Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Review for Kong Tugger Knots

Being asked to review dog toys is a nice  perk for the dogs and I. Admittedly, my  own dogs are not the toy hounds they used to be, but between foster dogs and visitors,we do always seem to have a revolving door of ready, willing, and able toy testers who are always  willing to help out.

Basically I look for two things when testing a toy.

1.) Do the dogs like it?

2.) Will it last.

The answer to question number one is yes the dogs liked it. They liked the rope and the stuffed animal texture and the squeaker right out of the box so to speak.   I wish I had video taped the wagging scene when I opened it. 

No soft toy will last unsupervised and poor little froggy did get a nibble taken out of it when I got busy with something else, but considering that we have had this toy for a few months now and it has been in heavy rotation, I think a little nick off the corner still warrants a pretty tough rating. Basically, the toy is a knotted rope with a plush frog over it. So even if they shredded the frog to bits, there is still a  toy underneath. Love that! Fair warning, this toy is not made for power chewers, it is designed to be interactive and I do not let the dogs  have at it unsupervised to shred it to bits.

Every dog who passed through my door liked it, including my own two, but none more than Border collie Jack, our Christmas guest.

If Charlee and Finney had a love child, it would be Jack.

Neighbor Bandit on the left has discovered that my life is a dog park.

  Jack did every thing to this toy that a dog could do, he tugged with other dogs, slept with it, carried it around endlessly, settled down and munched on it a bit to find the squeaker. Yesterday when we awoke to Burricane2010 I realized we had left the frog out in the storm. Oh well I thought, so much for that toy, but Jack had other ideas and he found it, dug it up and the dogs had a complete and total blast with it.

All the dogs were happy that Jack dug up the Kong Tugger knot. 

FYI - Yes, Jack is wearing a pink sparkle T shirt. He was afraid of the wind and having a tight t shirt on helped. We apologize to Jack for the embarrassment.

Charlee says -   "What's up with him? I love this storm."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Caption anyone?

Anyone have a better caption than "no peeking"?  Seems to be all I can come up with.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All is calm, all is bright

Today is the first day since September that I did not hear the pitter patter THUMP THUMP bark bark of my two foster guests Meggie or Sapphire, just at the moment I awoke. The morning energy of adolescent foster dogs is not quite the same as my own snoozing dogs, to put it mildly.

I think the morning crated Meggie and Sapphire's thought process went something like this.


Of course the dogs had to be calm before they could be let out, but neither had a crate insert due to various reasons, and anytime I got up it was loud and thumpy.

Can't lie, I do kind of get off on the worship, just wished I could have turned it off now and again, like for instance when I had to pee in the middle of the night. There were times I wished I had a remote control and could have just hit a button and turned them off for a bit.  Anyone who has ever lived with adolencent dogs knows that they are the most difficult, and I know for certain that having two multiplied their youngness by a factor of at least 20 sometimes.  A snooze button feature on foster dogs would nice.

Both dogs are in wonderful homes,  and  it was all worth it.  We miss them. Really.

Meggie left on Tuesday. Lucky Meggie, now Lucy (the missing link), will be living at the base of. Sugarloaf with two Border Collies and Two Brittany Spaniels. She has 2000 acres to hike every day. I woke up on Wednesday overcome with sadness and posted this picture on Facebook. In less than one minute two friends chimed up that they knew her new family and how great they were and one of my friends is his sister!

What a relief! What a wonderful small world it is!

Sapphire left yesterday (again) to live in New Hampshire with a very nice guy.

He and his girlfriend drove up to meet her last weekend and let's just say it was a total "click".

Finney saw the vet for a lump on his leg. He was very brave for an aspiration,  which appears to be nothing to worry about, but will be removed and sent off to Idexx. While there we discussed Charlee's tumor toe and it was deemed NOT CANCER.  My vet said she would have been dead by now. 
All is calm, all is bright!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snorking and Patty-caking video edition

It's been a really long and testy week.  I have zero time to blog until next week, but if you need a smile as much as do/did check these two videos out.

The first shows two fun loving labs "snorking"  on the ski slopes of Sugarbush.  Snorking is by far my new favorite word.

The second is two cats with catitude playing Patty-cake.

Thanks interwebs, I needed that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The 411 on car sick dogs

A bunch of nice people passed on my foster pup Meggie because she gets car sick. My Collie and his entire litter got car sick for the first few months. Half of the fosters that we have had in the last year got car sick. Finney was easy to deal with, I just gave him Benydryl and a kid's lap to sit on in the car when he was a pup. Stella, formally foster dog Evon, lives quite happily with my cousins. She was adopted out while they were still getting her sickness under control. They had a hard time because they live in Boston and the stop and go traffic made her sick at first.

Are they happy to have adopted a dog that overcame her car issues? Of course! I have never known of a dog who did not get past car sickness.

Meggie' and Stella's car sickness is based in fear. Many of the pups who have been shipped up from the south get car sick. Three days in a van is a pretty scary place, especially if you are not feeling well. In hindsight, I wished I had started with the Benydryl earlier. Once the dogs get sick, then they fear getting sick and that in turn makes them sick. Meggie had been doing really well and taking rides with me that were very short. Picking up a kid down the street, or a ride to an off leash park. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I drove her to Windham to be in class did she get sick both ways io the 30 minute ride that I realized that she was not yet over the hump. Prior to that if I saw that she started to drool, I pulled right over and let her get her sea legs and she was fine for the remainder of the short trip, sans gak. 

So, moving on to finding Meggie her forever home, I have stepped up my plans at helping her overcome her car sickness. Only problem is, I don't have a car at this time. My Kia Sedona van was towed up 95 from York after it overheated. Shout out to tow truck driver Don who took not only my 9 year old kid, but my dog Charlee in his tow truck. Tow truck drivers do not have to take babies in car seats, or dogs due to some sort of liability issues, or so they have told me when I was stuck on the side of a the road in the past No amount of eye lash batting, or bribery changed their mind.

I mention this because while there is nothing you can do at the time, it is something to keep in mind when you take your dogs to various destinations. My daughter and I commented how grateful we were that we didn't have Meggie in the car last night!

Once I get a vehicle back, I am stepping up Meggie's car training. This will involve short trips with Benydrl given a half hour before we leave.  She will get to go  fun places on an empty stomach, we will hang in the car when it is not moving, and she will eat her  meals in the car in the driveway. We will also try ground ginger. You can buy ginger powder in bulk and then put it in your own organic capsules. I will let you know how that goes. I have been accused of not really wanting to place Meggie and undermining her potential homes.

Guilty! But Meggie is just so darn cute and her reactivity is pretty much gone with me, and I worry that it will come back if I am not super careful where she is placed.

By the way, today is national Shelter Dog Appreciation Day. Shout out to my favorite gal pal Charlee who was pulled from a kill shelter in Albany NY after being relinquished when her owner died.

Finney, the day we picked him up.  He didn't gak that day, but did get sick a few times in the begining.  His entire litter got over getting car sick in a few months with just a little effort.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Storm Center Dogs - Commercial # 2

Storm Center Dogs commercial number 2 is just about as cute as the first one. All my friends want to know if I have commercials that their dogs can be in and how I got the job of wrangling. The majority of the Storm Center Dogs belong to staff of WCHS6.

I met the WCVB6 creative director when she took her pup Bandit to puppy class. Karen is a first time dog owner, and we got to know each other as I helped her through Bandit's puppy learning curve. I am happy to report that Karen is now officially a newly confirmed "dog person" Bandit is so so so so cute that I had suggested she put him on TV. One night in class we started tossing around ideas, and Storm Center Dogs was born. While I did have a teeny something to do with it, the creativity was all Karen, and I am impressed with her talents. It was my job to keep the dogs on their marks and get them to do what ever behavior it was that they knew how to do. Most of the dogs excelled at being cute and I think we did a pretty good job at extracting that don't you? I also helped the dogs to feel comfortable in the small white room.

The other question that most people ask is how long did it take to make. Dogs started filming at 7:30 AM and we were done with close to 30 dogs before 1. Each dog had about 10 minutes in the room, give or take.

Here is the first spot in case you missed it, or just wish to revisit the cute. It played during the National Dog Show last Thursday. Cool!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sapphire -ADOPTED!

I am happy and hopeful for Sapphire who left for a new life with a great new Mom and wonderful 10 month old rescue sister dog on Sunday. Lucky Sapphire will be going to lots of training classes and even get to play agility! There are also 4 cats in her new home. That is a lot of new and if it isn't a good fit for her, of course I will take her back. Technically I guess you would call this a trial, although that is not what it looked like when they left.

Looked like one happy family to me!

That is a far cry from a being what is refereed to as a "lifer" dog In Mississippi, where Sapphire had little to any chance of being adopted once she past puppyhood.

Wasn't sure how Meggie would do without her BFF, but I have managed to give Meggie a lot more of my time with one less here and she seems totally fine with getting more human interaction and attention. I just re wrote Meggie's bio and I think she is very close to moving on to her new life as well.


I will miss them both.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Smooch your Pooch" children's book review

My head exploded at the Scholastic book fair Friday morning at precisely 8:52 AM. Well it didn't explode per say, but I was seen acting a bit like a crazy person. A few kiddos close to me may even had heard me mutter the H E double hockey stick word. There I was with my 9 year old daughter sleepily picking out a few books when I opened what appeared to be a cute dog book and BAM! The very first page of Smooch your Pooch is a dog bite waiting to happen.

The book is geared for 4 and up! Four and ups! Certainly it could understood by kids as young as 2.

What were the words that made my head explode? What were the words aimed at children that could with no exaggeration result in them getting bit by a dog square in the face?

Smooch your pooch to show you care, give him a hug anytime, anywhere.

Holy Hell!
Dogs do not understand hugs. Dogs do not hug each other. Teach your kids not to hug dogs, especially strange dogs that they do not live with. Many dogs will tolerate hugs from their own family, but will not tolerate hugs from strangers. Besides which what about if the dog is sleeping, or eating or any number of other things?  That is bad advice for a child for any animal.  Animals are not hanging around just hoping  we will come and disturb them.

Applied Animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell explains it this way in her book The Other End of the Leash.

"Dogs don't hug...and often they don't react kindly to those who do. Your own dog may benevolently put up with it , but I've seen hundreds of dogs who growled or bit when someone hugged them."

Personally I have had many dog bite training cases where the kid's were bit in the face after they put their faces right up to the dog's and kissed and hugged it. Often times the dogs gave clear warning signs that were missed. In many of these cases the dogs were inadvertently hurt by the child, were already over stimulated, or just plain had enough.

Starting in my puppy classes I show owners how to teach restraint and to teach pups to accept and tolerate hugs, but this lesson always comes with a caveat.

Dogs are canines and we are primates. Being of different species we are bound to misunderstand each other .Humans hug to show affection and to comfort, while the closest thing a dog has to a hug is mounting, which can be interpreted as aggression. While it is true that most dogs learn that we don't really mean any harm, some remain uncomfortable and won't tolerate it.

So I ask you, even if your own personal dog loves any and all attention, is it not negligence to teach the opposite of safe dog behavior via a very cute picture book?

I have been giving my  Kids and Dog safety demo  free to qualifying groups going on 15 years, and I have been a presenter for  the national program Dogs And Storks   going on three years and I  sure think so.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Commercial revealed! Channel 6 Weather Center Dogs

 The  commercial that I wrangled was for Channel 6 Storm Center and they will start to air starting this coming Monday. In case you don't live in Maine, or never noticed, the Channel 6 anchors all wear sweaters in bad weather. In the commercial, all the dogs are wearing theirs.

It pretty much speaks for itself --- just a whole lotta cute.

Be sure to watch for my two dogs Finney and Charlee. Charlee has been on borrowed time since 2006, and just a few days before the shoot she suffered yet another bout of panceatitis. I am extra happy with her 5 seconds of frame.

 Finney, just sits there looking good, which is what he does best.

This is a first of a series, and I can't wait to see the others. There were about 25 dogs and all of them will be featured. Most of the dogs belong to staff from Channel 6.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Four plus 1

I have been meaning to post this photo as a wordless Wednesday shot, but I kept forgetting, so consider it a scatter brained Thursday post. A few weeks back I took care of my friend's adorable just turned 5 year old (he was 4 on this day) and we took a walk to Evergreen to feed the ducks.

Great kid, great day, great dogs.

And yes, I did tie the the fosters to a tree. They were only there for a second. Had to,  Meggie and Sapphire kept trying to kiss Oywn.
So who wants to adopt my super foster pups? They are getting too comfy here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Salmon Puppy Pizza Bites

In preparation for my first time wrangling of about 25 dogs for a Television commercial, I baked a batch of Salmon Puppy Pizza Bites. Humans were told to bring treats, but I wanted to be sure we had a super high value treats just in case.

My budget for dog's treats breaks the bank some weeks. When I saw my trainer friend  Tracy Haskell's  blog on  salmon brownies that she baked and brought to a Rally-O trial, I took a look at the recipe and couldn't wait to give it a try. I already had a pack of seven 7 oz cans of Salmon my mother bought me at Costco (for human fish chowder , but Mom I still have enough for fish chowder) and all the other ingredients on hand.
While I realize that was not technically free, it sure seemed like it last week! A comparable dog treat if purchased in a store, would not be nearly as healthy and would cost about 10 dollars for less than half a pound. I estimate this made the equivalent of perhaps a dozen store sized  bags, but my guestimate math is weak at best . What I do know is that I had enough for all the dogs at the shoot, and for training treats for my 4 dogs, and my client's dogs for another week. Only a few dogs turned their noses up at it. Most of the dogs including mine, acted like it was doggie crack.
Now that is some guestimate math that I can get behind!

For Charlee who is on a very restricted diet due to pancreatitis, I stored the treats in with her regular food to make her own food tastier and of course smellier. She still has a small bag of  salmon trail mix left.

Tracy's recipe is for Salmon Brownies, but I ended up using my pizza pan, which is how I ended up making Salmon Puppy Pizza Bites. 

Copy and pasted below is Tracy's recipe. I will be making them again, and next time I am going to add shredded sweet potato. I will let you all know how that turns out. If you have a  tried and true high value dog treat recipe (not biscuits) please share in the comment section. My baking time was closer to 50 minutes.

FYI, I froze leftovers in small baggies and used them as needed. I have no idea how long you can freeze these for, but at my house that is not ever an issue.

Bandit liked them so much his Mom asked for the recipe.  I wish they had told me that you can't wear shoes in the studio, guess who wasn't wearing any socks that day?

Tracy's Chewy Salmon Brownies

The Basic Recipe
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix All together:

14 to 18 oz. canned fish- do not drain (salmon, tuna)
2 or 3 eggs
1/2 cup cheese finely grated
1 1/2 cups flour (oat, wheat...)
Spread onto an oiled 9 x 13 inch baking sheet.
Bake about 20 minutes.
A large chef's knife works well to cut them. After cutting remove from pan to cool.

Makes about a bazillion training size treats!

Feed to your dog- who hopefully relishes them- woof, woof woof!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ready for his close-up

I am lucky that I love my job. One of my jobs anyway, that would be the one with dogs. Recently I picked a job in retail for holiday help. My hope is that they keep me on and I get benefits. The "other" job is not so bad and it is nice getting a discount on clothes for the kids and I. Better than the 15 % discount, is being aware of special sales that pop up now and again. If you pay attention, things can be obtained much cheaper, and that goes for all retail, to include some great bargain shopping at the supermarkets. Yesterday I saved a hundred bucks at Shaw's! Being in retail these last few weeks has given me insight into ways to save when I shop for other items to, so hopefully even if the job doesn't pan out, there will be that.

The most fun and exciting thing of late in the good job, the dog job, was that I wrangled a commercial last week. I am sworn to secrecy until it airs on Saturday, but check out how handsome my dog Finney looks. Both my dogs are in it along with a few of my client's dogs. Not sure of the total of dogs that I handled that day, but I think it was about 25. They were all sweet and adorable and the hardest thing about movie or print work with animals is working from a distance and not being in the shot yourself. If you think your dog has what it takes to be a superstar, I can tell you right now that is where you need to start.

Distance, distance, distance! Target training where you can send your dog to a place is the thing you should be working on.

Next week all will be revealed. Can't wait to see the commercials and share!

By the way, the new retail job has VPI pet insurance as a bennie. How cool would that be? Pet insurance in the work place sure seems like a wave of the future to me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If you got the teen, I got the perfect dog

People have been asking about my two foster dogs. Yup, they are still here. Sapphire met a lovely family with a two year old daughter last weekend and the dog was perfect. I was all mush watching her interact with the family in such a sweet and appropriate way. Saffi, was the first dog they met, and the family plans to meet and greet quite a few more dogs before deciding which dog will join their family. That is wise and I am sure whatever dog they get will be well taken care of (come back nice people!!)

Sapphire is a super dog and she will be placed soon no doubt, because she can fit in just about anywhere. Sapphire could be a super wonderful pet for just about any family, or she could be a competition dog in a varity of sports.  She is  a nice,  smart and super athletic dog!

Anyone notice the time? It is 4:00 AM. Sapphire woke me up barking a while ago and I have had a hard time getting back to sleep.

Sapphire comes with a teen meter feature not found in many dogs. It is the if your teenager tries to sneak in after curfew, the dog will bark and wake you all up feature.

Thanks Saffi!

Good dog.
http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/17718179 Sapphire

http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/17400115 Meggie

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some simple rescue rules for adopters

Here is a short and I mean short how to article on how to find the right rescue dog  that I wrote for November's Raising Maine Magazine.  You can't say a whole lot in 500 words but I tried to fit in as much as possible. 
Reprinted with permission.

Do you have a forever home for a dog?

If you are looking for a dog to add to your family, you’ll likely start your search on the Internet. Petfinder.com is the virtual home of 347,259 adoptable pets from 13,439 adoption groups, proving that the Internet has changed the way we rescue dogs and make them part of our families.

It is estimated that three to four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized each year.

Many homeless dogs end up in shelters through no fault of their own. And the Humane Society of the United States estimates that 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebred.

If your family has it’s heart set on a particular breed, be sure to get in touch with your local breed rescue. As a general rule, breed rescues do an excellent job of matching dogs with forever homes because those families know and love the breed. Always keep in mind a dog breed’s intended use when deciding if a particular dog is a good match for your family.

But beware: Not all rescues are created equal and the shuffling of dogs from state to state has given rise to unscrupulous practices, some for money, but others stemming from misguided good intentions. Rescue dogs can be the perfect addition to your family, but do not “buy” a rescue puppy, sight unseen from an unknown, online source.

Rules of rescue

1. Don’t fall in love with a photo. Rescues, foster homes, shelters and breed rescues evaluate dogs that are in their care and can be an invaluable match making source. Listen to them!

2. Don’t over estimate your skills in training your new addition or the time that you have to devote to a dog.

3. Never adopt a dog off a truck (see No. 1). Due to quarantine laws and behavior evaluation issues, dogs should be in foster care first.

4. Be prepared for extensive screening and a home visit.

5. If you are turned down for a dog, don’t take it personally.

People who work in animal adoptions are trying to find the best matches they can. Get to know area rescues so they understand what you are looking for and can help pick the right dog for you.

6. While it is true that some rescue dogs come with baggage, not all do. With proper training and guidance you can change that baggage to a small carry-on in no time.

7. Be prepared to wait – sometimes for a very long time – for the right dog to come along.

An extensive list of local shelters and rescues can be found on Petfinder.com.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hand Targeting on Good Day Maine

The end of August I took my fabulous foster pup Stella (formally Evon) on Good Day  Maine to demonstrate how to teach hand targeting. If you watch closely you can see that I lost the news casters in the beginning. It takes them a little bit to be on board as to why one would bother teaching a pup to touch their nose to your hand. I used to save hand targeting for my advanced classes, but now I teach it in all puppy K, and manners classes and it is the first thing I teach my foster dogs. It is a wonderful foundation exercise. In the video I explain why targeting is a must teach.

For fearful and problem dogs, hand targeting is a MUST.

I was flattered to wake up this morning to a mention on my friend Mary's blog. Mary is a first time foster and she has taken on a very fearful, dog from death row. Aaron would have been a goner without Mary's intervention. Her entire blog is  worthy of a read.  Not only is it packed with wonderful training insights, but Mary is a wonderful writer and she really knows how to weave a tale.

Included in Mary's blog latest post  is a 5 minute clip showing her using hand targeting to get Aaron used to the car that he once feared. Of note, the dog really doesn't look that fearful anymore. Great job Mary! The dog who is jumping in and out of the car is the same dog who would not even leave her house not that long ago.

Aaron is available for adoption by the way, but don't forget I still have two special pups at my house and they are darn good targeters in their own right, although, not quite as great as Stella in the video. In hindsight, when the news casters ask me if they can try it, I should have said no, since I really had no idea if she would work for them.  Live TV takes some getting used to.

Good Girl Stella!

By the way, Stella is thriving in Boston with my cousin. Here she is at the Head of the Charles Regatta where my cousin reports she was perfect!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No Puppy left behind. Trot joins Governor's race

In one week Maine will pick a new Governor, and I would like to introduce  you to an exciting new candidate.  With a platform that includes No Puppy Left Behind, Celebrate Diversity,  Affordable Pet Insurance, Scoop Your Poop, and a Bone in Every Bowl,  who wouldn't get behind the newest write in candidate--- Trot.

I have known Trot personally for several years, and worked closely with him on a Canine Musical Drill Team.  Without  a shadow of a doubt, Trot is a smart guy, and a  team player with plenty of animal magnetism. 

Thanks to my friend MaryJo McCormack for sharing her photo.

from left to right Daisy, Trot, Abby and Glory.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meggie and Sapphire are ready to move on-help them please!

Watching Meggie and Sapphire blossom here over the last several weeks has made me not regret my heart's decision to take them on as foster dogs. My head on the other hand knows I am meshugana. Me and the kids and the dogs need a break and with the kids back to school, I am stretched really thin these day. Who isn't right?

With that said, please help me find these two their forever homes. It is  kind of sad seeing them here. Both dogs are ready to move on and both dogs deserve a better life than I can give them.

Meggie is listed as reactive on her Pet finder bio, but I am on the verge of taking that down. She is more excitable I should say now, after I have gotten to know her, She is quick to size up and move on. Just about everyone who meets Meggie wants her, but can't take her for various reasons. She has a HUGE fan club, and I am her number one fan. When we were walking home from school,  the tree guy was so smitten with her, that he is contemplating risking a divorce, by bringing home a third dog.

She has a very sweet spirit and is just overall sugar and spice and everything nice.

In all my experience as a dog trainer, I have never seen a dog learn and grow so quickly as the transformation that I have seen in Sapphire.

Are you my Mother?

The day we met her at the kennel she was so freaked out, that her eyes were  wall eyed, and close  to 50 percent white. Yet and still, she crawled over to us to say hello. Sapphire is an incredibly resilient dog and will make someone an awesome family member. She is still bouncing off my back door and she can hit her hind foot close to 5 feet up. Not only is she sweet and cuddly and kissy, but she is super athletic. I mean off the hook athletic.

She would make an awesome Frisbee or sport dog.

Check out her turbo body. She will make a nice pet, and wow does she love kids.

On a beautiful fall day I spent a good amount of time just watching Meggie and Sapphire play and I have to say, in this regards, 2 is easier than one. They tire each other out. In case you don't know, adolescent dogs - - -.not so easy.

We really do need to take a foster break, so please, share my foster pups around!
They are fostered for Canine Commitment

Charlee thanks you!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

If my dogs were people

Three Woofs and a Woo, is by far my favorite dog blog. Sheena, AKA The Cookie Lady runs a Border Collie Rescue out side of Vancouver BC, and her great photos and hysterical commentary of her wonderful dogs has made my day for the last several years. It was she who inspired me to put Charlee and Finney in the now almost famous blue rubber wig after she put her Tweed in a motorcycle helmet. She has once again inspired me with a recent "If my dogs were people" post. (Good thing she is so far away. Check the dog up for adoption  on the is post that looks JUST like Charlee's mini me.)

I have been a fan of finding an animal's inner person ever since we used to do it at the barn I rode at since I was 10 years old. It all started with Bridget, one of my first regular school horses. The biggest lesson that Bridget taught me was how to use my inside leg. No inside leg and Bridget would make the tweeniest circles in the middle of the ring. School horses think that the smaller circle they make the less they have to work. Bridget was an expert at knowing who could actually ride. For those of us who could, Bridget also taught us how to jump. Too far forward were ya? Then Bridget saw to it that you sailed over the jump without her.

Bridget was a great teacher, but at the same time she was a sad, bitchy, miserable creature. She was '"witchy" when I was 10 and was an even bigger witch a good 25 years later when I was shocked to see her still making tiny circles in the middle of the riding ring with beginners who had not yet learned to use their inside leg. Poor Bridget was purchased by gentlemen with special needs who only rode her on Sundays. Don kept Bridget in the school for a break in his board, and to have her ready for him to ride on Sundays. Bridget was about 4 when I met her and she was a school horse for most of her long miserable life. When she wasn't in the ring, she was wearing a cribbing strap around her neck to keep her from sucking in air all day every day. She needed to be turned out by herself, or she would kick or bite the other horses. I always brought an extra carrot for poor Bridget.

I still remember the day we were giving human personalities to the 40 odd horses at the barn and my friend Lisa NAILED Bridget. I mean she nailed her.

If Bridget were human she would work as a  chamber maid at a low cost motel. She would wrap on your door with her raspy cigarette smoker's voice, and in her slow methodical way exclaim "housekeeping, time to make the beds." Poor Bridget would never vary from this routine and she would repeat it over and over for life. Yes Bridget was a miserable chamber maid, no doubt about it.

If my last dog Dina were human, she would have been in a healing profession, Doctor, Pediatrician, Counselor. She was super smart, loved people and Dina had an amazing ability of knowing what ailed a person. A nurse told me she sensed the change of electric current in a body. On many an occasion during the 10 years we did pet therapy Dina would lay her head where ever a person's injury was, even if it was old - with no bandage or anything. Head injuries, hip injuries, you name it, she found it. People would tear up and reach for her and say "She knows." It was awesome.

Charlee's human personality became clear to me when she was 3 years old and she had a free reading from a pet psychic at a dog event. I asked  "what the hell does Charlee want and how can I help her to be less reactive." I asked "does the dog want to come with me in the car and to work or not." The woman put on her best valley girl voice and said something like. "that sounds good , no I don't like that." For every question I asked, Charlee gave two conflicting answers. Charlee was a very conflicted dog in her younger days, but for the most  part she has grown out of it. Once  a Valley girl,  Charlee would now be the person at the beach who would blast you for coming too close to her towel, and  youngsters would know better than to play their radio near by, but at the same time. Charlee would have the oldest and dearest friends. Her close friends woud know her  for the kind soul that she was, and know that she was crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Charlee would run a non profit and everyone who worked under would respect her, but at the same time fear her just a little.  Charlee is a patron of the arts and dabbles in singing and stand up comedy.That girl  loves an audience.

We have jokingly called  Finney "husband dog" since he was quite young. Finn has a lot of traits that I would look for in a mate.

He is good looking!
He has a beautiful body!
He is all about family.
He is smart! (but not too smart.)
Takes his work very seriously.
Opposite of a slacker.
Finn is respectful of others.

Finn would maybe be a teacher, or computer geek.. Finn would have a pocket protector and be rather nerdy, but everyone would like him. He would be the union leader and peace keeper in his place of work. Finn is a stand up guy and he doesn't hog the bed.

He would be the annoying neighbor who lost his cool now and again and yelled at the neighborhood kids that played in front of the house.  He is a bit quirky and has  OCD, but hey, no one is perfect.  Pretty sure Finney  would keep a gun in the house for protection. Finn would be a gentleman farmer,  and be a bit anal about his garden.  Of course he is very clean and a great cook. 

Not sure if Meggie would be in high school or college. but either way, she would at the very top of her class and have a lot of friends. She would be the kind of kid who used her womanly wiles to get her way.  Meggie  would be majoring in business and no doubt - she is fast tracking her MBA. 

Sapphire is currently on the dole, but she is getting her GED. She has a bit of adversity of overcome, but now that she has a mentor that she trusts, great things are in store for her.

MBA Meggie and GED Sapphire are available for adoption through  http://caninecommitment.org/

Do tell, what would your pets be like if they were human?

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Sapphire thinks of the rain

Snapped this shot of my foster pup Sapphire just now  with my Blackberry while I was laughing, so the quality is poor, but you can get the idea.  I missed her better leaps, but took pity on her and let her back in the house. 
Sapphire can get her hind feet up to my shoulder level, which we estimate to be about 5 feet.

Future  Frisbee dog anyone? 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meggie's first pet pup therapy visit! Gooddogz Good Company

 One of my long term goals is to start a pet therapy group modeled after the defunct Boston area Helping Hounds. I was a member of The Helping Hounds for 10 years with my  dogs Dina, Rollo and Charlee. My dogs were favorites at Boston Children's Hospital, Spaulding Rehab, and local nursing homes, and I loved each and every visit.

Mothering 3 young kids put my plans  on hold until... now!

I haz the cute!

Charlee and I did our first official pet visitation last month to an assisted living facility. Some of you may remember that was the day we added cute and adorable Cotton, our 3 month old rabbit to the family.. You cannot help but smile when you look at Cotton with her one ear up, one ear down. I am told that she may stay like that. Here's hoping.

When I was visited  last month, I mentioned that I had an adorable foster pup dog at home. And so it was that Meggie went on her very first pet therapy visit by request.

Meggie is an excellent planter of  kisses

I am often asked what it takes for a dog to be a therapy dog . Well training of course and there are agencies like Therapy dog Inc and Therapy Dog International as well as Delta Society  who will certify and insure your dog if they pass their tests. There are also many places usually nursing home that are often very close to your home, that will welcome your well behaved dog. Some require a Canine Good  Citizen Certificate from the AKC. 
Not sure if your dog is welcome at a facility near you? Call and find out what is required.  

There is a lot a dog needs to learn to be a therapy dog. To be clear, I am not advising that any one bring any dog anywhere with out any thought or training. Common sense must prevail and  at minimum dogs cannot be fearful or  aggressive. They must not  jump up, know basic commands, and be proofed for the unexpected, like dropped trays and people grabbing at them. They MUST really like people.

To my surprise, Meggie was grabbed and held by her snout by several people.. She was a bit surprised, but tolerated it well, and of course I came to her rescue immediately. To be clear, Meggie  is not a therapy dog at this time. She would need lots more training. Today Meggie was a visiting puppy and I micro managed her.

After our visit, she worked on chill while residents made their way to the dining room. She did excellent with walkers, wheelchairs and a variety of adoring new fans.

Meggie LOVES LOVES LOVES people and she may be a candidate for therapy dog. Time as well as her person will tell.

Meggie is a FABULOUS dog with an ever widening fan club. I am certain her family is just around the corner.
To view Meggie's Petfinder bio, please click here.

If you would like to join our pet therapy group, please let me know. Well behaved dogs welcome! Pet Therapy is an excellent venue for continuing canine education.  If you know a venue in need of pet visitations, please let me know.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mrs Potatohead hits the trails with 4, yes 4

Armed with 4 cheese sticks and a pocket full of kibble I braved the woods with my 4 charges this morning. On picture perfect fall days like this, what I really want to do is gallop on horseback at breakneck speed. Given that I haven't been on a horse in about 16 years, watching dogs run flat out and enjoy being dogs is the next best thing. I do have plans to get back in the saddle in the not too distant future. For many years I lived and breathed horses, but giving birth to a kid with special health needs really changed everything. It is true that adults cannot clear their minds, and after my son was born, all I could think about when I rode horses  was how selfish I was, and what would happen to him if anything happened to me. I would not say that I was afraid so much as I had clearly lost my edge.  I am ready to get some on my selfish self back.

Meanwhile, back in the woods.

A long way from the overcrowed shelter in Mississippi!!!

Great walk this morning with all 4 dogs behaving beautifully and staying close with excellent recall. Sapphire dragged a leash just in case, and  she was the best of the 4. Of course that could change as she becomes more confident and we start to see her true self, but the dog has spent her whole in a shelter and and keen to be with me. Look for a blog post soon on "Choose to hike." Basically I apply Dawn Jeks Choose to Heel principle to everyday, all of the time, and start just as soon as the new fosters arrive. Meggie and Sapphire have spent a lot of time following me around my yard and being rewarded for it.

You know you want to adopt me!

Our walk was not totally relaxing for me at least as I was in what I tell my students "Mrs Potatohead mode," and at all times was on the look out for any other dogs, vermin, or people, but we only saw one lone gentlemen who we met on the way into the woods.

Galloping dogs, It's a good thing.

12 year old tumor ridden Charlee out ran them all!