Training the Animals in Your Life


  • Seat Belts for Dogs

    So, I spent a lot of time yesterday perusing crash videos of dummy dogs in cars. We are taking Rumley and Boudreaux with us to Austin next week for Thanksgiving and I need a way to secure them. Rumley hates the car already and he has been thrown into the floorboard at least once when we had to brake quickly. I'm hoping that a seat belt of some kind will help him to feel more secure. 

    Yall, it's also insane that we are driving around with a 90 pound dog, much larger than children that are required by law to be secured in a car seat, and we don't have him secured! He could so easily become a projectile and injure himself and us. As well as other drivers on the road if he flew through the windshield. It really is insane that it's allowed. 

    So, I started researching. At first I thought that the little $25 harnesses from Petsmart sounded pretty good. Then I checked out the Kurgo brand, it looks pretty solidly constructed, right? But then we were talking about $75 of my hard earned money here so I decided to keep looking. And thank God I did.

    Because I came across this and this and this. It will break your heart. Watch one of the videos of the crash dummy dogs and try to keep from tearing up. I dare you. So, of course I will only accept the best for my little love pups. We are spending the money and we are purchasing Sleepy Pod Sport harnesses for both pups. (It's actually not that much money). I can't believe that Sleepy Pod is the ONLY company on the market that actually passed the crash test ratings. The ONLY one. Seriously? We allow these companies to sell these faulty products under the guise that they will keep your pet safe? Every single one besides the Sleepy Pod harness resulted in a catastrophic failure. A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE. I won't allow that for my pup. 

    Sleepy Pod is also the only company out there that provides anything for dogs up to 90 pounds. I'm lucky that Rumley seems to have stopped growing right at 90 pounds. I'm not quite sure what we will do if he gains more weight. Secure him with two harnesses? Beg Sleepy Pod to create a harness for dogs up to 150 pounds? Why is no one else out there creating these harnesses? Why are people letting their dogs ride around without being secured in the car? Where is the publicity on this? I'm an animal lover and didn't realize these crash tests had taken place and that almost ALL products on the market had failed! 

    I ordered our harnesses last night and will update with pics once they arrive. I chose the orange for Rums, I think he needs a bold and beautiful color to remind us and him to be safe in the car. 

  • Eat, Pray, Love

    I don't think that divorce was the answer in Eat, Pray, Love. I think that everyone has moments of wanting to change themselves, change their dreams and change their lives. And that's ok. You are allowed to change your dreams and your spouse is supposed to support you through those changed dreams. I think that you can make those changes while still staying inside your marriage. 

    So, LIz wanted to travel. Why couldn't she have done that while she was still married? I think she took the chicken's way out and rather than fighting for her marriage, she just left. I realize that the way she chose was not easy either and I also realize that it's not my place to judge but I still think that she could have explored the world and changed herself while just being more forthcoming with her husband and taking him along on the ride as well 

    I especially think that now that she has gotten a second divorce from the man that supposedly "saved" her at the end of Eat, Pray, Love and has now become a lesbian. How many people will she choose to leave before she finds the "right one"? How many lives and hearts can she break in the quest to find herself? I think you can find yourself without hurting others. 

  • Rumley and Boudreaux sittin' in a tree

    Here's a video of the first time that Rumley and Boudreaux saw each other. Boudreaux is still contagious so he can't meet Rumley yet. You can see them both wagging their tails and then you can see Rumley turn and bark at me. He's super angry that I won't open the door for him so that he can play with Boudreaux. I'm such a mean mom :( 

    Unfortunately, we still have to wait a couple of weeks before Boudreaux is completely in the clean. Once we get these two together though, I think they will be a dynamic duo! What do you think? 

  • Boudreaux


    Here's the picture that made me fall in love with Boudreaux. He's got that floppy ear and that huge too-big-for-his-body nose. This is the picture that the shelter and the rescue were circulating that made me feel like I had to step in and save him. 

    We've had him for two weeks now and he is doing great! Almost all of the scabs are gone. His coat is much more shiny and he's starting to regrow his hair, especially on his ears. He's also gained 15 pounds! He no longer immediately goes for the food so I know that he isn't starving any more and he's learned that the food will consistently come to him so he doesn't have to panic. 

    He's the sweetest thing. We haven't seen any signs of food agression, timidness or bad behavior at all. He's super smart and has learned to sit and shake with me just asking him once. It takes our Great Dane at least 15 repititions, if not more to learn a new behavior. 

    Boudreaux is very mischevious though. If he sees anything sitting on the little patio table that we have outside, or even if we've tried to hide it up on the windowsill ledge, he will grab it and drag it out into the yard. This includes the glass bottle of colloidal silver spray that we are supposed to spray on him to help him heal. He also loves to pick up his metal bowls, especially his metal water bowl mid-drink, and cary them out into the yard. I forsee many items getting taken off coffee tables and side tables once he is allowed to hang out with us in the house! 

  • We've Adopted a Mangey Mutt

    Ryan and I are crazy people. We have officially adopted a mangey mutt. We've had him for a week now. His name is Beaudreaux and he appears to be a German Shepherd. Beaudreaux was found wandering the streets in Baytown and he was going to be put down if no one rescued him. I saw him on the Great Dane Rescue page, it seemed they had been smitten with him even though he's not a Great Dane. For some reason, this little guy tugged on my heartstrings.

    We went to the vet's office to pick him up and while we were waiting, they let us know that he has Sarcoptic mange. This means that he's highly contagious to our dog, Rumley, as well as to us. This has made things much more complicated than we were anticipating. The poor pup has to stay in our spare bedroom during the day and night. We put on special clothes and gloves when we go to take him out. Then, as soon as we put him back in the bedroom, we have to throw our clothes in the wash on hot and dry them on high heat.

    We have to make sure we are completely clean again before we can see Rumley. It's been 7 days since we got him and he definitely seems to be healing. We have a vet appointment next week and I hope that they tell us that he can join the family soon. I know that him and Rumley will have a blast playing together. The video shows Ryan and Beaudreaux playing fetch on Beaudreaux's first morning here. He's a sweet pup!

  • Saving Koalas

    At  the Zoo's Conservation Gala last week, (where we raised over 1 MILLION dollars!), Joel Sartore was the speaker. Joel Sartore is a National Geographic photographer that has started the Photo Ark project. His goal is to photograph every species on an equal playing field, otherwise known as a black or white background, so that we will have a preserved image of each species before it goes extinct. 

    I think I was the only person in the tent that bawled throughout his entire speech. The part that really got me going was when he showed a photo of around 15 koalas that had been hit and killed by cars in one week in a certain town in Australia. He said that only after he published the photo did the government in Australia decide that they would actually put protections in place to try to save the koalas. THAT is the type of difference that makes me keep typing each day. If one little thing that I post saves one more animal or species, then it’s worth it.

  • New Beginnings

    I've made the cardinal sin of blogging by letting this blog sit unupdated for so long. My thoughts have often turned to this blog but I have purposefully neglected it due to worrying about it being a conflict of interest once I started working back at the Zoo. So, for the last 3.5 years, I've just thought about blog posts that I would like to write but I haven't actually written them. I've thought of picking this blog back up many times but I kept putting it off. In order to continue this blog, I'll need to shift the focus slightly to make it a little bit more of a lifestyle blog that happens to focus on saving animals in the wild since that is what I'm passionate about and want to share with others. 

    Last week, we had our annual Conservation Gala. National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore was the event speaker and I think I was the only person in the tent that had tears streaming down my face during his entire presentation. He spoke about how some of his photos changed entire nation's policy toward their native species. THAT is the kind of thing that I want to make sure keeps happening in the world. 

    Because of that, it's time to pick up where I left off 3.5 years ago and continue to educate about wildlife conservation!

  • Loving It

    Today was an extraordinary day. I was sitting in my third meeting of the day and I actually thought "Wow, what a great day." Who does that?? 

    My first meeting was a departmental meeting where I learned about what is going on with the zoo and found out about the chance to help out with several of our conservation projects that are taking place around the world. 

    Then I went to an AAZK meeting to help plan Bowing for Rhinos. I am going to be the chair of that event this year. So, I get to work with a bunch of people that care as much as I do about saving Rhinos in the wild. 

    After lunch, we had a meeting where some of the keepers came and taught us about animal enrichment. It was all old news for me but it was so fun to be with the rest of my team when they learned about it and I could spend all day talking about animal behavior. 

    After work my department went out for happy hour with our director and CEO to celebrate closing our Gorilla campaign. 

    How amazing was that? Every meeting that I sit in I thouroughly enjoy. I get paid to talk about animals, animal conservation and to brainstorm ways to raise funds for animals. I feel like I am where I was meant to be all along :)

  • Have You Ever Been On A Baby Flamingo Walk?

    Forgive the Blair Witch style filiming. These baby flamingos were hand raised and are learning to live out on exhibit with the other adult flamingos. This video shows their daily walk from their behind-the-scenes enclosure to their outside exhibit so that they can get used to their future home. You can tell these guys are still babies because their feathers just look like grey fuzz right now, they haven't developed that classic pink flamingo color quite yet!

  • Memory and Recognition In A Steer

    Memory and Recognition In A Steer

    The image above is Zamir giving me a "kiss" after almost three years.

    My sweet, sweet boy remembered me! It has been three years since I was his trainer, but the last several times I have visited the Miniature Zebu steer named Zamir that I used to work with, he has showed major signs of remembering me. 

    I have recently returned to The Houston Zoo after working in a law firm for three years. During those three years, the only time I had to visit the Zoo were Saturdays which are the most crowded day of the week. When I would go visit Zamir on Saturdays, I would call his name and sometimes he would look at me. He would swing his head up, his eyes would get big and he would look straight at me. But then he would go back to eating his hay without coming over. I thought this was because I wasn't wearing a zoo uniform and so he no longer recognized me. I should mention that Zamir generally does not let the public reach over the fence and touch him.

    Since returning to the Zoo, I am able to go visit Zamir on Friday evenings after work which are considerably less crowded. A few weeks ago, my husband met me at the Zoo after work on a Friday and we went to visit Zamir. I now work in an office at the Zoo and don't wear a Zoo uniform. Because Zamir had started ignoring me, I wasn't even going to attempt to call out to him until my husband encouraged me to try. I called out his name in the tone that I always used to say it years ago and Zamir swung his head around and looked straight at me as if to say "hey, what's up?" He came straight over and stuck his nose over the fence as if not a day had passed since our last meeting. He let me scratch and pet him for at least twenty minutes. I had to see if he remembered a couple of his old behaviors (shhh don't tell my zookeeper friends!) so I tried "kiss" and "target". He did both right away and kept looking at me as if to say "Where's the bread?" Zamir's rewards are bread or scratches. 

    I thought that maybe this was a one time occurance so I waited two weeks and then went back. I walked up to the fence and called out "Zamiiir" and he immediately swung his head around and stuck his nose over the fence to get to me. He let me scratch under his chin (his favorite spot) and stayed there for at least twenty minutes again. It made my week! I really think it had a lot to do with the fact that it is less crowded. When crowds are around Zamir is unwilling to come towards the fence because he knows that several people will try to touch him. When there are less crowds, he is willing to come over and let me scratch him for a long time because he knows me. It's not the Zoo uniform that he recognizes, it is me. I can't tell you how important those relationships are between an animal and trainer!

    We'll leave off with one of my favorite pictures of Zamir and I from several years ago when I was still his trainer. 

    Zamir giving me a "kiss"

Hi! I'm Brittany and I started this blog to share my love of animals and to try and help save them in the wild. 

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