Bark and Lunge: Saving My Dog from Training Mistakes

(updated Nov. 2015)

A memoir


On sale now!

NIEAseal-2014-Winner-200 (1)Best-Book-WINNER2015-gold
Bark and Lunge has received three national book awards:

Indie Excellence Award and Sponsor’s Choice Award, the USA Best Book Award, and a Gold Medal and 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite.

Buy the eBook from Amazon, Kobo, Nook, or Google Play.

Buy the paperback from IndieBoundAmazon or Barnes and Noble. Your local bookstore can order it for you too.


How is this fun to watch?

So, this is awkward.

Since I started working on my memoir Bark and Lunge, this has become a dog blog. I love all the people I’ve met in the dog blogging community, and I plan to continue blogging about dogs.

I’m working on my second book, a novel about a mixed martial arts fighter who rescues pit bulls. You may have noticed that I post a lot about pit bulls and rescue dogs.

I haven’t written about MMA for a few years, but today I want to write about Ronda Rousey. I’m just going to Trojan Horse it with a picture and a video from last year of her with her dog, Mochi.

ronda mochi

Are Tamagotchis still a thing?


Now then. I love Ronda Rousey. I’ve been following her for years, and gained understanding and huge respect from her memoir, My Fight / Your Fight.

It is a solid memoir, thanks to Rousey’s co-writer, her sister Maria Burns Ortiz, a journalist. It tells the story of a little girl whose verbal skills were slow to develop, leaving her unable to explain to her family that all she wanted for her birthday was a Hulk Hogan wrestling doll. When she starts competing in Judo, her mother, a Judo champion herself, instills a confidence and drive to win. The thing I admire most about Rousey is how hard she works. She goes into every fight expecting to win, which is why she took her losses in Judo very hard. Turns out, the sport she was born to do hadn’t been invented yet; women’s mixed martial arts wasn’t even a thing.


I was fairly devastated on Saturday when Ronda was knocked out by Holly Holm. And I feel defensive about any backlash and criticism of the sport.

People have every right not to enjoy watching cage fights. I don’t like baseball or basketball. But I don’t criticize people who do like it. I don’t ask, “HOW is this fun to watch?”

Still, I will answer that question. Make no mistake. It was NOT fun for me to watch Ronda get punched bloody, kicked in the neck, knocked out, and then punched three more times while unconscious. Just like it’s not fun to watch your sports team get trounced or your favorite player get carried off the field.

Setting that aside (which I have trouble doing because watching the fight was emotional for me), an objective person can see the athleticism and skill behind Holm’s punching and kicking.

Just imagine if, instead of getting knocked out by this this top-notch kickboxer, Rousey had shot in, taken Holm down and submitted her in a choke or an armbar. Everyone would be talking about Rousey’s Judo skills. How amazing it is that a person could defeat such a formidable opponent without doing any physical damage.

That’s what I was hoping to see. And maybe we will see it in a rematch.

**For anyone who compares mixed martial arts to human dog-fighting, for now, I will say only that the difference is, the dogs didn’t sign up for it.

Top 6 Dog Books for Veterans Day

I was reminded how much respect and gratitude people in this country have for veterans when I went to Disney World last month with Rob’s dad, a career Navy man. When he wore his Retired Navy hat, total strangers thanked him for his service all day long, sometimes bringing a tear to his eye.

Today, as I’m seeing all kinds of social media messages thanking veterans, or lamenting that we don’t do enough for our veterans, I have the answer: Give every veteran a dog.

Here’s my supporting evidence:

Until-Tuesday-Book-CoverUntil Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalván

This book captures the heartbreaking challenges veterans face when they return from war. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone comes back from war without serious psychological damage, and in Montalván’s case, he struggled with physical injuries as well. The healing power of his relationship with his service dog Tuesday is nothing short of miraculous.

I didn’t warm up to this book right away, I think because it begins with a description of Tuesday’s training, before the author knew him. Tuesday didn’t come alive as a character to me until later in the book, when Montalván describes their strengthening relationship. I loved reading about their illicit games of fetch after dark in a closed Brooklyn park, and my heart broke reading about the bus driver who humiliated Montalván by insisting Tuesday isn’t a real service dog.

51YYFNfdHaL._SX462_BO1,204,203,200_Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs by Tracy J. Libby

I received an advance copy of this book, which was officially released yesterday. It’s a hardcover coffee table book, and makes an excellent follow-up to Until Tuesday. It tells the story of 15 veterans and the service dogs who rescued them. You’ll appreciate this book if, like me, you think every nonfiction book about dogs should include dozens of color photos.

In addition to poignant stories of veterans and their dogs, Libby describes (and photographs) prison puppy programs, the history of therapy dogs, and rescue and breeding programs that provide dogs to veterans.

18740From Baghdad, With Love by Jay Kopelman

Sometimes dogs and soldiers rescue each other before they even come home from war. Lava is a puppy found by a unit in an abandoned city in Iraq. It’s been a while since I read this one, so I’m quoting the publisher: “Despite military law that forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea the pup with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco, and fill him up on Meals Ready to Eat. Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of a dog named Lava and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war.

“From hardened Marines to war-time journalists to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death, and war from a mangy little flea-ridden refugee.”

6260262One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing

Did Lava’s story hit you in the feels? Do you wish more could be done to help the homeless dogs in war zones? Pen Farthing is a British Royal Marine who orchestrated a stray dog rescue effort in Afghanistan.

From Publisher’s Weekly, “Already burdened with the responsibility of overseeing and protecting his 20-man crew of Marines, Farthing becomes consumed with the suffering of the strays and risks his own life to rescue them … Soon he finds himself developing plans to save strays from dogfighting, a centuries-old local tradition that usually requires the removal of ears and tails without anesthetic, and adopts a former fighting dog he names Nowzad. Today, Nowzad happily resides in the Farthing household as his owners continue their quest to save thousands of suffering strays.”

cover-suspect-1Suspect by Robert Crais

This has made my list of top books before, and is officially my favorite Robert Crais book. Obviously, I’m biased because it’s about a German shepherd. But I have pretty high standards for dog books. Way higher than my standards for suspense novels.

The main doggie character isn’t a service dog, but a retired bomb dog who lost her handler to an explosion in Afghanistan, and her new partner, who lost his partner in a shootout.

Some of the chapters are written from the dog’s point of view, but not in a cutesy way. Crais nails the way German shepherds feel about their people. He also depicts accurately what it is like to live with a German shepherd, what it’s like to drive with one sitting astride the console between the seats, scanning the view out the front windshield.

The Promise by Robert Craiscover-promise

So… I haven’t actually read this one yet because it just came out yesterday. But it’s a sequel to Suspect and features Crais’s flagship character, Elvis Cole, World’s Greatest Detective, and his partner Joe Pike (a veteran).

Here’s the blurb: “When Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find a missing grief-stricken mother, his first stop on that rainy night is an ordinary house in Echo Park. Only the house is not ordinary, and neither are the people hiding inside: A wanted killer on the run from police and a vicious career criminal with dangerous secrets of his own.

“As helicopters swirl overhead, LAPD K9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie, track the fugitive to this same Echo Park house … ”

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How to exercise your dog during the short, dark days

As if anticipating the short, dark days ahead, Leo has been antsy since we set the clocks back Sunday, even though we’ve been keeping up with our regular exercise schedule! On both Sunday and Monday, after he raced around at the park, when I was ready to settle down with my book, he started pulling things off counter tops and whining in my face.

Rob and I will clean up the garage this weekend, which should get us back in the habit of nose-working out there when Leo feels like he needs more stimulation. In the meantime, I entertained him by tossing a tennis ball down the hall.

Both nights, though, what wore him out best was some good old-fashioned bitey face with Mia. As you’ll see in the video, she puts up with it for a bit before getting bored and going to bed. Makes me wonder, not for the first time, if we should get a THIRD dog who wants to play with Leo more.

Positive TrainingThis post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads,Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. This month’s theme is Training and Exercise and the next hop begins on December 7. The hop happens on the first Monday of every month, and is open for a full week – please join us in spreading the word about the rewards of positive training!

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When in doubt, go to the vet

I have been known to take my dogs to the vet for something that turned out to be nothing. And I have found that I’m given the same medicine for a multitude of ailments.

Mometamax: works on itchy spots and stinky ears alike. (Buy it online and save.)

And who hasn’t googled something like “Why is my dog’s tooth turning brown?” and believed only the most dire web diagnoses?

You don’t feel so foolish though, do you, when it turns out something is wrong with your dog, and thanks to your early action, he’s going to be just fine.

Sometime in the last year, we noticed Leo’s eyes getting crustier than before. I thought it might be an allergy to all the cheese we shove in his face, but when one eye started oozing green goop, we went to the vet. We got some neo-poly-dex drops and the goop seemed to clear up. Or at least it wasn’t green for a while.

Then his eyes got crusty again, then goopy, and the day I picked him up from camp, he had green goop in both eyes.

Lucky for us, we have a doggie eye doctor in the neighborhood! And lucky us, she could see us that afternoon!

Leo tries to read the smallest line on the eye chart.

Leo tries to read the smallest line on the eye chart.

After a couple of tests and a peek in his beautiful brown eyes, Dr. McCalla diagnosed Leo with pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, which is very common in German shepherds.

The bad news is that it needs lifelong treatment. The good news is that it’s not painful and we caught it very early. Usually, the dogs Dr. McCalla sees are in a lot worse shape. If left untreated, it can cause vision loss.

So, I’m very relieved that we took Leo in when we did, and I’m happy to put eye drops in his eyes twice every day for the rest of his life. He’s less excited about that part.

I sensed a little bit of uncertainty from the vet tech and the doctor when they first approached Leo. One of them even said something about not being able to trust (some? all?) German shepherds, but he was a prince. He squinted a little when they tried to stick stuff in his eyes, and we had to back him into a corner to do the tear test, but he didn’t cry or menace in any way.

The doc made a big point of saying that in 30-plus years of working with dogs, Leo is one of the nicest German shepherds she has EVER met.

Prince Leo

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Goldilocks and two other bears

Not dog-related, but I saw Grizzly Bears!

Rocky and Coco, Atnarko River, Oct. 2015

I first learned of grizzly bear rafting tours a year ago when I drove through Bella Coola, British Columbia, with my mom, but it was July and the bears weren’t out yet. Rob and I returned for a one-day whirlwind trip with one goal: to see grizzly bears.

It’s possible to get there by ferry, but it takes about 20 hours along the inside passage from Port Hardy, B.C., (and first you have to get there). Rob and I flew one hour on a small Pacific Coastal plane from the Vancouver Airport and were met by a staff member from the Bella Coola Mountain Lodge, which also operates the bear tours. Fraser Koroluk and his wife, both biologists, own the lodge and Fraser is the bear guide.

Arriving on the banks of the Atnarko, we were hit with the pungent smell of rotting salmon carcasses; familiar to me, less so to Rob. Fraser paddled us and four others down the Atnarko. Pink salmon were still spawning, and we saw the occasional chinook under our raft as well.

The most bears they’ve seen on a tour is 20, and that was last summer. Sometimes, they don’t see any. About 10 minutes into our tour, just as I thought we might be one of the unlucky groups not to see any bears, there she was, standing on a log. I felt like everyone on the raft saw her at the same time, but Fraser was concentrating on paddling, so my breathless, “Bear,” alerted him.



He’s been calling her Goldilocks, because of some light brown coloring near her face. A single female, Goldilocks likely had mated with a few boars over the summer, and was now eating as much salmon as possible to get fat enough to survive pregnancy, birthing cubs and nursing them during hibernation. Egg implantation in female bears is delayed, so if they don’t gain enough weight, they won’t get pregnant.

Since the lodge has been doing these tours for about 14 years, the bears are tolerant of rafts of people floating by, and Fraser is careful to keep a respectful distance.

After watching Goldi devour several whole salmon carcasses and wander back into the woods, we continued downriver where we found Coco and her two-year-old cub Rocky on a gravel bar. Other tour groups have witnessed lively wrestling matches between mother and son (which is how Rocky got his name), but they were moving a little slower on this day.

Coco and Rocky


Rocky log

Even though Coco won’t have more cubs until Rocky is grown and on his own, they also have to eat as much salmon as possible before hibernation – this gorging phase is called hyperphagia. While Coco swam between gravel bars looking for salmon, Fraser observed that Rocky seemed a little bored.

In addition to my utter joy at watching grizzly bears in their natural environment, I really appreciated Fraser’s expertise about grizzly bear life cycles, and these bears in particular. It was also another reminder of the importance of healthy salmon populations.

Monday Mischief

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The girl with the Isis tattoo, part 3

In Part 1, I said I had no plans to get a tattoo.
In Part 2, I said I’d never do it again.
(In between I explained why I changed my mind the first time.)

All I can say now is that I’ve grown to admire the artistry of tattoos. And I wanted more than her name. I wanted her face with me forever.

With huge thanks to The Sara Kay at Laughing Buddha.

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How to respond to a stolen photo on the internet

While scrolling through Instagram this morning, I discovered a 2007 picture of my very own baby girl, Isis, three and a half months old, with a soccer ball in her mouth. Normally I would be thrilled that The German Shepherd World reposted my photo, since that’s entirely what the feed does. Except…  I’ve never shared this picture on Instagram, and it was credited it to someone else who has a private Instagram account.

I stared at the photo on my phone, sure it was my photo of my dog, but had this iota of doubt. Like, could it be someone else’s dog in the snow with a ball in her mouth? Wearing a pink collar like hers, with what seems to be a small black tag like hers, and bushes in the background that resemble mine? When I got to work, I found the original, and tracked down a couple of blog posts where I had shared it, and asked The German Shepherd World to correct the credit in their post (and make it up to me by telling their 42,800 followers about my book, which all German shepherd people should read).

I haven’t heard back yet, but in the meantime, in the spirit of this unwitting Internet Sensation, I doctored my own photo.


Because creating a silly meme is the only defensible reason to steal someone else’s photo.

UPDATE 10/21: The German Shepherd World has corrected the photo credit on Instagram. The woman who was originally credited tells me her 10-year-old daughter sent the photo in, with proper attribution, and didn’t mean to take credit. Which doesn’t explain where she found the photo or why she’s sending other people’s photos to a third party.

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