Tag Archives: dog

  • A Decade of Devotion

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    We lost Bandit to multiple myeloma in March, and our little pack continues to find its way. When Bandit’s body was failing and I realized he was in pain, it became apparent that he was ready to go. But I could tell he was concerned about how we would manage without him. So we spent time with him doing things he wanted to do for one last time, and cherished our last hours together. I reassured him that we didn’t want him to be in pain any longer, and that somehow we would get along without him. Bandit wanted us to be happy and celebrate life.

    Australian Cattle Dogs usually live longer than ten years, so whenever I begin to wish that we’d had more time, I remember that a miracle brought us together in the first place. One step this way or that and our life together would not have happened at all. I’m grateful we had that ‘chance’ meeting.

    Over the past ten years, I think Bandit has influenced my life more than any other being. We lived together day in and day out. He leapt out of bed every morning ready to face the day. He was a 'glass half full' kind of guy who always brought me the ball, and whacked me on the leg with the rubber chicken when I sat at the computer for too long. I called him my 'recreation director'.

    Bandit was so smart, so intrepid, and so good at everything that I had to learn a lot just to keep up with him. As a team, we had many accomplishments in versatility, herding, agility, obedience, rally and tracking (to name a few). But most of all, he was a loyal and wonderful companion whose energy filled our house with love. He took care of me in many ways that I’m still just beginning to realize. Our love was pure.

    Those of us whose dogs are part of our families know that they influence us in many ways. When I look back over my time with Bandit, I see how he changed me. Better than Eckhart Tolle or anyone else, Bandit taught me that all we really have is this present moment, and we’d best enjoy it and not postpone being happy. He taught me that I don’t have to be completely serious; I can laugh and enjoy the journey and still get my work done. Bandit turned me into a positive person, a glass-half-full person. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy. I had to step up just to stay ahead of him, and that helped me in other areas of my life too.

    Bandit accepted me completely and loved me completely for who I am, thus he helped me accept and love myself. He helped me understand that I have what I need inside of me. Bandit never fit into anyone’s box any better than I do. He taught me that it’s best to be myself even when I don’t fit in, that sometimes I’m meant to be different for a good reason. Uniqueness is a gift, and others can learn from me.

    Who would have thought that a little red ball of fuzz could do so much to change my life for the better?

    My spiritual journey with Bandit began with the miracle that brought him to me as a bolt out of the blue in 2004 (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448), and continued all the way to the bald eagles who visited me several times in several places before and after his passing in 2014. I learned to believe in miracles and to understand amazing spiritual connections between animals and people, connections that are made among animals too.

    Bandit was always the pack leader and hall monitor among the animals in our family, a solid protector and friend. As Bandit’s health declined, Chase wanted to take over and I had to manage the pack very carefully. Once Bandit was gone, our house seemed way too quiet. Nobody brought me the ball every time I stepped outside. Nobody hit me on the leg with the rubber chicken while I was working at the computer. I felt like I couldn’t be whole without him, until a friend pointed out that I’m so much more because of him.

    People told me that Bandit will send me another dog, just as my dying dog Rusty sent Bandit to me. Maybe he will. But for now we’re finding our balance without a third dog. Three dogs was always a lot for me, and I have thousands of dollars of vet bills to pay, for Chase’s and Bandit’s cancer treatments. I’m looking forward to working more with Chase and especially with Cay, who was always the third dog with two very busy older ‘brothers’.

    Bandit’s absence from our household has shifted the pack balance. Chase and Cayenne and Gingersnap the cat are working it out. I’m enjoying seeing different parts of their personalities emerge. Chase is the pack leader now, yet Ginger has taken over some of Bandit’s ‘watchdog’ duties. Cay, who always followed Bandit, is learning to manage without him. You may recall that Chase goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on a stool when he wants a gentle hug from me (or when he thinks I need a hug). Cay has been watching, and with the hall monitor gone, she now comes into the bathroom seeking a hug too. The other day, I also found Gingersnap the cat with her front feet up on the stool, waiting for me to give her some lovin’. The pack is mellower, enabling Ginger to integrate more easily than before.

    Although Chase and Cay would love to go tracking, I haven’t been able to do that yet. Bandit and I spent so much time last year training for a tracking test that I can’t bear to go without him. I’m thinking about taking Chase and Cay out to herd ducks though, something Bandit was too powerful for even at age ten. And I’m wondering if Cay is ready to start practicing for the therapy dog test, so she might volunteer at the library as Chase does.

    Over Mother’s Day weekend, Chase and Cay had fun playing ball with a 5 year old girl and a 2½ year old boy. I was supervising closely as the girl threw the ball for Chase and he retrieved it again and again. I was astounded to see the boy throw the ball for Cay and watch her retrieve it and set it on the ground in front of him, over and over. Cay doesn’t usually retrieve for me; she fetches the ball and runs all around the yard with it. So I was amazed to see her watching the girl play ball with Chase, and then copying the pattern with the little boy. Both dogs were very gentle with the kids, dropping the balls for them. They didn’t jump on or bump the kids at all. I was surprised because Cay never seems to know where her back end is. She bumps me all the time. It was fun to see how well both dogs did with the kids, and I was encouraged about Cay’s potential to work with kids as a therapy dog.

    Our dog sitter, who has known Bandit since he was a pup, gave us a beautiful garden stone in his memory. Now that the spring weather has finally arrived, I’m building him a memorial garden. Hauling dirt and making a garden can be a lot of work. But not too much work for the guru in the red dog suit who jumped out of bed every morning full of joy, ready to greet the day, eager to work and play.

    We miss Bandit terribly, yet still feel his presence on our walks, and in the amazing lessons he taught us that help us find our way. Rest in Peace sweet boy. We look for you in the sky with the eagles, and we celebrate life in this present moment, just as you taught us.
    What have you learned from your animals? What more can you learn by paying closer attention?
    Give your dogs the best nutrition by adding Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to their daily diet.

  • My Inner Fire

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    My Inner Fire I recently attended a yoga retreat. We were asked to visualize our inner fire, like as a flame or the sun. In my mind’s eye I saw this blazing orange cattle dog, this intrepid, very yang dog: Bandit. Yang means fast, solid, focused, hot, and is associated with fire, the sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. Over the past ten years Bandit has taught me so much about life, and now he is showing me how to live (really live!) with cancer. He is my inner fire.

    Bandit, an Australian Cattle Dog, first appeared in my life just moments after my very old red and white cattle dog mix Rusty had passed away at the vet clinic. A very engaging puppy, Bandit had Rusty’s red ears and mask. I was sure that Rusty had somehow sent this solid little charmer, the only red cattle dog puppy for miles around, as a gift to help me cope with my grief.

    Two weeks later Bandit joined our family. Soon I learned that if I was going to be the pack leader, I’d better stay ahead of him. He is so smart, and good at everything, that he kept me busy as we learned many things together. When he was an adolescent, I quickly learned that I had better lead or get out of the way, thus he made me a better leader. We played ball and went for long walks every day, and completed several levels of obedience school. He passed the Canine Good Citizen test. We learned to herd livestock, including sheep, goats, and eventually cattle. We competed in agility and learned tricks in an acting class, which led to a commercial gig. Together we earned titles in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, and versatility, and just last year trained toward a tracking title. Over the years, we earned several second place ribbons, but the only blue ribbon we ever brought home was for herding cattle. Bandit moved the cattle around the course without much help from me, except for penning them at the end. He was one proud dog that day, beaming with pride, doing what he was bred and born to do, and doing it well enough to place ahead of our instructor and her dog.

    Several times we had the opportunity to work with an entire herd of cows at a local farm. Watching this 55 pound dog move the herd across a field absolutely changed my view of life and what is possible. That can-do attitude and bullet-proof confidence goes a long way, especially when matched by ability. Once Bandit committed to moving the cattle, even a moment of hesitation could have been dangerous. He had the courage and confidence to run out in front of a cow about 30 times his weight who was breaking away from the herd. She rolled him with her nose, and he bounded right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. I’d been holding my breath, and as I inhaled again, relieved to see him get back up, I admired his chutzpah.

    Last spring and summer, Bandit and I spent many hours training for a tracking test. In August, when Chase was in cancer treatment, Bandit completed the Pet Partners therapy dog test with the highest marks. I thought he’d be able to substitute for Chase at our monthly library visits if Chase wasn’t feeling well. Then one September morning, the month before we had planned to take the tracking test, Bandit wasn’t able to start a track. Something was terribly wrong. We went straight to the vet and eventually he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a systemic cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Now Bandit is living with cancer and is expected to be on daily chemo meds for the rest of his life. The average prognosis after diagnosis is 18 months. Bandit has never been average.


    As we’ve gotten older, life isn’t so much about participating in activities, but just being together, out for a game of ball or a run in the fields and woods, or just hanging out together, sharing our undivided attention. Bandit continues to teach me, as he has all along. Although his body has changed as he’s lost muscle mass from the medications that manage his disease, he greets each day with enthusiasm and joy. He engages me in a game of jolly ball every chance he gets. He doesn’t like it when I get sad or upset. If I cry, he consoles me by licking my face, but if I continue to be sad, he eventually gets up and walks away. He doesn’t want to feel the sadness; he wants me to be happy.

    The roller coaster ride and financial stress of Chase’s cancer treatment followed by Bandit’s cancer diagnosis has had me focused on keeping both dogs well, and worried about my finances. We’ve been to several vet clinics many, many times over the past seven months. Along with just keeping up with daily life, I got caught up in keeping the dogs healthy, helping them deal with cancer, and doing my best for them. But then that started to get in the way. At times we had to focus on treatment, but eventually we had to get back to living. I noticed that the dogs were running and playing and enjoying every day, and I needed to get back to enjoying life along with them.

    So, again I’m trying to find a balance, to focus on being well and living in the moment, enjoying what we can do today, and not focusing so much on the illness or worrying about the future. After all, not a one of us will get out of this alive. For now, both dogs are doing well. The irony is that as well as Bandit is doing, I may not be able to afford to keep him going for as long as he wants to. The costs of the monthly medications and tests are not sustainable long-term. I want to live without regrets, and one regret would be to have to let him go before he’s ready. So as long as Bandit looks and feels well, we’re not going to the vet as often, but we’re continuing the medications, trying to focus on life.

    The dogs make me think of a conversation between Pooh and Piglet:

    “What day is it?” asked Pooh

    . “It’s today.” squeaked Piglet.

    “My favorite day.” said Pooh.

    Ironically, as we have learned to live with cancer and enjoy the time we have left, Bandit’s only littermate, his brother Baron, enjoyed his last game of ball before he passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on January 16th. Our hearts go out to Baron’s mama Bitsey as she mourns his loss. Sometimes we get a long time to say goodbye and sometimes we don’t, which encourages us even more to seize this day.

    Remembering Baron:


    How do I want to spend the rest of my dog’s life with him? Playing and living in the moment, right here, right now. Because this present moment is all we really have. So today is our favorite day. Every day. Soon it will be Valentine’s Day, one day of the year when we’re all focused on love. At our house, we focus on love every day. You can too.

    Recently, when the outside temperature was well below zero, I improvised, resurrecting some of our old training and tricks and nose work to keep the dogs busy in the house. Bandit was so excited to be doing his old tricks and retrieves and nose work again. He had not forgotten a thing. That’s my boy, my inner fire! Who knows, we may even get out tracking again this spring.

    Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Our dogs teach us this too. Happy Today! Happy Valentine’s Day! Share the love.

    Good nutrition, including Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets, has helped keep my dogs healthy while living with cancer. Follow our journey at https://www.facebook.com/jenny.pavlovic

    Next time, read about Chase and the 1st anniversary celebration of the Dog Gone Reading program at our local library.

  • Living With It and Rocking It Out

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First, an update on how Bandit and Chase are doing.

    Chase completed 21 radiation therapy treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. He had a stellar follow-up appointment two weeks later. On September 24th he returned to his volunteer mission at the local library, where kids read to him. On October 15th, he had a CT scan to show the status of the cancer cells. There was no evidence of cancer at the original site, for which I am very grateful! We will need to carefully watch some tiny spots in Chase’s lungs and a spot on his liver, to make sure the cancer has not metastasized. The oncology vets recommended another CT scan by the end of the year.

    Ironically, Bandit completed his therapy dog certification in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if Chase didn’t feel up to it. But Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September, just after Chase completed his follow-up appointment. Bandit and I had been training all summer for a fall tracking test. One day he just couldn’t work, for the first time in his life, and I knew something was terribly wrong. After Bandit was diagnosed and began daily chemo meds in September, he lost a lot of weight even though he was eating twice as much as before. We have been adjusting the meds in an effort to treat the disease while allowing him to maintain his weight. This requires regular blood and urine checks and the involvement of a veterinary nutritionist. Bandit is still losing about a pound per week, and I’m still trying to find the best way to help him maintain his weight. He will be 10 years old on November 13th. His father lived to be 16 and his mother is still going strong at 14, so 10 is not that old for an Australian Cattle Dog.

    Bandit and Chase, who are brothers by fate and heart, but not blood, carry on. If you saw them you wouldn’t know they were sick, except that Chase has two bald patches on his butt, and Bandit is too thin. They jump out of bed every morning and enthusiastically greet the day. They shower me with a tremendous round of barking when I come home at the end of the day. They run, play, wrestle, go all out, and make great acrobatic leaps to catch flying squirrel frisbees. They’ve shown me how to live with a disease, truly LIVE with it, even while they may be dying from it. Attitude is everything. They are definitely making the best of every day.


    I decided not to continue training with Bandit due to his rapid weight loss of mostly muscle mass. Now that the meds have him feeling better, he would probably still track, but I don’t want him to lose any more weight. I’m sad that we weren’t able to take the tracking test that we trained so hard for, but I’m very glad we spent that time together. And who knows, maybe he’ll feel up to it in the spring.

    I usually say that two of my dogs were diagnosed with cancer instead of “My dogs have cancer” because it could never define either dog entirely and, at least in Chase’s case, I don’t know whether he still has it. Each of my dogs is so much more than a being with cancer. In fact, if I weren’t struggling with taking them to all the vet appointments along with working a full-time job, helping Bandit maintain his weight, and losing sleep sometimes over how to pay such astounding vet bills for not one dog, but two, we would most often carry on as usual.

    We’re all going to die from something, and none of us knows how much time we have left. The dogs don’t know that the data says they’re ‘supposed to’ have a limited amount of time. They just know when they feel well and want to get out and play ball and enjoy the day. I don’t want to impose limits on them, and I’m happy to welcome any miracles that come our way. Dogs will be dogs, and my dogs are choosing to fully live with it, even possibly while dying from it.

    I suspect that dogs are not afraid of death the way many people are. To them, and all of us, it’s an inevitable part of life and they will probably see it coming before we catch on. I remember one day in August when Chase was not feeling well after an RT treatment. Bandit went over and just sat next to him and hung out, not the usual behavior for Bandit, but I could tell he was supporting his brother.

    I’ve never called my dogs “fur babies”, which oversimplifies the relationship if you ask me. While I provide for them and they may be like my children in some ways, they are truly my teachers and mentors. They have taught me so much that I’m aware of, and no doubt I have missed many of their messages. Thus I don’t think of them as babies in fur. I think of them as friends, companions, and teachers.

    A friend told me about a person who died four days after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The guy was devastated and thought he was going to die early anyway, and in his mind gave up. I guess that’s a difference between dogs and people. The dogs know that they’ve been ill, but they live in the moment and don’t overthink or worry about the future.

    I am worn out from all the appointments at different vet clinics, from trying to raise money to pay vet bills that cost about as much as a new car, and from resisting having to choose one dog’s care over the other’s. I’m starting to resent anything that takes time away from simply enjoying time with them. One of the benefits of being spread pretty thin over the past few months is that I’ve let go of things that don’t matter. I’m spending more time with the dogs doing the simple things that are good for us: staying home and spending time together, hanging out, running and playing outside, eating healthy whole foods (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine), and really enjoying each other. I wish I had even more time to relax at home and be in tune with them.


    On Chase's October library day, it was so inspiring to see the kids read to him. The regular readers improved tremendously over the summer. I love to see kids get excited about books. When many adults don't read books any more, it's good to see a younger generation being inspired by them. One little girl who is new to the program got very excited when she learned that after reading to Chase eight times, she will get to choose her very own book to take home. I heard her tell her mom that she’ll get to take the book home and won't even have to bring it back to the library! She was so excited.

    I'm very grateful to the librarian for getting this program going and continuing to promote it. It’s fun to see the kids’ confidence in their reading improve. Chase showed his appreciation for their reading by lying on his back with all four feet in the air! (Actually, Chase the herding dog listens best that way, with his eyes closed and no visual distractions.) He finds the most appropriate way to reach each child. If they're comfortable with him leaning in, he will. If they’re not, he’ll just put his paw on their leg, or touch the bottom of his foot to the bottom of their foot.

    While developing their reading skills, the kids are learning about dogs. One little girl said that Chase is the only dog she isn't afraid of. He must sense this because he bows in front of her instead of standing over her. She wants to get a dog, and she remarked that 'having a dog is a big responsibility', something she must have been told at home. She has been inspired by Chase to read and learn about different dog breeds, and I have no doubt that one day she will be well prepared to care for her very own dog.

    One middle-aged man stopped to pet Chase. He has stopped by on Chase's library day before. I don't know if this is coincidence or whether he comes specifically to see Chase, but Chase seeks him out now to say hi. He asked why Chase had bald patches and I told him about the cancer treatment. He then asked how recently it was and seemed genuinely concerned about Chase. And Chase seemed to genuinely care about him too.  I feel like I'm a student following along on this little dog's mission, learning from him along the way. I hope he has many good years left to continue this mission of sharing love.

    No matter how much time we have left, we’re going to truly live it and rock it out. That doesn’t mean pretending nothing is wrong. That means being in tune with how each dog feels, being sensitive to each one’s needs, and making the best of each day we have left together. It’s not like I’ve decided to rock it out. It’s just their approach to life, every day… something I’ve learned from my dogs, my teachers. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To help pay the veterinary bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages, and do not plan to produce any more. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank you!

  • Another Train Comin'

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First here’s an update on Chase. He completed his 21 radiation therapy (RT) treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. Two weeks later, he breezed through his follow up appointment with flying colors. He lost patches of hair from his back legs, but has been feeling well and doing great. On the outside, except for the hair loss, which is normal with RT, he looks fantastic. His energy and spirit are high, and he has resumed his usual activities. The next step is to do a CT scan in October to determine whether there are still active cancer cells.

    On September 24th, Chase returned to the library where kids read to him as part of the Doggone Reading program. We were excited to be there, to see Ginny the librarian and other 'old' friends, and meet new kids and listen to them read. Chase loves going to the library! He got so excited, I had to remind him to use his indoor voice. When he recognized one little girl, he did a few play bows right in front of her, and the girl said, “Look Mom, Chase is bowing!” He did this all on his own; it wasn’t a trained trick. Chase is a pro at this volunteer 'work'.

    Just when I was beginning to feel hopeful that we have derailed Chase’s cancer train, we learned that there’s another train comin’. Just a few hours after Chase’s follow up appointment, the dog sitter texted me to tell me that Bandit didn’t seem well. Urinary problems, including foamy urine and excessive thirst and urination, that we had observed over the summer had become much worse. The onset seemed much more dramatic than a normal change accompanying aging, yet test results had been normal. Bandit seemed to be feeling well that evening, but the following morning when I took him out to go tracking, for the first time in his life he did not want to work! Something was terribly wrong.

    I took Bandit to the vet that Saturday morning. His blood work and urinalysis showed some values outside of the normal range for the first time. Yet the results didn’t seem to point to any known disease. Diabetes, Cushings Disease, and other conditions had been ruled out. Eventually, more test results and sleuthing by our vet indicated that Bandit most likely has multiple myeloma. We were referred to an oncology vet (cancer vet).

    Multiple myeloma is a different kind of cancer than the colonic adenocarcinoma diagnosed in Chase. Myeloma is systemic, found in the blood and bones, not localized in one part of the body. With Chase, we have been lucky so far, that the tumor in his colorectal area does not appear to have metastasized. So his tumor could be targeted with local radiation therapy. But for Bandit, systemic treatment is needed, and the recommended treatment is chemotherapy pills. So in mid-September, Bandit started his daily chemo pills, which he will probably need indefinitely. Most dogs do well on these pills, and the mean quoted survival time is 18 months, more than what I was first told about Chase. Still, I’m hoping for more for Bandit.

    Ironically Bandit passed the Pet Partners test in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if needed. But now Chase is feeling better and is back at the library. When the vet was checking Bandit at different times during the summer, I remember saying several times, “Just as long as it isn’t a tumor…I don’t think I could take more than one dog having cancer.” Well, here we are, trying to make the best of it. I took off my “Everyday Holds the Possibility of a Miracle” pendant that I wore every day while Chase was in RT treatment and put it on Bandit’s collar. So now these two canine brothers, related by fate and heart, but not birth, are both wearing these pendants and are sharing our hope for a miracle.

    One gorgeous September afternoon when I was enjoying some time with the dogs in the yard, a butterfly appeared. It flew around us several times and landed on a maple branch hanging over the fence. The butterfly seemed to want my attention, so I walked over and looked at it closely. It was beautiful, yellow and brown with double sets of wings, with silver blue spots on the underside. I didn’t remember ever seeing a butterfly like that before. Later I learned that it was a Great Spangled Fritillary.

    The wind was blowing the branches around and I wanted to get a better look at the butterfly. I held the branch still and even touched the butterfly gently. It seemed fine with my touch and didn’t try to leave. After a few minutes, it flew down and landed on the ground among us, and I got a better look from a different angle. The butterfly seemed to be trying to communicate something, but I wasn’t sure of its message. I just knew that the butterfly felt magical, and that it was important to enjoy that time with my dogs on such a beautiful afternoon, when we were all feeling well and having a good day.

    A few days later, still puzzling over the butterfly’s message, I looked up the butterfly totem. Here are some messages from the butterfly, compiled from several sources.

    The butterfly is a colorful, delightful symbol of transition and growth. Butterflies bring color and joy to life, and teach us that change is positive and should be embraced. Growth and transformation does not have to traumatic; it can occur gently, sweetly, and joyfully. Butterflies remind us that life is a dance, to not take things quite so seriously, and prompt us to notice the joy in our lives. They remind us to get up and move, because dance brings the sweetness of life. They are associated with aliveness and brightness.

    Butterflies are born after a period of struggle. Without the struggle the wings would not be strong enough to allow the butterfly to take wing. Butterflies prompt us to embrace change with optimism and joy for the experience, and to go through important changes and different life cycles with grace and lightness. They are symbolic of lightness of being and elevation from the heaviness of tensions. The butterfly is a powerful creature to call on when you need support in times of transition.

    The main lesson when the butterfly comes to us as a totem is that our life is about to go through a transformation of some kind. The butterfly asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the changes of her environment and her body. This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. The butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature - she asks us to recognize the same. At our journey's end we are inevitably changed - not at all the same as when we started on the path. We are to make our way in faith, accept the change that comes, and emerge from our transitions as brilliantly as the butterfly.

    Lately, a solitary doe has been hanging around in the woods behind our house. The dogs, especially Chase, look for her every time they go out in the yard. Most often, she is there. So I also looked up the deer totem to understand her message.
    The deer combines soft, gentle qualities with heart energy, strength and determination. She symbolizes gentleness, the abilities to move through life and obstacles with grace, to feel the inner child, to be sensitive and intuitive, and to be vigilant and change directions quickly. She also has a magical ability to regenerate.

    The deer helps us to know life’s mysteries, and to bring gentleness and grace into every aspect of life, even in the most challenging moments. The deer inspires us to live from the heart, and handle difficult situations smoothly with a touch of gentleness and grace.

    I have often been exhausted and frustrated from managing the logistics of caring for two dogs with cancer. So the messages of the butterfly and the deer are very pertinent. I can learn a great deal from both. One of the most difficult things about dealing with cancer is not knowing where you stand. The cancers that my dogs have been diagnosed with are inside, not easily seen. While the dogs seem to be doing great on the outside, we also need to know what’s going on inside. In October, both dogs are scheduled to have CT scans, to find out the status of the cancer. Until then, I will try to take the messages of the butterfly and the deer to heart.

    Like the butterfly and the deer, my dogs encourage me to not take the situation so seriously, to get out and play and enjoy each day, because the present moment is all that we really have. Bandit and Chase are both doing well. They leap out of bed each morning, eager to run around the yard, play ball, and enjoy this present moment. On a recent gorgeous fall afternoon here, with not a cloud in the sky, we enjoyed our daily walk on the hill. All three dogs felt great and played hard, and every time I inhaled, I felt like I was breathing in hope!

    It feels so much better to live in hope than in fear. Although our life now isn’t what I expected, my fellow creatures have taught me that we can still dance and play our way along on this journey. So I try to be less of a frustrated, worried human and dance along with them, cherishing this day.

    Great nutrition has been an essential part of Bandit’s and Chase’s cancer treatments. Both dogs look great, are energetic, and have healthy coats and skin. The traditional and holistic vets agree that Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine are great supplements for Bandit as well as for Chase. Use the code JPavlovic for 20% off your first online order at www.OmegaFields.com.

  • Derailing the Train

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Well, I certainly didn’t see this coming. My oh-so-special dog Chase has been diagnosed with cancer. As cancer does, it came like a blow to the gut when least expected, and suddenly figuring out what to do about this fast-growing disease was our top priority. Chase had blood in his stools for a few months, but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong. Then one day in June she felt a lump and we scheduled a surgery to have it removed. Probably just a benign polyp, we thought. But on surgery day she discovered that the lump was growing and had ruptured. The histopathology report came back “colonic adenocarcinoma”… cancer.

    Chase, my beautiful, healthy, happy-spirited dog, my library dog, seemed just fine on the outside, but something menacing was growing in his colon. The initial diagnosis came with a caution that this is an aggressive cancer and that—even with treatment-- Chase might only have months to live. I was shocked, and sad to think that Chase might not be with us much longer. But this cancer wasn’t going to wait, so we had to act fast. We were lucky I had noticed the blood in his stools.

    I decided right away that Chase has given me enough, more than anyone could hope for in a lifetime, and I don’t need to keep him around for me when it no longer makes sense for him. I want to give him every chance for survival, if it will provide him a good quality of life. But I don’t want to put him through extreme hardship thinking that I need more from him. I’m extremely lucky to have known him for the seven-plus years he has been part of my family.

    I had been concerned about Bandit’s lipomas, and that Bandit, almost 10 years old, is getting older. I hadn’t been concerned that Chase, at age 8, might not get older, that he might have something dark growing inside of him that is much more frightening and even possibly lethal. It’s funny how life works. You can try to be vigilant, but really you don’t have much to say about how life goes, other than your own actions and response.

    I was stunned by the cancer diagnosis. We live in a relatively safe place out in the country, with no pesticides on the lawn, no chemical cleaners on the floor, clean well water from a deep aquifer that is tested regularly, no direct chemical drift from farm fields, and good healthy food. I stopped feeding my dogs kibble a while ago due to concerns about processing and harmful dyes. I don’t feed them from plastic bowls that could leach chemicals into their food and water. But the cause(s) of colonic adenocarcinoma are not known.

    At first I thought, when you’ve been told you’re going to be hit by a train, but you don’t know when, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way to avoid it completely, do you live your life in fear of the train, or do you try to get as much out of life as you can before the train hits? And, following Chase’s lead, I chose the second option.

    One of the first things I did was schedule photo sessions with two of my favorite animal photographers. I wanted to get pictures of Chase (and my other dogs) while he was still feeling well. Next came the whirlwind of learning and deciding what could or should be done (or not) for Chase. Our veterinarian told us that she had not been able to surgically remove the entire tumor. Since it had grown into the wall of the colon, she was not able to excise it with clean margins without damaging the colorectal wall. She indicated that chemotherapy would most likely be the recommended treatment for Chase, then referred us to a veterinary oncologist.

    The veterinary oncologist told us that he only sees about one case per year of this rare colonic adenocarcinoma in dogs; there were no studies, no papers to tell us what to do. A CT scan revealed good news: there was no evidence of metastasis to Chase’s lymph nodes or other parts of his body. Amazingly, we had caught it early, before it spread. And also amazingly, the tumor was in an area that could be targeted locally with radiation therapy, a less invasive option than the harsher systemic chemotherapy treatment. Colonic adenocarcinomas that are located farther into the wiggly colon and not as close to the rectum can’t be treated with radiation therapy, which targets the same spot repeatedly on different days.

    The Roller coaster ride of deciding what to do and how to pay for Chase’s care began. One day when I was feeling down and stressed, I turned around and there was Chase wearing a pillowcase on his head, with a sheepish look on his face. It was the pillowcase that had been hanging on the back of my chair, the pillowcase that I put on my lap when using my laptop. Chase’s silly expression, like ‘get this thing off of me’ made me burst out laughing, and I realized how tense and stressed I’d been since the diagnosis. Chase reminded me to live in the moment, and I swear that he somehow put that pillowcase on his head on purpose!

    I tried to be more like a dog, but sometimes I wasn’t very good at it. Thinking of Chase's diagnosis and anticipating a shortened life, I cried sometimes. I felt sorry for him (when he didn’t even feel sorry for himself). I felt hung over, heavy inside, when I hadn't touched a drink. I moved at the speed of molasses. And there was Chase, bringing me the ball, urging me to throw it. Chasing it over and over, making spectacular shortstop saves. Reminding me that on this day we could still do this, and we'd better get to it, we'd best enjoy it! Always by my side, I didn't think he wanted me to feel bad for him. He wanted me to remember all the good times we’ve shared, and continue seizing the day. So I tried to be more like a dog. :-) And whenever he sensed that I needed a hug, he stepped up on the stool in the bathroom and looked at me until I got the hint.

    Chase was so happy and healthy that I knew I had to do something for him; I couldn’t do nothing. So, with time being of the essence, Chase began a series of daily definitive radiation therapy (RT) treatments at the end of July. Definitive means, essentially, going after a cure for a disease that may have no cure. Since the end of July, life has been a whirlwind, with Chase’s 21 weekday RT treatments ending on August 23rd. We got up very early every weekday, I dropped him off at the University of Minnesota clinic for the day, and then picked him up after work. I bought two pendants that say, “Every day holds the possibility of a miracle”, and we each wear one around our neck, his on his collar and mine on a silver chain.

    After the first day of treatment, when we returned to the clinic on the second day, Chase howled out a greeting when he saw his vet tech in the waiting area. When I saw how well he had bonded with her after just one day, I knew he was in great hands. He handled every visit to the clinic like a therapy dog visit, nosing his way behind the front desk every morning to greet the receptionists, wagging his tail all the way down the hall, reaching out to say hi to everyone who crossed his path. I’m not sure he knew that he was the patient. I, who was stressed by the schedule, making special food for him, lack of sleep, decision-making, finances, and advocating for Chase within the University ‘system’, learned a lot from Chase’s attitude. He made the best of every day and made a lot of friends.

    Chase did very well and handled the treatments well. But in mid-August he got very sick. We eventually discovered an odd-shaped piece of plastic in his stomach. It had to be removed with an endoscope. The plastic piece had nothing directly to do with the cancer and was found to be from an old ball that I had thrown away a while ago. I’m not sure how Chase got this plastic or was even able to swallow it, but it blocked the exit from his stomach and could have been fatal. We were lucky.

    We worked with our home vet and a complementary medicine vet at the U to give Chase optimal nutrition via whole foods, herbs, and supplements (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine) to help him resist the cancer and endure the treatments. They gave him acupuncture treatments to help him deal with pain and nausea, boost his immune system, and keep the energy flowing well in his body. I laid my hands on him and gave him Reiki treatments. And these veterinarians, these caregivers, gave me an abundance of information and emotional support. With their positive energy, I began to think about not just living life to the fullest until the train hit, but about actually derailing the train. Yes, derailing the train!
    On the last day of regular RT treatments, it was hard to leave Chase’s friends behind. I had struggled with different veterinarians coming and going, and difficulties with communication and accessing the doctors, but one veterinarian had been very good to us. The vet techs had held everything together and watched out for Chase the whole time, and we had become friends. One vet tech in particular, Jess, was always there for us and went out of her way to help us. Chase fell in love with her. Although I did need to advocate for Chase at times, he turned out to be his own best advocate. People fell in love with him and cared about him almost as much as I do, or maybe even as much. They do a very demanding job in a most loving and caring way, and Chase responded well to this.

    Chase missed his July and August library visits. In August Bandit passed the Pet Partners therapy dog test with the highest marks, so he is now qualified to substitute for Chase if needed. The library visits will start up again in September, when the kids are back in school and ready to read to Chase again. I very much appreciated support from people on the READ dog list whose dogs had also undergone cancer treatment. I also received an abundance of support from friends on Facebook, including this saying: “Don't forget H.O.P.E.: Have Only Positive Expectations”.

    With the RT treatments completed, Chase’s body is healing. We’re still in limbo. One of the most maddening things about cancer is not knowing where you stand. I’m hopeful that the cancer cells were killed during the treatment and the normal cells will heal and be healthy again. Not only is colonic adenocarcinoma rare, but it is even more rare to find it before it has metastasized. Since Chase’s cancer was determined to be stage 1, nobody is quite sure what to tell us, because apparently they haven’t seen this before. But everyone is pulling for Chase.
    Several people have asked me how we found Chase's cancer so early, before there was any evidence of metastasis. It was the blood in his stools, appearing intermittently, for several months. I thought it went away for a while, but then it reappeared and I knew something was wrong. Here, from the Veterinary Cancer Society, are the top ten common warning signs that a dog may have cancer and should be examined by a vet. These signs are not specific to cancer and could also indicate other conditions, many of which are not life-threatening. But they should be checked out.

    1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
    2. Sores that don't heal
    3. Weight loss
    4. Loss of appetite
    5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
    6. Offensive odor
    7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
    8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
    9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
    10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

    (From the book "Good Old Dog" by Nicholas Dodman ©2010 by Tufts University… This book has a good chapter on fighting canine cancer, which is easy to read and describes well the most common forms.)

    Chase is doing great. He’s pooping well, which has been the biggest indicator of how well his colon is functioning. At the beginning of September, he goes back for a follow-up exam and CT scan. The path we’re on today is optimistic, hopeful, living in the moment, enjoying each day. When I’m tempted to think that life isn’t fair, I also think that having a lot to lose means that perhaps life has been more than fair, that life has been pretty generous indeed. We know we’re lucky to have each other and we’re not wasting one single day.

    The traditional and holistic vets agreed that Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine are great supplements for Chase. I think it helped that Chase’s skin, coat and immune system were in great condition before he began treatment. He still looks great, is energetic, and did not lose any hair during the treatments. Use the code JPavlovic for 20% off your first online order

  • Coming Home

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    For most of my adult life, I’ve come home at the end of a long work day to a house with energetic dogs. Their need to get out and play has kept me from becoming a couch potato. When I say that I have to get home to let the dogs out, it’s not a complaint. I look forward to it, because there’s not much that I enjoy more than getting out with the dogs. Knowing that they’ve been confined all day and need to get outside to run and play and take in all the smells of nature makes me think the couch can wait. I’m grateful for the gentle breezes, the smell of freshly mown grass, beautiful fields of daisies, majestic bald eagles, spectacular fireflies, amazing northern lights, and crisp clear stars that I have discovered once the dogs lured me outside.
    In June I was fortunate to return to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins. You may recall that last year I wrote about the spirit dogs of Bimini (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2632). These three dogs joined me on a walk down the road, reminding me of my three dogs back home. They were even the same colors as my guys, and walking with them felt very much like being on a walk with my three at home, just when I was missing them the most.

    When I walked back to Wild Quest, where I was staying, I left the dogs outside the gate, complying with the rules. But somehow one dog got inside and followed me. When I entered the second floor classroom, all eyes were looking behind me. I turned to see that the blond dog had circumvented the security and was right on my tail. I think the rule about not letting stray dogs in was not because the people there don’t love animals; they most certainly do. The joy of playing with wild dolphins is not so different than the joy of playing with dogs. But there were so many stray dogs in Bimini that they just could not allow them all to come in. So the blond dog was escorted out.

    But I was excited this year to learn that Wild Quest had “adopted” a stray dog, “Buddha Buddy”, a black and white dog who looks like a border collie-terrier mix. He showed up earlier this spring and a visitor from the States decided to adopt him and take him home to Colorado. The staff at Wild Quest are taking care of him while his journey is arranged. It was fun to see that Buddy has taken to Amlas, who was so adamant last year about keeping stray dogs outside the fence. He follows her everywhere and she appears to be quite fond of him too!

    While nothing seemed to be missing from Wild Quest last year, coming “home” to Buddy this year made it easier to leave a day on the water with the dolphins. As the boat approached the dock, we saw Buddy waiting for us. We all looked for him and called out to him, excited to see him. His tail subtly flipped up and thumped back down, once. Then, with some encouragement, he began to howl, making us laugh and then howl back. There were people waiting on the dock for us too, but something about seeing Buddy the dog there lightened our spirits. Coming “home” was like coming home at home!
    When I was meditating outside early one morning, Buddy approached and placed his head under my hand. Since my eyes were closed, I didn’t see him coming and was delighted to feel his head there and tell him good morning. Later in the week, when two of us took out a kayak for an early morning paddle, Buddy swam out and tried to climb in. We had to escort him back to shore, but again I was happy to see him. He will make someone a fine, true companion.

    Buddy’s life must have changed a lot since he appeared at Wild Quest, from the life of a stray with nobody, to having eight regular caretakers and meeting several new friends every week. I hope he’ll have a bright future in Colorado. I was excited to learn from Wild Quest about a program to help the stray dogs of Bimini. Learn more about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Stray-Dogs-of-Bimini/128258473969736?fref=ts.
    At the end of the trip, coming home was as exciting as ever. Although I was very tired, I was still overjoyed to be greeted by my three dogs and my cat. Several of my friends have lost their pets to old age recently and I know my guys will not be here forever. So I cherish every moment and miss them a lot when I’m gone. There is nothing more precious than coming home… coming home to their love and excitement!

    I feed my dogs Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to build healthy and strong immune systems, good endurance, and beautiful, soft coats. Enter discount code JPavlovic to receive a 20% discount on your first online Omega Fields order.

  • The Little Girl Who Jumps Up and Down

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic (and Chase)

    There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing a little girl jump up and down when your dog enters the library. Her joyful enthusiasm makes you smile. She read a story to your dog last month and wants to read to him again. She doesn't have a dog at home. Your dog knows just how to be calm while she jumps, then snuggle in next to her on the quilt and give her his undivided attention while she reads a story to him. She’s just learning to read and gets frustrated easily by new words. She’s been teased and bullied on the playground at school. You want so much to build her confidence, to let her know how beautiful and smart and wonderful she is. That when we encounter something unfamiliar, like a new word, we can discover it like a treasure.

    You’re grateful to your dog for everything about him that makes this little girl jump up and down. You knew the library visits would be about helping her learn to read. But now you’d like to think that you and your dog can also be an antidote to bullying, a couple of true friends in a world that sometimes feels very unkind. You hope that fifteen minutes per month of your friendship and undivided attention can not only build her confidence in her reading, but also make a positive difference in her life. And of course, help her learn to love and be kind to dogs.

    You call your mom, a retired teacher who specialized in reading, and ask her how to help the little girl with her stumbling blocks and frustration. You become closer to your mom. You’re amazed at how much she knows, and grateful that she instilled in you a love of reading, a love for books so deep that you not only read them, you write them too. You don’t have children of your own, and you realize that you love to sit and listen to kids read.

    As you watch the little girl’s confidence grow, you hope she will always have the enthusiasm that she shows for your dog, and for reading. Your dog is very intuitive; he knows just what she needs.  He led you into this work, and you realize that he knows just what you need too. You wonder who’s getting the most out of your visits, the little girl, your dog, or you.
    The fifteen minutes go by quickly and the next child is waiting, with book in hand. It’s time to say goodbye, until next time. All three of you, the little girl, your dog, and you, eagerly anticipate your next visit and the story you’ll share. During the month between, you often think of the little girl out there in the big world, and look for books she will like to read. You wonder if your dog thinks about her too.

    Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets keep Chase healthy and give him a soft and shiny pettable coat that the kids like to snuggle up to.

  • Show Me the Way:Adventures in Tracking Training

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    The task was to teach each dog to touch a glove held in my hand, then to touch the glove on the floor, then to cross the room and touch the glove on the floor. The idea was to teach the dog to indicate when s/he had found the glove (or “article”) when out tracking in the great outdoors. In tracking practice or competition, another person would have left a track with articles (gloves, socks, bandannas, or similar) with their scent for the dog to find along the way. I would be following the dog on a long line, but in a test I wouldn’t know the locations of the articles, so the dog would have to sniff out each article and clearly indicate it to me without backtracking.

    I collected a glove, some treats, and a clicker and started the training with Bandit. First a note about clicker training, which is misunderstood by many. A clicker can be held in one hand and pressed to make a loud, distinct “click”. The point of using it for operative conditioning is to mark the exact time the dog does what you want. A clicker is very useful when the dog is working away from you, and in other situations when you want to mark the exact moment that the correct behavior is offered, even when you’re not able to give the dog a treat immediately. I had already done the groundwork needed for my dogs to associate the clicker with the reward that would soon follow. All three of them know very well that the “click” means a treat is on the way.

    Bandit, who is the oldest of my three dogs and has had the most training in different areas, had the biggest challenge. He needed to unlearn previous habits engrained in his bag of tricks, and he has a great imagination. Surely just going to the glove and touching it wasn’t all that I wanted. I remembered that when we trained in obedience utility exercises years ago, Bandit had learned to retrieve a glove. So he didn’t want to just touch the glove, he wanted to bring it back to me. But out on a track, I wouldn’t want him to turn around, I would want him to indicate the article to me, but continue facing in the right direction to keep following the track. So I decided to click Bandit just as he was about to touch the glove. Huh? He paused to think, and I rewarded him just as he touched the glove. Bingo! Marking the desired behavior at just the right time worked!

    Part of the exercise involved placing the glove on the floor across the room from me and having the dog go over to touch (“indicate”) it. Bandit went over to the glove, touched it, then turned around and sat down. While sitting or lying down to indicate the glove would be good, turning around was a problem that could move Bandit off the track. I realized that now he was offering behavior that he had been trained to do for a “go out”, another utility exercise that he learned a few years ago. So although I will eventually want him to indicate the article properly with me farther away, I moved up behind him and treated him before he had a chance to turn around. Then he was consistently going to the glove, with me quick to follow. Once he touched the glove, I was right there to reward him, to prevent him from turning. We’ll continue working on Bandit indicating the article without turning around as I begin to maintain the distance again.

    Chase got the simple touch part correct before the others because he had just enough experience without too much extraneous training to confuse him. He’s also very intuitive; I think that when I have the right picture in my mind, he reads it. First he reminded me that I hadn’t picked up my dirty socks. He touched the glove and was rewarded, then went over and touched my sock on the floor! He soon realized that he wouldn’t get rewarded for touching just anything on the floor and he went back to consistently touching the glove.

    Cayenne has always seemed developmentally delayed, especially socially. Cay and her littermates were rescued as small pups in the Tennessee wilderness and she didn’t learn all that she needed from her mother. I couldn’t even touch her when she first came here, but she has come a long way in the past few years. Now when I work one-on-one with Cay and minimize distractions, she learns very well and is amazingly bright. She was familiar with the clicker, but hadn’t had as much training as the other two dogs. Still, she responded well. At first I had to put a treat in the glove to get her interested. I sort of tricked her into offering the desired behavior: when she “accidentally” touched the glove, I clicked immediately to reinforce the behavior. She caught on immediately, and being the food-motivated child that she is, she quickly learned to touch the glove for the reward.

    Cay actually achieved the ultimate desired behavior on accident, before the other two dogs. I hadn’t attempted to train it yet, but she did it naturally and I rewarded her. Once she became obsessed with touching the glove, she would lie down next to it. When she did this, I clicked her right away because the next step in teaching article indication was to have the dog sit or lie down by the glove after touching it. Cay responded well and began consistently touching the glove and lying down. I would not have predicted that she would achieve this behavior first, but I know that all three dogs will achieve it with more training.
    Those are some of our adventures in tracking so far. Yes, we’ve done some tracking outside, but as I’m writing this it’s mid-April and we just had another snow and ice storm here in Minnesota. Over the coming months we’ll continue tracking outdoors, and I’ll continue feeding my dogs Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to keep them healthy and happy and support their endurance. I just hope I can keep up!

  • Making a Mountain Lion Out of a Mole

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Willis and I were in the backyard for his last potty stop, late at night. It was almost Halloween, and the moon was just about full. I heard a rustling in the leaves and saw a small rodent coming into the yard under the chain link fence on the south side. I turned and moved toward him, to steer him away from the house. Willis followed me and the rodent paused, then turned and went back out through the fence, shuffling it seemed, by the coarse rustling of leaves.

    Willis and I went back to our games so he could unwind a bit before bed time. A few minutes later, we were both paused by a loud rustling of leaves in the woods behind the yard. Was it a coyote? A dog? A deer? A mountain lion? The rustling got louder, like a whole string of deer moving through the woods, or maybe something worse—think “Blair Witch Project”! Willis cocked his head and moved toward the back fence. He “woofed” a few times, let out a low growl, and focused on the rustling leaves as the creature moved through the dark woods.

    The rustling came closer, approaching the fence again, this time on the north side. Willis and I stood frozen, waiting in suspense for the intrepid creature to emerge from the dark. Our gazes were fixed straight ahead, but then we had to lower them as we discovered that the commotion was coming from… the same little rodent. When deterred from crossing the yard inside the fence, he had detoured around the perimeter and continued marching.

    The little guy came back in under the chain link fence from the back corner. I held Willis back as he strained against his collar. The rodent was too big and heavy to be a mouse, but certainly not large enough to be a rat. He paused, sensing us but not seeing, moving his head back and forth trying to detect what stood in front of him. I realized that he was blind and must be a mole, a critter usually found underground, not rustling around on the surface. Willis and I stepped toward him again and kindly steered him back toward the fence.  He went back out underneath it on the north side, then headed north and kept on shuffling through the leaves, clearly intent on getting wherever he was going.

    I felt kind of sheepish for thinking that this blind little guy was a big scary creature in the woods. Willis had hesitated and backed up too, for a while, when we could hear the mole, but couldn’t see him. The little guy must have been plowing through some deep leaves!

    What message are we to take from this? That something that sounds big and scary (making a mountain lion out of a mole) might just be a small creature on a big mission who can be diverted by taking a few steps in his direction? What about from the mole’s perspective? That a blind determined little mole who knows where he wants to go will get there one way or another? That even when you get off track, you can keep going and get where you were meant to go? That even if your goal is not in sight, it’s out there and if you keep going, you’ll get there eventually? That a bold and determined little guy can get around two big guys; if he really wants to, he’ll find a way?

    The mole reminded me of something I told myself a few years ago and decided to write down: “Nothing silences doubt like putting one foot in front of the other, moving in the direction of your dreams. Keep taking that next step.” I’m not sure why the little mole was traveling above ground or where he was going, but I have no doubt that he got there, eventually. If you follow his example, you will get where you intend to go too. Set your intentions now, for the journeys you will take in 2013. Remember the little mole, and have a Happy New Year!

    Ironically, not long after this incident with the mole, on November 1st I sighted a cougar in our home town of Afton, MN. I have lived here for almost 23 years and had never seen one before, but there was no question as this long, low animal turned his face to look straight into my headlights. I looked up cougar sightings online and learned that cougars have been reported here along the St. Croix River.

    My dog Bandit had to have surgery in November after tearing one of his dewclaws several times. His veterinarian commented on how quickly and how well he healed. I attribute that to daily exercise and good nutrition, including his daily dose of Omega Fields Canine Shine. Get your pets off to a good start in 2013 by giving them the superior nutrition of Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets. Best wishes for a happy new year to you and your four-legged friends!

  • Keaton and Ramsey, Sumo Wrestlers at Play!

    Written By Leigh Pyron

    A few years back I received a call from a woman who was having some behavior problems with her year and a half old Yellow Lab named Keaton. Keaton had always been very mouthy as a puppy, but now as an adolescent he had started practicing another bad habit of nipping people and their clothing whenever he would greet them. In addition, he had started acting aggressively on the leash, barking, lunging and growling at other dogs.
    When I first arrived at Keaton’s house, I could already hear him barking before I reached the front door. As I approached the door, I could see through the window Keaton’s owner holding him by the collar as he leaped up and down, barking and lunging toward the door. As I got closer I could barely hear the owner in the background saying, “it’s ok, you can come in.” Being rather fond of my appendages and the clothes I was wearing, I instructed the owner to toss a few treats on floor for Keaton to find as I entered the house.   When I entered, I told her to toss a few more treats away from us as we walked toward the kitchen island where we sat down on a couple of high stools next to it. Keaton was trying his best to get our attention, while we were working hard at ignoring him. I watched him out of the corner of my eye nip at the tail end of my vest and at my treat bag. He did this a few times, but since I continued to ignore him he finally walked away and lay down on his dog bed.
    After interviewing the owner and getting bit more information on Keaton’s history, I asked her if Keaton had any familiar dog friends that he seemed to get along with. She said she did go on regular hikes with another woman who had a Yellow Lab, as well, named Ramsey who was close to Keaton’s age, and that they had been hiking and playing together for almost a year now. Knowing I could obtain an incredible amount of information watching Keaton interact with not only the owner’s friend, but her dog as well, I suggested she contact her friend and arrange a time for the three of us to meet with the two dogs.
    Unexpectedly, a few days prior to meeting with my client and her friend, I happened to run into Keaton and his owner at a large open space area where I took my morning group of 6 dogs. My dogs were already off leash when Keaton and his owner arrived. Seconds after the owner unleashed Keaton, he came bounding into the group invasively greeting each one of my dogs. As I stood by observing, ready to intervene if necessary, Keaton came upon a little, white Poodle mix named Mini. The two of them immediately started cueing each other to play. They took turns greeting each other with polite play-bows, followed by running around in circles and taking turns chasing each other. Keaton was surprisingly quite gentle with Mini. Compensating for the size difference, he would drop to the ground in order for Mini to interact with him. They would also take quick breaks or pauses on occasion and then start right back up again with another gracious play bow as if to say “let the games begin!” and off they would go chasing after one another. I was thrilled to see Keaton interact so well with Mini, and from what I observed, it seemed to be very healthy play.
    A few days later, I arrived at the Open Space trail a little early to meet my client and her friend. Her friend had arrived shortly after me with her Lab, Ramsey. As she drove up, I could see and hear Ramsey barking and jumping in the back of her SUV. He was jumping with such force that the vehicle was actually still in motion even after she parked the car. As the owner got out of the car, she waved to me and hollered a quick “hello” which was barely audible over Ramsey’s barking. I waved back at her with a concerned smile and wide-open eyes knowing she was going to release the beast at any moment, and he would most likely head right for me. I watched her as, without hesitation, she opened the back hatch to her SUV and this 90lb dog leaped out of the back of her car and headed directly toward me. Needless to say, he almost knocked me over once he closed the distance between us, with the owner in tow yelling, “Ramsey, get down, get down!” After many apologies, we greeted and exchanged a handshake. I asked her if Ramsey had always behaved this way when she took him for a ride in the car. She said, “oh no, he knows he’s going to see Keaton today, that’s why he’s so excited.” Not a minute later, my client pulled up with Keaton barking and jumping in the back of her car as well.
    Trying to be fast on my feet, I quickly rushed over to her car hoping to get there before she let Keaton out. If I could get at least one of them into a calm state we might be able to walk to the trailhead without so much drama. I got no further than a few feet closer to her car when the back hatch of the car mysteriously opened on it’s own and Keaton, already airborne, flew out of the car like a cartoon character wearing a Superman cape! There was no question in my mind where he was heading… In seconds Keaton body-slammed into Ramsey and the two of them went at it like two Sumo wrestlers. I immediately took off running after them directing the owners to try and pull them apart and put them on a leash. I instructed the owners to quickly start walking and to keep a distance between the dogs by keeping their dogs on the extreme opposite sides of each other. I wanted to try and get the dogs to relax and calm down before we let them go off-leash. Once they were both calm, sniffing about and taking care of business, I told the owners to quietly and slowly unclip their leashes and let them go.
    Within in seconds the two dogs bolted ahead of us, front legs plowing into the dirt like bulldozers as they crossed the gap between them in order to make contact. Keaton and Ramsey were already at the peak of their arousal and they hadn’t even engaged yet! Both dogs were locked in direct eye contact, tails high and erect, ears forward and hackle’s up from head to tail, mouths wide open, bearing their glistening white, youthful teeth. It all happened as fast as lightening. They both collided like freight trains, lunging and grabbing for each other’s necks, bound and determined to pin the other to the ground first. I stood there, in those few seconds, watching this violent dance between these two dogs.  I was shocked as I looked over at the two owners who stood by calmly smiling while they watched their dogs at what they thought was all fun and play. All I could think was that these two dogs had been practicing and perfecting this kind of “play” for almost a year now! Keaton and Ramsey’s “play” was no less than that of two fighting Pit Bulls. The only thing missing was a crowd of bystanders cheering them on!
    Within seconds, I hollered out to the women to immediately grab their respective dog and put him on a leash. We all dashed towards the dogs and the owners struggled to grab ahold of their dog. Both dogs continued to lung and snap at each other even after they were restrained on the leash. I quickly got out some treats and handed them to the owners, instructing them to pass the treat by their dog’s nose and then immediately toss several treats on the ground in the opposite direction of the other dog. All I can say is Thank Goodness they were Labs! Where Labs are concerned, food is the cure-all-end-all for diminishing drama and arousal. Once the dogs got a whiff of the treats the game quickly changed to a hunting expedition.
    Unfortunately, this type of “play” between dogs happens all the time. The most common place to find it is at your local dog park. Many people assume if their dogs are interacting and engaging with one another and they don’t draw blood, they are playing.  When aggressive and inappropriate play is practiced over and over again on a regular basis, it can further enhance or create various other bad behaviors, such as Keaton’s nipping at people and being aggressive on leash.
    Here are some things to look for in your dog and other dogs that will help you define what is healthy play and what is unsafe, more risky play.
    Healthy Play
    1.      Self Interruption – dogs take occasional breaks from playing, and then after a few seconds resume play again
    2.      Shared physical space – there is a comfortable amount of space between the two dogs at play
    3.      Ability to compensate or modify for size or strength differences – a large breed plays more gently with a small breed, sometimes laying on the ground so the small dog can engage better
    4.      Mirrored or tandem movement during interruption or during play – one of them stops to potty or sniff something, the other one follows and does the same
    5.      Accepted or reversible role – take turns with offensive and defensive roles, switching position of being on the top and on bottom at play
    Slightly Risky Play
    1.      Rise in intensity of arousal – dogs become more aroused the longer they play
    2.      Hackles are up – hair stands up on back of neck, body and or hind end.
    a.       Hackles that are raised from shoulders down to rump often denote fear or conflict in the dog
    b.      Hackles that are razor-thin between shoulder blades, often denote high arousal in the dog
    c.       Hackles that are widely spread in any area usually denotes conflict in the dog
    3.      Snarling and/or barking with teeth exposed
    4.      No self interruption – no interment breaks during play
    5.      Hard, physical contact – pushing and shoving each other
    Slightly More Risky Play
    1.      Direct eye contact – dogs stare directly into other dogs eyes as opposed to intermit glancing and looking away
    2.      Frontal and aligned body positioning – as opposed to uneven lines in body when they first meet or reengage
    3.      Faster interactions – respond without hesitation or pauses to every move
    4.      Recall with delayed response – if try to call dog to come, it doesn’t respond right away
    Most Risky Play
    1.      Relentless, uninterrupted engagement – non-stop combative response to each movement
    2.      Reorientation to the other dog’s neck or throat – constantly trying to orient head in a position that allows for the dog to grab at the throat or neck area of the other dog
    3.      Grab or bite with headshake – once dog engages teeth in other dog he starts to shake his opponent back and forth
    4.      Full mouth biting - dog intentionally tries to directly bite other dog
    5.      Ears are forward in position, intense chasing with open mouth, making physical contact at impact
    6.      More than one dog chasing another dog – ganging up on weakest link
    7.      Targeting another dog – amongst several dogs at play, one dog keeps an eye on one other dog and continually tries to get at the dog to make contact with it. Targeting dog will make direct eye contact with frontal body alignment, tail up and ears forward. Very difficult to interrupt or stop dog that is targeting another dog.
    Take the time to learn your dog’s body language and determine whether your dog is engaging in healthy play or risky play. Visit your local dog park one day without your dog and just sit and observe the dogs at play. See if you can assess into which group of play they would fall. Play is very important in a dog’s life whether it’s with humans or dogs just make sure it’s always safe play!
    There is an excellent YouTube video by Zoom Room, which shows great examples of dog body language. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00_9JPltXHI

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