Black eye peas are over rated and a K9 swimming pool for 2016!

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I skipped the black eye peas this year. They are really over rated in my book. I was good last year and took a full teaspoon of those things first thing on January 1st, and it was probably one of the crappiest years in my life, so I like to live dangerously, and this year I just skipped the darn thing!

2016? I used to write my goals every January, hit the gym right away like at 6:00 am on January 1st. Yes they are open. I wonder if they ever close! These days,  the gym I belong to could also be called my favorite charity! (I wonder if it could be tax deductible!) I picked the mutts over the gym. You see with my pack, I need to walk them two per two meaning that I need to do a minimum of three walks a day, here goes the gym. Right there I have at least 4 miles before my day starts.

What do I want in 2016? First of all, I want my family and my friends (four and two-legged ones) to stay healthy. I want a gentle year for everyone even my worst enemies! I don’t have any enemies! I want my K9 swimming pool to open early this year. It took the pregnancy of an elephant to have my pool become reality, but for the time being, it’s still under work. Huge hole in the floor which still needs a lot of TLC, did I mention a lot of TLC, before I could have my happy swimmers in there!

I want Maia, my sweet girl, a nine year old Labrador retriever to stay in remission from Lymphoma. 15% of the dogs stay in remission like forever, so why not my girl? She is doing well right now. Ironically, on March 30th of last year, I was signing the lease for the K9 pool store. Just before signing the lease, I dropped off two of my dogs at my vet: Maia for what I thought was an ear infection, and Sophie for what I thought was a torn cruciate, thanks to the snow which never went away that winter. The time it took me to drop off Maia and go get Sophie from my truck, hell fell on my shoulder, or should I say this is the moment where the earth stayed still. In two minutes the world changed from a happy place to a nightmarish one when my vet told me very sure of himself that Maia had lymphoma, and without any chemotherapy, she would be dead by May. I left both of my girls there while I went to sign the lease with uncontrollable tears running down my cheeks. I would have signed my death sentence that minute. My mind was focused on my girl with her beautiful and sweet golden eyes.

2015 was a year where I fought for everything. First for Maia to live. It was a very rocky road with her. I thought I was going to lose her last July. 6 months of chemotherapy every week for 6 weeks, then a break of a week, and then another six weeks, I am sure you can see the picture. What I learned from these six months, the essential part is that you have to trust the oncologist, and have a good relationship with him or her. It was not the case, and I had to change oncologist in the middle of the treatment. You see, the oncologist knew how to give those drugs but she did not know my dog like I knew her. She discarded what I was saying about Maia being so sensitive, and just shutting down because she was nauseous and not feeling well. Instead of trusting my judgement, they decided not to see the horse in front of them and look for a zebra. They were convinced that Maia has some huge cancer somewhere else and wanted to do every kind of test on her. This is where I stayed STOP. They would have killed her with all those tests. I changed place and went to a new oncologist who was wise enough to know that every dog is different and that treatments have to be adjusted.  I will write a post on my experience with chemotherapy and my girl another time, but I just wanted to show how rocky the road had been. I have not even talked about two of my other labs (mom and daughter) who got the same knee surgery for the same injury in April, and I can’t forget my little guy, my Cairn terror like a girlfriend calls him, who is in the last phase of heart disease. So, yes 2015 freaking sucked and I am extremely happy to have let it go, and have welcome instead a brand new year where everything is possible. Like Trump would have said “2015 you are FIRED! And don’t ever try to come back! Capisce?”

I want 2016 to be a long quiet river for once and not Niagara Falls.

I want the K9 Aquatic Center to open smoothly and to be able to enjoy dogs having fun in the warm water.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I finally did. My dogs did help me a lot in the process though.

All my dogs alive or over the rainbow gently guided me towards the idea of a pool for dogs. They all contributed in the idea.

From Zeus, my heart dog, who had arthritis in his knees and all kind of pains and aches with old age, and who was just rejuvenated each time he was having a swim in warm water, to Zoe who is so stressed out by life (please don’t even ask why!) that the only way she can shake off that stress and at the same time a few pounds is by swimming, to my various dogs who had knee surgeries or injuries where swimming in warm water is the best rehab,  I would have been to be totally dumb for not figuring out at the time, that it was what I was supposed to do.

So, I know that I already have many impatient dogs ‘parents who keep asking me “when is it going to open? When?” The answer is now more precise: We are shooting (crossing fingers and paws) at the end of February, March would be the latest.

So, while waiting for the pool to open, I have to take this opportunity to wish every dog and his or her human a gentle and exciting (the good way!) 2016!

Ready? Set. Swim!

 

Dominique

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Lost or Stolen Pets: ENOUGH!

Every day, I monitor my Facebook news feed, my emails, and shares the missing or found furry kids in the DC Metro, and let me tell you, it’s quite depressing.

From Abbie, the Rottweiler who went missing or got stolen last July and was never seen again (https://www.facebook.com/HelpUsFindAbby) dozens of dogs and cats disappear every day: what are we doing wrong? How can we keep our pets safe?

There is nothing worse than not knowing what had happened to your furry kid. Some thirty years ago, I left my dog, a Brittany spaniel to my mother while I was going away for a week. Her name was Julie. There was a very famous song in France “Julie the redhead”, and Julie, my dog, had the cutest freckles on her nose.

When I came back, my mother told me that Julie had escaped and disappeared. I was heartbroken, I spent my time putting flyers, checking the equivalent of Humane Society since I was living in France, and Julie was never seen again. For years, I wondered what had happened, if she has been rescued by a family, sold to a laboratory, abused, hurt? For years, I was wondering if I will ever see her again.

Not long ago, my mother casually mentioned Julie and how she was hit by a car and killed. My mother is not an animal person, and in her mind, she was doing me a favor by not saying anything, and giving me hope. Hope it was not. Nightmare would have been a more appropriate word. I finally had closure after so long.

So what should we do to keep them safe?

1. A Safe Yard? There is no such thing.

I still remember when the mutts were maybe 4/5 months old, they were outside in the backyard, and I was in the house. One of them, Sophie, Ms. Smarty Pants to name her, figured out how to open the latch, and suddenly I saw through the window five straight little tails going all around the front yard to the driveway, to the neighbor’s next door. I was lucky: I was home, I noticed them running around, and Jessica, my daughter was home, and we managed to get them back home safe.

I learned something that day:

NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOGS UNATTENDED IN YOUR “SAFE” YARD.

Needless to say I put padlocks on the gate, but still.

  • Keep an eye on your furry kid(s) when they are outside.
  • If you have a gate or two gates, put padlocks on them
  • Do not leave your furry kid in the yard if you are leaving the house.
  • Even if your yard is safe, there could be a storm, and a tree can fall down and break the fence (It happened to one of my neighbors: her lab was in the yard when a tree fell down, and she never saw her dog again).
  • Check your yard on a regular basis for any digging or broken fence. Not long ago, Ms. Sophie – again – dug a hole against the fence. You should have seen her face when, the next day, she went straight to it, and the hole was gone with a few improvements on top of it.
  •  Invisible fence? Would you leave your kid outside with a collar around her or his neck? Invisible fence might be good for the eyes but it doesn’t prevent anyone to come to steal your dog or another dog that is not invisible fence savvy to attack yours.

2. Microchip

Microchipping your dog is good in the overall. If someone steals your dog though, the microchip might not be of a big help.

3. Collar and Leash

Leash:

I am totally paranoid about that one. It happened to me with a retractable leash which broke when Maia saw a squirrel on a trail. I stayed with the handle of the leash, and a dog running around. Fortunately for me, Maia is obedient, and came back. The return was not fun, holding her collar. I am not using that kind of leashes anymore since there is not really a way to prevent it. I know that I could have returned the leash, and would have got a new one. But honestly, would I really care for a new leash if my dog had died out of it? I don’t think so. So, extendable leashes are banned forever from my home.

Collar:

I usually use a choke collar to walk most of them. They are pretty good, but I now make sure that every link is properly “linked” to the next one. Again, I was lucky, but it happened to Jackson in a pet store, and let me tell you, Jack had the time of his life. He managed to swallow for over $ 40.00 of treats before we could get hold of him. That’s my boy!

Regular fabric collars should be checked on a regular basis as well. The fabric can start to “give away”, and you certainly don’t want to stay empty handed with a dog running around in the traffic.

Pepper spray:

I always carry pepper spray with me attached to my belt. I told you, I am totally paranoid! But you know what? If an unwelcome or aggressive dog comes towards us, or if a nut (and there are many around) try to steal my dog (honestly he would have to be on crack!) then my pepper spray makes me feel safer!

Call me paranoid but better being safe than sorry. Every poster for a missing furry kid or every post on the net for lost pets just breaks my heart. Let’s keep them safe!

YES, You Are My Furever Kids

This morning, I went to my vet to pick up something, and I saw that beautiful older Golden retriever lose, at the door, waiting for his mom or dad. I came in, and he came straight to me. Older dogs look so wise. He had a big bandage on his leg. I scratched his ears, and you know Goldens, they are such gentle souls.

He went back by the door, waiting, and I learned that he was dropped off to be put to sleep. He had cancer, and I am not discussing the fact that it might have been his time to go. To go? Yes, but alone? No matter how caring and gentle the vet and the vet techs are, he wanted his mom to be there. He got a last cookie, and was lead to the exam room while he was trying to go to the opposite direction. You know what? It just broke my heart. For the last page of his life, he had to be alone, so no, he was not a furever kid.

People suck, and I went home and hugged my pack, telling them, that yes, they were my forever kids. It’s never easy to say goodbye, I know that but there are indeed our kids, and they trust us with their lives. How could anyone abandon one for the last page of his life?

His face haunted me for the remaining of the day, so, I do think he deserves a tribute. Gentle soul leaving this earth alone.

A lot of people have a tendency to make some alterations to the meaning: forever.

Curious, I looked into the dictionary:

Forever: for all time in the future, or for as long as you can imagine. So I guess that Gentledog owner did not read the memo.

Please do not take a furry kid, if you cannot be there for him or her until the last minute.

Hey, if you decide to make a baby, most likely, you know that it is for life. Being a parent never stops, and no matter what, I will still worry about my girls even if they are in their 60’s and if I am still around. Parents are there to protect them, to be there in time of needs, to be there when then need you.

It should be like a quiz and if you can’t say yes to all the statements, then please do not adopt a furry kid. You are not ready. Maybe one day, you will be but not now.

A furever kid is not:

  • Until you get a boyfriend or a girlfriend,
  • Because you need someone to love you until better,
  • Until you have your own kids,
  • For Xmas, Hanukah, Winter solstice, birthday or any other holiday,
  • A gift.

How many times in your life can you say you get from someone unconditional love?

There are no good excuses not to go forever, and I have to acknowledge that I am sick and tired of hearing:

  • Getting a divorce,
  • The place where I am moving doesn’t accept dogs (yeah, so? Find a place which takes dogs!)
  • My boyfriend or girlfriend is allergic….

This is a lifetime contract that you are taking, and no way out. If you can’t sign that contract, please do not take an animal. It’s just not fair.

I know that “until death do us part” is not really working anymore in humans, but we are talking furry kids here, and furry kids are FOREVER!

When you are a parent, for a kid, a dog, a cat, or any living being, you stay with them until the last minute, because you see, they trust you, you are the “fixer” for them, and it just means that when it’s time for your dog – as an example – to go, even if it’s painful, even if you are going to cry your heart out, you still go to that darn room with your dog, and you stay with him until his last breath, because that’s what you do when you love someone!

I just thought that that gentle Golden needed to have his last words heard before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and it was: “where are you? I am scared? Where are you?”

(Happy tails + Dirty Paws – Dog hair + Proteins) + Unconditional Love = Muttstown!

I do have first to start with that statement: I do not litter. I pick up litter, and I cannot stand people who do litter.

Now that it’s out of the way, there are a few things which creep me out: Switzerland, Naples in Florida, and one of my girlfriend’s townhouse! Why would you tell me? I cannot stand perfection, and yes perfection creeps me out. In Switzerland – my mother was at one point married to a Swiss guy! – Sometimes, just sometimes, and it’s just a wicked thought but I just would love to drop something on the sidewalk to make it alive and just alter the perfection. Naples in Florida is the same way, and I am not even talking about my girlfriend’s townhouse which is the essence of perfection. Even her cats seem coming from Stepford: the perfect cats enjoying being the perfect cats in a place with throw blankets are neatly folded on immaculate armchairs – she must have got the only two cats in this world that don’t shed! – Sweet little doily just in the exact middle of the coffee table with fragile tiny flowers which would not survive in my home for 5 minutes.

Now why these tiny flowers would not have survived at my home? My cats would have knocked them down in a second, and if they had not, then my pack of dogs galloping through the house would have done it. I almost have to hold on to my 3 foot vase when they display their wild side!

This is also the reason, my girlfriend, who might just be more like an acquaintance now that I think about it, never comes to my house. We meet in neutral grounds. The last time she came for dinner, she had that look on her face staring at my dogs thinking so loud: these dogs are so vile! One time, I wanted to scare her, and told her that if I die before the mutts, I named her in my will as the dog’s guardian, and she looked at me with horror, and then said softly: NO! Sorry I do have sometime a wicked sense of humor!

OK, I am letting go of perfection to get where I wanted to go: my house! Years ago, I had children and at one point, I think I was still dreaming of a perfect house (meaning furniture, since the dad was already out of the picture and I was not looking to fill up the position!), and one day I took a hard look at myself, yes I do sometimes! What did really matter? A perfect polished house or spending special time with my girls? I chose that path, and never looked back!

The girls grew up, and now I share my house with my 7 dogs and my 3 cats. I am not talking about the fish in the fish tank! I got the fish tank to entertain my cats, but they got tired really fast of it, especially after Charlie fell into the tank a few times trying to learn how to swim! So I am stuck with 5 fish, included a crazy one which only swims upside down. I cannot even look at it, it makes me dizzy. When I have some friends over, they make comments like “Weird, a fish tank without fish!” I have to explain – as I type this, I wonder if I should not staple a “fish tank explanation”. I have 5 fish left, and I am not a mean person, so I am waiting for them to die of natural causes, then I will put the fish tank to give away in Zeuscorner classified ads! The problem with my fish is that THEY DON’T WANT TO DIE! I have been living with them for 6 years and they still seem pretty feisty to me. The fish tank guy told me five years max! Yeah? Really, not mine!

 

I just got lost in the fish tank thing. At least I don’t have a snapping turtle like another girlfriend of mine that she kept for a good 30 years in a fish tank until her ex-husband (the girlfriend’s one not the turtle’s) got tired of it, and put it back in the wild.

So, yes, I do live with dogs and cats. We are just a regular American family! My cats are not the type who can walk between chess pieces on a chessboard. To even go further, not only they cannot walk on it without knocking everything down, but I even lost the Black King! It went MIA a few years ago, and never came back! But I do have regular cats: Caramel who is doing much better now that he is on Prozac, Charlie a sweetheart, and Milou a devilish cat obsessed with my mutts ’tails. He can hide forever on a dining room chair, little paw in the air to grab a passing happy tail!

And then: the plat de resistance: my mutts! Opposite to the kids, they do not clean up after them. They don’t understand the notion of putting their toys back in the toys basket, but they do understand the concept of emptying my paper recycling can! I don’t know what they expect to find in it, but maybe it’s their best game: let’s go see what Mom put in the paper recycling can! At least, it makes a bit more sense that what my ex-partner for a business was doing these last few months: going through my recycling trash can at the curb. He did it several times, and I still can’t figure out why: first, I shred anything of any value, so maybe he is into puzzles, and then even if he had found something, I don’t think he ever got the fact that I don’t own any truth, I work hard at what I do.

To go back to the mutts, another difference from children is that they SHED. No matter how often I brush them: they shed, and shed, and shed, except Sammie my little one like it’s going to make a difference! So, every day, I sweep the floor, and if people were seeing how much hair and dust I get each time, they would believe that I almost never clean the house. I do, I do! Every single day. But hold your horses there: I sweep the floor, and clean up the surfaces but don’t even think that I am going to clean up every day the dogs’ nose art on my windows. It’s precious! I used to put drawings from my girls on the fridge door, now I am displaying the mutts’ nose art on my glass door!

So, yes, I live in a house full of dogs, cats, and life and I can assure you there is never a dull moment! The dull moments were when I was living with my ex-husband! In every aspect of life, we have to make concessions, and I learned to do that a long time ago, so my house is not perfect, but you know what I like it even better that way!

If you come for dinner, you might find some dog’s hair stuck to your clothes if you sit on the couch, but hey they live there. You are just visiting! And it’s THEIR couch! I might even add that sometimes, just sometimes, you might even find a dog’s hair in a dish I prepared, but hey what the heck, it’s proteins!

In conclusion, I really don’t judge how anyone lives. I can make fun of them, but I do make fun of myself as well, so I guess it does mean that we are even! If you come to my house, yes, you could see chaos, and some dog toys on the floor and even some remains of toys, especially if you come just after the mutts ‘meals: Sophie, one of my yellow lab has to kill a stuffed toy before she can ever eat! But what you will also find is love! They will give you kisses for all the days where you haven’t been to Muttstown, and they will even allow you to enjoy the dinner, and I am a good cook, dog’s hair or not dog’s hair!

Trust…

trustHey, I was a single mom since my girls were toddlers, and could never make myself trust anyone with the girls. They are now grown up amazing women, so I must have done something right there.

Without being paranoid, I even have a hard time trusting someone to dog sit. I remember years ago, I was going with my daughters to some Caribbean islands for Spring Break, and had hired someone to take care of Douchka, our German shepherd. The lady came to the house, met with me, and Douchka. She was working for a pet sitting company and I had checked the references, so everything was good, right?

I did not even have time to drop my suitcase in our hotel room in Grand Cayman that the phone rang. It was my dog sitter asking me what to do. She opened the front door, and Douchka ran away.

“Did not I explain to you lady that you should enter by the garage, close the garage door, and then enter the house?”

“Yes, yes, but I was in a rush…. What do you want me to do?”

“GO FIND MY DARN DOG!”

Thank God, Douchka was much smarter that the dog sitter, and after causing us such a fright (like a message to me, that will serve you to leave me behind!), she came back, and was waiting at the front door when the dog sitter came back.

Douchka was a funny one. Each time we were coming back from a trip, she was greeting me like crazy, then was stopping talking to me for a few days, I mean, totally ignoring me!

I had a very good friend who used to dog sit my pack: a friend, a vet tech, and loving my crew, but she passed a few years ago, and since then, I have to acknowledge that I stopped taking any kind of vacation. If one day I start again, I might just do like Sandra Bullock, and buy a bus to get my whole crew packed in! I have only 7. She has 13!

I do have a girlfriend who does dog sitting at her place, but here too, I would not trust her. You see, she doesn’t follow directions. She does believe that she knows better that the dog parent what the dog needs. She walks dogs off leash in the woods surrounding her house even if you are adamant about the leash thing. She is lucky: up to now, all the dogs who ran away came back, but here too, it’s an accident meant to happen.

So, I just scratched from my list the dog sitter thingy! What about boyfriend? You see in the news those horrific stories about boyfriends killing girlfriends’ dogs or hurting them.

I scratched the living boyfriend from my list years ago. My girls were teenagers at that time, and he had a dog, a Labrador retriever, the one who made me become a lab addict. So everything was good, right? At that time, I had Douchka, my shepherd and Pouch, a Golden retriever. Douchka was already around 8 or 9 at that time.

And we lived together. Every evening, Douchka was the only one waiting for me when I was coming back from work, no matter how late it was. She was my girl. She was also my daughters’ babysitter, best one ever. She was so protective of them, and got so frustrated when the girls got older and started to ride their bikes!

With old age came aches and pains in Douchka’s life. She had arthritis in her hips, in her knees. Yes, medications helped up to a point. It just breaks my heart when they start to slow down.

In December of that year, Douchka was treated for a kidney infection. She had some blood in her urine. Despite of the antibiotics, there was still blood, and she was prescribed another type of antibiotics. One day, Jessica came to me and told me Douchka peed a few drops of urine with blood in her bedroom deliberately. This was not my dog, and this episode broke my heart. Did she think I was to thick to understand that something was going on?

Within an hour, I was at the vet, and X-rays showed a growth in her bladder. The next day, she had an ultrasound showing a tumor, and by that time she could not urinate because of that tumor. I still remember her face after the ultrasound: she knew. She looked at me and I saw in her eyes that she wanted to go.

I went back home, got my two daughters and we went to our vet, the three of us like always. The boyfriend asked if he could come, and I said no. He seemed relieved.

Letting her go was also for my daughters letting go of their childhood. It was a whole era that we let go with her, and a friend. Douchka was my most devoted friend. She was always there, and yes I took her for granted.

Coming home empty handed, boyfriend was roaming around me, and finally confessed that he was feeling a “bit guilty” for having kicked her so many times. Tears were uncontrollable at that time. 15 years later, it still just hurts imagining her, my sweet and devoted girl, being kicked by that man, and being a silent victim when she was already with so many aches.

Why did he kick her? The only explanation I can think of was jealousy. Douchka would have given her life for me and the girls, and I mean it. She never, ever did anything wrong in her life. I cannot remember him interacting much with her but he loved dogs, labs.

This is the day I scratched “boyfriend” from my bucket list.

So, yes, surrounded by my pack, I am not sure of many things these days, but I know that I will grow old surrounded by dogs, because you see, they are your best friends in good and bad times. Unconditional love…. You can’t find that in humans.

The Ballad of Max, a Black Labrador Retriever

maxIt’s hard to be part of a litter, you know. How do you make yourself different, special? Max did that from the beginning! Lola, my yellow Labrador retriever, was pregnant, and since it was my first and was my only litter, I was so totally paranoid with anything which could go wrong. As paranoid as I was when I was pregnant with my girls!

I was not supposed to welcome that litter alone. One of my good friends, Liz, had told me that she was going to be there to help…. But Liz died suddenly, and left me alone to deal with my pups! I don’t know how long it took me, after Liz’ passing, to stop grabbing my phone without thinking to call her.

Anyway, I knew the pups were coming after Lola started nesting one night, and drove me totally berserk. Hey girl, I had got you that beautiful whelping box. Could you stop roaming around like a lunatic? In the morning, my daughter and I took her to the vet, and after an ultra sound, we learned that we were going to welcome into this world five puppies. So, we were ready. Max was not.

When the first four were born within 3 hours, Max decided that he wanted to have a different birthday than his siblings. He made us wait over 3 hours after Sophie before deciding to grant us with his presence! He was lucky we were still up (kind of….) I remember napping with my daughters on the floor waiting for the 5th wonder to be born.

Max was the runt of the litter. Yes, yes, he was small but as perfect as the others. Like a Mom, I counted everything I could count on my five wonders. Perfect. Instantly we gave them nicknames: George, the first one, was “Big Mouth” because he started whining right away, then came Zoe who was “Blondie”. She was so blonde, always have been and Zoe is the one who still has so many blonde moments! Then came his Majesty Jackson, the biggest one, and he became “Boubou” (don’t ask why!) followed by my tomboy, Sophie, who immediately was nicknamed “Miss Piggy”. Gosh she went straight to the teats and could not let go…. So after all that commotion came our Max, and his nickname became “Baby.”

Keep in mind that I had bred Lola, at the request of several friends who wanted a puppy from her. My Lola is the perfect Lab: as comfortable in the water than on the ground, she would have been a perfect “search and rescue dog”, and I tried, but sorry guys, it was too far to go for training every weekend at dawn and not coming back until late at night. But I always thought she would have been amazing. But this blog is not about her, it’s about Max.

Max’s Dad is a Field Champion from Illinois, Honor. I fell in love with Honor without ever meeting him but what was not to love about this boy? Honor is black, and has the best sense of humor ever. You see, this is exactly why I love labs so much. They are the only dogs who have a sense of humor! Don’t start yelling at me. I love all dogs, mutts or no mutts, but labs….. There is something special about them, and I will spend the remaining of my life surrounded by them.

From the beginning, Max loved classical music. When I was letting them out of the whelping box, Max was always the one to go to take a nap by the radio tuned to the classical music channel. I tried to make him appreciate opera, but I am not sure he will ever be a fan of it. From his birth, Max – and his siblings – were raised with Vivaldi, Chopin, Brahms and the others…..

I forgot to mention that Max was black like his Dad, FC Honor. Funny thing, the three boys were black like their Dad, and the two girls are yellow like their Mom.

When they started growing up, and gosh it went so fast. One day you could have the five of them of your lap, the next month, you needed the help of the couch to contain them!

Max has always been the one who observes. He doesn’t say much sometime but you know he knows. For instance, when we moved from the whelping box to the playpen, they had time out to play before going to bed at night, and Max was always trying to grab that opportunity to sleep “outside the box”. When he knew it was time to go back to the playpen, every single time, he was jumping on the couch and faking sleep. Faking sleep? Yes, Max could not fool me, I mean, he did a few times. But after the others were tucked for the night, I was turning to him, and I can tell you that so many times, he was lightly opening an eye to see if he were going to be able to spend the night on the comfy couch or going back with his siblings! That’s my Max!

Life was not always perfect. There was the day where it was obvious that Max was not feeling well. It was a Saturday night of course when every vet was closed. That’s one thing, my pack never learned. They never read the memo saying “no emergency on weekends”. Jessica and I took him to the closest emergency. A young vet was there. She took X-rays, and came back with “the face” saying that Max had pneumonia and it might be wise to just let him go. Her words and I am not kidding: “He is so young, has so little chance to survive. Do you really want to spend so much money on him?”

Yes, bitch! I do. As a matter of fact, I had called another emergency, and took Max away from her care to run to the other facility. In reality, Max did not have any pneumonia, and he did not need any oxygen either (as the previous vet had told us). Max had a tummy ache, and after spending the night at the emergency and being monitored, we were able to pick him up the next morning. Thank God, because Lola was so upset not having her fifth kid that I thought she was going to destroy the house!

And my “mutts” (as I said as a nickname even though they are pure labs) grew up, it became obvious soon that the friends who had bugged me to get a pup from Lola went all MIA, and it was as obvious that they were not going anywhere. My brain was not programmed that way and I just could not let them go and never hear ever again from them. I could not risk them to be abused, sick, sad, and I just could not break the bond that existed between them. So, I got a pack. Yes, it’s the only time it will ever happen. They are all spayed, neutered, etc…. but this is also one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed.

Max, being the smallest one, has always been a bit bullied by his sister Sophie. From the beginning, when they were playing in the yard, Sophie loved to jump on Max and grab him by his neck. Sophie loved it, Max did not. Max decided he did not want to go out anymore if Sophie was around, which caused a few accidents in the house. I had to go with him, and stay next to him. He is the dog who pees on command! I say “pee” and he pees just because he doesn’t want to lose any time just in case Sophie could come!

Five years later, Sophie and Max have still a thing together, but Max is fast, and yes, he can come back totally dusty, but that’s one thing about Max. From the beginning, he loves the dust, not the mud. Hear me clear, here! Dust is his best friend. Mud is yuck!

The first two or three years of their lives, Max was having a tantrum each time I was leaving the house. When I was going to the garage, Max was screaming to go with me “Mom, don’t leave me with those monsters, Mommmmmm!” Of course, Sophie is always trying to help, so each time he had a tantrum, she was holding his tail to help, you know, and prevent him to go to the garage with me. Sophie is such a good helper!

There is one thing though where Max doesn’t accept, and I mean it, no exceptions there, to be bullied: his food! No one can even try to get next to his food, Sophie or Jackson probably tried once or twice (don’t worry, I would not have left that happen!) but Max is all teeth out if you try to eat his food. He has a special bowl in ceramics, and no, it’s his bowl, and he will not consider eating in a metal bowl! I have no clue how it started but it’s his bowl, end of the story.

They are now five years old, can you imagine? And there is one thing, I cannot imagine: Max getting old. I can’t. You see, he has always been the baby, and will stay the baby forever. Max getting white hair? This is just impossible; it’s the baby of the family!

Max was the easiest one to train. I don’t even have to say words. The two of us, we are really good with hand signs. I tell him to sit, to stay, and he doesn’t move. Max has a flaw, I know, I know, he believes he is the perfect little lab (60 lbs. against the 80s of his other siblings!), but he has one flaw: he doesn’t like other dogs, and growls, and Max’s growling is so cute even though he means business. You have to understand Max’ view of the world: he has been bullied by his sister mostly since he was born, so he just wants to let every unknown dog know that it won’t happen with anyone else! Sophie, it’s family, and no matter what, you have to get over it! It’s family! But others beware!

I am looking at my Max right now. Years ago, we all thought he looked a bit like “Andre”, you know the seal movie? And this is still true, but looking at the eyes of my boy, I melt. Baby you are, baby you will be for the rest of your life!

 

Thankful for the Ride No Matter How Short

george1We all have to be thankful for many, many things. Today, I am going to write about how thankful I am for the privilege of having shared George’s life. There is an African quote saying that no one is completely dead as long as you still talk about him or her. So, for everyone who never heard of George, listen to his story. I will not talk about the last 48 hours of his life. I just want to celebrate George’s life for the 3 years 5 months and 12 days where he was alive and well, where he was “George.”

He was my first born, or should I say my yellow lab, Lola’s first born. As soon as he was born, he started screaming bloody hell, and my daughters and I nicknamed him “Big mouth”. He was black, and a big boy. I still have the journal of my only but memorable litter. Big Mouth was 1lbs. 4oz! It was Lola’s first litter, and she seemed a bit lost after her first born. I did not realize that she was having her second pup right away, and trying to help, I cut George’s umbilical cord which I think really puzzled her, and yes, I goofed, but after a minute or two, she was too busy with “Blondie” coming to think of what she should have done and did not do. She did everything by the book, without reading the book, for the four others.

And here were my five wonders. They were all perfect: from toes to head, tail included. I counted every nail, every ear, every tail (Okay they only have one! But hey just checking that they were perfect!)

It did not take long to realize that two of them had great personalities: “Big Mouth”, and his sister “Ms. Piggy”. Do I really have to explain why she was called “Ms. Piggy”? It was hard to separate her from her mom’s teats… And she grew up as the girl next door that everyone envies because she can eat everything she wants but is still totally fit. Great metabolism I am telling you.

I am going to go with their real names now. We named “Big Mouth” George, as George in “Grey’s anatomy”. Everyone loved George in the TV show. If I had known how he would end up, I would probably have considered another name. His sister “Ms. Piggy” became Sophie as in the books I read in my childhood from the Countess of Segur who had a character named Sophie who was getting all the time in a lot of trouble, as my Sophie!

George decided that the only way to take a nap was on his back. It was really helpful for us, humans since it was hard to recognize George and his other brother “Boubou” who became Jackson. In order not to get lost between the three black ones, two got nail polish on their nails, and up to this day, if I try to apply nail polish on my own, they fly away. They just hate the smell. George had white nails, and Jackson red ones.

George was the first one to open his eyes. And what eyes! When he grew up, he had really slightly slanted eyes, and I was always making fun of him calling him my “Asian boy.”

When there was something mischievous going on, you could be sure that Sophie and George were involved. These two were like attached by the hip. The first snow storm we got was a big one, and I never got tired to see them in the white stuff! They were in heaven with that white stuff. You see, you can dig it, swim in it, hide in it…. So much fun! That winter we got so much snow. When you have small kids, snow is fun, but my girls were in their late teens and I did not realize how snow could be fun when you have 5 teenager pups around.

My daughters always made fun of me and George, since the only place where George could stay still for a while was … my lap! When he was tiny, he was always on my lap when I was driving the bunch to the vets or for walks along the canal. But George grew up, and when he reached 80lbs, it became quite a challenge. How could you say no to him?  We made a deal: he could be on my lap when watching TV at night or of course in bed. He took the challenge a bit further when he shared our Christmas breakfast one year! He was just so proud to be sitting on a chair with us. That was a “George moment.”

The boy was stylish, let me tell you! To go out, he had a harness soft inside but glittering and red on the outside. One of the vet techs we saw nicknamed him “Disco George”!

When Sophie and George were outside, you never knew what could come out of it. One day, I heard screams like I never heard before. The pack was playing in the yard. Sophie and George were on top of Jackson, and had their mouths stuck in his collar. My poor Jackson was getting strangled. I had to grab scissors and cut the collar right there to free everyone. This is, by the way, the last time they wore a collar at home. I did not know that there are many fatal accidents when dogs are playing together with the collars of each other.

George and Sophie were also the one who were thinking ahead. I got my pack into the habit of healthy snacks. So yes, they get carrots as treats, but for George and Sophie, they always wanted more than one carrot. You never know what can happen tomorrow. Maybe Mom will ran out of carrots. So each time, when everyone else was satisfied with one carrot, Sophie and George had to manage to grab 3 and hide two out of them. A few days after his death, I found “his” stash of carrots, cookies, and toys half buried behind bushes.

George was happy from the minute he got up to the minute he went to sleep at night. He could not bear the thought of having the day starting without him, so as soon as he was awake, he was having a dance over my body “Get up Mom, get up!”

From the meal in the morning until night, he was making life fun and interesting. I always make my crew sit before meals, and George was so happy to please….. I could still picture his butt barely touching the floor but with eyes speaking so loud “Come on, Mom, come on! I am good. I am sitting!

Then, so many times at night, I was still in my office, and I could hear him go upstairs to go to sleep. In the middle of the bed on his back with his four legs up: that was George!

A ball of energy. When I was coming home, George was coming ahead of the others to greet me. It was hardwood floor, and George had perfected the art of wood skating, and always managed to stop by braking with his four legs just when he was getting to me. That was George.

George was like his Mom, and loved the water. His mission in life in Fall was to retrieve every leaf from the canal where we were having our daily walks. Then, coming next to me to shake off the water off, he had that grin “Did you see Mom, did you see? No more leaves!”

george2Playing hide and seek in the yard with Sophie, stealing the chicken which was just waiting for him right there on the counter, and running through the house with it in his mouth, retrieving balls, bumpers, jumping in the air, living his life at 100 miles an hour, then snuggling with me at night with his eyes full of love, that was George.

I believe you just met my boy!

,

Social Skills for Man’s Best Friends and Their Humans!

Not long ago I went into an already quite crowded elevator: a guy with a Saint Bernard and a young woman who was just coming back from exercising. I love dogs, any kind, the mutts, the purebred, the senior ones, the crippled ones. I love them all. I can’t say the same for the owners though.

The Saint Bernard was sniffing the young woman’s crotch, and she was clearly very uncomfortable. The owner of the dog was smiling instead of pulling the dog away; that’s the kind of moment when I have to control my temper! Fortunately, the young woman was going to a lower floor, so she did not have to endure the behavior of the dog for long. In my book, it’s called bullying!

I know, everyone, starting with myself, believes that their dogs are the cutest ones on the earth, and seriously, they are! But it doesn’t mean that everyone is seeing them with my or your eyes. Some people are afraid of dogs, some are just not dog people, and some don’t want to be covered with dog hair if they are going out or something. I never “force” my dogs on anyone! If one of them gets inappropriate with a person, I pulled back on the leash, and I apologize, because yes – breaking news – I am not perfect! – And my crew is not either!

In the whole picture, what is so unfair is that PEOPLE WILL RESENT THE DOGS instead of resenting the owners. I know it’s something I said and said over and over again, but there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

There is a law leash in this country if my memory is good, and there is a reason for that. If I hear one more time from an owner with an unleashed dog coming straight at me and my leashed one: “he is sweet, he just wants to play!”, I am going to bite the balls I don’t have out of frustration!

I am not trying to preach, I am just trying to make some people realize that you have to respect another dog’s or another person’s boundaries.

A French philosopher said one time “Your freedom stops where mine starts.” Maybe we should conjugate this at every tense!

There are many places where you can have your dog run free: your backyard, dog parks, some dog beaches.

Dogs are amazing beings and they should never be seen as a nuisance! It’s too unfair to them!

A GREAT PUP IS A WELL BEHAVED ONE!

Don’t be lenient with your dog. A well trained dog is a happy one. They are like kids; they need to know the limits. An out of control dog becomes a nuisance.

Last year, one of my labs, Zoe, had knee surgery, and she had to walk a bit more every day as part of the rehab.

We were walking quietly in my neighborhood, when I saw some hundred feet away an unleashed Golden retriever with a man. I nicely asked the guy to put his dog back on a leash. His response was: “It’s ok. My dog is friendly. He just wants to play!”

My answer was: “My dog just had surgery. She can’t play!”

He had no leash with him, tried to grab his dog’s collar, lost control, fell on the ground while his dog lunged at me and Zoe. Zoe was shaking with fear, and the dog sensed it and started to become aggressive. I would never have thought that I would ever meet an aggressive Golden! I had to kick the dog out of Zoe’s face while his owner finally made it!

His first question was: “What’s wrong with you?”

Then, he got on his knees and started “consoling” his dog, telling him that I did not mean to kick him, that he was a good boy, that he loved him….. I mean. Seriously?

It did not happen once, but several times. And I just stopped walking there with Zoe. I never managed to get into the owner’s brain. Too thick? No clue. He just doesn’t get that his out-of-control dog is a nuisance, and can also get hurt if he gets into traffic running after a squirrel or something else. Yes, the dog is cute, but that’s beyond the point. Not everyone wants to have in their face a 100 lb rambunctious dog!

DOG’S ETIQUETTE

  • Be in control of your dog at all time for his or her own safety,
  • If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on his leash, stay away. It means that the dog needs his or her space for whatever reasons.
  • Remember that there is no balance if one dog is on a leash and yours is unleashed. The leashed one can feel cornered.
  • Ask when you are going to meet another dog if it’s ok for them to say hi to each other.
  • Be the parent of your dog, not his best buddy!

PEOPLE’S ETIQUETTE

  • Teach your children not to run to pet an unknown dog: What is true for the dogs is also true for children. I always cringe when I see small children running and screaming towards dogs. The sweetest dog could be easily spooked by a child going straight at him or her.
  • Always ask permission to pet a dog.
  • Approach your hands slowly to allow the dog to smell them.
  • If the dog backs out, don’t force it.
  • Follow the directions of the owner. Some like I do will make their dogs sit in order for you not to have muddy paws all over you!

Good manners will always take you a long way no matter if you are a two or a four-legged one!

Open Letter from Maia to her BGDF (Best Girl Dog Friend) Kaia

maiaYesterday, I went for a walk with my Mom along the C& O Canal and I missed you! We had so much fun last weekend. It was almost like before. Not completely though because, for whatever reasons, you always have to growl at me first when you see me, then, you kind of forgot about it. It does hurt my feelings but I always discard it right away, because, each time, I am so happy to be with you.

Of course, I was born a few months before you, like 4/5 months, so, obviously we did not meet right away. When Mom brought me home from that garage where I was staying with my siblings, I was so happy! I was in a warm house, surrounded by good friends. Zeus was the best friend I could ever have. I loved to snuggle with him, and when I grew up, I think he liked to have me around during thunderstorms. I hope that I helped him during these stressful times!

I remember the day after Mom brought me home, we got a lot of white stuff, and yes I remember wondering about my siblings, and how they were handling it in their garage. I kind of love the white stuff, and I had fun with Lola. It was kind of weird, you know, because it was cold and wet, but not wet like the river. The river is just too wet for me!

It was in early summer of 2007 that I met you for the first time. Deborah, my mom’s daughter, brought you to our home, and instantly, we clicked. We loved the same thing: hanging out in the dust, not mud please, just dust, and sunbathing on the deck.

We were seeing a lot of each other at that time because your Mom was going out of town a lot, then, when your Mom was working, you were coming every morning and leaving at night. I knew exactly when you were coming: it was always after breakfast. I have always been a slow eater, but when I knew you were coming, I was eating ever faster than Lola and Zeus! Then, you arrived, and we had so many choices: like hanging out in the family room on the couch, or on Mom’s bed, or playing in the yard, or hanging out on the deck.

Things changed one day: When you were coming home in the morning, you were ignoring me, and going straight to Mom’s bed and staying there the whole day. I tried to convince you to come to hang out with me, but one day, you even snapped at me, and I retreated, totally puzzled. I always thought that the fact that you were silent and never even had the tiny bark to explain what happened was a big mistake. I am sure we could have settled things down. Barking would have been far better that the silence. But you just started to ignore me.

Then, one day, you stopped coming. It was in 2009. I remember clearly, because you stopped coming just a few months before Zeus crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and I was feeling so lonely after he was gone.

I needed you there girlfriend! Lola was so busy at that time with her own kids, and I was kind of jealous of her. I would have loved to have kids who would have followed me everywhere, and I think I would have taught them better manners that she did with hers! Sometimes, I still wondered why I could not have those cute little things too, but when I see how fast they grew up and how – even now, five years later, they can still be so obnoxious, maybe it was a blessing that it did not happen.

So, Kaia, this letter might be better than a lot of barking in a way, but when you came to spend the last weekend at home, I was so happy, but now, the house looks empty again without you. I started to hang out a bit with Zoe, but Zoe has too many blonde moments for me. You and I, Kaia, we understood each other with just a look or a smell. What happened girlfriend? We were goofing around all the time! Remember the whipping cream we stole?

Sometimes I feel so lonely and it doesn’t matter how many dogs are home with me, that I feel like howling, and you know me, I don’t howl that easily!

I hope that you are happy staying with your two feline friends: Lolita and Chloe. But today, the sun is shining, and I would have loved nothing better than lying down on the deck with you.

Pawsitively yours,

Maia.

My name is Dominique, and I am a Labrador Retriever Addict.

dominique-blogHi. My name is Dominique and I am a lab addict.

It started some 15 years ago, and it never got better. Quite the opposite. I started with one, and I should say that he was not even mine. I dated his owner, and looking back, I realized that I would have dumped the owner fast if it had not been for his black lab. That’s how my addiction started….. with Jet.

Jet was the one who was always challenging me, half a smile on his face. If we were walking in a field, Jet was walking by me, smelling grass, peeing on every piece of it. The field had a small hill, and playfully – and the darn dog got me so many times! – started running back and forth from the top of the hill to me. Then, at one point, he was going a bit more, and a bit more, until he was not coming back. The first time, I freaked out, running berserk, calling his name, running to my car, exploring all the neighborhood streets, afraid of seeing him lying in the middle of the street. No Jet. Driving back to the field and here was Jet, sitting on his butt on the sidewalk at the place where I always park me car. He was like “hey woman, why are you so disheveled? I just needed some “me time”. Where do you think I was going? Come on woman, let’s go home!”

This is exactly where my addiction started. I cannot resist a wicked sense of humor, and gosh, labs get that. As a matter of fact, I think they are the only breed with a sense humor. No offense to others, mutts or not. I used to have a Shepherd, and she would have died for me, but she was a serious dog. You were not joking around with her. My Golden retriever was the sweetest thing on earth, but he was too needy to ever have a sense of humor, and I am not talking about my little terrier who is too busy being a big dog to ever consider that sometimes you can laugh at yourself!

When Jet died the world collapsed around me. Seriously. You see in magazines: “how to lose 10lbs in a week”? When you lose a dog, you can be assured that you are losing more than that in a week! A few days after Jet crossed the bridge, I went to the shelter, just to see, because you see the world was not the world anymore without a black nose to kiss, chocolate eyes staring at your eyes, and that lab happy tail syndrome. Here too, Jet had left his markings: no matter the color of his bandage at the tip of his tail, he always managed to take it off, and weeks after he was gone, there was still blood on the pantry from his happy tail syndrome.

This is how I met Zeus, a 3 year old black lab, who at that young age had already 3 owners. Zeus is my love story, the shadow of my shadow, the only dog who came back twice after his passing to let me know he was still around, and I am not kidding. Read my other blog for that one. Zeus did not make me forget Jet. As a matter of fact again, whenever I move, Jet is the first one in the new house. He has a trunk where all his belongings and ashes are but Zeus gave me back my life you know the black nose, the mischievous eyes and the tail which knocked down anything around.

Up to the end of his life, Zeus loved to make jokes. Some were really good, but some, sorry to break you the news Zeus wherever you are, but some were really, really not funny. But hey, you had your fun with them and with me. The last joke he played on us, I bet he is still laughing about it and telling all his buddies by the rainbow how he got me and Jessica, my daughter. We had a small pond with no fish but some frogs and stuff hanging out there in the front of the house. We were always putting Zeus in the front to do his business because he had so much arthritis that it was just easier. That evening, Jessica put him outside, and closed the door. It was not like he was going anywhere with his big lipomas hanging from his hind leg and his arthritis. A minute later, she opened the door for him: no Zeus. It was already dark, and she panicked: calling him, again, and again. Calling me: I was still at work. I suggested a flash light to go around the house. He could not have gone far. At that point, he did not even enjoy a walk. She called me a few minutes later, out of breath, and totally furious: Zeus went to the pond. Please, do not ask me how he did it. It was kind a treacherous thing to do, and he was there, silent. She said she found him, and he smiled. You know what? I believe it: Zeus had smelled a dead chipmunk in the pond, and went for it, but he miscalculated and since it was a narrow pond, the chipmunk was by his butt, and he could not turn around, so he was, I guess, waiting for a miracle, like the little chipmunk would swim around Zeus just to be able to get to his mouth. Jessica got him inside, he was smelly and not that sorry, but went home with her. The next morning, the first thing he did was to go check out the pond for the chipmunk. That day, I was the one with the wicked smile on my face: “Buddy, that freaking chipmunk is long gone!” I give him that: He did not say a word and we just avoided talking about chipmunks after this episode.

My addiction started during the Zeus era: what would be life if instead of having one lab, I had, let’s say two or three? This is how Lola, a yellow lab, and Maia, a black lab, came home. What is there not to like when you wake up in the morning and have an arrangement of black and yellow faces looking at you with love, and growling stomachs. Labs have a clock in their stomach. There is no lazy morning when you have a lab. “Hey, Mom, the day can’t start without us. Are you ready? Are you ready? Get up Mommmmm!”

lab-addict2From three labs, I went to 8 when Lola’s pups were born. 8 was a great number, and I still miss that number, but Zeus passed and the number 7 was not as good, but still there was some potential with 7. I never expected to reach 6 that fast. 6 almost destroyed me.