Tuesday, February 28, 2017

PUPPY TALES: A Puppy's Purpose

Chuck and I celebrated our accident-free day with some time away from the puppies to see the movie A Dog's Purpose at the theater. It was nice to hold hands, and go on a date, without interruptions. 

As we watched Bailey the dog in his many reincarnations, and he tries to figure out a dog's purpose in each of the lives he lives, one thought struck me. If we welcome a dog into our heart and home, we stand to receive so much unconditional love during his lifetime. 

There is a sobering, flip side to that. When we adopt a dog, we make ourselves vulnerable to experiencing a very great heartache at the end of our dog's lifetime. Dogs' lives are never long enough, it seems. 

Sitting in that dark theater, I couldn't wait to get home to our puppies, to hold them, and kiss them, and show them how loved they are. I just want them to live forever, if I'm honest, and tears filled my eyes throughout the movie, knowing that is not even a possibility. 

As the story progressed, Bailey learned important life lessons with each of his owners. One of those lessons was living in the now is critical for having a full life.

Living in the now is a wonderful experience when things are going smoothly, and we're feeling well and happy. Being fully present is a lot more challenging during stressful or less than ideal situations. 

For me, there are moments of chaos when our puppies are fighting, or when there is yet another accident to be cleaned up (we have had only ONE good accident-free day so far). It is so hard to want to stay in THOSE moments. When the puppyness of Bristol and Sami is utterly overwhelming, it's hard not to wish they were already house-trained adults who are calm and relaxed. And then I have to remind myself that if I try to rush through these days, I will regret not savoring them. Most of the time, it's the sheer puppyness that overwhelms me in a good way, with gratitude and happiness; the kisses, the cuddles, and the tail waggles. 

"I realized that today I truly understood my purpose [...]: not just to find people but to save them."—  W. Bruce CameronA Dog's Purpose

Bristol and Sam will help me stay in the now, through the bad and the good. I need to be more patient through the tough stuff, and I need to relax and just wallow in the yummy goodness of the puppies. The dogs' purpose is simply to exist; it's up to us to find our lessons to be learned, and the joy to be gained by sharing our lives with them. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Celebrate Good Times

Saturdays are perfect for lazy mornings, and pajama days, and photography. An afternoon nap is the pi├Ęce de resistance. This particular Saturday gave us several reasons to be happy.

We enjoyed a visit from Chuck's folks this morning. They wanted to meet the puppies. Who wouldn't? They are so stinking cute! Once they settled down from their initial frenzy of joy, they played quietly with their toys while we visited in the living room. 

Chuck had a photo shoot at the house in the afternoon with one of our favorite models. I played photographer's assistant and dog handler today. I did manage to shoot a few shots of my tulips with my macro lens. 

This may seem like a ridiculous thing to mention, but Bristol successfully managed to jump up on the couch unassisted today. My big galoot's first attempt had him running across the carpet, and as he leapt, he got about two inches of air and plowed his head into the side of the sofa. He has tried unsuccessfully to jump up to his spot on the sofa, until today; today Bristol was the champ. 

After supper, Chuck and I were sitting side by side on the kitchen floor playing with the puppies, when all of a sudden, it hit me.

"Chuck, did anyone pee inside today?" I could hardly contain my excitement. 

"Well, I did. I didn't think you wanted me to go outside."

Oh, my heck! We did it. They did it. However I should say that; we finally had ONE day without puppy puddles in the house! We have had Bristol and Sam for two weeks, and this is our first day without an accident. YAHOO!

After the puppies were asleep, and I was sure they'd made it, I went ahead and recorded their accomplishment.

Yeah, that's a smiling reflection. 
There's always something to celebrate, and for us, no canines peed inside today; only humans. Woo-hoo. Sunday afternoon, we humans will celebrate by going to the movies to see A Dog's Purpose. Good times. Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

My sweet husband got so sick a few days ago. He came home from work early, white as a sheet and fell asleep on the couch as soon as he lay down on it. The next day he worked from home, so I tried to make sure our new pups didn't wreak havoc during his business calls.  

Chuck must believe in the credo of never letting a good deed go unnoticed because when he finally started feeling better Thursday afternoon, he asked me if there was something he could get me as a way of saying thanks for taking care of Bristol, Sam, and him while he was sick. He wanted to respect my sugar-free goals, and wasn't sure what to get me if chocolates were off-limits. What a sweetheart. 

After our first puppy training class Thursday night, we stopped by the store on the way home, and Chuck picked out some beautiful orange tulips for me, and had me choose some fresh strawberries. He takes such good care of me; he is the most thoughtful person I know.

Friday Chuck was well enough to go back to work. I was having a low energy day, and the puppies seemed to know. We spent a lot of time on the couch. We cuddled. They played with their stuffed hedgehogs. And we napped. 

It was so peaceful. For an hour or two at a time, there was no barking, no accidents on the floor, no fighting over toys, and no one whining to go outside. We were all able to sleep and rest.  

Whenever I woke before they did, you can bet I stayed as still as possible to prolong the peaceful moment. Even if I needed a potty break myself, I just waited until they woke up. They are such sweet puppies, but when they are asleep, they are absolutely adorable. 

They had short play times in their crate and in the kitchen, too, but mostly we just chilled on the sofa as much as possible. The day seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, it was late afternoon.

Chuck and I had plans for our Friday night, and I figured I should make an attempt to get ready for the day. (Try not to judge.) While my hair straightener heated up, I started putting on my makeup. I had a rapt audience in the hallway, and as I talked to them about what I was doing, they cocked their heads one way, and then the other. They really do entertain me. 

My days seem to be an eternal loop of puppy care. Every once in awhile I know I will need to recharge myself on those low energy days so I can be on my toes with Bristol and Sam when their energy is high. 

Chuck was pointing out that these will probably be the only puppies we ever get to raise because if they live full lives to 15 or so, by then we will probably feel too old to take on raising puppies. So we better enjoy this puppy phase while it lasts. 

For me, that includes their rambunctious play times, as well as our peaceful nap times. I intend to let my sleeping dogs lie as long as they like, so this old dog can rest, too.

Friday, February 24, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Our "Drag Racing" Team

Sam and Bristol are such opposites, and that is most apparent when we walk the dogs. I think of the two of them as a "drag racing" team because one drags, and one races. I bet you can guess which is which. 

Always raring to go; that's our Sam! (Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth)

Chuck's little athlete is all GO-GO-GO as soon as we're out the door. When we first brought her home, it was a struggle to keep up with her on the leash. She noticed everything; chasing every little leaf, and investigating every rock and stick.

Puppy cuddles for Sami before Dad heads off for his work day.

Sami has an abundance of energy, just like every other little Lab I'd ever had. Chuck took to running with her, just to keep her happy. I think that's been kind of hard on his joints, though, and I've been working hard at getting her to heel on the leash when I walk her 2-3 times a day while Chuck's at work. She has made amazing progress this week. I'm so happy that she is a quick learner. 

Bristol's low-key energy makes it easier for him to walk alongside me. Captain Oblivious isn't aware of most of the stimuli in our neighborhood.

The first five days he lived with us, Bristol heeled like a pro, trotting at my side as we tried to keep up with Chuck and Sam. Captain Oblivious isn't aware of most of the stimuli in our neighborhood, so it's easier for him to focus on walking. I think after a few days of jogging behind Sam and Chuck, he tired of the faster pace, and began to balk at the anticipated exercise. He's just not into moving much anyway, and maybe I am not making it fun enough for him to enjoy it. 

Bristol has two speeds, and if you don't like his slow speed, you're really not going to like the other one, which is STOP. He will have none of being pulled. (I'm reading every article and watching every video about reluctant puppies.)  I cajole. I offer treats. Sometimes it works, and he'll trot a few more paces, but often times he just stares at me with disdain, if he looks at me at all. 

After he trots a few paces, slowly and steadily, he pauses. And then...
Nopety-nope. He just sits, refusing to budge.

This obstinance is a recent thing with Bristol. I'm thinking he's going to grow into those big feet, so I really want to get on top of this while he is a pup.

We'll keep working on it. For now, I will take him out for shorter jaunts at a slower pace, and praise and reward like crazy when he actually moves. 

Chuck and I went to our first puppy obedience class last night, and we are excited to learn about using positive reinforcement these next few weeks, but if you have any suggestions about Bristol in the meantime, I'm all ears.

Sleeping is Bristol's super power.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Are You Pinterested in a Carb-Free, Gluten-Free Bread?

Cloud bread is a nice option for anyone wanting a carb-free, gluten-free bread substitute.
My Pinterest boards runneth over. Often, I pin recipes and DIY household tips to try later. Many of my "pins to try" have been put on the back burner the last couple of months. I'd been battling a cold that was wearing out its welcome, and then, just when I started feeling better, we got the puppies. 

While most of my pins lately are about puppy training and housebreaking, many of my older ones are recipes, and DIY tips for organizing and cleaning. 

So on an unseasonably warm February day, while Bristol and Sam lay around the kitchen chewing on their Nylabones, I decided to give Cloud bread a try. It is essentially a carb-free, gluten-free bread substitute.

Bristol captured my heart at the animal shelter with those baby blues.

You may know that Chuck is not keen on trying new foods. You may not know that he has diabetes. We're always on the lookout for ways to cut back carbs in his food. This Cloud recipe seemed simple enough, but would Chuck like it?

I was trying to keep the ingredients under wraps, for reasons that will be apparent to you soon.

The batter was easy to whip up, and then I just poured out 10 buns on a baking pan.

Here is how our texting went:

Is it cotton candy? That Chuck. Such a joker. Sometimes I must test his patience with my kitchen experiments, but he seems to hang on to his sense of humor, which I suppose encourages me a bit. 

After my Cloud bread came out of the oven, I found a reader's tip to eliminate the sweetener (I used stevia), and replace it with garlic salt to make the buns savory instead of slightly sweet. I would have loved that substitution. Next time!

Chuck had requested Sloppy Joe Turnovers for dinner, and since we're trying to cut back on carbs, instead of putting the sloppy joe mix in croissants, he used his thin-sliced bread, and I used a Cloud bun. I liked the new recipe. Chuck had a bite of mine, and said it wasn't bad. (He never said it was good, though. I might have to tweak this recipe a little bit to see if I can up the yummy factor for him.)

If you are trying to eat low-carb, or have gluten intolerance, you might want to try Cloud bread, also known as Oopsie or Whoopsie bread. Here's Gillian Spence's recipe for Cloud bread HERE

And for those of you following the puppies, here are some gratuitous puppy pictures. (11 weeks old, February 21/22, 2017)

Starting the day with puppy cuddles is the best!

I wonder how long these guys will fit in my lap.
Sigh. I just love them.

Their ears fascinate me. And make me giggle a little.

Bristol is a natural "heeler." From the second time he wore a leash, he walked to the left of my knee. He may balk a bit, but
once he starts moving forward, he is the best little walker out there.
Not the sharpest pic, but picture-proof Sami can heel. She is making such great progress, and she's only 11 weeks old.
Walking her has been so challenging until these last couple of days. We're so happy she's catching on.
Waiting for Dad to come play.

Here's hoping I can find a low-carb bread option for Chuck that won't end up with this reaction.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PUPPY TALES: The Best Part of Waking Up

What's the best part of waking up? You know what the old Folger's commercial says: "The best part of waking up is Folger's in your cup." For years, I have enjoyed a hot cup of coffee as I move through my morning routine of reading, praying, and writing. 

Since the puppies arrived, just about the only hot coffee I've had has been that first sip on any given day. Somehow, the cup ends up cooling on the counter, while I sit on the floor with a lap full of puppies as soon as we come in from our 4:00 potty break when Bristol and Sami first wake up. I don't like to put the puppies back in their crate since I'm up for the day, and they aren't awake for too long anyway. 

This morning the coffee maker was gurgling away when I had the best idea ever. I had been sitting cross-legged on the vinyl floor with Sam on my lap, and Bristol on top of Sam when it occurred to me: we could sit on the couch! They were calm and drowsy, so I grabbed my fresh cup of coffee and their leashes, and they followed me into the living room.

At this very moment, I have two precious puppies nestled on either side of me on the brown corduroy couch. Sami is practically on her back, with her head resting against my thigh, and Bristol is curled up on the other side, breathing softly on his tummy. This is so much better than supervising the rough-housing that usually ensues when we come back inside. I'm in heaven.

I've finished my coffee, which was warm to the last drop. I have to say that these days, the best part of waking up is warm puppies in my lap, and hot coffee in my cup.


I Accidentally Fell in Love  

All Bets Are Off  

Furever Home  

A Two Puppy Home  

Doggone It! Have a Happy Heart Day!

Just What Kind of Dog Is Bristol? 

The Difference Is Like Night and Grey  

Making America Crate Again 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Dog-tired

Some days, I find myself falling asleep before noon. I take little cat naps when sleep overtakes me, so it's not a big deal, but I just hadn't realized how tired I would be with the addition of puppy care to my routine. While I am not tired of the puppies, I am dog-tired these days. 

Last night I fell asleep on the couch with Bristol after supper while Chuck edited photos.

The puppies and I spend the day together while Chuck's at work. We're outside; we're inside. They have crate time; they have free time in the kitchen. Puppies are in my lap, or at my side during free time. We're walking; we're training. 

"Sit. Stay. Come."

I've gone from being a couch potato MOST of the day, to having a couple of windows of opportunity to get housework, writing, and correspondence done, in between all of the doggy detail.

Crate time is when I take care of me: yoga, writing, reading, and yes, NAPPING.

During the afternoon of the malfunctioning crate door fiasco, I was sitting on the couch while the puppies were in their crate, and I texted Chuck how tired I was, and it wasn't even noon.

The puppies have adapted to my schedule for sleeping pretty well; in bed by 8 and up at 4. They play and nap in their crate until their 5:00 breakfast. So, I'm getting a decent night's sleep since we stopped with the ridiculous suggestion of potty breaks every 1 1/2 hours throughout the night. 

I think I'm just tired from the demands of having little ones at home all day. I feel like I did when my children were babies; slightly overwhelmed, really tired, and in need of adult conversation. I'm surviving these days with a pretty solid schedule, a decent amount of patience, and a pretty good sense of humor. Before Chuck leaves for work, and when he gets home are highlights of my day. When my husband is home, everything seems so much more calm. He is sweet to both of the puppies, but I know he relishes his one-on-one time with Sami, just like I do with Bristol.

Sami is finally settling down for cuddles and lap time. 

Sam and Bristol are not going to be puppies forever. As much as I look forward to the future I've envisioned with them, I'm trying hard to live in the moment, and just enjoy this puppy stage as long as it lasts. In the meantime, I'll rely on power naps to get me through these dog-tired days.

Whenever I sit on the floor, Bristol climbs onto my lap. I wonder how long he'll fit.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Making America CRATE Again!

Our very first purchase after we picked up Bristol from Anderson Animal Shelter was a dog crate for our puppies to share. We knew we would be ordering another one soon; our puppies have some serious growth potential. 

The puppies' first experience with their crate, in the back of our Highlander.

We started crate training as soon as we brought Bristol and Sam home. All we did was say, "CRATE" every time we wanted them to enter it, and we rewarded the puppies with a treat. Now they actually go into the crate to relax when they're tired, and play willingly in there. It's their safe place. 

Some people think the crate is a cruel punishment, but used properly, it actually provides dogs with a personal spot that makes them feel safe, the way wild dogs enjoy the security of a cave or den. The crate keeps them out of harm's way, and gives me some peace of mind when I need to get things done.

When we were talking about the tips friends had shared for crate training, Chuck joked, "We're going to make America CRATE again!" My husband loves his puns, and that will be as close to a political post as I will probably ever make here. I hope you enjoyed it.

Since the puppies came to live with us, even a solo trip to Walmart feels so decadent. I can listen to country music, without any barking or whining in the background. There's no sibling rivalry wars to referee; no puppy messes to clean. 

A short shopping trip seems like a mini-vacation. Now that we're a two-dog family, I look forward to moments away from the house, and Friday was grocery shopping day. SCORE! All I had to do before I left the house was put them in their crate with some chew toys, and I turned on some soft music for them to keep them calmer, and I WAS FREE!

Nothing could have prepared me for the shock I got when I returned home. I opened the door, and I was greeted by leaping puppies who were happy to see me. Oh, NO. As I was wondering how they got out of their crate, my nose was assaulted by the distinctive odor of puppy poop. 

I surveyed the family room. The dogs had had a heyday while I was gone. There was poop behind the door, in front of the fireplace, and in front of the couch. Pee had soaked into the carpet in front of the love seat and the hearth. The remains of my fern were strewn all over the carpet. Chuck's slipper was missing its rawhide lace. The vacuum cleaner had been knocked over. 

My head was spinning with what to do first.

Since I knew Sam and Bristol certainly didn't need to go outside to relieve themselves, I put them back in their crate. Stupid crate, you had one job, and you blew it. (I realize that I'm the stupid crate operator, who may not have secured the latch properly, but I was really angry; not at my babies, but because I hadn't made sure the crate was tightly closed.) 

Chuck kept checking on me from work to make sure I hadn't reached my breaking point in frustration. I told him I thought I needed a drink. He told me I might want to make it a double. (I told him one Diet Pepsi should be enough for the morning; it was still well before noon.) I let the puppies enjoy the beautiful weather, while I drank my Diet Pepsi, and sat in the sun near the puppy pen. 

What a crazy, crazy morning, and it wasn't the puppies' fault. I knew that from the beginning. Their accidents are on me, until I get this schedule figured out. The house wasn't broken while I was gone, but until these puppies are housebroken, I'm going to have to be diligent about their crate confinement schedule. 

Once we got that unfortunate Friday out of the way, we started our Housebreak Your Puppy in One Week program during the weekend. Basically, the dogs' day will be structured with exercise, crate time, play time, and food and water only at certain times of the day. 

My big galoot, Bristol, looking all distinguished and proud. (February 18, 2017, 10 weeks old.)

Our number of days without an accident are still at ZERO, but accidents are decreasing already. My morale is on the rise. I've got a good feeling about this next week. Right now, the puppies are sleeping soundly in their crate, and that is a sweet thing. You can bet I secured the latch. And just to be safe, I clipped the end of the dog's leash on the crate gate, as an added protection. What a CRATE idea, huh? 

Thanks to all of our friends for the encouragement and great tips for housebreaking and crate training Bristol and Sami. I feel like a new mom all over again, and the advice and kind words are just what I need.


I Accidentally Fell in Love  

All Bets Are Off  

Furever Home  

A Two Puppy Home  

Doggone It! Have a Happy Heart Day!

Just What Kind of Dog Is Bristol? 

The Difference Is Like Night and Grey