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.
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.
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Lately I’ve been bombarded with stories of dogs in need, dogs who* need to be rescued before they run out of time. Finding safe places for all of them to go can be a challenge. Here’s one story with a happy ending, a story of how a woman and a dog who were meant to be together were united by a series of circumstances. Sometimes these things work out for the best.
Maximus was tall, dark and handsome — charming with a calm demeanor. But his life hadn’t been easy. He’d had at least three different homes across half of the country and at least two names. He’d roamed the streets and had been picked up. He wasn’t young any more, was settled down, but not quite a senior yet either. He needed a safe place to land, a forever home. He was a gentle spirit, a kind soul, who deserved better than life had offered so far.
Jeanne was lonely, missing her 100 pound shepherd mix who had died after developing debilitating joint problems. After her husband had passed on a few years ago, the dog had been her true companion. He’d been big, solid, and true, a dog she could lean on and count on.
Something happened to bring Maximus to Jeanne, and I’m still not quite sure what made the pieces come together. Perhaps divine intervention and a guardian angel were at work.
Over Memorial weekend, I was in Wisconsin visiting family. My friend Vickie from high school was in town visiting her mom, and they invited me over. I took my dog Chase along. He had recently completed his training to become a Delta Pet Partner, and he loves people. Vickie’s mom Jeanne fell in love with Chase and told me how much she missed her old dog. Chase loved her too and sat by her for much of the evening, enjoying being petted and eying her ready stash of dog treats. Jeanne told me how much she wanted to find another large dog who would be a good companion, but she needed a dog who wasn’t high energy. She used to walk her old dog around the block, take him to the dog park, and hire the neighbor boys to take him for longer walks. In spite of our concern about Jeanne handling a large dog, she was confident that she could still do it. She wanted to keep Chase, but of course, I couldn’t let him go! Instead, I promised to look for a dog for Jeanne.
Back in Minnesota, a local rescue that I had helped support was closing and they needed to find safe places for the dogs in their care. I had met some of the dogs and had seen others posted on the website. With Jeanne in mind, I looked at the website again, but didn’t find a dog that seemed to be a good match. Most were young, high energy dogs who would need more activity than Jeanne could provide and might just pull her off her feet. I commented to my friends who had volunteered at the rescue and they both said, “What about Maximus, the shepherd mix?” Then I learned his story.
They told me how big and gentle Maximus is, and how concerned they were that he might not find a good home before the rescue had to close. There didn’t seem to be a single reason why Maximus had not found a good forever home. It always seemed to be a problem with his person not being able to keep him, but nothing that was his fault. Probably being large doesn’t help a dog sometimes.
I inquired at the rescue, met Maximus, asked a lot of questions, and sent his information and pictures to Jeanne. She was very interested and wanted to know when she could meet him. So in mid-June we arranged to meet halfway, in a small town in west-central Wisconsin, under a statue of an orange moose. A friend who had helped care for Maximus at the rescue volunteered to ride along with me. She wanted to see Max land his new home that day! Max fit in the back seat of my truck, but I didn’t have a crate large enough to hold him. I didn’t know how he would ride in the car, so it was nice to have someone else ride along.
Max settled in just fine and after driving through western Wisconsin, we arrived under the orange moose. Just after we pulled in, Jeanne drove up in her bright yellow car, like clockwork. We let Maximus take a potty break and stretch his legs. He walked over to Jeanne’s car and hopped right into the back seat like he’d been with Jeanne for his entire life. It was love at first sight for both. Jeanne had decided to adopt Max and was anxious to get going on the road back home, to get him settled into his new life. She had already told the whole neighborhood about Max, and people were awaiting their arrival!
That morning when I had picked Maximus up from the rescue, I had told him where we were going and what we would be doing that day. I had told him all about Jeanne and how excited she was to meet him. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he jumped into her car like he’d been doing it for his entire life. He’d apparently understood what I’d told him and was just as excited to get on with the next chapter of their lives as Jeanne was. The rescue had already approved Jeanne to adopt and she had obviously already fallen in love with Max… so off they went!
Jeanne reported in July that Maximus is now called “Sam”. He didn’t respond to “Maximus”, but responded enthusiastically when she called him “Sam”, so Sam it is! Their veterinarian decided that Sam is part German shepherd and part Great Dane. Now that I think about it, I do see Marmaduke in him! The road for Jeanne and Sam hasn’t been without its bumps. Sam wants to chase bunnies, and there are many wild bunnies in their neighborhood this summer. True to our concerns, Jeanne has fallen a couple of times. But she’s a committed dog mom, and is working to make their life together go smoothly. She consulted with a trainer to learn how to handle Sam better on walks, and hired the neighbor boys to take him for long walks every day. They love him too. Jeanne assured me that Sam has found his forever home. I visited in August to see that they’re doing well together. I wish that a wonderful person like Jeanne would appear for every dog.
Now Jeanne and Sam seem to belong together, but how did this come to be? I happened to see Jeanne in May when I got together with her daughter. I didn’t find Sam on the rescue website and hadn’t known about him until two different people had both said, “What about Maximus”? Something led me to mention Jeanne to these people, and something led them to mention Sam to me.
And here’s the rest of the story… When I was in high school, my family moved out to the country. I loved living in the country and being with my animals. But sometimes living far away meant that I missed extracurricular activities at school. My friend Vickie lived close to our high school. She was an only child and her family was very social. They hosted me overnight many times, allowing me to attend high school activities that I would have missed. Her family was much more social and politically active than mine. They had interesting parties, exposing me to new and different people and viewpoints, even introducing me to activists, which I have now also become! They opened up a whole new world for me.
When I think about that time in my life, I realize now how generous Jeanne was to invite me into their home. As a teenager, I probably took too much for granted. I never really thanked her properly for her generosity and for all the doors she opened for me. I can’t think of a better way to thank her than by bringing Sam into her life. What better gift is there than a noble dog? Although I feel as though Sam was sent, and I was just one of the vehicles that brought him to Jeanne, I like to think that, after all these years, her kindness has been repaid. And we have reconnected, not surprisingly over a dog!
I sent a pouch of Omega Canine Shine® and some Omega Nuggets™ home with Jeanne and Sam, for good nutrition to help Sam get off to a great start in his new home.
*Note: I often use “who” when referring to a dog. Although the spell checker doesn’t like this and it may not be grammatically correct, I know that dogs are sentient beings and I do it anyway.
… Learn about Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day, bringing positive awareness for all dogs in wheelchairs,and the Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Memorial Wheelchair Fund …
Frankie (short for Francesca), a Dachshund, injured her back and was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Her back legs were paralyzed and her people, Barbara Techel and her husband John of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, first thought they would have to put Frankie down. But Frankie’s amazing spirit and will to ‘keep on rolling’ led Barbara to learn about wheelchairs for dogs. Frankie was fitted with her own chair and Barbara learned how to take care of her in her new condition. Barbara learned a lot from Frankie as she discovered that Frankie could still have a wonderful quality of life and had much to teach us.
I learned of Barbara and Frankie a few years ago when their first book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog (http://joyfulpaws.com/books/), won the Dog Writers Association of America Merial Human-Animal Bond award. I became pen pal friends with Barbara and watched as Frankie became a therapy dog and Barbara and Frankie reached out to the elderly and to school children. They spread Frankie’s positive messages far and wide, as this differently-abled little dog shared her tremendous spirit and kept on rolling.
Frankie dramatically changed Barbara’s life, gave Barbara a voice and a message that had to be shared, and turned Barbara into an author. In many ways, Barbara’s story with Frankie paralleled my story with 8 State Hurricane Kate. Barbara and I went on the Passions and Possibilities radio show together (listen to our podcast at http://tinyurl.com/passions-and-possibilities) and both contributed our stories to the book Dogs and the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing and Inspiration by Allen and Linda Anderson (http://www.dogsandthewomenwholovethem.com/).
Frankie not only changed Barbara’s life, she also changed the lives of many others. Fortunately, Barbara was receptive to Frankie’s messages and was talented and determined enough to share them with the world. When she didn’t know how to take the next step, she took it anyway and learned as she went. Barbara and Frankie grew together.
In June I received a message announcing that Frankie was retiring from public appearances. She was almost 13 years old and tired much more easily from visiting. I knew that Frankie’s retirement was a good decision. What I didn’t know is that Frankie would not be with us much longer. The following week she was diagnosed with chronic heart failure, and she passed on. I’m grateful to Barbara for knowing when Frankie’s little body was too painful for her to keep going, and for letting her go in peace.
In honor of all dogs who have changed our lives for the better, and in gratitude for all that she gave us, I’m remembering Frankie as she would have turned 13 years old on August 20th. I think the best way to remember and honor her is to share with you the message Barbara wrote at her passing. Here it is:
Saying Goodbye to Our Sweet Once In a Lifetime Dog, Frankie
One week after Frankie’s retirement and our last presentation together, my sweet Frankie was laid to rest today.
As you know, she was diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure last Friday. While we had hoped she would live comfortably with the medication to manage the symptoms, she was greatly struggling since Sunday. We tried with another medication, and though she had some comfort for one day, she began struggling again. For a heart that gave so much to so many, it was time for her little heart to rest. It was painful to see her struggle for every breath. As Tuesday went by I could see signs that Frankie was ready to move on. Just as she had been to the very end, I sensed her biggest worry was that I would be okay—once I found the courage to let her know I would be okay, we came to a peace and understanding that she will now guide me from the other side.
My life feels incredibly empty right now. My every day was all about her from expressing her bladder many times a day, to napping with her, riding my bike with her, walking her in her doggie stroller, to all the work we did together at schools and libraries and our therapy dog work together. I’m not quite sure how I will move through the next few days, but I have faith I will. I already feel Frankie guiding me from the other side as she gave me the strength to come to my computer and do what I do best—write about what I love most—my life with her.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again—there is simply no doubt in my heart that God chose me to be Frankie’s mama—and John, her papa. As I think about our journey, especially the past five years, I see me as a woman who finally stepped into the truth of who she is and found the courage to share that with those around her. Frankie gave me that. When Frankie first started using her wheelchair, I was so afraid of being judged (as I had struggled with that most of my life)that people would think I was mean or cruel for putting Frankie in a wheelchair. I will always remember the day it struck me as I looked at Frankie, happy as could be, living life to the fullest in her wheelchair- It was as if she said, “Hey Mama, you can stand tall, too. Don’t worry, it’s okay.” What a gift that little girl gave me.
So now I take those lessons of such grace, love and integrity that were wrapped up all in the heart of one little 13 lb. dog with wheels, and I learn to move forward. Our last work together while she was here on earth was the writing of my new book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One Woman’s Journey to Her Authentic Self and the Dog on Wheels Who Led the Way. She sat lovingly beside me in her little bed, now and then looking up at me, and cheering me on with her soft black eyes when I felt stuck. I’m uncertain as to when I will publish it—may stick with my original Feb. 2012 date— but will also remain open to being guided.
My life will never be the same with Frankie gone… but my life will also never be the same for her having been in it. She gave me, as well as left me, with some amazing gifts… not only me, but her papa and her family and friends and her thousands of fans.
As a legacy to Frankie I am working on a special day that will be in memory of her and to help continue to bring positive awareness to all dogs in wheelchairs. It will be called, Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed a dog in a wheelchair could live a quality life. Through this special day, I am setting up a fund to help raise money for families whose pets need a wheelchair, but the family can’t afford one (learn more at http://joyfulpaws.com/2012/06/frankie-the-walk-n-roll-dog-memorial-wheelchair-fund/).
John and I were so very fortunate to spend the last day and a half with Frankie telling her how much she means to us and how thankful we are for having her in our lives. Though difficult at times, it was such a gift to take our time in saying goodbye.
We were also very blessed that Frankie’s vet, Dr. Bohn, agreed to come to our home so Frankie could be put to rest in the place she so loved, which was my writing cottage. I held her in my arms, telling her over and over how much I loved her and thanking her for all she did for me… and so many people around the world.
After Frankie left with Dr. Bohn I sat in my writing cottage staring out the window. A few moments later a swirl of warm wind moved through the trees, through the open window and circled my heart and I felt Frankie’s soul lift to the sky, though her spirit is still very strong with me… and I suspect it will be for some time to come. I smiled and said, “Thank you, sweet Frankie. Thank you.”
Frankie will live on in our hearts always, and I know many others too, and that brings me and John joy, comfort and peace.
Our animals shepherd us through certain areas of our lives. When we are ready to turn the corner and make it on our own… they let us go. ~Author unknownIn the loving spirit of Frankie and all the animals that teach us what matters in life-
Learn more about Frankie and Barbara’s books and find support and resources for dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and other differently abled animals at www.joyfulpaws.com.
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In May I traveled to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins (dolphins willing, of course!). The trip was led by animal communicator Mary Getten, and included amazing people with powerful connections to dolphins and other animals. We swam with intriguing and playful dolphins. I was overjoyed, but not surprised, by the spiritual experience with the dolphins. What I didn’t anticipate was a deeply spiritual experience with three stray dogs. I call them the spirit dogs of Bimini.
Every afternoon we went out on a boat to snorkel, explore the sea, and seek time with the dolphins. In the evenings we had workshops on dolphins and animal communication. In the mornings we had free time to meditate, do yoga, walk the beach, kayak, or receive energy work or massages.
One morning after experiencing energy work, I was still thinking about what I had learned. I didn’t know that an animal communication workshop had already begun, because the workshop schedule had been changed due to the weather. I was late and was still trying to clear my head. I decided to go for a short walk into town, although I wasn’t certain that I should walk into town alone.
I had been in Bimini for a few days and missed my animals at home. I was thinking about them as I walked, when a yellow dog and a red dog appeared beside me. I strongly felt the presence of my yellow dog and two red dogs at home. When the dogs got ahead of me, they stopped, looked back and waited. When they strayed off, they looked up for me and galloped back to my side. They were escorting me, like four-legged guardian angels, like my dogs back home.
The two dogs stayed with me as I walked through town. Their playful spirits seemed as though they were on a mission to protect me, keep me company, and make me happy. When I entered a shop, they waited outside. I commented to the proprietress that they were waiting for me, thinking she would say that they follow and wait for everyone, but she didn’t. She seemed to think this was special.
When I left the shop to walk back to Wild Quest, the two dogs were right there with me. When I turned around as they followed me, I noticed that a third dog, another red dog, had joined us. Now I was walking with a yellow dog and two red dogs, just like at home. Looking down at them, I imagined surroundings of field and forest instead of sand and sea, and felt right at home. Curious. Or was it?
We had been studying animal communication and telepathy, and I wondered if my dogs at home had sent these spirit dogs to take care of me. They certainly made me smile and feel safe. That’s why I call them the “Spirit dogs of Bimini”. They brought the spirits of Bandit, Chase, and Cayenne to me. Although their lives in Bimini are probably much more difficult, they gave me a sense of play and comfort.
When I reached the gate, I thanked the dogs for the walk and their company, then said goodbye. I closed the gate and decided to join the animal communication workshop after all. I climbed the outside stairs to the second floor classroom and took a seat with my back to the door. Momentarily, people were pointing to the doorway behind me. The yellow dog had found his way inside the fence and followed me upstairs! He was clearly on a mission to find me because others had tried to get him to leave and he wouldn’t go. I understood his need to find me and told them the story.
The people at Wild Quest thought this incident was strange. This dog hadn’t come inside the fence before and they didn’t understand why he wouldn’t go. I had to get up and go downstairs and out the gate to convince the dog to leave. Once I got up, he followed me right out. I assured him that I was okay, gave him my love, thanked him again and asked him to go back into town to help an older ailing dog I’d seen there. I thought maybe he needed another mission to send him on his way.
It’s curious that the only yellow and red dogs that I saw in town joined me on my walk. Or is it? Animal communicator Mary Getten said that the dogs were feeling my love for dogs and were attracted to my spirit. I believe they were also connected to my dogs at home and were somehow sent. Although their lives were no doubt very different, they carried the spirits of my dogs, and for the short time that we spent together, I felt those spirits.
We are just beginning to understand the complexity of dolphins. Perhaps dogs know more than we think too.
Note: Two of the three Bimini spirit dogs appeared to be well fed. The third was way too thin, yet appeared to belong to someone and responded when the man called. Although the dogs had a glint in their eyes and playful spirits, their coats were dull. Some of the dogs that I saw were clearly underfed and had sad eyes. I gave them my love and wished I’d had some Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™, two great food supplements from Omega Fields®, to share with them.
Here in the U.S., some dogs get poor nutrition because people don’t know better. The dogs are fed kibble without enough nutrients. Omega Fields products added to the diet give dogs the missing nutrients they need, resulting in healthy skin and coats.
A quick note: A few weeks ago I discovered that Bandit’s tags were missing. I keep them in a tag pocket on his collar to protect them, and the entire pocket with all the tags was gone. I immediately got him a new ID tag. After my experience with hundreds to thousands of lost dogs after Hurricane Katrina, I wanted Bandit to be easily identified from a tag (even though he is microchipped), if for some reason he got lost. For more information, look for the special offer on the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book at the end of this article.
I’m excited because I’m preparing for a trip to swim with wild dolphins (if they’re willing) in Bimini with animal communicator Mary Getten. In 2008, I had amazing encounters with gray whales at Laguna San Ignacio on a trip with Mary. I’ve been reading books by Rachel Smolker and Horace Dobbs about encounters with wild dolphins. I knew that dolphins are remarkably intelligent, and reading these stories impressed me about just how connected they are. We’re often ignorant of other species’ capabilities and needs unless we take time to observe them and get to know them.
Smolker wrote about a wild dolphin, called Holly, in Australia. When Smolker was in the water with Holly one day, Holly tried to get Smolker to swim down into deeper water, but she didn’t follow the dolphin because the water was murky and she couldn’t see well. Holly then dove down alone and carried something up from the bottom of the sea. It was the toolkit that had been lost from Smolker’s boat in a recent violent storm. Holly the dolphin had retrieved Smolker’s lost toolkit!
Dobbs wrote a similar story about a dolphin, called Donald, in England. Dobbs had lost his new underwater camera when the strap broke. He’d been searching for it for a while when Donald dove to the bottom of the sea and pointed to the lost camera, finding it for Dobbs. This is another example of a dolphin helping a person find something they had lost! After spending much time swimming in the ocean with wild dolphins, Dobbs hypothesized that they used their sonar to identify the heartbeats of their human friends from a distance.
During the same week I was reading the dolphin books, while out doing errands I heard snatches of a cancer researcher speaking on the radio. I later looked up the broadcast and found the podcast at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/04/27/mpr_news_presents/. Dr. David Agus, cancer doctor and best-selling author of the book The End of Illness, spoke about diet and exercise and genes, but what jumped out at me the most is what he said about dogs. He said that the landmark Framingham Heart Study showed that the most protective factor for our hearts is having a dog. People who have dogs are healthier because dogs keep us on a regular schedule. He stated that having a regular schedule for diet, sleep, and exercise is even more important than how much food or sleep or exercise we get.
When asked how this helps, Agus said that our bodies don’t like surprises. Our bodies care about surviving, and having a predictable and regular schedule helps our bodies know what to expect. Stress hormones are more likely to be activated when our bodies are surprised or miss something. When we have responsibility for a dog, we’re more likely to go to bed and get up at a certain time, have regular mealtimes, and go out regularly to walk the dog. We have to get home by a certain time to let the dog out and are less likely to stay out late because we have to get home to the dog (or we know that the dog will wake us up early even if we stay up too late!). This regular schedule is good for our bodies.
I knew that having a dog was good for my heart, but I hadn’t thought about it this way!
Next Dr. Agus said something that I hadn’t exactly heard before. He said that if you work out for an hour per day and sit for the rest of the day, all that sitting negates the benefits of the one hour of working out. Sitting for too long isn’t good for us because our lymphatic system has no muscles. When we walk around, the rhythmic contractions in our leg muscles circulate the lymph, helping our bodies get rid of waste. Helping the lymphatic system drain regularly by moving around makes us healthier. People who go to the gym for an hour per day may be fit in some ways, but their chance of getting cancer isn’t reduced by exercising unless they continue to move around throughout the day. People who have dogs tend to move around more regularly. This helps drain our lymph nodes and keep us healthy. Of course, this probably only pertains to people whose dogs live in the house with them and who spend time with and pay attention to their dogs.
According to this thinking, Bandit hitting me on the leg with the rubber chicken or dropping the ball in my lap when I’ve been sitting at the computer for too long is actually helping me stay healthy. Every time I take a short break to go outside, run around with the dogs and kick the ball, I’m milking my lymph nodes, helping clean junk out of my system. I always thought Bandit was a genius. He’s even more of a genius than I realized. I call him my recreation director, but perhaps I should call him my personal trainer too.
In turn, I do many things to help keep my dogs healthy. I give them off leash exercise, with room to run every day. I take regular breaks to play outside with them. I let them be dogs, don’t give them junk food, don’t use harmful chemicals on the lawn or the carpet or the floors of our house, avoid exposing them to toxic substances, let them express their natural instincts like tracking and herding, take care of their basic grooming needs and veterinary care, feed them high quality grain free food, and, of course, give them Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™ to help meet their nutritional needs.
Dolphins and dogs are more intelligent and aware than most people realize. They give us their best. In turn, let’s take good care of them too. Next month I’ll report back on my visit with the wild dolphins and on Chase’s therapy dog certification and stint as an acupressure demo dog.
Great gift for dog lovers, graduates, dads, and more: Signed, hard cover copies of The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book are available for $15 each (40% off). Email me at jenny@8StateKate.net with “BOOK ORDER” or “BOOK INQUIRY” in the subject line. Quantity discounts are available for orders of 10 or more books. Find more info and the book trailer video at http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542.
I met Milo when he was just eight weeks old. I thought he was the cutest chocolate Lab puppy I ever met. I know… have you ever seen a puppy that wasn’t cute? Milo is four years old now, but when he was about six months old I started taking him out with my morning group of dogs. Now that Milo was a part of the group, there were a few things he would have to learn in order to fit in with the pack. I taught him various basic exercises such as, wait, stay, come, sit and “Find-it”.
“Find-it” is so easy to teach and it’s a wonderful way to get the attention of one dog or even 6 dogs! All I have to do when I’m out with a large group of dogs is say, “Find-it!” and the dogs come running as the treats fall all over the ground. Now Milo always loved this game, but as he grew older he became much more interested in sticks and, most of all, tennis balls. Yes, Milo is one of those labs that is crazy about tennis balls. So, given that Milo understood the concept of “Find-it” with treats, I thought I’d try to use the same exercise but instead of searching for treats have him search for tennis balls. Sure enough, all I had to say was, “Milo find the ball, “Find-it” and off he would go with his nose to the ground in search of any lost balls hiding in the brush and long grass.
Now, the space where I take the dogs for their morning outing is a very large, open marshland area that has many large Pampas Grass plants scattered throughout the middle of it. These ornamental grasses grow quite large with long, thick, graceful blades and delightfully fluffy off-white plumes, which grow up through the middle like a floral decoration. The long leaves are very coarse and sharp to the touch, but the dogs love to run through them and rub themselves against them.
One morning at the marsh Milo was looking a bit bored so I told him to go and “find” a ball! So, off he went searching with high hopes of finding one. Not long after I sent Milo on his search I happened to hear a loud crash in the brush. I couldn’t imagine what caused the noise because at that moment my group and I were the only ones there. I continued to walk ahead and as I rounded the bend with the other dogs I happened to see something moving in the middle of a clump of Pampas Grass. As I got closer, I was trying to figure out what it was that was moving back and forth in the middle of the plant, I finally realized it was a tail! Yes, Milo’s tail! That crazy Lab went head-first and dove into the middle of the 5 foot tall clump of pampas grass. I was laughing so hard wishing someone were here to witness this when Milo’s head popped up out of the top of the bush with a tennis ball stuck in his mouth. Just as I called out to him he disapeared again head first down into the grass. I tried calling him to come out, but only halfheartedly because, at this point, it had become quite entertaining. All of a sudden, POP! out came Milo with two balls in his mouth. He leaped into the air out of the clump of grass and took off running looking quite proud of his find.
Now, I said to myself, what on earth gave Milo the idea to search for a ball in the Pampas grass? And then I remembered… when the dogs would get too crazy over a ball and I would have to take it from them, I would usually toss it high up into the middle of the Pampas grass so they couldn’t get to it. I thought it was a great idea because there is no way they could possibly jump up that high or get down into the middle of the grass. Well, let me tell you, the old saying really applies to Milo…“if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Milo’s way!
Have fun when teaching “Find-it.” Dogs love this exercise and, why not, there is always a reward of some kind that follows! It’s important to use high value treats when you teach this exercise, because you are trying to redirect your dog’s attention away from something. Usually the more scent the treat has the better. You’re asking him to come back for a treat instead of chasing that fast rabbit that just ran by! Omega Fields’ Omega Nuggets™ make a great “Find-it” treat. They have a strong, appealing smell that dogs love. Another great dog training investment is a treat bag. Most pet stores carry a variety of these. They usually hook on easily to your belt or clip in the back like a fannypack. Load up your treat bag everytime you go for a walk or an outing with your dog. Before you start out, ask the dog for a “sit” or any basic command and give him one of the treats you are carrying. Then, let him get out a little ahead of you and call him back and give him a treat. Now your dog knows that you have treats and are willing to dole them out.
Once your dog has learned the basics of “Find-it” there are endless reasons to use it to redirect your dog’s attention:
Another dog approaching or a wild animal off in the distance
If he is going for an object you don’t want him to have, such as something edible or a non-edible item like a childs toy
To catch his attention before he takes off down the road or heads off into the woods off the walking path
To get him off furniture or out of the car
To get him to change directions on an outing or walk when he is not on a leash. Simply toss a few treats in the new direction ahead of you and say, “Find-it.”
Start out by taking a treat and toss it on the ground close by the dog and say, “Find-it.” Once he gets the hang of it you can expand the distance that you toss the treat. If he doesn’t see where you tossed it, guide him by pointing to the treat and when he finds it say, “Yes!” Let his attention wander and then throw a treat and give the command again. When the dog is breaking away from what he is doing and coming over every time you say “Find-it,” increase the challenge by having someone create a diversion. Use a friend with a toy or another dog. When your dog turns his attention to the diversion, call his name and say, “Find-it” and toss a treat. Increase the diversions until you can get your dog to break away every time.
“Find-it” is also a wonderful way to engage your dog to interact with you and play. You can have someone take your dog to another room while you hide treats for him to find upon his return. When he returns simply tell him to, “Find-it.” Dogs have an instinctive hunting mode and most dogs find it enjoyable to look for things. If your dog is bored from being home alone all day while you’re at work, a ten minute game of “Find-it” works wonders to re-energize them and give them attention.
“Find-it” is a great tool to have in your dog training tool box. When a big diversion is needed to get your dog to come to you and “Come” just isn’t working, “Find-it,” when effectively taught, will overcome many enticing distractions. It is also a great way to entertain and interact with your dog. A healthy dog/owner relationship starts with positive, fun, interactive training.
In January, Chase and I started taking a therapy dog class. The point of the class is to familiarize the human-dog team with the exercises they need to pass to become a Delta Society® Pet Partners® team. Chase has been waiting for me to get my act together for years. He loves to meet new people, is very sensitive, and seems like a natural. I’ve thought for a long time that he would make a good therapy dog, visiting the elderly, or kids in the hospital, or anyone who would feel better by having a dog’s company for a little while, a dog to cuddle up with, stroke, and talk to. He’s a great snuggler and a great listener. He’s a sensitive guy—his favorite ball is pink!
Chase has always been tuned in to people’s feelings. He knows when something is different. He intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He’s the dog who goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did it because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does it when I could really use a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.
My friend Sarah rescued Chase in a poor area of rural Virginia, from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. This young cattle dog-collie mix had a strong herding instinct and, knowing him, was just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and was going to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved Chase, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew what was going on.
You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together (in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate). The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact and I came upon Chase the following spring on Sarah’s rescue website (www.lostfantasystables.com). Seeing that he was a “red heeler mix”, wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts, and knowing that my red Australian cattle dog needed a new pal, I followed up. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit with my family. A series of very caring people transported Chase from Virginia to Wisconsin, where I picked him up and brought him home.
That was in 2006. Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit after a few tussles to settle the pack order. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me to get bird seed. I later learned that the man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in the garage with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours.
Chase also had a few episodes that seemed like traumatic flashbacks. One occurred when we were in an agility class, getting ready to start a course. I hadn’t unhooked the leash yet, but he began to run, thinking he was already loose. I didn’t see him take off in time and he hit the end of the leash very hard. His reaction was so dramatic, especially for such a gentle dog, that we decided he was reliving bad past experiences of being jerked hard or hung on a leash. He was very traumatized.
In spite of his past, Chase is a very loving and friendly dog. He loves people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he is bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. Being locked in the garage all alone must have been a horrible punishment. He’s trying to make up for lost time on the love front.
Chase has been waiting for years now for me to follow through on his potential. I think he will be a great therapy dog, but I’ve often wondered how I would fit another commitment into our schedule. He has an arthritic back now, probably from being thrown around when he was younger. I’m concerned about someone surprising him with a big hug and hurting him. But a year ago at a book event, I learned about READ Dogs (www.readdogsmn.org) and I think he would be a perfect READ dog. READ dogs sit and listen while a child (or anyone who is learning to read) reads them a story. Dogs are great company and aren’t judgmental. They enjoy any story. A kid builds confidence and gains a friend while reading out loud to a dog. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to make a connection with an animal. A dog like Chase gets to bond with a kid and fulfill his purpose to give love.
Chase may have trouble passing some of the Delta tests due to his back problems, but we’re going to try anyway. We know that, just as a dog can learn to pass the required tests, kids can learn how to approach a dog kindly and gently. Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is open.
We’re going to share the “secret” behind Chase’s beautiful, soft coat. Once we let our classmates know about Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™, they will all have the key to plush, soft and shiny coats that everyone loves to pet!
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