Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bloomingdale Trail Murals

Built in 1872, the Bloomingdale Ave rail track was initially laid at street level. As Chicago grew more congested, the city passed an ordinance requiring the railroads to elevate all rail tracks within the city and the Bloomingdale track was elevated between Ashland and Lawndale.

The track fell into disuse by trains in the 1990s but if you live on the west side you may well have seen the occasional runner, zipping along at roof-height. Although there are plans afoot to open up the three-mile track to the public, for now the trail remains private property, with just a few daring souls clambering through fences and up embankments to enjoy the views.

Luckily for the less nimble and more law abiding among us, there is plenty to enjoy at street level along the Bloomingdale trail, in a series of giant murals. The track bisects my street just a block south of where I live so we get to enjoy the local art every day.

It can be easy to get stuck in a dog walking rut, so, as weather allows, I plan on taking the pooches to explore all the murals in our area and snapping some photos. Billy has kindly agreed to model, though he clearly didn't get the memo that we were photographing the art today and not the gang tags so he put on his tough guy face.

It's fascinating what a variety of styles are found within just a block of each other.

I wonder what we'll discover as we venture further afield?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Twenty-two Teeth

Considerable neglect and irresponsible breeding means that it is sadly very common for puppy mill dogs to have problems with their teeth. We knew that Nala was going to need a lot of work and scheduled her for surgery as soon as she'd been taken into the program. She was a very good girl for the vet but they had to do an awful lot of work. In total she had 22 teeth removed and her right upper canine was so diseased that she had an oral to nasal fistula - essentially a cavity that went all the way through to her nose. The vet took before and after photos for us, so look away if you're a little squeamish:

It's hardly a wonder that she hasn't been keen on eating much since we arrived. I don't mean to be downbeat but I do worry so about the little lady at the moment. She detests her medication, of which there are three variations: two different tablets and an orally administered syringe. I wish I could explain to her that she'll feel so much better for it and that I'm just doing the best I can for her but of course that kind of logic is of no use.

In the meantime I feel like each dose of medicine dismantles hours of work in gaining her trust and bringing her out of her shell. At the moment she's lying in the kitchen by the bathroom door with a sad scowl on her face. Billy and I sat near her for half an hour and she eventually came over for a head scratch and gave me some kisses but she doesn't want to come and sit with us in the living room yet. It's difficult to get any food into her and she's suspicious even of cheese, which she's been very interested in before, so there's no question of hiding medication in her dinner. After her distress over tonight's dose of liquid antibiotics and the way she's shutting down, I've decided that forcing her to take another painkiller as well is more traumatic than risking some discomfort overnight. However, I know she feels better for it and that's the best way to get her feeling well enough to eat, which she sorely needs.

I've left a little food in her crate and hidden the tablet inside in the hopes that she might get hungry enough to eat it at some point. Tomorrow I'll be going to the store to see what I can add to my barrage of dog-friendly foods - especially as Billy managed to steal a giant chunk of cheese when my back was turned. Yip, he'll be waking me up in the middle of the night for sure!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The progress of Nala-Bean

One of the most rewarding aspects of fostering any dog is seeing the way they adapt and grow in a home environment. Nala is my second puppy mill dog and it seems that this is doubly true of these little troopers. While I'm not immune to the pathos of her condition, my overwhelming sense in spending time with Nala is not of pity for her past but of joy for each small step she makes. My enthusiasm for these moments is a little incomprehensible to some of my audience. My mom, for example, did not need a step-by-step account of Nala's potty training progress.

I, on the other hand, could not have been more thrilled when she copied her foster brother and did her business straight away on our first walk. Yesterday afternoon she worked out how to run up and down the back stairs without slow coaxing. This evening, I didn't even have a chance to leash her up when I let her out of her crate, before she scampered towards the back door for her post-crating potty break (to help minimize accidents, we go to the yard whenever she comes out of her crate, even if it's only been an hour since her last trip). Nala has already progressed from tentatively extending a paw or two up to the couch to bouncing up to my leg to insist on being lifted up to her favorite spot. She no longer flinches when I stand up, and, although she'd rather not be pet on the head, she's been experimenting with backing into my lap for a back scratch. She's fearless with Billy, snoozing beside him happily on the couch or wandering up to say hi and give him a quick smooch. She's irrepressibly curious on walks, checking out every smell, sight and sound, and she recovers quickly from any alarming moments.

Loud car! Quick, hide between foster brother's legs!

She was spayed last week so she had a very slow, careful bath today to de-stinkify her a little bit. Afterwards, she experimented with hairstyling techniques - after all, a girl has to look her best for potential adopters.

Although One Tail at a Time provides everything their foster homes could possibly need, its fun nevertheless to go shopping for a special treat or accessory. Often this is the first opportunity the dog has had to be spoiled rotten! Unfortunately, my finances at the moment don't allow for frivolous shopping trips so I looked at the chilly little bean and decided that I'd make her something cosy instead. Sewing is my strength so I initially looked through my stash of flannel and fleece but was feeling woefully uninspired. I couldn't quite keep my eyes off the leftover yarn from my Christmas wreaths

I decided to knit her a sweater. Then I remembered my limited selection of knitting needles (one pair giant, one pair very small) and, more importantly, just how bad I am at knitting. This was clearly beyond me. So instead I got out my crochet hook. I looked for an easy pattern online but got too impatient so, once I had the general idea, I just made it up as I went along.

I think she could do with a few more rows on the back so I'll add those after the weekend. Using such a thin yarn meant that it took forever, and I had to make it a little big since there was less stretch in it for pulling it over her head. However, I think I learnt enough to try again and improve on the "pattern" (if you can call guesswork and waving a tape measure around, a "pattern"). I love the colors on her and you can't beat free as far as price goes.

Now that she no longer smells like a public toilet on a wet day I've noticed just how grotty her breath is. Luckily, she's already booked in to the vet for some major dental work tomorrow and I'm anticipating that will make her much more comfortable than she is right now. I'm not used to a dog that doesn't devour every last whiff of food!

P.S. If you're on the hunt for some cold-weather doggy wear and don't want to struggle with the knitting needles, check out these posts from Two Pitties in the City and Two Kitties, One Pittie for some great inspiration. Bilbo, Nala and I hung out with Snug-A-Bulls creator, Angela, yesterday and got a sneak peek at the cosy new pet scarves for her Etsy store too.

P.P.S. Loooong post today - thanks for making it this far!

Don't forget to follow us on facebook for daily Nala-Bean updates and Bilbo photos.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Staying positive

I was reading a post on Peace, Love & Fostering this morning and my comment in response was becoming so long I realized it probably deserved it's own post.

The title of the post was"The power of being positive" and it made the excellent point that the perceived history of a rescue dog is far less important than talking about what you actually know about the dog, and of course dwelling on the positive rather than the sob story. Do please go and read her excellent original post, as that's a rather poor paraphrasing job. Besides which you have to meet her lovely foster Baxter - and if you're in their area, he's an absolute gem of a dog waiting for a lucky forever home.

I used to pass a billboard for a local shelter on my train home from work. Those prime advertising spots are pretty expensive and every time I passed it I would feel frustrated by the missed opportunity. The picture was of a fluffy little thing with the saddest puppy eyes and as it gazed mournfully at the commuters all I could think about was getting home for a slobbery welcome from my bouncy dog. I always wondered how much more effective the ad would have been if it had reminded all the weary commuters that they could pick up the best welcome home ever at the local shelter!

People can be wonderfully compassionate but they're also inherently a bit selfish - I believe that most decide to take on the responsibility of a pet because of what they believe that will add to their life. While many of us are willing to take on a challenging dog if they happen to come our way, does anyone actually trawl the internet looking for the saddest sob story? Or do they at least start by looking for a dog with the kind of characteristics that suit their lifestyle - whether that be a bouncing athlete, a laid-back snugglebug or a come-with social butterfly?

If you're currently fostering, think about everything you love about your dog and make sure that's the first thing you're communicating to potential adopters. After all, her forever family will probably fall in love for the same reasons.

Although I was going to wait until tomorrow to post about our new arrival, I can't quite contain my excitement, so meet Nala:

She arrived just two hours ago and is a bit too tired out by all the excitement to pose for  a photo tonight. So far she's discovered that couches are a fantastic invention and giant foster brothers wear themselves out pretty quickly and pass out on the bed after first introductions. I'm looking forward to introducing her to baths in a few days, once her spay stitches have had some time to heal, but in the meantime she has the most beautiful, trusting little eyes. She promises to bat her eyelashes for some photos tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


The weather was colder than I'd dressed for and I was dashing back from the train station to get cosy and warm at home. As I crossed the street this face stopped me in my tracks:

Can any of you claim that you'd have been able to walk past this lady without giving her a cuddle? Eve is the snuggliest, most loving gentle giant of a mastiff, I was so glad I didn't just zoom by. I fell into conversation with her foster mom who is caring for this lady through  Great Lakes Mastiff Rescue. She's dog friendly, loves meeting new people and just needs a nice soft bed to snooze on in a forever home.

When I was looking for a dog, I almost applied for some mastiffs but decided in the end to go with a smaller breed. They do make great apartment dogs though and I certainly envied the nice leisurely pace that Eve was setting for their afternoon walk. When it gets that cold, Bilbo likes to hurl himself (and me) around the streets as if we're racing for the last chicken on earth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to Us

A year ago today I started this little blog, and what a year it's been. I've so enjoyed becoming part of the blogging community, receiving all your support, advice and encouragement and learning about other people's pups in return. Thank you for reading!

I considered doing a numbers round up of the past year but realized that totting up the vet bills would just get a bit depressing so instead, in no particular order, a year in the life of In Black & White photo-style:

It wouldn't be a birthday celebration without presents so here are a couple of little reader appreciation gifts for you:

1. I've got two handmade stuffed bones to give away. Just leave a comment on this post to enter and two winners will be picked at random. If you're a no-reply commenter don't forget to include an email address in your comment. (Giveaway will close on January 25)

2. If your dogs have been drooling over the stash of treats Billy received last week and you fancy trying out MrChewy.com, use checkout code BWPA908 for 10% off your first order. They'll also make an additional $10 donation to Best Friends Animal Society.

You may remember that beagle foster Lucy came to us through Best Friends' Pup-My-Ride program. She was one of 43 dogs that Best Friends liberated from a puppy mill in missouri and transported to rescues in Chicago.

Hmmm, puppy mill dogs, could that be a neat little segue to an upcoming announcement? I'll let you know in a week or so. If you haven't already liked our facebook page don't forget to do so as I might post a sneak peek.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Double Diet

I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions - I'm still very much a work in progress so I like to keep my options open for new resolutions at the drop of a hat! Still, despite my best efforts, I seem to be embarking on all kinds of changes this January. One of which is a diet tweak for both Bill and I.

He's lost a bit of weight recently which, combined with the colder weather (which I'm sure is somewhere around the corner, right?) and the fact that, now we're foster-less I'm getting back into some better walking habits, means he gets to go on another super-diet. Yet again, I'm upping his food! Plus, since I'm turbo-charging training this month to get him back on track before our next foster he's getting lots of extra snacks too, not to mention the sympathy treats. There are definitely no complaints from the canine half of the household.

As for the human menu, that's going to be a bit more work. A nasty eczema flare-up on top of assorted other ailments has convinced me that I need to get back on track with my eating habits. I have both a dairy and wheat intolerance so I'll be cutting both out of my diet, along with the nasty chemical-laden candies which I think are what pushed me over the edge into truly itchy red territory. Do you think there's any chance that I could trade with Bilbo?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In case you missed it

If you're based in Chicago then by now you've probably heard about the actions of "trainer" Dan Morgan yesterday. Just in case you missed it I'd like to make sure that everyone is keeping their pups well away from this man.

From the One Tail at a Time facebook page:

"Unfortunately today at our Mutts and Mimosas event we witnessed something extremely disturbing. A man named Dan Morgan, who is a trainer for "Canine Wakeup" abused his dog in front of all of us. His dog peed indoors and Dan kicked him and then repeatedly yanked on the leash while his dog wore a prong collar (that was placed on his neck inappropriately and in a fashion that could cause serious injury). The dog screamed and cried repeatedly. It was disgusting and heartbreaking. We attempted to get the dog from him, but were unable."

Representatives from Alive Rescue, One Tail at a Time, Chicago Party Animals and Chicago Canine Concierge have filed a police report and the dog in question has apparently been removed from his care by its owner. Please help to spread the word to ensure that no one unwittingly uses Canine Wakeup to train their dogs. He espouses inhumane and outdated punishment-based training techniques and his behavior in front of witnesses has proven him to be an unapologetically abusive and violent individual.

While I would usually hesitate to put the livelihood of any person at risk, this man's business should be shut down. I shudder to think of the damage, both physical and psychological, that he must be inflicting on people's pets. Please share this information with everyone you know and help us to make Chicago a safer place for dogs.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Bilbo Backward Shuffle

If you're lying alongside your momma and you're thinking that she's hogging most of the couch, here are a few easy steps to getting comfortable.

1. Casually sit up, as if you're pondering getting down to try out the rug.

2. Turn around until you're at 90 degrees to the couch back.

3. Gently slide your rear end up into momma's lap.

4. Wait a minute or two until you're certain she hasn't noticed before initiating phase two.

5. Shuffle your tail up momma's chest while simultaneously sinking front paws down until your head is resting on the convenient knee pillows.

6. Immediately commence snoring (whether or not you're actually already asleep, as it reduces the probability that momma will push you off).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sunday brunch?

You know how normal people have lazy Sundays where they go for brunch with friends and read the paper and all of that fun stuff? Well, I have a Billy dog so I spend Sunday morning at the vet.

In all fairness, this wasn't actually an unscheduled trip but he did try his very hardest to make it so. Careering around in his normal break-neck fashion resulted in some giant chunks breaking off his cone on Saturday night. When I jumped in the shower the next morning I switched it out for the slightly smaller one so that he couldn't get the whole thing off while out of my sight. Unfortunately, he managed to maneuver his tricky little head out far enough to actually pull out two of his drains (and a couple of stitches) all by himself. I had no idea that there was another two inches of rubber buried in his leg, but there you are, you learn something new every day.

Off we go to the vet, with me rather sheepishly anticipating having to confess that I let the Bilbo start their job for them! Turns out, he was hoping he could just get it all done himself because he REALLY wasn't planning on letting the vet do, well, anything. Off he charged with the nurse, all wags and smiles, next thing you know, out comes the vet. In her words, Billy was doing "alligator rolls" to stop her getting at his leg. Yes, the flailing of my beastie bears comparison with that of an 800lb reptile.

In order to get the drains out, he had to be - wait for it - sedated.

Ok, so I know I shouldn't laugh but just look at that splattered hound. He managed to get four steps from the door and then collapsed.

He's also mightily confused by the giant cone that we've resorted to in order  to protect his stitches (and the two staples in place of the stitches he pulled out). He's fairly convinced that he can walk right next to the coffee table without knocking anything off and has no idea that he's in danger of decapitating me with each slobbery kiss. He does recognize that he can't lie down in certain positions so he's doing a lot of whimpering and sitting around looking puzzled. And naturally, he has already mangled his replacement cone, which is being held together with copious amounts of tape.

The stitches have to come out next Monday and the vet has already notified me that he's going to have to be sedated again for it. Oh the length of my vet bills...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

MrChewy.com Review

Billy was overjoyed when we received an email with a free coupon to try out MrChewy's pet supplies website. $50 of free treats? Yes please!

As he's doing so well on the raw food I'm not in the market for any kibble but I had a bit of a poke around to see what their stock was like. You can search according to brand, food form, lifestage or specialty so its pretty easy to narrow down your options if you're in need of something specific. I was pretty impressed by the range of high quality brands such as Orijen, Blue Buffalo, Natural Balance, Before Grain and Stella & Chewy. Once you hit $50 in your order you get free shipping so it's a pretty good option if you're shopping around.  

We stuck with treats, especially as I'm doing a lot of extra training work with Bilbo while we're between fosters. I ordered late in the evening on 1/3 and received shipping confirmation the next day. By lunchtime on 1/6 this big box had arrived:                                                                                  

So, what did we get for our $50?:

Dogswell Breathies Duck Breast Dog Treats, 5-oz ($5.99)
Zukes Jerky Naturals Beef, 6-oz ($5.99)
PureBites Freeze Dried Duck Dog Treats, 1.2-oz bag ($4.99)
Natural Balance L.I.T. Limited Ingredient Treats Sweet Potato & Fish Dog Treats, 14-oz Bag ($5.99)
Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Tempting Turkey Natural Soft-Moist Training Treats, 4-oz ($6.99)
Dogswell Vitality Minis Chicken Breast Jerky Dog Treats, 5-oz ($5.99)
Newmans Own Organics Turkey & Sweet Potato Medium Heart Shaped Dog Treats, 13-oz ($4.99)
Nutro Ultra Salmon Meal and Sunflower Oil Biscuits, 16-oz ($6.99)
Sojos Dog Treats Bacon Cheddar Flavor, 10-oz bag ($4.99)

I'd call that a pretty good haul for $50 so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on their prices for future stock-ups. And Billy? Yip, he's pretty much in heaven.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

When he was good, he was very, very good. But when he was bad...

Where to leave the big boy when I go on vacation can pose something of a problem. He doesn't do very well in boarding and the plan I'd made for his accommodation when I initially booked my Christmas trip, back in July, wasn't available any more.

These days, we're veryy lucky to have one of Billy's biggest fans, and an incredibly generous friend, living downstairs. Which meant that he got to stay at home for the majority of my trip, and as a bonus, I got lots of photo and video updates on my phone!

First he ran around with Izzy and Fifty till he zonked out

Then he played his favorite game with Dutch (he was very disappointed when he didn't get his own Boston baby brother for Christmas).

He spent a few days over Christmas at Kritter Kare in Elmhurst, which is a fantastic cage free boarding facility. Bruce and Alfred were both there too and Rosie is great at dealing with pooches who don't always enjoy other boarding facilities. Billy got on well with everyone there but especially with a four month old shitzu who loved playing with his tail.

He returned to Aunty K's and was soon joined by a new playmate. Being the amazingly compassionate person that she is, K bought Winnie from a guy who was kicking her, to keep her safe! She's a giant lovebug with everyone and she's looking for a home so send me a message if you're interested.

I was so impressed with Billy for all of his good behavior. So of course the naughty little beastie decided to mix things up. First he took exception to being left upstairs one day, and did THIS to my front door:

Then he took exception to the Christmas table runner on the coffee table and peed on it - and incidentally, all over the framed photos that were lying on the bottom shelf awaiting hanging. Then again, that's a timely reminder for the New Year that I need to stop procrastinating on finishing up DIY projects.

As I got on the plane home he was snuggling and smooching with Fifty and Winnie. By the time I'd arrived in Chicago, he'd gotten into a scuffle with Fifty and was at the vet getting stitches and a load of drains in his leg. Look at the feeble creature that greeted me on his return from the vet.

The poor little man just backed his bottom into my lap and sat there quivering and whimpering. He couldn't even take advantage of how bad I felt for my boy and eat lots of yummy treats because he had no appetite. It was hours before I could even get his raw chicken dinner down him. We snuggled up in bed and, as I'd caught the plague from my cousin's little girl, we didn't do much else for the next few days. We're both up and about now and you can see that Bilbo's leg is mending nicely.

Never a quiet life with Bilbo around.
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