After days of unpacking all of our belongings into our new home in Pittsburgh and many meals on living room floors, Kimbo and Sadie were clearly restless and needed to let out some energy. (Here’s a great article on how playtime and exercise can help reduce dog anxiety).
It took us awhile to find a great park in Pittsburgh. Unlike Denver which according to compare the market ranks as one of the top ten dog friendly cities in the US and had a great dog park right in our apartment complex, Pittsburgh is one of those cities that you have to know where to go to get there.
The drive from our house to Riding Meadows in Fox Chapel is in itself a trip. One of my favorite things about this city is it’s rivers and bridges. On the way you pass industrial areas, and small Pittsburgh boroughs before crossing over the Allegheny on the Highlands park bridge. Everything in this city is steel, a testimony to it’s past. Jeremy told me he has some friends who fish in the river, but no one eats anything they catch there and the river is callously known by the infamous “Allegheny Whitefish” (trust me don’t look it up). Once over the bridge you pass through Fox Chapel one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and rumored the location that George Washington landed to negotiate with the French prior to the French Indian War. The houses there are tall, grand and covered with trailing green vines.
Riding Meadows park sprawls for acres in either direction and has miles of hiking trails to explore. The best parts? There is a large stream which runs through its center and the entire park is off leash.
We’ve been working with the dogs on socialization and recall(which we are still not great at) and Riding Meadows is the perfect park for practice. Large enough for the dogs to not behave territorial and with natural barriers, the dogs have the opportunity to run fast and far without me having to keep up.
We’ve gone there in all seasons, rain, snow-you name it, and I am always amazed by how quick the dogs are to jump in to the frigid waters. I always make sure to wear a good pair of boots that can get muddy and jeans I’ve been meaning to wash anyways (as I’ve learned, even if your dogs don’t jump to say hello, someone else’s will!)
Crossing the river we always hike up Lockhart Trail. At 1.6 miles it is just long enough for the dogs and just short enough so that Jeremy can join us and not miss kickoff. (Me and the NY Giants are in a constant competition for my husband’s attention and sometimes I win) .
When we visited last weekend the dogs were on their best behavior. Jeremy was amazed by how much progress they had both made. Sadie gently loped in front of us, turning back and pausing whenever she strayed more then twenty feet. Kimbo, stayed mostly at our sides, lingering behind us to sniff the ground. But after thirty minutes of walking and playing it was clear the dogs were loosing focus. Leaves in the trees would rustle and a bird would chirp overhead and the dogs would cock their heads attentively before charging in the direction of the sound. Jeremy urged me to put them back on their leashes, while I insisted that we try refocusing them. They had responded so great, and we had already practically reached the end of the path.
How quickly I would eat my words.
Barely ten minutes later the dogs were off on a high-speed chase after a mysterious sound or scent invisible to our human senses. We waited and called their names. We could see them sprinting half a mile off in the woods, they briefly turned around, glanced at us, glanced back at each-other and continued to disappear into the surrounding forest. We walked and whistled. Nada. We reached the end of the trial and looped back around to the beginning of the park shouting the dogs names. Still nothing.
To tell you the truth, we weren’t worried they were out of sight. The park was safe and mostly empty and the dogs were familiar with the area. However, there was a question of when they would decide to return and how many minutes we would have to wait (and how many minutes of the game Jeremy would have to miss). I started backtracking up the trail.
Fifteen minutes later, a family with two other dogs approached. Before they could ask, Kimbo and Sadie trotted out from behind them, jumping for joy with a sort of hilarious relief only dogs can demonstrate. Unable to relocate us, the dogs had decided to join another pack of humans. With our thanks and the dogs secured we headed home. Prepared to work on recall another day.
On the way back from Riding Meadows, if I win out against the impending game (or if I’ve created enough chaos that half the game has already been missed and another half-hour doesn’t matter), we stop off in Oakmont for brunch. The quaint little street next to the river is quiet enough to let the dogs rest in the car and the omelettes at What’s cooking at Casey’s are tasty. Then all of us head home, sleepy dogs and full bellies.