Getting Old Ain’t for Sissies

With many thanks to Quin’s grandmother for the titular phrase!

Well, Lily and Cash are getting older. Lily has a little bit of hip dysplasia and a lot of arthritis (she’s one supplement and, recently, pain killers/anti-inflammatories). Cash is in remarkably good shape, except for the added weight from helping himself to dog food. We’re working on that!

One of the books I’m reading for myself is called “Younger Next Year” by an MD and a lawyer who thought the information needed to be out in the world. There are several editions, and I can’t say it’s the most perfect book out there, but it is based on medical information, and it steers clear of the fad diets and whatnot, which I appreciate! The main message of the book is this: exercise an hour, six days a week, to help your body stay young. A brisk walk is good enough. It goes into a lot more detail about why, but that’s the basic premise.

Here’s why I mentioning it: the things they talk about have to do with being mammals, not always being human. Lily’s been sliding downhill slowly and I thought, “You know what? She’s a mammal, too.” So Lily and I (and Cash because I want him to stay in good shape) are now embarking on a get-younger lifetime regime.

Lily’s arthritis and dysplasia mean that her hips are sore and weak. To help with the weakness, I bought some anti-slip spray by Bio-Groom. [link] From what I can tell from the reviews and my own experiments, it seems to work well for dogs who have just a bit of slipping and weakness; too much, and it doesn’t make a great difference. I make sure to spray it on her pads and toe pads as well, and then pet her for thirty seconds while it dries. I re-applied every few days, and after a while I stopped using it; she stopped slipping.

I took her walking. Lily likes walking, but she gets bored walking the same thing all the time. I hadn’t realized this until I was distressed that she lagged so much, and then one day I took her jogging down a trail… and I’ll be damned if she couldn’t suddenly keep up! Now we walk or jog daily, and she’s gotten far more agile, much stronger, and happier. She’s playing again, and romping with other dogs.

I wasn’t sure, at first, if she was going to be strong enough to walk and jog, so I also looked up strength training exercises. Some things you can do include standing your dog on stairs (if they’re facing upstairs it works their hips, if facing downstairs their shoulders), practicing sit/down/stand/sit (puppy push ups and doggie squats!), and massage helps as well. Dogs are like us: some like a firmer massage, others a softer one. Start with the big muscles alongside the spine, and the ones on the shoulders and thighs. If your dog is pulling away, ease up!

Stretching helps, too. With your dog standing, very gently take a front leg and stretch it forward, stopping when you feel resistance. If at any point they pull their leg away with determination, let them! Give treats and praise throughout, because let’s face it, stretching is odd. You an also bring the front leg back (carefully), and then do the same thing with the back legs. Don’t do anything sideways without talking to your vet.

Finally, I made sure that Lily had enough Lily-time. It’s easy to ignore her and Cash; they have excellent manners, good confidence, and don’t ask or need my time like the younger Doc or any dogs I’m boarding. I started letting Lily on the couch for snuggles, and I make sure that I give Cash snuggles, too, though he’d rather I pet him while he lays on the floor.

We’re all feeling better for the exercise, and Lily is back on the 30-year plan: to live until I’m old!



If you’ve ever moved with a dog, you might relate to Hyperbole and a Half just a wee bit. (It makes me laugh every time.) As I write this — this post is pre-written — I’m preparing to move. In another week I’ll start packing boxes in and around dogs, then load them into a U-Haul and move into a proper house with a giant yard. I know that, eventually, the dogs will be ecstatic.

Eventually being the key word there.

I’m lucky (or rather, my dogs are REALLY used to my crazy life), in that my dogs have gone on vacations with me, are used to staying in strange places, and generally bounce back from new things pretty well. I also know that packing boxes is going to freak Lily out completely.

As a dog trainer, I know the following about any major life changes (including temporary ones, like vacations):

1. It helps greatly if the dogs are worn out; regular walks or runs are the best thing ever.
2. It helps greatly if I stay calm.
3. It helps greatly if we stick to their routine, both before and after the move, as much as possible.

I also know myself well enough to know that packing up my house, arranging the U-Haul, and moving is going to be VERY stressful on me. Add to that the fact that Quin’s chest reconstruction surgery is the day after I move, and, well… I’m not going to have time to take the dogs walking, and I may or may not be successful at staying calm.

Before I even start packing, I need a plan. My plan is formed from the knowledge about what helps in general, and me and my dogs in particular. Here we go.

1. I’m going to buy extra bones. I know that when Lily gets stressed, her first method of coping is to chew things like crazy. I can support her in this coping mechanism by buying her things to chew that will help her burn off her anxiety. In her case, that’s bones.

2. If I am feeling extra stressed, I’m going to give the dogs some Rescue Remedy. When I get stressed, we all go downhill. I might as well prepare for that, just in case.

3. I know that I may or may not have time to take the dogs walking or running. I know that it’s better for all of us if I do — it lowers my stress levels as well as theirs — but if I’m low on time, I’ll pack my  bike last. I can at least take the dogs for a quick bike ride to burn off energy, even if we don’t have time for long walks.

4. If possible, I’ll take my dogs with me to visit the new house before we move. If I am able to do this, I’ll let them run around and play just as if we were visiting a client or a friend, while I do what needs to be done. That way when we move, they’ll be familiar with the house, and it’ll have good feelings associated with it. If I don’t have time to do this, then when we first arrive I’ll put them on leashes and walk them around the house before we unpack, staking out our territory together and setting some quick rules (don’t go out the gate, for instance) before I release them to explore. I don’t know why I think one method will work better than the other in these situations, but my subconscious tells me it will. I’ve learned to listen to my subconscious; I usually realize why after the fact.

5. Once we’ve moved, I’ll set up their stuff ASAP so Lily has her safe-space crate, they know where their bowls are, and feeding schedules can be put to rights immediately. This will also mimic when we’ve vacationed elsewhere.

6. We’ll start walks or bike rides that night, and continue them. While I usually only walk the dogs 4-5 days a week, we’ll try for twice a day rides while in the moving process to burn off extra energy.

7. Lily will stay stressed the longest; I know this. I’ll keep her supplied with bones, make sure the rules and boundaries remain the same (not give her leeway like us humans are inclined to do: that only creates inconsistency and yet more change), and tell her to keep behaving. This will settle her down as fast as possible. (That’s true for all dogs.) I might also keep her on Rescue Remedy for a few days as she settles in.

That’s my plan. It’s good to have a plan before you set out on something big, so that you know what you need to do before anything happens, and so you don’t find yourself halfway through a problem with no easy way to solve it. For instance: if I thought, “I will take my dogs walking,” and didn’t also think, “I’ll be busy and stressed, I may not want to walk, what’s an alternative?” then I wouldn’t think to pack my bike last. Then I might get halfway through packing, be too tired to walk with no bike, and things will rapidly go downhill from there.

The steps above are generally pretty good steps for most dogs. Obviously, they’re centered specifically on my dogs, and your dog might have a different solution. (Visiting a known and loved petsitter while you move, for instance!) But before you do something big… plan for it!

By the time you read this, I’ll have moved and settled in. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, and I’ll let you know how it went!


Happy Holidays from Feathers and Fur!


2006 (27)2006 (24)

Sam is 9 years old, Lily is just 2, and the birds — Bobby da bird and his sister, Kurt — are 4 years old and newly adopted.



12.16.07 CashandJB1

Cash: 4 months – Jenna: 26 years – Bobby (in the cage!): 5 years




Lily is 4, Cash is 1!




Stockings: less than a week old!



Cash is 3, Lily is 6, Bobby is 8. (Lily is clearly being tortured!)




 Lily: 7 Jenna, regardless of how she acts, is 30 years old.




Lily is 8 and Cash is 5, and now old hands at these photos!


And to continue the tradition this year…

xmas 2013v2

Lily is 9, Tango is 8 months, and Cash is 6. We’ve come full circle, with a new bird and a 9-year-old dog. As it was in the beginning!

May your dreams be sweet and the feet you cuddle with stink-free!

lily sleeping with us

– Jenna, Sam, Lily, Bobby, Cash, and Tango at Feathers and Fur

Fault and responsibilty

There are two things I hear most often when I go to someone’s house to help with their dog. They are:

“I know it’s my fault.”


“It’s just because that other dog provoked my dog.”

As with so many other things, moderation is key.

“I know it’s my fault.”

Until recently, this blog had a look that was slightly difficult to read and navigate. That was my fault. Should I feel guilty about that? Did I slop it together and say, “I don’t care if it’s user friendly! Pah!”? Of course not. I put together a blog that was as good as my abilities could make it. When I then had time, I did a little more research and figured out how to make it better.

So, let’s look at this phrase again: “It’s my fault.” Yes… and no. Like me with my blog, when a dog’s owner sees their dog start to have problems, they do the best they can with their knowledge and experience. Owners who realize they’re out of their league and have the time and/or money to do research are then able to add to their knowledge, with better outcomes.

Whenever someone says to me, “My dog jumps on people, and I know it’s my fault,” I respond with, “You did the best you could with the information you had. Now you will have more information!” No one should be castigated for not having ALL the information. In this day and age, no one can have all the information on everything! You do the best you can with the information you have. If that isn’t good enough, hopefully you’re able to get help via books, blogs, or experts. Feeling guilty because you couldn’t solve the problem yourself isn’t helpful for anyone. You did the best you could with the information you had. Now it’s time to get more information or help.

“It’s just because that other dog provoked my dog.”

The flip side of taking all the blame is, of course, the denial of responsibility. “My dog attacked this dog, but this dog provoked it.” This isn’t helping anyone, either. If you shift responsibility, you can’t solve the problem. We can’t control other peoples’ dogs (much as I would like to, sometimes!). All we can do is ask our dogs to be AWESOME.

Lily was doing zoomies around a ranch (when your dog seems to lose their mind and RUNS AS FAST AS THEY CAN IN GREAT BIG LOOPS OHMYGODZOOOOOM!). The akita who lived on that ranch didn’t appreciate it. The akita came running over and lunged at Lily. I yelled, “Lily! DROP!” Thank goodness she did. The akita stopped attacking at her submission, and though the akita stayed there in a very aggressive posture, ready to attack again, it gave me time to run over and pull the akita away.

In this scenario, I would say the akita was at fault. A dog doing zoomies shouldn’t trigger an aggressive response in another dog. However, I can’t stop the akita’s behavior: I can only control Lily’s behavior. In the future at that ranch, I told Lily she couldn’t do zoomies. Is that fair? No, but it was safe.

There was another possible outcome, too. Lily could have not dropped when I told her to, which would be “normal” dog behavior. She could have defended herself. This would have been reasonable behavior in the face of being attacked, but it is not ideal behavior. If Lily had defended herself, there would have been a dog fight. In that case, who is at fault? Well, the akita started it. I could abdicate all responsibility and say, “It was the akita’s fault. Lily was just defending herself.” That would be true. It would be leaving out a key part, though: Lily and I could have stopped it. If Lily chooses to fight back, then she carries some fault as well. Since I can’t control the akita, I have to teach Lily what the correct choice is — in this case, not to fight back.

Most of the time, the provocation is less than this. Most of the time, the provocation is one dog standing over another while the other chews a toy. This is provocation and should be stopped. BUT, the dog chewing the toy should also learn to ignore that looming behavior, or walk away. Both parties have some fault in a dog fight.

“That dog was barking at my dog, so of course my dog barked back.” That dog was provoking your dog, no doubt. But your dog has a choice: to bark back, or to ignore the behavior. It’s up to you to teach which choice is correct.

So, let’s look at these phrases again:

“I know it’s my fault.” Did you do the best you could with the information you had? Are you now looking for more information? Then give yourself credit for that, and keep working on it. Don’t feel guilty just because you don’t know how to make it better. Simply continue trying to make it better.

“My dog reacted, but they were provoked. It was that other dogs’ fault.” Did your dog walk away? Did you put in the time and effort to try and teach them to walk away? Did you subtly, maybe unconsciously, encourage the behavior by not doing anything about it, or joining your dog in going after the other dog verbally, emotionally, or physically? Your dog has a choice. It’s up to us to teach them the right one.

In short, don’t blame yourself if you’ve done the best you can and things aren’t perfect, but don’t abdicate responsibility if something goes wrong or seems hard, either. Dog training is a tightrope, and the way through is through moderation!

Bird update:

Tango is 6 weeks old and looks something like this:

(Those bare spots on his neck and shoulder area are just where the feathers haven’t grown in. You see them in all baby greys!)


FAQ: Dogs hump my dog. What’s going on?!

I got the following question via email recently, and thought it was a bit of behavior that should go up here!


My male dog gets humped by other dogs constantly. It’s so bad that I have to keep him beside me at a dog park just to keep them off. What’s going on?”

So, there’s two main causes for what you’re seeing, and both have to do with submissive dogs.
In the first, best, scenario, you have a submissive, typically very mellow dog. (Often male!) Submissive and ultra-mellow isn’t a common combination, so you don’t see it too much. (Usually these dogs are a little bit older — past their prime, but not yet prone to arthritis. They are also extremely confident and sure of their alpha dog’s — you — protection, or sure of their own ability to deal with the world.)
These dogs are usually not so submissive that they’re at the bottom of the pack — they might be second or third from the top, even — but they’re mellow enough that it doesn’t bother them when other dogs take liberties. Other dogs, meanwhile, will use that mellow dog to practice their dominating skills (like humping!) or to boost their own confidence by dominating them.
If the dog really doesn’t care (he’ll act like he doesn’t even notice), then periodically tell the other dogs to back off and give him a break. This will make it so he continues to not-mind, rather than gets cranky at being bothered all the time.
The other possibility is that the dog isn’t mellow, but rather super-submissive, and the dogs are being bullies! If that’s the case, you’ll see the dog trying to escape, tucking his tail and lowering his hips, possibly lowering his head and occasionally snapping at a humper before running away. If that’s the case, then tell the other dogs they need to back off all the time! (I’d use a squirt bottle and keeping him close for protection.)
I’ve heard different theories for why some dogs attract bullies like this, but the one common factor they almost all have is that they’re submissive, and they either don’t care if they get humped or they’re super-submissive and can’t get the others to stop. My pitty, Lily, falls into the “don’t-care” category, and dogs follow her all over the place trying to hump her! She simply acts like they don’t exist, and I laugh and roll my eyes.
In short, it seems to boil down to attitude!


Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from all of us at Feathers and Fur!





XO, Lily, Cash, Jenna, and Quin!


(You just know Lily is thinking, “You idiot. Stop looking so happy. Do you even know you’re wearing a beard?” Or maybe, “This type of thing never happened before YOU showed up…” *laughs!*)


How to make dog Halloween costumes (and photos!)

Well, last night was Los Gatos’ Howl-O-Ween, and I was able to make it with my dogs after all! (Though only to the last half hour or so, alas.)

My dogs are troopers when it comes to random requests like, “Hey, Cash, will you wear this cape?” Possibly because I make random requests fairly frequently… (The trick to random requests is celebrating how AWESOME they are once they’re wearing said cape.)

So last night we all got decked out, and I took lots of pictures! Here they are, in no particular order:

Here is the team shot (courtesy of Chigiy Binell at Doggie Heaven Hotel! Much better than the pic I managed to take…). Cash is Thor, I’m Black Widow, Quin was Tony Stark, and Lily is Captain America!

 Thor, Tony and Cap, ready to save the world!










And of course, Thor, Black Widow and Cap also ready to save the world! 😉







Ready for our close-ups! These costumes took me forever to make…

Tony Stark










Black Widow!












And finally, Thor, ready for all and sundry! C’mon, how heroic is this shot? 😉

Alas, I don’t have such an awesome picture of Lily. She has this amazing ability to look pathetic when you point a camera at her…

And at the end of the day, Thor provides Tony a shoulder to lean on. (Props to Quin for being willing to lay on a bar floor for this photo, while I cackled. More props to the  Black Watch, which is a bar on N. Santa Cruz that allows dogs!)






So, I hear you cry. How do we make Captain America and Thor costumes ourselves? LET ME TELL YOU.

1. Captain America

Needed: 1 blue human shirt, big enough for your dog (Thrift store: $2). 1 foam visor (JoAnn’s, $1). White and red paint (JoAnn’s, $6 total). Metallic duct tape (JoAnn’s, $3). Aluminum foil and cardboard box (laying around my house: free). More accurately you could also use electrical tape, and you could even make pouches for the “belt”. I did not. Blue marker/pencil/crayon (laying around my house: free).

First: paint the “A” on the foam visor. I’m not thrilled with the way the visor stood up, making the “A” hard to see, but until I find something better it’ll have to do.

Second: paint the stars and strips on the shirt. I found it was more comfortable between Lily’s front legs if I put it on her so the tag was at the nape of her neck. I used a pencil to pencil in the star on the back, then the stripes. I just copied it off a photo of Cap I found online; it’s not hard! Set aside to dry.

Third: the shield. I used a dinner plate to trace out a round shield from a cardboard box, then cut the shield out. Next, I covered one side with aluminum foil, using the metallic duct tape to hold it in place. The other side I covered with white sketch paper, folding the ends over and taping them down with the metallic duct tape; computer paper would likely work as well. I used a tumbler-sized glass to pencil a circle in the middle, then penciled the star within the circle. After that, I markered the circle in blue around the star, then painted in the red stripes. Voila! Shield!

The day of the festival, I put the shirt on Lily, then duct taped up the extremely loose waist-area. Make sure the duct tape is loose enough that they can move comfortably, but that the cloth is clear of their legs. This duct tape also made Cap’s belt. (This is where electrical tape might look better, and do the same job.) I then took a length of duct tape, taped the ends to the back of the shield, and then squished the rest of the tape to itself, creating a strap across the back of the shield. I used that to safety pin it to Lily’s shirt.

2. Thor

Needed: Gray or silver card stock, 2 sheets. ($2 at JoAnn’s). <1 yard of red fabric (.70 cents in the remnants bin at JoAnn’s). A paper towel roll. Glue. Gray paint ($2 at JoAnn’s) and paintbrushes ($2 in the kids’ section at JoAnn’s). Metallic duct tape (bought for Captain America). Red fuzzy wires ($2 at JoAnn’s). X-back harness ($20, bought years before. Any harness will do, or even another t-shirt). Safety pins ($2 at Target; probably also sold at JoAnn’s).

First: Make your cape! Tuck the ends into your dog’s collar and cut out what you need. Set the rest aside; these will be the vambraces.

Second: Vambraces! Measure out how much you need to stretch up to the corners of your cape and down your dog’s front legs. When the day arrives, you’ll finish this. Right now, set it aside.

Third: Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer). This is the biggest pain. Measure out 4 even-sized rectangles in the cardstock. Duct tape them together (eventually you’ll turn them into a box, so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out which sides to duct tape together). Do NOT make it box-shaped, yet. Now, cut 8 strips of cardstock, each the same width as the rectangles, and 1 inch wide. This will be the part of Mjolnir that angles in before the ends. Now tape those onto the ends of the rectangles. Now comes the hard part: while holding the rectangles closed to make the box, cut the corners of the inch strips so they’ll collapse together slightly. Measure the distance left between them — the open ends of the hammer — and cut two squares that size from the cardstock. Now, get your roll of paper towels. Strip all the paper towels off it, so you have the cardboard tube left. Put the tube on one of the rectangles and trace the size of the hole. Cut that hole out. This will be your “bottom.”

Set the “handle” aside and tape the hammer head together from inside. Good luck with that. Works best with two people. The hole helps. (I taped up three sides, then put tape along all the edges and closed the fourth side on top of it.) Note: If I had to do it again, I’d stuff the whole thing with newspaper or paper towels to see if that made it sturdier.

*Alternate plan: do the same thing, but made it a normal rectangle, taking out those 1-in slats. This would probably save a lot of time and hassle.

If you didn’t do the alternate plan, get your gray paint out. Paint ovals on each 1-in piece, then just tap the paint brush within the ovals. It looks like Celtic knotwork in the movie, but I don’t have that much patience: tapping the paintbrush within gave it enough design to make people ooh and ahh.

Now take gray paint and paint a spiral down the handle as if it was held with wire. Take some metallic duct tape and “cap” the end of the tube that still has an open hole.

Finally, when the paint’s dried, glue in the handle. Let sit 24 hours.

Four: Armor! Put your harness/T-shirt/whatever on your dog. Safety-pin the cape to the collar and the sides, if you haven’t already. Now, any bits of harness that are showing? Wrap those suckers in aluminum foil, and then use your metallic duct tape to tape them sturdy! Widen out as desired. You have armor!

Five: Once the hammer is dry, put the harness/cape combo back on your dog. Place the hammer where you’d like it to sit on the cape, then put two safety pins in the cape: one at the head of the hammer, and one slightly lower. This will be your hammer-sheath. Take the fuzzy red wire stuff and wrap two pieces around the handle of your hammer. Slide them off, and twist the ends of them through and around the safety pins as many times as you can; these two loops, essentially safety pinned in place, are your sheath.

Finally, the day of your festival, put the harness/cape/armor on your pup. To make your vambraces, safety pin the rest of the red cloth to the edges of the cape, wrap it around your dog’s front legs, and tape it in place with the metallic duct tape. (This will look like Thor’s vambraces.) Slide Mjolnir home, and you’re good to go!

Unsure? Check out the pictures above, and I’m sure you can figure out what I mean!