Rose Parade 2011, Natural Balance, Dock Diving, Lab Rescue, Chesapeake Bay Retriever Rescue, training

New Years Day!! Rose Parade 2011

Wow!! What an incredible experience, I grew up watching the Rose Parade on tv every year but could have never imagined the grand scale in person. Our day started out at 3:30 am, Sam Dog was not at all used to getting up so early.
We packed our snacks and supplements and headed out to the limo’s. All the dogs and handlers packed in for our ride down to the RV’s awaiting our arrival just off of Orange Grove where the float was staged. We got to hang out with Dick Van Patten and his son Jimmy while waiting for the parade to start, that in it of itself was quite an experience and very entertaining!

Around 7:30, we climbed up the stairs of the float to the dock. Riding on board along with our team was a wonderful Veterinarian, Dr. Ken Lian of Calabasas Animal Clinic and a photographer from the LA Times. We hadn’t practiced with two extra bodies on the dock, I think we were all wondering how this was going to work. Having Dr. Lian on the float turned out to be a blessing in disguise! Since we had to move pretty quickly, he was able to get towels, water and supplements to us as we barreled through the rotation. He fit right in without missing a step! Also on board was Joey Herrick, the president of Natural Balance Pet Food. Before founding Natural Balance with the Van Patten’s, Joey was a drummer on the John Davidson show. If you were on the parade route you may have heard Joey’s drum’s on the track that played as we cruised down Colorado Blvd. Joey also helped us coordinate the show, noting when the Camera’s were on, where the grandstands were, and even more importantly when to wait for the hill! After heading down a 12% grade, Joey laughed and mentioned that he’d never gone down the hill that fastHappy

The weather turned out to be perfect, the sun was shining and although the air temp was a little cold, the pool water was heated to over 70 degrees. The dogs almost didn’t even need the neoprene wetsuits! The Chessie’s onboard (Stanley, Henry and Sydney, all adoptees from Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue) had some great jumps, I think regardless of where you were seated on the route you could see Henry for sure! Sam Dog held her own, she may not be the highest jumper but she jumped nearly the entire parade route, only stopping for breaks I imposed on her. Not bad for the little foster dog that couldn’t even go a block in the truck without getting carsick over a year and half ago!

A little backstory, during the practice runs on the float, Sammi was hesitating on the dock while the float was moving. Being that we didn’t have unlimited practice time on a moving float, I had to get creative with training back home. First, to work on her balance and coordination, I had her Place in wagon as I pulled her all over my neighborhood. I kept her in the Place command while I threw her a tennis ball to catch as I was moving the wagon back and forth. Once she was steady and catching tennis balls without a miss, we moved onto the wobble board. A wobble board is just what it sounds like, a platform on a ball that wobbles. She had to maintain her balance on the board in a standing position, her “reward” was jumping off for a tennis ball. This not only got her used to maintaining her balance on an unsteady surface, but also jumping off of a moving platform. I have to say the training paid off, she didn’t hesitate once on New Years Day!!

Once the parade was over, we still had post parade to jump the dogs and entertain the crowds that gather to see the floats up close and personal. We put on a show every hour and took time to work the crowd and let the public pet the dogs. Of course Sam Dog was a natural at that part, she’s so used to getting attention in the booth at our own tradeshows. Sammi was having so much fun, I swear she completely understood the difference between “working” during the parade and just having fun jumping the remainder of the afternoon.

Finally as the day closed, we took the limo back to the hotel, little Sammi fell asleep with her head in my hands on the way back. I’m so proud of my little lab and how well she did! I’m still amazed at how far she’s come in the year and a half that I have owned her. It was truly a great experience and I’m so happy to have worked with everyone involved!

For anyone looking to add a new dog to their family or anyone interested in giving fostering a try, check out Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue or Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and never know, your next dog may take you on an adventure of a lifetime!

If you didn’t catch the Rose Parade here’s some footage from Camera Row, Sammi is wearing a pink rash guard and I’m in a yellow shirt on the top portion of the float...enjoy!