Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Howl-O-Ween!!

Queeen Jenny was not impressed but tolerant of todays photo session. However she always cooperates since it means earning some treats. I'm sure she thinks I am crazy though.

Jack was even less thrilled. He could not even be bribed into posing so I gave up. I hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dog books and pug parties and giveaways, oh my!

I really hate it when I get behind in my blogging. Unfortunately sometimes it just can't be helped. This silly family of mine needs attention now and then. Not to mention sometimes I'm just to tired to write after work. (blasphemy right?) I long for the good old days when bartering was a bigger part of day to day life. ~sigh~ I did finish the Dog Sense book. I kinda had to seeing as I have a deadline. (OK why haven't more of you entered my give away!?!) 

I know I need to write a review but it feels to much like doing a book report. I love reading. Writing reports, not so much. I will say this much, it is good. While I did find it dry in places, (which I attribute to it having been written by a scientist) it had some excellent info about where dogs come from and why that matters when it comes to training and behavior. It goes beyond that explaining canine sight, their sense of smell, emotions and brain functions. Then there is a discussion of breeding in this era and the problems that stem from it, (small gene pools contributing to limited genetic diversity for instance) as well as info pertaining to breed specific aggression. The information on raising a sound puppy was fascinating and explained why the first 3 to 4 months of a dogs life is so important. I think anyone interested in learning more about dog behavior will find the book valuable. It's a good thing I said I would give it away publicly or I'd be tempted to change my mind!
Another thing I did was to attend a pug meet up. It was about a 2 hour drive from me at Carden Kennels in Bangor. I went so I could meet Jenny's former foster mom. Not to mention it was a Halloween Pug Party. Who can resist that? Despite the long drive it was fun. We ended up with a slight detour to find Jenny had another urinary tract infection. Thankfully she was feeling well enough to go anyway. I'm still getting used to my new camera so I ended up with a lot of bad photos. Sorry. Here are a few of the OK photos:

There were over 30 pugs in attendance. It was a blast to watch them all together.
Some really got into the costume part of the party.
This tiny girl (in the middle) was the reason Jenny couldn't stay with the foster home. Her name is Sophie and both she and Jenny (formerly Hannah to them) couldn't agree on who was the bigger bitch. Ironically Sophie is a tiny thing! She is like a mini Jenny! They did fine with each other at the party. Sophie also loves to work for food. I can see why they might not gel well together.
One really funny thing that happened was that I noticed Jenny begs for food, from MEN! She ignored the women there but two of the men were her preferred targets. I can only assume it is because my husband caves in to her charming ways when he eats and shares his dinner with her. BTW she is shown in costume but missing the crown that completed her princess ensemble. Yes, I have become one of those people I used to make fun of! Meh, I decided that life is to short to worry about what other people think. Besides there was a prize to win!

There were cute pugs everywhere. Check out the Pillsbury Dough Pug!

I gave away some Honest Kitchen samples and got to answer a couple training questions too. I also won a super cute framed pug art piece in one of the raffles. (to raise money for rescue of course) I'll have to try getting a good photo of it to share. Another thing I noticed is that none of the pugs played with each other. There was a lot of running around sniffing, and some chasing, but no wrestling. I just thought Jenny was to serious to play with dogs she doesn't know well. It turns out it is a common pug thing. A great example of how some breeds can have a specific play style. (which can also vary by individual certainly)
On my way home I hit a Mr. Paperback and stumbled onto this gem:

I can't wait to dig into it. It blends my love of biographies with canine history which I'm expecting to be amazing. I have a black and white Rin Tin Tin movie on a VHS tape so I've seen him in action. (unlike some of my younger readers I'm sure) 
I also finally finished the DVD by Pamela Dennison called "The magic of shaping".

It is wonderful. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about using clicker training to shape behaviors. I admit I am limited by my lack of imagination when it comes to training in some respects. This helped me see a few more options. I even picked up a cool freestyle move I've started working Jenny on. I'm sure I'll share video once it's polished up.
Remember, the drawing for the give away is November 1st. Don't forget to enter!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Jack Jack!!

Today my Jack is 7 years old. I can't believe how time flies by. He got a new squeeky pheasant tug toy from the Loyal Biscuit Co. and one of his favorite treats, a cow trachea. (Nom, Nom, Nom) Since I am working today, and they were forcasting rain for today then, I took him for his special walk yesterday so he wouldn't miss out.

I also got to play with my new camera. I should have tried it on a few different settings to make the colors pop a bit more. It has so many more options than my last camera did. It might take me awhile to figure it all out.

A huge shout out to Jack's breeders Donna and Mike Bennett of Liberty Akitas for gifting me such a sweet boy. If only more breeders could be like them the world of dogs would be a better place for it. I hope to share many more birthdays with my beautiful boy. Happy Birthday Jack!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A celebratory give-a-way!!!!

Today is the official 10 year anniversary of my graduation from my dog trainers apprenticeship. Yay me! I honestly can't believe it has been that long. Of course when I remember back to how young my kids were at the time I see it must be possible. Time does fly! I have to thank the Mid-Coast Kennel Club of Maine and The Humane Society of Knox County. Both of them sponsored my training so I could be a resource for each of them. I think it turned out to be a pretty good deal for all involved. Of course I can't forget my fabulous teacher Lloyd Williams of Bear Brook Kennels. I am grateful he accepted me into his program. I wish everyone could have a mentor as patient and knowledgeable as he was.
To celebrate I am going to do a give away. I haven't ironed out all the details yet but I hope to have Jenny able to perform a trick to help pick the winner. If it works I will video it and post the video here. The prizes are as follows:

First a very cute leash holder I found today in my travels to T.J.Maxx. Included is a 4 foot by 1/4 inch leather leash. I only use leather or cotton leashes because nylon hurts my hands. While 1/4 inch sounds small to some people, leather is very strong. Unless your dog is a leash chewer this is an acceptable size for both large and small dogs. Also:

The September/October issue of The APDT Chronicle of the dog magazine AND the new hardcover book Dog Sense by John Bradshaw. (disclaimer, I am actually reading it now so it will be slightly used) While it sometimes reads like a book written by a scientist (it can be dry) it has some really great information included. I am just over halfway through it now. I wish it were required reading by anyone who works with dogs and dog owners alike. It would make my job so much easier!
And that's not all!! (imagine that in an infomercial voice for effect) I will also include a sample of EACH diet that The Honest Kitchen makes, including the two newest; Love and Grace. This HK package will include their booklet on pet nutrition as well. I love THK because they use QUALITY real food ingredients, DON'T sell their products to pet stores that sell puppies AND they support rescues and responsible breeders. Now that is a company I can stand behind!!
Entering is easy. Either leave a comment that says "I want to win!" in the comment section of this post, e-mail me with "I want to win!" in the subject line, or go to my facebook page and leave your "I want to win!"comment there. I won't need your personal info unless you win so don't worry about that just yet. I will draw the winner on November 1st. Oh and EVERYBODY can enter!! So go tell a friend. :-) Happy Anniversary to me!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Puppymills and how YOU can help stop them!

Today is the day bloggers all over are trying to spread the word about puppymills and Petland. It seems the Canadian Petland, tired of the protests over puppy sales in front of their stores, stopped selling puppies. Sadly Petland stores in the states have not followed suit. We really want them to follow suit.

Ironically I started my day by watching the ending of the movie "Hotel for Dogs" while eating my breakfast. It of course made me cry like a baby. But then again I have always been a sucker for a happy ending and music that swells creating emotional moments. Hotel for Dogs is a very cute movie if not almost entirely unrealistic. Except for the part about the horrifically large number of dogs in need of homes of course. That part is sadly very realistic.

I find it interesting that people still need to be educated about why it is a bad idea to buy a puppy from a pet store (or an online puppymill) in this age of the internet. But then I remember that kids grow into teens, that grow into adults that might not know any better. Or that not everyone lives on facebook. Sadly petstore puppies are most often bought by people who just don't know any better. (or they are drunk, the newest phenomenon to be seen in petstores) And online puppymills are very slick in how they sell dogs. "Oh the puppy you wanted isn't available anymore, but we have this other one....." Don't get me started about how they steal photos from responsible breeders websites to bait their buyers with.

So here are a few reason why I, and most other dog trainers, are against puppymills and pet store puppies.

The dogs at a high volume breeding facility are treated like product, not like pets. This can mean extreme stress for the mother dog during her pregnancy which can cause damage to unborn puppies. It has been proven that hormonal changes can cause learning disabilities in the pups they produce. This is also usually a very awful life for the dogs at the facility. Little to no human contact and sleeping in small cramped cages with no bedding day after day listening to all the other dogs bark their frustration. Wouldn't this drive you crazy?

Most puppies from these high volume breeders are taken away from their mother and siblings to early to keep them small and cute for the pet shop window. The stores need them tiny and cute as long as possible to bring in the impulse puppy buyer. If they don't sell fast they cost more to feed after all and may outgrow their "sales cages".  A puppy taken away to soon is prone to behavioral problems down the road including separation anxiety, fear of people, aggression to other dogs and lack of bite inhibition. Oh but they forget to tell you that part. Of course most workers in pet stores don't know this either.

No responsible breeder would EVER sell their pups to someone else to sell for them. No matter what a pet store tells you. "Our pups come from good breeders and are raised in a local home". I call shenanigans! A responsible breeder cares where those pups go to and screen those potential homes. Not everyone should own a _______. (insert breed here) Responsible breeds do health testing and will even take back a puppy should something not work out in the new home. (or help the owner place the dog) They will even be there as a resource for training and health questions. Try getting a pet store to help you with that 2 months past the sale!

Some people would say that I shouldn't care where people get their dogs. People with dogs that have behavior problems are my bread and butter after all. But there's the thing, I love dogs. I don't want dogs to be mistreated. Dogs in puppymills are mistreated every day. If by no other fact than as companion animals they suffer being in those kennels day after day and not being in a real home with daily contact from people. It is cruel. It is cruelty done in the name of making money. Remember those dogs are being raised to be product after all.

So to help shut down puppymills we can do a few things. One is to go to Be The Change for Animals and sign the petition. This will let Petland know what we think about their practice of selling puppies. The other is to NEVER shop in a pet store that sells animals. Why support them with any of your money if they support puppymills? And the last, but the hardest for some people, is to NEVER buy a puppy from a petstore. (or online website) Buying just means you are part of the supply and demand chain. If they can't sell their puppies and make money then there is no reason for them to keep breeding. Breaking the chain is the only way to end the cycle.

There are many other options for getting a puppy. Check your local shelters, purebred rescue groups, and responsible breeders. You just might need to be a little more patient for those options. But don't you think saving dogs from a life of misery and hell of living just to produce puppies is worth waiting for?? I do. Now go sign that petition and spread the word. It's important.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The memorial of an old friend

Todays post was written by a friend of mine about her dog Buster. I found it to be a wonderful tribute and thought it should be shared. So many people discount adopting older pets but they need homes too. This is also the story of how an older dog touched one families heart, and an example of how they can bring so much love into a home.

My beloved dog Buster went to Heaven today at the age of 16. He was, and always will be, the best dog ever. His contribution to our lives is so significant that his story needs to be told, and I will try my best to do him justice.
We adopted Buster from the Knox County Humane Society when he was 11 years old. We had no plans to adopt a dog that day, or even to visit the shelter. But as the kids and I were on our way home from shopping, the Spirit moved me to stop there and “just look”. That’s what I told the shelter attendant when she greeted us; that we were “just looking”. She immediately pointed out the dog in the lobby with her, Buster, who she explained was like the shelter mascot. Everyone loved him, she said. Visibly, it was obvious he had come in as a mistreated and neglected animal. He had a skin condition and was missing fur in a number of places. He had warts on his face and body, his teeth were rotten, his ears were infected. And there were two baseball-sized growths on the front of his chest. Then she tells me he is 11 years old. Well I can tell you that if I had no intention of adopting when I came in, I certainly didn’t plan on adopting an elderly dog with a laundry list of health issues. She must have sensed my skepticism and quickly pointed out that he acted very young for his age, that the growths were only fatty tumors, that his other conditions would resolve with time and care, and that he really was a very sweet dog.

We decided we would just check out the other dogs. As the kids and I walked through the kennel, it was surprising how few dogs they had that day. And all of them seemed aggressive and unsuitable for our home. So we headed back to the lobby thinking we would leave, and Buster greeted us there. He looked up at me as if to say, are we going home now? Before I knew it, I was filling out paperwork to take him home on their “slumber party” program, where you can bring the dog back within a week if things don’t work out. He hopped into the car like he’d done it a hundred times. Since we had no plans to adopt that day, we needed to buy dog food. Not knowing how he would act in the car, I waited with him while the kids went in the store. Buster went on high alert, watching them go into the store and never taking his eyes of the entrance until they came back out. I was amazed that he had become so protective so quickly. But they were “his boy” and “his girl” from the moment he got into the car. And before we got back home, there was no question that he was our forever dog. I finalized the adoption right away.

The shelter gave me Buster’s file at the adoption. His history was shocking to me. He original owners had him for 10 years when they relinquished him to a shelter in southern Maine. The dog they described was not the dog I knew. They said he was aggressive, didn’t like children, and that the wife wanted him gone. But he was the sweetest, smartest dog I had ever met. To this day, I can not fathom how anyone who owned Buster for 10 minutes - let alone 10 years - could give him away. But based on his condition, they obviously didn’t love him. After that Buster was transferred in and out of shelters for over a year, and was adopted out for a 3 month period during that time. The people who relinquished him to KCHS cited the reason because he had a “bladder problem”. They also said he was left alone for 13 hours a day. That’s not a bladder problem, that’s a neglect problem. From this and other things we observed in his initial behavior, it was clear he had lived 11 years of abuse and neglect.

Even after we adopted him, he faced more struggles. We had Buster scheduled for surgery as soon as we could. He needed the large fatty tumors removed from his chest, as they were making it difficult for him to breath, and he needed many rotten teeth extracted. Surgery for an 11 year old dog can be rough, but he came through it with flying colors. In the few years that followed he was attacked by a neighborhood dog, and was practically ripped apart. But he completely recovered from that too. Then he suffered from canine vestibular syndrome, which is like a stroke. It was so bad that neither the doctors nor I thought he would survive. But not only did he survive, but he completely recovered again. He is the bravest, toughest dog ever!

God brought Buster and I together at one of the lowest points of my life. He gave me hope and peace and a joy that helped me face the trials of life. He understood me and cared for me and offered me companionship and comfort whenever I needed it. Some people say I rescued him. But the truth is that Buster saved me! And he taught me so many life lessons. For example, how to stop worrying about what people think of your appearances. Most people looked at Buster and saw his warts or tumors. But I saw his beautiful spirit. And so I learned not to be so critical of myself, and that what’s on the inside matters far more than what is on the outside. And he gave that unconditional love to my children too. It is entirely possible that without Buster, I might never have even met my husband. Buster also taught me how to slow down and look at life through kinder eyes. And especially in this past year as his body began to succumb to the ravages of old age, he helped me to cope with and accept my own physical disabilities. I took a lot of criticism from family and friends when I adopted “such an old dog”. But these years with Buster have been the best of my life and I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything. My compassion for the struggles of the elderly has grown, as there is such a great need for people to open their hearts to the aged - both people and pets.

A friend shared this quote with me: “The magnitude of our grief when we lose someone special from our life is a measure of the magnitude of the love and blessings we have received from them.” This is true. However, there is no way to fully express all the joy and love he brought to my life. No way to truly honor what an amazing dog and friend he was. And there is equally no way to convey the grief our family is experiencing. We will miss him always and he will never be forgotten. What I pray for now is that his story will touch someone’s heart in a way that inspires them to advocate for animals and the elderly.

I believe with all my heart that God has taken Buster home with Him. I look forward to the day when he greets me at the gates of Heaven.
Buster: Best dog ever!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Helping animals one bottle at a time.

My local shelter has started a new donation program though "CLYNK". In case you haven't heard of it, let me walk you through. First you go to your local shelter or participating rescue group. In my case that is The Humane Society of Knox County. They give you a package of biodegradable plastic bags.

Each bag comes in a paper wrapper with a sticker on it. The sticker has a bar code specificly for that rescue group. You fill the bag with returnable bottles and cans.

When it is full you peel and place the sticker onto the bag in the assigned spot.

Then simply take the bag and drop it off at your local Hannaford grocery store collection point. This happens to be pretty convienient since I shop there anyways. The collection point scans the barcode and the money collected from the returnables goes into their account. You have nothing to keep track of AND they provide the bags so you aren't out anything but your drop off time. It is a fabulous program and SO easy to participate in. Please consider helping out your local shelters or rescue group. Those nickels might not mean much to you but they can add up to a heck of a lot of much needed funds for the animals in need.