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Underdog Blog

Celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh

Check out my awesome Fitbit stats from yesterday:

No, I didn’t go for a run. I will concede that I worked out, but that’s not why I totally schooled my family members in our weekly Fitbit step competition. The bulk of that 18,875 came from the simplest of places: walking my dogs!


As it turns out, January is National Walk Your Pet Month, so I’m here to tell you all the wonderful reasons why you should lace up your sneakers and take your pooch for a stroll.


1. Your dog will be healthier

I’m not the only one in my family who blasted through her step goals yesterday:


(Yes, our dogs have activity trackers too! This one is the Whistle, which also provides their GPS location in case they get lost.)

Getting on the scale is the first thing your dog is going to have to do any time he or she goes to the vet, just like you when you go to your doctor. Chubby dogs may be cute, but the reality is that letting your dog become overweight is pretty unhealthy for them. Walking them regularly will help them offset the calories they get from eating treats when they’re being good (and let’s be honest -- they’re all good dogs).

Walking them will help their mental health, too. When dogs aren’t exercised enough, they can go a little crazy in your house. If you’ve ever had a dog totally destroy your place while you’re gone, it may be because they’ve not been given a place to get their energy out. Think of them like toddlers who need to run around on a playground in order to settle down enough at night.

And going for a walk helps their mental health, too! When your dog is outside with you, you will be able to provide instruction on leash manners as well as let your pup sniff all the wonderful aromas of the great outdoors. You know how you feel mentally exhausted after a long day at work? The same thing will happen for your dog after a good hike.


2. You will be healthier

I started off this post with my Fitbit stats, and I will tell you for a fact that hit my daily step goal way more often now that I have dogs to walk than when I didn’t. That part may be anecdotal, but this next bit from the Mayo Clinic isn’t: According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help you maintain your weight, prevent or manage conditions such as high blood pressure, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mood and improve your balance and coordination, among other benefits.

When you take your dog for regular walks, you’re ensuring both you and the dog will be around for as long as possible. That’s really what we all want, right?


3. You can donate to Rural Dog Rescue!!!

Have you downloaded the Wooftrax app yet??? If not, do it now and select Rural Dog Rescue as your shelter choice! With Wooftrax, you click a button every time you’re about to go for a walk to track your mileage. The app, which is funded through sponsorships and advertising, will donate money per mile to RDR. It’s just about the easiest way you could raise money for a great cause -- the more money RDR gets, the more dogs they can save. And who doesn’t want to save all those dogs?!


4. You will strengthen the bond between you and your dog

The minute I say, “You guys wanna go for a walkies?” my girls FLIP OUT. It’s literally the best thing I could say to them at any given moment of the day. My pups love being outside, smelling the city, looking out for squirrels and exploring new places. They seriously could not be happier than the moment every day that I grab their leashes.

And seeing them happy makes me happy! I’m by no means a perfect person, but I’ve given them a loving home environment, and they’re doing great. I think of all the other places they could be right now if Rural Dog Rescue hadn’t plucked them from their overcrowded shelters in North Carolina… **shudder**. In any case, our daily walks keep all of us in a very happy place.


5. Be honest: Would you get ANY fresh air right now otherwise?

I don’t have to tell you how cold it is outside right now. Nor do I have to tell you that all I really want to do is curl up in a blanket with a mug of hot cocoa. But fresh air is good for you, and if you lack any and all other motivation to go out and get some, do it for your dog, at least.


6. You can explore new places

I live over near H Street Northeast, so we’re within a stone’s throw of Kingman Island. We walk the trails there regularly. Other places my dogs and I have explored together include the U.S. National Arboretum, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Lincoln Park, Anacostia Park and so many, many more!

You’ve gotta let your dog outside the house at some point, so you might as well do it in a scenic setting, right?

I know that walking your dog isn’t always the easiest venture. This is D.C., after all. We work long hours, we have social lives, we have family obligations. The weather is searingly hot in the summer and blisteringly cold in the winter. It may seem like there are just not enough hours in the day to make walking your dog a reality.

But, I’m asking you, this National Walk Your Pet Month and every month, make walking your pup a priority. There are just so many benefits, I can promise that you won’t regret it.

A few less years, a lot more love: The case for adopting a senior dog

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh

Are you following Marnie the dog on Instagram? If not, you should be. Check it out at She’s a pint-sized NYC socialite whose momma dresses her up in costumes and takes her out hobnobbing with celebrities. This goofy little shih tzu is a total hoot.


(Courtesy @marniethedog)


But before Marnie became an Instagram celebrity (seriously, she has 2 million followers, which is approximately 1,999,900 followers more than I have), she was doing time in an animal shelter. And statistically, she shouldn’t have made it out alive -- at the time of her adoption, Marnie was nearly 10 years old, which for many dogs would have been an automatic death sentence. Typically, older dogs don’t generate much adoption interest and have to spend their twilight years in the confusing din of a shelter instead of curled up on their person’s lap.

As someone who gets some real chuckles out of Marnie’s floppy tongue and tilted noggin, my life would certainly be a little less bright without her Instagram posts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the joy that a would-be pet owner can get out of adopting a senior dog.

November is Adopt a Senior Pet month, and there are a ton of reasons why you should consider taking home a dog who has been around for a few presidential administrations. I’d like to tell you some of those reasons today, as well as to dispel a few myths.

Reason 1: Ease of ownership. In our house, we adopted one of our dogs as a puppy and the other as an adult. Guess which one spent the first six months peeing on literally everything we owned, including IN OUR BED on a $300 comforter we had just bought from Restoration Hardware?!? Hint: It wasn’t the older dog. One of the major benefits of adopting an older dog is that since the dogs have previously lived with people, they tend to already be housebroken. More than that, a lot of the time they know commands and are calmer than dogs half their age. Yes, puppies are cute, but the puppy havoc-wreaking stage is anything but. You’ll be happy you adopted an older dog when your stuff is still in tact at the end of the day.

Reason 2: Their personality is set.  When you adopt a younger dog, you have no idea what you’re getting into. Will they be sweet and social, or totally neurotic? Will they like playing with other dogs or view approaching pups as the biggest threat this country has ever known? You can make some guesses based on breed, and you can put in the work for training, but ultimately a puppy is a bit of a wild card. With an older dog, what you get is what you get. That doesn’t necessarily mean the dog will be perfect, but it does mean you are fully aware of their quirks.

Reason 3: You get to save a life! As I mentioned above, in high kill shelters, older dogs are usually the first to be put to sleep for lack of space. When you rescue an older pup, you are definitely doing a little bit of good in the world, especially since that dog likely had a home until very recently.

And now, let’s talk about the myths.

Myth 1: When an older dog is in a shelter, it’s because they’re badly behaved. I will concede that that is occasionally true… BUT, most times these older pups end up homeless through no real fault of their own.

Far too often, humans do NOT do right by the animals they’ve brought into their homes. Dogs will end up in shelters because they’ve been removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. Families will decide that they weren’t up to the task of taking care of a dog and send it on its way. Hardships like divorces, illnesses or deaths in the family often result in a dog being given up. It’s really sad all around, and it breaks my heart when I think of how confusing this must be for an older pup who is losing the only life it has ever known.

Myth 2: A senior dog is going to die soon. This was one of the discussions I had with my husband when we were adopting our first dog. I was in favor of getting a senior; he wanted a much younger dog. “I just don’t want us to get attached to it and then be sad soon,” he said.

It’s the terrible truth of pet ownership that dogs just don’t live as long as we do. I’ve now lived through the passings of two family dogs; every once in awhile I think about losing the dogs I have now and I get totally choked up.

But here’s the thing: The “senior” designation actually has a lot of wiggle room. Dogs are generally considered seniors somewhere between age 7 and 9 -- it varies by the breed. At those ages, they can still have a lot of livin’ to do!

Smaller dogs live an average of 15-16 years; larger dogs live somewhere between 10-13. Note also that that’s the AVERAGE. My family’s 80-pound golden retriever defied all odds and lived to be nearly 16! Had we adopted him at age 7, say, that would have still been eight solid years of companionship. That’s 5,840 cups of dog food. It’s 1,460 hours of walking. It’s 2,290 poops picked up!!! That’s some serious dog ownership, my friend.

But honestly, you don’t have to take my word for it. My friend/co-worker Tina has made it a mission to adopt senior greyhounds, so I asked her about it for this blog. She confirmed everything I’ve written is true... and she gave me something else, something entirely special that I hadn’t considered before:

“The best part of adopting a senior dog is that they are so happy to be in a house where they get lots of love,” Tina said. “That may sound cheesy. They just seem to sense immediately that they're home -- that they're loved.”

The love -- that’s what life is about, right? Hearing about her experiences, my heart was full.

So, the next time you’re considering an adoption, don’t automatically skip over the dog who is a few years older than you’d like. It will all be worth it when you feel the love.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Avoid a Scary Situation on Halloween

Sabrina Ortiz

By Jessica Brody



Halloween is a magical time full of excitement, and it’s natural for a dog-lover to want their canine friends to be included in the fun. Unfortunately, Halloween can also create some hazards to dogs so it’s important to protect your furry friends. This doesn’t mean we can’t include them in our Halloween celebrations. As long as you get a little creative and put in place some safety guidelines, there’s no reason you and your pooch can’t have a safe and fun Halloween together.



Trick-or-treaters will expect yummy treats, but these need to be kept well away from Fido. All candy can be toxic and very dangerous to dogs, but be especially careful with chocolate and any artificial sweeteners. Even some alternatives to candy that are healthy for humans, like raisins, are toxic to dogs. If trick-or-treaters will be coming to your house, keep the candy bowl up where your dog can’t get to it. If you have kids who will be trick-or-treating, make sure to keep their treat bags out of your dog’s reach when they return. You also need to be careful about candy wrappers because they may be tempting to dogs but can cause intestinal blockages if ingested. If you feel bad that your dog is left out, make one of these pumpkin dog treats so they get their very own special Halloween treat.



Halloween decorations can be dangerous to dogs too, especially wires or cords for decorative lights if your dog tends to chew. Glow sticks are a favorite of trick-or-treaters, but they can make your dog sick if they are chewed and ingested. Be careful about lit pumpkins as well because a dog won’t understand fire hazard and can easily knock over a pumpkin with a candle inside. You can opt for battery powered candles instead and avoid this risk. Dog costumes also pose a hazard to your furry friend. Of course they look adorable, but your pup’s safety must take priority. If you put them in costume, make sure they are completely comfortable in it, and check that it doesn’t impair their airways or vision.

You know your dog and how they react to crowds, but Reader’s Digest suggests it’s best not to take dogs trick-or-treating with you at all. Even at your home, the general noise and flow of people in and out can be problematic for dogs. You can minimize noise by sitting on the porch to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters or putting a note on the door asking people not to ring the bell. You don’t want anyone getting spooked, and this can go both ways - dogs may be afraid of people in costume and some kids may be afraid of dogs. Along with the anxiety caused by excess noise, this fear may lead dogs to run outside.

As Redfin notes in their Halloween prep guide, in many situations it’s best to simply keep your dog safe in a room of your house where they’re insulated from the noise and are unable to dash. If your dog uses a crate they may feel safer in there. You may choose to secure your dog in the backyard, although the American Animal Hospital Association warns this can be potentially dangerous because they could be at risk of practical jokes or theft. Prevention of any safety concern is best, but make sure you also have a plan in place in case they accidentally ingest something they shouldn’t or dash out the door. Look up the number for a local after hours vet and have poison control numbers handy too.

Involving your dog in your Halloween celebrations is possible as long as you keep their safety in mind first. If you decide it’s best to keep your dog closed up in a room in your home on Halloween night, take them along for some other fun Halloween activities like pumpkin picking or corn mazes. Their safety is most important, so be sure to work other Halloween plans around these tips so everyone has a fun and safe Halloween.


Photo credit: Pixabay

Approaching a pooch? Practice proper petiquette!

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh




I don’t blame the neighborhood kids, really. I’d do the same thing if I were them and a dog as beautiful as my Ginger were approaching us.

She really is the Platonic ideal of a dog, isn’t she? Just an absolute stunner, from her ginger (thus her name) hair to her perfectly applied eyeliner. And because of her beauty, whenever we’re out on a walk, a scenario continually plays out: We come across a group of kids playing in the street, and their eyes fix upon her. They approach us, hands outstretched, desperate for a pat of her gorgeous red fur.

But, alas, much like the beautiful women who end up as contestants on The Bachelor, Ginger is not here to make friends. She is especially suspicious of the tiny, sticky hands attached to beings under 18 years of age. Get too close, and she’ll let you know her displeasure with a snarl and a visible canine tooth. It’s a problem that has the most simple of solutions: Just ask. Ask if you can pet the dog. Engage in proper pet etiquette -- petiquette, if you will.

I think because of dogs in popular culture like Lassie, Wishbone or Beethoven, we just expect dogs to be a bounty of love and affection for everyone they meet. But the reality is -- and perhaps I’m anthropomorphizing, but stay with me -- that dogs aren’t that different from people. Some are extroverts and love attention from all comers, and some prefer the company of just a few close confidants. Some can be friendly if you take the time to get to know them but are wary of strangers and new situations.

When a stranger’s desire to pet Ginger becomes clear, I always have to say, “Sorry, she’s not very friendly,” and then direct their pats to my other dog, Ren, who will gladly lap up any attention she’s given.

While it’s true of my dogs, you should also note that adhering to proper petiquette is not always an all-or-nothing scenario! I volunteered at one of the Rural Dog Rescue adoption events this weekend and held Juice, a delightfully rambunctious 18-month-old pit bull. Juice gets scared if you come at him with two hands, so we instructed all would-be adopters to pet him with one hand only.

One-hand petting, skittish of men, not good with children -- it’s stuff like that that you would only know if you made sure to ask the pet owner first. I cannot stress enough how important it is to just have the conversation before you go in for the scratch.

Of course, when you have the conversation, you also have to LISTEN to the answer you’re given. A man once said, “It’s OK, I speak dog” and tousled her ears anyway when I told him he couldn’t pet Ginger. She immediately snapped at him, so apparently he’s not as fluent as he thinks he is and should bone up on his dog lessons.

Petiquette is not just limited to human touches -- it’s also important for dog owners to help their pups with petiquette. Not every dog likes other dogs, so ask if it’s OK before you allow your dog to sniff or play with the random other pooches out for a walk.

And on that note, please, I beg of you, unless you’re in an area that is clearly demarcated as being leash-free, keep your dog on a leash! Unless you have an extremely well-trained dog who sprints to you every time you say their name, shouting, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” when your dog runs up on us doesn’t do a bit of good. YOURS may be friendly with other pups, but that doesn’t guarantee that MINE is friendly. Moreover, even the friendliest of dogs can get freaked out by a sudden charge from a strange mutt. It can end up being a really dangerous situation for everyone involved.

When you engage in proper petiquette, you create a safer environment for both yourself, your dog, other dog owners and children/people in general. By just being cognizant of your surroundings and courteous to other dog owners, you are guaranteeing a much happier life for you and your pup. So, the next time cute pooch approaches and the urge to pet strikes, you now know what to do. Just ask!

Adopting Your First Rescue Pet

Sabrina Ortiz

By Jessica Brody


Adoption is a wonderful way to bring a new pet into your family, but with so many options, how do you find the right fit for your family? Here’s what to consider when you decide to rescue a pet.

Why Adopt?

Some first-time pet owners think that purchasing from a breeder is the best way to get the pet they want, but the reality is that good breeders are expensive, and there are a lot of bad breeders out there. Even if you use a reputable breeder, there’s no guarantee your pet will fit with your family. Many breeders reserve litters before they’re even born, leaving you to commit to a pet you’ve never met.

When you adopt, you can spend time with different animals until you find the one for you. Since most rescue pets have had previous owner issues, not behavioral problems, you’ll have a selection of well-behaved dogs and cats of every age. You can even find purebred pets to adopt, although it may take a little patience or a wider geographical scope if you have a specific breed in mind.

Rescue pets are often already vaccinated and spayed or neutered, saving you money. On top of that, adopting is much cheaper than buying: Adoption fees generally range from $50 to $100, whereas purchasing a purebred pet can easily run over $1,000.

The best reason to adopt, not shop? You save the life of one of 6-8 million pets every year.


How to Find the Right Match

Start by considering what kind of pet you’d like. For most pet owners, the obvious question is a dog or a cat. But you’ll need to dig deeper if you want to find a pet that’s compatible with your family.

Start by deciding what age of pet you’d prefer. Kittens and puppies are cute, but they have a lot of energy and require extensive training. Young adult cats and dogs are more settled into their personality, but may still have a few bad habits to break. Adult and senior pets are mellow, easygoing companions, but you’ll have fewer years to spend with your pet and may face higher vet care costs.

Next, consider what activities you want to do with your pet. Are you seeking an indoor companion to give affection to, or do you want a pet you can take on adventures? Do you lead an active lifestyle, or is a leisurely walk with your new dog your idea of a good time? Cats and dogs have a wide range of personalities, and deciding what sort of companion you want will help narrow your options.

Once you have a basic conception of your ideal pet, it’s time to start visiting. Many animal rescues list adoptable pets online, but a picture is no substitute for getting to know an animal in person. Visit every few weeks to see new residents. While you’re there, ask staff what they know about the pets that catch your eye. An animal’s background can tell you a lot about what kind of pet it will be.

As you’re visiting the animals, keep in mind that a dog or cat’s personality at the rescue may not match how it will behave in a home. Some animals that seem fearful or stressed may open up after adoption. If you can’t commit a lot of time to training or are bringing a pet into a home with other animals or young children, adopting through a foster program is a good way to get peace of mind regarding a dog or cat’s behavior. If you take the plunge but know that you’re going to be gone a lot for work, plan to use a dog walking or pet sitter service so that your new furry friend is given plenty of attention and/or exercise.

Whatever you do, keep an open mind about your perfect pet. You may think you want a calico kitten and fall in love with a sweet older tabby or dream of a Golden Retriever only to find your dream dog in a black Lab mix. When you’re flexible on less important traits like sex and color, you’re more likely to find the pet you’ve always imagined.


Image via Pixabay

Doggie CSI: Tracking down a canine criminal

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh

My house is a crime scene. And not just any crime scene -- there’s a serial killer on the loose. 

A serial cotton killer, that is. At nighttime, when I’m least expecting it, I’ll stumble upon it: Various pieces of cotton, wet and shredded to bits. The victims of some sharp canine incisors. Stealthily stolen away from laundry baskets under cover of darkness, because we turn the upstairs hallway light off when we’re hanging out downstairs.

Someone in this house is eating my dirty clothes and dumping the remains in the upstairs hallway. And I’m determined to figure out the perpetrator.

Welcome to DOGGIE CSI. 


This week’s episode: The Cotton Clothes Killer.

Let’s first discuss the possible “perps”:




CRIMINAL HISTORY: Prolific destroyer of plush toys. Also chewed through a computer cord once. 

POSSIBLE ALIBI: She’s a good girl.


SUSPECT 2: Ginger



CRIMINAL HISTORY: Moderate leash aggression. Loud barker. Digs holes in the backyard.

POSSIBLE ALIBI: She’s also a good girl.




SPECIES: Husband

CRIMINAL HISTORY: Does not change the toilet paper roll EVER. Steals pillows in the middle of the night.

POSSIBLE ALIBI: We lived together for two years before we adopted Ren and Ginger, and he never ate my clothes.

I’ve watched enough crime dramas to know it’s always the husband or the boyfriend. However, in initial questioning, Ryan gave me a look that can only be described as “considering divorce,” so I think I’ll scrap him from the list. 

That leaves us with Ren and Ginger as our primary suspects, which means we should move on to discussing the “vics” and the possible motive. 

According to some research I’ve conducted, there are several possible reasons why dogs chew clothes:

1. On the dangerous/scary end, it could be a sign of something called “pica,” which is a drive to eat non-food items. If your dog is habitually eating clothes, blankets, etc., they could suffer some deadly problems, including choking, intestinal blockages and even poisoning depending on the material they’ve ingested.

Luckily for me, my puppy perp isn’t actually ingesting the clothes. Neither Ren nor Ginger has displayed signs of intestinal distress, which is a good thing. (However, if your dog does ingest something they shouldn’t, take him or her to the emergency vet immediately!)

So, the canine criminal is just chewing clothes up and spitting them out, which brings me to my next possible motive:

2. Boredom. Many dogs destroy things when they’re bored. I’ve also seen research that suggests that puppies destroy things for the same reason human kids do -- to get your attention. 

In the case of the Canine Cotton Killer, I don’t think she’s in the business of shredding because she’s bored. These pups get pretty long walks every single day, and they have literally a million toys that we play with, including toys that dole out treats. 

The perp is also exclusively eating dirty clothes, which suggests one final possible motive:

3. The dog just wants to be close to me. Apparently, dogs tend to eat their owner’s dirty clothes because they’ve been marked with the owner’s scent, and that’s enticing to a little pooch. So, the perp is chewing my clothes likely because she just loves me so much, and anything with my scent is determined to be a prized possession.

AWWW, I LOVE YOU TOO, BABY. But you’re gonna need to stop eating my clothes. This isn’t Game of Thrones -- you don’t have to kill something in order to show your allegiance to me. (Also: Where were you back when we had mice?!?) I can’t afford to keep making trips to Target to replace my ripped apart items.

So, it was time to set a trap. I placed laundry baskets in three different rooms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the perpetrator…




Yes, a criminal mastermind in the arts of chewing, Ren just couldn’t ignore the allure of the dirty laundry basket. From here on out, I will be dropping all of my clothes straight into the washing machine so she can’t reach them. 

And for her sentence for this heinous crime? 

A lifetime of snuggling with Mama. What can I say -- I can’t stay mad! A few trips to Target for new clothes never hurt anyone. 

Just don’t start on the shoes, girl, or we’ll have to have a talk.

6 Simple Tips On How To Be A More Eco-Friendly Dog Owner

Sabrina Ortiz

By Amber Kingsley

Being green and reducing our carbon footprint can be challenging at times, but often the simplest of changes in our lifestyle or alterations in our daily routine can make a big difference when it comes to caring for Mother Earth. With a little bit of help, together with caring for our own underdogs and us as their masters, we can become champions for the planet when it comes to conservation, recycling and reduction to our troubled environment.

Let’s look at six simple ways we can help to protect our planet and the environment when it comes to interacting and caring for our favorite, four-legged friends:

#1 - Using Technology

Some of today’s tech has offered many ways to protect and play with our pets more efficiently like GPS technology and automatic fetch machines. For dogs who come in and outside of our homes almost constantly, an automatic pet door is the answer to this type of dilemma. Instead of standing there with the door wide open waiting for our pet to come inside (wasting HVAC on the outside world), the entrance and exit of our animals is monitored and controlled.


#2 - Reuse and Recycle

Often we don’t think of reusing materials when it comes to our pets, but there’s at least one way we can do a type of recycling when it comes to potty patrol. As responsible dog walkers, we’re often required by law (and common decency) to pick up after our pets. Instead of purchasing new products for this daily chore, think about reusing other commonly tossed products like:

●     Sandwich bags or quart-size bags

●     Plastic produce bags from the grocery store

●     Any type of container or bag you’re about to discard, even aluminum

Depending upon the size of your pet, instead of throwing these once-used items away after a single use, we can put them aside and give them another task before they become trash in our already overcrowded landfills.


#3 - Comfort In Composting

Disposing of waste and reusing this natural resource is a vital part of the the green and eco-friendly movement, but does it work with canine castoffs? According to a government study, from the USDA, biological dog waste can be combined with other pet-friendly ingredients to make an effective and successful compost.

Reduce, renew, and repurpose, who would have thought all three of these three components could come together to involve a way to deal with dog poop?


#4 - Making Treats And Food

Inside of the plastic, canned or cardboard containers of these many pet treats and food products that are produced, manufactured and distributed around the world, causes more waste into our already stressed environment. Try searching the internet for healthier, safer, greener goods and various recipes we can make for our pets that lose the middle-manufacturer.


#5 - Buying Earth Friendly Toys

Again, instead of purchasing new items found in traditional plastic packaging, pet toys come in many different forms and presentations. Some of these furry favorites that we find in pet store shelves are just as attractive and playful as used stuffed animals we come across in thrift stores, garage and yard sales at a fraction of the cost.

Especially if you have a dog that shreds these types of toys in a very short amount of time, you’ll save a bundle when it comes to buying these playthings in a retail environment. You’ll need to arm yourself with a couple of tips when it comes to purchasing these items just like when you’re buying toys for a child. Beware of choking or ingestion hazards like plastic, pull-away buttons or other accoutrements that can be removed quickly and then digested.


#6 - Water, Water Everywhere

For those of us who drink plenty of water in our household and have either bottles or glasses of this liquid laying around at the end of day, don’t pour them down the drain. Instead, top off your pet’s water bowl instead of wasting this precious resource.

You shouldn’t reuse H₂O that’s been sitting around in the heat, like those found outdoors or baking inside a hot car, just those that are lying around the house after just a few hours. Paying attention to what we’re carelessly discarding everyday can help us and our four-legged friends to protect the environment.

Mutts Need Love Too

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh

The ears of a Boston terrier. The snout of a pit bull. The body of a Jack Russell terrier. The tail of a hound. And the coat of all of the above.

That’s how I’d describe our beloved mutt Ren, whom we adopted from Rural Dog Rescue nearly two years ago. A DNA test (which cost about $80 and was TOTALLY WORTH IT, in my opinion) confirmed as much:

The other pup we adopted from RDR, Ginger, is also a mutt -- very clearly a beagle with just a hint of some other random hound breed. So with that, aside from their Gotcha Days, there is one other day my husband and I can celebrate our fur babies: July 31, National Mutt Day.

According to the National Mutt Day website, 80 percent of all shelter dogs are mutts, and of the purebreds that end up in shelters, most are adopted very quickly. It’s the mutts that languish in crowded shelters, more likely to face being put to sleep solely because their pedigree isn’t recognized by the AKC. But as the owner of two such mutts, I’m here to tell you they are just as worthy of love and affection as any purebred pup. Here are some of the top reasons why:


1. Mixed breed dogs are an instant conversation starter.

I outlined my dog Ren at the beginning of this blog post. She really is a looker:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out on walkies with her and people stop me to ask what kind of dog she is. I’ve even had people yell out the window of their cars after her!

It happens with Ginger, too… just a little less frequently since she’s such a beagle baby:

In any case, I would talk to the folks in my neighborhood a whole lot less if I didn’t have these two babies with me traipsing up and down the street. People always want to know what they are, and I benefit from that by making new friends every day.


2. Mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebreds.

I had heard this statistic thrown around anecdotally before, but turns out there is actual science behind this! A study conducted through vet records at the University of California, Davis found that purebred dogs tend to suffer from hereditary disorders more frequently than mixed breed dogs. In fact, the researchers found 10 disorders that occurred 42 percent more frequently in purebreds than in mutts!

My family just lost their 15-year-old dog, and I didn’t even live with him but I bawled my eyes out when I found out. I love my rescue dogs so, so much, and I want to spend as much time with them as possible, so it’s a huge comfort to me to know that their mixed breed background is likely to help them stay on this earth just a little bit longer.


3. It costs less to get a mutt.

While dogs are expensive no matter what way you slice it (and that should be something every would-be dog owner should know -- food, toys, vet bills, doggie daycare, dog walkers and vacation boarding really add up!), the price of a purebred pup at the outset eclipses the price of a rescue mutt. For example, a golden retriever from a reputable breeder can range well into the thousands. Compare that with RDR’s low, low price of $300 -- that’s a bargain by anyone’s standards.

4. Saving a mutt doesn’t contribute to the puppy mill problem.

The desire for certain purebreds or designer breeds gives way to a seedy underbelly of irresponsible breeders. Puppy mills churn out dogs as fast as a mother can have them, generally without regard as to whether it’s even healthy for her to do so. Even more than that, the puppies tend to live in poor, overcrowded conditions, which causes them to have serious illnesses. They also tend to be separated from their mothers at extremely early ages, so they end up developing behavioral problems.

It’s just a horrible situation that no dog deserves to be in. If the demand for purebred dogs decreases, so will the demand for puppy mills. Rescuing a mutt will definitely give you some good karma points.

So, today, if you’ve been thinking about pulling the trigger on becoming a dog parent, please please please consider rescuing a pup instead of seeking out a breeder. I think I’ve offered some pretty compelling reasons to invest in a mutt, but if you need one more, here’s a picture of my Ren snuggling under a blanket:

Happy National Mutt Day!

10 Tips for Introducing Children To New Dogs

Sabrina Ortiz

By Amber Kingsley

We have all heard the saying that “dog is man’s best friend”. Generally, this mantra rings true. Most of us can recall heartwarming stories or remember times spent with our favorite pets. Time and time again, dogs have become valuable members of our families, helping teach our children love, respect, responsibility, and gentleness. This bond between our families and four legged pals last lifetimes and earns our pups a special place in our hearts.

This time honored love between pooches and people can find many of our families looking to bring a furbaby into our homes or to visit with the neighbor dog. This process can be wonderful and exciting, but we should proceed with caution when introducing our children to new dogs. Unfortunately, for all the good, there are times when dogs bite or react in an unfriendly manner. Everyday around 1,000 people seek emergency treatment for dog bite injuries. As parents, we need to do everything we can to prevent our children and beloved pets from ending up another statistic.

Thankfully, by teaching our sons and daughters the appropriate way to approach new dogs, handle pets, and remain calm around animals we can greatly reduce the chance something bad will happen. Listed below is a compilation of ideas to help introduce our children and dogs safely:

Teach children how to gently touch and pet animals. Children love animals, but they often don’t realize they are squeezing or pulling a dog’s coat. Far too often, children unintentionally hurt dogs which can result in bites or aggressive behaviors. Avoid these problems by showing the proper way to pet a dog.

Have a child calmly approach the dog from the side and stop with enough room to allow the dog to willingly come to the child. This allows the animal to watch the child without feeling overwhelmed and greet the kid on his or her own terms.

Experts recommend using a leash or commands to keep the dog under control at first. Have the dog “sit” and make introductions calmly. By using the leash, you will be able to regain control if things get a little wild.

Avoid giving treats or using toys on the first greeting. Some dogs get excited at the sight of a treat and might snatch it roughly from tiny fingers. Also, toys are great ways to play with dogs, but it can cause territorial issues or rough housing that might not leave a great first impression on young ones.

Before petting, let the dog sniff the child.  Dogs use their sense of smell to say “hello” and find out who you are. Stand still, allowing the dog to sniff around you and the child. As an added caution, you should be careful about offering your hand to smell. Have a child curl in their fingers and avoid pushing it into the dog’s face. Let the animal come to you. If you are introducing a new baby to a dog, bring the little one’s blankets home to let the dog smell before the big introduction.

Avoid wild movements or loud sounds. Many children initially want to hug and squeeze dogs, but they need to remain calm. Sudden body movements can easily frighten a pooch and cause them to protect themselves by biting or nipping.

Don’t interrupt a dog that is eating or sleeping. Startling a dog is a sure fire way to cause an issue. Tell children to give them space and you can make introductions later.

Always ask permission before approaching a dog that doesn’t belong to you. Children need to learn that not all animals are friendly and cuddly. This simple gesture can prevent unsafe situations from developing. Growling and nipping are sure fire ways to grow a fear of dogs in children.

Watch the dog’s tails and body expressions. If you notice his tail is rigid, his ears are back, and the fur on his back is sticking up, then you should approach with extreme caution. He is telling you he’s not sure if he is ready to greet you.

Never leave a child and pet unattended. Even the nicest and most well-mannered dogs have been known to bite when their fur gets pulled, a leg gets bent the wrong way, a child sits on him, and more. To protect both the kid and the dog, it’s best to always be nearby and watching the two together.

meet our child-friendly dogs:



R-U-N-N-O-F-T : Chip Your Pet

Sabrina Ortiz

By Claire Oliver

If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched the hit-film O Brother Where Art Thou at least 100 times and can most likely quote the entire movie. When I think about why the decision was made to microchip our Coonhound, Boone, it was pretty simple really. All the times that dog decided to R-U-N-N-O-F-T. Just like Everett, Delmar and Pete, Boone gets a little taste of that freedom and hightails it before you can blink.

He is notorious for his ‘great escape’ adventures, as are many hounds. Yet I don’t think Boone’s escapades are premeditated. He’s a slave to his nose. You know the one. A hound’s sense of smell is stronger than the other four combined. Without that hot-nose they couldn’t ultimately do what they were bred to do. It leads them to a lot of things, including unintentional mischief.

There’s an old saying (because down South we love our sayings), “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. It’s a saying derived from the Old Testament that’s been engrained into the minds of my mothers’ side of the family for generations. Replace mind with nose and you’ve got yourself a Coonhound. My Coonhound. If he’s not sleeping, he’s busy sniffing. His nose is always hot. Always ready. Never idle. If it were, he’d go crazy.

So here’s a story about a runaway hound whose nose led him to trouble. A hound who got a little taste of freedom and ran like the wind…

It was getting close to 7 p.m. on a weeknight in September. I was enjoying an after-hours event when I received a call from my husband. “Hello?” “Boone’s Lost”, were the first words out of his mouth. My stomach immediately dropped. My mother had been keeping Boone like she does most days while we worked. The next words out of his mouth were, “Don’t get upset with your mom. She’s taking it very hard”. He usually knows what I’m going to say before I even say it. But it wasn’t until later that I realized he was right. My mother had taken Boone’s escape extremely hard and was blaming herself. She answered my phone call sniffling, in poor efforts to mask her crying. Trying to remain calm, I asked her what happened and it sounded like this…

Claire, he bolted! [sniffles] I didn’t realize the back gate was open and I ran outside to catch him but he was already half way down the driveway. I just can’t believe how fast he was running. I was hollerin’ and hollerin’ as loud as I could, but he never even looked back! He ran all the way down the driveway and then took a left going towards Lester’s farm. I’m so sorry. [sobs a little] I just can’t believe how fast he ran. [sigh]

Let me set the stage. My family lives in a rural area, however there is a main highway not far from their 22 acre farm which is heavily traveled (concern #1). It was 6:30(ish) and as I drove in that direction I realized there was not much daylight left (concern #2). Having read a significant amount on the Coonhound breed, I was aware that Boone could span miles and miles within a short period of time. My mind and heart raced as I tried to think about where he would go. And why was he running so fast? Did he see something? Smell something?

My husband, dad and I all spread out in our cars and drove slowly with our windows down hoping for a glimpse of him. I stopped anytime I saw someone outside and would ask if they’d seen a tri-color hound. I was searching in an area several miles away from his point of escape, thinking he had to be half way to the next town by then. My poor mother on the other hand decided to set out on foot. I didn’t witness it, but my husband said he passed her in his vehicle as she walked down the no-shoulder, winding country road. She was crying and yelling Boone’s name as her only spectators were the unamused Holstein cattle and neighboring donkey, John Henry. A sight I’m sure. She was in such a state of distress, I can only justify that’s how she completely forgot what Boone looked like when she walked up to a group of children and asked if they’d seen a white dog. “A white dog?” I repeated later. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I thought to myself a white dog is a Great Pyrenese, a Poodle, even a Malti-poo for God sakes. Yes, my Walker Coonhound has white fur amongst his black, brown and speckled body, but I would never refer to him as a white dog. We laugh now about her very inaccurate description of him. Bless her heart.

Forty-five minutes had gone by and the sun was disappearing into the earth. There was barely any daylight left or hope I was holding onto. My dad recognized the despair in my voice when he said, “Has anyone thought to check back at the house? Someone needs to go back in case he decides to return”. I thought yeah right, but decided to listen to him. It’s a funny thing how he’s always right. When I pulled up the long drive, something caught my eye. I noticed some paper wrappings and scraps of trash lying around near the outdoor trash bin that weren’t there before. Aha! A lead! I had a renewed sense of energy and hope. Then a lightbulb went off. Boone had gotten sick that morning so I decided not to feed him during the day. At that moment, I knew exactly what he had in mind and why he was running so fast after it. He was in search of the one thing that is the God of all Gods to a Coonhound:


I jumped out of the car and ran to the back of the property. The sun had completely set, but I could see just enough. I yelled his name and included his favorite word. “Boone, do you want a treeeaaat?”, I repeated slowly pacing the yard. Waiting, wishing for a sign of him. Then I saw it. Something running over the hilltop. All I could see were glowing eyes and the shadow of a four-legged body. I called his name louder “Boone, Boone!” and he ran faster towards me. It was him! Just like the scene from Homeward Bound where Shadow, Sassy and Chance run toward home, my runaway hound dog had found his way back. I crouched to my knees and he ran straight into my arms. I couldn’t quit repeating, “You came back! You came home to me!” He was loving the attention and rolled over on his back for a belly rub, soaking wet. The creek.

I didn’t care. I cried and hugged him hard. I led him around front at the same time my parents pulled up. I could see my mother in the front seat, now sobbing at the sight of his return. We made it inside and Boone was fed an extra helping. He was truly pleased with himself.

This wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last time Boone managed his freedom in search of something. He’s a wanderer and wants whatever his nose can help him find. It was, however, his last escapade without a microchip. I knew I never wanted to feel that unsettling feeling again, even if only for the two short hours he was missing. Now knowing if he does get lost, or R-U-N-N-O-F-T like most occassions, I have peace of mind knowing the chip is there to help us find him.

I’ve loved many dogs, but I have respect for Boone. He knows what he wants, does what he wants, and his love and trust have been earned. Yet sometimes I have to protect him from the things he wants, for his own good. He doesn’t know any better. And when I fail, because it happens, I know I have an extra measure in place. Hats off to whoever invented the microchip for dogs like Boone, who will always let their nose lead the way.

If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly.

Little Known Protective Facts For Pet Appreciation Week

Sabrina Ortiz

By Amber Kingsley


There are many ways that we protect our pets and according to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), the first part of June is when we celebrate Pet Appreciation Week. In order to better understand our four-legged friends, here are some lesser known facts about protecting them from harm and ultimately appreciate them even more.


Animals In The House

We’ve all heard the expression bats in the belfry, which is the uppermost part of a church in England, But this expression is actually tied to those who may be mentally unstable. But what about animals who may gain admittance to our house from other spaces like the attic for example? While many of us may imagine the upper part of our home may attract rodents like mice and rats, other critters like raccoons and skunks, the most common vermin to enter this space is actually the Eastern Grey Squirrel.

The easiest way to keep these critters out of this household crawlspace is to ensure that it is properly sealed. Other common approaches like traps and poisons are not good choices. The humane method of using a trap for relocation may end up harming or killing the animal and remains can spread diseases and may leave behind a nasty stench that’s difficult to remove. It’s best to simply seal this area off completely and use steel mesh over ventilation areas.


Let Standing Water Lie

We all know it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie, but when we’re out on a walk or other outing, make sure they never drink from standing water. We have no way of knowing if this still water contains insect larvae or potentially deadly poisons like antifreeze or other dangerous toxins.

Always bring bottled water and a small dish when travelling with your pet, taking them out on a walk, to the local dog park or other outing. There are plenty of specially designed, portable pet watering solutions available online, at pet stores and other outlets.

Tick Tock

Whether you use an oral tablet, a flea and tick collar or other measure to ward off these pests, they aren’t always 100% effective in every situation. After your pet has been in areas where fleas and ticks frequent, especially tall grasses and wetlands, be sure to inspect your animal thoroughly.

If you have been unfortunate enough to have endured an infestation in your home and have treated your house, be sure to take extra steps to avoid their return. For example, when vacuuming your house after a bug bomb was deployed, put a flea collar into the vacuum bag to kill any larvae or eggs that may have survived the assault.

Also, be careful about letting your animal back into the house too soon after treating your home with these types of pesticides. Consider shampooing carpets, cleaning floors and furniture thoroughly before your dog comes into contact with these surfaces.

A happy pet is a healthy pet and we can protect and appreciate them every day of the year, not just during the first week of June. Do your very best to keep your companion animal well loved, appreciated and healthy all year long.

Heartworm Awareness Month

Sabrina Ortiz

By Claire Oliver

Looking at this dog, would you think he’s heartworm positive?

Just looking at him, I wouldn’t. He appears beautiful, strong and happier than a lark. But I know this dog. I helped write his story. I can tell you that he is incredibly handsome, resilient and happy. But he does, in fact, have heartworms.

Boone is a seven-year-old Treeing Walker Coonhound who was rescued in 2015. Before my husband and I took him in I knew nothing about heartworm disease and am still by no means an expert. But I fiercely love my dog. A dog who I watched suffer immensely because of something I knew so little about. I know more now than I did then because of our journey through treatment. So, I’m writing to share that story and shed light on a disease so deadly, yet even more so preventable.

Boone was found emaciated and malnourished in West Tennessee, where the inescapable heat widely attracts heartworm carriers: the mosquito. Foot-long worms were living in his heart, weakening his body every day. Although the worms weren’t visible to us, they made their presence known in his labored breathing, the blood on the floor when he coughed, and his fatigue. Even though he made desperate attempts to fight it.

Watching someone suffer is heart-breaking. It’s no different when that someone has four-legs. Not only does the disease itself bring tremendous heartache, but the treatment is equally as trying and consists of several steps (accompanied by an emotional rollercoaster).

Step 1: Prep Work. We started Boone’s four-month heartworm treatment journey in December of 2015 beginning with a twice-daily dose of Doxycycline for a month. Doxy is an antibiotic to combat bacteria that is released when the worms begin dying. Not all vets require this step, but we wanted to take the extra precaution.

Step 2: Drug Injections. Boone’s first injection in January was administered into his lumbar, or back, muscles. The first month’s injection left him unusually sore. So sore that the next day I left him for work lying on the floor instead of his usual tail wagging, staring me down from the window, jubilant self. I couldn’t get him outside to relieve himself, or even convince him to get up and eat. Two hours later, I had the gut feeling something wasn’t right. I drove back to the house to find Boone exactly where I left him: lying on the floor in visible pain. To this day, I don’t know how I was able to coax him off the floor and into the front seat of my 350 Z. I’d like to think it’s because he trusted me, but at that point his options were limited. His face, squished on the dash, gave me the look like he’d died and gone to you know where as we sped off to the vet’s office. The trip resulted in steroids to ease his pain and the Abba song ‘Money, Money, Money’ playing in my head. Our investment in heartworm treatment was increasing what seemed like every week.

In February, Boone’s second and third injections were administered together. He was given twice the dose at one time to kill off any remaining worms. During this more concentrated round of injections, he was required to stay overnight at the vet’s office to be monitored for any negative reaction.  

Step 3: “You Want Me To Do What?” The most critical, yet challenging part of heartworm treatment is the “quiet time”. Hands down. We were told that during the months Boone received the injections his activity level must be strictly limited. But it doesn’t stop there. Additionally, to be safe we would need to restrict his activity for the two months that followed the injections. That’s four months total of restricted activity! No exercise from January – April. Only taking him outside to potty. No walks or anything to excite him.  Any dog owner can empathize with me here. How would he not go stir-crazy? How would I not go crazy?

After the initial shock, fear set in. The vet didn’t just tell us this to make our lives miserable. There’s a critical reason why. As the medicine works and the worms die, fragments of dead worms can block blood flow through the vessels. Too much exercise increases blood flow to blocked areas, causing capillaries to rupture as the body tries to pump blood through the blocked vessels. In terms that I understood, increased heart rate could result in death. And a quick one.

The ‘what if’ was enough to haunt me to this day. Thankfully, we made it through the four-months of restricted activity, and our lives slowly but surely resumed as normal.

Step 4: The Retest. It wasn’t until six months later that we could retest Boone for heartworm disease. I had the retest day in June marked on my calendar for what seemed like a very long time. After months of heartache, worry, vet visits and steep vet bills, I was confident we’d be walking out of there with our heads held high and a piece of paper that read Heartworm Negative. Blood was drawn, Boone was pacing and I had another gut-wrenching feeling that something wasn’t right. It could have been the look on our vet’s face as he walked back in the room, or the way he made small talk before addressing the test results. A piece of paper with our future sat on the desk right in front of him. The elephant in the room. Finally, he delivered the news that Boone had again tested heartworm positive.

It was all I could do not to cry. Not to feel completely defeated. Not to feel so sorry for Boone and myself, admittedly. Our vet shared that out of the 100 dogs he had treated for heartworms Boone was the only case in which he retested positive, and we don’t know for certain why.

So much for a happy ending, right?

Although it wasn’t the major feat we’d hoped for, it was still a victory.  We learned the treatment killed off a significant portion of the adult worms, so there’s an incredibly fewer number and the likelihood they will eventually die off in time. They also no longer have the ability to reproduce because of the monthly preventative. Boone no longer coughs, feels fatigued or struggles to breathe. I can confidently say that he is a very healthy (and happy) hound. Once defined by the worms living in his heart, he is not any longer. And for that, I am grateful. That’s our victory.

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Our story is certainly not to scare or deter anyone from heartworm treatment, but it is worth sharing that this costly treatment is no simple matter. Prevention, prevention, prevention is key! For a disease so complex, the preventative is simple. A monthly heartworm preventative averages at $5-$15 per month (we use Interceptor Plus, but there are several on the market to get the job done). Compare that to heartworm treatment which averages $400-$1,500. 

I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for the animals who are heartworm positive. Many of them, like Boone, are underdogs whose health was not made a priority. We all share a common goal for our animals: to live out their best life in good health. After a long road we’re face to face with that goal, and I’m happy to report that Boone no longer suffers.

Except for the occasional stomach ache from too many hotdogs. And if he could talk, he’d tell you it’s worth it.

Phoebe & Friends Photography

*Always test an animal for heartworms and consult with a veterinarian. Please note that heartworm treatments differ based on a situational basis and veterinary recommendation.




Redfin Expert Tips on Moving with Pets

Sabrina Ortiz

Our friends and sponsors at Redfin have some excellent advice for keeping your pets in mind during moves. Check out these excellent resources provided to us:


Tips for Moving with a Pet


How to Prepare Your Pet for a Big Move


Looking for a new place in Washington DC? 

Basic Training Tips with our Underdog Trainer!

Sabrina Ortiz

By Beth Aldrich from Monument Dog Training


January is National Train Your Dog Month!  With this; many people may be examining their own dog to see if training is needed.  There is a wide range of training out there and you can go from obedience champion level on down to basics that could be life saving.  The numbers of dogs euthanized each year due to behavior issues is staggering and more than any other health issue COMBINED.  Behavior wellness is just as important as your yearly check up with your Vet. 


A few things all dogs should do on command reliably and under distraction.


1) Sit -having a reliable sit command can make your dog less of a target to other dogs and sets you as the owner up to be in control of any situation that requires your dog to be under command and not asserting itself into a space; for example in a vets office or waiting in line at your local pet shop.

2) Crate - This means you can crate your dog when you are at home or away and have them be in the same calm mental and safe physical state that they were in when they entered the crate.  If your dog has severe separation or crate anxiety this can lead to other behavior issues in and out of the home.  You need to seek the help of a professional.

3) Heel - This means your dog can walk calmly without pulling by your side through distractions and other dogs.  Most all leash reactivity aggression lunging so on and so forth begins behaviorally by tension being applied to the leash and harness or collar mechanism at the wrong time.  Constant pressure or tension on the lead is a sure fire way to escalate any situation from goo to bad or bad to worse and is completely preventable by teaching a reliable heel command.

4) Come-  In the dog park or after your dog has made a quick escape from the car, house or leash it can be crucial to call your dog back to you on command.  This is not simple and takes practice and diligence but in the end could end up saving your dogs life.  The reality is if your dog does not come back on command your dog should NEVER be off lead.  This includes an open dog park that is fenced in.  So go ahead and put that practice in with a professional and teach your dog this life saving skill.


If you need help accomplishing these basics or just want to have a more behaviorally balanced dog please do not hesitate in contacting a professional. 


If you would like to visit my website it is


Happy Training!



Beth Aldrich is a certified dog trainer and behavior specialist who has spent almost 8 years in the canine industry of the DC metropolitan area, working as a dog walker, a dog caretaker in a group facility, and a manager of several doggie daycares. Beth works with science-based training methods that give people the knowledge, confidence and information to stabilize communication with their dogs. She also graciously volunteers her time to rehabilitate countless rescue dogs to prepare them for forever homes. Beth serves the DC metro area and more, and she cannot wait to meet and help you and your pup!

My Year As A Dog Owner

Sabrina Ortiz

By: Katie Walsh

Dec. 17 was a delightful day in our house – we celebrated our little Ren’s birthday. Well, technically, we don’t really know her birthday, but at her first checkup the vet said that she was right around a year old, so the day we adopted her – her “Gotcha Day” – was good enough for us to call it her birthday.
Naturally, she got a present…

(The little Santa toy that she’s currently ignoring)
And a cake…

(That one she did NOT ignore.)

So suffice it to say, it’s been a wild ride, this year of dog ownership. We’ve had some successes and some failures, and I think I’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are some of the things I’ve learned throughout this year:

1. And this is most important: Don’t expect your dog to love you right out of the gate.  
If it happens, that’s GREAT. It’s what I was hoping for, obviously. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen with Ren. The first night we brought Ren home, she ran around our house enthusiastically, getting to know her new surroundings. But soon after that, a general malaise overtook her for a few weeks. More than that, she did a few of what I call “protest pees” – she didn’t have to go out; she just wanted to let me know what was on her mind. Since she can’t form words to show she’s miffed, my carpet took the brunt of her feelings.  It took several months of getting to know her – and letting her get to know us – to realize that’s her behavior when she’s sad. When my husband and I go out of town and get a friend or relative to watch her, she does the same bit of laying about and lacks her usual playfulness.  It’s her way of saying she misses us – and when we first brought her home, it was her foster mom that she missed. 
Fast-forward to today, and everything is wonderful. Ren has learned that we’re her people, and that we will always play with her toys, take her for long hikes and give her as many treats as she wants (well, within reason). In return, she gives us puppy kisses and snuggles under a blanket with me at night. It was a rocky beginning, but I’m really glad we stuck it out with her. And it all absolutely makes sense to me – it takes time to make friends with humans, so why wouldn’t it take at least a little time to make friends with a dog?

2. Fostering is a slippery slope that leads to owning more dogs.
Because Rural Dog Rescue relies on fosters to help rescue as many dogs as they can and because Ren had been given that opportunity due to a selfless foster, I wanted to pay-it-forward and become a dog foster myself. So on a hot day in July, we brought home Ginger (fka Miss Kay), a beagle mix rescued from North Carolina. 
My husband had taken Ren out to the dog park so I could get Ginger settled in to her temporary new surroundings. I let her in the house, took her off leash and sat down on the couch to give her a little bit of space to get used to things. She meandered about for a minute, then trotted over to the couch, climbed up and immediately snuggled onto my lap, giving me this look:

Oh man, that face. I was a sucker and she knew it. In that instant, I decided I could never give her up. My husband, however, had made me PROMISE that fostering wouldn’t lead to us adopting another dog. I cried my way through a few adoption events with her before he finally relented and let us make her an official member of our family.
So, unfortunately, I’m not allowed to foster anymore because we literally can’t fit another dog comfortably in our bed.  Oops.

3. Training is harder than you think it will be after you’ve watched an episode of “The Dog Whisperer.”
This is one thing we’ve dropped the ball on as of now. Ren’s terrier nature means that she has exactly zero attention span, and Ginger’s incredible beagle sniffing abilities mean she goes absolutely nuts on walks. 
We did sign up Ren for a training class when we first got her, but she was still in her “malaise” phase and it failed spectacularly. I think it would have gone better if we had waited a little bit for her to get to know us/like us more. Then when we got Ginger, we were just scrambling to figure out a new routine with an additional canine family member, and training just went by the wayside.
I’ve now hired someone to come to our house to give us private pup lessons. The girls are 80 percent good girls in the house, 35 percent good girls on walks… so I’m really hoping those numbers improve with our trainer.

4. If there is an opening, they will go for it. 
I’m ashamed to admit this, but we’ve had a couple of close – too close – calls with the girls escaping. The first week we got Ren, we let her run around in my mother-in-law’s backyard, where she easily slipped under a portion of the fence that had become dislodged from the ground. A few weeks ago, I opened the door to shoo a wayward stray cat off our flower bed when BOTH the girls burst through the door behind me to chase the feline down the street. There have been a few other instances of this (mostly with Ginger, who previously was a country dog and used to roaming wherever she pleased), and I’ve been lucky enough every time to get them back without incident. But I know I’m on borrowed time with that. If there’s one thing I cannot emphasize enough, it’s caution around open doors. 
And pay attention to your fences, too. Periodically, they may need maintenance to keep your puppers safe. It’s actually on our agenda this weekend to make a Home Depot trip for more soil and fence-reinforcement supplies. I’d lose my mind if I lost my girls.

5. It’s absolutely worth it.
I’ve cleaned up more poop, puke and pee than I ever imagined. I’ve pulled countless gross chicken bones out of their mouths. I’ve choked down an $800 vet bill (side note: !!!!!!!!!!). But the joy I get from playing with my dogs every day outweighs anything else they may throw at me. My favorite part of any day is the moment I walk in the house and the pups greet me with exuberant tail wags and slobbery kisses. That actually might be tied with the moment where they get tired and snuggle up next to me on the couch.
They are a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade my year with these dogs for anything in the world!

Volunteer feature: Raghu Vadali works to gain dogs’ trust

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


Raghu Vadali isn’t always easy to find at Rural Dog Rescue adoption events. If the dog he’s volunteered to monitor is a little shy or scared by the noises of the busy street, he might be sitting with the pup in a quiet alcove down the block, helping it to feel more secure. Instead of merely serving as a tether for a dog on the sidewalk outside of Howl to the Chief, he might have taken it on a brisk run several streets away.

But no matter where he is, there’s one thing that’s for certain: The dogs love him.


Vadali is demure, however, when asked about his connection to the dogs.

“I think the moment one dog is comfortable with you, the other dogs want to see what’s up,” he said. “It’s just like a monkey-see-monkey-do thing. I don’t think it’s anything special with me, per se.”

On that point, RDR’s staff and other volunteers might disagree. Vadali is known for his even-keeled demeanor and calm approach to the pups, something he says has largely been shaped by a deep love and respect for all animals.

“I’m quite passionate about animal welfare – I’m vegan for this reason,” he said. “I do animal activism stuff even for other animals, be it farmed or caged, or pigs and chickens and cows and so on.”

It’s this passion, as well as a busy work and social life that can’t necessarily accommodate a pet at the moment, that drove him to seek out a regular volunteering opportunity. He said that in February 2016, he reached out to several organizations, but Rural Dog Rescue caught his eye because it was a small and volunteer-run.

“I thought it was a fun way to both do good and kind of help me get my fix,” Vadali said.

He has been volunteering at Rural Dog Rescue’s adoption events on nearly every Saturday ever since.

At the events, Vadali said that the first thing he does when he is handed a dog is to take it for a run around the block, as fast as the pooch wants to go. It’s part of a process of developing trust with the pup.

“I’m just there for them – I don’t try to be a friend,” Vadali said. “There’s no active ‘let’s be friends’ part of it. It’s like, you know, when you’re comfortable, we can be friends. And if you don’t – if you’re not the kind who wants to be friends, then that’s OK, too. So I try to be at peace with what the animal wants as well. This is not about me.”

In that vein, Vadali has risen to the challenge for the dogs in his care. In particular, he remembers one Saturday where he was tasked with giving a bath to a pit bull who had just pooped “in a very messy way.” It was a chore that was an entirely new experience for him because his parents never allowed him to have pets growing up.

“But then, even though it was obvious the pit bull didn’t like being in the bath – he looked at me like he was being betrayed – but nonetheless he trusted me,” Vadali said. “He could really attack me if he wanted to, but he didn’t. It just felt cool that I was able to gain an animal’s trust even though obviously there’s no straightforward means of communication.”

Vadali intends to keep volunteering for Rural Dog Rescue as long as his circumstances allow. Though he didn’t grow up with animals, Vadali is looking forward to the day his living situation changes and he can adopt a dog – or four.

“I want to have my own running gang,” he said.

But more than that, Vadali just wants to show kindness to RDR’s dogs, many of whom have been plucked from shelters where their euthanization was imminent.

“I just want to show, whether they like me or not, that they’re worthy of attention,” Vadali said. “That whatever else happens, you know, we’re going to have a good time for two hours.”




A new leash on life: Asha and Crystal’s journey toward their furever homes

Sabrina Ortiz

By: Katie Walsh


I remember when I saw the post from Rural Dog Rescue several months ago. They were raising funds to rescue several dogs from the illegal dog meat trade in Thailand. As a dog lover, I was horrified, and immediately pulled out my credit card to make a donation. These dogs were the ultimate underdogs, fighting for their survival, and I was determined to do my part.

Fast-forward to today: I’m not the only one who felt that way, and today, the girls, Asha and Crystal, are at a foster home in Maryland and making huge strides toward finding their “furever” homes.  

And when I say, huge, I mean HUGE. Asha and Crystal had been kept in large pens with hundreds of other dogs, had to learn house training,  how to walk on a leash, and how to interact properly with other dogs and people -- essentially, how to be, well, a dog.

Rural Dog Rescue knew it would take a very special foster family to help Asha and Crystal adjust to life as pets in America, and the rescue found one in Jeanne and Paul Bellis.

The Bellises currently have four dogs -- Asha, Crystal and two dogs of their own -- as well five cats who were also rescues. While the Bellises aren’t certified or professional dog trainers, they have a lot of experience handling dogs, and Jeanne even taught obedience classes previously. The task of teaching Asha and Crystal how to be be American pets was a challenge, but one they could undoubtedly handle.

Jeanne said she uses a combination of training methods with the girls. She said she looks for the environmental triggers that cause the dogs to behave in ways that are less than ideal, then figures out how to train them out of it. Jeanne takes the dogs out for many short outings to get them accustomed to walking and interacting with people and other dogs. She specifically lets people pet her dogs first so that Asha and Crystal see the other dogs receiving attention and decide to seek attention for themselves.

It’s been a long, slow process, but the girls have come a long way. They have even started to initiate play with other dogs, which was a huge milestone, Jeanne said.

Asha and Crystal have unique personalities, Jeanne said. Crystal is more outgoing; Asha is shy and easily freaked out by things. However, both dogs’ suspected breeds -- Thai Ridgeback and Jindo, respectively -- are typically extremely loyal, meaning neither one of these girls really needs or wants attention from strangers. They are intelligent and active dogs, so an ideal owner would be someone who can keep them moving!

Jeanne has some fantastic ideas for who would make an ideal owner for both of the girls. For Crystal, it has to be a combination of Captain Morgan, Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus,” YouTube sensation Batdad, and 12-time stolen base champion Rickey Henderson, meaning someone who is adventurous, smart, active and willing to laugh at Crystal’s antics… which are sometimes troublesome.

For Asha, Jeanne would like to see an owner who is a combination of Dorothy Gale, Mr. Rogers and Hagrid from “Harry Potter,” meaning someone a little softer spoken, calm, nurturing and empathetic to Asha’s previous trauma.

It’s plain to see from the passion with which Jeanne talks about these dogs that with the right owner, someone who is consistent with training and doesn’t have young children at home, that the girls will be wonderful pets someday.

And for all of us who donated to their cause and have been rooting for them, that’s all we can hope for!


Foster feature: Fate and a love of dogs drive Abby Cave to foster

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


With Rural Dog Rescue foster Abby Cave’s first foster dog, the stars aligned. Cave had brought Adele, a redbone coonhound mix, with her to work at her then-job in Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso’s office. A lobbyist visiting the office that day was immediately drawn to the pup’s striking dark-red coat.

“He was like, ‘That’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen. Where’d you get her?’” Cave remembers the lobbyist saying.

She responded that Adele was actually her foster dog and was up for adoption.

The lobbyist put his meeting on hold and called his wife. Later that week, he tracked down Cave’s email address to learn more about the Rural Dog Rescue adoption process. Cave sent him a bunch of information, and about a week later he took Adele home, where the pup has lived happily ever since.

He periodically sends pictures to Cave, which makes her very happy.

“Adele was very underweight when I got her, and she’s a nice, happy, fat dog now,” she said.

And it wasn’t only with Adele that a divine hand intervened -- it seems Abby Cave’s career as a dog foster has been largely driven by fate.

In fact, Cave herself even describes initially becoming a dog foster as a “fluke.”

Back in January, Cave had just enjoyed a mimosa-fueled brunch when she found herself walking down Barracks Row and past Howl to the Chief during a Rural Dog Rescue adoption event. It was there she learned that in lieu of adopting, she could foster a dog while it looked for its forever home. Cave had been a dog lover for her entire life -- “I came home to dogs when I was born,” she said -- but at that point in her life, she was working in short-term contract positions and couldn’t necessarily commit to fully owning a dog. However, it was the first time in her life she had been without canine companionship, which she said made her feel “angsty,” and fostering presented the perfect opportunity for her to care for a pet for a little while without worrying what would happen to it if her job went away and she had to move.

She applied to be a foster, and took a dog home a little while later. Since then, she’s had four longer-term fosters and several weekend pups.

“I think it’s a cool way to give a dog a home while it’s looking for its forever home,” Cave said.

Fostering has brought its ups and downs, Cave said. While, fortunately, all of the dogs she’s brought home have appeared to have been housebroken, they’ve come with myriad other challenges. Hobbes, a hound mix, would howl all day when Cave left the apartment, resulting in an admonishing phone call from her landlord. Dolly, another redbone coonhound and Cave’s most recent foster, was missing a paw and had a wicked stubborn streak. Whenever Dolly decided she didn’t want to cooperate anymore, she would simply lie down in her current spot, whether it was safely inside Cave’s apartment or the middle of a street while the crosswalk sign was ticking down.

But perhaps the most terrifying fostering situation for Cave has been with Charlie, a hound-lab mix.

Cave loved Charlie. He was about 5 or 6 years old, but he acted like an “old man,” she said. He seemed to have a tough time with stairs, so for the first few nights she had him she slept downstairs with him. Charlie had Cave completely convinced of his feebleness.

And that’s when he decided to make his move.

“One day while I was at work and my roommates were still home, he hurtled over the couch with amazing grace and ran a mile and a half away from our house,” she said.

Cave said she called Animal Control through tears every hour until they finally rounded up the doggie fugitive and brought him safely home.

“He went for quite a run that day,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

But even with her little escape artist, Cave has loved fostering with Rural Dog Rescue. It has enabled her to have a dog in a way she couldn’t have without their help. For example, Cave doesn’t have a car, so when Dolly had to have a vet appointment, an RDR volunteer came and picked up the dog.

“And the fact that they are happy to provide all the supplies [the dogs] need too is super nice,” she said. “I have a whole set of dog supplies now I just keep in my house, but at first it was nice to not have to go buy food and a kennel and all that stuff because I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it at that point.”

Cave intends to keep fostering as long as her work and life circumstances allow -- or until she gets a dog that captures her heart so much that she “foster fails” and keeps it. But until then, she highly recommends the process to anyone who is thinking of giving a dog a temporary home.

“It’s such a fun thing and it’s such a rewarding thing to do,” Cave said. “You get somebody who loves you unconditionally even though they just met you. And they’ll snuggle you, and there’s nothing like a good ol’ dog kiss.”


Keeping Your Pit Bull Active, Healthy and Happy

Sabrina Ortiz

By Amber Kingsley

In honor of National Pit Bull Awareness Month, held every October since 2011, we thought it was a good idea to honor these great terriers and give some advice on keeping them active, which will lead to a longer, healthier lifestyle. Pit Bulls have long held a bad reputation for being mean or aggressive, but they aren’t alone in these canine-based myths, which are often devoid in fact.

Back in the day, it was German Shepherds that were sometimes seen in a negative light, perhaps because of their association with the police and military. Then came Doberman Pinschers, often used as guard dogs, which may have been the cause of fear. But just like Pit Bulls, they make great family pets and are almost always gentle with children. In fact, when it comes to your personal safety and health, you’re in more danger coming into contact with fecal matter than you are when it comes to interacting with these playful animals.


Realistic & Unrealistic Expectations

If you’re expecting a Pit Bull to be a guard dog purely due to their reputation, you’re not thinking correctly. Just like any dog, you can train them to be protective, but what you should truly be expecting from them is the need for a great deal of exercise. While many of them are perfectly happy to be a couch potato, this sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for them long-term.

Remember other factors when it comes to their activity levels as older dogs won’t need as much exercise, nor should they be as rambunctious as a puppy. Sometimes it’s a personality thing as some Pit Bulls will want to run and play all day, and others are happy to be lap dogs. Be sure to check with your veterinarian to ensure your canine is getting enough activity and exercise.


Do’s and Don’ts

Again there’s some expectations about Pit Bulls that aren’t true, for example, if you think they’ll be happy spending all day (or night) outdoors without you, this is another fallacy. These terriers are extremely social and friendly animals and should should expect this canine to be your constant companion. These dogs are happiest when they’re by your side, in your lap and want to be cuddled and given plenty of love and affection.

They’re also extremely intelligent and when coupled with their high-energy levels, they’ll need to be trained and supervised. You’ll find these brainy and brawny dogs are capable of almost any kind of activity you’d associate with other canines, such as:

  • Agility and endurance courses

  • Fetching and playing tug-of-war

  • Hide-and-go-seek whether they’re looking for you or a treat

  • Hiking, jogging and biking alongside you

  • Dock diving / jumping and swimming

  • Search and rescue animals



Here at Rural Dog Rescue, we believe in every dog, from little Chihuahuas to enormous Great Danes, they’re all equal in our eyes. Equal of being treated with the same level of love and respect as any animal, regardless of their size or breed.


Travel junkie, Amber Kingsley, is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA. Her art history background helps her hone in on topics that are of interest to readers. She is a dog enthusiast and loves spending time with her pomeranian, Agatha.

23 thoughts I have when walking two dogs at the same time: A memoir

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


After weeks of wheedling, cajoling and coaxing my husband into agreement, I finally did it: I made the leap from dog mom to dog foster mom. Miss Kay, a sleepy/extremely needy beagle mix, came home with us on July 10. The whole experience, which I will write about when it comes to a conclusion (whatever that may be), has been challenging, rewarding and different from anything I could have imagined -- particularly when it comes to going for walks.

Here is a list of 23 thoughts I have when walking my two dogs at the same time:


  1. Aaaaand we’re off! Of course, one of you went left out the door and the other went right. Great.

  2. Going in the same direction now, awesome! … but now one of you is peeing while the other is straining at the leash to continue. Argh.

  3. And now the other one is peeing. It’d be nice if you could coordinate your efforts!

  4. Stop tangling me in your leashes, you guys.

  5. If I get one dog’s leash in one hand and the other dog’s leash in the other, it feels a bit like I’m driving a dogsled. Mush, doggies, mush!

  6. No, dog, you can’t eat that chicken bone.

  7. No, other dog, you can’t eat that chicken bone either!

  8. For real though, who is the mystery chicken bone discarder? Or is it that chickens are coming here to spontaneously combust? Are they experiencing the rapture? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CHICKEN BONES ON THE GROUND IN THIS CITY?!

  9. Stop tangling me in your leashes, you guys.

  10. First poop of the walk. Let me pick that up and get to the nearest trashcan...

  11. Man, that was a long time to find a trashcan! So glad to get this poop bag out of my hand.

  12. Other dog is pooping now. Coordination, dogs. Coordination.

  13. “Hahaha, yeah, I know, ‘who’s walking who,’ it’s funny because two dogs are hard to walk. Thanks for pointing it out, guy on my corner! Have you ever tried stand-up comedy?!?”

  14. Stop tangling me in your leashes, you guys.

  15. Controlling two dogs on leashes is really cutting into my side gig as a Pokemon trainer.

  16. Yes, neighborhood children, you can pet them.


  18. I’ve gotten really good at doing high kicks over your leashes to untangle myself. Bolshoi Ballet, here I come!

  19. Except for I just tripped a little. Lord help me when it’s January and icy out and I try this maneuver.


  21. Ooh ooh ooh, careful of the broken glass! Watch your little paws!

  22. Good lord, MORE broken glass! THIS CITY IS A DOGGIE DEATH TRAP.

  23. Home again, thank God. Here are treats for being such good girls… Aww, thank you for the kisses. You guys are cute. We’ll go walkies again in a few hours.