Mark’s Barks Holiday Q&A: Halloween Edition!

8 Oct

Folks from all over the country wrote in with questions about their dogs and Halloween. Our VP of Belly Scratches answered his favorite.

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Q. Should I dress my dog up for Halloween? – I. Crane, Massachusetts
A. Okay, I have to fight every fiber of my being to not just say “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!” because I think dogs in costume are basically the best. However, no less a source than the New York Times (blog) suggests that dogs don’t find it nearly as funny. If your dog immediately tries to escape from the costume, or freezes in place when it’s on, you probably don’t need an expert to tell you it’s not having a great time. Also a costume that restricts his movement or compromises sight or hearing is a real bad idea. On the other hand, the same blog post suggests that a dog may enjoy the added attention from its owner.

My suggestion: let your dog’s behavior be your guide. You’re likely in tune enough with his feelings that you can tell if a costume is akin to torture, and adjust your holiday mirth-making accordingly. Last year was our first Halloween with Chauncey, and we were eager to show him off at a dog Halloween benefit party we attended. Knowing that he was probably not going to love the raptor costume we put him in, we instead put him in a pumpkin shirt for almost the entire party, which he didn’t mind at all since it fits exactly like a lot of the clothes he wears in the winter. We put the raptor costume on just long enough to get the above picture, and for the costume contest judges to get a gander and decide to name him the winner. (Fun fact: we Vanderhoffs don’t mess around with this kind of thing.)

Q. What is Chauncey going to be this year? – Edgar P., Baltimore
A. We’re going to be in Seattle visiting our human nieces for Halloween this year, so I’m not sure he’ll be dressing up. If he does, it will probably just be for a photo op. Watch Rover Time’s Facebook feed to find out what happens! Maybe nothing! Who knows?! Life is uncertain!

Q. Okay, then assuming our dog totally loves dressing up and I am taking all necessary precautions, what costume should we choose? – The Birds, San Francisco
A. Sherlock Holmes. Especially if it’s a basset hound. What, you want more suggestions? Sigh, fine… I actually think those costumes that are just a little jockey or cowboy or knight on the dog’s back are pretty funny, and if your dog is big enough, hopefully he wouldn’t be annoyed by it. (Disclaimer: my dog weighs 8 pounds sopping wet. I have no idea if your big dog will be annoyed or not.)

Then there’s the category costumes your dog will almost certainly hate, but that we can at least enjoy in pictures. A dog as a pirate is pretty funny, but even better? A dog dressed up as TWO pirates carrying a treasure chest.

I have a soft spot for anything Star Wars-related (original trilogy only, please), so this AT-AT getup is pretty great, but not as great as this Bantha, complete with Tusken Raider. Or this tauntaun with Luke Skywalker. Also for the sci-fi fan: Fluffy from Harry Potter.

Lastly, this dog is a poop factory. I’m not above admitting that that’s pretty funny.

TO REITERATE: I cannot imagine your dog is going to enjoy any of those last few. So maybe just enjoy the pictures and give your dog a break? On the other hand, I don’t enjoy when Chauncey tries to stick his foot in my mouth while I’m driving, sooooooo…

Q. Why do you referring to dogs as “he”? – Todd, Fleet Street
A. Because I don’t like calling them “it” and my dog is a boy. I guess I could alternate between “he” and “she” each time, or only use “she” in my next article but… holy crap, I’m writing a blog post about costumes for dogs and having an argument about the proper canine personal pronoun WITH MYSELF. Let’s maybe just move on before I start wondering how it all came to this, shall we?

Q. Anything I should keep in mind regarding my dog’s safety this Halloween? – Fred K., Springwood, OH
A. SO MANY THINGS! Glad you asked! Obviously the extremely erudite, pet-saavy readers of Mark’s Barks know to be extra sure to keep chocolate away from their dog. But what about pumpkin (not toxic but can cause upset stomach), wires and cords for decorations (there is nothing “cute” about the word “electrocute”), and candles. Okay, those shouldn’t be a huge surprise. The ASPCA also recommends keeping your dog in a different room away from the front door during trick-or-treating. Since a single doorbell chime puts Chauncey into orbit, we just keep him inside and pull a real Doobie Brothers with our candy (by “Takin’ It To the Streets,” obviously).

Oh, and make sure your dog is wearing his tags, which is just good advice in general especially on the spookiest night of the year.

Q. This was basically just an excuse to post a bunch of cute pictures of dogs in costumes, wasn’t it? – Audrey, Skid Row
A. Shut up.

5 Causes Of Most Dog Problems

22 May

Julia’s uncovers more about why a dog’s basic needs – when out of whack – can be a cause of bad behavior. And for good measure, she’ll include some basic how-to’s on getting things back on track in this upcoming blog series.

A handful of Rover-Timer's politely sit and focus for Julia.

A handful of Rover-Timer’s politely sit and focus for Julia.

I’m addicted to hearing from my clients. These people are some of the most inspiring, kind, good-hearted folks you can find in Chicago. And they seriously love their dogs.

The majority who reach out to me for dog trainer referrals have a similar list of annoyances with their animal:

  • The dog doesn’t listen.
  • He gets overexcited and is hard to calm down.
  • Barks way too much.
  • Can be destructive.
  • Won’t come back when he’s loose outside.
  • And isn’t reliably house-trained.

Any of these resonating with you?

When you live with a dog, each of those annoyances are a huge pain, but what most miss is that these are not isolated problems, but rather they are symptoms.

Symptoms are warning signs. Often with dogs, first symptoms are mildly annoying. But then the dog gets bigger and older, or more set in their ways which is much, much more annoying. I think a big misconception people have about dogs and their behavior is that their dog will “grow out of it” and the situation will get better soon enough.

But that’s really not the case.

Did you know that the number one cause of death for pet dogs in this country is euthanasia? Pet owners at their wit’s end have the option to put their dog down for symptoms that seem unfixable when in actuality; the real problem hasn’t been identified. The worst part of this all is that many who choose this option did so after their dog bit, meaning someone else or something else suffered as a result of their dog because all the warning signs went ignored.

So what are the different causes?

The way in which someone sets the relationship to their dog and cares for it is the direct cause for any of those symptoms listed above. Even the most normal dogs, dogs that have beautiful temperaments, can still display unwanted behaviors which link to the animals basic needs not being met. It’s kind of a bitter pill to sallow because we love our dogs. We’ll do anything for them. So how can this be?

Here’s what a dog needs:
1.) Socialization – 2.) Good Diet & Health Care – 3.) Training – 4.) Exercise
5.) Mental Stimulation

And if any one of these falls out of balance, it’s likely you’ll have a dog that will act out.

Now, if I were to jump into each need right now, this would be the world’s longest blog post and I’d lose a lot of you. Personally, I like reading bite-sized pieces of advice so here’s my plan: over the next few weeks, I’ll take a close look at each need, and I’ll post what I learn and want to share.

So far, since I started sharing more of my expertise via this blog for Rover-Time, I touched a bit on adding enrichment to your dog’s life and diet & health, but I think I’ll revisit these topics and uncover more about why a dog’s basic needs – when out of whack – cause bad behavior. And for good measure, each week I’ll include some basic how-to’s on getting things back on track.

By the end of the series, it’s my hope that more of you will have a dog on your hands that feels happier, calmer, more relaxed, and easier to live with.

To get these posts as soon as they’re published, enter your email addresses to subscribe to the blog. And if you know someone that could benefit or would enjoy Rover-Time’s blog, spread the word by sharing the blog!

Image by Sera Hayes

Welcome Rachel!

8 Oct

Rover-Time is proud to hire the very best pet professionals to support our clients. 

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Julia: Tell us about your all your work and experience in the animal industry!
Rachel: I began working with animals in Wicker Park, where I was raised. I was an animal lover since birth, and most picnics and neighborhood BBQ were spent with neighbors pets versus humans. Around the time I began middle school, I began walking, and watching friends’ pets when they took their vacations. I got my first “real” animal job when I returned from my freshman year at Beloit College. I began as a kennel assistant for my childhood Veterinarian. I was able to learn first handed and shortly became a Veterinary Assistant. At the age of 18, I was lucky to have had such an intense introduction into the animal world. I took a year off from the animal world, after working for Mid-North Animal Hospital for 3 years. When I returned, I tried my hand at grooming! Turns out shampooing was not for me, but it was great to be back with the fluffy and furry. I decided to go back to school, and found walking dogs was a perfect way to earn a living while doing so. I already had several families and friends who needed someone they trusted to care for their little ones. After 3 years with these families, I was able to attend school and earn my Certified Professional Dog Trainer status. I continued to walk and began training in a private and retail setting. At this time I met began my life with my husband and decided to return to the Veterinary world. For the past 4 years I have been working for local Veterinary offices as a Veterinary Technician. Now, my daughter is in kindergarten and I am eager to be available for her after school needs. I am very happy to return to dog walking!

J: What are your hobbies?
R: As so many others, my life has become a balance of my work, my family, and my pets. If I do find personal time I enjoy curling up with a good book and my favorite singers. My guilty pleasure is historical fiction. I also love mystery novels. I am a big fan of “adventures” as well! My husband works for an airline, so we enjoy free flying. There is nothing better than packing the family up and heading out to museum half way across the country. Traveling to places like New York, Los Angeles, Austin, has become our version of traveling to the Dells for the day!

J: Who was your favorite celebrity as a child?
R: I admit, I was quite an impressionable child. I had a group of sisters who used to baby sit me as a child. I can remember them blasting Prince in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I have been a Prince fan since. Embarrassing as it is, I was also a Sara Michelle Gellar fan. Not so much the actress, but the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. Who wouldn’t want to be fit, sassy, and able to save the world from vampire domination!

J: What word describes you best?
R: I have been described as many things, I think happy is the most realistic and genuine. Some would go so far as to say I am annoyingly cheerful, but my sass and quick tongue will kindly correct them! I sincerely believe that keeping a fun attitude and a constant smile has saved me from many of those moments when you just want to throw your hands up and scream. My level of energy and nonstop humor amazes people. I believe it comes from the fact that I am truly happy. There are many things in life that get me down, but as long as I do what I’m meant to…it always works out.

J: Who do you admire?
R: I really admire Temple Grandin. She is a wonderful human being. She is best known for her work in the animal field. She works to understand animal behavior from an animal’s perspective. Instead of being burdened by Autism, she views it as a gift that allows her to genuinely connect with the animal she is working with. I look up to her for several reasons. Her overcoming prejudice and self doubt, towards her illness, is amazing. Also her books are fascinating, very well written, and insightful.

J: If you were invisible, where would you go?
R: If I was invisible I would definitely live in the workshop of the show Duck Dynasty. I admit, I am in love with the show and can’t get enough.

J: How do you want to be remembered?
R: I would like to be remembered with a smile. I want people to think of me and think of “that one time when….” and let the laughter flow to healing tears. I think its important to be remembered as being a strong individual as well. By strong I mean, someone who others can rely on; and someone who is strong enough to know when to ask for help. The word wise always inspires images of the elderly, but I wouldn’t complain if it was thrown in my direction.

Rachel manages a route that spans from Old Irving Park to East Irving Park. And she loves it. Welcome aboard, Rachel!!!

September’s Delight: Canine Massage Chicago

10 Sep

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Rover-Time finds the work done at Canine Massage Chicago delightful! The school was created by Denise Theobald, a licensed massage therapist. Denise wants to educate the public that the same benefits touch has on humans can be seen in canines. Denise kindly answered a few questions for us and we’re excited to share what we learned!

Q. You are a certified massage therapist. What made you decide to move away from human massage and start Canine Massage Chicago (CMC)?
A. I have been a certified and licensed human therapist for 25 years. About 15 years ago while watching my 3 dogs play very hard in the yard I realized that they really needed this work as much as the elite athletes I was working with. I also always wanted to work with dogs so it seemed natural. I had a very successful human practice which I gave up about 2 years ago however I still have a handful of clients that I still see if they can work around my schedule. I have been working with dogs ever since and since there wasn’t much training for this work I opened The School of Canine Massage which has a far more comprehensive curriculum compared to any program in the world.

Tank had neck surgery for Wobblers. He's receiving weekly massages to aid his progress during recovery.

Tank had neck surgery for Wobblers. He’s receiving weekly massages to aid his progress during recovery.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the range of services CMC offers?
A. We offer therapeutic massage sessions for all dogs. Including dogs that don’t like people and don’t want to be touched. We also offer pet parent classes in canine massage, kids touch and massage for dogs and puppy touch socialization. We also offer some basic training classes along with some shy dog classes. We believe that a confident dog with a strong skill set is a less anxious dog.

Q. When I think of massage, I think of a calming experience.  What ways can massage be used to benefit dogs who have anxiety or fear?
A. Massage and touch desensitization is a huge tool for calming down a dog and getting a dog comfortable with various forms of touch. Massage triggers the parasympathetic nervous system thus allowing balance in the body and a venue for the dog to cope better and recover from stress and illness. We use various touch desensitization techniques along with counter conditioning to make interaction and touch from humans a positive experience that they can generalize also reducing their anxiety. Teaching a pet parent massage techniques also help with overall relaxation and the animal companion bond.

Q. Humans also use massage in physical therapy. Can it be used the same for dogs that are being treated for medical ailments?
A. Massage is the missing link and needed for physical recover of most orthopedic and soft tissue injury and disease. Massage is used to reduce trigger points, muscle and facial restriction and soreness. It is used to improve joint function and getting the tissue healthy enough so that it can be moved, stretched and strengthened. We see a lot of dogs with advanced arthritis and joint pain. The body responds by constricting tissue around a joint thus causing a pain cycle pain syndrome. We can help alleviate that cycle and stave off the effects of degenerative processes.

Pairing touch with cheese.

Pairing touch with cheese.

Q. You also offer classes for pet owners. Why might it be useful for a pet owner to take a class?
A. It is very important that at the very least we teach a pet parent one on one a few techniques to do at home between sessions. Also basic behavior as many pet parents don’t realize that how they handle and interact with their dog is the cause of the dogs stress, anxiety etc. This is huge wake up call for most parents.  Helping the pet parent understand and read their dog is the first step and is crucial. Doing simple ongoing techniques to help alleviate soreness, help joint movement and providing positive touch is very helpful between professional sessions and is key.

Q. What partnerships are you most proud to have cultivated through CMC?
A. We are very involved in the rescue community however we have students from the career training program work on dogs at various shelters. I am most proud of the relationship and partnership with Safe Humane. Not only is the organization always willing to provide us with the tools that we need to arrange the working session, I have yet to see a group of staff and volunteers so dedicated and committed to the animals and community they serve. From the fundraising, enrichment training to the Illinois Youth Center trainings. They work hard and selflessly. (Rover-Time also featured SHC, by the way. Give it a read!)

We also are proud to offer free massage and training for foster parents through various rescue organizations including the Animal Care League and the Lucida Puppy Fund.

We also offer staff and volunteer trainings for free for those organizations wanting to learn more about enrichment through massage and systematic desensitization for their rescue dogs.

A very grateful thank you to Andrea Juracek for creating this wonderful connection for Rover-Time.

Introducing Our New Board And Learn Service

10 Sep

A guest post from Kiki Yablon

As a “dog trainer,” most of what I actually do is teach people how to teach their own dogs. There’s a good reason for that: dogs aren’t cars, to be fixed by a doggie mechanic. Behavior is an ever-changing response to feedback from the environment – and you’re a huge part of your dog’s environment.

That said, at some time or other in our lives, most of us find that we don’t have enough time to do everything we’d like to do – and that can include scheduling structured training time with our canine companions.

For our new collaborative Board & Learn offering at Rover-Time, Julia and I thought hard about how to balance the need for owner participation and education with the efficiency and convenience of having a professional trainer work directly with your dog.

Before we start, I’ll gather information about your dog and your priorities, make recommendations, and work with you to set goals. Then while you’re on vacation or on the job, I’ll work with your dog for at least one hour per training day, using humane, effective, force-free methods that your dog will enjoy. Between sessions, Rover-Time will help reinforce what your dog is learning through consistent, positive interactions. When you get home, or when the program is complete, I’ll meet with you in your home to teach you how to maintain and build on what your pup has learned, then follow up with written instructions and additional resources.

If you’re boarding your dog for five days or more, or making regular use of Rover-Time’s daycare, this new service is available to you. Whether you have a new puppy who needs to learn basic manners, an adolescent who seems to have forgotten everything he learned in puppy class, or an old dog who’d just enjoy some new tricks, we think Board & Learn can greatly enrich your dog’s stay at Rover-Time.

Recall training

Stay and recall training in the backyard.


To learn more about me, visit my website or Facebook page. Rover-Time clients interested in this service can directly contact Julia.

Please note: Board & Learn is not “boot camp” for aggressive dogs, whose success depends on a longer-term program with more owner education and participation. And similar to booking any extended visit at Rover-Time, some planning and notice is needed to reserve the Board & Learn service.

How To Exercise Your Dog

6 Aug

Ever wonder how much exercise your dog really needs? Is it a help or a hindrance? And what environment is best for running them?

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It’s August.

How is it already the eighth month of the year? Summer is nearly over and my boarding clients are already setting and sending their overnight requests for November and December. How time flies!

I have missed you. For those that didn’t realize it, I took some time off from blogging. July was something! A lot was happening personally and professionally and I’ll be honest: it was super hard to sit down and write. But I’m back and happy to be here!

For you newbies (And there are many of you! Welcome!) Rover-Time’s blog is all about its readers growing a personal relationship with our business. It highlights are expertise, our humor, and our favorite small businesses helping out the pet community.

In this week’s post I’m closing out a series I started ages ago. Let’s chat.

Ever wonder how much exercise your dog really needs? Is it a help or a hindrance? And what environment is best for running them?

Planning daily exercise for all dogs is important for maintaining general health and behavioral well-being. Every dog, no matter the breed, is an individual and it’s good to really know and be observant of who you’re living with. The important question is how much is enough vs. how much is too much?

Not all dogs – purebreds or mixed – are built to win competitions, but just about any breed can engage in and enjoy activities such as ball, agility and more, especially with a passionate owner. Sporting breeds do tend to be more active and need more exercise to be happy and stay fit.

Other breeds are not built for aggressive aerobic activity. Specifically, English and French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, and others that have compressed faces. These guys are very susceptible to overheating and life-threatening heat stroke, if they are over exercised, even on mildly sunny or humid days. Overexertion of any kind, especially on a hot day, can be life threatening.

Even in older dogs, limited or controlled exercise is important. For dogs with hip, knee, spinal-arthritis conditions or obesity concerns, minimal-impact exercise, such as swimming, is highly recommended.

If a place to swim isn’t convenient, then walking – not running – is generally low impact and safe. Just don’t overdo it. Take short walks first, and gradually increase the distance. After exercise, gentle massage of the back and legs, and gentle flexing and extending of the leg joints, will help.

Allow your dog to exercise to the degree it seems comfortable, that is, most dogs will give you signals when they’re tired or need rest. So never force your dog to keep going. Adult dogs generally have matured enough to know when their bodies are hot and need to stop. If your dog is dropping behind, slowing down, sitting down, panting heavily, then take a break.

Only start the exercise again when your dog indicates he wants to do more. Be sure to provide fresh water and a place for the dog to get out of direct sunlight if it’s a hot or humid day.

If your dog is stiff or in pain the day after exercise, remember to allow enough rest for him to return to normal and limit the duration next time out.

Choosing the right place to exercise your dog is equally important.
Like your own feet, your dog’s feet are extremely sensitive, full of nerve endings and have enormous blood supply. Treat his feet like your own, with consideration for hot, abrasive surfaces such as pavement and sidewalks on sunny days, or rocky, wooded, off-road terrain. Always work your dog up gradually to new surfaces. With repeated activity on a harder surface, your dog’s foot pads will thicken and toughen, making them more resilient.

Be careful though, because the opposite is also true: reducing exercise or changing to softer terrain exclusively, such as grass vs. sidewalk, will gradually cause you dog’s foot pads to soften.

Lets continue the conversation below! I want to hear from you.

  • Where are you favorite places to exercise with your dog and why? 
  • What do you bring with and what do you look for to keep your dog safe?

Next week (god willing) I will write again! For now, thanks for reading and do share with your friends and fellow dog fans!

Image by Sera Hayes

August’s Delight: Chicago Pet Video

6 Aug

Rover-Time is delighted to introduce this month’s provider feature to our readers! We’re thrilled to become better aquatinted and we look forward to working with them in the future!
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Q. How did Chicago Pet Video come about, and what made you decide to focus solely on pet videos?
A. Two things. We love animals and we saw a need for media production in the pet industry. We were originally producing videos for the hospitality industry but the need for production in the pet industry—as well as the exciting possibilities we saw in working with animals—were just too great to ignore. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their time working with the animals that bring so much joy into everyone’s lives?

Q. Can you tell us a little about your services?
A. We began creating videos for clients in the Chicagoland area but have since expanded nationwide. We focus on creating web-based media to help pet businesses connect with their customers online. From the simple introduction video to more creative and fun social-media videos, we can make it happen. We work closely with clients to make sure every shot is what they’re looking for. We also offer consultation services, and can help on the creative end of the process with voiceovers, scriptwriting, and storyboards. We’re also proud to offer video at an affordable price so we’re accessible to everyone. At the end of the day, we’re proud of the videos we create and we make sure our clients are too.

Q. CPV does quite a bit of charitable work. How do you to use your services to help those in need?
A. Our own dog, Murray, was a puppy mill rescue. Raising awareness for those who can’t speak for themselves is one of the most important aspects of our work. We’ve helped over 15 different charities raise awareness for their causes and we’ve been inspired by all of their work. Partnering with these groups is a win-win situation. It inspires us in our work and we help spread the word for them. We do this both in the videos we create for them and in our day-to-day conversations with clients.

Q. What do you find is the best part of filming pets?
A. They’re just so much fun! You never know what you’re going to get when you’re working with pets, so you always have to be on your toes. Sometimes you’ll be looking for a certain shot but the puppy or cat you’re working with just isn’t interested that day, so you have to try something new. Work around here never gets boring!

Chicago Pet Video wants to be social with you! Check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

A very grateful thank you to Andrea Juracek for creating this wonderful connection for Rover-Time.

Mark’s Barks Presents: Best Names of Dog Breeds

6 Aug

This month Mark divulges his connection to different dog breeds. You’ll find out private stuff like how the Silky Terrier dog brings back memories of his nights as an on-air DJ at an easy listening radio station.

Mark Barks

Cardigan Welsh Corgi- I like this name because it tells me a) where it’s from b) what it would be most likely to buy at Banana Republic c) another dog that I’m actually familiar with so I can picture it.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog- When a merely “great” Swiss Mountain Dog simply won’t do. (How many times do you think this dog is at a cocktail party and is like “(Sigh) I hate to nitpick, but it’s actually Great-ER Swiss Mountain Dog.”)

Dogue de Bordeaux- I like this because it makes me feel like I speak French. (NOTE: If Dogue de Bordeaux does not mean “Dog of Bordeaux” in French, please do not tell me and ruin it.)

Black and Tan Coonhound – Delicious beverage meets furry woodland friend.

Bouvier des Flandres- Contains not one but TWO Simpsons characters’ names! Sort of! Very close! (I can’t believe I’m stooping to actually listing them, but Marge Bouvier Simpson, and Ned Flanders, obviously.)

Löwchen- Umlauts make everything more awesome. See also: Mötley Crüe, Löwenbräu, Motörhead, my niece Zoë, etc.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever- Those ducks aren’t going to toll themselves, am I right?! (Seriously, aren’t you just imagining a little dog in a toll booth collecting change from a slow-moving line of mallards? Delightful.)

Otterhound- I love otters. I love otter pops. Why wouldn’t I love Otterhouds? Do they swim? Are they like slender beavers, while still being dogs somehow? Again, I’m going to assume the answer is “yes” and thank you not to ruin it for me with “facts.”

Rhodesian Ridgeback- Sounds like a dragon species from Harry Potter. Or an ancient species of wild pig. Either way, I’m in. (Okay, I did look this one up – did you know that the Republic of Rhodesia existed from 1970 to 1979 in the area of present day Zimbabwe? YOU DID?! YOU’RE SUCH A SMARTYPANTS!)

Silky Terrier- This was my on-air name when I used to work overnights as a DJ on an easy listening station.

Xoloitzcuintli- Gesundheit.

What are your favorite breeds? Do tell.

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