Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bruschi's letter to Santa- 2006

This evening, while re-organizing some files on my laptop, I came across Bruschi's letter to Santa that he/I wrote in 2006, his first Christmas. It had our friends and family in absolute laughter, and I thought I should post it on this blog.

It reminds me of just how, um, lets just a say "eventful" puppyhood was for us.

The 2007 letter is just as good, but that will come later this month.

Dear Santa,

I want pizzles. That is all I want for Christmas. I don’t want bandanas, or red socks, or pens that I can chew, or purses, shoes, coats, gloves, glasses, leashes, tissues, rugs, toe nail clippers, or ear washes. Just pizzles. This crazy lady who makes me do tricks told me that if I want something, I have to be good and ask some Santa for it.

I know, I have not been a good boy this year, but I am cute. And, cuteness should count for something. After all, the mischief that I caused gave the crazy man and lady LOTS to tell their friends about, and the stories are entertaining. I hear they get lots of mileage out of that diamond-earring-in-the-digestive-track story. Not my fault that it ended up in my mouth when I was cleaning the crazy lady’s ears. Those ears needed a cleaning! No one appreciated it when I learned to jump over the curiously shaped wall that kept me out of upstairs. They just didn’t understand how much I wanted to get into doggie paradise. I know people think that all those holes in the ground that I dug so carefully are a bad thing, but this will save those people time when they want to plant flowers. And, I guess you could say I really wasn’t supposed to uproot those hydrangea saplings. It just looked like fun at the time.

Oh, and there are some good things that I have done this year. Like, on Thanksgiving, I watched the “gobble gobble” to make sure no one would steal it. I also have alarm clock duties. Every morning, I gotta howl and whine to wake up those sleepyheads. No snooze button on me!! And, every night, before retiring to my box, I give lots of kisses. I also help the big man take naps. He does not snore when I sleep on him. Oh, one other thing, when the crazy lady needs to be entertained, I help with that. I let her play “roll the Puggle” around on the floor. She’s trying to train me not to steal food or possessions—I hear “good boy” a lot, so I guess I am making progress.

So, pizzles all for me. I really like them. And, they keep me out of trouble. In fact, I am willing to barter an evening of schenanigans for one pizzle. You can get them on the Internet… they are called PIZZLES. I hear they are made from bull weenies, but taste goooood to me!

Love, Bruschi (love you even more if you get me pizzles)

P.S.- We’ve never met before, so when you come down the chimney, look for the cute puppy with wrinkles and floppy ears. See picture below.

P.S.P.S. I look sad I this picture because I have no pizzles.

Bruschi at 8 or 9 months old. He was pretty tubby then, until we got him on a better diet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today, Brian and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary. Three years and one day ago today, we both first learned of the Puggle. Now, Bruschi is camped out on my lap, while Kodi is sleeping in sync on Brian's.

I always intended to have a dog, and Brian proudly proclaimed that "Learch men are dog people." The bigger question for us was which breed. I love Labs and Beagles. Brian wanted a Pug. We both have deep feelings for Corgi's but were intimidated by shedding. Undecided, Brian staved off my relentless demands for a puppy-- promising we would revisit after the honeymoon.

The day before we got married, we were in separate states, both watching the Today Show featuring Puggles. Like many Americans, we fell in love, and our next phone call wasn't about floral mishaps, missing pianists, disappearing aisle runners, or bad manicures... it was how we just saw the cutest dog that would be the perfect addition to our lives. The Puggle was to be our wedding gift.

I thought of this today when I got an email from the rescue we volunteer with, letting volunteers know that a hound mama and her 7 little four week old pups were found alone in the woods of Virginia.

Three years ago, we didn't consider a rescue pup, largely, because we didn't have the faintest idea that such a thing as rescue puppies existed. We thought that only older dogs were abandoned, and we really wanted a puppy. In our minds-- who on earth abandons a mama dog with little ones? Well, three years later, we learned this happens as frequently as Bruschi steals food off our plate.

If you couldn't tell by now, we love our breeder-bred designer dog from nose to tail, and have no regrets about how we came to have him in our lives. We just didn't know what we do now about rescue. And perhaps, it was Bruschi who brought us to be exposed to others with rescue dogs.
Brian and I still say things like "what human abandons a dog?," but now we know just how much of a reality it is. And, having seen some of those pups grow, we know just how special a rescue puppy is, just how much joy they bring, and just how wonderful a life they can lead.

I did pause for more than a minute to think about bringing the litter home to foster, as an anniversary present for Brian, but then figured I'd save Husband of the Year material until our five year :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"The Final Season" Branding Masterpiece

Question: Why did the Yankees Cross the Road?
Answer: To get to the new Stadium

Last Sunday, friends of mine and I made the 4+ hour trek north from DC to pay one last homage to the old Yankee stadium. While the team had yet to be mathematically eliminated from playoffs, we knew that even a resurrection of the Babe (may he rest in peace) would not be enough to ensure even a wild card pass into October. This was to be the last game--ever-- in Yankee Stadium, closing a season where every fan was reminded, every day, that 2008 was the last season-- ever-- of Yankee Stadium.

Admittedly, I was "fan-lite" this past season, missing most games in our Sunday ticket pack, and only sporatically tuning in to the NY Post Sports Section. But this game, this excited me, and by the 3rd inning, my mind was already to how I would blog about it. I know this is a dog-focused blog, but hopefully my handfuls of readers will indulge me in this off-topic post.

In true Yankee fashion, the team went out with pomp and circumstance (including a crazy fan that charged the field), and all the attention of major news media that the winningest team in all of sports has enjoyed since the stadium opened. And remember, the team is only moving across the street-- to a state of the art, amazingly fabulous stadium.

In my opinion, The Final Season was a marketing masterpiece on many, many levels. The Yankee enterprise so successfully branded The Final Season that it took on a personality and meaning all its own. It might as well have been another player on the team... with its own authentic pinstripe jersey.

To best illustrate this genius is the stark contrast with the other NY team (Mets, for those of you grasping for the name), who is also getting a new stadium in 2009, and had a winning-er record vs. the Yanks (until their second epic collapse, not to be confused with the 2007 implosion). What was the last thing you heard about the up and coming Citi Park in Flushing, Queens? Remember, they too are also moving across the street.

The Yankees successfully dominated the news media with references to nostalgia and records, championships and family commaraderie. They successfully convinced fans to pony up the cash and credit to buy new merchandise, that looked just like the old merchandise, only with a "Final Season" patch (guilty as charged in case you were wondering). They successfully convinced 400 million fans to watch the floundering team that had fired their beloved manager, and hadn't been such a long shot for the playoffs since the late 60's. They successfully convinced boatloads of fans to to arrive at the Stadium doors 7 hours prior to the first pitch of the last game, only to sit in stadium seating and watch the equivalent of Yes Network b-roll on the tiniest jumbo-tron in the Majors. And, remember, they were ONLY moving across the street.

Honest to goodness, I firmly believe the White House could have moved across the street with less media attention than this. At least 6 minutes of 1010 WINS "22 minutes, we give you the world" was about The Final Season that Sunday!

Not that it needed any help, but the Yankee enterprise appropriately coined Yankee stadium a "cathedral," structurally crumbling it may be, of Baseball. The opening ceremonies started with additional reminders of it being the last game ever, and closing a legend, yada yada... but no worries, by the 7th inning, fans were re-assured that the team was not deserting them, that these memories would not end...because the team was ONLY moving across the street.

Perhaps my favorite memory of Yankee Stadium will be my young nephew standing outside, telling me he was upset that the "House that Ruth Built" will be going away, and wondering just who will literally be "building" the new house. After assuring him that it would not be A-Rod out there swinging a shovel and leveling dirt, he still seemed less than convinced that leaving a "cathedral" as steeped in memories and history would be a good thing, despite the fact that parts of the upper deck were known to fall down. And, I probably failed to assure him that the team was only moving across the street. They were not deserting him, they were not going to cease playing the game, or stop making records.

But my nephew's attitude was identical to the vibe running rampant through the rows and sections of the Stadium last Sunday night. Why were they leaving the place where Ruth, Lou, Mickey, Joe and Yogi and caught, hit and threw their way into baseball history?

I left the stadium that night concluding that the player named "The Final Season's" biggest contribution to baseball was easing the fan's pain associated with giving up the place where so many legends were made, so many memories had, and so, so many championships won. But, next year, the team will be right across the street, so start spreading the news...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mookie, our new foster pup

Brian and my fifth foster arrived yesterday. Mookie, a two year old small Pug will be with us until we can find him a forever home. He has an eye condition that will probably require surgery, and we will learn more about what that entails later this week.

In the meantime, he is showing us just how pug-like Bruschi is. So much of what he does reminds us of Bruschi when he was a younger pup.

Just an hour ago, he hopped up onto Brian's lap, assuming Bruschi's standard sleeping position (cradled on leg, head on thigh), and began to snore. I would photo it, only that Bruschi is in the same position, on my lap, under my laptop computer.
That's a 'wuff' for now!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reason #3 Why I love Puggles: Unity

Anyone who gives presentations to groups of people knows that capturing the audience's attention, getting their mind off what happened in their day before they walked through the conference room door, and creating interest and excitement in the topic is crucial to success-- and so much of that is determined in the initial moments of the presentation. We all look for that collective "chill" of the group, so that their brains are positioned to accept the information we are about to share.

Well, I have a secret weapon in the conference room. And it is.... wait for it...... The Puggle.

I happened to realize this untapped power of the Puggle recently, in a serendipitious way, during a presentation where the attendees all walked in, very, very stressed, and anxiety-ridden. What had wound their nerves back at their desk had not been forgotten, and any anxiety over our topic was staring them in the face.

Within a minute of entering the room, what also was staring them in the face was my computer wall-paper image of Bruschi (shown above) projected onto a large screen. A simple glance at that perfectly cute little wrinkly forehead elicited a collective "awwwww" across the room. Tensions were released, and conversation quickly turned from "did you get that email" to "oh, what kind of dog is that?" "How old is he?" "Did you take that photo?" "My goodness that is the perfect photo."

I now had the attention, and interest of everyone in the room, from the CEO who had to make decisions to the intern taking notes. I was ready to move forward. The picture of the Puggle did in less than 10 seconds what no average human could do in 20 minutes, if at all.

Was Bruschi really was the catalyst for what ended up being a ridiculously successful meeting. I do believe that his image provided the group with a "brain break" of sorts, along with creating a common ground-- everyone in the room was able to agree on something-- that this dog was cute. The dog created a sense or sort of unity of opinion among those around the table that was lacking at the start.

A while ago, I started working images and references to my dogs into presentations, either as clip-art, or to illustrate a point, or simply as an ice-breaker. More recently, I set my wallpaper to this image of Bruschi that I took one morning. He was sitting in a sun spot, I was running late for work, searching for my favorite Charles David shoe. The shoe could not be found, but the camera was sitting on the ironing board. It made me smile in the morning when I booted up, even more than my previous image of Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Oceans 11.

What was so great about the wallpaper doing the work for me, vs. a slide in the presentation, is that I had the room's attention before that first slide ever appeared. They now were excited about the deck, and approaching the material with true interest-- because they had the opportunity to forget the baggage that followed them in to the meeting.

I could talk tons about the emotional and psychological effects that all pets have on humans, the endorphines that their images can stimulate, and studies that show simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure (and conversely, how a puggle stealing a sandwich can make it rise to new heights)... but....

...That's a 'wuff' for now!

(former wallpaper)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kicking the week off with kittens!

Earlier today, my friend and I photographed some ridiculously cute 6 week old kittens that were recently rescued. These five little fluff balls had the most beautiful eyes, and the teeniest, tinyest paws, each smaller than the palm of my hand.

A foster mom will raise them in her home until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered, and adopted.

I know nothing about cats or kittens, except that they look cute, and Kodi would probably try to eat one if allowed. Well, maybe just nibble.

Below are a few photos of some of the cuties.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kodi Eye-- New Success!

Every few months, Kodi visits the Veterinary Eye Doctor so that her left eye can be evaluated and we can stay on top of what treatments she needs. In addition, she sees a Chiropractor regularly and she gets regular doses of eye medicines. (eye shown most prominently in photos is affected eye).

For those who don't recall, Kodi has some nerve damage that limits her eye's ability to produce tears, and, causes her to drool a bit when nervous (she can't swallow her saliva on one side of her mouth)

Yesterday we took her in for a routine exam and learned that her eye is producing close to DOUBLE the amount of tears it typically does. DOUBLE!! For a while, she was measuring a 3 to 4 on the 'tear duct scale' test (from 0-10). Yesterday, she got up to a 6. The more tears she produces, the less discomfort she is in, and the better equipped her eye is to fight infection.

And, last night, during a visit to the dog park, she not only interacted with others, BUT did not drool.

We are very fortunate that Kodi has an amazing team of doctors helping her out. And, what I love even MORE is that the vets she sees believe that the chiropractic care she receives helps keep her healthy.... hmm... perhaps human MDs can take a lesson from the animal community.

That's a 'wuff' for now!


Check out past blog posts on Chiropractic care, and history on Kodi's eye condition.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why I hate retractable leashes

Earlier this evening, Brian and i were walking our dogs on the sidewalk of a usually busy, four lane road (George Mason Drive for those NOVAns). About a half block ahead, a woman walks out with two medium to large dogs taking up the sidewalk, so we quickly move into the curb, about a car width away, and start talking to our dogs to keep their attention. There weren't any cars coming behind us, and if it wasn't a four lane road, we would have just crossed.

Of course, when within lunge distance, this woman's dogs who were both on unlocked retractable leashes, go nuts... And because the leashes are unlocked, allowing the cord to extend seemingly endlessly, the woman can not control her dog from dashing out into the street to jump on Bruschi. And because the handles are so thick, she drops one, which enables the other dog to lunge over to Kodi and near pounce on her, had Brian not done some quick thinking and pulled her mid-air then scoop her up (she wears a harness, so no stress on her neck).

And, because I was crazy annoyed at both my dogs getting pummeled on a walk, I yell "You need to lock your leashes with your dogs, or they are going to hurt someone, or get hurt," And she yells back "I can't seem to control them, they keep pulling from me." You don't say?!

The very concept of using a leash is that it keeps your dog with you.... not away from you. A retractable leash allows a dog to take liberties on a walk that some just should not have. Like, in this case, these dogs clearly were not calm when others were passing by, and the woman could not reel them in. A regular leash, she could have just pulled up on, stepped on, or simply not dropped.

I'm sure this woman really loves her dogs-- but fails to realize that her dogs could run into traffic, getting hit by a car if not careful. Or, bitten by another dog it charged.

I have plenty of friends who use retractable leashes responsibly, with dogs who don't run in to traffic, and with dogs who do not lunge at people or other dogs.

I know they are popular, but these leashes generally do not make life easier, if anything, they require an owner to think about one more thing on walks. What if your finger hits the little button, releasing the lock and the cord, and the dog has free reign in to trouble? What if YOUR dog passes another whose owner can't control the leash or the dog?

I don't know about you, but between, keeping my dogs' attention away from squirrels, watching for signs of poop, and stopping every other tree to pee, I've got enough to think about.

That's a 'wuff' for now!


Friday, August 22, 2008

Reason #2: Expressions

Reason #2 Why I Love Puggles: Their Expressions

All dogs express emotion, but I have to say I believe Puggles have among the most expression-rich faces of all dogs. The wrinkly face, the defined eye-brows, the wide-topped ears, and the cute little round-snout nose are true enablers when a dog tries to show happiness, frustration, mischief, sadness, remorse, fatigue, and excitement....and then there's the tail!

The Puggle's display of expression is just one other tool they have in their box of tricks for wiggling their way into human hearts.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why I Love Puggles...

There has to be an endless (or at least an enourmously high) number of reasons that I love Puggles... besides the basic fact that they are dogs, and they are cute. And I can't write them all in one day, much less one night-- but over the next month, check back regularly for the latest on "Why I Love Puggles."

Reason #1 Why I Love Puggles: The Snuggle Factor.

Puggles are snugglers. They don't just want to be near you, they want to be next to you, or on top of you, or somehow sandwiched between you. It is well known and documented that dogs do not like nor need hugs-- some will tolerate hugs from humans because they know we feed them. But Puggles tell you they want to snuggle, and will not be ignored.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday night fun for a Rat Terrier

It's Friday night-- about 11 pm. I just got home from an adoption event (Pinky needs another home-- any takers?). I sit down on the couch, and grab the laptop, which is Kodi's cue to come bounding from the other end of the room, onto my lap, and properly place my hand onto her head for a pet, and to continue petting, and not to stop petting... even though I am trying to type all about her on the blog.

This, is Friday night fun for a Rat Terrier. Curled up in the tighted little ball, next to a warm human, who is a sucker for petting pups. Don't even think of stopping, because a guilt-ridden nudge will get you back to stroking her silky soft coat.

(Note: it is taking double the amount of time to type this, since one hand must be on Kodi-head at all times... or else).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Foster Family Birthday Party Reunion

Close to a year ago, Brian and I took our first venture into dog fostering, volunteering to help one of the area rescue organizations with an influx of puppies from West Virginia. This was the complete reverse of pre-meditated... I got an email asking for help, called Brian and a few days later, we had two little 10 week old coonhound/lab puppies that just oozed cuteness.

Both found great homes, continued to grow and develop into two beautifully handsome dogs. The two had not seen each other since late September, but met up today for a little reunion. We weren't sure how the two would behave, and I think it is safe to say that all six adults were speechless when they almost immediately started to play... like brothers, like when they were puppies...completely inseparable. Brian and I were perhaps the most stunned, because we remember well just how much of a pair these two were, and to see them doing the same thing, only 30-40 pounds larger, was a happily emotional sight.

Casey had always been the smaller of the two, and a bit of a clown. Beetle (now Sam) was and still is the larger, and was somewhat protective of his brother. They both loved to play tug, to run and to chase, to roll each other over, and to lay ontop of one another. I remember one instance where Casey dragged his brother across the kitchen floor--- by the ear!

Both dogs were very malnourished when they came to us, and were so young and impressionable. To look at them now, with their beautifully shiny coats, and sleak body figures, it is hard to remember that they were just skin and bones at 10 weeks, and that their future was grim before they were rescued from the shelter in West Virginia. And, to see how important they are to their families is just completely moving.

I don't know if these dogs actually remembered that they spent the first 13 weeks of their life together, but dogs do smile, and these two wore grins from ear to ear for two straight hours.

We didn't know what to expect when we started fostering, and I don't think we could have scripted it any better than how it actually turned out.

That's a 'wuff' for now!

Top- Then: (Photo 1: first few hours after getting them, Photo 2: 1 weeks later, Photo 2: 2 weeks later

Bottom- Now (today)

Happy Homecoming Pinky!

Brian and my fifth foster found a home today. We had been helping out Pinky the Puppy for about two months, getting her socialized and building her confidence. Her momma came to the rescue organization with 9 puppies in her belly, and the training center where I apprentice birthed the pups.

Pinky was a little bitty fluffball when she was born, but in her first four months, grew to be close to 30 pounds of energy!

She is a beautiful dog, a great pet, and will become a fabulous companion for her new family.

We were truly lucky to have been able to have her in our home for the past two months (and she didn't even chew any furniture!)

That's a 'wuff' for now!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My favorite leash...

...Is a hemp corduroy leash by The Good Dog Company out of Colorado.

I picked up this leash about six months ago, out of frustration with other novelty leashes (the nylon or canvas kind with ribbon sewn on) cutting and digging in to my hands. And, with those other leashes getting completely dirty... quickly. It wasn't cheap, but I felt it was worth a try.

The hemp leash is soft, but durable, washable, and wears well. You can fold it up in your hands to limit the dog's movement, mush it in a pocket when going off-leash, and throw it in the wash machine when it gets too dirty. I found that the lead was a little long for my liking, and had my mom cut it, making a collar out of the part that was removed.

Good control is super important for me. Leashes that are difficult to hold or harsh on the skin limit my ability to properly handle my dog. Style is also important for my pups. I like color coordinated leashes and collars that always look new, and of course-are seasonal. The pups might not be able to tell the difference, but I sure can! Did I mention that the hemp leads come in a whole variety of colors?

I try not to advocate for one company over another on this blog, but I just really think this product is a great solution to those others out there looking for more control and less hand-pain... especially if your dog pulls! Anyone who has gotten a leash burn knows what I am talking about.

That's a 'wuff' for now!


Monday, June 23, 2008

Resource Guarding

(tiny paw)

I am learning all about Resource Guarding in dog school. "What," you ask "Is resource guarding?" Well, it is a behavior that some dogs exhibit when they are coveting a toy, bone, item or even person (hence: resource). The "guard" is against the other dog or human that is showing interest in the resource.

A dog that guards will get visibly "grumpy" when a dog or human gets close to a resource in his/her possession. That "grumpy" can include whale eye (keeping eyes on you, but moving head to the side), growling, lunging, holding on to the item and not letting go, and lots of other signals that a professional trainer (which I am not) is keen to detect.

Conditioning a dog out of resource guarding requires patience, and consistency. A dog needs to learn that letting go of the resource that he/she is guarding is a "good thing."

There is tons written on Resource Guarding including "Mine" by Jean Donaldson (link to book below), and it really is a remarkable topic to learn about.

After learning about it, I don't think this is limited to dogs... I actually think that my mom "resource guards" when it comes to her sewing tools, catalogs, or photos of Bruschi and Kodi. Only, I never called it 'resource guarding' I called it "hogging," as in "don't hog the Pottery Barn catalog." She pulls them away when someone reaches for it, turns her head, but not her eyes, and makes a "nahhhh" sound! And, my husband resource guards... the TV REMOTE CONTROL!!! In fact, when he does it this week, I am committed to saying "get your two paws off the remote, stop growling and let me watch Sex and the City reruns!!" My mom doesn't blog, so she won't learn from this, but my husband does...

That all might souned funny, but Resource Guarding isn't something to over look. I am super conscious of it now, and watching for signs that indicate that behavior... in dogs and in humans. Only, I don't think any clicking-and-treating is going to convince humans to surrender the coveted object....

That's a "wuff" for now!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Critter hunt?

Kodi is acting very, very different than normal... i think she may be hunting... in my house? Perhaps there is a mouse in house? hmmm.....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

For The Love of a Dog...

About nine months ago while browsing an airport bookstore before a cross-country flight, I grabbed a copy of Patricia McConnell's latest book "For The Love of a Dog" only, I grabbed it blindly, wanting to read something better than trashy romance, and easier than heavy novels.

This was months before I started my dog training apprenticeship, and before I knew that the author was such a revered member of the animal behavior community. I picked it up because it had a nice cover, a good title, and I missed my dog terribly on this one particular trip. I had also just started fostering, and was becomming more and more inquisitive about what makes dogs do what they do.

I fell in love with the book by about the second page, had tears-in-eyes at least once before the 5th and laughed about a dozen times in the first chapter. You can imagine the looks I was getting from other travelers. This book is about the emotions that dogs show, and here I was, exhibiting a host of my own.

The book's relevance to Brian and my life was so strong, that it compelled me to recommend it as a stocking stuffer in the first-ever edition of Puggles N Prose-- the Newsbite.

The author had such an entertaining and witty pen (or keyboard) that I was easily able to digest the otherwise complex subject matter she presented in each chapter. After reading, I just couldn't help but give a different type of thought to the emotions a dog was displaying. What really was driving Bruschi's emotional core when he barks at the window? What position was his tail in, was the hair on his back standing up, what about his eyes? I felt like I was a few steps closer to understanding my dog, and getting him to show the behavior I wanted (mind you, Bruschi ate cough drops on Friday-- he did not have a sore throat).

I misplaced the book it in one bag or another before finishing it, but found it again last week, threw it in my suitcase for this lastest trip, and promised myself I'd read the last 30 pages. This time, I was prepared with a "oh, its my allergies" to explain to the flight attendant why it 'looked' like I was crying. And, just like the book began, I was amazed down to the final page.

McConnell's chapters are filled with powerful examples, striking insights, and actual scientific studies to support her conclusions. The book is as much about human emotions and interaction as it is about dogs. In fact, the insights the author presented were ridiculously relevant to my workings as a focus group moderator (and support my theory that all college-level communication curriculums should include a dog behavior class to illustrate best practices in communication--that's a whole other blog post).

If I didn't have a stack of other books to start and finish, I'd be re-reading this one.

Below: My mutts, Bruschi and Kodi. Kodi is not happy about getting Bruschi kisses for the camera (he was mid-lick when this photo was taken). Notice how her legs are braced and head is pulling away.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Good Dog! Clean Dog!

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation is sponsoring this year's Dog Wash on June 8, 2008 at Bark'N Bubbles in Herndon, VA. Please come out, get your dog a bath, support the organization, and have some fun with the volunteers. Proceeds will help fund the organization's activities.

Date: June 8, 2008

Time: 11am to 3pm

Location: Bark'N Bubbles, 795 Center Street, #1A&B, Herndon, VA.

More information on The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation can be found at

Friday, May 23, 2008

Reflections on Bruschi's Puppyhood

(Image: Bruschi at 8 wks and one day old)

I love Bruschi. I honestly and truly love the dog, and wouldn't change anything about him if given the chance... but boy, was he a bad puppy!! Cute as can be, but so, so bad! I say this as I am sandwiched between Pinky, a little 8 week old hound/retriever mix that I am co-fostering on my left leg, and Bruschi, my two year old Puggle who just ate a whole stick of butter, wrapper and all, on my right.

Brian and I got Bruschi at 8 weeks old to the day... picking him up at Dulles Airport (IAD) at midnight, coming in from South Dakota...and our lives have not been the same since. We knew the puppyraising task ahead of us was no small endeavor, would require lots of time, and lots of new types of thinking. We read books, blogs, magazines, internet articles--anything we found. But no book prepared us for what we experienced (although many times we searched for the section on "what to do when your dog just won't release his grip on your purse)."

Bruschi excelled at house breaking, getting down the routine fairly quickly. He also excelled at whining, puppy piranhas (excessive mouthing) and eating possessions, including diamond earrings, hair brushes, cell phone ear pieces, shoes, purses, gum, credit cards, palm pilot cases, and anything else that his nose found. He was a thief, and proudly trounced around the house with our possessions in jaws, showing off his latest prize find. Oh, and did I mention the whining?

Having not had a puppy prior to Bruschi, I didn't know any different. I thought this is just the way it was with the younguns... until I started fostering. The first two foster pups, who will forever have a huge place in my heart as Beetle and Casey, were near-angelic compared to my memory of puppyhood. These little coonhound/lab mixes didn't like the crate at all and howled fiercely once in it, but were perfect gentlemen otherwise. Minimal whining, no stealing, no chewing, no mouthing, no tugging on the leash-- in short, star pupils. And, my latest little foster, who was part of a litter of nine birthed at the training center where I apprentice-- she's just a little peach! She's got some stress and anxiety to get over, but is rivaling Kodi for the "little princess" title right now.

Bruschi was, and continues to be a challenge, but it is just so rewarding to look at him and think about how far he has come, and how much closer to obedient he is with each day. He forces me to think differently about how I communicate, how I measure success, and how I determine what is important in life.

Neither Brian nor I ever thought of giving up on Bruschi, no matter how many time-outs he wracked up in an hour... but we do see people regularly who do give up on their pup, perhaps before really taking a good look at themselves and saying "what can i do to better communicate with my dog." It is both hard and humbling to say "I can not control my puppy, please help," and then being able to listen and implement new methods... but so, so rewarding for an owner and a dog.

The element of unpredictability in what type of puppy yours will be is perhaps both the biggest fear and the greatest excitement. I constantly remind myself to view each new puppy and dog as an individual--there is no one-size-fits-all method for raising a puppy (even though there are some sure-fire ways to train a dog). More shy dogs need different types of stimuli to bring them out of their shell-- more assertive dogs need a certain level and intensity of training. I've also learned that a puppy's love and affection is enough to compensate for all that a human is required to do to maintain that dog.

(Image: Bruschi at 8 weeks and 1 day old)

(Image: Bruschi at 2 yrs and 1 month old)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


With faces this cute, who needs text?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Kodi!

We declared May 14/15 as Kodi's birthday. Why the 14/15 or May? Well, since we don't know when she was actually born, Brian decided that her special day should also honor the late, great, Mr. Frank Sinatra. She'll sport a Martini-collar to celebrate the occasion!

Since I was under the assumption that the birthday was May 15 due to coastal time differences of when Mr. Sinatra passed.... she actually gets a birthday that spans two days!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kodi Goes to the Chiropractor

As indicated in earlier posts, I believe that Chiropractic treatment can ease many of the ills I experience, that are often instead treated with medication. Allergies, asthma attacks, migrates, swollen glands-- these are all afflictions to which I've turned to chiropractic treatment for relief, and found just that.

I began considering veterinary acupuncture as a possible method for stimulating Kodi's tear duct about a month ago, and have been inquiring with trustworthy sources about the viability of the option. It didn't occur to me that I should have her little spine checked- perhaps a subluxation (out of alignment) was causing or adding to the nerve complications that prevent her tear duct from making tears. But last Friday it did, and Kodi had her first mini-neck adjustment. We don't know that this is a solution, or if continued alignment will even bring about any marginal improvement, but it is worth exploring that option and others, to make sure we are doing all we can for our Rat Terrier.

Kodi still receives several eye drops a day including an antibiotic and light steroid and that will continue until the eye specialist decides to change the routine. We also give her regular doses of calming elixer. This milky syrup helps take the edge off of her nervous tension so she shakes and drools less, and so she is more equipped to handle new environments.

The warming weather has really brought out the athlete in Kodi. She is swift and graceful in her back yard sweeps and patrols. Oh, and our living room furniture brings out the monkey in her, as she jumps from sofa to sofa, to window ledge effortlessly to watch visitors coming to the door.

Thats a 'wuff' for now!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Raw Diet

Bruschi and Kodi both dine on a raw diet as their primary, twice daily food source. Raw food is meat based, protein rich, and fresh or frozen. Chicken, duck, quail, beef, bison, turkey, and rabbit are all among the available varieties. In additon to the meat, these varieties include animal parts that humans might find revolting, but dogs need to aid digestion and overall healthful-ness. In comparison, kibble or dry food is usually grain based, although some is vegetable or potato based.

We purchase the raw diet from a retailer (our local daycare/training center) where it is sold in 1 or 2 pound tubes. We slice it into the proper proportions, then defrost what we need for the day. It looks a lot like those tubes of ground beef you see in grocery stores. Since the food is perishable, we keep it frozen until use. It costs about $1.50 a day for us to feed Kodi and Bruschi this diet, and we purchase the food in quantities that get us through 3-4 weeks at a time.

Brian and I arrived at feeding the raw diet after about a 6 month struggle with Bruschi, allergies and kibble/dried food. Like many, I did a fair amount of reading and research on dog foods prior to selecting a food for Bruschi. I read about the raw diet, but initally found it just too rogue for me. Others I came in to acquaintance with told me how much they liked it, and what it did for their dogs, and I sort of stored that information in a back-brain cache-- in case Bruschi ever showed issues with food.

Well, Bruschi was showing issues with food, although we didn't immediately make the connection. He was dining on high-quality brands with lower levels of filler, higher portions of meat, and limited or no grains. The daily quantities were appropriate, and the dog was getting plenty of exercise. His coat was of good texture and shine, however he had severe gas, crazy energy levels, and, vomited frequently. Bruschi was also overweight at 29.8 pounds (he is now 23 pounds).

Our vet assured us that this was part of puppyhood, and nothing to be concerned of. In December 2006 I switched to a different, even higher-quality food that was vegetable based. Almost immediately, Bruschi developed little bumps on his head that he would itch until they bled. We applied some lotion, they went away, and more appeared. We pointed it out to the vet, who said it was probably an allergy, but not a food allergy, and not to switch food. Instead, we were to give Bruschi a combination of antibiotics and an antihistamine. Mind you-- I take neither of these myself out of principle, but accepted the prescription for Bruschi because clearly something was wrong...

Well, the medicines didn't work, although the antihistamine did leave us with one very sleeply puppy. Still stumped, I started to think maybe it was the flea and tick medicine. Because, clearly I was feeding him the best kibble food, right?

My tipping point was one weekend in April (11 months ago now), when Bruschi licked his itching paws so bad that he couldn't walk on one of his legs. He was rushed to a different vet who prescribed another combination of drugs, and said his current diet was not the problem. Needless to say, I wasn't convinced. For the past 5 months, I had been wracking my brain looking for cause and effect, and couldn't shake this feeling that all this had started back in December with the new kibble food.

I made some calls to feed stores and trainers, asking their opinion, recognizing that they had been around dogs a whole lot longer than I. On information gathered, and the hypothesis that perhaps it was the type of vegetable base in the food that was irritating his skin, Bruschi was on a new, different duck and potato-based kibble immediately to tie us over until Brian and I could start Bruschi on a raw diet. We were headed out on a vacation a week or so later, and I didn't feel comfortable asking my parents to administer something so new. Bruschi's symptons did subside with the duck and potato kibble, but some skin allergies remained.

Before making the switch, I did additional secondary research, but it was my trainer that ultimately complimented what I had learned with her experiences with raw food and dogs and allergies, telling me how she arrived at feeding raw. She also told me it can reduce the need for dental care, and, the dogs can live longer.

Within 2-3 weeks of starting the raw diet, Bruschi's skin bumps disappeared, his paws weren't as red or inflamed, his bowel movements were reduced, and his stools were teeny tiny. Within a month, Bruschi lost weight, his coat was ridiculously super soft and shiny, and his energy was more level over the course of a day. Now, 11 months later, Bruschi has amazing muscle tone, quite a handsome coat, he doesn't shed as much as he did (although that could be because he is a pup), and he hasn't been to the vet save for a rabies shot and due to a random cow-hoof eating incident. There are no signs of allergies, and he rarely vomits due to food intake. Kodi also sports a high-class fur and good, level energy.

When I was a kid, my pediatrician told my mom that she needed to take me for allergy shots, because I had been so sick from allergies. Nothing about that made sense to my mom, and she decided to exaust every other option before turning me in to a pin cushion. She found that a combination of chiropractic care and vitamins provided me the relief I needed from the sneezing, wheezing, sleeplessness, and itchy-watery eyes. Of course, this was in the early 1980's, and she received a fair amount of criticism and scoffs from other parents and doctors. But, her daughter did not need excessive medicines and needles to get through the day.

I feel the same way about Bruschi and raw food. Some vets cringe at our food choice, and I am sure other pets owners feel we are a little ridiculous, and clearly, raw food is not mainstream-- but our dogs are incredibly healthy, and Bruschi has no need for medicine. We had to look for alternative options, because the connection between the food and his allergies was just too strong to ignore. Whether it was the kibble base, or the way the food was processed, I don't know... but I can not deny this massive difference in Bruschi since the switch. We clearly found Bruschi's relief from allergic reactions, uncomfortableness and ineffective meds in raw food.

Friday, March 14, 2008

You are BANANAS!!

Does this look like the face of someone who just ate a banana peel?


Sunday, March 9, 2008

SWEET Potatoes!

One of the best side dishes I can think of are sweet potatoes-- Baked, roasted, mashed, fried, scalloped, and, if you are a dog, even dehydrated! This tasty vegetable is so versatile, so easy, and so healthy that it certainly deserves a highlight this March. I've long loved the sweet potato, and when I learned of its canine appeal, I immediately worked it into the dogs' regular diet.

Many of the sweet potato dishes I typically prepare include a delicious blend of roasted garlic, onions, or olive oil. While I'd happily share them with others, I wanted to offer up a recipe with fully dog-safe ingredients for this post. Garlic and onions are big doggie no-no's because they wreck havoc on the GI tract.

So to my Kitchen-Aid I went, and put together a recipe that omits the standard, heavier, non-dog approved ingredients, in favor of lighter, more healthy options. I found that chicken broth, honey, low-fat yogurt and pumpkin pie spices blend quite well with the soft sweet potato flavor, and most of the ingredients are kitchen staples, making the preparation realistic without excessive shopping.

Whenever preparing sweet potatoes, I always cut off a slice or two for the pups. This evening, as I was experimenting with this recipe, they both ate some of the potato skin, and were looking for more. I started sharing sweet potatoes with the dogs about a year ago, when I found a doggie treat company retailing dehydrated sweet potatoes. Bruschi and I both loved them. He got a treat that he could knaw and chew on for a while, and I found a product that I could feel good about giving him. And, as an added bonus, they didn't leave behind any messy residue on the furniture, or have an unpleasant odor, like some long-lasting chews. My mom recently purchased a food dehydrator and regularly supplies Bruschi and Kodi with volumes of dried sweet potatoes. Bruschi now treats these as potato chips, eating them in just one crunch, and putting his paw back in the bag for more.

Brian and I do not serve our dogs table scraps or left-overs, nor do we give them a portion of the meals that we eat, but I sure do enjoy sharing some of the ingredients during the preparation phase with them when they keep me company in the kitchen (and, i am sure that is why they keep me company in the kitchen).

Creamy Spiced Sweet Potatoes
Three to four sweet potatoes (Three large, or two large and two small)
1/2 cup, chicken broth
1/2 cup, low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup, honey (I used tupelo honey)
1/4 tsp, sea salt
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend


Microwave sweet potatoes until soft, then spoon out potato into a bowl

Add chicken broth and yogurt and mix together, or blend. Adjust amount to achieve your desired consistency (chunky to smooth)

Add honey and continue to mix. Adjust amount to achieve your desired sweetness.

Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. of sea salt into mixture, and mix again

Sprinkle any mixture of cinnamon, cumin, ginger and nutmeg. I used about 1/2 tbsp of these ingredients, along with a shake of a pumpkin pie spice blend.

Mix together well, and taste. Adjust any ingredient to get your desired flavor

Place in microwavable container and heat when ready to eat.

If the batch made more than you can eat in one or two sittings, consider freezing a container.

Sweets as Doggie Treats:
-If a dehydrator is available, slice and dehydrate large sweet potatoes
-Without a dehydrator, slice up a potato and slow-bake in a metal pan at 100 degrees for several hours, until mostly dried. Let cool, and store in an air-tight container.
-Mash and add as dinner supplement

Enjoy! And please post your experience trying this recipe. I'd love to hear how you improved upon it!

That's a 'wuff' for now.

What to do on a rainy day...

1- Buy stylish rain coat for Spring
2- Take a walk
3- Pose for picture in new rain coat.
4- Dry off and take a nap

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Aye, Eye, Kodi!!

Kodi's eye is fairing really, really well! She's had a few follow-up appointments with the eye specialist (Dr. Kelly Corcoran of Vet Vision in Fairfax, VA, who is simply wonderful), and right now, we believe her eye issue can be managed with medicine and a light, light steriod (we call it "the clear" for fun).

One of Kodi's eyes does not produce tears, due to an injury to a tear duct. The tear duct will not repair itself, so the situation will not improve. Instead, we give Kodi a combination of lubricating medicines each day to keep the eye moist, and to prevent any ulcers from forming. If the situation worsens, or if Kodi starts to experience excessive pain, surgeons can perform a Parotid Duct Transplant where the olifactory gland is re-routed to the eye, using saliva to hydrate instead of tears. This actually used to be performed in humans as well, years and years ago.

Kodi is tolerant of eye drops, especially since she usually gets a VERY special treat after each application. And, we can totally see the difference the medicine makes. Her eye is open for most of the day, and so bright and pretty. The camera flash still irritates her, so she looks squinty in the photo.

That's a 'wuff' for now!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March Munchies: Homemade Granola and Dried Cranberry Treat for Dogs

This blog isn't just about Kodi and Bruschi, although either of their personalities would fill at least two on their own. This month (March), I want to spend time on less common recipies, edible creations, and food options that are intended for humans, but safe for pets. I certainly do not condone giving dogs "people meals," and work hard to prevent my two from eating even a morsel of a people meal, however there are many ingredients that are a fine snack substitute for fido, especially certain fruits, grains and nuts.

The first March recipe share is Homemade Granola. I made it last weekend, and it is super simple, and ridiculously tasty. And, it produces a large quantity-- enough for sharing with two or three other friends or neighbors. It makes a very hearty breakfast, great snack, and, if used as a topping, you can totally justify a serving of icecream for dessert :) Added bonus-- all of the ingredients are pet-safe.

I read this recipe in the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light, and when making the granola for the first time, I followed the specifications almost fully. But, the recipe lends itself to countless other combinations of flavor, fruit, nuts and grains. I did add a little extra liquid, and for those who like clumpier granola, i'd recommend upping the liquid content, especially the honey. Oh, and i used cashews instead of almonds (because I didn't have any on-hand).

This recipe includes dried cranberries-- one of the fruits I love to give to Bruschi and Kodi. They are a really good vitamin source, good for their renal and digestive system, and the perfect sized-treat. The recipe also includes nuts, and from time to time, I share my handful of pecans the dogs, provided they sit, shake, or otherwise do something cute. In fact, Bruschi and Kodi both tasted a few granola clumps, licked their lips and came back for more. Remember though, dogs should never, ever have grapes or raisins, and should have nothing with excessive sugar. Honey is an ingredient that is used in many home-made dog cookies.

Take a look and consider trying out the granola recipe. If you give it a whirl, please share your approach and what you thought on the blog. And, try giving your dogs some cranberries, or a few nuts as a healthy snack!

6 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Cooking spray
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 300°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add syrup, honey, juice, and almond extract; toss well. Spread mixture evenly onto a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 300° for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in cranberries and apricots. Cool completely. Store in a zip-top plastic bag.

Yield 10 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 384(20% from fat); FAT 8.4g (sat 1.1g,mono 3.7g,poly 2.5g); PROTEIN 9.8g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 57mg; SODIUM 52mg; FIBER 7.8g; IRON 3.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 68.1g

Thats a 'wuff' for now! Check back next week for a posting on sweet potatoes!!!

Disclaimer: I am certainly not a veterinarian or any type of pet-health professional. If the suggestions in any part of this blog are counter to what your vet recommends, or do not match your feeding routine/regimine/philosophy for your dog, then please ignore.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"I've Finally Grown In To My Ears!!"

Happy Birthday Bruschi... well, happy birthday + 1 week. Bruschi turned 2 on February 22 (last Friday), and of course, celebrated properly with a full day at "camp," lots of fun treats, and gifts to tear apart.

Brian and I celebrated surviving nearly two years of puppiness. The first photo of Bruschi was taken only hours after he was born, and he was just a teeny tiny brown wiggly loaf. We were in love, of course, immediately, and anxiously awaited every photo the breeder sent. And, when we picked him up at the airport 8 weeks later, we melted at the sight of his itty bitty snout. At 4 pounds, 7 ounces, Bruschi was all ears and nose.

The little guy came out of the cage nose to the ground, sniffing away, each ear nearly twice the size of his head. While he has finally grown in to his ears, he has not stopped sniffing.

With that nose, Bruschi is an eating machine!!! He can sniff out the littlest crumb under the biggest blanket, and we have yet to find a food he'd refuse.

We've become quite creative in Bruschi food, to keep his skin allergies and weight under control, and to reward him appropriately for good behavior. To celebrate that, March is "My Goodness, is that a Treat?" month. Check back at the blog throughout March to read about fun, healthy, easy treats for humans and dogs!!

That's a wuff for now!