Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Blog about Dogs? An Introduction to MotherDogBlog

I'm a Dog Mom. Hear Me Bark.

Dogs are my passion. My business. My daily chuckle. My greatest love. Don't tell my husband. ;-) When I was growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, we had a toy poodle named Fifi. She was a great dog, always patient and kind while I dressed her up in my doll's clothes and rolled her around in a baby carriage. The first dog I could call my very own, however, was Spanky Lee, a male Beagle mix puppy my Dad rescued from the local shelter and brought to me in Austin, where I was attending U.T. in 1984. Hook 'em Horns! Dad had visited the shelter numerous times, looking for just the right dog. He chose Spanky, he said, because while all the other dogs were barking their heads off, Spanky just sat there and looked at him as if to say, "What are you lookin' at?"

Spanky was small, black and brown, with a long body, long tail, somewhat floppy ears,short legs, and an Eddie Munster hairline. Although he grew to be only 20 lbs., he was all attitude, affectionate only to me, a couple of my closest friends, and select family members. He never liked other dogs much and was a trial on walks--barking and growling like a hound of hell. To my chagrin, he bit several of my dates during college, for reasons not clear to me then; but it turned out he had judged their characters well--every one turned out to be a creep. Spanky was such an odd little dog, my best friend named him "Norman," after Norman Bates in Hitchcock's Psycho. I loved him anyway. We were inseparable pals for 21 years; Spanky slipped his mortal coil in August, 2005. I still miss him like hell. I now know that Spanky wasn't "haywire," as my dad affectionately called him, he just wasn't "socialized," as the term is used today. Who knew then that dogs must be taught social skills to be well adapted members of their family and community? I certainly didn't.

We didn't have play dates with other dogs, there were no doggie day care centers, no dog parks. Dogs were dogs, they were either "good" or "bad," and that was that. The concept of "socializing" one's dog is a new one to most people and outside of dog trainers, working dog handlers, and other experts on dog behavior, didn't really come to general awareness until the 2000's. It's only been in the past decade that many have become interested in Canis Lupus Familiaris as a bona fide research subject, spawning whole new industries.

Heidi Ganahl, the founder of my business, Camp Bow Wow, opened her first Doggie Day and Overnight Camp in 2000, in Denver, Colorado. She was ahead of her time, understanding dogs in a way most others did not. Many thought she was crazy: "Let me get this straight. You want to put a lot of dogs, who don't know each other, together into a confined space, and expect them to just get along?" Well, she did, and they did, and there are now more than 100 Camp Bow Wows across the U.S., one of them proudly owned by my husband and me. Caesar Milan founded his Dog Psychology Center in 2002 and The Dog Whisperer launched in 2004. Milan pioneered the idea of "energy" in working with dogs, and using "calm, assertive energy" in our play yards at Camp is key to a happy, healthy, and safe environment for all of our Campers. The domestic dog's genome sequence was completed and published in 2005; as a result, we now know that all modern dogs are descended from a sub-species of the Eurasian Grey Wolf--hence the lupus in Canis Lupus Familiaris. In 2014, no urban center is complete without a variety of dog parks and no respectable U.S. city does not offer a wide variety of dog daycare and boarding facilities. One can find books, research papers, magazines, websites on the genetics of dogs, the physiology of dogs, the evolution of dogs, the training of dogs, the everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-dogs-universe, everywhere.

My husband, Steve, and I opened our own Camp Bow Wow in October, 2012. Located in North Dallas, we're just northeast of the High-5 interchange at I-635 and I-75, off T.I. Blvd. Thus, our name, Camp Bow Wow - Dallas High Five. When we opened, I thought I knew a lot about dogs. After all, I'd been a dog mom for 30 years. This new business was going to be a snap! Boy, was I wrong. I knew only what had been passed down to me as "conventional wisdom" about raising dogs, largely from my father. When I would fret about Spanky, or Logan, or Slick, or Jake, or any other dog I had at any one time, Dad's response was invariably, "Don't worry about it, honey. He's just a dog." But I knew in my bones that wasn't quite the case. I've never known a dog who was "just" a dog.

Dogs are such amazing creatures--every one unique, every one with specialized talents and skills, and with incredibly rich emotional lives. I and true dog lovers have always known this. So how exciting it is to have so much of what we've known in our guts being proven through science these days! Rigorous observation, mass collection of data, and technologies being used in new ways are giving us astounding new insights into our best friends. Steve and I are certified learning junkies and as we soak up all this new information, we apply it not only to our business, but to our own pack at home. I married Steve at 47--my first marriage--so I never had human kids. Instead, I've been a dog mom and am very proud of that fact. It's not easy raising "fur-kids." They are, after all, a different species! Steve and I currently have five of our own, all adopted: Zoe, a Border Collie/Lab mix, age 9; Buster, a Bluetick Coon Hound mix, age 7; Bella, a blue-eyed Catahoula Cur/Sheltie mix, age 4 1/2; Charlie, a wire-haired Chihuahua, age 4; and Capri, a Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix, age 3. Our Camp, and our home, are wonderful, joyous places--full of barking and romping and running and fetching and swimming and napping. We live in Old Lake Highlands, near White Rock Lake, in Dallas, a neighborhood full of dogs and sporting its very own dog park off Mockingbird Lane, due for a million-dollar revamp this year. We can't wait!

It's an exciting time to be a dog, and a dog parent. It's a whole new world out there. This blog will be my place to share what I've learned about dogs--physically, emotionally, spiritually, practically. I'll share stories, tips, links, and "best reads." It's hard to put into words how much I love my dogs and how rich they have made, and continue to make, my life. But I'm gonna try! I believe that no human life is truly complete without a dog. If you think so too, join in, and share your stories, too!

Thanks for visiting!  Michelle Vardeman Martin

To learn more about Camp Bow Wow - Dallas High Five, visit:


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