Friday, October 31, 2014

Know A Little About A Lot

Before A and I became high school teachers, we had careers that required specialized knowledge. It is safe to say that we knew a lot about very little.
Then we became high school teachers and we started knowing more about a variety of things.
And then, came the blog and now it seems like we shifted to know a little about a lot of various things.
Who knew that having dogs and being very public about our pooches would require us to know so many various things? These are a few things that we could not imagine that we would ever have to know.

Sewing and Hand Stitching
Though never taking a home economics class or learning hand sewing, I am now able to hand stitch and repair most of Mr. B's stuffies after they succumb to his random tantrums. Hand stitching eventually led to one of our greatest investments, a sewing machine, and now I have learned to sew on dinosaur patches onto a dog hoodie and patch their beds after Mr. B scratched a hole preparing the bed for himself. These skills have even translated into crudely altering my own work pants (though A would never dare let me alter one of her clothes).

Though I spent most of my adult life in a laboratory developing and following a protocol, I never baked. I would never have thought that this was odd until I realized that baking is just like an experiment. Last winter during the polar vortex, while learning to bake cookies, I learned to treat baking like an experiment and spent a week trying to perfect the baking a dog treat for our oven.

Since A and the pooches entered my life, I went from owning one power drill to a whole workshop with table saws, miter saws and a bunch of other "essential" tools. Though I have always wanted to know how to build stuff, it was only because of the pooches that I actually started woodworking. Now I spend most of my time in the workshop building things around the house, which is a win-win situation where A gets what she wants around the house without any intervention.

Though it is safe to say that the list of skills I have developed since living with the pooches is a lot larger, these three have been the most influential. I often write about lessons that we can learn from the pooches, but sometimes I have learned a lesson because of the pooches.

What are some lessons or skills that you have developed because of the pooches?

How we taught Mr B to be (usually!) gentle with toys
And those gates.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things to do with Dogs in Chicago: Miss M and Mr B go Dog Trick-or-Treating (with Be Fido's Friend!)

You would think from all of our Halloween posts that we are Halloween fanatics, but it's really quite the opposite.
The only Halloween decoration we have around the house are carved pumpkins with fake vampire fangs. And that's just new this year.
Though when it comes to our pooches and Halloween, we cannot contain our Halloween spirit. Well actually it's A who cannot contain her Halloween spirit.
To me, it seems like A spends all year planning for her favorite event of the Halloween season: Be Fido's Friend Trick or Treat Walk.
A was so excited for the pooches to go as Thing 1 and Thing 2 and even modified their wigs a month ago so it was all set for the walk. However, the weather was too warm for the pooches to wear their sweatshirts, so Miss M chose to be 'ironic' and go as an angel and Mr. B went as Dapper B.
Though the pooch costumes were a last day substitution, Mr. B's top hat was such a hit that he even won the best costume crazy frosted cookie at G&O bar. However, he only got to eat half of the cookie, because Miss M swept in with her angelic paws and grasped the half of the cookie he dropped as crumbs.
It is safe to say that this is the pups' dream come true come to life. During our walks, the pups always dream of being able to go into stores, get petted, and get a treat.
Which is exactly what happens with this trick-or-treat walk. They have an outdoor halloween party at the bank, then you get a bag and go to over 30 businesses that welcome the pups, let them in their stores, and give them treats.
Though now the pups are expecting to be able to go into all of the stores on our walks and have people give them treats.
This was such a fun and well-organized event (thanks Be Fido's Friend!).

Anyone else going trick-or-treating with your pup?

Deja vu!
Just some Halloween dogs walking down the street
Dogs view of Chicago Halloween
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DoggyStyle: On Last Minute Dog Costumes

Miss M and Mr. B use method acting to become Thing 1 and Thing 2
If you can even imagine, our first Halloween together Miss M didn't even have a costume. I had never really thought about dressing her up, but seeing how every single person (and their dog!) was dressed up and about in Chicago, we looked like the weird ones for not having a costume.
So if you're like us, and you figured this out a bit late, we've figured out plenty of ways to throw together some last minute costumes, especially for those of us with larger pups.

Using Our Existing Dog Gear Creatively
Are they Breaking Bad? Or The Village People?
Once we discovered our short-haired pups couldn't handle the cold weather, we stocked up with a variety of sweaters, jackets, and snoods. And since they're already accustomed to wearing this gear, it's easy to just add on to make it a costume. Like these slush suits from Fit for a Pit and Hurtta, could become something from the Village People.
We know it can be easy to add spots and headbands with antenna to these raincoats to make a lady bug and a grasshopper. We have used their safety Doggles  as superhero outfits. And I know there must be something creative we could do with a dog wearing a backpack? (I need help with this one...)
We like how our friend Jack added a scarf to his 'dog bomber jacket' to become the Red Barron (in this video here).

Making Dog Sweatshirts Fancy
Since our short-haired pups get so cold so easily, we dress them in sweatshirts. We like the sweatshirts on their own, and we even use them as layering on really cold days. We get the Zach and Zoey sweatshirts on Amazon, and they are really inexpensive; I think nearly every dog in our SociaBulls pack has one!
We gathered quite the collection, and since we know the pups were already used to wearing them, we started making them into costumes.
See how we made the dinosaur hoodies here.
We also used our red sweatshirts for matching Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes here. 
We made these retro sports hoodies (plus how cool would these look with leg warmers!)
And for someone who doesn't really want to dress up too much, we made these iron-on sports team hoodies.
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.

Hats & Headbands
We've figured out hats and headbands are a really easy way for the pups to wear gear if the weather is hotter or they just don't like being constricted.
Mr. B has become notorious for his hats. You can see Mr. B by clicking on the links as: "Fancy Fedora Dog", "Cowboy Mr. B", "Cabbie Hat B" and "Happy Leprechaun".
A lot of people ask the secret to keeping his hat on....we just sew an elastic strap under his chin. We make sure it can fit at least two fingers underneath (because we don't want it to be uncomfortable for him) and it just stays on.

Miss M uses a lot of headbands in her costumes. Either as "Grumpy Butterfly", "Grumpy Ladybug", "Grumpy Angel" or "Grumpy Ballerina". Headbands are nice because they can be attached to a collar if a pup is sensitive to wearing gear. We also use an elastic strap to hold it in place. Headband costumes are also really easy to find and we've seen so many bunny, cat, and devil headbands in all of the stores.

Tip: Another way to make sure the hats and headbands stay put when you're walking around is to use a harness. Using a leash attached to a collar just pushes the hat forward too much.

Bowties & Bandanas

We know many dogs are not comfortable in costume, or maybe it's just too hot outside. We have found it's really easy to just throw on a bowtie or bandana. (Mr. B got this festive skull bowtie from SillyBuddy!)
The craft stores also carry a lot of Halloween patterns. Buying a piece of fabric and wearing it as a bandana is really easy and inexpensive.
Miss M looks festive in a black cat Halloween print.

We always remember that some dogs might not be comfortable in costumes, and we always take the time to see if the dogs are comfortable, and acclimate them to the gear before expecting them to go outside. We wrote more about it, here. 

So we would love to hear, what are some other easy costume ideas you've discovered for your pups?

Making sure there are no 'wardrobe malfunctions'
Everyday gear sure to make anyone you pass smile.
Why we wear costumes.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, October 27, 2014

SociaBulls: The SociaBulls Annual Halloween Walk

Living in a city obsessed with Halloween, it only seemed natural that our SociaBulls group spend the weekend before the big holiday dressed in gear.
It has become a bit of an annual tradition to have a type of "Pop-up Parade" where pups who feel comfortable can come dressed in costume.
We know our group draws a lot of attention from our sheer size. And it was fun to see everyone's expressions seeing our big group suited up in costume.
It's also great timing being Pitbull Awareness month to see so many pitiful-type dogs and their allies just hanging out with their families.
To learn more about our group, read here or join our Facebook page here.

Can't get enough of cute dogs in costumes? Check out more of them here, here and here!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hooray for Rescue Groups

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month and ASPCA, The Shelter Pet Project and HSUS have great reasons why we should add a shelter pet into our lives.
Even though we adopted the pooches when they were older, Miss M was 2 and Mr. B was 5, we feel like we have known them their whole lives. And after a few short years of having them in our lives, Miss M for 8 years and Mr. B for 6 years, we feel like they have always been a part of our lives.
It is only fitting that we thank every rescue group for all their hard work, especially New Leash on Life and Kalamazoo Animal Rescue for adding a shelter pet into our lives.
I cannot imagine a life without my best friend, Mr. B. He is my personal heated blankie keeping me warm on cold nights, comforting me while watching the game, being my soft pillow when I need to lay and my snuggable stuffy when I want a hug.
We cannot image a life without everyone's best friend, Miss M. It is largely due to Miss M's wiggly charm that have felt so welcomed into our new neighborhood. Wherever we go with Miss M, we are bound to meet new people and make new forever friends.
A and I are so grateful for having two pooches that make us feel so loved. We are lucky that others have taken a chance on Miss M and Mr. B, so that we can become a part of their lives.
In the end, we would like to thank our beloved rescue groups for making our lives so much better and  completing our family.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pooches: Do Your Pups Wear Costumes?

One thing we love about Chicago is there is always so much to do. And we also love that there is so much to do in costume.
Sure, I never thought I would be the one to dress up my dog. Let alone my pair of 60+ pounds dogs.
But all it took was a the discovery of winter coats to open the gateway for tiaras and top hats and even wigs.
Sure, sometimes we hear the occasional "those poor dogs" where people think all dogs are miserable in clothing. Though, as we wrote in an earlier post, there are a couple of reasons we can tell that our dogs are actually happier and safer because they are wearing gear:

Keeping Warm
I never thought I would be one to dress up my big dog, but when I realized Miss M just couldn't handle rain or any temperature below 40 degrees I realized I needed to start. Since we do live in Chicago, and we need to walk in the winter, I decided to get her a coat. And it was the coat that became our gateway to sweaters and hoodies and snoods. Knowing how miserable our pups are when they are cold or wet, I think that they are actually happier wearing things.

Getting Petted
There is nothing our pups love more than meeting people. Sure, they will meet some people when we go on our walks, but when the pups are wearing clothes or costumes it gives people even more reason to approach our dogs. Which makes our pups so, so happy!
Just see what we mean here (in the bottom video) and here and here.

I know I'm a paranoid pet-owner, but since we can never leave the vet for under $150, and Miss M is prone to letting her jowl flap in the breeze , we thought it would be a good idea to get the pups some protective eye-wear so they can enjoy looking out the window (we wrote more about it here). I think it also helps that she gets attention from the cars that pull up alongside us and squeals of delight from people walking. And we're working on less jowl flapping.

Besides the reasons above, we also use gear as training tools and as a way to disarm people and open the conversation to see what pit bull-type dogs are really like.

Do you dress up your pup?

How to make sure your dog is comfortable wearing costumes
Finding coats for bigger dogs.
This happened.
Chango is our style-icon!
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Pooches: How the Pups Trick us into Not Doing Chores

The other day we had to have a talk with the pooches. We told them since we moved into a house there was a lot more work to do. 
And they needed to help out.
They were not impressed with our request. They told us since they moved into a house there was a lot more 'laying around' they needed to do.
We decided to start by having the pups help us rake the leaves.
I would rake.
And they would stand around and keep me company.
At first Miss M was upset. And she had to complain.
But then clever Miss M had a plan.
Much like Tom Sawyer, Miss M decided to trick me by being a bad worker.
She knew if she tried to eat the leaves:
And dance in the leaf piles
We wouldn't ask her to work any more. So she got to go back inside.
So we asked Mr B to come out and work.
But poor Mr. B proved to be too delicate.
He had a fear of being touched by leaves:
All of the leaves:
And he pleaded with us to let him go inside:
So we let them go inside. Miss M who was not a good worker. And Mr. B who was afraid of leaves.
And the pups got their chance to 'lay around' more often.
Anyone else have tricky pups that get out of work?

The Ultimate Trickery
Or is it this one?
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M & Mr. B Spectate at the Chicago Marathon

While I've "retired" from my Chicago Marathon running days, every year I look forward to heading out with the pups to cheer on the runners.
The race has over 40,000 runners weaving their way throughout the Chicago neighborhoods. For 26.2 miles it's a huge party in the streets with everyone banding together with costumes, high fives, and plenty of water to cheer the marathoners on.
Our pups chose their own costumes dressing as "Dapper Mr. B" and "Grumpy Butterfly".
Each year I would remember the huge rush of excitement from the crowds in the first 12 miles, then rounding a corner and hitting that spectator lull. So we like to cheer at this spectator dead-zone where seeing a huge grumpy butterfly and dapper pit bull might just give the runners that extra push they need.
It was fun cheering on the runners, and many of them told us the pups were the best-dressed pooches on the course!
And even with Miss M's pouty mug, they were able to lure some runners off the course for some pets and photo opps. Hopefully giving that extra push of motivation they needed past the half-way point.
We know how hard running a marathon can be overall, but especially if you didn't have the race you thought you would have or you find yourself at the end as everyone is packing up and you're just trying to stay ahead of the sanitation truck. It's these back-of-the-pack runners that can be the most inspiring seeing how dedicated they are to keep on going even if they don't have the crowds and fanfare.
So we make sure to stay until the end. And Mr. B watched until the end to make sure he could cheer for each and every runner.
Congratulations to everyone who ran, and thanks for stopping to say hi!

That other time we let them pick.
Miss M's personal marathon.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

City Dog: On Why Our Pups Don't Greet On Leash

One of the best parts of having a dog is that everyone (and their dog!) wants to meet you.
But one of the most conflicting things is trying to explain to people why you don't want your dog to meet their dog during your walk.
Most of the time, when we decline to meet other dogs during our walk, people will say things like "Oh, because your dogs aren't friendly". Which is not why we're not stopping to meet your dog.
Though in the 3 seconds I have to interact with people, I can't really explain all these reasons:

Walks are for Business
Living in the city, most people don't have a backyard and we all depend on walks for bathroom breaks and exercise.
And we're all out there. I typically see as many as 30 dogs on a single walk.
Which means, if I stopped and interacted with all of them we would never get anywhere.
And if I stopped and interacted with any of them, the pups would be accustomed to wanting to meet every dog we saw, we really wouldn't get anywhere. And they would probably stop listening on our walks as they anticipate meeting the next dog.
So our pups know our daily walks are for business and not interacting.

A Quick Greet is Not Socialization
I know a lot of people think that their dogs need to interact with the other dogs they see because this is a way to 'socialize' them. Though Our Pack does a really good job of explaining how these types of forced interactions are unnatural and can actually set up dogs to fail. (You can read their really great article here). We keep our walks to work on our training and we have other positive ways we socialize our pups.

Staying Safe
Even when dogs do greet on leash, it is very, very rare to just have the dogs walk up, sniff, and calmly walk away. Usually there is a walk up, one dog initiates play, then the pups play on leash. Besides the reasons above, playing on leash can become really dangerous. The pups can get tangled in the leashes. The people can get tangled in the leashes. Anyone tangled in the leashes can become scared and redirect. Leashes can be dropped. We just avoid this entire scenario by not having the greeting in the first place.

It's more important for us to advocate for our pups' comfort than to be forced into a greeting just so they don't think we're "not friendly".
Though does anyone have a 3 second quip you use to let people know the other side?

Ways to Socialize without Interacting
The Sidewalk Dance
How Dog Walks are like Dating
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