Everything you need to know to live your best (and most beautiful) life with dogs! Plus the story of how Maddie and Cisco came into mine!

It’s A Dog’s Life

Coastal Maine home with dogs wearing patriotic bows

You can be honest with me.

It won’t hurt my feelings. Well, not too much.

Are you here for home decor and Maine life?

Or are you really here for Maddie and Cisco content?

If you are in the latter group, you are in luck today!

And also if you have a dog or dogs of your own.

Because today I am sharing everything you need to know to live your best (and most beautiful) life with dogs.

And as a bonus, I am sharing the story of how Maddie and Cisco came into mine.

Our Story

Empty Nest

Me with our beloved family dog Shamu.

Maddie and Cisco became a part of our family in October 2013.

That summer we had lost our beloved family dog, Shamu. And our youngest was headed to college.

With my husband working out of town, I was looking at a very very empty nest.

There are those, after the loss of a cherished pet, who cannot open themselves up again to the vulnerability of loss that comes with getting another pet.

I am in the opposite camp — the best way for me to start to heal my heartbreak is to get a new one. To open my heart up again to new love.

Meant To Be

So, almost immediately after we had Shamu put down, I started thinking about a new dog.

I needed two puppies to fill the gaping whole in my heart

This time, though, the hole in my heart was so large, that my family convinced me I needed two puppies instead of one to fill it.

I began searching the internet for Springer Spaniel puppies with no success. In the 14 years since we had last gotten a new dog, things had changed. Now, it seemed, you needed to reserve a puppy long before they were even born. My heart began to feel even heavier.

One morning I decided to give one more look at the local classified ads. And there it was — an ad for two litters of Springer Spaniel puppies coming soon! When we called the breeder, we learned that one of the mama dogs was already in labor. The puppies would be born the next day, August 19th.

My birthday!

It was meant to be.

Maddie and Cisco

There were 7 puppies in the litter born on the 19th, 4 males and 3 females.

The breeder sent me photos of each group. The moment I laid eyes on Cisco, I knew he was the one for me.

Maddie, though, was playing coy in the photo, and I couldn’t see her face. (Ironic, considering how she now poses for the camera!)

We visited the puppies later that week. By that time the second litter had been born. So many adorable puppies!

Just as he does now, Cisco immediately clung to me like velcro. And I loved the predominately dark markings on Maddie.

My heart was set.

Lobster Paw

Even after I learned that Maddie had a bone malformation in her front left paw that I had not noticed. The condition is called ectrodactyly, also know as “lobster paw” because of the split claw appearance of the paw.

Maddie’s deformed paw did not seem to affect her at all, but our primary vet was concerned about how it would impact her mobility longterm. We took her to a veterinary orthopedic specialist who assured us that her condition was not severe and that, other than an increased risk of arthritis, she would live a normal life.

And mostly she does. There is definitely tenderness in that foot at times. Sometimes she limps and even holds it up and hops on three legs. But I am always proud of the way she runs and almost keeps up with her very athletic brother.

Most of the time I forget that she even has a bad paw.

It has just become a part of who she is — quirky Mads, always uniquely herself. Lobster paw, and all.

The Three Musketeers

After I brought my two sweet puppies home and had fallen head over heels in love with them, I learned of something called “littermate syndrome”. Most professional trainers strongly advise against raising littermates together because, they say, it can lead to bonding and aggression issues.

Maybe we just got lucky, but we have never had any problems with Maddie or Cisco. They are best friends. But they also like other dogs. And while they are always happy to see one another, they are perfectly capable of being apart.

They love every human they come in contact with, though of course they love me best of all.

They are mine. Cisco, my sensitive sock-loving athletic boy, always by my side. And Maddie, my sweet, independent, slightly-anxious girl who loves to pose for the camera.

And I am theirs.

We are the Three Musketeers, sharing this great Maine adventure together.

Run Free

Maddie and Cisco love to run and explore!

Maddie and Cisco love to run and explore!

The yard in our home in Maryland was the size of a postage stamp. Well, maybe I exaggerate. But it was small. It was fenced, but due to the size, most of M&C’s exercise came from long walks on leash in the neighborhood.

When we did take them to a nearby wooded park to run off leash, they would take off. As hunting dogs, they love nothing more than searching for and chasing after critters.

In comparison, our property here in Maine, at 1 1/2 acres, is huge. But the road we are on, while not extremely busy, is one of the main roads on the peninsula. In our early days here, M&C did escape a couple times and took off across the road. It was terrifying.

I knew I needed some way to allow them to run the property, while keeping them safe.

A physical fence would have been extremely expensive, unsightly, and logistically problematic. And there is always the risk of gates being left open by mistake. This would happen at our previous home and the dogs would take off around the neighborhood like maniacs. So dangerous!

Invisible Fence

A neighbor recommended an “invisible fence”, also known as a “wireless” or “electric” fence. A wire is buried underground and the dogs wear a collar that “buzzes” them when they cross the wire.

I was naturally hesitant about using something that would cause my dogs any kind of pain and was also doubtful that it would actually be effective. Remember — Maddie and Cisco really really love to run!

With a full money back guarantee, though, I decided I had nothing to lose.

To say that the invisible fence has been life changing for us would not be an exaggeration.

We did go through a month of fairly intensive training. And I felt terrible the few times early on that M&C were “zapped” when they crossed the line.

But they quickly learned the borders. Now they still wear their collars daily, but I can’t remember the last time they even went close to the line.

They can run from the top of the field down to the water’s edge, up to the guest cottage and back to the house.

They are safe, but still free to live their best Maine lives!

Keeping Life Beautiful (and Clean!)

I get questions about how I keep the house clean with two dogs. Here are my tips and tricks for keeping your home both clean and beautiful, while still accommodating your canine friends.


We made the decision to allow Maddie and Cisco on the furniture. It is just how we choose to live our life with dogs.

To keep the furniture clean, I use slipcovers. When they get dirty, I simply take them off and toss them in the wash.

Most of the living room furniture is made by Four Seasons Furniture and comes with slipcovers made from pre-washed fabric.

I had slipcovers custom made locally for the Braxton Culler swivel chairs by the fireplace. We lived with regular upholstery on them for a while and it did not work for us.

Be sure your slipcovers are machine washable!

Dog shower

If you are building or remodeling, I highly recommend a dog shower!

From a simple muddy paw rinse to full-body rolled-in-deer-poo or sprayed-by-skunk (more on that below) wash, the dog shower has been a game changer!


This probably goes without saying, but we have lots of dog towels. They are good for drying dogs off after a rinse, wiping wet paws, and cleaning up general pet messes.

I have tried the fancy microfiber pet towels, but find that cheap cotton terry towels work best. Mine come from Walmart.

Pet-friendly rugs

Our downstairs rugs (the ones that get the most exposure to tracked-in dirt) are mostly natural fiber.

Vintage Persian rugs are ideal because they are already broken in, the oil in wool acts as a natural dirt repellant, and the pattern hides spots.

I have also found sisal and seagrass to be very forgiving.

The rugs in the mudroom are flat weave indoor/outdoor that I can throw in the wash periodically. Mine are from Annie Selke and come in lots of fun colors and patterns!

I use Nature’s Miracle, an enzymatic cleaner, to directly treat specific spots, stains, and odors. (You know what I am referring to….)


It goes without saying that I vacuum A LOT.

I find it oddly satisfying to empty the canister full of pet hair (remember we have two cats too!) into the trash.

Sometimes I feel like I could stuff a pillow with all the fur I vacuum up. Or knit a sweater.


Since I use it frequently, I chose a lightweight cordless Dyson that has a hand vac for upholstery.

Mine has been acting up a bit recently, but I have had it for a while and it gets a lot of use. So I would still recommend it.

Pet Hair Remover

When I don’t want to pull out the vacuum for furniture, a small mechanical pet hair remover works well.

My daughter recommended the one linked below to me. With a husky, she knows all about dog fur!

Again, I find it weirdly satisfying to see how much pet hair I get up with this device!

Dog food container and bowls

Because I like everyday items to be beautiful too (form and function!), I use a tall antique faux woodgrain flour bin to hold the dog food bag. Previously I used a large stoneware crock. It is fun to get creative!

And why shouldn’t the dog bowls be decorative too?! Maddie and Cisco enjoy their meals in blue and white porcelain bowls from my friends at Caskata. I am sure their food tastes better in these pretty dishes!

Dog bed

While M&C do enjoy lounging on the furniture, sometimes they actually prefer a regular dog bed.

Well, I wouldn’t exactly call this Dogwood dog bed “regular”. With its blue wicker finish and designer fabric cushion, it is full of Molly-in-Maine style!

The cats like it too!

The Foggy Dog

The Foggy Dog also sells dog beds made from fun fabrics, as well as collars, leashes, toys, and, my favorite, seasonal bandanas and stylish bows.

You can see Maddie and Cisco dressed for July 4th last year in the photo at the top of this post. So fun!

It’s Not All Fun and Games

Having pets isn’t all fun and games.


We live in an area that has a real tick problem.

You know I still want M&C to live their best outdoor lives, though. So I treat them monthly with Simparica Trio, a chewy tab which fights against heartworm disease, five types of ticks, fleas, roundworms and hookworms. And while they have both tested positive for tick-borne illnesses a couple times, they have never been ill or exhibited any symptoms.

Unfortunately ticks are just a reality of life here in New England and we need to remain vigilant.


Skunks are another hazard for dogs this time of year. I have been through this ordeal with Maddie and Cisco twice, and it stinks — literally!

The old-fashioned remedy of bathing your dog in tomato juice has been proven to be pretty much ineffective — the tomato juice does not react chemically to destroy skunk odor.

Instead, wash your dogs in a mixture of 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon Dawn dish liquid, making sure not to get any in their eyes. Rinse thoroughly, then wash with pet shampoo, and rinse again. Towel dry.

While I have not found this method to completely neutralize the odor (I have a very sensitive nose), it certainly helps a lot. The faint lingering odor fades with time.

I keep these ingredients on hand, because skunks always seem to spray late at night. DO NOT, however, store any premixed liquid! It can cause the container it is in to explode!

This Week Into Next

I hope you enjoyed Maddie and Cisco’s story and that you also learned something useful or were inspired to add some beauty into your life from the rest of the post!

This week I am coming off a wonderful visit by family (more on that another time!) and next week I am hoping to finally share my little kitchen refresh with all of you (still waiting on one more thing!).

This post turned into a long one, so I will leave you now with these two classic Maine images that I snapped when I was out and about this past week.

Oh, how beautiful you are, Maine!

Be well, friends!


Highlighting coastal decor and lifestyle, Maddie and Cisco, and the way life should be...