December 30, 2015

Reflection and Outlook

It's hard to believe another year is drawing to a close. I have been chronicling here at Rubicon Days for just over two years and I'm so grateful for all the friends, knowledge and opportunities it has sparked. It warms my heart to know that Ruby and Boca are making people smile and laugh all over the world, and that I can share what they teach me on my journey to crazier dog lady.

December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays

The Ginger Sisters are my two best gifts, every day. We hope you had a wonderful holiday full of peace, beauty and love. 

December 20, 2015

A New Approach to the Dog Dinner Plate with Weruva

The Ginger Sisters' diet is one of my top priorities. Their 'grocery budget' is comparable to my own, I keep the pet pantry stocked with a variety of foods and formats for their rotation routine and I am always on the lookout for new offerings from our favorite brands. I was thrilled to find out that Weruva was entering the kibble market with their Caloric Harmony and Caloric Melody lines. Ruby and Boca love the Weruva canned dog cuisines, which look like people food! The Weruva dry dog food stands out from other premium kibbles with its unique approach to calories, and I learned so much about evaluating what I feed my dogs in taking a closer look at protein, fat and carbohydrates.

December 14, 2015

The Honest Kitchen Bone Broth is Comfort Food for Dogs

I love to liven up The Ginger Sisters' kibble dinner, and am already a fan of turmeric for dogs so I was excited to try The Honest Kitchen's new Bone Broth with Turmeric, especially now that we are having some cold weather. I think the girls appreciate something warm and soothing when we come in from a wintry walk. 

December 7, 2015

Positive Training Is a Gift with Infinite Returns

For all the advocating I do about positive training, I sometimes feel like a failure with my own dogs. Boca still barks at my dad while we're eating dinner every night. Ruby is still reactive to everything that moves on our walks. I have to remind myself that while we are far from perfect, what keeps me passionately adhered to positive training techniques are the deeper levels of relationship that are possible when your currency is trust instead of fear. 

December 6, 2015

Turdlebag Makes Dog Poop Less Embarrassing + Giveaway

Dog poop is an unavoidable part of life with dogs. It's gross, it's stinky, it's embarrassing, and as responsible dog guardians we have pick it up whenever and wherever they go. Turdlebag promises to make this job a little easier with their poop bag carriers. Not only do they hold a roll of bags, but they are secure and roomy enough to hold a full bag until you reach the nearest waste bin!

December 4, 2015

Braving the Cold for Animal Advocacy

puppy mills adoption advocacy

Since August, I have been protesting the sale of puppies outside of a local pet store several times a month. I joined the group after seeing the documentary Dog by Dog this summer, inspired by Mindi Callison's efforts with Bailing Out Benji. Every weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, a group of dedicated advocates show up in all kinds of weather, from blistering heat to freezing temperatures, to educate the public about puppy mills and the deceptive doublespeak that leads people to unwittingly support them.

December 2, 2015

The Ginger Sisters' Thanksgiving Feast

The Ginger Sisters had people food for Thanksgiving. Since I don't eat red meat or poultry (and refuse to prepare it myself), I got them some roasted chicken from the grocery store deli, which they had alongside brown rice, cottage cheese, steamed green beans and pumpkin. 

November 25, 2015

Ginger Sister Shenanigans

Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer.
  Louise Glück

November 22, 2015

A Protein Variety with Brothers Complete Ultra Premium Dog Food + Giveaway

I've written often about The Ginger Sisters' rotation diet, which allows us to try out different kinds of quality dog food. Not only does this allow flexibility and augmentation with top tier foods, but regularly changing the proteins that they eat has benefits of its own. Allergies can develop when dogs eat the same thing over their entire lives, and rotating proteins may help prevent this. I was excited to learn about Brothers Complete, offering grain- and potato-free dog food and biscuits. 

November 19, 2015

We Were Wild Once

I grew up in rural southwestern Colorado on five acres, with another neighboring ten that remained vacant for most our time there. It was all my stomping ground for stream-wading, fort-building and bareback rides on my pony. We got our dog Poppy in the deep of winter as a tiny puppy and my mom had to remind me to let her rest - I wanted to show her my whole world on that first day. She followed me until she got tired, then would plop down in the snow and cry until I picked her up and snuggled her into my furry coat. In the summer I stayed outside with her every day until sunset. We ran through the scrub oak and sage brush inventing games of chase and hide and seek. I was an only child; dogs have always been my sisters. I'm sure we used one if we took her places, but I have a hard time remembering Poppy on a leash. 

November 18, 2015

Ruby Stars in a Short Suspense Film

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November 12, 2015

Celebrating Ruby's 3rd Birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Ruby's third birthday. I don't know her actual birthdate since she came from a (terribly dismal) shelter in Arkansas, but since I adopted her at around 7-9 months old in August of 2013, it's a fair guess. I love the number '11' and couldn't resist the echoing date. Boca's chosen birthday is May 11th, and my horse's actual birthday is April 11th. 

I was so lucky to get to spend the day home with my birthday Border Jack - my office was closed for Veteran's Day. Denver received its first real snowfall of the year it was a great day to spend equal time playing outside and cuddling up indoors.  We ran breathlessly through the undisturbed snow in a nearby field, where Ruby ran along with her head buried like a little snowplow. Later I threw Ruby's flying disc for her on the long-line - she made a few impressive mid-air catches!

The Ginger Sisters had a two course birthday dinner: first up were frozen Kongs filled with Nature's Logic sardine dinner and Only Natural Pet biscuits. After that I scrambled some eggs in coconut oil and mixed them with Stella & Chewy's Surf N Turf dinner patties and some raw goat milk. Plates were cleaned and lips were licked! Ruby seemed tired after her flying disc session, but she did not let me forget her nightly game of tug. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have such a brilliant, expressive, playful dog in my life. Ruby has taught me so much in our time together and I have her to thank for an increased understanding of dog training, dog behavior, and of course - this blog! She is the youngest dog I have adopted and I am looking forward to a deepening relationship for many years to come. Happy birthday, Ruby Pearl!

November 8, 2015

Prepare for Holiday Stress with our PL360 Anxiety Relief Giveaway

It seems like the moment the Halloween costumes and candy are put away, the festivity frenzy of November and December begins. My head spins as I try to form gift lists and juggle party invitations, putting on a smiling face during what has become a difficult time of year for me. It's no secret that along with wonder and joy, the season can mean stress and tension for people and their pets. 

Life with an anxious dog has made me more sensitive to changes in her environment, with my focus always on keeping her safe and comfortable. The holidays bring with them the potential for travel, house-guests, strange hours that disrupt our routine and unusual sights and sounds around the neighborhood.

I think having a calming supplement on hand is a great way to prepare for the situational stress that our preparation and celebration of the holidays can trigger. PL360, a company focused on safe and natural solutions for pets, offers an Anxiety Relief supplement with chamomile (which Boca has been compared to with her soothing presence) and tryptophan (found in Thanksgiving turkey). We'll be traveling to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving and I am hoping it will help Ruby relax in the car, as well as make the New Year's Eve fireworks a little easier for Boca. 

We are giving away a bottle of PL360 Anxiety Relief to five lucky winners. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents and winners have 72 hours to respond to email notification. Please read the product information and check with a veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns before giving this or any supplement to your pet.

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Disclaimer: PL360 provided the giveaway prizes and a sample product in exchange for spreading the word about their supplements. PL360 is not responsible for the content of this post. 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.

November 6, 2015

My Five Favorite Pictures of Ruby

Earlier in the week I talked about Ruby's expressiveness. Between that, her unique markings and her photogenic propensity, choosing just five favorite pictures of her was no easy task. Her personality really shines in pictures and I think that is why she has so many fans in those of you who read Rubicon Days and follow us on social media. It makes me so happy to think all of you can see her the way I do, even knowing the many ways in which she is a complicated dog.  I take pictures of her almost daily, and I never get tired of looking at them. I love being able to portray the many faces of my amazing girl. It's sometimes hard to fit Ruby's wonderfully huge ears in frame, as evidenced by my first favorite. Her always-beautiful eyes are so imploring here, but it's that little pink lip that slays me the most. This picture was taken when Boca was getting a tooth extracted and I thought Ruby was feeling a little blue in her sister's absence so I tried to cheer her up with some training and a photo shoot.

I don't have a story behind this picture, it's just gorgeous. I've always loved unusual markings, from pinto horses to dapple and merle dogs, and it's no secret that eye-patches and split-faces will catch my eye on adoption sites. Ruby is a deep thinker and I've never known a dog with such a faraway look in her eyes at times, like she's pondering the meaning of life.

Due to her reactivity, I don't get many opportunities to photograph Ruby in different outdoor settings, especially off-leash. This was a lucky day when we had the dog park to ourselves at the crack of dawn. Ruby would leap up on the rocks to wait for me to throw her flying disc. She looks so pretty in her blaze-orange harness, even if it is crooked, and she is staring at me with that trademark intensity. 

While nothing special in its lighting or composition, this is possibly my all-time number-one favorite picture of Ruby. With dirt sprinkling her muzzle and paws, she is wholly satisfied and self-assured, oozing attitude with that smug look of accomplishment. Digging is one of her greatest delights, and don't expect her to apologize for it.

This picture reminds me that Ruby looks stunning in black and white, but what I adore about it is the joy she is exuding. She was waiting for me to throw her ball, ready to pounce into a play-bow, eyes sparkling and mouth smiling. Ruby often looks fervently serious in photos so I'm thrilled when I'm able to capture her lighthearted side.

I'll continue this series with my favorite pictures of Boca and of The Ginger Sisters together. One of the best parts about having a camera perpetually on hand is the ability to collect and distill those intangible moments that make life with dogs so extraordinary.

November 4, 2015

Separate Interests, Common Ground

I thought it was so sweet that Ruby and Boca were sharing a dog bed this weekend while one relaxed and one chewed.
 Ruby is my little busy-body while Boca's favorite hobby is napping, but they still find a way to spend time together.
 Boca seemed to find the sounds of Ruby's gnawing a soothing lullaby.
Or maybe she is in the mood to chew, too - here she considers playing the big sister card and Ruby prepares to make a run for it with the wishbone...

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November 3, 2015

Living With the Highly Communicative Dog

Ruby is the most vocal dog I've ever had, and also the clearest communicator. It isn't that she barks excessively (animals on T.V. not withstanding), but that she has a range of barks, whines, grunts and growls that I am still learning to interpret after more than two years together. As i read in bed last night, she was growling in her sleep and it sounded like her 'play initiating' growl rather than her 'something unfamiliar in my environment' growl which I also heard last night on our walk when she saw the silhouette of the new horseshoe pit enclosures in the dark. Was she dreaming about playing with her sister or one of her corgi friends

Earlier in the evening, she scratched at the coat closet door where her tug toys are kept and exclaimed with her medium-pitched, pleading bark "we haven't played yet tonight!" Some might call this 'demand barking.' I call it a Border Jack keeping me honest. There's no short-changing Ruby out of her nightly tug game. Even if she lets me slide before dinner, when 8 o'clock rolls around she is ready for the Tug-a-gator or the Kong Wubba to be liberated from their closet confines.

Some of my favorite sounds in the Ruby repertoire are her soft little 'oofs' - her closed-mouth grunt-barks, which put me in mind of a toddler reaching for something they want on a too-high counter-top. This is Ruby's imploring request, not only for food, but for the living room window to be opened so she can watch for rabbits, for her ball to be fished out from underneath the sofa, or for anything else she wants. I usually understand exactly what she means. I think it's fairly polite and irresistibly adorable. She was 'oofing' at me last night from the bed after I got out of the bath - curled up with Big Sister and the ancient black cat, she wanted the whole family together so that she could go to sleep. 

At the opposite end of the range are her shrill, excited barks that are used for the aforementioned animals on T.V., those unbearable few seconds between when she knows I'm about to open the tug toy door and when I toss the toy to her, when she sees one of the gazillion rabbits that exist solely to taunt her on our townhome complex grounds. These are not my favorite barks, high-pitched and frantic, and these are the barks to be countered with a reminder cue, "shh" or "quiet" before I will let her have the coveted toy or chase the insubordinate rabbit (on leash).

Along with her voice, Ruby's eyes and ears communicate a diverse array of emotions. In her most common state of hyper-vigilance, Ruby's foxy ears stand straight up, vibrating vertically with inquisition. When she is tired or uncertain, her ears slide to a more horizontal position and somehow look even bigger. When she is sleepy and affectionate, her ears lay straight back making her look like an entirely different dog. Sometimes one ear folds onto itself at a comical angle - I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

That brings me to Ruby's beautiful, intelligent, extraordinary eyes. 'The Look' endeared me to her Petfinder profile that spoke of a deep understanding, a piercing entreaty, and a spark of mischief.  Sometimes it feels like Ruby's amber-green eyes look straight into my soul. The intensity with which she stares at me is both flattering and unnerving. There are layers of meaning in her gaze, and I think we've only begun to scratch the surface of the potential of non-verbal communication with animals. As this article states - dogs keep the conversation going constantly, the ultimate optimists. I love learning Ruby's language, hearing what she has to say, meeting her needs and increasing our bond through call and response with all of our senses.

November 2, 2015

Adjusting Our Training and Exercise Routines with The Changing Seasons

Today is one of my least favorite days of the year - the first work day after Daylight Savings Time ends, the beginning of 'Driving Home and Walking the Dogs in the Dark' season. With less light and soon-to-be colder temperatures, our training and exercise routines will have to be adjusted accordingly. Another downside is fewer opportunities for good pictures. Here we are ready to venture out into the night above. I need a head lamp.

On the positive side - The Ginger Sisters probably get more training during the cold months. Shorter walks necessitate creativity and novel, engaging indoor activities. I spend more time on Ruby's trick training while Boca works on puzzle toys and manners. Both girls enjoy rowdy games of tug with me and with each other. This winter I'd like to attempt one of the tricks that has been eluding us, like Ruby putting her toys away. Since Boca doesn't enjoy trick training for the sake of trick training like Ruby does, our goals are more practical. With her propensity to seek out discarded chicken bones and other gross and dangerous items, improvement on "leave it" is at the top of the list for the former street dog. 

Dogs need mental stimulation as much or possibly more than straight physical exercise, but they also have different styles of learning and different ideal states for learning. For the best training results with Ruby, I have to catch her in that sweet spot between sleepy and riled up. She is generally too excited to train if she hasn't had her morning or evening walk beforehand, and during her napping hours of 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. training doesn't interest her. Boca is game as long as food as involved.

As someone who loves lists, goals and patterns, I'm very excited to have been offered the chance to try out a new dog activity monitor forthcoming from AMPT Animal. Ruby is pictured above wearing the prototype, which is a nice size even for small dogs. It slips on securely to any standard, flat collar. The monitor tracks your dog's activity, distance traveled, and the app allows for setting different training and exercise goals. I think it would be a great way to ensure that you are meeting your dog's needs throughout the year. The feature I'm most excited about is the remote on-collar "clicker" controlled with your mobile device. I am curious to see if a sensitive dog like Ruby will accept this sound from her collar, and think it's a brilliant idea - we might not always have a clicker on-hand, but most of us carry our phones everywhere we go.


AMPT is offering a deeply discounted monitor to the first 500 pet guardians to sign up:

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This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads,Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. This month's theme is Training and Exercise and the next hop begins on December 7th. The hop happens on the first Monday of every month, and is open for a full week - please join us in spreading the word about the rewards of positive training! 

Disclaimer: Rubicon Days has been offered a free AMPT Animal Monitor and no other compensation for this post. We only share products we believe in and AMPT Animal is not responsible for the content of this post.

October 30, 2015

Taking a Bow for Weruva Treats in the #TrickOrTreatDogs Giveaway Hop

The Trick or Treat Giveaway Hop is sponsored by Lionel Trains, the Art of AJ, pawTree, Dr. Harvey’s, Jones Natural Chews, Puppy Style Treats, Clear Conscience Pet, Whimzees, Loving Pets and Weruva. All content and opinions expressed are my 100% my own.

I love trick training, I love dog treats (or rather, I love giving them to my dogs) and I am so excited to be participating in the Trick or Treat Giveaway Hop brilliantly conceptualized and perfectly executed by Jessica at Beagles and Bargains and Jodi at Kol's Notes. Just look at all these amazing sponsors! 

THE TRICK: Ruby offers a play-bow all the time so it was one of the first things I put on cue (I use 'bravo' because 'bow' sounds too much like 'down'). Watch the video below to see the steps I used to teach it:

THE TREATS: Ruby and Boca are giving away an awesome prize package from Weruva - I didn't even know they made treats but The Ginger Sisters love their gourmet canned food, especially their Paw Lickin' Chicken. U.S. residents are welcome to enter to win a prize package including Paw Lickin' Chicken or Blue Water Whitefish Treats and Pumpkin Patch Up! Be sure to stop by all the other participating blogs before tomorrow - learning new tricks and entering each treat giveaway. You can go trick or treating from home in your pajamas! Every treat entry will also go toward a chance to win one of three grand prize packages, including a Peanuts Halloween Train from Lionel Trains, a custom Halloween pet portrait from The Art of AJ and a $300 treat package from all of the other sponsors!

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October 29, 2015

Step by Step: Ruby Develops and Conquers a Mysterious New Fear

Recently I wrote about working through Ruby's new hesitance to jump up on to the bed , (which is much-improved). Around the same time I posted that, Ruby developed another confounding fear: going up the stairs. She would go about two-thirds of the way up, then stop and whine or turn around and go back down. My dad and I were both baffled; Ruby has been running up and down the stairs for more than two years. She very rarely goes upstairs without us. I installed a stair gate at the bottom when my senior dog Lasya developed a neurological condition that made her unsteady. We keep the gate closed when we're downstairs, and the dogs don't have access to the stairs when we're not home. The only time Ruby really goes up and down by herself is in the morning after breakfast when she comes back up to bed. My best guess is that during one of those trips she slipped and hurt herself or possibly there was a loud noise that she associated with one particular stair. In any case, it only serves to emphasize the profound effect that one frightening event, even unbeknownst to us, can have on a sensitive, fearful dog. We thought that her memory of that event might fade and the problem would resolve as she went up a few times with no issues, but actually got worse in the days leading up to my trip. At first she would dash the last few steps (again, like something was chasing her) and then she stopped trying altogether. If she could follow right behind me she was better, but if I went up without her no amount of coaxing could get her to take those last five steps. For some reason when it was bedtime she was fine to follow Boca and I up to bed, making me think she also associated whatever happened with time of day. When she was in the stairwell she was very jumpy, as if expecting something to reach out and grab her. Since October is a spooky time of year and I have been watching a lot of horror movies, I started to wonder if she'd seen a ghost.

It was heartbreaking to see her so uncomfortable in her own home, and with something that had previously been not at all concerning to her. In the picture above you can see her wearing her worried ears. I was especially distressed about going on my trip, knowing my dad wouldn't take the time to coax her up the stairs and that he would probably spend a lot of time reading in his room. Rather than lament needlessly, I knew there was only one way to tackle the problem - desensitization and counter-conditioning - and I didn't have a lot of time. We needed intensive cheese therapy. As I was packing for Phoenix, each time I went up the stairs I got one of The Ginger Sisters' highest value treats - yellow processed cheese product - and doled it out step by step as Ruby came up the stairs. At first it was a bite of cheese on every single step. Then she would go three or four steps at a time. At the top of the stairs it was a straight up cheese party with a celebration of Ruby's bravery. By the time my bags were packed, she was running all the way up the stairs without me, and when I called him from Arizona the first time my dad reported that Ruby was running up and down the stairs like nothing ever happened. I was so relieved and upon my return I saw that she had no more fear of the stairs - mysteriously materialized and dispelled with proven methods. Thank you, science and Kraft Singles!

October 28, 2015

The Most Interesting Dog In the World

 This dog. Endlessly melting my heart with that intensely intelligent gaze. 
My dad says she always gets her way. Can you blame me? 

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October 20, 2015

Ruby Reviews: The Bear & The Rat Yogurt Treats + Giveaway

The Ginger Sisters are happy to try out any kind of new treats, and because we do so much training I prefer the treats to be healthy and beneficial. I was delighted to sample the latest product from local Denver, Colorado company The Bear & The Rat (you may have seen them on Shark Tank!). 

Fro-Yo To Go are freeze dried yogurt treats loaded with helpful probiotics. They come in two flavors: Bacon and Sweet Potato & Carrot, with over 150 yogurt bites in a bag. The girls were very excited to try the Bacon flavor. 

The treats are made in the USA and are corn, soy, wheat, gluten and grain free. The treats smell really good, with a creamy tang that smells like a frozen yogurt shop. They are about the size of a dime and I think they must melt in the dogs' mouths, the way they licked their lips and were ready for more. 

I have only two minor complaints about the freeze-dried yogurt treats: they are very delicate and got pretty broken up in the bag. This isn't a big deal since I like smaller training treats, anyway. They also make your hands a little sticky. I told you - minor complaints. The Ginger Sisters loved them, I love the ingredients, and I am happy to support a local company. 

The Ginger Sisters Ruby did some tricks to earn some more frozen yogurt treats. She waved "bye bye" while Boca laughed because "down" is one of the only tricks she knows.

We are giving away two packages of Fro-Yo To Go to one lucky winner - must be a U.S. resident and respond to the notification email within 72 hours.

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Disclaimer: The Bear & The Rat provided the giveaway treats and a sample for review in exchange for my honest feedback. 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.