Thursday, December 10, 2009

Calling All Dog Lovers : Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It...

Taken from the Dog Star Daily website:

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our mission, should you chose to accept it, is to help educate our movie going public. Your deadline for the mission is December 18th. Your countdown begins now. While this current mission is targeting those who may be interested in a specific breed, it benefits anyone considering a dog. How? Because it helps to educate people about the need for breed research BEFORE getting a dog "just like the one they saw" in a movie. This in turn hopefully helps cut down on the amount of mismatched dogs to owners. Not every breed of dog is right for every home after all. What might be the best match for you may be a nightmare for your best friend and vice versa.

The steps for this mission are simple.

1) Go to this website and download and print a copy of the file "Is the akita the right dog for you?"

2) Take the handout to your local Staples store and make a bajillion copies.

3) Take the bajillioon copies to your local movie theaters on December 17th and ask if they will share them with every ticket buyer to the movie "Hachi".

4) If you have a blog please consider passing this information on. All agents need to be activated for this one my friends.

The advanced agents, and you know who you are, may even stay to pass out the handouts personally or set up a booth at the theater (with permission of course) showing off their own well trained akita or shiba. (shibas are also featured in the movie as they used some of them in place of the akita as a puppy. Here is a link to "Is the Shiba for you" to add to the flip side of your handout: ) You can even go to your areas akita rescue website and print off a list of akitas needing homes to add to a poster.

A "dogs in movies" set up with other breed information for those who are extra creative to leave at the theater is also an idea. This isn't the first breed this has happened to, nor will it be the last. It is also a great opportunity to reach alot of people about positive training for trainers who want to participate with their own trained dogs. Have a pile of handouts on the akita/shiba and another on positive training. The ones we can't reach with the breed info will certainly need the training info later.

The mission is an important one. It may be met with resistance. A back up plan my be required. Consider recruiting your local pet supply stores. They may agree to passing out handouts if your theater won't participate or be willing to host a breed education table. Posters are also welcome in the fight. Ask the local theater for copies of the movie poster, take it for display to your local pet supply store, and add the akita handout. Or your local shelter would like to be involved. It never hurts to ask.

Check out the Hachi movie trailer here:

I want to thank all the DEAR members (dog education action responders) for their participation in this mission. (Psst - that's you dear reader) I look forward to all feedback. Got any other ideas to help us in this endeavor? Share them with me in the comments section.

(The photo is of the real Hachi Ko, the akita the movie is based on. Originally a Japanese story.)

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The original link can be found here: Calling All Dog Lovers!

The Akita Inu and Shiba Inu are not for everyone. Please, please, please do breed research before considering buying a dog (or any pet for that matter). Getting a dog that is not a right fit for you home, breed-wise, age-wise or temperament-wise, is the root of 99.9% of all dog-related problems.

That said, I can't wait to see this movie. Even if it is totally American-ized.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving (The Things I Am Thankful For...)

I am thankful for my family and friends, those with four-legs as well as two.

I am thankful for the people and animals who have taught, motivated, inspired and otherwise helped to shape the person I am today: those I know, those I've yet to know, and those who I will never know.

I am thankful, too, for those who have hurt me. Because of you, I've grown a little smarter and a little stronger.

I am thankful to have a good job doing what I love. I may not make a lot of money, but I'm richer by the day in all the ways that are the most important.

I am thankful for my favorite writers, musicians and artists: magicians with the ability to spirit me away into new and exciting worlds with their craft.

I am thankful for everyone who has ever supported me, and the chance to affirm their faith in me.

I am thankful for anyone who has ever fought for animal rights, women's rights, minority rights, and human rights: because of what you've done, I can do what I do.

I am thankful for the quiet moments doing the simple things that I love, like reading, drawing, writing or just being at ease; moments that are becoming more and more rare, and thus increasingly precious.

I am thankful for myself; I am not perfect, but I am proud of the person that I am.

I am thankful for Nature, and it's ability and will to fight off the ignorance and inconsideration of humanity.

I am thankful for each year I get to spend with Sasha, who has been my faithful friend since I was eleven-years-old, who nudged me softly down the path I now walk, and who is still happy and full of life at thirteen-years-old.

I am thankful, too, for each year with Anubis who, at eleven-years-old, has outlived the average lifespan of an inner-city pit bull by seven years and counting.

I am thankful for Taco, twelve-years-old, for being my great-grandmother's companion in her final year, and who continues to be my companion now.

I am thankful for Cash and his unbridled and contagious love of adventure, his fierce protection, his love and willingness to please, and his moments of sheer goofiness just when I need them.

I am thankful for Maverick, my first horse and my soul-mate, who helped me see that, sometimes, what you need the most isn't always what you think you want.

I am thankful for Kachina, my diamond-in-the-rough, for appearing in my life right when I needed her the most.

I am thankful for health, and youth, and it's my greatest hope that I do not squander either.

I am thankful for the wealth of knowledge that's always right at our fingertips, ready to be plucked like a ripe fruit whenever we need.

..and, finally, I am thankful for all of the experiences - good and bad - yet to come, the people I have yet to meet, and for the ways that they will change my life in ways both big and small.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dogs Greeting Soldiers Returning Home

Ok, this has been all over the net -- for good reason, and it's worth posting again.

Dogs Greeting Soldiers Returning Home

I haven't had a chance to watch all of the videos, but be prepared to tear up big time.

I love dogs.

Puppy Fever

Every now and then, without warning, I come down with Puppy Fever. It's kinda like that whole biological clock thing except, instead of pining for a human baby (*shudder*), I get the urge to cuddle something warm, fluffy and four-legged.

I've always been more of an old dog person. I'm a sucker for a gray muzzle and a lumbering walk. However, working at a dog daycare, I see a lot of puppies, and now and then we'll get one that'll make make me think "Man, if I had a chance to raise that puppy.."

It doesn't help when you see things like this:

That's a pile of four-week-old Border Collie pups that I had a chance to visit. Is there anything cuter than that? No, I don't think so!

But, working at a dog daycare also reminds me just how much work a puppy really is. And then I remember how many dogs are sitting in shelters, waiting for a home, and how many of those are far from their puppy years, and I feel a little guilty about even considering a puppy.

Of course, when it is time for me to get another dog (which won't be for a long, long time, I hope!), it will probably be some gray, wolfish looking mutt. Can't help if that's my type. And if I ever do decide to get a puppy, I'd better be prepared to have two dogs, because I would have to adopt an older dog as well to help me raise it and balance out my karma.

In the meantime, I'm lucky to have the chance to cuddle other people's puppies, then send them home at the end of the day!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Burn Out : my hardest lesson as a trainer

A few years back, I got into doing o-mok-see and gymkhanas on my 23--year-old(+) rescued Paso Fino gelding, Rico. In addition to his age and history with abuse, Rico's other handicap was his breed; the Paso Fino is a "comfort breed" - they have an extremely smooth gait as opposed to a bumpy trot - and are not normally used for racing or speed events, unlike the Quarter Horses we were up against.

None of that mattered to Rico, however. He took to competing like a fish to water, and we blew the competition away the first time we competed. It was a thrill to be on atop this underdog that was challenging the stereotype at these events. And he loved it. He loved the speed, the competition, the crowd - everything!

On top of that, I was fulfilling my own personal expectations. My mother was well known in our area for her past victories in the sport. People were still telling me stories of how she'd gotten sponsors, and how close she was to going pro in the WPRA. They were telling me things like "you remind me of your mother" or "it's in your blood" or "you're going to be just as good as she was." I wanted nothing more than to put a trophy of my own next to the 300+ she had. The ribbons we'd won in the two shows we competed in were great, but I wanted the 'gold'.

It wasn't long before I got my chance. My own stable was hosting an o-mok-see, and they would be offering trophies for the winner of each event. I scanned the list of games, confident that Rico could win every one in his sleep. But competition makes me nervous, and the only way I could combat my nerves was by feeling prepared. So, even though I knew Rico could compete will in the event, I wanted him to be perfect, so..we practiced.

I practiced with him almost every day after work, about two hours each day, for the entire two weeks before the show (are you cringing yet? I am). I was obsessed with getting each pattern perfect and, the more I practiced, the more Rico would get frustrated and get it wrong. Which, of course, frustrated me and made me keep practicing. Thinking about it now makes my stomach sink.

So, the day of the competition, I was ready to kick some butt. Unfortunately, Rico did not feel the same; not only was he getting the patterns wrong, but he was freaking out before and after our runs. We ended up getting disqualified from every single event (well, except the relay race - we won that one).

In the end, I pulled out of the competition and went to my tack room and cried. I wasn't upset because we had done so poorly, or that everyone had seen, or even that I had missed my chance at winning a trophy - it was because I hadn't listened to my horse. I failed that day as a trainer; I was so obsessed with my own goals, my desire to be like my mother and my ego, that I'd taken something Rico loved and warped it into two weeks of frustration, anxiety and torture. In short: I'd burnt him out.

Rico eventually learned to enjoy working the patterns again, but we only did it for fun after that. To be honest, I was afraid to compete with him. I didn't want to put him, or myself, back into a high-pressure situation. I just wanted to have fun with him, working together on our own terms.

Rico passed away a few months ago. He taught me a lot of valuable lessons, but "The Burn Out" definitely ranks high on the list. Since then, I've strived to never put my own ego or personal issues over the well-being of the animal I'm working with - dog, horse, or other - and to always, always listen to what they tell me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dominance and Dog Training

Probably the best write-up I've read yet on dominance and the role it plays (or doesn't play) in dog training:

The APDT's Position on Dominance and Dog Training

stray dog strut - the life and times of an aspiring dog trainer

You hear it all the time: everyone has a purpose in life. For me, my purpose has always been to help the animals that we share our world with. However, my first love and biggest fascination is with dogs - well, all canines - in particular.

Why dogs? Of all animals, few have impacted our lives as strongly as dogs. We use them not only as companions, but also to hunt, work our flocks, pull our carts, compete in sports, protect our homes, comfort our sick, care for those with special needs, rescue those who are lost, serve and protect, even fight wars. Many of our medical and scientific advancements were, sadly, at the expense of dogs. We have altered the dog drastically to suit our every need and whim.

Yet, even though dogs are intertwined with our lives, and a huge part of our history as a species, most people are completely oblivious to the nature of dogs themselves. Most of the important information we have concerning dogs - how they think, how they learn, their nutritional needs, where they come from, the stages of their development, etc., etc. - has come to light only recently. We expect our dogs to understand "don't bark at the mailman!" or "don't chew up the couch!" but the majority of dog owners don't understand why their dog does what he does.

I want to know as much as I can about dogs, and help owners understand in turn, so that both human and dog can lead happy, enriching lives together. I believe that the more people that understand why their dogs behave a certain way, and how best to train them, the less dogs that end up surrendered to shelters or abandoned on the street. If people can see the dog for the intelligent, amazing, sentient being that it is, maybe more people will strive to help them rather than hurt them.

Of course, it's not all about dogs; I enjoy a lot of different things. However, dogs play a huge role in my life - they're my dream, my passion, my job and my family - so expect a lot of dog stuff.

Having a dream and living it are two different things. That's what this blog is for: to chronicle my life working with dogs and my growth as a trainer while trying to work up the courage to start a training business of my own. It's meant to motivate me, keep track of my thoughts, as well as be a place for me to rant, rave, or just jot down bits of randomness and life: That's Stray Dog Strut!