Welcome to my journey! This blog is about my adventures in dog training, pet therapy work, rescue work and life with my menagerie of animals. Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Transitions...

Beanie is a big baby! No, I don't mean my baby, he certainly is that, I mean if he were a human child he'd be a whiny, scared, moody child that frustrated you to no end! Alas, he's not a human which makes it even more difficult and frustrating as I can't reason with him about the absurdity of his "quirks" (I'm still in a bit of denial and refuse to call them true phobias). He had this one "quirk" back in MO. that I attributed to him being afraid of his food dishes because they had been knocked over a couple times and scared him. What he would do is carefully come down the stairs to the front entryway, but only if I was at the front door to receive him, and then he'd turn himself around and launch himself by his dishes into the living room. It didn't dawn on me there could be another reason for his weird behavior. It confused me because it wasn't always consistent.

The problem became clearer to me recently. What I discovered, through the process of us moving and him staying at my friends house while we got settled into the new house, was that it wasn't his dishes he was nervous about, it was the flooring! The entire house in MO was carpeted except the front entry, the kitchen and the bathrooms. He hated the wood/tile floors. My friend had to make a rug path for him to get him into the house once he went outside! Of course wouldn't you know this new house we are in is entirely wood flooring except the upstairs bedrooms! Before he came home we spent $300 on area and runner rugs making a pathway for this 127lb. baby! We encourage him if he steps off the rugs and applaud his success. He has a DAP collar on and a plug in by his crate in our bedroom, he's getting more walks now than he was in Mo. because we don't have a fence yet. He is getting more comfortable with his little pathway but prefers to play with his toys upstairs where there is no possibility of the rug moving out from underneath him. For Christmas he got a new giant hedgehog and first chance he got he took it upstairs and began his play with it in earnest.

We are still working on being patient with his issue and try really hard not to make it worse. There is a LOT of "GOOD BOY" being said in my house right now!

Here he is with his new "baby" heading upstairs

 Mid shake!

 Now he wants me to throw it

 He likes to sit here and hangout when we are all downstairs!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday event fundraiser...

So this fundraiser is to promote rescue work. Each blogger is to pick a rescue organization they will split the prize winnings with (or give all of it to). If you want more info on what this is all about check out Two Little Cavaliers for all the details! I will also post a link of all the participating blogs for you to peruse and glean inspiration, information and joy from! I have visited a few already myself and plan to check out the rest. Of course three of my favorite breeds are represented…Newfoundlands, Sibes and Cavaliers, but where are all the Pyrenees people??
 Anyway, choosing a recue organization is hard for me, there are so many amazing ones in this area and I have personal ties to many of them. IGPR, will forever be in my heart as that is where Beanie came from and they were so amazing to us. NGPR is the national Pyrenees organization and they help Pyr rescue groups all over the country, a big undertaking! Killuminati Foundation is saving animals by providing desperately needed emergency medical funds to families and rescue groups for dogs in need of major surgery or medical care. SAAF House is saving lives by offering low cost spay/ neuter and vaccine services, even to feral cats! To date they've altered over 5,000 animals and they've only been in operation just over a year! SNAP is another spay/neuter assistance program. Of course there is the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri which I obviously have a very large tie to. As you can see the choice is hard with such amazing organizations in the area. In fact the choice is so hard, I can't decide. I may pick one for the bulk of the prize and then with my portion divide it up amongst the rest! Either way you can rest assured an animal will be saved! Now go check out all the other bloggers participating and enjoy some doggy time!!




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Monday, December 12, 2011

A holiday event!!

Join me and many others in the blogging community for this holiday event that could benefit you AND the charity of your choice! Click on the Social Media holiday event button to the left of the page and follow the instructions to get started! It's a great way to give back to the animal charities you support, "meet" new animal friendly bloggers and expand your horizons a little!

Speaking of holidays, remember this time of year can be stressful for people and animals alike. Extra exercise and fun games can release the tension in both you and your dog! If you find your dog is really anxious about all the hustle and bustle in the house there are a few things on the market that could help calm their nerves. A DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) plug in can help ease stress. So can a calming collar that the dog can wear all time and it actually smells really nice! I use Sentry HC Good Behavior pheromone collar, it has a nice chamomile and lavender fragrance. Never under estimate a few drops of rescue remedy either!

I hope you all enjoy the holidays with your family and pets and make some wonderful memories!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What If...

Being a dog trainer and animal rescuer is hard and sometimes it is downright painful. Today was a painful day. As a rescuer I am subjected to heartbreak after heartbreak and falling in love a million times; as a trainer I am faced with so many dogs that have "potential", if they had just the right home or could get into a foster home. I am faced with seeing that potential and hoping very hard that someone else sees it too because there aren't nearly enough foster homes and sometimes there isn't "just the right" home. I have internalized the motto "I can't save them all, but I can save this one" I know I can only help so many but often there are dogs that you come across that just speak to you, to your soul, and you try maybe just a little harder for that certain one. I've met and loved quite a few of those dogs in my years of rescue work and now as a trainer it's even more so as now I can see behaviors that maybe others don't see, things that could use a little polishing and make a fantastic agility dog, or a wonderful companion for an older person or a great all around family dog; my interactions and my ability to fall in love has been so enriched by the knowledge I have gained on this road to becoming a dog trainer.

I spoke of her before; Infinity, even posted her picture on this blog. Since the time that blog was written she had been adopted and was in a home for a few months. Recently she was returned to the shelter much to my devastation due to a vague excuse of "not getting along with the other dogs". It's very possible, Infinity was a rowdy, rough player and she was a relatively assertive female so it was believable to think there was some not nice behavior cropping up. Unfortunately the adopters were not encouraged (at least to my knowledge) to seek help from us trainers to evaluate the situation before she was brought back to the shelter. So I was very saddened to see her back in the kennels yet at the same time I was so happy to see her again. I know she remembered me, I felt it. She buried her head in my lap when I got her out and snuggled up so close to me it was like she was trying to crawl into my skin! Oh how I had missed her and oh how I loved her. I knew she did not have long before the kennel stress behaviors began again with her so we tried to get her into the public eye as much as possible. She went to two separate public events and did really well at both of them. Then my life became crazy. Between getting ready to move and traveling to look at houses I wasn't at the shelter as often as I would have liked. I went last week but knew that seeing her would be so upsetting that I selfishly did not interact with her. I scrambled around all this week trying to get things done specifically so I could go and spend my last day at the shelter with her. I needed to see her. She wasn't there.

What if, is a phrase that can bring the strongest person to their knees; it regularly does such a thing for animal rescuers, it's doing it to me today.

PLEASE if you are in any position at all to become a foster home, do it, they are so desperately needed and there can never be enough. You can even designate yourself an emergency home for dogs like Infinity that could have used that breather to be re-assessed and given a chance to prove she is more than this one transgression. Becoming a foster home could literally save a dogs life.

RIP Sweet Finnie

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The many meanings of home...

I have to apologize up front, this isn't exactly a dog training or even really an animal related post. It certainly contains thoughts on animals though!

I am 37, and in those 37 years I have lived many places, done many things and met many people. At this point in my life I have begun analyzing what "home" means and I have come to realize that one little word has so many meanings and can represent so many things. A couple examples; I was born in Massachusetts, my family is still there, so for me that is home. However I grew up and lived more years of my life in Vermont and so there is a much stronger feeling of home for that area. I feel at "home" reading a good book, hiking in the woods, lying on the beach, teaching dogs and their owners, in my husbands arms and holding on to my children. So you see…many meanings. The one place I never considered home was MO. Sure, I would say "I'm going home" and mean my house in MO, but I never felt at home here, in fact I hated it for a long time. I felt out of place and confused by the culture, hated the landscape and saw no beauty around me at all. It was a miserable existence here for a long time. Now, as I prepare to leave and head to yet another home, NH (which actually has a strong feeling of home for me), I am coming to realize that the feeling of home can sneak up on you and can come in the form of people rather than just places. My definition of home is stretching to include some amazing people that I never really realized had claimed a place in my heart until this moment. I would like to express my feeling of gratitude and love for people I hadn't realized had become my home.

I thank Alicia and Janette for their profound friendship, silliness and companionship; you both kept me sane in a crazy sort of way.

I thank Misti Fry, Carrie Galvan and all the trainers with Sidekick Dog Training for helping me uncover my passion and encouraging this journey I am on; For teaching me so very much and making me your friend. I am forever grateful for the path you helped set me on.

I thank Amber Wallace for being my first friend at The Summit and helping me feel like I fit in a little better!

I thank Penny and Brian for letting me see that we could fit in here and find like minded people if we only looked. Your friendship has meant so much to me.

I thank Laura Skiles for raising such amazing daughters that my daughter just loves. They are the type of friends I wish every parents child can make. I sincerely hope our children can keep connected!

I thank the amazing people that care for my animals. Camp Bow Wow, Beanie's home away from home. A place and staff I am so very grateful for and whom I will miss terribly. Brenda Treece, who cares for my cats as if they were her own and whose generous heart and rescue spirit is heartwarming to behold. Dr. Denise, who has seen 2 of my animals over the rainbow bridge and did so with great compassion and respect and who has cared for my other animals with love and kindness.

I thank the amazing teachers and staff at The Summit that encouraged my children and supported them in their educational pursuits as well as cared for their unique selves. It is an environment I will miss greatly but one I am so thankful my children were a part of even if for a short time.

 I may not have appreciated it at first but I certainly do now, you have all helped redefine "home" for me and will forever be a part of that "home" feeling. Home truly is where your heart is and after all the places I've been and people I've met, my heart seems to have a great capacity for that word and I have a feeling it will only increase. I extend my deepest gratitude to you all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is your canine companion a 'Dog About Town'?

Can your dog watch politely as other dogs walk by? Can your dog pass by another dog and it's owner without coming unglued? Will your dog come to you even though there are some really fun looking geese waddling by? Will your dog lie quietly by your feet as you have a picnic with a friend who also happens to have a dog at their feet? If not don't despair! These are some of the things we at Sidekick Dog Training work on in our new Dogs About Town class. It's a really fun class and this week we will be practicing approaching other dogs and their owners politely as well as learning an important tool… the Emergency U-Turn. This may sound simple enough but have you ever tried to drag your dog one way while they are clambering to go the other way? Not easy right? The Emergency U-Turn is a great tool to have in situations that may be scary for your dog or potentially troublesome, like if there is a loose dog running around. Having your dogs attention even in these circumstances is imperative and that is what we help our students achieve in this class. We are also going to have a "practice picnic". Teaching the dogs to settle when we are seated even with other dogs and food close by helps make your dog a welcome addition around the community.
 As pets become a bigger part of our lives we naturally want to include them in our family activities, but an unruly dog is no fun to be around and makes for a stressful outing. Teaching our dogs polite public behavior can go a long way to keeping them included in the family fun. It can also help keep dogs in their homes rather than being given up as hopeless cases! Training in a fun and positive way increases your bond with your dog and keeps you and your dog engaged in life!
 If you don't think your dog is quite ready to be bombarded with heavy distractions there are many ways to get them ready; private lessons, smaller group classes, etc. whatever you choose you won't be sorry and your dog will be that much happier for it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are you having fun with your dog??

In answer to my own title question I would have to say that for the last two months I have NOT been having fun with my dog! I know, bad trainer, bad owner, bad friend! Life gets crazy sometimes and when school started for my children my life was no exception! I have been right out straight for two months. The only time I really spent with Beanie was during training class or pet therapy visits. Sure we live in the same home but my mind was always so preoccupied that it was a miracle I remembered to feed him!! Our training consisted of learning a routine that we were to perform with the other Sidekick trainers, needless to say at times it was very stressful and frustrating. If you've trained dogs for any amount of time (and if you haven't here's a little tip) you know that when you are stressed and frustrated your dog knows it and the whole training session is shot and not fun for either of you. Best case, you just have a poor session, worse case you chip away at your relationship. I should know better, Beanie is so tuned in to me that he shuts down when I get stressed and frustrated in a training session. I learned that early on in our training. We trained at a place he was not comfortable in and where they were trying to have me make him do things he didn't really want (or need) to do (this was NOT with Misti or Sidekick by the way) and so I had to consciously decide to teach him my way, teach him the things I thought were important and lower my expectations so we had success. It worked brilliantly and of course he passed his CGC and his Pet Therapy test! This routine was really straining us, not because it was hard but because I felt it had to be perfect! I have a Pyrenees, not a golden retriever or a german shepherd or a border collie, I am lucky Beanie does any of the stuff he does for me. Somewhere along the way to learning this routine I forgot that. Luckily I remembered in time to salvage our training and make the routine a success, but more importantly I had a wake up call that I need to be gentler to myself and to him and if it's not fun then we shouldn't be doing it or I need to figure out how to make it fun again! That is my responsibility as an owner and as his friend and trusted companion. Fun should be the next best thing in your relationship with your dog, right up there with love and trust! So go hug your dog and play a game, it won't be time wasted!
Here is the video of our routine:

video

Monday, September 5, 2011

Just like everyone else...

I am often one of those people that don't follow my own advice.  I am also one of those people that often avoids, ignores or is simply too busy to deal with a problem head on. Alas, I am also one of those people that knows how to handle a problem but just doesn't want to do the work. I am often my own worst training client! So when my foster dog began showing resource guarding towards my dog I just did a perfunctory management, I put away the toys he was guarding AFTER he had already practiced the bad guarding behavior…bad trainer! I have vowed, in recent days, to really work on this for a multitude of reasons. The first being I need the experience and practice and the others being I hate seeing my dog bullied and this foster dog needs to be adopted so I should do my part to make him more desireable. That is what a foster home is for after all!

So here is my plan and what I've done so far. All bones have gone away. Only one dog goes out the door at a time (my dog first, however I have yet to decide if that is the best choice). And I am more proactive when they play and interrupt it to bring the intensity down and then let them play again. I have also brought the crate back out for my foster dog. Let me tell you, the crate has already shown a HUGE difference in tension in the house! Before, both dogs were allowed to be loose in the living room (where all the altercations took place) and I noticed that Bruce (the foster dog) was starting to even guard the living room! He was also allowed to roam loose in our bedroom at night because…well, because I hate dogs that whine and cry in the crate and I am a sucker! Plus he has bilateral hip dysplasia and it was pressed upon me that a crate would be hard on him. Beanie however loves his crate and preferred to sleep in it at night.

So what I did was put the crate for Bruce in our bedroom hoping that might make it less miserable for him (it had previously been in the living room where he'd be all by himself at night). He readily accepted it and went in on his own the very first day! He's been great in it at night! Problem solved? Not quite, but we are on our way and I have ordered a book to help with the rest of the modification protocol. 'Mine' by Jean Donaldson is going to be my manual for taking care of this issue. I highly recommend pretty much anything by her but I am especially excited to get this book and get started. I am encouraged by the progress I have seen so far, they are more relaxed and playful with each other, there is no more living room guarding and the door behavior is great, of course the bones are still not left out, they only get them in their crates.

So while I may be like everyone else in most ways, in this I am different; I have the tools needed to work at a problem and I enjoy the process of learning and training, even if my motivation is a bit slow to get jump started! Wish me luck as we go along this journey!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things that make you go hmmmmm….

You know how you can go along in your daily life, meet someone and think you know them and then BOOM, something happens and you are completely taken off guard? Yeah, that doesn't usually happen to me. Not to toot my own horn or to sound overly judgmental but I feel that for the most part I am a pretty good judge of character, although I will admit I have been hoodwinked in my life although mostly it involved some serious denial on my part about the reality of the situation. My point is…I find this to be pretty true when I meet dogs as well. I find I get a feeling about a dog and if I can't shake it, it's usually confirmed by a formal assessment. There have been times when I've been wrong or not seen some significant behaviors but for the most part, so far in my dog "career", I think I've been a pretty good judge of character. Unfortunately, in the case with dogs, that is a pretty sucky thing to excel at!

Sometimes I wish I could be blissfully oblivious and just love every dog I come across as most people claim they do. I wish I could have no qualms about sticking my face into a dogs and hugging and kissing it. I wish I believed when a dog is frantically climbing my body and jumping at my face that it is a sweet gesture. I don't. I can't even try to make myself. I cringe nearly every time I see people interact with their dogs or more often than not strange dogs. I wonder daily how more people don't get bit and I've come to the conclusion that dogs are far superior to us and we don't nearly give them enough credit for allowing our stupid species to continue to exist in blissful ignorance while they bare the brunt of the responsibility to inhibit themselves to keep us safe. Admittedly there are dogs that don't give two "you know what's" about our safety and will tell us off with those wonderfully powerful teeth of theirs. And yet somehow the burden of blame always falls on them.

But that is where my conundrum starts, I believe we should not inhibit the dogs ability to express his fears or anxiety but I think dangerous dogs should not be languishing in rescues or shelters or homes even. First it is not fair to the caretakers and society as a whole and second it's not fair to the dog. Can you imagine living your whole life in a constant state of fear or anxiety and alertness for the first sign of danger? I realize people do it every day but they have the ability to talk and express those fears and rationalize and seek help if necessary. Dogs can't do that. Some dogs live their lives as if they are in a constant state of warfare where it is kill or be killed. That is a great amount of stress to bear. It must be exhausting. While these dogs are languishing there are more stable dogs roaming the streets or languishing on a backyard chain or in an animal control facility facing euthanasia because all the rescue groups are full! Where is the justice in that?

We can't save them all and the general adopting public are not certified trainers or behaviorists and are not looking for a problem dog to work on and "cure". They want that sweet, friendly dog that will tolerate and endure all the hugs, kisses and silly things we humans do to objects of our affection. So my job is to find those dogs, to use that judgement I have developed through studying and observing and trusting my gut. It is my job to help make room for those diamonds in the rough and help them shine. It is my job to teach the public that hugging a strange dog is a BAD idea, that giving a leash correction on a choke chain carries so much baggage with it and causes a myriad of other problems, that when a dog stiffens or growls the best thing you can do is give the dog space because that is EXACTLY what he is telling you to do! Some days my job sucks, some days "feeling" what the outcome will be of an assessment and then being right is very draining; but then finding that really great dog and teaching her all kinds of tools to help her find a great home helps ease the tragicness of the other. Most days I have to remember what I do makes a difference to that one dog, and really that's all anyone can hope for in life, to make a difference in one life. Here's hoping I make a difference in your life Infinity.
Infinity is waiting for her forever family in the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I met an icon!!

It's taken me a while to write this post, I'm still processing everything I saw and learned almost two weeks ago in a one day seminar by Sue Sternberg. If you are unfamiliar with her you should definitely check out her link! She has been an outspoken advocate for better quality of life conditions for the country's shelter dogs and has been a controversial figure at times because of it. She believes greatly in the quality of a dogs life versus quantity and it has at times pitted her against the "No Kill" movement. Regardless of the controversy she is a gifted trainer, great speaker and has developed some wonderful tools for shelters all over to implement into their programs.

The seminar we attended was the last day of a 3 day seminar and it focused on body language, evaluations and dog/dog interactions. It was eye-opening to say the least in discovering little nuances a dog may provide that would otherwise go unnoticed; the difference between a side nose lick or a front nose lick, a partial freeze and a total freeze, a play bow with an edge versus one with a soft body…I could go on and on, it was amazing! We saw all these things on live dogs and got to experience the evaluation right along with her. We saw some jaw dropping things and some common things we may dismiss that should not be dismissed.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, she is a wonderful speaker and for me the best part was holding her dog while assisting her in a dog/dog introduction. An experience I won't soon forget! I will see her whole seminar again someday and I hope this is the first of many seminars, by other amazing icons, to come! I am dying to see Patricia McConnell!!

Here is a picture of Sue and I ( I totally geeked out and had her sign my book and pose with me, I get a little weird around people I find important!)

Thanks for visiting!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A new training milestone!

Last night I graduated my very first puppy class! I was the lead teacher for 7 weeks with these puppies and their owners. It was so much fun and not as nerve wracking as I thought it would be. Of course it was nice to have my guru there as a safety net, Misti Fry, so I knew I couldn't screw up too bad; she wouldn't let me! =) I learned a lot throughout these 7 weeks about how to teach a class versus a private lesson, which I thought I was going to have a lot of trouble with. The way Misti sets up her classes makes it easy as she has assistants to help the students as well as the lead teacher. It's kind of like how we teach the owners to train their dogs; set them up for success and make training fun! These owners and puppies came in eager to learn and boy did they ever! Puppies walking nicely on leash, coming when called, sitting, staying and doing all kinds of tricks! Plus the owners have an arsenal of strategies at their disposal to deal with any issues that come up! I hope they all continue on with their training and have a long, happy relationship with their pups! I can't wait to start the next session, hopefully there will be enough pups signed up so I can have my own class again!
Here are a few photos from last night's graduation:

Stay

Mat Game

Loose leash walking game

Recall game



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A trainer gets taken through the Ringo(er)...

So on this journey of becoming a CPDT, I am taking on more responsibility and new and exciting (sometimes scary) tasks. I've gone on many private lessons with Misti and Carrie, helped teach shelter volunteers how to train dogs and recently started being the lead trainer in a puppy class! I though I was on a pretty good roll..HA, enter this cute little elderly lady and her cute little shih-tzu!

 I was charged with the task of crate training her dog because she was moving and he barked too much and was having housebreaking issues. Seemed pretty straight forward. I picked up this little boy Ringo and all his belongings to come stay at my house as a board and train client. He was to be with me for 5 days and then we'd assess the situation and see if more time was needed. So because this dog was not completely housebroken, I kept him attached to me by leash anytime he was out of the crate, basically treating him like a puppy. Pretty quickly I noticed his urination just did not seem right, so a sample was brought into the vet and sure enough he had an infection as well as crystals! Once we got him on meds and better food he started perking up and was given more freedom in the house. As far as the crate training, it was a horrible disaster! Turns out he has terrible separation or confinement or isolation anxiety, pick one, either way what it meant was that anytime he was crated he would be traumatized; barking and shaking and drooling, scratching at the door and whining/crying. The first night he did this for 2 straight hours! Then he must have slept from exhaustion only to wake up a couple hours later and start all over again! It was nearly that bad every night after that. Even when I crated him and he could see me he'd go into a panic. It was torture on us both and all the while I knew this was something that could be worked on in a slow and lengthy process, which required time we didn't have as he was moving in only a few weeks! Also to contend with was the near impossibility for his mom to comply with a complicated set of instructions.

  So began the first crisis of new trainer conscience. I questioned my abilities, my knowledge and even after much sleep deprivation wondered if my "guru" was setting me up, testing me somehow (she was not by the way!) Finally, I think we all took a deep breath and took a step back (at least us trainers did) and assessed the situation with clearer eyes and saw the reality of the situation. We got to the heart of what REALLY needed work on, the barking and housebreaking, and set up a plan for that! Ringo was much improved with his housebreaking now that the medical stuff had been taken care of (on a side note, he never once had an accident in my house) and as for the barking, I videoed him left alone in my house when I left. He slept nearly the whole time and only barked when he heard the garage door open, a sign to me that his barking was due to hearing voices in the hall outside his door. We recommended she turn the TV on for him when she left and that he get really special bones to chew on only when she left the apartment. I wrote down simple, very specific instructions for her on his feeding and pottying schedule and then handed him back to her with all my fingers and toes crossed! That was a week ago and so far he's had no potty accidents and there has been no reports of barking. She was so happy to have her companion back and he was just as happy to be home.

It's been a good lesson for me to listen to my gut and see the reality of the situation and try to work within the confines of that as a trainer. Trainers are faced with those confines all the time, from the family with 6 kids that are constantly running around with food the dog wants or the couple that works insane hours and have a reactive dog. Being a trainer means helping people teach their dogs how to be good family members, being a good trainer means helping the owners be good pet parents, a great trainer is resourceful enough to do both and make everyone happy! That is my goal.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Foster Dog



Summer has arrived early, well, not really, our new Foster dogs' name is Summer! She is about 16months old and has already weaned at least one litter of pups that we know of. They too were in the rescue program. She came to me as a temporary foster, she already had a pending adoption and one more in the wings. Unfortunately both fell through within days of each other. So we figured we'd be in it for the long run, which was fine with me as she is soooo easy and really could use some stability and time to get healthy. She is on the extremely thin side at 67 lbs and her coat was a mess! Mats everywhere, dry and brittle and dirty.

My first observation of her was she's no typical house pet that got lost or dumped. She was most likely an outside dog or a farm dog that got lost or dumped. She seemed very restless in the house for the first day or two and would sleep contentedly outside all day long if I let her, which frankly I pretty much did as it was beautiful weather and it made her more at ease. She had beautiful body language with Beanie and play was instantaneous and perfectly appropriate (minus the occasional mounting from Beanie who couldn't resist her flirtatious postures!)

I finally gave her a bath tuesday night and you would have thought I insulted every member of her family the way she reacted. It was as if she'd never been washed her whole life, and likely she hadn't! She was patient and tolerated it; the dryer was another matter altogether. She literally tried climbing onto the counter to get away from it! This morning she must have decided she was clean long enough and promptly rolled in the dewey grass then laid in the dirt ditch she has excavated for herself under the kids swingset!

I got good news today though, she now has a third adoption on her and will in all likelihood be moving on next wednesday. I am hoping I can put some good weight on her by then. She's eating 3 meals a day of the same food Beanie eats so she's definitely getting good nutrition.

It's weird, one of my friends mentioned that she sounded like a keeper, and honestly she is really easy, sweet, calm and gets along so well with everyone; she should be a keeper. But I don't want her. She's pretty and I love on her and I'll be sad to see her go but I guess I just haven't found that spark with another dog yet. And you know what, I'm not sure I will. Beanie may be it for me, I may not have room in my heart for 2 dogs. Who knows, in my life I have learned to never say never and that when something is right you just know it! That's how I married my husband and it's worked for me so far! =)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who is the trainer here??

It occurred to me the other night that I am in the throws of a superstitious behavior brought on by a very huge reinforcer! Let me explain, my kitten Sherman has had a pretty rough start to his life; he was found all alone as a stray at only 5 weeks old. He was bottle fed at his foster home and within 2 weeks adopted by us (just by chance). He came down with a nasty upper respiratory virus and was so tiny and skinny! Thankfully (and after many vet visits) he healed and started to grow and thrive. Then we discovered he was a bilateral cryptorchid; that was fun (not to mention EXPENSIVE). In the mean time he was battling some diarrhea issues. We thought it was from being on and off so many antibiotics within such a short time frame. We cut back on his wet food, switched it to Science Diet ID, and started adding a probiotic to his wet food daily. Then it happened...he pooped on the tile by the garage door, easy to clean you say? Not so much; it was in the corner, so naturally it was in all the crevices of the baseboards (stop reading now if your stomach turns easily!). I chalked it up to the anesthesia since he had just had his neuter surgery the day before. But then it happened again down in the basement on the carpet this time and then again in the same general area and the last time was actually in my shower! So he got on meds, I cleaned up the spots with an OCD fervor, placed a feline pheromone diffuser downstairs and started following him around the house! I quickly discovered he had potty signals just like a puppy! He would sniff around, usually in the general vicinity of the previous accidents, even crying at the doors of my closed shower! I would scoop him up and bring him to the litter boxes and he would use them perfectly! I started to realize he needed to go potty almost directly after eating his morning wet food, so after he finished I would coax him downstairs with me and he would accompany me while I scooped the boxes and then he'd use them! For the first day or two I scooped the boxes 4 times a day! Now a side note; I am notoriously a horrible cat box scooper! I forget for days on end, just ask my old timers! I was lucky enough to never have an issue and got off scot free being so lazy! But here I was being a diligent, almost obsessed, scooper. BUT (and here is where the superstitious behavior comes in) he hasn't had one accident since I've started doing this! Could it be the medication? Possibly, although he does still have the diarrhea. Could it be the diffuser? Certainly, but it could also be my twice daily box scooping! And because there is that possibility I am not going to tempt fate (or my kittens intestinal tract) by stopping! I have been trained into a superstitious behavior because the most reinforcing thing for me is to not have cat poop on my carpet!

Man I have smart pets (and I must say I am pretty highly trainable)!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Some musing after our PT visit...

Last week we had a fantastic visit at Jordan Creek. The people were lively and so happy to see Beanie and he was so obliging to everyone. As we walked around and saw some of the really sick bed-ridden patients and I watched Beanie really sniffing at them, it hit me; some dogs can be trained to detect diseases by smell...what must Beanie be smelling? I can't even to begin to imagine the olfactory overload he must be experiencing in a place like that. All at once it made me appreciate what he does, and what all therapy dogs do, even that much more. I know how distracted and repulsed I can be by smells that it is nearly impossible to concentrate or function in the vicinity of whatever the smell is, but the fact that he can stay composed and offer himself for their enjoyment is really an amazing feat. I don't think most of us give dogs, even if they aren't therapy dogs, enough credit.

 My favorite saying as of late is "it is a testament to dogs that people aren't bitten more often". It is amazing how poorly we conduct ourselves with them and still they have the utmost patience and tolerance when dealing with us. Sometimes I wonder who really is the smarter species!

 I also think we underestimate dogs on a very regular basis, I know I often do that with Beanie. I hesitate to teach him something new b/c I don't think he can do it or I think it will be too hard to teach him to do it and 99% of the time he shocks me and reminds me that he is quite extraordinary and I should never limit him, or anyone for that matter, in my mind about what they can or can't do!

I love it when Beanie teaches me new things, I guess you can teach an old girl new tricks!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

So the weather has suddenly turned gorgeous and spring like and since I am on a roll this week exercising I thought what better way to get my exercise in than to take Beanie for a good walk and throw in some outside training as well. Mud be damned! I dropped the girls off at school and parked in the parking lot and started our journey from there.

Today's adventure was an exercise in being prepared and being present. With my handy dandy Go-Go Gadget Dog Training Jacket (my name for it) by Let's Go Design, there was no way I would not be prepared. That thing holds it all, treats, clicker, long line, phone, poop bags, keys, whistle and even kleenex! Now because it was so warm I zipped off the sleeves and made it a vest! I LOVE that thing! Any way I digress, the point was I was well prepared. Being present is a much harder feat to succeed at. Daydreaming is second nature to me and spacing out is a close second! But today I was in training mode, I was ON! It's a good thing too, because I was paying such close attention, I was able to see that our path on the sidewalk was going to cross something that I was sure would interest Beanie and from the looks of it from a distance it looked like a dead animal. He hadn't seen it yet so I took my chance to get prepared. I got out the yummy salmon treats he loves and showed them to him as we walked. As we got closer I saw that it was indeed a dead animal but not only was it dead it was mutilated (gross I know, but an important fact to note). We walked right by that thing with his eyes on me the whole time and the salmon treats in front of his nose! I couldn't believe it! I know salmon has a strong odor, but stronger than a split open rabbit carcass literally at his feet? I was pumped, and Beanie got a jackpot even though he had no clue what just happened! On we went!

We got to Chesterfield park where I was planning on doing some rally work with him, a lofty goal but I was prepared and present!! I saw that there were people walking the trail and a fantastic distraction; a small flock of geese! EXCELLENT, I was prepared! He saw the geese, he got very still, his ears went up...I stuck a salmon treat in front of his nose and asked for a sit! BAM (well not really that fast, Beanie doesn't do anything fast) he sat! He did a sit stay staring at those geese for a full 45 seconds, and the geese were walking around too! On we went! I put his leash around my waist with the handy dandy carabiners attached to my jacket and we worked on left and right turns and loose leash walking! I got a few sloppy fronts out of him (I lowered my expectations a little in the highly distractable environment) and some equally sloppy left hand finishes and we worked on speed changes in walking. He did one perfect right hand finish, got jackpotted and then we just finished the circle in a nice, non training walk!

I got out his long line and went to the driest grass area I could find and we played chase and bump and then settle and work. He really works hard and fast (for him)when the reward is getting to chase and jump on mommy! Eventually he stopped chasing me and I knew he was tired so we went back. I purposefully walked on the same sidewalk again to pass that bunny. He saw it this time and I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. I shoved those salmon treats in his nose picked up the pace and cheered him on the whole way past the bunny, he looked at it as we passed it but he never once broke stride with me! What an awesome day! And the best part? I have a very tired, sleeping dog at my feet right now!

So the moral of the story is be prepared and present when you are with your dog, life is full of teaching and learning moments and you never know, someday it could save your dogs life!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The circle of life...

We have mice. Very persistent and sneaky mice; they resist the traps and tease us by eating the food we place on said traps without even tripping the dang things! They have been making my cats crazy. My last remaining old timers have been the mousers in the family for years, often working in concert to flush and grab the mouse. They have gotten a bit slow in their old age. They still know when one is about and will wait with unending patience for it to come out and offer itself like a sacrifice (which mice sometimes do!). However these mice have great hiding places in the kitchen; under the stove, behind the fridge and even in the pantry since the cats have not figured out how to open the door yet!

Well, today the mouse was outnumbered. There is a new cat in town and his name is Sherman! He's 4 months old and already a great mouser. He's still a bit green but he's catching on quick and absolutely loves the game! Today Boris alerted me to the presence of a mouse, now let it be noted that mice in my house freak me out completely, I opened the pantry door as Boris indicated and I saw it; a tiny, really cute little brown mouse. I opened the door and ran to get up on top of the couch (I know crazy wimp). There was a big commotion which resulted in the mouse getting under the fridge. Boris and Wilmah (the old timers) took up residency in front of the refrigerator daring it to peek its' head out. Some time passed in which I came off the back of the couch and went about my business. Caitie then came up to tell me that the mouse was under the paper shredder. The paper shredder is in the living room under our computer desk which at that moment was occupied by my husband, he had no clue that Boris, and now Sherman, had chased the mouse underneath it! However he was working so I had to move the shredder, dreading the inevitable scurrying mouse. But it was no longer there. It must have gone downstairs I said and again went back to my business. Then Caitie came running up to tell me Sherman was chasing the mouse downstairs; she ran back down and almost immediately came back up to tell me he had caught it! So I went down and sure enough my sweet, little kitten had a mouse firmly in his grip. I wasn't sure if it was dead or not so I didn't really want him to drop it but he did and thankfully the mouse did not move...at first. Sherman was batting at it and I could tell the mouse was coming around and may try to escape any moment. I made Caitie run and get me some paper towels (Steve was still on a conference call for work so no help there). I managed to cover the mouse with the towels which sent Sherman into a tizzy. But I was too freaked out to actually pick it up! So I let Sherman get it again and this time picked Sherman up and made him drop it into the towel so I could just wrap it up. I brought it outside and placed it on the grass and saw it was breathing and it moved a little, well I didn't want it to try to get back into the house so I picked it up and as luck would have it I saw the semi feral stray we feed sitting across the street, so I brought him an offering! He didn't want it though so I just left the half dead mouse on the cement and went back in. When I checked on it a little bit later I saw that it had moved and was on it's way across the street back towards our house. At that very moment a bird swooped down and picked it up and took it to the top of the lamppost. I laughed, hard. That mouse won't be back again...now if we could just get rid of the others, although I'd prefer it to be a bit easier next time!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Both ends of the spectrum kind of day...

This is not exactly how I envisioned my first post on this blog to go. I imagined it would be a nice, heartwarming story about my first Pet Therapy visit with Beanie, and indeed it is that too, but there are other things, heavier things, that happened today too that need to be written. First I'll start with heartwarming.

 Beanie and I had our first visit today at a nursing and rehab facility. The week had gone by so fast that i didn't really have time to dwell on its' arrival and get nervous until just moments before bringing Beanie into the building. My whispered request to Beanie as we walked in? "Please don't pee on anything!" That was my worst fear (still is honestly!). It was hard maneuvering a big dog like Beanie around in those small bedrooms and they seemed to make him a bit more nervous and uncomfortable. But he was good and let everyone pet him that wanted to. He got quite a few excited, happy gasps and many claims of "Oh my goodness that's a big dog!" He seemed to enjoy the area where the residents were seated in a large living area, where he had more room to move and could go from person to person. The last person we saw on our visit was a man in the end of life unit. As we walked in he kept saying, "Oh that's Jake, that's Jake" Then he told us the story of the Pyrenees he owned at one time named Jake, who was actually a girl. Then he said something that made my heart swell, he said, "If there was to be just one dog in the world, a Great Pyrenees should be that dog". It was a very powerful statement to me and I feel its' truth to my core. Our next visit is in a month and I hope he is still there to see Beanie once again.

As uplifting as that part of my day was my heart was just too weighed down with impending sadness for it to truly lift me as it should have. My cat Fred, whom I have had since a kitten, was dying right before my eyes and it was time for me to make some decisions. Fred has had chronic renal failure since he was 5 years old. He survived on medication for a while, switched to Omega oils and then finally switched to regular treatments with fluids. Beginning around Christmas time we noticed his demeanor changing as well as his eating habits and energy level. He was wasting away and often sleeping. Selfishly  wished him to hang on until after Christmas as I had just had to put down another beloved cat after Christmas last year and couldn't face having to do it again.

As I looked at him today I could no longer be selfish I knew he was miserable and in pain and couldn't bring myself to let him fade away like that. Yet at the same time I could not bring myself to stress him out by crating him and driving him to the vet in his state. Miraculously my husband found a Vet that did house calls and he came to the house to preform the euthanasia. My girls were here and got to say goodbye and they are off with their father right now bringing his body to our regular vet for cremation. I think they wanted to be part of the entire process. I think it is helping them process the whole ordeal within themselves, or at least that is what I'm telling myself. Decisions to involve children in experiences like this are so scary because you never know until it's too late if it was helpful or harmful. Time will tell I guess.

Then an odd thing happened after the Vet left and we were all alone with his body. I laid him on the floor wrapped in the blanket, wanting to let the other cats and Beanie investigate him if they chose to. His sister I think had already said goodbye before the doctor was ready for him, as she rubbed against him and kissed his ear, something she did not ever do. But as we sat with his body on the floor Cosmo came over to him and actually laid on him so their heads were close and he began grooming Fred. Cosmo has only known Fred for a short time and for most of that time Fred did not feel good, but it seemed to me that Fred made a big impression on Cosmo and he was letting Fred know. Beanie also investigated Fred thoroughly with his nose but was more concerned with my tears and sat in front of me so his nose was level with my eyes and sniffed my face and tears and voluntarily offered me my favorite spot on his head to kiss and hug. He sat there with me for quite sometime until I got up and then he went around and checked on everyone else as well.

My heart is broken and I wish time could stop for my broken heart but it goes on, as does life and while my heart will always miss Fred I am ever so grateful for him and all he brought into my life and really all he brought into the lives of anyone that met him. He was extraordinary and lived his life that way. We should all be more like Fred my cat.

Here is a picture of Beanie after his first Pet Therapy visit and then the last photo taken of Fred this afternoon: