Pebbles, Bella, and Fiona are the newest members of the canine crew here at TOM BIHN. Their profiles are also on our About Us page.
Pebbles (main photo) is a 9-month-old Chihuahua. He has come to work with me every day since he was a puppy. Pebbles likes squeaky toys and stuffed toys, but his favorite thing is people. He get lots of attention at the factory. I’ve even trained him to sit and stay on my chair when I’m standing up and working! — Araceli
Bella is an American Black Lab just shy of 6 months. Her puppy energy is limitless and we try to contain it with fetch in the backyard, long walks in the city and parks and fetch with a stick on some of the Puget Sound’s beach areas. She’s learning how to commute with me to work via the ferry and bus and to behave at the factory. Of course, all of this is quite challenging given her energy and the world being so new to her still. If the TV is on and there is any dog activity on it, she is glued to it. She will be experiencing an ocean beach (Copalis Beach, WA) on Super Bowl Weekend which we hope just might burn some of that puppy energy off. — Mark
Fiona is fifteen weeks old. She’s a Who-Knows-What mixed breed dog and is already 30lbs. (Feel free to post breed guesses in the comments!) Fiona absolutely loves clicker training: she’s working on the commands sit, shake, stay, and “go to bed”. She’s curious about the world around her and very observant, but so far has a laid back, relaxed, and fairly calm (for a puppy) personality. On a recent weekend trip, Fiona witnessed skiers and snowshoers doing their thing for the first time and decided that, despite their odd feet and gait, they would immediately be her best friends: she ran up to them, tail wagging! One of her favorite things is when the human she’s playing with lays down completely on the ground: she’ll cover their face in kisses. Inevitably, her nickname will be Fifi. — Darcy
I adopted Lily when she was two and a half years old. I chose Lily after seeing her profile on PetFinder—before I had volunteered at my local Humane Society and met many dogs, before I had developed preferences for breeds or sizes or particular canine personalities. Without any ideas of who I wanted to be my best new friend, I took one look at Lily’s photo and knew she was the dog for me.
I had the privilege of spending life with Lily for the next 11 years. We hiked thousands of miles and went on backpacking trips. Together, we explored eight states and had many adventures: we drove through Yellowstone, spent the day at the beach at Big Sur, and explored Wyoming’s Wind River mountains.
Being outdoors with her human and canine friends was one of Lily’s greatest joys. When hiking, Lily made sure our group stuck together, even if our group had people (canine or human) she didn’t know or whom we’d never hiked with before. If one member of our group fell behind, Lily would stay with them until they caught up to everyone else. And she loved digging in—and even being buried in—sand on the beach. She’d also hunt around the beach for what I termed “sea jerky”—dried, chunky bits of seaweed. We spent many a sunset on the beach together, Lily gnawing away on her sea jerky. And despite likely being part Greyhound and having a fairly thin coat, Lily delighted in the snow. One of the first things she’d do upon encountering snow would be to flip over on her back and wiggle around in it with a big smile on her face.
When Lily was 4, I adopted Ichiro. They immediately hit it off and spent less than two weeks apart in all of the following decade. Ichiro’s confidence, assured, and at-ease-with-the-world mojo helped to ground Lily, and with Ichiro by her side, she opened up to the world and new experiences. In return, Lily helped police Ichiro’s exuberence; she afforded him his innate Kingliness, but made sure he knew she was the real boss in the house.
Sometimes it was hard going. Lily, like most people and dogs I know, had a few idiosyncracies. I can guess at what her story was before I adopted her, but that’d just be a guess. What I do know is the rest of Lily’s story, the story Lily and I shared together, and how she taught me the art of patience and to appreciate a good challenge. She was patient with me as I sought to understand her quirks and never shied away from the challenge of communicating with a human who, at times, probably didn’t “get it” very quickly.
Of course, we had lots of help along our way together. Tom’s dog Riley stepped in when Lily needed an older dog to look up to and spend time with, and we enjoyed countless hikes with friends who truly understood dogs and let Lily be who she was with us.
In late 2015, Lily developed a limp after a hike in the snow. X-rays revealed a torn ACL (known as the cruciate in dogs) in her back right leg— and osteosarcoma (bone cancer). After much soul searching, we chose to have the leg amputated, and Lily began chemotherapy treatment. She did not experience any side effects related to her chemotherapy; as our veterinarian explained, the approach to chemotherapy is different for dogs than it is for people. Chemotherapy for dogs, when it works, is palliative and can increase their quality of life; it doesn’t “cure.” There were some tough days in the first two weeks of her recovery post-surgery, but by week four, she was back on her normal daily walks, getting around amazingly well on three legs.
Lily had always needed to be covered with a blanket in the dark or while she slept. Everyone who knew her knew this, and we all loved it because it was one of those unique Lily quirks. Being under a blanket, couch, or bed seemed to comfort her. When my hand moved towards the switch to turn the light off at night, Lily would immediately dive under whatever she could. After her amputation surgery, she didn’t need to sleep under a blanket anymore. She was now at ease in the dark. I would sometimes watch her as I fell asleep, her profile illuminated by some small remainder of light, as she looked into the darkness of the room in peace.
2016 was all about being outdoors together every chance we got: in the garden, in the neighborhood walking, on backpacking trips, on day hikes. One of my major hopes was that Lily would make it to the summer months of 2016 so that she could lie in the warm sun, one of her favorite things to do. She laid in the sun many times that summer… in the yard, on mountaintops, by the river.
Lily died at sunset on November 14th after a last afternoon in the sun, surrounded by people and dogs who loved her. I laid with her in her bed and, as I did every night for the past twelve months, told her: “Lily, I love you. I am very proud of you. I am glad you are here.”
A couple of days later, I emailed the Motley Zoo rescue from which I had adopted Lily to inform them of her death. In one of the emails we exchanged, I told the folks at Motley Zoo that although I wouldn’t be ready any time soon, I wanted them to let me know if they ever met another dog that they thought I should meet. Motley Zoo responded by giving us an opportunity to foster a stray mom dog and her nine puppies; the foster home they had lined up just backed out. The ten dogs would be flown up to Seattle from California the next day. If a foster home couldn’t be found, the mom and pups might not be put on the flight.
Wow. Could Nik and I do this? Should we do this? We had just lost Lily. The start of the very busy holiday season and our next major design debut were just a couple of weeks away. I’d only ever adopted adult dogs and had no puppy experience. And how would Ichiro handle new dogs in our house? We could tell he missed Lily very much—he was depressed and had lost his appetite. There were many reasons why this wouldn’t be a practical (or even wise) experience to take on. But then I thought about Lily: she’d been there so many times for me, for her fellow canines, for her human family. She was always ready to take on a challenge. She never took the easy road and made our lives all the better for it.
We’ve spent the last two months or so with mom and pups and we’re glad for it. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun, just how we like life to be. Ichiro acts like the puppies are weird little aliens that are best avoided, but he seems to enjoy the new canine activity in the house overall and his appetite has returned. Early on, Nik and I decided we wouldn’t adopt the mom or any of the pups—we just weren’t ready for a new dog. Then one pup in particular began to stand out. I tried to go back to that frame of mind when I found Lily on Petfinder: I forgot my preferences, threw out the pros and cons, and when my mind was still, I realized that this pup—Fiona—would join our family through the illusion of my choice. (Nik, honoring that I’m a dog person and he’s a cat person, let me pick the puppy as long as we foster kittens next.)
Next week, we’ll introduce you to puppy Fiona. At the time of this post, she’s almost three months old. Here she is at three weeks old, on the very first night we had her:
Many thanks goes to everyone at Blue Pearl Speciality and Emergency Veterinary Medicine: Dr. Megan Breit, Dr. Jennifer Weh, Dr. Liz Anne Bowman, and veterinary technicians Brooke and Sarah. Special shout-out to Shannan, the veterinary tech who noticed that Lily was afraid of the noise the x-ray machine made and thought to put cotton balls in Lily’s ears. Thanks to Dr. Amanda Durrill of Pacific Veterinary Housecalls who provided hospice services for Lily. This amazing team of compassionate, talented people gave us another beautiful year with Lily. And thank you to author Aaron Freeman, who in this piece gave words to something I feel and know so keenly.
Thanks goes to Motley Zoo Rescue, the folks who brought Lily into my life over a decade ago, and who brought Fiona to us just weeks ago.
And thank you, whoever you are, for reading this. Thank you for knowing Lily too. We will always love her, we will always be proud of her, we will always be glad she is here.
He’s less than sixteen inches tall, but my corgi Titus manages to get around—in fact, he’s my favorite road trip buddy. I did some quick math, and figured that over the last twelve months, we’ve logged over 9,000 miles together, all by car.
We’re on the road right now, driving from our home in the Midwest through the Southwest, then up through California to visit family in the Pacific Northwest before heading back again.
Titus has actually done a Midwest-West Coast road trip before, so this time we were determined to experience new things. Along the way, he has sampled carne adobado in Albuquerque (most toothsome!), gazed at the natural wonders in the Petrified Forest (deep canyon!), and gone swimming in the Pacific Ocean (did not drown!).
So far, though, the highlight of this trip was visiting Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach, California, for the Summer 2015 SoCal Corgi Beach Day. Titus was just one of over 800 corgis in attendance. Feel free to let that sink in for a second. Eight. Hundred. Corgis.
Corgi Beach Day is a quarterly event that has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2012. In three short years, the gathering has grown from a dozen corgis to several hundred. A true grass-roots phenomenon, Corgi Beach Day has an active Facebook group and has been covered numerous times in both local and national news.
While the event is free, there is excellent swag to buy. Proceeds benefit Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, a North Hollywood nonprofit rescue and foster program for corgis and corgi mixes. This summer, attendees could also participate in a hashtag campaign to help donate up to 500 pounds of dog food to the rescue (you can read more about it here).
Since it was for a good cause, we timed our arrival in California to coincide with the festivities. We arrived bright and early at Rosie’s on the morning of Saturday, July 25. After we found a good patch of sand, had a dip in the ocean, and picked up our Beach Day T-shirts, we watched the corgis arrive in droves.
There was mingling. There was dancing. There was frolicking. It was like being at Woodstock, with less music and psychedelics and way more corgis.
I don’t think it had ever occurred to us to plan an entire road trip around a canine social event, but when we considered it, why not? A pilgrimage to Corgi Beach Day was as good of a reason as any, and every day has been a reminder of how much I enjoy traveling with Titus.
Of course, I’m fortunate that he’s a champion road tripper: he rides happily in his crate (aka the Corgi Castle); he can go several hours without a pit stop since he has a bladder of steel; he loves the novelty of hotels, especially the automatic doors that open as he approaches.
Sure, there are places we can’t go because of dog restrictions, and we have to make sure he gets enough rest and exercise. But when you think about it, it’s no different than being attentive to the needs and limitations of any travel companion. And he never complains about the music or podcasts I choose, so there’s definitely give and take.
By the time you read this, we will have traveled another 3,100 miles, and I know that we’ll start looking forward to the next long drive the minute we get home. The ability to travel is an amazing thing, made that much better when it’s shared with a best buddy. As long as he’s around, we’ll always be able to find a road.
Since we travel so much, I’ve put together a list of things I like to have on hand to ensure total corgi comfort. If you’re traveling with your dog, this list may provide a starting point for your own packing list, although there are certainly going to be some differences depending on where you’re going, the age of your dog, and the time of year. If I’ve overlooked one of your must-haves, be sure to share it with us in the comments.
Titus’s Road Trip Packing List
- Containment: We keep everything in a Small Shop Bag.
- Food: If you’re feeding kibble, you can obviously pack it into anything handy, like a zip-top bag or a canister. For short trips or times we need to feed on the run, I often bring along pre-portioned bags so I don’t need to guesstimate. We’ve found a travel food container that has built-in bowls for food and water; you could also use lightweight travel bowls or collapsible bowls if space is a priority.
- Water: Especially during the summer, it’s important to have drinking water. I bring along at least one gallon of tap water from home since I know Titus’s system is accustomed to it.
- Treats and snacks: We keep a baggie of dog treats in the car and also in our pack if we’re out and about. Sometimes I like to have a chewy treat on hand if he’s bored—on this trip, my sister presented us with a bag of dried chicken feet, which was most thoughtful.
- Bedding: Although he’s happy sleeping all night on top of my leg (which is as comfortable as it sounds), I like for Titus to have his own space, too. I bring along his Camp Mat, but any blanket or towel would work as long as he knows it’s his.
- Non-edible diversions: My dog won’t fetch balls or chase frisbees, but those are obvious bring-alongs for those dogs who do. He tends to destroy any soft toy he can get his teeth on, so I bring a couple of his own toys to amuse him (this time, he has his indestructible hedgehog and squeaky banana).
- Poo bags: We keep these, and a bottle of hand sanitizer, in our Citizen Canine. One can never have too many poo bags.
- Grooming needs: Corgis are fairly wash and wear, but they do shed a lot. On trips longer than two or three days, we bring a Furminator. A packet of special dog shampoo wipes is great for cleaning paws, faces, and other dirty bits, and of course, we bring along his toothbrush and dog toothpaste and a towel just for him. I’m a bit squeamish about cutting his nails, but if I wasn’t, I would most definitely bring a Dremel to keep them tidy.
- First aid: There are canine-specific first aid kits on the market, and many are quite good. To be honest, though, for most minor first aid needs I just count on my personal ultralight kit. It has gauze and antiseptic and tweezers, as well as moleskin for sore paws. The included bandages will work in a pinch as a muzzle. I also pack a few dog items not included in the kit: a tick key, flea/tick and heartworm medication, and some Tramadol, which is a painkiller prescribed by our vet (for most one-time uses, low-dose aspirin can be used, but check with your vet to be sure).
- Speaking of vets: I try to keep an updated copy of Titus’s medical records and proofs of vaccination on my phone. This information is very handy to have for those just-in-case situations. If your dog has a microchip, knowing the number is also good in case he decides to hit the road without you.
- Other stuff: My car’s backseat windows aren’t tinted very darkly, so I use a retractable window shade. It almost goes without saying that a flashlight and multitool are travel essentials in general, but they’re also useful for late-night dog walks, filing down a snagged nail, or other little dog-related tasks.
If you live in California—or are up for a drive—the next SoCal Corgi Beach Day is set for October 24, 2015. Find out more on Facebook.
Meet version two of the Citizen Canine: a treat bag designed to come along when you take your best friend for a walk, hike or training class.
We introduced the Citizen Canine in its first incarnation in November of 2011. We’ve been kicking around improved prototypes for a couple of years now: while we all loved the first version, we also wanted more room to carry more treats, a bigger phone, and, most importantly, we wanted a place to put a tennis ball. About six months ago we finally felt like we had nailed it. Other design updates include a simplified way of both loading and dispensing poop bags and a better cord/cord lock system. For the full details (and lots of photos) check out the Citizen Canine page.
The original Citizen Canine was our first step into the world of designing and making dog gear (officially, at least: we’d been making our own toys and leashes after hours for some time). It was good enough fun that we were inspired to make more dog gear: beds, leashes, and toys. With that, Skookum Dog — dog gear designed and made by the creative team here at TOM BIHN (that’s Tom, Nik, and Darcy) — was launched in 2013. For a while, Skookum Dog was on its own; just yesterday, we brought it back to the TOM BIHN family and now all Skookum Dog gear is available on tombihn.com. The original Citizen Canine featured the TOM BIHN logo; the new Citizen Canine features the Skookum Dog logo (note the resemblance to Tom and Ichiro).
Skookum is a Chinook word that translates to: “good,” “strong,” “brave.” If you’re a Pacific Northwesterner, you know this word: creeks, rivers, and trails here are often contain “Skookum” in the name. And that’s where you’ll find us in the mornings, the evenings, the weekends—whenever we can find the time: on the trails, along the rivers, in the mountains and meadows, hanging out with our friends, human and canine alike.
Skookum’s Creed is this: Loyalty first. Have Fun now, not later. Be Good. Be Strong.
It’s what our dogs have taught us. You are loyal to your friends. There’s no reason to put off doing something fun. Being good means being who you are and being good to those around you. And being strong means remembering all of this no matter what.
Some of you guys know that back in early 2014 my best friend Riley passed away. You even grouped together to write tributes to Riley, post your condolences, and share your stories of best friends lost; for that, I say a million thanks.
As always, I found comfort in the outdoors. But without Riley, those long trail miles seemed mighty lonely. A month before Riley died, my mother passed away. My mom was always the first person I’d call with a dog story or a dog thought or a dog remembrance. Loosing Riley made my mom’s absence even more keenly felt. In early 2015, my dad passed away as well. It’s been a long, cold, winter for the last two years: life was still happening within me and all around me, but in a subdued, quiet way, somewhat lonely even with my friends and other dogs around. I guess that’s grief. We all know it, or will at some point.
Then the ice began to melt: I started looking at adoptable dogs on Petfinder.com and visited a shelter or two in early 2015. But I guess I wasn’t quite ready yet. Then came Kasper.
Like Riley, he’s part Irish Wolfhound. Unlike Riley, he’s a total goofball who loves being the center of attention. If you go hiking with us, I’ll warn you that Kasper might grab a stick and, totally unaware of what he’s doing, run past and whack you in the back of the leg. If you’re hanging out at the house, you can expect that Kasper might flop himself on you — his idea of cuddling — with no regard for your comfort (or, judging by some of the lounging positions, his own.) His lack of a sense of personal space can be trying for some folks (and other dogs), but it can also be quite endearing. He seems to be saying “We’re all a family! And I’m King of this family!”
This winter, Kasper went cross-country skiing or fat biking with me everyday. This spring, he’s figured out how to ford streams, though if it’s not a wide stream, he’ll spring across, like a giant, blonde, lithe, grasshopper. As he’s still a pup of two-years-old, we’re working on leash training and other skills. Leash training for him, and other skills, like eternal patience, for me.
One of the reasons we created the Skookum Dog company was to celebrate the relationship between humans and canines; I promised myself someday I’d write an update for you guys about my dogs and my life, and, finally feeling ready, here it is. We’d like to hear your updates, stories, remembrances, good news, and sad news too: post it here, in the Forums, or if you don’t want it to be that public, email it to us.
One day, a few years back, we (the creative team at TOM BIHN) were hanging out with our dogs, as we do most of the time. It was at the beach, or on some mountain trail, as the story is now told. At some point we all looked at each other and said: “We are designers. We have our own factory. We have dogs. We should design and make our own dog gear. Duh.” And so it was: Skookum Dog was born.
Skookum is a Chinook word that translates to: “good,” “strong,” “brave.” If you’re a Pacific Northwesterner, you know this word: creeks, rivers, and trails here are often named Skookum. And that’s where you’ll find us in the mornings, the evenings, the weekends—whenever we can find the time: on the trails, along the rivers, in the mountains and meadows, hanging out with our friends, human and canine alike.
Skookum’s Creed is this: Loyalty first. Have Fun now, not later. Be Good. Be Strong.
It’s what our dogs have taught us. You are loyal to your friends. There’s no reason to put off doing something fun. Being good means being who you are and being good to those around you. Being strong means remembering all of this no matter what.
The Skookum Dog company was on its own for its first year — now we’re bringing it back into the TOM BIHN family. Many of you wrote to us over the last year asking us to do this so that you could get TB and SD gear from the same website, and we realized that’s a good point. So from today on, you’ll find all Skookum Dog gear (including our new treat bag, the Citizen Canine, which debuts tomorrow) available at TOM BIHN: here’s the link.
It might be important to note the similarities and the differences between Skookum Dog and TOM BIHN stuff. In common, Skookum Dog and TOM BIHN have the same designers (Tom, Nik, Darcy), the best materials, and Made in USA manufacturing.
There’s differences in aesthetics between TOM BIHN and Skookum Dog, though we think they compliment each other nicely. Notably, Skookum Dog gear is intended to age and to age well: there’s just no way SD gear is going to look new for very long. Dogs are tough on stuff: we’re good with that, and if you’re dog people, you probably are too. Skookum Dog gear is built to have a nicely broken-in look for years to come.
And while we don’t think we need to tell you not to chew on your TOM BIHN bags, we do feel compelled to remind you not to chew on your Skookum Dog gear. Note that if you (or any of your friends) do chew on this stuff, repair (when possible) isn’t covered by our Lifetime Guarantee. Unlike TOM BIHN bags, it’s okay to machine wash some Skookum Dog gear; here’s a video we made about how to clean and care for SD stuff.
As long as you or your dog don’t chew on it, your Skookum Dog gear is, as we intended, good and strong. It’ll handsomely show off its battle scars and road dust: nice reminders of the adventures it’s seen. Many of the new photos we’ve taken of Skookum Dog gear show the actual Skookum Dog stuff we’ve been using: Ichiro’s Sheepskin Bed has been in use coming up on two years now, and Lily’s Camp Mat has been on road trips all over Idaho, Oregon and Washington and machine washed 10+ times.
Stay tuned over the coming months and years for new designs for you and your canine BFF — there’s some good and strong new stuff in the works.
All your dog needs to have fun is you.
Sometimes you need some basic stuff: a collar with an ID tag, a leash to keep you two together on the street or in the park. And of course, carrying poop bags is part of being a good citizen.
A treat/bait bag can help you be ready to reward your dog for a well-done sit, stay, or shake, or just to remind him to come back and check in.
It’s fun to surprise a dog with a new toy, and toys can also be useful. Tennis balls are appreciated by dogs that fetch—or even dogs like Ichiro, who won’t fetch but likes to pick up a tennis ball, drop it, pick it up, drop it…. Stuffed toys, besides being fun, can channel your dog’s excess excitement into play.
And even if he sleeps on the couch or the foot of your bed, your dog might appreciate a comfy bed of his own.
All that said, dogs don’t care about stuff, and dogs don’t need stuff.
Dogs know that it’s you—and not the leash—who takes them on walks, and you’re the one who lets them off the leash so they can really have fun. And a lot of dogs don’t really care what the toy is—they just care that it came from you and that you’re going to play with them.
It’s we humans who need this stuff for our dogs because they live with us in our homes and in our cities and towns.
But that’s okay. Our goal with Skookum Dog gear is to make the best designed, highest quality, most thoughtful versions of these basics we might need to hang out with our dogs.
If we’re going to have stuff, let’s make it stuff that’s well-designed and thoughtfully made. Let’s make it stuff we can appreciate. And then let’s go out somewhere as wild as we can find and let our dogs — and ourselves — run off-leash.
The Bat in these photos has been chewed on by Ichiro, Lily, Riley, and now Kasper for over a year now. It’s been snowed on, left out in the rain, dried in the sun, and otherwise not very well cared for. Other than a chomp to the ear, it’s looking pretty good.
When we decided to offer stuffed toys as part of Skookum Dog, we put our initial prototypes through the same test; gave them to our dogs who enjoy chewing on stuffed toys but obviously don’t immediately destroy them. This gave us confidence that the toys we designed were tough enough. After much searching, we found a factory right here in the USA to make our toys as we’re not stuffed toy making experts ourselves. Plus, we were pretty proud to give another USA factory some work.
The Bat debuted when we debuted Skookum Dog and it was met with mixed reviews: some people and their dogs loved the Bat, their experiences much like ours. Other people told us their dogs immediately destroyed the bats, and they felt that wasn’t very cool considering they’d just spent a good amount on a Made in USA dog toy. We tell you all this so you can be forewarned: the Bat is not particularly tougher or more chew-proof than most other plush toys, be they made for human children or be they made for dogs. If your dog doesn’t destroy stuffed toys, we think all will be swell. If they do? We’d recommend going with a tougher toy instead such as Katie’s Bumpers.
Will we make debut more Skookum Dog stuffed toys? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ve already got several pretty cool designs in the wings, including a sloth and armadillo, and it’d be fun to introduce those. Maybe you can help us decide: if you order a Bat for your dog, let us know how you guys like it.
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