Friday, September 30, 2011

How to be a Tourist With Your Dog Series: Destination Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

We have always loved reading about the adventures of Shiva: an honest portrayal of living with and training an excitable dog, but also because they live all the way in Nova Scotia. And we love exploring Dartmouth with Shiva, including the walking trails, city views, ports and pubs all in the city of lakes.
Fun Fact: Shiva actually has a lake in her backyard,  but ironically enough, doesn't like to get wet.
While Dartmouth isn’t officially a city any more as it has joined with Halifax, Bedford, and Sackville to form the Halifax Regional Municipality – or HRM – I wanted to share the highlights of living on this side of the harbour. Known as the city of lakes, Dartmouth is full of lovely scenery to explore. It is also a very old city, founded in 1750, with many historical landmarks worth checking out. Unfortunately, it is so often over-shadowed by Halifax even I don’t spend much time discovering all it has to offer.
Dartmouth is home to some of the best dog parks in the city. Our dog Shiva’s favourite, has got to be Shubie Park. Located along the Shubenacadie canal, the park features a wide variety of off-leash walking trails great for chasing squirrels. And you can’t forget the fantastic dog beach!
Downtown Dartmouth is a terrific place to head for a walk. It is quieter than many similar areas with a lot less traffic. On a bright sunny day, I love meandering leisurely down the streets with my dog, taking in the views of the harbour. Shiva loves all of the exciting new smells.
Naturally, no visit to downtown is complete without stopping in at one of our favourite pubs, Celtic Corner. In the summer months they open their small patio, which is a relaxing spot to daydream and dog-watch. If your dog is cute enough – and if the pub isn’t full -  you can usually convince a server to let your dog join you outside while you enjoy a glass or two. Celtic Corner also features one of the many murals that decorate the city’s outdoor spaces. I think they make attractive advertisements for Dartmouth’s maritime history.
While Halifax proper may have the tall buildings and other typical city trappings, one has to go to Dartmouth to get the best views. The Dartmouth Waterfront Park provides an excellent place to photograph one of Canada’s oldest ports. It is also home to North America’s oldest saltwater ferry system. While there, I like to check out the unique triangular Peace Pavillion that showcases artefacts from all over the world, including a piece of the Berlin Wall. The Dartmouth Harbourwalk Trail extends 3.8 kilometres down the waterfront and is a picturesque way to get your daily exercise.
Not too far from downtown is Dartmouth Common, a gorgeous park space full of gardens and walking paths. There is even a section that has been designated off-leash!
As far as finding places to take your dog, I think Dartmouth is a great place to live. Its smaller size feels more cozy than claustrophobic. Everything is within a very convenient distance. Sure and it’s not as flashy as other cities, but if you are looking for a place to enjoy the beauty of nature with your canine companion, you really can’t go wrong with Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
We have reached the deadline to submit posts for the contest, and our last post will run Oct 14. Sirius Republic is donating 2 collars and we will have a random drawing of all the submitted 'How to Be a Tourist with Your Dog' posts to have 2 collar winners. Winners can chose from a standard collar, or an 'Adopt Me' collar to promote your foster or adoptable dog as modeled by foster dog Levi

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Living European With Dogs: Long Walks and Gelato, Inspiration from Italy

When we went on a trip this summer, we realized that the best part of traveling was discovering new things we enjoy, then bringing them back to our everyday life...with our pooches.
While we were traveling in Italy, we had a daily, and nightly, ritual of going out for for a stroll, grabbing a gelato, and just sitting.
 While we didn't think the scenery could get much better, everything is twice as good with gelato:
Since walking and exploring is one of our favorite things to do with the pooches, we decided to go on some evening strolls: destination gelato. For humans and pooches alike.
Our favorite is Black Dog Gelato, part of our original dog-walking desert tour. They have all kinds of crazy flavors like Goat Cheese Caramel, Cucumber-Rose Sorbet, and White Chocolate Banana Curry. So we started incorporating an extra evening stroll topped of with some sitting and gelato.
 And if we're lucky enough to find them, Chicago actually has 2 traveling dog ice-cream options. We've tried the Aarf Scarf food cart and Fido to Go food truck. Miss M especially loves the Mac and Cheese ice-cream.
 And since getting so much ice-cream can get a bit expensive, I've also gotten an ice-cream maker, so we can make it at home ourselves. I don't really like to cook, but it is actually really easy and I spent the summer making a variety of sorbets. I've also been learning to make some unique ice-creams and I've made a modified honey-lavender ice-cream that was really good with peaches. And I just made a cardamom ice-cream which is more of a rich, fall flavor. Of course, Levi is always sneaking around the corner, probably hoping I'm going to make pupsicles like Our Waldo Bungie makes for her pooches.
I haven't quite tried it yet, but it does sound fairly easy. Though as the weather's changing, I'm wondering what types of hot foods we might be able to find on our walk.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Dog Cleaning and Rethinking Home Baths

Since Miss M and I were bachelorettes together, I have always dreaded dog baths. Back then it was just me and her. Me trying to wrestle her 75 pound body into a tub. Her heaving her 75 pound body back out of the tub. And it went on like this just like a terrible episode of the roadrunner and coyote. Finally, with all the heavy lifting, costume changes (I had to don a bathing suit), and soaked apartment afterwards, I just realized it would be much easier to take her to PetSmart. 
And with all these terrible memories, we have been taking the pooches off-location for their baths for the past several years. That is, until we realized he had a nicely manageable apartment-sized pooch:
It was when I saw our Super-Levi staring into the bathroom, and trying to think when we could schedule a time to take the 3 pooches in for baths, I realized the obvious. I could actually pick him up and bathe him myself. And amazingly enough, when I lifted him in: he stayed. Maybe it's part of his Superhero genetics allowing him to repel water. He stayed in place quite nicely, except for the occasional tongue-lick.
Through all this, we noticed someone else peeking into the bathroom:
And I had my second realization: now that I have a husband to help me out, bathing a 75 pound pooch is quite possible, and enjoyable. But maybe not for Miss M. She came out smelling like mangoes.
So then we had to get Mr. B in on the deal. I definitely could have never lifted him in by myself, but with one swoop from strong husband, he was in the tub and looking like a fat little seal--according to the hilarious comment on our facebook page. Now his fur gleams like the inside of a seashell.
We were kind of disgusted by how dirty the bath water was, especially since we were using some dry wipe cloths, and always make sure to wipe their feet.
Now we've realized how baths don't have to be like bad Warner Brothers cartoons, we're going back to dog-bathing basics. We're curious: how often do you wash your pooches? And how do you keep the hair from clogging the drain? And any dog shampoo tips? Does the shampoo matter? Or does anyone still think it's easier to go off-location?

P.S. SociaBulls members, check our website for details on an upcoming Happy Hour!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Levi's Superhero Upbringing

 When we first adopted our pooches, we began noticing things that gave us clues about their past lives. We learned Miss M was owned by a large man because she would get so excited when she saw big guys. We also learned in her past life she had a couple of drinks here and there.
Mr. B lets us know how much of an outdoor dog he used to be by using every waking moment to sit outside on our urban deck.
But at the same time, Levi has remained a complete mystery. All we know is that he was found on the mean streets of Chicago, living as a stray, and we haven't gotten too many clues about his past life. Which doesn't really explain this:
 And even this:
The only explanation we can think of, is that in his past life he was raised by Superheros! Which would also explain why he's always peeking around corners, perhaps listening to help whoever is in distress:
And how he must have used his Superhero charms and good-looks on pushy Miss M:
I think the only explanation is that he has Superhero in his bloodline. Don't you think?
 Anyone else get clues from their pooches about their past lives?
P.S. SociaBulls: We posted our new event on our page and we will be back at North Shore Channel for next week. Anyone interested in becoming a new SociaBulls member, please email us using the link on the sidebar and subject line SociaBulls.

Monday, September 26, 2011

SociaBulls Hike Historical Parks

This week we were deterred from our original plan to explore urban skyline Chicago when we found out there would be a huge Bears game right near our path. So we changed our plans to explore our favorite Victorian-style historical park instead. It was great to see so many new faces along with some familiar faces:
as we spent our morning walking among fantastic Chicago historical sights. We loved seeing that Ollie brought his family (brother Sinclair and his favorite adorable niece). And Jack rode up in style.
The pooches are usually so excited to see one another at the beginning of the walk, but as we begin walking the rhythm of the pack walk becomes calming and social.
 And of course the duck-filled lagoons, weeping willows, and flower gardens are a great change of pace from our normal views.
It was also fun to see some dopplegangers on the walk, and of course, Miss M always mugging for the camera.
Special thanks to Dave for walking Levi and Dan for walking Miss M.
We are currently considering our location for next week's walk, and members can check our SociaBulls Event page.
If you are interested in becoming a New Member, please email us using the icon on the side of the page with the subject "SociaBulls".

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Be a Tourist with Your Dog: The Bay Area, Northern California

Though we completely love Chicago and think it's an amazing city, we secretly dream of living in the Bay Area with its beaches, hiking, and beautiful scenery (we even eloped in San Francisco!). Here is Sophie confirming everything amazing about Northern California and how to enjoy it with your favorite pooch!

The Bay Area is an incredibly dog friendly area of Northern California. Sophie wanted to share some of her favorite places to visit!
Visit Fort Funston
The dog beach to visit when in San Francisco! Fort Funston offers trails to hike and a beach to run on. It is off leash doggy paradise. On weekends the places is full of owners and happy dog fetching and enjoying the water. The dog community is currently organized to protest the proposed new laws which all but ban dogs from Fort Funston and other similar parks/beaches in Northern California. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy and love Fort Funston.

Short Road Trip to Half Moon Bay:
After Fort Funston take a drive up CA 1. It is a scenic highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Drive to Half Moon Bay, an incredibly dog friendly town 30mins from San Francisco. There stop at one of the many pet friendly restaurants. Our favorites include Sam's Chowder House and the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. The pups always get belly rubs and bowls of water from the friendly waiters.

While you are there, the pups can take a quick deep at Pillar Beach another dog friendly beach with very calm waters (great for a good game of fetch while you wait for a table).

Attend a Rescue Walk Fundraiser or Pet Friendly Day in the Bay
Numerous rescues host walks throughout the year. In addition many of the Bay cities host big events for dog owners in the Park including Bark in the Park in the South Bay, San Jose CA. A well attended yearly event with dozens of vendors, rescue groups and numerous demonstrations including flyball, agility and herding. 

Go on a Hike with your pup!
 Enjoy one of the numerous dog friendly hiking trails (most do require leashes). Sophie’s current favorite is the Pulgas Ridge Trail in San Mateo County. It even has an off leash area at the top of the hike!
 Another favorite hike is the Windy Hill Preserve in Portola Valley. Sophie thinks a nice 3 mile loop around this Preserve is the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. For information on great hikes in the Bay Area, we rely on:

You can read more about Sophie and her fantastic, active life here. And as one reader pointed out, it's always a good idea for pit bull owners to research beforehand as some areas might not allow pitties.
We have reached the deadline to submit posts for the contest, and our last post will run Oct 14. Sirius Republic is donating 2 collars and we will have a random drawing of all the submitted 'How to Be a Tourist with Your Dog' posts to have 2 collar winners. Winners can chose from a standard collar, or an 'Adopt Me' collar to promote your foster or adoptable dog as modeled by foster dog Levi
 And we will still be donating money to the rescue of choice for the 2 posts with the most comments. We will announce the winners Oct 21.

In case you missed them, you can also read our other Tourist with Your Dog posts showcasing Milwaukee,  Upstate New York, New York City, Austin, Florida, Portland, Richmond, Seattle,  Kansas City, Nashville, Alaska, and Chicago. And you can read about roadtripping the 7 Wonders of Illinois with 4 large dogs, boating to the Bahamas with a pit bull, specific tips for roadtripping with a large dog (NYC to rural Tennessee), Chicago Dogs Sidetrip to Harbor County, and Destination "Dog Mountain" in Vermont.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Things to Do with Your Dog in Chicago: Movies in the Park

 Since our winters are so terrible, Chicagoans really know how to make the most of summer. It's always so great to see everyone out and about, and of course, finding fun things to do with our pooches. This year they cancelled the big outdoor movie series in Grant Park and instead decided to have smaller outdoor movie events in the local neighborhood parks. Which was to our advantage because this meant we could bring the pooches.
We loaded up on Orangina and fresh-baked pastries from the local Polish bakery. And Mr. B made sure to bring his favorite pink toy.
We have found that comforters work as the perfect picnic blanket because they are that much more comfortable. We use a shower curtain liner underneath if the grass is damp. They showed the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which is based on a comic book and stars Michael Cera.It was actually a really good movie. It was funny because Miss M fell into a deep sleep during the movie and was so confused to wake up in the middle of a park on a blanket.
As we're prepping for fall, we realize how much we're going to miss about the summer and all the outdoor activities. But I guess this just makes us that much closer to next summer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Advice for New Pit Bull Owners

 When I "accidentally" adopted my first pit bull, Miss M, I really didn't know what I was getting into.Even with all the research I had done to prepare Miss M for success, it didn't prepare me for initial experiences of people scooping their dogs out of our way, mumbling under their breath as we passed, and the time a crazy man--wearing a cape in the middle of summer--yelled in her face that she shouldn't be in public places with children.
Though, luckily, things really haven't been like this as much for us anymore. 
 I was reminded of these experiences when we received an email from a couple who just adopted a young pitbull pup. They were already receiving negative comments before they even adopted:
Since we decided that we were open to adopting a pit, we have gotten some interesting reactions. One person said of a pit-lab mix we were considering that it would be "conflicted: happy as a lab and aggressive as a pit. It would never know what it wants." We went to a petstore that we *love* to get toys and supplies for our new baby, and the owner told us we should never play tug with our pit bull puppy, as it's an "aggressive breed" and "even though there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, you don't want to bring out the aggression." I did not mention to him the study showing that tug is actually a *fine* game to play with your dog, regardless of breed (
So, all of that said, we are bracing ourselves for more comments like this and are looking for ideas about how to respond. We will be going through all the obedience classes with our pup, and hope to get her Canine Good Citizen Certified... all that is a ways away, though, and we are wondering what we can or should say in the meantime.  
Have you dealt with these kinds of comments, and how do you balance the desire to educate people with the frustration that people are so closed-minded? 
Make our Dogs More Approachable
 We have found that when our dogs are 'geared up' they become that much more approachable. People are drawn to dogs with backpacks, bowties, even bandanas. And of course, Mr. B does much to dispel the myth by just walking around with his stuffies still intact. Once people come over to talk to our dogs, we're able to show them the true nature of pitbulls.

Be That Much More Responsible and a Good Role-Model
 We know that when we go out with our dogs, we are 'representing all pitbulls'. So many people will judge the entire breed based on what they see from our single dogs. We have to be that much more responsible and we need to be that much better trained because we know any misrepresentation from our dogs will impact the entire breed.
If anyone were to say anything negative about our dogs, I make them do a fun trick, like: waving, circling around me, or standing at our side. Even foster dog Levi who doesn't know many tricks now is learning to sit nicely at corners. I think people seeing us working with our dogs like that also does change perceptions.
We also don't let our dogs play on leash because usually that will result in the 'hungry gremlin noise' which is their play voice, but people thing it means aggression.

Outweigh the Bad with the Good 
 I have found by doing most of the things above, we have so many more positive experiences. We love when people come rushing over with their cell phones to show us photos of their own pooches, when heads turn to check out the pooches as we're walking by outdoor eating areas, and when people yell out "Those are beautiful dogs" as we walk by. Interestingly enough, we were at a neighborhood festival with some friends the other weekend who told us it was interesting to see people's reactions to the pooches: how some people are really excited, while others walk by in disgust.
Disgust? Really?
I honestly never saw that. So maybe there are some people out there who despite everything won't be changed, but I don't even really notice. I'm too distracted by all the positivity surrounding our dogs.
I do know we are lucky enough to live in an area with a lot of pitbull positivity, but we were hoping to hear some other experiences. If you have a breed that is misinterpreted, how do you deal with negative comments and the desire to educate people with the frustration that people are so closed-minded?
And if you have another breed of dog, how do you get people to overcome negative stereotypes that might be associated with your breed?
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