Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Has Gone to the Dogs

On Dog Dad's side of the family there are kids. Lots of kids. Little kids, older kids, kids who live nearby, kids who live far away. Kids everywhere.
On my side of the family there are also lots of kids.
Of the 4 legged variety.
Our holiday gatherings don't really revolve around Santa and decorating cookies as much as they tend to center on juggling multiple households full of furry friends. Did someone remember to let Dad's dogs out? Mom's dogs have been alone for more than three hours, we better go make the mashed potatoes at her house! Let's go over and visit Uncle G so we can say hi to the dogs. You get the idea. We really love dogs.
The not so great part about this is that, while the humans all love to be together, the animals do not feel the same way. All together, we're talking about 9 dogs, 2 guinea pigs and 1 cat in the immediate family. Add to the equation that the dogs range in size from three to nearly 100 pounds and you've got a great animated film on your hands but in real life: chaos.
I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce you to the cast of our Christmas:

Sweet Ben
He wins the award for most expressive ears but has a hard time trusting the world.
He's named after my grandparent's bar. He is a fetching machine who also answers to the nickname Shak Attack.
Yes, named after the Norwegian playwright. Why? I don't know. He looks like a possum to me.
Reno & Sam
The sweetest girls you've ever met.
This dog needs a job working for Cirque du Soleil. I swear she's powered by AA batteries.
Phinnaeus Bing
He likes to sleep in unexpected places.
Arlo Carlos
We affectionately refer to Arl Carl as The Sausage Dog.
Recent additions to the clan include a cat named Cujo and two guinea pigs whose names I have forgotten. I'm pretty sure the pigs are coming home for Christmas too.
Poor McGee will be traveling to her Nana and Poppy's house for the holiday where she'll only have one other dog to contend with rather than eight. If only they were reindeer, then we could just put a shiny red nose on McGee and call it a day.
Dog Dad and I will miss our McGee terribly over the holiday, but we are excited to see all the other pups (and their humans).
How does your furry family spend the holiday season?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Vegan Dog: Is it Possible?

Holiday time is a time when I think about food. A lot. I think about baking, I think about eating, and, inevitably, I think about what I will not be eating.

My life over the past decade has been a bit of a revolving door when it comes to the food choices that I have made. When I was 19, I decided I wanted to be a vegan; however, I didn't have the know how to make good food choices and lived mostly on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Oreo cookies. Yes, you can technically be a vegan and eat no veggies. The extreme weight loss and lack of energy that this brought on influenced me to return to my old ways as a meat eater. And then began the back and forth from meat eater to vegetarian and back again with short bursts of veganism when I was feeling extra inspired.

Flash forward to the summer of 2012 (when we adopted McGee) when I felt a shift that made me
desire a vegan way of living more than ever before. The connection that I felt with McGee brought up so many questions for me. I remember watching her play in her new backyard and thinking how can I eat another being when I am witness to how much joy this little dog is capable of experiencing? Surely a cow or pig isn't that much different?

I have since educated myself about factory farming and plant based cooking to the point that I feel confident about both my reasons for choosing vegan and my ability to provide myself with a healthy diet. When I'm paying attention and eating with awareness, a vegan diet makes me feel healthier and happier, in body and in mind, then I ever have before.

Sitting for salad.
I don't claim perfection. Being vegan 100% of the time can be super challenging- I've definitely eaten cheese on occasion (the absolute hardest thing for this Wisconsin girl to give up) and I've had a few doughnuts too. Dog Dad is a great support system for me and the food we keep in our home is all completely vegan. We even had a vegan meal for the reception at our wedding this summer which was fun to plan and was received very well by our family and friends.

What's the point of this spiel? Well, one of the challenges I didn't expect when I made this decision about my lifestyle is that I feel super weird about the fact that I feed McGee dog food made out of other animals. I mean, I love her so much and here I am watching her eat other creatures. It just seems bizarre to me. I cringe when I see pictures of dogs happily chomping on bully sticks (bull penises), I was super freaked out when we decided to use dog food with lamb in it as a training reward, and I know my dog has lusty feelings about bacon, but that pig may very well have been smarter than McGee!

The challenge is that, while I can adopt a vegan diet and then analyze how I feel and make changes to meet my nutritional needs, McGee can't tell me if an all veggie diet is making her feel crappy or happy. And have you ever tried Googling "can my dog be a healthy vegetarian"? You will get every result from people telling you that their dog lived a freakish 25 years as a vegetarian to those who say you will kill your dog by not letting them eat meat. I'm not sure how to provide McGee with everything she needs on a cruelty free diet. I don't want to hurt her, but I also don't want to hurt all those chickens that are ground up in her dog food. I seriously feel like it would require me to go back to school and get a degree in dog nutrition to know what's best. What's a girl to do?

I feel you VeganPolice. I really do.
For now, McGee enjoys her Blue Buffalo chicken and rice food and all of her treats are vegan: sweet potato dog biscuits, peanut butter in her Kong, broccoli or green beans for something extra special. The fact that she's reactive and needs extra special treats in order to focus adds to the challenge. I gave in and let her have pizza, lamb, hot dogs and an array of other items that gross me out during her 8 week training course.

I know that there's the argument that a wild dog would be out there eating meat to survive, but the reality of the situation is that McGee just isn't a wild dog. She's my dog and it's up to me to provide her with food and make sure she's healthy and well cared for. And I want what's best for her, it's just really hard to come to terms with the fact that she's living at the expense of other creatures.

Are you a vegetarian or vegan who feeds your dog meat? Do you believe a dog can live a healthy life as a vegetarian?

Monday, December 9, 2013

McGee's Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Part II

In this installation, we will focus on gifts that McGee would like to have for herself. Don't worry, she's not going to get everything on her list. She'll have to narrow it down and be good...

For Dogs Who Like to Pull

McGee might disagree with me on this one, but we just got a Snoot Loop for her and so far, we (the humans), love it. Although she was already used to her Gentle Leader, it's still taking McGee a bit of time to grow accustomed to the extra structure that's built into her Snoot Loop, namely the piece that comes down between her eyes. It seems to me that, as she gets more and more comfortable, we are noticing less pulling and more paying attention from her. We've even stopped double leashing her to her harness and head halter in favor of using only the Snoot Loop on walks.
Ma, stop staring at my Snoot!


For Dogs Who Like to Chew

McGee's favorite chew toy in the house is an antler. It also happens to be my favorite chew to in the house because A. nothing had to die for her to have it and B. it was free because Dog Dad found it in the woods. Now that it's starting to wear down, I've been wondering: where can I find her a new antler if I can't find another in the woods? The answer: Grateful Shed Antler Chews. I will definitely be checking these guys out. Especially since they offer Moose and Elk chews (what are the odds that I'll find one of those just sitting around in Maryland?) and their prices are way more reasonable than anything I've on the shelf.

Bonus: Grateful Shed draws a client's name each month and plants a tree in their dog's name. How cool is that? That is something we can totally get behind.

For Dogs Who Like to Walk (In the Dark)

We need to get a replacement for our the light that McGee wears on her collar when we go for night walks. Especially since she is a black dog, we find a light on her collar makes us feel much safer when we walk her in the dark. We also practice extra safety (and dorkiness) by wearing headlamps and reflective vests of our own. These PetLit LED collar lights by Nite Ize are a fun addition to your dog's collar and keep them safe and easy to see in the dark.

For Dogs Who Like to Shiver

Stop it. Just stop. A dog pig?!?! Now your dog can be warm and embarrassed adorable at the same time! You'll have to check out Courtanai's other cute creations for yourself over at her Etsy shop.
Perfect for dogs who oink. This just solidifies the fact that I cannot eat a pig.

For Dogs Who Like to Minimize Their Intake of Animal Products

Dog Dad and I do our best to stick to a vegan diet. We know it's not for everyone, but it makes us feel good to remember the welfare of all creatures when we make choices about our daily food intake. We have thought about transitioning McGee to a fully vegetarian diet, but haven't yet found a vegetarian dog food that we feel would meet all her nutritional needs. For now, we stick to vegan treats and chews. We are intrigued by this new little vegan bakery called The Kind Puppy. The treats sound almost good enough for us to eat!
Sweet Potato Christmas Mix anyone? Yes please!

For Dogs Who Like to Help the Earth

Earthdog is the first company I ever bought a dog collar from. 10% of their profits go to Kody's Fund, a non-profit which funds spay and neuter programs. The products they make are earth friendly and they also take in foster dogs and get them ready for adoption. They even name their different collars after dogs they love. We give them five out of five stars for sure!

For McGee

Shhhhh! Don't tell her!!! I think McGee is getting a new tag from Purely Personalized this Christmas. They are just too cute to bear.

For Dogs Without a Home

A foster home, a bag of treats, a Kong, a jar of peanut butter... it doesn't take much to make the season brighter. Many dog treats and toys are on sale at this time of year. Please remember your local shelter dogs this holiday season when you consider deserving charities to give to.

For those of you who missed it, Dog Dad had a fun gig this weekend dressing up as Santa and getting his picture taken with local dogs to raise money for the Humane Society of Calvert County. The weather was yucky and the roads icy, but quite a few families still braved the snow and rain to have their dogs (and one cat) meet Santa. Molly Humphrey of Artistic Imagez donated her time and talents to the event and snapped some super photos of Santa and this sweet dog, who is currently available at HSCC. Special thanks to HSCC board member Jill Lee of Custom Dog Jackets for organizing a great event!
Such a sweet boy- his tail never stopped wagging even though he was feeling a little shy!

Does your dog get holiday gifts? Do you wrap them? Do you give gifts to dogs that aren't your own?

Friday, December 6, 2013

McGee's Holiday Giving Guide: Part I

We try to keep our Christmas shopping to a minimum around here. When we simply can't resist, we like our holiday giving to be meaningful and to support companies and organizations that we believe make the world a better place. McGee and I put our heads together, and here's a first look at our favorites for this year.

Support a rescue!

I love me some tye die. Support Villalobos Pit Bull Rescue (from the popular Animal Planet show Pit Bulls and Parolees) and rock an awesome sweatshirt. I only wish they had some doggie tye die for the McGeeter. Find the Villalobos shop HERE. Keep in mind that many established animal rescues have shops of their own where you can shop and help them out simultaneously.

Let even the tiniest pit bull fanatic show their pride!

Available here through BADRAP's online store (BADRAP is a pit bull rescue run out of California, the acronym stands for Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls). $2-$5 from every item purchased from their online store goes to help fund their rescue and community support programs.

P.S. I have this design as a T-shirt for myself and I love it.

Support a small business!

It's no secret that, when I do shop, I love to shop on Etsy. It's such a great resource to find gifts that are unique and made with love. And it feels good to support an artist who is trying to make a living doing something creative. I stumbled on Christy Robinson's shop and I am in love with her designs. Now I need to choose just one...

Oh. My. Goodness! This sticker from Nicker Stickers is killing me! There are so many different ones to choose from, many in the spirit of animal rescue. I'm in love.

Does the person you're shopping for have enough stuff and love animals as much as you do? Do something awesome to honor them!

Sponsor an animal while they wait for a home!

Many shelters offer ways to support a specific animal, here are a couple sponsorship programs with rescues I admire:
Dane County Humane Society Sponsorship Program
Pets With Disabilities Sponsorship Programs

Sponsor a spay/neuter surgery!

Hey Tank, guess what you're getting for Christmas this year?
Handsome Dan's Rescue

Send a little Christmas cheer to a dog or cat through your local shelter's Amazon wish list.

Calvert County Humane Society
or look up your local chapter on Amazon

McGee is very good at the helping with the blogging.

What are the animal lovers on your list getting this year?

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Trouble with Travel

This Thanksgiving, we were lucky to be able to travel as a family to Florida to visit my grandparents for the holiday. While McGee is not crazy about car rides (especially 14 hour car rides), we were so happy to be able to take her with us. We were able to find a pet friendly hotel near my grandma and grandpa's home and, although she did get lonely when we had to leave her in the room, having McGee with us during the holidays really helps bring stress levels down.

You might be thinking, "Oh, that's cute. She has her dog there to snuggle and it makes her feel more relaxed after a day of Black Friday shopping."

Well, actually no, that's not it at all. First and foremost, it's my dog who needs the snuggling to reduce her stress level. Secondly, I think Black Friday is a horror show, but that's for a different post on an altogether separate blog.

You see, the thing about my little dogfriend is that she poses many problems for us when it comes to traveling during the holiday season. Or any season. I struggle so much with the idea of leaving her anywhere that I am more likely to pass on a trip than to take a risk when it comes to her care and keeping while I am away.

Enjoying a break from her accommodations.
What am I worried about? Well, for a dog like McGee, staying with strangers is not an option. She won't eat or sleep, she's afraid of strange places and people unless she has Dog Dad or me their to encourage her to be brave, and she certainly can't stay with anybody who owns another dog.

Or a cat.
Or a ferret.
Guinea pig.
Maybe a fish would work out ok as long as it was on a high shelf.

And let me ask this: what are the odds that someone who owns only a fish will know what to do with a leash reactive, scared of strangers, insomniac dog? I'm sure that magical person exists someplace in the world, but if they are in my neck of the woods I either haven't met them yet or, more likely, can't afford their help. We've worked so hard to help McGee become a more well adjusted dog, I'd hate for all our work to be inadvertently undone.

There is the option of kenneling her in a boarding facility, but The McGee is so quick to morph into a doggie version of Eeyore that I shudder at the thought of leaving her all alone in a kennel run for days on end, even with the most loving of attendants checking on her. And again, unless they've got a true dog whisperer on staff, the likelihood of her getting playgroup time is pretty slim.

Last day at the hotel. Clearly the novelty has worn off.
Last year at Christmas time, we drove to Wisconsin and brought our McGee with us. It was a brilliant idea, until we realized that every single family home comes with it's own set of dogs. McGee found herself sequestered to an upstairs bedroom where, though visited often and cozy as a bear in a den, she spent many lonely hours wishing for company while everyone else played games and snuggled with my mom's menagerie of tiny dogs.

It's a difficult situation when spending time with loved ones means a plethora of incompatible canine companions. Before we had a dog, I dreamt of taking my future pet home and watching him frolic in the snow with my uncle's Labradors or snooze on the couch with my dad's two little monsters. I hoped for family dog walks in the park and an understanding between the dogs that because their humans are all kin, they should love one another too.

Unfortunately, I have come to understand very clearly that dog brains do not work this way and pushing for my dog to develop any relationship faster than her comfort will allow is selfish on my part. But still, she is undoubtedly my family, and while I love my human relatives and treasure the time I spend with them, I am still racked with guilt when my loyal dog cannot share some of the happiest days of the year at my side.

This Thanksgiving, I was just so thankful to have my McGee close at hand.

How do you manage your pets and the pets of your extended family during the holiday season?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Really, I'm the only one here?
Sometimes plans fall through and it's necessary to improvise. Such was the case this weekend when our carefully planned pack walk became a family walk when nobody else showed up. You may remember that last week I posted a Craigslist ad seeking walking buddies for The McGee and me. We got a few promising replies, but for a variety of reasons, this time it just didn't work out.

I must admit, I'm feeling a little bummed out. I knew it wouldn't happen all at once, but I'm struggling to trust that I will find people who will understand what I want to create. I thought it might be helpful to post my mission statement in the hopes that it will reach more people. So here it is:

Mission Statement: The purpose of the pack is to create a supportive outlet for people and dogs to practice their partnership skills in the presence of others on structured group walks. We will strive to be excellent examples of the canine/human relationship wherever we go. We will also have compassion for ourselves and others as we understand that every relationship is a continual work in progress!
So there you have it. My mission statement for what I hope to bring to fruition.

Fake Dog doesn't bark back.
I do have to shout out to a couple of groups that are providing the inspiration for this project. Two Pitties in the City is a great resource in offering logistical advice about how they went about founding their own walking group, the Chicago Sociabulls. The Seattle Walkabulls have their own meetup group and seem to be incredibly well organized and well attended. While McGee and I are not located in a large metropolis like Chicago or Seattle, I aspire to follow in their footsteps/paw prints.
For the time being, I've started a Facebook group where I will post details for upcoming walks. You can find it at Pits & Pals Pack Walkers (creative name still in the works). If you are interested in participating, follow the link and request membership.
In the meantime, and in the spirit of improvisation, McGee has been practicing with a fake dog. That's right McGee, fake it 'til you make it baby.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

15 Signs That I Am Obsessed With McGee

I'm sure you all have seen 15 Signs That You Are Obsessed With Your Dog floating around the internet. Well, I decided to put myself to the test and find out if I am, in fact, obsessed with McGee. Let's see here...
1. I talk to McGee when no one is around. Check.
2. I'm actually pretty sure McGee is a person. Check.
I just know she's thinking people thoughts inside her dog mind.
3. I have so many nicknames for McGee. Check.
4. No dog can ever be as cute as McGee. Check.
Not possible.

5. I justify it when McGee denies my affections. Check.
She's just angry because I made her wear the hat...

6. I refer to McGee as a member of my family. Check.
Yup, family for sure.

7. I stare at McGee while she sleeps because it's so cute. Check.
Can't. Stop. Staring.

8. People think I talk about McGee too much. Check.
Cover your eyes Mr. T. She's blogging about me again.

9. I let McGee walk all over me. Check.
Who can say no to this face?

10. I take McGee on vacation with me. Check.
Where to McGee?

11. I don't hang out with people because I don't want McGee to be alone. Check.
Nobody likes to be all alone.

12. I am as excited to feed McGee as she is to eat. Check.
I'm actually making the same face as her while I take the photo.

13. I find it necessary to celebrate McGee's birthday every year. Check.
But Dog Dad got her the cookie.

14. I imagine what it would be like if McGee and I were on Adventure Time. Well...
Not really. But we have lots of real life adventures.

15. I provide McGee with the love and loyalty that she provides me. Check.

It seems that 14 out of 15 criteria indicate that I am officially obsessed with my dog. I guess my blog should have clued me in.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Spoons Are Great (& a 100 Mile Pact Update)

Dude! We may finally be on to something here! You may remember that in my last post I was languishing the fact that my dog is a Honey Badger when it comes to treats in general. She's got no time for the usual suspects when it comes to high value rewards. Chicken? Pish. Steak? Posh. Stinky cheese? That's ok Ma, you can have it.

So imagine my surprise when we discovered that our secret training tool has been right there in front of us all along! We just didn't know how to use it.

After we ran out of pizza at Monday night's class, I hunted around in our giant bag of dog gear and was dismayed to find that the only food items at my disposal were a half empty mason jar of dry dog biscuits and the jar of peanut butter we use to top off McGee's Kong whenever we stuff it with food.

Enter stage right: spoon. Spoon? Spoon!

Holy bunnies, spoons are awesome for so many reasons I already knew about, but now I have a whole new reason to love them! Did you know that if you load a spoon with peanut butter and hold it just out of your dog's reach, she will do most anything for a scrumptious lick? And not only will this distract her from all other canines, it will also be hilarious to watch her work so hard to please you while simultaneously licking gobs of goo off her cute little dog nose?

We may really be on to something here.
Natural progression leading to McGee's best impression of Crazy Eyes.
It should also be noted that McGee does not care for metal spoons. They get all clickety-clackety on her teeth and freak her out. I'm going to use up some of our stash of spoons-that-come-with-takeout-even-when-you-don't-want-them and then switch to bamboo.

As with any breakthrough, I'm sure we haven't found a cure all for our reactive dog woes, but progress is progress. I'm going to take this as a win and stock up on some JIF. Or maybe something all natural with no added sugars, but I'll worry about that later.

100 Mile Pact Update
Miles Accomplished: 10.44
Miles Left to Goal: 89.56
Days Remaining: 40

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Lovely Cheese Pizza, Just For McGee

When we first began our Reactive Dog training class five weeks ago, one of the first questions the instructor asked was "Is your dog food motivated?" Dog Dad and I simultaneously shook our heads in dismay. Though The McGee does enjoy her mealtimes, no treat seems to be important enough to keep her attention when she is reacting to another dog.

The list of foods we have tried is starting to sound like fodder for a Shel Silverstein poem:
What's in the fanny pack today, Boss?

Chicken Sausage, Spinach, Lamb,
Broccoli Tops and Cubes of Ham,
Hotdogs cut in bite size nibbles,
Ground Beef mixed with Doggie Kibbles,
Zukes, Cloud Star, Buddy Biscuits,
Tortilla Chips or maybe Triscuits,
Parmesan and Sweet Potatoes.
No Dog, you can't have Tomatoes.

I could go on and on here, but you get the idea: this dog is not easily pleased.

We chuckled during our week one class meeting when the gal in charge mentioned that she has seen people resort to ordering a pizza for their dog. Hahaha, isn't that so funny that someone would be that desperate to get their dog's attention?

Knock on wood people, knock on wood. If there is one thing we are learning from this class, it's that when the teacher speaks "hypothetically" or talks about that "1 dog in every billion", she is speaking directly to us. It's like if you were a middle school teacher who needed to address the issue of one kid who really needs to start wearing deodorant, you'd address the whole class so the kid doesn't feel embarrassed and hope that your point gets across. That's us with the pizza.

Yeah, McGee, you heard right. You really need to start taking this pizza eating thing more seriously for the comfort of everyone around you.

So this past Monday evening, we loaded up the car and I sat for the entire hour drive with a pizza box in my lap and a pair of kitchen scissors in my hand. That's right friends, I cut up an entire medium sized Papa Johns pizza into bite sized morsels for my dog. Then I bagged that sucker up and put my Ziplocs on the dashboard to warm over the defrosters. This is what it means to LOVE YOUR DOG.

Overall, McGee wasn't super ecstatic about the pizza like we hoped she'd be. The distraction of hearing or briefly glimpsing another dog was still more powerful for her than the alluring offer of some gooey pizza bites. While all the other dogs in class are now walking from cone to cone in an orderly follow-the-leader fashion in the center of the room, our little crew is still huddled behind baby gates and a tarp in the corner bracing ourselves for any moment that another dog might bark.

Though we don't feed her on class days so that she's extra hungry and ready to focus, McGee still had quite the food baby in her belly when we finished up on Monday night. Keeping her attention for a whole hour with other dogs in the room, as well as pre-class work with her buddy Mr. T, meant that McGee ate THE WHOLE PIZZA. I am so grossed out by this, I can't even tell you.

Since the pizza wasn't the enormous hit we thought it would be, not to mention the fact that I'm worried about the long term effects of letting my dog gorge herself on Papa Johns, I don't think it's an experiment we'll repeat. The good news is that, when we ran out of cheesy, doughy bartering chips, we still had a few minutes of class. In those few minutes, I think we may have discovered OUR NEW SECRET WEAPON. But more on that later...

How do you keep your dog focused on you when other dogs are around? What treats have you found work best?

Monday, November 18, 2013


I have always been a big believer in the universe providing what I need, but I also understand that I've got to meet the universe halfway, right? Today I took a leap and did something that I have been mulling over for a long time... I put out an ad on Craigslist.

You might ask, what's so scary about putting out an ad on Craigslist? You're already married so it can't be one of those sketchy singles advertisements...

Nope, it's not. But it may as well be based on the butterflies in my tummy feeling that I'm having right now. Inspired by groups like Chicago SociaBulls  and Seattle WalkABulls and fueled by the desire to meet like minded individuals who are passionate about their dogs, I decided to reach out to my community and see if there is anyone out there who might want to... walk their dog with me and my dog.

I know, super dork.
Are you sure this is a good idea?

The purpose of the aforementioned groups is to give dogs and their owners the opportunity to work on their issues (leash reactivity, shyness, puppy behaviors, etc) and get some exercise in the presence of other dogs. What a concept! I would love to have access to a group like that! With D.C. over an hour away and no sign of any group currently meeting there anyway, I decided that there must be at least a couple of people in my area who could benefit from the creation of a local pack walking group.

Now I just have to find them. And think of a catchy name.

You can view my Craigslist post here. If you or anyone you know is interested in meeting up, please send me a message.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thank Goodness for Gigantor

Mr. T and McGee right after they met.
One of the more baffling aspects of our little McGee's feisty personality is that, while most dogs put her in a frenzy, she is in dog love with one big fellow: Mr. T. Granted their love sometimes seems a bit one-sided, but I'm going to go ahead and call it dog love even if it sometimes seems like Mr. T does the majority of the loving and McGee plays hard to get. We have spent lots of time reflecting and speculating about this strange situation: why does The McGee love Mr. T and ONLY Mr. T? Here are some of the potential reasons we've come up with:

1. He's automatically part of the pack. When we went to the shelter to pick our little doggie up, T came along. We wanted to be sure that the two of them got along since we spend so much time with T's family (according to family, McGee and T are the dog equivalent of cousins). They were introduced off leash in a play yard and neither showed any sign of aggression. If anything, the reaction we got from McGee was, "You're not very interesting, I'm going back to my dirt hole now."
She likes to sleep in his armpit. He likes to let her.

2. Mr. T is ginormous. Multiply McGee's weight by three and add 40 pounds and that's how big he is. Our mini pittie can easily stand beneath him as though she is inside a dog house made of... dog. Maybe she just instinctively knows that she's too wee to really get the best of him.

3. Or maybe she just knows she's in charge. Mr. T is a marshmallow and McGee is undoubtedly THE BOSS.

4.  Love. T is just about the mushiest, most lovable 190 pounds of animal I've ever met. His mission in life is TO BE LOVED AND TO GIVE LOVE TO OTHERS AT ALL COSTS. Never mind the gallons of slobber that send his favorite people running for rolls of paper toweling, forget about the fact that he cannot fit in any one person's lap, and who cares if you're a tiny (to him) McGee dog trying to pin him to the ground and sit on his head and fart, he will love you just the same and pine for you when you are out of his sight. That's just how he rolls. McGee may have resigned herself to the fact that she cannot escape his unconditional love.

5. She really wants dog friends and Gigantor is the only one who can put up with her antics. There's no denying it, our pup has got no social skills. Seeing her trying to interact with other dogs is similar to when Stitch interacts with humans for the first time: bad news and hilarity, until you realize you just want to cry and yell and WHY DON'T YOU SPEAK ENGLISH FOR THE LOVE OF MONKEYS YOU DOG BRAINED DOG-O-SAURUS REX!!! T's big advantage again here is his sheer size. All he has to do is stay standing and turn his body in circles and McGee has to run laps to keep up. Not to mention how high she has to jump if she wants to be eye to eye with him. Usually it takes approximately 5-10 minutes for playtime to graduate to nap time.

Bed Swap. These two sure nap a lot...
We thank our lucky stars every day for our enormous Mr. T. Without him, McGee would be a lonely, friendless dog indeed. And while T and McGee are no Romeo and Juliet (I'm thinking more Beauty and the Beast with some irony and subversive swapping of gender roles), it is a love story that I am very grateful exists.

Does your dog have dog friends? How do you set your dog up for successful relationships with other dogs?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The 100 Mile Pact

So here's the thing: I like walking my dog, but most days it is exceedingly difficult to convince myself to actually saddle up and get out the door. I'm likely to procrastinate until I only have 30 minutes left until I have to be somewhere and then, by the time McGee and I hit our stride and I'm really enjoying the walk, it's already time to wrap it up and leave for work.

And The McGee knows when she is being ripped off on walking time. She has a very special look she gives me (eyelids slightly lowered, bottom lip pooched out) along with a special huffy sigh as if to say, "Weak effort owner lady, but there is no way you helped me meet my sniffing quota for the day."

For the longest time, I also struggled to walk McGee "by myself". Because of her outbursts upon seeing another dog, I felt incredibly intimidated at the thought of venturing out on my own without Dog Dad along for re-enforcements. Ok, that's a lie, what I really mean to say is that I wanted Dog Dad to be there to do ALL the enforcing. I just didn't believe that I had enough sway to convince McGee to do any behaving whatsoever.

I'm happy to report that lately my little pup pal and I have been partaking in many more walks on our own. While she still scowls and gives me her most unhappy face when I put on her Gentle Leader, this fleeting moment of cranky face cannot overshadow the ecstatic and elaborate tap dancing routine she treats me to when she knows it's time to go for A Walk.

"Oh excellent, I see you are wearing The Fanny Pack."
Little by little, I think that we are building a better bond and that she is coming to trust me more and more as a leader. I'm sure it also helps that I carry THE GIANT FANNY PACK OF BRIBERY full of delicious things for her to eat along the way. But you know how you can really tell when someone is your bestest friend? When you know all their favorite pooping spots by heart.

In honor of our newly forged girl time relationship, McGee and I are making a pact (she's just finding out about this right now as I type). We are making a pact to walk 100 miles together, without Dog Dad, by the end of 2013. Today we busted out 1.32 miles, so that gives us 47 days to conquer the remaining 98.68.

Hopefully this quality time is going to solidify my role in The McGee's life as someone she looks up to. She and I have a lot of work to do together so that both of us can be more confident and less worried when we're out together in public. We'll just have to take it one step at a time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

10 Ways to Help a Shelter Animal

Odette believes you can help.
Pet overpopulation is a huge problem in the U.S. Sometimes I feel so bogged down by sad homeless pet statistics and the awful animal abuse stories I hear in the news that I think, "Why bother, the world is so far gone and nothing I can do will make one tiny bit of difference". It feels like a mountain with no summit. But the truth is that there are many things that everyone can do to lend a hand.

While it's true that these actions might feel like a very small drop in an immense bucket, that's all the more reason to help fill that bucket up. These are just a handful of the ways I know of to make a difference to the homeless pets in your community:
1. Drop off your old blankets and towels. Shelter pets like to get cozy just the same as that dog curled up next to you on the couch.
2. Kids have enough toys? Encourage your child to ask for shelter supplies rather than collecting toys from their guests at their next birthday party. They'll feel great when they drop off their donation and see how happy it makes the staff and animals! Kids can be powerful advocates for compassion and giving when they realize what a big impact they can make.
3. Clean out your closets! Find out if there's a thrift store in your area that donates it's proceeds to an animal care facility or spay and neuter program. Southern Maryland is home to The Spot. More than likely there's a similar organization near you.
4. Recycle! Have a bunch of old documents sitting around? Shred those papers and see if your local shelter can use it in place of kitty litter! You'll be recycling and helping a rescue save some dough.
5. Find out what's needed. Many shelters have Amazon wish lists where you can order things like cleaning supplies and treats and have them shipped directly to the rescue facility. This also allows you to give exactly what is needed rather than spend money on something the shelter may not currently need.
6. Donate a bed. Kuranda dog beds give pups a comfy place to rest rather than a cold concrete floor. The beds are easy to clean and ship directly to the shelter when ordered online. The Kuranda website even has a searchable database of shelters so that you can find the shelter you are looking for. Especially as the weather cools, these beds can be a huge asset.
7. Join in the next time your local shelter has a fun run/walk. These events can constitute a huge portion of a shelter's earnings for the year, so every participant makes a big impact!
8. Donate your extras. Dog outgrew their collar? Got a new snazzy leash and no longer need the old one? Drop those babies off at the animal shelter! Martingale collars (the kind that tighten when the dog pulls) and harnesses are especially coveted because it allows volunteers and employees to more easily handle the dogs. And this means more walks and less time spent in a kennel.
Lola is patiently waiting for her forever.
9. Adopt your next pet from a shelter. Meet several options and make a thoughtful decision about who you bring home. Ask lots of question and be honest about your lifestyle when discussing your needs with the adoption counselor. Be realistic about what you can handle and what a new pet means for everyone in your family, especially your other pets. A forever home means just that: forever.

10. Volunteer at your local shelter and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Above all else, this is the best way to make an impact. Even if all you have time for is one hour spent with one dog once a month. That hour means everything to a dog who spends their day cooped up. Teach them to sit, spend an hour scratching their ears, or just throw the Frisbee 100 times in a row. Some places will even let seasoned volunteers take dogs on outings to help them stay happy and socialized.  
What creative things have you done to help the homeless animals where you live?

Odette and Lola are available for adoption through the Humane Society of Calvert County.
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