Jun 10, 2011

So, how to approach a fearful dog in your shelter?

Yawning may indicate nervousness.

We've had wonderful success stories
with this approach.

"From Snap to Sugar Snap" in this blog also keys in on a fearful dog.

Jan 31, 2011


PARTNERS IN TIME, a column published every so often by DogTails columnist Reed S. Anact (Column XXI, all rights reserved, comments welcome)
Recently I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview the incomparable Posey and her guardian Lucy. Wow. Posey’s and Lucy’s journey began eight years ago at SF/ACC. Posey, all of 4 weeks old, was in the custody cat room, too small and too young to be kenneled in the puppy room.

poetry in motion
Jump to December 2010, Posey having been invited to the AKC Agility Invitational. How this shelter pittie wound up winning 3 ribbons (out of a possible four) at this national event is the story of today’s column. This interview is taking place in a typical agility ring, and I’ll tell you, folks, watching Lucy and Posey together is the real deal. I’m sure enjoying being here, I must say.
Reed: Tell me about the first day you saw Posey and how you wound up taking her home. Did you name her? You were volunteering for Give a Dog a Bone at that time, were you not?
Lucy: Well, I first saw Posey with a shelter employee outside of SF/ACC. I was a GADAB volunteer, coming in for my shift. She was so tiny, her legs looked the size of my finger. Her eyes were blue and she was blinking in the bright sunlight. I was told her name was Posey. I thought she was cute, but went on my way. I had no idea she would become a huge part of my life.
Posey: May I interject? I knew, I just knew that Lucy was the right person for me, I can’t say how I knew, I just did.
Reed: So you took the little American Pit Bull Terrier mix home, and then what? How did your life change?
Lucy: Well, she was so energetic, I suddenly had my hands full keeping her busy. I worked hard to housebreak her, and made sure she got lots of socializing with both people and dogs. Back in those days, we went to the dog park so she could run around, and to tennis courts to throw the ball for exercise. She needed to be taken out for running twice per day
Posey: Boy, did my life change. I was just a baby after all, and looking back to when I was just a puppy, from what I can remember, Lucy had a lot of patience with me – I didn’t know much of anything and I kind of got into everything, well, I tried, but most of the time Lucy let me know what was cool and what was totally uncool. I had to learn a lot. Lucy is a good teacher, and if I may say so, we do teach each other.
Lucy: That’s so key to a good relationship with your dog.
Reed: So you took Posey out twice daily and threw 100 balls for her in an enclosed unused tennis court? That’s amazing to me – she needed that much exercise. Can you comment on that?
Lucy: Posey really settled down after our exercises. I can’t emphasize enough how priceless exercise is. She needed to run her little tail off, pretty much before anything else we did, like manners training, so that’s what we did.
Posey: I plead the fifth.
Reed: So you moved due to work, and is that when you began agility with Posey? What brought you to agility?
Lucy: I actually started agility before I left San Francisco for Seattle. I thought that Posey was a smart dog, and deserved something more than just throwing a tennis ball around, so I started looking online. Agility seemed like the most fun thing to try. I found an agility school close to my home that had a great reputation so I sent them an email and enrolled in a beginner class. That’s how the addiction started.
so graceful
Posey: I loved going to agility class!! I knew when you brought out the treats and tug toy that’s where we were going!!
Reed: I understand that a lot of people like to do agility with their dogs because it’s fun, and then there’s a whole other realm of the agility world: competition agility. I know our readers would like to hear more on that. I hear the words “positive reinforcement” and “the human/animal bond”. Is competition agility a good fit with those two phrases?
Lucy: Absolutely! I think competition agility is a perfect fit! To me, having fun, bonding with your dog, and doing competition agility are all one in the same. I can’t imagine anything more fun to do with my dog! Agility is a timed sport, so both the dog and handler need to be fast, motivated, and enthusiastic. The way you get that is through positive reinforcement and making the obstacles highly rewarding for the dog. When you are able to give clear cues and the dog understands your body language, it strengthens the bond between the two of you. It’s the perfect match for us.
Posey: Totally. Agility is amazing. I love everything about it. My mom and I rock. We just love this.
Reed: Lucy, before I turned the mike on, you used a word with which I am not familiar: the “zoomies”. Can you tell us what that means, especially for you and Posey when you are trialing? Lucy: (laughs) Well, Posey sometimes runs like a crazy dog in circles, especially in cool weather. It’s one of those things, you can’t say what it is, but you know it when you see it. Some people say it’s stress relief, some people say it’s a training issue. I just think that Posey is an active, exuberant dog who enjoys life and sometimes needs to get her ya ya’s out. Before a trial in cool weather I need to run her around a little bit with things like long-distance stays/recalls so that she can focus.
Posey: I literally can’t help it. It feels like, oh, it feels like I’m flying, as if all the joys in the world were compressed into me, actually, and I just burst with the unparalleled energy of it all. It’s sheer ecstasy. Does that sort of explain it?
Reed: That’s quite a description, Posey, you said that very well. Very well indeed. Might I say that I myself would like to experience the “zoomies” sometime! Another question for you both: could you elaborate on the past six years, from starting out to where you are now?
posey relaxing with her ducky
Lucy: Well, we’ve been doing competitive agility for six years now, and I can’t imagine my dog-related life without it. We’ve progressed from ‘please pay attention to me’ into a great team that had the privilege of attending the 2010 AKC Invitational. I’ve learned how dogs respond to my body language and non-verbal communication, and that has strengthened the bond between me and my dogs.
Posey: I am the luckiest pit bull in the world. My mom and I are tight. I mean tight. Agility brought a renewed depth to our relationship and it keeps on giving. I LOVE agility, especially the tunnel. Going through the tunnel rocks big-time. Now the weave poles, not my strong suit, but Lucy and I are getting there – it is hard work, tons of practice time, but when you get to do the thing you love most in the world with the person you love most in the world, tell me what could be better than that.
Reed: Looks like we’re almost out of time here, but Lucy, I feel it’s important for our readers to know how deeply you feel about trialing a shelter dog, especially a pit bull. They get such bad press.
family: posey and hammer
Lucy: That’s very true. I feel that if you have a shelter pit, it’s so important to do positive public things with them to improve their image. Agility is physically demanding, and as Posey gets older I will look for other things to do with her so that her breed can be put in a positive light. I’ve started competitive obedience with Posey recently, and that will be our next adventure.
Posey: My mom is so proud of me. And she shows it too. Boy, does that make me feel mucho mucho bueno, I just can’t tell you. I can roll with the obedience, too, it’s a whole different challenge for us.
Reed: Anything you’d like to add, ladies?
Lucy: The most important thing to me is to enjoy your dog and have fun with what you do. If you do that, everything else will follow.
Posey: She nailed that one. I totally second that.
Reed: Ladies, I can’t thank you enough for giving me this time with both of you. Readers, I’ve learned a lot here with Lucy and Posey, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have. Now, we have a special treat for you. A professional video of Posey and Lucy’s first run at the invitational. For you agility buffs, here’s Lucy’s explanation of why she chose this round (around a minute long):
“I like Round 1 the best, because it's standard and we ran clean. It shows all the obstacles, including teeter, tire, A-frame and dogwalk. Our other two Jumpers runs are clean, but just shows jumps and weaves.” http://www.youtube.com/agilepit#p/u/3/4-11vkmcsWQ
Notice the teamwork these two have and listen for Lucy’s praise to Posey at the end of the run. It’s beautiful.
Lucy: Thank you, Reed.
Posey: Woof!
Reed S. Anact on special assignment

Jan 13, 2011

Princess Pepper T. Lincecum

She's 11 years old and looks it. Greying muzzle, warty, lumpy, wonky hips, but one doesn’t really see all that. One sees that happy tail, that beautiful face reaching up for touch, and the carefree body wiggle when she spots pretty much anyone.
                 She wasn’t that open when she came to live at my house. It’s been a new and wondrous adventure for all of us; myself, my two little guys - Munchie and Mutley, also from Give a Dog a Bone - and her especially. After having led an unbelievably barren life for most of her 11 years, moving into a home with furniture, music, television, other people, doggie beds and water bowls everywhere, and in particular, enough food, she’s well on her way to being a regular dog. All new to her.
                 She eats regularly, something else new, and when she first began to recognize doggie meal preparation indicators, my heart stung at the sight of her drool on the floor. She was so very anxious. After around three months, she still gets a bit worried around meal time, but her progression from high level anxiety to almost mere nervousness is so gratifying.
           She rearranges the dog beds frequently, and curls up in the smallest of beds. She hops in pleasure and heads for the front door when she spies her leash in my hand. She is able to settle now, unlike when she first moved in, unable to relax.       
She loves riding in the car. She loves going on walks.  Her favorite place to go turned out to be Bernal Hill, as soon as she discovered the joy of trolling for gophers. If staring into holes on the hill for long periods of time was an Olympic event, the Princess would win the gold medal hands down.                
            She’s slowed down some, my theory being that she finally feels safe, and I think that if she spoke English, she would now be able to define the word “home”. She IS safe, she is cherished, the boys are comfortable around her, and she with them. I do not allow her to make mistakes with them. We have had, of course, some “faux paws”, not at all unexpected, but our learning curve continually steadies.
            When we go upstairs at night, she hums softly as I kneel and tuck her into her bed, covers up to her neck. Bedtime rituals have developed. Pepper sleeps on two soft beds, with a lovely heavy quilt covering her.                                                                   
         I feel almost compelled to photograph her. I have to document that she has a life, that she is a good weight now. Not just for me, but for her shelter family, who have greatly loved and cared for her. Each of us remembers being stricken by our first sight of her, every rib visible, her bony skull, her graying muzzle.                                                                                                    We’re well aware that Pepper’s life, her life now, is to be recognized and cheered. I don’t need to say why that is so. Soon she’ll just be a regular dog. I can’t think of anything better.

 For more on Pepper and from whence she hailed:                   
 read incorrigible animal lover Eileen Mitchell's column in the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgif=/c/a/2010/12/29/DDAV1GUCSQ.DTL
              "Give a Dog a Bone cares for animals in custody"
  (Please note Pepper’s unique necklace.
     It’s made of 2010 World Series tix.
        The Princess is a diehard SF Giants fan.
            She looooves Orange Fridays in particular)  
 - AND -  from the January 2011 issue of the Bay Woof:
    (scroll down Happy Tails for Princess Pepper T. Lincecum )

Dec 29, 2010


PARTNERS IN TIME, a column published every so often by DogTails columnist Reed S. Anact

(Column XVIX, all rights reserved, comments welcome)

Once again, from behind the green door, this reporter shares the story of a real life hero.

Time to welcome to this column the incomparable Christine and her beloved Sormei. Confirmed vegans, they envision a world in which we all "act as a guardian towards our kindred beings".

Christine is an Usui Reiki Master and an avid animal rights advocate on many fronts, from local city government to national and international issues. Her focus on energetic healing of emotional and physical traumas may not be visible to all, but the dogs have a special hurrah for her. One has to listen carefully to discern the different quality of this unique salute. Christine has a new website featuring her reiki practice and also her reiki products, found at http://www.sassymonkeyreiki.com/, a real plus for GADAB canine residents.

Christine also enjoys helping out dogs in foster with Grateful Dogs Rescue. She takes them on outings, socializing them to the real world, giving each dog time alone with her. Most of these 4 legged buddies hail from GADAB.

Christine, an avid animal advocate in every sense of the word, talks the talk, walks the walk, and every Sunday can be found in the shelter park with our dogs, or making up a fabulous Kong for one of our buddies, communicating with them in her unique manner, while Sormei awaits her eagerly at home after preparing one of Christine's favorite vegan drinks with her top secret ingredients.

Premier mixologists world-wide have attempted to duplicate Sormei's recipe without success, but this drink belongs to Christine alone, reports Sormei. Sormei is the perfect listener, curling up in her Special Somebody's lap while Christine narrates her day and sips on Sormei's tasty treat. They both treasure this special time together.

Reed S. Anact, on special assignment

Nov 18, 2010

join us, support us, we'll be "sittin' on the docks of the bay . ."

Four Paws Up !!!
     for Bella the Boxer's 
          'Secrets of a Working Dog  

What: Book launch seminar for Secrets of a Working Dog:
Unleash Your Potential and Achieve Success by Bella the Boxer, with Ellen and Patrick Galvin

i'll be there in spirit!
and Fundraiser for Give a Dog a Bone 
Bella, Ellen and Patrick are generously donating 50% from books sales
this evening to Give a Dog a Bone
Where: Club Room, OCSC SAILING, One Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, CA 94710
Date: Monday, November 22, 2010 - coming right up!
Time: 6:30 PM to 7:00 PM (snacks and networking) and 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM (program)
Program Details:
. . . . connect with your "inner dog"   The friendship between humans and dogs goes back thousands of years. In this fun and insightful evening, we’ll discuss how dogs are much more than great companions. They can teach you how to work smarter and be happier using techniques that come naturally to them. Presenters Ellen Galvin and Patrick Galvin live and work with Bella the Boxer, America’s self-proclaimed smartest work dog. They are also the co-authors with Bella of the recently-released book Secrets of a Working Dog: Unleash Your Potential and Achieve Success. Specifically, Ellen and Patrick will lead a conversation about how dogs can help you:

 · Make happiness happen
 · Keep your eyes on the ball
 · Shake off setbacks and pursue your dreams
 · Show meaningful appreciation
 · Incorporate play into your daily life
Oh, and also. . . 
Meet Bella the Boxer who comes to the San Francisco Bay Area about once a year. When she’s not begging for snacks, Bella will be selling “pawtographed” copies of her book for $19.95.
About the Presenters:
Bella the Boxer is the director of goodwill (D.O.G.) at Galvin Communications, a word of mouth marketing firm in Portland, Oregon that has handled PR for OCSC Sailing for the past five years. Ellen Galvin is the company’s chief wordsmith. Patrick Galvin is a professional speaker who galvanizes audiences to achieve greater levels of success in work and life.

Oct 27, 2010


Why, yes, I have gained a few lbs.
Thank you for asking.
   Skinny, skinny, skinny. Oh, skinny. That would be the first thing one noticed. The second would be her way of greeting pretty much anyone. An over-the-top, where’s-your-face-you-need-a kiss black whirl of a dog. What’s a collar? What’s a leash? WHERE’s the food?
And how do I get the food? That pretty much summed up Spirit’s primary interest, as any dog who’s been starved will tell you. Around a year old, she was the epitome of unchanneled energy with the attention span of a gnat. Was there really going to be a person who wanted to take all that on? Challenging, grabby, exasperating at times, the meaning of focus completely eluded her, and there was never a doubt in her mind that any possibility existed of her not getting whatever she wanted. There was something though, none of us can define it, but all of us can see it. Spirit had it.   
And the right person saw it.Then he did everything in the right order. James visited Spirit over and over again, he made sure that his life partner was on board with getting another dog, consulted with his male dog’s trainer, Kelley Filson of DogEvolve, who then choreographed a meet and greet between Spirit and Bruno. Does everything have to run smoothly from the get-go, or can dog/dog relationships evolve, given time and care, lots of monitoring by their guardians, and a fabulous trainer? Who’s to say?
BFF 4ever

Ultimately, Bruno and Spirit. But not alone. Two very different dogs, with two loving guardians, who patiently and firmly, led both dogs into a relationship that worked for both of them. Every day, there was a good long training walk with Alice of Go Ask Alice Dog Training, and under Kelley’s innovative guidance, Spirit gradually learned Rules To Live By. She learned how to play with other dogs. And she learned some pretty cool tricks as well. Spirit can jump rope with the best of them. She may always be a scavenger, but I theorize that, biologically, her brain failed to learn how to properly communicate with her stomach in those early days of never having enough to eat, and having experienced enough starving dogs who come into the shelter, it seems to hold true. No science involved here, just observations.

About those opposable thumbs? Well, I was Spirit’s designated dog sitter, and was warned by one of her guardians about her sleeping habits. Seemed that Spirit had picked one side of the bed to be her own, and once she settled in, she planted herself as if she had roots growing through the bed. No grouchiness, not touchy or bratty, she just simply morphed into a rock with roots. So I needed a plan, since Spirit’s side of the bed was the one with the bed lamp, and I like to read in bed. Here’s what I did, every time I dog-sat her. With my OT’s, I turned the doorknob to shut Spirit out of the bedroom, and got ready for bed, covers turned down, everything I needed in place, and then, again with my OT’s, I opened the door. Spirit, of course, was just on the other side of the door, ready. I raced her to the bed, leapt in just ahead of her, pulled the covers up over both of us, and she, forever the loser in this particular situation, settled for snuggling as close to me as she could get. Not a bad deal for many of us – pittie snuggles are as good as it gets.

Wait, I'm getted adopted???
End of story? Not quite. Everybody moved to New York. But the family was not yet complete. When James and Rob were shown a photo of a young dog by a friend whose daughter was fostering the little guy from Oakland Animal Services, and were told his story, they knew immediately where his forever home would be, as they had been discussing adopting another pit bull. They learned that about five months prior, “firefighters responding to a call of “shots fired” arrived on the scene fully expecting to find a human in need . . . "but were hard-pressed to find any victim at all. That is, until a careful search of the Oakland address led firefighter Ryan Minnagen to a black-and-white pit bull puppy suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.” Little Remy had been shot five times, in his front leg, pelvis and back.
After meeting Remy for the first time, Rob recognized another match. And after Remy’s surgeries, convalescence, and another plane flight by Rob, this time with Remy, for the first time, the dogs in the household outnumbered the humans.

 Sweet dreams, babies.

All happy, all healthy. Once more, it’s about the love, baby, but don’t forget about the how, the time, and the R+ training. Whether you get a trainer or go to classes with your new dog, you're off to a good start.       
Take a look at these two. Life’s good, right?

May 7, 2010


In my last life, I created crossword puzzles. I was famous. So famous that I had to retreat to northern Nova Scotia to escape the endless hordes of enthusiasts who pursued me relentlessly. “How, how, how, did you create this?”, they would ask me breathlessly while they jabbed repeatedly at a particularly clever and complicated witticism, stabbing their paper so hard with their precious pen that one could no longer decipher the place at which they were poking. Paper, after all, is not meant for jabbing.

After I found my retreat, I was alone at last. I could not create fast enough, since those who had hounded me relentlessly could no longer find me. I had found the solitude that I craved, and my mind exploded with crossword puzzles that made their way to my public so circuitously that my whereabouts remained a puzzle in itself.

Now, I find myself in a different body, and I am no longer the creator, but rather, the one who deciphers different puzzles with which I am presented. I am utterly fascinated by this, and I find myself understanding those who pursued me in my former life. I love figuring out puzzles! How ironic that I now find myself at the opposite end of the spectrum – from the creator to the aficionado.

This particular puzzle is a milk crate,
but I have been successful with plain
cardboard boxes of all sizes, I have found treasures in traffic cones, and pawed through small piles of rocks to get to my reward.

My nose is incredible, a gift, I might say,
 that leads and stimulates me to figure out just how to get my reward. When I figure out how to get to my treasure (S!), I get praised profusely, and I get to eat my reward, or play with it. Under my puzzles are what my puzzle makers call my “motivators” – that is, what motivates me to try to get what is underneath that puzzle. For me, its’ treats, but I also LOVE squeaky balls, and stuffed toys rank right up there in my top five as well.

Here’s my friend
a box
He looks like he's
on water,
doesn't he? He's a happy feller.

So, if I may present some advice to all of you shelter volunteers, please see for yourself how our brains work. Do we get to our treasures with our paws, or do we use our mouths, or do we push the puzzles around with our noses until the box upends itself? You see, we are still learning how things work and anything that stimulates our mind, well, it might be as exhausting for us as calculus might be for you. Challenge our brains!

Our puzzle makers make sure we’ve got the zoomies out of us, that we’ve done our business, and we’ve checked all the doggie mail. Then out comes the box, and we watch carefully to see what is going under it. Oh, yeah. Then the puzzle makers clap and say, “Get It!” and we hop to it. Well, some if us; not all of us enjoy it, but plenty do!

woo-hoo! You puzzle makers rock! And the affection you give us – oh, mama . . . .