Category: Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings
Reunited with my loves!

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

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

 

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

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

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

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“WHOA!” I called out to her, “Stop!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

KeepSafe® Collars

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

Price: $9.99
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Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

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

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

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

Snoop dreaming of frisbees

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Barbie with Newborn Pups: Backyard Breeder or Innocent Toy?

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

Barbie with Newborn Pups:

Backyard Breeder Kit or Innocent Toy?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, yes and no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank

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

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

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

To read more about Destiny, click here:

A Rescued Dog Named Destiny

Destiny the Yellow Labrador, One Month Later

One Giant Leap for Destiny

Fulfilling Her Destiny

 

National Dogs in Politics day

National Dogs in Politics Day

National Dogs in Politics Day 

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Guests Don't Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

“I have two,” I always reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Jackson & Tinkerbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least for now.

 

 




Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell's First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

Tinkerbell enjoying her walk along the Dupage River

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

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

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

Tinkerbell in front of the Naperville Carillon

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

Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe
Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe

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

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

The beautiful Quincy saying hello across the table

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

Tucker gets a drink of water

on us, their humans.

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

Tink’s salad

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

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

Sleepy Tinkerbell on the drive home

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

 

Happy Tails | PupJoy

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jackson and the tall, wet grass

Jackson vs. The Tall, Wet Grass

Jackson vs. The Tall, Wet Grass

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jackson and the tall, wet grassNeither of my black Labrador Retrievers like to walk on our grass when it gets past a certain length.  Jackson objects to this type of surface more than Tinkerbell. While she will run through it, Jackson stubbornly refuses to step foot on it, which is creating quite an issue right now since the entire stairway from our deck is bordered with some very long grass.

We use more water at the edge of our deck than we do in the rest of the yard, between emptying and cleaning out the dog pool, watering the flowers on the deck, and washing off where Jackson insists on peeing on the last step of the wooden deck. As a result, the grass all along the bottom step grows much faster and longer than the rest of the yard.

My husband usually mows at least once a week, but it was rather dry and hot here during the early portion of the month, so the rest of the yard has not needed to be mowed for at least a week and a half, while the area all along the steps to the deck is long, dark green, lush, and growing like crazy. It is the best grass in the yard, unless you are a Labrador who does not like to walk through it. For the last several days, the temperatures have been excessively humid and we have had a lot of rain, so not only is that grass long, but it is now wet. Jackson’s reaction to this grass reminds me of the “hot lava” game that children play, where the floor is lava and you have to jump from furniture to furniture to avoid being burned.

Before I tell the rest of this story, let me backtrack a bit. Last year I attended a fantastic event down in Florida at the Southeastern Guide Dog School in which you get to learn about (and play with) puppies who may grow up to be guide dogs or other service dogs. One of the most interesting things that I learned during this activity was that dogs who make it all the way to being actual guide dogs for the blind have to have a special quality that allows them to think through a situation and consciously disobey their human even when given a command that they would normally obey. The best example of this is a situation in which a human gives the forward command to cross the street and the dog knows that a car is coming and intentionally disobeys to keep the human safe. Not all dogs have this ability, which is why some of the puppies will go to do other jobs and some will be adopted out to families without special needs to be a pet instead of a working dog.

As soon as the presenter told us this, I immediately thought of Jackson and thought that if he had been in such a program as a puppy, that he might have had what it takes to go all the way to actual guide dog. Of course I am glad he was not in the program because I am quite happy having him as my family member and best friend.

I have Jackson go through this type of thought process on many occasions, with the best example being times that I have called him to come inside the house and he has not yet pooped. There have been many times when he started to run to me when I said, “Jax, come,” and then stopped midway to me. Each time he looked at me, looked back into the yard, looked back at me, and then ran the opposite direction to quickly find a spot, do his business, and then race to the door to come inside. I have stood there and watched this and thought, “he is actually thinking through this predicament, he’s being called to come inside but he knows he has to poop and should do it now instead of asking to come outside again.”

I have watched him problem solve on other occasions and can say 100% that he is paws-down the most intelligent dog I have ever had, whether he is outsmarting Tinkerbell to get a toy away from her, or waiting for her to go inside before doing his potty business because she follows him so closely no matter what he is doing and he just wants to poop in peace sometimes without his sister sniffing his rear as he goes. And now, with the tall grass predicament, I am watching him work out this issue with the same intellect.

I assume that it is his sense of smell that alerts him to the fact that it is humid or raining outside. AFter all, that is their strongest sense, with a special part of their brain dedicated to analyzing scents in a way that humans could never dream of doing. He does not even need to go outside to know that the conditions are not to his liking; I can see his nose moving around, nostrils quivering, his snout tilted up before I even open the door. Sometimes he waits until the door opens, takes one whiff of humid air, and backs up as if saying, “Nope, not gonna happen!”

To some extent, this is driving me crazy. He is of course fully house trained and neither a puppy nor a senior, so I can trust him to wait until close to the last-minute to let me know he has to go outside, assuming I am home. However the times that I have had to go somewhere are a challenge.

I have tried every technique, from stern commanding human with a deep voice saying, “Jackson, come here now” to happy silly human with a treat in hand “good boy, come, come on Jax, good boy!” He knows the term, “off the deck” as well as “hurry up, go potty” but is simply not having anything to do with my requests. In addition to not wanting him to have an accident in his kennel when I am not home, I also do not want him to get a UTI from holding in his urine or be uncomfortable. I just want him to pee and find relief and get over this grass aversion.

I am sure my friends who are professional trainers will want to scold me, as well as any old school “your dog must obey you at every command” dog owners, but so far the best method of getting him off the deck and onto the grass when I need him to pee at that moment is to give Tinkerbell a treat in the middle of the yard and then hold up his own treat before giving him the “come” command. I know, I know, I write all the time about training your dog, how the “come” command can save lives, how it’s the most important one for them to know along with “stay”, but when I have to go to a meeting, am starting to run late, and just want my dog to pee, I am not above simple bribery.

Seeing Tinkerbell get a treat has been enough of an incentive for him to run through the awful, long, lush, wet grass to get his own treat, and once he’s beyond the “hot lava” portion of the yard he’s happy to roam around the shorter less offensive blades of grass. Once he is past that area, the grass is short enough that he will sniff around and relieve both his bladder and his bowels.

Yesterday I tried putting an old blanket down over the grass to make a path into the longer grass. He was not falling for it even though Tinkerbell happily trotted on and off the deck with the blanket and I gave him a demo to show him what I wanted.

He did, however, realize that he could leap off the side of the deck, which is fortunately just a foot or so off the ground, to a spot with much shorter grass. Once again, I applaud his problem solving skills and intelligence. It is better than another option that he tried, which was peeing on my husband’s brand new hammock on the deck. That did not go over well; I knew the moment my husband asked, “Do you know what your dog did?” that it was not something good.

Since he will not just get over it on his own, and I want him to be able to walk through surfaces that he does not like in the event of an emergency, I will double down on my training, using positive methods and a bit of creativity and work on getting him over this aversion in a way that is not too traumatic and maybe even a bit fun. If nothing else, fall will come and the grass will go dormant and we won’t have to worry about it until next spring.

 

 

 

 




Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Today is All American Pet Photo Day and here at Love, Laugh, Woof I am all for a celebration of photos of Jackson, Tinkerbell. After all, they are the biggest “why” behind what I do! Here are some photos of our summer so far:

 

 

 

 

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask Sussex County, New Jersey is hands down the hidden gem of New Jersey. Most people from outside the state do not believe me that it exists since the stereotype is that the state is a giant toxic waste dump. That stereotype could not be farther from the truth. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, my hometown of Andover was an outdoor lover’s paradise. It was also a fabulous place to be a kid or a Labrador Retriever.

When we needed to move to the Chicago area for Dad’s job, my parents did substantial research to try to find something even remotely as secluded and wooded as the home we were selling. Fortunately they found a house on a large wooded lot with a stream running through the backyard and promptly installed an in-ground swimming pool to make up for the fact that we no longer lived lakefront. It wasn’t quite as awesome as our lakefront paradise, but it was close. Snoop loved frolicking in the stream as did Cinder when she joined our family as an energetic little puppy.

A few years after we moved our beloved Snoop passed away, leaving Cinder an only dog. The next autumn, my father was bird hunting at a hunt club that had a litter of puppies that were old enough to run around the club and explore the world but not yet ready to go to their new homes. For three weeks in a row, one particular little yellow Labrador puppy followed my Dad around every chance that he got. On the fourth week, when the puppy was eight weeks old and ready to leave his litter, Dad could not resist the little pup and Jake headed home to meet the family he had selected for himself.

Jake was another of Dad’s heart dogs and was a natural bird dog. Cinder was more attached to my mother and did not have the same drive, trainability or temperament to be a hunting companion, so she was happy to stay home with Mom and me while Jake and Dad went on their adventures. Just like Snoop before him, Jake was an absolute sweet dog who loved to swim and play fetch with my brothers and me, chill out with us in our bedrooms or hang out in the family room when our friends came over, but the moment Dad came home, Jake was by his side. If Dad went outside, Jake went outside. When Dad went to bed, Jake went to bed. Dad was clearly, without a shadow of a doubt, Jake’s chosen person.

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask
Jake fetching the fake plastic duck

Jake loved the swimming pool and walked down the stairs of the pool several times a day all summer, swam a few laps back and forth, and then walked back up the stairs. Cinder usually only jumped off the side when we threw a ball or a dummy to her, but Jake got in and out using the stairs like a human, very nonchalant and relaxed, just a dog going for a quick swim. If we were in the pool he would swim up to us and let us hold him in our arms like a child until he decided he was done.

An avid scuba diver, Dad adopted the practice of using his scuba mask and snorkel so that he could swim around to vacuum the pool instead of standing on the pool deck. It was extremely smart because the visibility was so much better and he could make sure he had vacuumed up every last bit of dirt or leaves and also free dive down to get any dirt at the very bottom of the pool.

Jake, I am your father!

I have seen a lot of people wearing scuba masks and snorkels throughout my lifetime, and essentially everyone looks bizarre in them. Dad’s mask was a full face mask, black and Darth Vader-ish, and Jake was about as much of a fan of the mask as Luke Skywalker was of Darth Vader. The first time I saw Dad put on the mask and snorkel in the pool, I could hardly breathe I laughed so hard at Jake’s reaction.

As incredibly smart as he was, Jake could never figure out that Dad was still Dad when he put on the mask and snorkel. He would bark and growl with his hackles up until Dad put his face in the water, and then watch him the entire time he vacuumed the pool. Sometimes we would look out into the back yard and see Jake laying on the pool cement, front paws dangling over the side of the pool with his blocky yellow head cocked to the side as he stared down at my father. If Dad moved to another area, Jake followed, watching his every move until he surfaced and Jake started his barking and growling all over again. As soon as the pool was clean and the mask and snorkel put away, Jake was his happy self again.

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask
Jake & Cinder enjoying the pool

Each week, Jake had the same reaction. Freak out, watch Dad’s every move, then express huge relief in the form of a wiggling Labrador body and super fast wagging tail when Dad emerged from the pool. He never jumped in to save him or went in via the steps like when he wanted to take a swim,  never tried to attack the mask, he just watched intently from the edge. Sometimes Cinder watched along with him and sometimes he did his pool patrol on his own.

I wish Jake could have communicated what he was thinking, if he was afraid something was attacking our father like a sea monster or if he had no comprehension that it was still his all-time favorite human in the entire world under that big scary mask. I can’t imagine what Jake would have done if Dad had worn an air tank!

Flash forward twenty years later and my husband has sometimes adopted this same method of vacuuming our pool, although ours is just an above-ground and takes a fraction of the time. Jackson and Tinkerbell have seen my husband and the kids in a variety of different goggles and masks and haven’t cared one bit, although ours are just for casual swimming or snorkeling, not professional scuba masks. They just glance at us and go back to doing their thing as if odd behavior from their humans is nothing out of the ordinary. If only Jake were still with us to tell them otherwise.

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Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee If you’ve read my book and my blogs, you know that my dad was extremely influential, if not entirely responsible, for my love of dogs. In fact it is not just me who he raised to be a responsible forever dog owner, but my two brothers as well; all three of us grew up into dog loving adults and Labrador Retriever owners. Yesterday was Dad’s birthday, and he is one of my most loyal readers of this blog. I thought it would be a fun gift this week to write a series of posts dedicated to some of the stories of our beloved dogs that did not make it into my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner. I hope that you will enjoy them and that you have some of your own family dog stories with your own forever dogs.

Snoop possibly awoken from a dream of frisbees

Snoop was my first dog and taught me what it was like to have a dog as a best friend when I was just five years old. A sweet and young black Labrador Retriever, Snoop was our playmate and constant companion, but as soon as Dad arrived home from work or from a business trip, she abandoned us to become velcroed to his side until he left the house the next time.

She was next to him when he grilled, when he was inside reading or watching TV, when he worked in his home office, when he worked on projects around the house. Snoop was also his beloved hunting companion and I remember her snoring away happy and exhausted in front of the fireplace after a long day of hunting ducks with Dad.

My Mom’s side of the family loved to vacation at Lake Champlain, Vermont, and we went there several summers with my parents and grandparents, where we stayed in rental cabins on Button Bay and spent our days swimming in the lake, going out on my grandfather’s boat, staring at the surface of the dark blue water looking for Champ, and generally spending family time outdoors. Of course Snoop was with us and would swim alongside us and run along the rocky shoreline in complete Labrador Utopia.

1970s Lifesaver Frisbee that was not destroyed by a dog

One summer I brought along my most prized possession of the summer: my red Lifesavers Frisbee. I don’t remember how I got it, but I had brought it on that trip with the express purpose of playing water Frisbee with my two half-brothers. Monday through Friday I was an only child, on weekends I had rough and tumble brothers to accompany me on adventures, hang out in our rock fort in the woods, and play Star Wars and other games. That Frisbee was pretty boring on my only child days, but I knew without a shadow of doubt how much fun we could have playing with it together, and our summer vacation would give us an entire week of fun.

On the first day of our vacation we all headed down the massive flights of wooden stairs to the water, our arms laden with supplies. Our huge black inner tubes from the inside old tractor tires were pumped up and ready, Mom’s raft was inflated, snacks and drinks were packed, and I had my red Lifesaver Frisbee. We were ready for fun!

Once in the water I showed the frisbee to my brothers and we decided that not only would we play in the water, but we would all get on our inner tubes to play. Those old black inner tubes from trucks and tractors were the best floats, so much more durable and able to withstand rough housing than the easily popped versions made today.

We each got on our tubes and positioned ourselves in the water in a triangle. Of course none of our throws to each other were remotely accurate, which also added to the fun because it means we would each launch ourselves off the tube in an effort to catch it, and then swim after it to get it to throw it to the next person. In fact I am quite confident that we were all intentionally inaccurate just to make the person to whom we were throwing jump off and fetch it.

There was a dock on our beach and my grandfather’s boat was tied on the opposite side of the dock from where we were playing. After a little while Snoop noticed that we were playing a game without her and she ran out onto the dock to watch us. As she watched the red Lifesaver Frisbee flying back and forth, she grew more and more animated, her tail wagging furiously, her mouth open in the classic Labrador Retriever smile, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth. She ran up and down the length of the dock repeatedly, happily following the frisbee as we threw it to each other.

On the next throw to me, my older brother whipped it over my head and it landed in the water about ten feet away from me, and about five feet from the end of the dock. I dove off my tube and swam to get it, but as I was halfway there I saw Snoop crouching on the dock, figuring out the angle for her jump. “No, Snoop! No! Stay!!” I yelled, swimming faster.

Like most dogs, Snoop understood Geometry better than any human, and she landed precisely in front of the frisbee with one leap and snatched it up in her mouth. Like any good hunting dog, she swiftly turned and swam to shore with her possession. “Snoop has the frisbee!!!!” we all yelled to our parents and grandparents on the shore.

“She’s a hunting dog, she has a soft mouth, she won’t hurt it!” Dad called out to me. I was swimming as fast as I could to catch her, but I had been delayed by making sure my inner tube did not float away, so she had gained a lot of ground on me.

I was still swimming back to shore as I watched our perfect hunting dog reach the beach and then race past my father across the sand with my red Lifesaver Frisbee in her mouth. “Snoop, wait!!!!” I called frantically.

“It’s ok, she’s not going to harm it, Lynn, calm down!” Dad said.

I was still swimming as I watched her take my frisbee down the beach and in a matter of seconds put her big paw on one end and start chomping on my prized toy. By the time we got it back it was no longer a beautiful perfect red circle, an oversized version of the best flavor of candy there ever was, it had been reduced to shards of plastic and Labrador slobber on the rocky gray sand.

“Snoop, you ate my frisbee!” I said to her in disbelief, and she looked up at me, tail wagging, pleased with herself and her frisbee destroying skills. I wanted to cry with disappointment over having the toy for such a brief amount of time, but as all kids growing up in the 70s knew, you did not cry over such trivial things or you would receive “something to cry about” although looking back, nothing actually happened after those words came out of our parents mouths.

I picked up the pieces and headed back to where the family was camped out in lawn chairs on the beach, Snoop trotting alongside me, sniffing her way back, blissfully unaware of the havoc she had wreaked on my plans to play Frisbee every day my brothers were with us. “Huh,” Dad said, “I didn’t think she would chew it! She would have never done that to a duck!”

Of course this story has lived on for decades, and it my most vivid memory of our vacations in Lake Champlain. A few years later we discovered an amazing place in Upstate New York and that became our new vacation tradition and the location of so many family memories. I still love to tease my Dad about his perfect Snoop and her soft mouth and how she would never ever chew up my beloved red Lifesavers Frisbee.

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice Jackson and Tinkerbell love to see who is the door. Is it a human friend who will come in and love up on them? Is it the nice UPS or FedEx people coming to bring them their Canine Caviar or treats? Is it a service person here to fix something who will say, “Oh, that’s ok, I love dogs, you can leave them out of their crates” so that they can sniff them all over and get ear rubs and then watch their every move while they work on the furnace or security system or whatever they’re here to fix? Or is it their ultimate favorite person…the person who delivers the food from our local Chinese restaurant?

We used to tell the person taking our order to not even worry about the white rice, that we didn’t eat it so why waste it. Then one time we forgot to tell them, and so we had a small container of plain white rice untouched after dinner. Of course white rice is the go-to food item for dogs with an upset stomach, so it is on the carefully crafted list of human foods that my dogs are allowed to have. Although neither of them were sick, I decided to give it to them just as a special treat, and they gobbled it up happily.

Jackson, Tinkerbell and Chinese Food Delivery
Sticky white rice, a Jax and Tink favorite

The next time we ordered we let them bring the white rice so that we could give it to the dogs. As we ate, Jackson and Tinkerbell snoozed close by, completely unaware that the delivery contained something just for them. When I got up, took care of our dishes and leftovers and picked up their bowls to divvy up the rice, they raced into the kitchen like children checking out the tree on Christmas morning.

As we went about our life we started to realize that the dogs were becoming very animated whenever we ordered Chinese food. They got so few things from our human dinners that they are not particularly bad beggars, so we laughed and pondered, “how on earth do they know that there is rice for them??” Pizza delivery did nothing for them, Jimmy Johns delivery did nothing for them, the Mexican restaurant delivery did nothing for them, just when we ordered Chinese food. And by the way, yes, sometimes we get busy or the kids go on vacation with their mother and we eat like college students for a bit, don’t judge.

Jackson, Tinkerbell and Chinese Food Delivery
Waiting for it to cool a bit more is so hard!

I started to realize that it was their magnificent sense of smell that let them know that their rice was here. Over the years they have started to get pushy and have upped their begging game when we open the little boxes and cartons. Of course we have to let the incredibly hot white rice to cool, so I usually open it and set it aside all the way at the back of the counter to cool until we are done so that they don’t burn their mouths or throats as they wolf it down.

One day we pulled the items out of the bag and found that the restaurant had forgotten the white rice. “Uh oh,” my husband said, “No white rice!”

The dogs stood and stared up at us expectantly. “Should we call and tell them they forgot out dogs’ rice?” I laughed, although I was only half-joking. In the end, we did not call and I figured the dogs would forget about it since the white rice was not there so there was no rice to smell.

We were wrong.

Both dogs laid on the sofa across the room with their heads on their paws and their eyes closed. If either of we humans moved an inch, their eyes opened. If we got up to fill our glasses or grab another crab rangoon, they raised their heads, ears perked up in the classic “I’m interested” way of the Labrador Retriever.

As we cleaned up our dishes and put things away, both of them followed us into the kitchen. “Nothing for puppies this time,” I said, clapping my hands together and showing them my empty palms like a blackjack dealer. They continued to stare at me as though they didn’t believe me. “Nothing for puppies, let’s go,” I said and left the kitchen, thinking they would follow me out. They continued to stand and stare up at the counter longingly.

Eventually both dogs gave a huge sigh and lowered their heads and walked out of the kitchen. They stopped in front of the sofa where we were watching TV and sat and stared at us for a while, two sets of deep brown Labrador Retriever eyes going back and forth between us as if they were watching a tennis match, hoping that one of us would produce their rice, only we were just sitting there doing nothing. Finally Jackson gave another huge sigh, walked into the other room, walked into his empty kennel and flopped down on his kennel mat. Tinkerbell looked at us and did the same.

My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief but also somewhat amused. “They’re pissed at us!” I said, marveling at their intelligence and overly dramatic reaction to not getting rice.  “How on earth did they know that there should have been rice but wasn’t, I assumed they could smell the rice and that’s how they knew?”

After doing much research on how a dog’s nose works for other blogs, like Why Your Dog is So Crazy and How to Put It to Use, I have come to the conclusion that they must know the scents of our other frequently ordered items and associate them with the rice being given to them, so when sesame chicken and crab rangoon show up in our home, their memories of those scents remind them that this means they are going to get something too.

Watching my dogs use their noses is one of my favorite things about having dogs, and I often watch in amazement and tell them, “We need to put those noses to work,” and so I am actively looking for a beginner nosework class in our area. Neither of them showed any interest in bird hunting or hunt tests, a sport in which both of their mothers excel, so I hope that one or both of them enjoy learning to find specific items so we can put those beautiful black noses and brilliant minds to work sniffing out more than just our sticky white rice from Chinese food delivery.

On the night the restaurant forgot the white rice,  I did get out the box of Minute Rice that we keep on hand for emergency dog diarrhea situations and made them each a small serving of rice, which made them both extremely happy. I am not ashamed to admit that although I have strict rules on their nutrition and care, I’m a bit of a pushover. After all, isn’t the whole point of having dogs to make them as happy as they make us? I most definitely think that it is.

A Dog Lover's Thoughts on The Walking Dead

A Dog Lover’s Thoughts on The Walking Dead

A Dog Lover’s Thoughts on The Walking Dead

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

A Dog Lover's Thoughts on The Walking Dead Right now I am catching up on the television series The Walking Dead. I say “catching up” because it’s not so much “binge watching” as “having a second helping”, if we are going to use a food metaphor. Or maybe a second helping and then some desert…and coffee…and a mint.

Ok, it’s a bunch of episodes each night after dinner. Every night. There, my secret is out. I do have a blog to write, after all, so I can’t just sit around and watch all day long, but there is considerable viewing time every evening.

I am not a person who likes gory or disgusting things, in fact I am a complete Nervous Nellie when it comes to horror movies and shows. But when I found that one of my favorite actors from a different show had joined the cast as the latest despicable villain, I stayed in the room a few times during Season 7 when my husband and middle teen were watching. After a few episodes I saw that the story line is about the humans and not so much the walkers, and I learned when to look away from some of the bloody stuff. Fortunately those zombies are a noisy bunch and the sound effect of a blade being unsheathed is always helpful, too! As a result, I’ve gone from pilot to season to Season 7, Episode 3 in a few weeks.

As I’ve watched, I’ve noticed the complete lack of dogs. I keep wondering, where did all of the dogs go? Were they smart enough to run away? Did they all perish? Where on earth are they? I mean, the ASPCA estimates that 44% of homes have a dog, so where are they? Are they all in some dog sanctuary with nice secure walls? If so, I want to go there now!

Part of me is ok with not having too many dogs in the show because the horses in it have not fared very well nor did the few dogs that I have seen, and I am most definitely someone who cries when an animal dies on-screen.

But seriously, where ARE all of the dogs?

Several times I’ve turned to my husband and said, “If society were to go to hell, you know we are not leaving without the dogs. I am not leaving them behind, I am not eating them, nobody else is eating them, we can forage for supplies for them while we forage for our own supplies, they go with us anywhere and everywhere!” He is of course in agreement, as I made sure of his shared love of dogs before we got married, or else he would just be another ex-boyfriend and not my beloved husband.

Now, I don’t think we are going to be plunged into a world of flesh-eating zombies, don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind. However, keeping your dog safe and by your side applies to natural disasters or other emergency situations.

Like I wrote about earlier this week in the blog Sharing the Love of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life, I cannot and will not feel in my heart like my dogs deserve less care than we do. How could I ever look at their sweet faces, their trusting eyes, and leave them behind for an uncertain future? How could I deny them medical care, love, protection, nourishment, and live with myself for even a second, knowing that they are sentient, feeling creatures who put their trust in me on a daily basis.

Now, I’m not going to lie. I have thought through what would be the best way to be a dog owner if we were suddenly thrust into the world of Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon and dead humans chasing us to eat us. It brings up a lot of what-ifs and wondering what the best option would be. For example:

Leashed or unleashed: I have a runner’s leash here at the house for each dog with a belt that goes around my waist that I attach a special leash to, giving me a hands free option. I bought this to try it out and haven’t used it since (that’s a whole other blog topic), but if you were fighting off walkers, you could keep your dog close and make sure that he or she did not run off in fear. On the other hand, your dog is probably faster than you are, so would they be better off loose, able to be more agile? Would having your dog attached to you mean that you were tripping over the leash and would be less able to defend both of you? A rock sold reliable recall would mean that they could be off leash, outrun walkers on their own, and come to you when called.

Barking: If gunshots attract walkers, and a crying baby is a risk, what about a barking dog? Would you muzzle your dog periodically if they went on a barking spree? I mean, barking is an instinct but if you were hiding quietly you might have to squelch that instinct in a way we wouldn’t do in our normal civilized world. But what if you muzzled them briefly and then they ran off, they would be unable to defend themselves or drink or eat.

A dog’s senses: Since our dogs can hear and smell things better than we can and see better at night, wouldn’t they be helpful in detecting when walkers, other humans and other threats were near?

People-loving domesticated dogs: I know Jackson and Tinkerbell would probably run right up to a walker looking for tummy rubs and ear scratches. Would they be able to eventually figure out that some people were “different” from others, aka dead and trying to eat them?

I know I’ve read that SAR dogs and cadaver dogs can differentiate between the scent of someone alive versus deceased. Would the walkers have a unique scent? Would dogs in a zombie apocalypse train themselves to stay away from that smell the same way my dogs have trained themselves to come running for peanut butter and run the opposite way when they smell ear cleaner?

It seems to me that at the end of the day, dogs would be a helpful companion more than a burden. After all, the world of The Walking Dead has gone back to a dangerous uncivilized world that is more similar to what the world was like when humans first befriended the wolf. Well, there weren’t infected dead people wandering around, but people had to rely on hunting and gathering, whether or not to trust other humans and whether other groups were going to be allies or enemies, and somewhere in the middle of that we befriended the wolf (or the wolf befriended us) so that we could be companions, hunting partners, and help defend each other.

One conversation that my husband and I had about The Walking Dead is that it definitely makes you think about how you might have to act in the event a catastrophe and how you could prepare for such a thing. As a neurotic worrier and planner, I am 100% on board with planning for emergencies, so in the next two blogs we will talk about how you can include your dog in emergency preparation plans for a world not inhabited by walkers  but still afflicted by a natural disaster or other emergency situation.

 

 

Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker

Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt

When Life Gets Crazy: Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt

When Life Gets Crazy: Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Overcoming Dog Owner GuiltHere in our part of Illinois we are less than a week away from wrapping up the school year. With a son graduating high school, along with school trips, band concerts, choir concerts, end of year AP exams, end of year celebrations for all of their clubs for the two girls, our lives have been crazier than normal. Of course, having just written about the fact that having fun with your dog is the whole point of having a dog, we ended up with an unusually busy weekend that was completely un-fun for Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Saturday we were up and out of the house by 9 a.m. and did not arrive home until almost 4 p.m.. Our high school has graduation at a college that is forty-five minutes away to allow all graduates to have more than just two tickets per family. With a blended family we definitely appreciate that we received ten tickets, but it made for a longer day than usual for our dogs. Of course most dogs are alone for that amount of time while their humans work, but with our particular work schedules and nuances of our careers, our dogs are with us for more time than the average American dog with two working humans caring for them. As a result, to have them in their crates for seven hours and to miss their noon Puppy Lunch filled me with extreme guilt.

Of course upon our arrival home they greeted us with their normal excitement and sniffed me all over to try to figure out where we had been. “There were no other puppies, I promise you,” I told them, “Not a single one! I was only around humans today!” We went outside immediately, they ran around and frolicked in the grass, I fed them their lunch even though dinner would be in two more hours, gave them plenty of kisses and tummy rubs, and all was right in their world.

On Sunday we were up and out the door by 6 am for a 5K/10K to raise funds for Run Fur Shelter, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for food, medicine and shelter for the dogs of humans with financial needs. Although the race was to help dogs, I remembered from past years that the actual race was for humans only, and so Jackson and Tinkerbell had to stay behind.

By the time we finished the races (I walked the 5K while my husband ran the 10K), visited the various vendors who had sponsored the event, picked up our free bananas and granola bars and headed home, and admired some puppies who were up for adoption, we did not arrive home until just before noon. Although that resulted in only six hours in their crates, I felt guilty because my husband was going to spend the afternoon tearing down the wooden swing set that nobody used anymore and I had aggravated the tendonitis in my ankle, taking away any walks or adventures for them that day. Plus I had come home from this event smelling like multiple other dogs.

Of course a seven hour day and a six-hour day safely in their climate controlled crates is perfectly humane and reasonable. Most dogs do this every day while their humans are at work. Jackson and Tinkerbell are just very lucky that I work for myself in our own home and have me with them twenty-four hours a day, sometimes for several days in a row! In fact I have been out of the corporate world and without a commute for all of Tink’s life, having left my old job a month before she was born.

I think dog owner guilt is the same as mom-guilt. We see the lives that other dogs are having, with seemingly endless adventures and fun destinations, and we feel like awful pet owners for sometimes just giving the basics like love, shelter, physical affection, food, treats and water. It’s similar to knowing those Pinterest Moms who do incredible craft projects with their teens or take them on grand adventures each weekend into the city and to plays and shows, and I’m here with mine saying “Hey, we can watch a movie, run through Starbucks, and walk the dogs together!” In reality what matters the most with our kids is that we are together, and that’s really the same thing with our dogs.

Happy just snuggling with humans

I always have to remind myself that my dogs have amazing lives, and sometimes I have to go and do things that are only open to humans, like business meetings, professional events, graduations or band concerts. They are safe, they are loved, they are treated well, and they are happy. Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself that spending the day sniffing every inch of the grass in their big fenced yard, getting tummy rubs, and playing a game of fetch with the free frisbee I picked up at the 5K is a perfectly reasonable and fun way to spend the day as a dog, particularly since they are just happy to be having fun and hanging with their humans or sleeping across our laps as we ice our ankles from that early morning 5K.

 

 

 

 

A Lifelong Dog Person and Her First Cat

A Lifelong Dog Person and Her First Cat

A Lifelong Dog Person and Her First Cat

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

A Lifelong Dog Person and Her First CatIf you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a diehard, lifelong dog person. In fact I love all animals, but some more than others. Dolphins, whales, manatees, wolves, giraffes are among my other beloved animals but of course those are a bit harder to bring into your family home.

When it comes to cats, they were always an animal that I liked from a distance but was afraid of if not downright terrified. I remember a night in my twenties when my best friend and I were going out on a social outing with a group of other women and we stopped by to pick up another friend who had just gotten a kitten. As it raced and jumped around the room I stood up against the wall, legitimately straight up terrified.

“It’s a kitten!my friends said, laughing at me, “You spend your life around these huge dogs but you’re afraid of a itty bitty kitten?”

My mom had a cat when I was born and it was insane. My only memories of it were that it would hide under my bed and scratch my feet without any warning when I walked by. I was only about four or five when it passed away, right around the same time I fell in love with Snoop, our first Labrador. My Dad also has some cat phobias and I grew up with the story of how a neighbor’s cat jumped onto his head from the roof of their garage when he was a young boy. I had never been afraid of a single dog, but cats were terrifying. 

Flash forward to 2013. I was on lunch at my former job, browsing Facebook. Our Basset Hound Maggie had passed away from Lymphoma earlier that week and Tinkerbell had not been born yet. In fact I had been skipping lunch with my work friends all week because I was so upset about losing Maggie that I didn’t want to be around anyone and either bring down the entire mood around me or try to laugh and act normal when my heart was broken from her passing. 

As I browsed I came across a post shared by the pet sitting company that I used. It was a post from a cat rescue organization and a photo of a small black and white cat. The caption read, “Molly doesn’t understand why she is at the shelter again instead of being in a warm and loving home. She is a special cat, she is more like a dog than a cat,  she likes tummy rubs and comes running when people come to the door!”

Emotionally raw from losing Maggie, I read this caption and started to cry. I shared the post and tagged my husband and wrote, “IF we were to ever get a cat, this it the type of cat we would need!”

My husband actually grew up with cats more than he did with dogs. Both of our daughters also loved cats when we visited friends and family who had them, like their grandmother and their aunt. Our son was neutral on the topic and I was honestly grateful that we had two very prey driven dogs in Dutch and Maggie that kept us from getting a cat. When Maggie passed away the conversations started, “If we are going to get a cat we ought to do it before the new puppy comes so that she can grow up used to the cat and not try to chase it.”

Within minutes of sharing the post with my husband he called my work phone. “I just applied for the cat!” he said.

An hour later the phone rang again, “I talked to the woman at the cat adoption place and we are approved. We almost weren’t because Jax isn’t neutered yet but when I explained that it’s because he’s in dog shows, he’s really chilled out and relaxed, and he has zero prey drive, they approved us! She’s coming home tomorrow!”

“Uh, what?”

“Molly the cat, we are approved, I’m picking her up tomorrow!” he said happily, “I’m going to go out and pick up a litter box and all of the stuff we need!” 

The next day, Molly the cat came home to us. Being crazy Disney fans, and because we have a human daughter named Molly, we changed her name to Nala from The Lion King. 

“If you take everything I know about dogs and take the inverse of that, that is how little I know about cats!” I told my husband, who had vowed to take care of all cat related matters.

Enjoying her new scratching post instead of the chairs!

Almost four years later, I have developed a love for Nala, or as I jokingly call her, “The Cat.” We have had quite a learning curve as I got over my fear of her clawing me or biting me. She has all of her claws and we do not believe in declawing, especially with two large Labrador Retreivers as her animal siblings.

Jackson is super chilled out around her and they often sniff each other sweetly. He barked at her for the first few days but gave up pretty quickly.

 Tinkerbell wants to be the kitty’s best friend and for the first four years they played a modified cat/dog game through the slats of our stairs. During those first four years Nala lived primarily upstairs in our bedrooms because she was afraid Tinkerbell would chase her, a fear that was quite justified because that was Tinkerbell’s favorite game from the first moment she arrived home as an eight week old puppy. Tink never tried to harm the cat, but the cat did not appreciate being chased by an exuberant young dog.

In the last few months, though, Nala has decided to take matters into her own paws, and has begun to hang out with us in the downstairs of our home. After much training and using the “off” command, giving Tink lots of praise and treats any time she calmly just sniffed or looked at the cat, we finally are able to have all of our animals in the same room in harmony. 

Sometimes when I’m outside with the dogs I see Nala in an upstairs window watching us with great interest. I laugh at what she must be thinking when the dogs gnaw on their antlers or play tug-o-war with a squeaky toy or do their doggie zoomies and games of bitey face. I imagine her writing in a kitty journal, things like “My captors feed animal bones to the two large black beasts that shadow the human mother of the house. I fear I am next!”

I’ve come to realize that feeding a cat is much like feeding the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, where you put the food out and never see them eating, and that we sometimes go days without actually seeing her when she’s decided to camp out in one of the (usually messy) teen bedrooms. She’s been locked in our closet overnight twice because she manages to hide away in remote corners, and I am still not accustomed to having an animal but not knowing where it is or what it is doing every moment of every day. 

My husband and friends tease me because I have tried to apply dog training logic to the cat when she does things like sleeping on my folded clothes in the closet, sharpening her claws on our living room furniture or sleeping on top of my laptop, all pet peeves of mine. I tell her a stern “no” and move her to her cat bed or other location and then softly tell her, “Good kitty, good girl” and pet her.

They laugh and tell me, “The cat is going to do what she’s going to do, you can try to move her from those places all you want, she’s going to keep going back.” I won’t give up trying but I have also found workarounds like buying cat trees and scratching toys, putting my sweaters in plastic bins, and hiding my laptop from her when I am not working. We call this “Lynn vs. The Cat” and although I like to think that I am winning, with the number of things coming from Amazon to keep the cat from making a bed on top of my nicely folded leggings and jeans, I have a feeling she is actually winning the war.

Nala has taken our oldest daughter as her number one human but I seem to be in second place. I often ask her, “Why do you like me so much, you know I’m a lifelong dog person, right” as she purrs and nuzzles me.We do snuggle and she is warm and loving despite the whole clawing/kneading of the human skin that puzzles me. Although I don’t know if I would call myself a “cat person” I definitely enjoy having her in our life. She is sweet and warm and loving and it makes me happy that she has a forever home with us that is safe and certain and that she no longer has to wonder why she is in a cage and not with a family.