Thursday, March 31, 2011


Every dog trainer is different, and every is dog also different.  Whether you like or dislike the methods of Cesar Millan, there is one central philosophy that can be taken from him and his TV show that is highly valuable.  He teaches people that their own perceptions, feelings, and experiences directly impact the way we relate to our dogs, and that balanced, calm, assertive energy is what dogs follow.  And what people follow, too.

For example, I have experienced Nyxie to be reactive to other dogs, and I carry that fear of what's happened in the past with us on each walk.  Therefore, that anticipation and anxiety creates instability that Nyxie reacts to.  She's tense, anxious and reactive.  Well isn't that baggage unfair to her!

While I walked the girls today, I decided to concentrate on calm, assertive energy as Millan encourages on his show.  I employed a finger snap and that "ch!" sound when I saw Nyxie starting to escalate.  I physically stood between her and the glass slider, correcting her when she started barking crazily at my neighbor walking her dog.  

Guess what happened?

Nothing.  No crazy dog flying off the handle.  No lunging at the glass door.  No pulling on the leash.  No reacting to another dog barking at her in close proximity.  My calm, assertive energy won the day.  Even Arwen responded well on our walk - no leash pulling.  It was invigorating, this new strong energy!      

So we're starting over.  No more nervous energy.  That's something I struggle with at times in all aspects of my life and it's quite limiting.  No more.  Wish me luck, folks.  But I won't need it - just my own inner strength.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doggie Laxative

Special thanks to Two Pitties in the City for a recent post about "Decorum" that reminded me of Arwen's "peculiar" behavior.  In other words, if it goes south, blame them.  Only kidding of course, and sending them and their 2 fabulous Nanny Dogs much love!

St Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, New Orleans

A couple of years ago, Matt and I took a trip to New Orleans.  We met up with some friends of ours in Houston, and headed to the Big Easy for a long weekend.  While I was super excited to return to one of my favorite US cities, and share with Matt a place I knew he'd fall in love with, I was wrought with worry.  I was going to leave behind Haimmie and the Girls.

T was yet to live with us, so the only kids we had to be concerned with were our 4 legged ones.  I will never board my kiddos if I can help it.  (That's a post for another day)  Haimmie, our ferret, only required 2 feedings a day like the Girls at this point, as he hadn't been diagnosed with his insulinoma (a nasty pancreatic tumor that ultimately creates severe hypoglycemia).

My little Haimmie after a recent bath

To prevent them and me from having a nervous breakdown, I asked my friend Alexis to petsit.  She is one of them most dog-savvy people I know in Texas and I knew she could handle the beasties.  She's a tiny slip of a woman, but tough as nails.  She came over a few times before we left so she could meet and greet the girls and get the routine down.  As we're raw feeders, there's a few extra steps involved, like thawing the following  meal's food at each prior serving.  I walked her through all of it, obsessively explaining each and every bit of each and every step.  She patiently listened and took it all in.  I am so thankful for her in my life.

I'm a worrier as some of you may have gleaned from my posts.  You're shocked, I know, but it's true.  I was nervous about leaving the girls, but so excited for a vacation.  I was thankful for the ease of communication that technology affords while we were away, although I imagine Alexis might have felt otherwise.  I called her each day to see what had transpired with the girls and prayed they wouldn't give her too many headaches.  She obliged me each obsessive, lunatic phone call.

Upon our return, we were met with a detailed note (on the flipside of the 2 page instructional note I had left) from Alexis.  Apparently all went great with Nyxie, although on Day 1 she was greeted with the "German Shepherd Bark" which can be alarmingly intimidating as you all know.  After that, it was smooth sailing.  There was just one glitch.

Arwen didn't poop the entire time we were gone.

Four days!  She has this strange Poop Only for Mom Fetish that denies her the simple pleasure of relieving herself around anyone but me.  She will only rarely poop for Matt.  She's nothing if not "quirky".  Talk about anal retentive!  This dog is a champ at holding it in.  For the sake of my dog's bowels, future trips will need to be kept short.
Should I poo?

Maybe here?

Nah - I'll wait for Mom!

So what does THAT tell you about my priorities? 
Better add "Doggie Laxative" to my list of pet parent jobs.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Spoiler Alert & Disclaimer - Severe whining and complaints about warm weather and sunshine.  Writer's exact location remains anonymous for her protection from those of you still caught in winter's grasp.  

I want to blame Texas.  Yeah, the whole state.  I want to blame springtime and Mother Nature.  I want to blame Matty for taking me to a car show at the Texas Motor Speedway.  But I have only one person to blame - myself.

As much as I love the rebirth of the trees, grass and flowers, I dread the Texas heat.  We're moving from Brown Season to Green Season here.  During the winter months, North Texas turns brown.  The trees, the grass, the bushes and scrub, even the roads look brown.  We've dubbed this "Brown Season" in our home.  As the season changes and the wildflowers begin to bloom in the think tufts of new green grass, the sun is slowly, silently getting stronger.  I've noticed the soil cracking where it used to be lush and moist.  No longer so.  These are the sweet, rich days of spring.  The shortest, most bittersweet season in Texas.  Everyone knows what's looming - the heat!

Resident ducks basking in Brown Season's brown water

So why is this significant, you ask?  I'll tell you, but it won't be pretty.

We went to a huge (everything's bigger in Texas) custom car show in Justin, TX this past weekend.  The skies were overcast when we left home but soon turned sunny as we arrived, a light breeze blowing endlessly.  The show was actually quite fun.  I especially enjoyed watching Matty pass on to his daughter the love he has for cars.  For all things mechanical and driven.  For all those things I take for granted.  We arrived there around 11am, and didn't leave until around 5pm when Matt noticed Taylor's arms looking a bit pink, and my chest and shoulders looking reddish.  After seeing all the interesting old cars and enjoying some of the old school Rockabilly culture, we headed towards home with a few stops along the way.

Matty and T

My favorite.  Can't you just see the girls' co-piloting for me?

Yup - those are coolers they're riding.  The motors are pretty fast on those things!
This is my 2nd choice favorite.  No room for the girls, though...

We dropped by a hobby store manned by a single shopkeeper, whose eyes widened as we walked in.
"Got a bit of sun today, huh?" he grinned.

I really hadn't looked at myself since the morning and a quick check in the mirror revealed what he saw.  I was a rebel red lobster!  All the skin that had been exposed throughout the day was fire engine red.  I groaned, knowing the pain would come fast and hard.

Clearly not me, but Will Ferrell demonstrating my misery and raising awareness for a good cause,  

At home, I applied aloe, and took some Advil.  And waited.  Sunday was uncomfortable and painful.  I made Flower Pup collars all day and found that sitting fairly still was a grand idea.  Sunday night the pain intensified.  I tried a cool shower and almost came undone. I was scheduled to work Monday afternoon, but since trying to put on a sweatshirt to take the girls out that evening resulted in tears, I called in sick.  Monday evening the blisters started and I had chills whenever I moved too much.  The girls lay beside me in bed, vigilant and worried.  The unspoken understanding of weakness in a pack member.  Each time I got up, Nyxie would watch me with lowered head.  I'm quite sure "broiled" isn't what she's used to smelling from me.  Arwen just snuggled closer.


I knew I couldn't be wrestling any creatures at work the way I was feeling so I called out sick again on Tuesday. I felt so ridiculous.  I couldn't leave the house.  I couldn't even walk the dogs comfortably.  They're used to walkies on Mom Stay At Home days.  Not these days.  I hid from the sun like a mole.  Both Monday and Tuesday started out overcast, settling into sunny skies in the afternoons.  My blinds have been shut.

Yesterday I went to work.  It hurt.  But I bought sunscreen on the way home.

As I write this on a warm, breezy and sunbeam filled day, my skin reminds me to stay indoors.  I'm physically nervous to go outdoors.  I had a disagreement with the sun.  I thought there'd be a few more days, weeks, even a month or two to prepare.  I was wrong.  You might be pale, you may need more gym time, you may need to make summer camp plans.  But more time is a luxury you just don't have.  Ready or not, spring is here.  I'm ready now.  I have my sunscreen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flower Pups!

For any of you getting married or helping to plan a wedding or another special occasion, I've created some custom collars to help you include your pooch!

I read a recent article about dogs becoming increasingly welcomed at weddings as more people want to include Fido in their ceremonies.  I love this idea!   If I was planning my own wedding, I'd love to have my kiddos there.  If they can't be involved in the ceremony itself, they can at least sit pretty for wedding photographs.  It's all about the memories, right?

I can create floral accessories like these for any occasion, just let me know what details you'd like!  Thanks for looking at my store!

Here's another example I haven't listed in the store yet: 

Sunday, March 20, 2011


It's puppy season again.  That spectacular time of the year when all fuzzy goodness comes bounding awkwardly through our front doors.  At the hospital, we're starting to see all the new puppies brought in for their first vet visits and vaccines.  Some come from shelters, others from breeders, but they're all adorable.  And their new parents are full of joy.  And questions.

The routine is the same for each visit.  I usher the parents back to the scale for a weight check, they hold their squirming puppy on the scale and then they giggle as they watch their Fuzzy Wonder navigate into the exam room.  As soon as I hear the click of that door behind us, I exhale.  I know what's coming - the Questions.  I have been asked questions about nutrition, potty-training, crate-training, chewing, teething, baldness, bodily excretions, itching, ears, nail-trimming, wet vs dry noses...  The list goes on and on.

I've been a vet tech (although I prefer "vet nurse" as it more accurately describes what we do) for almost 7 years, and I've heard ALOT of questions.  Some are more surprising than others, some I've had to research the answer for, but I love each and every question.  The more questions, the more involved the parents seem as they welcome home their new puppy.  I love those parents that have done the research long before adopting or buying that special puppy the most.  They can tell me all about training, and their puppy's breed disposition, but are wanting to confirm what they've learned.  They're invested in doing the right thing behaviorally, medically, and emotionally.  And they want to truly partner with their vet team to do what's best.

The parents that scare me the most are those that have no questions and are very quiet throughout the exam.  I'm always wondering if they're really ready for the onslaught that this little Bundle of Joy is about to unleash on them.  I know I wasn't prepared when I brought home my first puppy.  In retrospect, I wish I had kept my veterinary tech and vet in that exam room for at least another 45 minutes!

The ones that really terrify me are the ones that seem truly disinterested in their puppy.  The man who seems irritated to be there, whose wife bought the kids a dog of a breed he would never want.  These are the puppies I want to spirit out the back door into the arms of the nearest stranger because they might get a better chance at life.  In these cases, I find myself praising the puppy endlessly, and trying in the short visit to teach a few basic commands like "sit" and "down".  Maybe if he sees me do it, he'll find some merit in the pup.  Maybe.

The majority of the puppies that come through our doors are lucky.  There will be insurance provided for them, daily cookies and walkies, and trips to the dog park.  Life will be good.  The hope in the eyes of each parent and puppy's eyes is palpable.  It's the promise of new life brought into our homes in the season of blossoms and green grass.  Fertility, infancy, renewal.  

For those lucky parents that are opening their doors to new puppies for the first time, and to all the hope they bring, I salute you!  The world of dogs is a magical, joyful, slobber-filled Oz.  So for now on, when I close that door to the exam room, I think I'll just turn to the new parents and say,

"Welcome to Oz.  We have cookies!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ode to Orange Ball

Nyxie was raised on toys.  From her first day with us, we had toys for her to chew, explore, and snuggle with.  Her favorites are round, squeaking, mouth-sized fuzzies.  Her first one looked like a small, fuzzy soccer ball in sky-blue and white.  From that point on, she was hooked.  And then there's the faithful tennis ball.

Tennis balls are like a drug to Nyxie.  She turns to them if she's stressed, gnawing on them, crushing even a new one in her mouth like a marshmallow.  Tennis balls are like a security blanket to her.  She'll toss them onto my lap if I get distracted from throwing them for her to retrieve, and will dig them out from under the couch like a miner digging for gold.  She flies into the air to catch them, all four legs off the ground.  Then the audible "POP!" as they land in the secure grasp of her jaws.

Toys make Nyxie happy.  I bring home a new one, and she'll sniff it, tail thumping, eyes wide until I hand it to her and she races into the bedroom to squeak her little heart out.  Sometimes the squeaker lasts a few days, but she usually silences it within hours.  No matter.  She'll carry the soft toy with her and then pick up a tennis ball in at the forefront of her jaws.  Sometimes the stuffie is carried while she bats the tennis balls with her front paws.

Arwen has never been much for toys.  She likes Nylabones and other bone chewies, but stuffie toys have absolutely no appeal.  I bought her a free trade, eco-friendly, wool stingray, hand spun  in Nepal.  She took it in her mouth and settled down with it.  I was thrilled!  A toy she actually liked!  I turned my back to her as we settled in, each with our distractions.  I had my computer and she had her new and very special toy.  A few minutes later I turned around to find the toy upside down, tiny tufts of wool surrounding the now disemboweled stingray body.

"Oh Arwen!  No!"

Oh well, I tried.  This new toy, although hand made in Nepal, just for Arwen, still cannot compare to Orange Ball.

Nyxie's puppyhood was full of dog park visits.  With these trips, I soon learned the joys of the Chuck-It - a long handled ball holder that will toss a special orange and blue ball long distances with the flick of a wrist.  For some reason, Nyxie wasn't a big fan of the Chuck-It ball, and never really raced after it like she would a tennis ball.  Arwen took a shine to it, though.

Orange Ball is special because it's the only one toy that Arwen consistently likes.  Orange Ball is now cracked, but still maintains its shape.  Orange Ball cannot be duplicated or replaced.  I tried buying "refill" Chuck-It balls for her when original Orange Ball cracked.  She knew they were impostors.  She won't even pick them up.

Orange Ball is the only toy Arwen doesn't look clumsy playing with.  She has a hard time catching anything, much less a tennis ball, but she can catch Orange Ball - sometimes.  It fits perfectly in her mouth and occasionally, she even falls asleep playing with it.  I've tried to understand the mysteries of Orange Ball with no success.  Orange Ball is, and always will have mystical powers.  Arwen's security blanket, her only non-living friend.  Who needs stuffies?  She has her pack after all.  And Orange Ball.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bone Dog Pups

More shameless promotion of the Etsy store...
I finally made something dog-related!  I was asked to make one of my bone charm dolls for a friend (shhh...I'm not sure if it's a secret, so I'm not going to link the finished doll here yet).  I'm so thankful to have been given the opportunity to make something special, AND for giving me this new concept!

Bone Dog Pups!  These pups are made from up-cycled, cleaned and bleached chicken or turkey bones and then I added Arwen or Nyxie fur to finish the pups!  Finally - a use for all that blown coat!  The little guys have beaded leashes and collars. Yes, there is actually a beaded collar with a wire buckle under all that fuzz!  Each dog will be unique, like your unique pup - with all your dog's individual details.  You can see more pics at the store here

Here's a sample:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Paw

The other day, a client called and wanted to discuss her dog's paws.  She was concerned that her older Lab had begun sliding on the hardwood floors in their home.  She asked me if older dogs develop problems with their paw pads.  Her dog was starting to show signs of aging and our doctor had recently prescribed for her some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds to help with the pain of arthritis.  I explained to her that the sliding was most likely attributed to the arthritis and the meds should help soon.  I suggested to her that some conveniently placed accent rugs, and short toenails could help, too.

Since this phone conversation, I've been thinking about paws.

Yup.  Paws.

They come in all shapes and sizes.  Different stages of wear - some smooth, some rough.  Whenever I meet a puppy, I'm always drawn to those magical, little, soft paw pads.  I just want to feel the soft newness of those stumpy little digits.  There's just something about paws.

Most dogs are sensitive about people touching their paws.  Common knowledge tells us to manipulate a puppy's paws often.  In this way, paws can be easily touched throughout the dog's lifetime.  Even so, most dogs pull away repeatedly during nail trims, if they permit us to touch them at all.  I've never been able to trim nails on a non-anesthetized patient by myself.  It's truly a 2 person job (unless it's my own girls - then it just takes time and lots of treats - LOTS of treats).  I think dogs understand the power of the paw - the importance of those delicate digits.

The paws and their pads take dogs wherever that nose leads.  Without those paws, they can't experience the beauty and greatness in the universe.  A lame dog seems usually to be a sad dog.  Not to say that dogs with limited mobility or those with three legs aren't happy.  Some of these seem to be the happiest dogs of all - they had a brush with the loss of mobility, but have rebounded!  A second lease on life.  Dogs need to move, travel, receive stimuli, intake, experience.

Maybe this is the magic of the paw.  Humans and dogs are linked on such a primitive level.  We started this journey as co-wanderers.  Companions of a sort.  A partnership that solidified at the campfire, the resting place.  It seems natural that we, too, should value travel and experience.  And it all comes down to that companionship.  That camaraderie.  That bond.  

I respect The Paw.  It's power is in its limitless, extraordinary freedom!