National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of "Pit Bull" Type Dogsby Lynn Stacy-Smith I had so much fun celebrating black dogs and cats on Friday, October 13 and featuring the awesome dogs of my readers, that I could not let National Pit Bull Awareness Month come to an end without a celebration of the beloved "pit bull" type dogs who share their lives with some of the readers and friends from the Love, Laugh, Woof community. According to the National Pit Bull Awareness Month website, the goal of this month is to change misconceptions and stereotypes about "pit bull" type dogs. Originally celebrated on a single day before being extended to a full month, the website explains, "NPBAD was established to educate and foster positive communications and experiences in the communities in which we and our dogs live, and it is an initiative dedicated to restoring the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier." Another organization that works extremely hard to change the perception of "pit bull" type breeds is the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation. I learned of this former Chicago Blackhawks player's foundation while my husband and I were lunching at a Meatheads restaurant a few years ago. At that time a special hot dog was on the menu that earned the foundation 10% of the price of the hot dog each time one was sold. After lunch we went home and I read about his foundation, and he promptly became my favorite Blackhawks player. According to the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation website,
"Here’s the thing about “pit bulls” - the "breed" doesn’t exist. In fact, the American Kennel Club does not recognize “pit bull” as a breed because it is a mixture of breeds. “Pit bull” is a slang term that has been used loosely and taken advantage of by the media to describe a dog with a big head and muscular build. When a dog has been labeled a “pit bull” it is based simply on their look and not on; personality, traits or DNA. Even we at the Bickell Foundation are guilty of calling a dog a “pit bull,” but we are ready to stop." Source: http://www.bickellfoundation.org/stop-the-pit-labelI remember one day a few years ago when I was volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I went to the local animal shelter to pick up a yellow Labrador who was being pulled for rescue. I was his transport, aka freedom ride from the shelter to the veterinarian who would check him out before he continued his journey to his foster home. While I waited for the shelter to gather the paperwork and bring him out to me, they told me, "You can go ahead and walk around and see if there are any other dogs you want to pull for the rescue." I did not want to walk through the shelter because I knew my head was about to see things that would break my heart, but I told myself that to not take that walk was weak compared to what the actual dogs were going through. As I walked down row after row of kennels, "pit bull" type dog after dog stared up at me with anticipation, as if they wondered what my role in their life was going to be. There were dozens of them and I stopped to visit with as many as I could before going back out to pick up the dog who the rescue had sent me to get, hoping to provide just a tiny bit of human love. Having grown up entirely with sporting breeds like Labradors and German Shorthaired Pointers, I was not as familiar back then with the heart wrenching "pit bull" overpopulation problem. "Do you have a pittie specific rescue group that pulls dogs like the Lab rescue does?" I asked the woman at the front desk. She answered that there were several organizations that came through every week, particularly anytime they started to near the capacity of the shelter, and my heart broke even more at the thought of so many dogs either dumped off, no longer wanted or lost as strays and never claimed. Regardless of how they had ended up in the shelter, the result was the same: they had been failed by their humans and now needed a different type of human to come and save them. So why are there so many "pit bull" type dogs in shelters and in dire need of rescue? According to the Best Friends site, on the page All About Pit Bulls, "Because pit bull terriers have become so popular, some people are over breeding them. Others neglect to have their dogs spayed or neutered, resulting in unwanted litters. These two factors have led to an influx of pit bull terrier–like dogs in shelters. When there are a lot of the same types of pets available for adoption, people can easily get overwhelmed when trying to choose one to bring home, and they often end up leaving the shelter without a pet." There are many ways to help these misunderstood dogs, even if you are not ready to add another dog into your home at this time. Foster based dog rescue organizations depend on volunteers to provide transportation to dogs and to foster them with the goal of helping them find their forever home. Unfortunately, I have never found a dog rescue organization with enough money to cover all of the work that they want to do so monetary donations are always needed. Please consider donating to any of the groups that I have mentioned in this blog, to your local animal shelter, or to your local "pit bull type dog " rescue organizations. On a happy note, many of these once discarded dogs are living their happily ever after stories with their forever owners in loving homes, where they receive good food, plenty of treats, training and guidance, and most importantly: tons of love and a lifelong committment. Some of these dogs are the best friends and constant companions of my own friends and readers. Here is what they had to say about their canine cohorts.
Kona & RennyHere's what Kona and Renny's Momma had to say, "Kona (the fawn colored pup) was rescued from a dog fighting ring after the FBI & ASPCA did a raid on the property and removed approximately 70 dogs. Despite her beginnings, she is the most loving dog & wants to meet every person she sees from babies on up. Kisses for everyone! She is extremely intelligent & requires A LOT of physical & mental stimulation otherwise she will make a toy out of whatever she finds. Lol. All of her quirks makes me love her more than I thought it possible to love anything. Kona does have some fear issues but we had hoped to adopt another dog (another pittie/pittie mix pup) and after introductions we found she drew comfort from the other so we adopted Renny (the black brindle). Renny is our quiet little shadow that is content to just lay next to you all day & get belly rubs & give kisses too! The two have developed a bond that melts your heart. We are the luckiest people to get to share our home & life with these two." [gallery size="full" ids="3728,3729,3730"]
Chase[caption id="attachment_3732" align="alignleft" width="274"] Meagan and Chase[/caption] Meagan Giarratano, founder and owner of Au Pair for Paws Dog Training in Ocean Beach, New York, shared this story, "I have two pit mixes that keep me laughing all day. I spend a lot of time with my dogs and if it weren't for them I don't know where I would be. The love of my first pit, Chase (pictured below) was what started my business endeavor to become a dog trainer. The challenging start we had caused the respect and love for each other to grow from there. Training actually saved his life. That love turned into a lot of laughs and a lot of woofs throughout the last few years thanks to amazing clients I have met. He is my best friend and I don't know what I would do without him."
Jax[caption id="attachment_3733" align="alignleft" width="169"] Jax[/caption] Not to be confused with my own handsome Jax, this boy is special in his own right. His Momma says, "This is Jax...pit-mix and major lover-boy. He spends more time licking the faces of his pack-mates than you could imagine. He was chained up on a 3 foot leash in the yard & forgotten when his former owners grew bored with him and got a different dog. All this boy wants is to give & receive love every moment of every day."
SammySammy is a rescued Jack Russell Terrier/"pit bull" mix whose mom says, "Sammy is a classic 'mama’s boy'. The look in his eyes is the only proof I need that dogs feel love and emotional connection. He is my heart dog in every sense possible." [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="3734,3735"]
Jake"This is my handsome boy, Jake. He’s 7 years old and has brought more love, laughter and plenty of woofs than I ever would have thought possible. This pup has brought more amazing people into my life and is the reason I joined the board of Live, Love, Bark dog rescue." [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="3737,3736"]
BeauBeau's human mom shared the story of her sweet boy, "This is Beau, my 2-year-old pittie mix. He’s a lover with a loud bark. He loves his 'sissy' and protects her all of the time! He sleeps under the covers every night with his nose sticking out! People are terrified of him but he would only lick them to death. My pittie!" [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="3738,3739"] [caption id="attachment_3656" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Are you signed up for the Love, Laugh, Woof email list? Click the photo to join![/caption]
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Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogsby Lynn Stacy-Smith Today is Friday, October 13, 2017. With just a few weeks until Halloween, this puts Friday the 13th in the middle of the spookiest, scariest month of the year. Of course this is only one of the many superstitions that exist in our culture, along with broken mirrors causing seven years of bad luck, avoiding walking under ladders, knocking on wood to make something that you've said not happen, and trying not to cross the path of a black cat. As someone who is not superstitious and only likes the not-so-scary aspect of Halloween like candy corn and non-terrifying costumes, I thought this would be the perfect day to take two of these superstitions and instead of buying into them, turn them around and celebrate the pet owners who got lucky with some of the most loveable black dogs and cats to ever scamper through their lives. Black cats and dogs statistically have a lower adoption rate and higher euthanasia rate in shelters because of their color. As a result there are specific days to celebrate black cats and black dogs and bust the myths surrounding them, with Black Cat Appreciation day occurring on August 17 each year, and Black Dog Day on October 1. In addition to many people thinking that they look scary because their fur is so dark and their facial features are harder to see, they are also harder to photograph for the average point-and-click amateur photographer with a mobile phone camera. I cannot tell you how many photos of Jax and Tink end up with glowing alien dog eyes or are so dark you cannot see them. In dog shelters, the quality of the photos shared with the public can sometimes make the difference between a forever home and euthanasia for many dogs, so a bad photo of a black dog can be very detrimental to their adoption success. [caption id="attachment_3398" align="alignleft" width="300"] Snoop dreaming of frisbees[/caption] Of course I cannot help but include my own beloved black dogs first in our celebration of black dogs and cats. If you've read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner, then you have read all about my first black Labrador Retriever, Snoop who was a constant companion and a fourth sibling to my brothers and me, always involved in our games and antics as we traipsed through the woods and mountains of rural northwest New Jersey. After Snoop there was Cinder, another black Labrador Retriever who joined our family when I was in high school. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignright" width="277"] Babe on a beach adventure[/caption] My first dog of my own as an adult was my late black Labrador Babe, who I rescued as a two year old owner surrender and who quickly became my best friend and sidekick for the next twelve years. Her passing left the hole in my heart that first Jackson and then Tinkerbell filled with black dog awesomeness and love. Maybe it's because my first heart dog as a child was black, but black dogs are my favorite. I feel like the black coat is softer and more silky than other fur colors, shining like satin on a sunny day. Practically speaking, their fur shows up on fewer of my clothes. I love their coal black noses and how brightly colored collars pop against their fur. And knowing that they are so often misunderstood as scary just makes me love them even more. I checked in with some of my fellow black dog and cat loving humans, and here are the awesome black pets that brought luck into their lives by joining them in their forever homes. Enjoy their stories and remember that if you are ready to add to your dog or cat family, a black dog or cat is just as sweet and loveable as the other fur colors, giving you nothing but good luck and love if their path crosses yours. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="3684,3687,3690,3691,3692,3693,3694,3695,3696,3698,3699,3686,3697,3689"]
Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cowby Lynn Stacy-Smith I was browsing through Facebook earlier today when I came across a photo in a Labrador Retriever group of someone's Labrador and their cows. The dog was getting epic kisses from the cows and generally having a great time visiting his bovine buddies in their barn. All of a sudden it reminded me of a morning walk with my late Babe that had drifted back into the far recesses of my memory. I've talked about adopting my then two-year old Labrador Retriever Babe when I rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in the downtown area of the small-ish Midwestern city Valparaiso, Indiana. Not only was the apartment tiny, it was in a house that had essentially no yard and definitely nowhere to fence even if my landlord had allowed it. As a result, Babe and I walked every day, like the proverbial mailman, in sun, rain, snow, sleet, you name it. My walks with Babe were beyond special. Although they were initially just for the practical function of making sure she went to the bathroom and got plenty of exercise, we quickly developed an incredible bond and mind-meld. She was my first dog of my own and my first heart dog to be all mine. It was Babe and me, together, and our cross-species friendship was the glue that held my life together on more occasions than I can count, in more intense and emotional situations than I am willing to write about right now. Back then I did not view her like my canine child like I do Jax and Tink, but as my very best friend. Babe and I walked every inch of downtown Valparaiso over the years that we lived there. We walked along the main street that was lined with businesses and hug [caption id="attachment_3603" align="alignleft" width="352"] Babe circa 2002[/caption] e windows that she loved to look inside. Sometimes patrons of the shops and restaurants would cross our path and she would start to wiggle from a block away, so adorable and Lab-like that they always stopped to pet her. We walked past churches, old Victorian homes, newer homes, the local elementary school, the library, and several banks. She liked to go into the banks because she often got biscuits from the dog loving tellers. One beautiful autumn morning she and I were walking very early before I had to get ready to go to work. It was September and I remember the weather was absolutely perfect and I had spent most of the walk enjoying the fall decorations that were starting to show up on neighbors' front porches. As Babe and I walked in silence, in our special mind-meld between dog and owner, we reached a section of the street that was completely lined by a hedge that was taller than me. As we started to walk on the sidewalk next to the hedge, I heard a moo. Babe heard it too, and she stopped and turned to look up at me with a puzzled look on her face. "Ok, that sounded like a cow!" I said out loud as she wagged her tail as if she understood. We took a few more steps and heard it again, just on the other side of the hedge. "Mooooooo!" We took a few more steps and all of a sudden, Babe started to pull me as she raced forward to a hole in the hedge. She shoved her head into the open area and I watched as she came face to face with an adorable black and white calf. "Oh my gosh, it IS a cow!" I said to Babe as her tail wagged so hard I thought it might fly off of her body, "At least I'm not going crazy!" We walked to the end of the block to a portion of the yard where the hedge did not block the fence and the calf followed along on her side of the yard. Once there was no hedge to block us, Babe and the calf exchanged kisses and nuzzled as they checked each other out. Babe's tail wagged even harder as she investigated this strange creature. I knew she would not hurt it and her reaction was sweet and submissive to this bigger, strange creature that was just a baby. We visited the calf as long as we could before I had to end the interaction and head to get ready to go to work. Of course I told the story to everyone I saw and then a few days later came across an article in our local paper that explained that the homeowners also owned a dairy farm a half hour away and that the calf had been rejected by her mother. Driving back and forth for feedings was too difficult to do for an extended period of time, so they brought the calf to hang out in their downtown yard until it was old enough to rejoin the herd at the farm. Even though this experience was nearly fifteen years ago I decided to search for the article. Thanks to the paper's online archives, I found the original article as well as an editorial supporting the cow's temporary stay in downtown Valparaiso. As I read the article, I was elated to see a photo of the calf standing in front of the same little fence where she and Babe had licked each other so lovingly that beautiful autumn morning. In the seven years since Babe has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I had almost forgotten about that morning that was so special at the time. I sit here trying to remember what else was going on at that time. What had been on my mind that morning besides appreciating the beautiful fall weather before we came across the cow? I cannot recall any those things almost 15 years later, but I can recall everything about Babe and the cow, a true testament to the role that dogs have in our lives and the things that really matter.
Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Dutch the Regal Jesterby Lynn Stacy-Smith I once read an article that referred to the German Shorthaired Pointer as the "Regal Jester", a description that I found to be utterly perfect the more I got to know our own German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch. Up until Dutch came into our lives, we had lived with only Labrador Retrievers, first Snoop, then Cinder, then Jake and Jake's son Beau. Considering that Labrador Retrievers are definitely not low energy dogs, the fact that there was a breed more energetic and silly than a Lab was a source of constant entertainment. Here is an excerpt about Dutch from my book, Love, Laugh, Woof:
When Cinder was around eleven years old, she became sick and passed away. Jake and Beau were still young and loved hunting more than anything else in the world, but they had both begun to have severe grand mal epileptic seizures and Dad was hesitant to take them on bird hunting outings because of their frequent episodes. He had been doing a lot of research on German Shorthaired Pointers and was planning to get one as his next dog. He had located a professional breeder and put a deposit on a puppy from the next litter. One night when I was visiting for dinner, he told Mom and me, "Now this puppy is not going to be as warm and loving as the Labs. This breed is a bit more aloof, so don't be hurt if he doesn't want to cuddle and lay on top of you like the Labs." "That's ok, we've got Jake and Beau to love up on, don't we?" I replied in my doggie voice, getting down on the floor to play with them. "Yes, you will give me all of the loving I need, right? This new puppy can be hunting all the time if that's what he wants!" A few months later, Dutch came home and I headed over to my parents' house to meet the "aloof" puppy. As soon I walked into the house I spotted him curled up in a ball within the rungs of the kitchen chair, a silky dark brown puppy, covered with white speckles and large round brown patches. He woke up a few minutes after I arrived and we took him outside to relieve himself. His business finished, I could not resist scooping him up. He was one of the most beautiful puppies I had ever seen in my life, and how aloof could a puppy possibly be? Dutch nestled into my arms and started to lick my face. "Oh yes, you are so aloof, you don't want anything to do with us humans, do you?" I cooed to him in my sing-song puppy voice. "Well, don't expect that to last too long, he's going to be all about the birds," Dad said. Dutch did indeed grow up to be a fantastic bird dog, but when he was not training or hunting with my father, he was one of the most goofy and funny dogs I have ever known. He also failed brilliantly at being aloof and was one of the most snuggly dogs to be a part of our family.[caption id="attachment_2631" align="alignright" width="242"] Dutch the Regal Jester[/caption] My father recently told me that Dutch was the easiest dog to train that he's ever worked with. All of our dogs were beautifully trained by my father, both for general obedience and manners at home as well as for bird hunting. Dogs who hunt birds have to be well-trained for several reasons, including their own safety so that do not run off and into harms way and so that the birds that are killed are never wasted. I remember being at the house hanging out with my Mom on many occasions when Dad was training Dutch and I still recall his excitement at Dutch's intelligence, work ethic, and trainability. As Dutch's "big sister" my goal was simply to play with him. I lived in an apartment across town from my parents and without a dog of my own, I went to visit their dogs on a regular basis to get my dose of puppy love. Beau and Jake were big sweet yellow Labradors with very chilled out personalities, the kind you read about in British novels set in the countryside. Dutch was equally sweet but had an energy that could power the world. Training or even a day of hunting merely put a dent in his energy stores. From a very early age, Dutch developed a habit of bringing a toy with him every single time someone came to the front door or entered the house. While Beau and Jake were immediately at the door, Dutch would come trotting over with his unique German Shorthaired Pointer gait, his stubby docked tail wiggling back and forth happily, a fleece toy dangling from his mouth the entire time. If he could not find a toy, he grabbed the towel that my mother kept by the door to the back yard to wipe the dirty paws. One day I went to visit my parents and the dogs and let myself into the house. Dutch had been upstairs in the master bedroom and grabbed the first thing he could find to bring to me: the king sized comforter off the bed. I laughed as I watched this big, strong, sleek and muscular dog drag a fluffy, king sized, down comforter down the first half of the stairs, around the corner of a landing, and all the way to the main floor. I remember my Mom exclaiming from her bedroom, "What the heck happened to my comforter?" as I laughed out loud at Dutch's antics. Dutch kept this habit his entire life. Through a series of events that I talk about in my book, Dutch became my dog when he was eight years young and every day when I arrived home from work, there was my Regal Jester with a toy, a blanket from the back of the sofa, one of my many throw pillows, or even now and then a piece of clothing from my bedroom. He never chewed it or destroyed it, simply carried it in his soft bird-hunting mouth to greet his humans or guests. [caption id="attachment_458" align="alignleft" width="300"] Puppy Dutch[/caption] When Babe, Dutch and I moved in with my husband and his kids, they were thoroughly amused by this big goofy dog who suddenly had a whole new world of things to carry to the door or from room to room. At the time the kids were four, six and eight and the family room was a veritable treasure trove of sweatshirts, socks (if you've had human children you know that they remove these things throughout day no matter where they are), toys, doll clothing, TV watching blankets. Dutch was in his glory and the kids giggled uncontrollably when they'd walk in the door and find him standing there, his happy stubby tail wagging, with their sock or a Barbie dress dangling from the side of his mouth. Perhaps what made Dutch's love of greeting people with things made of fabric so funny was that he had been bred by the top German Shorthaired Pointer breeder in the country. From German stock, he was a large, elegant dog with beautiful lines and a stunning and unique coat that shone like silk. The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America describes the breed standard on their website as, "The overall picture which is created in the observer's eye is that of an aristocratic, well-balanced, symmetrical animal with conformation indicating power, endurance and agility and a look of intelligence and animation." Dutch was all of those things, and I firmly believe that the mixture of that stunning, aristocratic appearance with their completely silly temperament and quirks are what combine to literally make their owners and friends laugh out loud on a daily basis. Dutch was certainly not the only GSP to live up to the Regal Jester nickname, I see it all the time in a group of German Shorthaired Pointer owners on Facebook and their photos and videos make me laugh out loud as I remember my own silly aristocrat of a dog greeting me at the door with some sort of textile hanging from his mouth.
Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba MaskBy Lynn Stacy-Smith Sussex County, New Jersey is hands down the hidden gem of New Jersey. Most people from outside the state do not believe me that it exists since the stereotype is that the state is a giant toxic waste dump. That stereotype could not be farther from the truth. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, my hometown of Andover was an outdoor lover's paradise. It was also a fabulous place to be a kid or a Labrador Retriever. When we needed to move to the Chicago area for Dad's job, my parents did substantial research to try to find something even remotely as secluded and wooded as the home we were selling. Fortunately they found a house on a large wooded lot with a stream running through the backyard and promptly installed an in-ground swimming pool to make up for the fact that we no longer lived lakefront. It wasn't quite as awesome as our lakefront paradise, but it was close. Snoop loved frolicking in the stream as did Cinder when she joined our family as an energetic little puppy. A few years after we moved our beloved Snoop passed away, leaving Cinder an only dog. The next autumn, my father was bird hunting at a hunt club that had a litter of puppies that were old enough to run around the club and explore the world but not yet ready to go to their new homes. For three weeks in a row, one particular little yellow Labrador puppy followed my Dad around every chance that he got. On the fourth week, when the puppy was eight weeks old and ready to leave his litter, Dad could not resist the little pup and Jake headed home to meet the family he had selected for himself. Jake was another of Dad's heart dogs and was a natural bird dog. Cinder was more attached to my mother and did not have the same drive, trainability or temperament to be a hunting companion, so she was happy to stay home with Mom and me while Jake and Dad went on their adventures. Just like Snoop before him, Jake was an absolute sweet dog who loved to swim and play fetch with my brothers and me, chill out with us in our bedrooms or hang out in the family room when our friends came over, but the moment Dad came home, Jake was by his side. If Dad went outside, Jake went outside. When Dad went to bed, Jake went to bed. Dad was clearly, without a shadow of a doubt, Jake's chosen person. [caption id="attachment_3405" align="alignright" width="300"] Jake fetching the fake plastic duck[/caption] Jake loved the swimming pool and walked down the stairs of the pool several times a day all summer, swam a few laps back and forth, and then walked back up the stairs. Cinder usually only jumped off the side when we threw a ball or a dummy to her, but Jake got in and out using the stairs like a human, very nonchalant and relaxed, just a dog going for a quick swim. If we were in the pool he would swim up to us and let us hold him in our arms like a child until he decided he was done. An avid scuba diver, Dad adopted the practice of using his scuba mask and snorkel so that he could swim around to vacuum the pool instead of standing on the pool deck. It was extremely smart because the visibility was so much better and he could make sure he had vacuumed up every last bit of dirt or leaves and also free dive down to get any dirt at the very bottom of the pool. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="218"] Jake, I am your father![/caption] I have seen a lot of people wearing scuba masks and snorkels throughout my lifetime, and essentially everyone looks bizarre in them. Dad's mask was a full face mask, black and Darth Vader-ish, and Jake was about as much of a fan of the mask as Luke Skywalker was of Darth Vader. The first time I saw Dad put on the mask and snorkel in the pool, I could hardly breathe I laughed so hard at Jake's reaction. As incredibly smart as he was, Jake could never figure out that Dad was still Dad when he put on the mask and snorkel. He would bark and growl with his hackles up until Dad put his face in the water, and then watch him the entire time he vacuumed the pool. Sometimes we would look out into the back yard and see Jake laying on the pool cement, front paws dangling over the side of the pool with his blocky yellow head cocked to the side as he stared down at my father. If Dad moved to another area, Jake followed, watching his every move until he surfaced and Jake started his barking and growling all over again. As soon as the pool was clean and the mask and snorkel put away, Jake was his happy self again. [caption id="attachment_3406" align="alignright" width="300"] Jake & Cinder enjoying the pool[/caption] Each week, Jake had the same reaction. Freak out, watch Dad's every move, then express huge relief in the form of a wiggling Labrador body and super fast wagging tail when Dad emerged from the pool. He never jumped in to save him or went in via the steps like when he wanted to take a swim, never tried to attack the mask, he just watched intently from the edge. Sometimes Cinder watched along with him and sometimes he did his pool patrol on his own. I wish Jake could have communicated what he was thinking, if he was afraid something was attacking our father like a sea monster or if he had no comprehension that it was still his all-time favorite human in the entire world under that big scary mask. I can't imagine what Jake would have done if Dad had worn an air tank! Flash forward twenty years later and my husband has sometimes adopted this same method of vacuuming our pool, although ours is just an above-ground and takes a fraction of the time. Jackson and Tinkerbell have seen my husband and the kids in a variety of different goggles and masks and haven't cared one bit, although ours are just for casual swimming or snorkeling, not professional scuba masks. They just glance at us and go back to doing their thing as if odd behavior from their humans is nothing out of the ordinary. If only Jake were still with us to tell them otherwise.
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Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbeeby Lynn Stacy-Smith If you've read my book and my blogs, you know that my dad was extremely influential, if not entirely responsible, for my love of dogs. In fact it is not just me who he raised to be a responsible forever dog owner, but my two brothers as well; all three of us grew up into dog loving adults and Labrador Retriever owners. Yesterday was Dad's birthday, and he is one of my most loyal readers of this blog. I thought it would be a fun gift this week to write a series of posts dedicated to some of the stories of our beloved dogs that did not make it into my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner. I hope that you will enjoy them and that you have some of your own family dog stories with your own forever dogs. [caption id="attachment_3398" align="alignright" width="300"] Snoop possibly awoken from a dream of frisbees[/caption] Snoop was my first dog and taught me what it was like to have a dog as a best friend when I was just five years old. A sweet and young black Labrador Retriever, Snoop was our playmate and constant companion, but as soon as Dad arrived home from work or from a business trip, she abandoned us to become velcroed to his side until he left the house the next time. She was next to him when he grilled, when he was inside reading or watching TV, when he worked in his home office, when he worked on projects around the house. Snoop was also his beloved hunting companion and I remember her snoring away happy and exhausted in front of the fireplace after a long day of hunting ducks with Dad. My Mom's side of the family loved to vacation at Lake Champlain, Vermont, and we went there several summers with my parents and grandparents, where we stayed in rental cabins on Button Bay and spent our days swimming in the lake, going out on my grandfather's boat, staring at the surface of the dark blue water looking for Champ, and generally spending family time outdoors. Of course Snoop was with us and would swim alongside us and run along the rocky shoreline in complete Labrador Utopia. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="289"] 1970s Lifesaver Frisbee that was not destroyed by a dog[/caption] One summer I brought along my most prized possession of the summer: my red Lifesavers Frisbee. I don't remember how I got it, but I had brought it on that trip with the express purpose of playing water Frisbee with my two half-brothers. Monday through Friday I was an only child, on weekends I had rough and tumble brothers to accompany me on adventures, hang out in our rock fort in the woods, and play Star Wars and other games. That Frisbee was pretty boring on my only child days, but I knew without a shadow of doubt how much fun we could have playing with it together, and our summer vacation would give us an entire week of fun. On the first day of our vacation we all headed down the massive flights of wooden stairs to the water, our arms laden with supplies. Our huge black inner tubes from the inside old tractor tires were pumped up and ready, Mom's raft was inflated, snacks and drinks were packed, and I had my red Lifesaver Frisbee. We were ready for fun! Once in the water I showed the frisbee to my brothers and we decided that not only would we play in the water, but we would all get on our inner tubes to play. Those old black inner tubes from trucks and tractors were the best floats, so much more durable and able to withstand rough housing than the easily popped versions made today. We each got on our tubes and positioned ourselves in the water in a triangle. Of course none of our throws to each other were remotely accurate, which also added to the fun because it means we would each launch ourselves off the tube in an effort to catch it, and then swim after it to get it to throw it to the next person. In fact I am quite confident that we were all intentionally inaccurate just to make the person to whom we were throwing jump off and fetch it. There was a dock on our beach and my grandfather's boat was tied on the opposite side of the dock from where we were playing. After a little while Snoop noticed that we were playing a game without her and she ran out onto the dock to watch us. As she watched the red Lifesaver Frisbee flying back and forth, she grew more and more animated, her tail wagging furiously, her mouth open in the classic Labrador Retriever smile, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth. She ran up and down the length of the dock repeatedly, happily following the frisbee as we threw it to each other. On the next throw to me, my older brother whipped it over my head and it landed in the water about ten feet away from me, and about five feet from the end of the dock. I dove off my tube and swam to get it, but as I was halfway there I saw Snoop crouching on the dock, figuring out the angle for her jump. "No, Snoop! No! Stay!!" I yelled, swimming faster. Like most dogs, Snoop understood Geometry better than any human, and she landed precisely in front of the frisbee with one leap and snatched it up in her mouth. Like any good hunting dog, she swiftly turned and swam to shore with her possession. "Snoop has the frisbee!!!!" we all yelled to our parents and grandparents on the shore. "She's a hunting dog, she has a soft mouth, she won't hurt it!" Dad called out to me. I was swimming as fast as I could to catch her, but I had been delayed by making sure my inner tube did not float away, so she had gained a lot of ground on me. I was still swimming back to shore as I watched our perfect hunting dog reach the beach and then race past my father across the sand with my red Lifesaver Frisbee in her mouth. "Snoop, wait!!!!" I called frantically. "It's ok, she's not going to harm it, Lynn, calm down!" Dad said. I was still swimming as I watched her take my frisbee down the beach and in a matter of seconds put her big paw on one end and start chomping on my prized toy. By the time we got it back it was no longer a beautiful perfect red circle, an oversized version of the best flavor of candy there ever was, it had been reduced to shards of plastic and Labrador slobber on the rocky gray sand. "Snoop, you ate my frisbee!" I said to her in disbelief, and she looked up at me, tail wagging, pleased with herself and her frisbee destroying skills. I wanted to cry with disappointment over having the toy for such a brief amount of time, but as all kids growing up in the 70s knew, you did not cry over such trivial things or you would receive "something to cry about" although looking back, nothing actually happened after those words came out of our parents mouths. I picked up the pieces and headed back to where the family was camped out in lawn chairs on the beach, Snoop trotting alongside me, sniffing her way back, blissfully unaware of the havoc she had wreaked on my plans to play Frisbee every day my brothers were with us. "Huh," Dad said, "I didn't think she would chew it! She would have never done that to a duck!" Of course this story has lived on for decades, and it my most vivid memory of our vacations in Lake Champlain. A few years later we discovered an amazing place in Upstate New York and that became our new vacation tradition and the location of so many family memories. I still love to tease my Dad about his perfect Snoop and her soft mouth and how she would never ever chew up my beloved red Lifesavers Frisbee.
Beau the Labrador Escape Artistby Lynn Stacy-Smith Earlier this week a viral video went around that showed a Great Pyrenees easily letting himself out of the boarding area of a Virginia animal hospital and through multiple doors all the way to the outdoors. I feel pretty confident that I am not the only dog owner who watched the video and realized they were watching one of their biggest fears happening in front of their eyes. This video also brought back a nearly forgotten memory of my Mom's yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau. Beau was an incredibly good dog, very sweet and chilled out similar to my Jackson in personality but with a passion for hunting birds with Dad and playing fetch endlessly with tennis balls. Beau was the son of our family dog Jake and was just a year or so old himself when puppy Dutch joined the family. Sort of the middle child in the dog family, Beau bonded with Dutch the moment Dutch trotted into the house. Beau was so good and so intuitive that we watched him divert Dutch's attention anytime Dutch started to get into naughty puppy mode and become essentially a puppy sitter. If Dutch tried to chew on a contraband item, Beau would bring him a ball or a toy or start playing with him to make him stop. [caption id="attachment_3232" align="alignright" width="300"] Beau and Dutch spooning[/caption] Similarly to what I wrote about yesterday in the blog Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect, Beau had one big behavioral issue: he was an expert escape artist. As a young and physically fit Labrador, Beau was able to jump over my parent's fence from a standing position, which he did several times. Their yard at the time was a glorious heavily wooded four acres in the country, with chain link fence around 3 sides and a beautiful cedar plank fence along the front of the house. The chain link portion was higher than the cedar and as a result of Beau's escapades, Dad added an extension to the entire length of wooden fence. It looked ok but of course made all of us joke that the next step would be rolled barbed wire like you see outside of prisons. The dogs also enjoyed expansive dog runs in the basement that were about four times the size of the extra-large crates that Jax and Tink have now. I loved how well-trained they were and how when I would visit or dog sit that I could just give the "kennel up" command and they would all run down the basement steps and into their own runs, Jake on the left, Beau in the middle and Dutch on the right. [caption id="attachment_3233" align="alignleft" width="197"] Beau the Labrador Escape Artist[/caption] Beau also made a habit of jumping out of his dog run and either roaming the basement or joining Jake or Dutch in their kennels. As a result, Beau's kennel had a roof added to it to ensure that he stayed in his own run while the humans were away. Several years later my Mom was out-of-town and the dogs were being kenneled at their usual boarding kennel, a wonderful facility in the country that my parents had used for years and where I also occasionally boarded my black Labrador Babe. We loved the owners and staff and they adored our dogs, which helped alleviate the worry and guilt over boarding them. One morning when my Mom was on a two week scuba diving trip in Fiji, I got an early morning phone call from the kennel. Looking back, I am not sure why I was not dog sitting but I was home with Babe at my own apartment and was the emergency contact for the kennel. "You need to come and get Beau right now, he is no longer allowed at this kennel," they said. "Oh my gosh! What happened! Is he ok" I asked, worried. "He is banned for life!" they said, "He broke out of his kennel the night before last so we let that slide and tried to secure his door better. Then he broke out again last night and ate all of the food that we had prepared the night before. ALL of it." "Oh no!!! How much did he eat?" I asked. "All of the food for every single dog in here, so about twenty bowls of food, plus all of their medicine that was measured out into their bowls! You need to get him NOW!" "Ok, I will be there in a half hour, I'll just take all three at the same time, then." I said, already starting to put on my shoes. I drove to the boarding kennel, loaded all three dogs, their food and their bedding into my small-ish Honda, and headed over to my mother's house to drop them off before going back to my own apartment, picking up Babe, her food and any clothes and toiletries I would need for the rest of the time Mom was gone, and then headed over to dog sit at her house for the remaining of her vacation. It was easier for Babe and me to stay at her house and impossible to imagine watching all four dogs in my tiny apartment with the unfenced yard. Thankfully I was off work that day because I would be on close watch to make sure Beau was ok after eating miscellaneous medications. [caption id="attachment_3231" align="alignright" width="300"] Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch[/caption] I knew Mom was landing at night when she returned in a week so there was no chance that she would be going straight to the kennel from the airport, so I did not try to get in touch with her all the way in Fiji. It was long before texting and social media via smart phones would make it easier to reach someone in another country and there was no need to worry her when I had everything under control. Instead I left a message on her mobile phone voice mail that I assumed she would check when she landed. "So, I picked up your dogs at the kennel and Babe and I are staying at your house. You can ask Beau why this is, but he's banned for life from the kennel," I said cryptically. As I predicted, she listened to my voice mail and called me on my mobile phone to find out what had happened. I had had several days to dramatize the story of Beau's escape artist ways and his gluttonous escapades that had gotten him banned for life from the boarding kennel. By the time I was finished we were both roaring with laughter, although he could have easily killed himself if he had ingested the wrong medicines, not to mention the fact that those other dogs were now short a dose of their medications while their owners were away. Beau's bad behavior was one of those situations that would turn into a family story that we would tell for years, only now in 2017 without my mom alive anymore to share those stories, I had nearly forgotten it until General's escape from his boarding facility went viral this week refreshed my memory. I am relieved that the dog from the video was found safe and sound and sleeping in a neighbor's yard and a little grateful for him, too, for reminding me of this incident in my life with dogs that was truly the epitome of the laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof.
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