Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hounds Of East Fairhaven

Miles and Mom at the Carolina Renaissance Festival(Photo Susan Bodnar)

My dogs and I have been working with the Hounds of East Fairhaven for ten years. We are a group that performs at the Georgia and Carolina Renaissance Festivals. It is basically a meet and greet on speed wearing a hoop skirt and corset.  A couple of my fancier outfits weigh about 30lbs without the cloak. If it is cold add another 10lbs to that. Ten to twelve thousand people come through each day on the weekends so it is a great way to educate people on what great dogs greyhounds are. Patrons are always amazed at how calm and well behaved our dogs are in spite of the crowds, costumes, cannons, shows and noise. We have been falsely accused of drugging the dogs as they nap through the excitement. The days are long from 10am to 6pm. By the end of the day the dogs don't even wake up as people pet them.

The Hounds of East Fairhaven Building with our new sign!
Miles loves children
Miles loves peasants with frosting on their faces
Handsome Miles

The Carolina Renaissance Festival runs for 8 weekends every Fall and that is the Festival we just finished up. This was Miles second time working this festival and he had a great time as always. He worked his first festival in Georgia when he was only about 12 weeks old so isn't phased by any of it and loves every part of it. You should see him bouncing in from the parking lot.

This was Moose's first time here and he was scared to death. To the point of shaking, crouching down, bolting and peeing himself. Mistake number one was taking Moose without his buddy Miles. Mistake number two was having his first day be Kids Day. Kids Days are when the festival is open during the week so schools can bring bus loads of children. Imagine ten thousand children at one event! When they unload the buses you can hear the kids coming at you from the parking lot like a loud squealing wave. Moose is so calm and such a great dog I thought he would be the easier one to take for kids days. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Moose, Miles and Mom
I had no idea that Moose is terrified of children. He has been around lots of them at meet and greets but only one or two at a time. Looking back there were signs. When we had pool parties with kids at our house, he stayed in the house. I thought he just didn't like the crowd and noise in the yard. The last party we had was all adults and he came outside and was very social. I thought he had just gotten used to the parties at our house. He always greeted families that came over and was friendly but he had had a couple of pee accidents when children came over. I thought he just got overly excited and peed. Now I know he was actually excited to see their parents and peed when the kids petted him because he was nervous.

Moose on kids day with his butt toward the kids
At the festival Moose turned his butt to the kids and got his head as close to the back door as he could. He shook and crouched low and tried to crawl under our hoop skirts to hide. We had the building roped off so the kids could just pet the dogs near the ropes and not trample them so Moose could hang out in the back of the building away from the kids. We told the kids he was shy and they could only pet him if he came to them. He got brave enough to go up to the rope only a few times all day. I was careful not to reward his fear by talking to him or petting him. He got attention only when he was calm and got big rewards when he faced the children or approached them. 

Moose and Joanne. His head still facing away from the crowd and toward the back of the building
The second time I took Moose it was a regular day with adults and kids. He was still terrified even though there weren't as many children there. He gradually calmed down enough to take treats from me and I gave him treats whenever he was calm around children. Gradually he started looking at me every time a kid came up. I started letting the kids sit on his bed with him while I gave him treats. He was OK with on child but when a second child tried to sit down by him he jumped up and tried to get away. After awhile I let the kids start giving him the treats. He got about a pound of treats one tiny piece at a time from kids that day. By the end of the day he had 4 kids sitting all around him on his bed and he was looking from one to the other for his treats, making eye contact with his tail wagging. He was actually moving toward the kids and the crowd and choosing to face them rather than have his butt toward them. He even fell asleep as kids and people were petting him toward the end of the day - totally relaxed.

The 3rd time I took Moose to the Festival, I took Miles with him in hopes Miles happiness would rub off on him. Moose was an entirely different dog and acted almost normal. He was still fearful outside the building but was comfortable and happy in the building. He got pounds of treats again from kids. Not sure if it was Miles or the treats but something sure worked. I think Moose will end up being OK at the Festival and will eventually enjoy it as much as all my other dogs have. It was really a surprise to see a happy, outgoing dog like Moose turn into a spook. Festivals are really extreme though with so many strangely dressed people. The people even speak with strange accents. It helps that most of them smell of turkey legs and beer though. We are looking forward to the Georgia Renaissance Festival in the spring.

The dog's favorite person, Spyglass The Pirate. He brought them treats every day.

Moose and Spyglass


Hiking Hounds said...

Wow, that's amazing progress that Moose made! The festival looks like a lot of fun. I love all the outfits.

Joanne said...

It is a lot of fun. There is a Festival nearer to you in AZ that has greyhounds. They actually were the ones that gave us the idea to do this more than 10 years ago. They are the Hounds of Fairhaven so we called ourselves the Hounds of East Fairhaven.