Friday, April 29, 2011

Come back sunshine!

I hear that, despite the lovely weather today - while we've all been stuck in the office - it's going to be grotty again tomorrow. Surely sunny days can't be too far away?

We had a glimpse of good times to come last weekend when Saturday dawned warm and fair. I've been wanting to go and visit the Butcher and Larder ever since reading about it on Two Pitties blog. I finally got around to it and, given the nice weather we made a little outing of it.

Poor Buster couldn't come because it was going to be too much for his recovering knee (all in all, we were out walking for three and a half hours). It was hard leaving the guy behind, especially as he's getting so frisky these days, a new side to him that's developing as his rehab progresses. Still, we couldn't undo all the good work of a $3000 surgery and four months of slow rehab just because he was pulling puppy eyes and prancing at the door.

On the plus side, that meant we could take Clover, Dogdad's roommate's dog, with us. She definitely enjoyed the outing.

Bilbo gets a treat for good behavior

Despite his size, Billy is surprisingly agile - he's been known to leap from standing to land rock-solid on top of the couch back, which is all of 5 inches wide, not that we'd encourage that behavior... Unfortunately, as he still gets ludicrously worked up when he's around other dogs and not allowed to play with/ jump on them, he can't participate in agility classes. So I improvise and he walks along walls, jumps over park benches and does sit-stays on rocks during our walks. Our route took us just a block away from a little improvised obstacle course that I'd discovered on our way back from a playdate. Billy clearly remembered all the chicken from last time as soon as he saw it and leaped up before we asked, getting tangled in Clover's leash and landing in my arms. Once everyone was back on their feet however, he waited to do as he was told and we snapped a couple of pictures of the pooches.

I'm an old pro at this!

Not to be outdone, Clover soon worked out the plan.

I'm a star!

Hey, is he getting more treats than me?

I've got to admit, though he'll murder me for it, the problem wasn't so much getting the pooches to do as they were told but trying to get Dogdad to stop waving his hands through the frame and confusing them... I suppose everyone does always say that it's the people you have to train first, not the pooches!

Nothing like happy pitbull-on-hot-day face! I had my new Ollydog walking pack with me, which essentially means that all my doggy necessaries (camera, pick-up bags, treats, phone, keys) are close at hand - this includes a nice big bottle of water which these two definitely needed with all the sunshine.

Waiting outside Jewel

While we waited outside the Jewel, a couple of guys actually tried to buy Bilbo from me. Yikes. And yet, I still had to go over and tell a guy who was tying his gorgeous pitbull to the bike rack that it was a very bad idea to leave his dog unattended!

After all that unexpected sunshine I swear Bilbo was still tired out two days later.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A little happy, a lot sad

I've got "mystery project" updates, doggy urban adventure photos and lots of interesting pitbull info to share. But after some bad news in the middle of the night yesterday I'm struggling to remind myself to concentrate on the positive. It's times like this that I feel very far from home and wonder just how on earth I managed to end up living 4,000 miles from my family and friends.

Nevertheless, first a little happy: I got a very special little guy settled in a foster-to-adopt home yesterday evening and am keeping my fingers crossed that it works out. The potential adopter is very keen to make it work, we just have to wait and see whether his kitty feels the same once the pup comes out of his shell a little bit.

Bogart is as sweet as can be but he's been through some tough times so he's feeling a little timid. One of the lovely things about him is that however unsure he is he so clearly welcomes human affection. I bet he's going to be a real snugglebug!

I have high hopes for this little guy and look forward to seeing his character develop.

Unfortunately, this heart-wrenching update from Sue of Trio Animal Foundation hits my mood more exactly this evening. If you can face it, "like" their facebook page to see a video of this wiggly little guy with volunteer, Kelly.

The Trio Animal Foundation would like to pay tribute to an amazing puppy that came into our lives.... Lil Man.
On April 17, 2011, I came across this frightened little puppy in cage #90. He had no name.... only the number on his collar. As I tried to get him out of his cage to take him outside, he spread all 4 legs and went to his belly. After pushing, pulling, baby talk, treats and then eventually picking him up, we finally made it outside.
Once this timid little guy made it outside he blossomed. He turned into a wiggly, excited little thing and more importantly he became my buddy. As I knelt down and tried to take photos of the other volunteers with their dogs, the puppy from cage 90 sat on the back of my legs and wouldn't move. It was as though he claimed me and said as long as I pin her down she cannot put me back into my cage.
After almost dying of cuteness, I was able to get this little punkin' off of my legs. I didn't have it in me to put him back into his cage and asked a wonderful volunteer, Kelly, if she wouldn't mind sitting in the lobby of the Animal Welfare League's Intake facility with him. I really wanted his confidence to build and for him to get the much needed affection that he deserved.
Kelly was visiting from Seattle and what she did for the next 3 hours was truly amazing. In the hours that followed, Kelly bathed him, sat with him, fed him meatballs/hotdogs and held him on her lap as he slept. This puppy from cage 90 had probably just received more love and affection than he had his whole life. 
It was at this time that I asked Kelly what she would like his name to be. Kelly had already decided to call him Lil Man. The name fit him perfectly.
I made a promise to Kelly that nothing would happen to him and that TAF would cover all of his costs, etc. A special puppy like this one deserved the best.
At the end of the day when all of the volunteers had left and we were wrapping things up, I went to Lil Man's cage and gave him a big kiss on his face. I told him that I would be back for him and that we were going to find him a new forever home.
A few days later, I received a call from the AWL's Intake facility saying that they had a scare with a parvo puppy and that the puppy had to be immediately humanely euthanized to ensure the health of the other dogs.
After a pause, that seemed to last forever, I said, "Can you tell me the cage number of that puppy"? Ugh... It was our Lil Man. It felt like, at that moment, somebody had just kicked me in the chest. I made a promise to Lil Man that I couldn't keep. I cannot adequately put into words the loss that I felt. It was one of those moments that make you consider throwing in the towel and calling it a day.
The AWL's Intake facility is an open access shelter, which means that they take in every animal that comes through their doors. They do not have the space, funding or enough volunteers/staff to handle all of the emergency medical cases that come through their doors. They do not have the luxury of taking in only the healthy animals and so inevitably many of the animals do not make it out of there.
It is the plight of the Trio Animal Foundation to raise enough money to help AWL's Intake facility out with all of their needy animals' medical bills. TAF also wants to build a quarantine area, in the building, that can keep sick dogs separate from one another until proper medical care can be arranged. 
As it was, there was no shelter with the space to take him in and no foster homes that could take him in. Parvo is highly contagious and we would never ask anybody to put their own dogs' lives in jeopardy. 
I find comfort in knowing that Lil Man's last days were filled with so much love and affection. He was surrounded by people that loved him and this special puppy finally had a name of his own. 
Our volunteer Kelly changed Lil Man's life in just a few hours. She taught him that it was ok to trust people again but most importantly... she made him happy.
Thank you to all of our volunteers that continue to make a difference in these animals lives.

I'll be at the next volunteer day on June 5th and started stockpiling hotdogs and collecting blankets last week to make up some dog beds. If I needed a reminder of why we do this, I think I have it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

All about the raw

Most of Billy appears to be made of rocks. The way he hurls himself around, crashing into everything (and everyone) would definitely mangle a lesser dog. The one exception is his stomach which, despite his predilection for vacuuming up any vaguely edible-smelling trash he can get his paws on, is decidedly gossamer-like. In the past this has proved rather unpleasant for whomever is cleaning up behind him on walks and it took months before I could get him settled on a kibble.

Unfortunately, the kibble that he settled on was pretty much full of garbage. Bilbo's old vet prescribed  Hill's Science Diet Gastrointestinal ID and it certainly made a difference but when I read the ingredients I decided that there had to be a better way. Check out the top five:

Whole Grain Corn
Brewers Rice
Dried Egg Product
Chicken By-Product Meal
Corn Gluten Meal

Hardly the food of champions.

While it appeared to be helping in the short term, I am a strong believer that in most cases you are what you eat. I came to the conclusion that keeping my Bilbo on such a diet in the long-term was hardly conducive to a long and healthy life.

He does just fine on home-cooked meals but it's difficult to get right and besides, I can barely manage to cook for myself half the time so that wasn't a viable option. After much research I settled on a Bravo raw diet and haven't looked back since. I do miss being able to feed him his meals in his Wobble Kong, though he's able to eat a little kibble from time to time, but it's worth the extra effort I have to put in to entertaining him to have confidence that he's eating well. The ingredients in his food?

Chicken, chicken frames, chicken organs (liver, gizzards, hearts), green beans, broccoli, acorn squash, salt, potassium chloride, vitamin E, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganous oxide, potassium iodide, vitamin D.

That's it! It's a little bit more work than kibble simply because it comes in big frozen tubes so it all has to be chopped up when I get home from Soggy Paws and then I have to remember to have enough defrosting in the freezer so he doesn't get his dinner late.

"Can I eat it yet?!"
Best of all, when I stick to the plan (ie. buy chicken at $8.99 instead of "Oh let's treat the boy" beef at $14.99) it costs no more to feed him a raw diet than it cost to feed the garbage kibble. Plus, I can pick up an extra tube on the way home from work as the store is right by my train stop.

Soggy Paws Logan Square (2526 W. Armitage) are hosting a Stella & Chewy's seminar on raw food tomorrow at 7pm and I'd highly recommend going along to learn more. S&C's food is a little more expensive per pound but if you have a smaller (or less rapacious) dog than I, it's even easier to feed since it comes in little measured-out chunks. If you don't live by a Soggy Paws location they do deliver to much of Chicago so it's an option worth exploring even if it's a bit tricky to get to a store on a regular basis.

Non-Chicagoans will just have to google their way round the interwebs to find a supplier.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rainy Tuesday

Having just returned from a very thought-provoking presentation by Animal Farm Foundation I was excited to share some of the information here. However, I spent all day working on a grant application and am now being subjected to a barking fit by the spoiled brat who refuses to go out in the rain but still wants me to magically provide a long walk so I have smush for brains.

Instead, here is the reason I always end up leaving the house 10 minutes later than planned in the morning:

"Pleeeeeease don't leave me"

And, given that I made the bed before leaving, what did he get up to while I was gone?

What's on TV?!

I was inordinately thrilled this evening to discover that Allie at Hyperbole and a Half had not only posted again after a long silence, but had shared another adventure of Simple Dog!

If you have not yet discovered her blog, follow it at once! Her dog posts are beyond hilarious so get to know Simple Dog here then read this post which was the first I ever read and STILL makes me cry with laughter. And don't forget today's adventure.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Fostering

A belated update on the lovely Rain. She found foster and is now officially a One Tail dog! You can read more about her here.

On my way home from running errands in the horrid SLEET - yes, in APRIL - I ran into a familiar face. Some fellow volunteers from our last trip down to Animal Welfare League were walking their boxer pup and the little pitty mix whom they'd decided to take home that day to foster. Ski was a skinny, sick little creature who would barely walk at the beginning of the day as every sight, sound and smell caused him to flatten to the ground like a terrified pancake.

Ski warming up to his future foster family

It was amazing to see how far he's come in less than a month. Once the noisy, scary train had finished rattling overhead he came bounding over to me, put his paws on my knee and gave as many kisses as he could manage to fit in.

To top off all the good news, if a foster home can be found, there's a chance that everyone's favorite ladies man, Puppet (from CACC's Pittie Party), will be taken into rescue within a few weeks. Keep your paws crossed and spread the word...

While they might not have their happy ending yet, it is still heartening to see these pups well on their way, thanks to the combined efforts of caring Chicagoans.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Positive Reinforcement (or the power of chicken)

The temperature dropped and I got lazy!

Buster was a bit limpy so was only allowed a quick trip out to the yard, but Billy had some bounce in his step. We popped out for 15 minutes and managed some very successful leash-reactivity training. Of course that's not quite enough for the boy so I resorted to the winter trick:

It's a fun tool to use from time to time and easy enough to teach (let's face it, if I can do it, anyone can!). Bilbo stays on there because he's happy to do so, because I taught him to get on using targeting and then made it fun with his favorite treats. So I'm definitely not in agreement with certain TV personalities who pull dogs on with a leash and tie them to the treadmill to make them run. 

It's a good reminder for me that Bilbo can learn anything with a little patience and consistency. Time to tackle some more training I think...

A walk in the park

Ninety-five percent of the time I feel that I'm making very little headway with Bilbo's training. However, taking pictures in the park today reminded me that his sit-stay is seriously solid these days. Sadly, his brother emphasized this with his woeful ability to do anything he is told. Buster has somehow escaped any serious training for far too long and it's becoming apparent as his rehab progresses and his frisky side comes out.

Somehow, I still managed to get some nice shots of the boys before the sun went down. We had a delightful stroll through Humboldt Park, one of my favorite places in Chicago.

"Just sit still while she fiddles with the little box for
a moment then we can go and sniff for Squiggles!"

"You only get two ears if you throw me a ball"

Who's the King of the Castle?

"Please make the idiot sit still, he's driving me loopy!"

"I am a noble pioneer of the Midwest"

"Me sit on flowers"

"Come on then, we're done!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Let sleeping dogs lie

Can you hear that? No?


That is the sound of two dogs who wore themselves out in the sunshine while I tackled one of my mystery projects.

I don't particularly mind the snow and the cold. I've certainly grown more used to it over the past few years. The hardest part is that the amount of effort I have to put in to wearing out Billy increases exponentially as the temperature drops. Today while I hacked merrily away with a handsaw the dogs just pootled around, lay in the sunshine and played a little with the downstairs neighbor's wee Italian Greyhound.

All of this, aside from a little oversight when they were playing and some brief spurts of obedience training, required no effort on my part. Yet they are both entirely comatose. It's fabulous.

I almost completed mystery project phase one, and both dogs gave it a whirl, although it's missing some parts still (hose clamps turned out NOT to be effective, plus I need some more piping).

It will be performing double-duty as brain-challenge/ exercise for Billy and a tool to help Buster's rehab.

Either he thinks it's a great idea or he's just excited to get some chicken...

On a more sombre note, I promised not to add a bleak running commentary about dogs in need of rescue so just click here to learn more about this overwhelmingly beautiful dog in urgent need of foster.

On the plus side, my landlord agreed at the weekend to let me start fostering dogs occasionally. Unfortunately, there's a size limit and all the dogs on the One Tail waiting list are just a wee bit too big right now.

Someday I will win the lottery (first step, I need to actually start buying tickets I guess) and I will have an urban doggy-mansion where I can foster any dog I have the time to take care of.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mystery Project

With a couple of days off before starting my new job, I've been dividing my time between lazy snuggle time with the pooches,


long walks in the sunshine, 

"We played in the garden!!!"

and periods of frantic activity when I tackle all my chores at once in a huge burst of energy. I managed to string together a good long list of tasks this afternoon before getting back in time for a long overdue session with Billy's trainer. It was rather amusing trying to get this lot back home on the bus, my shoulder is still aching from carrying that monstrous bag of sand:

The bus driver was a little unnerved by my approach with two 10 foot poles but still rather tolerant of my maneuvers. 

The dogs demonstrated yet again why Bilbo photos dominate this blog. Buster plodded over while I unpacked my bag, sniffed a couple of times and then headed back to reclaim his spot on the bed. Billy, unbidden, picked a perfect spot to pose in and proceeded to wink at the camera.

Any guesses regarding the planned end-product(s) for all of these bits and pieces?! 
I'm not terribly handy so I'll have to wait and see if the plans I drew up actually work before getting too excited. I was convinced there was a DIY solution and it should save me around $140 if it works!


Billy is keeping a close eye on our "Buehrle fund" for One Tail at a Time.

It's still early in the season but we'll be following #56 through September (and beyond?) to see how much we owe our furry friends. Five other baseball fans have met our challenge and even a Yankee fan joined in, volunteering $5 for every Mariano Rivera save. Billy was not quite sure what to think about getting the Yankees involved (ICK!) but I explained that Mo, despite being an evil empire minion, is a very classy guy. 

Plus, he's currently leading the AL in saves which means more help for OTAT pups.

Monday, April 11, 2011

When summer arrives

Today might be a bit chillier than yesterday but despite a temporary weather relapse, Bilbo is making it clear that summer is here to stay.

A bed-hog no more, once it gets warm Bill likes to pick a cool patch of floor to spread out on.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pick One!

In all the recent excitement I still haven't managed to choose a Silly Buddy collar for silly Billy. I have two problems in making this decision:

1. they are ALL so great - how can I just pick one (and once I have, will I become addicted and just keep going back for more)?

2. Billy has to keep reminding me "I is a BIG TOUGH BOY, purleeeeease don't put me in girly colors mom..."

So, here's my top 5 and you need to vote on which are too girly for my whiney baby  tough boy dog.

1. Even though spring is in the air, I'm loving the fall colors in this one

2. Teal for me (my favorite color) but masculine little owls for Bilbo (can little owls be masculine?)

3. Let's face it, if there's food involved it's pretty apt for the bottomless pit...

4. No doubt about it, this is for one dapper little man. But is Billy suave enough to carry it off?

5. Do I need to get a fluffy white girl poodle???

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Last day

I've worked for the same organization ever since moving to Chicago just under 6 years ago. I recently accepted a new position and yesterday was my last day. It's been a tumultuous few years but I had the opportunity to create and work on programs that I was immensely proud of and tens of thousands of people enjoyed. More importantly I worked with an amazing team of people who, over long nights and many weekends became as much family as colleagues. My new job is a wonderful opportunity with people I'm thrilled to collaborate with, but I'm very sad to be leaving my "boys" behind.

They gave me a fun send-off and, since my new office is only a few blocks away, once the dust has settled no doubt I'll be back to take advantage of all the music they've got lined up for the summer and beyond.

Of course, I've still got a couple of boys of my own at home so there's no rest for the wicked...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

No car

Not only do I not have a car but neither dogdad nor myself even have a driving license so we either have to  impose on our friends or find creative ways to accomplish errands. I once took the metra out to Elmhurst and carried a solid walnut side table back on the train and the bus. I do love it though so it was totally worth it!

I can't wait for Billy's harness to arrive so he can start helping out with his cart. In the meantime this is the procession that made it's way from dogdad's house to mine a couple of mornings ago.

We actually had a great walk for the most part as both dogs seemed to decide that we were on a mission and they had to march along quietly. The only hitch was the neighbor's off-leash dog who isn't so much a problem in himself as he's pretty fearless and Billy doesn't mind spunky little dogs. However, his owner started screeching and running and yelling and even hit the poor little guy with newspaper she was carrying - even BUSTER got over-excited. I'm afraid that I snapped at her to stop her acting so foolishly, though she at least had the grace to look chagrined. I wish I'd taken a bit more time to talk to her though and next time I see her I'm going to suggest a playdate in the backyard so she panics a little less when her dog comes running up to mine. Maybe I'll then have a chance to hint that if her dog has no response to recall and she's terrified of him meeting dogs then she might want to consider keeping him on a leash. This is not the first time it's happened, although aside from a tendency to want to over-excitement, they've never had a bad meeting so why she is still so panicked I'm not sure.

After all that excitement the boys settled down for a good snooze.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Silly Owner and What's in Your Purse (Part II)

I started to write a very rambling post about what a lunatic I was today but, to be honest, some things just don't need to be shared so I'll paraphrase: took Buster to the vet (thanks to Two Pitties in the City for opening my eyes to the possibilities of taking cabs with pooches in tow!) and locked myself and Bilbo out of the apartment. Buster's leg is healing well so we can start doing longer walks, but he may have a thyroid problem which would explain why he's not been finishing his food, has been ever so slightly more lazy than usual and still has a great big bald patch from his operation. Yipers.

No good Buster pictures today because the battery ran out on my camera, but here's a fuzzy yet ridiculously cute one of the boys snuggling.

To return to the odd contents of my purse, you'll remember the ducknecks that the pooches devoured last week? The same day that I picked those up, a box arrived on my desk at work.

Yes, there was a box of live critters sat on my desk. You see, my birthday present from dogdad was a wormery (see where this is going?). The idea was that the wormery would arrive, I'd set it up and read the instructions, start gathering the supplies I needed to create the patio vegetable garden that my wormery was going to fertilize and once everything was ready, the wrigglers would arrive. Dogdad didn't quite take that timeline seriously and decided, regardless of instructions, it wouldn't really be a problem to order everything at the same time. So here they were, a box of worms, newly arrived via UPS and I had no wormery and NO idea how to take care of them! Best plan I came up with was to dump them in a mixing bowl with some shredded newspaper and potato slices for munchies.

They seem pretty happy to me so far. The big box that finally arrived today was the wormery for these little guys so early tomorrow morning I'll be picking it up from dogdad's house and setting it up in my pantry, full of wrigglies!

How many times do you come home with desiccated bird parts and a box full of redworms?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sox Pride

Before we get on to part two of "What's in your purse", it's time for a brief seasonal diversion. Baseball season is upon us and, although I didn't get to a whole lot of games last year, I've always enjoyed flaunting my sox pride and spending an afternoon at the ballpark - REDSOX pride, that is! Gasp!

I won't bore you (at least not right now!) with the tale of how a Brit living in Chicago became addicted to Redsox baseball. Suffice to say it's an international tale of a German hotel, long October nights watching games on the internet in London and a certain '04 team. Anyway, it's done, it stuck and no-one has managed to convert me to a Chicago team yet. They've certainly tried...

With that said, I have a confession to make. I'm going to be rooting for Whitesox pitcher Mark Buehrle this year.

Mark and his wife Jamie are wonderful and outspoken supporters of rescue efforts in Chicago, so in honor of the start of baseball season I made a rather public betrayal of my Redsox pride with the following declaration on facebook:
Baseball season is here! Though my Sox are of a crimson hue, did you know that the White Sox' Buehrles are big supporters of dog rescue here in Chicago? So for every strikeout #56 gets this year I'm donating $1 to One Tail at a Time - & to show MY Sox pride, for a Redsox batter I'll make it $5! And if some of those Whitesox fans out there can't match me, well, you're just not much of a fan are you?!
A number of One Tail supporters have already stepped up to meet the challenge so, with my Redsox cap firmly planted on my head, I'll take a deep breath and give a little cheer for every strikeout from #56!

Jamie and Mark Buehrle
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