Thursday, May 26, 2011

oh, the humidity!

As you might have heard from my post a few days ago, G and her limp have recently parted ways thanks to the anti-inflammatory medication, Rimadyl. I also mentioned that G has also since reunited with her undying energy supply and can be a handful when I get home from work and on her daily walks. So. Much. Energy.

That being said, summer has recently started to peak out from behind the rainclouds (seriously, about ten days of rain) and while at first it was so gorgeous I almost couldn't stand it, the trademark NYC humidity has recently begun rearing its ugly head. Now, I've been to Florida several times and I personally feel that the humidity in Manhattan in the summer months easily rivals that of Orlando in the dead of July.

As much as I am allergic to humidity, it seems to take its toll on G even more so. Whereas she used to drag me down to the park so she could lay in the sun or sniff in the grass, over the past two days she's been dragging me into my building's lobby so she can lay on the cool tile and soak in the air conditioning. Honestly, I've been tempted to join her more than once.

"Go outside? No thanks, I'd rather stay here..."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

G vs. Falcor from The Neverending Story

Do you see it?

Positive Pittie Press

I'm currently reading the book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz, which I'm really enjoying. Alexandra looks at how humans perceive dogs, how dogs perceive dogs and how genetics factors into this from a scientific perspective - citing research instead of anecdotes or assumptions.

While I'm hesitant to call this positive pittie press because I truly believe that no dog is inherently aggressive, Ms. Horowitz pointed to an interesting study that concluded that of all dog breeds (German Shepards, Rotties, Dobies, Pits, etc.), the most consistently human aggressive breed was - wait for it - Dachshunds?!

I reread the passage, because I simply couldn't believe it - I fostered a wire-haired Dachshund named Georgie, who, in my personal opinion, was one of the sweetest old men I've ever met, but alas this was what this study had deduced.

Horowitz does discuss how many breeds are labeled as aggressive over time (Rotties in 90s, Pits today) and their reputation is largely unjustified. While I personally feel that the reputation of the pittie is much improved, even from 3 years ago, they still have a long way to go and I sincerely hope that books like this, which are based on scientific research will help ease some of the stereotypes!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

and now a word from the other cat...

Can I help you?

Fashionista - Winter Coats

I hope this will be one of the first of many posts I do regarding G and her incredible fashion sense.

As the owner of a short-haired pup in an unpredictable climate, I've learned the importance of a good coat, rain jacket, fleece sweatshirt, etc. to keep her warm. From the time G was a baby (She was born in December, mind you), I've had to put her in sweaters, jackets and knitted tops just to keep her protected from the elements.

These images are from G's first trip over to Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. She's wearing a double layer in this photo of a soft, cotton t-shirt and a pink, puffy coat (albeit cute, but not so warm):

Long gone are the days that I can go into any pet store and they'll have something cute that will keep her warm and fit her at the same time. Now that G is 44 lbs., I've had to research and order clothes online.

In addition to our evolving purchasing methods, we've also evolved what we consider a good coat. I am now a major fan of form and function over style, but I can say I found a VERY happy median in the good folks at Voyagers K9 Apparel. The company specializes in breed-specific clothing, based on typical characteristics as well as your dogs individual measurements. I should note that I saw these coats on numerous greyhounds and whippets around the city, so I knew they must be very warm - I've found that greyhounds are always decked out in the best jackets!

For Christmas this past year G and I received the K9 Voyagers Winter Coat in maroon and Tummy Warmer in tan from my mom. They were honestly a life saver this year as NYC had some of the worst weather in years!

As you can see from the below, the coat has a built in grey fleece snood (basically like a neck and ear warmer) and the main jacket is lined with super warm, soft tan fleece. In addition, the outside of the coat in wind and water resistant and has a large belly band that protects the most sensitive and exposed skin. Finally (and what a great idea!) the back of the coat overhangs her tail a few inches and sports a reflective strip for protection when walking in the dark nights of the winter.

Interestingly, what's so great about the breed specific coats is that while I chose a coat that overhangs on G's behind, for pups with cropped tails (Bostons, bulldogs, boxers, etc.) you can choose a shorter coat that allows their tails to wag freely. They thought of everything!

Monday, May 23, 2011

and now a word from the cat...

Get. In. My. BEHL-LAY!


G has limped on her left forelimb since she was little (she was 6-7 months old when I first noticed it). It comes and goes, but recently it became extremely pronounced – to the point that random people on the street would constantly ask about why she was limping. Is she hurt? Does she had salt in her paws? Is it from fighting? (Yeah, that last one was only once, but annoying none the less.)

Each time her limp became too severe to ignore or chalk up to soreness, she’s gone to the vet for a battery of tests. Each time, sonograms, x-rays, sedations, and a whole litany of tests have been done and all have the same conclusion: inconclusive.

This most recent visit to the vet spanned several days and ended up with the suggestion of trying rimadyl, an anti-inflamatory medication. With so many questions still outstanding, I didn’t really have high hopes for the meds but agreed to try them anyhow.

About 3 weeks later, I can honestly say, the difference is amazing! G’s limp has almost disappeared completely and her energy-level (for better or worse) has rebounded with a vengeance. She even walked with me 5.5 miles last Saturday from the UWS to the East Village and (almost) the entire way had a pep in her step. I would be lying if I said she didn’t hit a major wall around the 5.3 mile mark J.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nothing in Life is Free (Training!)

G came to me via the Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals via the ACC on 110th Street. As I recall someone had found 2 pittie puppies in the Bronx and had brought them to the city shelter in the middle of December. Obviously sickly, the 2 puppies were diagnosed with parvo virus – a disease that unfortunately has a very high prevalence in pit bulls - and slated for euthanasia.

Luckily for them, Bernadette Peters, the famous Broadway actress and well-known rescue supporter, was at the ACC that day and saved the puppies in the nick of time. The two pups, who Ms. Peters termed ‘Mary Kate and Ashley’ as they were frighteningly skinny, were whisked away to the Animal Medical Center on the east side and treated for several days.

Around that time, I had recently moved to a new, dog friendly apartment and decided that I wanted to get a dog. It had been about 6 months since our family’s 10-year-old boxer/bulldog mutt had passed and I was just beginning to finally make my peace with it.

My mom, who was working at the AMC at that time, told me about the 2 pittie puppies that needed a foster home with no other dogs for a month - parvo is contagious to other canines via hair shedding for one month after treatment. I decided sight unseen that one of these pups was mine. I didn’t care about the breed (which in retrospect, now being so conscious of the breed and its negative stigma, is funny) – I had watched enough Cesar Millan to know that the problem is usually on the other end of the leash.

I remember stopping by the hospital one night after work to meet the puppies. 2 tiny little things, now named Tabby and Gabby were just 3 and 4 lbs., respectively, squirmed and squeaked all over the place is their own separated isolated crates. Gabby even had a note on her door that said “I eat paper plates.” She’s eaten a hell of a lot more since then, so I can’t say I didn’t have fair warning.

I got to hold each of the pups and decide which one I was going to keep and which one I was only going to foster until they found a forever home. I tried turning each puppy over on their backs to see how submissive (or not) they would be. Gabby was definitely the more dominant, but Tabby was smaller and sicker and I wasn’t sure I could responsibly agree to take care of her from a financial point of view. Not to mention Gabby’s head was all white, the same as my previous dog, and had one blue and one brown eye, which was just cool.

I decided Gabby was my girl.

Since that day, G (now renamed) has been in my life (her sister now lives with some friends of mine out in Connecticut). She is my best friend and I love her more than anything. That being said, even though I understand the importance of being the dominant, alpha one in our relationship, I haven’t always been the best at implementing it. She really walks all over me and I decided last month that it had to stop.

G and I began working on the Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) training program as recommended on BAD RAP. For some reason, I’ve read a million training books, watch a billion “Dog Whisperer” episodes, and this is the thing that really stuck. Almost immediately, literally within 6 hours, I noticed a difference. G stopped barking my neighbors who passed by our front door. Immediately. It was incredible!

We are continuing to work on this method and it is crystal clear that consistency and control are the answer to any of G’s “bad habits.” I am still finding it tough to be the alpha presence and not give in, and we still have our okay days and our better days, but all in all I’m really happy with this method - and apparently so is she:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Dogs of Central Park

About two years ago, G and I were still living in Midtown East and regularly went to Central Park in the mornings to off leash and drain some energy. One particularly cold spring morning, I wasn’t really in the mood to go (did I mention it was cold), but I knew if I could just get myself out of bed (did I mention it was 6 am) we would have fun.

We entered the park at 59th & 5th and made our way around the duck pond. As we approached the north end, near a small Yorkie and its owner I noticed a woman taking photos of the dog. I was immediately jealous as the photographer had a way nicer camera than I and was getting some really beautiful shots in the early morning light, but I smiled and walked on by.

“Excuse me,” I heard the photographer say, “Could I take a photo of your dog?”

Now, as someone who lives in NYC, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little suspicious of the photographer’s motives, but like I said, it was a beautiful morning and I decided what the heck – G was frolicking through some daffodils, practically posing anyway. Why not get a good picture?

Fast forward 2 years later and the photographer, Ms. Fran Reisner, is now the author of a gorgeous book called The Dogs of Central Park. G and a brief bio is feature in a 2-page spread (who, me? Brag?!) and it’s such an adorable shot!

G and I also came back a few weekends later when Fran was visiting the park again and she got some beautiful shots of G and her sister, L:

And some of L’s “brothers” A and T:

The book is available at bookstores nationwide, but if you purchase from Fran directly: will benefit animal rescue organizations!

It's a win win and makes for some great bedtime reading!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Street Sweepin' G

My adorable little goose, G, has a horrible habit of eating anything and everything she might find on the street. I consider her special talent for finding almost any piece of edible (and inedible) leftovers on the street a gift that the Sanitation Department might want to patent.

This ability to spot any delicacy with her nose might not be the worst thing in the world if I could count on the streets being impeccably clean. However, especially when I used to live about a night club in Midtown, this isn't always possible in my lovely little NYC.

From the time she was a baby, I can't even count the amount of rarities I've plucked from her chompers. Twizzlers, nails, day-old bagels, rat carcasses, chicken bones, cereal, shoes, thisclose to a fish head (in Tribeca, no less - what the heck?!), etc. etc. etc.

To combat this lovely tendency, I read up and decided that I would train her with small cookies placed strategically closer and closer to her. She would be told to Wait. and then after a good amount of time, she would hear Ok. and could have her snack.

Well, practice makes perfect, and she's getting better now that's she's 3 and a half. She's even able to balance the cookies on her feet and smile (stare vacantly) for a quick picture while she's waiting a la the below:

Still, she has some trouble with a particular fragrant piece of chicken (which are seriously everywhere on Sunday mornings), but we're working on it and I'm pretty proud of her progress so far!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Riding in Cars with Pups

Today, G and I had to make our way back to the Upper West Side from the Lower East Side. As it's going to be raining in the city for the next week (yuck), I was a little nervous about getting a cab to stop and pick up a pittie in the rain.

As a quick background, it's a law in NYC that if you hail a cab, a free driver must pick you up and take you to the destination you ask. That being said, it doesn't stop free cabs from passing you without stopping when they see you have a dog - especially a larger dog. On some occasions, I've waited up to 20 minutes and walked miles (literally) before anyone has stopped to pick us up. That being said, when the cabbies do stop and take G and me, 99% of the time they are super friendly and dog lovers themselves.

Anyways, I wanted to share some tips on how I have G ride in cabs when we have to hail one.
  1. While waiting for a cab, I make G sit or lie down on the sidewalk so approaching cabs can see she is a well-behaved pup.
  2. I always assure any driver who stops to pick us up that she will ride on the floor or entirely in my lap (ie won't touch the seat) for the duration of the ride. I've heard suggestions about bringing a clean blanket for pups to lie down on if they can't fit on your lap or by your feet, this is also a great idea (as long as it isn't covered in hair to begin with).
  3. I always tip between 25-30%. In some ways, I hope this gives some good juju to the next rider the driver may spot that has a pup. It also to show that dog owners truly appreciate the cabbie's stopping for us.
Although G tends to sit up if the cab is in stop and go traffic, once we get cruising (ie on the West Side Highway or the FDR), she usually lays right down and nods off. 

Here's today view from the footwell of the cab (zzzzzzz):

Friday, May 13, 2011

Positive Pittie Press

As the owner of a pretty little pittie, it can be incredibly difficult to find positive stories about the breed in the press. To be fair though, I have noticed a distinct trend (especially since the Vick dogs were saved) of kinder stories toward pit bulls, specifically articles attempting to explain and dispel the myths about the breed.

Within the last week, I’ve stumbled upon a great article published in USA today and receive a fantastic article about the history of pitties as “nanny dogs.”

The nanny dog story especially rings true with me. I had an incident about four months ago where a woman was walking her dog past G and me (who was sitting like a little lady on the street corner, waiting to cross). The woman gave us a wide berth and starting saying how horrible pit bulls were, that they were bred for fighting and that they killed her other dog. When I tried to say that actually pits were bred as nanny dogs to children, she went nuts and started screaming at me. I quickly pulled G out of that situation and felt a little better when I ran into another pit mix owner on the next block who validated that the woman was saying nasty things to him as well. In spite of this woman’s ignorance, I was upset because it felt like G was being unfairly judged. If this woman’s dog was truly killed by a “pit bull,” that’s terrible and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that all dogs of a certain breed should be judged based on one experience.

Anyways, here’s the link to the USA Today article: Pulling pit bulls' image out of the pits and the other article, sent to me by a friend of my mom’s is pasted below (with some of the best pictures I’ve ever seen!!). Hopefully with articles like these, even people who had judged these dogs in the past will be inspired to rethink their views:

by Yonah Ward- Grossman on May 4, 2011

Astoundingly, for most of our history America’s nickname for Pit Bulls was “The Nanny Dog”. For generations if you had children and wanted to keep them safe you wanted a pit bull, the dog that was the most reliable of any breed with children or adults.

The Nanny Dog is now vilified by a media that always wants a demon dog breed to frighten people and LHASA-APSO BITES MAN just doesn’t sell papers. Before pit bulls it was Rottweilers, before Rottweilers it was Dobermans, and before them German Shepherds. Each breed in its order were deemed too vicious and unpredictable to be around people. Each time people wanted laws to ban them. It is breathtakingly ironic that the spotlight has turned on the breed once the symbol of our country and our national babysitter.

In temperance tests (the equivalent of how many times your kid can poke your dog in the eye before he bites him) of all breeds the most tolerant was the Golden Retriever. The second most tolerant was the pit bull. Pit Bull’s jaws do not lock, they do not have the most powerful bite among dogs (German Shepherds have that honor), they are naturally neither human nor animal aggressive (in fact pit bull puppies prefer human company to their mother’s two weeks before all other dogs), and they feel as much pain as any other breed (accidentally step on one’s toe and you’ll see).

The most tolerant, patient, gentle breed of dogs is now embarrassingly portrayed as the most dangerous. It would be funny if the new reputation did not mean 6,000 are put to death every day, by far the highest number of any other breed euthanized.

That’s a lot of babysitters.

(Pictured: As you’ll see, from the richest to the poorest and everything in between, in America the pit bull was the dog for kids. Don’t miss the little boy in the goat cart at the end. He’s priceless.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Red Eye

I went on vacation two weeks ago to Jamaica. It was awesome, beautiful and relaxing, but at the same time it was the longest I've ever been away from my pup. Sad face.

It was 6 nights, 7 days of no G and while it wasn't so bad at first (kind of nice actually to not have the responsibility of dog ownership 24/7), toward the end it got really tough. The anticipation of seeing her was punctuated by a 3 hour delay in Montego Bay, with no explanation and no advanced notice. Air Jamaica? Like the Lindsay Lohan of airlines - dirty, probably looked fancy in 1994 and smells like poo, booze and bad perfume (I'm guessing on this last one). Seriously, just pay the extra $40 and go Continental.

Anyitotallygotofftrack - I finally made it home to the UWS around 3am and was reunited with G. If someone ever tells you dogs can't smile, just show them this picture - the best!

Tough Questions, Simple Answer

Someone asked me the following questions yesterday:
  • What's the one thing in your life you could never give up?
  • What's the one thing in your life that makes you happiest?
  • What's the one thing in your life you love more than anything else?
I knew my answer immediately (it was fairly simple), but I felt mildly embarrassed about saying it outloud: my pets.

My pets?! Yes, 100%, my pets. Two cats and one dog. The absolute best things that have ever happened to me. The three things that have taught me so much about myself and who I want to be, without asking for a heck of a whole lot in return (okay, that was a tiny lie - the dog is high maintenance).

I wondered why I felt so funny admitting my answer to these questions. I felt like qualifying the statement immediately: "Am I crazy? Is that crazy to say? Do you think I'm nuts?"

Yeah, probably a little. :)