Nothing’s Gonna Break Our Stride

My training goal for 2018 is to have two ambulatory dogs. I already had Mia on anti-inflammatories and acupuncture when Leo needed TPLO surgery in November. I already had the greatest dog step in the world for the car*, and prophetically had trained Leo to use it.

Mia got her own walks for a few days when Leo wasn’t allowed, but he was putting weight on his injured leg immediately after surgery, so he was ready for short walks. And for several weeks, Leo’s prescribed slow, short walks worked out great for Mia.

Now that’s he’s back to his old self, it’s challenging to walk both dogs together by myself. Leo wants to walk faster, and probably should for his ongoing physical therapy. I accommodate this somewhat by attaching Mia to my belt via an 8-foot leash, while Leo forges ahead on his Freedom harness with the leash attached in front and back. There’s still some tangling, and the sense that Mia is getting dragged along faster than she wants to go.

Last night, while on a ball field well away from traffic, I unhooked Mia’s leash, thinking she could trail as far behind us as she needed, but nope, she stayed within about 8 feet anyway.

Today I took her on her own walk, and let her pick the pace.

*I cannot believe I didn’t blog about the Pet Loader. This video was shot a week before Leo hurt himself.



This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. This month’s theme is training goals, but all positive training posts are welcome. The Hop is open until Sunday. Join Wag ‘n Woof PetsTenacious Little Terrier, and Travels with Barley each month to share positive training posts, starting on the first Monday of the month and lasting all week.

Blame it on the pit bull


Just kidding. Don’t blame Gracie. It’s not her fault!

Gracie is a total wiggle butt/snuggle bug available at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. At least she was the last time I was there, which was May 22 … !

What happened to me there, and the reason I haven’t been back yet is not her fault, but because of her breed, even though she’s a very petite pittie, the news media is bound to sensationalize it and place the blame on her.

All right. Here it is. I fell down.

Somebody that I told my story to, before I even told him how I got hurt, before he knew it happened while walking a dog, asked “Did your dog pull you down?”

Seriously, I swear. No.

I was walking Gracie between a fenced play yard and a berm. The ground was uneven; I think I was walking on fist-sized gravel. Smooth rocks. I’ve walked Gracie before and she is flawless on leash. A larger dog was in the yard, one I haven’t walked because his sign says he’s not available because he’s “working on his manners.” He raced toward the fence and I thought very calmly, What a great opportunity to see if Gracie is at all reactive to other dogs.

And then I went down. It is a testament to both dogs that I don’t even remember what they did. I’m pretty sure Gracie just stood there attached to me via leash. The other dog didn’t even bark.

I had simply tripped over my own feet, and when I landed on my left shoulder, the wind was knocked out of me.

That’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot – “wind knocked out” – and now I understand what it means. I couldn’t breathe. Specifically, I felt like I couldn’t get air out. I also sprained my right thumb.

My thoughts at the moment: I’m hurt. I’m hurt. No… I seem to be okay. Nothing broken. No scrapes. No one saw; thank god! So embarrassing.

So I kept on walking Gracie. Then I walked two more dogs. My thumb hurt quite a bit, but that seemed to be the worst of my injuries.

Until I woke the next morning with pain on the side of my chest. I googled “bruised ribs,” and yep that’s what it was. Even if they were cracked, the Internet says the treatment is the same: ice, rest, drugs. Six weeks to heal.

That was almost four weeks ago. I’ve mostly been functional when upright, as long as I don’t overexert myself. Walking is fine. Getting up from a lying position is hard. Sneezing was excruciating, but that has improved. I was able to do my part to separate two fighting dogs (ours).

I did wind up seeking medical help a week and a half ago when I had sharp chest pains and was short of breath. Thought I was having a heart attack, maybe a Vicodin overdose? Nope, just strain in the interstitial cartilage or something. A house call from paramedics and four hours in the ER later, I was disappointed they didn’t see any fractures in my X-rays.

So that’s my deal. I hope to be better and back to walking shelter dogs in a couple of weeks. And though I’d love to see her again, I hope Gracie’s not still there when I go back.

Heart Like a Dog

Since my injury, I have neglected not only blog posting, but blog hopping. I’m getting back up on the horse right now with the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog

Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

P is for Park

pups park

Chilling at The Best Dog Park

I’ve written before about the two dog parks in town, but due to my self-inflicted rules for this All-Positive A to Z Challenge, I can repeat the name of only one of them: The Good Dog Park. (You can probably guess the name of the other.)

Now there’s a third, henceforth to be called The Best Dog Park.

“Have you been to the new dog park?” My hairdresser asked me last week.

“There’s a new dog park???”

I consider myself pretty locked in to the dog news around here, so I’m going to assume that I heard this first from my hairdresser because my dog training buddies have better pro-social activities for their dogs than the Wild West of off-leash parks.

We work hard to make our occasional dog park visits positive, even if that means leaving when the party is just getting started. Our visit last week to the Other Dog Park got really exciting when a year-old German shepherd zoomie-galloped into the fray, and Leo chased after him. I thought, Oh, good, Leo can wear himself out with this guy. But when the young dog slowed down, Leo mounted and humped him.

This has become our signal that it’s time to leave. While humping is a perfectly normal thing for a dog to do (Fern Camacho can tell you more), we keep things polite at the park. We used to have a three-strikes policy, but once Leo fixates on a dog, he keeps going back, so now we pack it up after the first mount.

Which is also what we did for our first visit to the Best Dog Park. While it’s farther from our house than the other two dog parks, it’s worth the drive. We’re still in the honeymoon phase, but it’s amazing! The ground is fully covered in bark, and there are some nice logs for people to sit on and dogs to jump over. More importantly, the people there were more attentive to their dogs than the folks tend to be at the Other Dog Park.

Somehow the dogs even seem better. This all might be because it’s new, but we’ll take it!

For the A to Z Challenge, I’m using all positive language in my posts. Find out how positive reinforcement training helped my dog in my book, Bark and Lunge!


Flashy New Collars

The good people at Dog-E-Glow liked this video so much that they sent us a couple of different styles to try out! We walk our dogs every day after dark, and during those walks, they always wear their Dog-E-Glows. We usually keep them on “steady glow,” but they also have a blinky setting.

I love the purple skull pattern that Mia’s been wearing, but it doesn’t seem as bright as Leo’s green collar. That’s not a problem with her new pink rhinestone necklace. It’s not easy to capture the majesty on film, but I tried:

Leo’s new collar is a black-and-white skull and crossbones, with a red light.

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and check out some more great Wordless Wednesday posts.

String Cheese and the Crime Scene Field

I have found the secret to Leo’s success. Cheese. If a bike, jogger, or another dog is far enough away, I feed him chunks of string cheese to counter-condition him with a positive association to the scary thing.

All summer, I walked him around the nearby college campus, which wasn’t very crowded off-season, but where we pretty reliably saw a bicycle or two. The fun thing about working the CARE for Reactive Dogs protocol is that my goals and my attitude changed. Instead of dreading bicycles, I sought them out, and would be disappointed not to see one on our walks.

Imagine how different it is for Leo to have the other end of the leash thinking, “Oh good, a bicycle! Time for cheese,” instead of “Oh crap, a bicycle. Cue the barkfest.”

Lately, I’ve been wanting to walk the dogs together. I discovered that I can cut through a community garden to a big empty field that I call the Crime Scene Field, because I feel like an FBI agent on the job with my search and recovery dogs.

To get from our driveway to the community garden, we have to walk a short distance on our fairly busy street. So far, we’ve timed this perfectly not to encounter anybody on our evening walks, but just in case, I’ve been putting Leo’s ThunderCap on him for this part of the walk.

While, yes, it is a little embarrassing to think of passing drivers wondering why I blindfolded my dog, the benefit is huge. Not only does it reduce Leo’s vigilance, but it calms me down, because I’m more relaxed as we pass the three houses between ours and the community garden. Again, imagine the difference for Leo between this and having me on the other end of the leash frantically scanning the sidewalks for potential triggers.

Sadly, this evening walk site will be short-lived, because it won’t be safe after dark. Time to find a new well-lit, low-populated path, or revisit an old one.

walk your dog

This post is part of the National Walk Your Dog Week Blog Hop from Oct 1-7. Blog hop hosts, Cascadian Nomads and My GBGV Life, will be adding daily dog walking posts all week long.

Powered by Linky Tools Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…


It’s also Fit Dog Friday, a blog hop brought to you by SlimDoggy, To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.

Powered by Linky Tools Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Walking dogs for fitness and fun

I really wanted to call this post How I lost 30 pounds walking dogs.

Turns out that won’t happen unless I also cut back on the M&Ms and french fries.

When I first started volunteering at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, I went two or three times a week and walked three dogs about 20 minutes each on a trail that included some steep inclines. As sweaty and dirty as I was when I returned to work afterward, I thought surely I’d drop a ton of weight.

(In my early 30s, I lost 3 pounds just by walking Isis several days a week, with no changes to my diet. Sadly, I am now in my late 30s.)

Realistically, I couldn’t keep up that pace, so I cut back my volunteer hours to once a week. I’ve watched happily as many of the dogs I’ve befriended have found families of their own.

Two of my favorite inmates at the moment are Abe and Dylan, whom I like to cally Dilly, Dilly Bear, or Dillsbury Dough Boy.

Abe looks a lot like my old pal Buddy, who recently got his own home, soccer ball included. He’s a lean, but very tall hound-shepherd mix, with a boisterous bark that might intimidate visitors who only see him behind bars. But let him loose in the play yard and he’s a big, smiley goofball. Yesterday, I let him run loose for a few minutes before our walk. I let the dogs drag their leashes in the yard, so I don’t wind up playing keep-away when it’s time to put the leash back on. Abe ran so hard that he tripped over his leash and flipped onto his back like a cartoon character.

Don’t hold it against him, but Abe is a bit of a puller. It’s not his fault; no one taught him any better. I make kissy noises and give him treats when he comes back to me. (A clicker would be impractical; I need both hands on his leash.) On the wooded trail, I let him pull ahead a little, because he is a hound dog and deserves quality sniffing time. Yesterday, while he had his head buried under a bush, I saw a deer ahead on the trail. The deer ran off before Abe saw it.

It didn’t go entirely unnoticed though. Abe sure perked up when we reached the spot where the deer had been. He went bonkers, squealing and sniffing, making snuffling noises against the ground and, sorry to reuse the imagery, looking like a cartoon dog. I worried a little that he might pull me off my feet, but I held onto that leash for dear life as he dragged me up the trail until he lost the scent of the deer.

After returning sweet Abe to his kennel, I visited Dilly, a medium sized brindle pit bull mix. Dilly is the ideal dog for snuggling on the couch. He has this way of leaning up against you, like all he wants in the world is to be touching you. I sat down on the floor of his kennel and he crawled into my lap and I just held him for a few minutes, kissing his head. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade Mia and Leo for anything, but Dilly could teach them a few things about cuddling.

On my walk with him, I paused a few times to crouch down and rub his belly (and kiss his face, I admit it). At one point when I stood back up, he had a sudden burst of energy and sprang ahead. Unprepared, I let the leash slip out of my hand.

(Somehow, I managed to hold onto huge Abe, but let Dilly go? How did that happen?)

I quickly recovered from the heart-lurching fear that I’d just lost a shelter dog, realizing that Dilly would come back to me if I sat down and offered him a lap to sit in. And he did.

At this point, I was feeling pretty fatigued, still recovering from a recent head cold.

Maybe I won’t walk a third dog, I thought. I had planned to walk Clark, whom I like to call Clarkson. Now that Buddy has found a home, Clark, the so-dark-gray-he’s-almost-black pit-lab mix, has been there the longest of my pals. He initially was surrendered by a family with an apparent allergy, then was adopted to a family who brought him back after he got in a fight at the dog park. He’s been pretty anxious since I’ve known him, chewing through at least one collar and two harnesses. The shelter staff says he didn’t do that kind of thing during his first stint in the clink.

I couldn’t let Clark down, especially since shelter staff felt the need to rename him Clyde, so in lieu of a trail walk, I played with him in the yard. I swear, never has a dog been happier to chase a tennis ball. And then… he got even happier when I threw a second ball to him.

Two balls! I get to play with both of these? At first, Clark dropped one ball to pick up the other, but then he realized he could fit both in his mouth. There’s an old boat on a trailer in this play yard, and Clark likes to lie under it and tear the fuzzy skin off tennis balls. Tail wagging, huge smile on his face.

How, I ask you, HOW does this dog not have a yard of his own? I want to give Clark a yard, and a family with kids to play with him, and a bucket full of tennis balls to tear apart. Who cares if he doesn’t play well at the dog park?

I want to give Dilly a couch and a person to lean on.

I want to give Abe a person with patience to teach him to walk nicely on a leash (using force-free methods of course), and yard to race around in without a leash to trip him up.

I would use those wishes before I wished to lose 30 pounds.


It’s been a while since I joined the FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Hop along using the Linky Tools link below.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…


The Notorious B.U.G.

Hip-Hop Leo

Leo has a new nickname. Leo stands for Leonidas, but we call him Leo Bug most of the time. Sometimes Buggie. You see where this is going.

Rob’s been listening to Notorious B.I.G. in the car on the way to his jogs with Leo, also known as the Bug Jog. Leo, much like his mother, does not seem to be crazy about the actual jogging part. He gasses out after a lap or two, and requires a lot of encouraging to carry on.

However, Rob, the supportive and tireless coach, reports that Leo does not bark at bicycles and other dogs while jogging.

Jen deHaan was really onto something in this DOGthusiast post.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on classical conditioning with Leo. I take him to a big parking lot near a skate and bike park. Sometimes we have very peaceful walks. Sometimes I can get him close enough to the wheeled people that he sees them, yet far enough away that he doesn’t bark at them. Sometimes I totally beef it by cutting through an apartment complex to drop the poop bag in a dumpster and he winds up barking and lunging at an innocent bystander.

Unfortunately, he’s been seeming more reactive in the car, barking at everyone he sees, not just joggers, dogs, and wheeled people. It’s so bad that I ordered a Calming Cap to see if that helps. (I ordered the Thundershirt brand because Premier is now owned by a company that makes shock collars. So I guess I no longer endorse Easy Walk harnesses either. Here are some alternatives I haven’t tried myself.)

The other day, I walked the dogs together and when we got back in the car, I played Rob’s Biggie Smalls’ CD. Leo sat in the front seat, and shined the most relaxed, happy smile. He didn’t bark at anything on the way home. Obviously, he found Biggie to be calming.

I played Biggie again tonight on our way to the bike/skate park and Leo didn’t bark at a thing. Not on the way there, not on the walk, not on the way back… until a skateboard sped by on the sidewalk, startling us both. I forgive him because, come on, this was an epic walk.

At one point, we were in the middle of the parking lot, mellow as a spring evening at dusk, and Leo calmly looked away from the skaters, over to a couple of girls getting in their car after soccer practice, back to me. I rewarded him with some Ziwi Peak venison, and was thinking, Damn, I’m proud of you, kid, when a couple of bikes whizzed by on the sidewalk. I turned and ran in the other direction.

Yes. I ran.

And Leo glanced over his shoulder like, Hey, I’m supposed to bark at wheeled people, and I just kept running, and he came with me, and he did not bark and he did not lunge. And I was so proud.

Incidentally, he didn’t used to be into hip hop. When he was a pup, he bumped the volume on the car radio to turn up Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Going to Take It. Another time, he changed the station to the same song.

My mom’s Lhasa apso, Barney, was a big fan of Cyndi Lauper. One time when she was on Late Night with Conan, Barney fixed his eyes on her each time she performed, having shown no prior interest in the television.

Do your dogs have a favorite singer? 


I’m thrilled to be hopping along once again with SlimDoggy, Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Tell me again, why did I quit nose work?

Oh, readers, I know you don’t know, since I can’t even remember.

I know why I quit the nose work class. I didn’t want to do another dog class without Rob and the only class that worked with our schedule was 8-9 pm Thursdays. It was a lot of money and a long way to drive for six minutes of practice for each of the dogs. The rest of the time they waited in the car, and during our first visit, Leo freaked out and ate the passenger seat while Mia was inside sniffing out pieces of liver in cardboard boxes.

What I can’t defend is why I didn’t continue playing a nose work game with them at home. Guess I thought it was too big a pain to put them both outside, come up with places to hide liver (now paired with a tin of a birch-scented cotton swab), then bring one dog in at a time, dress them in the special outfit that’s supposed to cue them that it’s nose work time. Sniff the stuff out. Rinse and repeat.

Did I really find that too much of an effort, compared to walking them around the neighborhood, struggling to overcome Leo’s proclivity to bark and lunge at fast-moving objects?

Using the garage had not occurred to me. Probably because it’s a mess. But that’s what makes it such a great place to hide stuff!

Two years later, the birch has lost its smell (as far as my inferior olfactory glands can tell), and I’ve dispensed with the special outfits. My doggies didn’t need the wardrobe cue. Or a verbal one. They zeroed in on the hidden liver like it was their job.

Next time I’ll shoot some video. I can’t even express how good it felt to watch them working their innate sniffing skills.

I’m on board now. As soon as we were done, I ordered some fresh birch swabs from All Good Dogs.

Our return to nose work was inspired in part by the K9 Kamp challenge to play hide and seek.

k9kamp new badge 2014

And I always like to jump in on BlogPaws’ (almost) Wordless Wednesday blog hop!


Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…