Why I Purchased My Rhodesian Ridgebacks From A Responsible Breeder

On the day I picked up each one of my dogs I handed over a check for nearly two thousand dollars. That is a lot of money.

My decision to pay a large sum for a puppy is a contentious one amongst dog lovers. For many, a line has been drawn and anyone who does not acquire their dog from a shelter or rescue is the on the wrong side.

But I don’t see my decision to purchase my dogs from an ethical breeder as oppositional to rescue efforts, I see it as complementary to them. I think it’s worth explaining why.
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[VIDEO] Penny, Meet Zero. Zero, Meet Mayhem Incarnate

Some introductions use handshakes and polite conversation, but where’s the fun in that? Penny and Zero found it much more entertaining to meet each other in paw-to-paw combat. It’s still early, but it appears Penny thinks her little bro has the mettle needed to join our crew!

How Do You Measure The Age of a Dog?

When Penny first came on the scene, it was quite clear who the younger sibling was.Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

No doubt that this stinker was the family puppy

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But a couple birthdays later, it’s immediately clear at a glance how old each dog is

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And thankfully, Penny’s days of decor destruction are behind her so we can’t judge based on that either

But there are some habits and traits of this younger sibling which seem permanent.

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Such as Penny’s role of Instigator-in-Chief

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A job which she’s never taken a day off from

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But despite being hard-charging herself, Penny will always follow Eko’s lead

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This (not so) subtle discrepancy between tags is one of my favorite markers of personality. Take a wild guess at which tag belongs to which pup
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And of course my favorite cue – wherever Eko lays his head, so too will his little sister. Often, quite literally

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So yes, while they both may look all grown-up, there’s never a doubt about which sibling is which age

But I wonder how many of the differences between Eko and Penny are based on age and how many are based on personality. If you have more than one pup at home, what are some of the subtle ways you notice their age differences?

How To Leave Your Dog Home Alone

“Hi, while you’re not home I’d like you to leave an animal whose favorite activity is ‘chewing on stuff’ loose in your house.”

It sounds like an insane proposition, but it’s one many of us accept each and every day. Thankfully, these days I have two well-adjusted (always using that term loosely with Penny) pups who don’t cause any trouble while I’m gone.
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This was certainly not always the case. Goodbyes used to be quite anxiety provoking for Penny

While attempting to train Penny to stay home alone, outside of her crate, we had a few…setbacks.

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There was the time she turned my loafers into “Penny’s loafers”

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And the mysterious case of the Swiss cheese blanket

Much of my initial training centered around making sure Penny was tired before I left. But despite being well-exercised, and despite getting a small training treat before I left, Penny inevitably caused trouble.

I realized the issue was none of my training changed the basic problem that my departure was a negative, anxiety-inducing experience for Penny. So I changed my training with the goal of making my departure have a positive association.

How’d I do that? By harnessing Penny’s ravenous love of food. Prior to leaving I put a high-value treat in front of Penny, but keeping Penny in a “stay” command. I put on my shoes and went through my normal going-out routine, all with the treat inches from Penny’s face.

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Penny would tell you it was cruel and unusual punishment

It wasn’t until I opened the front door and stepped outside that I gave Penny the “take it” command. Over time, Penny associated my sticking around with a negative feeling (the interminable wait for a treat) and my departure with the rapture and relief of finally chomping down on her sweet reward.

The new training method worked so well that these days Penny gets exasperated when I don’t leave quickly enough!

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“OMG, Will! Go! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

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And Eko? Eko calmly plays along and earns easy treats

There’s no getting around the fact we have to leave our dogs alone sometimes, but there’s certainly a way to change our pups’ perceptions of that departure. In fact my method may have worked a little too well…

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Because sometimes I think Eko and Penny are happier to see me go than they are to see me come home empty handed!

But it’s a small price to pay to keep all of our sanity (and furniture) in one piece. This lesson was a costly one for me, but it’s one I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life. We can’t always change circumstances but we can certainly change perceptions.


What’s Your Leap Year Story?

It’s my favorite day of the year! Or, I guess, my favorite day every fourth year? Or is it my 1/4 favorite day every year?

In any event, I love February 29th. It feels like an extra day stolen from Father Time. A day which ducks in an out of our calendars – meaningful and meaningless at the exact same time.

We’ll be spending our extra day in full leap

For fun I tracked my life as if only lived on February 29ths-

1988 – I’m two, I can’t do anything, this is boring

1992 – Hey we have a dog! I have freckles, he has spots, we’re ready to party

1996 – Romping with our Dalmatian in the Blizzard of 96

2000 – Another family pup! And somehow I managed not to get thrown out of middle school!

2004 – Graduate High School

2008 – Graduate College

2012 – This is where it gets fun! I have my own dog and my own blog.

And we’re living it up in Houston


We were so young!

Leap forward to today and I have a new pup, a new city, and new apartment and a new* wife! (*Note to Emily: I don’t have an old wife, I simple said “new” because it fit with the rest of the sentence)

Where will we leap to next?

The next February 29th is in 2020. That’s the future! Well, obviously. But I mean the “flying cars and robot butlers” future. Or at least that’s how it sounds to me.

Four years seems like a pretty good timeframe for a flipbook of life. What does your flipbook look like? Any big jumps between February 29ths?

And the most important question of all. What’s the conversion rate between dog years and leap years? I think I need a calculator… or a nap.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Rumble

“Who’s that!?” is one of the pups’ favorite phrases. I usually say it to let them know I’ve spotted Emily, or my brother or someone else we know. Eko and Penny immediately go “radar head” to find who I’m talking about and then sprint over to say hello.

“Who’s that!?” is almost exclusively used for people. Almost. A few pups make the VIP (or VID, I guess) list. At the top of that list is Tripp, a massive Rhodesian Ridgeback about Penny’s age, with a heart to match.

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When Tripp rumbles into the beach, Eko and Penny both stop what they’re doing and zoom over to say hello

It’s pretty rare we find a park-pal whose play style matches up well with both Eko and Penny. Tripp fits that bill perfectly and it’s always a treat to watch these three romp together.

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Things usually begin as a three-way standoff

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Tripp gets the first laugh as Penny jumps on Eko’s head. But then…

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“Whatchu laughin’ at, big boy!”

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Penny conducts the symphony of mayhem as the pack takes off down the beach

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The friends form a whipping, twelve-legged whirling dervish

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Trip gamely wrestles with Eko

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And happily lets Penny whisper sweet nothings into his ear as they stroll down the sand

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I think this looks like the poster for a heist movie. Eko’s the leader of the operation, Tripp’s the muscle, and Penny is the crazy one in charge of explosives

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Nothing beats a day at the beach with your best friends

There weren’t any roses or candle lit dinners, but this Valentine’s playdate was a huge success!

Slack Friday

We certainly had plenty to be thankful for this year, but two big moments stand out.

One, marrying the love of my life

And two, moving from a crowded rental apartment…

To a much larger condo we bought. Although sometimes I’m not sure what the point of the extra space is

If I had to pick a third outstanding moment, I’ll go with our Black Friday tradition of moving as little as possible.

After a whirlwind few days of hosting/cooking, we’re dog tired

And all species are quite content to spend the day relaxing peacefully

“Penny, could you maybe pass out somewhere a bit further from my face?”

Here’s to sweatpants and good company. If you need us, we’ll be on the couch. Happy Slack Friday!

[VIDEO] Eko The Camera Dog

Automation is the future. That’s why I’m slowly training Eko and Penny to take over the blog. For starters, Eko took over video duty for our trip to Prairie Wolf Dog preserve. Check out the trip from his point of view:

Fired Up

We’ve enjoyed unseasonably warm weather this week, but a couple chilly evenings last week prompted the pups to take extreme measures to stay cozy.

There were dog piles

And piles of blankets

One particularly dreary day left the pups wet and cold

It seemed like the perfect time to test out our favorite wintertime amenity – the fireplace.

We didn’t have a fireplace at our old apartment so all species are thrilled we have one here

Eko and Penny parked themselves in front of the fire from the first flame to the last ember

There is an ancient comfort in sitting with your dogs in front of a fire on a dark night. I have to imagine it was one of the first things our human and canine forerunners did together.

Like me, the pups enjoy staring raptly into the roaring flames

I also found it fascinating how both dogs knew from their very first fire to keep their distance from the hearth. Their normally nosy ways overridden by deep instinct. That said, the pups were desperate to get as warm as possible.  

The both slid their toes forward. Inching closer…

Until they toasted those toes at the very edge of the floor, as close as physically possible

And so we quietly sat together in the darkness. The fire in front of us, the rain behind us and a stack of firewood as tall as I am. Winter, whenever you show up, we’re ready!

[VIDEO] Slumber Party!

We’re headed out of town for a wedding, so Eko and Penny are hosting a slumber party at the apartment while we’re away. Time to let loose and see how many treats they can connive out of my brother while Emily and I are gone!