Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Madness

After Swiss fondue, lots of good stuff to drink, and some joyful play sessions Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my sister's house, it was time to head to Potomac to spent the day with my aunt. 

We decided that since Star had already had so much fun with Genghis, and since Fozzie is not the house guest you would wish on family members you actually like, we would bring Lamar to have a nice calm Christmas away from the bullies for a change. Florian and I had some time before we had to be at my aunt's house, so we decided to stop off at a trail along the Potomac which was close to their house.

How relaxing to be on the trail with just our buddy Lamar. Off leash, with no worries about him bolting away or getting into trouble. 

We haven't been to this one before, but it is one of those trails with the big rocks we love. 

We are going to have to come back when we have more time. For now, going on a trail was exactly what we needed, especially as the weather on Christmas was pleasant and bright. 

What a great way to clear the head, relax, and come back to the Christmas family festivities feeling joyful and refreshed.

The day at my aunt and uncle's house brought all kinds of fun we hadn't even expected. 

With some nice salty face washes, 

and a new friend--my aunt's friend Amy who, it turns out, loves animals and reads this blog! 


Hi Amy! I think Lamar is in love with you, and we humans loved meeting you too.


You'll be glad to know that Florian was in his usual form.

We were treated to some extraordinary dance performances and what I guess you could only call artistic expressions.

Although I'm not sure quite what was being expressed.

With two dancers in the house, neither of whom is exactly a shrinking wallflower, I suppose you have to be ready for this sort of absurdity. 

Florian's reputation preceded him among my aunt's friends, so fortunately no one had a heart attack in the midst of the gyrations, 

unicorn dances, 


and walrus impersonations. 


Guys, I think there's been some mistake. He's not really my boyfriend. Can either of you take him?

Meanwhile, Lamar was hamming it up in his own way.

With those pittie showoffs at home, Lamar could turn on the charm and finally get all the attention he deserves. 


All the guests enjoyed learning about that sweet spot around Lamar's ears that makes him relax--as evidenced by a big happy smile--when you scratch it.

And I felt as happy as Lamar did just to see him so relaxed and to get a day to celebrate with him. 

I love my pitties but gotta make time to show Lamar he's still my first born, and my beloved Anatolian mix and New Mexico Brown Dog.


Lamar knows that this is exactly how its supposed to be.

Hope your Christmas was as much fun as Lamar's! We are traveling and will see you again in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

We DID Survive

I have to admit, I wasn't sure about this Christmas.

My parents didn't feel up to coming down to spend the day with us, so I knew we'd miss them.

I had no idea where I was going to leave Star when we traveled until Christmas Eve, when the dog daycare where I used to work said they'd take her.

Then, after a wild day of playing with Genghis two days before Christmas, Star had a red swollen bump on her belly close to her spay scar which made me think--Hernia!

So after frantic discussions with the shelter--whose vet was on vacation, of course--we determined that I would spend a few hours on Christmas Eve at the emergency vet clinic, leaving my sister alone to pick up my brother and his girlfriend at the bus station. So it was a stressful couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, and it seemed things only got worse the closer we got.

But fortunately--like a boil or skin rash that festers and itches for a long while, and gets worse the more you fuss over it, and then ruptures and drains, bringing release--everything came to a head waiting in that vet hospital and then things started to improve. 

Everyone at the hospital loved Star (of course) and the vet thinks her bump is just a little surface infection.

The shelter offered to take Star while I am away, so they can monitor her belly button, and the daycare where I used to work will take another shelter dog to make room for her. 

My brother and Elyse got in just fine, and have been a pleasure to have around. 

Fozzie was in pure heaven with house guests, and Star, against doctor's orders, got a couple more brief play sessions with Genghis Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Star loves to visit Genghis' house, because not only is her favorite play mate there, but all of my niece's fun toys--bubbles, 

a Barbie doll to chew on, and a princess tent--are just as fitting for a little scrappy pittie pup as for a young girl of the human persuasion. 

I really need to watch myself when I'm around my family. I talk so much, laugh so much, and eat and drink so much that I wear myself out. 

By Christmas afternoon, I was feeling a bit run down. But the fun was just beginning then!

I'll have more on those activities in my next post, which was written in advance as we are right now on the road up to New York! 

How was YOUR holiday madness? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Star is having her first REAL Christmas this year, with us. I remember a year ago we had Sandy, who got to have her first Christmas at my aunt's house and had a blast. It is nice to have a foster pup at this time of year, especially since, from what I hear, a lot of dogs have been coming in to the shelter. I hope a lot of them go home too.

Sadly, my parents did not feel up to driving down to MD for Christmas this year, so we are celebrating with my sister and aunt and with those who did make the trip from NY (my brother Barry and his girlfriend Elyse, and of course Uncle Johnny). 

Then right after Christmas Florian and I are bringing Fozzie and Lamar to see my parents in NYC, then up to Ithaca, NY to see this other bohemian East Coast establishment and visit a beloved former neighbor who moved there. We are not yet sure where Star is staying. Maybe at the dog daycare where I used to work, maybe with my sister and Genghis, and maybe she'll come with us! This Christmas is nothing if not spontaneous. 

We want to thank Pauley James for the great Zippy Paws toys, which we won in a giveaway! The Zippy Burrow- Sheep Pen has provided hours of amusement for Star. 

And though the hedgehog did not last long, I do believe it provided great satisfaction to Fozzie during its short time with him in its original incarnation.
We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday filled with love, fun and cuddles!

Santa, if you're listening, all I want is for every family everywhere in the world to have access to contraceptives and family planning services (and to choose to limit their family size); for everyone thinking of adding a dog or cat to their family to choose to adopt, rather than buy from a breeder; and for humans everywhere to realize the importance of limiting our production of greenhouse gases for the survival of our planet!

That's not too much to ask, is it?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pre-holiday activities

We have been working hard to fill all of Star's days with us up with fun, since we know her adopter could materialize any minute!

Last weekend, my sister and I took her and Genghis for a wonderful walk around Greenbelt National Park, a lovely park full of trails and right around the corner from where we live.  

Since they hit it off so well on the trail, we let Genghis and Star have another play session the following morning on my porch!

Those two are perfectly matched. 

All Star wants is someone who can just go and go and go, and who won't take offense at her obnoxious chewing and rearing. 

Genghis is oblivious to rudeness, and apparently loves having a little girl dog chewing on his face, standing on top of him, and climbing on his head. 


Funny to think that all of my recent foster dogs have been of a similar type--petite short haired young leggy things--and almost all have loved to play with Genghis. 

After her fun morning with Genghis, I convinced Florian that it had been way too long since we'd been to the Potomac. 

The weather was cloudy and misty but warm, a perfect day for a spooky meander.


We saw some kayakers in an area of narrow, deep rapids 

that was just below a dam and a sign that said to get out of the water immediately and avoid the deadly undertow. I could imagine kayaking in that nice calm stretch above the dam, 

not knowing that you were headed for a major change in hydrodynamics. Gives me a chill to think about. 

The dogs didn't seem too worried, though of course we are careful to only let them play on the safe edges of the Potomac. 

After a long hike along the river and then the C & O Canal, 


we found a bridge that took us across the road and next to the neighborhood that looks over the Potomac and some very enviable houses. 


Since Florian, the intrepid explorer, can't stand going back the same way he came on any trail, 

we hiked for awhile along a heavily trafficked road, during which stretch I was of course tasked with holding Star and Lamar. 

Though I doubted we ever would, finally we found our way back down to the river and our van and Florian had the satisfying moment of saying I told you so, Zuzi. 

And Star for once gave us a very quiet evening. Well worth the exertion!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Star's winter report card

Star has made huge progress in her time with us so far!

In three short weeks, she has:

Mastered a really good Sit and Down;

Made good progress on Stay; 

Become a huge fan of Roll Over;

Not fought a single time with Lamar, instead tolerating his continuous growling and snapping;

Gotten really good at Gimme Five (both paws!);

Gone from demanding attention pretty much nonstop throughout the evening, to being able to amuse herself for long stretches with a good stuffy or chew;


Learned to tolerate frustration and boundaries. While before, she responded to being interrupted or asked not to chew something with defensive growling, barking, and lunging, now she just looks at whomever interrupted her, sits, and waits for the neck rub she's come to expect!

On several occasions, demonstrated a champion Leave It--preferring a treat even to something as tantalizing as Lamar's leash;

Shown universal enjoyment and affability for dogs and humans;

Demonstrated a deep well of affection for those she is closest to.

Yes, there are certainly areas where Star shows room for improvement! These would be: 
  • Jumping up on humans
  • Loose leash walking!
  • Dog play manners--heeding "chill out!" signals from other dogs and toning down the face biting 
  • Overall hyperness and impulse control...Wait and Stay could be even better still.

We still have work to do--and Star has growing up to do--but at this point I feel very proud of her progress!  The shelter has agreed and she is now available for adoption. 

I am hoping a patient, active person or family is out there, ready for free unlimited spa treatments and an overabundance of love and fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to deal with evening wackiness

With Star, and with every young foster dog in recent memory, there is a period of time in the evenings where I just don't know what to do with the little thing. Forget about getting a moment's peace to read a magazine, eat dinner unmolested, or attend to the other dogs. 

These young dogs have a need for near-constant activity for those hours between about 5:30 and 10 in the evening. Generally I get home, walk all 3 dogs, then bring Fozzie and Star in the backyard, let them play together if I'm feeling brave, throw balls for them, and go back in.

That sounds like plenty of activity, right? Nosireebob. I've had to get a bit more creative with this little thing. 

Like positive trainers always say, mental engagement is just as tiring as physical activity. Plus Star needs a bit of training in impulse control and manners--OK, a lot of training--so we've been working hard to tire out that fevered brain of hers with positive learning.

Every night, we work on skills with all three dogs at once. We work with all 3 so no one gets jealous and all 3 can learn to be calm around each other, and that good things happen when they're in proximity to one another. 

I ask Fozzie and Star to sit on the two dog beds, while Lamar gets to watch from his perch on my bed. 

Lamar gets treats just for remaining calm (senior privilege) while Fozzie and Star have to sit, down, stay when I stand up, roll over, do push-ups, and/or gimme five.

I'm not sure how seriously Star takes the whole thing, 

but she is learning her skills rapidly and seems to love it. 

She learned to give me her paw in a flash and now its one of her favorite things. She is still working on giving me just one paw, and not both of them, plus much of the rest of the dog, in my lap, before I give the cue, but those are just details.

I do think trick training is important for all sorts of reasons, but Star's progress on Down and Stay--learning to control her impulses and not bounce up and run around every 30 seconds--is a proud accomplishment for Star and something that will serve her well in whatever life holds in store for her. 

When we're done with our training session, Star is generally still not done blowing off steam so I break out a toy.

Amazingly, she is capable of amusing herself for a while. Yes, she'll spend a good session engaged all by herself flipping a toy over her head, whipping herself over the back with it, doing these incredible aerial leaps. I was so happy when I discovered that.

After a few hours of madness, finally Star is tired and is out like a light until morning.

Do your dogs go nuts in the evenings? How do you manage those blasts of energy?