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Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador GreetingsWalt Disney World in Florida is known as The Most Magical Place on Earth, while Disneyland in California is famously referred to as The Happiest Place on Earth. For those of you who love dogs and Disney like I do, we all know that the happiest and most magical place on earth for us is anywhere our dogs are with us, with the Disney parks and the fun waiting inside of them taking second place to time spent with our real life furry best friends.

Twice a year, or as much as we can afford to, my husband and I put Jackson and Tinkerbell in the capable hands of our most trusted and responsible dog sitter and head to Orlando, Florida to indulge our love of all things Disney. At home we are complete home bodies, preferring to save our entertainment budget for trips to see the famous mouse and his friends. In fact if I had to list my favorite restaurants, they would all be in the parks and hotels of Disney World.

When we do Disney, we do it with great intensity, which is why you haven’t seen a blog since we headed to Florida. Alarms are set so that we can be ready and waiting when the parks open, ready to race-walk to our favorite attractions. Some days we will stay at the parks from open until close, which sometimes means 8 am until 2 am. We are experts at avoiding lines, and when we get the chance to do so, we are like kids, getting off of one attraction and getting right back on to ride it again and again, or crossing the park to get to an attraction with a short wait time. According to my husband’s Garmin, we walked 100 miles over eight days during this most recent vacation.

Of course, like they say in the fairy tale inspired show Once Upon a Time, “magic always comes with a price” and for me that price is that I miss my dogs like crazy whenever I am away from them! Having a few trusted pet sitters in my life makes it easier to leave them in capable hands, but that does not take away the “dog withdrawal” feelings that inevitably strike.

To make up for not having my dogs with me, I try to enjoy the novelty of a short break from daily 6 a.m. wake up calls and laugh with my husband about how odd it feels to have the entire bed to ourselves and be able to stretch our legs out straight. Usually on the first night I have a moment of panic when I think about how long we’ve been away from our hotel because 90 percent of the time, being away from home for more than eight or so hours means our beautiful dogs are waiting on us to go outside and go potty. Being the afore mentioned home bodies, though, I cannot remember the last time we were both away from the house for more than eight hours.

Of course I text my dog sitter at least once a day. “How’s everything going?” I ask, trying to appear casual. Since I am hopeless at covering up my emotions,  I am sure she knows that what my text really means is, “How are my sweet babies who are literally my heart and soul and who I have trusted you to care for according to my super strict rules and standards in my absence…no pressure!”

Although Disney recently announced a pilot program in which dogs are allowed at select resorts, we stay in Disney Vacation Club properties, which are not part of the dog program. Dogs in the parks are of course limited to service dogs or police dogs in the parking lots, and even if pets were allowed, I would never take Jax and Tink there. Between blazing hot pavement and large crowds, theme parks are not exactly dog friendly.

As a result, there are not a lot of dogs anywhere on property to help ease the dog withdrawal pains, and not any who you can touch or pet. In fact, someone could probably operate a service where vacationers who miss their dogs could drop in and play with dogs for an hour to get a much-needed dose of puppy love, maybe with rescued dogs with the funds going to charity.

This year I was elated to come across a gorgeous Golden Retriever service dog that was owned by a Disney cast member (employee) who was working in one of the shops in one of the parks. I saw him as we rounded the corner out of the attraction and into the gift shop and at first glance I thought it was another guest’s dog, until I saw that he had his very own Disney name tag. My heart melted as I watched him get up and help his human carry stuffed toys over to a rack to help stock the shelves. Of course service dogs cannot interact with people other than their owners, but it felt good to simply be in the presence of a dog.

Usually by the end of a trip I am so desperate to see a dog that I am praying that the police dogs will want to sniff me at the airport. I think my husband has visions of me throwing myself at the feet of an officer, begging to pet the dog, because he often issues a preemptive warning, “You can’t pet the police or TSA dogs!” to which my reply is, “I’m aware of that, although I wouldn’t mind if they thought I looked shady and they just let him sniff me, I’ve got nothing to hide!”

Some people claim that dogs cannot tell the passing of time and whether or not their owner is gone for one day or two weeks. I am not a scientist, I have not done official research on this, but I can tell you that our greetings after a long vacation are epic compared to a run to the post office or even an overnight trip.

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings
Reunited with my loves!

This year we arrived home late in the evening and seemed to catch the dogs completely off guard. Our dog sitter was there waiting for us, watching TV in the living room while the dogs snoozed on the sofa like they do each night. Of course usually these evening activities happen with us already home.

I opened the door and Tinkerbell trotted around the corner into the hallway, not in a big hurry.  She quickly realized it was me and she raced forward and jumped nearly into my arms, showering me with kisses. Jackson ran into the hallway behind her, his massive otter tail wagging furiously, his entire body wiggling with joy. We went into the living room and I sat on the floor and let them climb all over me.  My entire face was covered in slobber, my clothes covered in fur, and I was back in my own personal, ultimate happy place, full of magic and Labrador love.

 

National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of “Pit Bull” Type Dogs

National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of “Pit Bull” Type  Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

I had so much fun celebrating black dogs and cats on Friday, October 13 and featuring the awesome dogs of my readers, that I could not let National Pit Bull Awareness Month come to an end without a celebration of the beloved “pit bull” type dogs who share their lives with some of the readers and friends from the Love, Laugh, Woof community.

According to the National Pit Bull Awareness Month website, the goal of this month is to change misconceptions and stereotypes about “pit bull” type dogs. Originally celebrated on a single day before being extended to a full month, the website explains, “NPBAD was established to educate and foster positive communications and experiences in the communities in which we and our dogs live, and it is an initiative dedicated to restoring the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier.”

Another organization that works extremely hard to change the perception of “pit bull” type breeds is the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation.  I learned of this former Chicago Blackhawks player’s foundation while my husband and I were lunching at a Meatheads restaurant a few years ago. At that time a special hot dog was on the menu that earned the foundation 10% of the price of the hot dog each time one was sold. After lunch we went home and I read about his foundation, and he promptly became my favorite Blackhawks player.

According to the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation website,

“Here’s the thing about “pit bulls” – the “breed” doesn’t exist. In fact, the American Kennel Club does not recognize “pit bull” as a breed because it is a mixture of breeds. “Pit bull” is a slang term that has been used loosely and taken advantage of by the media to describe a dog with a big head and muscular build. When a dog has been labeled a “pit bull” it is based simply on their look and not on; personality, traits or DNA. Even we at the Bickell Foundation are guilty of calling a dog a “pit bull,” but we are ready to stop.”

Source: http://www.bickellfoundation.org/stop-the-pit-label

I remember one day a few years ago when I was volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I went to the local animal shelter to pick up a yellow Labrador who was being pulled for rescue. I was his transport, aka freedom ride from the shelter to the veterinarian who would check him out before he continued his journey to his foster home. While I waited for the shelter to gather the paperwork and bring him out to me, they told me, “You can go ahead and walk around and see if there are any other dogs you want to pull for the rescue.”

I did not want to walk through the shelter because I knew my head was about to see things that would break my heart, but I told myself that to not take that walk was weak compared to what the actual dogs were going through. As I walked down row after row of kennels, “pit bull” type dog after dog stared up at me with anticipation, as if they wondered what my role in their life was going to be. There were dozens of them and I stopped to visit with as many as I could before going back out to pick up the dog who the rescue had sent me to get, hoping to provide just a tiny bit of human love.

Having grown up entirely with sporting breeds like Labradors and German Shorthaired Pointers, I was not as familiar back then with the heart wrenching “pit bull” overpopulation problem. “Do you have a pittie specific rescue group that pulls dogs like the Lab rescue does?” I asked the woman at the front desk. She answered that there were several organizations that came through every week, particularly anytime they started to near the capacity of the shelter, and my heart broke even more at the thought of so many dogs either dumped off, no longer wanted or lost as strays and never claimed. Regardless of how they had ended up in the shelter, the result was the same: they had been failed by their humans and now needed a different type of human to come and save them.

So why are there so many “pit bull” type dogs in shelters and in dire need of rescue?

According to the Best Friends site, on the page All About Pit Bulls, “Because pit bull terriers have become so popular, some people are over breeding them. Others neglect to have their dogs spayed or neutered, resulting in unwanted litters. These two factors have led to an influx of pit bull terrier–like dogs in shelters. When there are a lot of the same types of pets available for adoption, people can easily get overwhelmed when trying to choose one to bring home, and they often end up leaving the shelter without a pet.

There are many ways to help these misunderstood dogs, even if you are not ready to add another dog into your home at this time. Foster based dog rescue organizations depend on volunteers to provide transportation to dogs and to foster them with the goal of helping them find their forever home. Unfortunately, I have never found a dog rescue organization with enough money to cover all of the work that they want to do so monetary donations are always needed. Please consider donating to any of the groups that I have mentioned in this blog, to your local animal shelter, or to your local “pit bull type dog ” rescue organizations.

On a happy note, many of these once discarded dogs are living their happily ever after stories with their forever owners in loving homes, where they receive good food, plenty of treats, training and guidance, and most importantly: tons of love and a lifelong committment. Some of these dogs are the best friends and constant companions of my own friends and readers. Here is what they had to say about their canine cohorts.

Kona & Renny

Here’s what Kona and Renny’s Momma had to say, “Kona (the fawn colored pup) was rescued from a dog fighting ring after the FBI & ASPCA did a raid on the property and removed approximately 70 dogs. Despite her beginnings, she is the most loving dog & wants to meet every person she sees from babies on up. Kisses for everyone!

She is extremely intelligent & requires A LOT of physical & mental stimulation otherwise she will make a toy out of whatever she finds. Lol. All of her quirks makes me love her more than I thought it possible to love anything. Kona does have some fear issues but we had hoped to adopt another dog (another pittie/pittie mix pup) and after introductions we found she drew comfort from the other so we adopted Renny (the black brindle).

Renny is our quiet little shadow that is content to just lay next to you all day & get belly rubs & give kisses too! The two have developed a bond that melts your heart. We are the luckiest people to get to share our home & life with these two.”

Chase

Love Laugh Woof Blog
Meagan and Chase

Meagan Giarratano, founder and owner of Au Pair for Paws Dog Training in Ocean Beach, New York, shared this story, “I have two pit mixes that keep me laughing all day. I spend a lot of time with my dogs and if it weren’t for them I don’t know where I would be. The love of my first pit, Chase (pictured below) was what started my business endeavor to become a dog trainer. The challenging start we had caused the respect and love for each other to grow from there. Training actually saved his life. That love turned into a lot of laughs and a lot of woofs throughout the last few years thanks to amazing clients I have met. He is my best friend and I don’t know what I would do without him.”

 

 

Jax

Love Laugh Woof blog Jax
Jax

Not to be confused with my own handsome Jax, this boy is special in his own right. His Momma says, “This is Jax…pit-mix and major lover-boy. He spends more time licking the faces of his pack-mates than you could imagine. He was chained up on a 3 foot leash in the yard & forgotten when his former owners grew bored with him and got a different dog. All this boy wants is to give & receive love every moment of every day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sammy

Sammy is a rescued Jack Russell Terrier/”pit bull” mix whose mom says, “Sammy is a classic ‘mama’s boy’. The look in his eyes is the only proof I need that dogs feel love and emotional connection. He is my heart dog in every sense possible.”

Jake

“This is my handsome boy, Jake. He’s 7 years old and has brought more love, laughter and plenty of woofs than I ever would have thought possible. This pup has brought more amazing people into my life and is the reason I joined the board of Live, Love, Bark dog rescue.”

Beau

Beau’s human mom shared the story of her sweet boy, “This is Beau, my 2-year-old pittie mix. He’s a lover with a loud bark. He loves his ‘sissy’ and protects her all of the time! He sleeps under the covers every night with his nose sticking out! People are terrified of him but he would only lick them to death. My pittie!”

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Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble 

Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble 

Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble If you’ve followed my blog or read my book, you know that I have a very firm rule about never allowing Jackson and Tinkerbell to go outside without a human present at all times. This rule is in place for a variety of reasons, including making certain that the gates are shut and latched, that nobody (like a utility worker or neighborhood child) comes into the yard while we are out there, and to make sure that the dogs stay out of the type of mischief that a curious dog can easily create.

Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble 
Chilling in the yard

As the dogs have grown from puppies to adults, the fear of them getting into something that they shouldn’t be eating or touching has diminished somewhat, but they are still dogs, and dogs explore the world with their noses and mouths. Most days, though, I stand outside with them while the most exciting thing that they do is sniff their world and search for treasures of rabbit poop or the certain type of grass on which they love to graze like adorable, small black cows. At four and six years old they get into fewer and fewer situations that would require my intervention, but the “humans outside with dogs at all times” rule will stand for the their entire lives, no exceptions.

Last week I had grand plans of filming a product demo for the KeepSafe Breakaway Safety Collar as promised in the blog in which I reviewed this amazing collar. The first part of the video went great, I sat on my deck steps and recorded an introduction to the product, and both dogs came over to give me kisses and “say hello” to the audience, without being told to do so. They were well-behaved as I showed the features of the collar using Jackson as my model, how you hook it to the metal loops if you want to take your dog for a walk and how that acts as an “override” for the breakaway function, since you don’t want a collar that breaks apart if your dog pulls on a walk, you only want that breakaway functionality when your dog is wearing it off leash.

After I watched the video, there were some changes in lighting I wanted to make and a few edits to my comments, so I set about the task of doing a few more versions, as well as recording demonstrations without the dogs so that I could show the collar around the slats of our fence and deck. Jax and Tink were happy to come and duplicate the “giving kisses” part of the intro and be my model to show how to hook the leash to the collar and override the breakaway function, but when it was time for me to record without them, I swear they knew that they did not have my attention like normal and set about being intentionally naughty.

I had expected them to do their normal thing and sniff around the yard, calm and mellow like normal adult dogs. Instead they chose to “exceed” my expectations by getting into every single thing that they could in our yard. Many experts will say that dogs don’t think this way, but it was like they were working together and doing “bad” things on purpose.

Over the summer our decorative bird house had gone crashing onto our deck during a storm, breaking it apart. It seemed as though it could be put back together, though, and since it was a gift that my husband had brought back to me from a motorcycle trip the first year we knew each other, I did not want to just throw it out. I had carefully placed all of the pieces on top of a deck box on our deck for him to try to fix when he got a chance, and the dogs had not noticed it or touched it since it happened in June.

Also over the summer, my husband had purchased a hammock for himself and set it up it on the deck. Because it is so windy in our back yard, instead of leaving it set up, he took one side down so that both ends of the hammock hung from the same side of the metal stand and the hammock stayed folded in half until we wanted to use it. This has also been in the same spot on the deck since June and except for Jax trying to pee on it once, both dogs have also left this item alone.

Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble 
Jax proving that a human should always be watching

As I filmed a few versions of the demonstration of the collar’s breakaway feature, I saw Tinkerbell race across the yard out of my peripheral vision. I know my dogs very well, and I could tell immediately that she had her “I’ve got something and I’m not going to give it to you” posture as she ran across the yard, her athletic body tucked down low and fast so that she could take corners with ease and play “keep away from Momma” with her contraband item.

“WHOA!” I called out to her, “Stop!!”

She stopped and went down into a play stance, a huge piece of cardboard hanging from her mouth.

“Drop it!” I told her and approached her slowly. She took off at top speed and raced around me, stopping behind me and dropping into her play stance again.

Tinkerbell, I’m not playing,” I said in my deepest, most stern dog training voice, “DROP IT.”

That did the trick and she let me take the cardboard, her tail wagging furiously as if saying, “But Momma, that was FUN!”

I walked up onto the deck to put the cardboard on our table, gave Jax (who was just standing on the deck waiting to go inside) a scratch under the chin and told him that he was a good dog, and went back over to our fence to try to get another video recorded. Less than a minute passed and I glanced over to make sure that Tinkerbell had not grabbed anything else, and I saw Jackson tangled completely in the ropes that attach the hammock to the stand.

“Jackson, what are you doing, crazy dog?” I called, and ran over to free him. “Buddy, what the heck are you doing?” I asked him. He had his head tangled up in the ropes, one was double wrapped around his leg, and as I walked up he tried to free himself and became even more entangled. “Whoa!” I told him, feeling thankful twice in literally a few minutes that we had taught that command to both dogs.

As I freed him, I turned around to see Tinkerbell snatch a long black strip of wood from the bird house, leap off the deck, and run top speed across the yard as far as she could.

“Tinkerbell, STOP!” I called again, “What the hell is wrong with you dogs??” I asked to the air, both frustrated and laughing at the same time. This time she gave up her treasure without any fuss, standing there while I came over and took it from her.

“Ok, I think we’re going to stop making this video for the day,” I told her as she trotted along happily next to me. As I reached the deck I saw Jackson trying to make his way behind our gas grill to get to the fat trap that was full of rainwater and disgusting grease from a summer of grilling. “Jackson, OFF!” I told him just in time and body blocked him before he could take a lick of watery grease. I had blocked the access to this doggie delicacy with deck chairs because he had tried this on many other occasions.

We headed inside the house and I sat on the floor with them and played like we normally do every day at 4 pm and I laughed to myself about their behavior. “What on earth were you guys doing, Momma has to work to buy you food and cookies!” I told them as they brought me bones to hold and engaged me in our favorite game of 3-way-tug-o-war.

My video attempt was most definitely the epitome of the “laugh” of Love, Laugh, Woof. Sure they were going out of their way to be “bad” but I could not help but laugh at their timing and how it really seemed intentional to get my attention back to them. Since I was losing daylight, instead of filming my own video, I found an excellent video featuring the creator of the collar and shared that instead.

I thought about how Jax and Tink had done an excellent job of proving my point that you should always go outside with your dogs and pay attention to what they are doing no matter how old they are, because they can find themselves in a dangerous position within a matter of seconds. Jax’s escapades with the ropes of the hammock could have become a deadly choking hazard within minutes, and Tink could have easily swallowed shards of wood or perhaps nails or staples had she snatched up a piece with those in it if I had not been there to make her give it up.

I will also be checking to see how dog proofed our yard is and not assume that because I am outside with them all the time or that they are grown adult dogs that certain items will not become hazardous on any given day.

While this was intended to be a somewhat humorous story of how they were naughty on purpose to get my attention and that I will be recruiting a helper for videos going forward, it is dual purpose as it points out the very serious matter that it only takes a few seconds for your dog to end up in danger in your own yard or inside your home with everyday objects, with or without a collar on. The KeepSafe Breakaway Collar definitely helps alleviate some of the risks involving choking by a collar, but I also strongly recommend always supervising your dog in the yard whether on their own or when playing with the other dog(s) in your home.

 

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Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

 

Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar Earlier this year, I shared with you the importance of ensuring that the information on your dog’s identification tags is up to date in case he or she is lost. Later in the summer I also shared some important information on pet collar safety, common dog collar and dog tag hazards, and my own approach to when my dogs should wear their collars and when they should not wear them, in the post Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked. 

A few weeks ago I was thrilled when PetSafe contacted me and told me about their upcoming Collar Safety Awareness Week and asked if they could send me one of the KeepSafe Break-Away Collars for me to test. PetSafe is known for products including wireless and in-ground fences, automatic self-cleaning litter boxes for cats (something else I would happily test), digital feeders, electronic pet doors, and a variety of other products for cats and dogs. Of course I replied that I was happy to test out a collar, given my obsession with pet safety and my recent post about collar safety in particular. I was thrilled when not one but two collars arrived last week. 

Tinkerbell looks stunning in the pawprint KeepSafe Break-Away collar!
Tinkerbell looks stunning in the pawprint KeepSafe Break-Away colla

According to the PetSafe website, over 19 million dogs wear collars every day, and more than 26,000 collar related injuries happen each year. There are 71 incidents a day and over 50% of pet professionals have experienced a collar related incident. In my own blogs I have shared the personal stories of Jackson and Tinkerbell, both of whom have gotten their tags stuck in the wires of the dishwasher while sneaking a lick off the plates, and the story of when Tinkerbell’s tags became caught in the heating/cooling vent one night as she enjoyed her habit of snoozing on top of the air conditioning vent. 

Last summer we had a scary incident in the middle of the night when Tinkerbell woke me up by standing and whimpering next to my side of the bed. She had a habit of sleeping on top of the air conditioning vent and her tag had gone down through the slats while she was laying down and twisted. As a result, the entire metal vent cover came off of the vent when she stood up and was dangling awkwardly from her collar, the corner of the metal poking her in the neck slightly.

Since I was sound asleep it took me a minute to figure out what was attached to her and I quickly released her collar. Free from the metal grate, she jumped up into our bed and squirmed into my lap, her tail wagging furiously in fear and relief. After that I began to remove both dogs’ collars at night, although I have not seen her sleeping on top of the vent since.

In my post Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Pet Go Naked, I mention a variety of collar hazards including playtime between two or more dogs, crates/kennels, the dishwasher, and heating/cooling vents. In addition to those, the PetSafe also lists the slats of your deck, fences, and shrubs and bushes as potential choking hazards. Both the tags on the collar and the collar itself pose a risk that can turn deadly quickly, particularly as the dog begins to panic and try to pull or run away even more. 

Dog owner Tenney Mudge invented the KeepSafe Break-Away Safety Collar after the tragic death of her beloved Samoyed/Australian Shepherd named Chinook, who she lost to a collar strangulation accident. In order to prevent similar tragedies, Tenney developed and patented the special safety buckle on the KeepSafe Break-Away Safety Collar that releases when pressure is applied. The safety buckle is designed so that it will release, the collar will fall off, and the dog will be free of the hazard. 

Photo source: https://store.petsafe.net/keepsafe-collar

I could not wait to try this out on Jackson and Tinkerbell. The collar is excellent quality, made of a strong but silky polyester fabric. I received the limited edition Bones/Paws pattern which has brightly colored bones on a black background on one side and paw prints on the other, so that when you size the collar to fit your dog, you can see both prints. I love the way the aqua, coral and yellow print pops against their black fur but will also look adorable on any color fur. It also comes in a nylon fabric in black, orange, red, blue and purple. 

There is a regular heavy plastic buckle for regular use as well as the special breakaway buckle. There is also a small plastic tag holder to which you can attach your dog’s tags. 

Photo source: http://www.breakawaycollar.com/pics/collarclosed2.jpg

So how do you keep this collar on if you have a dog who pulls on the leash? That is where the genius of the two metal rings comes in!

The emergency release buckle is located behind the rings, so to attach a leash you just need to hook the leash to both rings, taking the pressure off the buckle and making it so that it will not release if your dog pulls on the leash.

It is important to note that you should never leave a leash or tie-out attached to your dog when you are not present and awake regardless of which collar you use. 

Photo source: http://www.breakawaycollar.com/pics/leash2.jpg

I definitely love this collar, the ingenious design, the nice quality materials, and I am extremely happy that PetSafe reached out to me to test it. I will also share my review of it via video so that you can see it with a leash attached and show you the safety release by pulling on it. Of course I will not put Jackson or Tinkerbell in harm’s way for a demo, so I will also try to recreate the situations in which they became entangled to the extent possible without their involvement. 

Even with this great safety feature, I will still continue to recommend that you remove all collars when putting your dog into their crate or kennel or if your dogs are about to start a game of what we call Zoomies or Bitey Face. However, this collar offers a  potentially lifesaving release in case someone forgets to remove a collar before the dogs go into their crates or if they become entangled while their humans are asleep, in the shower, or simply elsewhere in the house. 

 

You can shop for the KeepSafe Breakaway Safety Collar from Petsafe at my affiliate link below.

KeepSafe® Collars

Designed to prevent dogs from getting entangled by their collars; the KeepSafe® Break-A… [More]

Price: $9.99
This blog contains affiliate links for products that I use or recommend.

I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from clicks on my affiliate links. I do not receive customer information and the retail price of your item is not affected. Affiliate links help bloggers earn revenue from their posts in exchange for product recommendations. I only refer products that I truly love and use or strongly recommend after research and careful consideration.
Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & DogsToday is Friday, October 13, 2017. With just a few weeks until Halloween, this puts Friday the 13th in the middle of the spookiest, scariest month of the year. Of course this is only one of the many superstitions that exist in our culture, along with broken mirrors causing seven years of bad luck, avoiding walking under ladders, knocking on wood to make something that you’ve said not happen, and trying not to cross the path of a black cat.

As someone who is not superstitious and only likes the not-so-scary aspect of Halloween like candy corn and non-terrifying costumes, I thought this would be the perfect day to take two of these superstitions and instead of buying into them, turn them around and celebrate the pet owners who got lucky with some of the most loveable black dogs and cats to ever scamper through their lives.

Black cats and dogs statistically have a lower adoption rate and higher euthanasia rate in shelters because of their color. As a result there are specific days to celebrate black cats and black dogs and bust the myths surrounding them, with Black Cat Appreciation day occurring on August 17 each year, and Black Dog Day on October 1. In addition to many people thinking that they look scary because their fur is so dark and their facial features are harder to see, they are also harder to photograph for the average point-and-click amateur photographer with a mobile phone camera. I cannot tell you how many photos of Jax and Tink end up with glowing alien dog eyes or are so dark you cannot see them. In dog shelters, the quality of the photos shared with the public can sometimes make the difference between a forever home and euthanasia for many dogs, so a bad photo of a black dog can be very detrimental to their adoption success.  

Snoop dreaming of frisbees

Of course I cannot help but include my own beloved black dogs first in our celebration of black dogs and cats. If you’ve read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, then you have read all about my first black Labrador Retriever, Snoop who was a constant companion and a fourth sibling to my brothers and me, always involved in our games and antics as we traipsed through the woods and mountains of rural northwest New Jersey. After Snoop there was Cinder, another black Labrador Retriever who joined our family when I was in high school.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe on a beach adventure

My first dog of my own as an adult was my late black Labrador Babe, who I rescued as a two year old owner surrender and who quickly became my best friend and sidekick for the next twelve years. Her passing left the hole in my heart that first Jackson and then Tinkerbell filled with black dog awesomeness and love.

Maybe it’s because my first heart dog as a child was black, but black dogs are my favorite. I feel like the black coat is softer and more silky than other fur colors, shining like satin on a sunny day. Practically speaking, their fur shows up on fewer of my clothes. I love their coal black noses and how brightly colored collars pop against their fur. And knowing that they are so often misunderstood as scary just makes me love them even more.

I checked in with some of my fellow black dog and cat loving humans, and here are the awesome black pets that brought luck into their lives by joining them in their forever homes. Enjoy their stories and remember that if you are ready to add to your dog or cat family, a black dog or cat is just as sweet and loveable as the other fur colors, giving you nothing but good luck and love if their path crosses yours.

 

 

Barbie with Newborn Pups: Backyard Breeder or Innocent Toy?

Barbie with Newborn Pups: Backyard Breeder Kit or Innocent Toy?

Barbie with Newborn Pups:

Backyard Breeder Kit or Innocent Toy?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Barbie with Newborn Pups: Backyard Breeder or Innocent Toy?For someone who always appears so happy and put together, Barbie has certainly done her share of stirring the proverbial pot over the course of her immortal life span, from the unrealistic shape of her figure to some of the bad choices that her creator Mattel has made over the years.  In fact, twenty-five years ago the first talking Barbie upset women like my own mother and her fellow American Association of University Women (AAUW) members when she proclaimed, “Math class is hard!”

If you are not familiar with the AAUW, they are, “the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls.” I was in college when my mother, a well-educated woman and teacher who loved teaching 7th grade Language Arts, talked passionately about the damage that Barbie’s seemingly innocent hatred of math could do in impressionable young women who already did not pursue math and science degrees or careers as much as men did. That one little phrase could easily set back the work that the AAUW and other groups had done to encourage girls to embrace math and science.

Flash forward to late last week and a friend of mine who is also a passionate dog advocate as well as a professional groomer, shared a link to the Barbie Newborn Pups & Doll Playset with the sarcastic comment, “Oh look, it’s Backyard Breeder Barbie!” I immediately clicked on the link, scrolled through the description of this Barbie and sighed in disgust as I read the words, “Barbie doll’s pet dog is going to be a mommy!” 

Image: https://truimg.toysrus.com/product/images/barbie-newborn-pups-doll-pets-playset–46980674.zoom.jpg?fit=inside|480:480

My reaction was something along the lines of “Are you kidding me???? I will most definitely be blogging about this!!!!”

So why is a toy intended to promote love and nurturing to a dog Mom and her newborn puppies causing such a strong negative reaction to those of us who work to promote responsible dog ownership? Isn’t it a good thing for young children to see that dogs in labor often need human intervention, need someone around them in case there is a problem, and are being taught to be loving and gentle around any animal?

Well, yes and no.

Although the helping and nurturing aspect of the toy is wonderful and does teach a good message about compassion to animals, it is the idea that Barbie’s “pet” dog has been impregnated and therefore was not spayed by a responsible owner. Most people who own and breed a single dog are amateur breeders or backyard breeders. Whether the breeding was intentional or accidental, the result is a litter of puppies who will need homes.

I write about this in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner as well as in a blog from earlier this year called Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders.

The term “backyard breeder” typically refers to people who breed their own dogs but do not offer the same health guarantees and health checks as Hobby/Professional/Show Breeders. Some backyard breeders will breed just one litter because they have a beloved female dog and want one of her puppies to keep for their own, or because a friend or family member wants one of her puppies. In this situation it is quite possible that the parents and puppies are well-loved, quite healthy, and receive the utmost care and socialization.

Other backyard breeders are less scrupulous and breed their dogs for profit without the same high quality care and treatment. Backyard breeders who fall into this category often neglect their dogs and simply view them as a way to bring in income, similar to puppy mill operations but on a smaller scale.

With this toy being presented as Barbie and her pet dog, it gives the impression that it is ok for your average pet dog to have a litter of puppies, and that is the reason this toy elicits such a strong response from responsible dog owners and advocates. In order to promote responsible dog ownership, parents would need to add to the dialogue with their children that in the real world you don’t let your pet dog get pregnant because of the massive dog overpopulation problem and that their beloved dog is not going to have any of her own puppies just because Barbie’s dog has them. But how many parents actually sit and play with toys with their kids? Often they do, but there are also times when you need to cook dinner, clean the house, or do something else while your kids are actively playing and using their vivid imaginations.

Barbie Newborn Pups and Mom would be better as Barbie and Her Pregnant Foster Dog with information on doing home visits and how foster based rescues work or perhaps Responsible Breeder Barbie and MBISS GCH Life in the Dreamhouse JH WC CGK with a list of health check test results that help identify breed specific genetic problems, ribbons and trophies from the events that the dog has won to earn her merit as a top female of the breed, a Breeder of Merit ribbon, a twenty page list of questions to ask potential puppy buyers, tiny little Limited AKC Registration papers for the three puppies, and a contract for the puppy buyers in which they promise to spay/neuter the puppies and never surrender them to a shelter.

So are we dog lovers exaggerating a bit on the potential impact of this toy? With approximately 1.5 million shelter animals euthanized every year and 20% of pet owners stating that they obtained their dog from friends or family, my answer to that question is that no, we are not being overly sensitive or exaggerating.

With our girls well out of the Barbie age range and me out of the loop in terms of current Barbie options, I browsed Amazon to look at some of the other Barbie toys who come with dogs. I love that some of the sets include a pooper scooper to encourage picking up after your dog, which is awesome. One Barbie dog set comes with a swimming pool, another with a grooming station, promoting exercising your dog and keeping her clean. I do not like Barbie Spin & Ride in which she rides her bike with her dogs attached but according to Amazon’s listing, it is discontinued.My reasons for not liking that one is a whole other blog topic that I will add to my list. I am a huge fan of Veterinarian Barbie, and I am sure my late mother and her AAUW peers would love her too, considering the amount of math and science involved in the pursuit of that degree.

At the end of the day, Mattel has done a good job with most of their Barbie-plus-dog toys, although Barbie Newborn Pups and Dog is a definite miss. I just hope that parents will engage in a play session now and then with their children to help educate them on why we do not allow our pets to have puppies, and then promptly get their new Momma dog over to Veterinarian Barbie’s office right away to be spayed to ensure that no more puppies come into the world without approved homes already screened and waiting for them like a responsible, professional breeder would do.




Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico GoldensIn November 2014 a yellow Labrador was found tied to a tree in a remote area in the woods in the Carolina area of Puerto Rico. She had been muzzled with a plastic bag that allowed her to breathe through her nose, but secured her mouth so that she could not chew herself free, could not eat or drink even if food had been there, and could not even pant to cool herself in the hot, humid tropical weather. Fortunately a good Samaritan came along and found her, cutting her free, and taking her into the foster care of rescue group Love Puerto Rico Goldens.

Her rescuers and fosters bathed her, gave her medical care, and found a foster home for her. In January 2015 they arranged for her to fly to the United States to be adopted out through Chicagoland Lab Rescue. They named her Destiny with the hope that she would be able to fulfill her destiny of finding a loving forever home and the happy, safe, healthy life that she and all dogs deserve.

At that time I was actively volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I immediately volunteered to be her foster as soon as I read the story of how she had been found. I knew I wanted her to feel the love and comfort that my own dogs receive on a daily basis, and so my husband and I picked her up from O’Hare Airport the day before the  Super Bowl that year as a blizzard loomed on the weather radar.

In less than the span of twelve hours, Destiny left the world she had come to know, flew on an airplane, experienced the frenzy of the arrivals area of a major international airport on a Saturday night, drove in a strange car with utter strangers, and then stepped into snow and a whirling blizzard for the first time in her life. I cannot imagine what she was thinking or feeling, and I was amazed that she trusted me and settled into her kennel in our living room at bedtime that night without so much as a bark or whimper.

If you have followed my blog for a while or read my book, then you have read about Destiny. She was with us for around three months and she had as much of an impact on my life as I had on hers. In those three months she absolutely claimed a permanent spot in my heart. In fact the only reason that she is not laying next to me as I write this post is that I knew when I met her forever family that they needed her in their life to fill the void that their previous dog’s passing had left in their hearts, while my heartache from the loss of my previous dogs had already been filled by both Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Destiny after a month in our home, learning to snuggle and trust. 

These days, Destiny is living the life that every dog deserves as the only dog of a couple who love her and dote on her daily. No longer skin and bones, she could actually lose a few pounds, but the thought of her living on the streets alone and starving, or tied to that tree in the woods with no way to free herself, makes it hard for her humans to tell her no when she wants a few extra treats. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them one bit.

In one of those bittersweet aspects of life, Destiny is just one of hundreds of dogs who Love Puerto Rico Goldens has saved. Since fostering Destiny I have become friends with some of her rescuers on Facebook and have been added to a group of people who have adopted some of the group’s dogs here in the mainland United States. The bitter part is that there is a never-ending number of dogs who desperately need their care. The sweet part comes from the stories of life after being rescued that their owners share through happy photos of the dogs enjoying their new lives.

If you know anything about dog rescue, then you know that there is never, ever enough money to go around, even in the best circumstances. There is a never-ending population of dogs in need of homes, most of whom have not received proper medical care from their prior owners. Some have intestinal parasites, most have not been spayed or neutered, others have heartworms. Some arrive pregnant or with a litter of puppies, exponentially adding to the bills that the rescue is trying to cover with donations and adoption fees. One of the reasons that Love Puerto Rico Goldens is able to save as many dogs as they have is that they have arranged for many of their dogs to fly to rescues in the US mainland just like Destiny did, so there is the added cost of transportation via commercial airline.

Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank

Ever since Destiny stepped out of her travel crate in the cargo pickup area of O’Hare airport I have wanted to go to Puerto Rico to meet her rescuers, give a hug to the kind souls who originally found her, meet some of the other dogs who they have rescued, interview the people who run the rescue, and write as much as they will let me about their tireless work to help Golden Retrievers and other dogs in a place that has a heart-wrenching homeless dog problem that has been exacerbated by the dire financial situation on the island commonwealth. I have not made it there yet, but it remains very high on my list.

Their work was hard enough before the massive devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc to homes, businesses and roads all over the entire island. Now the need for donations and assistance is even greater. 

As the citizens of Puerto Rico, and the volunteers who run Love Puerto Rico Goldens, struggle with day-to-day life on this hard hit island, donations to their cause are even more important. If you have the ability to do so, please go to the Love Puerto Rico Goldens website and click on the Donate button http://www.lovepuertoricogoldens.org. 

To read more about Destiny, click here:

A Rescued Dog Named Destiny

Destiny the Yellow Labrador, One Month Later

One Giant Leap for Destiny

Fulfilling Her Destiny

 

National Dogs in Politics day

National Dogs in Politics Day

National Dogs in Politics Day 

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

National Dogs in Politics dayAt the start of this year I received a free calendar from PetPlan pet insurance that includes literally every dog or cat themed special awareness day for all of 2017. I keep it nearby as a handy tool when I need some inspiration or to kick off a session of brainstorming blog or educational content ideas. Over the weekend my husband and I spent a busy two days driving our human kids to and from various places, so I failed to notice until today that Saturday, September 23 was National Checker’s Day, also known as Dogs in Politics Day.

Intrigued, I decided to research this day, which I have since learned marks the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s famous television address in 1952 during which he spoke (amid accusations of improperly used campaign funds) about how a black and white Cocker Spaniel was the only campaign gift that he had received that he was keeping. Political experts credit the mention of Checkers the dog as the emotional connection that voters needed to forget the allegations and vote Eisenhower and Nixon into the White House.

Of course I was not born when this speech was given. In fact my own mother was only eight years old at the time, but I do remember learning about it in either high school or college history classes. I will admit that until today I assumed it was part of the same speech as the “I am not a crook” line, but apparently those famous words happened decades later. What resonates with me as an adult in 2017, though, is the power that revealing himself to be a dog lover had on the public and their view on his character as a human being.

I came across this information on a day in which I am avoiding all political discussions on social media and the news. I am a big follower of the notion of not discussing politics, religion or money among friends and distant family. Unfortunately, many people have abandoned the concept of not complicating personal relationships with these hot topics, and today is one of those days when these discussions are next to impossible to avoid. As a result, politics weigh heavily on my mind today.

The irony of researching the impact of Richard Nixon’s dog Checkers is that my own dogs are absolutely a haven from thinking about or dealing with political issues. Spending time with Jackson and Tinkerbell is hands down the best way that I have to remove myself from the noise and opinions of both close friends and acquaintances and my favorite way to free my mind to work and write.

I used to watch the news in the morning while I drank my coffee until I realized that this habit was starting my day on a stressful note instead of in a way that promotes creativity and a positive mindset. In February a pregnant giraffe named April caught my attention and I started to live stream the feed from her stall every morning instead of watching the news. After her webcam was taken down in early May I realized that I was a much happier, positive human being without the incessant doom and gloom of the national news and especially the local Chicago news, and I continued to avoid the television each morning.

Since I am the first one downstairs around 95% of the time and my husband is not the slightest bit chatty in the morning, most days I enjoy my coffee either in silence with sleeping pups snoring away nearby while I read something fun and light-hearted and ingest my much-needed caffeine, or I watch as they engage in their daily playful power struggles over one antler or toy.

Watching Jackson and Tinkerbell simply being dogs is the most calming, peaceful way to start my own day and keep me from getting stuck in my head and thinking about the woes that face our society and country. If I get stuck in my own head I will waste far too many hours thinking about current issues instead of working on my own dream and business.

Image link: http://www.presidentialpetmuseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/nixon-reading-newspaper-with-checkers.jpg

I did not find information on exactly how to celebrate National Checker’s Day or National Dogs in Politics Day. I did find a website called Presidential Pet Museum which has an interesting list of presidential pets over the years. 

I found it extremely interesting to read over the different types of dogs, cats and other animals who have lived at the White House or been owned by the various Presidents and to think about the comfort that they might have given to each leader at some of the most stressful times in our nation’s history. Did John F. Kennedy’s dog Shannon comfort him while he dealt with Russia and Cuba? Did Barney alleviate some of the stress that George W. Bush must have felt as the world changed forever on a crisp fall day? I do not know, but I hope so, because that comfort is the most glorious gift that dogs bestow upon their humans.

At the end of the day, no matter which party you follow or who you voted for, nobody can discount the idea that the presidency is an incredibly stressful job. Whether we like or loathe the various presidents throughout history it definitely humanizes them to know that so many of them are dog, cat or overall animal lovers like you and me.

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue EventAs both a dog lover and a dog professional, my favorite part of being a sponsor or vendor at dog related events is visiting with the actual dogs, even though sometimes my heart feels like it is going to break when I hear the stories of the dogs’ lives before they were rescued. In fact it is a given that Jackson and Tinkerbell will sniff me from head to toe immediately upon my return home in what I call the Labrador Inquisition, after I’ve been petting dogs of all shapes and sizes and holding and snuggling young puppies.

The dogs at these events are usually a mixture of rescue dogs who are up for adoption and dogs who have accompanied their owners to check out the event. Sometimes rescue volunteers will bring their own dogs as ambassadors for the rescue.

Talking to the fosters and volunteers about the stories of the dogs who are available for adoption is always bittersweet because although there is joy at the fact that the dogs are now safe from euthanasia and will eventually find their forever homes, there is sadness and pain in so many of their backgrounds. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there are continually more ways that humans have failed dogs before they reached the heroes who have saved them and who are fostering them and seeking their forever homes.

One of the key points that I made in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, is that we often have no way of knowing what a dog has been through before it steps its first paw into your home, whether the dog is a small puppy or a senior dog. That is one of the reasons it is so critical to be compassionate and understanding of what the dog might have been through, particularly because they cannot tell their story to us. The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

Among the dogs I met in the last few weeks were three puppies from a litter of nine who were still waiting for their forever homes. Six of their siblings were already adopted and two of the three were adopted at the event. Their mother had been rescued after being locked in a shed, left all alone to deliver her puppies without proper food, water, or human assistance. Of course whoever locked her into the shed would likely not have assisted with her delivery anyway, as not only did he or she lock her in the shed, but they bolted it shut to ensure that she would not escape.  I forgot to ask who found her or how they found her as I snuggled one of her babies to my cheek and wondered for about the millionth time “what the hell is wrong with some people” and said a thank you to the universe for saving her and her unborn litter. With her puppies now old enough to go to their forever homes, she too had been adopted into a loving home.

There was the four-year old male Basset Hound who had been a hunting dog and had never been inside a home. As the daughter of a bird hunter whose dogs slept on the bed next to him, I do not understand how you could hunt with a dog who is not also your best friend, constant companion, and sleeping buddy. The only time I ever saw my father cry when I was a child was when our beloved Snoop passed away, leaving me appalled at whoever had owned this sweet male Basset Hound and not loved up on him every possible moment. Fortunately he is being fostered in a home in which he gets plenty of love, and I was happy to sit on the ground and pet him, telling the foster, “If I apply, don’t approve me, I could easily fall in love with this sweet boy and I cannot have another dog!”

Being fostered at the same home was a senior female Basset Hound who had been found as a stray. My heart broke as I thought of her being lost and afraid, fending for herself in a town or in the woods, and I hoped that if nothing else, she had gotten lost from a loving family instead of just being dumped on her own. I was grateful that she no longer had to be alone or afraid.

Last weekend I met an eight year old Golden Retriever who had been surrendered by a puppy mill farmer. She had never been inside a home and was essentially learning how to really, truly be a dog and enjoy life instead of producing litter after litter after litter of puppies. As she walked through the event with her foster-mother and foster-sister she seemed to cling to them as if terrified of losing the one comfort in life that she had ever experienced. When they stopped to look at something or meet someone she literally threw herself to the ground as if unsure of what to do or how to act. If her foster doesn’t “fail” and adopt her for herself, I am quite sure she will flourish with a loving human who is patient, calm, and consistent and who lets her become the confident dog that she was born to be.

At the same event where I met the puppy mill momma, I met two five-month old Chihuahuas who had literally been rescued from a shelter one day before they were scheduled to be euthanized. They were litter mates, scared to death, literally clinging to their foster from the rescue organization that had saved them. They are like so many dogs who have been through so much bad stuff and are entirely unable to tell us their stories as they learn to trust humans as someone good and positive in their life.

I never stop being amazed at how dogs can overcome their pasts and learn to live happily with humans, to trust in the fact that even though some people failed them and were cruel to them through abuse, neglect, or both, that other people are there to help them, to love them, to care for them. So many humans have a hard time looking to the future instead of being bogged down trying to get over or recreate the past, that once again we can learn so much from these dogs who have been treated like they feel nothing but in reality feel so much.

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your DogsThe older you get the more you realize that some of the most beautiful and memorable things in life are the most simple, everyday moments. I find that this definitely holds true as a dog owner. As much as I am always thinking about and searching for adventures and fun things to do with Jackson and Tinkerbell, perhaps my favorite time with them is mid-morning, just sitting on the floor of our family room to play with them and pet them.

The dogs and I have a very regular schedule that includes their playtime, meals, and potty time. I never consciously set this schedule, it just evolved and the dogs are sticklers about adhering to it, like furry Sheldon Coopers. If they could they might write-up a Dog Owner Agreement for me to sign, but thankfully they don’t have thumbs and can’t read. We seem to fine tune the schedule as time goes on and I have noticed recently that the dogs have added a 9:30 a.m. round of indoor bitey face and zoomies that never used to occur.

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs
Tink enjoying a post-lunch antler

At 11 a.m. they are ready for lunch and will remind me of this by sitting and staring at me with great intensity. After lunch, Jackson likes to come to me to do “upside down puppy” which is the name we have given to his odd habit of laying down for a tummy rub headfirst up against a human with a twist onto his back. I have never been able to successfully capture a photo or video of this, but he stands next to me while I sit on the floor leaning against our big chair-and-a-half sized recliner, then puts his head down on the floor next to my leg, and rolls himself head first onto the ground and then onto his back with a gymnast style twist. Once on his back he sticks all four legs into the air and waits for a tummy rub. It is impossibly adorable and puppy-like and is a loveable contrast to his serious, intense appearance.

While I sat on the floor and scratched Jackson’s belly, Tinkerbell relaxed on the love seat across from me and chewed her antler. I sat quietly and enjoyed the moment, the only sounds coming from the open window and the birds and insects outside, Tinkerbell’s chewing, and an occasional contented groan from Jackson.

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs
Jackson waiting for me to give the “upside down puppy” go-ahead.

I had watched some of the 9-11 memorials on television earlier in the morning and was feeling some of the emotions that many of us feel every year on this horrible anniversary: reflective, sad, heartbroken for the victims and families of that day, remembering where I was, what I was doing and how the day unfolded so close to my hometown while I was all the way across the country living my life in Indiana. As I peacefully petted Jackson, I  also was overwhelmed with pride for my firefighter husband and the work he does day in and day out, and also grateful for my own life and to be here on this exact day in this exact place.

After awhile Jackson decided he was finished with his tummy rub and he hopped up and chewed on the antler for a few minutes with Tinkerbell who had moved a few feet away from us. They played  back and forth with the antler for a few minutes and then both went to claim a soft spot on the sofa in our front room for their afternoon nap, the next event in their daily routine. They will now nap until around 3 or 4 pm when they find me to let me know that it is time to go outside or go for a walk.

As I thought about today’s blog and what I was going to write about (something I usually do during the aforementioned puppy nap time), I realized that many of my friends and readers could relate to the simple pleasure of just spending quiet time with your dogs, whether they are newly adopted and you are getting to know them or if you have an unspoken schedule and routine that you share from years of living life together. Dogs are the experts at living in the moment, and I think it’s a lesson we can surely take from them, to not just live in the moment, but to enjoy each and every good moment in life even if it’s something as simple sitting on the floor of your family room with your furry best friends.

 

When Guests Don't Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

When Guests Don't Like DogsAs I write this blog, one of the human kids has a friend over who is clearly not a dog person. This is an extremely unusual occurrence in our house, perhaps happening with the frequency of a Leap Year or the recent eclipse. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of humans who have stepped into our home who do not like dogs.

Of course Tinkerbell has decided that this young lady is going to be her new Best Friend Forever whether the visiting human likes her or not. That’s just how Tinkerbell lives her life. Imagine if we all had that confidence in who we are!

It isn’t helping matters that our daughter made popcorn and put it into a clear Pyrex bowl and placed the bowl on the sofa. Jackson and Tinkerbell love popcorn and are accustomed to patiently sitting and waiting while we eat it and toss them occasional pieces. And no matter how good they are or how well trained they are, that bowl is in a spot where they could just reach over and grab a mouthful without any human assistance.

Jax and Tink love strangers as much as they love popcorn. Strangers with popcorn are obviously the best thing ever because the new human might not know the rule that the dogs get only an occasional piece of popcorn for every handful the humans consume. There is significant potential that the new human might dispense handfuls of popcorn to the dogs and make it the best day in all of Dogdom. In fact I will never forget the first time our dog sitter watched the dogs, she texted me and asked, “Is it ok if I give the dogs a few pieces of popcorn? They seem to think they are going to get some!” I had laughed that day as I pictured both dogs sitting straight up, their intense brown eyes willing our sitter to give them the popcorn. 

When Guests Don't Like Dogs
If I look sad enough, will you like me?

Getting back to today, I was standing in the kitchen watching them beg for popcorn and saw Tinkerbell reach up and lick the friend’s arm as a little reminder that seemed to say, “Hey, don’t forget me! I’m waiting for my share!”

As I called her off, I watched as the friend wiped her slobbery arm on her shirt with a look of horror as if we had sprayed her with something acidic. I laughed inwardly a little as I headed over to remove the dogs from the room, thinking of the amounts of dog drool that I have had on me over the last forty-plus years and how the allergy test that I did several years ago did not even react one bit to the dog “allergen” that was injected under my skin after a lifetime of exposure to dog hair, dog drool, dog germs. At this point if I was exposed to gamma rays I would probably turn into some sort of Labrador/human Avenger type hero, able to use my big otter tail to knock out villains.

As an avid social media user, I see memes on a regular basis with sentiments like “I live here, you don’t” and while I agree with them in some ways, there is some etiquette that should come into play when visitors come into your home. While I am not one bit concerned if I have dog hair on my sofa and I am not going to lock them away where they cannot be seen just because guests are here, it is also our responsiblity as dog owners to make sure they aren’t climbing and jumping on guests (whether they like dogs or not) or sitting and staring intently at people and begging them for their snacks or food.

About 97% of our guests are perfectly happy with Tinkerbell crawling into their laps and sprawling all 67 pounds of herself across their legs for a tummy rub. The same percentage is ok with Jax thrusting his giant head into their personal space for a chin scratch. For the small percentage of visitors who are not overly thrilled with these things, there is the “off” command. Sometimes it takes a few times, sometimes the dogs try to sit and stare at the guests as if silently willing them to love them, but in the end I prevail and they go to lay on their beds with a big doggie sigh of disappointment.

Of course when service people come to the house the dogs are always put into their kennels for the dual purpose of keeping the dogs away from the door that is opening and closing more than usual and to keep them from pestering the workers who are trying to get done and move to their next job. Often the dog loving workers will ask to pet them when they are done and getting ready to leave, and I am always happy to oblige.

I remember one man who was here to fix our internet and TV services who had to do a lot of work sitting on the floor in our living room. He practically begged me to let the dogs out of their crates because he had grown up with black Labrador Retrievers and wanted to play with them. After a few minutes of playtime I told the dogs “off” and they laid on their beds, although every once in a while one of them would approach him out of nowhere and give his ear or neck a nuzzle or lick. He seemed quite happy with their slobbery love and we were probably his favorite house of the day, but to allow that type of activity is normally completely off-limits.

On the few occasions that we have non-dog people in our home I am grateful for the multi-purpose use of the “off” or “leave it” command that I learned when Jackson was in beginner obedience. I had known of using that command to tell a dog not to grab something off of the ground or the floor although personally I had always used an all-purpose “no” which had worked great with my previous dogs. In fact I almost did not believe the trainer when she taught us that “leave it” could be used to stop a dog from snatching up a contraband item as well as to tell them to stop looking at or focusing on something.

Thankfully the dogs and I have practiced both applications of the command on a regular basis and can tell you that your dog will in fact learn that it means both things, reaffirming my belief that every dog owner should take each and every one of their dogs through a round of obedience classes even if they are knowledgeable, life-long dog owners. In addition to a training class being an incredible bonding experience for you and your dog, you never know what tidbit of knowledge you might pick up from different trainers. We now use “off” equally if I drop a human pill or a grape on the floor or if the dogs are too interested in another dog out on our walks or for those rare instances that we have a human in our home who just isn’t that into Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Of course telling the dogs to leave our guest alone will only last for that particular visit. I’m sure that the next time our daughter’s friend comes over that Jax and Tink will begin their campaign to earn her love all over again, because although they can learn multiple uses of a training command, they will never be able to understand why someone just doesn’t love them like the rest of the humans in their life love them. I cannot fault them that; I do not understand that either, but that leaves more doggie kisses and slobber for those of us who do.

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Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription BoxSubscription boxes have been around for several years and I have tried many of them for different things like snacks and beauty products. As someone who loves trying out new products and getting a little surprise in the mail each month, I adore the subscription box trend. Until now, though, I have never tried one for Jackson and Tinkerbell.

If you have been following my blog, you know that Jackson and Tinkerbell are my beloved Labrador Retrievers and that providing them with a healthy, holistic lifestyle has been the inspiration for this blog. You also know that I am extremely conscious (i.e.neurotic) about the quality of the food, treats, and toys that I allow them to have.

My criteria for anything that comes near my dogs is that it must be made in the United States, must be made with strict standards by responsible manufacturers, cannot have any wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, eggs, chicken, beef, animal digest, by-products or menadione. Additionally, one of my dogs is somewhat intolerant to cheese and dairy. As a result, I have avoided the world of the subscription box because I could not necessarily guarantee that what was going to come in the box would meet my extremely strict criteria.

Then I learned about PupJoy!

The funny thing is that I was not really searching for a canine subscription box. In fact I kinda just stumbled across them by accident. As I read through their website and came across this statement, “PupJoy Boxes are filled with natural, organic treats, toys and accessories from responsible artisan brands, all carefully selected and vetted by the most discerning dogs.” Excited about what I was reading, I promptly signed up for a subscription!

Adding to the appeal was the fact that I could customize the box and decide whether it would be for one dog or multiple dogs, if I wanted to receive treats, toys and accessories, just toys and accessories, or just treats. I could specify if I wanted the treats to be All Natural, Grain Sensitive, Protein Sensitive, or Organic. Since I wanted “all of the above” for Jax and Tink, I chose Organic since I have found that most organic treats are all natural and made with grains and proteins that fit my needs. Finally, I could choose the type of toy (plush, durable or a mix of both) and the size of the dog who was going to receive the box.

For our first box, since I figured I could upgrade at a later date, I chose a box for one dog, with a mixture of treats, toys and accessories that included Organic Treats and Durable Toys for Large dogs. I quickly received a confirmation email and I anxiously awaited the box’s arrival.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Waiting so patiently!

Now, let me say that I LOVE companies that send beautifully branded packages! It makes an online purchase into a complete shopping experience. Companies like Tervis Tumblers, Ole Henriksen, Stella & Dot, Melissa McCarthy and Lily Pulitzer do this fabulously, so I was super excited to see that the dogs’ PupJoy box came beautifully put together. Of course, the dogs do not care what the box looks like, they just want the goodies inside, but as a frequent online shopper, I most definitely appreciate the extra detail and the whole experience of opening such a beautifully branded box.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Even the box is fabulous!

I opened up the navy blue box with the image of the wagging tail and was excited to see that the inside was a cheery hot pink color printed with bone, heart, collar and house icons as well as another of their wagging tail logos. The contents were in white tissue paper with a logo sticker and a glossy flyer that contained PupJoy’s contact information, a link for more information on the products in the box, social media sharing information, an option to earn rewards through referring friends, and information on the Bissell Pet Foundation, to which a portion of each purchase is donated.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Super cute!

Last month Jackson and Tinkerbell received a plush Topsy Turvie cow/beaver toy that has (or had, in this case) several squeakers and the head of a cow and the back-end of a beaver. The box also included the PupJoy Brewing Treat Dispenser, which is a rubber treat toy that you can fill with soft or hard treats, similar to a Kong. Treats included Camberville Dog Treats Travel Canister and some other selections, all of which met my super strict, neurotic dog mom criteria. The dogs loved their treats and had a fun-filled evening playing tug-o-war with the Cow/Beaver. I think they believed it was their mission to separate the toy into the individual animals of cow and beaver so that by the time they were done the cow section was detached from the beaver section. You can check out my video of unboxing our first PupJoy box at the end of this post.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
PupJoy goodies!

This month I decided to change to all treats without toys or accessories so that Jackson and Tinkerbell could share a box more easily. Tinkerbell enjoys plush toys more than Jackson, so this made it more fair.

I was super excited to open the box and find four full-sized packages of treats, all of which met my very strict criteria and limited list of ingredients. Not only am I elated with the quality of the treats and ingredients, I am also impressed that they have sent me brands that I have never seen in any of our local stores. I love to find out about new options that I can reorder for Jackson and Tinkerbell to keep their treat options interesting.

After receiving our first box I immediately wrote to PupJoy to find out of they offered an affiliate program, which they do, so I am pleased to offer my Happy Tails | PupJoyown affiliate link for any friends and Love, Laugh, Woof followers who would like to start your own subscription. I would have recommended this awesome box anyway, but affiliate links are how we bloggers can earn a small income in exchange for sharing information about the products we love. The PupJoy box definitely falls into that category.

 

 

 

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown CowI was browsing through Facebook earlier today when I came across a photo in a Labrador Retriever group of someone’s Labrador and their cows. The dog was getting epic kisses from the cows and generally having a great time visiting his bovine buddies in their barn. All of a sudden it reminded me of a morning walk with my late Babe that had drifted back into the far recesses of my memory.

I’ve talked about adopting my then two-year old Labrador Retriever Babe when I rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in the downtown area of the small-ish Midwestern city Valparaiso, Indiana. Not only was the apartment tiny, it was in a house that had essentially no yard and definitely nowhere to fence even if my landlord had allowed it. As a result, Babe and I walked every day, like the proverbial mailman, in sun, rain, snow, sleet, you name it.

My walks with Babe were beyond special. Although they were initially just for the practical function of making sure she went to the bathroom and got plenty of exercise, we quickly developed an incredible bond and mind-meld. She was my first dog of my own and my first heart dog to be all mine. It was Babe and me, together, and our cross-species friendship was the glue that held my life together on more occasions than I can count, in more intense and emotional situations than I am willing to write about right now. Back then I did not view her like my canine child like I do Jax and Tink, but as my very best friend.

Babe and I walked every inch of downtown Valparaiso over the years that we lived there. We walked along the main street that was lined with businesses and hug

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow
Babe circa 2002

e windows that she loved to look inside. Sometimes patrons of the shops and restaurants would cross our path and she would start to wiggle from a block away, so adorable and Lab-like that they always stopped to pet her. We walked past churches, old Victorian homes, newer homes, the local elementary school, the library, and several banks. She liked to go into the banks because she often got biscuits from the dog loving tellers.

One beautiful autumn morning she and I were walking very early before I had to get ready to go to work. It was September and I remember the weather was absolutely perfect and I had spent most of the walk enjoying the fall decorations that were starting to show up on neighbors’ front porches.

As Babe and I walked in silence, in our special mind-meld between dog and owner, we reached a section of the street that was completely lined by a hedge that was taller than me. As we started to walk on the sidewalk next to the hedge, I heard a moo. Babe heard it too, and she stopped and turned to look up at me with a puzzled look on her face. “Ok, that sounded like a cow!” I said out loud as she wagged her tail as if she understood.

We took a few more steps and heard it again, just on the other side of the hedge.

“Mooooooo!”

We took a few more steps and all of a sudden, Babe started to pull me as she raced forward to a hole in the hedge. She shoved her head into the open area and I watched as she came face to face with an adorable black and white calf.

Oh my gosh, it IS a cow!” I said to Babe as her tail wagged so hard I thought it might fly off of her body, “At least I’m not going crazy!”

We walked to the end of the block to a portion of the yard where the hedge did not block the fence and the calf followed along on her side of the yard. Once there was no hedge to block us, Babe and the calf exchanged kisses and nuzzled as they checked each other out. Babe’s tail wagged even harder as she investigated this strange creature. I knew she would not hurt it and her reaction was sweet and submissive to this bigger, strange creature that was just a baby.

We visited the calf as long as we could before I had to end the interaction and head to get ready to go to work. Of course I told the story to everyone I saw and then a few days later came across an article in our local paper that explained that the homeowners also owned a dairy farm a half hour away and that the calf had been rejected by her mother. Driving back and forth for feedings was too difficult to do for an extended period of time, so they brought the calf to hang out in their downtown yard until it was old enough to rejoin the herd at the farm.

Even though this experience was nearly fifteen years ago I decided to search for the article. Thanks to the paper’s online archives, I found the original article as well as an editorial supporting the cow’s temporary stay in downtown Valparaiso.

As I read the article, I was elated to see a photo of the calf standing in front of the same little fence where she and Babe had licked each other so lovingly that beautiful autumn morning. In the seven years since Babe has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I had almost forgotten about that morning that was so special at the time.

I sit here trying to remember what else was going on at that time. What had been on my mind that morning besides appreciating the beautiful fall weather before we came across the cow? I cannot recall any those things almost 15 years later, but I can recall everything about Babe and the cow, a true testament to the role that dogs have in our lives and the things that really matter.

 

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CHASING THE SQUIRRELS OF SUMMER

Chasing the Squirrels of Summer

Chasing the Squirrels of Summer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

CHASING THE SQUIRRELS OF SUMMERI have had the worst case of writer’s block in recent weeks. As a dog blogger with a goal of five posts a week, writer’s block is not welcome in this brain of mine. Although maybe instead of writer’s block I should call it writer’s distraction, because right now I feel a little like my favorite character Dug from the Disney movie Up in terms of my ability to focus.

SQUIRREL! 

If you are not familiar with the movie Up, you will want to click here to see what the heck I am talking about before moving on with the rest of this blog.

When a Blogger Can't Blog

This year I started planning out my blog posts in an awesome blog planning binder that I learned about from another blogger. Along with a calendar from PetPlan pet health insurance with all of the special pet awareness days, I spent all spring efficiently planning out the topics that I would share with you.

In addition to my binder and that calendar, I have ideas stashed away in Evernote, in various notebooks, on slips of paper, and even old receipts that I’ve used as scrap paper when I am driving or out and about and have a thought or inspiration. I get ideas when I am walking my dogs, playing with my dogs, washing my hair, drying my hair, reading social media. There is an endless array of blog topics at my finger tips as well as in every handbag I have used for the last few months.

That is until I can’t think of anything to say or make my mind focus on one of these fabulous topics.

SQUIRREL!

Chasing the Squirrels of SummerAnyone who knows me would laugh out loud at the notion of me without something to say, without an opinion, without some helpful tip or random fact to share, especially on the topic of creating a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for dogs and being a responsible lifelong owner to forever dogs. I mean, the whole reason I created this blog and felt so passionately about turning my passion for taking care of dogs into a career, is that I was already being approached by everyone I knew for dog advice and information. And yet for the last few weeks I have not been able to put my thoughts into my laptop in a way that anybody would want to read.

Summer around our house is like Penn Station, with people coming and going all day, every day, with different destinations and purposes, but always with the utmost urgency. It has been like this for as long as I have lived here, as our human kids have been able to have somewhat of an “old fashioned” childhood, playing with friends outside each and every day until it is dark outside and we force them to come in, instead of sitting inside playing video games in dark, stinky bedrooms.

We are all friends here on our cul de sac and we all have kids ranging in age from mid-twenties to babies and toddlers, which means there are a lot of teenagers and kids coming and going. Although our own teens have outgrown actually “playing” outside, they have swapped it for simply hanging out outside with each other. Sometimes the teens will play with the younger kids or watch them to make sure that they are safe and sound, which warms my heart and reaffirms that they are really growing up like family more than just neighbors.

Although this is wonderful and I would not change it for the world, it also results in our teenagers coming in and out of the house all day, every day. And if you are a parent to human kids, you know that with kids come questions. Lots, and lots of questions.

“Can I go in the _____ family house?”

Yes.

“Can I go for a bike ride with _____ and _____ ?”

Yes.

“Actually we are going to walk instead, is it ok if we walk instead of bike?”

Yes.

“Can _______ and _______ come in our pool?”

Yes.

“Can you help put my bike chain back on?”

Uh, no, but your father can.

“Can we ride to Walgreens?”

Uh, who else is going? Ok, yes.

Then there are the teens with cars, one of whom is 18 and will be attending college in the fall. He does not always have to ask to go somewhere, but we still require he check in with us from time to time.

“I’m going to my girlfriend’s and then to work.”

Ok, keep us posted if plans change.

“I am going to go here, here, here, and then there. And then to eat.”

Yes. Keep me posted from time to time.

The phone rings, “Instead of what we were going to do, can we come hang out at our house instead?”

Yes. Keep me posted if things change again.

Our other teen with a car just obtained her license and car this summer, so she has been fabulous in taking her sister places and making unsolicited coffee runs.

“I’m running to Dunkin Donuts, do you want coffee?”

Heck yes, and you are officially my favorite child for the day! Here’s some money!

I think you get the picture. Again, don’t read this the wrong way. This human family of mine is one of the greatest blessings I have ever known, and I never want the questions to stop. I just would maybe like them spaced apart a bit more.

I laugh at myself often, though, because when I first became a step-parent I was slightly hurt that the kids would walk right past me to ask their father a basic question when I was right there and perfectly capable of telling them if they could have a juice box or go into a friend’s yard. Now I laugh as they text and call me first because they know I have my phone on me at all times. Sometimes I look at Jax and Tink and tell them, “I am glad you two can’t talk!”

I am both proud and happy that our teens listen to us and ask before they do something, tell us if they are going somewhere, even if it is a distraction from my train of thought…and my next thought, and my next thought, and my thought again twenty minutes later until that train of thought is derailed and crumbled up in a heap of blog topics and to-do list items.

The kids are not my only squirrels who are distracting me. My own love of summer is also to blame, like a big fat squirrel with a huge bushy tail, frolicking along right smack in front of me. In fact, it is the most alluring squirrel of all. I love sunshine and water, and when both of those are in my back yard, I am torn between being raised to “do your work first and then have fun” versus the words of my late Nana Fern.

Nana Fern was my mom’s mother and also a writer who published hundreds of childrens’ stories in Highlights and a few other magazines in the 1950s and 1960s. Although she passed away from cancer when I was just two years old, my own mother always told me that Nana would frequently stop in the middle of what she was doing on a sunny summer day, whether she was writing a story or doing housework, and say, “It’s too beautiful outside to work, let’s go to the beach!”

My own mother was a teacher, and so she had every summer off, and we spent essentially every day of her summer break at the beach at our lake on which we lived in New Jersey, and then at our pool in Valparaiso, Indiana after we moved halfway through my high school years. We never missed a sunny day of summer fun, largely inspired my my Nana Fern’s outlook on living life to the fullest, especially when you are blessed with a perfect summer day.

Since I am master of my own schedule, I take Nana Fern’s approach each and every time. In the north we are lucky to get from May through September in our pools before adding the special pool closing chemicals, putting on the cover, watching the pool walls and cover get whipped with ice and snow all winter, and then hoping for the best (no algea or cloudy water) when the cover is removed in the spring.

My other squirrels who distract me are my husband and my dogs, none of whom I can resist when they want my attention. To be married to someone who likes to talk to me, likes to do things with me, is another incredible blessing. And of course when Jax and Tink say it’s time to play, it’s time to play, no questions asked!

Chasing the Squirrels of SummerI follow as many entrepreneur pages and blogs as I follow dog related topics, and most of them talk about the hustle that it takes to make your business work, the non-stop pushing your way to the top, to the point where you feel like everyone else is leaping out of bed, making thousands of dollars in sales each hour, signing the biggest deals of their lives, or whatever it is that they do in their particular business, and essentially living the life of the investors on Shark Tank until they go to bed at night.

I could do that, but I’m not going to.

I could have also done that at my previous job and worked my life away on someone else’s dream in pursuit of promotions and fancy titles that sounded impressive but left my soul empty. Hell would have frozen over before I did that.

I often feel incredibly guilty that I am distracted by the squirrels running around instead of growling at them like a boss and making them run away with their bushy tails between their legs. It seems as if those other entrepreneurs who are always posting about hustle and hard work would never be distracted by squirrels and their bushy tails.

In the middle of writing this blog I had a long talk with my business/mindset coach about the squirrels that I keep chasing and how I’ve been very down on myself the last few weeks that I am not like those other entrepreneurs who work their business from sunrise to sunset. In fact I started to wonder if this blog was to make myself feel better rather than explain why you have not seen as much Love, Laugh, Woof as you are used to.

Of course my coach reminded me that one of the reasons that I am pursuing a life as a dog blogger and self employed solopreneur is because the squirrels who are distracting me, the squirrels that I am chasing, are my squirrels that mean so much to me. They are my why, my reason for choosing a career in which I could be flexible and work when I want to work on my own terms and spend more time with my family, with my husband, with my dogs. Of course the other major why is to help as many people as I can create a happy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs like I work so hard to create for Jackson and Tinkerbell. I cannot write about that life if I am not living that life myself!

So while the “work first, have fun later” teachings are telling me to leave those squirrels alone and to focus on business, my Nana Fern’s mindset is winning for a reason. By taking advantage of every chance that I get to spend with our teenagers, with my husband, with Jackson and Tinkerbell, or reading yet another chick-lit novel while floating on my lounger in my pool with nobody else around, I am reminding myself of the whole reason that I embarked upon the whole mission behind Love, Laugh, Woof. We only get so many days with our dogs, we only get so many days with our other humans, and we only get so many days with ourselves, that our focus should be on making the best of them in a way that we want.

 

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Much To Feed Your DogThe other day I came across a conversation in a Labrador Retriever focused Facebook group in which a dog owner was asking fellow dog owners how much they fed their dogs. Their puppy was still growing and they were not sure if he was gaining too much weight too quickly and if they were feeding him an appropriate amount of food or if they should pull back his food intake.

IMG_3199I watched the conversation continue as different owners chimed in with the number of cups that they fed to their own Labrador Retrievers as puppies and as adults. Some owners said that they fed three cups split into two meals, others fed four cups of food, others gave two cups. What I found interesting was that nobody mentioned the number of calories that they fed their dogs or took into consideration the brand and formula of pet food that they were each feeding, meaning that their answers were not even remotely close to being helpful for the particular dog owner. It was like comparing apples to cucumbers for the dog owner who had asked the question. Of course this made me wonder how many other dog owners struggle with this question.

Jackson and Tinkerbell both consume roughly 1797 kcals per day, split into three eight once cup servings. Most adult dogs do not get three meals a day but mine are creatures of habit and we just kept on that schedule after puppyhood. In fact, they know the phrase “puppy lunch” quite well and know that it happens at 11:30 on the dot. This amount is perfect for them in the winter months. Tink weighs in around 65 pounds which is perfect for her and Jackson is around 78. They both have a nicely tucked up waist and a lean layer of fat over their rib cages which is ideal for their breed, neither too skinny nor too fat.

Think of kcals as you would think of the number of calories in a serving of human food. A serving of dog food is measured as an 8 ounce measuring cup, so instead of 140 calories for your container of human yogurt, you will see “Kcals per cup” on your dog food bag or manufacturer website. If you want a very detailed explanation of how Kcals are actually calculated you can find it at the Association of American Feed Control Officials, otherwise known as the AAFCO. Since pet food manufacturers have to provide the information, as well as the guaranteed analysis of other nutritional  information, you can just go with the information that is provided instead of figuring it out on your own. It is an interesting read, though, if you have the time.

Brands of food vary dramatically in how many kcals per cup are in their food. I am a committed customer of holistic, organic dog food Canine Caviar, which has around 599 kcals per cup in most of its formulas with the exception of their Special Needs formula, which is just one of the many things that I love about their food. A low quality food like Purina Beneful Originals in beef flavor has 333 kcals per cup, so you would have to feed your dog nearly twice as much of that food in order to match the kcals per day that I feed in Canine Caviar. Zignature Whitefish formula, which is my backup brand for Jackson and Tinkerbell has 424 kcals/cup so I have to increase their portions each day to meet the same caloric count if I feed them that food.

Here are some other brands of food and their kcals/cup:

Wellness Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe: 386

Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Whitefish & Potato: 360

Hill’s Science Diet Advanced Fitness: 363

Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult: 276

Nutro High Endurance Adult Dog Food: 365

Each brand should have feeding guidelines on the bag for a variety of activity levels. It is important to be honest with yourself on how active your dog truly is and also monitor your dog’s weight carefully throughout her life to ensure that she is growing at an appropriate pace during her puppy years and is neither underweight nor overweight as an adult. It is likely that you will need to adjust the number of kcals that you feed your dog as he/she goes through different phases of life and sometimes at different times throughout the year. For example a hunting dog will burn more calories during duck or pheasant season than when just hanging with the family in front of the fireplace. IMG_3200

With both Jackson and Tinkerbell we hit a point where their puppy metabolism slowed and I had to reduce their calories accordingly as they gained more than the desired “layer of fat” between their rib cage and skin. This happened with each of them as they left puppyhood and became adult dogs. I have also learned that they are far more active in the fall, winter and spring than they are during summer, so I reduce their kcals slightly during the summer months when the Chicagoland heat and humidity soars and they take up their residency on top of the air conditioning vents. Usually cutting down to a half a cup at puppy lunch and leaving their breakfast and dinner the same works just fine. I signed a “No Fat Labs” promise when I picked both of my puppies up and I make sure that I abide by it for their overall health.

If you are raising a puppy that you purchased from a professional breeder, go with the guidelines on your bag of food but also make sure that you check with your breeder to find out how much to feed and how quickly your puppy should grow.  Exemplary breeders should be more than happy to answer these questions and provide information on nutrition and other topics throughout your dog’s entire life.

The rate of growth is particularly important for large breed puppies who could have joint issues from too many calories and growing too quickly or becoming too heavy while their joints are growing. You can also ask your veterinarian during your first puppy visit, which should occur within days after bringing that puppy home, and then consult about your puppy’s weight and progress at each of your subsequent puppy vaccination appointments.

IMG_3198Another very interesting resource is a Google Hangout that I was fortunate to participate in with Jeff Baker, the founder and President of Canine Caviar, when I was a content writer for them. He shares what I consider to be extremely interesting information on how the amount of food that you feed to small breed puppies can impact their colon and cause incontinence or colon issues. He also talks about how you can gauge whether or not your puppy is growing too quickly by whether or not their paws turn out to the side or face front.

A great resource on how many calories to feed your dog can be found on the Dog Food Advisor website using their Dog Food Calculator. Also check out their page about How To Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Weight. 

Thank you for reading and following me. Love, Laugh, Woof, and give your dog a tummy rub from me.

 

 

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Many Dogs Should You Have? One of the most frequent questions that I am asked after explaining that I blog and write about dogs for a living is, “How many dogs do you have?”

“I have two,” I always reply.

“Oh,” is the frequent response as if the person asking is disappointed that I do not have a house overflowing with dogs like the ending scene of 101 Dalmatians, or perhaps the scene when the Dalmatians look like black Labradors from running through the coal bin.

“I want to make sure I give them the best life possible, so I make myself limit our dog population to two,” I will often add, which is true, but it is also important to point out that the right number of dogs varies for everyone.

Before Jackson and Tinkerbell and before my late Dutch and Maggie were in my life, it was just my sweet black Labrador Babe and me. With a one-to-one human to dog ratio, she went everywhere with me. When my mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch, joined Babe and me, the transition was extremely hard on all of us. It took at least six months to acclimate to having two dogs and to get myself to the point where I could enjoy walking both of them at the same time and taking them both on adventures together with me.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe on a beach adventure

A year later I met my husband and when we joined his household, we suddenly had three dogs. Then as Babe and Dutch headed deeper and deeper into their senior years and each of them passed away at the age of 13, we felt utterly lost with only one dog and started to rebuild our dog family with the addition of Jackson and then Tinkerbell.

The decision of how many dogs to have in your own home is entirely personal based on your lifestyle and the relationship you want to have with your dog or dogs. I have one friend who easily manages five Labradors and Labradoodles, another friend who at one point had over ten dogs without being in a hoarder situation, and many friends who have a “human plus one” relationship with their dog.

My husband, the kids, and I all like to talk in both of our dogs’ fake human voices on a pretty regular basis. When Tinkerbell is pestering big brother Jackson to play with her by squeaking her favorite toy into his face for ten minutes without stopping or she is mounting him to try to get him to play, we often joke “I would have been ok as an only dog, Momma, seriously. I would have been fine, but NOOOOO, you thought I needed a playmate!”

Ninety seven percent of the time he eventually takes the bait (or simply gives up resisting) and starts to play with her, and the other three percent of the time he goes to his kennel and plops down with a huge sigh. At the end of the day, though, they are a truly bonded pair and he would be lost without his crazy little sister.

So why are we 100% set on sticking with “just” two dogs? Why not give Tinkerbell a second option as a playmate for those times when Jackson is not interested?

Our local dog ordinance is a big reason. It dictates that each home in our town can have a maximum of two dogs and two cats. We did live with one “extra” dog for the first few years that we lived together as a result of blending my 2 dog household with his 1 dog household. We would never have given a dog away, but after Babe passed away in 2009 at the age of thirteen, we knew we would remain a law-abiding two dog household because I had been very stressed about breaking a law that could affect my dogs’ actual lives.

A second important reason for limiting ourselves to two dogs is related to our budget. When we brought home first Jackson and then Tinkerbell, we committed ourselves to a lifetime of food, veterinary care, treats, toys, and all other dog related expenses. It would not be fair to them to stretch that budget by taking on another dog and then potentially not be able to care for all of them properly.

So would we get a third dog if we did not have a two dog ordinance and if money was not an object?

Probably not.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch

If you have seen the iconic movie Gone With the Wind, you might remember the scene with Scarlett O’Hara eating barbecue with a large group of suitors. “A girl has but two sides to her at a table,” she flirts with them as they hover in a group all around her, attending to her every need. When Babe and I used to dog sit for my mother when all three of her dogs were alive and she was actively going on scuba diving trips in tropical locations, I would sit down on the floor and essentially let all four of them (Mom’s three plus my Babe) wriggle their way in to get petted, to give me kisses, to lay across my lap, and generally be a 350 pound mass of squirming dogs all around me. Just like Scarlett flirting with the boys at the barbecue, I loved every moment of it, but it was impossible to give all of them an equal amount of attention.

I loved when we went outside and all four of them followed me around, everyone making eye contact with me when I said that it was time to go inside or if I offered up a biscuit. I loved bedtime when I squeezed into bed with all four of them and each dog found their spot to sleep. I loved it when I would wake up in the morning with my arm around one, another’s paws pushing into my spine, a third dog’s head on my feet, and a fourth dog laying on my pillow. I loved feeding time when I prepared four bowls and set them all out in their own spot, one at a time. I was in my dog lover glory with four dogs around me.

At the end of the day, though, just like a Southern Belle eating barbecue at a table in the old south, there are but two sides of me. Two hands for chin scratches, two hands to hold leashes, two hands to rub tummies.

When you have gone through a dog’s entire life cycle multiple times with different dogs who you all loved as heart dogs, from puppyhood through the senior years, you know exactly how quickly that time goes and you want to do everything that you can to make the most of the time that you have together. For me that means plenty of one-on-one attention with both of my dogs.

For being in suburbia, we have a nice large yard for potty breaks and playtime. It is perfect for games of zoomies or fetching a ball, but other than that it is not very interesting or mentally stimulating, at least not day after day. For the dogs to go on adventures we have to go to parks or forest preserves, and it is much easier to do so with two dogs instead of three or more.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Jackson & Tinkerbell

Although I can and do take both of them together, I really prefer to take one of them at a time so that we can have a very special one-on-one bonding experience as well as so I can make sure that nobody is snarfing down contraband items that humans or nature left behind. With two dogs I can alternate who has that experience with me; if we were to add a third or fourth dog it would reduce the number of times any dog would go off on a fun adventure with me.

This also holds true for snuggle time. Most evenings end up with Jackson laying across my husband’s lap getting ear rubs and tummy scratches while Tinkerbell lays the entire length of my body on top of me on our recliner and gives me kisses and gets an ear rub. If my husband is not home, each dog can take one side of me. When we have had fosters in the house, someone was always being pushed aside or left out during snuggle time.

When our big chocolate Labrador foster named Kodiak was in the house, Jax was the one pushed aside, usually literally. Kodiak was a huge friendly dog who I think was part Great Dane based on his size and the structure of his hips. He loved to snuggle and took up most of the sofa when he laid in my lap for affection. When foster dog Destiny was with us, Tinkerbell pulled back from me entirely because of all of the attention that Destiny was taking from me. In fact my husband pointed it out that Tink was subdued and actually depressed and I did not realize it until after Destiny had gone to her forever home and my sweet happy Tink was back in my lap again.

This does not mean that people with more than two dogs are not giving their dogs enough attention or love, or that my limit of two dogs is the right thing for everyone. My friend/breeder who brought Jackson and Tinkerbell into the world has around eight or so Labradors and she has a special heart-dog relationship with each and every one. She is also a professional trainer with a large piece of land and a pond and an indoor training facility that she owns and operates, so she can handle all of them easily when they go to their favorite beach and offer them much more fun and excitement than a large rectangle of fenced in grass right in their own backyard. My friend with the pack of five Labradors and Labradoodles also has a large piece of property that offers plenty of fun and games and new smells without going into suburbia for something new to sniff or see.

At least once a day I receive a note from someone with a wonderful dog in need of a home. “You love dogs, you need another one!” the message will say. Believe me when I say that there are many times I am tempted to throw all of our logical reasons for staying with two dogs away and adding to our dog family. But I always hold firm and try to share the information with other potential dog owners who can give the dog the one-on-one attention that it deserves while my dogs get the attention that I promised them when they were both little pups.

I do love dogs, without a shadow of a doubt. I love dogs so much that I have committed my life, my profession, my everything to caring for my two dogs, to getting the most out of every precious moment together, to giving them a healthy life that gives us more days than we might otherwise have, and reaching out to the world to help other dog owners create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs. And it is that same love of dogs that forces me to stick with two dogs.

At least for now.

 

 




Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell's First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell's First Restaurant TripEvery June lucky dogs throughout the country are able to go to work with their humans to celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day. With a self-employed dog blogger as their dog mom, for Jackson and Tinkerbell, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day. This year, however, a friend of mine from my all-time favorite networking group, Women Entrepreneur’s Secrets of Success (WESOS) decided to make up her own Take Your Dog to Network Day and arranged a meeting for any of her self-employed dog owner contacts to meet for a networking lunch with our furry best friends.

When the actual Take Your Dog to Network Day came around we had inclement weather, so the meet up was rescheduled for Friday, July 14. Since July is normally extremely warm here in the Chicagoland area, I chose to take Tinkerbell with me since she does a bit better in warmer temperatures.

Tinkerbell enjoying her walk along the Dupage River

A friend asked how I can take just one of them with me at a time, and the answer is that although I feel horrible taking one dog on a fun adventure and leaving the other home, I make sure I alternate who goes with me to make it fair in my own mind. They don’t remember, but I do, and so Jackson will get the next big adventure out into public or that consists of more than just a walk around the neighborhood.

Although they walk well on a leash together and we take the majority of our walks together, it is still easier for me to enjoy our time out on a big adventure with one dog at a time. Otherwise instead of enjoying that time with that particular dog and seeing his or her personality shine through, I am worried that one is snarfing up something from the ground like a piece of random food or animal waste while the other is sniffing something in another direction.

The day of the networking lunch we also received a spur of the moment invitation to be interviewed for a friend’s new webcast in the morning, so Tinkerbell and I headed out around 9:30 am. Part of my friend’s webcast includes her giving her guest a professional blowout in her home based hair salon, so this was Tinkerbell’s first experience in a hair salon. She was so excited to be in this new situation that she kept forgetting that she is not allowed to jump on people, so she jumped a bit on my friend before calming down to sniff every inch of the salon and then chilled by my feet while I had my hair dried.

Tinkerbell in front of the Naperville Carillon

We did the interview outside and Tinkerbell was elated to sniff around the yard and explore a heavily wooded yard which is the complete opposite of our house on what used to be a cornfield. I was elated that although both Jackson and Tinkerbell sometimes have selective hearing in our own yard, that in this strange yard as soon as I said her name or gave her the “come” command that she immediately turned to look at me or ran straight to me.

Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe
Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe

After we left our friend’s salon we headed to the Naperville, Illinois Riverwalk, which is a beautiful walking trail and park along the West Branch of the Dupage River. In fact my husband and I had part of our first date there as well as our engagement photos a few years later, so it is definitely a happy place for me. Tinkerbell loved it too and happily trotted along sniffing the smells and wagging her tail at other people as we headed to meet our fellow dog-owning business owners for lunch at the Riverwalk Cafe.

My WESOS sister Mary and her Collie Quincy were already there at an outdoor table so Tinkerbell and I joined them. Quincy was adopted by her family as a senior dog just last fall and it is believed that she lived as an outdoor dog her whole life. She was originally rescued by a horse rescue before she found her way to her forever family who loves her and dotes on her like every senior dog should be loved.

The beautiful Quincy saying hello across the table

A bit later we were joined by another WESOS sister, Cathy, and her one year old Golden Retriever Tucker. It was interesting to me that the dogs did not interact much other than to sniff each other in an introductory fashion. Of course there were a lot of other patrons and people walking around and all three dogs really focused

Tucker gets a drink of water

on us, their humans.

Tinkerbell is so social that I had worried that she might spend the entire lunch trying to get to all of the other humans or engage the other dogs in games of bitey face and zoomies, but she was pretty content to hang out with me. Of course that might have been because I bought Tink her very own side salad, without dressings or croutons of course. And I know, I know what you’re thinking, that I write all the time about the fact that dogs are not small furry people, but I did it on a whim to make the experience even more fun for her. I fed most of it to her well away from the table.

Tink’s salad

While I am an expert on creating a happy, healthy life for dogs, I won’t say that I’m never a pushover for my own dogs. They are well-behaved and trained, but they may or may not have had a piece of cucumber or some sort of treat slipped to them from the table at various times throughout their lives.

I am looking forward to our next Networking With Your Dog meeting so that Jackson can have his first restaurant experience and so that I can share the love of dogs with other female business owners and see how he reacts to dining al fresco with me. Although they are a bonded pair, Jax and Tinkerbell have such different personalities that it is fun to spend one-on-one time with each of them.

Sleepy Tinkerbell on the drive home

I find being out in public around other people and other dogs is a great bonding experience for our own human/dog bond because it confirms the fact that I am their human, their caretaker, and their trusted leader, and that they can and should check in with me for further instructions when they are in a strange place or situation. Well, for further instructions and perhaps a nibble of cucumber and some lettuce.

 

Happy Tails | PupJoy

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked Here in our house we have names and phrases for a lot of things that most “normal” people do not when it comes to our dogs. I have found that they have learned more than I ever imagined they would just from us using the same phrase each time they do something or we humans do something. This also applies to our practice of taking off and putting on their dog collars throughout the day.

“Naked dog!” is what we exclaim to them when we remove the collar, said with a happy joyful voice and a neck scratch for them.

“Get dressed” is the phrase that they have learned that means to lean their head forward and wait for their collar to be snapped back into place.

Before Jackson and Tinkerbell were born our other dogs, who have since gone to the Rainbow Bridge, always wore their collars, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By the time they became a threesome, none of them had to be in crates and they were all older middle-aged or senior dogs so there was really not any rough-housing taking place. They bonded mostly by snuggling and sniffing the yard together instead of playing zoomies and bitey face. Their collars never posed a hazard and our kids and their friends were so young and in and out of the fenced yard so often that the biggest threat was that a gate would be left open and one of the dogs would go exploring the neighborhood on their own, so a tag with identification on it was a must.

When we picked up Jackson as a little eight week old puppy, we noticed that our friend/breeder had entirely naked dogs; not a single one of her ten or so dogs wore a collar as they frolicked in and our of the house to greet us. Of course she is a professional dog trainer who owns a large piece of land in the country and her dogs are absolutely perfectly trained and seem to hang on to her every word, so the need for a collar and identification is not as strong as for some dog owners.

Over time, between watching how my dogs play with each other and from reading articles on crate safety, as well as from anecdotal stories of bad accidents or tragedies from collar related incidents, we now remove or put on Jackson and Tinkerbell’s collars throughout the day depending on the situation. additionally, we have had a few random incidents in which their tags on their collars got caught on things that could have been a hazard if we were not there to help.

When Jackson was a puppy he was persistent in his attempts to lick off our dirty dishes every time I loaded the dishwasher. We had many battles of wills during that time, with me patiently removing him and telling him “off” and him immediately resuming his licking attempts. Over and over, I would remove him, he would try again.

One day when he was around five months old he was sitting a few feet away from me, watching as I loaded the dishwasher. He was being very good in his sit and wait position but I could tell he really wanted to run over and lick off dirty plates.

As I turned to the sink to grab another dish, in the span of just a few seconds, he managed to put his front paws on the dishwasher door, and steal a lick from a dinner plate. I told him “OFF” and as he quickly backed away from the scene of his indiscretion, his tags caught in the wires of the dishwasher rack.

Jax panicked at the pulling sensation on his collar and took off in the opposite direction, but the dishwasher rack was firmly attached. Knives, forks, and plates bounced out and landed on the kitchen floor as Jax and the dishwasher rack went racing through the room like something out of a cartoon. I ran after him and stopped him and quickly unclipped his collar so that I could untangle the tags from the dishwasher rack.

The incident remedied his dish licking and he never approached the dishwasher again, but he could have really been hurt. Oddly enough, the same exact thing happened to Tinkerbell during her dish licking obsession as a puppy, and I had to chase her down and release her collar, like I was in some weird puppy vs. dishwasher deja vu situation. Of course we don’t leave the dishwasher open unless we are cleaning up after a meal, so this is not something likely to happen when an owner is away, but it definitely showed that their tags could get caught in bizarre things as our curious young dogs went about their daily lives.

Last summer we had a scary incident in the middle of the night when Tinkerbell woke me up by standing and whimpering next to my side of the bed. She had a habit of sleeping on top of the air conditioning vent and her tag had gone down through the slats while she was laying down and twisted. As a result, the entire metal vent cover came off of the vent when she stood up and was dangling awkwardly from her collar, the corner of the metal poking her in the neck slightly.

Since I was sound asleep it took me a minute to figure out what was attached to her and I quickly released her collar. Free from the metal grate, she jumped up into our bed and squirmed into my lap, her tail wagging furiously in fear and relief. After that I began to remove both dogs’ collars at night, although I have not seen her sleeping on top of the vent since.

Why Use Collars at All?

The function of the dog collar is of course to attach a leash for walking and to ensure that your dog has identification on him or her. If your dog slips out your front door and runs to a neighbor’s house, they can easily look at the tag, give you a call, and within minutes reunite you with your best friend. In fact, many people who find loose dogs falsely believe that a dog without a collar is a stray or uncared for, even though collars can come off rather easily and you cannot see if a dog is microchipped without having him or her scanned with a chip reader.

I personally prefer a harness for walking dogs because it takes the pressure off of the dogs’ throat and distributes it across their body. Even the best loose leash walking dogs get excited every once in a while when they see a favorite person or a rogue squirrel and could pull and damage their throat, spine, or neck. I cannot remember the last time I actually attached a leash to a collar. Jax and Tink wear their collars on walks but that is to carry their identification; the leash itself is attached to the back ring on their harness.

Dog Collar Hazards

Bitey Face/Zoomies

Naked while playing

Collars can pose a considerable hazard when you have multiple dogs who play with each other. Games of bitey face and zoomies can become dangerous or even deadly if one dog accidentally gets his or her teeth or jaw caught in another dog’s collar, causing damage to the dog whose mouth is stuck and potentially strangling the dog with the collar that is tightly stuck around the other dog’s mouth. You should always remove all collars before allowing your dog to play with another dog. 

Collars while out and about

In our house Jax and Tink are never left unsupervised for very long and I always remove both of their collars when I see their body language and behavior indicate that a game of rough housing is about to happen. They are both good about stopping in mid-play when I intervene, waiting to become “naked dog” and then resuming their play session. As they have become adult dogs and are trusted for longer times without a human in the room, I have started to remove their collars so that if a game erupts when I am in another room of the house they will not become intertwined.

Crates

I am a huge fan of crates but only if they are used correctly and in a positive way, which is to keep your dog safe from harming him or herself when you are not there to supervise their activities and decisions. Crates and collars together are a potentially deadly combination, as collars and tags can easily become caught in the slats of plastic crates or between the wires of metal crates and choke a dog. In fact in the last few weeks I have heard two different stories of dogs being strangled by collars that were caught in crates, which is the tragic and heartbreaking reason for the timing of this blog. Always remove your dog’s collar before putting them in a kennel or crate. 

I follow a very simple process any time the dogs go into their crates. I give the “kennel” command and they run to their specific crate to wait for their treat. First I give Jax his treat and remove his collar, then I give Tink her treat and remove her collar. I place each collar about six inches away from the kennel so that I know exactly where they are and so that they are handy to put back on the dogs when we come home and let them out of their crates.

An On/Off Approach to Dog Collars

I have ultimately taken an on/off approach to our dogs and collars so that they are either naked or wearing their collars depending on the situation. Their collars are always on if we go outside in our own yard or on walks because having my phone number on their collars means that they could be reunited with me quickly and not have to go somewhere to be scanned for their chips. I believe that if they ever slipped out of the gate or front door that they would be the type of dogs to run right up to the next person they saw for belly rubs and treats rather than the type of dog who would run away or evade humans, so having my phone number on their collars would lead to a faster reunion.

When they are in their kennels or I am sleeping or even just hanging out in the house, their collars are off and always put in a place where I can reach them quickly, like hanging from my dresser draw pulls or in front of their kennel doors in case of an emergency. Their harnesses also stay in the same spot on separate hooks that I can access quickly if we needed to leave the house or go into the basement for a tornado warning.

It may sound like a lot to put the collar on, take the collar off, but at the end of the day, it is how I feel safest and prepared for all situations. We take our own shoes on and off multiple times a day, we change our clothes depending on what we are doing, it is literally a few seconds per dog to put a collar on or take the collar off. That is very little time and effort to avoid a potentially life altering accident or tragedy because of a collar related incident.

 

 




Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature MonitorIf you believe in things like the Law of Attraction, you hear frequently that the Universe puts you right where you need to be at exactly the right time. I used to always think this was a mere coincidence, but in the last few years I have come to be a believer in this.

A few weeks ago I wrote about keeping your dog safe in summer weather even if you do not have air conditioning in your home. In fact, I even wrote:

Invest in a remote monitoring device: There are some inexpensive monitoring devices that will monitor the temperature in your home and send you text alerts or provide information via an app on your phone so you can determine if your home is at a safe temperature for your dog while you are away. I have not tried any of them so do not have recommendations but if I do you can be certain I will blog about it.

Yesterday I shared the story of how my husband and I have been shopping for campers and RVs for the last several months. One of our conversations while we were shopping was about our love for Disney and how my husband would love to stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. He mentioned that if we did that, we could take the dogs with us, especially since we always spend as long as a week visiting my father and step-mother and that they have never met their grand-dogs. Plus we would save on a pet sitter, and most importantly, we would not have to be away from them for such a long time.

Of course I brought up the concern that I would not feel comfortable leaving the dogs in a travel trailer in the Florida heat because although we would leave the air conditioning on there was always the possibility that it could fail while we were off exploring the parks. I would rather the dogs stay at home in Illinois than put them at risk in a hot camper.

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor“There has to be something on the market to monitor the temperature in the RV and send you information via text alerts or an app! It’s 2017, we have an app and monitors for everything, we can see and talk to people through our doorbell anywhere in the world,” I had told him, and we agreed that before we actually took the dogs camping at Disney, or anywhere that we would need to leave them alone for more than five minutes in the camper without us, we would research such a device.

Shortly after I wrote the blog about homes without air conditioning and the hubby and I pondered RV solutions, I attended a pet event and found myself assigned to a booth next to a woman who was sharing information on the RV Pet Safety Device. As I often do when I get excited about something, I am sure I overwhelmed her with my enthusiasm. Let’s face it, there’s a reason I love the Labrador breed so much; they are just like me!

“Oh. My. Gosh! I am so excited, I literally just wrote about devices like this and my husband and I have been shopping for RVs and we were just talking about how we would need something like this,” I exclaimed, “I am so excited to meet you!!”

Throughout the event she and I chatted anytime we had a free moment and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were moms, we had both left the corporate world to pursue careers that allowed us to actually have flexible lives instead of long commutes through suburban Chicago traffic, and we both were super excited about the possibilities of the technology of the product that she represents and its life saving potential.

A few weeks later we met up again and I was excited to borrow a unit that I could test for myself. Although we are not actually camping in an RV yet, I was able to take advantage of the July heat to test it by leaving it in my car on various trips to do errands. It is important to note that my dogs were safe and sound inside our climate controlled home. Only the device was left in the car in the heat while I wandered around various stores.

Here are my findings:

RV Pet Safety Device:

RV Pet Safety Device

The RV Pet Safety monitor is small, compact, and extremely easy to set up. The actual device measures around three inches by three inches and less than an inch thick. It is designed to be able to be moved from home to RV or anywhere your dog or cat stays, and comes with a bracket that you can mount with an adhesive backing to your home or RV. You can also place it on a flat surface like a shelf or counter.

I would suggest mounting the bracket to your RV near an electrical outlet and laying it on a counter top at home. Although they do not sell the bracket separately on their website, I would email the company and ask if you could purchase multiple brackets so you could move it around.

The charger is similar to a mobile phone charger with one end that goes into the device and a USB port at the other. You can plug it into a USB port in a vehicle or laptop to charge it or into the adaptor plug and into a traditional outlet.

RV Pet Safety App:

The RV Pet Safety App is equally easy to use. I set up my test account in just a few minutes, complete with a picture of Jackson and Tinkerbell, my mobile phone information, and custom settings for my desired temperature alerts for the lowest temperature and the warmest temperature that I would want the dogs to experience. It is important to add a buffer in the temperature settings to give you time for the unit to detect the actual temperature and for you to return to the location where your dogs are located in the event of an emergency.

There are also some help options within the app should a user have any problems, including a robust set of FAQs on setting up the app. Here are some screen shots of the easy to navigate pages. Remember, my dogs were happily at home in the air conditioning when I tested this unit in my empty car. 

 

Love, Laugh, Woof Recommendation: Love it! 

I found this device super easy to set up and use. Honestly, they could not have made it much more simple, plus they have a lot of help available should you need it, including a pop-up chat box for help on the website. In fact when I met with my new friend to pick up the test unit, I had arrived a few minutes before she did. While I waited I saw that she had sent me login credentials via email so within one to two minutes I had my app set up with my temperature specifications, alerts and contact information. When she said, “here, let me show you how to set up the app,” I said, “Oh, I already did it!” Now, in all fairness, I am one of those people who runs essentially their entire life from their phone, but it was still extremely user-friendly and simple.

The website is also easy to navigate with plenty of information. Check it out at https://rvpetsafety.com.

Love, Laugh, Woof Suggested Uses:

I want to be crystal clear here: this awesome device does not mean that dog owners can now leave their dogs in the car on a summer day when it’s 90 degrees outside and run into the grocery store for milk and bread with the car off and the windows cracked. That is still not safe because cars get too hot too fast. Period.

Home

I love the fact that the RV Pet Safety monitor can be used anywhere, including your home.  If you do not have central air or if you do have central air and leave the house for more than a few hours at a time, if you live somewhere with rolling brownouts during summer, or if you experience a power outage which can of course happen anytime or anywhere. We have had our central air break and our house got very hot very fast. I would have loved to have this when I was in my twenties and had only a window unit for air conditioning and used to obsess over whether or not my Labrador Babe was safe and comfortable at home while I was at work. Imagine the peace of mind if you are at the office an hour away and you can check in to see the temperature of your home!

RV/Campers

Of course, as the name states, the RV Pet Safety Monitor is also perfect for RV or camper owners who camp with their dogs or cats and want to have peace of mind if they want to go somewhere that does not allow their pets, like a restaurant, a bike ride, a local attraction or to a store. I nearly cried with relief when I found out this device existed because of the peace of mind it will give me when we finally do go get to camp at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campground and decide to take Jackson and Tinkerbell with us. It means that we could run over to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot for a few hours with the RV hooked up and the air conditioning running and get alerts to ensure that they are nice and cool despite the Florida heat.

Police/SAR Dogs

Police and Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs work under some of the worst conditions of working dogs. Some experts say that crime rates go up in the hottest months of the year, and police dogs are called upon constantly to help sniff out contraband and catch criminals regardless of the weather or conditions. The RV Pet Safety monitor could send alerts to officers or SAR handlers to let them know if the temperature in the car is safe for the dogs while they are waiting to be called into action.

Dog Show Handlers

Some professional dog show handlers transport and show multiple dogs at the same event, and these dogs are often transported in camper like trailers with built-in kennels. Although they should be equipped with air conditioning, the RV Pet Safety monitor would be able to provide additional peace of mind to handlers in case the air conditioning fails or there is a loss of power to the trailer.

Kennel Owners, Bird Hunters, and anywhere dogs are left alone

There are so many opportunities for the RV Pet Safety monitor to help alert owners or handlers to unsafe temperatures in any place that a dog is left alone without a human present at all times. Dog kennels, hunting dog trailers, doggie day care centers, even the long-term care areas of veterinary offices could all have peace of mind from this little device that was created by a company who gained significant expertise in monitoring food and pharmaceutical businesses before they launched their pet safety device.

Pricing

The RV Pet Safety monitor itself is $199 and you can save $50 with the special coupon code LYNN50 during checkout at https://rvpetsafety.com. Because the device operates with the same technology as mobile phones and goes through the Verizon cellular network, you will need a monthly plan for the device to work.

You can choose from one of two plans. With the Occasional Traveler plan, you pay $19.99 a month but you can stop and start it anytime, giving you the ability to only pay for the months that you use it. This is perfect for someone like me who is really worried about the warm summer months or only camps sporadically or during summer.

There is also the NoMads Plan, which is currently reduced to $14.50 a month and is paid annually in a lump sum of $175 a year. This is perfect for people who are living the dream of living in their 5th wheel or Class A motor coach and traveling the country or who want to monitor their home all year-long. If you are planning on using the device more than nine months out of the year, this plan makes more sense financially than paying monthly.

Finally, there is a discount for non-profit and government organizations and a special link on the RV Pet Safety website: https://rvpetsafety.com/k9-dogs or email me at lovelaughwoof@outlook.com and I will put you in contact with my friend at the company.

The special savings code LYNN50 is an affiliate code and I will earn a commission from any purchase with this code. As always, I will never recommend a product that I do not personally use or strongly believe in as being something extremely beneficial for you and your dog. Like I mentioned at the start, I was so excited to learn of the RV Pet Safety monitor that I simply had to learn more about it because of the peace of mind that it can offer to every dog owner like myself who worries about the conditions in which their dog is left alone when I have to go or choose to go to places that they can not go by my side. Save $50 with code LYNN50

 

Camping World

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping TrailerMy husband and I have been searching for a camper all spring and summer. We have looked at everything from a luxury fifth wheel (too heavy and too expensive for now) to a teeny tiny 8 foot pop-up camper and everything in between. Well, everything under 4,200 pounds, at least. Throughout our search one thing has remained constant: there must be room for the dogs, a way to kennel them should we need to, and air conditioning to keep them cool.

Camping is a fairly new thing for me. In the past I have gone on a handful of weekend camping trips back in my twenties and thirties with groups of friends, a cheap tent, some hot dogs and chips, and more of the cooler space dedicated to beer than to food. I have never done family style camping or taken any of my dogs except for one night when Babe and I stayed in a tent at a festival style party in a friend’s yard. Even in my younger days I always had the policy of no drinking allowed when responsible for dogs, period.

Growing up in rural New Jersey my family was extremely outdoorsy. We lived lakefront and had a canoe and rowboat at our disposal, went on tons of hikes, went downhill skiing all winter. We fished, rode horses, went ice skating, ice fishing, river rafting down the Delaware, took bicycle trips. My brothers and I played in the stream and the lake and the woods every waking moment that we were not at school until our parents made us come inside around 9 pm each night. But we never once went camping because all of those activities were either right in our yard or just a day trip away, or we went to our beloved Ridin Hy Ranch in upstate New York and stayed in cabins. Of course our black Labrador Retriever Snoop accompanied us on as many of these adventures as she could.

Fast forward to adulthood and although I still love the outdoors and would like to resume most of these things that I did as a kid with my own family, with Jackson and Tinkerbell by our side, I won’t pretend that my idea of camping is more glamping. I love to be outdoors by day and in a nice clean modern room to shower and sleep. If that room happened to have four or five stars, even better! Enter the need for a camper or RV!

With each version that we have viewed we have had the same criteria: room for us and at least two of the three teens, and sufficient room for two seventy pound Labradors. Floor plans with long, narrow areas are out because there is nowhere for a dog bed and for them to snuggle up comfortably. Slide outs to expand the living area or hybrid travel trailers in which the beds are located in tent like areas that extend past the camper walls give more floor space. Even square pop-up units seem to give more floor space for the dogs than a long, narrow travel trailer without slide outs.

I feel like we are on the HGTV show Tiny House Hunters as we contemplate each option and how it fits our life and family. “We can fold the dinette table down to a platform and toss dog beds up there at night, I bet Tinkerbell would sleep up there and Jax will probably prefer a bed on the floor” are among the things that we say. Or, “We could keep their travel crates in the back of the pickup when they aren’t in them and put them on top of the folded down dinette if we want to go somewhere that they are not allowed, like to the pool or a restaurant, as long as the air conditioning is functional and we have some way to monitor the temperature!”

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping TrailerI have learned that 57% of RV owners bring their pets along with them on camping trips, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. In fact we were recently shopping for campers at a Camping World location and I was happy to see that their selection of food and treats for dogs consisted of healthier, organic and grain free options and brands instead of the mainstream lower quality items that many stores that do not specialize in pets sell.

In fact their dog aisles were stocked nicely with plenty of options for dog beds, bowls, steps and ramps, toys, tie outs*, moveable fences, and a huge selection of Dog is Good clothing and housewares. In fact once we start to camp I will definitely be purchasing the cute hoodie sweatshirt with a black Labrador holding a hot dog roasting stick in her mouth! Since these stores are located near popular camping areas around the country, their selection of products gave me the idea that they are a go-to resource for pet owners who live a RV lifestyle. It was nice to know that as a customer we could look for one of their stores if we needed anything for our own dogs.

Although we began the summer about to purchase a brand new travel trailer with a toilet, a shower and a sofa, a veritable home on wheels, we decided to start small and inexpensively to make sure that we are indeed a family who even likes to camp. With this in mind, we have finally decided on the right option for us and are purchasing a vintage 1965 pop-up camper that we will gut and rehab from top to bottom. It may not have the amenities that I want, and right now it smells the way I imagine 1965 smelled, but we will make it so that it is cute and clean and dog friendly and has a place to go to the bathroom at 3 in the morning if needed.

Of course it had to meet the criteria of having a nice space for Jackson and Tinkerbell to comfortably sleep at night as well as in the event of inclement weather if we are all stuck inside. My husband is designing a table that can act as a platform for them with dog beds that will match the rest of the decor, although I have an idea that the same sleeping arrangement will happen as does at home with Tinkerbell on the bed and Jackson on the floor next to me. Regardless of where they choose to sleep in the camper, they will be right there with us on adventures, which is exactly where a dog should be.

*It is important to note that while I am not in favor of tie outs for dogs at home, I understand their purpose at a campsite to give the dog a bit more freedom as long as the owner is right there with the dog at all times.