Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall is Almost Here!

Labor day weekend is this weekend. We'll be going to visit Husband's mom in Wisconsin and plan to do some hiking if the weather permits.

It has been quite rainy here in the middle/upper midwest. Rain and more rain. It's been humid and sticky when not raining.

Walking Barry becomes quite the task if it's raining. Sometimes we try and wait it out, see if it lets up a bit. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. We can only wait so long. Poor guy's gotta go out and we can't just deny him potty time. We've been caught in torrential downpour out walking Barry more than a few times. It's not the end of the world but I wouldn't say I enjoy it. I think Barry doesn't mind most rain. He just shakes it off and keeps truckin'. The hard downpours are what he doesn't like. I've never seen him not want to go out on a walk except when it's raining cats and dogs.

Anyhow, rain or shine, summer or fall, Barry still needs to go out. I'm not really done with summer yet but I can't stop fall from coming. When fall gets here then winter is right around the corner. Time to stock up on some sturdy winter-wear for Barry. I know some people are against dressing their dogs but Barry is nearly bald (as I've explained before) on his belly and inner thighs. It gets bone chilling cold here in Chicago. If the cold doesn't bother you then the wind coming off of lake Michigan will. It will slice right through your cute parka and dainty leather winter boots. Style is out the window in winter. That even goes for Barry. He must wear something that covers him a little. The slush, snow, ice, ugh, why am I talking about this already? It's not even technically September just yet.

Don't eat the yellow snow!!
We're also coming up on 9 months with Barry. Soon it will be one year. I think rather than trying to guess his birthday and do birthday parties for him we can do anniversaries with Barry. December third of this year will be one year! I'll have to start thinking about what we can do for him.

We've endured one winter with Barry which included The Polar Vortex. I think we can handle about anything else that comes our way (winter-wise) at this point. Or maybe I shouldn't say that. I wouldn't want to endure another winter like that again. It was brutal but we still had to take Barry out, bundling ourselves up and Barry.

One of the best things we found out about was the Pawz Dog Boots. It keeps the snow and slush away from the inside of the toes and it's still thin enough that your dog has a good grip and is using his own paws for walking which feels more natural. Some people really like the hard soled shoes for their dogs to keep feet warm during the winter but we have never used them and so can't say one way or another about them.

There I go, on about winter again. Let's just enjoy these last few warm days we get and revel in all the fun fall stuff to come (pumpkin lattes & beers, stews, comfy sweaters, football, and the turning trees).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Letter to Barry

Dear Barry,

If you could read and understand what I'm telling you then I'd tell you this:

I hope you are happy with us. I hope you feel like you are safe and loved. I am pretty sure you are happy. You seem excited to see us when we come home, you insist on sitting next to or on us, you always want to get into bed with us at night, and you seem content.

I hope you know we will never abandon you. We can hardly bear to leave you during the work week so there is no chance we could give up on you and abandon you. I hope you don't feel neglected or sad when we leave during the week. I miss you during the day but I know you're safe at home and that the dog walker will come to break up the monotony for you in the middle of the day.

I hope we've never scared you or confused you. We probably have. People are pretty confusing. I hope you have forgotten any of that and have moved on already. If I've ever shouted at you and made you trust me less, I'm sorry.

You're a whole lot of work but it's the good kind. It's the kind that we are rewarded with daily. We enjoy watching you run and play. We like just sitting around while you lay out across the couch and take up all the space. We love your personality and how silly you are. We just can't get enough of you.

I accept that you have a natural instinct to hunt small animals, like squirrels. They drive you nuts. I hope you can understand that when we see a squirrel and I pull you away and turn back the way we came that I'm not mad at you. I just need you to be under my control and it's hard for me to control you when you are trying to chase a squirrel. It's also not acceptable for you to act that way in the city with all these humans around. Humans look at you like a mean predator sometimes and they become frightened when you start displaying your hunting instincts. In order to keep the peace and for others to not become frightened or worse, go to the police because you are out of control, I need to pull you away. It's for your own good more so than mine. It's because I'd like to keep you around. You live in our world and our world has rules that you can't understand and that may not seem fair. It's the only way I can protect you from those that don't know you.

I do respect you and respect that you're a dog, as much as I want to treat you like my baby. I know you're a dog and your needs are different. I respect that. I also am thankful that you love to curl up next to me and on me. I love that you enjoy being close and don't mind hugs. It makes me happy. I'm thankful that you're a relaxed and easy going guy too. You can be on-alert and excited outside but you are a pretty great dog all the time. Even when you're excited outside you look to me and walk next to me.

In the end I feel like I hit the jackpot with you. You are strong, loyal, lovable, fun, and you've added a new and interesting dimension to my life. I love you and I'm glad you're part of the family.

With love,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We're Still Here!

You can't see me. I'm not here.
Don't worry readers! We are still here. I've just been quite busy and there hasn't been much to talk about lately.

My cover is blown. They know I'm here. This blanket did not do it's job. So now
I'm going to chew on it.
I'm doing some brainstorming and trying to come up with some more good posts. I think we all need breaks once in a while. Even though it's only blogging it can still be time consuming along with the daily grind (full time job, dinner, cleaning, husband, dog, car issues, etc.).

I give up. I need a break. 
Hopefully I'll think of some great new posts to come up with next week. This week my blogging brain needs a rest but don't worry. We're not going anywhere!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Learn, We Grow

About a month ago Husband suggested a change in our routine. Not Barry's just ours. In the morning time during the work week Husband will walk Barry while I can catch up on a little sleep, shower up, or whatever. After work I will take Barry out for his walk while Husband relaxes, catches up on some work, or whatever. Then our final evening walk will include the three of us. I was a tiny bit nervous about this at first. Not overly nervous, just slightly. I have walked Barry by myself a number of times. They all end up with a happy dog and we are home safe and sound. I'm not sure why I worry so much. In general I don't really worry about much. Just about Barry and I probably over think how I handle situations with him.

Keeping my eye on you...
Since we've updated our routine I've found time in the morning to do a little tidying or even sleep in an extra twenty minutes or so (which sometimes is very very much needed). In the afternoons when I walk Barry it always turns out to be a joyful thing. Since I rarely walked Barry without Husband present I just assumed he was only really amazing on walks with Husband and that he would not listen to me once we got outside. Turns out I was very wrong. Barry listens very well and he walks right by my side and even looks to me often as we're walking. The first walk I took Barry on, once this new switch took place, I was shocked at how great he was.

Stop worrying,  Mom!
Once again, I've said it before, it's me. I can't really explain it because I don't understand it myself. Even though I know and see how good Barry is, for some reason I just continue to have the idea that Barry won't listen to me on a walk and we'll encounter a gang of squirrels where Barry will break free of my grip and run away and I'll lose him forever. I just think the worst. I don't know why because I'm not like that in any other scenario in life. I'm probably one of the easiest going type of people you'd ever meet. I can't seem to completely get over this little bit about Barry quickly enough.

Silly human. I'm here to stay.
Beyond that, the alone time with Barry and walking him during the week without Husband present is therapeutic for me. Therapeutic as in helping me to relate better to Barry and seeing how Barry respects and appreciates me similar to the way he does with Husband. I think it's making me understand that Barry CAN have a great walk with me, that Barry DOES listen to me, and that it doesn't have to be a worse-case scenario outcome all the time.

I'm a good listener doggone it.
I've come a long way in my understanding of dogs in general and Barry as an individual. Eight months and counting.

Barry is at the back of the picture smiling big. He did great at daycare
and had fun all day.
A daycare update: We took Barry to daycare on Saturday. He was there from 7:30 AM until about 5:45 PM. He got all good remarks. No mounting, he did not go into timeout, and had an amazing day with his new friends. It was the biggest relief to hear that Barry remembered he wasn't allowed to mount and that he learned to not do it at all.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Great Weight Update

After increasing Barry's calories he gained a few pounds back within a week. I will be sure to continue to give him two full cups of The Honest Kitchen and add a smaller ratio of water compared to the food from now on. I was trying to stretch out the use of the food since it is quite pricey. Unfortunately I can't stretch it out. So pound for pound, this food, while superior in quality to Blue Buffalo, has less calories and will be used  about 15 - 20 days faster. So, the hunt is still on for the perfect food! I know, I know... Why keep switching? It's true that Barry is doing excellent on this food but here are the cons that go with this.
  • EXPENSIVE - We don't mind spending $100 per month on Barry's main source of food. This stuff will come out to about $150 per month (I did the math so I'm not taking a wild guess). That doesn't even include all the other things we get for him (treats, beef tripe, bones, etc.).
  • HIGH MAINTENANCE - We were already used to the high maintenance aspect of giving Barry food (adding in pumpkin, kefir, etc.) but it was still quite low maintenance compared to this stuff. I'm still not really sure how much he's supposed to get. There is a guide on the back for one day's worth of food so then I'd split that in half. However, I like to make a few days worth at a time because it is so time consuming to make and let soak. If you don't let it soak for at least 3 hours it's like soup. 
  • TASTE? - Barry likes it enough. He doesn't love it. Even though that is not what would make us NOT buy it (we'll make Barry eat whatever we give him or he won't eat) it's something to consider. Perhaps he doesn't like the mushy texture? We still want him to enjoy his food.
  • USAGE - This stuff goes fast. In order to give Barry enough calories we have to go through it quickly. 
This boy's gotta eat!
The biggest one is the expense. If you have a small to smallish dog and can afford this stuff do it. Obviously we're willing to pay quite a good amount in order to keep Barry happy and healthy. I can't see spending $150/month (on average over the course of a year) for his food. We really, really want to continue using The Honest Kitchen but there are a couple of other brands out there that have just as good quality, whole ingredients, are ranked just as high, have a great reputation, and are more cost effective. That doesn't mean it will be better for Barry and if not we'll switch again. We will, of course, do the slow-slow switch so as not to upset his delicate tummy. The switch will happen just like when we switched him from Blue Buffalo to The Honest Kitchen. No tummy troubles whatsoever because we did it the right way.

Anyhow, we'll be ordering a new food soon so we can start the process. In fact we ran out of The Honest Kitchen Tuesday! We ordered more on Friday evening thinking we'd still have enough by the time the food got delivered (we thought it would be delivered on Tuesday evening). Well, the food didn't get delivered on Tuesday, but instead on Wednesday. We just didn't foresee this food going so fast and though we had time. Again, to my point, this stuff goes shockingly fast. We weren't prepared when it was suddenly low so we ordered quickly but it wasn't fast enough. I feel bad that we ran out of Barry's food but we just aren't used to the way this food works. I'm sure anyone that uses this would need to get used to it. 

Oh the things we do for Barry!

That's right. He's allowed on the couch.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Dog Park Dilemma

For over a month Husband and I have known about a new dog park that was to open soon. We didn't know when it would open but it looked completed each time we walked by except there was a padlock and construction tarp over the gates keeping the public out.

We'd walk by late at night during the times when most people would be back at home with their dogs ready to go to bed. One day the construction tarp came off but the park was still padlocked. It looked ready to be used but still nothing.

Finally last Friday it opened to the public! We couldn't wait until our late evening walk with Barry to go check it out and see if it really opened. It was. There were a few other dogs in the park along with their owners. One dog Barry had played with before at our secret park and his name is Trooper. We felt it was a good group of people who wouldn't judge Barry based on his breed. This is important to us.
Though, one couple left with their dog as soon as we entered. It could be coincidence so we'll just leave it at that.

There was Nella, Trooper, Miles, and Barry. Nella was Barry's favorite. He couldn't keep his nose away from her. She seemed to like him too. They ran back and forth and back and forth. Barry even chased a ball. He's no good with fetch, that's not something we have worked with him on yet as we have more important things to work with him on at this point. Miles and Trooper were pros at fetch.

This park is such a welcome addition to our neighborhood. We've taken Barry to another dog park about 3/4 of a mile away (again it was late at night and there was only one dog in there at that time). It's a nice park too but it's about 1/3 the size of this new park and it's all cement. The new park has seating for people, a gazebo for shade, and turf with some small pebbles along the sides for doggies to dig in and poo if needed. Plus it's right across from Barry's other favorite spot.

Then we took Barry again on Saturday evening. There were only a few dogs again because it was very late. It was a different crowd this time. There was a guy with two pit bulls and he asked us to wait to enter because he needed to leash his dogs, saying they weren't good with other pitbulls (this should have served as warning to us and we should have just told him we'd be back later and not enter at that time). He was a new owner, he told us. Barry ran around and played, running back and forth. He sniffed some of the dogs, they sniffed him and then he went to meet the two leashed pitbull dogs. Now, leashed dogs surrounded by unleashed dogs with a nervous new owner can make the leashed dogs uncomfortable and frustrated. That is exactly what they were. I saw Barry with the dogs and they began to growl and bark. Barry responded with what appeared to be an attempt to mount one of the dogs. The owner told me to grab my dog and I pulled Barry away. Barry was ready to play. Then the guy, after inspection of his dogs, said, "There's blood." I went over and noticed that on the snout of one of the dogs there was a tiny scratch. 1/4 inch and a spot of blood. Every time Barry plays with a dog that is his size or bigger he gets a scratch. He just does. I have assumed this was normal and just goes with the territory. Even when there is no aggression or frustration he gets little scratches. We asked to see that everything was okay and the guy did say that it was just a small scratch and it was okay. The scratch didn't seem like a big deal to me but I gave the guy my number because he seemed so distressed about it and in case anything developed from the scratch, and then we left the park.

Currently, I don't recommend taking pitties to a dog park in general. For us we know Barry won't hurt any dog or person. He's just not going to do it, unless you count a scratch from playing as something harmful. However, we'd never bring him during the daytime when many dogs and people would be at the park. We'd prefer only a couple of dogs along with open minded, or I should say informed people, who won't judge Barry based on how handsome he is. Because that's how they are judging him, right? Since he's so handsome they're jealous their dog isn't that handsome. I like the people that are confident that their dog is handsome too and aren't jealous. No need for jealousy. The dogs certainly don't judge one another based on looks.

We will be very cautious from now on when considering if we should bring Barry to the park. I think we will prefer there to be no dogs in the park at all if we could have it our way or only go in based on who's in the park. It was our mistake to go into the park where the owner was uncomfortable with his own dogs. That should have been our cue to just leave and come back later or the next day.

I have no doubt that the dog with the scratch is fine. I hope the owner of that dog can understand that he has two very strong dogs that like to play hard and that scratches will happen. To us it was very surreal to have the owner react to us and our dog in the way that he did when he himself owns two pitbulls. We can just chalk this up to yet another learning experience.

As a final note, I started this post before we went on Saturday evening to the dog park. I brought my iPhone to take some shots of Barry playing in the park and it was my intention to post them here. However, since the attitude turned so quickly in the park that evening no pictures were taken.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Doggie Daycare - The Report Card

Barry, Husband, and I walked the 1 mile trip to Tucker Pup's for his first day at "school". Barry was beyond excited as we walked in the doors (just as he was the day we toured the facility). We were greeted with smiling faces and a few other people with their dogs for daycare or boarding. We were given a few pointers, were able to watch Barry for a moment in play, and we were off. I felt good about the situation, thinking that Barry would do just great as they gave him the thumbs up on our way out.

At 12:38 PM I was getting a Chicago area call coming in and I knew it had to be Tucker Pup's. I answered the call and was told several things.

  • Barry has a dominance issue (mounting - this we knew was an occasional issue)
  • Barry has been in time-out 3 times (he was in when I spoke with the guy & could hear Barry wailing)
  • Barry is starting trouble with other dogs (mounting other dogs and the other dogs don't like it)
  • Barry is normal for a first day of daycare and everything is okay (i.e. Barry's not kicked out yet)
  • Barry plays really well with other dogs... until he starts mounting them.

None of those things were how I imagined Barry's first day would go. We've seen Barry mount other dogs in play a few times but once he's called off he stops. He also typically plays with smaller dogs and he's great with them. I did mention that to the guy on the phone as well, but doubted Barry would ever be placed in the small dog play group. Just imagine it... There would be horrified dog owners for sure - their small dog in a play group with a big pitbull!

The guy told me not to worry but he wanted me to know because he wasn't sure if he'd be able to speak directly with me when I came in to pick Barry up since he'd probably be off work by then. I was pretty upset with the news but also felt good about Barry being in good hands. I have no doubt about their honesty as I know how Barry can be.

There were no fights at that point, just Barry riling up the crowd and mounting all his new friends. So it's a dominance issue... The guy said that Barry would be put in time out each time it got to be too much so that Barry could associate his rude (my word) behavior with time out. In a daycare setting it's unacceptable for a dog (Barry) to upset and anger other dogs. Dogs can handle only so much. Just like people. There is a point where we explode, just like dogs. It was for Barry's safety (and so he can learn) and also for the the other dog's sanity.

I feel bad that Barry had to be put in time out, in a crate, BUT I would rather that than Barry start a full on fight. The people watching the large active dogs play group (that's the play group Barry was placed in at first) need to protect themselves and all the dogs.

For the rest of the day until I went to walk to pick Barry up I was nervous and anxious. Wondering if anything else had happened or if he would be in time out when I got there.

When I got there I was assured everything was okay. Barry was a bit rambunctious but was good with the small dogs. Yes, Barry got to play with the small dogs for a while. I was told that it was normal for some dogs to act this way and that Barry was probably overwhelmed. He continued to get time outs throughout the day and one such time out included an alone time in the outdoor play area with a Tucker Pup's employee. She said he needed a moment by himself to regroup and just breathe. I like that they did this for him. Barry does get quite overwhelmed with things going on around him. It's part of his anxiety issue. We work through it and he does well around us but around new people and new dogs I'm sure it'll just take time.

Photo taken at Tucker Pup's. This was probably taken when he was by
himself outside with a Tucker Pup's employee in a timeout.
Overall he did well for his first day and it was recommended we bring him again in a week or so to get him acclimated and used to playing with dogs one on one and in a group setting. It'll be good for him to learn the basic playing skills and enjoy himself a little more. We're hoping that his next visit will be a lot better and that he won't try mounting all of his new friends all day long.

This was Barry after he ate a little dinner. He was pooped after daycare.