Celebrating our beautiful boy's anniversary

Happy Gotcha Day, Relay

A great family trip

Our trip to Amherst, VA was amazing.

An easy way to make your own jerky

A DIY project your pups will love.

Set up an email alert for your perfect pet

Use Adopt-a-pet's search saver to let you know when your right pet needs a home.

Let's here it for the boy

I was so happy and incredibly proud.

We do it for all the smiling faces

Dog overpopulation is growing problem in the US and I'm trying to find my way to help.

How Relay became ours

Every dog has a story, and this is how our perfect pound pup came home.

An easy treat

Find directions on how to make one of Relay's favorite treats.

February 29, 2012


It is odd to hear Jeff talk about how the dogs are adjusting to the daily separation. When owners report behavior problems with pets, a large factor has to do with a dog's boredom. To try to mitigate that we have a whole box of toys, and the dogs get a nice long trip to the dog park to work out all the excess energy.

On a positive note, Holly has figured out how to use pee pads. There was no training here to speak of, Jeff just placed a few pads in the front room, and comes home to find one used. The boys seem to just hold it, and Holly only relieves herself once. Funny that no training seems to have been the best training for her.

Harley has now started to bark and chase along the fence line at any passing diesel engine truck that drives by the park. Taking his cue, Relay has started to bark at strangers passing by the fence. These are behaviors that cause no immediate harm, but that I will have to try and work out of them when I come home.

Other than that, not too bad. There has been no chewing or destroyed furniture, no marking, no signs of fighting. It looks like they just sleep and hang around until Jeff comes home. Thankfully, Jeff has not had long days and generally comes home in the afternoon. Longer than I would like them to be by themselves, but it is good to know that they can survive.

February 27, 2012

An off week

This week I had to skip town to help out my cousin take care of his two kids. The little man here is going to make sure that I stay in line, although something tells me it should be the other way around. It's been a while since I've taken care of a two year old, but I remember this: when it's quiet, be afraid.

As for the pups... well those poor babies will have to fend for themselves. Thankfully Jeff has relatively short days this week, but they will be left to their own devices. I know most households work full time, but these dogs have no been left for more than 4 hours since they have been in my home. We'll see how we all do.

February 24, 2012

A poster pet for adult adoption

Mr Harley makes this foster thing look easy. Here's a dog that came to us all ready to get into his next home.

-He is fully potty trained; he can comfortably hold his bladder for hours.
-He is leash trained; he walks incredibly and can even jog next to a bike.
-He doesn't climb on furniture.
-He is submissive, and does not bite or snarl at people.
-He knows where his bread is buttered; he is eager to please, and looks for affection.
-He won't wander off; he is content to just sit by your feet.
-He adapts to new dogs quickly.

I had worried about adopting a rescue adult dog, for fear of having to try and rehab unwanted behaviors, but I the case of Harley, he came completely trained, and I wonder if I could have done better. Besides, knowing how many months it took to train Relay, and how much head ache and  trail and error went into that process, who wouldn't want to cut to the good natured and reliable family dog stage?

Ultimately, adult dogs have a harder time finding homes because people often mistakenly feel that they must have done something wrong in order to have been turned in. More often then not, dogs are turned in because of a change in living situations (divorce, move, loss of job), because people were unprepared for the cost and responsibility of dog ownership, a developed allergy, or because the dog was found with no success locating the owner. In none of these circumstances is it the dog's fault.

To set one more at ease, a good rescue will conduct personality assessments, will allow multiple visits and interactions, and, if it should not be a good fit, will accept the dogs back. So, what I'm trying to get at is this: why not give a good dog a look, and forget what his age is? Harley is a dog owner's dream, and at 3 years old he has a whole lot of life left in him.

February 23, 2012

Guess I need training in potty training

Imagine this: Yesterday, Jeff was on the couch and stopped mid-sentence give an elaborate movie style "Nooooo!" He sprung up and rushed Holly who had about to squat on the floor. She was startled and bolted, with Jeff right behind. Jeff managed to get his hands on her and she flattened out, with her belly on the floor, peeing, while trying to scramble away. He later told me it looked like Holly was trying to swim through it. He flipped her around (still spraying) and carried her outside.

When we first got Holly we were told that her background was unknown for the most part. I don't know if she spent her first few months in a box, tied up in a yard, or left to wander around and fend for herself. What was clear, was she had never been a traditional indoor pet. She spent a month or so at The Family Dog Club before we got her. Good thing was it began to expose her to being around people and a house, but the in the context of being around a very large pack of dogs, and no direct supervision. So, when she did use the bathroom indoors, it went uncorrected. 

When I brought her home it was apparent she was not a fan of being in her kennel. I limited her kennel time to when she slept at night, and if I wanted to give each of the dogs a special treat they could try and steal from each other. For me, crate training was out as a viable option to help house break her.

There is a second method where you tether the dog to you so that you can interrupt a dog at the signs of trouble and bring them outside. We tried this, but the concept scared her. If you moved too quickly, she would shut down and be dragged. The first time I heard her thunk into a door frame, I gave up on this idea.

What have we been doing? Praise. Every time we go to the back yard she is supervised, and each time she uses the bathroom she gets cheers, loving, and attention. Often times she will come bounding over, tail wagging like she knows she accomplished something great. So, Holly understands that using the bathroom outside is good. What we are missing is the part that using the bathroom inside is bad. 

Holly has no pattern. She doesn't yet respond to the command "potty", she doesn't try and use the bathroom every time we go to the yard. She doesn't even mess in the same spot indoors. What makes this harder is that almost never "catch" her in the act. You can't correct a bad behavior after the fact, they won't know what it is you're punishing them for, so we have been waiting for a chance to interrupt her... Cut to yesterdays blooper reel.

For all those interested in possibly adopting Holly, don't despair. She is making progress. Holly doesn't have accidents regularly. There are days that string by without incident. In the month she has been with us, I think there has been about ten accidents. She can also hold her bladder for hours comfortably. She never messes in her kennel at night and doesn't hide to use the bathroom outdoors. These are all good signs. Positive reinforcement is working, but slowly. In the mean time I need to start looking up some new training techniques. 

February 22, 2012

Bike rides

I was still feeling pretty lousy, but it was just unfair for the guys to go a third day lounging around. Did I have it in me to give all three a nice long walk? Nope. With Jeff working late today I had to improvise.

Relay has learned to jog attached to the back of Jeff's bike, but we hadn't tried just loose leash with me riding. As for the others, I don't think they'd even seen a bike before. I was determined to give it a try, however; and besides, my bike looks good.

I am pleased to report success all around. Even little Miss Holly did great. I took them all in turn and the gang seemed so much happier after getting the heart rate up. After, we had a pleasant group nap. A much better day.

February 21, 2012

Nurses in training

Yesterday, I spent all day sick with food poisoning.  I was absolutely miserable, and mad that I ruined a long weekend. The silver lining? I got the best care imaginable.

Holly stayed by me, tucked up under my arm the whole day. Relay curled up around my feet to keep them warm. Harley kept his post by my side. Jeff provided a cool wash cloth around my forehead. The entire crew deserve a medal for excellent services rendered. Maybe a special meal for the bunch.

I can't help but be proud of all of my kids for rallying. And I have no doubts their loving and understanding natures will allow them to be perfect in any home.

February 16, 2012

Maryland proposes a tax credit for adopting a shelter pet and strikes a blow to puppymills

Here is HB 882. The basic premise of this bill is if you adopt a pet from an approved shelter or rescue, you can get a one time tax credit of $100. There is wording in the bill limiting the use of the credit and it shouldn't allow for potential abuse. Approved shelters will probably be registered not for profits in the state, and the limits on the use of the credit will limit potential hoarding. I have to say that this put a smile on my face. (Especially after seeing a bill in Ohio that would criminalize fostering). 

I'm all about this. If we incentivise pet adoption over pet sales, we will find it would greatly reduce the burden on city shelters and would save money (and lives) in the long run.

Pair this with Maryland's other resolution, HB 131 (which would require pet stores provide records on their pets, health disclosures, and provide purchaser remedies of certain health ailments) and I am greatly approving of the direction our neighbor state is moving. Puppy mills are often supplying the dogs in pet stores. This bill gives people the right to know where the dog came from and possible protections against any future illness of the pet with financial reimbursement.

By making stores financially responsible for selling sick pets, they would  stop selling them. Imagine a "lemon law" for pet stores.

If either of these bills pass, it will be a rallying cry for other states to follow. 

February 15, 2012

Harley settles in

Harley is no doubt a looker, and I'm sure once we can get his cone off, give him a good grooming, he'll be irresistible. He looks so handsome, I feel like I need to put on some makeup before I walk him ; ) 

Good thing here is he has the personality to match that pretty face. He is eager to please, and gets along well with Relay and Holly (considering they are still a little weary of the cone). I was especially happy with his manners during a play date with Relay's best friend, Izzy. In the yard Harley started to join in on the games, chasing Relay and Holly around the shed.

It will be another week and change before Harley is fully recovered from his neuter surgery. In the mean time he'll be here at the house hanging out with us and going for walks around the neighborhood. Oh, an added bonus: as Jeff put it, "Harley walks like a dream."

I don't think he will be with us long.

February 14, 2012

The best Valentine

He did well this year.

For Valentine's Jeff drew a picture of Relay from when he first came home with us from the pound, wrapped in his blue towel. It turned out amazingly!

I have to admit that it is hard not to think of Relay as that little puppy. But as he approaches his first birthday my pup is all grown up, and being an incredible big brother to his new foster brothers and sisters.

I couldn't do any of this with out the support of these two. So here's hoping your Valentine's day is as special as mine.

February 13, 2012

Introducing... Harley!

Jeff finally has the sheltie that he has always wanted. I'm trying to think of something really great to ask for, but in the mean time, let me tell you about this good looking guy.

He recently spent a week at the pound and did not adjust well there at all. A three year old owner surrender, between being at the pound and his neuter surgery (thus the cone) he just shut down. So it is my job to rehab Harley.

It's actually not proving too hard. Harley really wants to be a good dog. He is just unsure. So we are giving him space and encouragement. Even in just a few hours he is making progress.

As for the two kids, I'm not entirely sure that Holly nor Relay have ever seen a cone collar before, so they are generally leaving Harley alone. That's not necessarily good or bad. We shall see how it all develops.

February 10, 2012

Quick Tip: Save some time with Adopt-a-Pet Search Saver

One big complaint about rescues and shelters is that people often have a specific dog in mind, and trolling the various organizations can be time consuming. So here's my simple solution: use the internet to do all the leg work for you. Adoptapet.com has a great tool called Search Saver.
* This is what you're looking for
Here's the description:
What is Search Saver?
Our Search Saver feature is all about helping  you fetch your purrr-fect new friend! New pets are added daily and we'll e-mail you when a new pet matching your search is added. Here's how it works:
  1. You select the type of pet you're looking for. You can search for pets by color, breed, sex, size, hair or age.
  2. Type in your e-mail address.
  3. When a pet matching your search is added to the site, we send you an e-mail with a photo and all the info you need to go get your new friend.
It's that easy! You can save up to 15 searches, and you can cancel or change them at any time!

The great thing about this is you can customize it to look for whatever your perfect pet is. You can set how far you'd be willing to travel, qualities you're looking for, and the breed selector not only has all the breeds you could possibly think of, it has a whole lot of extra subcategories like: "Ain't nothin but a hound dog", "Mini Mutts", "Almost a Horse", "Little Fluffy Powedpuffs of Love". Pick as many search criteria as you like. 
I had been on a small, white, fluffy, and puppy kick, so here is an example of one of the emails 

Always remember, adoption is the best option, and for you purists out there, it is estimated that 1 in 4 dogs at your local pound are purebred. But from a Mutt Mama, let me tell you there's nothing better. 

February 9, 2012

Rigby: A happy ending courtesy of Craigslist

This was Rigby's adoption picture
Rigby had been one of the hundreds of dogs each year to find his way into the Norfolk Animal Control Center. And like all of those poochies, he deserved better. I put up his ad on Craigslist and hoped for the best.

I am incredibly happy to report that Rigby found his home with the wonderful Miss Liza. She writes:

"Every night I come home from work and I'm greeted with a wagging tail and she carries her ball ready to play. Rigby is a complete blessing and a joy to have. She loves to ride in the car with me even if it's to go nowhere :). She sits loyally by my side while I watch tv and when we go to bed she lays on her bed next to mine. If I stir she checks to make sure mom is ok then she goes back to her spot. I couldn't ask for a better companion."

For a little back story, read about my Craigslist Project and 337.

February 8, 2012

A day in the life of Miss Holly

When Jeff's alarm clock goes off, he walks over to the front room to let the kiddies out and let them go to the yard. More often then not, the whole bunch is all business first thing in the morning and they quickly come inside. Jeff gets ready for work, and the poochies jump up on the bed and curl up where Jeff had been sleeping to go right back to it.
2012-01-27 13.06.04.jpg
I get out of bed, give each of the pups a kiss which they receive gladly and then roll over back to sleep. It isn't until around eight that I usher them all back out, and this time they are content to stretch and sit in the sun.

I set out breakfast. The pups take turns eating and then wander over to the dog bed that gets the most morning sun. Where Relay sleeps, Holly is not too far away, preferring to prop herself on her big brother.

The morning carries on and they finally start to show signs of life. Holly will pick up whatever toy or snack Relay just dropped, and likes to chew on the home made rope toys that Jeff creates for them. The next time we head outside, the kids finally start to play. Relay antagonizes Holly enough that the two of them chase around the back yard. He tries to show her how to play tug of war, and each day Holly is getting a better handle on it.

Mid day snack time alternates between some of my stock cubes, some of my frozen dog food, or I let them have a little canned food.
2012-01-28 08.46.21-1.jpg
In the afternoon we walk. Sometimes it is just a nice long walk, other times it is to a play date, but more often than not, it is to the local dog park. Here Holly comes alive, meeting new dogs, giving love to all the people.  She is a favorite here with everyone.
2012-01-28 10.42.50.jpg

A few times a week we try and get Holly out of the neighborhood. We jump in the car and head to a pet friendly restaurant, go to a pet store, check out a different dog park, or meet up with other pup pals.
2012-01-26 15.24.18
In the evening we set out dinner at around five, and the two pouchies eat side by side.

There are some more toys pulled out, maybe a few bully sticks or bones gnawed on. We head out to the yard again and make the most of the last bit of sun. Then everyone plops down on the couch. Holly is a much better lap dog then Relay, but there are sometimes where they jockey for the best spot.

We have one last trip to the yard before bed, and if I had filled the day right, they are tuckered out enough to go right to sleep.

February 7, 2012

Book Review: Tamar Gellar's The Loved Dog

 The Loved Dog is worthless.

I want to say that pretty much catches you up on this waste of time, but in case you need a little more explanation I'll elaborate.

First off, the entire beginning of the book is an overly detailed description of her life story. There's some merit for explaining your perspective, but this book should not sub as a biography to stroke your ego. You're about a quarter of the way through before she even gets to the subject of dog training.

Then there's the never ending name dropping. I've worked with so and so's dog, I hung out at the beach with this person and there were paparazzi. Here there is absolutely no relevance to training, and it annoyed me to no end.

What made all of this worse was a bombardment of flowery language. Using excessive similes, adjectives, and long tangents, made it a painful read. It read like an amateur prose at a coffee house poetry night.

It comes down to this: She had nothing to say. The book is all filler, and no content. What "patented" training techniques she talks about have been around for quite some time. The basic premise is sugar gets more flies than vinegar. That statement and a Wikipedia search on dog training gives me the same insight and doesn't waste hours of my life. I read this cover to cover and wanted my money back and an apology.

February 3, 2012

Enjoy your Super Bowl Weekend!

February 2, 2012

Putting it into perspective- 337

Dog overpopulation. 

Honestly, a year ago I knew nothing about it. Now I find myself preoccupied. The numbers are incredible. It is estimated that 4 to 5 million pets are put down each year in shelters due to overpopulation. That number is insane when you think of it. That's the population of South Carolina. 

The tragic thing is that this is also about the same number of dogs being produced by puppy mills and backyard breeders. So, if the entire country didn't buy a dog for a year, and opted to adopt from their local shelters, if everyone took advantage of low cost spay and neuter clinics, there would be no dog overpopulation.

But I'm not going to be able to reach the entire country with this post, nor will I be able to change everyone's mind even if they did read this. Besides, when you shoot out a number like 5 million, it tends to desensitize people. The number is too big, the problem is too large. That's how I felt, and still feel.

But what about the number 337?  

The Norfolk Animal Control Center is a great pound, but it is capacity controlled. Last year they put down 337 dogs (304 adults, 33 puppies) who were healthy and adoptable. They just ran out of room. 

I can't fix 5 million, but I can try and help out those 337. My Craigslist Project may seem small, but I'm trying to make a difference. Here are the faces of some of the dogs that got adopted in January. They found their happy endings, let's see if we can make some more.

February 1, 2012

Nightime negotiations- Crate training at bedtime

I don't love it, but I'm willing to talk.

Patience wins out and I'm glad to say we've made some progress that I'm very happy about: Holly can now sleep comfortably at night in her kennel.

When I picked up Holly, BTTR had informed me that they had begun her crate training. I opted to continue with it, not knowing how she would react in a new location unsupervised nor how far along she was in her housebreaking.

The first night Holly slept great. Saturday night she cried. Not a howl, but more of a whimper. This went on for three hours. Sunday night she threw in some light barking, but it only lasted a little over an hour. Monday night she cried again, but this time it was a bit quieter and only lasted thirty minutes. And last night? Holly went right to sleep.

What I did right, what I did wrong:

1. Tire them out.
I think the success of the first night had to with how much we did that day. She had little time to rest between the play time with Relay, the travel and exploration, the hour and a half walk at Mt Trashmore... it was a big day for Miss Holly and she was tuckered out.

2. Ease into it.
There are two techniques that I had planned to work through that I didn't try this time around.
First is exposure. I should have allowed her a chance to explore her crate. Let her go in and out, throw in some treats in there when she is hanging out, hide some treats and chew toys in there for when she was alone.
Second is location. There is a strategy that has you place the kennel the first night in your bedroom. From there each night you move it further from you until it is in the intended location.

3. Cry it out
The same principle of self soothing applies to dogs as well. It will pass. Without interference Holly sorted it out in just a few days. She had Relay nearby, we used a soothing scented spray, and tucked her up with a few articles of clothing that smelled like us.

4. Be prepared for casualties
Some dogs are soothed by covering the kennel to replicate a cave environment. Holly didn't feel that way. Just be prepared for trial and error.

Crate training has it's supporters and dissenters, but it is important as a foster to start the process so that adoptive families have an easier time of it if they choose. I also think that it is important for any pet family to work on this in the event of travel and crating is a necessity.


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