Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Newfie vs. Rottweiler

Thatcher and cousin Blaise (my sister's dog) have become pretty even-matched competitors in the game "fetch". Newfies are not known for their speed, and Blaise is a petite, agile Rottweiler. She's quick like a cheetah and can outrun Thatcher nine times out of ten. But Thatcher has one strength that Blaise lacks - he watches where you are throwing the ball. Blaise gets so excited with the anticipation of the chase that she forgets to keep an eye out on what direction you're launching the ball in. She usually sprints ahead, then remembers to look for the ball. Thatcher, on the other hand, holds off on his full gallop until he sees which way your arm is pointing towards. The ironic part is that unless both dogs are chasing the ball, neither is. Whenever I try playing fetch with Thatcher alone, or even Thatcher and Boden together, he gets bored after a few tosses. Thatcher and Blaise thrive on trying to beat each other, and can keep going dozens of times when together. Poor Boden is neither fast enough or focused enough to stand a chance with either of the older dogs, so we play a little game of mini-fetch with him on the side between tosses for Thatcher and Blaise.

The aftermath

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Yoga at your own risk

On weeknights it can be so difficult to find time to go to the gym. I usually rush out of work and head home right away, to where the dogs are usually pretending they've had an even rougher day than me. I hate leaving them to go work out after I've already been gone all day, but I also need to do something after sitting in front of a computer all day. So to tackle this dilemma, my sister and I decided to try out a home yoga dvd. Yoga is all about relaxation and meditation. We knew in order to get any quiet time, we've have wear the dogs out first. After work, we took the Newfies and her Rottweiler for a swim in our pool to get some energy out. We always throw the ball all the way across the pool and make Thatcher and Blaise take turns bringing it back. Blaise used to be able to keep going much longer than Thatcher, but Thatch has been getting back in shape with this new form of exercise. He's been bouncier, happier and has much more endurance. We've been counting how many times they each go after the ball, and tend to lose track around 25. Boden will fetch a couple of times in the shallow end, but doesn't enjoy swimming far distances. Instead, he prefers to sit on the pool ledge and watch the other two. So after they finally got tuckered out of swimming, we went inside to set up for our yoga time.

Because Boden's front leg is still bothering him and he's gimping around, we allowed him to stay in the room with us while we did yoga. We can't leave him and Blaise alone unsupervised because their wrestling gets pretty wild, and I don't want Boden's leg getting worse. We gave Blaise and Thatcher bones and blocked them out of the room with a baby gate. With all the dogs seemingly settled down, we started the dvd and tried to get into the zone. We got about two minutes in, when Blaise started whining outside the door. We told her to hush and pressed on with our "relaxing" flow. She then proceeded to cry for the entire 40 minutes. Nothing would stop her. Every 30 seconds or so, we would just hear this sad, pathetic crying. And that's just what was happening outside the room. Mr. Boden thought my yoga mat was placed on the floor for specifically for him. He kept rolling around happily, right under my legs, forcing me to awkwardly stretch around him and fight for my balance. At times he would playfully bite my hands or ankles, assuming that I was on the floor just to entertain him. So I can't quite say our yoga practice was a success, but at least we have plenty of room for improvement. Making through five minutes without having to scold a dog would be a good start. Until next time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Grass in the desert

With monsoon season and the little bouts of rain we've been getting, something delightful has happened in our backyard: a tiny section of grass sprouted up. It's scraggly and thin, but it is a definite greenish patch of grass. I thought the Newfies would appreciate it more than I do, but they just keep going over and chomping away at it. They seriously will not stop eating it. I can't understand why they want to eat such a precious commodity. I would love to plant grass in our whole backyard, but it's so dry that it would likely quadruple our water bill to try and keep the grass watered. For now, we'll just have to settle for the sad little patch we have that we're stuck sharing with every single insect in the yard.

That's basically all the excitement around here except for yet another health concern with the Newfies - this time Boden. Last Friday I came home from work and Boden was limping pretty badly. I felt his leg, from his shoulder to his paw, and can't seem to find where the pain is coming from. He's pretty clumsy, especially with the slippery tile in our house, so I decided to wait it out a couple of days and see if it improves. In the meantime, I've been excluding him from our daily walks. I have to admit, walking just Thatcher is so much easier than walking both dogs at the same time. He just happily meanders alongside of me, content to be an only dog for these 20 minute outings. Boden is a mess when we have to leave him behind, but I don't want to risk making his leg worse. I'm giving it another couple of days, but I've scheduled a vet appointment for later this week just in case. Once again, I find myself wondering how people with kids do it. Every time I get one dog all taken care of, something happens to the next!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crazy cousin Blaise

Since moving to AZ, the Newfies have gotten to spend a ton of time with Blaise, my sister's Rottweiler. Although they get along pretty well, she is definitely a different breed from Thatcher and Boden. Where they are mellow and slow-moving, she is spunky and tightly-wound. We always joke that she is Tigger and they are Eeyores. Blaise has endless energy, so as hard as they try, my boys can't keep up with her for too long. One area she really shows them up in is the pool. Thatcher and Boden prefer to glide into the water and swim gracefully so they don't get splashed. Blaise is a jumper and will fly half-way across the pool to get at whatever toy is thrown. We have to make all the dogs take turn when playing fetch in the pool, otherwise the Newifes don't stand a chance. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Water woes

Monsoon season plus a pool in our backyard equals a house that cannot stay clean. We've been getting rainstorms every few days, so with the combination of the Newfies swimming and playing in the wet yard, they track water and mud in every time they step back inside. One of their favorite activities seems to be hopping in the pool then rolling around in the dirt. And since they get wet so often, they shed even more than usual, which leads to giant tufts of fur all over the tile floors in the house. Not to mention the wet imprints they leave on the couch or bed after napping.

Having a pool is awesome, but also problematic. Since Thatcher and Boden are in and out of the water every day, the mats are building up in their fur. I've been grooming them every night before bed, and I still can't keep them free of mats. Boden especially. His fur is so thick, particularly around his neck, that it tangles into dreadlocks constantly. Keeping their collars off them helps a little bit, but it's still quite a battle. It takes me at least half an hour per dog just to do a quick wipe down with grooming wipes and a comb through of their whole bodies. I think I'm going to have to start incorporating professional grooming into our routine at least once a month.

And then there's another issue: ear infections. Last weekend, I noticed Thatcher was not eating much and acting a little lethargic. The next day while grooming him, I realized there was an odd odor coming from his ears. I researched a little online and found that those were telltale signs of ear infections in dogs. I called the vet the next day and took him in to get checked after work. Sure enough, he had yeast and bacteria infections in both ears. Apparently, this is fairly common for dogs who swim a lot. I've been giving him medicated ear drops twice a day, and he's back to his normal self. But now I'm trying to be extra careful to dry off and clean their ears after swimming. The vet recommended an ear powder that we should use once a week or so to clear up their ear canals and hopefully prevent any more infections. Lately, I keep thinking to myself how busy people with actual children must be. How do they have enough time in their day to work full-time and raise kids? I can't even keep my dogs clean!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sun up

Thatcher and Boden are adjusting well to the desert climate and have settled back into some semblance of a routine. To my dismay, this routine seems to now permanently include waking up at 5am. The downside of this is, well, the fact that it's 5am. Instead of my body getting used to it, every morning is equally as difficult. Peeling myself out of bed while it's still dark out is just not fun. The one redeeming factor is the sunrise. We always head out to walk between 5am and 5:30am, so we literally see the sun float up alongside the mountains and the palm trees every morning. While most of the neighborhood is still asleep, we get to witness the entire sky light up into bright pink, orange and purple hues. Without trying to sound like a complete cliche, it really is breathtaking.

Another perk is how quiet the neighborhood is at this time. Aside from the occasional dog barking, it's utterly silent. We've been starting to encounter the same few people every day, like this older gentleman who always rides his bicycle past us, or this elderly couple who stroll slowly with matching coffee cups. But overall, it's peaceful and still, and the perfect "zen" way to begin a day. Since the Newfies are getting more accustomed to the constant hot temperatures, our walks are getting longer and we've been able to explore more of the neighborhood. Mountains surround us in pretty much every direction, so I'm looking forward to winter, when we'll be able to walk up into the mountains without the dogs passing out from the heat. In the meantime, we'll take our sunrises.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Early risers

We ventured out for our first trip to the local dog park this morning. Since the Newfies are still on Minnesota time, I get up with them around 5am each day. Unfortunately, this rule still applies on Saturdays, but the benefit is that the temperature doesn't climb to unbearable levels until a little later in the morning. So as the sun started rising, I gathered some water and loaded up the dogs into the car. As we arrived, I was surprised by the number of people already there. Apparently we're not the only ones with the brilliant idea to exercise the dogs while it's still semi-cool out. We walked through the gates and I let Thatcher and Boden loose.

Most of the people in the park immediately stared, fascinated by our boys. I've never had so many people come up to me and ask me what breed they are or how much they weigh. If I didn't know it then, I definitely know now - extra-large, long-haired breeds aren't very common here. I heard the comment, "That's a lot of dog!" about 40 times. Of course, Thatcher and Boden soaked in their 15 minutes of fame. They happily pranced around side-by-side, looking like a pair of horses and making everyone chuckle. It took less than a half hour to tire them out, and by the time we left they had slobber on every inch of their heads. We got home and jumped into the pool to cool them off. After a few rounds of water-fetch, and they were utterly exhausted. They're now passed out next to me, sleeping soundly. Did I mention it's only 9:30am?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

One year later

Yesterday was Boden's first birthday. He might have grown a little bigger in the course of a year, but his personality is the exact same as the day we met him. We couldn't have asked for a more cheerful, loving and sensitive pup. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pool play

Turns out that Boden is a little more enthusiastic about our pool than Thatcher is. Whereas Thatcher has always enjoyed splashing around in water, he prefers it to be shallow enough to walk around in. He glides into the water to chase down a ball, but doesn't stay in to actually swim around for too long. We weren't sure how Boden would react to a pool, being as he was born in late summer, and the cooler temperatures set in before we had a chance to introduce him to water. So this weekend has been his first experience actually swimming. Without hesitation, he hopped right in. He isn't the greatest swimmer yet - we've had to keep a close eye on him because he sometimes forgets to paddle his legs and would start sinking. But he is in love with the pool. His favorite activity is to swim over to a human, put his front paws around your neck in a bear hug, and just float with you holding him. One thing we need to teach Boden is that you don't need to jump into the pool every single time you go outside. Last night, right before bed, I let them out to go potty for the last time. Before I had a chance to stop him, Boden climbed into the pool, not a care in the world. I learned my lesson too - remember to close the gates to the pool.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

1700 miles down

Twenty-six hours and 1700 miles later, we successfully made it to Arizona. The trip was almost too easy and breezed by with zero car mishaps. Just to be cautious, we stopped every two hours so the Newfies could drink some water and stretch their legs. We chalk it up entirely to luck, but both Thatcher and Boden are ideal passengers in the car. They braved the miles cheerfully, running their energy out at rest stops and napping soundly during the drive. The car we rented for the journey was spacious, but still a small backseat for two Newfies. Surprisingly, they didn't get mad at each other once. Instead, they snuggled for much of the time, one lying with his head on the other's back. Good brothers. I did regret not bringing my camera with me, but managed to snap a few photos with my phone.

The only tiny problem we encountered was not on the road, but when we stopped at a motel to sleep on the Fourth of July. We arrived right at dusk, checked into our room and took the dogs out for a brief walk before bed. As we were meandering back towards the motel parking lot, we heard fireworks going off. Thatcher immediately became tense and grabbed the leash in his mouth to pull us back to our room. As we got closer, we saw that the noise was coming from our motel parking lot. A group of people had clustered around to light some noisy, sparkling fireworks right in front of the walkway to our room. Thatcher beelined for our door as fast as he could, J struggling to manage him. We got back into the room and immediately closed the blinds and turned the TV on to drown out the commotion. Despite our attempts to comfort Thatcher, he hid in the bathtub most of the night, barking loudly any time he heard a boom. 

Otherwise, we couldn't have asked for a smoother roadtrip. Now comes the hardest part - adjusting the boys to these extreme temperatures. Walking them is only possibly in the early morning or late evening. During the day the sidewalks are burning hot and will hurt their paws. Usually they jump at any chance to go outside, but have learned really quickly here that it's not very fun. Boden will go out to go potty when called, but Thatcher usually chooses to stay inside and lie on the cool tile. The pool has eased the discomfort a little bit, and I think swimming is going to turn into one of their main forms of exercise for the summer. So the transition is in the works as we learn the tricks of living in a hot climate with big, shaggy dogs. I'm sad I have to leave them to go to back to work tomorrow, but I tend to be overly anxious. Let's face it, they usually sleep all day regardless of whether I'm there or not. 
Rest stop break, only 20 more hours to go!

Ready to get back in the car after a short

Monday, July 1, 2013

End of the hiatus

73 excruciating days. That's how long it's been since I left my boys in MN (and even longer since I last blogged about them!)

Let me rewind a little. This past winter, J and I debated the idea of moving out of the Midwest and trying somewhere else for a change. Free from too many major obligations, like kids or a mortgage, we figured this is the year to do something different before we settle down further. We agonized for months, going back and forth, tossing ideas around. Change is scary, and neither of us was sure if we wanted to commit to such a dramatic change as moving across the country. We researched many locations, but ultimately decided that we wanted to live near some sort of family. And it just so happens that my sister lives in the Southwest. 

Fast forward a couple months, and I find myself in the hot, sunny desert - Arizona to be more precise. Due to a whirlwind interview process and job offer with a great company, I made the road trip down here in April, pulled into town on a Sunday, and started work the next day. Unfortunately, the quick transition did not give us enough time to arrange for the dogs to come with. J is staying behind to work through the end of their peak season, so he's been a single papa to the dogs since I left. It's been hard on all three of them. J works such long hours during the summer, so the dogs have been on their own a little more than usual.

I did get to see them over Memorial Day weekend, but it was such a short trip it hardly counts. And I literally can't even describe how melancholy life has been without my Newfies, so instead I will share the news: they're joining me this week. I'm flying into Minneapolis on Wednesday, then J and I are driving the pups down. Needless to say, we're in for an adventure. Aside from the 26 hour drive down here, we're going to have to learn to adjust them to these extreme temperatures. We've got a few months left of scorching heat, so we'll have to get creative with finding ways to keep the Newfies healthy, cool and happy. The huge pool in our backyard should help a little, but I know that we're going to have to be extremely cautious when it comes to outdoor activities. 

J is staying in Minnesota through November for work, so Thatcher and Boden are going to have a ton of quality mommy time for the next several months. I think we'll take care of each other just fine. Time to see what this desert adventure has in store for me and my drooly giants. 

Memorial Day 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

True Minnesota spring

In true Minnesota fashion, the tiniest glimpses of spring we got have been interrupted by another snowstorm. We received a blanket of snow overnight that has yet to let up today. Thatcher and Boden are ecstatic the blustery winter weather has returned. I let them out into the backyard this morning and then poured myself a cup of coffee. When I glanced out the door to check on them, they were both just lying in middle of the yard, contentedly munching on the fresh snow. I bundled up to trek with them to the fields up the street. In fresh, fluffy snow like this, walks end up taking double the time they normally take because every four seconds either a.) the dogs are lying on the ground trying to dig the snow clumps out of their paws; b.) the dogs have stopped to scoop up a few mouthfuls of snow; or c.) Boden is digging out a buried stick or branch.

While on our way to the fields this morning, Boden unburied what looked like a pretty solid stick and carried it for our entire walk. He pretty much always has a stick in his mouth on our walks, so I didn't really pay much attention - not that I could see well anyways with the blowing snow in my face. He frolicked around with this stick the whole time at the park and all of the way back home. As we got back to our yard, I noticed something unusual about it. This stick was actually a shovel. A small, metal gardening shovel. He was so proud of himself, he wouldn't let me or Thatcher get near it. He just pranced around happily, flipping it up into the air and swinging it around. My apologies to the poor neighbor who's now missing their little shovel. Feel free to come claim it, if you can manage to get it away from my proud little puppy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rain or shine

Mailmen have a tough job. Rain, snow and sleet make no difference - they have to go outside and get the mail delivered. Although I appreciate the work they do, I've always thought that I would never have the motivation to do their job. Yet as I trudged through pouring rain with the Newfies this morning, I realized that being a dog owner is actually pretty similar to being a mailman. Doesn't matter what kind of extreme elements you have to battle (and there are plenty here in Minneapolis), the dogs must be walked. The major difference, of course, is that mailman are at least getting paid to face the elements. Not us dog owners. It can be blizzarding outside, but I rarely give it a second thought as I bundle up to trek through the snow. The dogs could care less if I get frostbite from trying to scoop up their poop, which requires removing my mittens, in 15 below temperatures. And they definitely don't care if I can't see where I'm walking because my glasses are splattered with rain drops. They just want their walk. So while I respect those brave mailmen, I can't help but think that being a dog owner is one of the most hardcore "occupations" out there.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Open window weather

The last few days have finally felt a little bit like spring. Sun shining, temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s. During the warmer parts of the day, we've been opening windows just to clear the stale winter stuffiness out of the house. Thatcher and Boden now post themselves in front of any open window and monopolize the cool breeze that floats in. They sit with their chins resting on the window sill, sniff out new scents in the air and keep an eye on the ever-increasing squirrel population in the front yard. The snow is mostly melted, except for the few spots of the yard that are shaded from the sun. So Mr. Garbage-Disposal (aka Boden) has taken it upon himself to eat any stick, leaf or clump of dirt he can find. And whenever I let the dogs out to use the bathroom, I find them a few minutes later lying next to each other in the yard, basking in the warm sun. Instead of calling them inside, I let them enjoy this lovely weather all they can before the hot summer months roll around.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Results are in!

We were finally able to touch base with the vet today, after a weekend of playing phone tag. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, here's the post about our recent health scare. After examining the test results and doing extensive research, the vet thinks that Boden is fine for now. I won't list the million details of the vet's findings, but he basically said we shouldn't worry. There are many possibilities for the abnormalities in his blood, but as long as he isn't displaying any symptoms (like lack of appetite, potty issues, etc.), there doesn't seem to be any serious problem. The abnormalities in his bloodwork are not completely consistent with some of the more serious problems that it would typically be in older dogs, like early signs of cancer. He did say part of the reason for the abnormalities may be the fact that he's growing at such a fast pace. So we are just going to be extra cautious going forward and keep an eye out for any irregular behavior. I'll consider this my Easter blessing. 

In the blur of worrying about Boden's health, the rest of March whirled by. Obedience classes have been going great since using our new training collars. For the last two weeks, we've focused on mastering what we've already learned. Next week they'll be tested in order to graduate. Boden's biggest challenge will be the staying. He always does ok on the sit-stay, but for some reason the down-stay is just agonizing for him. For the test, he'll have to stay in the down position for three minutes straight, with me standing about six feet in front of him. We practiced this in class last Thursday, and I was literally crying with laughter. He did ok for about the first minute. After that, he started having an emotional meltdown. He stared at me and groaned loudly without stopping. The instructor even walked over and told him "shh!", but that made him become even more vocal. The noises he made did not even sound like a dog. Thatcher, who was
Well, we tried. 
all of the way across the room with J., heard Boden and started whining back to him. So that was what the last two minutes of the stay was like. All of the dogs in the room sat perfectly silent and still, while our Newfies gazed mournfully across the room at each other and crying. Every person in the room was trying to stifle their laughter, while I sent evil looks to Boden and telepathically told him to zip it. During the exercise, we are only allowed to tell them "stay" twice, and I had used those up in the first 11 seconds. Time ticked by until we had only 30 seconds left. I thought we were going to make it, but no. Boden finally had enough and sprinted over to me like a prisoner breaking out of jail. There's about a fifty-fifty shot he won't pass this part next week. We'll see what kind of crazy mood he's in.

Saturday morning we woke up to the first thunderstorm of the season. The booming thunder began around 5am, right when J. was getting ready for work. Thatcher, who still associates every loud noise with terrifying fireworks (see this post), hid in the doorway to our bedroom as usual. Boden, who has never really experienced thunderstorms yet, didn't know what to make of the loud crashing and bright flashes of light. Boden climbed into bed with me and snuggled until the storm passed. I didn't mind - snuggling a warm puppy and listening to the rain fall is one of the best ways to fall asleep. Later that day, we took a daytrip up north to get my cracked windshield fixed at J.'s dad's. By this time, it was sunny and 50 degrees, a beautiful change from our recent icy, gray weather. The Newfies had a smashing time pretending to be country boys for the day. They tromped through the swampy fields, competed over who could find the biggest sticks (or logs), ran up and down the river banks and chased the neighbors chickens (unsuccessfully). Their activity of choice was splashing around in the many ponds the melting snow had created in the low parts of the field. Boden, a natural water-lover, was utterly fascinated. He enjoyed diving face-first into the water to search for treasures. Thatcher just walked into the shallow part and layed down, enjoying the mix of cool water and warm sun. No better way to spend a Saturday.