Category Archives: Op-Ed

4 Reasons My Dog is a Feminist . . .

And the One Reason She’s Just Awesome.

  1. She is confident. Beyond confident. She struts up and down the streets while we’re on walks as confident as can be. (I’m pretty sure it’s her new Freedom No-Pull Harness she’s showing off, but who cares? I’ll take it!) She always has that Pit Bull smile ready for those she meets and decides to fold into her favor. She is a force of happy, confident nature that just wants to be shared with the world, as long as the world understands she also needs her space. Hey, everybody’s got a personal bubble!
  2. She is a trailblazer. Rosee is brave and knocks through barriers like they are made of air (even when those barriers are made of my legs and she’s got a hard head!). She is not afraid to remake the world in her image and try to make it a more accepting and lovable place. She makes mistakes and sometimes goes overboard (with her barking), but she is always ready to learn, mature, and grow from her experiences.
  3. She shuts down objectification. Literally. When someone, anyone, stares at her, directly into her eyes for too long, Rosee lets them know it’s not okay. She barks at them, telling them in her own doggy language to stare at something else, as she is no show to be watched or puppet to be made to perform. She is a dog that knows she is not an object to just be looked at and used! She has feelings and emotions (sometimes very loud emotions), and you had better pay attention to more than just her coat color. She is a dog, a Pit Bull—one put on this earth to enjoy life and share her happiness with others, but only if you don’t stare too long.
  4. She will bark at you regardless of who or what you are. She does not discriminate. She dislikes all people, animals, and leaves that make their way onto her front lawn. She does not care for any car that parks in front of her house that does not belong to her humans. She’s all about fairness and equality when it comes to letting people know of her displeasure with their actions. (Even her own humans when they are too slow with the feeding!)

And finally:

  1. She is a Pit Bull. Yes, that’s right. Rosee is awesome because she is a Pit Bull. She has that wide, happy smile. She has that muscular body. She has ears that go up when she hears interesting sounds, and stay up even when she sleeps. She snores louder than the men in the family when she is asleep, drowning out their snores by decibels! She likes her space to spread out in the sun. She loves to cuddle with blankets on the couch when it’s cold. She is Rosee and she is awesome. (And Simon’s okay too, she guesses.)

Expectations, 4th Birthdays, and Halloween!

The other day as I was perusing my newsfeed I came across a story written about a pit bull named Meli. The author, Katie Crank, shared the four things she “wish[ed] I knew before loving-and losing-a pit bull.” When I first read the title of this story, I thought for sure I knew what was going to happen: a person who maybe didn’t know much about pit bulls or more or less believed in the negative stereotypes adopted one and suddenly their mind would be changed for the better about these dogs. Yet, when I actually read this story I got so much more.

You see, Simon has been an easier dog to have, and it’s mainly because we’ve had him since he was a puppy. That’s not to say that adopting an older dog is a bad thing, it’s just easy with Simon because we know all of his issues. Adopting him so young allowed us to do our best to socialize him, put him in training right away, and just get him used to things from an early age. With Rosee, things have been a real learning process. We had to learn what makes her tick, if you will. I’m not going to lie either, Rosee has had her issues. She’s not very trusting of strangers, can be reactive to certain types of other dogs, and likes her personal space.

As I was reading about Crank and her time with Meli I honestly felt as if someone was finally articulating everything I’ve learned with and about Rosee, but have never really said out loud. For instance, as Crank explains there are so many things we, as human owners, believe that our dogs need to be able to do. They need to behave and walk nicely on a leash, be able to get along with other dogs, and general be social beings, just to name a few. However, our expectations of dogs aren’t always right for them. Some dogs aren’t necessarily very social, and that’s okay. As Crank writes, “it is absolutely ok for her [Meli] to say no.” (when it comes to not wanting to meet some dongs she may pass by) Dogs each have their own personalities, and much like humans not all are social creatures. Really, why should I expect my dog to be the most outgoing animal on the planet, when I myself am not always in the mood to interact with others? The point being that our dogs (pit bull or not, large or small, furry or bald) all have something they can teach us as long as we’re willing to pay attention.

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Rosee may not be the “perfect” dog, but she is a loving dog who has taught me the fine art of cuddling, she often reminds me to let my voice be heard (even if I have to bark), to not worry so much about what other people think, and to be confident in everything I do. My family may have been the ones that adopted Rosee, but I know that she owns us. So much of what Crank wrote really struck a chord with me, and it was not just because it was about pit bulls. Rosee came into my family’s life at a time when we weren’t really even looking for another dog. Honestly, Simon was more than enough, and yet she gave us everything we didn’t know we needed. It feels like we’ve had Rosee forever. I can’t imagine a time when we didn’t have her. I mean, seriously, what did I do with myself in the days pre-Rosee?

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Especially, this past year with a broken toe and a subsequent 8 weeks in a leg cast, an extreme case of hives, and everything in between, it’s amazing learning exactly how resilient Rosee and the rest of us truly are.

So, Happy 4th Birthday Rosee and here’s to many more years of doggie escapades!

And to everyone else, all of us here at Play Hard, Bark Often wish you a frightfully fun (and safe) Halloween!

What’s in a Size?

I recently came upon an article entitled Dog Given Up For Being “Too Big” Gets New Life, New Job. It was a story about Lupine, a dog from Arizona, who was given over shelter for being too big, and she subsequently has become an ambassador for large dogs. When I first saw this article I have to admit I wasn’t surprised. It’s really a sad day when I find that I’m not surprised over another inane reason someone uses to justify giving up their dog. Yet, when I read this article it really struck a chord with me because I could relate. Of course, I’m not saying that I could relate to deciding to give up my dog because she or he got too big, but I can definitely understand having a dog that grows much bigger than was initially anticipated.

You see, as a newly rescued puppy my mom and stepdad took Simon to his very first veterinarian’s appointment and was told that he would probably be about 40 to 50 pounds fully grown. Now, I know this was an educated guess since he was part of a litter of stray puppies that was abandoned at one of our local firehouses. No one knew what kind of breed or rather breeds he was, and any guess we made never seemed to fit him quite right. However, whenever we took him anywhere anybody that saw him swore up, down and sideways that he was a pit bull, and for a long time we too simply thought he was a pit bull as well.

Weeelllll….as you can tell from pictures of a more adult Simon he pretty much turned into a mystery of a dog. Don’t get me wrong, he does seem to have some pit bull in him, but personality/behavior-wise we also think he might have some labrador or boxer mixed in (or maybe even dalmatian, especially given all the spots he has on his stomach and legs). Particularly, given his coloring most people these days ask us if he’s a boxer-mix. Still, he ended up turning out a lot bigger than we originally thought he would be. Instead of only being about 40 to 50 pounds, he ended up weighing in at about 75 pounds fully grown. iUnexpected Twist!

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Size Simon was supposed to be.

 

Seriously, talk about having a dog that ended up being “too big.” Plus, along with weighing 25 pounds more than we thought, he also grew about six inches taller and a bunch more inches longer than we thought he would get as well. Yet, I can’t imagine Simon being any other way. His big and tall appearance is an essential part of him (no kidding, I know). While there are some instances I don’t like his size—like when he can reach some food left out on the counter because of his long legs and tall stature. However, his size can also make it easier for him to reach my cheek to give me a kiss.

Now, here’s what I’ve discovered from being owned by “too big” of a dog: a dog is a dog whether big or small. All dogs need exercise, both mental and physical. All dogs deserve to be walked, and have play time, and most importantly they deserve to have people that love them. Most importantly, a dog is only as well-behaved as its owner encourages. Sure, perhaps a smaller dog can’t do as much damage at one time, but they can still cause damage, be unruly and poorly behaved, and even aggressive. For instance, I have these neighbors that many years ago had two bigger dogs (about 60 pounds each) and due to lack of training, socialization, and just plain interest from their owners they just weren’t nice dogs. They were scared of people, didn’t react well to anyone, and were basically almost always left out in the backyard. Fast forward to present day and these same neighbors now have two small dogs that are exactly the same as those previous bigger dogs behavior-wise. So, what’s the common factor here you might ask? The owners. It’s the owners. Bad owners=poorly behaved dogs, no matter what size they turn out to be. Of course, a bigger dog does take up more space (or maybe they’re just a bigger lap dog), and consume more food (or perhaps they’re great French fries sharers, if that makes sense), but I can’t say there’s much of a difference between having a 50 pound dog versus a 75 pound one. Big or small a dog has so much love and companionship to give. All they need is someone to give it to and it seems that Lupine ended up with exactly the right people for her.

So here’re two paws (one from Simon, and one from Rosee) up to all you “too big” dogs out there.

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Let’s just say your size means you have even more love to go around.

National Dog Week!

I just found out that this week is National Dog Week.

Officially it started on September 18th and dates all the way back to 1928.

So, in honor of this very important week, I thought I would share what I love about being owned by dogs.

1.They always know how to turn a frown upside down

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2. They’r’e good at appreciating the little things

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Rosee and a fly.

3. They understand the true meaning of cruisin’

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4.They never let me forget who’s the queen of this castle

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5.They’re too smart for their own good sometimes

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Believe it or not they did this all by themselves!

6. They’re good at putting up with their humans’ ridiculousness…no matter how many costumes we put them in

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Don’t forget to share what you love about your dog or dogs in celebration of National Dog Week!

 

#SmilingDog

I have to say something.

Some may understand. Some may not agree.

Yet, I have to say something.

The story of Diggy is both sad and upsetting. If you haven’t heard, though it seems to be everywhere on my newsfeed, Diggy is a dog whose picture went viral due to his smiling face. Due to the popularity of his picture local authorities took note and threatened to take him away from his brand new home because he looks like a Pit Bull and the area that he lives in has Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Despite numerous pleas that Diggy is not a Pit Bull at all, but in fact an American Bulldog mix, and has a DNA test to prove it, his fate is kind of unknown.

Now, I’m glad that Diggy’s story has garnered so much attention. His ordeal has provided the chance to bring some much needed attention to the unfairness that is BSL. People have been given the opportunity to see just how damaging BSL is to families and how it kills dogs simply due to what they look like. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happened. Instead, of opening up a larger discussion on BSL, the focus has been kept on this one dog. The problem is that even saving this one dog from being a victim of BSL does not actually address the root issue: BSL.

I’m not going to lie, of course, and say that I don’t have a personal opinion on BSL because as the owner of a Pit Bull how could I not. I love my dog and I don’t like anything that targets my dog based on stereotypes.

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#smilingdog

Still, my logical brain doesn’t agree with BSL simply because it’s inherently unfair and biased. My understanding of BSL from what I’ve read (which can differ from area to area) is that it is based on a checklist and features that Pit Bulls typically have. If your dog fits within any of those parameters, then your dog could be apprehended. The main problem I have with BSL is that it is meant to target a specific breed of dog, yet a “Pit Bull” is not an officially recognized breed of dog. There is the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog, which are commonly all labeled under the nickname of “Pit Bull.” It doesn’t mean anything. It’s almost synonymous these days with calling a dog a “mutt” or a “mixed breed.” If people aren’t sure what type of breed a dog is, then they just seem to label it as a Pit Bull. For reals, I have read plenty of stories about dogs that clearly looked nothing like a Pit Bull, yet they were labeled as such in the article. I mean honestly, how could a tall, skinny dog with a Golden Retriever-like coat be labeled a Pit Bull at all? Even more upsetting is that BSL is based on stereotypes. Am I denying that people that have been bitten by bully breeds are lying? Absolutely not! However, why should all dogs suffer as a result? Do we still believe that all poorer people are lazy? All Jewish people are cheap? All Hispanics are Mexicans and immigrants? All women “asked for it”? No, because we know stereotypes are just that; stereotypes.

Last night as I perused my newsfeed I came across two articles about Diggy. One was a report on the fact that a veterinarian had run a DNA test on him and confirmed that he is an American Bulldog. The other was from Woman’s Day magazine and the tagline stated that the reason Diggy was in danger of losing his forever home was “absurd.”

Give me a moment…

Of course, it’s absurd! It’s absurd that a dog may lose a home just because of what he/she looks like. It’s absurd that a girl was in danger of losing her therapy animal, which was a Pit Bull, because of what he looked like. It’s absurd that a long-haul truck driver lost his dog because he dared to have a heart attack while he was passing through a town that had BSL in effect. It’s absurd that people choose to live in their cars in order to keep their dogs, or spend an enormous amount of money keeping their dogs in kennels because they aren’t allowed to keep them where they live. It’s all absurd. These dogs have never done anything wrong. They have loving homes and great owners, but are suddenly in danger of losing their lives anyways.

Furthermore, the fact that one of the main arguments people have used in favor of freeing Diggy is to say that he is an American Bulldog really displays just how little understanding there is about BSL. Bully breeds are usually what BSL targets with Pit Bulls being the main bullseye, and if it walks like a Pit Bull and talks like Pit Bull, then it surely must be a Pit Bull. Still, proving Diggy is not a Pit Bull doesn’t explain why it’s not okay for him to lose his home. It doesn’t address why he deserves to stay.

I guess the point of this post is to say that Diggy, the smiling dog, is not alone. BSL affects more than just this one dog and more than just this one family. When did we condone blanket punishments based on a biased and unclear stereotype? Let’s talk about the larger havoc that BSL wreaks, raise awareness about it, and see if we can find better ways to stop all dog attacks. (*cough*leash laws*cough*) I want owners who have misbehaving or dangerous dogs to have to take responsibility for their inability to be responsible owners. Do I enjoy getting attacked by the same Chihuahua every time I walk my dog and have it bite Simon’s face? NO! Is it okay that I’ve complained three times about this dog and yet it still gets to run around loose without supervision? NO! Yet, there are laws in place for dogs like mine who have never done anything, but look a certain way.

Sadly, Diggy’s story isn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last dog affected by BSL.  So, please, support Diggy, but not just because he’s a cute, smiley dog who deserves his forever home. Support his case because you don’t agree with BSL and want to give a voice to the many other dogs that fall victim to this policy.

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#smilingdog

Easter Egg Hunt Update

So, this past Saturday was the day of the Easter Egg Hunt put on by Wag in Sacramento. We’ve been looking forward to this event for a while, as my previous post can attest to, and both pups were super excited.  The sun was shining despite the previous week being mostly rain, the birds were chirping, and the squirrels were out in abundance.

It was, to be totally and completely honest, disappointing…really disappointing actually. The only thing that saved the event from being an utter disappointment was the fact that one of the vendors had a game set up for dogs and Simon and Rosee both won a Nylabone DuraChew.

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Initially, walking through the park towards the event there was lots to look at. There were multiple vendors and even an area set-up to take photos with the Easter bunny.

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We arrived a little early (to make sure we got parking) and after checking-in wandered around the park for a while. Now, the actual park was pretty spectacular. It’s huge, covering about three or four blocks wide with tennis courts, basketball courts, a kids’ area, a rose garden and even a duck pond. Of course, we couldn’t walk too close to the pond because Simon and Rosee would’ve wanted to go for a swim.

However, even the setting couldn’t save the disappointment that was the Easter egg hunt. From the outset, I was a little disappointed because the bag you received when checking-in was just that, a bag. Usually, in the bag there is a bunch of coupons for various pet-related stuff, samples of treats, flyers for other businesses, and (of course) a container with waste bags. Yet, this year all that was in the bag was the requisite container of waste bags and a card with the rules for the egg hunt—rules that no one followed by the way. So, yeah, I was kind of let down by that. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of my disappointment.

The actual Easter egg hunt was the most disappointing part of the whole event, which was particularly upsetting since that was the whole reason we went to the event in the first place. The main issue was that the space for the hunt was just too small. There were at least 100 dogs there and the field for the eggs was only about 15ft by 15ft.

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When I first saw the space marked out I was kind of confused because it seemed so small. I didn’t know how everyone in attendance was going to fit, and the thing was not everyone did. According to the card with the egg hunt’s rules each dog should have gotten 15 eggs and that there were 1000 eggs out on the field, but that was not nearly enough eggs for each dog to get 15 eggs. I think Simon only got about six eggs and Rosee maybe got about seven or eight.

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To make matters worse, any time Rosee would crack open an egg to get to the treat inside a bunch of little dogs that were nearby would run over and try to steal her treat. Now, Rosee did not react when the little dogs did this, but I could only imagine that some dogs would not enjoy giving up their hard-earned treats. It just boggles my mind why the event organizers would think this set-up was a good idea. Especially because along with being a pet hotel and daycare, Wag has a pretty significant dog training department. In fact, I have long sung the praises of the Wag trainers to anyone who would listen. I pretty much have thought they were the *bees knees* and yet after this event I’m not so sure that I can honestly say that anymore. I feel that trainers should know better than to put a bunch of dogs who don’t know each other that close together when there’s a lot of food around.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset about spending the money because all the profits went to a good cause. Yet, I can’t help thinking that I could have saved my gas, and made a donation directly to the benefiting organization. At least that way I could have gotten a tax write off.—That sounded pretty cynical, didn’t it?—I don’t mean to be cynical. It’s just the event turned out to be very different than what I thought it would be, and what it has been in the past.  Still, we did get to see some neat stuff from the vendors and the pups even got to try dog treats made with crickets.

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In an eggshell (*see what I did there*), I’m not sure we will be attending the Easter egg hunt next year. We’ll probably just stick to have our own Easter egg hunt in our own yard. However, let’s hope that for the others that will attend the event organizers put more thought into the set-up of the egg hunt.

Tips for Having the Most Adorabull Holiday Photo

The holidays are upon us!  The decorations have been put up both inside and out, the presents have been bought and wrapped (although not put under the tree since Rosee happens to like ribbon and tissue paper), and the tamales and other sweet treats have been happily eaten.  Lastly and certainly not least however, the holiday cards have been mailed.

Truth be told I have never been great with sending holiday cards out every year. Don’t get me wrong, I always make plans to send out cards. I even buy them early, and tell myself that I’m not going to forget. Yet, when the time finally comes…I forget.

Although, since Simon and Rosee have come along holiday cards have become a must when the holidays come around. It’s pretty much due to the fact that I enjoy sending out holiday cards with a family photo that includes both dogs.

I love including the dogs in our annual family photo for our holiday card, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to actually take the photo. With people it’s easy to take a picture (or perhaps just easier since my stepdad always manages to have a weird look on his face). Yet, with dogs the picture taking process can much more challenging. It can be somewhat of a chore to position them, it can be difficult to get them to stay for long periods of time, and it is definitely not easy to get them to actually look at the direction of the camera.

So, here are a few tips I’ve learned that can be helpful when it comes to taking an adorabull holiday photo.

Sit, Stay, Focus!—In order to have a fabulous photo it helps if your dog has a strong understanding of these three commands, but “lay down” can also be substituted for “sit.” “Sit”/ “lay down” are helpful to use when you first position your dog. Some people may try more interesting poses. For instance, this year I tried to get Simon to stand up with his front paws on a hay bale, which did work, but took a little more time and patience to get him to do it and hold it for the picture. If your dog has a good grasp of “sit” or “lay down” though, then it is much easier to direct them to stay while you wait for the camera to snap a picture. My family uses a timer on the camera to take the picture so it’s a must for Rosee and Simon to know “stay.” Furthermore, “focus” is a good command to have knowledge of since it helps you direct your dog’s attention to where you want them to look. Typically, this command is used to help your dog learn how to maintain eye contact with their person. Fortunately though, I have found that it can come in handy when trying to get both dogs to look in the direction of the camera for a festive photo.  Usually we leave a treat next to the camera and tell Simon and Rosee to “focus” then simply wait for the flash.

Lighting—The lighting of your photo is one of the most important things to consider. No, really, I mean it. Really. I would recommend using natural light. That can mean either taking a photo outside, such as in your backyard, front yard, or perhaps another outdoor space, or just taking a photo during the day as opposed to at night. I would caution, however, not taking a picture right in front of an open window during the day because usually the window will cause a glare. Similarly, try to avoid having direct lighting in the photo such as a lamp because you’ll have the same issue.

Keep Things Simple—Holiday photos are pretty fun to take, at least in my opinion. I enjoy setting the scene, coordinating outfits, and generally putting things together. After much practice I have come to the realization that simpler is best. Sure, it’s fun to dress up your dog in a pawsitively adorabull outfit that will have others oohing and aahing. However, if your dog’s not used to wearing those pawsitively adorabull outfits or just plain doesn’t tolerate them, which (much to my dismay) Rosee and Simon enjoy ripping off of each other, then it’s probably best to forego the outfits. Instead, simply dress your dog is a holiday themed bandana, bowtie, tie, or headpiece. Also, it can be helpful to let your dog get used to wearing whatever you plan on them wearing ahead of time. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a couple times a day. Next, keep the poses natural. For instance, if your dog is used to sitting in your lap, then let them. If they’re more comfortable sitting, then have them sit. Finally, don’t have an overly complicated background. It’s probably easiest to keep the setting in a comfortable and familiar space. That way it can be easier for them to stay focused, rather than trying to smell or watch everything going on around them. Of course, simple doesn’t mean it can’t be holiday inspired. In fact, my family’s own holiday card was fall inspired and everyone wore either a black or orange shirt to go with the pumpkins we had gathered in one corner.

Treats, Treats, Treats!—The use of treats can be helpful when trying to get your dog to do what you want them to do. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve found that treats are most helpful when getting Simon and Rosee to “focus” on the camera. However, treats are also pretty helpful when first getting them in position. For most dogs treats provide the proper motivation, and treats can really take on any form. They can be food like pieces of fruit, vegetables or plain old dog treats. Otherwise, they can be special toys. Although, if your dog is an excellent sniffer, then I wouldn’t recommend keeping any food treats in your pocket while you pose next to your dog because they will most likely try to get into your pocket instead of “focus” on the camera.

Give Yourself Time—Taking a good holiday photo really can’t be rushed. It’s a process that is going to take time. The important thing to remember is to actually take the time. Dogs aren’t always easy to work with, and it may take a few tries to get them to cooperate with what you want. It might also help if you tire your dog out a little beforehand by playing fetch or something. Just so that they are a little more compliant and some excess energy is burned off. Most importantly: Don’t get frustrated. Instead, try going with the flow (if you will). The photo may not necessarily turn out the exact way you pictured, but in the end it might actually turn out even better.

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   Happy Pawlidays!