Bottoms Up!

who trains dogs for people with all kinds of challenges


There are two articles in this issue that deal with various things that happen at the dog’s nether end. “Dog Gone Dung” contains everything you ever wanted to know about dog poo – and come on, admit it: You were afraid to ask. “Butt Scoot Boogie” is about canine anal glands, and what can go wrong with them, and what you should do about it. Assigned months apart to two, ahem, regular WDJ contributors, they arrived in my e-mail in-box at about the same time . . . and so I thought, what the heck, let’s just go ahead and get it all over with at once.

Teaching dogs to read? Have we finally lost our minds? Actually, no! CJ Puotinen’s fascinating article on page 10 is about the efforts of Dr. Bonnie Bergin, who trains dogs for people with all kinds of challenges, including the lack of ability to speak. She realized long ago that dogs could be trained to recognize symbols – even letters of the alphabet – as cues for behavior. Creative people (such as CJ herself) are putting dogs’ ability to read to work in helping kids learn to read. You have to check it out.

Finally, concerning Pat Miller’s article on the facing page: Many of us bring our dogs with us when we take road trips or just run errands in our cars. The article reminds us of some critical car safety tips we ought to keep in mind – for the sake of our dogs, ourselves, and our fellow drivers. Loose dogs, especially excitable or unruly ones, really are a hazard to themselves and others in cars.

A few days after Pat sent me the article, I received the following e-mail from her:

“So, I’m driving back through town after doing shelter assessments this morning and in the next lane (a one-way street downtown), I see a sedan with the front passenger window open and a tricolor Beagle-mix half-hanging out the window.

“Hunh, I mused. I just wrote about that! He really could fall out of that window!

“So we go a couple of blocks, and I pull slightly ahead of the car. After I pass it, I glance in my rearview window – just in time to see a tricolor blob go Splat! onto the pavement.

“I jam on the brakes, hit my flashers, jump out of my van, and dash after the dog, who is now limping down the street away from me, a little stunned, but walking. I call to him, with no acknowledgment. He turns into a parking lot that goes through to a busy street. Just then the owner comes up behind me and calls to the dog, who looks up but doesn’t stop. The owner calls again, running toward the dog, and this time the dog pauses. The owner reaches for the dog’s collar, but the dog evades his reach and circles back toward me. I kneel and schmooze him up, he comes up to me, and I calmly grasp his collar and hold him until his owner steps up to take him.

“As we walk back through the traffic jam we’ve created, the owner thanks me and says, I guess I won’t let him do that anymore!

“Fortunately, no harm done, but in my 50-plus years I’ve never actually seen a dog fall out a car window. Talk about synchronicity!”

Pat finished her story by writing, “Hey, Nance, do you think you could use an article about winning the lottery?”

-Nancy Kerns