Sometimes a song or artist can transport you to another time and place. Tim McGraw holds that power over me. My once favorite musician throughout junior high and high school; the first CD I bought his Not a Moment Too Soon. And I aged myself with the CD comment…
I can still hear his voice blasting through warn speakers of my first car, a ‘74 burnt orange Chevy Vega. And if I try hard enough and close my eyes I can feel my passenger, Miley.
A wiry, brown mutt Mi was my first real dog. I had others growing up, but she was the first one that was truly mine. That I owned. Or she owned me. She'd sit nestled in my console, cruising the streets of St. George. If I wasn't at school or at work that dog was always with me.
I'd belt whatever song was playing and try to get her to howl along with the words. Sometimes it worked. God, I wish i I had recorded her howl/yowl/whine combo because it was something to behold.
Our song was Something Like That, or as I always called it, The Barbecue Song. It may sound like a weird choice if you’ve ever heard it, but I worked so hard to win that little timid dog over. I swear she recognized the beat, even years later. No matter how long it had been that song would come on the radio and she would get all excited.
I played it for her one last time the day I let her go.
It's been almost three years and my heart still aches. But it's dulled and now I find I can cherish her memories. As with my other dogs, a piece of her is always with me, will always be with me.
So today I'll turn up my phone just a little louder and let her come back to me again. Because they never really leave us. Not when they take a piece of our hearts with them.
Recently there was a post on Facebook circulating about what your dog’s sleeping position means. I don’t know how much of it is fact, but it was interesting and it got me thinking about dogs’ sleeping habits, as well as my own.
Since having my first dog (family/childhood dogs not included), Miley, I’ve always allowed my dogs to sleep with me. Miley had her own pillow next to mine, but after I got married and time progressed she started to simply share mine. My next dog, Sprite, never chose to sleep with me, always preferring the floor, even though he had the option. On the other hand my third dog, Ari joined Miley on the bed, always sleeping at the small of my back and under the covers unless it was cold out. On those nights she would burrow down to my feet.
Unfortunately, as they grew older I had to move them both to the floor for safety reasons. The separation was difficult. I felt guilt as if I had abandoned them and it was harder for me to sleep without them. I told myself that I would never allow another dog in my bed…famous last words.
Boots was already old when she came to live with us, so we emigrated her to the floor next to the bed rather easily. When Luna arrived we maintained a strict “no furniture” rule unless you are invited, which included the bed. (A rule we still abide by – mostly.) Gradually though nighttime cuddles were replaced with permanent residence and once Ella arrived and graduated from sleeping in her kennel there was no going back.
I had forgotten how much better I slept with my girls with me (don’t get me started on how hard it is to fall asleep when I travel) even when Luna has to jump on and off the bed several times in the night to “check on” the cat. While I know I will have the day when she can no longer stay with me, I would never give up the time I have.
So where do your dogs lie at night?
It turns out that hand stripping is a very (at least for the inexperienced) long process of removing the dead hair on your dog’s coat by pulling them out by hand or with the assistance of a stripping knife. The longer outer coat breaks off leaving the softer undercoat. I know what you’re thinking – ouch! Yet it turns out that this doesn’t hurt the dog, although Ella was a little squirmy during the process, but I imagine she would have been if I had shaved her instead.
By now you’re wondering, if this process takes so long, why not just shave her? In the past I shaved both Miley and Ari, and although not a professional groomer I was content with their appearance. For Miley I liked the way she looked cut – and Ari’s coat left untouched gave her a bit of a razorback that was so rough I hated the texture of it. What I didn’t know then was that shaving them was potentially damaging, or at least altering, their coat.
I never saw a change in Ari (but I also only shaved her around twice a year and never very short) but over the years Miley’s coat grew softer and lighter in color. I thought it was due to her aging, but was in fact the result of being shaved every few months for 10+ years.
Fast forward to Ella, whose coat is so unique that I didn’t want to chance losing any of her coloring. She also sheds very little and I love her texture, but she too was getting the razorback – although instead of it being one strip down the middle I felt like it was her whole coat.
Since it was a long process and I was inexperienced we drew it out over several days and in about three to four 30 minute sessions, with an hour break in between. As I said, Ella wiggled a bit, but with my trusty treats she didn’t do too bad. I did cheat by trimming her legs, belly, and tail by hand. Her tail was by far the most difficult as I didn’t want to strip the entire thing short and was forced to attempt to blend it.
All in all I’m pretty happy with the result, although I'm noticing some longer belly hairs in her after picture I missed. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again in about six months, when I can’t handle the ridge any longer!
If you’re interested in learning more about hand stripping I recommend visiting handstripping.com, they had a lot of information and great before and after pictures.
I recently discovered through the American Kennel Club’s post here that it is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. I honestly didn’t even know that such a week existed and as someone that was bitten by a dog as a teenager (an Alaskan Malamute that was NOT socialized) quite badly it’s refreshing to see tips on how to prevent these events from occurring. The truth is what happened to me should have never happened. I was taken to a house and purposefully introduced to a dog that had bitten two other people. I still carry several scars, one on my lip and a handful on my arm, but am thankful I don’t have a fear of dogs. In fact, I feel worse for the dog because he lost his life. We as dog owners are responsible for our dogs, to train them and keep them safe.
The aforementioned post had some great tips and information I suggest everyone read over, but the article that stuck out to me was the one about Dogs In Need Of Space (DINOS). I had never heard this term, but it led me to Jessica Dolce’s website, dogsinneedofspace.com and I spent the entire afternoon reading over her articles. They are easy to read, with a pinch of humor about a serious problem – some dogs really do need space for many reasons (injury, old age, training, or simply uncomfortable around other dogs/children/strangers) and we as dog owners sometimes forget that fact – or if you’ve never had a bad dog encounter maybe it’s never occurred to you before.
I will admit, when I was younger I was one of those people that walked my dog without a leash unless I absolutely had to. It was only one dog, but still irresponsible. Miley was tethered to me as if she had a leash and at the time it never felt necessary. She never walked farther than a foot or two and after we had two more dogs her on a leash actually complicated things by making one big tangle. I never thought there could be a danger in doing so and luckily we never had an incident. Knowing what I know now I’d never do that with my own dogs, not only because it isn’t safe for them, but it isn’t safe for those around them.
You see, I found out today that Luna is a DINOS, something we knew but didn’t have a name for and something we are heavily training our way out of but a problem that still exists. Her main trigger is larger dogs she doesn’t know and if one comes bounding toward her, either aggressively or in play her teeth and hackles rise. She’s never bit (or even attempted to bite) another dog, but honestly I’m not willing to take that chance. I’m lucky in the fact that we can pass another dog walking appropriately on lead in class without incident, but not so lucky in the fact that I have more than once had someone tell me how friendly their dog is I want them to “meet”.
Your dog may be the happiest, most playful, energetic puppy in the world, but those are Luna’s triggers. I use many of the tips mentioned on the DINOS website even in class, such as distracting her with treats and body blocking. We had a young German Shepherd Dog slip its collar last week and as it playfully went from dog to dog I could only pray that someone caught it before it pounced Luna. Luckily the two people nearest me also knew of Luna’s triggers and while I distracted her they were watching the other dog to let me know if it got too close and a third managed to catch the escapee.
It was comforting to know I’m not the only DINOS owner out there, and that someone had coined a name for it. I already knew the best you can do is train past these issues, prepare for them, and above all KNOW your dog. Knowing her is one of the main reasons I’m glad we started taking classes, without them I don’t think we would be nearly as in sync with each other.
I have been away for too long. Not just here, but everywhere online that is dog related, including Worldly Dogs. I found that after losing Ari and then Miley I needed a break from stories and photos of dogs. It was too easy for the tears to fall, on some days it still is, but now it is past time to start a new chapter and return.
Luna is doing great, if still Loony (she wouldn't be Luna otherwise). Together we have completed intermediate obedience three times now, still trying to obtain her Canine Good Citizen (CGC). She has become a very obedient dog in the last 11 months; she just cannot manage me leaving her with a stranger for three minutes - or even one. It’s frustrating, but I know it isn't everything. Luna is amazing on a leash and her stays are almost unbreakable, she does so well that despite the CGC mishap we enrolled in Rally two weeks ago. Of course, that was also due to me being unable to have two dogs in class at the same. It became two because apparently my life is a little empty without three dogs.
This time I really wasn't looking for another dog (unlike when I told myself I wasn't with Luna). My husband and I had decided we would look for a third dog after our next family trip sometime this year and I already felt like my hands were full training Luna. Then the photo of "Binkie" found its way onto my Facebook feed. She was an adorable four month old wiry Jack Russell mix and somehow I knew right away that she was the missing dog in our pack.
I was a little worried that being a Jack Russell mix she would remind me too much of Ari, but when we arrived at Best Friends I was shocked to find that aside from a different coat color she was very much a "Miley-dog". She sat up on her hind legs in those first few moments and for a moment I thought my heart would break. How on earth could I bring home a dog that looked so much like my old girl? Luckily I gave her the chance to be her own dog - because in personality she is a dog all her own!
I had been slightly worried about trying to introduce a new family member to Luna, but the two of them bonded as soon as we got home and the newly renamed Ella and her have become inseparable ever since. They love to roughhouse, Ella thinking she's one of the big dogs while Luna still thinks she should be allowed on laps.
Life is good again. My pack is complete.
This wasn’t supposed to be my next post – in fact it isn’t even about Luna. It is about dogs and that wonderful, unexplainable emotion they bring to our lives – and how empty it becomes when they are gone.
On Monday the time had finally come for me to say goodbye to my dog of seventeen years, Miley. Often called ‘The Elder’, her body had begun to fail in too many ways to ignore. She was no longer comfortable even laying down due to arthritis and no medication seemed to help her find comfort, so I made ‘that’ choice, the one we all as dog owners dread.
I always knew that Miley would be the last of her ‘pack’ to go, Sprite and Ari were each lost within the 15 months before. She was the mutt, the healthiest and the one damned and determined not to leave me. She was the first true dog that was mine and we bonded late in my teenage years, still so early in my life that she was my everything for so long.
Since it has been such a short time since losing Ari the pain from her own death is still fresh. It is strong enough that a few weeks ago I bawled over a happy story about a cat that shared her nickname and had diabetes, the illness that began her downward spiral.
Most can tell you their favorite dog, but I could not choose between the two of my girls, they were one unit and everything to me. So why is it now that I have cried so much less at the loss of Miley? The first day I cried so long and hard that my head would not stop aching, but since then hardly at all. Is it that she was older, her death more gradual? Or, is it simply that I have suspected for a while that it was time for the pack to be together again?
I know the tears will come in their own time, they always do and I want to hope there is a place where they are reunited…but I suspect even if there is after the first initial greeting Miley is sitting on the sidelines patiently waiting for me.
When Ari, our Jack Russell Terrier of 13 years passed in late May I told myself the last thing I wanted was another dog. It had been a rough year. She was the third pet we had lost (all of them elderly) and the second dog. The loss of our American Eskimo, Sprite, had been hard, but it was
nothing compared to Ari who had always cuddled with me at night and was one of my ‘girls’. Several people told me right away to bring another dog home, but I brushed them off. It felt like I would be betraying her somehow – and besides, I still had two dogs.
One is the second of the two girls, Miley, a terrier mix of 17 years. She’s completely blind and sleeps most of the day, and although I love her dearly she hasn’t been much of a companion for several years. In fact, the day Ari died was the first day I had been able to get her to sit in my lap in at least two. She never sits still when she is awake and being off the floor seems to make her nervous. The other, Boots, a Border Collie that was once my dad’s before he passed is sweet and loving, but she is devoted to my husband. For someone that had been used to having that needy, unconditional love waiting for you when you walked through the door it almost felt like no dog at all.
Then I caught myself ‘just looking’ on petfinder.com. I had said for years that the next dog I wanted was a water dog – either a Standard Poodle or a Portuguese Water Dog. I wanted a larger dog, nothing close to a Jack Russell, a sporting breed, and narrowed it down to those two because they don’t shed. I’ve always adopted or taken pets in that no longer had a home and so of course I planned on doing the same this time around. I told myself it would take forever to find one of these breeds through a rescue or at a shelter so I might as well do the research and start watching for one in my area. Never mind that I began to search for anything remotely close to what I wanted. I believe my eventual search was female, young (no puppies please), and medium to large sized, not at all specific.
This continued for about a week when I saw the face of Lilith at our county shelter. Eyes bright and looking up at the camera with a face something reminiscent of a Brittany and the body of an Australian Cattle Dog. It was a face I spent several days trying to get out of my mind, but finally allowed myself to move from Petfinder to the shelter’s website itself. I needed to know more about her and was shocked to find that she had been there for two months. That was enough for me, I had to meet her and was petrified by the thought that she could be put to sleep after being there for so long. (I didn’t find out until much later that the shelter is now one of the many no-kills throughout Utah).
I called, set up an appointment for her to meet Boots (Miley rarely leaves the house), and made my husband swear to me that he would not let me bring her home if he thought she would be too rambunctious around Miley. When we arrived it was easy to see why she was still at the shelter. A sensitive dog, Lilith was backed up against the wall of her kennel, frightened by the people standing outside of it and ‘grinning’ – a slight bare of her teeth without the sound of a growl.
Despite her initial impression we stayed long enough to take her outside away from the barking, yelping and confining cage. Outside she relaxed with her handler, but remained almost indifferent to us, there was no immediate joy, no head in the lap staring up at you with adoring eyes, but watching her fetch and run back and forth to her handler I somehow knew she needed to come home with us.
It took my husband a bit longer to warm to her – after all, it was his job to keep a steady head throughout the process – but once she met Boots (more indifference) he finally agreed to take her home.
I was asked by the staff, “Why her?”. It was difficult to answer, you can’t tell someone because you just know. I found out that she had been returned once for jumping (bringing her total amount of time in the shelter up to three months) and they were nervous about letting her go into a home that was not prepared for her activity level. I explained I wanted an active dog, one that was smart and could excel in obedience training and eventually agility. It wasn’t about a specific breed for me (who needs a dog that doesn’t shed?). Most of all, I didn’t bring dogs back, I wasn’t going to give up on her. Once an animal comes into your home it’s for life.
Before we reached home the two year old Australian Cattle Dog/Pointer Lilith was rechristened Luna, and had a new collar and shiny tag to prove it. The indifference towards me melted away as we rode together in the back seat, that “knowing” only intensifying. I commented that it was unbelievable that anyone had ever taken her back, and my husband stated the obvious, it was because she was waiting for us.
She had been waiting for my precious Ari to move on, for me to find her and for her to help me heal. Today Luna rarely leaves my side and every day I am more amazed at how much it feels like she’s always been a part of our family. It doesn’t make the loss of Ari any less painful, but it helps to know that if she was still here the two of them would have loved each other. In fact, I’ve often remarked that if Ari and Sprite had had puppies they would be Luna in personality.
I’ve also learned a lot since she came to live with us, first that the crazy jumping was real. She’s almost broken of it, but get her too excited and she’s jumping right in your face, mouth open. I had forgotten how much energy a young dog can have, but how much fun that energy can be. She keeps the whole house livelier. It’s clear she’s never lived with cats, and although she doesn’t chase them she still stares at them continually when they are in the room. Best of all, I hadn’t needed to worry about her with Miley, she came in knowing the unspoken rule of the household – Miley is the elder. They interact little, but whenever they are around each other Miley always gets a little submissive lick on the chin.
Luna is also the perfect dog to teach me basic training. It’s something I’ve never done in the past but she’s an excellent first time dog to run through it with. It never ceases to amaze me that when we are in class or simply out back running through the paces she turns into a working dog, completely focused and ready to please. Training has only strengthened that bond that formed between the two of us on that first day and I can’t imagine where it will take us.
Lisa (and Luna)