Friday, April 29, 2011

Pooches: On Velveteen Pitbulls and Aging

We always want to deny our pooches are aging. For the past couple of years, Miss M has remained 4, and Mr. B has always been 5. It wasn't until someone asked us their ages, the other day, that we realized we had been living in a time warp.
Our lives with the pooches had always seemed the same, but then I started noticing a couple of gray-brindle hairs on Miss M's eyebrow.
Though Mr. B is already gray, he has been aging more like the 'Velveteen Pitbull'. Much like the rabbit in the beloved book, we noticed Mr. B is becoming a bit more worn.
The fur on his elbows has worn off:
The ends of his ears are becoming tattered and frayed:
And the hair on his nose has rubbed away from being petted:
But just like the Skin Horse so wisely explains in the book: this is what happens when you are loved for a long, long time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

DoggyStyle: Rain Footgear for All

 Since we don't have a backyard, and we have to walk our pooches a couple of times each day, I have become kind of obsessed with finding inclement weather gear. I've realized, walking in bad weather isn't so bad if we're dressed appropriately.
Chicago has been extra rainy lately, so we all had to "gear-up" for our walk. Here is what we've been using for dog and people footwear:
This winter we had a dog boot 'challenge' and decided we prefer the PAWZ reusable boots over the more expensive Muttluks. And with the snow gone, we've also been using the PAWZ boots as wellies. It's been so difficult trying to clean all the mud from the pooches toenails, so I've just been having them wear these boots, and when they take them off I don't even need to wipe their feet. The only problem with them is they don't cover very high, so if they step in a puddle taller than the boot the water will seep in. And if they get a hole in the boot as they're walking, it actually makes the problem worse because all the mud and water will be sloshing around in the boot and absorbing into their feet. And this is even harder to clean up. Though I still can't get over this video of how funny they look when walking in boots.
At the same time, I've been searching for a waterproof shoe so I can trade in my rain boots as the warmer weather approaches. I was so excited to find these Rainy Day Ballet Flats from JCrew that are actually cute, practical, waterproof shoes. They kind of make me excited to go out in the rain. They're flexible and lightweight, so I can also throw them in my purse if rain strikes. So far, I haven't had any problems with the fabric bow, though the sole  isn't very substantial and I wouldn't recommend wearing them on cobblestones or anything rough. They're also perfect dog-walking shoes for "all the single ladies".
Miss M was embarrassed to be wearing the same shoes as me; she thought her green wellies were unique.
What has everyone else been doing to tackle this rainy weather?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lazy Weekend in 10 Pictures 4.27.11

We were all recovering from our vacation, the pooches were too tired to do anything but eat and sleep. A and I were busy getting our grading and school work done. So we all just stayed in only to leave in short spurts for the pooches to do their business.
The pooches spent most of their time moving around the house trying to find a comfortable place to lay.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pooches: On Dogs, Walking Anxiety & Happiness

 While we were on vacation last week, I was able to catch up on some 'beach-reads'. One book that still has me thinking is The Happiness Project. This book follows the author's journey as she tries to live a happier, less stress-free life. The premise is simple: she tries to spend more time doing things that make her happy, while trying to change the things that make her unhappy.
The funny thing is, when I identified what made me happy and what made me unhappy, it was the same: the pooches.
One of my favorite things is to go for walks and explore Chicago with the pooches. I love taking them to parks and festivals, and I love dog training and showing how well-trained they can be.
At the same time, one of my most stressful things is our daily walks where I need to walk both dogs at the same time and anticipating everything that can go wrong on our walks. With as many as 30 dogs living on a single city block, we're always encountering other dogs barking and lunging on retractable leashes, off-leash dogs charging and challenging our dogs, and trying to control our pooches if this makes them excited enough to jump or try to play on leash.
I realized the anxiety of what could go wrong has started to make me an angry person. I am often glaring at other people as they walk their dogs towards us--much to my embarrassment, one day I even realized I was giving dirty looks to a former friend of mine I hadn't seen in a  long time and just wanted to meet the dogs.
So in recognizing this, I'm trying to think of ways to turn this around and continue having fun on the walks. Maybe I just need to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and just hope that other dog owners are acting responsibly and deal with something bad only if it happens? Or maybe I need to change and do even more training with the pooches so they don't react as strongly if other dogs bark and lunge at them? Or is my worry actually a safeguard for the pooches where acting more casually could be dangerous? How does everyone else balance walking safety without becoming an angry, bitter person?

Update: Last night we announced on our Facebook page the names of the special pups saved in Shy/Khloe's memory. Introducing....Zoey (girl with mange) and Bella (girl with broken leg). Zoey will be up for adoption soon; Bella is still getting some work done on her leg. We'll continue posting real-time updates and photos on our Facebook page.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Brief Interlude...

 This past week, E and I were lucky enough to jet away to Tulum, Mexico for some much needed sunshine and warm weather.
--And much like we make preparations to keep our lights on so people don't realize we're gone, we also leave our blog "on" so people don't know our place is empty--
We have found Tulum to be the perfect antidote to city living. The beaches are not crowded; there are groupings of cabanas along the beachfront which are all eco-friendly. We stayed at Playa Mambo which has a cluster of 8 thatched roof cabanas. It's cozy and rustic and everyone is very, very nice. Plus, we were only a 20 second walk to the beach. We even had our own beach-dog "Molly".
We spent the time enjoying the sunshine and playing with our cameras.
Meanwhile, we came home to some very tired pooches. They also had a 'vacation' where they lived at their daycare. They spent a couple of days looking like this:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pooches: Mr. B is 'Framed'

 Our family has a mystery, that still to this day, was never solved. Someone ate all the Halloween candy that was supposed to be given to Trick-or-Treaters. All of the wrappers were found in the trash can in my older sister's bedroom, yet she claims she didn't eat the candy. To this day, she still holds to the story that I ate the candy and put the wrappers into her trashcan to 'frame' her. But I didn't. And she still won't admit it.
Then this happened in our house:
We came home to find this empty food container in Mr. B's tepee. We don't keep any food in it, so it really was just an empty container, but the pooches know that they're not supposed to mess with our stuff when we're gone.
Like my sister, Mr. B was so upset because he would never do anything like this. It must have been Miss M who was playing with our stuff, then decided to drag it into Mr. B's tepee to frame him. Because, doesn't that sound like something sneaky Miss M would do? And wouldn't you believe Mr. B?
Then we remembered...Miss M was locked in her crate the whole time:
 Plus, Mr. B has this habit of hoarding. But of course, this doesn't sound like something Mr. B would ever do. So maybe this will be a new family mystery that will never be solved.Who would you believe? Team Miss M? Or Team Mr. B?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DoggyStyle: Special Occassion Collars

Since we've figured out ways to switch out the pooches collars quickly, we kind of couldn't resist ordering some "special occasion" collars.Though we never thought we'd be the 'dress up your dog type', we do find we get to talk to so many more people, who wouldn't normally come up to the dogs, when they're wearing interesting accessories.
They make so few accessories for male dogs, we just had to pick up this bowtie collar from SillyBuddy when we saw it. Mr. B did make a smashing leprechaun when he wore it around Chicago for St. Patrick's day:
Not to be outdone, we have bought Miss M some special occasion corsage collars from Pecan Pie Puppies. This purple tartan with matching dahlia.
And mugging for the camera:
 And a spring-time blue pattern with white flower:
 And looking coy:
The bow ties and flowers are removable, so the collar can be worn as is. Funny enough, when she sees us with these collars out Miss M actually runs up and tries to wear several at a time, just like a little girl with charm bracelets.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Daily Walk in 10 Pictures 4.20.11

What a huge difference a week can make, last weekend we were in t-shirt and shorts and this weekend, we were bundled up and happy to hibernate. Unlike us, the pooches do not check the weather online, so they longed to go on a long family walk this weekend.
Right when we got out, Ms. M looked like she wanted to go back inside.
The nice thing was that the sun was out, so we were able to capture some photos of the pooches posing in front of our neighborhood landmarks, like the blue recycling bins in the alley.
Mr. B was also able to use the sun to take this great picture of our sidewalk.
Ms. M was really not a fan of posing in this cold weather and made sure we saw her disgust.
 Mr. B, on the other hand, doesn't mind the weather and cherishes every moment outside,
even when the winds top 40 mph.
The wind even affected Mr. B's ability to take steady pictures.
Eventually, Ms. M was able to enjoy the sun, indoors.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Double security for leashes and collars

Right after we adopted Mr. B, we had a fluke accident where Mr. B's collar became unlatched from his leash and all we can do was watch in shock as he ran up to another dog.
As an added measure of security, we would use an x-large key ring and loop it around both the collar and the leash. Now that we have beautiful leashes from Sirius Republic and a multitude of collars from Pecan PieSilly Buddy and Sirius Republic, we had to come with an added measure of security, but makes it easy to switch out the collars and leashes.
We use a key chain coupler (coupling key fob) and loop one end to the collar and the other end to the leash. The key chain coupler easily comes apart with a simple push of the quick release mechanism and we can mix and match leash and collars and still maintain a peace of mind. Quick tip: use the same end of the key chain coupler for all of your leashes and the other end for all of your collars (you will most likely have unequal numbers of the ends of the key chain coupler).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Training: Dog 'Spring Training'

 Much like the Chicago Cubs, after a long, hard winter, the pooches also have to go through a "spring training regime" to get back in shape for the summer season.
As the weather is warming up, all of a sudden other dogs, people, and drunken guys wearing leis and grabbing at the pooches are everywhere. And this is exciting for our dogs.
They used to remember how to act appropriately, but since we were facing this for much of the winter, they have forgotten:
Enter our spring training refresher course.

1) We Treat Every Walk Like a Training Walk
With the weather warming up, there are so many interesting things going on, and it's hard to have the pooches pay attention to us. So, much like when they were in training, we bring along the treats (we like easy cheese squirt bottles) that we pull out when they do good things. We started with having them sit at corners. And we also practice sit-stays when we need to pick up poo. Since they don't know when the treats are going to be brought out, they begin paying more attention to us, ignoring Juliet barking in the balcony above.

2) We Practice the Tricks we Know Already
 As the good habits become more habitual, and to reinforce how we're in training, I have the pooches randomly perform tricks we already know as we're walking. This is another way to keep the pooches focused on us and it's easier for them to be successfully rewarded because they're performing tricks they already know. Plus, it's very impressive. When we're walking by outdoor patios, you should see the 'ohhs' and 'ahhs' we get when I ask Miss M to walk in a circle around me as we're walking. Or even having Mr. B wave with his T-rex arms when we're sitting at the corner.

3) We Desensitize them to the Action
 The biggest problems we have are Mr. B getting excited around other dogs and Miss M thinking every single person wants to come over and pet her. To desensitize them to these distractions, we practice our training in crowded areas. Lately we've been working on down -stays where the pooches stay focused despite the dogs and people around them. We have made it a habit, and each time we try it for a bit longer.

These are just some things that have worked for us with our dogs. What are some other strategies for keeping your pooches behaved on walks?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pooches: Mr. B's Crush

I'm not sure if this is a myth, but I've heard there are affection gender differences in dogs: male dogs choose one person to like, while female dogs just like everyone. And this is absolutely true in our house. See, Mr. B has the biggest crush on E.
He loves going for walks with E, and will even do so wearing humiliating costumes:
 When E leaves for the day, he will wait at the window for hours, fogging it up, until he gets home:
 And when E's home, Mr. B is always following him around the house. Even if Mr. B is in a deep sleep, if he hears E leave the room, he pops right up to follow him. He only sleeps on E's side of the bed and if one of E's shirts or socks happens to fall on the floor, Mr. B will go over and curl up on top of it.
 Meanwhile, Miss M loves everyone and I'm sure she would drop us at a moment's notice.
 She is often finding new families and getting ready to go home with them:
So is this a myth? Or do most people find this true with their dogs?
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