Category Archives: Family

Lap Dog – His and Hers

We love Amber, our 9 month old yellow labrador retriever we brought home to be part of our family in May, when she was 10 weeks old and weighed 16 lbs.  I laboriously got her into my lap in my recliner, since she really seemed to enjoy the closeness. As she grew, though, I decided she was definitely not in the lap dog category.

Now, at 9 months old, she weighs around 81 pounds. She still considers herself a lap dog, insisting that my husband allow her up in his lap in the evenings. As you can see, she’s quite a handful.

I watch her out of the corner of my eye when she’s in my husband’s lap. She will suddenly sit up very straight and look at me with a gleam in her eye. I leap out of my chair – not wanting to even THINK about her leaping from his chair to mine – and sit on one end of the couch.


Here I am with our ‘lap dog’ on the couch. My husband snapped this pic for the rare moment Amber was quiet. She’s usually busy lapping my face and making me laugh until I have trouble catching my breath. She’s a great addition to our family.


Filed under Amazing Animals, Family

“How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window
Recorded by Patti Page
Written by Bob Merrill

How much is that doggie in the window
The one with the waggley tail
How much is that doggie in the window
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

I must take a trip to California
And leave my poor sweetheart alone
If he has a dog he won’t be lonesome
And the doggie will have a good home

Repeat #1

I read in the paper there are robbers
With flashlights that shine in the dark
My love needs a doggie to protect him
And scare them away with one bark

I don’t want a bunny or a kitty
I don’t want a parrot that talks
I don’t want a bowl of little fishies
He can’t take a goldfish for a walk

Repeat #1


I know I’m showing my age, but when Amber started putting her head through the cat/small dog door in the walk-thru gate one morning, watching the people get ready for breakfast and Molly ate her breakfast in the pantry, this song was the first thing that popped into my head. I started singing it and Amber immediately perked up, getting agitated. She didn’t growl, bark, or yodel, but she sounded like she was listening.

I’ve been trying to remember to take my camera into the dining area for weeks now, but never remember to do it until I see her with her head through the door again. Today I used the camera on my phone.

I don’t do that often because my phone and my iMac don’t get along. My husband has to take the pics off the phone on his PC (Microsoft 10) and then put them in the backup files on my computer. I can’t open them until I change the ‘permission’ on each one, change the ‘ownership’ of the file, look at it, then either trash it or unlock it and hit ‘duplicate’ so I can put a name on it. UGH.

Anyhow, I just did this, one picture at a time with a whole group of them, remembering WELL again why I don’t use the camera on my phone unless I need to.

If you’re old enough to remember Patti Page singing this song, you’ll also remember (I think) that there was a dog barking in the song – It would go, “How much is that doggie in the window” (bark, bark) – the one with the waggley tail…..


Filed under Amazing Animals, Are YOU also older than Dirt?, Family, Too?



We’ve had two pit bulls and they’ve been the best pets, so when I see a cute pic of a pit, I just melt into a puddle.

We bought quilted “coats” for our pit, Bambi, and Molly a couple of years ago. They look cute, but the dogs didn’t seem to like them much, even though they weren’t restrictive in any way. Amber is finally not panting when she comes in. This seems to be the weather she loves. They go out as many times as they want during the day. At night they sleep in the utility room – Amber on one side of the gate and Molly on the other – so both can rest.

It got down to 29 degrees F last night/this morning. I had the lettuce covered with a sheet, but it was looking a bit stressed when I uncovered it this morning. The high is supposed to be 38 today, so I’m hoping that the sun will make the difference in keeping the poor lettuce going.  I’ll look at it this afternoon to see if I can harvest some of it today.

I had a glorious massage this morning!  I bundled up in a new jacket (one that is quilted, but very light and warm) plus a new white knitted hat with a pom pom on top.  My wonderful massage therapist is a friend, as well as therapist, so we exchange gifts at Christmas time. She gave us a beautiful assortment of nuts (since we can eat that with our low carb lifestyle) plus a gift certificate to the restaurant we go to each week for Lunch Bunch!

I’m very lucky to have such a kind, caring friend who is able to find sore places I didn’t even realize I had and make them go away. I look forward to my massage all month, knowing that I’ll feel pampered and wonderful – ready to tackle what life has to offer.

Have a fun, warm day!




Filed under Amazing Animals, Family, Mother Nature

Amber at 9 Months

Amber is 9 months old today. “The Baby,’ our yellow labrador retriever, weighs 81 lbs and is the proverbial ‘bull-in-a-china-shop’ lumbering through the house, running over sweet Molly (our cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross) regularly.

Amber is learning to respect Molly – at least somewhat – especially when Molly has decided she likes one of the toys. Molly doesn’t want to play with it or chew on it. She wants to guard it. Ferociously. When anyone comes close, she growls. I will put up with this for a bit because I’m pleased she is no longer trying to be invisible in her own home, but a little bit goes a long way. I’ve actually had to swat Molly with a newspaper when she snapped at ME about the toy.

Amber has learned a lot and has become a real member of the family now. She minds pretty well – particularly when she knows we have the shock collar remote in hand. We hardly ever have to even make the warning sound anymore, much less shock her. She anticipates us on many things now, so we don’t even need to give the command.

We’re pleased at the amount of words she knows: NO, OUT, DOWN, SIT, COME, NO, TREAT, BALL, CAR, STICK, NO, AMBER, OKAY, PLACE, GOOD DOG, NO!... :0)

She sits and waits for us to put her food bowl down and say, “OKAY” before she eats. She goes to her PLACE when we’re bringing plates into the living room. She comes and stares at us, saying, “whine, whine, ” when she wants to go out. (as she just did)  We’re trying to teach her to bark when she would like to come in.

She walks up my husband’s front as he sits in his recliner, wanting to cuddle. Our chairs are just a few feet apart in the living room. I look over at her when she’s playing ‘lap dog,’ and suddenly there is a gleam in her eye and she’s sitting up straight, rather than cuddling. This is the signal that she’s thinking of jumping from his chair and lap to mine. Since I really don’t like the idea of an 81 pound dog landing on my lap and chair, I leap out of my chair and go sit on the couch. She now takes that as an invitation to crawl up on the couch and sit beside me. We don’t allow her on the furniture, but in this case, I give in and give her a good cuddle.

She loves the cooler weather (it’s 36 degrees F out there right now), and since she readily comes at our call or the shock collar warning, we can let her out by herself to romp, sniff and otherwise be a real dog.

All of these good words about how much she’s learning go out the window with a sucking sound if someone comes to visit. She is so busy trying to get close to the visitor that she no longer sees or hears us. I can imagine what our friends think after meeting ‘the maniac.’  They probably think we don’t work with her at all. We are arranging play dates with other dogs, taking her with us in the car when we have a short list of errands, and having people over, but this will be a steep hill to climb.




Filed under Amazing Animals, Family

Amber and the Stick!

I was finally able to get a few pics of Amber playing with her stick –


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I went to the door this morning to get Amber to come back in after some time in the yard. When I opened it, she was standing there, smiling around the humongous “weed tree” in her mouth. I hurried back in to get the camera, but – of COURSE – she had dropped it when I returned.

I took some pics, though, of two sticks Amber brought into the front yard –


Stick # 1 – this is about 3 feet long.


This is Stick # 2 – It’s about 10 feet long. She lost the root ball that used to be on the end of it.  As you can see, she did a bit of digging in one of the flower planters we cleaned out to start over with a new Rio Samba rose plant in the spring.


Here’s another view of Stick # 2. I’m really sorry I couldn’t get a picture of her with this in her mouth. She had a great time outside.

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Worn Out Doggies

We can now take Amber (above) and Molly (below) outside together without worrying about them running off, as long as we have the special shock collar on Amber. She reacts to the warning noise immediately, so we can now allow them to play – with their OUTSIDE VOICES and ANTICS, having a great time.

Occasionally Amber will get a bit rough and need to be reminded not to be so exuberant, but it’s less and less often, and Molly seems to be having a good time, growing and acting fierce as Amber runs rings around her.


Since Molly is 12 now, we give her the choice of whether she wants to be in the same area as Amber or needs a rest.

Today I took them out and Amber played “Mad Dog,” running around and around like a mad thing as Molly stood in place and tried not to get run over. Then, when Amber ran off the excess energy, they started to play. Molly growled and participated fully, enjoying every minute. I had them out for about 20 minutes, and then let Molly in for a rest.

Amber stayed out with me, keeping me company while I tackled cleaning out the planter. When I was getting ready to haul off the last big bucket full of hydrangea branches, Amber had found one of the weed trees in the front, pulled it out of the ground, and had brought it onto the civilized part of the yard. I wish I had my camera, so that I could show you what she looked like with the about 10 foot reed-thin leafless ‘tree’ with the root ball on one end, walking around in a victory lap from ‘dog-against-tree.’

I through it off what we call ‘the edge of the world’ and she decided THIS was a great game, too! I was completely out of energy by then, and the third time I threw it, I yelled, “NOOOOOOO!” and hit the warning sound on the remote. She finally got the fact that the ‘game’ was over and came in with me.

As I type, Molly is on the big dog bed in the corner of the office and Amber is sprawled on her side on the office pad behind me, snorking.

Poor doggies. All worn out…

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Happy Birthday!

Today is my husband’s birthday. We’re not doing anything special because he would definitely like to forget he’s getting older. I kissed him and wished him a Happy Birthday this morning, and he said, “Hummmmph”

He got the best present this morning, though, and I got to share in it.

Our son lives and works in Thailand. It’s been over two years since we’ve seen him, though we use a chat program he set up, talking to him most days about this and that. We’re able to send him pics, type in real time at each other if we’re up and available at the same time, so it’s as good as it can be, EXCEPT when we can use a program called which is like Skype, but infinitely better. The picture is really good, the sound is good. There is almost no lag time, no echoes. It’s almost as if we were in the same room.

He arranged for us to use this this morning! He wished my husband a Happy Birthday. He said, Dad, will you do something fun? I love you.” My husband answered, “Every day is Christmas for me. You were the best present of all.”  I have to tell you I melted into a puddle and couldn’t speak for a while. Then we chatted about everything under the sun. I drank in his face the whole time, delighting when we could make him smile or laugh. I had everything I needed in the world while we were talking.

A wonderful birthday celebration to be sure.



Filed under Delightful Surprises, Family

A Ride in the CAR!

Like most dogs, Amber LOVES to ride in the car. She does fine when my husband and I are both in the car and she is in the back. We only need to remind her a couple of times to ‘stay back.’ We let the windows down just enough for her to put her head out and enjoy the wind. She goes back and forth from window to window, trying not to miss anything.  I wouldn’t want to drive by myself with her in the car, although my husband does it when he drives down the driveway for the mail. (He holds one leg.) I’m trying to convince him that a dog seat belt would be a good thing…

A couple of days ago we decided took her to the vet’s office to get an official weighing, since she was 8 months old on November 7th. On the way, a deer ran diagonally in front of the truck. It was close enough I gasped, but far enough my husband was able to slow down and not hit it. Amber was fascinated, whining and scurrying back and forth, nose full open.  We slowed down beside the land where a man keeps two horses for his sons. She had never seen a horse before. I guess the horses were about 50 feet from us, but it seemed that they were interested in Amber, too, snorting and looking at her.  We also saw a strange cat, a rabbit, a crane on the lake, and finally a possum running across the road. It was really a ‘National Geographic’ type trip to town…

There were two ladies and a cute bulldog at the vet’s. My husband had the no-pull collar on Amber, which will shock her if she pulls a lot and stop when SHE does. He said afterwards that if there had been carpet at the vet’s, he wouldn’t have been able to hold her. As it was, she couldn’t get any traction, giving us at least a little control. I’m not sure if the no-pull collar wasn’t working or if Amber was so excited to see the ladies and the dog that she didn’t notice, but we’ll definitely need to do more leash training. Happily, the ladies were gracious about our over-exuberant puppy, wanting to pet her, and allowing her to meet the bulldog.

We were able to dash in, weigh Amber, wave to the vet, and get out again. Amber officially now weighs 81 pounds.! To think she has at LEAST 4 more months to grow before she’s ‘full grown’ is kind of scary. We were hoping she would stop at 70…

I think the next time we try to take her in someplace in public we should use the regular shock collar we keep on her during the day. She reacts well to that, whether she’s on the leash or not.

Here’s hoping….

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Update to Amber’s Thumbs Up Dog Toy List


Amber asked me to put this toy on her first “Thumbs Up” Aggressive Chewer Dog Toy List several weeks ago.  We bought it online at

The life of this toy has been interesting. The first thing Amber did was chew the strap off that separates the top from the main squeaking ball. I thought this might be the end of this toy, but was I wrong!

She has squeaked this toy like mad for as long as we can stand it from time to time ever since, offering it for tug-of-war, trying to ‘break its neck’ by shaking it fiercely, and just chewing hard on it. It has lasted and lasted.

Today she finally got the big squeaky ball out. Is that the end of the toy? No!

She is still offering the tattered, sturdy purple part for tug of war, and is happily carrying the ball around squeaking it until we finally put it up for a bit.

Since nothing lasts forever, though. we just ordered another one as one of her ‘Christmas presents,’ to be presented when this one finally breathes its last.

GREAT toy for a dog who is really hard on toys, usually tearing one apart in just a few minutes.


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Amber is our 70+ pound yellow Labrador Retriever who was 8 months old on November 7th.

We are delighted that our animals are accepting each other more and more each day. Although Amber still makes the cats, Abby and Smoke,  hiss and spit when she steps on them, or picks them up off the floor with her nose, mostly they no longer freak out when they’re all in the same room now.  Molly, our Cocker Spaniel/Schnauzer cross, doesn’t try to vanish into thin air when Amber comes in, and they are actually having mock fights now, with a lot of dancing around and fierce growling.

This morning at breakfast, I was able to have Molly lick my bowl without Amber leaping up and taking over. This is a huge milestone. (Yes, I know that we shouldn’t feed the animals at the table, but this is a long-standing tradition.)  We have Amber ‘get down’ on the floor between my husband and me, waiting for her turn. (Sometimes it’s as if she were on a trampoline, but she knows what we want her to do. If we ‘warn’ her with only the noise of the shock collar, she immediately gets down again.

My husband has cereal, and he gives each cat a chance to lap leftover milk when he is finished. This morning Amber stayed down while Molly was licking my bowl on her right,and both Abby and Smoke lapped milk on her left. My husband added a bit more milk to give to Amber because the cats finished the leftover. He started to put the bowl down for Amber and Smoke ran under his chair, straight to the bowl, wanting more. She was actually lapping milk from the bowl when my husband told Amber, “okay.” She looked down and saw Smoke. She seemed to think about it a second, and then very carefully eased down and started lapping right next to Smoke, not bothering her! As she is a big dog with a humongous tongue, Smoke finally eased away from the bowl, ceding it to Amber.

We were both relieved/amazed/impressed with Amber’s delicacy in not growling, snapping at the cat, or otherwise causing a bad event.


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Almost Deja Vu

We ALMOST had deja vu last night while we were watching TV.

This time my husband motioned to Amber to come sit with him. She readily came over and walked right up into his lap, smiling happily. I looked over, careful not to say anything, and barely met her eyes.

I glanced over – our eyes met – and I saw something flash in them.

I immediately got up out of my chair and went over to sit on the couch. She bounded off my husband’s lap and came right over to me, planning to walk right up onto the couch! I said “NO!” sternly and then started to hug her. We spent about 5 minutes intensely hugging and licking (Amber, not me) and then she was finally satisfied.  We got our close time in for the evening without her bounding into my lap and removing more skin from my arm in the process, a thing I really don’t want to repeat.

In many, many ways, we are seeing that Amber will become a wonderful companion, a fun addition to our family, and a great dog. We’ll be happy each day we put behind us on her ‘puppy-dom,’ though.

Last night, her stick fell between the huge dog bed she and Molly share and the wall. We have a heavy screen gate my husband made protecting the wall, so the stick became wedged. She instead ate Molly’s little dog bed that sat on top of the huge bed. We awoke to a whole utility room filled with the stuffing from the little bed and a totally un-remorseful puppy grinning at us, impatient to go out.


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70 Pound Lap Dog

Amber calmly walks over from her bed and ‘walks’ up into my husband’s lap.  She stomps around until she’s comfortable, and then lets out a big sigh, happy at last. My husband laughs his head off as he’s getting pummeled, making her smile, as well.

I grabbed the camera and managed to get a couple of shots.


Happy dog.


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I just finished getting a loaf of low carb bread started in the bread machine.

I feel a new sense of FREEDOM because I don’t have to worry about Amber –

our sweet, sneaky-Pete 70 lb lab ‘puppy,’ from sneaking into the kitchen, grabbing the whole loaf that is cooling up high somewhere,  and happily taking it to her bed in the living room to devour. (She has done this twice now, of the 3 loaves I’ve baked).  I received an email from Bob’s Red Mill, the company from whom I buy low carb bread mix and low carb baking mix, asking me what I thought of the products.

I ignored the survey, but answered, telling him that I love the chewiness of the bread, and loved the fact that it satisfied my craving for bread, I loved being able to eat it without guilt, and that it was good for sandwiches, wrapping around a hot dog, cutting it into shape to serve as a hamburger bun, toast, garlic toast, etc.  I also had to tell him that it received Amber’s highest “Thumbs Up” award, as she had stolen the first two loaves I baked off the counter in the kitchen! I would imagine that he doesn’t get feedback like this every day…

My FREEDOM comes from the fact that we installed another walk-through gate in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen/pantry/dining area.

I was a bit careless about leaving things on the counters in the kitchen, but even with being newly careful about putting every bit of food away and keeping counters scrupulously clean, there are times when foods have to cool before they can be further handled. I now have the freedom to do what I need to do in the kitchen without having to worry about Sneaky-Pete-Amber.



Filed under Amazing Animals, Cooking/Recipes/Low Carb Lifestyle, Family

Amber at Almost 8 Months

I’m thinking that Amber weighs about 70 lbs. now, though we haven’t officially weighed her. One of these days we’ll go to the vet and see if the coast is clear to take her in and get an official reading. She will be 8 months old on Tuesday, November 7th. I’ve been told that labs are puppies for at least two years, and Amber is proving the truth of this statement.

We’re glad that we got her when we did. I think if we had tried to do this next year, it would be too much for us to deal with. This year it has been a real challenge, but she is becoming a real member of the family now, with even our 12-year-old Cocker Spaniel/Schnauzer cross, Molly, PLAYING with Amber. When it gets too intense, Molly snaps at Amber, making Amber cry out in dismay… Even the cats no longer freak out and refuse to come in. Amber gets right in their face and noses them, of course, but they seem to understand that she’s not trying to hurt them.

To say we’ve modified our lives is a vast understatement. Our lives revolve around taking Amber out for walks. We try to give her the opportunity for as much outside time as we can handle. We now routinely take her with us if we’re going to the greenhouse, the garden, or the shop. My husband takes her in the car to get the mail – with a trip around the mile as an added bonus.

She spends almost the whole day with us now. She no longer stays on the porch, but sleeps on the huge dog bed we have in the utility room with Molly at night. She is in the office with us right now, after I took her out for a game of fetch the ball in the front yard. She lets us know she wants to go out by coming over and standing, looking at us, or – if we don’t respond quickly enough to suit her – flipping up our arm with her nose. (This is quite attention-getting when you’re trying to type on the computer. :0) )

She now knows the following commands –

  • “Hurry Up” (used when we’re encouraging her to take care of business in the yard – particularly when it’s raining, cold, etc.)
  • “Sit”
  • “Down”
  • “Place”
  • “Come”
  • “Back up” (she tends to sit right on the other side of the gates, so we can’t open them until she moves out of the way)
  • She sits while we put her food bowl down and waits until we say “Okay” to start eating.
  • “No”

Of course, all our efforts are out the window when someone comes. We’re trying to bring her out with us when we get a delivery so that she gets practice in listening to us and obeying. We’re also arranging play dates with the dog of our friend. The combination of a pocketful of treats and the shock collar seems to be a good combination.

We have three gates on the first floor now – a new use for the term, “gated community” – across the office door, between the living room and the dining/kitchen area, and across the doorway to the utility room. We have to make sure they are latched, since she’s learned to open them with her nose if not securely closed.

We have FINALLY gotten her to stop chewing the one wooden wall on the back porch, and now the baseboards and wall in the utility room by providing a stick she can chew on. We’ve tried everything else we can think of – chew toys, Bitter Apple, Louisiana Hot Sauce, etc., and the only thing that keeps her from chewing something she shouldn’t is being allowed to chew up a stick. We start each morning sweeping up the stick debris in the utility room. I’m not really happy with this solution, but we need to use what works.

Amber thinks she’s a lap dog. She routinely now tries to ooze up into my husband’s or my recliner when we’re watching TV in the living room. It’s really funny when she does this, and we can’t help but laugh, which encourages her to continue. We hug her and love her, and then tell her “place!” so she’ll go back to her bed.

The past 6 months have been a big challenge, but we’re gaining a really good friend in the process. :0)



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Good Idea for Aquarium Cleaning

This is the dining area side of our 5 gallon aquarium where our four goldfish live, swim, and laugh. You can see them in a huddle on the right of the aquarium.

The past week the water has been looking a bit cloudy. Usually, I change the filter, but I had done this recently and the water wasn’t clear. I was siphoning out some of the water to replace it when my husband made a good suggestion – he suggested that I siphon out half of the water, fill it up with the aged replacement water I have, and then do it again – resulting in a change of approximately three-quarters of the water in the tank without having to disturb the fish.

I did that this morning. It was easy. The fish didn’t even realize what was going on, and the water now looks nice and clear!


This is the kitchen side of the aquarium.


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Weathering the Weather

I’m delighted to tell you that my veggies and my tender flowers seem to have made it through the 2nd freeze of the weekend! I just came in from taking the sheets off of everything. The rest of the week is supposed to be warmer with no freezes, so, once I get all the sheets dry, I’ll store them in the shop for the next time.

Our 65+ pound ‘puppy’ Amber seems to love the cooler weather.  She is actively sniffing everything while we’re around the garden, following paths all over the yard while I stand shivering, holding wet sheets in my arms. After waiting for what seems like a LONG time, I finally put the sheets on the ground, throw my arms in the air and yell, “Run like a bunny!” Amber looks delighted, and then tears off running as fast as she can all the way across the yard, around the house and back out to me by the garden. She then demands a treat, which I give her. And THEN she’s amenable to going “IN.”

I’m hoping that it’ll warm up enough this afternoon that I can do some weed whacking.

I hope that wherever you are right now, the weather is bringing you pleasure.


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Filed under Amazing Animals, Family, Gardening, Mother Nature, Square Foot Gardening - Raised Beds

Outside of a Dog

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What is it about Labs and Mud Puddles?

This isn’t Amber, but this photo gives you an idea of what my husband and I were dealing with this morning.

I told you in another post that we were going to clean out and empty the hummingbird birdbath today. My husband built a very nice water system for it, using a trash can to hold water and a toilet valve. The system regulated itself, so that if the water level got too low, it allowed the hose to fill it up and then turn off. Because of this closed system we didn’t notice any change in our water bill, even though the birdbath flowed all spring and summer, 12 hours each day on a timer.

I cleaned out the actual birdbath and we’ll store the decorations, timer, etc., in the garage for the winter. We dumped the trash can off the deck into the yard below. My husband was resting, keeping me company and drinking some hot apple cider when we heard the distinctive sound that Amber makes when she finds water. She paws it rapidly, spreading it everywhere, having a great old time.

THIS time it was even more wonderful because it was MUD! By the time we heard the pawing, she was covered in mud from stem to stern, laughing while she made the mud go everywhere. She then laid down in it. GREAT.

It’s in the high 50s with a healthy, gusty wind today, but we chained Amber to the porch and hosed her off as well as we could, albeit protesting dog. We sat on the deck while she shook herself over and over and then got her on the back porch where we could dry her off with towels. She didn’t like THAT, either.

Needless to say, progress on finishing cleaning up the deck came to a halt with the dog wash. We’re now taking a break and regrouping.


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After the Storm with Amber

I found poor, neglected Amber like this awhile ago. She had only been out three times this morning, once with my husband playing ball with her, so I took pity on her and took her out again.

A cold front came through about 1am, bringing lots of rain (FINALLY!) and cooler temperatures through the end of the week, we hope.  I went out, jacket on, dog zapper in one hand, coffee in the other, dog treats in my right jeans pocket, to see what the storm had wrought.

We went first to see if the greenhouse and the ham radio tower were still up after all the high wind. Both are doing fine. Whew!

Amber found wonderful branches in the yard, picking them up and running around like a mad thing with them clamped in her teeth. She had a large one that, when she had one part of it in her mouth, the other part came up across her face making it hard to see out. She still ran around, doing a victory dance, clearly saying, “Look at ME!”

Everything was gloriously wet, and the sky was promising more to come, so we walked from the greenhouse all the way across our property out to the shop and the garden. On the way back to the house I saw one, bright red leaf on the ground. Almost buried by the other leaves, I almost missed it. It has been so dry the whole past month that the leaves were coming down due to lack of water, rather than falling temperatures, so we haven’t had much color here.

Of course, the minute I picked it up, Amber wanted to EAT it. I brought it in so I could take a picture of this sole sign of glorious fall color.  It brought up my spirits this morning, and I hope it does the same for you!


Filed under Amazing Animals, Family, Mother Nature

And a Miracle Occurred!

This photo was taken in July, when Molly (left) and Amber (right) first got on the living room dog bed together. Before that, Molly’s sole wish was to disappear or escape. This is no surprise, since Amber is big, doofus, and relentlessly over-friendly, trying to ‘herd’ Molly, always having her huge face right in Molly’s. Molly is 12 – a venerable old lady, with little sense of humor about these things.

About 4 nights ago, we brought Amber’s stuff inside, put her crate and some toys in the utility room where there is another bed like the one you see in the photo above. It’s getting much cooler at night now, and we wanted this to be routine by the time really cold weather gets here. The animals have shown very little problem (other than Amber chewing on the baseboards – more Louisiana Hot Sauce applied), though Molly seems to require more nap time during the day to rest up from a night with Amber.

Just a few minutes ago a miracle occurred – Molly and Amber were PLAYING together!

There was a lot of moving around, growling, etc. When I got up to check on them, there was a “fierce” battle going on, and both dogs were loving it. :0)  I can’t tell you how relieved I am in this breakthrough. Molly is standing up for herself, snapping when Amber gets on her nerves too much, but she’s also relaxing and ACCEPTING, and – for at least a little while this afternoon – ENJOYING.


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Louisiana Hot Sauce – Take 2

This isn’t Amber, but it could be.

We’ve shifted Amber’s crate and some chew toys into the utility room inside the house so that she doesn’t have to suffer rain, wind, and the coming winter out on the back porch. There is a huge dog bed in there, and Molly and Bambi (our pit) used to sleep on it together. We’re hoping that Amber will use her crate, if she likes, or sleep on the bed with Molly.

Last night was Night 4 of the new regime. My husband was up in the middle of the night, having trouble sleeping, and he heard ”chewing” but hoped she was chewing on one of the several chew toys we make sure are in there at night.

I discovered this morning she was chewing on the baseboard.

When she was on the porch, she started chewing the wood on one end of the porch. I tried all kinds of home remedies and commercial preparations, finally brushing on Louisiana Hot Sauce. That seemed to have worked. I say it this way because we also were bringing her in the house with us a lot more, and the ‘cure’ might have just been a happy coincidence.

This morning I painted a generous amount of Louisiana Hot Sauce on the baseboard where she has been chewing, and along the rest of it, while I was at it. I’m hopeful that our dog is as much of a wuss as her owners about eating hot things….

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Amber’s “Thumbs Up” Dog Toy List

Amber is super tough on dog toys. Some I’ve bought have lasted 5 minutes or less before she has the squeaker out and is trying to eat it, or has the stuffing out all over the floor, or has completely destroyed the toy, forcing us to throw it away.

I keep the toys after removing the rest of the stuffing and the squeakers, so essentially she’s playing with several different colors of ‘rags.’ Right now she has a dinosaur, a frog, a chicken, a teddy bear, a mallard duck and others I can’t remember in this category. I can still give her one of these and she will chew on it, or try to bring it to us for a game of tug of war.

I have lucked out and bought some toys that have lasted long enough for us to feel that we have gotten our money’s worth. The REALLY tough toys available, that are virtually indestructible, she won’t play with at all, showing absolutely no interest. Since we don’t want to spend money on those, we continue to get different ones that we hope will be wonderful, PLUS last for several days.

Amber is compiling a list of toys to which she has given a “THUMBS UP” rating – that are exciting, fun, and last a reasonably long period of time for someone who really loves to chew and who can figure out the weak spot in a toy really fast so that the toy is dismantled almost as soon as she gets it.



JW Pet iSqueak Bone Toy


This one squeaks only when she chews it really hard, so that’s a challenge she enjoys. It has almost no wear after having it several weeks.


Kong Jumbler Ball

This toy is really great. The outside is hard rubber with the places she can grab it easily with her teeth. There is a ball inside that tumbles around, making a bit of noise, and tantalizing. The outside squeaks. We’ve had this toy several weeks. It shows a bit of wear but it holding up remarkably well under really hard chewing.

Kong Wubba ClassicToy

This is a fun toy. Amber likes to carry it around by the tails, or by the head. Even though she deconstructed the top part, resulting in it having to be removed the rest of the way, the rest of the toy was still good. Now she has chewed most of the fabric on the larger round part, resulting in the squeaky part underneath almost coming out now. Even if she gets the squeaky out, it’s made of tougher stuff than most squeakies and she’s not in danger of swallowing it. The fabric part will still be fun to chew on.



Multipet Nobbly Wobby Ball

Amber really loved this toy. I say, “Loved” because it’s gone now. It did last several weeks. Amber loved it because it bounced really well, even on the carpet, and bounced funny on bare floors, intriguing her and keeping her interest. It also apparently was great to chew on because she did that relentlessly. She finally managed to chew through one of the rings, causing all of the parts to essentially disintegrate. I’m going to get her another one for Christmas, though because it’s a really creative design.

More toys to follow as we discover them.



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Gated Community

We are giving the term, “Gated Community” a new meaning in the Lewis household.

After my friend, Cathy, told us about this ingenious gate that keeps doggies in and allows people to walk through, we got one and installed it in the doorway between our living room and the back porch. This has worked wonderfully for us, allowing us to go in and out freely without falling on our heads. The back porch has been Amber’s area, with a box of toys, water dish, food dish, crate, etc. since we brought her into our family mid May.

We soon bought another gate that we installed in the office doorway so that we could keep her in here with us while we worked on our computers. She loves being with us, so she’s very happy with this arrangement. (One interesting thing, if we don’t click the top shut, she uses her nose to flip it up and open the gate now.)

We’re having a cold front move through overnight, taking the low down to 45. Since our temperatures will only continue to cool between now and winter, we decided that now was the time to allow her to stay inside when she sleeps. We have a huge dog bed in the utility area on which Molly and our pit, Bambi, slept. Now it’s just Molly, so today we moved Amber’s crate into the utility area and moved the walk-through gate from the doorway on the back porch to the doorway to the utility area.

Molly and Amber have been doing much better lately – even playing some! – so we’re hopeful this move will be an uneventful one. We’re mainly moving the crate as a comfort thing, just in case Amber wants to actually use it. We have been leaving the door open on her crate at night for quite a while now. She gets into it, gets a cookie, and we go inside. We aren’t really sure if she sleeps in there. If she does, she can continue to do it as long as she wants. If she doesn’t, we’ll move the plush liner we put in the crate to on top of the huge dog bed as a transition. Maybe we can remove the crate, fold it up, and store it at some point.

Since Amber gave us yet another lesson last night on the fact that she isn’t to be trusted (particularly since her owners are too doofus to pay attention) sneaking into the kitchen and managing to steal my just baked, cooling low carb loaf of bread from the very back of the stove and into the living room on her bed without my husband being aware – we’ve just ordered a THIRD walk-through gate. We’ll install it in the doorway between the living room and the dining/kitchen/pantry area so she can’t sneak out and ravage our food.

Labrador Retrievers are said to still be ‘puppies’ until they’re at least 2 years old.  Amber is 7 months old now. She has made more progress than her owners on adapting to her new situation and learning to take advantage of any opportunities for chewing, digging, fun or food.  It’s a really good thing she’s so lovable, companionable, and cute.

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Big Move




As the temperatures are finally dropping (by Sunday – today and tomorrow we’re still having summer) we talked about the fact that we need to move Amber’s crate somewhere inside. This is not a simple issue because we have been leaving the door to the crate open, so she’s not confined at night. She gets into it when we put her to bed for the night, but we’re not at all sure if she actually sleeps in it. Sometimes she is in it in the morning when we open the door to the back porch, and sometimes she isn’t.

We can’t trust her on her own, yet. If she’s inside, we find she has dumped a trashcan. In the mornings, the first thing she does after going outside and then having her breakfast, is dash into the pantry to see if we’ve forgotten to pick up Molly’s dish. If we have, she brings it out and starts chewing on it. We either close the people gate that is in the doorway to our office to keep her in with us, or we go into the living room, telling her to get in her ‘place,’ the huge dog bed in there. We have found out the hard way that we need to monitor her, inside and out.

My husband – a lover of simple decisions, just wants to start leaving her inside, hoping that she and Molly will share the huge dog bed in the utility room. When I pointed out a lot of other considerations, we agreed that the subject was a bit more complicated.

We’ve now agreed that my husband will move the people walk-through gate from the doorway to the back porch to the doorway between the utility room and our dining area. This will confine both dogs to the utility room, plus cut off Amber’s access to the pantry. I don’t even want to THINK about the damage she could cause – happily eating her way through the night and dumping whatever she didn’t like or had trouble reaching.  We’ll move Amber’s crate, with liner and towels, into the utility room. I want her to have her safe area if she wants it, at least until we see evidence that she and Molly are doing well with the new sleeping arrangements. Since Amber and Molly are actually playing a bit now, I’m hopeful that this move will go relatively smoothly. Tomorrow night will tell…


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Good Thing She’s Cute…

I FINALLY got a reasonable picture of Amber with one of her toys. She loves this one, throwing her head back – almost looking like she’s laughing – as she chews madly.

My husband and I were agreeing that it’s a really good thing we didn’t wait to get Amber because even with the two of us – she’s more than a handful for two old fogies. We also agreed that it’s a good thing she’s cute and loving. It goes a long way in making up for the fact that her alter ego is “Destructo Dog.”

Case in point –

This morning I took her out, walked all around the yard with her, out to the square foot garden and the shop, then the other way out to the greenhouse, and then I finally sat down on the front porch to watch her play a bit. We came in, but within 10 minutes or so, she was flipping my arm up over and over while I was trying to type – her sign that she needs to go out – NOW!

Since I wanted more coffee and needed to go to the bathroom, I did, checking on Amber when I got back. In that space of time she had again wreaked havoc on the front porch, the front porch pad, and the impatiens pot. I don’t know why she has it in for this pot, but I finally gave up, dumping it out, hosing it out, and putting it on my counter in the garage.

I then scooped as much potting mix as I could with the metal dustpan, dumping it back into the brick planter by the porch. Then I swept. By the time I finished that, my husband had the hose ready. I hosed everything off and then took the dustpan and the broom back to the garage. On the way, I discovered she had also dug in the 2nd Rio Samba planter. I stopped and cleaned THAT up.

We put Amber on the porch so we could all calm down and rest a bit. Just now when I went out to get her, I noticed that she had apparently used some of the time while we were cleaning up to lie down in the mud and water. Her whole underside and back legs were black.

I called my husband out and we took Amber out on the deck and hosed her down, putting her back on the porch to dry. I took a couple of towels out there to dry her off some, but she was trying to chew on my arm while I worked on her, so I didn’t do much.

We have now agreed that we won’t take her out without her wearing the shock collar and our having the remote in our hands. We won’t just let her out by herself until further notice. We will be ready to zap her if she starts digging. Hopefully, we can break her of this before our weather gets cold…



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Hot Diggety Dog!

This isn’t Amber, but it could be.

Ever since we dug up the Rio Samba rose bushes in preparation for planting new ones in the spring, Amber has been digging. Maybe she’s smelling the moles/voles/or other ‘oles’ beneath the surface of the yard. Maybe she has a sudden urge to help us get ready to plant other things. Whatever her reasoning, she’s making a mess.

I cleaned off the area beneath our front porch yesterday, sweeping and then trying to fill some of the holes she had dug. This morning I caught her in the act of reopening a hole I had just gotten covered. I zapped her with the remote, so it was really clear to everyone that what she was doing was being discouraged. She stopped immediately, but I think it will take several lessons to get her to stop.

The really frustrating thing is that we live on almost 8 acres. Only a small part of that is what we have tried to civilize. We wouldn’t mind if she dug in MOST of our property, but she chooses to do it in the yard, where we need to mow and would like to look like someone cares.

She had also dug into one of the small planters that sit on the front porch, where we were trying to encourage impatiens to come back after the pot hadn’t been watered in several days. The plant WAS looking good. Now it’s completely torn up. The plant will have to be put into the compost barrel and we’ll dump the soil into one of the holes we’re trying to fill up. :0(

I found an article that supposedly gives you good ideas for stopping dogs from digging. It’s even written by people who raise labs. I think they must have much more cooperative labs than we do. They did make a good suggestion that we monitor her outside and that we use counter measures. This makes sense. We’ll hope that the shock I gave her this morning will get her to stop, but I think she’ll need more reminders….


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A Birthday of Sorts

Amber is 7 months old today!

My husband is celebrating by taking a morning nap in his chair in the living room.

When I look back over the past 4-1/2 months, I realize how much richer our lives are. We were devastated when we had to take our pit bull, Bambi, to the vet to be euthanized. It was the right decision for him, but it’s one of the hardest things a person has to do. We have learned that getting another dog as soon as possible is the best thing for us. We’re forced to reach out and meet the needs of a new, sweet animal who deserves everything we can give. We heal in the process of opening our hearts again.

Amber has filled our lives to overflowing. Although our cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross, Molly, looks at us as if we’ve lost our minds occasionally, she has accepted the fact that this exuberant 65+ lb ‘puppy’ who leaps in her face and tries to herd her around the house is here to stay. She realizes now that she is still loved, still gets to sit with mom, still gets treats, and still gets all the special stuff she’s used to. They stay in the same room, now, sometimes even on the same dog bed.

The cats, Abby and Smoke, are fine as long as they don’t run away from her. They seem to sense that, even allowing Amber to nose and lick them. The minute they jump down from wherever they were, though, the game is on. We yell at Amber (though pretty uselessly) and let the cat out.

The fish couldn’t care less.

We’re all continuing to adapt. We’re learning to recognize that when she gets agitated, she probably needs to go out. We can now let her out, checking on her again in 15 to 20 minutes for her to come back in. She knows she gets a cookie, so she is good about coming when we call her. We usually don’t even have to hit the warning button that emits a sound on her collar.

She is realizing there is a difference between us and her chew toys. She is learning that we don’t EVER enjoy her teeth on our skin. She’s making the mistake less and less. No more arms full of band-aids! So far, the Louisiana hot sauce is working on the places she was chewing on the back porch wall.  :0)

We’re enjoying being together a lot more now. If I go out to the garden, I invite her to go with me. She opts to stay on the dog bed in the living room when my husband and I are both in there. She’s becoming a good companion, little by little.

I have to admit I’m still a bit shocked when people in the know about labs say that her babyhood will last until she’s two years old, but I think (hope) we’ve gotten through the most challenging parts now….


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Greeting the Mailman

We had an unexpected test this morning.

I told you that we’ve recently been letting Amber out by herself several times a day. Today the mailman drove up the driveway because he had a box that wouldn’t fit in our mailbox. Amber was out. By the time I got to the garage door, the mailman was out of his truck and Amber was wagging her tail so hard she could hardly stand up. He was laughing and had gotten down on one knee to pet her. She was ecstatic, trying to lick him and get as close as possible.

We’ve lived up here for over 30 years now. My husband prefers dogs who bark, giving folks a bit of a pause before they ‘invade our territory.’ We’ve never had a dog who bit anyone, but we’ve sure had some that barked – deep-chested, full barks that would make ANYONE take pause. I told my husband that when we got a new dog, I wanted one we didn’t have to worry about scaring people.

Amber is definitely not a guard dog. We MAY have to worry about her deciding to go home with whoever comes up here to deliver something or visit. It looks like she’ll never meet a stranger, as far as people go.

We’re keeping up our play dates with Nikki, the dog of our good friend, Carla, because Nikki is teaching Amber proper doggy manners. Amber is a bit intimidated, her hair sometimes stands up on her back when she gets scared. Nikki is friendly until Amber gets too exuberant in her face, and then she lets Amber know she is going too far and growls.

I’m really happy with her reactions so far. The mailman was a good test. His reaction was ‘Great dog!” Her reaction was, “Great man!”  My reaction was relief and a huge smile. “Good Girl!!!” (More lessons on not jumping up to follow…”



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New Toy!

I’ve been letting Amber out by herself for short periods of time. She has the shock collar on and if she isn’t where I can see her, I call her, hitting the warning button, if necessary. She can hear this,  but we can’t. It’s working very well. She LOVES being outside. I can let her  out now for short periods of time without having an ulcer that she’ll run off or not respond when I need her to come in.  She loves being with her people, too.

Today I went out to check on her. She was in the front yard chewing on a large branch that had fallen from one of our trees. When she saw me, she happily leaped up with the big stick in her mouth.


Very quickly the stick broke into a gazillion pieces. She kept bringing me pieces to throw for her, dancing around me with joy.


I got her to drop the stick a few times so I could throw it for her, but she really wanted to bounce around the yard with it in her teeth, saying, “Look at me! Look at ME!”


We’re spending a small fortune on chew toys to hopefully keep her from eating the wall on the back porch or the legs of the shelves in the office. It’s nice to know that there is a real DOG in there who loves to play with something as classic as a stick, too, even though it doesn’t squeak.



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