Jack’s Birthday

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It was Jack’s 8th birthday last week, so we celebrated by looking at puppy pictures of him, reminiscing about some of the adventures we’ve been on together, and baking him a little birthday cake. I came up with a recipe that combined some of his favorite flavors, resulting in a carrot cake with pumpkin icing (and a tennis ball on top). I made two, one for Keeper too. They loved it. Afterwards they got to play with their new mini tennis balls. I’ll definitely be making this for them again…

Jack’s Carrot Birthday Cake with Pumpkin Icing
Gluten and refined-sugar free. Makes 2 mini cakes.

1 cup all purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
2 cups shredded carrots
1 egg

8 oz all natural pumpkin puree (not canned pumpkin pie mixture)
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 tablespoon honey

Mix cake ingredients. Bake in a small, non-stick pan (I used a mini 4 inch pan) at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or until knife comes out clean. While you wait, mix icing ingredients. Let cake cool before icing. Add tennis ball on top!

Life with Dogs / Smiley Face Cool Treats


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Jack’s favorite treat is a carrot. Keeper’s favorite treat is an ice cube. I decided to combine the two and make carrot ice treats. I haven’t decided whether it’s inventive or lazy, but either way, they love them. Keeper has a Pavlovian response to the freezer door opening since she knows that’s where they are. I’ll go to grab a bag of frozen peas and all of a sudden notice a Keeper girl sitting underneath me, asking for her carrot ice. I like making these for the dogs on hot days because it’s something cool to help them stay hydrated, and because carrots are a naturally sweet, healthy treat. The smiley face molds are just for added happiness. We recently got them a pool, too!

Carrot Ice Treats

What you’ll need:
1 carrot
1 cup water
A smiley face ice cube tray (or just any ole’ one)

Here’s how:
Blend water and carrot together until liquid. Pour into molds. Refrigerate overnight. Give to your pups!

*Like most popsicles, these are best eaten outside because they can stain rugs, etc. And since dogs lack opposable thumbs it almost always guarantees making a mess inside (speaking for a friend).

More Life with Dogs can be found here.

Fostering puppies Weeks 1-9


Oh puppies. Nature’s anti-depressant. Is there anything better? They are sweet and soft and grow into these rambunctious, intelligent little gremlins with so much energy. It’s hard not to smile when you’re around them.

I was surprised at how interested people were in how we were raising puppies this small. One of my friends described it to me like this – newborn puppies are a “black box” a lot of dog lovers often never get to see. Unless your dog gets pregnant, you work in animal care, or you foster a pregnant dog like we did, most puppies tend to be seen at later life stages. The average age for a puppy to be adopted (or bought from a breeder, boo) is around 8-10 weeks. There’s a lot that happens in the early stages, so I’m happy to share our experience.

As you know, we thought since we were staying home for the holidays this past year it would be fun to have some extra happiness around by taking in a foster dog from The Milo Foundation (the same rescue we got Jack from). I picked up a very pregnant cattle dog named Whiskey the day before Thanksgiving and she and her puppies would end up bringing the total number of animals in our house to 10: 3 dogs, 6 puppies, and 1 cat. Why not.

Whiskey had the puppies at night a few days after she had settled in. She was pacing around and panting and displaying all the usual signs of an uncomfortable animal in labor. She climbed into the box we had put in the sunroom for her and had the puppies one by one into the night. She knew what to do. All animals do, including us. I think we tend to forget that thanks to movies and tv sensationalizing every labor to seem like an out of control emergency situation. I played doggie doula for a while as she gave birth to 1 puppy every 12-15 minutes or so, then I went to sleep around 2 am. There were 4 puppies.


In the morning I went in to check on her and the puppies and found that she had had 2 more puppies since I had last checked on her. What a sweet surprise! They still had parts of their umbilical cords attached. Puppies come out of their mother in their amniotic sac, which the mama dog chews through to get to the puppy, then she chews off their umbilical cord and later delivers and eats the placenta. I’m glad humans don’t have to do that.

There were 6 puppies in total – 3 girls and 3 boys. I grabbed an old lab notebook and flipped the page over from a Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle) necropsy analysis I performed in the Bahamas, to a blank sheet where I wrote down some basic distinguishing characteristics about each puppy and whether they were male or female. I haven’t been in a lab in over 2 years now, so I made the sunroom into one just for kicks – complete with an observation book, scale, and medications for Whiskey. Whiskey still had (what we think was) bordetella at this point which made her particularly wheezy and phlegmy with hacky coughs so I monitored her breathing for a little while. She received the medication late, and being that it is contagious, I looked for signs (coughing/sneezing) that the puppies may have gotten it too. Luckily they didn’t and Whiskey recovered quickly after a couple days on a broad spectrum antibiotic.


Weeks 1-2
The first few weeks with puppies is really easy if you’re a human. The mama dog does everything. Whiskey was happy to rest and nurse and take care of her puppies. It’s really important to make sure your mama dog has lots of food and water since nursing requires extra calories and can lead to dehydration more easily. I fed her 3x a day, one more feeding than usual, with more in quantity and treats in between meals.

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The puppies are pretty much immobile for the first 2 weeks. Their eyes are closed and ears sealed. They just sleep, eat, and poop/pee (with the help of their mom who licks them to stimulate elimination, then eats it….again, another thing I’m happy humans don’t have to do with their young). Puppies this young are more susceptible to cold so I made sure to put warm blankets in the box and a space heater in the sunroom so it stayed at a cozy 75-78 degrees or so.

Weeks 3-5
By the 3rd week, their eyes were open and they were crawling around the box and it was all kinds of cute. I weighed them every morning to make sure everyone was gaining weight properly. Around the end of week 4 Whiskey decided she was done being available to the puppies to nurse on whenever they wanted (can’t blame her). She wanted to be outside exploring with Jack and Keeper, so I opened the doggie door that links the sunroom to the back yard so she could come and go whenever she wanted. She would come in and check on them and knew when she needed to nurse instinctively. Animals are awesome. By this time the puppies were standing/wobbling and starting to interact with one another. I added a few small toys to their box for them to gnaw on and paw at.

They had picked up nicknames now, apart from WM1, WM2 (white male 1, white male 2, etc.) that I had been referring to them as in my notes. Now they were:

Tux - the curious black and white male who looked like he was wearing a tuxedo.
Cherry – the cute tri-color female runt (named after Trey’s fav flavor of the candy runts).
Grandpa Polar Bear – the sweet white male who looked like a polar bear and was chill like a grandpa.
Wags – the adorable black female with white paws, named after how much she wagged her tail when picked up.
Patch – the charming white male with a black patch on his eye.
Dottie – the sweet white female with dots on her fur.

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By the end of week 5, I started making them a gruel – which is dry puppy food softened with warm water or chicken broth, mashed up. With them getting bigger (with teeth) and Whiskey wanting to spend more time away from nursing (re: teeth), I followed Whiskey’s lead and started transitioning them to the gruel. Whiskey would still sleep with them at night and nurse for another couple weeks after this, which was especially good for the little runt Cherry who needed all the extra feedings she could get.

Weeks 6-8
The puppies really grew over weeks 6, 7 and 8. Their personalities all became very distinct and they were running and jumping on each other and playing with toys. These weeks are fun to watch because they are really socializing with each other and start assessing their rank in the litter by growling and wrestling with one another. I started cutting back the water I was adding to soften their food so they could transition slowly to eating dry, solid food. I added a weighted water bowl in the corner of the pen for them to drink from. Tux figured out how to get out of the box first. He’s was a smart one, that guy. We were sitting in the living room and all of a sudden he comes waltzing in like, hey man! The others followed shortly after.

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We replaced the box with a wire pen we had from when Keeper was a puppy and put fresh newspaper down before every meal since now it was our job to clean that up. We used a muffin pan to feed them 3x a day since it had 6 little compartments and we had 6 little puppies. By this time (beginning of week 7), Whiskey was completely done nursing even at night. She slept nights with Jack and Keep instead of being in the sunroom. The puppies quickly learned the routine and started letting us know around feeding time that they were hungry by “barking” (it’s really like puppies squawking at you). Their feeding schedule at 8 weeks was 7am, noon, and 6pm. Water was free range.

Week 9 and Adoptions
Week 9 was for shots, deworming, and spaying/neutering (Whiskey too). We gave everyone a bath, then loaded them up in the back of the Land cruiser and dropped them off at the vet. Afterwards they rested/recovered at Milo to get ready for the adoption event that weekend.


By the end of the weekend, 3 of the puppies and Whiskey had found homes. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to them. But that’s the deal. You bring them in, help them out, then send them on their way. Meeting the families who were adopting was really special. I don’t think I could hide the happiness I felt even if I tried. I remember meeting the couple who fostered Jack the day we showed up to adopt him from Milo 7 years ago. To do that for someone else just feels good. The other 3 puppies were adopted soon after. I only managed to get photos of some of the families, but here they are:

Little Cherry (now Pua) was adopted by a sweet family in San Francisco.
The dad wrote to me – “My wife is from Hawaii and we always talked about getting a “Poi dog”, a mixed race dog that also represents our mix race family, Japanese/European. We named her Pua which means flower.”

Tux was adopted by a great family with lots of land just outside San Francisco.

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The guy holding him was so stoked and told us a lot about how much he loved (and missed) his last cattle mix dog. They sent us an email shortly after saying Tux was already adjusting well to his new pack. Tux was Trey’s favorite, so it was particularly great for him to see a rad guy who really wanted to train a smart pup ending up adopting Tux.

Grandpa Polar Bear (now Pete) went to my friend and former biologist colleague, Natalie.

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She drove down from just outside Portland to meet him and I’m glad it was a match. I met her parents (and their dog, Carl!) too. I’m so happy he went to someone I know. He was definitely my favorite of the litter (though I shouldn’t have one!) and it’s really awesome to see him show up in my Instagram feed from time to time.

Whiskey (now Annie) was adopted by a family with 3 kids and 5 acres of land in Washington state.
Whiskey was so special to us. As you know, when I picked her up she was super pregnant, had this nasty respiratory infection, and wasn’t sure whether or not to trust us. She wasn’t house trained, knew no commands. By the end of the few months we had her she was sleeping in the bed with us and so affectionate. She raised 6 adorable pups and in the process (I hope) learned to trust a couple of humans. She morphed from a timid and frightened dog into a happy, sweet one. It was hard to uproot her again from the routine she had come to know with us, but we knew finding her a forever home was what was best. The family came down and spent some time with her and decided they wanted to adopt her. It’s the perfect home for her, one where she gets a lot of love and attention and we couldn’t be happier for her and her new family. Driving home with an empty truck I couldn’t help but hope she was doing okay. Just a few minutes after thinking that, the mom texted me this photo:


If you’ve ever thought about fostering a dog or cat, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s important to make sure you have the time, space, and right living situation to make for a comfortable experience for everyone involved. If fostering seems like too much to take on, there are lots of other ways to help out shelter animals. You can volunteer to walk dogs, donate money or high quality food, or even offer your skills such as photography by coming in once or twice a month to take photos of new dogs/cats for the website pro-bono. A great way to start is by calling your local rescue organization and asking them what supplies or services they are in need of at the moment and how best you can help.

Fostering Whiskey

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If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the animal roommates that have been living with us for the past two months. A young female cattle dog we call Whiskey, and her six puppies.


Trey saw the posting on the Milo Foundation‘s Facebook page (the same rescue where we got Jack). We were eating dinner and he said “ok, the answer is NO but, did you see Milo’s post on Facebook today?“. I hadn’t. I opted out of having a personal Facebook a while ago. Trey leaned over and showed me the posting. It read: “Very pregnant sweet but a bit afraid (understandably) cattle dog at the Martinez shelter… Needs a foster home. Any takers?!?!” Then I made some unintelligible noise and Trey caved and a couple days later we went and got her.

We have fostered before, mostly dogs, puppies, and kittens whenever we have the space and time to do so. I’ve been rehabbing animals since I was a kid. Injured birds, baby squirrels that fell out of trees, turtle with a cracked shell, bullfrog missing a leg, pony getting picked on by one the bigger horses at a farm down the road, kitten orphaned in a hurricane, too many dogs on the side of the road to count. When I moved to the West coast, I tube-fed seal and sea lion pups at a marine mammal rescue center and released them into the waves on foggy beaches. Eventually I worked in marine animal health with dolphins and whales. We don’t foster to keep. It’s awesome to help animals out and then send them on their way. Growing up, my mom would look at me and ask “Are you ok?” whenever I’d bring a new animal home to nurse back to health. Like there was something wrong with me for actually wanting to help animals. Who’s the weird one now, MOM! I digress.

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I picked up Whiskey a few days before Thanksgiving. She waddled over to me like a Komodo dragon with her blocky little head, squatty legs, big belly and nervous “smile”. On the ride home, I rolled the car window down and she just sat there staring out into the great unknown like “whattt is thiss?!”. I don’t think she had spent much time (if any) in a car before. She looked a bit dazed and excited all at the same time. She’s smiling, but that’s probably just the “nervous pants”. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like we do, so they regulate their body temperature (like if they were, say, pregnant and stressed) through panting.

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When we arrived home, I gave her the antibiotics she had been prescribed for a nasty respiratory infection (“kennel cough”), and let her rest in a dog bed in our bedroom. She was very sweet, but timid at first and didn’t seem to know whether to trust me fully or not. Later when she woke up, I fed her some chicken nuggets. If you want to be a pregnant rescue dog’s best friend, feed her chicken nuggets. I think these were genuine happy smiles.

Then she met Jack and Keeper who were playing down in the woods outside. They all did the inquisitive low tail wag, a sign of being unsure. Then came a snarl from Jack and a growl from Keeper. Dogs are funny like that, especially herding breeds. They all start evaluating who’s in charge and assess their ranking to see how the new member of the “pack” fits in. After Whiskey backed away to show them they had the higher ground, they all headed off to sniff and roam around the yard together. Later, I raised my hand to throw a ball Keeper had brought me and Whiskey cowered, tucked her tail and ran back inside to her bed in the bedroom. She had no idea what I was doing and it scared her. Rescue dogs come from situations that are not ideal a lot of the time, so it’s good to always look for signs of situations that might distress them. Every sign of fear or anger is a clue that gives you more insight into what they might have been through and why they are behaving the way they are.

Over the next few days we discovered more about her. She didn’t know any commands and wasn’t house trained, leading us to believe she had probably never lived with humans before, especially indoors. Maybe she was a working dog that herded cattle and roamed off? Maybe she was the runt (she’s a petite cattle dog, only 30 lbs) that no one wanted? Who knows, but out of all the behavioral issues that foster dogs can come with, these are two of the most basic and easy to train. The only thing was, she was super pregnant so her mind and body were concentrated on other things. We had to be sensitive to that and decided to devote more time to training her after she had the puppies.

On the third day of having her, we were all watching a movie in the living room and I noticed her starting to pace around. She was panting and trying to make a bed in the corner of the living room, so I knew it was almost time for the puppies to be here. I got some cardboard boxes we had leftover from moving in and Trey taped them together to make a large, shallow box for her. We put it in the sunroom, along with a few towels and a little space heater in the corner. Then we showed Whiskey the room. Around an hour later, she left the living room and Komodo dragon-waddled into the sunroom, crawled right in the box, and had the puppies!

I know you guys can’t wait to hear about the puppies, so I’ll do some more posts devoted entirely to them soon. Raising puppies is really fun. They are cute and are a constant source of entertainment.


But for now, I just wanted to write about Whiskey. She has been the best foster dog ever. It’s so rewarding to watch her progress every day. Since coming to us, she’s gotten over her respiratory infection, raised her six puppies, learned to “sit” and “stay” before her meal, and to “give paw” for a treat. She’s completely house-trained now and knows to tell us when she needs to go outside. She runs in the woods with Jack and Keeper (with no snarling or growling), and every night climbs in the bed to sleep next to us (but not before giving big, slobbery kisses first). Yesterday I took her in to the vet to be spayed so she won’t have to worry about having any more puppies and can focus on being a young dog herself now (she’s only a year and 1/2!). Milo is already taking applications for her and working to find the right person/family that can give her a lot of love.


More soon!

Dog People / Bri + Lakota

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I’ve admired Bri’s Instagram for a while now. Not only does she have an awesome blue heeler (Lakota), she also has a horse named Pippin and lives up in the North West. Occasionally a little miniature horse named Mr. Bubbles also pops up in her feed, too!

Name/Occupation: Brianna Albright (Instagram: @loki_toki). I work nights at a restaurant and am a nurses aid during the day!

Dog’s name/Age/Breed: Lakota Sioux, she’s an australian shepherd X blue heeler and is a year and a half old.


What made you decide to get a dog? There has never been a point in my life absent of dogs, growing up we always had at least two dogs shedding throughout the house and making our lives THAT much better, every single one of my fondest childhood memories includes a dog.
What made me decide to get Lakota, was when my older lab died shortly before I moved away from home, I knew I wanted an active stock/horse savvy dog that could keep up with me both on horses and on the mountains for my next dog.

Tell me about the first time you met Lakota. I loved Lakota before I even met her, a friend of mines uncle was selling her and her siblings on Facebook and I immediately messaged him, asking 1,000 questions about the puppies and their parents, and before I even got a reply to my first question, my last question was “When can I pick her up?!” After working the night shift at the store I worked at, I got up at 4 am because let’s be real, I was way too excited to sleep anyways, drove 4.5 hours to go pick her up, missed my ferry by 2 minutes, (there’s nothing as depressing as watching your ferry leave without you). I think I actually cried when I saw her for the first time. She was super round, fluffy, and tiny and I couldn’t handle all the cuteness. Apparently the guy selling the puppy had asked around about me and everyone told him I would be a great dog owner and he ended up not making me pay for Lakota, though I had cash in hand. So free dog, can’t get better than that, right? I snuggled her on the ferry and she rode on my lap the 4.5 hours home. I’ve been in love ever since.

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What’s the last thing she did that made you laugh? Lakota has me in stitches on the daily, her overly expressive face and eclectic personality are a winning combination. But yesterday we were sharing some pad thai in the car with one of my friends, I gave Lakota a good sized piece of chicken which she happily accepted, and then a few second later we heard the most impressive dog burp I’ve ever heard in my life erupt from her in the back seat, and when I turned to look at her she just had a ‘more please’ look on her face. I’m laughing again just thinking about it. Like, that’s my child.

What are your favorite characteristics about Lakota? My favorite characteristics about Lakota are her bravery and sense of adventure. Not every dog will sit in a saddle by herself on top of a horse, that sneezes, shakes, moves and occasionally spookes. Not every dog will walk up to a horse her person is on, put her front feet on their shoes and be pulled up to ride on that horse with the person. Lakota has ridden 100’s of miles with me both trotting along side with me and in the saddle.
When we go backpacking she carries her own pack with her own food and water and I usually tie her frisbee on to it as well because she likes to bring some entertainment for evenings at our campsite. I love that she’s the kind of dog that can handle a spur of the moment backpacking trip or horseback mountain trip or just lay in bed all day. She really is my other half.


Does she have a nickname? If so, how did she get it? Lakota has a ton of nicknames, the most recent being ‘Princess Stinky Butt’….but don’t tell her that I told the world that. She also goes by Sioux, Babygirl, Koderz, and LaSioux. It’s an ever growing list though.

Where do you shop for your dog (online shops, stores, etc)? My favorite shop for Lakota is J and B Custom Leather Co. They made her dog collar with real turquoise, leather and personalized name plate and allowed me to customize it in any way I want possible. It’s held up to the abuse of being a farm dog, rowdy player, ocean swimmer, mountain climber and horse rider. If it was to lose any of its stones or anything, J and B Custom leather will repair/replace any damages for the lifetime of the collar. Can’t argue with that. Lakota’s hiking and backpacking gear all comes from RuffWear, I couldn’t be more happy with her pack and frisbee from them! Lakota is a picky eater, we get our treats from Zuke’s Pets because they have some specialized energy bites for long weekends on the trails.


Are there any dog products you especially love/couldn’t live without? Dog products I couldn’t live without…uhh….Lakota’s J and B leather collar. I have always loved dog collars and the fact that it reflects who Lakota and I are so perfectly and holds up to our lifestyle makes my heart happy every time I see it. I may or may not be planning to get another…


What does being a “Dog Person” mean to you? To me, being a dog person is a lifestyle. There are people who have dogs and then there are dog people. The people who’s favorite accessory and condiment is dog hair. Who don’t mind the muddy paw prints in the winter and the constant presence of dog hair in their home and vehicles. The people who go the extra mile when traveling to either bring their dogs or make sure their dogs are comfortable and safe staying home. Being a dog person is including that dog in your every day life, not just when it’s convenient or beneficial for you. My dogs wellbeing and happiness is the most important thing in the world to me.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell someone looking to get a dog? My piece of advice to someone getting a dog is to think of it more as getting a child than getting a pet. Your time is limited with your furbaby, take every moment and every chance to make memories and be with that dog that you can, just remember, you are their WORLD!

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Thanks Bri! For more, follow Bri + Lakota on Instagram.

Life with Dogs / Casper


Last weekend we built a bed frame for our bed (DIY post coming soon!), so in the spirit of new sleep arrangements we decided it was time the dogs got a new bed too. We were so excited to find a new Casper dog mattress delivered to our door. It’s the latest from the popular human mattress brand dubbed the “Warby Parker” of mattresses (for its hip design, easy online ordering, and delivery to your door). Their design and engineering teams came up with a new modern bed for dogs using soft, durable materials that cater to natural canine behaviors.

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The mattress arrived in a light box that was easy to get through the door. The dogs escorted the box in and Jack gave it the final OK inspection before we unpacked it. They sent us a large bed, which was perfect for both of them to lay on. It’s so big I can lay on it (and might have). How’s that for a visual. Putting it together was a breeze. The pressure-relieving memory foam and support foam are so nice and comfy. The outer material is soft and removes to be washed easily. It’s made from one of the strongest microfibers available to ensure it won’t easily be chewed or scratched through. They even added a durable surface layer with excess material on top to mimic the sensation of scratching/digging before laying down like most dogs do. Keeper is a fan of the supportive foam bolsters on the sides, which give the bed that enclosed feel – much like the feeling she gets in the “den” (we call it a fort) that her and Jack have going on beside couch.

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On a side note, ever since Jack’s balancing act went viral a few years ago, I’ve been slowly moving over from studying dolphins to training dogs. It’s been a side gig for a while now that I really enjoy. A few of my other dolphin-studying friends have forayed into the world of canine behavior too since dolphins and dogs are very similar intellect-wise. One common question I get is – how do I keep my dog off my furniture? There are lots of reasons why dogs like laying on the couch rather than the floor (and every dog is different), but one thing you can do first is give them more options on the floor. There are lots of design-friendly options for poufs and floor pillows out there that can be designated as “theirs”. I highly recommend a good bed like the Casper mattress. The design is modern and neutral and it’s durable so you won’t be replacing the bed for years (good for your dog and your wallet). They also give you a 100 night trial to return it if you’re not impressed. Putting their bed in areas that feel enclosed are also good so they feel safe and protected in a space that’s their own. We’ve moved our new Casper dog bed to the area beside the couch where they like to lay and it’s been a huge hit. If they aren’t playing outside, they are lounging and sleeping on it. That’s if the cat isn’t hogging it.

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(they’re serious about comfort).

Thank you Casper!

One Simple Trick

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Life with Dogs
Tip #11: Using a distinct whistle.

When I was a kid, my brother and I used to spend all summer outside. Just before it got dark every evening, my dad would stand on the edge of the porch and whistle for us to come in. That whistle would carry through the trees and across the pasture, down to the creek, and straight into our ears. Whenever we heard the whistle, we knew it was time to make our way back home.

I’ve found this not only works for two scraggly kids roaming through the woods (ha!), it also works with dogs. By choosing a sound and using it when you want their attention, over time it will become distinct and memorable to them. Most of us do it already without really noticing.

When I’m on trails in the woods, I like to give the dogs space to wander. It’s a trust we have with one another – they can roam freely as long as they come back when I whistle for them. I like letting them be dogs and giving them the freedom to sniff and investigate. The two of them stick together most of the time. Keep stays right at Jack’s heels, or vice versa. When they get too far from me, I whistle for them and they run back by my side. There are times, of course, when they forget or ignore me because they are too interested in what they are doing, and that’s ok. I just whistle a few more times and wait for them.

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A good way to train your dog to come to your distinct whistle is to start in the house or at the dog park with a ball or toy. Throw the ball or toy and whistle for them to bring it back instead of saying anything. Over time, they will make the association that your whistle means to come back. This will also get them familiar with the sound of the whistle you’ve chosen.

My go-tos are: a high-pitched whistle or a sharp kiss-like sound I used to use with horses growing up. Both are effective, and I like that even in a crowd of dogs I can get their individual attention. Do you guys have a special whistle or call that gets your dog’s attention? I want to know!

Life with Dogs / 10

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Tip # 10: On dealing with “good samaritans”.

When we raise dogs, it means we swear an imaginary oath to care for them. Over time, our dogs grow and become our best friends. And when someone assumes we are breaking that oath we’ve made to our best friend, it makes us go bat-shit. Personally, I think dealing with rude people should be seen as an art form.

I remember the deer-in-the-headlight days when I used to just stand there and listen while people would tell me my dogs needed water/food/were tired/hot/whatever in order to keep the peace. Living in a really liberal area where everyone likes to share their opinions (this is a good and bad thing) means dealing with situations like this frequently. But you know what? I take care of my dogs. They don’t need water because they just had some. They aren’t hungry because they’ve been fed. They aren’t hot because I would never leave them in the car on a hot day. I got tired of people thinking they could say whatever they wanted to me, so now I talk back.

The other day, while driving back from Lagunitas, we stopped to get some juice at this natural grocery store. The truck was parked but running. I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat and the dogs are in the back, all the windows are down. They’ve just been swimming in cold creek water for the last few hours, and Keeper was shivering. Trey has ran inside to get the drinks.

Middle-aged woman: (walks over to our truck, says to me) “I think your dogs are hot”.
Me: (ignoring middle age woman who has walked over to my truck to tell me how to take care of my dogs).
Middle-aged woman: : “Hellooooo (peers into the driver’s seat window), I said I think your dogs are hot.”
Me: (Starts to explain creek, cold water, swimming… aborts idea, decides to tell her to get the fu*k out of here instead).
Me: No they aren’t, and I don’t need you to tell me how to care for my dogs…
Middle-aged woman: (cutting me off) “You’re ignorant and don’t deserve to have dogs!” (walks back to her silver Prius thinking she has done her civic duty for the day).
Me: Ohgetthafuckouttahere (suddenly, a Boston accent emerges).
Middle-aged woman: (turns around and says) “You’re a bitch. I have your license plate”.
Me: That’s great lady, shove it up your ass (makes dramatic ass shoving gesture with arm).
Me: (sits in passenger’s seat, mulling over what just happened. gets pissed on behalf of all good dog owners everywhere. gets out of passenger’s seat and walks over to woman).
Me: HEY!
Middle-aged woman: (gets into Prius quickly).
Me: (knocks on her window loudly) IT’S ME, FROM OVER THERE (points flamboyantly to the truck).
Middle-aged woman: (locks doors).
Me: Yeah, TOTALLY intrusive when someone comes over to your car, right? While I’m here, don’t EVER tell me how to care for my dogs or assume you know what I or anyone else needs to be doing.
Middle-aged bitch: (puts car in reverse).
Me: (Follows car, flicking off rearview mirror with both hands until Prius leaves the parking lot. Turns to see people eating lunch outside of store. Snarls for added effect).

You might be thinking “wow Nicole, you really went there“. I did. I’d do it again. They can go tell all their friends what happened so every one of them thinks twice about approaching someone random and thinking they know more about their dogs than they do.

If throwing the wild card isn’t your thing, here’s a less in-your-face approach:

Turn the conversation. Ask them this instead:
Do you feed this dog every morning and night?
Do you pick up this dog’s poop 3 times a day?
Did this dog sleep in the bed with you last night?
Do you take this dog to the dog park every day?
Does this dog go hiking, swimming, and on a million road trips with you?

No? Well then don’t tell me how to take care of my dog.

Lastly (and somewhat effective, yet least satisfying): ignore them. Engaging with strangers is always a gamble and you never know who is waiting around the corner. I usually listen long enough to hear what they have to say, and if the person obviously has no clue what’s going on, it’s better to just treat them as if they are crazy for even approaching you. A good death stare works wonders. I tend to go all bulge-y eyed in these situations because I have a lot of repressed childhood anger. I’m just kidding. Kind of.

Hopefully this provides a few entertaining options for your next encounter with a “good samaritan”. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Got any good stories of someone telling you you’re not taking proper care of your dog? How did you deal with it? I’d love to hear!

Northern California, from the sky

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This past weekend we got to see San Francisco Bay from the sky. It was incredible. We took off from Sausalito (just north of the Golden Gate Bridge), then flew over the city, circled around Alcatraz and the east bay, before heading north along the coastline up to Point Reyes. It was so cool to look down and see the giant redwood trees in Muir Woods, and take turns spotting gray whales off the coast. Trey capitalized on the opportunity to look for drained swimming pools in the area from up above (for riding bmx/skating). Jack was our co-pilot. Well, actually, we decided at the last minute that it would be too loud for him in the plane (preserving his hearing was more important) – so he stayed back on the dock with Ava, the woman who wrangles the plane in after it lands (thanks Ava!). Once we landed, Jack jumped inside the plane so he could see what we had been up to! It was so much fun. We were reminded just how beautiful this place we call home really is.

I’d probably have to say my favorite parts were flying close to the Golden Gate Bridge and seeing the huge cliffs on the coastline. It was so cool to see another perspective of the San Francisco Bay. That, and seeing Jack on the dock doing his happy dance when we returned. When we were leaving the dock and about to go home, Jack tried to take a short cut and stepped (front paws only) into a foot of ebb tide mud and got stuck up to his shoulders. Trey had to pull him out like a cork stuck in a bottle of merlot (I use this analogy far too often when describing our dogs, come to think of it)…

As you know, we’re into living life to the fullest. Experiences rank higher than any material good could to us. For this experience, we used IfOnly, a company that specializes in “Experiences For Good”- extraordinary experiences that give back to charities. We loved it – and it’s great if you’re looking for something local to do while visiting a new city, or even doing something extravagant like meeting The Weeknd backstage or that hunky Australian actor Chris Hemsworth. IfOnly is a great marketplace for incredible experiences. Not to mention an awesome way to give the gift of adventure to your friends and family.

Thank you IfOnly and Sea Plane Adventures for this awesome experience we won’t forget!

IfOnly is offering $50 off a unique experience of your own using code: wildlandia! Check them out here. This post was sponsored by IfOnly. All content and opinions expressed here are my own. Thank you for supporting those who support Wildlandia!

Life with Dogs / 09

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Tip #9: How to make a harness on the fly.

You’ve likely fell victim to it at least once, if not all the time. Maybe it was a tree full of squirrels, an approaching dog, or a bicyclist ahead – but, the signs were clear: ears perked, body stiffened, eyes focused. You knew what was coming next: an assault on your arm. In situations like these where your dog might tend to pull on the leash and you find yourself needing more control, here is an easy way to make a harness quickly.

Step 1. Using the collar and leash you already have, hook the leash onto the collar as if you were getting ready to go outside.

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Step 2. Wrap the leash underneath the body and around the chest, loosely.

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Step 3. Cross the leash over the top of the body and put handle through the loop you’ve created

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Step 4. Pull the handle of the leash towards the center and you’re ready to go!

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For long distance hikes, or daily walks with a dog who tugs on the leash regularly, I recommend getting an actual harness. This tactic is great for those times when you just need a little extra control to get from point A to point B.

Leash and collar are from the nice folks at RESQCO.