Thursday, December 1, 2011

Boomerang-a previous story that has since evolved

I was reading the book " Small is Beautiful Economics as if People Mattered" recently, and came upon a quote from St Thomas Aquinas "It is evident that if a man practices a compassionate affection for animals, he is all the more disposed to feel compassion for his fellowmen" I suppose I was on the right track in my previous blog post.

I had a favorite book when I was a child called "Part time Dog" it was one of those children's books geared towards the beginning reader.The brown dog in the above photographs, with my Australian Shepherd, is Porky, well at least that's what his name was when I knew him. The shelter staff had named him Porky because he was found covered in porcupine quills. I fostered this dog for 6 months deciding that since no one had claimed or adopted him I would keep him, until one day his previous owner found me while I was out walking with the dogs. Of course by that time I was completely enamored of the dog and so attached to it as in the way that people become attached to something when they decide to incorporate it into their life. Although for me,there is a strange Buddhist type of crossover emotional area, since I have grown fond of and worked with so many dogs. I have a strange sort of combination of deep love and yet at the same time non attachment, which pervades more than the dog/ human world for me but due to my rather odd upbringing, I am also not so attached to people in a way that may be different from most people. Of course as things go and people are tested, the one dog that I really loved in a possessive way, besides my darling old Blue Heeler,( I had not found my Aussie Shepherd at the time) the one I was going to make into my second dog, was reclaimed by his owner which you can read about in this link to a previous blog post.

Well now it's a year later, I have a new Australian Shepherd as a walking and shelter dog training companion as well as my old Australian Cattle dog. I got over the loss of Porky and helped some other shelter dogs along the way. I have an old man friend that lives near me. I met him while he was out walking with his wife when I first moved here 11 years ago. His wife died some years back and I go and check on him and visit with him when I can. His house is about 2 miles from mine at the halfway point for one of my walks so I often stop by and say hello and catch up with him when I'm out and about. The last time I went for a visit we were standing outside talking when out of the corner of my eye I saw a dog walking around,checking me out.My old man friend said "don't mind that dog, that's Bear", which was Porky's real name. I said " I know that dog" and then Porky came to me and we were reunited and I was so happy to see him and pet him and visit with him. My elderly friend has a rental property on his place and the family that the dog belonged to had moved into it.The dog looked healthy and happy, and had the run of the farm. Now I can visit two friends at once, and get a nice 4 mile walk in as well. That's the beauty of being connected to a community and walking around a lot. You get to meet all kinds of people, you get a feel for a place in such a different way than when you drive around in a car. You can even get a reading on the economy based on observations over time.When I now go and visit my previous foster dog , he jumps up affectionately on me and seems to remember me, he even tries to go on walks with us but I make sure that he stays on the property. I talked to the young man who is part of the family that owns the dog. He really enjoys his dog and is so bonded with him and showed me all the tricks that he taught his dog. He says that the dog follows him all over on his bike. So I guess my heart break and loss are someone else's gain. After all, he was such a nice dog that I knew people had to have cared for him. In the course of things in this world he didn't belong to me, but I can visit with him like in the children's story I used to read"Part time Dog" perhaps we set the stage for our lives at a young age. I said to my elderly friend, jokingly, " well now that the dog is here I'll have to come by and visit more often" he seemed taken aback by that, and I felt a little guilty for letting such callous words fly out of my mouth, despite the fact that they were true. I contemplated that exchange as I walked home and realized something about myself, that's it's always easier for me to relate to the dogs. They don't lay guilt trips on you, they don't care about your political persuasions,they just want to be treated well and have fun.There is not the muck of expectations, desires, resentments, imposition of beliefs, that often encumber human relationships. Well I really can't help the way I am, it resulted from a long history of not being able to trust the erratic behavior of humans in my life, but at least I try and accept the way I am and do my best with the dogs and people in my life. I'm glad I fostered that dog for so long . Had someone else adopted him he may have never been reunited with the family that loved him so much. Had I not been the type of person who walks the neighborhoods with my dogs, they may never have found me. Strange, the luck and synchronicity involved here and that these people are now living near enough for me to visit. It's as if the dog orchestrated it all in some mysterious way. Maybe there really is some strange kind of Native American Animal Spirit Guide at work, as we are surrounded by Native American culture here, or maybe I just have an overactive imagination! You decide

"I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the earth."

Walt Whitman- excerpt from " Song of myself"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thank you Mary Ann

Mary Ann Lindsay of Inland Northwest Rescue has passed away. You can read more about Mary Ann and her story here . Thank you Mary Ann for all the tireless work you did helping the orphaned animals. Thanks for our wonderful Australian Shepherd Cash he is truly a blessing.
I have often asked myself " Hm, I spend so much time around dogs, helping abandoned animals, but what do I do for humanity?" I used to help people too but found that the dogs are easier to help and not so resistant to taking help from a person and changing behaviors in order to improve their lives. Try telling a person " you need to eat better, get more exercise in order to be more calm and less neurotic, and that anxious behavior like smoking or overeating that you do, you need to sublimate that and do something more positive instead, here have a chewy toy(just joking) or knitting needles!" and see what kind of result you get! Most people really don't like others even focusing on their weaknesses let alone helping them to overcome them quickly. At least that has been my experience, so for me, I love helping the dogs but in a strange way, I think helping the dogs does help people, in that others see your kindness and care for something outside yourself and are reminded of their own humanity.One man I saw regularly while walking said"you're still walking shelter dogs?" That was three years ago, yes I am still walking them, only not so often lately. The dogs I help go on to help the people who adopt them. In helping the dogs to become better, well adjusted, loved pets, the people who adopt them can enjoy a beautiful relationship with a happy dog and spend time having fun and getting exercise together.
The dog in the photo is Ruby, an older dog who was still quite engaged and desirous of attention and enjoyed walking with me and Cash my Australian Shepherd

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A stray Border Collie and an old Lab mix

It was so nice to get back to walking shelter dogs after 5 weeks on the East Coast of the U.S. without a dog. Cash,my Aussie shepherd, and I walked Daddy Long Legs, the older black lab. I then played with the male 2 year oldish Border Collie who has gone unclaimed at the shelter for a few days and if no one claims him will be available for adoption. He was a nice fellow who really enjoyed playing fetch with his tennis ball. He was even pretty smart in catching on when I tried to trick him by fake throwing the ball in different directions. For more information on either of these dogs contact

Friday, August 5, 2011

Marking Territory

I recently spent 5 weeks on the East Coast of the United States in the suburbs of New Jersey, taking care of my sick mother. I had left my dogs at home but to de-stress I spent an hour or more a day walking around my old home town. I noticed a regular group of friendly dog walkers, and I also noticed a small handful of signs posted on the edge of nicely landscaped properties, many of which were maintained by lawn service workers and not homeowners. While I am a strong believer in property rights, I got the feeling that many of the signs were put up not necessarily in order to fix some out of control problem, but instead as an assertion of human territory. I have lived in congested areas before and now live in the country where I get my fair share of motorists throwing their empty beer cans and candy wrappers out on the edge of my property but instead of putting up ugly signs that I'm guessing would be ignored anyway, I just pick up the garbage every once in awhile, and don't think too much about it. It's my contention that in crowded congested areas, New jersey being the most crowded state in the Nation with 1195.5 residents per square mile (Washington D.C. has 9856.5 but is not a state) Idaho having 19 residents per square mile, people get more defensive of their territory. So I was surprised to see what I thought were unattractive signs at the edges of lovely landscaped properties. To me the signage seemed more distasteful than the occasional overlooked dog dropping. I am a responsible dog walker and pick up after the dogs I walk, but this battle of land owners verses a few irresponsible dog walkers seemed to go deeper than the obvious. The one that made me laugh was the pretty sign with silk bows that asked for the dogs not to "Pee " on the shrubs. I'm wondering how they would even know? There were 4 of these signs spread out over the perimeter of this property and the ironic aspect was that this person's shrubs, attractive as they might have been, were also spreading out a good way onto the public sidewalk( note photos above). Do they really believe that ownership extends out to the public sidewalk despite the fact that they had made the initial plantings? I'm curious as to how the public/private boundary was not clearly understood. Was someone perhaps claiming more territory in an overcrowded area? The yard and shrubs were quite lovely, but once again the signage, complete with silky ribbons, did really draw the eye away and detract from the lovely plantings more so than any dog's pee, as far as I'm concerned. Oh well, more thoughts to ponder on a crowded planet where there are so many people and so many dog owners. I guess we creatures all try and claim territory, the trick is to figure out how to all get along.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Walking without a dog

The last few weeks I have been on the East Coast of the United States taking care of my elderly mother. My husband has been home taking care of our dogs and my gardens. It's not been easy helping my mom through illness but she seems to be doing a little better. To relive my stress I go for long walks through the suburban neighborhoods. I choose routes with lovely historic homes and beautiful landscaping. I walk with my radio headset on tuned into the high paced world of the New York City Metro area. It feels so strange to walk without a dog. I brought my camera but forgot to bring the device that lets me up load photos to the computer so I apologize for the lack of photos with my post. I stop and talk with people who are walking their dogs. Most dog people are very gracious about letting me visit with their dogs and say they do the same thing when traveling without their dogs. I'm pleased to see that there are more mixed breed adopted dogs in this area, as in the past it was mostly designer purebred dogs, so I'm guessing more people are adopting dogs from shelters. There are even a lot more people out walking than there used to be as people are getting more health conscious in general. It's interesting to me to see the changes from year to year. I usually visit once a year or every other year. On the one hand, things seem more crowded and noisy, on the other hand more people are out walking and taking the time to stop and talk with others. It seems like people still hunger for connection even in this high paced, highly congested area, where there is so much competition for resources, we are still exchanging stories, information and ideas. I thought about calling the local dog rescue group but they didn't have any current dogs listed on their website, and the weather has been unbearably hot here, which is not good for dogs to be out walking in for the 4-5 miles I am covering, on hot pavement and in high humidity, so I thought I would wait to call if the weather breaks. Have fun enjoying your dogs and wonderful lives. I hope mom gets well and I get to go back to mine soon. Namaste

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some new Cow dog/Herding Breed mixes at the shelter

These two guys are both fairly young. They are waiting to be claimed, or for enough days to go by until they become wards of the shelter. One seems like a Border Collie/Australian Cattle dog mix, the other, some kind of Aussie Shepherd/Border Collie mix. The black and white guy is named Deuce as in" what the Deuces is a cute dog like that doing here?" For the life of me I can't figure out why the gals did not name him Patches, but I will have to ask. For more info on either of these guys you can contact

Friday, June 10, 2011

George, my current favorite dog at the shelter

My previous favorite Sara, the Black Lab Border Collie mix, was adopted rather quickly. I got to talk to the people who adopted her and told them what a sweet, well behaved 6 month old puppy she was, and I guess they sensed it too, and took a chance on her. It's always helpful to have first hand insight into a dog by someone who has spent time with the dog. This is George, a large German Shepherd mix with a dash of something wire haired, making his coat soft and smooth, but a tad wiry and perhaps less prone to shedding. He looks like a German Shepherd that someone stretched upward and outward. He's about 2 years old. His hips look good as far as I could tell, and he is sweet, playful, charming and loves to be paid attention to. He also enjoys playing fetch. He was not officially the shelter's dog yet, so I played with him in his kennel instead of taking him for a walk.I'm guessing no one will claim him as he was found abandoned in the dog park across the street from the shelter, but you never know.

Update-Luckily for the dog, I guessed wrong. As it turned out George's owner came and got him. Once again, someone's worst fears that the dog was killed by coyotes, because they found his collar but not the dog, prevailed. So one unhappy emotional roller coaster ride, and at least three days later, the people thought, why not call the shelter just in the off chance the dog landed there despite the fact it was some distance from their house. Lo and behold the dog was just sitting at the shelter waiting to be claimed by his people. It always amazes me that people will follow the lead of their worst fears before ruling out other possibilities. I wonder what that impulse is in human nature, to immediately assume the worst outcome and eliminate other scenarios? Well at least there was a Happy ending for all. If the dog had been micro chipped the owners would have been contacted right away, so despite the fact that a dog has a collar and i.d. on, they can end up lost and without identification, so it pays to micro chip as well.

On a side note on- The Hazards of Hi- tech clothing-(not a brand name, just style of sportswear) I had a scary experience with a pair of Hi- tech cross country ski pants recently. Idaho has had a cold and rainy spring, so I wore my ski pants out while dog walking, and then stood in front of the wood stove to warm up and dry off. I was about a foot away from the wood stove and had a funny sensation, and noticed that the pants, which did not look particularly synthetic, so I was not intuitively conscious of their hazards, started melting while I was wearing them. I quick took them off, and luckily they had been big on me to begin with so I was uninjured. It was quite the scary experience to have my clothes melting on me while I was wearing them and none of the other clothes I was wearing melted at that time and distance, so I kind of freaked out a bit. I called the company and got a snotty, non nonchalant, Oh yeah that will happen, and there was a tag on the pants when you bought them, too bad for you, response. I was sort of expecting an apology and maybe some coupons. Mind you they were about $100 ski pants and I told the woman that I also owned another pair of her company's expensive pants. I know, as my husband said, it was probably my fault. I guess I just have to be super conscious at all times or adopt a philosophy of wearing only natural fiber clothing that will be on the whole, less hazardous to my health. I think in the future, I will just keep my $100 and next time knit myself a pair of wool leggings or get some old kind of natural fiber ski clothes. I just thought I'd tell my story so other people don't get injured and/or ruin their expensive clothing. I was not touching the stove, and like I said, the pants looked more like stretchy cotton pants, so it was not foremost on my mind that they could melt like nylon. I also have a few other hi- tech, natural looking, sports wear, items of clothing which I will be more careful about. So be aware, that some hi- tech clothing is not reliable around wood stoves or heating devices, whether or not you think you are a reasonable distance away from the heat source. The woman representing the company also stated that the pants have melted in the dryer, so use caution with this type of clothing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The joys of walking shelter dogs in springtime

It's always so much fun to walk shelter dogs when the flowers are in bloom. This little 6 month old darling is Sara, the Black Lab Border Collie mix (with one blue eye), available for adoption A perfect combination of friendly and smart. She passed all my good dog, tests. She came to me when I sat down, and shared affection. She looked back at me during our walk. She got along with my Aussie Cash, walked nicely on the leash. For a 6 month old puppy stuck in a shelter she was sweet, well mannered, medium energy level, and smart, traits which are not always easy to come by in an abandoned dog. She even came to me when I called her, and sat when I told her to "sit". What a sweetie pie, she can only get better from here, as she is still young. It makes me wonder why someone would get rid of such a nice puppy, but then I wonder a lot when working with shelter dogs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There is the Dog Whisperer and then there is..,

me, the "Dog Conjurer". When I am not helping shelter dogs I take a large, white, rescued dog with me that belongs to my friend who is a nurse and who works long hard hours in service to the sick. My friend's dog is 3 years old, as is my Australian Shepherd, so they are fairly well matched as playmates, in terms of energy levels, and play styles. I usually pick the dog up on my way to one of the many nice trails we have around here and then walk for an hour or more. On a few occasions I have taken her dog to my house which is about 4 miles away, and then walked from my house either with just my dog and friend's dog, or with my neighbor and her rescued greyhound joining the pack. My friend's large female dog had been to my house about 4 -5 times when one day about an hour before I was going to get her to walk, she just showed up. My dog's started barking and my husband said" there's a strange dog running down the driveway" and low and behold it was my friend's dog. I just gave her some water, threw her in my stall shower and cleaned her up and then let her play with Cash my Aussie. We later went for a walk a good 5 miles, and then I returned her to her house and shut the doggie door to the outside. It seems she had found a way through the fence. On another occasion my friend had been working a lot and her boyfriend was gone all Saturday volunteering for a charity event. Once again I had planned to take her dog later in the day. I was sitting on my sofa feeling a little off, as the spring weather around here has been snowy, rainy and miserable with a few scattered moments of sunlight breaking through before another bout of hail. I was debating the merits of which walking trail to take. Do I want to go to town? go down the paved bike trail? Take the gravel hiking path? I really wanted to stay at my house and walk out the scenic ridge past the farms. It's a paved road out in the open, which means I'd be able to absorb what little sunlight might be available, and not heavily trafficked, and there are long vista type views in certain places and two adorable cow dogs at the halfway point that come out to greet us. I'm such a sucker for cute dogs as motivation for keeping my spirits up while walking. I kept thinking "oh it would be so handy if my friend's dog just showed up here, then I wouldn't have to drive over, get her and drive her back later" Just as I was thinking to myself "I shouldn't even be putting that thought out into the universe, what am I thinking?" My dogs started barking and I looked over at the door and there she was! I guess the dog read my mind before I even thought it! A more reasonable explanation was she was bored and lonely, and knew where her friends were. So we went over the same routine again, I cleaned her up, gave her water, she played with Cash, my Aussie Shepherd, and then we went for a long walk. I told my friend what had happened and she was shocked that the dog had found it's way over here. It's about four miles by highway or perhaps shorter as " the dog runs" We were trying to figure out what kind of reasoning led her to find my house. Did she take a short cut? or follow the path the car took? Did she use visual landmarks? My friend got a little annoyed at her dog, but the dog was only trying to alleviate it's loneliness. Dogs are pack animals after all. I was reminded of how we humans can get rather annoyed when our children, pets, other fellow humans do not fit nicely into our plans. What may initially seem like annoying behavior or willfulness that disrupts our intentions, is only another creature trying to express in a communicative way, that it's needs aren't being met. Instead of just being annoyed with them, we should try and listen to them and identify the problem and rectify it . I suppose that's what communication is all about: listening, hearing the message, identifying and understanding the issue, and then solving the problem. Happy spring dog walking to all.

On a side note, I recently read Cesar Milan's book " Cesar's Way." I was touched by his sensitivity, especially given that he is such a powerful, macho guy. I thoroughly enjoyed the book

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Aussie Shepherd has a meltdown as I'm heartbroken over the devastation in Japan

Once again, perhaps it is coincidence or something else at work. I was very saddened and distressed at the devastation and destruction caused by the earth quake in Japan. The Japanese culture and people have been near and dear to my heart. I love the pottery, poetry, and aesthetics of Japan . I have been drawn to the beauty of homes built from natural materials, materials that were unfortunately, vulnerable to destruction. I was anxious about the state of the nuclear power plants, and I'm sure my very sensitive Australian Shepherd, Cash, was also picking up on at least my sadness and fear if not something deeper in perhaps a planetary way. I had decided to leave the dog home and take my older Blue Heeler with me in the car when I left to go to dinner at my friend's house on Saturday March 12th. Cash, my Australian Shepherd, had been out for a long walk with shelter dogs that day and my husband was staying home, so I thought it would be good to give my old Blue Heeler some special attention. As I was leaving the house, Cash tried to dash out the door and come with us so my husband grabbed his collar and pulled him back. I then left for my friend's house, without seeing what was going on behind me. Upon returning home, I saw about ten small puddles with paper towels sticking out of them, spread out all over the great room floor (he's not perfect, but at least he put the paper towels down!). I asked my husband what had happened and he told me that from the moment he grabbed the dog, the dog rolled on his back and peed and then seemed to be in a tizzy and kept repeating the behavior as my husband tried to assure him he wasn't going to be hurt. It's as if the dog just had a huge emotional meltdown. He had some fear peeing issues when we first got him out of rescue, but that had long since subsided, and usually involved only one incident at a time. So I'm wondering if anyone else has observed any odd behavior in their pets or farm animals, during the time of the Japanese earthquake and it's aftermath. I live in North Idaho, U.S.A., not too far from seismic activity and the Pacific Rim/Pacific Ring of Fire, so I was a bit worried that the dog may be picking up on some impending seismic activity. I wasn't sure if Cash was just reacting to my anxious state, or a situation specific incident to my leaving him and my husband grabbing the collar. It was so much more grander of a meltdown than what I had seen before, that I couldn't help wondering if what had transpired was one of those incidents of animal sensitivity to natural catastrophic force and grand scale suffering. I leave the dog unattended at night in the living room or when I go into my pottery studio without incident. I've left my two dogs alone together in the house, so I can't figure out what triggered this odd behavior. When I returned home the Aussie was also distant, and seemed shell shocked, he didn't come up and greet me as he usually does. By Sunday afternoon things were back to normal .Oh well, just another unsolved dog and human mystery that I'm still trying to sort out. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan. I'm so saddened by this terrible tragedy

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dogs have a sixth sense, maybe people too - Rocky's Story

Rocky's story- a story from my book
(this is Rocky in the photo)


I showed up at the shelter one day and saw a big black and white border collie mix who seemed friendly and eager for contact with people. I tend to like the bigger dogs, and as he was fairly run of the mill in looks and on the large side, I figured he might end up there awhile so something inside me decided to focus on Rocky. There was something of the looks of Jake (another dog in my book) in him and there was a responsiveness and chummy sort of willingness to relate to me. When I first started walking Rocky he was fairly well behaved and happy to be petted and loved and talked to and he and Blue, my Australian Cattle Dog, and I would wander all over town. He was fairly good with cats when I walked him past the cat cages, and he was easy enough to handle, so I could drop in and pick him up and go for a walk when I had the time. None of the other dogs where particularly grabbing me, so I just sort of fell in with Rocky. Blue and I walked Rocky for a few months, sometimes he would pull but not too badly He really enjoyed walking all over town with us and rewarded us with his loving responses and looks back at me while on the leash walking. You could tell he liked people. I kept wondering as I often do with the dogs” how did you end up here?” He was so well adjusted. After being at the shelter for a while he grew more impatient and started to dislike cats and smaller dogs to the point where he would bark and lunge towards them and I’d have to really pull him back and reprimand him but something about him would make me continue walking him. He never seemed to become despondent or depressed at the shelter over time, just crabby and intolerant.

Porky as referred to in previous blog post

After some time Porky showed up and in contrast, seemed to go downhill rather quickly. He was sensitive and shell shocked by all the noise and commotion and some of the other dogs would pick fights with him to the extent that he would be reluctant to come out of his outdoor kennel in order to even go for walks.Rocky was a little too much of a handful to take with Blue and Porky at one time so I'd walk Rocky and then take Porky afterwards.I was getting a little exhausted from all this dog juggling, and I didn’t always have time to conveniently, devote to walking both of them separately so I started praying that Rocky would soon find a good home. I'm not a particularly religious person, more on the "new age spiritual" side, I always figure some of these dogs can use all the help they can get. Some people came to look at him once but they had recently lost their precious dog named Rocky and the woman was too distraught to get another dog named Rocky quite so soon. I kept thinking” you could change his name to Socks or something, because he had white feet, but these people just came to the conclusion that he was not the dog for them. So there I go back to praying and putting my spiritual feelers out for the right situation for Rocky to arise. I popped into the shelter one morning, and reached around the office door to grab a leash as is my usual custom, and the gals who work there said to me” have you heard the great news about Rocky?” and I’m like “no what happened?” Apparently the man who initially brought him in was a neighbor to his original owner who was going to adopt Rocky because his owner was in the military and got called away to transfer to a military base back East. The neighbor had told the original owner who loved the dog but thought it was unfair to drag him across the country and keep him in a kennel until they found appropriate housing, that the dog was doing well. The dog and neighbor were not doing well. The neighbor tried to surrender Rocky to the shelter, only they were full at the time and the staff told the man he’d have to wait before surrendering him, at which point the man said” I’m just going to go shoot that damn dog” or something to that effect. Well there was another patron standing there at that moment who generously offered to pay for the dog to stay at a kennel until the shelter had room to take him. I'm always so amazed at the kindness and generosity of some people. I had never heard any of this previous history of Rocky's until that moment. So all this time goes by and I’m walking Rocky and taking good care of him and putting my spiritual feelers out praying that he finds an appropriate home. Well the owner who apparently loved Rocky and was trying to spare him discomfort in moving had a funny feeling that something was wrong. He said he kept thinking about Rocky as they were finally settled into a new house and looking to get another dog just like Rocky to replace him. He kept having this strange intuition and said something compelled him to look on the Petfinder website for our Shelter and low and behold, he see’s Rocky’s picture on the site listing him as available for adoption. He called up and the shelter staff, told him what had happened with the neighbor and the previous owner said, if he had known how awful it was for Rocky and how dangerously close to being killed the dog was he would have taken him with the family across the country and kenneled him there until they found a new home. Besides, their 2 year old daughter had leukemia and Rocky was her special dog and I suppose it must have been really difficult to be sick, move and loose your special dog.Now they were going to surprise her and reunite them. The people made arrangements with a pet transport service to take the dog across country and reunite him with the family.
So all along I kept wondering why, as long as Rocky stayed at the shelter, he never went that far down hill? He became crabby and part of that was, we think the man who was going to kill him had had a smaller dog that was mean to Rocky as Rocky had never before displayed issues with cats or small dogs. I wonder if somewhere inside Rocky he knew he was going to be reunited with his beloved family? I wonder what compelled me to focus on him and pray for him and if somehow the previous owner heard those pleas through the psychic mists, from clear across the country? I hope the little girl is helped to heal now, at least she’ll have a big wallop of joy in getting her precious doggie back. I’m so happy for all of them. I too got my wish, and in Rocky getting reunited with his precious family, I was able to spend time with Porky who is so sensitive and really needs me, and is sitting by my side as I write this, as my foster dog, doing really well, loving to be loved and grateful for the peace and quiet of a home as opposed to the noise and racket and fighting between some dogs in the shelter setting. Porky too, had a miraculous twist which can be read in my blog post on his story

I suppose this is what keeps me going back to help the shelter dogs. The longer I stay on, the more the stories twist and turn and interweave over time, sometimes in miraculous ways- or seemingly unexplained coincidences, take your pick!

(it takes a brief moment of advertising to get to the beautiful song- it's worth it)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Some of my observations on how to work with dogs while they are living in shelters

This is just my list of do's, don'ts, and approaches I have come to after spending years helping shelter dogs. I have incorporated much of the info into my stories on the individual dogs, which I'm still trying to figure out how to edit and publish . I thought my observations and list of what I do and don't do might be of interest to other people who want to help the shelter dogs. I'll probably add to the list over time, but these are a few things that come to mind, not in any way a complete list. If anyone has any other bits of information to add, please feel free to comment or contact me. Learning and helping the dogs, and people who work with them is my main objective

This is Hunny the deaf lab that's been at the shelter since May. I had talked about her before but misspelled her name before assuming it was Honey, but I'll leave the topic of shelter dog names, for another blog post. I always hold the leash in my hand this way( I bring my thumb back into my fist), not putting my hand all the way through the loop which seems dangerous to me. It's easy to release the leash this way if it's a matter of releasing a dog or breaking my arm. I have broken my hand before while foolishly riding my bike while walking my Labrador Retriever, despite my husband's warnings, so I am a bit cautious.

I train the dogs to voice commands as well as hand signals from the start i.e. I say" this way" and tug on the leash for a change in direction. I say "wait", "stay", "sit","come" etc.., and give appropriate hand signals. That way if a dog accidentally pulls the leash out of my hands I can usually control them with my voice, at least long enough to catch them.

I usually ask the shelter staff for info on a particular dog, and then I try and assess the dog before walking it.I stand on the other side of the fence/gate and view the dog, talking to him or her and seeing what kind of response I get. I am conscious of my limitations and skills and will avoid a dog that is beyond my ability to control it in public.

I usually stop and lovingly pet and try and make some kind of bonding contact with a dog as soon as I get it out of the shelter and away from all the noise. I do this repeatedly for more normal dogs, it helps to establish a bond and connection and they are less likely to pull if they have made some kind of acknowledging contact with the person at the other end of the leash. It helps to calm them a bit.

If I have a dog that is just way too rambunctious and intent on pulling and pulling and I am on the verge of losing control, I run them in a circle- I stand in one place and direct their energy around in a circle. It gives a few minutes to regain control and tire the dog somewhat.

With big unruly dogs, I like to use a large link, "Barbara Woodhouse (English dog trainer) style," choke chain. The weight on the back of their necks is somewhat of a natural subduing gesture, and the sound of the jerk startles them and gets their attention, it's not used to choke them.

On smaller wound up dogs, I usually try a" Haltie" or "Martingale" collar if it's available, it's a humane way to get a dog under control. I've had a few large rambunctious dogs destroy them and escape so I'm more cautious with bigger, rowdy dogs. At times I have purchased my own equipment and keep it in my car, just so I have the right equipment for particular dogs I'm walking. There always seems to be an assortment of leashes and collars at our shelter and some disappear and reappear months later in different places with so many volunteers, so at times it's better to have my own favorite pieces of equipment that I keep under my own control.

For shy sensitive, abused dogs, I am very low key and non intrusive with them. I don't do my usual high pitched happy dog talk as it can scare them. I usually just act calm and let them come to me and sniff me and interact with me on their own time. I can usually give a trial, semi- happy talk, greeting, and see if the dog responds positively or becomes scared. If they get scared, then I back off. If they get really scared then I slow way down and take much more time just letting them get comfortable with me which might entail just sitting with them for 15 minutes at a time for a few days until they get the courage up to trust and feel comfortable with me. Sometimes food treats work in this scenario sometimes they don't but the most important thing is to observe their response and go slow and not push too hard. Once they have gained my trust I can work with them and the progress usually goes faster after they have accepted me as a friend. In the shelter scenario,- the dogs have been traumatized, ending up in a foreign place that is noisy and scary, so I try and make them feel comfortable and get them to see me as a trustworthy ally, not a trainer simply forcing a response.

I always check the collars, and leashes before I go out with a dog, sometimes collars can be way to loose and a dog can back out of the collar- I had a dog escape downtown this way, but luckily got her back unharmed. I have also seen dogs whose collars were too tight because they had put on weight after they had been fed properly. I also check to see that the leash is strong enough and in good working order for the dog I intend to walk- i.e. it's not seriously frayed so it could snap or break if pulled too hard.

I usually go into the kennel and put the leash on while the kennel door is shut, unless I'm confident I can slip a leash on quickly in the hallway. The main thing I try and avoid is having stressed shelter dogs come in contact with each other in close quarters.

I always try and make sure that gates to the outside are shut before I take a dog out of a kennel. I try and make sure that there are not two shelter dogs in close quarters, together as problems could arise. I let the other people and dogs go out then I go with the dog. I try and keep the dogs on a short leash while walking past the other dogs behind fences, and I try not to linger as tails and barking mouths can align in close quarters

I wear "play clothes" as I will inevitably get a few muddy paws on the front or back of my clothes. I wear comfortable walking shoes as I usually walk for an hour or more.I have actually seen people show up in flip flops! I bring a "belly bag / fanny pack"-pocketbook that closes around the waist. I take my wallet, cell phone, pooper scooper plastic bags, hand sanitizer, tissues, band-aids, the business card of the Humane Society- in case someone falls in love with the dog I'm walking and wants the phone number of the shelter to call them. Since I usually walk the dogs around town, I also ask the age of the dog and some background info on the dog in case anyone stops and asks me questions about the dog.

I try not to exchange bodily fluids with the dogs, that is I don't let them lick my face if I can help it. There is however, the occasional "stolen kiss." I'm real big on "air kisses" and conveying love and care through my hands, and happy talk voice

I used to spend quite a bit of money on treats for the dogs. After a while, I decided to just try love, attention, praise, and fun walks. I found that the dogs were just so happy being out walking around and having some positive attention that I really didn't need to use food treats to get them to respond to commands. I guess financial necessity can be the mother of creative training invention!

Some dogs need to be cheered up and respond well to happy talk, some dogs, hunting breeds in particular, are already excited and I've noticed, can be over wound with too much happy talk. Some scared dogs benefit from calm, direct, low key energy. I usually try and assess what is going on by observation and adjust my approach accordingly

When I am done with walking the shelter dogs, I make sure that there is drinking water in the dog's kennel. I return all the equipment to it's correct place and report any useful info on the dog to the staff i.e.- he chases cats, or squirrels, he's a lovely dog and responds well and is easy to walk, the dog is startled by .., Sometimes the staff is interested to get information on the dogs in order to help the people interested in adopting the dog have a good idea of what the dog is like. I try and be useful without overly burdening the hardworking staff with all my insights. The staff members also seem to have different insights and info on the dogs and are often the first ones to bond with the dogs, because they are providing warm safe housing, humane treatment, and feeding them regularly. This kind treatment is often better than the treatment many of the dogs have been previously used to and they are very appreciative of the efforts on their behalf.

I am always careful to remove the Woodhouse style(choke chain) from the dog as it could get caught on something in the kennel and injure the dog- Never leave a choke style chain on an unattended dog

When I am completely done I wash my hands before leaving

Well, these are just a few thoughts that came to mind. I will try and add to the list from time to time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Funny encounters while travelling with pets

I just got back from spending the weekend in Coeur d' Alene Idaho with my husband and 2 dogs. We stayed at the La Quinta hotel because they are always clean, nice, have very comfortable beds, a bonus point system, and they take pets and don't charge extra for them. I had a funny interchange with the receptionist at the hotel. I had been in the car for a while and she must have been at work for a while as miscommunication always seems to occur while people's reserves are low. I asked her" do you have plastic pooper scoopers?" and she looks at me and says "you mean like for dogs?" and I sarcastically said " no, for people" and she looked at me with a sort of horrified, expression on her face, and then we both started laughing. It's just that I couldn't figure out any other scenario where another creature would need a pooper scooper.This was after all, a hotel that is used to dealing with customers that have dogs, so she should have been more familiar with the question, and she did find some to offer me. I really get punchy when I've been in the car for along time, luckily she understood that I was just being a smart alec

The other odd encounter I had with a hotel receptionist happened in Spokane Washington a few years ago, again, after I had been in the car for a bit, feeling a little spacey, and I'm assuming the person behind the hotel counter had also had a long day. I walked into the lobby and asked the hotel receptionist "do you take pets? " and He looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face, and I said "do you take PETS, actually spelling it out P, E,T,S, thinking that maybe he hadn't heard me clearly, and he answered back to me "you mean like A.A.R.P.?" ( which is an acronym that stands for American Association of Retired Persons who are offered a discounted rate) and I said" no like dogs, woof woof" and after what had seemed like a twenty minute experience, waiting my turn in line to ask the clerk and then having this ridiculous interchange, all after a long car ride, he says" sorry, no we don't" Travelling can be so frustrating at times!