Friday, November 11, 2011

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

"Everyone's pet is the most outstanding. This begets mutual blindness."  Jean Cocteau.  Jean Cocteau was a celebrated novelist, playwright, director, poet, essayist, painter, and actor and he owned a dog.  I'm not sure why he felt that the love for an pet promoted mutual blindness but he clearly understood the incredible connection that many of us feel for the pets in our lives. 

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I had cats, I adored my cats.  Unfortunately the digital age had not yet arrived during the time they 'owned' me.  But I have photo albums of my cats, my cats with my children growing up, and my cats finding the most impossible places to lie down in.  They captured my heart.  They were affectionate and followed me around like dogs do.  My last cat, a Siamese named "Tigger" because she bounced around like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh would talk to me and scold me if I left her home alone too long.  

Dunkie runs away with the Agility Cone
Now I have dogs, 2 Tibetan Terriers who are the love of my life.  They are a joy to be around, always happy, ever present.  Several years ago, I started blogging about my first Tibetan Terrier named Duncan, aka Wigglebutt Duncan.  He was so fascinating to me that I blogged fairly regularly about him and his antics  And then a year ago, we got Isadora Duncan, aka Destructo-girl, aka Izzy Dunk who is now a year old and not slowing down one bit.  Each of them is a hoot alone, together, they are amusement personified.  Just look at this picture taken when we were at Camp Dogwood 'learning' about agility!  The cone was far more interesting to Dunk than anything else.  

Izzy as a puppy
So let me count the ways I love them:  1)  I buy them the jumbo bully sticks to chew on (they are expensive); 2) I feed them frozen raw food to try to give them the most natural nutrition (also expensive); 3) I keep them in a fairly long cut, so I purchased a grooming table, a cage dryer, and two standing dryers, along with professional mat-splitters, rotating detangler combs, and special shampoos and conditioners that you actually need to look for online because pet stores do not typically carry them; 4) we have 2 crates in our family room and 2 crates in our bedroom .... we also have a stroller crate where we can put both of them in and a ventilated crate that fits both of them and each has a portable crate; 5)  I bathe them in our big tub in our bathroom that we don't use where they get bath doggy massage in addition to being washed; 6) I now have a digital SLR camera with a fairly fast shutter speed that I bring with me almost everywhere to "capture the moments"; and then 7) I have those moments made into FOREVER moments by creating the removable stickers from  Just because I love them.  Look at the picture below.  That's the back of my car.  And I must admit, every time I walk up to my car and look at those stickers, I get this warm feeling in my heart.  You can experience forever moments similar to mine by having your pet on your car or your locker or computer or refrigerator or ... wherever.  

Just some of the possibilities; they are endless

So here's the deal for people who are reading this post.  If I receive a minimum 50 comments from readers out there who tell me in a bit of detail how they uniquely love their pets, I will select 2 comments that I feel are most related to the notion of 'forever love' and each of the two selected will receive a gift certificate so that they can create their own memory of mutual adoration we all feel for our pets.  I can't wait for this adventure to begin. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Expert Amateur Groomer: Tip #1 - The Rotating Detangler Comb

If you have a long haired dog or cat, this item is a 'must have.'  It's called a "rotating detangler comb."  You can use the phrase (must include quotes) in any search engine, or at Pet Supplies Plus, where it's called the tangler/wrangler comb.  I found mine over 3 years ago on ebay ( and after using it went back and bought 3 more because I was worried that the combs might break or I might lose them.

They are also available on (  There are now many types of these combs and come in multiple sizes.  As you can see from the differences between my comb (pictured) and the newer versions, these combs have come a long way in the past 3 years. 


This comb changed my life in grooming my 2 long-hair, double coated Tibetan Terriers.  It has tines that turn (or rotate 360 degrees) within a socket in a plastic base and the ends of the tines are blunt so as to not irritate the skin of your pet.  It's inexpensive (usually under US$10, always a plus) and slides through mats to a large degree unless your pet is so matted that it must be shaved because it would hurt too much to untangle the mats. 

After you bathe and dry your pet, or even if you don't do the bath first, start combing from the belly up, separating the hair in layers while feeling for any mats.  When you feel a mat, first try to comb gently through it.  If that doesn't work, then hold the base of the mat (close to the skin) with your fingers and use the comb to try to separate the hairs that have tangled to form the mat.  This may take some time, but if you are patient and your pet is as well, you will be spared having to cut the mats out using a mat splitter.  Most pets not only tolerate this type of comb, but actually like it once they are used to it. 
This is my comb, well-used, but still intact

So good luck in your attempt to use it and let me know what your experiences are.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photographing Your Pet ...

One of the photo booth backdrops ( has now attended or been a sponsor at two local Chicago charity events within the last 2 months:  Orphans of the Storm (where over $7,000 was raised) and more recently at PAWSChicago Walk/Run for their lives this past Sunday.  The booth was set up so dogs could be photographed against one of many backgrounds as well as an image of a female or male with a cut-out for the face of the dog.  The intent was to have the dog place his head through the hole and be photographed while looking at the camera.  This proved to be more difficult in reality than in concept.

In dog photography, one factor that leads to either success of failure comes from whether or not your dog has been trained that looking directly at a person or object is an okay thing to do.  Dogs that have been frequently photographed and are used to the camera as a non-threatening object will not object to looking directly into a lens. 

This dog seems to not be camera shy!
Izzy at Orphans of the Storm Walk

Some dogs who know that a treat will follow the picture actually hold poses until the photograph has been taken.   At least Izzy knows that more often than not, if the "wait" command is used, a treat will follow the sound(s) of the camera clicking. 

Other dogs appear to be camera shy if not actually camera-phobic (see below):
It was difficult to get a 'head-on' photo of this dog at the Orphans of the Storm Walk

A peaceful greeting
Why might these differences occur?  Turid Rugaas' paperback entitled:  On Talking Terms with Dogs:  Calming Signals,, states that in canine social behavior, dogs actually consider it rude to look directly at another dog (or human for that matter) and that staring can be view as aggressive.  For example, dominant wolves will often stare at 'wannabe' alphas to demonstrate superiority and otherwise avoid violent confrontation.  That's why you see dogs greet one another from the side (in a wide circling behavior) and sniff noses and then genitals as a greeting and to determine the status of which dog is dominant and which is not.

See how they greet one another off lead!

No tension.  Watch the body language.
So it is not surprising that many photos on our website from the PAWS event were photos of dogs with faces slightly turned away from the camera.  Fee free to visit our photographic experience at the PAWSChicago Walk/Run for their Lives to see how few dogs really wanted to look directly at the camera.  You can access the photographs from our home page at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The PAWS event is coming up!

We are incredibly excited to be part of the PAWS Chicago's 11th annual Run for Their Lives Event. On September 25th we will be having a booth there and our president Sue will be participating along with her two dogs Duncan and Izzy. We are going to have a professional photographer on hand along with a bunch of great backdrops so we can take photos and people can create their own custom stickers on site! We are looking forward to posting all the fun photos.

Click here to visit their site

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Critical Periods in Canine Development

There is a fantastic book by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M., a practicing veterinarian and a specialist in animal behavior.  Although the book can be a bit dense, it is an excellent reference for anyone who wants to understand why his/her dog IS the way it is and why they behave the way they do.  Here is a long(ish) link that will take you directly to the book on  It has received over 6,000 reviews and has a 4.5 star-rating.

Here are some "factoids" you can learn about in his book:
1) "puppies can become bonded to almost any species prior to 12 weeks of age;"
2)  it appears that there is world-wide consensus that pups ideally "are obtained about 7-8 weeks of age during the peak of their socialization period;" lest one worries that they have missed this time frame, he also asserts ...
3) "it is doubtful that there is any age after which a dog is not trainable;"
4) There are specific puppy 'aptitude' tests to assess 5 specific canine-related behaviors (p. 93-94)
5) "human attachments develop best between 6-8 weeks of age;"
6) "fear imprinting occurs between 8-10 weeks of age."

Perhaps this is why many breeders suggest that puppies be picked up by prospective owners by 8-9 weeks of age.

The notion of critical time periods was introduced by John Paul Scott & John Fuller in their work with guide dogs for the blind and was published in their work:  "Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog"

Finally, I have been told by many animal trainers that another critical period occurs between 12-16 weeks of age, when puppies should be exposed to as many different experiences as possible (all positive) and as many different types of people, dogs, and objects as possible.  The general rule is:  100 people and 100 dogs in 100 days.

Good luck with socializing your puppy or new addition to the family. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Orphans of the Storm Walk

Today we participated in the "Orphans of the Storm" walk in an effort to raise money for the organization. It was a 2 mile walk and we were able to raise $7,000 for the organization.  Orphans of the Storm is located in Riverwoods, Il. If you would like to learn more about them, please visit their site here

Every dog who participated received a bandanna, I must say they all looked adorable.

Rocking an adorable bandanna

So photogenic!

Izzy being a great sport
After a long day like there, there isn't much to do besides nap