Sunday, April 30, 2017


The technical term for when puppies wildly run around all over the place is Frenetic Random Activity Periods, a.k.a. FRAPs, but we don't use the technical term. What Bristol and Sami get is the zoomies nearly every single night before and after their dinner time.

There are no pictures to document this phenomena. It usually occurs after a long day of puppy play in the living room, and the house is a fright. I'm sure you can imagine it; chew toys and towels and rags strewn all over the floor. Blankets on the couches, and boxes on one sofa and chair to discourage any puppy play on those. The lighting and fast action would challenge my photographic abilities.

Usually when Sami is getting a drink of water in the kitchen, Bristol will stealthily  creep to where the carpet meets the vinyl, and there he waits. As soon as Sami rounds the corner, and sees his crouching position, she revs into high gear, Bristol turns on a dime, and the chase begins, tearing across the carpet, banking off of the sofa, followed by a dead run through the hallway, colliding with the backdoor, and a hasty retreat back to the living room where the a black and silver blur repeat the whole sequence, over and over and over. 

We have had so many days of rain here in the Midwest; it's a little discouraging. I would prefer to take the zoomies outside when the puppies get wound up, but that has not been an option lately, with all of the mud and water outside. So round and round they go, barking and growling, having a grand old time.

Now that the "April showers" are over, (please, please, please, let them be over since April is officially off the calendar), we can look forward to zoomies taking place outdoors again, as soon as the backyard dries out anyway.

At this moment, our pre-dinner show, also known as Zoomies Round One, has ended, and I have two sleeping puppies on the couch with me. I don't even want to wake them for their supper because I know what comes next: Zoomies Round Two. For the time being, I'm just going to let sleeping dogs lie, and enjoy the peace and quiet as long as it lasts.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yay! Celebrating Puppy Progress

It's the little things, isn't it? The things that make us happiest are such insignificant little things by some standards, but when measured with the heart, they are huge. Little things like realizing your puppy is thriving, and feeling safe with you mean so much.

For a long time, I've worried about Bristol's happiness. My handsome, silver puppy had always seemed so serious, almost austere, until recently. We've been seeing subtle changes. Even Chuck, who once said Bristol looked inscrutable, commented that he seems pretty happy now. Bristol wags his tail during play, and when waiting for us to feed him. He runs to me when I call him, and leaps up on the couch to sit by me. Bristol snuggles close when we're sitting, and he's my shadow when we're in the kitchen, lying at my feet while I prepare meals. One thing I love is that he sometimes looks like he's smiling.

Never mind that it's usually after he and Sami have been playing hard, and his tongue is hanging out, panting like crazy. (This phenomena is probably similar to mothers of newborns who say their baby is smiling, and their visitors are thinking, "It's just gas.") Is he happy, or just exhausted? I'm the puppy mama; I'm going with happy. 

Bristol's biggest fear is nail clippers. The first time he had his nails clipped was at the vet's office. Bristol SCREAMED, and every time after that, if he saw me with the clippers, he would scamper away. 

One time, Chuck held him for me, while I barely managed to get the trimmer in place, but neither of us could stand listening to his crying, and seeing how much he struggled to get free; he seemed traumatized. We needed to get creative.

Frustrated, I tried trimming just one nail at a time while he slept, but he always woke up, and I think he began having trust issues with me. He seemed to sleep lightly, and any time I made an attempt to use the trimmers, he would curl up in a ball, and turn away from me.  

Finally, I decided we needed professional help. No, I didn't consult with a puppy psychiatrist; I took Bristol to "Clean as a Whisker" in town. The technicians are so good at what they do. The ladies made a big fuss over him, and when it was time to trim his nails, Bristol stood on the grooming table, clipped to a short leash, while I let him lick a Kong filled with his favorite yummy liverwurst. He slowly licked his treat, and whined softly a few times, but they clipped his nails, and filed them, in less than five minutes. Who would have thought a successful nail trimming would be such a big deal? I was so impressed. 

You can bet we celebrated after our visit to the dog salon. Bristol got a hug and a treat while I told him what a good boy he was. I was so happy that he didn't seem traumatized by the experience. He didn't like it, but he didn't hate it. We celebrated his baby steps of progress.

Celebrations at our house can be as simple as "Good puppy," but usually it's a combination of praise, pats on the back, and a kibble or two. I may or may not have done my happy dance on special occasions. 

Celebrating good behavior has rewarded Chuck and me with peaceful dinner times, better-behaved puppies, and loving little companions who seem to like to spend time with us. We try to notice the good things they do because you know what they say; you get more of what you notice. I'm paying attention to the good stuff because I want more of that!

Sami is our good girl.

Friday, April 28, 2017

X-tra Memes

You may not realize this, but the previous 23 blog titles have been presented in alphabetical order, A-W. There is a national blogging event every April, Blogging from A-Z, and although I am not an official participant, I am participating unofficially. Obviously, I selected our puppies as my theme. 

Here's the thing. I've done the A-Z Blogging Challenge a couple of times, and my hat's off to anyone who comes up with legitimate titles for the X and Z letters. I admit, I usually go for something hokey, like X is for X-uberant and Z is for Zee End, because let's face it, unless I had named one of my puppies Xerxes or Zeus, or one of them had had an experience with a xylophone or zebra, the titles would have been a stretch with the puppy theme anyway. 

So instead of an X-cellent or X-citing title, I'm going to give you some X-tra memes today.

You're welcome. 

I've had lots of fun this month writing about Sam and Bristol, and I thank those of you who've hung in with me to see what they're up to. Tomorrow will be easy with the letter Y. Believe it or not, I actually found a word that works Z, too. Curious? Check back with me on Monday; you'll see. 

Without further adieu...the memes.

This sparked a lot of controversy among the math wizards in my family. Apparently, I reversed the formula for dog years to human years. I'm a writer, not a mathematician. Just nod and smile, and move on to the next one. It won't bother you if you don't put too much thought into it. It works for me. I still think this is funny as heck. 

If this makes no sense, you can check out this YOUTUBE link to find out the ridiculous social phenomenon
from which this developed on Dr. Phil's show. 

Look how versatile I am. I can even do cat memes. I'm so versatile, I can do TWO cat memes.
This is my grandcat, by the way. Introducing LUDO, my daughter's pretty kitty.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wait for It...

Bristol and Sami, practicing their simultaneous SIT, two days after we brought them home. (8 & 10 weeks old.)
They say you teach best what you most need to learn. How about patience? I am not a patient person. Especially when it comes to eating. Ask Chuck. When dinner is on the table, I don't want anyone dilly-dallying, delaying our dinner. 

The first day we brought Bristol and Sami home, I started to teach them SIT. Within a couple days, they mastered doing sit at the same time. A double sit? I was ecstatic. 

The next step has been trickier. I am trying to teach them some manners; I want them to stay where they are until I release them.  WAIT is my command for STAY. I expect them to wait while sitting until I release them to eat from their bowls. I expect them to wait at the bottom of the steps when I go upstairs to get something. I am hoping it will help them hold a sitting position when meeting new people, too, instead of leaping up on unsuspecting visitors. 

Waiting to meet visiting guests.

Inspired by a video of a young girl feeding a room full of pit bulldogs, I figured I would start with teaching the puppies to wait their turn to eat. After they've waited, I release one, and then the other. To be fair, I rotate who goes first. 

Here's that cute little spitfire feeding six pit bulls. 

To begin our training, I had the puppies sit while I held their dishes, and had them wait a couple seconds before putting their food on the floor. Then I had them sit, and said WAIT after I put the bowls down. We slowly added seconds until now they wait about 30 seconds before I release them. 

Sometimes, we practice waiting when it isn't meal time. After they sit, I will tell them to wait, and slowly back away from them. At first, I would only back a few steps, and then release them. Next, I was able to move out of their sight into the hallway before calling them to come.

People have asked how I am able to get pictures of the two of them together, facing the camera. This practice of sitting and waiting has helped immensely. 

To challenge the puppies, and to make a game of waiting, we play Hide and Seek. I have them sit in the kitchen, and I slowly back away, until I'm out of sight. Then I scurry to hide behind the bathroom door, or somewhere in the living room, or in the stairwell. When I call, "Here! Here! Here!" they run to find me. They seem to like it, and I love that they are getting so good at waiting.

Now if I could just find a game for myself that would help make waiting more fun. Maybe if the doctor's office, or the grocery store clerk, offered me a treat after I've successfully waited my turn without losing my cool, I would try harder. Patience is a virtue I have waited to master all my life. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Violet the Dog Whisperer

Our biggest concern, as grandparents, is that Sami and Bristol play well with young children. Socializing our puppies has been a big deal for me. Our living arrangements, two older folks with two young pups, are not conducive to exposing our dogs to a variety of people. We are so grateful for the neighbors who stop us to talk on our walks, and for our friends who have come to visit the puppies. We endure our Petco excursions and walks in city parks, knowing it is good for the pups to have new experiences, and meet new people.

Many of you have read about Little Miss V, my young friend who is finishing up kindergarten, and just lost her first tooth. When we first got the puppies, Violet and her mom came bringing gifts of Nylabones, a Frisbee, and a tug-o'war toy.  

The puppies love the toys Violet and Connie gave them.

Bristol and Sam were kind of out of control in new situations, and took a long time to settle down, which was a little embarrassing. They were only a couple months old, and I was so worried that Miss V wouldn't want to come visit me any more because our puppies didn't have very good manners yet.

Luckily, Violet is a trouper, and she eagerly accepted another invitation to come play. The puppies and I had had a few dog obedience classes under our belts, so I was hopeful things would be better this time. Our trainer had given us suggestions on socialization, and I was was pretty sure Violet would play an important role in helping me train the puppies. 

The first thing I taught V is when the puppies are trying to jump on her, she needs to act like a tree. She was a natural with our little duo! Whenever the puppies got excited, Violet would put her arms down by her sides, and turn her back to them. Then Bristol and Sam would calm down, and Miss V could play with them again. 

We took the puppies for a walk to help them settle down a little more. I showed Violet the commands they were learning, and let her practice with Bristol, who is a little more consistent on following directions. Miss V has a soft voice, so I told her to pretend she was at her mom's theater, and to project when she talked to Bristol. I think her helping with training instilled some confidence in our little dog whisperer, and earned her some respect from the puppies. 

"Sit, Bristol."

The two of us enjoyed some Greek yogurt while I got caught up on kindergarten happenings, and Miss V showed me her cute smile now that she's lost her first tooth. All in all, it was a wonderful visit. We were even able to read a book on the couch while the puppies played with their Kongs in their crates. 

Violet loved petting Sami, who has the silkiest, soft coat of any dog I've known. Every once in awhile, she would stop long enough to give Bristol a little affection so he wouldn't feel bad because, Violet admitted, she likes Sami more. Unlike many kindergartners, Miss V seems aware of the needs of others, even big, clumsy puppies.

Violet did a great job of following directions, and caught on so quickly that the puppies pick up on the energy we have; when we're excited and loud, they're excited and loud. She stayed calm and they behaved better. Maybe she will go on to be a dog trainer when she grows up. She sure was a good little dog whisperer for Sam and Bristol!

Ugh. Enough Already.

"Ugh, could you just NOT?" Sometimes I wonder if this is what the puppies think as I crawl toward them on my belly with my phone in my hand, to capture just the right shot, in just the right light, at just the right time. 

It's been worth it to me, no matter what they think of my shutterbug addiction, if dogs even have opinions. I have thousands of pictures of our puppies, which means I have thousands of memories and moments in time, captured for me to enjoy later. And I do. I scroll through my phone's photo library nearly every single day, amazed at how much they've grown, and what they've learned to do. 

So today, here are the un-photogenic shots of my beautiful babies. Those moments when I start to wonder if they've had quite enough photo sessions with their private puparazza. Maybe the trade-offs are worth it to them, though. Three square meals, a roof over their heads, belly rubs, daily walks, and treats, plus my devoted care; all in exchange for simply having their pictures taken. Often. I've tried to make it worth their while. Poor little puppies. Lucky, lucky me.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Taking a Break

Being a puppy parent is more than a full-time job. Full-time employment is at least 40 hours a week; full-time parenting, as any mom or dad can tell you, is non-stop, 24/7. Just like human babies, canine babies grow and develop, and as little ones become more independent, parents can reclaim some of their independence, too. Luckily, puppies don't require babysitters when we sneak out to have some fun; they just need reliable crates, and some chew toys and treats. 

Weekends are when my husband and I get to take a break from the daily grind. Chuck gets to leave behind his daily commute and worries at work, and I get to spend time with my best friend doing what we love to do. We still can't leave the puppies home all day, but we take mini-breaks for 1-3 hours to do the things we enjoy; photography, listening to music, and eating out. This last weekend we took pictures, listened to some amazing tunes, and feasted our eyes and our lenses on an amazing field of tulips. 

Team Bennorth enjoys taking pictures for a few local non-profit organizations. Friday night we put in a quick appearance at the youth group talent show sponsored by our church, and then we drove to Elgin to photograph an open mic night at a non-denominational church there.

The Kingdom Advancement Center welcomed us with open arms, and we enjoyed shooting their event which featured spoken word artists, rappers, and poets. The enthusiasm of the crowd was electric, and the energy level was high. It was a late night for us old folks; it ended around 10:30. If you know us at all, you know we are usually in bed by 8. Somehow when we're taking pictures, we usually don't notice physical discomfort or sleepiness as much.

Saturday morning came early. It was National Record Store Day, so after editing some pictures and a quick breakfast, we headed to Kiss the Sky record store in Batavia to enjoy some live music. We love the variety of genres represented at Kiss the Sky. Last month we enjoyed the Blue Grassical event just as much as listening to the singer-songwriters on Saturday.

Noah Gabriel. Check out the video clip of his Al Green cover below.
Two of our favorite local performers, Noah Gabriel and Jake Mack were featured artists at Kiss the Sky. Noah performed some of the songs from his newly released album, Dead Reckoning, available online at, and as a download from iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. Jake's music can be found at Jake Mack Music.

Jake Mack

We grabbed some Culver's famous butter burgers on our way home to take care of the puppies. It was finally time for Bristol and Sam to have a break of their own. They played in the backyard and enjoyed the beautiful weather. 

Our lazy afternoon at home was spent editing pictures, and resting with Bristol and Sam. Chuck had heard about a great photo opportunity in nearby Geneva on Fargo Boulevard, and asked if I wanted to check it out. 

Apparently, one of the homeowners works tirelessly to provide a gloriously landscaped yard full of tulips and other springtime flowers. The golden hour of the day was approaching, so we jumped in the Highlander to see what we could see. We were not disappointed. 

Our Friday and Saturday had been jam-packed. We had plans for church and a visit to Cantigny Gardens Sunday, but we were too exhausted to leave the house. We ended up crashing on the couches with the puppies after breakfast, and then again after lunch. I had such a hard time waking up in the afternoon. My only accomplishments were making Chuck some chocolate chip cookies, and his favorite parmesan roasted potatoes.

My napping buddies are always ready to take a break from puppying.
Chuck managed to not only play hard, but work hard this weekend. He mowed the lawn for me so my knee can have a little longer to get feeling better, and he installed the new washing machine we bought second-hand. Bless his heart, he even took the middle of the night puppy nature calls so I could get two full nights of sleep. How did I get so lucky?

My Handsome, enjoying a well-deserved break at Record Store Day. 

We believe in working hard and playing hard. Sometimes we play so hard, we even have to take a break from that, and rest hard for awhile. It's all about balance, right?

* * * 
Here is a quick clip of Noah's cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Chronicles of Insomnia

Awake since midnight, I am plagued by a Diet Pepsi-fueled sleepless night, or is it that my old friend insomnia has returned with a vengeance? I'm sitting on the couch, reading, and eating grapes and cubes of Swiss cheese. Every bite of grape sounds so loud inside my head, and I wince, hoping against hope Bristol can't hear my chewing in his sleep from the next room. That dog loves food, and wouldn't want to miss a bite.

Between my iPad, my Chromebook, and my Himalayan salt rock lamp, the living room is glowing softly. The irony isn't wasted on me that I just finished reading an article in the New York Times called "Sleep Is the New Status Symbol," by Penelope Green. These glowing devices I turn to when I am awake could contribute to my lack of sleep.

Chuck is always chiding me, "Just close your eyes. You can't sleep with your eyes open." He makes sleep sound so easy, and for him, most of the time, it really is. I wish it were for me.

Mentally, I scan my daily schedule, and realize I have a very light day ahead of me. I can take a nap this morning, or later this afternoon, during the puppies' quiet time in their crates. I can take TWO naps!

At the moment, my iPad's screen is darkened, and it is reflecting the full moon outside in its shiny blackness. I thought my eyes might be playing tricks on me, but when I looked through the lace curtains, I could see the moon, wearing a halo of white clouds, high in the sky. 

Bristol just whined in his sleep. Those puppies are champs when it comes to sleeping. I should take a page from their book. 

How to Have a Happy Life, by Bristol and Sam: Eat three meals a day, with a few healthy snacks. Exercise regularly. Play hard. Don't overthink things. Nap when possible; remember, it's always possible. Give and receive affection. Be devoted to the people who've made a difference in your life. 

A friend suggested Bristol's Native American name would be Runs with Wrinkles. 

It's time to try to go back to sleep. With any luck, the puppies will sleep in until four, and I will catch another 40 winks until then. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sleep, or the Lack Thereof

Sleeping, no doubt, is the super power of puppies. Bristol is our reigning champ, with Sami getting an honorable mention. They can sleep through nearly anything; a slamming door, thunderclaps, and in Bristol's case, falling off the couch.

Some of us are not so lucky. All of my adult life, I've been a pretty light sleeper. I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat; I just can't stay asleep. I'm pretty satisfied if I can get six hours. The month of January, after we bought our Himalayan salt rock lamps, was nothing short of miraculous for me. I was sleeping 7-8 hours nearly every single night. Was it the lamp? I'll probably never know.

Then we adopted our two super sleepers in February, and my insomnia returned when I had to take the puppies out every couple of hours during the night. We're down to about one potty break a night these days, but if my eyes even flutter open after I've fallen asleep, I struggle to return to my slumber. And if I have to get out of bed to stumble around in the yard waiting for Bristol and Sam to do their business when it's cold outside, that's all she wrote. My night is over, and my day has begun. I just have to try to catch up on sleep when the puppies nap.

And nap, they will. It really amazes me sometimes. When we first brought them home, Bristol was battling a couple of illnesses, and he slept way more than Sami. Nowadays, they both sleep plenty, but Sami occasionally outsleeps Bristol. 

I envy the puppies' ability to sleep 12-15 hours a night, waking only long enough to potty and wolf down a quick breakfast. They are still taking a couple naps a day, too, each lasting 2-3 hours. Sigh. I really am so very jealous.

For now, I can only hope that once the puppies' bladders will allow them to sleep through the night, the blissful sleep I enjoyed before we became puppy parents will be mine again. A girl can dream, right? I might not be able to sleep, but I still have daydreams about a full night's sleep.