December 30, 2014

Snowy Days

The Ginger Sisters had a nice holiday visiting their dog cousins and eating lots of left-over turkey. Boca particularly loved my human cousin, and they did wonderfully meeting everyone. They were excited on the morning drive, but by the time we headed home that afternoon, they were curled up asleep in the back seat. I must confess that I did not get them any gifts - they get so many things on a regular basis and had just gotten a box of goodies that we won from His Muddy Paw Prints. I also wanted some more time to budget and think of what they really need, and in the next week or so Ruby will get a new tug and Boca some booties. 

We did have a white Christmas, which is actually fairly uncommon, with snow moving in during the late afternoon. Before having a reactive dog, I have never been so excited about snow storms and cold temperatures, but I knew it meant we could romp in the nearby open space! Normally it is busy with cyclists, soccer games and other dogs, but we were able to walk on the mountain bike paths and run through the fields without a care. Boca thought we were a little crazy, and Ruby couldn't get enough running and digging. Both dogs wore the rubber Pawz booties, but they got pretty torn up on our expeditions so I want to get something more heavy-duty for Boca. Does anyone have recommendations? Ruby has adapted well to the winter and her feet aren't nearly as sensitive.

On Sunday, Ruby tried the 16 foot long-line in the field and had such fun! I got her to run in a circle around me - much like lunging a horse, and I was glad for my experience doing just that. I'm thrilled to have this in the toolbox for her to enjoy a little more freedom. Boca also had a turn on the long-line and wouldn't even go to the end of it! I tried to get her to run around and she looked at me like I was loony. I think she had her fill of freedom as a street dog in The Bahamas. 

Now some extreme cold has set in - yesterday only reached the teens and today's high is all of three degrees with record lows expected tonight. We ventured out very briefly in the afternoon and will do the same today. Yesterday was my birthday and I had a lovely relaxing day cuddling with my girls, watching movies and baking cupcakes. We are ready for 2015!

December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays from the Ginger Sisters

Thanks for joining us this year on Rubicon Days. May you and yours have a beautiful holiday.

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December 23, 2014

Red Dogs and Holiday Blues

Are you feeling a little worn down by hauling out the holly? I know I am. I've noticed some particularly frantic renditions of "Sleigh Ride" in stores lately that unintentionally capture the relentless pace we're often expected to giddy up at this time of year. This morning when Ruby emerged yawning from under the covers and Boca eyed me drowsily from the foot of the bed, I promised them that we would sleep in tomorrow. We have plans to spend Christmas Day with family, but it's otherwise going to be a low-key and relaxed week, with extra-long walks in the daylight, dates with library books and a Harry Potter movie marathon.

I've been struggling to find my festive footing ever since losing my mom in 2010. She and I both have December birthdays, and it was a month-long celebration: from our annual tree-hunting expedition to crafting ornaments or wreaths and painting sugar cookies to lunch and shopping the after-Christmas sales on my birthday. For many years we would each open one gift on Christmas Eve, but when I was in college we switched to opening everything on that night after the annual viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Being a night-owl, I loved this tradition. Things are different now - there is no family home to return to. I put up my own tree one year but haven't since - it seems so lackluster. I run around trying to fulfill obligations, navigate crowds and meet deadlines, leaving little room for much spirit.

Every once in a while, though, I'm buoyed up by the memory of my mother - how her joy and generosity present year-round seemed to shine even more bright this time of year. I'll drive past a house decked all in blue lights - her favorite - and remember how our own twinkled on the spruce in our front window, visible all the way to the barn. I'll find myself singing along to a carol, thinking how we would make up our own funny lyrics to incorporate current events while warming our rumps in front of the wood stove. I remind myself that even if she isn't here, my life is filled with gifts that live on; not the least of which is a deep, incurable and undeniably genetic love of dogs.

It can be a busy, stressful season and it isn't always easy for people. Strained family relations, changing friendships, financial hardship, grieving loved ones...all these things can culminate in feeling "less than" at what we are constantly reminded is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Take it easy on yourself, do what you can. Accept that invitation and find yourself staying longer than you planned. Watch a movie you haven't seen since childhood. Take a walk in the moonlight, maybe with snow swirling down. Surround yourself with the people and animals you consider family and appreciate your simplest riches: the love of a good dog, the smell of something hearty on the stove, a phone call from an old friend, a day to sleep in.

December 22, 2014

Ruby Reviews: Fruitables Vanilla Snowflake Treats

Ruby and Boca got to try some new holiday treats: Crunchy Fruitables in Vanilla Snowflake flavor! We are already big fans of Fruitables: small, low-calorie flower-shaped treats. They have healthy ingredients and are made in the USA. My favorite quality is that the treats have the yummy scents of things like bananas, berries and apples, and I don't mind having them in my pockets!

The Vanilla Snowflake treats are extra special, because they are made with real snow harvested right here in Colorado! You can watch a cute video about the snow harvest here. They also contain pumpkin granola and Greek yogurt. They're only available for a limited time, so if you're looking for a last minute gift for the dog in your life, hurry before this snow melts! 

Disclaimer: I was provided Fruitables Vanilla Snowflake treats in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I only publish reviews for products I feel comfortable using in the day to day life of my pets.  

December 17, 2014

Evening Entertainment

dog watching tv
Ruby was very interested in a holiday jewelry commercial 
featuring a penguin presenting his penguin wife with a diamond necklace. 

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December 15, 2014

Dashing Through the Snow with Ruffwear

I'm fairly new to the world of dog outerwear, since my previous dogs - a Norwegian elkhound and a Chow/GSD mix - were built for the snow with thick, double coats. Ruby shivered through her first snowstorm and I quickly acquainted myself with winter clothes for dogs. 

Since Boca came from a tropical island in The Bahamas, I knew that a coat would be an absolute necessity for her first Colorado winter. Already having several of Ruffwear's products - including my favorite leash for Ruby - I was very excited to try out their K-9 Overcoat.

Following the sizing guide, I measured Boca and ordered size small in the Cinder Cone Red color. We were still having unseasonably warm weather by the time the coat arrived, but yesterday gave us a great opportunity to put the coat to the test as snow fell from morning to night. 

I love the color, the reflective piping, and the durable material of the K-9 Overcoat. It is very easy to take on and off since you can unbuckle both sides and slip it over the dog's head. Boca started wagging her tail as soon as the coat was on - she seemed to know we were off on an adventure!

One of the issues I've had with Boca's other coat is that it starts to come off if she is very active. We gave the Ruffwear coat a thorough trial by racing all around on the snow-covered lawn. The coat did not slip at all and Boca was able to run, jump and play comfortably.

The outer material repelled the falling snow and kept Boca dry during two wintry walks. The coat is lined with a soft fleece which offers added warmth for my potcake's ultra short fur. The coat could easily be layered over a sweater in extremely cold temperatures. I'm very pleased with this coat overall and think it will help Boca get accustomed to her new climate. I'm sure we will be getting a lot of use out of it in the coming months!

Disclaimer: I was provided a Ruffwear K-9 Overcoat in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I only publish reviews for products I feel comfortable using in the day to day life of my pets.

December 2, 2014

A Bounty of Food and Friendship for Thanksgiving

The Ginger Sisters had a wonderful Thanksgiving visiting family. It was Boca's first Thanksgiving and both girls' first taste of roasted turkey - I think it may be their favorite holiday yet! On Thursday morning I drove with my dad and the dogs to my aunt's house in Old Colorado City. The dogs were so excited that they whined most of the way, and the crawling traffic didn't help matters - if we slow down, surely we must be almost there! 

We arrived in time to see parts of The National Dog Show while we prepared our feast in the kitchen, with the dogs hovering hopefully underfoot. My favorite of the finalists was the Smooth Fox Terrier. Ruby and Boca wrestled with their cousins Hachi and Stevey and played in the backyard. We had the most beautiful weather - almost 70 degrees! A young couple, friends of my cousins, joined us and I was impressed with how well both girls did with meeting new people. 

My favorites from the meal were my roasted Brussels sprouts, the cabbage and carrot salad (a family tradition), the blackberry cobbler and brownies. All of the food was excellent, and the girls got leftover turkey in the rest of their meals during our visit, plus some to freeze and take home. My grandma exclaimed again what a good dog Boca is - she's loved her from the first meeting when she was still a "foster dog." We all relaxed on the sofa in true post-indulgence form and had a slumber party with four dogs on the bed. 

The next morning we took the dogs to a school yard to run around, but Ruby's freedom was short-lived as we discovered a gap in the fencing. Boca proved once again that her recall is reliable by bounding happily toward me each time I called. Later, my dad helped my aunt with a home-improvement project while I visited a friend and talked horses and dogs and writing over tea - all of my favorite things! It was a lovely holiday with lots of laughter, good conversation, and much-needed relaxation.

December 1, 2014

Training Can Be Its Own Reward

There are times that I think I'm seriously slacking in the training department, because I haven't added any new tricks to Ruby's roster or made a lot of progress on the reactive front, but I have to remind myself that we are training every day, just by interacting and more importantly by playing. Ruby has proven a few times recently that not only is she motivated by toy rewards, but she enjoys and even seems to ask for the training itself.

The other night Ruby brought me her JW Pet treat pod bone - a hard plastic bone with three colored squishy rings which can be filled with treats. I don't normally use it as a treat dispenser, but both dogs seem to like the different chewing textures. I started to tug on one end and Ruby let go. I tossed it across the rug and she just looked at it. She didn't seem to want to play either of her favorite games - tug or fetch. I took the toy and asked for a 'down'. She happily laid down and wagged her tail. I placed the toy on her paws and told her 'leave it'. More wagging. I told her 'get it' and she grabbed the bone. I grabbed it and said 'drop it' and she released it to my hand. I told her 'get it' and she grabbed it joyfully back. We played several more rounds of 'drop it,' 'leave it' and 'get it' - a spontaneously invented game that Ruby inspired with her enthusiasm for something new. 

Another routine we've been practicing lately revolves around Ruby's nightly game of tug. I like to mix things up and incorporate some of her tricks into our game to keep her body and mind busy. One of my favorites is to ask for her "box turn" - a flyball dog move - in which Ruby jumps up onto the side of the sofa and down. Our cue is a sort of "schew" noise and sending my hand palm out away from my body. This is a great way to burn some extra energy, but I also wanted to involve more impulse control in our games - asking Ruby to go from a very high state of arousal to a low one. I thought a great way to do this would be incorporating her mat work into our tug games. I placed her pink mat in one corner of the living room, and opened her crate door in the other. In between throwing and tugging the toy, I asked her to go to either her crate (we call it a den) or her mat (or both) before releasing her to play again. I was really impressed by the way she ran to her mat and laid down - while not truly relaxed, just being able to maintain stillness in the midst of her favorite game took a great deal of self control. I was even able to say 'leave it' and throw the tug toy while she waited on her mat or in her den for release. Ruby seemed proud of herself for accomplishing each step, and over the next few days, I felt that my bond with her strengthened. I believe that our tug/mat/den exercise increased her confidence, that knowing where to go and when to wait in the smaller world of our play session extended to the bigger world. I plan to keep this up and expand on it throughout the winter.

Even when cold days keep us indoors, the possibilities for training games are endless. Figure out what your dog loves best and train around that. It doesn't always have to be food, and it doesn't always have to look like training - it can look a lot like fun.

This post is part of the Positive Training Blog Hop, hosted on the first Monday of every month by Cascadian Nomads, Dachshund Nola and Tenacious Little Terrier. This month's theme is 'Rewards' but any positive training posts are welcome - please join us!