Pyrrha finally meets Bo!

I have long waited for this day! On Monday afternoon, Pyrrha finally got to meet her brother, Bo!

Handsome boy

Bo, as you may recall, served as my surrogate dog during my long year of waiting to adopt a dog of my own. His lovely mama and my dear friend Liz moved with him shortly after we adopted Pyrrha, and the two never got to meet. But Bo and Liz were visiting town this week and we finally made that play-date happen!

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

As you can see, the two hit it off quite nicely, just as I had hoped.

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

(They also spent a lot of time mid-flight. They are both very agile and it was fun to see Pyr play with a dog that was exactly her size.)

How nice to see him again, my handsome golden boy! So happy to have him around and playing with that long-awaited dog of my own.

Pyrrha finally meets Bo

Eating in with guests (Evening of Carnage)

Evening of Carnage

We had our good friends Matt and Liz over for dinner last week, for what we called an “Evening of Carnage.” (Guion roasted an amazing chicken from a local farm and then we watched “Kill Bill: Vol. 2.”)

Evening of Carnage

As you can see, Pyrrha joined us in the sunroom/back deck/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for the meal. She has been an increasingly good sport about our frequent house guests, and I think she’s starting to even enjoy it when people come over–especially when they’re associated with the wafting scent of roasted chicken. (She’s not allowed to be fed anything from the table, but we did give her a few scraps after we finished eating…)

More dog stories from this weekend coming up…

6-mile trail walk with Bo

Bo! Photo by his mama.

On Saturday morning, Guion and I took Bo exploring along the trails near our future house. It was a beautiful morning and we ended up walking about six miles. We walked the last few miles of the marathon that was going on around town, too; Bo proved to be a welcome distraction for some (justifiably) exhausted marathoners. We used our new leather leash on the walk and I just loved it; it’s already so soft and strong and infinitely better than any nylon leash. Bo was delightful, as always. True to his nature, he was very distracted by the river and all its trappings and kept trying to sneak down an embankment and jump in. He’s pretty great. I am really going to miss that boy. His mama got into a graduate program in Florida and they’ll be moving down there this summer. Don’t want to think about it. I will miss them both something awful…

Hope you had an equally happy and sunny weekend!

Birthday presents

My friends and family know me very well. For my birthday this past weekend, I was showered with lots of fun, new swag for the future dog:

Birthday presents.

Liz (Bo’s mama) gave me a cornucopia of wonderful dog things: The Kong toy I’m calling the “octo-bunny,” on your left, which she says has lasted the longest of any of Bo’s chew toys; the bag dispenser which is discreet and just what I would have picked out myself; the Kong Extreme, able to withstand the most devoted chewer; and the cute PetCo tennis ball.

My dear friend Eva gave me the gift card to PetSmart, which I will definitely put to good use very soon, and the dog breed handbook. We’ve both been dog nerds since childhood and spent a lot of the 10-miler together pointing out and identifying dog breeds together. Along with a lot of mutts, we successfully identified a pair of Clumber spaniels and a Gordon setter around miles 5 and 6. Such geeks.

And then my husband gave me that beautiful leather leash from All K-9, which was recommended to me by Jen from The Elka Almanac!

I am particularly excited about the leash:

Leather leash.

Jen, you’re right, it already feels soft and broken-in and I get the feeling that it will last for a long time to come. I love the brass hardware and the brass ring on the handle. Can’t wait to put this–and all of the other goodies!–to good use for the future pup.

Review: The Dog Whisperer

The Dog Whisperer, by Paul Owens

No, it’s not Cesar Millan. This is Paul Owens, who called himself “The Dog Whisperer” five years before Millan’s show appeared on the National Geographic Channel. Liz (Bo‘s mom) lent me this book and said that she’d read it before she brought Bo home.

Paul Owens wants to be the yogi for your dog training. He’s a positive reinforcement trainer who believes very strongly in Eastern principles of breathing, meditation, and holistic health treatments. I thought it was certainly an interesting approach to dog training. Aside from his breathing exercises, though, Owens doesn’t offer a lot of new information in the way of positive training. I agreed with most of what he said, but I think I’d be more inclined to rely on Pat Miller‘s straightforward and helpful training guide for my own dog.

One thing that Owens does talk a lot about is that you should never speak soothingly to or try to comfort a frightened dog. A lot of dog training books tell you this. But is it actually true? Can trying to comfort your frightened dog actually reinforce her fear? Patricia McConnell, my all-things-dog hero, wrote an insightful article on her blog, “You Can’t Reinforce Fear: Dogs and Thunderstorms,” about this very issue. I tend to trust McConnell’s word on this one. She has a Ph.D. and is an applied animal behaviorist and she has the science to back up her experience. Even though Owens is also qualified, I’m inclined to listen to McConnell on this one. I highly recommend her article and its follow-up companion on the issue to anyone who’s received this advice before.

I did enjoy Owens’ section on what we feed our dogs. Dog food is something I’ve been doing a considerable amount of research about. It’s not something that I know about and I was astounded at how complex the dog food industry can be. There are a lot of different opinions floating around about what to feed our dogs, but the general consensus is that most brands of widely available dog food are absolutely terrible. I’ve really enjoyed the content on this extremely helpful website, Dog Food Advisor. I’ve already been researching the different types of kibble that I’d feed my dog and it’s been an extremely helpful place to start.

I’m curious to hear from you on this one. How did you decide what kind of food to feed your dog? Did you ever make any changes? Since I don’t know if I’d try a raw diet right away, is there a particular brand that you would recommend?

On showing grace to other dog owners

An early pit bull/boxer with his strange raccoon/koala friend. But I'm withholding judgment! And it's pretty cute. Source: ywgrossman.com

I have a natural tendency to be judgmental. It’s a terrible personality trait but one that I am well aware of.

After these months of casual research, I now somehow feel qualified to project my judgment onto other dog people.

For instance, there is a macho man who I often see walking around town with his pack of three huge, intact male pit bulls. My first instinct when I saw him was to cringe and to fear for the well-being of those dogs. The area in which he lived, the breed of dog, and the manner in which he carried himself all made me instantly anxious. I thought this for a while and mentioned this man and his ferocious-looking pack to my friend Liz (Bo’s mama). Liz is wise and gracious and she said, instead: “But he’s out walking them. And that’s more than most dog owners do.”

I was humbled and I realized this was true. At least these dogs are not chained to a tree somewhere. He seems very devoted to walking them around town. And even though this might be because they contribute to his manly, somewhat scary image, he’s just a man out walking his dogs.

And then there is the homeless man who begs on the downtown mall in my city. He keeps an American bulldog/pit mix on a big rope while he asks for money from passersby. I was anxious about the man and felt that it was irresponsible for him to keep a dog when it was evident that he wasn’t able to keep himself very well. But this dog always appears very healthy, alert, and calm–despite what must be a stressful life on the streets. He has a human with him, and so he’s happy.

And then there are the people who swear that Cesar Millan is the greatest dog trainer alive. Those people I also try not to judge.

Because at the end of the day, what’s the point? Casting stones never really helped anyone. We’re all just trying to do the best we can by our dogs.

“And all day long we talked about mercy…” — Joanna Newsom

Breed Love: Golden retriever

Happy puppy
This is my friend's golden, Bo. I pretend that he's my dog. Source: Me

To be honest, I never considered getting a golden retriever until I met Bo. In my early dog obsession years, I’d always considered them too popular and “too American” (whatever that meant) for my serious consideration. I was a herding breed girl, after all; no time for sloppy retrievers. Then I met Bo. Bo is an almost two-year-old golden who belongs to my friend Liz. She’s a busy single lady and so I come over a few times a week to walk Bo when she’s out. Believe me, walking him is the highlight of my week!

During my time with Bo, I’ve learned a lot of things about goldens. From what I can tell, he’s an excellent representative of his breed. Goldens are incredibly smart and unbelievably easy to train. Liz has done a great job with Bo and works with him on obedience and tricks; because of this foundation, Bo  learns new commands or cues from me in minutes (he’s also very motivated by cheese). Goldens are extremely people-oriented. Bo wants to love on every man, woman, or child we pass on a walk. As soon as another human or dog approaches, his gorgeous plumed tail starts swishing and a smile breaks out over his face. Aussies and a lot of herding breeds are just not like that; they’re far more wary of strangers. I love this golden trait and yet it surprised me at the same time. His exuberant friendliness often makes me think of the retriever in the animated film “Up!” who says to new people, “I have just met you and I love you.” This is Bo.

Goldens, as I’ve learned from Bo, could retrieve all day long. Sometimes, when I come to pick him up for a walk, he refuses to come out with me. What dog doesn’t want to go for a walk? Well, this dog who has dropped a ball at my feet and would rather retrieve… for five hours. His cute body just quivers with excitement whenever I pick up a ball or a stick. It’s adorable. I wish I had the time to play with him all day long.

Bestie
Bo, hanging out in our apartment with me. Shh, don't tell our landlord! Source: Me

I often tell Liz that I think Bo is the perfect dog. He might be. He’s beautiful, affectionate, intelligent, loyal, friendly, and athletic. What’s not love? I get nervous sometimes when I think about getting my own puppy because deep down, I’m convinced that he or she could never be as awesome as Bo is. Liz often reminds me, though, that I’m seeing the slightly more matured Bo, the Bo that she’s been working with for many tireless months now; I didn’t know him when he was a crazy, goofy, destructive puppy. Liz deserves all the credit with this guy, that’s for sure. Because he’s a beautiful and exceptional dog.

Here’s my reasons why I’d go for a golden. And the very few reasons why I wouldn’t.

Golden retriever pros:

  • Highly trainable and very intelligent.
  • Athletic.
  • Affectionate. So cuddly! So loving!
  • Devoted.
  • Super with all people and children, especially, if well socialized.

Golden retriever cons:

  • Not a protective bone in their bodies. All people are their best friends. If someone robbed your house, a golden would probably show the burglar where you kept your jewelry, just to be helpful.
  • Lots of chewing.
  • High energy.
  • ?? I can’t think of any other cons. I think Bo is perfect.

Purely on the basis of these lists I’ve been making, it would seem evident that I should just get a golden retriever. However, I’m basing this almost entirely on Bo. Whom I love. So, maybe it’s just that I want my dog to be exactly like him…

Golden retriever links: