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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Healing Through All The Senses

I'm home today.  I haven't been feeling well and need to take a couple days to recover before my job gets busy again for the next month.  My day started as usual.  I got up early, now before it is light outside, to let the dogs outside.  I checked my email while they ran and played in the yard. 

But then, when I let them back inside, I laid back down in bed for a bit.  The puppy bounced around on top of my various body parts and played in the covers.  His enthusiasm was at first less than appreciated, but soon he had me smiling at his abundance of energy.  Treasure found me right away and came over to snuggle, trying to find a safe place to avoid being bounced on by Brinks.  She nuzzled her head into my arm and my chest and gave me a few licks on the chin.  I lost myself in time, as I laid there with her, both of us connected in the moment, and I started to feel better.

I really didn't feel like going out, but I had library books due today, so I made myself get in the car.  My thought was to get it done earlier in the day, so I could come home and sleep.  But a marvelous thing happened as I was driving to the library.  All my favorite songs seemed to be playing on the radio, so I was singing along.  And the landscape had exploded with every color imaginable!  It is autumn and the trees are so incredible to look at, that it's important to remind myself at every opportunity to pay attention to the road in front of me. 

I had no schedule, nowhere I had to be at a certain time, no one I had to answer to.  My day has been one small moment of healing after another.  It's easy to forget to notice those moments when we get caught up in our routine and our schedules.  Those small moments where, if we allow ourselves, we can rejuvenate and connect with ourselves.  Where we can experience healing. 

It occurred to me that healing happens through all of our senses when we allow it to.  The touch of a special dog's head resting on my chest, feeling her breathing, being encompassed by her loving energy.  The sounds of music and meaningful lyrics of my favorite songs.  The birds singing in the new morning light.  Singing along with those songs; a form of expression.  Seeing the bright vibrant colors of the trees spreading everywhere along the horizon.  Feeling the cool crisp autumn air.  Smelling and tasting the healing power of food as I prepare and eat my lunch, and then on to a nap. 

How nice it was to be reminded of these things today and to be able to slow down and appreciate them all.  I hope every one of you will experience your own moments of healing today and every day.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Her Likeness ...

A huge THANK YOU to our friend, Mary Beth Genter, for creating this perfect likeness of Treasure on her new bag!  Everyone loves the bag, especially me - and Treasure!  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Learning to Heel ... Finally!

Another beautiful picture of Treasure from the sheltie picnic! 

It's been a year since taking Treasure through obedience classes.  I had started teaching her to heel then, but it just wasn't happening the way I had hoped.  I wanted her to learn to lean into my leg, so she could feel it moving and know which direction to come with me.  Treasure tends to want to walk slightly away from my leg, and she cues very well with a slight jiggle of the leash, but keeping her in heel position with a loose leash is tricky because she can't see to reference where she needs to be in relation to my leg.  I've been wanting to try using a solid leash to give her more feedback as to my position, speed, etc. 

Well, today I finally made a solid leash ... I know, I know, what took me so long?!  I let her sniff it before putting it on her, just to let her know what this new thing was.  It worked like a charm!  Of course, she had already learned to walk in the direction that she feels very light collar pressure, either from a leash, or from my hand lightly guiding her by the collar.  This made the transition to the solid leash very smooth.

We walked short distances, after which I stopped to give her a treat and a pet.  I kept a very light contact between Treasure's collar and the solid leash.  It was nice to be able to stand up straight and walk in a normal manner, but I was still able to guide her on her level through the leash snap.  An about turn went well, but slowly.  As she gains confidence, I'm sure her speed will return.  She walks much faster with the solid leash on a straight path than she does with a regular leash.  I think this is because she is getting more information from the contact on the solid leash, so she feels more confident stepping out. 

When I touch her collar, she will scoot forward very quickly, knowing that she can trust me not to run her into anything. When she walks on her own, she goes much slower to avoid smacking her nose on things.  So it makes sense that having a light contact on the leash gives her that same confidence.  

I also introduced her to a collar cue for sit, as in sitting when I halt.  I moved the solid leash at a slight angle and at the same time lifted very lightly under her chin.  I gave the cue immediately before giving her the sit cue she already knows of touching her rear end.  By the third time, she sat with only the collar cue before I could touch her.  Good girl!  Of course, she is a very smart girl and she does love those treats!! 

In other training, we are working again on stays ... sort of got lazy working on those.  She will now roll over, but she prefers going to her right side.  She will roll the other way, too, but only after she first rolls to the right.  She is learning to sit up and beg.  When we first tried it, she was very off balance, but now she is starting to balance for short periods of time.  We continue to work on shaking hands.  Sometimes she will lift a paw, but not consistently. 

We continue to work on K9 nosework.  She did a demo and amazed everyone at the sheltie picnic last weekend!  I am pairing odor with her hides now.  The first couple we did with odor, she definitely realized something was different and took a few extra seconds to sniff the odor before eating her treats.  Our official nosework training kit came yesterday, so ... happy scenting! 

Shelties and Fall!

Treasure, Owen, and Grace

Last weekend was Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue's annual sheltie reunion picnic.  Grace and Treasure were both adopted through NCSR, and Owen, being a sheltie, was able to come join the fun too!  After a week of heavy rain, the weather cooperated and the rain held off for the afternoon.  There was so much delicious food shared by all!  The dogs enjoyed some bites of my hamburger at lunch time!

Games galore!  Musical sits, popcorn catching, biscuit on spoon race, trick contest, costume contest, who came the farthest, and more, but I can't remember them all right now.  Grace won the costume contest with her Halloween dress. Owen won the trick contest with his going to hide in the suitcase trick, among others.  Treasure got third in the trick contest by showing how she can respond to touch cues for sit, down and spin.  She got second place for smallest sheltie ... beat out by a tie between a puppy and her new brother, Timmy!  (Yes, we adopted a new boy and brought him home with us from the picnic!)

All in all, a very fun day.  We all went home tired, but happy.  Here's our newest family member, Timmy!