Monday, March 19, 2012

Everyone Walk, Not Run to the Door

More tips & tricks for training your dog...The rule of thumb is to leave behind a tired dog whenever you leave the house for work or school. That means exercising him in the beginning of the day.
Our new puppy, Tucker, in his slicker which is still a bit too big for his 3.5 month-old body!
A morning power walk, run, or jog next to your bike is a sure way to help him be calm when you leave. Using a jogging service in the morning is great for this issue. Or consider teaching Rover to go on the treadmill for a 15-minute power walk in the morning, so he can wait till you come to get him later in the day.

Now that the weather is improving (hopefully) and Spring is around the corner, our dogs are feeling the shift in energy. Dogs want to share in your excitement to be out-of-doors.

Unfortunately, this can also cause them to feel over-excited, even anxious and unsure. So be calm when you approach the door. Rushing out in a frenzy teaches your dog to be anxious in the morning, and they might learn to "charge" or jump the door in an effort to “rush out” with you.

A good rule of thumb is to have them sit or lay down several feet from the door as everyone exits calmly.

As always, be the calm you want to see in your dog. They are masters of mimicking your habits!
A last note: Bo's book profits are going to a dog charity (we'll announce it as soon as I can finalize the agreement with the foundation we chose), so spread the word!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stop Dogs from Rushing the Door

In the human world, we often think our dog rushing up to us and jumping on us is cute. Not so in the pack world.
Me and Bo at the Queen Anne Merril Gardens assisted care facility.

A dog rushing toward you is called "charging" and it spells dominance, regardless of whether it's motivated by excitement, play or aggression. A dog being on top of you or putting his paws on you is also a canine sign of owning you.

Again, they're not the boss of you and this is inappropriate behavior, especially if there are children in the house or you have physical injuries or disabilities.

A healthy greeting means your dog patiently waits to greet you, family or guests WHEN YOU ARE READY. Here's how you can teach your dog to be respectful:

Step between the dog and the door. Never allow them to be closer to the door than you. That means they own it.

Now, make them stay several feet away to give you and your guest "space", a sign they are being respectful of your leadership. This makes you the owner of the door AND of the guest in the dog's eyes.

Insist that your dog sit (lay down for excitable dogs) and stay while you calmly open the door to your guest. Your dog should be in total submission, which means their ears and tails are relaxed, not standing up. If the dog moves when your hand is on the door knob, stop and put them back into place. Again, use a leash for added control. Take your time and ask your guest to be patient.

Ignore the dog when you come home or your guest enters for a few minutes (5-10 min for excitable dogs) until everyone is calm, especially the dog. Then greet.

Step FORWARD (never backward), if your dog jumps on you, and give the command for them to sit. Being "over" the dog tells them you mean business. Step on the leash for added control.

Be calm and quiet. Not only do excited dogs not hear words, your voice can excite your dog further. It's better to touch the dog or use signals (or the leash) to get them to do what you want. Your dog will take you more seriously when you are not speaking, but moving toward them.

Happy wagging!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bo's First Book Now on Kindle

I'm thrilled to announce I published my first book to Kindle honoring my working dog, Bo, who died of cancer over Christmas (see "Bo Doesn't Know"
This book was a total work of love, a photo story about Bo's time living with cancer and the silly changes we made as humans to help him. Your tags/likes on the Amazon page are much appreciated, as well are reviews!

For those who are going to ePub their own work to Kindle, especially any dog books, if you need help with formatting problems, ping me. I learned so much the hard way with this book, even though I'd taken a class and read all the instructions. Let's just say there's a lot of kinks in the system!

Anyway, just wanted to celebrate publishing my first book and the memorial to Bo!

Much love to you all in the New Year!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rain, Sleet, or Snow!

Dogs are like the US postal service. Rain, sleet or shine, they need to get out.

High energy dogs – especially hunters and working breeds (labs, golden retrievers, Visalas, pointers, terriers) need daily activity, regardless of the weather.

While many dogs may naturally accept a day on the couch when the weather is wet or cold, high energy dogs get more wound up the more they’re cooped up.

Weather can be a tool. When I work with dogs on behavior issues, one trick to inducing their trust in my leadership is to use foul weather as my environment. They are more inclined to want a strong leader at that moment, so I stay out front and keep a strong pace, and they bond with me faster! If there is snow, we run around and play catch with snowballs. It’s fun for both me and the dogs, and we all go home tired.

Sometimes I employ doggie backpacks and rain slickers to keep dogs covered if they are thin or have health issues. But typically I welcome the rain, which can both cool and calm a dog. Remember: Like people, dogs don’t get colds from rain – they get colds from germs. But getting them too cold can, I believe, make them more susceptible to getting sick or injured. So I gauge the temperature more than the rain.

So don’t worry about your dog getting wet. It’s better to use up those spare towels at home, rather than let the dog chew up your spare couch due to boredom!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bo Working Magic at Merrill Gardens

I stopped by Merrill Gardens, Queene Anne today and they all hugged me and relayed condolences about Bo. What kind people! They just sent the photos and I had to put them up so folks see how Bo touched hearts!

These are of Bo from last Sept 2011 working at the Merrill Gardens, which is part retirement home and part assisted care facility. We helped put on 2 dog shows for residents in the last 3 years so folks could show off their dogs' beauty and tricks. Everyone got a prize and an award.

1. Here's Bo meeting the judge, who is one of the residents. Or should I say schmoozing her. I had to tell Bo he wasn't part of the competition. But he got an award anyway for best trained dog. What a ham!
2. Here's Bo helping me explain to residents what dominance (being "over" your dog, exemplified by straddling) means and how it's not a bad thing. Note he's still wearing his car harness (for a seatbelt attachment). I liked to show people his gear, so those ladies who like purses and shoes would understand why I get my thrills out of dog accessories.
3. Here's Bo getting a treat from one of the residents. Note the oxygen tube near her arm. He wouldn't take treats from me during the "show" because he was stressed. The big crowd was hard for him. So I took him around the room to greet folks one-on-one and he did great. He even took food from the residents. I think I got suckered.
4. Here's Bo sitting in front of a resident who is petting him (those are my naked ankles). When we first got Bo, he used to bark at all wheeled objects and people carrying sticks, like canes and crutches. That was one of the issues we had to rehab, and it never completely went away. So being at the assisted care facility, where many residents are in wheelchairs or have support units, was always hard for him at first. But when Bo greeted folks one-on-one he was fine. Bo came a long way from his early years!

Hope you enjoyed these!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hope is A Puppy

Our first week without Bo was not easy. My eyes are tired. I've cried every day since his diagnosis, every night since his death. And my home feels empty, alone. Like love is missing. Because it is. A third of my family is gone.

Keeping myself busy isn't enough to fast-forward the grieving process. I've been finishing the book on Bo, working on photographs, prepping to teach my dialogue class to the YA chapter of RWA... Looking at puppies online has helped the most, however, because you can't feel sad when you look at their scrunchy faces.

So Sunday my husband pulls me out of bed, though I have a terrible head cold, and announces we are going on a road trip to Port Orchard to visit a litter of puppies. He's clearly tired of the gloom hanging over our home. I am too, so I drag myself to the shower. I know we have to move on eventually, but my plan was to rescue another dog from a shelter again. My hesitation builds. I know I need another dog in my life, yet it feels way too soon. Every dog I see is NOT Bo.

We drive and ferry it to Port Orchard, sit and play with puppies that all look alike to me and Rob, and we're a bit overwhelmed by having to chose among these little critters who haven't formed their personalities yet. When you chose an adult dog, such as from a shelter, you can distinguish their character.

Over the course of a half hour, however, one pup is making his moves more often than the others---he's tugging on Rob's pant leg, nipping on his shoe lace, and then attacking my coat. Rob remarks he likes the fiestiness (read dominance) in this puppy, but that the puppy's tail has a crick in the tip. I, on the other hand, adore that flaw. I don't care about pure-bred perfection or AKC papers. Rob wants more confidence in the dog's health, so breeder assurances as to lineage gives Rob his power back, makes him believe we can avoid the trauma of Bo's cancer in our future dog. Whatever gives him hope, I condone.

So we pick the imperfect puppy with the crooked tail. And in 2 weeks we pick him up. Enough time for me to clean up the house, get over my cold, work through more grief steps. I cry on the way home, I cry that night. Rob doesn't understand why I'm still sad. It's real now; we are having to replace Bo, my one and only. He's really gone.

Mostly I'm worried I won't bond with the puppy in the same way. I think crazy thoughts, like I won't love his smell or the feel of his coat or the depth of his bark the way I did with Bo. But we HAVE to move forward. Bo was all about progress, not paralysis. As Rob put it, a puppy cannot replace Bo, but he can eclipse Bo's death. We NEED hope to fill our home.

Hope is a puppy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Goodbye, Sweet Lovely Bo

For days I've been avoiding writing updates to the blog because Bo was getting worse. His breathing was shallow due to fluid in his chest cavity. His energy tanked after walks.

Then x-rays showed the tumors in his lungs had grown in a week and his heart was enlarged. And he'd stopped eating and was barely taking water.

A colleague called me on the fact that I was mentally slipping into a dark hole and that Bo was only sticking around because he was worried for me. He's always taking care of others! And now I needed to show him I could stand on my own so he could let go of this world.

So on Friday last week I finally accepted we'd found the cancer too late and that we were going to lose him. So Bo and I sat down and had a long talk about why mamma was terrified of losing her friend but that she'd be okay and why Bo had done enough work in this world.

I swear he understood every word.

At one point, I said he'd been the best friend I'd every hoped for and that he was a love of my life. I'm an animal lover, and I've had many pets, but never have I experienced a bond like I did with Bo.

Bo then reached out and put his paw in my palm like we were holding hands and closed his eyes. There was so much love surrounding us both at that moment, and I felt peace between us.

That night Bo declined. I knew he was letting go. And his symptoms got much worse and too graphic to mention. I often had to carry him, an 83lb dog.

So the next day, on New Year's Eve, we spent a final afternoon with him, riding in the Westie (our VW Vanagon pop-top), which was his favorite because it meant we were going on a trip, and visiting the beach at Magnesun park. I told him we could walk as far as he wanted and I would carry him back to the van if necessary. For his last two days I found myself often saying to him, "It's okay, I will carry you."

Bo got knee-high in the water and watched the dogs frolic and sniffed the fresh air. I could see him wanting to run and swim with them. Our hearts fell. Then he came back to shore. He was done.

We put Bo to sleep that afternoon. He rested against my chest and I held him close as he passed and whispered to him "It's okay, go to sleep now."

I felt angry, angry that I had to lose a best friend, angry I had to leave his beautiful body to people I'd paid to kill him. They'd bumbled the euthenasia, so it's a whole new scar for me and my husband. Maybe it was a mercy to help Bo cross, but I never want to have to do that again to any dog.

Bo turned 8 last Wednesday. He should have lived till 10 or 12 or more...but cancer takes a lot of dogs early. And now that I know it's avoidable, I'll make sure my next dog gets better odds and I'll educate friends on the risk factors. Please, take your dog for regular vet checkups, and especially teeth cleanings. Mouth cancer is very common in dogs.

I will finish the book I wrote for him, Bo Doesn't Know, and publish that to Amazon soon, so his legacy can live on to help others.

Thank you for all your support and love and kindness and financial help. Bo is a spirit, a lesson to me and those he touched of compassion and open-heartedness and unconditional love. May we all pass on that spirit to others.

Live, love, and laugh everyday. That was Bo's way.
Christine M. Fairchild