Weekend in review!

The boys have been in a bit of a “fun hangover” the past few days.

They’ve been so busy re-living the great visit they had with their special guests, that they haven’t even had time to blog. Eep!

Most folks have already found out about our special guest from her blog posts this week — we had a great visit with our pal Juliana from Peace, Love, and Fostering and her hunny Mark. Chick had met Juliana before, and was excited to introduce her to his brother, Doodlebug. Immediately, both boys knew that Juliana was their very best friend in the whole world.

And once we dressed our visitors up in cowboy boots that match our boys’ beautiful brown-and-white furs, they decided that Mark could join their elite club, too.

Having dog-lover visitors is always such a treat, but having dog-lovers who also carry cameras wherever they go is extra special. Those who are always behind the lens are familiar with the bittersweet feeling of having great photos of things going on around them, but never being in the photos. So we were thrilled that Juliana kindly showered us with her photojournalistic splendor and reminded us of what our life looks like when mama’s not behind the lens:

photo courtesy Juliana Willems

photo courtesy Juliana Willems

photo courtesy Juliana Willems

As much lovin’ as the boys had, us humans snuck off for some fun of our own too — primarily in the form of eating, drinking, and splashing around in Austin’s many swimming spots.

Thanks for the great visit, friends! Come back soon!





Chix-A-Lot Friday: getting ready for a special visitor!

Hey guys, I’m so excited I’d almost pee in my pants, if I were wearing any pants. I’ve been bouncing and bouncing about, and peeping out the window every few minutes. Mama says I’m being silly because my special visitor isn’t coming until tomorrow, but I want to be good and ready!

I’ve prepared the Dora B&B and have told Doodlebug all about how to charm our special visitor’s socks off so she’ll love him forever. I already am not too worried about her loving me forever, charming as I am.

I can’t wait to tell you all about her visit, but for now I have to run — I need to be on lookout at the door, and there are pillows to fluff!

Love, Chickster

Treats: how NOT to win over a shy dog

You encounter a shy, nervous, or fearful dog at the shelter or at an adoption event. You squat down, try to make eye contact, and encourage the dog to come to you. The dog doesn’t. She stays still, licks her lips, turns her head up and away, as though catching a scent in the air. She licks her lips.

You move a little closer, thinking she’s just shy and maybe you should approach her instead of waiting for her to come to you. You scoot forward a step. She yawns.

You pull out your baggie of treats, thinking that if she is worried about you, maybe you giving her a treat — a peace offering — will show her that you are friend, not foe. You hold the treat out on your hand. She stands up tentatively and creeps forward slowly, with a tiny, low wag to her tail. She grabs the treat and retreats.

You offer another treat, she comes to you more quickly. The third time, she doesn’t retreat as far. You smile as you feel a little rush of adrenaline — You’ve won her over! Breakthrough!

We’ve all been there, right? Offered super-delicious treats to frightened dogs, and then felt like a dog charmer when the dogs approach us instead of cowering at the back of their kennels? Of course. It seems natural and is so tempting to do, but could we be setting them up for failure?

When we bribe a fearful dog to approach using treats, we are creating conflict in the dog. We are saying: Come to me even though you are scared of me. When this request is repeated over and over by different people, it creates a new habit in the dog — approaching people it is scared of in exchange for a food reward. The dog learns that it can approach, get a cookie, and then retreat. It’s when something unexpected happens — this particular stranger doesn’t have a cookie, and happens to sneeze, shuffle his feet, or stare directly into the dog’s eyes — the dog might bite.

We can do fearful dogs a BIG favor by teaching them to stay safe when they are frightened: If you’re scared, don’t approach me. Stay where you are. If a dog understands that he has the choice of whether to approach a new person or not, that dog is much less likely to end up in conflict and in trouble.

We want so badly to win fearful dogs over with food and love, but instead, let’s win them over on their own schedule. Some dogs warm up right away; others will never warm up. Some are somewhere in the middle.

When meeting a new dog, pay careful attention to the dog’s body language. If the dog does not approach or seems worried as it approaches, just be cool and ignore it. Wait and observe. Look for calming signals (yawning, lip licking, sniffing the ground, blinking), and offer them in return. Take the dog for a walk or offer a toy, but don’t use treats or pet it before it is begging for your touch. Many dogs will eat or freeze for petting when they are nervous, but a dog is unlikely to play or actively solicit petting while it’s worried. After that barrier is broken, the treat bag comes out and a world of new possibilities opens up.

But rather than using treats to win the dog’s trust initially, use casual indifference and patience. Teach it: You don’t have to come to me if you are worried. It’ll be the biggest favor you can do.

DISCLAIMER: Author is a student of dog training at the Canine Center in Austin, not licensed professional dog trainer. Contents are one person’s observations, not written-in-stone best practice. Use at your own discretion!

Chix-A-Lot Friday: I am Malaysian

Ok, maybe I’m not really. I am actually a Texan. But, I do have the malaise today, and I heard mama say I was Malaysian (or was it malaisin’?).

You see, mama gave me a bath the other day, after she saw a flea taking a joyride on my belly. She said it must be joyride season and whisked me off for some dampening and some scrubbing! Now, I don’t mind the scrubbing so much, but the dampening is not my favorite. Still, I took it like the brave boy that I am, and only gave her the malaisin’ looks a few times:

And then she whisked me out and dried me off, which is very nice but NOT nice enough to make up for all the malaisin’ that the evil spitting snake causes when he spits water at me and makes me dampened.

Well as though taking baths wasn’t malaise-inducing enough, I got a little bit of yeasties in my ear! They make my ear ouchy and a little itchy, and they make me want to shake it all crooked. And, they give me even more of the malaise. Mama says I already had the yeastie malaise before my bath, but I think it’s her fault for putting me in the tub. Don’t dogs get their ears invaded by yeasties after they go swimming or have evil baths?

So Doodlebug and I are laying low this weekend. He is nursing his bald patches and I am nursing my ear, which is now not only yeasty, but gets a vinegar solution swabbed in it twice a day by mama. Yuck!

Worms of all kinds. And carving new features.

Mama wanted me to tell you about my new feature on my face.

But I’ll just show it to you instead:

I carved it myself, with my back toenails!

Why, you ask?

So many reasons.

I’m itchy.

Because of allergies.

And my toenails stop the itching.

For a minute.

Plus, everybody loves my cute scar on my face . . .

so I thought I’d make another!

Oh, and also: I have a new set of worms.

They are ringworms.

Which aren’t worms at all!

They’re just a fungus pretending to be worms!

Sneaky bastards!

The ringworm funguses make me itchy too

and make my skin dry out and flake up

and my beautiful red and white furs fall out in patches all over.

Even on my darling Doodlebug face and ears:

Mama says there’s an end in sight

(to the worms, not the allergies)

but I don’t see it.

Maybe once I do see it, I won’t have to carve new features for myself anymore.

So there you have it.

Back to the e-collar for me!

Chix-A-Lot Friday: The month I made the rain come

Mama adopted me in November 2004, and it didn’t rain that day. It didn’t rain the following day either. But the next day, and every day after that for more than a month, it rained. Here’s a tiny photo of brave little me and my mama out in the rain during that wonderful but soggy first month together.

She’s been joking lately that if we get another terrible drought spell in Texas this summer she’s going to have to adopt another dog . . . uh oh. She and I have our paws super full enough with Doodlebug already. I hope she’s not serious!

The Saga of Stevie Wonder: Part 3

When we first heard that she was being returned, we panicked. We had seen Miss Stevie in the shelter, and knew how badly she might regress if she ended up back there. And with the shelter close to full already, we didn’t know how good her chances were of making it out.

We didn’t realize how many lucky stars were aligning for Miss Stevie while we were freaking out and coming up with unreasonable, irrational plans. Plans like driving back to Maryland from Texas to fetch her and bring her back home with us. 50+ hours of driving and 1.5 dogs too many in our house, that would have been. Luckily, we kept looking for other solutions.

Lucky Star Number One: we found out from Stevie’s family that they were committed to keeping her in their home for at least a few weeks — until a suitable foster home could be found. We can’t overstate how much respect we have for a family who realizes that they have to / want to / decide to surrender a beloved family pet, but then is willing to hold on to the animal until a good option arises. It must have been heartbreaking every day. But it turned out to be critical.

Knowing we had at least a couple of weeks, we reached out to rescues. We contacted Jasmine’s House, our friends at Bully Paws, and a few individuals and families we know who sometimes foster. We even put a vague post out on our Facebook page, stating that a dog we love very much needed a soft place to land — hoping that one of our DC area friends would step up.

Lucky Star Number Two: our friend Catalina at Jasmine’s House remembered Stevie’s story well, and agreed to do what she could to bring her in to the rescue. Several Jasmine’s dogs were being adopted that week, so a suitable foster home was likely to come up.

Lucky Star Number Three: one of our friend-of-friends and blog followers sent us an email in response to our Facebook posting. They were thinking about getting into fostering, and were interested in meeting Stevie-girl. They were a young couple with two dogs, two cats, and no kids.

Catalina arranged a meeting, and took Stevie up to meet her potential foster. A few hours later, we got a call from Catalina, gushing about how wonderful Stevie’s would-be fosters were. They had lovely dogs, a nice home, and were clearly thoughtful, kind, educated, and actively interested in dog behavior and training.  Potentially perfect. And judging from the quick iPhone photo we got, it was love!

A few days later, sh** hit the fan in Maryland. The state Court of Appeals issued an opinion that casts a label of “dangerous dog” on any pit bull type dog in the state, and creates strict liability for not only owners of pit bulls, pit bull mixes, and dogs who anybody thinks look like pit bulls, but on any landlord who has a pit bull living on his/her property. More detail on the opinion is available here, but in short: the Court of Appeals, in one catastrophic opinion, made owning or adopting out pit bull type dogs a hell of a lot more risky and difficult.

We immediately panicked again — what would this mean for our Stevie-girl? Would the family who had loved her get cold feet and back out?

Lucky Star Number Four: Nope. They quickly reassured Jasmine’s House that if anything, the Court’s ruling made them more committed, not less committed to fostering Stevie Wonder. Awesome!

Another week later, Stevie was safe and sound in their home in Towson, and we could finally sleep well at night. Her journey is far from over, but we already feel optimistic about her prospects. Stevie Wonder is a resilient, loving girl. She’ll bounce back from all of these changes — we have no doubt.

And while she starts the next chapter of her journey, please enjoy Lucky Star Number Five – her new foster family’s blog about their experience, Hound and a Half! Stop by to lend some support, ideas, or just plain thanks for being so awesome.

Bon Voyage, Stevie Wonder! We’ll all be with you all the way!

**And a special bonus, Lucky Star Number Six: Stevie’s new foster family is real-life-good-friends with the adopters of another of our favorite fosters, Curious Georgia! What a beautiful, wonderful, small world it is!

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