Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The final waffle - Meggie is up for adoption - for realz!

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Meggie is officially up for adoption. She is a fantastic dog, but my 12 year old dog is endlessly annoyed by her and Finn , who likes everyone, feels the same way. Charlee deserves a little peace in her twilight. Charlee has nicked her in the snout a few times, mostly when Meggie forgets and runs right into her mouth (ah youth!). and Finn flashes his pearly whites several times a day. When it is time to chill out, Finn takes his down time seriously.  Meggie does not enjoy lots of new dogs in her face, and for that reason also a home without a revolving door would be best for her.

Meggie LOVES kids and one of her favorite things to do is come with me and stand on the sidelines at school and have everyone come up and meet her. She and I have had many outings and she has met hundreds of people with me, and is doing quite well when meeting off leash dogs in the woods. On leash greetings still needs direction but she is getting better by the day. I would prefer she goes to a home with someone who will do something with her and feel that she would be a blast to train for just about any dog sport venue. Meggie is very clever and athletic and sweet sweet sweet. I shopped her to the local flyball people and her mug is getting around in lots of doggie circles so hopefully, she will find her home soon.

Meggies updated bio

All three of my kids are fine with Meggie finding the right home that suits her best,  and I even have a two dollar bet with my youngest who swears that she will not cry when Meggie leaves.

Easy money.

I did sweeten the pot a bit by committing to a Springer Spaniel pup in the spring. More on that soon!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's up universe or sign sign everywhere a sign

Two years ago to the this day, we had the MOST wonderful and beauteous foster dog that we named Jonas after his rock star good looks. Funny, middle daughter who named him has since moved on to cooler boys to drool over, while her younger sister has the Jonas Brother fever. Me, I just hope that Camp Rock really is the final jam if you get my drift.

Border Collie Jonas was a stray at the local shelter and I fostered him for about a month. I wanted that dog soooooo bad. .Jonas came into our lives at a time when the last thing we needed was another dog. Not only was Jonas gorgeous and smart and athletic and great with kids and other dogs, but Jonas came with a host of "signs" from the universe.  I don't have a crystal clear memory of what all the signs were, but it had to do with birth dates and my old dogs. When Jonas's adopter contacted me after seeing his handsome mug on line, the first thing she started spouting was how she was sure he was supposed to be her dog, and then she excitedly reeled off an exhaustive list of signs, that also had to do with dead dogs and numbers and birthdays and whatnots.

Bet you already guessed that I that her signs convinced me that this was a sign that Jonas was indeed her dog.

I won't haz Smiths?

And they lived happily ever after, but Jonas will forever be the dog who got away.

Yes, we animal people are an odd lot.

Last Thursday I took home Cotton the adorable baby bunny. The short version is that there were signs,  and it had to do with an animal falling into my lap the day before my daughter's birthday - again.

Charlee is here because she shares a birthday with my last two dogs, but even that is a stretch seeing that we only knew for sure one of the dog's birthdays and he was ultimately re homed.

And Finney, well, he fits into the category of "our dogs find us". I had been looking for a dog to work with reactive and aggressive dogs with and there he was, and he has fulfilled his purpose and then some.

Love you Finns..

I wondefuls.  Every day is take me to work day.

So where the hell you may ask is this going?   I bet a few of you guessed it is Meggie.

Meggie didn't come with signs, but she did come at time when my dog is failing. She has done well lately with new dogs and her sweetness really pulls at my heart. Still, her timing is worse than when we fostered rock star Jonas.   Sans dog/dog  issues, it is almost as if I  custom  ordered her.  I have been saying for years and years that my next dog would be a petite smooth coat Border Collie with a super soft temperament. Meggie sure is close.

Meggie's guarding and issues with other dogs are getting so much better. Right now her worst trait is that she doesn't just jump, she gleefully LAUNCHES at people. I have helped a lot of people with this issue, but I have never lived with a dog who did this before. It is very trainable and I would much prefer a dog who loves people over a dog who did not, beside,she will be a breeze to train to jump into my arms right?

Happy to report that Finn is on the mend but he will  remain on leash and be restricted for a few more weeks.

This morning without Finney running Meggie shadowed Charlee on our off leash walk. It was adorable to see and there were a few gasping awww moments for me. This week I admitted to myself that Charlee has some new tumors that are growing and after being a total bitch to the pup, Charlee has kind of decided she kind of sort of likes her.


Please fill in the blank.

The longer Meggie stays here the more likely it is that ____   ________   ______.

Did you aquire your animals with signs?

I can Haz Smiths please?

we can haz doomed

Friday, September 17, 2010

Today's analogy

People who get dogs in lieu of a human baby is to --

me getting a rabbit yesterday when I really want Meggie our foster puppy.

We are not too far away from placing our 20th foster dog since we moved to Maine, and six of those of those since June. It is not quite additive exactly as it is hard to say no to dogs in need, when we are set up here to easily help them. Fostering dogs and sending them off to great homes has gotten easier. I wouldn't say that we are detached exactly, but I suppose my kids and I have developed a thick skin that protects us from feeling the loss too badly. I also think that as a professional dog trainer who meets thousands of dogs a year, I have a pretty narrow criteria of what my "next dog" will be like.

Meet Meggie the dog who has brought me close to the brink of joining the Failed Foster Club.


There are numerous reasons that she is not a good choice for us, the main one being that our 12 year old dog Charlee  has not given her the approval, not to mention that we are not looking to add a third dog. Meggie has been here for about 3 weeks and only just got listed on , because I  thought really long and hard about keeping her.

It is all Meggie's fault that we got a rabbit. Insert insane laughter here.

Yesterday I was doing a pet therapy visit at an assisted living facility with Charlee. and the dog escorted me   to a box of 8 week old baby rabbits  in the next room.

We have had most pets that families can have, but we never had a rabbit. Seriously do  baby rabbits not tip the cute meter  clear off the charts? After the massive amount of poop generated by the three guinea pigs we had, I was not in the market for adding more pet toilets to clean to my life, but today is my youngest daughter's ninth birthday and what I really want is Meggie, so Happy Birthday Heather right?

That is how it happened that we have added Cotton, or as my son has dubbed the bunny "Indoor Squirrel" to the Smith household. We are not sure if Cotton is a male or female. I was told to spread the bunny's legs and if a little wiener pops out then I will know it is a boy.

That is on my list of things to do today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dogs Rule

Tonight I was honored to be part of a dog behavior panel for Dogs Rule at the Brunswick Library. Put on by The Coastal Humane Society, it was attended by about 46 people and 16 pretty well behaved dogs.

I had only 15 minutes to talk about aggression, so with my short time, I chose to speak about how a lot of aggression is directly related to people misreading or totally missing what their dogs are telling them.

 Attendees got to take home a wonderful information packet from the panel, as well as the shelter.  The free food was yummy!   I think my favorite quote of the night came from Ken, Planet Dogs store manager who spoke about  enrichment toys for dogs.

He started his talk by saying "Kong is a four letter word in our store."

Have to say, Planet Dog's Orbie is a great toy and Ken was right, Planet Dog's toys like the Orbie and Strawberry do look better on the floor than that four letter Kong.

15 minutes was no where near long enough time to talk about aggression, but I was proud to do my part, and share information that will help people and dogs live more harmoniously.

I played this 2 minute short. It was fun to see my pals on the big screen.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Failed once again at Failed Foster Club membership

Pretty much all my friends were surprised that I have decided to place our foster pup Meggie. My reasons for not keeping her are multi faceted. To understand why we are not keeping her, first you need to get inside my head a little on the reasoning on how Meggie was even being considered to become third dog.

First of all, we are not looking for another dog. We said we weren't fostering for a while either, but looks like that is out the window. When my middle daughter and I went to the kennel to pick up Meggie, I didn't even have the leash in my hard before we looked at each other and said at the same time

"Dina." Dina was my last Border Collie and like most dog owners, I thought she was pretty special. She had a sweet spirit about her that I have been searching for ever since. To many degrees, Meggie has it. She is so incredibly sweet and wonderful with people. Meggie has a soft, super duper sweet temperament. She is special no doubt.  If you had a do-over with a dog like your heart dog, wouldn't you take it?

On the one hand, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this dog. She is super star smart, and biddable and athletic and I LOVE her size and her adorableness.

You know and I know that all dogs have "something, " and Meggie's something has to do with other dogs. She is reactive, and controlling. These two traits often go hand and hand with some herding dogs, and yes I am a trainer and yes I can train her, and yes she only just turned 6 months old, BUT and this is a very big but, just because I can, doesn't mean that I should. If I have learned anything from having a reactive dog for nearly 12 years and a non reactive dog for 4, I don't want another one and  they are not a fit good for us.

I have garnered some wisdom along the years and listen up because here it is. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is not put a dog in stressful situations over and over and over and over. One of my "needs" or "musts" in a dog, is a dog that I can take in public. My next dog will have to be able to come to teach classes with me and be a demo dog at public events.

While I "could" help Meggie, and she has made progress already, the sheer number of dogs that she would be exposed to you would not be in HER best interest. "Flooding" her constantly both in our home and out and about, is not the best training plan for a reactive dog.

After a short time, Meggie was fine with Stella and they became fast friends, and she was fine immediately with both of my dogs, but again I repeat, we were not looking for a dog. She won us over immediately, and we love everything about her, but. It is not that I don't think she is or could be the right dog for us, I am trying to not be selfish . We are not the right home for HER.

Three years ago we almost adopted a Border Collie. The day before we were to pick her up, Finney chased a squirrel up a tree and pulled out a toe nail. It cost us a dollar more than the price of the dog. I re-evaluated our ability to take on a third dog and passed on Fancy siteing that "Finney took a hit for the team."

On Wednesday, the first day all three of my kids were back in school. Finn collided with the puppy in the woods. He was flying at warp speed and didn't see her on the path in the tall grass. Warning, it is like seeing a horse break down at the track, or at least it is for me.

Another hit for the team we wondered?
Sure seems to me that the universe doesn't' want Finney to have a little sister. He didn't put weight on his left hind leg for a day or so, and he is still favoring it a bit. Finney is a drama king and he didn't get rushed off to the vet but if he doesn't improve greatly, he will be going first thing next week. 

Then there is Charlee. She has always done better with males in the house, and Charlee is irritated by Meggie's rapid  movement pretty much all the time. While I do think it is possible to find a dog for Charlee to live out her golden time with us, it is just not fair. Charlee is no dumby, and she knew that Meggie was granted different rights than the other foster dogs, and she doesn't' like it.

Just because Charlee can share me, doesn't' mean that she should have to.
And so ends the saga, of how I have still managed to stay out of the Failed Foster Club.
Meggie's (Lucy's) Pet Finder listing. It will be updated shortly. She was listed as adopted after the rescue heard me gush over and over about her, although I did tell them she was on a three week trial. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My dogs give Skin-eez no stuffing toys the paws up

Mid summer I got a Skin-eez stuffing free squirrel dog toy to product test. My product testing philosophy goes something like this.

If a PR firm, or company sends me something for free and I like it, I will blog about it. If I don't, I won't trash them. I assure you that there have been a lot of things that don't make the blog review cut, but I appreciate the chance to try them and know what is out there.

If I buy a product with my own hard earned green and don't like it, then it is fair game.

When one of my kids entered the back yard with the squirrel Skin-eez fresh from a UPS delivery truck, me and the dogs were testing a dog toy at the time, and let's just say that one never got reviewed. My kids love opening the products to test, and as my youngest opened the box from Skin-eez, she had a rapt audience of 5 dogs. How they knew it was for them, I have no idea. When she took the squirrel out of the box there was a massive interest in it right away.

The toy is not intended for games of hard tug of war slaughter, so I put it away until after my 3 foster puppies were placed. There is something very appealing about these toys to dogs, and they all wanted it, while I could not get them to even look at the "ain't gonna review that one toy."

This summer with 4 stuffing pulling foster pups, I can tell you that I would sure have appreciated a stuffing free toy. We had quite a few stuffing "snowy" days here, and unfortunately for my kids, not all the stuffing that got pulled out came from dog toys. I don't usually buy stuffed toys for dogs. Stuffed dog toys are too similar to my kids favorite stuffed animals, and it can be difficult for dogs to tell which is theirs, and which is not. Stuffed toys  as general rule don't last, unless you have one of those dogs who carries things around like it is their "baby."

The Skin-eez toy seems tough. I don't plan on putting it through rigorous testing with lots of dogs to see how long before they destroy it, because Finney loved it. After graciously sharing his house with the foster pups this summer, I am giving him exclusive rights to this toy. He is extra keen to chase it, fetch it and throw it around. There is something appealing to dogs about the way it flops around like prey. I can say that it lived through 5 minutes of chase and tug with 4 dogs before I could get back.

The toy is intended to be a tough stuffie. It is not intended for power chewers or to throw to a pack of pups to eviscerate.  It is the kind of toy you are supposed to use for playing with and /training your dog. When we are done with it, it is put away.

Finn says it is the best thing he ever got in the mail and that is good enough for me.

Available on line and locally, the price is about 7 bucks.

Finney says Thank you muchly.

Dr Ian Dunbar has a great You Tube short on training ideas and rules for soft toys. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thank you Evelyn

In a few hours my girls  will wake up and start their first day back to  school.  My youngest,  I am beyond thrilled to report,  will be starting fourth grade  from her own bed.

I remember the wise words of friends and family in response to my questions of co sleeping with kids when they were babies.

"Don't worry about it, it's not like they will still be in your bed  when they are in high school."

Well let me just say this about that. It sure seemed like my youngest was never gettin' out.

Last spring when her beloved guinea pig Pepper died, I made the mistake of burying him outside her bedroom window. We don't have a pet cemetery per say, although Lord knows we have nearly enough bodies out there by now that we could employ a full time ground's keeper. We dig where ever there are not a lot of tree roots. Considering we have a fairly large yard, unless I put animals square smack in the middle of the front lawn, there are not a lot of good spots left. I put Pepper in what I thought was a choice spot, next to the  Day Lilly patch.  They were just  poking through at that time and  I wrongly thought that the huge orange patch of summer flowers would  somehow help make things better.  No one complained when Blazekin  the canary was buried on the other side.

Well the poor kid FREAKED. Wouldn't go near that spot in the yard for months, kept the blinds closed and wouldn't even look out the bedroom window.

Heather  had been in my bed for months to stave off  nightmares, and the end was no where  in sight. My bed casa is su casa. With her came lots of her stuff, by stuff, I mean toys, clothes, and lots and lots of  stuffed animals. I kind of got used to sleeping with the soft stuffed frog between us. It was that or wake up with a kids toes to the nose. I tried for some sort of boundary.

All this co-sleeping  changed due to the loss of a good friend's life. The Maine dog community is still grieving the loss of  Evelyn Stackpole , our matriarch. Nicer woman there wasn't.

Evelyn and her two beloved Dobie's Glory and Paige were a super star team. Evelyn was a member of our freestyle group the Wild Blueberries, and whatever I showed her, she and Glory  could either do right then on the spot, or she came back the next week and she and Glory had it down.  At 78 years young, she was an inspiration to watch.

The contents of Evelyn's Saco home, was sold in a giant 2 day yard sale hosted by her friends and family two week ends ago. The dog stuff was sold to benefit various dog clubs and organizations that she supported, and I was there bright and early with my two girls. My youngest asked me endlessly in the car on the way over,  "do you think Evelyn had any dobie stuffed animals?" I was pretty certain that she did, and told Heather, sure, Evelyn would want you to have and appreciate them.

When we turned into her driveway we were  greeted by the sight of her blue mini van with a for sale sign on. The van was  seen at all and every dog event. It was sadly  missing her Dobie magnets.  The girls and I  cried.
 So sad. Such a loss.

As we trekked  first to the agility yard, and then through all her knick knacks, it was sad sad sad, and, even as I type this, I still have a lump in my throat, and  I hadn't t even known Evelyn that long. Most of the people there were her life long friends. That says something about a person. Evelyn and her husband raised their family in that house.

One of the first sites to greet us at the yard sale were three very large Doberman stuffed animals. At only $2. a piece I said yes to two of them and no to the third. They were bigger than Stella! and would take up too much room I told her. We went back and forth for a while until as a last ditch pitch from my daughter, I heard the following words;

"If I get all three dogs, they will help me sleep in my bed. I promise if you buy them for me, I will sleep in my own bed."


Two of the dogs still had tags, as did quite a lot of the stuff at the sale. We suspect that Evelyn loved to shop and often picked up things to later donate and gift.

While she was giving the big spiel on why she deserved all 3 dogs, Rebeccah who was running the sale, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and suggested she sell the dogs with a contract like a real puppy or rescue dog. In the event Heather does not care for the dogs properly by sleeping in her own bed, the dogs go back to the estate.


That night we cleaned up her room a bit, and found places for the 3 large dogs to sleep. Glory and Paige, named after Evelyn's beloved dogs, sleep with her next to my favorite frog in the bed, and the male on the floor watches over her.

Evelyn would have loved this.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meggie day three - and the love affair continues

Check this pup's sweet ways, her waggy stub tail and her fantabulous  fetching skills. She is not yet 6 months old and I am quite wowed by her. She learned to bring the ball to hand in a flash.

Did I already mention cute and super sweet?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beating the heat at Babb's Bridge

Meggie our foster puppy has been here for a full day, and we are madly in love with her 98 % of the time. The other 2 % may be deal breakers, but time will tell. Keeping in mind that she may never leave, it was a priority of mine to introduce her to water and teach her how to swim. I regret not doing this with Charlee and Finney when they were younger. They both like the water and they both can swim, but prefer not to.  I blame myself. Both we forced into my parents pool.

With the tempertaure  tipping the thermostat at close to 95 degrees, the question was where to take the dogs. I had seen photos of friend's dogs swimming at Shaw Park in Gorham, so after a few on line attempts to find out where it was, off we went.

In attendance were Meggie, Charlee and 5 kids. Two of mine, and three kids belonging to a good friend. We parked just after the quarry on Rt 237 in Gorham, in a little lot next to the Presumpscott River. I am still not sure if that is where we were supposed to be, but as far as the kids were concerned it was a big fat FAIL.

My 12 year old tumor toed wild child smiler.

Charlee and Meggie didn't think so. They loved it. We walked to the end of the hay field along the river and back, looking for a place to swim. The two dogs were thick as thieves and they both ran straight out. I broke my second cardinal rule of fostering and let Meggie off the leash. She didn't go anywhere and had a perfect recall (as I knew hoped she would). We broke our first foster rule earlier in the day when I had the pup snuggling on my bed for a while.

You would never know by the way the dogs ran flat out that the day was so hot if it hadn't been for the whining from the kids, but the river was to quote a middle schooler "gross". The water appeared "stagnant and slimy" and we didn't find an easy access for people, although Charlee had no problem getting in there to cool off.

We were all badly in need of a dip and middle schooler came up with the genius idea to drive a few miles to the covered bridge in Windham off River Road.

I cannot say enough superlatives about our morning. I kept both dogs on the leash, because I was watching 5 kids and 2 dogs and there is a road, although cars need to slow down to go through the bridge. The kids jumped off the rope swing, and caught frogs, and the dogs loved being in the water with us.

Meggie got a swim lesson. I picked her up and pointed her to shore.  This is a good way to teach a puppy to swim by the way. The first time, I held her body up a bit till she got the idea.
Here is her second attempt. She was a natural.

Don't these kids looks happy?
 I should have had them pose when we got back to the car after our first attempt at cooling off. They were so sweaty they all looked like they had already been swimming.

Charlee looks on while dumb ass teenagers jump from the top of the bridge. I was ready to call 911.

Wordless Wednesday - Beat the heat edition