One woman's personal story about her recovery from meth and the dogs who help her...Read More
Cooking for my dogs has always brought me joy. I love to feed them nutritionally sound meals all the time but I especially enjoy sharing special holiday meals with them.Read More
Four years ago today, I was forced to face my first euthanasia. We were having quite the monsoon here in Arizona and driving back from a weekend away with our three dogs. Dr. Berthiaume, being the spectacular vet that he is, didn't hesitate to brave the storm to come to our home at a moment's notice after business hours to lead us through our first experience. However, my focus today is on Boomer's life and what he taught me.
Boomer was a middle-aged beauty that we adopted from Desert Labrador Retriever Rescue. I took one look at his photo and knew he was mine. I contacted his foster mom Lori and learned that he had been adopted out, returned, and had gone blind during his yearlong transition from rescue to me. I had never had a blind dog before but knew I had it in me to take care of him.
I wasn't a trainer at the time and had no idea what I was in store for! Rob and I brought Boomer home and he proceeded to test our boundaries right off the bat. We supervise all incoming dogs very closely until they are given freedom to roam. In rescue, you have no idea what you get until it shows up. For my Boomer, he let us know right off the bat that he was a little bit pissed off at the world. He huffed and puffed much like a frustrated bull. My other two labs, Lola and Luigi, looked at me perplexed. He was looking for trouble but wasn't bringing it to the table. I instinctively knew he was no threat. Through my energy, I let my dogs know to give him a wide berth and ignore him. He was just trying it on and waiting to see if anyone was going to give him a hard time.
We taught him where his food station was so that he had a landmark in which to begin his mapping. We scented the doggie door with one essential oil and his bed with another so that he knew where he was at all times. I quickly read online that we should not move any furniture during the process and that's about all we knew. We gave him and the pack my trademark warm bowl of dog soup and settled in for a good night's sleep to let him decompress.
The next morning, I went to the other end of the house at 5 a.m. I never wake that early but my inner dog knew he had left our bedroom. There, I found my blind boy patiently sitting at his food station. First, I was amazed and impressed that he figured out in less than eight hours where his food station was! What made me cry was that he not only knew he would be fed and taken care of by us but that he was sitting in the dark waiting for his meal. Those emotions were from the mommy in me and no amount of being a dog trainer will ever change that tenderness in my heart. I wouldn't want to change that, either. However, it's important to point out that I will never share those tears and energy with the dog and I teach my clients the same. He didn't know it was dark. He didn't care that he was blind. He just knew he was going to be fed and was already trusting our family.
It was February when he arrived but he wanted to swim. I scented the pool steps and began training him on leash. He was a champ in the pool! As training moved forward, I gave him the trust and freedom to find his way to my voice. He was a stubborn mule of a dog and did not want to listen to my STOP command as he approached the edge of the pool.
I'm a very relaxed trainer with two exceptions. COME means come and STOP means stop--on command. I demand split second obedience. I don't care if the dog's sit is cockeyed or his down is sloppy. I'm training dogs into a balanced state of mind to be family pets. I'm not looking for AKC precision. However, those two commands must be 100% proofed. My logic here is that I am teaching the dog those firm commands so that it stays out of harm's way whether it be in the street or a dog fight. Come means come right now.
Back to the edge of the pool again. My stop command was blown off totally by Mr. Stubborn-As-A-Mule. I let him fall in the shallow end. I was there to guide him out but he blew right past me, swam to the steps and started over. Here's the really amazing part. He exited the pool, wove his way around the palm tree, meandered past the bbq grill, went to the landscape rocks where he toilets and walked back to the pool. I said nothing because I knew we were about to have a moment and I needed to let the mule trust himself. He was far superior to me in that moment of retracing his steps and I swear he could count them. His nose was not to the ground. He simply retraced a path, came to the pool and stopped a hair before the edge! I was such a proud mama and I know he was proud of himself!
The funniest moment of our short five months together came at our annual trip to Dog Beach in San Diego. My husband tells the story this way -- "we descended on the beach cottage like German paratroopers invading Poland"! We were loud and double parked while we unloaded three large labs, feeding stations, dog beds and tubs of frozen homemade dog food. We had just enough space to carry a bathing suit for ourselves! lol
They ran off in different directions in our shared fenced yard to smell every inch of the property and learn who had been there before them. The next morning, our cottage neighbors were greeted by Boomer joining them at their breakfast table trying to steal food from the kids!! He marched right up their steps and into the cottage. We were outnumbered and the dogs knew it! Even though that was deplorable behavior, he was having the time of his life and we're laughing all these years later!
Today, I give thanks for having such a goofy dog who made me laugh and challenged me to step up my game. I feel certain that he is at the Rainbow Bridge raising hell! I'll never forget the memories and all the laughs... xo
That's right. I swear by soup for all the dogs but especially the new dogs arriving for training who are living with us. There's nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup at bedtime or anytime. It'll get even the most anxious dogs to calm down when they hear their neighbors in the kennels lapping away!
The taste tester of this week's dog soup is Chunky. I think she'd give it two thumb's up if she had thumbs...
For the dogs: Chicken legs (on sale this week), carrots, celery, turmeric, quinoa.
For us: Chicken legs, carrots, broad white egg noodles.
Remove as much fat as you can from the chicken. Add four large legs to a pot with 5 celery stalks and 5 carrots. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a few hours until the chicken falls off the bone. Add water as needed.
Remove the chicken from the pot and separate it from the bones. Use two bowls and be sure to hide those bones from the dogs. Cooked chicken bones splinter and cause choking.
Strain all the broth into a new pot for the humans. This will ensure all bones are gone at the same time.
Divide out the chicken and broth between the two pots. Add the carrots and celery back to the dog pot along with turmeric and quinoa. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked. Puree and enjoy!
Add broad egg noodles to your soup and boil until tender.
This can be used as a dry food topper but I prefer to save it for a bedtime dog snack. Everyone potties as a pack, returns to the kennel room for a bowl of soup and then lights out. Zzzzzz.....
Whether you're a trainer, owner or rescuer, dogs will ALWAYS remind you when they are not in a balanced state of mind. One of the things I do best is tell my clients the truth--about myself, my dogs, where I go wrong and how I corrected it or intend to correct it.
As you all know, Petunia started acting out during Big Rosie's decline and subsequent death over the past month. She gave Chunky a bite on the ear one night due to a space shortage (she was blocked in). She forgot how to move away and reacted inappropriately. Chunky was fine and brushed it off. For the next 24 hours, I watched Petunia come around every corner with trepidation. I know she was waiting for the big retaliation by Chunky. She was certain she was about to get an ass whoopin'. But it never came. I could feel Petunia's mind spiraling out of control. In order to break that mindset, we took a quiet pack walk with the girls tethered to each other as a team. They sniffed and peed and carried on. That was the end of that.
She ignored my command the other day and charged out the door to meet another dog in my training yard. That approach caused trouble even though it was not her intention. That same dog who bit her before bit her again. She latched on to the dog but didn't bite her. She responded to my command by releasing the dog unharmed. Even though that dog bit her, she was inappropriate in her approach.
Her excitability has always been her downfall. The point is--she still disobeyed my command to Stay and made her own choice. I will never tolerate that.
It was then I realized she needs to be rebooted and taken back to square one. I believe she is trying to fill Big Rosie's shoes and take her position in the pack. Even though Rosie didn't lead the pack, she was the alpha over Petunia. Petunia is not ready nor is she qualified to be the alpha of the dogs. She's a follower and most likely always will be. That position can only go to the dog most equipped to direct and protect with calm assertive energy. That dog is Chunky. Thank dog I adopted the old, deaf dog. She works miracles with dogs in ways that leave me in awe.
The reason I'm sharing all of this is to teach you that your pack will change time and time again. It's important as the ultimate alpha leader of the pack (YOU and ME) to be the one who directs and protects. Chunky is second to me and she knows it and respects it.
Petunia and I are back to basics including the e collar. I love the collar in that it gives me the ability to communicate with her in such a gentle way that you'd never know it's turned on. It's like a tap on her shoulder. I have never had to dial her up. She work on level 5 out of 100 levels. Tap. Come. Good!
In the past 24 hours, she has already figured out what is expected of her. I started by removing her from my bed and asking her to sleep on the little cat bed that she loves to tuck into. Yes, I had to set my personal desire to snuggle aside and do what's best for my dog. She has no free run of the backyard and no access to toy unless we play together. During the day, I keep her in training with the other four dogs who are here at my business. She lives with them, eats with them, and exercises with them. She is free to come and go only when I allow her. She not only loves to be told what to do but she NEEDS to be told what to do. You can see she has switched off already. She's in the living room with me right now and is dozing off in Place.
One of the most important aspects of what I teach and expect from dogs is mental balance. I never care if they give me the perfect sit as I dread seeing the military precision some of these dogs have been trained with who are screwed up in the head, nervous wrecks, a food drives built so high that they are obsessed with meals. I look for state of mind first and foremost.
I promised Big Rosie a balanced state of mind if it was the last thing I did. I did give it to her and was rewarded with a great dog. It took me a hell of a long time to get her there but we arrived. Remember that challenges and behaviors become minimal but do not miraculously go away after a couple weeks of training. Training is every day and is a lifestyle. I will do the same for Petunia as I did for Big Rosie and for my client dogs.
Stay tuned as we turn the corner without Big Rosie and right our ship once again.
In December 2006, I was approached by a magazine columnist to share some insight into rehabilitating my first dog, Lola. She was a puppy mill survivor and my husband and I were first-time adopters. We were clueless. I believe Lola started me on the path to rehabilitating dogs all those years ago. Even though Lola is gone from my sight, I know she guides me every step of the way with dogs. xo
A Mother's Love by Dianne Marcinizyn
My husband and I knew we had so much love to give a dog and quality time to spend with it. We started doing our research and asked a lot of questions before making a decision to adopt our first dog. We didn't even know what a doggie door was! We have several friends who have dogs and through talking with them, learned of the over-population problem and just how many dogs are on euthanasia lists because of something as simple as a shortage of housing. I had a client who was fostering a Lab. During my visits, I watched this dog come to life before my eyes. It took weeks for my client's Lab to build the confidence she needed to raise her head to look at me. We started sniffing through the web and attending public adoption events to see what kind of dog would fit our lifestyle, but we knew that we really wanted a female Lab. We contacted DLRR, applied for adoption and were accepted. For the record, I'm allergic to dogs...
We found Lola on the DLRR website and immediately fell in love with her picture. She had this goofy grin, floppy ears and webbed feet that melted our hearts. It wasn't until later we would learn that her webbed feet were from living in a crate for six years and the silly look on her face was actually fear. We contacted our Home Visit volunteer who scheduled our meeting with her on November 5, 2005. We were told she was a puppy mill dog, had quite a big belly and had been dumped at the pound by her breeder. We had no idea what a puppy mill dog was but quickly learned what it meant. After she served her purpose for profit, she was left for dead.
The day she arrived to meet us, she sort of sashayed up the sidewalk; her behind wiggling one way and her belly the other. Her baby belly swung from side to side and she couldn't have been more beautiful to us. We burst into tears and wanted to adopt her on the spot! Belly or no belly, she was our six year old baby from that moment forward.
Lola arrived with tick fever, ear mites and a double ear infection. She slept almost all day and night. Her hind end was very weak and she had difficulty getting up from a lying position. She did not know how to play with toys, was not housebroken, refused to leave the house for a walk, refused to walk through the house, refused to go anywhere near the car. She would cringe at the sight of a yardstick or even if we moved near her too quickly. We suspected she'd been abused in more ways than one. She could not bring herself to cross the front door threshold nor could she walk out back through the sliding door exit. She would not leave the house through the side gate to the street. She had some real phobias going on and we were such novices. But we never gave up.
She was so disconnected from us. She would not leave her spot by the back door. She was unsocialized and did not understand that she was allowed to roam through the house. She was as sweet as ever and would wag her tail at us, but trying to get close and snuggle was not an option. She just couldn't handle too much human contact. If we got too close for too long, she would get up and move away from us. All we could assume was that it was probably her first experience with human contact. She has a tattoo in her ear which most likely represented her crate number for breeding; she never had a name. She would not allow strangers to approach and would run and hide. We learned from an acquaintance that hand-feeding her meals would help to create our bond. It definitely did. In time, she was able to allow me to massage her and give her sponge baths nightly.
Every day, I took her by leash to the backyard and made a game of "get the bickey" which is short for biscuit/kibble. I would stand at the end of her six foot leash, squat down, drop the kibble and encourage her to take it. Over the next several weeks, I got her used to being on the leash and would walk her around our backyard pool. I started using my husband's arrival home as a means to coax her outside. After nine days, she finally crossed the front door threshold to meet my husband after work. She promptly turned around and fled inside. We consulted with a nutritionist and started Lola on premium wet food and supplements. I fed her small protein meat snacks every three hours to help her body heal after so many litters. She improved very quickly.
Three weeks later, on Thanksgiving day, she came to life. The smell of home-cooking woke up our girl and we realized that food was the answer to help her move forward. As my husband took out the trash to our back alley, we decided to put her leash on and give that exit a try. It worked! She gingerly stepped through the back gate, took a look around, then took off running, full speed ahead! She was in hog heaven! She started to run with joy, her little yellow ears-a-flappin'! Dogs were barking at us and she stopped to sniff every single one of them. We had our answer...walk through garbage alley every day to build her confidence to face the world....and bring food to entice her out into the world. That night, I finally coaxed her into the living room and our bedroom for the first time with the smell of warm cornbread. She finally made her bed next to ours. We also learned on those walks that she loved dogs and needed a playmate. We adopted our second baby on January 31, 2006. His name is Luigi, a two year old black male who was found wandering by himself and picked up by animal control on Christmas Day. They couldn't have been a more perfect fit.
Over the course of the next several months, both Lola and Luigi got very comfortable with us and we truly became a family. Lola was afraid of the new doggie door we installed. I trained her to go through it by going through it myself first and showing her it was no big deal. Halfway through I prayed that I didn't get stuck! Then she would barrel through it behind Luigi. He proved to be a real asset in helping Lola build her confidence. We started to take very slow and short walks as a family. Luigi needed a second walk to give him his proper exercise for a two year old. Each week, we extended our distance by a block, pushing Lola ever so slowly, week after week. At about the six month mark, Lola started to chew the house! We had a hard time figuring out why. Hmmm....maybe she's ready for more exercise. We started power walking in May and doing a mile in 20 minutes plus an extra 10 minutes for pottie visits and socializing with everyone who passed by. By this time, Lola and Luigi became the unofficial welcome wagon on our walks. She was no longer afraid of anyone and would run to greet new dogs and their owners. She was alive!
She still needed to conquer her fear of cars. We started challenging her by walking her between two parked cars in the driveway. By the time we achieved this, the Arizona heat settled in. We wanted to get her into the car, but needed to wait until fall when the heat passed. When it did, I fed her dinner in the backseat for 16 days straight. She did not want to get in, but the smell of salmon overpowered her mind and she was finally able to do it. Our first car outing was 11 months after she arrived. We promptly drove her to get a grilled hamburger! Car = food = fun. Over the next few weeks, we managed to take both dogs to the Blessing of the Animals, local pet shops and out to a patio restaurant lunch. We now RUN on our walks!
During this whole year, we have come to learn so much about rescue dogs. They can have so many needs and fears. They sometimes come with emotional issues. It takes love, discipline, and patience. Morning, noon, and night. And even in the middle of the night when they whimper for who knows what. Six year old dogs can act like puppies; especially the ones whose puppyhood was taken from them. Or the stray dog who is just desperate for affection and will do anything to be noticed.
Almost one year later, we decided that adopting our two dogs was the best thing we ever did, but it was time to do more. We had built quite a bit of confidence over the year with overcoming so many of Lola's challenges. We are proud to say we became a foster home for DLRR this past fall. In our first eleven weeks, we successfully re-homed five hairy babies! We take one dog at a time, work with it, and do our best to find its forever home. Lola's job is to play mommy to the foster dogs and Luigi's job (in his mind) is to maintain order in the pack. Both dogs have a new purpose in life and they seem to understand that they are permanent members of our family and the foster dogs are here temporarily. I sit them down for our quiet "mommy and me" talk before a new dog comes in and explain that we have to be calm and patient...this new dog doesn't have a family and it's our job to help it feel at home. On some level, I believe they understand me.
I cry at every adoption I do. My tears are not of sadness but rather joy and pride in knowing I'm doing the right thing and have found the right family for my dog. My foster dog will sometimes shoot me a look as if to say "thank you for saving my life. This is my new forever home. I'll be just fine". The confident look in its eyes is priceless....
Big Rosie moved in with us in 2013 at the age of 8. She was an owner surrender through a local rescue and is our permanent foster dog until the end of her life.
I had never met such a sweet girl with such a chaotic mind. She was so anxious that a plastic bag on the street freaked her out. She growled at people, lunged at dogs and her leash aggression was off the charts. I feel certain she was a backyard fence fighter.
Believe me when I say she exhausted me emotionally. In between all of this chaos, I rushed her to the ER with bloat and torsion. Emergency surgery was mandatory to save her life. We did, thankfully. Then she was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. That's manageable. However, I was not reaching her emotionally and mentally.
I hadn't found the correct tool to reach her mind. I promise you I tried every tool and technique known to man, worked with my veterinarians (herbs and acupuncture) and even hired another trainer to evaluate my leash handling skills. I was certain I was missing something or doing something wrong. I WASN'T. I was determined to balance her mind if it was the last thing I did.
I had one final idea before succumbing to Prozac. E collar training. It was the only thing I hadn't tried. I studied long and hard and watched every video I could find on this style of training and connecting with a dog
After my e collar hands-on training, my trainer was evaluating my leash handling skills. Rosie went absolutely nuts at his dog. None of my leash corrections worked but my timing was spot on.
I tried a low level stimulation on the e collar. Out of 100 levels, her working level is 15. We walked by the dog again, I corrected her thought, tapped her once and said "No". I SWEAR to you this dog looked up at me as if to say "Oh, all you want is for me to walk by and be calm"? It was *that* simple. She and I made a few more passes by the trainer and his dog without so much as an acknowledgment. She wasn't sad. She wasn't shut down. She was in the moment and following her leader!
I've never had to tap the button again on a leashed walk! Rosie is still alive and, while unable to walk very far, does so with a balanced mind.
** Big Rosie lived until the ripe old age of 10-1/2. Godspeed, sweet baby. xo
I'm a firm believer in good quality nutrition for dogs. For many years, I prepared all of my pack's food from scratch. Home-cooking is a wonderful yet time-consuming undertaking when it comes to balancing nutrients and rotating proteins and vegetables.
I spent every other weekend grocery shopping on Saturday then spent Sunday slicing, dicing, and grinding my creations. I calculated every calorie and kept all of my dogs in good health until ripe old ages. When I get on the scale every so often, I'm glaringly reminded I should be counting every calorie for myself. But I digress...Read More
Hi Everyone! Happy National Dog Day from my pack of loons to yours! What a wonderful day it is because my husband Rob and I are also celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary! Wow...20 years!Read More
I was on a road trip recently with my girl Petunia. We were hanging out in our own yard at our beach rental and, as always, working with various training tools. This day in particular, I had her off leash and free to roam. There were other dogs on our property and in order to keep those dogs safe, I muzzled her.Read More