Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving on a Monday

Though A and I started this blog together, A does most of the writing and well, I write whenever A is overwhelmed by classwork from one of her many graduate degrees, or from prepping for her classroom, or from writing one of a number of grants to give her students real-world experience, or from preparing her students for her amazing community awareness project or from a whole of host of things she does to make a better learning experience for her students and our (mine and pooches) lives better. Though A likes to state my past career as an accomplishment, it is really her current life that is an amazing accomplishment and to top it off, she has brought new friends into our lives.
It was only months ago, that A and I were complaining about how we really don't have many friends that are dog owners and we would sit countless hours in the park with the pooches imagining how great our lives would be with a few dog owner friends. Now we are surrounded by such an incredible community of virtual and physical group of friends. I am awed by how A has introduced us to some old friends we just met. Last night we hung out with a few SociaBulls friends and we had a great time hanging out with several good (human) friends from our inaugural walk:
and with those who have made our group what it is today:
Lola and Franklin
but we missed those that make our Sunday walks extra special, you know who you are.
We are very thankful to our old blog friends that visited us in Chicago and those that welcomed us in their town and home and to our forever Project Rescue and New Leash on Life family members, Jack and Bella’s family and Leigh-Anne and George and SuperLevi’s family.
It was funny to me when on Monday night, Kim from A Yellow Brick Home and A were talking about Alex from Love and a Leash as an old mutual friend. A and I joke about how many of our closest friends, we have never met. She loves to tell me about your lives, such as fostering too many dogs so you had to move, the daily events of our oldest friends in Hollywood and countless many others. I apologize if I forgot anyone, but you all are truly dearest friends with A and me. We truly are thankful for the more than supportive virtual community and we hope someday we can meet you all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pooches: New Dog Essentials

 It's funny thinking back about how clueless I was when I first adopted Miss M. The night before she came to live with me, I stopped by the pet store to get some things I thought she would like. Looking down the endless rows, I really had no idea what I should get. What I ended up with: A rope animal toy that would painfully whip me when she played with it. And the tennis ball head that was destroyed in a day. A little green stuffed frog that was destuffed that same day. And a dog bed that met the same fate.
As I've been meeting more people who have recently adopted dogs, they've been asking the short list of what I would recommend when they bring home their pooch. I'm definitely not an expert, but these are the top things that come to mind:

1)Kongs & Nylabones:
These are good toys that won't be destroyed instantly, and they are good to have on hand for misplaced chewing behavior. We live my our kongs and we love that they double as a mental stimulation 'puzzle' that will be sure to tire out your pooch. We still put peanut butter in our kongs, and freeze them, and the dogs actually look forward to us leaving. We also learned from Love & a Leash that you can put the pooches' food in the kong as an extra challenge, or a decoy if your dog is on a diet.

2) Pet Insurance:
 We don't work for the company, but I always feel an extra obligation to tell people about pet insurance. Both of our pooches have pet insurance, and we have literally saved thousands of dollars. The most important thing is to get the insurance almost immediately after getting your dog; this way your dog won't have any pre-existing conditions that the insurance won't cover. E has researched several of the companies, and the one we like the most is Trupanion. Most pet insurance, like the kind I irresponsibly got Miss M, won't cover breed-specific ailments. So things like allergies will never be covered. We like that Trupanion covers all of the ailments regardless of breed, plus they don't have a huge bump in premiums when your dog becomes an Elderbull. (Mr. B was on Embrace pet insurance and his premium increased 40% when he turned 7!)

3) Crate
Growing up we just used to have our new dogs in a gated portion of the house, though I think crating is the more accepted thing now (or at least for those of us who have smaller spaces). The good thing about the crate is the new dog will have their own private space. Plus, having a crate trained dog is a definite benefit so they have options of staying with friends if you have to go out of town.

4) Nature's Miracle:
This was the main thing I had forgotten, and even with our dogs now it's the first thing to go into their overnight bag. Even the most housetrained pooch is bound to have an accident when their schedule is disrupted.This is the short list, and once you get to know more about your pooch and their needs, you can start picking up some of the more specific things.
I'm sure there are several important things I left out. What does everyone else recommend?

Fun Fact: That top photo is of Mr. B when he was new to us. We had been corresponding for several weeks with his foster mom, and we went out to Michigan to meet him. That same night, we all went camping together before driving back to Chicago.

Monday, November 28, 2011

When Conditioning Goes Bad (Thanksgiving Edition)

Sure we have conditioning to thank for our good dog behaviors like knowing to sit at corners and teaching Miss M to put her own toys away on command.
But what about when conditioning goes bad?
This Thanksgiving, we found out how bad behaviors have been reinforced with our pooches.
Mr. B has been conditioned to have his stuffies with him at all times.
But just watch what happens when we try to pack Mr. B's stuffies in his overnight bag...we thought we were the ones going crazy.
(This actually has to be my all-time favorite video of the pooches)

Meanwhile, Miss M has been conditioned to think that going to the suburbs means she does not have to follow our rules. The moment we hit the suburbs, Miss M awoke from a deep sleep in the back of the car to begin sniffing the suburban air. Which caused her to get 'crazy eyes'. So when we went to pick up E's Mom, Miss M was literally leap-frogging to get into her house where she proceeded to race around like a crazy dog, not listening, and even sitting on the couch.
 She has been so conditioned to not follow the rules, that she gets excited before she even gets in the door.
After all the good behavior we are used to, this 'off' behavior is even more frustrating.
I think it might be a long road considering she starts getting excited in the car just smelling the suburban air.
Anyone else have these types of 'bad conditioning' experiences? Or have success changing them?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Uninvited Guests II

On our first Thanksgiving together, we were so excited to have the family meet our pooches, because of Mr. B's calm nature
 and Ms. M's huge personality.
They didn't disappoint, Mr. B quickly became best friends with E's 70 year old reserved and soft-spoken grandfather and Ms. M was the hit with her wiggles and kisses. Ms. M even practiced her waves and she was happy to perform for the whole family. And they were impressed!
So when the next family party came around, we were confident that the pooches would be on their best behavior when we brought them. Instead, clever Miss M realized our rules didn't apply outside the house. Everyone let her do whatever she wanted, she was being given food, and with her pushy nature she began eating food off of plates, digging through the trash, and eventually stuck her head in a huge family sized bowl of homemade potato salad. She was banned from all family parties.
And Mr. B. was banned by association. Even though all he did was search for his new best friend, E's grandfather.
So we are trying to find a way to get the pooches back into the family parties. Maybe if we gussy them up in these matching skull sweaters?
We were thinking we might bring her and have her on a leash with us for the night, so she can't sneak off and try to eat food off of plates. Anyone have any luck reminding your pooches of the rules, even though everyone else is trying to break them?
Hope everyone has a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Things to do with Your Dog in Chicago: Grilled Cheese and Family Walks

 We actually aren't used to having so much excitement with a real live SuperHero living in our midst, so it has been nice to fall back into our regular routine with our two pooches.
Miss M and I have a long-standing summer tradition of going to the Farmer's Market every Saturday morning. It dates back to when we were Bachelorettes together. Though with market season over, we have begun our winter traditions, and we even let Mr. B and E join in:
 Sunday mornings we all take a family walk together. Mr. B brings his backpack and we stop by our favorite bakery: La Farine .Plus, what could be cuter than a pooch with a roll of french bread sticking out of his backpack?
 We pick up bread, and often a fresh-baked pie from Hoosier Mama. The pooches just like to check out their own smiling faces:
 When we come home, E makes flights of mini-grilled cheese that we eat with soup and apple cider. Miss M especially likes watching the fire:
We miss all the summer action, but it is fun to have some winter traditions too. Anyone else have any good winter traditions with your pooches?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chicago SociaBulls: Lakefront Path

The impending winter has not stopped our dogwalking group as we took the pooches out to a portion of Chicago's lakefront path.
 This is a popular portion of the lakefront trail, is the perfect reminder of how varied and beautiful our city is with the perfect mix of lakefront and harbor views, jewel-toned trees, and city skyline. Not to mention people spending time with their gorgeous pooches.
Plus a certain Superhero joining the walk with his very own family!
The pooches are still naturally excited at the beginning of the walk. Though once the walk starts, they fall into the rhythm of being in a pack. This location was kind of a gamble because it is so busy with runners, squirrels, geese and plenty of off-leash dogs. Despite all these distractions, the pooches did an amazing job of remaining focused.
 And while this was our perspective of the walk, here are some highlights from Mr. B's view:
 Check our Chicago SociaBulls page to keep updated on all things SociaBull. We will be having a walk Thanksgiving weekend, so check the site to see when the new location is announced.
And if you are interested in joining SociaBulls, please contact us at Put SociaBulls in the subject line and tell us a bit about you and your pooch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Newsflash: SuperLevi is Reunited with His SuperHero Family

 (Photo taken Levi's 1st night in his new home!)
For the longest time we couldn't figure out why it was taking so long for SuperLevi to be adopted. Besides being a fantastically easy city dog, hanging out at outdoor cafes and neighborhood festivals with ease, he is incredibly handsome, goofy, and comes with his own superhero roll.
But when we met his new family, we realized why it had taken so long: he needed to be reunited with a fellow superdog.
See, this is Greta. And she comes with her own superhero story. When Greta was rescued as a pup, she was severely malnourished with festering open wounds. But, this courageous pooch used her superdog powers to overcome it. Though at a mere 2 1/2 years old, it seems those evil villains had come back to rumble with Greta again, this time in the form of blood cancer. And in this tougher battle, Greta sacrificed a limb, but came out with her dignity and spirit. And while the oncologist estimated it was only a matter a months, Greta has used her superdog strength to go beyond this estimate, full of energy and sass and able to outrun all her 4-legged friends.
 As Greta's Mom says: When Greta, my 3 year old rescue pittie, was first diagnosed with blood cancer, it hit me like a ton of bricks. For the first couple weeks, I walked around in a daze and it constantly felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Her oncologist told me it could be a matter of a few months, and this was something I just couldn’t wrap my head around. She has become such a huge and positive part of my life, and after having her for less than two years, I just wasn’t ready to let her go. After she had the amputation surgery to get rid of her tumor and she began to heal, it became apparent that she isn’t ready to go anywhere either. Her energy is still up, she is getting around great and she still has a lot of life left in her. She is one tough cookie, and I am continuously inspired by her resilience.
Before she was diagnosed, I started thinking about fostering a second dog. I have a very flexible work schedule and was finally feeling financially stable enough to help out another furry friend. This idea was put on the back burner while figuring things out with Greta, but soon after she healed from her surgery, I was more interested than ever in a second dog. But, given the circumstances, I decided to adopt instead of just foster. I felt like it would really help Greta enjoy her time left, give me some comfort for the future, and then there was the added bonus of providing another dog with a very loving home.
Now the big question: How do I find the right dog to bring into our family? I’ve been a fan of the blog Two Pitties in the City for a while now, and when I saw Levi, their fun-loving foster dog, I fell in love. Greta can be a little picky when it comes to her companions, but she has a big soft spot for male pit bulls with lots of energy. Plus, his alter-ego is Super Levi, so maybe he would be able to tap into his super healing powers to help Greta? It sounded like a match made in Heaven. 
When we first decided to bring Levi into the household, I remember saying to my boyfriend “I wonder if he will have as many strange quirks as Greta?” I should have known better after reading the Two Pitties blog…what a goofball! So far he has kept things so light and fun around the house, we’ve barely even thought of Greta’s cancer at all. Although it took her a couple days to warm up to his overzealous nature and inherent lack of boundaries (check out the pic below of him sitting on her), he has grown on her significantly. They are best buds now, and I have never seen her so happy and at ease. She grows to love him more and more each day, and it’s actually quite amazing to watch.
We couldn't be happier for Levi and his new family. And Levi has already been living it up with the new fam: going to outdoor cafes for brunch, city walks to the deli, joining up for a SociaBulls walk, and even making his way into bars as the perfect ambassadog:
The best part, we will still be able to see plenty of SuperLevi. Not only did we get the luck that from the entire Chicagoland area he lives mere blocks from us, but just like any great superhero, he has his own 'spinoff' blog. You can see his handsome face and read about his crazy adventures on Greta's blog here.
But wait...there's more!
We had so many people supporting us in finding Levi's (super) x-ray vision that we were all able to save SuperLevi's x-ray vision AND have enough money left over to rescue another dog in need of medical care. Please read this incredible thank you note from his rescue, New Leash on Life, because now "one sick pup in Chicago's pound who has been dreaming of rescue will have its wish granted-all because of you and Super Levi. So we'd like to say one last SUPERSIZE THANK-YOU FOR HELPING SUPER LEVI."
And for the Raffle Results:
We really wish we were like Oprah where we could give prizes to everyone, but since we're just us...our friends at New Leash drew the raffle results using a random number generator.
Ruffwear Overcoat: Kiira Ratia
Dog Sweater: Mary Agnew
Dog Sweater: Jessica Berson
Dog BackPack: Emily Hawkins
Go Pro Camera: Laurie Loweecey
Sirius Republic Collar: Natasha Ambuster
Silly Buddy Collar: Rachel Kirby
Doggie Biscuit Care Package: Cheryl Green
Doggie Biscuit Care Package: Kate Bedford
Winners: Watch for an email letting you know how you will receive your prizes.

We can't thank you all enough for helping SuperLevi save his x-ray vision. Check SuperLevi's blog for updates on his new life and upcoming surgery, and stay tuned to meet that special pooch who has been dreaming of rescue, and will now have his wish granted.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

GoodBye, SuperLevi

The other day, we heard our little SuperLevi's powers were needed elsewhere.
We knew his stay here was only temporary.
We helped him pack: folding up his SuperLevi outfit and putting his little red hoodie into a little bag.
The pooches watched him go. Miss M even thought she saw him fly away!
 But we learned there was another family, a super family, that needs his healing powers more than we do.
And we realized, that's where he belongs.
 Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of SuperLevi's search for his SuperFamily.
(And this is worth waiting for...we couldn't have made up a better ending ourselves).
Same pittie time. Same pittie channel.
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