I ask everyone who calls as a new client “please tell me three things that you love most about your dog” because if you can do this than you haven’t given up hope. If there is hope then change can happen.
I find that even in the most worrisome of cases, people want to tell me more than three things they love about their dogs. This is great news because when a person remembers why they love their dog they will be able to face even the most challenging of situations. Many times when I get a new client it is because “they’ve tried everything else.” My clients need to be prepared to work hard. They need to have a reason why they are working through the issue at hand or we won’t be able to resolve the problem. Remembering why you love your dog is a critical part of the program.
In honor of all my clients and my own dogs I would like to take this opportunity to let everyone know how thankful I am for my own dogs. I want to share why I love each of my dogs with you.
Resilient and amazing – any dog that had both eyes removed by the time he was 4 months old and is able to bring love, laughter and joy wherever he goes – that is beyond amazing in my book!
Persistent – Can find anything with the super-power/bionic nose of his!
Trust and friendship – I’ve learned what it means to take a leap of faith from Charlie who will jump on or off a surface if I tell him it is all clear … he trusts me to tell him that take the jump without being hurt.
Loves to learn, play, and swim. These abilities make Jade a very fun dog to be around! Jade started hanging out on Duke University’s campus as a tiny pup – sometimes I wonder if she’s earned an advanced degree…
Makes sure everyone, human and canine alike, is safe and secure – no matter what we are doing Jade needs to be sure that everyone is safe.
Resilience, trust, and friendship – Jade has several autoimmune disorders but never lets them get her down for long. She is an amazing dog and friend that has taught me so much!
Courage and beauty combined – a brave little girl who reminds me every day that beauty is comes from the inside. We tend to focus on the outside, but when someone is truly beautiful that starts deep inside and pours out through depths of of every cell.
Her spirit – she sparkles … the only dog I know who is so proud that she can do a “down” that she adds a “twirl” to it! I’m not sure if this is because she loves to twirl or if it is because I laugh every time she does it. Either way it shows her desire to sparkle…
Trust and friendship and the fact that she is a love bucket!
A Photo to Make You Smile…
Now it’s your turn – what are some of the things that you love most about your dogs? I’d love to hear from you, if you are inspired to share what you love most with me here. ! If not, be sure to take a minute and write your list down for yourself. Remember to celebrate your dog. Go on a long walk. Play with your dog. Do something special for him or her. That is my wish for you, and all dogs, I hope that you are enjoying and loving your dog today.
It is our responsibility to make meals fun for our furry friends. Do you want to eat the same thing every day? When we were kids the cafeteria lunches were like that and we quickly figured how to rebel. By the time high school rolled around … let’s just say that there were times when the cafeteria ladies were not happy, the lunch line was shut down, and detention was served. While it was never my fault (believe what you will!) I remember each detention and I’m sure the cafeteria ladies do too! We don’t want want to put our dogs in detention…
Snuffle mats are cool for several reasons. When Ella searches through the fleece she engages the SEEKING system in her brain. There are many games and methods for feeding – but they don’t all engage the SEEKING system. I learned about the snuffle mats from a friend over at the North Carolina State University Veterinary School. Let me tell you – my dogs LOVE these silly things!
You may be wondering:
What is the SEEKING System and why do I need to engage it?
A Snuffle Mat? Really? What is it and where can I find one?
The SEEKING System helps us
keeps us interested in exploring the world
find things we want most.
Without the SEEKING System how would we ever find what we need to in order to sustain life?
There is a balance between what feels good and over indulgence. When we engage the SEEKING System for problem solving and searching for food it is a good thing for our dogs.
By using controlled activities we can encourage the right amount of SEEKING behavior without having our dogs to tip over into obsessive compulsive behaviors.
In case your were wondering – can multiple dogs find food on the same mat? Absolutely! Charlie and Ella finding food in their Snuffle Mat.
Look at how fluffy the snuffle mat is! Are you trying to figure out what it is made of and why is it a round fluff ball? The original design calls for a drain mat with pieces of fleece tied through the holes of the drain mat. I had trouble finding a drain mat and when I did I couldn’t cut it … so I improvised. I found a pizza pan with big holes. Yup – metal 13″ pizza pan. Trust me it worked better than the dish drainer which just curled into something that looked like a log when I tied all the pieces of fleece on it… Charlie thought it was his new toy and takes it outside to go potty with – not something I’m going to put food on 😉
What you need to make this particular snuffle mat – a bunch of fleece cut up into 10″ x 2″ strips.
Next step – pull the strips through the holes. I alternated colors but you don’t have to do that.I think it looks better and honestly, it is easier to know which pieces to knot together if they are different colors.
NOTE: I’ve been trying to come up with easy ways to clean and also make sure that the mat dries after my slobbery dogs sniff their way through it. For us it seems to work out best if we have every other row with fleece strips instead of every row.
Final step – tie the pieces. It’s a simple half knot. The knot is the same thing you use when you are getting ready to tie your laces on your shoes before you tie the bow. You are done!
These are so easy to make and the dogs have great fun finding their meals inside the mats. The dogs already knew how to search for food so maybe that was part of it, but I think most dogs would have fun with this game!
I haven’t had any trouble with my dogs eating the fleece. They know that these are for food, not fleece!
The other cool thing about Snuffle Mats – at least in our house – there is no resource guarding. Perhaps it is because not only do we have three snuffle mats but there is food hidden in all kinds of fun places from low to high. In bookcases under rugs, inside of blankets, boxes, oh my! My dogs know that there is plenty of food to go around for everyone. Jade is pretty sneaky toward the end though… she knows that a certain beagle has a bionic nose – you know – it is his super power because he has been blind his entire life! He might be slow at times but he always knows the obscure places I’ve hidden even just a single kibble. Or maybe a kibble got misplaced and I have to relocate the washing machine or refrigerator because all three dogs refuse to move until that kibble is rescued from it’s hiding place!
The snuffle mat is made with a 13″ Pizza Pan that has big holes – not the teeny tiny holes. Be careful – don’t get the little holes. You can also get a drain mat (the thick rubber mats) and cut them to whatever size you want for the mat. I put three mats down at breakfast and dinner and the dogs are ever so happy. I could even hide the mats – but I don’t. I bury the kibble deep down inside the fleece I think that is enough work for them!
It was an honor to give a TEDx Talk in Lizard Creek North Carolina. I was thrilled to be part of the day because the theme was “Shaping the Unseen.” If you aren’t familiar with my dog Charlie, let me introduce you – Charlie is my blind beagle and was my Pet Partner for over 8 years. Much of the work I do with animals is about shaping and since Charlie is blind all the work we do is “unseen.” I hope you take a few minutes and enjoy the TEDx talk – the video is embedded below.
Learning to See With The Heart: Brian Tarallo of Lizard Brain Solutions created illustrations for each talk. It was inspiring to watch Brian work as he captured the essence of each talk. I was happy that Brain was able to capture the heart of my talk in such a beautiful and wonderful way. Plus, I think Charlie would love knowing that he is illustrated as a super-cool hero dog that wears ray-bans!
It was a great honor to be one of the speakers at the Lizard Creek TEDx event. A special thanks goes to Randi and Kathy Dikeman who coordinated the event! There are some great pictures and all the bios of the speakers are listed on the Facebook page for the event.
Celebrate who you are
Trust and believe in yourself
Leave doubt behind
Engage others in your dreams
When you do these things, you will discover anything is possible.
Again, thank you to all who made the TEDx Lizard Creek event possible!
Where I live, one pool remains open the day after the city pools close for the summer so we take our dogs swimming for the day. It’s the annual “Pooch Plunge” and a ton of fun!
If you have never been to a city pool filled with dogs you need to try it some time – it was an adventure! I loved the fact that everyone was engaged with their animals. Cell phones were only used to take photos! People wanted to share how much fun they were having and how awesome their dogs were!
The pool gave away tennis ballsand there were plenty to go around. Some dogs made no secret of their desire to have at least two or three balls in their mouth at one time!
As one dog was getting ready to jump in another dog was holding on for dear life! The dog in the middle of the pool was uncertain in the water and it took her most of the day to learn that she could swim. I’m not sure who felt a greater sense of accomplishment – the dog or her handlers! Once the dog figured out how to swim on her own she was a swimming machine!
It sure looks like this dog is trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge! In the meantime she decided a drink was a good idea. Oh so cute.
Did you know that you can teach a dog to get out of the pool using the ladder? Pretty impressive! This dog was in the deep end and showed no hesitation as she climbed up and out of the pool. Her routine was to take a lap, get out, shake off and then jump in again! If this dog isn’t already enrolled in an agility class I hope they get her enrolled soon.
What do you think? Are these dogs using telepathy to move the ball closer so they don’t have to jump in? I wonder if we put a thought bubble over their heads if it would read something like ” get over here you @#%! ball” or maybe “I’m gonna have to dunk you” or maybe it’s more like “go ahead, stay you where you are, make my day. You know I want to pounce on you and dunk you!” We’ll never know for sure. I enjoyed watching these dogs as they decided how to get the ball that’s for sure!
Meanwhile at the other end of the pool bunches of dogs and people hang out together.
You can’t tell how big the dog is from the photo – it is a Newfie – one of the larger dogs at the pool.
And the littlest dog – a Yorkie… it took him about 10 paddles to cover 1 glide of the Newfie’s! Seriously this little dog could swim a thousand miles a minute. He zipped in and out, around and through all the big dogs. He had a heart of gold and wanted to keep up with all the big dogs.
Dance like no one is watching… I love this picture. It’s hard to see all of the dogs in this photo, but there are at least 4. The spray station was a lot of fun and the dogs loved playing chase games through the “rain” drops! The little girl danced with such joy.
I couldn’t resist putting in a photo of Jade working in the water. Whether our dogs are swimming for fun or working in the water it is important that we remember whatever we do with our dogs, everyone should enjoy it. Jade would have enjoyed the Pooch Plunge, but I would not have been able to keep an eye on her and help others at the same time – that breaks my rule of take care of your animal first. Don’t worry, Jade gets to go swimming even if she didn’t go to the Pooch Plunge.
What I loved most about the Pooch Plunge was everyone was so happy. The joy people had when their dogs were swimming was evident to everyone present. When their dog learned how to swim they glowed with joy.
My goal in the coming weeks is to find a new trick to teach each of my dogs. I want to find something that brings joy to both my dogs and those around them. What about you? Will you me and find a new skill that makes you and your dogs happy?
This post is dedicated to my sister’s dog, J.J. the Zen dog. (6 Dec 1999-12 April 2015).
My sister said it best: “just as our lives were immeasurably enriched by JJ’s presence, we are heartbroken by his loss. We loved him deeply and with all our hearts. He was such a gentleman of a dog, so smart and kind. We will miss you JJ, thank you for being a part of our lives.”
My friend shared these comforting words with me when one of my own dogs passed away: “the sorrow you feel is only matched by the love you shared.” Perhaps others can find them comfort in them too.
It is hard to find the words to ease the pain we feel when a dog dies. Part of what dogs are about is joyful living, which is why we should continue to celebrate their life and remember all the joy they brought us. Maybe this post will bring a few memories back to life and honor JJ’s spirit.
Since my sister is a philosopher maybe she wanted to see if Plato was right when he stated that “A dog has the soul of a philosopher.”JJ taught her there are many reasons to love a dog…
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift.” ― Mary Oliver
He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. ― Author Unknown
“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” ― Robert Benchley
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” ― Roger A. Caras
“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”— Robert Wagner
“A good dog deserves a good home.”― Proverb
The next series of photos are JJ’s “canine family” photos. I’m including all three photos because I love the fact that these dogs gather so closely together to pose for the camera. The third photo I took when I was up for a visit . It is of JJ, Murphy and Maya. We had a great time walking through the woods on a fall afternoon.
“Humankind is drawn to dogs because they are so like ourselves—bumbling, affectionate, confused, easily disappointed, eager to be amused, grateful for kindness and the least attention.” ― Patricia B. McConnell
“I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better.” ― George Bird Evans
All animals except man know that the ultimate of life is to enjoy it. ― Samuel Butler
“Dogs are minor angels, … They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera.” ― Jonathan Carroll
“Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.” ― Ashly Lorenzana
“All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers, is contained in the dog.” ― Franz Kafka
“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. ” ― Samuel Coleridge
“Golden retrievers … in spite of being dogs, they think they are also human, and nearly every human they meet is judged to have the potential to be a boon companion who might, at many moment, cry, “Let’s go!” and lead them on a great adventure.” ― Dean Koontz
“Dogs are … wonderful. Truly. To know them and be with them is an experience that transcends – a way to understand the joyfulness of living and devotion.” ― Gary Paulsen
“The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift, demanding no less moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being. The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth ever can be.” ― Konrad Lorenz
“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love” ― Goethe
“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” ― Johnny Depp
Over the past year there were times when it was just the girls – Murphy and my sister….
“The average dog has one request to all humankind. Love me.” ― Helen Exley
“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ” ― Roger A. Caras
“We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.” ― George Eliot
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ― Agnes Sligh Turnbull
“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.” ― Corey Ford
“He took my heart and ran with it, and I hope he’s running still, fast and strong, a piece of my heart bound up with his forever” ― Patricia McConnell
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” ―Rumi
“We humans may be brilliant and we may be special, but we are still connected to the rest of life. No one reminds us of this better than our dogs. Perhaps the human condition will always include attempts to remind ourselves that we are separate from the rest of the natural world. We are different from other animals; it’s undeniably true. But while acknowledging that, we must acknowledge another truth, the truth that we are also the same. That is what dogs and their emotions give us– a connection. A connection to life on earth, to all that binds and cradles us, lest we begin to feel too alone. Dogs are our bridge– our connection wo who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be. When we call them home to us, it’as as if we are calling for home itself. And that’ll do, dogs. That’ll do.” ― Patricia B. McConnell
Below are links to a few other pages that continue to tell the love story of our dogs. These pages show how we love dogs beyond measure and then share our heartbreak when our dogs die. They remind us to cherish every moment – even those times when we are up all night with a sick or worried dog. These pages remind us that we wouldn’t trade a moment for anything and if we could we would love to spend just one more day with our furry friends… because dogs really are the best kind of friends to have.
JJ – thank you for being a part of my sister’s family and a part of my life too. We miss you and will love you forever.
EB White“She Doesn’t Answer the Phone” – this is the letter that he wrote about his dog Minnie http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/02/she-doesnt-answer-phone.html
This post is dedicated to Charlie, my blind beagle, who was my pet partner for about 8 years.
When we arrive at a facility sometimes we don’t know who will benefit most from our visit. It may be a patient, a friend, or it might be a staff member.
This post focuses on our hospital visits. Most of the patients we see are on the hematology/oncology unit. Some patients may have just learned that they have cancer while others may be end-stage cancer patients. When we enter a room there might be just the patient or there could be a room full of people. The patient might have received good or bad news that day. Maybe the patient had some treatments that were particularly hard. Or, maybe she is thinking about her husband and young children and how she may not get to see her kids grow up. When we enter the room it takes Charlie seconds to know if the patient needs him to snuggle, play, be serious, or be silly. My job is to watch and follow Charlie’s body language.
Over the years my pet partners have trained the staff to bring them their favorite treats! Charlie started the tradition when the nurses would open IV bags and he begged. The nurses didn’t understand why he was begging when all they were doing was replacing an IV bag so I explained he probably thought they were unwrapping a cheese stick! Honestly, Charlie’s super power is his nose. He had to know that there was no food involved so he was playing the nurses big time. It didn’t matter to the nurses – they caved and brought him treats! When he did tricks and shared his joy with the nurses during our shift at the end of the day he brought much needed levity to the nurses before they went home to their families.
It is easy for me to forget just how magical Charlie is when he works as a therapy dog. I’m not immune to his wonders and I don’t have a shield up to his magical, mystical powers… it’s just that, he’s my Char-Char who snuggles with me on the sofa at night.
In my mind he is like any other dog which is why he is also my Char-Char the dog chases bunnies in the early morning or doesn’t come inside until he is covered in mud!
There is no doubt that Charlie is a special dog. He gives people hope when they have given up. Charlie inspires people to persevere on their path for healing. Charlie touches a person’s heart in places where others have had a hard time reaching. Everything he does is with love, laughter and joy. He does these things even though his world is a dark place which is why he amazes everyone he meets.
I salute my Char-Char whether he is cheering on a nurse, a patient, a family member or he is creating mischief at home. I know that Charlie has a very special gift. I am thankful every day that he is a part of my life.
The following is a story that shows how deeply therapy dogs touch a person’s life.
Jade and I were at the veterinarian because she needed some routine testing. One of our favorite nurses from the hospital came out of the ICU. It took a second for her to realize Jade was right there in the waiting room. As soon as she realized she was looking at Jade a slow smile formed on her face. Her smile started in heart and went to her eyes. She came over and gave Jade a huge hug. By touching and hugging Jade her mood brightened and her sadness seemed to float away. When she learned that Charlie was in the car she was happy! Her mood changed from sad to happy in a matter of a couple of minutes by seeing Jade and knowing that Charlie was nearby. At long last she could introduce these very special dogs to her husband for the first time. Both dogs made her feel better on a day when her cat was recovering from a very complex surgical procedure.
You see, our dogs aren’t just therapy dogs during visits inside of the hospital, school, prison, or wherever it is that we visit. Once our dogs become a therapy dog, they are always a therapy dog no matter where they are or what they are doing. It doesn’t matter if they are wearing a vest that says “Therapy Dog On Duty” or not… to the person who knows our dog as a therapy dog, our dog is always on duty!
Our dogs gladly do their job of relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, making people smile, and basically just sharing the burden of the day. The list of what these amazing dogs do for people is endless. When I first became a Pet Partner with Charlie I knew that people were inspired by him and remembered him, but I didn’t realize just how much he meant to them and their recovery until we had been visiting for about 3 years. The patient was in a hospital rehab unit for spinal cord injuries.We typically see the patients once since they only are there a few weeks at the most.
As we entered the patient’s room I didn’t know that Charlie had a fan. We were greeted with a TON of happiness because the patient and their family remembered Charlie. During our visit they shared with me all the joy he brought them before and wanted to know all the things that he had done since they last saw him!
The level of detail that they went into of our visit humbled me. We spent 15 minutes with them years before but the patient and their family remembered everything about our visit. Charlie was a turning point in their care. They could relate to Charlie and the struggles he had overcome in life. After meeting Charlie the patient decided that “if Charlie can do it, I can do it!” Charlie provided hope and the ability for the patient to persevere in their healing. Oh how happy that made me to hear!!
Over the years I’ve met quite a few people where Charlie has had a similar impact on their life by spending just a few minutes with them. Every time I hear a “Charlie Story” I am amazed and humbled by the impact one little dog can have on another person. One woman swears she owes her life to Charlie because he knew there was something wrong with her foot (at the time she didn’t know it, but her foot had gout, turned septic and needed to be amputated shortly after she met Charlie). Another woman adopted a blind dog in Charlie’s honor. I know there are many other stories and ways that Charlie has touched people’s lives but I don’t usually hear from people after we visit. It is enough for me to know that we make a difference.
Note: this post is adapted from a previous post. The posts about Charlie and therapy work were some of the most highly visited posts so I thought I would try get a few of them back up on the blog. As an update, Charlie is retired these days. He is almost 11 years old and has worked most of his life. He does “visit”with people when we go for walks through Duke Gardens but he no longer goes on official visits.
Social Media has a ton of different types of quizzes – anything from who you were in a previous life to what type of dog breed you might be. All of these quizzes made me wonder about what famous character (as in movie/film/cartoon/tv, etc.) my dogs might be.
There will be a series of these posts that will feature one dog per post so you can get some insight into each dog and why I chose that character for my dog. Each dog will have at least two characters assigned to them because we have so many different facets to our personalities and the same is true for our dogs. It would be a disservice to assign only one character per dog.
Ella is without a doubt Mrs. Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. As a reminder, Mrs. Kravitz was extremely nosy, frequently peeking through curtains and sometimes her excessive nosiness got her in trouble. Does this description remind you of your dog? It describes Ella to a “T!” Ella loves to look out the windows, she knows everyone in the neighborhood, and where they are at all times. Ella sounds the alert when someone is on the move or if something suspicious.
My house has floor to ceiling windows which means Ella is in puppy dog heaven! Before she arrived we had a peaceful home. Rarely did you hear our dogs bark. After she arrived there was barking all the time. A leaf fell and she barked! That kind of arrousal isn’t good for anyone. How do you reduce the level of barking without destroying a dog’s spirit? Do all the windows have to be blacked out all the time? Window film is a magical and wonderful thing! Ella can still see out but not as much as she did before. I swear she pouted when I put it up, but now she is fine with it – she looks through the leaves! But she barks only once in a while and most importantly, the barking only lasts 30 seconds or less instead of 5 minutes or longer.
The other cool thing about the window film is that it is a) removable and b) prevents damage to my blinds. You might wonder how the film could prevent damage to my blinds, but the day before I installed the film I left the blinds down when I went to work. Heavy sigh. Ella was Mrs. Kravitz and had to see outside. It didn’t matter to her that there were blinds in the way of her view. Let’s just say that the blinds have seen better days and I learned a valuable lesson.
Ella has another side to her personality – it is not in juxtaposition to Mrs. Kravitz but works with it. Unlike Mrs. Kravitz, Ella is loved by everyone because Ella has a pure heart, is very beautiful, and has a need to protect everyone.
Ella’s other character is Gracie Hart from Miss Congeniality. According to the Urban Dictionary Miss Congeniality is: 1) a friendly, social person. The center of attention, gets along with everyone. Usually an attractive person as well. 2)the person named most fun in a beauty pageant.