Living with dogs and cats - all rescues and how they are all becoming superstars in their own rights. Read how we are training them and see their beautiful photos. Share the joys of pet ownership with us.

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Banjo appears on Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl X

Posted by [email protected] on February 3, 2014 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (46)

On February 2, 2014 our dog Banjo appeared on Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl X. How? Well, we were contacted by an agent who knew of Banjo and asked if we'd be interested in pitching him for the PuppyBowl. Banjo is not a puppy, he's two years old, but the PuppyBowl includes animals other than puppies. So of course, we responded with an enthusiastic "sure!".

The stars of the PuppyBowl are the actual puppies which are the "football players". They're between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks and they're all rescues in need of homes. But the show also features kittens; also adoptable, penguins (from a zoo), hedgehogs, and hamsters. Eight adult dogs were featured this year as the partying tailgaters out in the "Barking lot". Those dogs also had to be rescues and had to have been adopted into forever homes. That's where Banjo fit it. After reviewing his photo and considering his credentials (health certificates, training certificates, etc). we got the call from the agent and Banjo was in! 

Animal Planet paid for our expenses to go to their studios in New York for the day in October with the other adult dogs. We got to see the playing field for the puppies but not the puppies. The pups and adult dogs were on separate floors of the building at all times - for everyone's health and stress consideration. All dogs were examined before being allowed on set - vets looked for parasites, abuse, general health, and attitude. There was also a Humane Society person on each set at all times. Their job was to watch the dogs for signs of stress to be sure that the entire PuppyBowl experience was fun for the dogs as well as the owners.

The set of the "Barking lot" included two RVs, a few pint sized cars, a fake grill with fake food, some beach chairs and a picnic table. There were three TV cameras on the Tailgating dogs at any given time. The owners had to position their dogs where the crew wanted them and step out of camera range quickly. Once "action" was called, we had to command our dogs to do whatever it was they were called to do (sit, spin, bark, etc). Just getting 8 dogs to work together was at times, difficult, it must have been crazy to have 12 puppies run all over the set during the puppy scenes.  

Banjo was the first to get bored. After about an hour of action calls, he would slink off the set as soon as I positioned him and turned my back. Then something happened that reminded me of those old-time dance contests when a couple would get tapped on the shoulder to indicate they were "out". Well, the Humane Society woman came to me and tapped me on the shoulder. "Banjo is done for the day" she smiled. So we took Banjo off set and he cuddled with his bed friend (our other dog) Bo, offset watching the action.  

Of course I was concerned that Banjo's TV career was over at that very moment and we didn't get to see any footage until the day of the PuppyBowl airing (Superbowl Sunday). We gathered round the TV with much anticipation when to my delight, minutes into the show, Banjo got one of about 5 solo bark close-ups! You can imagine how we cheered!

Thank goodness he made the final cut because we were also on a segment of the TV news with CBS 3 KYW TV News weatherperson and animal adoption advocate Carol Erickson that Sunday morning at 7:20 AM. After being on the news if Banjo hadn't made the final cut we would have been so disappointed! Here's a link to the TV interview:

I can't even begin to explain the ways that Banjo has enriched my life by helping me as a service dog and the lives of others by volunteering as a Therapy Dog. I had no idea that he would become a star - evening if only for a fleeting moment.

What fun to film for Animal Planet and for CBS 3 in Philadelphia. It was so interesting to learn more about the behind-the-scenes-of TV and in particular, to get a better understanding of the enormous undertaking it is to put on that adorable show called the PuppyBowl.

 The following pic from the set of the Barking Lot was provided by Animal Planet TV. The other photo is Banjo along with his best friend and our other rescue, Bo. Banjo is the freckle-faced dog.







Toilet Training weeks 2-3

Posted by [email protected] on June 15, 2012 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (194)

Here we are near the third week of toilet training. Things have gotten much better over these two weeks. Every week we cut the hole in the center of the city Kitty pan so the hole is larger. Every week the pan holds less and less litter. Every week we have less mess.

The City Kitty perforations didn't work as well as I'd hoped when I cut the second hole. The plastic tore so I tried using duck tape to hold the tear together. That worked fine. Glad I didn't have to throw away the seat and start all over.

Lady Bug, our kitten, is growing less infatuated with the litter as time goes by so she is spreading it around the bathroom less. But as the center whole gets bigger, she has become a little infatuated with that. She often climbs onto the toilet seat just to push litter down the hole and watch it fall into the water!

Mr Beanz as the first to poo in the hole. The first time she did, Lady Bug climbed up on the seat and checked out what Beanz left behind in the water. It was a riot to watch! The kitten chatted away with her head down the hole as if she were enjoying the echo!

The next day Beanz successfully peed in the hole. So now Beanz leaves no mess behind. This is AWESOME. Kitty still hasn't pooed in the hole but she is now peeing in the hole. I remember toilet training toddlers and being so excited the first time we heard pee hit the water. It's deja vu all over again with the cats. Never thought I'd be happy to hear that sound again! LOL!

We still have two more rings to cut before we can be considered "toilet trained" so we will continue for another two weeks. But I must admit, this has been a surprising effortless transition for the cats. Neither has had any accidents nor have they displayed unhappiness or frustration with the toilet training. Yesterday we purchased a soft toilet seat thinking it would be more comfortable for the cats and it would be easier for them to balance and grab onto without slipping.

We're excited. This is actually working. Fingers crossed!

Toilet Training Cats End of Week 1

Posted by [email protected] on June 2, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (85)


Well, I’ve reached the end of week one of toilet training for Ms. Beanz (almost 4 years old) and Lady Bug (age 4 months). It has been very interesting. Here are the steps I took. I rated and listed the pros and cons of each step. 


  1. Easy. We had two litter boxes. So we had to get rid of one and relocate the other so it sits next to the toilet we intend to use for toilet training. 


Pros: we looked forward to having to clean one box instead of two.

Cons: we had to keep the basement door closed so the cats would not discover their second litter box missing and then just go potty on the spot it once stood. In addition, one box for two cats gets very messy very quickly. You really have to clean it twice a day or more.

2. Easy but messy. Replace litter with flushable litter. Do this for one week

Pros: soiled litter can be flushed down the toilet

Cons: It was difficult to find litter that said it was “flushable”. I actually found it at the grocery store, which makes it convenient, but I didn’t bother to look there until I had searched all the pet supply stores (duh). We had been using crystal litter and the flushable litter is very sand-like. What a mess! The kitten loves to play in the sand and my bathroom quickly looked more like a beach than a room with a tiled floor. I’m still dealing with the mess one week later. I simply can’t get the kitten to stop playing in it.

3. Easy but nerve wracking After a week of the new litter and new location, remove the litter box and begin using the CitiKitty toilet seat. I chose this system over others based on cost and on the fact that this is a female owned company. Installing the seat is simple. You put it under your toilet seat and put litter in it. After a week, you cut a small hole in the center. Each week you cut bigger (perforated) holes until the insert is the size of your toilet seat. Then voila! Toilet trained cats.

On Friday night I removed the litter box, taped the toilet seat lid open (so it wouldn’t fall on the cats) and installed the CityKitty training seat. I put a small step stool next to the toilet in case the Lady Bug needed it to climb up. I then took a minute with each cat to introduce her to the new seat by placing her in it. I’m training in my master bathroom and I kept my bedroom door closed so the cats couldn’t leave the room. Of course I kept the bathroom door opened.

Pros: piece of cake

Cons: Lady Bug thought I’d given her a new bed (see photo). She laid in the litter and every time I took her out, she climbed back in. I worried all night that the cats wouldn’t use it and that Lady Bug would track sand litter all over the bedroom. You can see some sand on the toilet seat.

4. Success! On Saturday morning, I checked the CityKitty box and it was dry. So I laid in bed waiting for the cats to awake and use the box. Sure enough, each one peed in the toilet. About ½ hour later, each one pooped in the toilet (I cleaned it in between them using it). I would call day one of the CityKitty toilet training a success! We will do this for at least one week before we cut the first hole. 

Pros: So far, as advertised 

Cons: a messy process. Nothing prepared me for the mess. Don’t do this in a place where guests have to use the bathroom! There was kitty litter all over the floor again this morning. Now, in all fairness, it could just be that Lady Bug is a special problem when it comes to sand litter and as this training continues, we will use less and less litter as recommended by the CityKitty people. However, in the meantime, this is a messy process!

 This has been inexpensive, easy, and successful so far. My only objection is the mess. But as I said, the process calls for less and less litter over time. You are toilet training your cats and weaning them off litter. 

Meet Banjo and Lady Bug

Posted by [email protected] on May 30, 2012 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (55)

If you follow Bo and Beanz on Facebook, you know by now that we adopted a new dog in April. He isn't a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, he's a mutt rescued from a kill shelter in SC. Based on his appearance and behavior, we think he might be Brittany mixed with Border Collie. We named him Banjo. He was about 6 months when we brought him home.

In the weeks since he arrived, Banjo has become fully house trained. He now knows the following commands:


  • no
  • sit
  • come
  • run
  • heel
  • leash up
  • kennel up
  • walk
  • out
  • dead
  • paw
  • speak
  • wait (different than "stay" which is for a longer time and in a down or sit position). The dog can be in any position for wait as long as he does not move
  • jump
  • down
  • drop
  • take
  • stay
  • through (legs and hula hops) 
  • watch- a very useful command for photo ops

He also knows his ball from his bone. He knows what "treat" and "supper" are and he knows all of our names (Mommy, Daddy, Beanz, Bo, kitty)


We also adopted a little kitty and named her "Lady Bug". She arrived a week after Banjo. Bug is an orange and white short hair that looks like her mother. Her mother was very much an oriental mix breed and had yellow eyes. We think that Bug will have yellow eyes too.

She and Beanz have become best friends although the first two weeks were very shakey. At first, Beanz didn't like the new kitty. I suppose she didn't understand why this little creature acted so un-catlike. We don't think Beanz was ever around kittens so she certainly didn't understand the behavior. Beanz hissed, growled, and spit at the kitty for two weeks. Ouch!

Lady Bug was only eight weeks when we brought her home. To survive life with a kitten and to protect the dog's eyes, we put claw covers on her, It wasn't easy! It took three people, Rob to hold her, Heather to feed her treats and distract her, and Jane to put the covers on. But once the covers were on we enjoyed life with kitten so much more! Here she is with her little covers:

Now begins the real work - the training. I am attempting to toilet train the cats. Banjo begins obidience training next week. Then we will enroll him in some strenous activity like Freestyle or agility because he is a high energy dog that needs a lot of physical and mental activity. Bo gained weight this winter because I had a hip replacement. As my medical service dog, he spent the winter with me  mostly in bed. So Bo is learning how to use the treadmill because we need to get the weight off him as quickly as possible.

Follow my blog as I keep you up to date on living with and training our cats and dogs!

Rescue? Adopt? Buy? What do we do?

Posted by [email protected] on April 3, 2012 at 3:10 AM Comments comments (115)

We have been trying to adopt another Nova Scotia Duck Toller like Bo. It does not have to be a purebred—but we're trying to find a female under 3 years old to be Bo's companion. This is not an easy task.


First, the Duck Toller is a hard dog to find. Breeders get top dollars for them and rightfully so. They are a breed that has not been "overbred", they have few health issues, and they are a great size and a wonderful family dog as well as a great gun dog. Nevertheless, we want to rescue—to adopt—to help to give a home to a dog that needs a second chance.


The SPCA's seem to be overrun with Pit Bull mixes. This happens to be a breed I don’t want. I want a softer looking retriever. Rarely have we found any dogs that even resemble Tollers. Therefore, we are searching Rescue Groups. There are a few kinds of rescue groups—those that are breed specific—and those that are not. There is a national Duck Toller Rescue Group and they get over 200 applications a year and rescue only about 10 dogs a year! We are on their list.


The non-breed specific rescue groups (and we are searching nationally, not just locally) are some of the most difficult people to work with. No because they want to be. However, they are typically made up of volunteers that foster dogs until a home can be found. The volunteers are typically available only by email and they typically won't answer an email until you fill out their application online. Here's how the process has gone for us time and time again:

1. We see a dog on, or some such sight. It interests us.

2. I fill out a lengthy application online giving total strangers much more personal information than I prefer. In the application, I tell them which dog interests me.

3. I hit the submit button for the form. Nine out of ten times, I receive no email confirmation that my form was received. Occasionally, I get an error message saying that no storage space is left on the server to save my app (then what?).

4. Days pass. I hear nothing.

5. I email the rescue group again - "did you receive my app?" "I am very interested in this dog" and so forth.

6. On average, a week later, I hear from about 70% of the rescue groups. Too many times the response has been "That dog has been adopted".

7. And with all of this angst and frustration the average rescue group wants close to $400 to adopt. That’s after after your app and references have been approved, and after a home visit.

I honestly do fully support rescue groups. I’m not saying that $400.00 is too much money for their efforts. They are saving dogs, paying vet bills, feeding and housing and transporting the animals. But they don't make it easy to adopt a dog! I can walk into an SPCA today and walk out with a dog. My problem is I want a particular type of dog. Although I’ve been pretty open to dogs that “look” like Tollers. After all, it’s rare that one really knows the lineage of a resuced dog.

Some groups even require that you have a fenced in yard. It doesn't matter to them if you have a fenced in yard at work and you can take your dog to work. It doesn’t matter to them if you want t adopt a pocketbook dog that you’d never let out in the yard alone, they want a fenced in yard. Nor does it matter to them that I’ve taken a dog like Bo from a frightened, abused (and shot) animal to a Certified Canine Good Citizen and Therapy dog. I don’t have a fenced in yard.

I voiced my frustration to my neighbor this afternoon. Told her how I really want to adopt again, to "do the right thing". She revealed she'd been through this process herself looking for a Golden Retriever and in the end, determined that it was faster, more efficient, and most cost-effective to go right to a breeder. At least she knew what she was getting and that the dogs health had a limited guarantee.

I don’t know what the answer is for the rescue groups They are what they are and they do a fantastic service by saving the lives of deserving animals. But I could have bought a Toller puppy months ago instead of spending months looking to adopt one. Doing the "right thing" isn't always easy, is it? Does anyone have a female Duck Toller available for adoption? I’m going to continue to try. I want to get a dog for Bo before he gets too old to care to play with one!


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