Thursday, December 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Miss Mags (aka Lola) at the shelter here in LA.  Sad eyes...

Maggie's first day at home with us...I didn't really know what to do with her. 

She really was a pocket pittie then still...only 35 pounds! 

Just as sweet as she is now.

The day we took Mr. Nigel home to California!

Making himself at home back in Los Angeles.

Making us laugh since we first had him.

Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday

As you can of Maggie's favorite positions is curled up into a tiny pittie ball.  Most of the time, Nigel is more spread out, but once in a while he takes a cue from his sister.  I just want to kiss her little velvety head when she's all curled up!!  This is how pitties with short hair stay warm...all of you stay warm too!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Glamping with Glamorous Pooches

We packed up the car and took our inaugural camping trip a few weekends ago!  (Finally!)

The pooches had a quite a bit of gear.  We brought the following dog-specific stuff on our trip:
- camping dog beds (special bottoms that help insulate)
- snoods
- Maggie's hoodie (minor fiasco with purchasing a size XL Zack and Zoey hoodie for Nigel...they have an issue with their order page on Amazon, beware!)
- dog bowls for water and food
- extra collars and leashes, just in case
- antlers
- stuffed Kongs
- doggie bug spray (no deet!)
- a tarp to lay down by our campfire so they wouldn't get super filthy
- lots of blankies and towels
- Wet Wipes to clean their paws off being settling into the tent at night
- a little speaker to hook up to music (or a white noise app, they're used to a fan on at night which helps with outside noises)

The two were VERY alert when we were first setting up so we tried to get the tarp with their dog beds down first.  Then, to give them a little treat and some distraction, we gave them Kongs.  Maggie thoroughly enjoyed hers!
Nigel didn't really seem as amused as I was when we pulled his snood over his ears but his ears were really cold!

In her usual high alert nature, Maggie decided to perch on one of the camping chairs we brought for us humans.  She hung out on that chair a lot and even adorably fell asleep on it later when I was playing guitar and we were just hanging out.

And of course, they were both EXHAUSTED by the time we left (even though it was less than 24 hours of camping!).  But hey, it's tough being a pittie!!!

They did so great.  There was one moment that Maggie got a little spooked by a group walking back to their campsite and started barking a lot but besides that, they were perfectly sweet companions.  They were hyper aware of all the birdies in the trees behind us which is great to keep in mind next time we go.  Otherwise, they seemed to have fun too!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Transitions...Adventure Coming!!!

I feel like we've been in transition since January.

They take "cheek to cheek" very seriously!

We got Nigel and were transitioning to two dogs, then moving to the new place, then I left for the summer, then I came home and Maggie went to board and train.  Now, we're still in transition with trying to get the pooches used to listening to us in the house and ultimately taking those skills outside on walks, too.

Nigel was an obedience SUPER STAR and was the only pooch to score 110% out of 100% on his final test for his class!!  What a dude.  He's been doing great at home too.
Such a cuddle bug
Maggie's obedience skills are still solid and we're still working with her as far as her crazed reactions go.  We're currently working on keeping focus on us during walks and would love any tips from all of you out there.

In fun news, we're FINALLY going on a long awaited adventure this coming weekend.  Any guesses as to where we're headed?!  I'll give you a clue...the pups have never slept in what we'll be sleeping in!

Monday, October 14, 2013

So Busy...and SO GREAT!

We are BUSY up in here with some mad obedience training routines!!  Check out how the pups are doing!

Results from Maggie's Board and Train
The results are actually ongoing because we're in the midst of learning how to work with Maggie and all her new obedience skills still.  She came back home knowing: sit, down, sit-stay, down-stay, leave it, drop it, heel, quiet, off, come...I feel like I'm missing some things but all the basics.  This had been tough for us to teach much past the sit, down, and stay commands before.  She is a ROCK STAR at all of them and we're still working on each every day to keep her up to snuff.  She learned SO much patience by being put around dogs and asked to do down-stays.  When she started barking her little head off on leash, they worked her (quick succession of "heel, down, stay, come" and repeat until she calmed down) and eventually with the trainers there, she made the right decisions 90% of the time (she's still a pup, nobody's perfect!).
The first time I could walk both of them together AND take a picture.  A momentous day!
The goofy thing?  She was never leash reactive with the trainers there.  For some reason, she must think that we need protecting or she has to have attitude when she's with us.

What now?
Now, we're working with Maggie to have her respond to us almost 100% of the time while on leash. We're doing about 2-3 minutes of an obedience run through right outside our house followed by a walk and then more obedience throughout the day.
My cuddle nugget...she's a burrower.
She's as cuddly as ever and seems to enjoy being back home with us and Nigel!

The bad?
So, do we recommend board and train programs?  It depends.  It ended up being 100% the right choice for us because we need ongoing help when issues crop up with Maggie as we learn to work wit her now (and we get follow ups for as long as we need them, 4 mandated ones).  I hated having to be away from her for a month and the money was ABSURD.  BUT, we have a game plan when she starts to react now and we haven't been able to get to calm down during a reaction until the last two weeks.  So, it totally depends on humans' situations and the dog's behavior.
I should have told her "off" but she just looked so cute and happy.
What about Nigel?!
Nigel, as it turns out, is incredibly obedient.  We knew this before but he did NOT like his first obedience class we took him to.  He seems to like this one much more but still kind of looks a little weepy during class sometimes.  Anyone else ever had this reaction from a dog?  He does everything perfectly but is kind of sad looking about it all.  Sometimes, I think he's bored because there's a lot of sitting around.  He's doing great though and continues to be a wonderful companion.
What's your vote?!  More like Yoda or ET?!
We'll keep you updated on our ongoing progress with Maggie's improvements and Nigel's obedience training awesomeness!

PS - Maggie now weighs 50 pounds.  That's a whopping 15 pound gain from a year ago when we got her.  Perhaps she's no longer so "pocket pittie" but we'll keep pretending for a while.  :-)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Getting to Know Nigel

Even though we have had Nigel as part of our family since January 3, we never got to spend any time alone with him.  We had a random day here and there when Maggie went to day care and Nigel stayed home and we went to obedience class, but never a month straight of just hangin' with Nigel.

Though we have missed Miss Maggie greatly while she learns to mind her manners, this has been a wonderful opportunity to spend some real quality time with The Dude (one of his newer nicknames, not to be confused with "Mr. Pants" or "The Pants"...not even sure where that one came from).

We started a new obedience class and Nigel has been doing wonderfully!  Though many see it as controversial, we're using a pinch collar during his training and we'll wean him off of it in about 6 weeks or so.  He's doing really well and we both feel like we're communicating like we never have before.  

So, what have we learned about Nigel during our month o' Nigel?

- He's a huge bed hog, even when Maggie's not here!
- Nigel loves all kinds of food, including cucumbers, mango, peach, carrots.  Pretty much everything.
- His energy level is MUCH lower than Maggie's and he's mostly a big giant couch potato.
- He has the CUTEST tendency to stretch out all frog-leg like but while he is still sitting if you scratch his back, it's adorable but hard to describe.  We'll try to get a video!

Overall, I forgot how much calmer life can be with just one dog.  There's no bounding, playful wrestling and the couch has much more room.  We're so grateful to have the chance to work with Nigel on his obedience skills and give him some good, individual loving!

Lastly, a Maggie update!  Miss Mags has done BEAUTIFULLY at her Board and Train.  She finished the basic obedience skills within the first week and a half and then after, she worked on socializing with all kinds of dogs and being patient around other dogs.  Then, they ventured out with her into the real world to places like Starbucks to help Maggie get over her "staring" issue (when she sees dogs, even if she doesn't bark and pull, she stares real hard).  They have assured us that after working with her though, her barking and pulling reactivity when seeing other dogs is fairly eliminated.  WOOHOO!  She's been a favorite there, I think, but hey, who could blame them?!

Many pictures to come from our reunion this coming week!!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Eating Animals

This post is a little different than my regular fare so I understand if it's not your slice of pie.  If nothing else, check out this Chipotle video to see a great animation and music marketing campaign...not to mention an interesting message being sent to kids and adults watching the movie and playing their new game.  A small disclaimer if you choose to read on: I do not judge anyone else's actions and choices, I am only sharing a recent experience of mine and a shift in my own perspective and outlook. Also, this isn't about Jonathan Safron Foer's book Eating Animals, but I've heard that it's very good.  For a giggle and a bit of small child heart-warming loveliness, check out this video.

One month ago, I stopped eating meat.  My sister, a fellow animal lover, texted me that she was watching a documentary about the meat and dairy industry.  I had been meaning to watch one I saw on Netflix, Forks Over Knives, but hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Forks Over Knives displays the perspective that eating animal proteins and dairy leads to heart disease and a plethora of other complications.  It advocates eating a whole foods, plant-based diet to not just cut down on risk but to even counteract diseases already present.

It was a rabbit hole...I then watched Vegucated on Netflix, which has some graphic images from our slaughterhouses.  Vegucated tells three peoples' stories as they attempt to live as Vegans for six weeks.  They learn about the meat and dairy industry and ultimately, all three are still eating Vegan or close to Vegan diets today (the documentary came out in 2010).  

Next came the book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.  The first chapter has a sort of exercise where you imagine sitting at a friend's dinner table, eating a delicious stew.  When you ask how they made it, they tell you that you start by using 10 pounds of Golden Retriever!  They laugh and say, just kidding, it's beef.  The author then explains that most Americans are raised to believe that eating certain animals is quite alright but eating other animals is downright nasty.  (This happens not just in America but since we're here, I'll focus on here.)  Through marketing and PR campaigns of the meat and dairy industry, we are essentially told that "Happy Cows Make Better Milk" or cheese...but most of our country's meat industry is anything but happy for the animals.  We treat them pretty terribly. 

I think that I have learned before about how our meat and dairy industry treated animals but watching some of the graphic footage from slaughterhouses showed me the reality of most conditions.  After reading Why We Love Dogs...I just couldn't look at meat without imagining Maggie and Nigel being mistreated.  Like most dedicated dog owners, I would pretty much do anything to keep them from harm.

I consider myself an animal lover and a gentle person who cares for the rights of all beings but my eating habits were just not aligned with this statement.  Once I realized how much pain and suffering I was causing to about 100-200 animals a year, I no longer wanted to eat meat and animal by-products.  (Unfortunately, our egg and dairy farming practices are really no better and perhaps even worse than our meat-packing industry.)  I always advocate for humane treatment of dogs and cats in America's shelters but why had I never cared about all those other animals?

So, I'm on a journey right now.  Besides beginning training for a half marathon, training the pooches, and being in school, I'm also exploring a whole foods, plant based diet.  I haven't given up all animal by-products because after 28 years of practicing eating whatever I wanted, it's pretty difficult to just totally change every eating habit overnight!  But I do know that I am becoming more self-aware about how my diet affects the environment, my well-being, and the well-being of other creatures.

Have your dietary practices been affected by being a pet owner?

*If you made it this far, thanks for reading.  I promise to bring back adorable pittie cuteness very soon.  :-)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Working on Walking

Since Nigel is enjoying some only-doggie time right now, we want to work on his training as much as we can.  He's been very good at waiting to go out his doggie door and staying on the rug and waiting if we need to take the garbage outside.

When Maggie first left for her training, (almost two weeks ago, thank goodness time is flying by!) Nigel had a rough time staying home alone.  He did a little damage (goodbye, favorite blanket from Restoration Hardware) and totally got worked up every time we left him by himself.  He even started to do some digging at the door of our room where he was hanging out but I think I stopped that by startling him when he did it once while I was still here.

Still such a puppy face sometimes...

This weekend, we installed a baby gate at the door of our room that we think may help him when we need to leave him alone for the next two weeks until Maggie's back.  He did really well yesterday, just a little whining when we left and then brought his stuffed Kong to the gate and went at it.  We also leave him with classical music playing (Through a Dog's Ear, but really I don't think it makes a difference what kind of classical music it is) and an antler for him to chew if he gets really bored.

Now, we're working on him remembering how to not be a maniac on leash.  He did a great job today on our walk.  We're using his Easy Walk Harness and after just a few minutes, he did a pretty good job of only pulling briefly when he heard dogs barking (so, every second house) or when he thought he saw a squirrel.

Back in the walking game!!  Speaking of games, Nigel is showing off his new collar from Moxino Collars (thanks to our friends at A Peace-A-Bull Assembly for showing us how awesome these collars are!).  Now he can root on his Bears every week!

Be back soon with more Maggie updates and fun photos of Nigel's adventures!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

I'm Sorry...New Years Resolutions

New year?!  You must be thinking that I'm off by a few months.

Well, tonight marks the beginning of the end of the Jewish high holy days.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, was just last week.  It's traditional to ask for forgiveness during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which begins tonight.  One calls (or today texts and emails) friends and family and asks loved ones to forgive any sins or misdoings from the past year.  These ten days are a time to start over and work to do better in the coming year.

I started thinking, wouldn't it be nice if I could repent to our pups for the things that I have done and tell them that I will try to do better?  

Since they don't understand me, (or maybe they do, what a ruse!) I decided to write some apologies to the pooches and include some of our goals from here on out.

Dear Maggie and Nigel,

We are sorry that we haven't stuck with one training method in order to help us communicate better.
What'd you say?
We apologize for lounging too much and not always giving you the exercise you need or would like.
We know we're adorable but we LOVE to run!
We're sorry for sometimes being very impatient and even yelling when we lose our tempers.
Yell!?!  At this cute face?!?!
We apologize for buying all that camping gear and STILL not finding a time to take you adventuring.

We've also thought of some ways we're already trying to do better or will be working towards improving on these things this year.

We will try to be patient with you as much as possible and never yell about things that aren't life threatening.

We will work with you in one training method that will help us communicate better and become better companions to one another.

We will do our best to get walks in every day and find times to take you places that you can run around so you get exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.

We are planning weekends to take you on adventures and camping so we can explore together.

The best part about pooches is that they forgive us without us needing to apologize.  They give us so many second chances and times to make up for what we've done poorly in the past.  If I could talk to them in their own language, I would thank them for being so patient and allowing us to work on improving each and every day.  After almost one full year of being dog parents, we feel as though we have learned a lot and still have so far to go.  We're excited to fulfill these goals and help ourselves and the pooches have an even better second year together.

To a happy and healthy new year!!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Adventures with Nigel - The Grove

We have decided that since we could't take both pooches to do certain things due to Maggie's reactivity, we would try to take Nigel around town while Maggie is away at boot camp.  Today was our first Nigel-is-briefly-an-only-dog adventure!

Nigel came with us today to The Grove and The Farmers Market (a permanent market with food vendors and fresh fruit and veggie stands), one of LA's big, fancy shmancy shopping centers.  They're very dog friendly and there are often pups romping around with their owners while they're feasting at an overpriced cafĂ© or even going into a few of the stores.  Nigel did a fantastic job, even with all of the distractions.  He wore his Easy Walk harness, which made it easier on us since we still haven't really gotten good at heeling and not pulling on leash (yet).

He even got a very special treat from the doggie bakery at The Farmers Market (you know it's LA when there's a bakery just for dogs).  He definitely enjoyed himself!

Maggie's Boot Camp Update:
Maggie has spent four nights at her training boot camp now and we're (of course) being pretty over protective doggie parents.  We've called every day except for today to get an update about her progress and because these people understand that we're anxious about sending our pups away for weeks at a time, they happily oblige!

Maggie has been working with trainers every day since Tuesday morning.  She was pretty anxious for the first day and didn't really relax when she was back in her kennel during non-training periods.  She did well with the staff though starting from her first session.  Since Tuesday, she has calmed down and learned to just hang out and chill more when she is not in training.

Maggie's biggest issues are reactivity while on leash and not being able to control her impulses (she's quite impatient!).  The trainers have been working with her while playing fetch, asking her to wait to get the ball after it was thrown and then repeating that process.  Yesterday, she worked with distractions around her (ie dogs on the other side of a glass wall) and did well when there were bigger dogs present but laser-beam focused on a small poodle that kept meandering past.  Work in progress!!!

That's it for now, we'll have another update on Monday!!

Hope everyone else had a fabulous Saturday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Changes and Training

It's been a few weeks now that I have been back home and we've tried to do plenty of this:

But when we went back to school and work, Maggie pretty much looked at us with great disdain most days.

And even though it's been a regular, warm end of summer here in Los Angeles, Maggie insists on sleeping under blankets still.

The Changes

We made a pretty big decision last week.  We found a trainer who we really like.  We agree with his philosophy.  If you've been reading since our beginnings, you'll probably remember that we found a trainer who we thought was the answer to our Maggie leash reactivity prayers.  Turns out that his philosophy and system is not sustainable for us (intimidation is not the route we want to use with the pups).  So, we went back to the drawing table and searched for a trainer whose philosophy would help us help Maggie get to a place where she could be the awesome dog she is IN our house, OUT of our house.

We had an evaluation with this new trainer at his daycare, boarding, training, and grooming facilities and were super impressed.  The place is clean and feels like a (human) spa when you walk in.  There is a serene feeling and not a huge amount of barking when you step inside.  There is a big dog area, a small dog area, and even areas for dogs who aren't as social as other dogs.

In short, Mr. Nigel will be starting group classes at this new awesome facility and for about 3 weeks (maybe 4), Maggie is taking part in their board and train program.  She is hanging out with their trainers during the day and slowly working up to hanging out with other dogs during training and being around all kinds of distractions.  

We realize that board and train programs are seen as controversial to some but this is the right option for us right now with Maggie.  We miss her dearly for the time being but look forward to working with her when she finishes her boot camp and we start OUR real training!

In the meantime...
We're looking forward to working with Nigel during this time that he's an only pup (his first time ever!) and having the opportunity to take him to classes, cafes and camping.  We'll keep you posted on both doggie's progress and how the training goes.

We're happy to be back in the blogosphere!!!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Quick Update and Some Throwback Pics

The summer is almost winding sad to even think that!  I have exactly two weeks left at my summer job before I get to drive home and see my sweet pitties.  I'm obviously super stoked.  They're doing well at home with their dad and enjoying summer to the fullest!
I think they approve of their new back yard!
Also, this is pretty fun.  When I first found Miss Mags at the shelter in LA, I sent this message and pictures to my sister (fellow pittie owner and dog lover):
I found a BEAUTIFUL Staffordahire mix, pic below, named Lola. She's only 35 pounds and is so sweet looking. She has one green eye and one blue and seems like an uber cuddler. 
"Lola" at the shelter...her eyes begged me to take her home.

Look at both our pups now!

Spoiled and happy
And Mr. Nigel in a cool "before and after" that my sister made.  His mugshot on the left is from his time at a Chicago shelter.  Thank goodness my mom and sister rescued him, he was meant to be with us!

Hope your summer has been amazing!