We got a new dog over the winter break. After 7 months of looking (and even having a dog in the home), we found our unicorn dog.
Our daughter named him "Captain Love", and while it sounds suspiciously like a 1970's porn star, we thought her rationale for the name was pretty sweet.
"Mommy? We should name him Captain Love."
"We could call him Captain for a nickname, but his real name is Love. Because I love him."
For obvious reasons, we will not be yelling "Captain Love, Come!" at the dog park. We just call him "Captain." Though he strikes me more of a Gilligan than a Captain, this will certainly be a story that will be told a million times.
We just call him Captain.
In the last week of having a dog, it made me appreciate so many things that I took for granted with Sadie and Zeppelin. For starters, both of them eventually learned to walk on a leash past distractions and could give attention with a single call of their name. Let's just say with Captain, we have a long way to go (though he does strike me as an eager and fast learner). I think his parents were a "Distracta-hound" and "Adora-mutt", but that's just my hunch.
Other things that I've relearned after 15 months of not having a dog live with us:
I forgot what 6am looked like because I was sleeping.
COLD COLD COLD F*CK IT'S COLD WHY DID WE GET A DOG IN DECEMBER IN NEW ENGLAND? Dude, just PEE already...COLD!
Ooh, warm puppy couch cuddles are the best!
Wait...Buddy, what are you chewing on? No, not the CELL PHONE!
Now that we have a natural predator in the home again, I've relearned where all the kitty hiding spots are located.
We are all aware of how reactive Sadie was to noises, and are so thrilled that the heater, mailman, trucks, neighbors and pretty much any city noise seems to go unnoticed by our hound. Gone are the days where we had to make sure Sadie was out of the house when the heater kicked on, lest we had a shaking puppy.
That said, because I started off always reacting to Sadie's reactivity, I felt like I was one step behind. We're taking a lot of preventative measures with Captain, and it seems to be paying off in spades so far. Dogs barking outside? Look buddy - puzzle toys!
Oh, right - I have to move the cat box where he can't help himself to kitty crunchies....
This list will undoubtedly get longer as we navigate living with a dog again, this time with a toddler. For now, it's nice to curl up with a baby on one side, and a dog on the other, and enjoy the comfort of the couch on this very cold winter day.
We started talking, and ended up taking a deep-dive on the rescue industry. As a result, we ended up recording enough material for two full episodes, the first of which airs tomorrow night on The Voice of Maine radio stations (WVOM-103.9FM-Bangor, WVOM-1450AM-Rockland & WVQM 101.3FM-Augusta)
The podcast version will be available Sunday night at 9pm on your favorite Podcasting App or Magical Podcastery Technological Appy Thing (tm). Part 2 will air on Christmas weekend! Perfect for all your travel plans! Thank you so much to Don and Kate for the invitation and for the conversation - we'll have to do it again because I'm quite sure we could have talked for days! If you're in Maine, these are great people who love, care about, and know dogs. Support them and listen to their show - they are really great!
Veterinarians, dog trainers, behaviorists, shelter employees and rescue groups never advise dogs as Christmas gifts because many of them end up in the shelters 3-6 months later when they are adolescent dogs. Many of them also come from breeders-of-ill-repute (puppy mills). Good breeders never produce puppies for Christmas Morning.
Shelters and reputable breeders are our biggest word-of-mouth against Christmas puppies and educating against the practice, and providing alternatives.
So why on EARTH is a Maine shelter delivering puppies to homes on Christmas morning?!?
I'm really sad to see the Coastal Humane Society of Maine get on the Christmas Puppy bandwagon - they will even deliver the puppies to the door on Christmas morning. They are looking for drivers to deliver the dogs (many of which just had a traumatic transport from the South to Maine) to people's homes on Christmas morning. Some of which might end up back in the shelter in June.
Yes, it looks good on paper: kids wake up and see a new dog, and it's really exciting for everyone, until the puppy needs training classes, or eats all the new toys the kids just opened.
After the excitement of the holidays are over, many Christmas pets go back to the shelter.
If someone is committing to bringing a dog home, keeping it in a shelter for an extra week so a family can be surprised by the dog seems really unfair to the dog frown emoticon
I see what they are trying to do - but I think this is a huge miss.
Instead, the shelter should put a program together to prevent dogs coming back to their shelter
Encourage families to come and volunteer their time socializing the puppies (or go down to the shelter as a family unit later in the day)
Have a local artist paint holiday ornaments of the dogs in the shelter, and the money for the ornaments can go back to support the shelter.
Related: The ornament could be a "we will get a dog in the new year, but we are all going to meet the dog" placeholder present.
Buy a round of dog training classes and give that as a gift - then in the weeks after the holidays, the family can go meet dogs from reputable sources.
Can't have a dog but want one? Donate to your local shelter.
Not sure if your kids would be responsible enough for a dog? Go as a family to walk dogs at the shelter once a week. If they aren't into it after a month, then you've dodged a bullet (and helped some dogs get some exercise!) If they continue to look forward to dog walking day, you can consider foster-to-adopt through the shelter.
Regardless, if you are considering getting a pet, don't use Christmas as an excuse. You can prep the family on Christmas and build excitement by buying classes or a promissory note for your dog-to-be, but from dog trainers, shelter employees and rescue advocates everywhere - please:
When most people get up the gumption to contact their heros, a feeling of nervousness and excitement washes over them.
There is a certain population where the universe bends all rules of probability and says this: "Oh, that's really cute. Let's make this weird and awkward for all parties involved."
I am a part of that population.
Pretty good advice. It's served me well.
After attending a conference where Jessica Dolce of DINOS (Dogs In Need of Space) was presenting, I let her know that I loved her work and included her in the references of my book. We did a book swap. After she read mine, she suggested that I write to Dr. McConnell to let her know how much she affected my work and influenced the book. I was nervous, but whatever the gal who created DINOS says, I do.
So I ponied up the courage, contacted "her people" and in 3 minutes got a letter back from one of her assistants. "We'd love to get the book! Send it along!" She included an address.
Excitedly, I prepped the book. I thought about how to inscribe it. I sent it off.
A few weeks went by.
I received a certified letter that I had to pick up in person at the post office. I thought about all the times on Maury Povich that "the kid is yours" starts off with a certified letter...but then I remembered I'm a woman and would have remembered something like that. Then I thought I was being sued for something and totally panicked.
Turns out, a post office in Wisconsin sent me a letter. It stated that my book didn't qualify as "media mail" - which was strange because the post master at the post office told me to send it by "media mail." This includes "books" which my book actually is. They told me to cease and desist sending books as part of their book mailing program.
I was confused. I was also concerned that they didn't send my book along to Dr. McConnell.
When I called the post office and explained I sent a book, the post master on the other end of the line in Wisconsin went silent.
Then, she sighed and said the words I was a little worried to hear.
"Oh. Um...I think I know what happened."
Apparently, my book came out of the packaging between Wherever, USA and Wisconsin.
In the same shipment, a box of dentistry supplies ALSO came out of it's packaging.
My envelope said "Dr. Patricia McConnell" - so naturally, the dentist supplies had to go to Dr. McConnell.
The book...is missing (later found out, because of a podcast my beloved listens to, that it is in Atlanta where all missing mail goes to stay lost.)
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, my hero Patricia McConnell picks up a package of dentist supplies from M. McCue-McGrath with no other note. She, as anyone would, returned the package to the post office.
Some dentist, somewhere, is missing his...or her...supplies. They are in Wisconsin.
Once I found out what happened, I emailed Her People (tm). I was crestfallen, embarrassed (what on earth is she going to think?). Also, where is the book? Also, this poor dentist is missing important things!
Lisa the Assistant Of The Year (I'm giving her this award) laughed it off and said something about Dr. McConnell showing up with a box of dentist supplies and a quizzical look.
Two days later, I receive a letter.
Not by certified mail. Regular, won't make you crap-your-pants-in-fear mail.
In this envelope was a hand written note.
A hand written note from my hero, Dr. Patricia McConnell.
"Dear M.McCue-McGrath -
I received a box of dentist supplies from you. I'm guessing that's not what you sent - unless you're giving me a not-so-subtle hint about my oral hygene.
If you sent a manuscript for me to read, please kindly send it again. - Patricia McConnell"
I sent a new book. On the envelope I wrote:
"Includes ONE BOOK. No dentistry supplies."
The note will be framed because it's from my hero. I hope she likes the book, but right now, the universe is laughing, as am I. Well played, universe.
*Update: Dr. McConnell ended up getting her copy of the book and we had a lovely email back-and-forth about urban dogs after she read it. She ended up writing a piece on her blog about city dogs and rural dogs. Check it out HERE.*
In short, a reward is in the eye of the recipient. I think of Ron Weasley from Harry Potter and the hand knit sweater. He REALLY didn't want the sweater his mom made him for Christmas - he got one every year and was embarrassed by them. Harry, never having a sweater, really was touched by the gift Mrs. Weasley made him.
Last night, we had a good lesson in "rewards."
Aislyn, my three year old daughter, is trying a full night without her bedroom light. I told her she had to pick her binky or the light (she picked binky) AND she gets a reward of whatever she wants for breakfast tomorrow morning if she can make it through the night.
"I want a Nutella and orange cheese stick sandwich."
"Can I just make you a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich?"
"No. Nutella and cheese stick."
"Ok, Nutella and cheese."
"NO, Mom. Cheese STICK."
So, a reward I never .... never would have thought of - a Nutella and Cheese STICK sandwich.
Now, I could have given her a new toy. I could have given her a peanut butter sandwich. I could have had a dance party with her. Those things would not have been as rewarding as a Nutella and cheese stick sandwich.
Dog help us if we were out of Nutella. Or cheese sticks.
Luckily, she decided at the last minute to have the cheese stick on the side so it didn't get messy.
This is a real reward.
Think about that the next time your dog won't come when called. Was he expecting a game with you and you just pet him on the top of his head? Is that head rub rewarding at all to your dog? We know you think it is but does your dog perceive that as a reward?
Does the behavior of "come" increase or decrease with a head rub instead of a game of tug or a piece of cheese?
Thank you, thank you, thank you to The BarkMagazine.
They consistently put out a great product but this month warrants special accolades.
I'm an unknown author who worked incredibly hard to advocate for my students and urban dogs all over the country. The problem with being an unknown author is...being unknown.
For The Bark to select Considerations for the City Dog for a review in their coveted winter issue (they only produce 4 issues a year!), I'm beyond speechless. The Bark not only speaks for dogs, but they speak for the unknown author, indie author or authors of small publishing houses that might get overlooked by the Bigger Publishing Houses (tm).
Interestingly enough, I'm not the only Boston area author in this review section. Fellow New England Dog Training Club member (and longtime author), Susan Conant, is also reviewed in this particular issue. It's like I had a buddy along for this ride, and I'm so happy to see NEDTC represented in a few genres in such a great magazine.
Thanks for looking out for us, Bark, in the same way you look after dogs.
If you're looking for something special to read for your holiday travels, feel free to pick up this issue of The Bark - I hear they have some pretty great books in their reviews section!
Here is a post I wrote for 2 Dogs Treats last week. I thought it was an important one to share here in its entirety.
If you are reading this right now, you might think muzzles are only for “bad dogs.” Dogs that are aggressive, dangerous or mean.
I hope to change your mind by the end of this post.
I will introduce and discuss the many reasons for acclimating every dog to a basket muzzle, particularly in an urban environment. Your vet would argue (rightfully) that all dogs should be comfortable wearing a muzzle and I have to agree.
A Labrador Retriever wearing a Basket Muzzle. (Courtesy of TheLabradorSite.com)
Before I list the many reasons that pet professionals are pro-muzzle, I want you to think for a minute. What circumstances would a muzzle be useful? Think about veterinarians, the law, natural disasters. Now can you think of any other reason to muzzle train your pup?
Here is a short list:
Veterinarians might have to muzzle your dog if he is seriously injured. When our greyhound broke his leg at home, my instinct was to grab his basket muzzle, put it on him, and then evaluate the situation. When a dog is in excruciating pain (such as a broken leg), their instinct is to prevent more pain. Even the best behaved dogs that would never otherwise bite their owners have bitten owners, passer bys and veterinarians - all of which were trying to help the dog. You can’t help your dog if you are also going to the ER for a significant dog bite, so put the muzzle on Sparky first and then assess the situation.
Dogs that eat EVERYTHING. If you have a dog who has had to go to the veterinarian more than once this summer for parasites because your dog eats everything on walks, a muzzle might be a great option for preventing illness and more vet bills. This also applies to labradors who eat rocks, poop (coprophagia) or other forms ofpica.
Local evacuations: With more and more natural disasters nationally, the chances of evacuation due to natural disaster are (sadly) increasing. Many people do not want to leave their pets behind in case of emergency, and many choose to ignore evacuation requests because of their pets. Don’t risk your life, or your pets life. Many evacuation sites will allow you to bring your pet IF it’s in a crate and muzzled. When a dog is stressed out, the likelihood of a bite increases so for everyone's protection, your pets need to be muzzled and / or crated. If you haven’t started crate training, here is a great place to start.
Reactive Dogs: There are aggressive dogs (dogs that for a variety of reasons charge and bite) and there arereactive dogs. Dogs like my former dog, Sadie, who had a large personal space bubble and was perfectly fine as long as no other dog came into her space. If they did, then she would react by lunging, barking, and loudly express her displeasure at the intruder. It’s an even harder situation when the dog coming into her space is a “friendly” dog who “just wants to say hi.” Sorry, this might be unpopular, but as the owner of a reactive dog (like thousands of you in cities) your dog’s friendliness has absolutely nothing to do with my dog’s comfort. Your dog’s “good intentions” is not permission to come into any dog’s space. Full stop. This is why leash laws exist - it’s not just for the safety of your dog, but for the dogs that are uncomfortable their surroundings. If you do not have the ability to call your dog from any distraction (including other dogs) your dog should be leashed until trained. With that said, as an added bonus, a dog like Sadie could have worn a muzzle - which would have been a visual cue to the FDO (friendly dog’s owner) that this dog should not have her space infringed upon. Sometimes a little extra security goes a long, long way.
If you are in a busy environment and other people ignore pleas to not get in your dog's face. If you are someone who says “yes, I know he’s cute, and he likes people but I think he’s overwhelmed now,” a muzzle is a good visual marker for people to give a little bit of space so this dog can take a quick break.
Bully Breeds: If you own a bully breed, or a banned breed (there are 75 of them in the USA - is your dog on this list?), a muzzle might be a necessary evil for you to keep your dog. In some cases, you can only walk your banned breed down the street of your neighborhood, regardless of temperament, with a muzzle. If you think breed bans are just for ‘pit bulls’ and other bully breeds, then you’re in for a surprise because in some cases, Chihuahuas, American Eskimo Dogs and Golden Retrievers are on the list. If you are the owner of these dogs in a locale that bans these breeds, you are now going to start feeling the heat in the way that bully breed owners have been for decades. It’s time to stop BSL (breed specific legislation) and instead employ individual risk assessment per individual dogs.
Pink, custom, blinged out muzzle for this beauty! For more information about this particular piece, visit RedStarCafe
There are great resources for muzzles, including the popular Muzzle Up Project.This website lays out even more resources and reasons for muzzles, and works hard to erase the stigma of muzzles. The Karen Pryor website also is addressing the muzzle issue.
With all of that said, muzzles are still used on dogs that are aggressive, so it’s important to give space to ANY dog wearing a muzzle. Until we can all get on board and ask every dog owner if it’s ok to say hello to their dog (and keep going if the answer is “No,” for any reason!), then muzzles are a necessity.
And, in some cases, are really, really cute :)
2 Dogs Treats owner Christian enters J-Lo in a Halloween contest. J-Lo is wearing a Duck Muzzle - a functional muzzle designed to take some of the stigma out of muzzling dogs. Good boy, Christian! You’re doing an AWESOME job advocating for your pup!
So next time you see a dog in a muzzle, there is no reason to be alarmed. The owner is protecting their dogs from illness, good intentions and eating terrible things. They are advocating for their dog’s space. They are teaching their dogs that muzzles are no big deal in the event of an emergency. These are good dog owners who are being proactive and protective for a variety of reasons.
Training goal: Get a muzzle and start teaching your pup to wear it. You don’t have to have your dog wear it all the time, but you can start getting your dog used to it. Your vet, trainer and others will thank you for it in the event of an unforeseen circumstance. The time to try a muzzle is not when you’re being evacuated or your dog has broken his leg - the time for muzzles is when you can teach them to wear it comfortably, and treat it like a party trick.