Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day! We hope you are reading this from home and enjoying your third day of Memorial Day weekend! We had a great time kicking off the long weekend on Friday when Otis and I went for a hike with our friends Kim and Nicky.

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While we enjoy this holiday, we of course remember the reason behind it. Thank you to the men and women who serve our country!

Slow and Steady Wins the Playdate

Well, as usual, your feedback on yesterday’s post about Johnnie’s feelings towards other dogs was really awesome. I hope anyone who is reading this and has a reactive dog – at whatever level – realizes your dog is not the only one, and in fact there are so, so many dog owners out there dealing with the same thing you are! Johnnie is really not that bad in terms of reactivity, but she has her struggles and it feels so great to hear everyone’s own stories.  Just last night I posed a question on our PLF Facebook page about taking Johnnie to the vet while we’re still working on ourselves, and so many of you responded with fantastic advice almost immediately!

At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned that I finally scheduled a playdate for Johnnie. Often times a really good off-leash romp with another dog can alleviate some of the frustrations your dog is feeling around other pups. These should of course be well-supervised and held between dogs with similar play styles, and I always recommend reading up on dog behavior and appropriate play so you’re versed in recognizing behavior or body language that might be a red flag.

Many of you guessed correctly: our playdate was with Charlie! Charlie has stayed with us and therefore been featured on the blog twice, once as a Jasmine’s House foster dog and once as an adopted dog after his foster family foster failed! He’s a total doll. He was sick for a long time, but since I last saw him he has gained about ten pounds and his coat looks phenomenal. He looks like a different dog, really.


By the Sunday afternoon when we had the playdate, Johnnie had already succeeded in a few challenging situations with other dogs. Two that I mentioned yesterday – playing with the puppy and doing well during the adoption event – and then Sunday morning she met an off-leash dog while we were walking in the woods. I had noticed the dog with his person a couple hundred yards behind us, made note of them, and started to think about where we should go should they begin to follow us more closely. All of a sudden I heard a reactive-dog owners worst nightmare: “He’s friendlyyyyyyy!” I turned around to actually see a reactive-dog owners worst nightmare: an off-leash dog literally flying full speed towards us. Thank goodness Johnnie was just exuberantly wanting to play and did not care in the slightest that this dog just ambushed us. In fact, that dog was rather sassy towards her (probably because she’s an energetic puppy), but his growling did not bother her.  Anyone reading this who walks your dog off-leash, even in areas where you don’t think you’ll see many other dogs: please, PLEASE make sure your dog has a good recall! This could have ended so poorly. Thank goodness it did not!

After she passed the off-leash dog situation with flying colors, I felt very confident that her and Charlie would hit it off no problem. Cue my guard being let down – uh oh. Charlie arrived and I asked his mom to take him around back so the dogs could meet and move to the backyard. Unfortunately Rojo was in his yard as well (we live next to each other, remember), had seen Charlie, and was making a huge, vocal fuss over it. This set Johnnie off, and the initial greeting with Charlie was about as far from polite as you can get.

I’d like to pause here to talk about the one thing I want you to take away from this post: you can never, ever go too slow when introducing two dogs for the first time. It is so important to set both dogs up for success by making the intro as stress-free as possible. Face to face greetings are tough and unnatural to dogs, tight leashes increase stress and discomfort, and lots of changes and quick movements at once can be overwhelming. Keeping these factors in mind and aiming to make the meeting low key and relaxed will really help to increase the chances of the two dogs getting along.

So, despite the fact that Johnnie was basically telling Charlie to F off in a very not nice way and Rojo was in the background egging her on, Charlie’s mom and I remained calm. We immediately removed the dogs from the stressful situation and walked to the road, which was much quieter. We began walking them up the street parallel to each other. This was huge in letting both dogs get comfortable in each other’s presence without the pressure of actually meeting. I continually asked Johnnie to check in and rewarded her with treats when she did, so she was much more willing to move her focus from Charlie to me. By the top of the street we had them walking almost touching each other without much fuss. Because things were calmer and they were more used to each other, Johnnie initiated actual play instead of just telling Charlie off. The difference between her body language was clear – her body was loose and relaxed, she was play bowing, she was not vocalizing – and Charlie responded well. It was time to let them play.


We let them go in the backyard, leaving their leashes on initially in case we needed to pull them apart. It became clear pretty quickly though that the dogs were getting along beautifully. The play was pretty even between them with neither dog being too pushy towards the other. The play was also not getting either of them too worked up, which was what I was worried about. The tough thing about play between dogs is that it can go from really fun to really not fun in a matter of seconds.


Charlie and Johnnie are actually two fabulous playmates. They have a similar rough and rowdy play style. Neither of them mind getting a little dirt or beat up. They don’t get offended when the other takes it a step too far (that’s what the humans are there to watch out for though). We were so happy to let these two play for nearly an hour!

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They both got so much energy out; it was really great. By the end of the session they were both able to just chill out in each other’s presence – a far cry from where they started. Because of the slow, patient introduction that lead to successful results, we can easily say Charlie is a pup we will add as a go-to friend for Johnnie. Thanks to Charlie and his mom for coming over and helping out with our learning experience – we had a blast!

09To adopt Johnnie Cash & help her find friends to play with, check out her Adopt Me page.

Baxter and Otis!

Like I said yesterday: what could be better than getting a former foster and current foster together for a play date!?

Coincidentally, Baxter and Otis have actually met before. When Baxter was in the shelter a year ago and Otis was with me for the first time, we used Otis to dog test Baxter. Crazy, right!? I obviously had no idea what impact either dog would end up having on my life a year down the road, but that was the first time I ever met Bax. Baxter didn’t feel very well for that meet and greet, so both dogs seemed like they couldn’t have cared less about each other – and you know what? Not much has changed!

I was thrilled when Baxter’s mom was happy to accept my offer to bring Otis with me to visit and hopefully have a play date with Bax (in her words, “I hoped you’d say that!” – could they get more awesome?). Baxter has been getting a little pushy with male dogs recently, so we had to be cautious when introducing the two. Otis is so “whatever” about dogs (mostly just very submissive) that Baxter had no problem with him. Baxter didn’t even mind when Otis showed some serious interest in Miss Piggy!

Here is one photo that pretty much sums up how Bax & Otis felt about each other:

Total apathy. Baxter had a “too cool for you” attitude, and Otis, well, doesn’t have very strong opinions about many things so he was fine with whatever. It actually worked out really well, and was a victory on all accounts: Baxter was accepting of another male on his turf and Otis followed Baxter’s rules to prevent conflict and everyone was able to have a healthy socialization session. Though I think Piggy and Baxter seemed to find Otis’ antics a little amusing:

They did have bouts of playing when Otis was able to convince Baxter that running around in the heat was a good idea. They played so well with each other! Even all three of them together stayed within safe and appropriate levels of play. I think the heat helped a lot with keeping everyone subdued, but still – I was proud of each one.

For the most part, they spent their time ignoring each other in the grass. Aren’t they so stinkin’ adorable together?! So many happy tongues!

I am just as thrilled about this combo as I was about being able to hang out with all the humans. Everyone got along so well and each dog was on their best behavior. If that’s not cause for victory celebrations, I don’t know what is! I can’t wait until we do it again.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.

Otis & Other Dogs: It Continues

I’ve discussed Otis’ feelings towards other dogs on a few occasions. I’ve basically spelled out how he is fine with dogs on walks and such, but he can’t live with them because of how submissive he is. He ends up miserable and hides his life away – or at least that was his behavior at his last home. It was understandable considering he was living with a dominant female who bullied him around a lot.

This whole time I’ve had Otis I’ve kept him kind of sheltered from other dogs. Not totally intentionally – it’s mostly just been because I don’t have many easily accessible friends with dogs (Bella moved away). I know he’s great with other dogs on walks and such, but his thoughts on off-leash dogs stayed unknown until the perfect opportunity came up: Monster.

You all met Monster in Tuesday’s post about the pool party. Monster is owned by my friend Nevie. She recently became fully responsible for him when she moved out of her parents house and into her own apartment. She is quickly learning what it’s like when your dog isn’t perfect – including when they’re nippy, they resource guard, they don’t like strangers, etc. She is doing a remarkable job tackling this training on her own (with the help, of course, of our favorite doggy genius in Texas), and I definitely recommend heading over to From The Pits to read about how Nevie is handling Monster’s difficult behavior.

While Monster might be working on some of his manners with humans, he gets along very well with other dogs. I knew that whatever dog could bring out the best side of Otis would have to be calm, laid back, and not super dominant. That was Monster.

At the beginning of their play date, neither pup paid much attention to the other. It was total indifference. Even when one mama would have treats, they acted like the other didn’t exist.

I was pretty satisfied with this, even though they weren’t BFFs. Otis was relaxed and tolerant around Monster – what more could I ask for? That is when the magic happened…

Otis and Monster began tearing around the yard like it was the best thing they had ever done. In between taking pictures (because obviously I had to capture the moment) all I could do was jump up and down and squeal. “He likes him! He really, really likes him!” Yes, watching Otis & Monster play instantly brought out my inner pre-teen. What can I say? It was a really exciting breakthrough.

You can tell Otis was having fun because his zoomie-eye came out. I think Monster enjoyed it too, even though Otis used his size to his advantage (brat). Just kidding, they really got along wonderfully. I’m excited at the prospect of more off-leash play dates with the appropriate doggy friends!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.

Play With Me

I’ve had dogs with all types of personalities. I’ve had dogs that are snugglers, and dogs that like space. I’ve had dogs that solicit attention, and ones who could care less if you give them a behind-the-ear scratch or not. I’ve had dogs who get annoyed when you try to play with them, and I’ve had dogs who love all the ways you spend your time together.

Otis is that last one. He really likes to play, and he’ll put up with anything.

And I LOVE it.

In fact, I totally can’t get enough of it.

Playing with this pup makes my whole day better. I can’t wait for him to brighten someone else’s life as much as he has mine. But until then, I’m going to soak up every bit of happiness, love, and playfulness Honey Bunches sends my way.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.

Video: A Journey’s End

You all didn’t think I’d let you get away without a final video from Big Bruno, did you?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the video from the first half of Baxter’s journey, courtesy of Big Bruno. Many of you saw it in this post about where Baxter came from. It’s tough to watch because Baxter was really different from the way he is now.

Don’t worry, next is the happy ending! Big Bruno just completed this video about Baxter’s recovery at Jasmine’s House, his time with me, and finally – the best part! – him in his new home. You HAVE to check out the end of this where he is running around with his new sister : -)

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Baxter’s story, and to highlight what is really now quite the beginning for him. Thanks Bruno!

And thank you to everyone else who has shared in this roller coaster ride with us, showering us with insanely nice and positive comments the whole time and especially at the announcement of his adoption. You all are the best followers a crazy newbie blogger could ask for!