Merry Christmas 2013

This sure flew by again! This year’s celebration was a success, with everything well planned in advance. Definitely a no-stress Christmas for once. Here’s our Christmas portrait, which was printed as Christmas cards for both our families (my little yearly tradition). It’s my first card without Jack :-(

I don’t know why the printing company insists on making them so dark, but oh well.

I’m a little sick right now. Hopefully this won’t ruin New Year for me. My throat hurts all the way up to my ears, my stomach feels like it’s been punched, and my neck and arm muscles are sore. Not good! I got my flu vaccine done last week, but the doctor said it would take another week to really kick in, so I guess meanwhile I’m screwed.

New Year’s eve will be spent at home, just the two of us with Jules the cat. Nice and cozy, nothing crazy!

♥︎ Lisa

The Puppy Box

Adopting a new dog can represent a big cost on its own; especially if you go to a breeder. Having had a dog before, I now know that the big money also lies in all the products and accessories you purchase after you bring your dog home. This is why I’ve decided to start a “puppy box”.

It’s a box I’m going to fill, little by little, with all kinds of stuff I will need once I have my new dog. This will help me spread all my purchases over the course of 1 year, so that I don’t have to spend a ton of money all at once after the adoption. The box itself comes from Ikea Belgium. If you’re in the States, you’ll find it here.

Jules helped me put it together, as you can see …

And here’s the finished result:

My first purchase was a pack of LED lights:

I originally started looking for small LED lights in pet stores; they’re sold to clip on your dog’s collar or leash. This is basically just a safety thing to use at night or in foggy weather, so your dog will be clearly visible to cars. Pet stores are supposed to carry these all year round, but they’ve been out of stock since forever. One lady told me they’d be back in stock “within two weeks”, and that was before Jack passed away 7 months ago, so yeah … Now, I randomly stumbled across these two little bike lights at Blokker the other day. They only cost about 2.50€ and their size is ideal. The little elastic attachments are quite handy. You can either set them to flash or to stay constant.

Now, I’m not gonna lie. In theory, this pack was perfect! In reality: it’s a piece of crap made in China. It started malfunctioning literally while I was taking these pictures. They hadn’t even been out of their packaging for more than 1 minute yet. *sigh* It may just be a weak battery connection. I’ll take it apart next week and see if I can fix it. If not, the search for pet collar lights is back on. It’s an item I really wished I had owned back when Jack was still here. Even if just to keep an eye on him while he was out taking a quick pee break in the yard at night. He would go all the way to the back where I could hardly see him anymore, and it always stressed me out a bit. So, definitely a must-have for all dog owners!

The second item is a “clicker”:

clicker red plastic dog training device ebay cheap

I’ve actually owned this one for several years and used it with my previous dog to teach him the right behavior around my (then new) cat. It’s really a great training device and only cost about 5€, if I remember well.

For those of you who are not familiar with clickers, here’s a short excerpt from Wikihow:

The “clicker” is a small noisemaker that makes a distinctive “click” sound when the metal tab is pressed. The clicker is intended to tell your dog when he or she does something correctly. Once you’ve trained your dog to associate the clicker with rewards, he or she will quickly learn that when she performs a behavior and you click, (s)he will receive a reward.

So this is my box for now. It’s not much, and certainly not expensive, but it’s a good start (at least if I can get those stupid lights to work)! Next on my shopping list are food & water bowls that are the right size for Chihuahua portions, toys, blankets, a doggy carrier to put on my bike, and the list goes on.

It’s also a part of the process of letting go of Jack. I washed his old toys and blankets one last time the other day, and finished putting away his boxes in the attic. It was hard, and of course there were tears again. But I feel like starting this new puppy box is like a breath of fresh air; something happy to look forward to.

♥︎ Lisa

It’s Almost Christmas!

It’s almost Christmas and I can only hope this year’s festivities will be nice and relaxing! It’s usually such a hectic stressful time. This is not what Christmas should be about, right? We started putting our tree together, and it’s looking quite pathetic at the moment. This was me – tired but still optimistic – before we got started:

Then the trouble began. It took me an hour to get all the lights secured in the tree, only to realize towards the end that there weren’t enough of them to reach the top. *Great* So, remaining as calm and composed as possible, we headed to the horribly crowded store to buy some more. We were in luck; they still had the exact lights we needed. Granted, they only had the short versions … so there started our dilemma: do we take one, with the risk of it not being enough? Or do we play it safe and buy two, knowing we may actually only need one? What to do? Being the budget-minded person that I am, I decided to only buy one. We came home, and of course, we should have bought two. So I was like, screw it, I give up for today. We’ll finish it later.

That was last Saturday. Meanwhile, we have added one crucial decoration to this year’s tree:

From wrecking ball to Christmas ball! How cool is our little Miley?

Jules (the cat) doesn’t seem to like her very much. Miley went flying yesterday. But she’s such a strong young lady; she made it back safely on her branch in one piece.

My plan for today is to take all the lights out of the tree and start all over again. This time, making sure that I spread the lights enough so they will cover the entire tree. And then, maybe *MAYBE* we’ll go ahead and take our Christmas picture so we can order our Christmas cards in time and send them before Christmas eve, for once. Unlike all the previous years so far …

I won’t even start whining about the nightmare that Christmas shopping is going to be. So this is it for now!

More later!

♥︎ Lisa

How I Became A Dog Person

I wasn’t always a dog person. Sure, I wanted a puppy when I was little. Just like every other kid on the block. But we had always had cats at home, and I knew nothing about dogs. In fact, they even scared me a little, but I knew for sure I really really wanted one (kids logic at its finest). Then, as we’re all told by our parents when we’re young: “NO”. Plain and simple. End of the story. So, I didn’t get a puppy and grew up dogless.

Fast forward to age 21. I moved to the States. -North Carolina, to be precise. I didn’t know many people there, started making a few friends, but didn’t have a “best” friend. I mean, trust and friendship take time to grow. And when you’re fresh into your 20’s, you start to notice that people get more and more busy with life, and friendships become slower to evolve than when you were a child, or even a teenager. I needed a little companion. A little creature I could be completely emotionally attached to. A constant presence at home so it wouldn’t feel so empty. I just longed for it.

Initially, I figured I’d get myself a cat. I had always had cats, I understood cats, I was totally a cat person. But cats are impossible to travel with, which was a potential issue at that point in my life. Then I thought, hey, I’m an adult now, I live on my own … nothing’s holding me back anymore from getting that puppy I always wanted. A few weeks later, my phone rang like it was meant to be. A friend had just witnessed something awful: a dog had been thrown out of a car in the middle of a road. He ran to get him so he wouldn’t get run over by other cars. The dog appeared to be fine and healthy, but he couldn’t keep him because his landlord didn’t allow pets. He asked if he could bring him over. So this was a classic example of “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it”. I suddenly wasn’t so sure anymore, but agreed to check him out.

That evening, in January 2005, the cutest little brown fur ball came through my door, and peed on my kitchen floor. I was in love! He couldn’t be more than 8 weeks old. He was still very clumsy when walking, had the head shape and eyes of a tiny baby. I felt so bad for the little bugger. He was clearly too young to be without his mother. Alright, I was on a mission! I was going to raise that little pup and make sure such horrible thing would never happen to him again.

jack dog puppy 2005 flashback smooth coat short haired medium terrier basenji mix mutt north carolina usa american stray found pup rescued beautiful sweet pup playful cuddling loving lap young 2 or 3 two three months old

And then started the nightmare … I now had a dog. A little 6 to 8 week old puppy who was a male, and thus clingy as hell. He wouldn’t let me do anything without him. Me taking a quick pee break in the bathroom instantly turned into a crying drama behind the door. He wanted to be with me, every second, of every minute, of every day, AND NIGHT. I was exhausted. It was literally like having a newborn baby at home. The feedings, the potty training, the leash training, the attention, the cleaning of all his mess, the vet trips and pet store trips … my God. What had I gotten myself into? I was exhausted, I looked like hell and I didn’t feel like we even had a bond. He needed attention and care, but I didn’t feel like he really gave a crap about me, and I started to feel that I didn’t love him either.

I had always assumed you were supposed to have an instant connection with your dog. I mean, you hear about all those dog lovers who love and adore their dog from day 1, and have such a great bond and relationship. I rolled my eyes and wondered if I should have just gotten a cat instead. It took me weeks to find him a name. Nothing sounded right, nothing suited him. And then one day: Jack. The perfect name. It sounds the same in every language, and every hero in every movie is named Jack. It wasn’t particularly original, but it felt right :-) That puppy finally started to have an identity. I was slowly getting attached.

It took another year for him to be fully trained and for us to be on the same page. Slowly but surely, we learned each other’s body language, mimics, sounds. All the subtleties that make you understand one another. I loved my dog to pieces and we did everything together. He had so much personality, it was like watching a little person trapped into a dog’s body. Our daily walks were sacred. And despite having a big yard, I always made sure to make time for our 30 minute hike together. That’s when a whole new world opened up to me … People started approaching me and talking. In just a few months time, I knew people in my entire neighborhood. Something that had never been the case in my life before Jack. I was a shy introvert, never one to walk up to strangers. But Jack was! He loved strangers! They saw this little four legged social butterfly and were instantly drawn to him. Naturally, we started chit chatting about him, and then other random topics. Within less than a year, everybody knew us as Jack & Lisa. As years went by, I slowly opened up. I was no longer shy. I approached people, started talking to them. Dog owners on their dog walks have the perfect ice breaker; something in common to talk about. I had really underestimated the power of that.

jack dog adult in north carolina usa terrier jack russel basenji mix mutt stray rescued full grown smooth coat brown golden tan color short haired straight ears beautiful gorgeous walking yard outdoor garden

After Jack passed away, there were no more walks. As weeks and months passed, I noticed I still talked to strangers with ease, and especially those with dogs. That’s when it finally dawned on me. Jack had changed me. He had brought me out of my shell like no human could have possibly done. I miss my little buddy and I’m so thankful for everything he’s brought into my life. All those people I got to know through the years, some of them became good friends. And I’m sure I will meet many more. I like to look at it as Jack’s legacy, which will continue to affect my life until my very last day.

No dog will ever replace Jack. He was my first, and I learned everything I know about dogs thanks to him. I still get teary eyed when I dwell on the memories. I’m definitely sure that I want a new dog in my life soon. Not as a replacement – because they’re all unique – but as a new chapter ready to be filled with new happy memories, and new human friends along the way. I’m still going to need a while for the sadness to fade a bit, but I know I’ll get there.

Dogs are such amazing creatures. I never believed it before I got a dog myself. I was like “yeah yeah, sure, whatever, other pets are just as nice”. And although in a way I don’t like to admit it, because I don’t want to make it sound like other pets such as cats or rabbits are worthless animals (they’re not!), I do have to say there’s something extra special about having a tight bond with your very own dog. It’s hard to put in words. They are so much work and such a pain when they’re young, but my God, is it worth it. After almost a decade with Jack, I can say for a fact that I’ve turned into a better version of myself. I’m more open, less judgmental of others, I talk to people easily, I’m more compassionate. The overwhelming love and loyalty he’s brought me were my strength in many dark moments. I was never alone. He guarded the house and protected me. I felt safe and loved. – After all, what more does a person need?

♥︎ Lisa

Belgian Chihuahua Club Show 2013

Since I’ve just recently settled for the Chihuahua breed, I thought that a good way to start my search for a good breeder was to check out our national Chihuahua Club. Coincidentally, their annual show was scheduled this weekend. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better timing. It’s basically like a regular dog show, with prizes for the best looking / best behaved dogs, etc, but only for chihuahuas. I figured the place would be packed with serious breeders, and that it might be the ideal opportunity to find the one my future puppy will come from. Not your typical buyer’s approach, but hey, I think it was a smart move.

I immediately noticed a little pen with 3 brown chis in them, exactly how I had envisioned my future dog to look like. They were all so calm and well behaved, I thought whoever is raising them knows what they’re doing. The smallest one kept looking at me with the sweetest eyes.

I approached the lady who owns them and she turned out to be a professional breeder. Bingo.

Her name is Lucretia, and she started telling me about her dogs, where they come from, and how she makes sure that they are compatible when breeding so that their DNA stays as healthy and diverse as possible. That’s exactly what I was looking for. I spoke to other breeders there, but none seemed as perfectionist about this particular aspect as Lucretia did. She also mentioned an interesting point about their food: she has them on a raw meat diet. This is something I first heard of last year, when my Jack got sick and that I started looking up alternative diets that could help him get better. Unfortunately, it was too late for him to switch to such a radically different diet, so I never got a chance to try it out before he passed away.

It kind of stayed in the back of my mind ever since, as a potential different approach to dog food for my next pup. It seemed like a lot of hassle though, especially getting a dog to switch from dry kibble to raw meat. I also wasn’t quite sure which meat to buy, and basically how to handle this whole diet, because you can do more harm then good if not done properly. Lucretia definitely knows her stuff though! So I’ve got 2 bonuses here by dealing with her:

-1- my dog will already be on a raw meat diet, so I won’t have to go through the difficult phase of switching from dry kibble,

and -2- she seems quite educated on the subject, so if I ever feel lost or have doubts about something, I can just ring her up and ask.

It’s a nice perspective when you’re adopting a dog and you know you can count on the breeder to guide you along the way, even after the adoption has been completed. She mentioned she had a litter ready to be adopted soon. I’m not looking to adopt right away, but we may go have a look in the next few weeks anyway. Just so I can check out the place, see how the dogs are doing there, and ask a few more questions I didn’t get a chance to ask today because it was so hectic.

I also spoke to other breeders, but I have to admit, after I spoke to Lucretia, none of them seemed as serious and genuine as she did. So I think I already made up my mind right there that she would be the one. I guess we’ll see. Like I mentioned in earlier posts, I want to give myself about a year, or at least another 6 months. So I’ve still got time to explore other options that may come my way. It’s a living creature, not a toy. And once I settle for one, I will have to live with it for a decade or so at least (hopefully longer). So it’s a big decision, not to be made lightly.

♥︎ Lisa