Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy All Hallow's Eve!

When I started planning Bella's first Halloween photo-shoot, I had no idea how apparently controversial the topic of 'pets in costumes' was. But after reading comments on Facebook and blogs and forums that sometimes marked me as the devil incarnate for putting Bella in a hat, I thought I would weigh in on the issue from my perspective.

I did my first Christmas photo-shoot with Bella last year, and, to be honest, I had no idea how she would react to wearing a costume. But since I have spent the last 5 years teaching Bella to trust and to not be afraid of a whole host of things from wrapping paper and stairs to weave poles and teeter totters, I was pretty sure I could gain her cooperation without traumatizing her too severely by making her wearing a hat. (Antlers, to be precise.)

Armed with her most favorite treat in the whole world (home-made chicken jerky), we had a blast doing that photo-shoot and have done several others since. To be fair, we don't usually use props. But these shoots, in our world, are training and bonding opportunities. To Bella, it's 'play time'.

Would Bella rather not have to wear a silly prisoner outfit to get that chicken jerky out of my hand? Oh, undoubtedly. Just as I'm sure she'd rather not have to sit for her dinner. But coupling an activity with something she loves is the whole idea behind getting a dog over their fear.

So maybe I wasn't really abusing the dog after all by asking her to don a triceratops horn.

But here's the thing, not all dogs will like being put in costumes. If your dog doesn't, you have two choices: 1) don't do it or 2) work with them to make it a fun experience. And if you don't know whether or not your dog does, err on the side of caution and make it a training adventure.

To folks on both sides of the "Dress Your Pet" divide, I say, come on, let's just use some common sense.

Towards that end, here are a few good ground rules:
  1. Pay attention to your dog. If you see their body stiffen, their head turn away, or their tail tuck between their legs, stop what you're doing. The costume pictured below came with leggings with which Bella never got comfortable. I put them on her twice briefly and she froze. So they came off. Simple.
  2. Be careful not to constrict your dog's breathing or movements with the costume or clothing. The princess costume came with a little "dress" that was just a wee bit too small for Bella. So I let her play with it instead of wear it.
  3. Don't dress your dog up for the first time on Halloween night when all the sugar-crazed kiddies are swarming to your door. The night itself is full of mischief and mayhem, don't make it worse for your dog by putting them in a completely unknown situation. Test first, train, make good decisions and do right by your dog.
Now, for the record and for those who don't know her, Bella is just as likely to produce that teenage scowl she has so perfected whether dressed as a unicorn or hogging the bed.

The best part about trying to take pretty pictures of my dog is how grumpy she "appears" to be about the whole thing. If I was a better photographer, I'd have pictures of our play during these photo-shoots and not just pictures from when I beg her to just sit still for one second.

Remember, a couple of still photos doesn't really tell the whole story. Let's try to be gentle with each other, okay?

Finally, about that last 'costume change' I mentioned in our last post. This one goes out to all my "chicks". You know who you are and let me just say: you rock.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Less-Wordy Wednesday - Early Halloween Edition

We had our first Halloween costume photo-shoots for the blog over the last few weeks.

Bella doesn't make a very good prisoner. I think she's too sweet to look too terribly "hardened".

Especially when she kept playing with the hat.

But she did a pretty good triceratops impersonation.

The great three-horned hunter, er, vegetarian? Uh, Bella, we need to talk.

And I think she made a lovely princess.

She tries so hard.

Stop by again tomorrow for one final costume change and some of my thoughts about dressing up your dog for Halloween. And please, keep your pets safe INSIDE tomorrow night.

Monday, October 28, 2013

#MondayMischief: A little agility fun

Sometimes I just know Bella is going to go all looney-tunes on me during an agility session. I can usually tell when I start to un-clip her harness - she does this thing where she almost quivers with excitement: Oh boy, it's showtime, folks!

But I am not a fast handler and she can very easily get ahead of me on the course.

My goal is to try to keep my movements calm and deliberate so as not to amp her up sending her further into zoomie-land yet quick enough to beat her off the obstacle so I can gain control again on the other side.

I am not always successful.

Here are a couple of videos, mostly unedited (I only took out the really boring parts), of a recent agility session with the crazy dog. They're not our best work (either from an agility perspective nor a videographer one) and yet, I can't stop watching them.

There's an expression apparently among agility circles. It goes something like "Great dog. Pity about the handler." I've a feeling agility people will be saying this about us here.

It's okay, you can laugh. We did.

Now, if I can just learn how to channel all that energy and enthusiasm into following the course that I'm trying to direct her to rather than one she has designed for herself, we'll be in business. But given the laughter heard and the smiles (and tail wags!) seen in these videos, you can probably tell that's not my main goal.

Once upon a time, Bella was afraid to enter a room where a stick had been laid on the floor. Now look at her conquering all these obstacles with verve and aplomb. That's all I care about.

Living with Bella isn't always easy. It can be a lot of work.

Sometimes it's heartbreaking. Sometimes it's even terrifying.

But sometimes, it's hilarious.

Those are the times that we live for.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

MilkOpet review - a.k.a. my dog, the cat

MilkOpet: Rethink milk.
I swear sometimes I think my dog is a cat.

She washes her face and feet like a cat.

She is not fond of water and loathes getting a bath.

She is more than a little aloof and spectacularly independent.

And she loves milk. Or in this case, MilkOpet.

I spent some time chatting with Doug from MilkOpet when I attended the BlogPaws conference in May. (Actually I spent some time loving on his beautiful Labrador and then he and I started talking about the product but I digress...)

What is MilkOpet?

"MilkOpet® is our range of nutritionally enhanced Lactose free milks for dogs in their main life stage groups, Puppy, Adult Dogs, and Less Active Dogs."

I wasn't exactly sure what the point of the product was but Doug explained to me that it could be used towards a variety of ends:
  • It can be used as a simple treat or snack to re-hydrate your dog after play or exercise.
  • Or added to dry food to provide additional moisture and flavor.
  • And, while dogs who are stressed during travel may not be inclined to eat, they are often enticed by a tasty drink.
One carton of MilkOpet provides all the necessary vitamins and minerals to use as a meal replacement and, since it doesn't have to be refrigerated, it is easy to pack along for the ride. Plus it provides hydration as well as nutrition.

As mentioned, it can be used as a snack or in our case, it can be used to get the finicky dog to take her medicine.

I have written on several occasions of the difficulties we have getting Bella to take her medicine because she is a very fussy eater. We have jumped through all sorts of hoops to get her to take her pills but even things she likes one day have been known to fail on others.

On top of that, Bella has some tummy issues that we have to deal with so our options for what we feed her are limited. She has Colitis (apparently very common among nervous and anxious dogs) and is on a prescription diet to help her with that.

But of course, getting Bella to eat plain dry kibble is a feat beyond measure.

I believe the word you are looking for is
That'd be a whole lot of "Nope".

So please indulge me while I go on a MilkOpet rave here today. Because it has had all the lactose removed, Bella's tummy loves it. And because it's milk, Bella loves it, too.

We've been pouring just a tablespoon or two on her dry kibble at feeding times and lo and behold, she is eating it all right up.

And that's a really big deal in this house.

Additionally, it can be really difficult to get Bella to eat during storms which is when she especially needs to take her medicine. But even when stressed, Bella will still drink this stuff up.

It's not inexpensive but if you're using it like we are, it's no more expensive than a high quality canned dog food. Right now, it's only available at a few locations near us but it is available online through Pet Food Direct and Pet 360. (I don't get anything for mentioning that. Just sayin'.)

There's a lot more nutritional information on their website as well as an explanation of the science behind it. If you're curious, you should check it out.

MilkOpet comes in 3 varieties: puppy, adult, less-active.

Disclaimer: We were given some MilkOpet products to test but anyone who knows me can tell you the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 107 - Diggidy-doo-da dog

Because Jan and I don't like to sit still for very long, and two major household projects going on wasn't quite enough to keep us busy, we decided to dig up a good portion of our backyard this past summer. Bella approved.

Dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig....

We interrupt this digging adventure to check out the chipmunk under the deck.

Dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig....

Thank you for my very own, hu-folk-sanctioned hole to dig in!

We interrupt this digging adventure for

Can I dig another hole over here? Please?

We have since put in new gardens and maybe someday I'll update my garden blog again with those pictures. In the meantime, we 'hu-folk' and Bella are still working out the details of where she is allowed to dig now.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 106 - A Halloween preview

We haven't had our Halloween photoshoot yet but we're getting ready - costumes ordered, lighting and locations planned...

You all can imagine how this is going to go, right?

If not, here's a preview:

Do I look amused?

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Does she bite?"

"Does she bite?"

Well, that's a loaded question, isn't it?

My immediate reaction is to say "No" but I guess that's a lie.

Trying to qualify it by saying "Yes, but it's owner-directed aggression and she's only ever bitten Jan and shuts down when approached by strangers and..." I've come to realize no one hears anything after "Yes".

I don't know why I feel so compelled to say no - I've admitted it here on the 'interwebs' for the whole world to see and know that yes, indeed, Bella has been known to bite. What is it in me that wants to assuage strangers fear of her? I do not know.

"Does she bite?"

I may not know why I want to say no but recently I've learned there is value saying "Yes."

A few weeks ago we had a great morning walk with Bella's best beau, Gus, his hu-folk and some friends. Getting ready to leave, I had Bella in the car when some passers-by came over to ooh and ahh over Gus. (This happens to us a lot when we're out with Gus.)

Finally, someone saw Bella hanging out of the car door with her head on my shoulder checking things out. Without a word, they approached us reaching out to pet her.

Instinctively, and perhaps rather rudely, I put up my arm to physically block their approach and said "She's afraid of people."

"Does she bite?"

That's when they asked "Does she bite?"

I said no because, in all honesty, Bella has never, ever shown any sign that she would bite a stranger. She is afraid of them and without fail (to this point at least) runs away or shuts down.

As soon as the word was out of my mouth, the woman re-initiated her approach, reaching her hand out to pet Bella again.

Are you kidding me? You've just been told the dog you are approaching is afraid of people, she's trapped in a car with no way to escape and just because my answer was "no, she doesn't bite", you're going to try and pet her again?

Of course they want to pet me.
I mean, you've seen me, right?
"Yes, she has."

So I changed my response and said "Actually, yes, she can." The woman backed away.

Now of course, she's eyeing me and Bella like 'what are we doing out in public, don't we know we're endangering people'?

Well no ma'am, we're not - you are.

You shouldn't be reaching your hands into cars with unfamiliar dogs in them anyway but for darn sure you shouldn't be doing so with a dog you've just been told is afraid of people. I'm sorry but what the woof?

And so it dawned on me.

People may deride me for taking a "dangerous dog" out in public but if I just say "yes" when people ask me if she bites, I can protect Bella from people who still want to pet her even after I explain that she doesn't like that. The only real question I have is could/would someone potentially 'report us' for saying she bites even if she never has?

Any thoughts, legal knowledge or experience with such a thing? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 105 - Dirty feet

Just for the record, Bella doesn't really "do" dirty - she's a bit like a cat in that way - so this is a rather rare sight.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's on your playlist? Part 2

Yesterday I shared 7 animal-centric videos that got me hooked on some new tunes. Today, I'll finish up the list with my top six videos/songs.

I've tried to embed the videos in a way that should work for most browsers but if you have trouble viewing them here, you can click on the title of the song and it will open the video up in it's original location. I hope you'll find them worth the effort.

  1. John Shipe Pit Bull Blues

    Great video for pit bull advocacy. With a special appearance by the lovely departed Wallace the Pit Bull. RIP, sweet angel.

  2. Buy on: iTunes | Amazon

  3. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins Bubble

    I'm not sure what this video is supposed to mean but there is something oddly playful, heart-breaking, grounding and reminiscent about it.

  4. Buy on: Google Play | iTunes | Amazon

  5. Michael Holborn Let's Rise and Shine

    Excellent use of a song by the HSUS. Now that's how you promote shelter adoptions. Tell me this one doesn't get you smiling along.

  6. The song is available for free download online from any number of sites. Take your pick but, as always, scan the source before downloading.

  7. Will Young Come On

    This video is for the under-dogs among us. Our lineage may be lacking but our hearts are open and full.

  8. Buy on: Amazon

  9. Patrick Stump Spotlight

    In short: Whatever you do that makes you you, do it with passion, enthusiasm and to the very best of your ability. And never, ever let anyone tell you you can't.

  10. Buy on: Google Play | iTunes | Amazon

    (And here's the story behind the tripawd dog in the video.)

  11. American Authors Best Day of My Life

    My absolute favorite video right now. Fun with a goose-bump-inducing twist at the end.

  12. Buy on: Google Play | iTunes | Amazon

So, how'd I do? Did I hit on any of your favorites? Have one I missed? I'm always open to new music so let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations. Thanks!