Trauma After a Dog Fight: When Emotional Scars Surface, The Real Work Begins

It’s always darkest before the dawn. 

At the ripe age of 58 and after decades of resistance, I have finally learned to embrace the darkness.  I know and trust it will not only shift into light but will shift me into a new phase.  Possibly an enlightened phase. Maybe a new understanding of dogs. Definitely a lesson in there. A big lesson has been coming.

Luna, our foster dog from Animal Control

Luna, our foster dog from Animal Control

Once I clear my emotional pain and remove my unreasonable human expectations, the real work can begin.  Dogs are animals. Never forget that. We are living with animals yet sometimes expect them to have evolved into our human family.

Just a few weeks back, a tremendous dog fight took place here. My foster dog Luna was on the treadmill and my personal dog Petunia walked up to sniff her bottom. Luna snatched her up onto the treadmill and never missed a beat.

Looking back, Luna was triggered into fight or flight from previous bad experiences surrounding her root chakra.  This was confirmed for me during a reading by Erica Tibbetts, my animal communicator.  Luna had previously been held against her will and bred in a way that was unfair and emotionally traumatic. Unbeknownst to me, she was emotionally scarred from her past.  I could see the darkness behind her eyes yet never knew why. Until now.


Even though Luna had worked face to face with Petunia through a pool fence for five months without so much as a grumble or a hackle, being approached from behind by Petunia was too much for her to cope with.  She struck and she did damage.  I feel certain had this happened in someone else’s home, she would have done insurmountable damage to another animal or injured a human who mistakenly put their hands in the middle of two mouths. For the record, we broke up the fight with a full strength garden hose.  

The end result by my superiors was the decision for her euthanasia as she could not be placed safely in another home. She died peacefully in my arms in my vet’s office but not without first teaching me important lessons.

Petunia healed quickly from a physical standpoint.  However, the attack left emotional scars that would surface almost a month later.  Petunia started attacking our eldest dog Jojo.

My first thought was because Jojo is old and getting close to crossing over. He’s the weak link in the pack. But this pack is not at risk in the wild. We’re in Scottsdale living in safety FFS!

Why would she bring harm to her best friend?  Her buddy she plays with and sleeps with.  The same dog she shares bones with.  Just the day before, all four dogs were piled into my suv for our family trip to Sedona. It’s our summer of love for Jojo as we are fairly certain his end is approaching quickly.

I was so angry, disappointed, sad and shocked.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. She has done phenomenally over the past five years I’ve been rehabbing her through her dog aggression. Why now?  I knew I was missing a piece of the puzzle. 

I reached out to my girls Erica, Alicia and Christine to help me understand it further.  It’s important to point out that not one person has all the answers, learning is lifelong and you need to learn from teachers hands-on.  There is no substitute.  There’s also not one answer.

The discussion of bullies came up. I’m thinking bully breeds. Nope. Bullies.  Bullying. Is my dog Petunia a bully now?  The short answer is yes.  

She is traumatized by what happened with Luna and has taken a few steps backward into her old trauma patterns that she arrived here with. Petunia was a fighter when I adopted her in 2014.  

She came with deeply rooted patterns that stem from a time in her impressionable first 18 months of age when she was cared for at the hands of someone else who did not have her back.  Someone who did abuse her and bred her inappropriately.  Skinny, sick and underweight while expected to have puppies in a backyard on the west side of Phoenix. 

Five years later, Luna bit her seriously.  I didn’t have her back. The trusting bond that we formed has been broken because I did not keep her safe. The fact that she walked up to Luna’s treadmill doesn’t forgive the fact (and it’s simply a fact) that I did not keep my dog safe.  She was attacked while in my care and that undermines our relationship. My Jojo has now been attacked and, if I’m not careful, he won’t trust me either.

This is not meant to beat myself up because I am certainly not blaming myself.  I am sorry that this is where we are but I know, as my friend Tracy says, “God doesn’t waste pain”.  This is a huge lesson in canine PTSD. Patterns. Abuse. Aggression. Trauma.Fight or Flight.  Petunia will always choose the fight. Jojo always chooses the flight.  I have to make sure I work both dogs down past avoidance and into acceptance.  This is where the real work begins because it’s not just once. It’s over and over and over until the trauma lessens a bit more each day.  This will allow my CCR (Conditioned Calming Response) teachings to really take effect by bringing my pack back together into a place of trust and healing.

If you’ve ever been in therapy, know that you must get to the root of the trauma and then learn how to accept and then work with new tools for coping. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be triggered again.  We learn how to lessen the response to those triggers.  

I recently was involved in a large meeting where a nasty, vile man with his own agenda triggered many of the women.  I immediately wanted to square off and take his ass down.  Punch.  Kick. Bite. Kick in the balls. Whatever I had to do.  I worked through those feelings quickly and disengaged completely.  It doesn’t mean the ability to be triggered goes away. I’ve just learned through practice how to cope better.  I didn’t hit him because I knew the consequences for me would be great.

What I am also coming to understand now is that Petunia is so triggered to her core trauma that she’s itching for a fight. This past weekend’s attack was #3. Still stumped, I called Alicia.  WTH am I missing here?  I just don’t get it.  

My playground bully is looking for a fight with the weaker dog because she’s traumatized and needs to win one in order to feel better about herself.  I’ve never understood the psychology behind a bully until now.  And maybe that’s the big lesson for me.

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When she’s not in her kennel, she’s muzzled full time.  Jojo is always safe.  After the first attack on him, I removed the muzzle six days later. It happened again. It was a big mistake I won’t make again.  I owe it to Jojo to keep him safe too.

My first thought was what a pussy move that is though - to pick on the weaker dog.  “Go pick on someone your own size” is how I was taught.  There’s my pesky human emotions getting in the way again.  Nobody deserves to be picked on.  She’s a dog trying to deal with her internal struggle and I’m attaching human emotions to her.  You do realize that that’s how this business opened, right?  I learned from some very big mistakes.

Then it hit me this morning in the shower where I do some of my best thinking. My brother used to bully me. We didn’t call it bullying back in the dark ages of the 1970’s. He was known as a punk. A hoodlum. He used to pick on me in the streets in front of his friends. In his leather jacket.  Obviously he had no balls. Picking on his little sister of 10 and he was 17.  Now I can stop and say “hmm....I wonder who in his social circle was bullying him”? 

It certainly doesn’t erase what happened to him or me or Petunia. But now, as the leader of the Pack, I have a better understanding of aggression and bullying. And that there might be my first step into forgiveness for him. 

Like I said, it’s always darkest before the dawn.  I knew there’d be lessons here that reach far beyond dog training.  

I’m grateful to be able to share my lessons with you as they unfold.  I work hard to stay open to what the universe is teaching me but boy is it tough some days!

I’ll close with a beautiful quote from one half of my veterinary team - “Setbacks are a great teacher”.  Amen.  Thank you, Dr. Marzke!

Blessings to all of you.  Please keep us in your prayers as we work through our lessons.

The entire pack at work. PLACE with Conditioned Calming Response training.

The entire pack at work. PLACE with Conditioned Calming Response training.

Titty Tat Georgie possesses such wonderful leadership and calming cues. He joined in our Conditioned Calming Response exercises.

Titty Tat Georgie possesses such wonderful leadership and calming cues. He joined in our Conditioned Calming Response exercises.

Brutus. 3 years later. The true story of one rescue dog’s long and difficult rehabilitation

This week marks three years since Brutus moved in with us. He was sent to me through a local rescue for being very very forward with his body, mind and mouth.  

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He was not afraid to stand his ground.  He was not afraid to corner you. He was not afraid to bite you.

He arrived here with an attitude rooted in survival. Fight or flight. Brutus was ready to get it on.

When he was dropped off, I was in the shower. My husband Rob attempted to put Brutus in a kennel. His finger was nearly broken in two for that attempt. Kennels were destroyed along the way. This Lab Weimaraner mix was a bull in a china shop.

He pushed me and I pushed back. Mine was always with love. Always with confidence. Always with kindness. Always fair. Sometimes with curse words but that’s my personal flaw that he showed me I needed to work on.  My biggest lesson was to learn to truly be neutral.

My training sometimes is so simple that it’s ridiculous. In some ways, I use human psychology with dogs I train.  There’s no need to be a jerk but if you are one, you lose privileges, you receive consequences and I don’t allow bullies on my playground.  In real life, if you’re a mean girl or boy, you lose the privilege of being my friend.  No loud consequences. I quietly remove you from my pack if the lessons repeatedly fall on deaf ears. Or you’re simply asked to leave the playground.  Or you don’t like the rules and you leave on your own.  The whole goal is to remain neutral. If I treat you with respect, I expect it in return. It’s a pretty simple life lesson and a simple way to live. I have your back and you have mine.

Speaking of the pack and removing dogs, my Sammy recently challenged me on our family trip to Sedona. I asked him to get off the bed at our vrbo as we do not allow dogs on other people’s furniture. He challenged me with a growl. His consequence was to be removed from the pack for the rest of the night. I put him outside of the bedroom and closed the door. Then pondered.  Why in the world would he challenge me after all this time?

I mentioned it to my friend and animal communicator Erica Tibbetts over lunch the following week in San Diego.  Her gut feeling even though she wasn’t actually on the clock was that Sammy feels insecure in the pack.

Then it hit me.  Brutus has made such huge strides (and I mean huge) that Sammy has been gently pushed down a notch in the pack as Brutus bypasses him into the position as a calm pack leader. Yes, re-read that!  Brutus is a calm pack leader!

That alone makes me smile and glow.  I honestly never thought Brutus would come this far. He’s been here three years.  He has redirected his mouth on me which means it was a bite without the intention of being a bite, he actually bit Rob a year ago with intention and grumbled at every dog who so much as tried to smile at him.  He was a real ass in the way we humans perceive people as asses.  But the secret to my work is to look beyond that which is the exterior and dig deeper. Get to the root.  Find the why. Why does he do what he does?  Not just me saying “knock it off” but I really find out why and then go to work repairing it.

My feeling has always been that Brutus was like a foster child who had been kicked to the curb too many times.  Erica confirmed in our reading last fall that we were home #5. I always had the sense that he was thinking “yeah, you talk a good piece but when are you gonna let me push you far enough that you kick me out for good”.  How sad is that?  But I know I was right about him. I talked the talk. Now I was being tested to walk the walk.

He would put his mouth on my forearm some days and give me a look dead in my eyes.  It was a challenge. Sort of an F-U. A reminder of the damage he could do in that moment. Did I really trust him?  Was I gonna beat him up?  Was I gonna throw him out?  Never. That behavior comes from a place of survival and emotional pain.  

However, I did tell him either out loud or telepathically that he is writing the end of his own story. I will always love him until he dies of old age and I will always give him a home.  However, he is writing the ending.  If he chooses to bite me in that moment with intention, I can choose to end his life with a needle in a mere hour at the vet’s office.  I always always always made him decide how to complete the sentence. I didn’t remove my arm.  I didn’t pull away.  I didn’t punish.  I waited for him to decide what the last sentence of that paragraph was going to be.  That takes immense trust between an animal and a human. And I’m no spring chicken at 58. Skin is torn easily nowadays. Infections can be more difficult to fight.

As he came to realize I was his mama dawg, he also came to realize he has a pack behind him. One of the biggest and best choices I made was to let him run outside to bark at noises longer than I normally allow a dog to bark.  My normal routine is to get right up, see what’s up, acknowledge the dog and thank him for doing his job and come back inside.

My intuition for this dog was opposite. I let him take the lead position and run out barking like a madman.  Then I waited a beat or four while the rest of the pack ran to his aid to back him up. He called upon his posse without realizing he had a posse!

This went on practically every day until he realized he had the ability to alert his pack. I saw the lightbulb moments. “Wow mama, I have a pack.  I have a family. I’m not fighting the world alone”. And then the bigger lessons came as he realized he’s not fighting anything.

His brothers Sammy and Jojo and his sister Petunia would always come running if he barked.  Then his mama dawg would come to his aid. Every.Single.Time.

You’ve heard our stories every step of the way and have seen us succeed and fail.  I’ve been so frustrated and disgusted that I couldn’t see straight.  I have said some very unsavory things. However, feeling what we feel is mandatory but sharing those negative feelings with the dog is to be avoided. They only serve to destroy what you’ve built. There’s no room for anger in the relationship.

Share your feelings in writing. With your spouse. With your friends.  With your shrink. It’s good to feel what you feel. There’s no shame in it.  But you must find a way to be neutral as the leader no matter what happens.

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We had a situation here last week which I’ll write about later as I don’t want to take the shine away from Brutus right now.  There was a fight in our pack that left all of us a bit hurt emotionally and a bit fractured.  You can see in this photo that Brutus positioned himself between the emotionally and physically injured Jojo and muzzled Petunia.  My boy went in to help repair the situation.

As we came back together yesterday through a telephone healing session with Erica, I captured this moment of my pack coming back to neutral. There’s good ol’ Brutus in the lead again!

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Brutus was always meant to be mine even though we tried getting him adopted out. Both adoptions failed within 24 hours and he was returned.  In hindsight, I realize he was meant to land here forever. While I went to work to rehabilitate him, he went to work to help me. To make me a better trainer. A better teacher. A better mama.  A better person all around.

Thank you, my boy. Growth can sometimes be painful and we both made it to the other side! I’m so proud of you!

With love from your mama dawg forever 💕

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Wednesday Wellness Q&A: Should My Dog Wear Sunblock?

My answer for my personal pack is Yes. If my dogs are going to be exposed to the sun, they need protection just like you, me and your kids.  This is one of those times you should treat your dog like a baby. I’ve never been able to find sunscreen for dogs so I use baby sunscreen.  Fragrance free.  SPF 15 or higher. Usually the baby products are high SPF anyway.

Dog related cancers from sun exposure are real:  squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanomas, hemangiomas, or hemangiosarcomas.

DO NOT SPRAY IT ON YOUR DOG’S FACE!  

If I have to tell you that, well, you know what I’m thinking....you might not be quite ready for a dog!  Use your common sense.  Please.  Seriously.  When in doubt, please ask your vet.  Your vet knows more than me or your friends or Aunt Mary.

Spray it onto your own hand and rub in near your dog’s lips, on her nose, the tips of the ears, the belly and on my Petunia, I put it on her white face.  White dog skin/fur is more susceptible to burns. Think white Irish girl with red hair.  Reapply it like you would to your baby throughout the day and after swimming. 

NO FRAGRANCE. NO ZINC OXIDE. NO PABA.  NO LICKING!  If your pup is itching to lick, redirect her with a frozen Kong of wet dog food or peanut butter.  Go easy on the calories, too.  You can freeze plain yogurt with mashed bananas and peanut butter.  Or salmon and a bit of cream cheese.  Mmm hmmm!  Maybe food ideas should be a future segment!

In the meantime, teach your dog to wear sunglasses! Yep, I can teach that too!

**Please submit your Wednesday Wellness questions or suggestions to Dianne by emailing findyourinnerdog@aol.com.  Please put Wednesday Wellness in the subject line. 

Hot shot Petunia

Hot shot Petunia

Boomer, Lola and Luigi. Circa 2012

Boomer, Lola and Luigi. Circa 2012

The day Brutus shifted into Love and Acceptance

That day is today. March 3, 2019.

I’ve waited 2 years, 8 months and 2 days.

Day after day. Week after week. I’ve waited. And waited.

Waiting for Brutus to shift into a place of love. Into a place of wanting and choosing to hang with his hairy pack members. We humans are a given. Even though he has bitten both of us, he loves us.

But the dogs. Well, he simply tolerated them. Until today.

Brutus is the dog with “those eyes”. The haunting eyes and sorrowful soul that tells you he has endured some pretty dark stuff.

He was sent to me to test my patience, push every button on me and draw new ones. This dog has taken me to my emotional brink and left me angry and dangling. If he could flip me off, he would. Then he walks away leaving me to sort out my feelings. Always loving me. Always testing me.

He has forced me to dig deep and find an even better version of myself than already existed. Sometimes the dog has a hand in rehabilitating the human, too. ❤️

Has it been a picnic? Absolutely not. What I do it again? Absolutely!

True rehabilitation takes time and love and patience for both humans and animals. A few weeks living here with us for training doesn’t magically fix or rehabilitate your dog fully. It just lays the groundwork for you to continue the work. Every.Single.Day.

Today’s blessing came from our old boy Jojo. Deaf, goofy, cluelessly walking and pooping. He loves everyone and everything. My welcome wagon dog. Pure joy inside and out.

Two years, eight months and two days later, Jojo waived our boy Brutus into home plate!

3/3/19 Brutus and Jojo

3/3/19 Brutus and Jojo

I euthanized your dog yesterday...

That old, beautiful dog that you released to the streets died in my home last night.  The beautiful senior who most likely had disease in his brain became a menace to society.  The one who had been physically injured probably trying to find his way back to you found his way to me.  The beautiful dog who should have been living out his days in a soft bed in your home should have died in your arms, not mine. 

God had a different plan.  Your boy came to me for help.  He died on a soft, thick blanket in my home.  I’m the one who did right by your dog in his last hours.  Even though he was sick and vicious, I fed him with love in my heart.  I had to use kitchen tongs to protect my own body.  I had to open his kennel very gently to avoid him aggressing at me.  He aggressed and I still nourished his body and mind that were failing him.

If only my nourishment of love and training were enough, he might still be alive today.  If only he had gotten the veterinary help he needed sooner, I may have been able to turn him around.  But I couldn’t.  You didn’t.  He was too dangerous and too ill to live. 

I was the one who did right by him.  We were two strangers meeting with a whole different intention. I did what you should have done.  But you didn’t. So I did.

Now I am the one who carries the burden of ending your dog’s life.  I know what I did was right.  That doesn’t change my heartache today as I sit here crying over your dog’s once lost soul.  He died with a family.  My family.

He died in comfort.  He was given the appropriate and humane veterinary care that every dog deserves.  When I should have been eating dinner with my family, I was tending to your dog taking his last breath.  I made sure he was warm.  He was loved.  He had the comfort of essential oils and soft music while he took his last breath.  I played him lullabies. 

His last meal was hot.  Roasted turkey, mashed sweet potatoes and turkey soup.  He gobbled it down while still wanting to kill me through his kennel. 

I could not hold your dog in my arms for his last breath but I was there every step of the way.  Every single step right out to the vet’s van.

No matter how scared I was, I did right by your dog.  His ashes will return to me to take pride of place in my hutch with my other pack members who have gone on before him.  Your dog is no longer yours.  He’s mine.  He will always be remembered by me.  The one who did right by him.

How To Choose A New Pack Member/Introducing New Dogs To Each Other

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You've decided it's time for your pup to have a playmate.  You might now have the time to raise that puppy you've always wanted.  Even better,  you've decided to become a foster family to a local rescue or shelter.  Whatever your reason, it's important to match the right energy dog to your resident dog.  Energy matters more than size.  Manners and the perfect introduction matter all-around no matter what.

Let's look at the equation from a human standpoint.  I'm 56 years old.  I'm not interested in having a baby nor am I interested in babysitting one!  I'm being truthful here and I encourage you to do the same.  It may be great to snuggle that infant for a few hours but when I get right down to it, that baby does not fit my lifestyle.  Chances are, your senior dog who no longer wants to hike with you feels much the same.  

While we can teach rules and boundaries to the new pup, that young babe who's full of life brings a lot of energy into your home.  It's really not fair for your senior dog to be forced to tolerate it.

Whether it's the senior dog who sleeps all day or a younger dog who you are choosing a mate for, you'll need to be mindful of who you bring in to your space to share your life with.  In general, size doesn't matter but energy sure does.  

I've successfully brought together my senior boy JoJo (age 11) and his younger mate, Petunia (age 4).  They are a match made in heaven!  When we first rise, JoJo is slower like we humans.  Grab a cuppa coffee, hit the toilet and soak in the morning sun while listening to some tunes.  For Petunia, she rises to face the day with gusto.  She's the dog who needs a rousing game of fetch or a solid workout on the treadmill.  We give her what she needs to burn off that morning jubilance while my husband, JoJo and I shake the cobwebs.  

It's key to know your existing dog before adding another dog to your family.  Understand their tolerance level, if they get grouchy at certain times of day and set a plan for what you're going to do about it ahead of time.  Expecting JoJo to play with Petunia in the morning would be unfair to my aging boy.  That's where we step in.

Looking back, at 18 months of age, Petunia was annoying to her older sister, Big Rosie the Saint.  Big Rosie was aging and in pain and could only do so much activity before petering out.  We quickly taught Petunia to exercise her mind along with her body so that she was good and tired before I asked her to hang out quietly with Rosie.  Back in those days, it was treadmill three times a day as well as walks and ball play.  It was almost too much for us but we foster failed and honored our commitment.  I never intended to adopt an adolescent female to mix with another female but....well, you know the rest!  Doggie day care was never an option because she was dog aggressive at the time.  We had to give her what she needed and also honor Big Rosie in order for it all to work.

The point is is that we figured out our dog and made harmony happen.  We currently have another senior boy named Brutus.  He arrived here hating dogs and has learned to live with our pack in harmony. However, when Petunia and JoJo have their 7 p.m. romp fest, Brutus is most uncomfortable.  Through training, he has been taught to bring himself to a human and remove himself from what's uncomfortable.  That's our cue to either move the play away or give him a more secluded spot from them.  When he goes to the kitchen gate, that's our cue that he wants to return to his kennel.  We always honor the dog and advocate for all of them.

The best single piece of advice I can offer you is to choose a dog with the same energy level or lower than the one you have.  Take your time and choose wisely.  Drain their energy before you begin the introduction.

Before the dogs ever enter your home, find a buddy to handle one dog and take them both for a walk.  DO NOT CHATTER TO EACH OTHER OR THE DOGS AND NO CELL PHONES!  Start with one team in front and the other behind (downwind).  Then switch positions.  This gives each dog an opportunity to smell the other by being downwind.  They're gathering a boatload of information.

Slowly come together with the humans in between each dog.  Here's a great photo to give you a visual:

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Give them a chance to walk and settle into a nice stride.  Offer them to potty and keep working and walking in circles until they form a yin/yang nose to nail sniff as you come closer together.  Do not allow either dog to urinate on top of the other dog or kick grass, stones, etc.  You are owning the space; not the dogs.  Here's a great example of the yin/yang sniff:

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When it's time to go home, keep the dogs on leash.  Resident human goes into your yard first first. Resident dog, second.  Your buddy enters next and the new dog last.  Keep it calm and relaxed.  Stay quiet and breathe.  When the energy is calm and the dogs are relaxed, drop your leashes.  Be sure to remove all resources ahead of time.

When it's time to go inside your home, pick up their leashes and follow the same protocol as above.  Direct your new pack as to what they should do, i.e., drink water, lie down and be quiet.  I avoid allowing play inside my home but with the Arizona heat, I have to let that rule slide in the summer.  In general though, I want my home viewed as a sanctuary.  It's no place fo running, ball play or nonsense.  All the fun nonsense happens outside!

Take your time choosing your new pack member and remember to be the the leader they need and deserve.  They don't arrive knowing what's expected of them.

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My biggest secret to dog training....

Chicken Soup!

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.....

Pack Restructuring After A Dog Dies

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.

A Mother's Love

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....

 

The E-collar Saved My Sanity and helped to balance my dog...

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

Wipe your mouth and go to bed!

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...

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