Monday, October 27, 2014

Product Review: Nite Ize Nite Dawg LED Collar

Although fall is my favorite season (leaves! holidays! pumpkin flavored things!), one thing I don't like is that it gets dark earlier and earlier each night. In the summer, we had plenty of extra sunlight to take Badger and Mushroom for a nice long walk/run after I got home from work. Now, it gets dark before I even head home. Last month, I started looking for some nighttime and colder-weather running gear, both for humans and dogs.

After some research and soliciting suggestions from friends, we ordered the Nite Ize Nite Dawg LED Collar from The collar comes in two colors, red and orange, so we ordered one of each because we like Badger's and Mushroom's things to be easily distinguishable. When we first received our order (along with a bag of dog food and some treats), we found that Chewy had forgotten one of the two collars, as there was only one in the box! This was easily rectified by calling them - they sent us the missing collar immediately. We were pleasantly surprised at how easy they made it.

So far, the collars have worked well. They are bright and easy to turn on/off by pushing a button on the collar. We've only used the solid glow setting, but there is a blink setting as well. Here is a picture of what they look like at dusk:

A good warning to bunnies as well

The collars are most visible when viewed directly from above. From the front, sometimes the dog's head can obscure the collar's light. When we were running on the trail at night, Mushroom was perfectly visible by my side, which helped me avoid running into her. When Badger and L were coming toward us, I started being able to see Badger's collar light at about 30 feet away.

The one issue we've had with the collars is that sometimes they loosen up by themselves. This isn't as big a deal with Badger's collar, since his neck is about the same size as the collar on the largest setting (we bought size M). Mushroom's neck is smaller, and we have had to readjust the collar every few days as it slips to the loosest setting. Normally, this is okay because they wear Gentle Leader head collars when we walk them.

When I run with Mushroom, though, I prefer to use a flat collar. We ran another doggy 5k race yesterday, and she wore her old, non-light-up collar because of the fit. We also didn't need the light because the race was during the day. Badger wore his new LED collar. Overall, the collars are good for short-distance visibility, which works well for our purposes (walks around the apartment complex and running on trails where motorized vehicles are not allowed).

Waiting for L to get our post-race fried chicken

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Badger plugs in

Mushroom is solar powered
In case you are wondering, yes, we do have dog beds.

Where are some weird places your dogs like to lie?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Something's missing!

You may have noticed something missing from my last couple of posts. Look closely...

I'll give you two more hints:

What could it be?

Do you see it yet?
If you guessed that the Badgershrooms are missing their collars, you're right! When the dogs first started sleeping in our bedroom, the night was filled with the jingling of collars. Now, all is quiet, with the exception of Mushroom barking in her sleep, Badger licking his paw, and Mushroom licking everything. So not really quiet, but quieter.

A typical night's noises: slurp... slurp... flapflapflap (a dog's ears while shaking)... flapflapflap... myoof myoof (Mushroom's sleep barking)... sniff sniff SNIFFFFF (Badger's loud sniffing)... dig dig dig (burrowing into a dog bed)... slurp... slurp... pant pant... thumpthumpthump (tail)... flapflapflap

For two dogs who don't bark very often, Badger and Mushroom are still surprisingly loud. But no jingling, which is a vast improvement. The only thing is, now we frequently forget to put their collars back on (since their leashes are attached to Gentle Leader head collars), which is what happened in Wednesday's post.

Do you have "loud" dogs?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Yours and mine

Badger has a bad track record with soft toys. Just last month, L found a stash of soft toys in the closet and thought, "We should slowly reintroduce these to the dogs. They might be better now that they're older." A couple minutes later, Badger had de-stuffed one of his sharks, and the toys were back in the closet. So much for that idea.

We also have some soft toys that we never ended up giving to the dogs. We'd buy them on a whim or receive them in a BarkBox package, realize that Badger would eat them almost instantly, and put them into protective custody in our bedroom. Now that the dogs sleep in our bedroom, we were a little concerned that they would get into our stash of "not-for-the-dogs" toys (and our piles of laundry)...

Like a dragon on a hoard of gold

Luckily, Badger and Mushroom don't even seem to realize that the toys and clothes are for anything other than comfy bedding. In fact, we got a new Molly Mutt stuff sack and constructed a bed for Badger, only to have him pass that up to sleep on a pile of clothes and toys.

"OMG! Mushroom stole my bed!" - Badger

The dogs seem to innately know the difference between their toys and not-their-toys. I'm not sure how or why... Any guesses?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things that go SLURP in the night

I woke up with a startled shout in the middle of the night. Something wet had touched me on the mouth. As I squinted into the darkness, I could discern two furry shapes. One was retreating, and one was coming toward me.

I tried to block my face with my hands, but I was too late. A second wet slurp planted itself on my cheek. My fingers dug into a thick, fluffy coat. Badger. Several football seasons ago, we taught him to come toward us when we cheer. My shout must have sounded the same to him. I patted his back. Good dog.

A sleepy voice behind me mumbled, "Are you all right?" It was then that I grasped what had happened. Mushroom must have given me the initial kiss, which woke me up. After I yelled, she scurried off, and Badger took her place at the side of my bed. "Yeah," I responded. "Mushroom licked me in the mouth. I'm going back to sleep."


Monday, September 22, 2014

We survived!

Our family of four (that's twelve legs total) survived our first doggy 5k on Saturday. It was a great experience for the dogs, who got to practice staying calm around LOTS of other dogs (with the help of frozen hot dog chunks). And it was fun for me to see so many dogs - I kept pointing at dogs and telling L, "I want that one."

Before the race - Mushroom wanted to say "hi" to all the other dogs. Badger wanted to say "hi" to all the humans

Mushroom and I ran/walked in a little group that included a couple with their spotted black and white dog, a backpack-wearing guy and his adorable brown mini-pit, a mom running with a big dog while her daughter pushed a tiny dog in a stroller, and an old man with a beautiful prancing border collie. The old man ran the entire way and ended up finishing well ahead of the rest of us, which I found very inspiring.

L and Badger (neither of whom like to run), walked the course astonishingly fast, finishing just a few minutes behind me and Mushroom. (Or maybe we were just slow). We celebrated afterwards by going out for greasy, unhealthy fried chicken for the humans and some extra kibble for the dogs.

After the race - waiting in the car for L to get fried chicken

Chicken spotted! (Sorry Mushroom, not for you)

I spent yesterday feeling pretty sore, but now I'm ready to sign up for our next 5k! (There are a couple coming up - apparently fall is doggy 5k season.) This time around, I'd like to practice pacing Mushroom a little better - she tends to want to sprint at the beginning and runs out of steam after a couple of miles.

Does anyone have doggy 5k training advice? Also, seeing as it's starting to get dark pretty soon, advice for running with dogs at night time would be helpful too!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Meeting Hogan

We just got back from a vacation visiting L's family in Arizona. L's brother has a dog named Hogan that he got when an acquaintance could no longer keep him. Over the years, we've heard stories about Hogan - about how he is scared of people during walks, about how he destroys the house, about how he barks at visitors and is generally overwhelming. This visit, we finally met Hogan...

Look at that face!

He was exactly how he appears in this picture: adorable and well-behaved. We had expected him to jump on us or bark at us when we entered, and we had planned to come in one at a time or meet him outside if necessary. We ended up all entering at once, and none of those things happened. Hogan sniffed at us, we threw some treats, and then we had Hogan practice some sits and downs for more treats.

We made sure to tell L's brother and his wife that Hogan was a wonderful dog. Calm, treat-motivated, quick to warm up to complete strangers. He also got the run of their beautifully-decorated house when they weren't home, and as far as I could tell, nothing had been chewed. We had come prepared with some suggestions on how to deal with Hogan's behavior, based on their stories, but the only one that seemed relevant was to let their guests give Hogan treats when they enter.

We gave Hogan an antler chew. Notice the unchewed fall leaves and pumpkin.

I have been similarly surprised by people who say they enjoyed meeting Badger and Mushroom. I think sometimes we think about the few ways we wish our dogs were "better" so much that we overlook all the ways they are already great.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Breaking News: Badger is not a dog!!

It's been all over the internet these last few days - apparently Hello Kitty is NOT a cat.

I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on Badger - he is NOT a dog.

He is an alien.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catching Up: Badger and Mushroom on Candid Camera

It's actually pretty hard to take candid pictures of the Badgershrooms because they'll hear me reach for my phone. I have no idea how they differentiate between me just reaching for my phone to check a text vs taking a picture of them, but somehow they know.

Then, they'll do one of three things:

  • Badger will start mugging for the camera and making his most ridiculous faces.
  • Mushroom will first turn her head and then completely walk away.
  • Or if there are treats involved, they will ignore the camera and stare at the treats, both making the most pitiable hungry dog faces.

Here are some rare moments when I managed to sneak photos of them doing what they normally do - laying around like furry lumps.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Look what we got in the mail!

The game, not the dog
The best thing about weekend online shopping sprees is that it's like Christmas in your mailbox for the next week. This was the first to arrive, and the only non-dog-related item. I just finished playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for 3DS.

Quick review: Combat is different from most Mario games because you don't defeat enemies simply by jumping on their heads. Instead, meeting an enemy means you go into a separate battle screen where you and the enemy take turns attacking. You can dodge enemy attacks or power up your own attacks. I thought this game was a lot of fun and lower stress than your typical platformer. I hate dying because I missed a jump and fell into lava, and this game didn't have that at all. If you miss a jump and fall into lava, it just starts you from where you were before you fell. I usually play games on the PC, and one thing I liked about gaming on the 3DS, aside from being able to play in bed, was that games are very polished, with no bugs or crashing. This game would probably be a bit easy for skilled hardcore gamers, but it's got that Mario nostalgia factor. For kids or people like me who don't like difficult games, this was perfect.

Whew, maybe not as quick as I thought. Anyway, the next game I play on 3DS is going to be Bravely Default. I hope to keep this blog updated with the rest of the items we bought as they get shipped to us.

Have you bought anything cool lately?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mushroom gets a 2nd chance

A typical night for us involves putting Badger and Mushroom in their crates for bedtime. We started doing this when Badger was a puppy (and Mushroom wasn't even with us) to get him used to his crate and keep him out of trouble during the night. But the dogs don't get into much trouble these days, being older, more used to our apartment, and more settled in their routines. So at the start of summer, we decided to try out letting the dogs sleep uncrated in our bedroom.

The first night was a disaster. As L was moving the dog beds from our living room to our bedroom, Mushroom actually peed on one of them. This was unexpected considering that we always take them out to potty before bedtime, and the dogs almost never have indoor accidents. I convinced L to let Badger stay in the room, but Mushroom went back to her crate for bedtime.

That became our new routine - put Mushroom in her crate, then we would go into our room with Badger. Mushroom didn't seem to mind, but we felt a little bad for her. We decided to let her have another chance last night. Despite me having to shoo her off the bed three times, we considered it a success as there were no accidents. Well, I consider it a success. I think L might have gotten up several times during the night to make sure everything was okay.

I'm not a morning person, but this face gets me out of bed

Do your dogs sleep in your room at night? How does it affect your sleep?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Catching up: Hiking

Badger and I had quite the adventure on the 4th of July last year. We were supposed to meet up with friends and drive up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, but I was running late and told them I'd meet them there. As I neared the White Mountains, I realized that I did not have any cell phone reception. A few text messages managed to get through, and I finally found the right hiking path, but about an hour or two too late to meet up with my friends. As a result, Badger and I did the hike on our own, which included splashing through a stream, getting coated in mud, and a pretty steep climb. We never did find my friends, but we still enjoyed the hike!

My two shadows

Badger slept for the entire three-hour drive home. Amazingly, even though he was muddy from the hike, when we arrived home, he was completely clean. The mud had dried and fallen off (into my back seat). Unfortunately for Badger, we gave him a bath anyway.

Looking extra fluffy after his bath

This year for the 4th of July, we stayed home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Catching up - town dog event (from last year)

I have a whole year's worth of pictures of Badgershrooms on Facebook that I'm going to start slowly posting to this blog. Here we are at our town's "dog rally" in June of last year. (Are these showing up for you?)

Here's what I remember: We spent most of our time hiding around the side of the DJ booth and clicking/treating when they saw another dog. Some kids came over and petted Mushroom (Badger was too excited). And the DJ asked what breed they were. We gave our typical answer of "they're rescued mutts - they could be anything". (He thought they were some specific breed because they look similar to each other). Overall, we left thinking it was a good training experience.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What cool trick should we teach our dogs?

Badger and Mushroom have been showing a lot of improvement in our Control Unleashed class, the third of which we attended this past Saturday. I've been handling Mushroom while L handles Badger, so most of my observations are on Mushroom. She was easily distracted by the scents on the ground, so for this last class, we gave her higher value treats (microwaved hot dogs), and she responded well. As a recovering reactive dog, I'm proud of her for not reacting to the other dogs in the class, including a little Schipperke who occasionally barks at her. She's also seen a few dogs in the parking lot of the training school (which is attached to a dog shelter), and she was interested but not barking, pulling, or whining. Badger has had trouble staying calm during class and will start whining, but he seemed quieter than he was in the last two classes.

Slimy, yet satisfying

At one point, the trainer had us practice listening skills with our dogs. We were to call out different cues at random so the dogs would have to pay attention to which action they did. They had to be cues that didn't involve a hand signal or an object, which narrowed our list to just "sit" and "down". (Perhaps this was helpful for Mushroom because she already has trouble distinguishing the two.)

Some of the tricks that the other dogs in the class did were "speak", "spin", and "sit close" (which makes me assume there is a "sit where you are" cue to go with it). I think it would be nice if our dogs picked up a new trick for this exercise, and just in general. (Well, maybe just Badger. I don't want Mushroom to be too confused.)

Mushroom slept like this through the rest of Saturday

The question is - what trick should they learn? We've avoided teaching cues for some behaviors that we don't want, such as pawing, standing on hind legs, and barking, because we've been afraid of reinforcing them. That leaves tricks that the dogs don't do as part of their normal behaviors, such as spinning in a circle or sitting in a particular location, and we have no idea how to teach those.

Does your dog know a cool trick? How did you train them to do it?

Friday, August 15, 2014

The longest three miles

I ran my first 5k last night, and the results are in! Let's just say I won't be qualifying for the Boston Marathon any time soon, but since my goal was to survive, and I'm alive enough today to write this blog post, I'll call it an overall success.

There were a few things I did not expect (I almost typed "roadbumps" but decided to skip the pun):

  • There was a guy who power walked past me while I was running. That was a low point.
  • There were lots of people who gathered around the course to cheer on the runners, and some of them even brought their dogs! I knew people did this for longer races, but apparently they do it for shorter ones too.
  • And there was a mountain of ice cream sandwiches at the end, which was the high point for me. My coworkers and I also hit the bar afterward for a few beers (this was expected), so overall I was less healthy than if I just never showed up for the race.

There are a couple of dog-friendly 5k races coming up in the fall, and I was thinking of signing up with Mushroom as my running buddy. I did some training with her prior to this race, and despite her looking like a sausage with short legs, she is amazingly fast. Well, maybe not so amazing if you take into account how slow I am, but she could easily handle a 5k.

"Can I get ice cream afterwards too?"

Has anyone done a race with their dog before? Would you recommend it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The yo-yo of life

I haven't posted for over a year. For a time, I even completely forgot this blog existed. Things in my life tend to be cyclical. Sometimes I'll spend all my free time playing one video game, only to put it down a month later, forget about it for a year, and then come back to it with all the zeal of the first time around.

This is also why I can't get on a regular exercise schedule. During the first month, I will be very devoted to exercising, but by the 2nd month, I'm making excuses and having to drag myself off the couch. Of course, I'll still be eating like I'm burning the extra calories. Maybe I should explain to my doctor that trying to exercise actually makes me less healthy in the long run.

Meanwhile, life with the dogs has become, well, normal. We've trained them into a decent level of calmness at home, and they've trained us into a decent level of feeding them and avoiding other dogs on walks. Could they be a little better behaved? Yeah. Are they basically good dogs? Yeah. Are we super lazy? Definitely.

I've found that when I don't have the internal motivation to make a change, the best way is to find an external motivator. In terms of exercise, the external motivator was joining a running group at my office and signing up for a 5k, which will be this Thursday. (My goal is simply to survive.)

In terms of dogs, we signed up for a Control Unleashed class, which started two Saturdays ago. Now that I finally have something to say about the Badgershrooms again, the blog is back!