Archive for October, 2009

The Art of Racing In The Rain, a novel

The Art of Racing In The RainI have been reading and rereading a book that I didn’t think I’d like as much as I did.  It was given to me by a friend who read it and said somewhat the same thing.  It is a book that grew on me… after each reading I would think, “whatever” and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I kept coming back to it.  I stayed up and read it for 3 hours straight one night!!  And I reread it in it’s entirety after I finished it the first time. 


Who knows.  I liked the “voice” of the narrator.  It made me think of things in a new way.  It made me cry and cry about the dogs I have loved and miss terribly now that they are gone.  It gave me hope.  It was a good story.

So, for what it is worth, here is my recommendation: Read Garth Stein‘s The Art of Racing in the Rain

Dogs and birds can be a rough mix

You know the intent of the sentence, “what, you think it’s just going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap?” – it means you have to go out there and work for what you want in life.

Well, not always.

our dog HermesToday it was warm and sunny for the majority of the day – amazing! The dogs had been in the yard, running and wrestling and were now taking a rest on the warm patio, near the house. The sun was shining hard on the second story picture window and must have made it look just like an extension of the sky, from a bird’s perspective. I was mopping the floor, right on the other side of the lower level picture window when I heard a loud BANG! and thought, and saw, at the same instant, “bird.” It dropped like a stone, right in the middle of the dogs circle. They all leapt up, startled and leaned in to investigate. Hermes figured it out first – “a free lunch!” (another platitude proved false) and grabbed it and ran. I tried not to think about it. It was too late to do much anyway. When I rounded them up to go walk a few minutes later, they all came running to the door where I stood, all except Hermes. He was standing over a pile of gray and black feathers, and lowered his head as I approached. It was nearly gone and what was left looked like a high school biology lab dissection – neat and pared down and red. He gulped the remainder and I said out loud – “This is what it would look like if you ever got Frank Frank…except the feathers would be green” And I think I actually shuddered.

our parrot Franklin

Frank Frank

Later, that afternoon I was holding Frank Frank as Hermes laid by the piano and I became aware of his whining, quiet yet persistent. He was looking right at Frank Frank. I said, “LEAVE IT” and glared at him but it didn’t phase him. I truly believe he thinks I am an idiot, playing with my food. Eventually, he gave it up and went to sleep but I fear the damage is done – one slip on my part and bye bye Frankie…yikes.

Dog friendly cabins in Wisconsin

Juno‘s mom, the one who took that great picture of Juno touching noses with the deer, is willing to share other photos she has taken!  You can see them at her Picasa photo page.

Also, she wrote this about the place where she and Juno met the deer:

“If others would like to take their dogs up to the place with the deer, I’m more than happy to share that information.  It is a property in Wisconsin, near Princeton, on lots of acres with groomed trails.  Most importantly, it is a very dog-friendly place, and your dogs are welcome inside the cabins.  They also have outside kennels attached to all three cabins to use when the weather is nicer.  Our old dog loved it there, and so did Juno.  The owners are Chicago transplants, and they bring along their weimeraner pup (same age as Willow‘s litter) with them when they check on visitors.  Check out the Copper Pond Lodge in central Wisconsin! 

Isn’t that cool?  I checked out the website and it looks great.  We will likely make reservations for there for next summer.  Thanks Sandra!

Lesson learned on treating for ticks

Well, I am happy to report that I am not too old to learn a new lesson now and then. This particular lesson involves ticks. I was feeling superior to ticks, having not seen one attached to any of my dogs for years now. Regular use of Frontline Plus completely removed this pest from my life. So I decided to stop the Frontline Plus earlier than usual this year. It had been a cold summer and even though I had been told by many sources that it was a heavy flea and tick year, I had trouble believing it…I hadn’t seen any. We’d had a slight frost so I figured, season’s over, save a month of treatment this year. WELL, bad idea.

Frontline Plus at Amazon.comTwo days ago, I found a tick full of blood on Bella. I immediately treated my three dogs who roam outside on our 3 acres. But I didn’t treat Brandy….she is 15 and only goes out for walkies and to potty. Yesterday there was one on her. Mike pulled that one off and treated her. Then today I pulled 8 more ticks off of Bella, they had implanted themselves already, and two off Hermes. I’m afraid to check Lollie but I will. Yuck. The ones I got today seemed unwell, so the medicine is working. I’m sure we’ll be all clear again by next week but YUCK! I hate ticks.

Moral of this story: Don’t stop your flea and tick preventative until there is a HARD frost, and for myself, I’m waiting for two hard frosts – just to be sure!

Understanding a Foster Dog’s Past

Doing rescue work with abandoned dogs is difficult, but those of you who adopt these dogs are the real heroes. It is a long and painful process, acclimating and rehabilitating a dog that has been abandoned, mistreated, or just ignored most of their early life. I have often recieved concerned emails from the families who open their homes to the mama dogs we foster. Their concerns are about the dogs’ strange, unpredictable and odd elimination “rituals.” Other concerns involve the dogs’ fearfulness around children, men, new situations or being left alone. Many rescue dogs take a long time to “warm up” to certain members of their families. Other concerns involve the dog’s distructive behaviors – chewing up wood trim, carpets, chair and table legs, digging holes in drywall. And still other concerns involve aggression toward other dogs or new people.



All these “problem behaviors” are normal dog problems but in a rescue dog they will be weirder. This is difficult to explain, but the behaviors also include hints to what the dogs’ life must have been like prior to being rescued. Take elimination issues for example. In a normal dog, they will poop in the house most of the time near the door …showing they get that they aren’t supposed to potty in the house, but haven’t quite figured out the whole solution. A dog with a “history” will hide their poop in the house, or poop in your bed or pee in their bed, or act really weird about pooping on a leash. One of my recent fosters, Willow, had and still has a strange way of acting on leash as she is about to poop. She circles like crazy, nearly running back and forth and looks practically frantic as she is obviously trying to find a place to poop. She would nearly pull my arm out lunging about. My first impression of her was that she seemed very underinformed (a nice way of saying stupid) about the ways of the world – she didn’t even know how to walk down stairs or how to walk on tile floors! I figured that she must have been tied up on a short leash all her life. Given that, pooping was probably really stressful for her. She likely spent a long time trying to find a place to poop where she wouldn’t be stepping on it and of course probably failed as she was tied up on a short lead. I suspect that this may be the case because when she wasn’t on a leash she pooped more easily and with less running around. But who knows, really? Only she does. But think about it… what if she was tied up on a short leash ALL HER LIFE. What would that do to a dog? I try to imagine what that sort of deprivation, containment, and isolation might do to a dog as I try to help their new families address their behaviors.


sweet Bella

It is of course the same with all the problem behaviors that rescued dogs come with. Their problems “hint” at their history. Our rescue, Bella, came to us when she was about 2 and very pregnant. My story about her past was that she was driven off her property by being shot at and before that she was often teased by groups of kids who were around 10 years old. When she came to us she was scared of kids that age and would growl and snap at any kid that came up to her. She was deathly afraid of loud noises, especially gun shots (she would literally flatten herself out on the floor and run for it whenever she heard one). And we discovered a sad piece of her history one night when Mike came home from work. She had always loved Mike, right from the start. Every night he would greet her with his arms outstretched over his head, holding his lunch box and his gym bag and say in a loud voice, “Belly!” and she would squirm with delight and lay on her back at his feet begging for a tummy rub. We don’t usually get a newspaper but one day there was a free copy on the driveway so Mike picked it up on his way in. He entered the house and Bella came running to greet him. He spread his arms wide and said “Belly!” and she took one look at the newspaper in his hand and ran down stairs and hid under the couch. So, add being hit by a newspaper to our story of her history. This happened months after she had come to live with us.


Dogs and cold weather

belted-dogsSo, the weather is getting colder. Dogs, like us, can acclimate to the weather change and handle it well. Especially when walking. Leaving your dog tied up outside is another thing, and they would need the proper shelter in order to survive our cold Illinois winters. I, personally, don’t like the idea of leaving dogs outside, unsupervised, for a long time (or overnight especially! BURR) but my dogs do get used to the cold and enjoy an afternoon playing outside on those more mild sunny days. But even on the most frigid days we are out there walking. Our dogs can tolerate any weather we can tolerate. The only thing I’ve noticed is that at 10 degrees above zero, something happens with the salt and the cold, and my dogs’ feet seem to start to burn. I know this because above 10 degrees they walk normally but below that magic number they start to pick up their feet in a way that seems to suggest they are really hurting. If I had the luxury of sidewalks I’d use them, but where I live there are no sidewalks so we walk on the street.

So, I have a rule – no walks if the weather gets below 10 above zero. When it gets that cold I don’t want to be out there either and so we do more inside. A treadmill walk is wonderful and you can find many used ones on Craig’s List. I put my guys on the treadmill for 25 minutes each (while I knit!) on those freezing cold days. But any other day, they and I are out there for our full walk. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll come to tolerate the cold. Just wear something over your face and head and good boots on your feet. And also, pay attention to your dog. She may have a higher sensitivity to cold or her feet may be more tender. Then my dogs. If that is the case, you may have a different “cut off” number than I do.

muttluks dog bootsAlso, there are dog booties out there to help protect more sensitive feet. My favorite are called Muttluks and can be found at Amazon. They are sturdy, stay on great, and last. Don’t go with cheap dog booties if you are really looking for something to stay on your dog’s feet and keep them protected from the salt and cold. These boots really work. Yes they are more pricey but I walk my dogs every day and I had a set that lasted, sadly, longer than the dog who wore them. My guys now spend so much time outside all year round that they have tougher feet than my dear Sadie did, living in the city with me. But she loved her boots and wore them easily. The Muttluks website has a list of frequently asked questions that explain how to size your dog’s feet and how to acclimate them to wearing the boots. And you will have a good long laugh when you put them on your dog’s feet – my dogs both lifted their feet VERY high into the air and walked very deliberately when they first had them on!! Very funny.

So, don’t worry about the cold weather that is on the way – just keep walking and you and your dogs will get used to the cold together. And wear the proper gear and everyone will be happy!