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!