Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Orijen Freeze-Dried Treats from

Our friends at graciously offered me a bag of Orijen Freeze-Dried dog treats in exchange for a product review. We love trying out new treats and always have to have some bite-sized treats on hand for walks and evening calming activities, so how could I say no to that? 

I decided to enlist Fozzie as my research assistant, as he is the most picky of my three canines. In addition, Fozzie's nails really needed doing and I knew I would need a high-value treat to make any headway on that front with my anxious Fozzie-man. 

Although I tell my clients with nail clipper-averse dogs to work on desensitization and counterconditioning a little bit every day with their dogs, I am very bad at following my own advice and my pups don't get their nails worked on nearly as often as they could. 

With the result that Fozzie is still a nervous Nellie when the nail clippers come out. 

So we went through the process, showing him the clippers then giving him a tiny bit of Freeze-Dried Alberta Wild Boar.

Letting him sniff the clippers, then giving him some tasty Wild Boar. 

Poor Fozzie was definitely conflicted: much as he wanted to get away from me and the clippers, he sure wanted to be close to those freeze-dried treats. 

Though Fozzie does enjoy many treats, these treats really seemed especially desirable and cranked up his motivation to endure even those terrifying nail clippers.

To help him out, I massaged his paw, did some nice TTouch all over it and continued giving him bits of freeze-dried heaven. 

In the end, the freeze dried treats won out over Fozzie's fear and he let me clip a few of his nails. But just a few.

Then the mailman came, presenting another opportunity to see just how appealing Orijen Freeze Dried treats are to Fozzie. 

Fozzie has this fabulous habit of going absolutely nuts when the mailman comes, lunging and barking at the window and making a huge fuss. 

Although I try to keep him inside at that time of the afternoon, he still puts his paws up on the window and has a fit. 

But even his laser-like concentration on the mailman was not laser-like enough once the freeze-dried treats came out.  

Oh no, then it was like the mailman was just a bad dream, a fevered memory of something that took place in a far-off land many miles away from Orijen freeze-dried bison snacks.

Thanks, you taught us a thing or two about the value of high-value treats. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lady's Weight Loss Success and Healthy Paws

Recently I had the chance to bring Lady to the shelter to see how she is with cats, and to use their scale to see if all our efforts toward weight loss have had any effect.

I've been feeding her diet food provided by the shelter, in the quantities recommended for weight loss, and as you know we have been going on good walkies for exercise. When you see a dog every day though, it's hard to notice changes in weight and I didn't think we had been making much progress. 

When I first got Lady, her weight was 76 pounds--quite the sum for a medium-sized pooch! When we brought her in the other day, she was down to 68! Surpassing her goal of 6-8 pounds! I was so proud of her. 

If you look at pictures from when I first got her and compare them to the present, I guess you really can see a difference.

Lady in Mid-April
Lady last week
A little more tucked around the belly, a little less flabby in the shoulders.

Yay, Lady! I know, it stinks to be on a diet. But you'll thank me for this someday, trust me. 

Meanwhile, Fozzie's been working on his own diet plan. 

If something says "LITE," you can eat as much of it as you want!

Don't worry Fozzie, I don't think you're that fat. You can take a load off and relax. 

While we're on the subject of doggie health, why not go on over and check out  my feature on Healthy Paws, where I write about all our favorite pup-centric activities! You'll get to see a bunch of other fantastic dog bloggers talk about their favorite things to do with their dogs too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival

Florian and I have not been getting as much of a chance to go hiking lately, so last weekend, when we both had a day free, we made the most of it with a trip to the Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival.

Florian knows how much I miss my West Coast music festivals like Seattle's Folklife Festival and the Oregon Country Fair, and sadly we will not be making it to the Zimbabwean Music Festival this year, so he thought this would be a good way to make up for those losses. 

The festival was at a farm property near Harper's Ferry, WV, and is a benefit for river conservation and environmental awareness surrounding the Shenandoah River. 

We love going to Harpers Ferry because not only is it a beautiful, historic
An old photo that bears repeating

town, but because the cliffs surrounding it, and the town itself, afford incredible views of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. 

We stopped off at the festival first, and noted that there was not a lot happening except for some dogs and their laid back owners enjoying the sun

Including a delicious little cattle dog. 

So we decided to go into the town and walk around before coming back to the festival for music in the afternoon.

I love the old stone architecture, and the way the historic buildings are maintained 

It is a town of steep hills and tourist shops, and the Appalachian trail runs through it so you often see fit young people with big backpacks. 

The times we've been there before, somehow we've never come up to the corner of town where there are these circa 1800 steps leading up to an old church, 

from whence you have an incredible view of the town and the cliffs above it. 

Continuing on the trail past that church, there is a ruin of an even older church 

that is spooky and beautiful. 

I love ruins, and had no idea this one was there. 

For an American History buff, Harper's Ferry is a really cool place. I always found American history to be troublesome and painful to think about--maybe it has something to do with little things like the wholesale slaughter of Native people, and, ya know, stuff like slavery, religious zealotry, starvation, and smallpox--but I'll always love a nifty ruin. 

Beyond the ruin was a lookout over the Potomac where we saw some hikers and some gorgeous dogs

and then a continued steep trail up to an old cemetery, 
where some of the stones had barely legible dates in the 1700s.

The music was going to be getting started soon, so we headed back to the festival to check it out.

We didn't bring our dogs because it was a hot day and we didn't want to drag them through town and to a festival, but we hadn't realized how dog friendly the festival would be. 

There were a bunch of dogs just milling about and socializing. 

This one big brindle boxer thing was just wandering all over, cheerfully sniffing around. 

He wasn't much interested in meeting us but he really wanted to meet all the other dogs. We watched him play with a couple other dogs and not once did we see him raise a lip, bark, or seem put off in the least by anything. 

Can you imagine that?

We had a great time dancing to On the Bus, one of the scads of Grateful Dead cover bands in these parts, and then decided to head home to our less well-adjusted but very beloved pooches. 

Not bad, for a day spent away from them!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Star update: Muzzle as calming band

More confirmation the other day that Star's adopters are the coolest adopters in the world.

In the midst of my TTouch training, I received this email from Star's mom: 
We found a cure to her craziness, biting and being wired! When she gets crazy, we immediately put muzzle on and not only she stops biting because physically she cannot, it works like pacifier- it soothes her and make her calm- she lies down and relaxes!!!" 
I had not spoken to these adopters about calming elastics, which as I learned from TTouch are a magic trick for helping a dog calm and focus. Pressure around the muzzle releases tension and helps mouthy, barking dogs settle, and it also releases endorphins. 

These adopters found out on their own how great they work, through sheer intuition and innovation. Pretty cool! Star, you lucked out. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fozzie goes to TTouch Class

Though I wanted to bring all the dogs to this TTouch session for help with their various issues, I was especially excited for the opportunity to see what I could learn to better manage Fozzie and help him feel less anxious. I knew Fozzie would really enjoy the chance to be in a big room with a bunch of people who would pet him liberally, although I also knew that it would be a challenge managing my big hunk of dog in a room with other dogs, and was worried that he would be disruptive throughout the course of an 8-hour day. 

But when I registered for the training, the helpful people in Santa Fe told me that they welcome reactive dogs, and that it is always nice to watch them settle down over the course of the training. 

The first day I came with Fozzie he helpfully showed the teacher, and the rest of the class, exactly what he needs to work on. After he loudly announced our arrival and proceeded to lunge and bark as I escorted him across the room, a couple of my wonderful classmates joined us and Lamar, whom I had brought as well, into our little enclosure. 

Both dogs were happy to be in our safe spot with a couple of friendly humans, and Fozzie relaxed his vigilance once he realized the other dogs were a safe distance away. 

The nice thing about Fozzie is that he'll make an intimidating, intense, nutty display like that, and then when a human comes along with good intentions toward him, he'll flop over and turn into a big puddle of brindle on the floor. 

Fozzie loved being the demo dog. Linda showed us how groundwork, the other part of TTouch besides body work, can be incredibly helpful for anxious, reactive dogs. 

As we learned in our TTouch session with Pam Wanveer a year and a half ago, a PVC labyrinth laid on the ground gives a dog something to focus on navigating through when he is in the presence of his triggers. As he focuses on moving his own body through the labyrinth, he is not focused on the trigger. Over time, this teaches him a new way to be in the presence of his triggers. 

You can make your own TTouch groundwork setup very simply, with ropes or PVC laid in a labyrinth, tires laid on the ground that the dog can step in and out of, a PVC ladder that he can walk through, a board laid flat that makes him have to focus in order to walk along it. Walking through all these obstacles requires physical flexibility, and physical flexibility produces mental flexibility.
Fozzie adored the attention, and Linda worked on getting him to relax all those stiff muscles. 
We learned how to wrap a dog up in a "suitcase," which is a leash wrapped around the dog's waist in such a way that he feels pressure around his hips and ribcage. 

The pressure acts to help the dog focus in his body, and is calming. Like a container to his energy when it is in danger of exploding beyond his physical boundaries, or like swaddling a baby. The same idea as the calming band Fozzie was wearing around his muzzle. 

It also gives you another place to issue a gentle "reminder" to the dog that you are present, if you're on a walk and he is so focused on his environment that he's forgotten about you.

Fozzie was certainly vigilant about the large dogs in the room--though he was quite calm about the small dogs--but he had no trouble relaxing when he was in his enclosure or when someone worked on him. 

He and Diane were in love! 

As with Lamar and Lady, this class was a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with Fozzie and reflect on what I appreciate about him. 

Just like I knew he would be the first day I met him, he is a massive, powerful, overwhelming force of nature and a challenging dog in just about every situation. 

What's changed is the fact that I fully accept that challenge, and I do so with a sense of joy. 

I'm used to Fozzie, I know what makes him react. I know he'll make a big fuss when he sees a dog or a horse or a cat or a squirrel or a skateboard, but I know he loves people. I will continue to work on all these triggers, and use a head collar and a face wrap and treats and a suitcase and whatever else helps manage him until he gets better. 

Linda remarked of Fozzie, as she watched him eagerly come forward to be demo dog, that he really wants help. I feel that from him, that he wants to learn to be calmer and easier and to go through life with less anxiety. We know he can relax, we know he responds well to touch and training, but for some reason he just carries himself on hair-trigger alert much of the time. 

I just need to be consistent and calm in working with him. 

So expect more Fozzie training and TTouch posts in the coming weeks!

You ready Fozzie? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Week in the Wonderful World of TTouch

Last week, I finally did a six-day TTouch training after thinking about doing so for the last three years. I first learned about TTouch when I was living in Santa Fe in 1997, and I found a practitioner who showed me how to use these little circle-and-a-quarter motions on my little grumpy cattle dog Tashi's skin to help bring calmness, groundedness, integration, and healing. 

I used TTouch on Tashi once when she got literally run over by one of those big wheeled trucks. The truck went right over her and she ran all the way to the Wabash River (not from Santa Fe. I was already in Indiana) and when I found her, she was pretty shook up, to say the least. TTouch was the only thing that made her relax her rigid posture and start to breathe again. (She lived another 11 years).

So last week, I brought Fozzie, Lamar, and Lady to explore the potential for TTouch to calm reactive dogs, reduce mouthiness, promote well-being and harmony among dogs, and alleviate the pain and inflammation of arthritis.

This training was led by Linda Tellington-Jones, the founder of TTouch whose center is in Santa Fe. Lamar, who is also from Santa Fe, came with me the first day and got to bond with several wonderful aunties, who helped watch over him on the days when I brought him with Fozzie or Lady. 

Photo: Debbie Bauer
Lamar was definitely a bit ill-at-ease with being in a different place with all sorts of new people and some new dogs, and he didn't really want a lot of people handling him. 

I was glad I brought him though. Seeing him through my classmates' eyes, I appreciated him in a way I haven't for years. I saw how stressful it is for him to live with all these foster dogs, especially Lady, since she's got that growly Chow thing going. 

We got to do some TTouch for Lamar's arthritis, and in the evenings when I got him home, he seemed really happy, doing that happy growling, gurgling, groaning noise that I love. 

Like he was feeling some relief and a new relaxation.

Most importantly, there was a shift in my connection with Lamar. I'm afraid that in all the excitement and revolving door of foster dogs over the past few years, I have lost sight of some of the magic of Lamar and that happy, silly energy that used to be at the forefront in our relationship. 

Now I feel it again, and it feels like Lamar does too. He's doing more of that happy paw lift that drew me to him the day I first saw him in the shelter, and he's even giving me more kisses. 

I am determined to help him get the most enjoyment and magic he can out of life. Instead of getting frustrated when he growls at a Lady or Fozzie near him, I go over to him and do little circles around his nose and ears to release endorphins and help him feel safe. I'm also making more of an effort to put his needs first, and keep Lady and Fozzie away from him when he feels like having his own space.

Lady seemed to enjoy coming to class, being handled by all those new people, and we got set up in a nice little enclosure so she could see out and be included in the center of class, but not be overwhelmed by the sight of other dogs. 

That was one of the things I loved about this training, was how Linda wanted everyone--reactive dogs, arthritic dogs, nervous dogs, terrified dogs, 
Treasure, a double merle sheltie, is blind and deaf

and a blind and deaf dog, to feel included.

Everyone was in the circle, with barriers if needed, and everyone made progress. 

The first day, there was a small dog in the enclosure in the far corner who would just go crazy when anyone--human or canine--went near him. 

He spent the next two days in class with a calming wrap around his head, his person doing calming TTouches. 

By the third day, the enclosure was down, Buddy was in the circle, and he was much less reactive. 

Lady didn't have any huge transformation, but I did gain a new thoughtfulness and respect about her arthritis. How amazing is it that she maintains such a sunny outlook on life--always ready to go for a walk, always wagging and eager for kisses when she sees a human (any human)--when it is clearly so difficult for her to get around? 

Though Lady liked being around all those new people, it was clear she didn't want to get up and move around so much. As with Lamar, having Lady with me there brought me a new appreciation for this little being who is sharing my life right now. How it's OK for her not to get much exercise, and to lose weight slowly. 

Photo: Debbie Bauer
What a gift to be surrounded by these little teachers, and to get to spend such a transformative week with them.

As always, the experience I had with Fozzie will occupy a chapter of its own. Stay tuned later this week for more on our TTouch journey.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Nature Walks in the Big City

When I was living in Portland, OR and thinking about coming back to my childhood home of New York City to go to graduate school, I thought it would kill me to be back in the city after so many years living in places where my life revolved around being in nature. Now, would you believe it that when I think of New York, one of the things that comes to mind is all the cool, relaxing natural areas there are to explore. 

Last weekend I went up there to see my parents, as my Dad has had a small stroke. He's doing really well, and has moved to rehabilitation from the hospital, but both he and my Mom could use some some love if you wouldn't mind sending some their way.

I brought Lamar with me, which ended up being a great choice since it meant that I had to go out to Morningside Park. 

This is the park I grew up walking the dog in, and I made sure to go by the pathways I used to take when I was a teen.

The stunning layout of the park is a function of its natural geography, which consists of a cliff of Manhattan Schist. 

The city put a park there instead of undertaking the impossible task of turning such steep topography into city streets. Good thinking!

One thing that was not there when I was a kid was the pond and waterfall.

How cool that I can walk right out of my parents' apartment and find scads of ducks, 
some very threatening geese,  and loads and loads of turtles. 

Not to mention doggie friends like our buddy Captain, 

whose mom Dottie we used to talk to a lot back in my grad school days. 

There is a statue that makes me very happy, of a bear and a little faun with his Pan flute.

Some Pagan made that statue, and the park put it right there down the hill from the dog run and in the shadow of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. 

I love it. 

I always have fun adventures when I walk along Morningside Park. One evening, I met a guy out for a walk with his huge white parrot Cocoa, who climbed on my arm and fluffed his feathers and screamed in delight. According to his human, he loves the ladies. 

There were more mellow pleasures, like walking along the park with my Mom and learning from her all the plants in the planters. 

And letting Lamar roll around in the grass. 

I like thinking about the nature that lies hidden beneath the city, like the natural spring that must have been there all along, but that I didn't know about until they funneled it into a waterfall. 

Or the smaller spring that Lamar loves to stop at for a bevvie and a paw cooldown. 

Then there's the wildlife viewing. I loved watching this one duckie and a turtle sharing a rock, and seeing the turtle's expression

OK, I guess you can't really say that a turtle has much of an expression. 

But doesn't he look like he's gazing at this duck with love?

All fun and games until the male duck comes back. 

And the lady duck tucks her head demurely as if to say, What turtle?

Whoa-ho, Madame Duck! You don't fool me. But your secret is safe.

The turtle didn't seem too worried. Or maybe he just wasn't about to leave because all the other rocks were taken. On this afternoon, I counted 22 turtles. Twenty-two! I kid you not. 

Back home this week, and I am in a Tellington TTouch® training, learning more about this great healing modality with both Fozzie and Lamar. So it may be a few days before I have time to post. In the meantime, we are the featured blogger on Pet Blogs United this week! Go on over and check us out there, and support this neat pet blogger network.