(For Real this Time) Wordless Wednesday

DSC_0015

 

Gotcha! Come on now, you didn’t actually believe I could do it, did ya?? For the record, the photo above was not AT ALL staged. J was truly asleep after a long day at work and late night at the gym, and of course, one of the dogs just had to take advantage of the opportunity (ahem, Geege).

We still have a lot of cold and mud and snow around here. I am MAJORLY lacking in the creativity/inspiration department. Could you help a lady out?? Come on, share some wisdom… what topics should we discuss on the blog? Anything specific you’re just dying to know about our pack? What issues are you facing with your own dogs? SPILL. (please) Good dog reader 😉

A Few of Our Favorite Things

The telltale sign of a household that is run by dogs? No, it’s not just the dog hair covering most surfaces. It’s the toys, strewn about from room to room, owners wincing when they step on the remains of nylabones or trip over rubber kongs.

It is no secret that our pups are a bit spoiled. There are three different rooms where the dogs are likely to be found, and in each, lives a bucket that overflows with toys. Many are simply scraps of fabric or plastic, remnants of toys that once were…. monkeys or snakes or piggies.

In a house full of three dogs, it doesn’t take long for us to determine which toys will stand up to the tests our dogs put them through. Here are our favorites, for your viewing chewing pleasure. (Many thanks to our friends Casey, Leroy, and Tofu over at Leroy & Co. for the inspiration!)

1) The Big Red Ball

IMG_0259This Paw-zzle Ball, found at Cabela’s, was such a winning purchase. If Gaige is outside, she is either chewing on this toy, chasing it, trying to find it, or trying to steal it. It is a large plastic ball, with a few holes around the outside. On the inside another ball is retained, which rolls around, enticing the dogs to try to plot its escape. This is an outdoor only toy, due to its size and weight, but it is incredibly durable. Its numerous holes make it easy for a few dogs to grab ahold and play tug. One warning: Gaige loves to hold this at the bottom, prancing around with her head high in the air (see photographic evidence, above). This creates an obstruction of vision, which may or may not have resulted in a dent to the back of Dad’s new truck!

2) Anything Nylabone

DSC_0024

Nylabones are a big deal in our house, but most especially for Gaige and Georgia (might it be their shared pittie heritage?) These hard plastic toys are not meant for playing fetch,  but work really well for dogs that love to chew, chew, chew. I feel comfortable leaving them with the dogs while in their crates for the day, because I know they will not break off into small, swallow-able pieces. They come in a large variety of shapes/sizes/types, but I know that the quality of Nylabone toys is always impressive, regardless of the specifics. Tonka generally prefers toys that are more cuddly, but these will last long enough to be worth the money!

DSC_0038

 

3) This Weird Cheap Scrap Toy

DSC_0039This toy was a spur-of-the-moment purchase from a Marshall’s or Ross’s or similar discount store. I didn’t expect it to last long, because it was so affordable, but it has turned into one of our favorites. You know those tug toys that our dogs love, but we hate? They are twisted and braided together with rope, which then frays and sheds EVERYwhere. Well this is nothing like those. Sure, it is twisted and knotted and works great for group play. However, this toy is made out of scraps of what is a stretchy, almost T-Shirt-like material, so there is no fraying! While this isn’t a toy that our dogs will play with on their own, it works well for fetching or tugging, and it still looks cute if it is accidentally left out when company comes over. While I can’t tell you exactly where to find it, I can tell you that you could probably make this into a DIY project!

DSC_0034

 

4) Antlers

DSC_0019

 

Have you tried antlers with your dogs? Our pups cannot. Get. Enough. These are all-natural, and you can even provide them yourself if you have access to the necessary supplies (ie a husband that hunts!) They are silly expensive from pet specialty stores, but you can also get them online through Etsy, or from private dealers (again with the Cabela’s, but there is a man who sells antlers himself outside of this store on weekends, and they are only $1.00 per piece!) Regardless of what price you pay for the antlers, it is worth it. Ours last for MONTHS, even with aggressive chewers in our house, and will not break off into shards. They also don’t smell or stain your flooring. Our dogs like antlers so much that they are the only toy we have to moderate during playtime, to make sure no one is getting too possessive. If you have tried the antlers, and your dogs didn’t take to them send them our way, please! try running them under warm water, which will release lots of smells to entice your pooch.

Look at that concentration!

Look at that concentration! There is an antler under there somewhere…

We are very lucky in that, for the most part, our dogs are pretty good about sharing their toys with one another. As I said, particularly high-value toys (like the antlers) can cause a grumble, so we make sure to moderate the pups when they are out. We try to dictate the “finder’s, keeper’s” rule, meaning that if one dog has a toy, they are to retain possession of that toy until they drop it of their own volition. Furthermore, if two dogs are tugging on the same toy, we make sure that their body language is light and happy, or the game ends and the toy disappears. Gaige is not always good about taking the other dogs’ signals seriously, so we must sometimes reinforce their growls by removing Gaige from the room, or putting her in a down-stay with a different toy.

Georgia and Gaige have a funny little routine that they have worked out when it comes to sharing toys. If, for example, Gaige is chewing on an antler that Georgia wants, Georgia will come up to her, playing animatedly with a different toy (typically one that is obnoxiously squeaky). This will entice Gaige to drop the antler, at which point Georgia will drop her squeaker toy. Once Gaige goes for the squeaking toy, Georgia is able to steal the antler, and head off to an undisclosed location. What a sneak!

Wanna play??

Wanna play??

We still have a few awesome giveaways leftover from 2 Hounds Designs! For a chance to win a collar or a collar/leash combo, leave a comment with a suggestion for a post topic 🙂 Thanks!

 

 

Soul Mates

Call me crazy, but I believe, in my heart of hearts, that we meet people for a reason. Some may just be shooting stars; a fleeting glimpse of ideals, meant to remind you of the things you needed to remember. Occasionally, these people may stay for a lifetime, a constant source of inspiration or drive. Rarer still, are the people that are our soul mates. It’s not often that I find people that remind me of myself, while still inspiring me to reach for more. In fact, up until this point, there was like one, one other person in the entire world that reminds me of myself. (She knows who she is!)

Anyways, as crazy as it might seem, I kind of have come to the conclusion that our three dogs are soul mates. We have three pups, whose backgrounds are all a little bit different, and yet they get along perfectly. There’s Tonka, the happy-go-lucky people-pleaser (and they say dogs are like their owners… psh.) Anyways, he was a dog park-dog, one that could make friends with even the most impolite of pups. Then, he was attacked by a male labrador three times in one summer, and he started to be tense and defensive around all dogs. It took us a while to get him to be calm and relaxed around other dogs again. While I know he will never be as carefree as before, I can trust him to be the mediator in dog groups, and know that he loves nothing more than a good romp in the yard with other well-mannered dogs.

DSC_0074

Then came Gaige, who probably had little to no socialization before I found her. She has great manners within the hierarchy of our dogs, but can be a wild-child (read: annoying) when it comes to playing with new dogs. She gets way too wound-up and excitable, and loves to play rough. For those reasons, she typically only gets to play with our dogs, or other dogs that I’ve slowly introduced her to, and that have complimentary play styles. She and Tonka grew into great friends, who were never far from one another.

DSC_0316

Finally there is Georgia. Most of you know her story, but after a troubled past, she was not fond of other dogs. She would wag her tail from afar, seemingly wanting to join in on the fun, but if they came close, she would sometimes snap or growl. Even given perfect opportunities, Georgia never actually tried to bite other dogs, but she was careful to remind them to keep their distance. Everyone told me that she would be best in a home without other dogs, but I just knew that if we could show her that our dogs would not harm her, she might just gain confidence from a relationship with them. After months of slowly reinforcing her positive associations with our dogs, we finally began to see sparks of companionship between the three of them.

DSC_0030

For the longest time, we were most concerned about the females getting along, but it has come about that the two girls are pretty much inseparable. They sleep curled against one another, share toys, and are a speedy team on adventures through the woods in search of moles sticks. I’ve never had a sister, but I am so enjoying watching the bond these two share. For as many times as we have grown frustrated with Gaige, while playing rough or being demanding or getting into everything, she has been a wonderful playmate for Georgia… slowly pulling her out of her shell, all the while reading her body language and responding accordingly. More importantly, even when Georgia occasionally ‘shot her down’ with a growl or snap in the early days, Gaige would respectfully give her some space, only to return a few hours later to delicately try again. I think I have something to learn from her indomitable spirit…

"There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it is sent away." - Sarah Kay

“There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it is sent away.” – Sarah Kay

What is one of the most lasting lessons your dog(s) has taught you? Another giveaway is in the works for your response 🙂 Jennifer Jacobs Scarry, please email me at sel1490@gmail.com to claim your prize from the last giveaway! It might look something like this…

DSC_0003

Many thanks to Two Hounds Designs for their generous contributions!

Less-Words Wednesday: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It seems that the majority of the photos that I take of our dogs, feature them snoooozing away! Don’t let the photos fool you, however… these pups are usually going a million miles per minute! Nevertheless, they are ultra-adorable when they are asleep 😉 Don’t believe me? Take a peek for yourself!

photo 1

This might just seem like your run of the mill sleeping dog photo… but I will have you know that Georgia was pacing around the bedroom, because the beds were in opposite corners. She dragged the bed over himself, so they could all sleep together 😉

photo 2

On the way to the vet!

photo 3

And on the way home

photo 4

Puppy-dog yin-yang!

Why Dogs?

Why dogs? What is it about these furry, funny creatures that can capture our hearts and change our lives? We (I use this term loosely!) dress our dogs up, afford them the best of medical care, take them to meet Santa Paws, provide them with quality organic food, and even throw them birthday parties… in the last 15 years, the US jumped from $17 billion to $43 billion in the amount of money we spend on our pets.

But if you are reading this blog, it is safe to say that you probably agree that loving our dogs is not all about the money. In fact, the financial ‘investment’ is probably the furthest thing from most of our minds. Loving our dogs is about loyalty and companionship, entertainment and comfort. But, the question remains: why dogs? Why not pigs or horses, or even inanimate items that constitute hobbies… trucks, fishing poles, etc?

Is it the way they love? Unapologetically and without restraint. Tongues flying, paws prancing and scrambling, they want to get as close to us as possible. They rest their heavy heads on our knees, as their deep eyes look into our own, expressing what their mouths cannot. Scientists may argue that this ‘adoration’ is simply an appropriate appreciation of resources, and acknowledgement of the vessels that provide them (ie: we bring home the bacon). However, I argue that all dog lovers know the difference between a friend’s dog, staring longingly into our eyes while we nom down on a burger, and our own dog’s adoring glances when we’ve been away for an extended any amount of time. Not to mention, what about when that loyalty extends to those members of the family who are not the ‘pack leaders’? Many new parents discover a new found love for their dogs, once two-legged puppies enter the scene. When properly introduced, dogs can take on a role that is fiercely protective of the children in their family, who have no resources to offer in exchange. Many adults will look back on their childhood most fondly when recalling memories that highlight their family dogs. Perhaps even more noteworthy, is the fact that dogs who have been socialized appropriately may display affection toward other (prey?) animals in the house, be it dogs, cats, and even bunnies.

Via tumblr

Via tumblr

Perhaps it is their zest for life, their passion, if you will. Watching a dog run and tumble in hot pursuit of a bouncing ball, or dashing and splashing their way into a cool pond is enough to bring a smile to even the most cynical among us. They bring a uniquely lighthearted intensity and exhuberance to everything they pursuit, be it chasing birds, stealing food from the table or hard-core napping. For many dogs, even training can be fun, and our pups respond almost as if they want to help us learn!

DSC_0050

Is it their obedience? It can’t be that, because Gaige doesn’t have an obedient bone in her body, and yet still, she is the apple of her dad’s our eyes! In fact, it is sometimes in her contrary disobedience that we are nevertheless able to so clearly see the depth of our affections for her.

Perhaps it is their honesty. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a dog with a particularly good poker face. Even with three pups in our house, if I walk in to a plate pulled off of the counter (Georgia) or a chewed shoe (Gaige), their guilty mugs identify the perpetrator almost immediately. Even more worthwhile are their honest evaluations of the people they encounter in their environments. I will trust Tonka’s perceptions of character over any reference or compliment I hear, because his reservations have never once been wrong.

My boys <3

My boys ❤

We cannot forgot the dog’s intelligence. Sometimes during a particularly intense training session, it seems as if Georgia’s mind is working so hard, I can actually see the lightbulbs flickering and eventually turning all the way on. Dogs are intelligent creatures, but more than the way they learn, is what they perceive. They seem to possess a wisdom far beyond their years, and hold the secrets to some of life’s most lingering questions. The greatest lessons I’ve learned in life, have come from my dog.

You have to give dogs points for their patience, which I must admit, is commendable if for no other reason than that most of us don’t possess much of this attribute ourselves. This trait is visible not just when it comes to begging endlessly for food. Our dogs spend their lives waiting for us… waiting for us to come home, waiting for us to understand their requests, waiting for us to broaden their environment to walks and adventures. They wait for us, not with frustration or annoyance, but with an unbridled joy when we finally return, get it, or explore. Another trait that humans should envy is the innate confidence that many dogs possess, which is admirable because it often exists regardless of physical stature or athletic abilities. The tiny Chihuahua isn’t afraid to yap at the massive Dane, and the diminutive Corgi doesn’t hesitate to dive head-first into the water.

I think my favorite canine trait is loyalty, which I believe to be different than love. No matter how the days pass, full of activity and outdoor romps, or spent lazily indoors, our dogs greet us with the same frivolity, regard us with the same adoration, and protect us with the same courage. They forgive us when we are unclear or inconsistent, and are always looking toward the future. Although our dogs have memories, or at least recollections, that allow them to recall where they hid their favorite toys or just why they hate the bath tub, they are quick to forget our mistakes and flaws.

IMG_0046

You may most admire their companionship and observance (and I’m not just referring to the squirrels outside the window) by they way they move with you through the house, shadowing your steps in and out of rooms, never letting you out of their sight for more than a few minutes at a time (unfortunately, even when it comes to the bathroom!). Again, cynics may suggest that this behavior is simply a creature being on the alert, anticipating the possibility of potential rewards such as outdoor romps or surprise snacks. I prefer the belief that my dogs can’t bear to let me out of their sight. For our dogs, not only must they keep an eye on us, but they prefer to be physically touching us: laying on our feet, nestled against our body, or heads resting on our hands. They romp through the woods, running far ahead, but occasionally turning back to us for a quick pat on the head, seemingly reassured by our presence. Not to mention, what person do you know that would be happy to go along for a car ride with you, no matter the destination or length, just content to be by your side?

Dogs are endlessly resilient and courageous. To meet Georgia is to know nothing of the neglectful past she has endured, and the same can be said for so many dogs who have experienced trauma and violence. Their courage is impressive, seen time and again in stories of devoted dogs laying down their lives to defend their  family members. The next time you roll your eyes or yell as your dog barks ferociously at the door, take a second to analyze that act. Sure, it could be a hyper-active overreaction to the mailman. At the same time, how many of our dogs would valiantly defend us with everything they have? I know I would be my own life on mine…

Those of us who work with rescued dogs, who may have seen horrors we cannot imagine, may point out that not all dogs exemplify this list. Certainly, some dogs become withdrawn from play, and are hesitant to embrace the environment around them, etc. But somewhere inside of these dogs, is a little soul that yearns to be cuddled and protected. In spite of their fears, in their hearts lies a fighting spirit that enabled them to endure their tragic past. It may take time for traumatized animals to come back to their natural state, and maybe some won’t ever recover completely, but I believe that this list describes what we all know to be the essential Man’s Best Friend . Sure, there are some quirky dogs that just don’t fit these stereotypical tendencies… and yet their owners love them all the more for it! The dogs that are ornery, difficult, and aloof can sometimes inspire the most devoted companionship out of us.

At the end of the day, I think most of us can agree that the reasons and the depth of loving our dogs are one of the few things in life that defy words, and travel just out of the grasp of language. Nevertheless, we try. So tell me: what is it about dogs, or perhaps your dog in particular, that you are over-the-moon about, and just can’t get enough of? There just might be a giveaway in exchange for your answer! (But I’ll choose to believe that you would answer even without the bribe 😉 )

To be Wealthy

What makes you feel like a million bucks? I am so interested in the way people answer this question. It is important to note that ‘a million bucks,’ is not the same thing as ‘beautiful’.

I believe that it is a moment we all search for. A moment when we are the rulers of our world, and in total control. It is a moment that inspires us, carries us, and reminds us of what we are living for. In this moment, we see everything that we can be in this life, and suddenly, we can’t imagine being anything less.

"Dreams are always crushing when they don't come true. But it's the simple dreams that are often the most painful because they seem so personal, so reasonable, so attainable. You're always close enough to touch, but never quite close enough to hold and it's enough to break your heart."

“Dreams are always crushing when they don’t come true. But it’s the simple dreams that are often the most painful because they seem so personal, so reasonable, so attainable. You’re always close enough to touch, but never quite close enough to hold and it’s enough to break your heart.”

Every great love starts with a great story. One of my greatest loves in life, was my horse Frosty. He came into my life at a pivotal time, and our adventures cover the highest of peaks and the lowest of valleys. His registered name, the name we competed under, was ‘A Dynamic Minute,’ which so perfectly sums up our memories together: a fleeting yet divine moment in time.

Losing Frosty was one of the most painful moments in my life. Painful is probably an understatement, and conversely, one that very few will ever comprehend. Even in every happy moment or good day, something would spark that undercurrent of pain, and the crack in my heart would spread all over again. In time (only recently, 7 years later), the hurt began to lessen, and it was easier to just let go.

275_19142502426_7193_n

Or at least, I thought it was easier. But in every ride I took over the years, I found myself searching for him. I’d seek the lifting float of his trot, or the rocking gait of his canter. I looked for his clownish personality in the barn, mirrored by his stone cold focus in the show ring. I craved the pride from our successes in the spotlight, and the quiet loyalty of our private moments behind the scenes. I missed him so. I missed hearing his name called along with mine, that sweet sound of success that made all of the sacrifices worthwhile. Even the times when our names weren’t called first… yes, I missed those too. Because, at the end of the day, I knew that I still had his giant heart to depend on. Mostly, I just missed my friend, my partner, my champion. I was looking for him everywhere, and when the feelings got too strong, I’d take a step back from the world that reminded me endlessly of him. I couldn’t continue to drive towards my dreams, for fear of what I needed to face, and what I might ultimately find. I didn’t want to recognize my own inadequacies without him. I wanted to remember us like we were those fleeting years, those exquisite summers. Independent of the world, yet fiercely dependant upon one another. Strong and brave, focused and calm. Grey horse and slight girl, gallant steed and timid princess: a fairytale, a living poem. Undeniable champions, and yet we were eventually torn apart by the very thing that drew us to great heights… ambition, though ultimately not our own.

275_19142487426_6046_n

Our last moments together…

What I am only now realizing, as I write this, is that Frosty, in himself, was my dream. That’s it. Aside from the glory and success and points. All of that would have meant nothing without him. Every little girl’s fantasy of the beautiful horse with the rocking canter, who galloped into their dreams to carry them away from reality. That’s the gift he gave me. The glaring absence of the light that he once brought into my life, sometimes makes every other beautiful thing so much dimmer by comparison. In his dappled gray glory, Frosty was the silver lining to the clouds in my life, and so sometimes it’s hard to see much more than stormy weather. I don’t know how to conclude this to do justice to this magnificent creature. All I can say is that, in all of his glory and imperfections, Frosty was the best thing that has ever happened to me. And, he truly is ‘A Dynamic Minute’ that will last a lifetime in my heart.

"Wherever I go in life, I take a piece of you with me everywhere."

“Wherever I go in life, I take a piece of you with me everywhere.”

While I have finally come to terms with the fact that he will never again be mine, I still work to uncover the reasons why the pain of our separation was so deep and sharp. Perhaps the reason it hurts so much to have lost him is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and always will be. That gets me through.

It hurts that my dreams seem to be so intertwined with him. To face the ascent to my greatest aspirations, I must also face my life without him. I still want the dream I have put down on paper so many times. The dream that has existed in my heart for years. I preach to others that not a single one of us should feel that our dream, our freedom, or our choice is elusive. It should be ours to attain. And yet, my fear of loss, of failure, of betrayal, cripples me. A paralyzing fear that is only self-fulfilling… my fear of not achieving my dreams, prevents me from actively seeking them, which in turn renders them unachievable.

275_19142492426_6384_n

For me, riding has always been about passion. What does that mean, you might ask? I believe it is a primal, instinctively vibrant part of ourselves that doesn’t come from social status, a fancy car, or a corner office. Expressing this part of yourself radiates a confidence and glow unattainable through beauty treatments and material possessions. Passion comes from our core; from the deepest part of who we are…that place we pull our last bit of strength from, where our deepest love lives.

275_19142517426_8184_n

Find your passion. Seize it, and make it your life’s work. You will come alive. Most importantly, no matter how much it sometimes hurts, never give up.

275_19142567426_1330_n

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.”

– Ayn Rand (Russian-born American author)

 

(Less-Words Wednesday) Cleaning With Dogs

1383379369_1357111870

I have to admit, this graphic perfectly sums up my life! I can’t count how many times I’ve started to clean our house, realized that resistance is futile, and resorted to cuddling/playing with the dogs instead! For us, the two biggest issues are lingering dog hair (I swear, it’s everywhere!) and muddy paws on the hard floor surfaces. The other problem is that no matter how many times I pick up the dog toys, they seem to find themselves scattered all over the house seconds later.

Our dogs know how to party... they make custom confetti!

Our dogs know how to party… they make custom confetti!

I try to put the dogs out from under foot when I’m cleaning, but most of the time, their faces remind me what a mean mommy I am!

How could you do this to us?

How could you do this to us?

Do you have issues with a messy house that you can blame on your dogs?