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Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Safety & Emergency Prepping

My New RV Pet Safety Monitor

Last year my husband and I spent most of the spring and summer shopping for a travel trailer style RV, which I blogged about in the post, Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer. A few weeks later we purchased a super cool model called the TrailManor that folds down like a big pop-up but opens to be the size of a travel trailer, complete with a tiny bathroom and air conditioning, my two girly-girl requirements in a camper. Trailmanor camper

Of course, now that we have the camper, the "we could camp at Disney" discussion is on again. My husband would really love to stay at Fort Wilderness Campground, but no matter how much I love the outdoors, with the "rope-drop-to-kiss-goodnight" way that we do the Disney parks, after twelve or more hours of walking in theme park temperatures, I want ice cold air conditioning, a gorgeous shower, and a big clean bed every night. I'm fine with being dirty and grungy if our whole goal is to just hike with the dogs and relax in the woods, but "Diehard Disney Days with the Smiths" require hot showers, soap, and muscle restoring rest!

Because he knows exactly how to convince me to go along with his plans, my husband tossed this idea out into our shared universe: If we take the camper down to Disney, we can take the dogs with us. 

Wait, what?

I can go to my beloved Florida, go to Disney, visit my Dad, AND have my dogs with us, avoiding the separation anxiety that I go through each trip? 

Sign. Me. Up.

Of course, that excitement was immediately followed by my famous "what if" scenarios. You know, the kind that makes me excellent at thinking of endless dog safety topics for this blog but also drives more level-headed and less imaginative people (aka my husband and a few of our kids) crazy!

"What if the RV air conditioner malfunctions?

What if we blow a fuse? Is that even a thing? 

What if someone unplugs us from the power source?

What if the RV park loses power? 

I cannot go and have fun in a theme park while I am worried about my babies overheating in a hot camper!"

I have read several stories about losing power in the RV groups that I have joined on Facebook since we purchased our TrailManor, including one where the neighbors unplugged the RV and plugged theirs in instead, and they had their dogs inside! Thankfully their dogs were ok, but it made me double down on my mandate that if we were to take the dogs anywhere in the RV and we leave them for any amount of time, we will not do so without a temperature monitor.

Now, in all honesty, the way we do our intense all day park days, if Jackson and Tinkerbell were with us, I would probably take them over to the boarding kennel near the parks instead of leaving them alone in an unfamiliar place in their travel crates for more than a few hours at a time. I would never leave them in crates for that long, I would rather they be home with their pet sitter. The last few trips, though, we've started visiting Disney more like "normal" people, going to the parks in the morning until the noon heat and crowds develop, going back to the room and pool for the afternoon, and then back to the parks at night. But still, I would be a nervous wreck not knowing what was happening back at our RV no matter how short a time we were away. 

Ready to check out the camperSo, Florida RVing with the dogs has not happened yet, but we've taken them out locally and they've had a blast sniffing new areas, getting to be around actual trees (Jax marked literally every single one on every walk), and have staked out their sleeping spots inside with us, with Jackson on the sofa and Tinkerbell up in the bed with us humans. Each time I've thought about the RV Pet Safety Monitor that I had tested last year in a product review, and wished that we had one just in case the Disney issue came up again or we are camping locally and want to go swim in the campground pool or do something where the dogs were not allowed.

A few weeks ago, though, my phone rang, and my same friend who had originally let me try out the RV Pet Safety Monitor was on the phone and offered to send me her unit because she remembered that my husband and I were actively shopping for a camper. I eagerly accepted her offer, and I now have my very own monitor charging next to me as I type!

The RV Pet Safety Monitor is a really cool invention, and I like the fact that the company has experience in other types of cooling systems, so the technology is not new. Nimble Wireless, the company who sells the RV Pet Safety Monitor, also engineers and sells products that monitor refrigerated semi trucks, restaurants and cold rooms in the food industry. They decided to expand their technology to pets because just like so many of us, they saw the countless heartbreaking stories of dogs who have perished from being left in hot vehicles, and wanted to use their expertise to help save lives. 

I'm excited to have my own unit, so once it is ready I will give you an update on the setup of the device and my account. I plan on testing it out in a variety of situations without my dogs, so I can show how it monitor's the environment from everywhere using the cellular network. In the meantime, here are some photos of the unboxing of the device, I personally adore the little hang tag that they provide that you could put on the handle of your RV if you were camping somewhere.

Nimble Wireless RV Pet Safety Monitor

This is a sponsored post

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

Vows, Comfort and Familiarity

My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary earlier this week, and I was thinking about the vows that we took on that day in 2009. Like most couples these days we wrote our own personal vows that we spoke to each other and exchanged rings to the traditional words, "in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others, for as long as we both shall live." VOWS, COMFORT & FAMILIARITY

Of course, since we were in our mid-thirties when we met, we had each seen our share of both sides of that proverbial equation before we met, so we were not naive that life could throw some crazy stuff at anyone without warning. But, I still hoped that maybe we would be lucky and be spared the negatives even though I knew that we would be fully capable of handling anything together.

I also thought about how some things have changed and others stayed gloriously the same from our wedding day. Yeah, we've become old-married-homebodies in some ways, like watching The Big Bang Theory on TLC literally every night, but I can say that I still get that same feeling of excitement when he comes through the door after work as I did when my Dad and I walked out of the bride's room of our wedding venue and I saw him at the end of the aisle waiting for me.

This same feeling strikes me when we are at Disney and I have to use the ladies room and come out to see him standing off to the side, looking up ride times on his phone and planning our next activity. My heart skips a beat, I am overcome love, and I think " That's MY husband, I am the luckiest girl in the world!!!" I know his body language, his way of standing, his facial expressions, his mannerisms so well that I can always pick him out of a crowd in a matter of seconds. It doesn't hurt that he's 6'4" with a shaved head, but still, it's a feeling of joy to me that even though that newness of our first few dates or even our wedding day is long gone, and that the familiarity in its place is even better.

So, if you have read my blogs long enough, you know where I am going with this, right?

As I sat and thought about married love on my anniversary, I thought about the similarities with my relationships with my dogs. I did spend the day with just Jackson and Tinkerbell because my husband was at work, so instead of romance, I was doling out Labrador tummy rubs and ruining Jackson's day with some Panalog in a gunky ear, so it's not that weird that I was thinking about the dogs on a day that marks the joining of our lives together.

Comparing the lifelong commitment of a dog to a marriage is not new for me. It is in my blog, and I also have talked about it in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner. Obviously, this comparison is not to try to turn your dog into a furry human or to suggest that you have romantic dates with your dog.

It is about enjoying the familiarity when the newness fades, it is about being adaptable and working through problems and issues together. It is about not tossing them aside when someone younger and more fun comes along, someone who maybe doesn't puke on the rug at three in the morning because she ate part of a fleece toy (Tinkerbell) or ask for the 1000th night in a row if both dogs pooped and the ADT is set before bed (me).  It is about not leaving them cast aside when you want to make changes to other parts of your life. Both a successful marriage and a forever dog mean that you don't turn your back or let your love fade when shit gets real, literally and figuratively. 

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago as I hugged Jackson after being around a friend's puppy who was still small enough to pick up. In the same way that many mothers want to hold other people's babies because their kids are now too old enough to carry, I am the first person to ask a new puppy owner if I can pick up their puppy. So, I held my friend's little gray Staffy pup with the hazel eyes that seem to see right into your soul and nuzzled him and buried my face in his silky puppy coat, before going home to the Labrador Inquisition from Jackson and Tinkerbell.

VOWS, COMFORT & FAMILIARITYLater, at home, Jackson was laying on the sofa napping, almost in the fox sleeping position but not quite as tightly curled up as Tinkerbell likes to sleep. When Jax lays like that I love to kneel down on the sofa in front of him and lay my head on his shoulder. I wrap my arms around his body in a big circular hug, one arm embracing his rear end, the other circling around his head and front legs. I will stay like that, breathing in his Jackson smell, feeling his smooth black fur against my cheek, hoping that he can feel my energy flowing into him and that it is full of love and light. I do this until he gives a big doggie sigh and I give him his space again.

That night I thought about how he had once been such a small puppy, just fourteen pounds when he came home, so young and new and full of puppy firsts. His homecoming was one of the best days of my life, especially as he literally licked away the tears of pain I had cried with my late Babe and Dutch had passed away.  But no matter how much excitement there had been when he first arrived here in our home, it was nothing compared to the feeling I get now, of wrapping my arms around his big sturdy body and the closeness that comes after years and years of a beautiful dog-human bond.

And on my anniversary I realized that this feeling of snuggling Jax is quite similar to the feeling of laying my head on my husband's shoulder twelve years after our first date. I mean, it's different in the sense that my love with my husband is a romantic love, and with my dog, it is a maternal love. But the point is that neither is new, neither have that "wow is this really happening" feeling anymore like at the start of each relationship, but the feeling I have is even better than that. It is a feeling of comfort, of familiarity, and it is made possible by making those lifelong vows to not give up no matter what you face in life, whether it's to your spouse or your dog. I feel blessed beyond belief that I can feel that, no matter if it is with my husband, our dogs, our kids, all because none of us have given up on our vows.

Love, Laugh, Woof is proud to be sponsored by the RV Pet Safety monitor from Nimble Wireless

Love Laugh Woof RV Pet Safety Monitor
Photo by Aaron Barnaby on Unsplash
Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Planning for a New Dog

“But I Don’t Need a Show Dog” an article by Terri Lewin Gilbert

This article by Terri Lewin Gilbert provides an excellent explanation of why professional breeders who participate in conformation events are recommended for puppy buyers who are looking for purebred dogs as pets.

But I Don't Need a Show Dog by Terri Lewin Gilbert

Animal Love, Blogs

A Manatee, a Bird, and Faith in Humanity

I have a confession to make, although it probably is not a very earth-shattering one.

I am easily distracted by animal videos.

Yep. They get me every time. It's why I sat and watched and waited for April the Giraffe to give birth last year. It's why I end up pulled into the antics of the dogs in so many of the dog owner groups of which I am a member. And it happened again today.

This morning I was all set to be a productive member of society, or at least maybe just get some work done, and I started my day like I always do, opening Facebook as I enjoyed my second cup of coffee. As I was scrolling through my news feed, I came across a live video from a news station that showed good samaritans sitting next to a beached manatee on a beach in Florida.

 

Manatee at viewing center 2014
Manatee at viewing center 2014

Let me preface this by saying that I adore manatees. I love all marine mammals, really, but manatees and dolphins are at the top of my list. I am fortunate that my family lives in Florida near a manatee viewing area and whenever we visit during the winter or early spring, we make sure we make a trip to go and watch for glimpses of these magnificent animals who have come to the area in search of warmer waters. I have stared for hours into the dark murky depths, waiting to see a dark grey nose poke through the water and to hear the sound of the manatee taking a breath before sinking back below the surface.

 

As I watched the live news feed, a small crowd of people stood waiting for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to arrive with a rescue team, and had put damp t-shirts and towels over the top of the manatee's back and placed umbrellas to block the sun to keep her cool and wet. A few women were bringing buckets of water from the ocean to pour over her from time to time. Two men sat next to the manatee, one of whom had the tell-tale scar from a knee replacement running in a pink line down his tanned leg, something I have seen frequently during my many visits to Florida.

Over the next hour or so I watched as the rescue team arrived. According to the woman who led the rescue, female manatees frequently beach themselves to get away from unwanted male attention and can often safely just wait for the next high tide to take them back out to sea, but if it is an extremely hot or sunny day, the FWC will intervene and help them back to the water. With great care and as much tenderness as they could use to not cause the manatee any pain, they inserted a microchip so that they could identify her if they came across her again, and then led the group through the process of helping her back to the water.

A large group of men and women had volunteered to help carry the manatee on a stretcher made for marine mammal rescue, and my eyes got watery a few times as I watched this group of humans work very carefully to slide large strips of fabric under her, making sure they did not catch her face or her flippers as they slid the material between her body and the sand. The next step was to use those pieces of fabric to roll her over onto one side to slide the stretcher underneath her, and then roll her to the other side to pull the stretcher all the way underneath her body. I watched as the man with the scar on his knee joined the rest of the volunteers as they knelt down beside her, knowing that many people still have pain even after a replacement, yet he was down there on hands and knees, helping her all the same.

It was amazing how patiently she laid there letting people move her body about. Granted, manatees are not exactly known for being aggressive or harmful to humans, but she is still a wild animal and could have easily started to thrash about and potentially injure someone. She seemed to accept the fact that they were helping her.

Once they got her loaded onto the stretcher, they carried her to the water and into an area deep enough for her to swim away on her own. I watched as the person in charge made sure that her face was not dragging in the sand as they trudged to the shoreline, an extra bit of compassion that made my heart happy. They stopped several times to gently lower her to the ground and take a break so as to not injure themselves, since carrying a thousand pound animal is a labor-intensive task no matter how many people you have doing the heavy lifting.

Eventually, they reached water deep enough that she flipped her giant tail fluke and swam away on her own without any encouragement. Her departure was followed by cheers and celebration, and I watched while men (who I assumed were strangers) hugged each other, shook hands, and headed back up to the beach to return to whatever they had been doing before they all came together to help an animal in need. As for myself, here in the Chicago suburbs, I wiped happy tears from my eyes.

I have written about this before, but every single day on social media and on the news on TV, we see humans doing inhumane things. We see abuse and neglect happening both to animals and to fellow humans, day in and day out.  It is not easy to go through the world as a compassionate animal lover because we feel our hearts break every single time we see another member of our own species exhibiting cruelty and evil. But then there are days like this that restore our faith, that remind us of the fact that for all of the horrible things that we see, there are just as many people helping and nurturing and saving our animals and fellow humans.

Literally, right after clicking off of the manatee video, I came across a friend's status of how she had spent part of her morning. She had shared a short clip of a bird that was caught in the ribbon of a balloon that had been tied to a mailbox, probably by homeowners who were identifying their guests that they were having a party of some sort, since that seems to be the main reason a balloon would be tied to a mailbox. The bird was struggling to get free from the ribbon but was too tangled to free himself.

The tangled bird my friend rescued
The tangled bird my friend rescued

My friend's status said, "Coming to work this a.m., saw this. Of course, I turned around & had to save the lil dude. He was wrapped around balloon string on a mailbox. Had to chew string to break it.😂 Dudes mate was trying to attack me the whole time. Finally gnawed thru string & could hold lil dude to unravel him & he was biting me the whole time but he is now free & flew off into the sunrise with his mate. Happy Friday peeps."

Of course, I met this particular friend because of a shared love of dogs, so I am not at all surprised that she is the type of compassionate human who would use her own teeth to chew through a ribbon while being attacked and pecked by a different bird, to free an innocent Robin and save his life, but I am nonetheless still extremely proud to call her a friend. How many people might not have even noticed this bird, or driven past without stopping? How many people might have written it off as "just a bird" instead of caring about saving an individual life regardless of the species?

Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. is quoted as saying, "Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking." No one was looking when the first person originally discovered the beached manatee before the TV crews showed up, and nobody was looking when my friend saved a single bird from dying this morning. I am so thankful that we have people with character like this to help the animals that we are on earth to protect. It helps us get through the day with joy and a happy heart, and it helps the animals live to see another day of their very precious lives.

Watch the full video of the manatee rescue here:

Want to help in the efforts to help Florida manatees? Here are some resources

Adopt-A-Manatee: https://www.savethemanatee.org/how-to-help/adopt-a-manatee/

The Manatee Store (I saw a dog collar and leash in here!) : https://www.shopsavethemanatee.org/

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission: http://myfwc.com/get-involved/support-fwc/

Homemade Sweet Potato Treats
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition

Homemade Sweet Potato Dog Treats

We go through a lot of dog treats in our house. A lot. I may be well educated on how to create a happy, healthy lifestyle for your dog, but I've never said I wasn't a pushover. I mean, it's not like my dogs aren't well behaved and trained, so it's ok if they get a treat every single time they go inside or outside, or before bed, or into their kennels, or if they go and stare adorably at the treat container...

Fortunately, all of the brands and varieties that I purchase have great ingredients that supplement their regular food, so I feel good feeding them to Jackson and Tinkerbell. With my strict criteria for treats, though, it can be extremely expensive to purchase organic, grain free options, and you can easily spend over $100 a month on just treats. Enter...the food dehydrator!

It wasn't too big of an ah-ha moment when I stood and looked at the bags of sweet potato chips, carrot chips, and green bean chips in the healthy pet product store selling for $8 and up and realized, "hey, I could make those in that food dehydrator that's  collecting dust in our cabinet!"

So far we have just done sweet potatoes and carrots, but I will be adding other options like green beans, spinach, and kale soon. And yes, my dogs adore all of those and many other fruits and vegetables, which I've blogged about before: Jackson and Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce Picks.

Here is the super easy process for making your own dehydrated treats!

I prefer to peel the potatoes and use a kitchen mandolin to slice them because it is easier to get a uniform thickness. You can slice either direction to create smaller round slices or longer slices. If you do not have a mandolin, slice with a knife and try to keep your slices the same thickness. Our mandolin is ancient and scary; please get one with more safety features than this! 

Jax and Tink like to hover as soon as I start peeling...

If using a kitchen mandolin, make sure you use the accompanying safety holder so you do not remove any human parts. 

All sliced and ready to be dehydrated! 

Place slices in a food dehydrator, placing larger pieces toward the bottom. If you do not have a food dehydrator you can use your oven at around 140 degrees or your lowest setting. 

During the dehydration process, I suggest checking on them and moving the trays around depending how each layer is cooking. 

Viola! A few hours ready your treats are ready to give to your dog! I store in food storage containers right by the door to our yard.

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Identifying and Choosing a Responsible Breeder
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Planning for a New Dog

Identifying and Choosing a Responsible Breeder

If you have decided that a purebred puppy is the right dog for you, there is still a considerable amount of research to be done to ensure that you find a responsible breeder who is breeding dogs for the right reasons and with a professional level of knowledge. Buying a purebred puppy from a breeder is more than a sales transaction, it is the start of a relationship with someone who can and should be a resource for you for all of the dog's life. This article contains sixteen important qualities to look for when finding the perfect breeder for your purebred puppy. 

1. Requires an Extensive Application Process: 

Good breeders will require an extensive application to be submitted by potential puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are going to forever homes where they will receive the appropriate care, socialization, training, affection, and exercise. Responsible breeders care about each and every puppy that they bring into the world and work hard to ensure that they will be treated with the same love, care, respect and attention that they would have provided themselves.

Our application for Jax was multiple pages long, including questions about our philosophy on dog training, books we had read, our experience with dogs, what had happened to other dogs in our life, and a variety of other questions. Click on the following link to see an excellent example of the type of application that you should expect to be required: http://www.libertyrunkennel.com/Swissy_application.pdf

2. Offers a Lifetime Return Policy: 

This means that the breeder will take the dog back at any point in its life and dictates that the owner is not allowed to surrender the dog to a shelter or rescue under any circumstances at any point in the dog's life. Some breeders (including ours) will also ask to be the backup contact on the dog’s microchip for life and ask to be included in the owner's will if something happens to the owner(s) while the dog is alive. When a breeder offers a lifetime return policy, not only does it mean that you will have someone to take your dog if something happens to you, but it also is a sign that the breeder has a lifelong commitment to all of the puppies that he or she produces. This is another indicator that the breeder is breeding for love of the breed and a love of dogs and not simply for financial gain.

3. Only Offers AKC Limited Registration: 

Many show/hobby/professional breeders will only sell dogs with a Limited Registration, meaning that the dog itself is fully registered with the American Kennel Club but any puppies that he or she produces cannot be registered. This protects the bloodline and also means that puppy buyers cannot sell registered puppies from their dog. This is done to deter would-be backyard breeders by taking away some of the monetary value that they could receive for puppies, which is the motivation of unscrupulous puppy farm operators and many backyard breeders.

4. Has a Demand Before Creating the Supply: 

Responsible breeders wait for a demand for their puppies before they create a supply. Many only breed a litter when they want to keep a puppy for themselves, and the chances are high that you will be on a waitlist in order to purchase a puppy from them.

Jax was already in utero when we found out about him and we honestly got lucky. Our breeder was referred to us by one of my husband's co-workers after our Dutch passed away. There was one spot left for a puppy buyer when our application was approved; otherwise, we would have been on a waiting list for the next litter which was planned for the following winter. Jax was born in March, meaning our wait would have been nearly a year.

If you look at the Past Litters page of the German Shorthaired Pointer who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016, you will see that they average around one litter per year since 2002.  You will also see that most of the females were only bred a few times, which I address further on in this article. This is indicative of a very responsible dog breeder who is committed to not contributing to the pet overpopulation problem as well as one who is not breeding for financial gain. 

5. Includes a Mandatory Spay/Neuter Clause

Many breeders require their puppy buyers to spay/neuter their dogs within a certain time period. This also helps reduce unwanted litters, both intentional and accidental. This is a dual purpose in helping decrease the pet population and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers for both male and female dogs.

Another common practice is for show/hobby/professional breeders to only allow co-owned dogs to be kept intact and able to reproduce. A co-owned dog typically lives with the puppy buyer full time and is their dog for day-to-day life but is only bred when the original breeder permits a breeding to occur. Tinkerbell's mother is co-owned by her family and our breeder. She has had two litters and spent that time at the breeder's home delivering and tending to her puppies for the first eight or so weeks of their lives, but other than that is a beloved family pet and hunting champion happily living the life every Labrador Retriever deserves.

6. Promotes Rescue and Shelter Adoptions

Of course, purebred puppies from a breeder are not going to be the right option for everyone, and there are plenty of incredible purebred or mixed breed puppies and grown dogs waiting for their forever home in shelters and rescue organizations everywhere.

Responsible breeders are usually extremely supportive of dog adoption and rescue and will send potential puppy buyers to these resources if they do not have litters on the way or when they think that a buyer might do better with a grown dog or a different type of dog. Responsible breeders are dog lovers and dog advocates and are just as upset by the rampant dog overpopulation problem and heartbreaking euthanasia of healthy, innocent dogs as other dog lovers.

7. Is an AKC Breeder of Merit

The American Kennel Club Breeder of Merit program identifies breeders who have a history of five or more years of involvement in AKC events, have earned AKC titles in Conformation, Performance or Companion events on at least four dogs from AKC litters that they have bred or co-bred, perform the recommended health tests and obtain certifications that their dogs have passed these tests, and are members of an AKC club. All of this is done to distinguish responsible breeders from puppy factory operators and backyard breeders. 

From the AKC site: AKC Breeder of Merit Participants demonstrate a commitment to the AKC Community, dedication to their breed(s), and actively promote the sport of purebred dogs. The AKC is proud to recognize AKC Breeders who are dedicated to breeding beautiful purebred dogs whose appearance, temperament, and ability are true to their breed. These breeders are the heart of AKC.

Breeders will usually proudly display this designation on their website, or you can search the AKC website: https://www.apps.akc.org//apps/breederofmerit/breederofmerit_list.cfm.

8. Performs Health Tests for Common Breed-Specific Health Issues

Every dog breed in the American Kennel  Club has a parent club that maintains the breed standard, or the guidelines for correct appearance, temperament and movement of all dogs registered as that breed. These guidelines are more than just ensuring that the dog looks a certain way for aesthetically pleasing reasons; because all dog breeds are bred for specific functions, these guidelines ensure that the dogs are able to perform these functions. For example, the big thick otter tail of the Labrador Retriever is not just because it is visually appealing, it acts as a rudder when the dog is swimming so that the dog can maneuver in the water more easily.

Unfortunately, many breeds also have common health problems and responsible breeders work hard to keep those problems from afflicting their dogs and puppies. Using our example of the German Shorthaired Pointer breed again, if you were looking for a GSP puppy, you would look for a breeder testing parents for hips, elbows, heart and eyes. Of course, this does not guarantee that one of these issues will not be passed onto a puppy by a dog who has received good test results, but it helps decrease the likelihood as well as identify breeders who are considering these issues when choosing which sire and dam to use for a planned litter.

Here is a link to the AKC list of suggested tests: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeders/bred-with-heart/health-testing-requirements. If you look at champion German Shorthaired Pointer CJ, you will see test results listed right at the top of his sire information page: http://www.mystkennels.com/MYSTOurDogs/CJ/VJKMYSTDogsCJ.htm.

9. Does Not Overbreed Their Female Dogs

Dams should have active, happy lives as beloved pets, show dogs, or performing the activities for which they were bred. Puppy mill females live a tragic existence in cages their entire lives and give birth to litter after litter after litter. A responsible breeder will sometimes only breed the same female a few times, and when she is not pregnant or tending to her puppies in a whelping pen, she is living a full and happy life. You can sometimes research how often a female is being used for breeding by searching Past Litters and Planned Litters pages on a breeder's website.

Jackson's mother is my breeder's "heart" dog, meaning she is one of the most special dogs that my breeder has ever raised with an extra special dog/human emotional connection. Just like Tinkerbell's mother, she has had a few litters in her life, lives on a large piece of land that I like to call Labrador Retriever Utopia with a pond in which to swim and plenty of acres to explore. Now spayed, she is happily sleeping on the breeder's bed, playing with the other dogs, and generally living a happy, healthy life.

10. The Dogs are an Active Part of the Breeder's Life

Seeing language that is overly sales oriented is a red flag that the breeder is seeking to make a substantial profit by breeding a lot of puppies instead of breeding in order to bring new dogs into their program to keep for themselves. Look for breeder websites that focus less on sales and how much you should want one of their puppies and more on how the dogs are an active part of the breeder's life.

When my husband received a suggestion to check out our breeder, the most notable thing about her website was the detail about each dog listed on her site. She included vivid detail about their successes, their personalities, how they were as puppies and how they are as grown dogs so that it seemed as if we knew them. Each dog has their own page on her website, filled with photos of them competing or just playing with the breeder. Her Brags page was an extension of those individual pages, with more stories of what each dog had done with her over the years, whether they were competing in hunt tests, conformation, or agility. I could see that each dog was a beloved family member and not just "breeding stock" with the purpose of producing puppies.

11. Readily Displays the Sire's and Dam's Pedigrees

Look for breeders who willingly offer the pedigree of all of their breeding stock. Not only should the pedigree be something of which the breeder is proud to display, but it also offers you the ability to research and Google the dogs whose DNA has contributed to your future puppy. Responsible breeders often know each other from dog shows and from using each other's stud dogs with their own females to prevent inbreeding. Here is a great example of a Labrador Retriever breeder that displays several generations of their dogs' pedigrees: http://www.dickendall.com/heath.html.

12. Does Not Breed for Odd Colors or Markings

Coat color is part of a breed's standard, and responsible breeders typically breed for standard coats. Breeders who encourage new colors or unique coat markings raise a red flag that they are breeding specifically for color rather than other qualities like temperament, intelligence, and adherence to the breed standard. This can have a negative impact on the puppies in the form of health problems, diminished intellectual ability and a different temperament than puppy buyers might expect.

A good example of this is the Labrador Retriever. Labrador Retrievers come in three colors: yellow, black and chocolate. Yellows can range from so light that they appear white and so dark that they appear almost red. However, they are all still yellow. Some breeders will focus on breeding specific hues of yellow and advertise "white" or "fox red" Labrador Retrievers. Additionally, there is a controversial "silver" color that is the subject of much debate, with advocates claiming that it is a version of chocolate and opponents claiming that this color comes from breeding Labrador Retrievers with Weimaraners.

13. Does Not Sell Puppies Through Online Puppy Brokers or Pet Stores 

Top dog breeders do not sell through online puppy brokers or pet stores. As mentioned above, it is common for a breeder to have a waitlist for their puppies because of the infrequency of their litters. They do not need to advertise to sell puppies, and they will not be willing to give up control over who purchases their puppies.

14. Will Not Ship Puppies

Look for breeders who will not ship puppies to their future homes. You can purchase puppies from breeders who do not live near you, but you will need to travel to pick up the puppy in person. This is dual purpose so that not only does the breeder get to meet you in person and see how you interact with the other dogs on the property and your new puppy, but to also ensure that the puppy is transported home safely and never in the cargo area of an airplane.

If you fly to pick up your new dog, make sure that the puppy will be small enough to comfortably fit in a travel crate that can go under your seat in the main cabin. Otherwise make arrangements to drive to pick up the puppy, as relegating puppies to the cargo area is unacceptable and cruel. 

15. Discusses Socialization and Training on Their Website

Look for breeders who stress the importance of socialization and training on their website. Responsible breeders will introduce puppies to new experiences in a positive way before they are ready to go home to you. Some will also start to train the puppies on very basic commands. Jackson and Tinkerbell, along with their littermates, were both trained to sit and wait for their food before they came to us at eight weeks old. We also received extensive documentation on various puppy rearing topics to help us navigate puppyhood and prepare them to fulfill their potential as incredible dogs.

16. Is Someone You Like

I mentioned in the first paragraph that buying a puppy from a purebred dog breeder is far more than just a sales transaction. Your breeder should be a resource to whom you can turn for questions and guidance at any point in the dog's life. I am friends on social media with our breeder and I truly feel like she is part of my family. I love reading stories about Jackson's mother, I cry when some of the older dogs at the breeder's house pass on to the rainbow bridge, I fall in love when she breeds a new litter and shares photos of the puppies that she keeps for herself. I worry about her and all of the dogs when I see storm warnings in the summer in her area.

As the human dog mom to two of her puppies, I feel a connection to her. By facilitating the breeding of my two dogs, she has changed and improved my life forever. It is an honor that she felt that I was worthy to raise these magnificent dogs that she helped bring into the world.  It is important to choose someone who you like and who you feel comfortable reaching out to with your own questions as you raise your own puppy into an adult dog and for all the days of your dog's life.

I have provided a PDF file with a checklist that you can use when you are researching particular breeders.  You may also find the attached Excel template useful if you are researching and comparing multiple breeders.

Identifying and Choosing a Responsible Breeder: Checklist.pdf

Breeder Comparision Workbook.xltx

soul searching, temp jobs and renewed passion blog title
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

Soul Searching, Temp Jobs, and Renewed Passion

The most amazing thing about creating your own career and passion project out of nothing but your own thoughts and imagination is that you can do anything that you want, go in any direction, and make all of your own decisions. The most stressful and confusing thing about creating your own career and passion project out of nothing but your own thoughts and imagination is that you can do anything that you want, go in any direction, and make all of your own decisions.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Having so much autonomy and flexibility is both a blessing and a curse. I often find myself wishing that my perfect job involved selling a single thing that I believed in 1000%. It's not that I think a sales job is easy, or that I would be a particularly great salesperson, but I see so many fellow entrepreneurs who happily sell a specific product, and have a laser focus and a mission that is clear to everyone they meet. Conversely, I often feel like Dug from Up, distracted by squirrels all day as I wrangle so many ideas of what this blog can and should be with its style, tone, and content entirely up to me.

If you did not know this, there are about a bazillion experts out in the world who are in the business of teaching other entrepreneurs how to achieve success in this increasingly popular world of following your dream and making your own career out of what you love.  For a very long time, I tried to listen to all of them until my mind became a mess of master classes, membership sites, Facebook challenges, complicated marketing funnels and every other technique they suggest to transition from poor starving writer to Snapchatting from a yacht somewhere.

Trying to chase after all of those expert ideas came to a stop earlier this year when I realized that I was not waking up with any passion whatsoever for my business. None. In fact, it really hit home when a friend of mine posted that she wished sleep was not necessary because she was so fired up by the things she was doing for her business, and I thought, "why don't I feel the same???" All I wanted to do was curl up with Jax and Tink and watch Real Housewives marathons, only that was depressing because they are all extremely successful business women with a singular focus!

The thing is, I was trying to follow all of these experts and their advice and do just like they did, only instead of achieving my dream, I was miserable, uninspired, confused and listless. I did not want to write and my energy was horribly negative and I was just depressed, bummed, and feeling like I should quit and go back to the secure world of having a traditional job.

But instead of quitting my blog, I decided to quit following all of these experts and just get back to writing about dogs and how amazing they are. The original focus of this blog was to write about being a compassionate loving owner, how incredible dogs are as a species, the beauty of our interspecies friendships, and the emotional side of being a dog lover, with some health topics and stuff in there from time to time, too. And so that's where we are going again! We are going back to my passion, your passion, and the passion of everyone whose hearts have ever held this tremendous love of dogs.  

I have been an avid reader ever since childhood and as a little girl I dreamt of being like James Herriot, the British veterinarian who wrote the famous books All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All. Mom bought me a boxed set of all 4 titles one year when I was around 8 or 9 and I would read the spines as if they were a poem and then read each book over and over and over. For the longest time, I wanted to be a veterinarian just like him but instead, I pursued an education in English and really forgot all about those wonderful stories as an adult as my reading material switched to Shakespeare and Chaucer in college and then chick-lit after graduation.

A few weeks ago I started thinking about those books and how much they influenced me as a child, and I realized that while I might not have become a country veterinarian, that being a dog blogger was pretty darn close to achieving that childhood dream. It was one of many big ah-ha moments in which I realized that this focus of going back to the original intention of this blog was exactly what I was meant to do.

And so, I have spent the last few months working some temporary assignments for other companies, doing some freelance/ghost blogging for business to business clients, and making some changes to my website, email list, and the Happy, Healthy Dog group. I am ready to have some fun again and to get back to sharing the love, the laughter and of course the woofing that makes us love our dogs so very much, and couldn't be happier that you, my friends, family and readers, are still with me!

 

 

 

 

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Jackson's 7 Year Gotchaversary
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jax’s 7 Year Gotchaversary

Jax on his Gotcha dateSeven years ago today I met one of the great loves of my life. I had already fallen in love with him through email and photos and stories of how special he was, and meeting him in real life for the first time just sealed the deal. His first kisses solidified in my heart that he would spend the rest of his life with me, and my heart was full of love and hope as I signed the papers to make his place in my life official.

Of course you’ve already figured out that I am talking about Jackson, my beloved male Labrador Retriever. I mean, this is a blog about dogs not human stuff.

Jackson is the dog who showed me that you can have multiple heart dogs in your life, that you can have more than one soul dog. If you have read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, or my blog on a regular basis, you know that Jackson came home to us as an eight-week old puppy not too long after I lost both of my beloved dogs, Babe and Dutch. Little Jax licked away the tears that I had cried for them and filled up the hole in my heart with his own unique personality and quirks.

There is no doubt that Jackson and I have a special bond. He is different in every way from every other Labrador Retriever who I have ever had. He may meet all of the breed standards for looks and personality, but Jax is his very own unique dog, and I feel a very special connection to him that is hard to put into words. He has such a serious, intense look to him, and at the same time is silly and sweet and has an actual sense of humor like I’ve never seen in a dog. He thinks things through and works things out to the point where we joke that we should have named him Sheldon Cooper instead of Jackson.

I suppose not only is he a much different dog than Babe was, but I am a different version of myself. Babe was with me during my 20s and 30s, and Jax was born just a few days after I turned 40, and yet the mature, settled adult version of me needs him just as much as the young woman figuring out life needed Babe.

Jax has no idea that it his Gotchaversary, since he is a dog and doesn’t think like that. I did tell him the whole story earlier today, but I am pretty sure that he just cared that he was getting a nice long tummy rub.

The thing I have learned about a day like this is that even though I was just playing around when I started off writing as if today was a wedding anniversary instead of the day that we picked up Jax, your dog’s Gotcha date is very similar to a wedding date in a very special way. Not only is it the start of a lifelong vow and commitment, but when you choose the right spouse or the right puppy, your big day turns into a happy day in a lifetime of happy days. Jackson 7 years old

When you get married, it is the happiest day of your life up until that point. And of course it is usually a memorable day with fabulous attire, great food, a huge cake and all of your loved ones surrounding you. But despite all of those things, you keep adding extraordinarily happy days with that person, whether it is the birth of a child or another life event, or everyday pleasures like laughing at a private joke or a simple afternoon spent together just the two of you.

Whether you are picking your puppy up or adopting a grown dog, the Gotcha date is just the start of a life together. It may be the happiest day of your life with that dog at that point, but it is just the start. So no matter how special of a memory it is to remember the day we picked Jackson up from our breeder, and got those first puppy breath kisses all over my face, or made his name official, this time with him as a big, sturdy grown up dog are also the happiest days of my life with him. Whether I am watching him sniff his way along a favorite walking trail, do his signature “upside down puppy” maneuver to flip over for a belly rub, or learn new habits like “awkward snuggling” with his Daddy, life with Jackson just gets better and better.

 

 

Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service

Growing up where I did, we never cared about having a perfect lawn. In fact, most of our property was heavily wooded and forest-like, which was the whole reason my parents purchased it in the first place. Once a week Dad would mow while I used the hand trimmers around the rock gardens, and that was about it for lawn care.

In fact, my first experience with lawn obsessed home owners was when I moved in with my husband into our subdivision eleven years ago and a woman from our HOA had the nerve to come into our yard and measure our grass with a ruler and then report us for it being too long.

Over a decade later, I now know that suburbanites take their green grass seriously. In past years we have had the streets crawling with lawn care service salesmen, going door to door to try to shame us into hiring them because our neighbors did.

Personally, I don’t care if we have dandelions or clover in the grass or if the yard is one giant weed. As they say on the television show, Once Upon a Time, “Magic always comes with a price, dearie,” and I am not willing to gamble on what that price might be later on. I am not willing to gamble with my dogs’ lives on which studies are correct, those done by the lawn care chemical companies or those done by comparative oncology programs at respected universities.

dogs and lawn careSo how can we all live happily together in suburbia? How can lawn aficionados and dog lovers be at peace with each other instead of glaring at each other from across their 4 foot fences, without the grass being noticeably greener on the chemically treated side?

Fortunately there is an abundance of organic lawn care advice on the internet, and some lawn care companies are stepping up to offer organic lawn care services to people who have a passion for a green lawn and a healthy environment for their children and dogs.

DIY Organic Lawn Care

Organic lawn care focuses on the overall condition of your soil and your grass instead of applying a magical chemical formula (2,4-D or glyphosate) that somehow knows to kill the weeds and leave the grass. According to the various blogs and articles that I have found on this topic, organic lawn care requires more attention, planning and work,  but I personally think it is a fair trade-off when you can watch your dogs rolling around on the grass or having a green leafy snack without worrying about what they are ingesting.

Essentially the way it works is that by promoting healthy soil, watering appropriately, cutting the grass higher than most homeowners do, and letting the trimmings act as mulch, you create a lawn that is so healthy and robust that it naturally chokes out the weeds instead of perpetuating an unhealthy environment in which weeds flourish. It sounds very logical when you think about it, kind of like figuring out why a certain part of your body hurts and fixing it instead of popping Advil every four hours!

Here are some great links I found that are a good starting point if you are going to pursue your own organic lawn care regimen:

6 Steps To Create A Vibrant And Lush Organic Lawn

The Organic Way to Mow Your Lawn

Tips for a Lush Organic Lawn

Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy 

Hiring a Service

Good old Google is a great way to find organic lawn care providers in your area. In researching this topic for blogs over the years, I have learned that in addition to companies who offer only organic solutions, some of the more “traditional” big name companies are now offering organic services, too. This makes me very happy because I am not anti-lawn care company, I just want them to offer services with products that are guaranteed to be safe for everyone.

It is important to ask a lot of questions before choosing a service and make sure you know exactly what is being applied to your grass. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing lawn care companies:

  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate in your fertilizers?
  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate or any other type of broadleaf herbicides for weeds?
  • What do you use as fertilizer? Is it 100% natural?
  • Can you guarantee that your technician will not apply a broadleaf herbicide or fertilizer that contains 2,4-D or glyphosate to my yard without my approval or upon my request?
  • How do you treat insects and other pests?

Personally, I would go with a company who specializes in treating my soil and grass as a whole living ecosystem and who has a passion specifically for organic practices. If nobody like that is in your area, some of the bigger names in the industry are starting to offer more dog and child friendly options, just make sure that you are an educated consumer and know what products to avoid and questions to ask.

 

 

 

 

7 shareable links about lawn care herbicides
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

7 Sharable Links About Lawn Care Herbicides and Dogs

In my most recent post, The White Flags of Springtime, I wrote about lawn care chemicals, dogs,  the studies that several universities have done linking lawn care chemicals like 2,4-D to dogs, and some measures that I take on a daily basis to try to minimize Jackson and Tinkerbell’s exposure to these chemicals. I also promised a blog with links that you could share via social media or to start conversations with neighbors who you know use these chemicals.

Let’s face it, we all want to yell, “Stop, are you crazy, don’t you know what you are doing!?!?” when you see the lawn care companies out en masse, or stop and glare angrily every time you see someone outside spraying grass that is far too close to home for you.  However, it is not going to go over well with your neighbors to boldly accuse them of poisoning the earth and its creatures, even if those creatures are us, our kids, and our animals. So what can we do instead?

Social media is a powerful tool, and Facebook is a perfect platform for you to share articles on things about which you are passionate. You can help raise awareness by sharing posts like this:

  1. There are more and more studies pointing to the dangers of lawn care chemicals. I say why chance it when we don’t need to use this stuff! https://www.nrdc.org/stories/24-d-most-dangerous-pesticide-youve-never-heard 
  2. I just read an interesting article on lawn care products. You might find it really interesting, too. https://www.rd.com/home/gardening/lawn-fertilizer-dangers/
  3. Check this out, there is some concerning information about lawn care products and kids at this link: https://www.ewg.org/research/24D/risks-to-children-from-24D#.WtjNIdPwZsM.
  4. Hey animal lover friends, this might interest you. There is some alarming information on how lawn care products may be harming animals, from pets to butterflies and bees! https://www.ewg.org/research/24D/pets-wildlife-24D#.WtjjzdPwZsM
  5. So basically this says that lawn care chemicals might not cause cancer in dogs, but do we really want to use something that was tested by being fed to beagles for a year???? https://www.24d.org/PDF/Scientific_Backgrounders/The%20Myth%20of%20Cancer%20in%20Dogs.pdf
  6. Honestly, if there’s even a chance that this stuff causes cancer in dogs or in anyone, I don’t want it on my grass! https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_4/features/Canine-Malignant-Lymphoma-and-Lawn-Pesticides_20494-1.html
  7. I just read a concerning post from a professional beekeeper whose bee colonies were sprayed with 2,4-D, one of the chemicals in lawn care products. Check it out! http://saulcreekapiary.com/honeybees-2-4-d/

Is this a little passive aggressive? Maybe, but it’s a good start to increasing the level of awareness that these products may not be as safe as the people who make them want us to believe. Just because it has been used for over six decades does not mean that it is safe for our day-to-day lives or that we need it right in our actual back yards. We have banned other substances created after WWII because they were unsafe, like DDT and aldicarb. If you change just one homeowners lawn care practices, it is definitely worth learning about this topic and sharing your knowledge on the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Little White Flags of Springtime (1)
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

The White Flags of Springtime: Being a Dog Owner in a World of Chemically Treated Lawns

The white flags are back, a sign of spring here in suburbia. I saw them yesterday as I walked with Jackson and Tinkerbell through our neighborhood, and I felt the annual flood of stress, frustration and disappointment that I feel every spring when so many homeowners in our neighborhood hire traditional lawn care companies to spray their yards with chemicals in pursuit of the perfect expanse of green grass. You know the chemicals that I mean, the ones that the industry says are so safe that they fed it to beagles as part of their testing and did not see any negative results, but that still require little white warning flags to let the world know that the products have been applied so that we do not walk or frolic in that grass for 48 hours.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, and it won’t be the last. In the past I have written several blogs on the topic of dogs, lawn care products, and studies that link increased rates of cancer in dogs on chemically treated grass. You can read more about this topic at: Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs and No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products. 

I have to admit, I dream of a world in which all homeowners realize the benefits of using an organic lawn care company that relies on all natural lawn care techniques instead of broadleaf weedkillers. A world in which we can watch our kids and dogs rolling around on the grass and not have to worry about whether or not the study done by veterinary team at Purdue University or the task force created to promote the use of 2,4-D had the accurate study. A world in which we can reduce the amount of plant waste that we send to landfills because we are using compost and grass clippings to achieve the American dream of a lush, green lawn.

I will also admit that after losing two dogs in row to cancer, the fear of any unseen toxins that my dogs are walking through sometimes makes me want to avoid walks in our neighborhood entirely. Just the other day I did not see the white flags in a neighbor’s yard until long after Jackson and Tinkerbell had thoroughly sniffed a large portion of his treated grass. But I cannot keep them in a protective bubble, simply because it is not fair to them to deny them the simple canine joy of going out and exploring the world with me.

Until we live in a world that embraces natural lawn care, here are the things that I do for my own dogs in an effort to minimize the effects of these chemicals in our lives.

Avoid Treated Lawns

Depending where you live, this can be extremely hard. Like I mentioned above, just the other day we the dogs and I walked through a yard in which some of the flags were missing at one end of the property, so I did not see them until we had walked the full length of the yard.

Try to avoid treated lawns and know that Purdue University determined in 2013 that lawn care products drift substantially from the area in which they are actually applied. As you see lawn care flags, make notes so that you can adjust your walking route and avoid those lawns on your daily walks. Shorten your dog’s leash when walking through affected yards and stick to the sidewalk or cross the street if possible.

You can also contact your local park department to inquire about what products are used in your municipal parks and if they have a routine schedule for when they apply pesticides. Look for natural areas that are not treated for weeds and take your dog on fun adventures to those locations, using an all natural tick preventative since the more natural the terrain, the more likely you are to encounter pests like ticks.

Post Walk Paw Wash & Wipe

1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet.

2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes.

3. Wash my own feet (if wearing sandals or flip flops), ankles and calves to keep from spreading toxins on the floor, furniture and bedding that the dogs lay upon. This is also a good idea for owners whose dogs like to lick human toes or feet.

Dietary Supplements

Note: this is not intended as veterinary advice. Always consult with your veterinarian before adding any food or supplement to your dog’s diet. 

MicroFlora Plus or other probiotic for dogs: many experts believe that digestive health has a positive impact on an animal’s immune system. Although the food that I feed has a prebiotic and probiotic in it, I also add MicroFlora Plus to my dog’s bowls.

Wholistic Pet Organics diatomaceous earth: Scientific research has indicated that diatomaceous earth has a detoxifying property to it, so I add food grade diatomaceous earth from Wholistic Pet. Just make sure you purchase food grade diatomaceous earth, not the variety that is sold for outdoor use.

Watch for our next blog in which we talk about positive links to share with friends and family to encourage all natural lawn care practices. 

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.

a sick dog on a sunday
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

A Sick Dog on a Sunday

A Sick Dog on a Sunday

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jax enjoying the sun

I hate Murphy’s Law. I prefer to follow the more positive, manifesting-good-stuff-from-the-universe mindset that everything is going to be awesome and work out. But then Murphy’s Law strikes…you know, the whole “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” nonsense. As far as dogs are concerned, Murphy’s Law is most definitely that “if your dog is going to get sick or injured, it is going to be on a weekend!” If you, too are a dog owner, I know that you understand.

Jackson had a bad case of colitis a few months ago, right after the start of the new year. I knew things were bad when he turned his nose up at food, something Labrador Retrievers simply do not do. Ever. After a trip to the vet, a prescription for Flagyl and some other antibiotics, he was on the mend and back to his normal happy, healthy, food loving self.

Until yesterday afternoon…after the vet’s office had closed.

Normally I don’t take the dogs to the vet right away for some run of the mill loose stools. I will give them some Perfect Form from The Honest Kitchen or a dose of a probiotic and wait a day or two to see if things firm up. Usually they do and we go on with our lives.

Unfortunately, this time, Jackson’s stomach woes moved from diarrhea to vomiting around bedtime last night and he and I were up for most of the night until around 4 a.m. The first two trips outside, within an hour of us going to bed, were to eliminate his bowels. I appreciated the urgency with which he woke me and literally ran to the door in order to not poop in our home, and I felt bad for the stress that he must be feeling since his ability to get outside depends entirely on me.

Around midnight, diarrhea changed to vomiting and he whined and cried to go outside, at which point he ate grass until I made him stop and come back inside, then puked up the grass and bile immediately, and then whined and cried to go back outside to repeat the process. It was not a good night as I dealt with exhaustion and worried about him, and we both tried to figure out how to make him feel better.

Because we have had a few incidents over the years of “empty tummy syndrome” with both dogs in the middle of the night, I decided to give him a tiny bit of food, which had the desired effect of temporarily settling his stomach so we could both get a bit of sleep. Miraculously, we did ok from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m. at which point he woke me to resume the grass-eating/grass-puking cycle.

After considering all of my options this morning, I decided to mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a half a cup of water while I also prepared some plain white rice for him. The baking soda and water would essentially be the dog version of a homemade Tums and help decrease the stomach acid that seemed to be bothering him and causing him seek out the grass. I added a few spoonfuls of the baking soda water to a cup or so of rice and added a little dollop of canned pumpkin. He was not interested at first, but eventually he ate it, and we have not had any vomiting since, and it is now almost dinner. In a few hours, I will repeat this meal, only I will give him the baking soda mixture in a clean syringe that I kept from when we had a liquid medicine at some point before, since the pumpkin did not cover up the taste of the baking soda water like I had hoped.

Needless to say, it has been a stressful twelve hours for me, between losing sleep, worrying about my beloved dog, cleaning up vomit in various spots on the carpet, trying to keep Tinkerbell from eating the vomit or trying to rough-house with her under-the-weather big brother. I gave up trying to sleep in my bed last night in favor of the sofa, so that I would be closer to a door to the outside when he nudged me with his beautiful black nose and gave the urgent “Mom, Mom, Mom gotta get out RIGHT now, this is NOT a drill” message to me. I am hoping we can move back up to our bedroom tonight if this combination of baking soda water, rice and pumpkin continues to do the trick.

I’ve thought longingly that I just need a black market Flagyl dealer for these times when stomach and intestinal woes come at a time the vet clinic is not open, as I am pretty confident we have a week or so of that magical elixir in our future. Although in reality I would  never give my dogs something illegally obtained and not from my trusted vet, such a situation is just a silly daydream as I pick pieces of kibble and grass out of my carpet and then squirt the area with vinegar and water. I know, though, there are many dog owners who would understand a cartoon or meme of a shady back alley deal between a desperate dog mom and someone with the ability to get their dog to stop vomiting.

Of course, I will be setting an alarm for the moment the vet’s office opens tomorrow morning to try to get a same day appointment for him. One of the benefits of staying with the same doctor and clinic for so many years is that they know me and are great at trying to get me in for these last minute things. I feel confident that the vet can fix him up, but I also worry about why he is going through this so soon after the last time.

Is this a sign of what’s to come now that my big boy is a middle aged dog, or is this simply because I have to keep switching to our backup brand of food due to the venison shortage in New Zealand that is likely impacting the availability of our regular food? His regular food has prebiotics, probiotics, and all sorts of ingredients that promote healthy digestion, so it could make sense that to put him on our second choice for food could be wreaking havoc without those special ingredients that he has eaten literally his entire life, even if the protein and binding agent are similar or identical.

As a dog blogger, or any sort of blogger, I feel like I should try to share the best parts of dog ownership, the helpful tricks and tips, the funny stories, the heartwarming moments. But sometimes, dog ownership is hard and stressful, we lose sleep, we clean grass and bile out of our carpets, we sit on our deck at 3 a.m. on the verge of tears while our dogs eat grass that we know they are going to puke back up, we count down the hours until the vet’s office opens, and we worry about why our babies are so under the weather. I know that we have all wanted our dogs to be able to just tell us what is the matter and what they need to feel better, and at the same time have them understand that if they just moved a few inches to the left that they could puke on the tile floor instead of the carpet.

At the end of the day, this is what we signed up for. The good, the bad, and the yucky. I wouldn’t give up a single moment of time with my dogs or wish away any of our experiences, although if you know anyone who wants to give a blogger a nice massage and maybe a nap under a warm blanket, I will happily write about that experience, too.

 

Jackson's Awkward Snuggling
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson’s Awkward Snuggling

Jackson’s Awkward Snuggling

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

If you’ve read my book or followed my blogs, you know that when Jackson was just two and a half weeks old, he sustained a broken leg. It was a freak accident in which his mother must have leaned on him in just the wrong way with her elbow while Jax was nursing with his legs stretched out behind him, breaking a small bone in one of his back legs.

Because our breeder is the epitome of what a loving and responsible breeder should be, she was able to get him into the veterinarian for x-rays right away. She learned that it was a clean break, not near a growth plate, that would heal on its own without a cast and most likely never bother him again, which it has not. However, in order for this healing to occur, it meant that his three brothers would have to stay off of him, but also that special measures would have to be taken to ensure that he did not miss out on the critical social aspects of being in the whelping pen with his siblings. There are so many important developmental phases in those eight weeks that puppies and their mother spend together that there was no way he could miss out on being in the whelping pen.

In order to keep Jackson with his mother and brothers in the whelping pen but also protect his leg, she used a small puppy sized travel crate for him to sleep in at night when the humans in the house were sleeping and not able to supervise things.  During the day, someone was always there to watch things, so he had plenty of time with his mother and litter mates, so he was only in there at night, and I remember her saying that she would wake in the morning to find the other three boys snuggled up against the crate door to be near him, something so sweet and endearing that I tear up thinking about their instinct to be near each other, to be touching each other. And so, by the time we picked him up at eight weeks old, he was a happy, healthy, chunky Labrador pup, normal in every way, just like his brothers, but with the added bonus of already being used to sleeping in a crate.

This made our lives much easier when he came home to us, because it was one less thing for him to get used to. He still had us up four times a night the first few weeks, he still gave a few little whimpers before settling down and going to sleep like any puppy the first few nights, but all in all he had already learned that sleep and a crate went together. This was fabulous at human bedtime but it had one negative side effect: we had a dog with zero interest in snuggling with us while he slept. None. Nada. Not happening.

No matter how tired he was, no matter how much time he had played and frolicked and run puppy zoomies with his Basset Hound sister, he would not fall asleep on us, near us, or anywhere outside of his crate. Believe me, I tried to encourage him to snuggle up in a ball of sleeping puppy on my lap. He would sit sweetly next to me, he loved to receive affection, but he would never fall asleep. When he was a very small puppy I figured out that when he went from “energetic puppy” to “maniac puppy” that I needed to go and put him in his crate, at which point he would flop down as if he was grateful for the break.

As he grew older, anytime he grew tired, he would literally walk away in the middle of what we were doing, trot over to his living room crate (we had two, one in our bedroom, one in our main living area) and plop down. Every. Single. Time. Every now and then he will still do this, so that I’m in the middle of giving him an ear scratch and he just walks away and lays down in his kennel.

I tried my hardest to show him the joy in snuggling, I encouraged him to become a giant lap dog who doesn’t know his own size like every single other Labrador I had ever had in my life. If he was drifting off to sleep in his crate I even went so far as to pick him up and put him on the sofa next to me, but he would hop right back down, and go back into his crate. I used training treats and taught him “up” and that he was not only permitted but encouraged to get on all of the furniture. He would lay on the sofa and chew on an antler or nibble on a toy, or lay next to us without touching, but still no snuggling.

Fortunately, he has become more snuggly over the years. He’s always been a sweet, loyal and loving dog, he just is a solo sleeper. It’s kind of like he’s saying, “I’ll take that tummy rub and you can scratch behind my ears…ok, that’s plenty, now I’m going to go nap over here on my own. Love you, mean it!”

Jackson Awkward Snuggling
Awkward Snuggling with a Labrador Lean throw in.

Out of nowhere in the last year or so, Jackson has realized he loves to join my husband on the sofa. We have “his and her” spots on our sofa, and when my husband is in his spot, Jax jumps up, leans all of his 78 pounds of body weight on my husband’s chest in what is known among Labrador lovers as the “Labrador Lean” and then slowly slides down until his head is on the sofa cushion next to my husband’s leg and his butt and tail are up in the air up by my hubby’s armpit before sliding all the way down on his back, legs up in the air and ready for a tummy rub.

The first few times Jackson did this, my husband laughed and said, “Oh, Jackson, you are learning to snuggle but you sure are an awkward dog!”

Jax started to do this behavior more and more and my husband would tell him, “Come on up, buddy, come on and awkwardly snuggle with me.” One day I was home alone and Tinkerbell was snoozing comfortably in my spot on the sofa, so I sat in my husband’s normal spot. Jax came over to me and laid his head on the sofa and looked up at me.

“Awkward snuggle with Momma?” I asked him hopefully.

To my elated surprise, he jumped up, threw all of his weight up against my chest, and went into his usual position. “Good boy, awkward snuggle, good boy, awkward snuggle, good boy,” I told him to reinforce the language to him.

Since then Jackson has learned that Awkward Snuggle is indeed fun, he now responds to just the word “awkward” as an invitation to jump up with us, and he has extended the amount of time that he spends on the sofa with us, even napping sweetly next to us for as long as an hour.

We have learned that he will do this behavior with any human who is sitting in that spot, but will not do Awkward Snuggling on any other piece of furniture in the room or at the other end of the same sofa. It must be that exact spot. However, Awkward Snuggling has led to some other new and pleasantly surprising snuggling opportunities, like the day he napped sweetly next to me like a “normal” dog with his head on my lap, stretched out sideways on the cushion next to me.

Our big boy just turned seven yesterday, and while I kinda miss the insanity that comes along with two young Labrador Retrievers, I adore the big chilled-out, mature boy that he has become. He is nowhere close to acting like a senior dog or slowing down physically, and he definitely gets mischief in his mind from time to time, but he has a soothing, calm vibe to him. We have our unspoken language that we share, and our bond just gets better and better daily. His snuggling may be a little awkward, but his place as a special heart dog comes quite naturally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Springsteen Lyrics, Dog Training, and What They Have in Common
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life

Springsteen Lyrics, Dog Training, and What They Have in Common

Springsteen Lyrics, Dog Training, and What They Have in Common

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Springsteen Lyrics, Dog Training, and What They Have in CommonThe other day I was driving in my car, and I turned on the radio. Of course it was set to its usual position on Sirius XM’s EStreet Radio, which is where it remains whether I’m running down the backstreets, if I’m going to drive all night, and especially when the highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive

In fact, I’ve been listening almost exclusively to Springsteen ever since my parents bought me my first Springsteen record in 1986. And before you think it was Born in the USA that set this obsession in motion, it was actually the Live 1975-1985 boxed set that swept me up into this thirty plus year love of all things Bruce. I am an old soul and a creature of habit musically, happily jamming out to concerts that were recorded when I was just a young Jerseygirl, playing on the swing set in Sparta, New Jersey with our dog Snoop by my side.Basically I have been living with a Labrador Retriever by my side and a Bruce Springsteen song on the radio for the majority of my life.

The other day I was cruising home after a meeting, music cranked up as loud as it could go (the dogs were waiting at home for me) and singing my heart out to one song after another, with all of their complicated lyrics flowing from my brain and voice without a single mistake. This is of course a regular occurrence that happens literally every time I go somewhere, but in the middle of singing I started laughing as I realized I had cruised right past the healthy pet food store and I desperately needed to replenish our supply of dog treats.

“How on earth can I remember every single word to a massive catalog of songs with super complicated lyrics yet I cannot remember to stop at the store for one single thing that’s been on my to-do list for a week,” I mused to myself.

Then it occurred to me. The same reason I knew the words to nearly every single Springsteen song is the same reason my dogs know that when I put certain shoes on my feet it means that I am taking them outside versus going somewhere without them. The same reason I know all of the special nuances I am listening to the live version of a song is the same reason the dogs know where to turn to head for home when we go for a walk.

That reason is repetition, repetition, repetition.

Nearly every training article you will read about dogs mentions the importance of repetition anytime you want to teach your dog something. It is through this exact method that I can sing you the complicated lyrics of a song like Jungleland but I cannot repeat the directions my husband just told me on how to get from location A to location B or remember to pick up some Fruitables for the dogs. I have sung that song hundreds of times in the last thirty or more years, correcting myself when I made a mistake; I have only heard the driving directions from my hubby once. As for the dog treats, I suppose that is an outlier from these examples  because dog treats are on my shopping list all the time.

Repetition is what has those lyrics stuck in my head when the directions were gone the moment my husband spoke them. Repetition is the reason why my dogs know that the act of me checking to make sure the back door is locked does not necessarily mean that I want them to do anything, but the act of me checking to make sure the back door is locked paired with grabbing a dog treat from the counter means that they are going into their crates.

Now this is the important part: your dog is watching your actions and learning from repetition whether you want him to or not. This means that you might be teaching your dog to do things that you do not want her to do, entirely by accident. The best example of this in our own home is Jackson’s “bad” habit of stealing things from our living room side tables when he wants to play with me. It goes all the way back to puppyhood when he was in the puppy version of the terrible twos.

If you’ve ever raised a Labrador Retriever puppy, you know the age that I mean. It’s that time when your puppy has become comfortable in his or her new home and is getting into everything with their razor-sharp puppy teeth and a seemingly endless amount of energy. It’s that portion of puppy rearing when in one short minute they might do things like bite down on your Achilles tendon with the force of a velociraptor, chew on the leg of your favorite table, attack your throw pillows, grab onto your shirt sleeve with all their might, and then stare you in the face as they pee on the floor just five minutes after their last potty break outside.

Jackson was particularly crazy and brazen at this age, and I spent hours each day redirecting his attention, telling him “no” when he tried to destroy our worldly possessions, thrusting a toy or antler into his mouth telling him “yessssss, good boy” whenever he had a dog friendly item in his mouth, and then engaging him in a play session for as long as his attention span would allow it until he went on to locate the next contraband item to test with his mouth.

Eventually Jackson figured out through repetition and a lot of trial and error that he was not in fact allowed to destroy our home and that he had his own toys and chewy things always available whenever he wanted to play or chew. Now, if you’ve read my blogs before, you know that I refer to Jackson as being “Sheldon Cooper smart” and that if he was a human he would probably have a PhD, studying string theory or dark matter somewhere. But, he is a dog, and instead of figuring out the universe, he has used his magnificent brain to figure out that any time he wants to play with me or get my attention, all he has to do is be naughty. And if you guessed that he learned through repetition, you are correct!

In retrospect, I probably should have removed myself from the play session when he needed to be corrected during those formative puppy rearing days, more like what a mother dog would do, but redirecting his attention from the contraband item and engaging him in play with an appropriate toy worked so well that I never questioned what I was doing. Plus, I’ve never had a dog so freakishly smart as this one. We used the same method with Tinkerbell and she has not developed this knowledge of how to get my attention. She just walks up to me and drops a toy in my lap if she wants to play.

Jackson, though, at six years old, still jumps onto the sofa, grabs the nearest thing he can, and starts to destroy it as he watches me with a side eye to see if I am going to come and stop him. He’s snatched up pens, books, magazines, catalogs, bottles of hand lotion, several remote controls, and even a picture frame. Of course I’ve tried to outsmart him by removing all objects from the side tables, but when I did that he grabbed a table lamp and tried to steal it. He also only does this when he wants me to play with him. He has never once done this when my husband is with him or to get the attention of any of our teens. Only me.

Of course I take full credit for accidentally teaching this to him and I am working hard to un-teach this behavior. Whenever he jumps up onto the sofa to grab something from the side tables, I tell him a firm no and force myself to not engage in fun playtime with him as a result of his demands. It is not easy, though, as he throws himself onto the ground with his legs in the air and his big otter tail wagging, waiting for me to rub his tummy as if he’s saying, “Ok, momma, I stole the stuff, now it’s your turn to come play with me!”

Now I wait fifteen or twenty minutes after he’s given up and then invite him back over for a tummy rub and some Jackson/Momma time. It breaks my heart to ignore him, but he seems to be catching on bit by bit that I do not react favorably anymore. He is learning that all he needs to do to get my attention is to roll upside down for a tummy rub or offer me a toy without being destructo-dog.

I know that many dog owners struggle with bad habits that their dogs have picked up, but they do not realize that they have accidentally helped their dog learn the behavior. In the same way you know all of the lyrics to your favorite songs, your dog is learning from you and the actions that you are doing, whether you want them to learn that behavior or not. Just like with Jackson, some of those behaviors are favorable and some of them probably drive you nuts.

Fortunately you can change these behaviors with additional training so that they will stop doing the things that you accidentally taught them. As for myself and my love of Springsteen music, I am not as easy to retrain, much to the dismay of the non-Springsteen loving humans of my house who would probably give me all of the treats and cookies they could find if I would just stop the behavior that I learned so many years ago as I listened to my first Springsteen album with a Labrador Retriever by my side.

I have included a free printable worksheet for you to think through and identify some of those behaviors. If you are not sure about how to remedy an issue and if it is more serious than an annoying habit, always partner with a professional dog trainer. My favorite resource for finding a trainer is to start with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers website: APDT Trainer Search. Click here to download your worksheet: Worksheet for Springsteen Lyrics, Dog Training and What they Have in Common

 

 

 

CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN, NOT YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life

Consult Your Veterinarian, Not Your Facebook Friends

Consult Your Veterinarian, Not Your Facebook Friends

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN,  NOT YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDSJackson has not been feeling well this week and I have been a worried dog parent. After two trips to the vet and several medications later, he seems to be getting back to his normal self. I was elated to see happy tail wagging and some interest in playtime with Tinkerbell, particularly after a rough day yesterday.

It all started with some very loose stools, but I was not too alarmed because he was on a different food than our normal Canine Caviar because I had been tardy in placing our online order. When he vomited a few times over a five-day period, I grew more concerned but decided to wait and see if it would pass on his own. He had been eating grass and I wondered if that too was a result of being on a different food. But when Jackson turned up his nose at breakfast on Monday, I called the vet immediately. He is a dog who loves to eat, and he has only turned down food once in his entire life. After a thorough exam, blood work, and my vet’s analysis of his fecal sample under her microscope, we had a diagnosis: colitis.

On Tuesday I could see significant improvement and was excited that the vomiting stopped, his voracious appetite was back, his poop slightly more firm, and he was acting more like his normal self. On Wednesday, though, he was listless and only wanted to curl up on the sofa in the smallest ball that a 75 pound Labrador Retriever can morph into. I noticed as I petted him and checked on him that he would not fully open one of his eyes. You could see it in his face and body language that he felt awful. Once again, we headed to the vet and this time he was diagnosed with uveitis, an inflammation of the eye.

Jackson’s swollen eye

Today is Thursday and his eye is already open again after just two doses of prescription steroidal eye drops. His spunk and energy is returning and he engaged Tinkerbell in some playtime this afternoon. Of course as his energy returns, my own stress level recedes. I am relieved and thankful that we went to the vet for both issues and that we have medicine that worked so quickly to help him feel better.

As a dog owner it can often be confusing about when to run to the vet and when to wait to see if an issue will resolve itself. Some dog owners are afraid of being the type of human to run their dogs to the doctor for every sneeze or loose stool, but the fact that our dogs cannot speak to us with words makes it tricky to try to figure out how they feel. For other dog owners it is the cost involved, particularly if an issue turns out to be something that could just pass naturally on its own.

As their caretakers, we have to rely on our knowledge of how they usually act to determine if they are not feeling good. For many dogs, taking a moment to decide if they want to eat or not when given their food is quite normal behavior. My late Babe was a grazer, even as a Labrador, and did not always eat at first. For Jackson, it was a huge red flag that it was time to consult my veterinarian to see what was wrong.

One day later, already much better!

Personally, I will always “err” on the side of caution with my dogs and go to the vet. I don’t consider it an error at all, in fact I would rather go on a false alarm than not know what is happening. I will try to fix some things on my own, like treating loose stools with a probiotic or a serving of Perfect Form by The Honest Kitchen for a few days before taking them into the veterinary clinic. If I see or smell the start of an ear infection, I will treat it with Panalog for a day or two that I have on hand from past ear issues. I have some holistic essential oil mixtures for things like hot spots or minor skin irritations. Anything more than those situations, though, and I want an expert opinion.

As a dog lover and dog blogger, I am in quite a few dog related groups on various social media platforms, and I always cringe when I see photographs of various issues and the question of, “What do you think this is?” It is interesting and sometimes alarming to see the types of questions that people will ask their peers in Facebook groups expecting an educated answer.

Around 80% of the replies to these medical advice inquiries consist of other owners telling stories of how their own dog had a rash or lump or whatever is being asked about and how they dealt with it. The other 20% of the replies are fellow dog owners whose comment is the same as what I am thinking in my own head, “Stop asking on here and just take your dog to the vet!”

Don’t get me wrong, I have made some amazing friends on Facebook and many of those have vast knowledge of dogs, dog behavior, and dog health. But none of them are veterinarians except for my actual veterinarian, and I try my hardest not to abuse our friendship by asking her medical questions outside of the office.

As someone who has lived the last four decades with dogs, I have seen and dealt with a lot of medical issues. I have tended to my dogs’ medical needs for everything from a bloody tail worn raw by wagging across a cement floor in the boarding kennel to providing physical therapy three times a day for four months to our Basset Hound following spinal surgery. I have applied every type of ointment, eye drop, ear drop, slurry, or pill you can imagine. Through all of that, I am not a veterinarian and I never will be.

Neither I nor the hundreds of thousands of fellow dog owners on Facebook can correctly diagnose a growth, rash, pulled muscle, virus, or other illness through a photograph of a dog who is miles away. In fact, by asking, all you are doing is freaking yourself out and wasting valuable time when you could be setting up an appointment with the one person in your life who can tell you what’s wrong. Trust me, I know about the freaking yourself out part!

I used to be the type of person to immediately Google any symptom that the dogs or I were having. My husband was only half-joking when he used to tell me that he was going to figure out how to block sites like WebMD because I would find a whole array of things that “could” be the issue and I would worry myself into a frenzy before ever getting to the human doctor or veterinarian. Over time he has rubbed off on me and I have mostly figured out to stay calm and not panic until all of the information is available and we have seen an actual medical professional who has done an exam, any necessary tests, and given a diagnosis and possible treatments.

Sharing a photo to social media for all of the armchair veterinarians to analyze can have the same result: driving you crazy and causing major stress until you can see the actual vet. Since dogs can sense our stress levels and will react to them, by stressing yourself out worrying, you could be causing your dog to be tense at a time when you want them to be as relaxed as possible in order to promote healing. As a reformed Google-er and worrier, I can tell you that you will be happy that you did and the money you spent getting an actual answer (instead of amateur speculation) is well worth the mental peace that goes hand in paw as you get her or him back to feeling their happy, healthy self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson and the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our Life
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson, the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our Life

Jackson,  the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our Life

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jackson and the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our LifeFriday was a hard day for my dog loving friends. For one friend it was the one year anniversary of the passing of her beloved Golden Retriever who passed away at just ten years old after a battle with hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer. While I talked on the phone with her on Friday afternoon, one of my best friends was saying goodbye to her fourteen year old Labrador Retriever. That friend had spent at least a year agonizing over how her dog was feeling, if she was living a good quality of life or in pain, and when she would know that the time was right to make the hardest decision that any dog owner has to make.

Unfortunately I have been in both situations, I lost my Dutchdog to hemangiosarcoma and was in a similar decision-making process to my friend’s senior Labrador with my late Babe, so I could empathize with both of my friends. I had never met my friend’s Golden Retriever, but I felt like I knew him because of her posts, photos and videos of him on Facebook. I have laughed at his antics, cried when she shared with us that he was sick, prayed for him when he was going through treatment, cried again when he passed, and watched her share her memories of him in the year since she said goodbye.

With my other friend’s Labrador, I remember when she and her husband got her as a puppy, before they were married, before they owned a home, before they added human kids and another Lab to their family. We had all lived in Indiana, and around the same time they moved to Michigan and I moved to Illinois, so although I did not get to see her often, once again, I had fallen in love with her sweet dog through photos and social media posts and my friend’s stories of their life together. I have laughed and cried as I’ve followed her dog’s life, and I cried a great deal on Friday.

Yesterday, two days after her dog’s passing, I was sitting on my living room floor messaging back and forth with my friend and talking about how she, her husband, her kids and their other dog were all doing. I gave some suggestions on how to help the surviving dog through this time and I also mentioned that some of my friends referred to their late dogs as an angel and referred to them with that in their name, like Angel Dutch or Angel Babe, and how that might help her kids still remember their dog and understand that while she was no longer on earth, that their memories could live on.

We talked about the story of the Rainbow Bridge and how we both hoped it was real, and that over the course of our lifetime we might both have a small pack waiting for us. I mentioned how I picture all of my dogs, Babe, Dutch, and Maggie, all reunited as angels, pain free, and playing together. Maybe my Mom and our other late dogs Snoop, Cinder, Jake, and Beau are there, too, everyone reunited and happy, their bodies healthy again.  

Of course this conversation put me in tears again, and as I sat on the floor and typed in my phone and cried, I realized I had a tissue in the pocket of my hoodie, and I used it to wipe away my tears. Jackson and Tinkerbell had noticed that I was upset, and Tinkerbell had come and laid next to me, her beautiful head resting on my lap, her brown eyes looking up as if to say, “Momma, don’t be upset!”

Jackson came over to me and licked my face and nuzzled me, and just as I was in the middle of telling him that he was the sweetest boy in the world, he reached over and grabbed the tissue with his mouth, ripping it in half and stepping out of my reach. Before I could wrestle it from his mouth, he chewed and ate it.

“Jackson! You little sneak! I thought you were coming to comfort me, and instead you wanted my tissue,” I exclaimed, laughing at the whole situation as I looked at the half of the tissue still in my hand. He stood nearby, his ears perked up, head tilted, and his thick otter tail wagging playfully, as if he was laughing at the joke with me.

That simple moment was one of the hundreds of thousands of reasons why we love dogs so much, why they make the most magnificent friends and companions, and why it is so devastating when we have to say goodbye to them. You see, I actually think that it was all a plan to make me feel better.

Experts might say I am wrong, that dogs do not think like that, but I have seen the mind of Jackson at work. As my breeder said about him when we were trying to decide which puppy to take, “I think this puppy is going to grow into a very special dog,” and I can tell you that Jackson is one heck of a smart dog to the point where we call him the Sheldon Cooper of dogs.

I have seen him outsmart Tinkerbell hundreds of times with his wit and problem solving skills. I have watched him work hard to get some alone time for a tummy rub by luring her away with her favorite toy or moose antler, waiting for her to become involved in playing with it, and then laying back down next to me for a tummy rub without his kid sister interrupting him. I have watched him try to get her to come back inside the house so he can poop without his sister following less than six inches behind him. And I have watched him come when I called him, stop halfway to the house, turn around to go potty, and then resume obeying the recall command. So it is not out of the realm of possibility that he stole that tissue to make me laugh and stop the weird human crying thing that they know means we are sad.

God sent angels down to earth in the form of dogs with notes saying, "Don't judge... just love." The dogs ate the notes... but they keep trying to deliver the message.When I sat down to write this blog, I thought of a saying that I’ve seen from time to time across social media. It says, “God sent angels down to earth in the form of dogs with notes saying, “Don’t judge… just love.” The dogs ate the notes… but they keep trying to deliver the message.”

I love that quote, not just because of Jackson’s love of eating paper, but because it completely captures the essence of dogs and why we love them. Dogs love with their whole hearts. They don’t hold back their love, they just love us without judgement, in the purest and most gentle and honest way. But they are silly and playful, too, and they just seem to know what we need, like a gentle, loving nuzzle followed by stealing and eating the very tissue that I was using to wipe my eyes. Jackson’s antics did exactly what I believe he intended: I stopped crying and started laughing in that exact moment.

I think about the losses of Babe and then Dutch. Losing both of them broke my heart; in my book I talk about the devastation I felt and how each time I did not want to face the world for several days because of the agonizing pain. And then, by opening my heart and home again, I welcomed first Jackson and then Tinkerbell into my heart.

The “new” dogs never replace the dogs who have passed on to be angels; instead they simply join the ranks of the “heart” dogs who have come before them because the heart can hold as much love as you can feel. It is the reason they are so easy to love, such natural companions for humans, and also the reason that it is so devastating every time we have to say goodbye to them.

In the last several years I’ve been learning a lot about energy, the universe, and how even though our loved ones may not be in their physical bodies anymore, that their energy still remains with us. Although I do not want to get in a religious discussion or offend anyone who believes differently, I like this idea. It is soothing and positive.

I like the idea that my Mom’s energy is with me as I go through my day, giving me her strength and support even if she cannot be with me physically. I like the idea that the energy of my late dogs is also with me, so that not only do I get to live side by side with Jackson and Tinkerbell on this earth, but with Angel Babe, Angel Dutch, Angel Maggie, Angel Snoop, Angel Cinder, Angel Jake, and Angel Beau. They may not be here in the form that I want, so that I can touch and hug them, play fetch with them or get doggie kisses from them, but they are with me all the same.

In loving memory of Angel Chesney and Angel Shooter

 

 

 

Finding reliable pet care worksheet cover
Workshops

Workshop: Finding Reliable Pet Care for Those Times You Cannot Be There

This course teaches you how to create a pet care binder in case someone else needs to take care of your dog, how to determine if a pet sitter, boarding kennel or other option is right for your dog, how to find a reliable dog care provider, and a list of people to keep in your life in case you need to travel or are unable to care for your dog for awhile. Also includes an interview with an estate planning attorney who provides tips on how to include your dog in your will in the event of accidental death of an owner.

This course is included in the Happy, Healthy Dogs Group as part of the membership fee. Click here to join: The Happy, Healthy Dogs Group.

compassionate pet owner
Workshops

Workshop: The Compassionate Pet Owner

compassionate pet ownerLearn about ways to bond with your dog, understand how they think and learn, and put yourself in their proverbial paws. Leave this class with ten ways to bond with your dog.

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Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn

senior dog workshop
Workshops

Workshop: Senior Dog Special Considerations

senior dog workshop

Just like with aging humans, senior dogs need special care. Learn about changing dietary needs, the importance of more frequent vet visits, lifestyle adjustments, and keeping a sense of compassion as their bodies and minds change.

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Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn

food and nutrition basics
Workshops

Workshop: Food & Nutrition Basics

food and nutrition basicsCut through the noise and hype that is out there about pet food, and learn about proteins, grains, K-cals, allergies and other basic information to help you easily understand what to feed your canine best friend.

Click here to view scheduled classes

Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn