Monday, November 23, 2015

To the Shenandoahs

We last hiked in the Shenandoahs over the summer when Florian's friend Thomas was here, and we don't go often as the trip entails driving along Route 66 which is notorious for its traffic. 

But I had a hankering for the mountains, the peaceful wide-open views, the foliage and the special sensation of being in an area where wildlife and trees are paramount over human settlement. 

I haven't been to the Signal Knob trail since probably 2007 or 2008. 

It's in the George Washington National Forest and I hiked it the weekend I went camping with Tashi and Lamar just before I met Florian. 

It's a steep trail up the mountain and affords amazing views of open space all around

We hiked a few miles straight up, and were ready to stop near the top on some nice sunny exposed rocks. 

It was a perfect place to rest, enjoy some lovin' 

and share a snack with the pups.

The best part was that Marshall finally relaxed and looked happy. 

The combination of exertion, tasty salty snacks, and a warm sunny spot to sit on the rocks proved too much for him to maintain his worried expression. 

We got in some nice cuddles 

and a few more smooches, and Marshal smiled the whole time. 

A good note on which to turn around and head down the trail. 

Being with these dogs and being out in nature is sure good for the soul. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A hike in Great Falls

This has been a wonderful fall so far, with mild temperatures spread out over the weeks since September. It was the driest September on record though, so the leaves were quick to turn and less dramatic than in other years. 

Still some beautiful sights when we went to Great Falls to follow up Florian's Nutcracker rehearsal with a hike, as we do every year. 

Marshal enjoyed the hike, but seemed a little unsure about the water.

Good to expose him to new environments though,

and of course beautiful to see the Potomac with the changing leaves

 and observe all of nature's wacky, artistic manifestations.

Marshal trotted along, tangling himself up with the other dogs as usual and taking everything in.

Slowly letting go of his uneasiness.

Only for Florian to brutalize him all over again with intensity. Poor Marshal.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Learning to Sit with True Chews Premium Jerky Cuts from

Marshal's been with us about two weeks now, and for much of that time I've been trying to teach him to sit. 

I tried a group sit with Fozzie and Dahlia, and he would just watch them sit and remain standing. 

I tried some intensive efforts just trying to lure his head up with a really good treat in my hand, and he stood on his hind legs to reach it.  

I rewarded that as Stand is one of my favorite tricks, but then I thought it was stupid to teach him to Stand before he learned to sit as many adopters might not be thrilled at that skill set absent the more sedate ones. 

I was a bit stymied by the difficulty for Marshal of learning Sit, as it is such a great building block for impulse control exercises--and an important position for the most appealing profile pictures. I think sometimes shy dogs are slower to learn tricks and skills because--just as in humans--their insecurity gets in the way of advanced cognitive function.  

Then offered a series of free snacks including True Chews Premium Jerky Cuts with Real Chicken.

These are high-value jerky snacks with few ingredients and no sugar. They are chewy jerky snacks, easy to give as a larger chew or to break up into small pieces for training treats. Maybe a really good treat would provide the motivation Marshal needed?

I rounded everyone up in the kitchen with a handful of True Chews bits. The dogs seemed very aware that I had high-value treats in hand, as they followed me with their eyes and noses. And as my hand went up in the signal for sit, Dahlia's little butt immediately went down--and Marshal's did too!

Maybe he'd been watching Dahlia all along, and saving up his performance for maximum impact. Or maybe he was insecure about giving it a try, and the high-value treat made him all of a sudden feel successful. Either way, Marshal executed several high-quality sits in exchange for some high-value True Chews.

Thanks again! Now let's see if those beautiful sits can attract the perfect adopter. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hope in Trying Times

As the human race continues on its inexorable journey toward complete batshit madness, I feel ever more justified in finding solace in the sole company of my dogs.

One of the most relaxing, reassuring places for me to be is on my bed, reading, while the dogs engage in their own madness around me.

Like every dog I've had, Marshal and the others are completely placid during the day when normal people are up and about, doing activities. 

At night, when most of us want to unwind and relax, is when all hell breaks loose.  

Marshal is sweet, calm, and shy during the day, and a complete demon at night.

I am not sure if you've had the opportunity to watch the international cinematic masterpiece known as The Human Centipede. If you haven't, please don't. Marshal, Dahlia, and Fozzie's 3-way hump-fests provide all the preview you need. 

Marshal is so full of energy, so hyper, so incessantly annoying to the other dogs, he makes Dahlia look like a Zen master. 

Which puts me in mind of my first months with Dahlia, when she was humping and nipping and bouncing around and driving me and Fozzie and Florian out of our minds for five hours every evening, and I wondered if it would ever end. 

And look at her now!

Come to think of it, Fozzie was no elder statesman at first either. It is hard to remember because now he is so mellow at home, so sleepy and affectionate and tolerant and loving--but even Fozzie was a disaster once. 

Just putting it in perspective like that makes me think what a fantastic dog Marshal will be. He already loves affection, loves people, is good with kids, and has a great attitude toward other dogs. Not an ounce of real aggression. He just happens to be in that unfortunate stage of development known as puppyhood, that makes him behave like a complete lunatic and make noises that sound like the soundtrack to a horror movie about ravaging mutant zombie werewolves. 

Unlike for humans, there's great hope for Marshal! 

If only it were a matter of a few months of development for us, too, to leave our ravaging mutant zombie selves behind and evolve into our calm, loving potential.

If I could send a foster dog to the people of Paris to somehow assuage the pain of what they've been through--fuck, if I could recruit young ISIS militants as dog foster parents to rehabilitate them, give them hope, and set them back on a path to sanity--I would do it.  But I fear our path to sanity as a species will be far more difficult. 

What do YOU do to stay hopeful in times of insanity? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Marshall and Sky

Pretty much as soon as I saw Marshal playing with Dahlia, I knew he and Sky Princess had to meet. 

Folks at the shelter had told me that he had a rowdy, obnoxious play style--much like Dahlia--and he did. But the first few days he was more subdued than I thought he would be, and I could only surmise that he, like many, was a bit overwhelmed by Dahlia's intensity and Fozzie's ambivalence about playing, and sheer mass. 

I brought him over to my sister's as soon as I could, and he and Sky were inseparable. 

It was hard to get a clear picture of them because they were in constant motion

and were completely in heaven chewing and wrestling and running and playing together. Sky showed Marshal around her new digs, bringing him outside 

 and leading him in big zooming figure 8's around the landscaping, 

then wrestling and chewing some more. 
And then they finally came in and plotzed out on the floor. 

I don't think I can convince my sister to take on another unplanned family addition. But at least we know just what kind of dog playmate we need to find for Marshall.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Marshal the Shy, Sweet, Foster T. Rex

It was so wonderful to foster Sky Princess that I decided to jump right into it again. We were matched up this time with Marshall!

Marshal was found as a stray, so it's not surprising that he's shy about meeting humans.

When I got him from the shelter he walked along beside me tentatively, and he had to be lifted into the car--climbing up himself was too scary. During the ride home, he didn't seek out affection but he accepted me petting him as he sat in the passenger seat beside me. 

Shelter staff told me they were giving him to me because his play style was annoying to most dogs, but would fit right in at my house. 

Sure enough, Marshal and Dahlia soon discovered how much fun it was to wrestle, chew, and hump one another.  

These first few days, Marshal is still a bit uncertain about being in the home. He seems to only know what to do when he is playing with Dahlia 

and definitely does not understand the concept of just relaxing and hanging out. Which is pretty normal for a 9 month old dog, especially one who was a stray. Just think about how hard it must be to relax when you're living in the streets! Poor baby. 

We are trying to just slowly let him build his confidence by trying new things while learning a bit of structure. 

Like, you know, learning that there is a time and a place for chewing on your playmate like you are going to rip each other's heads off, and making blood-curdling noises like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

Made a really good soundtrack and some terrifying scenes for Halloween night though, let me tell you. 

It is reminding me of those first few weeks--no, months--with Dahlia, when I wondered if she would ever settle down. Puppies are just nonstop wackiness. 

Marshal, you just be yourself and enjoy! It's good to have you, in all your gentle, wacky glory. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Keepin' it in the Family for Foster Success

Every time I foster a dog, there's a little bit of agony along with all the joy. 

I usually have some time to get to know the adopters, and in the vast majority of cases my foster dogs have gone to what I now know are outstanding homes. 

But still there's the feeling that I'm abandoning them just when they've begun to feel some stability and confidence, and it wrenches me to say goodbye and wonder if they'll be as happy. 

With Sky, it was somehow more wrenching than usual. From that first day when she rode home in my lap, she always wanted to be glued right to me. How could I betray that love?

A solution began to take shape in my mind when Sky and my niece hit it off. 

Once I saw that, I brought Sky over to visit at my sister's house as often as possible

and my niece and I worked together to help my sister see the inevitable. 

Ultimately, we triumphed. My sister fell in love just as completely as everyone else who has come into contact with Sky. She adopted her and her name is now Princess. 

I think I'll call her Sky Princess, which sounds like a sci fi character or a constellation that spans numerous galaxies. 

Fitting for a creature with such an outsized impact.

There will be a lot more scenes like this in our future. 

Congratulations Sky Princess! I am so glad you'll be smothered with love, and that I get to participate in your continued smothering. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Honest Kitchen Catfish Treats from

This month, was kind enough to supply our busy household with not one but TWO free stashes of tasty treats. 

In addition to the outstanding US Hide Natural Rawhide Chips, we chose Beams Pure Iceland Catfish Skin Sticks from the Honest Kitchen. These are made from wild-caught Atlantic catfish, which if you are concerned, as I am, with whether the animals that went into your dog snacks were raised humanely, is an improvement over cows, chickens, and pigs that come from slaughterhouses. 

As every lover of dogs and their diversions knows, there are three basic classes of treats. There are dry biscuits, not much more exciting than kibble but good for a late-nite snack when dogs are still hungry and you don't feel like dishing out more kibble. 

There are training treats, high-value for motivation and in small pieces for rapidity of chowing down. 

And there are long-lasting chews to get your dog through times without you, or get YOU through evenings when your dog would be madly humping your leg if you didn't thrust something in her mouth to keep her occupied. 

And I wasn't sure which of the latter two these catfish skin snacks would be. 

Turns out these sticks are large for training treats and more substantial. 

I also learned that pure catfish skin is rather thick and sturdy, and not amenable to breaking into bite-size pieces.  

No, these treats are best distributed whole so your dog can enjoy their savory, chewy texture and catfish-like flavor. 

The dogs loved them. No surprise, as this is the case with pretty much every single-ingredient snack we've tried and particularly with treats that involve dehydrated fish. 

Another winner from! I would highly recommend these high-value snacks, particularly for picky eaters, conscientious shoppers, and any occasion where a high-value, slightly long-lasting chew is called for.