A couple weeks ago, we had our family Christmas card photos taken by our wonderfully gifted friends, Bill and Nat, from Photo Lab Pet Photography. They used Cabana in a photo shoot a while back for a dog product website they were building. In past years, we've always taken our Christmas card photos ourselves, either utilizing the self-timer or just Photoshopping myself or whichever other family member took the photo into the best overall shot. Usually, I can pull something decent off, but last year, the final result was hodge-podgey, dark, and slightly embarrassing. So I decided back then, come heck or high water, I would have Bill and Nat take our photos the following year. As you can see from this photo, there is absolutely NO COMPARISON between their results and my feeble ones. They know exactly where to go for beautiful backgrounds, how to get Cabana (and the rest of us) to look in the right direction (although she is a very eager model, especially when treats are involved). They have a stellar eye for capturing the right second and the right light. And sure, they have expensive professional equipment. This photo was a sneak peek, so I'm still waiting with baited breath to see the rest of them!
Four years ago at Thanksgiving, Cabana was career changed. I remember being in Los Angeles at my sister's house when we got the surprising yet expected news. It sent me into such a quandary about whether to keep Cabana as our pet or allow Guide Dogs for the Blind to place her with someone else. Had we decided not to keep her, my life would look completely different today. It almost scares me to think how different. Without Cabana, I would not have become involved with my local shelter, I would not have even half the friends I now enjoy, I would not have my wonderful Etsy business, and I would not have a soft yellow toe warmer lying at my feet as I type this. My life is more successful, more fulfilled, more balanced, and more enjoyable. There's not an area in my life that hasn't been permeated by Cabana's presence, all changes that have resulted in GOOD.
Yep, I'm thankful today, thankful for everyday I get to spend with this beautiful dog.
It's hard to believe, but today, Cabana turned 5! She is doing really well, very healthy, still her sweet albeit somewhat aloof self. Her favorite things are eating, eating, and eating. Unfortunately, her weight has crept up a pound or two, but we are working on bringing it back down (story of my own life). We still walk to the park on a regular basis, where she meets up with her friends. Lately, Cabana has gotten finicky about who she will play with. There are certain dogs she loves to romp with and other dogs she will bark at to say "bugger off".
One new friend is Molly, a 10-month old black lab mix. It surprised me that Cabana was willing to play with Molly, since Molly still has that crazy puppy energy and can be a bit "in your face", as seen here as she tries to kiss Cabana. But every morning at the park, Molly greets Cabana like a long lost friend, and they run and romp, which Molly would probably do with any dog, but it's surprising for Cabana.
A week ago, a nearby lake had a dog swim event. They enclosed the lake with netting and allowed only dogs, no humans, in the water. When we first arrived, it was like a kid's first trip to Disneyland (for most kids other than my own who have never liked Disneyland, but I digress). Cabana could not WAIT to get inside the enclosed area. Dogs to meet, smells to sniff, water to splash in, oh my goodness, what to do first!!
Because the lake was completely enclosed, unlike our dog park, I had the freedom to just let Cabana WANDER. You may recall from previous posts (back when I used to post with regularity) that Cabana has that propensity. She is NOT a velcro dog that stays by your side. At the park, I have to call her back to me constantly, or she would end up in Timbuktu. The lake was quite small, and I could easily see the whole area, so I decided to do an experiment to see how long it would take Cabana to realize she was "on her own". Well, the event would have ended at 5pm, and it was 10am when we got there. It's only a slight exaggeration to say it might have taken Cabana the whole day before she missed me. Maybe dinnertime might have made her think, "Where's mom?" I could see Cabana circling the lake, stopping to meet people and dogs here and there, going in and out of the water, happy go lucky, not a care in the world. Not a single thought of where her beloved human might be. After about 15-20 minutes, I used my whistle to call her. I have a special signal for her--one blow, a pause, then three short staccato blows in quick succession.
From across the lake, I could see Cabana's head go up, her ears alert, and she RAN full speed to find me. Maybe she did miss me at least a little after all.
The absolute best part of the outing was that Cabana actually SWAM. She has always loved the water, but she has never really willingly gone into deep water and doggy paddled. Until now! Maybe it was the nice gradual descent into the water, maybe it was seeing all the other dogs doing it. Maybe she finally, at 5-years old, realized she's a lab and is supposed to swim. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I know, Cabana's not really old, but you know what I mean.
Happy birthday, dear Cubby. You are the best dog ever, and I love you more with each passing year.
Our shelter has a wonderful Humane Education program, where human/canine teams are invited to local schools to provide animal-related lessons to students ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade. I had Cabana take the Canine Good Citizen test last year so that she would be eligible to participate. There are a total of 10 different lessons, geared for various age groups, which teach kids about caring for and respecting animals, and how they contribute to our lives and to society.
The first lesson we participated in was a lesson called Best Friends, which teaches young students about how to safely greet a dog and how to help care for their pets.
Because younger students can sometimes be afraid of bigger dogs (although I consider Cabana rather medium-sized myself), we did the lesson with another team that included Bubbles, the cutest little tiny pug I've ever seen. The kids got to choose whether to brush Cabana or Bubbles. I was happy to see that the class ended up pretty equally divided in their selection. Cabana may be 5 times the size of Bubbles, but I don't think many kids could stay scared of her.
We did the same lesson a few weeks later for a Kindergarten class. There were a couple students that admitted to being scared of dogs in general. The teacher asked those children if they would be willing to sit near Cabana and Bubbles. Within a few minutes, the little boy sitting by Cabana became much more comfortable and even petted her throughout the lesson.
The director of the program asked me to design a dog safety poster, using the acrostic "L.A.S.T", which stands for Look, Ask, Show, Touch. I had my younger daughter to sketch a picture of a child looking at a dog and his owner. I scanned the picture and manipulated it in Illustrator to make this poster.
The last lesson we did was probably my favorite. It was called "Science in the Real World: Solving a Veterinary Mystery" and was presented to a 6th grade class by an actual veterinarian. He pretended to examine Cabana and gave the students clues about her "illness". He would ask me questions, and I would answer according to a script I had been given earlier. The students were also allowed to ask questions, and their job was to use their deductive reasoning skills to figure out which of four possible illnesses Cabana had.
The correct answer was heartworm! Blechh, thank goodness it wasn't real! I'm looking forward to future participation in the coming school year.
Oh lordy, I've fallen off the blog wagon, but I intend to get back on! I met up with Becky and Cricket over the weekend, a friendship that came about through our blogs, and I was reminded of all the good things that have resulted from this blog. Plus, I had a few other reminders. A dog park friend said that Cabana was the nicest dog she'd ever met, and another said that at 4.5 years old, Cabana was in her prime. I thought, these are little things I want to remember. Time goes by so fast, and I may not remember this special time in my life and in Cabana's life if I don't record it on this blog. I know that Facebook has taken the place of blogging for many people, but I need to remember that this blog is first and foremost for ME. It's a record of Cabana's life, and I intend to keep blogging for the entirety of it.
A year or more ago, I vowed to start taking Cabana to the beach more often, my goal being like 10 times a year. Well, that didn't happen, BUT I did take Cabana there a couple days ago. It's a 30-minute drive there, 2 hours to leisurely walk the length of the beach and back, another 30-minute drive back, plus about an hour to bathe her (and myself) afterwards. It's a time commitment that I can't justify often, but I was glad to get to do it on Monday.
Oh my word, where have I been? So much has happened, so little time to write it all down!. Let's just dive right in. We fostered this litter of kitties over Memorial Day weekend while their regular foster person was out of town.
They were 5 weeks old then, weaned from bottle feeding (thank goodness), and were quite fun to foster. All of them were extremely social and loved being held. Cleaning the litter box continually was probably the only tough thing about it. I'm sure they will be adopted the second they become available. How can anyone resist those faces?
Currently, we are fostering a lovely little dog named Mandy. She is a lab-mystery mix, and she was found in a barn with her 8 puppies. Our shelter's wonderful administrative director fostered them all at her house until all 8 puppies were adopted. Now, it's Mandy's turn!
Cabana is fine with Mandy, not necessarily thrilled, but probably much happier with another dog in the house, rather than the 4 kittens (Cabana was actually a little scared of the kitties!).
Mandy loves chasing balls, but other than that, Mandy is a newbie. Cabana has helped teach her about crate training, house training, walking nicely on leash, and sitting when asked.
Even though Mandy has been spayed, she must still have lots of yummy estrogen smells coming out of her because all the male dogs at the park get googly around her. She doesn't care about them, though. She just wants me to throw her ball.
Mandy is probably only about 1 year old, so she's just a puppy herself. Playing fetch is helping Mandy get back to her girlish figure. Even though she's had a hard life so far, it amazes me what a nice dog Mandy is. Like Cabana, she's just inherently polite. She rarely barks, doesn't get up on the furniture without being invited, doesn't counter surf, isn't destructive, and just wants to be in the same room with me. No one taught her those things. That's just who she is. And she deserves an awesome family and home.