Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cats from the shelter

I primarily help the dogs but since I have to walk through the cat area to get to the dogs, I often stop to play with the cats. Some are just too cute to pass up. I took these photos and then turned them into cards for the shelter to give out

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And so it goes

A beautiful sunny winter day, no snow on the ground, and Mongo is cooperating, wowza, I'm a happy camper. I even got a brief couple of connecting moments with him. Maybe it had something to do with my Barbara Woodhouse dog trainer imitations. I told you I had to pull out all the stops, so there I go saying "Walkies" down the street with my put on English accent, but anything to help the dogs. Poor Lenny got bypassed because I didn't have enough time to take him today. When Mongo and I came back I saw a shelter employee playing ball with Lenny, so at least he was getting some exercise and attention. So such are the vagaries of working with shelter dogs. I didn't even have time to let Mongo run loose today and yet he was better. Maybe it has something to do with his diarrhea being under control, or the fact that the dogs can hang out in the outdoor pens, which are bigger than the indoor ones, but things were definately better today. The following video is of Barbara Woodhouse, my favorite dog trainer. One of the men being interviewed is Brian Kilcommons another wonderful trainer with an excellent book on dog training called " Good Owners, Great Dogs"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

the Mongo Mambo

The Mongo Mambo is comrpised of-two steps forward, one step back. I don't really know what went wrong today, but frustration and regression were the key words. I was lucky enough to be allowed to run him first in the off leash dog park which I assumed would aid our leash work but that kind of flopped. I got no response from him while he was on the other side of the park, when I called his name, and whistled. I let my dog Pascual in with us and when the dogs ignored each other I put Pascual back in the car and Mongo came over to the fence and watched us, which was about the most care and concern I received from him all day. After Pascual was gone I let him run and then called him, and got no response, so I ended up going over to him and putting the leash on, at least he didn't run away from me, that was a plus. We attempted leash work, which I'm only striving for just walking together without pulling, being that he's nowhere near working on heel postion yet. During our walk I stopped to sit on a bench and observe his behavior, which I do with most of the dogs to get a sense of what they will do and how keyed in to me they are. Most dogs will come to me at some point and rub up against me or try and get my attention, or clown with me jumping on me and playing. Even if they also look off at what's around them, they somehow connect with me, but not Mongo. He's completely outwardly focused, so I'm not bonding with him quite yet which would even be O.K if we made some progress together walking peacefully. I've had some dogs who ignore me but are happy to be out and about and get with the program in terms of not fighting me on the leash. Mongo is 3 years old but occasionally lays down and refuses to move,( which is something younger dogs often do) if I try and guide him with the leash. I'm using the large link chain in the Barbara Woodhouse(English Dog Trainer) method, as a correction, not to choke him. I tried a Haltie on him but he's big and about slipped it and then tried to rub it off on the pavement and I've had another large dog break one in about 5 seconds by rubbing it on the pavement so I wasn't keen on the dog who is not bonded to me or trained to voice commands, slipping the Haltie and escaping. I am planning to try a Haltie with a second leash on just in case, maybe that will work. So here we go, two steps forwards, overall, and one step back. This sometimes happens, dogs like people have off days. My encouragement waned along with his behavior but there will be new days ahead, and hopefully we'll continue in a relatively forward motion, or I'm going to have to get super creative. Most dogs fall in line fairly quickly, he's rather an exception in the ten years I've been doing this, although some dogs react differently with different people, so maybe a large male rather than me, a smallish female, would have better luck with this rather strong, alpha, overgrown puppy. The only insight I can come away with today is that he seems more tied into the dog world than the human/dog world, in that he pays attention to my dog, who even though he is older and smaller, will snarl and put this youngun in his place. Maybe that's the key, bring Pascual with me. A friend also brought up the topic of food as a bonding mechanism as the shelter staff have grown closer to Mongo by feeding him although they don't have the time to work with him outside. So that's my food for thought, my observations to try and come up with a game plan. Any insight or advice by readers is also welcomed and appreciated.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


This is Lenny, or as my parents had a friend who was a Lenni Lenape Indian,that of course is one of my nicknames for him-Lenny Lenape, or as is more fitting to his character, Lenny and Squiggy, from the" Laverne and Shirley" television show.Why is the name Squiggy more in character ? because the word squiggy is closely related to the word squiggly which sounds an awful lot like the word wiggly which definately characterizes this fellow. So goes the play on words, that float through my 21st century imagination, just to give you an idea of my creative nicknaming process. I walk Lenny when I have extra time, and after I walk Mongo. I'm not so worried about Lenny as he is a medium sized dog, about 8 months old, very warm and personable, and walks fairly well on the leash considering he hasn't had much training. The way I see it, Lenny will probably get adopted more quickly than Mongo. Most of the small and medium sized dogs get adopted fairly quickly, the big dogs and black dogs take longer. The black dogs take longer because there are so many of them and people see them as more common and often times want a dog for their looks more so than for their personality, but that is more of an observation and generalization on my part to explain the statistic. So friendly Lenny, who is smart and very engaged with me as we walk on the leash will go quickly. In fact the only major issue Lenny seems to have, which is easily overcome, is his overabundance of happiness and excitement when I call his name and he comes to me, and then jumps up and wiggles with intense enthusiasm and takes a few minutes to calm down. This juxtaposition to Mongo is rather odd to me. One dog will barely give me the time of day when he's on the leash and the other one comes when I call him, and overwhelms me with his enthusiasm! Well such are the strange scenarios of working with shelter dogs. Who knows what the real stories were behind their previous lives, we can only guess, and work with what is currently going on and try to help them find good, caring homes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

progress in leaps and bounds

Maybe it had something to do with the rain mellowing out the dogs who were kept in their indoor kennels,because, when I took Mongo out he was relatively relaxed. I wasn't even able to let him run loose first in the off leash dog park as other people were there, and that would be against policy, so I was surprised that we got on so well today. I was even able to hold the leash in only one hand for half of the walk, which was darn good considering his overall situation, and having only worked with him 5 times. He does have an odd way of hearing without listening. I tell him things like"wait" or "this way" to change directions and he complies, but when I whistle and call his name and say "come" he acts like he hears something far in the distance and basically ignores me which seems odd, given that he was an owner surrender and Mongo had been his name for 3 years. Well, such are the mysteries when trying to understand a dog who doesn't speak your language. I'm just grateful that we are making progress and will observe the other behaviors and see if they become more understandable. He's had diahrrea since I've worked with him and is on medication for it , I wonder if that's nerves or part of his agitated state, but he's being well taken care of so all we can do is continue to help him and hope we(meaning myself and the shelter staff) make his life easier.

Monday, January 11, 2010

getting creative/ problem solving

How to get a pent up dog in unnatural conditions to be more balanced and calm? Let him run around in the off leash dog park for 20 minutes before attempting leash work. How to make him feel more at ease? Bring my dog Pascual, the blue heeler in so he has some companionship. This strategy seemed to help a lot and I was able to walk Pascual and Mongo together for 30 minutes. Sometimes having my dog with me is a calming influence to the other dog and he can display the behavior of a good dog to the shelter dog who will hopefully pick up on what the pack members are supposed to do. I apologize for the lousy photo but dogs with a ton of energy don't stand still long enough for great photo's without putting the camara in jeopardy so this was the best I could do for now.

my philosophy of exercise

I follow a wonderful inspirational blog called Everyday Gyaan The topic of New Years resolutions came up and I wrote in about my philosophy of exercise which you can link to here My basic belief is that exercise should be fun, edifying, and useful. So instead of working out on machines and paying for the privelege, why not hook the machines up to generate electricity,or garden and grow food for yourself or others. When I go for walks, I take shelter dogs with me because we both need the exercise, it's tons of fun and often rewarding. Sometimes I walk dogs with a friend and have deep philosophical conversations as we walk. I have arrived at my own version of the philosophy of efficiency, meeting many needs simultaneously. It's just something I came to acquire as a multi-tasker with a big heart. It's sort of a blend of the western concept of work ethic and resourcefulness combined with the Eastern philosophy of dharma.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mongo the new dog

This is Mr. Mongo or since I am a Latin Jazz music fan, Mongo Santamaria my latest nickname for him. Mongo is about 3 years old, recently neutered and I'm guessing, spent most of his life in a backyard, never having been acquainted with the simple concept of a leash. This being said, Mongo and I have been grappling with the philosophical ideas of leash, the outdoors, and the concept of teamwork. Patience and mindfulness on my part,and being excruciatingly present, as I deal with unruly dog and icy wintry walking conditions was also the order of the day. This one is a labor of love and a challenge for me as the poor guy has been quite cooped up due to the cold and nasty weather. I've taken him out, I was going to say walked him but that would be a stretch, as it was initially somewhat a battle of wills, about 3 times now. Today, seeing about 12% improvement over the last time which is actually quite an accomplishment in the big scheme of things. This guy is big, a lab/rottweiler mix and although he grew disheartened and stopped eating for a few days, he's still rather strong. After the first two visits I was on the verge of giving up, feeling too overwhelmed with his large size, strength, pent up energy, and outward focus. Many dogs will make some sort of eye contact, or recognition of me as a person attached to the other end of the leash, but he was so interested in the outside world, and so nervous from being cooped up in a cage, that he really wasn't connecting with me or making a whole lot of improvement. I am aware that I have my limitations, especially when winter is concerned, but as usual, I am a bit of a softie and decided to try one more time. Maybe he is getting used to me, as last time after our walk I spent some time with him in his indoor kennel. This last visit he showed some dog to human communication by being excited to see me, which at least inspired me to try. We progressed only a little bit, but enough to "break the ice" and make me feel like I was dealing with a concious creature, and not a brick wall. Hurray for small miracles! Someone else tried to walk him and gave up, so if I don't do it and get him under control he'll be less likely to be adopted quickly.There's my incentive, the tug at my heart strings,the push to nudge me beyond my reluctance. Here I go again, into another adventure with a dog in need. I wonder how his story will unfold?