Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Attack of the Water Bottle

A couple of weeks ago I went to Petsmart to pick Bella up from Doggie Day Care (DDC). While I was waiting for the person in front of me to pick up their dog, I watched Bella play through the glass walls. Bella was standing in front of the DDC employee and he sprayed her in the face with a water bottle.
Now, before I go on. Petsmart uses water spray bottles as a negative punishment for unwanted behavior.  Every dog must pass a behavior evaluation before they can be accepted into DDC, so most of the dogs are well behaved.
You might ask why the employees would need to use spray bottles. I would assume the spray bottles assist them in managing the collective dog behavior. I use the word assist because they should all know how to interact with a group of dogs and how to redirect unwanted behavior.
Back to the story at hand…
I cannot be totally sure, but from my perspective, the DDC employee sprayed Bella because she was too close to him and was crowding the doorway. When I saw him spray her the first time I was a little shocked but willing to reserve judgment. But when he sprayed her again almost right afterward and then raised his arm over the half glass wall, that separates the room into two small play areas, to spray another dog who was barking I was upset.
When it was my turn in line I filed a complaint with the manager. I told her Bella is a well trained dog. She is CGC certified and knows commands like “no” and “back up”. So when the DDC employee didn’t tell her any command and just sprayed her in the face twice, he will not accomplish anything. The only thing that he would accomplish with Bella would be to teach her to not like water. Dave and I do not use negative punishment. We both believe positive reinforcement is the only way we want to train Bella (and Draco). I mentioned how he sprayed another dog in a different section of the room. And that I think he needs to be instructed on how and when to use the spray bottle. I also requested water spray bottles not be used on Bella. Ever.
The manager was completely understanding and told me the DDC employee would have a verbal warning about the over usage of the spray bottle.
Afterward, when Bella and I were at home cuddling on the couch with Draco, I wondered if I over reacted. I looked down at Bella sleeping happily at home without a care in the world. I reached my hand down to pet her on the head and my hand brushed across two wet spots on her fur. Wet spots created by that spray bottle. Wet spots that shouldn’t have been there.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Boring Bella

I know our loyal followers (Hi, Claire, Jimmy, JR and Chris) have noticed Dave and I have been absent from our blog lately. And we could give you lots of excuses.
Like my sister had a baby, fall is a busy time for Dave at work, the holidays, Dave threw out his back or I broke my foot…but we don’t need excuses.
The real reason is because Bella has become boring.
Yes…boring.
We don’t have any good stories. She is a well behaved (for the most part) puppy. She is well trained. If she jumps on the couch and tries to lick Draco’s ears we say:
Leave it. Off.
And she stops licking and jumps off the couch. Sometimes we have to say it twice but she does it.
I can walk her with my boot cast on my foot. I am not suppose to but she will walk on a loose leash enough that I can walk her without losing my balance.
She doesn’t eat/chew on our belongings. She sticks to her toys. If she does have something that is not hers; we tell her to drop it and she will.
She doesn’t eat Dandelions anymore.
She doesn’t go potty in the house anymore.
She has stopped humping Draco (okay maybe this one needs a post….)
She is not perfectly behaved, she is only 15 months old. But for 15 months is a really good dog.
Here are a few of the things she knows:
Sit
Down
Crawl
Stay
Come
With me (run to my left side and sit)
Heal (she needs some more work on this one)
Front (Sits in front on me)
Back up (walks backwards)
Bow
Leave it
High five
Wave
Pound it
Off
Wait
Sit and wait for permission before walking through a doorway
Loose leash walking
Roll over
Sit politely for petting (she sometimes forgets this one)
Sits when I stomp my foot (not how I broke my foot by the way)
That is a lot for Dave and me; and for Bella.
But back to Bella being boring…well there is not too much to write about.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm aka Hurricane Sandy

Yesterday afternoon and last night the Frankenstorm swept through the Mid Atlantic and northeast. It was one of the biggest (in land area) ever. And some of the strongest winds the Washington DC area has ever seen in a hurricane. Plus it dumped almost 3 feet of storm in the Potomac Highlands.

But Draco and Bella didn't care about any of those stats. And honestly they didn't notice anything was different until we went to bed.

Draco:
Draco doesn't like the rain. So he didn't want to go outside much but when there's a shower in April he doesn't want to go out then either. As the winds started to pick up he didn't react. Around 5pm I gave him an Ultra Calm so I thought it was doing its magic. But as it turns out the reason he didn't react to the high winds was because the tv was on and Dave and I were just relaxing watching the constant coverage on NBC4.

But when we turn out the lights and the tv off he started to stare out of the sliding glass door and became anxious. He started to pace and pant. He got on the my side of the couch then jumped down, got on Dave's side of the couch then jumped down, went upstairs panted paced and couldn't find anything to make him happy. I followed him around trying to soothe him for an hour. When nothing I did worked I decided he was on his own and I went to sleep. When I woke up 6 hours later, the power was still on, the winds were quiet and Draco was asleep by the couch on his bed.

Bella:
She didn't notice anything at all. She went outside all day and ran around eating leaves like it wasn't raining and the winds were strong enough to blow her away. When we took her out around 11 when the winds were at the highest she still didn't care. Thank goodness! Let's hope her carefree attitude never changes and starts to influence Draco.

We survived the Frankenstorm of 2012!

How about everyone else?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Good Judge of Character

All has been relatively quiet on the puppy front of late. Except last night. It started out about the same as the nights have been recently. She played around for a little while and then moved to her spot on the couch and closed her eyes. She was asleep for about twenty minutes when the action started.

I was watching Discovery Channel, which was airing a special on Osama Bin Laden. About ten minutes in, I paused the television and called my parents. The image frozen on the screen was of Bin Laden himself. I spoke with my mom for a few minutes when I noticed Bella wake up. She looked at the TV, then sat up and started growling, low and throaty at first and then getting louder. The growl led to a few quick barks. I said to her, "I know he's a bad man, but he's not going to hurt you." She continued to growl. I hit 'play' on the remote and let the image change before pausing it again. Bella looked at the TV growled once more and laid back down.

I think we'll stick with football tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rally-O Class #2

Bella and I attended our second Rally-O Class on Sunday. And it didn’t feel like the first class as much as I thought it would.

I remembered how to get there and Bella remembered too, she tried to drag me all the way there from the car. I recognized several of our classmates and our instructor, Patsy. Even Patsy remembered who we were.

Side note: There seems to be a trend in dog training. Everyone knows the dog’s names but not the human handlers' names. So when someone wants to get my attention they say “Bella”.

The three week hiatus from class seemed to lower the attendance. We lost one of the dog/human pairs. The sheep dog was missing from class. And Mocha the chocolate Lab/Weimaraner mix showed up late and was asked to leave early.

Apparently, while we all were working the course, Patsy asked Mocha and her handler to exit the course and took them aside. Pasty was concerned Mocha’s handler was too rough with the leash corrections. Pasty instructed Mocha's handler on the "art" of treat luring and showed her how to use treat luring to achieve the maneuvers. After a few minutes of practice, Patsy felt she was too frustrated to continue and asked her to go home and come calm down and practice the treat luring. I was shocked when Patsy told us. I didn’t notice them at all because Bella and I went onto the course before them. But I have never heard of a handler and dog being asked to leave class for improper leash correction.

Bella and I had spent the last three weeks practicing the maneuvers from class #1. The practice seemed to help us. But this week’s course was way different than last week’s (every week has a new course) and it seemed way harder. Here are the maneuvers we preformed:

Moving Down Walk Around Dog
270° to the Right
Send Over Jump, Handler Passes By
360° Right Turn
About Turn Right
Call Dog Front, Finish Left, Forward
Straight Figure 8 Weave Twice
Moving Side Step Right
Halt, About Turn Right and Forward
Down Stop
Halt, Turn Right One Step, Call to Heal, Halt
Moving Down, Walk Around Dog
Back Up Three Steps (HARD!)

Wow I am tired just remembering. We did the full course three times. And the jump several more times individually. At the first class she went over the jump like she had been doing it all her life. But on Sunday she was like, “What is that?!?!…I don’t think so, I will just follow you”. She finally got it. I think we will still have to work at it. Patsy sent us some instructions to make our own jumps at home to practice. They require a PVC pipe and a drill. I guess Dave will need to dust off his work belt...okay okay...I guess Dave will need to go buy a work belt and Handy Man for Dummies book.

I was nervous before class but when we got home Bella was happy and sleepy and slept for the rest of the day so I was happy too.

I am looking forward to the next class...I just hope I don’t have to wait three weeks.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our 2nd Rally-O Class?

The last two Rally-O classes were cancelled. The September 30th class was cancelled because our instructor had a wedding and a family reunion. And last week’s because of the rain.

This means Sunday’s class is going to feel like the first day of class all over again.

I hate the first day of class. It is awkward because you don’t know anyone and you are unsure what to do. I really don’t want to do that again. It won't exactly be like the first class. But I still don't really know anyone and I am not really sure what Bella and I are doing yet.

But on Sunday we will have our second class of the course. Bella and I have been practicing. And we got a new leash which should help my hands out a lot. The nylon leash killed my hands last time. So we are ready to go.

I just hope we have class on Sunday…

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Miss Bella!

Today is Bella's first birthday.

She had a very big day. Chassie started the day by singing her Happy Birthday. I came downstairs and both Chassie and I excitedly wished her a happy birthday. She jumped around and moved between us, extremely excited because we were. I took her for a walk and then we went to Doggie Day Camp. Chassie told me to tell them it was her birthday and when I did, the guy at the counter said, "Oh, then it's free today." She even got a peanut butter treat for free.

Now, she's laid out next to me, sleeping peacefully. I'd say she had a pretty good day.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Serial Killer Eyes

“She has serial killer eyes”

Some might remember me repeating that phase over and over again to describe Bella for the first few months. It was hard for me. Even though I was super excited to have her in our lives, I intimately knew how hard it is to raise a puppy. I did it with Draco all by myself and I didn’t want to do it again. But Dave had never had a puppy before and to be honest he didn't believe me.

So we ended up with a high energy, notoriously difficult, smart puppy. Her linage is from Champions in rally and hunting. Which means she can go all day and still be mischievous at night.

But why did I think she had “Serial Killer Eyes”?

Her eyes looked like human eyes. Green human eyes. And human eyes on an animal are creepy. She would stare at me with her human eyes like she was reading me. Just like a serial killer would. To make it worse, as she was using her serial killer eyes to stare at me she would do things like pee on the carpet or rip a piece of the drywall off. It was creepy and then infuriating.

As her eyes started to turn a golden amber color the freaking human quality started to subside. And she stopped peeing on the carpet and we were able to repair all the walls which have remained intact. I began to feeling differently about her.

A few months ago Bella, Dave and I were watching TV downstairs. She was laying almost on top of me and I was looking at her and petting her and kissing her. And Dave suddenly said,

“You love her”

To which I replied, “No I don’t…okay I do but don’t tell anyone”.

I don’t remember when it happened, could have been when her eyes changed color, when she started really listening to the commands, or when she was really sick, but it happened…I fell in love with her.

She is a big cuddlebug and loves to sit in front of me watching TV and lean her head back and look into my eyes as I scratch her chest.

But her eyes still have a glimmer of serial killer in them sometimes…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rally-O

Bella and I arrived at the “Dog Agility Program Area” next to McLaren Sargent Shelter at Lake Accotink Park a few minutes early on Sunday. The regular dog obedience class before us was still going strong. So Bella and I hung out towards the edge of the field and waited.
While we waited we met one of our class mates, Hobbs. Hobbs is a brindle lab mix with his CGC and TDI certifications. Slowly other classmates started to arrive. And then the class before us ended.
By the time Rally-O officially began we had seven human/dog pairs. Three of the pairs had taken Rally-O before (and are really, really good) and four have never have.
Pasty and her standard black poodle, Elvis, were our teachers. They made the introductions and dove into the class instructions.
For those who are unfamiliar with Rally-O, Rally-O is a dog sport focused on obedience. Rally-O consists of a “course” with 10-20 obedience maneuvers, aka stations, spread out on a field. The point is for the person/dog pair to make their way from the “start” of the course to the “finish” of the course by successfully acting out each “station”.
The “stations” are marked by signs which instruct the person/dog team what action to perform. Here is an example of a sign:
This sign means stop and have your dog sit.

Right now Bella and I are taking the class to bond, to help reinforce the obedience she has already learned, and to rid her of extra energy. But if Bella and I become really good at Rally-O, we could compete. Rally-O titles are offered through the AKC. The Rally-O course are judged on a point system on how well the human can read the sign and have the dog execute the action.

But I am getting too far ahead. Back to our FIRST class on Sunday.

Patsy walked the newbies through each of the 12 signs. She and Elvis showed us the maneuvers and then the 3 human/dog “expert” pairs in the class ran though 3-4 signs at a time for demonstration.

Then the novice Rally-O pairs tried them. I had my bait bag and Bella was hot to trot to do anything other than sit and whine at my side. And we did the 360° turn, the 270° Left, Call Front Finish Right Forward sequence. And if I do say so, we did pretty good.

We continued on to do:
Moving Side Step Right
Call Front, Walk Around Dog
Weave
Halt 1 Step, Halt 2 Step, Halt 3 Step
270° Left
Halt, Down, Stand
Send over Jump, Handler Runs By
Halt Down, Walk Around Dog
Stay, Handler Walks two Steps
Call to Heal

Towards the end, Bella was a little tired and didn’t care for her treats anymore. Plus I broke the bait bag and the nylon leash was killing my hand. We let the dogs run around and play in the fenced in space after we finished the course. I chatted with Patsy and then we took our leave.

All in all it was pretty fun. Let’s see what the second class has in store.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No Doggie Fun and Games

Bella’s Doggie Fun and Games class was cancelled. Not enough people registered so they combined the two listings. The class is now on Thursdays.

This news really upset me. I am fully invested in attending a class with Bella on Sundays. The reason this is important to me is…well I want her too exhausted to walk.

Sundays are normally Dave’s day. Meaning Dave is on Bella duty all day. Which he likes and so does Bella and mostly importantly I LOVE.

But with football season, Dave will not be taking care of Bella every Sunday. I will. And to help run Bella out of her energy I signed up for Doggie Fun and Games.

So when I got “the call” from cheerful Abby cancelling my class, I was in shock and a little panicked.

I didn’t know what to say. And we ended the call. Then on my way home from work, I called her back and told her “You can’t cancel the class….I NEED that class.”

Luckily for both of us, she was well equipped to handle a hysterical woman on the phone. She looked up all the classes offered on Sundays then narrowed them down to ones in my area and then discussed them with me to choose the right one for Bella.

We decided on Rally-O at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield held on Sunday at 11 am. She then cancelled the Doggie Fun and Games course in the Parktakes Online system, which got me a refund  and then register me for the Rally-O class. Which meant I didn't have to do anything. Abby took care of everything for me. Thanks Abby.

The Rally-O class was cheaper and Lake Accotink Park closer to me than South Run RECenter. And I will be home in time to watch the 1 pm Redskins Games.

I am a little bummed about not having the Doggie Fun and Games course. But Rally-O should be fun too.

Here is the class description:

Prerequisite: Dog Obedience II or equivalent. Join us for one of the newest dog sports! Rally obedience exercises and corresponding signs from the beginner through expert level are taught. The handler-dog team practices a new course each week.

I hope it is fun…I will update you all next Sunday.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Unknown Subjects (A Thank You, Of Sorts)

Here I am, past due again... whoops.

Last weekend was an exciting time for us, not just because it was a holiday weekend, but because it was a wedding weekend. Jeff and Krista tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony on Saturday afternoon. I was a groomsman and therefore had events on Friday and Saturday. Friday night we had the rehearsal dinner and brought home company. Well, company arrived before rehearsal dinner, but not in Bella's world.

John and Nicolette stayed with us on Friday night. They arrived just before we left for the rehearsal. I had put Bella in her crate so she did not get to meet them before dinner. We attended the dinner and returned home about ten o'clock. After changing clothes, we went downstairs to let her out of her crate. She was excited while inside the crate, but as I opened the door to let her out, she didn't bolt out like I expected. She slowly stepped out of the crate as she saw Nicolette. As we attempted to get her to greet Nic, she remained shy and we decided to take her outside. She went off leash into the backyard and relieved herself but instead of bolting through the open door like she normally does, she remained half inside and half outside of the sliding door. Her front half was saying, "I'm not sure about this." Her back half was saying, "This is so totally awesome." I watched as her tail moved rapidly back and forth, making her entire hind-side move as well.

She stepped inside, made her way up to Nic and started sniffing. Her front half apparently decided that her rear half was correct because she then proceeded to continuously sniff, lick, snort, jump, and circle around her. Noticing John, she said hello, but quickly moved back to Nic. Bella may have recognized John since they had met previously, when she was ten weeks old, so she didn't feel the need to spend much time around him. Or it could have been the fact that he sat in her throne and didn't even make one attempt to offer it back to her. I guess he missed that post about her throne.

As Nic moved from the floor to the couch, Bella did little to dissipate her curiosity. She moved back and forth, over and under her, laying next to her, getting up and stepping over her, crawling underneath her legs. She finally settled down long enough to attempt snacking on her hair, which is something she has grown fond of doing with Chassie as well. Overall though I think she did a great job of meeting two new people. I'll take this time to thank John and Nicolette for staying with us and also being unknowing subjects on "The Puppy Files."

Saturday morning, Chassie and I took Bella to Doggy Day Camp at PetSmart. Originally, I was only going to take her, but as a last minute change to the plans, Chassie and I both took her. We then proceeded to pick up our share for our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which for those of you that don't know, Chassie writes a blog about that subject as well. You can check it out here. After we arrived home, John and Nic drove out to Sterling to pick up the tux for John that was originally two sizes too big. During that time, Sawyer and Ashley came over to help us out with the dogs. I think Draco enjoyed that experience since they took him on a really long walk. After Draco's walk, they did us a big favor by picking up Bella from Day Camp and brought her home. They arrived just as we were leaving so I haven't had time to ask how it went. I hear from Chassie that everything went smoothly. I'll take this opportunity to thank Sawyer and Ashley for taking good care of our pups and being unknowing subjects on "The Puppy Files."

As we attended the wedding and reception, Chassie's mom came over to take care of the dogs. After careful planning- taking Bella to Doggy Day Camp, setting up a season of Mad Men to play on the PlayStation and writing out instructions for her to start said season.... Bella was the only one to cooperate. I have a feeling the controller turned off from inactivity and I neglected to write instructions down to turn on the controller, hence she was not able to watch the carefully set up first episode of Mad Men. Bella at least behaved herself and Draco is always a good dog, except when he's expecting a walk which is a different story for another day. So at this time, I'd like to thank Roberta for taking the time to help us out when we needed it and for being an unknowing subject on "The Puppy Files."

All in all the weekend was successful. Jeff and Krista "finally" got married. Both dogs got to meet new people and see people they haven't seen in a while and were able to act appropriately away from us. We skipped a training class but everyone else needed to miss it as well. Now it's on to football season...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What's in the BarkBox?

August's BarkBox arrived last week. And just like last month Draco was super excited.

And Draco, Bella and I are more satisifed with this month's goodies.


As you can see, Draco setting up shop for the unveiling.


I couldn't keep him away to take pictures. I thought it was cute.


Draco was especially interested in The Elvis treats by Bocce's Bakery. And Draco is in luck, they are wheat free and are "Chassie" approved. They are the King's favorite flavor combination of bananas and peanut butter with the addition of nitrate-free turkey bacon. And he loves them


This is Nature's Miracle Refreshening Spray for dogs in between their baths. I tried it on Draco but Draco doesn't like to be sprayed with anything so he ran away. Only to return when he was sure I had moved on to the next BarkBox item.


Milkbones Trail Mix for dogs. A combination of mini milkbones and mini chewy milkbones. Since milkbones have wheat they are not "Chassie" approved for Draco. And we are not sure how Bella will react to them. We are holding on to these for now.


Acadia Antlers's Moose Taster was a HIT! Bella absolutely love it. We will be ordering more moose tasters and larger antlers soon. And a "Got Moose" t-shirt for me.


This is a Flying Fish from Hyper Pet. It is a sling shot toy. There are several different animals which Hyper Pet offers in the Flying Series Toy. We got the Flying Fish. I secretly wish we had gotten the pink Breast Cancer Awareness Flying Duck. But I will survive. You use the toy by holding onto tail and pulling the nose/peak and let go. It will fly in the air for your dog to retrieve. We were going to try it out today at the dog park at South Run. But when we got there it started to thunder. So we will have to try it out another day. :(


A final picture of the goodies.


One final picture of Draco loving the BarkBox.

Thank you BarkBox for another great box of goodies.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Vacation is Over?


Bella’s summer vacation started when she received her CGC Certification in July. She thought she was done forever but Dave and I had other plans.

One of our main goals for Bella was the CGC. But we also want her to be a Therapy Dog. The jury is still out whether or not she has the exact right temperament for it. But Dave and I decided to enroll Bella in a TDI prep course anyway.

The TDI Prep course is being taught by our favorite trainer, Sarah. And a few of Bella’s previous classmates will be in the class too. Ziva, Lucy and Bella’s on again off again boyfriend McGee. Classes start this Saturday.

The TDI Prep course will be Bella’s fourth obedience class. And although she seems to really enjoy the classes, I thought Bella and I should do something different.

We decided to enroll Bella and myself (only one adult and one dog may attend) in Fairfax County Park’s Doggie Fun and Games. Fairfax County Park’s description of the class:

“…designed for owners and dogs to have fun together. A combination of traditional obedience taught with games and various nosework games and other activities to engage your busy dogs attention and enthusiasm. Class is ideal for the working breeds who don't have any work to do. Also a wonderful way to bond with your newly rescued dog.”

I was looking for a fun class to take with Bella on Sundays during football season. Dave will be going to the home Redskins games and I wanted a way to tire Bella out on game days. And this class seemed like a way to bond with Bella while she works out all of her extra energy. Plus Bella is a working dog breed and she for sure doesn’t have a job.

Even though our summer vacation was a short one (only four weeks) we are excited to start the new year.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Queen Bella vs. the Evil "Wella"

The first night on her "throne."
Our little girl has grown more and more comfortable with her surroundings lately. She has some confidence issues when we are outside or at new places, but she is completely at home in the basement. A few weeks ago she hopped up into a leather recliner, turned around a few times and then plopped down. When it happened, I was so surprised that she had actually done it, I just let her stay there. The next day I got a picture message from Chassie showing the same thing I had witnessed the night before. She said the same thing, that she didn't have the heart to get her down since she looked so cute.

Since she has claimed her throne, she has not relinquished her seat of power. Most of the time she sleeps on it, however she will bring some of her toys with her as well. She tends to chew those toys by resting them on the arm and usually after a few seconds, they drop to the ground. She will normally look at the toy for a few seconds before hopping down and resume chewing on the ground or make another attempt at chewing it in the chair.

Resting in her "throne" after a day at Doggy Day Camp.
If she moves away from her throne, it's usually not far. Her other favorite spot to lay is next to the chair, practically leaning against it. Then there is our spots. Since I am downstairs most of the time with her when Chassie is not, Bella likes to lay where Chassie normally sits. I've also found that when I leave the room for any amount of time, she'll move to my spot and lay down. When I come back, she makes a big fuss about not wanting to leave.

Occupying Chassie's spot on the couch.
She has pretty much claimed her space in the basement. She even feels protective over it. Her nemesis makes an occasional appearance at the sliding glass door. It's the evil "Wella," or the window version of Bella. Most of the time "Wella" does not bother Bella, though sometimes it's a distraction for her. She stands on the couch, staring at "Wella" in the window, growling just audibly. Only once has "Wella" gotten the best of our Bella as Bella actually began to bark at her reflection in a mirror. The mirror, which has been sitting on our floor since Bella has come home with us, provided a showdown of epic proportions as Bella stood staring down her evil nemesis, barking furiously for five minutes before Chassie ended the confrontation by turning the mirror around. Bella, however, had the last laugh as she tore a cardboard chunk out of the back of the frame. Since that fateful evening, I have not seen "Wella" make her presence known.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

BarkBox

Last month I signed up for the new hot thing in the dog world. BarkBox. In case some of you are not keeping up the happening world of the dog world, BarkBox is a monthly box of the dog supplies.  You can sign up for a box for as little as $17 a month. Which is a good deal.

The type of items vary from treats to poop bags. And you can select your dog's size so you get toys appropriately to their size. And most of them are made in the USA.

July's BarkBox:


Here is the BarkBox.


Draco was very interested in the BarkBox. 


Ta Da. The BarkBox...with fancy shredded, crimped, paper stuffing.


Draco Approved.


Its not a very good picture. But an inventory list was included.

Here is what we got and what we thought of the items.

IncrediBubbles-Doggy safe bubbles. We took video of Bella chasing the bubbles in the bark yard. So far its a hit!

YumZies-all natural, no grain treats. Unfortunately, Bella threw these up. So we threw them away.

T-bone Rubber Steak-Bella loved this toy. She ran around the room with it....for about 10 minutes before she chewed a hole in it. But Draco loved the toy after she made a hole in it. 

Poop Bags-no explanation needed.

Spinz Bone Toy/Treat- A weird looking chew toy which is edible. We haven't try this out yet.

Finally a $10 off coupon to PetFlow. Which is a direct dog food shipping company. Unfortunately they do not carry Draco's or Bella's food. 

The results of the BarkBox was a little mixed but I'm a happy customer. I love the idea of get a surprise box every month for my pups to enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two Sun Showers and Two Rainbows

When Hunter, our beloved family Lab, passed away a few years ago Dr. Frank gave us a poem entitled Rainbow Bridge. The poem was to help our grieving. And while it helped me picture a place for Hunter to go after he was gone, I didn’t fully believe until a few days later.

I was in the kitchen (on Stratford Ct) when it started to rain. I looked out the window and noticed it was completely sunny out. I thought to myself, “That is weird. It is pouring and sunny out at the same time.” As I walked closer to the window to get a better look, a rainbow appeared. And it was not just a rainbow in the horizon. It was a perfect rainbow in my backyard. I was so close I felt like I could reach out an touch it. It was at that moment I completely believed. Hunter was waiting for me at Rainbow Bridge.

Every time I see a rainbow I know it is Hunter saying hi. And the past couple of days I got to see two rainbows. Both appeared when a sun shower was passing by. I will always think of Hunter when I see a rainbow and know he is smiling down on me.

Rainbow Bridge by Unknown


Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.


When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.


All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.


They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.


You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.


Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Monday, July 23, 2012

News Flash: New Canine Good Citizens

The GPC became the CGC on Sunday morning, as four dogs received their Canine Good Citizen Certification. Those honored included a black Goldendoodle, Ziva, a cream Goldendoodle, McGee, an Airedale Terrier, Morgan and finally a Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Bella. In order to be recognized as a Canine Good Citizen, a dog and its owner must show proficiency in ten areas which relate to good behavior, obedience and good grooming habits. It had been a long process for these pups, three separate training classes, each six weeks in length, spanning almost seven months. Their hard work paid off in the end.

The day started out gloomy. An overcast morning with occasional sprinkles dotted the landscape of the terrain and the emotions of those involved. Most of the participants arrived early, about ten minutes before the scheduled start of the test at 10 a.m. The woman administering the test, a different pet trainer than the one these pups had been working closely with over the last several months, explained the process and had the owners fill out more paperwork. It was explained that the paperwork previously filled out was only for PetSmart records and not for the CGC. This news of more paperwork brought a round of groans from the weary owners and an exclamation from one, "I forgot my glasses and I have old eyes!"

Once the paperwork was filled out completely, the dogs were then allowed off their leashes to play and burn off some energy. This exercise lasted about five minutes and then the leashes were put on and it was time for business.

The test started quickly, if you weren't paying attention, you would have missed it. In the blink of an eye, three items were done. Accepting a Friendly Stranger, Sitting Politely For Petting, and Appearance and Grooming were completed in one quick round. The administrator said she would knock out a few of them at the same time. She did not lie.

The next stage of the test involved Sitting on Command and Staying in Place and Coming When Called. The administrator called for a volunteer to go first. The participants looked at each other, nervous energy written across their faces, then the Chocolate Lab Bella and her owner stepped up. It took a moment to get the lab calmed down enough to sit in place. At one point, the administrator even walked over and attempted to get her to sit and stay. At that point, this scorekeeper put an "F" on the scoreboard and was waiting for the retest. However, the owner of the lab did not panic, composed herself and her dog and quickly knocked out both sections, completing half of the test. The other dogs followed suite.

Quickly on to the next section of the test they moved. The administrator knocked out Reaction to Another Dog and Reaction to Distraction together. The administrator walked around the room with her dog, a 10 year old Husky as the testing dogs sat in place and did not move. Then the administrators daughter ran around the room while the administrator made whooping noises, again none of the dogs moved. Just like that, seven items were complete.

The class was then moved outside of the enclosed room to the isles of the store itself. The next item was Walking on a Loose Leash. The administrator told the participants what the course would be like, then took them all on a practice run and told them that she would follow behind. During the course of the walk, you were able to correct the dog if it attempted to pull on the leash. This last minute addition probably saved many dogs from failing this portion of the test. As the dogs were making their way through the course one by one, the owner of the Chocolate Lab nudged me and pointed at the ground where her dog had just been standing. I could faintly make out a paw print left behind in perspiration. Whether this was from the dog's energy or if she was feeding off the owner, this was a sure sign of the stress the participants were feeling.

Once the loose leash walking was complete, the administrator quickly gathered her "crowd" for the next test subject. Walking Through a Crowd consisted of the dogs walking around the administrator, her daughter and the dog's original trainer, Sarah, without straining on the leash or jumping on the crowd.

After the completion of the Crowd section of the test, the administrator gathered the dogs and their handlers around and commented that she was very impressed with all the dogs to this point. She then commenced on the final step in the test, Supervised Separation. Simply put, the dog has to be able to be handled by another person without the owner present for three minutes. The dog must remain controllable and not whine for the owner.

All four dogs took their turn. and once the Chocolate Lab returned the test was complete. The administrator then told us, that while she was walking Bella, the lab, around the store her daughter noticed that someone had put something in his pocket and was about to walk out of the store without paying. As a store employee and the administrator approached the man, Bella sniffed at his pocket, distracting the man and eventually pulled out the merchandise he was attempting to shoplift. It appears the Canine Good Citizen program has more rewards than just well behaved dogs.

They then headed back inside the classroom where the administrator congratulated everyone on the completion of the test and said that while one retake is allowed if a dog was to fail a portion of the test, none of the dogs needed it. She said that she will not pass a dog unless she is confident that the dog has earned it, since the dog ultimately reflects her once they are in the real world as a Canine Good Citizen.

After eighteen classes, months of practice, and countless hours of frustration these dogs have proven to their owners that they are worth the title which they have worked so hard for. They are truly Canine Good Citizens. Congratulations Ziva, McGee, Morgan and Bella!

The Trailer for the Bella Movie

A couple of months ago, my brother (Sawyer) gave me his video camera for us to take video of Bella Graduating from Intermediate Class. Unfortunately, I forgot to charge it and we weren’t able to take any video. 


But we took some really great short clips of her interacting with new things. We gave the clips to Sawyer and he has made this trailer of the upcoming Bella movie…






If you are interested in Smizzle Smith Productions or would like to acquire Sawyer’s services you can visit his website.

Thank you Sawyer!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

ChewToySaga (Chewbacca, Get It?)

We know that we have a chewer on our hands. If I had any type of foresight, I would have pushed to name her Chewie, skipping the whole Harry Potter theme and going on to another beloved franchise. Needless to say, I did not pass the entrance exam to the Psychic Network and am not employed by Ms. Chloe. In all honesty, it's probably better that way.

We still have a problem on our hands. You know about the baseboards and what our darling Bella has been able to accomplish when trusted alone for a little while. Now, as she has gotten older and we have taken her to get some of her excess energy out, she has been a lot better about not chewing the baseboards. She will still get bored when we're downstairs. Her toys and I, therefore, have developed a special relationship.

There's the Nylabone, which is just a big hunk of plastic if you ask me. It's not just plastic though, it's a quality chew made in the U.S.A. and can keep her entertained for hours. In fact, just as I started writing about the Nylabone Bella picked hers up and brought it over to the couch and started to chew on it. The one she's currently working on has a notch in the middle that we can stuff treats into. The first time we did that it took her about half an hour to get the treat out and finish it. Now that's she knows what it is, it takes her about ten minutes to finish the treat.

The next go-to time killer is rope bones. She loves rope bones. We've had to move her up to the large rope bones just because she was going through the smaller sizes too quickly. I found what I thought was a badass, thick rope bone with tennis balls on each end. I thought it was the find of the century, or at least the past nine months and could not wait to see how many hours she would get of pleasure from it. She destroyed it in less than ten minutes. Chassie picked out a thick rope bone that's going on a few days. She's definitely been limited in the amount of time that she's allowed to chew in one sitting. If we allowed her free-reign, I think any rope bone would last no more than thirty minutes. Breaking it up, I think we've gotten a good 30-40 minutes of chew time in the last three days and still have more to give.

Then there's the elk antler. The elk antler is something that is relatively new to both Chassie and myself. She discovered them while shopping at Weber's, a specialty pet store here in Fairfax. She asked one of the employees what a good chew toy would be. This was at the time when the baseboard situation was at its peak. The employee recommended an elk antler and said that her labs are occupied for hours with them. Chassie looked them over, considered it and then purchased it. It was an expensive investment, nearly twenty-five dollars for one, but well worth it. We didn't give her the antler right away, in fact it sat in our cupboard for nearly two weeks. When we did, she was hooked. I'm not sure how long the first one lasted, but it was well worth a second one.

Since these antlers are quite expensive, we began to search for something cheaper. Chassie purchased one from Dr. Fosters and Smith online. She bought the large, expecting about the same size as what we were buying from Weber's. It was about a fourth the size. Around this time, Chassie shows me a Facebook post from my sister about finding a good, quality antler since her dogs are going through them quickly. Our search continues, but we continue to go to Weber's in the meantime.

Last weekend, we did a serious search on the internet and found a few places to buy antlers in "bulk" and save a few dollars. We decided on Yellowstone Antlers. They are naturally harvested from the Rocky Mountains, which were two important factors- a U.S. product and naturally found. The minimum purchase was 2 pounds, so we decided to order them up. On Thursday of this week we got the shipment in the mail. It was three antlers, two large and one massive. It came out to about fifteen dollars an antler. We gave her the first of the antlers this evening.

So far it seems like a great deal. She's had the antler for about an hour and has given it up twice. Once because she told me she had to go to the bathroom. We went outside, good girl. The second was because she pushed it underneath the couch, which I did not realize. This was when she grabbed the Nylabone. There was just a third time, another bathroom break. As we returned, she immediately picked it up and took it back to the couch to enjoy. How long these will last is the real question. When we have a good answer, we'll let the paying public know.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The CGC Practice Test

On Saturday we had our third Advanced Training class with Bella. This was our third class but we missed last week because of the Derecho. Since we are not following a curriculum we didn’t miss much. This week we ran through the CGC test items. Essentially we had our first practice CGC test.

Want to guess how we did?

1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger-PASS
2. Sitting Politely for Petting-PASS
3. Appearance and Grooming-PASS
4. Out for a Walk (Walking on a loose leash)-FAIL
5. Walking Through a Crowd-PASS
6. Sit and Down on Command/Staying Place-FAIL
7. Coming When Called-PASS
8. Reaction to Another Dog-FAIL
9. Reaction to Distractions-PASS
10. Supervised Separation-PASS

We got 7 out of 10. Unfortunately to pass the test you need 10 out of 10. So we failed.

Sarah believes Bella will pass. She told us to concentrate our efforts on walking with a loose leash (using her collar and not the harness). If we can master that she believe we will pass #8 (reaction to another dog). If Bella walks next to our side then we would have more control and she would listen better when we are telling her to “leave it” at the other dog.

Bella has previously been very reliable with the staying in place (# 6). But on Saturday she just wanted to be close to Dave, so she followed him when he walked away.

Our homework: at least two walks a day using her collar and focusing on loose leash. This is the key to passing the test and is the most coveted command of all dog owners.

And in case you are wondering when the test will be…it is scheduled for Sunday July 22, 2012. Two weeks to go!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Get a Room

Dogs use their tongue a lot. Bella has a tendency to use her tongue very frequently. We've noticed that she has a tendency to lick Draco's ears when they are together. It's either a grooming thing or a submissive thing, or both. It's okay at first, but then it gets excessive and now has gotten to the point where we try not to let her lick his ears at all. It's quite disgusting in fact, as Chassie has pointed out.

On Saturday, at advanced training class, I noticed her interacting with her tongue in another way. In our class, there are four female dogs and one male dog. The male dog, McGee, is a very lazy dog. If he's not asking for or receiving attention, you can bet that he's laying around. We were out on the floor of PetSmart practicing greeting another dog or loose leash walking or some other activity. McGee was laying on the ground, waiting his turn. Bella was panting next to him and then laid down herself. They were within inches of each others face and then the tongues came out. They just licked each other's mouth like they were best friends. I've never seen that before and they went at it with a ferocity I didn't know was possible in dogs. If this was a grooming exercise, then both dogs had a really clean mouth after that.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Epic Conclusion You've Been Waiting For

We can't trust Bellatrix yet. She's still a puppy, staring nine months in the face but not yet there. While Jeff and Krista were gracious enough to entertain us, we put her in the crate overnight. Said crate was in our room with Draco. We heard Bella whine and whimper for the first few minutes, we would call out to her, comforting her, but I swear, before I fell asleep I thought I heard Draco whimper. It may mean nothing. It might just mean that he cares about her.

Sunday was another challenging day. We didn't know if we had power, we were faced with the unknown, the uncertainty of making a decision and facing it being wrong. Allowing Bella to play with everyone first thing in the morning proved too much to handle for us. We decided that we had to put her back in her crate while the other dogs were allowed to recuperate from the morning activity. Chassie and myself went to get breakfast for Jeff and Krista and ourselves, talking about what we were going to do. We didn't necessarily decide that we were going to go home that afternoon but it was almost a forgone conclusion. We returned to their place with breakfast, let the dogs play for a little while, again deciding Bella was too much for everyone involved...

Ok, you deserve some type of explanation: The foster puppy Jeff and Krista had taken in is seventeen weeks old, his name is Sherman (though I had to dub him the Sherminator), he's a Platt Terrier. He's got some energy, likes to play with Bella, but a little more advanced than she was at that point though. He will hold it to pee outside. Bella loved to play with him. They were two peas in a pod until she started to get a little rough. Kayla, the German Shepard, acting as the momma-dog, would then come over and break things up. It's good to have a schoolyard monitor and that's exactly what Kayla is. Play time is over and we move the dogs inside. Let me say that again, Play time is over. Bella does not understand that. She thinks if another dog is around, they must want to play with her. This is one of our biggest problems with her. She walks around, waiting for something to happen and when nothing happens, she takes it upon herself to make something happen. She walks around, nudging and bumping until someone engages, good or bad. If she makes it through the gauntlet of dogs that are sleeping on the floor, she pursues the issue to those that are on the couch. The couch, guess what... it holds the humans who don't necessarily want puppy breath in their face.

To illustrate the point: Saturday night, she had to be separated from the other dogs. As I arrived at the house, the dogs got a little bit excited. Eventually, they all calmed down, all except Bella. We took a break, going to dinner and returning a few hours later. Most of the dogs only had a little bit of energy left. Except for Bella. She continued to press the play button while the other dogs had turned off for the evening. Jeff and I eventually went downstairs with her to their basement. She was interested in sniffing out the entire basement before she decided she could lay down. When she did lay down it would be for no more than two minutes at a time. I truly think she has ADD for dogs. Finally she laid down between us for fifteen minutes, then we decided it was bed time.

Back to Sunday, we put her in her crate a few times throughout the day. She barked each time we did, something she rarely does when we put her in her crate in the basement of our own house. We put her up in her crate just so we didn't wear out Jeff and Krista, we may need them for another favor later.

At 15:00 we decided we would head back home, wish for the best and brave the elements if the worst remained. We went to some stores in the Leesburg area, hoping to find ice. Three stores down, no ice to be found. It was closing in on 16:30 before we actually left. The hottest part of the day. I'm not going to lie, I was a little concerned.

I took Bella home in my car. I buckled her into the seat belt with one of these pet seat belts, which actually works very well. (Again, if I wrote reviews...) She was in the front seat. She laid down almost the entire time, panting. We made it to the first toll booth on the toll road and as I rolled down the window, she sat up, but quickly returned to her position on my arm rest. She panted the whole way home, but I had the funny feeling that she was happy. Granted, I did sing to her most of the ride... good thing she has no idea what pitch and tone mean.

Chassie had Draco in her car as we pulled up to our house to find that power had been restored. We entered the house to find the A/C and lights on, almost as we had left them on Friday night. It was a surreal moment, finishing the circle we had started. The dogs, while on leash were calm and almost as happy to be home as we were. Maybe, just maybe, they are starting to get it. We want them to be friends, we've been asking them to be friends. She's had her chance in the past couple of days to meet other dogs and annoy them.... it's time for her and Draco to be able to just hang out.

Sunday night they did nothing but sleep. Draco hardly moved from his bed in the upstairs level and Bella alternated between sleeping on the couch next to me and the floor by my feet. It was quite the relaxing evening.

We had already decided to take Bella to Doggie Day Care on Monday. Since I don't have to work until noon on Monday's, we figure it would be perfect to drop her off sometime in the morning and Chassie can pick her up on the way home, this way we get the discounted rate since she's not there for eight hours. We called on Saturday evening, scheduling for me to drop her off at 10 o'clock. The goal was to wear her out. It worked. She slept almost the entire evening again.

Tuesday we kept her normal schedule, which is a walk in the morning, into the crate from about eight thirty until Chassie returns home around four. They then go on a walk and play in the basement before putting her into her playpen until I return home. Normally, she jumps up to greet me, not this time. As I walk up to the gate which confines her, she looks up from the floor, her eyes the only thing moving. The weekend of adventure has completely worn her out.

Wednesday was the big day, the Fourth of July. Preparations were already in place to keep Draco as calm as possible. This basically meant giving a dose of UltraCalm to him in the early afternoon. We then broke out the baby pool and hoped that Bella would learn to play in the water. At first she was again tentative, circling around the outer edges of the pool. Occasionally sticking her muzzle into the water, lapping up a drink or blowing bubbles with her nose. After a few minutes, I decided to press the issue, much like the previous excursion. I picked her up and placed her gently into the baby pool. She stood there for a second, much like last time and then proceeded to walk around the pool. We were able to get her to sit and lay down in the pool. After she laid down, she immediately got up and jumped out of the pool. We put her back in and she again was able to lay down and allow me to gently pour water over her with my hands. It was another improved performance on her part.

Chassie and I then went over to a friend's house for a barbecue around four o'clock. We were there for about three hours and toward the end I started to hear fireworks being set off. It was time to return home and give Draco another dose of UltraCalm. I took Bella out of her crate and she and I hung out in the basement for a while before Draco came downstairs, wanting to be away from the explosions. I could occasionally hear loud bangs, but nothing I would consider a crazy display of fireworks.  Bella would perk her head up and wander over to the basement door, as if to say, "What is that noise?"

Draco kept insisting to enter the room, scratching at the baby gate. I allowed him to enter and almost immediately he laid down between the couch and the table. Bella sniffed at him, cleaned his ears like she loves to do and then left him alone. He laid by my feet for the rest of the evening. She laid next to us, not bothering him at all. I was able to pet both of them at the same time.

Now, this may not have been the epic conclusion that you were waiting for or expecting, but it was a monumental step in the progression of these two dogs.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Derecho Which Brought Us Together

This post was written before Dave's "Derecho (June Watershed)". But Dave beat me to the publish button. So here is another point of view of Friday's Derecho...

Unless you have been lucky and living under a rock the last couple of days, you should all know about the rare Derecho which hit the DC area on Friday. A Derecho is a fancy meteorologist term for a line of thunderstorm which have uncharacteristically strong winds. It blew through the greater Washington DC area at 65 mph with wind gust over 90 mph. And in true DC fashion we want to name this Derecho. There is a poll for the best Derecho name on the Washington Post blog, my favorite is: Derechonundrum. (click here to see the other contenders and to vote)

You are asking yourselves now:

“How did this crazy storm bring you together?”

And maybe some of you are asking,

“Who is ‘we’?”

Let me explain. Draco is not a fan of thunder, lightning or fireworks. So you can imagine July is his least favorite month. So when Doug Kammerer, from NBC4, kept interrupting the gymnastic trails to tell us about this storm we gave Draco some Ultra Calm.
Just before the storm hit Draco came downstairs and asked to come into the living room (it is gated to keep Bella from going upstairs un-chaperoned). Typically this would be difficult because Bella would want to play with Draco and Draco wouldn’t want to because he would be scared of the approaching storm. We let Draco in and Bella just grabbed her rope bone and jumped on the couch to chew. Draco laid down next to the couch by Bella and to wait out the storm.

Dave and I looked at each other then at the pups and smiled. This is what we have been waiting for, all of us together in peaceful bliss. Soon enough though it sounded like the world was coming down outside. And even though we lost power and sequently the AC, we were a happy family just like Dave and I had always dreamed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Derecho (The June Watershed)

A few weeks ago, my friend John mentioned something about a watershed moment with his dog. I had never heard the term before, so I looked it up. A watershed moment is basically a critical turning point. In this case, he meant when she lost her pure puppy energy. He said that his dog, Marley, had her watershed moment at about two years. Then he followed up that comment by saying, "But she was unique." For my sake and Chassie's sanity I hope that she was truly a unique case. By unique I mean, it took her a very long time to lose that puppy energy.

We had a "watershed moment" this past weekend. A meteorological phenomenon occurred in the Washington, D.C. area that wrecked havoc across the area. This phenomenon, called a Derecho, knocked out power for nearly 1.5 million people. We were one of those affected, but let me start from the beginning....

Friday morning I took Bella to PetSmart's Doggie Day Camp. We figured that if she gets extremely tired playing with four other dogs during an hour at class, she'll get worn out by playing with twenty or thirty dogs during a six to eight hour day. It worked. I dropped her off around eight-thirty in the morning, Chassie picked her up around three o'clock in the afternoon and she was worn out. We figured that she would be the girl that stayed awake the whole time, looking for something new to excite her and I think that was the case. When Chassie brought her home- to our boring house- where nothing exciting happens, she plopped down on the floor and slept until I got home. Our normal routine played itself out, I took Draco for a walk and then I took Bella downstairs.

At this point, Bella is laid out tired. She doesn't move much for anything. It's probably Chassie's idea (she is the smart one), let's get Draco and Bella together in the same room. I'm game, let's try it. We are trying to get them to interact, but interact calmly together. At first, she's a little excited, but eventually she's more interested in gnawing gently on her rope bone. I do stress gently at this point, because she is a fan of destroying rope bones within hours. Draco is laying on the floor, Bella is on the couch, Chassie and I are looking at each other, not exactly understanding what is going on. Thank you PetSmart Doggie Day Camp, if I wrote online reviews, you'd get a five star rating.

During our euphoric experience, we are watching the U.S. Olympic Trials on NBC4. A special weather statement interrupts our viewing pleasure. Doug K. says we've got bad weather on the way. Then as I listen a little more involved, he straight up says, "You will lose power." Chassie is already on her way upstairs to get candles and our emergency radio we can crank by hand for power. I wasn't worried, then the light behind me started to flicker. For some crazy reason, I thought it might just be the light bulb going out and as I turned on the lamp across the room, Chassie echoed my thoughts by asking if I thought it was just the light. Wishful thinking on our part. Sometime around 22:30 the room went dark and all our appliances with it.

We watched from the basement as trees bent over in the wind, lightning lit the sky, then the rain came down and gave us a first hand look at what ripped through the area at hurricane force winds. Two candles lit our basement as Chassie cranked the radio with the weather band in full force. The little robotic voice kept us updated as the storm blew past our neighboring cities at 65 miles an hour, leaving downed trees and power lines in its wake.

Draco, who is usually terrified of thunderstorms, laid between the couch and the table, relatively calm. It may have been the UltraCalm that Chassie had given him, but normally that only works so much. Bella was a little more interested as she would walk to the basement door, where we would stand watching the lightning and wind. When we figured the power was not turning back on we decided that our best option was to stay in the basement. Bella's place is in her crate when she sleeps. Her crate is in the basement. We normally put her in her crate and leave her for the night, two stories below where we sleep. This was the first time, except the very first night we had her, we slept in the same room. I'm not sure what Chassie's feelings were, probably very apprehensive that she would not enjoy being kept away from us, but I was expecting her to bark and whine most of the night.

She went in her house and was a perfect angel. In fact, I would not have known we were sleeping in the basement except at 01:30 a series of random beeps, fifteen seconds apart woke us up. At first I considered the end of the world, though it wasn't hot enough on second thought. I stood up and looked around. I'm confused, what the hell is making that noise? Chassie says something about the Verizon box behind the T.V. Good call, the battery backup, that's the sucker making all the noise. I kneel down and press buttons, eventually figuring out there's an "alarm silence" button. Back to bed.

Saturday morning is the apocalypse. I won't sugar coat it. Chassie freaks out. What are we going to do with two dogs and no air conditioning? She presents that question at least three times to me. Once when we wake up, it's six thirty. My brain does not work before nine o'clock. She talks out loud better than I do and eventually things start moving. Seven thirty we are at Giant, our supermarket, looking for ice. No ice, we buy water, Gatorade and Diet Coke. Five twelve packs for  twelve dollars, nothing like a deal when the Apocalypse is upon us. The second time the question arrives is on our way home. I get a text from my boss/co-manager "Need help" and my first thought is at work or at home. I'm trying to figure out what I have to do to make Chassie happy. Long story short, I finally get a hold of Jeff, who has just recently moved out to Leesburg. I ask if he has power. He does.  I ask if he's willing to take in Chassie and two additional dogs for the afternoon. He will. There are angels among us. Thank you Jeff. Now for the kicker, Jeff, will you come out here and pick up one of my dogs so Chassie doesn't have to drive an hour out to your place with two dogs that like each other but don't want to be close to each other and I can go to work?

The question comes a third time and I have an answer. I look like the hero, but really it's a friend who has power and a big heart. Thanks, dude. I still owe you.

"I'll leave here in fifteen, twenty minutes," he says. You're a savior, I think to myself. I'm off to work, which in and of itself was a hectic experience. Enough about me though, this is about the dogs. I get a text from Chassie at some point in the afternoon that Bella's peed twice and pooped once inside the house. I'm pretty sure she adds another one, maybe two peeing accidents inside the house before I get there.

I'm going to say she's just excited. There's a lot of stuff going on. She's entering a new place with dogs she's only met once before and when we add our two dogs to the mix, there's seven dogs. That's Jeff and Krista's four, plus a foster puppy they have and our two dogs. Seven dogs in one house... it sounds like a lot. It is a lot.

I arrive at their place around 18:30 and enter this large pack we've created. I know these dogs relatively well, two are mine and the four Jeff and Krista have, well they kinda like me. Except for Kayla, but she's a different story. Loyal, that one is. I've known Montana since she was a puppy, as I may have mentioned before I practically helped raise her. She must remember that. Within the first ten minutes I arrived at Jeff's house, after greeting everyone and making my way over to the couch to sit down, Montana sat down at my feet for some petting, which I'm happy to give her and have always done. Bella pushed her way next to me and Montana was not happy about that, growling at my dog because she got a little too close. I'll admit that I'm not the perfect man, but damn do the ladies love me.

We went to dinner, locking Bella in a crate away from home. She wasn't too happy about it at first, but by the time we returned home she seemed fine with being confined away. Draco was the only dog to have free-reign of the house. He only had two rooms and a hallway, but at least he wasn't behind bars. I guess old age does have it's benefits.

The biggest thing from the first day of our excursion was that Bella and Draco were part of a pack. They did not interact like we would consider normal, which is to say Bella demanded to play and Draco refused. Instead, they both were able to interact with other dogs and accept the rules of a new household.

From the way it went over the weekend, for it to go as smoothly as it did, I think this may be a watershed moment. We've got a few ideals that we're working for and the fact that even one of those is possible is enough for us to continue on. I'm not so sure they jump up and scream their presence, but this was as close to a confirmation as we could hope for. For those that think I've left out the bulk of the story, I have. There's the whole day Sunday and the return trip, not to mention another Day Camp day on Monday and the big event that is the Fourth of July. No one has ever told me how long you are willing to listen. Therefore you all will wait. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bella vs. the Baby Pool

On Sunday, Chassie and I went over to Sawyer and Ashley's condo to celebrate our birthday and to see their place for the first time since we helped them move in. While we were there Sawyer asked if we had taken any video of Bella. He had let us borrow a camcorder (is that 21st century terminology?) when she was about to graduate from Intermediate class. We haven't recorded anything. Sawyer's response was "Your puppy is going to grow up and you won't have any video memories of her." Now that's a very good point Sawyer.

To help remedy that situation, we returned home on Sunday with a helium balloon in tow (remember it was a birthday celebration). We gave her the balloon, wondering what her reaction would be. She liked the string on the balloon more than the balloon itself. We taped the ensuing proceedings, seven minutes of it to be precise. I understand the general public does not want to watch seven minutes of footage for the few highlights that occurred, so as soon as we can get the tape to our editor (Sawyer) and figure out how to post video to the blog, you, faithful reader will be the first to see.

Our second idea, which actually may have been the first, on the way home from Sawyer and Ashley's was to get a baby pool for Bella. We decided that since she is a lab and waterproof, she may enjoy getting in the pool for a while. We don't have a lake or other body of water easily accessible, so this may be our opportunity to introduce her to being submersed in water. That sounded like a brilliant idea.

Monday afternoon, I headed over to the local K-Mart and saw a bunch of these baby pools directly in front of the door. It had a sale sign on them and I thought to myself, well this is turning out quite well for me. I took the baby pool, which is close to six feet in height inside the store and to the first cash register. She scanned the bar code on the side of the pool and I fumbled for my money clip, getting out a twenty and handing it to her while balancing the pool precariously on my shoulder. She handed me my change and I put the change and my money clip back into my pocket, the pool slipped off my shoulder and knocked the credit card machine off the counter. My mouth dropped open, I think I may have apologized, but she smiled and said no problem, "It happens all the time." May want to think about a better system, K-Mart.

K-Mart fiasco aside, I start walking back toward the truck and then a thought occurs to me. Will this fit in the back of the Explorer? I have a vision of having to tie the baby pool to the top of the truck, a gust of wind catches it and there it goes, rolling down the road for someone else's puppy. All for not, however, as the pool folds up just enough to slide inside the back of the Explorer.

We know she's a chewer. Is she much of a swimmer? No, not really. She was curious about what we had put in the backyard. We only filled it about ankle deep so just in case she didn't like it, we didn't have a lot of water to dump out. She would stick her muzzle in and blow bubbles, which she sometimes does in her water bowl. She walked around the outside of the pool, drank the water from the pool and acted like she was going to get in, but never actually got in. To speed up the process, I picked her up and gently placed in her. As her feet hit the water, I watched her paws turn into webs and thought that she was going to like it, but she took two steps inside the pool and was out the other side. So the pool wins round one. To be quite honest, if someone wanted me to get in a big round object with water inside and pictures of water creatures, including a duck wearing goggles, holding a cupcake, I'd be skeptical too.

Again, we may post the video once it goes through the editing process. We'll give the pool another attempt at some point, maybe next weekend.