Doggy Blog

Dogwalking 101: Stranger Things

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First off, as a nod to my incredibly clever title, I’d like to show you a picture of one of our all star former doggos Lou.

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And then a picture of Dustin from the Netflix smash hit Stranger Things.

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SEPARATED AT BIRTH, AMIRITE? It didn’t hit me until I came up with the pun for the title but Lou blindly smiling with just his lower teeth showing is extremely Dustin from Stranger Things. No offense to Dustin. It’s a very charming look and he is a brave dude that sticks up for his friends, which is more than I can say for Lou, whose main character trait was barking at every delivery person on the block. In fact, that peccadillo of Lou’s dovetails nicely with my ACTUAL topic for today’s Dogwalking 101: dealing with strangers on the street.

People love dogs. People love petting dogs. What people often do not like is asking to pet dogs. This is often fine, but with some dogs (like good ol’ Louboy), this unwanted petting stresses them out and can result in some cacophonous barking or worse. You need to ask the person with the dog if it’s okay to pet the dog AND THEN WAIT FOR AN ANSWER BEFORE PETTING. I cannot stress this enough. Here’s an example encounter:

Stranger: “OMG your dog is so cute can I pet him?”

Me: “First of all, how dare you gender my do–”

Stranger: BEGINS PETTING DOG

As I said, with most dogs the only issue will be aggressive licking and hugging/humping, but the worst case scenario is bad enough to require a grace period between asking and petting.


While we’re on the topic, here are some stranger archetypes that I’ve come across:

  • Person dressed like your wacky aunt or uncle that always has a big bag of mysterious dog treats that they want to give your dog

  • Person that asks a strangely aggressive question about the dog, eg: “IS THAT A FUCKIN’ SHAR PEI?” (real question I’ve been asked)

  • Person with dog that they say is nice but ends up freaking out and either nipping at or humping my dog

  • Person that sees you and dog from roughly half a block away and turns on their heel and walks the other way, even if it’s a puppy or pug

  • Person jogging down the sidewalk directly at you and dog who does not waver at all and gives you a dirty look

  • Normal person (exceedingly rare)


So in closing, always remember this rhyming couplet I just thought of:

When you see a dog you haven’t met

Ask before you give a pet

Thank you and have a wonderful dog-filled afternoon!

—Sean

Ay, Chihuahua

We’ve never met a thing we haven’t wanted to bark at. Good thing we’re cute.
— Nathan and Tucker, small dogs
Nathan in red and Tucker in blue, blissfully unaware of the crazed struggle that was putting those jackets one. 

Nathan in red and Tucker in blue, blissfully unaware of the crazed struggle that was putting those jackets one. 

I have been walking Nathan and Tucker everyday since mid-January, once at 7am and once at 4pm. Coincidentally, today is my last day with that schedule. It's been a learning experience. Not because of the dogs, but rather because in order to get to where they live by 7, I have to be up at 6 and out the door by 6:30. I haven't woken up at 6 since my days working landscaping at a boat marina in Buffalo, NY—and I have to say, I didn't really miss it at all. Being that it is winter in Chicago, albeit a frighteningly warm one, it is dark when I spring (read: stumble) out the door and I get to WAKE UP WITH THE SUN. Sound romantic? It isn't.

Picture me walking/running/sprinting to the bus with one eye coffin-nailed shut, avoiding commuters speeding through eminently visible stop signs/red lights/groups of pedestrians while drinking their coffee/snorting designer amphetamines and texting/sleeping, just getting to the bus stop in time for it to open its bifolding doors to me/speed away in total and complete ignorance of my existence THEN AND ONLY THEN realizing that I forgot my glasses/sanity at home. Perhaps that was a bit hyperbolic. I'm not much of a morning person.

Once I arrive at the pup's place, all of that agita disappears and everything is hunky dory. Nathan and Tucker are chihuahua mixes with a high motor, like the New England Patriots' receiving core, and a healthy distrust of all outsiders, like the New England Patriots' coaching staff. Like any dogs worth their salt, it took a little while for the puppers to trust me, and I braved many nips and bite attempts during those first few days. Now we are quite close.

Nathan, wondering why this treat is rectangular and made of glass and metal.

Nathan, wondering why this treat is rectangular and made of glass and metal.

Nathan is the older, calmer, wiser one, with an inquisitive face that says (to me), "I've sniffed it allll before, kemosabe." I'm not sure if this is a characteristic of chihuahuas or not, but Nathan's nose seems to move independently of the rest of his face, granting him the ability (whether purposely or not) to produce a wide range of expressions. Very cute, two vestigial doggo thumbs way, way up. He is also, and god forbid if he reads this, the plumper brother. He does carry it well, though. He's also not a great fan of being leashed up, but once confronted with the inevitability of walking, he lowers his head and accepts his fate. I'm not sure why he is so reticent to get out there, because once we break the plane of the doorway he certainly seems to enjoy himself—wiggling along at a respectable pace for a pup of his stature. 

Tucker, half listening to me explain that not all squirrels intend him bodily harm.

Tucker, half listening to me explain that not all squirrels intend him bodily harm.

Tucker is the younger, more manic, more curious brother, with super expressive ears that seem to go on for miles. I have no idea what that means. Tucker will jump up on me the second I walk into the apartment, licking my face and hands as if I were made entirely of processed meat (although, what are human beings if not processed meat?). He has a penchant for treats, and I once walked in on him devouring a small handful of pretzel sticks that were clearly not meant for his consumption. I always give the pups a lil treat (not pretzel sticks) about halfway through our walk and Tucker is extremely skilled at licking his own lips and then jumping and snatching these morsels out of the air—it's a very cute combo.

As I said before, both dogs harbor a healthy distust of outsiders. And they consider many, many things outsiders. Most things really. I've gotten very skilled at non-Euclidian geometry in three-dimensional space attempting to avoid these threats. Here's a general list of things they are skeptical of/bark at:

  • Other dogs. This one is fairly normal. They tend to only freak out at dogs that are smaller than them and dogs that are larger then them. So far, zero issues with dogs exactly the same size that they are.

  • Squirrels. Again, normal. In this case, they only bark at squirrels smaller than them (we have yet to encounter the rare midwestern "goliath" squirrel (taxonomical classification Sciurus gigantius). The pups have a knack for spotting squirrels from up to a country mile away and just absolutely wailing at them until they recieve a light pull on their restraints.

  • Schoolbuses. This one makes sense. Schoolbuses are chock full of the natural enemy of chihuahua mixes: schoolchildren. I think everyone can sympathize with this, schoolchildren are objectively horrible.

  • The Metra train. This one is problematic given that Nate and Tuck live DIRECTLY next to the Metra train. Luckily their apartment is mostly soundproof. Outside is regrettably sound heavy, and thus they go nuts every time the train zooms by.

  • Airplanes. This one is confusing. They're not that loud and they are THOUSANDS OF FEET IN THE AIR. I appreciate their tenacity, but this one is a bit far fetched.

  • Nothing at all. This is one is also surprising. The pups will occasionally just lose their minds barking at a tree or at literally just empty space and look at ME like I'm the crazy one when I ask them what they're barking at. Y'all are the ones screaming at nothing, don't gaslight me. I guess I am speaking to two dogs expecting a cogent answer. I guess this one is a wash.

Despite what you may take from that list, I have had a wonderful time walking Nate and Tucker this last month and change—moreso the 4pm walk rather than it's dastardly counterpart at 7am. The pups keep a brisk pace and complement eachother's personalities very well. As long as you give other dogs/squirrels/airplanes a wide berth, they bop right along. And may they bop right along for many years to come.

Sean

The Altgeld Girls

"We know how to sit, shake, and look super cute."

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Hello all! Josh here with a post about some of the dogs on my daily route. In fact, you may already know them. If you've ever liked a photo on Home Treat Home's Instagram page, chances are it was of one of the Altgeld Girls: Grace, the white golden retriever; Bernie, the doodle; and Daisy, a golden retriever. I've been walking these gal pals for years. They are like the kids from, "Stranger Things," except we've never been to the upside-down world and I am okay with that. Neighborhood friends who grew up together on the same cul-de-sac. Which happens to be Altgeld Ave in Lincoln Park. These ladies are well-behaved and a joy to be around. They never fight with eachother and are always guarding their turf. Let me tell you a little about each of them and I am sure you'll fall in love with them too.

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Bernie Girl is a doodle like no other. She is a human stuck in a dog's body. I've been walking Bernie for about two years now and she has become a best friend. She is always down to hang out and she always greets me with her tail wagging, paws jumpin', and a smile on her face. She looks straight into my eyes to communicate her love and affection for me. She can be cautious of strangers, but is always curious about them. Usually after they have passed her and she comes from behind to sniff their bums. She is very good at startling others and being startled herself. At the end of our walks, she always tries to race me back into the apartment, even though she can't get in without me. It's so adorable. Bernie is the sugar in my morning coffee and I need her to get through my day. 

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This is Gracie Girl, aka Grace Nacho. Grace Nacho is an original club kid. Me and this home girl have been hanging out for three years now and we treat each other like uncle and niece. When I walk through the front door, she is always waiting at the top of the stairs with a toy to give me. She is my princess. She's bossy, caring, and loveable. Grace and I are so close that we even exchange gifts on our birthdays. I don't even do that with my human friends. One thing is definitely true about Grace, she's got my back. 

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Daisy is the life of the party. She is mostly a guest star in the smash hit sitcom that is The Altgeld Girls, but lives on the same block as Bernie and Grace. Daisy is such a ham. She loves attention and is great at getting everyone worked up on the walks. Her and Grace are best friends in the purest sense of the word. They live to see each other. My favorite thing is to watch her and Gracie play a little game I've dubbed Snow Dolphin. Snow Dolphin is a great game—mostly played by dogs but could be extended to particulary flexible (and perhaps, strange) children— where one acts as if one is a dolphin swimming through deep snow instead of a large body of water. It is a must see. If you have the means, I highly recommend taking in a show.

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You might even recognize them from the above Home Treat Home logo picture. Who are we kidding, of course you do, these gals are A-listers. If you are ever in Lincoln Park and run into one of these famed Girls of Altgeld, make sure to say, "HEY, GIRL, HEY!" in your best high-pitched lilt. I am sure they will greet you with ear-to-ear smiles, open paws, and some sloppy kisses. However, they have been known to throw some INTENSE CANINE SHADE from time to time, so prepare accordingly. 

Josh