Smart Toys are Dumb

To entertain the restless creature that is an Elsie left alone, we bought a puzzle toy (below). Inside there are four chambers that act as difficulty levels. If you put food in the chamber with four circles, you require your pup to navigate the food/treats through three chambers before it pops out of the green side. The yellow side has a similar opening, but it is for you to open the toy to refill.

“We should get this puzzle for Else. It actually has levels, so she could grow with it.” I tell Donatello. He agrees. We buy it. Fill the second chamber, because we don’t want it to be too easy.  She plays with it for a while and is clearly a fan of the toy. We get excited, it took her a while to tire of the toy. Once we up it a few levels over the next couple of weeks or months, she ought to be entertained the whole day.

What optimists (fools) we were to think this. After work Monday – the toy was purchased Saturday, the toy was completely empty. I reloaded it Tuesday with nothing in the first chamber. It was low Tuesday, but some kibble blocked the third chamber. Today, we loaded it only in the last two chambers and trimmed the kibble to ensure it would not block the path. Then, handled it to Elsie.

I watched her play with it as I gathered my stuff for work. After ten minutes, she quit playing. I checked the toy to see if she just got bored or if it was actually already emptied. To my surprise, it was completely empty.

So, apparently, we have just been entertaining her for ten minutes…

I am in the market for a VERY good and VERY difficult dog puzzle toy. Anyone have any suggestions?

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Why I am late to work today.

After breakfast and a shower, I had some time so I sat on the deck with all of the furry family. The swing on our deck is shaded from the morning sun by a very big something tree. The breeze was just light enough to prevent the summer morning from being stuffy and kept the deck at the perfect relaxation for me and the furries.

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Ace was lounging on a hand-me-down table surveying his lands. Two chairs from the hand-me-down set protected him from Elsie’s curious muzzle. Maggie laid next to me in the swing and pondered at the leaves lazily dancing in the light breeze. Elsie was filled with too much energy to sit still for a second. She watched the cats with the determined eye of a scientist hungry for knowledge and understanding. Otto climbed the something tree. As he climbed higher, he would test each branch tentatively to ensure his footing.

As I ruminated on the peace of the morning and the pointlessness of leaving for work, a humming sounded from the tree. Four set of furry ears perked up. Ace landed on the deck with a heavy THUD! He slinked off the deck. A horsefly could be seen for a moment between these two small panthers. The tree erupted into chaos as the early morning hunt and murder took place.

Simultaneously, the peace on the deck was shattered by the stomping of a fifty-pound observer wished to become part of the action. My seat on the swing is set into motion when Maggie pushed off it to join the drama as well.

I found that I couldn’t stop smiling. The peace of the morning was cut off suddenly and very completely in one moment by the dark humour of nature. Yet, I wanted more moments like this to fill my life. I looked at my phone and realised I was running late.

It was worth it.

 

Let’s go to the park!

Every evening, Mum and Dad pack Elsie and me up in one of their cars and takes us to the park. Even Elsie, who doesn’t like car rides because they make her sick, gets excited about hopping in the car after the ball for this trip. We know we are going to “get worn out,” which is always a lot of fun – though I am not 100% sure what they mean by it. It seems to mean free reign at the park and running and running and running until no one wants to play with the ball anymore.

After a short drive, Mum jumps out of the car and gets the ball from between Elsie and me. Elsie bolts out of the backseat, unable to contain her excitement. I get out, wagging my tail so much it makes it difficult to squeeze from Mum’s backseat and to walk straight. (Going to the park is my favourite activity!)

As soon as we are both out of the car, Mum chucks the ball as far as she can. And thus begins the games. Dad usually gets it the first time, and he throws it even further.

We all chase the ball for a while. Once Mum and Dad get tired, we get the ball more often and change the game from monkeys in the middle or soccer…

We prefer keep-away and tug of war.

Elsie sometimes snags it out of thin air!

We always run our hardest…

And, we always leave happy and panting!

Left Alone

What we didn’t know is we have Maggie (four-year old) to stop Elsie (eight-months old) from being lonely. -Donatello

The door closes. I am alone.

Mum and Dad left me toys, games, treats, and voices from the picture box; but, I am still alone. Mum walked me prior to shutting the door, but I didn’t have to potty until my mind started worrying if she’d come back or not.

I pace a bit, the treat Mummy handed me before leaving forgotten and abandoned as I search for my family. I can see the cats outside from the living room sometimes, so I walk to the door and stare out for a moment. They cats are not there. I feel very alone.

What if they don’t come back? I pace some more. They aren’t back. They are not coming back. What do I do now? I curl up for a moment.

I jump up from the ball on the floor and run upstairs into Bed. Bed is where I rest every night with my family. It smells like Mum, Dad, and Maggie. I jump “Up-Up” and nuzzle into the soft pillows and blankets. The scent of Mum and Dad fill my world and I close my eyes.

After my nap, they still are not home. I wonder around and explore Bed. All my toys are here so I play with them for a while. Cat in the Hat is my favourite, Mum says it is because I can tell it is a character from a story and I know how much she likes books. Really, it is because it makes a crinkle noise. I really like that noise. It squeaks, too. I usually squeak it to show Mum how fun this toy is. But, I am squeaking it now because the house feels big and lonely and I am filling the void with noise. I set down the toy; I still feel alone.

I walk into the closet. I grab some clothes and place them on the bed beside me. I can smell Mum and Dad again. I feel less frightened and more comfortable. So, I grab the elephant. I love the sound the elephant makes. Mum asks me, “What does an elephant say?” And I squeak it and squeak it and she laughs and gives me praises and treats.

Where is Mum? Where is Dad? Why isn’t Maggie home today?

I feel so worried, I find new things to chew. I find a yummy tube that tastes like key lime (chapstick) and a remote and I chew them. It doesn’t make the worry go away, but it helps distract me because I have never chewed something like these. It feels weird in my mouth. the yummy tube has this weird filling in the middle like food. The remote tastes like cheese sticks, popcorn, and this odd flavour I cannot place… it smells like the outer tubing of the yummy tube.

I get hungry. I run downstairs to my food bowl and nibble on some food. But, my stomach has critters in it that keep me from eating a lot. I give up on eating and lay next to the bowls on the cool floor. I am still alone.

I hear noises outside. The rumbling sound that means Dad is home explodes into my mind. I run to the door. Maggie and Dad walk into the house! I am so happy! I jump, not on to Dad or Maggie. I just jump and pounce and celebrate. My family is home! I run in a circle, nip Maggie’s ear, I am not alone!

But…oh, no. I ate something I was not supposed to… I try to distract Dad from going upstairs. I don’t want him to see what I ate. He walks upstairs and I feel sad. I lower my tail and lick his arm with my apologies. Dad sees what I did, he doesn’t say anything. He picks it up. He looks at me, “I get nervous when I am alone too. I love you, girl.”

I tentatively wag my tail and pick up my toy. I give it one squeak. Daddy smiles and plays tug of war with me.

I wish he never left. I love playing with him and my toys.

-Elsie

Otto and the Importance of going Outside

From the Desk of King Otto:

I spend my days outside. Not only is it an easy way to stay in shape, but I am able to explore my kingdom, protect it from other felines, and grab nice lunch of skink and insects. There is so much more to be gained from being outside than these tasks, something fundamental and essential to life in the communing with nature.

As a house kitty, I am cuddly and loving. I even find that sometimes I reduce myself to responding to human commands when cheese is present. After a couple days inside, I am likely to loose my identity as a cat. I am a hunter, a predator, a KING after all. Not some simpleton begger, reliant on tricks to impress the human into feeding me. When I am outisde, I find the hunter within me and let him free to prowl, capture, and sometimes play with the creatures that trespass into my kingdom.

Staying fit is all good, but strength requires flexibility. I have tried to find a way to stretch and limber up inside to no avail. In the garden, there are trees to climb. After every climb, I feel more flexible and lithe. Being light on my feet is the only to creep around the big bears when they nap in the house to steal their water and their treats. Remember: A tree a day keeps the stiffness away.

A day outside revives the spirit and reminds you of who you truly are, this cannot be reiterated enough. If you are unable to spend a day outside, perhaps you can talk your humans on letting you go for a walk. I do appreciate a trip to the mountain, even if it requires a harness.

Otto

Keeping my fur babies busy…

This is an easy task for the cats. We let them outside while we are away.

This is a process for the dogs. Sometimes I wonder why I could not just get a dumb dog, why did I have to get two VERY clever Bouviers? Entertaining them while we are away is a mental challenge for Donatello and myself. We just bought a house and are looking into buying a car, so our budget for this entertainment is well, I would rather not spend money. For those of you on this same budget trying to keep your dogs entertained, here are a few of our tricks.

Leave on the TV

Seriously. It costs almost nothing to keep a LED television running all day and it makes the dogs feel less alone. We play cartoons because they are filled with sounds and colours and we figure those are the only requirements for a dog. They do not like The Bare Bears. I have never seen as much destruction as Elsie brought upon me when I left The Bare Bears on all day. You have been warned.

Pro tip: We do not have cable so we have to use streaming programmes. Use Hulu, Netflix requires confirmation every three episodes. Hulu will play for 12 hours continuously.

Hide Food

This started with a game Maggie loved to play, Hide the Treat. It grew to hiding treats around the house for both dogs to find over the course of the day. One day it hit us, why use treats? It costs a lot and they find them in seconds, so Elsie looks for things to entertain her within an hour or two of her seven-hour day. We have Kongs, thankfully, which help to prolong this a bit. (Maggie will just sit with a Kong focused on it until it is empty, so we have to put peanut butter in it to stick the food to the back or freeze it so she cannot inhale hers and then go inhale Elsie’s before Elsie looks for it.)

We are going to try the upside down muffin tray with hidden treats in it. But, I just don’t foresee that being a challenge for these two.

Freeze Food

I like this one. They cannot eat it until it is thawed, but they will play with it until then. I use the muffin tray (my dogs would inhale ice cubes and also I don’t have an ice cube tray) to freeze food in beef broth (with no added salt), I put it in their food bowl and let them decide when to get it. (I am convinced that Maggie eats the Kongs and Elsie eats the frozen food, but I have no proof of this. Just speculative at this point. Does anyone wish to donate a camera for scientific research?)

I also like this because our house reaches 78degF during the afternoon in the summer. This is a very small but effective way to keep them cooler.

Goodbye Treat

When I leave, I give them a dental treat. Dental treats take a while to eat and help distract them as I leave. I no longer have to endure the pitiful, awful wail of a Bouvier assuming you are leaving them forever. It was heartbreaking…

Now, they get the treat. They look at me with the awareness that I will be leaving and gratefulness for the treat. Walk into their respective places (Elsie on the couch. Maggie in the hall in front of the laundry room door.) and begin to chew. Then, give me one more glance as if to say, “that’ll do.”

These are our trick and tips. Do you have any to keep your dogs busy?