Tag Archives: dog

Identity Crisis, but I still love your dog

I have a separate dog blog now, which you may have heard about once or twice, and I do want to talk about dogs right now, but not in the way I do there. I’m not going to talk about how awesome my own dog is or isn’t, or about the training we’re working on; if you’re interested in that, head over there.

What I want to talk about is my identity as a dog person.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is, and what I mean when I say I am a dog person.  I am, for sure, a Dog Person.  I think I have a sixth sense about dogs; I will notice a dog two blocks away and be able to tell you the breed and probably predict the majority of its medical conditions, if applicable.  I can read most dogs’ moods pretty quickly.  I can talk about dogs quite extensively; I started the Flying Dingo so that I can stop talking the ears off of people who don’t especially care about dogs.

But the thing is, I am not a squealer.  I am not a Get Up In Your Dog’s Face and Be Happy That It’s Licking My Face.  Do you know where that tongue has been?  I am not a fan of dogs in costumes, or Cute Overload, or anything where we just sit around oooh-ing and aaaah-ing over the cuteness of these animals.

okay, yeah, so i do let her lick my face sometimes

On Monday I went to an open house for a Master’s program in Animals and Public Policy.  It’s not a professional degree; it’s not like how you go to dentist school and then you’re a dentist, or law school and then you’re a lawyer.  Kids, you don’t go to Animals and Public Policy school and become an Animals and Public Policy-ist.    But the program did sound really exciting, and got me thinking more about what I want to do.  Is it just behavior? I’m not sure that it’s just behavior.  I think it’s bigger parts than that: it’s how do we live with our dogs and our neighbors?  How do we live, happily, with healthy, well-exercised dogs in our society?

I don’t want to hug your dog.  Well, that might be a little bit of a lie: if your dog comes running over, tail wagging and ears happy, I might (read: will definitely) try to find your dog’s favorite scratching spot.  I will enjoy rubbing behind your dog’s ears.  I might talk in a voice reserved for these situations.  But also? I want to talk to you about your dog.  I want to know about what you think of training, about how you live your lives together, about how you ended up with this here dog and what it does for you.

other people's dogs: Macaroni

Um, somehow this can be something I do professionally? Someone please tell me yes.

I’m trying to find a place in blogland where I can be a Dog Person, without the costumes and with the interest.  And I’m also trying to figure out how to write my damn personal essay.

Dog owners, what are your thoughts?  Are you costume-dog people?  Are you dog-people at all, or are you the “I only love my dog and no one else’s” type?  Please discuss.



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Project Look! Loooook! Look!

I had this bright idea that with all my free time, I could do some sort of terribly fascinating project and write about it.  I would learn something wonderful, develop some fantastic skills, and have accomplished something, and you all would be glued to your computer screens, so entranced that you could hardly peel your eyes away from my retelling of my daily experience with this project…

Let’s just say that Day 1 of the project will not live up to that goal.

Here’s the idea: I am working my way through a dog training book with Daphne. Post-practice, I will regale you with the ups and downs of this amazingly interesting adventure. And, of course, by “regale you with… this amazingly interesting adventure” I mean “try to make it sound interesting that I taught my dog to look me in the eye for 1.5 seconds.”

the beautiful beast herself

Okay, but seriously: our dog is super smart.  Really.  I know I’ve talked about how high-maintenance she is, how she’s got a few issues and may or may not have nipped a child (one time! Just one time!), and how I for sure know what it’s like to have a dog who is reactive on leash. But. In spite of her being a little unpredictable in strange environments, she is actually pretty awesome and very smart: she knows at least 20 commands (I made a list and counted!) and can do at least 4 of them with 95% accuracy.

That said, she is still a bit neurotic, and she also has at least 16 commands that she does with accuracy that ranges from 60% to… well, let’s say that she’s capable of doing some of them, but not always willing.  Or ever willing.  Minor detail.

Daph and I demonstrate "touch" (my facial expression here is awesome, in case you hadn't noticed).

So the idea is that by working our way through this book, we can strengthen and reinforce skills she has, develop some new skills, give her a good mental workout, and help us bond and learn to communicate better.  The more she trusts me in the house, the more she’ll trust me out in the world, and – fingers crossed – the less reactive she’ll be.

The book we’re working with is Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog by Emma Parsons.  I originally noticed the book at a small local bookstore a few years ago because it was the only book that utilized clicker training; I ended up buying it after recognizing some of Daphne’s reactive tendencies and realizing that Turtle was no longer comfortable walking her without me there.  We read through it and boosted our own confidence, but didn’t do much beyond that at the time.

Now, I plan to go through the book and practice every single thing that Daphne hasn’t already nailed.  For example, she has “sit” down pat.  She sits for everything: before eating, before going through doorways, before getting in or out of the car.  Nothing in life is free, but it’s all easily purchased for the low, low price of Sit.

Anyway, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, today we worked on “look,” which is a command to make eye contact.  It’s much more useful than it sounds, but it also sounds pretty boring.  Suffice it to say that she is now pretty good at making eye contact for 1.5 seconds.  Hopefully the tricks get more exciting, the progress gets more worth talking about, and you are fascinated by me talking about my dog.  Because I’m unemployed, I think I want to do this for a living, and the internet is my playground.

This is almost definitely never ever going to turn into a mommy blog or a food blog… but it seems it might turn into some version of a dog blog.  I hope you stick around.  In the meantime, who wants to talk dog training? Are you in?

*Note: all photos by our amazing and talented wedding photographer and fabulous friend Ellie Leonardsmith.  She obviously takes wonderful photos, and has recently started doing pet portraits; if you’re in the Boston area, check her out!


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Dearest Crate, I love you so.

I love – love! – Daphne’s crate.  While she came to me with a boatload of issues, probably from having never been actually *walked* on a leash as a puppy, she did come to me crate trained, and while I think the family that ruined her puppyhood kind of sucked (because of how much they fail at her puppyhood), I am so, so grateful that Daphne already liked her crate.

From liking her crate, it didn’t take much to make her love it, and it was the easiest command to teach.  I would put her in there, close the door, and give her treats, and then let her out as soon as she was done.  When I left for work, I put her in the crate and tossed the treats into different corners so that she was too busy looking for deliciousness to notice I was leaving.  When we were hanging out at home I’d toss a treat in the back, say “crate” and repeat.

Sometimes we hang out with her in the crate. Um, everyone does that, right?

Crates tell dogs what they are supposed to be doing; they give dogs a place to feel safe and secure.  Daphne knows that crate time is nap time.  And, because she’s super smart, she knows that she stays in her crate when we leave for work… and every day as we pack up our bags she goes in and looks at us: “Mama, are you going to close the door? It’s time for me to sleep in my crate.”  We don’t have to worry about her getting into the litter boxes or getting bored and chewing on stuff or remembering that I left treats in my vest pocket and getting rid of them for me.  She would probably be fine outside the crate – but why bother? She loves it and we love in.  In fact, when I’m home alone and try to get her to sleep with me… she’ll stick around for about 10 minutes before hopping off the bed and going to sleep in her crate.

Why am I telling you?  Because last night I realized how much I love the crate.  And sad things happened.

See, yesterday morning, one of Turtle’s friends called and needed us to take her dog for a week or two.  We said yes because I love dogs and Turtle wanted to help.  This dog is a 1ish year old chihuahua mixed with insane energy dog, and looks like a miniature Daphne.  He has had almost no training – he can sit about 50-75% of the time when you ask.  So he came over last night and all went well for the first little while.  He played with the dogs, the cats hid; we went for a walk.  And then I put everyone in their crates so we could have some quiet time.

this is sort of what the playing looked like. different puppy, though.

With poor Rascal, crate time does not equal quiet time.  It equals THE LOUDEST TIME THERE EVER WAS.  We moved his crate next to Daph’s, hoping that seeing her be calm and quiet would calm him – instead she started whining and barking, too.  What are we upset about? I don’t know but I am upset too! Let’s tell the world how upset we are! EuLALia!

So then! Then we put him in the study with the lights off and the door closed, all “Hey dog! It’s bed time! Sleeping happens now!”  Well, it got worse.

tired and sad

Long story a little shortened down for you, we ended up driving to meet the friend’s dad at a Dunkin Donuts for a puppy handoff, and we feel awful about it.  I was so excited to be the magical dog trainer who taught the dog to calm down and helped him learn the world is a good place – and Turtle was excited to help her friend in such a big way. But the other side of it is that we live in an apartment, and we can’t have dogs barking all night – not to mention we had been planning on getting some sleep.  The other part of the apartment thing is that we are allowed to have a dog and two cats… not three dogs and two cats.  Sigh.

What is your most valued dog command/trick?  Do you crate train? Have I convinced you to crate train yet? DO IT. Do it. It’s fun.


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Flip Cups for Pups

Well, today marks the last day of NaBloPoMo, and I know that you want to hear about my dog.  Who doesn’t want to hear about my dog?

As the days have been getting shorter and it’s been getting darker, I have to admit that Daphne has been getting less exercise and stimulation.  In the fall, I could come home from work and take her to run in the woods, where she could frolic and sniff around to her heart’s delight; now, I’m nervous that it will get dark out before we make it back to the car, or that she’ll find delicious evening animals like porcupines and skunks.

teach her to dance!

So the question became: what can we do to keep her entertained?  A couple of things are to play with her more in the yard and around the house, and to take her for more leash walks around the neighborhood.  But my new favorite thing is our new way of feeding her.

This was inspired by our friends’ dog, who eats the food that they toss outside on the ground for her.  It slows down her eating and gets her to forage a little, using at least SOME mental energy.  It was also inspired by Shiva’s mad skills at a Nina Ottosson toy.  You can do this at home with very little effort, folks! The only downsides are: 1. a dog who drools while she watches you set it up, and 2. drool spots on the floor from where your dig licks up the kibbles.

First, collect some empty cups; we used six paper cups.

Second, make sure you have someone to supervise; it keeps things interesting.

(“Is this dog food?! I LOVE dog food!”)

Next, measure out the appropriate amount of food.  Daphne gets around 1 1/2 cups.

Divide food evenly between all cups.

This is the point where I usually send Daphne to her crate, and then stack up the cups to bring in to the other room.  Truman is very helpful in this process.

Daph waits… uh… patiently? Eagerly is a better term. I’m not sure you can see the drool in this picture.

Truman helps her with the kibbles.

Watch the whole thing in the 30-second video below!

Right now she just nudges the cups over and pushes them along the floor to get the food out.  It usually takes her about 20 seconds to eat a cup and a half of kibble out of her food dish; this process takes her about 5 minutes, which is a fantastic improvement.  I’m not sure where to go from here, though.  Some ideas were to put out some empty cups, or to hide the cups around the house, but I’m worried she would forget them, we would forget them, and we’d find dog food on the floor months later.

What do you do to keep your beasts entertained as it gets colder and darker outside?



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Silly Saturdays, or How to Dress Your Dog

A couple of days ago, Megan (aka Mrs. Guinea Pig!) posted about her sister’s cute dog and her awesome (um, somewhat shark-like?) cats.  She made a neat video of her cats “foraging” for food, which is a kitty entertainment and weight loss technique that we often suggest to people at the cat-only hospital where I work.  It’s awesome to see it in action; it seems to really work!

Anyway, Megan’s cool video inspired me to try to use the iMovie on my computer, which I never really considered before.  Here is my choppy video, which is not very high quality but is high entertainment (for me, at least).  Warning: the language in the music is not safe for work or for children, so either mute it or just consider yourself warned.

Some background: The first winter I had Daphne, she did not adjust very well. Her paws cracked and bled in the snow, leaving a trail of little bloody specks everywhere she went, and she spent a lot of time shivering. That said, she loved playing in the snow.

I know, she doesn't LOOK maladjusted...

Solution? Dog booties and, of course, a jacket.  She adapted pretty well to the booties, and we’ve had to use them a couple of times since then when she cut her paws (on glass once, on rocks another time) and we needed to keep them clean and dry.

Hardcore dog boots, with the same soles as Merrells. Seriously.

The jacket? Well, it did not go over so well:

A few months later, we tried a t-shirt…

She did much better then, but maybe because she appreciates higher education.

Anyone else clothing their dog?  Anyone else embarrassed about it?  I have to say, we got a lot of flack for our dog booties at the dog park…


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Furry Friday: Taming the Beast

I have decided that Friday is the best day to talk about beasts, and thus I declare Fridays, from this day forward, Furry Fridays.

the Prettiest Cat in the World kicks off the first Furry Friday

Anyway. A few things have happened recently that have put puppies on my mind:

  1. I am the same person I have always been, and puppies are always on my mind.
  2. Shannon wrote about her dog Betty White, and the behavior stuff they’ve been struggling with.
  3. We were out with Daphne and had an almost-scary run-in with another dog.

I’ve talked about Daphne’s issues a couple of times before.  Short version: she was not properly socialized as a puppy (before she joined our family), and as a result she has a lot of fear, and just does not quite know how the world works.  She is the sweetest dog when she’s at home or at my parents’ house, but outside of those settings, she can be a little iffy or unpredictable.  I spend a lot of time advising strangers not to try to pet my dog, and bracing myself if they take a step towards her.  Out in the world, I keep my fingers crossed, always, that I will be close to enough and aware enough to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

"uhh... are you also unpredictable? cause you look unpredictable."

Anyway, the other day we were heading back to our car from the woods, so we had Daphne back on her leash.  A woman came around the bend with her dog off-leash, which is fine, because we were at an off-leash park.  The dog ran up to us, and I kept walking, pulling Daph’s leash, projecting as much as I could the attitude of, “Everything’s fine! We’re just walking! Nothing to see here!”

The woman kept calling her dog, but he had noticed Daphne and came running up, and started trying to pick a fight. Seriously, little dog? My dog is much bigger than you, and she has really nice teeth.  Plus, she’s a tad unpredictable.  So I’m pulling her leash and telling her she’s good and projecting “WE’RE JUST WALKING NO BIG DEAL” and the woman is apologizing and explaining that her dog only does this when other dogs are on leash.

I think if this had been just a year ago, I would have been annoyed.  I would have gotten outraged and complained later, “If her dog gets mad at other dogs ON LEASH, she should not take her dog out IN PUBLIC.”  But things have changed now: having an unpredictable dog means you know things about unpredictable dogs, and one thing I know now is that it is very, very common for dogs to respond strangely to being on leash, or to seeing other dogs on a leash, or if one dog is on and the other dog is off leash.  Dogs are weird!

my favorites

So, to the woman walking the dog off-leash?  It really is okay.  We do understand.  We had control over our dog, and we were just relieved she didn’t do the scary leap-in-the-air-and-snarl thing, because then your dog would have looked cuddly, and we would have looked at the bad guys.  Also, thanks! Thanks for making us feel, for once, like we were the owners in control.  We needed that.

And to everyone else – give people a break, if their dog is on or off leash, if yours is on or off leash…. we’re all just trying to do right by our dogs.  Even the crazy ones.

Anyone else out there learning through experience that the “When I have my own dog/cat/child, I will never do that” is completely off?


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Veterinary angst

I think I started asking my parents for a dog when I was around two years old.  Maybe three.  I found an old letter from my aunt and apparently I was very specific in this desire: I wanted a black dog.  Finally my parents caved in and let me get a puppy for my fifth birthday.  My dad picked the breed.  I got a german shepherd puppy for my fifth birthday.  And yes, within a year the dog weighed more than I did.

Sally was more my dad’s dog than mine, but was a fantastic dog any way you look at it.  She died at age 9, because German shepherds seem inherently physically defective, and at that point we got another dog, Thumper.  Thumper is a lab-chow mix and is more cat than dog – he’s like a cat trapped in a dog’s body.  He’s about 12 now.  And as all you faithful Roughit readers know, we now have Daphne Matilda, the dog of uncertain origins (part basenji? Part Ibizan hound? Part rare Australian Flying Dingo?).

Thumper and Daphne at the beach

The point of all of this is that, between these dogs and the cats and my life goals, I have spent a lot of time at many different veterinary clinics.  I am definitely a shopper of veterinarians – if I don’t have a good experience, I’ll go somewhere else, and once I do have a good experience, I will highly recommend that veterinary clinic to anyone who cares to listen.

I currently work at a veterinary clinic that is one of a team of hospitals in the country.  Because where I work at is a feline-only hospital, I have to take my dog to be seen at a different area hospital, one that sees dogs as well, in order to use my employee discount.

So I tried one nearby a couple of months ago, when Daphne was vomiting every night over night (she my still do this… gross), because I wanted to get her checked out for the vomiting and because she needed a nail trim.  The reception staff was fine; not really noteworthy.  I had sort of expected a “Welcome!  Do you want a tour of the hospital?” since I work at a sister hospital, but I wasn’t disappointed or anything to not get that kind of reception.  The doctor was good with my very shy, very nervous dog, and did the exam without any problems.  They took her in back to weigh her and trim her nails… and came back without having done her nails.  So I pointed that out, and they came into the room with a muzzle and proceeded to try to trim her tails.  She was in a panic, frothing at the mouth, head whipping, scrambling to get away.  They quicked her once, which isn’t a problem, except that it added to her panic and it seemed that they had no control over the situation.  Then she emptied her anal sacs all over the place.  She shat and bled all over that room, and they only took off the tips of the nails.  Totally not worth the experience.  And then they tried to charge me full price on my way out.  It was not a positive veterinary experience.

So this time I went to a different hospital, one where I knew the doctor I was going to see and I knew and trusted the technician I was going to see.  The vet visit itself was fantastic.  Both the doctor and technician worked really, really well with Daphne, letting her go at her own pace, offering a ton of treats to keep her distracted from the exam and vaccines.  They gave three vaccines and took her blood in such a low key way that she did not even notice it was happening!  That is quality veterinary service, my friends.

The issue, though, was the reception experience.  In case you, dear reader, are not aware of this, I am a receptionist (one of two) at my cat hospital.  I am the first person you see when you walk in, I am the person you usually talk to when you call, and I am the person you can get frustrated at when things are taking longer than expected.  And I think that I am pretty good at dealing with these situations, letting you the customer know what is going on, and offering apologies and coffee when things are running behind.

When we arrived (early, I should add, so that they could copy our old records), I stood at the desk for almost five minutes, less than a foot away from the receptionist, who did not smile, make eye contact, or even acknowledge my presence.  Finally she gave me some papers to fill out.  Once that was done, we waited twenty five minutes to start our appointment; during that time, no one said, “Thanks for waiting,” or “We’ll be starting soon,” or “Sorry it’s taking so long.”  I should add that VCA appointments are scheduled for 20-minute intervals, so we had waited long past our appointment before our appointment even started!

On the way out, we stood at the desk again for a solid five minutes without anyone acknowledging our presence.  Finally she said, “That’ll be $97 for Daphne,” to which my response was, “Okay, what is that for?”  Because I am not going to just hand you a hundred dollars without knowing why!  And I suspected that they had forgotten to put our flea/tick stuff on the bill… and they had.

Blech, I know this post is long and not interesting to many of you, so I apologize for that (if you even read this far).  I did need to vent about this, and if you are still reading, I would love to hear about your veterinary experiences.  The clinic I work at now is the only place I’ve been that I can honestly say is close to the perfect veterinary clinic – if only they saw dogs (for the record, I held this opinion before I worked there).  The reception staff anywhere, I think, is very important, as it is the first impression you get – and my first impression of this place was not good.

And so I continue on the search for a good clinic for my dog, though my cats and I will happily stay where we are.


Sad Daphne


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