Welcome to this ever evolving Canine Corner, where I have devoted and dedicated 2010 as my "year of the dog". Dogs are our life time companions and this is an annal of appreciation dedicated to my canine companions.

If you like what you have seen here, check out my website cj's canines at http://cjscanines.com/

Friday, December 31, 2010

Penny Jane came in smiling.....

It's truly the waning hours of 2010. The digital clock's halogen numerals herald 6:13 PM. It's barely thirteen degrees outside, and to the left of my computer's clicking keyboard lies Gabriel's slumbering body on the white tile floor. Penny Jane, a beautiful 10-month-old Yellow Lab lies on my bed, head turned sideways, pink tongue cresting her teeth and lips, snoring intermittingly.

Penny Jane is one of Assistance Dogs of the West dogs in training who came to join us in our home just two weeks ago. Sally has moved onto another home and is getting ever closer to being placed in her forever home. I was fortunate enough to visit her on X-mas day to deliver treats and toys and hugs. It was a meeting of old dear friends and family. Seeing Sally made Christmas morning that much more special.

Earlier Christmas morn, Gabriel and Penny Jane had found their appointed beds with special treats which drew their mouths, noses, and energies to a point of true focus and rare Christmas canine bliss. The fire roared between them. Gabriel, Penny Jane, and I had already taken our morning jaunt down the dirt road toward the pastures below our home, seeing the first rays of Christmas morning coming to meet the sky as it turned from orange marmalade to blue.

Penny Jane is relatively short in stature. What she lacks in height she more than makes up for in attitude, sense of purpose, and a healthy happy attitude. She is the color of fresh cream, her warm eyes engage lovingly. A small move on my part might spark the moves of a cutting horse.....she is poised and ready to move. She is a retriever par excellence. She has brought me any one of a dozen pairs of shoes. She is a worker, hell bent on performing any number of jobs including walking Gabriel on his Leash! She walks with Gabriel and me each morning soaking in the orange and raspberry hues of the sunrises over the Sangre de Christos most mornings. She seeks kisses and embraces, and petting, and she gives love every moment her round yellow eyes are open.

I relish the weeks and months ahead in which she and I will share. She's sure to start off 2011 in the best way possible, imbuing my life with joy, vigor, enthusiasm and love.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Year of the Dog: Reflections by the Fire

It is December 17 at dusk. The sun’s descent has stolen the once crisp outline of the clouds. My eyes reach into darkness and come up empty. The utility company’s failure to garner the sparks to light up Santa Fe has sent me in search of some form of low light endeavor, and Gabrielle, my fluffy white Great Pyrenees sees nothing wrong with this lowly lit evening, as he lies contentedly at the foot of my large fireplace. It’s a perfect moment to reflect upon my year of the Dog… to contemplate upon the countless dogs and dog lessons amassed, lessons I have learned from dogs and not the other way around.

Lessons like………….. Stay in the moment. Don’t hesitate to express joy and/or love. Move away from what you find distasteful. Be compassionate but don’t be afraid to distance yourself from angry people and animals. Eat with enthusiasm, sleep, and love with abandon, frolic with your friends, express your boundaries clearly, and jog along life’s paths with joy and passion and most of all jump, run, and play!

In 2010 I walked and exercised dogs, gathered two national dog training certifications, taught group lessons, taught private lessons, learned how to train and work with assistance dogs, visited the sick and elderly and dying with dogs, delved into dog scent training and reveled in canine olfactory abilities, learned of agility gained through team playing with my canine companions, refined the art of loose leash walking along busy byways and serene and conifer laden mountain trails, and met the likes of Temple Grandin and other human wizards that have brought the canine world increasingly into view.

…and through the kindness and loving reception that I have had the privilege to receive from these many canine friends, I have meant some very valuable humans along the way. I have met humans that share in their love, their knowledge and their appreciation of this magical world of the modern day wolf’s cousin we call the Dog. I have traveled from Atlanta to Austin in search of more knowledge, and in the New Year have plans for San Antonio to add to my dog training acumen.

I feel blessed to be working with dogs and their people. It’s a life long dream my sister reminded me of just this week. She said, “Candy you said when you grew up you wanted dogs and to live in Connecticut.” Well Santa Fe is hardly Connecticut, but the dogs are with me each and every day and that’s just fine with me. May 2011 bring us all a hefty amount of joy with our special canine companions and be yet another YEAR OF THE DOG.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Returning to Temple and finding Victoria!

2010 has been a tale of Tails for this Dog Trainer. I have become nationally certified as a dog trainer with two nationally recognized organizations, been hired as a dog trainer for assistance dogs as well as the garden variety dog, and atended two professional dog training conferences. Whewwwwwwww. And yet there is so much more to learn and I suppose this is just a tip of the ice-berg. What compels me each day to bite off more of the training apple, as it were, is my personal quest to help communicate to the dog, to the client, and to better impress upon all the joys of communion and communication between the primate and the canine.

And lest I get caught up in the communion, let me take time to recognize the teachers of the trainers. Those special people that bring positive training to the fore. One such teacher is Ms. Temple Grandin who I had the privelege to meet not once but twice this year. Temple Grandin is a woman who has walked through baricades and doors to open up doors to understanding Canines as well as ourselves in the process. She has tackled the subjects of animals, communication, and Autism. She fights hard to let primates know that dogs do have emotions and she has the scientific evidence to prove it!

This years APDT conference held in the downtown Atlanta Hilton was home to Temple and to the Animal Planet's very own Victoria Stillwell, the host and dog trainer made famous in her series, "ITS ME OR THE DOG". I caught Victoria and Temple communing in the lobby between conference lecture halls. Their canine banter drew a crowd. Their words were pearls of understanding which strung togehter created a brilliant necklance of passion for dogs and communication between man and his favorite primates.

But these fine women were but a few of the impressive list of speakers that gave lectures at this year's 2010 APDT conference. Over 1200 attendees were present. I met trainers from all across the country and some even from Manilla in the Philipines.
Patricia McConnel and Suzanne Clothier, and the wise women at K-9 noseworks were among the highlights for me personally as well as the fabulous lectures given by Prof Horowitz, author of inside the Dog in addition to Victoria Stillwell and Temple Grandin.

The conference was a cauldron of all things dog. I heard testimony of new techniques to reduce anxiety in dogs, got samples of new tinctures to help ward off dog ailments, got free clicker to click at new dogs and old, gathered new training treats and plush toys, and stuffed more dog training literature into the strained threads of my bursting suitcase.

And it was all worth it. Especially Temple. Her special kind of pure enthusaism and passion for life and kindness and truth is contagious. A walk to her temple is as inspiring as any temple could be. I feel so blessed to have been lead to a life where I can afford an opportunity to better communication between species and see smiles and communion around me. What could be better?

Gabriel Turns Three!

Gabriel turned three years old today! It seems incomprehensible on some level that Gabriel has reached such a milestone, but given his recent acquiescence to loose leash walking on a daily basis in the wee hours of the morning before I have even had a chance to sip some warm caffeinated tea, I suppose he has earned his age! I find it marvelous that this gorgeous 143 pound Great Pyrenees would grant me such fluidity of movement and respect for my space before I am even awake enough to clearly communicate my needs and I see it as further indication of his growing maturity!. Three year marks the end of the traditional "adolescent" period in dogs, where mood shifts and behavioral changes arrive seemingly out of the ethers. A steadiness of behavior slinks into view. Its when the adolescent fades into adulthood a shifting into more of a stalwalrt boat, not a tipsy canoe.

Gabriel came into my life as I grieved the loss of my lovely nine year old Great Pyrenees Brewster, a dog of great beauty, both internal and external. I felt no one could replace him. Quite magically, Gabriel came to me via an email not forty eight hours after I contacted a Great Pyrenees Rescue organization. I had just arrived in Hawaii on vacation with my husband when In mere hours I received an email in response stating that a loving family needing to relocate was in need of a home for their one year old Great Pyrenees, Gabriel. Ironically, Hawaii is now home to Gabriel's original family who was in Texas at the time we adopted him.

Today, we marked Gabriel's birthday with a birthday Cake which we acquired at Santa Fe's very own Pooch Pantry. Gabriel preference and penchant is peanut butter, and so that is the flavor we ordered for his Pooch Pantry birthday cake which he and Sally put a sizable dent in both this morning and this evening. Pooch Pantry custom designs cakes for their client's canines with natural flavors and colors, made of only the finest of ingredients. Judging from the promptness of Gabriel and Sally's response to my cues after a biteful of this delicious cake, I can conveniently state, that this cake is state of the art!

I find it remarkable that Gabriel came as quickly into my life as he did... that he came into our lives oon the heels of my lovely dog's demise was remarkable enough. More remarkable still is his name. Gabriel was named after archangel Gabriel, a big white angel known to be the harbinger of death and life....how very fitting as Gabriel brought new life into mine, after the loss of another.

(for those wishing to special order a cake with Pooch Pantry located on Johnson Street in downtown Santa Fe you only need to give them 24 hours notice and you have a choice of either Peanut Butter Cake or Honey Cake....they use all natural, human grade ingredients and use only natural colorings, so they are healthy for your dog! All of their cakes are made fresh, so they need 24 hours notice The cost is $15.00.)

And she's off

Last week at the Assistance Dog of the West's Santa Fe offices, I had the pleasure to meet the four women responsible for taking some of our finely trained dogs out into the "real world" as it were. One of these finely trained dogs, was Emma, my very first assistance dog--the dog who had trained me to train assistance dogs! When I entered the conference room and saw Emma with her new handler sit by her side, sitting under her table and looking adoringly up into her eyes the reality of Emma's future came into view.

I had known for months that Emma was scheduled to leave in October to head for the town known for little green men and flying saucers, Roswell New Mexico. There, Emma would be working in the court system to assist young children facing the challenges of sharing their private pain and suffering in the public arena of the court system. These children are often separated from their parents and guardians in the legal process. Special assistance dogs chosen to act as court house dogs aid these children as they proceed through this sensitive time in their life. The court house dog provides comfort at this pivotal juncture.
Emma has been selected to fill this important role. Emma will be there to reassure and empathize. To lend a paw as it were...offering her innate sweetness and empathy to children in need. Knowing her future hometown was to be Roswell, and having seen her bolt out across the country side at warp 20, I had granted Emma a new nickname, "U.F.O." ......unidentified flying object!

Over the course of the four day training period, Emma and two other dogs were given time to bond with their new handlers. The handlers attended classes and reviewed the ninety commands that their dogs had been groomed to follow during their training period. Friday morning, all dogs and handlers headed out to the DeVargas Mall for a Public Access Test, a test designed to determine the "assistance dog fluency" of the dog and handler alike. All parties passed.

Seeing Emma in the hands of her new family, evoked pride in me, while at the same time I felt an ache in my throat. I would miss my Emma! This pang of sadness was assuaged only through the knowledge that Emma was headed out into the capable hands of her handler and family of five, four of whom I had the pleasure to meet. It was clear during the four day training period that Emma was happy, relaxed and bonded with her new family. I wish her, her family, and the countless children's whose lives she will impact, the very best of luck and good wishes.

Love sometimes means, having to let go. Emma, go girl go!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Desfile de Los NiƱos / Pet Parade Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010

Saturday morning with Sally, Gabriel, and Dakota started with a saunter down our dirt and gravel covered road. We were in search of early morning light and a stretch of our collective legs along the gathering glow round the tall stands of sunflowers and asters perched however precariously along the lanes. Randy Travis's herd of cattle has multiplied in recent days and Gabriel loves to stand on full attnetion as they jog away from his approach. Upon arriving back at home, I apologized to Gabriel and Dakota as Sally and I set off solo to Santa Fe's very own dog Bakery and pet Boutique, the Pooch Pantry owned by Daphne Wright and Geno Baca. It's a fabulous store owned by some very generous and delightful people and has some of downtowns best dog treats to boot. That was our entry point for this year's Fiesta's Pet Parade. Daphne, Geno and their dog Roxxie (a recent graduate of my Canine Communication 101 class) and Sally set off with a crowd of friends and family and an arsenal of Pooch Pantry treats to join in this pet parade. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, this years crowd celebrated about 3,000 participants. I spotted a group of girls dressed as Barbies, a group of Wizard of Oz characters, dogs dressed up like cowboys, Basset Hounds sporting aviator styled goggles, and other hilariously themed participants.

Sally simply sported her Assistance Dogs of the West vest and serpentined along Palace Avenue in search of Pooch Pantry treats and pets from curious canine onlookers.

Sally and I left the scene and headed to Alto Park for some down time--down from the Fiesta band music and crowd noise. We soaked up the sun from a park bench. Sally snoozed while I soaked up some pages from Clicker Trainer Karen Pryor's well known book Don't Shoot the Dog! As the clock approached noon, Sally and I set out in our Subaru to a Sport's Fundamental Class with well heeled (pun intended) trainer Deborah Tolar. Deborah had us thinking, employing the very best in operant conditioning-- using novelty, clicker training, and treats to help us on our way of self discovery and learning.

By One O'clock Sally and I were ready for a break and so we headed over to Vinagrette's for a leisurely lunch with our very best friend Deborah Wakshull (mother to Oscita....pictured in the Doggie Dash and Dawdle photo with Dakota at the close of this blog). Sally struck up a happy nap while Deborah and I traded tales of our ever evolving New Mexico lives. It was a perfect day for an outdoor leisurely lunch after an active morning. Viva Fiesta!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

There is no rest for the weary this Labor Day weekend!

Labor Day weekend is upon us, a weekend known for lengthy driving trips, sometimes a feverish attempt at squeezing the last delicious drop of summer from the season, whether it be the beach, the boardwalk, or in my case the high desert......

Friday found me, Gabriel, and Sally dressed for service. We had received word from an area Hospice contact, that our services would be very much appreciated this weekend. I checked our collective calendars and there was an opening mid morning on Friday, and so we three set out in my big brown Subaru across Santa Fe in search of two of our friends and patients at Hospice.

When we arrived we went directly to our first friends room. Her bed was stripped and there was no sign of her. I feared for the worst, but upon reaching the nursing station I was informed that she was being bathed and showered with no appropriate completion time offered. Gabriel Sally and I set off to visit another friend. Our gentleman friend was particularly perky and jovial and got his pets and prods from his two friends. I steered Sally and Gabriel down the hallway to leave and in the vestibule ran into a tall attractive woman with a lilty southern drawl. She asked, "our theeeeeese your two dawgsssssss?" "yes, I replied" in my accent less voice. Why is it that I feel so utterly sterile when speaking to the british or the southerners? This lovely woman then kindly asked if we three might not visit her sister in law that she was visiting from Austin Texas. "She just loves daawwwwwwgs" came her plea. And so we three gathered our leashes and our collective paws and proceeded to her sister in laws room. With one look at the face of this dear woman, I knew why we had come. Her bright ruddy face burst forth into a trans formative smile. Her eyes widened and she uttered ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Then came the questions from her and her other family members. What kind of a dog is Gabriel (Great Pyrenees), and Sally? A 1 1/2 year rescue dog from the Los Alamos shelter lab mix who I affectionately refer to as night light because she glows in the dark (no, not really, its a silly reference to her former nuclear neighborhood). Smiles and treat giving and canine saliva and human hands and petting all the way around left me feeling oh so fine and oh so alive, grateful for this gift of life and for the love I share with these two terrific long tailed creatures of service that I call Gabriel and Sally.

This morning, through face book, I received a video of a sixteen year old dog who acts as a hospice therapy dog much as Sally and Gabriel do. The essential difference is that the dog is no longer mobile. His owner, a lovely and gray haired-women transports her dog on a bed on a cart of sorts. When she reaches the bedside of a bedridden hospice patient, she lifts her dog on his comfy pillow to comfort and visit the patient. All of the video footage is accompanied by the heart wrenching sounds of Sarah McLaughlin's.....rendition of "In the arms of an angel". It's a true tear jerker, but it reminded me that once again, My Gabriel can be an angel just as he name would suggest.

For those interested in Gabriel's behavior, I have to say that he has been very well behaved and not in the least cranky since his transgressions of last weekend. We, however, are avoiding the Dog Park like the plague and this morning enjoyed a cool morning walk with Sally and Dakota down the dirt roads of our area and alongside country singer Randy Travis' beautiful adobe walled estate. We never see Randy, but we do occasionally enjoy the belows of his handsome Angus Bull's and the view of his barns and fields below his home.

After the morning stroll, Sally and I climbed in the Subaru and drove out to a area Eventing Barn called Goose Down Farms where we and two other Assistant Dogs of the West Employees demonstrated the power of Assistance Dogs! I parked my car down by the barn which had once housed a Thoroughbred named Nairobi I had ridden. Sally became aroused when she caught glimpse of a gosling in a cage in the center of the barns courtyard. Horses humongous necks leaned and nuzzled me in search of treats. At one time I came with candy canes and sugary snacks for the horses here, now, my waist belt held freeze dried beef liver....something repugnant to the herbivores here.

Amid a steady stream of sixteen plus hand steeds and fashionably dressed dressage and jumping riders we stuck out into the center of the jumping ring. In years past I had ridden in clinics in this very ring with my former instructor Jerfray Ryding's well seasoned eyes providing me direction. But now I was not astride a steed, but rather accompanying my much smaller four legged friend Sally. Sally gathered ground and smells from the sand of the arena. She generously offered sits, and downs, and down stays.......and she even retrieved a larger rubber sandal to the ohhhhhhhs and ahhhhhhhhhhhs of the crowd. Her most fantastic feat was the gathering of her lovely black and white braided leash from the ground which she two times perfectly presented to me with her entire back end wagging in refrain!

As we left the gorgeous grounds of Goose Downs Farms, I felt the warm recognition, that life is a series of experiences upon which we develop a constantly evolving perspective. My perspective has shifted from astride a horse to aside a hound in the very same arena. The one constant in this labor day weekend was companionship, with people, with canines, and with horses. Spending time this labor day with animals is a labor of Love....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down (to the dentist, to the vet, and into trouble!)

And just as August was ebbing and the summer had seemingly sleepily slid by, Monday made it remarkable mark on the month. Gabriel, my seemingly 143 pound "white canine angel" had a dramatic fall from grace as demonstrated during last three days of August at the Dog Park. Up until this week, Gabriel has been an exemplary member of the canine world. He has lead a uniformly peaceful existence during his daily jogs around the perimeter of the Dog Park having clocked not one altercation, bark and or growl. What had awakened this seemingly jovial giant?

It had seemingly started on this past Saturday morning when a high energy and playful black lab had darted into Gabriel's haunches from behind (most innocently but with sure fired delivery) startling Gabriel into a growl and a menacing teeth barring response.

The next morning, Gabriel, Sally, Dakota, and I made our way to the Dog Park later than our usual early Sunday morning session round the dog park perimeter. It was about 8:30 am. We stood in the entryway and a black pit bull mix ran to meet Gabriel through the wire fencing with an explosive growl and bark that was prolonged and aggressive. Gabriel remained motionless and quiet. I waited for the growling dog to leave the gateway so that we could enter uninterrupted. Once the dog had roamed some 35 feet away I felt it safe to let my charges out into the park. Gabriel darted out barking and racing at the black pit bull in a fashion I had never ever even remotely witnessed before. I called Gabriel away, put him into the car with window opened as a well timed "time out" and took my other two for a walk around the park perplexed by this sudden change in my once white angel.

Gabriel joined us and another friend and her dog for a peaceful couple of laps around the park. Gabriel seemed to be himself, relaxed, goofy even for the remainder of our 40 minute walk.

And so came Monday morning. I thought that our run of bad luck had more than run its course, but I wisely opted for a low key 6:15 am saunter round the park hoping to avoid large crowds and misdirected dogs in this cool, calm morning. A good friend and her beautiful Bernese joined us at the entrance to the park. We made it round the first lap painlessly. And then an old yellow lab jogged straight into Gabriel space and in a flash I saw was Gabriel standing poised over the older yellow dog. What was happening? Who was my dog? When did he become so reactive?

Dear Gabriel, three strikes you are out! Someone had taken the wings off my big white angel, and now I was escorting him into the back of my car. If he had been a human he would most probably be in a police cruiser en route to the local precinct or mental hospital. I was shaken and concerned and hell bent on getting some answers fast. This sudden and dramatic change in my dog was terrifying! I called my Vet's office and told them I was on my way to some answers!~ Off we drove to the Gruda's Veterinary Clinic. I left Gabriel in Dr. Sue McKelvey's capable hands with more questions than answers while Sally and I headed to Albuquerque for my dental appointment.

I had never been to the dentist with a dog before, but Jennifer Ridgeway, D.D.S. and her amazing dental hygienist
Stephanie Baca-RDHMS welcomed Sally ( my assistance dog in training) and I with open arms and open floor! Sally took a comfortable sprawl below and "stayed" for periods of time interrupted by high pitched equipment squeals, and open mouthed cackles I produced which prodded Sally into saunters by my side in search of answers, "hey mom, why are you laughing, hey mom, what are those weird high pitched sounds these machines are making". Sally set back down when I made it clear to her that all was well with the world despite all the stuff in my mouth. We even left Dr Ridgeways office hearing about a time when Jennifer, who one time Santa Fe office located across the way from a Veterinary clinic, had performed emergency dental surgery for a canine in need.

Back up i-25 Sally and I sailed to check on Gabriel who had spent hours with Dr. Sue McKelvey. We came with concerned looks and questions, cuz inquiring minds wanna know! Gabriel's abrupt change in temperament had me thinking all sorts of things....is there adolescent schizophrenia for dogs, borderline personality disorder, manic depression, oppostional disorder? I had adopted him when he was One year and three months old. Was there something in his past that was contributing to this sudden change in behavior? Did Gabriel have the canine equivalent of PTSD set off by the battlegrounds of the neighborhood dog Park? Was he ill? Was he in pain???

In our absence Dr. Sue and her crew gathered information, blood, palpated Gabriel 143 pound frame with Dr. Bob Gruda. Dr. Sue and Gruda found Gabriel's body to be extremely body sore which may account for his sudden change in behavior. And yet what is the cause of the pain? Could it be a serious condition? Could it be the result of sumo wrestling with Sally? Was it the inadvertent body slamming Gabriel received at the park? Was it the sudden and dramatic movement of dogs into Gabriel's space that put him into a defensive mode, perhaps igniting his Large Herding Dog lineage to boldly defend his space and his crews precious space. His blood work doesn't come back until next week. Dr. Sue has prescribed low key on leash walks for Gabriel until his body pain has abated and the lab results come in next week. Before we left Dr. Mckelvey gave Gabriel some acupuncture at the end of his diagnostic day at Santa Fe' equivalent to the Mayo Clinic for dog. Sally and I sat on the floor next to Gabriel as we watched his breathing slow, his eyes flutter and still and his heavy chest religuish sweet sighs of relief. Soon after we three headed home for a quiet night with classical music playing as Gabriel lay on his ergonomically supportive foam cushion bed with Sally, Dakota, and I looking on.

For the last two days Dakota, Sally, Gabriel and I have gathered in the wee hours of the now Autumn mornings on leash with leather and halters connecting us as we walk together across dry desert roads in search of peaceful exercise, minus the drama of the dog park where we witnessed drawn teeth, ghoulish growls, and agitated eyes. (Where the wild things are.....) So far so good. We look forward to more answers in the days ahead. One thing is for sure, I'm not an angel when I don't feel good, and despite his angelic name, Gabriel has exhibited his less than celestial side this summer. We are considering calling his alter ego............Lucifier, after all we all have our falls from Grace.....