By Natalie Lykins
If you have been online in any form over the last ten years, you are probably familiar with Lauren Riihimaki, otherwise known as LaurDIY. She is a content creator, podcast host and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated HBO show, Craftopia. She is also a massive advocate for the Bull Terrier breed. I spoke with Lauren about her two bully boys, Moose and Diggy, to learn more about the joys they have brought to her life.
Lauren, you are one of the original queens of YouTube, and your mini bull terrier, Moose, has followed closely in your footsteps with 607k Instagram followers of his own. But now, he is sharing his platform with his own father, Diggy! Diggy may not have come from a rescue organization, but he was definitely rescued. Can you tell us how you ended up rescuing Moose’s dad?
I think the biggest thing that I want to be mindful of here is the privacy of the family that Moose and Diggy originally came from, because I don’t know the full extent of their situation. Essentially, I stayed in contact with the family that I got Moose from when he was a puppy. We exchanged photos back and forth over the years, and they have been so great and so kind. They had a ton of acreage and were in the midst of downsizing their living situation. I think they had five or six dogs and were absolutely heartbroken to not be able to keep all of them during this transition. I cannot even imagine the process of having to make that decision. If you can only keep one or two, who do you keep? I cannot fathom that experience.
They reached out to me, asking me If I knew anyone that might want to rescue or adopt a bull terrier, because I have been so openly in love with the bull terrier breed and have so many friends who love Moose. They called me when I was at brunch with my fiancé, and we volleyed the idea of fostering back and forth, and that lasted for a whole 60 seconds. We went from toying with the idea of fostering Diggy to then just fully adopting him. It was literally a 15-minute conversation. We just figured if it didn’t work out, he could stay with us as long as he needed to, and we could find him a home. We would absorb that responsibility no matter what happened.
When he came home, we absolutely fell in love with him. I think it is also peace of mind for the family who had to make this heart-breaking decision. They know I have done the very best I can for Moose and Diggy, to provide them with amazing lives. We took Diggy to the beach for the first time and sent them videos. I think it gives them some solace knowing Diggy is living a very fulfilled life here with us. And also, now getting to eat JustFoodForDogs, he’s been so spoiled and we’re so happy to provide him with the best food we have access to.
There are always some growing pains and challenges when adding in a new family member. What challenges were you initially met with when bringing Diggy home?
Diggy was originally a stud dog, so we obviously had to have him neutered so he could be integrated into our lives and into things like doggy daycare, dog parks and interacting with other dogs in the neighborhood. That was the first step. The changes we saw in his personality within a few months of neutering him, were like night and day. That, for sure, was very beneficial in helping to integrate him into our lifestyle seamlessly. When he first walked in, he immediately marked on the couch. We just thought, “Oh no, what have we gotten ourselves into”. I think because he was just living his life in a little doggy pack in his old home, he spent a lot of his time roaming around the property outside. Again, I don’t know the full picture or what his day-to-day life was like, but I know they spent lots of time in their doggy pack outside during the day and slept in crates at night. He still sleeps in a crate here with us, too. Both Moose and Diggy are little den dogs and love their space in their crates. I think that he spent a lot more time outdoors prior to living with us. We have seen his fur, skin, calloused areas, and paw pads improve. I live a pretty comfy lifestyle in terms of there being blankets, Squishmallows, pillows and soft beds everywhere. I think that has been reflected in his new physicality, being able to adjust to having a lot of soft things around.
Speaking of his coat, skin and callouses, how did JustFoodForDogs meals play a part in his improvement?
When we first got him, we struggled a little bit in figuring out his diet. He went on a prescription kibble first. I know those can be helpful for some dogs, and if your dog needs it, great. With Diggy, we were able to transition him off of the low-fat prescription kibble and onto the Turkey & Whole Wheat Macaroni recipe. The way that his skin has healed is crazy. It is so interesting because both Moose and Diggy have a similar genetic makeups, with Moose being half of Diggy’s DNA. It is interesting to see the difference in fur and their coats. Over the past nine months, his coat has gotten so much closer to being as soft as Moose’s. Moose has had a life of luxury for six years. I think it is a combination of his lifestyle being a little more indoors and having a cleaner diet. I think he also liked to treat himself to chicken poop on the farm, but we have moved away from that. Now I think he is just really enjoying his JustFoodForDogs.
I would not consider bull terriers to be a “beginner dog”. They can make wonderful companions and family dogs, but they take a great deal of investment, care and commitment. Do you feel that the bull terrier is a misunderstood breed? Do you think that breed fads have had a negative impact?
I definitely think they are misunderstood. I think any breed that has “bully” in it will have that stigma attached to it. It literally breaks my heart when I see someone cross the street when we are walking, or when people ask me, “has he ever bitten anyone?” Like, what? I am not going to ask you if your golden retriever has ever bitten anyone. It is like racism towards dog breeds. It makes me so, so angry. There is such a bad stigma around all the bully breeds, and it really strikes a chord with me.
People have fallen in love with Moose over the years, even just over the internet, and it makes me so happy. He is improving the general impression of bull terriers overall. I love that people can see just how funny and snuggly and sweet they are. Would he trade me at any moment for a snack? Yes, 100%. They are not the super loyal German Shepherd that some families may be looking for, and that’s totally fine.
Bull terriers are such a wonderful breed, and they are so funny. I’d say they are a medium energy level, depending on the specific personality of the bull terrier you get. I would say mine are quite low energy for the most part. I thought I would get a dog and it would make me be so much more active, but he has no desire. We used to go on two walks a day, but he was so uninterested in going on a morning walk that we just stopped doing it. I just thought if neither of us are enjoying this, we can go back inside, back to the couch and blankets. They are incredibly stubborn, too. That is part of the bully breed personality that does ring true. But overall, they are just so sweet and so funny. Especially, having two of them, when I see them do funny and quirky things, I can’t tell if it is a genetic thing they both do because they are related, or if it is because they are both bull terriers. They are both big on “splooting” and just being funny little guys in the house. They are hilarious, and they make my day, every single day.
They are little clowns!
They are literally little clowns. They are so funny. Both are very food motivated as well. I think that has helped ten-fold in training.
Bully breeds and bulldog adjacent breeds, like bull terriers, unfortunately have been flooding into the shelters within the last few years. Now that you have experienced rescuing a bull terrier yourself, what do you think people should know before bringing home their own rescued bull terrier?
I think it’s just that, with any rescue situation, you will never know exactly what you are getting. That is with any dog, not just bully breeds. As a dog gets home and becomes more comfortable, they start to open up. I think it took a solid four to six months for us to truly see Diggy’s full personality because he had lived his life a certain way for seven years. Then he came to us and had his world turned upside down. Even though he didn’t come from a cage, or a really, really bad situation, just having that 360-degree change happen, it takes time to adjust and find a new routine. They have to find their new groove, new routine and new place in the household, too. It came down to fully committing and understanding that we were prepared to do anything that Diggy needed. We found a trainer that was a great fit once we realized there was more room for us to understand how to work with a senior dog.
I hate that term, by the way. We will say “senior-ish” dog. Training a puppy can be very different than training a seven-and-a-half-year-old dog, especially one who has lived a certain way his entire life. Overall, we were just committed and down to be creative about problem solving when we had to. The first month, and I’m not kidding, I took drop sheets for painting, and I wrapped the perimeter of the couch because I was not about to lose our couch to Diggy’s marking situation. I knew we would get that under control, and we did!
You have to be dedicated to facing the challenges that are going to come with a new dog. The challenges of both raising a puppy and having a new, rescued senior dog are honestly the same amount of work. Actually, raising a puppy might be harder, I think, than a rescue situation.
I have had this conversation with many pet parents. I am frequently told by people who have purchased their dog that they did so because they wanted to be able to train the dog from the time it’s a puppy. During those conversations I hear about all of the time, energy and money that was put into that puppy. I feel that the same efforts and resources also apply when you rescue a dog. You will have to put in the time and commitment either way.
Training Diggy was so much easier than training Moose. Moose is the first dog I have ever had. I think I had that beginner’s mentality of wanting to go through the process of training and molding him from day one. Now having experienced both sides of things, not only was the Diggy route easier, but it opened my eyes to how rewarding it can be. It’s great to have a puppy, train them, and raise them their entire life. I would never trade what I have experienced with Moose over the last six years. But the reward of having Diggy become so comfortable and transform into a different dog… I could burst into tears at any moment. It is a different level of emotion for me as an animal lover.
There is something very special that happens inside you when you help to rehab an animal. Seeing them become something else and blossom into themselves is very special.
Oh, it totally is. The family he came from had a great amount of land, so during the day, when they were working, the dogs were in crates. I am a big fan of crate training and always will be. I’ve seen photos of the crates they were kept in, and by no means was it a bad situation. But Diggy likes to push his blanket to the side of the crate and cram his butt against the side of it. He had a bald spot on his tail from sitting in a certain position for a lot of the day.
Many people work nine-to-five and have their dogs crated during the day. I am very lucky that I work from home, and they have more freedom to roam the house or nap in their crate if they so desire. Now, with his lifestyle changing, having a different environment, and his new diet, his bald spot is completely gone.
Bull terriers are genetically prone to obesity and will generally eat anything they can get into their mouths. Now, you have two very healthy boys who aren’t at all overweight, but I am sure they love their treats. Do Moose and Diggy have a favorite JustFoodForDogs healthy snack?
It’s honestly hard to say because they are genuinely so excited about every snack ever. I think they love the sweet potato a lot, but they are also excited about a dust bunny on the floor, so it’s hard to say. They just love food. They even love celery and spinach.
You have turned Moose and Diggy into such powerful advocates for their breed. I would love to wrap up this conversation by having you share one of your favorite experiences or memories since adding Diggy to the family.
I’ll give you a couple. I think taking Diggy to do new things that he has never done before is so rewarding. It’s so heartwarming. I spent my 30th birthday taking my dogs to Rosie’s Dog Beach, down in Huntington. I made all of my friends come to see Diggy go to the beach for the first time on my birthday.
Having a second dog and experiencing two personalities in the household has changed the energy in such a positive way. Diggy is my little shadow. He is never not near me, and it is so sweet. Moose may have a few more brain cells than Diggy, and they are always making us laugh. They are so funny together. Seeing them warm up to each other over these last few months has been amazing. They have yet to be super cuddly with each other. I read a long time ago somewhere about how if you have two bull terriers, they tend to be independent, but near each other. It is so funny watching that play out in our house. The way that they will do zoomies together on our couch is so adorable. I think it has brought more energy into Moose’s life.
The lives of everyone in our household have improved by having Diggy there. Jeremy and I say that having Diggy join our family and getting engaged are on the same level in our lives together. He is the best, most unexpected thing that we did not plan for. He has improved the energy here and has made everything better.
To keep up with Lauren and her pups, please follow them on social media: @laurdiy and @moosetheminibully
Natalie Lykins is the manager of the Adoption Project. She has an extensive history in animal care, having volunteered with many rescue organizations since her early teens, and previously worked at a vet clinic. She has found her true mission at JustFoodForDogs and, according to her, would not want to be doing anything else.