Jackson's 7 Year Gotchaversary
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jax’s 7 Year Gotchaversary

Jax on his Gotcha dateSeven years ago today I met one of the great loves of my life. I had already fallen in love with him through email and photos and stories of how special he was, and meeting him in real life for the first time just sealed the deal. His first kisses solidified in my heart that he would spend the rest of his life with me, and my heart was full of love and hope as I signed the papers to make his place in my life official.

Of course you’ve already figured out that I am talking about Jackson, my beloved male Labrador Retriever. I mean, this is a blog about dogs not human stuff.

Jackson is the dog who showed me that you can have multiple heart dogs in your life, that you can have more than one soul dog. If you have read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, or my blog on a regular basis, you know that Jackson came home to us as an eight-week old puppy not too long after I lost both of my beloved dogs, Babe and Dutch. Little Jax licked away the tears that I had cried for them and filled up the hole in my heart with his own unique personality and quirks.

There is no doubt that Jackson and I have a special bond. He is different in every way from every other Labrador Retriever who I have ever had. He may meet all of the breed standards for looks and personality, but Jax is his very own unique dog, and I feel a very special connection to him that is hard to put into words. He has such a serious, intense look to him, and at the same time is silly and sweet and has an actual sense of humor like I’ve never seen in a dog. He thinks things through and works things out to the point where we joke that we should have named him Sheldon Cooper instead of Jackson.

I suppose not only is he a much different dog than Babe was, but I am a different version of myself. Babe was with me during my 20s and 30s, and Jax was born just a few days after I turned 40, and yet the mature, settled adult version of me needs him just as much as the young woman figuring out life needed Babe.

Jax has no idea that it his Gotchaversary, since he is a dog and doesn’t think like that. I did tell him the whole story earlier today, but I am pretty sure that he just cared that he was getting a nice long tummy rub.

The thing I have learned about a day like this is that even though I was just playing around when I started off writing as if today was a wedding anniversary instead of the day that we picked up Jax, your dog’s Gotcha date is very similar to a wedding date in a very special way. Not only is it the start of a lifelong vow and commitment, but when you choose the right spouse or the right puppy, your big day turns into a happy day in a lifetime of happy days. Jackson 7 years old

When you get married, it is the happiest day of your life up until that point. And of course it is usually a memorable day with fabulous attire, great food, a huge cake and all of your loved ones surrounding you. But despite all of those things, you keep adding extraordinarily happy days with that person, whether it is the birth of a child or another life event, or everyday pleasures like laughing at a private joke or a simple afternoon spent together just the two of you.

Whether you are picking your puppy up or adopting a grown dog, the Gotcha date is just the start of a life together. It may be the happiest day of your life with that dog at that point, but it is just the start. So no matter how special of a memory it is to remember the day we picked Jackson up from our breeder, and got those first puppy breath kisses all over my face, or made his name official, this time with him as a big, sturdy grown up dog are also the happiest days of my life with him. Whether I am watching him sniff his way along a favorite walking trail, do his signature “upside down puppy” maneuver to flip over for a belly rub, or learn new habits like “awkward snuggling” with his Daddy, life with Jackson just gets better and better.



Jackson and the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our Life
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson, the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our Life

Jackson,  the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our Life

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jackson and the Tissue and the Angel Dogs in Our LifeFriday was a hard day for my dog loving friends. For one friend it was the one year anniversary of the passing of her beloved Golden Retriever who passed away at just ten years old after a battle with hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer. While I talked on the phone with her on Friday afternoon, one of my best friends was saying goodbye to her fourteen year old Labrador Retriever. That friend had spent at least a year agonizing over how her dog was feeling, if she was living a good quality of life or in pain, and when she would know that the time was right to make the hardest decision that any dog owner has to make.

Unfortunately I have been in both situations, I lost my Dutchdog to hemangiosarcoma and was in a similar decision-making process to my friend’s senior Labrador with my late Babe, so I could empathize with both of my friends. I had never met my friend’s Golden Retriever, but I felt like I knew him because of her posts, photos and videos of him on Facebook. I have laughed at his antics, cried when she shared with us that he was sick, prayed for him when he was going through treatment, cried again when he passed, and watched her share her memories of him in the year since she said goodbye.

With my other friend’s Labrador, I remember when she and her husband got her as a puppy, before they were married, before they owned a home, before they added human kids and another Lab to their family. We had all lived in Indiana, and around the same time they moved to Michigan and I moved to Illinois, so although I did not get to see her often, once again, I had fallen in love with her sweet dog through photos and social media posts and my friend’s stories of their life together. I have laughed and cried as I’ve followed her dog’s life, and I cried a great deal on Friday.

Yesterday, two days after her dog’s passing, I was sitting on my living room floor messaging back and forth with my friend and talking about how she, her husband, her kids and their other dog were all doing. I gave some suggestions on how to help the surviving dog through this time and I also mentioned that some of my friends referred to their late dogs as an angel and referred to them with that in their name, like Angel Dutch or Angel Babe, and how that might help her kids still remember their dog and understand that while she was no longer on earth, that their memories could live on.

We talked about the story of the Rainbow Bridge and how we both hoped it was real, and that over the course of our lifetime we might both have a small pack waiting for us. I mentioned how I picture all of my dogs, Babe, Dutch, and Maggie, all reunited as angels, pain free, and playing together. Maybe my Mom and our other late dogs Snoop, Cinder, Jake, and Beau are there, too, everyone reunited and happy, their bodies healthy again.  

Of course this conversation put me in tears again, and as I sat on the floor and typed in my phone and cried, I realized I had a tissue in the pocket of my hoodie, and I used it to wipe away my tears. Jackson and Tinkerbell had noticed that I was upset, and Tinkerbell had come and laid next to me, her beautiful head resting on my lap, her brown eyes looking up as if to say, “Momma, don’t be upset!”

Jackson came over to me and licked my face and nuzzled me, and just as I was in the middle of telling him that he was the sweetest boy in the world, he reached over and grabbed the tissue with his mouth, ripping it in half and stepping out of my reach. Before I could wrestle it from his mouth, he chewed and ate it.

“Jackson! You little sneak! I thought you were coming to comfort me, and instead you wanted my tissue,” I exclaimed, laughing at the whole situation as I looked at the half of the tissue still in my hand. He stood nearby, his ears perked up, head tilted, and his thick otter tail wagging playfully, as if he was laughing at the joke with me.

That simple moment was one of the hundreds of thousands of reasons why we love dogs so much, why they make the most magnificent friends and companions, and why it is so devastating when we have to say goodbye to them. You see, I actually think that it was all a plan to make me feel better.

Experts might say I am wrong, that dogs do not think like that, but I have seen the mind of Jackson at work. As my breeder said about him when we were trying to decide which puppy to take, “I think this puppy is going to grow into a very special dog,” and I can tell you that Jackson is one heck of a smart dog to the point where we call him the Sheldon Cooper of dogs.

I have seen him outsmart Tinkerbell hundreds of times with his wit and problem solving skills. I have watched him work hard to get some alone time for a tummy rub by luring her away with her favorite toy or moose antler, waiting for her to become involved in playing with it, and then laying back down next to me for a tummy rub without his kid sister interrupting him. I have watched him try to get her to come back inside the house so he can poop without his sister following less than six inches behind him. And I have watched him come when I called him, stop halfway to the house, turn around to go potty, and then resume obeying the recall command. So it is not out of the realm of possibility that he stole that tissue to make me laugh and stop the weird human crying thing that they know means we are sad.

God sent angels down to earth in the form of dogs with notes saying, "Don't judge... just love." The dogs ate the notes... but they keep trying to deliver the message.When I sat down to write this blog, I thought of a saying that I’ve seen from time to time across social media. It says, “God sent angels down to earth in the form of dogs with notes saying, “Don’t judge… just love.” The dogs ate the notes… but they keep trying to deliver the message.”

I love that quote, not just because of Jackson’s love of eating paper, but because it completely captures the essence of dogs and why we love them. Dogs love with their whole hearts. They don’t hold back their love, they just love us without judgement, in the purest and most gentle and honest way. But they are silly and playful, too, and they just seem to know what we need, like a gentle, loving nuzzle followed by stealing and eating the very tissue that I was using to wipe my eyes. Jackson’s antics did exactly what I believe he intended: I stopped crying and started laughing in that exact moment.

I think about the losses of Babe and then Dutch. Losing both of them broke my heart; in my book I talk about the devastation I felt and how each time I did not want to face the world for several days because of the agonizing pain. And then, by opening my heart and home again, I welcomed first Jackson and then Tinkerbell into my heart.

The “new” dogs never replace the dogs who have passed on to be angels; instead they simply join the ranks of the “heart” dogs who have come before them because the heart can hold as much love as you can feel. It is the reason they are so easy to love, such natural companions for humans, and also the reason that it is so devastating every time we have to say goodbye to them.

In the last several years I’ve been learning a lot about energy, the universe, and how even though our loved ones may not be in their physical bodies anymore, that their energy still remains with us. Although I do not want to get in a religious discussion or offend anyone who believes differently, I like this idea. It is soothing and positive.

I like the idea that my Mom’s energy is with me as I go through my day, giving me her strength and support even if she cannot be with me physically. I like the idea that the energy of my late dogs is also with me, so that not only do I get to live side by side with Jackson and Tinkerbell on this earth, but with Angel Babe, Angel Dutch, Angel Maggie, Angel Snoop, Angel Cinder, Angel Jake, and Angel Beau. They may not be here in the form that I want, so that I can touch and hug them, play fetch with them or get doggie kisses from them, but they are with me all the same.

In loving memory of Angel Chesney and Angel Shooter




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

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Vacations and Epic Labrador Greetings
Reunited with my loves!

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

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


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.

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

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

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

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

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event
Blogs, Rescue Spotlight

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue EventAs both a dog lover and a dog professional, my favorite part of being a sponsor or vendor at dog related events is visiting with the actual dogs, even though sometimes my heart feels like it is going to break when I hear the stories of the dogs’ lives before they were rescued. In fact it is a given that Jackson and Tinkerbell will sniff me from head to toe immediately upon my return home in what I call the Labrador Inquisition, after I’ve been petting dogs of all shapes and sizes and holding and snuggling young puppies.

The dogs at these events are usually a mixture of rescue dogs who are up for adoption and dogs who have accompanied their owners to check out the event. Sometimes rescue volunteers will bring their own dogs as ambassadors for the rescue.

Talking to the fosters and volunteers about the stories of the dogs who are available for adoption is always bittersweet because although there is joy at the fact that the dogs are now safe from euthanasia and will eventually find their forever homes, there is sadness and pain in so many of their backgrounds. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there are continually more ways that humans have failed dogs before they reached the heroes who have saved them and who are fostering them and seeking their forever homes.

One of the key points that I made in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, is that we often have no way of knowing what a dog has been through before it steps its first paw into your home, whether the dog is a small puppy or a senior dog. That is one of the reasons it is so critical to be compassionate and understanding of what the dog might have been through, particularly because they cannot tell their story to us. The Dogs You Meet at a Rescue Event

Among the dogs I met in the last few weeks were three puppies from a litter of nine who were still waiting for their forever homes. Six of their siblings were already adopted and two of the three were adopted at the event. Their mother had been rescued after being locked in a shed, left all alone to deliver her puppies without proper food, water, or human assistance. Of course whoever locked her into the shed would likely not have assisted with her delivery anyway, as not only did he or she lock her in the shed, but they bolted it shut to ensure that she would not escape.  I forgot to ask who found her or how they found her as I snuggled one of her babies to my cheek and wondered for about the millionth time “what the hell is wrong with some people” and said a thank you to the universe for saving her and her unborn litter. With her puppies now old enough to go to their forever homes, she too had been adopted into a loving home.

There was the four-year old male Basset Hound who had been a hunting dog and had never been inside a home. As the daughter of a bird hunter whose dogs slept on the bed next to him, I do not understand how you could hunt with a dog who is not also your best friend, constant companion, and sleeping buddy. The only time I ever saw my father cry when I was a child was when our beloved Snoop passed away, leaving me appalled at whoever had owned this sweet male Basset Hound and not loved up on him every possible moment. Fortunately he is being fostered in a home in which he gets plenty of love, and I was happy to sit on the ground and pet him, telling the foster, “If I apply, don’t approve me, I could easily fall in love with this sweet boy and I cannot have another dog!”

Being fostered at the same home was a senior female Basset Hound who had been found as a stray. My heart broke as I thought of her being lost and afraid, fending for herself in a town or in the woods, and I hoped that if nothing else, she had gotten lost from a loving family instead of just being dumped on her own. I was grateful that she no longer had to be alone or afraid.

Last weekend I met an eight year old Golden Retriever who had been surrendered by a puppy mill farmer. She had never been inside a home and was essentially learning how to really, truly be a dog and enjoy life instead of producing litter after litter after litter of puppies. As she walked through the event with her foster-mother and foster-sister she seemed to cling to them as if terrified of losing the one comfort in life that she had ever experienced. When they stopped to look at something or meet someone she literally threw herself to the ground as if unsure of what to do or how to act. If her foster doesn’t “fail” and adopt her for herself, I am quite sure she will flourish with a loving human who is patient, calm, and consistent and who lets her become the confident dog that she was born to be.

At the same event where I met the puppy mill momma, I met two five-month old Chihuahuas who had literally been rescued from a shelter one day before they were scheduled to be euthanized. They were litter mates, scared to death, literally clinging to their foster from the rescue organization that had saved them. They are like so many dogs who have been through so much bad stuff and are entirely unable to tell us their stories as they learn to trust humans as someone good and positive in their life.

I never stop being amazed at how dogs can overcome their pasts and learn to live happily with humans, to trust in the fact that even though some people failed them and were cruel to them through abuse, neglect, or both, that other people are there to help them, to love them, to care for them. So many humans have a hard time looking to the future instead of being bogged down trying to get over or recreate the past, that once again we can learn so much from these dogs who have been treated like they feel nothing but in reality feel so much.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Blogs, Products & Places I Love For Dogs

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription BoxSubscription boxes have been around for several years and I have tried many of them for different things like snacks and beauty products. As someone who loves trying out new products and getting a little surprise in the mail each month, I adore the subscription box trend. Until now, though, I have never tried one for Jackson and Tinkerbell.

If you have been following my blog, you know that Jackson and Tinkerbell are my beloved Labrador Retrievers and that providing them with a healthy, holistic lifestyle has been the inspiration for this blog. You also know that I am extremely conscious (i.e.neurotic) about the quality of the food, treats, and toys that I allow them to have.

My criteria for anything that comes near my dogs is that it must be made in the United States, must be made with strict standards by responsible manufacturers, cannot have any wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, eggs, chicken, beef, animal digest, by-products or menadione. Additionally, one of my dogs is somewhat intolerant to cheese and dairy. As a result, I have avoided the world of the subscription box because I could not necessarily guarantee that what was going to come in the box would meet my extremely strict criteria.

Then I learned about PupJoy!

The funny thing is that I was not really searching for a canine subscription box. In fact I kinda just stumbled across them by accident. As I read through their website and came across this statement, “PupJoy Boxes are filled with natural, organic treats, toys and accessories from responsible artisan brands, all carefully selected and vetted by the most discerning dogs.” Excited about what I was reading, I promptly signed up for a subscription!

Adding to the appeal was the fact that I could customize the box and decide whether it would be for one dog or multiple dogs, if I wanted to receive treats, toys and accessories, just toys and accessories, or just treats. I could specify if I wanted the treats to be All Natural, Grain Sensitive, Protein Sensitive, or Organic. Since I wanted “all of the above” for Jax and Tink, I chose Organic since I have found that most organic treats are all natural and made with grains and proteins that fit my needs. Finally, I could choose the type of toy (plush, durable or a mix of both) and the size of the dog who was going to receive the box.

For our first box, since I figured I could upgrade at a later date, I chose a box for one dog, with a mixture of treats, toys and accessories that included Organic Treats and Durable Toys for Large dogs. I quickly received a confirmation email and I anxiously awaited the box’s arrival.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Waiting so patiently!

Now, let me say that I LOVE companies that send beautifully branded packages! It makes an online purchase into a complete shopping experience. Companies like Tervis Tumblers, Ole Henriksen, Stella & Dot, Melissa McCarthy and Lily Pulitzer do this fabulously, so I was super excited to see that the dogs’ PupJoy box came beautifully put together. Of course, the dogs do not care what the box looks like, they just want the goodies inside, but as a frequent online shopper, I most definitely appreciate the extra detail and the whole experience of opening such a beautifully branded box.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Even the box is fabulous!

I opened up the navy blue box with the image of the wagging tail and was excited to see that the inside was a cheery hot pink color printed with bone, heart, collar and house icons as well as another of their wagging tail logos. The contents were in white tissue paper with a logo sticker and a glossy flyer that contained PupJoy’s contact information, a link for more information on the products in the box, social media sharing information, an option to earn rewards through referring friends, and information on the Bissell Pet Foundation, to which a portion of each purchase is donated.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Super cute!

Last month Jackson and Tinkerbell received a plush Topsy Turvie cow/beaver toy that has (or had, in this case) several squeakers and the head of a cow and the back-end of a beaver. The box also included the PupJoy Brewing Treat Dispenser, which is a rubber treat toy that you can fill with soft or hard treats, similar to a Kong. Treats included Camberville Dog Treats Travel Canister and some other selections, all of which met my super strict, neurotic dog mom criteria. The dogs loved their treats and had a fun-filled evening playing tug-o-war with the Cow/Beaver. I think they believed it was their mission to separate the toy into the individual animals of cow and beaver so that by the time they were done the cow section was detached from the beaver section. You can check out my video of unboxing our first PupJoy box at the end of this post.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
PupJoy goodies!

This month I decided to change to all treats without toys or accessories so that Jackson and Tinkerbell could share a box more easily. Tinkerbell enjoys plush toys more than Jackson, so this made it more fair.

I was super excited to open the box and find four full-sized packages of treats, all of which met my very strict criteria and limited list of ingredients. Not only am I elated with the quality of the treats and ingredients, I am also impressed that they have sent me brands that I have never seen in any of our local stores. I love to find out about new options that I can reorder for Jackson and Tinkerbell to keep their treat options interesting.

After receiving our first box I immediately wrote to PupJoy to find out of they offered an affiliate program, which they do, so I am pleased to offer my Happy Tails | PupJoyown affiliate link for any friends and Love, Laugh, Woof followers who would like to start your own subscription. I would have recommended this awesome box anyway, but affiliate links are how we bloggers can earn a small income in exchange for sharing information about the products we love. The PupJoy box definitely falls into that category.




How Much To Feed Your Dog
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Much To Feed Your DogThe other day I came across a conversation in a Labrador Retriever focused Facebook group in which a dog owner was asking fellow dog owners how much they fed their dogs. Their puppy was still growing and they were not sure if he was gaining too much weight too quickly and if they were feeding him an appropriate amount of food or if they should pull back his food intake.

IMG_3199I watched the conversation continue as different owners chimed in with the number of cups that they fed to their own Labrador Retrievers as puppies and as adults. Some owners said that they fed three cups split into two meals, others fed four cups of food, others gave two cups. What I found interesting was that nobody mentioned the number of calories that they fed their dogs or took into consideration the brand and formula of pet food that they were each feeding, meaning that their answers were not even remotely close to being helpful for the particular dog owner. It was like comparing apples to cucumbers for the dog owner who had asked the question. Of course this made me wonder how many other dog owners struggle with this question.

Jackson and Tinkerbell both consume roughly 1797 kcals per day, split into three eight once cup servings. Most adult dogs do not get three meals a day but mine are creatures of habit and we just kept on that schedule after puppyhood. In fact, they know the phrase “puppy lunch” quite well and know that it happens at 11:30 on the dot. This amount is perfect for them in the winter months. Tink weighs in around 65 pounds which is perfect for her and Jackson is around 78. They both have a nicely tucked up waist and a lean layer of fat over their rib cages which is ideal for their breed, neither too skinny nor too fat.

Think of kcals as you would think of the number of calories in a serving of human food. A serving of dog food is measured as an 8 ounce measuring cup, so instead of 140 calories for your container of human yogurt, you will see “Kcals per cup” on your dog food bag or manufacturer website. If you want a very detailed explanation of how Kcals are actually calculated you can find it at the Association of American Feed Control Officials, otherwise known as the AAFCO. Since pet food manufacturers have to provide the information, as well as the guaranteed analysis of other nutritional  information, you can just go with the information that is provided instead of figuring it out on your own. It is an interesting read, though, if you have the time.

Brands of food vary dramatically in how many kcals per cup are in their food. I am a committed customer of holistic, organic dog food Canine Caviar, which has around 599 kcals per cup in most of its formulas with the exception of their Special Needs formula, which is just one of the many things that I love about their food. A low quality food like Purina Beneful Originals in beef flavor has 333 kcals per cup, so you would have to feed your dog nearly twice as much of that food in order to match the kcals per day that I feed in Canine Caviar. Zignature Whitefish formula, which is my backup brand for Jackson and Tinkerbell has 424 kcals/cup so I have to increase their portions each day to meet the same caloric count if I feed them that food.

Here are some other brands of food and their kcals/cup:

Wellness Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe: 386

Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Whitefish & Potato: 360

Hill’s Science Diet Advanced Fitness: 363

Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult: 276

Nutro High Endurance Adult Dog Food: 365

Each brand should have feeding guidelines on the bag for a variety of activity levels. It is important to be honest with yourself on how active your dog truly is and also monitor your dog’s weight carefully throughout her life to ensure that she is growing at an appropriate pace during her puppy years and is neither underweight nor overweight as an adult. It is likely that you will need to adjust the number of kcals that you feed your dog as he/she goes through different phases of life and sometimes at different times throughout the year. For example a hunting dog will burn more calories during duck or pheasant season than when just hanging with the family in front of the fireplace. IMG_3200

With both Jackson and Tinkerbell we hit a point where their puppy metabolism slowed and I had to reduce their calories accordingly as they gained more than the desired “layer of fat” between their rib cage and skin. This happened with each of them as they left puppyhood and became adult dogs. I have also learned that they are far more active in the fall, winter and spring than they are during summer, so I reduce their kcals slightly during the summer months when the Chicagoland heat and humidity soars and they take up their residency on top of the air conditioning vents. Usually cutting down to a half a cup at puppy lunch and leaving their breakfast and dinner the same works just fine. I signed a “No Fat Labs” promise when I picked both of my puppies up and I make sure that I abide by it for their overall health.

If you are raising a puppy that you purchased from a professional breeder, go with the guidelines on your bag of food but also make sure that you check with your breeder to find out how much to feed and how quickly your puppy should grow.  Exemplary breeders should be more than happy to answer these questions and provide information on nutrition and other topics throughout your dog’s entire life.

The rate of growth is particularly important for large breed puppies who could have joint issues from too many calories and growing too quickly or becoming too heavy while their joints are growing. You can also ask your veterinarian during your first puppy visit, which should occur within days after bringing that puppy home, and then consult about your puppy’s weight and progress at each of your subsequent puppy vaccination appointments.

IMG_3198Another very interesting resource is a Google Hangout that I was fortunate to participate in with Jeff Baker, the founder and President of Canine Caviar, when I was a content writer for them. He shares what I consider to be extremely interesting information on how the amount of food that you feed to small breed puppies can impact their colon and cause incontinence or colon issues. He also talks about how you can gauge whether or not your puppy is growing too quickly by whether or not their paws turn out to the side or face front.

A great resource on how many calories to feed your dog can be found on the Dog Food Advisor website using their Dog Food Calculator. Also check out their page about How To Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Weight. 

Thank you for reading and following me. Love, Laugh, Woof, and give your dog a tummy rub from me.



Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell's First Restaurant Trip
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

Tinkerbell enjoying her walk along the Dupage River

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

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

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

Tinkerbell in front of the Naperville Carillon

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

Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe
Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe

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

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

The beautiful Quincy saying hello across the table

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

Tucker gets a drink of water

on us, their humans.

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

Tink’s salad

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

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

Sleepy Tinkerbell on the drive home

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


Happy Tails | PupJoy

Jackson and the tall, wet grass
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson vs. The Tall, Wet Grass

Jackson vs. The Tall, Wet Grass

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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





Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Safety & Emergency Prepping

Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!

Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!I normally do not blog when I am angry. Today is an exception because I just watched this video: Police Officers Save 1 Month Old Puppy Trapped In Hot Car.

I am astounded that this is still happening, I am pissed off as I wonder what the hell is wrong with people? I normally write with the utmost of diplomacy, perhaps from my corporate background, but also because that’s just who I am. I am diplomatic, I try to see all of the shades of gray in an issue instead of just the black and white. But I cannot help but wonder today, are the people who leave their dogs (and their children) in hot cars just plain old stupid or do they simply not care? Idiots, or monsters? Although it doesn’t matter because the result is the same: death of an innocent creature.

I am not even going to comment on the fact that they believe the puppy in the video was just one month old, or ponder why someone had such a young  puppy out alone instead of at home with its mother and littermates. Had he already left his litter to be placed with such a negligent owner? Of course if that is the case it is no wonder that the puppy ended up in the hands of such negligent, irresponsible and selfish humans, because everyone in the dog world with half a brain knows that puppies should be with their mothers until they are eight weeks old. Not only should that puppy have not been in that car, it was far too early for him to go to his forever home unless something had happened to his mother.

With the worst heat of the summer upon us in most parts of the country, I see heat related warnings for dogs and children on a daily basis. In fact rather than reinvent the wheel and create my own graphic for this blog I decided to share an existing one. This is the result of my Google Search and it went on for pages and pages!

dogs hot cars goodle search screenshot


What gets me about this rampant problem is that there is no lack of information on this topic, as evidenced by my Google search, so why are some dog owners so utterly clueless? Why are they still inflicting this torture on their dogs? Is it not just common sense? Do people not believe the dire warnings? Do they think that it will actually take just two minutes to run in for a gallon of milk or to pick up a prescription? Do they not know that even if it DID take two minutes, that the temperature is already soaring in those minutes and seconds? I don’t know about you, but I cannot ever recall a trip into a store for even the most basic item taking less than ten minutes in recent years.

Just the other day my husband and I were going to dinner and I got into the car thinking that he was right behind me. Instead he had stopped to get something he forgot inside the house and so I waited about 45 seconds in the sweltering car. Even with my passenger door open the heat was so intense that in that short a period of time I felt woozy. FORTY FIVE SECONDS! And I’m a grown adult who could have just got out; I actually sat there and waited just to experience the heat as a bit of research, and that was before I thought about writing this blog. My heart breaks for the dogs who have no way to escape.

Unless you are literally fleeing your home and running for your life and stopping for life sustaining supplies, there is absolutely no reason to leave a dog in a parked car where he or she will perish in a slow and miserable way. And quite frankly, if I was bugging out or being evacuated and fleeing with my dogs, I STILL  would not leave them in a hot car, I’d go through the closest drive through of a restaurant that served bottled water and let them drink from a cup and figure out food after it was cooler outside!

In my (experienced and unwavering) opinion, the only place a dog really needs to go when the temperature soars is to the veterinarian. Other destinations like to obedience school, the groomer, doggie daycare, a walk along a tree covered dirt path, to your local dog friendly beach or to your local holistic pet store can be done successfully as long as the dog never is left in the car alone. Straight to the destination and then back home. Period.

Want to make a Starbucks stop? Hit the drive-thru.

Need milk? Take the dog home and go back out.

Need to figure out what to feed the family for dinner? Take the dog home and go back out.

Need cash? ATM or drive up.

Dry cleaning on the way? Hmmm…the dog’s life versus some clean clothes? Take the dog home and go back out.

The answer to all of these is to take the dog home and go back out. If you have to even think about whether or not it is too hot for your dog to stay in the car, it probably is. 

This is an area in which Woof really applies because Woof means honoring the fact that your dog is a dog and that he or she does not need to be treated like a child even though you love him or her with the same love that you have for a child. Yes, it is fun for your dog to go on car rides with you if you are not stopping anywhere and you have icy cold air conditioning blasting through your vents. But unlike children who might want to tag along to sweet talk you into a treat, your dog does not need to run to Walmart because you ran out of coffee and then sit and wait in an oven on wheels for you to return. Your dog can stay home and do dog things and when you get your coffee back home you will have a live dog to pet while your drink your coffee, instead of a dead one from leaving it in the car and killing it.

When Jackson and Tinkerbell go places with me when it is warm outside, I actually use my remote car starter and start the car before we get inside so that the air conditioner will start to work before we enter the vehicle. Before I had a remote starter I would start the car, turn on the AC, let my dog take a quick potty break before getting into the car, and then enter once some of the oven-like heat had subsided. And back in the day when I drove really awful old cars and my AC didn’t work, I would roll down the windows and let some air flow through the car before my late Babe and I entered.

Of course if you are following me you are probably already living a life dedicated to your dog, a life of Love, Laugh, and Woof, so you know these things and I am preaching to the proverbial choir. I don’t know exactly what we do from here to help dogs.  Some parts of the country have passed laws against leaving dogs in too hot or too cold conditions like here in Illinois. Others have passed laws allowing citizens to take matters into heir own hands and break the windows of cars with dogs and children trapped inside to save more lives.

Do we keep bombarding people with memes on social media? Start a network of volunteers around the country to pass out flyers in parking lots? We have a National Pet Travel Safety Day as well as Heat Safety Awareness Day; it seems redundant to have a specific day for Hot Car Awareness, but maybe that is the next step for both dogs and children because the tragedies are still occurring all across the country.

For now, join me in continuing to educate the public, share one of the many, many pieces of information that you can find on a Google Search, and keep on calling the police when you see dogs trapped inside ovens on wheels whenever the weather is above 70 degrees.

source: www.dogsinhotcars.com
source: www.veterinaryclinic.com


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! 

Click here to request membership! 




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.

The Holding of the Antlers- Alpha Female or Dog Nanny-
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

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

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

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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


Holding the moose antler for Tink to enjoy

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

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

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

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

Jax out-smarting Tink to get her antler

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

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

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



Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce Picks
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce PicksYesterday was National Biscuit Day and I shared my favorite and trusted brands of dog treats, so today is a perfect time to share some of Jackson and Tinkerbell’s favorite fruits and veggies for dogs. My teenagers joke that our dogs are “nerds” of the dog world because they beg for things like kale and cucumber slices but don’t even wake from their slumber if we cook a nice juicy steak or burgers on the grill.

It doesn’t help that I do not allow the dogs to eat wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, chicken, any other poultry products, beef, or any of the more “mainstream” brands of food or treats that you might find at a big box retailer. By-products and anything with the word “animal” is a huge no-no in this house and I have not shopped at big box stores for pet products for over six years. Part of this list of things they cannot have is due to food sensitivities in one or the other dog, and part is simply because I am extremely cautious with what they are allowed to ingest. Losing two dogs in a row to cancer will do that to a dog owner.

Here are the produce department items that send Jax and Tink racing into the kitchen waiting for their portion to be handed to them or for something to drop onto the floor. These are Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks:

1. Kale, spinach & green leaf lettuce: I make my salads with my own mix of kale, spinach and green leaf lettuce and both dogs come running into the kitchen the moment they smell the greens coming out of the fridge. They stand patiently, one dog on each side of me, eyes firmly on the counter top, and I had them small bunches of leaves that they wolf down happily. Sometimes I will put a handful into their bowls like their very own salad. I try not to do this when any other humans are around; they already think I’m a bit dog crazy so the last thing I need them to catch me doing is making the dogs a salad.

2. Cucumber slices: I can eat just plain slices of cucumbers as a yummy snack and so can the dogs. They were particularly happy the summers we grew our own in our veggie garden. According to Modern Dog Magazine, cucumbers are good sources of calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene.

dog eating carrot
photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)

3. Carrots: Carrots are legendary as dog treats, and according to the American Kennel Club, they provide some dental benefits with their crunchy texture and contain vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Jax and Tink know the word “carrot” very well, to the point that it is almost a reliable recall word. Carrots make an easy to purchase treat when running to the local healthy pet store is not convenient as you can pick up a bag of organic mini carrots at most stores.

4. Bell peppers: Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are right up there with cucumbers as veggies that I love to just eat plain. They are one of my favorite nearly zero calorie treats for me, and the dogs love them too. Just don’t give your dogs any hot peppers, only sweet bell peppers are ok.

5. Bananas: I have officially given up any hope of eating an entire banana on my own, and that’s just fine because there’s nobody I’d rather share it with than Jax and Tink. In fact, on those days when they are so interested in the smells of the yard that they come down with the “selective hearing” that Labradors are prone to get, all I have to say is “Who wants to share a banana with me?” and they will run as fast as they can to the kitchen door while I hope that nobody ate that last banana that was on the counter earlier.

6. Watermelon: We eat a lot of watermelon in this house. Every last one of us loves it and the dogs are no different. We will cut a huge melon into chunks and put it into a massive Tupperware bowl. It usually lasts two days and you end up with two dogs sitting in front of you with drool streaming out of their mouths while you eat it. Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on these two! Just make sure you take the seeds out before giving any to your dog.

7. Celery with peanut butter: Ants on a log are a holiday tradition in our house. Jax and Tink are obsessed with peanut butter so we’ve started making them their own ant-less (aka raisin free) version on Thanksgiving and other holidays. I limit them to one or two small pieces each, though. And always make sure your peanut butter does not contain the potentially deadly fake sweetener xylitol!

Jax and Tink have enjoyed strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, cooked sweet potatoes and green beans from time to time, although not enough to recognize them by smell like the seven items listed above. Tinkerbell is hilarious with blueberries and an odd cherry tomato here and there because of the shape and texture. She spits it out, rolls it around, tries again, looks at Jackson as if to say, “really, I’m supposed to eat this?” before finally consuming the fruit.

Remember that all dogs are different and some will love fruits and veggies as snacks and others will not. Always research whether a dog can safely consume an item before giving it to them as not all fruits and veggies are safe for canine consumption. Here is a nice list from Trupanion so you can make your dogs part of the club of canines who enjoy dog friendly produce.



Photo credit, Carrots oh yum, photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)


A Night In the Life of a Dog Owner and an Upset Dog Stomach
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

A Night In the Life of a Dog Owner and an Upset Dog Stomach

A Night In the Life of a Dog Owner and an Upset Dog Stomach

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

A Night In the Life of a Dog Owner and an Upset Dog StomachI was supposed to write an interesting and informative blog for you today on social media and the do’s and don’ts of sharing about dogs in need of a home.  Jackson’s digestive tract had other ideas for me, though.

I knew I shouldn’t have had that latte so late in the afternoon yesterday. Three shots of espresso in the afternoon meant I was wide awake for hours after the rest of the house went to bed, and the last time I remember seeing on the clock was 2 a.m.

At 3 a.m. I felt Jackson’s signature wake up method, as he nudged me with his beautiful black nose. “No, Jaxy, it’s not time yet,” I mumbled.

Another nudge and a moan. I scooted further toward the middle of the bed and away from the edge, hoping he would take the hint.

This time he shoved his snout under my arm and flipped my forearm into the air. “No, buddy, go lay down. Dog bed. Go lay down.”

Another nudge and a moan followed by a whine. I sat up, bleary eyed. I know my boy and the difference between a serious request to go outside and his sneaky efforts to get his breakfast moved up to the wee hours of the morning instead of the standard 6:30 a.m. The whine told me everything.

In a last ditch effort to call his bluff, I picked up my bottle of doTerra Petitgrain, opened it, rubbed a tiny drop on my hands and then let him smell it. Normally this results in him curling up again in his bed for the rest of the night. I’m not sure if it’s the calming qualities of the actual oil or if he associates the smell of that oil with me putting it on myself before bed with it being time for him to also sleep, but 99% of the time a sniff of Petitgrain does the trick.

Last night was the 1% time that it did not work. Meanwhile, Tinkerbell had noticed that Jax and I were awake and she was getting excited at the thought of going outside and possibly eating breakfast hours early. I looked over at my sleeping husband, wishing I could send him on night-time potty duty, but not wanting to disturb him when he had to leave for work in a few hours.

Jax got my attention with a series of sad sounding cries, and I realized he really did need to go outside.

Once outside he confirmed that his needs were real and that his stomach was upset. I stood in the light rain while he selected numerous spots and then I herded both dogs back into the house.

We went back inside and I gave him a probiotic. Rather than go back upstairs I decided to go back to sleep on the sofa so we would be closer to the door. Instead of going to lay down, Jax sat next to me to be petted and I listened to his stomach rumbling and gurgling. We go through this about once a year with one or the other dogs, and so I got back up and gave them each a tiny portion of food.

With everyone’s needs met, both dogs went to sleep again. I made sure my alarm was set to drive my daughter to school at 6:30 and tried to get more sleep.

At 5 a.m. I felt the nudge again, and opened my eyes to see Jackson’s beautiful blocky head right in front of mine. Another nudge and a moan. “Oh, sweetie, you need to go out again?”

We were back inside at 5:30 and I watched an infomercial about a magic copper pan for a while before falling to sleep for a few minutes before getting up to drive my daughter to school and to start the day.

Needless to say, I am not at the top of my creative, mental game today. I’m hoping his digestive upset will run its course without meds, and I gave him some Honest Kitchen Perfect Form to help solidify matters before making an appointment at the vet. Of course I always worry about my dogs whenever they don’t feel good, like any loving mom, and I hope that his digestive system settles down for the night and that we can get some uninterrupted sleep.

Although this is not the blog I had planned on writing, that topic will wait. I think it’s more important to share these real life moments as a dog owner, a night in the life of a dog owner, particularly with new or potential dog owners who see only the cute puppy photos and not the sleepless nights and upset dog tummies. I am a firm believer in knowing what you are getting into before getting a dog. The reality is that I would stand outside all night with him if I needed to, he’s my soul dog, my Jackson, my big boy, and I love him as if I gave birth to him myself, but you still can’t help but groan when you get the “I have to go outside and its an emergency” nudge in the middle of the night.

Jackson Can't Play in the Snow Today
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson Can’t Play in the Snow Today

Jackson Can’t Play in the Snow Today

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jackson Can't Play in the Snow TodayWhen you know your dog well, you know when he or she just is not acting right. So when Jackson started to skip our nightly bedtime routine in which both dogs jump onto the human bed for their bedtime cookie before settling into their favorite spots (Tink on my feet, Jax on my husband’s), I knew something was wrong with my boy.

Instead of getting better over time, Jax began to turn down jumping on shorter pieces of furniture. Our dogs are free to hop up onto any furniture or chair, and I would watch Jax walk over to his favorite sofa, stare at it for a while, look over at me, lay his head on the seat of the sofa for a few seconds, and then sigh and walk away.

At five years old it seemed way too young for arthritis, and he was eating, drinking and eliminating waste with his same enthusiasm. However, after realizing that not only had he not had any interest in playing with Tinkerbell for a few weeks, but that he also had not tried to get my attention by mischievously stealing my possessions, or at least reaching for them as if he was going to steal them, I made a vet appointment.

After a thorough physical exam my vet determined that his hip was bothering him. Of course that one word can instill terror into the minds of many large dog owners. Hip. Because we know the other word that comes right after it, and it’s not a word any dog owner wants to hear.

Having been her client for almost ten years, she suggested we do x-rays to ease my mind and to figure out what exactly was going on and to rule out hip dysplasia. Of course we had selected our breeder specifically because of her dedication to producing Labradors who are sound in body, mind and temperament, but that did not mean that a problem could not occur in the hips of a dog from even the most dedicated and knowledgable breeders.

Since Jax is not a fan of laying on his back for anyone, even me, he was mildly sedated and x-rayed. Later that day when he was ready for me to get him, my vet brought me into the exam room. “His hips are perfect,” she exclaimed, relieving me of my worries. She showed me his x-rays and showed his two perfect little ball joints on his hips fitting just like they should in their sockets, and explained what they would look like if there was dysplasia.

Then she pointed out the culprit and the reason my Jax did not want to jump or play: a torn muscle in his hip that he must have torn playing with Tinkerbell since their play sessions can be rowdy and including leaping the two steps from our deck to the ground in a single bound and racing around the yard at top speed with twists and turns. Many times Tinkerbell, who has the discretion and nuance of a wrecking ball, will body slam him as he sniffs the yard or nibbles on some grass, as a way of getting a game of zoomies going.

On my way home I called my husband at work to tell him the diagnosis. “Remember when our breeder warned us not to let Jax ‘break’ little Tinkerbell when she was a pup? Well, this is the second time she’s broken him!” referring to another time when she rammed into him and he limped for several days. “Luckily he will be ok but he needs two to six weeks of rest.”


First snowfall of the winter
First snowfall of the winter

A week later, after a few days of muscle relaxers and a daily dose of Meticam, we had our first snow. Seven inches fell, leaving our back yard a Labrador Retriever wonderland. Both Jax and Tink adore the snow and both like to leap off the deck and race top speed through the fresh white powder until their tongues are lolling out of their mouth and they flop down in a drift, panting happily.

We have not seen this stuff for months!
We have not seen this stuff for months!




As soon as I opened the drapes over the sliding glass door and saw the snow, I groaned. But then to my delight, Jax trotted carefully down the deck stairs and went about the business of emptying his bladder and sniffing the freshly fallen snow, while Tinkerbell raced around the yard at top speed on her own. Just when I started to feel relief that maybe I could get Jax inside without him running around, Tinkerbell stopped in front of him and stared deep into his eyes. “Jax, OFF!” I called, recognizing the start of a play session as he stared back at her, his head leveling out with his shoulders and one foot inching forward as if he was starting to go on point. “Tinkerbell, come here!” I called as she inched closer to him, also as if on point. I knew what this was leading up to. “Dogs, NO!” I exclaimed, since they have learned over time that collectively they are called dogs.

As I headed out into the snow to stop the zoomies before they started, off they went, two black flashes flying around the  yard in a game of chase, tails held high, mouths agape in sheer joy as they ran through the snow. “Ok, he’s just running, it’s ok,” I thought, just as he turned a sharp corner, collided with Tinkerbell and he yelped in pain.

“Jax, come here now!” I told him in my deepest dog owner voice since using his recall was the best way to get him to stop playing, and he trotted to me with his handsome Jax expression of “What, Momma? I wasn’t doing anything wrong!” on his face.

The snow just is not the same without big brother.
The snow just is not the same without big brother.

I hated putting an end to their fun in the same way you hate telling your human kids “no” to something for their own good. They’ll only have so many “first snows” when their bodies are young and muscular. Normally I cannot wait for the first snow because of how much fun they have. But, I am the human who keeps them safe and healthy, so I did indeed put a stop to their fun and sent one of our teenage daughters out to play with Tinkerbell in the snow while I went inside to keep Jax company.

In fact I was reminded of the summer that same daughter broke her finger a day before we opened our pool for the season, leaving her trying to enjoy the pool with a plastic bag over her cast for the next four weeks. I recalled the summer when our older girl broke her arm on Independence Day, effectively ruining all outdoor fun the rest of that summer for her. In the same way we had to tell her “no” all summer. No you cannot ride your bike, no you cannot swim in your friend’s pool, no you cannot play on the monkey bars.

I’m hoping we will not get much snow until

Jax and his expression that seems to see right into my mind.
Jax and his expression that seems to see right into my mind.

Jax’s torn muscle is healed, but it is winter in Chicago and so I laugh at myself as I am writing the words. Dogs don’t understand the same way that humans do when they can’t go and play and do the things they love. I wish they understood if I said, “No, guys, Jax is hurt and cannot play rough right now,” but they are dogs, not furry children, and so I will have several weeks more of the same sad look on Jax’s face, as if he’s searching my face for some answer as to why he cannot play in the snow today.

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Human Exercise & Labrador Kisses

The other day I forced myself to go back to the gym and resume my weight machine routine that has been completely forgotten for far too long. Anyone who has done this knows what this means: I am still completely sore and miserable two days later.

Last night I decided to try out my husband’s foam roller to try to get over the pain a bit faster. If you are not familiar with the foam roller, it is just as it sounds: a large round piece of foam that you roll your muscles on to get rid of the soreness.

Because the muscles really plaguing me are basically every muscle I have on my arms and shoulders, front and back, I decided that the best way to roll them was to lay on my stomach and put the roller under my arms and move back and forth on top of the foam like a turtle trying to make it over a log. Sorry, I am not showing photos of this…I’m open to sharing my life but maybe not that open, as I am not particularly graceful!

Of course all dog owners can predict what happened the moment the dogs noticed that I was on the ground: Jackson and Tinkerbell came running to investigate, which I like to translate into English as “Mommy’s doing something fun!!!!” Jackson, who is much more dignified and reserved, sauntered over with a wagging tail and sniffed me from head to toe before laying down a foot away and watching me from the corner of his eye.

Tinkerbell, however, is our crazy girl, and she flung herself to the ground in front of me, licking my entire face while her tail wagged furiously and she wiggled in joy. “Tinkerbell, stop!” I exclaimed while laughing hysterically, unable to quickly escape the full facial cleansing because of my position and the pain in my muscles. My exclamations and laughter only made her more excited to be on the floor with me.

My husband, instead of saving me from massive amounts of Labrador drool, added to the situation, “Mommy’s on the floor, you better get her!” he said as she stood up in a play stance and started to nibble my ear. “Tink, NO!” I exclaimed and she straddled my back and grabbed the hair tie out of my hair and pulled it off, her tail wagging so hard that I am surprised it remained attached to her body. With the hair tie in her mouth, she stomped her paw into my spine as she pushed off of me to run into the other room with her bounty.

“Come here, you crazy beast” I called as I struggled to get up to follow her into the other room. She was halfway under the coffee table, her mouth clamped down and a suspicious look in her face. “Drop it!” I commanded as she avoided eye contact. “Tinkerbell, drop it!” I told her again, my tone of voice deeper.

I held back laughter as she opened her mouth and spit out the hair tie.

“Good girl, good girl,” I told her as I petted her head and reached down to grab the slobbery elastic from the floor. As I went back into the family room she trotted along happily next to me, looking up as if to say, “Ok, Mom, what are we doing next for fun?”


Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

A New Training Opportunity is Revealed: Tinkerbell & the Gas Station


Yesterday the dogs and I headed out on a mini-adventure for a nail trim and a romp around my friend’s farm. With my gas tank almost empty, I decided I should stop for a quick partial fill up so that the dogs and I would not have to push the SUV midway through our destination…or so that I would not have to wait for AAA to bring me more gas with two dogs in my car on a steamy summer morning.

I pulled into a gas station, turned off the car and told the dogs to stay. Both of them were strapped into their car seatbelt harnesses but it is important to still give them the command and go through the normal routine in case there is ever a situation when they are not in their harnesses. The air conditioning had been blasting away and the car was nice and cold, giving me a short bit of time to put in just a partial tank before things started to heat up. I did not want to wait for the tank to fill and risk the temperature soaring inside the car. I am obsessive about making sure they are never, ever left in a hot car. 

As I got out of the car, both dogs watched me with great interest. Tinkerbell was in her normal front seat and Jackson in the back. With conformation shows and many advanced obedience classes in his past, Jackson has been in the car without me for a few minutes here and there when we have gone to shows or events where I had to carry a crate and other supplies into a building before I could bring him in with me. He always patiently sits and waits and watches for me the entire time and then greets me enthusiastically when I return which is what he did yesterday as I set about the process of paying at the pump and then adding gas to the car.

Tinkerbell, however, went into a full panic. As soon as I shut the door behind me and stepped to the gas pump I heard her shriek-barking her displeasure, pulling and straining to get close to me. She did this the entire time I was outside of the car, howling and shrieking at the top of her lungs, so loud that I am sure the patrons at every pump wondered what was happening inside my SUV.  I quickly put a few gallons of gas into my tank and then got back into the car.

As soon as I was back in the vehicle she licked my entire face, cried, and wiggled her entire body, utterly relieved that I was back. I tried not to react to make sure I did not accidentally reward her or give her the impression that she had acted correctly, thereby further creating a problem. As much as I wanted to console her, I knew that to do so would only increase her reaction the next time and confirm to her that her response of utter fear and desperation was right.

As we drove the rest of the way to our destination I thought about her strong reaction and then realized that I had never left her in the car alone before. Not even once. Because I am so protective about leaving them in a hot car or at risk of being lost or stolen, this was a brand new experience for her. She had no idea that I was just stepping a few feet away, that I was not actually going anywhere that I could not see her. In her simplistic world, I was not inside the car and that was far from ok. Period.

I have made a note for myself that after the summer weather breaks and it is safe to leave them in the car without the air conditioner running, Tinkerbell and I will practice this same situation first in our driveway and eventually other places, so that she stays in the front seat and I step outside the car and eventually out of her sight. Until I saw her reaction to the situation, it simply never occured to me that it was something for which we needed to prepare.

I could simply make sure that I always have gas in the car before we go somewhere and avoid a repeat of this in the future, but that would be doing a disservice to her. We could move to my home state of New Jersey where they pump gas for you, but I think my husband and kids would call that a bit extreme.

Instead we will incorporate this into our training and canine “continual education” as I like to refer to the need to practice commands and how to respond to situations throughout your dog’s entire life. As I talk about in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Human, training your dog means giving them the confidence to live in a human run world. It’s the Love and the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. By training her to relax and wait for me calmly should I need to step out of our vehicle, I am giving her mental peace and confidence in case we face that situation again.



Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Reliable Recall To The Rescue Again

When Jackson came home to us in May 2011 I decided to approach his training as if I was a brand new dog owner. Although I had grown up with dogs since I was five years old and watched my Dad train our dogs not just in obedience and household manners but also as bird hunters, the dogs I had owned as an adult had been rescued as older dogs. Jackson was the first puppy of my own to train from scratch, although because we did our due dilligence when choosing a breeder, he came to us knowing how to sit and wait and with a head start on house-training.

As soon as he had received enough of his vaccinations to be around other dogs we enrolled in puppy pre-school at our veterinarian’s office. Just like human pre-school, puppies in this course spent a few minutes working on a new command each class but spent the rest of the session playing with each other. This was a great thing because all of these puppies were certainly missing their litter mates who had been their very first playmates, plus the owners of each of those puppies could look forward to one quiet evening a week after their pups were exhausted from playing with dogs their own age.

Jackson in particular benefitted from this course because he had accidentally broken his leg at two weeks old. He and his brothers were nursing and he was positioned with his back leg under his mother’s elbow. She leaned up on her elbow and his leg caught underneath. As a result he could not roughhouse with his three brothers, so although he had been nicely socialized around other dogs and puppies, he had not engaged in much rough and tumble play.

After six weeks of puppy pre-school we enrolled at a local dog obedience school for an eight week beginner obedience class. As the weeks progressed we covered sit, down, come, look at me when I say your name, stay/wait, settle and off/leave-it.  Around the middle of the course we reached something I had not heard of before: reliable recall.

There are two schools of thought on the concept of training reliable recall. One is that your dog should come to his or her regular recall word all the time without fail, no matter when you say or, what the dog is doing, and where you are. Other trainers ackowledge that the casual dog owner is likely to overuse the come command and make their dog somewhat immune to the word. As a failsafe they teach a reliable recall word that the dog never fails to respond to that is separate from the regular recall phrase.

Although I had been raised with the understanding that your dog’s life depended on his or her willingness to come to its owner each and every time the come command was used, Jackson and I trained on this along with the rest of the class. We started off calling them with their normal command and added in their reliable recall word so that I called him by saying, “Come, Jax, danger!” We rewarded them when they got to us with the best dog party in the world: handfuls of treats, toys, praise, petting, as if it were a human’s New Year’s Eve celebration and birthday wrapped into one.

284499_10150385342932178_4104937_nI chose the word “danger” for our reliable recall word out of the suggestions that the trainers gave us because I wanted it to be extremely different from his regular recall. After a few weeks Jax was rocking this command; for all of his “hey, how YOU doin'” antics as we entered the classroom each training class (and he tried to pull me across the room to play with the three Golden Retreivers in the class) he was the best student in the class at this command. Even when receiving affection and liver treats from the trainers, as soon as I said, “danger, Jax, danger” he ran to me like a Thoroughbred on Derby day.

Over the last five years we have practiced this periodically, much to his delight. What dog would not come running when given an entire handful of treats and their favorite toy along with tons of “good boy, good boy, good, boy” with even more treats being placed directly into his willing mouth. I have only used it a handful of times before in practical use: once when the tornado sirens sounded for an actual storm and he and I were outside in the yard and once when I thought I heard coyotes too close for comfort outside our fence and he was meandering around giving the yard the last sniff of the night, ignorning my “come” command in favor of the scent of rabbit droppings.

Last Sunday evening my human family and I were outside with the dogs. I was playing ball with Tinkerbell, my husband was tending to our swimming pool and Jax and our teenage girls were on the opposite side of the yard. Our oldest daughter had just run up and back down the slide on the playset  just as Jax wandered over to sniff the grass under the slide. She must have upset a hive of wasps that had built their nest under the slide because suddenly I heard the girls yelling, “No, Jax, stop it, no!” I looked over to see around seven or eight wasps buzzing around Jax as he tried to bite at the insects to stop the attack. I quickly grabbed the garden hose that was coiled nearby, turned the nozzle to spray, and called, “danger, Jax, danger!” 

In a split second Jax ran towards me and I sprayed him with water in case the wasps had stuck around and were still buzzing around him. Fortunately they did not follow. We made sure the girls got out of the area of the hive and I took Jax and Tink inside to assess the situation. I grabbed the bottle of Benedryl out of the dog medicine box just in case we would need it and checked him out.

Fortunately Jax did not actually bite the wasps and if he was stung, he did not have a reaction of any sort. I gave him a third of a dose just in case and stayed up with him very late to make sure, since I had been through this before with my parents’ dog Cinder who did in fact bite a wasp and whose head swelled up larger than a Rottweiler for one very terrifying night.

This week we will do some more continuing education on the “danger” command since I do not want Jax’s most recent memory to be of responding to his reliable recall word and being blasted by the hose. Instead a Kong with frozen peanut butter and some blueberry Fruitables will be waiting ensure that he responds the same way the next time we need it.