Partners

About 15 years ago I was sitting in my vet’s waiting room in Livermore, CA with our first Golden Retriever, Bailey. Hanging on the wall was a print of a Firefighter with his arms around a Golden Retriever. The picture captivated me in a deeply emotional way. The firefighter is sitting on the ground, eyes closed looking exhausted and traumatized. He wears knee pads, leather gloves, and a helmet with a mounted flashlight. He is positioned in a way that he can cradle his partner, a Golden Retriever, between his legs.  The Golden is wearing an orange vest with an American Flag and the word “Rescue”  inside a white cross. With tired eyes the dog looks equally exhausted and sad as his handler. 

What struck me about this print was that within the tired eyes of the golden retriever I also saw compassion. 

I stood up and got a closer look at the print and learned it was called “Partners”.  I later learned that the firefighter’s name was Skip Fernandez and the rescue dog’s name was Aspen. The painting depicted a real life scenario where they sat in the rubble of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City after the infamous bombing in April of 1995.

During each subsequent visit to the vet I would look at the print of Skip Fernandez and Aspen and be drawn further and further into the scene. A couple of years ago began searching for “Partners” to purchase. l found that it had been out of circulation for many years. There were a few copies on eBay that were framed and very expensive. The two I found were located in the MidWest and East Coast. With shipping and insurance I deemed it cost prohibitive.  I was about to give up looking when I found an unframed copy on eBay. I bought it had it framed locally and it now hangs in my office.

The first time I saw the print was many years before my sweet Kloe, now five years old, was born. Years later I now see the same compassion in Kloe’s eyes that I see in Aspen’s eyes. Kloe has lived a blessed life and has never had to sacrifice and serve as Aspen did.  But I beleive that Kloe, with the right training, could have been effective in some type of service. Her desire to please, to communicate, and to serve is strong. But mostly it’s her compassion and her ability to feel what the person next to her is feeling; and to react to those feelings. If it’s joy she shares that joy. And if it’s pain I believe she tries to absorb the pain and  bring relief to the person who is suffering.

I was honored to have known a search and rescue dog named Indie.  Indie, like so many other Golden Retrievers, was diagnosed with cancer.   He continued to serve until the end but recently the pain became evident and his owners recently made the difficult decision to put Indie down and take his pain away. As his owner and handler wrote, “The average dog is a better person than the average person; Indie was never average.”   So this print of Partners now has an even more special meaning for me.   I will always see Kloe in Aspen’s eyes.  But this print will now also serve to remind me of Indie and the many search and rescue dogs and their handlers who make so many sacrifices to help others.

RIP Aspen.  RIP Indie.   Thank you for your service.

                      “partners”, Skip Fernandez and “Aspen”

 

“indie”

 

Compliance Evolution

My Golden Kali has been the most loyal, trustworthy, and loving a dog one could ask for.  Compliance with rules and requests has never been an issue.  Kali has always been eager to please.  There have been times over the years where Kali comes up in conversation and someone will ask something like, ‘will she do that?’ or ‘how will you get her to sit still for that?’.  My answer has always been the same, “Kali does what I ask her to do”.   And she does. And that’s that.  Not because I’m a great trainer.  Because Kali is a great dog.

Whether it’s sitting still to have her nails trimmed (I use a dremel), being poked and prodded at the vet, or sitting for a bath and brushing, Kali has always done what I’ve asked of her.  She hasn’t always liked it but she does it because I ask.

Kali, now a senior at 10 years, remains compliant and eager willing to comply.   But some things have changed; just a little bit…  I realized that there has been a compliance evolution that has gone something like this.

Kali at 5

Kali: “Hey dad, I’m right here waiting for you to tell me what to do.  Just give me the word or signal and I’m good to go”.

Me:  “Ok Kali, let’s go”.

Kali springs to her feet and leads the way trotting just in front of me to our destination.

Kali at 7

Me:  “Come on Kali, I need to go to the back yard and I want you to  come with me”.

Kali:  “Sure thing dad.  I go where you go whenever you want me to go”.

Kali gets up and prances along side of me not really knowing where she is going and not caring because she’s by my side.

Kali at 10

Now at ten Kali spends much of her day inside sleeping   She’s earned the privilege to be inside if that’s what she prefers and this is what she usually chooses.

Me:  Walking to the door, “Come on Kali.  You need to go outside and get busy” (get busy is the term we use to tell our girls to pee and poop).

Kali:  “Thanks for asking but I’m fine right here”.

Me: “Kali.  Come.  Let’s go!”

Kali:  “No, Im good”.

Me:  KALI COME.  Gosh darn it… COME!

Kali:  Slowly rising “Geesh.  You don’t have to yell.  I heard you the first time.”

Me: Thought bubble over my head, “Yeah I know you heard me so why didn’t you do it the first time?”  Second thought  bubble over my head, “Oh yeah because you’ve trained me very well”.

And so it goes these days with my Golden Kali.    Our relationship has evolved over the years and the bond and love has grown stronger each day.  The five year old vibrant rescue from Taiwan is now a stubborn old lady who remains compliant and eager to please in all ways and at all times.

It’s just takes a little longer these days.

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Kali hearing the request to “come” but knowing that there will be at least two more requests before she is expected to actually do anything

This Dog Is Driving Me Nuts

This dog is driving me nuts!

As a parent of three now grown children I can tell you first that these statements are true:

Child one: “I’ follow the rules”.  

Child two: “I’m the reason for the rules”.

Child three: “The rules don’t apply to me”.

And so it seems with dogs too….

Kali is the oldest and fur-baby number one.  From day one she did was asked of her, never complained and was happy to comply.   Kloe is fur-baby number two.  Kloe was the reason for certain changes and routine in the pack as she was growing up.  Now at almost three years of age she is very much a rule follower herself but wasn’t always that way and she was definitely the reason certain controls and limits had to be put in place.

And then there is fur-baby number three: Koda.

Sigh…

At eight months old Koda is a natural at living up to the child number three statement.  The statement oozes from every single one of her 48 pounds.  Her breath in the cold frosty air whispers the statement.   Somewhere there are tee-shirts with the child number three statement on the back with a picture of Koda on the front.  Double sigh…

Koda’s tenacity, confidence, and strong will is something to behold.  I really do admire it and am so glad Koda is who she is.   Is her tenacity challenging?  Yes.  Does her strong will try my patience?   Hourly.   Can I channel her strong will into positives that will make her a tremendous adult dog.  I hope so.   Can I leverage the combination of all three to reverse the effects if global warming?   Maybe.  Ok probably not  but that is the power of Koda.

Potential song lyrics for Koda’s enshrinement into the Child Number Three Hall of Fame:

“And I love her” – Lennon and McCartney

“That’s the power of love” – Huey Lewis

“This dog is driving me nuts” – Michael Morales

Crazy, nuts, bananas – whatever.  But also, crazy with love.  Crazy with the optimism a puppy brings to one’s every day life.   Crazy fun to see her play with abandonment.

But yeah, this dog is driving me nuts!

 

 

 

I stand corrected.

I urged the original poster who was looking for advice to ignore the wrestle-mania advice of this so called and self-professed professional wrestler trainer.   Within moments another comment  from wrestle-mania central was directed at me telling me that I knew nothing about dog training and that the method they described was decades old and highly effective.

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Still a Puppy

At seven months Kloe is now bigger than her big sister Kali.  Kali has more girth and more fur which makes her seem even bigger than she is but Kloe is taller and weighs as much – about 60 pounds.  It would be easy to think the she was no longer a puppy being so big and so smart and so independent.

But at the end of the day she is still a puppy.

There was a time when we used a “Pet Corrector”; those air cans that make a loud hissing sound that gets your “pet’s” attention and “corrects” their behavior.  We used it for a time with Kloe to “correct” her behavior of jumping on us (and guests) when she was excited.  It was very effective.  Almost too effective.  When she heard it she would, with tail between legs, come running to my feet,  even if it was me who had the Pet Corrector in my hand, and press her body into my legs as if to say, “save me from that scary and forbidding sound”.

We havn’t used the Pet Corrector for some time.   Partly because it ran out of hiss but mostly because Kloe has matured and though conditioning and training was much better about jumping when she became excited.  Recently however we noticed that when we sneezed Kloe had a similar reaction to our sneezes as to the Pet Corrector.

The picture below is the end result of Holly having sneezed and Kloe running to me as I sat in my recliner and pressing her body against my legs so that I would save her.  As she sat there, tail between her legs, like a snake she began slithering up into my body and I didn’t stop her because, well, it was so darn cute. She ended up in my lap and that was ok with me because, after all, she is still a puppy.

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Kloe: “Be my hero dad and save me”.  Me:  I will always be your hero Kloe and I will always there to save you (even if it’s just a sneeze from mom).

Kids – they grow up so fast….

…and even faster when they’re dogs.

The photo below was taken a few days ago.  We use puzzle bowls to slow down meal time for these two food hounds we call Kali and Kloe.  The bowls have a pattern with varying shapes and depths.  It’s a great way to avoid bloating and extend by several minutes  one of  their absolute favorite activity of the day.

Kloe’s bowl is the green one that she’s standing next to.  Kloe recently graduated from a very simple puzzle bowl – four big sections – to the green one that used to be Kali’s.  Even when you’re a pup if you’ve got an older sibling you get hand me downs, right?  The first few days I’d had to help Kloe with the last few pieces of kibble or veggies but she quickly learned that if the crevice where the food was sitting is a bit too deep for her tongue that she could push the food to a more shallow area and gobble it up.  It still takes her several minutes to finish eating but that’s the point.

Kali’s got the new orange bowl with slightly more difficult terrain.   It has deeper crevices and the design is more challenging.  If you look closely in the photo you can see that there is a small piece of apple that she couldn’t get out.  She had resigned herself not completely solving the puzzle during this particular meal and after an extended attempt to get her tongue to do the job she laid down to lament her failure.

Kali and Kloe are very respectful of one another at meal time.  When Kloe was very young she made the mistake of trying to get a piece of kibble out of Kali’s bowl while Kali was eating.  Kloe wasn’t much more than 9 weeks old and as gentle as Kali had been with her, and continues to be now, Kali made sure that Kloe never did that again.  A stern growl and nip to Kloe’s ear drew a little blood and high pitched yelps and the lesson was served.  Kali has been a great teacher and this was a tough but important lesson for Kloe at an early age.

On this day Kloe kept her distance and eventually sauntered over to the orange bowl and I snapped the photo as these two went nose to nose in a dinner time stare down.  They stayed in this stare down for several seconds until I – the diplomat that I am – dislodged the apple chip and gave a small piece to each of them.

Kloe has been in our pack for two months.  She was just nine weeks old when we brought her home.  It’s been so great to see her grow and mature.  Much of the maturity can be attributed to Holly’s daily training sessions and to Kali’s mentoring.

The video below the photo was taken when Kloe was about 10 weeks old and right before we moved from our home in Livermore to Tuolumne.  The video shows a small pup – not even half her size now – with the same tenacious and playful personality that I have come to adore.

Kids – they grow up so fast!

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Dinner time stare down at the Golden K Corral

Leave It

We brought Kloe home two weeks ago and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as part of our pack.  I was fairly certain that Kali would welcome her and be a good big sister or maybe even a surrogate mama.  My Golden Kali has exceeded my expectations and has not only  accepted embraced Kloe but has assumed responsibility for helping with Kloe’s training.

Kali is doing all the natural things you would expect from an older dog to help socialize the pup to the pack. She allows Kloe to chew on her face and use her body as a personal jumpy but only within reason.  When Kali has had enough she let’s Kloe know through body language, a mild growl, and by throwing her 57 pounds of body weight on Kloe’s 18. When Kali naps she welcomes Kloe to spoon with her or lay on her belly.   During  tug of war Kali allows Kloe to hold her own until the very end when Kali shakes her loose.

But this morning I saw something that surprised me and made me realize that Kali is truly helping with training our newest Golden K.

It was around 6:30 am (yes 6:30 we have a puppy!!) and Holly and I were sitting on the floor in the family room drinking coffee, watching the dogs play tug 0f war after breakfast (theirs not ours).   They did their tug of war dance for about 15 minutes and then we observed something rather remarkable.  Kali was teaching Kloe “leave it”.  A basic of training is to ask your pup for the toy they have in their mouth, by saying, in our case, “leave it”, and then rewarding them for letting go and then immediately giving them the toy back.  It builds an important bond of trust between you and your pup.

As we were watching the dance we watch Kali shake the toy strongly enough to shake Kloe’s grip loose.  Kali is standing there with the toy in her mouth as Kloe stares.  Kali drops the toy on the ground no more than a foot from Kloe’s gaze with her head slightly tilted in Kloe’s direction.  Kali gives a soft but firm growl while looking at Kloe.  Kloe respects the growl, lies down, and doesn’t try to get the toy.  Kali picks up the toy and takes it Kloe and they begin tug of war again.  After another 20 or 30 seconds Kali shakes the toy loose and again drops it in front of Kloe.  She stares at Kloe.  Kloe stares at the toy but remains put.  Kali picks up the toy and takes it back to Kloe.  Kloe accepts the toy and they resume the play.

I turn to Holly and say, “I think Kali is teaching her leave it”.  Holly concludes that Kali is not impressed with the training we have provided so far and is taking matters into her own paws.

I’m ok with it.  As all of you know who have raised a puppy you need all the help you can get with a quickly emerging a teen-ager in both size and attitude.  And for me I would want no other canine trainer helping us other than my Golden Kali.

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Kali and her student Kloe

Toast Of The Town

The town is the kitchen and the Toast is really just a piece of bread….

It all started over a year ago when Kali had a minor medical issue that required daily pills for a week or so.  Kali is not the most discerning diner in the world Kali will eat just about anything.  So I thought I could just give her the pills and she would gulp them down as she does with anything that comes from the kitchen and out of my hand.

I was surprised when Kali spit the pill out of her mouth.  Being a resourceful and evolved human being I quickly figured out that if I wrapped the pill in a piece of bread that Kali would gulp down the pill wrapped in bread and be none the wiser for the experience.

This routine went on for the week without incident.

  • Get up in the morning
  • Get the medicine
  • Go to the cabinet and get a piece of bread
  • Wrap the pill in the bread
  • Ask Kali to sit a reasonable distance away from the kitchen
  • Bring the bread wrapped pill to Kali
  • Boom – Kali gets her medicine and as far as she is concerned she got some people food from the (people) cabinet

The evolved human being wins as usual.  Right?  Well, maybe…

Dogs love to be trained.  They love the interaction,  mental stimulation, and rewards that follow successful execution of the command, trick, or show of obedience.  When Kali followed me into the kitchen in the morning and I sent her out and followed that with a piece of bread that happened to have a pill inside she was trained.  Trained to know that when I go near the cabinet where the bread lives there is a good chance that she will get a piece of bread.  She’s believes it because since then I follow the same routine; because (duh!) I a very trainable….

Since that period of time when Kali had the meds and I wrapped them in bread there is the morning time routine – that occurs right after her formal breakfast of kibble – of me fixing my breakfast which almost always includes the bread cabinet.

Kali, and now Smokey too, will immediately “assume the position” on the edge of the kitchen and wait for their piece of bread; their “toast” as I now refer to it as.

It’s great to be trained.  It’s liberating.  I love the interaction and mental stimulation I get when Kali shows me what I need to do to make her happy.  I really like the rewards of licks and tail wags I get when I do something right.  And best of all, Kali loves it when i am obedient.

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Kali and Smokey waiting for their toast from their all trained Dad

 

 

 

 

Sometimes Life’s A Grind

It’s been eight months since the grooming mishap when I cut Kali’s dew claw too close and she ended up needing minor surgery to repair it; actually to remove it because it was cracked and kept bleeding.  I spent days kicking myself at the time for hurting her and since then I’ve been very reluctant to have another go at it trimming nails.  Surely Kali would pick up on my reluctance and anxiety if i was to try again so I’ve put it off.

When Kali had a professional teeth cleaning a few months ago the vet trimmed her dew claws since she was out for the count during the cleaning.  Recently I’ve noticed that they have been growing very fast and I knew I would need to do something soon.  This morning she spent about 20 minutes nibbling on her paws; specifically her dew claws.  They were obviously bothering her and I had put off doing anything too long.  They were pretty long and beginning to curl.   My bad…

At the time of her surgery to correct my blunder my vet suggested I look into getting a nail grinder and begin to slowly get Kali accustomed to the sound of the grinder while working my way up to actually using it on her nails. I never got around to doing this -until this morning.  Before heading to the pet store I did some reading on line to get a basic idea of what was available.  The clerks at the pet store I go to are very educated on the products they sell and I trust them.  A simple “starter” model was suggested, I paid the clerk, and was on my way home to begin what I thought would be a days-long process to get Kali used to the sound of the grinder.  I figured that I would have to slowly graduate up to holding her paw in my hand while the grinder was turning, and then finally actually using it.

I purposely didn’t take Kali with me to the pet store this morning because she gets a little antsy if I stand around talking to the clerks too long and I had a lot of questions about the grinders and proper technique.  When I arrived home Kali was immediately interested in the bag I had in my hand.  She came up to me, nudged the bag, smelled it, and decided that it might be food, or have something to do with food because her nose told her it was from the pet store.  I seized the opportunity to reward her for her interest and gave her a couple of biscuits while making a big deal out of the bag.   Kali stayed by my side as I took the grinder out of the packaging.  The grinder was seated in that very annoying rigid plastic clam shell packaging that has absolutely no effective method to open without using a chain saw unless you have grizzly bear paws for hands.  If I ever meet the person who came up with that packaging idea I will punch him or her straight in the face.  But I digress…

As I struggle and complain about the packaging Kali remains fixed on the grinder, now even more sure that it will lead to food.  I continued to reward her with a couple of more biscuits while I inserted the batteries.

I went to the refrigerator and pulled out the high value treats I keep in a jar; small pieces of beef and chicken rolls that I cut into bite-size pieces.  If I didn’t have Kali’s full attention before I certainly did now!  I sat down with the open jar on the table, the grinder in my hand, and Kali in front of me.  OK, I thought – let’s see how she does with the sound…  I turn on the grinder keeping it a fair distance from Kali as I hand her a treat. She  doesn’t flinch other than to flick her eyes back at the jar on the table.  Smokey on the other hand is a bit skittish with anything that sounds even remotely like the vacuum cleaner (at only 11 pounds you can’t blame him!) and he goes running under the table seeking quick shelter from the noise.  The difference in focus  for Kali and Smokey at this juncture was not surprising.   Kali’s only interest is the jar of treats and how she can get more.  Smokey was interested in not getting vacuumed up….

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“How can you hand me a treat if one hand is on my paw and your other hand is on the device that you think frightens me?

I continued to turn on and off the grinder while rewarding Kali for her calm demeanor and focus.  I wasn’t planning on putting the grinder anywhere near her paws, let alone dew claws, for the first few sessions but things were going very well.  So after a quick trim of the hairs around her dew claws I had Kali take a full down position with me also sitting on the ground.  I held her dew claw in my left hand and gave her a treat.  With her paw still in my hand I turned on the grinder and while it whirred I gave her a treat.  She was loving life at this point.  “What paw?”, she seemed to say.  I positioned her claw next to the grinder and gently pushed it towards the spinning grinder pad.  With a puff of smoke the dew claw was reduced by about an eight of an inch.  After more treats and more grinding the claw was back to an acceptable length. I moved on to the other paw and after only a matter of minutes we were done.

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“Keep that treat jar nearby and you can do whatever you want with my paws…”

Kali was an absolute angel. I was very proud of her and proud of myself for knowing her tendencies, when to push a bit and when to back off.  Today worked out great for both of us and although the dew claws are not quite as short as I’d like I didn’t want to push my luck.  I wanted to end on a positive note and so we did.  We’ll have have another session in the next day or so to finish up.

Do any of you use nail grinders on your pups?  I’d love to hear about how it works for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m mad!

I’m not mad at my neighbor but I’m real mad!  My neighbor is a good person and his dog, while a little aggressive, has mostly been polite when Kali and I meet them on the trail.  I’m mad!  So thanks to all of you who read this unedited therapy session.  As they say, the first session is free and therefore I will rant, complain, lament, and then move on.

It was raining most of the day (yay for California!) so Kali and couldn’t walk this morning.  Well we could have but I negotiated a stay from Kali and promised we would walk later if it dried up.  And so we did.

The neighbor in question lives two doors down on the other side of the street.  As we passed by I noticed him in front of his house with a couple of other people.  I also notice his dog, a Rottweiler, grazing around his front lawn. We’ve encountered the dog on the trail before at the end of my neighbor’s leash but never around the houses when the Rotty was off leash.  The Rotty had seemed calm and constrained when I’d seen her in front of her house in the past so I was not too concerned.

So I’ll cut to the chase.  In a flash the Rotty was on Kali gnashing, growling, and attacking.  Kali tried to protect herself but she was on the end of the leash I was pulling tighter and tighter.  I tried to put myself in between the dogs but the Rotty was relentless and Kali was in protect mode.  Just as I was about to try to put my foot in the Rotty’s nose another dog – an even bigger version of the first one – was on Kali.  Now there were two dogs Kali and I were trying to fend off.

It all happened in a matter of 30 seconds or less.  I tried to pick Kali up in my arms to protect her from two sets of gnashing teeth.  The owners, showed a sincere and urgent effort to quickly get to their dogs and quickly got them under control.  They were apologetic and continued to express apologies as they pulled their dogs back to their house.  I was so freaking mad and could not bring myself to say anything.  I just wanted to get Kali home and check her out.  They got their dogs inside the house and came back to apologize,  Fine…

As Kali and walk back towards our house I see she is limping badly.   I have her lay down in front of our house and I check her out.  I gently pull on her limbs and rub her fur to see if there are wounds.  Her tail is wagging and she doesn’t seem to be in any pain as I tug and pull on limbs and rub her body.  She stands up and now seems to be walking ok.  So we go for a short walk so I can see how she is walking.  It’s ok for a while but then I see more limp.  We head home.

I fill Holly in on what happened and then I’m off to a client appointment.  Holly texts me a short while later and tells me Kali si limping and in some pain.  She’ll see the vet tomorrow.  I don’t think there is a puncture.  The attacking dogs didn’t seem to get any teeth into Kali but I’m not sure.  I think she may have twisted her leg in the melee. There is a very sensitive area and when I touch it she reacts in obvious discomfort.

I’m pissed off.  Not at my neighbor (things happen), not at the dogs (although I was moments away from risking my own safety to tackle those dogs and giving them a beat down), but I’m just mad.

So thanks of the therapy session and guiltless grammatically error-ridden and ranting post.  We’ll know tomorrow the extent of Kali’s injuries.  For now she is sleeping soundly at my feet as any other evening after dinner.