Inspiration comes in many forms

I am not the prolific blogger I was when I first started blogging T2 – My life with pit bulls a few years ago. In fact, just a few months ago I thought it might be time to retire my blog for a while rather than allow it to languish out there on the internet—a public monument to my inability to keep up. (Never mind that I had very good reasons.)

But somehow, people kept finding it (and me), and they kept liking it or signing up to follow it. These weren’t people who were just being nice—they (you?) actually liked what I have to say without knowing anything about me except the words I write here about the things we do or don’t do because of our rescued pit bulls. It’s inspiring…and it’s kept me writing. Apparently while I was busy being inspired to keep posting whenever I could steal a little time away from something else, I was also inspiring others. I only know this because I’ve been nominated as a Very Inspiring Blogger Award recipient. Wow.

“An award? So cool!”

So, to honor the rules of the process, I would first like to thank the academy and all of the pups who helped make this day possible, and then complete the process of accepting this award by:

  • Linking to and thanking my nominator: Grimm’s Furry Tail. Click over and have a read—you will definitely enjoy yourself. Well written and thoughtful, Grimm and family will both make you laugh and give you pause for thought.
  • Posting the award to my page (nice, right?):

  • Sharing seven facts about myself:
  1. My first dogs as an adult were Golden Retrievers, Baily and Pagan. I had to leave them with my ex-husband when I moved to Chicago in 1998. My ex didn’t do a great job of taking care of me but he loved those dogs and I know they were happy and spoiled to the end—even if it had to be without me.
  2. I found out two summers ago that one of the things I am most allergic to is dogs. Go figure. Not that it will change anything about our family structure now or in the future. We’re dog people through and through. It just means a few more baths for them and a lot more Zyrtec for me.
  3. Although I swore growing up that I would never cook (as a teenager, I thought it was society’s way of keeping women barefoot, pregnant and chained to the stove), cooking is one of my favorite things in the world to do. It relaxes me. It gives my brain a break from all of the hectic of my day. It is how I show the people I love that I love them. I even cook for the dogs—though not as elaborately.
  4. I am terrible with numbers. Seriously, I count on my fingers and double check simple math on my laptop calculator just in case I got it wrong (which I usually did). What can I say? I’m a word girl.
  5. I could really live without breakfast food. I don’t know why. It just doesn’t excite me. Omelettes, pancakes, waffles—I don’t get it. Bacon I get, but the rest leaves me wishing for a burger.
  6. Autumn is my favorite season; winter is a close second. I run hot—I can wear tank tops in the middle of a snowstorm and feel completely comfortable. Spring and summer just make me want to lay down and wait to sweat to death.
  7. I wear a women’s size five shoe…and a children’s size three. I know, totally irrelevant. Interesting personal facts are hard to come up with.

“Are awards as fun as my ball?”

And of course, you can’t receive such a lovely compliment as the Very Inspiring Blogger Award without sharing the love:

  • Arwen’s Pack: I’ve been reading this blog for quite a while and I often find myself nodding and thinking, “Exactly. You get it. You get me.”
  • In Black & White: I love her writing. I love what she’s doing for her own dogs and for homeless Chicago dogs while they search for their forever families.
  • Love and a Six-foot Leash: This blog gets recognized all of the time—with good reason. Aleks is a thoughtful, engaging, insightful writer, her photography is gorgeous and her commitment to all dogs—but especially pit bulls—is awe-inspiring. This blog is the epitome of inspiration.
  • Tales and Tails: Fantastic writing and beautiful photos. I admire all they do for their dogs and their community.
  • Two Pitties in the City: Confession: I know A and E in real life, as well as Miss M and Mr. B. They are so on top of what it means to be pit bull owners in this day and age: careful, conscientious and proactive; ensuring that their dogs are ambassadors for the breed at all times. And seriously, I don’t know how they manage to post so frequently on all things dog, Chicago and beyond. It’s impressive!

“I’m not sure how I feel about awards. What if they’re scary? I’m just not sure….”

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Finally!

What’s a guy gotta do to get a break around here? Mostly because of this really annoying lock-down situation we have going on. If the food lady had just told me she didn’t want her desk in the middle of the room, if anyone had mentioned that eating computer mice is frowned on, we could have saved a lot of trouble. (It’s a mouse—what else are you supposed to do with it??)

“I don’t know why people say I look like a hippopotamus.”

This is Strut, by the way. And for the record, it’s not Strut-a-butt or Strutter or Strut-along or Strut-your-stuff or Dammit-Strut or any of the others names people try to throw my way. It’s Strut. I might be more inclined to respond when called if people could keep that in mind.

“I love my pool.”

It’s fall now and things are totally different than they were in the spring. The food lady got something called a New Job. I have no idea what that means but she spends a lot more time at her desk and a lot less time watching us run in circles around the yard. If I ever see this New Job thing, we’re going to have it out because I definitely liked things much better the other way. On the other hand, Best Friend (Téa and Toni call him Dad but that clearly doesn’t describe who he really is) takes me to playcare one day a week so I still get to have some fun. Téa used to come, too, but she and I had so much fun together that we forgot to play with the other dogs and the food lady said we could do that at home for free. So now Téa goes to playcare on a different day. (By the way, the food lady says a lot of things that make absolutely no sense to me. I just try to stay out of trouble…which is not really my strong suit.) The food lady also has someone new come two times every week. I call him Walkies because that’s what we do together. First I go, then the girls get to go. Maybe this is because of New Job, too. I can’t really figure it out and the food lady seems too busy to explain.

“Mmmm. Treats!”

Here is how I spent my summer: Get up super early because I’m so excited for another new day! Go back to bed because no one else likes to get up early. Check the yard for rodents and birds, and bark at dogs on the street so they know how much fun I’m having! Eat!! Sleeeeep. Check the yard for rodents and birds, and play tug with Téa even though I never win because she is wicked good at tug. Nap. Walkies. Snack then nap. Hang out with Best Friend to watch TV (while pretending the girls and food lady aren’t there and that we are having Man Time). EAT!! Nap on the couch with Best Friend. Go to bed and start again the next morning.

“This is how I hang out with Best Friend every night.”

I think I hear those stupid schnauzers coming around the corner—you can always hear them from, like, a mile away. I’d better go to the window to bark at them so they know they will never be as cool as I am. Laters….

Notes from Toni

It’s Toni here. I’m not really sure I should be doing this but Téa wrote a post last week and didn’t get in trouble, so maybe it’s okay.

I’m sure you’ve heard I’ve had a rough few months. Mom isn’t exaggerating—it’s been really hard on me. Sometimes I don’t even know why I get so nervous. I see Strut and Téa running around like they don’t have a care in the world and I want to be like them…but I just worry about why I can’t do it instead. I worry about everything, really, which is why Mom and Dad think it’s funny to call me Eeyore. I worry when Mom goes outside to get the mail. I worry when it’s too windy. I worry when mom leaves with Téa or Strut but not me (what if she takes them somewhere fun and never comes back for me??). I even worry when Strut and Téa play in the yard and use their growly voices to pretend their fighting when they’re really not. Actually, other than worrying about losing Mom and Dad, this is one of the things that worries me the most. I try to make them stop because it’s so scary but Mom and Dad don’t want me to do that so instead I have to wait inside until they’re worn out. But it still makes me nervous and I can’t help but whine while they’re playing. Mom says she thinks I’ve seen dogs fight each other for real and that now I can’t tell the difference between a real fight and a play fight. I can’t really talk about it because it makes me upset…but she’s a good guesser.

“This is me worrying about Fourth of July. I worry about it almost as much as I worry about trucks.”

Anyway, you can see I have a lot on my mind, which can be a burden. Luckily, Mom puts really nice, flowery smelling stuff on my food now and I don’t know why, but it really helps me relax about things—usually. It works so well that Mom even uses something that came in the same box from the nice people. It makes her smell like pine trees and I can tell that when she’s stressed out it helps her relax. She says it’s called Hammock Blend. I don’t know what a hammock is, but it must be nice.

So, being worried all of the time can take a toll. When I first came to live with Mom and Dad, I would get so nervous that I was even afraid to leave the condo. It was so nice there and there are so many scary things out in the world…I just didn’t want to risk it. But they helped me figure out that we can go outside and come back without very many bad things happening (like trucks—trucks are bad). I was still worried about other things, though, and sometimes it made me sick to my stomach. Other times I broke out in rashes. I was sort of like a hypochondriac except that I wasn’t making any of it up. Well, after my very bad two weeks at Christmas time last year (I was so nervous I didn’t even want to eat and I picked a fight with Téa, who is my best dog friend in the world), I learned a new way of expressing my stress physically. At first, Mom and Dad thought I had an eye infection because my eye would water and water all of the time. I tried to tell them that it wasn’t an infection, but I don’t speak English so I couldn’t.

“Here we are at the vet. As you can see, I was very, very worried.”

Finally, after two months, one of the doctors realized that I didn’t have an infection—my eye wasn’t closing anymore so I couldn’t blink to make it wet. I was also having trouble twitching my ear (which was very annoying when they would poke their fingers at it to show each other and I couldn’t flick them away) and a teeny bit of trouble with my jowls (and my jowls are pretty impressive because I probably have some Boxer in me, so that was disappointing). Then everyone was even more worried than I usually am. I went to see a neurologist and everything. Mom spent extra time giving me snuggles for no reason, which sometimes I like and sometimes I just let her do because they make her happy, and sneaking me extra treats when Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum weren’t looking (that’s what I call Téa and Strut behind their backs). While we were “waiting and seeing,” all of the extra loving must have rubbed off on me because one day Mom was putting my eye drops in and she missed—because I blinked at her! We were both pretty surprised. I blinked again when Dad tried to put drops in my eye that night, too. And since then things have slowly gotten back to normal, which is to say that I worry a lot about my eye not blinking again but that so far it hasn’t happened. That happens a lot to me, actually: I worry about things and then they never happen.

“I’m actually not worried here, which is very unusual. I’m just hot.”

I think Mom is going to come home soon. I’d better go to the back door, flip the lock with my giant paws, turn the handle to open it and then go downstairs to wait by the door to outside for Mom or she’ll think I didn’t miss her. She pretends to be upset and says something about how I’m going to have to get a job if I want to keep air conditioning the back hallway but I know that really she appreciates my special way of telling her I love her.

If I don’t get in trouble, maybe I’ll write another post sometime.

Téa here

Hey there. Téa here at the keyboard. Mom’s been super busy lately and every time I remind her that we have a lot of people out there wondering what’s going on, she grumbles something about 24 hours in a day not being enough. Whatever that means. Anyway, she stepped away from her computer for a while so I thought I’d sneak an update out to you all.

It has been crazy around here. CraZy with a capital Z! You remember how I had my hip operated on back in November? And how then they tricked me into doing it again? Well, it turns out things got much better for me after that…except for the therapy. Hydro-therapy. I cannot think of a worse place to get better than in the middle of a bunch of water. Actually, I can’t think of a worse place to do anything than in the middle of a bunch of water. I was not pleased—but I was mobile again so in hindsight maybe it was okay after all.

Things were going pretty well for a while. I was keeping up with Strut around the yard. Mom started taking me on longer and longer walks, which was such a relief because those tiny walks I had to do right after the surgeries were ridiculously boring. I had to come up with all sorts of ways to stall so we didn’t rush right back in after just walking to the corner—but you can only smell the same tree for so long before Mom gets bored and wants to move on.

Then all of a sudden I had a different kind of pain happening and Mom and Dad started calling me Limpy-Limpy again, which I was sort of afraid might mean they were thinking of tricking me into more surgery (even though I have no more hips to fix). But my doctor was really helpful this time—he said it was just my knees popping out of place. That meant no surgery…but it turns out it meant more therapy. Ugh! Luckily, everyone at the therapy place must have hated getting in the water, too, because this time I didn’t have to go into the water hardly ever. Instead, they showed me how to do special stretches and exercises so that I could teach Mom to give me treats when I do them. They weren’t even very hard: Sometimes I let her push my hips from side to side while I stand with my back feet on the bottom step and my front feet on the step above. When she looks like she’s getting bored, I let her give me a treat and we do it again. Other times I have her hold a treat and spin in a circle so I can chase it. That one always cracks me up—she gets kind of dizzy. Although it’s not as fun when Strut tries to butt in. He doesn’t even do it right; he forgets to wait until Mom gets dizzy before he lets her give him the treat. We did a whole bunch of other ones, too, but I can’t remember them all because Mom put the instructions too high up on the refrigerator and I can’t read them unless someone picks me up (which no one ever does). The exercises helped because my knees weren’t popped out anymore and no one was calling me Limpy-Limpy.

But then everyone must have forgotten how much we hate the water because all of a sudden I was back in the hydro-treadmill. Not cool. They said it was because I was too good at learning the other tricks and stretches and there was nothing more to learn, but I think they just forgot about hating the water. Anyway, it got way worse: one day someone totally screwed up and turned the water back on halfway through! It kept getting taller and taller. I tried to drink it up so I wouldn’t drown, but the next thing I knew I was swimming. What the…. After that, I quit. Mom said it was the last session, but I think it was because she could tell that I had had enough. Swimming?! For the love of Mike, who needs to go swimming?!

“Strut’s so dumb he actually goes into the water on purpose and hangs out there. Idiot.”

Anyway, since then everything in my world is back to normal. I am whupping Strut’s butt at tug (and not just because his little pea brain gets bored easily). I met a new guy down the street, Ham, who I’ll tell you more about another time. He was kind of obnoxious the first time I met him (and no, I didn’t start it…well, maybe I did). But the second time he seemed okay, so maybe I’ll hang with him again sometime. And I’m going back to daycare next week, which rocks!

I think I hear the garage door so I’d better post this and get back to my crate before Mom sees me and buys a Folsom Prison for me, too. More later, though!

Welcome to Folsom Prison….

We have a varied approach to crating at our house. It’s not that we’d like it that way—we’re big fans of consistency. But there’s only so much you can do when your pups aren’t willing (or sometimes aren’t able) to go along with your game plan.

When we first brought Toni home, we didn’t really feel the need to bother with a crate. No one had mentioned anything about crates to us when we adopted her, and even though we were living in an open loft, she was so well-behaved when we were away (we couldn’t even find signs that she was sneaking up onto the couch) that it seemed like a non-issue. Then there was that time that we introduced the concept of confinement and crates at my parents’ house. We learned that crating was only a non-issue when we weren’t jamming our claustrophobic dog into her personal living hell, aka a crate. Now crates are just for naps in Toni’s world.

Please just don't close the door.

Téa came to us crate trained. It seemed a little unfair at first, since we couldn’t put the crate in a room by itself where she didn’t have to watch Toni roam around at will. But it still seemed safer than leaving two getting-to-know-each other dogs unattended for several hours at a time. So we all just dealt. And it was fine. When we moved to our current home, the one with rooms and doors, we decided that the things that caused the girls to argue didn’t really happen while we were away (toys don’t just let themselves out of the toy bin; treats don’t magically appear to spark possessive behavior). So for a while we were a crate-free home.

Strut also came to us crate trained. We set him up in the office so we could close the door. As the resident alpha, we doubted it would fly well if he discovered he was the only crated dog. Additionally, given his reputation as a voracious chewer of things, we were hesitant to leave him to his own devices in the office. Things were fine for about five months. But sometime around Tea’s surgery, something changed. We can’t be sure what the catalyst was: maybe the change in energy from calm to stressed; maybe the shift from a calm, dog-centric schedule to an erratic, Téa-focused schedule; maybe the time Toni decided to use her massive paws to turn the doorknob of the office and let herself in to check on Strut; maybe all of these…or maybe none of these. At any rate, it was the beginning of the end for our average, everyday wire crates.

Téa will snuggle with anyone...or is it everyone?

At first, he just bent the panels or doors in or out, depending on how he was leveraging his weight. We would come home to find a sheepish Strut sitting just inside the door, crate a little worse for wear behind him. When we reinforced the panels with cable ties and secured the doors with carabiner clips, it seemed like all we had done was encourage him to rise to the challenge. For about a week we came home to more and more crate bars that had been popped off of their bases, poking dangerously across the opening Strut had used to escape his confines. Fearing that one day we would end up with a eyeless dog or worse, we decided to give him a chance to prove his maturity. We put him in the crate when we left, but we didn’t secure it. We would often come home to find him curled up fast asleep inside the crate, the door wide open just to show us that he knew he had won.

This lasted for about a month. Somewhere in that time frame, Strut decided to try his luck again. We began coming home to pee. Every time. We got the message: he enjoyed his new-found freedom and wanted more. The office began to smell a little like a badly cared for kennel: a combination of urine and vinegar. When we came home from a night out, we started to negotiate who had to wait outside for the dogs to be sent out and who had to go in to let them out (and was thus in charge of office clean-up). Then one day I came home after an evening meeting and noticed my wireless computer mouse on a paper towel on the kitchen counter. It seemed to have more pieces than I remembered…because Strut had been looking for a chew toy in the office while he was confined and had settled on my mouse. The next day, I came home to my desk in the middle of the office. And that was the day we reclaimed our roles as Makers of Rules and Enforcers of Crates.

It didn’t take much research. All we had to do was Google “escape proof dog crate” or some variation. Then we took the brand name results and hopped on eBay. Less than a week later, we had our very own, expensive but extremely satisfying, Strut-proof crate. We call it Welcome to Folsom Prison.

"...I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when, I'm stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin' on...."

I’m even planning to make a sign….