The pet blogging industry has changed drastically over the last 5 years, especially since I started writing Life with Arie. What started as personal catalogs of our lives with our pets on Wordpress or Blogger hosted domains with quick pictures off of our phones has turned into a polished, professional industry with glossy graphics, professional photos, and endless endorsements.
While the shiny and new is great, I miss the stories and personal level of the early pet blogs, the ones that discuss the struggle. The truth. I spent a little time on my blog just focusing on the happier elements of life with my pets, leaving out all of the elements that wouldn't fit into that Stepford family photo. Then, I realized that when I go looking for a pet blog, I'm looking for someone who can relate to what I'm dealing with in our house, good and bad. It's time to stop editing. I've talked about some of Arie's issues before, but really talking about them is something I haven't done in quite some time.
Saying that sentence alone can feel weird. Do any other reactive dog parents deal with this? There's a shame and guilt that comes with it, and I often feel like I've failed my dog in so many ways. Maybe she would have been happier with another family. Maybe she would have been better socialized, and would be playing at the park with other dogs. Then I remember the day I brought her home, and I trust that, even with mistakes in hand, I love this dog as much as anyone could, and I'm working every day to make her life better.
To be honest, I had forgotten how bad Arie's anxiety and reactivity is for a while. In April, we moved into our first owned home. It has a fantastic fenced back yard, perfect for our reactive girl. Arie's anxiety at sounds around the house has greatly dissipated since we moved, so my memories began to fade of how bad her reactions are to other dogs, because, well...there weren't other dogs, just herself and Fulton and enjoying their daily lives. I was able to forget and to live in a place of complacency with it...until we tried to to go to the vet.
Arie was due for her annual, so I made the appointment to take her in. Like I always do, I took extra precautions for her vet visit. We put on her muzzle. We gave her her calming treats. We played soothing music on the way there. Zack served as a look out for other dogs. She was harnessed and kept on a short lead. I had my clicker and treats ready for the "look at me" and reset games we'd worked on. We thought we were ready.
When we got to the vet, the parking lot was crowded. We waited patiently for people to make their way inside with their pets and called ahead to find out which of the two building entrances was dog free. We got out of the car and started to walk up to the building. Then it happened.
A man across the parking lot got out of the car with his dog and Arie completely lost it. I mean LOST it. All recall and attention was out the window as my White German Shepherd honed in on this man and his dog, with a laser focused gaze. The burr on her back went straight up and she started stamping her paws and wailing (really the only word for the sound coming out of my dog) in frustration and fear. We tried to reset and distract her, removing her gaze from the situation, but that only worked for a few seconds before she went back wailing, growling, and attempting to charge every few seconds. Though we had her well secured with us and she was muzzled to prevent risk if she were to get away, I felt beyond helpless, and I knew she did too. It was heartbreaking.
A vet tech came out of the building, assuming we had a grievously injured dog from the sounds Arie was making. "No, no, we're fine, she's not hurt she's just really reactive." The tech hurried back inside, looking as embarrassed for me as I was feeling and looking scared. Scared. My sweet, amazing girl scares people sometimes, and I don't blame them.
We knew Arie was too amped up to even try the vet after that so we got back in the car. I called their office and talked to a woman on the phone when she was less than 1500 ft from me to reschedule for a day when there would be fewer people and dogs. Then I sat in the car and cried, letting the frustration and guilt and fear and embarrassment leak out of my eyes because that's what my body does with the excess emotion it can't contain.
I know that some of you are reading this and thinking "Girl...chill," while others are probably thinking "That dog is dangerous." The truth is somewhere in the middle. This experience was probably one of the worst I've had with Arie and her reactivity, and was a culmination of a lot of my stress about it all from the last few years. No matter what, we always put safety first. Though Arie has never bitten anyone or another dog, we don't take risks. She's suited up like Hannibal, just in case, every time we leave the house.
All of this being said, there is hope for my dog and for me and for my family and I will not lose sight of that. The battle with her anxiety and fear has always been some kind of Tango... Two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, etc. We've made a lot of progress with her anxiety in the house, and now need to renew our efforts with outside stimulus. We're stocking up on treats for the "What's that?" game with sounds and smells and stimulus to start off in the back yard, eventually moving to the front porch, allowing her to slowly re-learn how to deal with everything out in the world. Eventually, someday, it will pay off; I can't wait for the day when we can walk down the street, not fearing whether or not there's a dog around the corner.
Before I started working in the digital space, and long before I ever had Arie, I was a pretty regular nanny and a preschool teacher. That time in career gave me my love for... Well, admittedly, I already had a love of them and this was just a great excuse... "kid" movies. Basically, my animated movie collection rivals that of most families of four and I tend to watch them more regularly than most adults; I even have a playlist on Spotify devoted to their soundtracks. Don't judge me.
One of my FAVORITE series is Wallace and Gromit. If you're not familiar with the series, check them out. Wallace and Gromit are a lovable duo of inventor and dog companion that are amazingly British, love cheese more than I do (quite a feat), and get into a wide variety of hijinks throughout the stop motion comedy of four shorts and a full length film.
One of the characters that you meet in the process of watching the shorts and the film is a little (and adorable) sheep named Shaun. Well, Shaun garnered a lot of love from the public, so much so that he now is getting his own movie, due out this summer!
The film is an Aardman Animations feature, the studio behind WALLACE & GROMIT and CHICKEN RUN, and tells the tale of Shaun, an adventurous sheep who takes the day off to explore the big city only to find out that life away from the farm isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. I could tell you more about it, or you could let adorable stop-motion creatures do that:
Now, lovers of kids movies, from those who have kids to those who don't, all know that the struggle is real when it comes to getting tickets when a new movie from a beloved series comes out. It's like trying to pry T-swift tickets from a 15-year-old girl. It. Isn't. Happening. Luckily, because you're awesome, you know this blog is awesome, and you're here, you have a chance to get tickets to a special preview August 4, the day before everyone else can.
Image and video courtesy of and copyright Lionsgate films.
For those of you who read LWA regularly, you know that in January, we were hit pretty hard. We said goodbye to our beloved Basset, Gertrude. It's been a hard few months as we've gone through the grieving and healing process. Like many pet parents, the conversation came up of when, or if, to get a new dog. We decided that if we would get another dog, we would get another hound, and started looking at various adoptables, waiting for one to touch our hearts. Eventually, we found Fulton, with a little help from Gertrude.
When Zack adopted Gertrude, he didn't originally plan to get her. He wanted to adopt a Basset Hound, as his parents had a Basset who struggled with aggression when he was a baby and they had to rehome; he wanted the story to come full circle, giving another hound in need a loving home. Zack found Florence. Florence was gorgeous, photo-perfect, an adorable Basset waiting just for him...or not. When he called about Florence, she had just been adopted. Instead, the rescue mentioned they had just brought in another young Basset, Gertrude, that he was welcome to meet. They sent him photos of the dog, and Gertrude was anything but photo-shoot perfect...she looked rather...busted. Gertrude had had an abusive past and was in rough shape. Out of guilt more than intrigue, Zack agreed to meet Gertie. When he met her in person, his heart stopped--He knew he'd found his heart dog.
In the original search for a hound, we ideally wanted a blue tick, male, between the ages of 1 and 3. We thought a puppy might be too much for Arie, and we fell in love with the blue tick coat. We also needed a cat-friendly hound, which, let me tell you, isn't exactly a common find. We found a stunning blue tick boy who met every need we had in NC and we instantly fell in love...until his rescue told us they deny out of state adoptions. Hearts broken, we began searching again. I found an English Coonhound by the name of Chauncey during my search. He looked okay in his photos, but didn't grab my heart the way the other dog did. Chauncey was with a rescue in SC near my home town, and as we were driving up for Easter in just a week or two at the time, we decided to call about him and see if we could meet him. Little did we know that an almost identical rescue situation to what Zack had had with Gertrude was about to play out--One look at Chauncey, and we knew he was ours.
In most rescue situations, I'm very big on the idea of giving a dog a new name to go with their new lease on life in a new home. The rescue who had taken Chauncey in had given him a proper, English name to go with his breed, and also to deter those who may be looking for a derpy hound dog to tie outside in their yard. Chauncey's foster mom had a special place in her heart for this boy, whom she affectionately called her "house hound," and wanted to be sure he found his right people, who would love him and treat him as a member of the family--Not a hunting accessory.
Once in the family, we knew we wanted to give Chauncey a new name for his new home. We batted around plenty of names; Benton was a top contender, along with Emmett, Merle, Hank...the list went on and on. Zack came up with the eventual winner--Fulton. We're moving to our first owned home this month in a historical district of Atlanta. Fulton relates to the county and to many of the buildings and historical notes of the area. This year is all about new beginnings in a historical area, and we wanted Fulton's name to reflect that.
Fulton is getting used to his new life with us, and to living with Arie and having cats (!!!!) that are friends. Here's a little bit about our new boy and how he's adjusting to home life so you can get to know him better:
Full Name: Fulton Weller Moore-Smith the first - Named for history around my new house, a beloved well whiskey, and mom and dad's soon-to-be married name.
Age: My original owners said I was just a year old, but the rescue told mom and dad that I'm more likely 2 or 3. Either way, I'm a young boy!
Weight: Mom and dad told me that I would be a good size for my sister as a playmate... I'm right at 80 lbs, so mom says I should lose a few, but I say I just have more to love...can I have some treats, now?
Hobbies: SNIFFING ALL THE THINGS (I'm a hound after all), learning that cats are friends, not food, and
fun to chase fun to respect and love from a distance.
Favorite things: Zuke's treats. Mom say's they're amazing for training me, but I just think she likes to give me tasty things when I do good things, like sit and go to my bed. If you need some, click to the right to go to Amazon--You can get them there.
Bad habits: Mom says I have very poor 'impulse control'.. No idea what that's about. I'm always in con-- SQUIRREL!
I started to write this post in August, 2011 about a few losses we had had through the pet blogging community. I stopped writing it, because I felt like I couldn't adequately discuss a matter I hadn't experienced on the personal level that the blogger's who lost their pets had, and that it might be insulting for me to post about it. Now, unfortunately, I can finish this post. I need to finish it.
I usually try to keep things G-Rated on the blog, because honestly, what's more family friendly than a website full of animals? Today, however, is not that day. Course language ahead. You have been warned.
The rainbow bridge has been a selfish bitch.
If you're sitting there wondering "What in the hell is a rainbow bridge? What substances has Katherine been abusing?" I assure you that the only thing coursing through my veins is caffeine, and I can to expose to you the term. I didn't hear "rainbow bridge" until I started pet blogging. Each culture has their own way of discussing death and the mourning of a death; this includes the sub-culture of pet bloggers on the web. When a pet dies, they cross the rainbow bridge. It's supposed to be a comforting thought to pet parents in their time of grief.
Well, fuck the rainbow bridge. Fuck it.
I moved in with my fiancé, Zack, about two years ago. In addition to moving in together, we also brought out families together. Zack embraced my cats and Arie whole-heartedly, and I welcomed Gertrude, his elderly Basset Hound.
Gert lived a hard life before meeting Zack. She had been abused. She had been a mother (and HATED her puppy when they were fostered together). She had a back leg that wouldn't bend, a sweet but also grouchy disposition and she smelled like a three day old corpse (NOT an exaggeration).
When Zack inquired about adopting her from the Basset Hound rescue, the foster family said that they had bonded with her and couldn't give her up. Two days later, foster dad called and asked Z to come get her. He gratefully obliged. They have been nearly inseparable since, going on now for a decade.
Gertrude was a hilarious dog. Refusing to learn most of the most basic commands (but somewhat mastering 'sit' for noms), Gertrude was her own lady, and the boss of herself. Her biggest desires in life were a warm, soft cushy bed, love from her human, a yard to bury things in, and pizza crust. There are so many good stories from this dog, from expensive Italian sausages disappearing only to be rediscovered months later when she dug them up to stollen challah bread hanging out of an unapologetic Basset face as she stared our the porch window looking at her dad.
Moving in together was tough. Gertrude would be jealous of Zack a bit, and there were plenty of squabbles between her and Arie. She would chase the cats. We spent a lot of time cleaning up after both dogs, as Gertrude would have accidents from age, and Arie from her spay incontinence. It was sometimes stressful, often gross, and a consistently busy life with our family of six. It was also amazing. We slowly got to know each other better, and the family became more and more of a family. With the good and the bad, we balanced things, and Gertrude became a huge part of my heart while she learned to tolerate my presence.
On Tuesday of this past week, Gertrude started having issues using her hind legs. We were extremely worried, but started to think it was just arthritis, as she perked up when given her pain medication. Over the next few days, she seemed to be doing better, which gave us hope that it had just been a bad day from the weather or just a random pang of worse arthritis than usual. On Saturday, however, Gertrude refused to take her pill in the morning, though wrapped in a tantalizing piece of chicken. She wouldn't move. She seemed despondent. We knew something was really, really wrong, so we scooped her up and headed to the vet.
Within around 20 minutes, they noticed something was off in her vitals. Within another 20, they found that she was anemic. Within another 30, x-rays confirmed she had a tumor in her abdomen. We knew what choice we had to make. Within another 30 minutes, we were saying goodbye.
What we thought was a visit to treat bad hips turned out to be the visit where we had to say goodbye. This is the first time I've been in a room while a pet was euthanized, and let me tell you: Fuck. That. Rainbow. Bridge. It's not shiny. It's not sparkly. It's shitty. I had to watch my dog take her last labored breaths when she couldn't even recognize me or Zack, the man that had loved her for over a decade, because she was so weak from disease. Since then, we've had to handle calls about what to do with her remains, what we wanted from the cremation, and what memorial items we wanted to choose, along with letting work know why I won't be coming in (because I just look like I went 3 rounds with Tyson with the swelling from crying so much, and we still are crying) and all the other arrangements. There's so much to take in emotionally, monetarily, physically, mentally. It's exhausting and emotional and overwhelming. They don't warn you about this part of losing a pet. The business part. No one does.
Being back home is both comforting and eerie. Arie knows something is different, but doesn't seem to realize what it is yet. She and the cats to do realize that mom and dad are hurting like crazy now, though, and are all about the comfort cuddles and checking on us, which helps. Still, it's shocking to not hear little basset claws on the hardwoods. To not smell that death stench right around the corner of the sofa. To not hear a scratch at the door, asking to go in and come out five hundred times in a row without peeing once. We will heal, but healing takes time, and patience, and love.
Gertrude, I don't ever think you'll know how much you meant to me, and I don't think I knew until you weren't here anymore. Thank you, for being such a huge part of Zack's life. You saved him, probably more than he saved you, and I am forever in your debt. I am so glad you are not in pain anymore, though I really wish you could still be here. Run fast, sweet girl. Eat all the things. Bury all the things. We love you.
Rainbow Bridge image via Wiki commons, Maris Stella.
As many of my regular followers/friends/other pet crazies know, Life with Arie has had to take a few breaks this year to deal with a few new aspects of daily life. I'm starting to get back to the blogging groove and reconnecting to old pet blogs I love, new friends, and more; what a better way to make a comeback than to meet a bunch of new writers and be featured in an Infographic!
The team at Coupon Audit has created a variety of infographics featuring the blogs they have found to be in the top 100 for various categories. Life with Arie was included on their "Top 100 Pet Blogs to follow in 2013" list! Check out the full 100:
An infographic by the team at CouponAudit
I'm excited to see some new names and faces on the list along with a few old friends, and can't wait to say hello to a few of the other included bloggers. Thanks again to the team at Coupon Audit, and I'm looking forward to a fabulous year of blogging in 2013!
Was your blog included in the list? Leave me a comment to say hi! I'd love to connect to you. If your blog wasn't included in the list, be sure to leave a comment with your URL, tell me a little bit about your blog, and say hello. I love meeting new bloggers!
Do you remember this post from a few weeks ago? The one announcing that I would be participating in K-9 Camp from Kol's Notes? We truly wanted to participate in this wonderful blog challenge, but as you can see from the lack of challenge posts, Arie and I were unable to participate.
While K-9 Camp was a perfect chance for me to get my workout on and help Arie get her exercise, the timing caused us to be able to not participate. A massive heat wave hit Georgia, making conditions outside unsuitable for day-time exercise, and Arie and I have had to move our longer walks to the mornings and evenings to beat the heat. The rest of her workout is playtime inside, where we play catch, fetch, and she works out her energy playing with my roommate's dog and amusing herself with games of her own.
Aside from the weather, as life tends to do when you make plans, the past month has been a little bit crazy on our end. My roommate is actually moving out, so Arie and I will be flying solo again, and while it's both exciting and bittersweet, it also requires a lot of preparation. So far, we've had to purchase a new mattress and a new sofa, and we're working on setting up the utilities that weren't already with me. That, along with a few large work projects, has been a major time investment, pulling away from my lovelies here!
We're back now, baby, and while we didn't get to participate in the challenge, we can't wait to share some of the things we have planned for you, including new posts on White German Shepherds as we continue to learn about Arie's breed, discussions on pet events in our area, reviews, and more.
Thanks for sticking with us through this pause, and let me just say--It's good to be back!
Some of you who know me well know about my apartment woes in Atlanta. I love Atlanta. I do. It's just insanely expensive to live there sometimes on a normal post graduation salary, and most apartments that are affordable on rent have a max of two pets per space and don't allow German Shepherd Dogs--It took me a very long time to find a place to live.
Truth: In all of the apartments communities I've lived in since moving to Georgia, I've had three pets. This is of course, one over the max of the normal two. It's never mattered before. Neighbors usually let well enough alone, and I vacuum like a madwoman to deal with pet hair and more. In the community where I live now, however, I have some...um...well let's just be blunt: Heinous, nosey neighbors that I utterly detest. These neighbors are so nosey, in fact, that they called to complain that I had three animals in my apartment.
Thanks to these vile beings, my kit-cats (read: cats) had to go live at grandma's house until I could buy a home. This absence is one of the reasons that you don't hear about the lovely Briseis and Jasper very often, and why my life is devoid of cat behavior...which I miss. There's something about an animal that a) does not love you unconditionally and b) is sarcastic just in their existence. I've missed the cats, their snark, and their hilarious behavior. Today I got to see them both lounging in the sun at grandma's house. Here are a few farm shots so that you can see the kittehs and a bit of where I grew up.
And now, for the scenery:
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This is just a temporary post, but it's one to lay a few codes and scripts into so that I can claim my name so to speak on a few sites I'm looking forward to using for Life with Arie. Lookin' forward to it. Apparently I'm also in the mood to drop g's on words. Blame the holidays...I'm feeling whimsical and crafty, and ready to revamp my wardrobe to make it more fun and eclectic, to take my lovely-as-ever White German Shepherd and woman's-best-friend Arie for a little walk, and then come home to finish up making my Christmas cards and have a cup o' joe. Oh, holidays, I've missed you.
But I ramble.
Anywho...testing testing, one two three....
Many of us have heard of small dog syndrome, or the equivalent to the Napoleon complex in canines. Yet, for those of us with pets weighing in at over 60 pounds, there is a whole other reality: Large/Giant Dog Syndrome (GDS).
While many small dogs try to compensate for their size by "acting tough." or posturing, some large dogs forget how big they are. This manifests itself in several ways:
The Lap Dog Effect
In my first post, I discussed how Arie, in all of her near triple digits glory, was trying to get into my lap during a particularly nasty storm. While I love this big girl and want to make her feel safe, having a dog her size in your lap is not just a little uncomfortable--It's also an organ crushing, breath suppressing experience that you can't endure for long. Big dogs can be a little challenging with other tasks as well. For instance, while training a puppy, you may have to deal with a little leash pulling. While training a large breed dog, that little tug on the leash can send you flying.
To make things more interesting, my lap is not the only place Arie tries to go that she is too big for. I lovingly call this interesting trait Arie's Houdini Syndrome, as Houdini was always putting himself into places that he ought not to be and had to fight to get out of them. Arie regularly attempts to fit behind the sofa (where there isn't enough space), under the bed (where there is b a r e l y enough space), and elsewhere, often times resulting in knocking over an object or several objects. This has earned her a particularly strong reputation for being clumsy, when the history behind her breed discusses how she is a generally graceful animal.
The Older Sibling Complex
In the final display of GDS in my GSD, I am reminded of my childhood. My sister is six years my senior, so, as you can imagine, I was the bane of her existence growing up, always one life stage behind, and a constant annoyance in her eyes. When we would get into one of our often tiffs, Kristen would occasionally end up hitting me or throwing something in my direction. Afterwards, I would always hear my mom telling her "Kristen, you don't realize how strong you are. You can't hit/throw stuff at/etc your sister; you could hurt her, and it's not nice..." My big girl is a lot like my sister was in childhood, in that she doesn't always realize her own strength. When playing with our other dog, or investigating our cats (she's still not sure about these creatures, and smells them often, or just watches them inquisitively) she can sometimes go outside of the safety bounds, when, just like my mom, I swoop in and dissolve the situation.
How do you deal with GDS in your pet's life? If you have a large breed dog, do you see these signs of GDS in them? Share your stories with me in a comment.
Those two syllables were finally settled on the day after Arie joined my family. I felt like one of those parents that everyone looks down on for not having their baby named by the time they leave the hospital, but dogs are different. You don't have nine months to get to know them and think about it--You look for a pup that fits you, you bring them home, and then you figure out what the dog's name will be.
Somehow, I landed on a particularly confusing name for others. Let's start with pronunciation.
Her name is not air-ree. This has nothing to do with what we breathe. It's ARR-ree; if you want to get technical about it, it would look like this: är'E.
Now, let's go with where it came from: Arie is not named after India Arie, as is commonly expected. She was also not named for Ari Gold, who I am told is a character on "Entourage", though I never watched the show.
I tossed around plenty of names, from Evie to Abigail. I seriously looked at Aurora, but it sounded like too much for such a little pup, and a dog's name should be easy to call. Eventually, that name did lead me down the path to the one I settled on, finally. Arie is, like many modern girls, (Avery, Kenley, Andy, Bailey) the bearer of a name that was originally (or could be, in some unisex names' cases) a man's. The name also tied in very well with my love of Wes Anderson movies:
I fell in love with the movie The Royal Tenenbaums when I saw it for the first time while in Yemen--Yes, Yemen. The two awkward little boys in track suits that match Ben Stiller's? Their characters names are Ari (Aha!) and Uzi. Hence the name Arie was born.
Now, as you can see Ari is typically a man's name. I needed to feminize it a little bit so that it fit my big girl. I slapped a more feminine (in my opinion) vowel on the end that wouldn't interrupt the natural pronunciation of the name, and there you have it.
How did you choose your dog's name? Are they named after a person, a beloved book or movie character, or just for their personality? Did you pick one of 2010's most popular dog names? Here's the breakdown so you can see.
1.Bella 6. Buddy
2. Bailey 7. Maggie
3. Max 8. Daisy
4. Lucy 9. Charlie
5. Molly 10. Sophie
Share your dog naming story in a comment.