header tag with dog silhouette

Table of Contents:
Meet Bear
Bear's Big Bed
You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
Bear meets Spike
Bear Gets a Sister
More Photos

Meet Bear:

I haven't really owned a dog since I was a teenager. I've inherited a couple of them and loved them to the end of their lives, but none of them have been intentional acquisitions until just recently - when I saw this ad on Craigslist and it was a nearly perfect fit!


I'm retired, so I had the age thing going for me, and I have a nice backyard and plenty of time. But Bear really hit the jackpot, when it comes to attention. There are people in and out all day long and I usually have roommates, too. He gets more love and attention and petting and belly rubs than any dog I've ever known. He's an amazing, sweet, gentle, obedient and loyal animal and he deserves every second of it!

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Bear's Big Bed:

But Bear didn't come with a bed and he's a big dog!

I tried a big square dog bed, but...

...even with a soft, warm blanket (it was winter),
it only worked when he wanted to curl up in a ball.

If he wanted to stretch out, it was just too small!

I'd heard of dog beds made from crib mattresses, but Bear is a lot bigger than a baby (nearly 100 lbs). So, I bought a used (and fumigated) twin mattress, instead!

With an inexpensive mattress cover, black sheet and a soft throw, it provides better support than any dog bed I've ever seen, it was was inexpensive, and he loves it.

The only thing I need are some dog posters or other wall decor for between the bookshelfs standards that were hidden by the buffet that I moved to put Bear's big bed under the wall mounted shelves. Hopefully, I can think of something that also matches the living room decor.

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You CAN teach an old dog new tricks:

I know the old saying but I've never found it to be true - especially not with big dogs and certainly not with Bear. The number of new things he's learned in the few months that I've had him is amazing!

  For instance, he didn't seem to use his paws as tools.

First, I put treats under plastic drinking cups and encouraged him to knock them over with his paws. Instead, he would scoot them with his nose until they fell over and then he'd gobble up the treat. I had to back up and teach him the meaning of "paw," first.

I did that by reaching for his paw and saying "paw" and when he let me have it, I'd give him a treat. Before the end of the day, he was presenting his paw for treats and distinguising directions. "Touch" (which I'd taught him even earlier) meant he had to touch my right hand with his nose before I'd give him the treat in my left hand - that took about 4 iterations for him to get it down. But when I asked for his paw, he had to learn to offer that, instead. This is one smart dog! He learns fast and remembers forever after!

He loves people, loves to be petted - almost more than food - and he can be a bit of a ham. Here he pauses from being petted, for the camera. He didn't stop one to do the other. Smart dog - realized he could do both at the same time!

In the first six months that Bear lived here, I taught him how to assist me with my walking
and my family says I'm walking better than I've walked in a decade! He helps me up and
down curbs and steadies me when my balance gets a little "iffy." Arthritis is a monster but thanks
to my shadow (that's what I'd have called him if he hadn't already been named) I'm
still getting around!

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Bear meets Spike:

Bear loves to go for walks. Our only problem is that he is fearful of other dogs, even if they are behind a fence. If they don't bark, he's usually still nervous and watchful, but he doesn't whine or get distracted while we're walking.

  One morning found us at the Gonzaga Law Library - where I'd forgotten they have a dog in the entry - Spike! At first Bear was suspicious and stood off, as if waiting for Spike to attack or bark at him. When Spike remained silent, Bear got a little braver and finally came over to check him out.

Bear was very confused. Spike looked like a dog and he was standing down on the floor and had his own dog dish but something was definitely not quite right about this dog! He sniffed him from head to toe, until he got to Spike's tail...

  ...at which point Bear decided Spike wasn't a dog afterall! He wasn't sure what Spike was, only that he was no longer interesting!

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Homemade Pupsicles:

I scoured the net for recipes that don't have wheat flour, that are actually good for dogs, and that Bear likes. In the end, I made up my own recipes to suit Bear's tastes.

He loves plain greek yogurt and has a dollop for lunch, everyday. He'll eat blueberries, even if they're frozen. So, I mix yogurt and water in equal proportions (3/4 cup of each is more than plenty to fill a tray), stir it up well, and pour it into ice cube trays, leaving some room to add 2 or 3 blueberries (frozen or fresh) and a little pea-sized blob of organic peanut butter. I pop them in the freezer for a few hours and then turn them out into a freezer bag so they're quick and easy to grab when we come in from the heat.

photo of ingredients

If you look closely, the ones in the bag are more white than the ones in the tray. The difference in color owes to when I add the blueberries to the mix. The whiter ones were poured into the tray before I added them. For the more colorful ones, I put a few into the yogurt/water mix before stirring it, just to add the color. I'm the one who likes the different colors, of course. Bear has no color preference when it comes to his pupsicles....at least not one that he's shared with me!

photo of ingredients

Sometimes, I omit the peanut butter and sometimes I even stand a mini Milkbone in the middle of each one to make a little handle.

Although I made these because Bear likes them, I've recently read that plain greek yogurt in a dog's diet helps prevent yeast infections. I've never had a dog with a yeast infection and I don't want to know. I'm just happy knowing that these are good for him and he likes them, too!

UPDATE: I recently read that adding zinc to the diet of large dogs who have problems with the tender skin on their noses is a practice that sled dog owners have known about for years. Turns out, one of the ways you can add zinc to their diet is to give them yogurt or pumpkin. I already knew it was good for dogs, I just keep learning more and more reasons.
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Bear Gets A Sister:

With another cold winter ahead, I felt sorry for Bear because I knew I couldn't take him out walking in the snow and ice. It was more of a passing thought, but it stuck with me because of the humor of it: My service dog needed a companion animal! I often look at dogs who need homes in my area on Craigslist, so it happened exactly as it did when Bear and I found each other. All of a sudden, there she was and I knew she was the friend that Bear needed before I even read about her. I just knew she was coming to join our family!

Once she settled in, I had a different spin on the comments in the listing. She IS a sweet, loving little girl and loves constant attention. She's had to learn to spend some time entertaining herself. I'm right here, of course, but I need both my hands for at least part of the day! I have trouble believing another dog was making her life miserable. She's the rambuncous one! Fortunately, Bear is extremely patient, though he can let her know when she's gone too far. She's like a little mother to him. She licks his ears and washes his eyes. Sometimes she licks other places on his coat and, of course, she always licks his bowl out after he's done - just in case he missed a crumb. And he loves it all!


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Last updated May 14, 2017