Testing out the Swag, Part I

We have all emerged exhausted but pretty much in tact after our adventurous weekends. I went to Myrtle Beach, SC for the annual BlogPaws Convention while Sophie and Rufus chose to spend their weekend at dog-topia.

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One of my dinner companions, from the blog http://www.ADogWalksIntoABar.com, on the final night

My swag bag was incredible. Loads of treats and toys filled it up making me grateful that I actually paid attention to the emails instructing me to bring another bag just for all of the free stuff I’d accumulate. Although my return flight home on Spirit Air made me wonder just how free that all really was…(I am not a fan of Spirit but chose them for their cheap prices to make life easier for Colorado Pet Pantry.  I still had to pay for my bags to be shipped. Grrr. But in all fairness, I did get to sit in an exit row with extra leg room. Woo!)

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The dogs were fascinated by the suitcase full of loot. Rufus tested out the stuffed lobster. This was a wasteful act, on my part. I knew exactly what would happen when he got it and just as I’d predicted, Mr. Lobster was not long for this world once he met Rufus. Rufus does not get attached to his toys in order to carry them around and feel more secure. Instead he tears them to shreds and then wonders why everyone has left his toy party.

Sophie tested out the Whimzee Alligator, a chew-thing-a-ma-jig that looks like an alligator and is supposed to clean teeth. She chomped it and was done with it very quickly. It doesn’t seem to have much nutritional value, and unfortunately, we were all awakened at 2am by Sophie vomiting. This lasted until about 6:30am. I’m not necessarily blaming Whimzee for this but Sophie is not prone to puking so I’m a little reluctant to try it again. I immediately opened the free bottle of Nature’s Miracle and put it to use.

Yesterday Rufus tested out the PetSmart “unicorn.” I call him Mr. Piggy since he’s pink and looks more pig-like than unicorn-like. The PetSmart rep told me that was because they’d had to redesign it to make it safer for dogs: making the horn shorter and going easy on the tail and legs – things that could snap off and choke a pet. I loved these when I first saw them at the conference. They looked durable and might have been the answer to the “keep-Rufus-busy” issue I occasionally find myself in. The idea is that the the unicorn’s very large head can twist off and you can put a ring-shaped treat in the middle of the toy before reattaching the head. It’s supposed to be a challenge for the dog to eat the toy.

Rufus got the treat off and then went after the tail. I scooped up the rubber bits so he wouldn’t swallow them. I’m really bummed about this since he actually did carry Mr. Piggy around for a little bit and looked adorable while wearing his orange Orvis bandana (another swag item). To be fair, we had the toy designed for medium dogs while Rufus would fit into the large dog category, so I am willing to give one size up an honest try.

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Going after the tail, not the treat

Finally, we are testing out the ring called Red Alert from Ethical Pets.  I underestimated this completely. Looking at the ring I thought Rufus would destroy this in a few minutes. Instead, it matched his toughness. This thing seriously held up under some intense pressure. Right now it’s a little muddy since Rufus insisted on taking it outside after yesterday’s rain. Overall, this has been my favorite toy in the entire bag since it is fun for the dog and does not die an easy death. We’ll be getting more of these.

Now the big test will be to see if this toy-tester will be my date for next year’s conference. We have a year to get red-carpet fabulous.

**UPDATE: I’m donating the frisbee and kong balls to Colorado Pet Pantry to give out at food banks (where we can always use donations of such items). I felt guilty about the wanton destruction of Mr. Lobster and I knew that 1) Sophie doesn’t play with toys and is weirdly scared of frisbees and 2) in Rufus’ jaws, these things wouldn’t last five minutes

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These little ones are all rescues and were a huge hit at the conference.

Suitcases

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I am headed out for a few days of beautiful South Carolina weather to attend the 2017 BlogPaws Conference. It coincides perfectly with the oncoming snow Denver is supposed to get this weekend.

Of course, it also means having to drop the dogs off at dog-topia. The pups knew something was up. Rufus has figured out that suitcases mean some sort of upheaval in his very placid life. He isn’t exactly sure what the suitcase actually does, but he knows that he does not like it. He sniffed the clothes on the insides as well as some toiletries, even going so far as to move them around. Then he also started his sleeping next to the suitcase, choosing to guard it rather than getting on the bed. This is a big deal. He likes taking the center of the bed. But eventually he got on the bed and used me as a pillow, acting very clingy and knowing that something in our lives was slightly off-kilter.

We had a pretty normal morning, although he is quite the sleepy-head in the mornings. Who am I kidding? I am too. My days of 5am wake-ups are over but now even though we wake up with the sun, we want to head back to bed. I’m trying to end that practice.

Our journey to dog-topia today was met with some interesting traffic problems, causing me to wonder if this was God telling me to take my dogs to SC. Sophie was not thrilled to be in the backseat with Rufus and did not come up front with me, as she is wont to do. Rufus was on high alert and did not turn this car trip into romper room. They were both very still the entire time. I know I must not personify my dogs but they are capable of inferring plenty.

Once we got to dog-topia, one of the staff members cupped Rufus’ face in her hands and made kiss noises at him. He wagged his tail back at her and did not indicate any uncertainty at all. Then both he and Sophie ran down the chute to the play area. No barking from Sophie towards me, and no weirdness from Rufus. Good stuff.

That is the hardest part, hands down. But now that I’m back home with about forty-five minutes before leaving for the airport, I know my dogs are going to be fine. They are more than capable of behaving themselves at dog-topia and they will have a great time with a staff that dotes on them.

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The wonderful place where I trust my dogs to be well taken care of.

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Pooped Out Balloon

The other morning, after our deluge of hail from the heavens, I tended to the ultra glamorous tasks of cleaning out the gutters and picking up dog poop. The latter task had been neglected for a few days partially due to terrible weather, and partially due to my own laziness. But poopers gonna poop and it’s not gonna clean itself up, so it’s all on me to get it done.

I have two big dogs. One, Sophie, is on the smaller end of “large” at fifty four pounds, but the other, Rufus, comes in strong on the large spectrum at seventy two pounds. Sophie is fairly delicate and discreet, producing a nice lady-like amount of waste. Rufus, however, seems to take pride in his output, as though he were somehow getting a commission. He poops like a champion.

During this morning’s scooping I noticed something odd in one of the stools. I saw a bright orange object and wondered if it was from a tee shirt or dust rag that Rufus had managed to chew — except I don’t have any orange tee shirts or dust rags. Upon further inspection I saw that it was a balloon: an unused and unblown up balloon.

Where had he found this? I don’t have any balloons in the house. All celebrations that I participate in occur at other people’s homes that can stay clean for more than twenty minutes. We have no festivities here other than my own cheering when the Wisconsin Badgers perform well during March Madness, but it comes at the price of several F-bombs dropped during the tournament.

It could have come from daycare. He has not been there in over a week, however, and it is highly unlikely that they would have balloons there. They are a strong but bare-bones operation. They do celebrate dog birthdays but appear limited to one single party hat that has been reluctantly worn by every dog with an indulgent owner armed with a thrifty side: dogs get a free day on their birthday.

The other possibility is that it came from over the fence. I have a six foot privacy fence all around the back yard in a city dwelling. This one is tricky because there are three sides to the fence: the north side, the west side, and the south side.

The north side has neighbors who, truth be told, have managed to drop some odd items in my yard. I have found glass bottles and many, many candy wrpapers on my side of the fence, just on the other side of where the teenagers park their bicycles and scooters. Could it have been them? I don’t recall any parties over there lately. However, they are responsible for most of the foreign debris that lands in my yard so it is entirely possible. But why throw an unused balloon?

The west side faces the alley. Denver alleys have all sorts of party items: drunk dudes, partially empty liquor bottles, even puppies — this is where I found Rufus as an abandoned five-month-old, after all. This past year, one alley behind a different doggy daycare in town was the scene of someone fleeing the police and throwing a bag of heroin into the daycare play area. Of course a golden retriever found it and ate it, causing an emergency trip to the vet. Did somebody throw an unused balloon into my yard from the alley? Was it actually unused? What the hell might have been in the balloon? Fortunately it did not look as though it had been tied up to hold anything.

Our final option for the over-the-fence theory is the south side. I have other neighbors here who are wonderful. Nothing from their yard ends up in my yard. If one of their tree branches hangs precipitously in my yard, it’s cut. However, I did hear the sounds of a child’s birthday party there a few weeks ago. Intriguing…could a sad, unused balloon have blown in?

It really does not matter, in the end. Rufus found a balloon and ate it. This is what he does. He is a year and a half and possesses very little common sense. What — like your dog does?

He has his WestPaw toys that he loves and cannot destroy. They have survived the puppy months and have stayed in excellent condition this past year. I wish I could say the same for the tennis balls, Kongs, and many stuffed toys he has destroyed in under thirty minutes. He loves his toys but I know that he does not limit his entertainment time to them alone.

He is very curious. If something new shows up, he needs to inspect it. Said inspection involves picking it up, carrying it to the middle of the yard and chewing on it. He recently did this with a squeezable and fortunately empty Smirnoff bottle he found. I found it before he could swallow anything.

Luckily for everyone involved, he has a pretty strong digestive system. He pukes stuff up if it doesn’t want to go any further. Otherwise it comes out the other end. I don’t know how long this run of luck will continue before he gets a bowel obstruction costing me ten thousand dollars in vet bills. I try to inspect the back yard thoroughly but stuff has a way of just appearing. Aside from installing some netting around my fence, like that found behind home plate at an MLB game, I don’t know how to effectively manage the contents of my back yard.

I know we all have various horror stories about our dogs eating what they shouldn’t. How safe can we make them? I can blame urban life but dogs will pick up anything. My family’s dog (one of them) used to eat my crayons. That was way back in the 70’s when everything was made out of uranium or something just as healthy. She lived to be fifteen.

Are the burbs safer? Do I just need to pack up and move someplace where I’ll have an HOA and a home that looks like everyone else’s? I welcome any and all suggestions, or your own story of your dog’s odd snack habits.

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National Adopt a Shelter Animal Day

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This sculpture serves as a landmark while finding your way to the Denver Animal Shelter, along the Platte River

I am a few days late but happy National Adopt a Shelter Animal Day! I’ll extend the holiday to last a week, as all holidays should be.

Sophie came from a shelter and was such an easy dog despite all of the warnings we got about potential shelter dogs. All dogs can have issues. Fortunately the shelters were pretty honest with us about what we could expect.

So here are a few local shelters to check out

  1. Denver Dumb Friends League: http://www.ddfl.org
  2. Foothills Animal Shelter  (This one is special because it is where we got Sophie) http://www.foothillsanimalshelter.org
  3. http://www.MaxFund.org

And a few rescues:

  1. http://www.DMKrehoming.com         They take in dogs who are on death row and help rehome them. I have volunteered here and their dogs are just lovely, and all breeds too. You’d be shocked at who ends up on death row in the dog world.
  2. http://www.AllPointsWestgsp.org        This is a rescue primarily for German Shorthair Pointers but they’ll help out with some English Pointers as well. It’s run by some of the loveliest people you’ll ever meet. Sign up for their newsletter!
  3. http://www.BigDogsHugePaws.com     This is just as the name suggests: they focus on rescuing and rehabilitating Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Great Pyrenees, Mastiffs, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, and Saint Bernards. My friend Renee got her 6 year old Newfie here and he is the biggest sweetheart.

Of course there are some other organizations in different parts of the country:

  1. http://www.BadRap.org is out of Oakland, CA and helps Bully breeds
  2. http://www.AllHoundsOnDeck.com, based out of NE Louisiana helps the many, many hounds that are often abandoned in that part of the country.  My pal Kathy got two of her hounds from them and they are the biggest goofballs.
  3. http://www.CaneRossoRescue.com is a Dallas-based rescue that takes in many hunting dogs who have been abandoned at the end of hunting season – that is actually a thing that people do. Good Lord, people! My dear friend Morriah has a dog from them and he is very sweet and quite the leaner.

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Where is your rescue pup from??? Go ahead and plug a rescue or shelter you support.

And finally, there is always this option:

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Ten Things I’ve Learned From Being a Dog-Owner

Nearly four years ago, I reactivated my membership in the dog-owners of America with the adoption of Sophie. Then this past year I enrolled in The Partially-Insane Dog People by taking in an abandoned puppy. Here’s what I have learned:

  1. Doggy cheese-whiz is tasty. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.
  2. Dogs can be opposites and still be best friends. One barks at strangers on the sidewalk but loves them when they come inside. The other ignores them on the sidewalk and barks when they enter. One fetches wonderfully, the other couldn’t care less about the thrown object. But as long as they like wrestling, we’re good.
  3. Dogs make you learn patience. Still waiting for Rufus to become that calm dog I was told he’d be…maybe it won’t come at 18 months. Maybe more like two years. OK, I’ll hang onto him.
  4. Dogs make you evaluate your social circle You want me to do what? For how long? And it’s not dog-friendly? It’s probably not going to happen unless I really like you. But you’d better not screw it up.
  5. My friends have interesting smells This comes from how much my dogs want to smell my shoes and clothing once I return home after spending time with my pals. But honestly, I usually have one of the pups with me so maybe they are comforting themselves with the familiar.
  6. Don’t tell me, “It’s just a dog.” Unless you want to unfriend me in person.
  7. I’m a dog poop expert. Rarely a day goes by when I wonder how I can monetize my knowledge of their farts and poops. It’s not like they’re going to go away.
  8. Reading is a team sport. When I go upstairs to read in my favorite chair, the dogs can lie: on the ottoman, the dog bed, next to me, or on the floor. Somehow they end up having a competition to see how many of those spots they can hit in a certain mount of time. It usually ends in a wrestling match with me wondering why I am so behind in my GoodReads challenge.
  9. I need a kick-ass vacuum cleaner. This is the area where I am ridiculous but for a good reason. Dog hair has killed three Dysons so far. I cannot have a layer of hair, dirt, and general gritty material on the floor because I like walking barefoot on occasion, and I still have some dignity left regarding my home, so I begged for a Miele vacuum for Christmas. That thing is getting a workout.
  10. I am incredibly interesting. To my dogs, of course. People may have a different opinion. But to Sophie and Rufus, I am a treasure trove of fascination.

71.5 Pounds of Love

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The secret to a successful vet visit

Yesterday gave us one of our many vet visits. My hands were full holding Rufus and giving him treats to keep him distracted. The vet is a terrifying place for him so of course, lots of barking was involved. Part of me didn’t even want to go because he is such a handful at the vet, but that’s not feasible or reasonable, of course.

Thinking that a good dog is a tired dog, I decided a tired dog at the vet would be a compliant dog. So I got out the flirt pole about half an hour before we left, and we played with it for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes. At the end of the giant cat-toy game, he was panting and lying down. So much chasing and jumping can tucker out even a young dog pretty quickly.

I thought we were good to go. He lay down in the back seat during the entire ride there, but once in the exam room he decided it was all too much and barked his head off. I thought this might test the new vet tech but fortunately he was very cool and even liked Rufus a lot. I need to remember that these people are all professionals and can have seen it all. Dogs like Rufus are probably a dime a dozen.

The Doodle-bug needed three shots and a hands-on examination, so we put the soft muzzle on him. He wasn’t a fan but it did change the energy in the room. Then they tried taking him into another examination room thinking if I weren’t there, then he might drop the protective instinct. He wasn’t having that at all. He jumped and refused to go into the back. Poor guy. He was terrified. We all stayed in the first room.

The awesome vet & tech gave him a doggy version of cheese-whiz, spread out on a tongue depressor. He loved that stuff and as long as a tech gave him that and I petted him, Dr. Reiter could give him a thorough enough examination. He balked at having his ears checked but we were pretty happy overall.

He’d weighed in at 71.5 pounds. He’s been holding steady at this for a few months and Dr. Reiter said he’s a great weight. I mentioned that he still eats four cups a day, and that surprised her. I’ve been waiting for him to start getting pudgy, but since his weight hasn’t increased at all, I’m going to keep doing this for a few more months. He burns through calories. This morning we have already played fetch both indoors (during yoga) and outside, and then he still got the zoomies.

So I have a healthy dog who is more than happy at home. We just need to keep the fear response at bay. I’ve ordered some of the cheese-whiz, and while I realize it is not human grade, it’s going to be very tempting not to eat it. Yes, I can admit that.

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This morning, Mr. Subtle tried to let me know that yoga sucks compared to fetch.

Happy Gotcha Day

A year ago today I found this urchin in an alley, hungry and probably wondering why his people weren’t coming back to get him. I chased him through the neighborhood, only to end up back in that same alley.

He was reluctant to come with me, and even more scared to come into the back yard.

All of that changed when he met Sophie whom he became friends with immediately.

Facebook posts to our neighborhood page and queries to the local shelters yielded nothing. There were no lost dog signs or any reports of someone like him being gone. And of course, Animal Control responded with “Yay! Keep him!”

Now he’s chipped, registered, vaccinated, well-fed, and maybe still growing. And he’s mine.

He’s chewed hats and shoes and yard tools and money.

He’s been kicked out of one obedience class and embraced by another.

He’s my Noodle, my Doodle-bug, my charming boy who scares the crap out of anyone who looks at him too long.

Happy Gotcha-versary former little guy who’s now a big kid.

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Goodbye, Elk Meadows

On Monday, Sophie and I said goodbye to our favorite dog park which is closing for three years. Elk Meadows, located in Evergreen, CO with a few hundred acres of trails for dogs to scamper on locked its gates on April 4. In an effort to be extra-prepared, they set some heavy duty locks on the fences a day early. I tried very hard to not call the people in charge “Jerk wads.” I failed. At least I didn’t drop an F-bomb or say something really rude.  Elk Meadows has a way of bringing out the civilized human in me.

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I am certain that my words do not do this place justice. It’s a forty-five minute drive from home, so it’s a little bit of an effort to get there, requiring some planning on our parts. Once you are there parking can be a little tricky and not surprisingly the weekends will give you overflowing lots.

Once inside it becomes the magic forest. Maybe that’s a bit much. No, actually upon reflection I think it’s where the Elves of Rivendell moved after Sauron was defeated.

It’s also about twenty degrees cooler than Denver, making it already an ideal location in the summer. You get nice paths and tree cover, then an open meadow before going to the non-fenced area.

It’s also extremely steep. The dogs love it. The people…well, you need to be in very good shape to walk up and down these hills. And in all honesty, it is not the easiest place to clean up dog poop. Unfortunately I don’t think that the convenience issue has much to do with their decisions to not scoop, which is why the park is closing. The excess dog waste has led to soil and plant erosion and despite being warned, enough people continued their lazy ways.

I first took Sophie there with my now ex at the urging of our friend Molly who told me about this spot. The walk proved arduous but ultimately worth it for the chance to get out of the blazing Colorado sun. Sophie loved the creek the most, always jumping in and not just wading, but sitting down and rolling in it. Others walking their dogs nearby would laugh, seeing this dog lie down in the water and wag her tail. Then we would start on the post-creek trails.

These trails have been well-maintained with lots of rocks, switchbacks, and some very steep drop offs. The tree-canopy was always welcome, and the view of seemingly endless aspens and pine trees with hawks flying in the distance offered a feeling of tranquility. Sophie would meet other dogs on the trails, sometimes playfully mingling with them. Then we’d always move on. She might run up to a large rock to get a better view, or scamper under a bush to investigate, or try to climb a tree where vermin hid out. But she always returned to the hike; the trails provided direction and it always propelled us forward. Just keep walking.

When my ex and I split almost two years ago, I found myself at Elk Meadows nearly every day for a few weeks. I could not sit at home, and there was only so much lawn-mowing I could do. Sophie has always been my comfort dog so hiking without her didn’t seem right. And Elk Meadows provided exactly the right environment for me when my life imploded. It was quiet. It was strenuous. It was beautiful. Just keep walking.

When Rufus showed up last year we did a few walks there. Once out of the fenced area I put him on leash, until July 4. We looped at least three times that day, and he was wonderful. He stayed near Sophie and showed he could be well-behaved. And best of all, I had a completely exhausted puppy at the end.

Until September, that is. He struggled to conduct himself appropriately and stay near either me or Sophie, and of course had to turn into Mr. Annoying. I had to put him back on leash which, of course, he hated. At his final trip there he whimpered while Sophie romped with a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

If the park actually does re-open in three years, Rufus will be four years old and a different dog. Hopefully he’ll be able to act more sociably.  In three years Sophie will also be a different dog, and I don’t know if her nine-year-old self will be able to handle the steep climbs. She already struggles with some joint pain and does not have a great range of motion in her front right leg due to a slight deformity. Despite having had dogs all throughout my childhood, the rapidity with which dogs age has never ceased to surprise or sadden me. So I find the selfish actions of the non poop-scoopers and subsequent park closure to be particularly cruel.

There are other places we can go, of course. There are the local city dog parks and there are some lovely state parks with enclosed dog areas. We are spoiled for choice out here. But Elk Meadows has been special for its challenges – you can only access its peace and beauty if you are willing to take on the difficulty. Traverse the rocks and pitch and mud and you will find what you were looking for. Keep doing it.

But beware of others shitting on your path. They can destroy the best things in life.

Madness! And calmness.

How do you make life difficult for a sleeping dog?

You watch the Wisconsin-Florida Sweet Sixteen game, of course!

First there was this shot at the end of the second half, which caused me to yell “Three!” or something obvious like that because the Badgers needed three points to tie the game and go onto overtime.

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After four minutes and fifty eight (or so) seconds of over time, the Badgers were up 83-81. My nerves were shot. I don’t care if it’s high school or college. This sport is too exciting for words, literally. I emitted a lot of “Ughs!” and “Woos!” Rufus, having been awakened by Zak Showalter’s awesome three pointer decided to check on me in a very calm manner. He did not get riled up at all like he normally does. He slowly walked over to me with a slow tail wiggle to make sure I hadn’t gone off the deep end. That’s Sophie’s job! I must’ve been a maniac to make a year-old spazoid of a dog adopt an attitude of: “Hey there – take it easy. Breathe.”

And then, of course, Florida did this:

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It went in. It was a beautiful three point shot that unfortunately knocked UW out of the tourney. 84-83.  I covered my face in disbelief. There were a few seconds of hoping that the basket would not count. That’s the sad hope of the truly desperate.

And Rufus was an absolute doll this whole time. It’s good to know that this guy has my back, even when I wake him up from a peaceful sleep.

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