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Category Archives for Musings

Dog Toy Surgery

An industry expert told me while I researched the history of dog toys that plush toys always outsell other kinds of dog toys — by far. It has less to do with relative usefulness in a dog’s life and more to do with likely impulse buys by the girls who shop for dog toys. (And, let’s face it, in the dog arena, the consumer is definitely a woman.) I got to thinking about this factoid while sewing back together a bunch of plush toys who’ve seen better days.

{I’m so sorry. The photo went missing in a massive blog photo glitch.}

Surgical report from Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

1. Pillow lamb suffered multiple lacerations across his back.

2. Duck had been torn nearly wing to wing.

3. Wiener dog used to have four short legs and was once about 5 inches longer.

4. Lambie also had legs at some point and had endured numerous puncture and tear wounds.

5. Monkey began life with four very long legs, that are long since gone. He too needed many holes patched.

6. Ducklet (perhaps the most pathetic of all) is what is left from a full-sized duck that dates back to our first dog, Penelope Grace, the Dalmatian. Ducklet is in sorry shape, but neither of us can imagine parting with this sentimental toy. So, I keep patching him up.

Discontinued? Lilly’s Favorite Ball

When Elayne over at Days of Speed asked about Lilly’s favorite ball, which is apparently all the rage in Chicago, I confidently told her where to find them, how I usually buy several at a time. Yet, I find myself in a small panic. Our local grocery store no longer has these Flexi-Foam balls, which are the ONLY ones Lilly likes. Oh, the trauma.

Instead, I got a bone-shaped toy from the same manufacturer that uses the same technology. Now, I have the tough job of convincing Lilly it’s good enough.

She seems almost convinced, at times.

{Photos missing after massive blog photo glitch. Sorry.}

Here she is giving Ginko Stink Eye. He is standing behind me and showing clear interest in the toy, which (for now) still has a squeaker intact.

Other times, however, she looks at me like I’m beyond stupid for throwing what is clearly NOT the most-favored toy. I blame the initial lack of enthusiasm on the unpredictable bounces this toy takes during game of fetch. Yesterday, she seemed to get the idea more and really chased it for 20+ throws, so I think we’re making progress.



Thanksgiving Memories: Tom and Shep

For his birthday this year, Tom’s mom made a photo album of his childhood snapshots. Featured prominently on the title page is this gem of Tom (approximately age 8), a few sunflowers, a huge tomato and a border collie (named Shep, who was actually Tom’s brother’s dog).

tom and shep 001

As a kid, Tom only knew that Shep went ballistic once in a while. Shep chased cars. Shep also hated anytime the kids got above him … like up on a roof or in a tree. Later the family had sheep in the back pasture, but Tom doesn’t remember Shep herding ever, so they must have come later.

Looking back, with what Tom knows about border collies through Lilly, he understands all those nutty things Shep once did in a better light.

All hail, Shep. I wish I’d known you.

This Thanksgiving let’s be grateful for our canine pals who truly do shepherd us through life.

All of us at Chez Champion of My Heart wish you a happy holiday!


Ginko, Asleep Mid-Play

Last week, Ginko cuddled up to Tom on the sofa and sacked out. While *that* isn’t unusual, the fact that he did it with a toy firmly wedged in his mouth was.

ginko asleep with toy

We were cracking up. But, what was funnier was the fact that this little gray stuffed toy (known as Lambie) is Lilly’s preferred nighttime, inside-the-house fetch toy … as this zoomed out view proves.

She waited and waited and waited for about 45 minutes while Ginko slept before she got her Lambie back.

ginko asleep wtih lilly watching




Mind the Snout

I joke pretty often about having the best coworkers. Canine ones, that is. They don’t gossip. They don’t take part in office politics. They don’t criticize my work. Sure, they do interrupt me. They are noisy when I’m trying to do phone interviews. They do occasionally smell bad. But, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They do require, however, some foot- and rolling-chair-related caution. So, I constantly Mind the Snout.

mind the snout 1

For perspective, here is a wide-angle shot.

mind the snout 2

I wasn’t sure when I got new office furniture, if Lilly would be OK with the more open format. My original desk had a much more den-like space underneath. Still, what she gave up in safe space, Lilly gained in comfort thanks to a dog bed and the warm sun.




Weekly Training Update (Nov 20)

Wow! What a roller coaster of a week this has been. Suffice it to say that all emotional extremes have now be exhausted, which is indeed exhausting. So, I only have a couple little training notes to share about our  CLEAN UP trick work.

Somehow, I’d forgotten that Lilly needs more mental work in the winter than at other times. It has been quite cold, and I have been quite busy, so she needs time to think and work and be rewarded even more.

In fact, on that subject, please check out my latest piece for HealthyPet. It’s called Making Dogs Think: 5 Great Ways to Engage the Canine Mind.

So, we’ve started playing and doing tricks while I make dinner. (Hey, a girl needs to be efficient with her time.) I pull a bunch of toys out of the basket and scatter them around the kitchen, then I ask Lilly to put them away.

We’ve had some trouble because I’m letting Ginko mill around too. Normally, when Lilly is learning something new, he needs to be out of the room. Now that she knows this trick, I figure he can be loose. So, between him trying to steal the toys, steal her treats, and generally getting in the way, we’ve had some funny CLEAN UP sessions.

Laughing amid everything is good.

Then, last night, Lilly made up a new game. I’m not sure what to call it, but she decided it was MORE fun to pick up the toys, jump up onto one of the kitchen chairs and sit there smiling with the toy in her mouth.

Clearly, I was NOT clicking for that behavior, but she did it again and again. Silly!

She also decided it was hilarious to pull toys out of the basket, instead of putting them in.

I am VERY tempted to teach that as well and call it MAKE A MESS. It’s probably a terrible idea because that’s not a behavior I want her throwing at me just for fun, but how much would you laugh if I told her MAKE A MESS and let her be a wild monkey with her toys, THEN asked her to CLEAN UP and put them all back.

Good party trick? Maybe so.

Poga NEWS!

I posted the update on Adopt Poga Social Media Blitz, and I fed the news into our Twitter feed, but just in case you haven’t heard, Poga got adopted last night. She was noted as being “on hold” Thursday afternoon, then by about 7 pm, her photo had been pulled from the humane society site. That, we assume, means she was adopted.

I haven’t heard anything, so there is no way to know if the attention we got for her this week is the reason she was finally adopted, but I’m and going to assume so.

I could NOT be happier.

Time Zone Confusion

It’s easy to see how well dogs sense time and pick up on routines — especially about food-related events. For example, we become very popular about an hour before mealtime. It’s kind of funny and sweet, except when the time change messed everything up. The good news is that the time change fixed Ginko’s recent wake-up-early problems. The bad news is that poor Lilly is just exhausted come nighttime. My sweetie practically begs to go to bed these days.


Lilly only stares at me with intent after dinner for two reasons. One, she needs to go outside. Two, she wants to be crated for bed.

Because of her past nighttime hiding episodes, we often keep the basement door closed so that she cannot slink down there and spend the whole evening alone. One way we convince her to stay where we are is to entice her to snuggle for a while.

It’s about the best part of my day, to have a cuddle bug. But, it means surviving her pointy, pointy elbows and often finding a way to breathe, even when she firmly tucks her chin under mine.

Lilly tends to snuggle with Tom longer than she snuggles with me at night. I suspect it’s because he is so warm.

BUT, when Lilly decides it’s bedtime, it is SO bedtime. There is no convincing her otherwise.

I keep hoping her biological clock will adjust to the time change, but so far no luck. That means we’re spending a bit less time together these days. If Lilly is ready to sleep, then who am I to say, “No”?

Weekly Training Update (Nov 13)

On another remarkably warm Sunday afternoon, we again made time for class. While Lilly did not stay calm from start to finish, she bounced back better than she would have in the past from seeing lots of new dogs and from firecrackers. Yes, firecrackers in @#$@ November. Still, I ended up with a fat lip, after Lilly decided to jump her jitters out when I wasn’t looking. Rather than face photos that reveal Lilly’s mood by ear position and head tension, enjoy this gallery of butt shots — a tale of tail position.

Lilly indeed hopped out of the car on arrival and went into Relaxation Protocol mode. Once she got past shark-like grabbing, we headed toward the other dogs who were already in the park. I could tell she felt nervous because she began that prancing, fast-foot thing she does, so I asked her to SIT so that we could resume protocol work. She did, but when I glanced away to make sure no traffic was coming (because we were in the road when she got scared), something triggered her to begin jumping straight up, and she popped me right in the mouth.

Serious ouch!

So, of course, I cried out from both shock and pain, which only made Lilly more scared.

We managed to get ourselves back on track, but her bottom told me clearly how she felt.

{I’m sorry the photos for this post got lost in a massive blog glitch.}

I’m not kidding when I say that people have mistaken Lilly for an Australian Shepherd (a cropped tail breed) because she often tucks her tail so tightly to her tummy that you cannot see it.

She also did a fair bit of displacement sniffing to work through her fear. You can see the tail coming up.

Lilly’s tail came out fully once she got the chance to kiss on Gigi Moss (our dog trainer). We continued to work, with plenty of distance, from the many dogs in attendance. Again, there were only three adult dogs we knew well. The rest were new, younger classmates.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the bigger class sizes now that it’s scheduled for afternoons (during the winter). I think fewer people want to get up early-ish on a Sunday to train their dog.

We worked on loose-leash walking. We worked on WHOA (stopping from a distance), which Lilly finally seems to be getting better at on the flat. We worked on fast downs from a run, while I continued to move. We even did out-of-sight recalls.

Since I was way on the other side of a hill and could not see Lilly until she got close to me, I asked Gigi how Lilly did, and she said she thought they were the fastest recalls she’d ever seen Lilly do. So, that’s amazing news. Bravo, Lilly bug!

But, while we were waiting for others to do their recalls, some rotten person near the park set off 3-4 firecrackers over about 2-3 minutes. Poor Lilly flipped out. She didn’t go into total flee mode, but she did get very, very upset.

I gave her food anytime there was noise, and I did my best to comfort her. Thankfully, it stopped, or we would have had to leave.

After a few nervous minutes, Lilly calmed back down. Here she is watching another dog-handler team come back after their recall. To me, she seems if not “confident” then at least not fearful.

I think it helped that Conto, the German Shepherd Dog we know and love, was at class. We haven’t seen him for ages because he and his mom have been busy with agility. Huge congrats to them for already earning their first UKC title. And, this big, handsome boy has gotten three FIRST PLACES. Whoo hoo!

Lilly feels better when Conto is around because I think she knows he will handle anything that comes up. So, thanks, big boy!

We were sad to learn that Conto’s best friend, Woody (the malamute), is recovering from knee surgery. That means they’re both missing each other the way we’re missing our Katie girl. So, we send our best wishes for Woody’s recovery.

Ginko: The Kitchen Marauder Continues

First, it was a ham sandwich, left unattended while I took Lilly for a walk. Then, a couple days later, Ginko went after bigger kitchen game. Yep. While he isn’t as book or training smart as Lilly, Ginko certainly learns quickly when food is involved. Especially forbidden food.

After a long day drafting a veterinary trade magazine article on equine safety, I shed the iPod and stumbled into the kitchen to scare up dinner. While Tom manned the grill and attended to our burgers, I baked some potatoes and diced a bevy of condiments.

I tend to multitask while I cook. I listen to the news. I continue to check email and visit blogs. I run back and forth, focusing on various things all at once … because protecting dinner or food is typically NOT my main concern.

During one such foray out one of two kitchen doors into the living room to catch something on the news, I heard a plate slide. Just as I rounded the corner, I saw Ginko slinking out the other kitchen door with a mouthful of hamburger bun. I hollered. Of course, I hollered because I had indeed caught him in the act, but to no avail … he gulped that final bun with one defiant swallow.

Thankfully, he did not choke.

Tom came running inside in response to the ruckus, and when I told him what had just happened, he asked what became a fateful question.

What happened to that cantaloupe that was on the counter?

Yep. Sometime during the day, while Tom worked outside and I slaved away in my office, tuning out the world via earbuds, Ginko knocked 1/2 to 3/4 of a ripe cantaloupe off the counter and proceeded to feast away.

His dog bed was soggy from all the juice, and we found a trail of seeds all over the house.

The pattern, my friends, is set. Ginko has now scored three major food items off the counter. Lesson learned — for him and us.

So, we’ve greatly amped up our food vigilance.

I’m tempted to booby trap the kitchen to discourage his sudden and growing boldness, but I fear any such efforts might really freak out Lilly. I suppose we could rig something up next time Lilly and I head into town for a while, but I sincerely hope a little more attention on our part will break this habit before he makes himself sick or gets into something he really shouldn’t have.

Have You Heard: I’m Tired of Animal Cruelty

This is another thing I came across on Twitter. It’s a site called I’m Tired Of …  that sells a bunch of different bracelets (made from recycled tires) and t-shirts that help promote various causes. They donate some of the proceeds to charities. In addition rallying against diseases (like breast cancer, diabetes, etc.) and cultural issues such as discrimination, they have some that say I’m Tired of Animal Cruelty. The “cause,” I believe, has more to do with things like puppy mills, but I personally choose to believe it could also stand for harsh dog training methods.

I just thought it was a neat idea and wanted to share. It might make a nice holiday gift for the animal lovers in your life.

I’ll try not to get all Norma Rae on you, but … you know … united we stand, and all that jazz.