Archive for the 'Memories with Finn' Category
Happy 4th Birthday, Finn!

Finnegan turned 4 years old on March 18th. Although technically Finn didn’t come into our lives until July 1st, we consider this to have been the absolute best 4 years of our lives. When we first met Finn, we were unemployed college grads who had decided to complicate our recent plunge into cohabitation by getting a puppy. Getting Finn was one of the best decisions we ever made. Nothing has brought us closer together, and seeing Chris’s fatherly demeanor towards baby Finn is when I knew our family was created. 4 years later we are happily married, working at amazing jobs,  living in a city we love, pinching ourselves everyday that we are this lucky. We love our little family and nothing is better than coming home after a long day and seeing Finn’s smiling face. Finn has been the easiest, most loving dog these past 4 years. Everybody who meets him instantly falls in love with him. Although we’d like to take credit for his gentlemanly manners and sweet disposition, I cannot say enough about the Golden Retriever breed. As a first time dog owner, there is no better companion.

Now that Finn is 4, he is technically no longer a “puppy”.  He has fooled us though! He still gets extremely excited at the sight of squirrels or birds, and does his little puppy romp when we play outside. It’s so great to see that energy and happiness is still a part of him! Although his little face hairs have started to look more white than golden, he will always be my little baby and when I look at his face, I see the same pup we brought home 4 years ago.

For Finn’s Birthday I was undecided if I should make him a “Doggie Cake” like i do every year, or just give him what he really wants- Steak. I opted to go with the Steak this year, since usually the doggie cake gets a couple licks and then he’s over it. I am happy to report he was SO excited to receive his steak dinner and doggie cupcake cookie. I also got him a dog frisbee. It’s important to me to celebrate Finn’s birthday. Not only to make him feel special, but also to celebrate another year in his amazing life.

Finn in Bed- A Photo Montage
Moving a Dog
Golden Retriever Finn sleeping as usual

Golden Retriever Finn sleeping as usual

There has been a lot going on in Finn’s world these past few months, and the next few include some fun times as well. Back in December we moved from wonderful Southern California to Denver Colorado. Nothing in particular brough us here, just a general sense of wanting to try something new. Getting settled in the area, situated to a new job, new climate, and new friends has been quite an experience.

The move itself was surprisingly uneventful. We drove here twice to get both cars and the second time Finn made the trip. 5 hours to Northern California was a breeze, it is a trip Finnegan has made a few times. We then spent Christmas at the Parents house with Bear enjoying his stocking and all the new plants in the yard while getting praised from the whole family for being so adorable. After a few days though it was time to be on our way, next Stop Salt Lake City where we’d visit Finn’s Aunt. Later December is not the best time for such a pilgrimage, chains required going through Tahoe, poor visibility, but luckily we didn’t hear a peep from the little guy in the back. He was content to let us do the talking and each time we stopped he dutifully hopped out, peed and then settled back in for some more driving. In Salt Lake we stayed at a great, dog friendly hotel.

The Hotel Monaco in Salt Lake city gets as many thumbs up as a dog can give. It turns out the whole Kimpton line of hotels is dog friendly. Well, pet friendly. See if a guest does not have their own pet to bring on the trip the staff, upon request,  will provide a goldfish that will be fed and cared for by the housekeeping staff but who lives in the guest room. Even if you’re only staying a night or two. What’s more, when we told them we’d be traveling with a pet there was no crazy deposit on the room, no weight limit, no major concerns of any kind. Clearly they’d worked with dog owners before. When we did arrive our room had a dog bed already in it and a nice food and water bowl. We only stayed one night becasue we had to get to Denver, but it was the first time Finn got to see snow.

A few hours after we got to SLC, and once we had eaten dinner, it started to snow. There was already the 5-6 inches from a previous storm but the active snow was too much to pass up. I grabbed Finn’s leash and we went for a walk despite the cold. Out in front of the Mormon temple I let him loose to romp in the now 8 inches of snow, hopping up and down, burying his head, trying to eat the flakes. We didn’t stay long as I wasn’t equipped for the temperature, and after about 20 minutes it was back to the hotel to get ready for another day of driving. 24 hours later we were settling into our new house excited for thigns to come.

The location change was a lot to take in.  In Finn’s case the move meant no more yard to play in (yard is a relative term as the old one turned into one big burn spot dotted with signs of digging and paw tracks). Instead Finnegan hangs out inside most of the day. He’s cool with this as it means he gets to sleep on cool hardwood floors and soft static inducing carpet, he rotates about hourly. At first we were concerned. How is our outdoor puppy who is used to relieving himself at will onthe lawn, chasing the occasional bird, and basking in the sun going to handle being in an inclosed space? Well he did just fine, minus a few weeks of learning curve to teach him carpet is not grass (he’d never really experienced carpet before), and now he goes on a lot more walks. Because this live bear is cooped up inside all day we make it a point to take him on real walks more.

Finn’s mom is great about the mornings, when Finn joins her for her morning runs. It’s nice that he’s with her as there can be viscious wildlife on the trail, but then I have to be worried about Finn too. At lunch he joins me to pick up the mail at the end of our court and we usually stretch that out into a mile long stroll. Then on a lot of nights we’ll play fetch behind the house. We can’t play during the day as the golfers would be angry, and we now need to be careful about letting Finn in the pond, but overall I think he gets more quality playtime now.

Not everything has been easy about moving to a new city but it is nice to have someone in the house who barely knows the difference. On any given day Finn stills greets us with his patented half smile, tongue out to the side, wide-eyed looks that will make you forget about anything else.

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.

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

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.

The First Night with a Pet

July first marked the first anniversary of our life with Finnegan, a beautiful golden retriever. With the new website and 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.

#1 The First Night of Owning a Dog -Day 1

We had discussed getting a dog for a few months and after much deliberation we decided on a breed, the golden retriever. The research was extensive, including books on ownership, tons of informative websites and plenty of google image searches (on the part of Finn’s mom who could oogle baby puppies for days on end). We tried to register with rescue organizations, filling out forms at three separate organizations but unfortunately the response was not as timely as we would have hoped. I had a month and a half before I would start my job so in an effort to use the time to acclimate ourselves to the life with a dog we turned to the classified ads. There were a few listings for golden litters and we set up visits on a Sunday morning.

The first stop we made was to Finn’s breeders. We got to meet his mom and dad, both of whom were beautiful well mannered pets that were in great health and generally seemed like the type of dog we were searching for. At the time Finn’s name was "Orange" (each of the litter had a different color ribbon used to identify them and save the breeders from growing too attached). He was 15 weeks old, a bundle of energy and looked simply adorable. The breeder’s told us how great his parents were and all about his litter. His father was 12 and was clearly a part of their family, his mother a 4 year old was also a great family pet. From the litter of eight, five already had new homes. A sixth was leaving that day which left "Orange" and Bella. Bella, who was staying with the family, had a close call when she was caught under her sleeping mother and had to be revived via CPR. After such a harrowing experience the breeder’s could not bear to part with her. Once our meeting with "Orange" and friends was over we set off to fulfill our obligation to the other breeder with whom we had set up a meeting. We had a great feeling about "Orange" and almost made the decision right there but decided since we had already set up the second meeting it was the least we could do to show up. At the other breeder our minds were made up in a matter of minutes, we played with the litter for a little bit, chatted with the breeder and left telling them "we’ll think about it and give you a call when we make a decision".

Back in the car the discussion went something like this:
Me: "Ummm… so what do you think"
Finn’s Mom: "I liked Orange, he was just…"
Me: "Let’s go pick up Finn!" (we had decided on his name previously)
Finn’s Mom: "YAYYY!!!!"

We called Finn’s first family and gave them the news. On the way back to their place we stopped at a Petco to get Finn’s first toy, a ball he would NEVER play with. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the breeder’s and set to filling out the paperwork; AKC registration, health history, and transfer of ownership, as well as collecting a large packet that included immunization and breed information that the breeder’s thought we would enjoy (we did). As we left, loading Finn into a small crate we had brought with us, it was apparent he was going to be missed. The teary eyes further convinced us that he had been raised properly  and reiterated that this little pooch’s life and well being was now in our hands.

The trip home was a nervous drive well below the speed limit. Finn piddled a little while poking his head out the top of the carrier we used to secure him, but his demeanor was one of excitement and not fear. Finn’s Mom sat in back with him, making sure that he knew he had someone to watch over him. Back at the house we let Finn out to romp in his new yard and introduced him to his room, complete with couches he could jump on, his water dish and food bowl and a spot for his crate. For the rest of the day we played with Finn, gave him treats and did everything possible to make the transition an exciting and pleasant one.

Night one started by putting Finn into the carrier we had brought him home in, but that did not last. The carrier we had was part of our planning for a puppy but because Finn, at 15 weeks, was older then the puppy we anticipated he didn’t seem to fit. The small size coupled with the fact that it was his first night alone forced us to make the decision that it would be less traumatic if we let him roam, and we resolved to get a suitable crate the next day. Equipped with a piddle pad the small room, the size of a single garage port, had all the amenities a puppy needs. We heard the golden nugget whimper for only a few minutes before the excitement of the day took over and he curled into a ball and got busy sleeping.

Our first day as pet owners was an exciting and memorable one, but it was only the beginning of all the wonderful things to come…

Memories 2-10 to come. Have a memorable tale of your first experience as a dog owner? Love to hear it, share in the comments or e-mail it along.