My Dogs are My Self Care
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life, Uncategorized

My Dogs are My Self Care

Lately I am seeing the phrase “self care” everywhere I look. Now, maybe it’s been around longer than I know and I’m only now noticing it, because I have been going through a lot of personal changes myself the last few years. I have been learning about mindfulness, meditation, energy, connecting with the source energy of the universe, reading non-fiction books about people with life advice, and figuring out how to make my brain work for me instead of running around all willy-nilly. Basically, I’ve been trying to make my brain act like a six-year-old Labrador (energetic but in control) instead of a one-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer (crazy and all over the place). At any rate, it seems like “self-care” is the buzzword of the year.

In a quest to better understand what exactly everyone is talking about when they say self-care, I did what we all do and Googled it. I found this in an article called What Self Care Is and What It Isn’tSelf-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health on  The article went on to say that self-care was the key to an improved mood and reduced anxiety.

I thought about that for awhile and realized that I’ve been participating in self-care since that day in 1976 that I wrote about in my book when I learned the beauty of having a dog as my best friend. It turns out that my dogs are my self-care, and I bet that they fall into that category for so many of the readers of this blog and dog owners everywhere.

I found another article on a website called MoneyCrashers called What is Self Care: Definition, Tips and Ideas for a Healthy Life. In it, they ask these questions: 

What do I most enjoy doing with my time? (Your answer shouldn’t include work or chores.)

What activities make my heart feel at rest and at peace?

When do I feel the most full of life and well-being?

When do I feel the tension release from my neck, shoulders, and jaw? What am I doing when this tension goes away?

Which people provide me with energy, strength, and hope, and how much time do I spend with them compared to the people who drain my sense of well-being with negativity and guilt?

When do I feel my life is full of purpose and meaning?


I have a feeling that if you’re a reader of my blog or came across this post and clicked on it, that you completely understand what I am saying.

What activities make my heart feel at rest and at peace? When I am chilling with the dogs, petting their bellies in silence, stroking their silky ears, watching them sleep, reading a book with our heads on the same pillow. It is more therapeutic and good for my own energy than any meditation I’ve ever done.

Sometimes I actually like to lay next to them in silence and stillness and give thanks to the universe, “thank you for these dogs, for their presence in their lives, for the love and friendship that we share, for the lessons that they teach and the knowledge to make their lives as happy as possible.” 

What do I most enjoy doing? Taking the dogs on a hike, playing with them in the yard, having Puppy Power Hour in the house. 

When do I feel the most full of life and well being? When the dogs and I are out on a walk, in that one of a kind mind meld zone. I love when we are in the yard together and they are off leash and we walk next to each other in harmony, the dogs trotting to my left side in companionable silence. There is no need for words that they cannot speak. I feel our connection just by walking together side by side. 

When do I feel like my life is full of purpose and meaning? When I am writing this blog, sharing this content that might just help a fellow dog owner emotionally or with practical information. I have never felt in any other career the same joy and satisfaction over answering a question for someone in need of information as I do when I can help a person and their dog. 

In another article, this one in Forbes, I read this: 

Know your worth: Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem.

So I sat here, staring at the blinking cursor on the screen and wondered if categorizing my time with my dogs as self-care would still apply. Not that it matters in terms of how I am going to approach my time with my dogs, but for the sake of this blog I was curious. And the answer is that yes, it does!

In fact, a 2016 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that humans with a close relationship with their dog experienced higher self-esteem and were happier.  When you think about it, your dogs are your biggest fans, looking to you for everything, happy when you return home, gazing at you with adoration, so it’s only natural for them to make you feel good about yourself.

So what does this mean? What can you take away from this? For the diehard dog lovers, maybe your takeaway is that you can relate to this 100%. Maybe your takeaway is that you can stop wondering if you’re getting enough self-care like all the talk shows and magazines are saying you should, and just snuggle up to your pup, sharing a bowl of popcorn and watching Animal Planet together.

If you have not experienced these quiet moments with your dog, try out spending time with your dog as a way to restore your energy. Sit quietly together, no phone, no music, no TV, and focus on your breathing while you gently stroke your dog’s fur wherever she likes to be petted, or go outside in the yard with your dog and watch him as he sniffs the ground, watch his nose at work, his brain analyzing every scent, and appreciate the things that make him so dog-like and unique. 

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the dogs of the farmer's market love laugh woof
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

The Dogs of the Farmer’s Market

This past weekend I worked at a farmer's market booth for a local pet treat company whose college-aged employees were headed back to school. I jumped at the chance to do something so close to my heart in an environment that I am familiar with from doing so many local events for my blog, all while earning some extra income so that I can continue to focus on Love, Laugh, Woof full time. Plus, during my interview, I found a fellow kindred spirit in the pet industry who is as passionate about her business and helping dogs be happy and healthy as I am about my business and the good of all dogs, so I couldn't turn down the chance to work for her.

On Saturday I woke to my 4:30 a.m. alarm clock, so early that it even woke the dogs up. By 5:30 a.m. I was in my car, headed to the market to help set up the booth, and by 7:00 a.m. we were ready for customers. The goal for the day was to train me so that I could be up and running independently.

Because my own business is not one that sells tangible, locally made items, I have never had a booth at a farmer's market, so I was not sure what to expect. As a blogger and author, the events that I attend are usually to benefit local rescues, and I pay to have a table or booth primarily to get out and meet people and let them know that I am local and that they can follow me for education and entertainment about dogs. I do usually sell some copies of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner,  but mostly I get to meet lots and lots of dog owners and pet their dogs and get the word out about Love, Laugh, Woof.

Our booth setup was very professional and inviting, with a dog treat cookie bar on one side where customers could pick and choose a variety of cookies priced by the ounce. On the other side of our booth, we had a gorgeous selection of larger cookies in a variety of flavors and shapes on one table. Another table held grain free cookies plus turkey jerky and dehydrated chicken jerky.  We were stocked up and ready for customers.

I was excited that the first regulars started to come in to shop as soon as the market opened, right at 7. Not only were they bright and early, but they knew where they were headed and what they needed to purchase as part of their weekly shopping.

Locally grown veggies, √

Freshly baked bread, √

Breakfast smoothie from the juice guy, √

All natural dog treats, √

One after another, humans and their dogs came to the booth, purchased their items with the knowledge that comes from being a regular customer, chatted with the owner, and went on their way to their next stall. Dogs of all sizes and shapes, young and old, purebred and mixed breeds, all entered our stall with tails wagging, happy to accept their free sample. Every single one was told to sit and take their treat nicely, a sign of a good and loving owner who works consistently on training.

We were steadily busy all day, at some point developing a short line. Of course, when you are working in a retail environment, being busy makes the day go faster, but this was not a normal retail environment because I wasn't clock watching or waiting for the time to pass: I was having a blast!

On Sunday an opportunity for me to run a booth on my own opened up in the next town over from where I live. I was a little nervous but mostly confident, especially with as much event experience as I have from running my own business. This market opened a bit later, but at 9:00 a.m., sure enough, when the market opened I found customers coming directly to the booth, selecting their purchases, and for the next four hours I was steadily busy.

Just like the first day, there was a huge assortment of dogs, as well as people who I knew from the dog world in our community. Just like the first day, I met humans and dogs who spent a lifetime going and doing things together. I petted Labradors, pitties, a Collie, and also had my first canine shoplifter when an overexuberant chocolate Labrador jumped up and took a big bone right out of the container before his owner could stop him. As I watched him wolf it down I laughed and imagined calling in the K9 unit to make the arrest. I let him get away with it because he was so darn cute.

My takeaway from the weekend was this: as a dog lover, the best part of working at a dog-related vendor booth is that you get to see dog lovers and their dogs spending time together and enjoying their lives. One of the problems with being a blogger or simply a dog lover and spending a lot of time on social media sites is that you can easily be bombarded by the ugly horror stories of bad things that happen to dogs or the endless stream of dogs in need of homes because their humans dumped them at a high kill shelter.

When you're out at a farmer's market or a pet event, you see the humans who love their dogs as much as I love Jackson and Tinkerbell. You see the owners who are reading every single ingredient on the treat table to make sure that their dog is not allergic to something. You see the owners whose dogs are an everyday part of their life, who take them fun places and "spoil" them with the best quality homemade treats. And you see the way the dogs look at their humans, checking in with them for further direction, so that no matter how many beef liver treats I hand them, if their human were to walk away, they would drop me like I was a piece of kale! Well, unless you are my dogs, in which case they love kale. But you get the point, the dogs and owners who I met were the very essence of the Love, Laugh, Woof lifestyle. 

Of course, the second best thing is that I get to pet all of these dogs, too, and ooh and ahh over them all. That's a pretty good perk in and of itself, and I have to say I give the "sorry not sorry" to my pups when I come home to the Labrador Inquisition as they sniff me from head to toe to see who I was petting this time. At least I had not picked up and snuggled any puppies up by my face like I do at rescue events, something that causes Jackson to sniff my face thoroughly and then snort in derision at me.

If you live near a great farmer's market, it is dog-friendly and it's not too hot for them, definitely take your pups, and shop with the local merchants. Not only will you get great quality products, you will be supporting local business owners who not only have their money invested, they have their heart and soul as well.






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

Vows, Comfort and Familiarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soul Searching, Temp Jobs, and Renewed Passion

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

Do you see where I am going with this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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Barbie with Newborn Pups: Backyard Breeder or Innocent Toy?
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

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

Barbie with Newborn Pups:

Backyard Breeder Kit or Innocent Toy?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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


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

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

Well, yes and no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Dogs in Politics day
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

National Dogs in Politics Day

National Dogs in Politics Day 

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


When Guests Don't Like Dogs
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel With Your Dog with Kurgo Adventure Products!

Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

Chasing the Squirrels of Summer

Chasing the Squirrels of Summer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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


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

When a Blogger Can't Blog

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Can I go in the _____ family house?”


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


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


“Can _______ and _______ come in our pool?”


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

Uh, no, but your father can.

“Can we ride to Walgreens?”

Uh, who else is going? Ok, yes.

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

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

Ok, keep us posted if plans change.

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

Yes. Keep me posted from time to time.

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

Yes. Keep me posted if things change again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sharing the love of dogs with The Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

Sharing the Love Of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life

Sharing the Love Of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Sharing the love of dogs with  The Non-Dog Lovers in Your LifeWhen I think about the people with whom I surround myself, I think that about 90% of them are diehard animal lovers. My parents, my grandparents, my husband, my kids all love all types of animals. I credit both Mom and Dad with my love of dogs and other animals, the outdoors and the planet as a whole. As for friends, I just gravitate toward animal lovers because of common interests, the same way any of us make friends as adults outside of work or our neighbors.

As a result, when I find myself in a conversation with someone in my life who is not a dog lover, and when they say something that goes completely against everything in which I believe, I find myself completely shocked. How could someone who I like and respect feel so negatively about something about which I am so passionate, something to which I have dedicated not just my entire profession but also my heart and soul?

Unfortunately a scenario like that happened yesterday when I read someone’s social media post that let me know that they most definitely viewed dogs as lesser beings than humans. We interacted briefly, equally offended by the other, and I departed the conversation quickly as it would have been futile for either of us to continue. I don’t like arguing with people, but when it comes to animals I will not stay quiet, I will speak my mind.

My dogs are part of my family. Period. I love them. I love humans, too. I cannot and will not try to differentiate the type of love, except for my husband and that is a unique kind of love and relationship.

In my opinion, to say that one group is more worthy of love than another is not how the heart works. It is not how humanity works. The heart can expand to hold multiple species, it can expand to love many people and many animals. My heart hurts when people are treated poorly, when children are treated poorly, when dogs are treated poorly, and when all animals are treated poorly. I don’t want anyone to suffer.

I sometimes hear non-dog people say, “Geez, you treat your dogs better than some people treat their kids!” That is not what was said yesterday, but that statement still bothers me because it feeds into the notion that dogs and other animals are not worthy of being treated equally well as humans. And that notion promotes the fact that dogs are disposable, that they are not forever family members, and that mindset ultimately contributes to the vast numbers of them being put to death in shelters every year. 

In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I talk a lot about the concept of treating our dogs like dogs rather than furry children in order to honor your dog and give her what she needs to thrive as a dog. I stress the important concept that different does not mean lesser. To love your dog like a dog instead of a small furry human never means that you should love her less, it simply means that they have different needs in terms of how they learn, what mental and physical exercise they need to be happy, and how they communicate.

Am I treating my dogs too well by providing organic, alkaline, single protein, grain-free food? Am I treating them too well because I work hard to keep carcinogens out of their lives? Am I somehow demeaning the life of a human by loving my dog so much, by taking so many precautions to keep them safe? Am I harming a human because I want my dogs to be happy and healthy and safe? Of course not! In fact many of the causes about which I am passionate for dogs also help children, like educating people on the chemicals they use on their lawns and in their homes and raising funds and awareness for canine cancer research which usually takes place in the form of comparative oncology programs that benefit humans and dogs.

Loving a dog takes nothing away from humans or from children.  In fact there are childcare experts who state that having a dog helps children develop better self esteem, acquire better motor skills, and even do better in school. Loving a dog adds a beauty and grace to the world and to humanity and promotes more love. There is no limit to kindness, no limit to love, no limit to philanthropy, no limit to positivity.

I have had two friends who are not dog lovers tell me the same thing, which is that I have helped them understand why people love their dogs so much. That is a tremendous compliment and makes me happy to have helped dogs as a species in that way. I respect both of these women because they both have said no to getting dogs of their own despite the pleas of others in their households because they know the responsiblity involved in having a dog and they know what is fair and what is not fair to the dog when you take on that role.

I know that I will continue to share the love of dogs with everyone who will listen. I will continue to promote that we are forever owners to forever dogs in their forever homes. I encourage you to do the same thing, so share your love of dogs with your dog lover friends and non-dog lover friends alike, to share the notion that every dog should be a forever dog in a forever home to a forever human. The more we promote the fact that dogs are living, breathing, feeling creatures, the more we help combat the notion of a dog as disposable or less than worthy of a lifetime of care and love.




Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner

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.





The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner

The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Next Generation of Animal LoversYesterday was Mother’s Day, a day that used to be very difficult for several years after my own Mom passed away when I was just thirty-four, an age at which you are a full-fledged adult but also assume that you are going to have your parents around for a good twenty or more years. These days, though, I am blessed to be celebrated for my own maternal role in the lives of my kids.

I became a step-mom in April 2007 when I moved in with my husband and his three young children. He shares custody with the kids’ mother but because he has residential custody and the kids go to school in our district they are with us perhaps 60% to 70% of the time, especially now that they take the bus to school. This means that I became much more than an every-other-weekend step-mom, and I have been quite happy to take on the increased responsibilities and time with these incredible kids.

In 2013 when I left my corporate job to become self-employed, I really dug into the role of being a mother as I was able to give rides to school and actually make it to games and concerts instead of getting stuck in traffic during my commute home and feeling like I was missing out on everything that was important in life. In those last four years of being extremely active and present in their lives I have developed an even greater love for them and truly feel like they are my own. They are far more than “step” kids to me.

In addition to receiving awesome gifts like my favorite Starbucks drink, a card with a giraffe Mom and baby, and a new Pandora bracelet, their hand written messages in my card were the true gifts. They were at their mom’s house for the day so for dinner my husband took me for sushi, my favorite dinner out. We came home and resumed my catching up on The Walking Dead (I am on Season 5, episode 6, Chuck and our middle teen watch it as it happens) and chilling with Jackson and Tinkerbell.

When the kids came home from their mother’s house later that evening, our youngest girl filled me in on her progress with her 8th grade English project in which they had to write about a cause that was close to their heart and use Pathos, Ethos and Logos to prove their point. Her cause: ending animal abuse. 

She told my husband and me all the information she had researched and written about, including the difference between direct physical abuse and indirect abuse/neglect. She went on to talk about how she had researched puppy mills and included those conditions as being abusive and also concluded that the lack of screening of potential puppy buyers in the pet stores that sell puppy mill and backyard breeder puppies could mean that abusive humans were able to easily purchase puppies from these stores and continue the abuse. She also concluded that this same lack of screening could contribute to dogs being surrendered to animal shelters because it meant that anyone could buy a puppy and then decide they did not want it anymore.

“Have you read my book?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied.

“Uh, ok, because you just touched on a number of topics that I am extremely passionate about in my blog and my book, so I am super proud that you came up with that on your own!”

“No, I haven’t read your blog at all but I understand why you said it takes so long to write and research each post, I have a new respect for what you do!”

That right there was the mic-drop moment of parenting, my friends!

We are pretty old school parents and we refuse to raise entitled self-centered brats. My firefighter husband sees the best and the worst of humanity. He won’t bring the stresses and horrors of his job home to us but every now and then he has shared stories with the kids now that they are teens, when they get a bit too big for their decision-making britches and think they know everything, and those stories of “what can happen when you make bad decisions” are eye-opening.  Same with my job only much different and less hands on: I hear about the heartwarming stories of dog lovers going above and beyond for their dogs, and I hear the tragic “what the hell is wrong with people” stories that stick with you and make you wonder what could cause such evil.

For our 14-year-old daughter to come up with those concepts and thoughts on animal abuse on her own and then say “I have a new respect for what you do” is an incredible feeling. It was hands down the most incredible mother’s day gift that I could have received.

One of the main focuses of my book and my blog is to encourage people to be compassionate dog owners. Putting yourself in your dog’s position is the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. I am not naive enough to think that I can change the entire world and make everyone loving and compassionate toward animals. But I do know one thing: our kids are listening to what we say.

Our kids are among those who we can impact with lessons about being kind to dogs and to all animals. They are the next generation of dog owners and will use the lessons they learned about pet care in the same way many of us learned from our own parents, so keep talking to them about topics like preventing animal abuse, being a responsible owner, why it is so important to do your research before getting any pet, making sure you make time in your life for your cats and dogs, and all of the other things that are so important in raising compassionate human beings. It can make a difference, it will make a difference, and we are already making a difference.


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A Lifelong Dog Person and Her First Cat
Blogs, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

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.

Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner, Love, Laugh, Woof Life, Planning for a New Dog

Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons

Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons The other day I was at a business networking event and I ran into a woman who volunteers in dog rescue in addition to owning her own business. She told me that she had read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner and also bought a copy for the rescue organization with which she volunteers. I was delighted to hear this and we chatted for a bit.

As we discussed my book and dogs in general she mentioned that Chapter 4: Are You Ready for a Dog? REALLY Ready? was very intense and might actually scare away some potential first time dog owners. She was not being critical, just sharing her thoughts on the book. For the last several days I have thought about her input and wondered if I should have toned down that chapter a bit. I mean, I am from a long line of outspoken women from New Jersey, but I also do not want to risk any dog not having a home because I scared the owner away from life with a dog with my book!

Was the chapter too intense? Was it too much to talk about the hair, the mud, the slobber, the gross things in which they scent themselves, the dead animals that some bring to you like children bringing home a trophy? Was it too much to talk about house training, obedience training, to share that my dog care bill for a 10 day vacation is $500 and that’s on the inexpensive side in our area? Was it too much to share the reality of having a senior citizen dog, that when we had three senior dogs at once my entire paycheck seemed to go straight to the vet every payday and we had a drawer full of medicines like a canine nursing home? Is it fair to tell them all of the harsh realities that can happen with dog ownership to try to desperately avoid the owner surrenders that happen as a result of unprepared humans getting dogs on a whim?

I mean, of course I follow-up those negative things, the sharing all of those downsides, with the beautiful relationship that we create with our dogs, the miracle of having a best friend and constant companion who is more loyal than any human could ever be. I share that I would die of a broken heart without a wet nose waking me at 6 a.m. every single day of my life, without Labrador hair to vacuum every few days, without a 70 pound Tinkerbell stretched across my lap daily.

I was not offended by her critique; getting feedback is part of being a writer and putting your ideas and words out for the world to consume. When you put strong opinions out into the world, you must have a thick skin to go along with those opinions. But I really, honestly worried that perhaps I had been too honest.

Photo credit:

Then I came across a post about a German Shepherd puppy on Facebook from another blogger who shared that the reason of the owner surrender was that “they just didn’t want her anymore.” Now, we all know that everything you read online or on Facebook is subject to being completely wrong or made up, but the reality is that I have no reason to doubt that blogger because this is a reason dogs are surrendered all the time

For some dogs their crime against humanity (insert frustrated sarcastic tone) is that they shed too much, that they got too big, they had too much energy, that they ate too much. One poor dog pooped too much for his owner and ended up being abandoned at a shelter, wondering when his family was ever coming back.

I don’t know what these owners expected; if they wanted a big stuffed animal, they have realistic versions at Amazon that won’t eat, shed or poop and are perfectly huggable. And that is not a joke, I would recommend a snuggly fake dog to them. Any living breathing creature is going to do these things. We humans do, too! My husband snaking the drain of our shower every few months is testament to how much we shed! It is absurd to adopt a dog and think that she will not shed, poop, grow, or want to play and release their energy.

For the dogs who get adopted into happy homes, their owner surrender was probably the best thing that could have happened to them when it is all said and done. For the ones who are euthanized, though, the people who gave up on them for absurd and preventable reasons killed them as if they had murdered them in cold blood. Unfortunately when someone surrenders a dog to a shelter, there is no way to guarantee which fate the dog is going to meet, the happy ending or the tragic loss of life. 

I shared the post about the German Shepherd puppy on my personal Facebook page and a friend of mine who I met while volunteering at a rescue group commented immediately. She works at an animal clinic and she replied, “Your chapter is 100% spot on and I couldn’t agree more. Believe me, I’ve actually wanted to throw your book at people and tell them to read it. Around March/April I start getting calls at the clinic asking if I know a rescue that will take their puppy because they had no idea.”

When you follow as many dog related organizations, businesses and dog lover friends as I do, you end up seeing horrific stories about animal abuse. Sometimes I cannot bear to read another and I have to take a break. In fact that was one of the most beautiful things about watching April the Giraffe for all of those weeks; the wait for “Baby G” was a nice respite from political news and tragic stories that make up social media and the regular TV news.

It is extremely important to point out that there are sometimes valid reasons to re-home a dog. My late Babe came to me because her owners, who were not extremely old when they got her, both suddenly declined in health at the same time with extremely serious and debilitating issues. In the blink of an eye they went from recently retired and looking forward to ten or twelve more years with their beloved young Lab to being completely unable to care for her. I am in no way shape or form talking about situations like that, or extremely dire financial circumstances or life threatening allergies in a child. I am not commenting on situations in under-served communities with extreme poverty. My disgust is directed at people who simply didn’t bother to prepare themselves or look for a solution. 

There is a solution to a dog who has “too much energy” in the form of training, walks, exercise, dog games, interaction with the humans.

There is a solution to shedding, in the form of frequent brushing, good quality food, regular grooming appointments.

There is a solution to “being too big” at least in terms of what I can imagine would be the issue with size, like leash pulling or accidentally knocking things and people over, again in the form of obedience training, walks, exercise, dog games, structured playtime. When trained correctly a huge dog should be as easy to walk as a small dog. A big tired dog will curl up to nap just like a small tired dog after a mentally and physically engaging activity with his owner.

There is even a solution to pooping too much, in the form of finding a better quality food. If you feed a dog a 600 Kcal/cup food you feed half the amount as if you feed your dog a 300 Kcal/cup, which equals less poop with which to contend.

At the end of the day, I stand by Chapter 4 of my book. Someone who wants a dog badly enough is going to say “Ok, dog hair, no problem, vet bills, I’m signing up for pet insurance, puking at 3 am, geez I hope not, but I’ve got my cleaning supplies!” I can only hope that someone who is iffy and perhaps at risk of making a decision about a dog on a whim will read those things and think, “Whoa, I had no idea it was like that!” and either prepare themselves or decide not to get a dog at that time.

It takes hours upon hours of work and patience to go from puppyhood to this!

If I can help even one dog be saved from going through an owner surrender, then it will make a difference for that dog and for the one who will be saved by the opening at the shelter that the first one did not fill. As I write in my book,

“I had to lay out the negatives, every last one of them. It would be unfair to dogs to do any less. Those cute puppy dog eyes are a blessing and a curse for many dogs, like the dogs who are bought on a whim because the owner is caught up in the cuteness and novelty of a dog, but not ready for the reality of one and then casts the dog aside without any regard for the fact that it is a living, breathing feeling creature whose heart will break once he or she is abandoned in a shelter to fend for him or herself.

If you are ok with the negatives, if you go into dog ownership prepared for all of them, the cost, the mess, the inconvenience, the responsibility of another life, then you are ready for the positives, because when you are ready to be a dog owner the positives make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks.”

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Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

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! 

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how to be a compassionate puppy owner
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner, Love, Laugh, Woof Life, Surviving Puppyhood

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

how to be a compassionate puppy ownerI. Love. Puppies! If you read that with the same tone of voice as Oprah saying that she loves bread on her Wight Watchers commercial, then you read it correctly! I. Love. Puppies!

When I see a puppy I am the same way that most women are around babies. I cannot wait to hold that puppy in my arms and get puppy kisses and snuggles. Large breeds in particular are my favorite to hold and snuggle because they stay that small for such a short time. I often look at my own dogs and reminisce about when I could hold them in my arms while they slept when they weighed just fifteen pounds, and how they are now big sturdy adult dogs who I love more with each passing day.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy OwnerIn my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I write extensively about puppies, how to prepare for them, how to choose where to get your puppy, how to house train them, the first few days with you, and a variety of other important topics. I am able to guide other puppy owners through these essential areas because of the experience I have from raising dogs my entire life and my recent puppy rearing of first Jackson and then Tinkerbell. I have definitely walked the walk of the puppy owner!

Perhaps the most important thing to master as a new puppy owner is to be a compassionate puppy owner. And although I am loath to rely on the dictionary definition of a word to make a point, this is a word that we hear frequently but may not understand entirely. If you’re like me I think about compassion in terms of being understanding and putting myself in the other person or animal’s position. But the definition of compassion, according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, has another element to it. The definition reads that compassion is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” So compassion is not just being understanding, there is an important element of helping to actively alleviate the distress that the other is feeling.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
I am looking to you for guidance every step of the way!

So how do we translate this into raising a puppy? It means that we as humans are conscious of the difficulties of being a puppy and trying to figure out the rules of the human world and that we have a desire to help them understand the rules and alleviate any stress that they are going through as they go along the puppy learning curve.

No matter where your puppy comes from, to leave their mother and litter mates is traumatic. No matter how much you love them and plan to care for them, all they know is that everything they have grown used to has changed without warning. Some puppies, like those born into puppy mills, backyard breeders or even worse situations in which the humans do not care about the mothers of the puppies or the puppies themselves, may have never known the love of a human, the comforts of a responsible breeder or foster home.  It is even more terrifying for them to go into the unknown.

Before your puppy comes home, or when you can take a few minutes to yourself if your puppy is already living in your home, take a few minutes to sit quietly and close your eyes. Try to picture a movie screen and the experiences of your puppy playing out on the movie screen. Imagine their life before you adopted them, imagine you are watching from outside the situation as they spend time with their mother and their litter mates, and then imagine your puppy leaving them and making their journey to your home.

Picture how everything looks to them from their point of view. Imagine them trying to figure out their sleeping arrangements, where to go to the bathroom, how to explore new things when they do not have hands or thumbs or the ability to talk to us. Imagine what it must be like to have to explore their environment through trial and error, choosing to chew on something and then being corrected over and over. Imagine what it is like to be lonely in another room without the understanding of when or if you will ever return. Imagine what it is like for all of their basic needs to be fulfilled by you.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
Jax took every chance to learn and explore!

When you step back from the situation, watch their journey and experiences as if you were watching a movie, and put yourself in the puppy’s position it is easier to have compassion. It is easier to be sympathetic to their situation and have the desire to alleviate their stress and help them learn in a patient and repetitive manner. When you put yourself in your puppy’s position it is easier to understand that not only do you have an infant of an entirely other species, but that there is a language barrier and different natural instincts.

In my book I talk frequently about the fact that dogs and puppies are not furry humans. They are a completely different species from us. It doesn’t mean we should treat them poorly because of it, it doesn’t mean that we can justify being unkind or unfair. It just means that it is critical to be compassionate, to figure out how they learn, to learn how you can teach them the rules of the house, to understand how you can communicate with each other. It is important to remember that puppies and dogs are sentient beings, full of emotions, thoughts, and feelings like us, but with many differences, too. You love them like they are furry humans but you must treat them like they are dogs and honor the fact that they are dogs.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
Jax planning his next puppy mischief or dreaming about the future?

Of course being a compassionate owner does not mean that you never correct your dog or train them. Just like when you parent human children, your job is to teach your puppy the rules of living in their environment to keep them safe and to keep them from destroying your home. A great puppy owner does that with a never-ending amount of patience, fairness, love, and firmness, by teaching and correcting wrong behaviors with repetition, guidance and compassion.

The Love, Laugh, Woof blog is being taken over by puppies!

Watch for more puppy blogs tomorrow and all of next week!  


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Seek Our Your Dog For a Happiness Reboot
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

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.

What if cats and dogs had opposable thumbs day
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

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

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!




World Spay Day Worldwide Issues and How to Help
Blogs, Compassionate Pet Owner

World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Help

World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Help

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

World Spay Day Worldwide Issues and How to Help Two years ago my foster dog Destiny changed my life forever. She did it in small ways, by letting me teach her to trust people, to transitioning from being terrified of anyone touching her anywhere other than under her face to being the type of 60 pound lap dog who sprawled across your entire lap in a deep sleep. She did it by letting me rehab her from a terrified former stray into a beloved and happy dog headed into her forever home.

One of the most noticeable thing about Destiny was that her nipples were extended as if she had had puppies recently or just so many litters of puppies that they never went back to normal. When found as a stray, tied to a tree and left to die in a wooded area of Puerto Rico, she was around six or seven years old and un-spayed. Like many rescue dogs, she was promptly spayed before making her journey from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago, Illinois.

Destiny crashed out after a game of ball

Because of Destiny, I began following the work of the non-profit organization Love Puerto Rico Goldens on Facebook. Because of Facebook translations I was able to learn about their near-daily task of rescuing purebred Golden Retrievers and Golden Retriever mixed breed dogs and puppies who have been abandoned and left entirely homeless. Because most of them are intact and able to reproduce, they do, in plentiful numbers.

A few months after Destiny found her forever home a friend of mine went to Puerto Rico for a wedding. “You can probably bring a few puppies back in your carry on,” I joked, although it was a joke with a wish that she could save a few dogs while down there. She texted me from there and said, “Oh, Lynn, it’s so heart breaking, there are dogs and puppies everywhere, just wandering along the streets.”

According to an article on CNN Money, “People are literally fleeing Puerto Rico because the island’s economy is so bad. One in 10 people is out of work. The island’s government has run out of money and is $72 billion in debt. Over 10% of the population has booked a one-way ticket out (mostly to Florida, Texas and elsewhere in the mainland U.S.) in the past decade. Sometimes people just leave their homes and lock their dogs inside, never to return.”

The same CNN Money article includes ways to help with dogs in Puerto Rico: . You can also donate directly to Love Puerto Rico Goldens, which is 100% dependent on donations:

Even more heartbreaking is that this issue is in no way unique to Puerto Rico. If you remember leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics there was a massive culling of stray dogs and the despicable and inhumane term “biological trash” used to describe the innocent dogs who are a victim of irresponsible humans. These situations happen all over the world.

How can you help?Donations, spreading awareness, volunteering and spaying or neutering your own dog(s) are important things that you can do to help with pet overpopulation problems both here and around the world.I found three web sites with important information on how you can make a difference.

Click on these links to read more: 


Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell, Love, Laugh, Woof Life

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs DailyToday is National Love Your Pet Day. I can safely assume that anyone reading this blog is going to say along with me, “But that’s every day, or at least it should be!”

As a lifelong dog lover, most of my friends are also dog lovers who share not only my love of dogs, but also my commitment to my dogs. We are there for each other when we have fun with our dogs, when we worry about our dogs, when we have to say goodbye to a dog who has gone to the Rainbow Bridge.

Dog lovers understand each other. In fact, my cat owner friends also understand; they may not share the same obsession with dogs but they understand what it is to be best friends with an entirely other species. They all understand that my dogs are not “just dogs” and I understand that their cats are not “just cats.”

Although most of the people in my life are animal lovers, I have a handful of friends who just are not into having a dog or a cat or any sort of pet. They don’t oooh and ahhh at my photos, they don’t understand how I am best friends with dogs, they aren’t interested in affectionate welcomes by my dogs when they come over and they probably think I’m their slightly crazy dog lady friend. Well, “slightly” might be an understatement.

I admire them for knowing how they feel and for not bringing a dog or cat into their life despite periodic requests from their spouse or children to have an animal in their home. I respect that they understand that they will be the one caring for the dog or cat and that it would not be fair to the animal if they were to get one without being as passionate about being a pet owner as a pet owner should be.

Jax is putting the Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof!

I would estimate that 99% of what I share on social media revolves around dogs, whether it’s available dogs who need a forever home, articles about dog care, my own blogs and posts from my Love, Laugh, Woof page, or pictures of Jackson and Tinkerbell. Their photos make up the majority of my posts. I always assume that my non-dog loving friends just scroll on past those photos, but over the last year or so I have had not one but two of them give me the same compliment.

“Your love for your dogs has made me understand why people love their pets so much.” 

What an amazing thing to hear!

Two different friends who do not know each other said those exact words. I consider that the ultimate compliment, the ultimate success that I am making an impact by helping change the minds and hearts of those who do not feel the same as I do about our beloved dogs.

Celebrate your love of dogs daily and share the word about how much you love your best friend!

So how can this help you celebrate National Love Your Pet Day? It means that you, too, can make a difference simply by sharing the love you have for your pets with all of your friends, dog lovers and non-dog lovers. Whether it’s you and your dog on an adventure or a photo of them sleeping, people are listening to what you have to say.

Share the reasons why a simple photo of your dog napping fills your heart with so much love. In fact, share not just the love you have for your dogs but the whole Love, Laugh, Woof philosophy!

Share the laughter you have with your dog, the laughter you enjoy because of your dog. When you illustrate through your own experiences that dogs are downright funny creatures with a sense of humor, you can help open the minds of people who have never experienced that, never considered that dogs are funny or how human laughter is one of the happiest sounds your dog can hear.

Share the woof of Love, Laugh, Woof by sharing what it must be like to be a dog in a human world. Share the photos of the terrified dog in the shelter who is confused and heartbroken and explain how dogs feel emotional pain and fear just like us.

Share your stories of training your dog and teaching her how to be a dog in a human world,  share how special it is to have that interspecies friendship where we communicate without words, and love each other so much despite our differences. Many people who do not live with dogs do not understand how special this is or that it’s not always easy for dogs to acclimate to our lives and homes.

Anyone can be a dog/human ambassador just by sharing with friends!

You may not turn everyone on your friends list into a dog lover or a dog owner, and that’s ok, because not everyone should be a dog owner.  Helping even one person understand why we love our dogs so much, why dogs are considered sentient beings with real feelings and emotions,  is one more step in the right direction of creating a more humane environment for all dogs.