Archive for the ‘A Day in the Life of a Dog’ Category

The life of Riley, that’s literally and figuratively what my dog leads. Luckily for him, he was adopted by a dog loving family with the time and the means to give him a wonderful life. Far too many shelter dogs aren’t so lucky. In fact, too many dogs in “good homes” are still treated as property, and not as the as living, feeling, wonderful creatures that they are.

It’s a commitment to have a dog in your life, but just what does it take to make a good life for your dog? They need exercise, a decent diet, good veterinary care, things to do to keep them from getting bored and above all, as much love as you can give them.

So much of my daily routine revolves around Riley, and vice versa. My day starts a bit earlier than his. Although I would love to, I can’t afford to embrace his penchant for occasionally sleeping until noon. Most days, I’ve already been working in Tiny Growl’s home office for a couple of hours before he emerges yawing from the bedroom. He’ll walk into the room, stretching as he goes and I’ll let him out to start his day.


11am: First kitty watch


His first job is to sniff around our patio to see if the neighbor’s cat spent the night on the loveseat again. Next, it’s on to inspect those spots that the raccoons have been known to frequent. Once those areas are secured, he flies down to the lower yard for a thorough sniff and check. After a while, I will hear the sound of his doorbell, an assume that all of his business is done and he’s ready for breakfast.

Riley is not one of those dogs who eats quickly. In fact, his eating habits could fill an entire blog, so I’ll save that for another day. After breakfast, he always gets a burst of energy and wherever I am, I can hear him fishing around in his toy bag, which makes a loud crinkly sound, as he looks for just the right toy to present to me. We usually run around the house for a bit playing keep away, and then he’s ready for his post-meal nap, while I get back to work.

The rest of his day follows its routine of naps, punctuated by intervals of kitty and squirrel watch, trips to the yard, barking to warn me of the imminent dangers of cars coming down the driveway and the worst of all possible interlopers, the UPS or Fedex truck!


Riley and Bailey



Riley and Sydney: What's she doing on my bed?"


Many days, Riley will have a visit from either his fiance´ Sydney, his god-daughter Bailey (Syd’s new little sister), or both. When the girls are here, the three of them have their own routines. As for me, on a rainy Seattle day, it’s hard to get a lot of work done, when I have to wipe 12 muddy paws every half-hour or so.

On days without the girls, if I’m caught up in my work, Riley will quietly woof to remind me that it’s time for our walk. Sometimes we walk in the hood, but if I feel the need, we will head to one of our favorite parks for a good long hike.

By the time we get back, Riley is ready for dinner, and I’m thinking about my first glass of wine. After dinner, it’s time for another round of games, or Riley will find one of his puzzle treat balls and quite literally chuck it at me. I may fill it once with a few treats, but he’s too good at getting them out, so I sometimes give him a homemade puzzle, which consists of a treat inside a box or a paper tube that is destined for the recycle bin. He loves to figure out the best way to tear into the paper to find his reward.

After a movie and some couch potato time for us, it’s time for “last outs” and bed. I have to admit, that while Riley has a wonderfully comfortable bed of his own, when usually chooses to sleep with me. Since my significant other is on the road quite a bit, having Riley next to me snoring away is comforting, not to mention, he makes a really good bed warmer. Most nights, he drifts off to sleep and dreams – making little growls and soft barking sounds, kicking his legs as he chases and actually catches those rotten squirrels who will, without a doubt, be back again to taunt him tomorrow.

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I haven’t been very good about keeping up with my blog lately. I know I should be more consistent, but I’ve been really busy trying to organize the Seattle 2 Million Dogs Inaugural Puppy Up! Walk that ‘s coming up on November 7th.  This means that all sorts of things  had to be placed on the back burner, including my business, Tiny Growl.  But that’s OK, since a big part of starting my company was to establish a means to allow me to be able to donate to animal welfare charities.

My good boy, Riley

One thing that I never ignore, is my Dog Riley. He keeps me sane, he keeps me exercised, he gives me unconditional love and he makes me happy, even on gloomy grey and rainy Seattle days. He always lets me know when it’s time to get away from the computer and take him for his walk. Even if I’m not paying attention to the time, he is. At some point in the afternoon, he will turn up by my side and quietly “woof” until I realize that somehow, I’ve been sitting in the same spot for hours and it’s already past 3PM.

Aside from being a “glass half full” kind of person (I work at being better, but it’s hard to fight what’s in your genes) I’m also a little bit superstitious, in completely random ways. For instance, Riley has a couple fatty lumps that he’s developed in his 8-something years. They aren’t even visible, but I know where they are, and so does his vet.  They are nothing serious, and pretty common in dogs ‘of a certain age’. But last week, when I took him to the vet to check out a new lump about the size of a grape that I found at the top of his front leg, I had to wonder if this one would be different, since I had immersed myself into the world of canine cancer research. Crazy thinking, right? Maybe so.

Well, the vet thought that since this lump didn’t feel quite the same as the others, he should do a needle aspiration to check it out. He told me that he didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but just to be sure he would look at it in his lab. So, I got back to work and tried to put it out of my mind. Yeah, right. But somehow I made it through to the next day. When the vet eventually called with the results, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. Apparently, he had found some “extra cellular material” in with the fat, and wanted to send the sample to an outside lab with a little more expertise. Again, he told me he still didn’t think it was anything to worry about. Ok, sure.

Needless to say, the next 24 hours were really rough for me. It’s hard enough watching my wonderful dog slow down and turn grey in the face, but the idea of a serious illness wasn’t something that I felt I was ready to hear just at the moment. Thankfully however, the second test came back negative and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I put my work on hold for a few hours and took Riley for a nice long walk on the beach.

My hero, the handsome Murphy

We were lucky this time. Many thousands of dogs and people are not so lucky everyday. Luke Robinson’s walk from Austin to Boston was inspired by the loss of his dog Malcolm to metastatic bone cancer. In a painfully ironic twist, after walking 2300 miles, the handsome Murphy has been diagnosed with adenocarcinoma.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve entered a new century with the scourge of cancer still lurking in the shadows. With that in mind, I’m happy to dedicate the next five weeks of my life to trying to raise awareness about canine cancer and comparative oncology research as the City Leader of the 2 Million Dogs Puppy Up! Walk for the city of Seattle. If you can’t find a walk this year in a city near you, you can still donate on the 2 Million Dogs website, or though Tiny Growl’s 2MD fundraising page on the Seattle Walk site. Thank you and Puppy Up!

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When your dog is young – full of boundless energy, no sign of grey in the muzzle – you probably don’t spend too much time worrying about the inevitable. I clearly remember the day a few years back, when Riley was snoozing on the couch as I scratched him behind the ears. I was wondering how it could be possible to love that sweet creature any more than I already did, when it suddenly struck me that even if he lived to a ripe old age, our time together was limited and precious. It was then that I began to think that living with a dog that you loved so much was comparable to having a child with a terminal illness, especially for those of us with no children of our own.

But what if your dog really did have a terminal illness? Luke Robinson is one of among the thousands of dog guardians who has had the misfortune of knowing what that feels like.

Luke with Hudson and Murphy

In 2006, his boy Malcolm, a beautiful big Great Pyrenees, was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer, a horribly aggressive disease which generally involves amputation as a treatment, but not a cure.

Larger breeds seem to be most susceptible, and since Great Pyrenees are one of the breeds effected, Malcolm was at risk from the day he was born. After losing Malcolm, Luke set out on a quest to raise awareness about canine cancer and walked from Austin, Texas to Boston Massachusetts with his two dogs Hudson and Murphy. It took him 2 years and over 2000 miles, but they arrived in June to much fanfare and certainly brought a lot of attention to his cause. In an incredibly cruel twist of fate, after reaching Boston, Murphy was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma, and he is currently showing the outward signs of the radiation treatments he finished in August.

My Boy Riley

The motto here at Tiny Growl is “Quietly Making A Difference”. My muse and the originator of the tiny growl is my dog Riley. His face is the face on my logo and his funny little trick, his incredibly quiet “tiny growl”, became the name of my company, and the inspiration behind my slogan “Quietly Making a Difference”.

When I launched my business, I wanted to make a positive difference – quietly or otherwise – and since I’m a very small company, I felt that I could make a tiny bit of difference to the lives of dogs in need by donating a portion from every sale of my ScooPup Pockets to  charities that I support.*

For the next few weeks, I’m going to put my day-to-day activities here in the tinyTiny Growl office on the back burner, but not my mission. From now until November 7th, I’m putting all of my energy behind Luke’s cause, 2 Million Dogs, and will be spending most of my time organizing the Seattle 2 Million Dogs Puppy Up! Walk. Walks will be taking place in cities all across the country and funds raised by the walkers will be used for canine comparative oncology research. This important work will not only benefits dogs, but people as well.

Luke, Hudson and Murphy on the road to Boston

We are asking people to pledge to walk 2 miles with their dogs on November 7th. Visit www.2milliondogs.org to see if your city will be participating. (If not this year, think about joining us by organizing a walk in your town next year.)

So please spread the word and help us to make a difference, quietly or otherwise, all across the country.

*From now through the end of our 1-Year Anniversary Sale, Tiny Growl will donate $1 from every ScooPup Pocket sold to 2  Million Dogs.

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Riley and camp friend "Koda" at play.

Our vacation is now just a pleasant memory. And as we are all back home, it’s back to work for me.  We had a wonderful time at the beach and Riley had a wonderful time at Roscoe’s Ranch. He got great care, lots of exercise and even seems to have gained a couple of pounds from their wonderful home-cooked meals.


We had been aware that Roscoe, the inspiration behind the ranch, had been battling insulinomas for a while. So, when we inquired about how he was doing, we were shocked and saddened to learn that he had passed away that very day.

Hanging out on the ranch house porch.

Ranch owners and Roscoe’s guardians, Guy and Rena, adopted their boy from PAWS, a nonprofit pet shelter and wildlife rehabilitation organization.

Roscoe was the inspiration for their decision to donate a portion of their proceeds back to PAWS. They “estimate that at minimum Roscoe was responsible for feeding every dog and cat in the PAWS shelter for over a year and a half!” Good boy, Roscoe.

After leaving Riley in good hands, we headed to the airport for our overnight flight to Boston, which included a stop-over in Detroit. It seems to me that more and more people are traveling with their small dogs these days. Since most airlines allow dogs in travel kennels to ride in the cabin, it makes more sense to me than treating them as baggage. As much as I would love to travel with Riley, I would never subject him to riding in the cargo hold of any jet. I have heard too many horror stories.

Unfortunately, our connecting flight was cancelled and we weren’t able to fly out until later that day. While we were hanging around Detroit International Airport, I noticed a very sweet service dog named Lakota, patiently waiting with her guardian, who happened to be in a wheelchair. Lakota seemed to be handling the wait better than most of the people there, by snoozing away her wait. I don’t know what eventually happened to Lakota and her mom, but I do know that Detroit’s airport is not one of the pet-friendly airports listed on petfriendlytravel.com as having a “pet relief” area. I do hope they made it to their destination without too much of a struggle.

Ollie at 1 year

Ollie at 8 weeks

When we finally arrived at my sister’s house, we were greeted by my “nephew” Ollie, who I hadn’t seen since he was eight weeks old. My sister had lost her beloved Pembroke “Ajax” just last year and had decided to bring a Cardigan Corgi into the house. I tried to convince her to adopt a shelter dog, but her mind was made up. So made up in fact, that she traveled all the way to Washington State to get Ollie from a very reputable breeder right here on Vashon Island.

Ollie is a very sweet dog who has a tendency to turn into “Fang” – a crazy Corgi with a silly cartoon voice – from time to time. He is ball obsessed, tends to herd children and likes to bonk you in the face with his pointy nose. It was great to have Ollie around while we missed Riley so much, but it was good to be home again. Unfortunately, right this moment, as I sit in front of this computer, it somehow feels as if I never left.

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Today’s blog post is going to be rather brief, as we are all recovering from a big party here this weekend.  Even Riley is a bit tired and his stomach is still growling from all of the snacks he managed to beg off of the guests.  I cringe when I think about what he might have wolfed down on Saturday. Dogs with big brown eyes always seem to elicit the sympathy of whomever they pick as an easy mark.

Who owns who?

This past year, I’ve found that starting a pet product business has been a great way to learn all sorts of things that I never knew, or never thought much about. Not just about dogs, dog poop, dog behavior, etc., but about the human perception of dogs as pets. For instance, it never dawned upon me that calling myself a “dog owner” is considered a derogatory term by lots of dog lovers.  I balked at this at first, but upon reflection, I guess I have to agree. Obviously, I “own” Riley, as he is my dog.  The important thing is, I don’t think of him as my possession, and that makes all the difference.

I’m writing today to ask you to think about a better word that we might use to describe our relationship with our pets. Lots of people, myself included, tend to refer to their dogs and cats their “boy” or their “girl”, as if they were a son or daughter.

Sure, many of us call ourselves “Moms” and “Dads” when speaking of our connection with our pets, and it makes sense.  After all, we give them a home, feed them, protect them, give them love. I don’t have any fur-less children, but I can’t imagine that I would treat my own child any differently than I treat my boy Riley.

I like to think of myself as Riley’s guardian, rather than his owner. He is also my friend and companion, my source of constant worry and constant happiness.

So, I’m posting this blog to see what you think of the word guardian, in reference to our furry children. Any comments? All I really know is, I belong to Riley and that’s forever.

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WWI Ambulance dogs were used to search for the wounded on the battlefield.

Dogs have a long history of going to war, but in our own history, there was little use for them before the early 20th Century. Germany, France, and Belgium all made use of dogs in WWI and The Red Cross used dogs in the First World War as service dogs to find casualties and carry messages and medical supplies.

The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps began the first war dog training for American forces during World War II, training almost 10,000 war dogs for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Seven War Dog platoons served in the European theater and eight in the Pacific.

While German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers were used for their superior sense of smell, Doberman Pinschers, who were used extensively by the Germans in WWI, became popular working dogs for our troups. At that time, the United States Marines were so impressed by the Doberman’s service that they made the Doberman Pinscher their official mascot.

The War Dog Memorial on Guam shows the names of 25 Dobermans who gave their lives, including a life-sized bronze and granite statue of Kurt, a Doberman who saved the lives of 250 Marines by warning them of approaching Japaneese troops. An exact replica was donated to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. It honors not only the war dogs, but “symbolizes the special connection people share with dogs.”

USMC Raiders on K-9 patrol, Bougainville, December 1943.

Dogs served with distinction in the Korean and Vietman wars, during which, the US War Dogs Association estimates that war dogs and their handlers saved more than 10,000 lives. In 1967, the Air Force created the formal patrol dog training program that evolved into the Lackland Training Detachment, now responsible for virtually all military working dog training for the U.S. Armed Forces.

In recent years, dogs have continued to serve in Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq and other smaller operations.

In 2000, the first official War Dog Memorial was unveiled at March Field Air Museum in Riverside, CA and an identical memorial was dedicated at the National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning, Georgia. The 19-foot high bronze memorials depict a GI in combat gear with a dog at his side. The inscription reads: They protected us on the field of battle.  They watch over our eternal rest.  We are grateful.

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Trying to single-handedly run my pet product business and convince the world that I have invented a better mouse trap, er, poop trap, if you will, can take it’s toll.  So, a couple of weeks ago, Riley and I took a mini vacation to visit some friends on one of Puget Sounds many islands.

For me, working in my little home office by myself all day everyday, writing about a better poop scoop, blogging about a better poop scoop, social networking with all things dog, can certainly be exhausting. But for Riley, it means there are days when his walks aren’t as long as he would like them to be.  So whenever we can, we take little excursions to new parks, or visit our old haunts, rather than our usual walks in the hood.

After a lovely day of sniffing around the beaches of Vashon and Maury Island, we decided to head for home and drove back to the ferry dock. We arrived a bit early for the next boat, so I grabbed a cup of coffee from the little dock-side stand and Riley took a little snooze in the back of the car.

While we waited in line with the other cars headed to Seattle, two members of the coast guar  and a sniffer dog came along, checking out each car in the queue. Riley, who is always on the lookout for dogs from the car window, never even noticed as he happily snoozed away, a sign of a good walk.

Companionship from one dog, protection from another. While Riley certainly has a remarkable nose, I’m not sure he’d be cut out for a job that has such a rigorous schedule.

Bomb sniffing dogs are used by the military in places like Iraq, and many police departments across the country and fall into the “detection dog” category. Other types of working dogs include: “Public order enforcement dogs”, the traditional police dog, “Search and rescue dogs” and “Cadaver dogs”, both of which I have previously blogged about.

Check out this video of Chiquita, a bomb-sniffing dog who works in the San Francisco Bay area with her owner/trainer Petty Officer 1st Class Tony Ross.  Her training never ends and her working day is pretty full.  

So how do dogs get to become bomb-sniffing dogs? Dogs in training need to be accessed as to which type of detection dog they are, as some dogs are better suited for certain tasks that others. These dogs may have been specifically selected and rescued from shelters, or may have been put through the paces of a training camp by an owner who knew that they lived with a special kind of dog, and was willing to share that nose with the rest of the world. As for Riley, I think his best job is lying at my feet while I write, blissfully sniffing the squirrels, kitties and raccoons of his dreams.

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