You threw it, why should I fetch it?

Fetch is a simple game – you throw, they retrieve. But after my mom blew my mind the other day with her insight about pet toys, I’ve started to take a second look at familiar things. A recent trip to the park had me rethinking what I can learn from Eko’s struggle to understand fetch.

If I take a ball from home, go to the park with Eko and then throw the ball? Eko assumes I must be throwing it away. He ignores the ball then finds a stick to run around with

On the other hand, my brother’s dog Dutch is so obsessed with fetch he will disregard an oncoming wave because he can’t bare to turn away from the ball

At the park Eko saw how excited Dutch was, but he couldn’t understand the hype. To Eko, my brother was trying to throw something away. Why would Dutch be rude and bring it right back to him? 

Eko gets a bit forlorn when other pups ignore him and prefer to spend their time playing fetch

“I don’t get it, Will.”

I laugh at Eko’s confusion, but I have to admit I don’t get it either. Fetch – a simple game – illustrates a simple lesson. You’re not always going to understand why pets or people love what they do.  Or why they’re passionate about the things they’re passionate about. So just enjoy your passion and enjoy others enjoying theirs.

Although, Eko’s passion is jumping into dogs who won’t play with him so…

I may need to tweak my theory.

What Do Your Pet’s Toys Say About You?

The other day my mom was telling me about which toys her new pup Auggie likes best. “Do you know why I like his toys?” she asked. I guessed durability and cost but my mom just laughed.

Auggie’s (and my mom’s) favorite toys

The soccer ball toy reminded my mom of us kids playing soccer growing up. She’s always loved turtles so she picked that plush toy. My mom has a black and white jacket she likes to wear with a bright green scarf, so when she picked a colored toy for her black and white boy she went straight for green. The black and white lamb was the first toy she bought, before Auggie even came home. It was a cute placeholder to remind her of what was to come.

I like the nostalgia and fun my mom put into toy selection because it’s a peek into who she is and the life she’s lived. That got me thinking about my own choices when I buy toys for Eko. A look into his toybin does show mostly utilitarian toys that have withstood months or years of wear. But that evidence is misleading. My photos show I (shockingly) pick plush toys based on how much they make me smile.

Eko’s first plush toy taught my little Ridgeback to hunt lions

 And a more recent plush toy did hard time with Eko

Eko of course shows no preference when it comes to toys – he’s happy to destroy them all. Yes, I generally pick up whatever is in the discount bin, but if given options I undoubtedly have my own (silly) preferences.

From now on when I visit friends who have pets, I will take a look at what toys are laying around and what that might tell me about that friend.

A favorite color? Style? Animal? What do your pet’s toys say about you?

Pets Make Excellent Lawyers

We have an exciting couple months in front of us, but before we can bring home the new pup, we first have to bring ourselves over to our new home. Alas, before we can do that, we first have to clear out of our old one.

There are a number of points of order to take care of before the move. Normally I would worry about the deadlines and contracts myself but luckily I live with a pup who understands such technicalities better than I ever could.

I may make the law of the land around here, but Eko has mastered the art of legalized insolence. For example, Eko knows it’s against the law to steal from and/or beg at the dinner table, but there is no rule against getting as close to the table as possible and staring intently. Eko also knows eating shoes is illegal, but throwing them around the apartment is fine as long as he leaves no teeth marks.

I recently caught Eko’s law-skirting behavior on camera when contractors stopped by to recarpet the stairs.

Eko really wanted to check out that new-carpet smell, so he reluctantly complied when I told him to stay on the couch

Ever so subtly he slipped his front paws off the cushion. “I’m still on the couch, Will.”

He then scooted himself and the cushion even closer to the carpet. I couldn’t complain, he was technically still on the couch

Eko next stood on his back legs to prepare for the grand finale. A massive stretch forward (while still on the couch of course) to take a deep whiff

Loving that fresh smell

I may make the laws, but I do recognize when I’ve been beaten in court. I told Eko to stay on the couch and he stayed on the couch. Eko, Attorney at Law is a solo practice for now, but I have a feeling he will teach his new associate all the ways to bend the laws around these parts.

Am I the only one being hustled, or does anyone else have a pet who gets off of jail time on technicalities?

Don’t wait for the “right time” to get a pet

Before I got Eko, I cared for another dog named Eko. We also went on adventures, laid on the couch together and took long walks around the neighborhood. The only shortcoming of this Eko was he wasn’t real. He was just an idle daydream my mind would wander to throughout the day.

Just like Eko, I’d lay my head against the couch and dream

“I would love to have a dog,” I’d think. But an inevitable voice of doubt would shatter my musings. “Your apartment is too small for a dog,” it said. “You don’t have a good schedule for a dog,” it admonished. “Just wait for the right time,” it implored.

I relented. I held on tightly to my dream of finding an adventurous pup to be my partner, but whenever I let that dream creep towards action I chided myself for thinking rashly. The time was not right.

There were a few times I thought I saw the right time approaching, only to have life throw a wrench in my plans. I changed cities, I changed jobs and each change pushed me further from that idyllic “right time” when I would have a fenced yard and a schedule perfectly suited to raising a dog.

Frustrated, I decided to think about what I would do if a dog was dropped on my doorstep and I had to take care of him. I worked out a theoretical schedule where I could cover most day-to-day stuff and have a friend/family member/dog walker cover other times. The schedule called for some tight-squeezes and sacrifices on my part, but it was doable.

“Hey, it’s doable!” I realized. But not everything that’s doable should be done. It was certainly not the “right time” I patiently waited for. And I had to admit there were a few question marks about how I would make time to ensure my pup was always well cared for when I had to travel for work.

I thought long and hard about whether I was ready to take on the responsibility of having a pet. I was ready to make the necessary sacrifices, but my circumstances were not what I hoped for. I was just about to once again shelve my dream when a new realization struck.

If you wait, there will never be a right time. There will always be difficulties and challenges in life. The waves never stop rolling in. I realized the “right time” is not something you wait for, it is something you make for yourself when you’re ready. I made the decision to make it the right time. I traded my daydream Eko for a real one and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Holding the daydream in my mind wasn’t nearly as good as holding the real deal in my arms

For the past year, I have carried another daydream with me. She does not have a name, but I know where she belongs. I have once again decided to make right now the right time. This summer Eko gets a little pup-sister!

I have plenty of details to share in the coming weeks, but today I wanted to share this story in hopes of encouraging people to trade in those daydream pets for the real thing. Don’t wait for the right time, make it the right time!

[VIDEO] My Dog, The Realtor

This video was our pièce de résistance for Real Estate Week, but due to technical difficulties it is now a bit late. Nevertheless, our apartment is still on the market and we want to help our landlord find a buyer. So without further adieu, let Chicago’s finest realtor take you a virtual tour of our apartment.

This place is going to be sold in no time!

Note: Thanks to everyone for swinging by the Petcentric.com blog yesterday and leaving feedback. Going to try to get a few issues ironed out and we’ll be good to go. Appreciate the help!

Can you train a dog to fix computers?

My computer has been in the shop the past couple days. When I finally heard back I was told an expensive part and an expensive repair were needed. I expect most people cave and pay, but I expect know most people are smarter than me. I on the other hand decided to buy the part myself and try to repair the computer by myself. Well, not by myself, of course – I had Eko.

“Will, do you know how to repair computers?” you ask. “Do you even understand what you’re supposed to repair?” you wonder. In response I would say, “Hey, you ask a lot of questions.”

I’ve trained Eko to play dead, so I figured I could train him to help repair my computer. 

First, we put on glasses and considered the problem. Studies show glasses make you 46% smarter

Next, we came up with a plan for the repair. I then got all the necessary tools

“Will, from the tools you’ve chosen, it’s clear you have no idea what you’re doing”

As much as I hated to admit it, Eko was right. I really had no idea what I was doing. I then gave Eko my phone and told him to call tech support.

“Will, this is not a phone. This is a banana. And I’m a dog. You’re losing it.”

Unfortunately, it turns out you CANNOT train your dog to fix your computer. What a bummer. However, your dog will watch you slam your head into the table for hours as you try to fix a computer, so there’s that.

It wasn’t pretty and I’ve got a bruised forehead, but I fixed the computer! I don’t have footage of the moment when I pressed the power button and the computer turned on, but it was pretty much exactly like the scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews is dancing around in the mountains.

The computer is allllliiiive, with the sound of the internettttt

We’re back in business, baby! As nice as it is to be plugged in again, I solemnly swear to unplug and enjoy each and every day. If I forget, Eko is always happy to remind me.

ONE LAST THING!: As I’ve mentioned before, I will be transitioning the hosting of this blog over to Petcentric.com. If you could visit this post (http://www.petcentric.com/04-10-2014/can-you-train-a-dog-to-fix-computers) and leave comments on Petcentric is would be a huge help for me.

The comment system is livefyre, a popular cross-platform tool, so some of you may already have an account. Otherwise you can create an account or simply use your existing facebook/twitter/google to connect.

I want to make sure commenting remains easy and the blog looks good, so if you have any issues, criticism or feedback please let me know. Thank you for your help!!

Friend Season is in Full Bloom

Winter is a tough time for a pup to make friends in Chicago. The brutal cold cut short many a trip to the park, and Eko often went long stretches without seeing another dog. But with spring stretching into shape, the world has called for all cooped-up dogs to come out and play.

While Eko got his first taste of spring, a group of dogs came bounding down the beach ramp

Eko turned around to discover the diminutive pups in a massive romp

Eko went to introduce himself, but these fearsome hounds weren’t slowing down for anyone. That suited Eko just fine 

Big or small, spring for all!

One of my favorite things Eko does when running with smaller dogs is that he converts forward momentum into upward momentum so he won’t run too far ahead. The result is big, bounding bounces that crack me up

Eko was so excited to run with new friends that he took off in full zoom-mode and galloped all over the beach.

Happy.

When he’s most excited, Eko actually starts playing fetch with himself, throwing and catching sticks while tearing across the sand

We still have some time before the flowers show up this spring, but I am happy to report Friend Season is in full bloom.

Dinner in the Slow Lane

I’m limping along on an old computer this week, so my digital consumption has significantly slowed down. Digital gorging is no good for me, but I’ve recently been a bit more concerned about Eko’s food gorging.

Every morning Eko gets breakfast from his Kong wobbler. It’s a fun challenge for him and it significantly extends meal time. Until this past week I fed Eko dinner out of a regular bowl, but for some reason he now seems to vacuum the food faster than ever before. Speed eating is never good for dogs, especially larger pups like Eko who are at risk of bloat. I wanted to slow Eko down and add some variety to his routine so I recently purchased a Slo-bowl.

The slobowl (~$13 on Amazon) uses a simple series of ridges to prevent Eko’s usual face-smashing eating style from working

By distributing the kibble between the ridges, the slobowl prevents big gulps and promotes smaller mouthfuls

“Hey Will, this bowl may prevent fast eating, but you prevent ANY eating with all your photos. Can a guy have his dinner now, or what?”

The wobbler is great for breakfast when my downstairs neighbors are out of the house, but I think they would quickly want to strangle me if I let Eko smash the wobbler on their ceiling during dinner. The slobowl offers a quieter alternative for slowing Eko down. I worried Eko might just flip the thing over, but he was too focused on eating to consider that option. The skids on the bottom of the bowl also help keep the bowl in place.

To get at the kibble Eko has to work for it. It’s not as fun as the wobbler, but I like that it’s a different sort of challenge. Luckily the slo(bber)-bowl is easily washed

There is no learning curve and I was happy to see that Eko was not frustrated or upset by the bowl. He was diligent and happy to work for every last kibble

I have only had the slobowl for a week but I consider it a great investment. Eko will continue to use the wobbler for breakfast and the slobowl for dinner.

If your pup is a fast eater, I highly recommend checking out any number of toys/puzzles/bowls designed to slow them down. These options all provide for a healthier and more engaging meal time. Eko is undoubtedly more content after meals now, so as an added bonus, you’ll no longer have your dog vacuum their meal and then immediately look to you for more.

Life Outside the Box

When people speak about living “life outside the box” they are usually speaking about a grand metaphor I’m not smart enough to understand. But for me, today, the term is much more prosaic. The “box” I’m speaking of is my computer, which ever-so-kindly decided not to turn on Friday morning.

I stared dumbly at the blank screen. “My entire life is on this computer!” I protested, hoping the computer might feel sorry for me. “Now what am I supposed to do!?” I demanded. For several frustrating hours I troubleshooted the problem to no avail before bringing it to the shop where I’m hopeful for a full recovery.

Until then, I’m running off of my old laptop which has just enough juice to let me take care of essential tasks, but not enough to let procrastinate the day away. It has been a frustrating few days, but it has also been a nice reminder that life is what happens when I’m not on my computer.

Now this is living!

I work from home, so I spend a large part of my day in the same place staring at the same spot. Who knows what Eko thinks about this bizarre ritual of mine, but I am certainly glad he only tolerates the practice for so long. He is my perpetual reminder to leave the digital world and embrace the real one.

On Friday, with my desktop out of commission and my laptop not yet up and running, Eko and I enjoyed a long walk  through the neighborhood. I pushed deadlines, duties and all things computer from my mind. As we sat down for lunch, I thought only of enjoying my time outside. Eko similarly had a one track mind.

“Oh look, the table is perfect height for me!”

He really turned on the puppy dog eyes when the pizza showed up

“No Will, but seriously. Let me get a slice of pizza”

I have a new video, new photos and plenty of other good stuff to share once the desktop is up and running again, but this week may be a bit of a digital patch-work. The good news is that it leaves plenty of time to head out and find new adventures.

So next time your pet is bugging you while you’re on the computer, remember to thank them for reminding you what’s important in life!