Shout Out for Amy

The other day a post popped up on my Facebook feed from Heartland Animal Shelter.  This isn’t unusual, as they are active in social media, but the post was a flyer for a fundraiser in memory of Amy Thier, founder of Splash Dog.  My mother, Kay, used to take our late dog, Shadow, to Splash Dog in his senior years and it was great for his arthritis.  I wrote about them when Gibbs went for a visit a couple of years ago.

I hadn’t known Amy well and hadn’t even heard that she died, but she was active in the local rescue community.  I decided the least I could do was show up at the fundraiser yesterday and plug our common causes today:

Heartland was founded by a veterinarian and the facility is adjacent to his practice in Northbrook.  They are very active in the community, with volunteers bringing adoptable animals out to meet potential forever families in the neighborhood almost every weekend.  The next event listed on their website is Portraits with Santa Paws on December 7 from noon to 3pm.  I am considering taking Fiona, as you know she photographs beautifully.  (This is from a similar fundraiser a couple of years ago for a different rescue.)


The Puppy Mill Project serves the rescue community by educating the public about and actively protesting against puppy mills.  In particular, they shine a light on the connection between pet store puppies and the horrible industry that mass produces them.  Besides the cruelty to the breeding dogs, the puppies that come from these conditions are notorious for coming with major health issues.  It is so bad that the state of Illinois literally has a Puppy Lemon Law.  They do not have any upcoming events listed on their page, but I am sure donations would be welcome on their website.

Finally, both Amy and I adopted from Wright-Way Rescue.  You might remember reading about a bus crashing into their old facility (no people or pets were hurt), and they have recently re-opened in Morton Grove.  Wright-Way has an interesting “business model” for their work – they take in pregnant mama dogs and the litters of puppies that are dumped in county shelters.  Gibbs was one of a litter of eight.  Wright-Way maintains a page of Facebook for people to hook up with the families of other adopters, which led to Gibbs having a play date with his brother, Kermit:


and Kermit


I don’t see any upcoming events listed, but I did find that they are now doing kids’ birthday parties.  Education, celebration, support rescue work!  I hope this catches on.  Also, I have a fundraising project for Wright-Way on Crowdrise that you can find here.

Rest in Peace, Amy.  We will do our best to continue your work.



A Working Dog

I believe I have mentioned that Fiona is a very well-behaved dog in public and a holy terror at home.  And sometimes at the dog park.  I have long suspected that she needs a job.  One day, as I was telling this to Kelly at Doggie Do Rite, Kelly told me about a lady across the border in Wisconsin that runs a farm to train herding dogs.  She suggested that I take Fiona up to try it out.

Magic’s Legacy is run by Shannon Wolfe, who trains herding dogs for fun, for sport and for actual working farms.  For a fee of $65 she will perform an “instinct test”, in which she takes your dog in with a small herd of animals to see whether the dog has the stuff.  If the instinct isn’t there, you can’t teach the dog the skills.  But if the dog wants to herd, they are likely to learn the commands and the signals and how to work as a team with the handler.

I traded several emails with Shannon to make sure we followed all of the rules and made an appointment.  She didn’t ask for vet records, but I seem to recall a requirement that the dogs have the proper vaccinations.  She also requires a regular leash – as opposed to those stupid retractable ones that everyone should know by now are dangerous – and a collar that buckles rather than snaps, which Fiona has.

The car ride was a long hour, but Fiona did very well.  When we arrived, she mostly wanted to sniff everything, so it was a good thing that Shannon was running behind schedule.  By the time it was her turn, Fiona was comfortable in her surroundings.

ML - Waiting her turn

Waiting Her Turn


Before taking her in, Shannon had me watch her dog for a few minutes to see what it should  look like.  Then she took three sheep into a smaller pen and led Fiona in with them.  Her responses were all good, so Shannon took her off the leash.  And there she was.

ML 2

In action.

ML 3

With Shannon – she’s got it!

I walked over to get a closer look – and take pictures – when Fiona spotted me and broke away.  Walked right over and ignored the sheep.  I was very embarrassed and stepped back out of her view.  She went right back to work.  Then Shannon brought me in the pen with them.  I could barely watch my dog because my job was to stay behind Shannon and not get knocked over by a sheep.  But I could tell by the movement that she was good.  And then we got our certificate:

Her assessment says that she shows “gathering” rather than “driving” instinct.  She was forceful without excessive aggression and worked silently.  (My mother laughed her head off at that one.)  Also, despite my interruption, she “appears readily adjusted” rather than “easily distracted”.  Awesome.  She passed.

ML Certificate


So are we going to start lessons?  Maybe.  Shannon said that Magic’s Legacy will take amateurs like us who are just there to have fun.  But besides the long drive, it is clear that I would need much more training than Fiona.  It might be worth the effort just to watch her go.

Bird Toys

There’s this toy that Kiwi really likes.

Mostly cardboard with some wood pieces, held together by a soft cotton rope.  Retails for $25.  For as long as it lasts her, that isn’t too bad.  However, you will notice that she is really only interested in the cardboard.  So the last time I ordered bird stuff from I found the replacement pieces and they were pretty cheap for bird toys so I bought them and restrung the rope:

Bird Toy1

Great.  She will be very happy.   I removed the wooden pieces and will take them to the Refuge for to make toys for the birds that need wood to shred.

Then I thought about the cardboard replacement pieces.  And how many, many empty boxes we have lying around.  How I could cut them up and punch some holes and make the things for free.

And it just seemed like too much work.

So for anyone in my family (read as:  my brother, Scott) who complains that I am an impossible person to gift, there it is.  Make me these. (Sunglasses pictured for perspective.)

Bird Toy2

Obviously, the corners don’t have to be rounded but the hole should be big enough to string them on something rope-like.  And the box should be plain brown with no chemicals or adhesives.

I’m Never Filming at the Right Time

IMG_0804Before dinner, I had just put the birds back in their room and we were in the kitchen with the dogs. There is a baby gate between the two rooms. Kiwi the Grey started swinging from her rope toy, ringing the bell. Fiona the Crazy Herding Dog jumped up on the baby gate and bark/whined at her.

Kay: Fiona, Kiwi is just teasing you again. You have to learn to ignore her.
Me: You can’t rationalize with a dog. Give her a command.
Kay: I can rationalize with the dog. I can’t rationalize with Kiwi.
Kiwi: WHAT?!?!?!
Me: (laughing)
Kay: Kiwi, are you getting sassy?
Kiwi: You’re all done.
Me: (laughing harder)
Kay: Is that her entire repertoire?
Me: She just went three rounds with you. In context!
Kay: (Sighs) Fiona, go now.
Kiwi: Come on, Shadow!

OK, Shadow was the name of the last dog and Kiwi hasn’t learned to say Fiona’s name or Gibbs’. But that last part – giving the dog the opposite command as my mother’s – was also in context.

I freakin’ love that bird.

Orphans of the Storm – 2013 Pooch Parade

Due to The Incident, I had to cancel a trip to St Louis with my nephew.  So I was available for yesterday’s Pooch Parade, and my doctor cleared me for it.  This was the 7th Annual 2-Mile Walk to raise funds for Orphans of the Storm, the no-kill shelter where I adopted the Late Great Dallas.  Fiona and I participated last year, and had a great time.

There was a set up in the picnic area with breakfast and lots of raffle prizes.  Fiona kept steering me in there, scavenging for dropped pieces of bagel.

Main Event


We met several dogs available for adoption.  The volunteers were calling this one Half-Pint, but I am not sure that is the real name.  Very friendly dog, happy to meet people and other pets:



This is Kelly.  We were walking with her for a while and she didn’t seem to be pulling on the leash.  And right after we took this pic, she lay down for belly rubs:



The GSD in front is not available for adoption (I took the pic because Fiona has a thing for GSDs) but Emiilio, standing behind, is available:

Emilio and GSD


Sonny has a bit of a sad story, according to the Facebook page – he was adopted from Orphans, then his person lost him.  Five months later, he was found, but his person had gotten a new dog and couldn’t take him back!  So Orphans is going to find his real forever home:


Coopers Way, a dog treat company in Glenview, had a table selling all-natural jerky treats.  50% of the proceeds went to Orphans, so we went in for a bag:

Coopers Way


By the time we finished the walk, Fiona was good and ready to leave, so we called it a day.  Orphans did not have a final count on the fundraising, but they were already very pleased with the turnout.  It was a beautiful day for it!

I Went to the Chicagoland Pet Expo and Didn’t Take Any Pictures

Which makes me extremely lame.  However, the show has become less interesting to me since:

  1. I am not in the market for a new pet.  For like, the next decade or so.
  2. Many of the groups I enjoyed visiting were not present.

Of the five charity walks Fiona and I did last year, only two groups – Secondhand Snoots and the Puppy Mill Project – were there.  You might recall that I actually met Fiona at the expo last year, with her rescue Fresh Start.  They were not participating, either.  The Refuge was there, along with a few other groups in my Facebook network.

I didn’t stay for the events.  I just made some rounds, entered some fundraising raffles and made my way out.  But just to be posting some pictures:

Fiona, when I met her.  This is the picture I sent to my mother.  After a couple of texts, she told me to come home, get online and apply for her right away.

Meeting Fiona

And Fiona’s Christmas portrait, 2012 – courtesy of Sisterazzi Photography


Dog Update

When it has been so long since you’ve written that you forgot what you meant to say.  So I will start with the dogs.

Gibbs had kennel cough, which was a nightmare because he couldn’t go to doggie day care for two weeks.  And if he doesn’t go, Fiona doesn’t go.  Do you know what it looks like when Fiona doesn’t get enough exercise?  It looks like there are holes being dug in my backyard.

Also, Gibbs continues to have tummy trouble.  We have ruled out lots of bad stuff and are changing his diet.  He was on California Naturals Chicken and Rice, which is supposed to be really easily digestible, so if that isn’t working, we need to try a different protein.  I like the California Naturals brand, so we are trying him on the Salmon and Peas variety.  We took..I don’t know, a week, to transition him over.  Last night, shortly before dinner, he vomited his breakfast.  Beh.  The vet wasn’t terribly worried, so we are giving it one more go.

In more pleasant doggie news, Sisterrazzi Photography  was at Wags on Willow last weekend and took some portraits.  Fiona does much better with this than Gibbs, but:


Fiona is now featured on their Facebook page twice.  She would not appreciate the more recent pic.