Friday, September 27, 2013

Pooches: Mr. B, the Boorish Pooch

One thing that we enjoyed about our summer walks was that the pooches were generally laid-back. And slow.
Though now that the weather has gotten a bit cooler, it seems the pooches are using an entire season's pent-up energy, and they have gotten a bit more obnoxious.
From the moment we leave our gate, Mr. B is on a race. A race to get to somewhere that only he knows.
He is crossing streets faster than a speeding bullet, leaping abandoned poo in a single-bound, and using his x-ray vision to avoid feral white plastic bags and grumpy cats. It has gotten to the point that we have to call out his full name: including his middle name.
Many times his excitement is unanticipated, and he will be walking nicely then randomly spring vertically in the air with all 4 legs even. Then continue on.
Sometimes he becomes hyper-focused on his treats where he will march like a marionette but is off again like a brute once that treat is received. Sprinting to only he knows where.
Eventually...miles from home, he will calm down and almost walk nicely on leash and soon enough, he is exhausted and he can barely walk up our stairs.
Which makes us smile.
Not because he is tired, but because we are reminded that our 10 year old has so much life yet to live.
And each day he is excited to start his adventure.
We've also noticed this.
And what always makes us feel better.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

DoggyStyle: Where Miss M is Unimpressed by Our Decorating Decisions

With all of Miss M's quirks, one things we've noticed about her is that like any proper lady, she really enjoys flowers.
I used to think she took pride in them because we have a weekend tradition of going together to the Farmer's Market. She would pick the flowers, and make sure they were arranged to her liking when we came home:
She spends time gazing at them:
And she was really excited about her Get Well flowers:
With summer ending we know how hard it will be to get fresh flowers in Chicago, so we thought we would get something a bit more permanent.
We saw these colorful cacti at Home Depot, which we thought looked quite flower-like, and we thought Miss M would enjoy gazing at them.
Though it seems she was actually more surprised than anything:
And as long as she doesn't come too close, maybe she will enjoy gazing at these as well?
PS. Does anyone know how to take care of cacti like this? What kind of water and light do they need?

And they do live right there.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pooches: The One Where we Realize How Important it is To Keep Learning about Your Dog

When I first adopted Miss M, she was young and energetic, and I always expected a level of craziness.
But we would prepare.
We would go everywhere early so she could have time to sniff around and check things out.
I would only bring the good treats like salami and cheese everywhere we went.
And before training class we would walk the 2 1/2 miles to class just so she would be calm when she got there.
Though as we have been consistent and  continued our training we have taken for granted that they will be ok anywhere we bring them.
Sure they can navigate drunken crowds and groping with ease and walk under the El tracks without flinching. And the fact that we have gone on this cruise several times before where Miss M was all smiles and loved hanging her head out the window.
After 7 years with Miss M, I thought I knew everything about her when just last year she developed a phobia of....bridges. We don't go over bridges often, but when I tried she become a spider-dog refusing to cross--you can kind of see it in this video here.
And little did we realize how her fear would ruin our family trip.
That morning, we decided to head to the cruise on a whim; we were running a bit on the late side. As we dashed down to the dock she walked dangerously close to the big bridge and she had to go down stairs with big gaps.
I think this was enough to unnerve her, because as the boat started moving, the vibrations reminded her of...a bridge! And the same pup that has been on this boat before and has no problems walking under the thundering El started making crazy Scooby-Doo spinning legs.
Which resulted in her nearly pulling the top of my dress down as I tried to grab her and prevent Mr. B from rolling off the bench like a log.
I couldn't save Mr. B.
And as Miss M agonized over every rumble, it made me think how comfortable we had gotten and how I really did need to continue anticipating situations that could be uncomfortable for our pups.
Are other people still finding unexpected triggers for their pups? (Tell us some good stories!)

How we've worked to prepare for parades and farmer's markets and even wearing costumes.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs; Miss M and Mr B go on the Chicago Skyline Canine Mercury Cruise

 Whenever anyone asks us what they should do when they visit Chicago, the #1 thing we always tell them: go on an architectural cruise. Chicago architecture is one of the not-so-hidden gems of our city, plus it's even more fun to enjoy when leisurely cruising by via tour boat.
While it's something we don't usually indulge in on our own, the fact they have a Sunday morning dog-specific Mercury Canine Cruise makes it too tempting to pack up our little family to become  Tourists in our Own City:
We set sail for a 90-minute tour along the Chicago River and parts of Lake Michigan with our tour guide explaining the sometimes crazy history behind the buildings I never paid attention to on my way to the train. It was fun seeing the buildings from this perspective and even learning the history of buildings I worked in for several years.
There were plenty of amazing photo opps and all kinds of big, small, fuzzy and bearded pups.
And talk about Chicago being a small town... we ran into our dog friend Phil who was all smiles for his first cruise:
Mr. B was having a great time sticking his head out the boat window, wondering about passing Tall Ships, and dreamily gazing at the Chicago skyline.
That is until Miss M randomly decided she didn't like the vibrations of the boat she had ridden on several times before and she starting kicking with her kangaroo legs. Mr. B. rolled right off the bench, just like a log, where he could only watch the back of people's legs from under the seat.
We will write more about Miss M's kangaroo-legs and how mistaking boats for bridges in tomorrow's post!
The tour validates parking for $12 for 3 hours at 111 E Wacker Dr. parking garage. We like that this gave us a bit of extra time afterwards to walk around downtown. We picked up after-boat donuts from Do-Rite Donuts (another Chicago recommendation!).
While we've loved making this a tradition with our little family, and we normally can go on a whim, it seems like this year the cruise has become extra busy and our boat was sold out when we got there. It must have been Mr. B's charm that got us off of the wait list and onto the boat.
We definitely recommend calling ahead to purchase tickets or arriving super-early, but we're excited to continue making this one of our yearly traditions!

Our recommendations for 1 day in Chicago with your dog.
Or if you have 36 hours
How to take a taxi with a large dog.

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Monday, September 23, 2013

SociaBulls: On 4-Foot Leashes

  We're always looking at our SociaBulls group as a work-in-progress and a few weeks ago we decided to update some of our procedures to create a better experience.
While we wrote about this upgrade last week, we have also decided to have all pups begin walking on a 4-foot leash.
I had always just thought that 6-foot leashes were standard and for the most part, I had never even thought about leash-length. Though as we've been using the 4-foot leash, it has been giving me a greater awareness of where Miss M is walking and a good overall reminder to make her stay close to my side.
We've also started using the 4-foot leash for some of our daily walks where we know we may be in more crowded places and it's important for her to stick close by.
Just curious, are most people using 6-foot or 4-foot leashes?

Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.

 On our no greeting rule.
And our new bandanas!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pooches: How Miss M Became an Embarrassing Pick-Up Artist

I used to think Miss M was an amazing pick-up artist. Especially back in our Bachelorette Days when she was able to enchant people with her curled-lip grin, buttock-wiggle, and hypnotizing gaze.
Maybe it was because Miss M was just sprung from the city shelter, that she was not discerning and was equally engaging with everyone she met.
But then she began to get selective.
In a bad way.
Sometimes we met people I thought were sketchy. And I wanted to leave. Meanwhile, Miss M would think they were the greatest person ever. She would proceed with her signature lip-curl and butt-wiggle making it even harder for us to get away.
Sometimes Miss M would engage people who probably shouldn't be engaged. People who might be yelling loudly. To themselves or at others. Instead of just walking on, Miss M would make a point to not-so-secretly stare at them. And even as I pulled her to walk away, she would reverse her body the other way to continue obviously staring at them.
And the worst part, sometimes she will meet people who are so nice and they're so excited to meet her--sometimes they've even seen her on the blog! But she has used up her energy on the other people and she will give them only a passing glance.

Does anyone else have a pup who uses their pick-up artist skills for 'evil'?
Though, what can we expect since she has been doing a lot of this lately.
Meeting lots of nice people.
How Miss M lead me to find my "One"!
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

City Dogs: How All Dogs can be 'Apartment-Sized' Dogs

Before I was looking to adopt our pups, I really believed that since we all lived in mini-spaces we could only own mini-sized dogs.
Though we all know how that turned out.
We really believe it's not the size of your space, but any pup has the potential to be an 'apartment-sized' pooch. While we use our blog to show how we've been able to live with our big dogs in the city, we were recently asked our thoughts on the top ways work with dogs in a smaller space.

Develop Walking and Bathroom Routines:
Since none of us have backyards, we know a lot of people think smaller dogs can use pee pads and balconies in an emergency. We have never had any issues because we created routines to help the pups get on a bathroom routine. We wrote more about it here.
We've also realized, the benefit of going on so many walks together has allowed us to work on daily training. We can practice our communication, which also works in our home.

Physical Exercise Outside and Mental Exercise Inside
Just because a dog is a large dog, it doesn't mean they need to spend every minute of their life running. We go on a few daily walks each day, and we even wrote here how to fully exercise our pups with shorter walks. 
We are always conscious of the noise-levels with shared wall neighbors, so when we're inside we work on games and mental exercises that which can be just as exhausting for the pups.
We wrote more about it here.

Eliminate Dog Stuff By Using Human Products
I think the biggest issue is that many people think that they don't have room in a smaller space to store all the dogs' stuff. We've learned the art of disguising human products for the pups: they lounge on floor pillows and rugs as dog beds, create dog-friendly rugs, and disguise their crates.

These are just our experiences, though we would love to hear how others are working with larger pups.

How we save money by using human products for our pups!
Why we don't need backyards. Though we do have this instead!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M (and Willie!) go Renegade

Just as we thought the summer festival season was over, we were excited to remember one of our favorite events happening right smack dab in the middle of our neighborhood. Renegade Craft Fair  gathers independent Etsy artists from across the nation displaying the innovative, unique, and usual wares beneath a half-mile of tents.
Since E and Mr B had some "business" to attend to, Miss M and I decided to have a Girls Day of shopping and browsing. We met up with Smiley Willie who was happy and still smiling about being the only dude out with the ladies shopping.
We were excited to visit our friend Sticker's person at her booth La Familia Green. Her pup Stickers, and her cat Lemur, are often the muses for many of her cards. And she is just so, so creative and funny with perfect, modern cards for any occasion. If you haven't seen her shop, you can click here 
We were also super-excited to see Miss M's special friend with her shop The Soap Distillery. She handmakes small-batch soap inspired by specially-crafted wines  cocktails: absinthe, gin, pumpkin ipa, and margarita to name a few. The soap doesn't smell like alcohol, but the fragrance notes of the drink. Miss M's special friend and alcohol are two of her favorite things; hence, I was not able to handle her excitement and the camera well enough to get photos. You can read more about the Soap Distillery here which are fun to buy for yourself or small gifts. We bought Bourbon!
Meanwhile...back at home E and Mr. B were having a very important Sunday afternoon meeting. 
Can anyone guess what it was about? (Here is a hint!)

Deja Vu! But, with Mr. B.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Monday, September 16, 2013

SociaBulls: How SociaBulls is like the Mickey Mouse Club

While I always think pups always look cuter with a bit of 'flair', our group has been incorporating bandanas for another reason: to help us communicate.
1) The bandanas let us know who is part of the group and who might be just a curious on-looker looking to jump in (it's happened a few times!)
2) The colored bandanas remind us which dogs need even more extra space and shouldn't be passed
3) We use the colors to help a dog-needing space to find a laid-back buddy if they fall out of the pack order. We wrote about it in more detail here.
Then...we decided to take it up a notch:
 Since we are such a large group, and many members are still learning names, we thought it would be fun to have personalized SociaBulls bandanas. Along with the name of our group, each pup will have their name embroidered on their bandana.
Our version of the Mickey Mouse Club letter jackets.
There are always complications with money-handling, distribution, and ordering of group gear,  so to make things even easier, Sirius Republic generously offered to make our bandanas so members can order independently. The bandanas are heavy-weight and embroidered with our group name and the name of the pup. We even have our own group listing on the site here.
Members still have the option of purchasing their own colored bandana, but it has been extra fun seeing our pups coming with their personalized bandanas.

Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pooches: Mr B's "Cape Feare"

When most people see Mr. B, they usually just see a big-headed, huge-muscled lunk.
You would think he's fearless.
Though Mr. B doesn't see himself that way. He has a huge fear of small dogs, and he is even more afraid of...cats.
At the sight of a cat, Mr. B will squeal like a little piglet, and literally sprint away in the other direction.
Unfortunately for us, we live near a large feral cat colony. These cats survive on the "mean streets of Chicago" and they are fearless. Once, one even slowly sauntered down the sidewalk towards Mr B, and slashed him across the face "Zorro-style".
These cats hang out a mere few houses away, and Mr. B is always nervously watching for them on our daily walks.
During his photoshoot, Mr. B has the unsettling feeling he is being watched.
While we still see the Zorro-cat, there is one single cat that Mr. B is even more afraid of: the fluffy white cat.
It's almost like it is stalking Mr. B. It pops up from the most unexpected places and it watches him unwaveringly.
It keeps Mr. B on high alert. The other day he thought he saw it under a car so he dashed away. It turns out, it was only a white plastic bag floating by.
Another time I was picking up the dogs' poo during our walk, and Mr. B suddenly jumped up from his sit-stay and started squealing and bouncing. I made him stay again, so I could finish picking up, but I couldn't understand why he kept squealing. Then I saw over his shoulder, the fluffy white cat's face peeking out from behind a tree.
I used to think that maybe it reminded Mr. B of another cat in his past life. Or maybe that cat knew a dog just like Mr. B when they were back in the shelter together. But really, I think Mr. B might be startled and unnerved because the cat has an expression that looks eerily like this:
P.S. We could never get close enough for a real photo, but this is the closest Internet image I could find to what Mr. B's nemesis really looks like.

What he's really like.
Because of this, Mr. B keeps asking for his own pet cat.
Miss M's own literary tale.
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