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dead-legged by my dog

N.A.S.H.A. waits until the littles have asked me for ten things in a row. She lets me sit down for precisely fifteen seconds, and then she punches me in the leg. Usually.

Sometimes, if she really wants something, she doesn’t wait for me to sit down. She waits until my knees are locked, and then she punches me right in the sweet spot, giving me a dead-leg like I’ve never had. The girl only weighs eleven pounds, so it’s not about heft, but about perfection of the skill. She has absolutely perfected it. This happens on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times in a day.

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Look at her, just mocking me.

But this morning, she took it to a whole new level. Not only did I have my knees locked, but I was taking that sweet first sip of my piping hot coffee. BAM! All over my face and PJs. (Don’t worry, I’m okay. It wasn’t that hot.) And then she sat down, mocking me.

Does your dog ever do this to you, or am I the only moron that responds to it by giving her the treat she’s asking for, reinforcing the behavior not only with my attention but with food? Because it’s so cute and smart that she knows how to ask for a treat. She has trained me well.


when a sulcata tunes-in to a terrier

The other day, our one-year-old sulcata tortoise, Fluffy, was enjoying some lettuce on the patio. I think watching him eat is like watching a dinosaur. He’s just so cool. So I took a video for posterity. Check out how awesome he is:

Fluffy is too young and small to be outside by himself for a length of time, so I often go out with him. Like a rebellious teen, he’s old enough to want to be out A LOT and past his curfew, so I can’t always watch him every second. If I lose track of him, I ask N.A.S.H.A. to “find Fluffy!” She’s great at sniffing him out. The unlikely pair get along really well. He doesn’t even pull inside his shell when she approaches. That means love. They are buds. She’s always been the mothering type, so it doesn’t surprise me that she’s taken him under her wing.

I took another video.

I didn’t realize that N.A.S.H.A. was in the background until I watched it back. N.A.S.H.A. is a mixed terrier in every way, and she often alerts to things outside. Maybe a rabbit hopping through the yard, a lizard rustling through the bushes, or a teenager walking home from the high school down the street. I find it completely fascinating how Fluffy completely plays off N.A.S.H.A.’s cues.

I stopped recording because he stopped eating. Immediately after I stopped, N.A.S.H.A. started barking her head off, and Fluffy pulled into his shell. I find it amazing that he knew something was up just by her body language before she even let out the alarm. He’s much more intuitive than I am.

They bonded the day they met. Two small critters against the world.

They bonded the day they met. Two small critters against the world.


i am not a prejudiced pet sitter: Blog the Change for Animals

As a professional pet sitter, I can’t tell you how many times people say the following things the first time I speak to them on the phone:

“Do you take care of big dogs? I hope you don’t charge extra.”

“Sweetie is a Rottweiler, but she’s really nice…she’s never bitten anyone…she loves kids…you’ll love her…”

“He’s a Chihuahua, so he’s little. So you don’t charge as much, right?”

“She’s a Golden Retriever. She’s a lover, and she’ll be super easy.”

And my all-time favorite “Do you sit for Pit Bulls?”

I always provide the same answer: “I don’t discriminate based on size or breed. Every dog deserves the same amount of attention and love. I won’t take care of a dog that shows hostility toward me, regardless of the breed or size, and I take wonderful care of all animals that will let me, regardless of the breed or size. There is no difference in price.”

Sure, Goliath’s poop is HUGE, but that’s not his fault. I’ll pick up his, and I’ll pick up Chi-chi’s, just the same.

I have slept in bed with many a Pit Bull’s tongue in my face (in a good way) and I’ve been barked out of town by a Golden Retriever. I have learned through experience not to prejudge the animal. I greet each animal with the energy that is appropriate for the energy he shows me, whether that be positive or negative, big or small. Just like people, dogs are individuals and deserve the right to shine (or not).

So let’s judge them, but let’s judge them fairly after getting to know them. Just as most of us refuse to judge our human friends by their color or size, might we do the same for dogs? My motto: assume the best, but be prepared for the worst. I apply that to everyone I meet.

Hi! It’s nice to meet you…

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BlogtheChange


possible slaughter at the dog park: my drama screamer

A few weeks ago, We Live in a Flat wrote about Donna–one of the best-photographed dogs on the planet–being an embarrassment, and I thought “GASP-not DONNA!” She’s only delightful.

When the dogs aren’t ours, and we’re perfectly happy to observe these dogs we feel we’ve come to know from afar, they’re all angels, right? But when they are ours…

dramascreamerMy dog screams (yes, screams) if another dog looks at her at the dog park. It is the sound you might hear if she was being slaughtered, only she’s just been looked at. Of course, it only attracts more unwanted attention, so then other dog parents rush over to see if their dog is attacking mine (“he couldn’t be!”) Nope, he’s not. It’s just my drama queen dog.

Sometimes she’ll even do it at home if I introduce her to a new friend. We let canine friends come stay at our house for sleepovers on occasion. N.A.S.H.A. Loves to play with friends, but not when they are strangers, so I have to be careful about how I introduce them. Naturally, the new friend is most curious about N.A.S.H.A., so that new friend will follow her around. But if new friend gets too close…she screams. She hasn’t even been sniffed, much less touched. The new friend then either backs away in fear of being accused of gory murder (mission accomplished) or becomes so alarmed that he wants to be helpful and pursues the matter further. That’s not good, because then the slaughtering sounds get louder. On rare occasion, this actually provokes an attack. The new friend is trying to put her out of her misery, I assume.

And then I wish someone would put me out of mine.

So I’m that pet sitter that can’t really take her dog out in public. Well, heck. I never said I was a trainer!

Please don’t make me feel alone. Have your pets embarrassed you?


The Animal History Museum: Understanding and Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond

Animal_History_MuseumII_biggerThe grand opening date may still be in question, but the mission is not.

The Animal History Museum is the first museum dedicated to understanding and celebrating the human-animal bond. Its purpose is to serve and educate the public through the creation of a museum in Los Angeles County, California, for the collection, preservation and exploration of the history, culture, science, and law relating to the relationship between human and non-human animals; by presenting exhibitions, lectures and other activities that are consistent with, and supportive of, the museum’s educational goals and purpose.

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Amy Breyer

I spoke with Amy Breyer, Executive Director and President of the museum’s Board of Trustees, about how the museum was conceived, what it’s all about, and what the status is on the grand opening. Ms. Breyer has spent most of her career in Chicago practicing animal law, and I got the feeling from her that however stressful working on a museum opening may be, she feels like it’s a breath of fresh air. She said that though she didn’t wish to practice litigation any longer–after opening and running Illinois’ first animal law practice–she wanted to “bring up these concepts in a non-confrontational setting.” Her passion for the project is insatiable, and she’s humble as can be. Though the museum is her brain-child, she was much more comfortable talking about the elite team of “pioneering individuals in all disciplines related to animals” that she has surrounded herself with. “It’s a privilege to know these people,” she said.

Ms. Breyer began working on the Los Angeles-area (a specific site is still in the works) museum with her founding board, and though the museum is not yet a physical building, after speaking to Breyer and looking over their online exhibits, I feel as if I’ve already visited it. Breyer is warm and smart and informative, which is exactly what I imagine the Animal History Museum to be.

So what’s the scoop? Breyer and her team are in various stages of discussion regarding pinning down a site for the physical museum. She’s not exactly sure when it will open, but projects that we won’t have to wait much longer. In the meantime, the online gallery her team has curated is nothing short of spectacular. The online gallery currently has six exhibits including fine art, historical photography, and even art and stories culminating from social media.

I asked Breyer about these non-traditional exhibits that were curated from social media. She explained that the exhibits Breaking Stereotypes: America’s Pit Bull Rescues & the Human-Animal Bond and Single, Experienced Animal Seeks Mature, Loving Relationship: Stories of Older Animal Adoption were a surprising result of Facebook contests. The Animal History Museum received such an overwhelming number of quality submissions that the sensation evolved into a community, of sorts, from which the exhibitions were born. I found this fascinating both in the role that social media can play in the development of such an exhibition and how open Breyer is to taking advantage of societal trends to create exhibits that people will not only be naturally drawn to, but that they can participate in, all in the name of animals.

Both these innovative exhibitions and the museum’s more traditional exhibitions will be featured online and in the museum, some on a rotating basis, and some permanent. Even when the physical museum opens, Breyer plans to continue to grow the online gallery, both as a support to the museum and as its own entity with separate, unique content. Upon entering the online gallery, the museum’s Web site states:

The Animal History Museum plans to make its online gallery an important part of its mission–both as a way of giving you, our guest a taste of what the brick-and-mortar museum will offer once it opens–as well as growing along side it once the museum opens its doors as a vibrant, integral complement to our physical collections.

Like our brick-and-mortar plans, the online gallery will feature both permanent collections as well as rotating ones. We believe it to be the first permanent, virtual museum collection dedicated to all things animal anywhere in the world.

Throughout my conversation with Breyer, she was reluctant to toot her own horn, and quick to highlight the efforts of her contributors, scholars from all over the English-speaking world. “No one person is a museum all to themselves,” she stated. Aside from being pioneers in their chosen field, these initial contributors–now two dozen individuals–”didn’t have a place to put their work in front of a mainstream audience,” Breyer explained. Some of these individuals are highly specialized and are doing groundbreaking work, so to have them contribute to this collection and to be able to see all of their efforts come together is quite special.

Piers Locke

Piers Locke

Breyer holds all of her contributers in high regard and mentioned Piers Locke as an excellent example of the pioneering work these people are doing. She explained to me that Locke is instrumental in creating a new field, that of elephantology. Though Breyer is well-versed in Locke’s work, she spoke about this emerging field like an excited little girl as she shared information with me regarding these studies in human/elephant interaction, including the elephant’s role as worker, protector, and companion. Her passion shone. As a New Zealand-lecturer in Anthropology, Locke has found a new audience with the Animal History Museum. The museum Web site describes that Locke

is pioneering the nascent field of elepantology, through his efforts conducting historical and ethnographic research involving elephant and human communities in Chitwan, Nepal since 2001. This research raises issues in: apprenticeship learning and expert knowledge, practice and identity in total institutions, human-animal intimacies and the ritual veneration of elephants, and the role of captive elephant management in nature tourism, protected area management and biodiversity conservation.

It’s no wonder Breyer is so excited about the work contributors such as Locke are doing.

What’s next? The museum is currently working on an exhibit of Seth Casteel‘s Underwater Dogs, scheduled to open this month in the online gallery.

In it’s quest to open the facility, the Animal History Museum is offering the public opportunities to contribute. An especially exciting and attainable opportunity is to become a “Founding Member.” By joining for as little as $30 per year, you can help this museum and receive gifts available to only to members who join during the initial fundraising drive. And your annual membership won’t begin until the doors open. Large donor opportunities and corporate sponsorships are also available.

I, for one, can’t wait for the Animal History Museum to open! Until then, my family and I are enjoying all that the Web site galleries have to offer.

Follow the Animal History Museum on Facebook and Twitter for information and updates.


the big, bad world: enter ThunderShirt part 4 (Remington)

RemTS

Remington is a big part of my life. I met him when he was just a puppy, and he’s been sweet and sour ever since. Part Winnie-the-Pooh, part devil, this guy has a big heart that has a tendency to grow anxious in certain situations. His anxiety comes out in the form of destruction. He has actually, truly eaten through a metal crate, and he has eaten most of a wall, and he has torn through a friend’s couch, and some other stuff (we’ll spare him the embarrassment of exposing the full extent of his deeds). His worst enemy: being alone or confined, or worst of all, alone and confined.

His family loves him dearly, so when they embarked on a new canine anxiety-producing adventure, I really wanted to help, both him and them, so I called up my friends at ThunderShirt. They were eager to help me help Remington.

I’ve been helping Remington’s mom open Square Roots Preschool out of her home, so I’m intimately familiar with Remington’s new position: being confined to the master bedroom during school hours. His family set him up for success, yet he still floundered. Here are a few examples of his work since the first day of school:

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Before Remington’s ThunderShirt arrived, his family tried music and a gentle lead,* which kept him busy, but didn’t really seem to reduce his anxiety level:

He eventually just laid down and stared at me, as if to say, “help.”

RemHelpMe

I tried to spend time with him, but school duties called.

Since I’d experienced the success of the ThunderShirt with other dogs, I was very anxious for Remington’s ThunderShirt to arrive. I introduced it slowly, at first, as the directions suggested. We offered up his favorite treats, using his new ThunderShirt as a plate:

He took to it quite nicely, so we tried it on. That’s where we hit a bit of a speed bump. Remington was unsure, so he tugged and pulled and twisted.

RemTSPull

With a bit of calm encouragement and supervision over several days, he has become more comfortable with the idea of the ThunderShirt, and we’re hoping he’ll be able to wear it for all anxious occasions very soon.

It’s looking promising. Isn’t he handsome?RemTSWearing

If you’d like to read more about my experiences with the ThunderShirt, please check out the following:

the big, bad world: enter ThunderShirt part 1 (Rex)

the big, bad world: enter ThunderShirt part 2 (Jack)

the big, bad world: enter ThunderShirt part 3 (making it through the 4th)

Disclaimer: I was provided with a ThunderShirt in exchange for my honest opinion. 

* I do not promote or recommend using a product for a purpose other than for what it was originally intended by it’s manufacturer.


free entertainment for you and your pet

photo source: animaldiscovery.com

photo source: animaldiscovery.com

When I was growing up, our little dog, Chipper, loved lights and reflections. I don’t even think the pet laser pointer for pets had been thought up, yet. Instead, he had a collection of flashlights in a designated drawer, and he was so obsessed, he would bark in anticipation if we even approached the drawer. Eating dinner was an issue because we had track lighting that bounced light off the silverware. We’d have to take a bite and then quickly bury the silverware under the plate or napkin or food. Nevermind the large serving utensils. Pizza night, with that spatula, was an event.

I still haven’t figured out why some animals “see the light” and some don’t. Or maybe they do and don’t care.

I’ve always been entertained by animals who do border on obsession with this entity that can’t be caught, and this week, I accidentally found one in a client. We were enjoying the cooling weather outside, and my watch shot a beam of light into the grass. Piper pounced. The game was on. Her big sister, Ava, couldn’t be bothered. What a great form of exercise for this pup! And what a great way for a little sister to pester her big sis–just part of the job.

So grab that flashlight you have lying around, or just use the sun and something reflective. Free entertainment for the whole family!