Jan 172013

One of our ongoing struggles with the pups is living in a smaller space and managing our stuff, the dog stuff, and trying to make sure our home doesn’t look too much like an aisle of Petsmart.
Even after spending time cleaning, the pups will keep taking their toys out and leave them laying around so things don’t look so clean anymore.

After trying to fight it, I realized that maybe I could find some “pretty” toys that I actually wouldn’t mind being left laying around.
Miss M is not very particular about the toys she plays with. She only likes toys to toss in the air and shove in Mr. B’s face, so I knew she would cooperate. I picked up some thicker, nicer looking fabric from Ikea and I made her some toy bones.

I’m still learning to sew, but for now they seem good enough for Miss M.
She likes carrying them around and showing them off to Mr. B:

I like that once the toys are abandoned, they actually look nice and blend in with our other pillows and decor.
Can you even see it?

Of course our favorite is still when Miss M decides to clean up after herself and put her own toys away.
Does anyone else have any cute dog toys you would recommend?
Or other ideas to keep things neat?

How we taught Miss M to put her toys away
Personalizing Mr. B’s toy bin
More Dog Organization!

Jan 162013

We know how fostering does directly save lives, but we also know that not all pups are going to work for all homes. 
Even for us.
And it makes us feel like we’re letting everyone down.
During break, we were so enamored with little Jack Frost and his heartbreaking story we thought we could take him on while we were not at work. We have a soft-spot for older pups, and we thought this little Elder-Shi was the perfect fit. He blends right in.

But we didn’t follow our own rule. And while the dogs all get along amazingly, and we love having the little guy, we’re realizing we may not be the best foster fit. 
Here’s our story about admitting when things aren’t working, and what we need to remember to continue having positive foster experiences.

Know what you and your pups can handle

Jack Frost is ‘Too Sexy’ for his Santa Outfit

We know fostering should be a positive experience for all the pets and people involved. We recognize the types of dogs that do and don’t work well with our own pooches. We do know Mr. B gets nervous if dogs try to play with him, so we don’t foster younger playful dogs or puppies. We also try to choose males who are more likely to get along with Miss M and her bossiness. 
When we introduced Jack Frost to our pups we realized they all got along. He respected Mr. B’s space, eventually chose to lay with Miss M, and he enjoyed hanging out with the pack.
The biggest thing we always check before fostering is making sure we can crate train the pup. Mr. B is allowed to roam free when we’re not home, and we don’t like leaving pups who are still getting to know each other alone all day. In our excitement over having a smaller dog, we made the terrible stereotype that all small dogs could just be put in a crate or in a room. We soon realized how much our little Jack Frost was just like Mr. B. All he wanted to do was hang out in the house without being contained. And exactly like Mr. B, crates, closed doors, even baby gates made him nervous.

Realize What Can be Worked On…and What isn’t Working

We know foster dogs are adjusting to new experiences, and how important it is to help them through the transition. We did work on crate training and trying to see if there was a way we could partition both of the dogs while we were gone. Seeing how neglected he was, I’m guessing Jack Frost spent much of his life contained and even behind a baby gate he was completely miserable. Mr. B also gets anxious if he senses a dog in distress behind a closed door. We knew each dog was completely fine just hanging out in the house, and they had never had a single negative interaction, but I also didn’t want to take that 1% chance that unattended Mr. B could race down the hall and smoosh little Frost, or even accidentally sit on him. They are still in the getting-to-know-you phase also.
While we were working on all of this E, who is allergic to cats, realized he was allergic to Jack Frost. As Jack’s hair was growing back, E just kept getting more allergic. And we wouldn’t be able to have him in the bedroom where all the dogs slept because E was becoming so sick. While we struggled with trying to make it work, we realized the discomfort of E, Mr. B, and Jack Frost might not be worth it.

Work with a Rescue Group you Trust

We know there are some situations where once you commit to fostering, you need to make it work even if it is uncomfortable for the pups and people involved. We unfortunately know someone who was berated when they felt a foster they tested–and didn’t even begin fostering–was not a good fit with their dogs. We understand it’s disappointing, but it’s also not a good idea to force situations.
So many of our positive foster experiences can be attributed to Miss M’s rescue group, New Leash on Life Chicago. They recognize the importance of matchmaking–making sure it’s a good fit for both the people and the pups–rather than just trying to adopt out dogs. They don’t over-extend themselves and they really just want to make sure the fosters are a good fit and they are very honest with their fosters and adopters. They even become familiar with the foster homes and actively seek out dogs knowing what would be a good fit for that home.
While we were sad we couldn’t make it work, the rescue group has been working for another placement.

Right now he is staying with a friend, where he can just hang out all day at home. Since she travels a lot, we were hoping to find a more permanent foster home…or even better adoptive home!
We have had some weekend visitation, though we are beyond disappointed that we couldn’t see him through to his adoption.
Jack Frost is our 6th foster dog, and I guess we are still learning about what can work in our little home. (Ironically, it was our 90 lb foster pup who was our best fit).
We felt like we were letting little Jack Frost and everyone down.

How much our pups love Jack Frost
Working on Crate Training with a Foster Pup
How we choose Foster Dogs 
Adding a second dog to your home

Jan 152013

Talking to any Chicagoan, one nostalgic holiday tradition everyone remembers is going to see the Marshall Fields’s holiday windows.
Marshall Fields was a local department store pioneer who created the holiday window displays that began in Chicago over a century ago. He created theatre sets within each of the seven large windows spanning State Street. Each window tells part of a story. In the past they have had themes including Pinocchio and Harry Potter. This year was ‘The Magic of Christmas’. Though a lot of people have been disappointed when Macy’s bought out independent Marshall Fields they have not done the windows justice.
Despite the local controversy, with the dreary, cold weather, it’s fun to have an outdoor, dog-accessible activity we can all enjoy:

Mr.B actually spent time looking in windows. I love how he looks with his little friend.
And Miss M….was Miss M.

With the colder weather, what are some activities you’re still able to do outside with your pups?

Taking your pup on an art walk!
The warm activity that gives Miss M ‘Crazy Eyes’

Jan 142013
Miss M is embarrassed when her Dad fixes her outfit
During a recent walk, a police officer stopped our group to ask if there was an event and why all the pups were walking together in costume. 
We then realized, they were referring to their coats!
Sure, if you don’t have a short-haired dog you may not realize how vital they are for are for keeping our pups warm in the winter. I guess among our group, they have become the norm.

I love learning about what works for everyone, getting all types of layering tips, and hearing in-person reviews, about what keeps the pups warm. Plus they do get a lot of positive stares from the people in the neighborhoods.

In your area, are pooches in coats the norm, or is it still rare to see a dressed up pup?

More pups in cold-weather outfits (plus snow!)
Naked! (in comparison)

Jan 112013

                                                        Miss M feigns innocence.
Whenever we bring a new foster pup into our home, people start betting when Miss M will make them into her own personal headrest. 
Our newest tiny foster, adoptable Jack Frost, was no exception.

So tiny we let him stand on the table!
It seems Miss M has been perfecting her skills, as we documented her moves (via iPhone!) on an unsuspecting Jack Frost.
As Miss M creeps closer, Jack Frost suspects there might be someone behind him.
Mission aborted.

 Seeing an opportunity to sneak up on a sleeping Jack Frost, Miss M not-so-stealthy stands behind him. Pretends to be a statue.

Then she quickly sneaks into Mr. B’s bed, knocking him off of the cushion.

Confused by a change in location over the holidays, Miss M convinces Jack Frost to share his tiny bed.

Which has opened the door allowing her to get closer…

And eventually make little Jack Frost her own personal pet:

Meanwhile…Mr B maintains his fear of little dogs, and just decides to take the small bed.

 Want to make adoptable Jack Frost your own? He is available for adoption from New Leash on Life Chicago.  Special thanks to Tiennot Knits Sweaters for knitting him some tiny sweaters to keep him warm!

The one that got away!
Where it all began

Jan 102013
I never expected to become someone who dressed up their dog…especially when said dog is 70+ pounds. It all started when I saw how much Miss M hated the colder weather, and I needed to get her a coat just to stay warm.
That became our gateway apparel. 
Once I saw how cute coats and gear made our pups that much more approachable, we moved on from there.
Much like my scarf is an essential for the Chicago winter, I figured our pups needed their own neck-gear to cover that extra space their coats don’t cover. Snoods are like a circular scarf which is perfect for dogs because you can also pull them over their heads for that seal-like look.
Even better…we love these snoods from Snug-a-Bull showing the pooches’ animal look-alikes.
With the way he scurries around, we always thought Mr. B was like an extra-large mouse.
And Miss M’s nickname is “gorilla”, because her nose looks just like a gorilla (I can’t tell you how many times I ‘recognized her’ when I was watching Planet of the Apes).
The best part is they make even the most dreary winter walk more fun. I don’t think a single person walked by without smiling or laughing. And even with fewer people out in the cold, their snoods even lured people in to give them pets.
Plus… I don’t think any pup could take a bad photo in these! 
Jan 092013
With some time off over the holidays, we’ve started developing a couple of traditions with our little family (aka: the pooches). With everything closed on Christmas Eve, we thought this would be the perfect time to dress the pups in their best gear and head downtown for a family walk around the Loop.
Miss M thought this was the perfect occasion for her puffy hat, and her perfect ‘Blue Steel’ attracted many onlookers and paparazzi:

We walked by Chicago’s Christkindlmarket which is normally so packed you can barely move. Being the holiday, it was fairly empty, but the pooches were able to meet a lot of people. Even better, a lot of the people we met were from out-of-town and they had never met pit bull-type dogs before. How flattering that our pups were their first!
We took the pups walking around The Loop checking out Daley Plaza, some of the theaters, and of course Miss M needed to get her photo taken in front of Garrett’s Popcorn (yes! this popcorn really is that good!).

What types of holiday walks do other people take with their pups?

Speaking of paparazzi…
Miss M makes like a tourist
How to take a cab with your large dog

Jan 082013
I’ve realized that sometimes there is a bit of an unspoken rivalry against “Big Dog People” and “Small Dog People”.  
Even with our pups on their best behavior, or out at events like this, we still hear the occasional and cringeworthy “My dog would be an appetizer for your dog” type comment.
Though I too have been guilty of making remarks about small dogs.
But the truth is, we’re all just Dog People.
And it doesn’t help anyone to make blanket statements or discriminatory remarks about other breeds, sizes, or types of dogs.
While all of our other foster pups have been pitbull-type dogs who fit in so well with our own pups, realizing abuse and neglect can happen to all types of dogs we decided to take on Elder-Shi Jack Frost.
Just like our own big dogs he loves nothing more than going for walks and being with his people. He has become the first one to greet me at the door when I come home. Despite his size, we still uphold him to the same expectations as our own dogs.
But we’ve realized the most significant side-effect of having a small-dog foster is that they can both become breed-ambassadors by showing through example that size and breed don’t matter and all dogs are individuals. Because really…they’re just dogs.
The biggest difference between our little guy and our own dogs…Jack Frost has longer hair which is now growing in and making E very, very allergic and uncomfortable, so unfortunately our fostering of the little guy may be short-lived. 
We were hoping to see the little guy through to his adoption, but we would also like to see E not so sick.
 If anyone in the Chicago-area would like to foster Jack Frost please email the New Leash on Life Foster Coordinator sarah@nlolchicago.org.
Or for more information on adopting Jack Frost, contact New Leash on Life Chicago here. 
Jan 072013

 Former foster Boris the Bachelor (now Radar!) always gets so excited when he sees the camera. Or a person.
Back when I first adopted Miss M, I felt a bit alone. 
Miss M was the first dog I had on my own as an adult, and I always doubted my ability to care for her. I didn’t know what to do when she scraped the skin off her paw pads after running too much. I didn’t know what to do when she wouldn’t go outside in the snow. And I really didn’t know what to do when she would get excited on walks and try to play tug-of-war with the leash. 
I didn’t have friends in the city who owned dogs, and even though we had a lot of training classes I was usually too embarrassed to ask questions, or if these were even the types of things they could help me with.
I wasn’t really sure where to find people like me.
Flash-forward a few years and I feel so lucky that our online community became a real-life community.
We love how our walking group is not only a way to socialize our pups while exploring the city, but it has also become a way to connect with other dog owners.
In a single walk I might talk about the best place to board for the weekend, what people have been using to keep their pups’ feet safe from salt and ice, how long and how often they’ve been walking their dogs in the winter. Among other non-dog-based conversations.
I think our mentor group HikeaBulls said it best that it is an ‘Owner helping Owner’ group. 
Most of us have been in the same situation, and we don’t judge. We are always a work in progress, but we are all getting up early on weekend mornings to walk with our dogs.
We all have different trainers and/or behaviorists we work with outside of the group, though our group doesn’t align with a specific trainer or have trainers as part of the group. The space on our walks is limited and it’s important for us to provide the spaces to dog owners who don’t have the resources and can benefit from a social dog community. I also think it would change the dynamic of the group having a dog trainer walking among us, even if they were just there with their own pup. 
I keep thinking it would be like training for the marathon and going on a fun run with a personal trainer as part of the group; it would make me a bit uncomfortable as if they were critiquing my form and knowledge (even if they weren’t). So we just stick to Owners helping Owners.
I feel really lucky that we do have such a great in-person community. Though I know a lot of fellow dog owners who don’t have this same resource. 
What are some other ways you connect with like-minded dog owners?

Dec 312012

 If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you’ve probably seen some glimpses of our tiny little foster pup. With some extra obligations this year, we weren’t sure if we could take on another foster pup this soon, but we were so taken with little Jack Frost’s story, we knew we could at least take him while we were on break.

When Miss M’s rescue group, New Leash on Life Chicago, stopped by Chicago’s Animal Care and Control to rescue one more pup for the holidays, they stopped dead in their tracks when they saw Jack Frost. His cage card showed he had been given up by his “owners” a mere day before, looking like this:

  His neglect was so severe, that his fur had matted fusing his ears to the back of his head and his legs to his sides. With this type of matting, every movement, or attempt to walk, is severely painful literally tearing at his flesh. On top of that, his toenails were curled under themselves, and he was missing several teeth causing his little tongue to hang out the side of his mouth. His entire underside was molding and soaked in urine, and he had feces stuck throughout his fur. 

This type of condition doesn’t just happen in a matter of weeks, or even months, but it seemed like he had been living like this for his entire life. Long-term volunteers (who have seen a lot!) literally started crying when they saw him. 
Though New Leash wasn’t expecting to take an extra pup, and they didn’t have a foster home lined up, they knew there was no way this little guy, who had never led a regular life, could be left behind.

Jack Frost received a medical groom removing approximately 4 pounds of fur; this was nearly half of his body weight! 
They said the removal was almost like an archeological dig discovering unbelievable things stuck throughout his fur and leaving his skin very sensitive and cold. He is taking antibiotics for his teeth, and they will be running further tests to see if his condition has impacted him internally.

 Despite all he’s been through, Jack Frost is just loving life! Each morning he wakes with a roll almost as if to remind himself what it means to have sensation on his body. Now that he has been freed from his mattes he absolutely loves going on walks and works to keep up with our pups’ longer strides. He absolutely loves being around people and he was quite the showstopper coming to E’s family’s holiday celebration complete in Santa suit. He is just a laid-back little guy who loves hanging out with his people…and Miss M.

Please, please share his story. We’re hoping to find him a home before we go back from break.
You can see more photos of his rescue (and his sister Chestnut) here. 
Tax-deductable donations to help with his recovery can be made here (plus an incredible donor is matching donations made today!)
And you can  complete an adoption application here. 

Check our Facebook page to see even more photos of Jack Frost hanging with our pups.
Isn’t it funny to think this was our foster last year? (Size HUGE!)
Our second smallest foster.