Why Black Is Best

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Black cats and dogs are often the last to get adopted out of a shelter.  Informally, this is called the “Black Dog Syndrome”.  This is a particular problem for the bigger breeds, and may be due to the public misconception that big, black dogs are dangerous.  This misconception is often reinforced by the depiction of such dogs in the popular media.  Even the language we use can be derogatory.  For example, the “Black Dog” is often a term used to describe depression.  For cats, the superstition around black cats still persists.

To add to this, it can be hard for black dogs to photograph well.  This means that the photographs that potential adopters see do not ‘sell’ the dog well.  It also means that, for an ad campaign, a black dog is hardly ever used (think about it, you see plenty of golden retrievers in ads; when is the last time you saw a big, black dog?).

Love for a breed can over-ride this bias.  For instance, black labradors are very popular and it would be easier to place them in homes.  But for the average black shelter dog, chances of being adopted can be slim.

Personally, I think they are just beautiful.  There can be a majestic beauty to black dogs.  They can be as friendly (or unfriendly) as any other dog.  For your next dog or cat, make yours a black.

Do you have a beautiful black dog?  I would love to feature some on the blog.  What are your thoughts about the “Black Dog Syndrome”? Is it fact or fiction?

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Could You Be…The Most Beautiful Dog In the World

What do you think is the most beautiful dog breed in the world? Thank you to braith an’ lithe for inspiring this post. I was checking out her blog (which is awesome btw) and had serious dog-envy of her greyhound.  It got me thinking about the beauty of dogs – it’s all very subjective of course, but in my eyes, the greyhound is the most beautiful dog in the world.

The Greyhound

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I dare you to disagree with me! OK, I know some people think ‘they’re not cuddly’ or they’re ‘too skinny’, but there is something elegant and magical about them.  For me, it’s the combination of their soulful eyes in their small faces which gets me every time.

They are often misunderstood and the mandatory muzzling laws in many states gives people the impression that greyhounds are aggressive.  In fact, most are incredibly gentle and loving, and make wonderful pets. They don’t shed hair, require a relatively short walk every day and spent a lot of time sleeping.  They are great as apartment dogs for these reasons.

For those of you in Australia, check out your local Greyhound Adoption Program. In Victoria, it is Greyhound Adoption Program.  Too busy for a full-time dog?  Consider fostering a greyhound.  Also, check out Barbara Karant’s incredible photographs of greyhounds: Greyhounds The Book.  These were the pictures that first made me fall in love with the breed.

Having said all that, the beauty of a dog often lies in what he means to the owner.  A dog that has helped you through a difficult or lonely time will be the most beautiful dog in the world for you.  Sometimes the mixed-breed dog (or ‘mutt’) adopted from the pound is so special in its uniqueness. Being a ‘mixed-breed’ person myself  🙂 I have a soft spot for these type of dogs.

What type of dog is most beautiful for you? 

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The Dog Delusion

Richard Dawkins wrote a bestselling book called The God Delusion.  I won’t get into that debate here, but I can talk about a sad modern-day problem:  the  ‘dog delusion’.

A delusion is a false belief which persists despite contradictory evidence.  And the dog delusion is the myth of the Perfect Dog (aka the ‘Disney Dog’).  The reason it matters is because, for those who suffer with this delusion, the reality of dog ownership can be a huge surprise.  When Lassie turns into Lawsuit,  the dog is on a one-way trip to the pound.

The Disney Dog

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Sweet, loyal, always by your side. Ready to defend you with his life if needs be.  Can understand your tears and your words.  Steps in when the school bully is after you.  Even the ‘naughty’ Disney dogs, such as Marley and Beethoven, are adorable  in their naughtiness.

The Real Dog

Toilet training issues, problem barking, separation anxiety, aggression. These are serious problems, and thankfully, can often be remedied.

Unless we begin to see dogs for what they are, rather than some idealised version of themselves, people will continue to turn in their dogs to shelters when the cute puppy becomes a naughty adolescent.  Let’s stop the madness.  Be honest about your challenges with your dogs and then seek the help you need.  That way, when your naughty pooch turns into a well-trained and sociable one, you will feel like you’ve ‘earned’ him.  We don’t return naughty children to the womb , so why is it so acceptable to return a difficult dog?

Did you have any surprises when you first got your dog? How did you meet the challenge?

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7 Warning Signs That You’re A Crazy Dog Person

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1.  When you look at your dog’s face, you want to cover it in kisses.

 And you tell your boss this. And your boss hates dogs.

2.  You sing songs to your dog

E.g. “How much is that doggy in the window?”.  And you teach your dog to bark back, so you can do a cute ‘doggy duet’.  Your friends do not think this is cute. Especially because your dog just sits there, whilst you’re like “I SWEAR! Last time, he was singing back to me and dancing! Are you kidding me, he can do the friggin moonwalk! Hang on, just let me try again…”

3.  You talk to your dog when you walk it.

 And not ‘Charlie, heel’,  but ‘Charlie, you’re a good boy! Are you a good boy? Yes, you are!! Charlie, what’s that? Is that a bird? Wooooh! It’s a bird, are you excited?’  Your neighbours think you’re strange, but pleasant enough.

4.  You teach your dog to walk on your back…

So you can get a doggy massage.

5. You buy a $100 Mason Pearson brush…

So you can brush your golden retriever’s hair.  Meanwhile your own hair has not seen a brush in years.

6.  You say strange things to your husband and he doesn’t bat an eye-lid:

Like, ‘Can you get the scissors, I have to cut the poo off Hannah’s bum-hairs’  (I can tell you, that’s a major mood-killer :)).   And ‘Can you please buy some Oil of Olay, Hannah’s paws are a little dry.’  And, the always-charming, ‘why can’t you be more like a dog’.

7.  When people ask you what you’d save if your house was burning…

 You say “Charlie’s collar from when he was a puppy. Oh, and our wedding pictures.”

Are you a crazy dog person? What sort of things do you do that make people roll their eyes?

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The Zen of Walking Your Dog

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I believe in meditation. Now, when I say “believe”, I don’t mean I actually do it. I have tried, but end up getting stressed because it’s too much pressure to ‘relax’.  I think “I should be relaxing. I should smile.  Relax your shoulders,  relax your toes”. Then the whole thing becomes too much, and I sulk and go eat peanut-butter cookies. I can’t relax. My mother once said, “When you were little, I thought you had ants in your body, because you kept squiggling.” I’m 33 and I’m still ‘squiggling’. When will I stop squiggling?

 

I know meditation is much deeper than relaxation.  But something that works better for me is ‘mindful walking’.  Buddhists practice meditation-in-motion.  The goal is remaining mindful in each step you take – feeling the earth under your feet, hearing the birds, smelling the air, etc. For our purposes, this means feeling that leash in your hand, watching your dog sniff the ground, looking at the leaves, and so on.   Mindfulness means staying in the moment.  Literally, step-by-step. 

I make it sound easy,right? Now the hard part.  Do the above, whilst your pooch is tugging at the leash or growling at a cat.  Stay mindful whilst picking up the dog poo.  Stay present whilst a possibly aggressive off-leash dog runs up to your dog to ‘say hi’. Like I said, piece of cake 🙂

The thing is, life is like that.  I have been doing yoga over the last few months.  I am present, attentive and mindful during yoga.  And for a few hours into the next day, I stay mindful. But then I get a $1000 bill (don’t ask, just don’t ask, still a raw wound) or a stressful phone call, and the mindfulness goes out the window.  To be really mindful, we need to teach ourselves to do it even when life gets hectic. Especially when life is hectic.

Mindfulness has been shown to have countless benefits to our psychological well-being (I won’t bore you with the research, but it’s there).  Let’s start learning it together. Step-by-step.

Try it out on your next walk with your dog and let me know how it went.  

 

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How To Tire Out Your High-Maintenance Dog

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Ask me how I know. 

All day, I had dreamed about sitting down with a cup of tea, reading a book and just winding down after work. But alas, ’twas not to be.   Charlie was “ON”.  He wanted to play, he was restless, he was nudging me with his nose every two seconds, then he started licking my hands, and on and on it went.  It is at these moments when a girl wants an easygoing cat, or a rabbit, or some diamonds (in case someone rich is reading).

Luckily, I have faced this situation many times before. So here’s my toolkit for tiring out your dog, so that you can have that cup of tea and have a happy dog (the number one thing is a good walk, of course, but I’m assuming you already did that):

1.   The ‘Find It’ Game 

I haven’t invented this.  But OMG it really works.  Put your dog in a sit and make him wait whilst you scatter some treats (preferably low-calorie but something he loves) around.  Make the treats a little hard to find so he has to work his nose muscles (?) to find them. When you’re ready, say ‘Find it’ and watch them run around finding the treats. 10 minutes of this works wonders.

2.  Tug-of-war, with home-made tug toys!

I used to spend a fortune on tug toys, then I learnt to make my own.  Go to your local Spotlight/fabric store, buy 2 metres of ‘fleece’, 1 metre in each color. Cut them up in long strips, then knot two strips together, and keep knotting up these two strips until you have a fleecy tug toy.

3.  The Old Faithful: “Fetch”

I have never mastered teaching my dogs to fetch.  I know, it’s sad.  So I have to have more creative ways of tiring them out. But if your dog loves playing ball, you’re lucky.

4.  Teach a trick or two

Sometimes mental exercise tires them out more than the physical.  Get a clicker and read up on ‘shaping’ for tricks and clicker-training.

One cute trick I have taught Charlie is how to get me a tissue when I sneeze. Essentially, I have a box of tissues in front of me.  I encourage him to touch the box with his nose. As soon as his nose touches the box, I click my clicker and give him a tiny treat.  Rinse and repeat.  Then up the ante.  So now he has to mouth the tissue to get the treat.  Once he’s able to do this consistently, up the ante to get him to actually take the tissue out the box.  Eventually, move the box further and further away from you.  You can also associate a word with the trick, so he knows to get the tissue for you when you ask.  For us, it’s ‘Atchoo!’

My favorite is the ‘Trick Medley’ –  in quick-fire succession, I will ask for ‘Sit, down, roll over, up, shake hands, ‘speak’, bow down, walk backwards’.  Charlie LOOOVES this and it’s hilarious to watch him do this.  I’m not kidding, he literally lives for this game.

What have you found that works for your dog? I would love to add to this list!

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My Shocking and Brilliant Theory

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What’s a cat doing on this blog!  All will be revealed shortly.

I woke up last night with an amazing theory.  It jolted me out of my sleep, and I sat up straight in bed, thinking to myself “The world will never be the same again once people know this.”  It’s very simple, but it works.

You ready for it? Here it is:

There are basically two types of humans.  Those who resemble cats (the felines) and those who resemble dogs (the canines).

Think of 5 people you know.  Any 5.  You will immediately see what I mean.  Chances are, these 5 people will fall into one of these two categories:

The Canines

  • Warm
  • Loyal
  • Generous
  • Happy-go-lucky, glass-half-full
  • Tell you their whole life story soon after meeting you
  • Impulsive
  • Larger-than-life, passionate, sometimes ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ because they have so many interests.

The Felines

  • Cautious
  • Loyalty is hard-won
  • Reserved
  • Obsessive
  • Focused
  • Private, shy.
  • But when more relaxed, can be playful, curious, adventurous and loving.

I think this system should replace all horoscopes.

What do you think? Am I a genius?  Can you think of people in your life that are felines or canines? Which type are you?

Comment on this post to win this gorgeous coffee table book.  I will choose a random winner and will post the results in the next few weeks :

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Why A Dog Is Better Than A Shrink

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You’ve all heard that expression, ‘there is no psychiatrist better than a puppy’ or something? Well, this is sometimes true.  I’m not talking about serious mental illnesses of course.  I’m just thinking of garden-variety boredom or frustration with life.  Here are my reasons why a dog is better than a shrink for these kind of issues:

1.  End the cycle of navel-gazing.

Reality TV shows, ‘memoirs’ of people who’ve done diddly-squat in their lives, sarcastic teenagers in Gossip Girl.  Everyone thinks their life is the most important thing since sliced bread.  Yes, this includes bloggers.  Enough already!!! A dog snaps you out of this quick-smart.  When he needs to be fed, he needs to be fed.  When you want to sleep in and ponder your life, he nudges you to remind you of his morning walk.  What does this have to with shrinks? Well, altruism and caring for something other than yourself have been shown to be essential to mental health.

2. Save your mind and your hips

Lying down on your therapist’s couch for an hour and talking about life puts pennies in your therapist’s pocket and inches on your hips.  Walking your dog gets you out in the fresh air.  This has countless benefits which have been shown to help with mental health: exposure to vitamin D, a sense of community and belonging with other dog-walkers and the benefits of exercise itself.

3.  Dogs have figured out the meaning of life, so that you don’t have to.

A lot of people see psychiatrists for existential issues.  What is the meaning of my life? Who am I?  What should I be?

Watch a dog closely and you’ll see they’ve figured it out.

Meaning of life = love, fun, play, and food.  Who am I? = I am what I am right at this moment, a dog.  What should I be? = No need to worry about that, ’cause it hasn’t happened yet.

 All a dog needs to be happy is shelter, food and loving companionship.  Most of us have all three, but we still want more.  Charlie says hi.

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Two Books That Will Change Your Life – For Reals!

I know, we’ve heard this so many times….”this cake recipe will change your life”, “this job will change your life”, “yoga will change your life”.  Well, the cake recipe only changed my thighs.  The job became the bane of my life.  And the yoga…actually, the yoga did change my life, but that’s for a different post.  That’s why I only have two books on this list, because they actually did rock my world.

1.  The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World :  John Robbins

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I read this book on a boring Sunday.  I really could not have cared less about diet or food, having always eaten whatever I wanted.  I thought vegetables were something rabbits ate and used to tease my vegetarian friends (yes, I was one of those people who I complained about in a previous post). Suffice to say, this was not 50 Shades of Grey – there were no titillating tales, there was no tabloid journalism.

But this book completely changed my relationship to animals and to food.  His book was indeed ‘revolutionary’ at the time it was published.  Since then, there have been countless other books about factory farming.   But in this book, the author gently introduces you to these practices without inundating you with horror stories. He writes at a pace that allows you to digest the information he’s presenting and he gives clear guidelines as to what you can do if you are affected by the book.

John Robbins is actually the son of the man who opened Baskin Robbins, the huge ice-cream chain.  He was set up to be the heir to this fortune, until he understood what actually goes on in the dairy industry.  His book is therefore very personal, and written from the heart, whilst being meticulously researched. I turned vegan that Sunday, despite being a card-carrying meat-eater and ice-cream-lover the day before.  I hate people who preach about their lifestyle choices, so I won’t do that here.  But if this book simply inspires you to have another look at what you’re eating, that’s good enough.

2.  The Other End of the Leash : Patricia B. McConnell

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Patricia McConnell has an incredible writing ‘voice’.  Her humanity, kindness and humour shines in every page of this book.    This is not some fluffy ‘dog whisperer’ type of book.  She really knows her stuff.

I came to this book after spending hundreds of dollars on ‘dog psychologists’, ‘behaviourists’, etc.  I felt that I was getting all these rules and advice about how to train my dogs (some of which was good advice), but my relationship with my dogs was suffering as I wanted to force them to ‘heel’ or whatever.  I had a particularly distasteful experience when I went to a famed dog training school.  The teachers forced us to use ‘choker chains’ to teach our dogs to walk, even though they were perfectly capable of walking on normal collars.  The military-style teacher barked at my husband “Pull the chain harder, you’re too soft on your dogs!” whilst the dogs looked terrified.  We walked out of that class halfway in.

 Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic trainers around, but we often ignore our gut feeling about some of the dodgy ones because they are the ‘experts’.    This book is all about how to maintain and enhance your relationship with your dog, even if your dog can’t do a perfect ‘heel’.  Again, it’s a very personal book, written with a great deal of passion.

What books have changed your life?  

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How A Dog Can Save Your Marriage

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I realise it can cut both ways.  I can imagine that, for some couples, the extra financial stress and responsibilities of dog ownership can hurt the relationship.

But my experience has been different. I have found 4 surprising things that improved in my marriage as a result of dog ownership:

  • I don’t like to fight with my husband in front of the dogs.  Call me crazy.  But I feel like they deserve better and I know it stresses them out.  So I swallow the waves of irritation and try to resolve the problem peacefully.  We all sleep better at night as a result.
  • I am much more patient with my husband.  I have learnt that, when you love something, be it canine or human, you need to accept it with all it’s quirks.  (Note: My husband will use this information against me the next time I nag him about fixing the roof).  I have learnt that dogs respond best to rewarding good behaviour and ignoring the bad.  Yelling at dogs does not work, and neither does yelling at your spouse.  Trust me on this one, I’ve learnt the hard way.
  • I am so much less high-maintenance 🙂 At the dog park once, my husband watched, almost in slow motion, as my dog rolled around in poo and then ran over to rub herself against me.  I was wearing my favorite dress.  He told me I was smelly but he still thought I was beautiful.  We laughed all the way to the dog groomer’s that day.  Being beautiful to  someone who cares about you is more about small moments of shared laughter than how you look.
  • My husband and I are very different.  We have completely different interests and hobbies.  He’s very private and I’m more ‘out there’.  He’s a ‘devil’s in the details’ kind of person and I’m more ‘big-picture’.  It all balances out in the end.  But through the dogs, we now have so many shared activities.  A simple, but very bonding, experience with your partner is a long walk with your dog through a lovely park, on a beautiful summer day. You see elderly couples walking their dogs and it’s such a sweet sight.

I will always be grateful that I had the good fortune to meet someone who is equally, if not more, passionate about animals than I am.

How has owning a dog affected your relationships?

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