a little crazy?

July 2014

I generally dislike the word “crazy.”  I don’t like how disparaging and dismissive it comes off.  I know it’s become one of those words, like “sick” or “bad” or “dude,” that means fourteen different things depending on your tone, word placement and angle of your hat.

But the amount of “crazy” that’s shown up in my inbox recently is startling.  Let’s stop calling women “crazy” (here and here) (also, yes, let’s, but that’s not my point here).  Let’s stop telling people a food-lifestyle choice is “crazy” (be gluten free, or paleo, or raw, or vegan.  I don’t care).

But animal people: for the love of Pete, let’s please stop calling each other crazy.  You like cats?  Have 20 cats, but only if you can properly care for them and feed them.  You want to dress your pig in a bathing suit and film her playing a keyboard?  Please send me a link.  You rescue or adopt or go to a breeder for your dog?  Fine, I’m not going to judge your choices; really, I’m not. Do the best for the animals you have.

I think we need to start letting ourselves off the hook.  If we don’t, then we get suckered into taking quizzes rating our craziness, and the outcome is like this:

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I am an over-achiever.  This is Fact.  When my crazy result is “Slightly,” I covet the craziness of others and I go overboard.  And that’s not healthy for anyone.

So how about we just accept the love and affection and obsessiveness we have toward our furbabies at any extreme?

When I dip, you dip, we dip…

July 2014

Guys! Guys! For like…ohhhh… three years I’ve been asking James if I could get a wading pool for myself the dogs.  And for three years he’s been all, “it will kill the grass” and “but, mosquitos” about it.  But this 4th of July, to celebrate the successful completion of some grueling DIY home improvement stuff, he finally caved.  Mostly because I was driving and I didn’t ask for permission.  We went to Trader Joe’s for sustenance, we stopped at Petsmart for a replacement dog bed, and then to Toys’R’Us for a pool.

And he’s excited about it.  I know, because he put this picture on Facebook:

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The pool wass bent and squished and wedged (and shoved) into the backseat of The Car.  Surprisingly, it made it home in one piece.

At first, we had to coax the dogs into the pool with cheese.  They weren’t too sure about the big blue bowl on the patio.  Once they were in, they were reluctant to get out!

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Of course we have videos!

Some lessons we’ve learned:

1.  If you’re sitting with your feet in the pool, one or both dogs will scratch your shins until you remove your feet, thus allowing more romping and splashing space.

2. Tennis balls must taste better when they’ve been dunked in hose water.

3.  MJ can become possessive of the pool after being splashed in the face by her brother.  And while we corrected the behavior, I don’t blame her snippiness.

4.  Dogs cannon-balling into the pool will move said pool half way across the patio, which may or may not be part of the fun.

5.  That pool is really, really heavy to empty.

6.  Dry dogs will break out of the sunroom to run through the murky, drained pool water.

7.  Seriously, this is the best $18 we’ve ever spent.  They both love the cool-off option on hot days.  And mosquitos were not a concern.  Neither was dead grass. I win.

STORIES FROM A VOLUNTEER: The First Really Hard Day

All you have to do is read my blog to know how much James and I love our furbabies.  And if you read PB&C with any frequency, you know I’m a sucker for a hard case or a lost soul.  I want to help them all– all of the dogs that have been abandoned or hurt or let down.  I wish we could do more, but times and resources are an issue (and I loathe the “adultness” of that comment, but it’s the truth).  In my dream world, we’d have a gazillion acres and rescue all of the dogs and let them romp and play and train and trust.    One day.

One of our dear friends, and early champion of our little blog, has recently started volunteering at a local animal rescue group.  Every day, I look forward to her updates on adoptables, recommendations for the best galoshes for kennel-wear, and asks for sheets/towels/treats/etc.  Her experience has been delightful to follow and her enthusiasm is contagious.  Recently, the realities of animal rescue presented themselves to her…. But I’ll let her explain them to you…


Volunteering at a shelter is hard. It’s extremely rewarding and beautiful work on some days; it is utterly heartbreaking on others. I have been volunteering with a local organization for the last two months and today was my first Really Hard Day. The timing makes sense because I’ve now been at the shelter long enough to form attachments to animals and though I knew this would happen, I wasn’t prepared for one of my favorite friends to not have a happy ending at a forever home. And I think it could have been avoided in many ways.

I should start by saying that the shelter I work with is a wonderful service to the community and to the animals who are brought in. Each animal inhabitant is treated with the utmost care and love – from snake to bunny; from cat to dog. I have witnessed nothing but compassion from staff and volunteers towards even the most difficult of animals to come through the doors. The dangerous dog cases often get the best toys and blankets; dogs needing behavior adjustments are rehabbed by patient, dedicated staff; and very sick, hurt animals get the medical attention they desperately require to give them a solid chance at a happy, new life. Most of that is behind-the-scenes work that the public never sees but absolutely benefits from. The shelter also works with a large network of rescue organizations and tries to free up as many kennels as possible for the harder-to-place, oft-maligned bully breeds. It is a good last-resort for our furry friends who do not have anywhere else to go and I passionately believe in the work that is being done there; I am so grateful this service exists.

But passion and belief do not make it any easier when hard decisions need to be made and shelters, as good a service as they provide, are no long-term place for any animal. Anyone working in a shelter would tell you that.

When I walk into the adoptions kennel on most days, the barks start slowly and then ramp up as I make my way down the aisle. Most of the dogs jump at the cage doors asking for attention. Sometimes they get distracted by kennel-neighbors and start jumping and barking at each other through the walls and bars that separate them. Despite daily cleanings, the kennel reeks of animal and animal waste and the din can be deafening; it’s an overwhelming sensory experience as a human. Note that a dog’s sense of smell can be up to 10,000,000 times greater than that of a person (depending on the breed) and they can hear 4x the distance of the average human and much higher pitches, too. So a kennel packed with pups all emitting their own natural odors, marking their territories, and loudly barking is like living in a group house with no doors and 50 non-showering roommates who each blast their own music (in an attempt to drown out the other roommates’ music) and everyone refuses to take out the trash. Those conditions would turn me into a psychopath and it’s enough to turn any sweet-faced love-nugget from friendly and adoptable to dangerously stressed-out.

That’s what happened to my buddy – lick-happy, high-energy, adorably-goofy, just-out-of-puppyhood and too-big-to-be-a-lap-dog-but-still-trying – he went from being adoptable to not in the span of a week after a little over two months at the shelter. The changes had to have started subtly but it was all of the sudden that I noticed his stress. He’d always been jumpy in his kennel, but now he was jumping higher and with more frequency (on a troubled leg, none-the-less); he’d always barked at dogs, but now he had interest in snapping at them through the bars of their cages as he strained on his leash when we walked by. And the saddest change to me, he had an inability to calm down.

The last time I spent an afternoon with him, after running around outside we went to a private room for some quiet couch-time. He laid some big, wet, pittie kisses on my face; he did his crazy-endearing too-big-to-be-a-lap-dog-but-still-trying moves, even lying next to me at one point; but he never settled down. My poor, sweet boy panted the whole thirty minutes of quiet time; his breathing never slowed, his eyes were wild, and he could not stay still for more than a minute at a time. He was constantly over-stimulated even in a calm, low-distraction area. Noticing these changes in his behavior, I immediately asked for him to be put on the urgently-needs-a-foster list – it turns out he was already on it.

Fast forward two days and my favorite fur-dude is too unpredictable to be considered adoptable or able to be fostered.

On a day I wasn’t there, potential adopters wanted to see him and when off his leash in the fenced-in yard, my guy was jumping up to shoulder height and mouthing at peoples’ faces in a concerning way.  It was suspected he was now redirecting his stress into aggression towards people.  The next time I came in, I was told he would be re-doing part of his behavioral assessment. The test was administered by loving care-givers who are always on the side of rooting for the underdog and they let me sit in on it; after all was said and done, with heavy heart I have to agree that my best buddy is not predictably safe. The loud noises and millions of smells and carousel of people coming and going during his two month stay have made him a very unhappy puppy.

I said goodbye to him today, with the thought that it could be the last time that I see my favorite friend. And after telling him I loved him and feeding him some treats through his wire door – all I could say was “I’m sorry” over and over as I tried to swallow tears and sobs.

Why am I sorry? Because, as I said earlier, I think this could have been prevented. How? Here are the things that could have been done to keep my bud out of his current predicament and things that anyone can do to help shelters and shelter animals:

  • Spay and neuter: For the love of Pete – spay and neuter your animals. There are so many pets who end up at the shelter because they are surrendered by people who say they are “unwanted” or they are picked up as wandering strays. Do not allow for the creation of more unwanted pets; do not allow the breeding epidemic to continue.  Get all of your animals fixed. **If you have a pet, this is the easiest way to contribute to lowering the number of animals in a shelter at any given time.**

 

  • Foster: If you have the ability to foster animals for a shelter – DO IT! Shelters are in dire need of individuals who have the ability to provide loving, temporary asylum to all creatures great and small but especially cats and dogs. Shelters are unforgiving on the senses and if you can provide a quiet, safe place for an animal until a permanent owner comes along, you will absolutely be saving at least one life. If more people were fostering, my furry friend could have been out of the shelter before reaching his breaking point – he would have been an amazing buddy for someone.

 

  • ADOPT! ADOPT! ADOPT!: Don’t shop for your next pet – instead, please go to your local shelter and give a chance to an animal who through no fault of his/her own has fallen on hard times. Shelters have so many phenomenal companion animals who are waiting to be adopted and brought into a loving home – so if you have a loving home, open it up. If more people adopted from local shelters, my love-nugget could have gone home when he was still healthy.

 

  • Responsible Ownership and Honoring the Promise:  When you become an animal guardian, you make a promise to care for your pet the best way you can for its entire life.  Do everything you can to honor that promise – especially when things get tough.  Behavior issues? Consult a trainer, read articles or books on the issue, and always talk to your vet because it could be medical.  Almost everything is fixable with dedication and the right solution – you owe it to yourself and your pet to put the time and effort into making things work. Taking your animal to a shelter is not a solution – it’s jumping ship and abandonment; it’s going back on your promise. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control – health fails or finances get out of whack – but if you have exhausted all options and can no longer take care of your pet, it is the job of a responsible owner to work personal networks to find a happy, healthy replacement home and to keep your animal out of the shelter. If my favorite fur-dude’s first owners had been responsible, none of this would have ever happened.

I am sorry – so very, very sorry – for the circumstances that landed my buddy in the shelter and for the circumstances that kept him there longer than what he was able to mentally handle. I am sorry that somewhere down the line, people failed him miserably and now he will not know the love of a responsible owner and the stability of a happy home. I’m sorry that I did not recognize that he was taking a turn for the worse until it was too late. I’m sorry that I did not step in to offer to foster until it was too late.

I am happy that I gave him love and attention when I could. I am happy that he has been living somewhere that has provided him with needed medical treatment, food, treats and belly scratches for the last two months. I am happy that I know he will be lovingly attended to and treated with care and respect for the entirety of the time he has left.

But what I am most painfully sorry about is that this will not be the last Really Hard Day. People will continue to bring their animals into the shelter for reasons beyond my comprehension and will continue to let them loose on the street or leave them behind when they move. This will not be the last time that I have a favorite friend who does not get to go to a forever home; I am not naive enough to think that it will not happen again and again and again and again and that it will not be this painful each time – because it will be.

As much as that thought makes me sick to my stomach and want to head for the hills instead of reporting for duty, it’s also what keeps me coming back. I want to do as much good for the animals as I can while they are there. I want to advocate for them and help behaviorally assess them and be able to flag them for urgent foster when I notice even the smallest in changes. I want to help keep as many animals as sane as they can possibly be in an unnaturally chaotic environment. I want to work with a team of dedicated, loving animal-care professionals and learn more about what I can do to help. And more than anything, I want to send all of the animals – from snakes to bunnies, from cats to dogs – to happy homes with responsible owners.

It’s on this first Really Hard Day that I need to remind myself that it has to be all about the Really Big Picture.

Dedicated to my first favorite boy FM

 

Wordless Wednesday: All clear, no stones!

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I know, I know

I haven’t written in two weeks. I feel bad about it. Especially when Friday night rolls around and the dogs look at me like this:

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Full of judgement. Woe. Despair that their interweb-sensation-ism is fading.
We’ll be back. I promise.

Time to get our hands dirty

June 2014

When you own a dog, you resign yourself to a certain level of mess in your life.  Muddy paw prints on carpet after rain.  Snout marks stamping upholstery.  Dog hair on everything and in everything.  Discovering a hole in the pick-up baggie the hard way.  Water bowl slosh-over.  Slobbery kisses after a particularly rough day, leaving your cheeks perfectly exfoliated. Tumbleweeds of fur rolling through your living room despite daily swifferings.

All of this I was ready to accept as a fur-mom.  I could handle it, to a degree.

But what I never really prepared for– what other furparents don’t disclose– is cheese squished under your fingernails.  Pants pockets dusty with biscuit crumbs.  Hot dog grease clinging to the grooves of my fingers.

Treats. Smell.  And the higher the value, the more potent.

I’m always looking for ways to reward our dogs for good behavior and well-executed cues. Something yummy and different, but not full of junk. Carrots, fresh green beans, apples and bananas are frequent fare during our “You Did It!” exaltations.  But for those really tough recalls, the getting attention away from woodland creatures and UPS delivery drivers, we need more. Hence the stinky treats.

Reading through various blogs, I came across Pitlandia, a blog about a rescue pittie living in Portland.  Athena and her mommy are very sporty and on-the-go, and we like reading about their adventures.  Occasionally they post product reviews, and I was particularly intrigued by Love It: LeanLix.

Based in Seattle, Washington, LeanLix was developed by Gracie the Yellow Lab and her mom (Sharon).  One snowy winter, Sharon was training puppy Grace in the snow, and grabbed a jar of fluff.  Grace did a trick, the lid came off and Grace got a lick.  Inspiration struck!

As their website says, LeanLix is “a reward that could be licked, low calorie and have health benefits (all while keeping all 5 fingers intact)”… exactly what we’re looking for!  With big plans for summer adventures, we thought we’d give LeanLix a whirl.

I actually ended up speaking with Sharon on the phone when I placed my order.  She was enthusiastic, friendly and so excited about her product and our dogs.  We chatted breeds, best LeanLix deployment techniques, and flavors our pups respond to.  Later that week, our treats arrived complete with a Gracie sticker!

IMG_1301LeanLix are packaged in tubes that resemble chapstick, and they work the same way: twist the bottom to dispense more treat!  They come in “littlelix,” like our Spring Training 6-pack, and “Big Dog.”  The flavors we’ve tried are bark bq, run-a-way frank, day at the beach, cupcake on the counter, grace d-luxe with cheese, and 1/2 eaten pb&j sandwich.  It looks like new flavors are being added every day. While our furbabies like them all, they’re most greedy about licking the grace d-luxe and run-a-way frank.

Here’s what we’ve found:  MJ and Zozo were a little leery of the treat delivery system at first, but once they tasted them, they were hooked.  The littlelix fit in pants pockets, while the Big Dog comes with a neck lanyard for easy carrying.  They get excited when the tubes come out of our treat jars, and they’d gladly run away with a littlelix if we’d let them.  Our hands are clean, our dogs are happy.  I’m happy.  Did I mention 3 licks equals zero calories and they don’t break the bank?

If you’re looking for something new, check out their site and give Sharon a call (you can also order them online, but I like talking to entrepreneurs).  She’s wonderful, they’re wonderful, and Gracie’s sticker is too darn cute.  Tell her MJ and Zozo sent you!

Chillin’

May 2014

It’s gorgeous outside.  And our boy suffers from seasonal allergies.  We run, we romp, we hunt bumble-bees, and when the itchy skin and watery eyes get to be too much, we head inside for the cool comfort of floor.

These days, it’s taking a lot for Doodle to settle and rest.  He’ll circle a spot 10 times before deciding he didn’t want to flop there anyway.  We hear him clicking around, huffing and sighing, and we stay out of the way and keep MJ from interrupting his quiet times.

But often, we’ll come back into a room, and he’s Feng-Zo’d it somehow.  Some examples:

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here’s this oldie-but-goodie, where i believe he had assistance getting under his bedding. i think. but stranger things have happened

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one cheek and tail are on the bed. thats all a pupper needs.

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i said “no thank you, pillow”. down. stay.

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what? the squishy bit is supposed to come out. i just wanted something soft for my chin.

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spooning.

Anyone else experience weird “getting comfy” rearrangements?

 

MJ’s been voted Caring Hands Animal Hospital’s “Pet of the Week”

Read all about it!

 

Pet of the Week.

Giving back

May 10, 2014

As you know, we rescued MJ from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).  They provided us with tremendous support and love as we brought home our second furbaby. They helped prepare us not only for life with a puppy, but for life with other people’s opinions about owning a pit bull.  MJ has become our most notorious family member and a true ambassadog for her breed.  It’s because AWLA set us all up for success.

Each year, the AWLA hosts an annual Walk for Animals.  From their event website:

The Walk for the Animals demonstrates the way pets enrich our lives and generates funds to help us sustain community programs and services offered through the League, such as our low-cost spay & neuter clinics,” said Neil Trent, president/CEO of AWLA.

But it’s really more than that.  It’s an opportunity for the AWLA extended family to gather together to raise funds and awareness for homeless animals, and the incredible work the AWLA does.  Alumnae and neighbors come together for a 1 mile stroll or 3 mile walk to celebrate animal rescue.  Dogs are welcome to attend, and cats and small companion pets are honored on t-shirts, stickers and posters.

This was the first year our little pack was able to attend (finally).  We joined the AWLA Pit Crew Team, set funding goals, and practiced our loose leash walking around the neighborhood.  A very, very special thanks go out to Chris, Kathy, Mark and Margaret for sponsoring us!!

On May 10th, we were more than ready!  The night before, we set out our gear.

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And in the morning, with a very special guest, we piled into the car and headed to the park!IMG_1316

We registered, toured the swag booths and met up with the pack.  We were all to wear black, red and grey.  Zo wore his picnic-inspired bandana and MJ wore a Bacardi kerchief because that’s the only other red bandana we could find… she is a “woo” girl and it was nice weather, so it sort of made cosmic sense.  Then we hung out and waited for the walk to start.

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MJ opted to wait on a table, because the princess must be above everyone. She then fell off the table, because I’m a terrible parent and took my eyes off of her for two minutes to admire another dog.

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It’s cool though, because my mom came with us (special guest) as another set of hands and chief photographer.  MJ found respite and much belly-rubbing after her tumble with mums.  PS:  Miss is totally fine.  She landed on all four feet like she meant to jump down.

That's my mom.  You can tell we're related because she has purple in her hair.

That’s my mom. You can tell we’re related because she has purple in her hair.

The walk started… we opted for the three mile walk, because we wanted to get everyone good and exercised.  And we also promised that we’d get as far as we could until someone had a melt-down and it was time to go.

Of course... you could go both ways.  Volunteers directing walker traffic!

Of course… you could go both ways. Volunteers directing walker traffic!

Along the way, there were watering stations, baggie drop bins, volunteers with cheers and pets, and your friendly local law enforcement to help these chickens safely cross the big road.IMG_1326

 

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The pups did really well, and we made it through 3 miles without hurt feelings or “please pick me ups”.  We reinforced some of our on-leash skills, which haven’t received too much attention because we rarely get out in very populated, high foot-traffic areas.  We also reintroduced our “3 second greeting” rule: say hi, sniffsniff, keep trucking.  It’s good for humans and furries alike.

And when it was over and we were home and clean, everyone tucked in for a well-deserved nap.

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Note from James:

We learned today the the Walk attracted 700 people, 200 dogs and raised nearly $90,000 for AWLA. We’re happy to have been a small part of that, and look forward to doing it all again next year! Speaking of, they have announced the date for next year as May 9th, 2015, better put it on my calendar…