Thursday, March 31, 2016


We got the lab results back from Brisbane's biopsy, and he actually has osteosarcoma. Bone cancer. His vet and I are amazed. We never expected this diagnosis because bone cancer tends to be very painful and Briz hasn't been showing signs of pain. He has quite happily been using the affected side of his mouth, and does not hesitate to engage in his favorite activities. He is the happiest osteosarcoma dog ever.

The good news is that our vet has chemotherapy drugs on hand that usually work well for this type of cancer. He doesn't have an aggressive form of osteosarcoma, either. It's basically the best news we could get when the diagnosis is bone cancer.

Back in December when I first noticed the bump on his cheek, I was terrified that it could be bone cancer. That was the worst case scenario. I couldn't imagine dealing with that at all. Now that I'm dealing with it, it's not so bad. Right before the surgery, I was convinced it was the end and all I wanted was more time with my beloved Brisbane.

I don't know how much longer we have together. Maybe a couple of months, maybe a couple of years. For now though, Brisbane is happy. This week he is extra-peppy, splashing in water bowls and running laps around the yard with Sisci. Mealtime now happens three times a day instead of only once, and my jobs allow me to keep him with me all day long. It's a pretty nice way spend our remaining time together, however much we get.
Brisbane's GoFundMe campaign is still running, and we would appreciate it being shared if you are able. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Earthborn Holistic Bison Meal Recipe Grain-Free Biscuits

We got these Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free Bison Meal Recipe Biscuits free with the purchase of a big bag of Earthborn Holistic dog food at the nifty new pet food store near us. These are light, airy, oven-baked cookies decorated with tulips. So cute! They contain Antarctic krill meal, which is supposed to be awesome. I really like that the first ingredient is bison meal, which is a much more concentrated ingredient than fresh meat. It means there's a whole lot of bison in there. Aside from the krill and the bison, these things are made from peas, tapioca, and canola oil. There's also some apples, carrots, blueberries, spinach, and cranberries in the mix, but that's pretty much it.
Earthborn Holistic bison meal grain-free poultry-free egg-free dog cookies

Good For: Handing out for the dogs to crunch before I leave the house. Dogs with egg and poultry allergies. Picky chihuahuas who don't like most crunchy biscuits. Mid-value training treats. Cramming inside Kongs along with peanut butter and EZ-Cheez.

Not Good For: Dogs with beef or bison allergies. High-value training treats.

How Much We Like Them: Ru doesn't usually have to think very hard about eating them. Ru usually has to think very hard about eating things.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I've come to realize the value of waiting when working with a dog. This doesn't come naturally to me, what I want to do is to give commands and make sure they are followed so I feel in control of the situation. Gradually though, I've learned how effective it is to give the dog some space to think, and wait for them to make their own decision.
Dog on scenic bluffs overlooking the ocean
Sometimes this means waiting for a long time. I recently worked with Missy, a poodle-mix pup who was a delight at the dog park and at home, but terrified of everything on walks with her owner. Unlike my reactive dogs, sweet Missy would just freeze and stare with wide eyes. New people were her biggest fear, and large groups of people were horrifying. She knew plenty of obedience commands, but was so terrified of strangers that she could not follow commands or even eat treats in the presence of scary people. (This made me appreciate my food-motivated dogs, who will eat in the presence of nearly any stressor.)

We took Missy out to a big open park that was hosting an after school basketball program. The plan was to use the BAT method of teaching her more successful ways of coping with her anxiety. A big part of this training involves watching the dog carefully, and rewarding appropriate behaviors by immediately moving away from the scary thing.

Missy, her owner, and I started at the far end of the park from the busy basketball courts. Missy walked along politely on a loose leash as we strolled across the grass. When we were halfway across the park, Missy froze abruptly and stared wide-eyed at the kids on the court.

This was where we did something Missy's mom had never tried before. Rather than compelling the spooked dog to continue moving, or telling her to turn her attention away from the scary thing and toward her owner, we just stopped and waited. Missy's owner and I chatted, keeping an eye on Missy while just hanging out in the middle of the park with a frozen dog.

Ten minutes into our conversation, Missy dropped her nose to the ground to sniff. She didn't normally sniff on walks, for whatever reason she seemed to be missing this important coping mechanism. She only rediscovered it when we allowed the time and the space she needed to think. In this case, she needed ten minutes to process the situation.

Most of the time, I don't feel like waiting ten minutes for my dog to think about what they are going to do. However, waiting has become an invaluable tool, particularly in situations where the dog is not moving. There was simply no way Missy was going to stand there in the middle of the park staring forever, eventually she was going to have to do something and we were prepared to reward any movement at all. Waiting can also work well for dogs that don't reliably bring the ball back, or drop it partway.

demand barking

Brisbane used to think barking was a big part of playing ball on the beach with the Chuckit. He would drop the ball and shriek his best heeler shriek until I threw it again. After years of this pattern, I finally decided enough was enough. I gathered my greatest store of patience and took Briz to the beach on a quiet day. That day, I decided, I would not pick up the ball until he laid down. I wasn't going to tell him this, he was going to have to figure it out.

When we arrived at the beach and headed down the sand to play ball, Brisbane started barking. I froze and waited. He barked more and more insistently for about five minutes and then finally stopped and started at me. After a couple more minutes of confusion I gave him a hint and motioned for him to lay down.

The best thing about waiting for all eternity is that you usually only have to do it once. The next time I picked up the ball, Brisbane barked a couple of times and then laid down to see if that would get me to throw it. Missy the poodle mix was able to walk much closer to the kids in the park a few minutes after her big freeze, and when she did stop again she started sniffing the grass almost immediately. Both of these were big breakthroughs that never would have happened if I'd gotten impatient and tried to force the issue.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Product Review: Martha Stewart Pets Fabric Harness

This double buckle harness by Martha Stewart Pets is an interesting design. The neck and chest straps fasten with metal tongue buckles, and there are no straps to rub the armpits or insides of the legs. These were some of the first products I saw from Martha Stewart Pets at PetSmart. They came in four sizes and three colors.
cattle dog models Martha Stewart body harness
Photo by Erin Koski

This harness is kind of strange. I had considered getting one for Brisbane when they first came out in 2010, but they just fit too weird. Despite being advertised as lightweight, I found the thick straps and heavy metal buckles to be way too bulky.

double buckle dog harness
Photo by Erin Koski
It's an interesting design, but I'm not sure it's terribly effective. The chest and neck straps are only attached at the back, there is nothing connective them between the front legs. While this prevents rubbing in the armpits, it also allows the neck strap to ride up and sit in the same place as a regular collar.
 For that reason, I'm not entirely sold on the idea that this harness will protect a sensitive trachea from pulling.

Like the other Martha Stewart Pets harnesses I've tried, the sizing on this one feels wrong. This particular harness fits Ranger's neck just fine, but is huge in the chest. Likewise, when I tried them on Brisbane a few years ago I found they either fit well in the chest or the neck, but never both.

Pros: Definitely will not ride into armpits or cause friction rubs inside the front legs. Definitely does not impede free movement of the shoulders. Could be the answer for a very hard-to-fit dog, particularly one with a huge chest and tiny neck.

Cons: Very thick and bulky straps, weird sizing. Difficult to clean, once stinky, it's stinky forever.

Bottom Line: Well they stopped making them so I can't be the only person that had issues.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

"He Just Wants to Play!"

"He just wants to play!" This was the lament of a pensive dog mom, watching her rambunctious and, frankly rude, pup being introduced to a playgroup at daycare. We watched as he charged up to dog after dog, meeting teeth and growls every time. "All these dogs are aggressive!"
dog fetching Chuckit bumper
Photo by Erin Koski

Though that particular dog owner may never come to grips with it, the reality is that her dog was the one causing the problem. I adore playground kid analogies for dog social behavior, so here's one. The owner saw her dog bound onto the playground, shouting "Hello friends!" He frolicked around inviting the other kids to play, but they punched him and threw rocks at him instead.

What I saw was a kid sprinting around the playground, zooming up to people and slapping them on the back while shouting "Tag! You're it!" He wasn't just doing it to other playing children either, he did it to everyone. Kids that were playing hand clapping games with each other, kids that were reading quietly on a bench, even someone's grandma got thumped as he zoomed by. The kids reacted in predictable fashion, shouting 'stop it!' or 'go away!' or trying to slap him back.

Despite his rudeness, a couple of kids did attempt to engage with the rowdy one and join his game of tag, but he didn't seem to notice and just zoomed onto the next person. When one tagged him back quite forcefully, he turned on them, fists flailing, shouting "DON'T HIT ME!" He was completely incapable of engaging with anyone on the playground, and just whirled in circles tagging anyone in reach while shouting "Tag! You're it!" until physically removed from the playground to calm down.

Break It Down

The rowdy kid/dog seems like he "just wants to play" because he races around play-bowing, licking other dogs in the face, and zooming in circles. The thing is, without any sort of mutual agreement to play together, charging up to a total stranger and enthusiastically "tagging them" is rude. Most of the time, play begins with something like "Hi, wanna play tag?" "Ok!" If you skip this step, you're just running up to people and abruptly hitting them for no reason. Those that respond negatively, shouting or taking a swing, aren't being aggressive. They're just communicating that they don't want to play, and find the behavior quite rude.

If the rowdy one had genuinely wanted to play when he raced into the yard, he would have engaged with one of the dogs that tried to play back when he rushed up to them. Instead, he ignored them when they politely tried to play, and got mad when they matched his own level of enthusiasm. Instead, he was so overly excited he wasn't capable of playing with anyone.

It's Not Them, It's You

If your dog manages to piss off most of the dog he meets when he "just wants to play", he's probably going about it all wrong. If every dog at daycare or the dog park is mean to your poor baby, he almost certainly has terrible manners. Teaching him impulse control and helping him stay calm enough to play works a lot better than blaming the other dogs for not being more accepting of his specialness. They are dogs, after all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Product Review: Casa Bella No Bones About It Sponge

Casa Bella's No Bones About It sponge is a different kind of pet hair removal tool. The bone-shaped sponge is supposed to remove fur from fabrics of all types, including carpet. It does not need water or cleaning products in order to work, just wipe and the fur flies off. It's sort of rubbery and works via friction.
Photo by Erin Koski

For a rubber spongy thing, this actually works pretty good. It definitely works better than a lot of lint rollers I've tried. The primary issue is that the hair tends to stick to it though, and gets redeposited on the next swipe. If you can get all the hair in one swipe, it's fantastic.

This is definitely not any kind of miracle product, unfortunately. While it can get a decent chunk of the fur off my fleece jacket after a good Annie-petting session, it definitely doesn't get all of it. Unsurprisingly, the hairs it can't seem to budge are the same ones the lint roller can't touch, woven permanently into the fabric.

Pros: Non-toxic, reusable, way more earth-friendly than disposable sticky roller sheets or tape. Made in the USA. Might be able to budge hair that resists other removal methods.

Cons: Despite Casa Bella's claims, removing hair with this thing is not effortless. Takes many swipes to remove fur from fleecy fabric. Has a shelf life and will eventually become crumbly.

Bottom Line: My mother once said she wished she was comfortable enough to just go out in public looking like I do....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Loot Pets March Crate: Versus

Our March Loot Pets crate arrived yesterday, and it has a Mirror Spock dog shirt so my life is basically complete. This month's theme is Versus, and while I was expecting nothing but superhero stuff, I was pleasantly surprised. I think it's fitting that our Versus crate showed up with Brisbane is battling cancer, and he's even got a perfect split-personality good/evil haircut for the occasion.
Spock dog shirt

Briz can't have either of the treats in this crate, but he's limited to very soft canned food right now anyhow. Maybe next month's crate will have something for him. This month's crate brought us some Turduck'nstein Menacing Meat Treats and Ruff 'Em Ups! Fruity Protein Puffs by Loving Pets, makers of the Invasion of the Sweet Potato Crisps and most of our other Loot Crate goodies. These both have poultry in them, so I will have to talk Sisci and Ru into eating them because Briz is allergic.

Sisci is already in love with the Phunny Batman plush. This one comes to us from Kidrobot, makers of all sorts of weird toys. Their plush facehugger from last month's regular Loot Crate almost made me sign up for a crate for myself.

There is a package of Loot Pets Exclusive Captain America collapsible dog bowls that look super convenient. These are packable enough to stick anywhere, and I won't really worry about losing them. They seem sturdy enough, hopefully they hold up nicely.

If that Spock shirt weren't in there, the Alien vs. Predator collar charm would definitely be my favorite thing in this month's crate. I mean, where else would I ever find something like that? It's instantly recognizable, and will have people scratching their heads for years wondering where the hell it came from and who on earth would manufacture it.

The Mirror Mirror dog shirt is so amazing I may actually haul out my sewing machine and alter it so Ru can wear it. I need to do that with all the dog shirts from Loot Crate. I'm guessing the Loot Crate Lab is staffed by owners of pugs and bulldogs and other wide dogs with short backs. Based on the number of pictures of dogs with huge-necked t-shirts sliding down their shoulders, I'm not the only one with a longer, narrower dog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Night of the Living Chimichangas

These Night of the Living Chimchangas treats arrived in our zombie-themed Loot Pets February subscription box. Of course, they are made of chicken. Although I have two dogs with zero food allergies, neither Sisci nor Ru is as into food as Brisbane. When I give them a chewy treat like this, I can never be sure whether they are going to chomp it down, nibble on it and leave crumbs everywhere, or hide it in the couch cushions. Brisbane, who is allergic to everything, is VERY good at finding crumbs and hidden treats. 
Loot Pet Night of the Living Chimichangas
Good For: Taking a light chewer about 10 minutes to polish off. Stuffing inside a Kong. A quick snack for a most dogs.

Not Good For: Long-lasting glorious chew time. Dogs allergic to chicken or wheat.

How Much We Like Them: I finally got Sisci and Ru to eat them all while Brisbane was at the vet for a week. It was a chicken-duck-turkey-egg-corn-barley-sweet-potato extravaganza. Then I cleaned up the crumbs.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Dog Boutique Fad of the 2000's

I bought these dog legwarmers at a Limited Too in 2004. It may not be clear from the pictures, but they are festooned with iridescent sequins. Yes, they were specifically made for dogs. They date from a dog boutique fad that lasted from approximately 2000 to 2006. This was largely driven by the purse dog fad of the same time period. It was the era of Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell, and Gidget the Taco Bell dog. Though seemingly not recognized by most people, I fondly remember it as a time when almost every store sold dog stuff. I love dog stuff.
dog leg warmers
Photo by Erin Koski

At the time the only dog I had was Oakley the cocker spaniel, who at 25 lbs was just barely too big for most of the boutique stuff. I still went looking for it though, and I found it all over the mall. Old Navy carried a whole selection of toys and apparel, from t-shirts to rain boots, for dogs of all sizes. Old Navy Dog Supply still pops up from time to time, but no longer takes over the entire front of the store.

Little purse dogs were primarily a girl fad, so there were adorable little purse dog accessories in most of the little girl stores. The Limited Too and Claire's Boutique each had dog sections with little hair clips, ruffled collars, tutus, and of course purses for carrying the tiniest dogs. Even Toys'R'Us had a frilly dog boutique section.
dog in legwarmers
Photo by Erin Koski

The big box stores weren't immune, either, Target had several aisles devoted to different "lifestyle" selections. You could find an array of collars and leashes, beds, bowls, treat jars, leash hooks, and picture frames in shabby chic, pastel pink and blue royalty, and skull and crossbones motifs. This all went away when Brisbane was a baby, and the only thing I have left is a blue crown-shaped bowl with "prince" printed at the bottom. Nowadays Target just has a standard selection of utilitarian pet gear.

Most of my thrift store dog purses probably date from the same time period. It was a time when big name designers made dog accessories, which probably drove the trend in the rest of the market. Burberry doesn't seem to make dog collars any more, as far as I am aware. Louis Vuitton does, however, still make dog purses.

While adorable and ridiculous accessories can still be found for your spoiled little purse dog, the market seemed to contract sharply a decade ago and you can no longer buy them everywhere. It's probably for the best, even itty bitty toy breeds are much more than a fashion accessory or a toy. Still, it was a magical time to be preoccupied with dog stuff. I will fondly remember a time when random, otherwise meaningless stores in the mall held treasures like sparly 80's leg warmers...for dogs.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Product Review: Doggone Good Rapid Rewards Pouch

Doggone Good has packed a surprising number of features into their Rapid Rewards treat bag. The main compartment has a magnetic closure that is very easy to fumble open or shut with my hands full of things. The interior liner is rigid enough that treats don't disappear into folds, and there is even a little pocket inside that closes with velcro for separating types of treats. There are little pockets on the sides, a bigger pocket in the front, and a zippered compartment in back. That's a lot of pockets. The bag also has a D-ring on the outside, a belt clip on the back, and comes with a waist belt in case your clothes aren't very belt-clip-friendly. This bag is available in seven different colors and can be personalized with your name or business logo.
purple bait bag
Photo by Erin Koski

This is it, I've found the very best bait bag in the world. It's a bit big, but it's everything I've ever wanted and more. I didn't know I was missing an interior pocket, but now I realize it's the greatest thing ever. I can have a bag full of kibble with a little pocket of freeze dried liver treats for major jackpots. No more fishing through a bag of mixed treats for just the right goody.

I really love the way this bag holds its shape. It stays open when I need it open, and closed when I need it closed. The opening is big enough for my whole hand. Opening and shutting it requires gross motor movements, not fingers. I can drop a tennis ball or my Stibbar leash in there and it just sits conveniently on top of everything.

Admittedly, I have not yet found a use for every pocket on this thing. There are normally a few folded up poo bags in the back zippered pocket, and I always keep a clicker in the front. I could probably keep an emergency backup clicker in a side pocket, we can never have too many clickers.

Pros: Belt clip and weight distribution means it actually stays on my pockets/waistband/whatever. It has never fallen off. Enough pockets for training doodads. Stays open or shut as needed. Big opening at top. Magical interior pocket in main compartment allows for two different types of treats. Very durable. Light interior color makes it easier to see inside. My purple bag doesn't show dirt.

Cons: Obviously it's pretty big and bulky, doesn't hide nicely in a pocket and screams "I AM A DOG TRAINER!!!" to the general public. Or maybe the general public just thinks it's a weird fanny pack. Either way, it's definitely not helping me pass as normal.

Bottom Line: So convenient I just sort of wear it around all the time so I can drop stuff in as needed. Leash? Poo bags? Ball? Clicker? Treats? Supertreats? I've got all that right on hand.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Finally Home!

After staying an extra night at the vet for IV pain meds, Brisbane finally came home on Friday. He had surgery on Sunday to remove the tumor that I first noticed in December. It was much larger than we thought on the inside, and he is recovering extremely well after such a major procedure.
Dog after facial tumor removal

Before med time, we went for a short stroll outside. Brisbane was very happy to be outside, he stood there sniffing the breeze for the longest time before happily trotting down the sidewalk. He even gave me a classic Briz grin.

The vet did one more big dose of IV pain medication before we left, so Brisbane came home very groggy. As soon as we got home, he flopped on the bed and fell asleep. This morning we will begin oral pain meds and figure out what it takes to keep him company.

Brisbane had been at the vet for a week, I dropped him off on Friday of last week for a couple of days of pre-op care before the surgery on Sunday. Sisci was very happy to see him today. Ru...was confused. Also a bit growly. I think he might have forgotten about Brisbane entirely. He has a tiny brain, it might only take him a week to forget things.

dog with face shaved for surgery
If I had known ahead of time that the tumor was so extensive, I might have made a different choice. I'm glad I didn't know, so far I have absolutely no regrets about this surgery. Briz has handled everything beautifully, and I'm sure soon he will feel so good that I'll have to hold him back from doing too much. Cattledogs are all about overdoing it.

Brisbane's GodFundMe campaign is still active, and we would love as many social media shares as we can get. Costs are running higher than initially expected because the surgery was significantly more involved. He's worth it though. So, so very worth it.

Next week we should have a pathology report on the mass, and hopefully our amazing vet will be able to do a case study to help other dogs with hemangioperisarcomas.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Food Friday: Evo 95 Beef Recipe

This can of Evo 95 Beef Recipe dog food makes me nostalgic for a time when Innova Evo was the best, highest-calorie, most nutritionally dense food out there. Things have changed quite a bit since then, and parent company Natura's products are no longer at the top of my food list for various reasons.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Company

Natura Pet is the parent company of Evo, Innova, and California Natural pet foods, and has been around since at least the mid-90's. Evo was the first grain-free dog food I heard about, and this came at a time when I was trying to get Brisbane to lose weight. As much as I wanted to feed him what I considered to be The Best Kibble, I had to go with something less nutritionally dense because Evo is really high in calories.

The pet community lost most of their faith in Evo when Proctor and Gamble acquired Natura Pet in 2010. They originally claimed that nothing would change, but the assumption is that they cut costs by reducing the quality of the ingredients long before they had to change the bag label. It's also worth noting that pet food companies are allowed to change their ingredients without warning customers for up to six months before they have to either change the labels or go back to the listed ingredients. This is because it would apparently present a hardship to the pet food companies to have to print up new bags without using up all the ones they already have. Us consumers aren't even a consideration in this equation.

At any rate, P&G acquired Natura and the Evo product line promptly exploded. In addition to the original formula, we got red meat, fish, and small bites formulas. The canned food line was expanded to include several single-protein formulas including rabbit, venison, chicken, turkey, duck, fish, and beef. The kibbles all still contained chicken, but the canned foods were kind of awesome for dogs with allergies.

All that is over now though, because Mars PetCare bought Natura Pet last summer. They've since axed the product line, and only have chicken-based canned food now. The older stuff like the can pictured above is still on shelves, but be sure to read labels because the new formula is full of lies and also chicken. That's right, "Evo 95 Percent Beef" has chicken as the second ingredient. Thanks a lot, Mars PetCare.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Food

The buyout was bad for Natura Pet in more ways than one. In 2013 the recalls started. These were for contamination and potential for salmonella, a sign the manufacturing facility may not have been as clean as we'd all like. The length and extent of those recalls gives me zero confidence in this being a good choice for routine or long-term use. It just feels like it's only a matter of time before it happens again.

That said, this food currently merits five out of five stars on the Dog Food Advisor website due to its ingredients profile and nutritional analysis. It's a decent food, and nobody should feel bad about feeding it. My dogs all love it. The loaf form worked particularly well for watering down and freezing in my Nina Ottosson puzzle.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Product Review: Pet Qwerks FlavorIt Breath Bone

This FlavorIt nylon chew bone from Pet Qwerks is infused with mint and chlorophyll to help fight bad doggy breath. Labelled as being for aggressive chewers, this toy features many tiny holes that can be filled by spreading the bone with peanut butter, cream cheese, liver pate, or any other spreadable thing your dog loves. The Pet Qwerks FlavorIt product line includes several different flavors, shapes, and textures with the same little holes. the Breath Bone is available in four sizes suitable for any dog. It is dishwasher-safe and made in the USA.
minty durable nylon chewbone
Photo by Erin Koski

This FlavorIt bone arrived in our October BarkBox. Believe it or not, it's a size medium. We had been getting the size medium BarkBoxes, intended for dogs 20-50 lbs. The folks at BarkBox apparently decided to throw in the size medium Breath Bone despite the fact that the packaging says it is intended for dogs up to 30 lbs. As I'm sure there are plenty of 30-50 lb dogs getting those mid-size subscription boxes, it seems like they should have included a size large for dogs up to 50 lbs so that everyone could play.

This toy seems like a good idea at face value. Dog doesn't like non-edible chews? Just smoosh some peanut butter into the little pits and they won't be able to resist. The problem lays in the fact that it's really quite difficult to get peanut butter out of those little holes. Like, basically impossible. Cool if you really want to challenge your dog, not so cool if you don't feel like letting ancient peanut butter sit around in a toy indefinitely. You can't wash that stuff out, folks.

Pros: At least as durable as a Nylabone. A different way to encourage chewing in a dog unfamiliar with the concept. Some dogs will spend eternity working on this thing.

Cons: Sizes feel sort of small, I would definitely get at least the next size up. Large and aggressive chewers are going to be able to demolish this bone no matter what. One peanut butter goes into the little holes, it may never come out.

Bottom Line: I could see this being potentially useful with some dogs, but I can't see using it on a regular basis.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Two Days Post-Op!

Yesterday was Day 2 of recovery after Brisbane's big surgery, and he is starting to feel a bit more like himself. He is perky is enough to get grumpy with the vet for messing with the IV catheter in his leg, but doesn't mind having his face cleaned. Since the mass extended into his nasal cavity, the surgical sight can drain through his nose and he doesn't need an icky surgical drain in his head. The surgery was done through his mouth, so he won't have any scars on his face.
Two days post-op
The pain meds are really good, you guys.
Poor Briz is still lumpy and swollen after his facelift, but his cheek is already much closer to normal than it was before surgery. He had 200 cubic centimeters of mass removed, and we're not quite sure what he'll look like when fully recovered. His jowls are still quite puffy, but the swelling has improved dramatically since yesterday and should continue to get better rapidly.

The most exciting news today is that Brisbane is tracking objects with his left eye. The pressure from the tumor had reduced the function of that eye significantly, and before surgery we couldn't be sure he could see at all with it. The assumption was that he had lost vision entirely on that side, and we were not expecting it to return.

How is he feeling? Not so great yet. We went for a tiny walk outside when I went to visit him today, and then he was ready for a long nap. I was relieved to see that he was resting comfortably and sleeping peacefully. His kennel at the veterinary hospital is usually left open, and he has been getting up and exploring a bit today.

I was hoping to bring him home yesterday, but Briz still needs injectable pain meds to stay comfortable. Today the vet is starting him on oral pain medication to see how he does, and if he continues to improve he can come home tomorrow.

Brisbane has not recovered his normally spectacular appetite yet, which is incredible. He did eat a tiny bite of Fromm Shredded Pork for me, but I'm sure his mouth is still very sore. He'll be eating soft foods for a while, so we'll be checking out some new squishy foods during his recovery. I'm not too worried about him eating yet, he was a couple of pounds heavier than normal before the surgery so he's got a little extra padding in there.

Please share Brisbane's GoFundMe campaign if you can. Our amazing vet has used a number of different treatments to help slow down the spread of the hemagiopericytoma, and we're hoping she will be able to write up a case study to help other vet treating dogs with this type of tumor. Though this was not a curative surgery, we're hoping this palliative treatment will get Brisbane a lot closer to the end of his expected cancer-free lifespan. There is also a fund set up for direct donations at Valley Animal Hospital in Goleta, California.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Isle of Dogs Daily Essentials Antioxidants and Superfoods

These round waffle-textured Antioxidants and Superfoods cookies are from Isle Of Dogs' new Daily Essentials line of treats. They are wheat-free, corn-free, meat-free, egg-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and sweet potato-free. According to my dogs, they may also be taste-free. Maybe it's the pomegranate and spinach in there making them kinda bitter.
Isle of dogs waffle cookies

Good For: Super low-value food for practicing 'leave it' and balancing on noses in exchange for some ZiwiPeak. Tossing around to keep the dogs busy but not fighting as I walk out the door.

Not Good For: Training time. Picky dogs.

How Much We Like Them: Ru and Ranger won't eat them. Sisci has to think about it. Brisbane eats them out of obligation because they are, after all, food. Annie likes them, but not enough to fight anyone for them.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Post-Op Report

Brisbane's surgery took place on Sunday afternoon, it went very well and he is currently at the vet hospital being monitored. Hopefully he will be able to come home tomorrow if his pain is under control and he is healing up well.

The size of the mass really surprised everyone, it was so big it actually outgrew its own blood supply and the tissue at the center was dead. The bump visible on his cheek was only a very small portion of the tumor, it actually extended well into his mouth and sinus cavity, and up past his eye socket. It may have been growing long before I noticed it in December. It had actually eaten away the jawbone around his back three teeth.

Hemangiopericytomas are nearly impossible to remove in their entirety without amputating a limb. These tumors tend to grow tendrils that wrap around everything, and it can be extremely difficult to get good surgical margins without sacrificing a lot of healthy tissue. Since this was a palliative surgery rather than a curative procedure, the vet chose to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible. Cryosurgery was done on the parts of the tumor that were not removed in order to slow their regrowth.

Brisbane lost three teeth, but did not lose his left eye. He may not have control of his facial muscles on that side when he recovers, and we don't think he has been able to see out of that eye for weeks, possibly months. The vision in that eye is not expected to return.

Recovery is going to primarily involve pain control, and prevention of infection. At the vet hospital, Brisbane currently has a pain patch as well as IV medication to keep him comfortable. Tomorrow he will be started on oral pain meds to see if those will be enough once he comes home.

Dr. Rugg is truly amazed at how active and happy Brisbane has been with this huge mass in his head. He had been herding sheep and lure coursing with tremendous enthusiasm as recently as a week or two ago, and remained as gregarious as ever up until the surgery this afternoon. I am sure he will be feeling much, much better soon. So happy he's on the road to recovery!

Sunday, March 13, 2016


We're having an infestation of some sort over here.
Photo by Erin Koski

Everyone has developed extra legs and maybe some fangs.

Photo by Erin Koski

Could it be a skin disease? A mutation?

Photo by Erin Koski

Or did I find a bunch of Target Spider-Pet costumes on sale for a dollar each?

dogs in Halloween costumes
Photo by Erin Koski

Yup, that's probably it.

dogs wearing matching spider costumes
Photo by Erin Koski

These spider outfits from Target are really made for wide, short-backed dogs like pugs, they're nowhere near long enough for most of my crew. Still, matching costumes are a whole lot of fun. Here's a video of the best spiderdog costume ever. I don't know that any of mine would put up with that sort of shenanigans.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Icky Nasty Tumor Pictures

Brisbane is spending an extra day getting IV drugs before surgery, which has been postponed till Sunday morning. This is mostly because our amazing vet team is making sure they have absolutely everything on hand that could be useful, including cryotherapy equipment for freezing things. We are also waiting to hear back from the veterinary oncologist who has been advising Brisbane's doctor and may be aware of some as-yet-unpublished experimental treatments that might be helpful.
dog with cancer
This is what it looks like on the outside.

In the meantime, Brisbane is on antibiotics and has been started on some powerful pain control that should keep him comfortable in the early days of his recovery. He's content to just chill with the team while we make sure everything is in place for the big event.

In his very relaxed state, Briz allowed the vet to get a really clear picture of the part of the tumor in his mouth. It's super gross and I recommend not scrolling down if you don't like yucky medical pictures. I was unable to get such a good view of it, and frankly it's a lot worse than I thought. So, so very gross.

Product Review: Weyland-Utani, Building Better Dogs

Sponsored by Weyland-Utani Corp, this collar from Quantum Mechanix is basically one huge in-joke for fans of the Alien films. The collar is made from a light, fast-drying material and is very comfortable. It bears the slogan "Building Better Dogs", a fun take on the fictional company's "Building Better Worlds" slogan. This arrived in our very first Loot Pets crate from Loot Crate, and
may be an exclusive item just for subscribers.
Alien film dog collar
Photo by Erin Koski 
 I love subtle fandom humor. Not everyone needs to get it, and most won't even notice. Once in a while though, someone will happen upon it and really see it for what it is, and it will make their day.

I have a Miskatonic University parking pass sticker on my dashboard, down at the bottom where most of the local colleges require their parking passes to be places. It's subtle, and most people see it as just another parking sticker. However, someone with enough familiarity with the works of H.P. Lovecraft will recognize it as the fictional university mentioned in many of his stories. Hopefully they will get the same sort of gleeful "I GET that!" feeling I do when I see a Black Mesa bumper sticker.

So clearly the Weyland-Utani Corp collar is right up my alley. It bears the brand of a fictional megacorporation with tendrils touching every industry, so of course Wey-Ute would make dog collars. They make everything else, right?

Pros: Light, comfortable, and the dark color doesn't show off the dirt. Adjustable enough to fit everyone but Ru. Is a level of geeky rarely attainable via pet attire.

Cons: The light and comfy material probably won't look this awesome after a lot of heavy duty wear.

Bottom Line: It's so geeky, and so subtle that only other geeks will get it!

What's the geekiest pet item you own?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Brisbane's Cancer Treatment

On Wednesday, Brisbane's tumor went from annoying to serious. The outside lump grew an entire centimeter in one week. Inside his mouth, the mass got even bigger. It started getting in the way of his teeth, got infected, and on Wednesday started bleeding a whole lot. Did this bother Brisbane? Not particularly.

I've always said I wouldn't do tons of unpleasant treatment to try to keep a suffering animal alive, but Brisbane isn't suffering. I had thought the tumor would be painful, but it clearly isn't bothering him much because he happily chews bully sticks with great enthusiasm even when he's bleeding everywhere.

So we're doing palliative surgery to remove as much of the mass as possible. This definitely won't be a cure, this type of cancer is very invasive locally and makes a mess of things, with tendrils all over the place. There may be some nerve involvement, and he could lose some facial control on that side. He will definitely be losing at least one tooth in the process, and that's just fine. Heck, he could lose that eye and it would be fine.

This surgery is all about balancing cancer removal with recovery difficulty. The goal is quality of life rather than cancer eradication, so the vet won't be trying to get good margins. Only as much as can be removed with a short and easy recovery.
best dog ever
I spent a lot of time this week worried that this was the end, that Brisbane's quality of life would get so bad so fast that I would have to say goodbye way too soon. I don't want to put him through painful treatments and make him miserable in order to prolong his life. I just want him to be happy and comfortable.

Is Brisbane happy right now? Hell yes! He is the happiest dog. On Tuesday we went to our first Barn Hunt class and he got to search piled up bales on hay for rats safely hidden in plastic tubes. Most of the dogs there found the rats because they expected to get a food reward for their efforts. Brisbane's reward was finding the rats, each time he located one he would pounce on the tube with glee and ignore food entirely. A few days before that we went out to practice herding and he screamed with delight at the sight of the sheep. A couple of weeks ago we went lure coursing and he ran as fast as ever.  His appetite is great, he loves doing tricks, and aside from the tumor he is a very healthy dog.

So now we're going to fight the cancer in order to keep him happy. He will be hospitalized for a few days so the vet can monitor his recovery and better tailor the treatment plan. We're trying high-dose vitamin C because there are apparently some promising studies, it's inexpensive, and won't make him feel sick or hurt him if it doesn't work. The vet has also been reading studies on experimental treatments involving injecting the tumor itself with chemotherapy drugs. We are hoping that this type of treatment will help slow the cancer down for a while without making Brisbane feel sick.

Keeping him happy is the entire point, and when he can no longer be kept happy I'll know he's ready to leave me. In the meantime, we have a GoFundMe set up to help with his vet bills. We're getting donated chemo meds so the bills aren't going to be crazy. We would appreciate as many shares as we can get, please help Brisbane keep being awesome if you can!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Product Review: Busy Buddy Nobbly Nubbly

PetSafe's Busy Buddy Nobbly Nubbly is a durable chew toy designed to hold the company's various ring-shaped treats. The toy features durable nylon ends and a softer rubber center with grooves that can hold peanut butter, cream cheese, or any other gooey spreadable treat. One end unscrews to allow PetSafe's ground, pressed rawhide treats to be threaded onto the toy. The Nobbly Nubbly comes in four sizes for dogs up to 90 pounds.
durable nylon rawhide chew toy
Photo by Erin Koski

This is one of PetSafe's many variations on their screwbone design. The Build-a-Bone and Bouncy Bone work the same way, just unscrew one end and thread the treat rings on. The ends of the Nobbly are a bit more difficult to chew into oblivion, though.

Ours is a size large for dogs 50-90 lbs, and so far nobody has managed to unscrew it and gnaw the threaded bit, which is fairly impressive. Brisbane and Annie can spend a couple of hours working the treats out of it.

durable nylon chew toy
Photo by Erin Koski
I'm not a huge fan of smearing the center bit with peanut butter. This is partly because it presents so little challenge for them to lick it off, and partly because it ends up with peanut butter all over the floor.

Pros: Takes a long time for the dog to eat a very small treat. Easy to reload if you buy the right size rings.

Cons: Not quite durable enough for power chewers. Larger dogs can probably unscrew it fairly easily. Hard nylon ends become sharp when gnawed. Have to buy PetSafe's treat ring refills, and the ones for our medium-size toys don't fit this large one.

Bottom Line: This keeps Brisbane and Annie busy for longer than pretty much any toy in the house.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Magical World of Video Dog Sports

Dog sports are an awesome way to show the world and also yourself how far you are your dog have come as a team. There are tons of different sports to participate in, from lure coursing to obedience to herding. Lots of people enjoy dog sport activities casually, just for fun. Others, like myself, find earning titles to be immensely rewarding. What better way to demonstrate your dog handling skills and the accomplishments of your dog? Personally, my first measure of someone selling their services as a dog trainer is whether they've ever titled a dog in anything.
chihuahua and heeler lure coursing

Unfortunately, not everyone has the option to demonstrate their skills at trials. Maybe your dog is a superstar at home, but shuts down in busy places with lots of people. Perhaps your fabulously talented dog cannot stand the sight of other dogs. Heck, maybe you simply don't have the means, ability, or option to attend trials for your favorite sports.

Happily, the magic of the internet now allows you and your dog to earn certain types of performance titles from anywhere in the world. You can show off your skills and earn certificates, ribbons, and letters to tack onto the end of your dog's name, all in comfortable and familiar surroundings. All you need is the capability to capture and upload video to the web.

Cyber Rally

A welcome addition to the world of rally obedience, Cyber Rally-O allows for accommodations of all sorts for both dog and handler. Someone in a wheelchair? No problem. Can't do a fast walk? That's ok! Your dog doesn't even need to be physically capable of sitting or laying down. The rules for your ring setup and equipment are minimal. You can record yourself, so throw you ring nerves away and get ready to show off how much your reactive dog loves heeling!

Trick Dog Titles

Do More With Your Dog allows you to earn titles for doing silly dog tricks. While they offer workshops, they don't really have performance events. Instead, you can have a friend or family member sign off on your dog's ability to perform a certain number of tricks for all but the championship title. How is that fair? Well, the championship title requires an extensive amount of video demonstrating a very high level of training, so it's going to be brutally obvious if you've been faking up till then. Don't have a cooperative human at your disposal? You can join an internet team led by a training coach who can sign off on your trick videos. They can also give you tips and idea, demonstrate training techniques, and help you solve training issues. Sisci and Brisbane each have their Novice Trick Dog titles, and definitely have the skills for the intermediate titles. Brisbane could potentially get his champion title, he's got some impressive moves.

Dog Parkour

Often called "Barkour", Dog Parkour is all about your and your dog interacting with various objects and features in your environment. You help your dog safely balance, climb, and move around and under...anything. Chairs, water troughs, boulders, tree stumps, childrens' playground equipment,  buckets, logs, fire hydrants, trees, decorative architecture...there is really no limit. You can earn parkour dog titles by submitting video demonstrating your dog's ability to perform a specific set of moves. Safety is a big concern, and dogs must be safely harnessed, leashed, and spotted in their videos. You can video and earn parkour titles with your dog in a major metropolitan area, deep in the woods, on a deserted island, or in your suburban neighborhood. 

So there you go! Go make some goals and start working toward them!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Bocce's Bakery Awesome Dog Biscuits with Cheese

These heart-shaped biscuits from Bocce's Bakery are perfect for dogs with allergies. They're made with oat flour and cheese. That's it. No eggs. No barley flour. No chicken flavor. Just two ingredients that happen to not be on Brisbane's extensive list of allergies. They're pretty tasty too, according to the dogs. Even Ru will eat them.
limited ingredient dog biscuits

Good For: Cramming into Kongs along with peanut butter or spray cheese. Hiding around the house for the dogs to find. Handing them on my way out the door to keep them distracted for a few seconds. Balancing on noses.

Not Good For: High-value training treats.

How Much We Like Them: I really need to take pictures of Brisbane and Sisci balancing these on their noses and paws. Such good dogs!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Product Review: Kurgo Up and About Dog Lifter

The Kurgo Up & About Dog Lifter is a mobility aid for helping larger dogs navigate daily obstacles like stairs. It velcroes across the back and can be left on the dog for short periods of time. This product is only available in one color and size, intended for dogs in the 50-90 lb range. It fits chests up to 35" around.
Kurgo dog lifter
Photo by Erin Koski

Yes, I found this at a thrift store. I spotted it from across the building and immediately thought the fabric looked like dog gear. Found the Kurgo label and decided to buy it for a few dollars. Brought it home and then had to figure out what in the world it was. This is not the first product I have done this with.

Somewhat like the Help 'Em Up Harness, this is a mobility aid for elderly, injured, and disabled dogs. There are a lot of mobility slings out there, but this one if unique for a number of reasons.

Once upon a time, we used to just use a towel as a mobility sling. It  was great for quick lifts but kind of annoying for everyday use. It tended to bunch up and wasn't very good at distributing pressure along the dog's body. Hanging onto the towel ends was never very comfortable or ergonomic. Plus you had to lift the dog to get the towel under them in the first place. Most of the dog lifting aids I've seen are basically like having handles on a slightly sturdier towel.
dog mobility sling
Photo by Erin Koski

Kurgo has neatly solved all of the problems with the old DIY towel sling, and created a product that is convenient and reasonable for daily use.

This is a wide and sturdy sling that resists bunching, so it distributes pressure very nicely. It velcroes across the back, so it can be left on the dog during a car trip or when they need to be helped up frequently. It's easy to put on, and does not require any sort flexibility on the part of the dog.

My Kurgo Dog Lifter has a strap on the handle that clips to the dog's collar, but the current iteration just has a strap that run around the front to keep the dog from sliding forward too far.

Pros: Very wide and supportive for large and also long dogs. Can be used to help support either the front end, the back end, or both. Easy to put on, and can be left on for a while because the dog is strapped into it. Machine washable. Longer handles make it easier to support shorter dogs while walking. Awesome for helping dogs in and out of the car, or onto the bed.

Cons: Doesn't stay on active dogs that well, tends to slide around and get in the way. Front strap may make it difficult for the dog to walk. Only comes in one size.

Bottom Line: I feel that this mobility sling supports more of the dog's spine than most similar products. It would be a very good mobility aid for a corgi, dachshund, or other long-backed breed.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Could a Hawk Eat My Chihuahua?

"I have a very small dog, do I need to worry about hawks trying to eat him?" I do educational outreach with a friend and her marvelous birds, and this is a question that comes up quite often. Chihuahuas are very popular around here, and tons of people have a dog that weighs well under ten pounds.
falconer with hawk
Photo by Erin Koski

Do Hawks Eat Small Dogs?

Short answer: No. Though they look formidable, that bird on my fist weighs about two pounds. He eats mice, and sometimes rats. There is absolutely no way he is going to lift and fly off with my 6 pound dog. He's the same size as the most common hawk species in North America, the redtail.

If your dog weighs less than 5 pounds, they might look slightly more delicious to a very hungry bird. While there are some news reports of redtail hawks attacking small dogs, I've so far only been able to find a couple where someone actually claims to have witnessed such a thing. This one was widely reported, but the details reveal that the dog had blunt force trauma and the hawk was seen on the ground, so it's possible he could have been hit by a car before the bird found him, and it may have been defending a nest site. Several other stories involve a dog either disappearing or being found injured without anyone actually seeing a raptor.

At any rate, any sort of report like this inevitably comes with a mention that this is highly unusual. Unlike a small dog being devoured by coyotes or raccoons, a hawk attacking a dog is so unusual it makes the news. Has it happened before? Yes. Is it still bizarre? Definitely.

Owls, on the Other Hand...

disgruntled owl
Photo by Erin Koski
Great Horned Owls will happily eat your tiny dog. They are the apex predator of the skies, weighing as much as four pounds and capable of lifting and flying with three times their own body weight. They are also found all over North America and South America. They are the only natural predator of the skunk, not because they can't smell but because they Do. Not. Care. 

The good news is that Great Horned Owls are crepuscular, meaning they are active primarily at dusk and dawn. They're not particularly crazy about people, either. They generally avoid us unless they are really starving. I either keep my chihuahua inside at twilight, supervise him closely, or send him into an enclosed area with my larger and less delicious dogs to potty. 

Eagles, Too...

Eagles are not normally found in urban or suburban areas. There are rare reports of them grabbing small dogs in rural areas. Very rare. 

What Do I Do About It?

Let's say you have a super tiny dog in a rural area, and you keep seeing raptors. How do you keep your dog safe? I've heard people recommend shooting the birds, which is both illegal and highly ineffective. Seriously, these are birds. They have large territories and they can fly. Getting rid of one raptor just sort of invites more of them to your area, and there's no guarantee the one you eliminate is the one you saw circling overhead the day before.

It's best to just keep an eye on your toy breed dog when they are outside. Period. Really, if your have a three-pound dog, hawks should be the least of your worries. Supervise your wee dog to make sure they aren't stolen, lost, or picked off by a hungry coyote.

Like Seeing a Unicorn

All that said, last week at the sheep ranch, a redtail hawk did take a good look at little Ru. It made a couple of passes less than 30' overhead before departing. Being a good tiny dog owner, Ru was close enough that eating him was not worth the bird's risk. Knowing all of the above information, I was able to just appreciate this unusual encounter with a majestic animal.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Product Review: White Pine Outfitters Soft Slip Collars

Elegant in their simplicity, these Soft Slip Collars are my favorite thing from White Pine Outfitters. The traditional limited slip style is both minimalist and escape-proof* while also being very gentle on the skin and coat. Our collars are 1/2" wide Mini Soft Slips, which come in nine colors including two different shades of pink. Collars are also available in 9/16" and 1" widths. White Pine also offers quick-release buckle collars, two styles of harness, several different leads, grooming nooses, and long lines.
Heelers with limited slip collars
Photo by Erin Koski

Show dog owners favor these collars because they don't usually damage the coat. There is a minimal amount of very light hardware, and the webbing is tubular so it doesn't have any edges to rub or pull hair. Brisbane has very sensitive skin, and these are very easy on his coat.

I think my favorite thing about these collars is how little space there is for the collar to slip. Brisbane is an expert at backing out of collars. I like to adjust his semi-slip collars so they are just tight enough to stay on without choking him when pulled tight. Many escape-proof collars have huge loops or slip sections, and when properly adjusted they hang very loose. These slide between "just big enough to slip over your head" "just small enough to stay on without strangling you". Perfect.

Pros: Soft and gentle on delicate coats. Traditional escape-proof design. Minimalist collar. Easy to slip on, and so light and tiny I sometimes forget they are there. Lots of color and size options. The little skinny ones are a great way to show off a really pretty flat collar while preventing your dog from escaping.

Cons: Must be pulled over the dog's head to get them to, there is no buckle. Dogs with big heads may need the size adjusted after the collar is on. Little skinny collars put a lot of pressure on the neck and should only be used on dogs that know how to walk nicely on leash.

Bottom Line: I primarily use these are herding and agility, where my dogs are mostly off leash but I like to keep a collar on them. The only problem is that Brisbane's tend to get lost in his fluff, and then I assume I removed it and spend ages searching the house and car only to find he's still wearing it.

*Annie can get out of these because Annie can get out of anything.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Two Whole Years!

Today is our second bloggiversary! Brisbane's Bark Blog has been updating almost daily for two whole years now. In that time, we have tested and reviewed over a hundred different pieces of dog gear, placed three foster dogs in adoptive homes, and added one permanent and two part-time resident pups. The dogs and I have moved to a different city, started several new dog sports, and have big plans for this year. Here's a look back at our last 365 days.

Dog Updates

flying dog
Brisbane will be turning 11 years old next month. He is slowly beginning to show signs of age. Though he is often mistaken for a much younger dog, his hip arthritis has gradually gotten worse. We discovered recently that he has fairly severe arthritis in his toes where he was bit by a black widow spider eight years ago. A combination of Rimadyl, Tramadol,and physical therapy keeps him active and happy. 

In the last year, Brisbane has earned two AKC lure coursing titles, a trick dog title, and an AHBA herding title. AKC officially listed him as an Australian cattle dog so we will be able to do AKC herding trials. I am planning to try out dog parkour, barn hunt, and maybe cyber rally with him in the coming year. 

Healthwise, an allergy test revealed that Brisbane is allergic to corn, barley, and sweet potatoes. He has been getting allergy shots and his skin has cleared up beautifully. Unfortunately, the bump that appeared on his face in December has turned out to be cancer. Fortunately, it does not seem to be bothering him yet. Treatment options for this particular type of tumor are very limited, so we're basically just hoping it grows slowly enough to not impact his lifespan much. He's still a very happy dog with a very active lifestyle.

small dog lure coursing
Ru continues to be mostly ornamental. He gets to herd sheep occasionally when the sheep cooperate, and may or may not get eaten by the geese at the sheep ranch. He has been loving California's ongoing endless summer.

Ru's biggest accomplishment this year was his increasing interest in lure coursing. He did an entire fun run all by himself last weekend, so I may end up registering him with the AKC and letting him do Coursing ability Tests. I think his AKC name needs to include the phrase "sparkle motion".

flying dog
Sisci joined us as a temporary foster in August, and I knew right away that she was the dog of my dreams. She has spurred the big shakeup in our lives, and I have no regrets at all about the decision to keep her.

Sisci and I are currently taking our second round of agility classes. She has her Novice Trick Dog title and her first herding title from the AHBA. She is very enthusiastic about the sheep. We've been building our disc skills and I'm hoping to get involved in flyball in the next year or two. Sisci can basically do anything and everything, she is unstoppable and incredible.
Australian stumpy tail cattle dog and heeler mix

Ranger and Annie continue to join us on many of our adventures. Several months ago we decided that they would come join our family when we get set up in our own place.

Ranger loves sheep and herds in a very similar style to Sisci's zoom-in-giant-circles-and-yap method. Annie is always excited for trick training. Sisci has a huge crush on Ranger, who sometimes wishes she would just leave him alone for a while. Annie is a toy-hoarder who specializes in finding forgotten playthings at the bottom of the toybox.

Gear Updates

Mixed breed dog in vehicle
Photo by Erin Koski
Brisbane and Sisci continue to use their SleepyPod Clickit Sport harnesses for most car travel. I recently acquired a size small Ruffwear Load Up harness, as well as two other top-scoring harnesses tested by the Center for Pet Safety.

Brisbane's feet have finally toughened up enough that he no longer needs to wear shoes for anything. His everyday harness is the Balance Harness, while Sisci usually wears the Hurtta Padded Y-Harness. Ru continues to wear his Midnight Pet paracord set.

My favorite piece of gear from the last year is definitely my Stibbar Utility Lead. It's so awesome I'm planning to buy a second one.

What's Next?

Barn hunt, and dog parkour are probably the activities we'll get into next. I'm hoping to be in our own home this summer, and may end up opening my own business. Right now we're spending a whole lot of time on the sheep ranch, and I'm hoping we all improve our herding skills tremendously. The Dog Food Wizard website is not currently being updated because I am busy learning the programming skills I need to further develop it on my own. Once that is in place, the tool should become significantly more usable. 

Thank you for dropping by and celebrating with us! Two years of near-daily updates is quite an accomplishment!