Friday, August 31, 2012

Pooches: The Old Married Couple

 Every time we're out with the pooches we have at least one person ask: "Are they twins?".
Not only can dogs not really be twins, but our pooches are very different kinds of pitbull type dogs. Miss M is brindle, jowly, lanky (and grumpy!). While Mr. B is gray, shorter and stockier.
They really do look very different....
Or do they...
It seems like our pooches are starting to morph into one single dog.
Or maybe they're just like the Old Married Couple who has lived together so long, they have just started to look alike.
Is this something common among dogs who live together?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

DoggyStyle: "Deck Dogs" Dog Door Screen

We used to feel guilty that our dogs didn't have a backyard, but then we realized our dogs have something else. They are "Deck Dogs".
Since half of our year is spent like this, we make sure to spend as much time as possible outdoors. What was once a smallish deck has now become an alfresco dining room/ herb gardenoutdoor lounge /movie theatre.  Which also happens to be very pooch-friendly.
The pooches love sitting in our isolated area outdoors among the floor pillows (Glamping!), among the flowers and foliage, and the perfect views to see what the neighbors are up to.
Though we did find one small way to improve.
We recently discovered this magic mesh instant screen door which makes the pooches' indecisiveness less annoying. The screen is split, and held together by a magnet so it closes behind them without letting in any bugs, and they don't need to depend on us to keep opening and closing the screen door. It's also helpful for us when we're carrying plates off food outside and we don't have a free hand to open the door.

What other ways do you make your outdoor space dog-friendly?
Making a Dog-Friendly Deck
Why it's ok Our Dogs Don't Have a Backyard

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Things to Do in the City with Dogs: Taste of Latin America Festival

While many people think there aren't many activities to do with big pooches, we've been able to find a lot of things we can all enjoy as a family. Last weekend we took the pooches out for a newer festival in west Logan Square: Taste of Latin America. Because loving food is something we all have in common.
The festival had a huge variety of local restaurants including food from: Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Belize, Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
Which gave us a lot to try.  We had everything from Cemitas Pueblas to Sweet Bread to Agua Frescas (Hibiscus and Tamarind!), Arepas, Panades, and Platanos. Plus some jarritos, churros and coconut ices.
We had come in the afternoon, and we liked it so much we came back for dinner (we were so full the first time around and there were still things we wanted to try!).
The afternoon was a bit empty with no lines, but things were a lot more crowded in the evening which can be hard for the pooches. E stayed with them on a curb while I got the food. This actually helped them meet more people.
It has also been really fun running into people who know the pooches from the blog. We've been meeting so many people lately; thanks for saying hi!

Also: Our Facebook photo of Mr. B after his first taste of Chirozo
How to Prepare Your Dog for a Street Festival
More Diversity

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pooches: When Were you Ready for a Dog?

Owning my own dog as an adult always seemed like a far-off distant dream for me. Something about as elusive as owning a vacation home in Europe.
When I first moved to Chicago, I worked downtown in advertising where an average day meant leaving around 8:00 at night. Which would sometimes be midnight. Or even 3:00am.
Plus the other nights there were always people to meet out, which could also be until 3:00am.
It wasn't until I was a bit older, changed careers and I had my first summer off as a teacher that I realized I really could be a dog owner.
At the same time, I've been meeting so many great, younger people just starting out who are ready now. And they are fantastic pet owners.
Just curious...when did you know you were ready for the responsibility of your own dog as an adult? Were you always ready, or did it take you a bit longer (like me!)?

Also: Figuring out Miss M was the one for me!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pooches: Camping With Dogs

While we had a whole slew of activities we were excited for this summer, we're suddenly scrambling to soak up the nice weather and do everything before this happens again
Sure, camping might be a stretch, but we did just have some interesting questions about how to make camping trips with dogs more successful, and it reminded us how our first outing together as a family--with both pooches--was a camping trip.
We are definitely not experts, and we would love to hear everyone's successful camping tips, but here are some things that have worked for us:

Accommodations for All:
We wanted to find a way to keep things somewhat clean and allow the pooches to have their own space, so we decided on a tent with a vestibule. We liked that this offered a covered, rain-free place where we could remove our shoes and wipe down the pooches (without getting wet or bitten up) while keeping the inside of our tent fairly clean and bug-free. We also liked that this offered the pooches a way to be somewhat independent and come and go as they please to stay out of the sun or away from mosquitos. Our tent is the Big Agnes Big House 4.

Sure, Miss M doesn't like her bare body to touch the ground, but we found extra benefits to bringing the pooches beds and mats. We had extra mats scattered throughout the campsite which helped the pooches understand designated places where they could sit still and relax. This also helped keep the pooches a bit cleaner as they weren't laying directly in dirt. We also brought the pooches' beds from home so they understood where they were supposed to lay in the tent itself.

Packing for Pooches:
We pack a specific duffel bag for the pooches to make their stuff easier to find. We include wiping cloths and a towel to keep us all a little less muddy. We bring their food in individual baggies or tupperware pre-portioned for the day (thanks to Reggie's great tip!). We bring long-leashes for the dogs and attach them to the picnic table at our campsite so they have some freedom but are still in a safe distance. We also bring a chew so they have something to do when we're setting up the tent.

These are some things that work for us, but we would like to hear how everyone else successfully camps with their dogs.. especially if you have safe advice for keeping the mosquitos off of Miss M's belly.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Miss M is not impressed

Living with Miss M has given us low self-esteem. No matter what we do, whatever fancy hats we buy her to keep her ears warm or where we take her, Miss M is never impressed.
We buy Miss M the latest fashionable floor pillows, which we scatter throughout our home, but
Miss M is not impressed

Miss M is bathed in all natural oatmeal and aloe shampoo to soothe her itchy fur, followed up with a remoisturizing creme rinse to leave her fur feeling soft and clean, but
Miss M is not impressed

Miss M is graced with the presence of the lovable and fan favorite Boris, now known as Radar, who could be her male twin, but
Miss M is not impressed

We expose Miss M to world-reknown downtown culture, riding in taxi's and taking in views people travel thousands of miles to see, but
Miss M is not impressed

Is Miss M the only one never impressed?
McKayla and Miss M are not impressed

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Dog Rescue Is Stylish

Long, long ago, before we had Mr. B, and even Miss M, I would troll Petfinder hoping to find my perfect match. I will always remember one profile I kept coming back to about a dog who was pulled by the rescue group just as she was scheduled to be euthanized. The profile said " This would have been a great loss for Jackie's future forever family as she is a fantastic dog! She is super-snuggly (as bully breeds tend to be) and loves her people above everything!"
I kept imagining this other family, and how their life would have turned out so differently if this dog hadn't been saved. 
Little did I realize, this "other family" would be me:
Since then I have always been so grateful that New Leash on Life did take a chance on the overlooked Miss M, just like they continue to take chances on pooches like SuperLevi, Bachelor Boris, and Elderbull Bessie Belle (also slated to be euthanized!) 
Though I'm also learning how expensive rescue work can be, especially when unexpected medical costs come up. Since New Leash on Life does rely completely on donations, they can only rescue as many pooches as they can finance. Which means there are often pooches like Miss M or Bessie Belle left behind. Luckily, there are some very talented people donating their time and talents, where money supporting the rescue also gets you something cool in return!
I had long been cyber-stalking the talented  La Familia Green  who designs the most clever greeting cards, including cat and dog-themed cards inspired by her own cat Lemur and pooch Stickers. I have wiled away many the afternoon cyber-reading the hilarious cards in her shop  (Meerkats in pumpkins! Smooching mimes! Cute NYC city rats! Rescue pets!)
So we were so excited when Mollie volunteered to design the new T-shirts and bandanas for New Leash, including a very familiar face:
Not only are these great rescue t-shirts, but all of the proceeds go to help save more pups! The t-shirts are a unique, super-soft 3 fabric blend just like the fashion t's you find in certain stores. They come in a men's and woman's cut, and we recommend ordering one size up, as they are fitted.
They are currently taking pre-orders, and limited sizes and quantities are available. They also ship! 
T-shirts are $25, bandanas $10 (+$5 shipping)
T-shirt + bandana $30 (+5 shipping)
Family Deal (2 t-shirts + 1 bandana) $50 (+$5 shipping)
To order, follow the instructions here and make sure to indicate your size and whether it's men's or women's. Orders can also be picked up at the upcoming New Leash on Life Alumni and Supporters Appreciation party (If you come, you can see Miss M and Mr B in a kissing booth!) 
Orders can be made by using this donation button.

We are also so excited that New Leash on Life has been chosen as the first monthly for Yellow Brick Home's pet shop!  This was another focus of our cyber-stalking and we just can't stop staring at our own little portrait that really captures the essence of our pooches (the eyes are so realistic!). We know a lot of people have been waiting to order, but we have just heard the holidays are only 4 months away, so this would be the perfect time to order your portrait, with a percentage going back to help pooches at New Leash!

Also available, and because we can't stop staring at him, adoptable Count Chocula from New Leash on LIfe.

Let us know in the comments if there are any questions or if anything is unclear!
Miss M's Original Petfinder Profile (Is it just me, or does she look like a vampire?)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Things to Do In Chicago With Dogs: Chicago Korean Festival

Miss M has always appreciated the other side of her heritage. and has become quite the connoisseur of Kalbi and Korean Pear-Apples when she goes to visit E's family. So this weekend's Chicago Korean festival was extra special for her with the scents of kalbi being grilled and E's mom look-alikes abound.
The festival highlights the traditional and modern: from traditional clothing and drums to modern K-pop and B-Boy battles (quite the highlight of the festival!).
We didn't see a lot of other dogs at this festival, so our pooches were quite the hit! They spent a lot of time surrounded by adoring teens who loved the chance to pet them. We liked that there was a lot of space (though crowded towards the entrance once the B-Boy battles began) and lots of curbs to sit on.
Though there were a lot of kids with 'snaps' firecrackers which Miss M isn't too found of. The kalbi was also quite the temptation.
How else have you been getting your pooches out and about?
Last Year!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pooches: How Do You Know When a Vet Visit is Necessary? And When is it Over-reacting?

When I first adopted Miss M, I was always so afraid that I was going to do something to accidentally 'break her'. Sure she was a solid, 70 lb pooch who survived the 'mean streets of Chicago',  but any slight scratch, over-sneezing, or scraped paw pads had me scurrying her over to the vet. And shuffling out with a huge vet bill. Which in the city will be at least $150+ after the exam fee plus any testing and/or medication.
Since then, I've realized our pooches aren't that fragile. They won't shatter. Most of our little scrapes can be healed with simple Neosporin. Miss M has sneezed for the past six years I've owned her...and she's still ok. And we've just gone to being preventative and using Musher's Paw on her feet when she'll be running on asphalt.
While we have reduced our vet visits to a degree, I still do find myself heading back to the vet for symptoms that may just be in my head. The time Miss M kept pawing at her face and I thought she might have glaucoma just because she's so bug-eyed. Taking our pooches in for bi-annual elderbull bloodwork. And checking out a lump we just discovered on Miss M"s tush (totally fine!).
Maybe it is just piece-of-mind. But it has become a very expensive piece-of-mind. 
How do you determine when it is necessary to visit the vet?

Also: The healthy diet we discovered that reduced even more vet visits.
Our take on pet health insurance.

Monday, August 20, 2012

SociaBulls: The Gift of Learning to Relax

One of the best parts of our SociaBulls group is meeting all the dogs with unique backgrounds and experiences. Enter Honor. Honor is a gorgeous, sweet, courageous gal who lives with a pitbull brother (Jason) and foster brother (Lil' Leroy). Though you would never expect it from meeting her, Honor had a horrific past: she was shot in the head with 12-gauge shot gun. Though she lost one eye, she never did lose her spirit, and has always been a happy and loving pooch. Given her background, little Honor never had proper socialization as a pup, and began showing frustration and leash reaction if she even saw another pooch from afar. 
Read below as Honor's person tells her story and works to give her the gift of a happy, relaxing life.
When I adopted Honor I expected a dog with challenges.  I didn’t know how she couldn’t not have issues with all she had been through.  In fact, several people close to me thought I had very much lost my mind for even considering a dog with such a traumatic past.  Variations of “There are plenty of dogs with less ‘history’ who need homes.  Pick one of them.” or “Who gets shot in the head with a 12 gauge shot gun and is normal and happy?” were thrown at me so often I stopped discussing my intentions with all but one person – my Dad.  From the moment I had read Honor’s profile and looked at the pictures of a dog who was moving her tail so fast it was a blur in every single shot I had resolved myself to do two things: bring her home and make a promise to her that her bad days were over.   So as far as I was concerned, there were two things that needed to be done.  The rest of the world could just mind their own business.
I remember the day her foster mom brought her to my house.  Honor was so politely inquisitive.  I remember how she carefully greeted Max, my senior pug.  I remember how she trotted around and investigated the backyard.  I remember how her one eye got huge with shock when she first saw my cats and how she backed away from them in awe.  I remember how gently she took her first treat from my hand.  Also I remember how Honor crawled up on the back of the chaise lounge in front of the big bay window and watched as her foster mom drove away without her.  My heart broke for her a little right there and then. So I did the only logical thing I could think of.  I decided we needed a distraction and a leisurely stroll in the new neighborhood was the perfect next thing to do.  So stroll we did and what a joy it was.  Ha!  This sweet, one-eyed nugget of fur WAS perfect. All the naysayers who had been bending my ear had no clue what their lips were flapping about.  Or so it all appeared.
I suppose our first few walks were uneventful because Honor wasn’t feeling confident enough to really act out.  In hindsight I see and understand this but imagine the surprise at my end of the leash when my well-behaved dog lunged at another dog for the first time.  I admit, I was very much surprised but I wasn’t too concerned.  I don’t like everyone I meet so Honor doesn’t have to like every dog she meets, right?  But then the lunging began to get worse.  Quickly.  Even as the distance between neighborhood dogs increased.  Soon a dog on the horizon was reason enough for Honor to create a scene. 
For the most part I had created our world to be an island unto ourselves.  My Dad was 16 hours and one time zone away.  The few friends I had been giving updates to were not people I wanted to hear “I told you so” from.  Fortunately, I had been volunteering with what was then called End Dogfighting in Chicago and could get some really sound advice from the lead trainer.  I was even able to bring Honor to some weekend training classes.  But having the knowledge to help Honor be the good girl I knew she was is different from putting it in practice.  Practice, actually, is exactly what we needed.  Finding willing and understanding parties to participate in practicing our good behavior skills proved the biggest challenge of all.  By mere visual appearance, Honor was not a dog a lot of people were willing to take a chance on.  Especially not complete strangers we met on our walks.  They’d rather keep their distance than risk their dog being in proximity of the lunging, loud one-eyed menace coming down the street.
Over time we met a few people who were understanding and dog savvy but arranging schedules to coordinate walks was a chore unto itself.  Our progress was minimal at best and probably undetectable to the Average Joe walking down the street.  We needed more consistency to have more of a chance.  So I consider Lady Luck to have been shining down on me the day I surfed the web right onto Two Pitties in theCity Facebook page.  And when I further read about Chicago Sociabulls, the clouds parted, the sun shined down and the birds began to sing.  THIS is what we needed!  People who understood, dogs to practice with and a commitment on calendar!  Yahoo!
Having been part of the Sociabulls for some time now I can honestly say this group was a game changer for us.  Although it wasn’t easy in the beginning.  Not by a long shot.  My Honorbelle is not perfect on leash and very well may never be but, I do have to say, her improvement is remarkable.  Walking in the Sociabulls pack has become a bit of a social extravaganza.  Honor would rather try to sniff the dog in front of her’s butt than show off her bravado and challenge another dog walking in the pack.  And on our own, dogs on the horizon don’t register on her radar.  Dogs across the street are of interest but more often than not she doesn’t think they’re worth the effort.  Dogs in closer proximity she still likes to yell at.  (Meh, can’t win them all.  We’re still a work-in-progress, after all.)  By and large, though, we now spend so much more time around the neighborhood stopping and sniffing and caring less about who is around that I fear my dog may have discovered a way to avoid exercising.  Fair enough.  In my opinion, after all she’s been through, the gift of learning to relax is the least Honor deserves and the most amazing thing for me to be part of.  Thank you Sociabulls.
Plus, join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking and  this link from the DINOs (Dogs in Need of Space) group to read the discussion and see if there is a group in your area.  

Please Note: As the weather has warmed up, bikers, runners, dogs, and kids have come out in full force in many of the areas that we walk. While we had previously been introducing new members a few at a time to each walk, we've decided that in order to continue to keep our group safe and make our walks a positive experience for everyone, we are putting new members "on hold" for the summer. You can still submit an application, and it will go on our wait list in the order it is received. Once things quiet down a bit more in the fall, we will resume introducing new members a few at a time to each walk, and will be contacting people on the wait list in a first-come, first-served manner.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boris "The Bachelor" and His Forever Overnight Date

  With his rough start on life, we knew our foster Boris "The Bachelor" would need some extra help finding his future forever family. During his time with us, the little guy got all dolled-up for a day in the city, went on a couple of group dates, stopped by some friends for some one-on-ones before going on a 2 week long 'overnight date' and finding his future family. (We never announce  on the blog when the dogs are in their foster-to-adopt periods because we don't want to put too much pressure on the family).
Just like I enjoy predicting who the TV show Bachelor will choose out of all the prospects, sometimes I like to guess if our fosters will end up with anyone we know. He did remind me so much of a certain dog crush from our SociaBulls walks, but I wasn't sure if they were looking for another pup...
Here is Boris's--now Radar's--story of how they met the perfect match:
 We weren’t really looking for a second dog. If we decided to add another pup, he would have to be a perfect match, we said. The universe snickered.
Our perfect match: adult, easy-going, well-adjusted, connected and eager to please male. A dog who would be happy to join us on adventures, but with a good off switch for lounging about the house. He would be a playmate and companion for Maria, but respectful of her both on account of her age and her queen of the universe tendencies. Happy, silly and a good snuggler with bonus points for cute.

Enter Bachelor Boris.
Email 1 From: O To: A* Subject: “Meet Our New Foster: Boris “The Bachelor” 
Maria would love a look-alike brother, wouldn’t she?

From: A To: O Subject: Re: “Meet Our New Foster: Boris “The Bachelor” 
He looks adorable. We could let him meet up with Roo [Maria’s nickname] sometime and see where it goes. ;) If we were to adopt him, maybe we could make him some ear extensions?
(Maria is perplexed by Radar's 'bat ears')
 We asked a lot of questions about Boris during that Sunday’s Sociabulls walk. After the walk we introduced the two potential life mates. Everyone was smitten.
Text 1 (slightly edited) From: O To: A 
Hi A! Thanks for visiting yesterday; it was great to see you both. Just wanted to let you know that we talked it over and think Boris would be a great fit.
During our foster-to-adopt period we wanted to make sure that Boris would integrate easily into our daily life. He received the seal of approval from our dog-walker, the cleaning lady and from my parents and their dog; who dog-sit for us on occasion.
His goofy, sweet nature is the other half to Maria’s sassy personality. He continues to charm us with his silly antics and makes friends wherever he goes. Most importantly, he fulfills all the major points on the perfect-for-us list and adds a whole lotta happy to our house. We are so glad to make Boris, now Radar, a part of our family.
*Email A is the SO; text A is Boris’ foster mom 
 We are so excited for Boris/Radar, Maria and their family. And the best part is, we will still get to see him on SociaBulls walks!

PS. Our favorite memory with Boris
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