Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pretty Please Vote!!

We've entered into the Kimpton Hotels Paw Pawrazzi contest to win a vacation!  Please vote for us - I've put up a pic of each of the girls.  You can see and vote for them here.  We could really use a vacation!  Thanks and Happy Thursday!

I also want to send my hopes out to all those caught in the wake of the tornadoes that hit this week.  I know there are many bloggers in this community that may have been affected.  My thoughts and positive wishes of hope go out to you!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kids and Furkids

Having just read an article about a young girl who was bitten by a service dog of another young girl who suffers from brain cancer, I am compelled to throw in my 2 cents.  The outcome of the incident can be found here.  (According to the original story, Ava, the dog, was on leash with the owner's father when a game in the neighbor's yard resulted in the bite.)  We'll never know for sure what actually happened, but nobody really won in the end.  

Little people and dogs go hand in hand.  Er, hand in paw.  Young children just seem to take to dogs without reservation or fear.  They’re fascinated by them, as soft, warm toys that play back! That relationship stays strong as long as fears aren’t instilled in them by worried, overly anxious parents.  As the puppies roll into the clinic with their new families – we are in puppy season, after all - we see these new relationships burgeoning into what will hopefully become life-long friendships. 

You can’t help but smile when a little child announces, “This is Bella!”, or “This is Cody!” signaling to the family’s new furkid.  Their voices ring with pride at the announcement of their new family member.  Some of these kids will fall head over heels in love with this new pup and spend hours each day playing with him, trying to keep him awake from puppy naps and forcing him to sit at tea parties in pink frilly dresses.  Other kids see the new puppy as competition for their parents’ attention, an intruder that has made the entire family suddenly switch focus from child to canine.  Still others just giggle at their parents’ frustration at this new biting, chewing, pooping little demon. 

Strangely, though, all of these children will lay their hands all over the new puppy.  They’ll stroke her fur and gaze into her eyes.  Even the toddler that pushed his puppy away screaming “NO!” as the small writhing form tried to climb into his lap, eventually relented.  He allowed her to settle in his lap by the end of the exam visit, playing quietly with her toes.  Another little boy laughed loudly when we took his pup’s temperature, later poking the poor pup’s bum with his finger until his mom scolded him, “We don’t want to hurt her, darling, she’s ours to care for!”  At this, he smiled, hugging her tightly.

None of these kids showed any fear of the puppies.  All were filled with curiosity.  The lessons were becoming clear – there is another besides me with feelings, thoughts, and wants.  If I am gentle with this puppy, I won’t hurt it.  It wants to be near me and play with me.  Where is that adult fear of dogs?  Where are the preconceived ideas about breeds?  

They simply aren’t there yet.  Those ugly things are taught. 

I’ve always been amazed by peoples’ ignorance about dogs and their behavior.  And in trying to become a calm, assertive leader to my dogs (both human and canine), I see where others are anxious and ambivalent (or entirely absent) with training.  As a society that welcomes dogs into our homes, shouldn’t adults apply themselves to learning not only about dogs, but teach kids how to behave calmly and appropriately around dogs - both familiar and unknown?  All kids should be universally educated to live with dogs. At least one segment of 1st or 2nd grade science class should be dedicated to understanding dog behavior, and proper etiquette around them.  

"Always ask if it's okay to pet another person’s dog."
"Never stare straight into a dog’s eyes at eye level."
"Don’t take food away from a dog while she's eating."
"Never run away from a strange dog or pack of dogs"

You know, all those common sense rules…All the rules we hammered into T so she could love dogs respectfully and simply.  We didn’t yield on the animal rules.  If she broke them and behaved poorly around animals, she earned a time-out.  Today, at 13 years old, she has beautiful dog manners.  Now we are teaching her about body language and calm, assertive ways of being around the girls.  

Let me clarify - I am NOT saying that children are responsible for dog bites.  I am simply saying that the best defense is a good offense.  If parents teach their children  how to deal correctly with a dog while the children are young and curious, their relationships with dogs will be richer.  They'll understand them and not fear what is mysterious, or unknown.  They'll fight the media hype over breed absurdities and listen to their experiences and hearts. They'll read body language and become more aware of the world around them.  

Kids love dogs because they're pure and honest.  They’re warm and soft, and they make time for them when the adults are busy.  The lesson to pass on here, is to trust the lessons of nature.  Those 1st impressions of dogs and the natural world are real, untainted and precious.  Parents are ultimately responsible for their children's knowledge and ignorance.  Learn about what you don't know first, then share that knowledge with your kids.  
The Universe and the dogs of the world will thank you for it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Birthday Festivus

I'm on a birthday vacation, or festivus, as we call it here in my home!  Matt ushered in the festivus celebrations this past weekend when he made me a special birthday Lobster Ravioli in citrus chardonnay sauce -yum!

What a wonderful Matty!
In past years, I've gone out partying on my birthday, when that was what I thought a good time meant.  Or I'd be at work because I hadn't planned well enough in advance.  Not this year!  I decided to celebrate myself.  Matt is at work and T is at school, so that leaves just me and the girls.

Arwen says " Mom - can't we spend all this time together without her "?!
We started our day with a long walk, I had yummy margheritta pizza for lunch and now I'm catching up on reading and writing.  What a great day.  The best part of all is that I've given myself tomorrow and the next day off as a post birthday gift, too. Instead of beating myself up at the gym tonight, I think I'll go visit my friend on the patio of my local coffee shop.   Maybe I'm spoiling myself.  Nah - I deserve it!

My friend has made herself quite at home on the coffee shop's patio!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dog as Teacher

When I brought my first dog home, I thought all that was required was cuddling, food and water, and medical care.  What I hadn't realized, was that there would be a ton of learning going on.  Obedience training for the new pup, you ask?

No.  I would be pupil, with dog as teacher.
This lesson was not readily apparent to me.

Sure, there was the old "sit" and "stay", all the usual training that dogs learn to be reasonable members of a household.  But what I was learning from my dog, were the life lessons.  The states of being.  That dogs follow calm, assertive energy (thanks, Cesar) and how keenly they're connected to whatever feelings their people are feeling.  I drank in all the wisdom of dog behaviorists and trainers, like Patricia McConnell, Ian Dunbar, Dr. Sophia Yin, Victoria Stilwell and Cesar Millan.  I plucked knowledge gems away from these doggie gurus and squirreled them away, like a hoarder surrounded by all her valuable treasures.  I have a library of books about dogs - their behaviors, their communication, their working abilities, their roles in history, and their breed characteristics.  I immersed myself completely in the world of dogs.

But I was missing something.  I'd learn some great truth, apply it and see how it worked with my own dogs.  But then I'd allow myself to become distracted with something stupid.  Like a fish with a shiny bauble dangling before her, I'd forget the great truth and let the world sink its claws into me.  The lesson forgotten, I'd become impatient with my dogs and feel frustrated.  Result - unbalanced, reactive dogs with an unbalanced, anxious owner.

As I approach my birthday, I'm reflecting back on the year with pride.  There's no great mystery I've solved, but I'm learning to be at peace with myself.  I'm starting to experience what some might call wisdom.  That I am defined by my actions, not my words.  That I should hold my head high, shoulders back - there's a great deal to be proud of.  That no matter how much I worry about anything, it can't change.  Only forward action matters.  And finally, that my perspective dictates the outcome of each and every endeavor.

Positivity.  Calm.  Assertiveness.  Pride.  Action.  With these simple principles, my world changes.  Whether it's walking with Nyxie, or how I face each day at work, or how I react to people bent on negative energy.  The shift has been amazing.  I'm not sure how I spent years as a reactive, insecure person!  Wow - that was a difficult thing to admit...

But why be embarrassed about these things when the force to change it is working?  I'm hoping that each year brings this sort of wisdom, this new learning.  Inner peace, contentment.

I'm ready for the next evolution.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sensing Ghosts?

I watch quite a few paranormal TV shows, an addiction I'm only marginally embarrassed about.  You may or may not believe in ghosts, demons, or things that go bump in the night, but it is interesting to see how the paranormal and the sensory abilities of dogs are connected.  Dogs and ghosts work well together on several levels.  Pet owners claim their dogs start acting "funny" and this is the first indication that paranormal type incidents are in their immediate future.  

Animal Planet's The Haunted is a show that tells stories primarily about families who move into a new home and start to experience a haunting.  More often than not the family dog is the first to pick up on something abnormal.  Scary, creepy experiences are often reported as the family dog growls at some unseen presence, or cowers away from a particular area of the new house.  They're the first to sense the paranormal.

Another show, SyFy's Ghost Adventures, recently featured a ghost hunting dog, Maddie.  She's the pup of Jason Hawes, one of the team's founding members.  The team is training Maddie to go with them on investigations and alert to paranormal activity.  While her debut episode only featured her for about 5 minutes, I was sucked into watching the show because of this gorgeous German Shepherd / Cattle Dog beauty.

Maddie, ghost hunting dog of Jason Hawes of SyFy's Ghost Hunters
Another show I watch is Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, which has absolutely nothing to do with dogs, but features a very nice to look at ghost hunter, Zak Bagans, and his team.  T and I enjoy watching this show more for pure female entertainment value.  Eye candy, if you will (T calls Zak "the beefcake" because he reminds her of the beefcakes at the gym).  But I digress.  The last paranormal show worth mentioning is A&E's Paranormal State, an investigative team started by a group of students interested in ghosties out of Penn State.  They focus on the human side of these situations, which always makes the stories more intense.

We know dogs are gifted with extraordinary olfactory abilities, better night vision than us, and better hearing than us.  These make them great ghost hunters!  Whatever the case, a good ghost story and dogs always make for good entertainment.

There are times when our girls stare at a particular spot on the ceiling, or at the wall with such focus that I'm relieved to follow their gaze and  find a mosquito or other flying bug dancing along.  An intruder?  Yes.  Paranormal and terrifying?  Thankfully no.  But I know the girls would let me know one way or another.  And then you'd see us on TV,  Arwen trying to get the ghost to give her belly rubs and Nyxie trying to chew on the investigators.

Move over Scooby Doo - we ain't afraid of no ghost!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

I've Been Published!

I'm a guest blogger on Fido Friendly Magazine's online blog!  My post went live today, through the work of a wonderful lady named Carol that gave me this opportunity.  I've wanted for so long to be a writer and I feel like it's starting to happen.  This is a start, anyhow.
You can see the post through their wonderful online magazine here.  Happy Saturday, friends!

Sunbeams & Orange Ball - this is a good Saturday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Blogaversary

I was late again.  This isn't a new thing to me.  I admit that I'm usually late to arrive places.  I send belated birthday cards quite frequently, and I hit the snooze button far too often.  This time, I was late in announcing my 1 year anniversary of Arwen's Pack!!

Yup - one year old and I'm still addicted to chattering online about dogs at anybody who will listen.  I never dreamed that anyone would actually want to read my ramblings, and at the outset, I wondered whether I'd get any followers at all!  It still blows my mind that there are people out there who have stuck it out with Arwen, Nyxie and me.  I am humbled.

The thing I didn't count on with Arwen's Pack, is the very real connections I've made with others in the blogging community.  This is an understanding, passionate bunch that I'm proud to have become a part of.  It's comforting to know that there are real dog lovers out there - people who have imperfect dogs, people who get excited when their dog's diarrhea lands on the tile and not the carpet, and who celebrate when their dog doesn't terrify or jump on their neighbors.  People who dress up their dogs at Halloween, and yes, even those people who celebrate Gotcha and Birthdays with home baked doggie cookies.

I also never anticipated the rush of emotions I feel at your moments of joy and sadness - the torment of losing a pup, or the joy of a new pack member.  And of course, the rescue stories!  I've read countless posts of people that are worried sick for their pups who are ill or injured, and my hands become sweaty, my heart sick.  Although I've never sat with a single one of you face to face, that connection is real.

I am in love with my dogs.  They're such a source of joy, peace, and occasional insanity for me, that I know I'm a lucky woman.  I'm lucky to have them and to have you in my life.  Thank you for being a part of Arwen's Pack.

Now raise your pints to a new year and many more wonderful doggie days ahead!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Choosing Mr Right

Today we went to our local PetCo store to buy our Ball Python, Miss SnakeyPoo, a frozen rat.

Yup - you read right.  I exchange perfectly good money for dead rats.  Not just any old rat, though - no way!  These rats are fed well, are disease and parasite free, and then ultimately humanely euthanized.  A rat of this caliber will run you about $7.00, if you really must know.   I'm thankful she eats the frozen thawed variety because it's too heart-wrenching to see a live furry creature killed in such a naturally efficient way.

Sorry for the pic quality!
Miss Poo, as we affectionately call her, is about 8 years old - Matt and I bought her at a Reptile Expo in Florida a couple of years after we got together.  At that point she was so tiny, she fit in a dixie cup with plenty of room.  She eats about once every 3 weeks or so - sometimes more frequently depending on whether we make it to Grapevine, where the nearest PetCo is located.  I hear there's a new PetCo coming in just a town over from us in Coppell, for those of you around the Dallas area...

But I digress.

In the pic above, Miss Poo is lovingly resting over her dinner - a medium sized male rat.  If you've ever seen a male rodent, well - let's just say you know one when you see one.  Miss Poo was in love!

While we were at PetCo, we browsed the aisles for a lovely new toy to bring to Nyxie.  She's been a good girl lately with all of her training and I thought a nice toy would be just the thing for her!  But which to choose...

The Bad Cuz being expertly demonstrated by T in the pic above, came highly recommended, but after almost piercing my eardrums with each squeeze of his fat little body, I decided against the adorable mischief maker (for now).  Also, I was disappointed to see that he is Made in China...

It's made by JW and you can see in the middle right where it says those fateful 3 words - Made In China.  We have nothing against the country or its people, but buying products from a country that has a record of using unsafe materials in many products (not just dog toys) and engages in unfair labor practices just rubs me the wrong way.  I'll get off my soapbox now.

So another option was this:

But this Arachnoid Ball also by JW was kind of a bouncing dud.  I dropped it and "plop".  Nothing happened.  Boring.  

This wasn't in the running - I don't think either of my girls could even get their mouths around it.  It reads, "For dogs over 25 lbs" - maybe they forgot a zero? Maybe it would be just right for Mango?  Pricey, though - perhaps after the Foster House is sold...

We finally stumbled on this cutie that caught Matt and T's attention as they are Gummi Bear addicts.  Not only is the little bugger cute, but it has a not horribly loud squeaker, "certified non-toxic" and is MADE IN THE USA!!  It's also made by JW - maybe it's a trend they'll continue!

The surprise was that even Arwen liked it!  Yup - you read right again- Arwen actually liked a toy that is not Orange Ball!!!   

So all in all, each of my girls found their Mr Right today! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Level 5? Nah....

As most of you know, Nyxie is a very protective girl.  When there is a stranger nearby, or a door is knocked, she’s the first to alert about danger.  And in her strict, militant German Shepherd mind, danger lurks everywhere!  We understand this about her and each day brings new opportunities to separate high alert, Level 5 dangers from minimal, Level 1 & 2 dangers.  The poor girl used to respond to all perceived threats with a Level 5 reaction, sending every one of us climbing the walls in surprise.  There’s nothing quite like the alarm bark of a large GSD to send you leaping into the air just as you were drifting off to sleep for a nap on the couch.  Thankfully, the new calm, assertive approach is paying off.  Consistency is key!
The girls are fed raw, and we feed them in turns.  First Arwen eats while Nyxie waits patiently in her crate.  When Arwen is done, which is uber-fast, Nyxie Noodle has her turn in the kitchen for dinner.  She gets so excited, she drools waiting for her bowl to be set down.  It’s positively adorable. 

Several days ago, we decided to order pizza for dinner.  As luck would have it, the doorbell rang just as Nyxie was leaning over her bowl to sink her chompers into her chicken.  Can you imagine what happened next, Gentle Readers?

A split second decision was made by my highly protective dog.  Nyxie came flying around the corner towards the front door, chicken thigh in her mouth.  She was growling, but not barking.  Clearly the level 5 threat of another day is merely a Level 0.5 when chicken is involved. 

My dog is a genius!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Deep Ellum Dog, er ...Arts Festival 2011

This past weekend was the Deep Ellum Arts Festival in Dallas.  For those of you unfamiliar with Dallas, Deep Ellum is an edgy pocket of an otherwise fairly blended city.  Dallas is full of big box store shopping, chain restaurants, and manicured lawns.  The nails are done, the hair is bleached and the man's uniform is khaki's and a collared polo shirt.  Deep Ellum is none of those things.  This is where the artists drink, show off their ink and thrive.  It reminds me of Portland, Maine which we miss dearly as many of you already know.    

An angle of downtown Dallas
We have a family tradition of weekend brunch - either at home or at some yummy spot.  We recently discovered the All Good Cafe in Deep Ellum.  They were featured on the Travel Channel for some of the best bacon in the country.  We certainly had to challenge this bold statement.  They weren't kidding!  This is some dynamite bacon - peppered and cooked just right.  What you don't see in the pic is my brunch beverage, a frosty Guinness!  Here's a pic of their Chicken Fried Steak and eggs, with a side of bacon of course.  

For those of you unfamiliar with this southern delicacy, Chicken Fried Steak is a thin steak deep fried, then smeared with thick, creamy gravy.  
Heart attack?  Yes.  Delicious?  Yes again!

As we sat eating and watching people pass by, browsing the artists' booths, we noticed something interesting. There were dogs everywhere!!!  I was in heaven!!!  So naturally, I pulled out my camera and started shooting.  And as we walked about, we were again reminded of how wonderful dog people are - a kindred connection that crosses all geographical differences!

But first, some art for your enjoyment:

A view of the Festival 

Dragon Cow! 

Metal Work
The Violin Guy - we bought his CD!

And now for the Dogs!

Of course we found some wonderful husky parents with this kiddo - he was such a dear!
His mom's an Interior Designer!!

And finally, Creasy, looking for a bit of shade.

We had a wonderful time.  I hope your weekend was dog-filled!