Dog Daycare & Boarding: A Love/Hate Relationship

Wedding Season

Keepin’ it classy at both weddings…

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a few weeks… Sorry about that! Between driving back to Kansas City for work, driving to Chicago for a wedding, and finally driving to Kansas City then flying to Dallas for another wedding, life has been a bit crazy lately…

When we travel, we typically rely on a dog boarding facility to watch the boys and keep them distracted with doggy daycare so they’re too tired at the end of the day to notice we’re not around. In Kansas City, we had a place we LOVED (shout out to Dog Pawz!). They were life savers while our house was on the market because Chris was traveling five days a week, I was working full time, and the house had to be spotless for showings during the day. So I would drop the boys off on my way to work and pick them up in the evenings after showings were done. They loved going and the staff loved having them. It was fabulous.

But moving to a new city has forced us to find a new home-away-from-home for our boys. It’s hard living in a city where you don’t know many people because there’s nobody to turn to for recommendations for ANYTHING. Doctors, nail salons, veterinarians, hair stylists, doggy daycare, decent sushi, etc. Things that seemed SO simple in Kansas City now require hours of internet research and self-doubt. And a few bad mani/pedis along the way…

After some investigating (and successfully finding a fantastic vet practice near us to get them all up-to-date on vaccines) we decided on a boarding facility not too far from us. They required a VERY involved interview process including a four-page application and hour-long meet-and-greet/behavior test. I felt really good about it after going there, meeting the staff, and watching our boys integrate and play with their daycare group that day. So we got them booked for two weekends in a row!

Great Dane Pink Eye

“Don’t look at me—I’m a MONSTER!”

The first weekend we were in Chicago and everything seemed great. Two days after they got back, however, Cyrus started getting a really goopy eye (I’ll spare you the details). Knowing they were going back in a few days, I decided to take him to the vet in case he was contagious. According to the vet it was a “rip-roarin’ case of conjunctivitis.” So an hour and $100 later, we were on our way with some eye drops. Not a big deal. We understand the risks of a bunch of dogs being together, licking each other, sharing water, etc. Cyrus once caught a tummy bug from other dogs at daycare. It happens.

The next weekend, we had to drive to Kansas City Thursday in order to fly out of KCI to Dallas SUPER early Friday morning (half the cost and travel time of flying out of Des Moines…). So we dropped them off at the boarding facility Thursday afternoon.

Friday morning around 11:00, I got a call from the owner of this facility. She told me our boys had been playing rough, and Bill had a puncture wound on the top of his head that the staff was concerned about. They wanted my permission to take him to see their vet to get it checked out. I gave them permission and they promised to keep me posted. That afternoon they called and said all was well. Bill was fine and didn’t seem at all phased by the ordeal. The wound was cleaned out, he got an antibiotic and the boarding facility took care of the vet bill.

Bill's Injury

If you zoom in real close you can see it…

When we picked the boys up Sunday, Bill had a tiny little scab above his eye. It was barely visible. My guess is that because of the location of the cut, it bled a lot and maybe freaked them out a bit, but if it had happened on my watch, I don’t think I’d have worried about it much. Monday afternoon, the owner emailed me to check on the boys, which I thought was so sweet of her.

It’s experiences like this that make me grateful that someone else loves dogs as much as I do, and they’ve built a business out of that love. I think some people might read this and think, Wow, pink eye and an injury? I wouldn’t take my dogs back… But that’s just not how I look at it. I understand that dogs are going to be dogs, but it’s how a facility like this goes about caring for your babies when you’re unable to that makes all the difference in the world. And now I know that this staff is willing to go above and beyond for my boys.

Part of me hates that we have to board them. There are plenty of in-home pet sitters around, but taking these two on walks without much practice is not something I really want to subject an innocent stranger to. And as long as there are boarding facilities that give my boys as much love and care as I do, I suppose we can rest a little easier when we leave town…

 

Posted in Bill, Cyrus, Des Moines, The Boys, The Move, Travel | 2 Comments

The Life and Times of King Cyrus, Part 2: What Have We Done?

If you haven’t read part one of Cyrus’s adoption story, you can get caught up here!

Droolin Great Dane Freedom Ride

Drooling like a fool on his ride home

We picked Cyrus up from the shelter on a Thursday afternoon. He had been neutered that day, and weighing in at a whopping 98 lbs (you can imagine how—ahem—developed he was) he was hurting pretty bad.

On our ride home, he was really groggy and drooly. That first night, he was so sweet. There were no accidents, he slept through the night and we were basically convinced he was perfect, forgetting entirely that he was probably still half drugged.

That lasted about 12 hours.

When I woke up the next morning Cyrus was standing eagerly at my bedside, ready to start the day. I sat up groggily and was promptly greeted by a swift punch in the eye, courtesy of our big, perfect and VERY excited dog. And so began our journey with the real Cyrus…

Goofy Great Dane

SO weird

Before I go on, I want to make one thing very clear: Cyrus is an amazing dog. He is incredibly sweet and loving, a little dumb but occasionally kind of smart, SO funny and weird and friendly, and he can even be shockingly delicate when he wants to be. We love him unconditionally and we wouldn’t trade him for anything in the whole wide world.

That being said, the first 7 months after his adoption were incredibly difficult and draining on both Chris and I—physically, emotionally and financially.

The first incident happened just a week after we brought him home. We were out for a short walk one morning, when a neighborhood dog, seemingly out of nowhere, comes charging down the street in our direction—no human in sight. We stopped and changed direction away from the dog, not sure how Cyrus would react, but the dog made a beeline for Cyrus. As the dog approached, I could see Cyrus tense up and before I knew it, we were in the middle of a dogfight.

I don’t know how it happened, but Chris and I both got bit pulling the dogs apart, and I ended up hauling the other dog back down the street just in time for its owner’s friend (who accidentally let him escape) to run toward us apologizing.

As far as we saw it, that incident was a fluke. But in the following weeks and months, we were forced to come to terms with a few things about our big bundle of joy:

Great Dane Energy

So much energy, gotta kill the tree

  1. His energy level was off the charts. This dog could go from zero to sixty in no time flat. Remember when I mentioned in my last post that Chris didn’t really want to exercise a dog much? HA! We were walking/running/biking with this dog at least twice a day. Rain or shine. Blazing heat or freezing cold.
  2. He was insanely reactive to other dogs on leash. As you can imagine, 100+ lbs of dog lunging at the end of the leash, hackles up, teeth baring, barking and growling up a storm is an unsettling sight. The neighbors were terrified of us. Part of me will forever wonder if it had anything to do with that dogfight. Is he insecure because he was attacked that day and felt restricted by the leash? Or was he always like this and we were just going to find out eventually?
  3. We needed to hire a trainer STAT.
Reactive Great Dane

Mild compared to how he reacts on walks

So we hired a trainer, terrified she would tell us he was hopeless. But to our surprise, she assured us he was going to be just fine if we put some effort into his training.

And we did! And he learned a lot! But no matter how much we worked on his reactivity on walks, no matter how many goddamn hot dog bits we redirected him with when he saw another dog, no matter how many times I came home from a walk sobbing about how he dragged me to the ground or he was too big for me to control, it was useless. Still is. To this day, when we’re on a walk and Cyrus spots another dog, he loses his mind.

We knew we had more work to do with him, so that fall, we decided to take him to a very highly regarded dog behaviorist in Kansas City. It wasn’t cheap, but we were determined to do everything we possibly could for Cyrus. After one session with the behaviorist, he told us Cyrus was incredibly dog aggressive and could never be around other dogs. Ever. No daycare, no dog parks, no doggie play dates. Nothing. I was devastated, and, admittedly a little confused—Cyrus had been going to a dog daycare for months off and on with no problem. But this guy was the expert, right?

A few months later, Bill came into our lives and changed pretty much everything we thought we knew about Cyrus.

Stay tuned for Mr. Bill’s story…

Posted in Adoption, Cyrus | Leave a comment

The Life and Times of King Cyrus, Part 1

When Chris and I started dating, I lived in a 510 sq. ft. apartment that didn’t allow pets. When we began talking about moving in together I knew one thing for sure: the apartment we chose HAD to be pet friendly. We were adopting a dog. It was non-negotiable.

So we started talking about the type of dog we were looking for. He wanted a Husky and I wanted a Great Dane. Knowing what I do about typical breed behavior I knew two things for sure: 1. Chris did not really want to exercise a dog as much as he said he did, and 2. Great Danes make amazing apartment dogs. I was pretty sure I’d win this one…

Great Dane

Pancakes the Great Dane (RIP, buddy)

When we found our apartment, as luck would have it, a couple that lived in a house across the street had two Huskies and a 180-lb Great Dane named Pancakes. We were smitten with Pancakes. He was SO COOL—just look at him! So the Petfinder search began.

Within 3 weeks of moving in to the apartment in the spring of 2011, I stumbled across Cyrus’s listing at a rural shelter in Ottowa, Kansas. Chris didn’t think we were settled yet or ready to adopt. I was born ready. But, ever the diplomat, I said, “Okay, fine. Let’s just drive down there and meet him! If you like him, we can have a conversation. If it’s not a good fit, we’ll hold off.”

So the following Saturday, we took the hour drive down to Ottowa and met Cyrus. To our disappointment, there was already an out-of-state application in on him. I was crushed. We went ahead with the meet-and-greet, certain that it was all for nothing.

They told us that Cyrus was a one-year-old Great Dane mix that weighed 98 lbs. He was an owner-surrender, meaning his previous owners dropped him off at the shelter. Their reason? He was getting too big. They had a baby and he got bigger than they expected, so they just kept him crated or tied up outside all day. My heart broke.

Adopting a Dog

Love at first sight

Cyrus was still very much a puppy. His energy was through the roof (Red flag? Nah.). I tried and failed at controlling him on a walk. He literally ran circles around me, causing me to spin around like a moron while Chris laughed and took pictures… But I was so in love. Not only was he easily the best looking dog at the shelter, he was the by far the coolest as far as we were concerned. Chris instantly fell in love with him as well, and within the hour we were clinging to an ounce of hope as we filled out our application.

Before we left the shelter, Cyrus decided to jump up on Chris. Being the giant that he is/was, his paws reached Chris’s shoulders and they were standing face-to-face in the lobby of the shelter. Chris called over to me, “Look! He’s hugging me!” to which I replied, “No, no. He’s HUMPING you.” I still reflect back on that moment fondly, with the image of a giant dog humping a grown man, upright, with reckless abandon.

On our way back to Kansas City I tried to convince myself that it was okay if we didn’t get him—that we’d find another dog we liked just as much. We went to another shelter in Kansas City that afternoon and couldn’t find another dog we felt very strongly about, so we decided to call it a day and head home, slightly defeated.

As we drove back to our apartment, the shelter in Ottowa called me. The first applicants decided not to adopt Cyrus and we had been approved! We could pick him up Thursday. My heart soared. We had our big, beautiful baby and he was coming home forever!

Stay tuned for Part 2: Giant Puppies are a Menace or “What Have we Done???”

Posted in Adoption, Cyrus | 2 Comments

“How are the boys doing?”

It’s the second question I’ve been asked from all my friends and family the past few weeks. The first, of course, is “How’s Des Moines?” To which I respond, “I mean… it’s smaller. But really cute?” Why I have been phrasing most of my responses to that question as a question is probably a topic for another post entirely…

But let’s get back to the second question, shall we? In short, the answer is, “Surprisingly well!” Our boys are so adaptable and smart (sort of), and frankly, I think they’d be happy anywhere—as long as we’re there with them.

But there are some new struggles that come with moving from a three-bedroom house with a fenced-in back yard to a second floor walk-up in an urban* area, and I thought it might be fun to compare and contrast.

Walking the dogs

Getting dragged through the park across the street.

At the old house…

We had a sliding glass door in our bedroom that opened to our back yard. When my alarm went off in the morning, I would simply get out of bed, take two steps, open the door and voila! The boys were out for their morning pee.

In the loft…

When my alarm goes off in the morning, I get up, put on real clothes, slip on my Uggs, bundle up, leash up the dogs, then take the boys on a fun adventure down the stairs (where I hope we don’t run into another dog) and out the door into the cold Iowa air. Then we walk around the block for 5–10 minutes until they both do their business.

Guard Dogs

Growling at the mysterious footsteps outside the door

At the old house…

Both dogs like to bark and growl at passers-by. Bill didn’t do this when we first got him, but it didn’t take long for Cyrus to teach Bill everything he knew about home security. No amount of correcting the behavior ever really stuck, but it was never a big deal, as nobody walking down the sidewalk could ever hear our ferocious guard dogs.

In the loft…

They’re still attempting to protect their home, but this time we’re in an apartment. The apartment right next to the stairwell people walk down to go to the garage. It’s a high-traffic area in the building, and every time the dogs bark or growl at someone walking by, they bring shame upon our family.

At the old house…

We had rooms. With doors.

At the loft…

We have one big open home. The only doors are the front door and the door to the bathroom. We can’t lock the dogs out of the bedroom at night. We can’t keep them from annoying us when they wake up in the morning and decide to immediately demand our attention. And when Bill jumps in our bed at night during a thunderstorm, Cyrus see’s no reason why he can’t join the party. But let’s be very clear: Cyrus is not afraid of thunderstorms.

Dogs hogging the bed

This is OUR bed now…

I suppose the moral of the story here is that this move is probably a much bigger adjustment for the humans in this house than it is for the dogs. They have us and they have each other. They still want for nothing and have a ton more bed access than they ever did before, so my guess is they’re doing pretty darn well.

 

*I am using the word “urban” loosely. Downtown Des Moines isn’t exactly a concrete jungle…

Posted in Changes, Des Moines, The Boys, The Loft | 1 Comment

Welcome to Our Sort of Fairytail

Well, it’s official. We’ve moved to Des Moines and I’ve started a blog. I haven’t yet figured out exactly what I want this to be, but I can tell you this much: I’ll probably write a lot about our lives, our dogs and all the mostly lame but sometimes cool stuff we do together.

Fair warning: I am a crazy dog lady, so if you decide you want to read this blog, there’s a solid chance I’ll try to convince you to adopt a pet. Just sit back, relax, and let it happen. Or maybe work on not giving into peer pressure…

Thanks for reading Our Sort of Fairytail and I promise I’ll try not to bore you to death…

XO

Ashley

Posted in Crazy Dog Lady, Des Moines | Leave a comment