Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Camera Recommendations?

It's hard to take a good picture on a cell phone. The whole point of apps like Instagram is to take cell phone pictures and make them even worse so they can at least be considered artistic. Using a cell phone camera to take pictures of dogs? Now that's just asking for trouble. Here are some prime examples:

1. Movement - My cell phone camera doesn't have a fast shutter speed or a good auto-focus, so any movement just turns into a huge blur.

"What's that over there??"

2. Lighting - My cell phone actually has "indoor" and "outdoor" modes, but there's little actual difference. The pictures I take inside are usually too dark, especially with Badger's black fur.

Let's just pretend this one was run through a sepia filter on purpose

All I see is darkness and a mouth

3. Flash - This is actually an extension of problem #2. My phone doesn't do red-eye reduction, and dogs' eyes are very glowy.

Our resident ghost dog shows off his glowing eyes

"The dog in the above picture is an embarrassment"

4. Space - I'm constantly running out of space on my phone for all of my apps and pictures. This is a problem because numbers 1-3 on this list mean that I have to take a lot of pictures to get any good ones. I usually take something like 5-10 pictures just to get one that is decent enough to post on the blog.

Badger knows to hide his face from the paparazzi

Mushroom tries to turn away...
Famous blog dog Mushroom battles for custody of Suri Cruise! More on page 5

So... With the only stipulations being that Llamaentity and I are absolute beginners at photography, and we probably wouldn't want to spend more than $250, what are your camera recommendations?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fowl Weather

On Saturday, we brought the Badgershrooms to a friend's pig roast. We thought that the piggest problem would be keeping the dogs away from the spit, but we turned out to be barking up the wrong tree. What we didn't know was that our friend has a chicken coop in the middle of his backyard. After the dogs made a beeline for the chickens, we ended up with egg on our faces and had to keep them leashed to us the entire time.

Even after being leashed, Mushroom kept whining and pulling toward the chickens, so we took her to a corner of the yard that was out of line of sight of the coop. We practiced the "touch" command with her. If she could do it successfully 5 times, we moved closer. If she tried to pull toward the chickens, we moved feather. After about half an hour, we made it to our goal - the snack table (we were feeling peckish) and lawn chairs about 10 feet from the coop.
Badger was also a clucking asshole and tried to herd the chickens

Just as the pig was being removed from the spit, the weather turned fowl. The pork was eggcellent, but we were soaking wet. Mushroom was so miserable that she cowered under the serving table to stay dry, oblivious to the meaty goodness inches above her soggy head. So we flew the coop and headed home, where it was nice and dry.

"This place needs more chickens"

What confuses me is this - there were three other dogs at the pig roast, and none of them were interested in chasing the chickens around. Does hennyone else have a dog that chases chickens, or are we the only ones left alone and ostrichized?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Misadventures in Pack Walking

I was very excited for Saturday, as a Meetup group I'd joined was planning their very first pack walk in my area. Unfortunately, I locked myself out of the apartment while taking Badger and Mushroom out for their morning bathroom break, and we didn't make it to the area until half an hour past the time we were supposed to meet. Despite not being part of a pack walk, we did see several other people walking bully breeds, as well as other types of dogs.

Because this was the first pack walk, we did not bring Mushroom, who is leash-reactive toward other dogs. We had wanted to put our best foot forward by just bringing Badger. This turned out to be a good decision because we saw a couple of off-leash dogs, even though the park had signs up saying that all dogs needed to be leashed. We turned Badger around and steered him away from the off-leash dogs, and luckily, he didn't react in any way. I kind of thought I should have talked to their owners, but I didn't want to ruin an otherwise pleasant morning by starting a confrontation.

Since this park was about a half hour drive away from our apartment, although we had a good walk, we probably won't be going back unless there's a scheduled pack walk. In the meantime, we'd like to find a trail closer to home where a lot of people walk their dogs, so we can practice walking Badger (and eventually Mushroom) past other dogs. Hopefully we will actually be able to make it to a pack walk on time in the future!

Happy Badger after our solo "pack walk"

What do you do when you meet off-leash dogs (and their owners) on walks?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weekend Recap: Why We Can't Have Nice Things

On Saturday, Badger somehow managed to split an antler in half and eat all the marrow.

This is not the end of antlers, but apparently he will need a little more supervision than we originally thought. So we're back down to two things we can leave him alone with: frozen Kongs and Chew Gourmet bones. Everything else either won't hold his interest or gets destroyed.

On Sunday, we attended our monthly dog play group. Badger found a blue stuffy and became overly protective of it. We eventually had it hide it from him. Mushroom tried to play with dogs more than twice her size and didn't seem to notice and/or mind getting bowled over. Then she pooped on the floor (she had refused to poop before play group). At least they came home happy, though they continued to play for about an hour at home before getting tired enough to nap.

"My name is Badger, and I'm a stuffy-aholic"

"I love pooping indoors!"

Has your dog done anything to embarrass you recently?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Looking Back / Looking Forward

February 2012 - Mushroom's wide-eyed look of terror after being bathed

Mushroom has come quite a long way since we adopted her in February. She's been with us for less than half a year, and already we cannot imagine our family without her. (Except maybe quieter, with more shoes and fewer scratches.)

When we first met her, she was outgoing and friendly but had little self-control. She jumped all over us, pulled on her leash, and was extremely protective of her food and toys. In her first two days with us, she had more accidents than Badger has had in his entire life. Llamaentity and I found ourselves saying, "We love her, but we don't like her right now."

In the short time she's been with us, she's learned to walk on a leash, sit, lie down, wait for her food / toys, greet people without jumping, potty outside, wait at doors and on the elevator, and return to her crate. She's figured out how to chew on antlers and clear out a Kong. She trusts us now and will let us give her belly rubs and squish her jowls (surprisingly fun). While she and Badger aren't the best of friends, we're able to walk them side-by-side, have training sessions with both dogs, and leave both of them uncrated with supervision. Best of all, she's smiling a lot more.

July 2012 - Try as I might, she wouldn't smile for the camera, but you can see it in her eyes

Unfortunately, we've spent so much time and effort in changing Mushroom from an unruly dog to a manageable one that Badger has mostly been stuck practicing things he already knows. Looking forward, we plan on taking Badger to as many places as possible, even if Mushroom cannot come along due to her leash reactivity.

Badger practices giving a haughty look

Do your dogs have different skill levels? How do you make sure they are all progressing?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spoiler-Free Game Review: Rebuild 2

I bet you've all been waiting for another video game post. No? Too bad. (But there will be pictures of the pups at the end, so if you're not interested in games, you can just scroll down.)

The game I've been playing all weekend is Rebuild 2. It's a turn-based strategy game where the player is in charge of a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Oh, and did I mention it's free to play at the previous link? In each turn, the player allocates surviving humans to perform tasks such as collecting food, recruiting more survivors, killing zombies, reclaiming parts of the city, and more. What it isn't is a zombie shooter game. There are times when the group of survivors has to fight zombies, but the outcome is calculated by the game, and the player does not have to do any fighting.

Rebuild 2 is the second game in the series, as the name might imply, but it is a stand-alone game (ie: not a continuation of the first). In fact, it's basically an updated version of the first Rebuild, with better graphics, a better UI, more choices for the player to make, and more endings. There is also a Rebuild for mobile that I have not yet played. The internet says it is similar to Rebuild 2, but with more endings.

In no particular order, some things I especially liked:
  • The survivors were a diverse group. Both Rebuild and Rebuild 2 had an assortment of first and last names of different ethnic backgrounds for survivors. Rebuild 2 introduced survivor portraits, which include a variety of facial structures, skin colors, and hair types. Throw these together with some randomization, and you end up with a cool "melting pot" effect.
  • Rebuild 2 was also inclusive of gay/lesbian couples and couples who might not have the same last name. In fact, I saw more gay couples than straight ones, and I didn't see any couples who shared a last name. This may not have been intentional, but it was another effect of randomizing each character's name and picture.
  • Rebuild 2 had items that could be equipped onto survivors. Some of these items were dogs. 'Nuff said.
  • There are multiple endings, and after you find one, the game allows you to continue playing to find the other endings. 
  • Some endings unlock the option to take 5 of your survivors to a new game. This is especially useful for the highest difficulty rating "impossible". The first time I tried impossible mode without importing characters from a previous game, and my survivors made a delicious meal for the zombies. When I imported some characters and tried again, impossible mode was much more possible.
  • Rebuild 2 added some ethical dilemmas during the growth of your reclaimed city. Though the answers were yes/no, there were consequences and even some additional endings to be unlocked.

I can only think of one thing I would like to see added: more diversity of body types, especially since bodies are only cosmetic and have no bearing in game play. Right now there is only one male and one female body type, though there are different random outfits.

Overall an excellent game in vision, execution, inclusiveness, and, of course, fun. And it's free, so there's really no excuse not to check it out, unless you're not into games.

...In which case, here are some outtakes from the 4th of July.

Badger is all excited for the photo shoot

But Mushroom is distracted

Poor Mushroom, we eventually took her bone away to get this picture

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thank You, Our Waldo Bungie!

A (loooong) while back, Our Waldo Bungie did a giveaway of Chew Gourmet Dog Bones, and we were one of the lucky winners! We stuck the bones in our freezer and waited for a special occasion, which never arose.

What are the ice cubes doing out? Check our series on keeping cool!

So during our Stargate Universe marathon over the weekend (I guess that's sort of a special occasion), we gave Badger and Mushroom each one bone. Between the two of them, Badger and Mushroom rated the bones 8 paws up!

This is the life

The dogs finished the meaty portions of their bones (medium-sized) in maybe an hour and a half. The rest of the day was spent working on hollowing them out. My favorite things about these bones were:

  • They didn't stain our carpet. This may be because Badger mostly had the bone on his pillow or because we have brown-ish, fur-covered carpet. However, we once bought a smoked pig's foot, and that definitely stained the carpet.
  • Badger and Mushroom are both still interested in the bones, even after there's no meat on them.
  • Badger, who has a delicate digestive system, didn't have any adverse reaction to the bone. This is actually one of our main concerns whenever we introduce anything new to his diet, so the bone passed with flying colors!
  • Once hollowed out, they can be filled with other things to keep them interesting. So far, we've tried peanut butter, which Badger and Mushroom both love.

Yep, this is the life

We still have two bones left (the medium size comes in packages of 4), and we plan on getting more after they're gone! Thanks, Our Waldo Bungie and Chew Gourmet!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lessons Learned From Play Group

Last week we posted about Badger and Mushroom attending a play group for medium / large dogs. We learned a lot about our dogs and their personalities, such as:

  • Badger prefers toys over other dogs. The entire time we were in the indoor area, he stayed in a little corner playing with "his" toys (actually the daycare's toys) and ignoring the other dogs.
  • Mushroom, on the other hand, is a social butterfly. She was very good with the other dogs, sniffing them politely and not getting in their faces.
  • Badger has learned a wicked good "drop it" command. At one point, Badger and the scruffy brown/white dog (who I believe was named Zoe) were tugging at the same toy and growling. Zoe's person came over and said "drop it" (directed at Zoe), but guess who listened?
  • Mushroom was pulling on her leash as we went in, but before we left, the staff at the doggy daycare had everyone leash up their dogs, and Mushroom didn't pull at all. Maybe she was tired, or maybe she figured these dogs weren't a big deal anymore.
  • Given the choice, neither Badger or Mushroom will jump in a kiddie pool. Since we hadn't brought towels with us, this was actually a relief.

The main thing we will be working on before going back to play group this month (we are invited back, right?) is a solid recall. And for that, we have a big pack of hot dogs.

The crowd at the bar

Tiny Badger next to the enormous mastiff

Badger stands watch over Mushroom. They are siblings, after all

A spot of light gives Badger a Rottweiler makeover

Is your dog a social butterfly like Mushroom or the awkward kid in the corner by himself like Badger?