October 6, 2014 - Do you know this expression, "foster failure"? It's meant as a humorous term, meaning someone who was fostering a dog - one who was being prepared for adoption by a shelter or rescue group - but who fell in love with the dog and decided to adopt the dog herself. And no, I'm not yet a foster failure, though many of my friends think it's about to happen, because I've been fostering a litter of the most adorable puppies for almost a month. I tell them all, "Blech! I hate puppies! Who in their right mind would want a puppy?" - another joke.
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September 30, 2014 - Before I became a mother, when I met difficult children, I imagined their unpleasant behavior was a result of how they had been parented. In other words, I usually blamed the parents - and credited parents with doing a great job when I met kids I liked. Then I became a parent, and through close observation of my son and his closest friends, gradually realized that actually, kids are largely "who they are" when they are born. Sure, you can mold them to a certain extent, and teach them good manners (or bad). But many aspects of their personalities transcend basic behavior modification.
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September 23, 2014 - I feel HORRIBLE. I hurt a puppy Ė on accident, true. But still. I honestly feel sick. The six puppies Iím fostering (until they are old enough and healthy enough to be brought back to the shelter to be put up for adoption) were running around my backyard; I had just cleaned out their pen, and was bringing a freshly cleaned and filled pan of water to the pen. I looked around, making sure my path to the pen was clear of puppies; they tend to run toward human feet. I was about six steps from the pen when my shoe made contact with a puppy. I heard a puppy shriek as I leaped/dodged as best as I could, flinging the water and the pan clear, but when I turned around, the puppy I had made contact with was still shrieking and was holding up one hind leg. My heart sunk.
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September 16, 2014 - Iíve been fostering a litter of six puppies, who are probably only about five weeks old. And I think I have lost my mind. Iím tired, my sleep schedule is all off, I havenít walked myself or my own dogs for a week, Iíve been eating at weird times (and not with my husband), and I feel alternately so full of love for and weepy about these little guys (they are all boys!) . . . and itís only been a week. Talk about that new-mom feeling!
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September 8, 2014 - My son got his first taste of emergency veterinary medicine (and the resulting surprise of its cost) this weekend. Fortunately, it was for a non-serious accident, not a horrid injury or illness. But still: his college graduation present may well end up being a health insurance policy for his dog, Cole.
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September 2, 2014 - I think my favorite dog book published in the past decade is Merleís Door, by Ted Kerasote. The book is, in part, a memoir of one special dogís life shared with the author. But Kerasote weaves meditations and essays about the greater philosophical dimensions of our collective human lives with dogs into the story.
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August 25, 2014 - I virtually ďmetĒ Sandi Pensinger a few years ago, when WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller wrote an article for the April 2011 issue about the sport of Treibball Ė itís a herding-type sport played with large exercise balls on a large grass field; you direct your dog into herding (pushing) them into soccer goals. Sandi is a dog trainer from Capitola, California (next door to Santa Cruz); her business, Living With Dogs, offers group and private classes for puppy and dog training, and lots of fun dog sports, including Treibball.
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August 18, 2014 - It never fails to surprise and amaze me: we were hiking recently along on a trail where we havenít been for months and months and Otto stopped suddenly and started scanning a certain tree. The other dogs paused for a second, too, taking their cues from Otto, as if to say, ďWhatís up, guy?Ē And then, just as quickly, they moved on, even as Otto stood transfixed, sniffing the air and scrutinizing that tree Ė the one where he came closer than he did before or has since to catching a squirrel. Obviously, that close call with the squirrel was not as significant for me as it was for Otto, but when he stops and clearly remembers that place and looks for signs of other potentially catchable squirrels, of course, then I remember, too.
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August 11, 2014 - My old Border Collie Rupert used to herd in his sleep. Which was funny, because he was a failed sheepdog who never showed a sign of wanting to herd any animal when he was awake. But when he dreamed, his ankles flexed in a galloping rhythm and his lips curled and his eyes rolled around as he herded sheep. Iím sure of it.
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August 4, 2014 - Is there anything as good as the perfect playmate for your young, playful dog? One who is about the same size and weight and has the same style of play as your dog? Iím dog-sitting my son's dog, Cole, for three whole weeks while he travels out of the country for his sport. Cole is a coonhound/Lab-mix, just about at the one-year mark - grown-up enough to not offend my now-seven-year-old Otto with his very presence on the planet, but young enough to still crave daily sessions of play.
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July 25, 2014 - In early June I wrote a blog post about helping a friend find an appropriate dog for his family, which includes a two-year-old girl. He hadnít owned a dog for many years, and had lots of questions before and after taking custody of a prospect I found for him in my local shelter. In the blog post, I marveled at the number of things we discussed over a few-week period regarding the dogís behavior, training, health, and diet. I offer all of my friends and relatives free ďtech supportĒ for any dog they adopt through my local shelter, both to help them select the best candidate for their home, family, and circumstances, and to make sure that they all get off on the right foot together.
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July 7, 2014 - A couple of months ago, I was at the vetís office with my dog Otto. He had a small wound between two of his toes that he kept licking; it looked like a classic foxtail/grass awn hole. These things have to be probed with an instrument to make sure that the awn isnít still present in the wound and traveling upward (ever upward), the way they do.
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July 1, 2014 - Hannah is a 12-year-old Ridgeback-mix, about 70 pounds of lean muscle and bone. Sheís a constant companion to my brother, who adopted her from a shelter when she was about six months old (and who is coping with a dire prognosis right now), and to my brotherís daughter, who is almost five years old, and to my brotherís father-in-law, who has Alzheimers. Thatís a lot of canine support and therapy to provide, but Hannah pulls it off with grace and patience. Sheís more or less constantly pushing her big beautiful head into somebodyís hands, or leaning her gradually weakening, aging body into somebodyís legs. ďIím right here, pet me and we will both feel better,Ē her huge, shining eyes seem to say.
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June 23, 2014 - Iíve been helping with a health crisis in my family, which somehow always seems to result in moving dogs all around the state, because pretty much all the members of my family are dog people. My brother was recently diagnosed with cancer, and itís been taking a bit of scrambling to get him to medical appointments and cover his many responsibilities, which include being the daytime caregiver for his five-year-old daughter and his father-in-law (who has Alzheimers), and his dog, Hannah, a 12-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback-mix.
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June 16, 2014 - A couple goes out for a walk with their year-old Border collie-mix. Suddenly, two dogs of an indeterminate bully-breed description launch themselves off a front porch and (since the house had no fence) attack their dog. Their screams summon the owner, who is able to grab his dogs and pull them off, but their dog is badly hurt and required immediate medical care (stitches, drains, antibiotics) and they are bruised. Now, their formerly friendly, confident dog starts trembling, raises her hair, and growls whenever she sees another dog when they are walking.
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