Dating to Find Your Doggy Daddy

As an old, married woman, it is safe to say that my ‘dating’ years are behind me, along with those wild nights out with all my single ladies…. actually, I don’t think it quite makes sense to say that they are behind me, because I never really experienced them. I turned 21 right around the time I started dating J, and let’s just say that at that time I had no interest in meeting my future husband, so you could argue that I don’t know much about dating. I have officially only been hit on in a bar one point five times. One of those times, J came to the rescue, and I experienced my first bar fight! The other, I was playing mom at my friend’s bachelorette party, and so I don’t think it really counts. He probably thought I was a wealthy old cougar or something. However, I have lots of gorgeous, single friends who are wading the dating waters, and I am lucky enough to be the first person they call to bail them out of an awful date, strategize the second date proposal, and compare the benefits of SITC living to domesticated bliss. I’m like a dating therapist, people.

Nevertheless, I wonder what life would be like if I were dating with dogs. I can only compare it with what I imagine life would be like when dating with children. There is that tricky dilemma of how much to talk about your dog on the first few dates, lest you appear to be a CDL (crazy dog lady, obviously). Then there is that important question, useful to predict your compatibility: admitting each of your ‘numbers’ (of course I mean max number of dogs people, get your minds out of the gutter!) Oh, and then, how long should you wait? I mean, you don’t want to rush things before introducing your potential mate to your four-legged partner-in-crime. Too soon, and you might appear easy, but wait too long, and it might seem as though you are playing hard to get!

Then there is the looming obstacle: what if your new beau and your pup don’t hit it off? What if he just isn’t “doggy-daddy” material? Maybe he is more of a ‘cat-person,’ or perhaps he believes that dogs belong outside (I wrote a post about one of those crazy guys, here). Rather, it might be your dog that doesn’t take kindly to having his or her relationship infringed upon… either way, what would you do? You need to think about it… is this a person that can handle dog hair on the furniture? Cold noses and wet kisses? Post-coital cuddles with Princess? If not, I’m sure you have already determined that they simply are not romantic material.

If you’re reading this post, you probably look at your social circle in a way that is similar to my own perspective: there are two types of people – animal lovers, and then there is everyone else. Or further, dog people and cat people. Now, maybe you have a severe feline allergy, or perhaps it’s just your dog that has an issue with kitties. Either way, my advice is to seek out the dudes you know will be dog-friendly… two dogs, one ball and all of that. I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking that you’ve already met all of the humans at the local dog park. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably pretty proud of the fact that you’ve finally managed to remember some of their names, as opposed to only memorizing the names, lineage, and social status of their dogs’. But in today’s society, where one in five couples meet online, why not take your search for a doggy daddy to the interwebz? Nowadays, there are plenty of online dating options out there for the dog-obsessed, and a simple google search may land you a ‘tall, dark, and handsome,’ four paws included: You Must Love Dogs, Date My Pet, Pet People Meet, Love me Love my Pets, just to name a few. Here, you can use your dog to your advantage, as either the ultimate wing-man, or the cock-blocker. For example, on a fabulous date with a fellow dog lover, and not ready for the night to end? Suggest that he bring over his cock…er spaniel, for a little late-night play date. Conversely, on an awful date and need a swift exit strategy? Of course, any dog lover would understand your need for haste if your pup is sick!

When you think about it, it makes sense. We’ve been spoiled by Fido’s unconditional love, and we needs someone who understands that level of devotion. Some might say that we’ve developed high standards, but if you’re amazing enough to deserve those standards, then why not?

What I mean by that, is that if finding a fellow single, attractive, sane, dog lover isn’t working out for you, you could just establish your online dating profile at a more ‘normal’ dating site like Match.com or eHarmony. There, you could highlight all of the reasons any man would be lucky to end up with a fetch catch like you:

1) Easy-going: As evidenced by the dog hair and slobber covering every surface of your apartment. No OCD, neat-freaks here! Not to mention all of the chewed shoes, destroyed remotes, and scratched floors… no one could accuse you of being materialistic!

2) Selfless: Comfortable putting your own needs aside for the sake of others. For proof, just reference your calendar, with a plethora of Sophia’s grooming, nail-trimming, training, agility, and veterinary appointments. (On second thought, maybe don’t admit this one.)

3)Outdoorsy: Basically, you just spend a lot of time at the dog park.

4) Reliable: You know, as in your commonalities with the United State Postal Service. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this courier dog owner from the swift completion of their appointed rounds potty duties.” Come to think of it, the regular 5 am wake up calls for Sam’s walks? Why, you’re a prompt and pleasant morning person! No lazy mornings spent in bed for you!

5) Generous: $100 bags of organic dog food, $200 monthly Nylabone and Kong budget, $50/day at doggy daycare… you are a giving person who would never place the value of financial security over the way you make your loved ones feel!

www.glasbergen.com Randy Glasbergen

http://www.glasbergen.com Randy Glasbergen

And if you’re still unsuccessful, there’s always dog dating sites. No, not like I mentioned above. I’m talking about dating sites FOR your dog. I mean, just because you’re not getting lucky, doesn’t mean that Ginger shouldn’t either, right? There are now a variety of websites created to accommodate the needs of your picky pup, whether you are searching for a pooch play mate or a breeding pair. (Just make sure your dogs are practicing safe sex, people!)

Disclaimer: These suggestions and tips are offered in jest. They are meant to make you smile as you wade the murky dating waters. In truth, the age old advice applies – be yourself, and you will find someone who will love you for it! (Unless you are a cat person. Then you’re screwed.)

Wordless Wednesday: If they were yours…

So this won’t be super wordless, but it is shorter than usual. You’re welcome, in advance. 😉

It has come to my attention that there are some pups missing from our area (Freeport, PA to be specific. About 1/2 hour North of Pittsburgh). I don’t know the dogs or their owner personally, but we have many mutual friends who have implored me to help. Apparently the owner just moved to the area from South Carolina, so there is some talk or concern that they may be disoriented and trying to head ‘home’. They are said to be incredibly sweet, and while both have collars, they are unfortunately not labeled with contact information. They have been missing for over a week, and it goes without saying that the owners are beside themselves.

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Please, please share this. This could so easily be your dogs, or your friends’, or your family members’, etc. Let’s help to get Buck and Reggie home safely. We live near many major highways, and so we don’t know who may have spotted them or picked them up with good intentions. Even if you aren’t in the area, please consider sharing this post and/or their photos. If your dogs were missing, how grateful would you be to others who got involved in helping them get back to you? Not to mention, there are enough unwanted and homeless animals in all of our communities… the least we can do is help return these guys to their loving owner and keep them off the streets and out of the shelters!

Confessions of an Ignorant Dog Owner

I want to share with all of you an experience that I once had, years ago. I’m not sure if I am sharing this for the sake of full disclosure, to rid myself of some guilt, or to educate others, but I do know that I feel it is important to share. SO here goes…

Some of you may know that I got Tonka when I was just finishing high school, which I did a year early, and so I was only 17 years old. However, I took this responsibility very seriously. Having temporarily retired from my competitive horseback riding career, training and socializing Tonk became my hobby, and so it filled many of my waking hours. Yeah, there is probably a psychology lesson in there somewhere, but let’s just say that I put every ounce of heart and sweat into his upbringing.

Baby Tonk

Baby Tonk

When I went on to college, it was no surprise that he went with me. He was everyone’s favorite pup. He was the type of dog that could calm even the most reactive of dogs, and do it well. It took a lot to ruffle his coat.

Helping me study

Helping me study

The amazing farm where I had an equally amazing experience... but the same was not true for Tonk =/

The amazing farm where I had an equally amazing experience… but the same was not true for Tonk =/

A few years later, when Tonka was 3 or 4 years old, I took a summer internship on a horse farm in VA. It was a dream job, even though the hours were exhausting. Best of all, I could take my pup with me (as if I would accept a job otherwise!) The only downside? The owner, who I deeply respected and admired, bred Labs. That was all fine and dandy, but his male lab, Chase, was quite a handful. Of course being intact and overflowing with hormones, Chase had little respect for anyone, and nothing in the way of manners. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and it didn’t really matter who tried to stand in his way. Unfortunately, Chase took a quick disliking to Tonka. Tonka would try to avoid him, but if I was standing between the two, he never hesitated to defend me. I did my best to keep the dogs separated, but Chase’s owner seemed intent that the dogs would eventually work it out themselves. Of course, that never happened. Over the course of the summer, Chase attacked Tonka three separate times, and did the same with two other dogs. Once, when one of the other dog’s owners interfered with the attack, she suffered a nasty bite herself, for which I took her to the emergency room an hour away in the middle of the night. These weren’t just your run of the mill dog fights… they were serious aggression issues. Tonka still has white scars on his face that tell the story.

This was Luke, one of Tonk's friends on the farm, and one of the first pitties I knew personally!

This was Luke, one of Tonk’s friends on the farm, and one of the first pitties I knew personally!

That summer seemed to instill in Tonka a mild yet lasting distrust of other dogs, particularly males. Of course I couldn’t blame him. At the same time, I felt such immense guilt for not being better able to protect my dog from Chase and his ignorant owner. However, the man was thrice my age, and was responsible for my wages, job, and living arrangements. To say it was a delicate situation is to put it mildly.

Getting to work with your dog was pretty much the best thing ever...

Getting to work with your dog was pretty much the best thing ever…

When we returned to State College that fall, I made it my mission to improve Tonka’s socialization in order to bring him back to where he had been previously. At the time, I thought that the best way to do this was to visit the dog park. For a while, this worked wonders. Tonka loved going to the park and interacting with the other dogs and owners, most of whom we knew by name. For a long time, we did not experience any issues. However, in a college town, you can expect that not everyone who frequented the park was a responsible dog owner.

Dog park dog

Dog park dog

On one sunny afternoon after I was finished with class for the day, Tonka and I were playing fetch in an empty corner of the dog park. He was totally relaxed and focused on the task at hand, enjoying some one-on-one time with his mama. Usually the center of the pack, he was content to play with me while the other dogs wrestled and played probably 100+ feet away from us. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, a male boxer who had just entered the park, ran past the other dogs and people, and literally came flying straight at my dog (like, so fast he was truly a blur), straight into his side, with such force that Tonka was instantly knocked to the ground. This dog, for no obvious reason, began attacking Tonk. Without any conscious thought, I ran over to the dogs and started kicking the boxer that was still on top of Tonka. I still don’t know what prompted me to do that, but I can guarantee that it was a gut reaction to a traumatic situation. I know that I was not kicking him with full force, or at all to try to hurt him, but enough so as to dislodge him without getting bitten in the process. I also know that it only took one or two kicks to redirect his attention… I was not repeatedly kicking a dog in the stomach. A few seconds later (although this all felt like an hour!) a young man, about my age, came and retrieved his dog by the collar. He seemed like a nice person, but he was irate at me for kicking his dog. He yelled something about his dog having fear issues, and how could I kick someone else’s dog? No apology or even acknowledgement of the fact that his dog had just attacked mine without any provocation. He quickly left the park. I was so shaken up that I don’t think I even said anything to him, either in apology or defense. I went to retrieve Tonka, who seemed to escape with a few minor injuries, at least of the physical variety. Some other dog owners came up to me to report that this was not the first time they had seen this boxer attack another dog, but nothing could really calm me. That was the last time I visited a dog park with Tonka, until this experience years later, with Gaige. (Long-time readers will remember that we had a less dramatic, but similar, experience with her.)

I don’t know what to say about the traumatic events that day. Of course, I feel terribly about kicking his dog. To this day, I wish I could contact the owner in apology. I’m sure his dog is not a horrible pup, and now being a person with a dog that can sometimes be reactive, I have so much compassion for both the owner and the pooch. At the same time, I was there, effectively by myself, and was trying to make a decision to save my dog. Do I think his dog was trying to kill Tonka? No, I do not. But in a traumatic situation, I don’t think my brain could process that. Furthermore, the fact that the attack was targeted and completely unprovoked made me feel as though the dog’s actions could not be predicted. Had the owner been in range to assist me, maybe he could have jumped in instead of leaving me to fend for myself. I still do not know how I would react if I were to be put in the same situation… which is just one of the many reasons that I will never go to a dog park again.

As I said when I began, I don’t know exactly why I decided to write this post today. Maybe it is to free myself of some guilt… guilt for the way I handled the situation at the dog park, and most especially, guilt for the fact that I feel I have failed Tonka as far as standing up for him in stressful situations. Of course I now know better, but I wish I could have spared him some of these experiences. Perhaps by sharing this, it will help other dogs whose owners are as well-meaning yet uninformed as I once was.

More and More Every Day…

I would hope that by now, it is pretty evident that I absolutely adore my dogs. I take great pride in them, as well as in the way I care for them. In fact, I think the greatest compliment anyone has ever given me, is when they say; “Man, if there is a life after this, I want to come back as one of your dogs!” While I love pretty much everything about these four-legged fur balls with whom I share my life, there are just some moments that my heart swells with pride and affection. I bet you can relate…

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1) When they are content or joyful

Especially when I think about where Georgia and Gaige probably came from, it makes me incredibly happy when I see our pups enjoying their lives to the fullest. Whether that is when they are in hot pursuit of an animal in our open fields, or slumbering all cuddled together under our down comforter, I feel so great knowing that their lives are better because of me. I live for moments when I can bring them sheer and unbridled joy… ears-a-flying, tongue-a-slobbering, head-hangin-outa-the-window-style.

 

 

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2) When they depend on me

While I would never wish fear or anxiety on my dogs, I feel invincible when they come to me for guidance or reassurance. These dogs, with their powerful muscles and athletic limbs, turn to me when they need assurance that the world is a safe place. Whether it is a visit to the vet or when I have to tend to a wound, their trust in me is steadfast and pure. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but it means the world to me.

 

 

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Partners in crime

Partners in crime

3) When other people are lovin’ up on them

Of course I think my dogs are the greatest. Don’t we all? But those moments when someone else stops to recognize all of the heart and courage and beauty that they bring to this world? I think that’s kinda what dog ownership is all about. Whether it’s a stranger on the street, all of you friends here, or the people that mean the most in my life, when I see the bonds my dogs share with others, it reaffirms all of the pride I have in them. And if it’s someone fragile that they are bonding with? Fo’ gedaboutit. My wild, exhuberant dogs seem to have this switch… put them around a child or someone elderly, and they become like little lambs, gentle and sweet, cuddley and quiet. Try to tell me that they don’t understand us. I dare you.

 

 

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4) When they’re all together

If you’ve been following this blog for a long time, you may remember that it took us months to acclimatize the dogs to the point where they could coexist in the house. Georgia came to us a bundle of nerves, with little trust for anyone around her, human or animal. She even thought the cat was out to get her! The poor girl just had no confidence in herself or anything in her environment. But to see our pack now, you would never know that we had ever experienced any issues. These dogs have a strong yet intricate bond that ties them together. You see it in the way they move through the house, and the way they all snuggle in bed together, sharing their space and their favorite people. It’s in the way they play tug of war, growling and barking and enjoying all that it means to be a carefree pup. It’s even in the way they guard the house, communicating silently as each takes their post at a window until an intruder approaches. One of the three sounds the alarm, and the troops come running for backup. They’ve learned to respect one another’s space, but they’ve also become dependent upon each other. Take one away, and the others pout and whine. Our dogs are true friends. I don’t know if they do it because they know it is what I expect of them, or if it is because they have a need for the kinship of other dogs, but I do know that I love it.

 

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5) When we’re snuggling

Morning snuggles with the dogs are my favorite. Part. Of my day. Paws down! While we don’t usually allow the dogs to sleep through the night in our bed, once J is out of the house, they know that the dog bed rules go with him. One by one, they leap into the bed as delicately as is possible for 3 dogs with a combined weight of almost 250 pounds! They creep quietly along the mattress, careful not to disturb me, in case I might decide to kick them out. Sleepily I smile to myself, loving that their favorite place on earth is just wherever I am. Each selects their perfect spot, snuggled right up against me, but still somehow in contact with the others. We rest peacefully together, until I make the first stirs… maybe a yawn or stretch, or an arm reaching toward the night stand for my phone. Then all bets are off… they leap from their positions, shake off their slumbers, and grab for a toy. They know that once I’m up, fun begins, and they can’t wait to get their days started!

 

"If I don't look at her, she can't make me come inside..."

“If I don’t look at her, she can’t make me come inside…”

6) When they’re being naughty

Believe it or not, J told me early on that one of the things he had first loved about me was the way I treated my dog. He said that I was strict with him, and he admired my sense of discipline. At the same time, I was affectionate and spoiled him rotten when he was good. I think it’s safe to say that this is exactly how I approach my relationship with our dogs to this day. I hold high standards for their obedience, and think that discipline and structure are a vital part of their lives. At the same time, I think that if our dogs could speak, they would happily tell you that there are no dogs on this planet more loved and well cared for.

With all of that being said, there are some times that I just can’t get over how adorable they are when they’re bad. 95% of the time, our dogs are so focused on their ‘jobs’ and are incredibly eager to please us. But there are those moments where their instincts take over. They seem to forget all about any of the manners that they’ve learned, and take exceptional delight in the fact that they are dogs!

With Gaige, it happens when she is outdoors and doesn’t want to come inside (see photographic evidence, above). You can call and call and call her, but she pretends she hasn’t heard. She will trot slowly over to the furthest point of the yard, and plop herself down, staring at you in defiance. You will try throwing bits of hot dogs to her, shaking the treat bag, and bouncing around like a crazy person. All to no avail. Then when you’ve lost your patience, and decide to risk the late-night or early-morning walk in your bare feet, crazy hair, tee shirt, and underwear, she waits like a panther. You will stomp yourself over to her, muttering under your breath, and just when you think you are in arms’ reach of her collar, she will tuck her tail up under herself, and dash around the yard in sheer ecstasy, proud of her quick and conniving ways. If you can stay mad at her when she does this, you are a much tougher person than I!

 

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7) When they are there for me

Tonka, especially, seems to have some sort of wire to my heart. Not only does he know when I am happy or sad, but he often seems to be aware of it before I am. He will come to me with an expression to match my own. If I am hurting, he will cuddle up as close as possible, and stare deep into my eyes. I swear he is trying to speak to me. But when I’m excited about something, he bounces around my feet, grabbing the nearest toy to celebrate with me. Talk about selflessness… this pup has it in spades.

 

One of my favorite pictures in the whole, wide, world.

One of my favorite pictures in the whole, wide, world.

8) When I think about the past

Mainly, it’s when I write posts like this. I think about all of the adventures I’ve shared with these dogs. And even the lows. These dogs have been there for me through everything, displaying a loyalty not rivaled by even my closest friends. They were all brought into my life for different reasons, and I wouldn’t be who I am without each of them.

Pittsburgh’s For the Dogs!

Some of you may know that I spent some of my childhood growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh. However, life threw me a few curve balls, and I ended up living in a variety of places during my late teenage years. While I enjoyed where I grew up, I never had the opportunity to fully appreciate all that the city had to offer. One of the many things I love about Foster Dad is that he is equal parts country boy and city slicker. He is just as comfortable baling hay, driving his lifted pickup truck, and helping me at a horse show, as he is dressing to the nines and enjoying an elegant dinner in the city, followed by a show at the Benedum or a romantic ride on the incline. In falling in love with him, he has helped me to fall more in love with the beautiful city of Pittsburgh!

I once envied other cities for the plethora of dog-friendly locations and activities, but in spending more time in the Steel City, I have discovered an endless array of canine adventures. Whether you are a ‘Burgh native, planning to visit (please do!) or just curious, here are a few of the top pup spots in town.

This photo, and some of the content of this post, courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine's Pet Lover's Guide

This photo, and some of the content of this post, courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine’s Pet Lover’s Guide

Groceries for Grover

  • Healthy Pet Products : A pet food store that specializes in organic, natural diets and raw food! Their slogan: “Our pets can survive on most anything, but don’t we want them to thrive?” They do all of the research, scrupulously reviewing the brands that they carry, so that you don’t have to!
  • Petagogy: Not only does this store carry premium, all-natural foods for your pets, but they also provide fun and innovative toys, beds, and other products. Their name comes from the word “pedagogy,” meaning the art of teaching, as they pride themselves on learning about the best products out there, and hope to pass on that information to their customers.
  • Animal Nature: This store caters to dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, rats, guinea pigs AND other small animals! They take an active role in the community, and are strong supporters of rescue efforts. They know that quality food makes a difference in the lives, behaviors, and dispositions of our pets, and take this responsibility seriously.

Food WITH Fido

  • Big Dog Cafe: They serve delicious coffee and light food, while welcoming pets to their outdoor patio. That’s my kind of meal!
  • Cappy’s Restaurant: This is my favorite stop for people-watching, outdoor seating, and a delicious burger! But then again, maybe it just tastes better to have Tonka by my side while enjoying a night on the town! They have great nightly specials, making this a popular spot for locals.
  • Jergel’s Rhythm Grille: This is a must-see! They are a live-music venue with outstanding food to boot. Not only do they allow your dog to accompany you on their outdoor patio, but they boast an actual doggie-menu for chowing down!
  • Redfin Blues: Aside from their fido-friendliness, the best thing about this spot has got to be the outstanding river views from the docks of Washington’s Landing. (OH, and all you can eat crab legs! YUM!)
  • Dozen Bake Shop: If you know me, you know that I have a serious problem when it comes to sweets. I love this spot because of their delectable delicacies, but they also offer ways to satisfy Fluffy’s sweet tooth, via dog-safe cupcakes!
Through my research for this post, I was pleasantly surprised to discover MANY restaurants in Pittsburgh that boast dog-friendly outdoor seating. Check out more, here.
 

The Sweet Tooth’s connected to the Dog Bone…

While we haven’t (yet…) personally experienced any of these, I found three bakeries that SPECIALIZE in sweet treats for your pets. Check them out!

Hot Dog Hotels

While we do not choose to board our dogs when we travel, we have visited all of the places below for a variety of reasons, and can vouch for their reliability, attention to detail, and pet-centered approach. It is safe to say that if you choose any of them, you had better be prepared to come home jealous, as your dog may enjoy more fun and pampering than you!
  • Lucky Paws Pet Resort: Rather than blab on and on about them, I will simply let their offerings speak for themselves… they boast a swimming pool, spa treatments including blueberry facials and fur butter deep hair conditioning, indoor/outdoor dog parks, luxury suites (complete with heated floors, cable TV, and sound systems) a multilevel cat condo that features a fish tank, and on, and on, and on…
  • Misty Pines: Set back in a beautifully wooded area, Misty Pines is what I call a doggie adventure park. They possess numerous outdoor enclosures for separation of dogs via play style, size, or age, each complete with various obstacles and agility courses. They offer doggie yoga classes, a swimming pool, spa treatments, agility classes, and obedience training. My favorite part? Miles of winding wooded trails, which lead to an amazing lake and dock, perfect for dock-diving training and retrievals.
  • K9 Kingdom: While you will be hard pressed to find a nicer exclusively indoors pet boarding and doggie daycare business, perhaps more impressive is their amazing staff, who put their heart and soul into caring for your pets. They boast a huge play space and lots of opportunities for socialization, all under the watchful eye of a caring staff member. After a day of treadmill workouts and loving attention, overnight guests are treated to a frozen peanut butter Kong at bedtime… and you know how we feel about Kongs around here!

Nature Adventures

  • McConnells Mill State Park: I had been begging Foster Dad to go here with me for literally YEARS. Once I finally convinced him to visit, he couldn’t stop talking about our return. Shaded by giant trees, their trails wind along a rapidly cascading river (flanked by giant waterfalls, and of course, an old mill!) and boast occasional sandy beaches… perfect for throwing sticks into the water for the dog that loves to swim, or to relax with a picnic lunch. You can take it easy on a leisurely walk with your dog, but for the more adventurous, there are white rapid kayak spots and intimidating climbing areas.
  • Rails to Trails- Butler-Freeport Community: This is a scenic trail that is dog-friendly. There are numerous parking spots along its 20 miles stretch, meaning that you can start and end at a different location each time. It boarders the Buffalo Creek, providing ample water access.
  • Frick Park: Located just outside of downtown, this parks offers a creek with a dam, perfect for swimming, as well as a popular off-leash area with doggie water fountains.
  • Hartwood Acres: This is on of the area’s most beautiful locations, and with 200 acres, it is not uncommon to leave without seeing another soul! Romp around the mansion and its gardens, visit the off-leash dog park, explore the wooded trails, or venture out to the barns and stables…
  • Animal Friends: Though known for their animal shelter and rescuing efforts, they also rent out their off-leash area for private frolicking.

So we wanna know… are you planning a visit? Or perhaps you have already been to some of these great businesses. Any you would add to the list? As always, we want to hear from you :O)

Dog Lovers Anonymous

My name is Stephanie. And I have a confession to make…

I’m kind of obsessed with my dogs.

Now, at first read, this might not sound like such a bad thing. Especially to our readers, who probably are all big-time animal lovers (if not, why are you still reading?). And at the very least, you are probably not surprised by this declaration. This is a blog where I write daily about all things relating to my dogs, after all. But for me, it has become a bigger issue. You see, it started small. Just buying them special toys and treats, letting them sleep in bed with us, you know? But if I’m being honest, it all began long ago. Yeah, I was that weird little girl who hadn’t yet lost all of her baby teeth, but could (and enthusiastically would!) tell you the difference between a shar-pei and a basenji, thanks to a dog breed book that went everywhere with me. My parents should have known then that I was destined to be weird.

However, I think that Foster Dad has been fueling the fire as my enabler, because we have officially become That Couple. I find myself only mildly interested in any conversations that don’t revolve around our dogs, and will realize suddenly that without conscious effort, I find new and unique ways to steer the subject back to that topic ever so discreetly. More surprising, I have even caught Foster Dad in conversation with other pet owners, where he is not-so-subtly trying to top their stories of ‘whose animal is more perfect and adorable?’. He will spend the drive home reiterating their conversations to me, aggressively and passionately recounting why Gaige is obviously so much better than Fluffy or Fido or Ferdinand. At the end of these diatribes, Foster Dad will exclaim that Fluffy’s owner is in fact a total jerk, and while had no idea how he hadn’t previously become aware of this over 10+ years of friendship, it was obvious that they just weren’t cut out to be friends. And just forget it if any of his friends dare purchase a purebred pup, utilize a shock collar, or presume to feed their dogs low quality foods or at haphazard times… perhaps this is a sign that my lectures have gone a little bit too far?

Worse still, it has become clear that we will often cancel or cut short our plans in favor of spending more time with our dogs. Why go out for extra drinks after a movie, when instead we could go cuddle with a six-pack on the couch with our pups? After all, the girls have spent the afternoon in their kennels. At least this has a positive effect on our wallets… but of course, any excess funds just go right back to the dogs in the form of expensive organic dog food and our dog fence fund.

The biggest problem is that when leaving the house without the dogs in tow, I experience a sudden and dramatic anxiety. My worry reaches new and unparalleled heights… have the dogs had enough to drink today? Are they worried, wondering where I am? Is my absence hurting their fragile psyches? Did I leave on any electrical appliances that could potentially catch fire and burn down our house? Forget the house, but would the firemen be able to locate our dogs? Should we place signs in our front yard to alert potential rescue crews to their presence? Call me crazy, but I have found myself turning the car around to go home and unplug all. of the appliances. Just to be sure. Friends, if you’re wondering why I’ve been late for most of our meetings recently, now you know.

Whooo. It feels good to get all of that off of my chest. Now I understand why they say that admitting your problem is the first step… though I don’t see my addiction ending anytime soon. And why would I want it to?

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Catching Flies…

As pit bull advocates, we often find ourselves in a position where we need to stand up for the dogs we have come to know, and thereby, come to love. In fact, this can be true for many things in life. When we have a passion for something, be it political stances, social policies, child welfare, or religion, we are occasionally thrown into situations where our loyalty is tested. In what circumstances are we willing to defend that which we believe in?

It is important to me that people judge my dogs as individuals.

It is important to me that people judge my dogs as individuals.

For me, I believe loyalty to be one of my best qualities, and this is something that I am very proud of. I am a devoted friend, wife, sister, daughter, and pet owner, sometimes to a fault. I am not a fighter, I am certainly not intimidating or imposing, I don’t have a celebrity status to influence those around me… but because I enjoy writing and am always honing my abilities, I carefully choose my words as my greatest defense against those that try to tear down the people and things I care most about. At the same time, it is important to me to maintain a gentle approach. I am a firm believer in the old saying that ‘you catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar’. Because of this, even when faced with someone who disagrees with me, I try my best to remain calm, yet assertive, and to avoid accusations. I do not believe that anyone is going to absorb what you say, if you are offending them while you are saying it!

With all of that being said, I learned a valuable lesson last week that I would like to share with all of you.

Our friend J. over at Peace, Love, & Fostering shared this post on their facebook page last week. If you are interested in dog training, as well as the changes in perception our society is making in regards to dogs and dog ownership, it is certainly worth the time spent reading it. I would be interested in your honest, respectful, perspectives. (If you plan to do so, I would appreciate it if you would read it before you read the rest of this post, so as not to be influenced by my opinions!)

My reaction to this post was multi-faceted. I read it and felt such a strong relation to many of the points the writer introduced. She shared many important thoughts that are, in my opinion, so necessary to convey to well-meaning animal lovers. At its most elementary, the piece was about the science behind force-free dog training, why it is more effective, and how many of those who claim to love dogs and advocate for them, are really just muddying the waters when it comes to what is best for the dog, and conveying that to the public.

For those of you that do not know, force-free training is essentially just that: an approach to dog training that enhances your relationship with your dog, avoiding physical manipulation or intimidation, while reinforcing behaviors through positive association.
 
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What upset me so much was not the content, but the writer’s approach. In my perspective, she has this incredible opportunity to convey a point. She is obviously intelligent and talented as a writer, and please understand that I respect her for this. She put a lot of effort into this article, as was evident by her extensive source list. She has a unique perspective on the subject, which could produce positive waves of change in the worlds of dog training and ownership. However (and perhaps, BECAUSE of how valid her argument is) I absolutely shudder at her approach and tone. She continually criticizes and downright ridicules anyone with a different perspective than the one she feels is ‘right’… even if their perspective just comes from a naive and uniformed lack of knowledge or understanding. She is essentially condemning anyone that utilizes force or tools of punishment in an attempt to produce changes in a dog’s behavior. While I absolutely agree that there are better ways to train our dogs, and that our dogs DESERVE a better approach, my question remains: What dog owner would *ever* went to take advice from someone so condescending? And, with such a valid argument and the unique opportunity of a vast audience, shouldn’t that be her goal? I respect her perspective, but I worry that those who may be on the fence and considering a transition to force-free training, will read her article and be so turned-off that they refuse to remain open-minded. To me, her approach simply was making the rest of us who are proponents of force-free training look like judgmental wackos!

In one particular selection, she criticizes those that support forceful training: “but they seem thoroughly intent on attacking anybody who suggests otherwise”… which is exactly what her article does. It attacks anyone that disagrees with, or misunderstands, force-free training. If she believes that a forceful approach is ineffective with dogs, why does she employ such force when communicating with her own kind??

My stance is this: Whether the topic is politics, racism, poverty, etc… If the point of a diatribe is to truly bring about change in the uninformed or ignorant masses, why would you ever take a position of judgmental arrogance? You are not going to change any minds with that approach, and are then effectively just talking to hear yourself speak, or to hear others who already agree with your position, compliment you for it. Whether or not your argument is valid, if you take a judgemental and aggressive approach, the intended audience will never be open to receiving it in the manner in which it was presented.

At the same time, I found myself wondering if perhaps the writer’s purpose was not primarily to evoke a change in readers’ perspectives, but instead to garner attention and inspire conversation. And if in fact that was her goal, perhaps that is not all bad. If she can get the attention of the masses, perhaps some of them will be more willing to listen to the more moderate, respectful arguments that support and share her same perspectives.

Furthermore, there is something to be said for blogging, in that it is an emotional release for writers. Sometimes we have something on our hearts, and we need to express it. Occasionally we need to open up the floodgates, and let the words organize our thoughts and our hearts, without censoring every emotion or editing every accusation. While I believe that when our blogging has a purpose, we have a responsibility to put that goal first at all times, I also know that sometimes we need to write what is on our hearts, as it comes to us.

The bottom line is that when we blog for advocacy, regardless of the subject, we hit a strange paradox: while our blogs serve as an opportunity for self-expression and self-discovery, I believe that we also have a responsibility as advocates for the cause. Certainly, some of us more than others (we will get there someday!), are standing under a spotlight as the poster children for our causes. All we can do is keep our missions in mind, and hope that our words are received in the way that we intend them… I have certainly made mistakes and omissions in things that I have written, but I am sure to stay open-minded, while processing all of the feedback I receive.

I am genuinely interested in hearing you reactions to this article! I would appreciate it if you would all stay respectful, but I do want to know… did you agree with the writer’s opinions? What about her approach? What was your initial reaction, and how did that compare with your perspective once you’d read my own? As advocates for pit bulls, how do you think we can best approach those that don’t understand our dogs? I value your opinions!

Hang in there... it's almost Friday!

Hang in there… it’s almost Friday!