Dog Articles

  • 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!

  • On the Right Track

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    “The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
    ~ Eden Philpotts

    Have you ever gotten down on the floor on all fours to view the world the way your dog sees it? While you might get a better idea of what your dog sees from that vantage point, your dog isn’t really looking as much as she is smelling, or “viewing” the world through her nose.

    You know what I mean if your dog has ever obsessed about a piece of kibble that rolled under the stove, or a crumb that dropped between the sofa cushions. You didn’t even know it was there, but your dog stood vigil and pawed or whined until you fished the tiny tidbit out. Or even worse, your dog scratched relentlessly at the stove or the sofa, trying to fish the morsel out herself. Cattle dogs are notorious for their persistence. My dog Bandit is no exception when he’s trying to rescue a stray crumb.

    A dog’s sense of smell is up to 10 million times more sensitive than a human’s. Dogs have 25 to 60 times the number of scent glands that humans have, and more brain space dedicated to their noses. They can smell in parts per trillion, which is like detecting one drop of water out of 20 Olympic swimming pools. It’s no wonder that dogs are following their noses!

     

    The Bark magazine has published fun nose games that you can play with your dog, which are especially useful on days when you’re housebound: http://www.thebark.com/content/k9-nose-work-1. Dog lovers may also train their dogs to follow a scent to compete in tracking events. Of course, dogs already know how to follow scents with their noses, but the object of these events is for the dog and person to work as a team. The dog must follow the scent track that the person has asked the dog to follow, and not get sidetracked by a deer or rabbit that crossed the trail.

     

    It’s interesting to see a dog follow a track laid by a person on snow. While it’s easy for a person to focus on the footprints in the snow, the dog will follow the scent, not the footprints that are much more obvious to those of us who dominantly use our vision. The footprint trail is easier for us to “see” on snow in winter, but the dog doesn’t perceive, or “see”, it that way and still relies on her nose.

    Dogs are known for their ability to track down a suspect, find a missing person in the wilderness, detect drugs and bombs, sniff out termites and bedbugs, and even foretell when a person will have a seizure. Researchers have worked to develop electronic noses, or “E-noses”, to mimic how a dog uses its scent receptors to smell. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, designed a sensor that uses mechanical engineering and chemistry principles to reproduce the canine scent receptors. The sensor feeds information into a computer database, which identifies the molecule that was captured. This device was designed to have the same level of sensitivity as a dog’s nose and was developed to be consistent even when a dog might get tired or distracted. Still, dog noses are the gold standard.

    Some of the most inspirational work employing dog noses is in the early detection of cancer. You may recognize animal behaviorist and dog trainer Dina Zaphiris from Animal Planet or the Bonnie Hunt Show. But did you know that her research has shown that dogs are 98% accurate at predicting early stage cancer? Dina’s website, www.dogsdetectcancer.org, references studies on canine olfactory detection of bladder, lung, breast, prostate, ovarian, and colorectal cancers (http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/category/studies).

    Dina works at the InSitu Foundation, the only early detection non-profit group backed by the National Institutes of Health. InSitu’s mission is to save lives with the early detection of cancer through Canine Scent Detection. InSitu trains dogs to detect cancer in humans at its earliest stages, identifying and treating cancer before it becomes life-threatening. Published reports have documented that dogs can detect (sniff) cancer in people at an accuracy rate of 98%, which is more accurate than present day cancer-detection diagnostic medical equipment. Dogs can detect cancer much earlier than modern day machines, thus allowing preventative measures to be applied earlier in a patient’s life. InSitu develops groundbreaking canine techniques in early detection that will lead to saving lives.

    At Dina’s website, Australian Shepherd Stewie demonstrates her technique for detecting cancer among healthy and disease controls (http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/video). And if you scroll down to the short and very compelling video at the bottom of this page, http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/, you will learn what drives Dina and Stewie to do this work. Dina’s mother discovered her cancer too late, and cancer took her before she was ready.

    We have all been affected by cancer in one form or another. At the InSitu Foundation, dogs and people work together to master new early detection techniques to save lives. To contact the InSitu Foundation, learn more about early detection of cancer, and support their efforts to provide Canine Scent Detection for early cancer screening, go to http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/contact/.

    The next time your dog obsesses over a piece of kibble that rolled under the stove, be grateful for the power of that amazing nose, and think about how our dogs perceive the world differently.

    With the arrival of spring, most of us are more active with our dogs. I’ll be out tracking and herding with my guys. Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets help me keep them in top condition.

  • Reading Books, Touching Hearts

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Last month I wrote about Godwinks, and I’ve written about my dog Chase many times. You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact after we returned home to Virginia and Minnesota. God winked one day when “Fred” caught my eye as I viewed Sarah’s rescue website, www.lostfantasystables.com. Despite his unhappy expression, the little guy was cute. He had the sable coloring and white ruff of a collie, with red and white speckles on his chest and legs. I felt an immediate connection.

    Sarah rescued “Fred” from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. Fred had a strong herding instinct and was probably just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and threatened to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved the terrified little guy, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew the fate he had just escaped.

    Seeing that Fred was described as a “red heeler mix” and wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts in an impoverished area of rural Virginia, I followed up. My Australian Cattle Dog Bandit, who had recently lost his best dog pal and playmate, needed a new friend. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit for my family. With much planning and the help of many volunteers who transported him, Fred made the long journey from Virginia to Minnesota over Memorial weekend in 2006. He enjoyed the adventure and his series of chauffeurs commented on what a handsome and loving dog he was. He arrived with a beautiful greeting card chronicling his journey and wishing him a happy new life, signed by Sarah and everyone who had met him along the way.

    I called him Fred for a while. I could say fun things like, “It’s time for bed Fred!” But eventually he became “Chase”, claiming the name. After living with and observing him for a while, I decided that he’s most likely a Smooth Coated Collie - Australian Cattle Dog mix. He is long in body with the thick undercoat, narrow ears and muzzle, and beautiful coloring of a smooth coated collie. He has a collie’s shrieky bark and likes to patrol perimeters like a collie. But he is stockier and lower to the ground like a cattle dog. He has a dose of cattle dog chutzpah and cattle dog speckles on his legs, belly, and running down his chin like spilled milk.

    Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me. I later learned that the violent man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours, the worst kind of punishment for him.

    Bandit and Chase enjoyed playing ball, running in the woods and fields, and bobbing for fallen apples in the kiddie pool. Chase and I went to obedience and agility classes, learned to track together, and enjoyed herding sheep and ducks. No matter what, Chase always gave love.

    Early on, Chase appeared to have some flashbacks to the violence he’d been subjected to before being rescued, but he knows he’s safe now and seems to have fully recovered. By the end of the day, his back is usually sore and stiff, probably from being stuffed into that tiny chicken crate back in Virginia.

    Chase taught me that another man’s trash could be my treasure. He is the sweetest, handsomest, most sensitive dog who used to worry about making a mistake, because he knew that the “mistake” of acting on his herding instinct could have cost him his life. He trusts me now and we have learned to work together to herd sheep and ducks so he can express this wonderful talent without fearing for his life. He taught me that you can start over again and recover from abuse and violence to be who you were meant to be.

    Chase has created some interesting jobs for himself. Herding dogs are especially alert to anything that’s out of order because they’re used to watching over their flock. Chase likes to notify me when anything is different. He lets me know when the garbage truck and snowplow are coming long before I hear them. He lets out a special bark when the feral cat is around. When we go outside, Chase patrols the perimeter as a collie will. He follows his nose, which tells him what other creatures have passed through. He spots birds way up in the sky and has alerted me to a bald eagle soaring high above.

    In spite of his past, Chase is very loving and friendly. He loves to meet people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he’s bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. He’d probably make a fantastic greeter at Wal-Mart! After his difficult beginning in life, he may be trying to make up for lost time on the love front.

    Chase intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He reads people’s moods and seems to know just what they need. At home, he goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did this because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does this when he senses that I need a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.

    I’ve felt for a long time that part of Chase’s calling in life is to be a therapy dog. Last spring we completed Delta Pet Partners training (Chase: Why Dog is Love, http://www.omegafields.com/blog/chase-why-dog-is-love/). I looked into starting a reading dog program at our local library, which has suffered from budget cuts, but I got sidetracked.

    God winked again when I received an e-mail message from a local librarian who was determined to start a “Dog Gone Reading” program. Now Chase and I volunteer at our small local library for two hours per month. Kids read to Chase, developing their reading abilities in a supportive environment. Chase listens intently while each child reads him a story. He enjoys any story, is great company and isn’t judgmental. While reading out loud to Chase, kids build confidence and gain a friend. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to connect with a dog. Chase, who doesn’t have a kid at home, gets to bond with kids and fulfill his purpose to give love. The kids get to know the local library and all that it offers. Chase and I teach them how to approach a dog, to pet him gently, and to be kind and respectful to animals. Chase is a natural! He knows how important it is to be kind.

    Chase, now about 7 ½ years old, has been waiting for years for me to give him this opportunity to reach his potential. I’m so excited that he’s fulfilling his purpose of sharing love, helping kids develop their reading abilities, and supporting our local library. As an author who loves to read, I don’t want the joy of reading real books to be lost. I want kids to know the pleasure of reading from a printed book held in their hands.

     

    I’m very grateful to Sarah for saving Chase’s life and for the long journey that brought him home to Minnesota. I’m also grateful to Omega Fields for providing the Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets that boost Chase’s good health and make his coat so soft, shiny and wonderful to snuggle up to.

    Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is wide open; he is an open book.

    Learn more about:

    Delta Pet Partners: http://www.petpartners.org/

    The National Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) Program: http://www.therapyanimals.org/R.E.A.D.html

    R.E.A.D. Dogs Minnesota: http://www.readdogsmn.org/

    The Washington County (Minnesota) Dog Gone Reading Program: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/2711

  • The Puppy Who Came with Godwinks

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    For Christmas, my mom gave me a book about Godwinks, amazing “coincidences” that are really winks from God. My mom said that God winked when, through an amazing set of “coincidences”, my cattle dog puppy Bandit found me in 2004. This story is told in “Bandit, My Bolt Out of the Blue, My Miracle” (http://www.omegafields.com/blog/bandit-my-bolt-out-of-the-blue-miracle/).

    When I was a kid, we couldn’t have a dog because my sister was allergic to them. We had gerbils, and when I was nine years old my parents indulged my love for animals by letting me get a pony. But I still also longed for a dog. I walked the neighborhood dogs and took care of them when their families went on vacation. Yet, I wanted a dog of my own.

    When I was twelve years old, a puppy appeared on our front porch one morning, lost and scared and hungry. My mom found the small brown and white puppy with floppy ears when she stepped outside to pick up the morning paper. We brought the puppy in, but Mom said it was only until we found his real owners, period! I headed off right away on my bike to get him some dog food from the store. The puppy, probably a border collie-spaniel mix, became my constant companion. We bonded right away and he even slept by my bed at night.

    A couple of days later, the phone rang and when my mom answered I heard her talking about the puppy. His original owners were on the phone. I got a knot in my stomach and held my breath. I could hear Mom’s side of the conversation. Some kids had won the puppy at the fair. They had been playing tennis across the street when the puppy wandered away and got lost. But the conversation didn’t simply end with exchanging information on how to return the puppy. The family already had a dog that didn’t get along with the pup and their mom said they couldn’t keep him. Amazingly enough, I was listening to a negotiation! By then, we had already learned that my sister wasn’t allergic to the puppy, and my parents decided to keep him! I already thought of him as my dog. The kids had called him “Fuzzer” and the name stuck, silly as it was.

    God must have developed an eye twitch, as the kids won Fuzzer at the fair, brought him home, decided to take him to the tennis court across the street and lost him, little Fuzz safely crossed our busy street and wandered over to our front porch, and we found him the next morning. We had him long enough to discover that my sister wasn’t allergic to him. Then when we found out who the puppy belonged to, their mom put her foot down and said they couldn’t keep him. That’s an impressive string of Godwinks!

    My first dog was delivered with a series of Godwinks, and dogs (including 8 State Hurricane Kate) have been finding me ever since. What Godwinks occurred as special animals and people came into your life? If you pay attention, you will begin to notice more Godwinks.

    Note: Canine Shine helps keep your dogs healthy during stressful winter months. In February, my dog Chase will begin a monthly gig at the local library, where children read to him. We like to support our local library and Chase loves listening to children read stories as they develop their reading abilities. Canine Shine gives Chase a soft and shiny coat that makes snuggling with him extra special for the children.

  • 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!

  • The Moose That Wouldn't Move

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Remember when Jeanne met Sam in Wisconsin near the orange moose (http://www.omegafields.com/blog/meant-to-be/)?

    In September, my cattle dog Bandit was traveling with me. On our way to visit family, we made a pit stop near the orange moose. I took Bandit out for a potty break, and then realized that he had not seen the moose before. I’d expected him to be distracted by the geese swimming in the pond by the parking lot, but he paid them no mind. As we approached the orange behemoth, Bandit stiffened, then crouched and emitted a low growl and a series of small “woofs”. His eyesight is not his best sense, and he had not caught the scent of this giant orange statue that demanded his attention. He just knew that it was a very large hoofed animal that must need to be herded.
    Intrepid, fearless, and always ready to work as any good cattle dog is, Bandit kept his attention focused on the moose, even as the geese swam back and forth in front of him. Both fascinated and amused by his reaction, I wondered what would happen as we approached. Bandit stiffened and froze, in awe of this gigantic being. He was tentative, yet determined to do something, but he wasn’t sure what to do because the moose didn’t respond to him at all. I stepped ahead of him and touched one of the huge cloven hooves. Then Bandit followed me over and sniffed it.

    I could tell the instant he realized the moose wasn’t real by the change in his posture.  Immediately, his entire body relaxed, and he gave me a sheepish “Oh, you got me!” look, wagging his tail low and submissively. Still, he wouldn’t turn his back on the moose. He continued to explore it from different angles, looking up at it with awe.

    Bandit is an Australian Cattle Dog. He is intrepid and always ready to work, whether it’s 100 degrees, raining torrentially, or below zero outside. No challenge is too big for him. He comes from a long line of tough dogs with a solid work ethic, and holds both sheep and cattle herding titles. He injured his neck in 2009 and I haven’t had him back herding on a regular schedule since, so he’s not getting enough of the type of work his ancestors were bred for. His herding instinct has not diminished though. He needs to stay busy physically and mentally and is always ready to herd the jolly balls around the yard.
    On the way back from visiting family, I decided to stop by the orange moose again. This time Bandit remembered and approached it easily. I took pictures of him being dwarfed by the moose. A good herding dog wouldn’t get in front of such a large beast, (except maybe to turn it around) but Bandit stood in front of it because he knew it wasn’t real. You can see in the photos though that Bandit kept one ear cocked back toward it. He always kept one ear on the moose.

    Ironically, after we visited the moose for the second time and got back in the truck, I noticed a man walking a spaniel in the same area. The spaniel raced past the moose, oblivious to it, and lunged toward the geese swimming in the pond. The spaniel showed that he came from a long line of bird dogs, just as Bandit had shown that he came from a long line of herding dogs. Their different reactions due to their breeding was so obvious, I had to laugh.
    I still laugh when I look at the photos of Bandit with the orange moose. Knowing that he tried to move it in spite of its size makes me proud of him and his cow dog chutzpah. To be able to approach daily life as fearlessly as this bold and brilliant dog would be a gift. No challenge is too big for him to tackle. I admire him and learn from him every day.

    What would you learn from your dog(s), if you were paying more attention? What were they bred for that they would like to do?
    Bandit is a hard driving dog who regularly challenges his body. He turned nine years old in November. I give him Omega Nuggets and Omega Canine Shine to make sure he’s getting the best nutritional support to keep going.

  • 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

  • Chase, the Snake Guru

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic


    One day in August I arrived home to find a baby snake on the basement floor in front of my dog Chase’s kennel. Any snake sets off a visceral reaction that usually makes me scream and jump out of my shoes. Somehow, a snake is always a surprise. It must be a survival instinct for my heart rate to go up and the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention. But this guy was tiny, not much bigger around than a pen or pencil, and probably less than a foot long. He had rust red and gray and black markings. I think he was a corn snake. He was sitting in front of Chase, and I swear they’d had a conversation.
    The snake apparently had the same reaction to me. He seemed to be concerned and very alert, but to my amazement, he didn’t move. I told him to “stay”, a natural thing for me to say since I often tell the dogs to stay. I went back out to the garage and got a shovel and a bucket. When I returned, the snake was still there (apparently an obedience prospect!) and even when I approached him, he stayed put. I gently scooped him into the bucket, took him outside, and released him in the long grass far from the house.
    I could see that Chase was relieved. A few years ago, I found a baby snake in the basement and recognized it as the miniature version of a snake that can grow to be about five feet long. By the end of the summer I found 16 of the little guys in the basement and one in the living room (yes, a determined little snake can climb stairs!). We were doing construction on the front porch that year. Apparently the mama snake had been disturbed when about to lay her eggs and had left them in a place that allowed the hatchlings to drop into the basement. 
    I couldn’t catch these little snakes easily and I was afraid of them. Creatures that I can handle just fine in the wild can really bother me when I find them in my house. I’m not proud to say this now, but I ended up chasing the little guys down and beating them with a broom. I’ve noticed that fear of something different can make people react in extreme ways.
    One day, after beating a little snake to death, I noticed Chase cowering in the corner. He was rescued from an abusive situation and must have been at the wrong end of the broom a few times himself. Seeing me wield the broom that way and knowing that I could suddenly turn into a crazy person had traumatized him. He made me realize that it was silly for a grown woman to beat a little snake to death with a broom. My adrenaline and my fear of finding these little snakes everywhere made me overreact.
    So this year, when I found the baby snake, I’m pretty sure that Chase had been coaching the little guy. I can feel Chase saying, “Just hold still and she won’t run you down. If she can catch you, she can set you free.” Seeing Chase right there in front of the snake made me realize that I didn’t want to traumatize him. And since the snake stayed still and was so easy to catch, I was able to gently put him in the bucket and set him free in the grass. I guess Chase was coaching me too! If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from your dog.
    Those who are familiar with spirit animals know that a snake appearing as a totem signifies that a transition or spiritual awakening will take place. Snake energy is said to be the energy of wholeness and the ability to experience anything willingly and without resistance. It is the knowledge that all things are equal in creation. It also signals a transition in your life, with new opportunities and/or changes. That is certainly true for me, with many transitions taking place this fall. I also think that perhaps Chase and the little snake created a spiritual awakening in me, or at least an awareness that I don’t have to react violently to a creature that frightens me. I don’t even have to be frightened. I’m working on living peacefully with snakes, and all creatures that make me even a little bit uncomfortable.
    With the change in season and winter just around the corner, give your dogs the nutrition they need with Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™.
    Totem information excerpted from: http://www.linsdomain.com/totems/pages/snake.htm

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