An Interesting Start To My Morning

Every day when I drive to work I listen to a local radio station’s 8 am “Feel Good Favourite”.  It’s a chance for listeners to call in and request a feel good song, and often these songs are dedicated to their friends and family.  It’s usually a favourite song of the person being honoured in the dedication, but sometimes it is the message of the song that is the reason it is chosen. 

This morning the caller wanted to dedicate the Feel Good Favourite to her friends who recently lost their “beloved lab”.  The song she requested?  “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen. 

So there I was, halfway to work, listening to the song lyrics and thinking of Kona as she gets older.  It was all I could do not to cry.  Especially when it got to the line “But I still come back to you” and all I could see was Kona running towards me when she’s called. 

I’m not kidding – the caller really picked an appropriate song.


Who’s the Boss?

Is it this 15 lb snuggly beast?

Or this 50 lb bundle of energy?

You should know that Keegan has no front claws.  That, combined with being less than a third of Kona’s weight would suggest that he might not get the upper hand.

Until recently we hadn’t put it to the test.  The ground floor of our house is divided by baby gates so that Keegan can live unmolested in a Kona-free zone.  Normally, they just meet at the gate between the Kitchen and foyer.

Kona always rushes to the gate in the morning to say hello.  She bows to Keegan, to let him know she wants to play and her tail wags a mile a minute.  Keegan stares her down.  Periodically he paws at her.  Kona will sometimes reciprocate with her paw through the gate.

And that has been it… until the other day.  Keegan, while very snuggly and affectionate, is also really mouthy.  Especially around mealtimes.  Lately, he’s taken to sitting right by the gate and demanding food.  He was being particularly belligerent the other day and we’d had enough (he’d already gotten his meal).  Kona was at the gate excited to see him.  So P opened the gate. 

I was downstairs and heard the ensuing chase around our ground floor.  They ended up in a stand-off beneath our dining room table.  Keegan was hissing and growling and making it clear he wanted to be left alone.  Kona was wagging her tail and wanted to play.  Three times she would approach him, then back off.  Keegan finally brought out the claws on his hind legs and got her on the nose.  P stepped in at that point and brought Kona back to the dog zone. 

The next day I was upstairs and we decided to give it another try.  This time Keegan stood his ground beneath a dining chair.  Kona kept approaching him – she would bow down on the ground, keep her head to the ground and creep up towards him.  After 5 or 10 seconds she would back away.  We let it go on for a minute before separating the two.

Of course, Keegan spent the entire minute hissing and growling, although this time he stayed seated and didn’t bring out this claws.  And Kona?  She just kept trying to lick him.  In fact, Keegan’s fur was soaked after we separated them (I’m sure he LOVED that). 

It’ll be a long time before Kona has the self-control to not try and wrestle Keegan to the ground (in play), but I’m sure it will happen eventually.  Until then, we’ll just have to daydream about the day we can finally take down the gates and our cat and dog will hang out in the same space.

Pimp My Crate

As I’ve mentioned before, Kona is crate trained and we intend to keep her crated when left alone for now and the forseeable future.  When we first brought her home we collected some old towels and used them to cushion the inside of her crate.  This worked well (especially during the housetraining months) until the end of summer when we discovered this:

We quickly put a stop to leaving the towels in her crate.  Of course this meant that she had nothing to sleep on when she was crated, which we felt bad about.  Although, not so bad that we rushed to put anything in there – we heard too many firsthand accounts of dog owners spending thousands on emergency surgery after their dogs ate rags and other textiles.

In December Petsmart had a sale on dog beds and crate mats.  I debated picking one up but even on sale it was still pricey. When I took a good look at it I decided it was something that I could make myself – a removable fabric pillowcase surrounding a thin layer of foam.  I called up my sewing guru (aka Mom) to find out where to buy the foam, and to see if she had any leftover flannel or fleece I could use for the project.  Not only did she have the fabric but she volunteered to make it!

Mom improved on my initial concept – she ended up creating a quilted mat, sized to fit our crate.  The quilting is on the bottom side only, as stitching is something that Kona seems to be attracted to.  And the best part is that we can toss the mat into the washing machine when it needs a good cleaning.

The minute we presented it to Kona, she walked right on top of it, spent 30 minutes sniffing it, and then settled down on top of it.

So far we are just using it as a second “dog bed”, outside of the crate.  Our plan is to monitor her using it to make sure there are no chewing moments (in which case we’ll take it away).  This is the strategy we used after we repaired her dog bed, and so far the dog bed remains undamaged.

For now, it spends most of the time in the kitchen – tucked away in a corner where she can settle and watch us while we cook or clean.  It’s been 3 weeks and she hasn’t made a move to chew it so we’re pretty happy about that.  Eventually we will start leaving it in the crate at night, and after that is successful we will leave it in during the work day as well.  Fingers crossed that it all goes well!

Merry Christmas

Hope you are all enjoying a wonderful day filled with family, laughter and happy memories in the making.

Kona will be celebrating her first Christmas at our house in the morning, and then in Oakville with my family. She’s already in the holiday spirit and even gave out gifts to many of her doggie friends.

I helped her put together some packages of homemade dog biscuits.

And by “I helped” I mean that she sat a foot away from me and watched intently as I made the dough, rolled it out, cut the biscuits and baked them, then packaged the cooled biscuits in some cellophane bags with ribbon. She’s an excellent kitchen assistant.

I found this dog biscuit recipe online and used the medium and small sized cookie cutters from this set. The recipe was straightforward and the dough very easy to work with.

While the effort to cut them all out was time consuming, it was well worth the effort. Kona doesn’t have the most discerning taste (see this post about things she’s eaten), but she is definitely showing a preference for these cookies over other less exciting treats. And we’ve gotten some great feedback from Pippa and Emma as well. Plus, the cost to make them was a lot less than the bags of dog biscuits we’ve been buying. So I’ll definitely be making these again!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!!

Whose Gift is it Anyways?

Last week was P’s birthday and for the first time, he gave me a wish list.  (I should clarify that he always makes a wish list for our families, but I usually have ideas of what I want to get him already.  This year I was in need of ideas)

After doing lots of research, P decided he really wanted the Ruffwear Approach Pack.  Not for him to wear of course, but for Kona.  The Approach Pack is essentially a harness with two built-in saddle bags that you can fill with all the necessary items when you go for extended hikes with your dog:  water, snacks (for the dogs or you), first aid kit, etc. 

P asked for the Approach Pack, which is intended for day hikes and is the smallest sized pack that Ruffwear offers.  He discovered Ruffwear through a recommendation from a friend of ours who used one of their larger packs for multi-day hikes in the Rockies with her golden retriever. 

I wasn’t sure about the idea, but after reading the online reviews I was sold.  Many owners report that their dogs are excited to wear the packs and are more obedient and focused on the task when they are wearing them.  Plus, a heavy pack tires them out sooner so daily walks do not need to be as long. 

There’s a variety of sizes available so finding the right fit was pretty easy.  I measured Kona and determined that at her current size she’s right at the bottom range of the Medium.  Our neighbour H helped me out and measured Emma (we expect Kona to end up a similar size to her) who was in the middle of the Medium size range.  So this one pack should last regardless of how big of a lab Kona turns out to be. 

P loves taking Kona for short hikes on the various trails near our home and can’t wait to take her on longer ones.  He put the pack on Kona a few times last week to get her used wearing it.  Of course, very light loads (a Frisbee and an empty water bottle) were added to the pack. 

Looks good on her, doesn’t it?  She’s not quite sure what to think of it right now, but we’re confident that over time she will come to love carrying the pack.  

Unfortunately, it’s a bit challenging to find the Ruffwear packs if you live in Canada as very few shops carry them and most of the online retailers are US-based and don’t ship to us.  I was able to track it down at an online dog supply store based in Langley, B.C., Gear 4 Dogs – and it was at the lower price than anywhere else (even when shipping and taxes were included).   

Piggy Grunts and Wagging Tails

Every time Kona greets myself or P the reaction is the same. She runs to us, and starts moving around us in circles. Her tail is wagging furiously, and her entire body wiggling along with it. She nudges us with her nose and rubs her body against us. If its been more than an hour since she saw us last the enthusiasm of the greeting intensifies. First thing in the morning, or after a long day at work, she will make her “piggy grunt” sounds and roll over onto her belly for a good belly rub.

The reaction is similar if she meets someone new while we are on our walk or if we have a visitor in our home. On weekday mornings it is rare for Kona and I to meet someone during our 6 am stroll. However, this Friday was an exception. At the end of our walk, we were heading towards our house when Kona spied someone at our neighbour’s house across the street. He was loading a couch that our neighbour left on the curb into his truck.

He saw us, and commented on Kona’s noticable eagerness to say hello. We went over for a greeting and he received an affectionate hello. As we were chatting he commented that dogs are “love in motion“.

I can’t think of a better phrase to describe Kona.

The more things change…

6 years ago today I was sharing an apartment with my friend M near Mount Pleasant & Eglinton in Toronto.  It was our last month in that building, and I was packing to move to a condo near St Lawrence Market.  I took a break from my packing that night.  I hopped into my still relatively new car…

and drove to a coffee shop in Forest Hill.

Since I was my usual 5-10 minutes early, I waited outside.  Luckily I was bundled up in my white “bond girl” jacket (see car photo above).  I spied a good-looking guy my age inside the shop, but thought, it can’t be him it’s too early…

But it was.  P walked out and introduced himself.  It was our first date, the first time we met face to face after connecting on lavalife. We grabbed some hot bevvies (cider for P and chai latte for moi) and went for a walk through the neighbourhood, making a loop that ended at a park above the St Clair Reservoir.

A year later we re-enacted our first date only this time it ended a little differently.  When we got to the park P asked me a very important question, and after he heard my answer he reached into his pocket and brought out this:

Fast forward another couple of years.  We are no longer living in the city and we have a house in suburbia.  I traded in my mini for a civic.  Feeling nostalgic we decided to visit the scene of the crime.  Only this time, when we reached our special secluded spot in the park there was something very different.  It wasn’t so secluded.  The grass was gone and replaced with dirt.  The area was fenced off. It was an off-leash dog park.

We laughed, but inside I felt a bit of disappointment.  Our special place wasn’t what it used to be.  My thoughts of revisiting “our place” as the years went by seemed to be dashed.

But once again, our lives have changed.  This year we are thinking of going back for another visit.  Only this time, we will get to share our spot with the newest member of our family.