Friday, January 31, 2014

Adventures in the Kitchen: Apple Cinnamon Bites

I have a grocery bag full of apples still sitting in my fridge. They are too far gone for me to eat (I can't stand them mushy) but I couldn't throw them out (that would be wasteful!!) so I dug out an old dog treat recipe. I don't know where this recipe came from, I've had it written in my recipe book for about 7 years now lol. But the dogs LOVE it.


1 large apple
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Core, slice and mince the apple.
  • In a large bowl, combine the minced apple, honey, water, cinnamon, and oatmeal. Gradually blend in the flour, adding enough to form a stiff dough.
  • Spoon the dough onto an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes (or until browned around edges). Let cool.
Pretty cookies :).
I use a 1/2 tbsp measurer-thing to spoon out my dough.

These get four paws up at my house! And I approve because the baking cinnamon and apple makes my kitchen smell heavenly :). 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Confessions of a Dog Trainer - 6

Please forgive me dear reader, it's been a long time since my last confession. 25 weeks to be exact. I seriously had no idea it had been that long, WOW.

Well here I am ready to bear my soul again...this time about taxis. Yes, taxis. Those yellow cars that take you everywhere you ask (& pay!!) for. How is this relevant you ask?


Most days my job is not as a dog trainer but as a taxi, ferrying my little four-legged wonders everywhere they need to go. I swear I spend more time in the car going to and fro training classes than actually training! That is a very sad realization :(.

I am a glorified taxi driver.

But without the perks of a paycheck or tips. In fact, it's quite the opposite, this job costs me money!

Image from San Francisco Citizen.

Obviously I like doing activities with my dogs, but sometimes I wonder if it's normal how much time I spend shuttling them back and forth. Nicholas doesn't think it's normal LOL. I'm pretty sure it's their way of controlling my life - after all everything I schedule is done around them :). Subliminal control at its finest folks.

I suppose it's safe to compare me to a soccer mom with 4 kids. Between Monday's obedience classes, Vito's swimming outtings, Bourbon's nosework adventures, and Rookie's general pursuits (he does a bit of everything lol) my car is going to need new tires by the end of the year :). The oil change people love me, they practically see me every month LOL. It might be getting out of hand...

...but do I plan to cut back anytime soon? Nope!

They love the outings and I love how tired they are when they get them :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Training: Weaving and Figure Eights

Well it's the end of January - how did that happen so fast!! Oh well, hopefully it will bring us that much closer to spring :).

Now for the tricks...

I took Monday's targeting behavior and used it to help build two tricks that are similar but different :) LOL. The first is figure eights through my legs. This is harder for her than you would think. She loves to be between my legs so that aspect is a positive; however, she has a really hard time twisting and turning her body so curving around my legs can get interesting! The nice thing about this trick is that it will help her become more limber :).

Here is she doing the figure eight with a food lure. This was the first time we put it all together and you can see how much she lacks body awareness :).

I tend to do a food lure once or twice and then I go directly to hand lures with no treats. I don't want my dogs to get dependent on having food in my hands. You'll hear me in the below video tell Nicholas that I don't know if it will work {without food} because she had only done it twice. I should give her more credit LOL :).

I also built on the figure eight idea by having her weave through my legs while walking. So far (crossing fingers) she has not tripped me :). I again started out with a food lure and basically fed her each time she went through my legs.

By this time Monday had somewhat figured out the game. She got a little cute and tried to anticipate :). At least she loves to 'play'!

So here she is without the treats, but still having a hand lure.

We still have some work to do for finesse but she has the general behavior figured out. Now I will work on putting it on cue and also fading most of the hand lures. Fine-tuning if you will :)

Can your dogs do figure eights or weave? Monday says to give it a try! :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday Throwback: Bambi

My sixth foster taught me what it means to truly be a foster - to adopt out a dog that you love like your own.

I actually don't remember how Bambi came into IDR+. I wasn't her first foster so I guess I just didn't pay enough attention when she first came in :). But she got adopted out and returned because she was too pesky for the resident dog. No surprise there, Miss Bambi loved to play! So I took her in to foster and immediately fell in love. Seriously, I almost kept her and to this day I still wish that I had.

How could you not love this face?!?
Bambi fit right into our household like she belong there and she was just the right mix of sweetness and naughtiness that I love. She kept me on my toes :). Sadly, I was fostering her during Majestic's decline with cancer (which I didn't know at the time was the cause of her grumpiness) and I attributed the snarkiness with her being a female. Majestic had quite a history of not liking other girls. So I did follow through and adopt her out to a previous adopter. I've never gotten an update which makes me quite sad :(.

She had no concept of personal space :)
Bambi was quite small for a doberman - only about 20" tall and less than 50 pounds - which was the perfect size really. Her previous owners had mangled her ears trying to do a crop job, but despite that she was beautiful. She just glowed with love and fun, lol. Her only downfall at that time was that she was not completely housebroken and she loved to jump on people. But those things are totally workable :). And her personality was the absolute best - she LOVED all people and loved to please you. She would have been a blast to train :) - she loved 'adventures'. Bambi was up for anything as long as it involved working with you. And she was very motivated by food or toys, which certainly makes training easy!

While Bambi was staying with me, I had regular play dates with a few friend's and their dogs. She got along with everyone and was certainly the life of the party lol.

Bambi playing with Bourbon and Tito.
Obviously, I was in love with her :), who wouldn't be at this point? But hopefully she is just as happy in her new home as she would have been staying with me. That's all we can ask at the end of the day. And I'm sure she has brought much happiness and silliness to her adopter :).

Have you had a foster you wished you would have kept? What helped you follow through with the adoption anyway?

A couch full...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Monday Becomes Human

"Hmm, bar height chair is perfect for watching squirrels."

"Squirrels are boring, feed me human. It's lunch time."

"I'm so hungry I can't hold up my head. You are taking too long."

"The ground looks like a long ways down..."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday Training: Building the Foundations for Tricks

Most of the tricks I will be attempting to teach to Monday are based on a few foundation behaviors. The first foundation behavior I needed to refresh was targeting. Monday LOVES, and I mean LOVES, to target. The first target I am focusing on with Monday is her mouth/nose. You can do targeting with all parts of the body (like feet, sides, butt, shoulder, etc.) but for right now I am focusing on her mouth/nose.

First I started with hand targeting - teaching your dog to touch their nose to your hand. We have this behavior pretty well built as I have used in on and off with her for a few years. But if you are new to the idea, here are few things to do to get started:

  • Start with your hands behind your back (and your dog standing/sitting in front of you) and present your hand (pick one to start with) about 2 inches in front of their nose
  • Usually, your dog will move forward and sniff your hand (especially if your hand has a high reinforcement history!). The instant you feel their nose touch, click (or say yes or whatever you want to use as a mark).
  • Then give your dog a treat from the OTHER HAND. :)
  • Repeat. When your dog touches your hand 9 out of 10 times in a row (or 100%!), start to present your hand in different places but still relatively close to your dog.
  • Once your dog is reliably touching your hand when you hold it out, you can add a cue like touch, target, or whatever you decide :). Remember to say the cue first, then extend your palm toward your dog.

Here is Monday doing some intermediate hand targeting.

Monday is actually a pretty mouthy dog <think land shark lol>, so I wanted to get away from using my hand as a target. The less I have her touching my body with her mouth, the better :). So I moved from having her target my hand to having her targeting a stick.

Targeting is hard work.

Monday is almost ready to show off her trick for this month, you'll have to check it out next week!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It came! It came!

The mail arrived today and now I am jumping up and down in the living room giggling like a little school girl :). Eeee!

Image taken from TJJ Bus 6.

I suppose you want to know what I received that I am so excited about?!? :)

As most of you have read, I had to put Baron to sleep at the end of November and it was really hard for us. I have been dealing with emotional aftereffects and I am coming around, but back in early December it was still very, very hard. I was trolling through Etsy for Christmas presents when I came across some pretty cool dog tags. How can you look for presents and not look at dog stuff?!? :) So I might have been slightly sidetracked lol, but I found these really cool tags and I decided to get one for Baron. Yes, I realize Baron was no longer with us, but I wanted it more as a memorial token.

Fetch A Passion Tags made an incredible tag for me. Check it out~

The front.

The back.

Since I had told them when I sent my order in that this was for a memorial token (because I didn't submit the standard tag information for the back), they also included a short poem in my package.

They are super thoughtful and of course made me cry :). But a good cry because it's very heartening to be given support, especially where you least expect it.

When your companions have passed, have you done memorial trinkets or something to remember them by?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tell Me Where it Hurts {book review}

Tell Me Where it Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon
by Nick Trout

Trout, a staff surgeon at Boston's Angell Animal Medical Center, shows how the daily life of a veterinarian requires the ability to be a person of many 'hats' - social worker, psychologist, grief counselor, mentor, and occasionally, guardian angel. Combining a compassionate bedside manner with cutting-edge technology, Trout introduces readers to demanding pet owners, their beloved (but not always lovable) pets, and the extraordinary advances in veterinary medicine. While the standard, "First, do no harm," remains unchanged, Trout illuminates the controversy surrounding such advanced treatment and the high price it commands. In total, Tell Me Where it Hurts offers a fascinating portrait of the comedy and drama, complexities and rewards involved with loving and healing animals.

It’s 2:47 a.m. when Dr. Nick Trout takes the phone call that starts another hectic day at the Angell Animal Medical Center. Sage, a ten-year old German shepherd, will die without emergency surgery for a serious stomach condition. Over the next twenty-four hours Dr. Trout fights for Sage’s life, battles disease in the operating room, unravels tricky diagnoses, reassures frantic pet parents, and reflects on the humor, heartache, and inspiration in his life as an animal surgeon. And he wants to take you along for the ride.…

My Thoughts
The concept of the book is terrific and overall it was a great read. His cases involve everything from the simple, the humorous, and the impossible. Throughout it all, the most difficult part of his day seems to be dealing with the owners. Shocked? Not so much, people are usually the challenging part of any equation. :) Trout also discusses the quandary modern medicine can mean for the pet and the owners - how far should aggressive therapy be taken? When does it become the person's inability to let go, in face of their beloved pet's suffering? For any of use who have had a beloved pet 'put to sleep' we can completely empathize with the subject.

The book also covers other big issues in veterinary medicine - high cost of care, low pay for vets, and the need for owners to participate in decision making. Luckily, he doesn't shy away from discussion of animal obesity (one of my pet peeves!), cosmetic surgery for animals, and the $40 billion that Americans spend on their pets every year. While reading the book though, I did wish he had more detail in the stories about the actual pets or even more pet stories. The focus on the animals wasn't quite enough.

The only true downfall for me personally, was the writing style. I liked his sense of humor but he tended to philosophize too much. Each chapter was pretty formulaic as well - it would start with a case, segue into related cases Dr. Trout had in the past, and then conclude with the wrap-up of the present case. This layout style made it easy to lose track of where the story started. There were a bit too many tangents for me!

All in all, it was a good read and very engrossing for anyone interested in veterinary medicine.

For More Information

Check out the other books I've reviewed:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday Throwback: Duncan

My fifth foster introduced me to the wonderful world of hereditary disorders that affect Dobermans.

Duncan came to IDR+ as a stray, which is surprising considering his condition and looks. This is one big boy and really quite handsome! So handsome in fact that once we posted him, we had to take him down because I had about 5 adopters fighting to adopting him within minutes. Pretty always does go fast :). Not to mention that he seemed like the perfect dog - low prey drive, got along with other dogs, and even got along with cats!

Here is Duncan at the shelter before we pulled him.
He is ignoring the cat and the cat food! Crazy :)
Needless to say he didn't stay with me long. Just long enough to get vetted (which actually took awhile), narrow down the approved adopters clamoring for him, and transport him up to Illinois. It was a bit crazy in my house because he overlapped with Jeter but everyone got along famously. Duncan was however fascinated with Vito and really liked to hump him. Poor Vito :(. He handled it well though and if Duncan had stayed longer I'm sure the humping would have lost it's luster.

Duncan pestering Vito :).
Since Duncan was picked up as a stray, he had to have all his vetting done before he could be adopted out, which included a neuter. We didn't think there would be any problems going into the surgery, especially since he already had his ears cropped (which can be much harder to deal with than a standard neuter). But to our surprise Duncan actually had a form of Von Willebrand's Disease (vWD), which is similar to hemophilia in humans and can lead to excessive bleeding following an injury or surgery due to lack of clotting. Unfortunately, vWD is really common in dobermans. There are three types of vWD (type 1 being minor and type 3 being major and relatively rare), we believe Duncan had type 1, however we did not do formal tests on him. He came out of his neuter fine after some extra prepping and care, and minor injuries (like those incurred during rough housing or outside playing) don't slow him down any.

Playing tug...
After Duncan had been in his adoptive home for several years, he was returned to IDR+. They had spent countless time and money trying to figure out why he had such bad hair loss, skin ulcers, and allergies. But they were at their wits end and couldn't get to the root of the problem so they returned him. We gladly took Duncan back (now under a different name) and worked to try to resolve his issue. It turns out he also had an autoimmune skin disorder called Pemphigus Foliaceus. We treated him and got the disorder under control and he was quickly adopted out to another great family.

This boy has had quite a rough time medically - he just can't seem to catch a break! But now hopefully he is in his forever, forever home :). Here at IDR+ we are committed to our orphans throughout their life, so if they need to be returned for whatever reason, we are always here to welcome them back with open arms. And I, as a foster, am always ready to re-foster any of the ones I have helped if ever they should come back. I have had that chance once so far (with Ice), since Duncan needed expert medical care he stayed in Illinois when he was returned so that the specialists could look at him, otherwise I would have welcomed him back as well :).

Does your favorite breed have any common hereditary medical disorders? What kinds and how do you deal with them?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Train Your Dog Month

January is National Train Your Dog month (as hosted by the APDT). If you're into making New Year resolution's - this would be a great start. I try not to make resolutions because in essence it sets me up for failure :). I just don't like the word, I have no idea why.

But this year I am going to make a goal - try to train a new trick every month with Monday. So at the end of the year she will have 12 new tricks (and probably a lot of variations of those 12 tricks). She already comes with a few in her repertoire - roll over, shake, and speak. Her shake is a bit sticky so we will have to tighten that one up but that will be a different month. :) Her favorite is speak...

I love that she is so excited she can't keep her feet still :). We will have to work on some impulse control for her as well lol.

What are your doggie goals for 2014?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dealing with the Goodbye

I've rewritten and deleted and rewritten this post tons of times. It's just too damn hard to say goodbye. But sadly it's an inevitable occurrence when sharing your life with dogs - they have such a short life span.

This holiday season has been really hard for me. I know it's been a few weeks since we've said goodbye to Baron but it still feels like yesterday and it's certainly put a downer on my holiday spirit and the end of 2013. It was time for Baron and I know that, but I've found that I have more regrets that I realized. And the regrets are really hard to deal with.

It's hard having 5 dogs - hard to find enough individual time for everyone and hard to make sure everyone has their needs met. This is something I struggle with all the time because I have limited time to divvy up between everyone. I feel like I let Baron down in this area because he was a dog that made us his family - not the other way around. It's hard to explain without sounding harsh but he was the dog that I never wanted. He picked us - we didn't pick him. Don't get me wrong - we totally loved him, he was a very big part of our family, and I will never regret making him an official family member. But it was all his doing :). He was a very smart dog, he played us LOL.

But I generally put the other dogs first - Bourbon with his lure coursing, Monday with her obedience, Rookie with his medical issues, and the list goes on. I know I still did things with Baron, it's just that I don't feel like I did enough. And maybe this is a natural reaction, but I'm having a really hard time dealing with it and I'm not sure how to get past it. This whole guilt thing is difficult to move forward through. I'm not really big on making New Year's Resolutions per se, but I have decided that in 2014 I am going to take more time with my dogs. Time to enjoy with them whatever they find enjoyable.

My knee-jerk response to losing a companion is to add a new one to fill the hole left. I've been struggling with this impulse for a few weeks, but I am still restraining myself. For now at least, lol. I will be able to more fully enjoy Monday, Bourbon, Rookie, and Vito if I don't add another member to our family. Plus, I have neglected my fostering activities this year and this should also hopefully allow me to become more active again. Baron was a foster dog three times and I think he would approve of continuing to bring in fosters :). After all, that's how he secured his spot lol.

So here's hoping in 2014 I can make sure each of my dog's feel special, loved, and not taken for granted. And here's hoping I can help make a difference in other dog's lives by helping them find forever homes and getting their own happy ending.

Goodbye my Mr. Baron, you are forever in my heart and in my actions