Preparing for the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is one of the hardest times of year for our dogs.  It is hot, there are many events, and, there are fireworks.  Here are some tips for getting through this time of year successfully.

  1. Leave your dog at home.  As fun as it is to have our dogs with us at picnics or events, it is often stressful for the dogs.  Add in the risks of open gates, dropped leashes, unsafe foods being out and about, hot weather, thunderstorms, the stress of new environments, excited children, and fireworks, leaving your dog at home is often the safest bet, and where they would rather be if given the choice.
  2. Make sure they have an ID tag and their microchip info is up to date. The Fourth of July is one of the biggest days of the year for lost dogs.  Dogs get spooked by fireworks, or gates are left open at family events – and if your dog is on the run, you want to make sure they have current and up to date information that is still readable.  It doesn’t hurt to make sure their license is up to date as well, as another way to ensure your dog gets back to you safe and sound.
  3. If your dog gets out, know what to do.  I already have a post about what to do if your dog is lost, check it out and make sure you are prepared.
  4. Plan ahead!  Know when the fireworks are going to be going off and make sure you get your walks in ahead of time.  If you suspect your neighbors might be setting them off, plan for a day with the windows closed, the air conditioner on, and keep the TV, radio or white noise playing to keep things as quiet inside as possible.  Get an awesome marrow bone, some bully sticks, make sure there is a frozen Kong ready to keep your dog entertained and focused on something other then the noise.
  5. Watch the heat! Dogs do not sweat like we do, and can overheat easily.  Do not leave your pets in cars, and watch them when outside.  Especially the black dogs, or dogs with short noses who overheat a lot faster.  Also remember young dogs and older dogs, and dogs with certain medical conditions can be even more sensitive to heat.  So, keep them cool and comfortable.
  6. Talk to your vet.  If your dog is truly phobic, see if there is a medication or supplement that may help.  Some people are reporting success with CBD oil, or supplements containing lactium, but as always, make sure you check with your vet first.
  7. If you have to leave them, leave them safe.  Make sure they are in their crate in a room that is calm and quiet, with something safe for them to do.  Close the windows, pull the shades, blast the air conditioner and leave a white noise machine on, or calming music like Through a Dogs’ Ear.
  8. Do not be afraid to let them know it is okay.  If you are with your dog, and your dog is upset, it is okay to be there for them, and to soothe them and reassure them.  It will not reinforce their fears, it will let them know they are not alone.
  9. Know the closest vet, and emergency vet.  Know which vets near you are open, where the closest vet is, and have their number in your phone.  Heaven forbid an emergency happen you want to know where to go, and how to get there.

How to Pick a Puppy (or Not)

When I met Jasper, I knew he was not your typical happy to lucky puppy.  The vet who gave him his second round of shots called him a worried rocket scientist.  The plan had been for me to foster him, and I had not been looking for a puppy.  In fact, I usually preferred adult dogs.  But, his worry made me worry, so, I started talking to other trainers about what they thought about him.

Cydney Cross of Crossroads for Dogs met him first, Jasper sat in his crate in the car and looked at her, and processed things.  He stepped back when she came close, and when she tossed him a treat, he watched her for a bit before trying it.  When I took him out of his crate, he stuck to my side.  He was four months old.

Jasper was clearly attached to me but was not that interested in other people.  I showed off some of his tricks, and Cyd told me what a great dog he was – she loved how smart he was, how observant, and how well he focused on me.  I was relieved, and I asked if she thought that meant he would be easy to adopt out.  She told me no, he was the type of dog who might find a home quickly, but who also was likely to be returned at a year old after having bitten.  Not because he was aggressive, but because he was a worrier, and if someone did not help him with his worries, they would become fears.  Cyd suggested I keep him.

What you typically look for in a puppy is the social one, the one coming to greet people, eager to interact.  The one that hears a noise and while they might be startled, they rebound quickly.  Jasper was none of those things.  But he was smart, and he was sensitive, and with the right support, he could build confidence and overcome his worry.  Jasper would never be a social butterfly, but, he did not need to be.

I was not in the market for a puppy, but, maybe a puppy had found me.

Not sure what to do, I brought Jasper to Suzanne Clothier.  When it comes to puppy assessment, there are few with more experience, or a better eye.

Of course he hopped out of the car far less worried then expected after an hour plus drive, and while he did not run up to greet her, food soon won him over, and Suzanne got to know Jasper. We saw him with other dogs (German Shepherds were scary), with people (John was also kind of scary), we saw him when I left (WHAT MOM COME BACK!) and I eagerly awaited her verdict.

Suzanne agreed with Cyd – he was a worrier, and he was smart, and he was a bit of a project.  But she also told me with the right socialization he thought he would be an awesome dog – was I up for the challenge?

Well, we are a year in and still finding that out.

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Double Trouble – A Tale of Two Puppies

Some people have asked me if I think it is better to get two puppies at once, or one. To them I tell the story of Empanada and Nacho.

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Empanada and Nacho were litter mates from Puerto Rico who I agreed to foster. I knew it would be a lot, but we needed two fosters, and I figured how bad could it be? I had been fostering for 10 years, and I am a professional. Forget that I had not had a puppy in 20 years, and the times I had fostered puppies, it was for a day or two.  But it was okay, I had a plan in place and I was ready.

I prepped an ex-pen with crates and toys and a puppy friendly cover that would be easy to clean and give them good grip. It was beautiful! My husband called it the Thunderdome, oh, how he cursed it.

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Pirate testing out the ex-pen.

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I laid floor mat over a shower curtain liner to protect the floor, and give the puppies a non-slippery surface.

Transport got tricky and it turned out that Empanada arrived first. We had a good night, she spent the night with me near her crate so she was not alone, and in the morning I prepared for work, got her fed, pottied, and tired out. I put her in the ex-pen and left, and from there my carefully constructed plans crumbled. Well, crashed. Within a half-hour of being placed inside Empanada had escaped. I was kind of impressed, but my husband who was home with a loose puppy who proved to be part mountain goat was less amused.

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This was after my husband righted the pen . . . she had fun shredding the shower curtain for sure.

I switched strictly to crates and baby gates. After just a few days we were on a great schedule and Empanada was well on her way to being house trained. I thought this would be easy! I could not wait for Nacho to arrive. I was so innocent.

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They did keep each other company. They would play together and having them crated near each other (in separate crates) made it easier for them to adjust to that. Also, Nacho was a shyer fellow, and Empanada gave him a good boost of confidence – she was always off discovering new things.

 

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But oh, the house training – Empanada had been well on her way but with the arrival of Nacho things got tricky. It seemed like while I was watching one and getting them out, the other was inevitably going. Or, if one would be chewing something and needed to be redirected, the other was pottying in the living room. It was a whirlwind of activity and someone was always peeing, pooping, chewing, wrestling with the cat or walking on the back of the couch. Nacho was not as reliable to his sister, and took longer to house train. I am not sure if that was just a part of who he was, or because where I had been able to give Empanada my full attention, with him I could only give partial.

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Socialization also got tricky. Empanada had never met a stranger but Nacho would hang back and need extra support. Managing the needs of two different puppies was hard. I would be trying to hold Empanada back and teach her some manners, while also reminding Nacho that people were okay. I would have to take them out one on one with me, which required extra time. I would bring them both to the pet store in a crate, and walk around with one, go back and put them in the car, and bring the other out. I was lucky the weather allowed me to do that though, a few months later that would not have been possible.

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I also had to make sure they had time to play with other dogs without the other there, and had one on one time with me and other people. I was fostering so I knew this was short term, but I still needed to give them the best start I could. I needed them to learn how to interact with people and dogs without back-up from their sibling.

 

I was exhausted, at one point I remember sitting on the floor surrounded by pee with one puppy trying to jump into my lap while the other was running around with a roll of paper towels in their mouth, ready to cry. When Empanada went to her forever home life became much easier.

 

The bottom line is raising a puppy is work, raising two is more work. It can be done, but to be done well it takes dedication, and time. So when I am asked, I say get one puppy and give them your best. I am glad I tried it though, because without having volunteered, I never would have met Jasper . . .

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Jasper

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Jasper came into my life as a worried puppy, who quickly became my shadow.  He started as a foster, arriving from Puerto Rico at just 14 weeks.  The vet who vaccinated him described his as a worried rocket scientist.  While he was quickly bonding, and trusting my husband and I, he had little interest in meeting new people, choosing instead to walk away when people approached.

I had not been looking for a puppy, but something about Jasper spoke to me.  And I worried along with him, I knew with bad experiences Jasper might develop bad habits.

So he stayed longer, and we socialized slowly, focusing on quality, not quantity, and we made sure people let him approach them, and when he did it was positive.  I went to the vet’s office with piles of chicken, to the pet store with bags of hotdogs, and everyone was asked to gently toss him treats.  His confidence grew, and so did our bond, and I realized Jasper had moved from being my foster dog, to my dog.

A year later we still have room to grow, but Jasper has proven himself to be a smart, cautious dog, who loves to play with other dogs, and who loves to use his nose.  We are starting to channel his skills and fine-tune his gifts, and together we are having fun and learning what he wants to do in life.  Jasper is never going to be a therapy dog but he is learning more and more to relax and enjoy the world when he isn’t working, and his natural skill is stretching my skills in competition sports, forcing me to become a better trainer.

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What to do if your dog gets lost . . .

This is by no means a definitive list of what to do, however, having lived through the fear of a lost pet, and having dealt with lost rescue dogs new to homes, I know having a check list in the middle of a crisis can help.

First things first:

Grill!

This sounds absolutely ridiculous but has been the best piece of advice I have ever received. Grilling meat can entice a dog home who is off on an adventure, or keep a scared and hungry dog close with the promise of food. Smell is so powerful to dogs and scent carries further then sound, and can certainly mean more to a dog who is new to a home/area and may not even know their name, or understand recall. Teaching and competing in scent work with dogs has driven this even further home for me – use their nose to your advantage! And if you do not have a grill, fry some bacon or baloney or hot dogs and take that hot pan outside and let the scent carry.

Get the word out!

Designing a Flyer – make sure the words LOST DOG stand out and are obvious, as is the phone number. While the dog’s name and location are important, the thing you want people to have glued in their memories is the phone number to call, and make it so it can be seen from a car. Ask people to save the flyer in the phone, or to save the number so it is easy to call.

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Social media is your friend – create a lost dog flyer and save it as a JPG so you can post it on Facebook, make sure the words LOST DOG and the area the dog is lost from are obvious and at the start of the post, give the area they were lost from, and the time of the last sighting. Make sure it is a public post, and tag area rescues, vets, the news, whoever may help! Share with local pages, community pages, business pages – whoever you think might help. Many communities have pages for sharing lost pets. Ask friends to share, and remember to post updates, and keep discussion going on the post so Facebook keeps it in people’s feeds. Be mindful that sometimes people want to help so badly that they may pursue and scare a dog, so ask for people to call with sightings, and not to chase. You may also want to limit some of the info you give to prevent people from going out and creating a lot of activity that could drive a dog out of the area, give areas the dog has been seen in (like streets) versus exact locations. Here is a good example:

LOST DOG – Albany, NY – Fido got lost from his new home on Main Street, and was last seen on August 3, 2018 at 4pm. PLEASE CALL 555-555-5555 with any sightings, Fido is scared and may run if approached. Please do not chase.

As there are more sightings, or if the dog is found, remember to update that original post, and add a new comment so people helping know what is going on. For example:

LOST DOG – Albany, NY – Fido got lost from his new home on Main Street, and was last seen on August 3, 2018 at 4pm. PLEASE CALL 555-555-5555 with any sightings, Fido is scared and may run if approached. Please do not chase.

UPDATE: Possible sighting on 8/4 on Smith Street.

Posters – when posting flyers on the street, be mindful that cars are in motion, and put them at places where cars naturally stop – like traffic lights, stop signs, and turns. Make the letters BIG and BOLD – make it so the phone number is easily visible from the road, and from a moving car. Laminating or putting them in sleeve protectors (with the opening down) will keep them safe from bad weather and make them last longer. Mounting them on cardboard can help them stay stiff and make them easier to read. Put flyers at local businesses and leave a stack of smaller ones if they say it is okay. Gas stations, quick stops, vets offices, the post office, and coffee shops will reach a lot of people. Please remember where you put your flyers though so you can take them down once your dog is found. One person advised replacing them with FOUND flyers to let the community know the dog is found and they can stop looking, then taking those down in a few days.

Door to Door – A good suggestion from See Spot Grin in MD was to have business cards made with your pets picture, and phone number on them. They are affordable and quickly produced, and easy to hand out (if you are truly prepared you can even have them made ahead and keep on hand). You can also do full page flyers, or put your flyer four to a page and have them cut – but whatever you do getting the word out to your neighbors, and quickly, is crucial, and for those without social media handing out flyers may be the only want to reach them. If you talk to people, ask them to put the flyer by their phone, save the number in their phone, or take a picture so they have the contact info when they are out and about in case they see the dog. Ask them to check their sheds, garages, whatever places a dog may go for shade or warmth, to investigate if they hear their dogs barking at something, or with any small thing they notice. Sometimes what may not seem obvious to them can be a big clue to you. Go door to door and leave flyers under mailbox flags or in newspaper boxes, or on doorknobs. Remember it is illegal to put things in mailboxes, but you can put under the flags! Keep track of the streets you have done, and if you have family and friends helping, ask them to do the same.

Alert the Authorities – make sure the people who should know, know.

  1. Call your local Animal Control Office/Police and let them know – get them a copy of your flyer. Contact the ACOs of surrounding areas as dogs are known to wander, especially if scared or following their nose.
  2. Contact the area vets/shelters/rescues – get them a flyer and ask them to help spread the word and keep an eye out.  Do not forget the Emergency Vets in case your dog is picked up in crisis and had to be taken there.
  3. If your pet is microchipped, contact the company and let them know, some have services that will help you make a flyer, and contact area shelters/vets.

Check Shelters

Calling the shelters is good, but, sometimes a message may not be passed along, or they may not recognize your dog from your description.  Visit your shelter and check the found dogs personally, regularly.

Make it easy to come home.

Leave the gate open so they can get back into their yard, if you have an enclosed porch or sunroom, leave that door open so they can come in. Use a trail cam to monitor your yard/home. Leave food out, and some people suggest leaving bedding that smells like them, or even their crate, although most dogs recognize home. If you have an invisible fence, know that your dog may associate crossing that line with being shocked, so they may be nearby but not sure how to get back into the yard. Try setting up a feeding station outside the invisible fencing and monitoring that. Keep it filled with enticing food. Trail cams help, it is impossible to always be watching, and with scared dogs they may actually be waiting for you to leave before coming out. We have had dogs appear 15 minutes after we left, they were hearing us, and seeing us, but scared to come out, but the Trail cam saw them and we were able to set a trap.

Keep Going!

If you have done one area, do another, go further and further, spread your reach.

Sightings

If you have a sighting, go the area and check it out. See if there is a home or business that might let you put out a feeding station and a trail cam so you can keep your dog in the area, and confirm it is your dog. If it is your dog (or if it is another lost dog) you may need to use a humane trap to catch it. Sometimes area rescues have ones your can borrow, and depending on the size of the dog, Tractor Supply will often have them in stock. For large dogs you will need to special order online or sometimes build your own.

Know if your dog is avoiding people, it is not because they do not love you. Dogs can get scared, and when scared fight or flight kicks in, some dogs when on the run revert to “feral” mode as a way to survive, avoiding people and even their family. This is why trail cams and humane traps are often helpful, and having people call with sightings.

Reward or no reward?

It is tempting to offer a reward, money motivates, but offering a reward can backfire. First, people may call trying to manipulate you into giving them money, or claim they have their dog when they do not. Second, it might drive people to look for the dog a little more intensely, having them chasing the dog, or driving them out of an area. I like to put my faith in the good people out there that will help because it is the right thing to do, and generally that faith is rewarded.

Dog Tracking

There are some companies that can come and help track a lost dog, they are expensive and sometimes the conditions need to be right, but they are worth reaching out to and can often provide valuable insight or advice.

Trapping a Dog

It seems like everyone has different advice for how and where to set up a live trap for a lost dog.  Some will say to start with a feeding station and the trap open, and feed the dog in the trap to get them used to it before setting it to catch them.  Some say to capitalize on their hunger and trap them as soon as you see them.  Some say to load it with warm food, some say to load it with fatty food.  Some say to wipe it down with Pam spray to mask the human scent.  Some say to cover it in a tarp or surround it with hay.  Here are some of the tips I have picked up.

  1. Know if the dog is trap savvy – if a dog has been trapped before, or dislikes crates, know that it might take a lot for them to go into one.  They might need to be very hungry to go in, and they may need time to get used to the new, weird thing that appeared.
  2. Check it often, but from a distance.  If a dog is wary or in survival mode a lot of human activity may keep them in hiding.  But, if it is cold or hot leaving an animal in the trap can be dangerous.  In extreme weather checking every two hours may be necessary, depending how sheltered the trap is.  You may need help with monitoring and sometimes finding a kindly neighbor is crucial.
  3. Squirrels are assholes.  Seriously.  They are going to be in and out of your trap, they are going to be eating the food, and, they are big enough to set off most sensors but small enough to fit back out of the bars.  Skunks however cannot fit through the bars, and you may get some of them too.  If you have a skunk in your trap, or any other wildlife, use a blanket as you approach so they cannot see you, and keep the blanket between you and them.  If they cannot see you they will stay calmer, and often scurry off when you open the trap.  And if it is a skunk and you do get sprayed, the blanket will take the hit, not you.
  4. Trail cams let you know what is going on when you are not there.  We have had dogs check out the trap for days before going in, and using trail cams lets us see when they come, how often they come, and even what food they are enjoying.
  5. Things like straw and blankets can keep a trap warm, but may inhibit the mechanism.  Be mindful!
  6. How sheltered?  So, a lot of people compare crates (and traps are like crates) to dens, but, dogs only den when they are raising pups, so, the idea that a close, hidden space will be more appealing may not be the case.  It might protect a dog from the weather, and it might appeal to some dogs, but some dogs may be nervous going into a place that makes them feel trapped, or limits where they can see.  Again, know your dog.
  7. What to put in?  What does the dog like?  A favorite of mine is canned sardines with the oil, but some swear by KFC or rotisserie chickens.  I have seen tracking companies put a lighter under some bacon in some foil and toss that in too.  Think something warm and stinky.

Setting up a Feeding Station

Find a spot that is out of the way, and safe for a dog to linger around.  Not too much activity, and near where you have seen the dogs.  Make sure you leave food out at regular times, something warm but also kibble, in plentiful amounts in case others decide to share the mean (see earlier note about squirrels).  Use a trail cam to monitor it, and if your dog likes their crate, leaving their crate there may help them stay or feel secure.

Lost Dog Checklist

  • Things to do at home
    • Grill
    • Set up a feeding station
    • Set up trail cams
    • Put out a familiar smell, bedding, crate, etc.
    • Minimize activity in case the dog is scared and hiding, focus on making it enticing to come home
    • Leave open a garage or porch or protected area and monitor to see if your pet is using it
  • Outreach
    • Social Media – post and keep posts updated, share to rescues, community groups, vets, shelters, etc.
    • Posters – make sure the phone number is obvious and clear, post them in spots cars will naturally stop, and make sure they are protected from the weather
    • Community – go door to door with flyers or business cards identifying the pet and giving a number to call, talk to as many people as you can and try to engage the community, make sure they know not to chase and to call with sightings. Alert the coffee shops, gas stations, schools and other high traffic areas and ask them to hang up a flyer.
    • People to call:
      • Microchip company
      • Animal Control, your local one and the ones from surrounding areas
      • Vets offices in your immediate area, including Emergency Vet
      • Local shelters
      • Local rescues
    • Things to have
      • Trail Cams and bike locks to secure them.
      • Locate a Humane Trap in case it is needed (Animal Control can often help).
      • Supplies for posters and poster hanging – cardboard, zip ties, packing tape, page protectors, box cutter, scissors and even rope.
      • If you are going to use a tracker, take something that smells of your dog and put it in a Ziploc bag to preserve the scent.
      • Extra crate, it can help to put one near a feeding station.
      • Enticing, warm food – rotisserie chickens, sardines, bacon, cat food, hot dogs, anything that you can smell from a distance your dog can smell even further away.

Things to do Before your Dog is Lost

  1. Have a current picture.
  2. Know who your local Animal Control Officer is, who the nearest vets are, and where strays from your area would be taken if picked up.
  3. Get your dog microchipped.
  4. If you have a tracking company nearby, and think you would use them, take a cloth and wipe it over your dog, and store it in a Ziploc bag.  Refresh it monthly.
  5. Teach recall!  Whistle recall can also help, as a whistle is a unique sound that can travel distances.

When the Perfect Dog is not the Perfect Fit

We all have a dream dog, that dog we envision in our lives.  Maybe it is based on a dog we had growing up, or a dog we saw in the movies.  Or a dog we once met and loved – but it is there in your mind and you hope someday you will meet and you will have that amazing bond and everything will just be perfect.

I grew up with a German Shepherd, my first dog as an adult was a German Shepherd mix, and until Shadow the Ultimate Elkhound all my dogs were part German Shepherd.  While I admit to having a few dream dogs when it comes to different breeds, I have always wanted to have another German Shepherd in my life.  But more importantly I dream of a dog that can work with me, and compete with me, and snuggle with me, and join us in the Adirondacks, and help evaluate other dogs, and welcome foster dogs in the home, and just be, well, perfect.  So when I met a 3 year old German Shepherd named Savannah, who liked to swim, who lived with kids, who liked other dogs, and was sweet and smart and beautiful, I had hopes my perfect dog arrived.

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So we brought her home.  In anticipation I stocked up on treats, I got some new toys, I brought out the biggest dog bed we had, and I dreamed.  I saw us winning ribbons, I saw us walking in the woods, I saw us running errands and meeting dogs and working together every day.  And she arrived and she was wonderful, she was smart, she walked like a dream, she learned so fast, and she was so, so sweet.  But things were not easy.

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The cats rebelled, Tabby was overwhelmed, and Savannah was frustrated that Tabby would not play.  Savannah had gotten used to a canine playmate, and in our house no one would join in her games, so she started looking for things to do.  I was happy to offer scent games, puzzle toys, walks and rounds of fetch, but, what Savannah wanted to do most was find the demon that haunted our home.  You see, there was a demon that lived under the coffee table and would come out and hiss at her, sometimes it would even swat at her, and oh, how awesome it was when it ran.  We tried to convince her that it was in fact one of the cats, the cat she had even sat next to and interacted with even, but, no, she did not believe us, we were wrong, there was a demon in the home and we needed to be protected.  And the demon was not just under the coffee table, sometimes it was under the chair, or the dining room table, once it was near the dryer – Savannah was bound and determined to find it.  She would pace and circle and sniff and search and when she found it she would bark until it made fun noises and ran, and that was so much more fun then anything I could offer her to do.

Still we tried, we redirected, we rewarded her for calm behavior around the cats, we gave her a lot to do, we managed the cats and we managed the dogs and we had ups and we had downs.  It was not hopeless, but it also was not easy, and I started to get tired.  Five nights in I came home, sat down and started at this gorgeous girl who could do oh so much, and I re-examined my dream.  While Savannah was a perfect dog, we were not a perfect fit, and I asked myself if it was fair to her to keep trying to make it work?

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Savannah was not at risk, Savannah was not a hard dog to find a home for.  She was young, pretty, sweet and healthy, and she also had been perfectly happy in her foster home with a young active male dog to play with, and most importantly, no cats!   I could work to make her happy, but was it fair to her when there was a home where she just was happy without the work?  I could force the fit, or I could graciously accept she was not the dog we were meant to have.

And so we parted, I said good-bye to my perfect dog, and her foster home said hello once again to theirs.  Because they have realized that while they thought she wanted more, it seemed like what she really wanted was them, and so she is staying with them.

PirateMeanwhile I have opened my home to another foster dog.  And do not think I do not recognize the irony in the fact that a min pin with neurological issues, shaky house training skills and fear of the leash walked in and was a perfect fit with my crew.  Sigh.  I fear we are not destined for normal, and I would not have it any other way.

 

 

 

Farewell Louie . . .

Saying good-bye today to a very special dog and client. Louie came to class a senior dog with health issues that impacted his mobility and stamina, but that did not stop him from having a blast and rocking the Low Impact Agility course.  Sure, he couldn’t fit in the tunnel but we just let him skip that one (and the teeter) – he didn’t let that stop him from having fun.

Louie taught me a lot and I am going to miss him, and his snuggles.

 

Much love to his family, thank you for sharing him with me, he was truly one of a kind.

Daisie!

Daisie came into our lives when her life turned upside down, and we were happy to have a spot for her.  Daisie arrived a little stressed and unsure, which translated into an easily excitable dog, which meant there were lots and lots of walks that first day helping her burn some of that excitement off.  And after a few days she and Tabby got to hang out a little, although Tabby was not so sure about a new dog . . .

Thankfully Daisie was a good walker, and a quick learner.  She knew the basics (although her recall seemed to require some negotiation), and what she needed most was time and understanding as she found her way.

Daisie was not perfect but she was pretty close, house trained, pretty good on the leash, trustworthy in the house and social with other dogs.  We did have to work on her interest in the cats but calling her name and giving her treats when she caught sight of one reminded her it was more fun NOT to chase.  She also was a bit of a jumper when she got excited, and a demand barking so helping her remember that she was going to get more attention when she was sitting or standing with four on the floor helped.  The demand barking . . . well, dogs are allowed to get excited when it was time for a walk right?

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But poor Daisie lived with a dog trainer so we did have to work on some skills, we practiced sitting to be leashed, we practiced sitting and waiting for her food dish, we practiced check-ins and look backs and lots and lots of recall work.  After she settled in I took her a few places to practice meeting people politely and see how she did with her dog/dog introductions.  I prepped for the long-haul and as fate would have it not even two weeks in I received an application for her.  A nice family with two kids, and a dog savvy cat.  I was not sure how Daisie did with kids but agreed to a home visit with her, and as the kids came out of the house I saw her get far more wiggly and excited to see them then she ever was to see me.  She clearly enjoyed the meet and greet and I was thrilled when they asked if they could take her on trial placement.

Daisie has been with them for two days now and so far so good.  Peppertree Rescue who I foster for places dogs on a two week trial so dogs get a chance to settle into a home and show their true personality.  We still have some time and she is still settling and getting to know them, and they are getting to know her, but I am hopeful for her that she may have found her forever home.

Quarry Quest

Wag It Games’ Quarry Quest is something I did not get the chance to try with my own dog so when I started to teach it I don’t think I realized how much fun it was, now I am a total convert and I think it may be one of my favorite scent classes!  Best of all the dogs seem to really be loving it too.

While I enjoy all the scent games, particularly the Wag it Games scent games, there is a light bulb moment that seems to come with Quarry Quest that never fails to make me smile.  When it clicks you can see it in the dogs, you can see it in the handlers, and it is so much fun.  The dogs start exploring more, they start picking up speed, and their enjoyment is infectious.

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We just finished up our last round of classes and this time I remembered to take some video!   Which is good because people have been asking me what goes on in class.  The basics are that a course is created, with ins and outs and overs and unders, different surfaces and different heights.  Then we take some containers and hide them.  Some have wool, some have poly-fill, and the dogs have to identify which one has the wool.

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Ally, Bonnie (who was not able to make the last class), Jack and Stella had been working for six weeks and they rocked at Quarry Quest – they were exploring, using their noses and working!  And also having fun.  So proud of this group.

You know it is a good class when it ends with tired, happy dogs.

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Saying farewell . . .

Our world is a little quieter, and our carpets are a little less furry, as Shadow, also known as Yaddo, has left us.

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It started with an episode in the middle of the night where he became distressed and listless, a trip to the Emergency Vet revealed fluid around his heart and while a cause could not be determined it was most likely caused by a tumor.  We brought him home to spoil him rotten, hoping for the best but preparing for good-byes.

Good-byes came just a few days later, same circumstances, same trip to the vet, although this trip had a brief stop for cheeseburgers.  When you offer an Elkhound a cheeseburger and they do not take it, you know it is their time.  It was his time, who knew a heart as big as his could give out.  It was not an easy March for us, but we are healing.

When you adopt a senior you know time is limited, and I have learned that you just have to embrace every day.  It is easy to get caught up on keeping them healthy, or keeping them safe, but you cannot forget the fun, the love and the laughter.  With a senior dog, with all dogs really, it is about quality, not quantity, and I am proud to say we made every day we had count.  Shadow had lots of walks, lots of cookies, lots of cuddles, and lots and lots of laughter for three glorious years.  Could he have been trimmer?  Yes.  Better behaved?   Undoubtedly.  Could I have done more medically?  Probably.  But could he have been happier?  No, I don’t think he could of.  Well, no, he would have been much happier if we left him raid the recycling bin and eat the cat food whenever he wanted to, but there are limits, this is not anarchy.

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Shadow was a constant reminder to stay humble, be creative, and laugh.  Because if you did not laugh at his antics your other option was to yell, or to cry, and laughing was so much better.  He would generally laugh along with you, Shadow never took himself too seriously either.

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I have no words of wisdom on handling grief, no poems, not even flowery prose.  I just encourage everyone to hug their dogs a little bit longer, to feed them that extra piece of cheese, and try to find the humor in even their naughtiest behavior.