Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An eventful weekend

First a couple of belated internet shout-outs and some thanks:

Bilbo and I won a prize in Two Pitties raffle! We have to choose a Silly Buddy collar and I was going to post a shortlist to get some help with the decision but I can't even narrow it down to finalists because they're all just too great. Billy is particularly excited because he thinks he's far too handsome for his boring black collar.

Two One Tail dogs, Howard and Grey, were featured on WGNTV:

(UPDATED: for some reason the video that I embedded disappeared when I published the post so here's a good old-fashioned link instead!)

Then the lovely Two Grad Students and a Pittie made us their "Fabulous Follow" for Saturday. Which is doubly fabulous because they moved this weekend and yet still managed to keep blogging about their NYC adventures. Now that's impressive.

Back in the physical world I kicked the weekend off with drinks at Logan Square Bar and Grill. Seeing as there was a decidedly doggy trend to my plans for the weekend, I couldn't resist trying out a "raging bitch" pale ale which turned out to be delicious


However, it also turned out to be rather strong. I trotted home around 1am and stopped at the store on the way to pick up chicken for some Billy training the next morning. Unfortunately, the raging ale had befuddled me just enough to momentarily forget about the chicken and jump in the shower first. Sniffer dog was not fooled of course and by the time I popped out of the shower, three raw chicken breasts had magically jumped out of the packaging and down his throat. Luckily since he's already on a raw diet this had no ill after-effects!

When my alarm went off at 6am the next morning getting up wasn't the easiest task but I had a PITTIE Party to go to! I was volunteering down at Chicago Animal Care and Control for a very early morning event to showcase their pits for local rescues.

Puppet

I was stationed with a handsome young guy called "Puppet". I imagine the name was probably a little more fitting a few months ago when he was still a pup as, by all accounts, he filled out overnight.


He's an absolute darling and came to Chicago Animal Care and Control as a court case dog last September. He's in the Safe Humane program I wrote about in February, and has been doing a great job with his obedience training.

Puppet works on a new trick
A total of 30 dogs were pulled that morning, 19 of them pitties, which was great morning's work though sadly our boy Puppet wasn't one of them. He'll make someone a fabulous companion eventually but I understand how tricky it can be for rescues to place the energetic boys, especially when they're just so very staffy-looking. He's bright as a button and eager to please so I'm predicting agility or obedience trophies in his future. Luckily, he has Safe Humane on his side so even if it takes a little while he's got a team behind him, and at least he got out of his cage for a morning to run around and snuggle:

video


(Apologies for the sloppy editing job - this is what happens when I have a crazy weekend and try to catch up in one giant post)

Being the great crew that they are, One Tail at a Time pulled a court case dog into their program that morning and are on the case to find a home for the lovely Widget



After we were done with the open house I hopped on the bus home where I'd originally intended to pick up Bill and head out for a training session on leash manners in the park with the help of doggy buddies Alfred and Bruce. What I omitted to mention earlier was that I'd been woken up at 4am that morning by the sound of elves having a bath in my kitchen. Or, erm, a huge leak in the kitchen ceiling that was making a puddle on the floor! Dogdad picked up Bilbo and monitored the situation so that I could keep my volunteering commitment but I had to skip training, head back to the apartment to see if the ceiling had fallen down and wait for the landlord's son to finally turn the water off.



Hmmm, not so much. About three feet from this burgeoning crack, water was also dribbling down the light fixture over the sink. On the plus side, it was dripping straight into the sink so I didn't have to rummage around for any more buckets. On the other hand, there was water draining down an electrical wire. Luckily the drip stopped by the time I had to leave although not before it managed to double the size of the chasm in the ceiling and short circuit the stove, condemning me to take-out and cheese sandwiches for a week or so.

Of course, renting has it's advantages so I made sure the landlord's son had a set of keys (did I mention the landlord was in Ecuador?) and sloped off to see Jane Eyre at the cinema with Dogdad! We discovered a dog bakery nearby, which was rather exciting because they sell freshly-made treats in bulk - bringing me one step closer to Zero Waste! After which it was time for tapas and sangria, yum.

Sunday morning brought the reason for the weekend's jollification, as I turned 31! Which was marked by another early morning as Dogdad and I headed down to Animal Welfare League for a bout of volunteering.


I spent a lot of time with this lovely beagle lady and it was very hard to return her to her cage, though I know she got out for plenty of loving again when the afternoon volunteer crew arrived.


This cutesome pitty puppy was one of four dogs pulled by Alive Rescue, which is just as well as someone was starting to look a bit smitten...

Dogdad originally agreed to come down to AWL only because it was my birthday, and he hasn't wanted to volunteer in the past. However, we hadn't been in the building for ten minutes before he turned to me and said that we should come every week. I know we won't be the only ones returning to help out.


All of that snuggling with shelter pooches only got us to lunchtime at which point I hopped a train to work, did a quick change and hosted a concert. Then another train, some catch-up time with our own dogs and out again for another birthday dinner. Phew.

Oh, and just in case that wasn't enough activity for one weekend, I topped it off by handing in my notice on Monday morning because I'm starting a new job in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Free puppy love?

Have you thought about fostering?

I've mentioned this in passing before but it's about time it received it's own post. Fostering is one of the most rewarding and direct ways to help dogs in need and can be a great option for people in many different situations to make a real difference. I've adopted and fostered through One Tail at a Time (two separate dogs, I might add!) so I'll talk about their set-up in particular but you'll generally find similar conditions apply with your own local rescue or shelter.

People generally air two main concerns when I bring up the idea of fostering. The first is easy to answer - it doesn't cost anything to foster a dog! One Tail provides food, toys, leash/collar, medications, crate and any other essentials you may need. If, like me, you don't drive, they also have a wonderful network of volunteers who can help out with transport to adoption events, vet visits or a forever home.

Speaking of which, the second concern is falling in love with your foster dog. I'm not going to lie and say that definitely won't happen! There are oodles of "failed fosters" out there who became permanent family dogs, but many more go on to another family and remembering what you have achieved through fostering in the first place helps with sending your foster pup off to a good home.

Billy & his foster sister Pickle

One of the reasons that I became a volunteer with One Tail is because of the great experience that I had adopting from them and the more I get involved, the more I love them! So, to all the bloggers out there, please cross-post some of these dogs that they're currently trying to find fosters for (warning - graphic image below):

Gordon
You may have read about this spunky little chap already and I'll probably write more at a later date. Suffice to say this is the "chemical burns pit puppy" that Trio Animal Foundation and One Tail rescued. He's doing great at the vets and will be ready very soon to go to a caring home to continue his recovery. He'll need a home without stairs as it hurts him to walk up too many. He's a very friendly, loving guy but will have to be carefully monitored if he's with other dogs to make sure he doesn't play too rough while recovering. That will take around 6-8 weeks so he won't be able to be neutered or put up for adoption for at least that long.


Sorry for the graphic image but unfortunately sometimes that's the reality of the situation. He's come such a long way since then but still needs a lot of help. If you can't assist with finding a foster home, Trio are sponsoring his steadily mounting vet bills and donations of any amount would be an enormous help.

*UPDATE*: Gordon has a temporary foster home with one of One Tail's wonderful volunteers but is still looking for a place with fewer stairs and less time home alone.



This friendly German Shepherd girl will be put down this week if foster can't be found. She'll need a home without young children as she's a bit protective about her rawhides but is otherwise a highly adoptable, sweet one-year old.

*UPDATE*: German Shepherd Rescue pulled this girl today (3/25) so she's in the clear!


Anya
Another young, friendly girl, Anya has plenty of energy and is a smart collie-shepherd mix. She's in an open-admission shelter at the moment but if a rescue will commit to saving her they will hold her for another two weeks. So, even if someone can't take her for another week or two, a promise now to do so will save her life.


Phoenix
If my landlord wasn't currently out of the country (not great timing since my kitchen ceiling is LEAKING!) I'd have already called to beg him to let me foster this girl in exchange for some extra rent. This is what the shelter has to say:
I know it's a tough sell, but we have the most wonderful eleven-year-old Pittie here that is just too sweet to euthanize! She came from a home where she lived with a three-year-old child who she was wonderful with. She's been great with every dog she's met here and had didn't even mind the office cat. She's so sad here at the shelter and we don't want to see her live her last days being frightened and confused. She lived in the same home for her entire life and every time a car drives up or the door opens she gets so hopeful and obviously excited, but then is let down every time. Please don't let Angel die here! She's an easy dog and would fit perfectly into any home situation. We will get all her vaccinations up to date and I will personally drive her just about anywhere is she has a rescue to go to!
*UPDATE*: Another rescue is working to pull this lady and if it falls through, One Tail has a back-up foster. Hooray!

We can't save them all, and I promise not to turn this blog into a running tally of rescue sob-stories, but please help me to spread the word this time around!

If you would like to foster please visit One Tail to fill out an application or email annaotat@gmail.com with any questions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bilbo sleeps


And generally with total abandon and loud snores.


If he didn't make so much noise, I'd probably prod him to make sure he's still alive.


Although "dislocated neck" seems to be one of his favorite positions.


Surely that can't be comfortable?


A bit more like it.


Now we're talking


Or even better, test out Buster's new bed before Buster even gets a chance to lie on it! 
If he can get it, Bilbo loves company for a good snooze


Whether it's four-legs


Two-legs


Or a general pile-up!
Of course, however deeply asleep you may think he is, chances are, if there's a hint of food in the air


He's still watching you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Big dog body, little dog brain

Like many big beasties Bilbo generally thinks he's a 15lb lapdog.


This week he got a chance to show off some more of his little dog skills during a trip to the vet. 

Now, the thing about Bilbo is that he tends to short circuit in exciting situations. Places like petstores, street fairs and vet offices make his brain explode and he becomes a whirly barking machine. We've definitely made progress though; on our very first trip to the vet he thrashed around on the end of the leash like a barking shark. By the end of last summer we'd progressed to doing-as-told in exciting places but with soundtrack included. This week's vet visit was a bit of a milestone as the near constant barking was reduced by a good 60% - we even managed to walk calmly through the door!

But, back to the small dog impression... the few moments that I could count on Billy being calm was when the vet was prodding and poking at him. Apparently that fulfilled his need for attention and barking whirlygig transformed into smiley, waggly, adorable squishnose. Until last August when he decided that having his temperature taken was just NOT ON! This time around temperature wasn't a problem but that needle the vet was brandishing? Luckily, instead of remembering that he's a big scary beastie with HUUUUGE jaws, he flips onto his back, squirms, wriggles, kicks his legs in the air and makes tiny little toy dog squeals and yaps as he tries to escape.
I'm not sure whether it would be more amusing or pitiful, except for the fact that he is just ever so strong and it's mostly plain old difficult. I got a fat lip the first time he did it, helping to keep the monster still. This time, two vet techs sprawled across him on the floor, while his vet whipped in to get a couple of measly drops of blood to do his annual tests.

Of course, the second they were finished he had to go around the room giving everyone kisses and leaving a few last bruises with his whip of a wagtail. Added to the huge strides we made in the noise department, I'm chalking this one up to the win column!



Oh, and we're all cleared for cart pulling so the harness is ordered. Exciting...

Monday, March 14, 2011

We are not amused


Here I am, just having a snooze on the bed, next thing I know you're dribbling smelly wet stuff in my ears. Now you're going to stick that funny tasting brush thing in my mouth. What's next? Water torture in the "bath"? Listen lady, I'm an American, I've got rights...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oakley

Now that all the excitement of my brief double-dog adventure has died down, I'm still not quite able to convince myself that it was the happy ending I was looking for.

Stinkypup did his very best that night to convince me to let him in the bed but he remained relegated to the dog room at bedtime. I left the door open so that he could see me but I'm not sure that it wouldn't have been wiser to just close the door and let him calm himself down. Despite the cosy blankets and cushions on the floor, he took up his post on the windowsill to watch me and whine all night.


Incidentally, he doesn't actually have laser eyes, his super power is concentrated in his ability to make squeaky whiney noises non-stop for about six hours.

I dragged myself out of bed very early the next morning and took him for a walk, making sure to swing by the address on his tag again to try all the doorbells and leave a note with my contact details. With no answer I returned him to the dogroom and scootled off to work, crossing my fingers that he wouldn't whine ALL day.

There was silence when I returned later that afternoon but he was overjoyed to see that I'd returned and the whines soon resumed until I let him out. There was still no answer to my telephone calls so I decided that he was going to have to have a bath if he was planning on sticking around. We marched off to Soggy Paws to take advantage of their self-wash (as well as a bit of advice as I'm not used to grooming fluffy pups). It took an hour and a half to polish him up but Stinky was very well-behaved and happy to get some fragrant cuddles once he was dried off.

Let's go to Soggy Paws!

Hey look, I'm all white and fluffy!

I'd discovered during his bath that Stinky wasn't neutered so I didn't hold particularly high hopes of finding a microchip. However, he needed a good long walk anyway so I went ahead with the plan to walk to the vets and check for one. It's an hour and a half roundtrip and I was in agony by the time we got home, with no sign of a microchip. That boy was definitely not used to walking on a leash though it was a wonderful reminder of how far Billy and I have come with our loose-leash training.

On our return, Stinky met the downstairs neighbor and Anya the Italian greyhound, as well as my landlord, who was so taken with him that he offered to adopt the fluffy little guy if his owners didn't turn up.

An hour later I finally received a call from his owners who came straight round to pick him up. They seemed nice and were pleased enough to get him back. He did a lovely pogo dance when he saw them again. How could I possibly find a problem with that situation?

Truth be told, while I had not yet developed the no intention of making a hyperactive herding breed male a permanent member of my family, I'd already developed a fondness for the little guy. I'd started dreaming of finding the perfect home for him and it appeared I wasn't sending him back to that special home! He's a smart little pup but completely untrained, unchallenged, a teeny bit neglected and misunderstood - apparently he ran out of the back door because he was "in heat". Erm.... yeah.

I'm also struggling a little with how judgmental I'm feeling because I know that I'm just as flawed as the next dog-owning gal (when I think of Bilbo's dog greetings or door manners, I'd have to say considerably more flawed...). That said, if Billy had escaped out the backdoor, there wouldn't be a tree within a 5 mile radius that didn't have a lost dog poster on it by the end of the day, not to mention the fact that I would have tearfully mobilized forces across the city within the hour and had a team out searching for him. If a stranger had picked him up, my cell number is on his tag and if he'd ended up at a shelter or vet's office, his microchip would have led them back to me. Nor, even on a bad day, would his appearance or his attitude towards people lead anyone to suppose he'd been running stray for more than an hour or two. 

However, I promise that I bit my tongue as best I could when they called and picked him up and I do think that they're going to go and get him microchipped so if boyo goes roaming again he'll have a good chance of getting home safely. Despite the sniping above, instead of listing my complaints about Oakley's owners, here's what I learned from the situation:

- When I have the room/ money to add another pup to the mix I should NOT budge on the short hair rule. Billy sheds all over the place but it's nothing compared to the elephant-sized furballs that are still rolling around the apartment from Stinker's short visit.
- Oakley will be safe, warm, fed and probably loved. The time and energy that I would have expended trying to find him the "perfect" home will be far better spent working to help the amazing crew at One Tail find homes for the much more needy dogs that they are regularly pulling off death row.
- My landlord was only mildly disturbed by the unexpected addition of a medium-sized fluffy dog. Although I placated him in advance by assuring him that I'd sent Bilbo off to my boyfriend's house so that technically I still had just one dog in the apartment, I feel like I may be able to persuade him to let me do some short-term fostering.
- Off the top of my head I didn't feel like I could make any gentle but persuasive arguments for neutering Oakley so I didn't bring it up. I need to brush up on my facts so that I can be a good advocate without preaching.
- I need a good plan of action for dealing with off-leash dogs who charge Bilbo and I on walks!
- I still have a looooong way to go with Billy's dog manners. Though in all fairness, he had plenty of provocation in this case...
- It's pretty impossible to take a good self portrait with a wriggling pooch who is trying to both snuggle and avoid the camera at the same time.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Then there were two...

Yet another long day in the office and the dark nights of winter have dragged on enough for me to start wondering if they'll ever end. Even more so than in the bitter cold of the past couple of months, it's increasingly hard at the moment to find motivation for taking Billy for a proper evening walk.

Yesterday evening I chickened out and Bilbo had to content himself with a run round the yard and some indoor games, so there was no excuse for not going out for a good roam tonight. As soon as I got home I duly leashed him up and we went out in the drizzly dark. I may soon wish that we hadn't bothered....

Billy isn't terribly good at meeting other dogs. He's better with the smaller dogs and I've seen some remarkable forbearance around the really yappy napoleon types, however that doesn't stretch to over-exuberant larger pups. It's not surprising that I was alarmed to see a mottled streak of fur charging us from a block away. The furry rocket zipped across the road and didn't stop until it collided with Billy.

Billy was not impressed.

Surprisingly, furball thought that Billy's reaction (yelp/bark/charge/growl/snap/generally convulse) was the beginning of a new game and kept throwing himself at Billy's increasingly anxious jaws. Clearly I need a new plan for dealing with unleashed dogs but, luckily enough this time around, this crazy guy wasn't aggressive, just a bit of a lunatic. My first instinct was just to try and get away as quickly as possible. I kept shooing furred lightning away but he just took advantage of a longer run up to build up a better charging speed.

Eventually he decided to keep his distance, at which point panic for Billy gave way to concern for the unleashed dog who was charging back and forth across the road on a dark, wet night. I could see that he had a collar on but couldn't get close enough to check the tag, nor did I feel up to grabbing at a nervous dog! Despite his appalling manners, Billy was my ace in the hole, as crazy dog was still undeterred by Billy's furious reaction to his repeated and rather intrusive sniffing. After a number of unsuccessful plans - including appropriating the belt off a poor guy who was simply trying to park his bike and get home for dinner - I took a chance on getting loopyloo across Humboldt Boulevard, which I'd been avoiding because of the traffic. We negotiated it without any scary moments and Billy led furball into our front yard.

I asked the downstairs neighbor to keep an eye on our new stray while I got Billy settled upstairs and grabbed some treats and a leash. New dog was too nervous to be tempted by food but eventually I got a leash on him and he calmed down enough for me to check his tags. Bingo!!! Not one but two numbers, a name AND an address. I called the first and it was disconnected. I called the second and it went to voicemail. Oh oh. We retreated upstairs to my apartment to regroup, where Billy was busy scraping the paint from the front door to try and get out and see what I was up to. At this point I started to realize just how stinky our new little friend was. This concerned me a little but I was fairly confident that I'd be able to drop him off at the address on the tags so we left Bilbo throwing himself at the windows (apparently I'm not supposed to leave him in the house to go walking with strange dogs) and went to find Stinkers home. The name on the voicemail didn't appear to be listed on any of the peeling stickers that adorned the door so I pushed all 4 bells and hammered for a while. Sadly, to no avail, and after 10 chilly minutes standing in the cold we headed back towards home.

Billy greeted us with excessive jubilation and I'm happy to say that his relief at my return helped him to refrain from pouncing on the usurper as soon as we came through the door. Nevertheless, in between his barking and whining and stinky pooch's anxiety, whimpers and squeaks from behind the dog gate, the situation was not looking good.

Dog dad came to the rescue and came to pick Bilbo up - quite a concession given that, uncharacteristically, both Buster and Clover ate something they shouldn't and have been pooping and vomiting all over the apartment today (I received an update later and apparently Bilbo and Clover are curled up together on the couch and all vomiting and pooping has ceased). He also made it very clear that he considers me to be very, very crazy.

So, me and Stinker are hanging out!


I'm thinking maybe border collie?

I'll admit that I'm a bit worried about Stinker's lack of grooming. How long has he been roaming around the streets? I found him only a few blocks from his home and have received no answer to the messages I've left so far - I'm hoping that's not a sign of owners who aren't particularly concerned about getting him back. 

He's a bonny lad and despite his initial nervousness he's warming up to me and asking for some attention. We've even had whole minutes at a time when he's laid down on the ground and relaxed. Possibly this bodes well for my chances of getting some sleep, but, then again, the downstairs neighbors have instigated another of their Wednesday night parties and given that these generally last until 5am, I won't be holding my breath.

Actually, that's not entirely true, until homeboy here gets himself a bath I'm trying not to breathe in too much. If there's no word from his family tomorrow we're going straight to Soggy Paws to clean up.

Well, there's the story of how I went out for a walk with one dog and returned with two. Please keep your fingers crossed that the second is home safe with his family soon!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bilbo the poster dog

I admit, I'm pretty biased when it comes to my hound, but I have to say that in Billy's case I get plenty of reinforcement when it comes to thinking he's the most handsome pooch out there. Although people tended to cross the street in my old neighborhood, these days passersby are always telling me what a cutie he is and in the summertime drivers regularly pull up their cars in the sidestreets and call out of the window.

Billy is trying not to let it all go to his head but I'm afraid we've definitely encouraged him to think of himself as a bit of a movie star. The first step was when he had a "walk-on part" in a live graphic novel! The awesome group Fifth House Ensemble created a project called Black Violet with artist Ezra Claytan Daniels and Billy was drawn into one of the scenes, so I got a fantastic portrait of him!


I don't know how to embed a vimeo here so I'm afraid you'll have to click on this link to watch the trailer for the show. Those of you who know me in real life will recognize the voice-over!

Then, before Billy had completely adjusted to his new-found fame he became the face of One Tail at a Time! He managed to fool his rescuers into thinking he was a good boy so they put his handsome mug in their logo:



Here he is modeling a new One Tail hoodie on Christmas morning




If you need more Bilbo in your life (and let's face it, who doesn't?) you can get him in t-shirt/ tank top/ hoodie form here.

As if that weren't enough, I had to go and sign him up for a calendar shoot with Jeremy Lawson so here is as Mr October (which was his adoption month back in 2009)



If that's not enough doggy mementoes for you this morning, head on over to Two Pitties in the City to see some photos of her gorgeous duo and read the post that inspired today's ramblings.

Or, to check out a truly dedicated dogmom, click here to see how Fifty's mom is immortalizing her two-legged star.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Projects

Bilbo loves to "help" with projects around the house.

I'll hold it flat, you get out the drill

Yes, this foam is suitably comfortable to make a chair cushion

That hem just isn't straight
The end result of course is that it takes me about three times as long to actually finish anything so I'm happy that I wrapped up two projects this weekend. I got some new screws and reassembled that reupholstered chair that I posted about erm, a little while ago:


As for the curtains that have been irritating me for about four months now....


They're now roman shades!!!

Not to forget dog-related projects, I'm very excited to report some progress on the training front too. I'd vowed to do some serious crate training once Buster was liberated after his operation. Given how much Bilbo detests the crate I'm anticipating this taking a fair amount of time but he kicked it off to a great start by marching in there voluntarily this weekend. He got oodles of praise and treats and worked out pretty quickly that if he just lay down in there he got a steady stream of noms.


He spent a good couple of hours in there (popping out every now and then for a drink of water and some sniffs, and probably to remind us to keep the treats coming). Not sure what the sad face is about - clearly he decided that looking soulful was getting him more yummies.

I love three day weekends.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Black from nose to toes

Although I truly haven't minded the Chicago winter so much this year, a dull day like today reinforces the fact that I'm definitely looking forward to some sunnier weather. Posting about Buster's rehab yesterday reminded me just how much trickier it is to get a good photo of him than of Billy. Combine the grey skies and limited outdoor time (bad weather + leg operation) with his shadowy face and it verges on impossible.
I'm rather keen on the idea of taking some kind of photography course to improve my general skills a little, but in the meantime, Buster photos in particular tend to come out looking mostly like this


...or this


That said, come the summertime it's surprising how much those extra rays help out both black dogs and inexpert photographers. Even in these quick snaps you can see that our old boy is actually quite a handsome guy.



Who can resist such a happy face?!



However, I'll have to borrow from the work of a master to show him off at his best. Both Bilbo and Buster participated in a photo shoot with the fabulous Jeremy Lawson for the One Tail at a Time 2011 calendar. We struck gold with an absolutely beautiful October morning and he took the most wonderful shots of both dogs in Humboldt Park.


One of them was blown up in a gorgeous print for sale at the release party in December and a full color version of this shot now hangs on my wall:


How much do you want to run out a schedule a shoot with Jeremy right now?!
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