Archive for the ‘interview’ Category

Raja Visits Machu Picchu, Peru!

Monday, September 5th, 2011

In the top agricultural terrace above the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Raja went to Peru specifically to get a chance to see Machu Picchu, the fabled Incan citadel in the Andes… well, more accurately, we wanted to see Machu Picchu and he didn’t want to be left behind.  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure it could be done.  Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is heavily managed.   And this year is the 100th anniversary of the promotion of Machu Picchu by the adventurer Hiram Bingham and the Yale expedition that launched world awareness of Peru’s Inca heritage on a major scale.  So this is a banner year for a fascinating destination. 

You can’t just fly there.  You fly to Lima, the capital of Peru, sitting dark and gloomy on the Pacific coastline.  Then you journey about 750 miles to Cusco, the oldest city in the Americas, at way up over 11,000 feet.  You spend a couple of days trying to get accustomed to the thin air. Then you descend over 70 miles by train, bus or feet to Aguas Calientes, the town outside the Machu Picchu sanctuary at an oxygen- rich 8,000 feet.  (Enjoy breathing semi-deeply.)  

Contrary to what most guide books will tell you, rural Peru is extremely friendly towards dogs and is populated by mannerly pet and street dogs.  The Peruvians of the countryside take great care to make sure their dogs wear coats in the mild winters and to assure that street dogs are neither thin nor mangy.  For now, this is all we will say.  Next post we will share some stories about dog life in Aguas Calientes and Cusco, but for now, let’s cut to the chase about Machu Picchu and Raja’s visit. 

There is no doggie door.  If you want to take your small, well-behaved and quiet dog to Machu Picchu, you will have to demonstrate tremendous politeness and affability at the gate, and you will have to luck out with a sympathetic ticket attendant.  Still, you play the luck of the draw even given optimum conditions. 

Raja got inside.  He scrambled up the shortest of the Inca stairs and got carried up the higher ones.  He visited the central ceremonial center with the houses of the ruling Inca and the nobles and investigated the ceremonial facilities and the altars to the earth and sky.  He met llamas grazing in the public square.  He trotted from the lowest to the highest agricultural terraces where the Inca farmed in temperature microclimates. There he picked up a trail of the Andean fox, but he wasn’t allowed to track it far as the forest closed in heavily at the terrace’s edge.  Finally, he followed the high trail to the Inca’s back door to the perilous and defensible drawbridge, a gap in the ledge walkway built out from a sheer cliff face.  Being from Tibet ancestrally, he didn’t mind the altitude, but he did need to be shielded from the intense sun.  Water breaks were important.  His morning and afternoon ramble ended with a bath, a snack and a snooze in a street side restaurant in Aguas Calientes at the end of the day.

Love those Llamas!


Did it mean anything to him personally to have his hike in Peru?  Yes. He met hundreds of nice people with different voices and behaviors.  He breathed air that smelled different.  His trek the next day down the dust road, along the railroad tracks and up the mountain to the Aguas Calientes Jardín Botánico of indigenous orchids brought him in contact with a host of fascinating scents and physical challenges.  He got to represent for the hardy Shih Tzu breed, not couch potatoes but adventurers and athletes.  For days after the Machu Picchu climb, his little paws twitched at night as he dreamed of Inca roads and the smell of the elusive Vischachas, Peru’s long eared Chinchilla who nest in Machu Picchu’s rock crevices.  He came home happy and healthy with lots to ponder in his doggy mind and a sense of satisfaction in being a companion who didn’t get left behind. 

(What would I have done if he had not been permitted inside?  There are many other trails in the region where you can take a high altitude hike to an Incan ruin.  Machu Picchu is the best restored and the most nationalized, but it is one of numerous Incan sites, all connected by the lines of the sun and stars in the Andes.) 

Most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the officials at Machu Picchu Sanctuary for permitting Raja inside and special thanks to Gringo Bill’s excellent hotel for welcoming him in their nicest room.

I carried Raja near the edge and he hung on to his beloved blue bunny.


Next post we’ll give a report of dog life in rural Peru… not what you might have expected at all.  At the end of September we will, as promised, give a detailed post about ways to seek affordable, high quality and specialty medical care for pets as our US recession lingers.

Dogs love crabs and beer in Maryland!

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Here’s Raja profiling in Ego Alley, Annapolis, Maryland.

Newly passed legislation in Maryland makes this US state about as pet friendly as foodies and gastronomes of all descriptions could want.  Maryland now allows your dog to sit with you in outdoor cafes of participating restaurants.  This new freedom is part of the Dining Out Growth Act passed on June 1, 2011.  Nothing could be more appropriate, as one of Maryland’s monikers is “The Free State”!  Originally in 1911, Maryland had opposed prohibition.  Now here comes Maryland again, opposing the separation of human and canine at dinner.  While all dogs might not eat for free, the water bowl and doggy bones are surely free.  And this means that it is now more convenient to travel with your dog in Maryland.

What to do about this?  Well, head on down… or over, or up. 

Buttercup and Raja relax with Patty in the Maryland Statehouse Rose Garden

Maryland is one of the most beautiful states in the US.  Old- by US standards- the Annapolis historic section features the original brick state house building built between 1772 and 1779…  still used today.  Here’s Raja with Patty and Buttercup seated on the statehouse lawn with the hill sloping down behind them to the harbor. 

And in the next picture Patty holds everybody in front of a statue of  the ambivalent Justice Taney of Maryland.

Refined early Colonial Style characterizes Annapolis' historic district.

From the statehouse, all downhill roads lead toward the famous Annapolis harbor, also known as Ego Alley, where wealthy boat owners slide enormous sailboats into narrow slips in the old docks.  And you and your dog can be there too!  You can be sitting in any of several chic outdoor restaurants, with an order of crabs, beer, water and biscuts watching the swells almost collide their boats, seeing and being seen.

Other Annapolis attractions inlude the historic St. John’s College, one of the oldest colleges in the US, built as a school in 1696 and transformed into a college in 1794, and The US Naval Academy, ranged dramatically along the inner shore line.  Visits from parents of students at both academies have made this “college town” area both a charming shopping district and a mecca of good restaurants.  Across an inlet of the Chesapeak Bay to the north, you can get a great view of the Academy from the Maryland World War II Memorial standing on a bluff over the historic district.

Beautifully preserved and proudly maintained, the Chesapeake Bay area and the Annapolis historic district are both inspiring and charming.  Please refer to the list of dog friendly outdoor establishments in Maryland (and specifically in Annapolis)  in this article from The Capital:

Raja says “Thanks, Governor O’Malley, for signing that bill! and THANKS Patty for inviting us to Annapolis!”

Meet Tonka: Blindness doesn’t stop this Great Pyrenees from living a full life!

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Guest blogging for Raja, Alice Peak tells Tonka’s story.

Alice and Tonka

Hi my name is Alice and 2 and ½ years ago I adopted a puppy from the Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue in Richmond Virginia. This puppy was pulled out of a shelter where he had been taken and left to his fate because he was born blind. Luckily the rescue director Victoria Marshman has contacts with a large number of shelters in the MD, VA, PA and surrounding areas and they contact her whenever they get a Great Pyrenees. I was volunteering at the rescue and met the blind puppy she pulled from the shelter named Ray Ray and was immediately taken with how smart and feisty the little guy was/is. In a very short time at the rescue he already knew where the door was and how to navigate to the lawn to go to the bathroom. He also knew where the toy box was and how to climb up on the couch and attack you to play. I spent a good deal of my time wrestling with the little Tasmanian devil on the couch and taking him for short walks.

Needless to say Ray Ray ended up coming home with me about a month after our first meeting. His name has since been changed to Tonka thanks to my friend Cathy who claimed he was just like the old indestructible Tonka toys.

I spent the month preparing the house and the yard for his arrival. In the meantime Tonka was being neutered and having a hernia fixed. I took a blanket up that I slept with for a few days so that he could have it in his crate and get to know my scent. I ordered and read the only reference book I could find at the time called Living with Blind Dogs by Caroline Levin. I followed the tips in the book and I got down on the floor and crawled around to mimic his height and Tonka proof things. Anything in the house that had a sharp corner at his level had to be removed or padded. Outside all the low braches of bushes and trees had to be removed and sections of the yard that contained things like roses had to be fenced off. I put down fresh mulch (non-toxic) around all the trees and scented all the doorframes and big objects with corners (like the fish tank stand and TV cabinets) with lemon extract. I put a 4 inch wide strip of the sticky backed plastic they put down when doing construction to protect carpets at the top of the stairs so he would know where the first step was and a carpet runner to lead to the doggie door.

Once home Tonka proved to be a whiz at mapping out the house and even learned to go in and out the doggie door. The biggest hurdle was down the steps. I try to always put myself in Tonka’s position when we are in a new situation or learning a new skill or command. He has no reference point for new things so a household step could be a 6 inch or a 6 foot drop. The key to training a blind dog is twofold with number one being patience and number two being trust. I could not get mad at him for not wanting to go down the step and I could not force him. I just had to be patient and keep trying till he trusted me not to let anything bad happen to him. Every dog is unique in what motivates them some require only praise and some are treat or toy motivated. Tonka is a little of both, for some commands just the excitement in your voice and a big scratch or hug was enough to reinforce it but for some a nice smelly treat was the only thing that worked. I had consulted my friend who is a dog behaviorist about Tonka and she said that because of the blindness sound and smells were probably going to work best. She was right on the money and I can teach the boy almost anything with a stinky liver treat or a chicken strip. So I sat in the middle of the steps with a piece of chicken strip and put it to his nose and then down on the first step. His little paw would reach down and when he didn’t stretch quite enough to make contact he would pull it back up and sit there thinking. We did this for a while and every time he would reach down I would say step. Eventually he reached it and stood there with both front paws on the first step eating his chicken strip and then we had to start all over to understand that there was a second step. Patience and lots of chicken finally won out and today he navigates steps with ease and will even slide down a playground slide if I ask him to (that’s trust).

I would like to say that my boy has had an uneventful life on the medical side of things but we have had some complications with his left eye. Tonka was born with complete retinal detachment in the left eye and has just the thread of one left in the right eye. This is what dictated zero chance of any surgical option to try and regain sight but the outcome was always good that he would get to keep both eyes. The rescue had him evaluated by an ophthalmologist in Virginia when they first took him in and he has one local that we see on a regular basis. With a blind dog it is important to watch for changes or signs of swelling or discomfort such as keeping the eye open or closed.  He has always had some excess protein or “debris” in his eyes that we have tried to control with steroid eye drops but the “debris” eventually started to clog the drainage angle of his left eye. This caused a buildup of pressure and secondary glaucoma and his eye actually began to swell. Tonka was not his usually spunky self and everyone in his circle of friends would ask me what’s wrong with Tonka. He was in severe pain from the pressure and so I had a decision to make. There are several choices to treat for glaucoma but the best two for Tonka were to either remove the eye completely and sew it shut (called enulceation) or to remove the contents of the original globe of the eye and insert a prosthetic implant (called evisceration with interscalerial implant).  It was a very difficult decision and there were pros and cons for both but I needed to make the best choice for Tonka. The implant is a longer recovery and a very small chance of rejection. There are those that say it is a cosmetic choice and is more for the owner not the dog but Tonka is a very social animal and he lives for praise and attention and responds to the energy and tone from people. If you approach Tonka and are happy he is happy and energetic if you approach Tonka with sadness or pity in your voice his tail will go down and he will be sad. Most people do not realize Tonka is blind until I tell them and so most people will have a happy or curious tone when they meet him. He is a very handsome and very large boy at 125lbs so we get a lot of “what a beautiful big dog” which gets his head up and his tail a wagging.

I did not want people to see his missing eye and approach with a “poor thing is blind” attitude and tone of voice so we went with the option that would keep the eye intact. I had numerous conversations with both of Tonka’s Ophthalmologists and trusted them completely to take care of my boy.  He made it through the surgery with no problems with the eye and it is now completely healed and has settled at a blue/gray color. We no longer have to have drops in that eye but continue a maintenance drop once a day in the other and hopefully will have no further issues.

Tonka and I go to many different places and sometimes we end up somewhere crowded like the boardwalk at the beach or at an event for dogs. When we are in crowds or it is very windy or sunny Tonka wears his special glasses made by a company called Doggles. Doggles come in 2 styles, glasses or goggles and Tonka prefers the glasses. The goggles were originally made to protect the eyes of search and rescue dogs since they could be exposed to dust and debris but they are also great for dogs that like to hang their head out the window of a car.  The head out the car window is actually very dangerous for a dog’s eye so and it is best to protect them from dust, rocks and or bugs. Tonka also wears his to protect his eyes from a human hand catching him in a crowd or wind blowing dust in them, since he cannot see there is no blink reflex to protect him if something is coming at his eye. The glasses always draw attention and questions which gives us the opportunity to talk about how a blind dog is really no different than a sighted dog we just have more commands we use like left, right, step, over and careful. One of the most famous dog trainers always says that a dog uses his senses in the following order- nose, eyes and then ears so Tonka is not that far off with just nose and ears.

Buttercup the Maltese Barks about Canine Heart Health

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Meet Buttercup, one of Travel Dog’s Community of Friends.  Buttercup has some common heath troubles, but because of her family’s proactive, empowered, inquisitive and optimistic medical involvement, she lives a happy, full life every day.  This is her story…….

I am a 10 or 11 year old Maltese, a rescue from a high kill shelter in Philadelphia.  I was found wandering the streets and placed on death row waiting to be euthanized when Annie Trinkle, founder of Animal Alliance, a non-profit organization located in Belle Meade, New Jersey showed up and my life was forever changed.

Annie is my angel.  After a life changing event in Annie’s life, she vowed to forever change her own life and do something meaningful and fulfilling and leave the shenanigans of the corporate world behind. Annie and her husband sold their home, bought a new home with plenty of property and started Animal Alliance, a safe heaven for all dogs that are re-adoptable. Annie makes the trek into Philadelphia every single day and rescues as many dogs as she can. I ‘Buttercup’ am one of those lucky pups that fell into Annie’s hands.

I don’t really know how old I am and have no past history to go on, but my vets think I am around the previous mentioned age.  I live with my family and go to the puppy daycare on days when everybody works.  I play with my friends there and I’m never lonely or scared.  At home, I am famous in my neighborhood and now I have friends near and far.   I actually run the house by watching the door, patrolling the backyard and teasing the beagles next door, and I am the star of numerous videos and photo opportunities.

When I went for my first vet visit in my new forever home, I was told I had a heart murmur, probably around a stage 2 murmur ( which is caused by a leaky valve),  but within  2 years it advanced very quickly to a stage 4 or 5 heart murmur and congestive heart failure. I now have three leaky valves and my heart is very enlarged, but I am still able to lead a good quality life, hence the importance of having a good VETERINARY CARDIOLOGIST.  Like humans, we have our primary care veterinarians, but if we have a need for a specialist, that’s exactly where we MUST go.

Heart disease and congestive heart failure are very common in dogs.  Signs of heart disease and or congestive heart failure that you might not be aware of are lethargy, appetite changes, changes in water consumption, panting, coughing, change in the sound of cough, along with frequency of the cough and gagging.

If your regular veterinarian detects a heart murmur, be sure to follow up with a cardiologist. The first thing he or she will do is take a full history, check your blood pressure and do an echo cardiogram.  It’s imperative to have regular echocardiograms, (this monitors the flow of the blood in and out of the valves and measures the size of the heart and the doctor can see how the valves are opening and closing.)  He will request chest x-rays (they are important as they show the size of the heart and also fluid in the heart).  Blood work needs to be done regularly to keep a check on the kidneys, in particular, and all electrolytes along with routine blood pressure checks. It’s only with these tests completed that your cardiologist can manage your care effectively, and with this information, he or she is able to prescribe the correct medications that will enable you to live a well balanced life.

A good diet is very important. If you eat home cooked food, be aware of using low-sodium or no-sodium ingredients. Also vitamin E is very good for the heart; your cardiologist can tell you the appropriate amount for you personally. If you are planning to have a dental or any surgery, you must stop the vitamin E at least 2 weeks prior to any procedure. If you eat over the counter dog food, be sure to read the labels and monitor your weight …so go easy on the treats!

It’s also imperative that your family pays close attention to the slightest change in your behavior or outward symptoms and reports them to your vet or cardiologist immediately. Never think any question is too silly; families have to be pro-active in their pet’s health. The earlier that problems are detected, and the sooner you start being monitored and medicated, the better chance you have of your heart actually improving. Its very scary to live through some of the coughing and gagging episodes, but every time I run up and down the steps, jump on and off the sofa, go for my morning walk, play at daycare racing around barking and carrying on like the leader of the pack, my mom thinks .. “WOW ! for as sick as she is .. look what she still has the energy to do!”  We accredit this to good, proactive veterinary medicine and to my family’s believing in me and helping me to have a fun and happy future every day.  Must go… the beagles are acting up.

Saying, “Paws Up for Veterinary Cardiologists,” this is Buttercup the Maltese wishing you happy play days every day!

(If any readers have any wisdom to share about taking care of a dog who needs heart care, please post in the comments section and I’ll moderate your comments in.)

DogsAreOK Magazine: Meet Editor Sylvia Gonzalez

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Readers, today we interview beautiful Sylvia Gonzalez of DogsAreOK magazine, a South Florida based magazine about all things Dog.

Raja and I met Sylvia and her colleagues at the glitzy-chic “Pet Fashion Week” Showroom in New York last summer.  We enjoyed chatting with Sylvia and Co. so much because of their enthusiasm, kindness and generosity, and, best of all, sense of fun and energy.  And for Valentine’s Day this year, Raja and I had the honor of doing our first puppy romance short story for DogsAreOK ( see pages 22-23 at )

Now, please read Sylvia’s story which encourages all of us who might be “on the fence” to take the leap into a pet centered business and life…..

Sylvia: Hi Helen and Raja’s Friends!  First of all, thank you for inviting me; it is an honor to share with you my experience as founder and editor of DogsAreOk magazine. It has been an amazing journey where we have been surrounded with positive energy and amazing people that have given us the opportunity make this project possible.

Helen: Sylvia, what inspired you to create DogsAreOk?

Sylvia: Well Helen, it really is a nice story J  It all started as an idea… We were trying to find something that really kept us busy, but also motivated us that we were passionate about. We are a group of four friends, actually 2 couples; the four of us are young people as me (in our thirties ) and it was the moment and the opportunity, which came together… and thankfully, my friend and partner, Selene, and I had the time at the moment to start the project and create something of ours that could be a wonderful experience and hopefully, with time, could become a business too.

Some ideas came and went and, in the end, it was my husband’s idea to do a “dog magazine”, a complimentary publication, with fun and interesting content, simple to read; with a colorful design, very attractive at first sight and which shared the joy of having a dog at home! Of course, as you can imagine, the four of us have dogs at home and enjoy them so much.

But as beautiful and friendly as the idea sounded, the next step was to figure out the how to do it… lol!

I have a degree in Textile Design with experience in interior decoration and my partner, Selene, has a degree in Administration and Finance, so that is how we started!! We divided our jobs and put our minds to work!! I did the editorial and design part and she did the financial and logistic part.

As for our husbands, they were busy working in their full time jobs, which thankfully gave us the financial stability to do the project, but they helped us with creativity and all Internet and legal matters that needed to be done.

Helen: Sylvia, what is DogsAreOk’s mission?

Sylvia: Let’s say that in one word, DogsAreOk’s mission is “Dogs”; we want to share with all dog lovers articles, news and information that will help readers take better care of their dogs and enjoy more healthy and fun activities together.

On the other hand, we help and promote adoption by supporting rescue organizations. There is so much to do; there are amazing organizations and rescue groups that have so much to share and that need as much help as possible. DogsAreOk definitely can help and we are very proud to be part of this mission in life.

Helen:  Please introduce us to your pets.

Sylvia: Well, I have 2 little angels at home!  Jack Sparrow who is a corgi/basenji mix (I think…) and has such a great personality. We rescued him from Animal Aid two years ago and he definitely came to change my life. He is such a happy dog; he wakes me up every morning with a smile in his face (as I like to say) and we are a team all day long! It is like we communicate ourselves just by looking into our eyes!

And Shaker, a 5 year old boxer came by surprise a year ago, lol… well, I mean we had met him before, but a few years later his owner could not keep him and…well, we became a bigger and happier family.  He is so adorable, loves to be hugged 24/7 and of course, Jack Sparrow and Shaker became brothers and best friends!

They say that all dogs look like their owners… if you ask me? I would say that Jack Sparrow and I are very much alike while my husband and Shaker do share much in common.

Helen: (Readers… check and see… do Sylvia and the Captain look alike?) You have begun this magazine in Miami.  Do you see expanding to other cities and communities?  Might you ever franchise?

Sylvia: Well Helen, this is actually a surprise I have for you and all fans; the DogsAreOk team is making some changes, but all are for good!! The news is that DogsAreOk is going 100% green and the Jan-Feb publication was the last magazine printed.

On one side we want to join the online era at its fullest, and on the other side, the DogsAreOk team is being relocated to different cities. Changes come and we have to take advantage of them. Soon, a monthly newsletter with editorial content, contests and coupons will be launched, meaning that DogsAreOk will stop being local and will reach more readers all over . This is keeping us busy at the moment and we are very excited about what’s to come.

Helen:  Sylvia that is really exciting!  You are moving so fast!  What are the challenges in your work and how do you summon the energy to overcome them?

Sylvia: I would say that we have faced many challenges; our key to success has been doing things right and being very careful and personal on each matter.  To tell you the truth Helen, the starting point was difficult.  For the four of us everything was new, even the city; nonetheless, our education and professions helped us to be professional and that was the key to success. We have been fortunate to live in Miami and meet wonderful people, and of course, we have been lucky enough to enjoy Miami too, which is one of the most pet friendly cities in the US. This is also what has made DogsAreOk possible, but we know too, that around the US and the world there are many like us “who are for dogs” and we want to reach out to them.

Helen:  Raja and I want to thank you so much Sylvia!  I believe your story will encourage readers, not only to become DogsAreOK regular readers, but also will inspire all of to explore our dreams.

Sylvia: Thank you again Helen for this opportunity. I am a fan of your blog and Raja’s adventures around the world; he definitely is a lucky dog!  We hope to be working again together in the near future! Please keep visiting and join us on facebook and twitter. Always fun surprises to come!

A life with books, dogs, & thread … meet Carolyn of Carolyn’s Originals

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Carolyn gets lots of help when she sews.

Some of us work all day and come home at night and sit. Our very talented friend, Carolyn Linsday works all day setting type for books and, when she goes home, she exercises two of her three Shih Tzu dogs. Cy and CT will compete to earn their C-ATCH Championships in Summer 2011. And finally, when Cy and CT are tired, Carolyn herself “relaxes” by sewing beautifully cut pet clothes. Running all aspects of her pet fashion company is her third full time activity as designer and technician for Carolyn’s originals.

We are not sure where she gets her energy, but Carolyn seems to keep all three balls in the air every day. Raja and I plan to be in the stands waving our pom poms when Cy and CT take the ring in June and we’ll blog all about it here so you’ll be in the know.
Agility is a rapidly rising field of small dog competition in which we see more and more Shih Tzu dogs competing. In previous decades, the Shih Tzu, the hardy dog from the Himalayas, had been stereotyped into the role of companion couch potato, while also being pigeon holed as stubbornly aristocratic. A revoltingly hopeless combination.

While the aristocracy remains, the couch companion myth is rapidly fading, thanks to people like Carolyn who believe in the athleticism of these small and powerful dogs. Maybe Shih Tzu dogs are still stubborn, but bring them aboard respectfully and they will excel admirably. Right, Raja?
If you are still looking for an artisenal gift for your pet for Christmas, you can view Carolyn’s fashions here (Yes this is a plug, but there is no hidden commercialism. Raja uses many of Carolyn’s creations, especially the flannel shirts, the visors and the snuggle bag. Our blog isn’t about product and we don’t plug for things or money. We just like to share what we think is really good.)
What our blog IS about is living an energetic, self styled life in which your dog is a constant, happy companion. Maybe Carolyn’s dogs can’t help with the typesetting, but they can compete fiercely and they love helping her sew.

New York Fashion Week: Dogs & the Luxe Laboratory

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

New York Fashion Week’s festivities began with a flurry of chichi parties.  As Raja and I see it, the best party happened this past Sunday when The Shabby Dog- a California based company- launched its new Rodeo Drive Collection at Robert Verdi’s Luxe Laboratory in New York’s Fashion District.  Founder and celebrity trainer, Sandy Duvall, her sister Gwen, her staff and their adorable Maltese and Maltipoo pet models were on hand to explain the line and discuss what it means to design from the West Coast. 

As Sandy says, in California the weather is generally warm, so pet clothing is a minimal consideration.  Even though The Shabby Dog has a cuter than cute line of tees and tee dresses, the focus of the new collection is blinged-out leashes, collars and hands free wrist cuffs.  The cuffs (not for the dogs) are wide leather, variously studded, jeweled or adorned with a glam watch.  The leash attaches to the cuff, creating a hands-free, safety- assured link to the leash.  Small purses or shopping satchels also can link to the leash. This could be very helpful when you are shopping on, say, Rodeo Drive and you have so many bags and totes and your phone in one hand and you need your other hand to hold your double yerba mate latte … no worries, Fifi’s still attached.  Or maybe you’re just walking home from the green market and you have lots of stuff and your pet is with you.  Sure makes it easier to search for your house keys. 

Readers, don’t think for one minute that Raja and I are pushing product.  Oh no, we’re talking about the DOG asserting itself in NY Fashion Week.  And it is not the DOG as accessory, but the DOG as fashionista / o.  It’s dressing the dog in ways appropriate to your lifestyle and activities.  So you might say, “Why does a dog need to dress up to shop?”  OK, maybe.  (Look, I never dress up to shop and Raja doesn’t either, but at least we match.) But how lame and mean spirited is it if you dress yourself to the nines and drag Fifi out, grubby and scraggly and badly appointed?  And “NY Fashion Week” might sound awfully superficial, until you consider the close connection between retail sales and New York City’s fiscal health.  The Mid Atlantic region needs New York to thrive big time. 

Back to the Luxe Laboratory, where Raja and I wish we lived now and then.  The venue, styled like a fashion forward apartment, is a party suite for industry events and promotions.  Robert Verdi is a celebrity stylist, party planner, animal lover who welcomed dogs to the Laboratory during Fashion Week (probably he always does).  He is assisted by Winky, his adopted Havanese who, in 18 short months, has learned how to convey the warmth, restraint, modesty and confidence of a true host. 

Check out the Shabby Dog: 

Check out the Luxe Laboratory:

All Dogs Win at the Spirit of St. Louis Canine Games

Monday, October 12th, 2009

This week Raja interviews Bailey, the talented American Eskimo dog athlete. Bailey reports about all the fun she had at the Spirit of St. Louis Canine Games on Sunday, September 27. Over to you Raja…

Raja: Bailey how did you hear of the Annual Spirit of St. Louis Canine Games?

Bailey: I have some good Dogster friends that live in St. Louis. We had a meetup last year at a dog park there and planned to do this activity for this year.

Raja: Backing up, as I understand it, agility is a hobby rather than a profession for you? Is that correct?

Bailey: I have been taking lessons for two years purely for enjoyment. We have no plans to compete, but if you end the lessons, you end the experience.

Raja: So true. Specifically, how do you see your hobby benefiting your life and the lives of your humans?

Bailey: I enjoy the running and climbing and going through the tunnels and the jumps and weave poles. It is good exercise for both Mom and me. It keeps us active and it’s an activity that we do together. It also teaches obedience and trust in your handler.

Raja: Bailey you have a very good family! So let’s discuss these games… You had to travel how far to get there? How did you travel and what was that hotel room like? (It was your very first hotel experience I hear.)

Bailey: We drove by car about 3 1/2 hours to St. Louis. We hit some bad rain when we got to the city, but most of the trip was made in good weather. The hotel room was very nice and I sniffed and explored it thoroughly. Mom and Dad ate in the room with me both their dinner and their breakfast. The hotel had a pool, but I believe they did not want dogs using it!

Raja: Eating in the room with you was really thoughtful. As we have noticed, many people want to travel with dogs, but they tend to neglect them and their needs when they want to do non-dog things. Your family really followed through. Plus there’s no point in upsetting an athlete before competition! Not going in the pool must have been hard. I know you have a nice pool back home and you’re an accomplished swimmer.

So, going to the actual day- When you got there, how were things set up? Did you find it easy to compete?

Bailey: When we arrived at Purina Farms the registration area was easily found and we registered and bought tickets to participate in the events. All events were for fun but some events were actually handing out prizes. You could also take your AKC Canine Good Citizen test there and there were some demonstrations such as Water Sports. They also had vendors there selling dog gift items and Purina Farms had its own gift shop and restaurant for the pawrents to eat at.

Raja: So well planned! So now what we all want to ask- How’d you do Bailey????

Bailey: I did well on the agility course, but had no interest in catching a Frisbee or Flyball. Little Georgie the Min Pin ran faster than me in the Race The Wind event. She was clocked at 18 miles per hour and I was 17 miles per hour. We all received gold medals and certificates and ribbons. Georgie and Jackson won a prize in the Costume Contest. They were pirates!

Raja: You are very agile, as we saw two weeks ago. I have no interest myself in catching a Frisbee, but I do like to pick it up and play keep away. You might like that too. You can tease your humans for hours.

Were there other furry friends there?

Bailey: I joined my good friends Georgie and Jackson and Mr. Duffy McDuff for a very fun day. Jackson unfortunately hurt the pad on his foot about lunch time and could not do any more events. He had to have it bandaged up.

Raja: I think Jackson was very brave. I’m sure he’ll be back next year. These Olympics are open to all dogs I hear… and it’s a charity benefit. Can you tell us a bit about that please?

Bailey: It is open to all dogs and it is sponsored by The Spirit of St. Louis Samoyed Club and the St. Louis Samoyed Rescue. I saw many white dogs that looked similar to me only bigger. The picture of the dog pulling a cart is a Samoyed and not me. We did not try that one.

Raja: I almost thought that was you at first. But then I thought that doggie was too big.

Bailey thanks so much. Is there one final statement you want to end your interview with- anything special to share?

Bailey: I just want to say that if anyone has the opportunity to go to an event like this. it will be a wonderful day for you and your pawrents. This was such a nice day made even better because we spent it with good friends.

If you go, check out next year’s schedule eventually showing up at:

Remember, it’s not the winning, but the competing that makes for big fun and games for dogs and their people.