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. 

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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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What is the compassionate response? Animals and Airlines

Should we expect airlines to allow emotional support animals onboard their planes? To be clear, these are not the same service animals trained to help the disabled, such as a seeing eye dog. Should the fact that we now acknowledge that people suffering from post traumatic stress are helped significantly by emotional support animals, thus allowing them to take their animals with them into places they previously would have been denied like on an airplane?

We posed this question to our Grouchy Puppy community on Facebook and thought it would also make for a good post for discussion here. The issue of what is a service or support animal, and where should they be allowed to go is emotional. I feel a lot of compassion and empathy for anyone suffering emotionally who feels better thanks to a dog...I do, in my own way, every single time I volunteer at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. I can imagine how good a dog’s companionship or physical presence must feel to someone much further down the scale of need.


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Snorts, grunts and a chocolate pumpkin: Dog sitting Miss Pickle

Over the July 4th holiday, my first chance to have a dog in our home again came true. Thanks to my well known love for dogs, and past two years volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, a friend of my husband’s let her older dog stay with us for several days. I don’t know who had a better time, the woman at her family reunion, or me spending hours trying to make sure a sweet corgi-lab was content.

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First of all, I honestly believe part of the reason Miss Pickles (is that a great name?!) came to stay with us was due to my recent senior dog experiences. I believe that regular volunteer work gave Candy a feeling of confidence in my ability to care for her dog. She had lost her previous French Bulldog in December, and had only gotten Miss Pickles in March so she wanted to make sure she was in good hands. 

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5 Great Reasons Why Time With a Senior Dog Makes Us Healthier!

Time spent with older dogs can be the best antidote for whatever is ailing you. Each time I walk out of the Muttville doggy loft, I feel better about myself, healthier in mind and body.

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Have you wondered what makes older dogs special, why I believe they rule? Read on for five great reasons why spending time with senior dogs can result in a healthier you!!

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