Monday, May 30, 2011

The Gift

"It's so weird not having her right here"

That's when they point to the ground right behind them, or tap their hip, signaling the place where their pup can usually be found.  I hear this so often when a person reflects on their dog being absent from home.   It's the most common thing people admit when their dog has passed away, has been at the clinic overnight to recuperate from surgery, or the owner has been on vacation.

We've had a recent run of sad outcomes lately.  Diagnoses that end in tears and gut-wrenching decisions.  It's tough not to reflect on your own pack and consider their roles in your life.

I find it's the proximity you miss.  The knowledge that you're not alone, that one of the pack is right there.  It's good to feel that someone, however fuzzy, has "your back".  That you're not alone, even when there isn't another human for miles.  We all have that driving pack mentality, like it or not.  I think the pack gene might be stronger in some of us, though...

On this Memorial Day, I've been considering the guardians of our greater pack - working dogs and their handlers.  We owe them so much.  Because of them, we're not alone.  Someone strong, powerful and fearless has "our back"

Look around and appreciate your pack today.  Each day is a gift to celebrate that bond, precious time, and lives spent well.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

We're Featured on Pet Blogs United!

Pam and Oskar run a fantastic blog, Pet Blogs United, where they feature a weekly pet blog to help spread friendship and offer support for our pet passion.  My blog is a slice of the goodness in my life.  With so much negativity and cruelty surrounding animals and the way people treat them, we need a safe haven.  A place to celebrate being caretakers and marvel at our special furry connections.

I've met incredibly kind and gifted people here, many of whom I'm pleased to call friends.  I feel honored to be featured and to actually have readers share this wild ride with me.  Arwen, Nyxie and I thank you.  It's good to be in Arwen's Pack with you!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Gabillion Reasons for Loving Your Dog

~~numbers 1-10~~
(Siberian Husky edition)
  1. If there’s another ice age, well – the more the merrier!  You’ll have transportation and snuggle buddies!  Just keep in mind these activities should really be done separately.
  2. If you crave attention, just go for a walk with you Sibe – there’s no end to the “You’re dog is beautiful!” compliments.  Then of course, there's always the "Is that a wolf?" question.  Yes, seriously.
  3. In a similar vein – Sibes aren’t for the shy.  Just try pulling your pup away from a great smell spot.  The howling can be heard for miles!  ( In Arwen’s case, it’s bath time that does it – we learned this the hard way…You would swear we were plucking her legs off!)
  4. Your arms and shoulders will be well sculpted with all the grooming and vacuuming you'll be doing.  And don't forget what great arm strength you'll have from hanging on to the end of your leash as you’re dragged across the neighborhood. 
  5. Similarly, when your Sibe jumps the fence for a neighborhood tour, you’ll get a lovely cardiovascular workout.  Nothing like a good jog in your jammies! 
  6. You will have absolutely no “infestations” of the small critter kind.  This can include cats and small dogs on occasion (sorry feline and small pup friends – we love you individually very much).
  7. If you ever have the need for luxurious fur in your crafts, fear not!  The Husky will provide and make more!  And more, and more….
  8. Because Huskies love you deeply, they will do their best to teach you humility.  Just call for your husky while you’re enjoying the outdoors together.  This “silent treatment” is particularly effective in driving the point home.  Particularly effective when among a group of other dog parents, or as your Husky squats in your neighbor's flower bed.  
  9. You’ll never miss your Sibe while out to dinner or at a friend’s house.  You’ll find stray fur bits on your clothes and in your food as gentle reminders of your treasured friend.  Your Husky buddy is so very thoughtful.
  10. Huskies are masters of the economics of supply & demand.  If you have an item of value, they desire it.  And they will have it.  You have the supply and they will demand it.  Did I mention Arwen's love of beer and ice cream?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beer and Ice Cream

If Arwen was a human, she'd easily weigh 370 lbs.  Her favorite foods are beer and ice cream.  (And yes, I think Guinness can be considered a food.)  She finds the best seat in the house and can usually be seen curled on her back with all four paws in the air.  She's a glutton that slurps up any crumbs, spills, and drops left over on the kitchen floor.  She will lay beneath our feet while we eat and stare longingly at our food and hands.  If she had the power of telekinesis, all our food would launch itself out of our hands and into her gaping mouth as by catapult!

Insert noms here

We discovered the magical hold beer and ice cream have over Arwen very much by accident.  Ice cream she discovered on her own as she leaned closer and closer to my spoon while I ate distractedly.  Beer was a spill she managed to handle faster and more efficiently than you could say "paper towels!".  Now lest you think we're horrible eaters with nothing but junk in our fridge, let me tell you what else we've discovered about Arwen's foodie nature.  There are other things she won't turn down - fresh spinach, peas, sandwich bread (any bread, really), crabmeat wontons (absolute accident), wine, any fish, a mouse (we were feeding a frozen thawed mouse to our snake years ago - yes, really) and a bird (caught straight out of the air- quite impressive, really).

Arwen is an equal opportunity scrounge in every sense of the word.  And did I mention begging is a regular part of her repertoire?

       See that I'm a poor hungry dog?  I haven't eaten in at least 20 minutes!   

Monday, May 16, 2011


Just a quick reminder to check out my May Fido Friendly Blog contribution.  Please feel free to leave a comment on their site.  Thanks!

I recently heard of a dog training program in a women's correctional facility in which inmates rehabilitate and eventually find homes for problem dogs.  The women are in charge of every aspect of care-taking and training of these "last chance" dogs - much like a foster mom.  The program takes two socially peripheral groups and allows them to form bonds and work cohesively to emerge stronger and well-balanced.  Brilliant!

The women are incarcerated for a variety of reasons and have plenty of time to form human-canine bonds.  These bonds in turn allow them to experience a kind of honest love that they might have been lacking in the outside world.  All the women interviewed discussed how they had gained trust and self-confidence by working with the dogs.  One went so far as to say she felt "love without the stress to reciprocate it" from the dogs.  What a statement!  So ready or not, the dogs were there to offer their affection and loyalty.  The barriers were down, the purity clear.  

The idea that this kind of relationship could do so much for these women left me in a state of shock.  Although I'm aware of how powerful that canine-human connection can be, I never thought of it changing a life so wholly.  I imagine that being in jail is a truly life-sapping, bottom of the barrel kind of experience.  But then to find that ray of hope!  That single "other" that doesn't care about your crimes or where you are, only that you are there and you are connected!

Now imagine that you are one of these women.  That you have known great pain and little if any love.  That you did something terrible and got caught.  That you are hopeless and tired.  That you have many years ahead of you to live confined.  Now imagine that you're lying on your mattress at night with a warm head on your stomach.  Soft breathing comes more slowly now and you think about waking up to feed and walk the small body stretched out next to you.  Tomorrow is a new day and somebody will be there to share it with you.  Tomorrow.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Nyxie is Art , an Honest Kitchen and a Planet of Dogs

I'm so far behind in reading everyone's posts, that I feel out of the loop!  I'm not going anywhere, or doing anything necessarily fun, but I am doing something exciting.  I'm working on a little business venture with some friends that may turn out to be something big.  Don't worry - No basement chemistry involved - it's entirely legit ;)  But it is using up every moment of free time that seems to come my way.

In catching up with some of those loose ends, I want to share a few things:

First, Nyxie is Art!  An artist by the name of William Gilliam came up with a genius idea to paint 150 dog breeds in 6 months.  His concept is summed up nicely at the Dog Art Today blog here.  More detailed info can be found on the artist's own website, The Canine Portrait Project blog here.  The best part of all is that Nyxie was accepted as one of the many subjects for his book and a percentage of his proceeds will go towards helping the Big Island Humane Society in Hawaii where he lives!  Here is his rendition of my baby:

Nyxie the Black German Shepherd by William Gilliam
Second, I'm an affiliate of The Honest Kitchen, a wonderful family owned dog and cat food company that promotes natural feeding through dehydrated human grade ingredients.  I first heard of them through another great dog (wonderfully philanthropic) company, Planet Dog. - they have a company store in Portland, Maine where my friend, Jamie used to work.  This is also where Nyxie's cracker-dog puppy classes were held and where I first learned of raw feeding.  Before so many other businesses jumped on the idea of holistic food choices for dogs, Planet Dog's freezers were stocked.

So why am I suddenly talking about these guys?  Well, Planet Dog is a great company that donates tons of money to the Planet Dog Foundation.  A worthy and dog-centered organization that creates a better universe?  Yeah, I'll talk about them all day long.  And The Honest Kitchen?  Well, I've been feeding Preference (their dehydrated recipe to supplement the protein you provide in a raw diet) since Nyxie came home to us years ago.  I love their company and their foods. This month they're featuring Preference and giving a discount through their website.  I figured I'd share it with you  :)

So that's what's going on here.  And now, the girls will enjoy the sunbeams and I'm going to go catch up on some much missed reading...

Thursday, May 5, 2011


At the clinic where I work, we have a high energy canine patient.  To respect his privacy, we'll call him "Abe".  Abe obsesses over rocks.  He chases and chews them, desperate to get his mouth around them -  rocks, of all things.  How do I know this?  Not only is his owner at his wit's end with this annoying behavior and told us all about it, but just recently this poor pooch was put under anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned.  At that point, the extent of his obsession was made fully apparent.

Not Abe, but you get the idea...

Each and every tooth was worn down from years of grinding on rocks.  There was extensive damage done, and his teeth were ground down to pulps - a fairly painful progression.  We scaled and polished them, advising Abe's owner to keep him away from the dreaded rocks.  His owner revealed to us that Abe loves to chew on rocks in the backyard.  I asked him if he takes Abe on regular walks.

Dog park?
Doggie day care?
So Abe's only outlet for his high energy is rock chewing.
Poor dog.

All I could imagine was that feeling of having drank too much coffee, and then trying to fall asleep.  (For me this would have to be a whole coffee pot, but you get the idea.)  Tossing and turning, feeling your skin crawl as you readjust your position for the 18 millionth time.  Horrible.

This got me thinking about how I meet my own girls' needs.  Do I meet them?  Are they bored?  Frustrated?  I imagine they tolerate quite a bit of boredom and frustration, but they do so with grace.  I know Nyxie particularly needs more exercise to release her anxiety and drive to work, and as my physical endurance grows, her walks and runs grow longer.  It's a big responsibility to meet your dog's needs and give them a full life.  A few hugs and pets on the head after an 8 hour absence just isn't enough.  If you're unable or unwilling to exercise them, pay someone else to do so, or engage them in games that work the brain!  Doggie daycares and dog walkers are everywhere - you just need to get creative!

So if you love your dogs, you'll not keep them around purely for your enjoyment, but you'll let them do those things that let them maintain balanced dogness.  You know, the things you may not want to, but you know they'll love.  Like when Matt wants to watch a an episode of Mythbusters to nurture the science nerd inside of  him, when I'd rather be piercing my eyelids!

True love requires consideration and at times, sacrifice.  
Living with a dog is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Wild

While at the gym with my friend Alexis, the other night, I took a good look around me.  There I was, beating the elliptical machine I was sweating over into submission, when I burst out laughing.  I'm quite sure the 2 people on my flanking machines suspected that I'd lost my nut and it would only be a matter of time before I'd go flying off the machine and the paramedics would haul me away.

No such thing happened.  I regained my composure and looked around again.  I saw a sea of redirected energy.  There were probably a hundred people in that building - lifting weights, huffing and puffing on cardio machines, and dancing in a scheduled class - all working towards the same goal.  Stress relief.

Some might say they go to the gym to lose weight or to lower their blood pressure, but the reality is that we don't get enough stress relief in our lives naturally.  How many of us walk or run to catch our food, scavenge about for food (not at the fridge or pantry) or even show our true emotions without fear of embarrassment?

All the "civilized" customs that we have often cut us off from what we should do naturally.  These conveniences are definitely nice.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating living out in the woods and chewing on bark to survive (although almost every day I have a moment when I wish I lived out in the woods with the dogs).  But this need to physically run in place like a mouse on a wheel, or lift weights the size of tree trunks is culturally telling .  Because if we didn't do these, our muscles would atrophy from lack of use.  And our heads would surely pop off from frustration.  It's our modern way of getting back to that primitive, natural way of using those bodies we're given.

Dogs are another connection to that wildness.  That's why we can be honest with them.  Everything involving dogs links us to the natural - eating, drinking, walking, playing, stroking, sleeping (and the earthiest of all -  pooping, peeing, and for the unneutered - sex!).  But this is why we love and care for them.  They're that little slice of the what we were before all the "conveniences" drove us to pay membership dues to a place where the mouse wheels are stored so we can run in place.

It's enough to make you grab that leash and celebrate the primitive!