Archive | August, 2011

Welcome to Astoria, NY

29 Aug

We survived the hurricane and my area wasn’t hit as badly as we feared we might be. Many of my neighbors had flooded basements, and there were some fallen trees, but thankfully no serious damage, and most importantly, no lives lost.

As I canvassed my neighborhood checking out the damage, I grew to appreciate my neighborhood more than I think I have in the past – people were out helping each other, sharing supplies, cleaning public property, it was heart warming.

So in salute to my wonderful neighborhood, I’m going to introduce you guys to some of Astoria.

For those of you unfamiliar with NYC, this is what the entire city looks like:

When people refer to “the city” they mean Manhattan. Above the island of Manhattan is the Bronx, which is attached to New York State and the only borough that’s not on an island! Staten Island is to the south, and is also an island, as its name suggests. Queens and Brooklyn are attached to Long Island, which stretches out further east.

I grew up in Queens, first in Woodside, then Forest Hills, and now in Astoria. See if you can find all three neighborhoods:

If you had a hard time finding it, Astoria is the westernmost neighborhood in Queens, located on the East River across from Roosevelt Island. I live two blocks from the river, and it’s a beautiful sight.

Astoria is a rather large neighborhood, so here’s a helpful map to break it down for you even further:


Astoria has historically been a Greek neighborhood, though over the years many ethnicities have come here and it’s as multicultural as any other neighborhood in NYC.  That said, we still have an amazing variety of Greek restaurants and these really exclusive “members only” Greek retirement and community clubs. They’re always packed with people, often older men. Most of them serve food, and if you’re sneaky, you can peek in and watch them gesticulate and argue in Greek over wonderfully delicious-looking food.

I snuck in a few shots of some local clubs:


We also have beautiful wall art in some of the tunnels in the Greeker part of town. They recently had a three day Greek festival in this area:

And then we also have your more customary wall art:

And then art that’s not customary at all:

And we have intricately designed Greek churches:

And our own fancy dance company!

Of course this doesn’t begin to cover all the awesomeness of Astoria – we have several parks (one that’s a sculpture park!), hundreds of amazing places to eat, cool bars, spunky clubs, and several live music venues. If you’re ever in NYC brave the East River and come into Queens!

Come visit Queens! We'll even give you a ride over the bridge!















Emergency Preparations

25 Aug

With hurricane Irene closing in on the East Coast, I feel like a post on how to deal with emergencies is due.

First off, as a disclaimer I must say that I’ve lived almost my entire life in NYC and don’t exactly have a lot of experience with natural disasters. Though lately we’ve been getting quite a few (tornados, earthquake, and now the hurricane). Hurricane Irene is the most serious natural disaster that I’ve had to face, and I’m preparing as much as I can.

First, I have to make sure that I have a safe place to bring all the animals in my care in case we need to evacuate my apartment. In addition to Charlie, Emma, and Tigress, I have a client’s dog, Rally, staying with me as well. If the storm’s not too bad and we just need to leave my apartment (I’m on the ground floor and in an evacuation zone, so there’s a good chance we might get flooded), we can go to my good friend who lives in the same neighborhood, but on higher ground (and on the 3rd floor). If my entire neighborhood experiences an evacuation, we can go to my mother’s house, a 20 minute ride away. If all of NYC gets swallowed by the storm, we can all take a 2 hour drive to my father’s house in Central NJ.

Second, I have to make sure that I have proper containment systems for all the critters. Tigress’ crate training comes in handy here. My car is unfortunately too small to fit three large crates, but can hold two. Rally and Emma need them most. I have martingale collars, and extra leashes for everyone, as well as a harness for Tigress, just in case (I’ll probably tie her to her crate as a back up).

****Edit: Thanks so much to My Life with Flyball Dogs for pointing out that it’s not just important to have crates (and properly sized for your dog/cat), but to have animals that are crate trained. I mentioned that Tigress is crate trained, but it’s equally as important for all the dogs to be crate trained and to be able to settle in a crate in distracting/stressful environments. Most shelters won’t accept pets with their humans, but the ones that do require that all pets are in crates. You don’t want to be turned away from a shelter because your dog won’t stay in a crate. I’m working on editing Tigress’ crate training video and will post as soon as I do.  If she can do it, your dog can do it!



Pups must have proper crate training technique

Thirdly come muzzles. Rally needs one because he may become very agitated during such severe weather and I need to be able to handle him without fear – Emma needs one just in case we’re around strange people.

Fourth is food. I have a freezer full of frozen meat which should keep everyone here fed for up to 3-4 days if the power goes out but we’re still able to stay here. If we have to evacuate, I have a 3 days supply of freeze dried food for everyone. My neighbors went with me to Costco today to stock up on nonperishable people food as well.

Fifth, water. I have a 12 pack of 1.5 liter water bottles. Pups have a 2 gallon capacity water jug that I will refill just before the storm is supposed to hit.

Sixth, “go bags” for me and the pups. First aid kits, medications, important paperwork, extra leashes and collars, extra keys, IDs, passport, money, credit cards.

Seventh – make sure every dog and Tigress has a properly fitting collar with tags that are up to date.

Eighth, fill up the car’s gas tank.

Ninth, I made sure to call or otherwise contact as many people as I could who are in town to make sure they’re OK. Apparently my neighbor from across the hall, who is 7 months pregnant with twins no less, had no idea the hurricane was coming and I may have really helped them out with the heads up. I may also help out some people with pets who don’t have cars get to their safe locations prior to the storm, just in case.

And I wanted to share my very first edited video. I realize it’s shoddily done and needs help, but I’m hoping with some experience future videos will be better. It’s a short video on how I’m working with Charlie to accept a muzzle. He does NOT like wearing things, especially on his face, so as much as he’s giving me in this video is amazing.

Remember that even if your dog isn’t aggressive it’s a great idea to work on acceptance of a muzzle for emergency situations like the one we’re unexpectedly facing with hurricane Irene.

And here’s a quick video of Emma’s second shaping session with the muzzle.

** For everyone who’s subscribed to my Youtube channel, please note that I switched accounts and am closing the old one.**

It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Carting with Emma – The Finished Product

24 Aug

Attention all high maintenance dogs, Charlie has set the world back on its proper axis and put right all wrongs done to small fluffy dogs (even if he’s not that small). According to him, this is the way it should be, let me know if you agree!

So I finally finished Emma’s cart. It was really easy to polish off (since you last saw it) and I’m very happy with the outcome. Come Saturday, we’ll hit the greenmarket and Emma will carry my groceries!

If you’re interested in how I made it, I’ll give you a short description.

I bought a used jogging stroller off of Craigslist for $40. I stripped it down to just the wheels and protruding shafts. Next I labored for weeks and weeks to figure out how to get the rest of it right. After several trials and errors, today my bright idea hit me and I decided to just buy some PVC pipe for $6 and use $6 worth of hose clamps. So I attached my new longer shafts (the ones I was using previously were spare parts from the taken apart stroller, but were too short) and then I tied a donated milk cart on top. Luckily I already had the harness (Ruffwear’s harness), which is OK for light work like this. I may need to get her a fancier harness if I ask her to pull heavier weight. So I stuck the cat in the milk crate, and off we went! Altogether it cost me $52. A professionally made cart can cost upwards of $400!

Now you might say, yes, well it’s one thing to have a cart, but how do you get Emma to pull it?

Well, I’ve been working with her on pulling since this idea came to me, almost a month and a half ago. At first I just tied light rattly things to her harness for her to pull behind her, and treated her heavily every time she took a step. It was overkill – she didn’t care at all that there was something behind her. I slowly built it up until she was pulling relatively heavier objects for longer distances. Once I got the stroller and broke it down (but before I figured out how to really make it work) I had Emma pulling it around short distances to get used to the way it moved.

The trickiest part has been teaching her how to U-turn with these extra long shafts. She needs ample space to do it, but after a few practice turns she got it down and turns like a pro.

Emma gets tired easily so we don’t go for more than 10-15 minutes, and not unless it’s under 78 degrees outside. I’m hoping the extra exercise might give her a little more spunk in her life.

Tigress actually really enjoyed the ride. She was nervous at first and mewed a little bit, but once we got into the rhythm, she was looking out of her crate and taking it all in. I had to make sure to steer clear of other dogs in case they thought she was an easy snack.

How’s about some more videos?

Carting with Emma

23 Aug

Emma pulling her very own dog cart.

It still needs some adjustments, but soon she’ll be driving Tigress all around town!

This Cat is Driving Me Crazy!

23 Aug

If you’ve ever found yourself saying that your cat (or dog) is driving you crazy – don’t despair! Depending on what your cat is doing that’s making you nutty, you might actually have a budding superstar on your hands.

In Cat Vs. Tail, Cat always wins.

Tigress’ brand of insanity has to do with food. She was grossly overweight when she came to me (a hefty 20 lbs) and has since lost over 7 pounds! Unfortunately (for her) she’s always hungry and unfortunately (for me) she’s not afraid to complain and do what she can to get her way. Once she lost enough weight to enable her to jump on counters, I had to baby lock all my cupboards because she raided them hourly. I had to hide all plastic because when hungry she would chew plastic to bits, going so far as to ingest pieces. Eating was dangerous (for me and the dogs) – she would literally stick her paws in my mouth trying to fish food out – any plate within reach was fair game. More than once she knocked food off my fork en route to my mouth (she trained me to eat very quickly!). Dropped treats inevitably went to her – dogs never had a chance. And anytime I handled anything she thought was edible she would wail and moan and brush herself against me.

Thankfully I’m a clicker trainer and she was my “secondary species” for the Karen Pryor Academy. From the moment I began training with her, she lit up and never was the same again. I had to teach her impulse control and a solid sit-stay for the times I need to handle food and would prefer to not trip over her. I also taught her a solid recall for her counter-surfing days, and to give the dogs a break when she tried to steal their food. And then came the trick training. She nose touches, paw touches, spins in either direction, sits pretty, goes into a crate, walks on a harness, and now we’re working on fetch.

"You realize petting doesn't make me like the harness any more."

Tigress is so food motivated I’ve found that training her is comparable to training dogs. The body language is different and her brain works differently, but when she gets it (and she gets it quickly) she seems to have a better retention rate than the dogs and needs fewer repetitions to keep it solid.

I realize she’s a rare cat who loves food so much and is so willing to work for it – but this is also to say that you shouldn’t overlook and discard your dog’s (or cat’s!) “problem” behaviors. Most super high energy dogs who drive their owners crazy and make poor family pets (not to mention probably destroy thousands of dollars worth of “stuff”) would be excellent work/sports dogs if their natural prowess were harnessed. The clever dogs who get into the garbage, find the expensive shoes, open cupboard doors, would make excellent trick dogs. The dogs who do more sniffing than walking outside could be excellent detection dogs. The nutty rescued pup who almost literally pulls your arm out of its socket anytime you try to walk him could be a superstar weight puller or bikejoring companion. The little fluffy dog who won’t stop barking could make a formidable alert dog. And the cat who fights and beats a Pit Bull for a piece for dehydrated lamb lung can be a superstar obedience cat!

She's so sweet when she's sleeping

Hiking – Minnewaska

21 Aug

My mom took the pups and me to her favorite hiking trails at Minnewaska in New Paltz on Saturday. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in some time.

My mom was born and grew up in Vilnius, Lithuania, and one of her childhood pastimes was picking mushrooms for dinner. Lately she’s gotten into it again, and on our hike up to the view point, she got me hooked too! All in all we collected a little over two pounds of mushrooms that we cooked up with onions and potatoes for dinner. I would never feel comfortable doing this myself, but my mom has years of experience separating “good” ‘shrooms from “bad” ‘shrooms.

Dog trainer that I am, I started clicking the dogs for sniffing/interacting with the mushrooms in the hope they might help me track them down. Here’s Charlie as he found a particularly large and juicy mushroom. Click/Treat!


All in all we walked about 6 miles or so. Before we started on the hike up to the view point, we walked around this really beautiful lake. As we got near it, we noticed a female Mallard duck hanging out in the water, bobbing for whatever it is that ducks bob for. All of a sudden Charlie took off after her, flying into the lake. [Note: He’s been with me for 10 1/2 years and this is the first time he’s shown any interest in fowl, his preference is usually squirrel.] He swam after her for 150 feet out into the water. It was really cool to watch. We couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t fly away – she always kept just 6 inches in front of him and would slow down when he got too far behind. At a certain point he seemed to get a bit tired and turned for shore. As soon as he turned the Mallard gal raised up out of the water and flapped her wings at him. Then she followed him back, quacking and nipping at him!

My first thought (and fear) was that maybe she was protecting a nest, but ducks hatch in early spring, so that couldn’t have been it and she didn’t have any ducklings with her (they would be huge by now, anyway). Then I thought maybe she was just being territorial. Who knows?

Charlie then played fetch with some huge logs for fifteen minutes while everyone gushed over how cute he was. I’m a terrible dog mom and didn’t catch any of the duck action on video.

When we finally climbed to the view point we were all exhausted, but the views were so worth it.

Charlie lives on the edge!

Just taking it all in.

My favorite picture.

By the time we made it back to the car, we were all quite pooped. It was very hot and humid and we were all beat.

Charlie found that under the car was the coolest place to be while we loaded all our stuff back into the car.

Emma was just so happy we were going home!

And as if that wasn’t enough for one weekend, Charlie and I manned a booth at Astoria’s 2011 Shore Fest all day today. We fielded some really great training questions, Charlie did a few demonstrations, and I even demoed with a newly adopted puppy on how to clicker train a loose leash walk (pup got the game in under 30 seconds!).

All in all, we’re both exhausted and looking forward to a week with several clients away on vacation!








19 Aug

OK I realize it’s been ages since I’ve participated in the blogging community, and for that I apologize. I have been very busy though, and have much to show for it!

Drumroll, please.

I am a Karen Pryor Academy – Certified Training Partner!

Charlie and I passed! Woohoo!

In other news:

My foster dogs are no longer with me. One puppy got adopted, one puppy was adopted and then returned, and momma is still at the shelter. I have distanced myself from this rescue and don’t plan on fostering for them in the future, but I really hope the pups find great homes.

I’m really focusing on my dog training business and it’s still so hectic. I’m currently working on getting my website set up (the facebook page is doing well, make sure to check us out!) and will discontinue this blog (not like it’s been so active!) in favor of one attached to my new website. It will, of course, be training-focused.

I realize I’m like a stranger at this point, but I plan on making the rounds soon enough!

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