Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Megan Wargula & Finlay and Riley

Who is in the photo at right?

Megan Wargula, owner of Hound and Thistle, stationery and gifts for pet and design lovers. Finlay (right), Border Terrier, 7 years old. Riley (left), Border Terrier, 4 years old.

The three photos on the left below are by photographer Christopher T Martin.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Today's excuse was the Buckhead Spring Arts & Crafts Festival at Chastain Park in Atlanta, GA. Normally, I have booths at these events, but today was a day off! My husband, the dogs, and I enjoyed strolling through the many tents and enjoying all the great work. It was also a chance to further socialize the dogs as they can be wary of other dogs (long story--former neighbor had really aggressive dogs). Since it was an unusually cool day along a shaded path, there were lots of dogs and plenty of opportunities for us to work with them. As long as they stayed calm, didn't bark, and kept walking, we were happy! They did really well, too. Riley didn't bark once, but Finlay did have a close-encounter which made him nervous and bark-y. Since is was only one instance, we were really happy with the result!

What's brewing?

Twinings English Breakfast Tea - Home brewed with milk and sugar (sorry, I can't drink coffee, but it's one of my favorite smells!). I admit, the economy has hit us hard, so it's DIY over here, including the morning brew!

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Absolutely! Whenever we are working with the dogs on their socialization, I have my trusty treat pouch on my hip. Yes, it's dorky-looking and might be just one step away from a "fanny pack", but it's necessary! If the dogs do well, they must get a treat right away, so digging in your pocket just takes too long. We treated them with Charlee Bear liver treats, they love 'em!

How were you and your dogs united?

We got both dogs from a reputable breeder. I almost feel bad saying that because I have been looked down upon for not rescuing my dogs. I will say that we researched breeds before we settled on border terriers and we researched breeders to make sure we found a great one. I can't underscore how important it is to research the breed! Border terriers are cute and lovable, but aren't for everyone. They do shed, contrary to some sources, and they are working dogs who still have a very strong hunting instinct.

How did they get their names? Any aliases?

Since the breed comes from the border between England and Scotland, and I happened to be reading a book that took place in Scotland, I researched Scottish names and came up with Finlay. When we got Riley, there was less research (after all, she was the second dog) and we were going to call her Sadie until we met her. She just didn't seem like a Sadie. In the car on the way home, we discussed the name Riley. It was St. Patrick's Day and it was settled that she would get an Irish-sounding name, Riley.

Both dogs have a million nicknames and I often wonder if they really know their real names! Finlay [photo left] is often called Fin, Mr. Fin, and Finzers. Riley is called Roo which came from Riley-Roo as she is quite agile and can jump with the lightest feet!

Your dogs have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine--has the fame gone to their heads?

Ha-ha! Nope, they are the same ol' scruffy brown pups who love to chase after critters and dig in the dirt!

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for walk?

Honestly, they like to walk anywhere, but there is one park that is completely shaded, has lots of hills, and even has a creek running through it. I think they really enjoy this particular walk/hike and if we are there when it's warm, they get to wade in the creek which they love! Of course they get quite dirty and have to have a bath when they get home which they don't love, but I think it's worth it to them!

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Lizards, bunnies, squirrels, and birds. Yes, birds. Finlay caught a bird when he was young, then one a couple years ago, so they chase after birds. It gets a little old because there are always birds in the yard; but like I said, border terriers have a strong hunting instinct! Riley has shown prowess at catching lizards, which I totally don't like ... I don't like seeing any creature hurt and I know that they are just doing what comes naturally, I just wish they weren't so good at it!

What is each dog's best quality?

Finlay is a sweetheart and really loves people, including children, they just don't phase him. One even popped him on the head and he just sat there grinning. Riley [photo right] is hilarious! I swear I was given this dog to lighten my mood. She's like a little comedienne. For instance, we'll be walking through the neighborhood and she'll just start rolling in the grass, like a crocodile in a death roll. If it's winter and the grass is dormant, she'll get up and have all these little pieces of grass all over her and she's got a huge smile on her face. Meanwhile, I'm just laughing with her, wondering if my neighbors have dubbed me the "crazy dog-lady who laughs while walking her dogs."

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They would want me to slow down. I have my business, Hound and Thistle, but I still have a full-time job to pay the bills. It seems I work morning, noon, and night, including weekends and they would probably ask me to work less. I still make time for them, of course, but gone are the days of all 3 of us laying on the sofa watching Law and Order re-runs all day!

What is each dog's proudest moment? Their most embarrassing?

Finlay's proudest moment was probably his most recent Earthdog ribbon. He has his second leg in Senior Earthdog and after one more, he will get the title, "Senior Earthdog". Riley's proudest moment was probably mastering the teeter-totter in agility class. Riley [photo left] loves agility, but the teeter was a little nerve-wracking for her. One time, she forgot to wait for it to go back down and launched herself off the end of it, that's probably her most embarrassing moment! She is definitely not afraid of heights! Finlay's most embarrassing moment was probably one of the scariest instances for us. A rawhide got lodged in his throat and he couldn't breathe. It was so very scary and we thought we were going to lose him. No more rawhides, ever, ever, ever again in our home!

What was it like to work with Victoria Stilwell for O - The Oprah Magazine?

Amazing! Victoria is the real deal, I can't say enough good things about her. She is a great teacher, patient, and kind. She does not judge you for how your dogs act, she just wants to help. Probably the most profound yet simple thing she told me is that our dogs don't know how to act in the human world, that they look to us to be taught that. It seems so simple, yet so hard for us humans to grasp! I also learned how positive reinforcement is the only way to go. I've tried other, more punitive methods and they simply don't work. With positive reinforcement, I saw results very quickly, then again, I have smart dogs who are very food motivated!

Your business focuses on pet-related items. What is your favorite item?

Of course to pick just one item is very hard. I've always been a paper-loving girl so I love my stationery. It seems weird in this digital age to even consider designing stationery, but I think a hand-written note goes a long way, especially since they are so rare now! I just read an interview with actor Ryan Reynolds, and he mentioned that he likes sending hand-written notes because they are so special. He mentioned that he just sent one to a director he had just worked with. How cool is that?! Aside from my stationery, I love my newest design which is a t-shirt featuring a smiling pit bull and the slogan, "I'm a lover, not a fighter." While I've never owned a pit bull, they get a bad rap and I've met many sweet pit bulls. Being a native Atlantan, I was also really affected by the Michael Vick dog fighting story and really educated myself on dog fighting. It's a horrible, awful, atrocious thing (I could not refer to it as a sport) and I hope to help educate people on animal welfare.

Visit the Hound & Thistle website, and Twitter and Facebook pages.

--Marshal Zeringue