Friday, August 16, 2013

Hurley Badger VS the AC

The Hurley Badger Strikes Again!

Maggie and I took an early walk this morning to get Momma some coffee.  I am particularly inept at functioning like a normal human being before I've had my cup of joe and this morning, I was out at home so I dragged my girl and my sleepy eyes a few blocks away to get my fix on.

We turned back on our street and there he was.  The Hurley Badger, sniffing some grass a block away.  These are literally the thoughts that went through my head, in the order I thought them.

"Shit!  Hurley's finally figured out how to open the front door."

"Did he crash through a window?  Shit!  Is he bleeding?  Where's Sadie?"

"Right.  The A/C Unit.  He's knocked it out of the window again.  Sigh.  There's no way it's still going to work this time around.  The Hubster is going to be so mad."

As I'm thinking these, you may call them, ridiculous thoughts, Hurley has spotted us.  Now, Hurley doesn't run gracefully.  He gallops like a cross between a horse and a hippo and it happens to be the most adorably awkward thing you would ever see.  As soon as he's spotted his prey (us) off he tears towards us.  At this point, I can't exactly be mad at him.  Not only is he the most adorable horse-hippo-badger you've ever seen, it's also not his fault.  What, you say?  Of course it's the Badger's fault!

I've gotta blame myself on this one.  Hurley hates being left out on walks.  He can handle his shit if he's left in the backyard with an antler, downstairs in the basement with toys or gets a walk first and is tired out.  I did none of these things.  Half awake, I grabbed the dog whose turn it was (Maggie) and trucked it for coffee.

This is also NOT the first time the Badger has had a run in with the A/C Unit.  A couple weeks ago, the Hubster gets this call from our neighbor.  "Hey man.  Your dog pushed the air conditioner out of your window.  I think your dogs are running around the neighborhood."  Panic attack!  Hurley did in fact push the A/C unit to the ground but apparently scared the girls so badly that they raced downstairs, where he joined them.  So no dawgs running around the neighborhood.  This time. 

Today, I did not do any of the things I normally do to make Hurley OK with us taking a walkie without him.  I did not put the table & chair in front of the A/C unit to block his access.  I did not make sure he had toys in the living room that he could get his crazy dog on with while we were gone.  I did none of those things and therefore, I have a badger stalking Maggie and my walk.

We get home and walk in to this:

My 100 lb Hurley Badger did not in fact push the AC Unit out of the window.  He broke one accordion side panel and then, when that did not give him enough room to squeeze out, he went to the other side and NUDGED THE ACCORDION PANEL BACK AGAINST THE AC UNIT.  AND THEN SQUEEZED OUT THE 6 INCH SPACE.  

It really is only a matter of time before he figures out how to break windows & open doors.  Sigh.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kiddie Pool Success!

For a year now, we have had a couple of sad, unused kiddie pools just begging to be romped in but to no avail.  See, kiddie pools need to be filled up with the hose to be enjoyed on a hot summer day and folks, the hose is considered to be evil around our house.

Last summer was an epic fail in regards to introducing the pools to the dawgs.  Silly me, in my human overconfidence, assumed that dogs that love water + kiddie pools filled with water + hot temps would automatically = success.  Luckily, my dawgs were around to squash such overconfidence and completely shunned the pool.  This summer, I was determined to try again and this time, approach it as we do any training goal - by taking baby steps towards the end goal and using lots of extremely yummy rewards.

Can I haz yummy noms?
Here are the skills Hurley needed to be successful:
- "In" command - we clicker trained Hurley to get in a box when he was a (rather large) puppy.
- Love of Noms

Here are the skills Sadie needed to be successful:
- Desire to please Mom
(Sadie did not previously know the "in" cue but learned it as we trained getting in the kiddie pool)

Several weeks ago, I placed the empty kiddie pool in the middle of the backyard.  We clicked and treated both Hurley and Sadie getting in the pool.   Maggie looked at us like we were crazy as all get out (girl does not walk under, over, or through objects.  ever.).

Maggie worked up the courage to bob for ice cubes but that's about as close as she will get.
Then I put the dogs inside where they were not able to witness what happened next.

I filled the pool.  With the EVIL HOSE.  See, I thought that if they saw that the hose was involved, I would have no chance.  I also knew that Hurley would absolutely jump in the pool without realizing there was water in there if we had been practicing with a dry pool moments before.  I didn't know if he would then be OK with the water or if he would look at me like I had betrayed him.  He hated me for about 15 minutes after that.  (sorry, buddy.  I had to try!)

Sadie, however, was more than happy to jump in and out whenever I wanted.  She didn't particularly like standing in the water but hey, it makes Mom happy and that makes her happy.

This is where we have been for a couple weeks.  Until yesterday, that is.  I realized that my strategy to trick Hurley into leaping into a filled pool probably wasn't the best idea.  For whatever reason, he has some mild water apprehension and for known reasons, distrusts us in relation to artificial water sources. 

So I decided this time my only trick would be the super delicious treats I was using.  I loaded up my treat bag with beef liver sausage treats, grabbed the clicker and started from scratch.
We did it!
 Here are our steps to success:

1.  Click and treat for getting in the empty pool.  Because of the previous experience, Hurley was a little apprehensive about getting in the empty pool but after Sadie had tossed back several handfuls of beef liver, he was not about to let his sister get the rest.

2.  When the dogs are not in the kiddie pool, place the hose NEXT to it.  Ask for an "in" and click and treat several times.

3.  Again with the dogs out of the pool, place the hose in the pool (water off).  Click and treat several times for getting in and out of the pool.

4.  Now turn the hose on at a low pressure (you want the pool to fill very very slowly).  I had placed both kiddie pools next to each other at this point so at first, Sadie was the only one getting in the pool that was being filled.  I still worked Hurley in and out of the empty pool but gave bigger and more enthusiastic rewards to Sadie. 

5.  Get in the pool yourself.  Hurley absolutely refused to get in the pool that was filling until after I started getting in myself.  I stepped in to show him that it wasn't going to swallow me alive and for the rest of the training session, I was in the pool until the very end when he wasn't thinking twice about leaping in and out of the pool.
Hey, my paw is wet!  How did that happen??

6.  The very first time your dog dips a toe, immediately ask them for an "out" or call them away from the pool.  When you are asking your dog to accept something they feel is uncomfortable, use the concept of functional rewards to make them more comfortable.  Getting out of the pool is a functional reward for a kiddie pool suspicious canine.  So the first few times Hurley was brave enough to put one or two paws in, I threw a little party and immediately asked him to get out. He learned very quickly that getting in the pool is immediately followed by getting out and over a few repetitions began to realize the kiddie pool wasn't that big of a deal.

7.  When they finally place all 4 paws in, throw a treat party.  I slowly and continuously fed Hurley several handfuls of treats while he stood there with all 4 paws in.  After that, he had no problems showing off his wading skills.

I'm King of the Kiddie Pool!

Do you have a kiddie pool lovin' or kiddie pool suspicious canine at your home?  If you've been successful at encouraging kiddie pool love, what steps did you take? 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Get A Vegetable-Loving Dog

Here at Casa de Married with Dawgs, our crew loves their vegetables.  I often enjoy telling folks about Hurley's first encounter with kale or how I make "salads" for the dawgs when I make my lunch.

Most times I get the same response: "my dog would never eat vegetables" or something along those lines.

Our dawgs too have not always been the veggie lovers they are today.  If I had attempted to give cabbage to Sadie & Maggie years ago, I'm pretty sure they would have looked at me like I had two heads.  Going from eating only kibble & loving it to having the diverse diet they have today was a process, veggies included.

There are many reasons why having veggie lovin' dogs is a good thing:

1.  Fresh raw nutrition is best.*  However, many of us have to juggle the restrictions of our wallets and the other demands on our time.  Going raw or home-cooked for our dogs is not in the cards for many pet owners.  That's A-OK but for those folks, I recommend adding anything fresh to their dog's diet.  Veggies can be a great way of adding vitamins & minerals made by Mother Nature as opposed to factories in China (virtually all synthetic vitamins in commercial pet foods are produced in China).

2.  Veggies as treats are a heck of a lot cheaper than just about any high quality store-bought treat.

3.  Veggies are low in calories and when given as snacks, you don't have to worry about the extra calories.  This is important when doing tons of training with frequent reinforcement.  Those treats add up quickly and dogs often receive more than a meal's worth in one training session.  Going the veggie route when low value treats can be used is a great way to offset the calorie bomb that can be a standard training session. 

4.  A veggie-chowin' dog is always good for a laugh.  I love having folks over for BBQ.  I give the dawgs their carrot treat, which they race out to the backyard to find a place to enjoy it in peace.  The looks on people's faces when they realize the dawgs are going coo coo for plain ol' veggies is priceless. So is the astonishment I receive when guests witness our dawgs being all nonchalant when I'm prepping meat for the BBQ and then going all beggar-dawgs on us when the veggies get chopped.

Sure, that's all well & nice, Sarah, you say.  But do you seriously think my dog will eat veggies?

I'm not foolish.  I didn't get to kale-lovin' dogs instantly either.  Looking back at how I've been slowly incorporating vegetables over the past several years, I definitely took it slow, tried lots of different things and ultimately didn't give up.  Here are some tips to get your carnivore pooch to omnivore status:

1.  Start crunchy.  For our dawgs, we started with carrots.  I soon realized that Sadie will chomp on anything crunchy regardless of flavor.  But in the beginning, none of them would give green leafy vegetables a single lick.  So I went with it and crunchy we stayed for a while.

2.  Experiment.  Most of our veggie advances have happened on a lark.  As in, wouldn't it be hilarious to see the dawgs' faces when they taste asparagus?  celery?  kale?  I can't claim that the dawgs have liked every veggie they've tried but they do keep surprising me, especially when I'm utterly certain they will hate whatever it is that I just gave them.

3.  Use Peer Pressure.  It's amazing what a dog will eat when they see their sibling devouring it.  It's why Hurley eats poop and why Maggie has eaten any veggie I've ever given her.  I constantly use this to my advantage and I'm very lucky to have Sadie, who will eat anything Mom gives her because Mom gave it to her.  If you don't have multiple dogs, be creative.  Eat a carrot and then give them some.  If they see you eating it, it instantly becomes more valuable.

4.  Stick to Basics.  Did your kale experiment with your dog go horribly wrong?  If you are introducing your dog to fresh veggies, stick with the ones that most dogs enjoy in the beginning.  Carrots, sweet potatoes, & green beans are usually popular.

5.  Cheat.  I once "marinated" carrots in bacon to make them a higher value training treat.  My dawgs were already eating & loving carrots but I needed to make them higher value for a training class.  You can use the same idea for simply getting your dog to try a new veggie.

6.  Try Veggies BFF Fruit:  Fruit really is the gateway drug into dogs eating their veggies.  If the basic veggies are a no go, try starting with berries & apples.

7.  Trick 'em.  Boil veggies in broth.  Puree and mix in with kibble.  Scatter throughout a filled Kong.  Basically trick your dog into eating their veggies by finding creative ways to hide them in the things you already know your dog will eat.

8.  Break rules for veggies.  Do you have a no-feeding dogs from your plate or counter rule like we do in our house?  By breaking the normal food rules you may have in place to discourage begging, you may find that your dog will beg for veggies like ours do.

9.  Cook it.  Some veggies might be more appealing to dogs cooked rather than raw.  For instance, all of our dawgs love cooked asparagus but Sadie's the only one who will eat the raw woody end of an asparagus. 

Dogs eating vegetables is really not that foreign of an idea.  Look at the ingredient panel of your current pet food and you will find none other than vegetables.  Low quality foods may be full of corn and tomato or beet pomace while higher quality foods may contain peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, etc.  While dogs do need the majority of their diet to be meat-based, veggies are very appropriate for them to eat and can be nutritious and delicious to boot.

*In order for your dog to receive the maximum nutritional value of vegetables, they need to be pureed or lightly steamed.  Dogs do not chew food like we do and they are lacking in a particular amino acid that helps to break down the cellulose in vegetable cell walls.  Pureeing or steaming does that work for your dog so they can receive the most nutritional benefit from their veggies.  If giving veggies for a snack or amusement and not for nutritional value, veggies do not need to be steamed or pureed.  We do both here at Casa de NoPo Paws.  The dawgs will receive a dinner of steamed cabbage, mashed peas & chickpeas and beef tonight.  They will also probably get a whole carrot to chew on while I'm making everyone's dinner.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Badger Kit: How an Overzealous Dog Mom Creates Her Own Pet First Aid Kit

I have a confession to make.  Until this week, I did not have a proper first aid kit on hand for the dawgs.  I mean, we had most of the supplies that we needed in various spots throughout the house.  Until we used them up and didn't have what we needed for Hurley's recent injury.  It only took a single frantic midnight first aid shopping trip to make me realize how woefully unprepared I have been for Badger emergencies.

One of the first things I did after last weekend's mishap was to go out and put together a proper first aid kit, which I have affectionately dubbed "The Badger Kit". 

You can purchase first aid kits for pets and for most households, these are sufficient.  I, however, have a home with 3 big dawgs, one of which is the Badger.  I knew that our gauze & bandaging needs would far exceed the normal amounts provided in a decent first aid kit so I decided to put together our very own.

While most of the supplies that you need are pretty basic, when you put together your very own Badger kit, it's helpful to ask yourself the following:

Do I have supplies to clean, treat & wrap the most common injuries?  For our dogs, tail & paw injuries are the most likely, followed by bug bites, scrapes & abrasions and foreign object ingestion. 

Are there any other injuries/first aid needs that reflect the activities my family partakes in?  For instance, I will be adding aloe gel to our first aid kit as camping with the dawgs is something we often do, which means our crew is at a higher risk for campfire burn injuries. 

Do I have enough of the consumable first aid supplies for all of my pets?  This question was why I decided to create our own first aid kit instead of purchasing a pre-made one.  What if a bear attacks us on one of our camping trips and more than one dog is injured?  (Yes, these are the crazy scenarios I play out in my head when planning the requirements of a proper Badger kit).  For our family, having a large supply of gauze & bandage wrap was the most important part of our first aid kit.

Because I intend to bring our fancy new Badger Kit with us on all trips & outings with the dawgs, I also included items like bug spray & natural flea repellants that would be useful on those trips and where it would also make logical sense to include them with first aid supplies. 

Here are the contents of our Badger First Aid Kit:

Hand Sanitizer & Alcohol Wipes (for sanitizing our hands prior to treating any injury)
Latex Gloves
6 Rolls of 3" Gauze
2 Rolls of 2" Gauze
3X3 Gauze Pads
3 Rolls of Adhesive Tape
6 Rolls of non-adhesive bandage wrap
Rubber Syringe
Ear Cleanser
Hydrogen Peroxide
Wound Wash (I have a saline spray and will be getting Vetericyn as well, which is made specifically for pets and functions as an anti-septic spray)
Bag Balm (for treating cracked paws or scraped noses)
Nail Clippers
Styptic Powder
Dog Booties (we were given IV bags for this purpose from our vet plus we purchased some general purpose dog booties - they are extra large but will work nicely for an additional layer of protection over a bandaged paw on any of our 3 dawgs)
Natural Bug Spray
Natural Flea & Tick Spray
Aloe Gel
Calming Treats/Tinctures (it can be a challenge to keep your pet calm during an injury so including calming treats, sprays or tinctures is an essential part of a pet first aid kit, in my opinion)
Low Dose Aspirin
Herbal Healing Cream/Gel (or for you non-hippies out there, Neosporin will work just fine)
Cotton Balls & Q Tips
Pet First Aid Book

Do you have a first aid kit for your pet?  If so, is there anything you include in your kit that has not found a home in the Badger Kit?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hurley, Model Patient?

Hurley has proven himself to be the model patient following last weekend's toe injury.  I was pretty concerned about all the pill-taking, bootie-wearing, cone shaming & bandage wrapping that would have to occur during his healing process but I shouldn't have been worried.  Hurley Badger Don't Care 'bout nothing but his mama taking care of him and patiently allows all of the above to happen without a protest.  I think he's just a giant baby who loves being babied by his mama.

This is Hurley on drugs.  He just sits and stares at nothing.  For hours.
We have had a few hiccups in his recovery.  First, the saddest event in the history of the Badger:  Hurley has taken to not finishing his meals!  Clarification:  he won't finish his meals if they contain any kibble. If it's 100% raw or home-cooked, then the Badger has no objections to the taste of the antibiotics & pain pills in his dinner.  I almost cried the first time he walked away from a half-full bowl.  Hurley not being crazy about food?  He must not be feeling well!  So I spoon fed him and wrapped the remaining pills in raw meat.  He was ecstatic about finishing dinner like this and now has taken to licking pills clean and waiting for his raw meat.  Spoiled, maybe?  Little does he know that the last of the pills were today and he'll be back to normal half-kibble, half-raw/home-cooked meals. And that Miss Sadie will be allowed to finish his dinner from here on out should he choose to be picky. 

Is that Hurley's dinner I smell? 

The other hiccup to his recovery happened on Wednesday.  Twas the first morning that I let Hurley out in the backyard to do his business and didn't actively watch him.  Of course, this would be the one morning where he kicked the bootie off and proceeded to somehow re-injure his toe.  Said injury produced 100 times the amount of blood as his initial injury. I could not get the bleeding to stop, freaked out about the puddles of blood all over my house and rushed him to the vet.  It's a good thing because as the vet said in reference to the pool of blood filling his bootie "Oh wow.  Just wow.  That is not a normal amount of blood."  When the Badger hurts himself, he certainly doesn't do it half-ass.

More Stoned Sedated Hurley.  He might be contemplating chewing on his antler.   Or he could just be sitting there, contemplating nothing.  We don't really know what goes on in the head of stoned Hurley.
So he's got to wear a bandage a little bit longer and this Mama will not be laxing in his supervision again.  We're hoping for an uneventful remainder of his recovery.  We've got to get through the weekend with a bandaged foot and then the next 2 weeks without him bumping it into anything.  Wish us luck!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The One Where He Finally Hurt Himself

733:  The number of days it took Hurley to actually hurt himself.

Waiting for the vet to fix his ouchie

It wasn't that one time as a puppy he decided to play keep away with a shard of glass, the time he walked off a dock and decided to walk, not swim, along the bottom of the pond to shore, the dozen times he ate something potentially toxic, the time he hulked his crate, the time he destroyed the tent, the time he ran away on a camping trip, the time he got his jaw stuck in Maggie's collar, nor was it the time he got his tags stuck in the dishwasher

Hurley made it through all of those incidents with nary a scratch.

Nope, folks. The Badger was brought down by....wait for it...a dresser.  A boring old dresser he's laid in front of countless times.

The Hubster and I had drifted off to sleep Friday night only to be awoken by what sounded like (and later proved to be) a bucking bronco tearing wildly through the living room.  The most god-awful sound of Hurley desperately trying to get away from a dresser drawer that had somehow attached itself to him and was being dragged frantically throughout the house.  By the time we both rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and saw what was happening, Hurley had detached the drawer and was racing to the back door.  The Hubster let him out to do laps around the yard to exorcise the dresser demons while I cleaned up the mess of clothes strewn throughout the living room.  Miraculously the dresser drawer came through the incident unharmed and it was as I put it back in the dresser and walked through the living room that I noticed the spots of blood on the floor.

"He's bleeding!" I screamed at the Hubster.  We quickly ushered him back inside.  There was his outer back toe nail, dangling to the side, barely still attached and with the fleshy quick fully exposed, I mean entirely, completely, here's the quick if you ever wanted to know what it looked like, exposed.  Not having any styptic powder on hand (dog mom fail #1), I reached for the flour and attempted to pat it onto Hurley's bleeding toe.  In theory, flour can stop bleeding but apparently one must have a dog who is quiet and calm after an injury and not bucking like a bronco.  Hurley sure did enjoy licking that flour off the floor though.  Pressure, I thought.  I raced to the bathroom for our first aid kit and found gauze.  No medical tape or wrap though.  I raced to the dog room and checked the supplies in the dog cabinet.  More gauze.  No medical tape or wrap.  I raced back to the bathroom to check the medicine cabinet.  Ditto.  F'in crazy amounts of gauze but absolutely nothing to hold it in place.  Dog mom fail #2.

"You'll have to go out and get a gauze roll, non-sticky bandage roll thingy, and medical tape,"  I told the Hubster.  And then in our sleepy state, we spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where we would find such supplies at midnight.  All the while, Hurley is standing there with his leg in the air dripping blood.

The Hubster finally on his way to get medical supplies, I tore the gauze into strips and gently wrapped it around Hurley's paw.  He struggled at first but soon calmed down after I repeatedly told him "I'm helping, Hurley. Mama's helping."  Because in times of crises, dogs fully understand English.  Understand he did, with the help of a little T-touch massage and a frozen Kong, and we remained curled up on the kitchen mat waiting for the return of the Hubster and the supplies.

Fact:  Bumble Bee bandage wrap makes ouchies better.  Wonder if they make a badger one?

While it had been relatively easy to softly wrap Hurley's paw in gauze and hold it gently in place, once the Hubster and the wound wrap arrived, Hurley's fear and pain came into play.  With supplies in hand, I wrapped, taped and then started to cover the gauze with the non-stick bandage rolly thing.  That's when he gave us his best bucking bronco impression.  He kicked and kicked and kicked and then raised both back legs high into the air.  He held his hand stand for what seemed like minutes while the stressed Hubster and I had a good laugh.  Bucking Bronco, indeed.

It took several tries and ultimately resorting to just letting him have at a jar of peanut butter before I was able to secure the non-stick bandage roll thingy on top of the gauze wrap.  We let Hurley hop around, kicking his bandaged paw out like a kangaroo boxer, and when he started to relax a bit, it was time to try to sleep.  I had to help his 95-lb-self into our bed and he crawled to the farthest corner, refusing to look in our direction.  He spent the night panting heavily.

Hurley wan Kenobi says "Tangle not with that dresser, I will"

Hurley tore off his nail so completely that they couldn't just clip off the damaged part and let it regrow.  Nope, they had to remove the entire nail and quick, or as the vet said "let his nail start from scratch", or as I called it "a toenail amputation".  His nail will grow back in 2-4 weeks and until then, it's no rough housing, a booty on whenever he's outside and lots of the cone of shame.

And a rather insane amount of being spoiled by his Mama.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The One Where He Absconded with the Dirty Dishes

Imagine this.  You have gotten home a little early this evening.  Early enough to give the house a quick one-over so that it'll be clean when your wife arrives home. 

As you hurry to load the dishwasher, a certain Badger suddenly appears in the kitchen.  Time to wash the dishes!  Maybe, this one time, you let that Badger lick a few instead of asking him to leave the kitchen.  What'll it hurt and I'm in a hurry, right? 

Imagine your surprise when that Badger gets his tags stuck in the bottom rack.  You rush to save him from the evil, tag-catching dishwasher rack but you are too late.  The Badger, in his panic, has removed the lower rack and is frantically dragging it across the living room, dirty dishes flying here and there.  "If only," thinks the Badger, "I can reach the safety of my dog bed, then I can vanquish the evil dish rack." 

As you leap over tumbling pots & pans to reach the Badger, he hulks and hulks and manages to rip his tags off, unraveling the entire wire loop holding them in place.  He races away from said evil dishwasher rack while his sisters cower in abject terror.  You are left with an even dirtier living room than when you started the "quick" clean up.

You would think that such an experience would discourage a certain Badger from insisting upon sticking his nose in the dishwasher every time we open it, right?  Nope, back at his pre-rinse shenanigans first thing this morning. 

*No dishes were harmed in the makings of the post. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For Boston

Oh Boston.

I had a few dreams as a child.  I always wanted to attend college in Boston as a little girl growing up in Maine.  I wanted to get married on a beach.

I attended Boston University and lived in that great city for five years.  I met my husband during Game 1 of the 2003 World Series due to our mutual love of the Red Sox and we got married on a beach on Cape Cod.

While I'm not a native Bostonian, Boston is my adopted hometown.  There is something about that skyline, the Pru, the Citgo sign and Fenway that warms my heart in a way only your hometown can.  As anyone who has lived in New England knows, Boston is the region's heart and soul.  Today, my heart is a little broken.

For Boston!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sadie Steadies

Great news!  Sadie's stumbles have disappeared.

For 36 hours, she stumbled & tumbled.  And the next 36 hours showed very little of those symptoms.  As quickly as her Ataxia (wobbliness) symptoms appeared, they disappeared.

She appears to have completely recovered.  We have no idea what might have caused her issues.  We're not sure if this is a one-off or if they will come back.  And I have heard 3 different vets in 3 different practices say "Well, Sadie sure presents an interesting case" ...also known as the worst possible thing to hear from a vet when your dog is having a health crisis.  It basically means her neurological issues, if they come back, are  rare, may take lots of tests to properly diagnose, and we may never know why she is having these issues.  Super.

But we are ever so grateful that she is OK right now.  That is all that matters!

For the better part of the last 4 days, I have cursed our dear friend, Google.  Shouldn't there be some sort of technology that prohibits our ability to indulge in those worst care scenarios that the internet is so happy to provide?

Our greatest worry was Hereditary Cerebellar Ataxia.  Mostly because we suppose she is part Staffie (this is a hereditary disease seen in Staffies) and Google told us all about it.  It is a degenerative neurological disease with no effective treatment or cure.  She would lose control of her body but be completely sound in mind.  It scared the hell out of us.

While I have been cursing Google these past few days, yesterday I developed a deep appreciation for the ability to be prepared with the neurologist.  By this time, her symptoms had completely disappeared, which made the neurologist's job a heck of a lot more difficult.  We hope that she is just passing a toxin and this will be the last and only of it.  There are several other possibilities and without my obsessive Googling, I would not have known about Hereditary Ataxia or the many other possibilities it could've been. I wouldn't have known what to ask about.  And she wouldn't have been able to reassure my troubled mind - this awful disease does not come and go in her experience and therefore, we can cross our worst care scenario off the list.

We will of course be keeping a close eye on our dear girl.  We are waiting on some test results regarding her liver and those will hopefully show nothing to be concerned about.  She seems right as rain for the time being and that makes us so very relieved and happy.  What a trooper she is!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sadie Stumbles

Our dear Sadie has stumbled.  Literally.  At about noon on Sunday, she starting displaying unsteadiness on her feet, she would stagger & stumble and sometimes just plain fall over.  First, she fell into a kitchen cabinet, then Hurley knocked into her and she toppled over and then she had some muscle spasms.  We had never seen anything like this from her before and so off to the emergency vet we went.

The good news is that she appears not to have suffered a stroke or seizure.  Her symptoms are consistent with Ataxia, which is basically loss of motor function and is caused by a wide variety of issues.  This could be as simple as she got into something that was toxic or it could be as bad as a brain tumor or degenerative neurological disease.  Or it could be any number of things in between.  We just don't know at this point.  We hope that it was just something she got into but since she was not displaying any other signs of poisoning, we think it's unlikely a toxin is the culprit.  Her energy level is fine, she's eating & drinking fine and her poops are fine.

The emergency vet gave her subcutaneous fluids and sent her home with activated charcoal, which would help her body process any potential toxins and recover more quickly.  We had hoped against hope that it would do the trick and she would wake up this morning 100%.  This was not the case.

We're headed off to our regular vet this afternoon for a re-check of her symptoms and a discussion of next steps, which will most likely include a doggie neurologist.

Right now, we're just really scared.  While our trip to the emergency vet yesterday ruled out some serious potential causes, we don't have any answers.  And not knowing is the scariest.

Please keep her in your thoughts.  I'll keep you all posted once we know more.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Officially Too Big

Poor Hurley.  He can't even fit in the dirty laundry basket anymore.  At least he didn't bust this one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

On Choosing the Right Pet Food

The most important part of my job is helping pet owners select dog food.  Selecting a food for your dog can be overwhelming and confusing.  So many shiny packages!  Nutrition is the single most important decision you can make for your pet and it's also oftentimes the most confusing.  Here are my top 5 advices for selecting the right food for your dog.

#1. Do not make any decision about pet food based on the front of the packaging. From the poorest quality brands to the best of the premium brands, what is on the front of the package is 100% marketing decided upon by marketing professionals (people who are paid to manipulate your opinion of a product through images and words).  Not only is it woefully inadequate in terms of fully disclosing ingredients, in some cases, the packaging can be incredibly misleading.  Use the ingredient panel and guaranteed analysis on the back to help you make your decision.  Pet food companies are notorious for only disclosing part of the ingredient story on the front of the package.  Part of this is determined by very complicated, yet terribly insufficient, labeling regulations.  If you would like to learn more, I'd recommend reading this article on The Dog Food Project. 

#2. When you are interested in changing your dog's diet, make small, incremental changes.  Your dog's gut will thank you for taking improvements and changes in its nutrition at a steady pace instead of a sprint.  For example, when customers are making the switch from grain-based to grain-free food, I generally recommend sticking with the same or similar protein sources and then experiment with different proteins once your dog is adjusted to a grain-free diet.  This of course goes out the window when you are dealing with issues like food allergies where your goal is to get your dog on a diet that eliminates symptoms as quickly as possible.

#3:  Avoid the following ingredients at all costs:  By-products, artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, unnamed meat ingredients (poultry meal as an example).  The reality of commercial pet food is that it originated from and continues to be dominated by companies producing pet food from the waste in the human food industry.  That means the crap that's not fit for us to eat.  This is not true of all pet foods but if the price is too good to be true, try checking the ingredient panel for one of my no-no ingredients above.  That food likely has more than one offending ingredient in its top 5 ingredients.  I highly recommend checking current or potential new foods on websites like The Dog Food Advisor for an independent analysis of a particular food.

#4:  Evaluate your dog's energy level, coat & skin health and general health issues.  Is there something you would like to see improved?  Going grain-free (which also generally raises the amount of protein in the dog's kibble at the same time thus increasing Omegas) can do wonders for coat health and help promote a healthy weight.  If your dog is lacking in energy, a higher protein diet may help fuel more energy.  Likewise, an out of control high energy dog may be behaviorally harmed by placing them on a high protein (in excess of 32% protein is how I define high protein) diet full of potatoes.  A diet with carbs that hit lower on the glycemic index than potatoes (chickpeas or yams would be an example) with a more moderate protein level (25-30%) may help fuel behavior improvements for an over-stimulated animal.  Some dogs do better on grains and others do better on grain-free.  The point is that you should know where your dog is and where you would like it to be.  If you feel overwhelmed by all the choices, talk to an educated professional (your local independent pet store or a nutritionist) about your goals to receive relevant diet suggestions.

#5:  I strongly believe that all dogs benefit from variety and fresh ingredients.  There are extreme cases of allergies or chronic digestive diseases that may preclude the ability to add variety to your dog's diet but they are the extremes. Here are my general recommendations for adding variety to your dog's diet:

-Rotate your dog's kibble.  This can be done by switching it up every 1, 2, get the point...bags.  In our home, Sadie & Hurley never get the same kibble for more than 2 bags in a row.  I generally rotate between formulas in one brand before moving on to the next brand.  There is no wrong way to rotate, just what your dog does best with.

- There is no such thing as human food.  Food is food, for all species on this earth.  So let go of the nonsense big pet food has been shoving down your (and your vet's) throat for the last 75 years about people food vs pet food.  Our dogs greatly benefit from sharing some of the items we put on our own plates.  You just have to make sure that you understand what foods are not to be shared but fortunately that's a pretty short list (for the record, I disagree with the ASPCA's stance on raw meat, eggs, & bones but otherwise this is a good list).  I boiled a chicken the other day to make both broth and shredded chicken for (my) dinners & lunches throughout the week.  Hurley got the raw neck, Sadie got the raw heart & liver and they both received some of the shredded chicken on top of their kibble.  Not only did they love it, but it was great for their health too.  I share fruits & vegetables regularly with my crew and sometimes they surprise the heck out of me with what they like!

- Add probiotics to the diet.  All three of my dogs receive great variety in their meals and sometimes a new food doesn't sit so well.  Adding probiotics to their diet greatly reduced transitional digestive upset and also has virtually eliminated stinky doggie farts.  Maggie almost never had any digestive issues but needs the probiotics to support her overall health because of her chronic, someday-I-will-blog-about-them health issues.  Sadie can get the runs if I change too much on her too soon so the probiotics help to keep it all even keel down there and Hurley has the worst farts in the world when he isn't receiving probiotics.  For three very different dogs, probiotics has been a great supplement to help keep their digestive juices flowing smoothly, if you know what I mean.

-If you are just starting to rotate your dog's kibble or add variety, go slow at first.  Nowadays, I can add something new or switch up kibbles in a 2 day transition rather than the 3-5 days I normally recommend.  But that's because my dogs are used to it.  At the beginning, I had to take it very slow.  I recommend proactively adding pumpkin to a dog's diet during transitions for a dog who is new to this whole variety thing (1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon is plenty).

-Kibble transitions tend to be the hardest for dogs, which I attribute to the highly processed concentrated form of nutrition they provide.  When I am transitioning kibble, I keep the remainder of what my dogs are eating consistent.  In other words, only make one major change at a time.

-Don't freak out at the first digestive incident.  It is inevitable that something you feed your dog won't agree with them, just as not every food you put in your mouth agrees with you.  Add pumpkin and take the transition slowly.  Most dogs will adjust to a new food within 1 week and transitions will get easier the more they occur.  If your dog still isn't doing well after a week, then return the food, go back on the old food until digestion is normalized and then try something different.   Dogs who have been on the same food for years generally have a tougher time than dogs who are used to variety.  This is not because those dogs are the ones who belong in that "you should never change your dog's food" category.  Think about your gut.  If you ate the same exact meal every day for years and then suddenly tried something new, what do you think would happen?  Yup, the same type of digestive upset common in dogs who have eaten the same exact meal for years.  Dogs are not less able to adjust to food changes, rather, we have failed to give them the variety they need to keep their gut constitution strong.

The bottom line is that there are many choices when it comes to how to feed your dog.  Do the best you can.  Feed the best that you can afford.  If you can't afford the most expensive kibble or have the time to prepare every meal from scratch, don't worry about it.  Regularly sharing healthy meats, fruits & vegetables from your own kitchen can often make up the difference.

This PSA has been brought to you by Maggie, Sadie & Hurley, who think they are the luckiest dogs in the world because their Mom always makes mealtime interesting, warming & fulfilling.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teaching Bow

Last week, I posted this video of Hurley successfully "bowing".  Jodi wanted to know the best way to train and, while I cannot necessarily share the best way ('cause I'm not silly enough to think my way is the best), I can share what worked for us.

When I start training any new trick with Hurley, the first thing I do is break out the clicker.  He seems to understand that clicker = learning new trick and he's less likely to offer his same old arsenal of tricks at first, which helps me to shape or lure the behavior that much faster.

I chose bow because I thought it would be easy for Hurley to learn.  He already lowers himself into a down front legs first from a stand and he's always offering play bows.  My job was just to shape and capture a movement that he already does on a regular basis. 

I lured him with a treat into a partial down.  I was careful to never use our hand signal for down because I didn't want him to be confused about down as a separate command.  It would be easy to accidentally confuse him since I was essentially starting to teach bow the same exact way I started to teach down.  By sticking my foot out and doing a little hand flourish (ie, bowing to him), I was able to ensure that bow was not confused with down.  I didn't add the foot and flourish to the lure until I knew he knew what was expected.

As soon as he had his front elbows down but before his back end hit the ground, I clicked and treated.  The difficulty in this step was preventing a full down.  I either tossed the treat away from him or stepped into him to reset his position after I gave him the treat.  I was able to do this because Hurley's a slow-moving dog.  I would probably just start with the next step for Maggie & Sadie who both would plop down faster that I could mark the halfway down.  Plus they both tend to sit and then slide into a down.

We did this for a couple short training sessions over the course of a few days.  I noticed that Hurley wasn't really maintaining a bow so much as he was just slowly lowering himself into a down.  If I reset his motion by tossing the treat or taking a step into him, he wouldn't go all the way down but he didn't really stop in a bow on his own.  I decided he needed more help in maintaining the bow so I added a step and once he started lowering his front end, I stuck my arm underneath his belly to prevent him from going into a full down and we had a little treat party.  It took only a couple times doing this before he was maintaining a bow and any time he maintained that bow without my arm in the way, he would feast on treats.

Then I stopped all training on bow.  I have noticed that doing 5-10 minute training sessions until he "reasonably" gets it and then giving training a rest for a period of time works best with Hurley.  It's like it sinks in better.  I always resume training, thinking it'll take us a training session or two to get back to where we were but he always surprises me and does it even better than where we left off.   In this case, I didn't revisit Bow for a month or more but when I'm trying to pack in a lot more training in a shorter period of time, this break is 5-7 days long.

Hurley's Bow isn't perfect.  I would like to get him to a point where he never goes into a down from the bow and where he can follow using the verbal command only.  Hurley's much more reliable with hand signals than verbal commands.  I use both because I want to have the flexibility of both (what if he goes blind? deaf? can't see me?  too loud of an environment to hear me clearly? etc).  There are a ton of tricks he knows where he can't do it on verbal alone and because they're only tricks, I don't worry too much about cementing the verbal.  Besides, if Hurley has to bow shouldn't I have to bow back?  It's really only polite.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hurley's Love Affair with....

Hurley has a new love in his life...


My dog is weird.

 And yes.  He ate the whole thing.  And begged for more.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hurley's New Trick

We've been working on bow on and off for several months.  Really, we worked on it a couple times a month or two ago and today, I decided to revisit.  Hurley of course didn't miss a beat and offered up a most proficient bow.  He's such a rock star.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Feel Good Story

The Pongo Fund is an organization here in Portland that I am proud to support.  I hold an annual food drive for them at the shop & send broken bags their way as often as I can.  The Pongo Fund is not a rescue; they are an emergency pet food bank that distributes pet food to those in need.  Their work is vital to ensuring that many pets do not have to be relinquished due to financial difficulties.  They are led by a man with an amazing heart and an ability to inspire others.  This week, he posted a wonderful story (and it's just the beginning) on Facebook, recounting an encounter with a homeless couple and a new litter of puppies.  I am truly inspired not just by his actions but by the beauty of his words.  I've copied and pasted that story from The Pongo Fund's Facebook page here (I couldn't screen shot it because it's lengthier than the screen).  I hope it warms your heart like it did mine.

Posted Yesterday:
Puppies in a box. For those of us that care about animals, puppies in a box are not something that we look forward to seeing.

Yesterday I met a young homeless couple. And they had a box of wiggly and squeaky puppies tucked tightly next to their doting momma. For privacy I am not going to use their names here or share the location. Because they’re all doing ok for now.

But before I continue, please make sure you understand something. This posting is not about the homeless, or about the frustration that you might have for a young couple living on the street that is simply trying to survive while they also fight for the survival of their puppies. This is not a time to share your politics or rhetoric or criticisms.

This is not a moment to judge, but rather a moment to feel thankful that it is not you standing in the cold with a box of puppies. And I ask you to please be very careful with the things you might post in response, because I read them.

They had registered their dog to be altered at a clinic, but as is too often the case, things happened and she got pregnant. They were not pleased by this; they did not want puppies in a box. We talked for a while and shared dog stories, connected in our combined love for the animals. I gave them my personal business card packed with all my contact information, and told them they could reach me 24 hours a day. And I told them I’d be back today with supplies.

And today, that’s exactly where I was. The young man, about 25 years old, was surprised to see me; I don’t think he thought I would actually return. His girlfriend was not there at that moment, but I could tell he was glad to see me.

I brought food, blankets and supplies, and something to replace the cardboard box that the puppies called home. And I stayed a few minutes and we talked. I told him that I didn’t know what it was like to face the challenges that they were facing, but I could tell it would not be easy. He said it’s been worse, and I believed him. But I did not want to know what he might be referring to or what he might remember.

I also talked with him about their dog and the pups, about how hard it might be for them to find them good homes while they also were trying to find a home for themselves. He nodded in agreement. And then I asked if he might consider letting me find them homes instead, keeping them all together until they could be adopted.

He smiled and thanked me for that offer. But the dogs actually belonged to his girlfriend, and he’d talk with her when she returned. But I could tell how he felt.

I told him I knew it would take a brave decision to give up their dogs, and I would do anything I could to help them make the decision. That I was in this with them, not against them. They were no longer just two; they were three because they had me too.

I also offered to put them up in a hotel for a few nights so they could get warm again, a chance to sleep in beyond 5:00am. A chance to enjoy a decent meal and a long, hot bath. Get them some clean clothes and also some laundry service for the clothes they were wearing, clothes that might not have visited a washer for a while.

It was clear to me that I was talking to a proud young man today, a man that did not want or expect charity. But he was a man that wanted to do the right thing. So instead of offering him charity, I offered him kindness.

It sounds funny, but I look forward to visiting them tomorrow. I’ll be ready for whatever happens, but I hope to leave with a box of puppies. I’ll keep you posted.

Mother Teresa said we do not have to do great things; only small things with great love. Today I tried to do that, and I will try again tomorrow too. And in some fashion, I hope I can live up to that goal every day.

In the interim, please think good thoughts. And remember, if you post comments, please think long and hard about what you post, because we are not here to judge or criticize this family. I’m here to help, and I hope that you’ll join me in that effort. Thank you.

My name is Larry Chusid, and I am the Founder of The Pongo Fund. And Pongo was my dog.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

Posted Today

A symphony of happy squeals and little wagging tails greeted The Pongo Fund at 1:00pm today as we welcomed beautiful Freya and her four precious pups.

All five look great and appear to be in fine health. And that is the most important thing.

Although their circumstances were not ideal, these little balls of fur with their sharp teeth and tiny tongues were loved. Not just by their Mom, but by the two people dedicated to their care.

So before I say anything else, I first want to salute and thank the young homeless couple that despite their own daily challenges made sure to give their four-legged family the very best care possible. And I ask you to please join me in sending them love!

This little family, Freya and her girls, are now safe and warm, eating and drinking and resting. Seeing them together, curled up in a giant ball, is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

All will receive full checkups tomorrow and next week Miss Freya will receive the full spa treatment because she’s done an awesome job and deserves a little relaxation.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your kind and gracious Facebook comments. I am honored by your compassion and so very proud to call you friend. Please continue to send good thoughts, because we can never have too much of that.

By popular request we are setting up The Freya Scholarship Fund for Freya and her four girls, and donations can be made here: or sent by mail to The Pongo Fund, PO Box 8244, Portland OR 97207. Please note donation is for Freya.

This story is pretty amazing and you’ll be stunned by some of the details and we will share more later. But for now, for this one moment in time, please join me in celebrating the good fortune that we all have experienced by meeting this young couple and Freya and her girls.

The Pongo Fund is Oregon’s Pet Food Bank. Because hungry people have hungry pets. Our award-winning and volunteer driven charity has provided more than 4 million nutritious meals for some 50,000 animals, allowing them to stay safe at home with their families and out of the shelters.

And now we count Freya and her girls as part of our family.

I hope Larry's story touched you as much as it did me.  We can all use the reminder to act out of compassion & kindness first and foremost.  In the world I exist in, we all care deeply about the lives of dogs; Larry's words remind me that it's just as important to care that deeply about the people.  As Larry always says, Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.  And I would like to add Love.  Thanks, Larry, for doing what you do!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hurley, Agilidog?

I've been thinking' bout my buddy & I taking up a hobby...

Watch "St. Bernard Agility" on YouTube

Long Overdue Post 5: I made it!

Woot!  An entire week of daily posts.  Seriously, folks, I don't think I've ever accomplished that before. 

While I would like to be one of those bloggers who post every day (you know who you are!), the reality is that I'm a blog-when-inspired type and I do this because being part of this blogging world is something I truly enjoy.  Forcing myself to write about the dawgs when I'm not feeling particularly inspired would only serve to make this blog feel like work for me and not the fun it is.  So...while I do hope that I feel more inspired more often, you won't be seeing posts from me every day.  And that's a good thing!

I am, however, MUCH more active on Facebook.  Not every thought or silly thing my dogs do warrant a post onto themselves so when I don't have a lot to say, just a little, you will find me sharing on Facebook.  Here are some recent goodies: me, maybe?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Long Overdue Post 4: Household Harmony

Recently, one of our own here in the blogosphere had a tiff between her two dogs resulting in an emergency trip to the vet & some serious looking stitches.  As these events always do, it prompted me to examine our multi-dog household, to make sure I am paying close attention to the dogs' body language and to be prepared for the inevitability that someday my own dogs will get into it with each other.

We live in a pretty harmonious household, for having 3 rambunctious dogs with very distinct personalities.  The number of times there has been anything more serious than a "get away from my bone" growl can be counted on one hand.  While I am extremely thankful that my dogs have shown an ability to share appropriately and willingly, I have to ask myself, why? What are we doing that works?  How can I identify this and share with other dog guardians who may be struggling with some pack harmony issues?

As much as I would like to be a fountain of wisdom when it comes to multi-dog households, the reality is this:  We got lucky.

Sure each time we added another dog to our family, either the new dog or our existing dog was a puppy under a year old.  Yes, when we added Hurley, the Hubster deliberately picked a boy so there wouldn't be too much female competition going on.  Absolutely, we practice food, toy and attention sharing.  These strategies can certainly help achieve household harmony in a multi-dog home.

However, the true reason why our dogs get along so well is because of the harmony between their personalities and the way they interact as a pack.

Take Sadie.  Every multi-dog home should have a Sadie.  She's the ultimate passive dog, ever the peace-maker.  When play gets too intense, she's the first to bark at the other two to calm down.  She's the easy target for a food-stealin' dog like Hurley and even though we try to prevent him from stealing her food, when he does get to it, she lets him with a wag of her tail and a "please can I have more" look at Mom or Dad.  I imagine we might have had more problems with Hurley's rude behavior around food if he only had Maggie to steal from but with two sisters to chose from, Hurley always chooses to be rude to Sadie.  Because he knows she will let him. 

I used to feel sorry for Sadie.  At the bottom of the social hierarchy in our household, she's the last to grab a treat or toy and the first to get it stolen away from her.  But as Hurley matures and I hear about the multi-dog issues other homes experience from time to time, I'm so glad that she's here to play peacemaker.  To help us train Hurley without confrontation.  Her ability to always be passive, to always be the good one, enables us to focus on Hurley's challenges without also having to worry that those challenges are creating issues between our dogs.  While she does get bummed when Hurley licks her bowl for her, anyone in the house receiving attention, treats, food and/or love makes her happy.  This is her best trait and why I love her to death.  While other dogs might get jealous of a housemate receiving something they value, Sadie just thumps her tail in passive happiness and waits contently for her turn.  She is genuinely happy that Maggie is getting a butt scratch or that Hurley is getting belly rubs.

Sadie does draw the line at sharing new bones or special chews with the Hurley Badger.  He's still young enough that he periodically tests her resolve not to share by approaching her when she's still in the throes of a good chew.  Without looking in his direction, she lifts a lip and lets loose a low, slow & rumbly growl.  Hurley circles her, testing her growl line in each direction but ultimately respecting that he cannot cross that line.  We watch closely when it's chew time but I want Sadie to be allowed to draw the line with Hurley herself.  Since he is still pretty young, it will only serve to teach him that there are boundaries he needs to respect and that those boundaries are not only set by Mom & Dad but also by other dogs. I try to let them work it out themselves so long as it's still at that mild growl stage. To date, I've only had to remove the chewies once when Hurley was pushing it too much and I felt Sadie needed my help with the situation.

Hurley's not the passive dog that Sadie is.  He has shown some body language in specific instances that shows he is uncomfortable with some forms of sharing.  Mostly when he interprets food as found and not given to him.  We don't play "go find it" or use treat-dispensing toys where the food falls out of the toy and scatters in multiple directions for this reason (definitely his trigger!).  While he may not be the passive one, we've found that he is respectful when the girls draw the line.  He respects Sadie's growl line.  He only twice has attempted to raid Maggie's food bowl (and her corrections were enough to send him back to Sadie's bowl).  While he's not passive like Sadie, he will back down from a challenge and he's got a virtual textbook of calming signals he throws out around more confident or dominant dogs.

And then there's Maggie.  She's the one who has viciously attacked unsuspecting dogs on multiple occasions (that's not an exaggeration, she was absolutely vicious), who has struggled with leash aggression and who has proven to be an inhospitable host when we take care of other dogs.  We have to watch her very closely around other dogs as we know she has the ability to attack and won't hesitate, given the right circumstances.   There have been multiple times, when we have dog sat, that she has started to start something with one of the visiting dogs.  Since we're tuned in to this possibility, we've never allowed a situation to occur where she could get too out of hand.  Yet she's never shown that Mr Hyde part of herself towards the other dogs in our family.  She's exceedingly patient with Hurley, even when he's being Rude Dog.  She's a very effective and efficient communicator when it comes to letting him know when he's gone too far and she's always done so without it ever escalating to aggression.  

We call Maggie the Fair Police at our house.  If someone gets an extra walk or treat, you can just tell that she knows.  Either she throws us dirty looks, gets a little demanding with her snout as it relates to our attention or treats or does her happy "i must be going on this walk" dance a little too enthusiastically followed by the most outrageous sad, pissed off dog face when someone else gets the harness clipped on.  Even though she knows that whatever it is has not been distributed fairly, here's how she is awesome about it:  She lets the Hubster or I know about it.  She never, ever takes her frustration about fairness out on one of our other dogs. 

Somehow these 3 dogs have learned how to be patient, how to share, how to coexist peacefully, even though two of them aren't exactly nice polite dogs all the time.   And for the most part, they've worked it out amongst themselves. 

Maggie & Sadie have been known to swap bowls in the middle of a meal.  Maggie & Hurley used to share bones, chewing on them at the same time, when he was a smaller puppy.  We recently had a musical antler night where they took turns chewing on each other's antler.  We know we are extremely lucky and we also know it might not always be this way.

Are you one of the lucky ones to achieve effortless harmony amongst your dogs?  Or have you had to work hard to encourage appropriate sharing?  What rules work best in your house to keep the peace?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Long Overdue Post 3: Sadie's (Not Even Close to) Wordless Wednesday

Sadie's Come Hither Pose
In December, we had Sadie's annual vet visit and she, as always, excelled.  That bump I've been monitoring?  A worry-free wart.  Teeth?  Exceptional for a seven year old.  Fearful behavior?  Ha!  This girl charmed everyone's pants off and was nothing but happy to be checked over.  That pudge?  Umm...yeah, we gotta do something about that.

It's official.  Sadie's gained back her 5 pound pudge.  I think this makes it the third time we've had to slim her down and I knew it was coming.  She is looking pretty svelte in that photo though, right?  I think we might have already shaved off a couple pounds this last month just by switching her back to a grain-free diet and cutting about 1/8 cup off her daily meals.  I hate for my girl to suffer on a diet by herself so I've resolved this New Year to lose a few pounds myself.  She's a lot cuter being hungry, grumpy girl than I am!

We decided to start her on glucosamine this winter too.  I'm happy to report that the girl who struggled to get out of bed before 8 is usually up and about with the Hurley monster well before 7.   Except on weekends.  Not so happy about that.  This middle-aged lady just needed a little extra help with her creaky bones. Her energy level is up and she has even forsaken her super comfy bed for a wee blanket on the floor to be closer to Mom & Dad.   That's more like my girl!

This year marked the first I started to talk to our vet about senior care and though she's still a year away from me being ready to call her an Elder-bull, she's started to slow down.  Which suits me just fine 'cause she's now going at my pace.  I think they call these the Golden Years. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Long Overdue Post 2: Snow!

Here in Portland, we kinda have the best of both worlds.  It doesn't really snow much here in the city.  At all in fact.  But an hour away?  Winter Wonderland up on Mt Hood.

On New Years Eve, we loaded Hurley and Sadie in the Jeep and headed up the mountain.  We skipped the ski resorts and snow parks, heading out to where we usually camp each summer.  That means forest roads.  That aren't maintained during the winter.   In the Jeep, we can take the road less traveled and it's nice to take advantage of that from time to time. It was quiet and peaceful with not a soul around.  A beautiful day for a walk in the wintry woods.

Hurley definitely lost the snowball fight.
This is about when the Hubster says "There's definitely something in the woods.  Something big."  He does this shit to me every time we are out in the woods. 

I call this the Hurley as Hungry Hippo series.
Seriously.  Can you not see the resemblance?

Yup.  They had fun. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Long Overdue Post 1: Santa Brings the Best Toy

Can you believe it's January 14th and I'm putting Santa in my post title?  Fo' shame! Fo' shame!

I know.  I've been long absent and overdue here on the blog.  It's been busy.  I seriously slacked.  Had some writer's block.  Couldn't figure out where to get started again.  I can't promise I'll do better but I can promise this: an entire week of long overdue posts!  This should catch you all up and hopefully kick my arse in gear.  Here goes. :)

We had a wonderful Holiday season.  The best part?  This Nina Ottoson Tornado toy from Santa.

Winter often means shorter walks, sometimes less walks, and less play time in the backyard.  And that means excess energy to burn.  But never fear, Nina Ottoson is here!

Seriously.  Working their brains for 15 minutes can easily burn the same amount of energy as a short walk.  Thinking is hard!

Sadie, formerly known as the dumb one in our house, rocks the Tornado.  It makes me so proud to see how excited and absolutely stoked about herself she gets as she works the toy.   And a little bad for always calling her the dumb one.  This happens to be one of Nina Ottoson's Most Difficult toys,  That means she's a genius, right?

It also makes me laugh at how bad Hurley is.  For as smart as he is, precision ain't exactly his thing and this game requires a bit more precision when it comes to moving the parts around to get to his kibble.  Poor guy can't use his patented Hurley Hulk Smash move on this one ('cause Mom won't let him, not 'cause it wouldn't work - he would like everyone to be clear on this point). 

Best of all, this is a great toy to use when reinforcing patience, waiting turns and sharing in a multi-dog home.  Hurley has previously struggled with sharing treat-dispensing toys where the food falls out of the toy.  It bounces in various directions and he can get a little worked up about his sisters getting to it before him.  With a puzzle toy like this one, the kibble stays put and he is able to both relax when it's his turn and stay calm during the girls' turns.   Since our end goal is increasing Hurley's self control, this toy is on its way to god-send status with our training as it relates to Hurley, food and self control.

We've found that placing the toy on a towel or mat is best as it tends to slide around a lot on the hardwoods.  It's made of a thicker, more durable plastic than most other puzzle toys that I've seen and could probably withstand the Hurley Hulk Smash if I let him.   

Thank you, Santa!

 This toy review comes from the depths of my heart and I was neither requested nor reimbursed for writing this post.  I do, however, carry the toy in my store so if you're in Portland...yada yada.

Tune in tomorrow for Long Overdue Post 2:  Snow!