Category Archives: Family

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.

AMBER’S THUMBS UP DOG TOY LIST

 

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.

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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

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Amber

 

Molly

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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Choices

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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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Challenge and Laughter

We tend to gauge things around here by “Before Amber” or “After Amber,” since the two parts of our lives couldn’t be more different.

Amber will be 7 months old next week. We got her when she was 10 weeks old and weighed 16 pounds. The last time we weighed her (almost a full month ago) she weighed 62.8 lbs. I think she’s probably around 70 lbs now.

Other than trying to eat the wall of the porch, she has made a LOT of progress in the little over 4 months we’ve had her as part of our family, we’ve ALL done a bunch of changing. Amber is smart and hard-headed. When she was still a baby, she wouldn’t stop barking. Even with her on the porch and the door shut, it was loud enough to hurt your ears and put your nerves on edge. We got a no-bark collar and within days, she stopped barking. In fact, though she whines, she almost never barks now.

She was growing super fast, and we had her on a retractable leash, each walking her several times each day. She is super strong. And did I mention she’s hard-headed? She pulled harder and harder no matter what we did, several times yanking us so hard as she hit the end of the line that we were almost pulled off our feet. Since we’re not getting any younger, we got a no-pull leash. Again, within days, she no longer pulled on the leash. (The one exception to this statement now is when we go to the vet and there are dogs that would like to eat Amber in one gulp.)

She laughed in our faces for quite awhile, making us hoarse and out of sorts after repeating the same command over and over with differing, non-lasting results. We got  shock collar which has a warning sound and then another button for shocking her.  Now, instead of ignoring our commands, most of the time she doesn’t even have to be warned. We pick up the controller and she does whatever we’ve asked her to do without our having to repeat. Sometimes I’ve even just held up my hand as though I’m holding the controller and she immediately decides to do what I asked!

It’s also helpful that she’s food driven and wants to be with her people. She really tries to be good so that she can stay inside with us, go outside with us, go to the shop, ride in the car, or take a walk. She will also do almost anything if a treat is involved. The one exception to this, we’ve found, is getting her to walk down the stairs to the basement. She’ll go up and down the stairs going to the second floor, but will NOT go down the steps to the basement. The biggest difference is that the inside steps are carpeted. I’m not sure why she’s afraid to go down, but she’s adamant. She actually whines and barks as my husband tries to entice her to come down there to him. So far, only two feet on the 2nd step…

Her newest word is ‘out.’ She will come over to me and look at me expectantly. If I don’t respond immediately, she whines. If I ask her, “Do you want to go OUT?” she gets up and leads me to the door. Now we’re trying to teach her to bark when she wants to come in. So far, with the doors open to the cooler breeze, she whimpers and we get up and let her in.  Molly barks to get us to open the door. Maybe Molly will teach her.

Much progress is being made. Much work left to be done. Definitely a difference in our lives before Amber/ After Amber. Interesting, challenging, exhausting, delightful.

lapdog

 

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Steaks, Potatoes, and Woofles

I just love this picture!

We’re cooking out tonight – steaks and baked potatoes – we’re not really cooking ‘woofles,’ (sorry, Amber and Molly) but I just HAD to share this picture. :0)

I love cookouts. It’s only going to be my husband and me, plus most of our animals. We all end up in a pile on the deck, surrounded by aromas that make my mouth water just thinking about them. Most everyone is there – the dogs (Molly and Amber) the cats (Abby and Smoke ) – everyone except the fish, who couldn’t care less about cooking out, and our son who is living across the world from us.

As the evening gets darker, we turn on the rope multicolored LED lights, and then, finally, the yellow light that allows my husband to see to cook. :0)  He has a beer in hand. I usually have coffee. We’re gradually getting Amber to quit dive-bombing all the others…

It’s a time to enjoy the wonderful weather. A time to r-e-l-a-x. A time to play with the animals. And a time to talk – all of us enjoying being together in no rush to accomplish anything or go anywhere. The potatoes have been nuked and then transferred to the oven to finish. The charcoal is getting hot and ready to use. The steaks are ready to bring out.

If we’re lucky, we’ll still see a hummingbird or two, maybe a firefly, maybe the pair of doves who sit on the electrical wire together.  I would love it if deer would visit us, but our animals keep that from happening. We did see a deer on the way to Lunch Bunch this morning. I’m glad he decided to dart back into the woods, rather than running into the car. He was there and then gone in the space of a second or two. A beautiful bright spot of nature reminding us to be in the moment, appreciating everything around us.

I hope you have a nice evening planned. I know a special lady who is having a birthday today who I hope is being treated like a queen in celebration. Even if this is a day like most others, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest.  Maybe you can make some ‘woofles!’

 

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Wonderful Way to Start the Day

There is 12 hours difference between where our son is and us, so it makes it a challenge to visit. He arranged a secure chat program before he left so that we can leave messages for each other, send pics, ask questions, or sometimes catch each other at just the right time and type at each other in real time.

I just finished a wonderful conversation with him, and I’m still a bit teared up over it.

So many people have kids living in the same city and don’t see or talk with them very often. Visits are ‘have-to’s,’ as short as possible, tense. My heart goes out to these people because the joy of knowing your kids and appreciating them as adults is one of the best things there is in life.

Our son is a great communicator, so we can almost forget that he’s across the world from us. When we get the change to really communicate more than what’s happening, his help with a computer or other technical problem, or that kind of thing, it’s such a privilege. I’m still kind of vibrating from our conversation – the real exchange of ideas and the love exchanged, if only by the typed word.

How lucky I am to be able to reach out – or have him reach out to us.  A virtual hug is a wonderful way to start a day.

 

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Louisiana Hot Sauce

This is Amber, our soon-to-be 7 months old yellow labrador retriever.  She looks sweet and innocent, doesn’t she?

 

 

Amber’s area is the back porch. Her crate is there, a lot of her toys. We feed her on the porch and a water bowl is out there. She spends less and less time out there, since she is making progress toward becoming more polite every day. She likes to be with us, so she spends a lot of time in the house wherever we are, and then spends more and more time outside.

This does NOT keep her from chewing on the one wall that is vulnerable on the porch. Two of the other walls are brick, and the fourth wall is screen protected by plywood sheets we added.

The fact that she spends a smaller and smaller amount of time out there, plus the fact that she has a gazillion chew toys from which to choose, seem to make no difference.

I’ve tried spraying the wall with a vinegar and water solution. I’ve sprayed it with Bitter Apple. Today I painted the spots she’s chewing with Louisiana Hot Sauce. With my luck, though, she’s a Cajun through and through and will lap it right up with more wood and paint – asking for more with her breakfast and dinner…

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Hot Dog

hot Amber

With the temp and humidity today, this afternoon will FEEL like 106 degrees F.  UGH. Our forecasters are saying that tomorrow we’ll finally get our first rain in over a month and a bit of a cool down. Hooray! Meanwhile, we turn on fans, A/C, drink lots of cold drinks, and pant a lot.

hot Molly

The cats and the fish are taking things in stride.

 

Abby

 

Smoke

 

 

“The Guys”

So, until about noon, we’ll all just sit under the ceiling fan with the doors and windows open, then be really thankful for the a/c until this evening. Some of us hang our tongues out straight, some out the side.

If we get the forecasted rain tomorrow, we’ll all go out (except maybe the cats and the fish) and dance in the rain while my husband can finally burn some trash….

 

Happy Tuesday everyone!

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Pea Soup and Chew Toys

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We just got back from grocery shopping. We had to turn on the a/c at the house first thing because it was so muggy. 97% humidity this morning. You walk outside and the sweat starts running off your head. I wash my hair every morning, but I refuse to wash it more than twice a day. The heat/humidity slap you in the face and draw all the energy out of you before you can get to the car in the garage. UGH.

The weather forecasters are saying we’ll get cooler temps and humidity starting Tuesday, I think, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Poor Amber goes out with one of us, running like a wild thing back and forth across the yard, taking care of business and then is ready to come back in, slurp a bunch of water (getting SOME of it in her mouth), plop down on the carpet and pant for the next half hour or so.

Today we brought her a new chew toy. We had to throw away one that she had completely demolished over the past few weeks. It started out really cute – a stuffed frog or something similar. It was really colorful with large eyes and had TWO squeakies inside in addition to the stuffing that squeaked in a kind of harmony. She loved it. She went around squeaking it relentlessly, making it a character-building exercise for us to try NOT to listen to. We would take as much as possible. One of us would cave and trade that toy for another, quieter one. She pulled out the stuffing, then one squeaky, and then the other, and STILL loved it. Eventually she tore it in half and started leaving strings of all colors all over the place, and eating way too much of it. Today we finally quietly threw it away, presenting her with what seems to be an armadillo. It’s squeak is different, so is a rest for our ears. She may tear it apart by the end of the day, but right now, she’s in heaven.

I’m looking forward to the cool down, when I can plan to catch up outside. I have a list as long as my arm of things I would like to do, but the direct sunlight, 90+ degree temperatures, with incredibly high humidity is more than I can handle. Fingers crossed the weather guys are right and I can play outside mid week.

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Amber Votes, “YES!”

I received the ingredients I needed to try the new gluten-free, low-carb bread today, so a couple of hours ago, I tried the recipe.

I found it a bit vague (for someone of my in-expertise on bread making) because many of the directions were “mix it until it’s creamy.” Well, I ask, “Is this creamy enough?”

Anyway, I got it into the oven, baked it for an hour, then took it out to cool. I made lunch for my husband and me, then took the loaf out of the pan and was pleased that it had risen, though not as much as other breads I’ve made. I sliced into it, cut that piece into four bites. I gave one to Amber, then one to Molly, I ate one and took the last in to my husband in the office.

I grabbed my camera on my way back to the kitchen so I could take pics for the blog. When I went into the kitchen, I found only the small piece of bread on the counter.

 

I went into the living room to find Amber with the rest of the loaf on her bed, happily eating it. I yelled, ran and grabbed it from her, yelling, ‘bad dog!’ while she looked at me with her innocent face, totally clueless. Apparently she just waited until I left the kitchen to stand up, grab the bread from the counter and take it into the living room.  Since it’s gluten-free, I guess I’ll break it up and let the doggies eat the rest of the huge hunk Amber stole.

This is the big hunk Amber stole.

I have a very small bit left. Not even enough for a sandwich. I’m not even sure if I like it or not at this point, and it’s not fair to the creator of the recipe to remark on it.

I’ve  just learned another lesson from Amber – she’s now big enough to reach anything on the counters in the kitchen. We’ll have to change our habits in there, too, and learn to watch her like a hawk.

So – the jury is still out on the gluten-free, low-carb bread, except for a really enthusiastic “YES!” from Amber….

 

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A First

I started through the living room and just happened to look toward the entertainment center this afternoon to find this!  This is the first time Molly and Amber have gotten on the dog bed together. They didn’t last long, once I went quickly back to the office to grab the camera, but I got two pictures.

 

I knew that they would eventually tolerate one another, but I was really surprised to see this. I’m still grinning. :0)

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Last Dregs of Summer in Arkansas ( I Hope!)

the odyssey online

This, of course, isn’t Amber, but our dog might have done the same thing this hot doggie did to cool off. Amber’s pool is about twice as large as this one, so it’s hard for me to get the old water out before scrubbing the pool.

I played ‘throw the totally chewed up cloth toy remnants” with Amber this morning.  She only wants to play tug of war with them, and I won’t do that, but I figured out a way to give her some fun and exercise. I throw one. She goes and gets it, brings it back, but won’t give it to me. I hold up another. She wants that, so she drops the first one. I throw the second one and pick up the first. Sometimes we get three into the rotation.

I then took her for a walk outside. We walked all over the top of the ridge line, with Amber running down and exploring further down the slopes. She was wearing her shock collar. This allow her a lot more freedom that being on the end of a leash. She readily reacts to a warning from me with the remote, plus she gets a treat when she comes back to me right away.

We came back inside to play again, and then Amber flopped down on the floor, panting. She got quiet, and when I turned around to look, she had propped herself up with her paw against my desk, so she could lie on her back, legs spread-eagled, looking very happy and comfortable. Of course, when I tried to get a picture, she turned over. She’s still sleeping, so I guess I gave her a good workout this morning.

I’m going to TRY to get her kiddie pool scrubbed out and filled up today. She has at least another week where she’ll enjoy jumping into it on her walks.  When it’s freshly scrubbed out and filled, the kiddie pool looks appealing to ME, too.

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Happy Tuesday

We’re enjoying a quiet, laid-back morning in the office.

I just had a nice chat with our son. That doesn’t sound like a big thing, but he’s in Koh Lanta, Thailand for a week and then will head back to Chiang Mai, where he lives now.  When he left about two years ago now, he set up things so that we could readily communicate – a chat program, where we can type at each other in real time, leave messages, send pics, etc.: regular email, of course, if the chat program ever isn’t available; a Skype type program that is much better than Skype, where we can see each other and talk real time.

We are very lucky. We’re really close to our son and communicate almost every day in some fashion. He’s a good communicator, so it doesn’t seem as if he’s across the world from us. His friends sent some pics a couple of days ago. I would share them, but I promised both my son and my husband I wouldn’t post many pics of them. :0(  (Amber doesn’t mind me posting pics, so you see her playing with a squeaky ball. She wants to chew on her toys in your LAP for some reason, which can be a bit disconcerting at times and causes us to be ever vigilant.)  Brian was telling me how great it has been to ‘watch’ Amber grow from a fat puppy at 10 weeks and 16 pounds to what looks like a full grown dog now, at 6 mos. and over 62 pounds.

While I’m chatting with our son, my husband is working at the computer, trying to rebuild a sensor type driveway detector. And, to top off our nice morning, our friend, Carla, comes with her dog, Nikki, for a play date. Amber is just learning socialization skills, and Nikki is the perfect dog to put her in her place. There is a bit of growling on Nikki’s part, when Amber is too exuberant in her hellos right in her face, but that is a great way to show Amber the limits. Amber didn’t want to share her bowl of water, but with the encouragement of the three two-leggers, Sweet Nikki got a good, long drink before heading home. We’re going to try to do this once a week.

We’re regrouping now in the office. Amber has spread out all over the plastic roll-around covering for the carpet, panting. I think she’ll probably be asleep in a matter of minutes….

 

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Almost

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Comparatively speaking, I feel as great as this owl does today.  I’m not hurting and haven’t taken anything for pain, muscle relaxants, etc.  I don’t know how long it will last, but right now, I’m declaring victory!

I actually felt well enough to take Amber out for a long walk this morning. She’s to the point where we don’t need to put the leash on at home. If she strays too far, I can simply call her. If I’m lucky, she’ll come. If not, I can push the green warning button on the shock collar remote and she comes right away. We haven’t had to shock her for anything lately, except once for dive-bombing the cat with too much enthusiasm.

The past two weeks seem to have been a lot better, as far as getting through to Amber what we would like, and having her actually comply. This doesn’t mean things are calm – far from it; but we’re living in tandem more now, rather than having to fight our way through the day quite so hard, ending in complete exhaustion.

She is doing two new things lately – I throw her toys into a clear plastic bin in the corner of the office. Rather than go get a toy as she used to, she picks up the entire bin, allowing toys to fall out as she carries the bin across the room, and then sits down and chews on the bin. I have to admit she may get this from me. Half of the time, I covet a DISPLAY, rather than the items ON the display, in a store.

The second new thing is that, while she spends less and less time on the back porch, when she does, she has started either eating or scratching off the white paint on the boards that comprise the side of the porch. We have three spots now that are down to the bare wood. I can spray those spots, but I don’t think there is enough Bitter Apple in the world to keep the whole porch covered…

She has oodles and gobs of chew toys of all shapes, sizes, colors, and squeaks. She tires of them quickly, whether she has access to all of them at once or just one at a time. We play ball with her on the porch and in the front yard, take her out multiple times a day to take care of business, walk, explore, and play. She takes a short nap in the mornings and one in the evenings, and – otherwise – is a perpetual motion machine with teeth. It’s a good thing she’s loving and sweet….

We’re going to do errands in a bit, and then I’ll TRY to do some very gentle yard work, if my back is still cooperating. Such a pleasure to move – get up and down – without pain!

I hope that you are having a pleasant day, too.

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Who is Training Whom – Take 2

Amber was 6 months old September 7th. She weighs over 62 pounds and is still growing like a weed. We expect (hope) she’ll stop at 80 pounds.

Since she’s been having trouble with digestion, we’ve been trying different things (while going through courses of probiotics.) I’ve been researching, since she wasn’t doing well with the changeover from puppy food to the dry food we gave Molly and Bambi, either. I decided to try grain-free food, and so far, it seems to be the answer!  We’ve been able to stop the probiotics and stool firming meds. She really likes the taste, seems to be much more comfortable and happy. There are a BUNCH of grain-free dry dog foods, so we’re trying now to find one that is offered in large bags. (The 11 pound bags just aren’t good, as she eats over 4 cups of food per day now.)

Right now we’re feeding her Rachael Ray grain-free, but we got another brand we’ll start soon. It comes in a MUCH larger bag. If she weathers the brand change well, we’ll switch to that and then stock up before winter. We hope that we can change her over to the food we get from our vet eventually, but she’ll either mature enough to handle that or she won’t. Time will tell. We’re delighted that we seem to have found a good solution for now.

We also got a shock collar with remote control. I generally don’t like these, but I have to admit it’s the answer right now with Amber. She’s a very independent, stubborn thinker with really strong desires and a deaf ear when she chooses, which is often. With the shock collar, we are mostly to the point that we give the command, reward her if she does it, warn her with a tone if she doesn’t readily comply, or a shock (rarely now) if she continues the bad behavior. It’s as if a miracle occurred. She now realizes that we MEAN what we say. We’re not just playing. We don’t want to say the same thing over and over. Usually, she adapts her behavior now when we SAY it, or failing that, when we warn her. Amazing and wonderful!

Because she’s behaving better, she spends more and more time with us, whether we’re inside or out, something she really enjoys. It’s all working together to make a healthy, happy, better mannered dog, and relieved, happy two-leggers!

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Poor Dog!

Poor Amber! Nothing to play with!

When we brought her into the office this morning, all the toys were in the bin in the corner. 10 minutes later, havoc reigns.

Not only are all the toys out of the box, but she’s decided to chew on, and eat the bin! And she looks so innocent…..

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New Approach

Amber at 6 months old is a sweet, doofus, loveable, hard-headed dog. She now knows much of what we want her to do, but many times CHOOSES not to do it.  We’re having good luck using treats to encourage her to respond to commands. The main problem area is getting her to stop doing things she shouldn’t.

We got a smart no-pull collar that works with our retractable leash that gives her a warning when she pulls too hard for too long, or decides to play, “Crazy Dog,” running back and forth to the end of the leash. If she continues, she receives a shock. Now, if she’s wearing the collar, she acts very nicely – EXCEPT when she is confronted with a whole vet office full of critters at one time, with ONE big dog acting hostile.

We have to say things over and over, such as “Down” when she’s right beside our dining table. It’s as if she’s on a trampoline. She obeys the command and then pops right up, over and over again. Or we say, “no.” She stops for a split second, and then starts in again. Over and over…

Lately we got a more regular shock collar. I don’t like these much, but certain dogs don’t seem to take you seriously until you really get their attention and show them that you are the lead dogs in the pack. Amber seems to be one of these. The squirt bottles of water and the fly swatters seem to invite her to PLAY many times, rather than disciplining her.

So, the collar is set up so that we can warn her with a sound she can hear, but we can’t. We warn her, and sometimes that’s enough. She stops whatever she’s doing. If she ignores the warning, we have the shock level carefully set so that it gets her attention, stopping whatever she’s doing, but it doesn’t hurt her so she yipes.

My husband started using it day before yesterday. The first day he had to hit the shock button 3 or 4 times during the day and evening. Yesterday it was only once. So far today, not at all. And when he hits the warning tone, she’s beginning to respond to that well.

At almost 62 lbs now – with possibly another 20 pounds to go, we need to be serious 24/7 before she hurts one of us. Her exuberance is pretty impressive, and she has a healthy streak of ‘stubborn,’ as well. Since we have heard that labs are ‘puppies’ for 2 years, we’ve set up for the long haul on serious training.  We’re making good progress. We want her to be a happy member of our animal and human family, plus act politely around other people and other animals. We just need to keep on keepin’ on…

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Treat Driven

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Our yellow labrador retriever “puppy” Amber is 6 months old as of yesterday and officially weighs 61.6 lbs. She will do almost anything if she knows a treat is involved.

This has made our efforts to train her more effective (thank goodness!) but it’s a problem if you go outside with her and find you are ‘unarmed’ without one treat in your pocket.  (See pic above)

I switched to goldfish because they’re small, fit in my pocket more easily, and a double handful will get us through the day pretty well. She doesn’t seem to mind the change. She loves EVERYTHING, but she goes through a LOT of them, so we’re trying to find cheaper alternatives and use the more expensive stuff sparingly.

Lately I’ve discovered that she will stay pretty much by my side outside without a leash if she is sure I have treats in my pocket. I simply show her one and then we take a nice walk. She is also improving on ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ ‘place,’ ‘get the ball,’ ‘come,’ ‘waiting for an ok before she eats,, not jumping up, and other things. Remaining a challenge are teaching her

  • ‘we’ are NOT chew toys,
  • not chewing on things not designated as toys (we’re hosing things down with bitter apple)
  • not dive-bombing our dignified elder dog, Molly, the cats, etc

Especially challenging is getting her to mind us when others are around. It’s as if she is suddenly blind and deaf, doesn’t know who we are, etc.

Lately, one of her favorite things is catching me on the stairs when I’m coming down in the morning. This morning is a typical example – I got halfway down the stairs. She heard me and came bounding up the stairs to greet me. I’ve learned to sit down on the stairs and give her a lot of love and petting before trying to continue down. Last night I left shoes and socks on the floor in front of my chair in the living room. I know better, but she has to reteach me from time to time.

I had to fight my way over to the chair with Amber trying her best to chew on my toes or trip me. I made it to the chair, but Amber had one of my shoes in her mouth. I retrieved the other shoe, plus the socks, and then had to try to ‘trade’ her something for my shoe. I finally got my shoe and then fought my way back to my chair. She tried to get both socks and shoes back as I squirted her with the water bottle and said, ‘place!’ firmly. She finally responded, though she really didn’t want to. I put on socks and shoes and vowed NOT to leave them again…

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Hair-Raising Trip

Amber at 6 months

We just got back from taking Amber to the vet to get an official measure of her weight, since she is 6 months old today. She now weighs 61.6 lbs. We’re HOPING that her final weight will be 75 lbs or less, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

We had a hair-raising trip.

I had called to make sure it was okay if we brought Amber tin o use their scales and the receptionist said, “fine.”  She neglected to tell me that they had a FULL house, with dogs, cats, and other critters from wall to wall. Amber doesn’t pick up on ‘vibes’ from other animals well. Another large dog was there, and wasn’t happy to see Amber at all. That didn’t keep her from trying to nose the dog, wagging her tail the whole time. The large dog got hostile. My husband was able – with a LOT of pulling and almost being tripped by Amber trying to go in two directions at once – to pull her into the room where the scales were. We got her on, looked at the scales long enough to register 61.6, and then got out of there as soon as we could get to the door. Whew!

On the way over, we had Amber in the front passenger seat of the truck. I sat in the back seat. I had her on her leash, holding her tightly enough she could put her head out of the window. She moved around a bit, but not badly. She wants to really lean out, which bothers me, but I was confident I had good control with the leash locked in.

After the vet, we stopped quickly at our insurance agent’s to leave an updated DVD of our ‘stuff,’ and then at the bank to leave a copy in our safe deposit box, and then we were on the way home.

Amber was antsy this time. She got in the back seat with me, sitting on me, standing on me, leaning out of the window, coming back in to sit beside me, over and over. I’ll probably have some interesting bruises on my ‘lap.’ She was really a handful on the way home.

We’ve decided we need to take her for rides more often, mainly around our neighborhood, and maybe down to Greenwood Lake, where we can walk around a bit mid trip. We’ll do the vet weighing in again next month, but we’ll try to find a good time when they’re not busy…

 

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Relief

Amber with bit of green plastic bone

I was helping my husband put a gigantic box that the TV came in up into the attic over the garage this morning. After we accomplished that, we swept out the half of the garage that was easy to get to with one of the cars out on the pad.

We went back into the house, but I couldn’t find Amber. I checked with my husband, and he glibly said, “I let her out when we went out to the garage. She’ll be fine.”

I ran out to the front yard and started calling her. I went all the way around the house, calling, but no Amber. I was in tears, still calling when Amber came running across the yard to me, smiling.

I gave her some treats, put her into the house, and then calming told my husband that his life was on the line if he did that again.

(We had agreed that HE could let her run first thing in the morning when breakfast followed. I have taken her out without the leash, walking from the house to the shop. I did it again yesterday, keeping a close eye on her and keeping the walk short. She is coming better now, but I don’t trust that she would come if she were distracted by a rabbit, squirrel, cat, or another dog. We even have COWS across the street that runs in front of our yard.)

My husband gave me the lecture about ‘mistreating the dog’ by not simply letting her out and letting her come home when she’s ready. I told him that we would build to that, but NOT YET!

And so continues the disagreement about when Amber truly knows where home is, when she’s coming on a reliable basis…..

 

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Fierce Molly!

This is Molly. She’s a cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross who has been a member of our family for over 12 years now. She and our pit bull, Bambi, got along famously, in fact she is such a happy dog she added joy to the life of a rather serious dog – and his people – who needed some laughs.

When Bambi died, she wandered around the house looking very lost. She would bark to go out, searching the yard, then bark to come back in, searching the house again.  It killed me that we couldn’t share the hard decision we had to make with her, help her understand. All we could do was hold her a lot, hug her, and grieve.

We then found Amber, our completely doofus, now almost 60-pound labrador retriever puppy. Since we brought her home in May at 10 weeks old, she has pretty much dominated our days. Molly’s reaction was to hide, leave the room, try to disappear.

Lately she seems to have made the decision that she’s not going to give up her rights as the dog who should be the head dog in the family, the one with seniority. Now when Amber dive-bombs her, she bares her teeth, growls, and maybe even gives Amber a little snap. Amber’s reaction is to jump straight up in the air, and then decides Molly must be playing with her.

We’re still trying to monitor the doggies when they’re together and curb Amber’s exuberance as much as we can. Molly seems to understand that it’s not a free-for-all, but she also won’t cower in the corner anymore.

She DOES still leave the room, if possible, but I’m glad to see her standing up for herself. (Our two cats are learning to deal with Amber lumbering toward them. They hiss and spit, if she corners them, and jump up where she can’t get them. Smoke actively stalks Amber when they’re outside. Our fish couldn’t care less about any other family members.)

Hopefully, Amber will begin to see the pattern on approaching Molly,  adapting her behavior a bit.

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Let

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I’m feeling really lazy today.

Poor Amber desperately wanted me to play, so after I took her for a walk, we played with her basketball and small purple squeaky ball on the back porch. She only brings something back every once in a while, so once you get it going, she pretty much entertains herself – while someone is there. She teases you, acting like she’s going to bring it to you to throw again, and then, when you try to get it from her mouth, she either runs off again or tries to change the game to tug of war.

She also drops the ball a LOT, giving her oodles of chances to run, jump, play, and growl.

Amber on the dog run yesterday.

We played for about 15 minutes before she finally had enough. She’s asleep on the floor beside my chair as I type….. YAWN.

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Down!

As we were eating breakfast this morning, we were trying to get Amber to lie down quietly on the floor beside us.

Yeah. Right.

It was as if she were on a trampoline!

We would say, “DOWN.” And she would comply.

We would pick up our spoon – “DOWN.” And she would comply. Before we could pick it “DOWN!” –

I think you get the picture. Up and down. Up and down. Down and up. Down and up.

We ARE making a bit of progress, but it’s very distracting trying to eat breakfast – or talk – or swallow…..

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Busy Morning on the Porch

 

Right at this very moment, Amber is lying down beside my office chair, asleep. Ahhhhhh!

We’ve had a busy morning. We’re still having a bit of trouble giving Amber food that agrees with her. And, even if THAT is all good, we can’t keep her from acting like a vacuum cleaner outside, eating everything dogs find appealing. UGH.

Obviously, something didn’t agree with her that she ate yesterday. I had to hose and mop the porch first thing this morning. Since she’s been having trouble off and on, we’ve been leaving her crate door open at night. My husband did the initial clean up and then I followed with the hose and mop.

We fed her lightly, and then checked on her in half an hour – my husband had left the Clorox Clean Up bottle on the table. She had knocked that over, spilling about half of it on the porch floor. I leaped up to get THAT cleaned up, hoping she didn’t ingest any of that. I then admonished my husband that we’re at least PRETENDING to be smarter than the dog….

We went out to play with her later and ended up hosing and mopping the porch again –

We took her out and walked her quite a bit, gave her some water and went inside to get ready to go do errands. I checked on her before we left – to find she had taken her bedding from the crate and was in the process of shredding it all over the porch floor.

I put the the intact piece of bedding back in the crate, closed and latched the door to it, put her on the string on the deck since she won’t allow mopping or sweeping without a game of tug of war.  I swept everything up and put her on the porch once again.

 

Amber on her dog run, waiting for me to get the porch mopped.

 

Amber with her purple bone on the office bed.

 

We were gone about an hour. Amber was delighted to see us when we got home. Her porch was still clean! We took her out again, and then let her come into the office.  (If you look behind her head, you can see where she discovered the reams of copy paper on the shelf yesterday –

So far, so good.  Fingers crossed.

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“Fetch?”

Can you see that Amber lets her tongue loll out to the side of her mouth and down? I think it’s hilarious.

She just doesn’t ‘get’ the idea of fetching and bringing the ball back yet. My husband has been out in the front yard with her a couple of days in a row now. He throws the ball. She runs to get it, picks it up, and then either drops it again, doesn’t want to bring it back, or – if she does bring it back – doesn’t want to give it back to my husband to throw again.

She did it right twice today – much better than yesterday. She got a treat when she brought the ball back and actually allowed him to have it. :0)

The best part about this whole thing is that she and my husband are having fun, both are getting good exercise, and Amber is much more calm in the house after a session. (She’s asleep on the floor beside me now).

PLAY BALL!!!!

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