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My Writing Blog Tour hits No Dog About It

September 1, 2014 9 comments

IMG_1287Today I am taking part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour.

I was tagged by the most wonderful Maggie Marton of Oh My Dog! blog. Maggie is a professional writer so I was really interested to learn more about her writing process. It’s always nice when you can learn from the best. If you get a chance go on over and read about her writing process.

Unlike Maggie, I am not a professional writer. (Oh, I write communications and project plans for work, but that is quite different from writing for a blog.) However, I do write and I love doing so. My hope is to write a book some day, but that will require a lot more discipline than I have right now. 🙂

For this tour, I have three questions to answer:

Question #1: What are you working on?

In all honesty? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Like Maggie, when it comes to my blog I am more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. I used to be much more disciplined, but as my life has gotten crazier (is 4 dogs crazy enough for you?), I have found it much more difficult to plan ahead  and get things done before the week begins. Thus, I usually end up writing a blog post at 9 or 10 pm and publishing it around 11 pm and editing it a couple times after publishing it. I know. Not exactly the best way to manage a blog, but there it is in all its messy glory.

I should mention that I also have about 43 drafts sitting in my drafts folder just waiting for my mind to formulate the words. When everything clicks into place, I write.

Question #2: Why do you write what you do?

Hmmm… That is truly a tough question. My writing has changed over the years so I can’t really say that there is one “why” to my writing. I started writing about Daisy, my first puppy mill dog, to document her progress, but when I started my pet sitting business I needed a blog that would allow me to share information with my clients. I kept it much more light-hearted in those days. Me and Daisy

Now I try to write a little bit for myself, a little for you and little bit for fun. I write about what fires me up. but I also write about what I think most people would want to know if they had the good fortune to be exposed to a wealth of dog training knowledge via their friends (as I do). I want people to have a chance to learn more about their dogs and about dog body language. The one thing I don’t want to be is a blogger who just rants, What’s the fun in that? Who wants to read a rant every single day? Not me. That’s why I add in photography and Favorite Friday videos. I want others to have fun too.

I write about what I am passionate about. It allows me to let a little bit of my creativity out.

Question #3: How does your writing process work?

IMG_5891As I mentioned above, my writing process right now is pretty disorganized. I have the 43 drafts available if choose to use them, but I also save a whole series of stories, studies, news reports and training information in my Blog Topics folder. If I am feeling a little unmotivated or not sure about what I want to write, I go to my folder and peruse it for an idea or story I want to share. Usually, they are an impetus for me to write about a related topic.

I also keep a series of folders filled with YouTube videos I can go to whenever I need one. I even have them organized by category!

Sometimes I write a post in one shot, and publish right away, and other times I start the post and save it as a draft to be finished later. For example, my blog post Are we rescuing? Or, are we passing the buck? sat in my drafts folder for over a month before I actually finished it. Sometimes my mind just needs time to roll the idea around before I can write it. When I do create a draft, I will often include the links (and videos) that inspired me in case I want to refer to them in the post.

So now that I have shared a little about me and my wiring process, here are a few other people I would like to tag for this tour. They have two weeks to answer the same questions. I can’t wait to hear how they approach their own writing process:

Notes from an Endless Sea by Eleanore MacDonald – I love the way Eleanore writes. Her words flow like water and have a beauty that is indescribable. She draws you in like a friend and confidante and leaves you wanting more. I always feel richer for having read her blog.

Will My Dog Hate me by Edie Jarolim – Edie is a professional writer and someone I admire very much. I often wish I could write like her. She can make any story sound interesting and often does. Reading her Labor Day post about her mom was wonderful and interesting and enlightening. I would love to pick her brain if I could. This is my chance.

Back Alley Soapbox by Jen K – Jen hasn’t written since early July, but I am hoping she will do this one. She is always a fun read and I love her perspective on things. She is a knowledgeable dog person and loves the outdoors and her two big black Newfies, Moses and Alma. I enjoy her writing. I hope she will share her perspective on her own writing process.

Celebrating Labor Day with your dog

September 1, 2014 5 comments
A German Shepherd dog at work.

A German Shepherd dog at work.

Today, September 1st, is Labor Day. This day, the first Monday in September, was set aside by Congress and President Grover Cleveland after the federal marshals and the Army killed 30 striking Pullman workers in 1894. This day is meant to recognize the American worker, and their contributions to our country. It’s not something we recognize much anymore, but it is a day we should all remember.

For many of us, Labor Day signals the end of summer and beginning of students heading back to school. It is a day we barbecue and have picnics or make our way back from vacation. Here in Minnesota, it is also your last chance to visit the state fair and enjoy a pronto pup or some fried cheese curds or a fresh, hand-squeezed lemonade. It’s a day to be with family and friends.

It may seem odd that dogs would somehow fit into this day, but in searching the internet I found a few Labor Day events that celebrate dogs:

  • Alabama: In the Key Underwood Coon Dog Graveyard , residents get together to celebrate the loyal lives of coon dogs long passed.
  • Washington DC: The annual Day of the Dog is held in the Congressional Cemetery and includes activities for both pets and their owners.
  • Ohio: In Cleveland, patrons can join the Cleveland Labor Day Oktoberfest and enjoy the wiener dog races.
  • New York: Labor Day also signals the beginning of long walks with your dog on a beach. In many cities, like Fire Island, New York, dogs are banned from beaches from spring to Labor Day. Bur after Labor Day, dogs and their owners can walk the shoreline in relative peace.

Here at Casa del Mel we will be celebrating the day with a walk at our local dog park and relaxing with each other. What do you and your pooch have planned for today?

Let’s pretend you’re a rescue, who would you adopt to? (Polls included)

April 23, 2014 22 comments

Let’s face it. Rescues often get a bad rap from people looking to adopt. People find their restrictions limiting, their paperwork daunting and their process somewhat convoluted and exhausting. I get it. Everyone wants to meet a dog and be able to adopt it right away. Waiting is hard.

I also get the frustration people often have with some rescues, who are so rigid in their adoption qualifications that nobody could possibly live up to their standards. In some cases, I believe this to be valid, but not in all. There are good reasons for some of the strict adoption qualifications rescues have in place. For instance, Shelties tend to be a much higher flight risk than many other breeds, so in most cases (not all) a fenced yard is a must for our rescue.

I recently participated in a discussion where people shared the restrictions some rescues had for qualifying adopters. As people shared their experiences, it suddenly occurred to me that almost everyone in the group was looking from the outside in. They had never had to make the difficult decision to place a dog with someone. It set my mind to thinking. Was there a way to let people play at being a rescue and share their own insight into how they would run things if they were adopting the dog out to someone? Hmmmm…. Maybe.

This is my attempt to let you, the adopter/potential, play at being the rescue. What follows is a description of the dog, it’s known history, and a series of choices you get to make as head of the rescue in selecting the dog’s new owner. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Meet Jenny. Sad Looking Chocolate Lab
Jenny is a stray that was rescued from a kill shelter. She is shy, nervous, and frightened of men. When she came into your rescue, she had mange and had to be treated before she could be adopted out. She also had to be spayed and vaccinated to ensure she would not get sick or get other dogs sick. She has been living in a foster home for the past two months and is now ready to find her forever home.

Keep Jenny in mind as you think about what you would do if you were a rescue.

 

As head of the rescue, you have a specific process that you like to follow when matching a dog with a potential adopter. These process includes the following (pick all that you would include in your process):

 

As the head of the rescue, you also have a certain set of criteria you use to weed out potential adopters who are not a good match for a dog in your rescue group. People you would automatically weed out of the adoption process include those who…

 

 

Three potential adopters have made it through your process and all three are interested in Jenny. Which one would you choose for her?

So what did you think? Was the process easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What the heck breed is a Teddy Bear dog anyways?

April 3, 2014 27 comments
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Teddy Bear

That is the question I posted on my Facebook page last night. I asked the question after seeing a posting for a missing dog that listed the breed of dog as Teddy Bear. Ummmm… What?

Two thoughts immediately ran through my mind when I read that posting:

  1. What the heck is a Teddy Bear?
  2. Who the heck is going to know what a Teddy Bear is so they know what to look for?

I can reassure you that the dog has since been found (thank goodness), but it led me to ask the question of my friends “What kind of breed is a Teddy Bear dog?”

Here are some of the answers I received:

  • A pom mix?
  • Never heard of it.
  • Shichon or cross between a shih tzu and bichon.
  • Also called a Zuchon.
  • Bichon and Pom and Shitzu (I think).
  • It can be any mix usually toy anything that will sell.

I Googled it and came up with this:

Hybrid Parentage

Teddy bears are “designer dogs,” hybrids of two or more breeds. Most commonly, their parents are Shih Tzus and bichon frises or bichon-poodle mixes, although breeders continue to experiment with adding other dogs, such as schnauzers, to the gene pool. Because of their small size and sweet nature, teddy bears can be perfect pets whether you live in an apartment or a large house.

Apparently, according to this page, they are also great therapy dogs, perfect for people with allergies (yeah, right), and smart and easy to train. 13_8_2012_12_30_44_SAMYOAD-233x300

The most likely reality is they are also mutts (yes mutts) with a cute name and numerous health issues that cost thousands of dollars and were raised by puppy millers looking for another quick buck. I can’t wait for the new waves of puppy mill breeding dogs soon to be headed to your local shelter (after a raid of a breeding facility).

To steal a phrase from a friend (Thanks Marie!): “Good Grief. People will do anything to say they have a “rare or special” dog breed won’t they?”

Yes. And, people will pay anything for a dog with a cute name.

Why I love my dog’s veterinarian

March 25, 2014 28 comments
dewoskin

Dr. Melissa DeWoskin, DVM

I’ve been wanting to give a shout out to my dog’s veterinarian for some time now. She is truly one of the best, especially if you have a shy or fearful dog. My visit with her yesterday just reminded me why I love her so much.

Her name is Dr. Melissa DeWoskin (DVM) and she is located at Keller Lake Animal Hospital .

I first discovered Dr. DeWoskin back when I first adopted Daisy (almost 7 years ago). In those days, Daisy was a very scared puppy mill girl. She was fearful of people and new places, and cowered at the slightest sound. Dr. DeWoskin and the staff went out of their way to make Daisy feel more comfortable. They gave her space, shared treats to help make things a little less scary and used slow movements to check her out. Because of their efforts and kindness, Daisy now looks forward to going to the vet. She is only too happy to see Dr. DeWoskin or the staff because she knows yummy treats and gentle hands will be the experience of the day.10003452_680528468675191_563349325_n

Yesterday was Maggie’s first visit with Dr. DeWoskin, and once again she reaffirmed to me why I continue to bring all my dogs to her. Here is how Maggie’s first encounter went with Dr. DeWoskin:

  • She came into the exam room and instead of coming right over to Maggie, she sat down on the floor opposite from her.
  • She talked with me and watched Maggie as she opened a package of string cheese.
  • As we talked about Maggie and how she was doing and where she came from, Dr. DeWoskin tossed her pieces of the cheese.
  • Maggie might have been unsure about the room and the sounds in the clinic, but she was more than happy to eat the cheese. (Serious progress for a puppy mill girl!).
  • Dr. DeWoskin didn’t stand for some time, but when she did she moved slowly and watched Maggie’s body language the whole time (Oh yeah. Did I mention that both she and the staff make an effort to understand dog body language? That is such a huge a win for the dogs!)
  • She then laid a mat out on the exam table, so Maggie wouldn’t slip and slide, and examined her slowly while sharing cheese bits with her throughout the exam.
  • When she was done, she gave Maggie her space and let her settle in.

As a result of her efforts, Maggie left her office much calmer and comfortable than she had been when we first got there.

I could be totally generalizing here, but I think it is pretty rare to find a vet who understands shy and fearful dogs. Dr. DeWoskin just “gets” it. I never feel like I am putting my dogs in a situation where I end up feeling guilty for subjecting them to their care.

I love that she watches a dog’s body language before making a move towards them. I love that the staff are as gentle as she is in caring for my pets. How often do you hear about veterinarians and their staff studying dog body language as a part of their day-to-day work?

So a big shout out to Dr. Melissa DeWoskin! This is why I continue to drive across town to see you. You totally rock!

I should also mention that Dr. Lillie and Dr. Mead are great too!

 

Enough with the vet's office. Can we go home now?

Can we go home now?

The Top 13 Dog Blog Posts of 2013

December 31, 2013 27 comments

IMG_1443It’s become an annual tradition for me to end the year by sharing those blog posts I thought were most touching, interesting, or emotionally powerful throughout the past year. There was no shortage of amazing writing in 2013.

You may not have the same posts on your list that I have on mine, but I hope you will find them worth reading and sharing.

Have one of your own you want to share? Please do in the comment section below.

Happy New Year everyone!

1. Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work  and My Dog Got Kicked Out Of Daycare Today by Robin Bennett Yes. Robin had two great posts that made my list this year.  The first one covers an issue near and dear to my heart – dogs and kids. The second one covers another topic I wish all dog owners would heed – not all dogs are made for dog parks or doggy daycare. Both are worth reading.

2. A Cautionary Letter by Nancy Tanner – I remember the first time my friend Nancy directed me to this post. I had such strong feelings after reading it – anger, sadness, despair. If ever there were an argument for people to better understand training methods and their impact on fearful dogs then this is it. Trust me, this will leave an imprint on your mind.

3. What My Dying Dog Taught Me About Life by Alisa Bowman of Project Happily Ever After – Even though I read this post in January, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days afterwards. It is a loving, and at times funny, tribute to a dog who loved well and was well-loved. I cannot help but think that Rhodes left an imprint on many a reader (like me).

4. What Does It Mean to Give Your Pet a Good End? Maybe Not What You Think by Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me? – Too often in this world we judge one another based on what “we” would do vs what is right for the person in question. Edie takes on an issue that is often considered taboo in pet lover’s circles – should you be with your dog when their life ends. She handles the issue with her usual class and grace, but makes a great point that I think we could all stand to hear.

5. What’s in a Name? A whole lot of bullshitittypoo by The DogSnobs writers – Okay. I admit it. I really do love The DogSnobs. I love that they have a  no-holds-barred kind of writing style and an I-don’t-give-a-sh*t-what-you-think attitude. This particular post makes fun about all the silly names breeders have given designer dogs. Want to read more? Here are a few that made the Honorable Mention list:  Owner Profile: The Distracted DingbatYour dog isn’t being friendly. He’s an asshole. And so are you., and Put it back, you don’t need that! a.k.a. Picking the correct breed is important. Don’t fuck it up.

6. This test that you keep using…… and Beware the Straw Man by Linda Case of The Science Dog – Although these are two posts in one, they are really linked. Both deal with the issue of canine assessment tests used by many shelters and animal control centers to determine if a dog is adoptable or destined for euthanization. I admit I have a bias on this issue since Daisy and Jasper likely would have fallen into the latter category if they had not ended up at my shelter. Thank goodness they didn’t.

7. What it’s like to meet an angel… by Kaylee Greer of Dog Breath Photography – I first read this story on Kaylee’s Facebook page and was moved to tears. Her big heart and giving nature made one woman’s painful day a little brighter. She later posted it on her blog and I read it all over again. If you haven’t seen any of Kaylee’s photography, it is magical, whimsical and beautiful. You can see some of her work on her blog and on her Facebook page.

8. The Four Phases of a Positive Reinforcement Trainer by Katie Hood of When Hounds Fly – Even though I am not a dog trainer, I could completely relate to this post. In any ways it was the post that created a light-bulb moment for me and changed my overall response to animal welfare issues in general. If you have ever worked in the animal welfare arena, it is worth a read. You will find yourself nodding your head in agreement or holding up that figurative mirror of self-reflection.

9. Chasing Sunsets by Leo of Kenzo the Hovawart (and Viva) – This post may have touched me more than most because it was by a fellow dog blogger and friend, but I thought it would resonate with many of you who have recently lost a beloved four-pawed friend. Recently, Leo and his family went on a journey to retrace the steps he had taken with his late dog, Viva. I thought it was a beautiful follow up to her story.

10. They Never Told Me I Would Love the Snow by Kristine Tonks of Rescued Insanity – Anyone who has read Kristine’s blog knows she has a talent with words. This one in particular is a special one. It’s like poetry. Beautiful and visual.

11. Do Some Dogs Need a Heavier Hand? by Nicole Wilde – Nicole is well-known in the dog training world, but what I love is her unique way of getting a pout across by allowing you to examine the issue from all angles. Here is one particular post that resonated with me this year.

12. Chix-A-Lot Friday: Fostering as a New Years Resolution by Aleksandra of Love and a Six-Foot Leash – I love this post simply because it is so thoroughly covers all the things one should think about and plan for when fostering a dog. If you are considering fostering a dog, read this post first. It can help set your expectations and help you prepare ahead of time.

13. Letting Go Of Ruby: A Lesson In The Dying Light by Lisa from Going to the Dogs – Even though this is a more about her mother than her mother’s dog, their tales and lives are woven together. Poignant and heartfelt. Written beautifully.

My vote for TV tonight? Hero Dogs of 9/11 on Animal Planet

September 9, 2013 11 comments

Search and Rescue dogToday I would like to highlight a beautiful film that will air tonight on Animal Planet – Hero Dogs of 9/11.

Back several years ago, when I was a new dog blogger, I had the opportunity to see a short film called by the very same name. The film was created by a fellow blogger and videographer, Kenn Bell of The Dog Files. I remember the social media sensation it caused and how my fellow bloggers and I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. It was emotional and touching and so beautifully filmed. The film Kenn Bell created was not only a memorial to the dogs who served on that day, but also a reminder to all of us that man’s best friend is so much more than “just a dog.” He is a rescuer, a companion, a friend, and a hero.

A few years later, Kenn’s film was featured at BlogPaws and it generated a lot of buzz from those who were there to see it. I may not have been there, but I watched it again at home and remembered the feelings and emotions I had on that day. Through all the horrors that day, and the long days afterwards, the hero dogs of 9/11 were there to search, to rescue and to comfort.

I have seen many of Kenn’s other wonderful videos featuring some of the most amazing dogs, but it is this one that has continued to resonate with me. So when I read that Kenn had been working on an expanded version of his original film, I was thrilled.  How wonderful to see these amazing dogs recognized once again in an hour-long special.

You can read Kenn’s own thoughts on this momentous occasion, but I hope you will do more than that. I hope you will watch it when it airs tonight.

I promise. You won’t be disappointed.

Hero Dogs of 9/11 airs tonight, Tuesday, September 10 at 8 PM ET/PT (and 7 PM Central Time) on Animal Planet

You can watch a preview here.

You can also watch another one of Kenn’s short films highlighting the ceremony that was held on September 11, 2011, to recognize the dogs who served on 9/11 – Hero Dogs of 9/11: Legacy.

What is this dog telling us? Do you see his behavioral cues?

June 24, 2013 70 comments

Last year a friend shared a great video featuring a dog and a vet tech. I’ve been searching for it for a while because I though it would be a great one to share with you. It is a great example of how a dog can be speaking to us, but we may not be listening (or in this case, seeing) what they are telling us.

I also thought it might be a great way to test your knowledge on dog behavioral cues.
I confess that watching it again a year and a half later showed me just how out of practice I have become. I missed a quite a few the first time around. Take a look and tell me what you see. (Note: No one is hurt in this video).

Not sure? I’ve posted a list below. Feel free to read the list and then watch the video or watch the video, check the list and watch the video again. It’s amazing what we miss isn’t it?

Just out of curiosity, did anyone cringe like I did as you neared the end of the video? Do you know why? I think I know what made me cringe, but I’m wondering if anyone else caught it. (PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS RESPECTFUL. THANKS!)

Behavioral Signals seen in this video

Shake off

Eye blinking

Lip licking (hard to see)

Barking and increasing distance by backing up

Growling

Looking away several times

Stiff body posture

Stillness or freezing suddenly

Mouth closed tightly (a relaxed dog would have a slack jaw)

Hard stares (this is the one that got me at the end)

At no time does this dog look relaxed. To someone who doesn’t know what to look for, it may look like he is going back for attention, but everything else about his body posture and signals says differently.

So what is this dog telling us?

Based on what I see, I think he is nervous and uncomfortable, with both the petting and the close proximity of the vet tech. He cannot distance himself easily due to the small confines of the room. All his signals tell us he wants her to back off, but when that doesn’t work, he lets her know in a more pronounced way.

Dog stress signals and babies – Do you know what to look for?

June 16, 2013 17 comments

I have a really great book to share with you tomorrow, but today I thought I would share a video that my friend Kate ( certified dog trainer) shared this past weekend. It features a dog and a toddler.

No. It isn’t one of those videos that makes you cringe as you wait for the inevitable bite to occur (although I have seen many of those). It’s actually a great example of what to look for when you have a dog around children. It’s a demonstration of dog behavioral signals that most parents (and owners) miss.

Fortunately, the trainer taking the video knows what to look for and takes the time to slow it down so you can see what her dog is telling her about his comfort level around the toddler, her niece.

While many people might think this dog is “fine” around children he is actually telling her, and those around her, that he is not “fine.” Knowing what to look for is SO VERY important. I hope you will watch it and then share with other dog owners and parents.

Having been bitten twice as a child – both times in the face, I cannot stress how important it is for parents to supervise their children when around dogs. Even more important is parents (and dog owners) educating themselves about what a dog is telling them when around their child.

Dog body language – What do you see?

June 9, 2013 14 comments

The human brain can be a funny thing.

Back when I was a pet sitter, I found myself so aware of everything that was going on around me. I would capture the faintest smell of spring flowers as I walked by someone’s well-tended garden. I knew all the sounds in the neighborhoods where I walked my client’s dogs – a train, a car in need of repair, a bird singing in the trees, a dog barking in a neighbor’s yard. I even noticed when something was out of place or unusual.

Sunrises and sunsets were so much more spectacular then too. I noticed how the sun lit up the clouds and how it changed the color of the sky or how it reflected on the water or off the trees.

I was an observer. All of my senses were engaged. Everything was in technicolor and came with surround sound. I noticed when a dog I was walking was nervous or scared or excited. I watched his every movement – a prick of the ears, a change in breathing, a stiffness to their gait. I observed them all, and from those observations I found myself better able to assess what I needed to do to help them or encourage them or protect them from harm.

But now that I am back in the corporate world, I am finding my senses dulled once again. Instead of observing my environment as separate and distinct pieces, I find my brain trying to mush them altogether like some hazy, out of focus memory.

Now when I observe a dog’s behavior, I find myself rushing past the small, but distinctly different, components and making a summation of the dog’s behavior based on a few behavioral cues. Not a good thing if you’re trying to better understand dog behavior (yes, I really am that much of a dog geek).

That’s why I was excited to participate in a recent group discussion about dog behavior. Instead of trying to interpret what a dog was trying to convey, the only goal of the group discussion was to record your observations of the dog – a furrowed brow, dilated pupils, ear position, body direction, etc. It was amazing how much more was captured as different people joined in on the discussion. It was also amazing how much I had missed.  Yikes.

It made me realize just how much I had lost some of those skills I had honed as a pet sitter. How much easier it had become to skip past those small, little cues and head on over to making an assessment. It is clear that I have a lot to re-learn.

While I practice getting better at the observation part, I thought you guys might all want to try your hand at recording your own observations. Below are two photos (Photo A and Photo B) taken at my dog park. What do you see? What is noticeable about each of the dogs in the photos? What do you notice about their bodies, their ears, their eyes?

I’d love to get your observations.

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Photo A

Photo B

Photo B

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