Therapy Dog Training pt 1

About a week or two ago, a colleague of mine reminded me of a nonprofit in the area who was offering some dog training, so I checked them out. Paws with Love is an organization which provides schools, hospitals and clinics therapy dog interventions with their clients. I’ve been interested in getting involved, so a great way is for Bernie and myself to go through the training.

Our first day was on Monday, well, Bernie’s first day was this past Monday. I attended an orientation the week before and found out some details of our 8 week program. I also found out about some of the other dogs in the group and I was curious about their previous training. I did like how the trainer expressed positive reinforcement and explained about the particular type of temperament they were looking for in a therapy dog. 

When we pulled into the parking lot, Bernie was all perked up. He was eager to see where we are and what we were about to do. I didn’t let this distract me from knowing what Bernie’s triggers are and I made sure to be his eyes for them. Bernie has a hard time around unneutered males. Maybe he’s jealous 🙂 or maybe he has a difficult time being around a dog with that type of energy. Wouldn’t you know, we were walking to the front door and this Great Dane who was still intact moved in front of us. The Great Dane turned his head around to see who seemed to be sneaking up behind him. Bernie locked eyes and his body froze. I was already anticipating his reaction, I quickly moved Bernie around the other side of me and I was between the Great Dane and Bernie as we strolled through the door. Phew, I was not interested in dealing with an issue the first moment of the class.

The next maneuver in the gauntlet (at this point, just trying to get us checked in) was moving past an American Bulldog. I also know this is a hard breed for Bernie too, so I quickly assessed another way around and quickly and happily brought Bernie to the other side of the room. Bernie seemed preocuppied with the newness of his suroundings, so it didn’t really phase him, but I saw the other dog and he definitely noticed Bernie.

We settled down and I saw how overstimulated Bernie was in a new surrounding with MANY different surroundings. He began whining and wanting to meet everyone. I practiced his commands and he was able to redirect his energy towards me. I also think it helped him in settling into the class. His lips were pulled back into a smile and he gave me some of his best attention. Bernie’s tail was high and constantly and freely wagging. He seemed to be the happiest in that moment. 

We were evaluated on leave it and having our pups walked by different people in the group. Bernie was in his element, especially with the ladies. His ears were back, he’s grinned and his tail constantly wagged. On our practice round, one of the female evaluators came up to us and shook our hand and had a conversation. Bernie’s job was to sit there calmly. Well, Bernie jumped up a bit and we had a do over. Bernie learned quickly and remained seated and waited for a treat. So proud. 

Next week, we work on recall. This will be our biggest challenge. Bernie is very cerebral. He thinks methodically about what his move will be when we call him over. It has to be very interesting for him, so I have to be the best thing for him in the room! 

Stay tuned…. 


The What if’s

Have you ever wondered what you would do if, say your pet started choking? If your pet fell from a high place? If, your pet was hit by a car and still breathing? I hope no one or no companions ever experienced these things, but unfortunately, they do happen. I can personally attest to each of these situations, if not one of my bears, but with animals I’ve come to know through working with clients and rescues over the years.

Bernie is notorious for trying to swallow things whole. His jaw is a bit mishapened, and he developed an overbite. His overbite is precious, but it prohibits him from adequately chewing and digesting his food. I often find him working on a treat of some sort, usually the treats which take longer to chew. Then as I look up, I see him putting the whole thing in his mouth and working on covering it with his saliva. As you know, the saliva is the start of the digestion process thereby breaking down the food. Bernie is like an inpatient child licking ice cream. He doesn’t wait for his saliva to work its magic and help make the food more pliable, he goes all in. I’ve seen him put a whole pig ear in his mouth and get it all sopping wet before he tries swallowing it whole. I’ve often been worried what would I do if he started choking. I’ve often wondered what’s the protocol for a choking pet?
There is Jack. Jack loves napping and generally just lounging on the backs of couches or on some of the tallest couches. He loves a high vantage point. Every so often, Jack can sleep like no other. He can sleep like the dead. With that deep sleep comes dreams and with dreams, Jack squirms and moves. There have been a few times where he would squirm so much he would topple off the back of the couch onto the floor. I would hear a thud and I would see him scramble in getting up, but I was also scared he injured himself internally. Thankfully, he never did, but I didn’t know what to do if he fell and hit his head or injured his spine. What do I do? I often thought how ill equipped I am in knowing how to respond.

Then there is a sweet looking dog at Howl A Day Inn whose name is Benjamin. A lady brought him over to Melina to see if she can help him. It looked like the dog was hit by a car. His back legs were broken/dislocated and it seems as though he was hit by a car. Luckily for Benjamin, he was picked up by someone who in turn looked for help. I don’t know about you, but I see so many dogs in and around my neighborhood who get out of their owner’s house or fenced in yard or who are off leash and in the front yard and bolt across the street when they see something more interesting. I’ve been grateful not to have to intervene on a situation where a dog was hit by a car and I would take responsibility and intervene. I often thought, how would I handle this?

Well, the answer is found in Pet First Aid and CPR course. I urge all pet owners to take the program. I successfully completed the program through Animal Behavior College, but I believe the Red Cross offers this course and you may be able to find it at your local community college. Its a great resource and will provide you with the ways of checking for heart rate and breathing and even how to do rescue breathing and CPR for your pet who is unconcious. The course also covers how to provide first aid care for your pet if they are in shock from burns, hypothermia, heat stroke and even snake bites as you transport them to your Vet. This is vital to life information and all pet owners should know how to take the necessary steps in saving their pet’s life. 

A Daily Dose of Mindfulness, part 2

Today, was Jack’s follow up appointment at the Vet. His face looks so much better than last time, but I still kept the appointment as a precaution, in case, the Vet still thought it was a good idea in doing a biopsy.

Jack is Jack. I’m grateful the waiting room was empty and we only had a short wait. I helped keep Jack’s mind off the exam room by having him work his “Find It” and asked him for an assortment of obedience cues. I think this also helped me keep my mind off the Vet. All of the fun went out the door when the Vet Tech greeted us. Jack immediately dug his heels in and I resorted to getting my high pitched voice out and skipping into the hallway. Jack regretfully followed.

After his initial wellness check, the Vet came out and the air seemed lighter. The Vet looked relieved when he saw how much improvement Jack’s face looked. He even admitted to me he was a bit concerned that it could have been some sort of tumor or even cancer. I was in agreement with the Vet on initially thinking this, but since Jack’s response to treatment made the tumor/cancer question move towards the bottom of the list.

The treatment plan for Jack is finishing his meds and see the Vet again in 2 weeks. The conclusion of his fungal test was well, inconclusive. The only thing the Vet saw was bacteria on the sore. The Vet still doesn’t know what happened or the reason for the issue. He does believe on some level Jack had a severe case of ringworm. There isn’t much in the way of science backing up this thinking, but I guess he ruled out anything else severe.

This question mark made me ask a few questions:

  1. Is this an allergic reaction to a sudden change in diet? Our family was without a fridge for the better part of a month, so we were very limited in the way of adhering to the BARF diet. The Vet’s response was allergic reactions are not localized. There would be generalized skin issues and fur falling out on other parts of the body.
  2. Is this an allergic reaction to something in the environment? I’ve grown increasingly concerned about my own allergy sensitivities since moving to OK. I believe I developed a mold allergy, but with me it manifests as a upper respiratory issue. The Vet believes the mold would be breathed in an not manifest on his face. What about mold that grows outside? I know Jack enjoys rubbing his face, maybe that’s a possibility. The Vet did say, dogs scratch not only because they have an itch, but because it releases endorphin!
  3. My last question related to the quickness of a lump of this size growing on him in less than a day. The Vet did say its not abnormal for tumors to grow that quickly in such a short amount of time. He rattled off a host of possible tumor and cancer possibilites like squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumor and the such.

Overall, I’m happy knowing Jack’s responding well to his treatment, the Vet isn’t as concerned and Jack didn’t have to go through a biopsy today. Even though these are all good things, the one question still remains without an answer and which the Vet was very open in saying, what is on his face? We may never know. I hope the issue is resolved and doesn’t return. I’m grateful I took Jack into the Vet initially. Only a Vet can find out the issue of a new lump and bump and I’m glad I didn’t ignore it!

Fingers crossed!

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