Today we took a walk…

August 2014

…and we left our prong collars at home. And it was the Worst. Walk. Ever.

A little background:
During our training at Old Town School for Dogs, both dogs were put on prong collars. The collars were left loose. The prongs are rubber-tipped. Yes, prong collars are controversial. I’m not interested in an argument; please don’t engage.

Since we’ve completed the training, when we gear-up for a walking adventure, the prongs go on. They’re so loose they may as well be necklaces. We refer to the collars as their bling. They sing rap songs when they wear them. Ok, I do. It’s charming. Trust me.

Bygones.

The point is, the dogs walk like angels when they’re wearing them. They strut nicely beside each other, heel like champs and respond to our cues on the first call. The moment I take the collars off, it’s mayhem. Crossed leashes, pulling, lunging… The collars serve as a reminder of what they’re supposed to do, and the treats and praise that follow successes.

But last Sunday, I attended an Animal Welfare League of Arlington Breakfast with Bullies session. We learned about Good Canine Citizenship certification and the types of therapy dog opportunities in our area.

Our dogs are awesome. They’re great with people and children. They’re silly and loving and sweet. They make us happy. They’re more entertaining than television. And we can share them with people who could use a little laughter.

And so, over the next year, we’re redoubling our training efforts. We’re trading in our prong collars for harnesses. We’re going to push their limits and our own as we lock in our recall, our “Leave It”, and as we increase our tolerance for sudden noises and distractions. They’ll train separately and together. With both parents at the end of the leash.

Buy your stock in Kraft American Cheese and Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs. We’re training for gold.

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.

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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.”

“Weight?”

“32lbs”

“Breed?”

“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. 

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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.

 

 

Why MJ is the best puppygirl in the world. By MJ. Naturally.

Y’all: Mama said I could use this as an opportunity for y’all to get to know me. She spends way too much time focusing on Doodle and not enough time on MJ. And I say it’s about time for me.

Here am I, Southern belle and one tough cookie. I’m part leopard, part bull, part puppy and all internet sensation. That’s a lot of awesome. Here’s my selfie:

It's ok.  You can tell me how cute I am.

Mama and Daddy say it’s a good thing I’m so cute, because I’m a menace. What do I menace? Thank you for asking: squirrels, birds, Mama, Doodle, Daddy, the cat.

I also steal the blankets (allegedly):379897_2749150640878_72146328_n

Let’s see… my absolute favorite things in the world are Kraft American Cheese slices, giving kisses, wiggling, chasing squirrels and running in circles around the tree, being stinky, and sleeping on squishy human things (beds and couches… now, now, I’m a lady). I may or may not have a tattoo on my belly.

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Oh, I also love running zoomies and biting Doodle’s rear right leg. And Direwolves. I luv me some Direwolves.

I’m a good girl. I’m a sweet girl. I’m a pibble ambassapup.

 

 

Things I Never Expected to Say

Furparenthood can be challenging.  You work on manners and good behavior.  You reinforce.  You spend a small fortune on treats and toys (which you know will be destroyed in minutes).  You adjust routines and plans and coordinate a fleet of people who can serve as willing back-ups when things get crazy.  You read and you listen and you attend training classes and vet appointments.  You go to play groups.  You make play dates. You think you’re prepared.

And then one evening over a very grown-up dinner of a brie wedge and leftover birthday cake, you hear yourself utter the following words:

“Stop licking your brother’s butt.”

And it’s all over.  In those five little words, you have humbled away years of acquired dignity in rescue-dog companionship.

You’re an educated person.  You like to learn from your mis-steps.  Perhaps you and your spouse can use this as an opportunity to reflect on some of the more outlandish things that have escaped your lips.  And so, we proudly bring you,

Stuff we say to our pups, or where have we gone wrong?

  • Stop humping your sister’s head.
  • Don’t eat his ear.
  • That’s not your food.  I’m not even sure what that is.
  • Thank you for burping in my face.  Twice.
  • The cat is not a chew toy.
  • Why are you green?
  • Stay.  Please, sit still for 15 seconds.
  • Your impression of a Dinosaur screaming is charming. 
  • I cannot feed you faster if you step on my feet.
  • Is that snot on your face, or were you licking your nose?
  • How in the world is that comfortable?

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  • Why does your breath smell like poop?
  • Why do you smell like skunk?
  • Drop it. Dropitdropitdropit.
  • Don’t step on Dad’s squishy bits.
  • Don’t kick Mommy’s boob.
  • Armpits are not gourmet treats.
  • Must you race me up the stairs?
  • Must you race me down the stairs?
  • You’re barking at your own reflection.
  • You wouldn’t like it if I sneezed in your open mouth.
  • May I have some room on the couch, please?

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Have you caught yourself saying anything “strange” to your furbabies?

 

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.

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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.

Introducing…

April 5, 2011

It’s a typical Tuesday night.  We’re all curled up in our respective corners making a dent in our DVR’d shows.

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I’m noodling around on my laptop, and I happen to start scrolling through the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s (AWLA) adoptable dogs site.  How does this happen?  Not sure, although it probably went something like: Facebook, ModCloth, Netflix, LinkedIn, AWLA.  (All roads pretty much lead to “dog” at this point.)

I scroll through the adorable mugs of dogs available for rescue and adoption, and I almost drop the computer.  There’s a picture of a small, round puppy that’s mostly pink snout.  Her ears are tucked back against her head and she’s looking with blue (are they blue?) eyes at the camera in true doggy-fishbowl fashion.  We take a look at her profile, but there’s not much there.

Her name is MJ.  Her dad’s a red-nosed Pit Bull and her mom’s a Catahoula Leopard Hound (go ahead and click that link; I’ve never heard of it either).  She’s from a litter of 11, 8 of which were dropped off for rescue.  She’s been at AWLA for over a week, which is odd since puppies don’t really hang around much.

It can’t hurt to file an application, right?  Get to the head of the line, since it looks like she’s just been cleared for adoption…

We submit our app, and then we promptly rearrange our work schedules in order to stop by AWLA to meet MJ first thing in the morning.  We’re giggly.  We ask Doodle and the Diva what they’d think about having a little sister.  Just like when we were waiting for Zo, it’s an anxious, restless night.

April 6, 2011

We’re up with the sun, which isn’t super-abnormal considering both pets get nibble-y around 6.  Everyone’s working from home until we can head over to the League at noon, and it’s the longest. 6. Hours. Ever.

We’re by the front desk the moment the adoption area opens for the day, and we proudly say “We’re here for MJ.”  I, apparently, shout it, because the woman behind the desk remarks on our (my) enthusiasm.

A volunteer takes us back to a puppy room, which is a small play room with a drain in the middle of the floor and toys safe for baby teeth.  She says she’ll be back, and we sit on the bench and fidget.  We don’t talk.

The volunteer returns with a small, pale cannonball of a puppy, who is pulling at the leash so she can come say hello.  Doing that funny Pit Bull “I can’t bend my elbows” strut.  She winds between our legs like a cat, licking our shins and hands and anything her tongue can reach. James pulls a toy from a tub and they start to play tug.  I sit on the floor, and MJ leaves the toy and wiggles over to me.  Her rump is the perfect size to nook in my crossed legs.  She touches her nose to mine (her eyes are most definitely blue), she sniffs, and then pees all over my jeans.

I’ve been marked.  James laughs and the volunteer apologizes.  It doesn’t matter.  There is no way we’re not bringing this girl home with us.  She’s mine now.

Ours.  I mean ours.

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Wordless Wednesday: Say CHEESE

photo credit: Animal Welfare League of Arlington

photo credit: Animal Welfare League of Arlington, 2011