Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Elyse and Riley

Who is in the photo at right?

The photo shows me (Elyse) and my wonderful dog, Riley. I am currently a student at my local community college pursuing a nursing degree. Before that, I worked as a mental health Certified Peer Specialist for the state of Virginia, providing peer counseling and support services to adults with a mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. Despite the seemingly boyish name, Riley is a girl—people always think she’s a boy, despite the pink collar and leash…sigh. Oh well! Riley is a purebred Australian Cattle Dog and turned 2 years old back in March (her birthday is March 18, 2009).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The occasion for stopping for coffee (or in my case, an iced drink since I’m not a huge coffee drinker) is that I’m super tired and need a wake-up and Riley loves to go for car rides, so why not!?

What's brewing?

We’re stopping at a Starbucks drive-thru because I have a gift card (yay!) and they have outdoor seating. Like I said, I don’t really like coffee, but I do love me a Coconut Blended Crème made with soy milk and no whipped cream.

Any goodies for you or Riley to go with the coffee?

I’m on a little bit of a diet (hence the “no whipped cream”), so no goodies for me, but I have brought along some yummy beef treats for Riley to enjoy.

How were you and your dog united?

Ever since I was a little kid, I have begged my parents for a dog. They finally gave in when I was about 13 years-old and we got our first dog (that my parents still have). Now that I’m an adult, I decided it was time to get my very own dog. I actually got Riley because I have a mental illness (which I talk about every once-in-a-while on my blog) which causes me to sometimes see or hear things that aren’t really there. I got her to sleep in my bed with me at night and to bark if there was someone/something in my room. So far, she’s worked out great for that purpose. I decided on an Australian Cattle Dog after I saw a “stunt dog” performance at the Virginia State Fair one year and there were Cattle Dogs in it doing agility and cool tricks. I saw how much fun they were having and decided I wanted to do agility with my dog. Plus, I did some research and found out that they’re in the top 10 smartest breeds and figured she would be easy to train—and she is! I researched some breeders because I wanted a puppy and settled on her breeder. I was last on the deposit list, so I didn’t get a choice of which dog I got. I am so glad I ended up with Riley! I couldn’t have picked a better dog if I had gotten first choice!

How did Riley get her name? Any aliases?

I decided on “Riley” because it was between that or “Ruby.” If I had gotten a red Cattle Dog, I would have named her Ruby. I liked the name Riley ever since some friends of mine named their daughter Riley. I thought it was such a cool, fun name! Oh boy … aliases … let’s see. Riley has many nicknames! She answers to Riley, Riles, Rilesky, Skee, and Skeeter. She also gets called the Riled Child, Skeeter Lapinski, Skeeterbug, Baby Bug, Skee-Skee, and Riley Lapinsk. I’m sure I’m probably forgetting some nicknames also.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

All of the above! She has it out for cats, squirrels, birds, bunnies, mice, frogs, the postman, the UPS guy, the Fed-Ex guy, and anyone that walks in front of our house. She has, unfortunately, caught (and killed) a bunny, a bird, and a mouse. She really wants to get herself a squirrel though—squirrels are her nemesis!

Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Riley loves orange Chuck-It rubber tennis balls! She could be dead asleep and then all of a sudden wake up and come drop an orange ball in my lap. I’m convinced she dreams about them and thinks about them 24/7. She also loves sticks but chews them up. She actually has a PVC pipe that we cut off for her to play with outside since she would chew up all the sticks we would play fetch with. She really doesn’t care either way if a toy squeaks or not…
How did Riley get started as a therapy dog? Who does she work with?

When I got Riley, I knew I wanted to do a lot of training with her and I wanted to get her Canine Good Citizen certification. I didn’t know anything about therapy dogs until we started our Advanced Obedience class when Riley was about 5 months old. A bunch of the dogs were already therapy dogs in the class, just there for a training refresher. I heard all their stories about therapy work and decided we’d go for it. Riley got her Canine Good Citizen certificate in November of 2009, when she was 6 or 7 months old and then got her Therapy Dogs International certification in April of 2010 when she was 1 year old and was eligible to take the test. Riley really loves the elderly, so we primarily go to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities. She has gone to visit with elementary students as well, but really loves her “adoptive Grandmas and Grandpas” at the nursing homes.

Where is Riley's favorite place for outings?

Therapy dog visits are Riley’s absolute favorite outings, but she’s also glad to go anywhere I go! As long as she’s with her “Mommy,” she’s happy. She also loves going to the beach.

Who are Riley's best pet-pals?

Riley’s best pet-pal is her “Aunt,” Chloe, who is my parents’ dog (the one we got when I was 13). Chloe is a Dachshund mixed with who-knows-what. I hate to admit this, but Riley is very picky about what dogs she gets along with. She’s been that way since she was a puppy. She gets along well with some dogs she meets and doesn’t like other dogs she meets. She had a “boyfriend” named Kapua in her therapy dog class who is a Rottweiler/Lab mix and she gets along well with my sister’s dog, Daisy.

What is Riley's best quality?

Riley’s best quality would have to be her enthusiasm for life. There’s not a day that she wakes up and isn’t happy to see our family. Her joy for living inspires me. Her “enthusiasm for life” sometimes gets her in trouble though when we have visitors. She gets super excited to see people that come over to our house (especially my sister and brother-in-law) and needs to sit in their laps (she’s 52 pounds!!) and be right up in their faces giving them kisses!

What is Riley's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Riley’s proudest moment would have to be when she passed her Therapy Dogs International exam last year! Her most embarrassing moment happens every single time we go to the vet … she absolutely loves one of the receptionists there, Brooke, who happens to absolutely love Riley. She loves Brooke so much that she pees on the floor every time she sees her! She only does it for Brooke and has done it ever since she was a puppy and started going to the vet there. So silly! Okay, so maybe those are my most proud and embarrassing moments pertaining to Riley!

Visit the Adventures of a Cattle Dog blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue