Freddie, Jimmydog’s semi-retired chief canine officer, has always had a zest for life. On one of our recent blistering hot summer days, she settled down inside with the air conditioning blasting and reflected on some of her very favorite things (aside from air conditioning, of course, because for a dog living in North Carolina that one goes without saying). If you’re a dog reader, what are your favorite things? We’d love to know! Freddie still has plenty of time to start new hobbies and try new experiences!
As a dog ages, she often takes time to reflect on her life. (When we senior dogs are kind of staring off into space, that’s what we’re doing—reflecting.) Anyway, as I celebrated my 15½ birthday recently, I started thinking about all the wonderful things I’ve enjoyed over these many years. (I know! I know! I don’t look a day over 6!) I’ve been lucky to have a safe, comfortable home and the best people ever, Stephanie and Todd Belcher, looking after me.
But, as they say, it’s the little things that matter. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite things—the stuff that has brought me immense happiness. Whether you’re a person or a dog, I bet you’ll see some of your own favorites things on my list, too. (Cat readers: I’m still trying to figure out what it is that you like.)
- Vacations: When I first went to work for Jimmydog as chief canine officer, I insisted on lots of vacation time as part of my compensation and I recommend all working dogs do the same. Do you know the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? I don’t know who Jack is, but working too much makes Freddie a cranky girl. Even in semi-retirement, I maintain a busy schedule, so I treasure my vacations. Give me a week at the beach or in the mountains and I’m a happy, happy girl. For me, vacations are a chance to check out new hotels (so many interesting smells!), explore different trails and parks (so many things to see!) and just hang out with Stephanie and Todd (the best part!). If you haven’t booked your summer vacation yet, do it now!
- My backyard: In my opinion, the best backyards offer places for rest and relaxation but also provide entertainment—and by that standard, my yard is perfect. There is plenty of soft green grass to roll in, plus leafy trees and bushes to nap under. (I still visit some excellent sleeping holes my pal Joey dug years ago under the boxwoods.) But bushes aren’t just for shade: They house all the interesting critters—ground squirrels, moles, voles, rabbits. In my younger days, I took seriously my job to eradicate them from the yard. As a senior dog, I’ve adopted the philosophy of many aging hunters: It’s as interesting to watch as to kill, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ever give chase. A quick run after a ground squirrel is great exercise and exciting for all involved!
- The wind: My human readers might be surprised to find this on a list of favorite things, but wind is the best—oh, the smells it delivers to my nose! It’s like a news feed for dogs and I love to be well-informed! A breeze in the yard lets me know when a rabbit has hopped by, while the gust created by an open car window tells me we’re getting close to the park. Humans try it next time you’re out: Close your eyes, stretch your neck, thrust your nose into the air and take a giant sniff! You’ll learn so much.
- Grass: If I had to pick the best thing in nature, it would be grass. It’s so functional—perfect for peeing, for napping, for a quick roll-around. We’ve got a beautiful patch in the backyard that I use as my lifeguard stand when I’m watching over people swimming in the pool. I just wish I could explain to Stephanie why grass is so great. I love her, but she’s ruined some pretty good grass rolls over the years, insisting I have a bath after I’ve worked so hard to get the delicious smell of poop and dead stuff deep down into my fur.
- My bed: There’s nothing better after a walk—or after dinner or after a car ride—than a nap. I’m lucky enough to have many bedding options throughout the house, including several dog cushions, Stephanie and Todd’s mattress and pretty much any piece of furniture. These days my favorite is my dog bed in the den. It has a thick cushion and side bolsters for maximum comfort, plus a nice tan and red floral pattern that complements my fur. It is so inviting that after an especially good nap, sometimes I’ll get right back in for second one.
- Our van: Anyone who knows me knows I love a good car ride and these days I’m really enjoying outings in our van. Todd and I call it the “Doggy Van Gogh-Go” because we are hilarious like that. For park walks and other outings, Todd drives and I ride shotgun, window open (See No. 8: The wind). When Stephanie comes along, she’s usually polite enough to sit in the back seat so as not to mess up our well-honed driving routine.
- Ice water: This is a pleasure I discovered late in life. I’ve had a bit of kidney trouble (nothing too serious yet) and the vet says I need to stay hydrated. Trust me: Ice water—specifically filtered water with a handful of cubes in a nice stainless-steel bowl—is the way to go! To make it even more convenient, I’ve got bowls all over the house—outside on the patio, in the hallway, in the dining room. It’s the doggy version of people carrying a water bottle everywhere they go. Slurp!
- Stuffed bones: This delicacy is a Belcher pack tradition and because I like you, I’ll tell you our secret recipe. Start with large beef marrow bones—after a dog has already licked the outsides clean and gotten out all the marrow. Stuff the center of each bone with soft dog treats. Serve to your happy dog. Easy, right? I like six of these bones after dinner, served around 7 p.m. That’s correct: I said six bones. They are the perfect dessert—delicious, long-lasting, healthy for my teeth. Dog friends, feel free to share our recipe with your people. You’ll love them!
- Boating: Ah, the boating life! It’s like a car ride on water! Boating combines so many things I love—wind, travel, exploring, hanging out with Todd and Stephanie. My favorite place to go is High Rock Lake, with our friend Bryan (it’s always good to have a friend with a boat) and his dogs Amos and Piper. I love boating so much I wrote a whole blog about it. Read it at http://jimmydog.com/backyard/?p=1061.
- Walks: Of course, No. 1 is walks! I attribute my excellent health and ageless beauty to my lifelong habit of strolling. Todd and I are dedicated. We go every day, regardless of weather and average about 1½ miles. Other dogs are content walking through their neighborhoods but with my thirst for adventure, I need to explore. My hot spots are large parks—Horizons, Bethania, Triad, Miller, Tanglewood—places with wide trails, lots of woods and interesting field edges to explore.
So, there you have it, friends: my top 10 favorite things. And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to enjoy No. 3!
Yours in dogness,
Our dog Freddie loves boat rides and wants to share her passion for the water with her dog friends. She knows safety comes first and offers tips to make outings safe and fun for everyone. When you see her out on the lake, be sure to give her a wave! And if your dogs are avid boaters, post pictures of them on the water. We’d love to see them.
If you need to find me this summer, I’ll be at the lake.
Now that I’m semi-retired from my role as chief canine officer at Jimmydog, I have even more time for adventures and with summer’s arrival that means boat rides.
Not to brag, but I’m a natural first mate, comfortable on the water, good at spotting fish and helpful navigating the boat. (“Go that way!”) I don’t have my own boat, but we have a family friend with one and that’s the next best thing. Bryan is an excellent captain who likes to take his own dogs, Amos and Piper, out fishing and they often invite me to come along for a day on the lake. I always ask if Todd and Stephanie, the best people ever, can come, too, and Bryan always says yes. He’s very nice.
For dogs, boating is the best. You’re out in the sunshine, breeze blowing in your fur. And the smells. Oh, the smells! Fish and suntan lotion. Hot dogs and beer. Delicious dead, decaying stuff in the water and along the shoreline.
I’d like my dog friends to join me on the water this summer, whether you sail on the ocean, take a pontoon out on the lake or kayak down the river. Get out there! But before you do, here are some tips to keep you safe on your excursion. (Don’t worry, dog friends, this is mostly stuff your people need to do. Read through it with them and then you can take a nap while they get everything ready.)
* Keep the first trip short. If you’ve never been on a boat, ask your people to keep your maiden voyage short. Sure, you’re excited thinking, “Let’s go for the day!” but not every dog is the expert sailor that I am. You don’t want to set out for a three-hour tour and discover the waves make you seasick and the movement of the boat freaks you out.
* Get a life jacket. I don’t wear one myself because I don’t swim a lot—I’m more of a sunbather. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, get your people to invest in a good life jacket. It will help you float and it has a handle on the back that lets your people scoop you out of the water, if necessary. Life jackets come in different colors and styles, so you’ll look super cute in yours.
I know what you expert swimmers are thinking: “I don’t need a life jacket. I’m no amateur dog paddler.” I get it. Labs, retrievers, all you Portuguese waterdogs out there, you’re born to swim, yet it’s best to be safe. You never know when you’re going to face choppy water or just tucker out.
Speaking of safety, experts tell me dogs should be outfitted with harnesses instead of collars while boating. Again, it’s about making it easy for your people to grab on and help you. So, let them put the harness on, even if gives you awkward tan lines!
* Make a “dog overboard” plan. If you’re new to boating dog friends, here’s the rule: Stay on the boat until your people say it’s OK to swim. Yet we know there are times when following the rules is too hard: If you see a fish jump, you must dive in after it. You have no choice. This can make your people panic so they should have a plan (cut the engine, call to you to return to a specific part of the boat, jump in after you, etc.).
* Bring fresh water. Whether you’re heading out on the ocean, a lake or a river, you’ll need your people to bring along a bowl for you and plenty of fresh drinking water. We can’t drink salt water and even though lake water and river water are delicious, they aren’t good for dogs to drink. Even clear, clean-looking water contains invisible creepy crawlies that can make us sick. If your people are especially considerate, like Todd is, they’ll bring plenty of ice, too. Refreshing!
* Pack a first-aid kit. Accidents happen. You could step on a fish hook or get stung by a bee. (I’m getting stung by bees all the time lately! I’ve done nothing to them and yet they are after me!) Have your people put together a little first-aid kit with gauze pads, adhesive bandages, tweezers, Benadryl (for those bee stings!), Dramamine (for seasickness) and other items. Stephanie says I should remind you that your people need to check with your vet for the proper dosages and to make sure it’s OK for you to take those medications. I will remind you not to take those medications unless your people put them in something yummy, like cheese.
* Provide a shady spot. Even if we’ve been splashing around in the water, it’s easy for dogs to overheat once we’re back on the boat and under the beating sun. Plus, boat decks heat up fast, burning our paws. If your boat doesn’t have enough shade, ask your people to make you a temporary tent with towels.
* Bring extra towels. Ask your people to pack extra towels to wipe your paws and dry you off before everyone gets back in the car. They also are helpful if the water is too cold and your dog comes back onto the boat shivering. In that case, you’ll want to wrap your dog in dry towels and give them lots of snuggles until their body temperature rises.
* Slather on that sunscreen. All dogs, especially those with light skin and white fur, can get sunburned. Did you know they make sunscreen for dogs? I did not! If your people can’t find the doggy version, they can use sunscreen made for babies and children, as long as it doesn’t contain any zinc or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). (Whew! I needed a little help with the spelling of that one!). Zinc and PABA are toxic to dogs, which Stephanie tells me means they are very, very bad. Your people should put the sunscreen on your nose, ears, groin and tummy—and you dogs should do your part by not licking it off, even if it’s tasty.
Wow! That’s a lot of preparation, equipment and rules! Don’t worry. Your people will handle everything and it really shouldn’t take them very long. Then you’ll be ready to set sail. I’ll see you on the water!
Yours in dogness,
Dear Stephanie & Todd,
We wanted to give you a quick update. As you may have heard, we welcomed another arrival on this side of the Rainbow Bridge today when Reuben, Esther the Wonder Pig’s dog brother, crossed over.
We had been expecting him. After Esther’s dog sister Shelby arrived last week, she let us all know that Reuben would be coming. Remember how we told you what a good mother Shelby was to all sorts of animals during her first life? Well, Shelby knew Reuben had cancer and that it would soon be his time to cross the bridge. But Shelby was worried about him coming by himself. She’d heard it was nice here, but she needed to check it out for herself to make sure someone who knew and loved him would be here to greet him and tell him everything would be OK.
It happens a lot that animals who loved each other in their first life come here one right after another. Remember Lucy and Gracie, the sweet (and kinda bossy) dogs who arrived at Christmastime within days of each other? (They’re doing great here, by the way.)
Anyway, we’ve gotten Reuben settled into Shelby’s house and they’ve been running and playing in the yard like young pups.
We’ll write more later but we’ve got to get to bed now. Tomorrow Shelby and Reuben are going to take us to meet their old friend, Bear, who lives in a nearby area with a lot of the larger animals like horses and sheep. Apparently, Bear is a very large pig (maybe even 1,000 pounds) and a sweetheart of a guy. They’ve missed their visits with him.
Tail wags and doggy kisses!
Jimmy (and Joey)
Our hearts break for Esther the Wonder Pig and her family, who had to say goodbye to their dog Shelby this week. But we happen to know she’s already settled on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge and doing well. Our own sweet boys Jimmy and Joey crossed the bridge several years ago (Jimmy in spring 2003; Joey in spring 2015) and they keep us up to date about their lives there. They were part of the Welcoming Committee that greeted Shelby and sent us a little report.
Dear Stephanie & Todd,
It’s been busy here as we prepared to greet a newcomer. We got word that a celebrity dog was crossing the Rainbow Bridge and we wanted to make everything just right for the new arrival.
To do that, we first had to learn more about her. Right before any animal crosses the Rainbow Bridge, one of the cats who works on the Welcoming Committee puts its paperwork together. (Did you know most cats can read and write? It’s why they always want to sit on your laptop while you work. You thought it was for attention, but really they are checking your grammar and making sure you don’t write something dumb in an email to your boss. And those “naps” they take in the pages of your book? They’re critiquing your taste in novels.)
Anyway, the paperwork gives us the newcomer’s background—family history, likes, dislikes, hobbies—so we can get them settled in and make them feel welcome. We know the file is finished when the cat in charge scratches her signature into it, pushes all the pages onto the floor and walks away.
Then a beagle with a big bark everyone can hear (so any beagle who’s available at the time) announces all the important details to the rest of us. The beagle told us our new dog friend’s name is Shelby and that she’d lived a good, long life (18 years!). She came to us from a loving pack that included not only two dads, but also dog friends named Reuben and Alice and cat friends named Finnegan and Delores. While we were listening, Joey and I thought we might know Shelby. Something about her sounded familiar.
Then the beagle continued: Shelby’s pack also included a turkey named Cornelius (unusual!) and her very best friend, a world-famous pig named Esther (very unusual!). They all lived together at a magical-sounding place called Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary
That was it! Joey and I hadn’t met Shelby but we knew her. While watching episodes of Belcher TV, we had seen Todd paint two portraits of Esther and Shelby. (Remember? We’ve told you before that we have channel 740, where Joey and I can watch everything happening with our Belcher pack—Todd and Stephanie, the best people ever, and our terrier pal Freddie. To us, it’s the most interesting thing on TV!)
Anyway, we ran over to the head of the Welcoming Committee, our old pal Zoey, a border collie who is very organized, and told her all about the paintings and suggested we should hang them in Shelby’s new house to make her feel at home here. Of course, Zoey thought it was a perfect idea! While Joey and I worked on that project, other animals got together a welcome basket for Shelby with all her favorite things, including fuzzy tennis balls.
We had heard that Shelby is an excellent mother to all kinds of animals, so the team of shepherds who help sort everyone out thought she’d be happy living in a house with a few dogs, cats and even a potbellied pig who missed out on good mothering in their first lives. We set her up with a nice memory foam mattress like the one she shared with Esther and her own channel 8074 where she can keep watch on her pack back in Canada. Then Joey and I hung Todd’s paintings of her and Esther on her bedroom wall.
It took a lot of work to get everything ready for Shelby’s arrival, but we were happy to do it. After all, she’s a famous dog.
But here’s the thing: We do the same type of welcome for every animal who arrives, whether they have a world-famous pig sister with a million social media followers or they are a stray with no friends or family.
Every animal deserves to be treated with tenderness and respect, given everything they need to feel safe and happy. Animals don’t always get that in their first life—but we make sure they get it in on this side of the Rainbow Bridge. Here every animal is wanted. Every animal is well cared for. Every animal is loved.
Shelby hasn’t been here long, but we want Esther and her whole family to know she’s doing great. While taking a tour of the place, she asked if we have an Enchanted Forest and we weren’t sure what she meant. Then she explained: She and Esther had an Enchanted Forest where they would take long walks, talk about life and plant cupcake seeds. (In fact, Todd painted Shelby and Esther taking strolls in that very forest!)
“We’re sorry, Shelby,” we told her. “We don’t have an Enchanted Forest here.”
“No problem,” she said. “If some of you will help me, we can make one. I brought a few cupcake seeds along with me.”
Tail wags and doggy kisses!
Jimmy (and Joey)
Great article highlighting our favorite non-profile, Unchain Winston featuring our own Creative Designer, Stephanie.
Sending our heartfelt condolences to Esther the Wonder Pig and everyone at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary on the loss of their best friend Shelby. Shelby never knew a stranger and was the best friend to everyone for all of her 18 years. She will be so missed. Good girl Shelby.