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If you have been following our blog for a bit, you may remember a very special foster dog, Bella, who came to us under extraordinary circumstance.
It all began with a sweet, courageous pup named Shy.
Everyone was so taken with Shy’s sad story, the community rallied together to raise funds to save her eyesight and help her find her forever home. In a strange twist of events, Shy unexpectedly passed away just as we had raised enough money to fund her surgery.
This amount helped us rescue 2 broken and overlooked pups in honor of Shy. You can catch up on the story with this post.
Bella was just a little puppy with a broken leg and a huge chemical burn and little chance of making it out.
Here is an update about the great life she is now living with her Dad and is named June:
June has been good. She’s about 65lbs now. She recently took a week long vacation by my parents because my twin brother Vince and I had to drive the band’s equipment out to California and our older brother came with as well.
She’s learned some new tricks too. She knows “side” where she’ll lay down and turn on her side. That was the gateway trick to get her to learn “back paw.” Once she is on her side, we say “back paw” and she’ll give us her back paw. She is starting to learn “back paw” when she’s standing up as well.
It has been so great seeing this overlooked pup, with a broken leg and huge chemical burn, living such a great life with her family.
Again, thanks so much to all of you who made this possible.
Miss M hazes
It was just this past weekend that it snowed in Chicago for the first time all winter!
Since we live in a 2-bedroom, without a backyard, we don’t have a choice and just like the postman we need to walk in rain and wind and snow.
Realizing there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes, we have realized how to prepare for the inclement weather.
We use flip-top gloves to open poo bags and crampons so we don’t slide on the ice. We wrote more about it, here.
And the pooches brought out their elf shoes!
We have realized it’s not the cold that bothers their feet, but it’s walking on salt and ice. After trying a couple of different shoes we’ve found the PAWs disposable boots work best for our pups. Mr. B wears size purple, while Miss M has long toes and talons and she needs to wear the huge green size. Which someone pointed out look like elf shoes. We wrote more about their boots, here.
Sometimes our pooches think “What Happens in Obedience Class Stays in Obedience Class”.
But really, we work to reinforce the skills in our every day lives so the pooches can understand there is a relevance beyond the classroom.
Since we’ve been doing this, we’ve noticed how something as simple as “sit” has so many practical applications in everyday life:
Looking Both Ways Before Crossing the Street
We trained our pooches to automatically stop at curbs (they taught themselves to look both ways!).
There are just way too many cars that run stop signs so we always practice stopping, just in case. I’ve also heard if your dog ever gets loose, if they are accustomed to stopping at curbs, they won’t go running into the street. Has anyone experienced this?
Buying Food at Farmer’s Markets
Farmer’s Markets can be insanely crazy with so many people, kids and other dogs. I was once walking through a market where a girl was holding a large dog and picking out flowers. The dog decided to bark and lunge at us, and the unsuspecting girl was pulled forward. She fell and rolled (twice!) just like a cartoon. Especially seeing that, I always put the pooches in a sit-stay when I’m at the market so I can concentrate on choosing tomatoes and paying with farmers without being worried about being pulled and flying forward. Like a cartoon.
“Sit” While I Clean up Your Dog Poo
We always put both of the dogs in sit stays when we’re picking up their poo. Sometimes the clean-up requires a lot of concentration, and a turned back, giving a pup at the end of the leash a chance to eat something without me noticing or even try to jump after a feral cat, squirrel, or jogger. We even have other people try to approach us with their dogs when I’m picking up poo. So to avoid the dogs suddenly jerking me while I’m holding poo in a bag (I think that would be a bad cartoon!) we taught them to stay in sit-stays where they are not allowed to move.
Modeling For Photo Opps
Ok, maybe it’s not necessary but we see so many amazing things in the city that we just have to pose our dogs in front of. We have done this so much, people who are watching ask us how we taught our pups to ‘model on command’.
We love hanging out on the curbs at street fests. Mr. B took ‘sitting’ to a new level and he taught himself to sit on the curb just like a human.
So what did we leave out? What are some other ways you reinforce “sit” and “sit-stays” in your everyday lives?
While many of us have been walking with our Chicago SociaBulls group for awhile, the beginning can still be hard for everyone.
During the walk the pooches fall into a rhythm where they are just all comfortable walking as a pack, though waiting for the walk to start can be very exciting for even the most frequent pup.
I heard one of our seasoned walkers explaining to a new member how you need to time your arrival just right.
If you get there too early, your pup might get anxious waiting for the walk to start and seeing all of the other pups arriving.
But if you get there too late, the pups won’t have time to acclimate to the surroundings or the group, and they could feel too rushed to go straight from the car to walking and finding their spot in the pack.
We have also realized how disruptive it is for dogs to try to join the group after the walk has started walking.
So it has become a delicate balance of considering the location, potentially factoring in time for pay-for-parking meters, and how long you can entertain your pup with tricks and high-interest treats to avoid getting anxious and potentially hard-staring the other pups.
And we’re always working on getting it Just Right.
PS. Don’t the pups look warm in these photos? It’s actually much colder in Chicago right now…these posts are from the prior weeks’ walks.
See, our Mr. B….isn’t quite that smart.
Maybe it’s in comparison to Miss M who is a regular circus dog, but traditional training methods don’t quite work with Mr. B. After all these years, he’s still confused about the difference between sit and down. Sure he doesn’t need to be a trick dog, but we still needed to teach him some basics. So we’ve been training him through the Art of Surprise.
It started when he would get anxious when we left the home. We would try to confuse him, opening and closing doors, playing a soundtrack of our voice, and sometimes popping out of closets. He stopped equating certain cues with us leaving. And maybe thought he was never alone because we could pop out of anywhere.
Then it evolved. He started to become comfortable and do things he would never do if we were home. Like go on the couch. A few times I would lay in wait behind the kitchen counter, waiting for him to go near the couch, then pop up to surprise him. Though he takes a joke well.
I put a comforter on the couch and hid underneath. I thought I could wait for Miss M to try sneaking onto the couch, and I would pop up and scare her. I waited, and I must have fallen asleep. That morning I thought I needed to apologize to Miss M, but when I went to my bedroom I found the comforter on my bed rumpled, and some stray brindle hairs….
Have you ever been outsmarted by your own dog?
A lot of people have been telling us we’re brave to have so much white furniture and 2 big dogs. Here are some things we’ve learned about the relationship between the pooches and the furniture in our home.
Our No Dogs on Furniture Decision
When I first adopted Miss M, I was sure she was going to try to bully me. Especially with a face like this:
So from the beginning she was never allowed on the couch or the bed. I knew I could always allow her to come on the couch later. I also knew once she had a taste of ‘sitting on the couch’ there was no going back. Especially since this happens a lot we were ok with our decision.
Enforcing No Dogs on the Furniture
Originally our pups respected not being on the furniture.
But then the floodgate was opened.
E enjoys sitting with Mr. B on the outdoor porch sofa. So Mr. B thought he could be on any sofa.
So we tried 2 ways to change it. First we put tin foil on the couches. I’m not sure whether it’s the shininess, the sound, or the texture, but tin foil is supposed to be a dog deterrent.
The second thing we did was letting the pups think we had left. But really, I was hiding behind the kitchen counter. So when Mr. B decided he was going to go near the couch I popped up and scared him. And he hasn’t gone back on.
Keeping the Sofa Clean
Despite all of this, Miss M is quite sneaky. She has a whole sofa trilogy.
And even if the pups aren’t sitting on the sofa, they might just be using it as a pillow.
To keep the furniture clear of mud and ‘Chicago Grime’ we have this whole wiping feet routine.
We keep the grime and shedding down with this.
We’ve also had our sofas professionally cleaned. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought, and speaking with the cleaner, he told me more than I ever wanted to know about the effects of dog saliva and squirrel feces. We wrote more about it here.
So what does everyone else do.
Are you a dogs on furniture household? Invite only? Or mean like me?
Here in Chicago we’ve gotten by with an extremely mild winter; we’ve even had less snow than Dallas! So this week’s subzero temperatures have hit us all hard.
I think a lot of Chicagoans have learned to do it right because we are out there along with our pups on our daily walks. And we’ve gotten a lot of tips from our SociaBulls group.
Here are some things we’ve learned about keeping our pups extra warm:
We have been noticing how all the urban Chicago teenagers ‘layer up’ with cold weather, so we’ve done the same thing with our pooches. We’ve been layering their hoodies under their coats. We even have some urban puffy coats we just received from RC Pet Products. The pooches are wearing the Skyline Puffy Vest. We like how the hoodies cover the under-area the coats don’t reach.
We like covering up the pooches’ bare neck area with snoods. I don’t know how much of a difference it does make, but it seems like the metal tags and parts of their collar can get very cold against their necks. Plus, the snoods do cheer us up on these dreary winter days.
Our pooches have colored fleece snoods (also shown here) from Sirius Republic.
And we have knit snoods–that make them look like animals–from Snug-A-Bull.
We get a lot of questions about what we use to keep our pups’ feet warm. In our experiences we haven’t had to put on boots because their feet get cold on the pavement, but we do use boots when they are walking on snow-covered sidewalks. Snow will begin collecting on their feet, sometimes becoming ice-like between their toes. They also find the salt scattered on the sidewalks to be painful. We have tried using doggie boots, but it was too difficult for our pooches to keep on, so we just went with the PAWs disposable reusable boots. We also like these boots for the muddy spring thaw walks when unmentionables start melting out from the snow. We wrote more about our quest for the perfect dog boot, here.
We also heard a good question about knowing when your dog has had enough of the cold and when you know whether it’s time to bring them back in.
For us, our pups will cut the walks short on their own and start pulling in the direction of home.
How does your pooch tell you when they’re too cold?
Miss M and Mr. B do the dog-boot dance
What to do inside when it’s too cold outside
What we hope was only once in a lifetime.
Maybe we’re behind the times, but it was only this last holiday that we learned about the phenomenon that is “Elf on a Shelf“.
The elf is a little figurine that parents hide around the house. Its location changes every day, so you never know where it is. So not only is it spying on the kids…but each night it goes and tattles to Santa if the kids have been naughty.
When I first heard this it sounded kind of frightening, until I realized how poor Mr. B has been living with his very own Elf on a Shelf: