Thursday, March 23, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Celebrating National Puppy Day

How will you celebrate National Puppy Day? You didn't know that was a thing? You must not follow Sandra Boynton on Facebook. She alerts me to all of the little-known, but amazing holidays like Chocolate Day, Donut Day, Pizza Day. So, of course, I was very excited to discover today was National PUPPY Day.

Sandra Boynton's Facebook post can be found HERE.

Did someone say PUPPIES? I have some of those! As if you didn't know. But how will YOU celebrate?

Maybe you'll watch a few cute puppy videos, or recall fondly the days when your dog was a pup. Maybe you're just not a dog person, and this day will totally fly below the radar for you. It's okay. Rest assured; I'll celebrate enough for the both of us. 

At this very moment, the sky is beginning to lighten ever so slightly, and it is very dark in the living room, except for the lovely glow of the Himalayan salt rock lamp. I can't even see Sami who is black as night, but I can hear her, softly breathing as she is stretched out on more than her half of the sofa. The glow of the computer is softly illuminating the pile of grey puddles beside me, lovingly known as Bristol. He is snoring loudly, as he is wont to do. I'm celebrating this very moment VERY QUIETLY, so as not to disturb their slumber, and I am enjoying every single second of this peace and quiet. 

The puppies were up earlier at 5:00 for their breakfast, and while they ate their homemade meal of boiled ground beef, white rice, and green beans, I prepared their Kongs for the freezer, filling them with Braunschweiger. (Don't know what that is? Read HERE.) No, I'm not treating them to a gourmet meal in honor of Puppy Day. This has been their vet-recommended diet for awhile now, until we get their tummy issues under control. I cook for the puppies more than I do Chuck and me; twelve cups of cooked rice and five pounds of hamburger at a time. These growing pups have big appetites. 

The puppies and I have a big day planned. They'll take lots of naps, and I hope to join in on one of those. When the doorbell rings, as it does most days, after I settle Sami down from the frenzy that initiates, I'll see what Amazon delivered for the puppies THIS time. We've become very regular Amazon customers, since the puppies came to live with us. Amazon has delivered two more crates, a harness, Kong toys and Nylabones. We have a grundle of puppy toys, but there's always something new our friends recommend for us to try. 

Today we're hoping Amazon will bring more jingle bells to put around the house so the puppies can alert us when it's time to go out. Pretty exciting; I know, but not many packages contain things for the humans in the house any more, so I have to muster some enthusiasm for all of the puppy packages that arrive. Often.

Later today, I'll pick up their puppy toys for the umpteenth time, wipe down dog crates, mop paw prints off the floor, and finish up with a rousing game of Poop Patrol, kind of like a disgusting Easter egg hunt for dog owners.

Since I have reinforcements today (our youngest son Bridger flew into Chicago last night), maybe Sam and Bristol will both get to go for a walk at the same time around the neighborhood. And later, I hope we get to check out a dog park. We haven't gone to a dog park yet. Tonight, we have our last puppy class at Anderson Animal Shelter

Precious puppy paws.

I guess National Puppy Day won't be much different than any other day at our house. But we'll KNOW it's a special day, and we'll treat our puppies "extra-special," not that that will be much different either. Every day's a celebration with Bristol and Sam in the house.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Dog Mama Memes

Everyone's making memes these days, even old women like me. I'm not sure I'm considered techno-savvy in any area, but thanks to dumb luck, and poking around on the internet, I've found some fun apps to use with our dogs.

The Bark Cam has several features which make it user friendly. It is available from iTunes for iPhones and Google play for Androids. To "make your pet a star," simply download the app, and then when you want to take a pic of Fido (or your version of Bristol and Sami), simply choose a sound to get your pup's attention, and your camera's shutter goes off a moment later. The sounds available include a duck, a doorbell, a dog barking, a treat bag being torn open, jangling keys; there are quite a few!

Bark Cam sounds allowed me to capture this quizzical look, and Canva helped me
with the editing.

Sami goes a little berserk when the doorbell rings, so I've been using Bark Cam's doorbell sound during our clicker training. Bark Cam is helping desensitize our dogs to other unusual sounds. During our puppy classes, we play a sound like a dog barking, then use a clicker to get the pup's attention, and reward them for paying attention to us, rather than the sound. There are specific apps for that, like iSounds, but I've been using Bark Cam for now. 

My back pocket camera captured this fun action shot of Sami when I bent down to take
a pic of the dogs sitting on command. We'll keep working on "sit."
Editing done with Canva.
Bark Cam will also let you upload pictures from your phone, and edit them with text, conversation bubbles, and stickers. It has been fun to play with our pictures, and share them with friends.

When my daughter's beautiful Boxer Rocky escaped from the kennel at her dad's house last weekend, it was a sad day indeed. He was gone all afternoon, all night, and Sierra did not find him until after sunrise the next day. He had us all worried sick about him. I kept texting Sierra throughout the night to not give up hope, and I kept reminding her miracles happen every day. 

After a very fitful night, I was so happy to get her phone call that she had Rocky in the truck with her, and they were heading home for food and a bath and lots of naps. I made a couple of memes with Bark Cam for them later that day.

My husband and I are photographers, and sometimes, only a really nice portrait will do. When the sun is "just right" in our living room, we often break out our cameras, and have an impromptu photo session with the puppies. I used the sounds from the Bark Cam app to get Bristol and Sam's attention, standing behind Chuck while he took his shots, and he did the same for me. 

Sami looked up from her relaxed position with her big, brown eyes when she heard the squeaking sounds coming from my phone. I was very happy with the results from that photo shoot.

When a friend suggested I make some puppy memes, I decided to download Meme Generator by MemeCrunch. Sue has had fun caption ideas for the pictures. The possibilities are endless with these two precious faces. (Thanks for all your great ideas, Sue!)

Not my idea. Totally stolen from Sue!

It's been a fun couple of weeks experimenting with Bark Cam, Meme Generator, and Canva. I just love capturing the everyday silliness and sweetness of Bristol and Sam. 

What about you? Do you have any favorite programs or apps that you think would be useful or fun for us while we are raising these pups? This dog mama is all ears for good tips. 

Bark Cam

Meme Generator by Zombodroid

Meme Generator by MemeCrunch

Note: I only generate my own memes, but in looking a little further into these apps, I noticed that one of the sites requires users be 17 and older. Digging deeper, I found the reasons include mild violence and sexually explicit graphics. There is questionable material to be found if you browse memes others have made; don't say I didn't warn you. Just stick to making your own fun memes, and you shouldn't have any problems. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Shocking Profanity in Children's Lit

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a school teacher in rural Utah, at one of the best elementary schools in the world. Occasionally, I wrote down little incidents I wanted to remember later, when my rememberer wasn't working so well. This is one of my teacher stories.

One of my students walked up to me during our silent reading time, and whispered, "Teacher, my book's got a lot of swear words in it!"

"Really? What are you reading?" 

It was Farm Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Seemed innocent enough, but goodness knows I've been wrong before. 

Farmer Boy

"Look," he said, opening the pages so I could see. I smiled. 

There, in black and white, the shocking word glared up at me.


"That word is 'he'll' 'he WILL,'" I explained.

"Ohhhh," he responded, mulling over this new information, as he returned to his desk. 

No wonder my student was thinking it was such a shocking piece of literature. I doubt that the book was making any sense at all with little things like apostrophes standing in the way of basic comprehension. Some of us obviously needed a review of contractions. I made a note of it in my plan book, silently chuckling to myself. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

PUPPY TALES: If You Bribe Them, They Will Come

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth

As a new puppy mom, I have two dreams. I'm living for the day I no longer have to clean up puppy accidents in the house. When our little canines understand that the ONLY place they should relieve themselves is outside, that dream will come true. My other dream is that they will come, without fail, every time we call them. 

During our most recent Puppy Start Right class, our trainer Maggie told us we need to reward dogs with an extra special treat when they are learning to come when called. Getting dogs to respond to our recall command, NO MATTER WHAT is critical. I had learned just how important that skill is two days earlier.

My worst fear was realized when Bristol and Sam found the only gap in our fence wide enough for them to escape. My heart raced, and my eyes went wide as I watched in horror as our two precious puppies slipped through the gap between our neighbor's fence and ours. I threw my hands in the air, kibble raining down on the deck, as I ran to see how I could get them back in our yard. 

My mind raced as Bristol and Sam were running back and forth outside the chain link enclosure. What if they take off out of the city park? Keep calm, I told myself. Don't let them know how upset you are.

"Here! Here! Here!" I yelled, as cheerfully as I could. Oh, please, don't run away. Please don't run away. I ducked under the limbs of our big pine tree, and when they saw me, they ran to the opening, and slipped back through the fence, and ran to my outstretched hands. 

Oh, that was so close. I didn't even have a treat to give them; I'd thrown their kibble in the air when I panicked, so I just loved on them, and praised them, holding them tightly. 

When Maggie told us we should up the ante with a high value treat, we upped the ante. We chose a secret weapon that wouldn't break the bank. Enter BRAUNSCHWEIGER.

Braunschweiger is a spreadable lunch meat made of pork liver sausage. It is a vague memory from my childhood. Occasionally, there was a tube of the stuff in our fridge, and on Saturdays, Mom let us make sandwiches with it. I slathered it on mom's homemade bread with a thin layer of mayo. I remember tubes of liverwurst, too. They were interchangeable, in my mind. 

Chuck has fond memories of braunschweiger, too. What? CHUCK??? I know; I was shocked. Apparently, he is a more adventurous eater when it comes to processed foods. I asked him how he preferred to eat it. "With ketchup, on rye bread." Oh, my. To each his own. 

Our puppy trainer emphasizes rewarding positive behavior with treats. Besides their regular kibble, we have used cheese, turkey hotdogs, and Easy Cheese. The Easy Cheese is sold in a pressurized can, but it's $4 for 8 ounces. I was hoping to find something a little more budget-friendly, since so much of our budget goes to the dogs these days anyway. 

When I went grocery shopping after The Great Escape, the Braunschweiger caught my eye in the meat department. It was only two dollars for a whole pound of it. What a bargain! 

I'm happy to say my first training session with the liver paste went very well. I wasn't the only one happy that day. The puppies like just about any treat for a reward, but they LOVE their Braunschweiger. I think this puppy mom will be having tubes of it in HER refrigerator, too.

Friday, March 17, 2017

PUPPY TALES: The Comfort of a Canine Companion

Meet Sam(antha)wise Gamgee. Chuck usually just calls his puppy Sam. I call her Sam-Sam or Sami.  She is one smart cookie. Of our two puppies, she has been quicker to master so many things: ringing the bell when she needs to go out, and the basic commands of sit, wait, and come. 

Sami loves to stretch out wherever she is with her long back legs stretched out behind her. Her jet-black coat is as soft as a minkie blanket. I could pet that amazing softness all day long. Sam is the dominant puppy at our house, bossing Bristol around, and pulling him by his leash wherever she wants him to go. She is so energetic, and very happy.

Ever since we adopted the puppies, Bristol has had a few medical issues. Between ringworm, an ear infection, and a urinary tract infection, he grown accustomed to being handled. Every day I've had to get pills down his throat, ear drops in his ears, and ointment on his lesions. Even getting up two or three times per night was not often enough. With Mr. Bristol's bladder infection, his blanket was often wet by the time I took them out. When the vet checked the sample I dropped off last week, she said there were still white blood cells present, and Bristol would need to spend the day at the shelter so they could examine him.

Can I just tell you how much I hated dropping him off to spend the day at the clinic? The first time a couple weeks ago wasn't so bad, but this last time challenged me. 

It seemed harder because Sami seemed affected by it, too. Our little ball of energy just did not seem like herself. It made me sadder every time I looked at her. She would look up at me with those big, brown eyes, and then just go to sleep. 

I'd gotten bad news that morning about a former student's wife who is battling cancer. They have six little ones under the age of nine, and she had just been put on life support. When I saw my student's post on Facebook, I just sat down on the kitchen floor, and cried. 

Sami climbed up in my lap, and just let me hold her. That is what Bristol usually does, not Sam. Sami isn't much for being held, but I think she knew I was sad. I'd forgotten how comforting a canine companion can be. 

After lunch, I was exhausted from the middle of the night potty trips, and I just wanted to take a nap. I put Sam in her crate, and I lay down in the family room, where Chuck and I have set up our temporary bedroom while we are house-training the puppies. When Sami began to whimper, I didn't even wait for her to soothe herself. I wanted her company as much as she wanted mine. I put her in bed with me, and she snuggled against my body. My usual seven minute power nap went into overtime; we slept for nearly two hours!

When it was time to pick up Bristol from the clinic, I took Sam with me. As soon as I put Bristol into the crate in the car with Sami at the vet's, her demeanor returned to normal. Her energy level went back up, and she was back to her old self. Just knowing that Chuck would be home from work soon, and that we'd all be together again made me feel so much better, too. 

Bristo's home, and all is right in our world, if only for awhile.

I'm so grateful for our puppies. There is just something special about the bond we develop with our pets. Our canine companions are truly a comfort. How have I managed to go this long without a dog to call my own? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Absent-Minded

Absent of mind would describe me at many points of any given day. I often forget what I needed from the room I just walked into. I don't have immediate recall of just the right word when I'm speaking. I can't find the glasses I'm wearing on top of my head. I'm the proverbial absent-minded professor. 

One morning, as we were eating breakfast, Chuck and I each had a pup at our feet, on their blankets, and we were distributing "kibbles from heaven." Bristol and Sam are rewarded for being quiet during our meal time. As long as the puppies cooperated, treats continued to fall from the sky. 

What a difference this little routine has made. It has eliminated the all-out battles that used to occur under the dining table during meals. Chuck and I no longer have to yell to each other, just to be heard. It is so peaceful.

While Chuck was finishing up his bran flakes, I was eating sections of a juicy tangerine I had just peeled. Unfortunately, I forgot which hand held the tangerine, and which one held the kibble.

Dog food does not taste as bad as I had imagined.

Monday, March 13, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Music Hath Charms to Soothe... Whining Puppies

One of the things that endeared Anderson Animal Shelter to me is that they play classical music to soothe the cats and dogs in their care. Even when Chuck and I were escorted back to visit Bristol's siblings, where animals are treated for various medical issues , I noticed the soft music playing in the background. 

Chuck's favorite music is classical, so it wasn't hard to provide the same musical offerings to our little adoptees when we brought them home. Each night I would make sure the classical relaxation station on Pandora was playing after the puppies retired to their shared crate. We thought keeping them together, and playing familiar music would help them make a smoother transition to life their new family, and I have to say, I think it helped. 

Nowadays, the puppies sleep in separate crates, and they don't seem to require music to get to sleep. During the daytime, I've broadened their musical selections to include New Age, acoustic guitar, and country music. But when we are leaving the house to run errands, or when Bristol and Sam need reassurance, I usually resort to classical music. 

Take last night for instance...

At 1:30, the puppies needed to go out. Hello, winter wonderland. The backyard was covered in snow, and snow was still falling. Sami quickly took care of business, and Bristol only peed, but indicated he was finished, so we hurried back into the warm house, and I put them back in their kennels. 

After I crawled into bed, Bristol began to whine. Chuck said, "He's serenading us." Ugh. I really try to keep the puppies quiet because Chuck's day starts so early, so I took Bristol back out, just in case he still needed to go. We wandered around in the snow, and then he whined to go back inside. Another unproductive trip. When I went back to bed, Bristol's soft whining quickly escalated to barking. 

Enough time had passed that maybe he really needed to go that time. Back out into the snow we went. Nothing. I realized what we have here is a mama's boy who was hoping for more attention than he was getting in his crate. I gave him some extra scritches and scratches, and reassured him with soft "I love you"s before I closed his kennel door.

By then, I was wide awake, and my feet were freezing. I headed to the living room to let Chuck sleep without my tossing and turning beside him. 

Bristol began to whimper again. Of course, he did. I know he just wanted to be cuddled on the couch, but I decided to try soothing him with music. Pachelbel Canon was playing on the classical Pandora station and after I whispered a few shushes, lo, and behold, Bristol went to sleep. 

At least, one of us could sleep. I, on the other hand, was wide awake into the morning. There's something about walking in falling snow in the middle of the night that is so invigorating. I enjoyed the classical music myself for awhile longer before I was finally able to join the rest of my family in slumber. 

Tonight I will have music ready for the puppies after their midnight constitutional. It should help us all get back to sleep a little faster. Classical music has been a godsend, and I have to say, I love Pachelbel Canon even more than I did before.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Just One of Those Days

Some days suck. Here, allow me to whine and complain about nothing, in particular, and everything, in general. Do you ever have days like this?

If I'm honest, it's not the day usually, but my attitude. All day long I have felt this unnamed feeling that just doesn't feel like it should belong to me. What the heck is wrong with me when days like this sneak up on me?

Nothing is really wrong, but nothing really feels right. My problems are so minimal; I know that. I have the normal aches and pains, but nothing to complain about. I have a good husband, amazing kids who like each other, two adorable puppies, and a pretty good life. Occasionally, I just get a case of the sads, out of the blue, and it makes me feel a little crazy. 

Maybe it's the lack of sleep. The puppies needed to go out at 2:45 this morning, and while they both eventually fell asleep beside me on the couch, I couldn't sleep. I read for awhile from the Bible, thinking the Old Testament would put me to sleep, but it didn't today.

Maybe it's going without my favorite treats for over a month now. I'm not eating "sugar-free," but I am avoiding the foods that lead to binges: cookies, ice cream, and chocolate. Today I have wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS. But not the things in my house; they are too boring. I wanted frozen custard, red velvet cookies, salted caramel anything... Instead I ate a couple of protein bars, tangerines, stale whole wheat rolls I found in the back of the freezer, peanut butter from the jar, and I even made the mistake of trying a comfort food from childhood: Chef Boyardee ravioli. Ugh. So disappointing. I've still got most of the contents of the can left, if anyone wants it.

Trying Ravioli in a can did NOTHING to improve my day. Yuck.
Not like I remembered!

Maybe it's missing my kids. I haven't seen them since the middle of January. This is the longest I've ever gone without seeing at least one of them. And it will be awhile yet before we get to visit. 

Maybe it's this weather. Today is chilly and grey. The forecast threatens rain and snow during the next two weeks. We have crocuses up; it's time for sunshine and blue skies, isn't it? You're probably shocked I'm whining about future snow. Let me remind you; I have two puppies, that's eight puppy paws, to clean up after now. Snow and rain are not my friends at the moment.

Trust me; they get LOUD.

Maybe it's listening to the puppies play. Doesn't that seem like a silly thing to not be able to enjoy? Have you ever listened to puppies play? It sounds like a fight to the death. No one gets hurt, and no one draws blood, but it sounds like the hounds of hell battling it out in my kitchen.

Maybe it's just one of those days. That's probably it. Sometimes it's nothing, and everything, that seems to add up to just a weirdly blasé day when there is a lack of energy and and an abundance of blah, and we wish we could just change the way we feel. 

By late afternoon, I'd had enough of feeling pitiful, and decided I'd get out of the house for a bit. My big adventure would only take me to Walmart, but at least for an hour I would see other humans.

While I was filling my grocery cart, I decided to think of a few things for which I was thankful. Obviously, my husband and kids came to mind, and the puppies; dirty paws, kitchen brawls, and all. And then I saw these roses in the fresh produce section. Pale pink petals, so soft and delicate. In the middle of a yucky day, I took the time to "stop and smell the roses," and it made me feel a little better. I didn't even have to buy them to enjoy them. 

I know that nothing is made better by complaining. And I'm glad I remembered that everything is made a little better by being grateful. I do have so much for which to be grateful. 

And I just thought of a great big thing to give thanks for! I hope this isn't premature to announce, but we haven't had any puppy accidents today! Hallelu-yer! (This will be our second accident-free day ever!)

This day is turning around, slowly but surely. If you're having a crummy day, I hope yours gets better, and that you can come up with a few things for which you're grateful. Go ahead; you might want to give it a try. It might soften the edges of a rough and yucky day. Hang in there. Friday's coming!