Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pooches: Can Your Dogs See Ghosts? (Stick with me on this one)

Last Halloween, I decided to try writing short scary-stories with my students. We spent a lot of time analyzing what really makes a story scary, and of all the things we discovered the ones the class found most chilling were: solemn children and pets reacting to things that humans couldn't see.
I was surprised that a lot of my students were able to share stories about living with ghosts in their homes, complete with reactions from their dogs.
Dogs awakening at 4am and barking at things their people couldn't see.
Dogs who would routinely stare in corners with raised hackles.
Multi-dog households where dogs would unexpectedly converge to bark and growl at a certain location where nothing was there.
I had never thought about it with our own pups.
Until I did need to think about it.
Since we made the decision to move to a new home, we've spent a lot of time walking the pups and  'stalking homes' in our potential new neighborhood. The other day we took our pups walking by our frontrunner home when Mr. B stopped short, and stared unblinkingly into the yard, almost
as if he saw something. Since there wasn't a cat, I thought maybe it was a sign that it was meant to be our home.
Or not.
The neighborhood we're looking at has a combination of older, traditional homes and developers swooping in to find foreclosures and tear downs and build on empty lots. The home we're looking at is new construction being built on an empty lot, but given Mr. B's reaction I was curious to find out what had been there before.
I was able to find out that the previous home on that lot had been abandoned and taken over by squatters. It eventually burned down and they found a man had died in the fire.
Which made me wonder if Mr. B really did see a ghost.
I spent a sleepless night Googling about the ghost world, trying to figure out if it still counts if it's a different house in the same area. Seeing if there are ways to ask the ghost to leave. And looking up ghost hunters I could consult with.
Though I also realized Chicago has so much history, nearly every home is bound to have some kind of death in it. And would this also mean that when someone is killed on the street our streets and sidewalks are haunted too?
But I guess the most consoling thing was when we took the pups back to the house to see if Mr. B would react again, we found out he did have another reaction.
Because the windows are mirrored and he was checking out his own reflection.
He must have liked what he saw.

Though I'm still curious...has anyone had any ghost-like experiences in your home? Or pups that can detect ghosts?

This Buzzfeed article made me feel a lot better.
Mr. B is bewildered.

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Things To Do With Dogs in Chicago: Night Walks

While Chicago is a city filled with people walking dogs, we have noticed that after a certain time they seem to vanish.
The streets are free from pooches.
Almost as if they have a curfew.
Though we really think nighttime is one of the best times to walk around. 
There is space on the normally busy sidewalks.
The city becomes surprisingly peaceful.
And you can enjoy the lights of the city.
Though sometimes you might need to watch out for drunken people trying to squeeze Miss M's jowls. Or toss a sombrero on Mr. B's head.
Anyone else out there taking evening strolls with your pups?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

DoggyStyle: Our Favorite Cleaning Items for Dog People

So, we took another unexpected hiatus as things became so hectic in our home that we couldn't even find our computers. One of the "projects" we've been working on is that we decided to try selling our home.
Which is so much easier in idea than in execution.
We are still staying in Chicago, and we hope to share more about our final plans soon, but right now our lives have been over consumed with decluttering and cleaning. And as I've been sitting among the piles, I thought I would share some of the cleaning supplies that have come in so helpful, specifically for our dog household:

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
Even though we just painted last summer, and we were so excited to pretend we were indefinitely living at a beach house, we've learned to make things sell you need to have standard paint colors. So ironically, we just had to have our entire place painted back to the original beige color. And after this big investment we are hyper alert to any scuff or scrape against the wall that may occur from Mr. B's sleepwalking in the night. While I don't know how they work, we learned awhile back that the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers really do get those random scuffs, scrapes, and discolorations off of the wall.

Tibet Almond Stick
Just to be clear, this stick doesn't work on every type of scratch, but if you have the "white" scratches on wood you just rub this on and it really does disappear. So it's not something that we are able to use on wood floors, but just on our wooden doors here and there where the pups really did think they had use of opposable thumbs.

Twist and Shout Mop
We spent a long time searching for that perfect mop, and since we found out about this one we just keep talking about it. I like that the microfiber picks up the hair, and it's so plush that it doesn't really require a lot of arm strength to use.

Dyson Vacuum
While it is quite an investment, awhile back we were able to buy a Dyson DC15 Animal which unbelievably made cleaning fun. My favorite part is the clear container where you can actually see the amount of dog hair being sucked up (though sometimes it's really embarrassing!) We wrote more about it, here.

These are some of our favorites, though we would love to hear what everyone else used. 
Plus, any advice on selling your home with big dogs?

Things we do in advance so we have less to clean later.
Keeping our dog home well-scented.

Monday, May 19, 2014

SociaBulls: The After Walk

We talk a lot about what goes on during a SociaBulls walk, but we haven't spent a lot of time talking about the 'after walk'. 
The time when the pups are fully exhausted and ready to just lay down their heads.
The time when the people and pups can recognize a job well done.
The time when the pooches are calm and comfortable and ready to put on their best Zoolander.
Often with their best friend.
Or when the pups are just so physically and mentally exhausted they may just need to be carried away into the car.
Not shown: Thanks to the after walk we've heard even the most energetic pup is happy to sleep away a lazy weekend afternoon.

Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mr. B reluctantly gets petted

There appears to be a change in the popular opinion about pit bulls, especially in our neighborhood.
During our daily walks we have been getting more parents and kids flocking to the pups asking to meet and pet them.
Miss M loves the attention and at the mere thought that anyone wants to pet her she begins wiggling and smiling. Her favorite thing is to pop up and give big kisses on the face.
Mr. B, on the other hand, is the perfect pup to be petted.
He doesn't seek out the attention, and he stands there motionless just accepting the pet.
Even though Miss M loves meeting people so much, we often direct children to pet still-standing Mr.
B knowing he won't try to sneak smooches onto kids' faces.
So even though Mr. B isn't the one who seeks petting, he actually gets petted more than Miss M.
Do you have a pooch that loves to get petted so much that they are unpetable?
They do have this in common.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Things to do in the City with Dogs: Strolling Down Michigan Avenue

Almost every time I go on vacation I marvel at the people who are lucky enough to be residents of that city. I imagine that if I lived there I would spend every weekend having pier picnics or lounging in famous gardens.
The funny thing is, we live in a pretty amazing city also. And a lot of people spend a lot of money to experience the things we take for granted. 
We spend a lot of our time just out with the pups walking, and even though we live a mere 2 miles from the heart of downtown, we rarely go. So we went. 
I don't think people are used to seeing large dogs downtown because a lot of people would look at us like we were walking camels. They also asked what kinds of dogs they were.
As our dogs are older its not as easy to do the 2 miles there and back, so we found 2 other easy ways to get downtown with our pups.
We discovered the app Spothero which has helped us find cheaper downtown parking. We used this to get downtown for the St Patrick's Day festivities where we found parking for only $10, which is amazing since downtown parking is normally $20-40.
We have also learned how to take taxi's with our pups and we wrote more about it here. 
Has anyone else been venturing on any new walks lately?

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

City Dog: On Dogwalkers

I remember when I used to think Dogwalkers were an "exotic" profession used only by people in sitcoms living in huge high-rises.  And even just having a conversation with my sister who lives in St. Louis, she was surprised to hear that we actually used a Dogwalker.
While I originally got a walker because Miss M was an energetic dog needing a mid-day break, I've realized there are so many other reasons it's nice to have a Dogwalker we can call:

Getting a Break
While we really enjoy taking our pups for walks, we never wanted these walks to start seeming like a burden. When Miss M and I were living together as Bachelorettes, I had a couple of days where I would schedule a walker for her so I would could go out directly after work and not have to rush home just to let her out.

We've realized that it's good for the pups to get accustomed to being regularly handled by other people. Our dog walkers help reinforce our rules and the pups learn how to listen to the same commands when being instructed by different people.

Emergencies & Peace of Mind
Living in the city it can be difficult to find a neighbor willing to actually walk a dog (given that we don't have backyards) and with parking and public transportation issues it can be a lot to ask someone just to swing by. We like having a relationship with our dogwalker in case something comes up where we just can't make it home or we need someone to check on the pups. It was especially helpful during this extra-cold winter where they also helped check on our house and make sure our pipes didn't freeze.

Finding Trusted Walkers
Having a Dogwalker means that you are not only trusting that someone can properly handle your dog, but that you are also allowing them access to your home. I had heard several horror stories of people having bad experiences with dog walking services: one friend found out her dogwalker would hang out in her house and use her computer to check Facebook, another friend said she found out her dogwalker wouldn't pay attention to her pup and would just smoke and talk on the phone, someone else told me about a walker who would come to the home and sign in and not actually walk the dog. The woman thought something was wrong and she stayed home one day, hidden in her own home, to find out this was really happening.
We are a bit wary of the big services as it seems the walkers are changing all the time, and we found our Dogwalker through a friend's reference. We have had our walker for several years, and she has since started Dogma Petcare. She still walks our pups, but she has also added another regular walker for the pups. We like that the walkers needed to shadow her for several walks so they really knew everything before taking the pups out on their own.

It seems like so many of our friends out here use Dogwalkers.
Is this something that has just become a typical part of a dog-owners life? Or is it really something that is more common in cities?

What everyone always wants to know about City Dogs
In real life
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, May 12, 2014

SociaBulls: The Walks Still Go On

So, thanks everyone for thinking of us during our unexpected hiatus. Things are fine with all of us (sorry to scare anyone), but we had to take on an unexpected project that has kept us working night and day and away from our computers.
While it has also kept us away from our last two  SociaBulls walks, long ago we developed a system where the walk planning and coordination does not depend on any single person. Even if something unexpected comes up, the walks still go on.

Board Members:
We have an amazing set of Board members who work behind-the-scenes to make sure everything flows smoothly. I work with Maize's person to set up the walks each week. Once members sign up on the site, we pull the information into a Google Document where we can see which dogs signed up for the walk, determine if we have enough dog less walkers (and send out a request if we don't), and set up the pack order. 
Zoe and Willie & Nabi's people are our amazing New Member Coordinators. They work with the new member applications, coordinating when they will be coming for their orientation walk and dog less walks, and finding them a current member partner to walk with when they attend the walk.
It sounds a bit complicated to explain, but thanks to all of us just filling in the information in Google Documents each week it has become much easier. We also know how to 'sub' for someone if they have things going on that week.

Dogless Walker Responsibilities:
In the beginning I thought I had to attend and lead every single walk, but now we've learned how to designate responsibilities to the dog less walkers on the walk.
Once we have designated the pack order in our Google Documents, I send out on email including the pack order, reminding everyone of the rules and designating specific roles for the dog less walkers.
Some of the roles include: coordinating a "dog less walker huddle" to make sure we have walkers spread out throughout the group, reading the pack order,  and deciding when/where to have the water break. We also assign back-ups for these roles in case someone is stuck in traffic or can't make the walk for some reason.
It functions really smoothly since everyone knows what's expected.

Weather Watchers:
One of the hardest things is deciding whether to call a walk off in case of bad weather. Each walk we rotate the responsibility within the group and we assign 2 people to become our "weather watchers". We include it in the main email, and we send them a separate email with one another's email addresses so they can determine the best way to communicate. They watch the forecast the night before and that morning they need to decide by a designated time whether they are canceling the walk and they email one of the board members so we can put it on our Facebook page to alert our members. 

Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks.
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