Friday, June 3, 2016

DoggyStyle: On Getting Artificial Turf for our Dogs

One of the things we were most excited about when we were able to get a house, was having our very own mini-yard. Just the idea that the pups would be able to romp, lay, or have nighttime bathroom breaks  in our own space.
Though little did we realize that our dream of a lush grassy yard would really become a Riot-fest style mudpit.
This was one of our early photos after we moved in. Imagine this after the rain, or even a big snowmelt:
We tried to regrow it, but we realized that since the homes are so close together, and there are so many big trees, the lawn wasn't getting enough sun. It became so muddy, we just stopped using our outdoor space altogether.
We knew some people who had gotten artificial lawns, and we always thought that we would do that in the future.
But the more our yard became unusable, we decided if we were going to get it we might as well get it now so that we could actually use the yard.
We did a lot of research and investigating, and we actually ended up getting our artificial turf late last summer.
Here's a bit of a before and after photo:
It was an investment, and it took us awhile to commit. But here are some things we learned, and things we wish we had known about beforehand.

Pricing (It's always changing and negotiable):
Before we started this process, we wanted to get some ballpark estimates to see how much of an investment it really was. What I didn't realize is that there are a lot of things that are negotiable and the prices were always changing.
They can only install the lawn once it has been dry for awhile. Since we had a heavy snow-melt last year, and a lot of the lawns were soggy, it was shortening the installation season.
I had spoken to one company to get estimates in the spring, but when I called them again in the summer to say we were interested, they said they wouldn't honor my original estimate and the price actually went up.
We ended up going with a different company, and a mere 2 weeks after we had our lawn installed we got an email that offered a discount to have it installed now.
If you are looking to get artificial turf, wait until the end of summer/early fall when it's slower for the companies and you can probably negotiate a better rate.
You should also ask for piecemeal pricing, even if you intend on getting everything done. We asked for pricing for the front only and back only, and they usually offer a discount if you agree to go with both.
We have a smaller space, and we were getting estimates between $7-9 per square foot.

Types of Lawn:
They send over a sales person to show you the different types of lawns they offer. Some are shorter, softer, or have different coloring to make it look like a real lawn. They will give you a couple of samples so you can see how they look in your space. I know they also have a "pet-friendly" turf that is softer and somehow the length makes picking up poo easier. We ended up going with Kentucky Blue, which isn't a specific pet-friendly style but it worked well for us.  It looks really natural, and it's funny because sometimes we'll see people walking by touching our lawn to see if it's real. Though it does look funny to have such a 'well-kept lawn' during the middle of winter.
The installation was the easiest part of the process. It only took one day, they were able to move anything we had in the space, and it was non-invasive.

What We Like:
Unlike the lawn we had before, the artificial turf drains really well, and it doesn't have any marshiness. We used to have a lot of little bugs and flies, but they don't seem to like the turf as much as natural grass (which is great for us!) and we used to have some city rats cross through our yard and it seems like they don't like the turf either and it's also more difficult to burrow in turf than natural grass.

It's easy to keep clean because it has little drainage holes and it's easy to just rinse the lawn if there is any poo reside.

It's really low maintenance and it looks natural. We don't have weeds and we don't need to spend time on our lawn anymore.

It really is like having a giant carpet outside. We can let the dogs go outside and we don't need to wipe their feet because they don't get muddy. They can also run on it without tearing divots in it.

Most importantly, the dogs can't 'graze' anymore. Whenever they found a lawn they used to spend their time like cows eating it.
Huck Finn Miss M enjoys eating our former lawn.

What we didn't like:
It is really expensive. Though we decided it was worth it for us to actually be able to use our yard, and we don't have to spend as much time and money on upkeep for our lawn.

It gets hot in the sun. We don't really go on it barefoot--it is the city and strange things migrate into yards--but it does get really hot.

The artificial turf companies were difficult to work with. I called a couple of companies and it was often hard to even get a return phone call. The first company that we received an estimate from retracted their estimate and gave us a higher cost. We decided to go with Chicago Dream Grass, which is a slightly higher cost but we thought they did a really good quality job. The group installing it was really nice and they did a great job, and Alicia was really great, but the salesperson that we had to deal with was extremely abrasive and unprofessional. I probably wouldn't recommend working with this company just because of him. It was also frustrating that they offered a discount a mere 2 weeks after we had ours installed.

Even with all of the hassle and expense, we do love it and how it has made our yard usable.

I had forgotten about this one!
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pooches: On What Makes a Dog Your Dog

I know sometimes-or maybe many times-we get frustrated with our pups.
Like this whole post.
Especially one morning, while I was still pregnant and carrying the pups' heavy food bowls, and nearly 12 year-old Miss M thought it would be a great idea to leap in the air and sample the food before I could even set it down.
I remember asking E if we would ever just have a normal dog.
A dog that didn't have to stare down our every move.
A dog who wouldn't cry to wake us up each morning:
A dog who didn't creep around and follow our every move.
Then, just like that moment in Big after they saw the fortune teller, it happened.
The vet told us Miss M had sprained something in her back.
But she completely changed.

She wouldn't look us in the eye.
She wouldn't respond to her name.
She didn't want to lay with Mr. B, or even come upstairs to go to bed for the night. I found her downstairs laying sprawled on the hardwood floor.
And we really knew something was wrong with her because she didn't want to eat any of her food.
In our whole 10 years together, Miss M has never rejected food.
Not even lettuce.
Her entire personality was gone. She was a complete shell of herself, and it made me understand how people know when it's time to let go of their pups.
At the time, I really thought I had lost my best friend.
Though luckily for us, it does turn out to have a happy ending.
Her back got better.
And we found out a lot of the symptoms were caused by the medication she was on.
So even when we get frustrated with some of the things she does, we realized, that's what makes Miss M, Miss M.

When I thought Miss M was ugly
Best friends.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pooches: Mr. B's Stuffy Confusion

People usually know Mr. B as the one that loves his stuffies so much.
Even "Creepy Baboon".
While we try to keep his collection neatly stored away, he is always unpacking them to surround himself with his best friends in his lair by the fireplace.
Now with Baby K, (who Miss M still thinks is our new foster dog), our biggest concern was figuring out how to teach Mr. B the difference between his stuffies and Baby K's stuffies.
Pre-baby, we met with Rendy from Anything is Pawnable to learn a strategy.
Since dogs can't reason, the biggest difference is by scent. When Baby K gets new toys, we can mark them with a dab of Listerine so the pups can start to recognize there is a difference.
It's also a good idea to get stuffed toys that are different than Mr. B's typical stuffies.
Though we would like to say that the giant dinosaur and the giant polar bear were for Baby K, I admit that I have been eyeing these giant stuffed animals for awhile, especially the giant dinosaur.
We never had a reason to have these in our house, until now. They were actually our first few purchases for Baby K's arrival, even before the crib, bassinet, clothes and diapers.
Though we didn't expect Mr. B to do this when we unboxed them.
Which also happened with the dinosaur.
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Monday, April 4, 2016

Daily Walk: The New Family Walk

Now that we have Baby K, life has become a bit more complicated.
We have heard horror stories of how people's beloved pets were pushed to the side when a baby came into their lives and even read blogs that went from a lifestyle blog to a baby blog.
Though we knew that babies changed people's lives, we were not prepared for how much our lives have changed with Baby K.
Luckily for us, the pooches are patient and amenable. We had met with a trainer and prepared for how  to make the introduction to the pups, but the moment we walked in and handed them their high-value treat, they went on with their lives.
Mr. B will still run around the house like usual, and we never leave Baby K on the floor.
Miss M will still whine and cry in the morning for her breakfast despite waking up Baby K.
We have tried to ensure that most aspects of their lives remain the same: the morning breakfast, the mid-morning dinner and the long family walks on the weekends. It is during these long family walks that we realize that nothing has really changed.
Though on our very first family walk we attempted to use a stroller with the pooches, and it was quite difficult to nearly impossible. Despite training Mr. B to walk nicely on leash, Mr B still didn't understand the concept of walking on one side and spent much of his walk trying to dodge the stroller.
A and I had a pact that since she carried him for 9 months, I would be carrying Baby K on all of our walks sans stroller after birth. Now that I tote Baby K in a carrier, our daily walks are pretty much the same as they have been before birth. The pooches are back to being the center of attention.
It is funny how often we hear "what cute babies" on our daily walk.
It's really meant for the pooches, and a lot of people don't realize we have an actual baby with us.
On one of our walks, someone commented how it was nice of me to carry the dog's stuffed animal, not realizing that it was an actual baby in a bear suit.
Despite taking a lot longer to get ready for our walks, the walks have provided some normalcy to our now hectic life. Plus we ran into Marcus Kruger and Bobby Hull in the Wicker Park field house while changing Baby K 's diaper.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pooches: Pregnant with Pooches

Where the pups suspect I have gotten bigger by eating all of their treats.
Way back during this instagram post, many of you were able to look beyond the pups' blue wigs, past the Chicago skyline and notice that I was looking a little 'bump-y'.
While the pups have always been our family, and such an important of our lives, I was unsure if things might change being pregnant and adding a human baby to our family.

I actually sat down to start writing this post when I was almost 38 weeks, but it turns out our little human baby decided to come 2 weeks before his due date. 
We've all been doing well, and the pups have been enjoying their new tiny brother.

Do the Dogs Know?
I had heard from a lot of people that their dogs were the ones who knew they were pregnant before they even knew because they could just detect that their person smelled different.
I kept trying to see signs from the pups that they knew something was different, but I'm not sure that they actually knew.
Miss M did start following me around a lot towards the end, and she would lay outside the bathroom.
Maybe she just thought I was getting big because I was hiding in there and eating all of her treats?

Things I didn't expect:
I had heard that you have an exaggerated sense of smell in the first trimester, so I was expecting to have all these problems walking the pups and picking up their poo. I think I was just really lucky that I never got sick and my only smell aversions were Dawn dish soap and people chewing mint gum (strangely enough).

One thing I didn't account for was how hard sleeping would become.
Miss M has been very loyal, sleeping by my bedside each night. Though as I've been sporting a growing 40 pound stomach, I haven't had the same dexterity, and things that should have gone on my nightstand have fallen on her. I have stepped on her in the middle of the night, spilled glasses of water on her, and I even made it "rain Tums", spilling the entire bottle on her in the middle of the night.

I told her I would make it up to her by bequeathing her my fancy pregnancy pillow when I was done with it.

Walking Dogs When Pregnant:
I was able to walk the pups until about 2 weeks before I actually gave birth.
Long ago I was really worried how I could manage the physics of being able to physically walk while sporting a 40 lb "watermelon belly". Especially knowing I would be pregnant during a Chicago winter where things like this happen.I was able to continue my exercise routine of Pure Barre classes throughout my pregnancy which helped a lot with my balance.
Though the hardest part of walking dogs when pregnant was being able to bend down and pick up their poo.
The other hard part was going on our longer family walks, and always needing to stop to find a place to use the restroom.

People will still approach you with their Dogs:
I used to think that people would be sympathetic to a smaller girl walking two large dogs by not bringing dogs over to try to play on leash.
And that they would be especially sympathetic to a pregnant girl walking two large dogs. doesn't work that way.
It was during one of my final weeks, when I was very noticeably pregnant, I had the dog in a sit-stay as I was teetering over and trying to pick up their poo.
One guy walking a small dog thought it would be a great idea to walk his dog up to the pups and let them play.
I think if your pups look confident and well-behaved, people will just want to approach you.

How are you Getting Ready?
We know this is a big lifestyle change, and we wanted to plan ahead to make sure the transition was good for everyone. Our hospital offers this class, which we heard was good (though we weren't able to take it given our schedule). 
We ended up meeting with Rendy from Anything is Pawzible who helped us go through some things we should plan for.
The main thing we realized is that there isn't a set checklist of things that you need to be doing, but a lot depends on your specific dogs and how you decide to set household rules.
For us, the main things we are working on are defining areas of space for the pups and the baby, and Mr. B understanding which toys belong to him and which are for the baby (it's based on smell!).
Mr. B: Professional Stuffy Hoarder
We've had the baby for about 3 weeks now, and while we're definitely not turning this space into a baby blog, we might include updates here and there to show how the pups are living with their new brother.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pooches: Pulling Back the Curtain on Imperfection

I know how easy it is to just post all of the positive things about our pups.
Though we always find it funny when people refer to our pups as "perfect".
Because, they are by no means perfect.
So we thought we would show you a glimpse of what our pups are really like at home.

While Mr. B is normally laid-back and he loves nothing more than hanging out with his stuffies:
He can also be kind of a jerk sometimes.
He loves his dogwalker so much, that when we leave in the morning he will station himself to peer through the tiny crack in our blinds to watch for them. Once he hears them coming he will leap in the air and bark...and try to let them in by digging a hole through our drywall:
Mr. B claims innocence!

Meanwhile, Miss M has always been a potty-trained dog.
Though, sometimes she does not like braving the elements and going outside.
So she will just pee inside.
This has nothing to do with growing older or having a medical ailment (we have taken her to the vet for this so many times!) It is just a behavioral issue.
Much like people might sit and eat potato chips even though they're not hungry, Miss M will just walk to this spot and pee, even though she doesn't really have to.
Of course, we made her the ultimate pee pad.
We have a rubber mat that we lay underneath so they don't move around, and we made it extra large.
The pups even find it more comfortable than their own fancy beds (before the peepads have been used).
The most obnoxious thing that the pups do, is that every morning they are so excited for breakfast they need to peer their heads over, and Miss M will make her melodic sounds to make sure we don't forget.
Even on weekends. At 4:30am.

Remember when we had these "Things" running around?
What really helped.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Black Friday Shopping?!

Despite our photos and videos showing us and the pooches in crowds, Mr. B, A and I are very much opposed to crowds. On the other hand, Miss M loves crowds and will even drag her poor family into any and all groups of people. This past weekend we found a good balance and went on a family walk via the Bloomingdale Trail
and got a little post-Thanksgiving shopping in. We love shopping near our neighborhood because there are so many stores that are dog-friendly and even dog-loving. 
After a long day of shopping, posing for photographs, hanging out in the park, and meeting friends. We were all excited to head back home to enjoy the last several hours of our Thanksgiving break. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Daily Walk: A Thanksgiving Walk

After a great Thanksgiving dinner with our family, we took advantage of the great post-Thanksgiving weather and went on a couple family Thanksgiving walks on the Bloomingdale Trail. In the summer, there were times when the trail was too hot for the pooches and they would struggle a bit on their family walks.
Now that the weather is cooler, Miss M and Mr. B were excited to take on the trail. On one walk they even spotted their good friend and foster extraordinaire Kathy, with Max and newly adopted Bill. Bill, Max, Mr. B and Miss M even formed a jam band to entertain fellow Bloomingdale Trailers.
On another walk they met friends from Safe Humane Chicago and Brew City Bully Club and A and I  finally had a chance to try the Nutella S'mores donut from Glazed and Infused.
Miss M took in some local street art at Violet Hour and Mr. B posed for some candid street-style photos. We even had a chance to do some impromptu Black Friday shopping on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Things to do in Chicago with Dogs: Dog Trick-or-Treating with Be Fido's Friend

Mr. B is alarmed actually seeing Miss M smile.
As a city that takes its celebrations very seriously, this past weekend was already filled with Halloween revelers out in full-costume.
Miss M and Mr B (okay...and us!) always look forward to dog trick-or-treating with local rescue Be Fido's Friend.
We think this is the perfect event where groups of pups walk through the West Town neighborhood, stopping at local businesses to collect treats.
Miss M and Mr. B dressed in character as Thing 1 and Thing 2 as they made their way around the stores collecting treats.
Miss M had the uncanny sense of knowing which of the stores were participating and beelined her way right to them.
While weeks after we attend this walk, Mr. B still assumes that every store is still giving out treats and tries to go into every door that we see.
In a rare turn of events, E took 'camera-duty' for this walk and captured some photos of me walking with Miss M. While we weren't sure if people would notice, our Instagram/Facebook followers were quick to pick up that Miss M and Mr. B will be expecting their own baby human (this February!). Thanks so much for all of the kind words!

Deja vu!
Costumes for large dogs.
Costumes for dogs who hate costumes
How we keep our pups safe and comfortable in costumes

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Things to Do with Dogs in Chicago: "Must-Eat" Dog-Friendly Restaurants

Lately we've been noticing how many more tourists are branching out from downtown and coming to visit our neighborhood.
And we always joke that as everyone is so excited to see everything, Miss M walks by and in her blasé voice saying how she's shopped there or eaten there "so many times".

We think that one of the best parts of our neighborhood is that we do have great food, and so many places are so welcoming to all types of dogs.
As we're having this final wave of amazing weather this fall (we're trying to make the most of these October 70 degree temps!) here are some of the restaurants that seem to make the must-see list and are extra accommodating for dogs, and just happen to be steps from our favorite Bloomingdale Trail.

Small Cheval
We were so excited to see this casual burger-and-shake spot open based on Au Cheval's "best burger in America". They make it simple only offering burgers, fries, shakes, and beers. They also make their own sauce. It's a really small space, where you order inside (E usually waits outside with the pups) and you can eat in the outdoor space. We usually come in the morning when they first open, as part of our daily walk, and we are able to get our food right away. Though we have made the mistake of coming mid-day where there are hour-long waits. The patio is nice because it's tucked away from the sidewalk traffic of dogs walking back-and-forth and there is a lot of space for the dogs; we only saw one other set of dogs when we were there. The staff is so nice, and without us asking they were outside with a water dish keeping it filled to Miss M's expectations (notice her actually smiling!).

Parson's Chicken & Fish
This has become a must-visit destination for so many people heading out to Logan Square. Because their food really is that good, they have a huge outdoor dining space, and really good Negroni slushes. It gets really crowded with waits during peak times, so we usually come early. It is a neighborhood dog destination with so many pups dining with their families and a staff that loves
dogs and is really accommodating. We usually bring a mat for the pups to lay on since they have a gravel ground and the pups usually get dusty.

Bang Bang Pie Shop
When we moved we were really excited to be so close to another amazing pie shop. This one does have huge lines on the weekends, so we usually go on the off hours. They have a large outdoor space with communal seating, and we've seen so many other pups here accompanying their people for the biscuits and pie.

Anyone else have favorite city dining with dogs? 

How we set our dogs for success at outdoor patios 
Or dining with dogs who are uncomfortable around other dogs
Being a tourist in Chicago with dogs!
Going European!

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