Ten (10) of the most common things said to dogs first thing in the morning

It’s been over three years since I began showing up for morning volunteer shifts with the senior dogs, and it still never gets old. Ha! These old timer jokes write themselves when both the dogs and the volunteer (ahem, that would be me) are on the older side of life. Yes, the dogs are old but helping them start their day off right is very enriching, for both of us.

image from www.grouchypuppy.com
Good Morning! How did you sleep?

Something I've noticed over time is that the dogs coming through the doggy loft may change but many of the conversations remain the same. I certainly have noticed a pattern to some of the morning rituals and remarks passed between dog and volunteer. It can be quite endearing to see new volunteers be surprised at how fun the morning shift can be, and how relatable the oldsters are. 

The following are the ten most common questions or exchanges, I say or overhear (!!) on my mornings at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue:

  1. I don’t have anymore sweetheart.
  2. Oooh, what's your story little one?
  3. How’s that? Does this feel good?
  4. Hmmm that’s some pretty wicked morning breath you got there buddy!
  5. Ahhh, look who’s sleeping in this morning 
  6. Shh don’t tell, here’s a little extra piece of chicken
  7. Good morning! How did you sleep last night?
  8. Do you like to be picked up? You do! Okay, let's go look outside and see what everyone is doing this morning!
  9. Hey! More poop?! Didn't you just come back from a walk? Lol
  10. Whoa, man! That’s a whole lotta backwash in your water bowl

I love seeing new volunteers embrace these senior sweethearts and their morning routines. For some it is their first time spending meaning moments with an older dog. I spoken to a few about the similarities between these dogs and their grandparents. We laugh together and I believe many of the younger volunteers take away experiences that reinforce compassion for the elderly, and for animals overall.

Can you guess which comments or exchanges were from me? How many of these or similar questions do you have with your own dog? 

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Reasons why we should love old dogs

Why do I love old dogs so much? This is a fair question given how popular puppies always are. While I have nothing against puppies they are just not for me. Their high energy and constant need for education and monitoring is exhausting. I love all dogs very much which is why puppies keep me in a constant state of worry over their development and care. By the very fact they are in this stage of growth, any mistakes or bad habits they develop thanks to me, are mine to deal with at a later date.

Given all that described potential stress, you might guess that I have never had children or been a school teacher. I’m also the youngest amongst my siblings so my supervision skills are strictly based on managing a few people, or the occasional project at work, not the best skill set for taking on the responsibility of a puppy. However, older dogs are a whole different beast. To begin with, there is my absolute love for the oldsters.

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Having experienced my own dog going through her golden years, the affection I feel for seniors is deep. Spending weekly volunteer shifts at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue has confirmed my love for the sugar faces is not limited to my own dog. Big ones, little ones, blind ones, deaf ones, three-legged ones, terminal ones, I absolutely love all these old dogs, and I am here to tell you why!

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It ain’t easy being a big adoptable older dog

Given my personal experiences, I might have to confess to having a special place in my heart for adoptable big older dogs.

The bigger the dog, the bigger the love? For some of us, it sure can feel like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks when you feel the love and affection and attention from a big dog like Hamilton or Nikki. When they gaze into your eyes you want to always have the right answer to their questions. If they want to go for a walk, you want to say yes. If they want a little taste of your hotdog, you want to say yes.

Thank you Muttville

When I learned that the guardian for Hamilton and Nikki passed away, which is how they found their way to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, I felt a rush of compassion for this pair of big dogs. They are big hunks of love and they know how to engage with people.  

The morning when I arrived at the doggy loft, and took these photos, I laughed when I saw how Hamilton convinced multiple volunteers to take him for walks, while Nikki napped and lazily greeted newcomers with big head butts of fluffy affection and tail wags.

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They had thoroughly worked their magic on us all. Now they are in loving homes but their story is a wonderful example of how, even in the big city, giving a big dog another chance at a loving home is worth it.

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Thank you Muttville Senior Dog Rescue for stepping up for these big older dogs, who still had a lot to share with us humans about why dogs make life better, and why yes, sometimes the bigger the dog the bigger and heavier the loving affection.

My big dog may have crossed over but these encounters are wonderful reminders of why we fell in love with her and what an incredible opportunity she gave us. I’m still grateful for her many lessons and experiences together, unique to life with a small dinosaur.

If you get a chance to have a big adopted dog in your life, I hope you’ll consider it.

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Lessons learned from dogs and my biggest mistake made I still feel guilty about

Have you ever done something to a dog, that years later, you still feel bad about? Maybe the biggest mistake I made when we adopted our first dog was six months after we first brought her home. I can still remember every detail and this moment happened over ten years ago. All I can say is, thank goodness dogs don’t hold grudges, and are predisposed to living in the moment. Sure, I can make excuses to let myself off the hook but I decided it was better to focus on learning from the experience and appreciate her ability to teach me such an important lesson.

The short version of this story is that I assumed (yep, big mistake right there) that because we’d only had adopted her six months ago, and because she was a dog, staying with another dog, in the home of a dog trainer, that she wouldn’t miss us. I was wrong. Very wrong. I didn’t know that she could, or would, bond that quickly with us.

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Why dogs are adoptable and why we embraced the word ‘surrender’

We fell so hard in love with our adopted dog that within months of bringing her home, it felt like she had been with us forever. I remember staring at her wishing I had known her as a puppy. I dreamed up scenarios of her life before us. We exhaled in her presence, as if we’d been holding our breaths expecting her to disappear, as if she was too good to be true. She was about five years old and perfect. It took no time before it was clear she was the missing piece to our family puzzle. She plugged herself into our life and home completely and seamlessly. I pinched myself every time she walked into a room, or I walked in the front door and saw her big fluffy face.

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Owner surrender

Adoptable dogs become adoptable for a bunch of reasons. They are often picked up as strays. Sometimes their person passes away, or their family is moving somewhere and can’t take them and the dog is taken to a shelter or rescue. Many of the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue dogs were strays or surrendered for some reason.

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Discover why senior dogs rule and caring about dogs matter: Meet Ginger Rogers

Is it true that like attracts like? I do find myself pulled towards certain older dogs when I enter the doggy loft each week at Muttville. Sure, some are just so outwardly engaging that most dog people would notice them and respond. I certainly greet all the dogs with happy good mornings, followed by questions about their night. I try not to wake any who want to sleep in, or generally disturb any of the dogs who just don’t do mornings. Not everyone is perky first thing, and that includes dogs.

Spice Girl or Spicy Dog

There is a dog that has been with Muttville longer than usual who I find relatable in a million ways. She is what is called “spicy” or rather, she can snap at you if you’re not watchful. What I love about her is that I get it. I can relate to the desire to react negatively or at least guardedly to others. She’s wary, but at the same time I can see her desire to engage. I can see her body language trying to communicate that she wants to be pet, but just in a certain way and for a certain length of time. If those planets don’t align, then forget it.

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She needs to call the shots and that’s okay

I have a strong feeling that Ginger Rogers is a wonderful little dog who just needs someone who gets her. Someone who maybe has their own particular set of rules, therefore appreciates and respects hers. She needs someone who respects her individual nature but also appreciates it and will accommodate it...maybe even enjoy it. She needs patience. I used to enjoy seeing my big dog tell other people when they were doing something wrong. She told them when they weren’t petting her properly, or when they were too loud near her.

Ginger Rogers is a sweet old lady. I know she will find her person. I’m glad she has Muttville in her corner.

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Do you have a social contract with your dog?

Before we adopted our first dog, I told my husband that having a dog, especially an older dog we didn’t know meant we were taking out a social contract with the dog. For me, choosing to bring a dog into my home and family is something I take serious, because I believe loyalty goes both ways.

People talk about what loyal companions dogs are but they deserve loyalty too. So when my husband was ready to have a dog, I made sure he understood what intentions would be and what my part in the relationship would look like. I explained that any adoption meant that I was agreeing emotionally, financially and spiritually to commit to this dog forever. Til death us do part. 

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And when we finally adopted our dog from the San Francisco SPCA, that night, I literally looked her in the eye and shook her paw, saying I will do my best to set her up for success and give her the best dog life she could have in the big city. I promised her that I would try to never let her down, to not take her for granted, and to appreciate her dog qualities, for as long as she gave us. We had nine incredible years together that I believe were made indelible because of this social contract.

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My Muttville Story About Adoptable Tag

What is it about big dogs that I love so easily? Is it their large body proportions? Their often out-sized personalities? This week when I met a new big shepherd-like boy at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, all of my empathy responded to his presence.

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This dog came at me as soon as I entered the open doggy loft. He thrust his big plush head into my lap to say pet me. So I did. His thick fur was rich. I immediately smoothed his face and cleaned his eyes, telling him with my hands and expressions that he is loved, and in a safe place.

Some people get nervous when a big dog isn’t shy about telling you that they need and want you. This dog’s body language said he was open but wasn’t a pushover. He let me kiss his face, and enjoyed some cuddling but he wasn’t lazy about it. He seemed to orchestrate how you could engage with him, as if he was saying, “I want you to pet me, only right here, not there, and like this.”

He reminded me of when we first met our newly adopted dog. She was a big fluffy girl who acted very open and willing, but only to the untrained eye. In reality she was just showing you that her confidence in herself allowed people she barely knew to engage with her. But as we learned over time, she knew what she was doing and if you did something she didn’t like, you knew it.

Tag, the big shepherd boy, was showing me similar signs. What I hope to communicate to anyone interested in adding him to their home is this lesson. Trust him. Love him. Set him up for success, and he will be your fiercest buddy and confidante.

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Can you believe we began Grouchy Puppy a decade ago?! 😳

Happy New Year dog lovers and Grouchy Puppy peeps! It’s storming here in San Francisco and it seemed like the perfect time to sit indoors with a cup of tea and return to writing blog posts. 

Have you seen or heard about the #10YearChallenge on Facebook or Instagram? Quite a few adorable side-by-side photos of dogs growing from puppy to adult have filled our news feed. Ten years is a long time and for most people and pups, it’s hard not to see significant changes, though I swear some of the dogs at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue do not seem aged at all.

So this challenge had me looking back at old blog posts and I realized that Grouchy Puppy is ten years old. Can you believe it?! The oldest post I have saved is over on Cleo’s blog because this is where it began, with my overwhelming love and new life with this enormous, fluffy, adopted dog from the San Francisco SPCA — a dog who people thought was a wolf and a boy! 

Today, January 17th, ten years ago, inspired by my dog and our new life together in the big city, I launched a blog and website. The posts and site have ranged from simple, funny, and deep, but always devoted to the human dog bond. Take a look in the archives and you will see what I mean...

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I didn’t even use any photos of her yet, just this sentence that I imagined she would say based on the look she gave me after she did the dramatic drive-by around the foot of our bed. Hahaha, dogs are such expressive creatures! Every week at Muttville, there is at least one dog whose face or body language is speaking volumes about how they feel or what they want to do, or don’t do. I love deciphering or at least trying. 

MAGIC

When I look back, is it any surprise the first blog post is titled Magic? For me, all dogs are magic. I’m as passionate today as I was ten years ago about dogs, and our unique connection with them. I am fascinated by the evolution of our relationship. With that in mind, I am thinking about how to celebrate this wonderful decade Grouchy Puppy has officially been in existence. 

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How does a giveaway of some fun dog books sound? To celebrate ten years of all things Grouchy Puppy, I have some ideas but would love to hear from you instead. We have 11 months for festivities!!

Share any and all suggestions in the comments below, go to the Contact tab above, or send your email to info@grouchypuppy.com — or use hashtag #grouchypuppy10 and Tweet or Instagram us your ideas! 

Thank you for sharing our dog-filled journey!

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Why Invest in a Senior Dog?

Quiet. Solitude. Restorative. Peace. Serenity. These feelings can be experienced by a person after time spent with an older dog. The cost? You have to slow down, close your mouth, and open your heart. Being willing to sit still longer than a minute or stay in a bed an extra thirty is also appreciated. A price some people may struggle with paying but I’m here to tell you that you will get what you pay for. If you can, try and look at it as an investment, a long term investment in yourself, and a short term investment in a dog.

Some of us have a harder time than others dealing with the daily negativity online and on television.  We get depressed from the high stress level, and would prefer an alternative to drinking a bottle of wine, or spending five hours on a treadmill trying to restore our positive outlook with a few endorphins.

You know what we found is a good alternative? Investing in a senior dog!

Senior dogs epitomize endurance.

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Sláinte!

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Why we love old dogs ♥️ November is Adopt A Senior Dog Month.

Forget reading your Sunday horoscope. Don't listen to the podcast that promises to tell you secrets to the meaning of life. Save your money by not going to that success seminar given by a life coach. Instead, I suggest you find yourself an old dog.

Find yourself a sugar face, a senior sweetheart from your local animal shelter, then love them and care for them through their final chapters. If you are unable to bring an old dog into your home, then find your local rescue and start spending as much time as you can there with their older residents. Volunteer, or if you are older too, join in a cuddle session like they offer at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue’s Cuddle Club.

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When are labels necessary? Our dog came from a shelter but that quickly became a footnote

Ingredients in a can of soup. Radioactive material. Overnight delivery. These are labels we need. They are important and in the case of one, can have a material impact on our life. But what about shelter dog? Is that a necessary label?

When we adopted our dog from a local shelter she was labeled a pleaser. I think she was just throwing out open body language, and any behavior she thought would get her welcomed. Being in a chaotic and unfamiliar environment her actions could have been labeled needy or anxious, even possessive. 

After we brought her home I stripped her of labels giving her the freedom to show us how she wanted to be known in her new family. We even tried to offer her the chance at a different name than the one she came with but she didn’t care and liked the one she already had well enough. As you might guess, I don’t like labels. Yes, in many cases they are important and helpful, but I feel that in today’s world they are used to divide — in a negative way. 

Sure, our dog came from a shelter but that became a footnote, very quickly. 

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Is a dog like having an anchor?

Something that struck me recently was just how few stories talked about during the news or written online — that are calm and measured. The chaos described is distressing whether it is related to our government or recent hurricane. Since it was my day to volunteer with the oldsters at Muttville, I decided to look to them for answers and solace. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Trying to get a skittish dog to relax and trust your intentions is a good exercise. I spoke quietly and moved slowly until sweet Twister understood me. By the time she recognized my welcoming body language, I had stopped thinking about the world outside.

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Confident dogs like Arthur are amazing to behold. He truly goes after you with the knowledge that he knows how soft and loving his moves are. I got more immediate sweet kisses from him after I arrived than any dog. We just met but he offered love by the spoonful if you returned his snuggles with lots of attention.

Then there is the dog with the faraway eyes. With the silly Mohawk, Emilia drew your attention, but it was her distant yet expectant look that had you walking over. She wanted your affection even if she didn’t run up to ask for it.

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All of these dogs have one thing in common. They provided me with an anchor to what matters. Thanks to a dog, I was reminded that I could be moored to a warm beating heart whose purpose was only to offer love. They only cared about the flow or oxytocin current we were sharing.

More than ever, I am grateful to ability of a dog to provide me with a positive anchor in this turbulent sea. It’s Adopt A Shelter Dog Month and I encourage everyone who is feeling adrift to consider having a dog in their life. You might be surprised by the wonderful feelings they bring when you are tethered to their furry little hearts.

Learn more about these three cutie pies at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.

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Dog Adoption: No Trick 🎃 All Treat

There is no trick to loving a dog. When I begin my volunteer shift with the old dogs at Muttville each week, I am sure to find a new furry face or five. Sure, first I have to get past the powerful smells that pour out of the rooms, made from twenty dogs waking up in the morning. Then I need to listen beyond the good morning barks. Until finally, I am up all the stairs and able to peer over the gates to offer my own greetings. It is always worth it.

I am always glad to arrive at Muttville and survey the current canine crew. Besides having the “senior dog” label in common, all of the dogs tend to overlap personalities and backgrounds. My favorite experience though is discovering the older pup who is still discovering that they hit the jackpot by having Muttville in their corner now. These dogs have this expression of disbelief that is tangible. I can feel it flowing off of them through their body language, the looks on their face and incredible gratitude.

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