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, 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 . . . .

May 6, 2010


And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved,
to feel myself
beloved on this earth.

- Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”

Why does this quote strike me as apropos for
Give a Dog a Bone?

Perhaps it has to do with the love that we receive from our dogs. I am beloved by my dogs. I feel so beloved. What we have together has nothing to do with pulling them from the shelter and bringing them into my, now our, home.

People we meet ask sometimes if they are rescues; clearly they are not identifiable as a particular breed, but the word “rescue” brings with it a connotation that implies that I rescued them. More accurately, I feel, is that we found each other. The odds were pretty good since I used to spend most of my time in a shelter.

They are both formerly GADAB dogs. And perhaps why this quote resonated so strongly with me is that the dogs with whom we work are beloved as well. Do dogs know that they are supposed to feel beloved?

They are.

As are we.

Apr 7, 2010

Oh, Errant Blogger

My goodness, not the same spending most of my days at the shelter. The tears still come, especially when I think of Pepper, and days go by as I wonder who is taking out whom to the shelter park. The pictures of the kennels and the runs are in my head, not all the time, mind you, but I don’t even know the dogs who occupy those kennels. I’m not in the thick of things. But yes, I truly need this away time. Those pesky tears just out themselves without warning.

I know that they are being well cared for. The volunteers, bless them one and all, keep in touch and send photos, and our GADAB shelter ops director, bless her, keeps things running as smoothly as possible. I miss my co-workers, I miss a lot. The little joys. The big joys. The camaraderie. I miss talking and laughing and commiserating with those who understand how life in a shelter is. No one else knows the bittersweet of the day-to-day complexities, and it’s not just taking out dogs, or spending time with those who can never leave their cage, or filling kongs.

  It’s endlessly looking for kongs to fill, or the sudden need for a clean blanket so the puppies won’t step in their own poop, the rush to prepare a kennel for an incoming dog, up and down the concrete stairs countless times a day to get something special that you just thought of that would be perfect for a sweet old dog, or to find a sheet to cover one-half of the front of a kennel so a fearful dog can have some visual protection from any passer-by.

What is it? Why do we do it? Where does the compassion come from? Some say that compassion comes from our own hurt. Part of that is true for many of us, and having found a way to address that which cannot be expressed, except in this particular way, in this particular place, is what it is.

So vital that we find joy in what we do. And we do. Plenty of sorrow and anger, no doubt about that, but to keep sight of any light at the end of the tunnel is a must. To think that there will be more resources, there will be more volunteers, there will be more kongs, and more people to stuff them might sound a bit bright and cheery and unrealistic, but if you don’t put it out there, then what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Ideas for enrichment, simple things, no-brainers - keep on coming, but how to implement them? Keep your eyes on those prizes. We are. Sustainability and strategic planning have become part of my vocabulary. We’ve got some good people, but it’s gonna take some time.

We will have the time that we need to care for the endless animals coming into the shelter. We will encounter many loving animal guardians, and moving along towards an end goal, there will be education. It’s only education that will stop the cycle. And you. You and I know that it comes down to all of us.

None of this will be a dream if you practice compassion. Times are tough for all, and this is not a plea, but an optimistic wake-up call. We still need your help. Give a little, or if you have a lot, give more. For those of you who already wear that hat, hats off to all of you.     

Feb 18, 2010

the longest memory

i reach my hand
gently and slowly towards you

and even after five lovely years together,

at times i still see an almost imperceptible head flinch
as you shrink ever so slightly away from my hand.

I imagine once again what your first year of life was like.

Jan 15, 2010

MANNERS ???? . . . . puh-leese

So what to do, for example, with that intact 9 month old who has zero impulse control, has no idea how to harness his energy, which is off the charts, and whom adopters pass by time and time again? We all know that the guy has lots to offer, but even volunteer dog walkers take a strengthening breath as they approach his kennel to get him out.

Bottom line is that manners, an essential component of environmental enrichment, impacts adoptability. And how many adopters can then go home with their new dog, and proudly say, “we got him from the shelter, and look what he can do!” Or doesn’t do, such as jumping up on everyone that he comes across. Better adoptions, more adoptions, less returns, good pr.

So you’re walking down the run, headed towards Sparkplug’s kennel, and he is barking and leaping about excitedly. You have your equipment with you, a fitted collar, a fitted front clip harness, and your leash. You stop in front of Sparkplug’s kennel, equipment organized in your hand, and wait for that millisecond when he settles. When he does, move your hand quickly towards the lock on the kennel. The millisecond is over as soon as he sees your hand move. You stop. Wait for another millisecond. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You both have the same end goal, you’re both totally focused on each other, but since he’s never been taught any impulse control, it’s going to take some time for him to learn the criteria that you have set for each dog to leave their kennel and get out.

Basically what we require for dogs to leave their kennels is to settle. That means that the dog waits for you to enter his kennel, put on his equipment, and waits for you to leave the kennel first. The likelihood of the process being picture perfect is highly unlikely! We don’t ask him to sit, or to be perfectly motionless, he can lick you in anticipation, he can wiggle some, but there’s no jumping up, no bouncing around the kennel, no shoving past you to get through the door, no frantic barking. Not acceptable behavior, but that is precisely what you’re working on. Your job is to have the equipment ready to put on, using a soothing/low cheerful voice to help settle Sparkplug, and treats aren’t a bad deal either, if you need them. If you sense that Sparkplug is approaching threshold, you have the option to stop and/or leave his kennel until he settles himself. Give him a couple/few moments, then try again. He will learn what behaviors will get him out of his kennel, although learning them all at one time would be like winning the lottery. (You should always have your body next to the door of the kennel; the dog should never be blocking your exit from the kennel.) Sparkplug will get it, maybe in small increments, for which he should be praised softly, but he will get it, and his reward is leaving the kennel. Each dog is different, and after learning the basics, you will able to adapt your methods to each individual as you better learn to read your dogs’ body language.

OK, you’re both out and you’ve shortened the leash so you have more control over him -- success! Now, as you walk down the run, your body is by the wall, not by the other kennels as you leave the run. Why? If anyone is planning a fence fight as you leave with Sparkplug, your body is not in the line of action if Sparkplug reacts to another dog’s arousal.

Our terminal goal is to get to our shelter park. We’ve gotten over the first hurdle, now we have a couple more impulse control exercises as we manouver our way there. We require a wait at each threshold prior to the dog getting through the door. We also go first. This does not stem from any misplaced sense of “dominance theory”; it has to do with safety. We want to know what or who is on the other side of the door before we let Sparkplug through. And the other factor involved in Sparkplug getting through that door is a nice settle – no jumping, no pawing, doesn’t have to sit, just has to show a modicum of impulse control.      

 I’ve found that asking for a “watch” is quite effective for that settle and quite often, the dog offers a sit along with the watch.  

They also do get better at waiting. Consistency is key – if you break and let Sparkplug through without maintaining your criteria, well, the next few times will be much more challenging for you. Dogs do, after all, teach us patience.

And then, of course, pulling. The front clip harness helps a lot, but what we’d really like is for Sparkplug to LEARN not to pull. There are many methods for teaching dogs to walk on a loose leash. Again, it’s up to you and what works best for the dog. Red light, green light is one way, with verbal cues to help your dog along. And he’s so eager, and you want him to get there to have some fun, and you have a gazillion more dogs to get out, but in the long run, all of these impulse control exercises are going to benefit every dog that you ever work with.

And with any luck, you’ll be the one who does the introduction to potential adopters or rescue organizations, and you can show them how you’ve worked with Sparkplug, as well as facilitate transferring his manners-in-progress to the people who are going to love him as much as you do.