Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One Year Later in 10 Pictures

It is pretty amazing how fast a year can pass by. On this date one year ago, A and I were in San Francisco getting married and in one year, we experienced all of this together:
We spent a lot of time with the dynamic duo in winter and Ms. M got to wear her fancy coat.
Before we knew it, we were in Tulum, Mexico, spending another great spring break on the beach with a new resident dog.
Soon enough it was warm enough in Chicago to take long family walks though Ms. M was quite suspicious.
Over time, Ms. M got comfortable with the long family walks. She even wanted to participate in the spring and summer dog events, like The Anti-Cruelty Society's Bark in the Park.
Before I knew it, we were fostering Wilma, from Project Rescue
and we were having adventures at every summer festival meeting potential forever homes for Wilma.
Eventually Wilma was adopted by a great family and we were down to two, so we headed off on trips with the pooches and
even trips with just A and me.
We had a grand and adventurous first year together, I cannot wait to see what year two bring.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pooches: The Multi-dog Household

The other day, Levi had a really good question; they were curious about our experiences adding a second dog to our already smallish 2-bedroom condo. We touched on this a bit while we were crazy enough to have three pitties living with us in our smallish 2-bedroom condo last summer. Besides finding a place to put another crate, we've never really had problems with our big dogs inside our house. We take them on walks to tire them out during the day, and most of the time they just laze around the house:
While most people say having a second dog isn't much harder, I will admit these were some of the major adjustments we had to make:

1) Learning to walk two dogs at once
When we first got Mr. B, I actually had to take the dogs on separate walks, because I just couldn't handle all the excitement and obstacles in our neighborhood. After much training, practice, and separate leash colors, I can now take them on a walk at the same time. Though I still run into some off-leash dogs, ice-patches and unexpected excitement that make these walks difficult.
2) It's harder to find boarding for multiple dogs
Boarding in the city is already expensive; when we were looking at boarding both dogs for a week over Thanksgiving we had quotes of over $900! It was much easier finding someone to watch just one dog, but with multiple dogs we have to figure out creative situations where people might be willing to watch, and walk, one of our dogs.
3) Baths, vet visits, and Heartworm treatments are twice as expensive
Expenses are always bigger with another dog. We made some adjustments, saving elsewhere so compensate. Plus with preventative treatments, and our pet health insurance plan, I feel like we are saving in the long run.
On the other hand, there are so many more benefits to having more dogs that do override the disadvantages.
What does everyone else think? What are some other advantages to having only one dog that we may have missed? What are some of the biggest changes you had to make after getting a second dog? Plus, we know a lot of people with 3+ dogs; how much more of an adjustment do you have to make for more dogs?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Our House as a Home

The Greatest Gift of All is the Hug of a Friend t-shirt
It's funny, but even after having the pooches for a few years, it seems somewhat surreal to have dogs running around our house. There are days that A asks me if it feels weird to have these little beasts in our house and all up in our face.
Though it feels odd, and it took getting used to, it feels a lot stranger without them around. Whenever we drop them off to get a bath or at my mother's place or a friend's place to be watched before we head out on a trip, our house doesn't feel like a home. We even find ourselves calling for them, knowing full well that they aren't in our house. Even when we go on vacations to ‘get away from it all’ we often find that we spend our whole trip talking about the pooches: wondering what they’re doing at that moment, and thinking of how much they would enjoy doing what we’re doing at that time. We feel a bit lost if we can’t cling onto a resident dog.
Though it seems like our pooches love us and need us, I believe we need them more.
When I was reading Trupanion's blog asking how our pet's love is the only thing we need for the holidays, it made me realize not only how important it is this time of year, but year round. I love waking up to see Mr. B's huge head peeking over my side of the bed each morning eager to eat breakfast and start our day's grand adventure.
Though we have many grand adventures around the city,
he is even happy just having 'a grand adventure' hanging out in the house and spending time with us:
He will follow me from room to room, finding a cozy spot to lay where I am, only to jump up the moment I leave the room.
If I go out at night, he will wait patiently in his tepee until the moment I get home.
When I bike to work, he will be watching me until the moment I am  out of sight, and when I'm biking back home, I can see his little face in the window watching out for me.
It is a shame to see all these stories of people abusing their pooches, when just like all dogs, Mr. B's greatest adventure is spending time with his best friend and giving him smooches.
Ironically, Ms. M thinks the same and that her pet, Mr. B's love is her holiday gift.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pooches: Mysterious Dark Room

This is what it looks like when we go for our walk each morning:
And this is what it looks like when we go for our walk each night.
It's hard enough putting up with frigid Chicago winters, but I think it's the darkness that make them nearly unbearable. I always look forward to Winter Solstice knowing that today, the day after, it can only get better.
Though there are some positives to the darkness. For some reason, all the irresponsible dog owners we used to run into in the mornings are apparently not taking their dogs on walks anymore. So we have free reign of the dark neighborhood without the fear of running into off-leash dogs.
We have also been noticing some mysterious events in the dark rooms of our house:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Training: Safety Recall

 Mr. B was a wanderer in his past life. Instead of taking him on walks, or even keeping him in a yard, Mr. B had free reign and could come and go as he pleased.When we adopted him, and he moved to the city, we needed to make sure he kept his wandering ways under wraps. During his first week, he scurried out the back door, down the stairs, around our building-where someone happened to leave the gate open--and took off down the block. E was lucky enough to get him back, but it was enough to scare us into action.
During our training classes, we had learned about a safety recall word; it's only on special occasions to keep your dog out of danger. It's supposed to condition them enough that like a robot they will forget whatever they were doing and come racing back to you. It's simple enough to condition, but it takes some time:
1) Use a word that's easy to say in emergency and you don't say often. We use "Yikes!".
2) You start conditioning your dog by yelling the word, followed by come, then giving them the best food ever.
3) Eventually you start dropping the come, but any time you use the special word they have to have a high reward.
4) Apparently, this is not a word you use lightly, and it may take awhile for them to actually have the 'robotic' reaction.
The word is enough to rouse Miss M from a deep slumber and send her racing from the furthest room. Luckily we've never had to use it in a real situation, so we don't know how robotic they will become. Has anyone else tried this?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pooches: On Winter Dog Errands

Most Sunday mornings we have our routine of going on 'family walk' to stop by our favorite bakery to pick up freshly-baked bread to make grilled cheese and soup. With a weekly high of 18 degrees, the pooches have forgone our daily walk and are happy to go to the end of the block, do their business, then rush back home to warm up:
Even Mr. B, who absolutely loves being outside, can't stand being out in this weather. He tries to run back home, or if he has to wait for Miss M, he crunches himself into a tiny. little pathetic ball. While the pooches were inside warming up, we went out to a coffee shop to get some work done.We were sitting by the window that overlooks the deck where people sit during warmer weather. We saw this guy sitting outside on the deck who was waiting patiently for his owner who was inside, drinking coffee and chatting it up for over an hour.
Hanging out with the pooches should be its own experience and one should never combine errands if it requires leaving the dogs alone outside. If A or I ever plan on stopping by a store, we make sure that both of us go along so that one could stay with the pooches and keep them company, especially in this bitter cold. If it is only one of us, we make sure to take them for our daily walk before we continue onto our next task. There is so much that can happen with the pooches out by themselves, even if we think that we are keeping an eye on them, that it's not worth saving the few minutes by combining walking the pooches with another errand. Though we try not to intervene in the affairs of "responsible" owners, A had to go up to the owner and let her know that her dog looked cold.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ms. M 's Droste Effect

Yesterday as I was sorting through our videos, I noticed Ms. M randomly performing a trick as I was watching the video used in this post. I realized, that she was reacting to the commands in the video, completely confused about how I was giving directions without actually speaking, yet still compelled to perform.You can actually see the confusion on her face before the twirl:
It was even funnier when we were watching the video of her watching the video and she was even more confused. I'm not sure if this makes her really smart, or just kind of dumb.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Schwang Swag: Holiday Gift List for Your Favorite Dog-Loving Friend

With everyone in a gift-giving frenzy, we've found it's been hard to find just the right clever or unexpected gift for your favorite dog-loving person. Here are some of my favorites I've found through my search:

I've been eyeing these pillows for awhile; the perfect pooch that will never ask to be taken outside in the middle of the night.Plus, I like how it totally makes this room
A simple dog print from one of the masters. Imagine how much more elegant this could make a bathroom.
Some fancy file folders to keep dog records and vaccinations organized. They'd be extra fun with these bone paperclips.
I'm curious about this replica 1960's plastic camera which deliberately blurs, distorts, and over-exposes images for artistic effects. Imagine how documenting a routine romp in the grass with your dog could become an ethereal experience.
 I'm newly obssessed with this Etsy shop I spied on Lonny. They make reasonably priced custom watercolor dog paintings. I'd like to see what Miss M looks like in a crown, or perhaps have Mr. B done in business attire.
 A pair of glittens so you never have to completely take off your gloves while walking the dogs, and in a color so bright they could never get lost in the snow.

We love all of these stylish, statement-making pitbull t-shirts. Plus, the organizations get part of the sales.
Clever ceramic jars which can double as treat containers. These would look great on the counter, and even your dog wouldn't know what's inside:
Sponsor an exotic Costa-Rican rescue animal in your friend's name. The Toucan Rescue Ranch is run by an amazing couple who rescue and rehabilitate a variety of injured rain forest animals. They pay for all the food, cages, and hospital care on their own, so all donations are greatly appreciated. They also have an amazing guesthouse bed & breakfast if you're ever passing through San Jose, Costa Rica.
What are some other good gift ideas you have for animal-lovers?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Best Friend Mr. B

Mr. B has been a part of our lives for over 2 years now. It is amazing how time went by so fast and we cannot imagine our life before Mr. B. It is safe to say that Mr. B is truly my best friend and we have had the most excellent adventures. On most of our adventurous mornings I am greeted by Mr. B's giant head.
We usually hang out in the living room planning out our day's adventure.
Somedays we will head out to the lake for a nice stroll along the water.
Other days we will saunter around the neighborhood
and share an ice cream.
There have even been times that we cruised the waters in our private boat, that we share with a bunch of people we don't know.
Since we both aren't very strong swimmers, actually Mr. B sinks because of his weight, we like to stay on land and have some impromptu picnics.
With all of this adventure, Mr. B gets too excited sometimes, so I have to hug the excitement out of him.
Though Mr. B is my best friend, we don't have to worry about Ms. M, because she has A for her best friend.
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