What Would You Do if You Lost Your Dog?

What Would You Do if You Lost Your Dog?

We lost our dog. And I never, ever thought that could happen.

It was a normal night. Though I suppose it always starts like that. It would be odd for a story to begin with “It was an abnormal night; one that was itching for a horrible event,” but I digress.

We, my boyfriend Austin and I, were concluding our night – turning off the TV, putting away our laptops, getting ready for bed. And any dog owner knows that the “getting ready for bed” process truly starts with walking the dog. Our dog, also known as the best dog in the whole world, is named Brody. He’s a black pug mix who weighs about 15 lbs. And he’s friggin adorable.Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 4.36.44 PM

Austin typically walks Brody at night because, true to Philadelphia living, there are cockroaches all over the streets and I prefer not to fraternize with that sort of creature. So he takes one for the team and braves the bugs each night. I typically head upstairs to play with our fat cat, Alley – she’s in need of a bit more activity – and this night was no different than the rest.

About six or seven minutes after the door closes, I heard a horrible scream from outside. Even the cat got wide-eyed. Thirty seconds later, Austin comes careening through the door in a panic. “Babe! I need help! He ran off! He’s gone!!” To be honest, I thought he, or someone nearby, had been stabbed; that was the level of terror in his voice.

It’s moments like these that no one really thinks about – because who would want to – and therefore, you never really know how you’ll act. If you had asked me a week prior, I probably would have described myself as the panicker in a situation such as this. Austin’s always been much more even keeled than me. But when the moment happens, all previous notions or suppositions are lost. Austin panicked. I, for some reason, remained eerily calm and pragmatic.

I first grabbed Austin, tried to calm him down and looked him in the eyes to focus his mind.

Austin described the situation: they were walking the normal route, nothing out of the ordinary, moving ridiculously slow and smelling every leaf that floated by. Then Brody got spooked. To this day, Austin still racks his mind for what could have possibly spooked him, but he lost his sh** and bolted. He ran straight through a four-way intersection. Austin still relives this moment with agita – the taste of bile and utter numbness that sets in when you’re about to watch your dog die.

But for some blessed reason, Brody was able to run across those streets unscathed as he darted toward our off-street.

By the time Austin got back to the house, he couldn’t see Brody anywhere. He ran inside to get me, and we both set out to find him. Austin hopped on his bike while I ran up and down the surrounding streets calling Brody’s name with the friendliest, un-pained voice I could manage in hopes of coaxing him home to me. It’s funny how another living thing (pet, child, etc) takes complete precedence. I completely neglected shoes, and ran out the door in my nightgown – no bra. Lucky for me, these bee stings pretty much stay put.

After about ten minutes, I ran into Austin two streets over – nothing. I carried both our phones in my pockets, hoping someone would be able to come close enough to grab Brody and read the phone numbers on his tag, though both Austin and I knew that was unlikely – he’s not the type of dog to willingly approach others.

We split up again, Austin on his bike, me on my still-nude feet. My mind had no concept of the ragged blisters forming on my soles; adrenaline had taken care of that.

An hour later, we were still at a loss and my hard, organized shell was cracking. The only thing keeping me fastened together was knowing that I had become Austin’s rock – a position he’s played numerous times for me – so I could not break down yet. For him.

I decided to go back to our street and focus on the nooks and crannies around there while Austin scoured the parks nearby. It makes me sick to even think this, but I was resigned at this point. It seemed like such an impossible battle to fight – I’ve never felt so helpless.Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 4.28.25 PM

While walking past our door once more, I saw a small black cat crossing the street a half block down. I knew it was a long shot; I didn’t even run. I moseyed down the street just so I could say I did. I turned the corner and my eyes locked with my frightened ball of fur. What I thought was a cat was in fact my Bro Bro.

Relief poured down my face. I bent down, ensuring not to spook him, and called him over. He stood there, statuesque, covered in mud with a look of disbelief on his face. As soon as my arms wrapped around him I ran the half block to my house. Austin was rounding the corner just as I pulled out my phone and his face came to life.

I held my focus as I approached our door. But once inside, I crumbled. All composure lost. For ten minutes we all just sat there. Partially in shock. Partially in prayer. Trying to make sense of a situation that we’ll never figure out.

We don’t know where he went. How he got that dirty. Why he ran in the first place. But that’s not really for us to know. What we do know is every moment with him is precious and if we didn’t know it before, we certainly know it now.

Why ThePhillyDog has to Change

Why ThePhillyDog has to Change

Re-designing a site is hard work.

ThePhillyDog & Boogie Gear Tables

One of the 1st Fundraisers to Spread the Word

I can still remember how excited I was when I received my logo from the designer I contracted on Etsy…it was the first tangible manifestation of all of my brainstorming and visions of where I wanted this site to go. In 2009, I wanted simplicity. I wanted a Liberty Bell with a Doxie (because that was the only dog shape that looked okay stretched across the Liberty Bell). I picked my font based on what Vistaprint.com had for business cards.

Along the way, the site has changed a ton. Initially, it was just about getting events up, supporting the rescues, and talking about Dash’s separation anxiety. But when a company found my negative product review about their product, things changed. I’ll never forget the day I found a package on my porch with a ton of products, asking me to give them another try and apologizing for my bad experience. That was my Julie & Julia moment – “Ernestine, I have a comment.” But this time, it wasn’t my mother.

It seemed as though the brands had found me. The products started pouring in – it seemed like every day there was a new dog toy or treat for Dash to try. It got to the point where when the mail came, Dash immediately sat, assuming it was something for him.

I won’t lie – it was fun. A lot of fun. For a while.  Because it was also a ton of work. Brands send bloggers products but expect a full review and for you to share it on their social channels. Writing it up, taking photos, editing, posting…that all takes time. And I was still working full time as an attorney. So, I decided maybe it was time to start charging and making money for all of my efforts.

I then began attending blogging conferences and trying to educate myself as much as possible about blogging and social media. My focus for the site turned to making money – advertising for the local Philly businesses. This required making sure my traffic was high to justify. In 2009, not many people wanted to pay for digital advertising, believe it or not. Bloggers weren’t valued as a PR opportunity.  And the hustle that’s required in keeping your traffic up (attending all of the dog-friendly events, meeting with businesses, etc.) is really hard to do when you are working full time.

Keeping the site updated with events and what places are and aren’t dog friendly – well that takes a lot of work, too. Running giveaways consumes a ridiculous amount of time, and it was another feature brands started wanting. And when you spend all day at work on the computer and running around, the last thing you feel like doing is getting back in front of your computer to work on a site that was supposed to be fun.

ThePhillyDog.com wasn’t fun any more for me. I didn’t look forward to sharing the upcoming events. I stopped doing product reviews because I couldn’t get them posted in a reasonable time. And then Dash moved in with my parents. I moved out of Philadelphia and into the suburbs. I didn’t have a dog and I didn’t live in Philly.

Over the past year, I’ve made a few changes to get my work-life balance back in check. I decided it was time to stop focusing on making money with the site and start having fun again. But I can’t do it all alone. This site is for the dog loving community in the Philadelphia area. In order for it to be valuable to the community, I need the community to help. This can’t be a one-woman show any more.

SO – I’m working on enabling as many features as I can to streamline things and provide the community with ways to add content and help share events and keep everything updated – including adding dog friendly events, posting adoptable pets, to getting businesses listed. I’m also hoping to add a recommendation and rating system that will help other dog owners make decisions on pet sitters and places to visit. Lots of great changes coming, so please bear with all of the site changes and updates. It’s a work in progress, for sure. I’ll be posting updates on new features as I get them implemented.

Have a suggestion? Is there something you’d like to see on ThePhillyDog.com that isn’t there? Post your comment below and let me know!

What if I die before my pets do?

It’s always sad when a person dies. Their friends and families and even coworkers mourn, and they may take a long time to process their grief. But there is something even more profoundly sad when a pet parent dies, and their pets have no understanding as to why Mom or Dad never came home for them again. I am always sad for animals when they are given away to a shelter – or worse – put out on the street, unwanted. They never know why, or what they’ve done to deserve everything they’ve known to suddenly change. But a pet who loses his parents, especially to unexpected tragedy, is suddenly often surrounded by sadness, strangers, change and uncertainty – and the person who knew everything about what each look on their face meant is suddenly not there to be their friend, caregiver…their advocate.

A client of mine was killed in a fluke accident. He was dad to two very old, very sweet pups, both with special needs. We were pet sitting for them at the time, and were called by his ex-girlfriend to inform us of the tragedy and to let us know the girls were safe with her, with whom they had once lived. Thank God.

But what if the ex had no further contact with the dad? What if no one knew Josh had died?


Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog 2015

Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog 2015

Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog casting call ends in little over a week! Dog owners in Fishtown and Washington Square West have until July 15th to enter their pup for the coveted title of Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog and win $200 in gifts from local pet stores.

Philly Water Spokesdog? What in the world….?

philly water's spokesdog winner 2014You may not know that Philly has actually had eight spokesdogs since 2011 from neighborhoods all over the city (one of last year’s winners pictured right). The program, hosted by Philadelphia Water and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, was created in part to help spread awareness that dog waste is not environmentally friendly. And no, it’s not a fertilizer!

What happens when you don’t pick up after your dog? It can leech into the earth, run off into storm drains, and flow into waterways (like our rivers). When it rains or snows, it spreads even more. Once it’s in the water, the resulting bacteria and algae can kill fish and even cause a swimming ban if levels get too high:

“Believe it or not, the average dog goes over 20 times a week, leaving up to 200 pounds of waste in its tracks each year,” said Lisa Wool, program director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.  “Multiply that hundreds of dogs per neighborhood and, well, you’re talking about a big threat to our water.  It’s important to pick it up.”

The purpose of the Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog Competition is to keep waterways clean by showing the importance of picking up dog waste:
To Enter:

The deadline to enter the Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog Competition is July 15. For more information on what you submit, please read the submission guidelines  – if your dog wins the title, there will be certain duties that he’ll need to fulfill (just like Miss America). Voters will then select finalists during an online vote  from August 1st through the 31st and anyone (even non-Philly residents) can vote once a day. You’ll receive an email notification when the polls open so be sure to encourage your family and friends to vote!

If you have any other questions or need additional info, visit PhillyWatersheds.org/Spokesdog call Melissa Bittner of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary at (800) 445-4935, extension 112.

The Philly Dog’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide 2015

The Philly Dog’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide 2015

For the Pup

amelies-bark-shop-valentinesShop locally and get your Valentine dog treats from Amelie’s Bark Shop located at  1544 E. Passyunk Avenue. Their adorable plush recycled cotton dog toy ($9) and homemade truffle dog treat set ($12) is sure to be a hit. And don’t forget kitty – check out the handmade cotton and organic catnip toys (only $5 each)!

February is National Pet Dental Health – the perfect time to get your dog’s teeth cleaned. petsmile-dog-toothpasteDaily upkeep is important, so check out Petsmile®, the only toothpaste approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. No brushing is required as it just dissolves in the mouth! Their exclusive Calprox Formula prevents plaque, fights bacteria and eliminates doggie breath. I received a free beef flavor sample to test out on Dash – and you can see by that little tongue he enjoyed the taste. Retails for $25. Swap application tips retails for an additional $9, but in my opinion aren’t really necessary.
one-dog-organic-valentine-dog-treatIn between brushing, make your pup’s Valentine’s Day extra special with One Dog Organic’s custom, handcrafted conversation hearts. With whimsical tags like “I Ruv U” and “Fur Fect”, this are guaranteed to make every dog feel extraspecial and loved. Just type in your personalized saying! (Retail $6.99 to $21.99). Check out our recent review and get $1.50 off any 8 oz purchase withdiscount code BERRYLOVE.


For the Human (’cause we need stuff, too)


Swatch®My Pet & Me collection is nothing short of adorable! Retails approximately $60 to $70.




Get a customized portrait or charm of your pet by Heartfull Pets – each item is hand drawn and captures your pet’s personality. In addition to your purchase you’ll get a time lapse video of the artist making the piece. Prices vary according to item.


san-francisco-umbrella-company-terrierApril showers are on the way -The San Francisco Umbrella Company has virtually every breed covered for their Walking Stick Umbrella. Available at Pet360.com for $40.45.



Separation Anxiety: I Gave Up My Dog (Part 2)

Separation Anxiety: I Gave Up My Dog (Part 2)

If you have a dog with separation anxiety, you know how expensive it can be. Whether it’s replacing destroyed furniture or getting medical treatment for self-mutilation, it quickly adds up. As an employed attorney, I was fortunate to be in a position to try every means available to get Dash’s separation anxiety under control. I refused to give up my dog. I contacted the breeder, who suggested I get another dog – after all, Dash had gone from being with four other dogs on a daily basis to being in my apartment, all alone, up to eight hours every day.

I actually considered it and thank God I didn’t do it. Instead, I asked a friend if I could borrow her dog, Dash’s friend, for the weekend. It didn’t help one bit. I realized then that it wasn’t just about being alone, but being away from me.

After spending hundreds on trainers and moving to medication, Dash got to the point where he could “tolerate” me leaving for work. However, I couldn’t do any random departures, such as running to the grocery store (which would cause a nuclear meltdown). I could only come and go for work. Otherwise, Dash had to come with me. My entire life was structured around leaving Dash alone. At least I could go to work now and he wouldn’t bark.

So, maybe I didn’t have to give up my dog after all. My anxious, unhappy, stressed out dog. 

Then life changed again – after a major surgery I went long term disability. Now, I was home all day long.

Which actually made things worse. Dash completely regressed – he went from being able to tolerate scheduled alone time to being literally glued to my side. I was still in chronic pain and was now stressed that I couldn’t even go to I physical therapy because he would flip out. I was stressed out. My dog was stressed out. Everyone was stressed out.

One night I broke down to my parents and my father suggested that they take in Dash until I got better. It’ll just be temporary, I told myself. Just until I’m all healed up. 

That first week without Dash was an odd mixture of heaven and hell. Hell because I desperately missed hearing his little footsteps and cuddling on the couch. Heaven in that I was finally realizing the impact his separation anxiety was causing me – I was now able to come and go without worrying the entire time whether Dash was flipping out. I could go to a movie whenever I wanted. I could pick up a prescription from the pharmacy on a whim. I could actually focus on physical therapy while I was at physical therapy. I didn’t have to do a ton of rituals as I was leaving so as not to upset my dog. I could just get up and walk out of my apartment. I hadn’t been able to do that in years.

A few weeks at my parents’ house turned into a few months. When I came to visit, I encountered a completely different dog. Dash was calmer and not as clingy. He chilled out in his little bed at night – which was in the living room (and my parents were even able to close their bedroom door!). He took a Kong when my parents went grocery shopping. He didn’t follow them everywhere.

But, by the end of my weekend visit, he was reverting back to his anxious ways – following me, whining, having accidents. When I would leave the house, he would shake, pant and hide.

Since then, I’ve tried a few times to make it work. I tested living with someone who had two dogs of her own, hoping that with the other dogs and another individual in the household Dash would cope better. He didn’t.

The moment I realized that my dog was better off without me was one of the worst moments I’ve ever experienced. It was also one of the least selfish moments I’ve ever experienced. Because as much as it hurt to leave him, I knew how much better off he was. And how much better off I was. 

I know how incredibly lucky I am that I have two parents who were willing to take in my dog. I can visit him whenever I want and have him come stay with me. I’m damn lucky. Dash didn’t have to go back to the breeder or into a shelter. 

It still was painful to let go, though.

So, there you have it. I gave up my dog.

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