Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Aussie Meetup


Boomer, my little tank
“Don’t roll the Pug down the hill!”  It was that frequent refrain that lead me to create a “play group” for our Australian Shepherd, Boomer.

Boomer is a tank.  He’s an adorable and loving tank.  He LOVES to run and he’s a “ruff” and tumble dog park player.  Unfortunately, not every dog or owner appreciates his antics.  Let me be clear, he is not aggressive and he has a very good read of other dogs – he knows when to stop, but that’s often after he inadvertently t-bones a dog or owner.

Aussie butts at an early meetup
Just over three years ago, I decided what Boomer needed was a group of Aussies to play with – dogs (and owners) that had probably experienced the dog-park scowl. 

On a whim one January afternoon, I created Australian Shepherds of the DMV on – the description was pretty straight forward – a group interested in Australian Shepherds and their activities. Let's get our Aussies together for play dates, hikes, swims, agility, walks and runs and some sheep herding! Let's also support Aussie rescue activities.

I remember when the first “members” joined.  I was so excited!  We scheduled a walk through Old Town, Alexandria, VA.  It was great talking to other Aussie owners, who like me, love the breed and the endearing characteristics of our dogs.

Riley got his sheep together!

Today we have over 300 members from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.  Our outings range from a casual meetup at a local dog park, to hikes and one of our greatest adventures – sheep herding!

The meetup is designed to allow any member to schedule or suggest an outing.  The sheep herding adventure was done by one of our members, and a regular agility outing at the Zoom Room is hosted by another.
Boomer loves his meetup pals.  The dogs (and owners) are comfortable with each other, and play comes easily.  If Boomer and his “girlfriend” Cassie are together – watch out, because those two will definitely get the party started.  Jack will likely race around with them and Roxy will soon join in.  Sweet Zoe (a mini) watches the big dogs run, but is likely to also engage.  Rain and Obbie are swimmers and Faith is a master at agility.  We typically see Cash and Keller when we have events in Maryland.  Riley is the born sheep herder!

Aussie mosh-pit at the Zoom Room

Our dogs have gone swimming, toured Mount Vernon, hiked along the Potomac, practiced their agility both indoors and outdoors and raced alongside llamas.


Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, Virginia

Indoors at Mount Vernon
Other events include winetasting, an agility yappy hour (beverages for humans) and a boat cruise down the Potomac (Yup!  We have a boat cruise for dogs in Alexandria).

I was asked once if it takes a lot of time to organize the meetups.  Not really.  Members make suggestions and we have as much fun at one of the larger dog parks as we do at an organized outing – although I will say the dogs were EXHAUSTED after their sheep herding adventure.  And it’s always more fun trying something new with your friends!  I pay a fee to host the meetup site – which is worth every penny based on how much fun the dogs have.

Llamas (and a horse)
While members do come to us via, membership is primarily viral.  Members run into an Aussie and owner and tell them about our group.  As I say to every new member in my welcome message to them– it’s great bunch of dogs and people!
You can find Australian Shepherds of the DMV on, we also have a Facebook page -- if you're in the Washington, DC area -- come and join our fun!
You can read more about out sheep herding adventures here
Cassie and Boomer
Want to show your love of Aussies?  Purchase this great shirt from PawsGo --  Shirts are $20 and half goes directly to Aussie rescue!  Adult sizes.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Leash in Hand, Dog by My Side: Exploring a New City, 10,000 Steps at a Time

Before relocating to Buffalo, NY from the very walkable Del Ray section of Alexandria, VA, my husband and I considered what kind of lifestyle we wanted in our new city and thus, what neighborhood might best suit us.
Buffalo, NY, it's pretty close to Canada!
We looked at several well-known walkable areas in Buffalo. Each area features unique architecture and an individual neighborhood culture: 
Parkside - Located adjacent to the Buffalo Zoo and the 350-acre Delaware Park (, Parkside showcases some of the best of Buffalo's housing design with a handful of Frank Lloyd Wright homes and broad parkways with lots of green space rolling down the middle of the divided road.

Hertel - One of the up-and-coming areas in Buffalo, this area features a lot of new growth in restaurants and independent shops and boutiques.
Elmwood Village - Located near the center of the city, Elmwood's unique artistic vibe is fueled by great local talent. From the professional musicians playing at Kleinhan's Music Hall to the Albright Knox Art Gallery's world-class collection and independent artist and musician studios dotting the area, there's no lack for cultural experiences here.
Ultimately, we settled on the Village for its proximity to a multitude of restaurants and shops, cultural attractions and cool Queen Anne style architecture. In the end, this central location has us only minutes from the neighborhoods previously mentioned, as well as only 5 to 10 minutes from downtown and the Canalside waterfront (
Despite its reputation for snowy winters (any Western New York ("WNY") native will tell you that most of that reported activity actually occurs south of the metro area), Buffalo and WNY also has a great reputation for great weather with lots of sunshine and mild temperatures throughout the rest of the year. This translates to good walking weather.
So, leash in hand, my husband and I have begun exploring our new 'hood, one step at a time. Fortunately, our lab mix has always loved to walk and is always game to go on an adventure. 
In the mornings, we typically head north down the broad street in front of our house. Walking in this neighborhood provides much to look at. Beautiful Victorian mansions feature well-planned gardens showcasing flowers in constant bloom, unique greenery, and whimsical sculpture. Tiny cottages get into the game with showy postage-stamp front yards and secret garden sanctuaries.
We turn the corner and head into the heart of the commercial district for the Village. Even here, carefully manicured border gardens line the parking lots. People stop to say hello and pat J's head before continuing on their way. 
With so much to see, it's easy to spend an hour simply walking around. We are certainly not speed-walking, but we are getting in a good leg stretch before breakfast. My pedometer measures an average of nearly 5,000 steps just for the morning jaunt, so with a minimum of 2 walks in a day, getting those 10,000 steps in is a pleasurable breeze.
Juno, exploring her new environs
We are looking forward to exploring more of our neighborhood and our new city with our canine companion and as we do, I'll share more of our discoveries.

Where do your PawsGo?  Share your neighborhood walk with us!  Send us a tweet or a message through Facebook!

MJ Courchesne is a freelance publishing consultant, writer, and part-time personal trainer with a passion for gardening, walking, wine, and travel. She lives in a restored 1890s Victorian home situated in the heart of Buffalo with her husband and lab mix, Juno. Her new blog can be found at