My Dog Ate Poo (s#!t)

Warning: This post contains profanity and graphic descriptions of the most disgusting thing dogs do, which is to eat poo. Read at your own risk.

It began like any other beautiful, Carolina weekend. I was recording my Half Fast Saturday video just outside my fence while my dog–my sweet baby–Grace, was lounging inside the fence. Or so I thought.

First, if you haven’t been following Half Fast and Classy on Facebook, you’re missing the Half Fast Saturday videos! Get on over there right now and follow. Followed? Okay, now the story.

Actually, a little back story is that Grace doesn’t like to potty in our yard. While I applaud her desire for pristine grounds within our little fence, it can be a bit exasperating on the occasions when we don’t have time for a full-blown walk and I have to beg, plead, and demand for her to “go potty, Grace, go potty.” The neighbors probably hear that phrase in their sleep.

Anywho, I was about 15 feet away on the outside of the fence planting some hostas and recording my progress. When I stepped back into the yard, I caught her red-handed. At first, I didn’t realize what I had caught her doing. Grace was in the far half of the yard, and she froze like a deer in headlights with her head at half mast, looking like she was debating between saying nothing or running.

As I approached, I saw that she had gone potty all on her own. Awesome! Maybe after 17 months she’s finally getting the hang of this. In my mind I was doing a little celebratory dance, thinking of the cold early mornings that I would not have to stand outside with her and beg for her to pooter. And then she licked it. The one turd. The one remaining turd. Yep, she had been dining al fecal. Noooooooo!

Why, WHY do dogs do that? It’s disgusting. It is beyond comprehension. Please, do not tell me she is missing something from her diet. I will roll my eyes and fall on the floor in psychological exhaustion. This dog is fed better than I feed myself. She is also provided with clean, fresh water throughout the day. Don’t even get me started on the treats.

Now, if the neighbors are tired of hearing my “go potty, Grace, go potty” mantra, they sure must have been surprised to hear me scream NOOOOO! as that last, lonely turd was released from her tongue so fast that it bounced in the grass. The dancing turd. Whether Mr. Hankey was a victim or willing participant, it wasn’t his fault, and as much as I wanted to squash him, I surely didn’t want to track his kind into my home.

I scolded Grace and rushed her into the house so I could finish my gardening. Clearly, she could not be trusted to enjoy our tiny yard without having eyes on her every minute. I checked on her a couple of times, and when I joined her inside about an hour or so later, she looked guilty. I looked everywhere to see what she might have done. Did she chew something because I scolded her? Did she potty in the house (which would be seriously out of character for her)? As I checked each room, she followed me, looking increasingly guilty, yet no evidence. Hmm.

It was getting onto 11:00 and I still hadn’t had breakfast, so I made myself a burger and settled onto the sofa where I eat 99% of my meals. Grace snuggled up next to me as usual, but still looked riddled with guilt.

Well it wasn’t guilt. She had an upset tummy. I know this because as I was half way through my burger, she projectile vomited about a gallon of liquid onto the sofa. Specifically, she pointed her mouth to where the sofa cushion meets the sofa arm so as to cover not only the cushion, but also the inside wall and the base on which the cushions rest.

Now, this was no ordinary vomit, because remember what she ate an hour or so before, right? This was craptastic liquid sh-t vomit. And it smelled worse than anything you can possibly imagine. And it was voluminous.

Suddenly, the burger in my hand, almost to my mouth, became so repugnant that I threw it onto the plate as if it were burning my hands. I grabbed the three blankets on the sofa that were not involved in the waterfall of putridity and quickly made a bed for Grace on the floor in case there was more coming. I would rather she be sick on something that can go into the wash than on furniture or the rug. I got her settled and ran like a mad woman from the room because the gag reflex had kicked in. You know what I’m talking about, right? Especially those of us who don’t have children. I don’t know how you mommies and daddies change those diapers, because it makes me gag so much that my eyes tear. That’s where I was in that moment.

I returned with a can of Lysol and sprayed, and sprayed, and sprayed. Still, the smell of sh-t prevailed. Don’t worry, Grace had been moved into the bedroom and the door closed by then. I didn’t know what to do, where to begin, because there was so. much. vomit. Run from the room retching, return to spray, repeat. After 10 or 15 minutes of spraying, gagging, and exclaiming to the empty room “Oh my GAWD!” OMFG! I finally regained some composure and realized the sofa had to leave. The odor was too overwhelming, and I could not see a way to even begin cleaning the sofa, so out the door it was going.

The sofa sat against a wall with the front legs on a large area rug and the back legs off the rug, sitting directly on the hardwood floor. When I moved the sofa forward, I saw that the liquid sh-t vomit had gone completely through the sofa and pooled on the hardwood floor beneath. My stomach was now so sensitive that just the sight of a puddle of yellow-brown liquid sent me into gag mode again.

But there was no time for a weak tummy now. If this sh-t fluid was leaking through the sofa, time was of the dung-filled essence. I knew from moving in that the sofa would not fit through the door with the legs on, so I flipped it on its back and began removing the legs, working as quickly as I could, all the while getting the ab workout of a lifetime from all the heaving.

When I flipped the sofa on its back, the liquid slushed from inside the bottom onto the backrest and flowed onto the area rug. I thought the rug had been spared, but no. Now the rug, too, was infected with the hellish, repugnant regurgitation.

The legs were off and I pushed the sofa a few feet across the floor and out the door. My adrenaline must have kicked in, because it landed with a thud when the far end of it hit the bottom of the stairs. If anyone had been walking by, they would have watched my sofa shoot from the front door and down the stairs like a missile.

Right where she landed; vomit blurred for your protection.

I surveyed the room. A streak of liquid sh-t vomit looked like a child’s underwear skid mark across my living room floor, there was a puddle of the putrid poo cocktail on the floor near the wall, and a round stank stain stared at me from the rug, which I promptly rolled and shoved out the door to be reunited with the sofa. I gagged one last time and got to work cleaning.

I don’t own a mop, but rather a set of kneepads, a bucket, and rubber gloves because I don’t trust a mop to do my cleaning. After two rounds of scrubbing, all the Lysol spray in the world, and the burning of a toasted coconut soy candle, I could smell nothing but feces. So I did what anyone would–I went shopping. Sofa shopping!

Grace was looking like her normal self, no actually she was looking great after her extreme super-cleanse, so I put the fan on high, got her settled in her crate with the door open in case she wanted to stretch out on the bare floor, and off I went.

Grace now has the one unscathed sofa cushion in her crate…just as she planned!

Do you ever get an odor stuck in your nose like a song on repeat in your head? I do.

As I drove down the highway with the air on and the windows open, all I could smell was the horrid stench of liquid sh-t vomit. I was sure there was a visible, excremental tail billowing from the back of my car. A dark purplish, toxic plume glowing as everyone in its wake covered their noses and ran. It took a few hours in a furniture store to shake the odor from my olfactory vault.

When I arrived back home, it smelled of coconut, Lysol, Dawn dish soap, and Murphy Oil Soap. I exhaled and my shoulders relaxed for the first time in hours. It was a zen-like feeling to not smell poo. I don’t ask for much, but not smelling poo is high on the list of must-haves. Grace and I were going to be okay without having to sell the house and move.

Some of you might be wondering why I would have a pet that could cause such destruction. When I adopted Grace, I didn’t just adopt her, I fell in love with her much like parents fall in love with a newborn baby. I know some folks don’t see pets that way, but I do. So there is nothing Grace can do to my home, whether intentionally or otherwise, to make me reconsider her place in my life. Adoption is forever. I will love and adore her for as long as she lives, which I wish could be another 30 years. I would buy a new sofa every year for that.

Others might be wondering why I’m sharing this on the blog. Half Fast and Classy is about styling life and home on a shoestring budget, right? Of course! And I love sharing with you my projects, how I get them done, if I cut corners, when they fail, and how I fix them. I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl and am typically happy with the end product even if it’s not spot-on.

But the trouble with blogs is that often you only see the pretty pictures and the end product. You don’t get to see that sometimes my Pinterest-worthy abode (in my biased opinion) is, in this case, covered in fecal vomit. Well now you know, and that’s okay, because we’re all in this sh-t together, right?

The peace and serenity we show you…

Reality. A sad puppy sitting in the space where the sofa used to be…before she sh-t puked on it.

The upside is that I ended the day with a fantastic dinner and a large glass of wine with a friend. Plus, with the cash I’ve saved by DIYing, I have a new sofa arriving Tuesday!





A Long Weekend in the Mountains (Blowing Rock NC)

Hey Everyone!

About a month ago I took a long-weekend respite in the mountains of North Carolina, and while I posted a couple of pics and a video to the Half Fast and Classy Facebook page, I just realized I still haven’t shared it to the blog. Egads!

I’ve been in high gear (well, higher than usual for me, which is probably still medium gear for most!) with the yard and haven’t found as much time to write as I would like. With that said, let’s make this mountain trip post mostly visual, shall we? Yay!

It’s good to give yourself a break and feed your soul every now and then. When I say feed your soul, that can mean something different for everyone. For me, connecting with nature does my heart and mind good. For others it might be spending time with friends or family, or volunteering, or skydiving. My point is, do what’s good for you. Treat yourself to the things that make you happy!

Grace and I buckled our seat belts and headed a few hours down the road to meet our friend, Karen, and from there the three of us drove to Blowing Rock. It was my first time there, and I can’t say enough about this quaint little mountain town, the people, the scenery, the food, the drink, the accommodations, the convenience. Get the picture? I’m a fan! Here are a few recommendations if you’re headed that way.

What to See in Blowing Rock

Julian Price Memorial Park

Along the Hebron Rock Colony Trail (2.9 miles out and back, moderate) with a waterfall at the end. A beautiful hike!

One of the two deer who dropped by to say hello on our hike. I was beside myself, and so was Grace (dogs are allowed on the trail).

The Blowing Rock

A drive up to The Blowing Rock is a must. It’s North Carolina’s oldest travel attraction, and the views are breathtaking!

Bring your camera, and leave your fear of heights in the parking lot! It’s a short walk (including stairs) around the park, and it ends in a gift shop.

Like most of Blowing Rock, The Blowing Rock is dog friendly – yay!

Where to Eat and Drink in Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock Brewing Company Ale House

A flight at the Blowing Rock Brewing Company Ale House can’t be beat. You’ll find a nice selection of various beers from the award-winning brewer. The Schwarz Bier was one of my favorites! And yes, those are dog treats on the table 🙂

The Hummus topped with Basil Pesto and Red Peppers is beyond words. The basil pesto does something to it that makes it irresistible. The fried North Carolina Oyster Bites were delicious as well.

Canyons Historic Restaurant and Bar

Sunday Jazz Brunch on the deck at Canyons is not just brunch, it is an experience. The trout and eggs was an entrée rather than simply breakfast.

This was our view whilst enjoying our yummy Sunday Jazz Brunch. BTW, dog friendly!

Sunset & Vine

The perfect end to a day of hiking and an evening of window shopping is a generous pour at Sunset & Vine. We toasted the lives of our Mothers on the deck with Grace curled on my lap (was past her bed time). The theme of the trip seems to be D.O.G.

Where to Stay

Alpine Village Inn

We stayed at the Alpine Village Inn because it was, you guessed it, Dog Friendly! I can’t say enough about this place. It was clean with a modern bathroom, beautiful grounds, and the owners and staff were fantastic. Stay Alpine!

The rooms are small and not fancy, but they are clean, functional, and my mattress was comfy!

And best of all, Grace was not only welcomed, but greeted by the owners and staff every time they saw her. She felt right at home. Such a good girl!

So there you have it – the highlights of a weekend trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I highly recommend this little mountain get-away, but even more, I hope you find and do the things that bring you peace and happiness.


My First Mother’s Day Without Mom

This is the first Mother’s Day since Mom passed away. One month ago today, actually. Ironically, today was going to be our first Mother’s Day together in over a decade.

Since I adopted my sweet baby girl, Grace, Mom had wanted to meet her. For over three years, I sent pictures of Grace to Mom, showed Mom videos of Grace, and I told her what a comfort Grace had been to me since the day I brought her home from the shelter. Nearly every time we talked, Mom would say she wanted nothing more in life than to meet her grand-dog. It sounds dramatic, but trust me, Mom had a flair for it.

Grace even signed cards to Mom

With me living 1,200 miles away and Mom no longer traveling, it was almost impossible for Mom to meet Grace. Almost.

This year I planned to drive from North Carolina to Illinois and rendezvous with Mom at my sister’s place in May (sister was going to pick up Mom a few days prior and bring her to Illinois). After a few days in Illinois, I would drive Mom home to Wisconsin, all with Grace at our side. Finally, Grace and I would make the trek from Wisconsin back to North Carolina on our own…all Thelma and Louise, but without the cliff.

Mom was beside herself about meeting Grace. She talked about finally meeting the grand-dog every time we spoke. Then she would say she didn’t think she would live that long, and I would say in a teasing yet gentle way, “Mom, surely you can hold on until Mother’s Day to meet Grace!” And Mom would chuckle and say “Okay, I’ll wait until May.”

But Mom couldn’t wait until May. She passed away on April 14, which makes this first Mother’s Day without Mom that much more sad. The thing she talked about for over three years, I missed by a month. Things happen the way they happen, and I’m not blaming myself, but it hurts my heart. I would have loved to have done that for Mom. I would have loved to have seen her face light up and her heart swell when she met my sweet, lovable, snuggly Grace.

In the week leading up to today, my friend Karen asked what I was doing this weekend, and invited me to visit with her and her Mom who lives in an assisted living facility. Karen is gaga over Grace, and her Mom loves dogs as well, so of course Grace was invited.

I think Grace is gaga for Karen as well!

A couple of years ago I took Grace to a therapy dog class in hopes that we could visit nursing homes and such spreading Grace-style cheer. It’s something I feel Grace would do well, and something I would enjoy. Maybe because I surprised my parents late in life and they were older than the typical Mom and Dad–it’s hard to say–but I definitely have a soft spot for the older folks.

The problem was, Grace and I didn’t do well in the class. Grace was easily distracted and began to lose her manners as the weeks went by, so I pulled her from the program.

Fast forward to our invitation this weekend, where Grace was the life of the party at the senior living facility. I was so proud of my girl and Mom would have been, too. We spent time with Karen’s Mom in her private quarters, where Grace gently took treats, snuggled, and gave kisses. Karen’s Mom was delighted.


Being the perfect pup for Miss Dolly

We joined other residents and their families for a Mother’s Day Tea in one of the common areas. The place was packed like a Friday night happy hour and with the noise level to match. In all the chaos, Grace didn’t miss a beat. She sat when I asked her to, she let people awe over her and pet her, she had her picture made with several folks, ignored another pooch who walked through the room, and sat nicely while a little fellow of about three timidly pet her and ran off squealing.

Giving the facility director some puppy love

The staff gushed over her, sat with her, loved on her. This is exactly how I imagined she would behave in this environment. Grace was made for making people smile, for bringing them comfort, and it brought me as much joy as it did the residents.

Grace loved everyone she met

To bring this back to Mom, and the ache in my heart that she is gone, that I did not get to be with her today and watch her face light up at the sight of my smiling dog–my first Mother’s Day without Mom was made less painful knowing that a few other Moms enjoyed the company of a sweet, little red shelter dog who loves as big as the world.

I am blown away by the people in my life who made sure I was not grieving alone this weekend. Whether you reached out to me in person, or simply held me in your thoughts, thank you.

To Mom: I miss you more than words can say, but I take comfort in believing that you’re smiling. Smiling because your grand-dog and I did some good in the world today. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.


My Dog Grace: Grief Counselor

Anyone who knows the love of a dog will likely tell you that dog is their baby. What many folks don’t share is that said dog is their world. I’ve been admitting that since the day I found Little Miss on the Wake County Animal Center website. I met her, and my heart melted. She was mine, but more importantly, I was hers.

I was going through a tough time when I adopted Grace, and it is no secret that she rescued me as much as I rescued her. She was homeless, emaciated, and had heart worm disease. I had just moved back to my condo and found myself alone for the first time in decades, and I was only beginning to deal with the psychological aspect of breast cancer. Grace and I were destined to save each other, and you will not convince me otherwise.

That was over three years ago. Fast forward to two weeks ago when I lost my Mom, my first best friend, and I couldn’t conjure the emotional strength to leave my bed. I got up at 7 a.m. to let Grace out for her morning business, but then went right back to bed and curled up with my heart aching. I could have stayed there until it was time for Grace’s evening break.

Typically, Grace will fuse to the sofa or the bed right along with me during a Netflix binge or while I read a book, but on that particular day, she got restless. She had stretched out next to me with her snout on my chest long enough. Around 10 a.m., she made a show of jumping out of bed and left the room. I could hear her huffing somewhere in the house. Large inhales followed by audible exhales.

I got out of bed to see what was going on, and this is what I found right outside my bedroom door:

Waiting for her Mum

She was feet from my bedroom, impatiently waiting, giving me the gentle signal of her huffing and puffing until I got myself out of bed. As soon as I stood in the doorway looking like an extra from The Walking Dead with bed head, puffy eyes, and still in my PJs, Grace jumped up and greeted me as she always does. With joy, gratitude, excitement, and unconditional love.

With her beautiful, soft brown eyes, and her gentle flicking of my hand with her muzzle, she convinced me that a walk was the best thing for us. And so I got dressed and we walked. Exercise, fresh air, and my whole world walking next to me. Just what the doctor dog ordered.

I recommend letting your friends and family help you through difficult times, and talking with a professional counselor. I’ll likely seek that out in the weeks to come. Also, I highly recommend adopting a dog.


5K in Every State: South Carolina!

The year nearly got away from me without tending to my 5k in every state quest. Yikes! Most of 2016 was consumed with a crazy load at work, my move into an older home (read: I now exist solely to do home repair and yard work), and helping my Mom transition from independent living to assisted living. It’s been a blur…and I’m not talking about my running, because truth be told, I usually walk anyway.

Now that the chaos has quieted, and realizing I hadn’t had a vacation yet this year, I took off to Myrtle Beach, SC for a long weekend with a couple of good friends and, of course, my sweet Grace. I’ve been living in North Carolina for 16 years and had never been to Myrtle. Crazy. From what I’ve heard, Myrtle Beach is a love-it or hate-it kind of place depending on your level of intro- or extraverted-ness. I wander from one camp to the other, so I went with no expectations.

Seven states done!

Since Miss Grace was traveling with us, I booked early to secure a dog-friendly room. Sidebar: there is a huge opportunity out there for nice, dog-friendly hotels. Seriously, the first entrepreneur who realizes that people traveling with their dogs (over 20 pounds) deserve a clean, well-maintained hotel room just the same as people sans pets is going to become a billionaire. But for now, it appears that the equivalent of a dilapidated EconoLodge is what we have to work with. Sigh.

Even though I booked our room well in advance, Hurricane Matthew said “No, no, no!” Yep. The storm hit a week prior to our arrival, but I received an email from the hotel stating  “the coast is clear!” So to the beach we went. Much to our dismay, the coast was not clear. The hotel was damaged. I stood in line for an hour to check in to a room I did not reserve. A room without an ocean view and without two beds. One of our group was sent to a property six blocks away. The three of us, four counting Grace, spent much of our long weekend playing musical rooms and a new game I call “stump the shuttle driver” before it was all sorted out. But we had lots of laughs–I mean my cheeks and belly hurt kind of laughing–and enjoyed the weekend anyway. Put three ladies at the beach next to a great burger joint with a few beers and voila! You can’t stop the laughter!

Speaking of burgers, if you want a seriously good one, I highly recommend River City Cafe. A hefty menu–more burgers than I knew existed, incredibly reasonable prices, and delish. Don’t get all gussied up because you’ll be walking on peanut shells and craning your neck to read the license plate covered walls. Your server will get your beer and your burger with a smile, but she’s not going to take your jacket. Anything more than a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops is unnecessary.

Burger at River City Cafe

And the weekend begins!

Saturday morning was the run, which was a one-miler that I did with Grace. That’s right, not a 5k at all. This is my bucket list, so I call Lady’s Choice! We were up early and off to The Market Common where we ran the Doggie Dash to benefit the Grand Strand Humane Society. This was Grace’s first run that involved other dogs, many other dogs, and she did great! She trotted her little behind off, sometimes gently pulling me along. We had to stop a few times for me to catch my breath because it’s been a while since I’ve done anything more strenuous than get the mail. The important thing here is that we finished; not record time, but somebody’s got to be at the back of the pack, right?

We finished!

My second recommendation if you’re in Myrtle, especially if you’re traveling with your pooch, is the The Market Common, which is a mixed-use development with shops, movie theater, restaurants and pubs, residential living space, and a beautiful park complete with a pond. No big, you say? These things are everywhere? Well, yes. However, at this particular shopping center, the stores allow dogs! It was travel-with-your-dog-heaven! Charming Charlie, Chico’s, Handpicked, everywhere we went, Little Miss was allowed in the store and browsed right along with us. Awesome. Sauce. Here’s a shot of HRH refusing to play giant chess at The Market Common. Perhaps she thinks she is, quite literally, the Queen.

The Queen

Sunday we headed to Murrells Inlet and checked out the Marsh Walk. Another thing on the “highly recommend” list. The Marsh Walk is a 1/2 mile wooden boardwalk along the waterfront and natural saltwater estuary.

An egret on the Marsh Walk

There are plenty of restaurants along the way. We took a seat at Wicked Tuna, which is at the southern end of the boardwalk. Spectacular view, cold beer, and damn good food. Grace was a trooper and found some shade at our feet beneath the table while we relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon.

Shrimp Tacos at Wicked Tuna

My favorite little gingerbread pup

No beach post is complete without gorgeous sunrise and sunset photos. That is, after all, the reason one goes to the beach. Seeing that giant ball of hydrogen peak over the horizon and come to life, bringing the world with it, exhilarates me.

Sunrise on the beach. I love it!

Then, when it settles in for the evening, seeming to dip into the water and wrap the world in shades of crimson and magenta, it comforts me.

Sunset on the beach is soothing.

Back to my earlier statement that people either love or hate Myrtle, I say no matter what your taste, where there’s a beach, there’s food for the soul. Add a couple of dear friends, and you have the perfect place no matter where you are.


My Dog Has Cropped Ears

Let me elaborate. My dog, Grace, has cropped ears because that is the condition in which she arrived at the shelter. And, sadly, her cropped ears were not the only barbarity she survived. The incredible team at the Wake County Animal Center showed her what kindness looks like and got her healthy enough so that I could adopt her. These folks know what they are doing, and I am eternally grateful to them.

Grace the Pit Bull
My Sweet Grace (photo credit: InBetween the Blinks/

No, I would never have my dog’s ears cropped. In fact, anyone who knows me would scoff at the insinuation. Grace is treated with love and a tender heart. The worst she endures is listening to me prattle on every day about nonsense. That might be distressing depending upon how chatty I am, but by and large, she has quite the cushy life.

I sometimes get the stink-eye from folks when I’m out with Grace, but I explain she is a rescue and that I did not have her ears cropped, and then everyone calms down. You can imagine my surprise when a photo of Grace turned up in this article at The Animal Rescue Site about the unnecessary and painful procedure of ear cropping (“Two Painful Procedures Your Puppy Should Never Have to Endure”). I was mortified that my sugar puppy was the poster child for what not to do to your dog, mostly because people were recognizing her as my dog.

It turned out to be on the up-and-up. The photographer I hired to take some shots of me and Grace about a year ago, InBetween the Blinks Photography (who did beautiful work), posted a couple of the photos to Shutterstock, someone purchased the above photograph for the aforementioned article, and voila! It’s 1:00 a.m. and I get a message that my dog is in an unflattering article flitting about social media. Life is goofy like that.

I do not condone ear cropping, and I wish it had never been done to Grace. But somebody did this to her, and now, as it turns out, she is the sweet face people will see when they read about why our pets should not be subjected to this painful procedure.

I love that adorable, furry face; those dreamy, saucer-round eyes; and the little white swirl that wraps around the right side of her muzzle. Yes, let this be the face people see when they read about ear cropping. Who could do that to such a sweet face? Who could do that at all?

Cheers, and hug your furbabies!

Therapy Dog Drop-Outs (for now)

Remember when I said being a therapy dog team would be Grace’s decision? Well, we are not a therapy dog team and it was, indeed, Grace’s decision. To be completely honest, I think we would have passed the exam, but I pulled her from the class about half way through the course.

I want to be very clear that Teamworks Dog Training is great, and I recommend them to anyone looking for training for their pooch. The instructor of this class, Christie, is awesome as well. When Grace and I are ready to try again, we will go back to Teamworks.

Here’s the story.


Grace is typically calm around people, but very excitable around dogs. She can get absolutely distracted around dogs. She did okay in class as long as she was sitting on her mat. When we tried to demonstrate a couple of the basic commands like heel and leave it, all she wanted to do was bound toward the other dogs. She acted as though she had never been on a leash. As for “leave it,” I think she thought I was saying “eat it” because she tried with all her might to get at that treat.

Collar vs. Harness

Another obstacle was that she had to be leashed at her collar—harnesses are not allowed on therapy dogs. Did you know that? I did not. The leash-to-collar thing was new to us and proved to be problematic. From the get-go, Grace has worn an Easy Walk harness because it’s what I used with Phoebe and it’s what I automatically purchased when I adopted Grace. I didn’t realize Grace was a puller until I started walking her with a Martingale collar in class and she was walking me. Loose-leash anything went out the window.

Jumping and Barking

A very bad habit that cropped up was jumping on people. If your dog is a jumper, that’s your business and I don’t want to offend anyone, but a dog jumping on me is one of my pet peeves. Grace didn’t jump much in class, only out in public (of course), but the behavior coincided with her attending the class. She also started barking at other dogs while being walked. Again, new behavior outside of class but coinciding with the class.


The only thing different in Grace’s life since this less-than-mannerly behavior began was the class. As I said, Grace is usually quite calm. However, my home is calm. It’s just the two of us and I pretty much coo at her in a soft voice while we snuggle on the sofa every evening. Seriously, finding a sunny spot to lay in is a big activity at our place (and you can see I scouted ahead of her and put the blanket down).

Dog lying in sunny spot
Grace found a sunny spot to rest

In class, however, there was a lot of loud talking, sometimes shouting, people rushing toward the dogs–good simulations of the things one might encounter at an actual therapy dog session. So I have a couple of thoughts about that.

  1. Perhaps too much stimulation for Grace? Or at least too drastic a change from our daily life?
  2. All the commotion in class may have looked to Grace like an invitation to play (i.e. jump on people)? We play fetch at home, but I don’t shout and wave my arms around, it’s a very civilized fetch.
  3. And the most plausible of all—her handler (yours truly) maybe isn’t that great of a handler when it comes to therapy dog work. Good luck trying to train me!

I can’t get in Grace’s head; I can only make an educated guess based on the information I have. The bottom line is, my job as her Mum is to protect her. Something was obviously causing her to act out, and the only thing different in her life was the class, so I stopped. It’s been a couple of weeks since we became doggie drop-outs, and the jumping on people is getting a wee bit better. We are back to the Easy Walk harness and loose-leash walking has somewhat returned as well. She still barks at other dogs, so I may have to try a corrective action (can of rocks to shake loudly when she barks).

It breaks my heart, because until now all of her training has been done solely by positive reinforcement. I don’t know how else to stop the barking at other dogs than with a correction. You know the first time I shake that can I’m going to cry. And then probably apologize and give her a big hug. That’s probably not going to help, is it?

Have you had to retrain your dog at some point? Have you dealt with barking at other dogs? What training method did you use?


Grace Started Therapy Dog Class!

Therapy dog class has begun! I may have mentioned that I wanted to get Grace into a therapy dog class for so many reasons, a few being:

  • I think she would do well as a therapy dog with her calm personality and love of humans; how can I not share that?
  • It will be a great bonding experience for us; there is nothing like working as a team with your dog–it’s actually more like play
  • It is one avenue for me (and for Grace) to advocate for Grace’s breed, the American Staffordshire Terrier, which falls under the umbrella of pit bull

We are doing the Canines for Therapy course at Teamworks Dog Training and, well, we are rusty on our commands. Nothing that can’t be remedied with a little practice. Remember when I posted this pic over the summer showing how well Grace loose leash walks? Somehow, when we walk through the door to class her leash walking abilities are wiped clean from her big, velvety noggin. She acted like she had never been on a leash!

Grace the dog loose leash walking
She knows how to loose leash walk!

Teamworks is where Grace did her Canine Good Citizen training and we had such a good experience there, it was the first place I checked for a therapy dog class. Of course I’m the consummate proud momma and have to brag about my baby being called on in class to demonstrate something other than loose leash walking. Here,  trainer Christie Canfield is showing us how to do the safety triangle maneuver. If you and your dog are being rushed by people (or even a single person) and you need for them to slow down, this move keeps them at bay and provides your dog with a sense of security. Then you can ask the individuals to approach calmly to pet your dog.

Instructor and Grace the dog demonstrate safety triangle
Trainer Christie and Grace demonstrate the safety triangle

There are tons of things we need to learn over the next several weeks before we take the exam. But even if we pass and become a registered therapy team, this is all contingent upon whether Grace likes this kind of thing once we’re in the field. We could head off to a nursing home only to find that isn’t Grace’s kind of gig. If she turns tail and runs or buries her head in my tummy (like at the vet), that’s no fun for her or for the residents. Ultimately, it will be Grace’s decision.

I’ll keep you posted on how we do in school. The instructor says this class is 25% dog and 75% handler (we’re in trouble). Send us your good vibes and let’s hope I don’t get us put in doggie detention.

Have you all taken your dogs to any classes or had a trainer come to your home? Please share!


Update: Progress With Grace’s Mild Separation Anxiety

I’ve mentioned a couple of times I was concerned Grace might be developing some separation anxiety but never wrote an entire post about it, so this is sort of an update. She was showing mild signs of separation anxiety, but was definitely not full-blown SA. Still, I wanted to nip it in the bud because SA can be tough on everyone involved—difficult for the human to deal with and extremely distressing for the dog. Lucky for me and for Grace, just a couple of small changes have made all the difference.

I thought key rings would reinforce the crate
I thought key rings would reinforce the crate; she pulled the ring apart.

You might recall that I eventually had to zip-tie her entire crate. She was becoming quite a Houdini. Also, she was drooling a lot while crated, and then she stopped happily going into her crate even though I always gave her a treat toy stuffed with something yummy and never used the crate as punishment. Twice I had to physically push her into the crate to get to work on time. I was not okay with doing that and had to figure something out.

Things like this happened
Things like this happened.

Two things:

  1. I purchased a bigger [colossal] crate and got a super deal on Craigslist. You have to be quick to get a dog crate from the CL, but after a few attempts, I eventually snagged one.
  2. I moved her crate from the bedroom into the living room. Now when I come home she can immediately see me. I’m not sure if that’s what her issue was—could be she just likes the front of the condo better than the back. She’s a little goofy so who knows?

The new crate is huge compared to the old one!
The new crate is huge compared to the old one!

It’s been a few months since I made the changes and she once again gladly, tail-waggingly runs into her crate when I get the treat toy, there is no drool, and I haven’t had to zip-tie the new crate at all yet. Knock on wood.

I still can’t leave her out of the crate even to get the mail without her drooling, barking, and scratching at the door.

My pretty black door is not so pretty any more.
My pretty black door is not so pretty any more.

Colossal crate has lots of space for bedding and for chew toys.
Colossal crate has lots of space for bedding and for chew toys.

I’ll keep at it and maybe in a year or two or three she can free-range while I’m at work. I’d love that, but for now she seems quite content in her big-girl crate. I just hope she lets me know when it’s safe to repaint the door.