Monday, January 31, 2011

Dog in the City: How to Catch a Cab in the City with a Pit Bull

When I first looked into adopting a dog,  everyone was telling me it would be really hard to have a big dog in the city without a car. I never owned a car, but I was always able to catch a bus or train to take me where I needed to go. Unfortunately, dogs aren't allowed on the city buses and trains. The only exception is if you carry them in a dog carrier. And while I envisioned finding  a huge duffel bag, in which I could mush Miss M's huge body and let her head hang out, I had to realize how completely unrealistic this was:
In the beginning, I was successful at finding nearby places where Miss M could easily walk. I found a vet within a mile, a pet boutique within a 1/2 mile, and a training class 2 miles away--which was actually a good distance because Miss M needed that entire walk to calm down. And this worked for awhile. But then I found more places I wanted to go that were way out of our walkable zone. I was tempted by  dog fundraisers, parades, walks along the lake, and CGC training classes. Then I realized we could probably make like all other Chicagoans and take a cab.
The first time I tried, I wasn't sure if anyone would actually pick us up. I know a lot of cab drivers are not dog-friendly, let alone pitbull friendly. I had Miss M sit/lay nicely behind me while I hailed the cab so they wouldn't think she was huge. I also knew I had more of a chance of a cab pulling over if they didn't notice I had a dog with me. Plus, dogs in coats and sweaters are less intimidating.
When the cabs pull over I ask if I can bring my dog, who they can see is sitting and waiting very nicely. I also bring a blanket with me which I explain to the driver I will put over the seat. At the end, we tip extra so the cab drivers can see how nice dog-owners are. We've probably taken cabs about a dozen times, and in all the times,  we've never been denied a ride. Miss M and Mr B have their own pitbull-mobile now, but it's always nice to know we have other options.

Friday, January 28, 2011

5 Awesome Things

Yesterday, we watched this Ted talk by Neil Pasricha, in which he talked about his blog and the origin of his blog, 1000 Awesome things. Easily we can come with 5 awesome things from our pooches:
1. Having someone to talk to.
When A isn't around, it is nice to have someone that will give you his/her undivided attention.
2. A fuzzy face to wake up to.
I'm so lucky to wake up to A on one side and the fuzzy face of Mr. B on the other. Though I could do without his mackerel breath.
3. Laying out with others.
My favorite weekend activity is laying out in the sun and it is so much better to have others to lay out with me.
4. A partner in crime, though skateboarding is NOT a crime.
A has never been on a skateboard and probably will never be, but I'm lucky that Mr. B makes such a great skateboarding partner.
5. Having another best friend.
Mr. B, my second best friend...though unofficially, he is my best friend and A is a close second.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Doggystyle: Dog-Friendly Rugs

As E mentioned in our last post, most of our decorating decisions have been based on our dogs. We work to have rugs and furniture that are dog-resistant, but still look nice. We have rugs throughout our place, but it has actually taken me a full year to find one that I liked for our bedroom. And we finally found it!
To review, the rugs that have worked for us in the past have been dark in color just to be safe:
We use this West Elm Andalusia Rug as our runner at our shoe removal station. We like the dark color and how it's reversible:
We bought Flor Tiles from CB2 that we made into a carpet under our dining table and in Mr B's tepee:
We like that you can put the tiles together to create your own patterns. We have Toy Poodle which is still soft underfoot. And if anything happens to one of the tiles, they're super easy to replace without having to get rid of your whole rug.
Then we have this practical bamboo rug in the kitchen that is really easy to wipe clean:
So after realizing what has already been successful, we went ahead and got this rug for the bedroom:
Yes, it's white and probably not that dog resistant. We actually tried a darker rug in the bedroom, but it just seemed like too much because our walls are already gray, and this will look really nice with our new headboard. We wanted something soft and carpet-like that we could all lay on,
plus, it was really inexpensive and on super-sale at CB2. We already have our feet wiping routine so I'm not too afraid of muddy paws, plus we just found an excellent rug and upholstery cleaner. I guess I have to be more like E and just go with it. What are your guesses on how this will work?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Musings from Mr. B

Our Wednesday's posts on our daily walks in 10 pictures will resume once the weather warms up. It has just been too cold for A and even the pooches to be out long enough to leave our neighborhood. While waiting for the State of the Union address, I decided to write about our future from my past. This weekend we are expecting a new bed frame, which is going to replace the metal bed frame with casters I  had my whole life. It is strange how the pooches influence all of our purchases, including our new bed frame. So I decided to write ourselves a few reminders of how to live with dogs.
Forget the furniture. Well, buy furniture that we are not afraid to get dirty (which is why our new bed frame is gray and not white), but remember that any furniture, like our white sofa, can be cleaned. After some time, we found our white bed skirt to be dark brown from the pooches rubbing on them and our white sofa also to have the same dark brown on some spots. We almost went with a white cloth for our new bedframe and headboard, but quickly changed to the dark gray because it will hide the stains better. However, we found a place that will clean our white sofa for cheap, so I guess it is possible to have white with dogs.
Forget the floors. When I first moved in, I would stress out over every little scratch on the hardwood floors, then came Mr. B. Mr. B does not know the meaning of slow or walk, but lucky for us a friend of ours just had her floors refinished and stained for a reasonable price.
Not only have a strong stomach, but a weak nose and dark colored rugs. A number of times, we have woken up to find puke and/or diarrhea all over our bedroom. Lucky for me, A has a strong stomach and not a great sense of smell, so she is willing to do the cleanup. We would spend hours trying to remove the stain from the rug using Nature's Miracle and our rug cleaner, but we wisened up and just bought a brown rug for our front room and replaced the carpet in our bedroom with hardwood. Though the accidents have decreased, it is nice that we don't have to worry about visible stains and cleanup in the bedroom is a lot easier.
Establish rules. When A and I started hanging out, I would let Ms. M on the sofa and bed with me whenever they came over. When A officially moved in, she established the same rules she had at her place and wouldn't let Ms. M snuggle with me on the sofa and bed anymore. Though I was upset at first, it really made our life easier. Not only was there a lot less to clean from Ms. M's butt stamping our cushions and sheets, but we didn't have to worry about our food. At my place, Ms. M would counter surf, but once A established the rules, Ms. M realized her boundaries and now we can leave food out on our counter.
Crate train...or tepee train. Giving the pooches a home base, gives us a place to send the pooches when we want our space.
Be a heavy sleeper...especially with Ms. M. She snores all the time and lucky for me, I can sleep through almost anything, except through Mr. B's smelly toots.
Beware of pit bulls. They will follow you everywhere, try to give you smooches and wait to get petted. They are loyal, gentle, adorable and lovable and it will make you want to start a blog.
Love...how lucky are we to receive such unconditional love...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dog Training: Teaching Dogs to Be Gentle with Toys

After writing this post, we had an overwhelming response asking for our secret to teaching Mr. B not to tear apart his toys. When we first got Mr. B, he was a pro chewer: ripping apart baseball mitts in minutes and quickly tearing through all of Miss M's toys.
Knowing we couldn't afford to keep buying new toys, we decided to train Mr. B to be more gentle. We know all dogs are different, but this is how we trained our Mr. B:
1) We reinforce positive toy-chewing behavior
Dogs really don't know that we get upset when they tear apart their toys, so we have to reinforce positive behavior by marking when they're gentle. We started by supervising all of his soft-toy chewing. Every time Mr. B would nibble on the toy we would associate the words "Yes gentle". When he licks the toy we say "Yes  kisses" and give him lots of head rubs.

2) We have a signal to let Mr. B know when we're disappointed
Dogs are in-tune with us and they don't want to hurt us. Like when Miss M first came to live with me she thought she was showing affection by mouthing and chewing on me. Every time she did that I pretended to cry or be in pain, and eventually she learned to stop that behavior. We do the same thing with the toys; every time he would become aggressive with the toy we would pretend to cry and he would stop chewing it. Then when he would lick it and become gentle we would give the positive reinforcement. Eventually we were able to stop the fake-crying and insert a mournful "Oh no!" which gives the same effect.

3) We supervised toy playings and kept chewing time to a minimum
We would supervise his soft-toy chewing and only allow it for short amounts of time before taking it away. Eventually, he built up the time and we trust him to chew on his own. Sometimes we hear him getting rough with the toy and we just take it away. But now that he understands how to play with toys,  he's content just laying with them in his tepee.
We know Mr. B is sensitive, but I wonder how this would work with most dogs. Or does anyone else have some other tips?

PS. If you like Mr. B, his former foster mom is now fostering this "Mr. B look-alike" that we've heard is just as sweet. Read more about him here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicagoing: The Colors of Winter

Just as I was excited to be getting back into our family walk routine, a huge Arctic blast blew into Chicago dropping windchills to blustery subzero temperatures. While everything seemed miserable and gray, we had a huge surge back up to 20 degrees; this felt absolutely tropical in comparison! Determined not to let the winters hold us back, we bundled up the pooches and headed out on a longer neighborhood walk. And despite all the grays of winter, there were many brighter hues. Miss M wore her bright pink coat in defiance of the gray weather:
I did notice that if I really looked, things were a bit more colorful and spring-like than I originally thought. I had never noticed this blue garage before:
Mr. B's blue coat looked vibrant in front of this wall:
Snow-covered branches in front of an orange condo:
 A bright-yellow bicycle snowed in.
And Miss M in pink along a snow-covered white picket fence.
Maybe if I just try to notice these types of things more, the winter won't seem as harsh. We're all starting to have cabin fever and just hoping the groundhog makes the right choice about spring. What else is everyone doing to get through the winter?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mr. B the tough dog

We always hear how Mr. B is such a solid dog and this is usually while someone is slapping and petting his side or behind. He is a perfect Bears fan and the way he looks pretty much epitomizes Chicago and Chicagoans: solid, weathered, resilient, tough and calloused. So it is pretty funny that his favorite toy right now is a big fuzzy red bone.
Our fantastic dog walker bought the red and a matching yellow fuzzy bone for the pooches as a Christmas gift, but really the fuzzy bones have become Mr. B's toys.
He carries them all around the house, when we leave for our walk, he will try to take his bone on the walk and when I take them down out back to potty, he will run out the door with the bone and I will have to chase after him to grab the bone.
It is funny that we have all these Nylabones and sometimes real bones laying around the house and though on rare occasions he will chew on one of them, he prefers to play with a large fuzzy bone. We have taught him to be gentle with his toys, so many of his fluffy toys have lasted several months and some over a year.
I guess he is like a true Chicagoan, though he looks all tough on the outside, he really is just a softy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Schwang Manor: Chicago Bears Game Day

The last time I wrote about our Bears Game Day was back in September, when the weather was a bit warmer than now. Back then, Mr. B and I sat out on the porch watching the game off my computer. This week, like every week, Mr. B wore his Payton jersey and I wore my Bears shirt and we watched the NFC divisional playoffs.
Rather than watching the game off my computer, Mr. B wanted to watch the game off the projector.
However, it seemed like Ms. M was more interested in the game than Mr. B.
Though by the half, they were both bored and all Mr. B wanted was to get petted and Ms. M wanted to eat my slippers.
Bear Down, Chicago Bears
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