Monday, August 31, 2015

Social worker by day, and, well, social worker by night, too. In other words...

For a long time, the "about me" sidebar has said, "Social worker by day, dog trainer by night." But I haven't taught a dog training class in over a year, and in ten days I start grad school.

I started this blog six years and two jobs ago, back when I had nothing to do but stare at a computer screen 40 hours a week. Now I not only have a job that keeps me busy, it has solidified my professional identity as a social worker. Then I started editing (no, Denise, I am NOT leaving you), and it's been six months since I've posted anything of substance. Now I'm told to expect to spend 25 to 30 hours a week or so getting my master's degree on.

I'm not planning to end this blog, but I'm also not really planning to update either. I'm not really sure what the difference is; I think I'm just leaving my options open. I'll probably post little snippets over on the Facebook page, but before today, it had been 41 days since I'd posted there, so...

Of course, if anyone is interested in the History and Philosophy of Social Work, or Psychopathology and Human Behavior, I could probably arrange to post some essays this semester. :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday, Lola!

I have known Lola for almost three years; I've lived with her for one. And while I never thought I would have a basset hound, I am so glad I do. Lola is sweet and affectionate. She's strong-willed and independent. She's a total pain in my ass, and yet so completely wonderful. She has completely changed my life.

Thank you, Lola, for taking care of mi amor y mi vida before I even knew him. Thank you for being (half) the reason we met. My life is so completely full of love and happiness in a way I never imagined possible. I am so grateful that you are my dog now, too.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let Freedom Ring! Napi's Designated Birthday/Gotcha Day!

Two years ago, my husband rescued Napi. Well, it was a few days after the 4th, but since he was saved from an abusive situation, Cesar decided it fitting to celebrate Napi's freedom day on, well, the day of freedom.

Today is also the day we celebrate his birthday. When he was rescued, Napi was probably around a year. Maybe a bit less. But since we really have no way of knowing, we gave him the 4th of July for both of his important dates.

 He has a few scars from his early years, but he improves every day. Mostly, it's been a combo of meds and love; I am sure I do a lot of training throughout the day, but none of it is all the conscious. These days, after about five minutes of barking, he will settle in and play with new people and dogs.

I love Napi to pieces. He's a fabulously wonderful, difficult, horrible, absolutely amazing dog. I wouldn't give him up for anything.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Memory of Nicky

Nickolas J. Cat

September 2000-May 10, 2015

I've been avoiding writing this post for awhile; it's hard to believe that Nicky is really gone.

I adopted Nicky in November 2000 as an 8-ish-week-old kitten. I have kitten pictures of him, but that was the pre-digital era. Barring a period of time when he lived with my parents (I lived somewhere that didn't allow cats), I've had him ever since.

How is it that I don't have any PICTURES of Nicky and Maisy together? Here- have a video instead.

Nicky was always a playful little beast. As a kitten, Nicky played fetch. It was adorable. We'd throw one of those barely-counts-as-a-mitten things and he'd chase it and bring it back. He also would brush up against my landline (remember those?!) and call my mom on speed dial.

"Whatever it was, I didn't do it! It was the cat, honest!"
As an adult, he adored catnip and would gladly bliss-out any day of the week. I actually have a plant of the stuff that I grew just for him. He also had a charming habit of sleeping on my head, and a not-so-charming habit of drooling on my face and in my ears. It was disgusting, but I would give anything for that now.

"What? He's in MY crate!"
Things got harder when the Barrera household formed last summer. Not only was Nicky older and arthritic, but Lola was quite scared of him. It took awhile, but we did find a tentative peace in the house. The pictures I have of them together are some of my favorite.

"Dis MAH kitty."

This spring, when it became clear that he was very sick, we began to allow him to do whatever he'd like. As it turns out, that was go outside. He wasn't really allowed to do that before, and he became obnoxious in his attempts to get outside. Mostly he sat in the sun, and I was happy to sit with him.

The best family picture I ever got.

It astounds me how big of a hole such a small being can leave. The dogs have such big personalities, they are so demanding. And yet, Nicky's absence is so conspicuous. I miss him so much. I will always love him. <3 p="">

Oseh shalom bim'romav hu ya'aseh shalom.
Zichronam Liv'racha, Nicky.
May your memory be a blessing.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Merrick Power Bites Treats from

New. Favorite. Treats.

This month sent us Merrick Power Bites and I love them! They are everything I want a treat to be:
  • made in the USA
  • quality ingredients
  • soft and easy to eat
  • palatable to all four dogs
  • easy to handle
  • leaves no nasty residue on my fingers
  • they are the perfect training treat size!
Seriously, ya'll. Zukes have always been a favorite because of the size, but even those I would cut in half or fours. These? These require no splitting. They are about 2/3 the size of a Zuke already! So they are great for training little dogs, especially with reactive dog work.

Well done, Merrick. And thanks, Chewy, for providing me with this treat. (For free, but with no other expectations on what I say.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Evanger's Freeze-Dried Tripe from

This month we got to review Evanger's Freeze-Dried Tripe from Now, I'm no stranger to tripe. I've used it freeze-dried, I've used it raw, I've used it blended up in a food tube. So the biggest thing that you should know about tripe - the fact that it SMELLS - was not a surprise to me. In fact, I thought this smelled less? But then, I've worked in nursing homes and group homes and am pretty immune to bad smells, so. 

Like every Chewy product I've gotten, it's high quality: made in the USA, single-ingredient, you know the drill. This was different from other freeze-dried treats I've used, though. The label says "lightly" freeze-dried, and it is. It's softer, it breaks apart nicely, it's less dusty than other freeze-dried treats, and... it leaves a residue.

Look, I'm no stranger to nasty, slimy treats. Those are the best for reactive dog work, after all. But ew. These leave an oily residue like a bad lotion or something. Thankfully it washed off really well, but given the feeling and the smell, I will not use these for training! 

Napi says they're delicious, though!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I took all four dogs to the dog park and no one died.

Two marvelous things happened on Friday. I found myself with the day off, and it was nice out.

After a long Minnesota weather, I was eager to get out of the house, and I figured the dogs were, too, so I made the decision to take them all to the dog park. I don't usually take Napi to the dog park because of all the crazy, but I decided to take the risk for a number of reasons:
  1. The dog park we go to is huge and wooded, limiting the amount of interaction you have with other dogs,
  2. It was the middle of the day on a weekday, further limiting the number of folks that would be there,
  3. Napi seems to have the highest energy level of my dogs, meaning he needed the exercise most, and
  4. I wanted to see how he was doing on the meds.
This probably isn't something I'd recommend others do, but at the same time... well, it was nice out. And you can't keep your dogs in a bubble; you need to provide challenges from time to time. And it was nice out. Yeah, mostly we went because of cabin fever. I decided that we'd leave early if Napi really couldn't handle it, and I made him drag a leash so that if he was a jerk, I could easily intervene. (And I did several times.)

Napi actually did fairly well. Here's a video of early on in our park trip:

And here's one from the end of the park visit:

Both videos suck from a cinematic standpoint; I was more focused on him vs. keeping him in the frame. Sorry about that. Anyway, he did better the longer we were there - the opposite of how Maisy is/was.

In the first video, he was barking at that other dog. He would actually snap at other dogs that he thought were threatening. A few times he was right - one dog was super stiff in its body language, and another was bothering Maisy - and a few times I think he was just guarding me/my treats/his buddy Pyg.

The second video is even cooler. You can see him stiffen up when he sees another dog approaches (it's a Springer, not that you can tell), and he then chooses to come to me for a treat. So does the other dog, but Napi only growled a tiny bit (I can't even hear it on the video).

What these videos tell me is that while Napi still has a long way to go, he's making nice progress. He's learning to think a bit before reacting. He's able to exercise some small amounts of self control. He can recover quicker from stress than he could before. He sees me as a safe person he can depend on.

Despite all this, the dog park will not be a regular part of Napi's life. He's still practicing more bad behavior than I'd like, and besides, the park will only get busier and more crowded as it gets nicer out. I don't want to risk a dog fight, and I do think that's a distinct possibility. Still, it's nice to celebrate success with a reactive dog.