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Asha smiling at Deep Creek Lake in Oakland, Maryland.
Asha smiling at Deep Creek Lake in Oakland, Maryland.

I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t own a dog. That’s not an overstatement, it’s the truth.  I mentally and physically would be in a very different place if not for my dog, Asha.  She’s not officially a therapy dog but she is the closest thing I have to a child and has been the core of my heart for 2 and a half years.  If it weren’t for Asha, I’d probably have moved to a foreign country or possibly be in the depths of depression.  Either way, she’s changed my life.  

I adopted Asha at a time when my body and brain were breaking down.  Shortly after adopting her I ended up in the hospital for a week.  She ate my banister, a shoe, and my rug while waiting at home for me when my dog sitter dropped her off an hour before I got home.  It didn’t take long for Asha and I to become soul mates and inseparable.   

Pets are unconditional love.  They love you, eagerly wait for you to come home, and curl up at your side when you don’t feel well.  In return, as the owner, your job is to make sure they are loved, protected, fed, and get lots of pets. 

Asha enjoys Sunday dog-friendly days at 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville, MD.
Asha enjoys Sunday dog-friendly days at 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville, MD.

Before I adopted Asha, I always wondered why people would have dogs causing them to have to miss happy hour to go home and walk the dog.  I didn’t realize that the bond you build with your dog means you think about them when you’re not home and get just as excited to see them as they get to see you.  I’ve come to understand that owning a dog makes you change your priorities from happy hour to obsessing about your dog’s bowel movements and, therefore, rushing home. 

Pets are like your small furry children.

I never realized how much my life would change when I adopted a dog.  I assumed, like any pet, I’d have to allocate time and money to take care of it. I also assumed that I’d just pick one out and it would instantly like me and follow me around everywhere.  I had heard from friends I should research the type of dog I wanted and the lifestyle I live and figure out what fits best.  Of course, that’s great advice, but nothing prepared me for my Asha girl. 

The title of this post, “Bae”, reminds me that my pup is not only my pet but also my dog-child, my love, and my best friend.  She’s a therapy pup; a security guard; and a companion for hiking, running, and cuddling.  This blog is dedicated to my dog, Asha, in honor of how she makes me happy and supports my wellness.

Asha’s Origin Story

When I was pondering adopting a dog, I knew that getting a dog from a breeder wasn’t really an option, mostly due to my being cheap.  I decided to look at local rescue organization’s websites in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  A friend suggested K-9 Lifesavers, so I found a super cute pit-bull mix on their website and booked a meeting at their next adoption event.  Unfortunately, that dog was not interested in me at all and I had to keep looking. (Also note- he showed his lack of interest by not following me around!)

When I arrived, I saw my friend petting a tan colored dog and saw that the dog was now tied to a table and quietly sitting on the floor.  I asked if I could take her for a walk and the volunteer untied her from the table so I could walk her back and forth outside Pet Co. 

She had recently given birth to puppies and still extra skin in the stomach area but was otherwise healthy and well-behaved.  When kids asked to pet her, she gave them kisses.  When she encountered other dogs, she gave them kisses.  I asked if she liked to run and the foster mom said she was a very good runner girl who loved to walk and only liked to poop on her walks.  (Side note- I didn’t understand at the time how this bit of information would radically change my daily routine.)

Wendie & Asha's first picture together on adoption day 2016.
Wendie & Asha’s first picture together on adoption day 2016.

Asha’s puppies

The volunteer foster dog mom said she had been found under a porch in Georgia with 5 puppies but only 3 survived the rescue.

I asked more about her and they couldn’t tell me how old she was or what kind of dog she was.  Labrador retriever mix of some sort and probably 6 months – 1.5 years.  They said she was a very sweet dog and they knew she would be adopted right away because she is such a sweet girl.  (In fact, other people were trying to adopt her as I was paying for her!) 

I couldn’t take her home that day so I made arrangements for her to stay with the foster dog mom until I could spend most of the day transitioning her home.  The first weekend I had her I took her camping with my sister and by the end of the weekend she knew her new name and slept snuggled up next to me.  When I left the tent, she used her nose to open the zippers and come after me- a trick she’s remembered on our subsequent camping trips.

Since that weekend she’s been by my side, when I’m sad or crying she’s there to give me kisses and let me bury my face in her soft fur.  She goes with me as many places as possible often attracting strangers, kids, and other dogs.  People always say “she’s so sweet”, “she’s so pretty”, “her fur is so soft!”.  Then they ask “what kind of dog is she?”

I chose Asha because it means Life in Swahili and hope in Hindi and that seemed like the perfect name for a rescue pup.

How to make an Asha

It’s obvious from looking at her that Asha is a Labrador retriever mix.  That’s been my go-to answer for the question of “what kind of dog is she?”  I sometimes tell people, “She’s an Asha, I rescued her, so idea her age or breed.”

I found a Black Friday sale on the dog DNA software through Wisdom Panel.  The Wisdom Panel 4.0 tests for breed only for $89.99 and Wisdom Panel Health includes breed and health information for $149.99. I did the basic panel for a discounted price of $69.99, since I felt like this was a holiday splurge for Asha’s Christmas present.  I probably should have done the health panel as well.

Here are her results:

I was surprised about the Swiss White Guard, Golden Retriever, and the Boxer.  I figured that she did have Labrador and another type of hunting dog or hound in her.  The breed groups ‘guard’ and ‘hound’ make sense since she is more of a guard dog than I planned for and she sniffs everything on her walks and tries to hunt all the critters.  Both those categories of dog seem accurate to describe Asha.  Although I’m not sure how accurate the dog DNA test are, I am glad to have an answer to the question “what is Asha?” and I feel like the results are pretty reliable.

Asha’s linage back to the grandparent and great grandparent pups.

Does this explain much of Asha’s behaviors, her back story, or how she ended up being perfect? No! Of Course not!

But I can definitely make inferences… Let’s take a typical Asha walk for example. 

She tends to pull on the leash or walk at the end of her leash no matter how much I’ve tried to leash train her.  She’ll see a deer, fox, cat, or her enemy squirrels and she’ll lose her shit and start jumping up above your head.  She’ll usually try the “give me my leash” trick and we’ll have to have words.  Occasionally she gets stubborn and jumps up on me which is when we go to all out ‘operation carry puppy home’ and I scoop her up in my arms and walk with her about 10 feet until she gets to heavy, and I put her down again.  She’ll then walk like the best dog ever. 

From her DNA test I can infer, she pulls very hard because she is part pit bull and can jump as high as my head cuz she’s also part boxer.  She’s determined to chase, hunt, and probably bring back anything that looks like a good time because she’s also a hunting dog and a guard dog as well.  The stubborn part I assume she learned from me.

Interestingly, the DNA test did predict Asha’s color eyes and coat which are one of her features most people love.  According to the DNA test Asha can’t produce black pigment, so she’s a true blonde. When we were hiking in western Maryland two years ago, a small boy saw Asha on the trail and said he didn’t want to pet her because she was too blonde.  The mom explained he has a chocolate lab at home but she thought Asha was beautiful. 

One thing I know for sure has changed in Asha over time is her personality. She is less puppy, with less zoomies and jumping, and more chill in bed until it’s time for a walk. She’s come a long way since the time when I adopted her when she didn’t know what treats were and would lay in a bed of cookies or carrots and fall asleep.  I have been able to train her to do all the basic commands in a controlled environment, but she still needs to improve outside on leash.

Now Asha knows if she does a good girl trick, she’ll get some kind of reward.  If we are out in public at a dog-friendly place she knows she’ll get treats for sitting or lying down nearby.  Asha is always eager to make everyone happy, she gets excited when you get excited, and will get ashamed if she knows she got caught doing something bad.  (“Asha, did you do this?” Usually works well for dog shaming). 

We’ve even developed a system for communicating.  One “WooF” means “mom, I need…” Sometimes she needs to go to the bathroom, now.  Other times she is telling me that the sleep timer on the TV ran out and she’s still watching something so “WooF” at 11:30pm usually means come use your thumbs to turn my cartoons back on.

Asha at Calvert Cliffs State Park
Asha at Calvert Cliffs State Park

Asha definitely is a unique dog and I had no idea what I was getting into when I paid the bargain price of $350 for her.

Asha Approved Pet Products & Services

When I first adopted Asha, I was clueless what to buy for her, what kind of toys she would like and what kind of treats she would eat.  Fortunately for me, she had no idea either.  Since everything was new to her, I’ve had to experiment with what works best for both of us.  Over time I’ve become a expert dog mom, sometimes shaming my dog-parent friends with home baked dog treats, cakes, and dog parties. 

Over time I’ll share more stories about Asha and some of our favorite dog things.  Here’s a few winter dog must-haves that we can’t live without.

Asha sporting her snug pups ruffle butt jacket.
Asha sporting her snug pups ruffle butt jacket.

Asha loves her comfy fleece sweater dress with a ruffle butt.  I first found this company at the Pet Expo two years ago and bought the first fleece sweater.  It’s held up pretty well but I got tired of seeing her in the same one every day so we bought one with more white in it so she’s more visible during our early morning walks.  I love that they keep her warm but not too warm and the Velcro strap at the bottom makes it easy to slip over her head and secure with no fuss.  We have one of the fleece triangle bandanas with sugar skull that gets a lot of complements as well.  Check their new couture line on the website, I recently saw them at a show and they were gorgeous!

A fleece jacket with skirt costs around $49, discounts may be available if you’re a repeat customer.

Asha on her morning walk with sugar skull Snug Pups scarf.
Asha on her morning walk with sugar skull Snug Pups scarf.

The Ultimate Leash

I also found the Ultimate Leash at the Pet Expo listed below and have been excited to have a leash that is comfortable enough to use every day, strong enough for Asha’s on leash shenanigans, and is also pretty.  The martingale collar is very high quality, and the cotton leash is very comfortable to grip once you’ve broken it in.  It is worth the money to buy both products together.  I have pretty much replaced my harness with this because Asha walks calmer, not perfect, but better. 

The Ultimate Leash is an 11 uses in 1 leash, I usually use it as a short, medium, or long leash by using the adjustable hoops and clips that are really durable. 

Burgundy cotton leash $24 The Martingale Collar in Burgundy $28

Holiday dog treat give aways-

Every winter I choose a dog treat to make for Asha to share with her neighborhood puppy friends.  Usually she ends up eating most of them herself but I try at least to make both big and small treats so she doesn’t eat a bunch of 3” dog bones or puppy cakes.

Dog birthday cupcakes frosted with peanut butter and yogurt topped with dog treats.
Dog birthday cupcakes frosted with peanut butter and yogurt topped with dog treats.

This year I had some pumpkin leftover from Thanksgiving pies in the freezer so I used this recipe to make Pumpkin Peanut butter Dog Cakes and this recipe for Pumpkin Peanut butter dog bones.  I followed some of the tricks in the comments and they were a decent consistency to roll out for a ½” thick dog treat. 

Super Pet Expo 

Chantilly, VA
March 15-17, 2019

Dulles Expo Center

This event is sort of a ritual for Asha and I now.  This will be our third one and it marks the end of winter for us.  I’ve found some very high quality products from vendors around the area that I really enjoy supporting.  Asha likes going to the Expo to get pets, treats, and new puppy things.  The expo has a lot of dogs, although she’s great with dogs I still try to watch her closely to make sure she doesn’t get overwhelmed.  If your dog is at all reactive to people or other dogs, the Expo is not for your dog, but you certainly might enjoy it.

Your Dog’s Friend- Dog Training
Compare Asha’s progress from Basic Manners 1 in this video to Basic Manners 2 in the next video

Last but definitely not least, Asha’s puppy school! She had a blast with her trainers at Your Dog’s Friend. We did Basic manners, 1, 2, and a Saturday workshop focused on coming when called.  She of course acts very cute, distracted, and still obedient in class so the trainers love her but she sometimes gets too excited about their attention and forgets her task at paw.

Either way, I highly recommend their classes (without your dog) and training sessions (with your dog).  For the value, they really have helped Asha learn how to be a better pup and for me to learn how to be a better owner. 

How does owing a dog contribute to my wellness?

I think you can offer many correlations between owning a dog and your physical and mental wellness. I know Asha has helped my mental health on a daily basis, reduced my blood pressure via kisses and cuddles, and helped me sooth myself after several painful medical procedures. I definitely believe she has healing powers and a gift of making the humans around her happy, and willing to give her pets and treats. We walk an average of 1.5 -3 miles a day most days of the year, no matter the weather or how sore I am from other activities.

If you have a pet or are thinking of getting a pet, hope you can find the same benefits of having a companion and cuddle fitness buddy that I have grown to appreciate more than happy hour.

Cheers!

Wendie & Asha


Bae Workout

Check out the workout that inspired this post! The Bae indoor cycle workout and playlist are available now!