Wednesday, April 30, 2014

City Dog: How to Stay in a Hotel with Your Dogs

Even though we live a mere 2 miles from downtown, we realize that we don't always take full advantage of everything the city has to offer. This year for Spring Break we decided to make like "Tourists in our Own City" staying at a hotel and taking a family staycation hotel. Even being mere miles from home, staying in a hotel really did make us feel like we were on a vacation, plus if anything went wrong we were still close enough to be able to stop back home. It has also given us a good sense of how it might work if we go on bigger trips with the pups. These are some things we've been learning as we've been vacationing with the pups:

Coordinating Bathroom Breaks
This has always been the thing we've been most nervous about because we don't want to set a bad example by being the ones whose dogs pee in the hotel.
Before we even enter the hotel, we explore the outside to find the place where they can pee. We look for that elusive downtown patch of grass. The pups will also go on tree grates, especially if they can smell that other dogs have gone pee there too.
Once we find that spot, we mark the peeing behavior there by giving a lot of praise and good treats. We've find that this helps the pups return to this specific spot as their place to pee.
We also pack clothes that are easy to put on early in the morning, slip-on shoes and a hat, to make sure that we get the pups outside right away so they don't have any accidents.

Leaving Dogs Alone in the Room
Besides the bathroom situation, we were also really nervous about leaving the pups alone in the room. One hotel we stayed at in St. Louis had a policy that if dogs bark and disturb other guests they would be responsible for paying for their room.
We know many dogs in new situations could bark just because they're stressed out, or they could also be reacting to the unfamiliar sounds and people they hear walking in the hallway.
We made sure to take the dogs on several long walks to tire them out before we would leave. We also brought their kongs to give them that added mental exhaustion. And of course, Mr. B had to bring some of his favorite stuffies which helped add some familiarity to an unfamiliar room.

Setting a Good Example
It's always important for us to set a good example so people will think well of dog owners. Especially because we have large, pit bull-type dogs.
We know that not everyone likes dogs so we make sure to give people space and not take blind corners in the hallways; we don't let our pups approach unless the people ask to meet them. Though we have also found that their coats, scarves and hoodies make them more approachable.
We keep our pups close to us in the elevators (I've also heard this is good because there are horror stories of people letting their dogs off the elevators first, the doors closing, and ending up on different floors). When given the chance, we also choose to take the stairs.
In the room we try to be extra clean because we don't want people to think poorly of dog owners. We take out all the dog-food related trash ourselves, we continue our wiping feet routine, and we don't have the pups on the furniture (the pictures of them on the bed were for our photos only).

Support Hotels that Support Our Dogs
We know many places have size, and even breed restrictions, so we like supporting places that allow dogs of all breeds and sizes. For this trip we were excited to try out Hotel Palomar Chicago which is a Kimpton hotel. We liked that they allow any size or number of dogs without extra fees. They also supply large dog beds and pet bowls, which made packing that much easier; I've heard they also have dog crates. We loved that they welcomed the pups with their names on the dog chalkboard sign, and the whole staff was beyond friendly and welcoming. Their hotel restaurant is Sable which is perfect if you want to get good food and drink and you don't want to leave your pooches for too long. They also have a complimentary wine hour each day at 5:00 and the pups were able to join us. It was a fun way to meet other travelers. The hotel also works really hard to give extra touches, like letting you raid $10 worth of items from the mini-bar, and when they found out we were celebrating my birthday we were even upgraded to a suite.
We knew so many of our dog-friends swear by the Kimpton group, and we're excited to try even more locations. We were overwhelmed by everyone's kindness, our stay was absolutely fabulous from when we checked in to Miss M's tear-filled check out, she was not ready to go back to just two people waiting on her hand and paw. We really cannot wait until we have another excuse to stay at the Hotel Palomar Chicago.

We're still learning as we go along. We'd love to hear any of your tips on traveling with your pups!

If you only have 1 day. Or a full 36 hours.
How to catch a cab with a big dog

Monday, April 28, 2014

SociaBulls: Behind-the-Scenes of Walk Photos

Sweet Ramona is adoptable through Project Rescue Chicago
Ever since our SociaBulls walks began, we have thought it was important to photograph each of our walks to see the amazing collection of pups that walk with us each week. In the beginning it used to be easier because I was always a dog less walker, though there are some new things I've been learning about photographing our group:

Capturing the Candid Moment:

I've found that the best moments between the people and their pups is during the water breaks, or even after the walk when everyone is tired and relaxing. It's in these moments that you can really see the relationships between the people and their pups.
The zoom lens for my DSLR is too heavy for these walks, so I've been photographing with a fixed 50mm lens. This is a good portrait lens where I don't need to be too close to their face, but I still need to be somewhat close. I try to be 'stealth', but it can be hard not to distract the dogs because so often they get excited if I approach. Plus, one of the goals of our group is to keep everyone calm.
A lot of the times I just need to have the camera focused on the pup and wait until I can get the exact moment when they look my way or smile.

Photographing and Walking:
In the beginning I always came dog less so it was easier for me to actually spend the time getting good photos of each of the pups, plus a variety of our pooches actually walking. I think you can really tell the difference if you go through any of our earlier SociaBulls posts.
Since I have been walking Miss M on the walks, most of the photos are taken either before or after the walk when I can have E hold Miss M. This means I don't have as much time to really get the best expression from each pup and the photos have a lot more of the cars and parking lot in the background instead of the nice scenery we see throughout the walk.
It can also be hard to walk while carrying such a heavy DSLR camera. Luckily we bring our camera so often on our daily walks I have become accustomed to balancing and making sure it doesn't swing into the poo.

Including Everyone:
We think it's important to try to photograph each pup and give everyone a chance to be featured online. Especially with big groups it can be hard to try to photograph everyone. Sometimes I know which dogs might need to leave immediately after the walk so I try to make sure I photograph them before the walk begins. 

The behind-the-scenes of blog photos
"Date" water-break photos
The early walks
Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Staring Pooches

During our SociaBulls walk last weekend, several of us got into a conversation about the main thing that our pooches do that is really unnerving, staring. Lucky for us only one of our pooches is a starer, Miss M.
There always seems to be thoughts racing through Miss M's head and oftentimes it appears as if Miss M is trying to communicate one or many of these thoughts by staring. Oftentimes, we have no idea what she is trying to tell us.
If she is hungry she will make that well known annoying complaining noise that others tend to find cute.
If she has to go out she will stare and A will ask her if she has to potty and she will race to the door waiting to go out.
And then comes the stare that is not associated with potty or anything else we can think of, she will just stamp her paws and stare at us for a while, for a long while. A will go through all the things she can think of and they range from "do you want to take a bath" to "do you want to go to a party" and nothing, not a single response, just two big bugs eyes staring at us and
Mr. B sauntering around in the background with not a single thought in his head.
Maybe one day we will figure out what she wants.
Check our Twitter page for musings and Vines from Miss M and Mr. B.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pooches: On Making Dog Cookie (Monsters!)

Back when we were being held hostage by the Polar Vortex, we started a tradition of baking cookies. We would spend one day making the dough and rolling it into balls to freeze. Then each night we would bake just a few cookies at a time.
Mainly we needed to keep the oven going because it was just that cold.
But it also started a bit of a tradition among the pups where they became Cookie Monsters.
For some reason, Miss M is obsessed with the smell of cinnamon. When we were baking our own Snickerdoodles she would raise her judgmental resting face knowing when they were finished cooking.
While Mr. B tried to be a bit more covert:
E decided it was only fair to start baking the pups some cookies along with our cookies.
We made a variation of this recipe, but we used almond flour and water instead of milk.
Then we made the cookies into ninja-bread men (thanks to these cookie cutters!)
We always make 3 cookies, and if we give them each one somehow Miss M will still stare and complain knowing that there is one cookie left.

Anyone else have any good dog cookie recipes?

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family Walk: By the Numbers

While I originally thought it would be hard to have dogs without a backyard, we have realized that our walks help us create better connections with our pups and spend more quality time together as a family.
Here are some fun facts about an average family walk 'by the numbers':

Number of Miles Walked: About 3

Most Common Things People Said About the Pooches: 
"They are so beautiful!"
"They are so cute!"
"Look, they're posing for the camera."
"What kind of dogs are they?"
"Can I pet them?"

Most Common Incorrect Questions Asked about the Pooches: 
"Are they twins?"
"Are they brothers"?

Number of People We Met on This Walk Who Recognized the Dogs from Online: Three. Thanks for saying hi!

Number of Coats Worn: Zero! After one of the toughest winters ever, we finally deserved it.
Number of Hats Worn: One, shared between Mr. B and E.

Number of Grown Men Making Kissy-Noises at Miss M: Two! One was so enamored with "the dog with the beautiful brown-striped fur". The second man was waiting at the bus-stop and thought making kiss-noises would attract Miss M.
She was not impressed. 

Number of Stores/Restaurants Actually Leaving Dog Treats Outside: 4

Number of Stores/Restaurants Mr. B Anticipated Leaving Dog Treats Outside: 7!  Mr. B seems to remember all the places where the treats are normally kept. If the treats aren't in their proper location, he will stare uncomfortably at whichever person just happens to be standing there in the expectation that they are holding the treat for him.

Like dating.
Next time.
Oh, Mr. B!
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CItyDog: The 'Unspoken World' of City Dog Poo

I thought I had researched enough for what to expect when I first adopted Miss M, but right after her Adoption Counselor drove away and we were left alone for our first walk together, I realized there was something I hadn't anticipated. Walking Miss M in one hand, and carrying my hand-held purse in the other, I felt at a loss when Miss M had diarrhea 'sprinkler-style' across the sidewalk and I couldn't figure out how to handle an excited dog, hold my purse, and clean up the poo that went everywhere.
While most people aren't really talking about it, our most-asked email questions are about the bathroom habits of City Dogs. We wrote about how city dogs manage bathroom breaks in this post here, and this is Part II about some things I've learned the hard way.

Poo Pick-up Techniques and Trustworthy Poo Bags
I've learned the hard way how important it is to have our dogs in a reliable sit-stay while picking up their poo.
 It could get messy.
I try to carry a cross-body bag, and if I have a shoulder-bad I need to anticipate it potentially falling into the poo if I lean over to pick it up. Scarves, leashes, and cameras also have the potential to fall into the poo if you are not planning well.
I know a lot of people save plastic bags from grocery stores to use as poo bags, but this turned out really badly for me. The grocery store bags can have all kinds of holes in them which is not a risk you want to take when picking up poo. A lot of the time we are picking up loose poo on the cement which can also break the bag and cause all kinds of messes.
We trust the Earth Rated poo bags which we get on Amazon and are supposed to be biodegradable. We decided to 'save' our grocery store plastic bags by just bringing our own reusable bags to the grocery store.

City Trashcans
Even though there are tons of alleys lined with trashcans, I plan my daily walks strategically to only throw my poo bags in certain trashcans.
I will never forget the story our friends told us of the time they went to throw out some trash and when they opened the bin a city rat jumped out, landed on the girl and ricocheted off of her onto the guy. Now I only use trashcans that are already opened, and when I throw the bag in the trash I run far away in case it has disturbed a 'jumping rat' who might be inside.
People can also be really possessive about their trashcans and I have a couple of friends who have gotten yelled at for throwing poo bags in trashcans in the alley. People become territorial because there is only so much room in each trashcan and sometimes the trash can get filled up before it gets picked up which creates all kinds of messes in the alley. There are also people who go digging through the trash and when they do that they leave the trash allover the ground which becomes really gross. And it attracts even more of the football-sized city rats.

Unattended Poo
I think one of the reason's people in the city generally don't like dogs is because so many people don't clean up their poo. It really is everywhere. And it makes me angry with these dog owners as well.
Besides being gross, dog poo is considered a delicacy for rats. It draws all the rats to the yard. And these are big, football-sized city rats.
I've noticed a couple of trends with people not picking up their poo. Some people think it's ok because it's in their own yard. I've seen owners with smaller dogs not pick it up because maybe they think it's so small it won't make a difference?
I've also noticed it's a big trend among off-leash dog walkers to not pick up after their dog. A lot of the time they will walk way ahead of their dog, so maybe they can pretend they can't see their dog poo-ing so they aren't responsible. I'm also guessing if they forget to bring a leash they are not going to remember to bring a poo bag.
There are also the people who think poo has the some properties as snow and they are exempt from picking it up if they just leave it in the snow. Which makes it worse when it all melts into a big poo-grime puddle in the Spring.

False Accusations
If you have a female dog that squats down to pee, some people might think your dog is actually poo-ing and accuse you of not cleaning up after your dog. I didn't understand this at first when one girl yelled at me and told me I needed to clean up my poo. We've realized it's beneficial to carry our filled up poo bags and throw them out at the end of our walk so people don't think we are the ones leaving the poo behind.

I know this might a taboo topic, but anyone else have any poo stories or tips to share?

These leash add-on's are helpful.
So are these City Dog bags.
How this command changed our lives.

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, April 21, 2014

SociaBulls: The One thing We Still Don't Know

I would say our Chicago SociaBulls group is close.
We forgo sleeping in and get up early on weekends to meet.
We often drive to far, remote locations together just to walk.
And we've walked together in wind, and rain, and this.
And while we've seen each other so much and often know intimate details of a pup's diet and digestive patterns, the one thing we still don't know about each the human's names.
We are known as "Max's person", "Sophie's person", "Persephone's person" or "Hank's person".
(I get to cheat a little because I have access to all the applications and login names, but sometimes I still don't remember).
Anyone else want to confess that they have no idea of the person's name they've speaking to?

This helps.
Most Popular dog names!
Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Miss Goofus and Mr. Gallant Part III: Dating Edition

We always joke how much our pups are like another set of commonly-mistaken-for twins-but-have-different-personalities duo: Goofus and Gallant. Much like Gallant, Mr. B is polite and respectful, while Miss M is like Goofus....and is not.
Let the pups show you what we mean:

Mr. B is an avid listener who enjoys hearing what his dates have to say:
Meanwhile, Miss M lets her date know she is talks too much:
Mr. B makes an effort to have a good time and enjoy the activities his date has planned:
While Miss M makes it obvious when she's not having a good time:
Mr. B is grateful for a nice night out and he gives appropriate G-rated smooches:
While Miss M not only does not return the kiss:
But she secretly sneaks some swigs from her date's drink:
In case you missed it:
Earlier Goofus and Gallant posts Part I and Part II.

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pooches: Shrinking Mr. B

For Spring Break week we decided to take a bit of a break ourselves while revisiting some of our favorite posts. This was one of our most memorable and referenced posts.
Without any markers to show the passage of time, it seems like our pooches' signs of aging come out of nowhere. Sure we can have noticed graying in Miss M's ears, but since Mr. B is already gray it's more difficult to tell. Just the other week we had to doubletake as it seemed like Mr. B was looking a bit gaunt. We didn't think much of it and just started feeding the pooches a little bit more at each meal. 
Much to their delight.
It was only after running into our friend and his dog that he mentioned the gauntness too and we realized that Mr. B is really getting old. Our friend reminded us of his pit bull, Ditka, that lived to be 17 years old. The first thing he said he noticed when Ditka was getting older was the loss of muscle mass. Now it is impossible to notice that Mr. B is getting smaller.
And though I try with all my might to hold onto him to keep him from shrinking, I am coming to the realization that one day I will have to let him go.
Until that day, Mr. B and I will continue to have our grand adventures everyday.

The Velveteen Pitbulls
Grand Adventures
How we love them
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pooches: Mr B's Tepee Dilemma

For Spring Break week we decided to take a bit of a break ourselves while revisiting some of our favorite posts. This was one of our favorite posts back when Miss M didn't realize Mr B's tepee even existed.
There once was a dog named Mr. B.
Mr. B had crate anxiety, but he still liked having a place to hang out.. Now he lives in a tepee. 
He likes the tepee because he can hide all of his favorite stuffies and himself.
Since the tepee blends in so well, Miss M never even realized it existed:
Until one day she day she did realize:
 She enjoyed taking naps in the tepee:
And she moved in her girly things:
So now Mr. B is thinking of ways to take back his tepee. Does he need more 'dude-like' pillows? Should he get a sign on the front that says Mr. B? How else can he personalize his tepee?

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

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