Dogs are People too!

After our dock diving adventures on Sunday, our pups were appropriately exhausted! We took advantage of their spent energy, and decided to cross another item off of our dog bowl list!

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We took the two dogs to the Sunday Pup Patio at a local restaurant and concert venue, called Jergel’s Rhythm Grille!

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The atmosphere was perfect for dogs and their owners alike. Everyone fawned over our pooches, and they soaked up the attention while I soaked up a margarita 😉

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IMG_1787While dogs are always welcomed on their patio, Sundays are special because they have doggie menus and free take-home bowls! Which one do you think our pups chose?

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It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday, and we definitely want to go back, perhaps with just Miss Gia in tow. Do you have any fun eateries near you that accommodate your pets? If you are local, have you tried Jergel’s? And if not, what are you waiting for?!

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.

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)

Dogs and Dominance

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This graphic pretty much says it all, so I will try not to muddy up their message with excessive wordiness. However, I think it is important to convey that dominance is one of the most misused and misunderstood terms in the worlds of dog training and behavior.

Just as most individuals who are educated in dog behavior can recognize that displays of ‘aggression’ in dogs are often based in fear, the mentality that we must utilize dominance to train our dogs was also originally rooted in fear. After a study of wolves in captive that originated in the 1940’s, it was suggested that if owners did not ‘establish dominance’ then their dogs would physically harm them. However, these early wolf studies were seriously flawed, in a variety of ways. First, the animals were held in captivity, in small enclosures, which is obviously far from their natural environment. Further, the wolves came from varying packs, which created a group structure that was volatile and unnatural. According to one biologist, these studies would be relative to evaluations of human behavior carried out in concentration camps.

Furthermore, while scientists agree that dogs have evolved from wolves, observations of free-roaming dogs have shown them to be scavengers as opposed to predators. They often exist in solitary groups, as structured pack-life does not prove to be beneficial to them when it comes to sharing resources. Rather, they may form loose groups that fluctuate as animals come and go frequently and with random duration (hmmm, sounds kind of like life in a human home, doesn’t it?).

Most importantly, aggression in dogs rarely comes from issues with dominance. Rather, we see aggression in dogs due to any combination of factors that may include lack of proper and early socialization, pain or illness, mismanagement including lack of training and use of aversive methods, traumatic experiences, or genetic predisposition (poor breeding). Most commonly, we will see aggression in a dog that has a lack of confidence such as fear or anxiety. This lack of confidence may come from any of the above situations, but it is obvious that it would only be exacerbated by an owner or handler that manages their dog through intimidation or force, thereby damaging the dog’s confidence even further. Unfortunately, those who believe in a dominance hierarchy when it comes to training our dogs, feel that the best way to utilize this phenomenon is through the use of force.

The behaviors we see in our dogs, whether positive or negative, are a result of the dog having found what ‘works’ for them. For example, a dog will jump up on a person not because they are being dominant, but because it is a natural greeting, where they are then rewarded by what they perceive to be attention and play-time… if you wave your hands at a jumping dog and ‘bark’ back at them, this mimics play and gives the dog attention. However, by ignoring the behavior, you are not providing any reward, which will cause the dog to eventually extinguish the behavior. If you can also teach the dog the proper way to greet people, and reward them for it, you are going even further as a responsible owner.

Our dogs recognize us as being different from other dogs. While we can gather clues from dog behavior by watching the way they interact with one another, the relationship we share with our dogs is so unique… after all, isn’t that one thing that we love most about it?

From personal experience, most of you know that Georgia came to us a nervous and fearful dog. She did not interact well with other dogs or with new people. However, by creating a structured environment for her, as well as slowly introducing her to situations where she could gain confidence at low thresholds of exposure, she has become a confident dog that thrives on the companionship of adults, children, dogs, and cats. I shudder to think what may have become of her if I had taken popular advice of utilizing force-based training or even just eradicated her exposure to other animals. Georgia is one of my greatest accomplishments, and her presence in our home is a favorite part of our lives. We are so glad that we did not fall victim to the myths of dominance, and we hope that you can say the same!

Doggy Daycare

I have been debating whether or not, and then how, to go about writing this post for a few weeks now. I want to express a special thanks to my friend Juliana at Peace, Love and Fostering for her encouragement on the subject.

Some of you long-time readers may be aware that a big part of the reason I decided to quit my job last fall was to begin fostering. I wanted to take on a dog that perhaps wasn’t a huge challenge, but who would have some special behavioral and training needs that might require more time and attention than the average foster. Now that Georgia has become an amazingly confident and secure member of our family, I have found myself to be a bit bored without a career and unfulfilled without clear goals.

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A key challenge in the job search, is our location. I graduated from Penn State University in 2011 with a degree in Animal Sciences, and was very proud to complete this in only three years. My plan was to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales for animal products. I was blessed with a few appealing job offers in various locations throughout the country, but life had other plans for me… I met Jonathan, who would be moving back home to the Pittsburgh, PA area to work for his family’s business. This location has proven to severely limit my career search. We are just far enough outside of the city that for me to commute that distance would require a fairly high salary, in order to justify the time spent away from our home, the fuel, and the wear and tear on my vehicle, to name a few.

While it has become clear that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find an actual career in this area in the animal industry, I made the decision to at least find a job that could keep me busy and allow me to be around animals. With my extensive management experience, I began looking for a job managing a doggy-daycare facility. Unfortunately, in this job climate, eve management jobs proved to be difficult to find. However, many places offered the opportunity for advancement, and so I decided to interview for an entry-level position at a well-known doggy-daycare chain. While I had anticipated my interview here with excitement, I was so upset and disappointed with my experiences that I felt the need to share those events with all of you, in an honest way.

When I first entered their facility, I was greeted by a reception area that was visually pleasing and welcoming. It was beautifully decorated and appointed, and conveyed a sense of the rugged outdoors with a log cabin design.  Soft, natural lighting, large windows, bright photos, and cheerful music brought a ‘homey’ feel to the space. With large screen televisions and marketing posters, it was clear that no expenses were spared in the design of this area. As I waited for the employee who would be conducting my interview, I watched owners bring in their dogs, and got to interact with a few of them. I felt extremely confident that this was the type of job I was meant to have! What dog lover wouldn’t love coming to work in an environment like this??

Fast forward to my tour of the rest of the facility. As I crossed from the reception area into the back of the building, I was greeted by dogs barking at such a loud volume, that the employee conducting the tour had to yell to be heard. The ceilings were quite high, and this area was dimly lit by fluorescent bulbs. It gave a dark, dingy feel to the environment. The dogs (up to 100 at any given time) were housed in metal cages, with one of those PVC/nylon beds that sat up off of the floor, and a blanket or two. The walls were a thick concrete, and very little natural light came into this half of the building.

Once our tour of the kennels was complete, the manager began to discuss with me their philosophies. I was barely able to veil my cringing when she dropped words like; “Ceasar,” “dominance,” and “discipline”. While I became quickly aware that their philosophies were so obviously not in line with my own, I was still prepared to give them a chance. Perhaps when I got out to the play yard, what I saw would be different than the words she conveyed. She then went on to explain that dogs were separated by size (not play style or age) into designated play areas, and that each play yard would hold up to 75 dogs at a time. While they preferred two employees to supervise at this number, they only required one. For the record, each play yard had an indoor and an outdoor area, each of which was only visible from that location. This meant that if the supervisor was indoors, they could not see the dogs that had chosen to go to the outdoor space, and vice versa. Each supervisor was required to carry a squirt bottle full of water, which was used to ‘discipline’ the dogs. She claimed that the water bottles were never to be squirted more than 3 times in an hour, and were used to break up fights, discourage rough play, and quell ‘dominant’ behavior. Ugh. Although one of the ‘claims to fame’ on their website, is that they don’t charge you for play time like most boarding kennels, she also made it clear that we were not to play with the dogs, pet them, or give them any attention, as this could lead to fights. Conversely, she told me to be sure to treat all of the dogs like I would my own…

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It was now time for me to go out into the play yard, where approximately 50 dogs were congregating. I was told to make a lap around the perimeter of the play area, in order to ‘establish dominance’. Of course, this made little sense to me, but as I was being evaluated, I did as I was told. I then watched in frustration as the ‘Assistant Manger’ (second in command for the whole facility) sprayed the dogs in the face so many times within an hour that I lost count, for transgressions that ran the gammet from barking to bumping into her to nipping to humping. Of course, with that many dogs in the space, even this aggressive form of punishment was used ineffectively, as she was rarely able to correct the dogs while they were in the act, and would then spray them in punishment after they had already stopped. As I spoke with her, she told me that she had only been working there for 6 months, and had already been promoted to this position. In addition, she had never had or been given any training in animal behavior, aside from the same diatribe I’d heard during the aforementioned interview with the manager.

In all (3) of the play yards I entered, I gently pointed out that there was no fresh water, as the bowls were empty, and so it was then filled by the assistant manager. Wouldn’t something such as competition for meager necessities contribute to fighting? Furthermore, in the same play yards I saw dogs that were seniors, arthritic and hard of hearing, being jostled around by juvenile great danes and lab mixes who were tumbling and wrestling.

I will say that the majority (though certainly not all) of the dogs I saw, seemed reasonably content. Some even seemed to enjoy the chaos, in a frantic sort of way. But the most traumatizing to me throughout my experiences that day, was yet to come.

According to corporate policy, for a dog to be admitted to the doggy day care program at this facility, they must go through an ‘interview’ process. I imagined this to be something similar to the behavior evaluations we hear about in shelters across the country. This particular facility even had a whole room designated for such a purpose! Their website claims that before new dogs enter the play yard, they are introduced to two congenial dogs one-on-one. However, the manager at this particular location told me that they found this to be too ‘time-consuming’ and a ‘waste of time’ and so they just didn’t do it. At all.

I watched as a dog who was there for his first day, whose owner had been told that he would receive an ‘interview,’ was introduced. And by introduced, I mean he was propelled into an environment that even our Wonderdog Tonka would probably not have been physically able to handle well. This dog was a male german shepherd, probably right around one year old. He was brought up to the gate of the largest and most crowded play area, on a leash. I then watched as one worker physically pulled him into the play area from the end of the leash, while the leash/collar combo tightened in a noose around his neck. Another worker was literally pushing him from behind, to the point that his haunches were up underneath him. The employees regarded this situation without concern, as if it were a daily occurrence… forcing a dog into an uncomfortable situation was obviously not out of the norm.

This dog very clearly wanted nothing to do with the play area… why, you might ask? Perhaps it had something to do with the 40+ dogs swarming around his face, biting and barking and displaying all manner of inappropriate and overbearing greeting behavior. As this poor dog was physically forced into an uncomfortable and intimidating environment, no attempt was made to reassure him, or even to encourage the other dogs to back off of the new visitor. It was almost as if these people had no ideas about body language or dog behavior… oh wait. Maybe it’s because they don’t. They had no training in dog behavior or body language, and had been instructed this way by their own supervisors.

To me, it is only a matter of time, if repeatedly exposed to uncomfortable situations such as this, before this dog becomes reactive and aggressive towards other dogs. And I can’t say that I would blame him in the slightest. But you can bet that some of the employees probably would… and who knows what forms of correction punishment they would consider reasonable. Who knows if his breed would get brought into the equation should something happen that was altogether preventable…

As though the issues with the facility, philosophies, and protocol itself were not enough, the way they treated their employees is not conducive to a pleasant working environment. And you can bet that dissatisfied employees are going to be more likely to take their frustrations out on the dogs, or at the very least, not fulfill their job requirements thoroughly. As an interviewer, I was kept there for 3 hours without pay. I was required to scrub kennels with a toothbrush and cold water while being ‘supervised’ by yet another assistant manager who was clearly barely out of high school, as she gossiped with another employee. I was told that call-offs for any reason could result in termination, unless accompanied by not a Doctor’s excuse, but an emergency room excuse. Being even three minutes late would earn a demerit, regardless of the circumstances, three of which would result in termination. All employees were required to work nights, mornings, weekends, and holidays, and it was made clear to me that requests for time off were not guaranteed. Scheduling was never consistent, and so it was not likely that you could rely on a regular weekly schedule, nor guaranteed that any employee would hit a set minimum of hours. On top of all of this, there were no benefits offered to employees, and the rate of pay was between $8 and $9 per hour. Yes, it was the same for someone with a GED and dog experience limited to pet ownership, as it was for someone with a college diploma and advanced dog handling and training experience. The bottom line is, I worry about the quality of the employees that would accept a position in such an environment.

They were surprised when I turned down the job offer (of course I cited the commute, and not all of these reasons I have shared here) but hopefully all of you readers are not.

I do not know exactly why I am choosing to share this story with you. It certainly is not to garner sympathy for my job search. While I would love to get a job that will enable me to feel like a more productive member of my family, and of society as a whole, I am lucky to be married to a man that works incredibly hard to provide for us and supports me in all of my dreams and goals… even when they are less than profitable. It is not to bash a specific chain of doggy-daycares, either. If it were, I would have shared their name, which I will not be doing. I guess what I hope we all can learn from this, is that we need to be cautious when we entrust the care of our animals to others. I can only imagine that the owners of the dogs I supervised have no idea what they are putting their animals through. So often, dog owners misunderstand their animals; a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog, and neither does boisterous barking or panting. To me, it is the job of places such as this to be the voice for the dogs, and aid in the communication between pet and owner.

If you are a frequenter of a doggy daycare or dog park, please be sure you are not confusing your dog’s body language as excitement, when in fact it is nervous energy. At the same time, I spent a few hours at another, independently owned, doggy daycare in the same week, and my experience there was vastly different. So I want to know; have our readers had better experiences in dog parks and doggy day cares? Have you had some that are worse? I want to hear about it!

Throughout college, Tonka was a frequenter of dog parks like this one

Throughout college, Tonka was a frequenter of dog parks like this one

Less-Words Wednesday: Sharing is Caring!

Because, really, do you ever expect things to be entirely word-less around here??

We choose to feed our dogs in their kennels, in an effort to prevent resource-guarding issues before they start… but it seems like the girls were a bit confused this AM 😉 How do you prevent these issues, or how do you manage dogs who have already developed tendencies to guard toys or food or people?

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PS- Please do not judge our mess! We are remodeling the basement, which is where our dog kennels and food are usually kept. It’s made for a pretty cramped bed room! But stay tuned, we will share some photos of the upgrades in the weeks to come. It will be a new and improved dog room (and laundry room, but who cares about that??)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Many thanks to Two Hounds Designs for their generous contributions!