Especially in the mornings, Velvet likes to blow off steam by going literally crazy, running around in circles, prancing, dancing, and gallivanting around the room. One of her favorite things to do is to hold her Nylabone in her mouth while doing this, and when she's feeling particularly spunky, she'll flip over on her back, all four paws waving, her body slithering side to side. We've had a few more bed incidents, but she seems to respond really well to my sharp reprimand "off!" She acts as if I've smacked her sometimes, but I get my message across. She's improving, but this means she plays on the hard floor, and since we've been allowed to let the dogs off of a stable tie down, play time sometimes gets more rough that I'd like it to. This morning after one of these sessions, I was petting Velvet and generally looking over her condition when I found a huge goose egg (hematoma) on the top of her natural bony knot on her head. They say that this probably was caused by hitting her head on the floor when she was playing. It apparently doesn't hurt, and it'll go away in a couple of weeks, but hopefully I can keep her more calm so she doesn't hurt herself again. There's apparently another dog in class that has a hematoma, so it happens, but even though dogs feel pain different than we do, I still want to try to prevent any more gratuitous head banging in the future.
Now to yesterday, and the main subject of this entry, New York.
The goal of the New York trip is to test, as I've said, your's and the dog's skills that you've gained as a team here. Velvet and I passed with flying colors. Jim asked me where I wanted to go, and I said I'd like to walk in Central Park. What I neglected to know was how far Central Park was from where we entered the city.
The trip from Morristown to the Port Authority where we parked the van is about 40 minutes on a really good day. Yesterday must have been a pretty good day. It always freaks me out to go under the Lincoln Tunnel across the Hudson River because you don't really cross the Hudson, you go under it. I remember last time we went through the tunnel how the tons of steel overhead silenced the radio. I didn't have a cell phone, but I'm sure then, cell service would be limited. You're under a river by gosh. Radios aren't supposed to work in a tunnel that size. Now, in the year 2008, being in the age of entertainment and uninterrupted service, radio of all types (cell phones, radios both AM and FM, and I'm sure possibly satellite radio) were crystal clear. We were listening to a local low power station which before the tunnel was a bit on the staticky side; defying the laws of physics and thanks to an antenna probably high above the tunnel's entrance, within the tunnel, the rebroadcasted signal was clearer than the one aboveground. Fascinating! Nerdy, but fascinating.
We started at 42nd and 7th at the Port Authority. We practiced going up some escalators which, because I'm always afraid that Velvet will not walk fast enough when we get off of the end of the thing and therefore get her paws caught in the workings (ouch), stresses me out. I doubt I'll do escalators much, but I at least have that option. Limiting use can help with that possible mishap, and also can help you keep in shape, especially if there are large numbers of stairs available near the escalator. If there is no other option, then I know how to use them.
Anyway back to The City. For a guy who hasn't spent much time in a huge city of that size, grandeur, and vast amounts of attitude, it didn't annoy me but amazed me. Velvet didn't hesitate once going into the street except maybe once when we had a real traffic check (thanks taxi), and also because of a large group of people at the curb of a crossing. We walked across from 8th to Broadway, and then caught Broadway all the way to 60th Street. We walked directly through Time Square which has been cleaned up greatly since I last came here. We also hit the mass of people vying for spaces in front of restaurants waiting to open, and of course, the biggest Toys R Us I've ever seen along the way. As much craziness as was going on outside of that shop, I'd rather shoot myself than take my kids in there. There is a Farris Wheel inside the store though, and that's cool, but not cool enough. At every corner, we, proud non-tourists in a way, passed tourists jostling to get wherever they were going. Every time Velvet saw a knot of people, she would either wait for the knot to clear, cautiously peering through to find a opening, or swiftly untying the knot via a pocket just big enough for us to pass safely through. They say that working a dog is like flying. Most of the time, for me, it's just like walking--mostly because I'm used to the independence that a dog offers--, but when I was in New York, it was like I was constantly flitting, dancing, and jiving around people. Velvet was my dance partner, firmly ensconced on my left side, but surging forward, deftly shifting from side to side. It's hard to stay both next to your dog and headed forward because the natural tendency is to turn with the dog, but when they shift from side to side, you must step with them while walking forward and keeping your shoulders forward. Otherwise, you're liable to tell the dog with the position of your shoulders, that you'd like to turn. You also have to do all of this without letting your momentum throw you into the dog or step on the dog's feet. I felt like I did better this time doing that than I did last, but I was always scared that I was going to step on Velvet's right feet. Time will allow me to figure out how to do this perfectly, but it was amazing how we seemed to flow as one through the crowds and across the city.
We entered the park at 60th and walked in and around it for a while. We wanted to track down this music we were hearing, but when we got near there, we decided that watching a possible dance contest wasn't something we wanted to do, so we just angled through the park. Bikes and pigeons tried to distract her, but she refused to lose her business demeanor, and continued to forge onward. Once we got sufficiently within the park, it was amazing to me to know that I was in the heart of Manhattan, but besides the sound of the people in the park, the bustle of the city was almost completely gone. We only experienced a fraction of what I am sure the park offers, but it was still pretty neat, especially with a dog hitting on all cylinders. We ended up at 57th and Columbus Circle, right near The David Letterman Theater and the Hello Deli. We weren't there to be tourists, but Jim insisted on getting at least one picture of us in the city, and because I like Letterman, and because we needed a break, we took this picture.
I didn't want any souvenirs or t-shirts, so this was my souvenir and I'm happy to share it with you, and so I can keep it.
By this time, we'd been walking over an hour pretty much nonstop, so we decided to head back downtown on the subway for lunch. Lunch was at a Japanese/vegetarian restaurant on 48th street, so we tried to get a train to take us very close. Unfortunately, we got on the wrong one which headed indeed across town, but not the right across town. I think we ended up at 54th and 7th, so when we went back aboveground, we had to hike about eight more blocks, one or two of them long across town blocks to get to the peace and calm of the restaurant.
The restaurant was great. We'd been walking for about two hours, and had about eight more blocks to go after eating, so the break was welcome. I ended up having chicken and beef tariaki with white rice, miso soup, and a small salad. I wasn't able to finish it, but it filled us up and offered us a chance to take a break before heading back to the van on 42nd.
This trip did more than wow me as to Velvet's work potential. It gave me confidence and an amazing amount of trust in Velvet. They've told me that she's a very cautious dog, but until she would do things like pulling me authoritatively over to the left in a crossing wheelchair ramp to make sure I went off the curb at the lowest point, or hitting the breaks before large staircases up or downward, I didn't believe the instructors. She's got initiative and confidence now. We've got some work to do, and we're still working on building our team and partnership together, but I'm sure that if we can work like that together, we'll do well.
After walking over 30 city blocks and a bit of a distance through the park, we were both glad to get back to the civility of The Eye and soft beds both for human and dog.
I think I'll be ready to head home for another set of challenges on Wednesday night, four days away. I wasn't sure if it'd be possible a couple of days ago, but I think she proved that we could do it. I don't think Velvet knows what's coming, but I think she'll like it at our house. She'll have to school Zim, our little dog, and she'll get to meet the cat, but knowing Velvet, she'll probably find it adventurous and fun.
I need to take an adventurous and fun nap really quick before lunch, so I'll post the menu for yesterday and head home. I didn't eat lunch here, but hey, what the heck, I'll type that in too, Why not?
More when it's there. Onward, and most importantly "Forward!"
breakfast: Fried eggs, sausage, biscuits.
lunch: soup, philli cheese steak sandwich, potato chips and cole slaw, salad, and an unknown dessert.
dinner: nectar, grilled porter house pork chop, grilled potato halves, marinated vegetable salad, chocolate cake (we had a birthday yesterday so it was that cake).