September 28, 2015

The Best Laid Plans of People and Potcakes: Keemo's Arrival

Last night my dad and I met two other volunteers to pick up three potcakes from Delta baggage claim. As we approached the Delta office we spotted the dogs. Their crates were stacked on a cart in the aisle and they seemed understandably scared but happy to see some friendly faces. They got a lot of attention as we wheeled them back to the parking lot. The cart clunked along horribly over the seams in the concrete and we felt so bad for them having to endure more scary noises after all they'd been through, but we finally got them to an empty space next to the cars and took them out to stretch their legs. My first impression of Keemo was that he was very much a puppy. He leapt around on the leash and mouthed my hands. I wondered what I'd gotten myself into...

I was surprised that he went willingly back into his crate so soon but thought it best he ride in it in the car, having no idea if he'd been loose in a car before. These guys make such a journey from The Bahamas - they see more in a two-day trip than many dogs do in their lifetimes! On the way home my dad and I strategized about the introduction. It was late and what we most wanted to do was get everyone settled down to rest, but I knew that Ruby would have to meet him or she would be a maniac all night long. I believe her to be reactive partly out of frustration, so dogs she can see and smell but not get to are very hard for her to handle. We decided that my dad would walk Ruby and I would walk Keemo so they could meet side by side. I took Keemo's crate inside so that both girls could get a good sniff before actually meeting him. When my dad came out with Ruby I kept my voice very cheery and said "look, Ruby, a new friend, let's walk!" We walked them around the complex and it was a total non-issue. They both had playful body language (if a bit unsure from Ruby, Keemo is tall and lanky so is quite a bit bigger) and Ruby was even on the disinterested side. I breathed a sigh of relief as I thought the hard part was over - at least the part I'd been most nervous about.

Something I left out of my foster dog preparations was to expect the unexpected, as that is exactly how things happened last night. My reactive dog welcomed a newcomer easily and my calm, social dog wanted to send him right back to The Bahamas. That's right...Boca is not a fan of our visitor, and told him so in no uncertain terms after a great initial introduction. Once I had separated them with Keemo in the kitchen behind the dog gate in order to spend some time with the girls Boca started barking and lunging at him on the other side of the gate. I was shocked - I'd been so confident that Boca would be her sweet and easygoing self that I was completely unprepared to see this side of her. After doing my best to calm things down and comfort a now-frightened Keemo with a stuffed Kong and some calming music, I went upstairs with The Ginger Sisters and lay awake filled with anxiety and doubt, wondering if I'd made a big mistake.

This morning I'm glad to report that things are better - I'm still keeping Keemo and Boca separated but we took them on a walk together and they did fine. She has only barked at him once and seems to have resigned herself to pouting. Keemo and Ruby are playing wonderfully together (and I think Boca is jealous about this even though she has little tolerance for Keemo's rowdy teenaged boy ways). Keemo seems to be a fast learner and although he is bouncy and mouthy, he is already getting the idea that polite behavior earns attention. He is cautiously interested in everything and very food motivated. He slept in the kitchen overnight with no accidents or destruction and has pottied on the patio for which he gets praised and treated. He climbed the stairs hesitatingly but trustingly - I had intended to bathe him but decided not to push things since the stair negotiation was scary for him and opted for a dry shampoo spray and wipedown instead. He is a sweet and eager boy who just needs a patient teacher. I'm excited to try some clicker training with him in the next few days. Meanwhile I am trying to keep things as low-stress as possible (not an easy task for someone as anxious as I can be about my animals) and hope that Boca will warm up to him. Fostering is hard, you guys; each time I do it I wonder if I'm really cut out for it. But look how cute he is...

September 25, 2015

Five Ways to Prepare for Your Foster Dog

My first foster dog - Bjorn the Norwegian Elkhound, aka Bjorngenstern the Destroyer - in 2005

My fourth foster dog, Keemo the Potcake, will arrive from The Bahamas on Sunday evening, part of a desperately needed puppylift of twenty-seven other potcakes who would otherwise face a sad fate as the island shelter struggles with lack of funding and insurmountable challenges. Volunteers from Pilots N Paws fly the dogs off the island, they will stay overnight in Florida to obtain their U.S. health certificates, and the Colorado-bound dogs will fly Delta commercial the rest of the way. It takes an unbelievable amount of last-minute coordination between the shelter, the pilots, the sponsoring rescue and all the volunteers along the way. As a planner and a bit of a control freak, I'm glad I've been through it once before with Boca and am doing my best to not worry, be happy and go with the flow with my chill island girl as my shining example. I've learned a lot since my first foster dog, and along with The Ginger Sisters am ready to welcome this new boy into our home. Here are five things I will be focusing on as we prepare for Keemo's arrival:

Plan the Introduction
This one is extremely important and also particularly challenging with a reactive dog like Ruby. Her introduction to Boca was five minutes of pure chaos. I wasn't sure how to manage them both by myself and Boca was ready to get back on the plane as Ruby barked madly from behind the gate. Thankfully, Boca demonstrated her incredibly tolerant nature and after a brisk parallel walk in the dark they quickly settled into life-long friendship. Employ the help of another dog-savvy person if possible and know what will work best for your dog. Neutral territory is usually a good idea and there is something about walking side by side that can make dogs fast friends. Now that I know meeting through the dog gate doesn't work for Ruby (barrier frustration) and since I will have my dad's help, my plan is to alert him to our arrival from the airport and have him bring Ruby outside for an immediate walk with Keemo, then allow Boca and Keemo to meet on the fenced patio when we get back. I am still expecting some chaos, and hoping for Keemo to have the same mellow non-reaction that Boca did to my nutty terrier. Since Boca met about fifty different dogs face to face last weekend at the farmer's market, I have faith that one more potcake will not phase her in the slightest.

Assume the Foster Dog is Not Housetrained
In Keemo's case this is almost certainly true. He was found as a stray trying to get in to the shelter and has possibly never lived in a home. Even if a foster dog was previously house-trained, if they've spent time in a shelter they will very likely need a refresher course. Be patient, take frequent potty breaks, expect a few accidents, breeze through clean-ups as if they are no big deal with no scolding or shaming, and throw enormous praise and treat parties when the foster dog goes where it is supposed to. This worked wonders with both Ruby and Boca, neither of whom were house-trained when I got them. It didn't take long at all for them to figure things out reliably. I recently won a pet-safe cleaning supply giveaway over at It's Dog or Nothing which could not have come at a better time. I'm sure I will put the prize to good use as we may have a few messes to contend with.

Create Safe Spaces and Secure Boundaries
I wasn't much of a believer in crate training until I started fostering dogs. Used appropriately, crates create a safe space for an uncertain dog, and reduce accidents and destruction. It's generally not hard to help dogs form a positive association with the crate by starting slowly and providing them with comfort (in the form of soft blankets and pillowy mats), enrichment (safe chew toys or stuffed Kongs) and deliciousness (treats delivered liberally) inside. The dogs from The Humane Society of Grand Bahama sleep in portable kennels at night, so if Keemo is anything like Boca he will feel at home in one. I like to give the new and existing animals, especially my rickety old senior kitty, lots of down-time and options for their own space. I have several dog gates in my house which make it easy to give everyone separate areas. As I get to know Keemo I will decide what arrangement works best when we leave the house and overnight. It's also imperative that fences are checked and not relied upon for foster dogs - they may be frightened or disoriented and shouldn't be left unsupervised outside. Along those same lines, extra caution should be taken with leashes and collars - slip leads or martingale collars are good safety measures to prevent accidental escape.

Pick Up Food & Toys and Closely Supervise Interactions
The well-being of my existing animals is always my first priority when fostering a dog, and I take steps to set everyone up for success as we all adjust to a new resident. Resource guarding is a common issue and one that may crop up temporarily in an unfamiliar environment. Boca growled in her crate over the first antler she had probably ever seen, which alarmed me at the time but was not a continuing problem. Management is the best strategy for things that might be coveted, and I'll be putting away the free access toys and chews until I'm able to assess how the three dogs interact. Meal times will be closely monitored with crates and gated areas utilized as needed. I also won't be leaving them alone together until or unless I'm confident there will not be any conflicts.

Prepare to Fall in Love and Prepare to Let Go
I've loved all my foster dogs, and obviously loved Boca too much to let her go (though that decision was largely based on how beautifully she and Ruby bonded). Just like now, I already had two dogs the first times I fostered and there was little danger of "foster failing" then because I would have been overwhelmed with three dogs of my own. I very closely budget for high quality food, pet insurance, and of course way too many treats and toys and the truth is - a third dog is not really an option. My house will be a stop along the way to Keemo's forever. I knew that previous fosters were going to the very best homes, and the experience was so rewarding that I knew I would want to do it again. I have no doubt there will be moments of stress and doubt as my dad and I manage a three-dog household, but I also know that every dog I meet expands my heart in ways I didn't expect. I'm so excited to meet and learn from this potcake boy. 

September 24, 2015

Our Easy Freezy Foray into Raw Feeding with #InstinctRaw Bites

This post is sponsored by Instinct® and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Instinct Raw but Rubicon Days only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Instinct is not responsible for the content of this article.

September 23, 2015

Loyal Lookouts

two loyal dogs watching for owner

 Love is absolute loyalty. People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades.
Sylvester Stallone

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September 22, 2015

Ten Healthy Pumpkin Treat Recipes for Dogs

pumpkin dog treat recipes

Have you succumbed to pumpkin spice madness? Let your dogs savor the seasonal flavors as well as enjoy some of pumpkin's health benefits by mixing, freezing or baking any of these recipes I've rounded up:

1.  Frozen Pumpkin Treats with Goat Milk and Turmeric - If it still feels like summer where you are, these frozen treats packed with health benefits from yours truly might be just the thing.

2. Pumpkin Dog Treats - These baked treats from My Rotten Dogs include oats, egg and cinnamon.

3. Pumpkin Spice Puppacino  - Now your dog can have their own personal barkista thanks to Lola the Pitty!

4. Quinoa Pumpkin Dog Treats - This recipe from Kol's Notes includes quinoa, flax-seed and just a dab of maple syrup.

5.Candy Corn Frozen Dog Treats - How cute are these tri-colored confections from Beagles & Bargains? The layers are made up pumpkin, yogurt and banana.

cute dog with pumpkin

6. These Pumpkin Dog Treats from Good Dogs & Co. have canned pumpkin as well as pumpkin seeds! 

7. These Banana & Pumpkin Dog Treats from Sweet Paul sound delicious to you think The Ginger Sisters will share?

8. These Vegan Treats from Vegan Heartland combine Pumpkin & Blueberry.

9. Here are some wheat-free Pumpkin & Chicken Treats from Doggy Dessert Chef - I think they'd be great for Thanksgiving with turkey!

10. Last but not least, these irresistibly cute Pumpkin & Cheese mummies from Kol's Notes.

jack russell mix with pumpkin

Special thanks to Christie from Life With Beagle for the spark of inspiration for this post.

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September 16, 2015

Compassion Without Borders for International Potcake Day

cute dog sitting on a bench
Boca wishes you a Happy International Potcake Day!

Before fostering and subsequently adopting Boca, I had never heard of a potcake. Since getting to know her and staying connected with the shelter that saved her, I have become a huge fan of these island mutts from The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos. I sponsor a sweet girl that reminds me of my dog, Lasya, with a monthly donation. Through forming a local potcake meetup group I've gotten to meet many others that came from the same shelter and as special as Boca is, I've found that her easygoing, charming personality is not unique. When our potcakes are together at the dog park, they seem to form their own cool club of chill dogs. Boca endears people everywhere she goes, from her obedience class teacher to her ophthalmologist. She is an awesome ambassador and today we are celebrating all of her friends, family and distant cousins in loving homes and spreading the word about those in great need of help.
cute dog at an animal shelter
Jorden - Boca lookalike hoping for a home of her own. (Photo courtesy of HSGB)

In the past few days I've become aware of an urgent need for adoptive and foster homes as The Humane Society of Grand Bahama desperately tries to keep their head above water as the only animal welfare organization on an island overrun with stray, neglected dogs. Every year they take in close to 1,400 dogs with a local adoption rate of less than 10%. The only hope for most of these dogs is rescue sponsorship, foster homes and adoption outside of The Bahamas and so they are hoping to find placement for at least 50 dogs by the end of the month. International rescue draws some criticism as people question why dogs would be brought in from another country when there are dogs in our own cities or states that need homes. Having been in involved in rescue and adoption for many years, I've fostered dogs found on my own block, transported dogs from neighboring Nebraska, adopted Colorado dogs, an Arkansas dog and a Bahamas dog. Here in metro Denver we are not accustomed to seeing stray populations living on the street, but this is the reality for potcakes and other indigenous street dogs around the world. Boca was starving and trying to survive with her puppies in a den she made outside of Freeport when HSGB rescued her. Her story and her sweet soul have touched my heart, and this shelter has gained my loyal support for all the animals they take in to its yellow stucco walls, all the dogs they feed and house and love for years as they wait for homes of their own. I believe in compassion without geography, and I am committed to being an advocate for these deserving dogs.

fostering saves lives
Nancy - coming to Colorado to be fostered by my dear friend! (Photo courtesy of HSGB)

As pictures were posted of dogs that local rescue organization Outpaws hoped to bring to Colorado this weekend, I shared them on Facebook and implored friends to consider fostering. One of my best friends gave in to my hounding agreed to and applied to foster a senior girl, Nancy, who has been living at HSGB for six years. She and Boca would have no doubt known each other there, maybe napped together in the sun. Nancy’s gentle hound-dog face struck a chord with my friend – and even if you’ve never fostered before, or don’t think you have room or that you’d be able to give them up, that’s sometimes all it takes - a connection made with a face a world away – and why I will continue to share rescue dogs on social media. I started to wonder about the possibility of fostering myself (for real, with no possibility of "failing" this time, because two dogs are just right, thank you very much). I talked to my dad last night, since he is the one home during the day with the dogs, and he was on board. It looks like Keemo - a smaller young boy - is going to be a good fit for us - a foster ginger bro! I'm so excited to meet him, we are just finalizing the transport details and foster application. Every foster home that opens its doors to a potcake is making it possible for HSGB to continue its tireless work on the island. I can't think of a better way to celebrate International Potcake Day than saying yes to saving a life.

adoptable potcake
Keemo - coming to Colorado to stay with The Ginger Sisters for a while. (Photo courtesy of HSGB)
How can you help?
Donate to The Kohn Foundation, a Colorado 501c3 organization dedicated to raising funds for HSGB.

Foster a potcake! Contact Tip Burrows at The Humane Society of Grand Bahama to find out if there is a partnering rescue organization in your area. Colorado residents can apply to foster through Outpaws.

Vote for HSGB to win 500 lbs of dogfood! HSGB is entered into Open Farm’s Feed A Rescue giveaway with a chance to win a whole lot of food for hungry potcakes. Please vote and share daily!

Spread the word by sharing this post. If you are a proud potcake parent, help us celebrate today by sharing photos on social media with the hashtag #InternationalPotcakeDay.

September 15, 2015

Reasons We Love Rotation Feeding with Open Farm Dog Food

This post is sponsored by Open Farm. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Open Farm's ethically produced pet food, but Rubicon Days only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Open Farm is not responsible for the content of this article.  

September 11, 2015

Living Alone is Never Lonely with Dogs

I can't imagine two faces I would rather wake up to every morning.

I've lived alone in Denver for close to ten years now, with my dad staying with me off and on for the past few years. A friend said recently that she had never lived alone, and didn't know if she could. I'm an introvert who relishes solitude and independence, but without animal companionship I'm positive I would not enjoy it to the extent that I do. As much as I admire and aspire to the idea of a life-affirming wilderness trek like Cheryl Strayed in Wild, if I didn't have a dog along the journey would be missing something crucial.

More recently, with the addition of first Ruby and then Boca, I've become even more of a homebody as I leveled up in the dog crazy echelons. While I love brunches with friends and visits to the museum, the truth is that the place I'd most often rather be is home with my dogs. I just can't seem to get enough of watching them interact with each other, refining my own communication with them, and the simple reassurance of their physical presence. We enjoy each other without expectation, without a common spoken language.

We love spending time outside together.

Ruby is approaching 3 years old and has become such a sweet and happy girl. She is so affectionate and the quiet moments of the early morning when she is still sleepy and snuggly are one of my favorite parts of the day. She usually sleeps curled up near my pillow, while Boca sleeps at my feet. When Ruby wakes up she stretches herself across my chest, kisses my face and waits for her ear scratches, then will sometimes roll over cradled in the nook of my arm for belly rubs.  

A blissful Boca in a room of her own.

Boca remains the easiest dog in the universe. She is happiest laying around in various states of sprawl. In the sun on the patio, in her crate (the only time I ask her to go in it is when they get tendons, fish skins or marrow bones but she will open the door herself and sleep there every evening between about 8 and 10 when we go to bed), on the loveseat, sofa or bed. This morning she was curled up cozily on top of two pillows - a potcake princess and the pea. I've started playing tug with her regularly (Ruby plays tug almost every night) - she is a much more challenging opponent than Ruby and is still working on her manners, but she learned very quickly not to lunge and re-grip when she drops it, but rather to sit and wait for me to give the tug back. This nightly ritual of play with both girls has become very dear to me.

Patio sentries and formidable fly hunters.

I was thinking about how the personalities of Ruby and Boca compare and contrast both to one another, and to my previous pair of dogs, Lasya and Freya. Freya was fearful and slightly neurotic, clingy and affectionate. I felt she needed my protection. Lasya was perhaps the doggiest dog I've ever known - very in touch with her huntress side, calm and wise with no use for rules or regret. I felt protected by her.

In a similar way I have that balance with Ruby and Boca. Ruby is intense and hypervigilant, requiring my help to navigate an overwhelming world and channel all that energy. She is also probably the smartest dog I've ever known, and the smallest dog I've ever had (with the exception of my foster Chihuahua, Vlad). I feel fiercely and devotedly protective of her. Boca is unassuming, optimistic, humorous and determinedly relaxed, but I get a sense of profound loyalty from her as well. I feel safe with her. However the three of us negotiate our different roles, what's always is true is that we aren't alone. We are home, we are together, we are loved.

September 9, 2015

Ruby Reaching For the Stars

 "Sit Pretty" is one of Ruby's favorite tricks, and we've been working on increasing distance and duration, all the better for picture taking!

This might be her highest reach ever!

Trick training is not a quiet affair with Ruby.

 We call this one "Jazz Paws." 

I think she finds it all hilarious. 

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September 7, 2015

Back to School Trick Training with Sojos Simply Wild Treats

It's hard to believe it's already September. This summer flew by, but I'm delighted that I went on several wonderful hikes and took Boca to some fun events. Now the kids are returning to school and the sun sets earlier and earlier. It's time to start thinking about how to meet The Ginger Sisters' physical and mental stimulation needs as our walks will soon be shorter and darker. One dog has significantly higher needs than the other. I'm not naming any names but she's part Border collie and part Jack Russell terrier.

Trick training is my favorite way to burn off some energy and bond with Ruby - we started very early on and she keeps building her repertoire. Our main limitation is my imagination, but lately we've returned to some things that were hanging us up in the past and building duration and distance with familiar tricks. Most recently we've solidified "are you shy" (face cover) which was especially challenging. As with everything, Ruby put her own adorable flair on it and it became more of a coy game than a bashful pose. Since the point of trick training for us is to have fun, I let her shape things the way she wants.

New or challenging tricks require high value rewards, so this new trick debut was the perfect opportunity to try out some new treats from Sojos. Ruby and Boca were both very excited about tasting the Simply Wild treats - nothing but 100% freeze dried venison, wild boar or salmon. For our training session we used the Simply Wild Venison and they were more than happy to work for the meaty morsels. As you can see in the video, Ruby performs "are you shy" flawlessly, while the clumsy human delivers a pathetically late click. One of us needs more work...

Ruby isn't the only one polishing a new trick...Boca is working on "sit pretty" (which is super cute because it's difficult for her to balance and she still tries so hard) and "roll over." With Boca I use more luring than I'd like, but it's what works for her. Ruby seems to visibly enjoy puzzling things out and trying to determine what I want, while Boca is all about those treats. Rolling over comes quite naturally to Boca and she has demonstrated that she can go either direction! I learn so much from working with these girls and I am looking forward to brushing up on some old tricks and adding some new ones to our roster this fall and winter.

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. The hop happens on the first Monday of every month and stays open for a full week. Please join us in spreading the word about the rewards of positive training!

Disclaimer: I was provided Sojos Simply Wild 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.

September 2, 2015

When A Border Jack Can't Keep Her Eyes Open

yawning dog
Ruby counts defying gravity among her many talents...

sleepy jack russell
...but sometimes you just have to give in to a summer afternoon's alluring lullaby...

dog best friends napping together
...and use your sister's butt as a pillow.

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