After a long, hot summer—we know many of you are looking forward to these cooler temperatures and spending more time outside. Well, you aren’t the only ones! Fall officially begins this Thursday which means Liberty can hit DoG Street on a more regular basis and hopefully run into many of you during her adventures.
Our beloved Briard and her handlers Adam Claar and Taylor Nixon have been spending a lot more time in the Historic Area already—taking advantage of the mild weather as well as their connections with the ox drivers and coachmen, hitching rides every opportunity they get.
For both pups (yes, we have two!), we’re told when it comes to the wagon and carriages, it was “love at first ride.” The dogs have special bonds with all of our horses and cattle since they spend a lot of their downtime out at the stables, but they still need to learn proper riding etiquette. The pair is making significant and exciting progress in this area of training.
The pups have also been taking advantage of these nicer days by visiting their friends in the various historic trades sites. That means there’s a good chance you may run into Liberty during your next stop at say the Armoury or the Brickyard. Here you can see Lib getting some love from our Military Artificers!
While Liberty enjoys being outdoors, the inside visits won’t stop just because we’re transitioning into a new season. In fact, the dogs’ favorite places to visit happen to be their regular summer hangouts. For Justice, Taylor tells us it’s the Williamsburg Inn (I mean, can you blame him?). He loves spending lazy afternoons sprawled out, relaxing on the cozy rugs—getting belly rubs from guests as they pass through the lobby.
Miss Libby on the other hand still really enjoys our Art Museums. Her handler Adam tells me she has “an uncanny ability to focus and learn in the Education Studio (no joke!).” Of course, as you can see, there are plenty of back scratches to go around there as well.
We often get questions from guests asking whether it is “Liberty” or “Justice” when they finally get to meet one of our dogs in person. Whenever you run into our mascot anywhere in CW, you will always hear the handler refer to her (or him) as Liberty. That’s because that’s the role the dog is portraying. With that said, while each pup tends to train separately during the day (their schedules usually have one dog resting while the other is out working), there is a very small chance you may actually spot the two out together and that’s the rare time you may hear both names used by the handlers. When they get to play together in public, it’s quite a sight to see. Just like any siblings, they love to rough house and even fight over toys, or in this case, the best stick!
As we prepare for our big Dogs of DoG Street event next month to raise awareness and collect donations for our community partner Heritage Humane Society, Liberty is brushing up on her manners. Her Coach & Livestock family has been instrumental in preparing her for the anticipated hundreds of dogs and owners who will be in attendance. You may remember last year, Liberty was just a few months old and still very much a puppy when she greeted guests. Just look at how small she looked sitting up in that carriage. And those ears! This was early on when the dogs’ ears were taped. As the dogs have grown, they have both definitely embraced the floppy look and we think it makes them look endearing.
But I digress. Back to more news about our upcoming event. You may be wondering how we prepare Liberty for such a large crowd. Here’s one fun and unique tactic. Adam and Taylor tell me they give the pups a round of applause just before serving their favorite breakfast (green beef tripe) each morning. “This will help prepare them for a stimulus that the dogs are sure to encounter. Using classical conditioning, we can create a positive association with something that might otherwise be frightening,” Adam explains.
Because the dogs are just a little more than a year old, they’re still learning how to deal with distractions like this and if you do plan to join us on October 15, we have a couple of special requests. Please, no leash greetings! While Liberty would LOVE to meet your dog, an on-leash greeting would just be a tease, at best. Dogs greet each other with their entire bodies. I mean, let’s be honest—we’ve all seen the dance. First, they go nose-to-nose; then they switch to nose-to-rear. It’s a doggie yin and yang process of sniffing. And when you factor in restrictive leashes, as the dogs greet each other instinctively… at least not unless we want to untangle a massive mess of tangles. And as Liberty’s other handler Taylor Nixon reminds us, Liberty will be “working” the event will need to maintain a proper amount of focus on her master for the day—General Washington!
Another interesting update is one both Adam and Taylor are extremely proud to share. Liberty and Justice have been working hard toward their Canine Good Citizen Award. This is a test given by the American Kennel Club and would give the pups an official title (CGC). The hope is they’ll achieve this status before the Dogs of DoG Street walk takes place.
But they aren’t the only ones undergoing some serious training. Adam and Taylor have become professional level members of The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). This membership gives them additional resources to help prepare for the next big step as certified trainers. The CPDT-KA test will be offered early next year. This is a big step and opportunity–one Colonial Williamsburg takes very seriously. Please, stay tuned for updates!
A big thank you to photographers Fred Blystone and Wayne Reynolds for most of the images in this post. And because you can never get enough cute pictures of Liberty, we’re including some bonus shots in the below slide show. Enjoy!