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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Treasure's Legacy

It's taken me a week to even attempt to write this post.  My heart and my mind have struggled to find words that would even come close to describing the relationship I had with my dearest Treasure for the past eight years.  I'm not sure I will ever find the right words.

I've been blessed to share my life with a dog that has touched so many from all around the world.  I am sure I do not even know how far her legacy has reached.  She has followers and fans all over the world.  She has helped countless dogs to find new homes and to be able to stay in their homes.  She has changed lives that I may never even be aware of.  

And so, I want to share with each of you the magic and the legacy of Treasure.  I will share with you over time and many posts, about who she was and who she continues to be.  You will laugh with us and cry with us.  I hope you will come along and celebrate Treasure's life with us.

This all happened very suddenly.  One day Treasure had a heart attack, and although she appeared to recover, she was quickly diagnosed with heart and kidney failure.  What does one do with a diagnosis like that?  

I did what we all would do - I focused on how to make it all better for my precious girl.  We worked with the veterinary team to do all we could to reduce Treasure's symptoms.  I knew that her time (at age 12) was limited, but I didn't know whether I would have her for another hour, or another couple of years.  My initial fear caused me to try to focus on packing every minute full of things to do with her - a bucket list so to speak.

I quickly realized, though, that focusing on a bucket list was causing me to focus on Treasure's death.  The death that I knew was going to come one day.  I didn't want to focus on her death, so I decided instead to write a Celebration List.  Together we created a list of all the little things that we loved to do together every day.  And then I focused on celebrating all of those moments with Treasure every day, for however long we had left together.  

This shifted my focus from the fear of wondering when I was going to lose her to gratitude for every moment we had together.  This shift allowed me to have some wonderful last days with my friend full of love and remembering and celebrating each memory we had created together.

Treasure is the reason I started this blog.  When I adopted her, so many people misunderstood her as a blind and deaf dog.  They expected her to be miserable and helpless.  I wanted to show and inspire everyone that she wasn't like that at all.  I knew that if so many people thought this way, surely there were many more.  This limited thinking would surely prevent blind and deaf dogs from being adopted, so we set out to change hearts and minds.

The White Dog Blog has become a go-to resource for all things related to double merles and blind/deaf dogs.  This is all thanks to Treasure coming into my life.  We expanded the blog and wrote a book about teaching and living with dogs that are both blind and deaf, and it continues to be the only one of its kind.  Again, this would not have happened without Treasure's inspiration. 

Treasure paved the way for many blind/deaf dogs to be adopted, and to show just what they are capable of!  She loved to learn new things!  She loved nosework and learning tricks.  She was the first blind and deaf dog to earn trick dog titles!  

What an amazing therapy and READ program dog she was!  She was a superb cuddler and when people held her, she surrounded them with a gentle and radiant love, which they felt and commented on every time.  Her patience with children allowed her to teach them that it wasn't scary to be different ... or to be friends with someone who is different.

I cannot even begin to count the stories of lives she has touched and changed for the better.  Many of those stories are shared here in this blog.  I hope if you are a more recent follower of the blog that you will go back and visit some of the older posts to see some of these stories. 

My dear Treasure passed away a week ago, after blessing me with an amazing week full of special Celebration memories.  She is greatly missed.  As she left me, she surrounded me with that gentle and radiant love, which continues to sustain me and bring me comfort. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Over the Moon!

I am over-the-moon proud of my boy Vinny this month!  He and I were away from home for three weeks this month, visiting new places, doing new things, and he took it all in stride.  We had a blast!  It was, of course, so hard to leave the other dogs for that long.  Both Vinny and I missed them so much!  And this was the first long trip that I did not bring Treasure on since she came to live with me 8 years ago.  It was hard to leave her behind.  It is hard for my heart to accept that she is retired now and would rather stay closer to home. 

We stayed at two different hotels and a friend's home while we traveled, so there were many new environments for Vinny to adjust to.  With each new space, he threw himself into exploring.  It is fascinating to watch him mapping out a new space.  He walks the same path many times, and then from different directions and he expands upon that path each time, adding a bit more to the map each time he makes a pass through.  He bumps into some things, but then quickly remembers where they are.  He learns a map of the outside too - from each new door to the elevator, to the door, to the potty area outside, or up and down steps, and he learns the map back to his door at the hotel.  

I was honored to assist once again at a TTouch training with Linda Tellington-Jones.  This was Vinny's first time.  He had fun meeting new friends, moving through the Playground of Higher Learning, and even doing an interview!  You can see his resting space in the background of the picture.  

Elements of the Playground of Higher Learning, such as the labyrinth above, are meant to help a dog learn to move in balance, starting and stopping mindfully.  Moving through the Playground with its person gives both of them a focus, and can change behavior drastically and permanently by allowing both to experience new awareness.  

When we weren't in class, Vinny and I enjoyed getting to know my roommate's new puppy Star.  What a cutie!  The two dogs had way too much fun together, while Rose and I always seemed exhausted trying to keep them occupied and exercised while on the road away from home!  

And, of course, all the excitement makes for sweet dreams!  I'm so very proud of the partner Vinny has become in such a short time already.  Treasure certainly taught him everything she knows and prepared him so well to step into his role as ambassador, educator, and friend.  I couldn't wish for anything more!  I do think we are both happy to be home for a little while, though!  

Friday, June 1, 2018

Bark for Life Photos

It was an honor to take part in the Bark for Life with Vinny this year.  He was invited as an honored guest and we did a demo in which we taught about double merles and showed off some of his amazing tricks!  Vinny tasted his first ice cream cone - which he loved!  And we hung out with our friends from the Humane Society and told everyone about our adorable pets for adoption!  

Photo: Effingham County Bark for Life

Photo: Because of Jadyn Photography

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Special K9 Games

Vinny - always a winner in my book!

What an amazing weekend to spend with dogs and human friends!  The Special K9 Games were held for the first time last weekend in Columbus, OH.  Specially-abled dogs and their people had a chance to attend workshops in lure coursing, disc, agility, hide and seek, conditioning and trick training.  There were competitions for these sports as well, and CGC and trick dog testing was also offered. 

Thanks for Sky Dogs, Pawsavers, and Keller's Cause for a wonderful weekend!  

I had a chance to meet so many of my friends that I only knew from Facebook.  It was great to cheer on our new friends as some of them tried new things with their dogs for the first time!  And, I learned how to paint a portrait!  

FB friends - back row, Vinny, Braille, Keller; front, Piglet

My first pet painting - Vinny

Treasure spent most of the weekend napping, although she did make an appearance in the agility ring and the hide and seek arena.  She wasn't impressed with meeting the rats, but the hotdogs did get her attention!

Treasure meeting rats

Vinny gave everything a try and left with a new CGC title, a third place in the blind/deaf agility class, and a second place in the trick competition.  He and his new friend even played a duet!  

Vinny learning to lure course

Vinny agility - photo: Keller's Cause

Vinny on electric guitar, Madelyn on keyboard

We're so excited to see what next year's Games will have in store!  What a great event!  It ran beautifully and everyone had a chance to shine with their dogs.  Thank you Pawsavers and Keller's Cause for all your hard work putting together the Special K9 Games!  

Thursday, May 10, 2018

For The Curious 2 - Your Questions Answered

There were more great questions sent for my For The Curious series of posts!  Thank you to everyone who sent such great questions that people often have about blind/deaf dogs and double merles! 

Are your blind/deaf dogs always on a leash or beside you?  Are they able to roam freely at home and are they able to navigate a space they are familiar with?  What about a space they are unfamiliar with?
My b/d dogs are free to roam in the house or fenced areas.  They know the space pretty well.  Yes, they do sometimes bump into things, but they know where the furniture is, the doorways, the steps, the toybox and water bowl.  When they are outside, they are on leash.  They are well trained and will come to find me and check in with me, but they are very valuable to me and I don't take chances with their safety.  It would only take one missed cue in a dangerous situation for something bad to happen - since I need to be relatively close to them to give a cue (they can't see or hear me from afar), things could go south pretty quickly.  I use long tracking leashes to give them freedom to run and sniff and be dogs.  

When we travel, the dogs seem to enjoy sniffing out a new area.  They can quickly map out a hotel room or a friend's house, learning where the water bowl is, the furniture, the doors.  I encourage them to be independent in as many ways as it is safe to do so, so my dogs learn confidence and how to map out new areas.  

I know a double merle that stands between people's legs that he likes - is this common in double merles?

In my experience this isn't something particular to double merles.  I know many dogs that stand between someone's legs.  In some instances, the dog feels this is a safe place to be while it watches or experiences the world go by.  It can feel comforting to the dog to have light pressure on both sides from the person's legs, the same way a thundershirt or TTouch wrap would provide a comforting pressure - like a hug!  And, in Vinny's case, he adores being between my legs because he was taught this as a trick and it's one of his favorites!  

How do you stop them from barking and from taking things they're not supposed to have?

All dogs bark, not just double merles, not just deaf dogs, and not just blind and deaf dogs, so to stop them from barking, we need to teach them what we want instead.  Just telling a dog to be quiet doesn't work, because they don't have any idea what we want them to do, or what quiet means - until we teach them.  I start by adding a cue to quiet when the dog is already being quiet and reinforcing all quiet behaviors.  As the dog realizes it is the quiet I like, he will start to spend more time being quiet.  Barking usually happens for a reason, so when I take care of the reason the dog is barking, AND teach him that I like it when he's quiet, I don't have a problem with excess barking. 

With dogs that take things that they aren't supposed to have, I can use the same principle.  If I manage the environment to set the dog up for success - by putting away things I don't want him to have, and leaving out things I do want him to have - I will have more opportunities to reinforce him for playing with things he can have.  Paying attention to him when he has something I want him to have will go a long way toward encouraging that behavior.  But every time I leave something out that I don't want him to have and he gets hold of it, he is reinforcing himself by having fun with that thing.  So the behavior won't go away until I take some responsibility and put those things out of my dog's reach.

How does she (blind/deaf) eat?

My dogs eat from puzzle toys mostly and from a dog bowl - probably just like your dogs do.  Because I have multiple dogs, they each have their own space to eat around the room, and they know where that space is.  They will go to their space when they smell me getting their food ready.  They find their food by smell.  

Can you housetrain a blind and deaf dog?

Most definitely!  Doing our business does not depend on us being able to see or hear - have you ever found your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without turning the light on?  And it doesn't depend on our dog being able to see or hear either.  

Teaching a dog to do its business outside is a matter of keeping the dog on a consistent schedule, taking it outside often and supervising when it's inside.  Prevent any accidents inside and stay with him outside until he goes - then reinforce.  You will need to stay close by because your reinforcement is going to be petting while he is going.  In the beginning you can't just put him out in your fenced backyard.  

You must be with him to reinforce him for going outside - this is the behavior you want.  Behavior that is reinforced will continue!  And, if you're not out there with him, you may think he is done and let him inside only for him to go on the floor.  Stay out there with him, keep him on a schedule, reinforce behavior you like, and prevent behavior you don't like (accidents in the house).  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Special Day for Special Pets

Today is Specially-Abled Pet Day!  There are so many specially-abled animals in the world that are amazing in their abilities. This is why we call them specially-ABLED.  It's not about what they can't do - which most often is insignificant.  It's about what they CAN do!  Let's celebrate their abilities! 

In years past, I have focused my post on titles and dog sports, and therapy dog accomplishments of my specially-abled dogs.  But today I want to remember some of the great photos I've posted in this blog that showcase the day to day amazing things they do!  


Enjoying a snow day

"Watching" a baseball game

Pool party

Playing with toys


Bringing smiles

Simply being themselves

Spreading joy

Smiling and being adorable

Spreading the word

Celebrating birthdays

Going for walks and adventures

Being my buddy

Donating to a worthy cause

I hope you will join me today in acknowledging and celebrating all the specially-abled animals out there! Their spirit and their love of life can certainly teach and inspire us every day. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Therapy Dog!

Congratulations to Vinny!  He got his official Therapy Dog paperwork and tag just in time - did you know that today is National Therapy Animal Day?  It is!  

A day to celebrate animals of all types that provide love and therapy to others!  I have been blessed to partner with several therapy dogs in my lifetime.  Vinny is my 5th therapy dog partner.  

Not all organizations are open to evaluating dogs that are both blind and deaf.  I was fortunate to work with a local group with Treasure (blind and deaf) and they were open to evaluating her and seeing just what she could do.  She passed with flying colors and was my therapy dog partner for 8 years.  She is now mostly retired and has passed her knowledge along to Vinny.

I'm so excited to begin our therapy dog work together!