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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.

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Creating a holistic lifestyle for your dog
Workshops

Workshop: Creating a Happy, Healthy Lifestyle for Your Dog

This workshop focuses on providing a healthy lifestyle for dogs in three areas: mind, body, and environment. Topics include physical versus mental activities, food and nutrition, treats, lawn care considerations, cleaning products, and bedding and toy recommendations.

 

Click here to view scheduled classes

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Check out the video below to find out what it means to create a “holistic” lifestyle for your dog.

 

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Safety and emergency prepping for dogs
Workshops

Workshop: Safety and Emergency Prepping for Dogs

Safety and emergency prepping for dogsThis course focuses on safety around the house, toxic substances to avoid, collar safety, car safety, identifying and preparing for natural disasters, emergency supplies to have on-hand, and preventing lost/stolen dogs.

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

Dog Care Basics
Workshops

Workshop: Dog Care Basics

Dog Care BasicsLearn about teaching kids how to act around dogs, what to feed your dog, grooming, the importance of training, games to play with your dog, pet insurance and a variety of basic dog care topics. Perfect for the new dog owner or anyone who simply wants a refresher course on creating a happy, healthy lifestyle for their dog.

Click here to view scheduled classes

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

Workshops

Workshop: Surviving Puppyhood

Puppies are adorable, sweet, and a blessing to their owners. They are also mischievous, full of energy, and often downright crazy! This class offers tips and suggestions on puppy rearing without losing your mind or your patience, with a focus on being compassionate to what your puppy is experiencing. Topics include house training, puppy’s first night home, teaching bite inhibition, how to use crates, chewing, socialization, the importance of training, and puppy safety.

Click here to view scheduled classes

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

 

 

Planning for a new puppy or dog
Workshops

Workshop: Planning for a New Puppy or Dog

Planning for a new puppy or dogLearn what to expect when adopting a new puppy or dog and what you will need before their gotcha date, including training your human children to be around a dog, the importance of training, and the dog professionals you need in your life. This class is an in-depth look at what life with a dog is really, truly like, and whether it is right for you.

Click here to view scheduled classes

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Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Surviving Puppyhood

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training TipsAs I stood outside with Jackson and Tinkerbell today in the 2 degree weather, waiting for them to do their bathroom business, I thought about the puppies who found new homes over the holidays and the owners who are hopefully going through the extremely important house training process right now as I type this post. It’s hard enough to make sure everyone is warm and safe in this weather with adult dogs who are neither puppies nor senior dogs, who have the ability to hold their bowels and bladders for fairly long periods of time. I do not envy those new puppy owners who will be inside and outside, inside and outside, inside and outside, over and over as they teach their puppy that they need to “hurry up, go potty” outside.

Jackson is great about finding a spot quickly when it gets this cold outside. He runs out, picks a spot, does his thing, and then runs back to the house. There is no sniffing around for rabbit droppings, no lazy rambling around to look for a few blades of grass to eat. Out and back before the bitter cold starts to hurt his feet and he tries to walk without touching the ground.

Tinkerbell, in true Tinkerbell fashion, still tries to dilly-dally and take her time, roaming the yard, sniffing every square inch of the snow. This usually results in me hurrying her along as soon she starts to pick up her feet with a pained expression on her face. Unlike her big brother, she has not figured out that she has a limited amount of time before her feet start to hurt and that she’d better hurry up.

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips When house training a new puppy, the first few days I like to limit their outdoor time anyway, to teach them first and foremost that outside is for potty time. After they start to catch on to the fact that outdoors is the appropriate place to alleviate their bowels and bladders, you can start to play more with them outside, but for at least the first few days, the outside is strictly for learning where to go to the bathroom. Temperatures in single digits or below zero at least means that you are not missing out on a beautiful day for walking or playing with your dog outside.

In addition to the steps that I provide for house training in my post, “Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips”, here are some winter weather considerations for puppy owners who are working on house training in a cold environment, whether it is a frozen tundra or a winter wonderland. 

  1. Shovel or brush off an area of the grass so that your puppy can still smell and see it and associate the grass with going potty. Make it sizeable enough that your puppy can choose which spot she prefers.
  2. Keep a pair of shoes or boots by the door at all times. Choose a style that slips on easily and quickly without a lot of work.
  3. Use a leash, even if you have a fenced yard, to ensure that your puppy does not wander off and get distracted.
  4. Keep a coat with gloves in the pockets by the back door.
  5. As soon as your puppy pees or poops, praise him with substantial praise and then promptly take him inside.
  6. Pay close attention to your puppy’s body language; walking gingerly or trying to pick some or all of his or her paws up off the ground is a sign that the cold is hurting their feet.
  7. Avoid using ice melting products where your puppy is walking; traditional products can damage paw pads in grown dogs, so you definitely do not want corrosive agents near a puppy’s gentle little feet. If your puppy does walk through ice melting products, rinse them in warm water once you are inside.

Dogs are most susceptible to frostbite on their paws, ears, and tails. If you have a puppy with short hair or a sparse coat, you can purchase a coat and booties for planned walks, although you may not have a chance to put all of these things on your puppy if you catch her in the act of peeing or pooping in your house. The secret to successful house training is to be extremely observant of your puppy and catch her sniffing for a spot to go potty and moving her outside before she actually does the act.

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips If you are concerned that it might be too cold for your specific breed of puppy to go outside during extremely cold weather, check with your breeder, rescue organization or veterinarian. Of course a Newfoundland puppy will do better in winter weather than a Chihuahua puppy, but extreme winter temperatures can be dangerous for all puppies and dogs.

If it is too cold for your puppy to safely go outside, you can use puppy potty pads for house training. With Labrador Retrievers who were all born in the spring, I have never used these, so I do not have personal experience with how to utilize them. You can find instructions on the American Kennel Club website at this link: http://www.akc.org/content/dog-training/articles/the-ins-and-outs-of-potty-pad-training. I prefer to teach the dogs to go outside from the very start to give them just one thing to master, rather than learning one thing and then learning a second part of it, but not at the sake of subjecting them to subzero temperatures.

Read more about raising puppies in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Human, available at Amazon.com in print or Kindle.


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.
The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Planning for a New Dog

The Problem with “Rescuing” Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?

The Problem with “Rescuing” Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy? Sometimes it seems unbelievable that I am still writing anti-puppy mill content in my mid-forties, since I first learned about the horrific practice of commercially breeding dogs in puppy “mills” all the way back in high school in the 1980s. With the speed at which information is relayed today through the internet and social media, and the number of people we can reach through a single post, it seems like certainly we dog advocates would have successfully gotten the word out about the hell that is commercial dog breeding.

Yet at this very moment, as I am typing this, someone who is doing some Christmas shopping at your local mall has stopped in the pet store and is falling in love with a puppy in a baby crib, making a purchase, and creating an economic demand for a new puppy to be born at a commercial puppy mill.

Before I was a dog blogger, I was employed at the home office of a large retailer. As a result, I understand very well how retail inventory works. And so, when a fellow dog lover with a big heart tells me that they just purchased a puppy from a pet store because their heart was breaking at the thought of that puppy not finding a home, I know that what that purchase did was to open up what is known as “open to buy” in the world of retail.

So why am I talking about retail practices in a dog blog?

Here’s the deal: retail stores have sales goals. In order to meet those sales goals, they need to have sufficient inventory to sell to their customers. There is a lot of analysis that is done to figure out how much inventory they need, and how much money they need to budget to purchase that inventory. That budget is called their Open to Buy. The easiest way to define Open to Buy is this: “Open-To-Buy (OTB) is merchandise budgeted for purchase by a retail store during a certain time period that has not yet been ordered.” 

When a store sells something that’s in their inventory, they need to replace that inventory with more products that they can sell to keep meeting their sales goals. For example, if you buy 8 cans of soup from the grocery store, they need to bring in 8 more cans of soup so that they can keep selling soup to the next customer that comes into the store.

Understand where I am going with this?

Pet store puppies are viewed as inventory for resale, and puppy mills are the manufacturer creating that inventory. To you and me, to refer to puppies as being manufactured  sounds awful, and it is awful

Buying a puppy from a pet store is not like buying a can of soup from the grocery store. The grocery store simply orders more cans of soup from their supplier and puts into motion a whole series of events that creates jobs for a variety of people, from the people growing the vegetables to the person driving the delivery truck. Buying a puppy from a pet store is a purchase that kicks off a series of events that perpetuates the miserable life of puppy mill breeding dogs, and that is why we are still pleading and begging with people to stop buying puppies from retail stores. 

You and I  know that a puppy is a living, breathing, sentient, intelligent animal that deserves to be born into a loving environment, not mass-produced by unfeeling humans from dog parents who are tortured, miserable, riddled with genetic defects that they pass on en masse to their offspring, and who never lead a regular life as a healthy or even remotely happy dog.

For the puppy mill operator point of view, they are simply creating a supply of puppies to be sold on a purchase order to a pet store or puppy broker. As long as there is a demand for their puppies, they will keep producing puppies.

Having the conversation with someone who has purchased a puppy from a pet store or other source supplied by puppy mills is not an easy task. They feel attacked, as if they did something wrong or that they are being told that their puppy is not as worthy of love or is as valuable as a rescue puppy or one from a very responsible professional/hobby breeder. I know, because I have offended more than one friend in this way.

While many puppy mill puppies have substantial medical issues, whether infectious diseases or genetic defects, they are still worthy of love, they still could grow into great dogs with patience and training, and they will still be beloved family members. The reason I beg these owners not to get any additional puppies from a pet store is not that their dog is “bad” in any way, shape or form, and not that the dog owner is a bad person, but simply because their purchase will perpetuate the cycle of misery by creating an economic demand for more puppies from the puppy mill operator. 

To dog owners who have their dogs for the right reasons, to rescue and adoption advocates, and to responsible breeders, dogs are a miracle with paws and a wet nose. They are our lifeline, our therapists, our exercise buddies, our best friends, our constant companions, our heart dogs.

To puppy mill operators and the more unscrupulous backyard breeders, they are simply a product to be sold for income, and the easiest way for the average citizen to help stop them and their cycle of misery for the breeding dogs is to minimize or eliminate the demand for their puppies by not shopping at pet stores and from puppy brokers who sell mass-produced puppy mill puppies.

 

 

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.

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The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Planning for a New Dog

The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas

The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at ChristmasIn our last blog, The Christmas Puppy Problem, we talked about the problem with Christmas puppies that are purchased on a whim by humans who have not considered the lifetime commitment and the work involved. We discussed how the adorable puppy in a baby crib in that mall pet store can end up being euthanized at a shelter or living a dismal and lonely life because a family or individual has realized too late that they were not prepared for that puppy to grow into an adult dog that depends them for its very survival and happiness. And finally, we talked about the Christmas puppy in our society and how the concept is promoted through photos, films, and even catalogs from merchants. As I continue to focus on this important topic all throughout the month of December, today we are going to present the flip side to that scenario and explore how to bring home a puppy or adult dog the right way during the holidays.

Taking Advantage of School and Office Closures

As much as people seem to be super busy at Christmas time, some people find themselves with extra time off of work, which puts them at an advantage in terms of puppy rearing. In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I write, “I strongly recommend taking vacation time from work the first week of your dog or puppy’s arrival home, like a canine maternity leave.”

When Jackson was a puppy I was able to take some time off the first few days he was home and then either work from home or take additional days off whenever my husband had to also work, to ensure that someone was always home with him the first two weeks. By the time we had to have a dog sitter start coming to let him out, he was essentially house trained and able to hold his bladder a bit longer than when he first arrived. Once Tinkerbell joined the family, I was already working from home, so I was able to be with her all the time. She was house trained even faster than Jackson, and her puppyhood was much easier as a result.

For the simple purpose of house training alone, being with your dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week the first week or so should shorten your puppy’s learning curve dramatically. In addition to helping speed up the house training process, you will appreciate being able to nap during the day when the puppy sleeps. After all, they are infants and they usually wake up several times a night to go outside which of course means that you are also awake and heading outside. Finally, the first few days of a puppy’s life in their new home should be as calm and positive as possible with essentially just the immediate family. They are figuring things out, getting comfortable with you and with their surroundings, and there is a considerable amount of bonding happening. It is good for you to be with them instead of having them left alone in the house just days after leaving their mother, their litter mates and everything they ever knew in their young life.

If you have been planning on getting a puppy or a rescued dog, you know what you are getting into and the lifelong commitment, you are not traveling or hosting any huge gatherings for the holidays, and you work for an office or school that closes for all or most of the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, then over the Christmas holiday might be a great time to get a dog, particularly from a rescue organization or shelter.

Most responsible breeders will not plan a litter of puppies around the holidays so are set on a certain breed you may not be able to find an available dog from a top breeder at Christmas time, but the sad fact is that rescues and shelters take in pregnant females on a regular basis and those puppies are desperately in need of homes. A purebred puppy is not necessarily the right choice for everyone, so unless you are set on a particular breed, you can find amazing mixed breed puppies at shelters and rescues who are ready to grow up and be your best friend. 

Rescuing an Adult Dog

Puppy rearing is not for everyone, and adult dogs will bond with you just as much as puppies. My late Babe became my dog when she was two, and she was my best friend and constant companion. She and I had the same exact type of love and emotional bond as I do with Jax and Tink, who both came home to me at eight weeks old. Our late Basset Hound, Maggie, had been abused before my husband rescued her, and she was the most affectionate and snuggly of any of our dogs.

In fact, I have a theory based on my own personal observation and experience that some rescued dogs are often more affectionate and attached to their owners because they know what it is like to not have a safe and loving home, to be scared and alone, and they are so happy to finally feel love that they want to be near you all the time. Some people will say that dogs do not think about the past, and although it is true that for training purposes they live in the moment, I believe that they still remember their old lives.

It was not just Maggie who showed this behavior, but also my fosters Kodiak and Destiny. Kodiak had been found as a stray and while I was fostering him he would not leave my side. At night we would watch TV as a family and I essentially had a giant Labrador/Great Dane mix as a living, breathing blanket as he napped completely on top of me, his back paws down by my feet, his front paws and head on my chest. Destiny had been tied to a tree in the woods and left to die before a good Samaritan found her and saved her. Even while she was learning to trust me, she was virtually attached to me, and within weeks was snuggling with me as if she’d known me her entire life.

With Christmas as a time of love and giving, what better gift to give than to give a dog a safe haven and forever home to live out the rest of its years. There are so many amazing adult dogs that are waiting at shelters to be your best friend, particularly if you do not care about finding a specific breed. If you simply want a best friend, you can spare yourself the part-time job of puppy rearing (because it is indeed a part-time if not full-time job) and find an amazing best friend in an adult dog. And if you do want a specific breed, there are breed specific rescues in every part of the country with dogs who need homes. Giving one of them a home will open up a spot in that foster’s house for a shelter dog to make it further through the adoption process. And just like with puppies, to have extra time off of work while your new dog is adapting to his or her new home will only help the bonding process and help your dog become more secure in his or her surroundings.

Involving the Kids

No matter the age, it is never too young to start teaching children about the fact that dogs are living breathing creatures that rely on us for their survival. Instead of surprising the child with a puppy under the Christmas tree and reinforcing the belief that the puppy is a toy like a doll or basketball or some other inanimate object, consider wrapping the supplies that you will need for the puppy or dog and unwrapping them as a family.

After the gifts are unwrapped, you can explain that you have thought about it for a long time and that it’s the right time to bring a dog into the family and that you bought the puppy’s gifts in advance so that he or she has everything they need when it comes home. You can tell them that after Christmas is over, you are going to all pick out the puppy or go get a puppy that you have pre-selected, and that everyone in the family is going to need to work together to make sure that the puppy grows into a nice, well-behaved adult dog.

By fulfilling your child’s wish for a dog this way, you avoid the mindset that the puppy is a toy. If you have experienced Christmas with kids, you know that often they receive so many new toys and gifts that they are overwhelmed by the bounty, and some things get pushed to the side and never played with. The last thing you want to do is to include a puppy in that category. By introducing the puppy as a family member after the excitement of the holidays is over, you start your child’s view of animals off to a healthier start that will carry through their adult lives and in turn help them be responsible pet owners when they are grown.

It is extremely important to add that if your child wants a dog, but the adults do not really want a dog, you should not get a dog. Period. I also cover this in my book, and it may sound harsh, but it needs to be harsh because a dog’s life is at stake, and at the end of the day it is going to be the parents who are responsible for the dog for its entire life.

Kids can learn to be responsible dog owners by watching their parents and by helping their parents under close supervision. I have spent probably as much time teaching our kids how to act around the dogs as I have spent teaching the dogs how to act around the kids. As a result, now that they are teens, I can trust them to check the gates when they take the dogs outside and to stay out there with them and ensure that they are not getting into mischief.

I do not believe in putting kids in charge of a dog no matter how responsible they are. Between school, activities, friends, and all of the things on their minds, it is too easy to forget a feeding or to give medicine or how long it has been since the dog went outside. They will learn to be responsible pet owners by watching you and by you explaining what you are doing and why you are doing something, but it is too early in their lives to be in charge of an animal’s life.

Watch for the next blog, in which we address winter weather considerations when caring for puppies.

Travel With Your Dog!

The Christmas Puppy Problem
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Planning for a New Dog

The Christmas Puppy Problem

The Christmas Puppy Problem

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Christmas Puppy ProblemI was browsing through Facebook several days ago when I came across a video from our local Fox affiliate, Fox 32. The first sentence of the story was, “If a dog or puppy is on your holiday shopping list – be careful.”

“Are you kidding me?” I said out loud in horror.

“Let’s just go ahead and promote the notion of puppies as Christmas gifts to all of the Chicagoland area!!!!” I fumed some more. 

I promptly sent a message to their Facebook page that read, “As a dog blogger who is on a mission to help prevent owner surrenders of dogs, the lead into your article about the puppy FB scam is disheartening. Puppies are never gifts, those of us who promote responsible pet ownership work hard to get this message through to the people who buy puppies as gifts with as much thought as they give a sweater or handbag. Please don’t undo our work as you report the news!”

To date I have not received a response or have any evidence that they’ve read my message.

The rest of their story was warning potential puppy buyers not to fall for scams involving puppies for sale, which is definitely important. Of course, they did not go into detail on how to successfully find a reputable breeder or look at rescue or shelter pups or grown dogs, but the advice to not purchase puppies from random strangers in a Facebook group is certainly something that many people need to know.

Let me explain why I was, and still am, so upset by that one short sentence that was broadcast to their entire viewing area: puppies are living breathing creatures that require a lot of time, patience, training and work. They do not belong on a “shopping list” like a cashmere sweater, a toolbox and an X-box game.

Unfortunately every year these living breathing, feeling creatures do indeed make it onto a Christmas list.  Puppies are then purchased through pet stores or backyard/amateur breeders as gifts either on a whim or to fulfill heartfelt requests to Santa from children who want a puppy.

In other scenarios they are an impulse buy as holiday shoppers wander through the mall pet stores and are wooed by the siren like pull of the adorable, fluffy puppies in baby cribs that downplay the fact that puppies are a different species with different needs than a human and that there is a learning curve for novice dog owners who are tackling puppyhood for the first time. The shoppers fall in love at first sight with these puppies with designer “breed” names like Cavachon and Huskimo, and take them home without thinking about the fact that they have just committed to anywhere from ten to fifteen years of caring for an animal that will need them for every aspect of their survival.

Many of these puppies are then abandoned at shelters just days, weeks, or months later after the adults realize that a puppy was not on their list of responsibilities that they were ready to handle. Other puppies end up living the majority of life in crates or in the back yards of owners who feel too much guilt for what they’ve done to abandon or re-home the dog but have no idea how to handle a dog that quickly went from adorable fluff ball to a wild, untrained, and seemingly unmanageable dog. That life is almost as tragic as landing in a shelter; it is in fact no life at all for a dog to suffer like that, alone and unloved.

As a culture, we love Christmas and we love puppies, and so it is understandable that when you put them both together, the idea of a Christmas puppy seems genius. I mean, seriously, what is cuter than a puppy with a bow around its neck under the Christmas tree? And when you are the person presenting this gift, either to your children, to your significant other, or to a parent, in that moment you are the hero of gift giving. You are like a rock star only better! You are not handing over a new gaming system or some piece of jewelry that every other person has bought, you are literally bestowing new life and the promise of unconditional love on the recipient…whether they want the accompanying responsibility of that new life or not.

Movies, TV shows, catalogs, all show endless photos of happy Christmas puppies. These images are all over our culture. Google “Christmas puppies” and you will receive pages upon pages of results. Do the same search with “movies about Christmas puppies” and you will receive another robust list of results. It is no wonder children ask Santa for a puppy or parents finally concede to their child’s pleas to get them a dog over the Christmas holiday. Our culture is full of the idea of puppies at Christmas time, under trees, in boxes, in Christmas stockings, complete with bright red bows to make the gift complete.

Just today I received a catalog from my beloved retailer L.L. Bean with a fluffy Golden Retriever puppy on the front, snoozing away under the Christmas tree with the other holiday presents with a red bow around its neck. The puppy looks perfectly angelic in the photo, but as a lifelong Labrador owner, I can tell you that it takes one hell of a lot of work to achieve a sleepy puppy for a photo shoot, and the moment that puppy wakes up, a human will be telling him “NO” and removing his little razor-sharp puppy teeth from the lights on the tree, the bow wrapped around the box, and even the box itself.

I can forgive L.L.Bean for this, because their products at least promote the outdoor, active lifestyle that is suited for a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, so their customers are slightly more likely to own the boots, hats, gloves, and parkas that will be needed to house train the puppy in the middle of December and into January. But that is one photo among thousands of other images and sources that glamorize the puppy as a holiday gift.

Personally, I obviously love dogs and I definitely love Christmas, and I love them together, in real life and in photos. I adore puppies, and I loved raising my own puppies into big sturdy dogs, even the moments that had me close to tears because Jax was a hard sell on the “no bite” concept or when his energy level was at a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10 and my own was a 3 from lack of sleep. I love looking at them now and thinking about how tiny they were, how I could pick them up and they would fall asleep on my chest, and how I taught them day in and day out all of the things that they would need to know as dogs in our household.

I equally love to look at them and think about all of the things that they have taught me in return, about dog ownership and about life. I love how I raised them from puppies to adults and how close we are as two separate species who went from being total strangers to sharing a special bond. So when I talk about the work that lies ahead for puppy owners, it is with the firm belief that the work is worth it, but I would be doing a disservice to other puppy owners to minimize the work that it takes to go from puppyhood to adulthood, because trust me. There is a lot of work ahead.

Before I had my own dogs, I helped my parents with their dogs. My freshman year of college, my parents acquired our Labrador Retriever Jake the weekend of Thanksgiving, so we have tons of adorable puppy pictures of him around the Christmas tree. Jake’s puppyhood is also how I know that the adorable puppy under the tree will also be the same puppy who is trying to eat the lights, steal the ornaments, and chew on all of the gifts immediately after peeing on the carpet and trying to drink the tree water. I don’t make these things up when I am blogging, I’ve lived life with many puppies and know that that’s what puppies do. One minute they are adorable balls of fluff with liverwurst-meets-Starbucks scented puppy breath; the next they are like a tiny little ball of destruction wreaking havoc in your home. 

Are all Christmas puppies abandoned at shelters or destined to living life in a crate or a back yard in an unprepared owner’s home? No, of course not. I have personal friends who have brought home puppies at Christmas and who would never dream of abandoning them; those dogs are as beloved and well cared for as my own dogs.

As someone once told me when they were attending a training class where I used to work, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” That applies 100% to new puppy owners who have big hearts and great expectations but simply have no idea what they are getting into with an eight week old puppy and the work that lies ahead for at least the next few months to go from adorable Christmas puppy to well-behaved, socialized dog.

As a result, during the month of December, the Love, Laugh, Woof blog will focus on the idea of puppies and Christmas, to help reach people who are contemplating getting a puppy as a holiday addition to their families. From winter specific considerations, to how to do a holiday puppy or grown dog the right way, conversations to have with the kids, and other important topics, we will focus entirely on spreading the word that dogs are a lifelong commitment, not something to be bought on a whim.

 

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Jax, Tink and Canine Standard Time
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jax, Tink and Canine Standard Time

Jax, Tink and Canine Standard Time

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jax, Tink and Canine Standard TimeAlthough Daylight Savings Time ended over three weeks ago, for Jackson and Tinkerbell the time change just happened two weeks ago when my husband and I returned home from two weeks out-of-town.

It has not been an easy transition.

To say that Jax and Tink are creatures of habit is a massive understatement. If all watches and clocks were to malfunction from some sort of electrical pulse, we would know when it was 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. each and every day. Jax and Tink would be certain of that.

Our dog sitter who stays with them when we travel takes amazing care of our dogs, but as a college student she has a much different schedule than I do. She is not always able to get meals and potty breaks in at the exact time that the dogs expect them, so their time with her is on a much more random schedule. It is this way every time she watches them, though, and they do not seem to keep her to their schedule the way they do me. In fact since I get an alert to my phone any time someone disarms our security system, I could see that they were not getting her up before 6 a.m. either before or after Daylight Savings Time ended.

As soon as we returned home, both dogs immediately went back on their Daylight Savings Time schedule. No more “we’re living like a college student’s dogs, eating dinner sometime in the evening and being super chilled out about it!” Nope, it was as if they thought, “Momma is home, back to our strict routine!”

Of course since dogs cannot understand our human time keeping and how we could jump forward or fall back in time, to them, this meant that their biological clocks said that 5 a.m. was the time for them to wake me up for their morning potty break and breakfast. And since they start to get excited about this favorite part of their day at least a half an hour to an hour early, this meant that I felt the first cold nose in my face anytime between 4 and 4:30 a.m.

“No, go lay down, it’s not time yet!” I told Jax on our first morning home. He was sitting upright next to the bed like he always does when it’s time to wake me, his face right in front of mine without actually touching me. As he groaned a doggie groan of displeasure, I repeated, “Go lay down, Jax, it’s not time yet!”

We do this a lot, so I picked up my bottle of Lavender oil, opened the lid and wafted it around the air above me, something both dogs have learned means “It’s not time yet, go back to sleep!”

Jax didn’t budge.

He did another groan/whimper and I stuck my head out and kissed his nose. “I’m going to kiss your nose again if you don’t go lay back down,” I told him. He turned his head to the side to avoid me but didn’t move.

At this point Tinkerbell took matters into her own paws. Much less subtle than her big brother, she leapt onto the bed, stood with all four legs straddling me, and began licking my face and pawing at the covers to pull them off of me. When she became so animated (aka crazy) that she began to nibble my chin, I admitted defeat and got up.

We repeated this for the next week, making slight progress toward the 6 a.m. goal. We finally reached that over Thanksgiving weekend, and we are now working on the evening schedule, too. Now, it’s important to know that I know my dogs and the messages they are giving me, and I can tell when they truly need to go outside versus simply wanting me to get up to start our day. They hold their tails differently or run over to the door instead of sitting by the bed and nudging me or licking me. On days when they truly have a pending potty problem, we are up no matter the time on the human clock.

Please feed me my supper!

We have a similar struggle in the evening, too. Currently it is 4:18 p.m., so prior to the end of Daylight Savings Time, we would have been a mere 45 minutes away from Puppy Supper. Except now Daylight Savings Time has ended and they are both staring at me from across the room. I could go ahead and feed them now, but to get them to wait until 6 a.m. to wake me up, Puppy Supper cannot be early or the rumbling of empty stomachs gets them moving far earlier in the morning than this human momma is ready.

Part of me has considered going onto what I call Canine Standard Time, aka The Dog Schedule. I’ve thought through all of the things I could get done by getting up at 4 a.m. in a house full of non-morning people. I would have the house entirely to myself. Coffee could be consumed, blogs could be written, social media posts created, all before the girls headed off to school for the day.

The intense stare of the Tinkerbell.

Except then I remember that my brain works best in the evening, that midnight blogs are far more frequent than morning blogs in my self-employed world, and I could easily get a role as an extra in The Walking Dead as I shuffle toward the yard to take the dogs outside each day in my under caffeinated state. I am not the type to be productive at 4 in the morning unless perhaps it is because I am still awake from the night before.

As a lifelong dog owner, I have mastered the art of the “second sleep” a very, very long time ago. While I thought this was something only dog owners and parents of young children embraced, it turns out that sleeping in two different time periods was actually the practice of many of our ancestors from around the world many centuries ago. According to an article in Slumberwise, humans went to go to bed for twelve hours, with an initial period of sleep that lasted three to four hours, followed by a few hours of being awake, and then another period of sleep until morning. In an interesting article on Science Alert, the writers make the point that humans might do better resuming this practice.

So what did people do during these hours of awake time? According to both articles, they read, prayed, thought about their dreams or sometimes worked on creating new humans (you know what I mean). This sounds rather familiar, as I often check my social media or my email or watch a bit of TV in the time between Jax and Tink get me up before dawn and when I go back to sleep for a few hours after their bowels and bladders are emptied and their stomachs are full.

Perhaps Jax and Tink are onto something and I should try to truly embrace having sleep broken up into two parts. Perhaps they have some sort of special wisdom and knowledge of better health and a more refreshed body as a result of getting me up only three or four hours after I go to sleep, keeping me awake for an hour, and then letting me go back to sleep for that second time frame. I mean, I do comment on a regular basis that I wished I had their energy, and dogs are known for splitting up their own sleep times. Or perhaps they are hungry Labradors who like to eat and cannot fathom why I am suddenly making them wait when just a few weeks ago I did what they wanted when they wanted. Either way, we will get through the time change adjustment as we get through all things, with patience and training; just in time for the clocks to leap forward again in the spring.

 

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Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings
Reunited with my loves!

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

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