Thursday, October 30, 2014

Flying With FIDO: Tips for Traveling with a Finicky Pet

All dogs and kitties aboard....My Frenchie Bleu has never been out of the state of California. He’s not what you call well-traveled, cultured, or worldly. The furthest he’s been is Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and Palm Springs. So when I decided to make a trip back east, I knew it would be a task to say the least to lug my 30 pound brindled bulldog 3,000 miles from San Diego, California to Wilmington, Delaware. He’s not the easiest, most docile creature. He is a bit neurotic and doesn’t like change. If he could read, I’d buy him the book, Who Moved My Cheese? and rename it Who Moved My MilkBone? So if you are thinking about traveling with your pet this upcoming holiday season, here are some tips to keep in mind before you and your furry friend step on board for your flight.

  • Make sure you get your pet acclimated to an airline-approved pet carrier prior to going on your journey. Bleu doesn’t like to be confined. Call him claustrophobic, or perhaps he just likes his freedom, but the second I tried to place him in his new pet carrier, he had a fit. I had tried another carrier at Target, but it was too dark in there for the poor guy, and no amount of cucumbers or blueberries or toys was going to get him in there. So I stuck with the one we had: a mesh tote I had from Petco that zipped up at the top.
  • Clear your travel plans with your vet. Make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel with you and is up to date on all of his shots. If he requires any medications, make sure they are filled and bring them with you. Also be sure to locate a vet nearby wherever you are vacationing in case an emergency should occur. Because Bleu is a bit of a basket case, I had doggy valium on hand for our trip. The 20 mgs should have been enough to knock out a football player, but it didn't do a thing for Bleu. While it should have easily sedated and relaxed him, Bleu spazzed out for the entire six-hour flight. 
  • Bring plenty of treats and bottled water. Especially for anxious doggies like Bleu, it’s imperative to provide them with positive reinforcement. Because my special dog is on a restrictive, hypo-allergenic diet, I can't feed him regular treats. Instead, he gets sliced cucumbers and blueberries, which makes it a little bit harder to carry treats around because they have to stay cold. But for most dog owners, keeping simple and tasty treats around in your carry-on is easy and helpful for your travel buddy. 
  • Purchase a travel-size mesh water bowl to keep your pooch hydrated. At the airport, buy a water bottle,  for your pet prior to boarding so you have it on hand. You can also use the water bottle as a toy if your dog likes to chew on the water bottle. Bleu likes the crunchy noise of the water bottle, but be careful to take the cap off and monitor your dog with plastic. 
  • Bring your pet's favorite toy on board with him/her so he feels more comfortable. Bleu has a stress ball he likes to chomp on while most pets prefer a rawhide. Avoid bringing anything that squeeks too loud that would disturb your fellow passengers. 
  • Be respectful of your travel companions. Thankfully, my traveling neighbors were very kind and courteous, accommodating my neurotic and antsy dog. While Bleu did not bark or make a peep the entire time, he would not sit still. He was like a Mexican jumping bean.
I apologized profusely to my travel companions, but they did not seem to mind. In fact, they seemed happy to have a pretty pet on board to entertain them for a six hour flight to Philly. My seat mate offered to hold my pet carrier for me. For about ten minutes, Bleu even dosed off on his tray table, drool dripping on his paper napkin. But as soon as I got up, he began his sporadic movements again, like a possessed puppy. I felt terrible for him, but there was nothing we could do, but endure the long journey together.

Perhaps it was the confinement, or the air pressure, or the new experience of flying, or a combination of all three, but one thing I learned is that you have to acclimate your dog to new experiences, and flying can be terrifying to a dog like Bleu who has never done it before. I don’t think Bleu will become a frequent flyer anytime soon, but equipped with these tools, your pet will fly a lot easier, and it will be less stressful for you, the passengers on board, and your lucky dog who gets to vacation with you. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Single Dog Mom Diaries

Last night, I was up until midnight chopping and pureeing produce for my French Bulldog Bleu so that he could have home-cooked food for the week. I tried to make the labor-intensive kitchen extravaganza more enjoyable by throwing on a Netflix movie while doing it, but I kept worrying about chopping off a finger every time I took my eyes away from the carrots and looked at my TV screen. Bleu, however, parked his butt right next to my feet and looked up at me with expecting eyes. “When will it be ready?” his repeated glances demanded. The thick mucousy drool hanging from the left corner of his mouth was also making me edgy as I diced his yellow organic squash. As minutes turned into hours, an entire puddle of dog drool formed on my kitchen tile. But Bleu didn’t care. All he wanted was a second dinner.

Now that I cook for my dog, he’s turned into a food fanatic and snob. Every time I open the refrigerator, or a kitchen cabinet, turn on a burner or open up a container, Bleu thinks it’s for him. It’s as if no one else in the household, or the world, for that matter, should consume human food before he’s satiated. And when I have the audacity to cook myself a nice dinner, and sit down to my Japanese-style dining set, Bleu is lurking close by. After a long, hard day at my advertising agency job, I want to sit Indian-style on my over-priced Crate and Barrel floor pillows and eat off my World Market coffee table in peace, but Bleu also wants to help consume my cuisine. Since I’m vegan, almost everything I eat he can also eat (except, there are certain vegan foods, like avocados and macadamian nuts that are harmful to dogs). He slurps fresh spinach from my plate, and instead of scolding him, I let him have it because 1) I think it’s cute that he’s stealing an antioxidant-rich leafy green veggie off of my plate, 2) it’s good for him, and I like to share.

Finally, finished with chopping, pureeing and dumping his mixture of freshly cooked broccoli, parsnips, sweet potatoes into the crockpot, I set my alarm for 6 a.m so I can finish the ordeal and still have time for a run before work. In the morning, I transfer his veggies to a heavy-duty cavernous pan, and sautee the meat: ground turkey and bison. Then, I add that mixture to the pot with calcium citrate and a pound of fresh spinach or other leafy greens, whatever I think Bleu is in the mood for. I transfer the mushy mess into mason jars and freeze Bleu’s food, taking out each jar, thawing it out in the fridge, as needed for the day. With home-cooked food, dogs have to eat more of it, which means you will have to feed and cook a lot. I feed Bleu, who is 27 pounds, lean and probably has almost no body, 4 cups of food a day.

I know if I didn’t have a French Bulldog with severe food allergies and health problems I would have a lot of free time and money on my hands, but I remind myself that this is what pet parents do, make sacrifices for the ones we love: our little fur kids.

I’ve canceled dates with handsome men because I have to cook for my dog.

I’ve turned down yacht parties because Bleu has a San Diego French Bulldog yappy hour to attend.

I could have owned a home by now, but instead, I own a husky Frenchie.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Vindictive Reindeer

“Do you normally dress up your dog?” My friend Dan asks me.
“Unfortunately, Bleu can get temperamental and vindictive with clothing on,” I reply.
I wish he was one of those careless dogs that let me throw on tight-fitted San Diego Chargers jerseys during football season and ugly Christmas sweaters during the holiday season. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on clothing for him, but, I have learned the hard way that Bleu has a mind of his own when I put any garment on his bully back.

It was a cool Black Friday night in November, and my friend Shelli and I decided to go out for yappy hour with our dogs to La Puesto. I was looking forward to spending my Saturday evening at the newest Mexican hot spot at the Headquarters in downtown San Diego— a spacious, outdoor area with heat lamps for wimpy San Diegans, loungy, comfortable patio furniture, killer margaritas, and delectable tacos (my favorite is the vegan cactus taco). BUT, Bleu had other plans for that evening. I had just purchased him a new doggy jacket for our wicked San Diego winter: a bright blue zip-up hoodie from American Apparel; I thought it would accentuate his blue/blonde brindle coat. Instead of shopping for others on Black Friday, I was shopping for my dog of course. That’s what pet parents do.

I decided, in order to get him used to his hoodie, I would put it on him before we went out while I was showering. Bad idea. It was unusually quiet in my one bedroom condo as I lathered overpriced Aveda shampoo in my long dark hair. Why hadn’t Bleu peaked his head into the shower like a peeping Tom like he normally does? I like to crouch down and kiss his nose when he peeks his head in, and then he'll leave satisfied knowing he's still the center of attention, and waits for me on the bath mat until I get out. But this time, there was not sign of Bleu. When I finished my shower, I felt fresh, relaxed, and ready for a fun night out with drinks, good food, and puppy play time. But instead, the scene that unfolded before my eyes would make anyone lose their lunch. The first thing I noticed was Bleu’s new jacket, crumbled up, laying languidly next to the bathtub with brown spots. He somehow managed to wiggle his way out of it and pull it off of himself, with amazing bulldog abilities. I was kind of impressed. But then I saw it. Diarrhea. And lots of it . I was not impressed. I was disgusted. It was smeared everywhere. All over my bedroom and living room walls, rugs, hardwood floor, up his doggy stairs, and onto my bed.

“Bleu! What have you done?!” I exclaimed.

He just looked at me like: “You know this your fault for putting that ostentatious costume on me. I won’t be caught dead in that silly thing in public mom.”

I had to call Shelli and tell her I would be spending the next hour or two cleaning up Bleu's excrement on my hands and knees. She didn’t really understand, and I think she thought I was lying to get out of happy hour. I scrubbed frantically with paper towels and soap and water like Cinderella while Bleu watched me condescendingly from the bed, curled up like a king from his thrown. “That’s what you deserve,” he was saying with his big blue accusatory eyes.

I finished cleaning up his sh*t show earlier than expected and called Shelli to tell her yappy hour was still on, although I kind of lost my appetite and just wanted tequila now, and lots of it, thanks to my loose-stooled asinine canine.

To punish him, I put his jacket back on his, slapped on doggy reindeer ears Petco was handing out for free with purchase that day and made him wear them throughout the night. He was not amused. But almost everyone at the restaurant was and stopped to tell me “how cute” my little doggy reindeer was. If they only knew the truth…

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What is ‘Business Casual’ For a Dog?

Instead of shopping for my own new business clothes, I find myself on browsing bulldog bowties for my fur baby.  I just landed a new job as a Senior Writer at an advertising agency in downtown San Diego, and my dog needs a new outfit because he gets to come to work with me once in awhile. Bleu needs to look sharp. Crisp. Savvy. Creative. Sophisticated. Your dog is a reflection of you. I’ve never worked in a dog-friendly work environment, and I am excited to see how the mood of the office may change with my furry friend around, and if other people bring their pup to work too.

I am in preliminary discussions with my dog about the new gig. I have already let him know sternly that he finally needs to start pulling his weight around this Little Italy condo. No more coasting. No more sleeping in and sleeping allllll daaay looong. It’s time he starts doing something more productive with his life, like inspire me to write better ad campaigns for big pharmaceutical companies. He’s been free-loading off me now for three years. Free food. Free home and board. I’ve spoiled him rotten with treats, toys, daycare, home cooked meals, and he’s done nothing but drain my bank account. Well that, and put a smile on my face every damn day I get home.

The human resources lady at my new job has warned me of a few rules at the agency. She said that my dog has to be “well-behaved” (that’s a pretty open-ended adjective I must say). It starts to make me wonder if any Frenchies are well-behaved? Or if this breed is universally pompous, arrogant, and stubborn like little Bleucifer? His excuse is that he’s French so he’s allowed to be. If anyone feels “threatened” by him,  the HR lady continues, I have to bring him home. The only person who may feel threatened by Bleu in the office are vegetarians. Watch out for your vegetables healthy coworkers at lunchtime. Bleu is a sucker for leafy greens and also blueberries. She also said if he has any “accidents at the office, he will not be welcome back.” I look sternly at Bleu and his weak little bladder. Hmmm….he pees more frequently than a 5-year-old girl. We will have to make sure to take ample potty breaks to relieve his urine outside on the grass rather than inside on the agency's honey-hardwood floors.

I'm curious if any other pet parents out there can bring your dog to work. What's it like?

Let’s get to work!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dog TV Live Interview

Does Your Dog Like to Watch TV? He will now with this new channel dedicated exclusively for him, with content designed for his viewing pleasure. The color is scientifically modified to accomodate a dog's eyesight. He will wimper and wine in enjoyment!

I recently did a live interview with HuffPost Live about DogTV, the new television channel for dogs. Check it out!

DogTV Interview