Friday, April 30, 2010

Pooches: Ms. M's Monster Paws

The perils of poor Mr. B. Mr. B is such a sweet and kind hearted dog, too bad he has to live with the evil step-sister and princess, Ms. M. Quite often while Mr. B is enjoying a bone or chew toy, Ms. M will come up, stare at it for awhile, even sticking her face in his face, and then she will use her monster paws to grab the bone or chew toy from under Mr. B to chew it right next to him. As this is going on, Mr. B will sadly look up at me and eventually he will lay down defeated with his head to the side while Ms. M happily chews away couple inches away. Quite often, the bone or chew toy is something that Ms. M was chewing originally, but got bored and left to find something more interesting. I guess it gets more interesting the moment Mr. B decides to chew on it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pooches: Unleashed Dog Daycare

Despite the fact that Chicago has a number of dog parks, we only take the pooches to these parks either very early on weekend mornings or during the middle of the day in the summer. Before we adopted Mr. B, I would spend countless hours reading blogs and other sources about responsible pit bull ownership and a number of websites such as Bad Rap and Pit Bull Rescue Central all advise against taking dogs of any breed, especially pit bulls to a dog park.
(Speaking of Pit Bull Rescue Central, they have this banner picture under breed info of a dog that looks exactly like Mr. B)Because of the information on these websites, we vowed to never take our pooches to a dog park unless it was completely empty, which is quite difficult in a city as busy as Chicago. However, we are lucky enough to have a daycare and boarding place that specializes on pit bulls and other bully breeds, Unleashed. We have been going to Unleashed ever since we adopted Mr. B and it is the only place we completely trust with our pooches. They have an enormous play space with nice soft rubber flooring which is important for Ms. M's delicate monster paws. The pooches are well supervised and Ms. Bridgid Nolan, part owner, is usually there to recap our pooches' day. One of the main reasons why we trust Unleashed is because of Bridgid. She is very knowledgeable, a great resource, actively involved in the rescue community and she genuinely cares about our dogs, well all dogs. Another reason is Curtis Scott, the dog trainer. We wrote our praises about him on an earlier post, he truly is a pit bull whisperer and we cannot say enough good things about him. We actually discovered Unleashed through Curtis. He leads a dog training class at Unleashed that was extremely useful. We spent months trying to teach Mr. B to lay down and after 5 minutes in his class, Mr. B was laying down like a pro as seen in this picture from class.We cannot say enough good things about Curtis, Bridgid and Unleashed. Here is a video of Mr. B and Ms. M playing at daycare.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pooches: The Unidentifiable Pitbulls

With the nicer weather lately, the streets of Chicago have been crowded, and we've been taking longer walks and meeting even more people. I am always proud when parents come running over to our pitties and ask if their child can pet our dog. We show the child how to put out its hand first and that our dogs will give them kisses on their fingers.
It does amaze me that parents so excitedly will want their kid to pet a pitbull, until the point, when their child's hand is already half-way down our dogs' mouths, the parents ask "What kind of dogs are they"?I've answered this a couple of different ways. If I say that they're "types of pit bulls" you usually see the parents' faces change to horror as they snatch their child away, glaring at us as if we tricked them into petting our dogs.
Sometimes I say an American Staffordshire Terrier and an American Bulldog/ Boxer mix; this usually doesn't register with the parent that they are pitbulls. This also makes me feel bad because we do want to do our part abolishing the pitbull stereotype, which could help seeing how friendly and well-mannered our dogs are.
What does everyone think? What is the best way to answer this question to demonstrate how pit bulls are friendly dogs without frightening and alarming people?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Schwang Swag: Dog Decor

The above picture is my favorite "puppy picture" of Miss M. Besides her "dainty and elegant" posture, the silhouette is very representative of her. With the whole silhouette decorating craze, I decided to make one from this picture. I made a smaller version where I just traced the photo with wax paper, then cut it out on other paper. Then I made this huge version where I used my overhead projector from school to make it larger and trace it onto paper. Can't you tell this is her?
I'm still working on one for Mr. B, but in the meantime I was at Pottery Barn when I saw these very expensive silhouettes. A random dog:
And a cat:
So I guess this project was on the cutting edge of home decor, and I like that it is personalized for our pooches.
And though we've lived here for awhile, we just finally got to framing some of our other dog-themed posters. This is from The Bird Machine which we also saw during Chicago Renegade Art Fair:He had also created this poster for a New Leash on Life, Miss M's alma matter, fundraiser:He does a lot with dogs and bicycles, and you can see his online store here. I think I'm just drawn to dog decor, but I don't want to include too much and appear like the crazy-dog family. How much dog decor do you have in your home?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pooches: Budgeting Health Care

Miss M has been the first dog I've had on my own as a grown-up. Since her care was completely up to me, I became overly protective and would run to the vet for every little ailment or mishap. Needless to say, this habit became quite expensive; the average vet visit in the city runs $150+. Since then, I've been researching and talking to people about preventative care to keep our pooches healthy.
Miss M. used to have severe allergies to the point of developing welts on her stomach. We changed the pooches' diets to include raw food, and since then her stomach has been nice, clear, and pink.She also used to have dry hair and a severe shedding problem, so we began using fish oil to keep her coat shiny and healthy. This has also reduced the amount of time I need to spend brushing the pooches, and has saved us money on baths.Since Mr. B will be running with me as I train for the Chicago Marathon, we started including glucosamine tablets in their Kongs. I actually take these when I run to help with my joints, so I figure they would be great for the pooches.
And of course, we have our pet insurance should there be any huge, unforeseen mishap.
I was curious if anyone else could offer other daily care or home remedies you use to keep your pooches in good shape. Thoughts?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pooches: Stubby Arms Mr. B

The other day I came home to find our living room looking like this.
This happens every so often and we could never figure out what causes Mr. B to go crazy and have a rampage around the house, actually his rampage is really only in this area. We were able to deduce that in some instances he was trying to get a toy out of the toy bin, but his arms are so short that he pushes the toy bin around until it topples over. However, this time, the rug was all pulled up and the sofa was pushed back. After putting everything back and letting the pooches out, we see Ms. M crawling under the sofa for something. She comes out with a kong filled with treats. Apparently Mr. B knocked his treat filled kong under the sofa and he was desperately trying to get at it. Unlike Ms. M, Mr. B has really stubby arms so he couldn't reach under the sofa and fish it out with his tiny paws. Poor Mr. B, after all that work, Ms. M got the treats.What we can't figure out is why Ms. M's crate was moved around.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Daily Walk: 150 Pounds of Pitbull

When we first adopted Mr. B, I wasn't able to walk both pooches at the same time. I actually had to take Mr. B out on his walk, come back, then take Miss M. on a separate walk. When E was out-of-town this was actually a really tedious situation and I felt like my entire day was spent walking dogs.
It was actually a huge challenge to get the pooches to the point where I am able to walk them both at the same time. As we wrote before, walking around our neighborhood is like walking a gauntlet: there are dogs leaping out from behind fences, loose dogs running free, and always some person who Miss M. targets to pet her. When the pooches get excited, they tend to redirect their energy and stand up and fight like bears. Knowing the already negative perception of pitbulls, the last thing I want are people to think the dogs are vicious and fighting one another.
After some time, I am proud to say that as a small girl I can successfully handle 150 pounds of pitbull. Here are some things I learned:
1) We treat every walk like a training walk. They know they need to sit nicely and wait at all corners and alleys. I bring treats for positive reinforcement and randomly ask the pooches to do tricks. This makes the pooches pay attention to me, with the idea of getting a treat, rather than all the exciting things going on around them. I also change it up so they know I'm in charge and they'll pay attention.
2) We use these double-loop leashes in different colors. If something happens I can grab them close to me; the different colors distinguish which dog I'm grabbing. We also have an elaborate collar system because there have been times when the latches have come undone; the last thing I need is to deal with one dog running loose.3) The dogs aren't allowed to meet other dogs on leash. When they meet other dogs they just want to play, which can be dangerous without a proper introduction and because they could get hurt if they get tangled in the leashes. We're usually able to cross the street if other dogs are coming, or just wait on the side. This helps the pooches understand that walks are for walking and they don't get distracted and want to play.I know this sounds very rigid, but seeing that I do have a targeted breed, and knowing all the potential dangers in the city, I need to make sure the pooches are under control during the walks. Does anyone else have any good walking-control tips?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pooches: Indecent Proposal

Since we own pitbulls, we have gotten to know all different kinds of people in the city. On the plus side, we get stopped by a lot of people who are curious about our dogs and usually want to know what breed they are. We love being able to show people how bullies can be amazing pets.
At the same time we often get stopped by some unsavory characters who have different ideas about our dogs. Several times we have been out walking when cars have flown into reverse and people have jumped out asking if we would breed with their dogs. Even the other day a teen offered E $50, cash, to buy Miss M. Of course we don't breed our dogs, and we do our best to explain how our dogs were overpopulated and ended up in the shelter about to be euthanized.
At the same time it's a bit unsettling to know that our pooches are in such demand. We don't like to let people know where we live because my biggest fear is that someone will try to break in and steal the pooches, and when they find out they can't be bred, and that they won't fight, they'll become bait dogs.
Is this a common fear with most dog owners? Or is this unique to pitbulls?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pooches: Poor Mr. B and the Tepee

Mr. B had enough of the crowded crate and now stretches his legs in his tepee. Ms. M also had enough of the crowded crate and finds Mr. B's tepee as the perfect spot for a nap.However, this means that Mr. B has been kicked out of his tepeeand now sleeps on the floor in front of his tepee.
If he does get into the tepee, Ms. M finds a way to nudge herself in to either use him as a pillow
or just cuddle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pooches: The Best Gifts Ever

I usually have a hard time choosing gifts for people. I want to get them something that can be put to good use, and not clutter up their homes. Recently we were the recipients of some great gift ideas perfect for dog people.
A friend of mine surprised us with these mugs with the pooches faces. Since we love brunches accompanied by: tea, hot chocolate, and soups, these were the perfect gift for us. She was just able to take the pictures from our website, and now we can have the pooches with us at all times. Here is Mr. B looking just like his photo. I guess he only has one "look":
We also had another friend who, as a wedding gift, made a donation to the dog rescue group in our name. We hadn't thought of this before, and we were so happy about the idea. Many gifts just sit around without being used, but this donation is perfect because it's helping save dogs.
Finally, we wanted to share these gifts from our dogwalker. She bought an array of gifts which were perfect for the pooches. Mr. B. loves fluffy toys and was quick to claim this fluffy yellow bone:
While Miss M. fancies herself a soccer player and loves this big ball. Look at her grip; I think she'd make a great goalie.
We were so happy with these great ideas from our friends. Does anyone else have any good ideas to pass along?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chicagoing: Chicago "Wildlife" and Mr. B. the Rat Hunter

Being a big city, people don't realize that we still have wildlife in Chicago. We just have a different type of nature. Instead of being woken to the sounds of songbirds, we hear the cooing of pigeons outside our window. These birds are so tame that even dogs as nonstrategic as Miss M. can sneak up on them:In our neighborhoods you'll still see the occasional seagull who made their way over from the lake:And best of all, we are a city filled with "wild" rats. These rats are the size of footballs. And while they're most populated in the alleys, they have become emboldened and they've started to infiltrate our streets. Plus, I've read that a large part of a rat's diet is dog poo, which makes it the more frustrating when people don't clean up after their dogs.
The good thing is, I never really see these rats, but I do know that they are always around. See, Mr. B. is a terrier which makes him prone to rat chasing. Re-enactment photo:This is supposed to be a special talent, but I think it's more of a curse. We could be going on a nice walk and it makes me uneasy when Mr. B. suddenly perks up, gets into stalking mode, and starts looking under some parked car or bush. Even though I don't see this rat myself, I still don't like knowing it's there.
The good thing is Mr. B. has never actually caught one of these rats. He just makes do with his mini-me. Ironically, it was Miss M with her stealth and prowess who actually caught the rat : We were on our walk when she stuck her head in a pile of leaves and came out a long tail swinging out of her mouth. I grabbed her and told her to "drop it"; we were in a stand-still for a good minute, until she finally released it, rat and all.
I'm not a big fan of our city "wildlife", does anyone have any positive interactions with nature?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicagoing: Little Girl, Big Dogs

A lot of people think when you live in the city, it's better to get a small dog. After all, most of us live in smaller apartments or condos which aren't conducive to large dogs. Plus, since we don't have backyards in the city, people think it's better to have a smaller dog that needs less exercise.
I actually thought the opposite.When I was looking to adopt a dog I wanted something huge. At the time I was a young, single girl living alone. I knew I would have to walk the dog in the dark, so I wanted a big enough dog to scare any potential perps. I also wanted a dog that would make me feel safe in the rare event someone did try to break into my home.
I didn't realize I would end up with a pitbull, or two, which has been even better at helping me feel safe. When I'm with the pooches, the people I'm scared of are actually scared of me. It's kind of a powerful feeling to see thugs, and other scary people, scuttle out of the way and run across the street when they see us coming. I guess it is kind of menacing when you see this face coming at you:
We have been quite successful having two large dogs in our smaller space, and it's unfortunate many apartments and condo associations limit how large a dog you can own. Do most people feel safer having large dogs? Or is just having a dog enough to make you feel safe?
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