Archive for July, 2008

Experiencing an earthquake for the first time is awkwardly exciting. It is disturbing because of the power and damage that can be caused, but still interesting to live through.

Yesterday a magnitude 5.4 earthquake occurred. The epicenter was about 30 miles away from us but it was still easily felt. I was on the phone at the time and had to pause a conference call while I stepped outside to make sure nothing terrible happened. Finnegan, man’s best friend who supposedly has a natural instinct for when these sorts of things are going to occur, SLEPT THROUGH THE FIRST HALF OF IT. Seriously!

Los Angeles area earthquake with a dog

Los Angeles area earthquake with a dog

He was lying out on the lawn just napping away in the sun like he normally does in the afternoon. As I got up and went out to greet him (with things shaking all around) he finally popped up, let out a surprised bark and proceeded to run a few frantic circles around the yard. Too late buddy, fun’s over. Reports claim that the quake lasted between 20-45 seconds depending on where you felt it but for us it was probably about 30 seconds. Keep in mind I had enough time to A) figure out that an earthquake was happening B) tell my people on the phone that an earthquake was happening and excuse myself from the conversation, C) make a conscious decision that maybe being inside around stacked boxes and a storage area was not a great idea D) rectify the situation by walking around a couch, through a room and outside. AFTER I had done all of this Finnegan woke from his slumber.

To his credit he does kick a lot in his sleep and shake himself so this might have not been a concern for him even if he were awake but still.  The whole thing, as I said, was exciting but I would not be mad if I never again felt one. Finn on the other hand, while I’m not sure he was even awake long enough to realize there was an earthquake. Poor little guy, he missed out on possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

First Christmas with a Dog – Ten Memories #7

There were some stressful times leaving Finn at the shelter for the first time and taking him on his first road trip so Christmas was a nice change. We stayed in Los Angeles for Finn’s first Christmas and used the short break from work as a time to relax. Living in southern California is a dream for a kid from the midwest (me, not Finn) and growing up there were always rumors that some places in the world didn’t turn into semi-rain semi-snow grey blobs 4 months out of every year. There were others presents, and even a stocking for the pooch, but the real treat was the trip to the beach on Christmas eve.

Finnegan opening his presents

Finnegan opening his presents

Even though it is illegal to have a dog on Santa Monica beach there was noone around to enforce that rule. We had the beach to ourselves and spent a good half hour just walking along the water letting Finn sniff some seaweed and taste the salt (he quickly figured out it was not good). Seeing him experience sand for the first time, chase the crashing waves, and attack seaweed it was impossible not to smile. Even after only 6 months it was evident how much Finn had become a part of our lives and how much joy he provided on a daily basis. Starting our own traditions, and including him in them, made me realize that I had become a “crazy dog person” and I was, and am, completly okay with that.

First Time Dog Boarding – Ten Memories #6

Having a dog means one more thing to think about when traveling. No longer can we just run off for a weekend on a whim, and taking Finn with us isn’t always an option thanks to a strict no dog policy at many vacation destinations (and I don’t think Finn would fare well on a cruise ship). Our vacation was planned well ahead of time and as it approached we needed to decide what we were going to do with Finn. First we called the breeder, but with both of Finn’s parents and one of his sisters they just did not have room for the little guy. Then, while spending a nice Sunday morning in Westwood we saw a few dogs for adoption along with a van advertising cage free dog boarding. A review of their website revealed that CageFree K9′s was part rescue organization part dog day care, so we decided to check it out.

When I called to get the details we found out it was best to have a trial run, to make sure Finn would handle it, before leaving him for a whole week. This seemed like a reasonable thing to do so we setup for the following Saturday. Finn got dropped off in the morning and while he went to go play we got a tour of the facilities. The place looked great, and all the people working there were friendly and seemed genuinely interesting in taking care of dogs. Still though, leaving him was nervewracking. How much did we really know about these people? We spent the day running errands and generally enjoying ourselves. When we returned, late that afternoon , the girl working the desk (who had also checked us in) starting telling us how well Finnegan did and how much everyone there loved him. Success!

A few weeks later we dropped Finnegan off again and left on our cruise. Finn’s mom checked in every chance she got (at least once daily if we could get cell reception) and each time the updates were positive. On the last day of the cruise we disembarked, hopeed in the car and drove straight to CageFree. Sure enough our little guy was just fine, albeit fairly dirty and smelly, and when we paid we went ahead and got a package deal (40 nights). Sure it is not the least expensive thing we have ever bought, but for the quality of care Finn gets there (they now know him by name and on Sunday mornings at their adoption will tell us how much they can’t wait to see him again) it is totally worth it.

July first marked the first anniversary of our life with Finnegan, a beautiful golden retriever. With this milestone I find myself reflecting back on all the things that have happened in the past year and all the things I have learned. There were the hours spent lounging on the couch or playing fetch, buying toys at the pet store only to see them ripped apart in mere minutes, exciting trips to dog parks and hikes and countless other experiences that I treasure. In an attempt to explain what a whirlwind at has been, and all the things I have learned I have complied a list of the ten most memorable moments, some fun and some worrisome, from the first year of pet ownership. Because some of them involve full stories I’ll be posting them serially over the course of the month. If you are a pet owner feel free to chime in and let me know how you dealt with some of these issues or what your favorite memories were from your first year of having a pet.

Holidays with a Pet – Ten Memories #5
Traveling Bag for Finn's First Trip

Traveling Bag for Finn's First Trip

Thanksgiving dinner with a dog- Finnegan’s First Trip

Finn’s first long car trip, first time meeting his grandparents, and his first over night trip. All of these things were accomplished over thanksgiving, a fitting time to appreciate all the wonderful things Finn brings to our lives.The trip started out slowly, sitting in traffic on the 405 trying to get out of Los Angeles on a holiday, but Finn did not show his frutration with the gridlock. When in doubt this little guy knows what to do; sleep. It was like that most of the 7 hours we drove. We made a few stops to get let him pee and grab some food but each time we got back on the road it only took a few minutes for him to settle in and get back to dreaming.

When we arrived we made the decision to allow bear to sleep in a bedroom. The cage was packed, and even though it is a quick assembly one it’s still a hassle. Thanksgiving was jammed with loads of people coming by (there were at least 4 people sleeping on floors or couches in the house in addition to all 4 bedrooms being occupied) and Finnegan was hamming it up for all of them. He impressed a few with his knowledge of “sit” and “shake” the only real tricks he knew at the time, but what he lacked in training he made up for in shear cuteness. With Finn always around there was a concern that he would need to be sanctioned off during Thanksgiving dinner, to avoid any begging. Then a funny thing happened.

All the food was out on the table, and all ten people were seated and just as we were about to begin it struck me. Where is Finnegan? I knew he wasn’t left outside, and he sure wasn’t begging at the table, so where could he be? As i went to push myself away from the table to investigate my foot hit something soft. Then I realized, Finnegan already knew the best spot. Instead of standing around the table begging for food Finn used the large table with overflowing table cloths as his own personal den. He was curled in a ball under my feet, just out of reach so I could stretch out but still close enough to land one of his patented “I’m chasing a cat in my dreams” kicks.

The meal carriedon, plenty of food was eaten, desert was served and only when everyone moved off to drop into their food comas did Finnegan emerge, following us over to the couches and then outside where he ate his own personal thanksgiving (It’s a holiday, he’s allowed to eat turkey and potatoes once in a while). The whole trip was fantastic and I sure was thankful that we got to share it with Finn.

Puppy Gardening and Digging- Ten Memories #4

#4 Dog Digging in the Yard

Finnegan was just a puppy, there was some dirt, he had some free time. It was inevitable. He dug up the yard.

For a while every time the little bear dug, he was alone. This left us no good opportunity to tell him not to dig. Of course he was doing it out of boredom, so it was our fault for not wearing him out, but sometimes a puppy just gets into things. It started so innocently, just a paw or two around the edges of the yard. Nothing too destructive but rather it was a marking saying “Hey, Something smelled or tasted good”. Slowly though the puppy became more brazen, ready to do his digging while we were around. Then one day we noticed some of the patio pillars (a nice painted wood) had chipped off…. were those bite marks?

Shortly after discovering the one set of chew marks we found the other posts had been nibbled on as well. Finnegan was provided with ample other options of chew toys, bones, and rawhides but it seemed he just got bored sometimes. The solution was to wrap the pillars in chicken wire, and staple down some over the worst of the digging holes. Since we did that Finn has been pretty good, he digs in the sides of the yard every once in a while now, but if it’s in the dirt we don’t mind as much. It was all a reminder of what yard care will be like with an active dog.

Finn’s new thing is to find some random branches and chew those, earning him the nickname “The Gardener”, so at least for all his mischief he added to his growing list of nicknames.

Huntington Beach Off Leash Dog Park – A day at the beach
Huntington Beach Dog Park

Huntington Beach Dog Park

There are only a few Los Angeles area beaches that allow dogs, and even fewer that allow them to run free off leash. Huntington Beach Dog park is one of the few and is a great place to cool off with you pet while enjoying the waves. The off leash portion of the beach is located between 21st and Seapoint on PCH in Huntington Beach CA and offers a well protected beach that is packed with dogs. Although not as expansive as some other southern California beaches this park has enough room to play fetch, throw a ball, and relax in the sun; assuming you don’t mind the occasional wet nosed visitor.

There is limited parking just west of PCH across from the oil fields. It is all metered, which can be a hassel, so remember to bring some quarters. We lucked out when there and someone pulled out right in front of us but if it’s a nice day you may be better off parking a little ways away.

The day we were there there were literally hundreds of dogs playing around. The atmosphere is fairly relaxed and we didn’t see any signs of aggressive dogs, always a concern at a public dog area. After setting up are spot and checking out the scene we let Finn off leash and he immediatly burst towards the water jumping over smaller dogs and making immediate friends with a few kids who were kicking a soccer ball.

My one complaint about the beach is the surf. Waves break very close to shore so it is dificult even for big dogs to really do any swimming. That being said for the ability to let you dog run free and discover what a wave is this park is one my favorite places we’ve gone with Finnegan. For a more secluded on leash park you can try Malibu’s Leo Carillo State Park or just a few miles from Huntington is the Long Beach off-leash dog zone(a smaller but still off leash park that is the only one in L.A. county). Don’t forget to dry your dogs ears to avoid ear infections after the trip, and enjoy your day at the beach!

Leo Carillo State Beach Dog Park

Although it is technically not in Los Angeles (as no beaches are), Leo Carillo State Park is one of the few sandy ocean side destinations that allows dogs without the threat of a fine. We took Finn up there in hopes of letting him play in the waves, which we didn’t let him do the last time we brought him to a beach. After pawing at a few mild splashes Finn dove in and within minutes was letting waves crash on top of him.Golden retriever in the surf
The on leash rule, even in the water, is a bit of a bummer but we did see a lot of extending leashes and stakes with leads attached. Of course Finn was upset that he didn’t get to run free but unlike other dog parks you are allowed to bring food so we were able to entice him to relax for a few minutes. There were tons of other dogs at the beach, in every size, and most owners were friendly with well socialized pets. As always though, Finn was the best looking one of the bunch.Wet golden retriever on the beachThe beach does provide a great place to run with a dog, but for those who want a more intense walk the park also contains a few miles of hiking trails as well as overnight camping spots. Running in the sand with the dog

There are no bags here but it is a beach so it is pretty easy to figure out a way to “pick up” after a pet. Also there is no water (fresh… clearly there is salt water), which could be a big problem for dogs that like drinking salt water (which causes dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea). If you are going to a beach with a pet you may want to look at some more tips about taking a dog to a beach.

Getting to Leo Carillo beach was an easy hour drive from the westside of Los Angeles, but if PCH is backed up it could be quite the haul. The park is located at 35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and parking there is $10 for the day, not bad by L.A. standards. View of Leo Carillo State Park Dog Beach Of the 1.5mi of beach area about .75mi is a designated dog friendly area. As you enter the park you drive under a bridge and follow the road north of tower 3 to the second parking lot, dogs are allowed ON LEASH anywhere north of tower 3. Here is a little more on the features of Leo Carillo State Park, and below is a map of the area.

If you are looking for somewhere to take a dog off-leash check out Hungtion Beach for some dog friendly surf.

Dog Training Classes – Ten Memories #3

#3-Dog Training Classes

Finnegan was fifteen weeks old when we got him, which is older than most puppies, but it also meant he was fairly well potty trained. After two or three days he knew where to go which avoided one of the biggest issues with training a pet, all the was left to do was to teach him how to behave. Of course doing that is a much more complicated process than it would seem. There are thousands of things that go into training a dog so we decided to get some help.

After taking a look at some ads, reading around online for some reviews and calling a few trainers we settled on one that held puppy obedience and manners classes. The classes were officially a gift to Finn’s Mom as part of her birthday present to help her bond with her new love. Each session was an hour long and build upon the last session, and there was even homework. For the first class we read all the pre class material, avoided a large breakfast for Finn (to help him respond to the treats) grabbed our towel and leash and set off. Finnegan was excited, it was still one of his first times out interacting with other dogs, but we were instructed to stay well away from the others and concentrate on handling our puppy. We learned the basics of how to make Finn sit, stay, behave on walks, wait at doors, go to his spot and more importantly we learned what we were doing that would cause Finn confusion.

One of the biggest revelations was that it didn’t matter what we said to the dog, it was much more important what we did. This meant understanind everything from how we said a command, what other movements we made, our facial expressions, and even our emotional state. Dog physchology is a massively complicated issue and the classes were only the tip of the iceberg to understanding Finn. That is not to say there were not quick results. As a golden retriever Finn has been breed to please his handler and he was quick to respond to anything that smelled and tasted great too. By the end of the sessions, including all the homework, Finn was sitting on command, was able to lie down, come when called, and his general demeanor around was that of a well trained gentleman. The excitement of seeing our little guy go to school was amazing and just another reminder that he relies on us to teach him the things he needs to know and the way he needs to act.

Doggie Manners Diploma - Dog training class certificate of attendance

Doggie Manners Diploma - Dog training class certificate of attendance

SuperTreats Dog Biscuit Review
Supertreats YUM!

Supertreats YUM!

The other day an e-mail arrived from the nice folks over at Thrive! foods offering Finn a sampling of their new treat the “SuperTreat”. The concept they are going for is fairly neat as well. The treats are marketed with a special program called “Suprise” which is basically just a single serving of the treats but they’ve made it extra easy to buy one and have it shipped to a pooch you love. For hard-core dog owners (and really aren’t we all) there is sometimes a debate on wheter or not to get presents for a dog but this seems to solve that problem. The treats are:

Good enough for people to eat with their dog – they taste great (Banana Biscotti, Ginger Snaps, Peanut Butter Granola, Dehydrated Papaya Chews) and we use human-grade ingredients made in an FDA certified facility.

The variety we got were the Vitality Granola bites. Finn of course scarfed these things down in no-time so they do get the puppy approval. Because they have the whole FDA approved ingredients thing going for them I even tried one. It’s no poptart, and you won’t find me packing them for myself on any hikes, but the treats were palatable and I must admit I’ve had worse food that was actually made for humans.

All in all not a bad little package and these will definatly be kept in mind for future dog presents.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with SuperTreats! or Thrive! foods. They did however send quality free product which is an easy way to please Finn and friends.

SuperTreats Mailing

SuperTreats Mailing

Neutering, Xrays- Ten Memories #2

#2 Memories From the First Year of Pet Ownership- Neutering and Hip X-Rays

I’ve watched too much Price Is Right to not know what spay and neutering is important whether or not you win a cool RV. Only days after getting Finn we saw his vet for a little check, he was fine then but we used it as an opportunity to book a visit to get our puppy, how do you say, ‘fixed’. Poor little guy.

I believe it was the right decision for Finn for a variety of reasons, to keep him safe, avoid health problems, and as we learned to avoid spreading a genetic disease. While he was sedated for the surgery they took some X-Rays that showed Finnegan’s hips were succeptible to hip dysplasia. It was after the surgery when they called, so I was relieved he was fine for now, but terribly worried about what seemed like a horrible diagnosis. Over the next few days I did some research and realized although it is not ideal, a diagnosis for Hip Dysplasia was manageable which helped calm Finn’s Mom and me. It is something we need to keep in mind, we should monitor Finn’s weight and be aware of his activity level, but until he starts to show pain we need to take it easy. That just left the cone.

Coneheads. That’s what dogs wind up being after most surgeries. Little bear was no different, and when I got him home in his drugged out state he wadled around bumping his little plastic protector into all sorts of things. The next week and a half were filled with mad dashes ending in *clunck* as Finnegan never really figured out how to deal with having such a huge head. That’s what you get for not being able to withhold from eating your own stitches though.

Such a major medical procedure and diagnosis made a real impact on us as dog owners. It was a reminder that we were now responsible for the well being of something else, and we took that seriously. If feels nice to care for and even worry about a pet. My only hope is that Finnegan gets as much enjoyment out of his life as he brings to others.