Stubbornness, a family trait

July 2011

Apparently, after three months of puppy bliss, MJ has decided two things:

1. She will not walk on leash beyond the end of the driveway.

2. We’re not allowed to touch her feet.


The foot thing we can deal with easily: a quick swipe of a towel disguised as belly rubs when she comes indoors from a damp walk.


For nail trims, we hustle her over to the vet, where it takes three techs plus Mom and/or Dad to hold her down, where she struggles until she pukes. It’s more traumatic for us, though, because she’s wagging her tail and trying to give kisses the entire time. At least, that’s what the professionals tell us.

The walking thing is an entirely other matter. We ply her with her cheese. We speak to her excitedly. We’re fun. We’re silly. She peers at us with pity. She knows exactly what we’re up to, and she’s not having it. Zozo, on the other paw, is psyched and ready for action.

Unlike Zo, MJ didn’t arrive to us with anxiety about the world. Nothing phases her. And also unlike Zo, there was never an incident we could blame for her decision to dig in and pull back. One day, she just won’t budge. We trot happily through the gate, past the cars, down the driveway. The moment we veer left, she plops her rump down. We try going right, and she’s all, “what did I just say?”

Our furbaby cannot opt-out of walking on leash. We keep trying, switching up handlers and times of day and high value treats. She hunkers down at the edge of the driveway. “Your move, humans.”

We had definitely been considering sending the Miss to Olde Towne School for Dogs (OTSD), like we did with Zozo when his nerves got the better of him. I call and request an evaluation for MJ with our previous Trainer, Tim. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how that went. OTSD was a huge part of our lives with Zo, and we are thrilled that they LOVE all breeds and are able to fit us in pretty much right away.

We are referred to Kathleen, who turns out to be exactly what MJ needs. Kathleen allows MJ to be her goofy, adorable self, but she won’t take any of her crap. We tried to be stern, but really… sometimes you just have to call in a professional. She’s firm and fair and generous with liver treats and belly pats. She toughens up our little love bug. Kathleen also happens to be a pretty cool chick.

Thus begins the daily shuttling of the puppy to and from school. Our evenings are filled with homework and exhausted, snore-filled naps (not necessarily from the puppy).


MJ is whip-smart. She struggles with sitting “like a dog” instead of lounging like a queen on a settee. She’ll down-stay, but she’d rather lean the back of her head against your knee so you can scratch under her chin. It turns out that she’s super-suspicious of large, potted plants. Random.

She and Zozo learn how to walk on leash beside one another and, if MJ’s on the outside, Doodle can walk for miles without freaking out at the noises and distractions of city life. That’s a huge improvement for him. If Zo gets ahead of her, MJ will pull and strain to catch up with him; we’re working on that.

But the best news is that we can get beyond the driveway and out into the neighborhood again. Two dogs. Two leashes. Combined, they outweigh me. Maybe we won’t run into any small woodland creatures.

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

July 2011

Our little girl is coming along nicely.  Yes, she’s bull-headed and pushy and choosy with her crate-training.  Yes, she can leap clear over the top of her baby gate and make herself comfortable on the couch.  But she’s sweet and loves to snuggle.  She barrels into closed doors at the right speed and oomph to pop them open so she can investigate the happenings on the other side.  She wags her entire body.

And Zozo is amazing.  He’s patient and kind and ignores the little girl until she needs to be yapped into line.  He shows off his cues and proves to be a great big brother and occassional alpha.

Individually, they’re wonderful.  Together, they’re their own little wolf pack.  It’s delightful.

photo (2)

We’re excited to introduce MJ to the people and places we love to take Zo.  We call to schedule her for a bath.

“How old is she?”

“Oh, almost 8 months.”




“Catahoula/Pit mix.”

“…Hold on…. (hold muzaq).. I’m sorry, we don’t groom Pits.”

“Oh, but she’s very sweet and has never shown any signs of aggression.  She loves kids-“

“Sorry, no Pit Bulls.”  Click.

This happens with the daycare we like to take Zozo to.  The Yappy Hour.  I begin noticing people avoiding our pink bully as we puppy-lurch down the road (our leash skills could use some work).  MJ doesn’t understand; she just wants to shimmy and play and give kisses.

I find myself shying away from admitting she’s Pit-mixed.  “She’s Catahoula with some kind of American breed– boxer maybe.”  It’s a lie no one falls for.  She may be gloriously speckled, but her snout is all Pit. 

photo (2)

And I feel like a coward for betraying her heritage.

Gradually, when I call to make plans for spa days, daycare, boarding and training, I start the conversation off with the following phrase:

Do you have breed restrictions?

The question becomes part of our vernacular.  The answer? Unsurprising: can’t, no pit bulls. 

We became one of those families.  We’re young, living in the suburbs.  We have two rescue dogs.  One is a Pit Bull.  Obviously we’re dangerous drug dealers or thugs and criminals, and she’s vicious. 

And that’s when I get mad.



I could eat.

July 2011

On a particularly lazy Sunday, we huddle in the house waiting out a summer storm. James makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich, and he’s been begged into submission and is shuffling around the kitchen making our lunch. Pans clang, burners ignite.  Out comes the bread loaf, cheese slices and butter.  The commotion draws Doodle’s attention, and he becomes the instant helper by standing right behind James while he works.

Helper= trip hazard

MJ snores on the couch, indifferent to the activity in the next room.

mj is not interested.

mj is not interested.

James peels open the Kraft American Cheese Singles slice.  MJ bolts into the kitchen. There’s something about that plastic noise that has her unsettled.

“Hey Miss, what’s up?  We’re making lunch,” James chats.

Zo shifts his settled position into the middle of the kitchen, and MJ begins duckling-stalking behind James as he moves from counter to cook-top.  She steps on/over Doodle.  Ears pert, eyes open, sniffing the air.

Without thinking about it, James takes a small corner of cheese and offers it to Zo.  MJ erupts in her Brontosaurus whine.  How dare she be overlooked and unoffered.  She screams for her fair share.

“Ok, Miss.  Hold on.”  He tears a piece of cheese.  “Sit.”

From the other room, I can hear her butt hit hard on the floor.  She slurps the cheese down.

“Good girl!  Stay.”  James walks a few steps away.  She’s twitchy but working very hard to stay put.  “COME!”

From the couch, I hear the jingles of the furbaby stampede.  “Sit.”  Two dog rumps thwap the ground.


Ladies and Gentlemen: we have a winner.

This Girl will do anything for Kraft singles.  It’s her Klondike bar; her holy grail.  Within a week, she’s mastering her cues for a tiny nibble of cheese.

We replenish our stock, but this time with the white singles slices (which I prefer).  MJ won’t take them.  She turns her snoot up and sulks away.  Back to the store we go.

Only the yellow slices for this princess.


Lessons Learned by New Fur Parents, Part II

 April – May 2011

1.  Adopting a puppy is the perfect excuse to get Lasik eye surgery.  This will really hit home the first time you stumble outside in the middle of the night for a pit-stop (get it?) without glasses and the puppy bolts into the darkness of the yard after a squirrel/bird/shadow/you couldn’t see it anyway. Blind whisper-shouting-hunting in the dark doesn’t get anything but nasty, passive aggressive comments from the Suburban Vampire Neighbors the next day.

2. Helpful hint that the Monks forgot to mention: when you have to wake up the puppy for an outting overnight, it’s time to push the alarm back an hour.  One whole, glorious hour.

3.  Know a good time to get hardwood floors installed?  When you bring home a puppy.  The floors go from looking new to weathered in a week.  PS: If you would like to borrow our dogs for a weekend to break in your new floors, just let me know.  They’re helpers, really.

4.  If the puppy doesn’t like where you’ve positioned her crate along the back of the couch, she’ll move herself.  Or, Fur-shui.IMG_0136

 5.  If the puppy doesn’t want to be in her crate, she will find a way to break out of it, after moving it and her brother’s bed across the room first.  You can also bet that the cat is hiding under the bed or on top of the fridge in response to this jailbreak.








6.  If it’s raining, you will have to carry the puppy out the door because she does not like getting her feet wet.  Also, do provide an umbrella over her delicate, princess head while she does her business.  If you don’t she’ll fake squat and wait until she’s back indoors and in her crate before relieving herself.  Annoying  Clever. Girl.

7.  This puppy will also get the “good dog discount” at the vet’s office.  Even when she’s a complete basket-case.

8.  Embrace chaos.  It’s sort of fun to live in squalor and mayhem.  Eventually the puppy will get a little more on-program (right?) and the older-brother-who-should-know-better will settle himself down (right?).  And in those moments when you think, “What have I done? I can’t handle this madness,” the little snout wakes up from an epic snuggle-nap on a lazy Sunday and looks at you like this…

"nap nose"

“nap nose”

We’re in so much trouble.

Can you handle my truth? by Zozo

April 2011

i didn’t like the little girl the first time i met her. mom and dad had to bring me for a meet-n-sniff at the rescue place.   it smelled weird and there were a lot of barkings and new peoples.  mom and dad usually don’t make me go into those “environments” (their word) because it doesn’t “set me up for success” (Trainer Tim’s words).

i’m sniffing around a big room, and all of a sudden this little puppy runs under my tail and through my legs.  she’s beneath my belly and i can’t see her.  i get nervous and i do something i never do: i growl.  that makes mom and dad unhappy (Uh-Uh!), and the little puppy has an accident.  i tuck my tail and trot away.

dad comes over to see if i’m ok.  “hey doodle, it’s ok.  are you ok, bud? she doesn’t know her manners and we need you to try to be patient with her.”

mom is helping wipe up the accident, and i feel bad that the little girl embarrassed herself.  rookie mistake.

we try again, and this time we have a tiny milkbone treat side-by-side and i let her sniff me while mom has me sit.  dad jogs around the room and we both follow him, but the little dog is slow and her feet don’t move right.  i guess things are ok, because the little girl comes home with us.

they’re calling her mj.  i don’t even know what kind of a name that is.  it’s certainly not as regal as zozo.  she’s fuzzy and pink.

let me make one thing clear: being a big brother is hard work.  the little girl doesn’t know how to play ball or sit.  she tries to chase the cat, which is a big no-no. she doesn’t understand that sitting on the couch is a reward if you’ve been a very good boy or if you’re not feeling well.  she doesn’t even run right because her back legs work faster than her front ones. her brakes don’t work.  she snores louder than dad.  she has a lot to learn.

 oh, and dad and i are officially out-numbered by girls.  gross.



yhst-17366611854461_2245_126063759                                                     September through October 2008

Zozo’s found his curl-up spots around the apartment where he and Dragon can snuggle and wrestle.  He’s established some form of truce with Athena, the intricacies and boundaries of which I don’t understand.  He’s known since Day Three which apartment is ours, so as we exit the elevator we drop his leash and let him trot happily along the hallway and sit by the door until we make our way home.  We’ve had to carry him back to the building after a particularly long walk when he decided he wouldn’t take any more steps.

He’s 9 months old.  He’s doubled in weight since July and his fur is growing out into a lovely Zo-fro.  He’s happy.  Also, he’s trying very hard to be a good boy and we’re trying very hard to not let him see when he’s pushed our buttons.  The training manuals and online videos aren’t working for us.  It’s time to call in reinforcements.

During one of our weekly excursions to Petsmart, I loitered by the floor-to-ceiling glass to watch a puppy training group roly-pol through socialization exercises.  Zo’s a monster compared to those pups.  His paws alone…  But we’re here ALL THE TIME now.  Might as well ask someone if Doodle (that’s nickname number two, for those of you keeping score at home) could possibly be allowed to participate in a smaller class. 

Lo and behold: his condition is not unique!  There are plenty of non-puppies who need a little obedience love.  We’re registered.  Tuition has been paid.  High-value treats have been procured (Zo’s very food motivated, which is just another way we know he was meant to be our dog).  We now have a real weekly date at Petsmart. 

We are Beginners.  We are proud.

At our first training session, Zozo becomes enamored with our assigned trainer, who has recently immigrated to the States with her doctor-husband after having an illustrious career as a dog whisperer in Korea.  She’s superb.  She’s commanding.  She comes bearing liver snaps.  Instant BFF.

Slowly, Zo starts to retain the lessons.  He’s a little ADD so we may be working on sit wheeee—SQUIRREL.  What were we doing?  Oh, right. 

We master “sit” and we’re trying to finesse his “down” so that it’s not a belly-flop followed by an eruption of loose fur.  He’s ok shaking his left paw, but he’s not interested in adding the right.  (I’m left handed; we’ll have a life of oppression together.) He’s fine walking on-leash loosely in the store, but the minute we hit the outdoors it’s all out the window.  Something to continue working on.  He’s learning to leave his treats until prompted to eat, and to share his toys with the other dogs in class.

By the way, say “loose leash walking” five times fast.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Zo’s favorite new skill is double-high five.  We put our hands up, palms out, by our shoulders and he’ll pop up on his back legs to touch his front paws to ours.  Sure, his aim is bad and occasionally we end up looking like middle-schoolers slow dancing, but it’s worth it for the little kiss on the nose he throws in. Every time. 

The six weeks fly by as his confidence grows in leaps and bounds.  The final class is a culmination of the program, a test of the skills and tricks we’ve been working on.  We’re overachievers.  We’ve been doing our homework.  This exam is ours!

Zo passes with flying colors.  For all of his hard work he’s rewarded with a certificate– ahem, diploma—and a whole hot dog.  He inhales the hot dog but doesn’t give the diploma a second sniff.  We (I) get a little misty when thanking our trainer.  As we’re driving home, we’re still praising Doodle.  We’re applauding ourselves.  We’ve made it over the first training hurdle and we now have a consistent vocabulary to use moving forward.  What a great night.  What a great two months!    


Zozo must share in our excitement.  He pukes in the backseat of my car, sharing the hotdog with us.  How considerate of him.