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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Birthday!!

Mom and I are working on a new book, and because today is my Gotcha Day (the day when I got her and she got me), she asked me to share a part of what we're working on.  This is the part - my very favorite part - where Mom comes to bring me home!  I hope you like my story!


Me saying goodbye to my foster mom.

Today was the day!  There was much emotion in the air – excitement, anticipation, and perhaps even a bit of trepidation.  They said she is coming!  She wants to meet me!  She wants to take me home!  I can’t help but feel a sense of hope.  I’ve wanted a permanent home for a while now. 

But what will she be like?  Will she love me?  Will I be good enough for her or will she leave without me?  And lately, I’ve been questioning, just what does “home” mean, anyway? 

I thought I had a home … once.  I lived in a pen with my friend.  It wasn’t an exciting life, but we had each other and it felt safe and comfortable to us.  It was our space. Our home. 

Over the past weeks I had been in many homes.  But they weren’t meant to be my home.  And now, here I was, in yet another home where I’d only spent a few weeks.  They were so kind to me here.  Everyone had been kind to me.  Yet I was tired.  I wanted it all to stop.  I was tired of traveling here and there, adjusting to new places and smells and people and dogs.  I just wanted a place of my own where I knew I never had to leave. 

For a moment, my thoughts are interrupted.  She is coming!  She wants to meet you!  She’s been waiting for you for so long!  She wants to take you home!  They kept repeating these words to me.  They held me close and I could feel their excitement that this would work out for me.  I could feel their sadness, for they would need to say goodbye just as we were getting to know each other.  I could feel them trying to hold all these emotions back just in case.  What if it didn’t work out?  What if I wasn’t what she was hoping for? 

I was resigned to the fact that I would be leaving again.  This had become just another part of my routine.  There would be a new house to map out.  Everything would be new around me.  I was not afraid, just weary.  But I couldn’t deny that the energy around me was different from the last few times I moved on.  It reminded me of my time back when I left the shelter, so far away.  I had stayed at that new house the longest of any place since.  I remember how safe it felt to know the lay of the land and the routine.  To stay for awhile and call it my own. 

I wanted that feeling again.  A sense of belonging.  That comforting warm glow was getting stronger and closer, but suddenly I felt a bit frightened by it.  Where was it leading me?  Would this person like me?  Would she pass me off to someone else?  Or perhaps she would notice that I was special and leave without me, thinking I will be a burden to her?

She’s here!  I am being carried outside.  I feel the vibration of my foster lady talking, but I am so distracted that I hardly noticed.  There is a new smell in the air.  A new emotion.  A new feeling.  That warm glow is all around me now.  She touches me.  I tense my muscles to not allow myself to give in. 

But when she touches me, something inside of me melts away and I surrender - to the warm glow.  Her fingers melted into my fur.  Her touch feels so familiar, yet so new.  I can’t see them, but I feel her body welling up with tears.  They aren’t sad tears, but tears of relief and great love.  Tears of acceptance.  She was that warm glow I had felt all this time.  And here she was!  Meeting me!

She stayed for awhile, talking with the foster family I was with.  She held me.  I fell asleep on my back in her arms.  I was so content and happy.  I felt so safe.  I felt accepted.  For a moment, all my worries were gone.  I no longer wondered if she’d like me, or if I’d be good enough.  I no longer even wondered if she would take me with her or if she would leave me here.  It was all about that one place in time, that one moment.  I loved her from that very first touch. 

When the time came for her to go, she put me carefully into her car.  Immediately, my mind tried to go in a different direction.  Oh no, another car.  Another trip away from everything I had known so far in my life.  No, don’t close the door …

But I smelled her.  This car smelled so much like her.  She was still near me, I just knew it.  I was quiet, but I did not sleep.  The anticipation was just too much.  But, that warm glow surrounded me and comforted me.  I knew something different was happening to me.  Something I would remember for a long time.

Me in my new home! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Could Vegas have his own show? In Vegas?

Vegas is such a fun dog to play with!  He is learning new tricks so quickly.  I think perhaps he is aspiring to have his own trick dog show in Las Vegas!  He finished his Advanced Trick Dog Title in April, so these pics are a bit overdue.

Vegas LOVES to use his paws!  Ever since he came to me as a little puppy, he was always using his paws.  The usual ways of teaching him not to jump on us and not to grab our legs with his feet were just not working.  Then I watched him playing with his litter sister whom we fostered for a short while and saw that he used his feet to keep track of where she was.  If she moved and his feet were on her, he knew right where she was.  Vegas has some vision, but it's hard for him to locate what he's seeing.  He was keeping track of where we were by touching us with his feet.  It comes as no surprise then that all of these new tricks involve his feet in different ways.  Having learned from Treasure that a visually impaired dog seems to be able to hit a target better when the dog and the target are not moving, we tried this trick with Vegas lying down.  He picked it up right away and with a little practice, learned to hit the button with pretty good accuracy.

Playing the piano and wiping his feet on a mat were both pretty similar.  He just has to use his paw to stroke something.  These he can do in any position - lying down, sitting, standing up.  You can see me giving him his thumbs up sign while he wipes his paws on the blanket.  He can see the signal best when it's close to his face.

Vegas likes things that move under his feet.  He's very confident about it.  He enjoys pushing his skateboard and can also roll a peanut and push a shopping cart.

Perhaps the hardest trick for Vegas this time around was chorus kicks.  He is to put his paw onto my foot and together we alternate right, left, right, left.  He never did get the concept to look down at my feet.  He is very attentive and wants to watch my hands for his cues.  With a bit of creativity, he learned touch cues on his legs that I gave with my feet and he aced this trick too!  What a guy!  

Treasure's newest tricks!

Treasure continues to learn new tricks.  She has perfected pushing her skateboard, and she really seems to enjoy it.  She steps onto it eagerly, while I hold it still for her.  Once she's in position, she starts pushing and away she goes.  Once she gets off, she can't wait to step back on, so I have to be quick to pick up the board and take her back to the starting point so she can go again.  Of course, I stay nearby to make sure she doesn't run into anything or go off the side of the walkway.  And I can stop the board if there is any danger.  I have found that in addition to being a cute trick, this exercise helps to strengthen her rear legs, which helps with her fitness program!  

The piano was easy for Treasure because she likes to step on new surfaces, but when she would stand on it, she tended to then just stay in one place instead of moving her feet around and making music.  So I decided it would be better to teach her to play while lying down so she could move her feet more easily.  Well, let's just say that although Treasure does humor me (she likes those treats, you know!), she does prefer to play standing up when she gets the chance.  

Perhaps one of the hardest we've accomplished so far is targeting the easy button.  The smaller size of the button compared to other surfaces I've asked Treasure to step on or touch, made it much more difficult for her to pinpoint where in space it was and how big it was.  We tried many different techniques.  Some resulted in her pawing the air repeatedly, trying to locate the button.  Together we discovered that if neither she nor the button moved, she was able to find it much easier.  So, with her lying down (so she didn't move), and the button next to her foot where she could feel it, she was able to target it easily.  I think this may now be one of her favorite tricks.  Every now and then she will miss the button, but she tries again until she gets it.  

Treasure and I would love to hear what new tricks your dogs are learning!  Tricks are a great way to have fun with your dog, and to keep your dog active and stimulated.  Some tricks even help provide great exercise!  Happy tricking!