Thursday, June 26, 2014

City Dining - Doggie Style

Barry hanging out with us on the roof top.
We try to incorporate Barry into most of what we do when possible. He enjoys being outside and with us and leaving him stuck in the condo on a beautiful weekend day just doesn't seem right. He doesn't get to go out to see his friends and do whatever he wants. He completely and fully relies on us to take him out. Most of the work week he is stuck at home while we are away and working, going out to lunch, getting to go outside, and generally having our day full of things to do. Not Barry. He's just waiting for us. Sure the dog walker comes mid day to break up the monotony and so he can go to the bathroom but then he gets locked back up in our condo until we get home from work. We are his whole life. The least we can do is attempt to incorporate him more often on the weekends.

Recently we have been enjoying al fresco dining with Barry. So far we have brought him along four different times. Each experience gets better and better. It is trial and error. We have learned there are a few very important things to bring along.
  1. Water & bowl
  2. Good treats
  3. KONG bone stuffed with treats
There are also the not-so important things we bring or the everyday normal stuff like poop bags (which happen to be very important but we bring bags regardless of where we're going) and a small mat for Barry to lay on. The mat is nice but not necessary. I think he enjoys having a spot for himself and he's not laying directly on the cement or dirty ground.

We try to give him as much room as possible. We connect his leash to a chair that either Husband or I am sitting in and he's free to move around as far as the leash will let out. He has enough space to lay down as well. When we go to the little Italian deli there's not a lot of room but we attempt to give him the space against the building so he can stretch out there behind our chairs while people walk by on the sidewalk.

On our last outdoor lunch we brought along his KONG bone. After 30 or 40 minutes he started getting antsy so and I sat it down for him but he wasn't really interested. I stuffed some string cheese that I tore into pieces and shoved it into the small spaces at either side of the bone. He loved it. That kept him busy for most of time until we left. The bone will come out when he starts to get antsy and that should buy us some more time to eat and finish up.

Barry is good at relaxing. It's hard to get him to really relax outside but he's getting better. I think the last time was the best, in part to the KONG bone.

We are hoping that taking him with us out to eat and hiking will prepare him for our upcoming camping trip (next weekend). Barry will get to be in the great outdoors from Thursday evening until Sunday afternoon - the whole time. I think he'll love it.

Waiting for Husband while he picks up a few things from the store.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Probiotics, & Essential Oils

Since it's been so nice out we notice that most people are coming out a lot more. The sidewalks are a bit busier and there are plenty of leftover snacks all over the streets. Barry notices them before we do typically. We try so hard to spot them. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. We are rarely successful at pulling the day old piece of meat from his mouth once he's honed in and slurped it up. He's usually already devoured the chunk and moved on. Luckily, dogs have a specific digestive system that allows them to eat things we cannot (that's not to say that certain foods can't get your dog sick). Or I should say, whole chunks of things. Part of the human digestive system is our saliva which breaks down our food, along with the grinding that our teeth do to break the food up. Dogs have saliva but only to lubricate the food going down their throat, it doesn't aid in breaking down the food like what is needed for humans, and they do not grind their food because their jaws don't move side to side like ours so they can chomp on the food and then swallow it or tear at the food but usually the food stays mostly intact once it gets into their stomach. The dog has such strong stomach acid that if it eats something it shouldn't the bad bacteria in that bad piece of meat will be killed quickly, unlike humans, where our digestive acids slowly eat away and give time for bad bacteria to get us sick. For dogs - their gas and diarrhea is usually a sign of unbalanced flora in their system (not usually being sick from rotten food) and it's not a simple task to pinpoint what needs balanced out. Once again, though, you shouldn't just assume that your dog is a tank and can eat anything. There are many poisonous foods for dogs and some foods that aren't poisonous can still get your dog sick. See, it's very complex as I said.

Sensitive tummy. Silly face.
Now that I've given you the rundown of Dog Digestion 101, it's important to note that I bring it up because either Barry's flora is imbalanced, he has a food allergy, or he's stressed (or even a combination of these).  I know that sounds like it could be nearly anything and that's kind of true. We don't know the culprit, yet. It's not easy to find out the exact reason. The first step we can take is to introduce good probiotics into his diet to find out if he simply needs to be rebalanced. We started looking into good probiotics for him. Something to help balance his bathroom habits a bit. If you follow the blog you know his bathroom habits are sometimes the star of the post. I hate it. He doesn't constantly have diarrhea, but he does have it more often than is normal. So probiotics it is. To start anyway.

I eat plenty of things I shouldn't eat. Not these grapes, though. I won't touch 'em!
We've started using plain kefir. It's got so much good stuff in it with living bacteria that is very gut healthy. Also, kefir is like 99% lactose free so it's good for dogs (and humans) with milk intolerances. We will try this out for a few weeks and see how it goes. This may not solve our issue at all. We've looked into all different types of probiotics and kefir seems to be the way to go for something natural and with plenty of good bacteria loaded into each serving. In fact, there seems to be no probiotic out there that can match the power of kefir - or good organic sour kraut. I'm pretty sure Barry wouldn't eat the sour kraut, though, he's kind of picky, so we went with kefir.

Remember this day? The Easter Egg Hangover. Too many goodies is no good for my
I've also picked up some good quality essential oils. I purchased a blend that is good for stress and have been diffusing that nice relaxing scent into the air during the day for Barry (the diffuser stops and shuts itself off after all the water is gone so it doesn't over heat). I know it sounds over the top along with his delightful and relaxing classical music playing in the background but Barry is a sensitive guy with mild anxiety. His stress or anxiety could be playing a roll with his tummy troubles. I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a shot. Plus it smells so nice and our place smells all herbal and relaxing when I get home. I also bought a blend that is good for achy bellies. It has fennel, ginger, and a few other oils that are known to help ease digestive issues. A single drop can be put in his food and that's enough for him. I wouldn't want to give him too much because essential oils are very strong and I don't believe that too much of a good thing is ever good. I'd rather take it easy on the oils because they are strong and it could backfire and then we'd have another set of issues to deal with.

If it backfires then I'm back to redecorating the place.
We will find out if any of these remedies help him. Maybe they will. If they don't help then at least we tried and know we can mark a couple of items off the list of possible issues. We will stick with this for a while to let everything take it's course. I imagine three weeks to a month of trying all of these things would give us some indicator of success or not. Maybe we'll see a marked difference quickly but I've learned that sometimes things just don't happen over night and it's okay.

I think there is pizza under here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

He Is Who He Is

We know most of the people in our area that have dogs and walk them regularly. I know there are people with dogs that don't walk them often so we probably haven't encountered them yet. Occasionally we meet someone new out walking their dog but it's typically the same group of us frequent walkers.

Barry is usually pretty interested in meeting each dog he sees. Sometimes he's too busy hunting squirrel to notice a dog walk by but I'd say he more often than not notices the dogs. Many of the people we see we already have met and they know how Barry is and are happy to let Barry sniff and their dog sniff, etc. They know what to expect. He is excited, happy, overly friendly/rude (whichever you want to call it - some older dogs find Barry rude and they don't like his in-your-face exuberance, and I frankly don't blame them), and mostly nosey or curious. It doesn't really matter what kind of dog or what size of dog, Barry doesn't judge. He treats them all equally.

He gets along with some dogs better than others but he is fine with all dogs in general (it's the cats that we have to watch). Sometimes we'll pass a dog that starts barking at him. Barry quickly runs past and whines his whistle whine. I find it funny when it's a tiny fur ball dog that barks at Barry and Barry gets upset and whines. He doesn't understand that the dog is the size of his paw, he just knows the dog has communicated to him that she doesn't want him to come near so he gets upset and hurries past whining. The look on any passerby's face is usually that of humored surprise when they see the paw-sized fur ball putting the 70 lb pit bull in his place. He doesn't get that he's got a stigma (thanks to humans and media) attached to him for life just because of his looks.

Look at that mean pit bull face. Very intimidating.
When Barry moseys down the street or on a hiking trail, or sits in the back seat of our car, or meets a new dog, or watches as someone crosses the street to get away from him, or gets patted on the head by a stranger, or goes crazy when he sees a squirrel or cat, or lays in between Husband and me in bed at night he has no idea about what some people think of him. He doesn't watch the news or read the paper. He doesn't know that he is not like other dogs (even though he is sort of just like other dogs). He doesn't understand that some people want to purposely harm him because of his breed. Thank goodness there are more and more supporters of his breed. I don't think in his lifetime we'll see the breed discrimination go away fully but I know at some point it will.

Barry doesn't have to worry about being a pit bull. He won't worry about it because he's a dog. He can't comprehend it. Instead, we'll take on that issue ourselves, Husband and I, and do our best to make sure Barry has the best life he could ever have.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Take a Hike

On Sunday we went to Starved Rock State Park for some hiking. The weather was not too hot and a little cloudy so it seemed just perfect. We have taken Barry on short hikes before but nothing like this.

We can always use a little more physical activity in our lives and we love hiking. We already know that Barry loves being outdoors and he's got a lot of energy to burn. Hiking is a great solution for everyone.

The drive was about two hours and Barry is great at car trips now. He's gotten used to our trips to visit Grandma and so this was a breeze for him. Once we arrived we were all ready to get out and stretch our legs.

The hike began with Barry quite excited and pulling a lot but after about 20 minutes he eased into it and walked well with Husband. The park is so beautiful. The trails are well marked with board maps throughout in case you get lost. There are a few stairs to reckon with but nothing we couldn't handle. I saw people carrying strollers (with kids in them!) up and down the steep stairs. I thought it was tough bringing an excited young pit bull hiking but, man, have I got it wrong. Taking kids hiking is a whole different ball game.

Barry was very well behaved, calm and enjoyed everything. He was so easy going and he even got in the water when we lead him there. I think he liked the coolness of it. He did start to drink the water so we had to pull him out but since it was moving water we think he might be okay. We'll watch to make sure.

Of course we stopped a few times along the way for slurps of filtered water from home and bites of treats for energy.

We hiked and climbed and it was a wonderful experience. We can't wait to go back for more hiking adventures.

At the end of the day, when we got home, Barry was exhausted. So were we.

Professional hiker and mouth breather extraordinaire.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Is Normal?

Things are settling back to normal. Barry is back in his groove. Routine is mostly back in order. Since getting or floors done we've switched up a few things and Barry has different preferences. We are just going with the flow as far as his preferred time to eat goes. Wake up, walk and bathroom, then eat. No big deal. That's easy to deal with. Barry is happy to see his KONG again. Last week he wasn't interested in the KONG - at least his interest wasn't visible. This week he's been jumping off the couch at site of the KONG and starts chewing at it while I leave for work. It's such a relief to have him tail wagging and chewing on his KONG when I leave rather than ears back with big sad eyes watching me as I leave for work.

We still have residual dust from the floors getting put in. Husband and I have dusted but it continues to settle. So we have some housekeeping to do still. Also, the biggest change for Barry is having the back room off limits while we're gone. He seems okay with it and no accidents makes us happy.

His paw pads are pretty much all healed up now and his scrapes from Memorial Day weekend on his front and back legs are looking really good. He's definitely back to squirrel hunting when we're outside.

I'm glad we're all getting back into our groove. Barry switches things up all the time but our basics are almost back in order. It's so important for your dog to have a good routine, just like it is for children. It sounds boring but it keeps everyone sane, including Barry. He knows we're leaving and he's okay with it because he's used to the routine. After approximately 25 weeks of the pretty much the same thing each day (apart from the weekends) a routine becomes, well, routine. Barry gets it.

I'm sure as we go things will naturally progress as that's what happens in life. We're just happy that things are resettling.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Barry Goes Out to Eat

Which restaurant should we go to, guys? I'm feeling like something
with meat.
Twice last weekend Husband and I took Barry with us out to eat. Out door dining of course. The first was on Saturday around lunch time. There's a small Italian cafe in the Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago that makes great salads and sandwiches (they also sell wine, homemade pre packaged pasta and sauces, and of course cannoli). You order, pay and then can sit outside along the sidewalk in front of their cafe. They have iron tables and chairs set up in the front. We figured if Barry got antsy we could pack up our Italian sodas and the sandwich we were sharing and take it home. This was sort of the test run. We wanted to see how he'd do. Plus he enjoys being outside. We also gave him a little bit of prosciutto from the sandwich. He did great. He watched everyone as they walked by, enjoyed a few bites of prosciutto and drank his water.

I'm watching you... Is that cheese you got there?
Then on Sunday we took him to a local bar and grill around lunch time. This bar and grill is right across from our condo so it's convenient. They have a nice outdoor eating section. We sat at the far end away from the street to give Barry plenty of space. Our part of the neighborhood is not as exciting or bustling as the Little Italy area. In fact, we were the only ones eating outside and there were probably only a handful of people inside. We ordered beer and food, and again, Barry did really well. He laid on his side and drank water and ate pieces of the turkey burger patty I was eating. This time was quite a lot longer than the previous day. We had a waitress and waited until after we were done eating before paying and leaving unlike at the Italian cafe where we paid first and had the option to leave at a moments notice.

Since you both had a beer I'll be the designated driver.
I think all in all it went very well. Barry mostly sat and laid down but toward the 35 minute mark at the bar/grill he did start to get a little antsy. He wanted to get moving. Next time I'd bring a toy or a bone for him to chew on, something to keep him occupied. It was pretty successful. I wasn't sure how well he'd do at first but he exceeded my expectations, as he tends to do.

Of course I did great. I mean, look at me. What else could come from this face?
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of our outings this time. I was focused on being in the moment and enjoying the day. I will be sure to take pictures next time.

Now it's nap time. Snuggling on the couch with Dad after
a good meal is tops.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Six Months

He's claimed all of our furniture and our hearts. Pretty corny, but it's sort of true.
It's been just over six months this week since we brought Barry home, since he flipped our lives upside down. I feel like I know so much about him and so little at the same time! He's been a great addition to our household and while he's given us some stressful moments he's returned to us more love than we bargained for. It really does cancel out any of the negative.

First day we brought Barry home.
That being said, I can totally see why someone wouldn't want to have a dog. It's clear that in order to take proper care of a dog you need to put in time and effort and probably a few tears. Well, at least for the Barry types. His excess young energy, his separation anxiety, and the fact that he is a pit bull type. Is it worth it? For Husband and me, yes, it is worth it. It might not be for others, though. I imagine some have a very busy life that just doesn't accommodate for a dog. Some can't afford the training and possible expensive furniture/clothing/floor replacements that many times go with having a dog. For others, they simply aren't cut out for it. All of those reasons are very valid for not having a dog. You are doing yourself and the dog a favor.

They take up all the room on the bed, but you let them because you
love them.
Barry has been and continues to be quite a handful. It's not a bad handful but a very big handful nonetheless. We could train him until perfection is reached. Then we'd need to be totally focused all the time on Barry and only Barry. Once perfection is reached Barry would be an angel and we wouldn't have any of these issues I so often blog about. What is the fun in that, though? While I admire those that put in so much effort, the kind that makes you blue in the face, Husband and I enjoy Barry as is. I mean, we have gone through training for the things that matter most (such as walking down the street without constant pulling) but all in all Barry is a really good dog already. He's cheeky, sure, and rambunctious occasionally, maybe even full-on naughty at times but he's a young dog. We love him like he is. He's mostly obedient, walks well almost all the time, and the majority of our furniture and clothing is fine.

Six months in and I'm head over heals with those sweet brown eyes already. I know Husband feels the same.

That is a baking soda box on the couch, for Barry's latest accident in the back room.
We still love him.