Tag Archives: Recreation

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

ma_winthrop01

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 Symbiotic Relationship of Pets and Their Humans

The gang's all here!

The gang’s all here!

Science offers us a lot of information on understanding the inner workings of your pets minds.  They are food motivated or they are toy motivated.  Modern cognitive psychology tells us that our companion pets don’t do anything just because.  As a pet parent I have anecdotal evidence that says sometimes that is bullwhackey.  Maybe there is some deep scientific reason my pack gathers around me and comforts me and takes care of me when I’m down but my evidence is that they have a deep unconditional love for me and know their job is to love and protect me.

Last night when I got home from a very stressful day — many petsitting/dogwalking jobs while trying to simultaneous juggle my full time IT Consultant job.  Yesterday my car became my home office.  Thank goodness it was a lovely day out as I sat on front porches watching the dogs play and talking on conference calls or had my headset on as I hiked with one of my wards or sat in the parking lot of shopping center to do my emails and work on my deliverables in between visits.  And then I got the call.

I’m currently working on a project that was supposed to be long-term, at least another couple of years to deploy in the US and with my husband freshly laid off from a failing start up company, this gig was perfect because I made enough money to sustain the family without Andy working so he could find the perfect job.  Plus the work was flexible enough that I could start Kritter Keepers and work my appointments in between meetings.  I have my own Mi-Fi so I literally can work out of my car — as long as I have access to the internet and telephone, I am golden.  And for those “All Day Deluxe” gigs I have, I get to spend time with the companion animals while still doing my job.  There have been many a conference call with a kitty purring away on my lap or a heavy-headed pup resting on my thigh while I conducted business.

The call yesterday gave me two weeks but as a consultant/contractor.  The bottom line is after October 31 I don’t have a full-time, well-paying job to support the family.  And my girls sensed immediately my depression when I came home yesterday afternoon.  Now, they are always excited when I get home because I am the center of their universe.  “The Daddy” as we refer to Andy is nice to have around and if “The Mommy” isn’t around then he will feed them and they always like that!  But The Mommy is the whole in their doggie doughnuts.  I rock their world and they rock mine! If they had apposable thumbs they would bring me chicken soup when i am sick but instead they rally the troops.

Last night was no different.  Each dog wanted to comfort me — sometimes all together and sometimes one-at-a-time.  But they were all gentle and loving and knew something was wrong.  The don’t force me to “talk about it” (boy do I hate talking about it!) and they don’t ask me for answers to questions I have no idea about.  They just let me go through my process of reconciling with the bad news or illness or whatever is going on in life.

The pictures I’ve included are not the most flattering of me but they are the reality of the bad times I was going through.  And for their support of me during the bad, I pledge to support them during their bad.  I pledge to hold them as they cross over Rainbow Bridge.  I pledge to comfort them and make them feel better when they are sick and hurt.  I pledge to always keep them as a part of my family.

My girls are not my surrogate children but they are my companions, my loves, my family.

Please ignore the bulbous pink butt but I have 102 degree temperature but they just wanted to help me feel better

Please ignore the bulbous pink butt but I have 102 degree temperature but they just wanted to help me feel better

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.

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