Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I've been a good dog this year. The best, really. So come Christmas morning, I expect to find everything on this list under the tree.
  • A new stuffed toy (because I chewed a hole in my last one, and the humans took it away)
  • A new antler (because I broke off a huge chunk of my last one, and the humans took it away)
  • A new Nylabone (because I chewed a hole in my last one, and guess what the humans did?)

In addition, maybe you could take away some of these things, since I don't need them.
  • My crate (the world is my crate)
  • My head collar and leash (they prevent me from chasing rabbits and eating trash)
  • My sister Mushroom (I'd like a new brother or sister that likes to play and doesn't steal my toys)
We don't have a chimney, so I'll leave the balcony door unlocked for you. We don't have a tree either, but you can just drop my presents off in front of my crate. I'll set out some Milkbones, but I can't guarantee that I Mushroom won't eat them first.

Thanks and merry Christmas,


P.S. Mushroom wants me to tell you that she wants all the other doggies in the shelters and rescues to find their forever homes. What a silly wish. You should probably just get her a lump of coal instead.

I'll be watching you

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mushroom Can't Turn

For the most part, Mushroom has been a rockstar in her reactive dog 2 class. She's jumped through hoops, stepped on platforms, pranced through horizontal ladders, and, most importantly, watched the other dogs in the class calmly. But you know how sometimes a student who generally gets good grades will completely fail their test in Health class because it has badly designed multiple-choice questions? Just giving a generic example... But yeah, Mushroom can't turn.

*womp womp*
In last week's class, we practiced shaping our dogs to walk around a chair. Mushroom gave up and sat in the chair instead. This week, we worked on getting them to spin in circles. Mushroom would spin halfway and then go back the way she came. I ended up having to hold the treat next to her butt to lure her, and even then, she'd sometimes just look at the treat as if she was deciding whether it was really worth it to do something as difficult as turn.

We have the next two weeks off, so her class resumes January 8th. In the meantime, we will be trying to teach her to turn. We've also given her the nickname Moolander.

Blue steel
Does your dog have that one thing they just can't do?

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Christmas Song

Mushroom the stinky pit bull
Had a stench from tail to nose
And if you ever smelled her
You would even say "That's gross!"

Who me?

All of the other doggies
Used to laugh and call her names
They never let poor Mushroom
Play in any doggy games

Like bitey-face

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
Mushroom with your stench so bright
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight

This doesn't involve being cold, does it?

Then how the doggies loved her
As they shouted out with glee
Mushroom the stinky pit bull
You'll be bathed sometime this week! (Hopefully...)


Do you write holiday songs about your dogs?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Crate and Rotate Routine

We live in a happy two-dog household, but you won't see any pictures of Badger and Mushroom snoozing together in a puppy pile because it's never happened. In fact, Badger and Mushroom are happiest when they're not together, so we've settled into a crate and rotate routine.

I don't think crate and rotate is publicized nearly enough as an alternative to rehoming a dog. As we like to say, Badger and Mushroom are both wonderful dogs, just separately.

I'm awesome
I beg to differ (and for treats)

Crate and rotate isn't only for dogs that are aggressive toward one another. In fact, Badger and Mushroom get along with each other and most other dogs. However, they are very excitable when they play together, so we need to always keep an eye on them, rewarding them for calm behavior and separating them if they get too rowdy.

Crate and rotate is also good for dogs that need to stay calm because of a medical condition. Mushroom was recovering from heartworm treatment when she first came to live with us. This is actually the reason we started to use crate and rotate.

Since L stays home with the dogs, one of the dogs will be crated in the morning/afternoon, and the dogs switch in the evening when I come home. We try to alternate which dog gets the "morning shift" vs the "night shift" because I only get to interact with the "night shift" dog on weekdays. For me, the biggest con about crate and rotate is that, on any given weekday, I can only spend time with one dog.

Can it be meeeee?

I've come to recognize that phasing out crate and rotate may not be a good goal for us. Rather, we should focus on helping Badger and Mushroom to be calm around each other. We purchased Patricia McConnell's "Feeling Outnumbered?" booklet yesterday, and I've been reading Dr. Sophia Yin's blog for tips about dog play.

Ultimately, whether we continue to crate and rotate will depend on what Badger and Mushroom are most comfortable with. I did catch them snuggling yesterday while they were waiting for treats.

Didn't get a picture of it, but here's one of both dogs

Thoughts on crate and rotate?
Thoughts on dogs being calm around each other?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What to do if you're approached by an off-leash dog

My version:

  1. Freeze
  2. Hope the off-leash dog doesn't hurt Badger or vice versa
  3. Wonder if I should be clicking and treating, or whether that would cause the off-leash dog to become aggressive
  4. Breathe a sigh of relief when the owner finally notices and calls his dog away
  5. Upon arriving home, report the situation to L, who calls the apartment complex (the off-leash dog and its owner live in our complex)
  6. Beat myself up for not reacting quickly enough / resolve to do better next time
  7. Feel proud of Badger for handling the situation much better than I did

Badger's version:
  1. Look
  2. Sniff
  3. Play bow
  4. Aw darn, it left before we could play
  5. Accept treats as a consolation
  6. Wonder why human is apologizing to me
  7. Accept belly rubs
Is that a belly rub over there?

What I should have done:

Hopefully the apartment manager will give this guy a talking-to for breaking the leash law, and we won't meet off-leash dogs anymore. (Wishful thinking!) I also realize how lucky I am to have been walking Badger instead of Mushroom. Next time, if I'm not frozen in shock, I'm going to try throwing treats at the dog and retreating.

Has your dog ever surprised you by handling a situation much better than you did?

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Graduate

Who has no thumbs and graduated last night?


Okay, so we didn't have a real graduation ceremony, hat, or certificate. And since it was a level 2 class, he went in already knowing basic commands. And Badger is still as Badger-y as ever (he jumped the baby gate to say hi to me this morning). But we're very proud that he's accomplished the following:

  • Jumped through a hula hoop
  • Touched an object with his nose
  • Touched an object with his paw
  • Laid down calmly on his mat
  • Stayed quiet while other dogs barked
  • Walked past people and dogs on a (mostly) loose leash
  • Looked at us instead of the treat
  • Greeted a new person without jumping
  • Ignored the cheeseburger (eventually)
  • Concentrated for the length of an entire 50-minute class period

Badger will have his "winter break" for a month, and then when Mushroom's current class finishes, we plan on enrolling them in a Control Unleashed class together. Let's hope he does his homework!

What "homework" are you doing with your dog this winter?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First, the bad news

...We were fired by our dog sitter. Well, nothing quite that dramatic, but we learned that Badger has in fact not been enjoying his staycations, and our dog sitter thinks that it would be best if we found another option for him during our Christmas trip. She did say that she would honor her previous commitment and be our backup if we couldn't find anything on such short notice, but thus continues our search for what to do with Badger when we travel.

Badger didn't do well when he was boarded at the vet's last Christmas, which was what prompted us to have a dog sitter come over in the first place. Because of this history, L is hesitant about any option that would require Badger to live away from home. It looks like the best-case scenario might be to find a live-in dog sitter. 

We're also exploring the possibility that Badger doesn't miss us so much as he doesn't want to be crated for so long while we're gone. Our dog sitter wondered if he would be less stressed if he was given the run of the apartment. So as part of our backup plan, we've been leaving Badger uncrated at night and using a baby gate to keep him out of our bedroom. 

A very toothy baby

We don't really have any good news yet. I guess the closest would be that so far we've left Badger out three nights in a row, and he hasn't chewed anything up.

Has anyone tried for dog sitting services? Any other suggestions?

Friday, November 30, 2012

I need a vacation to recover from my vacation

Oy vey. We went to visit L's family for Thanksgiving last weekend, and we brilliantly decided to take the overnight flight back. We landed in Boston at 7am Monday morning, and then I went to work. Hopefully after this weekend, I will finally have recovered from our vacation. Here's our trip in pictures.

We went to L's brother's house for our Thanksgiving meal
I forgot to take a picture of the turkey before carving it up

L's mom invited her photographer friend over to show us how to use our new camera

One of his tips was to photograph Badger in black & white

Another was to try out the star filter (I forget the technical term)

And we went to the Suns game and watched them beat the Hornets!

Badger and Mushroom had a much more relaxing vacation. They stayed home, and our dog sitter came over several times a day to walk, feed, and play with them. Our Thanksgiving trip was a blast, but I'm ready to spend this weekend napping and playing our new video games.

P.S. If you haven't already, check out these fundraisers / raffles that our blog friends are holding:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What we're thankful for

I feel like I'm always complaining about our dogs. But in reality, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have Badger and Mushroom. Part of it is just sentimentality, but part of it is because they're actually quite awesome!

Here's a list of what we're thankful for:

  • They loooove people
  • They don't chew the apartment, the furniture, or electronics cords
  • They were very quick to potty train and now rarely have accidents
  • They trust us
  • Badger is very good in new situations
  • Mushroom's reactivity has improved a lot
  • They're fun to hang out with
  • They're cuddly
  • They're fuzzy

Mushroom is thankful for noms

Badger is not thankful - he demands more belly rubs

Why are you thankful for your pets?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Early Christmas (Part 2)

If you haven't already, check out Part 1 here!

As it turns out, when L and I are faced with the decision to spend more money than we're comfortable with, we go all out and buy everything we've ever wanted. We would be terrible gamblers, but on the bright side, we now have tons of new video games.

First up is Skylanders, a game that I've had my eye on for almost a year. I loved the Spyro games as a kid, but you don't need to be familiar with the old Spyro games to enjoy Skylanders. Skylanders combines figurine collecting and video games in a clever marketing ploy. There are a few figurines included with the initial game purchase, and each figurine represents a different playable character. However, there are secret areas and items that can only be unlocked with certain character "types", so then you end up buying more figurines than your TV stand can comfortably hold.

This is only about half of our Skylanders set
My impression of Skylanders thus far is that it's a fun 2-player game for people of all skill levels. Each game level is relatively easy to complete, but if you're up for a challenge, you can gather all the optional collectibles (some of which require you to purchase new figurines - a challenge for your wallet). The game is designed to make swapping characters easy and unobtrusive. The two player figurines sit atop a wireless stone platform, and to swap characters, you just take one figurine off the platform and replace it with a different one. The game automatically pauses while you are swapping characters.

Our TV stand is quite crowded

There are two main changes that would make the game better. The first is the balloonist character, whom you meet in the opening scene. He is obnoxious and occasionally crosses the line into sexual harassment, which is setting a pretty inappropriate example in a game aimed at kids. Alas, all I can do is smack him around with my character. The second is a camera control issue. The game always shows both players onscreen, and players can only be a short distance away from one another. A few times, L and I have gotten stuck on the opposite side of obstacles. More annoyingly, one time we had to turn off the second player completely (it was the wrong character "type") to allow the first player to enter a bonus area. Allowing the players to be further apart by zooming out the camera would have made things a little easier.

Left side: PS Vita and games; right side: Nintendo 3DS and 1 game

We also got a PS Vita and a Nintendo 3DS. (See the part at the top where I said we bought everything.) The Vita actually just arrived in the mail yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to play it yet. I have been playing Harvest Moon: A New Beginning on the 3DS. The premise of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is that your character moves to a declining town, starts his or her own farm, and works on rebuilding the town. The player character also has the option of romancing and eventually even marrying one of the non-player characters. I haven't reached the marrying stage yet, but I have read that the only available romance options are opposite gender. This is a little disappointing because presumably farming and raising livestock are job skills that aren't affected by sexual orientation. Aside from that, the game has been pleasant but repetitive. There are a few secrets to be discovered and friendships to be gained, but mostly I just water my crops and gather insects. I am interested to see what areas I can unlock next, though.

And the gifts that keep on giving...

Ohai. I gave you poop

Not me. I don't give a shit

Does anyone else have a Vita or a 3DS? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A HUGE Milestone!

First, the camera business:
As winter is quickly approaching, and the sun sets earlier and earlier each day, I don't get many opportunities to take pictures with natural light. But that's what weekends are for! (Also: sleeping, laying on the couch, eating, falling asleep on the couch in the middle of eating, etc.)

Badger loves mugging for the camera

Even though we have a big sliding glass door, getting enough light for the photos was still a challenge. The camera kept giving me the "not enough light" warning, but when I reduced the shutter speed enough for the warning to go away, the pictures just came out as giant motion blurs. So I have dark pictures that I tried to "correct" using Snagit.

The original image

The result of messing with the "gamma" slider until I gave up

One of my photography enthusiast friends suggested getting an external flash so the light could bounce off the ceiling and look more natural. Has anyone else tried this with pets?

And now, the happiest day of my life year recent memory:
Some of you may recall that Badger and Mushroom are not the best of friends, rather, they are the squabbliest of siblings. After 9 months, we are still on a crate/rotate schedule and closely monitoring their interactions if they are both uncrated. This Sunday marked a HUGE milestone for us, because we were able to have both dogs uncrated in the apartment for the ENTIRE DAY!


Well, we cheated a little. In the afternoon, we went to a nearby lake to practice with our friend and her reactive dog Lilee. We were a little concerned about bringing Badger, because Lilee tends to be most reactive toward large black dogs and has reacted toward him in the past. We shouldn't have worried about either of them, because Badger and Lilee were both rock solid.

Note that I left out a certain little brown dog. As it turns out, Mushroom is highly reactive toward geese, and there was a whole flock of them hanging out on the shore. She wouldn't even take treats at the beginning, but eventually she was able to look at the geese without pulling toward them. I guess I'll count that as a small success, but we'll be going back in the future for some goose-desensitizing.

When we got back, Badger and Mushroom were tuckered out and spent the entire evening sleeping on their pillows. The humans may also have fallen asleep on the couch.

Have you celebrated any successes (both large and small) recently?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Early Christmas (Part 1)

We did it! L and I are the proud new owners of a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera - a camera so powerful, you can see the hairs inside Mushroom's nose and the taste buds on Badger's tongue (enlarge for full effect). We knew our dogs were gross, but it turns out they're even grosser than we thought!

That is one high-def nose

And some very detailed slobber

We also managed to solve our lighting problem, but not through any effort of our own. Since our apartment is pretty dimly lit, we were having to choose between taking blurry no-flash pictures or flash pictures of dogs with glowing demon eyes. For some unknown reason (we'll just call it magic), the D3200's flash doesn't make Mushroom's eyes glow.

Just enjoying a Nylabone larger than my head

And even though Badger's eyes still glow with regular flash, turning on the red-eye reduction function almost completely eliminates the problem.

Looking away from the camera also reduces red-eye

Next up is the process of learning how to use the camera. These pictures were all taken in aperture priority mode, which I've found to be the easiest to use with flash. Is it strange that I think Mushroom looks better with a lower aperture number (around f/5) while Badger looks better with a higher aperture number (around f/18)?

Other DSLR-users, what settings do you use to photograph your dogs?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reactive Dog, Selective Dog

Mushroom attended her first level 2 reactive dog class last night in a completely new (to her) location. We didn't get any pictures because L stayed home, so I was handling Mushroom the whole time. In case you've forgotten (I feel like we've been posting a lot more pictures of Badger), this is Mushroom.

Remember me?

There were only 4 dogs in the class, and 2 of them spent the first few minutes of class barking smack. Mushroom? She never lost focus and kept looking back at me for clicks and treats. Honestly, she was a lot calmer and better behaved than Badger was on his first day of group training (though the reactive dog class had barriers set up so she could only see 1 other dog plus the head of the tall dog). I'm thinking that after this set of reactive dog classes ends, Mushroom might be able to enroll in regular dog classes with Badger.

Badger, on the other hand, has had a couple of not-so-great incidents with other dogs over the past month. He was snarly toward a dog at play group that he hadn't met before. But after that particular dog left,
Badger was completely fine with all the other dogs there, some of which he'd also never met. Then, in a separate incident, another dog jumped at Badger, and their leashes got tangled, resulting in a snapping dog right up in Badger's face. No one was bitten in either incident, so I don't know how worried I should be, considering that he's also been just fine near a lot more other dogs.

Badger is weird with dogs. Most dogs he completely ignores. Some dogs, like Mushroom, he never leaves alone. And he even ignores Mushroom when he's on-leash. We've been considering enrolling him in a Control Unleashed class after he's done with his current class, so we will definitely check with the instructor about whether he'll be allowed in.

Can't I just skip straight to my CGC test?

On the other, other hand, Mushroom is fantastic when she's off-leash around other dogs - playful but appropriate. I don't even know anymore. I just feed them.

Do you know a reactive dog or a selective dog? Is there any link between the two?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weekend Recap: Beyond the Myth and Camera Misadventures

On Friday night, we watched Beyond the Myth the way it's intended to be viewed -- with a pit bull-type dog cuddled up next to you.

The Mush-dog, with flash

We actually watch a lot of documentaries, so I feel confident in saying that Beyond the Myth was excellent. It was able to present a lot of information about different people and locales without being confusing. I can't speak to how much the documentary would have changed someone's mind, because I've already done plenty of my own research. (Does cuddling count as research?)

There was a screen that showed the states that had laws prohibiting the banning of any particular breed, and I'm proud to say that, even though we didn't make it in time to be included in the documentary, Massachusetts' breed-neutral dog law took effect on Friday as well! This means that bans on pit bull-type dogs in cities such as Boston have been overturned. I'd do a celebration dog walk in my nearest overturned-BSL city if it weren't so darned cold.

On Sunday, we purchased a brand-new Canon PowerShot SX160 in the hopes that it would allow us to take better pictures of the dogs in our apartment. Photographing our dogs is a nightmare in so many ways: our apartment is dimly lit, the dogs move around, their eyes glow if we use flash, and Badger has black fur. As it turns out, we learned that a point-and-shoot is just not going to cut it for our purposes. The following pictures of Badger were taken with the Canon PowerShot SX160. When compared with the above picture of Mushroom, taken with a cell phone camera, they're pretty much the same.

Badger profile, with flash

Our no-flash pictures didn't fare so well

Not even in the most well-lit room of our apartment, the bathroom

So what's next? The folks at Pitlandia recently purchased a DSLR camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i. We've also heard the same camera recommendation from one of our friends, who also suggested a studio light.. (Surprisingly, it's not that expensive -- cheaper than getting 5 new lamps or 2 new dogs that stay absolutely still.)

If we're making the leap to DSLR, what should be our starter camera?
Also, any tips regarding the low light situation?

Friday, November 2, 2012

I Can't Has Cheezburger

Last week in Badger's training class, we worked on "leave it" using cheeseburgers. Badger was a tricky little guy, lulling us into a false sense of security before he would lunge at the burger. One time, he even managed to grab it with his paw, but L pulled him away before he ate any. Then, the trainer had us walk the cheeseburger gauntlet.

I can has?

Nope, guess not

I also caught some pictures of the windows decorated for Pit Bull Awareness Day.

The brown dog on the left looked a little like Mushroom

That's Lilly the Hero Pitbull in the middle!
Badger actually licked one of my nachos last night, so I guess we have a lot more work to do on "leave it". How does your dog do when faced with delicious temptation?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adoptables at the Bully Walk

We saw several adoptable dogs at the Bully Walk on Saturday. I thought this was a great way for the dogs to get exposure, and I managed to take pictures of two of them.

Hi, my name is Willow!
Willow is the dog I would have gone home with if we weren't already full up on dogs. She is a friendly pocket pittie, and she's one of the few dogs that can manage to stay calm around people even though she loves them. Her tail was going 100 miles an hour, but she never tried to jump on me. I kept asking L to hold Badger's leash while I ran over to pet Willow. This awesome little pittie is available through MassPAWS.

Hi, my name is Pickles!
Pickles is a little puppy who I found standing on a picnic table as we were heading back to our car after the event. I didn't get to interact with him as much as I would have liked, but he posed calmly for his picture. Again, I was surprised by how well he was taking the excitement. I didn't even realize that he was a puppy until I looked him up on Petfinder. Pickles is adoptable through BraveHeart Pit Bull Rescue.

I hope these two wonderful pitties get adopted quickly!