Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Dog Is Fat!!

This is what Bliss is supposed to look like.
I didn't have the heart to post a picture of her fat.
My dog Bliss is one of the 54% of US pets suffering from obesity. That's a real problem for me since I love to give her treats (and she loves to get them for herself at my local PetCo cookie bar). I know that I am to blame. Being a dog lover, I am mortified that I can't slim her down....instead, she keeps blowing up. At nine years old, I know the extra weight is leading to all kinds of health problems including diabetes. I already went though that with my Puli Baldwin. He died a couple years ago (and I am still not over it) after experiencing all sorts of health problems, (not associated with his weight) including diabetes, seizures, arthritis and ultimately cancer. For the last year of his life, I gave him insulin shots twice a day. I watched him lose his eyesight due to the diabetes. He became frail and scared. It was absolute torture watching him fade away. I don't ever want to go through that again.

So here I am with my fat dog Bliss asking how do I stop the madness? I know I am not the only dog lover suffering from this situation. However, Bliss is the first dog I've owned who would eat until she popped. I caught her at my friend's home recently with her head inside a huge bag of Beneful. I feed Bliss Natural Balance but she'll eat anything she finds on the ground, no matter how long the item has been rotting. I've taught her to leave it but she is so sneaky. What can I do when Bliss runs from me with an old piece of pizza in her mouth?

Let's be honest here. Her eating habits would be bad enough. I only make matters worse. I always save her a bite (or two, or three) of my meal. I can't seem to resist those eyes starring at me so lovingly. She even drools. I know I need to stop sharing my food with her...but...I am an addict, addicted to giving my dog whatever food she wants. I have always shared my food with my dogs. I just never was the guardian of a total food monger. I am so ashamed to admit it. I know how bad people food is for dogs.

It all started around the family dinner table while I was growing up with my Chihuahua Siesta. She was named Siesta because that was the only Spanish word my Dad knew! During dinner, my Dad would ask, "Susie, are you feeding the dog?" as I gave Siesta my pork chops under the table. All my dogs since have enjoyed a simple bite or two but Bliss is a food-aholic.

I know the key to maintaining a healthy weight starts with diet. I've had my own struggles with weight over the years. Bliss does get a lot of exercise. She just eats a lot of food.

I know I can resist her pleas for food and I am not going to give up. I need to be strong for my dog's health. It will be hard but it's necessary. I am powerless over my "need to feed." I am turning that powerlessness over to my higher power. Are there other dog lovers who want to join me? Let's make it a priority to get the weight off our precious canines. Don't they deserve to be healthy?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is your dog ready for Hollywood?

Since she was a wee little puppy, Bliss has had a real Hollywood Agent booking her on photo shoots, in television shows and movies, and in national commercials. Over the years, thanks to Michelle Zahn, owner of the professional pet agency, Le Paws, Bliss has enjoyed a busy career (especially lately, I guess Australian Shepherds are in vogue!) My favorite by far is the commercial she did earlier this year for a dating website called FarmersOnly.comCheck it out and you'll see why I am so proud of my baby!

People ask me all the time how to get their dog into acting and modeling. Of course, everyone thinks their dog is the cutest, smartest and best (as they should) but is your pet "studio ready?" Simply because a dog is extraordinary, does not make the pet an extraordinary actor. Some dogs who tend to be shy would not make good candidates because being in the lime light might cause too much stress. However, any well-trained dog can be a good actor, provided they learn to perform in strange locations, in front of many people, and under hot camera lights. A skilled trainer is your first stop to doggie stardom!

Good acting in the dog world comes from steady repetition and hard work. I knew Bliss was a prime canine actor candidate because she absolutely loves to be the center of attention! It was my responsibility to develop her natural talents. A dog needs to be solid on all off-leash basic obedience-- with distractions. Here is a basic list of what Bliss needed to learn before she was ready for her close up:
  • On your mark
  • Head down
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Speak (Bliss gets a lot of work for this one)
A good place to get started is by taking a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class. A dog with their CGC Certificate has a good foundation for show business. Keep in mind, your dog needs to perform everything from a distance. Plus, your dog must be able to work with strangers because the actors will be in the shot, not you, the trainer.

Bliss does not get residuals for commercials. Hollywood considers dogs as property so the pay is not as good as it would be for a human actor. For commercials, I get paid as her handler anywhere from $250.00 a day to $1000.00 a day.

I wish I could do it full time because for me, getting paid to hang out with my dog is the most awesome way to make a living. Bliss loves to work in front of the camera and I love to watch her. By the way, Bliss just did a Ross commercial so keep an eye out for her! She's the dog catching the Frisbee.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pig not pug!

Earlier this year, a former client of mine called me in a panic. Apparently, she was going through a nasty divorce and needed someone to foster her "mini pug" for a year or so. Being the dog lover that I am, I offered to take care of her baby while she worked on getting her life back together. We decided to meet to do the hand off at the Camarillo PetCo. There I was patiently waiting near the front of the store when in walks my former client with her mini.......pig! Apparently, I didn't hear her correctly.

She told me that her pig, named Juicy, was potty trained and acted just like a dog. I had heard that mini potbelly pigs were trainable. Juicy was dressed in a tee-shirt, her full wardrobe of outfits were carefully folded and given to me. My favorite was a "Don't Worry Be Happy" piggy tee-shirt. How could I resist?

So, I called my house mate David and let him know I was bringing a pig home. I knew he would want to meet Juicy and I was right. He set up his video camera (he's a professional) and waited with Bliss as I got Juicy out of my car and brought her into the house. (By the way, we live in a small duplex right near the beach in Oxnard with a tiny backyard). He took this video as we walked in (and there was actually a bacon commercial on the tv!).

Bliss was immediately curious and wanted to play with Juicy but the pig had no interest. Sensing she needed a potty break, I quickly took Bliss out for her evening walk after making sure Juicy was comfortable. My friend David told me that the moment I left, Juicy got into trouble. She bit a hole through her food container made of thick plastic. She opened all the cupboards in my kitchen. She went potty in the middle of the room. This was not the experience I was expecting! She even tried to bite me when I attempted to put her harness back on to take her on a walk. Her owner had told me that she loved raw pasta, so I gave Juicy some. As long as she was chewing the pasta, she was a good girl. The only drawback was that she just wanted more.

That night ranks up there as being one of the worst in my life. Juicy quickly figured out the dog door, went outside but couldn't get back in because her little legs were too short. So she stuck her head through the door and squealed until I went outside to get her. On about the fifth time I was bringing her back into my house, she escaped. Bliss thought this was great fun. I could only imagine the surprise of my neighbors seeing a pig walking down the street!

Lots of people in this area don't have fences surrounding their backyards. Silver Strand is a laid back beach community. But not so laid back that neighbors wouldn't be annoyed at Juicy running through their yards. I tried to chase Juicy into the backyard myself, but by this time, it was after midnight. I didn't want to get shot while chasing a pig in someone's yard! So, I sent Bliss in to herd her back (Bliss is an Australian Shepherd with lots of herding practice). Bliss did an excellent job in helping me get Juicy back to our house.

I brought Juicy's bed into my bedroom. She was extremely nervous and was squealing and pacing, hitting her head against the now closed doggie door. By 5am, I called my former client with an SOS! Juicy was misbehaving! I was in over my head.

I spent the morning calling places to take Juicy. I finally talked to someone who ran a children's petting zoo. She had other mini pot belly pigs in the zoo and was immediately excited to have Miss Juicy join the herd!

When my former client finally got back to me later that morning, we arranged to meet back at the Camarillo PetCo for the pig return. I gave her the info of the petting zoo and heard later that Juicy is alive and well, living happily at the petting zoo, making children smile in her "Don't Worry Be Happy" pig tee.