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Our puppy Brewster was born on April 11, 2013, and we took him home on June 21 that year, when he was just 11 weeks old. He’s been such a fun addition to our lives, and he has inspired these stories below. Note that we are just average puppy parents who aren’t trying to give specific advice on dog training, health, etc. (that’s what your vet or trainer is for); these are simply anecdotal stories about our life with a dog in the city.

Cross-Country...with a Dog

IMG_1002Road tripping with a dog is much like road tripping with a child, except that you can leave them alone in a hotel room and you aren’t legally required to seatbelt them into the car. Like kids, dogs also whine, get finicky over food, and keep you from going out in New Orleans until 4 in the morning.

When we first told our friends and family that we were going to spend a month driving across the country on our move from San Francisco to New York, people asked if we were going to bring our dog Brewster. Of course we were going to bring him! What was the alternative – buy him a plane ticket and tell him to meet us in New York a month later?

Besides, he’s part of our little family and we wanted to have him with us on this life-changing transition across the country. Not that he really got much out of it, besides some long naps in the car and permission to sleep on our bed every night. Actually, for him it was probably pretty terrible. We had to swap dry kibble for the delicious raw food that we used to feed him, since it would have been too difficult to manage on the road. We went from San Francisco’s cool and comfortable 65-degree days to the American South’s hot and humid 95-degree days. And his daily routine changed from a run in the park with his dog-walking buddies to amateur-hour fetch with us in hotel rooms.

But he was a good sport overall, holding it in the car as long as he needed to between gas stops, and adjusting quickly to new a new “home” every few nights. Once we figured out the system for leaving him alone in a hotel room (basically, giving him a giant treat as we walk out the door, and building up the amount of time we were away), we were able to go out to eat or explore a museum, and he never barked or had an accident.

Even though he’s a dog, I like to think that he understood on some level that we were making a big life change and wanted him to be there with us every step of the way. He and I exchanged a lot of knowing glances in the car – like…“You ok back there? I know this is weird.” “Yeah, Mom, I’m cool.” “I’m happy you’re here with us. I love you!” “Stop, you’re embarrassing me.”

When we finally made it to New York City, Brewster was rewarded with wet food and we were rewarded with unpacking the car for the last time. Now let’s just hope that we never have to make the reverse trip with a dog AND a child.

Saying " I Do" to Including Your Dog in your Wedding

Brewster in Wedding

Our dog Brewster walking down the aisle with us after we got married

If you feel the same way we do, your dog is like your child. So wouldn’t you want to include him in one of the biggest, happiest day of your lives? When we first polled our Facebook friends to ask if it’s a good idea to include your dog in your wedding, the responses varied from (a) “Yes, we had our dog as our ring-bearer, and it was awesome!” to (b) “Definitely – I regret not including my dog in my wedding!” to (c) “You have officially gone crazy.” Responses like (a) and (b) were from dog owners, and those like (c) were from non-dog owners — so of course they had no idea. And we decided that since we were already crazy when it came to our dog Brewster, we would include him one way or another.

Now we just needed to figure out the best way to involve him that would be ok for him and wouldn’t cause unnecessary stress for us on a day/weekend that might already be pretty stressful. We wanted Brewster to be in pictures with us (which were mostly happening pre-wedding), and also to be in the ceremony somehow. The most popular suggestion was making him our ring bearer, but we already had one: my now-husband’s three-year-old nephew. We thought about having him “stay” at the top of the aisle, then calling him to us; but a 1.5-year-old dog off-leash in a crowd of 100 people stands a slim chance of making it all the way down the aisle without getting distracted or running off to look for food. We also weren’t sure what to do with him while the ceremony was going on — there were suggestions like giving him a chew to work on, or setting up a bed for him so he could just lie down. But we know our dog, and he would be too excited in a situation like this to lie nicely in a bed and chew a chew.

Another question was what to do with Brewster during our wedding weekend. The hotel where we were staying allowed dogs, which was great, but we didn’t want to have to worry about him the whole weekend, while we were going off to events and trying to stay sane. We also needed someone to take care of him during the reception, so we didn’t have a puppy on the loose that we needed to keep an eye on the whole time. We thought about hiring our dog walker to take him for the weekend in San Francisco, then drive him the hour north to our wedding site for pictures and the ceremony, and drive him back afterward. Who knows how much that would have cost, but they weren’t able to do it anyway. We thought what might make more sense would be to have a local dog walker watch him for the nights of the rehearsal dinner and wedding, and then drive him over on the afternoon of the wedding; but we didn’t know any, and we hated the idea of leaving our child — I mean, our dog — with just anybody.

In the end, like many aspects of the wedding, things seemed to miraculously come together at the last minute. Our dog walker knew a local trainer who lived in the town where we were getting married, which we were comfortable with since she was a personal recommendation. We had Brewster stay with us on the Thursday night and Sunday night we were up for the wedding, and the local dog walker took him for the Friday and Saturday nights. She drove him back for photos and the ceremony, and acted as his handler for the time in between. At first, we had thought we could handle him ourselves for those couple hours he’d be with us; but thank goodness we decided that we could use some help instead, because we had no idea how nervous we’d be before the ceremony. Brewster was also very excited to see us, and kept trying to jump up on my dress, which I was desperately trying to keep clean before the ceremony. It was worth every penny to have a handler, and it wasn’t even that much — especially compared to every other cost of the wedding.

As we waited behind the scenes, one of the groomsmen walked Brewster down the aisle with his matching leash and bowtie collar (which also matched all of the groomsmen’s bowties — and yes, we had gotten the dog’s first, and then ordered matching ones for the humans), carrying treats to lure him along. He was supposed to sit near the groomsmen during the ceremony, but once he saw his two parents standing together on the altar, he wanted to be near us and started whining. The dog walker/handler snuck up to grab him, and he sat on the lap of one of our friends who is the mom of his buddy Oliver during the entire ceremony, which made him happy. The rest is something of a blur, but somehow they brought him back up for the recessional, and my husband took his leash, so the three of us walked back down the aisle together. He then showed up at the perfect moment again, when we were taking a few minutes to ourselves post-ceremony and pre-cocktail hour, and getting some beautiful sunset photos. And before we even had a chance to worry about him for a second, the dog walker whisked him back to her home, where he played with her dogs for the rest of the night, and we danced the night away. I couldn’t have planned it any better.

If it’s important for you to include your dog in your wedding, don’t even think twice, and certainly don’t care about what your non-dog-owning friends/family will think. Just figure out what parts you want him to be involved in, and then hire someone to help with the rest. Like including human children in your wedding, it might not go perfectly to plan, but that’s part of what makes it special and memorable. Some of my favorite photos from the day are the ones with us and our fur baby — our little family.

VetPronto to the Rescue

Brewster at the vet

We recently heard about a new in-home vet service called VetPronto. They have an online scheduler to set up appointments (which I love, because I try to avoid the phone whenever possible), and the vet shows up at your home at the arranged time. We got Dr. Hoppe, who was great: she was knowledgeable, warm and friendly, and immediately made our puppy feel at ease.

We had decided to try the service, because our dog had started itching a lot recently — and as responsible dog parents, we didn’t want to take him into the vet in case he had fleas, which can spread easily from dog to dog. We were relieved to find out that he did not in fact have fleas — Dr. Hoppe reassured us that Trifexis, the flea & heartworm medicine he’s on, is SO strong that it doesn’t give fleas a chance to survive. She said that she’d seen a lot of cases of itchy skin recently, and it’s probably just seasonal allergies. She recommended an anti-itch shampoo and skin spray that we could try, and also told us that if we find matts in our pup’s fur, we should cut them out, because they can trap in moisture and dirt, and cause more itching.

While Dr. Hoppe was there, we asked her a few other random questions about food, diet, etc., which she was happy to answer. After the visit, we received an email with our dog’s medical records and all of the info we’d discussed during the visit.

All in all, VetPronto was a very pleasant veterinary experience, and I’d definitely recommend trying it if an in-home vet service could be helpful for you. It costs a little more than an appointment at the vet’s office, but sometimes convenience and time-savings are worth the extra money! I could also see VetPronto being a life saver in certain situations — if, for example:

  • Your pet is too sick to bring him/her to the vet
  • Your pet has a weak immune system and could risk picking something up at the vet
  • Your pet gets squeamish or stressed when going to the vet’s office
  • You have young kids, and it’s too much trouble to round up everyone to get in the car and drive to the vet’s office
  • You don’t have a car, and don’t live close enough to a vet to walk

I only wish that we’d discovered VetPronto before the last set of vaccinations we got our dog, since I’m sure he would have felt more comfortable getting them at home than by a stranger in the back of the vet’s office. Next time!

Save Money on Chews by Ordering in Bulk

best bully sticks

Our dog Brewster has become a voracious chewer. Not of furniture or shoes, fortunately (we trained him out of that early on), but he can go through a 6-inch bully stick in under half an hour. It’s hard to even imagine how he does it, since he’s only 15 pounds and has tiny little teeth. But you give him a chew, with the intention of catching up on emails or cooking dinner while he’s occupied, and 20 minutes later, he’s done and looking to play.

While having to buy new chews is definitely better than having to buy new shoes, it still adds up. At $5-12 per chew, we don’t leave the pet store without spending at least $100, and that’s for a supply that doesn’t even last us a month.

We recently discovered a couple sites online where you can buy chews in bulk at a big discount. Our favorite site so far is Best Bully Sticks, which offers a 25-pack of thick 6-inch low-odor chews for only $54.49, or $2.18 per chew. They have a great variety too, so we can stock up on braided chews, curly bully sticks, bison tendons, pig ears, lamb puffs, duck feet, elk antlers,and more. Brewster loves that we aren’t so stingy with the chews, and we love the cost-savings and convenience. A win-win for humans and dogs!

The Best Way to Board Your Dog

B&D original

We recently planned a two-week vacation, and while we were very excited to get away, there was one big concern: what would we do with our beloved puppy Brewster while we were gone for so long? We checked out a couple boarding facilities, but couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving our fur baby in a strange place with strange people, where he wouldn’t get nearly as much personal attention as he’s used to. At the same time, we couldn’t afford to leave him with our trusted dog walker at $85 per day. We also couldn’t leave him with any friends who work full time and don’t own dogs of their own, because he would need walks and playtime with other dogs during the weekdays. And frankly, we’d be nervous about leaving him with anyone who didn’t have a dog of their own and might not know enough about taking care of a puppy.

We had recently started doing some short-term dog swaps with two of our friends who also own Daisy Dogs, and although we’d only ever sat for each other’s pups for a day or a weekend at a time, they generously offered to take Brewster for the whole two weeks we’d be gone. In return, we agreed to take their dogs when they would be away later in the summer, which felt like a nice give and take. They worked out Brewster’s schedule between them, and the friend who took him on weekdays had been thinking about starting her dog at a new daycare facility near her work, so she just took Brewster along too. It was even a benefit for her to have Brewster at that time to help transition her more sensitive pup to the new facility: he got to start out with a friend for the first two weeks while he got used to the place, which made him more comfortable going on his own after that.

It was so reassuring to know that our pup was in such good hands while we were away (and that we didn’t have to go broke to make that happen). Not only do these two friends have first-hand knowledge on how to take care of a puppy, but Brewster also had a buddy to play with and keep him company the whole time he was away from home. He even had a minor health issue while we were gone, which our friends handled with the vet and kept an eye on until he got all better. And of course, the photo updates our friends sent every few days kept us going until we were able to see our little guy again.

So if you have any friends with dogs who are up for trying dog swaps, this is a great and cost-effective way to be able to leave your dog when you go out of town. It will save you a ton of money, your baby will be in good hands, and — despite forming a nice attachment with your friend — they will still be incredibly excited to see you when you return home.

First Day of School

puppy pileDropping my puppy off at a new doggie daycare for the first time, I felt like a mother dropping her kid off at a new school. Will he like it here? Will the other dogs be nice to him? Will he make some new friends? Dogs can be just as shy and sensitive as kids in a new situation. Our puppy Brewster normally warms up to new people and new dogs quickly, but he can get a little nervous at first, and this was the first time we were sending him to a different daycare than the one he’d been going to since we first got him at 11 weeks old.

Just like a good parent, I went to check out a couple different doggie daycares that I’d heard about, before making a decision. I took a tour of each facility and tried to imagine how my dog would like it. I’m so glad that I did my due diligence, because these two places were night and day, and I left one feeling seriously depressed. It’s not enough just to find a place for your dog to go during the day while you’re working or away; you have to find a place that he will want to go, and that you feel comfortable with too. Some dogs may have done fine in the first facility I visited, but knowing my dog, it would have stifled his playful personality and left him feeling neglected. I also would have been more worried about him, wondering if he was getting enough play time and attention. The second place I visited seemed much more suited to him, and I felt confident that it would be a place he’d enjoy going, especially once he made some friends.

Doggie daycare and boarding facilities can be very different from one another, so it’s important to check for a few things, and decide which is right for your dog:

  • How much square footage of play area does the facility offer?
  • Do they use kennels, or is it a cage-free facility?
  • Is there an outdoor area where they get to play on a regular basis, or is it indoors only?
  • Are there play structures, or is it just an empty space?
  • How do they organize the dog groups? (size, temperament, age, etc.)
  • How do they handle aggressive or bullying dogs?
  • Is the day structured in any way, or do the dogs stay in the same place all day?
  • Are the dogs ever taken out on walks? If so, how many dogs does the walker handle at one time, and where are they walked?
  • What is the staff to dog ratio? Do they learn all of the dogs’ names? Do they play with the dogs or just supervise them?
  • Is any basic training done with the dogs while they’re at daycare (like recall)?
  • Do the staff members come from a dog/animal background (e.g., trainer, vet assistant), or were they just trained to work there?
  • Is the staff trained in canine CPR or First Aid? Do they have an on-site veterinarian or an association with a nearby vet in case of emergency?
  • Do they require vaccination/health records? Do they do a temperament evaluation before accepting a dog?
  • If you board your dog overnight, where will he sleep? What will he eat? Can you bring your own food?
  • What does the daycare price include? Are there any add-on services?

Those are just a few of the questions you should be asking when evaluating a new daycare or boarding facility for your dog, so you can decide what type of environment will be right for him. It’s also a good idea to do some research ahead of time, including looking up information on the facility’s website and reading Yelp reviews. At the end of the day, a happy dog makes a happy dog parent, and your dog will thank you for taking such good care of him!

Our Fur Baby

baby brew with whale

I went to a baby shower for our dog walker recently, and caught up with two of my friends there who also own Daisy Dogs. We stood around for at least an hour sharing stories about the cute and quirky things our pups do, exchanging training tips, and talking about how having a puppy has changed our lives. It was like we were new moms talking about our toddlers, and in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the exact conversations among my friends who have kids, but with a few of the terms swapped.

Until you have human kids, these furry little creatures really are like your babies. You love them more than you can imagine, you take delight in their learning new skills or making new discoveries, you love finding ways to make them happy, and you find YOUR dog to be the cutest thing that’s ever lived. Even though we’ve had our puppy Brewster for almost a year now, I still say at least once per day (ok maybe more like 3-5 times per day) that I just can’t believe how adorable he is, and my fiancé and I both talk to him as though he’s a little person who just might be able to understand us. We do want to have real kids someday, but Brewster will always be our first child, and he will always have a very special place in my heart.

 

The Cone of Shame

Brewster with cone in car

Our puppy Brewster recently got what’s called a “hot spot”. I was petting him one evening and felt something hard on his neck up near his ear, which I figured was either a scab or a piece of hard candy that got stuck deep in his fur (not inconceivable since he rolls around on the ground every chance he gets!). We took him to the vet, and they called it a “hot spot”, which is when a dog has an itchy spot and scratches it until the skin breaks (and then some), causing it to get infected and scab over. The vet had to remove the scab, shave the skin, and put an antiseptic on it, and our orders were to keep it dry and keep him from scratching it until it heals — neither of which is a small feat for a puppy. The poor little guy was sentenced to wear the cone of shame for several days, which made him downright depressed. He moped about the house for the rest of the day, giving us the death stare from the corner of the room. He wouldn’t even let us get near him with the antiseptic spray, and kept trying to scratch around the cone.

To cheer him up, we took him to Bartholomew Park Winery the next day, which is a great dog-friendly spot up in Sonoma. As he started playing outside in the sunshine, he started forgetting that the cone was on his head, and he was back to his usual playful puppy self — running around, wrestling with other dogs, and finding sticks to chew on. He even tried his first-ever hike, and bounded up the trails like a total natural despite having a giant blue cone on his head.

But when we got back home, he remembered he was injured and got depressed again. It was another full day before he started acting like himself. Two things that might have helped were: (1) We swapped the cone for the Kong Cloud inflatable collar, which seemed to be more comfortable for him and allowed him to see better; and (2) Our trainer gave us some natural hot spot oil by San Francisco Raw, which seemed more soothing and less stinging than the antiseptic spray given to us by the vet. We still can’t wait until our baby feels all better, since it’s torture to see these helpless little creatures in pain, but it’s great to see him at least at 80% just a couple of days later.

The Perfect Place to Chew

Brewster chew

You know when you buy a new book, and you can’t wait to sit down and read it in the perfect spot? That must be how a dog feels when he gets a new chew. Our puppy Brewster goes through a hilarious set of actions when you hold out the new chew to him. He sniffs it, then takes it in his mouth with a look of pure glee, and runs off with his ears back and tail wagging to find the perfect place to chew it. But what is the perfect place? First, he tries his dog bed, then the couch, then runs up to the stairs to see if there’s a better spot, then back down the stairs when he realizes no one followed him. Then he stands around with the chew in his mouth whimpering a little, and looking around with crazed eyes, as his little doggy brain churns with deep philosophical thoughts about what makes the perfect chew spot. Then he realizes that the answer has been within him all along, and he settles down on the couch with a sigh of relief. Finally content, he begins to chew his little puppy heart out.

Product Review: Tagg

tagg-pet-tracker

We just got our new Tagg GPS Pet Tracker in the mail, and I was going to do a product review on it, but unfortunately we’re going to have to send it back. I didn’t realize how large the device is; I was expecting it to be more, well, tag-sized. On the website, there were no indications of size that I could find, and they call it “lightweight”, indicating that it fits on any dog’s collar — they even show it on a cat, which seems absurd, having seen how large this thing is. Our dog Brewster is about 15 pounds, and when I attached the device to his collar, it just seemed like it would be too much for him to lug around all day, and would be uncomfortable when sleeping or lazing about.*

So back it goes. I had heard good things about Tagg, and I’m sure it’s a great product, but from what I’ve seen, I would not recommend it for small dogs. I’m going to keep my eye out for a device that works in a similar way but is smaller. Tagg basically tracks the GPS location of your dog, so you always know where he is, and you can also set perimeter boundaries to get alerts when your pet goes outside of the designated areas (probably more appropriate for people who live in suburban or rural areas, where there is more room to roam). Tagg also keeps track of how much exercise your dog is getting, so you know if you need to step things up.

We never would have thought to get a GPS for our dog, until our friend’s dog got lost in a random incident. Fortunately, he was found safe and sound, but for two days we helped them search aimlessly around the area that he was last seen, since we had no idea where he could be. It seems unlikely that our dog would get lost or run away, since he is a people pup and loves to stick close to us, but I’m a worrier, so I like the idea of at least being able to locate him if he does.

*To Tagg’s credit, the customer service was great — I called and asked to return it, and was sent a prepaid UPS shipping label via email, with a full refund to my credit card coming within 5-10 days of receipt of the package.