Playing Charades with Dogs

The True Value of Patience

I have a deaf Pug. He wasn’t always deaf, though. Auggie gradually lost his hearing over the past year and a half. Now, he’s as deaf as a post, a door knob, a rock.

My little old man

I still talk to him all the time, just like I always have, except now Auggie can’t hear me. And, I feel cheated, like I’ve lost a conversation partner, a confidant. An interlocutor.

I know he couldn’t understand a word I said before; but, now he can’t even hear the words. That he couldn’t understand before.

He no longer turns his head to look at me with that wonderful look of expectation when I say his name. I think I miss that gesture the most.

Auggie’s life has always been a grand adventure and he’s always seemed to expect the best in any situation. Especially if treats were involved.

Now, stuck in a world without sound, you can almost see the wheels turning in his head. Trying to figure out what’s happening or what’s expected of him. Trying to tell me what he needs or wants. Sometimes, it’s a little painful to watch.

It’s like Auggie lost part of himself when he lost his hearing and doesn’t know how to adjust.

Playing Charades with Dogs

Unfortunately, god love him, Auggie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So, he’s never figured out referential signaling to the degree our other three dogs have – especially Millie.

Referential signaling is a non-verbal form of communication, a type of gesturing meant to convey a message. For instance, when Millie needs to go potty she comes over to me, stands up on her hind legs, puts her forepaws on my leg, and pushes while looking at my face. If I don’t respond right away, she pushes harder.

When she wants her belly rubbed, Millie lays on her back and wiggles back and forth – fast. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

These are referential signals. I’ve tried to teach my dogs to use the Head Turn with no success whatsoever. The head turn is when your dog looks at you and then turns its head to look at an object s/he wants. Back and forth until you get the idea that your dog is pointing at something.

The variation I tried to teach my dogs is to walk in the direction I tilt my head. Like signaling someone across the room at a party that you want to head for the door. Never worked.

Referential signaling between dogs and humans is remarkable because it’s true inter-species communication arising from sharing existence for over 30,000 years. It’s especially amazing because young human children do it all the time.

What’s a Deaf Dog to Do?

But Auggie doesn’t seem to grasp the concept. So, he barks. A lot. His barking doesn’t really signal anything – unless he’s in his crate. Then, barking means, Let me outta this thing!

He also scratches the bottom tray of his crate when he wants out – like he’s trying to dig a hole under the prison walls. You know, that might be considered a referential signal because scratching at the bottom of his crate always means the same thing – Let. Me. Out.

Auggie’s barking is like being in a detective movie. We need to figure out what he wants because the poor guy can’t hear verbal queues any more. Outside? Drink? Toy? Treat? Walk? Those words, at least, he knew. Those words plus No Pee. Auggie has had a lot of practice with that one.

So, we need to figure it out. Fortunately, at 11-years old, Auggie is a creature of habit. He goes outside to the bathroom at certain times. He eats and gets his treats at about the same times every day. Others are trial and error.

Check the water dish to make sure our four dogs didn’t drink it dry – or wash their dirty paws in it. Toss his toy to see if he chases it – or give you that What’s wrong with you? look. Walk to the garage door where we keep his halter and leash – and see if he follows.

Or just give up and give him another treat. Probably what he wanted all along, anyway.

Driving in Circles

Having a deaf Pug is unfamiliar territory for me. Auggie’s learning how to cope without his hearing. Actually, he just plods along, oblivious to things like looking both ways before crossing the street. I’m learning that communicating with a deaf dog requires a new set of skills – and a healthy dose of intuition.

What I don’t want to do is be so focused on Auggie’s deafness that I drive around in circles – doing the same stuff over and over again – instead of exploring a circumstance that should bring us closer together.

How have you handled having your dog lose his/her hearing? How did it change your relationship? What did you learn from the experience? I would love to hear your stories.

Having a deaf dog teaches me the True Value of Patience

~ George

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. – Edward Hoagland

EXTRA STUFF:

Fantegrossi, D. (22 June 2018). Scientists decode the meanings behind 19 common dog gestures. Retrieved online at: https://iheartdogs.com/scientists-decode-the-meanings-behind-19-common-dog-gestures/

Wikipedia. (11 Feb 2004). Animal communication. Retrieved online from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_communication

Zachos, E. (06 July 2018). Dogs use 19 signals to tell us what they want. Retrieved online from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/07/dog-referential-signaling-gestures/

Zuberbuhler, K. (Dec 2003). Referential signaling in non-human primates: Cognitive precursors and limitations for the evolution of language. Retrieved online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251450107_Referential_Signaling_in_Non-Human_Primates_Cognitive_Precursors_and_Limitations_for_the_Evolution_of_Language

How to Train a Human

The True Value of Obedience

How many times have you said to your dog, Yo, Adrian! No, wait. That’s Rocky Balboa. How many times have you said, Yo, Stella! Come here already! Then you wait, holler out few more times, and then wait some more. And, when you’re tired of waiting, you go into the other room, pick up Stella, and carry her into the living room – while muttering, Stupid Dog, under your breath.

You repeat this routine daily and never realize that your dog isn’t stupid, at all. Actually, she’s very well trained – trained to wait for you to come pick her up and carry her into the other room.

Like when we were kids playing outside.

Friend: Hey, your mom’s on the porch calling for you to go home. 

Me: Yeah, I heard her. I don’t have to leave until she starts yelling.

We forget sometimes that dogs have been observing human behavior for at least 15,000 years. That means they’re pretty good at figuring us out.

Ancient Chinese Cave Pug

 

It’s even encoded in their DNA. What started out as wolf-dogs protecting the cave and cave wife while hubby was out doing his caveman job has continued right up until today and literally changed dog’s genetic code.

 

 

Dogs Take Their Cues from Us

Here is a prime example of what I’m talking about. I sit outside with my dogs every night. Not because I don’t have anything better to do; but, because I’m training my French Bulldog, Stella, not to bark.

Ellen’s idea of training Stella not to bark has been to holler, Don’t Bark or Stella, Be Quiet out the second story window while she’s barking – which encourages Stella to bark more. Ellen confirms for Stella that there’s a reason to bark.

Stella, Keep Barking!

So, I started spending time outside with the dogs. Which brings us to what I consider to be the first and second rules of dog training:

1. You must physically be with the dog to train the dog.

Yelling from another room or out the window doesn’t count as training your dog.

2. Give the dog your undivided attention while training.

I not distracted, I’m multi-tasking!

No Facebook (Instagram for me) or earbuds or smoking or watching TV or eating or reading – get the point? Just you and Stella with no distractions.

What do you think was the very first thing I noticed about Stella’s barking when I started spending time outside with her? Take a wild guess.

That’s right. When Stella saw or heard something that she wasn’t sure how to react to, my little Frenchy Girl looked at me FIRST. Was I afraid or alarmed or concerned? Or was I relaxed and reassuring?

Was I looking around for a place to run or did I hold her gaze and say in a soothing voice, It’s okay, Stella. Everything’s fine. Good girl. Really important here to understand that what my Frenchie hears is, Blah blah, Stella. Blah, blah. Good girl.

The words are not important. I could just as well have been saying, Note that the desired results, Stella, will not be obtained with flash. Good girl. (Shout out to page 94 of my Nikon owners’ manual.)

Stella determines my reaction to what she heard or saw by observing my body language, facial expression, the tone and volume of my voice – and uses the combined cues to determine whether she needs to be alarmed and, therefore, start barking.

Stella the Enforcer_043016

From my point of view, it’s not so much that she hasn’t barked. Rather, it’s that everyday sights and sounds are becoming normalized and Stella is learning when not to be alarmed, which triggers the barking. You’d think that a dog Bowhaus Pets nicknamed Stella the Enforcer wouldn’t be so skittish; but, sometimes….

The important thing is that Stella is learning (being trained) – not so much by traditional reward or punishment; but, by observation and participation. I’m afraid. Daddy’s not afraid. Now, I’m not afraid.

And, after several weeks she rarely barks, whether I’m outside with her or not. And, I never had to use a shock collar which does nothing about the fear, just robs dogs of their defensive response. The next challenge is to get her to stop barking at pedestrians when we’re out for a drive.

Driving Miss Stella

What is the number one reason why dog training fails? You invest time and money in training; but, it just doesn’t seem to take hold. Why?

This week, try to catch your dog observing you. What are the circumstances? What are you doing at the time?

Who knows, you may learn something new about how your dog thinks and relates to you.

Anyway, that’s a little bit about the True Value of Obedience

~ George

Mr Taveletti assigned a research paper titled Are Dogs Psychic? How Do Dogs Know What We Think. Here are some resources you might want to use:

Coren, S. (23 June 2011). Can your dog read your mind? Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201106/can-your-dog-read-your-mind

Coren, S. (23 October 2012). Your dog watches you and interprets your behavior. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201210/your-dog-watches-you-and-interprets-your-behavior

University of Lincoln. (12 January 2016). A man’s best friend: Study shows dogs can recognize human emotions. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160112214507.htm

Baggage

The True Value of Second Chances

Now that I’m home, bathed, settled and fed,
All nicely tucked in my warm new bed.

You’re New but I’m Tired. Can I Trust You?

I’d like to open my baggage
Lest I forget,
There is so much to carry –
So much to regret.

I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You; But, I Was Excited.

Hmm . . . Yes, there it is, right on the top
Let’s unpack Loneliness, Heartache and Loss,
And there by my leash hides Fear and Shame.

I’m So Afraid You Won’t Want Me Anymore.

As I look on these things I tried so hard to leave –
I still have to unpack my baggage called Pain.

I Didn’t Mean to Bite You; But, I Was Afraid.

I loved them, the others, the ones who left me,
But I wasn’t good enough – for they didn’t want me.

Waiting for Adoption in the Loneliest Place In the World

Will you add to my baggage?
Will you help me unpack?
Or will you just look at my things –
And take me right back?

Table Chewing Millie
I Was Afraid You Would Never Come Back.

Do you have the time to help me unpack?
To put away my baggage,
To never repack?

Suitcase Stowaway
Please Help Me Unpack. I Want to Stay With You.

I pray that you do – I’m so tired you see,
But if I come with baggage –
Will you still want me?

Jailbird Auggie
Please Open My Door and Let Me Love You

Written by Evelynn Colbath

That’s the True Value of Second Chances

Why Do Dogs Honk Their Horns?

 

Stop Yulin Now
Yulin Festival Dog

The True Value of Communication

First, Why Do People Honk Their Horns?

I work for the largest mental health and addiction treatment hospital in California. My office at our central facility overlooks the street and I am frequently entertained by the driving habits of folks coming and going.

Sometimes a car double parks in the middle of the street and, of course, drivers coming up behind have no idea they are approaching a parked car. Until they get really close, which is when they slam on the brakes and lay on the horn.

Vehicle Horn
Move It, Already!

Why do vehicles have horns, anyway? A horn is intended for use when you cannot alert other drivers by any other means. Wikipedia says drivers use their horns to warn others of the vehicle’s approach or presence, or to call attention to some hazard. 

 

In Los Angeles, at least, drivers frequently seem to use their horns as an extension of their middle finger. Like when you’re halfway into a lane change, with your blinker on, and some complete moron barrels into the lane with that get out of my way or I’ll run you down attitude.

 

Truck Driving Trump
Varoom, varoom! Get outta my way!

When you’re hitting your horn – for whatever reason – you are communicating with the drivers and pedestrians around you. How you use your horn determines the message you are communicating.

Why do dogs honk their horns?

Like humans with their horns, if your dog honks its horn, there is a reason. We’re talking about barking here. Why do dogs bark? What does it mean?

Dog Honking Horn
Bark! Bark! Honk! Honk!

Dogtime identifies eight reasons why Oscar is yipping and yapping:

  1. Territorial or defensive barking;
    2. Excitement, or happiness at seeing you;
    3. Play and exercise;
    4. To get your attention or to signal you (I have to go potty);
    5. Aggravation over not being able to attain something (your pork chop);
    6. Social barking in response to other dogs;
    7. Separation anxiety and trepidation; and,
    8. Compulsive behavior.

Let’s look at a few of what I think are among the most common reasons.

Barking as Warning

This is territorial or defensive barking, and was the issue we had with our Frenchie, Stella the Enforcer. We had recently moved into a new townhouse complex (still under construction) that was full of unfamiliar sights and sounds of construction and moving trucks.

The worst part for Stella was that her back yard was now a front yard where she could see everything passing by. In other words, everything was unfamiliar, so everything was threatening.

So, I started spending time out front with Stella and helping her, with a calm and reassuring demeanor, to distinguish between normal, everyday sights and sounds, and unusual things she should be alarmed – and therefore bark – at. Over time, she learned, and she stopped barking at everything and everyone.

Except, of course, other dogs; but, that’s just because she wants to play. Being that Stella is still a young dog, that type of barking falls under playfulness and excitement which is common in puppies and young dogs. She’ll grow out of that in time, I believe.

There is a huge difference between barking excitedly and the sharp, loud barking that is a hallmark of barking as warning. You’ve probably heard the same types of barking with your own dogs.

Barking as Greeting

When my children were wee ones and I picked them up at daycare, both would come running with so much joy and exuberance, arms outstretched, and yelling Daddy!! That’s how my dogs greet me when I come home; but, since they can’t yell Daddy, they just bark.

You’re home! You’re home! Yay! We’re so happy that you’re home! Hold me. Pet me. Pet me. Hold me. Take me for a walk! 

Cesar Millan suggests that, since pack dogs don’t bark in a burst of affection, ours don’t either. He says they are releasing pent-up energy, telling you their lonely and bored, and that their needs aren’t being met. With all due respect to The Dog Whisperer, I disagree.

Daddy & Millie
With Millie, my Rescued Toxirn

Ellen works from home. She’s with them all day. She sees to their emotional and physical needs all day. There is no pent-up energy, boredom or loneliness, and their needs are met. When I come home, they’re excited and joyfully exuberant because they’re happy to see me and they compete with each other for my attention – to be loved on and petted and held or to sit in my lap.

Barking as Separation Anxiety

Bark Bark Bark

We used to live, as I mentioned, in a townhouse community, so everyone lives stacked in next to each other and a lot of residents have dogs. We even have a community dog park. One family, though, leaves their dog outside 24/7.

Firstly, what kind of life is that for a dog?! It never gets walked, the only attention it seems to get is when someone yells out the window to quit barking, and its entire world is 200 SF of concrete and bricks. And, no, the police won’t do anything.

Barking dog
Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!

No wonder the dog barks at everything that moves. It’s so starved for attention and affection that it runs up to the gate, barking, whenever anyone or anything walks by. Here I am! I’m here! Notice me! Pet me, please! I’m lonely!

I don’t know, maybe they were too cheap to pay for a protection alarm.

These are just a few examples of the True Value of Communication. I’m sure you have examples you could add. I would love to hear from you about your pups and the ways they communicate with you and their world. Please consider sending me a message and sharing – perhaps even writing a guest post for True Value of Dogs. Thank you!

Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way. – Caroline Knapp

~ George

As always, if Ms. Rose in fifth period Biology assigned a paper on How Animals Communicate, these references may be helpful to you:

Dogtime. Solutions for barking: How to get a dog to stop barking. Retrieved online at: http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/675-barking-aspca

Cambridge Media Services. 2018. Horn laws you need to know according to mydriverlicenses.org experts. Retrieved online at: https://mydriverlicenses.org/blog/horn-laws-you-need-know.html

Millan, C. 2017. Why dogs bark. Retrieved online at: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/barking-and-howling/discovering-the-cause-of-barking

Park, A. 21 Aug 2015. The do’s and do-not-do’s of car horn etiquette. Retrieved online at: https://www.idrivesafely.com/blog/the-dos-and-do-not-dos-of-car-horn-etiquette/

Stregowski, J. 20 Aug 2017. Why do dogs bark? Retrieved online from: https://www.thespruce.com/why-do-dogs-bark-1118266

The Columbian. 08 May 2014. Barking can bite relationships among neighbors. Retrieved online at: http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/may/09/barking-can-bite-relationships-among-neighbors-dog/

Wikipedia. 01 Jan 2018. Vehicle horns. Retrieved online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_horn

 

Can’t Escape the Ghost of You

The True Value of Companionship

Came in from a rainy Thursday on the avenue
Thought I heard you talking softly
I turned on the lights, the TV, and the radio
Still I can’t escape the ghost of you

What has happened to it all?
Crazy some’d say
Where is the life that I recognize?
Gone away

A couple years ago, a friend of mine lost his pet of 18 years. He was telling me that sometimes at night he sees her run across the room. That made me think of the lyrics from the Duran Duran song, Ordinary World (1993).

More than three years after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I still see Lucy. I used to think I was whacked; but, my friend is not the first person to tell me about seeing a pet after it left this world – and none of them have spent time in a psychiatric hospital, except me. So, while I may be a little crazy, I know they aren’t.

My evangelical Christian father would have declared Lucy a figment of my imagination since only human beings have souls that live on after death. Even at the evangelical Bible college I attended, one of my professors pronounced that our beloved pets would not be in heaven because…you know what’s coming, don’t you…they don’t have souls.

Do Dogs Have Souls

Will Rogers once said: If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go to where they went. Even though I don’t believe in the Christian idea of heaven, I embrace this sentiment with open arms. If we do live forever, what kind of hell would that be to face eternity without the pets that made our lives complete during their all-too-brief time with us.

Mark Twain said: Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. How could dogs be excluded from any heaven, when they deserve to be there more than we do? Would a benevolent deity deny entry to the very creatures that many believe epitomizes that god’s attributes of love, acceptance, loyalty, selflessness, service and, forgiveness?

Doggy Devil

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.  Anthropologists posit that early humans created devils and demons to explain natural disasters and other misfortunes. In modern times, some believe that the idea of Satan is perpetuated by people who need to believe that there is something in the universe more evil and pernicious than humans.

So, anyway, sometimes at night I see my Boston Terrier, Lucy. Maybe she is a figment of my imagination. Maybe she is still with me. I hear her bark during the day and, very often when I’m driving, I experience an overwhelming sensation that Lucy is right there beside me. I look at the doggy car seat on the passenger side and I’m always surprised not to see her sitting there, watching me.

Even though I know she cannot possibly be there. Or can she? What do you believe?

~ George

That’s one True Value of Companionship.

A good dog never dies. He always stays. He walks besides you on crisp autumn days when frost is on the fields and winter’s drawing near. His head is within our hand in his old way. – Mary Carolyn Davies

Want to read more?

Rauser, R. 31 October 1912. Are demons responsible for natural evil? Retrieved online at: https://randalrauser.com/2012/10/are-demons-responsible-for-natural-evil/

 

Hamilton, M. 07 July 2013. What does it mean to live in a fallen world? Retrieved online at: https://thepagenebula.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/what-does-it-mean-to-live-in-a-fallen-world/

 

Geggel, L. 02 October 2016. Where did satan come from? Retrieved online at: https://www.livescience.com/56341-where-did-satan-come-from.html

 

Kiger, P. The devil: Understanding the root of evil. Retrieved online at: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-story-of-god-with-morgan-freeman/articles/the-devil-understanding-the-root-of-evil/

You and I

Rocky teaches me the True Value of Companionship through his unconditional love and unselfish devotion.

I dreamed last night about you and I.

I dreamed we were running together

Something neither you nor I have

Been able to do well for some time.

Me with my knees and you with your heart.

What a broken-down pair of old men we are,

You and I.

But run we did in my dream last night.

We ran together toward the sun rising in the East

And it occurred to me, in my dream,

That we should be running West,

To where days end for such as you and I.

Not toward the East, where days begin

For boys and pups,

Younger than you and I.

When I woke, I pondered my dream

And decided the message

Is that we’re not done yet.

We still have miles to go, you and I.

Old though we may be,

We are more than just an old man, an old dog.

We are whatever we decide to be

We have chapters left to write

In the book of our lives.

Places to go, things to do, people to see.

We will never be young again,

We will never be boy and pup again;

But, we can be anything and everything else.

Anything we two can dream. You and I.

That’s the True Value of Companionship.

True Value of Companionship
Rocky 042916

Learning Resilience from Dogs

The True Value of Resilience

I met a refugee in 1975, a South Vietnamese teenage girl whose family was granted asylum after the fall of Saigon. Think about it. Having to flee your home with just the clothes on your back and maybe a few valuables or be killed.

No time to say good-bye to friends, neighbors or any other family. Living with fear and uncertainty, dependent on the charity of strangers to build a new life in a strange country with different people.

Different people, different language, difference food, different customs, different religion, different laws, different social mores, different businesses and stores and schools. Different politics. Unable to return home and largely unwelcome in your new home.

I’m not sure why I was thinking about that Vietnamese girl today; but, it reminded me a little of how Millie came to live with us.

Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee

We brought Millie home on Saturday, 08 April 2017. In the space of 18 days, her life had gone through so many changes it’s difficult to imagine. So many things happen to dogs that they have no say and no control over.

Millie at Vanderpump Dogs
Millie & her daughter, Coco, at Vanderpump Dogs

And, yet, in many cases they are resilient and able to trust the humans in their lives. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about all rescued dogs.

Millie’s journey began on 032217 when she and her siblings, Coco and Coral, were dropped off at the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter with its reputation of being the highest kill shelter in Los Angeles County. A page on Facebook calls this shelter a death camp for dogs.

Baldwin Park Shelter ID
Millie’s Shelter ID

Her journey ended on 040817 when Millie arrived at the last home she will ever need.

Millie's Ride to a New Life
Millie’s Ride to a New Life

So, in 18 days, Millie went from her home to a shelter to a veterinary hospital to a rescue to her new home. In the process, she was permanently separated from her sisters. She was given no choice.

How would you handle that? Could you handle that? Could you learn to trust again? To love again? And, yet, rescued dogs seem do it all the time. Almost every dog I’ve known was eager to trust and love – despite bad things happening to them at the hands of humans.

What can that teach us about Resilience? What is Resilience? The dictionary defines it as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. Strength. Flexible. Bouncing back. Pliant. Adaptable. Endurance. Tolerance. And, my weird favorite: Indefatigable.

I will say this about rescued dogs. We, as the pawrents (cute, huh), need to recognize that our pups have been through a traumatic experience and give them love, patience, and time to adjust. On her first night home, Millie looked fearful, uncertain, and a little shell-shocked.

Millie's First Night Home
Millie’s First Night Home

What was going to happen? Would we give her food and water? Would we get mad and give her back? What did we want her to do? Were we kind and loving or would we hit her or just ignore her? Was she allowed on the furniture or the bed?

At first, she slept with one eye open – wanting to trust, but afraid.

Adopted Dog Developing Trust
You’re New but I’m Tired. Can I Trust You?

After a few days, Millie would sleep but suddenly wake up terrified. She’d look up, see me, and fall back asleep. It took weeks for trust to finally (mostly) replace her fear. Consistent love and patience has been winning the day.

Fearful Refugee Millie
Refugee Millie

I started taking Millie to work the very first week – not just to cement our relationship; but, to start building the better life implicitly promised in her adoption. I believe that the reason why most people adopt dogs is because we look at them and say: That dog needs Me. I can give it a better life than the one it knew before.

It didn’t take long before I could walk away (in sight) and come back or ask someone to babysit while I attended a meeting (out of sight), then come back again.

Millie and Miley, Razor USA office dogs
Millie & Miley, Razor USA office dogs

Millie was resilient enough to embrace and enjoy her new life. And, make friends with Miley, another rescued Razor USA Office Dog.

Three Ways Dogs Teach Us About Resilience

1. Live In The Moment

I think the most important thing that dogs can teach us about Resilience is not to fixate on the past. Dogs live in the moment. They don’t regret the past or worry about the future. If we can learn to appreciate and focus on what’s happening in the here and now, we’ll experience a richness of living that other members of the animal kingdom enjoy (Cesar Milan, 2009).

I’m not a big Dog Whisperer fan; but, he hits this one out of the park.

Buster Keaton Clock
Buster Keaton Clock

Living in the moment means letting go of pressure, fear, worry, and other emotions that prevent us from fully experiencing and enjoying our lives RIGHT NOW! Living in the moment is a source of gratitude and appreciation (Newman, 2016).

2. Never, Ever, Ever Quit

Have you ever seen a three-legged dog running like every other dog also has three legs? Or a blind dog? This is Simon and he’s my favorite blind Pug in the world. I don’t recall when he lost his eyes – maybe seven years ago. He comes to just about every Los Angeles Pug Meetup and has a blast! He doesn’t walk around like a blind Pug. He just walks around like a Pug.

Simon the Blind Pug
Simon at the Bonyard LA Pug Meetup_052017

When Simon lost his eyes, he had to either adjust and use his other senses to compensate or sit in a corner and mope. So, he adjusted. He uses a dog door at home just like my dogs use one at our house. He can climb stairs, just like my dogs. He explores the dog park, just like mine do.

Dogs can teach us that, when unthinkably bad things happen, we don’t have to stop participating in life and those bad things certainly should never be allowed to define us.

We can improvise, adapt, and overcome! My children grew up hearing this line by Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge every time they felt overwhelmed by a problem.

3. Keep a Positive Attitude

Attitude is everything. Attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior. I think the most important part of that definition is that attitude is typically reflected in behavior.

One thing I am absolutely sure of is that I have never seen a pessimistic dog. All the dogs in my experience were optimists though-and-through. People have bad attitudes. Dogs, eh, not so much.

My attitude determines what I think. My thoughts determine my actions. My actions inform the world who I am. That, I believe, is what Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) is talking about:

That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.

Do I try to find the best in situations or am I a chronic complainer? Do I try to change my life for the better or do I seem to be happier moaning about how bad things are? When bad things happen, do we get stuck there; or, do we decide not to let those bad things define who we are?

What About Your Dog?

One True Value of Dogs is Resilience and I’ve listed three ways that dogs can teach us that trait. How about you? In what ways have you seen resilience in dogs? How have they inspired you by overcoming the bad things that happen to people and animals alike?

Hurricane Harvey is a real-life, current events example of how bad things happen to us all – people and dogs. Both people and their pets have been separated from their homes, the lives they knew – and from each other.

Hurricane Harvey Man and Dog
Hurricane Harvey Man & Dog

~ George

Tell your dogs every day that you love them. They won’t understand the words, but the sound of your voice is their music. And, telling them every day will reinforce those positive feelings when they pee on the rug.

As always, if you’re writing a paper for Mr. Waznewski’s English class, here are a few sources that might help.

Cole, L. (11 Dec 2013). The five “personality types of dogs.” Retrieved from: https://www.canidae.com/blog/2013/12/the-five-personality-types-of-dogs/

Milan, C. (2009). Act like a dog! Retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/543739354987529401

Newman, S. (2016). What dogs can teach us about living in the moment. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/01/27/what-dogs-can-teach-us-about-living-in-the-moment/

Stein. G. (2008). The art of racing in the rain. HarperCollins.

 

When Tears Are in Your Eyes

The True Value of Companionship

Millie Comforts Dementia Patients
Millie and Joan_102117

Ellen spends Saturday at Hillcrest, a retirement community in La Verne, California, as part of her Master of Gerontology studies. Every week, she meets with the same resident, let’s call her Joan; and, every week, Ellen re-introduces herself to her buddy.

Joan lives in the memory care unit and has dementia; so, she never remembers Ellen from one week to the next. Joan doesn’t remember her husband either; but, she likes watching sports and this nice man comes to watch the games with her.

This week, Ellen took Millie to meet Joan and the other memory care residents. You can see the joy in Joan’s photo – something Joan has too little of in her life these days, which makes her a little cantankerous at times. Who are you?! Why are you here?! I don’t know you!

Yesterday, Millie brought the True Value of Comfort and smiles of joy with her to Hillcrest as, one by one, the residents held and petted or, if they couldn’t remember how, patted her.

Millie is a Toxirn (half Cairn Terrier – half Chihuahua). She has the calm, even-keeled disposition of a Cairn without the jitteriness and fear-aggression of a Chihuahua.

One resident who couldn’t remember how to pet a dog (perhaps he never had one), just held Mille and patted her – a little hard for a love pat – but, she seemed to know that this stranger didn’t mean her any harm. No growling or snapping or barking. Millie sat in his arms and let him love her as best he could.

Ellen took Millie’s Halloween dress off, so the residents could run their fingers through her fur and pet (or pat) her without a fabric barrier. That’s when some began to talk about the dogs they’d grown up with or had when their children were young.

They’ve long since forgotten the names of those children, even the ones who visit regularly; but, they still remember the names of their childhood four-legged companions. They remember things they did together as children with their furry friends. They remembered what it was to be young and carefree and loved by their dogs – as only dogs can love.

And, while they held Millie on their laps, they related those stories and re-lived those happy times of younger days.

As Ellen shared her and Millie’s experience with the residents of Hillcrest, it struck me just how much comfort dogs can be to the old, the ill, the infirm, those struggling to find normalcy in a world that, for whatever reason, has been turned on its head.

What is the True Value of Dogs? One value, without a doubt, is Comfort.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

That’s the True Value of Companionship

~ George

Huntington Memorial Hospital Therapy Dog
Huntington Memorial Hospital Therapy Puggle_012517

I didn’t look anywhere near as sick as I was the week of 23 January 2017.  Two of my doctors said no one survives what happened to me and I should be dead.

Being separated from my dogs while I was hospitalized was hell; so, you can imagine the pure joy I felt when this therapy Puggle walked into my room.

I don’t know how much, if any, impact this pup had on my recovery; but, I can tell you that he lifted my spirits up to the clouds!  Now that I think about it, I met Millie for the first time months later, the same week I was released to return to work.

Some angels choose fur instead of wings.

If Dogs Could Talk, What Would They Say?

The True Value of Love

My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful to me. Remember that before you buy me. (or adopt me)

Vanderpump Dogs Grooming
Millie’s Gotcha Day_040817

Give me time to understand what you want from me.

I don't know what to do!
I don’t know what to do!

Place your trust in me. It’s crucial to my well-being.

Boy and Dog Playing
A Boy and His Dog Playing

Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your entertainment and your friends. I only have you.

Auggie the Pug
Please don’t be mad. I try to be a Good Boy.

Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it’s speaking to me.

Stella Got a New Dress On
Stella Got a New Dress On

Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.

Millie the Toxirn
Treat me right, treat me right. Open your eyes, maybe you’ll see the light. – Pat Benatar

Remember before you hit me: I have teeth that could easily crush the bones of your hand, but I choose not to bite you.

Dogs at Play
I got chompers. You got chompers. Let’s go chomp someone!

Before you scold me for being un-cooperative, obstinate or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, or I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak.

Stella the Frenchie
Snuggling with Daddy helps when fireworks go big bada-boom. (Name that movie!)

Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old.

Rocky the Boston Terrier
Rocky recently was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.

Go with me on that final difficult journey. Never say: I can’t bear to watch it or Let it happen in my absence. Everything is easier for me if you are there.

Lucy with Cushings Disease
Lucy Elliott (2001 – 2014)

REMEMBER THAT I LOVE YOU.

This is the True Value of Love

Heaven goes by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out.

(Man) is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. ~ Mark Twain

~ George

Be kind to your dogs – they love us more than some of us deserve.

 

Dogs as Family

The True Value of Belonging

Kids at Grand Canyon_1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen the letter from a woman who used the Internet to shame those of us who call ourselves Pet Parents?

I guess she took exception to calling dogs our babies and our apparent ignorance of the difficulties in raising human children compared to the lowly canine.

I raised four (human) children – my son and daughter and twin step-daughters. I had sole custody of my son and daughter and very often found myself having to fill the shoes of both Mother and Father – from when they were toddlers until middle school.

Our children were raised with dogs and Arabian horses – great lifestyle choice, by the way. And, no, raising dogs and horses was nothing compared to the mixture of trials and triumphs that come with human kiddos.

My Babies

I was recently interviewed for a college project about the Los Angeles Pug Meetup.

Q: Do you call Auggie your child?

A: No, my wife does cuz she never had kids – although she helped raise mine for a few years.

Q: What about your baby?

A: Baby? They’re all my babies!!

So, there you have the awful truth. I refer (in public, no less) to my domesticated canines, descendants of majestic wolves, as my Babies! Because I’m a Pet Parent and proud of it.

I draw the line at calling them my children; though, in many ways, pet owners are also pet parents. That doesn’t make my pups my children. But, you’d never know it.

Part of the Family

Flower Millie_052417

I came down to the Kitchen this morning and Ellen said, “We need more children’s hangers for Millie’s clothes.”

Okay, so my Toxirn wore dresses when she went to work with me. Every day.

Since this blog was first posted, I went to work for the largest alcohol, drug, and mental health treatment center in California. Hospital setting = no Millie.

It’s weird, though. The pups all have sweaters for when it gets chilly; but, other than that, I would have never dressed a dog in clothes. Are you kidding me? Clothes on a dog?!

Of course, then I met Millie, the Heart Grabber, the Affection Stealer, the…well, Daddy’s Little Girl.

Kimpton Goodland, Santa Barbara_070717

When I come home from the gym or wherever, Ellen says, “Your daughter cried when you left.” When Auggie marks in the house, I tell Ellen, “Your son peed in the house.”

I guess I can see how that would be a little confusing to someone like the woman who wrote about Pet Parents.

Our dogs are our Family in a very real sense. When we walk in the door, the pups run to us – and I mean run – just like my son and daughter did when they were young and I picked them up from daycare. Beatin’ feet, Baby!

We come home to happiness and unmitigated joy every single day; so, is it any wonder that we call Millie and Stella our Baby Girls; and, Auggie and Rocky our Boys?

Pet Parenting

Why are pet owners, in many ways, like Pet Parents? Because the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year old child. The really, really smart dogs (like yours)? The same as a 2 ½ year old child.

Have you raised a 2-year old?! If not, I hope you have children someday so you can experience the joy. No, wait. That sounds like some kind of curse.

Collin & Ashley_Jun 1991

Seriously, though, I wouldn’t trade the experience of being a single father with sole custody of a 3-year old son and 2-year old daughter for anything.

The world is filled with wonderful things to a 2-year old. Everywhere you go, there are things to see and touch and, if Daddy’s not careful, to taste. Things to learn. Everything new and exciting.

It’s the same with dogs. I daresay it’s exactly the same with dogs. And, both children and dogs depend on us for their very lives.

Let’s face it, your 2-year old child cannot survive on its own any more than your designer dog can. (The further away from wolf-like a breed gets, the more it was designed to be that way.) They depend on us for literally everything to continue living; and, if POOF, we’re suddenly gone? They die.

Nirvana Sweatshirt Auggie_070817

Would a German Shepherd be alright, you ask? Yeah, probably. If it could get out of the house. And if it got out of the house, if it could get over the fence or wall.

And, if it managed to get out of the house and over that 6-foot block wall around your back yard, all it would have to do is find water and chase down a rabbit or squirrel or three.

Every day. And fight every other animal trying to do the same thing.

But, your miniature Poodle or my Pug? Forget it.

So, it falls on us, the Pet Parents to meet their needs, keep them safe, and teach them how to act – exactly like a 2-year old human child. (Sorry, letter writing woman.)

That’s the True Value of Belonging

~ George

Your dog loves you; but, it also needs you. Be a good pet parent.

Want to read more about dog intelligence?

American Psychological Association. 10 August 2009. Dogs’ intelligence on par with two-year-old human, canine researcher says. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm

Bryner, J. 8 August 2009. Dogs as smart as 2-year-old kids. Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/5613-dogs-smart-2-year-kids.html

Unknown. 12 November 2017. Dog intelligence. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_intelligence