Friday, July 18, 2008

Dog Training Classes - Ten Memories #3

This post also appears over at our new home.

#3 Dog Training Classes

Finnegan was fifteen weeks old when we got him, which is older than most puppies, but it also meant he was fairly well potty trained. After two or three days he knew where to go which avoided one of the biggest issues with training a pet, all the was left to do was to teach him how to behave. Of course doing that is a much more complicated process than it would seem. There are thousands of things that go into training a dog so we decided to get some help.

After taking a look at some ads, reading around online for some reviews and calling a few trainers we settled on one that held puppy obedience and manners classes. The classes were officially a gift to Finn's Mom as part of her birthday present to help her bond with her new love. Each session was an hour long and build upon the last session, and there was even homework. For the first class we read all the pre class material, avoided a large breakfast for Finn (to help him respond to the treats) grabbed our towel and leash and set off. Finnegan was excited, it was still one of his first times out interacting with other dogs, but we were instructed to stay well away from the others and concentrate on handling our puppy. We learned the basics of how to make Finn sit, stay, behave on walks, wait at doors, go to his spot and more importantly we learned what we were doing that would cause Finn confusion.

One of the biggest revelations was that it didn't matter what we said to the dog, it was much more important what we did. This meant understanind everything from how we said a command, what other movements we made, our facial expressions, and even our emotional state. Dog physchology is a massively complicated issue and the classes were only the tip of the iceberg to understanding Finn. That is not to say there were not quick results. As a golden retriever Finn has been breed to please his handler and he was quick to respond to anything that smelled and tasted great too. By the end of the sessions, including all the homework, Finn was sitting on command, was able to lie down, come when called, and his general demeanor around was that of a well trained gentleman. The excitement of seeing our little guy go to school was amazing and just another reminder that he relies on us to teach him the things he needs to know and the way he needs to act.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Neutering, Xrays- Ten Memories #2

This post is cross posted at our new home.

#2 Memories From the First Year of Pet Ownership- Neutering and Hip X-Rays

I've watched too much Price Is Right to not know what spay and neutering is important whether or not you win a cool RV. Only days after getting Finn we saw his vet for a little check, he was fine then but we used it as an opportunity to book a visit to get our puppy, how do you say, 'fixed'. Poor little guy.

I believe it was the right decision for Finn for a variety of reasons, to keep him safe, avoid health problems, and as we learned to avoid spreading a genetic disease. While he was sedated for the surgery they took some X-Rays that showed Finnegan's hips were succeptible to hip dysplasia. It was after the surgery when they called, so I was relieved he was fine for now, but terribly worried about what seemed like a horrible diagnosis. Over the next few days I did some research and realized although it is not ideal, a diagnosis for Hip Dysplasia was manageable which helped calm Finn's Mom and me. It is something we need to keep in mind, we should monitor Finn's weight and be aware of his activity level, but until he starts to show pain we need to take it easy. That just left the cone.

Coneheads. That's what dogs wind up being after most surgeries. Little bear was no different, and when I got him home in his drugged out state he wadled around bumping his little plastic protector into all sorts of things. The next week and a half were filled with mad dashes ending in *clunck* as Finnegan never really figured out how to deal with having such a huge head. That's what you get for not being able to withhold from eating your own stitches though.

Such a major medical procedure and diagnsis made a real impact on us as dog owners. It was a reminder that we were now responsible for the well being of something else, and we took that seriously. If feels nice to care for and even worry about a pet. My only hope is that Finnegan gets as much enjoyment out of his life as he brings to others.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ten Memories from the First Year of Pet Ownership #1

This post also appears on the new website, this site will be migrating over there gradually and I hope so of you reading this will join in.

July first marked the first anniversary of our life with Finnegan, a beautiful golden retriever. With this milestone I find myself reflecting back on all the things that have happened in the past year and all the things I have learned. There were the hours spent lounging on the couch or playing fetch, buying toys at the pet store only to see them ripped apart in mere minutes, exciting trips to dog parks and hikes and countless other experiences that I treasure. In an attempt to explain what a whirlwind at has been, and all the things I have learned I have complied a list of the ten most memorable moments, some fun and some worrisome, from the first year of pet ownership. Because some of them involve full stories I'll be posting them serially over the course of the month. If you are a pet owner feel free to chime in and let me know how you dealt with some of these issues or what your favorite memories were from your first year of having a pet.

#1 The First Night of Owning a Dog -Day 1

We had discussed getting a dog for a few months and after much deliberation we decided on a breed, the golden retriever. The research was extensive, including books on ownership, tons of informative websites and plenty of google image searches (on the part of Finn's mom who could oogle baby puppies for days on end). We tried to register with rescue organizations, filling out forms at three separate organizations but unfortunately the response was not as timely as we would have hoped. I had a month and a half before I would start my job so in an effort to use the time to acclimate ourselves to the life with a dog we turned to the classified ads. There were a few listings for golden litters and we set up visits on a Sunday morning.

The first stop we made was to Finn's breeders. We got to meet his mom and dad, both of whom were beautiful well mannered pets that were in great health and generally seemed like the type of dog we were searching for. At the time Finn's name was "Orange" (each of the litter had a different color ribbon used to identify them and save the breeders from growing too attached). He was 15 weeks old, a bundle of energy and looked simply adorable. The breeder's told us how great his parents were and all about his litter. His father was 12 and was clearly a part of their family, his mother a 4 year old whom was also a great family pet. Of the litter of eight, five already had new homes. A sixth was leaving that day which left "Orange" and Bella. Bella, who was staying with the family, had a close call when she was caught under her sleeping mother and had to be revived via CPR. After such a harrowing experience the breeder's could not bear to part with her. After meeting with "Orange" and friends for almost an hour we set off to fulfill our obligation to the other breeder with whom we had set up a meeting. We had a great feeling about him "Orange" and almost made the decision right there but decided since we had already set up the second meeting it was the least we could do to show up. At the other breeder our minds were made up in a matter of minutes, we played with the litter for a little bit, chatted with the breeder and left telling them "we'll think about it and give you a call when we make a decision".

Back in the car the discussion went something like this:
Me: "Ummm... so what do you think"
Finn's Mom: "I liked Orange, he was just..."
Me: "Let's go pick up Finn!" (we had decided on his name previously)
Finn's Mom: "YAYYY!!!!"

We called Finn's first family and gave them the news. On the way back to their place we stopped at a Petco to get Finn's first toy, a ball he would never play with.Twenty minutes later we arrived at the breeder's and set to filling out the paperwork; AKC registration, health history, and transfer of ownership, as well as collecting a large packet that included immunization and breed information that the breeder's thought we would enjoy (we did). As we left, loading Finn into a small crate we had brought with us, it was apparent he was going to be missed. The teary eyes further convinced us that he had been raised properly up that time and reiterated that this little pooch's life and well being was now in our hands.

The trip home was a nervous drive below the speed limit. Finn piddled a little while poking his head out the top of the carrier we used to secure him. Finn's Mom sat in back with him, making sure that he knew he had someone to watch over him. Back at the house we let Finn out to romp in his new yard and introduced him to his room, complete with couches he could jump on, his water dish and food bowl and a spot for his crate. For the rest of the day we played with Finn, gave him treats and did everything possible to make the transition an exciting and pleasant one.

Night one started by putting Finn into the carrier we had brought him home in but that did not last. The carrier we had was part of our planning for a puppy but because Finn, at 15 weeks, was older then the puppy we anticipated he didn't seem to fit. The small size coupled with the fact that it was his first night alone forced us to make the decision that it would be less traumatic if we let him roam, and we resolved to get a suitable crate the next day. Equipped with a piddle pad the small room, the size of a single garage port, had all the amenities a puppy needs. We heard the golden nugget whimper for only a few minutes before the excitement of the day took over and he curled into a ball and got busy sleeping.

Our first day as pet owners was an exciting and memorable one, but it was only the beginning of all the wonderful things to come...

Memories 2-10 to come. Have a memorable tale of your first experience as a dog owner? Love to hear it, share in the comments or e-mail it along.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Save a golden retriever!

Finnegan asks to save some golden retrievers

After having been at the West Los Angeles Animal shelter Sunday afternoon this article about two little gonlden retrievers who are in need of help dropped in the RSS reader.

Poor little Ben has been in ICU the past 4 days and is hanging on by a thread. Unfortunately Jerry had to join him yesterday. With all their medical costs adding up the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue is trying to raise funds so they can continue care and give these boys a fighting chance. You can securely donate at their Firstgiving page.

Couldn't pass up on posting this.

Monday, June 23, 2008

VPI Pet Insurance Review - Is it worth it?

If you're like me when you first got your pet you argued with yourself over getting pet insurance. On the one hand, a puppy quickly becomes part of the family and is definitely worth any cost. Then again we all hate dealing with insurance companies, and are suspect that we're being ripped off, so is it really worth the extra headache or do you just want to pay for any health issues out of pocket? Do they even cover anything?

We did the whole err on the side of caution' thing, and got Finn pet insurance. They did reimburse us after we got him neutered and had a check up, but not for the full amount. Filing the claim wasn't that hard, despite many online reviews that say they request too many forms, we simple sent n everything possible and let them sort it out. For our most recent visit to Brentwood Pet Clinic, our vet helped out by filling out the vet required part and faxing it to VPI for us. We followed up with VPI a few days later to make sure everything was in and now we just wait to see what's approved. Finding out how much you are qualified for is nearly impossible without some help, unless you are a fan of reading legalese, but the staff has been very helpful over the phone. Check ups and vaccinations are easy enough, you say what they are, they pay you the set amount. Other, unforeseen, issues are a bit more cryptic. Our policy has a laundry list of things that aren't covered, one of which is anything to do with Finn's hips due to his breeds susceptibility to hip dysplasia.

We've have been lucky that Finnegan has been relatively healthy and haven't had much need for the insurance. This most recent visit we took him in for something we saw in his poop (thinking it was tape worms), it turned out not to be but he did have Giardia. Because Giardia can be spread to humans I was warned by the vet not to eat Finn's poop, as eating poop is likely how Finny got it and could pass it along. The treatment consisted of a 3-day powder medication that we added to some wet food for him.

The vet also said he had an ear infection despite our fairly regular schedule of cleaning his ears. His ears get dirty all the time though, from things like rolling in the lawn, so it's not that much of a surprise they got infected even if were are still concerned. They gave us some medicated drops for a 3 week treatment and then we'll just make sure to keep the ears extra clean and be on the lookout for any inflammation.

As far as the insurance goes, we have no idea if/what/how much of the trip will be covered. Finn did get vaccinations while there, and he was due for a checkup in a few weeks anyways so we should be reimbursed for those. Having to wait to find out what is covered is the worst part, and if it's not a significant amount we may rethink the insurance overall. At about $40 a month, I do wonder if it has been worth it and I think we may let it lapse. We'll still save some money just for Finn but that $40 a month could go a long way to paying most of these bills.

If anyone else has experiences with pet insurance, please let us know your view in the comments.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Westridge Canyon Wilderness Dog Park

Even in Los Angeles there are still dirt roads, trails, and wilderness areas that exist to give everyone a feel of the outdoors. I'm a huge fan of finding new places to go hiking so last Sunday Finnegan and I went to take a hike at this off leash wilderness area (although Finn would be staying on leash because there were birds and cars, bad mix).

We parked up off Mullholland Drive at a power station (yeah I know it sounds like the island on Lost!. I'm not too sure where but supposedly there is an off-leash area in the area. I didn't see any signs that said off-leash, but we did see a dog off leash. The park is offically located at:

Wilderness Canyon Dog Park
17500 Mulholland Drive
Encino Ca. 90049

but unfortunately we didn't get that far. " From the 405 freeway, take Mulholland Drive west 2.7 miles."
were the directions we were following, no mention of the fact that the last .2mils of this was down a dirt road (I'd suggest not heading up here after a rain for this reason). What's more you can drive all the way to the top if you'd like to access more trails and avoid hiking on fire roads. Next time we'll do that and hike along the ridge but this time we got to hike the fire road leading up to the old Nike Missle Site. Along the way we stopped to take a picture overlooking the San Fernando Valley.Finnegan Overlooking the San Fernando ValleyThis radio tower they have up top is some relic from the Cold war, it is one of 300 original sites scattered around the country. On the walk up we got a nice view of the San Fernando Valley and Finnegan posed for a photo op over looking the valley.

When we arrived at the station and took a quick water break for Finn at the bowls that were lying out. Each bowl seemed to have a name on it of a dog and a date they passed away. They were left there, I suppose, as a tribute to a great pet. We sure think they are great for leaving a bowl at exactly the place Finn wanted to see one. After the drink we headed up to the top of the tower to have a look around.

Golden Retriever atop the NIKE missile station
Finnegan loved bouding up the stairs of the tower, his reward was a decent view that would have been better without the smog; and a nice cool breeze that made it all worth it. I took some photos up top that I'm hoping to stitch together for a full 360 view but I also snapped Finnegan before we began the return hike down to the car.

There are loads more trails, and you can find a trail map on the web, but we decided to head on back to the car. All in all the trip was good. If we do it again we'll probably drive all the way up to the station where you can park a car without much fear, then the real adventures will begin.

The wikipedia article on Nike Missles is a great entry that sheds some light on the function of the station and the California Enviornmental Information Catalog has a great hsitroy of the surrounding area that explains how this wonderful park has stayed just that:

The acquisition of Westridge-Canyon Back Wilderness Park, formerly know as the Eastport property,Cold War warning sign at Westridge Canyon Park culminates over a decade of preservation efforts by Yaroslavsky, the Conservancy and many surrounding community groups. Eastport was the single largest privately owned open space remaining in the City of Los Angeles. The property had at one time been permitted for the development of over 500 homes. It had also been slated to be used as access for potential Rustic and Sullivan Canyon landfills until Yaroslavsky successfully removed the property from the Sanitation District's map. The park is contiguous with the 20,000 acre urban wilderness park system known as the """"""""Big Wild"""""""". The property is bordered by upper Mandeville Canyon, Sullivan Canyon, Mission Canyon and the Conservancy's San Vicente Mountain Park. The dominant feature of the site is a north-south ridgeline, known as the Westridge fire road. This fire road has long been used by hikers and mountain bikers, and is accessible from both theSan Fernando Valley and the West Side. "
Thanks public records.

So Finnegan might not have gotten the same history lesson out of this that others would, but at least he got to feel important, as if he were in charge of protecting a whole missile station.
A Golden Sentry at the Cold War missile site

Overall it was a great Sunday hike, not crowded, nice views, plenty of trails. The bathrooms being closed was annoying but understandable. If anyone happens to know the story of the dogs whose bowls are up at the station please let me know. That water made the whole trip.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Puppy Flies His Own Flag.

Finnegan has been known to walk to the beat of his own drum. He is an independent little golden retriever, so it's only fitting he needs a flag. With the recent trip up north, to the beach, and around L.A, using the California flag as a basis just makes sense.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pictures- Puppy Finn Experiencing Spring Time

It's been a while since I've posted some solid pictures of Finnegan. Here are a few of the past months.
Golden Retriever lying in the grassAt one year two months old Finnegan is in the prime of his golden retriever puppy years. He is still a little kid and watching him playing in the yard is just great. I got to take Finn with me on a business trip and visit to my parents, and Finn's mom joined us for the weekend.

These two (above and below) we took as the puppy was playing in the yard. He loved his mini dog excursion to the grandparents back yard and showed his fondness of such by sticking his nose in anything that smelled and rolling or napping in anything else (although sometimes he rolled in nasty smelling things as well.
Finnegan the puppy stretched out on the grass
Golden Retriever Green GrassThe yard suited Finn, and he even lent some of his gardening (tearing out plants) and cooking (poking his nose in an unlit grill). He didn't see any problem with his behavior and just kept giving off these puppy dog eyes.Puppy with his head cocked giving puppy dog eyes
Adolescent Dog
We spent a lot of time outside with Finn just chewing on his bone. We even took him to a dog park up in Danville.Danville California Dog Park
Finnegan gnawing away
Dog food and an old wood floorThe old floor with Finn's food and the new deck where he did most of his eating.
The pooches eyes say Who Me?Finnegan even got to go to the top of Mount Diablo. At 3,849 feet it the highest point Bear has ever been outside. The Tejon Pass on the I-5, which we drive on the way up north, is at 4183ft, but we haven't let the little pooch out of the car up there.
Dog atop Mount Diablo in Northern CaliforniaAll in all it was a great trip, Finny got to go to park, we got to relax and see my parents. Great Memorial Day Weekend

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Runyon Canyon Dog Park- Dog Hike in Los Angeles

One of the best parts about being a dog owner is all the fun things you wind up doing with your dog that you would not normally do. Sure I am an avid fan of the out of doors but I would not be taking hikes in Los Angeles without Finn (To be honest without him I wouldn't know there really was anything considered a "hike" in L.A.). Anyways, last weekend I got to do one of those new things when I brought Finn out to Runyon Canyon Park.

Runyon Canyon is a massive, 134 acre, hiking trail and park located in the Hollywood hills between Hollywood boulevard and Mulholland Drive. Parking is a hassel and can add a mile to a hike if you go at a busy time. The off-leash area is packed with people from dawn until dusk and there are loads of dogs around. Personally I keep Finn on a leash when we are there simply because he is excitable and I worry that he'll go scampering off down a slope that is too steep for a chase, or he'll find some wildlife that I don't want to save him from. As you can see from the picture below (taken of the west trail from the eastern trail) the path is fine but there is a lot of area in the park that you do NOT want a pet going.
View of Runyon Canyon Off leash dog trail in Los AngelesRunyon Canyon Trail East- UnpavedThat being said, the park is gorgeous. The western side has a paved service road that is almost entirely off leash. The eastern path (above) is an unpaved trail that winds up the side of the hill and provides some great lookouts of L.A. The two do meet up for a total hike that is about 3-4 miles of off leash excitement. More trails at the top of the hill attach the off leash area to the Mullholland entrance (which does have some limited parking).
Lots of water fountains at Runyon Canyon Dog Park
The park caters to dogs and dog owners and there are plenty of water stops at the base of the trails and a few along the way. You do have to bring your own bags though, the park does not provide any and is notorious for being a "toilet" thanks to the off leash nature and some irresponsible pet owners.

Picnic tables at RUnyon Canyon Dog parkThere are some picnic tables and a garden by the Fuller entrance where you can catch your breath after a long hike and along the trail benches and well positioned rocks provide a place to sit (albeit unshaded) to admire the scenery.

Runyon Canyon Trail View of Los Angeles

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Photos of a Golden Retriever's day at the beach

Here are a few photos from our recent trip to Leo Carillo State Park in Malibu. It was Finn's first experience in the ocean.
Wet dog Finnegan sitting on the beachIt was a beautiful day for Finn's first trip into the ocean.
A blue sky and a golden retrieverThe wet puppy was covered in sand but still looked adorable
Finnegan the golden retriever with the surf in the backgroundThe seagulls helped keep Finn's attention, he loved chasing their shadows. He also wanted to attack every piece of seaweed he saw wash up.
Finn the dog's first trip into the ocean surfAnd here is another one showing off what a beautiful southern California day it was.
Another regal golden retriever with a beautiful blue sky

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dog Beach Los Angeles- Leo Carillo State Park

Although it is technically not in Los Angeles (as no beaches are), Leo Carillo State Park is one of the few sandy ocean side destinations that allows dogs without the threat of a fine. We took Finn up there this weekend in hopes of letting him play in the waves, which we didn't let him do the last time we brought him to a beach. After pawing at a few mild splashes Finn dove in and within minutes was letting waves crashes on top of him.Golden retriever in the surf
The on leash rule, even in the water, is a bit of a bummer but we did see a lot of extending leashes and stakes with leads attached. Of course Finn was upset that he didn't get to run free but unlike other dog parks you are allowed to bring food so we were able to entice him to relax for a few minutes. There were tons of other dogs at the beach, in every size and most owners were friendly with well socialized pets. As always though, Finn was the best looking one of the bunch.Wet golden retriever on the beachThe beach does provide a great place to run with a dog, but for those who want a more intense walk the park also contains a few miles of hiking trails as well as overnight camping spots. Running in the sand with the dog

There are no bags here but it is a beach so it is pretty easy to figure out a way to "pick up" after a pet. Also there is no water (fresh... clearly there is salt water), which could be a big problem for dogs that like drinking salt water (which causes dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea). If you are going to a beach with a pet you may want to look at some more tips about taking a dog to a beach.

Getting to Leo Carillo beach was an easy hour drive from the westside of Los Angeles, but if PCH is backed up it could be quite the haul. The park is located at 35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and parking there is $10 for the day, not bad by L.A. standards. View of Leo Carillo State Park Dog Beach Of the 1.5mi of beach area about .75mi is a designated dog friendly area. As you enter the park you drive under a bridge and follow the road north of tower 3 to the second parking lot, dogs are allowed ON LEASH anywhere north of tower 3. Here is a little more on the features of Leo Carillo State Park, and below is a map of the area.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Barrington Dog Park

Finn has been lucky these past couple weeks getting to go on loads of trips. The weather has been great and in an effort to branch out we have been taking him to new parks in the Los Angeles area such as Barrington Dog Park. Of all the places we have been, Palisades park, Laurel Canyon Dog Park, and Santa Monica Airport Dog Park this one tops our list for a few reasons. First, it's close and accessible, only a few miles away in Brentwood (the address is 333 S. Barrington Avenue, Los Angeles 90049, and there is a map below). The park is also mulch covered, which means even if there is some rain the is a chance your dog won't get too dirty. Best of all, it is quiet, but there are still other dogs around. Organizers and volunteers, the friends of Barrington Dog park, even hold a weekly lemonade stand to help support the park. The only issue there may be is a lack of parking and finding the park. Luckily I was equipped with a satellite view that showed the figure 8 shaped park just east of Barrington drive right next to two baseball fields. The fields have a small parking lot, but so long as there isn't a game going on you can find a space.

Barrington dog park small dog areaThe small dog area (above and below) is, well.. it's small. But I think that is the whole point. There are a few trees, some benches, and tennis balls in there though so it is something.
barrington dog park small dog area with benchesBarrington Dog park back areaThe big dog park is laid out in a weird way (almost like a figure 8 like I said above) and unless you walk to the back of the park you may miss that there is twice as much space as what you see when you walk in. The above picture is what I'm calling the "back lot" of the park. A whole seperate area that is at least a few acres, complete with a bench and a tent for shade. Below you can see the back of the front lot. The fence there is for the baseball field but walk to the corner of right field and there is a break in the fence that lets you into the back lot.
Barrington Dog park all mulched and service roadBarrington dog park big dog area with Finnegan
Finn enjoyed this place because he is not a picky dog, but also becasue there were tons of tennis balls lying around. We went on a VERY hot day so I was pleased to see that like any good dog park Barrington has a watering hole.
Barrington Dog park watering hole
Just a quick recap of the park
Name: Barrington Dog Park
Location: 333 S. Barrington Ave Los Angeles 90049
Separate small dog area.
Bags and trash cans provided.
Tennis balls provided
On site water.
Mulched ground.
Entirely fenced 5 (or so.. I'm guessing here) acres

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

West Los Angeles Animal Shelter

As a first time dog owner, one of the most intimidating tasks of getting Finn was choosing where to get him. With all the news about horrible puppy mills, bad breeders, and rescued dogs that suddenly become viscious it is tought to know who to trust with your dog the first few precious weeks of their life. We lucked out with Finn, finding a family that had cared for him as their own (because both his parents were their own). The saddness they showed in parting with him that first day expressed how much they cared for him and let us know that he was treated as an infant the way we would treat him thereafter, with love.

Of course, there are other places that will treat a dog with the love, care, and respect they need and deserve. One of those places is just a few miles from here, the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter. The facility, which opened last fall, is an immaculate place that sets an example for what a animal shelter should be. Not only are the facilities nice, but all the people who work and volunteer there are friendly and genuinely care for the animals. Finn's Mom, who has always been an animal lover, began volunteering there a few months ago. The training program was a one day session and now she helps out from time to time, bathing, socializing, and exercising the dogs that live at the shelter.

There are a variety of animals at the facility but the majority of the space is dedicated to the K9 family. Dogs are situated into male and female sections with most sharing a space. The area is hard concrete, but contains a separate covered area for sleeping and a water fountain so no one gets thristy. Cages are cleaned on a regular basis and if their is any mess it is cleaned up in a timely manner.The free space and socialization area are the real draws of the shelter. Not only do they serve as a perfect arena to play with a potential pet (which you are encouraged to do before adopting) but volunteers also can exercise, train, and socialize the pooches. This area allows many neglected and abused dogs a transition place to let them become comfortable with humans in a playful environment.

All the cages are shaded, and small dogs have a separate area. Except for the noise, which the dogs seem to enjoy, the shelter provides a comfortable home for strays, rescued and lost pets.
Although the bars and concrete may not seem inviting, on a hot day the cool concrete is the ideal place for those covered in fur. With plenty of vistors there is no shortage of attention and most of the residents of the shelter seem as happy as a dog with a more traditional home.
The golden in these pictures is believed to be a lost dog. Attempts are made to contact the owner if a dog is chipped or still has a tag. Otherwise they are held for a set period before anyone can possibly adopt them.
We hope his owner finds him soon, Finn sure would like a friend, but right now our house is at animal capacity. However, if we do get another dog at some point, the shelter will be our first stop. As I mentioned all dogs that pass through the shelter are subjected to a behavior test, and dogs are not adopted out until the problem is solved. Males are neutered and females spayed, microchips are implanted and every attempt is made to solve existing problems (deworming, scars/infections etc) so it is a pretty safe bet that a dog rescued from here will be a healthy happy pooch to the right home.. If any of you happen to live in the area and are looking for a good place to adopt a pet I would suggest you take a look here.

The West Los Angeles Animal Shelter is one of eight Los Angeles area animal care centers. It is located at: 11361 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064 and can be reached at 888-4LAPET1 or 888-452-7381.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Santa Monica Airport Dog Park

Finn got the chance to check out yet another dog park today. This one, at Airport Park in Santa Monica, is much smaller than Laurel Canyon but it's very well kept. The entire .83 acres is fenced in and covered in a thick mulch, making it easy to clean up. There are separate areas for small and large dogs, water fountains, trash bags and even a few tennis balls. We happened into the park at around 6:00 and there were about 20 or so dogs in the big dog area, fairly busy for such a small space but there was still enough room to move around.

The one issue to note however, technically dogs must be licensed in Santa Monica to be in the park. The Park services of Santa Monica does provide a phone number for non-residents to apply for a permit.

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All in all the park is clean, well kept, had friendly dogs and owners and was generally a pleasant experience. Still, unless you live close to the park and are headed there on a walk there are better places to go (including the Palisades Park by the beach)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Laurel Canyon Dog Park

Dog parks can be a bit intimidating. Will my dog get in a fight? Will he steal some one's tennis ball or sniff someone who doesn't want to be sniffed? Will he get sick (this one is the biggest questions)?

With all the warnings in books and in the news about the health hazards of dog parks is can be stressful. The good news is although bad things can happen, if you are a generally competent owner and respectful of dog park etiquette there should be no problems.

The park we have been frequenting lately is Laurel Canyon Dog Park on Mulholland (map below). It's a great park, full of tennis balls. Dogs can also lap up some water at the fountain (see Finn in the picture below). For owners there are loads of trash cans with shovels to encourage picking up anything a dog might deposit that no one wants to step in.

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There are a few other parks in our area but we have yet to go to them. For now Laurel Canyon sets a very high standard. If all other dog parks are as clean, welcoming, and big as this one Bear is in for a lot of trips to dog parks. I'm still nervous about letting him go off leash in areas that are not fenced but hopefully we can fix that next weekend when we plan on going out in the mountains for real.

Laurel Canyon is general gets 4 of 5 bones on our unofficial scale (scale subject to change at any time)