Friday, December 19, 2014

Pooches: Miss M as Elf on a Shelf

I had all these ideas for other posts I would write, but I'm down with that flu that's been going around school. This is one of our favorite holiday-themed posts:
Maybe we're behind the times, but it was only last year that we learned about the phenomenon that is "Elf on a Shelf".
The elf is a little figurine that parents hide around the house. Its location changes every day, so you never know where it is. So not only is it spying on the kids...but each night it goes and tattles to Santa if the kids have been naughty.
When I first heard this it sounded kind of frightening, until I realized how poor Mr. B has been living with his very own Elf on a Shelf:
Just like the elf, Miss M can pop up anywhere:
She will uncomfortably watch you:
And she has no problem tattling:
Does anyone else unknowingly have an "Pup on a Shelf" in your house?

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates during our holiday.
Did you know Miss M and Mr B are sharing their thoughts on Twitter?

The true story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Favorite Holiday Walks in the City

With everything we have going on, lately we couldn't be more excited for our upcoming break.
As busy as we've been, it will be good to spend some quality time with the pups, and we've created a tradition of going on a couple of walks, that are worth it, even in the colder weather.

Taking Advantage of a Deserted Downtown:
The city completely empties out on Christmas and Christmas Eve, so we like to take this chance to take the pups downtown to look at the sites. Chicago has a traditional Christkindl market that is always way too busy, even when we're not with the pups.
So we like to walk around outside and see the tree and let people meet the pups (they become quite the photo opp!). Downtown we tend to run into a lot of tourists who have never met pitiful-type dogs before, and they are often shocked that they are just like any other dog (though it is often followed by comments that their own dogs at home would never be as patient or calm in a crowd).

Visiting Marshall Fields (Macy's) State Street Windows:
We love outdoor activities that we all can enjoy, and it's fun to see the decorated windows. Before Christmas State Street is really crowded, so we make this part of our Christmas Eve walk where everything is empty and the pups can even go up to see.

Amped up Neighborhoods:
As long as it's dark and cold, it might as well look pretty. We've been at Wicker Park when they had the fountain decorating event, and it's always nice to see the the neighborhood stores and homes all lit up and decorated.

Anyone else have favorite holiday walking traditions?

How to be a tourist with dogs during a Chicago winter in 1 day.
Or in 36 hours. 
No such thing as bad weather.

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pooches: The Dogs They Were Meant to Be

Sometimes we get frustrated with our pups.
When they think that every "walk" should really be a "run":
When they are always following us around, stalker-like:
When they are so excited to wake up an hour earlier, when we want to sleep in an hour later:
By not acting like the dogs we expect them to be:
But then we remember there might come
A time when our daily walks are no longer a grand adventure, and they are just a walk.
A time when being our best friend is too much work, and all they want is their personal space and alone time.
When they are no longer excited about life to wake up an hour earlier to live an hour more
And eventually life might not be worth waking up to at all
A time when we finally realize that the way they always were was just perfect.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Daily Walk: City Walk in Photos

As much as we are tempted to start our winter hibernation now, we know how important it is to keep our pups on their daily walking routine. As the pups have been getting older, we know the longer, low-impact walks are a good way to keep them fit while also keeping them mentally stimulated.
Here the pups take you on our city-dog walk:
The pups primp in our entry mirror before heading out. (We still barely recognize reflection Miss M!)
Miss M visiting her pet ducks.
Great check-in's Mr. B!
We saw a couple of families toting Christmas trees home. It's hard to see, but that pup in the photo is wearing antlers.
Miss M and graffiti.
The pups always seem to know where to find the free dog treats.
Mr. B gets extra exercise by treating the city as his obstacle course.
This weekend was also Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade where an estimated 70,000 motorcycles ride through the city, up Western Avenue, with their toys to donate. At first we were conflicted because they ride straight through and it's really easy to get stuck on one side for a really long time. Then I was excited and I thought it would be fun to see them. Though somehow, except for the random motorcycle here and there, we seemed to miss them all. Though we did read allover Facebook about everyone who was stuck in the traffic.
Even with the cold weather, we still have a lot to see on our walks. Is anyone else still getting out there?


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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pooches: On the Splurging and Saving of Dog Finances

Recently, we've been realizing just how expensive dog-ownership can be.
Especially as we've moved into a new home, and we're putting the rest of our savings into a new venture (we're hoping to be able to share about that soon!).
We wrote this earlier post about our dog splurges and things we just can't cut back on.
Since our pups are older, it has been hard finding places to skimp. We don't want to have any regrets.
So we just found some ways we can change to save money.
I've always been curious about how people do it, so here is a little peek into some ways we've been able to save money to allow for splurges for the pups:

Saving Money On (Not) Eating Out:
Breaking from the Habit
Our most impactful change so far is changing how often we eat out.
There are so many amazing places to go out to eat in Chicago.
Amazing places mere steps from our home that we pass each day on our daily walks.
When we went through our budget we realized how much we really spent on eating out.
Not to mention how easy it is to just go out, or order in, when you're tired after work on a Monday.
Or Tuesday.
Or basically any work day.
We weren't even enjoying the food that much, but it was easy and we needed to break ourselves from that habit.
We started by just going to the grocery store and stocking up on some easy microwave meals We actually took them out of the plastic and ate them from real plates so they looked like a nice meal.
We also made an event of sitting down at the table to eat together with an inexpensive glass of wine--thanks to Trader Joe's inexpensive wine options--to make our meal more of an event.
I know it sounds ridiculous, and I feel funny just writing it, but there was something about making a meal that looked visually appealing that helped break us from that take-out habit and we became accustomed to looking in our own fridge before going out or spending money on take-out.

Cooking Easily
I thought I hated cooking, but then I found this book which really made me understand how to use the fresh ingredients that are available each season to make easy meals. The recipes use a lot of the same ingredients to make different meals--because I hate having to go out to buy something you're only going to use for one meal--and I was able to use a lot of the spices from our herb garden, so I actually felt like cooking became easy.
It also became fun because we were always having people over for drinks and to eat in our new outdoor area and it was fun to make all the different recipes. This winter we've re-discovered our slow-cooker where cooking at home is no longer time consuming.
We started saving money on groceries by just going grocery shopping more often to make sure we were really going to eat what we were buying--I used to throw out so much uneaten food!
We have also discovered the new Pete's Market on Western and Madison is right on my way home. They have a huge selection of produce, and I don't have the same type of impulse buys as when we go to Trader Joe's.

Reducing the Temptation to Buy Stuff:
When we first decided to sell our place we got rid of a lot of stuff.
When we were packing to move we got rid of more stuff.
And when we finally moved in we got rid of a third huge batch.
Moving really made me realize how much money I waste on stupid things. And being faced with the idea of having to physically pack, carry and move all of those stupid things made me not want to buy things ever again.
We've done pretty well where everything has a spot in our home and we are very aware of double-checking that what we purchase and bring in really does have a purpose. Though I think making sure we are more conscious of annually going through our closets to help us remember how much money we could be wasting on things we don't need.

Learning Why Celebrities Look so Good in their Clothes:
I also realized I was wasting a lot of money because I had a lot of clothes I didn't enjoy wearing because they didn't fit very well. I always wanted to get rid of these clothes to buy even more clothes in the hopes they might fit and look nicer.
I read somewhere that clothes aren't really supposed to fit most people off-of-the rack.
The reason celebrities look so amazing is because they get all of their clothing tailored exactly to their dimensions.
So I decided to try it myself. I always thought tailors were so expensive, but I found out about F&G near our neighborhood where she was able to take in the sides of my dresses for a mere $10. It made a huge difference, and so many of my dresses that I had given up on looked that much better. One of my favorites was actually a $20 dress I had gotten at Target that suddenly looked really nice now that it was tailored.
I also stopped buying things just because they were on sale. Sometimes I would find a sweater on sale, in a I color I didn't like, but I would buy it anyway because it was $20 cheaper than the sweater I really liked. As I was getting rid of so many of my clothes when I moved, I realized it actually saves money to spend the extra money to buy something you will love and wear for a long time than to buy something that's just okay because it's a little cheaper.

Getting Great Things on Craigslist:
Chicago is great because there are a lot of people who move here, pay a lot for really nice furniture then they decide they don't want it anymore.
So they sell it cheaply on Craigslist.
Some of the things we've found haven't even been used because they were used as props to style an empty home or even owned by consultants who were never home anyway.
I'm not crazy enough to spend that much on furniture, but my Craigslist stalking has ended up with a lot of good deals: A pair of Tolix stools (normally $300+ EACH!) for only $25 each, a pair of these never-used Meremekko dog beds (they were so pretty!), a $400 Room and Board Standing Lamp for only $50 a 1 year-old $2500+ wooden headboard from DWR for $150.  Just to name a few.
Craigslist can be competitive, but I almost always "win" and have the chance to buy what I find. Here are my Craigslist secrets:

1) I check it a couple of times a day and I scroll through the listings in gallery view. Sometimes I use keywords, but the best deals I've found don't come up in the key word searches and are just through consistently scrolling through the photos.

2) Since I've also sold things on Craigslist, I know how important it is to sound like a human on our correspondence. As a seller I've gotten creepy 2 word responses, so I will usually go to the next person who sounds like a real person. When I respond to an ad, I will write something in the header: "So excited to see this! Is it still available?" and I will include some kind of conversational item in the email to let them know I am not a creepy person. I usually like to throw in I'm a teacher since it seems non-threatening. People usually want to get rid of things immediately, so I let them know I'm flexible for pick-up.

3) Usually everyone I've met through Craigslist has been really nice, though I don't go alone, I try to meet outside to make the exchange, and I always have exact change.

4) Ever since the bedbug epidemic, I'm mixed on buying upholstered items through Craigslist. I've done it in the past, buying 2 sofas that we still have and love. We did make sure to have the upholstery cleaned which was about $100 per sofa, from A-Abace.

We save a lot on entertainment costs because we enjoy each other's company and time with our pups. And it's free to go on long walks with the pups, explore our neighborhood, and just sit in the park and people watch. There are also so many other free events throughout our city.
We're making the most of our home inviting friends over for drinks in our outdoor space, or by our fireplace.
We have never had cable and we are basically able to watch things from Netflix or Hulu.

So this was our little peek showing how we save to be able to make some splurges for our dogs.
And we are ever-curious, what are your best cost-saving tips?

Saving money by using human products for our pups
And on gear.
Beauty products I share with the pups.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

DoggyStyle: Dog Gear for Walking, Running and On a Budget

The pups wearing their "Fashion Coats": RC Pet Products Poncho
Lately our inbox has been flooded with questions about our pups' dog coats. Living through many a Chicago winter, our pups have tried a few things. We definitely have not tried everything out there, but these have been our experiences trying to keep your pup warm while playing, going for daily walks, or on a budget:

On a Budget:
The pups wear their infamous hoodies
Sometimes it can be hard to believe that a dog coat can cost as much as our own coat, and with all of those other expenses that can add up we like to find lower-cost items where we can. Especially having to buy gear for more than one dog.
We are huge fans of the Zack and Zoey dog hoodie which can run a mere $12.
They can be worn on their own, or layered under a dog coat.
We also like they are customizable and once we discovered the ease of iron-on's we were quick to make retro team hoodies, Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes, and these sports team costumes (sports-team apparel is the perfect-gateway for anyone hesitant to put gear on your pup).
For reference, our pups are about 65 lbs, Miss M is "boxer size" and Mr B is shorter and wider and they both wear size XL. Our former foster Levi was 50ish pounds  in this photo and he was a Large in the sweatshirt.

The only problem is being sweatshirts, they aren't suited for the rain or playing in the snow. 
We do have these inexpensive packable rain ponchos from RC Pet Products (I think they run about $15) that could be a layering option. 
They are a bit flimsier and they wouldn't offer a lot of protection for a dog who is our running and playing but they would work as an extra layer on walks. 
We wrote a more complete about the ponchos here. 

Just for Walking:
The pups try Canada Pooch dog parkas
We see our other dog coats as falling into two categories: durable coats for running and playing or fashion forward coats made just for walking.
Since our pups aren't really romping in the yard, and we use our coats primarily when we are out on our daily walks, you will see more photos of the pooches in their fashion-walking coats.
Our pups wear the RC Pet Products Skyline Puffy Vest, we wrote more about them here, and the Canada Pooch dog coats that we wrote about here. 
The main issue is that these coats both use velcro closures which will cause a wardrobe malfunction with any heavy running or deep snow. And they probably won't last as many years as coats with clip closures. They are slightly less-expensive and they have been holding up well for our low-key walks.

For Running and Playing:
Our pups wear vintage Ruffwear coats
These are the most expensive of the bunch, but we found that they are often worth it just to pay a lot of money upfront for the type of coat that can do it all.
We bought Ruffwear coats for our pups about 6 years ago. Ours are the older version of the K9 Overcoat. The only malfunction we have had is one prong of a clasp breaking off which can make taking it off a bit more difficult. Beyond that, they are well made, they are waterproof while being warm, and they won't fall off if the pups run. We wrote this review of Ruffwear's current coats, the Quinzee and updated K9 Overcoat, here. 
The other brand we've been introduced to is Hurrta.
Hurrta slush-suits
This is a company from Finland that designs gear for active and working dogs. The gear they make is comparable to a high-quality coat you would buy for a human. They take every detail into account, even considering the proper size cut-outs for bathroom breaks. We tried out the slush-suit which is a thin all-coverage for grime and we wrote about it, here. 

These are just our experiences, but we have also found Heather at Fit for a Pit to be a really good resource. She knows a lot about high-quality dog gear designed to fit larger and barrel-chested pups.
We have also written here about dog sweaters, our update on dog snoods, and our choice for dog boots. 
Plus our thoughts on finding things that fit larger dogs. 
And how we have saved money by using 'human products' for dog gear.

These are just our experiences. What has everyone else found out about dog coats? And what are your recommendations?

Also: Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Daily Walk: City Dog, Country Dog

We know a lot of people feel bad for City Dogs who don't have their own backyard to romp and roam, but we feel we have the best situation with so many options to keep the pups mentally stimulated, especially in our new neighborhood.
Sometimes the pups feel like City Dogs blending among the crowds with plenty of opportunities to meet people for petting and being invited into local stores:
Or we can head over to our (huge!!) historical park complete with duck-filled lagoons, weeping willows, and plenty of paths and grass-filled space. You barely realize you're in the city anymore.
Miss M's favorite thing is to watch the ducks; I think she is just waiting for them to make more duck poo for her consumption.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pooches: Is it Better Not to Know?

Lately I've been wondering whether it really is that good of a thing to have so much information readily available.
See, I'm part of a Neighborhood Watch Facebook page where the community members keep everyone aware by posting about any vandalism, break-in's or general weirdness in the neighborhood.
There are thousands of people on the page.
So we hear about a lot of vandalism, break-in's and general weirdness.
The funny thing is, so many people take these accounts as an example of how the neighborhood is getting worse.
When really, the neighborhood has been getting tons better, it's just that we now have the connection to more people to hear about every single incident that we never even would have known about before.
Which is also what has been happening with my dog information.
Now that we have so many ways to connect and gather information, I get to hear so many scary stories as people share about what has happened with other dogs.
About dogs getting stolen from backyards.
About poison treats people encounter on walks.
And about sudden cases of glaucoma developing into blindness, which now has had me scurrying to the vet any time bug-eyed Miss M squints at me funny.
I too want to share when I hear about these things because it really could help us prevent misfortune for another family.
Though at the same time, I feel prone to "Over-caution Syndrome" where I'm starting to become neurotic about what should be simple things, and I wonder if my vet visits are really warranted, or just over-reacting.

So, what does everyone think: Is it a good thing that we have so much information at our disposal? Or have others become as neurotic as me and it's better just not to know?

And I am completely guilty of this too. 
And here.
Oh yeah, and this one too. 
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

City Dog: How to Stay in a Hotel with your Dog

We'll be staying in the city this Thanksgiving weekend, but for everyone else who might be traveling (with pups!) we wanted to revisit this post about what we discovered about that time we 'Played Eloise' and what we learned about staying in a hotel with dogs.

On Potty Breaks and Finding that Patch of Grass
While our pups are used to used to peeing like city dogs (we wrote more about it here), we found how important it was to have a central peeing location to limit the time spent on potty breaks. While there usually isn't much grass downtown, we were able to find a single patch on a side-street that became our dogs' go to space. We realized a lot of dogs must have frequented this spot, so it became our 'go-to' spot to keep our wandering around at a minimum.
Our dogs are also fine riding in elevators, though if your dog isn't used to confined spaces, or mirrors, it would be a good idea to request a room on a lower floor so you're able to take the stairs.

Beware of Sounds and Drain Mental Energy
Living in a multi-unit building, our pups get used to footsteps in the hallway, voices and doors shutting. Though even they were a bit alarmed with the footsteps and sounds outside the door. Our pooches aren't really barkers, though we were still afraid that if we left them alone Miss M might start singing
The first night when the pooches were still getting accustomed to everything we stayed with the pups watching movies, ordering take-out, late night room service, and picking up cheap wine from a nearby Trader Joe's.
 The second day we were able to spend a lot of time wandering around. Between the walking and the mental stimulation between the new sights and sounds (and meeting people!) the dogs were completely tired when we came back home, and they happily passed out while E and I were able to head back out for a nice dinner.

Suit Up
We knew how much the hotel loved dogs, but we know not everyone does. We know extra gear makes our pups more approachable, and since our pups were decked out in their black puffy coats and fancy snoods they were well-received by so many people. We received a 'what a handsome family' compliment, and overheard a woman saying to her husband 'Why are you in a short-sleeved shirt? Even the dogs out here are wearing scarves."

Being Respectful and Paying it Forward
We love when places are so open about involving dogs, so we always try to leave a good impression so people continue to think positively about dog owners. We worked to keep our room tidy, taking out any dog-related trash, wiping our dogs feet when we came back inside, being considerate in the elevators, and tipping well.

Finding Supportive Hotels:
We had a really great experience at the James Hotel Chicago. The hotel prides itself on being a dog-friendly hotel without breed and size restrictions. They also provide dog beds, dog bowls and treats. The staff was always beyond friendly giving the pups a pat and holding the door for us. The hotel charges a $75 dog fee for the entire stay, which was actually cheaper for us than putting the pups in boarding for the time we needed to stay. It also has a great location on Michigan Avenue in the heart of downtown with easy access for walks along the lake, great restaurants (including take-out), and right across from a Trader Joe's. They also have very reasonable weekday stays, though last minute weekends are quite pricy!
On one trip we also had a really positive experience with Drury Hotels which have several locations.
And here is our experience at Palomar Chicago, part of the Kimpton group.

We would love to hear about other people's experiences. What are some things you've learned about having dogs in hotels? And what are some of your hotel recommendations?

Sometimes it's like this though it can also get like this. Or even this.
How to catch a cab with a big dog
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, November 24, 2014

DoggyStyle: Where the Pups Offer PSA's by Snooding Up

Sometimes it's hard to know when it's the right time to bust out the winter gear without looking overdressed (no one wants to be the only one in the puffy coat!), but with this recent cold burst there was no question.
Last year's Polar Vortex taught us well, and since then we have refined our winter walking gear. With our pups all decked out, our most asked about item is our snood.
A snood is basically a round scarf for dogs that just slips over their heads. Since it doesn't have the loose ends you don't need to take the time to tie it, and the pups won't trip over the loose ends.
Our pups have polar-fleece snoods from Sirius Republic and a wool snood (with ears!) from Snug-a-Bulls.
Here are some reasons that our pups "snood up":

Keeping Dry:
One of the main reasons we like to use snoods is that we use them as an extra layer to keep the pups dry in wet and slushy weather. Our coats only reach so far, and they can have gaps, so the snoods fill that area in-between. The polar-fleece snoods from Sirius Republic are double-lined, plus polar-fleece doesn't really absorb water, so it does keep that area dry.
We also like how the snoods can be pulled up over their heads as a type of hood.

Keeping Collar Areas Warm:
It wasn't until having short-haired dogs that I became more attuned to how cold they must get. And I'm guessing with some of the subzero temperatures we're bound to get this winter, the metal parts on their collars must get really cold. So snoods become that one thing to keep them warm even with all of the metal clasps on their collar.

Being Chicago:
I grew up in Nebraska where we had temperatures even colder than we have here in Chicago. The funny thing is, I never owned a scarf, hat, and rarely even zipped up my coat until I moved here.
I think the difference in Chicago is it becomes so difficult to drive and park that most of us are used to either walking or taking public transportation. So we're out in it more. And I've learned how to dress for it.
Though being snooded-up the pups have offered public-service for people who don't understand how to gear-up in the city.
I always remember the time the woman scolded her husband for not dressing appropriately because "Look, even the dogs are wearing scarves".
Or on our last walk when there was a child so happy to see the pups were wearing a scarf just like her's.
Or the time when we were downtown and people thought our pups were wearing real Burberry scarfs (which are beyond expensive!).

Snoods for the Mouse and Monkey
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.
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