exercising where there’s a potential for serious injury (or unseen stress on muscle, joints and bones that can result, years later, in arthritis or hip dysplasia). So this year, we’re going to concentrate on training, conditioning and stamina.
Every morning over the last month, we’ve been hiking different trails in the Blue Hills Reservation, starting with simple walks around the parking lot and gradually increasing our distance, at Sophia’s pace, in half mile increments. The majority of our walks are on a 30 ft. long line so that Sophia can self regulate her exercise. On rocky terrain, where the long line gets caught up, I’ll temporarily switch to a flexi-leash attached to my backpack so that I can be hands-free for my own balance and Sophia can still have some freedom to self-regulate without getting jarred by a caught line.
I give myself a good two hours in the morning so that everything we do is at her chosen pace. She walks when she wants, stops to sniff for as long as she wants and runs when she wants. To my surprise, when given the opportunity to self regulate, she has stamina for days.
Currently, we’re up to two miles but I’m hesitant to allow her to go any further. On paper, two miles for a four-month old puppy seems like way, way too much. In reality, as I watch her on the trail, she trots along with her head up, tail high, brain and body fully engaged. She never shows signs of fatigue and turns back often to “check in” or wait for me.
Yesterday, we accidentally did 3 1/4 miles. Yes, you read that correctly. If we’re not doing a two-mile loop, I’ll usually hike out a mile and then back track out. In this case, I stupidly underestimated the distance of the trail on the map (REI’s Map and Compass class is in my near future). The point in which I had planned to break off the original trail and cut back to the way we came, took longer than I calculated. When my GPS said we were at the 2 1/4 mile mark, I put my foot down and picked her up. She was OK being carried for maybe a minute until she started squirming to be put down again. Against my better judgement, I put her down and let her keep going. I worried the whole way back and was constantly checking the GPS and watching the distance continually increase. I began playing yo yo with her; picking her up, walking 10 or 15 yards, putting her down for 10 or 15 yards, repeat. When we got back to the car, she didn’t crash like I thought she would. She sat up for the majority of the drive home, ran in the house looking for the cats, and after about 30 minutes, she FINALLY settled in for a nap.
This morning she was ready to hit the trails again (though we took it very easy and kept it to a little over a mile, mostly because it was my legs that were achy). I think Sophia is going to be ready for the Whites much sooner than I will be.
I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that don’t believe Wisdom Panel DNA tests are very accurate. When I had one done on Georgia (knowing that she was part Giant Schnauzer) the results came back showing she was Giant Schnauzer on one side of her family tree (bingo) and the other side was American Eskimo. She exhibited physical, personality and temperament traits of both of those breeds so to me, it doesn’t sound like they were very far off the mark.
I decided to have one done on Sophia. Once again, I know half of her family tree because her mom is a Miniature Schnauzer. I was told Dad was a mixed breed of unknown origin so, if nothing else, I thought it would be fun to find out what Wisdom Panel came up with.
Wisdom Panel found the Miniature Schnauzer DNA on Sophia’s mom’s side (bingo!). On Dad’s side, they found Chinese Crested DNA (so that’s where those long, stray, blond hairs all over her head come from).
However, they also consider a portion of Sophia’s ancestry on her dad’s side to be mixed beyond the three generations they test for. In cases like this, they said it’s difficult to identify strong individual breed signals in this mixed portion, so they listed the genetic breed groups with the strongest statistical likelihood, in order of strength (with the most likely at the top of the list). I listed them below. The percentages are what I came up with based on the bar graph they showed. On her physical appearance, as well as temperament, they hit the nail on the head in regards to listing the Terrier Group first. Based on color, physical traits of her curly, cork-screwed tail and color of her muzzle, I’d say she has a little bit of Pug from the Companion Group in her as well. Not so sure I see any of the Hound or Asian Group in her at all.
Terrier Group (90% likelihood)
The Terrier Group ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. They are often characterized as feisty and energetic dogs whose sizes range from fairly small to much larger. Example Breeds: Russell Terrier, Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Standard Schnauzer, Chihuahua, Miniature Pinscher
Companion Group (60% likelihood)
This group consists of dogs typically bred for the specific purpose of human companionship, and many are popular pets because of their gentle nature. They became more common as the concept and luxury of dogs as pets prevailed. Example Breeds: Bichon Frise, Pug, Shih Tzu, Keeshond, Pomeranian.
Hound Group (30% likelihood)
The most common ancestral trait of this group is being used for hunting. Some use acute powers of scent to follow a trail while others demonstrate the gift of stamina as they run
down a quarry. Beyond these two common traits, however, generalizations about hounds are hard to come by as the group is comprised of a very diverse lot of breeds.
Example Breeds: Basset Hound, Beagle, Treeing Walker Coonhound, Bloodhound.
Asian Group (20% likelihood)
The Asian Group is comprised mainly of breeds from the Asian and Arctic regions of the world. Often bred for guarding or working they have been invaluable assets to man throughout the ages. Example Breeds: Alaskan Malamute, Chinese Shar-Pei, Chow
Chow, Siberian Husky
I think the most important take-away for me is that it doesn’t really matter what breeds make up her heritage from any other stand-point than maybe a medical/nutritional one or perhaps a temperament one. Aside from those, who really cares? It’s all in fun. She’s simply an adorable mutt with high intelligence and an endless supply of energy who has already planted her little paws firmly in my heart.
Sophia’s first experience with snow wasn’t such a great one for her. She had only been here for a week when we got our first real snow of the year. It wasn’t the fun, light, fluffy snowstorms you can kind of enjoy. Instead, we got hit with whipping winds, plummeting temperatures and heavy, wet, snow. It was so bad that I wondered what to do with her in regards to house training. I thought about putting a puppy pad down by the back door but didn’t want to confuse things by allowing her to pee in the house one day but not on another. So we both braved the weather, like true New Englanders; her looking for a place to go and me standing out there with her in a show of solidarity.
She tip-toed frantically through it, lifting her paws as high as she could with every step. But she did it and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s a brave little dog.
Our second snow was different and much more enjoyable. She took joy in zooming around through it, burying her face in the soft fluffiness of it, rolling around and eating it. She even bunny hopped on the surface, leaping high and arching back down while pushing her front feet into it. Good thing because we tend to get a lot of it around here.
There’s much to get right when raising a puppy. It’s extremely important that they get lots of socialization in the way of meeting new people, other animals and exploring new places so that they become well adjusted adult dogs.
We signed up for the puppy playgroup held by the MSPCA in Boston. They have two different time slots. The first hour is for the bigger puppies and the second hour is for the smaller pups. Obviously, we attend the latter.
On her first day, Sophia was a bit apprehensive but it didn’t take long for her to “get it” and soon, games of chase and be chased began. But playgroup isn’t only about playing with dogs. The trainers at MSPCA match puppies with similar play styles and everyone is allowed to play at their own comfort levels.
After some time playing, pups are put back on leash and practice with sits, “watch me” and recalls begins so no one gets over stimulated. Sophia promptly ignores me when it comes to work time. In fact, she actually turns away from me and sits, her back towards me, to watch all the other puppies behaving so nicely. She’s way too distracted by everything else going on in the room but I’m OK with that (for now). She’s three months old and her focus is all over the place so we’re just starting to work casually on the basics but we’re doing it without distractions right now. That will come in time.
It was interesting to watch her interact and see her behavior change from nervous to curious so quickly. She seems like she will be a brave dog; one willing to try anything and whose recovery time in fearful situations will be quick. She’s certainly very feisty and I learned from her foster care family that they called her “Little Miss Sassy Pants”.
After “work time” the pups get playtime again and close to the end of playgroup, we play pass the puppy; everyone gets in a circle and passes puppies to the right. This is so that the pups get to meet lots of different people and while doing so, are given treats. What better way to socialize?
I thought she’d sleep a lot longer than she did after that first hour. She has seemingly endless energy and I’m finding that with every week, she needs less sleep between rounds of play and exploration. I think she’s going to make an amazing hiking companion.