Chix-a-Lot Friday: My review of Dora so far

I’ve gotta tell you guys. I really want to like Dora the Explorer. I really do. She’s so pretty, and mama and dad seem to like her ok. But honestly? She scares me a little.

Mama says that’s because I’m such a sensitive boy, and she’s such a confident girl. She loves dogs and loves to play, mama says. But me? I don’t really like to play. At least, not with new dogs. It takes me forever and a day to warm up to a dog before I’m ready to play, but Dora wants to play right away. I’ve never really been into loose women.

I really like my Dora when we go for walks together and when we’re hanging in the yard. When we’re outside, she ignores me and I ignore her, and that’s perfect for me.

We walk side by side, sometimes pretending we’re sled dogs. When it’s extra chilly, we put on our matching red hoodies and walk with our bodies and heads touching so that the touching sides stay a little warmer. In moments like those, I think I love her.

But when we’re inside, it’s a whole other story. Dora gets so excited when she sees me that she jumps, and barks, and basically throws a happy, excited little fit. And I know it’s so silly because she just wants to be my girlfriend, but it scares me. Sometimes I run away, sometimes I tremble a little, and sometimes I just close my eyes and pretend she’s not there.

Mama says that if we keep going nice and slow, maybe Dora will learn to chill out when I’m around inside, and I’ll learn how to not be so sensitive. I’m not really counting on it, but I guess we’ll see. I’m kinda hoping she gets adopted before we even get there. Won’t YOU please take her home with you?

XOXO, Sir Chick

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.


The Picture of Dora on Gray

In his novel, the Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde tells a tale of vanity and duplicity. The tragic hero, Dorian, becomes obsessed with his own beauty and sells his soul for the promise that his physical beauty will remain ageless, pure, and true. At the same time, any sin or ugliness he commits will be reflected in a prominent painting depicting his likeness. As his vanity grows, his sins grow in proportion. Eventually, the painting of Dorian Gray is disfigured and ugly, while the person Dorian Gray is young and beautiful as before.

Our picture of Dora on Gray is quite different.

Risking her vanity, foster dad and I bought a new pull-out sofa for our guest room last weekend. Either because of or despite her beauty, we opted for a sofa model called The Dora, in the color, Dora Gray.

Neither of us are painters like Basil Hallward in the novel, but I am a photographer. I took some photos of Dora on Gray, all the while hoping that she would not become infatuated with her own beauty and make a deal with the devil.

Luckily, our adoptable Dora the Explorer is a humble girl. If she is aware of her own good looks or kindness, she doesn’t show it. As far as she knows, she’s just a regular dog, through and through.

She loves to take epic naps, make sweet little piggy noises while she dreams, lick the insides of our ears clean, dance a jig by way of saying ‘hello,’ and make everybody who crosses her path fall deeply, madly in love.

While the real Dorian Gray might have made a bargain with the devil, our little Dora on Gray is just a sweet, good-hearted dog who wants nothing more than a loving family and a warm, comfy bed (in a color that complements her beautiful complexion)– she’ll do what she can to get it, but she’ll make no nefarious deals. To heck with the devil, she’s a good girl!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Bob it up a notch

So I was playing with my bob-a-lot, eating my breakfast . . .

. . . and I realized: Mom, this isn’t enough of a challenge. I’m bored!

But instead of whining — because I am NEVER a crybaby — I decided to make it more of a challenge for myself — to bob it up a notch!

Sure, bob-a-lot-ing on the floor is pretty fun already, but I am an excellent self-entertainer and I love making up games for myself.  And bob-a-lot-ing on the chair is even more fun!

And then I realized that if bob-a-lot-ing on the chair is fun, bob-a-lot-ing in the crack between the chair and the ottoman must be really fantastic.

But oops, when I bob-a-lotted into the crack, my bob-a-lot wouldn’t bob anymore.

So I bobbed it deeper into the crack, but it still wouldn’t bob.

Dora to the rescue!

But then I was back to square one, with a bob-a-lot that bobbed but was boring. Oh brother!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Dora’s wish: a home for the holidays!

There are two things I say to adoptable Dora the Explorer every day when I come into her room and she gets up woozily from her snuggly little nest in her crate and does a nice downward dog to salute the morning. The first is “Good morning, cutest girl in the world!” and the second is “Baby, you can stay as long as you want.” And as I open the latch and give her the “OK” that releases her from her patient, perfect sit into a happy, bouncy, wiggly storm in my arms, I believe that both are true. Dora the Explorer’s gentle sweetness, her silly, easygoing happiness, her soft, thick fur, and her precious little underbite really make her a keeper.

But not a keeper for us. As soon as we find Dora her perfect forever-home, we can’t wait to welcome another homeless, needy pit bull into our lives and our hearts, just as we have done eight times before. That’s the promise we made ourselves when we opened our home to our very first foster dog.

This morning when Dora greeted me with her wiggling bottom and her sniffing face, I thought I heard her whisper a question: “Mama, can I have my own home for the holidays?

I don’t know, sweet girl. The holidays are awfully soon, but with the help of our blog friends, we sure can try.

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Send us your Texans!

Adoptable Dora the Explorer is a native Texan — an Austinite. Our Sir Chick is an Austinite as well. Foster dad is from Texas too, but from Galveston. And yet — according to our stats, most of our readers are (like me) from icy, faraway lands.  The largest number of our readers come from Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and of course Washington, DC, where we lived before coming back to Texas. We have but a modest sprinkling of blog-friends in Texas, but if we’re to continue successfully celebrating, networking, and adopting out our incredible, beautiful, wonderful foster dogs, we’re going to need more Texans among us.

That’s where you come in! Everybody has a friend in Austin, right? And your friend in Austin loves dogs, or has friends who love dogs. And your friend in Austin probably even has friends who are thinking about adopting a new best friend. See how quickly this scenario might add up to a new forever-home for Miss Dora the Explorer?

Think about who you might know in Texas. Family, friends, co-workers, even frienemies! Start with your Austin people, then think about your San Antonio people. Even your Houston and Dallas people and your Corpus Christi people — they all have friends and family in Austin. Send them our blog or our facebook page, and tell them why you think they should read our blog and share it with their own friends and family. It’s as simple as that!

Local connections help us adopt out dogs, but they help us do so much more. Over the past year and change, we’ve helped wonderful people connect with each other in DC and along the East Coast. Together, we can make magic happen in Austin too . . . and maybe even send Dora the Explorer home for the holidays!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.


Brown paper packages tied up with strings

As though adoptable Miss Dora the Explora isn’t spoiled enough — sunning herself in our back yard, eating all of her food out of fun games and puzzles, snuggling with us on a chair made for one — she got a package in the mail yesterday. And it was full of surprises!

When we moved to Austin and changed our phone numbers to local ones, the first order of business was ordering new dog tags, lickety-split. Our friend at Sirius Republic makes beautiful oversized ones, hand stamped with a name and phone number. Since all of our dogs have oversized personalities, we thought they would benefit from jumbo tags to match. Chick got one with his name, my number, and a star (since he is a star, and to match the stars on his Paco Collar). We ordered a generic foster one as well, so that the tag can stay with us even as fosters move to their new homes and we pick up new ones. We have had a few foster tags with different words (“foster” and “wonderdog” were two recent ones), and this time we labeled our foster tag with “reward” after a friend pointed out that pit bulls are often thrown out of cars or abandoned in parking lots, and many kind citizens just assume they are unwanted, even if they have tags.

Honestly, I knew something was amiss when I got home to a package from Sirius that was far too large to hold just two tags. I ripped it open before even setting down my keys, and was so delighted to find a gorgeous blue and green-hearted martingdale collar (the same Seahorse print that Sirius cover model Chilly the Elderbull wears), and a fanciful hand-made matching flower!

Dora loves her new outfit and can’t wait to win hearts all across Texas with it. She is also quite flattered to be wearing the matching flower accessory that isn’t even available for sale yet. So exclusive! She hopes to make you proud, Sirius Republic!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Fostering made easy(er) – the Tiedown

There are a few tools in our fostering toolbox that we can barely imagine living without. Kongs and other food-dispensing puzzles are one; baby gates are another; and the holy tiedown is the third. If you took these tools away, we would first cry for a very, very long time, and then we would drive ourselves crazy and possibly even quit fostering. Well, we probably wouldn’t quit, but we would drag our feet a bit and probably drink a lot more.

The tiedown is an especially valuable tool to us since we live with one fussy dog who doesn’t necessarily appreciate energetic young dogs bouncing and pouncing all over him, but we insist on fostering anyway. Our tiedowns keep Chick happy, fosters out of trouble, and us from having to supervise closely every minute of the day.

A tiedown is essentially a short length of leash, cord, wire, or rope that is attached to something heavy or permanent on one end (such as a sofa or a piece of furniture), and to a dog’s collar on the other end. The device limits the dog’s zone of activity to a few feet, and really cuts down on the number of bad choices the dog can make. While on tiedown, our foster dog can’t try to play-wrestle with our Chick, can’t pee on the rug, can’t drool all over our new sofa, and can’t tackle visitors when they come over to visit. If introduced and trained properly, the tiedown can be a happy place to solve a puzzle, have a snack, or take a nap.

Dora the Explorer took to her tiedown instantly, but in order to reinforce a positive association, we were careful to feed her all of her kongs and other food puzzles in her crate or on a mat by the tiedown for the first few days. Now when Dora sees the tiedown wire come out of its drawer, she waggles her little butt so hard that her tail almost whips her in the face — she knows it’s kong time. Detailed information about the various uses of tiedowns is available from the East Bay SPCA here.

When introducing a new foster into our household, it is critical for us to ensure that the getting-to-know-you phase between our own Chick and the new dog goes as smoothly as possible. We take this phase very slow — in the past it has taken us anywhere from two days to a month to fully integrate our foster with our Chick. We have a regular routine that involves parallel walks, side-by-side obedience, baby gates, and finally the tiedown. Some organizations and advocates warn against using tiedowns in dog-dog interactions, and with good reason — if used incorrectly or not supervised properly, a tiedown can lead to teasing, abuse, frustration, and fighting. If you’re considering using one to smooth your own dog-dog integration, first make certain that the dog on the tiedown will not be pestered or bullied. This is critical.

Our home includes a near-guarantee that Chick will never approach a dog he doesn’t already know well to bully, play, snuggle, or otherwise engage. He does not like strong come-ons from other dogs, and is very nervous in new canine company. Chick’s strong preference for being left alone by other dogs means that a tiedown works beautifully for us — it allows Chick to slowly warm up to another dog’s presence without the risk of the other dog coming on too strong — an event that sometimes flips on Chick’s reactivity switch.

We begin with plenty of parallel walks, limited sniffing, and supervised interaction through a tall baby gate. We know it’s time to move to the next phase when both dogs consistently display happy, calm body language, a willingness to lay on either side of the gate calmly, and maybe some occasional face-licking through the gate. Next, we move our foster dog to a tiedown and allow Chick free-range status. Chick generally spends the first few short sessions across the room on his own dog bed, avoiding any interaction at all. Still, we offer much positive reinforcement for calm behavior by both dogs. If the foster is able to settle down and be calm in Chick’s presence, we start bringing Chick closer to work on puzzles, eat snacks (only ok if neither dog is a resource guarder), or do obedience. Chick is usually able to roam the house freely shortly after, walking a wide circle around the overenthusiastic foster without so much as blinking.

Eventually, Chick becomes comfortable enough to settle in within a few feet of the foster, and the foster dog is calm enough to accept Chick’s presence without needing to sing a song or breakdance. Because of Chick’s distaste for rowdiness, he does an exceptional job of teaching fosters what behaviors make him stay close and what behaviors make him run away. An illustration of this process with a previous foster, Stevie Wonder, is here.

Once we feel confident about the budding relationship we take the foster off tiedown but leave on a leash as a dragline that we can grab or step on if needed. Eventually, the dogs learn to be together. The whole process can take a while, but if done correctly should be drama-free. BAD RAP did a great post about tiedowns as part of a series on dog fostering. We loved this post, which is available here.

In our new house we decided to install a “real” tiedown instead of relying on leashes and doorknobs, which can certainly fail or be damaged. The process took about 30 minutes and cost about $10. Here’s how we did it.

First, we went to the hardware store and purchased a heavy-duty eye hook, a 3′ length of plastic-coated wire, two leash-type clasps, and a ferrule and stop set.

Next, we drilled a hole in the wood door frame between our living and dining room, and installed the eye hook.

Third, we attached both leash clasps to either end of the length of wire using the ferrule and stop sets.

Finally, we attached one end of the tiedown to our new eye hook, the other end of the tiedown to our new Dora the Explorer, and we put down a dog bed and a nice stuffed kong. Voila!

A few stray thoughts:

-Be sure to purchase hardware that’s rated at a high enough weight to contain your dogs. We bought hardware and wire that can handle a load of at least 150 lbs, even though our dogs rarely weigh more than 55 lbs. Better safe than sorry.

-Take plenty of time to get your dog accustomed to the tiedown before introducing another dog into the scene. Some dogs will get it right away, others will be unhappy. Approach training a tiedown just as you would approach any other form of training: reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior, and do it in short increments.

-Never leave a dog on tiedown when you’re not home. You don’t need to have your eye on the dog every minute, but you should be nearby and checking in frequently.

-Have fun, be careful, and let us know how it goes!


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