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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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

 

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice

Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect Dogs
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

The Pineapple Upside Down Cake Incident

It was late August during one of the magical summers of my youth when the incident known as “Snoop and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake” occurred. Although I cannot recall the exact year, it was sometime during the early 80s and we were looking forward to the ultimate end of summer event: the Lake Lenape Labor Day Picnic.

Lake Lenape in rural Andover, New Jersey, was the best place in the world to be a kid. Our house was a regular 2 story ranch home, perfectly nice, well decorated with pretty rock gardens and flowers for landscaping, but nothing you would stop and ohhh and ahhh over from the curb in terms of its grandeur.

However the scenery around us was breathtaking, what most people would expect to see in upstate New York or New England, only our mountains, forests and lakes were in a perfect little corner of the most mocked state in the country for having urban sprawl and too much pavement. Our house was lakefront with a dock that Dad built, and nestled in a valley with enormous boulders that made it undesirable if not impossible for neighbors to live too close to us. As a result we had tons of room to run, explore and build forts in the woods, always with our beloved Labrador Retriever Snoop by our side.

Snoop
Snoop during a less mischievous  moment

For the kids and parents of Lake Lenape, life revolved around the private homeowner’s association beach each summer. Every single day we would head to the beach with a thermos full of drinks and a tote bag of snacks, even though it was just a mile from our house via the road. Going home for these things would take away beach time!

Every Labor Day the homeowners association would throw a picnic and residents would all bring dishes to share. As a kid my greatest memory of the actual picnic was our delight that not only did they have a keg of beer for the adults, but we kids had our very own keg of ice cold root beer and we were giddy with the ability to fill our own plastic cups from the tap, long before every fast food restaurant offered the ability to fill your own drinks.

The year of “Snoop and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake” was like all of the others. Labor Day meant that our summer was coming to an end. Mom taught middle school English and  both of us were getting ready to give up our carefree summer days and go back to real life. As much as Mom loved teaching and was working doing what she loved, most jobs still pale in comparison to lounging on a beach with a good book.

Mom was always extremely conscious of food safety and has passed it on to me, so she always looked for dishes for the picnic that would not cause food poisoning after sitting outside for hours in the hot August sun. A pineapple upside down cake was perfect because of it’s lack of anything creamy like mayonnaise, sour cream or milk based products.

I remember waiting and watching the minutes tick away on the kitchen timer for the cake to be finished so that we could go to the beach, and then the seemingly endless wait for her to take it from the pan and flip it onto the plate to reveal the pineapple and cherries. Finally, though, the cake was done and she wrapped it in cling wrap and pushed it to to the very inside corner of the kitchen counter, safe from Snoop’s reach.

Snoop was my very first canine best friend. She hunted with Dad for ducks and geese several weekends each fall but otherwise was the perfect family dog, playing with my brothers and me all day, hanging out with Mom and protecting her from snakes while she gardened, and then attached like Velcro to Dad’s side the moment he arrived home from the office or a business trip. I was lucky to have her to myself on many occasions when my half brothers were not at our house and she was my best friend and constant playmate.

Dad always said that Snoop was the smartest dog he had ever had and the best behaved, a perfect specimen of a Labrador Retriever. Of course I had tried jokingly to prove him wrong that she was 100% perfect when I gave him the remains of my precious red Lifesaver flying disc that she had chewed to pieces while on a vacation to Button Bay at Lake Champlain in Vermont one summer. There was also the door that she had nearly torn down when she accidentally got locked in a room in our house with nobody home, but other than that, she was a very, very, very good dog if not quite perfect.

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My own pineapple masterpiece

And so with the pineapple upside down cake finished, Mom and I set out to the beach like we did every day, with Mom warning Snoop, “You be a good girl and you leave that cake alone,” she said as Snoop wagged her thick otter tail against the cool kitchen linoleum where she liked to hang out on hot summer days without central air conditioning.

 

Later that afternoon we arrived home from the beach and I called for Snoop as I always did when we arrived home, ready to play with her while Mom cooked dinner. Only she did not run to the door to greet us like usual.

“Snoop? Where are you?” we called several times.

No Snoop.

Worried, we searched for her, Mom searching upstairs while I looked throughout our downstairs. I found her curled up under Dad’s desk in the downstairs office, her ears flat against her head and the end of her tail thumping nervously just as I heard Mom make a discovery in the kitchen.

“What happened?” I asked, running upstairs. Snoop stood at the bottom of the stairs nervously watching, her guilty look betraying her. I got my answer when I saw my mother with the plate on which there had once been a perfect pineapple upside down cake and a mangled piece of cling wrap still stuck to it. She was mad but had a hint of a smile starting to break through on her face. “The ‘perfect’ dog somehow managed to get all the way to the far back of the counter and get the cake,” she said, “Your father should be home soon, so you stay here with her while I go to the store to do this all over again…and make sure you show him what the ‘perfect’ dog did!”

I thought about this incident last weekend as I baked my own pineapple upside down cake to take to our annual cul-de-sac gathering that we call the “Party in the Sac” that we have each year with our friend/neighbors. This was one of the first “Laugh” incidents in my Love, Laugh, Woof philosophy. After all, no matter how mad you are at losing a cake, worrying that the dogs will be ok after ingesting the entire cake, in the end you have to laugh it off and move on, adding it to the collection of stories of dogs you’ve loved over the years. For all of the good days that Snoop was indeed the “perfect” dog, this is the incident that sticks out in my mind whenever I see this cake.

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“Hey, that Snoop had a good idea!”

Just like Mom did nearly thirty years ago, I let the cake cool a few minutes, flipped it over onto a large serving dish, and pushed it as far back onto our counter as I could before going to get ready for the party. As they like to do whenever I am in the kitchen, both Jackson and Tinkerbell were lurking nearby waiting to see if I dropped something or offered up a treat. “Not for puppies,” I told them, “In fact, you’re coming with me while I get ready so that we do not have a do-over of the prior incident!” And so they wagged their thick otter tails on the tile kitchen floor, just like Snoop had done decades earlier, and then followed me up to the bedroom where there was not a cake waiting to be devoured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Dogs: The Original SEO Experts

If you have worked in marketing or done any blogging or ecommerce on your own, you are familiar with the concept of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. If you’re not familiar, it’s all based on keywords and phrases to get your content to the top of the Google or other search engine results.

As I sat in the living room drinking my coffee this morning my dogs were fast asleep as they do each morning during human coffee hour. Like many dogs, mine keep a strict schedule, which is a whole other blog topic, and from the time they wake me up at 5 or 6 until about 10:30 they sleep like furry black angels.

This morning, however, I was having a conversation with our youngest human child about the Finding Dory ice cube tray that was a free gift in the box of cereal that she had just opened. “So you freeze your milk in that and then have a frozen milk Dory floating around in your cereal? I don’t know if I would want frozen milk in my bowl!” I said.

As soon as the word “bowl” left my lips,  Tinkerbell jerked her head up from a sound sleep and stared at me intently, head cocked and ears up in intense listening mode. “What did I say, Tinkerbell?” I laughed. A second later Jackson, who had crashed in his kennel around the corner, came running into the room, also on full alert with his head cocked and his intense eyes boring a hole into me.

“Bowl?” I asked them.

Tinkerbell jumped up and ran to me and Jax trotted closer, laying his head in my lap and looking up at me longingly. “You guys learned what bowl means?” I asked them. They both inched closer, Jax thumping his head on my leg and Tinkerbell giving a little groan to tell me that they did indeed know what bowl meant and that they wanted me to get their bowls and put something in them.

I have had no lack of intelligent dogs throughout the last forty years as a dog owner, but I can say that Jackson and Tinkerbell have hands down the largest vocabularies of any dogs I have lived with. Some of the words that they know are ones we taught them, and others they figured out all on their own, like bowl.

I am a little mystified by how they learned that particular word because it’s not one that I use often to them. Perhaps they picked it up because I run their bowls through the dishwasher at least once a week. They know the sound of their bowls being picked up off the tile floor and come running when I pick them up and place them in the dishwasher, staring at me curiously as I place their dishes among the human dishes. “Yes, I’m washing your bowl” I  explain to them as they stand and watch me shut the door on their bowls into the bowels of the dishwasher.

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Did you say carrot? 

Of course we have taught them the normal obedience words like Come, Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, Good, No, Off, and then some fun tricks like Speak, Shake and Touch. We’ve taught them a reliable recall word and worked on all of our names in the house. “Where’s Mommy” my husband will ask and they run or look to me. “Where’s Daddy” has the same response only they go to him. They know the names of their three human siblings and that the cat is Kitty.

They’ve learned Carrots, Pumpkin, Peanut Butter (also known as Puppy Butter or Dog Butter), Cookie, Cheese and Sweet Potato which are their favorite words in the world, apparently with Bowl added to the list without my knowledge. I figured out that they learned Food at some point, too, after a human discussion about dinner one night, as in “I don’t care what we eat, I just need food!” which brought two Labradors running into the room, again from a sound sleep. They know the names of all three of their daily feedings: Breakfast, Puppy Lunch and Supper. Why we feed three times a day is also a topic for an entirely other blog. They also have earned Eat at some point along the way.

They know the names of their different toys like Antler, Ball, and Toy. Of course there is Inside, Outside and Bed, which means to go upstairs to our room regardless of the time of day. Zoomies, Play and Go Potty are all familiar and very handy to have at our disposal as well as Off the Deck, which we use frequently to tell Jackson that we don’t care if the grass is wet and his big webbed feet might get wet, he has to go off the deck and do his business.

Just like a Search Engine, I love how tuned into these words they truly are. Throughout the day it seems as if the dogs are just doing their dog thing and not paying attention to us but during the course of human conversation a word will come out and we will see two silky black heads perk up and turn toward us with great interest. Of course the words that catch the most attention are food related, so things like “Do you want to go out for breakfast” or “Hey, add peanut butter to the grocery list” are  amusing because of their response and because they prove that neither of the dogs have the hearing issues that one would assume that they have when it is five in the morning and my neighbors windows are open and I’m trying to get them to stop grazing on grass and go inside the house and they are ignoring the “come” and “inside” commands. Of course the next time I may just bust our their new favorite “bowl.”

 

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Separation Anxiety & Our Disney Addiction

If you have not guessed from the fact that we have a Labrador Retriever named Tinkerbell, my husband and I are Disney fanatics. In fact over the last seven or so years we have become full on Disney people and take every chance that we can get to go to Orlando.

We are the type of people who show up before rope drop and stay until the Kiss Goodnight, easily putting 20,000 steps on our Fitbits. We are the people who salivate for Dole Whip and Mickey pretzels when we are not there, who buy annual passes even though we live in the Chicago area because we know how to get enough trips to make it worthwhile, who whip out the Mickey waffle maker on holiday mornings and whip up all of our favorite Food & Wine recipes all year long. We are the adults who watch Disney movies even when the kids are not home and have Disney ring tones. In addition to our Tinkerbell we have a rescued cat named Nala.  Jackson was born before the Disney addiction really kicked in or else he would probably be named Captain Jack instead of Jax.

Of course, no matter how much I love Disney World and spending time with my human family, going away from my dogs for any amount of time, let alone a week or longer, is difficult for me. We have a definite separation anxiety issue in this house, and it is hands down in me rather than the dogs.

The dogs don’t care one bit when we go away, perhaps because for several years we have been lucky enough to have a friend who will live in our house while we are away, sleeping here and spending her free time here when she is not at work. We pay her about the same as we would the kennel but the dogs get to stay at home and have minimal crate time, about the same as when I worked my corporate job. They love her and get very excited when she stops by when she isn’t staying with us and she sends me photos of them snuggling with her when we are away.

Because of our dog sitter and the fact that they get to stay at home, neither dog gets upset when the suitcases come out or when they see us putting things into them. Their greeting when we return from a trip is about the same as if we are gone for a full day; they are ecstatic for about five minutes and then go about their business as usual. They eat fine, stick to their potty schedule, and generally don’t seem to miss us.

I, on the other hand, need the human equivalent of a thunder shirt. I prepare better than if I was on Wife Swap before we leave, with every bit of information that our sitter could ever need relating to the house and the dogs.

When it is time to leave, I abandon the “do not hug and overly smother the dogs” rule of dog/human etiquette and cannot get enough hugs and puppy kisses before we leave. “Momma loves you very much” I tell them, “We will be back very soon. Be good dogs, I love you. Did I tell you I love you? Be good! Mommy loves you! I love you dogs,” is about how my pre-trip goodbyes go while my husband is waiting outside patiently. I swear Jax is thinking, “Just give me my cookie and go on your vacation.” I know that he heard the words “Kennel up” and stopped understanding me after that, although I do work on teaching them the word “love” by saying it often when petting them gently or laying quietly with them.

1901538_10152705862402178_1843691402_nDuring our week at Disney there is very little canine contact since all of the dogs at the park are either security dogs or assistance dogs, unless you count Pluto or Dug. I am not embarrassed to report that even in my mid-forties I have stood in line to meet Dug, my all time favorite Disney dog. After seven days without my own dogs I have to use every bit of willpower to not ask to pet the dogs working the security line at the airport on our way home, so a human in a big dog costume will have to suffice and fill my need to pet a dog.

Then there is the Tinker Bell merchandise that draws me in. You cannot resist a collection of Tinker Bell t-shirts and coffee mugs when you have your very own Tinkerbell waiting at home, can you?

Of course no matter how much I miss our dogs while we are on vacation I still have fun once I check in a few times the first day or so with our dog sitter. I have gotten much better and no longer check in daily or look at my ADT app to make sure all is well at the house. Eventually I relax and I always marvel at least once a trip at how odd it is to be away for more than 6 or so hours without worrying about getting home for the dogs. On days when we aren’t opening the parks I sleep much later than the standard 6 a.m. wake up call that Jackson and Tinkerbell give me each day when we are home and I enjoy every bit of it.

Of course dogs can stay at the Fort Wilderness campgrounds but we have yet to fulfill my husband’s dreams of buying a camper and I would be obsessed with worrying that the air conditioner was working and keeping them cool and safe if we were at the parks and they were in a camper. I dream of a Dogs of Disney resort, themed out with all of our favorite dogs from Disney movies with a doggie daycare option for park goers and a list of fun human/dog activities like making Mickey shaped dog biscuits and taking swims in a Mickey shaped doggie pool.

Until we can sell the Disney corporation on that idea, though, my two loves of Disney and dogs will remain separate and I will tear myself away from my sweet babies a few weeks out of each year to do human things. Besides, I need all of those Tinker Bell coffee mugs for the 6 a.m. doggie wake up calls throughout the rest of the year!

 

 

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Who the Heck is Lynn Stacy-Smith?

I have been blessed with continually growing numbers of new friends and followers and I could not be happier that we found each other and that you are along for the ride! I thought it might be time to share more about myself and explain to you what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about.

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Snoop, circa 1984

I have been a dog lover my entire life. I grew up with Labrador Retrievers and have had at least one in my home since I was just a little girl, so long that I do not remember life without one. The first one was our family dog named Snoop who was the ultimate Labrador: family dog all week and duck hunting dog with my father on weekends. Snoop went everywhere with us and we enjoyed an active outdoor lifestyle in the country in rural northern New Jersey. And yes, there is rural New Jersey!

Flash forward a few decades to around 2010. I had built a nice little career at the home office of a large retail company in the Chicago suburbs. The best way to describe my job was part writer, part corporate trainer, and part analyst. Essentially I helped mentor and train store managers to run a profitable store in our industry. It was a job I loved for a long time, with a great team, an awesome corporation, and the perfect environment to thrive. It was a rare company in our current business climate because it was one where people stayed willingly and happily with the company for ten, twenty years.

As time went on, though, the entire company and culture changed dramatically and quickly. Layoffs began, people became uber competitive, drama started and things started to go downhill. At the same time I started to think about mortality, the quick passing of each year and realizing I was in my forties, chasing my own dreams, doing something I loved instead of driving to the same office day in and day out without anywhere else to move up with a promotion unless I wanted to focus entirely on numbers and spreadsheets.

It took months to get up the courage but one day I finally gave my notice. Six weeks later I was finished, on my own, no paycheck coming, with a supportive if not slightly nervous husband and a future with endless possibility.

I was thrilled to land a part time job working remotely as the Content Writer for alkaline, organic pet food company Canine Caviar. Each week I wrote blogs and newsletters for them and threw myself into learning about the pet food business and canine nutrition. I was thrilled to continually interview and ask questions of the company’s founder and Research Scientist and learn from him. I could still listen to him for days on end and keep learning! He is, in my opinion, a genius and incredible asset to the pet food industry. In fact Canine Caviar remains the only food I feed my own dogs.

After two years I stepped down from that position, with a great amount of sadness but immense gratitude for the experience, in order to put 100% of my time into following my own dream of helping dog owners create the best life possible for their dogs. It had been an incredible learning experience but it was time to accomplish the goal I set when I left my corporate job.

Throughout the job change and pondering of what to do with my newfound professional freedom, we had some rough years with our own dogs. In 2009 I lost my soul dog Babe to kidney failure and old age. In 2011 my beloved German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch passed away from cancer that started in his spleen and spread throughout his entire body. In 2013 our rescued Basset Hound Maggie passed away from Lymphoma.

After the heartbreak of losing Babe and Dutch to kidney disease and cancer, we added eight week old Jackson to our family in 2011. I fell in love with him at first sight and vowed to provide him the healthiest life possible, free of toxins and carcinogens, from the food that he eats to the toys that he plays with, all the way to the bedding on which he sleeps. Tinkerbell joined our family in 2013 after we lost Maggie and I vowed to provide the same lifestyle to her.

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Tinkerbell and me

Love, Laugh, Woof was born from this promise. My mission is to take all of my experiences, both from the corporate world and my extensive experience, research, and knowledge as a dog owner, to help you provide the same healthy lifestyle for your dogs that I give to mine so that your dog can thrive and feel fantastic just like Jackson and Tinkerbell do.

Your dog’s health is more than just about his body. Creating a healthy lifestyle also involves working your dog’s mind and continually strengthening the emotional bond that you share across what I consider to be a true miracle of friendship and love between two different species. I am wrapping up work on my next workshop: The Compassionate Pet Owner that will touch upon much of this concept, so watch for that to be available soon.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for following me. In my next blog I will explain more about the Love, Laugh, Woof Philosophy and what that entails (no pun intended.) Until then, Love, Laugh, Woof and give your dog a chin scratch for me.

 

 

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

4 am Potty Breaks

 

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I shared a comic on Facebook the other day that I found on Pinterest that pictured a dog waking up it’s human in the middle of the night and saying, “Hey, wake up, I gotta go stand in the yard and sniff things instead of peeing.” I joked and said that of my two dogs, Jackson is the one to do this.

It does not happen often, but every great once in a while he makes an urgent request to go outside and then does this exact thing. I always honor his request, though, because many times he really does have an urgent need and as a compassionate dog owner, in the spirit of Love, Laugh, Woof, I always wonder how I would feel if I couldn’t access the bathroom on my own and somebody made me wait uncomfortably until morning.

If you read my last blog Sometimes Dogs Just Know, you know that I’ve been going through some human dental woes lately. Yesterday I had a minor procedure with an oral surgeon to wrap up the issue of a root that had been left behind during my molar extraction. Just like when the actual tooth came out I spent last night in considerable pain.

Despite taking a prescription painkiller, something I detest doing, I was up every hour on the hour all night. I had gone to bed extremely early around 9 pm and Tinkerbell had followed me upstairs to snuggle and give me her best Labrador moral support. Jackson had opted to stay downstairs with my husband who was watching the Blackhawks playoff game. I knew that my husband had come to get Tinkerbell to take her outside at around 1 a.m., so when Jackson woke me up at 4 a.m. I tried to lure him back to his dog bed with a cookie.

Jackson stayed on his bed for about five seconds before coming to nudge me again with his nose, which is his classic method for telling me he needs me. Another nudge and a groan followed.

“Jackson, no, you just went out,” I groaned back at him and rolled over.

I felt him hop up on the bed with us and thought, “Oh good, he just wanted me to make him a spot on the human bed” as he lay parallel between my husband and me.

Then he groaned again and nudged my hand with his nose. He repeated the process. Groan, nudge. Groan, nudge.

“Ok, buddy, let’s go,” I said and stumbled sleepily to take them outside. My mouth throbbed in pain and any normal person would have woken their sleeping husband up to do the potty break, particularly as I was cursing him in my head for not sufficiently getting Jackson to do his business when they had gone outside and for telling me continually that I was “too obsessed with whether or not the dogs took a dump” in his words. Despite my assumption that he had not gotten them to go potty, I love him and respect his schedule as a firefighter and the amount of sleep that he loses on shift, so I hate to wake him up for non-emergencies here at home.

My mother used to tell me all the time that she did not know anyone who obsessed over a dog’s bowel movements like I did with my late Babe, because I used to make sure that she had pooped on our last outing of the night just like I do with Jackson and Tinkerbell. It’s not that hard to get them on a schedule of doing that at a regular time, particularly if you teach them the “good dog, go potty” phrase at a young age.

My husband, who never met my mom since she passed away before we met, has echoed her sentiments. “They’ll go poop when they need to,” he says when they come inside from their final outing of the night and I ask if they both pooped. I reply that when they poop before bedtime it means I will get a full night of sleep. Think of it like Peter Pan, only different. “Dog poop at night and straight on ’til morning.”

Once outside with Jackson and Tinkerbell, they both ran off of our deck and peed, and Tinkerbell promptly ran back up onto the deck to wait for her cookie. I let her inside and waited for Jackson to complete what he had conveyed to me to be a very urgent task. A few minutes passed while I waited some more. And waited some more.

I aimed the flashlight at him and found him sniffing around the far side of the yard, checking out the recently evacuated bunny nest, the garden boxes, the grass by the fence. I watched as he casually made his way around the perimeter of the fence, eating some grass along the way, with no urgency, no cares in the world.

He sniffed his way around the yard for ten minutes before I called him, “Jackson, come!” Because we had had a random 80 degree day and I knew all of my neighbors would have their windows open, I had to call him quietly in a stern whisper. Of course he ignored me and kept sniffing and grazing. “Canine Good Citizen my foot” I thought, only not the word foot, referring to our recent earning of the American Kennel Club CGC certificate.

“Jackson, COME!” I yell-whispered again, getting annoyed as he continued to ignore me. “Jackson, come here now,” I said in a normal stern voice, all regard for being quiet tossed to the wayside by the throbbing pain in my mouth and my annoyance at my beloved soul dog.

Finally I walked into the yard and reached out to grab his collar, not in anger or to physically move him, but so I could  get his attention off of the sniffing and eating grass, put his attention back on me and my commands, and direct him back to the deck. As I did so he ran off across the yard. Annoyance turned into mild anger for a few seconds until I watched him race completely to the other side of the yard and hunch over in the classic dog poop stance.

I walked back to the deck and watched as he finished doing his business and raced over to me at full gallop, jumping the steps to the deck and ready to be let back inside. My annoyance was gone immediately as I realized that he did indeed need to go potty, he just needed a bit of time to get things really truly moving in his body. “Oh, Jaxy boy, I love you,” I told him as he looked at me with his big otter tail wagging while I rubbed his chin, “I would much rather you drag me outside at 4 am than to not have you at all.”

I felt bad for being annoyed at him, and as I gave them their treats I realized that I should write about it. As much as I talk about patience, patience, patience (followed by more patience) as well as understanding and compassion and how integral they are to us as dog owners, I realize it’s important to also let people know that you will be annoyed or even angry at even the best dogs in the world. It’s just normal. I love my husband in a way I never dreamt possible and I get annoyed with him. Same with the kids, same with anyone we love. It’s just human nature.

What we have to make sure of as dog owners is that annoyance and anger does not prevail, that it does not turn into something worse, like getting fed up and dropping your dog off at the shelter because he wakes you up, or punishing him for something instead of using training and positive reinforcement to get the behavior you want. That is a critical part of Love, Laugh, Woof: understanding that when you get angry at your dog like I did, when you have an interspecies misunderstanding like me not realizing that he was thinking about pooping, he was just doing it more slowly than I wanted him to, that you don’t let that anger out other than by breathing deeply and thinking about why your dog is doing something that might not be what you want him or her to do.

With everyone’s bodily functions finished, I seized the chance to take some Advil for my own aching mouth, grabbed a few Fruitables for the dogs and gave them the “bed, bed” command, which is what they know means to go up to our bedroom. They scampered up the stairs and promptly laid back down and let me sleep until their standard wake up call of 6:30 with Jackson’s beautiful wet nose nudging me all over again.

National Sibling Day Growing Up Dog Lovers
Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

National Sibling Day: Growing Up Dog Lovers

National Sibling Day: Growing Up Dog Lovers

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

National Sibling Day Growing Up Dog LoversToday I was chatting about Labrador Retrievers with a fellow lab lover on Twitter and he pointed out that I was extremely lucky to have grown up with dogs, that he did not get his first Lab until he was an adult. I replied that I was indeed extremely fortunate to not only grow up with Labrador Retrievers (and two German Shorthaired Pointers) throughout my entire life, but also in the country in Sussex County in northern New Jersey. As I thought about my childhood and my outdoor adventures with our dogs and my brothers, I realized it was National Sibling Day, which seemed fitting for the conversation I was having on Twitter.

If you are not familiar with Sussex County, New Jersey, it is the most fantastic place in all of the Garden State, consisting of small towns and spectacular mountains, forests and lakes. There are state forest preserves and plenty of outdoor activities to do, and we did them all: hiking, canoeing, swimming, skiing, fishing, ice skating, ice fishing, and bike riding. Dad was also an avid bird hunter, which is why we had our beloved black Labrador named Snoop.  In fact our primary modes of transportation as teenagers at Lake Lenape were our bikes or either the canoe or rowboat that we kept on our dock.

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Snoop 1985

Without going completely into detail about life growing up in Andover, New Jersey or all of the great dogs who were by my side, particularly since I do that in my forthcoming book, I often laugh that looking through the LL Bean catalog reminds me of my childhood, with all of the sporting goods and magnificent dogs pictured. We did it all, except for snow shoeing, and I am anxious to try that out as an adult.

 

My brothers are actually my half brothers (we share a Dad but have different Moms) and did not live with us full-time until they were teens. Because of this I lived the life of an only child during the week for many years, so Snoop was my best friend and constant companion when the boys were not with us. Of course when they were home with us we all went on adventures together, the three of us kids and Snoop. She hung out with us unless Dad was available, at which point she became his velcro dog and dropped us like a a bitter pill poorly hidden in a piece of cheese as soon as he came home.

Most weekends involved family outings to places like the Sparta Glen or Stokes State Forest, and on those outings Snoop always came with us. She was often with us when we went skiing on weekends, hanging out with Dad on days he didn’t want to ski. She was with us on fishing trips, trips to my great aunt and uncle’s farm, in the rowboat when my brothers and I went out exploring. She came with us on vacations to Lake Champlain in Vermont and Ridin’ Hy Ranch in New York.

It’s not surprising that as adults the three of us “kids” are all avid dog lovers. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with one of my brothers on Easter, talking about dogs the entire time, comparing the antics of his eight month Lab puppy to my nearly three Tinkerbell, deciding that they were two peas in a pod, and that if we lived closer to each other that they would be constant playmates.

Unfortunately our older brother passed away far too young two years ago from a sudden heart attack. I had not spoken to him in far too long when he passed, for completely ridiculous reasons. In fact we could have learned from dogs, who settle their differences quickly and then move on instead of wasting time not having each other in their lives just out of sheer stubbornness. I wish we had been like Jackson and Tinkerbell when they want the same antler, growling out our frustrations and then figuring it out quickly and without drama.

Oddly enough, when I went to his home the day of his memorial service I was comforted as soon as I walked in as I was greeted by the four dogs who he loved so much (including one Labrador) and by the fact that his home was exactly like mine, the same living room furniture and the same exact dog kennels placed discreetly in the family room with a few blankets and some mail stacked on top. For some strange reason that perhaps only people who grew up with dogs can understand, I felt our sibling connection again instantly, even though he was gone, even though we would never settle our differences in person, just from remembering that we had grown up so similarly, together, and that our upbringing with dogs had shaped us as adults and made us more united than we had really consciously known.

I think about our kids and how much they love dogs. With two dogs here and four at their mother’s house, these kids are definitely growing up with plenty of dogs to love, dogs who are like siblings to them just like our dogs were to me, and I hope that they will pass the love onto their own children. So Happy Siblings Day, to my human siblings and to my canine siblings, whether they are at the Rainbow Bridge or here on earth with me. When you grow up with dogs as family you understand why we honor both types of siblings on a day like today, because they both hold a special and forever place in your heart.

 

Blogs, Fun & Games, Products & Places I Love For Dogs

Human’s Guide to Dog Toys

Over the last year I’ve set up a table at various pet events and local events and offered a selection of safely made pet toys from West Paw Design and Planet Dog. Without a physical store front these events are a nice way for me to get out and meet pet parents and share the word about creating a healthy, toxin-free lifestyle for their dogs.

West Paw and Planet Dog are my two favorite brands of toys for my dogs because they are made in the USA from non-toxic materials with a focus on the health and safety of our dogs, so I love to share the word of these brands with fellow dog owners. After all, dogs play with toys with their mouths, so anything that goes into your dog’s mouth (and sometimes into their belly) should be as safely made as possible.

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Destiny and her pile of toys
A common complaint that I have heard from other dog owners is that their dogs will destroy any toy given to them, with many dog owners no longer purchasing toys for that reason. Since dogs do not have nearly as much with which to entertain themselves as we do, that makes me sad. Of course I can relate to purchasing a $15 stuffed squeaky toy only for Jackson and Tinkerbell to rip it to pieces within ten minutes of presenting them with their new toy, but when it comes down to it, that’s part of the fun for them, part of the joy of the stuffed squeaky toy. They still play with it once the squeaker and stuffing has been thoroughly removed by them and confiscated and disposed of by me.

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Jax and his favorite shark

Jackson and Tinkebell love to play tug-o-war with the remaining shell of the squeaky toy. Normally the game begins with Tinkerbell literally shoving the toy into Jackson’s mouth until he takes the bait and joins in. Sometimes Jackson (our adorable but evil genius) will grab a toy and start a game of tug-o-war with me, sometimes because he wants to play with me and other times in order to lure Tinkerbell over to join into the game so he can steal the antler that he wants but she has. Both our late Maggie and our former foster dog Destiny loved to take the empty squeaky toys and toss them high up into the air and then fetch the toy and repeat the process over and over.

In order to help my fellow humans with the “my dog will destroy that” dilemma, I have made a helpful guide called The Human’s Guide to Dog Toys to help pet parents understand the best way to use each toy and make it last longer than previous toys. You can download the guide on the Dog Owner Resources page at https://lovelaughwoof.com/tools/ .  

You can also shop for my favorite eco friendly dog toys on Amazon.com at my affiliate store by clicking here.

This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations. 
Tornado Warnings and Dogs Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best Friend
Blogs, Safety & Emergency Prepping

Tornado Warnings & Dogs: Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best Friend

Tornado Warnings & Dogs: Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best Friend

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Tornado Warnings and Dogs Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best FriendRecently we enjoyed a warm 70 degree day and as I played ball outside with the dogs,  I noticed that our grass is getting nice and green and changing from its dismal dormant brown color. Of course the downside of such a warm spring day here in Illinois is that it sometimes means it is ushering in some wild weather and at least a tornado watch if not a tornado warning.

Growing up in the mountains in northern New Jersey meant that I did not grow up with tornadoes. Although I obviously do not want to experience an actual tornado I have become much calmer over the years when a tornado siren sounds, but I still take every watch and warning quite seriously and have several tips to offer to dog owners on what to do when it’s time to seek cover during a tornado watch or warning.

21lwzbrgfilHarness & Collar: Regardless of which you use for regular leash walking, I prefer a harness over a collar for emergency situations simply because it is harder for your dog to slip out of a harness. Trust me, I have experienced a terrified dog slipping her head out of a collar when I walked my late Labrador Retriever Babe too close to a marching band in a parade and after the drum section started up out of nowhere I suddenly found myself with an empty collar and a scared dog on the run. Fortunately I found her quickly and tragedy was averted, but during a tornado warning you do not want to recreate the iconic scene from The Wizard of Oz with a dog on the run and a funnel cloud coming toward you.

Depending on the size of your dog you can go with something simple like a regular harness for walking, 71lowkipbbl-_sy800_or opt for something you can use if you need to lift or carry a large dog in an emergency like the Rock-n-Rescue dog harness that is made for Search and Rescue (SAR) work. If you have a very small dog you can invest in a carrier similar to what you would use to take your dog on a plane so that you can easily carry him with you.

Dog Supplies:  Make sure you have a box of supplies with which you can entertain your dog in addition to a canine first aid kit, even if your basement is finished and somewhere that you and your dog frequently spend time. We have found ourselves hanging out in the basement for as long as an hour  during some storms and I recommend keeping the following on hand:

The toys and treats will help distract your dog from her unusual surroundings, the sounds of the storm, the wail of the tornado siren and from your own nervous energy that you might be giving off without realizing it. Practicing basic training like sit, down, stay and other commands that your dog already knows is also a great way to distract them. Both Jackson and Tinkerbell spent time as very small puppies in our basement with me during tornado warnings and these things were invaluable for entertaining very young puppies when they really wanted to get into trouble in an area that had not been puppy proofed.

Keeping an extra leash and harness for each dog in the house will ensure that you have them in the event that you find yourself in the basement without time to harness them before you seek cover. I firmly believe that dog owner can never have too many spare leashes stashed in various rooms in case of an emergency situation.

Tornado Drills: Yes, I do tornado drills with my dogs. No, I am not crazy.

Our canine tornado drills go like this: on the first Tuesday of every month our village tests the tornado sirens. As soon as they start to sound, I jump up and call the dogs to me and reward them with plenty of treats, praise, chin scratches and every good thing that I have at my disposal at that time. Depending where we are at the time, I put them in their harnesses, put their leashes on, and we go into the basement, where they receive more praise and treats. Sometimes we are out in the yard and they follow me to the house, and other times I simply have them sit and stay.

Work with your dog on an extremely reliable recall for emergencies.

 

A few times I have forgotten that it was the first Tuesday of the month and I have been doing something else when the test sirens sounded. Both times I was thrilled that both dogs woke up from their naps and made eye contact with me, watching me for my next move or phrase. The whole point of this exercise is that I want them to make the association in their head that the sound of the tornado siren means that they look to me, make eye contact, and wait for my next command.

If you are at work or away from the house when a tornado siren occurs, practice having your dog come to you during other loud situations or when you can catch the siren when the test happens during the weekend. You can also use this Tornado Warning Siren Sound Effect video from You Tube. In fact as I tested it to include in this blog, both Jackson and Tinkerbell went on alert and made eye contact before running over to me. Of course Tinkerbell, in true Tinkerbell style, jumped into my lap and showered me with kisses, but I consider that a happy little price to pay while doing research for this blog.

This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations. 

 

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Jackson’s 5th Birthday

In March 2011 I was employed at the home office of a large retail company and we had a class of thirty or so store managers in town for a weekly training class. We taught these classes each month and during class introductions we gave our name, title, department, years with the company and a fun fact about ourselves. When it was my turn I gave all of the essential information and told the class, “My fun fact is that I am waiting any minute for my puppy to be born!”

The day I taught class for several hours with a break for lunch in the middle.

“Any news on the puppy?” they asked after the lunch break.

“No, nothing yet,” I told them, “I’m obsessively checking my email, though!”

The next day I ran into the class in the cafeteria. “Lynn, has your puppy be born yet?” a few of them asked.

“No, nothing yet! It’s gotta be soon, though, she’s due any day!”

IMG_3390The following day I was to teach another short session and once again they asked. Still no puppies born. I left the classroom after my topic was finished and went back to my desk to find an email in my inbox that read, “Just a quick note to let you know that we have puppies!”

Knowing that the class was on a break, I walked back into the room as they milled around and refreshed their sodas and snacks and told them, grinning ear to ear, “My puppy has been born!” The dog lovers started clapping and cheering and I ducked out and back to my desk before the other trainers could get upset with me.

That was exactly five years ago. One one hand it seems like it was just yesterday that we picked him up because time goes by way too quickly; on the other hand it seems like we have had him forever because he is such an invaluable part of our family.

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Jax and one of his brothers

When we picked up our little puppy eight weeks after his birth and I held him in my arms for the first time it was love at first sight, a maternal love that flowed through me as strong as if I had birthed him myself. I knew I was given a magical gift from the universe in that moment and I did not take that gift lightly. The moment he became mine, I knew that I was committing to making sure this dog was happy, healthy, and safe from that moment forward and for as long as we can possibly have him on this earth with us.

I say it time and time again that every dog owner owes their dog their lifelong love and a high quality of care when they bring it home all the way until the dog passes away in its senior years. Dog owners are entirely responsible for loving and caring for their dogs with the same love that their mothers provided those first eight weeks of the puppy’s life. If a dog owner is not willing to do so they should not get a dog, plain and simple.

Five years later and our Jackson is a big lovable dog who is full of personality and fills our hearts and lives with endless happiness and joy. He has outgrown his puppy craziness and is pretty chilled out until it is time to play, and then he’s energetic and playful. With his serious expression and intense deep brown eyes I find myself wondering what he is thinking at least ten times a day; there is no other dog who I wish could speak English than him because I am longing to know what is going on in his mind.

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Jax at 5 years young

 

What I did not know back then was that not only was my new puppy born into the world, but it was the start of a new career because Jackson has  100% been my inspiration and my muse for Love, Laugh, Woof. It is because of Jackson that I became obsessed with providing a holistic lifestyle for my dogs in which I focus on their health in mind, body and environment. Jackson also helped me realize the Love, Laugh, Woof philosophy of dog rearing that is the basis of my upcoming book, my dog owner coaching business and my entire philosophy on life.

To celebrate Jackson’s birthday he and I took a nice hour long walk together, just the two of us. As much as I love walking Jax and Tink together, there is a lot for me to pay attention to when I have both of them together and I wanted to have the one-on-one dog/owner mental connection that is my favorite part of walking my dogs.

The mind meld between dog and owner is different depending on whether I am walking Jackson or Tinkerbell one-on-one and much different when I walk both of them together. As close and bonded to each other that they are, their personalities are vastly different and Jackson’s walking style is to sniff every inch of the ground and inspect it closely before marking each and every tree and significant odor. Tinkerbell likes to walk with her head up in the air looking around at the world, rarely stopping for a potty break and only sniffing what I assume are the really good smells. When I walk both dogs together Tink and I spend a lot of time waiting patiently for Jackson and I do sometimes give him the “off” command and move him on from a particular spot a little more quickly than I would if it was just the two of us.

For Jackson’s birthday walk I let him sniff each and every spot for as long as he wanted. We took about twice as long to cover the same route that we cover with Tink with us, but I truly love watching his beautiful black nose sniffing, and his mind analyzing each and every scent. I love seeing how he gets his nose so close to things without actually touching them and I think about the articles I’ve read about the anatomy of a dog’s nose and what a miracle it is to have so many sniffing sensors in it and the things that they can smell that we cannot.”Why do you pee on some things and not others? How do you know how to conserve your urine for such a long walk? What are you thinking about while you sniff?” I will ask him while we are on a walk but he just gives me his Handsome Jax doggie smile and keeps his secret to himself.

 

 

 

Blogs, Fun & Games, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Ice, Ice, Zoomies Part 2: The Perfect DIY Block of Ice

Last week I wrote about the joyful play session that Jackson and Tinkerbell enjoyed after we gave them a huge block of ice from on top of our swimming pool cover. Although a chunk of swimming pool ice was great for a one time thing, it definitely does not meet my standards of safe, filtered water and toxic free toys, so I found a way to make a better chunk of ice that is still tons of fun for Jackson and Tinkerbell.

I purchased a More Cuisine Essentials silicone loaf pan from Amazon and it arrived a few days after my last post. I chose this particular one because of its eco friendly qualities and the fact that it is dishwasher and freezer safe. After running it through a cycle in the dishwasher, I filled the loaf pan with filtered water and put it in the freezer for a few days.

“Why is there a huge block of ice in the freezer?” each one of my family members asked.

“You’ll see,” I replied.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the 50s but I felt physically terrible, as if I was starting to come down with a cold. I had planned a nice long walk with the dogs but just could not bring myself to do it, so I decided it was time to break out the giant piece of ice for them since it had been a week since the last one and I knew they would be thrilled to play with something new.

This simple creation was the source of great joy and fun for them. Jackson got so excited that he tried to take the silicon loaf pan before I could remove the ice from it. As soon as we freed the ice from the mold the fun began and the dogs had a great play session as they raced around the yard each stealing the block of ice back and forth and generally playing Labrador games.

I don’t want to overdo it with this fun toy and wear out the novelty of it, but I the mold is back in the freezer, ready to go when they least expect it. And unlike the ice that they find in the yard or that comes off of our pool cover, this one meets their criteria for fun as well as my criteria for safe and non-toxic dog toys.

 

This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations.

Blogs, Life with Jackson & Tinkerbell

Ice, ice, zoomies!

I’ve heard parents of human children laughing, and maybe complaining a little, as they watch their children dismiss the fabulous and hard to find toy that they received and play for hours with a simple cardboard box. Over the weekend Jackson and Tinkerbell similarly abandoned their selection of US made fancy balls and toys in favor of a giant block of ice.

In typical fashion, here in the Chicagoland area we experienced extreme cold one weekend followed by 60 degrees and sunshine this past weekend. Of course we are used to that, so everyone who has been hibernating was out and about doing yard work, enjoying the walking paths, riding bikes and generally taking advantage of warmth of our long lost friend the sun.

My husband took the opportunity to siphon some of the very heavy water from on top of our swimming pool cover. As I watched him breaking apart the thick layer of ice on top in order to access more water, I asked him to fish out one of the huge blocks of ice for the dogs to see if they would have fun with it. As he used the skimmer net to get the best chunk for them I called them over from their daily perimeter check of the yard, “Jax and Tink, come see what Daddy has for you!”

Because I have been using the phrase, “come see what I have” when I have something new and exciting for them, both dogs stopped what they were doing and raced over to us. My husband lowered the block of ice onto the grass with the skimmer and both dogs looked at him, their tails wagging furiously. “Ok, take it,” he said.

Tink ice 6Without a moment of hesitation, Tinkerbell lunged for the block of ice, trying to fit the entire thing in her mouth to zoom around the yard with it proudly protruding from her jaws. She tried multiple times, each time dropping it and losing part of it in the process as pieces broke off. As a result, she ended up with a manageable chunk and Jackson swooped in and snatched up one of the smaller pieces that he pushed around the grass gleefully while Tinkerbell raced through the yard, head held high with her precious block of ice sticking out of her mouth. She did four laps around the yard at top speed in her signature “bucking bronco” style of running while her brother happily gnawed on his piece until his was a slobbery melted mess. Tink ice 1

Once the excitement and the newness of the block of ice released its hold on them, Tinkerbell grabbed her trusty football, a chewed up deflated kids’ football that appeared one day in our yard, and instigated a rambunctious game of zoomies with Jackson. I have come to learn that zoomies follow any mental or  physical exercise, even long walks at the end of which they appear to be exhausted and ready for a nap; as soon as we arrive home and the harnesses and leashes are removed the zoomies begin as a way of burning off the extra energy and mental stimulation of the event. Tink ice 5

Since ingesting water from on top of the pool cover does not exactly meet my strict dog mom criteria for safety that I normally demand, I am brainstorming the safest and toxin free way to duplicate this experience for them in my own freezer and have purchased the More Cuisine Essentials silicone loaf pan from Amazon as it seems to meet my eco friendly criteria and is freezer safe. I am looking forward to its arrival so I can try it out and even toss in some Fruitables snacks to make it extra appealing. I will keep you posted on how this works, but for now, Love, Laugh, Woof and give your dogs a chin scratch for me.

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Blogs

Love, Laugh, Woof, Learn

I cannot believe that we are almost heading into February! I have not been blogging nearly as much as I would like to, but that is for two very exciting reasons!

First, I finished my book and it is in the final editing process right now! I’m still working on a final title but it is essentially a guide for both new and dog owners on how to raise their puppy or rescue dog on the Love, Laugh, Woof Philosophy and to be a fair and compassionate forever owner. The goal of this book is to help both owners and dogs lead a happy life in which they are in-tune with each other and have all of their needs fulfilled. I cannot wait to share it with you!

Second, I have rolled out my Love, Laugh, Woof, Learn webinar series! My first in the series is called Helping Your Dog Feel Fantastic, followed by Understanding the Confusing World of Pet Food which will debut on February 20, 2016. If you missed the launch you can watch it on YouTube at Helping Your Dog Feel Fantastic. To subscribe to my calendar of events or sign up for a webinar session you can go to my Love, Laugh, Woof Facebook Event page.

Jax, Professional BeggarToday we are having temperatures in the 40s, unheard of for January in Chicagoland, so I am headed out to walk Jackson and Tinkerbell, both of whom have been watching me for the last hour and trying to tell me that it is time to stop working and start walking! Have a wonderful weekend and I hope to see you on my next session of Helping Your Dog Feel Fantastic on Wednesday, February 3, 2016.