Sunday, October 16, 2011

Loving, loss, and moving on.

Losing Delilah hurt. It hurt when it happened, and it hurts now.

A lot of things in my life changed. There is a big hole she used to fill.

It's been almost three months since she passed - and since I've written anything.

I've grieved, and I've grieved hard. For the first few days I could barely function - everything brought me to tears. I have yet to move her food bowl from it's proper place, and no other dog uses it.

And in my grief I had to keep looking forward. There was no going back. She's gone. If I grieve forever, then I let all the joy she brought into my life fade away.

So I'm done looking at the sad parts. I'll only remember the good things - all that we learned together, all we did together, and all the lives we touched.

She's forever my inspiration, and my official starting place in dog performance sports.

In the time she has been gone - I have rescued a puppy. He deserves his own post, and that will come. He has been rescued and placed into a forever home - and having him around made me realize that I need to open my heart again and keep on loving.

One day, when I'm ready, I will probably adopt another Dane. Right now, the sight of Danes still brings up a flood of memories that are hard to deal with. So until I can handle that aspect -

I've recently gotten a puppy.

And because I am edging myself back into blogging after that nearly three month hiatus, I'll save him for another post.

I'll be back to my regular Sunday schedules from now on. I've done my grieving. I'll always miss her - and I am dedicating NaNoWriMo next month to her, but I am done grieving her loss. I'll just celebrate her memory.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Goodbye, love...

Let your memories grow stronger and stronger,
'Till they're before your eyes.

You'll come back, when I call you.
No need to say goodbye.

She went Friday night. Quietly, painlessly. The vet gave her a small sedative first, she relaxed and lay down the floor. I pulled her head into my lap, Tyler, my husband, held onto a paw. And she quietly left us. We stayed with her for another 45 minutes. She looked very peaceful.

Moving on has been exceptionally hard. I fed all three dogs like normal, I went to get her pain medication like normal. Hard habit to break.
I can't bring myself to remove her bowl, or her leash from the hooks.

She's being cremated, I should have her back Monday. The extent of this I'm not sure has set in. I feel completely numb and empty inside.

Cozmo is being exceptionally helpful and hasn't left my side. I don't know how to adjust to this.

Friends, co-workers and family have been exceptionally kind, sending me prayers, kind thoughts and other words of encouragement. I don't know how I could survive this without them.

Now, I'm coherent. I drop in and out of contact with everyone as I reach moments that I can't cope with, so if I am not replying to anyone... please don't think I don't appreciate your words or your thoughts. I simply can't always find ways to respond... saying 'thank you' over and over again causes a feeling of numbness. I turned off my phone last night.. I couldn't handle all the 'I'm so sorry' messages all at once. I know everyone meant well... but it was like repeating things over and over in my head. I had about 30 texts and 20 e-mails when I got up today.

I didn't reply to many... but I'm overwhelmingly touched by the amount of people who loved her, and love me.

This was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. She tried to comfort me every step of the way.

I promised her, when I brought her home... I told her I'd stay by her side until the end. This was her forever home - this was her last family.

I used to hate the people who put her in the pound. I don't know their story. Now I'm just grateful that I was able to find my Heart Dog.

Don't discount any dog because of size, age, or color. You don't know who they are, what they can become, or what they'll mean to you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fun with Grooming

As I am sure everyone is already aware, summer has begun.

Those of us with double coated dogs? This means that the coat is going to go 'POOF'!

My German Shepherd, Thunder, is blowing his coat. 'Blowing the coat' is a term used to describe how these dogs shed their under coat - it comes out in one big 'poof'.

As it begins to come out, it starts to form little tufts of hair all over his body, and you can pluck them off in small cotton balls of hair.

It is a seasonal process, and it can take a few days or a few weeks. In our case, it takes Thunder two or three weeks to completely blow his coat.

And of course, this translates to extra hair all over your house. You start to see tumbleweeds of hair rolling across the carpet.

Which means, it's time to brush your dog! When the coat is blowing out, it is ready to just be plucked off the dog - and the amount of hair that comes off the dog is astounding. Really.

I've combed enough hair out of him to make a second dog - and I have photographic proof!

This is Cozmo, laying next to the mountain of hair.

And the best tool for this process that I have ever had the pleasure to lay my hands on, is the Furminator. Now, I realize this is priced a bit on the high end - but if you are interested in such a purchase, look on E-bay. I purchased mine on E-bay for $11!

And when I tell you it works - I mean, it WORKS. I brush the dog gently when he is blowing his coat and I am able to pull of mounds of hair at a time - without damaging the top coat of hair. When I'm done brushing him, he looks thinner, and all those tufts of hair are gone.

I brush out the coat every couple of days until the under coat is completely gone, and he turns into a great looking dog with a nice shiny coat - and the added bonus of being cooler!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obedience Trials

This weekend I am serving as Trial Secretary for the June trial at IPOC.

What an experience and learning curve this has been!

This started the beginning of June - I had to put together a premium for the trial. The premium is extremely important - it's what allows exhibitors to sign up for your event, indicates who your judges are, what the prizes are, and allows your club to inform guests what hotels are nearby and provide contact information.

This was a bit difficult to put together - while it was a simple text document and all I needed to do was switch out some information, it was GETTING the information that was not a cake walk. I had to converse with various people, confirming other volunteers to positions, and finding out which positions were still vacant.

That said, I did manage to get it all together - albeit a bit late. Thankfully most people were forgiving of this fact as I've never done this before.

After the premium went out - the entries came in.

Our club purchased some software to enter the trial entry data and run our reports that is supposed to make our lives easier. This wasn't exactly the case for me - and I consider myself fairly savvy around a computer.

The software required MS Access to run - it was really just a specialized database that had been packaged together. I owned only an IMac and a 10 inch netbook. This software was not Mac compatible at all - which meant running everything off my netbook.

This wouldn't been too much of an issue, except that during the installation of MS Office, my netbook completely, and utterly died.

Frantic, this meant I needed a replacement, and quick. I went to Best Buy and replaced my computer with a fairly nice laptop, set up MS Office, installed the trial database and was finally able to get the show on the road, so to speak.

I began entering the entries as they came - sending them first through another member of the club who recorded the financial aspect of it all.

Once June 1st rolled around, I still had a hefty stack of entries to be entered that had come in last minute - and this database isn't the most user friendly interface I have ever come across.

Still, I persevered.

I made it to the end of the entries. Then the fun part, scheduling the judges. Mailing final confirmations. Putting the catalog together, assembling a file of armbands, and sending it to the print shop.

Printing and assembling judges books, then printing running sheets and steward sheets.

The night before the trial, I trudged through the rain to pick up my printed catalogs and arm bands, then headed to the club. I sat here for a few hours putting folders together for exhibitors and judges... and then realized I did not include the judging schedule in the catalog - so I had to print an extra 20 copies of those.

Morning of - I'm here at 7 AM, bright and early, set up with the laptop. I have my totes at the ready to store scores, assembling the package to send to the AKC, the judges folders, and copies for the club.

I'm entering scores as they come, posting them in the hallway, answering questions and processing move ups.

It has been a stressful month. I can see the need to have several volunteers to alternate the job - it is just a lot of work. I am signed up to do this again in October - which is fine, I'll survive.

But I do have some suggestions for exhibitors, stewards, and judges that would help to make everyone's lives a little bit easier.

  • Type your entries whenever possible, please. It's very difficult at times to read hand writing.
  • Don't forget your dog's registration number - and don't assume we have it.
  • E-mail is really the best, fastest method of confirmation. It's much easier for the trial secretary to re-send confirmations and update mistakes via mail then snail mail - and saves money for the club hosting the event, too. I know there are people who don't have access to e-mail or aren't able to print, or aren't comfortable doing this - and yes, we still have to mail in entry forms. But allowing e-mail confirmations when possible really, really helps to expedite the process.
  • Remember Trial Secretaries are often volunteers - and they may work. Please understand that phone calls or e-mails may be delayed due to the secretaries work schedule, but they will always try their best to get back with you as soon as possible.
  • Mail your entry with at least a week before the close of entries. You want to ensure your entry arrives with plenty of room for mail delays - and this makes the secretaries job much easier by not having a large amount of entries to enter at the end.
  • Be patient. Many times the trial secretary is new to the job - and may not have all the answers. They may need to check with more experienced people.
  • And most importantly of all - be polite. You have no idea how stressful it is to manage all of the entries and paperwork - especially when the person is new. If exhibitors are overly rude and downright mean to the secretary, there is a strong likelihood that the secretary will not want to the job again, and if we run out of volunteers, how will shows get run?
  • Please don't use a flexi-lead. Flexi-leads honestly cause so many more problems then they are worth at a trial. Remember that trials are often indoors - and very crowded with  many other dogs, people and crates. A dog does not need 16 feet of leash in such closed quarters. In one instance, I witnessed a poodle on a flexi-lead run around a corner and meet face-first with a very surprised doberman who was not the least bit amused. The dobermans owner was very attentive and alert and no issue occurred, but the poodles owner wasn't even able to see the situation that could have occurred. Please use the six foot leash that you use in the ring, and save your flexi-lead for your regular walks.
  • Be on time. It is very stressful to the secretary and trial chair if we have no one to help us run the show. We simply can not be everywhere at once, and we depend on stewards to make trials run smoothly.
  • Be polite. It is imperative that stewards be polite and professional when speaking to others at a trial. Remember that stewards represent the club they are working for - being rude to competitors or snippy with a judge does not leave people with a good image of the club.
  • Dress accordingly. Many clubs request that stewards dress a certain way so they are easily identified, in our club it's black pants with a white top. And wear close toed shoes - in many places this is a requirement for safety, but it also helps keeps the dogs from sniffing toes in a figure eight!
  • Respect the judge. I can not stress this enough. A steward should not question or argue with a judge - period. If there is an issue, be sure to address the issue to your trial chair - and don't gossip amongst other stewards.
  • All I ask of judges is that they be compassionate and understanding - and most are. In my club at least, no one draws a paycheck. Trials are run entirely on volunteers. Having an understanding judge means we will go far out of our way to make sure the judge has everything they need - but not everyone has been a steward, a secretary, or even a trial chair before. So please, before you get angry with us, try to make sure we really understand what you are asking, and we'll do our best to assist you.
After all of that, I hope everyone who competes loves the sport they are competing in - and I hope they have a blast. Good luck to all of you - and bring home the Green!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sometimes life isn't very fair

This is a short post. I'm posting only because I am forcing myself to write once a week minimum.

I'm watching my heart dog, Delilah, slip away, one day at a time.

Some days she is bouncy, wants to go for a walk, wants to play, wants to eat. Some days, like today, she is slow.

She eats her food slowly - and sometimes not at all. She doesn't want to play or go for a walk today. She's losing weight - slowly, but surely.

Everything about her is slowing down.

And every day she still greets life with all of herself, even if all she has to offer is a five minute game of tug or a few thumps of a tail. Some days, she's full of life and wants to run the block.

But all the same, I'm losing her. Each day is closer and closer to the end.

No matter how long it takes, it'll never feel like we had enough time. It will always feel too soon.

I know I don't have many (if any) readers yet. I'm sorry this post is such a downer.

Today is one of Delilah's off-days. They are more and more frequent, which means I have to re-evaluate quality of life on a daily basis now.

The day is coming, I just don't know that I'm strong enough. I know she is, and I know she'll tell me when she's ready.

I know that somehow I'll have to say goodbye. I just don't know how I'll find the strength.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Because love does not have a price tag

I had a conversation this weekend with a couple of people and we were discussing the current health state of our dogs.

My Dane, Delilah, is 11 years old and she has been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is one of the more common types of bone cancers seen in dogs. It is a malignant tumor, it can develop on any bone but is most commonly seen in the legs.

In Delilah's case, she has a tumor on her left shoulder blade. It is a very painful type of cancer and can cause lameness in the affected limb as the bone is being slowly destroyed from the inside out. It is most common in large breed dogs, it his highly metastatic - and in most cases, by the time you have found the tumor, it has already spread to other parts of the body.

There are not a lot of treatment options for this specific type of cancer. Some people, especially with younger dogs, may opt to remove the entire leg. This will create immediate pain relief from the tumor, and dogs are fine with three legs. However, the leg amputation is done only for pain relief, as by the time the tumor is found, it has already spread.

Some other individuals, may opt to remove the leg and have chemotherapy done on the dog. This can provide pain relief and higher quality of life for the dog, but again, there is no cure. While some dogs may live a few more years, the majority do not.

The overall outlook for this type of cancer is very grim. In our case, we were given an estimate of 4 months before Delilah's quality of life would be so poor we would need to consider euthanasia. We are, fortunately, now at month 6 since this diagnosis, and counting every day as a blessing.

As I spoke to these people regarding the health of my dog, they asked what treatment options my husband and I were considering. I informed them that we had three options to choose from - pain medication, leg amputation, or chemotherapy. We opted for pain medication to manage her level of pain.

This choice came from two angles - the first, was that amputating the leg would cost anywhere from $2-3000, and I simply do not have this kind of money sitting around. The second angle, was that we are discussing an 11 year old dog. Great Danes have a life expectancy of somewhere between 6-8 years, so my dog is already ancient.

But the second line isn't what one of the individuals heard - they only heard that I was not willing to spend the money on my dog to save her. I was actually told I did not love my dog enough because I was not willing to take out a loan, charge it to a credit card, or do whatever it took to come up with the money.

Which had me thinking - does love have a dollar amount? Do I really not love my dog enough because I can not spend $2000 to remove her leg on a dog this age?

One of these individuals, told me they had taken her dog to the vet for a ruptured gallbladder, and spend $5000 to save her, reminding me that they had spent more than that in training and showing her. However, the key factor, is that her dog was only 5, and the medical issue was something not only repairable, but would ensure the dog had a high quality of life for the rest of her life - and most importantly, they had the money available to them.

But what if you don't have $5000 to spend on your dog in an instance like this, or in my case, not even $2000? What if you don't even have $500?

I know a lot of people who don't have this kind of money, and right now, unemployment is high and wages are low. I don't believe that money is an indicator of whether or not a person is a good pet owner, or whether or not a person loves their dog.

A little girl whose dog was hit by a car whose parents can not afford to save does not love her dog any less than a person who has $5000 to spend.

I see the following phrase repeated over and over on dog web pages, dog blogs, and other various sources, "If you can't afford the vet, you can't afford the pet."

I couldn't disagree more. Many people may disagree with me on this statement, I'm okay with this.

Being a responsible pet owner is not dictated by how much money you can spend on the dog. If your dog sleeps on a four post bed in his own bedroom, it does not inherently make you a better pet owner than someone who lets the dog sleep on the floor in their bedroom, or in their crate, or in the bathroom.

If you can't afford to fence your yard and you place the dog on a chain to get exercise and relive himself for an hour or two, it does not make you any worse than the person who puts their dog out into a privacy fenced in yard.

When a person takes in a dog (or any other pet), you are promising to take care of that pet. You will provide food, shelter, and medical care to the best of your ability. At the very least, 'affording' a dog should include vaccinations and annual checkups, and flea, tick, and heartworm medication.

Food should be the highest quality you can afford, and if the highest quality you can afford is Ol'Roy, then your dog will eat Ol'Roy.

Shelter should protect the pet from the sun, the wind, and the rain. It does not mean the dog should sleep in your bed or on the couch if you don't wish it, and if you want to give the dog an old blanket to snuggle up on in the corner of the living room, so be it.

But if your dog were to be struck by a car and require thousands of dollars of medical treatment and you can't provide it? Then it is time to think of what is best for the dog. If you can not afford to treat a medical condition that is life threatening to the dog, then at the very least you should be able to afford euthanasia, as an act of kindness to the dog, and not allow him to suffer.

Love is not a dollar amount. A dog is better in a home where he is loved, even if he sleeps on a hard floor and eats Ol'Roy dog food, then spending time in a kennel somewhere waiting for someone else to find him, or for when the kennel decides he has been there long enough.

Too many times I see people suggesting that a person needs to bring in a certain level of income to keep a dog, that a dog needs expensive toys and beds, shiny leashes and collars, and they must eat a certain way.

I'm not going to suggest that. If you know your dog needs medical help, and you have the money and you still don't provide it - THAT makes you a bad pet owner. Starving a dog makes you a bad pet owner. Beating an animal, ignoring the mental needs of the animal, causing the dog to become obese, chaining it or leaving it in a fenced yard at all times with no interaction with its family - THESE things make a person a bad pet owner.

Not having a lot of money does not. I don't make a lot of money. I really, really don't. I provide the best care to my dogs that I can afford. Sometimes I cut back in other areas to make sure my dogs needs are met. But they are trained, fed, have places to sleep, receive medical attention when needed, and pain relief when needed.

For Delilah, I can afford pain relief. She takes pain medication twice a day. She still eats, still wants to play, still enjoys walks - albeit a little slower. And still, I love her so much that thinking about the future makes me want to break into tears. When her quality of life begins to degrade, I will make sure she does not suffer, because that is what I promised her when I brought her home.

Because love does not have a price tag.

Monday, May 30, 2011


I am a member of the Imperial Polk Obedience Club (IPOC) here in Lakeland.

IPOC is an obedience club. People come there to train their dogs - for basic manners, and further on into dog sports, if they so choose to do so.

I joined IPOC three years ago, when I adopted Delilah. I did not know very much about dog training - I had read a little online, but had never seen it really applied. Cozmo was a fairly well behaved dog, but I did not really take any part of his training. He just turned out the way he is mostly out of luck.

Delilah is a big dog. I knew this when I adopted her, even when she was sick and skinny she was 94 lbs. I'm quite a bit heavier than her, but 94 lbs hitting the end of a leash can do a number on your arms. It can drag you to your knees when the dog at the end of the leash sees a squirrel.

It did not take me long to realize I needed help teaching her to walk nicely on a leash. I had heard of IPOC on the internet but never really checked them out - I thought $85 for an obedience class was pretty steep, and I wasn't sure they were what I was looking for.

Then I talked to a co-worker who had taken a puppy obedience class there and enjoyed it, and I thought I'd give it a shot.

Turns out Delilah qualified for a discount because she was a rescue dog. We paid $55 for our first class. It was an 8 week class and it covered basic obedience - sit, down, stay, walking nicely on a leash, leave it, and wait.  I was given instructions on how to teach the behaviors (mostly using rewards, luring, and shaping)  and then given 'homework' to practice throughout the week.

With this gentle instruction, after 8 weeks I had a dog who was able to do all the items practiced in class, so I decided to come back for a second round, and take their Advanced Basic Obedience class. She excelled, my confidence grew. I started to talk to club members and found they were like me - very much loved their dogs, and wanted to spend a lot of time with them.

Some of them did competition Obedience, some did Conformation, some did Rally, some did Agility. Everyone I talked to was eager to help me, and wanted me to succeed with my dog.

I decided I wanted to join the club. I would receive more discounts on classes, but I really wanted to get involved. I wanted to learn more, I wanted to work with my dogs and be around dogs.

I'm a very shy person, so even after joining the club I did not do much. I came to help with cleaning, with setting up, and then I volunteered to steward at an obedience trial. I thought dog showing was all Conformation. Ha! Crash course - dog sports are awesome!

I was blown away when I saw a dog retrieve a dumbbell over a jump. I was amazed when I watched a dog in the Utility ring select a scented article amongst a ring of others. I loved the teamwork and happy tail wagging of dogs in the Rally ring.

The more I learned - the more I wanted to do! I soon signed up Cozmo and Thunder for obedience classes as well, and all three dogs passed their Canine Good Citizen test.

I enrolled Delilah and Cozmo into their Therapaws program, and began visiting different nursing homes around my county with them. (And after another year or so of training, Thunder would join as well).

The first dog sport I fell in love with was Rally. Rally is sort of an obstacle course that the handler and dog must work through as a team. You start with 100 points, and points are deducted if you make a mistake, and if you score 70 or higher, you qualify. Three qualifying legs, and you earn a title. There are three levels of difficulty in Rally - Novice, Advanced, and Excellent, with Advanced and Excellent being off-leash.

Cozmo going through a Novice Rally course.

I loved Rally. I found the teamwork with the handler and the dog fascinating, and the more I worked my dogs, the more I wanted to do! My dogs were learning! I helped Delilah and Cozmo both earn their Rally Novice titles, and Delilah has two legs towards her Rally Advanced, though she is now retired and will not complete the title.

Because I found IPOC, I have learned so much about training, dogs, and myself. I've learned to push myself, and that dogs are smarter than we think. I've learned a new way to enjoy my dogs, to spend time with them and bond.

Then a few years later, I realized I had to give back. I volunteer a lot around my club - I often steward at trials, I help clean up, I am the Club Secretary, and I am learning to be a Trial Secretary for our upcoming obedience trial. I even teach the Kinderpuppy Basic Obedience class now.

The club is not perfect, but I have made a lot of friends there, and I feel really welcomed. I feel that after all I've learned from them, my input is just as valued now.

I love being a member of IPOC. I love what the club does - I love how much we give to the community. In addition to Therapaws, we give deep discounts to rescued dogs from our local SPCA and Animal Control. We attend various events in the community and offer help and advice to anyone who needs it. We want to help the public with their dogs - we want them to enjoy their dogs, love their dogs, and help them to be parts of the family.

This club means a lot to me.

There are dog clubs like IPOC all over the place if you look around. Some searching on Google will often yield results not too far, and you'd be surprised how many places like IPOC are actually out there.

Take a look at your local obedience clubs, see what they have to offer. See what you can learn, and in turn, what you can share. Dog sports are incredibly fun and I have met some incredible people since becoming involved. Maybe there is a club out there for you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I teach a small class at my local dog club for puppies six months and under.

In addition to basic obedience, we also cover general maintenance of dogs such as grooming, and feeding.

And in the process of discussing what to feed, the second topic that comes up is how often.

And often, I find out that a lot of people 'freefeed' their dogs. To put it simply, when I say 'freefeed', I mean to say that a person makes food available to the dog at all times, so the dog could eat as often as it wanted.

And freefeeding isn't a method I would suggest using with a dog, and here are a few reasons why.

Freefeeding lowers your dog's interest in food. When you make food available to the dog at all times, the dog is less likely to work for food. Where's the motivation? Why should he sit for you for a biscuit when he knows there is plenty to eat in the kitchen? You could use higher value treats, for sure - but the dog is not going to work very hard when he is constantly full.

I feed my dogs in three meals a day. Delilah, the Great Dane, eats 5 cups of kibble a day. Instead of giving her five cups at all once, I feed her 1 in the morning,  two when I get home from work, and two around dinner time.

It is harder to monitor how much the dog eats. Monitoring exactly how much your dog eats is very important. How will you know if your dog is suddenly only eating 3 cups a day instead of 5? 

When dogs become ill, they often won't show symptoms right away. Sometimes the only indication that anything is wrong at all is the consumption of food goes down. If Delilah did not eat breakfast, then I know she was down to 4 cups that day. If she skipped breakfast and lunch, then I know she's down to 2 cups a day.

Knowing how much your dog eats and monitoring the amounts will help you discover underlying problems much sooner.

Freefed dogs tend to be overweight. Not all freefed dogs are, some of them manage just fine with plenty of exercise - but some dogs, (particularly dogs prone to obesity, like Labs) will eat and eat and eat.

Delilah is the type of dog who would eat herself sick given the opportunity. Which presents another very, very dangerous possibility - bloat. Bloat occurs when the stomach flips on itself and traps gas inside of it -  and it continues to expand. It is very painful and can cause death within the dog if not treated immediately.

By limiting the amount of food my dog consumes at one time, coupled with limiting her activity for 30 minutes after eating, it lowers her risk for bloat. Large breed dogs are at risk for bloat, particularly those with deep chests.

It is much harder to keep your dog on schedule. If you let the dog eat whenever he or she wants, then the dog will also need to eliminate - and this may not be with any type of regular schedule.

What goes in the dog must come out. So if the dog eats breakfast, within an hour or so the dog will need to eliminate. I feed my dogs three times a day, so they need to eliminate three times a day. Like clockwork.

When freefeeding, it is not as easy to place the dog on a schedule. When was their last meal? Approximately how long can the dog wait? Freefeeding can make housebreaking tedious and messy because the dog's body does not have a reliable schedule of when to expect food.

Yes, I know there are some dogs out there who are in the ideal body condition, who have never suffered bloat, and train just fine when being freefed. (In fact, Cozmo used to be one of them) However there are no real 'advantages' to this method of feeding. (Except, perhaps, laziness. I know how much work it is to scoop dog food and put it into a bowl!)

In addition to decreased food motivation, an irregular schedule and not knowing for sure how much the dog is consuming - leaving food out constantly is an invitation for pests. Dog food is still food - and food left out can attract anything from mice and rats to ants and cockroaches.

I highly reccomend to the owners who take my class that they try to feed 2-3 meals a day. Even for little dogs! If your dog only eats 1 cup a day, divide it up into thirds and feed the dog small meals.

You could even turn meal time into a training session and make the dog work for every single little kibble!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thunder - German Shepherd

Thunder was my one-and-only attempt at being a foster.

I also failed at this attempt.

I found about the dog on August 10th, 2008. He was found wandering the streets in Orlando. A gentlemen brought him to his garage, but his wife was extremely allergic to him, so he contacted the German Shepherd Rescue of Central Florida for help... but they didn't have any fosters available.

With some outreaching through other rescues, I was sent his information. At first I thought, this poor dog! I was told that he was 9 years old and male, and nothing else at the time. I figured, fostering isn't going to be that long - and what's one more dog for a short time?

I met up with a volunteer in Orlando to pick up the dog, and she gave me some more information.

The dog's name was Thunder. The gentleman who originally found him took him to the closest vet - who knew the dog.

Thunder, the night we brought him home.
 He is a fairly recognizable dog with those ears, and coupled with the rabies tag he was wearing, it was no problem to properly identify the dog. They did try to return the dog to the owner, but the owner on file claimed not to be the dog's owner, and wanted nothing to do with him. So, Thunder was officially disowned.

The vet called the rescue, and from then I stepped in.

The poor dog, when I first met him his coat was a mess, he had large hot spots that were tender and oozing, and he was so crippled with arthritis he had a hard time walking. His ears were majorly infected, and he had a large infected hole in his gum, along with several broken and missing teeth.

He was a sweet dog, though. I gave him a bath to help with the smell and he stood there calmly. He was fairly affectionate towards us, gave us high fives, and he seemed to be a fairly nice dog. His nails were so long that it was causing him trouble walking.

Later that night was when I noticed the big issue with his mouth.

Large, disgusting hole in his mouth.
Lucky for him, he was in a safe place now, and the rescue was going to fix him up.

My husband and I paid for him to be neutered to help out the rescue, and we took him to a small clinic here in town to have his mouth fixed - he had to have an oral flap procedure to repair that hole.

The hotspots, it turned out, were caused by food allergies. It took a lot of testing and a lot of paitence, but eventually once we got him on Canidae, all of his hotspots cleared up, his coat grew glossy and a smooth, and he gained a little weight.

The first ever snuggle.
It took months of dedication, gentle coaxing, and positive reinforcement to gain Thunder's trust. There was not an aggressive bone in this dog's body, but he was always on the defense.

The first time we tried to clip his nails, for example. My husband was helping to hold him, and I was cutting his nails. Thunder apparently did not like his feet being handled, and he turned around and bit my husband on the arm. We were very grateful the dog did not have good teeth in his mouth, too.

There were several other bumps along the road, too. He startled easy. I once reached for a fly swatter in the kitchen and he responded by lunging at me from under the table.

Time went by, we kept working with him on his issues, and trying to get him adopted. We took him out to meet people, he was listed on Petfinder and on the rescue's website, and we took him to Inverness to the Cooter Festival to an adopathon... but no look. Everyone just looked past the poor old man to the younger, more beautiful dogs.

Still, as time went on, he became more and more trusting of us - my husband in particular.

By Christmas time, we were toying with the idea of keeping him. The bond we've been building was growing stronger by the day... and it felt like he was a part of our family.

A happy collective family.
 Christmas day that year, my husband and I decided to go watch Marley and Me. That was the day we decided to make it official - we called Raye at the rescue and told her that day. Thunder wasn't leaving us.

After his official adoption, I began training him. He passed his CGC, and later went on to be a Therapy dog. His arthritis is too much for him to have ever competed, so we let him be at basic manners.

To this day he's still fairly adorable, and we lovingly refer to him as the German Shedder. His bond with both my husband and I has grown stronger still, and I have no doubt about the dog's loyalty to us.

He is a wonderful dog, a great cuddle buddy, and we're so glad to have him with us.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Delilah - Great Dane

Delilah is the very special dog that is so rare and special that the only term that fits is 'heart dog'.

Photo by Jennifer Goodlet
Delilah is a black Great Dane, and she is approximately 11 years old now.

Photo from Polk County Animal Control
On March 24, 2008, a few weeks after my husband and I moved into our new house, I was looking for a Great Dane. I applied to a rescue as a foster home - I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I was sure that fostering would be a good place to start. Then, a co-worker came across the above photo on our local Animal Control's website, and sent me a link.

Her page said only that she was 8 years old and female, and the above photo. I had no idea what she would be like, but decided to go visit her over my lunch break. Cozmo was older, she was older and female - I figured they would get along well enough. I knew Great Danes didn't live long from my research, but she looked so sad in that photo.

Well, a few of my co-workers went with me to the pound to see her. She had the most wonderful demeanor, she was a tad shy, but after a few minutes of talking to her gently she was leaning on me, and even gave me the very first kiss (of many to come!). I was sold.

I filled out the paperwork for her that day, was told I could pick her up in a few days after her spay, and I went back to work on cloud nine.

I started thinking of names, and a Dane-friend of mine suggested the name, 'Delilah'. I loved the name, it was so pretty! I talked it over with my husband, but we weren't sure. We wanted to see her personality more, first.

I went home, and my husband and I did everything we could to prepare for her. Set up her bed, purchased an elevated feeding stand, and moved furniture around. Because we were planning to foster, we had nearly everything we needed already.

Cozmo, enjoying Delilah's new bed
She came home with me April 2, 2008. I went to the pound to pick her up and paid her $75 adoption fee (what a steal!). We took off the collar she was wearing and placed a nice, new purple one one her and walked her out on her shiny new leash. We were not sure how she would taking getting into the car, but she climbed in slowly, still a little groggy from the spay.

She wasn't sure what to do in the car, though, so she stood there quietly in the back seat. My husband and I were so excited to have her, and the radio was playing quietly in the background. We were chatting back and forth to each other, when suddenly - the radio began playing 'Hey There, Delilah' by the Plain White T's, and that was that. She was Delilah, officially.

Now of course, there is much, much more to this dog then who she is and where she came from.

She is the reason I joined IPOC, and the reason I keep going. She is the reason I've become interested in dog sports, and while Danes have always been my favorite breed - she's the reason I will keep owning them.

Delilah has her Canine Good Citizen and Rally Novice title - and two legs towards her Rally Advanced, but her show career has been cut short when she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.

She was a therapy dog for a few years, mostly through IPOC but also was certified through Therapy Dogs, International (until I let the registration lapse). She was the most wonderful Therapy dog I could have asked for, too.

Delilah on a Therapy visit.

She's a beach dog, a love bug, a bed hog and a messy eater. One day I'll write a book about her, because I can't tell you how amazing she is in one post.

She turned 11 this year, and I'm sure I'm going to lose her soon.. but until then, we'll keep on going and loving her, and I hope that from reading about her, you'll love her too.

Photo taken May 7, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cozmo - All-American Dog

This is Cozmo.

Cozmo was born October 28th, 1998.

He wasn't a planned pup, just an 'oops' litter that honestly could not have turned out better for me. (Or him, for that matter)

I was pretty young when he was born - 13. A lot of his upbringing was handled by my parents, such as his house-breaking. He didn't have much in the way of training until just these past few years.

Cozmo and I grew up in Altus, Oklahoma. He was my buddy through high school, various relationships and major changes in my life. He was with me when I left home and moved in with my grandparents. He went with me to college when I borrowed a room from my then-boyfriend's best friend's parents. He was with me to my first apartment in Houston. He was with me when I got married to said boyfriend, when we packed ourselves into the truck and moved to Florida. He was with me when I bought my first house.

His upbringing wasn't perfect - my parents did not have an effectively fenced in yard and he escaped often, and so had to be chained when outside. His first visit to the veterinarian wasn't until he was five, when I scraped up enough money to take him and have him vaccinated and neutered. He has eaten the worst of dog foods - all the way down to Ol'Roy. He's been at the pound twice because he escaped. He's even been run over once.

A lot of the above I'm not proud of, and I don't have the energy to try to remember the excuses I came up with. The only reason I put that out there is to show everyone that I'm not perfect, but I have certainly learned from my mistakes, and my dog is so much better for it!

He is a spoiled house dog now. He sees his veterinarian twice yearly and stays on flea and heart worm medication all year round. He eats the best dog food I can afford. I began really training him - and how he's changed!

He's an angel on a leash, always comes when he's called. He did not get the best socialization when he was young, but I've worked on it and he is friendly towards other dogs - even in areas with hundreds of dogs.

The first time he amazed me was when I took him to a basic obedience class - I pronounced him dumb as a box of rocks. Then Box of Rocks dog sailed to the top of the class. He passed his Canine Good Citizen test on the first try, then aced the requirements to become a Therapy Dog.

I started training him in Rally Obedience and Agility - and he's even earned one title so far, Rally Novice.

He has continued to amaze me, and the older he gets the more I've learned to appreciate what a great little dog he is. He's charming, he's adorable, and he's probably the brightest Box of Rocks I've met!

When I tried training him previously, he shut down quickly. I was forceful and harsh - I yelled at him often, and jerked him by his leash or forced him into position. The end result was that he hated training, he stared at me blankly, and would often urinate out of fear. I quit trying to teach him and labeled him stupid.

Then I did more research years later, and tried again. I picked up a clicker and put aside my expectations and decided to see what this dog can do. This dog is SMART. He learns things in a few moments - he may not be perfect, but that's what proofing is for.

He also loves agility. He's still very energetic despite his age - and if he sees a jump, he's going to jump it.

For fun, I even taught him to surf. No, really.

He turns 13 this year, and hopefully there will be many more years to come with this little guy. He's a goofy goober of a dog, but he's my goofy goober.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let's Try That Again...

Hello again!

It has certainly been a very, very long time since I've written here - and I'm hoping to turn that around.

I am also going to change the direction of this blog - I started out feeling jaded, annoyed, and many times arrogant about the way people handled their dogs.

I've changed. 

I've also changed the title of the blog to reflect that. (A paws in the conversation isn't always a bad thing, you know!) I have removed a few posts that I found less than helpful. I am also using the blog as a way to improve my writing, so I am aiming to have a regular schedule of one new post each Sunday.

You can expect to see posts related to dogs, dog training, legislature, dog shows, therapy work, and some very personal posts related to what is happening with my own dogs.

So with that said, consider this an introductory post!

My name is Vicky, and I live in Central Florida. I am married and both my husband and I work full-time. We own our house, but it is very small - 908 square feet. I don't make a lot of money, but I make enough.

Most importantly - I have three dogs! Cozmo - All-American Dog, Thunder - German Shepherd, and Delilah - Great Dane.

They are all three spoiled house dogs, and they all three sleep in the bed with us. We have a king sized bed, and it does tend to get a bit crowded - but at least we are never cold! We walk a lot and we visit as many dog friendly places as we can but our favorite place is the beach.

In addition to the dogs, I have a Siamese cat, Jenny; two ferrets, Alice and Spatula; and a tank full of fish.

I spend a lot of time with my local dog club, The Imperial Polk Obedience Club. I do occasionally compete in dog shows, however, I am by no means a professional. I also teach a basic obedience class for puppies, and I spend an lot of time researching different methods of dog training.

I have a list of topics I want to write about, so I'll just write them. Again, I am aiming to have one post each Sunday as I have a very busy schedule to maintain.