Blog Archives

Who Do You Love?

Here’s a guy who is confident in his appeal this Valentine’s Day.

miniature pinscher bitches love me

Oh? You noticed the hairs on my shirt? Those are from that husky dog.

The truth is: Scooby the elderpin is right to be cocky.

He’s never going to be without a valentine (aka the woman he pukes on in the middle of the night) as long as he lives.

Rescue dog Scooby is among the uber-lucky 1 in 5 U.S. dogs who will be receiving a valentine gift from their doting human caretakers this year. Luke and foster boy Charlie Machete fall into that category, too.

However, in the final hours leading up to Valentine’s Day, they did not seem so self-assured.

sad golden retriever

Will I ever get to see Minnie again?

sad black lab mix

Why are girls scared of me?

If they really could talk, I would have told the big boys not to fret – lots of pups and people out there think they are just great. (Right??)

And then I would have showed them the neat valentines I made with their handsome little faces.

Instead, I’ll show them to you:

golden retriever valentine

black dog valentine
miniature pinscher snood valentine

Which valentine do you like best? Would your dog like to be one of these boys’ valentines?

If you are still in need of a valentine gift for your pet, check out my Valentine’s Day gift guide for dog lovers!

What’s Wrong with the Elderpin?

What’s the matter with Scooby? 


Answer: a lot of things.

If you follow Wayward Dogs on Facebook, you may have noticed my request on Friday to keep my little, old miniature pinscher in your thoughts.

Around midweek, Scooby the elderpin stopped eating. When it comes to the guy whose high food drive has caused him to be described as a “walking alimentary tract,” a sudden disinterest in eating is always alarming. This time, the trouble was also accompanied by lethargy and puking.

After 24 hours of these symptoms, we hustled Scooby to our trusted neighborhood vet.

Here’s the diagnosis:

The Bad News

Scooby is currently suffering from what the vet described as a “raging” urinary tract infection. An x-ray taken to rule out the possibility of kidney stones also revealed a mass in his gall bladder and some significant deterioration of his vertebrae. He also suffers from chronic infection related to his gross teeth.

The Good News

According to his blood scan, Scooby’s red and white blood cell counts are appropriate for his age. His only elevated enzyme levels seem related to the urinary tract infection, which  is the most immediate concern – and likely what made him lose his appetite.

The vet concluded that the mass is actually a bunch of gall stones that have accumulated over time and do not warrant surgery.


The Outloook

Following 10 days of anti-biotics, a urinalysis will tell if Scooby has recovered from his UTI.

From there, we’ll determine the right medication regimen and lifestyle changes that will help reduce his propensity for infection of his urinary tract (this is not his first UTI) and mouth, and manage pain related to his bad back.

In the meantime, Scooby is enjoying much rest, pampering and unlimited amounts of any food he wants to eat.

No lie – before the bloodwork came back, it seemed as if the demise of my littlest best friend was imminent. Although I have been bracing for news like this from the moment I accepted his gray face into my life more than six years ago, I didn’t feel ready when the vet said she had found a “mass.” 

I’m glad the current diagnosis is more optimistic, but I know my little guy isn’t out of the woods yet. And as an elderpin of indeterminate antiquity, he’s kind of on borrowed time as it is. But I’m grateful for every snuggle we have left.

Thanks to the Facebook followers who shared well wishes. Your support means a lot!

Have your dogs ever dealt with any of the ailments from which Scooby currently suffers? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comments.

Lessons from running a 5K with a dog

We did it!

Charlie Machete and I completed the Strutt with Your Mutt 5K race to benefit Kansas City animal shelter Wayside Waifs. We even ran the whole gosh darned way!

Here’s our view of the 5K starting line:

Strutt with Your Mutt starting line

1, 2, 3 – Go!

That picture is the only one I got of the race.

It’s taken from so far away because I wasn’t sure how rowdy the other runners’ dogs may be, and I wanted to give Charlie Machete space. I wanted him to feel as comfortable as possible so that I could feel as comfortable as possible.

He gets a little nervous in crowds and when facing any situation for the first time.

Here’s a secret:

So do I.

In fact, on race day, my anxieties were high.

I fretted all morning: What if I get too hot in my running clothes? What if I don’t make it to the starting line on time? (We did cut things pretty close.) What if I’m uncomfortable running with my bag of things that I don’t usually carry on training runs? What if the walk from the house to the starting line wears me out and I can’t run the whole way? What if I trip and fall?

Luckily, everything worked out fine. The raceway (Broadway Boulevard) was wide, and most people were very much in control of their dogs. In spite of walking a couple of miles before starting the run, Charlie Machete and I never even considered walking.

Just like on our practice runs, anytime I started to feel tired, I simply looked down at him and said, “Good job, buddy! We got this!”

And we did. Although, I have no idea what our finishing time was.

What I learned from this event

It’s good that Charlie Machete and I had each other, but next time I participate in a public race, I’m making sure to coerce a friend or family member into running, too, or at least holding my belongings while I run cheering us on from the street.

Honestly, being there alone made crossing the finish line a somewhat anti-climactic experience.

Also, because I was so concerned with keeping the dog comfortable I totally failed to pick up the prizes we earned for our fundraising efforts. Getting them now requires additional logistical efforts on my part. Whoops.

But, the important thing for my foster dog’s development and my health is this: We’re going to keep running!

And I’m hoping to connect with some more local folks (maybe members of the KC Pittie Pack?) who would like to train with us. Let me know in the comments if that sounds like fun to you.

To see more pictures from Strutt with Your Mutt, check out Amy from Fido Fetch Photography‘s Twitter feed. She represented KC Pittie Pack in the 3K walk.

Come back here tomorrow for more on the people and dogs I ran into during the festival portion of the event.

Thanks again to everyone who supported Charlie Machete and me in this endeavor. We hope we made you proud!

black dog on a walk

Best. Running. Partner. Ever.

Want to make Charlie Machete your running partner? He’s available for adoption through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull.

Making choices toward a happier and less hectic existence

Sometimes the rhythm of life gets a little out of whack.

Small dog at 5 a.m.

Why aren’t we in bed at 5 a.m.?

That happened to me over the past few days, and it’s why I had to take a three-day break from blogging. Although I’ve never come right out and said so, my goal for Wayward Dogs is to post new content a minimum of five days a week. Seven would be fantastic. (Some weeks that actually happens.)

Unfortunately, such bold ambition kind of goes against my other current goal of streamlining my life and dropping any responsibilities that I just don’t have time for – with the ultimate hope of gaining more time to spend relaxing with Zach and the dogs, exercising or hanging out with friends.

This is a topic I expect to be thinking about quite a bit more in the next few days, while I’m reading Happier at Home, author and blogger Gretchen Rubin‘s follow-up to her inspirational bestseller The Happiness Project.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

We could all be a little happier, couldn’t we?

Although she lives in New York City, Gretchen is from Kansas City and will be back in a town for a reading later this month.

Interviewing her by phone was one of the tasks I accomplished over the weekend. Gretchen is the subject of a freelance article I’m writing for a local publication.

In addition to blogging for myself and for my employers, I write stories on a variety of topics for magazines, newspapers and other websites pretty often. Because I like writing so much, this is fun for me – and it helps me put a little extra money in the bank.

But freelance writing is time-consuming and effectively means that I spend extra hours each week “working.” Although I don’t see myself ever giving up freelance writing, it’s a point I have to remember whenever I review my life and consider which commitments I can step away from.

As a chronic overcommitter, it’s difficult for me to say no or disengage from any cause or activity I believe in or enjoy.

But one of the life truths I’m getting familiar with in my 30th year is that when you stretch yourself too thin you can’t cover any of your bases very well. (Case in point: my neglected garden.)

It will take a while for me to figure out all of the ways I can lessen my load, but a couple things will be toned down soon.

December marks the end of my two-year term as an executive board member for the Thomas Hart Benton Group of the Sierra Club.

I intend to still participate in Sierra Club activities, such as serving lemonade at the annual Santa Caligon Days festival in Independence, Missouri (which I did over Labor Day weekend).

Thomas Hart Benton Group of the Sierra Club at Santa Caligon Days

Want some fresh squeezed lemonade?

But I have to be honest about the fact that I don’t have time to be a great leader for the organization right now.

Other areas where I’ll be backing off: gardening and dog fostering.

It’s safe to say that Wayward House will always be growing fun things in pots and in the ground. But next year’s garden will certainly be smaller in scope and, ideally, easier to maintain.

We also intend to be a two-dog household, at least for a while, after Charlie Machete finds his real forever home.

To that end, he attended another Midwest Adopt-a-Bull adoption event over the weekend. No one showed much interest in him, but he did get to meet the man who loves pit bulls for the first time in real life.

Charlie Machete in a cage.

Adopt me?

Midwest Adopt-a-Bull’s founder Mike Kitchens agreed that Charlie Machete is a very handsome boy who just needs to work on feeling comfortable in a crate. By the end of the event, my foster dog was as big of a fan of Mike as I am, and he showed it by covering the man in friendly pit bull/lab/chow kisses.

Even though Charlie Machete is likely to be our last foster project for a while, I do plan to always contribute to the animal rescue movement in other ways – by promoting adoptable animals and worthy organizations on this blog and by stepping up in the many small ways that can make a huge difference (walking shelter dogs, assisting with transports and fundraising).

I know there are other things I can do to streamline my life to ensure I’m giving my best to every project and relationship in which I’m involved. I’ll be sure to share as this endeavor unfolds.

Have you ever made a point to simplify your life? What did you cut out? What other advice do you have for me?

Want to adopt Charlie Machete? Apply to make him yours through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull

black dog on a walk

Best. Running. Partner. Ever.

Mirror, mirror on the the wall

It’s amazing how much a small accomplishment can improve your whole view.

This mirror used to hang in my parents’ bedroom. It hung for a while in our bedroom, too. But last year, while we visited Portland and a friend stayed at our house with the dogs,

the mirror






Miraculously, the glass did not break. The hanger, however, left a nasty scar on the wall above my dresser.

The mirror itself took up an almost forgotten residence on the floor behind the headboard. All I could really see was the beautiful ornate frame that makes me love this mirror so.

Antique gold mirror frame

It was Zach’s idea last weekend to move the mirror to our tiny bathroom.

The effect is amazing. Of course, there’s the whole room-enlargening effect. But that old mirror also brings something personal to a room that we’ve otherwise furnished sparsely with store-bought, assemble-it-yourself cabinets. That mirror makes me stupid happy.

I can’t believe it took so long.

Did you accomplish any projects over the holiday weekend?

Have you ever completed one very small task and been overjoyed with the result?

A bleeding heart skips

In the middle of a triple-digit Sunday, Zach and I decided to take a long bike ride.

The breeze-like sensation of your body slicing through the air at bike speed does make the experience somewhat preferable to walking or standing still on a hot day. But a 15-mile bike ride over hills in the punishing Missouri heat is always going to be a sweaty, exhausting experience. (That’s what people like about exercise, right?)

Our route took us on less-traveled roads bordered by thick woods on either side. We took the long way to Swope Park, a huge swath of wilderness in the heart of Kansas City. There’s a mountain biking trail within, but by the time we arrived we could see why most people who brave that trail don’t ride there – they park their cars at the trailhead and hop on their bikes all fresh and ready.

We followed a steep, paved main road I had once walked with the KC Pittie Pack and then turned toward home.

Somewhere between the park grounds and the interstate we crossed, I heard a rustle in the brush, followed by a menacing bark. I turned my head in time to see a big, black lab-like dog rushing toward me.

I pedaled harder, and he did not give more than a few steps’ chase.

When I turned back to look at him from a safe distance, he was nosing some refuse in the road. The area we were in is polluted. Broken computers, fast food bags, bottle shards and a lot of lonely shoes littered the shoulder.

I don’t know if that dog lives off the garbage or is just a neighborhood visitor. He was wearing some kind of chain collar, which suggests he has a home somewhere.

In that moment – six miles from home, sans leash and on a bike – I wasn’t equipped to help him get back to it.

And if I couldn’t find his owner? Well, anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally understands how great I am at rehoming black dogs that can at first come off a bit scary… (Sorry, Charlie Machete, 12 months later, we’re still shopping you around.)

I get the same sinking feeling every time a photo of an adoptable dog speaks to me. By this I mean that I see a lot of pictures of shelter dogs, foster dogs and dogs generally at risk of being euthanized.

I have a perpetually bleeding heart and so I want to save them all, but the images of certain animals seem to resonate with me a little more.

Most of the time, sharing their plight is the best I can offer them. With that in mind, here are a few images of adoptable animals whose faces have appeared in my inbox lately.

Maybe you, dear readers, will be struck by their faces, too, and can offer them hope.

Until recently, Doug (or as I like to call him – Luke Jr.) was stuck at the animal shelter in Moberly, Missouri. He’s a corgi/golden retriever mix available through Second Chance Rescue. (Link forthcoming.)

I’ve written about Bolivar before. He is a cute dog with an underbite who is available for adoption through Unleashed.

Starbuck is a Midwest Adopt-a-Bull dog who cannot stay in his current foster home. He is in desperate need of a new foster or forever home as soon as possible.

This is another Doug. He is currently staying at Kennel Creek and is available for adoption through Wayside Waifs.

This black kitten was one of two rescued by a coworker of mine, who also managed to catch his wild mother and get her spayed. His calico sister was adopted, but he’s still on the hunt for a patient home. Contact me for details on making him yours.

To see more adoptable dogs now available in the Kansas City area, check out the Adoptable page.

My foster dog Charlie Machete and many others are available for adoption through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull.

Don’t live in Kansas City? Check out the adoptable pets available at your local animal shelter and rescue organizations. You can save a life by fostering or adopting.

Premature old lady pains

Thirty isn’t supposed to feel so achy, is it?

I guess I’ll blame my responsibilities as a writer and social media marketer/addict, which mean I spend way too much time curled over a computer.

For the past few months, I have been suffering sporadic back pain that leaves me hobbling around stiffly for days at a time.

I suppose I must be one of those people who carry stress in the back, and I must be under more now that I’m a 30-year-old who:

  • owns a home
  • has a challenging career
  • has multiple dogs
  • has too many plants
  • has a boyfriend
  • has more extra-curricular interests than are realistically manageable 

But, seriously, I did not expect to start whining so much about back pain so soon after hitting the big 3-0.

Until now, I always thought it was silly for folks to get so worked up about birthdays. It’s just a number. Right? Right?!

At a conservative estimate, Scooby the elderpin clocks in at over 100 in dog years, and I hardly ever hear that dude complain.


Dangle a hunk of chicken jerky over his head and you’ll see that the springs in his legs work just fine.

Meanwhile, I let out an embarrassing moan every time I lean down to scoop his 9.5 pounds off the ground.

This is my lifelong resistance to sports and serious exercise catching up with me.

I am certain my father, who turned 70 five days before I turned 30, never experienced an “I’m falling apart” moment until he was well into his sixth decade.


To be clear, neither one of us is “falling apart.”  

While it’s true my dad is having his gall bladder removed today, he is still a He-Man who can wear the heavy uniform of a law enforcement officer daily, lift the sort of heavy objects that laugh at me and do push ups until the bison herd he helps look after comes home.

Lately, it seems like everyone I know is running 5Ks and half-marathons these days — the kinds of races my father ran regularly until his knees started getting mad at him. (At which point he just started spending more time on a bike.)

Although I know it is dumb, it’s hard for me to escape the stupid sense that if I take up running or getting more serious about my fitness now I’m starting too late — like when I tried to learn piano in seventh grade and was subjected to performing in a public recital in which five-year-olds seemed to be tickling Beethoven’s ivories while “Chopsticks” gave me splinters.

But I know these aches and pains are my body telling me something needs to change.

They’re like the growl of a dog whose message you better heed before the situation gets real bad.

Lucky for me, until he is adopted into his forever home, I have an excellent four-legged running partner handy in the form of one fleet-footed Charlie Machete.

As you can see, I also have some pretty cute new running shoes, courtesy of a guy named Zach.

I have a Groupon for beginner yoga classes, too, and a gift certificate for a massage, courtesy of a guy named Zach’s mom.

It’s time to banish Crystal’s premature old lady pains.

Let’s do this! (Readers, you’re gonna have to help keep me honest.)

Can you feel the difference in your body between how old you used to be and how old you are now? What do you do about it?

The truth about Minnie

She’s available for adoption.


Are you my new mother or father?

Although she was the first wayward dog Zach and I ever encountered as a couple, I have never shared her story on this blog. We found her, cowering on the Trolley Track Trail and covered in mud in almost the same spot we would later find Charlie Machete.

Craigslist led us to an individual who had been trying to sell her and who was not very ambitious about getting her back. So Minnie stayed with us.

Having never fostered before, we were uncertain about what to do with this beautiful, sheepish creature with strange eyes.

Photo by Fido Fetch Photography.

I got caught up in the excitement of having another girl in the house and didn’t follow through on the initial interest Minnie received from totally decent people. That was an epic fail on my part, and I admit it.

And so, the months ticked by.

Minnie put a spell on us.

Voodoo love dog.

We fell in love with her. Luke fell in love with her. Then, Charlie Machete came along, and he fell in love with her.

Machete wanted to claim Minnie for himself.

She’s very lovable.

Because Charlie Machete was a harder-to-adopt (and, for us, harder to live with) dog, when he was with us, we kept the foster dog marketing emphasis on him, while quietly exploring potential forever families for Minnie.

Playful but not destructive and affectionate yet independent, Minnie is about the easiest dog in the world to live with. She’s obedient, housetrained and loves going on walks and rides in the car. She would do great in a home with children and gets along fine with other animals.

Today, marks the beginning of Minnie marketing in earnest.

If you or someone you know who would like to meet this blue-and-brown-eyed beauty, please direct them to this post or the Adoptable page.

To find out who won the recent leather collar giveaway from Euro Dog Designs, click here.

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