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Monday, June 12, 2017

Table of Contents for This Blog!


I'm pleased to announce a new, easier way to navigate The White Dog Blog and find that post you're looking for without a hassle!  Thank you Rose for the wonderful suggestion to create an ordered way to sort through all the great information here! 

Here's how it works:

I am adding to my online school, Uniquely Paws-Able, to create an online resource center.  All of my new articles, etc, will be added there over time.  The first free offering there is the Easy Blog Reference Guide.  

When you click on the link, you'll be taken to a page that asks you to enroll.  If you are already a Uniquely Paws-Able member, you can log in and then click the enroll button to add the Reference Guide to your classroom area.  If you are not already a Uniquely Paws-Able member, please create an easy and free log-in account.  Then you can enroll in the Reference Guide area and you will be able to access the Guide as often as you'd like.

The Guide is broken down into topic headings which will help you to find the type of information and post you are looking for.  When you click on the topic heading, you will be taken to a page with all the posts pertaining to that topic. From there, it is just an easy click which will take you directly to that particular blog post!  

There is so much great information in this blog, but it has gotten large enough now that sometimes it's difficult to find just the information that you need.  I hope you find this resource helpful and will use it frequently!  

While you're at Uniquely Paws-Able, check out our class offerings - Positive Reinforcement and Clicker Training is now available as a self-study course so anyone can sign up and get started learning at any time without waiting for a class to start.  Grooming, Husbandry and Handling Games started this past Saturday, but enrollment will stay open through Thursday, June 15th!  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's NEW!

Lots of new things going on here and I really need to sit down and catch up on posts telling you all about it! I'll begin here - there is a new bar across the top of the blog page where you can put your email address and subscribe to get all my new posts here delivered straight to your email box!  This way you won't miss any!  

Treasure, Vinny and I represented double merles at Double Merle Awareness Day on May 20th.  We had a table to greet people and educate about the dangers of breeding merle to merle, as well as about how even blind and deaf dogs can be amazing!  We had so many people come to meet the dogs and talk to us!  It was a great opportunity to get our message out.  Thanks to Keller's Cause ( for creating Double Merle Awareness Day, and for sending banners and handouts all across the country to make it easy for us to all educate others!

Treasure, Vegas, Vinny and I were featured in Effingham Magazine with another opportunity to tell people about how to prevent double merles (just don't breed two merles together!) and how to live with and train a dog that may have different abilities (blindness and/or deafness).  The reporter and photographer did a wonderful job on the story!

Uniquely Paws-Able online school is growing!  We are now offering Positive Reinforcement and Clicker Training as a self study class, so anyone is able to take the class at any time that's right for them and their dog!  A new class is starting June 10th with the topic of Grooming, Husbandry and Handling Games!  This is very exciting, as there are so many dogs that find touch, grooming and veterinary exams to be stressful. Often these situations turn into a struggle for dog and person.  This class will show how to use positive reinforcement to create a dog that is willing to cooperate with every day tasks such as giving eye drops, cutting toenails, grooming and more!

If you haven't signed up at Uniquely Paws-Able, be sure to go check it out.  Creating an account will sign you up to receive updates as more classes and resources are added at the site.  And, it's very easy from there to look over the courses that are offered and enroll in the classes you'd like to take.  Everything is online and we have students from around the world.  We'd love to have you join us!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vinny the Great!

Vinny was born into greatness.  Born from two merle parents, it was soon apparent that he could not see or hear.  The veterinarian was consulted about what to do - after all, what was a blind and deaf puppy worth? But one of the vet techs knew about Debbie and her experience with double merles.  A couple phone calls later, and Debbie had arranged to go pick up the special puppy.

Vinny was 8 weeks of pure Collie adorableness.  And even in that moment, he began his role as educator.  Debbie and Vinny explained to the breeder why he had been born blind and deaf.  The breeder had not been aware of this danger, and was grateful to know how to prevent this from happening in the future and was very relieved that Vinny would be safe.

Vinny has gracefully evolved into his role as ambassador for the humane society where he accompanies Debbie to work every day.  His many fans come to visit him, and he uses his special-ness to educate others about the dangers of breeding merle to merle, and about adoption.  He is a strong ambassador for blind and deaf dogs and that they are capable of living full and happy lives.  Through social media and a teaching blog, plus many videos, he is paving the way for other differently-abled dogs to be adopted and trained.

Vinny also spreads joy through visiting people in the community.  Young people are drawn to him and relate to his differences.  He teaches them acceptance and compassion.  When visiting with a group of Scouts, one girl said with disgust, "Eww, his eyes look different.  They look weird."  Very quickly, another said, "He doesn't know they look that way, and he is perfectly happy.  We should be too."  When Debbie looked closely, she realized the girl that had answered had a difference of her own and had related quickly to Vinny's differences.  These comments led to wonderful discussions of differences and acceptance.

The senior population have also been inspired by Vinny, who shows such happiness even though he can't see or hear, just as they are beginning to lose these senses themselves and are wondering what life will hold for them now.  One woman told Vinny that she was going blind, but seeing him and how happy he was made her guess that it was all going to be OK.  She thanked him and together they shared a private moment.

Vinny is a typical puppy - lively, playful, and yes, even a bit full of mischief at times!  But when he's visiting, all of that fades away and he shows calmness and understanding way beyond his age.  Although he can't see or hear, he finds a way to position his body next to someone with limited mobility so they can reach to pet him, and he gently puts his head under their hand.

This special dog and his person together spread joy, laughter, smiles, hope and inspiration.  Debbie teaches Vinny using mostly touch cues.  She touches various parts of his body in different ways to communicate her requests to him.  He knows basic obedience and manners, as well as many different tricks.  As a matter of fact, Vinny has already earned his Novice Trick Dog title and is working toward higher levels.  He loves to learn new things and is taught strictly through positive reinforcement methods.

Vinny also gathers lots of information about his environment by scent and by feeling vibrations.  He recognizes air currents when a door opens.  He can quickly  map out a new area when he goes somewhere new.  He loves to travel and has already traveled to several different states with his partner Debbie.  Vinny plays with the other dogs in the house and loves to play with toys of all kinds!  He gets lots of time to enjoy being a puppy, and he brings much joy and many smiles to Debbie daily.

Vinny's reach into the community and the world is already significant and will only continue to expand as he gains experience in his new role.  He and Debbie are amazing partners in advocating for rescue, adoption, responsible breeding, and the joys of differently-abled dogs.  They spread messages to everyone about compassion, acceptance and being kind to others - all things that the world needs so much of right now.  It is their hope that by spreading ripples in their own little corner of the world, that those ripples will continue to spread into something magnificent that blankets the world with love.

(The above was Vinny's nomination for the Collie Club of America's Shining Star Award.  Congratulations to Vinny and the other winners of this year's award!)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Presentation at ASSA National

Treasure, Vinny and I had a wonderful time visiting Purina Farms and the ASSA National Specialty. There were Shelties everywhere!  Vinny was also happy that there were some other Collies making an appearance here and there as well.  This was our first time to Purina Farms, and we hope to be able to go again.

We were there to do a presentation about double merles.  Topics discussed included:
What causes double merle
What can be done to educate so we can prevent it
How to screen and educate adopters
Tips for foster homes
How to train dogs that may be blind, deaf, or both
Equipment that may be useful
And, the many myths surrounding double merles and blind and/or deaf dogs

Thanks Barbara Edelberg for the photo

Friday, April 21, 2017

Treasure's Travels (and Vinny's too!)

My beautiful Treasure and Vinny accompanied me this past weekend on an adventure!  Treasure and I are very accustomed to traveling together, and Vinny has traveled with us a few times during his puppyhood, but he had many firsts during this trip.  I am so very proud of how he responded to all the new experiences!  I wondered how he would do - visiting a museum, going to a large dog show, and staying in a hotel.

Our first challenge was learning to navigate together through the Museum of the Dog - Treasure in her stroller and Vinny learning to walk beside it and keep his toes out from under the wheels!  This was the first time Vinny would be walking with the stroller.  After only a couple times of walking in front of the stroller and tangling his leash, and a few times of his toes getting bumped by stroller wheels, Vinny said, "Piece of cake, Mom!"  He walked like a pro.  

Both dogs were a bit puzzled by the numerous dog statues that smelled a little strange.  I couldn't help but wonder what my other dogs would have thought, since they can see and some of the statues were large and even a little scary looking!  Of course, Treasure and Vinny are both blind and deaf, so they didn't know what the statues looked like, but they spent a lot of time sniffing them and trying to figure out what kind of dogs they were!  

I didn't think about the fact that Vinny had never been on an elevator before until we were about to step onto the one in the museum.  He went into it easy enough, with no hesitation, but as the elevator began to move downward and the floor moved down under his feet, he looked at the floor with a puzzled look.  I was pleased to see that he wasn't very concerned about it - probably due to all the work we do with moving surfaces.  Going up didn't produce the same puzzlement.  He acted just like a pro.  

When we got to the hotel later, there was once more where he pondered the elevator moving downward, but after that, he didn't even seem to notice anymore.  He checked out the hotel room when we arrived, just like he had been doing it all his life.  Very confident, sniffing every corner and all the furniture, finding his water bowl, playing with his toys.  He did take more trips to come check in with me than Treasure did, wanting to make sure I was OK, no doubt.  

And, while Treasure fell quickly asleep next to me, Vinny continued to check on me all throughout the night.   He would sleep for a bit and then come up to poke me with his nose to be sure of where I was.  I guess he didn't want me to be scared in a new place.  That was very thoughtful of him!  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Eye to Eye

Fear.  We all experience it.  We all allow it in some way to affect our behavior and our choices.  Sometimes we face our fears and sometimes we run from them.  The same is true of our dogs.

This past weekend I was reminded just how much we fear what is unfamiliar to us.  Hmmm ... we're not that much different in that respect to our dogs.  It can often cause issues for us when our dogs react with fear to something new they are encountering.  That's why we try so hard to socialize our dogs and expose them in a happy way to all the things we can think of when they are young.  This will reduce the number of things they may find unusual and scary.  

My heart was truly touched, and I want to share a story with you, about a person I met this past weekend. After hearing me talk about Treasure, a woman commented to me hesitantly that she had never seen a dog without eyes before.  When I asked her if she'd like to have a closer look at Treasure's eyes, she quickly said yes.  

But when I lifted Treasure so the woman could see her face, my heart sank.  I saw this woman quickly turn her face away as her eyes filled with tears.  Try as she might, she couldn't make herself look at Treasure's face.  She tried again and again, but each time she turned away crying.  She told me that Treasure's eyes scared her.  But she didn't want to be afraid.  She was afraid because this was something so different from anything she had known before.  

I wanted so much to reassure her.  To let her know that this wasn't such a scary thing.  But as we all know, fear is very personal.  Just because we say it's OK, doesn't mean the person (or dog) will suddenly not be afraid anymore.  I did reassure her that Treasure wasn't in any pain, and I told her about the special care I give Treasure to keep her eyes clean and pain free.  

My heart went out to this woman.  She wanted to understand and feel comfortable.  Yet her fear held her back.  It was then I realized that she had not yet actually met and interacted with Treasure.  She had only looked at her.  When I asked if she would like to meet Treasure, she was very eager to do so.  

It only took a moment before this woman was holding Treasure in her arms against her chest.  I stepped back and just quietly watched while Treasure worked her magic.  The tears faded away quickly and were overtaken by a huge and joyful smile which stuck around a while!  And guess what?  All of that woman's fear faded away too.  She was able to now look at Treasure with a smile on her face and understanding in her heart.  

The story itself is heartwarming.  I experience stories like this often when Treasure works her magic.  But this story left me with a new perspective of fear.  I told you about this woman's fear, but what the story is really about is her courage to see past that fear.  Her courage to come to an understanding.  Once we have an understanding of something, it is no longer different and scary.  Then the fear can leave and compassion can arrive.  

It also caused me to think about the similarities between us and our dogs and how we experience fear of things and others that are different.  Why do we continue to be afraid of those who are different than us?  Is it because we allow our fear to hold us at a distance so we don't ever become familiar with those differences?  I learned something amazing from that woman.  Her willingness to learn about something she feared broadened her life experiences and made her a new friend.  I hope the next time I feel fear or uncertainty about someone's difference, that I can make a similar choice.  Thank you, my new friend, for this lesson from the heart!  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Exciting New Opportunity!

I am so excited to be able to announce to you the opening of my new online school - Uniquely Paws-Able!

After consulting with people from all over the world, who are living with and teaching dogs that are blind, deaf or both, and finding that so many of them are looking for the same support, I decided to create an online community where we can share and learn with each other!  The classes will allow me to share information with so many more people than doing one-on-one consulting.  

Having an online class allows for anyone, anywhere to have access to information at any time.  Written lectures and videos will be released weekly (for 6 weeks) for discussion and practice at home with your dogs.  There is a private Facebook page also, for those who enjoy sharing in that way, strictly for students of this and upcoming classes offered by Uniquely Paws-Able.  Your instructor (Me!) will be available for feedback and to offer bonus information depending upon the interests and questions of the students.  

The first course offering is Positive Reinforcement and Clicker Training and it starts March 25th!  

Some of the lesson topics covered include: 
How dogs learn
What is positive reinforcement
What is a marker (clicker) and how to choose the right marker for your dog's abilities
Teaching check ins and attention
What to do when your dog doesn't do what you want
Learning about ways to teach behaviors and when you might choose to use each one
How to change behavior using positive reinforcement
Some fun tricks and games
How to use reinforcers other than food
How to teach quiet
And ... more!  

Come on over and check out the new school!  I'd love to have you join us for our very first class!  Or, you can choose to sign up with only an account for now, to get information about future classes that are already in the planning stages!  

Hope to see you at Uniquely Paws-Able soon!