House Guests

A few of my favorite houseguests arrived last night – DOGS! My brother’s family is headed to Tennessee for a wedding this weekend and that means their two dogs will be staying here. Both dogs are easy guests, well behaved (better than some of my nuttier crew truth be told), and fit pretty seamlessly into the pack. It’s just the initial hour or so that can be a bit chaotic.

Emmy has been coming here since she was a youngster, so she knows all of my dogs and our routines. It’s funny because whenever my brother is here dropping them off, she whines and fusses at him the entire time obviously anxious about whether or not she’s being left here. After my brother leaves, she whines and stares at the door for maybe minute at the most, and then just settles right in. Of course she misses him, I know that because she gets a little mopey now and then, but usually all it takes to make her feel better is some extra attention or a few treats (or both!) I also remind her that he always comes back. Somehow that doesn’t seem to convince her – treats work better. Em is a dream to have as a houseguest, she never causes any drama and is a lady in every way. She has a good, solid, balanced personality – she isn’t pushy or aggressive with other dogs, but she doesn’t take any crap either. Her “go to” move if someone is pestering her is usually to just walk away.

Emmy

She also respects Rex which always goes a long way in my house – but that’s probably because of her first visit here. She was a young rambunctious 4 month old, and got very excited when she saw the other dogs. She started jumping around wanting to play. Nemo loves to play so he joined her, but when she bounced over to Rex and tried to jump on his head, in a split second she was firmly put on the ground. Rex didn’t hurt her, he has never hurt another dog, but he makes it VERY clear that he does not tolerate nonsense, particularly from a young whippersnapper. He is not a bully by any means. If another dog growls at him for a legitimate reason he respects that. Emmy has done this on occasion and Rex leaves her alone and doesn’t push it. All of my other dogs respect and love him, and some of them even seem to have a bit of “hero-worship” going on and will grovel and postulate whenever he is near them. Over time I’ve come to recognize that those are often the dogs who may challenge other dogs, but never Rex. It reminds me of teenage boys who act all cool and tough until the star quarterback from the football team who they all worship shows up. Then they all just want to impress him and be his best pal. Although I’d love to take credit for Rex’s behavior with other dogs and claim it was because I did such a great job of raising him, I’m pretty sure most of it is just innate. He’s just one of those amazing dogs, and I was lucky enough adopt him. Ok, maybe I had a little bit of influence in how he turned out, but not much.

Our other houseguest is Link, my niece’s first dog. She has done a great job raising him. At the time of his adoption she worked at a doggie daycare, and was able to take him to work with her. The family also takes both dogs to dog parks several times a week. As a result, Link has been around a lot of other dogs since he was a pup. He is also what I would describe as a natural follower so he doesn’t typically come on too strong with other dogs (I was told by my niece Mia that he was a bit much at times with little dogs at the daycare, but he was still a puppy then.) Both nature and nurture have helped him to develop some good doggie etiquette and he can now “read the room” fairly well. This is only his second visit here, and I admit I was a bit stunned at how much he remembered from being here this winter. He knew his way around and politely greeted all of the dogs which is more than I can say for Henry, the youngest of my pack. Henry is insecure when greeting new dogs – his hackles go up and he gets growly and bit snarky. He’d been being a jerk since they had arrived, partly because he was so excited to see my brother Tim again and wanted all of his attention. Even after Tim had gone, and things were settling down Henry was still being weird particularly towards Link, so decided to put him in his crate for a “time out” so he could chill.

Link hanging out in Rex’s crate

When I was asking Henry to get into his crate, Link ran over and jumped into the crate next to Henry’s! It is exactly where I put him at bedtime the last time he stayed with me. What a good boy! Luckily I always have treats with me when I’m crating anyone so I was able to reward him right away. Then I let him out immediately since it wasn’t bedtime yet. When it was bedtime, everything went smoothly and I didn’t hear a peep out of anyone all night.

This morning Emmy and Link fell right into the routine again, and as I had suspected would happen Henry had settled down and was fine with both of them. He even had several nice play sessions with Link today. They had played together a lot during the last visit, so I figured Henry would eventually remember. Looks like it’s going to be a fun holiday weekend.

It’s that time again…

Tonight we turn the clocks ahead one hour. I used to hate the time change, but since retiring a few years back, it doesn’t really make much difference now – other than my schedule with the dogs is at a different time…according to the clock. I used to try to acclimate them to the time change. The whole hour back in the fall was much more difficult since they’d want to get up at what used to be 5 a.m. but instead was 4 a.m. “new time”. That’s a bit of a stretch even for me. I’d gradually push the time that I got up later and later by a few minutes every day. I’d ignore the whining and whimpering as long as I could. It was excruciating and took weeks. Poor dogs, they didn’t know what was going on and thought I was losing my mind.

“You feeling ok, mom? I’m a little worried about you.”

Now I just keep them on the same schedule and don’t pay attention much to the clock. So tomorrow I’ll be getting up at 6 (new time), and they’ll be eating at 8. Easy peasy. Or at least I hope so.

"Let's just go back to bed ok?"
“Do we really have to wait until 8 to eat?”

Hold onto your seats folks…

It occurred to me after writing this post that this is probably only a big deal to me, but what the hell, I’m posting it anyway.

Here is my BIG NEWS…in the midst of several “lockdowns” this past year, I spent much of my time doing a deep dive on-line into exploring the idea of feeding my dogs a more species appropriate whole food diet. This is more commonly known in the dog world as raw feeding. What?!?! This is a HUGE change for me because previously I have been on the other side of the fence on this subject, primarily because of what I had been taught in vet-tech college, which was reinforced by every veterinarian I worked for.

I’ve been aware of the concept of raw feeding for years, but couldn’t find convincing arguments from what I would consider reliable sources, and was a bit suspicious of anecdotal testimonies from the raw feeding community. I was taught that commercial pet food was the best and only thing to feed my pets. I now know that this is simply not true. I had to put aside what I was taught, be open minded and use some good old common sense. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this is the fastest growing sector of the pet food industry, much to the chagrin of the giant commercial kibble pet food companies.

My decision was also driven by all of the recalls and pet deaths linked to commercial pet food and treats over the past several years that are forcing many of us to take a hard look at the traditional pet food industry. Ultimately I decided I wanted more control over what my dogs were eating. What I found surprised me and made me question what I had previously believed. I won’t even try to explain it – if you want to educate yourself do a Google search on Susan Thixton and “The Truth About Pet Food”, and the documentary Pet Fooled by Kohl Harrington – spoiler alert, be prepared to be shocked and appalled.

Yes, commercial pet food is an option, but it is probably not the best option. Personal example – Rex has food sensitivities and the only food that worked for him was a prescription diet that cost $100 for a 25 pound bag of food. Turns out this food is made from pulverized chicken feathers with bunch of chemicals added to qualify it as a nutritious diet. Yep that’s right, I was paying $100 for a bag of ground up feathers and chemicals!! WOW.

The idea of raw feeding can seem daunting, and as with most things these days the internet is full of conflicting information. I’ve done my best to acquire my information and seek guidance in this journey from people in the raw feeding community who have been doing this for decades, (including holistic veterinarians), but even more importantly people who are generous enough to share their experiences and humble enough to admit that they don’t have all of the answers. It is an evolving and growing concept, and sharing information is the best way we can help each other help our dogs live healthier lives. Of course there are weirdos within this community who think they have all of the answers and will attack and trash talk anyone who doesn’t agree with them, but as 2020 made quite evident, there are always trolls out there in any community. I think we’re all painfully aware of that now, and know to just ignore them.

Let me be clear – this is a choice I am making for my dogs. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my choice and I would never criticize someone for their choices. Cost and convenience are important factors that impact decisions about what we feed our pets. Surprisingly, once I did the math I found that the cost is similar to some of the high end commercial diets on the market, and depending on how much DIY you want to do there are a lot of ways to save money. Time is real the investment in this situation. I also had to invest in a new chest freezer because of the number of dogs I’m feeding. For people who don’t care to do all of the calculating involved there are services who will provide a meal plan for you to follow, and if you don’t have the time or inclination to put together a diet there are companies that provide complete meals. These options do cost a bit more.

Personally, I am enjoying the process. The raw food meals require some creativity when choosing combinations of ingredients, and I like to mix it up and use different ingredients on different days so I can provide nutrients in the form of food to fill in the gaps toward a “balanced” diet. The best part is that the dogs are crazy about the food, so I never get any complaints at dinnertime. I’m also making my own dehydrated treats!

Here’s a thought…We love our dogs, which is why we share our homes and almost every aspect of our lives with them. I think it can be easy to forget that we also control and choose every aspect of how our dogs live their lives. Where they sleep, when they go for a walk, how long they are left home alone, who they interact with both human and canine, the level of veterinary care provided to them, what kind of training (if any) they receive. Hell, we even control their basic biological needs – when and what they eat and even when they go to the bathroom!! We control ALL of it and I feel it’s our responsibility to do our best to use the resources available to us to make the best choices for them. Diet is a hugely important, but often overlooked piece of the puzzle.

Without a doubt I’ve already seen an improvement in my own dogs on several levels, the most obvious and dramatic being they now produce less than half the amount of poop simply because they are utilizing most of what they’re eating. They look great and are more satisfied too, which results in happier, calmer pooches, and a peaceful household.

Don’t worry – I’m stepping off of my soapbox now.

Bye-bye 2020, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Welcome 2021

I’ve heard a lot of people comment the past few weeks about how things aren’t going to magically change with the turning of the calendar to a new year, but hey, if nothing else it’s a good place to start. We can always have hope that 2021 will be better. That’s sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane… the knowledge that there is hope, always.

Yes the past year has sucked for the most part on many levels. Enough said, time to move on. There are plenty of people focused on those things, which is their right, but frankly I’m ready to put it behind me. Besides, this blog is not about politics or world news, it’s about living with my pack of 17 silly dogs.

One good thing about 2020 is that in June, I turned 60. I was looking forward to it, and even with all of the craziness of the year I have found this new decade to be something I’m enjoying. I’m ready to embrace my 60’s and I’m happy to be considered a weird “old” lady, instead of just a weirdo. Being known as “that weird old lady with all of the dogs who lives at the end of the street” is fine with me. It’s almost better because I live at the end of a dead end street! Like the old ladies in horror movies. Super weird. It’s fine by me, just leave me alone in my cozy little house with my dogs and I’ll be quite content.

I did have one HUGE change in my dog routine (for lack of a better term) that started in October. I am excited to share why I made this change and how it is going so far. I need a little time to get my thoughts organized and more concise before I write about it, so stay tuned!

Hello fall, good-bye fall…

It seems like fall just started and now suddenly winter is fast approaching. Looks like I’ve fallen into a seasonal post mode. I hope to change that and post more often, but don’t hold your breath, there are a lot of things that I’d like to change and somehow never get there.

I haven’t been particularly busy, but I have had an exciting fall. Exciting being a matter of opinion to be sure. For me things like a new roof, and a new deck are terribly exciting. The roof was something I’ve wanted to do since I moved in 8 years ago, but kept putting off because of the expense, and I wasn’t having any problems. However, the roof was 25 years old, and I kept getting this nagging feeling that waiting until there were problems wasn’t the best plan. The world being as it is, and turning 60 this summer has given me a bit of a different perspective.

I’ve been an advocate of choosing happiness in my life, in combination with appreciating what I have, but lately I find that I am tending toward the much overused “you only live once” direction (I refuse to use the acronym so get over it). My version of this is to make my life comfortable within reason, for me. That “for me” is the big qualifier. We all have different things we value. I would not judge someone for taking vacations, or their dream trip around the world, or buying a new car every 2 years (or their dream car) if it makes them happy. I am not one to take vacations (in the past 30 years, I’ve taken one vacation) or buy a new vehicles (my car is a 2007), but I’m also not going to deprive myself of experiences or things that I value, like a new roof. Now I wake up every day feeling snug and safe in my home which is a nice feeling and totally worth the cost of a new roof.

In keeping with that idea, the BIG exciting news is that I replaced the deck. It is now much bigger! I chose composite instead of wood, which did cost a pretty penny, but was the best choice for me. I am getting older and the idea of power-washing and staining a deck every year was not something I had any interest in what-so-ever. This thing will be around and looking good long after I’m gone. I did get a bit carried away and enlarged it by more than twice the square footage, but I have zero regrets. It is wonderful and amazing and I love it. Of course my primary motivation was the dogs. My little ones don’t get to run around in the yard because of safety issues, and as a result used the deck as their outdoor space. Now we have a great big outdoor space where we can all hang out with plenty of room for everyone. It makes me smile every single time I look out the windows and see it. I had to make a few of my own adaptations for it to be safe for the littles, which presented a few challenges, but I figured it out. I even got some fake grass and shrubs for everyone to potty on.

Old Deck

New deck

We’ll be spending a LOT of time out here in nice weather, and I have a feeling we’ll be out here in the snow as well. I’ll let you know since I’ll be due for another seasonal post once the white stuff starts to fly.

Summertime 2020

Ok, so I realize it’s been a VERY long time since I’ve posted. For a little while there I seriously considered stopping for good, but I love sharing stories about my weird life living with a big pack of dogs (not to be confused with a pack of big dogs), so here I am again like it or not. I can hardly believe it’s already 4th of July weekend!

Yeah man, where have you been?

Let’s face it 2020 has been weird, unsettling, and just plain nutty, and as a result of some of the weirdness, I’ve been a bit busy sharing advice with family and friends about how to be more hermit-like. Who knew my choice to start a weird hermitish lifestyle would ever actually be considered anything other than weird. Guess it just goes to show, you never can tell.

Since my move here in 2012, and then a few years later my decision to retire and thus embrace a modified version of hermitude, I’ve had a lot of practice staying home, and have pretty much gotten it down to a science. In addition, my pre-retirement 20+ years working in veterinary clinics with sick animals afforded me valuable knowledge about how to avoid spreading nasty viruses, and effective methods of decontamination. Obsessive hand washing became a habit for me years ago at work, and naturally carried over at home because I’ve always lived with a bunch of dogs, so that part was a no-brainer for me.

I’ll admit, washing my groceries was new, but wearing a mask and gloves was another thing I was already used to. The only difference was wearing them out in public. When I was still working, I wore them daily in the surgical suite and lab. For me the “new normal” has been more of a process of adapting current routines and habits toward be even more cautious, as opposed to having to adopt an entirely different lifestyle.

Unlike most of my friends and family, my life hasn’t changed much. For the past several years I’ve ordered most anything, and everything I need on-line, including groceries. I avoid leaving home unless I really want or need to. Not because I have a fear of leaving home or because I am particularly antisocial, but because I just prefer to be home. I am quite content to spend my time at home, and alone (well as alone as one could be living with a houseful of critters). I have everything I need, and spend my time tending to my little non-human family, which takes up a lot of my day. In between my mopping, sweeping, laundry, poop duty, more laundry, and then a little more laundry, I spend my time reading, streaming movies and TV shows, baking bread, or dog treats (yes I’m one of those people), and relaxing outside on my deck with the dogs enjoying our quiet neighborhood, while they all sprawl out and sun themselves.

Besides, nowadays with the internet, social media, the good old fashioned telephone, and other cool things like Face Time and Zoom, I can visit with my human family and friends from the comfort of my home! An added plus is that my dogs don’t have to be left home alone while I socialize. I never get lonely because I have a houseful of living creatures to keep me company, talk to and laugh with (ok mostly at), and cuddle with if I need a hug.

Since March my only forays out of my home have been a few necessary trips to the veterinary clinic. Going to the vet is different now too – when I arrive in the parking lot, I call to let them know I’m there, a masked tech comes to the car to get the dog, and takes them into the clinic while I remain in the car. The vet does her exam, and calls me to discuss options. When the visit is finished, the receptionist calls for my credit card info, and the tech brings the dog back out to my car. It was different, but because I totally trust the staff at the animal hospital, I didn’t mind it at all, and if I’m being honest I kind of liked it. I was also assured that if necessary, I could accompany one of my dogs into the clinic. What more could I ask for?

“What more could you ask for? Food, yes, food would be nice. You could always ask for food.”

To give you an example of how truly little I was going anywhere involving driving my car, my battery died! This wasn’t the first time has this happened to me. It happened a few winters ago, when I was doing my winter hibernation hermit thing. After that incident I had a trickle charger installed on my battery, so this time it was just a matter of hooking it up. I did learn my lesson, and was reminded that considering how little I do drive, I should probably keep it hooked up to the trickle charger. The whole point is to prevent the battery from dying in the first place, and if the battery does die it takes a few days for the trickle charger to get it fully charged.

I hope everyone has a happy 4th, is feeling safe, finding whatever happiness they can, and remembering to appreciate whatever positive things they have in their lives no matter how small. We all know 2020 has been a challenge so far, but it’s half over. That’s something to be grateful for.

Poop-poop-de-doop!

I was picking up some dog poop for the upmteenth time today, when I suddenly realized that I’ve most likely picked up tons of dog poop over the years.  I mean literally TONS.  What a strange thought, and yes I probably do need to get out more.   So, how is it that I think I have literally picked up tons of dog poop? (asked no one, ever.)

Why are you talking about this?

For starters, I’ve been picking up poop for 40 years!  Yeah sure, anyone who has owned dogs for a long time could say the same thing, but I’m talking professional pooper scooper level here.  I worked in a boarding kennel from  1979 to 1983 and my main job was cleaning kennels, which we all know means poop duty, for multiple dogs, multiple times a day.

Seriously, no one cares.

In 1986 I started vet-tech school, and got a job working part time at the county humane society, and my main job once again, was cleaning kennels for multiple dogs, multiple times a day.  I graduated from tech school in 1989, and worked in vet clinics, and with rescue groups until 2012.  As a tech I cleaned kennels on the job, and once I started fostering multiple rescue dogs I had a lot of poop duty at home too.

Presently, I’ve lived with no less than 15 dogs since 2005…once again poop duty for multiple dogs, multiple times a day.  That all adds up to a whole LOT of poop, people!!  And let me be clear here – I don’t let dog poop sit in my yard – ever.  I clean up after my dogs immediately, whether it’s outside, or on potty pads (or not) inside.

Are you still talking about this?

I’m thinking this has to add up to at least a ton of poop, right?   Right? Hello? Never mind, I need to go pick up poop again…and I really do need to get out more, obviously.

 

 

It’s always something…

Many of you will remember the whole futon debacle of last year.  Ferris (aka destructodog) disemboweled not just one, but two futon mattresses during his teenage rebellious months.  Thank goodness with dogs the “terrible teens” lasts months instead of years.  I really don’t know how parents do it.

Ferris worked very hard on his project.

My solution was to have a futon free family room.  This meant no upholstered furniture, and I quickly learned, not any soft dog beds or pillows, lest our naughty friend get any ideas in his little tiny brain.

This is what happens to pillows, and yes that is Ferris in the middle of the mess. He tried to implicate Huck in his scheme, but it didn’t work. I knew who was responsible.

I had to resort to hard plastic dog beds with blankets inside to make them more comfy.  For almost a year now the family room furniture (and I use the term furniture very loosely) has consisted of plastic dog beds, crates stuffed with blankets, and a few spare blankets on the floor.  I had a plastic lawn chair to sit on, with another available if I had a guest willing to succumb to the mob of dogs.   Let’s put it this way, as long as any human brave enough to enter the doggie domain leaves the area covered in dog hair and saliva, the dogs feel their mission has been accomplished.

I did attempt to use a spare airbed that lasted about 30 minutes before it was flattened into a large plastic pancake (yeah, I know, dumb idea).

Really dumb idea

Earlier this spring I ordered a twin bed frame that sets up like a cot, and a child’s mattress – both were inexpensive, and with my Amazon points, cost me a grand total of about $25.  I figured at that price I could afford to experiment.  Fear got the better of me, and I let them both sit in boxes in my front hall for about 3 months fretting over whether or not I should risk having Ferris ruin another mattress, and dreading the possible issues with putting the frame together.  It had been several years since putting together the futon frames, but I remembered it involving tools and some swearing.

Last week I decided it had been long enough.  I was hoping maybe Ferris had grown out of his destructodog phase.  The bed frame took a whole 5 minutes to set up (boy did I feel stupid for worrying about that!)  The mattress is an inner spring, instead of foam or other more tempting to destuff material.  So far so good.  I have been closely monitoring Ferris when he’s in the family room, and he hasn’t seemed very interested in the mattress, other than napping on it!   It’s also usually covered in other dogs, so maybe that helps too.  The dogs all missed having a nice comfy bed to share, and now everyone is much happier, most of all ME!!!

Sharing the love

Ok, so you probably think this is going to be about sharing love with my dogs.  While I do enjoy doing just that on a daily basis, this is about something else.

I was recently invited to write a guest blog post for my very favorite Podcast – Experience 50 with Mary Rogers.  I was honored and thrilled to be her first listener blogger!

If you are middle-aged, and aren’t listening to Experience 50, then stop what you’re doing and go listen RIGHT NOW!  Ok, maybe finish reading this and then go listen, but seriously, don’t wait too long because you are missing out on something spectacular!  I love this woman.  She asks intelligent questions of her guests, and covers topics pertinent to all of us in the throes of middle-age.  Besides, just her voice alone is addictive, and her humor is hilarious.

Give it a try you won’t regret it, I promise!

https://www.experience50.com/