Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moving Day

After a bit of good luck and a little hard work, the new Life With Dogs is up and running. Please note our new address:

You may wish to update your bookmarks in order to avoid a ride on the redirector. 

See you there!
Life With Dogs

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring Cleaning

It's my favorite time of year. Vermont literally explodes with life each May and it's completely intoxicating. The forecast calls for a week of perfect weather, and I plan to enjoy it to the fullest. After fourteen months of denying myslef sleep, ignoring projects around the house, and pretty much living this blog, it's time for a break.

I'm anticipating completion of three major projects in the next 1-2 weeks, at which point we'll come back in full swing. Between now and then, forgive me for not creating original content - it's my biggest time eater so it will have to slide. Interesting news stories and video will still be shared, but the cartoon balloons will have to wait while I:

1. Clear another 3/4 acre to expand the fenced yard for the dogs. They will be thrilled.
2. Get our yard under control before summer finds us overgrown, and touch up paint here and there.
3. Finish building and tweaking this: The new Life With Dogs

After years on Blogger I've outgrown it's capabilities. Considering my appreciation for all things technical, I need more power - and Blogger is the bottleneck. A new site will fix annoying slow page loads, allow for multiple channels of video (hence domain, and it's being assembled as I type this, but is not yet ready for consumption) and a number of other features I simply can't incorporate in a Blogger blog. Please note that I'll continue to optimize for Firefox. IE now enjoys it's lowest share of market to date, and with good reason: it sucks. If you're still using it free yourself and get another browser. You'll be happy you made the switch.

Life With Dogs needs room to grow, so allow me the next week or two while I spruce up the new place and make it a little more inviting. I'm not certain if I'll only post here, there or on both sites for the next 1-2 weeks. I'm feeling my way through this process and it's actually quite fun - but there is no reliable roadmap for the transition. I considered hiding the new site until it was complete, but this blog has always been a work in progress, so the new home of LWD should feel quite familiar while I put finishing touches on it.

Please update your RSS feeds and e-mail subscriptions to point to the new site. I'll provide limited updates as possible, but don't be surprised if you don't see much from me until I complete these projects. I need to wrap them up as soon as possible. My blogging addiction is stronger than ever, and it's going to be an exciting summer. I have much fun to share, and I look forward to finding my way to you when I return.

Life With Dogs

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop: Week 2

Many thanks to the 100+ pet bloggers who participated last week. It was a great start, now let's see who is ready to meet a bunch of great bloggers this weekend! Full details are here, and I'll summarize again below. Get those links in and have fun!

  •  Link up your blog name and URL using the Linky Tool below. You only need to add your link once to be seen on all the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop Linky Tools for that week. 
  •  Grab the "Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop" button at the upper left of this blog and include it in your Saturday Blog hop post so that your readers will know what is going on. *Note - posting is optional. Feel free to just link and follow.
  •  Follow your co-hosts listed in the first 3 slots of the Linky Tool.
  •  Follow as many other blogs on the linky as you'd like
  •  Take a moment to comment on the blogs telling them you're from the blog hop.
  •  Follow back when you get a new follower through the Saturday Pet Bloggers Blog Hop
Life With Dogs

Friday, May 14, 2010

Collar a Day Giveaway: Day 5

Thanks to all who have played along this week, it's time to find our last winner!

*Important note - some of you entered yesterday by creating a new e-mail and attaching a pic to send to me. Such entries are not counted - you must reply to the subscription e-mail notification that you receive.

Life With Dogs is saying thanks to our fans for making April a banner month by giving away a collar every day this week, through Friday. I have a few collars left from our review of White Pines collars last year, and these are far too nice to be collecting dust on my desk, so it's time to let you put one to good use! There is only one catch - this is only open to our e-mail subscribers. Not subscribed? No worries, just click on the daily digest button on the right hand side of the site, below our Facebook fan page box.

I have mixed sized and colors, so here is how this will work. Every day I'll mention the size and color of the collar being offered. All you have to do is check out the post when you get e-mail notification (to make sure you like, and can use the collar of the day) and reply to the subscription e-mail  to tell me you want it - but you must include a pic of your dog. Call me selfish, but I love to see where these are going!

E-mail notifications are sent to all simultaneously, so this will be a bit of a race to the prize. Have fun, and good luck! Details for today's collar are below the pic. For full descriptions visit

Friday collar giveaway details: 1" wide soft slip collar  Size L: 17" to 26"   Color: Teal

Good luck!

Winners will be announced the following day. I will try to make a note in each day's post as soon as I have a winner in order to spare you the trouble of e-mailing me, but this is subject to my ridiculous schedule, so no promises. Speaking of that crazy schedule, all collars will be mailed the weekend following the giveaway, so if you win early you may have to wait ten days or so to see your prize.

Life With Dogs

Guest Blogger Debbie Jacobs: Turns out our stars are not crossed!

I’m a pragmatic New Englander and although many of us won’t admit it, we take pride in not being like our footloose compatriots who occupy the other coast with their year round tans, Esalen retreats and anything to do with colon cleansing. So when my fearful dog Sunny, who had spent his early life in a pen in Arkansas, escaped from our house in the dead of winter, I did what was reasonable and prudent, and then what may come as a surprise, I called an astrologer.

Sunny was not just shy or timid, he was flat out bowel emptying terrified when he came to live with us in Vermont a month after I met him at Camp Katrina, a site set up to take in animals displaced by the hurricanes of 2005 where he was living after being rescued from a hoarder. Until the day Sunny slipped out of the house he had neither gone up, nor down the stairs without being leashed and encouraged to do so. It was a raw, winter day, freezing rain had started spitting down making a crunching sound as it landed on the dead leaves covering the ground. As I held the door open letting my three other dogs out, I did a mental head count as the clicking of an additional set of toenails descending wooden stairs registered and tickled my consciousness.
All the dogs had gone out the door into an unfenced yard adjacent to hundreds of acres of forest, including Sunny, who for the first time got himself down the stairs and slipped out the door before I realized what was happening. At this point Sunny not only did not have a recall, reliable or otherwise, he could not approach me or any human. Once outside the door he stopped and turned to look at me, it was a momentary glance as he prepared to bolt, and I, knowing that calling him would be fruitless, met his eyes and said, “See ya buddy”, and he was gone, racing off into the trees.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that along with the sense of dread that dropped like a mound of raw dough in my stomach, I also felt a tiny wave of relief. He was gone. I didn’t have to live with a dog that spent his time cowering from me, had to be walked on leash and even then behaved like I was his personal Freddy Kruger, ready to slice him limb to limb once his guard was down. Then I felt a bigger wave of guilt and the crushing weight of reality. It was February in Vermont and a freezing rain was falling, he wouldn’t make it out there for long on his own.

After I called the shelters and town dog officers in the area, stapled Lost Dog posters into ziplock bags and hung them up at the covered bridge and on trees along the road, walked the woods with my other dogs hoping Sunny would join us, I went home and called a friend. I realized that doing anything- even something that normally would seem so ‘out there’ that I’d chuckle at anyone else who did it- felt better than doing nothing. This friend, an author and historian, had recently finished a book on the history of classical astrology and part of his research had been to  learn the art of creating charts and plotting the positions of the planets and discerning their meaning and implications. I had been surprised that this serious fellow, with a doctorate from Columbia, has become as intrigued as he had with what is considered by many to be a pseudoscience. Nonetheless, with little hope that my still practically feral dog would be found, and the fact that his help would be free (while I am willing to spare little expense when it comes to maintaining my dogs’ health, shelling out cold cash for a dog’s astrological chart would have been a bit much for me even under these circumstances) what was there to lose?

Classical astrology, unlike the popular version most of us are familiar with, is based on the timing, not of an event, but on when a question is asked and heard by the person with the ability to answer it.  After the tone on his answering machine I left this message.

“Hi, it’s Debbie, look at your watch. Sunny ran away. Can you do a chart for me?”

Within the hour I had a return call. The information I received was of the sort that could mean something or nothing. The chart showed that Sunny was in the east (There’s a river east of our house, how far east could he go?) in a low, damp place (We live in a river valley and it had been drizzling freezing rain all morning, where wasn’t there a low, damp place!?), the number 10 came up (Whatever that meant.) and then what gave me the most comfort and relief was this, the chart showed that I would not go to Sunny, Sunny would come to me. This meant I didn’t have to keep tramping through the soggy woods. I had walked miles already knowing it was futile, yet had to do something, and what else could I do? Now there was this, what I had to do was wait for him to come to me.

My friend and his wife came over later in the day with their two dogs, a young male shiba and fluffy, black female chow. Sunny knew these dogs from play visits to their fenced in yard. We hoped that the dogs would lure him back. But even in their enclosure it had been a challenge for me to get Sunny back onto a leash. As dusk began to fall we retreated inside and sat in the living room, where I felt like someone in mourning who couldn’t quite believe that life had suddenly taken such a sharp turn toward dread, but not having yet viewed the body could still maintain the delusion that a mistake had been made.

When my friend called out, “There he is!” my first reaction was that it was a cruel joke, or perhaps an attempt to create the reality we sought, but he was right, there was Sunny out in yard, visible through the glass doors, sniffing and slinking. As luck, fate or my dislike of cooking would have it, there was a grocery store roasted chicken in the refrigerator. I snatched a handful of skin and greasy meat and stepped outside tossing a few bits to Sunny. He warily approached, gobbled the food and leaped back. For months I had been rehearsing what are commonly called doggie ‘calming signals’, yawning, licking my lips, averting my gaze, squinting my eyes, turning my head, getting low to the ground and turning my body away, in order to appear less threatening to him.

I didn’t want Sunny to learn that my reaching for him was a predictor of scary things so when I did manage to get a hold of his harness, I praised him, handed him some chicken and let him go. I realized that he had probably not ever gone far, had found a low, damp place to hide and had been spending the day deciding how long to relish this new found freedom. Up to this point in his life he had always lived in a pen or in our house, which remained a scary place full of unpredictable objects and sounds. After repeating the dance of getting hold of his harness and releasing him a few more times I walked him into the house, fed him his dinner and knew he had chosen to come back to me and whether it was destined by the stars or hunger, I’d never lose him again.

Life With Dogs

*Sunny was gone for 10 hours that day.

Debbie Jacobs is the author of  “A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog", which was a finalist in the 2008 Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition.

She lives in Vermont with her husband and 4 dogs and created the website to help owners, trainers and rescuers learn about the most effective and humane ways to work with fearful dogs. She met her fearful dog Sunny, the inspiration for the fearfuldogs website at the Humane Society of Louisiana’s Camp Katrina after the hurricanes of 2005.