June 28, 2015

Home Decor for Dog Lovers from Minted.com

This post is sponsored by the online stationery store, Minted.com. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the art collection, but Rubicon Days only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers; minted.com is not responsible for the content of this article.

If you're anything like me, your love of dogs extends to your clothing, accessories and home decor. I have canine coffee mugs, art work and t-shirts and unique items with dogs on them always catch my eye. I was recently introduced to Minted's new art collection, offering a variety of prints from a changing collection of artists. I will of course be focusing on the dog-themed art, which ranges from contemporary to whimsical, from photography to painting, but they have art in many categories to suit every taste. I found something for every room of my dog-friendly home! 

For my guest bath, American Idyll 2 by Annie Seaton. I have an ocean theme with retro-style surfing postcards and I think this would fit in perfectly. I love the textures and the quiet moment between the girl and her dog on the beach. Prints are available framed or unframed in a choice of sizes. 

For my kitchen - Pit Stop by Misty Hughes. We all know not to leave our dogs in cars in the summertime, but we'll imagine this a cool day and the owner is coming right back with some tasty diner food! I love the colors and the vintage nostalgia of this photograph. 

For my bedroom, Fox Shadow by Natalie Groves. The Ginger Sisters always remind me of foxes, and I love the unique perspective and soft colors of this wild cousin of theirs, slipping elusively out of sight. One of the coolest things about the art from Minted.com is the option of customization - you can choose your paper, frame, and some of the designs even come in different colorways! 

For my living room, Runny Bunny by Eve Schultz. I have a purple sofa and Ruby is a member of the local bunny patrol, so I think this would be a perfect fit. I think the symmetry and simplicity of the design give it a very modern appeal. I would frame it with the distressed charcoal stain. 

I think that Play Date by Michelee Scott - an uplifting scene of dogs playing on the beach - would look great on my landing. I have an ongoing bird theme throughout my house and think the flock in the sky and the shadows on the sand are both striking and serene. 

It would be difficult to choose just one, and they are adding new designs all the time through crowdsourced design competitions with artists from all over the world submitting their work. Minted's new art collection can be viewed here. Along with art prints, minted.com also has darling personalized stationery, customizable pet holiday cards and dog walker business cards! Check them out Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  

June 24, 2015

Urban Sprawl

Pardon the messy bed, but you can see how these two hinder housekeeping. 

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June 23, 2015

Summertime with the Ginger Sisters

two dogs on a patio

Summertime is in full swing here in Denver, and I spent much of the weekend beautifying my patio in anticipation of spending a lot of time out there with The Ginger Sisters. Boca likes to lounge on the dog bed and Ruby loves chasing her pink tennis ball. This required the obligatory trip to Home Depot. I had already planted some tomatoes and a few flowers in pots - including marigolds with seeds I harvested from last year's marigolds, which I think is really cool - but I needed to improve the tomato situation and wanted more useful plants. I was also hoping to get a lounge chair - my mosaic bistro set is cute but not one bit comfortable to sit at for long. I had plenty of pots but I couldn't resist a darling fox one - it looked too much like The Ginger Sisters. I repotted the three tomato plants and made sure they were out of reach of the dogs since the leaves/stems are toxic. I also had to put two other things I bought (a lobelia and something unidentified that had been pre-treated with pesticide) out front instead of my patio for the same reason. Note to self: look up pet-safe plants before you shop. Then, after all my fretting over the plants, Ruby and Boca decided the potting soil was delicious - thankfully I bought organic. I am thrilled with how it turned out and that I have basil, rosemary, mint, sage and thyme fresh for the picking outside my door, and will hopefully harvest my first patio cucumbers and tomatoes before the year is through! I also planted a cat garden for Nina - catnip and cat grass. It's wonderful to sit in my lounge chair and have a view full of sky. I know that I will be spending a lot of time out there in the coming months.

On Saturday, Boca had her annual wellness exam. We are still seeing the ophthalmologist regularly and she is completing a three-month course of doxycycline in case her eye issue is bacterial in origin. So far, the left eye is holding steady and her grafted right eye is healed completely and doing great. Aside from her eyes, she is a very healthy girl and she met her prescribed weight loss goal, coming in at 32.9 lbs. We saw a new vet who is helping temporarily while another partner is on maternity leave, and she was very nice. She remarked on how easy and sweet Boca is. After our appointment we stopped at a pet store to get some more goat's milk for the girls. I've been using The Honest Kitchen powder but decided to get them a carton of fresh, raw goat's milk and also a small bag of Wild Calling kibble since we were down to one bag in the pantry. I like to stay stocked up! Everyone wanted to say hello to Boca and know what kind of dog she is. She is such a wonderful potcake ambassador!

After a really lovely rainy spell, our temperatures have been climbing, with Sunday being our hottest day yet hovering around 95 degrees. This is my first summer without A/C (long story) and so far it's not too bad. The dogs are definitely lower energy but seem to handle it well. Boca has taken to crawling under my bed at night - I think this is a holdover from her street dog days when she would find a dark burrow to keep cool. I moved some things around so she has space under there but she really barely fits and it is quite a production, silly girl. The downside to leaving the windows open to cool my room off overnight is that the dogs can hear all the neighborhood sounds: other dogs barking, people talking in the alley, and the odd pre-holiday firecracker. Both Ruby and Boca are noise-phobic, and we are not looking forward to the Fourth of July. A nearby municipality also has a separate fireworks celebration on July 25th, so we will be hunkering down with music, fans and thundershirts several times next month.

Walks with a reactive dog are more challenging this time of year, when everyone else is out enjoying the sunshine, too. We have scooters, skateboards, bikes and strollers to contend with, as well as the occasional off-leash or escaped dog. Last week a Westie on a Flexi-lead got away from its elderly owner and came charging over to us. The loose dog and Ruby had a snarky terrier-off but I was able to keep myself positioned in between them until its owner got hold of its leash again. Boca paid them no mind at all. The owner was very apologetic but can I just say again how much I hate Flexi-leads? I saw so many when I was at the park this weekend and they are useless at best, dangerous at worst. Ruby has been getting better about cars and people, as long as the people aren't moving quickly directly toward her. Sometimes we can even see a dog all the way across the clubhouse lawn and not have a total meltdown. I will call that improvement!

How is your summer going so far? 

June 17, 2015

I Don't Call Myself a Dog Mom, But I Don't Care If You Do

Sometimes I call her my sweet baby...how could I not?

There has been an editorial circulating lately, not unlike articles before it, written by an oddly bitter mother of three admonishing pet guardians who choose to refer to their dogs as "babies" or "furkids." It's not the first of its kind, but it's drawn a lot of attention because it is particularly critical and overly defensive, and the author attests that it is an insult to "real" mothers for people to compare pets to children. This woman is really angry. I'm not going to link to it here, but if you haven't seen it, just Google "No, Your Dog Is Not Your Baby."

I don't call myself a dog mom. I prefer to refer to myself as their guardian, because my dogs had mothers, and I'm not their mother. It's a semantics thing - perhaps being a poet, I want the exactly right word to describe my relationship to them, and to be completely honest I haven't found it yet, but 'guardian' sits well with me. By that same token, my friends, family and pet professionals often refer to me as such. When my dogs greet me after work my dad says to them "Your mom's home!" When my vet brings Boca up from the back of the office she say's "There's mom!" My best friend says "You're such a good dog mom." My girlfriends threw me a dog shower to celebrate Boca's adoption. Sometimes I use #dogmom on my Instagram pictures because I know it will get them more views. Plenty of my blogger friends like Amanda from Dog Mom Days and Kimberly from Keep the Tail Wagging refer to themselves as dog moms and it doesn't bother me in the least - why should it? Their dogs, their families, their identities. It doesn't infringe on my relationship with my dogs or what I choose to call them. 

Why, then, are some of these mommy bloggers so up in arms about it? I must admit that it reminds me a little of people who feel threatened by gay marriage. Why is someone else's idea of motherhood an insult to your own? I also wonder if it is one of the last holdovers of the perceived threat or discomfort with the unmarried, single and/or childless woman. So what if someone wants to dress their dog up or push it around in a stroller (as long as these things don't cause stress for the dog)? So what if someone wants to call their dog their baby, furkid, son or dogter? I have trouble understanding how this is a personal affront to someone who has chosen to have children.

I admit that I bristle a bit when I see or hear things like "you don't know what love is until you have a kid." I'm certain that it is a transformative and transcendental experience like no other. It's true that I will never know what it's like, but I do know what it's like to be loved that way by my own mother, and I never really felt the need to dissect whether she loved me more or differently than our animals - we were all family. She loved us with her whole being, and I learned how to love from her. She kept a dog that growled at me its entire life; some would frown on that, but he came before me chronologically and she didn't feel I was in real danger. I was taught early on to respect his space, and I turned out just fine. I turned out adoring dogs, in fact, even though my first dog "sibling" was not exactly welcoming. Something else I can't comprehend is the high number of dogs who are abandoned after people have kids - the author of the article says as much, although she kept her dog - "I loved my dogs, and then I had kids..." as if their capacity for love is finite, and something had to make space or be given up to make room for love of a new child, like the one in/one out policy of an exclusive club. I think the rant's author is behind the times, frankly. Americans will spend close to $60 billion on their pets this year. Last weekend at the annual library book sale, the dog books were in a section labeled 'Pets and Parenting' and I had to wade through all the baby books to get to the good ones. 

Love of a human child may well be a singular and exceptional emotional experience, but so is love of a dog. Just as I cannot possibly know exactly what one mother feels for her human child, they can't know exactly how I feel about Ruby and Boca. I imagine that, based on how much I worry about my dogs, that parenthood is heart-achingly intense and intensely overwhelming, as well as incredibly rewarding. I would probably be the worst helicopter parent of all time. I have read a lot of books about parenting, childbirth and adoption, because I'm fascinated by experiences not my own. The insulted mother might take seven minutes to watch this touching video - can anyone be unmoved by that? I loved Lasya and Freya, but something changed when I adopted Ruby. Perhaps it was her unique challenges, the fact that she was my first small dog, the end of my long-term relationship coinciding with my adoption of Boca and the doors of my child-bearing years closing swiftly (though I'd firmly decided years ago that children were not for me), but my devotion to them is deeper and more profound than anything before. They are one of my top priorities and their well-being is of the utmost importance. I ensure that they eat well - the best I can afford - have veterinary care and insurance, and lives filled with enrichment and things that they enjoy. I take care of them the best I can, and sometimes they take care of me. It's not the same as raising a child, but there are certainly plenty of elements in common.

I don't consider my dogs my kids, but I do consider them family. My commitment to them lasts their lifetime, and I take them into account with every decision I make. I don't need to be told what love is or how this love is somehow lacking. And let's not be overly generous and generalized: I know plenty of animals who are more well-loved and cared for than a lot of human children. Motherhood isn't a job equally embraced and accomplished by all who give birth. It's a role differently played by each and every one, and if someone feels that they are a mother to their dog or wants to call it their baby, I don't see how that takes anything away from anyone else. Meanwhile, I'll call my dogs whatever I want. Babies, gingers, sisters. I call it love.

June 10, 2015

Just the Ginger Sisters, Being Cute

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June 9, 2015

Loving My Little Life With Two Wonderful Dogs

A room full of dogs and books is my idea of happiness.

Happy Ruby Tuesday! While I don't do it on a weekly basis, my aim with the Ruby Tuesday updates is a more "old fashioned" blog post of the journaling type. Back before blogging became so popular, I had a LiveJournal account where I shared thoughts, poetry, pictures and travelogues. My account is still active, in fact, and while I don't write there regularly, I love having more than ten years of my life chronicled there. Some of my very favorite blogs lean toward the wordy, honest and personal, and so I like to have an element of that here, where I can look back on the daily details of life with Ruby and Boca, these two precious dogs that have been with me through some of the most difficult times and also at a time when I am doing some serious introspection.

Recently I said to a friend, when asked what my big life dream was, that I thought I would like to move to Spain and rescue dogs. She looked momentarily surprised, and I realized that wasn't what most people expect, especially now that I am single. No babies, no weddings, nothing very ambitious or extraordinary, but something very definitely including dogs. I'm incredibly grateful that I live in a time when that is becoming increasingly acceptable, and increasingly normal. Lately I've been simplifying, reevaluating. I'm finding that some things that used to be important to me (like fancy shoes and late nights out dancing) have fallen by the wayside, and some things I thought I'd never want (like living somewhere rural) have become suddenly intriguing. While  I occasionally hear things like I'm too wrapped up in my dogs, the great majority of my friends and family are supportive of my somewhat solitary, but personally satisfying lifestyle, and they get it when I just want to stay home with my dogs. (Either that, or I make a point of surrounding myself with only people who do).

During the week, life is largely routine, especially when incorporating the care and feeding of The Ginger Sisters into the few hours between waking and work, work and sleep. I find comfort in this routine, and waking up as I did this morning to find Ruby laying on her back, nestled into the crook of my arm and gazing up at me, is often the best part of my day. Right now my dad is living with me, and I'm blessed with knowing my dogs have company while I'm at work and can spend these warm afternoons sunbathing outside. The weekends are when the real fun happens: sitting on the patio playing ball with Ruby, making them special treats like the frozen goodies pictured above (Freezy Pups mix and Merrick PowerBites treats), walking through our little slice of wild marshland between the light rail station and the town house complex, photo shoots and silly trick training sessions, trips to visit family, outings to new places, or blissful reading breaks on the guest room daybed in the best light.

The girls are doing splendidly overall. Ruby has had some great moments (passing people fairly close on walks and not barking) and some not-so-great moments (going berzerk over horses on TV despite my efforts to DS/CC with peanut butter). I took her out for a training walk this weekend and she did very well with checking in and maintaining focus on me (which is a huge deal for her). My secret was using some of Boca's "pill cheese" - more on that in a moment - good old processed American cheese product. Her reactivity means a lifetime of management, but when I look at the big picture, I can see some remarkable changes. She is never relaxed outside, but I am seeing little moments when we are close to home where her body becomes looser and even get a tail wag once in a while. She solicits pets every evening (with very particular requests: inner thigh and back scratches).  Her relationship with Boca is beautiful to watch, and while they can get carried away sometimes with their play, I see a lot of really sweet, gentle interaction, too.

Boca remains her delightfully easygoing and goofy self - she is the first dog I've had who can happily take a nap at the vet's office. Unfortunately, we've still been spending quite a bit of time there. We had only a short reprieve from the Ocular Ordeal before she started developing an opacity in the other (left) eye. At this time it is not causing her any problems or discomfort, but the ophthalmologist is still unable to determine a cause. We are trying a long course of doxycycline in hopes that it will slow down any progression if there is a bacterial component. I'm not as stressed out about it as the first time, because at least we know the treatment/surgery route to go if it does get worse. After our appointment on Saturday, Boca and my dad and I discovered a pretty park full of little lakes and streams. It was refreshingly serene even though it was in the middle of town, and a place I could safely bring Ruby, especially on one of my Fridays off. We even spotted a huge turtle in one of the ponds!

Time seems to go by faster and faster - just like people are always telling you it will - and I want to make the most of this summer. Everything is gorgeous and green right now following our more than twenty consecutive days of rain. This weekend I hope to get a lounge chair for my patio, so I can read out there while the girls sleep in the sun. I have planted marigolds and tomatoes in containers and I am going to plant some herbs and lettuces as well. I want to scout out more places to take Ruby - taking Boca first is a perfect way to do so, and also gives me the opportunity to have some one-on-one time with her. I am hoping to attend BlogPaws in Phoenix with Boca next year, and need to be sure she is comfortable in more busy and crowded situations. We have some fun events coming up - a potcake fundraiser at a sports bar and a graduation party at a local park - which will be perfect practice! It's my favorite time of year (from now until October), and I'll be spending it with my two favorite girls.

What little things about life with dogs make you the happiest?

June 8, 2015

Ruby Reviews: Biscuit Beast Dog Treats

Have you ever been tempted to sneak a bite of one of your dog's treats? The dog biscuits that The Ginger Sisters received from Biscuit Beast smelled so good that I think Ruby and Boca knew they better guard them closely!

These treats are made in small batches in Miami, Florida with organic, human-grade ingredients that sound a lot like peanut butter cookies to me: 

organic Bob's Red Mill millet flour, organic sweet potatoes (grown in California), eggs (cage-free, antibiotic-free), organic peanut butter (unsweetened, salt-free), korintje cinnamon, vitamin E (natural preservative, mixed tocopherols)

Treat-sampling is definitely The Ginger Sisters' favorite part about being pet blogger dogs. The posing can be endured just as long as they are well compensated in delicious snacks. Biscuit Beast treats are a little on the crumbly side but I don't think they cared. They passed their taste test and Ruby was happy to show off her "jazz paws."

Boca has trained me to dole out bedtime cookies every evening. They run upstairs at the sound of the cookie jar and position themselves in their places on the bed to wait politely. Everything may be covered in dog hair, but I assure you they don't leave one single crumb. 

These treats are perfect for the discriminating dog guardian who wants naturally good biscuits made in the U.S.A. Biscuit Beast is offering my readers 10% off with coupon code TAKE10. Visit them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclaimer: I was provided samples of Biscuit Beast dog 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.

June 3, 2015

Sleeping In

 I was home last week on a staycation, which meant blissfully sleeping in with Boca Face.

June 1, 2015

Simple Tips for Training Multiple Dogs

I have to admit that I did a lot more training when I only had Ruby. She excelled at trick training and quickly developed an impressive repertoire. Boca was able to attend a basic obedience class and did wonderfully, but we haven't gotten very far beyond that. Training more than one dog can be tricky and it can be hard to find the time to work with each dog individually. Here are some things I have learned that can make it easier and keep it fun. 

Keep It Simple 
When working with multiple animals it's important to remember that they can be a distraction to one another, and you may not be able to work on complex behaviors. A dog may find it more difficult to do some things in the company of another; for instance, Boca is overexcited when there is food involved and can tend to leap around and make Ruby nervous, so Ruby won't necessarily do some of her behaviors that put her in a vulnerable position, such as rolling over or "relax." I know I have to ask for simpler things such as "sit," "down" and "paw." I increase the challenge by asking for these behaviors from both dogs in unison, and the results can be pretty amusing. 

Get Creative
Training two dogs can open up some delightful possibilities if you draw on each dog's strengths. Ruby loves to jump over things. Boca loves to sprawl out on the floor. Naturally, I've taught Ruby to jump over Boca! Our friend Lauren taught her adorable lookalike girls to "kiss" and it's just about the cutest thing ever.  Dai Aoki of Positive Dog Care Sydney does some incredible stunts with his two border collies, Holly and Ace.

Utilize Mat or Crate Training
When you want to focus on one dog, it can be tough if the other is vying for attention, barking or whining. I'm so glad that Ruby has a great mat work foundation as it is the perfect solution for short training sessions when I have both dogs in the same room. I can place Ruby on her mat and work with Boca, or ask Boca to go to her kennel while I work with Ruby. I haven't done any mat training or the Relaxation Protocol with Boca, but sometimes we play our own variation on "crate games" where I will take turns sending them to their kennels and release them separately.  This is a great way to practice impulse control. 

Consider the Individual
What works for one dog may not work for another, and even if you are working with more than one dog at a time, you may have to fine-tune your training for each. They may require different kinds or rates of reinforcement, different lengths or intensities of sessions. Ruby is easily frustrated and Boca can be too food motivated so I have to take these things into account and adjust for them.

Remember that every interaction we have with our animals is teaching them something, and even if one dog is waiting its turn for formal training, it is learning! Ruby and Boca have taught me so much about positive reinforcement, often picking up on things so much faster than I expect. Training multiple pets comes with its own challenges, but I think the rewards far outweigh them. 

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days - join us on the first Monday of every month to promote positive pet training and share advice and experiences. The hop is open all week long! The next hop begins July 6th.