Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Songs About Badger

When I was showering this morning, I sang one of my silly songs about Badger and thought "I should post this on my blog". Then I got to work and read this post from Love and a Six-Foot Leash, and I knew I needed to post the Badger songs. So here goes nothing!

"Badger Theme" (Sung to the tune of the Spiderman theme)
Badger-face, Badger-face
Does whatever a Badger can
Chews his toys, eats his food
Sniffs around and grabs our shoes
(Also: Sniffs around and takes a poo)
Look out!
Here comes the Badger-face

"I love it here! It smells like feet!"

"Badger-Face vs Mushroom-Face" (Sung to the tune of "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants)
Badger-face, Badger-face
Doing the things a Badger can
What's he like? Kind of a jerk

Is he a dog, or is he a seal?
When he's underwater does he get wet?
Or does the water turn black instead?
Guess which one, Badger-face

Mushroom-face, Mushroom-face
Mushroom plays with Badger-face
They have a fight, no one wins
(Also: They have a fight, Badger wins)
Dogs in crates

"Let us out! We promise we'll be good!"

Happy 1st Birthday, Badger!

Last June, we adopted a 15-lb "Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix" puppy. Awww...

Some time in the past 8 months, the cute little puppy pictured above grew into the monstrosity pictured below.

This morning, we found a 45-lb demonic seal waiting for its breakfast. AHHH!

During this time, he has destroyed the following:
  • One dog bed
  • One Cowboys pillow (it's okay, I never did like the Cowboys)
  • One froggy glove (Llamaentity may never forgive this transgression)
  • Four stuffies
  • One rubber chicken
  • Two "indestructible" rubber toys
  • One Gentle Leader headcollar
  • One squeaky Kong donut
  • Two toys belonging to a friend's dog (one of which was brand new)
  • Some skin on my hand and a fingernail, from pulling on his leash
  • Our ability to lead normal social lives

Here are the things he has brought into our lives:
  • Ticks
  • Tapeworms (both have since been taken care of)
  • Daily exercise
  • New places to explore, such as a hiking trail, a pond, and a rail trail
  • Dog-friendly events, such as UMass Lowell's Pucks & Paws night
  • A reason to wake up on weekends
  • The pitbull blogging community (and indirectly, Mushroom)
  • A slobbery tongue
  • Hilarious facial expressions
  • A warm, fuzzy footrest for cold winter nights
  • Unconditional love (okay, that's probably more for the treats than for us)

It's almost an even trade - he just owes Llamaentity one froggy glove.

Badger waiting for his "birthday cake" (kibble, peanut butter, canned pumpkin, and a biscuit)

Badger actually pulled the biscuit out and took it to his dog bed to eat first

Badger's birthday present - a squeaky bone which hurt Llamaentity's ears and was taken away after half an hour

So happy 1st birthday, Badger! We can't wait until you're old and calm.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On Gendering Dogs

Llamaentity and I are not so big on gender roles. We don't believe that people should be conditioned to a set of personality traits, behaviors, and desires based on biological sex. We think it would be a much better world if things weren't coded as "masculine" or "feminine", and people felt comfortable doing things that interested them and being who they wanted to be. In fact, if we ever end up parenting human children (not anytime in the foreseeable future), we'd want to encourage them to have interests on both sides of the "gender binary".

So how does this extend to our dogs? Honestly, not as well as I'd hoped.

1. Gender-neutral names: It's not like we named them Mickey and Minnie, but gender-neutral names are made pointless by gendered pronouns. When I talk to my coworkers about the dogs, I find myself correcting them if they call Mushroom a "he" or Badger a "she". It's going to be difficult, but I should stop doing this. The dogs don't have any particular attachment to their pronouns, and it doesn't matter if Mushroom the "he"-dog pooped on the carpet or if Mushroom the "she"-dog did it.

Smallish dogs or enormous mice?

 2. When we praise our dogs, we don't say "good boy" or "good girl". We try to praise the specific task, such as "good sit". This isn't really a gendering choice; I just read somewhere that it helps to be specific. When both of them are in the same area, though, we say "good sit, Mushroom" or more rarely, "good sit, Badger".

3. The Rubit incident: When I ordered Rubit clips for the dogs' tags, I didn't specify color. We received a black one and a pink one. "Which one should we give Badger?" I asked Llamaentity, who was engrossed in a video game. "The black one," replied Llamaentity matter-of-factly. So I put Badger's tags on the black Rubit, even though I thought it was uncharacteristic of Llamaentity to pass up an opportunity to switch up gender norms. Later that night, I asked what Llamaentity's reasoning was for giving Badger the black Rubit as opposed to the pink one. "Oh, you were talking about Rubits? I thought you were talking about Kongs!" Fail.

Only one of these Kongs will fit in Mushroom's tiny mouth

 4. Flowers and/or bowties: The dogs currently have neither because we're a little on the broke side after buying all of Mushroom's necessities. To be fair and non-gendered, we decided that either both dogs would wear bowties or both dogs would wear flowers. Llamaentity prefers flowers and loves elephants, so we've been eyeing these. I'll just have to bite my tongue every time someone calls Badger a "pretty girl". (Or be prepared to explain that Badger is a "pretty boy" who believes that flowers aren't only for girls.)

This is Flipperphant and O'Gator. The dogs are not allowed to play with them, by decree of Llamaentity

How about you?
Do you correct people when they refer to your male dog as "she" or vice versa?
Do you deck your dog(s) out in gendered items? Why or why not?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Honey Badger Don't Care

Badger's collar, which we got from Stinky & Sweet Pea on Etsy:

Doggy Badger don't care that his collar is upside down

He also has a matching Space Invaders collar and leash set, which we got from Very Vintage on Etsy.

In other news, we switched the dogs back to California Natural from Natural Balance because Badger was going #2 something like 5 times a day. Hopefully his bathroom habits will normalize. The odd thing is that California Natural adult food pellets are almost spherical in shape, whereas both California Natural puppy food and Natural Balance pellets are flat discs.

Top: California Natural chicken & rice. Bottom: Natural Balance sweet potato & duck

In other other news, the vet did not have time for Mushroom today, so we will be taking her back for her health certificate sometime next week.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Collar / Leash

Guess what was waiting in the mail for me when I got home? Mushroom's new Sirius Republic collar and matching leash!

Mushroom modeling the "Shrooms" collar and leash

And yes, Badger's collar does have badgers on it. I'll try to get around his big head and take a picture of it.

Good News and Bad News

First the bad news: We had originally scheduled a private training consultation for Friday evening, but due to a scheduling conflict with the vet, our consultation has been moved to Tuesday. This means yet another weekend of either trying to deal with an overexcited Badger or the crate and rotate routine. Sadly, we find it all too easy to just keep both of them crated, because Mushroom growls at Badger when he's out of his crate. We really hope the training consultation on Tuesday will help us be able to help them get along.

Now the good news: Mushroom is going to the vet on Friday to make sure she is heartworm-free and receive her health certificate! This will bring us one step closer to finalizing the adoption. Also, she is no longer under exercise restrictions, though we might wait for our replacement Gentle Leader to arrive before taking the dogs on walks together.

Since Mushroom is cleared for exercise now, I'm really tempted to let them both loose and "sort things out themselves". I've read in multiple places that this is a bad idea, but I've also read that humans get way too worried over harmless dog play. The problem is, Llamaentity and I can't tell the difference between playing and fighting, plus we would prefer to stop play *before* it escalates into a fight. Currently, the behaviors for which we stop play are: Badger knocking Mushroom down and standing over her for an extended period of time, Mushroom gnawing on Badger's leg, and Badger's continued refusal to listen to commands during playtime. So far, neither dog has drawn blood, which makes me wonder if we're being too overprotective. What would you do?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vote for Badger and Mushroom!

Vote for Badger and Mushroom in the Karma Collars Double Dog Dare contest! You can vote for up to 20 pictures per day. (Note: Requires Facebook app permissions.)

Here's the link:

Yes, Badger always looks like that

Also, let me know if your dogs are in the contest, and I'll vote for you as well.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn 2 Review (Spoiler-Free)

In the ruins of a once-glorious city, a little girl is trapped atop a tower. It is up to you to make your way up the tower by entering a series of wall paintings and solving their puzzles. Along the way, you learn more about the girl, her special history, and the insidious forces that are keeping her confined in the tower. The sequel, Drawn 2, picks up right where the first game left off.

Drawn is my favorite iOS game thus far and one of the best point-and-click adventure games I've played regardless of platform. The only complaint I had about the first game was that the movement controls were a bit unclear. There were a few times where I meant to enter a painting and accidentally walked away from it, or vice versa. The sequel, Drawn 2, corrects this problem by showing an arrow when you first tap on the screen and requiring a second tap on the arrow in order to move.

The art is delightfully dystopian and draws (no pun intended) a sharp contrast between the dark, crumbling tower and the colorful, lively worlds that exist in each painting. The soundtrack is so mood-appropriate that it's almost unnoticeable. Ominous, sad, orchestral music plays in the tower, while, for example a painting of a meadow is accompanied by the springy chorus of birds, crickets, and a babbling brook. In a good accessibility decision, the sound is never required for playing the game. It does not confer any hints or advantages, there are no puzzles requiring sound, and all of the cut scenes are both voice-acted and subtitled.

I actually preferred the cut scenes in the first game over those in the sequel. The first game tended to have cut scenes that were related to the puzzle, while the second game has a lot of cut scenes portraying the antagonist. The sequel seems to have more cut scenes overall as well.

The puzzles are appropriate for a range of ages and skill levels. On the easy end, some puzzles took me only a few touches to complete, while one puzzle took me over an hour (to be fair, I was simultaneously watching basketball). There is an objective bar in the left corner that gives a subtle hint as the objective title. When you tap it, it gives a specific step to take. If you're really stuck, there is a "Hint" button in the lower right corner that will show a picture of the area with a circle around the solution.

I've tried to use the objectives and hints as sparingly as possible, but using them definitely does not ruin the game because it is very story-driven. In fact, for actual puzzles (not objects you need to gather to unlock puzzles), there is a "Skip Puzzle" option that shows up at the top of the screen after a certain amount of time. I have not used that option yet, but it probably completes the puzzle, allowing the player to continue with the story. There are at least two puzzles that rely heavily on color matching/recognition, so the skip option could come in handy for people with colorblindness.

The game does have a chivalry motif at various times, depicting a male knight slaying a dragon to save a woman. However, the player character does not (yet) have a defined gender, though I have not completed Drawn 2, so a gender may be revealed at the end. I hope the player character's gender remains undefined; it would be a bit of a letdown to find out at the end that my character was a stereotypical male hero.

At $7 per game, they are on the pricey side, but there is plenty of content to make them worth the money. Drawn took me about 10 hours to complete, and I've put in about 8 hours on Drawn 2 so far. I will most likely not replay the games, but there is some replay value if you are going for achievements that were missed the first time around. If you like point-and-click adventure games and/or beautifully illustrated fantasy worlds, I cannot recommend Drawn and Drawn 2 more highly.

Have you played Drawn or Drawn 2? What did you think?
Do you have any questions that weren't covered in the review?
Do you have another game suggestion for people who liked Drawn/Drawn 2?
(Please, no spoilers in the comments.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Look What's On PostSecret!

Happy 1st Birthday, Mushroom!

The cake - peanut butter and kibble, topped with pumpkin "frosting" and a bacon treat candle

It hasn't been an easy year for you, going from the streets and a teen pregnancy to a high-kill shelter. But the kind folks at ARNNE took you in, and things have been looking up ever since. We've only been in your life for two weeks, but we can promise you that you'll always have a loving home (with an annoying brother, sorry about that one). You'll always be fed, you'll have plenty of toys, and you'll get lots of cuddles. So here's to making it through your first year, and here's to all the wonderful years to come. Happy birthday, Mushroom!

Mushroom is eating so fast she can hardly be captured on camera

Cleaning up

Friday, February 17, 2012

When It's Not All Rainbows and Unicorns

"How are the dogs?" my mom asked over the phone. "They're fine", I answered, "Mushroom hasn't had an accident since her first day."

Wasn't me - the other dog did it

Okay, so I fibbed because I didn't want my mom to be worried. Mushroom may have succeeded with housetraining, but the dogs are anything but fine. It's been two weeks since their first meeting, and their interactions with each other leave much to be desired.

When they are playing with each other, we have a hard time getting Badger's attention. We can call Mushroom away and make her sit for a treat, but Badger will continue trying to play with her. Additionally, bowling-ball Badger is considerably larger and tougher than the petite Mushroom. He easily knocks her over and proceeds to stand on top of her, while she's reduced to gnawing on his ankles. Since he doesn't listen to warning growls, she has started biting him to get him away from her. While these bites have not broken skin, they have torn out small clumps of his fur. The other day, a bite from Mushroom aggravated Badger enough to start snapping at the air. Since then, we have stuck strictly to crate and rotate.

Two seconds later, they were fighting again

We're quickly running out of ideas, but here are the ones we haven't tried yet:
  1. Use extremely high-value treats, in the hopes that Badger will respond consistently when we call him out of play. Badger has gotten less treat-motivated in the past few months, though.
  2. Buy a baby gate to allow them to both be out but not playing. Neither of us has any idea how to train dogs to respect baby gates. Also, the dogs are already capable of being quietly crated next to each other with little effect on how well they play together.
  3. Go back a step and only allow the dogs near each other if leashed. Badger pays much more attention to us on leash. The downside is that they cannot play at all on leash, because their leashes get tangled, and Mushroom gets upset.
  4. Hire a professional trainer. We've been holding off on this option because of the cost involved, but we know this is our best bet. I did a trainer search on the APDT website and am going to start contacting trainers over the weekend. A private session looks like it can range anywhere from $50 to $250, depending on the trainer and the location.
  5. Finally, if all else fails (or if we run out of money to pay trainers), we would put them permanently on a crate and rotate routine.
 Has anyone faced a similar situation? Has anyone tried any of these tactics? And last but not least, does anyone have comforting words or a success story?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm Scared of (Squishing) My Pitbull

While Badger is maybe part pitbull or some other big-headed, deep-chested bully breed, our new dog Mushroom is what the layperson would easily identify as a pitbull (though we think she's a miniature bull terrier mix). And though Badger has elicited a range of emotions in me, from anger to love, when Mushroom came to live with us, I felt something I never in a million years would have thought I could feel about my own dog: fear. Specifically, the fear that *I* would hurt *her*.

Badger was, and continues to be, an oversized, fuzzy bowling ball. He runs full-speed into walls with nary a yelp. He's "played" with our friend's aggressive Chihuahua (who once bit Llamaentity so hard it drew blood) and emerged completely unscathed. (We regret letting this happen and have ceased allowing them to play together.) When he tries to jump on our couch, we shove him off without a second thought. He lets us drum on his belly and use him as a footrest. Like his namesake, Badger doesn't give a shit.

Badger not giving a shit about having his head dribbled like a basketball
Compared with Badger, Mushroom looks tiny and delicate. She has trouble getting her small mouth around most of our food toys, which we sized up because of Badger's enormous maw. We got them the same size crate, but she can curl up in just half of it, while he sprawls out with his tail wagging in his water bowl.

When Mushroom jumped on the couch and curled up, I gingerly lifted her off and placed her back on the floor. I drummed ever so gently on her side, waiting for her to show signs of pain (she didn't). Instead of using her as a footrest, I put my heels on the floor and scratched her belly with my toes. It's strange, because when Badger was 30 lbs, I didn't think of him as delicate, so it must be the size comparison that's throwing me off.

Llamaentity does not think we need to treat her like she's delicate, and that's probably right. The other day, when Llamaentity shoved her off the couch, I wanted to say, "Be careful, don't hurt her," but I held my tongue when I saw that she was fine. When she jumped at me, I instinctively raised my knee, but before I had time to worry about whether I'd hurt her, she was already sitting calmly.

It seems like Mushroom is going to be fine, and I just have to stop worrying. It's only the first week, so there's hope for me yet. I may even celebrate with a drum roll on her belly.

Mushroom being tiny

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My best friend might be a pitbull mix

Badger's first day at our apartment
One summer evening, Llamaentity and I were out walking our newly-adopted puppy Badger when we heard the five words that would change my life. "Is that a pitbull puppy?" "No," said Llamaentity, "We think he's a Lab mix," and we kept walking. "Why did he think Badger was a pitbull?" I wondered. We came to the conclusion that the questioner was merely joking - that he found it humorous to compare a small, cute, well-behaved puppy with a large, powerful dog known for being a killer. But the seed had been planted, and as Badger grew, our suspicions did as well.

Badger's Petfinder profile picture
We chose Badger based on a Petfinder picture and a breed description - Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix. My family owned an old Border Collie who was friendly, intelligent, and trainable, and I wanted a dog that shared those qualities. Additionally, our apartment complex had a weight restriction on dogs - 35 lbs or less, and we guessed that a Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix would not grow to exceed the limit. The shelter that had him was a no-kill shelter in the South that transported its dogs to the Northeast after adoption. We met Badger for the first time in a New Hampshire parking lot on a rainy Saturday afternoon (with a crowd of other people also meeting their newly-adopted dogs), and we took him home.

"Your dog's really ugly," my mom commented after seeing Badger's Petfinder picture. "You should name him Big Head." Not only did Badger have a big head, he had a big mouth. He was actually capable of smiling, and when he was excited, all we'd see was a lolling tongue and an open mouthful of teeth. We nicknamed him "The Maw". It became apparent that Badger might have something in him other than Cocker Spaniel and Border Collie. His coat was considerably shorter than that of a Cocker Spaniel or Border Collie. His feathered tail curled upward, resembling that of a sled dog. And he was growing just a little faster than we'd anticipated. We began telling people that he was part Lab as well.

Badger at ~8 months
After the pitbull question, I started Google searching images of pitbulls. There were a few images of hulking, snarling monsters, but the majority of the pictures showed normal-looking dogs and puppies. And rather stumpy ones at that. A website revealed that pitbulls ranged in weight from 22 to 78 lbs, a large range that Badger was already in at roughly 5 months of age. The common traits of this diverse dog breed seemed to be short fur, a blocky head, a large mouth, and a muscular, wide-set chest. I looked at Badger. He smiled at me and put his entire large-sized Kong in his mouth.

I shared my suspicions with a couple of dog-owning friends. "He could be part pitbull," one friend mused, "Just look at his little chest." Another friend reassured me that pitbulls were wonderful dogs who didn't deserve their reputation. By then, my initial fear had subsided and been replaced by speculation. What kind of cross would produce a dog that looked like Badger? What if he wasn't part pitbull, but instead he was part some other breed with a similar build, like a Boston Terrier or a Boxer? I searched terms like "Cocker Spaniel pitbull mix" and "Boston Terrier Lab mix", but the results were inconclusive.

We'd heard that a friend of a friend had had to provide DNA results for their dog to prove it wasn't a pitbull prior to renting. While our apartment complex bans several breeds, pitbulls being one of them, they had happily accepted the shelter's identification of Badger as a Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix. But I thought it might be a good idea to test him pre-emptively, just in case we wanted to move. A coworker recommended the Wisdom Panel DNA test, and while I was searching for reviews, I stumbled across the Two Pitties in the City blog.

Badger at ~10 months
I quickly became enamored with the community of pitbull advocates. I guffawed and cooed at the pictures of pitbulls doing silly things and wearing clothing. I wept and ranted at the horrific abuse that some dogs suffered, and I cheered when these same dogs were rescued and turned into loving pets. I clenched my fists in anger at stories about breed-specific-legislation and bigoted remarks from passersby. I smiled and nodded when pitbull-haters were turned into pitbull-lovers with a few calm remarks and a friendly dog. The pitbull advocates had beautiful, well-behaved dogs, and they seemed so much nicer than the angry, pitbull-blaming mob on the other side of the chain-link fence.

Through the pitbull advocacy community, I learned invaluable advice on dog training, dog socialization, dog food, home decoration, breed bans, and even how to speak civilly to someone I disagree with. I learned that we will never take Badger to Denver because he could be killed for simply resembling a pitbull. I learned that the next city over has a law requiring pitbulls to be muzzled in public. We decided that when we move, we will look specifically for a place that is pitbull-friendly. We switched Badger to Natural Balance limited ingredient kibble topped with a scoop of canned pumpkin (he is notorious for bowel irregularity). We bought Badger a couple of new collars on Etsy. We're also attempting to train him for the Canine Good Citizen test, though I'm still working on getting Llamaentity to agree to signing up for a training class.

So excited to meet this potential new member of the family!

I would love nothing more than to adopt a rescued pitbull, but I know better than to (blatantly) try to circumvent the apartment's breed ban. We applied to adopt a little brown dog listed on Petfinder as a Lab/terrier mix - we'll actually be meeting her for the first time tonight. She is just over 30 lbs (unlike Badger, who weighed in at 42 lbs a month ago and is still growing), and the apartment office has already approved her. We haven't gotten around to DNA testing Badger yet, but when we do, I hope he is part pitbull, if only so I can wear the "My best friend is a pitbull" shirt (but only when the apartment manager can't see me).

Badger now