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.

Cheers,
Kelly

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.

Cheers!
Kelly

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/Shutterstock.com)

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!
Kelly

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.

Distraction

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.

Commotion

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?

Cheers!
Kelly

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!

Cheers!
Kelly

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.

Cheers!
Kelly

Dog Friendly Beach Trip (Beaufort, NC)

If you’ve been following, you know that Grace is my adopted, furry, four-legged daughter. I vowed to make every day a disney day for her, and I’m making good on that promise.

With that in mind, I thought the girl might like to play in the ocean. I’m assuming this once-
neglected, possibly abused, stray has never enjoyed a day at the beach. So off we went to
Beaufort, NC and checked out Morehead City and Atlantic Beach too.

We started with a rain delay right from the get-go. Our stay was Thursday to Sunday, and it rained all day Thursday and half of Friday. Friday afternoon was overcast and cool, but at least we got to walk around and check out the Beaufort waterfront boardwalk, which was a lovely stroll.

Grace Beaufort NC
On the boardwalk in Beaufort NC

Grace and I walked by historic homes, galleries, gift shops, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum. None of these allowed dogs, which is both reasonable and expected, but I am throwing it out there for those who are traveling sans dog. Check these places out if you get the opportunity!

For eats, the Dock House was dog friendly, so that was a no-brainer. Actually, the Dock House was beyond dog friendly–they gushed over Little Miss. I sometimes worry that I’ll get sideways looks about Grace being a pit bull type dog, but pretty much everyone I met treated her like any other dog and loved on her. It was pretty awesome. When we popped in for lunch the
second day, we were greeted with “Grace, you’re back!” My dog was Norm from Cheers.

A view of the Dock House from the water
A view of the Dock House from the water

Grace made herself right at home at the Dock House. I was actually worried someone might trip over her.

Stretched out like she owned the place
Stretched out like she owned the place

Saturday morning was beautiful, and we were beyond ready for Atlantic Beach where leashed dogs are welcome. I had no idea how Grace would react, especially since she is not exactly fond of bath time. Then add the waves and who knows what she’ll think?

Oh. My. Gosh. She loved it! First she was silly over the sand. She spun circles, crouched in pounce position, and sprung at me like a jack-in-the-box. Sand was flying everywhere! When we got to the water she pretty much did the same thing, chasing the water as it went out and then splashing in it and running from it as the waves came in. She chased the foam and was basically a big goofball. People walking by were laughing. I was laughing. I think Grace was laughing (see photo below).

Do you think she was having a good time?
One happy pup
Atlantic Beach, NC
Atlantic Beach, NC

Saturday afternoon I crated the pupster (gasp) and headed out on a little Water Bug boat tour. For $15 you get a 45 minute narrated history and wildlife cruise. This is so worth the price of admission. My agenda was to see wild horses–I’ve been wanting to see them since I moved here 14 years ago. Sure enough, I saw wild horses. Success!

 

Horse No. 1
Horse No. 1
Horse No. 2; both eating sea grass
Horse No. 2; both eating sea grass

They were beyond beautiful. Stunning. Nature and wildlife put me in awe of creation. Who cares if we’ve been to the moon, there’s a wild horse. Eating sea grass!

And there were these guys too.

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

And the occasional human.

She paddled right past the wild horses. I would not have been able to contain myself!
She paddled right past the wild horses. I would not have been able to contain myself.

The folks in Beaufort, Atlantic Beach, and Morehead City are good peeps. There were plenty of places to eat, lots of little shops, and water sports to fill your day if laying on the sand isn’t your thing. Grace got lots of attention everywhere we went–she was fawned over and petted by a two-year-old, a skater, and a woman in a wheelchair who said I ought to train her to be a therapy dog because she was calm, sweet, and not spooked by the chair. We met real people on this trip and got to enjoy the beauty of the Beaufort area. Grace and I were a couple of happy gals.

If you’re heading to the coast and haven’t been to Beaufort yet, it’s well worth the
drive. Grace agrees.

Cheers!
Kelly

Heartworm Disease is Treatable and Beatable

Grace received her final, final heartworm negative clearance this week – YAYYYYYY!  We celebrated with a new toy, of course.

A much anticipated celebratory treat dispensing toy.

I knew Grace was heartworm positive when I adopted her and had only a vague idea what that meant, so I got on the fast track to all things heartworm.  Here’s a bit of what I learned about the disease:

  • It’s common among dogs found in all 50 states, with the highest infection rates along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (from American Heartworm Society and pets.webmd)
  • Dogs (and cats and a bunch of other animals, and rarely humans) are infected with heartworm larvae by mosquitoes (like we need another reason to despise the mutant vampires)
  • If left untreated, it can cause death
  • Treatment is lengthy, challenging if you have an active dog, and can be costly, but entirely worth it
  • There are slow-kill and fast-kill methods; the fast-kill takes a couple of months and final clearance comes approximately six months after treatment
  • Prevention truly is the best medicine – put your dog (or cat) on a preventive and you can avoid the aforementioned ugliness

Before I got Little Miss home and settled into her new abode, I called around to various vets, rescue groups, and even the vet school to find who and what would be the most economical approach to treating her.  The cost varied ranging from $600 to $1,200 for the fast-kill method.  Those were estimates given over the phone; once your dog is examined they can give you a better idea what your bank account will look like post-treatment.  The slow-kill method is less costly.

 
I chose the fast-kill method because 1) the vet said it was an option, and 2) I wanted Grace to be rid of those creepy-crawlies as quickly as possible.  I was fortunate enough to be able to provide that for her.  It may not be an option for everyone, but talk it out with your vet to determine which method is best for your dog and for you.
 
Grace got a few injections, had a couple of all-day stays at the vet (for observation after injections), and was briefly on pain meds because the injections are given in the lumbar muscle area – ouch.  Then I had to keep her calm for 60 days.  I can’t speak for the pooch, but that was excruciating for me.  Even though it was Doctor’s orders, I felt like a bad Mom for not exercising her or playing with her (I later learned the no exercise regimen is actually her preference).  I so wanted her to play and meet other dogs.  No M’am.  Sixty days is 60 days.  But we got through it and she received her preliminary clearance in January.  She was good to go for activity and meeting other dogs.  Woohoo!  It would be another six months, though, until we would know the treatment was successful and we would not have to repeat the process.  Here we are, six months later, and she is negative.  Thank goodness!
 
If you were wondering about heartworm treatment, I hope this was helpful.  A quick search will get you a whole lot more information.  I also hope it does not discourage anyone from adopting a HW+ dog – quite the opposite – heartworm disease is treatable, and there are options for how to treat it.  It doesn’t have to be a factor in whether you adopt that sweet, loyal canine companion who will become part of your family.  It would be sad and unfortunate to miss that.

Out to lunch with the ladies!

Grace has brought so much joy to my world, and I can’t imagine a day without her.  I’m so glad I didn’t let those ugly worms stop me from adopting an incredibly wonderful and deserving dog.  I think she’s pretty happy about it too.

Cheers!
Kelly

Sit, Down, Shake. What’s in Your Bag of Tricks?

My sweet, snuggly, beautiful Grace has her own vocabulary list. Yep, my daily monologue at home is now an agglomeration of commands interspersed with “Bubby!” and “give your Mum a kiss!” Dog owners please sound off if you can relate. Without further ado, here is Grace’s list (limited only by what yours truly can think to teach her):

Leave It. (or LEAVE IT!) A beautiful command because it is applicable in many situations. It can mean don’t go near the cat, don’t eat whatever I just dropped, release my slipper from your mouth, and much to my dismay, it often means leave the dog poo!

Sit. Simple, you say? Unless your dog believes she has outwitted you (which is not off the table). When first training Grace, I would go through a few commands and never really mixed it up. So now, in order to get the treat as quickly as she can, Grace thinks that Sit means to sit, lie down, sit up again, and shake. When I say Sit, she goes through the entire exercise. She is getting back to the singular Sit, but I giggle when she does the whole show.

Down. Self-explanatory, but as noted above, it has become a component of Sit. Getting Grace to lie down and stay down is the new challenge. Because every time you lie down you’re supposed to pop up like a Jack-in-the-Box and throw your paw out to shake, right?

Shake. The fact that Grace will Shake on command makes me suspicious about her issues with Sit and Down. Sometimes I can get her to Shake with the other paw immediately after, but often I get a sideways look and shifty eyes. And no paw. I guess if I shook your hand and then you stuck out your other hand to shake my other hand, I’d be a little weirded out too.

Right paw shake – no problem
Left paw shake – sometimes it’s a go and sometimes it’s just Awkward!

Stay. Oh my gosh she is such a drama queen over this one. Grace can be completely still and content. The minute I say Stay, it’s like the building is on fire and I’ve asked her to go down with the ship. She stays, but the angst is palpable. She’s cute.

Heel. Heel is to have your dog loose-leash walk next to you (leash should not be taut; should form a “J” where it hangs from your hand to the dog’s collar). The dog’s shoulders should be in line with your legs, and usually on your left side. To teach this, I’ve been told, you walk your dog with the leash in your right hand and treats in your left hand held next to your left side. Thus, the dog walks next to you because that’s where the treats are. I do not have the multitasking skills to hold the leash, dangle the treats at my side, walk, and give the Heel command simultaneously. Simply put, I forget to say Heel. While it’s a success that Grace is loose-leash walking (most of the time), she has no idea it’s called Heel. It’s just how we walk.

Great loose-leash walking, but many trainers will want the dog on your left. I’ve read various
stories about why. One is that in the old days, hunters preferred to have their dog on the
opposite side that they carried their gun. 
Another is that most people are right handed and
therefore having the dog on the left is more convenient.

So there you have it – Grace’s bag of tricks. I’m at a loss for what to teach her next. Sit Pretty is out. It really scares her and I don’t want to push something that causes her stress.

What clever little parlor trick does your dog (or cat) know? Please share and let me know how you taught it. Grace and I would love to give it a try!

Cheers!
Kelly

Sad Eyes

That title takes me back to the Robert John song from my teen days! I played that record and sang along as though I had recorded it myself. I’m sure I had very sad eyes while singing it. Ha!

The sad eyes I get these days are of a different type. Every morning, this is what I deal with as I’m getting ready for work.

Seriously. It’s the “wouldn’t you rather stay home and play?” look. Why yes. Yes I would. Let me just become independently wealthy and we’ll play tug all day! It breaks my heart to leave the house, and this is my furbaby. My hat’s off to the Moms and Dads out there who have to endure sad faces from actual children who can also talk. Yikes. How do you get out the door?

So I’ve been thinking about taking Grace to a doggie daycare maybe one day a week. The perks (assuming she likes doggie daycare):

  • Grace will be out of her crate and exercised (it has been said time and again that a tired pup is a happy pup)
  • She’ll get some play time and socialization with other dogs (which she loves but is a rarity)
  • Will maybe help with her mild separation anxiety
  • One less morning-o-guilt for me

The downside:

  • I’ll worry myself sick every minute she’s with people who are not me (it even sounds scary)

Have you used a doggie daycare? Did your pooch have a good experience and benefit from it? I’m going to start checking out a few facilities and will let you know what comes of it – whether I can actually drop her off or if I speed away with her still in the car, never to return.

Cheers!
Kelly