Tag Archives: Pets

I’m a Puppy and a Border Collie

Guess which puppy I am?

Guess which puppy I am?
Photo by datpet – http://www.datpet.com

I’m a puppy…new and starting my training.  I know instinctively some things and I’ve learned a lot over my 40 plus years of animal advocacy and pet ownership, but I am still wet behind my ears.  I am learning new training methods — embracing only positive training methods.  I find the study material incredibly interesting and a lot of things I thought I knew just don’t work or are not effective.

Association of Professional Dog Trainers - Dog Training Professionals

On Tuesday I am making my first journey to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) conference in Spokane, Washington.  I’ve met a few other members through Facebook and an online class I took but I effectively don’t know anyone. I signed up to be a “Border Collie” at the conference.  These are people who help out in seminars, give out information and directions and basically help out the staff in anyway possible.  I’m looking forward to meeting new people but I’m on the shy side.

If you went to see some border collie puppies, I would be the one sitting in the corner staring at you but not coming to your calls. When I do things like this that are out of my comfort zone I usually put on this alter ego.  it is exhausting!  Some people build their energy off of other people…for me it is the opposite so this will be a big challenge for me.

But I love having a job to do (I guess I’m a good Border Collie!) so I’m happy to help and also have time to absorb a lot of information.  One of the sessions that I am helping with is about building a Prison Dog Training program and I’m so looking forward to participating in this.  I think it is an awesome program and benefits man and beast!

There are just so many things that I will learn so that I can teach my clients and work with my Mostly Mutts dogs so they can find great homes!  If we have the most adoptable pets we’ll be able to save so many more of them.  That’s what I want my life’s work to be and I know I will get there but right now I’m content to be the puppy in the corner trying to take everything in.

Retro Wednesday — Rex the Bank Robbing Dog


Drawing of the town of Winthrop, Massachusetts

I was born in the small town of Winthrop outside of Boston in 1964.  For those of you doing math, yes that makes me 48 (well 49 in December).  The role of a dog in the family was very different back then.  Although we always had dogs growing up, our dogs were treated differently then I treat my companions animals today.  It was not frowned upon to have an “outside” dog or a dog tethered to a giant chain.

We had such a dog.  He was a Sheperd/Collie mix named Rex.  I remember getting him as a puppy.  He was an inside dog until he had one too many accidents in the house.  I remember him gnawing on our arms and playing rough with us.  But the thing I remember most about Rex was that he was a great escape artist.  Even though he was chained to a big tree in our yard, Rex would somehow manage to get loose.

The first time the Winthrop police officer brought Rex home in the back of his police car, my dad and he stood in the driveway gabbing away.  Evidently they knew each other pretty well.  I was pretty young so I don’t remember all the details but I think maybe a Budweiser was offered and a cigarette or two smoked.  I remember hearing deep belly laughs about that darned dog and his ability to get out of the heavy chain.

The second time the police officer brought Rex home, no beer was offered.  There was no laughing at that darned dog. There was a stern “Jim, I’m gonna have to fine you the next time…” lecture and that darned dog turned into the damned dog!

The third time was not happy.  A ticket and fine was issued.  A lot of talk about rehoming or worse yet taking him to the dog pound with us kids crying and begging to keep him. We won out.

Then Rex escaped again.  This time, however, he went downtown and held up the First National Bank.  He wouldn’t let anyone come out of the bank and he wouldn’t let anyone go into the bank.  Our family was famous for having the crazy dog who held up the bank.

Rex found a new home with my uncle out in the country (western Massachusetts) and we got to see him every time we visited him. Rex lived a long and happy, off leash and unchained.

Tell me about your dogs of the past!

The Bitter Sweet of Fostering

Kibbles in the lap of his new dad

Kibbles in the lap of his new dad

This weekend my beloved Kibbles got adopted by a wonderful man and his girlfriend.  He called her his partner…they are of the age where boyfriend and girlfriend seem a little ridiculous.  He’s retired but very active.  He’s planning on taking Kibbles on many adventures and making him into a boat dog.  We’ve already heard from them as to how much they are in love with Kibbles.

I’m sad to have to give up my co-pilot.  Kibbles went with me on a lot of my client visits.  We had him for about two months and helped him learn to let go a lot of the adolescent bad behavior.  He is so quick to learn and I hope his new family continues to work on his training.  I think he could easily be a therapy dog.  He has never met a dog or human that he hasn’t loved.  We were also working on agility and he is a natural…although the jumps throw him a bit.  He doesn’t realize that he can jump!

He does however realize that he can chew and new dad Donny bought Kibbie a nice Antler for when they get home to the new house. Kibbie, however, could not wait that long so he took it out of the bag, laid down in the store and chomped on it while Dad made his new tag.
Everyday I would ask Andy if we could keep Kibbles and everyday he would give me a pained look and roll his eyes.  I had a connection with Kibbs for sure that I haven’t had with my other fosters and that was clouding my emotions and causing me to lose a little focus on why I am fostering.

With Kibbles safely and happily adopted into a new family I can offer a foster spot to another pup and save another life.  I’ve had a few people ask me how I can give them away once they’ve been integrated into my family.  I won’t lie, some are tougher then others to let go but I’ve got to keep my eye on the prize — saving more adoptable dogs!

October is Adopt-A-Dog Month.  If you are thinking about bringing a furry friend into your family, please consider adopting from your local shelter or rescue.  Only around 30% of companion pets are adopted — that leaves a lot of lives in shelters, rescues and foster homes like mine.  We can only save so many.

When Dogs Hurt…Me!

seeingstarsOne day a few weeks ago, I looked like I had gone through eight rounds in the boxing ring…or a drunken girl fight (not that I’ve EVER been in one of those!) due to accidents with my dogs — big and small!  My girls don’t mean to hurt me but sometimes they do!  My legs are full of scratches, my feet are constantly getting stepped on and this past weekend I had more extensive injuries from the girls!

The first one was from Phoebe my yellow lab.  If you don’t already know this, Phoebe is a serious ball fetcher.  Being a typical lab, she could play until she dropped, literally.  Every morning at 10 am, no matter if I’m on a conference call for work or not, I hit tennis balls of my deck into the backyard and Phoebe and Bailey chase them…and now Kibbles, our foster dog, chases them, the girls — not the tennis balls!  Everyone is very excited for play time and we spend about half an hour doing this usually.


On this day, Phoebe zigged and I zagged and her head slammed into my chin causing my head to crash into the deck rail.  Boy did I see stars!  I actually saw stars!  Of course it didn’t hurt Phoebe’s head and all she was interested in was when was I going to throw the ball again!  I had a bruise under my chin and a bump on my head. I thought I was going to black out there for a few minutes but I shook it off.

A little later, that same day, I went to lay down.  My head really hurt!  But little Sophie had a way to resolve that.  As we were snuggling on the bed, she was resting her little head on my head.  Kibbles hopped up on the bed and started playing with the stuffy that Sophie loves.  She decided to utilize her super power of flying through the air but the problem was she launched herself OFF MY FACE!  The sting of the scratches over my cheekbones were enough to bring tears to my eyes.  I looked terrible!

No matter the size, a dog is equipped with things we humans don’t necessarily have — teeth for tearing, claws for scratching, thick skulls with smaller brains.  I have a friend who always had Great Danes.  The are usually gentle giants but like every puppy, a Great Dane still wants to play!  She tells the story of having a little roughhousing play with her Great Dane puppy who was probably about 90lbs at the time.  During the play, he headbutted her.  She woke up about 20 minutes later and had to go to the hospital with a concussion.

Our family pets are not out to hurt us but they don’t have logic on their side.  A few days after the Phoebe and Sophie incidents, there was an emergency situation with Viola, our elderlab.  Generally before going to bed, I give dental treats to all the dogs.  This week instead of their usual Greenies, I had another brand which was onsale.  These came in long stick form.  Viola bit the stick in two and took the larger piece in her mouth.  Somehow, she got the treat stuck between her two incisors wedging the piece on the roof of her mouth between her two teeth.

She immediately went into panic mode and indicated that she could not breath.  I went in…literally.  I put my hand into her mouth to try to dislodge the piece of treat.  Her jaws immediately clamped down on one of my fingers right at the knuckle.  She drew blood.  But she still could not breath so I tried the other hand and her jaw chomped down on my thumb drawing blood.  Luckily for me, my thumb knuckle joint is already thickly scarred from when a horse tried to bite my thumb off but that’s another story!

Andy saved the day with a silicone spatula that we wedged into her mouth and popped the treat out with.  He also brought the big, heavy duty silicone kitchen mitts!

There was absolutely no malice in any of these incidents.  Pups don’t think in terms of that kind of “revenge” action.  So, the next time you see me and I have bruises all over, scratches on my cheek and maybe some body part in a cast or a splint, don’t think the hubs is doing anything bad…I probably just had a play date with my pups!

Is A Growl Always A Signal for Aggression

Take a look at this video.  To someone who doesn’t know Sophie and Kibbles, they may think that they are engaging in aggressive behavior.  The truth is, however, dogs communicate in a number of sounds including barks, howls, growly noises, trills and yips.  As important as the noises a dog makes is their body language and eye positions.  Notice that neither dog has their hackles up.  Hackles are the hairs along the dog’s backbone start from neck to tail.  The semi-submissive behavior of Sophie flopping on her back and using her front paws to engage Kibbles also tells me she was just vocalizing and not being aggressive.

Kibbles, on the other hand, just looks a little confused.  At first he is tentatively engaging Sophie.  He is a puppy afterall!  As the video progresses you can see him getting more emphatic with his play.  At :55 or so the playfulness between the two changes.  Can you spot the difference?  One push too much from Kibbles sends Sophie into a more defensive growl and gives Kibbles a warning that he is being too boisterous for her.

I find the vocalizations of my dogs very interesting.  Bailey, for instance, trills a lot and whoos me.  She talks back a lot!  To the other dogs, she gives a lot of warnings to stay away from her tennis balls.  Viola, my elderlab, thinks that by barking at all the other dogs, they will get off the couch and let her take their space or, by barking at us we will read her mind as to what she wants! Phoebe, my yellow lab, is a groaner and a sigher.  She lets out the most satisfied groans when we scratch at the right place.  She also howls at sirens both in real life and on the TV.

What sounds do your pups make?  Do you recognize a playful growly noise as opposed to a warning growl?

First Memories…No Wonder I’m a Dog Person!

Evidently, I was a pretty mischievous little kid and my family was always telling stories of what funny things I did.  I heard these stories so many times that I’m not sure if I remember the incidents or if I have a false memory based on the stories.  But I am pretty sure that my first real memory is of our collie, Blaze.  He was a real-life Lassie and from the day I was brought home from the hospital became my self-appointed guardian. According to the stories, he never left the side of my crib.

What I remember is throwing a tantrum because i had to go down for a nap.  The kind of tantrum that hurts to watch.  The kind of tantrum that turns your face red from not being able to breath between the screams.  Blaze jumped into my crib and laid down.  I was instantly calmed by his presence. I remember being enveloped in the feathers of his coat and I curled my little body into his.  He leaned his head against mine and there we slept.  That became the norm for nap time.  I refused to lay down unless Blaze was with me.  I didn’t need a blanket or a pillow – I just needed my dog.white blaze

Growing up in the 60s, we had a lot of unsupervised time outside away from the parents but never away from Blaze.  We lived on a corner lot in a small town in Massachusetts where everyone knew each other but occasionally a stranger would come to town.  One day while my older brother and I were playing outside a man walked into our yard and started to ask us to help him find his puppy.  We didn’t know this guy and more importantly, Blaze didn’t know this guy.  If you’ve never seen a collie with their hackles up, well it is a sight.  The low guttural growl that started in Blaze’s belly and amplified out through his nose was enough to scare the man away but Blaze didn’t stop there.  He chased that guy for a few blocks before coming back to his post over us.

I never feel safer than I do with my dogs to this day.  And I always fall asleep fast when snuggling with pups!

The Ecosystem of the Dog Park

Kibbles the foster pup

Kibbles the foster pup

Kibbles, my foster dog, did not get adopted today.  He was very patient waiting for someone special to come and fall in love with him.  How can you not love that face?  He’s an incredibly sweet puppy with lots of energy.  I did not work the adoptions today so when I came to get him, he was very excited to see me.  So I told him we could get a toy (our adoptions are at PetSmart).  We walked down the toy aisle and he immediately went for a fuzzy fox that had the recycled water bottle in the body so it made a crunchy noise.  He proudly walked it up to the cash register where it was scanned and paid for and then he promptly lost interest in it once we had the receipt! Of course I didn’t even think to get the phone out to take a picture of him carrying the toy or holding it for the cashier to scan.

Knowing he was a pent up ball of energy from his day of adoptions, I took him to the dog park.  This pup loves all dogs – big or small!  He immediately introduced himself to all the dogs in the dog park.  For some reason all the dogs were on the small dog side.  Sometimes, I think we need to take a lesson from the dogs — have a sniff, run around and make no judgements of each other.  But boy, at the dog park, you meet all kinds!

Like the guy who thought it was OK to bring an eight-week old puppy to a dog park…”I haven’t heard of any issues with this dog park BUT you know a puppy that young you really shouldn’t expose to dogs you don’t know in a place like a dog park because you don’t know what the other dogs could be carrying that could really harm your puppy.”

Or the lady who has a five-month old poodle she just bought from Petland…”Such a cute pup but you know there’s a great application called Petfinder that you can look for rescues if you have a particular breed you are looking for!”

Then there is the lady who knows all the dogs’ names and tells the other dog owners that her dog is “just playing” when he makes the other dogs yelp.

Kibbles didn’t care where anybody came from or if anyone should be there or not.  He greeted and played with every single dog in the park. No judgements Just pure doggy fun!

If you are interested in adopting Kibbles, please go to our website, www.mostlymutts.org