The Kindness of Strangers

We had an hour and 45 minute delay on a flight with Josie. A really lovely woman gave us a beautiful fleece throw for Josie: Christmas-themed, with dogs on it. What a sweet, generous thing to do! We missed our connecting flight, so Josie used it as a bed in our motel room.


Real Giardia = Fake Grass

Josie, little poo nibbler that she is, got giardia twice in two months, so we decided to restrict her outside time to the front porch unless we’re standing directly over her, watching to see she doesn’t eat poo or grass. It shouldn’t be forever, but apparently this is a bad year for giardia.


I bought a rug made of artificial lawn.

I used the fencing that we used for her puppy pen, and I find that little square of green with the white fence hilarious.

It has quite a stink, with the rubber backing, but one day in the sun lessened it considerably, and reviewers say that a week or two should air it out completely.

Musette doesn’t care about the stink, or maybe she likes it.

I think cats are essentially paint huffers, with their love of burying themselves in packing peanuts, etc. Musette actually walked across our floor while the polyurethane was drying, and we have the barely visible prints to prove it.

If we decide we don’t want to use the rug anymore, there’s no reason we can’t install it outside. We have a terraced area that it would fit exactly.

Looks pretty real, doesn’t it? One thing to know about artificial grass. Real grass feels cool on a hot day, because of the water evaporating out of the ground. Fake turf can get hot in the sun. We have an awning for the front porch, so it doesn’t matter.

P.S. Musette isn’t fat, but she is older, so she spreads more, doncha know. Also, fur.

Ode to a Chihuahua

Tiny head on tuffetOur Chihuahua’s currency is kisses.

To strangers, she offers a demure lick,
A kiss on the hand from
A prospective Latin lover.
“I would like to know you better.”

Relaxing at home,
Her tongue strokes my arm
Like a painter realizing her muse.
“How beautiful you are.”
Or a parent, stroking a child’s head.
“I will protect you.”
Always a questionable promise.

When we return from the unknown,
She is frantic with love.
Standing on hind legs,
She clutches my face between her paws
And kisses like a wife
Who thought herself widowed.
Our separation ended,
She no longer needs to be strong.

We pay in kind.
A primal press of primate lips
Against that tiny cheek,
Plush and yielding with fur.
She droops with pleasure.

Lying on her back in the sun,
Limp and heavy-lidded as a corpse,
She seems not to notice
Nibbling kisses on her belly,
Even when they stop.
There will surely be more.

— Copyright Esri Allbritten, 2016

Why fostering is crucial for small dogs.

Toy breeds were designed, by us, to be emotionally open and sensitive. Unlike working breeds (shepherds, retrievers, herding dogs, vermin killers), toy breeds didn’t evolve to work among lifestock, or guns, or even other dogs. Even Jake, who is confident and bouncy with Susan, had sort of shut down at the shelter where she got him. It will probably be a month before his new owners see him blossom into the playful, saucy dog he really is. I started to see a little bit of his clownish nature in the two days we’ve had him. He rubs against you like a cat and is prone to goofing around on blankets, rolling and giving us the side-eye while almost standing on his head. It’s good I can tell people that, because what they may see at first is this:

Jake in blankie.jpg

As for working breeds, a dog that seems mellow and only moderately energetic is damped down at the shelter as well. When you get it home, you may find you have an over-exuberant tyrant that demands two hours of hard exercise a day to keep it from eating your couch. So when shopping at the used-dog store, always ask to take a potential pet outside for a walk. This test drive will often show you some of what the dog can be, once it has a home.

In addition to keeping toy breeds out of the highly stressful shelter system, fostering provides a timeline of how long it takes a dog to get used to an unknown place. That’s useful, reassuring knowledge for new owners to have. For example, both Jake and Mojo were initially very distrustful of my husband. Jake would bark at him – a high-pitched, panicky bark. (Distrust of men isn’t bred into toy dogs, but it is common among pre-owned small dogs. They’re often the only solace of women in abusive relationships.) Luckily, toy breeds tend to be brainy, and by the second evening, Jake was sitting on Joe’s lap. The next morning, both dogs greeted him with wagging tails.

As for Mojo, he would like to be a one-person dog. A one-woman dog, to be more specific. In this time of upheavel, his ideal situation would be strapped to my chest in a box, with a chute to pour food down.

Susan had to walk a fine line when she got Mojo. At first she needed to baby him a little – rehabilitate him from the extreme trauma he’d suffered. But little by little, she began to refuse excessive demands for attention. He was forced to do more things on his own, and that built confidence. Mojo also had a tendency to be jealous of Jake. When he growled at Jake, Susan would scold him and put him down, then reassure Jake that he was still loved. She’s a superlative dog owner, and it’s sad that she’s being taken off the market due to health problems. I hope she’ll be able to do some pet sitting for other people, during her good periods.

Susan is out of the hospital for now. She’s picking up Jake & Mojo so Josie and Musette can have all my attention again. Susan cries when she thinks about how much she’s going to miss her dogs, but she (and I) are working hard to find them good new homes. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your pet is to lose them.

These dogs are in Boulder, Colorado. If you’re interested in adopting either or both, contact Susan Woodcock at (303) 253-4218 or

You can click here to get even more info.

Jake & Mojo: An Update


Jake loves the belly rubs.

Jake and Mojo (who I still keep wanting to call Milo) are staying here. They’re a little more challenging than the typical dogsitting gig, but considering that they haven’t had a permanent home in I don’t know how long, they’re not bad. Last night I put two washable potty pads down for them (one with a pee spot of Josie’s, and the next morning, they had used them. So there have been no accidents in the house – yay!

These are very smart dogs. Mojo is deaf, so I’m using hand signals with him. He’s extremely responsive but also very needy in this time of disruption. He wants to be in my lap, where he’s quiet and still – also warm and somewhat flatulent (I think their diet is a little rich). If he isn’t in contact, he has a vast array of piteous noises. I’m cutting down on these by never approaching him unless he’s quiet. Since Susan got Mojo two years ago, he’s slept in her bed every night, and she warned me that he might be a little screamy if I left him downstairs. He was, briefly, but extinguished in no more than five minutes, so our sleep was not disrupted. (We also shut the door and ran an air filter for white noise) They’ve gone out in the yard (where Mojo goes to the last place he saw his mama and stares out through the gate).


Mojo looking desperate.


Mojo comforted.

Jake was shocked to find out that a MAN lived here, and is very distrustful of Joe. He looked frankly astonished to see Joe kissing all over Josie, so I think that will be helpful. He does let Joe pet him (not for long, and he’s nervous about it). There has been some growling, but he usually shuts up when I scold him. It will be important for a new owner to keep on that and let him know she does not need or want protection.

They have barked at Musette, our cat, but haven’t tried to get at her through the fence that keeps them in the kitchen. On the whole, they don’t seem particularly broken – they just need a little work. They also need an alpha person (no problem here). Jake got jealous of Josie (our Chihuahua) last night and went for her. I roared and then growled, and he was on his back, belly up, in a flash. This morning, in the yard, she told him off and he left her alone. I’d say it’s important to break them of any dominant behavior. Don’t let them out the door first, don’t let them stand on you (I already have Mojo trained to get down), put paws on you, or lick you excessively. I’m going to take them on a walk today. Susan says they’re not good with other dogs, particularly big dogs. I believe it was Jake who was attacked by a bigger dog as a puppy.

I’ve called and called shelters, and no one has room. This is going to have to be done person to person, so keep spreading the word. Susan is in the hospital for the next five days getting infusion therapy for her MS, but it looks like she doesn’t have the thing where her skin peels off, so there’s that.

If you’re thinking, “Oh, Esri’s going to keep them,” I can tell you that there is zero chance of that (my own pets are being shamefully neglected). My job is to give them time and make them better, more confident dogs, but if I can’t find a new home for them, I’ll hand them over to the Humane Society in the knowledge that they may be put down. So keep working, my lovelies. Keep working.

Mojo resting

Mojo not needing me for a moment..

These dogs are in Boulder, Colorado. If you’re interested in adopting or fostering them, here’s contact info. Please pass this on to anyone who might help.

(303) 253-4218   Susan Woodcock

The previous blog post has more info. You can click here to go directly there.

Guard dog Josie

After waking up this morning, we let Josie out of our bedroom and she ran downstairs, as usual. Then came this tremendous barking – the barking that says, “This is real, there is something out there. Are you listening to me?!”

I went downstairs and picked Josie up, then looked out the  door. Nothing. “Whatever was there is gone, honey.” So we could see more of the yard, I went into the sunroom, and there was a raccoon, staring at me from the crotch of the sweet cherry tree. This tree is loaded with fruit and under attack from every animal around. The other day, we found a deer cleaning out the lower branches.



So I shut Josie in the sunroom and powerwashed that sucker out of the tree. The end.

Josie and the Vet


I took Josie to the vet today for her distemper vaccination and also a heartworm test. She barked at another dog in the lobby (not uncommon) and shook like a leaf (quite uncommon), but she made nary a peep when the thermometer slid in, and she went off with the doctor without any whimpering. While she was gone, however, I heard quite a lot of high-pitched dog crying. The vet came back with Josie resting over his arm.

“Was she a little drama queen?” I asked.

“Hmm? Oh, no. That was another dog. She was perfect.” He filled out Josie’s vaccination form and then looked down and realized he was still holding her. “I guess I should give her back. She’s so light, I forgot she was there.”

As for weight, Josie has been 3.5 pounds her entire adult life. She’s had a very active spring, however, and is well-muscled, so I thought she might be a little heavier. I put her on the platform scale and told her to sit.

“Three pounds, eight ounces,” the receptionist announced.

So there you go. She’s nothing if not consistent.


A rose by any other name would still have those stupid thorns.

I was outside when I heard Josie give an unhappy squeak. I found her with her tail stuck to the neighbor’s rose bush. After I untangled her, she asked to go inside, apparently fed up with nature. I’m betting mastiffs don’t have these issues. Other issues, but not these.