Friday, November 30, 2012

The Talking Pooches

So, we've already admitted that we talk to our dogs, but we actually take it another level: we also respond back in their voices (thanks  Rebel Werewolf for putting that out there first!).
Because with faces like these, how can they not have voices?

And not just voices, but voices to match their characters.
With her signature not impressed looks and continual plotting ways, Miss M can have nothing less than the voice of a sinister cartoon villain with the cackle of Gargamel.
We believe that she thinks of us as her chauffeur, personal chef, butler, pooper scooper, and maid and is always speaking down to us.
Miss M always has a habit of looking us straight in the eye, then sneezing and snorting which we often think of as her as walking around muttering curses at us under her breath.
On the other hand Mr. B is not so bright and so of course he has a dopey voice. 
We believe he walks around saying to himself, "duhp duhp duhp." Then whenever he speaks, he usually starts his sentences with a "da" and his sentences are usually only a few words. For example, whenever our fosters came back to our home after being gone at their adoption events, Mr. B would get really confused and we would imagine him saying, "Da what?! Da who da dis?!" 
But, unlike Miss M, we cannot imagine Mr. B ever saying a bad thing about us.
Now, we can't be the only ones. Do you also have voices for your dog?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

DoggyStyle: The Well-Scented Dog Home

I know a lot of people think owning pets means never having a clean home, but I realized it has become quite the opposite: because we have dogs we are more aware of keeping our place clean. My home was actually much dirtier before I had pups.
During the colder weather, when we can't just open the windows, we're always a bit more conscious about having stagnant air. With the pooches, I'm always worried about having candles with open flames, and artificial air-fresheners start smelling too strong, so we started coming up with some other ideas to keep our home smelling clean:

Scented Cleaners:
We started using our cleaning products as home scents. Both Mrs. Meyers and Method use aromatherapeutic scents; we like Mrs. Meyers Basil and Geranium all-purpose sprays and Method's almond floor cleaner. The scent stays for several hours, but the best part is that these actually encourage me to clean; I'm always wiping down our our counters and tables just so everything smells good. I don't know if they actually clean any better than other cleaners, but I like that they are non-toxic.

Simmering Scents:
Back when I was dogless, it was so easy to burn scented candles. Though with pets in the house, I don't really like having an open flame. I discovered this simmering recipe (from Our Waldo Bungie's Pinterest!) that makes your home smell like a Williams Sonoma store. It's pretty easy and it really works! The only thing I didn't like was that I felt I would forget to turn it off when I left the home.

Consistent Trash Removal:
Our pooches eat this canned diet, which is amazing for them, but it doesn't smell so great for us. Kind of like the lingering scent of your cubicle neighbor's tuna sandwich. To make the smell go away, we try to remove the cans, and any other trash, immediately. We bought this Tubtrug, which is easy to carry and clean, where we store our recycling and just bring it down each time we leave our home. Removing the trash and cans does help our home smell better, plus I just read this on Facebook  about how often pups can get into dangerous food that they find in the trash.

Is this something you think about too? What are some other things you've found to work?

Less fur!
Our secret cleaning weapon
Dog-friendly rugs

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pooches: Gear for Colder Fall Walks

Since we don't have a backyard, we have gotten used to walking our dogs in all types of weather.
And we've learned to prepare them (and ourselves!) for the different stages of cold.
Because our dogs really do get cold.
Though on our latest fall walk, it seems we were all wearing the same thing:
We've all (me and E too!) been layering up with hoodies and scarves. We were so excited this year to discover Sirius Republic started a new line of reversible fleece snoods to keep them a little warmer. And a bit more posh.
We love how the plaid, plus hoodie, makes our pups a bit collegiate. Or so we thought as the pups strolled down a certain university campus.
Since it isn't wet outside, the pooches are fine adding a single extra layer with their hoodies. We love how these hoodies are just a bit snug in the chest making them look hilariously buff.
They were cheap enough that we were able to pick up a couple of colors. Which of course we made into matching retro team hoodies. 
Is the cold weather hard for other pups? What are your go-to cool weather remedies?

PS. What our pooches wear when it's cold (here!). And when it gets colder (here!).
PPS. Windy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pooches: Do You Celebrate Your Dog's Birthday?

Do you celebrate your pooch's birthday?
We don't.
Not even their 'Gotcha Days'.
Which is surprising considering we are the type of people who do things like this.
At first it was more about making time stand still.
 Time is so short with dogs, and I really feared our pooches aging. Especially since we adopted Mr. B when he was already 5 years old. I felt like if we didn't acknowledge our dogs' birthdays, they really wouldn't age.
For a long time, when people would ask, we would say our dogs were 4 and 5 years old.
And we really believed it.
Until we did the math and figured out we were still living circa 2008.
At the same time, we've seen so many cool things people do in honor of their pups birthdays. Our friend Silly Buddy generously donates a percentage in sales for Buddy's birthday month. And we've seen a lot of great dog-snack ideas. Just like elementary school, some of our Chicago SociaBulls members have even brought treats for the group. Most recently was pretty Derby's birthday and her mom cooked homemade treats for all of the dogs in the group.
Of course, Miss M pushed her way to be the first in line and she ate her treat in a single gulp.
Birthday girl Derby loves her Dad

Do most people do something to commemorate your pups' birthdays? What do you do? 
Are our dogs missing out? Does Miss M have a reason to look at us like this?
PS. We just figured out by some strange coincidence, our pooches' Gotcha Days are only 4 days (but 2 years) apart!

Why our Pitbulls are in Party Hats
Our thoughts on our aging pups
One way we do commemorate the pooches' Gotcha Days

Monday, November 26, 2012

SociaBulls: On Whole Group Ownership

 We were at Trader Joe's the other night when we ran into one of our original SociaBulls members who has been part of the group since way back here. We hadn't seen them in awhile, and we were joking about how far our group has evolved.
Back when we first started, we were a much smaller group and we were learning as we went. We were able to be a bit more casual where I would just send out an email and anyone who wanted to join just kind of came. And just walked wherever.
Since then, we have grown beyond we could have ever imagined. It was initially daunting to figure out if we could continue to grow as a group (at one point we had 70 people on our waiting list!) and how to continue to make the walks comfortable for all of the dogs. Especially when we have 2 walks each week, it takes a lot of work.
Now we have an amazing 'behind-the-scenes' crew serving as our Chicago SociaBulls Board:
Zoe's person and Nabi's person are our New Member Coordinators. We typically get a couple new member requests every week! They have been doing such an amazing job of corresponding back and forth with the many interested applicants, explaining the structure and answering all questions, scheduling members on walks when their space comes up, making sure they are matched and learning about the group on their initial walk, setting them up on the website, and lots of things that I'm sure I'm not even aware of. 

We also have Maize's person who is the guru working on pack and walking coordination. As our group grew we realized some dogs might be more successful in different parts of the pack. Each week she works her magic considering each of the dogs on the walk and working to place them where they will be most successful. This involves a lot of back and forth correspondence with the group members, working with the website and coordination google documents. We also work together to pull the reservations from the website, coordinate dogless walkers for each of the walks, provide the detailed information for each walking location, and research conflicting events for our future walks. And this is all done in a tight timeframe every week.

We also have E who built our private member website and works as tech support.
While we have such a great team working behind-the-scenes, we also love how so many people have stepped up to make the actual walks successful. 
Dogless walkers are a huge part of allowing our group to comfortably walk in so many different areas. We have had so many people step up to volunteer to help the group by coming dogless (even when it means driving in from really far away or getting up really early to walk your own dogs and fosters to be able to help the group). 
We also have a rotating role of "Weather Watchers" who will wake up way early to determine if there are any weather conditions where we need to cancel the walk.
And we have members scouting out new walking locations.
We are so proud to realize how our group has become a community and how so many people are working hard to make sure the walks are successful!

To learn more about our group, join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and updates. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pooches: Mr B's Thanksgiving Day Tradition

Last Thanksgiving, we couldn't understand why it was taking so long to pack the pooches' things. 
Then we found out this was happening:
The best part is where Miss M gets in his face and tries to explain.
Hope everyone is having a good holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pooches: Windy CIty Pitbull

Lately we've realized one side-effect of having pups in the Windy City:
 Good thing he has his bulging biceps to keep him from blowing away.
Hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

More of Mr. B's bulging biceps and defined buttocks
Our favorite leisurely family walk for long weekends

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

City Dog: Respectful Dog Walking in the City

Since so many people have misconceptions about pitbull-type dogs, we feel like when we're out we're always in the spotlight. Too often, people will judge the entire breed based on their experience with a single dog, so we work extra hard to encourage positive interactions  allowing people to go beyond the stereotype. While we do rely on our pups to be good spokesdogs, we also remember we need to be self-aware and respectful dog owners. Especially in the city where the sidewalks are small, the people are many, and not everyone likes dogs.
The other day a woman stopped E when he was walking the dogs to tell him that she really admired how well-behaved and under control our dogs were. She told him that she was bitten by a dog at a young age and she has always been scared of dogs, but she had seen us walking several times and she really appreciated how respectful we were of the community, especially since there are so many people in our neighborhood who do let their dogs run at whim.
Here are some things we've learned about being respectful dog owners in a busy city:

Stay to Your Side:
We know some people just don't like dogs, so we're always aware of sidewalk space in front of us and behind us. Even on family walk, we never walk side-by-side and we allow space for people to comfortably pass. We walk our dogs on the grass side only allowing ourselves to walk next to the people. When the pooches stop to sit at corners, we always make sure they are on sitting on the same side so people can walk around us, and if people stop to meet the dogs we always make sure to move to the side so we're not holding up pedestrian traffic. I also make sure when I'm picking up their poo they remain in a sit-stay on our side of the sidewalk so people can still feel comfortable passing.

The Sidewalk Dance:
There is an unwritten sidewalk code among respectful dog owners. If someone is walking their dog on the sidewalk already, it's their sidewalk and you need to either walk around or cross to the other side.
If you have a sidewalk but someone is approaching walking 2 dogs, walking with a dog and a child, or they just can't seem to control their dog (including large men with 20lb pups) give them the sidewalk. Always doublecheck before turning corners in case someone is there. Don't allow your dog to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and stare down other dogs.

Awareness in Public Spaces:
We love to show how we take our dogs to busy active events like markets, street festivals, and parades, but we are always aware of other people's space. We don't allow our pups to meander in front of us or walk outstretched on their leashes: we always keep them with us at our side. We don't allow them to meet other dogs, with the potential to'play on leash', knowing how loud and disruptive it is for people walking by.

These are some things that work for us.
What are some other ways you demonstrate responsible ownership when out with your pooches?

Training our dogs to walk in the busy city
Preparing your pup for a street festival
Our thoughts for new pitbull owners

Monday, November 19, 2012

SociaBulls: On why we keep our walking locations secret

 Some people have been wondering why we create such secrecy about our scheduled walking times and locations:
We know a lot of people have strong opinions based on misinformation about pitbull-type dogs, even if they have never met a pitbull in real life,  We love that a 'side-effect' of our walk is that people do actually get to see our pitbull-type dogs walking in a group together with a variety of other dogs in
all sizes:
At the same time, back when the Chicago Tribune joined us on one of our walks, and wrote this fantastic article raising positive pitbull awareness, we still had some 'Internet Trolls' writing negative things about pitbulls in the comments section.
One person even went so far as to threaten bodily harm on our dogs had he known we were 'descending on his neighborhood'.
We know a lot of people can hide behind computers making these types of negative comments, and I'm sure they would never say anything like this if they actually met us in real life.
But...we also know some people are crazy.
 So we never divulge the details of our walks on the Internet. Even if you can pick out certain Chicago landmarks, people still won't know the day, time, or rotation.
We also love that the people who do see our group walking are always pleasantly surprised. We get so many comments about our beautiful dogs, cars stopping and waving, and just a generally friendly reception (we even wrote about it here.) We have never heard any negative comments (except for one woman with an off-leash dog who was offended when we asked is she could please hold her dog and not approach the group).
 To learn more about our group, join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and updates. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.

You can also read about all the different types of dogs who walk with our group and why they walk: Honor (The Gift of Learning to Relax), Maria (Not Letting Age be a Limitation)Sophie (Finding a Safe Place and Building Confidence), Torre (From Learning about Pitbulls to Developing an Ambassadog),  Estelle (Waiting to Be Noticed)Franklin (A Small Dog in a Big Dog Group)Gordon (Learning to Be Social and Have Dog Friends),  Nabi (A Shy Dog Making Sense of a "People World") Sprocket (Teaching a Dog When it's not Time to Play), Lola (Living in the City with a Dog who Fears Strangers),  Zoe (The Dog who "Loves Too Hard"),  Izzy (Being a good pitbull ambassador while working with an energetic dog) and Maize (Being social with an unsocial pup).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pooches: Miss M is Pleasant

It has always been a running joke that Miss M really doesn't like us, and she is more interested in being a Social Butterfly.
When I first met her at her adoption event, I was shocked to find a dog who was so into me. But soon after I signed those adoption papers, I realized she was actually into every single person she met:
And while she was a popular pooch out on the streets, I started to think she didn't really like us that much.
Each morning, she follows me around with this face, waiting until I tell her to "go to bed" because she would much rather hang out in her crate eating a kong than hang out with me.
Not to mention how embarrassed she is to be seen with her people in public:
Though lately, things have been changing. I have actually been shocked to arrive home and have Miss M race to the back door to greet me...and actually stay and wiggle when she realizes it is me.
She has also started following me around. And being pleasant!
I was actually a bit worried, and I wondered if she did have a medical condition she was trying to tell me about and that's why she kept wanting to hang out with me. Though with our last visit to the vet, it seems like she is medically fine. And that she genuinely wants to hang out with me:
Could it be possible that grumpy Miss M has changed her ways?

Why Miss M gives me low self-esteem
Miss M is my "One"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DoggyStyle: Making Retro Team Dog Hoodies

We know once the cold weather hits, we will all be spending the next 6-ish months bundled up. And you better like your coat, because you'll be wearing it...alot!
Over the past several years, I've learned it's easier to get through these dreary cold months with a rotation of nice coats and scarfs.
So of course, I had to do the same for the pooches:
These hoodies are super affordable, and we've been stocking up in a few colors. We thought it would be fun to make some retro 'team shirts' using iron ons. Each pup gets a hoodie with their name and their 'number' is the year we adopted them (Miss M in 2006 and Mr. B in 2008).
And much how I have my own collection of scarfs, the pooches are developing quite the collection, including these snoods, which are a fun way to change things up.
What are some other ways you're keeping your short-haired pups warm in the cooler weather?

Hoods up!
A hoodie can be fancy
Dog Sweaters

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pooches: Do you Talk to Your Dog?

The other morning I had a revelation: I spend a lot of time talking to our dogs. Not just talking as in training language, but actually having full out conversations. 
Most of these conversations involve me trying to make deals and rationalize with them, though sometimes I give them choices.
Embarrassingly enough, I was actually called out the other day by a passerby who stopped because he thought I was talking to him, but then I had to admit I was actually talking to the dogs.
I do know for training purposes you are really just supposed to use single small words, because miscellaneous sentences can confuse them. Though it seems I just can't help myself.
Am I the only one, or do you also have conversations with your pooches?


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SociaBulls: Unexpected Walking Distractions

When creating our Chicago SociaBulls group, we spent a lot of time creating a structure where so many different types of dogs would be comfortable walking together in a large group. We have spent a lot of time finding obscure locations without other dogs, runners, and bikers, creating a pack order for different personalities, and sticking to our rules. But then there were a couple of things we never expected that has caused some excitement within the group:

Goose Poo:

We were so proud our latest location had so few dogs, squirrels, and runners, until we realized what it did have: goose poo. This seems to be a huge delicacy for a lot of the pups, and I spent almost the entire walk trying to keep Miss M's attention on me and my treats instead of the poo on the ground. And the pups who weren't interested in eating it, were often found rolling in it.

The Windy City:
 No matter how well we plan our locations, there can always be a weather factor which can get our pups a little more excited. This weekend was extra windy making our pups extra excited. We also seem to have a more excitable group after the rain, when all of the good smells are stirred up, and when the first cold hits.

 We walk in a variety of parks where we're often encountering the remnants of a variety of picnics: rib bones, chicken bones and random uneaten food. Not to mention the many broken glass bottles along the path. Sometimes it feels like an obstacle course, and we always make sure to 'call back' and tell the walkers behind us to watch out.

What are some other unplanned obstacles you've found on your walks?

To learn more about our group, join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and updates. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.

You can also read about all the different types of dogs who walk with our group and why they walk: Honor (The Gift of Learning to Relax), Maria (Not Letting Age be a Limitation)Sophie (Finding a Safe Place and Building Confidence), Torre (From Learning about Pitbulls to Developing an Ambassadog),  Estelle (Waiting to Be Noticed)Franklin (A Small Dog in a Big Dog Group)Gordon (Learning to Be Social and Have Dog Friends),  Nabi (A Shy Dog Making Sense of a "People World") Sprocket (Teaching a Dog When it's not Time to Play), Lola (Living in the City with a Dog who Fears Strangers),  Zoe (The Dog who "Loves Too Hard"),  Izzy (Being a good pitbull ambassador while working with an energetic dog) and Maize (Being social with an unsocial pup).

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