Monday, February 18, 2013


Many of us have been there, but how did this conversation go for you? I can't really pinpoint how my interest in pit bulls started. My first dog might have been a pit mix, but I never thought about it, read about it or talked about it. Then I moved to London and many of my friends had pitties, staffies and big mastiff type mixes. And I took care of a slightly nutty but adorable and lovable staffie pup for a month one winter. When I returned home to the States I spent a year living with friends and family while caring for my parents' dog, so I had a lot of time to research and mull over what type of dog I would get next.

Little Staffy girl I took care of in London.

Before I knew it, I was drawn to the many rescue sites featuring these adorable block-heads and I knew I had to have one. I loved the way they looked for one, with their big heads, short hair and fun color patterns, their floppy ears and giant grins. I also loved their playful attitude, their intelligence, eagerness to please and most of all, their loving and cuddly nature. I also became intrigued by their hard luck story and realized that both in person and through so many stories online, I had yet to meet a pit bull I didn't like. Even the ones who got in trouble, as far as I could tell, were set up to fail and never given a fair chance.

Kinky the cuddle bug.

So when I started the hunt for my very own pit bull type dog, I told me mom about it with pride. Her reaction was not horrible, but definitely fear-driven. "Of all the dogs out there, why do you have to get one of those?" I chose not to get into it with her. That's the beauty of being almost 30 years old, having my own place and spending the past decade in different states or continents from each other. I told her something like, "You'll just have to see for yourself after I get one."

My mom with Kaya soon after I adopted her.

So when I brought Kaya to see her, just after adopting her, my mom was smitten and that was that. It was a bit different with Norman. It was not so much why are you getting a pit bull, but just why are you getting another dog period. They argued that I lived in such a small space and I was on a limited income. No one in our family had ever owned 2 dogs at once and it clearly sounded insane to them. And I replied, "Yeah, but you haven't met Norman." And like myself and everyone else that meets him, they melted the second they saw him. By the end of their 3 day visit, my mom was ready to smuggle him home in her suitcase. Then their pit bull appreciation really flew through the roof. My dad proudly marched Norman all over, telling everyone he met that he's a pit bull. I kept telling my dad that he is really a mix, but he was hearing none of it.

Proud pittie grandma.

Now my mom has regular conversations like this... To her friends from the 'burbs, when they told her, "When those dogs grow up, they're going to end up right back in the shelter because they'll turn aggressive." My mom replied, "Well, you obviously haven't met her dogs or any other pit bulls for that matter." My mom also hired a dog sitter for Zoey who has 5 pit bulls. They are of the few dogs on the planet that my parents can trust Zoey with because she has serious dog aggression. And when my mom's friend hired her to water her outdoor plants, she freaked out because she brought some of the dogs with her and a neighbor told her about it. My mom said, "So what? They're great dogs. Have you met them yet?" But her friend had reservations about the merit of someone who owns 5 pit bulls. My mom's response was, "I trust her. My dog adores her and she has a great group of dogs that she loves to death. Don't see a problem with that."

Zoey with 2 of her pittie buds in Maryland.

And now they are constantly sending me paparazzi style photos of pit bulls they spot when they're out and about. They also tell me many, many stories about random people they meet and how they tell them about my pit bulls and what great dogs they are in general. They love to tell the story of Shaka and how sweet and loving she was, being just a random dog off the street who most people would not have trusted or given a chance. Just over a year ago, they would have had me committed if I told them I was coming to visit with my 3 pit bulls.

First time in 8 years that Zoey has shared her house with other dogs:)

My dad with Norman at last summer.

There is one thing my mom always says about pit bulls now, "I'll never own one. They are too cuddly for me."

How can you not love them?

Related Posts:
For the Love of Pit Bulls
A Thing or Two I Learned from Shaka
Shaka: aka Honeybeee

Monday, February 11, 2013


A few days after Kaya's near death experience, we had yet another close call. This time it could have been all 3 of us! We were out on a walk in the woods by the house. Kaya and Norman were doing their Norman thing...running around, chasing tennis balls, climbing on logs, sniffing and playing. Then they ran down a hill and at first I didn't think anything of it because they typically run in a lot of directions for no good reason.

But then I saw what they were headed to check out...a big brown bear. I called them and of course Kaya turned around right away and ran back to me.  But Norman stood there like a deer caught in headlights, not barking or moving at all, just standing there. By now, the bear climbed about half way up a tree. I think Norman wanted to turn around and come back, but was afraid to turn his back on the bear. I wasn't too concerned at this point because I've run into bears up here before and they are always run up trees when they see people and dogs and they don't come down until everyone leaves. Zoey and I followed one through the neighborhood once and it scurried up a tree as soon as it saw us.

Zoey's bear friend.

So I kept calling Norman and only about 10 seconds went by, when the bear started climbing down the tree and growled at Norman. As my heart jumped into my throat, Norman spun around and ran faster than I ever dreamed he could run. Though the bear never actually moved away from the tree, Norman kept on running, with wide eyes, 'til he was back with Kaya and I and we high-tailed it out of there.

Can you see the bear? It's the dark spot in the middle of the picture.

Though curiosity got the best of me and I had to go back to get a better look at the bear. I was trying to figure out why it went after Norman when all the others had acted so scared. We we got back to the same spot I told Kaya and Norman to stay so I could walk closer very quietly.

Norman was still a little concerned, but Kaya was just miffed that she was not chasing down tennis balls instead.

Then I was a momma bear and her two little cubs. While, I crouched down to take some pictures, she didn't seem to notice us or care at least. They were so beautiful to watch...I could have stayed there all day!


But the momma bear decided it was time to move on and so I did too.

Gosh lady...what took you so long?

Has anyone else's dog met a bear or another wild animal they were not expecting?

Related Posts:
Kaya's Brush with Death
Pitties Explore Lake Tahoe
The Next Generation


Now I love a good blizzard, but I can't complain about our warm winter temps. This weekend we headed to a nearby lake for swims:)

Norman was wondering if he should take a second dip...

Kaya lured him towards her...

But then she ditched him to go back to shore...

She turned up the power in her motor...

And then asked him what was taking so long...

She thinks she's so clever...

And she is...Norman will fall for it every time...

What did you and your pups do this weekend?

Related Posts:
Kaya & Norman Take on the Truckee River
Shaka Gets the Zoomies
Our Trek to Eagle Lake...and Bac

Monday, February 4, 2013


I wrote this post one day last Fall, but never published it. However, I think of that day often and how different it could have turned out. I think about how life is short and to enjoy each day with my dogs...


I almost lost my Little Baby today. I am forever grateful that this turned into a crazy story instead of one of the worst days of my life.

I've been spending some time at my mom's house in Tahoe and unlike my tiny backyard in Oakland, here Kaya & Norman have a big backyard which they love to run around, play and wrestle in. They'll spend the entire day tearing around out there and they get up way earlier than they do at home, making a beeline for the back door first thing in the morning. This summer they have gotten the chance to bond with my mom's dog, Zoey. Zoey has severe dog aggression but for some reason she's decided Kaya & Norman are fine by her. She loves going on hikes with them, playing fetch with Kaya and she doesn't even mind having them in the house or yard with her. I carefully watched them for weeks and she seemed to always enjoy lying on the sidelines while they run and play, so I finally started leaving them alone outside as long as we were home.

Kaya & Zoey playing at the beach.

Enjoying the yard.

This morning, my mom and I were inside upstairs and the dogs were out back playing as usual, but we had the screen door open so we could hear them. All of a sudden there was a high-pitched scream coming from one of the dogs. I immediately thought, Oh my god, Zoey finally went after one of them. And being that she is a 90-pound German Shepherd it would not be pretty. I ran outside and quickly looked over the deck, I was shocked when I saw Kaya & Norman locked onto each other in the middle of the yard while Zoey was nowhere in sight. One of them was still screaming but I couldn't tell who.

Zoey minding her own business.

As I ran down the steps, something in me knew not to yell out to them. They've never even shared a sideways glance at each other, there was no way they were fighting. There was something very wrong.

As I got close, I realized that Norman had his lower jaw caught in Kaya's collar. Both of them were terrified, trying to get free. They were pulling in opposite directions which was making it so much worse. The collar was completely wrapped around Norman's mouth, like a figure eight and it was digging into his gums. The other part was slicing into Kaya's neck, cutting off her breathing. I dropped to the ground, held onto each of them and did my best to calm them down. They were both completely panicking as I repeated shhhhhhhh over and over. It took about a minute to calm them down, but it felt like a lifetime. A couple times, they calmed down and then panicked again. Kaya had on a regular nylon collar with a plastic quick release so I tried to release it, but it was pulled so tight, it wouldn't budge. And Kaya was still screaming. She sounded more like a child than a dog.

My mom called out and I asked her to bring scissors. A neighbor heard the commotion and ran over to our fence. He tried to offer help. My mom tried to cut the collar but she couldn't even fit the scissor under it without cutting into her neck. Kaya had stopped screaming by now and both dogs were holding still, but time was ticking. Norman's gums were bleeding and Kaya was being strangled by the collar. I had to get the collar off right away so I tried once more to release the plastic buckle, but it was so slippery from their rough play in the wet grass. And the pieces were pulling so hard in opposite directions, that it was near impossible to press. Thankfully, it eventually worked and her collar was off, but she fell to the ground like a dead weight. She wasn't breathing. Her gums were blue and she wasn't responding. I kept calling her name, patting her on her side and shaking her like I was trying to snap her out of it.

And so I sat there, in my pjs and bare feet in the muddy grass, holding my dying dog. In that moment, as chaotic as it was, I had this split second vision that this would be her last day and we would be burying her today. I saw a blur of our whole crazy first year together, all the cuddles and adventures, all the playtime and training, the frustration and love. I didn't want them to turn into fleeting memories of the dog I never got to watch grow.

Both my mom and I were both in shock so thank god our neighbor, who was still watching from outside the fence, said to breathe into her nose. I did it 3 times and each time the air seemed to go right back out of her mouth. I tried again and again. Her eyes started to move around a little bit, but she still didn't seem to be breathing. I thought it might just be a weird reflex. I did it a few more times, her eyes were moving more, then she started to choke and gasp for air.

It was the biggest relief when I could see her chest rising and she was breathing again. It took her a couple minutes to recover, but she seemed just fine. My mom brought her some water. Her neck was raw and cut up a little. Norman had left the scene a soon as the collar was free. He was nervous and confused. I called him over and he gave Kaya a kiss and she kissed him back, but he was eager to walk away again. He was definitely more shook up than Kaya. I think he felt like he was in trouble and had done something really wrong. I kept re-assuring him that everything was okay and gave him lots of hugs. Even Zoey came over to check on Kaya and shared some water with her, I haven't seen Zoey do that since she was a puppy about 9 years ago.

We brought them up to the deck and in typical Kaya fashion, she wasn't even phased. She was standing there wagging her tail and I had to tell her to lie down. She gave me a look like why the heck would I lie down when there is so much fun going on our there without me? She finally gave in and chewed on her bone.

Play! No? Sleep? Nah! Bone? Okay...

The collar is still in one piece, but it's going in the trash. It's got bad karma now.

Norman was still a bit concerned though. He kept to himself for a little while which was so sad. I've never seen him act that way before.

Poor sad guy:(

They took a short nap and then it was business as usual...hiking, swimming and just being dogs again, like it never happened.

It was a lesson learned, I will never let them play with their collars on again! And though I always thought it was for their safety to have their tags on when outside or home alone, I won't ever leave them alone with their collars on again. I can't even imagine the scene we would have found if we weren't there when this happened:( That being said, I am so proud of my dogs for not turning on each other when they were so frightened and in great pain. And I'm so relieved that they were able to trust me enough to calm down and let me help them when all their natural instincts probably told them to keep trying to separate.

I don't know what we would do without Kaya in our lives. Norman would be so so sad if something happened to his big sister, his partner in crime, and his very best friend. Being the dare-devil that she is, I would not be surprised if this wasn't Kaya's last brush with death, but I really hope it is!

Well-deserved cuddles at the end of the day.

And the nest day it was business as usual:)

Though Kaya and Norman's play style, personalities and connection remained the same as always, a few days later, Kaya's neck wounds started to show. I put some neosporin on them, but she never seemed to mind and they healed quickly. Much quicker than the images burned in my memory.

Kaya didn't care about her cuts, but she did care if I was every going to throw the ball over her head in this picture.

Kaya borrowed the cute crab collar from Zoey. It was too big, but that worked out well because it sat below her cuts.

Has anyone else had any close calls with their dog?

Relates Posts:
A Year with Kaya
Kaya's 1st Birthday!!
Kaya to the Rescue!
Pitties Explore Lake Tahoe