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.

Tinkerbell's Fourth Birthday

Tinkerbell’s Fourth Birthday

Tinkerbell’s Fourth Birthday

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Tinkerbell's Fourth BirthdayOur Tinkerbell turned four yesterday. Of course she doesn’t know that four years ago she was experiencing the world from her whelping pen for the first time. She has no idea that we were anxiously waiting for the email from the breeder saying that there were “puppies on the ground” or that I cried happy tears as I looked at the photos of the newborn pups and wondered which one would become ours. And of course she has no idea what I am saying when I say, “Happy Birthday” except that the tone is joyful and good things like new treats and toys appear when those words are spoken.

Since our favorite pet product store is right next to where crowds were gathered for the local wine festival yesterday, I decided to wait until today to take Tinkerbell on her birthday outing. Today we also had her annual veterinary appointment for her heart worm test so I decided to do her birthday trip right after that. That would also mean I only got one sad look from Jackson as we left the house without him.

Of course I needed gas in my car, and if you’ve been reading this blog long enough you’ll remember that Tinkerbell is not a fan of me getting out of the car without her. This time I thought I had her outsmarted; I was ready. She was secured in her harness and doggie seat belt in the front passenger seat to keep her from trying to follow me out of the vehicle, which worked until she stepped on the seat belt release button, but at least I had gotten out without the same dramatic struggle as the last time or a fear of her running loose through a crowded gas station.

After I had paid at the pump, put the pump into the gas tank, and selected the type of gas, I looked up to see her staring at me accusingly from the back seat, her face pressed up against the glass and her distinctive brown eyes practically glaring at me as if to say, “you left me in here again!” If only Illinois would embrace the full service gas station like my home state of New Jersey, filling up with a velcro dog in the car would be much easier.

Once I got back into the car she wrapped her front paws around my arm and laid her head on me as if to say, “No, Momma, do not do that again!” It had never occurred to me that we needed to train this during puppyhood, since I don’t leave the dogs alone in the car. The gas station was the one situation that had completely slipped my mind.

Tinkerbell's Fourth Birthday
Puppy Tinkerbell, photo by Colleen Nedrow, Payton’s Photography

We arrived at Go Dog Go, our favorite local pet product store. It is now part of the growing Chicago based Bentley’s chains of stores, but in my mind it is still Go Dog Go, with the same awesome staff and the same small business atmosphere. Tink recognized where she was and could barely contain her excitement as I gathered my purse, keys and got a secure grip on her leash before exiting my SUV.

For all of her massive amounts of energy at home, she is hands down the best dog I have had in a store. She politely sniffed all of the baskets of pigs ears and bully sticks on the lower shelves, systematically moving down the row but never trying to snatch something on her own. Those baskets always remind me of the rows of candy at the grocery store at child height; of course the goal is for the parents to not be able to say no.

We moved along and she sniffed all of the toys, first the Planet Dog Orbee Tuff options, then the West Paw Designs choices. Since we have most of those and I know her love of stuffed squeaky toys, I directed her to the Fluff n’Tuff section. Her tail wagged furiously as she checked out the options. I showed her the giraffe because of my love of April the Giraffe, but she snubbed it in favor of a giant stuffed bear that she grabbed off the shelf herself. I looked at the price sticker and put it back, “Let’s look for a less expensive toy for you to rip to shreds,” I told her and she wagged her tail happily as she grabbed an alligator off the slat board display. “Do you want another alligator?” I asked her, and she wagged her big thick otter tail even faster. “Ok, let’s take the alligator home!”

Birthday cookies! Just do not tell them I picked up the wrong pink one!

Before checking out I grabbed three birthday cookies and a pink and white dog birthday cake. One of the cookies was for her to eat in the car without Jax trying to snatch up her crumbs, and the other two were to let Jackson join the celebration, just like we had done for his birthday in March. Although a 2008 study showed that dogs do have a sense of fairness and understand if one dog is getting treated better than they are, in this situation Jax probably would have never have known if Tink was dining on cookies while out on her adventure, but let’s face it, I just love to spoil them. After all, isn’t that the whole point of having a dog, to make them happy and do fun things with them?

Playing with the new alligator toy

At the end of the day, this whole birthday celebration is 100% a human thing. I would spoil them every day if my budget would allow. We would have doggie cake daily if I had not made a “no fat Labs” promise to my breeder to keep my dogs at a healthy weight. Later tonight I am going to cut the cake in half and maybe even sing a bit of “Happy Birthday” as we celebrate the day that this sweet girl was born. And while I write about how dogs are not furry humans, that we need to honor the fact that they are dogs, I’m pretty sure picking out a new toys and wolfing down some cake are concessions that my dogs are willing to make.

 

Dogs are Simply the Best Stress Busters

Dogs are Simply the Best Stress Busters

Dogs are Simply the Best Stress Busters

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Dogs are Simply the Best Stress BustersI’ve been super stressed out lately. I cannot tell you why because I honestly cannot pinpoint exactly why I feel this way, whether it’s the never ending political commentary on the news and on social media (and no giraffe cam to which we can escape) or the fact that the end of the school year is always crazy as a parent or whether I am simply overwhelmed with all of the various goals that I have set for myself. I can tell you that it is severely affecting my ability to blog and work on new books and projects and I am trying desperately to shift my energy back to being positive.

Last night I was talking about this with my husband and he said, “Well, maybe you should write a blog about not being able to write a blog!” I told him that I guessed that wouldn’t be the worst idea, only it would be more appropriate if my audience was fellow bloggers and not other dog owners.

Then I realized that not every post has to be educational or fabulous. If you are following me it is because first and foremost you are a dog lover. And at the end of the day, it is our love for our dogs that makes us seek out knowledge and information about how to care for our dogs in the best way possible. And who better to understand how much comfort our dogs are in times of stress than other dog lovers?

So today I am simply celebrating the fabulous creature that is the dog!

Every now and then I am asked, “Lynn, what is your favorite thing about dogs?” That question is extremely hard to answer without simply saying, “Everything!”

As I write about in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof, dogs have been integral to my life since I was five years old. I just had a birthday in March, which means that for the last forty one years of my life, dogs have been as important to me as air, water, food. I don’t know if I have a “favorite” thing about dogs or if dogs are just simply a part of my soul, my energy. The love of dogs is now as much a part of me as much as my hair color, my height.

In fact I like to tell the story of an allergy test that I had a few years ago in which the sample of  “dog allergen” was first scratched and later injected into my skin in a second test. It seems that I’ve lived so closely with dogs that they are literally part of me. Not only did those test spots not swell or itch, they did not even turn red like all of the other allergens that they tested.

Dogs are Simply the Best Stress Busters
Hanging out with Jackson

So when stressful times come, the dogs are my biggest source of comfort. In fact I cannot fathom the amount of money the dogs I’ve loved throughout my life have saved me by being my furry therapists. They are truly the answer to all of life’s emotional woes.

Sad? Snuggle with the dogs.

Frustrated? Take the dogs on a walk to clear your head.

Bored? Play with the dogs.

Stressed? Pet the dogs.

Confused? Talk to the dogs.

Tearful? Let the dogs lick away the tears.

A 2016 study confirmed what we dog lovers have understood for a long time: dogs can understand our emotions. When you add in the notion that dogs want to please us, along with the extremely important fact that they cannot speak English (part of their appeal), it is easy to see why our dogs become our most trusted confidants.

Then there is the science behind what is going on in our own bodies. In 2008/2009 researchers concluded that more of the hormone oxytocin is released when we pet our dogs. According to Psychology Today, “Oxytocin is the hormone that underlies trust. It is also an antidote to depressive feelings.”

While I am a writer, not a doctor, when I put all of this information together it just proves the point that dogs are simply the best stress busters that we have in our lives! Not that we needed scientific proof versus decades of personal experience. All our dogs need to do is just be their normal canine selves and they help us lead better, happier lives, whether it’s laying their head on you when they detect that you are sad or trotting along silently next to you on a walk in a mind meld that melts away all of the stress of your day.

 

 

 

 

Beau the labrador escape artist

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Beau the labrador escape artistEarlier this week a viral video went around that showed a Great Pyrenees easily letting himself out of the boarding area of a Virginia animal hospital and through multiple doors all the way to the outdoors. I feel pretty confident that I am not the only dog owner who watched the video and realized they were watching one of their biggest fears happening in front of their eyes.

This video also brought back a nearly forgotten memory of my Mom’s yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau. Beau was an incredibly good dog, very sweet and chilled out similar to my Jackson in personality but with a passion for hunting birds with Dad and playing fetch endlessly with tennis balls.

Beau was the son of our family dog Jake and was just a year or so old himself when puppy Dutch joined the family. Sort of the middle child in the dog family, Beau bonded with Dutch the moment Dutch trotted into the house. Beau was so good and so intuitive that we watched him divert Dutch’s attention anytime Dutch started to get into naughty puppy mode and become essentially a puppy sitter. If Dutch tried to chew on a contraband item, Beau would bring him a ball or a toy or start playing with him to make him stop.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Beau and Dutch spooning

Similarly to what I wrote about yesterday in the blog Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect, Beau had one big behavioral issue: he was an expert escape artist. As a young and physically fit Labrador, Beau was able to jump over my parent’s fence from a standing position, which he did several times. Their yard at the time was a glorious heavily wooded four acres in the country, with chain link fence around 3 sides and a beautiful cedar plank fence along the front of the house. The chain link portion was higher than the cedar and as a result of Beau’s escapades, Dad added an extension to the entire length of wooden fence. It looked ok but of course made all of us joke that the next step would be rolled barbed wire like you see outside of prisons.

The dogs also enjoyed expansive dog runs in the basement that were about four times the size of the extra-large crates that Jax and Tink have now. I loved how well-trained they were and how when I would visit or dog sit that I could just give the “kennel up” command and they would all run down the basement steps and into their own runs, Jake on the left, Beau in the middle and Dutch on the right.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

Beau also made a habit of jumping out of his dog run and either roaming the basement or joining Jake or Dutch in their kennels. As a result, Beau’s kennel had a roof added to it to ensure that he stayed in his own run while the humans were away.

Several years later my Mom was out-of-town and the dogs were being kenneled at their usual boarding kennel, a wonderful facility in the country that my parents had used for years and where I also occasionally boarded my black Labrador Babe. We loved the owners and staff and they adored our dogs, which helped alleviate the worry and guilt over boarding them.

One morning when my Mom was on a two week scuba diving trip in Fiji, I got an early morning phone call from the kennel. Looking back, I am not sure why I was not dog sitting but I was home with Babe at my own apartment and was the emergency contact for the kennel.

“You need to come and get Beau right now, he is no longer allowed at this kennel,” they said.

“Oh my gosh! What happened! Is he ok” I asked, worried.

“He is banned for life!” they said, “He broke out of his kennel the night before last so we let that slide and tried to secure his door better. Then he broke out again last night and ate all of the food that we had prepared the night before. ALL of it.”

“Oh no!!! How much did he eat?” I asked.

All of the food for every single dog in here, so about twenty bowls of food, plus all of their medicine that was measured out into their bowls! You need to get him NOW!” 

“Ok, I will be there in a half hour, I’ll just take all three at the same time, then.” I said, already starting to put on my shoes.

I drove to the boarding kennel, loaded all three dogs, their food and their bedding into my small-ish Honda, and headed over to my mother’s house to drop them off before going back to my own apartment, picking up Babe, her food and any clothes and toiletries I would need for the rest of the time Mom was gone, and then headed over to dog sit at her house for the remaining of her vacation. It was easier for Babe and me to stay at her house and impossible to imagine watching all four dogs in my tiny apartment with the unfenced yard. Thankfully I was off work that day because I would be on close watch to make sure Beau was ok after eating miscellaneous medications.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch

I knew Mom was landing at night when she returned in a week so there was no chance that she would be going straight to the kennel from the airport, so I did not try to get in touch with her all the way in Fiji.  It was long before texting and social media via smart phones would make it easier to reach someone in another country and there was no need to worry her when I had everything under control. Instead I left a message on her mobile phone voice mail that I assumed she would check when she landed.

“So, I picked up your dogs at the kennel and Babe and I are staying at your house. You can ask Beau why this is, but he’s banned for life from the kennel,” I said cryptically.

As I predicted, she listened to my voice mail and called me on my mobile phone to find out what had happened. I had had several days to dramatize the story of Beau’s escape artist ways and his gluttonous escapades that had gotten him banned for life from the boarding kennel. By the time I was finished we were both roaring with laughter, although he could have easily killed himself if he had ingested the wrong medicines, not to mention the fact that those other dogs were now short a dose of their medications while their owners were away.

Beau’s bad behavior was one of those situations that would turn into a family story that we would tell for years, only now in 2017 without my mom alive anymore to share those stories, I had nearly forgotten it until General’s escape from his boarding facility went viral this week refreshed my memory. I am relieved that the dog from the video was found safe and sound and sleeping in a neighbor’s yard and a little grateful for him, too, for reminding me of this incident in my life with dogs that was truly the epitome of the laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof.

Do you have a topic you would like to suggest for the Love, Laugh, Woof blog? Email me at lovelaughwoof@outlook.com with topics that are on your mind! 

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect Dogs

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect DogsAs much as I write about the importance of training, as much as I work with my own dogs in a “continuing education” sort of way, and pride myself on well-behaved they are, every now and then one of them just isn’t having any part of following the rules they’ve been taught. Yesterday was one of those days.

Jackson was a hard sell on loose-leash walking as a young dog and was not easy to train, but eventually I was able to teach him that if he’s pulling, we aren’t walking. We’ve since earned his Canine Good Citizen and he and I now have a nice mind-meld when we are walking that is one of my favorite things about having dogs as companions. All of this stopped yesterday when he discovered his love of goose poop.

This is the dog who I often tell, “Jax, be a dog, do dog things, live a little!” because he does so few gross dog things. He has zero prey drive, doesn’t have a taste for gross things, avoids mud and puddles and only rarely scents himself on yucky things. Trust me, I don’t mind that he is not the type of dog to ever bring me dead animals or smell bad, but sometimes I wonder if he’s missing out on some part of life as a dog.

Apparently he took my words to heart this spring, because out of nowhere my neat, tidy, non-disgusting dog is obsessed with eating goose poop. Not just mildly interested or sneakily trying to get to some. He is straight up obsessed.

In the park by our house where we take our walks there is no end to this disgusting dog delicacy. Last night Jackson lost his mind over the piles of goose poop everywhere and yanked and pulled with all his might, putting all 70 muscular pounds of force into his efforts. Not one to give up easily, I decided to proceed with the walk and work on correcting his behavior. It did not go well and our walk was horrible.

I finally gave up and turned around on the trail, cutting our walk short, but we still had to go back the way we had come and it turned into frustrating comedy of errors: Jackson lunging and trying to pull me, (even with a short leash in a heeling position) followed by me holding firm and stopping my forward progress until he sat next to me. We would walk nicely for a few steps, he smelled more goose poop, lunged again, I corrected him again.

“JACKSON, NO! OFF!” I exclaimed loudly to him. Not one to yell at my dogs, I raised my voice intentionally, hoping that maybe because I don’t yell, that the unexpected sound would get through to his goose poop obsessed brain, as he was not paying the slightest bit of attention to me every time he smelled or saw another pile.

I came across another dog owner and her dog (who trotted along quite nicely next to her) as she watched me holding back 70 pounds of lunging, desperate dog with one arm as he dove toward the poop with all four paws dug into the ground for leverage. Of course it was at that same time that Tink, who had trotted along happily next to me while I dealt with her brother, decided to see what Jax was so interested in and wrapped her leash around a nearby tree.

“You’ve got your hands full with those two,” she said.

“Yeah, not normally! He’s obsessed with eating this damn goose poop, normally we walk along quite nicely” I answered, completely embarrassed that my dog appeared to be so bad on the leash that she would say something.

Finally we got out of the part of the park where the geese had been and Jax immediately turned back into my well-mannered boy. I am sure he could sense the negative energy coming from me as we headed for home, but he turned and looked up at me with his beautiful head and a huge doggie smile on his face as if saying, “You love me, Momma, you can’t stay mad at me!”

“You are quite pleased with yourself, aren’t you?” I asked him, some of my annoyance fading as I looked at this face I loved so much. Of course I was upset and frustrated, embarrassed to be a dog blogger and writer with my beloved boy acting like a crazy beast, but more than anything I was scared for his health because of all of the germs and diseases that can be spread through goose poop.

Since he was worn out from all of the goose poop lunging and pulling from the first part of our walk and because there didn’t seem to be any of it where we were walking, I gave him a bit more leash and he trotted along next to Tinkerbell, both of them about a foot in front of me with plenty of slack in their leashes.

“See, look at her, she walks both of her big dogs at the same time and they are so good!” I heard a neighbor say to someone as we walked by her yard.

“Oh, you missed the first part of our walk,” I thought to myself, “Jax is just worn out now!”

As we arrived home and I removed the harnesses and leashes from the dogs, my husband greeted me in the kitchen as I went to fill the paw washing buckets. “How was your walk?” he asked.

“Horrific! Do not accept any kisses from YOUR dog, he has a mouth full of goose poop ” I said.

“Uh, oh, Jax, it’s not good when she calls you my dog,” he said to Jax.

Good Dogs Don't Have to Be Perfect Dogs
But momma, I’m so cute!

With paws washed, faces wiped down and their post-walk game of zoomies complete, both dogs crashed on the tile kitchen floor with their tongues happily lolling out of their mouths, and my stress from the walk started to fade. I picked up their food bowls and mixed a probiotic powder with water to give their immune systems a little boost and try to proactively thwart any upset stomach that Jax might get from his goose poop buffet.

Today is a brand new day and I’ve decided that while the geese are around I simply cannot walk both dogs through the park at the same time. I will walk them together elsewhere or I will walk them one at a time through the park.

At the end of the day, Jax is a dog, doing gross dog things. Of course it is my job to protect him from some of those dog instincts and figure out how to handle the situation better next time, but I shouldn’t be embarrassed because he went into some weird dog brain zone and stopped listening and following my rules.

No matter how much training you do, no matter how experienced of a dog owner you are, sometimes they just are going to do things in line with their instincts instead of their training. Jackson is most definitely amazing dog, in fact he is one of the best behaved dogs I have ever known. He is insanely smart with a beautiful disposition that I love unconditionally. If I wanted a perfect dog I could have bought a stuffed animal; good dogs can be the best dogs in the world without being perfect dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof

Funny Puppy Stories: The “Laugh” in Love, Laugh, Woof

Funny Puppy Stories: The “Laugh” in Love, Laugh, Woof

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh WoofThe Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof is all about including laughter and fun in your life with your dog. Whether it is laughing at the funny things dogs do, understanding that dogs enjoy the sound of our laughter and realize it is a fun and happy sound, or wryly laughing at something naughty or frustrating that your dog has done, laughing is important in life and with dogs.

Sometimes laughter falls into the category best described by my favorite songwriter Bruce Springsteen, like the lyric from Rosalita that says, “someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.”  Stories like the one I wrote about earlier this week in The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree  fall into this category. That day was terrifying and stressful when it happened, but now I can tell it with a type of self-deprecating humor about how I tore the cherry tree right out of the ground and whisked Jax off to the vet only to later learn that it wasn’t the harmful type of cherry tree, as well with some laughter about what a naughty puppy Jackson often was when he was little.

As we continue our theme of puppies for the next week, here are two of my favorite puppy stories from each of my dogs. 

Jax Mistakes Inside for Outside

Jackson came home to us on May 5, 2011, and like most summers in the Midwest the temperatures stayed consistently in the 80s and 90s from Memorial Day until after Labor Day. Because we have zero shade trees and it feels like we are living on the sun, our air conditioning runs pretty much non-stop. The front of our house gets so hot for most of the day that you literally cannot touch the metal door knob without burning yourself and I’m afraid to hang a decorative wreath for fear of it combusting! As a result, virtually all of Jackson’s first four months with us were spent with the windows closed and the lined drapes in the front of the house closed to help keep the house cool.

Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof
Sorry, Mom, I thought I was outside!

As we headed into fall that first year of his life, Jackson was 100% house trained. In fact he had not had an accident for about two months, a major accomplishment that we are actually going to talk about in my next blog. As a fully house trained dog I no longer followed him around watching to see if he would squat, and he had not yet started to lift his leg. We were keeping him intact until his first birthday for health considerations and thankfully he did not have any obnoxious boy dog behavior yet.

On the first day that the temperatures dropped we turned off the air conditioning and opened all of the windows. In the front room of our house we have large picture windows that are quite low to the floor.

That afternoon I was sitting in the front room reading a magazine and Jax started to explore the world through the picture windows, his black nose pushed up against the screen while he sniffed the outside air. I watched and smiled as he moved along the length of the window, pausing periodically to sniff some more. “Whatcha smelling, sweet boy, do you like having the windows open?” I asked him and he wagged his tail in response, nose still smushed up against the screen.

My warm fuzzy feeling came to a screeching halt when he got to the bushes at the far side of the window. They were planted outside but tall enough that they actually touched the screen and he sniffed with great interest before squatting and peeing a little right where he stood sniffing.

“NO!” I exclaimed loudly and told him, “Outside, outside!” I grabbed his leash and snapped it onto his collar and took him out the front door, praising him heartily as he finished urinating near the same bush only outside the house.

Once inside he watched with great interest as I sopped up the pee with paper towels and then squirted it heavily with a mixture of white vinegar and water. I pointed to the violated area and calmly said, “no” while his eyes searched my face as if he understood. I didn’t say another word, not wanting to do anything to accidentally reinforce this behavior.

Note: It is important to reinforce that you have to correct your dog while they’re doing the behavior but since he was looking at the pee I took the chance that he’d understand. Remember to never punish your dog by rubbing their nose in a potty accident. 

Later on I shared the story with my husband. “So you know how Jackson hasn’t gone potty inside in a few months? He was sniffing out the front screens and when he got to the bush he peed on the floor! I swear he got confused and thought he was outside!”

That was the last accident we ever had and five and a half years later he’s never even had an accident when sick. We still joke about it anytime the weather is right for open windows. “Ok, Jaxy boy, you are inside the house, ok?” we laugh as he wags his big otter tail and nuzzles us lovingly. Part of me thinks he understands and is laughing along with us.

Tinkerbell vs. The Dishwasher 
Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof
Tink at obedience school with plenty of homework to work on the “off” command!

It is quite normal for a dog to be interested in the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I mean, come on, it’s at their level and all of the dishes have remnants of actual food or at least the scents of human delicacies that are usually off-limits to dogs. They cannot resist trying to take a little lick as you turn to grab the next dish to put on the racks.

Tinkerbell was particularly persistent in her obsession with licking the dirty dishes. She was around five months old and we had been working on the “off” command, blocking her from licking the plates and silverware and telling her off. In typical puppy rearing fashion this process was done over, and over, and over, and over. Her desire to get a taste of our dinner kept winning over her desire to please us by following our instructions. After all, dogs want to please their humans, unless it involves a young Labrador and their mutated gene that gives them their love of food.

One night I was cleaning up after dinner and Tinkerbell was in her normal spot, watching me and waiting for her chance to get a lick of a semi-dirty plate. The door was open and the bottom rack pulled out all the way.  I turned to the sink to rinse out a pan and swiveled back to the dishwasher just in time to see the bottom rack go flying off of the door, bouncing and clattering across the kitchen floor with plates and silverware flying out of it and Tinkerbell racing at top speed in front of it as if she was being chased.

Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof
Helpful appliance or terrifying contraption?

I ran after Tinkerbell and the dishwasher rack and caught up to her in our family room. She was panicked as I caught her and quickly removed her collar from her neck. One of the tags on her collar had somehow gotten caught in the narrow side portions of the wire rack and attached her to the rack, startling her. When she tried to pull away she had jerked the wire rack off its channel, which scared her even more, and she took off with the entire dishwasher rack “chasing” her. It all happened so fast that it was like a scene out of a cartoon, her paws slipping on the tile floor as she tried to run faster than she could with dishes flying out all around her. You could have substituted Pluto for Tinkerbell and animated it for a surefire Disney hit!

These days at three and a half years old, Tinkerbell still loves to stand by the dishwasher and watch me. She embraces the “off” concept, though, but every now and then she darts in to try to get a lick. I tell her a stern “off” and she backs up and looks at me like they are trained to do with that command, waiting for further direction. Sometimes I ask her, “Don’t you remember what happened the day the dishes chased you, sweet girl?” as she wags her tail sweetly, “Now, out of the room!” With a big doggie sigh she heeds the “out” command and goes to join Jackson in the living room, away from the potential attack of the dishwasher.

Do you have funny puppy stories? Join the Love, Laugh, Woof Forever Owners Facebook group and share your best “laugh” stories of life with your forever dog! 

Click here to request membership! 

 

 

 

The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree (1)

The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree

The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

This post was originally published June 2012 on www.jacksonandtinkerbell.com

The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree (1)I woke this morning with great expectations of a few relaxing hours with the dogs. I had a doctor appointment for myself at 10:45 so I was using half a sick day from work. As a result I was going to have a few extra hours to let the dogs stay out of their kennels and play. They have had a few long days of more than normal crate time as my husband has been out-of-town and as the only dog parent home they were living on my schedule. The dog walker at noon helped, but I was happy they would get some more play time.

As always I went outside with the dogs. Jackson is fifteen months old and still explores the world by putting everything into his mouth instead of just smelling it with his nose. Because of this I tend to stay close to him to make sure he is not consuming something that could hurt him.

Over the last few days Jackson has been obsessed with our fairly new Bing Cherry tree. A month or so ago we planted an apple, pear and a cherry tree in our back yard. He was doing a great job of staying off of the trees, not killing them with his urine, and not chewing them. I knew exactly what was going on in his mind each time he looked at those trees: Best. Stick. EVER!

This morning Jackson was intent on removing all of the leaves off of several branches and eating them. Not just chewing and spitting out, but actually eating and swallowing. He did this in record time. I body blocked him, I used the “off” command that I know he knows very well. I circled the tree, trying to keep my own body between the pup and the tree.

I failed miserably. The more I blocked him, the more of a game it became. I raised my voice. NO! I even broke out the dreaded b-a-d-d-o-g. He darted in and out around me to get to the tree to eat more leaves with speed that should not have been possible with that stocky body.

Finally I grabbed his collar and led him to the back door in what was probably a violation of all of our positive reinforcement training that we had done in the last year. It was old school training. It did not hurt him, was not cruel, and gave him the reminder that he must listen to me.

Once inside he drank the entire bowl of water and flopped on top of the central air vent. In the meantime I decided on a whim to check my pet poison app on my phone. I was not too concerned as many of the dog treats I bought contained cherries so I knew the fruit was safe for canine consumption.

My heart skipped a beat as I read that cherry tree leaves contain cyanide and were deadly when consumed in toxic amounts. But what was a toxic amount?? How many leaves had he had? He had been gobbling them up them like it was his mission in life!

Our veterinarian is on my speed dial so I called the their office. None of the doctors would be in for an hour. I started to panic and I phoned the pet poison control line, paid $40.00 to open a case and spoke to one of their vets about the issue. She eased my mind that Jackson had not consumed many leaves in terms of being toxic and that the issue was usually with horses and cattle that grazed and ate a lot of leaves in fields where cherry trees grew in groves.

My mind was somewhat eased but there was no way I wanted that tree in my yard anymore. I knew my dog and knew he would immediately go right back to it the next time we went outside, so I walked out into the yard and yanked the tree out of the ground. It came out easily and I put it in our front yard to deal with it later. The pet sitter was coming today and I wanted to make sure Jackson did not get to any more leaves.

I sat with him and watched him, trying to see if he was acting funny or breathing weird. As I sat with him, I kept imagining leaves full of cyanide sitting in my puppy’s stomach while I was thirty miles away all afternoon. I called the vet’s office again and arranged for Jackson to stay in their medical day care area under observation. There was no way I was leaving my baby in his crate, helpless, while I left and went to my doctor and to work. No way. If they could not have taken him, I would have cancelled the doctor and skipped work today without even a second thought.

Now, fourteen hours later, we have learned for sure that the number of leaves he ingested would not have been a toxic amount. The pet poison hotline also told my vet that the dried leaves contain a higher concentration and these were straight off of the tree and still green. The most important information, though, came from my husband, who ironically was attending a hazardous materials training class and spoke to one of his instructors who told him that the Bing Cherry tree is a different type of tree than the Black Cherry tree and the leaves are not toxic at all.

I will always go with the “better safe than sorry” mindset. An $80 fee for a checkup and daycare stay at the vet’s office is nothing compared to peace of mind of having a safe and healthy puppy. Racing to the vet in pajamas, unbrushed teeth, and wild bed head is nothing compared to the peace of mind of having a safe and healthy puppy. Arriving late at my own appointment and forgetting to eat is nothing compared to peace of mind of having a safe and healthy puppy. These are the moments you sign up for when you take on a dog. It is part of the commitment to them that you keep them safe.

Now at the end of the day, as I watch him sleep peacefully, I flash forward to ten years from now, when his muzzle will turn white and he will sleep more than he plays. I imagine stroking his beautiful face, telling him the story of how he scared momma half to death one summer morning when he started to chow down on Bing Cherry tree leaves, and how it was a false alarm. I imagine him picking up his big blocky head, giving me a lick on the face, as if to say “Momma, I have no idea what you are saying, but I’m glad I am here with you”.

Seek Our Your Dog For a Happiness Reboot

When Life Gets a Glitch, Seek Our Your Dog For a Happiness Reboot

When Life Gets a Glitch, Seek Our Your Dog For a Happiness Reboot

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Seek Our Your Dog For a Happiness Reboot Being a blogger and a writer for a living is a profession that can be impacted by emotions in a way that is unlike any other career I’ve had. I guess it is because you put your heart and soul into your work instead of just going through the motions of mindless tasks.

Yesterday was just one of those “bad” days. Trust me, I’ve had truly hideous, heartbreaking days over the course of life; yesterday was more of a frustrating or annoying day. I find life precious and don’t like to get sidetracked by that type of day at all, let alone when I’m trying to write as much as I wanted to write.

I had the entire day blocked out for blogging and working on a new mini e-book that I will be offering to my readers, I had the house to myself as my husband was working and the teens were elsewhere. Instead of my regularly scheduled day, I ended up with so many other distractions, plus a bit of very hurt feelings and parenting stress thrown in that I could not shake, along with other things pulling me away from those tasks that the only thing I managed to accomplish was vacuuming up two Dyson canisters of Labrador hair. That was at 9 pm.

The sense of accomplishment from doing something productive (especially taking care of the Lab hair tumbleweeds that were forming) was enough that I sat down with my laptop and started to write today’s blog. I had written a few sentences earlier in the day and the topic just seemed stale, nothing was coming out of my brain, and I was just going through the motions. By 11 pm I had a few lame paragraphs and I decided to call it a night. Normally I love to write late at night when my husband is working, it’s often my best thinking and creative time as I am not an early morning person.

I shut my laptop and sighed in frustration. I heard the heavy thump, thump of a Labrador tail and looked down from my favorite writing chair and saw Tinkerbell  laying on her side next to my chair, peering up at me with her tail slowly thumping on the ground. “Hi baby girl,” I said, and put my laptop on the side table before sliding onto the floor next to her.

Tink rolled onto her stomach with her paws stretched out in front and gave a huge full body dog stretch before reaching out to lick my face. I laid on my stomach in front of her and stretched too, and a day’s worth of frustration started to melt away. I kissed her nose and she licked my face and we alternated this several times before she rolled onto her side and pulled my hand toward her stomach with her paw. We laid like that for awhile, dog and dog momma sharing a moment on the floor while I scratched her tummy.

Shortly after, Jackson came over and laid down next to me and put his face near ours, and I laid on the floor like that, my two dogs and I face to face, for the next forty five minutes before taking them outside and then up to bed. Mentally and emotionally, that time on the floor with them was like setting the reset button, like a control-alt-delete to make the glitches of the day magically go away and for my system to start the rebooting process to its normal positive, happy, creative and productive self.

The dogs and I went to bed, I put on my favorite guilty pleasure TV show that the DVR had recorded, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I adore Erika Girardi and love, love, love the work that Lisa Vanderpump is doing to help dogs and end the atrocities in Yulin and the episode happened to focus on a trip that Lisa Vanderpump took to Hong Kong to continue her work to stop the Yulin slaughter.

As I watched, Jax snored on the dog bed next to me and Tink slept next to me in the human bed, growling softly in her sleep. I have never once heard her growl in real life and I stroked her face, wondering what type of dream was making my sweet girl growl. When the show was over I turned off the TV, turned on the sleep meditation app on my phone and snuggled my sweet girl dog as I fell asleep. I woke in the morning to their customary canine wakeup service feeling refreshed, yesterday’s nonsense no longer plaguing me.

It’s funny or ironic, or something along those lines, that my entire passion is writing about dogs, sharing the reasons why they are amazing, educating dog owners on how to create a happy, healthy, holistic life for their forever dogs, teaching people that dogs are sentient, loving creatures who should be treated with nothing but love, and yet I forgot on that very stressful day that by doing nothing and simply laying close to them and feeling their healing presence, that I could get back to my normal mindset. All they had to do was to be dogs and my spirits were boosted and I my negative mindset was turned back to positive, simply from some Tinkerbell kisses and laying face to face with both of my dogs on the freshly vacuumed carpet.

The Holding of the Antlers- Alpha Female or Dog Nanny-

The Holding of the Antlers: Alpha Female or Dog Nanny?

The Holding of the Antlers: Alpha Female or Dog Nanny?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Holding of the Antlers- Alpha Female or Dog Nanny-As I was getting ready to write my blog yesterday Jackson came up to me with an antler in his mouth and laid the end of it on my lap. He rested it there and with the other end in his mouth, looked up at me with his big brown eyes.

“Do you want momma to hold that for you?” I asked him. He answered by pushing the antler closer to me. “I think that’s a yes,” I said to him.

I moved from the chair to sit on the floor and I took the antler in my hand while Jax happily gnawed on the end of it. Pretty soon Tinkerbell came over with a different antler hanging out of her mouth and dropped it on the floor in front of me. I picked that one and held it out to her and she began to chew on the end.

“Well, today’s blog has been delayed by the holding of the antlers,” I laughed and said to my husband who was sitting nearby.

“That sounds like a blog all on its own!” he exclaimed.

“Hey, I like that!” I answered, and so we have today’s post: The Holding of the Antlers: Alpha Female or Dog Nanny? 

 

Holding the moose antler for Tink to enjoy

It was never my intention to get my dogs in the habit of chewing their bones with a human holding them for them. This is not anything I’ve done for my other dogs. All of them chewed their bones and antlers like normal dogs: by placing them between their paws to hold them.

Thinking back to Jackson’s puppyhood, it seems that we started this when we were teaching him which items were his to chew and which were off-limits. It was during this process that his keen intelligence was a blessing and a curse; a blessing because he was a fast learner but a curse when there was something that he just really wanted to chew like the leg of our desk chair or the spines of our coffee table books. Those items were so amazing for a little puppy that he did not care that we had told him no, he was going to chew them anyway.

He really, really wanted to chew the leg of that chair in particular and no matter how many times we told him no, no matter how many times we removed his mouth from the chair and gave him an appropriate chew toy, he went back to it over and over and over and over, those razor-sharp puppy teeth making new dents and marks every time. In fact a few times I turned my back for a minute and found him gnawing wildly on the chair legs, huge chunks of wood missing after such a short amount of time!

As a result, I spent most of Jax’s puppyhood thrusting dog toys and bones into his mouth. When he redirected his attention onto them, I continued to hold them while he chewed. I remember so many days, exhausted from puppy rearing, that I sat on the floor in a sleep deprived daze while my beautiful destructo dog chewed on a toy that I held for him.  As time went on, he finally learned which things were off-limits and also conceded defeat and accepted that we would not in fact allow him to destroy our chair or books, and we stopped following him from room to room. Instead, he started to bring his bones and toys for us to hold while he chewed.

Jax out-smarting Tink to get her antler

When Tinkerbell joined us, she was about 100 times easier to train about what to chew and what not to chew than her big brother, but she figured out that we held onto the antlers for Jax and she started to bring them to us to hold while she chewed. Gradually we have evolved into synchronized bone chewing, with me holding an antler in each hand and each dog happily gnawing away side by side.

Of course I will never deny them this service. For one thing, I love being an integral part of their pack, that they come to me to do things like this for them. Every mom wants to be needed, whether it’s by her kids or her dogs. I even researched to see if this was something a wolf mom might do, perhaps when the pack was feeding on a freshly hunted animal, but could find no such thing. Tink does like to lick my face near my mouth like a wolf pup does, but I do draw the line at vomiting to share my most recent meal with her. As Meatloaf would say, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”

It may sound crazy to people, that I do this for the dogs, but it’s just another unique part of our lives and something special for these two dogs of ours. It’s yet another reason that this interspecies friendship is so amazing, that we’ve been able to establish these little traditions and quirks without speaking a word to each other.

 

 

Dogs and Daylight Savings Time

Dogs and Daylight Savings Time

Dogs and Daylight Savings Time

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Dogs and Daylight Savings TimeDaylight Savings Time has a way of bringing out some intense reactions from people. It seems that jumping an hour forward is not everyone’s favorite thing. Of course, tracking time by hours and days is entirely a man made concept and we don’t ever lose or gain time, but that one hour seems to mess with some humans for a long time.

For me personally, I love the start of daylight savings time! Maybe it remains from when I worked a 9-5 corporate job and the months when we left the office into total darkness were horribly depressing, or maybe it’s because I’m really not an early morning person, but I am definitely happier when our daylight lasts later into the night rather than starting earlier in the day. My favorite thing about Daylight Savings Time, though, is that it puts the dogs back onto our desired schedule.

Jackson and Tinkerbell follow a strict schedule and are more punctual than any dogs I’ve ever known. I call this Dog Time. It was not my plan to instill in them such a strict schedule since they are dogs and can live life without the burdens of tracking minutes and hours like humans. But, they picked it up on their own from our daily habits and have stuck to it every day since they were each young puppies.

Jackson was only a few months old when we realized that every night at 10:08 pm he would come and sit in front of us and stare and whine for his last potty break outside. Not 10:00, not 10:15, 10:08. Every. Single. Night.

“How on earth does he know what time it is?” we would marvel to each other.

When Tinkerbell joined the family she quickly learned Jackson’s existing schedule and became an even bigger task master, reminding me precisely when it was time to eat, time to go outside, time to go to bed. Tink’s method is more intense than Jax’s signature “sit, stare and whine” technique; she prefers “jump, trample and lick” when she wants to tell me it is time to do something.

Since Jackson came home to us in May 2011 and Tinkerbell in July 2013, both of them came home during Daylight Savings Time, and as a result their schedules were established on that timing, based on our human lifestyle. When we go off of Daylight Savings Time in the fall, the dog schedule and the human schedule no longer match.

If you’re wondering why one hour makes such a difference, it is because I adjust within a week. The dogs never do. Trust me, I’ve tried to get them to adjust. They won’t.

During Daylight Savings Time the dogs get me up at 6:30, literally like clockwork. This has always been the time I needed to be up since Jax was born, first when I was in the corporate world and now to make sure that the teenagers are up and out the door and nobody slept through an alarm. I myself don’t need an alarm anymore because I have my canine alarm clock.

When Daylight Savings Time is over, the dogs stay on their schedule and 6:30 becomes 5:30. You would think the dogs would adjust an hour eventually but they don’t. No matter what time they go out at night, no matter what I do to tell them to go lay down, no matter if I ignore them or make them wait an hour to try to get them to adjust, they will not.

Their morning wake up call goes like this: Jax sits as close to the bed as he can, completely upright, while he whines and nudges me with his nose, over and over. Tink is less subtle. She either lays entirely on top of me or leaps on me, trampling my internal organs. Sometimes they heed my “go lay down” commands and settle for the hour while I scoot to the inside of the bed and try to ignore them. Other days they will have none of it. If I lay facing the outside of the bed, Jax grows more persistent and will flip my arm into the air and increase the frequency and power behind his nose nudges and the volume of his whines. If I lay facing the inside of the bed, Tink follows me and wiggles wildly, licking my face and pawing insistently at my arm to rub her tummy.

It seems that Dog Time is like the state of Arizona, it never changes time and for those of us who do, we are perpetually out of synch with the ones who do not change. Don’t get me wrong, I never want to be without this doggie wake up service, I just want it to be an hour later, like it is on Daylight Savings Time.

Dogs and Daylight Savings Time
According to our schedule it is time for something!

It’s not just morning that stays on Dog Time when Daylight Savings Time ends, it is everything: lunch moves from noon to 11 am, puppy playtime from 4pm to 3pm, supper from 6:30 to 5:30. When I try to force the transition back to my time, and wait until the time on our human clock, they sit and stare at me, side by side, for the full time, periodic moans and groans of impatience coming from them both. They’ve learned the phrase “It’s not time yet” and will lay down with a grunt and an audible sigh, but still staring at me intently as if trying to will me to do what they want.

In trying to figure out how the dogs know what time it is, I did some research and learned that scientists just are not 100% certain how a dog knows that 10:08 pm is time for their last potty break of the night and bedtime. Some attribute their sense of time to their circadian rhythm, an internal sense that tells them when to sleep or when to be active. Some experts think that they use their noses and incredible sense of smell, especially for things like knowing when their owner will be home from work. According to that theory, the owner’s scent dissipates throughout the day and dogs know that when the scent is at a certain strength, their owner comes home.

No matter what the reason, Dog Time has become the primary reason that I am doing a happy dance when Daylight Savings Time begins each spring and friends of mine are complaining that it is too dark in the morning or that their sleep schedules are messed up. I do love the light at the end of the day rather than in the morning, and it is also an indicator that spring and summer are coming and that soon we will have more daylight hours than we do during winter, but more than anything, I love that my dogs and I are once again in-synch about when it’s time to start each day together.

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Check out these articles if you are interested in knowing how dogs tell time: 

https://www.wired.com/2014/07/whats-up-with-that-dogs-tell-time/

http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/can-dogs-understand-time/

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/dogs-perceive-time.htm

http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/dogs-tell-time-with-their-noses-expert-says/

 

 

 

 

 

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare Interview

Babe and Dutch’s Doggie Daycare Interview

Babe and Dutch’s Doggie Daycare Interview

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare InterviewRecently I shared a story of a disgusting dog kennel experience in which my late Babe came home reeking of urine and other horrific smells in my blog Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust. After publishing that blog I remembered a funny story that I had nearly forgotten about in my quest to find a suitable option for boarding: Babe and Dutch’s Doggie Daycare Interview. 

After the incident with the disgusting dog kennel, I continued to search for just the right place. I was thrilled to find a pet sitter to come into my home, a young college student who was related to the husband and wife police officers who lived across the hall from me in my apartment. She became my go-to pet sitter for Babe for several months until she transferred to a different college downstate.

Shortly after, my Mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch came to live with me. If you’ve read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, you’ve read about goofy and lovable “Dutchdog” and his antics. I tried kennel after kennel, but I was never quite happy. One of them even scolded me when I picked up Babe and Dutch and told me, “Babe is an angel but Dutch is extremely selfish!”

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare Interview
Babe & Dutch

“Selfish??” I asked, thinking I had heard them wrong.

“Yes, selfish,” they replied.

“Um, he’s a dog!” I answered.

“He’s very selfish,” they continued, “He doesn’t wait his turn for treats, he pushes past Babe to get in and out of their kennels, he’s a very selfish dog.”

“Um, ok, well, I guess we forgot to teach him how to share nicely, I’ll get right on that…” I answered sarcastically and took my angel and my selfish dog back home with me.

As I relayed this story to my friends at work at lunch, one co-worker told me about a doggie daycare center in a nearby suburb that his friends had opened a year ago. It was 2006 and business was booming and the doggie daycare concept was growing in popularity, with all of the dogs able to play and frolic together all day. Many dog owners had started taking their dogs to facilities like this for just their human workday and they picked up happy, worn out dogs each night on their way home, like children at a daycare center. Others used them like a boarding kennel when they went out of town.

I called that night and made an appointment for the mandatory “interview” to see if Babe and Dutch were doggie daycare acceptable. “They should pass with flying colors,” I told the employee, “They are perfectly behaved dogs, although I’ve been told Dutch is a little selfish, haha!”

A few days later I arrived home from work, changed my clothes and put both dogs in the car and we headed to their interview. “Make sure you answer all of their questions right on your interview,” I teased and they both wiggled their tails furiously.

We entered a large warehouse type building that had fake grass on the cement floor. I signed us in at the beautiful wooden welcome desk and was horrified to look down to see my perfectly house trained Dutch lifting his leg and peeing on the desk. “Dutch, NO!!!” I told him and his big goofy ears perked up. “You are INSIDE!” I said, ineffectively but not sure what else to say.

“First we are going to walk them around this room to see how they do on-leash with someone other than you,” an employee told me.

“Oh, that should be easy, Babe has always been perfect on or off leash and I’ve been working on getting Dutch to walk nicely too. He always had a fenced yard but he’s been with me awhile now and the three of us walk together multiple times a day.”

I watched as each of my dogs, one at a time, pulled and yanked and tried to lunge at the other dogs in the room. They looked like the dog version of an unbroken wild horse with a saddle on its back for the first time! “Oh  my gosh,” I said, “they are never like this!” I told the staff member.

Next we went to the indoor open play area, another huge warehouse space, also covered in green fake grass. To me it looked like we were clearly inside, so I was shocked at what they did next. We released both dogs from their leashes and let them run into the area. There were no other dogs in this section at the time so Babe and Dutch had it to themselves. Almost immediately each of them went in opposite directions, hunched their backs in the telltale pooping position, and each pooped inside the building as I stood and watched in shock, my mouth probably hanging open, speechless.

“I don’t know what’s going on! They are so GOOD normally! They are perfectly house trained, I don’t understand what they are doing!”

We had one final part of the interview, and we took the dogs outside to the general population of dogs who were running around and playing in a securely fenced area. There were games of chase, bitey face, and general canine frivolity happening all over the outdoor area.

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare Interview
We really didn’t want to go to doggy daycare!

Babe typically loved other dogs, she had been around tons of them and played happily or just chilled with them. We even had one neighbor dog when we lived in Indiana, a Golden Retriever named Bob, whose house she would run into for cookies if I let her off her leash in their driveway. Dutch was also very used to other dogs and had hunted birds with strange dogs on bird hunting expeditions with my Dad.

Babe ran to the farthest side of the fence, huddled against it so closely that her fur was pushing through the chain links, and cowered and shook in fear. Desperate to rescue her, I turned to the employee and said, “Ok, she hates this, I’m going to just…” and was cut off mid-sentence as Dutch got into a nasty, snarling dog fight with another big dog that was pure fighting and not at all a playful bitey-face game.  The employee was right there in an instant and ended the fight and herded Dutch back into the indoor area as I went to get my shaking Babe.

“Ok, I think that’s enough, thank you for your time, I cannot IMAGINE we passed,” I said and laughed wryly.

“Oh, no, you did, your dogs are great, they are both approved and you can fill out the rest of the paperwork on the way out!” the employee said happily.

“You’re joking?” I said, “I don’t think this is for us, we are going to go home, I appreciate your time.”

I got both dogs back in the car as I shuddered, wondering what other types of dogs had passed this interview with flying colors, 100% certain that my dogs would not be going there. Not only had Dutch peed on their beautiful wood desk, they had both pooped inside, were little devil dogs on leash, Babe had quivered in terror during the play session and Dutch had gotten in a straight up dog fight! How was that approved, I wondered?

“Did you guys blow that whole thing on purpose? I take it you don’t want to go to doggy daycare?” I asked as they both started at me, tongues lolling out of their mouths, as I put the car in drive and headed home.

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What if cats and dogs had opposable thumbs day

What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day

What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

What if cats and dogs had opposable thumbs dayYes, Virginia, there really is a “What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day.” I cannot find the source of this day, in fact sometimes I wonder if someone “invented” these bizarre days just to see if people would celebrate them!

Here at Love, Laugh, Woof, the answer is: heck yes we will!

Literally just five minutes ago my husband made a reference to if the dogs had thumbs. It went like this:

Teenager 2: “Guys, go lay down, I don’t have any more cheese to give you!”

Husband: “Yes, but you have thumbs, they know you can go and get more cheese from the fridge!”

In the world of the Labrador Retriever, it was a long-standing tradition for Labs to have their dew claws removed at a very young age to avoid them snagging on brush in the field and tearing off in a painful way. None of my parents’ Labs ever had dew claws for this reason. This is the same with many other sporting breeds and dogs who actively run through brush and weeds.

Tink uses her dewclaws to balance herself during turns

Recently, though, health experts and breeders are changing their view on removing dew claws, and many Labrador breeders and other breeders are keeping these claws on their dogs. This is because the dew claw is actually functional, according to M. Christine Zink DVM, PhD, DACVSMR who shares some interesting and educational information at http://www.caninesports.com/uploads/1/5/3/1/15319800/dewclawexplanation.pdf.

In the two years between Jackson and Tinkerbell being born, our breeder stopped removing them, so Tinkerbell has hers, while Jackson does not. When we picked her up we noticed the dewclaws and our breeder explained the health benefits of leaving them on and we felt blessed to have someone so knowledgable about this issue and so concerned about the health of her puppies. “They also use them to hold things,” she told us, “You’ll notice when she’s holding a bone or a toy.”
Sure enough, puppy Tinkerbell used her dewclaws to hold things right away. She used them to hold her antler and chew toys all the time, like a little thumb. “Oh no, we have the first dog with thumbs, we’ve lost our advantage!!” we joked to each other.

Lucky for us, and despite our jokes that our dog has thumbs, dewclaws are not actually thumbs, even if she does have an extra ability to use them to hold onto things that she is chewing and use her paws to pull our hands to her favorite scratchy spot on her belly, something she does all the time. As a result, we still have a lot of silly conversations about all the things the dogs would do if they did have thumbs, so today is the perfect day to share them with you!

1. Snacks for everyone! Thumbs would make it so easy to get to snacks. They could open the zipper top packages of Fruitables, the boxes of Wet Noses treats, the jar of peanut butter.

2. Endless food! Like most Labs, Jax and Tink would eat nonstop if we let them, which is why their bags of food are in a locking container. Recently scientists determined that Labradors actually have a mutant gene that makes them hungry all the time and thumbs would mean that we were buying a lot more food each month and we would have 200 pound Labradors!

3. Inside, outside, inside, outside, inside, outside…Thumbs would make it possible to open the door, bringing their dreams of going inside and outside repeatedly all day to fruition.

4. Get those darn squeakers out of toys! The mortal enemy of any dog is the squeaker in their plush toys! No more working with their teeth to get those squeakers out, if dogs had thumbs they could easily tear the toy open or use scissors to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

5. Open the fridge! Fridge door, open! Cheese drawer, easy peasy! Meat drawer, oh yeah!

6. Open the fence gates: My late Dutch did this once with his nose, but thumbs would make it easy to come and go as they pleased, whether it was to go on a stroll around the neighborhood or to catch that pesky rabbit who keeps slipping underneath the fence.

7. Answer the front door: No more barking for us to answer the door or wondering who is outside the house, if dogs had thumbs they could easily answer the door themselves.

8. Play fetch with their paws: No more slimy tennis balls or frisbees, dogs with thumbs could play fetch with their paws and even throw the ball back to us. A whole new world of games would open up!

9. Explore the world with their hands: If you’ve had a young puppy, you know that they put everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in their mouths to figure out what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s good for them or bad for them, it all goes in their mouth because it’s the only way to pick it up. Thumbs would mean a dog could sit and contemplate an item and be able to hold and see it at the same time.

10. They could use technology: We all know dogs with their own social media accounts, having thumbs means that they could really truly update their status, take selfies with their friends, finally find out which Disney princess or personality color they are, and turn on Animal Planet and FidoTV while their humans are out of the house. Just don’t let them add your credit card or you’ll wonder how that PetFlow order arrived at your house without your knowledge!

11. They would thumb wrestle: If you have multiple dogs, you know those days when they play the lazy games of bitey face, laying on the ground and sparring with just their jaws for fun? Thumbs would introduce thumb wrestling to their lazy day fun!

Of course even if dogs had opposable thumbs, they will wouldn’t speak English, know how to navigate busy streets, know which foods were bad for them, or any of the other important things that we humans know to keep our dogs safe in a human world. As much fun it is to joke about the things they could do with thumbs, it’s for their own good that they don’t have actual thumbs, like mother nature’s way of protecting them. Today, though, it’s all in good fun, and I hope that Jackson and Tinkerbell’s dreams are full of finally opening that jar of peanut butter all on their own and maybe playing three way game of catch with me!