A Thinking Dog: part 3

Sugar, always assessing...

Thinking dog, Sugar, always assessing…

It stands to reason that a “thinking dog” is the best kind of dog, right?  I can admit it.  I am pretty great, but being incredibly intelligent doesn’t always work in my favor.  I am constantly observing and assessing what is going on with my humans and around me (I am part Border collie – it’s my job to think a few steps ahead).  I also pay very close attention to everything in my environment (birds, squirrels, leaves falling, butterflies & other insects, other dogs, neighborhood cats, rain…you name it) and sometimes I am so alert, I have a hard time turning my thinking-dog brain off which makes it hard to be “dogosophical“.

As a thinking dog, I have also learned to anticipate certain situations.  Guardian starts putting on makeup & shoes…she’s leaving soon.  (In my world, that’s not all bad, we dogs get the house all to ourselves and that annoyance of a new dog is still in his crate – I love that).

One of the hardest things for me is a car trip!  The humans act like this is the greatest thing in the world.

where oh where are we headed this time?

where oh where are we headed this time?

This may start out as a fun outing, but usually ends up in me being poked & prodded by someone I barely know; sometimes we get left for days at a time with a slew of other dogs in a house I’m not familiar with (how in the world can I protect my humans if they aren’t even around???) and on some occasions, I simply end up getting a bath and a haircut.  At least the latter is generally followed by new toys or treats.  Why oh why do the humans feel the need to torture a thinking dog with car rides?  My guardian keeps treats in the car and sometimes takes me on trips that go nowhere – Honestly, we just ride around then head home again.  This helps, but I am still a thinking dog who is just waiting for the next unpleasant excursion.

OH – and the poking and prodding place, often the car trips still lead me there.   I sniff the same smells and see the same people, but at times, guardian has turned these occassions into a treat session!   I certainly got the leg up on this one…who knew I could train the guardian to take me out for an afternoon snack?  I’m really learning to love that place (despite the white coats & scrubs).  So glad to be a thinking dog!

Really learning to LOVE this place!

A little nervous, but slowly learning to LOVE this place!

Because I am a thinking dog, I can also be a very anxious, somewhat-reactive dog.  This can make life “ruff” for me and my humans.   For instance, I used to pull ahead while on the leash…dogs to see, squirrels to chase, you know the drill.  My guardian sought the help of a professional and was told to use a new collar (this was long before she was “trained” herself).  You may have seen other dogs on this kind of collar; it is called a “Pinch” or “Prong”  collar  and let me tell you, the name fits!  When I would get excited to go toward another dog – OUCH!   The more I excited I was about visiting, the more it hurt!  I started barking, growling and lunging every time I saw another dog (as soon as one was in sight – YOWZA!) Totally not cool!  (Combined_Punishment_Statements)  Oh, those darn dogs…they were becoming less rewarding each day until at last, I had it and finally had the opportunity to let another dog know what all these canines had been doing to me and I bit him!  Hard!  Guardian was mortified so she stopped walking me regularly.  I lost my connection to the outside world and had to mentally survive on the stories Dino would tell me about his visits.  Thankfully my guardian came home one day with a new harness instead.  A “front clasp” harness!  What kind of contraption was she trying now?   She strapped it on and I was nervous at first (have I mentioned that I am a thinking dog?).  Hmmmm…so I thought about this.  There was no pain – it clipped in the front so if I got too excited and pulled, I turned around to face my guardian.  I’ve figured it out and by Dog – I think I’ve got it!  If another dog is coming – I may pull, but harness leads me to face guardian without going “postal”, then I get a treat (well, the postman is another story).  It’s that simple.  Dogs = treats, not pain!  After all, I am a thinking dog!  After just a few months with this, I am able to happily greet other dogs again!

The only thing that still consistently works against my thinking dog brain is a thunderstorm.  I haven’t figured out how to work that one yet.  When one hits, I freak out!  Guardian puts  a snuggly vest on me…sometimes I get a bit of peanut butter (with an odd-tasting bit of crunch in the middle) and it makes me sleepy.  My favorite spot to find sanctuary is in guardians’ closet.  I am surrounded by their smell, there is soft carpet on the floor and it is a dark and cozy spot where the terrible sounds are dulled and not so frightening.

My guardian often says “a tired dog is a good dog”.  I’m not sure what she means by that, but I do love the stimulating toys, long walks or running along with the bike and good solid training time.  Guardian knows I am a thinking dog (not like those other two that reside with us) and she works with it – with me.  Rather than getting frustrated at my barking alertness, or my anxiety, she keeps me busy and gives me fun things to contemplate which helps my “thinking brain” rest when I need it.  I can relax after a session with guardian and honestly, when she works with any of us dogs it is the best, most rewarding experience in the world.  She looks us in the eye, we get treats, praise in that sweet loving voice, and loads of hands-on attention.  Kym_Sugar

Humans are an odd lot – at times they don’t seem to think much, but when you find a good family they can be the most rewarding thing in the world.  If I play my cards right, this thinking dog will continue to help guardian truly help other thinking dogs like me!


A Thinking Dog (part 1)

I believe you all have been introduced to my housemate, Dino.  Well, he may be considered the family sweetheart (aka, the easy dog, the people pleaser, etc) but I take credit for being the brains behind this 3-dog operation.   While Dino is the epitome of a “dogosophical” dog, I help inspire the teachings to get one there.  I am a true, thinking dog.


Dino, the Guardian & Sugar – chillaxin’ at the dog park

A little backstory:  You may have read in a previous blog about how Dino, the yellow Labrador came into the life of a loving family who felt the need to make up for “failing” a rescue dog.  Well, I have to respect that he paved the way for me.  Dino became the happy, healthy, well-trained and very social dog everyone wants.  After some great successes over the dog days of summer, thinking that dog ownership is a walk in the park, and knowing that the work days would be picking up for his family, the guardians decided that Dino should have someone else around to spend his days with.  The family also realized that their hearts were really behind “saving” a dog from the uncertain fate that falls many-a-shelter animal and did not want to go the route of another breeder or (heaven-forbid) a puppy store.   The hunt was on to find a dog that they could rescue, a dog that would keep Dino company, a dog that would never be boring…a thinking dog.

After much thought about what they really wanted in a second dog, tons of research on different dog breed traits, and searching multiple dog rescue websites, going to adoption fares, etc. they were found a small “foster-only” rescue organization where they happened upon me.  My “mom” was a border collie, found as a pregnant stray on the side of the road in Illinois farm country in October of 2006.  She was taken in and brought to a foster home in Chicago’s western suburbs and litter of 9 puppies arrived soon after.  Most resembled mom – black & white border collies with little brown tips here and there…then there was me.  I was a smallish, golden-retriever looking pup with a face (and a brain) like my mom.   The rescue organization kept all puppies until we were weaned and healthy and had our first round of shots (about 8 weeks) so they gave us names to reflect the time they hoped we would transition into our fur-ever homes.  My brothers were given holiday names like Humbug, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer, Jacob & Marley and Prince.  The females were Clara, Belle and me – Sugar Plum.  We all ended up being Christmas puppies to families all over Illinois.

Dino & I get along quite well.   He taught me not to bite too hard, showed me where to go when I need to relieve myself, let me know where the best sleeping spots and treats are kept and generally what it takes to keep the two-leggers on their toes around here. To this day, he is very tolerant and doesn’t challenge me much.  He doesn’t really challenge anyone.  That is my job.  I am a thinking dog…


Sugar Plum – in her “thinking dog” mode

Faith in Dog

DSC_0031Please allow me to introduce myself.  My official title is” Tecumseh’s Diamond Dean Oakley” but for most purposes I am known as Dino.  I seem to have taken on the role of peacekeeper in our home, but this hasn’t always been the case.  My guardian seems to think that I am responsible for the “dogosophical” attitude that we try to live by, but she is realizing that it all begins with faith.

When I came along, my family had just come off of a very “ruff” rescue dog experience…the kind no one wants to have and the kind that can honestly turn folks off to ever having a dog again.  They needed a “safe” dog.  One that wouldn’t bark, growl or bite…one they could trust.  So they decided to begin with a puppy.

I came from a breeder.  My guardian is not a “breeder” type of person, she really prefers to rescue, but I mentioned that she was yearning for a “safe” dog so that’s where she felt she should start.  What she found was that no matter where you get your pooch, one really has to do some legwork – research, research, research!  She spent months trying to find someone that wasn’t in it for the cash…someone that just wanted to produce good, healthy dogs that he could be proud of.  She found it in a small farm family that had been breeding Labradors for over 25 years.  She was interviewed at length over the phone, had to fill out an extensive application and make the drive to visit and actually see how we lived and then be interviewed in person. After all that, she was allowed to take me home.  (A good breeder will not sell to just anyone – they want to be sure their pups will be in kind, loving homes who will care for them under any circumstances).

It was ruff going at first.  The last dog may have had her issues, but my guardian LOVED and missed that dog and felt like a failure.  I, on the other hand was total puppy chaos!   I was a biting, running, jumping 4-legged fury (no, that isn’t suppose to be “furry”) that had no idea where I was supposed to potty or which rugs were ok to chew. (Turns out, none of them!)  They called me “Demon Dino” because I would terrify the human puppies around and tear things apart. (I loved the sound of a good “ripping” and when the kids would start barking back, yipping and running away…well that was even more exciting!)  Some days, my guardian would just sit down and cry and tell me I would never replace her “Diamond” (I later found out that Diamond was the “problem dog”).

After teaching me a few house rules, we signed up for a training class.  Things were going well – I slept through much of the classes (she always took me for a long walk before we went), but would try my best to stay awake and follow the treat.  Someone mentioned a “therapy dog” and she seemed to like the idea.  We went through class after class after class.  Every week we did something new.  Eventually, I realized that she didn’t cry because of me anymore – our interactions were all pets, hugs, treats, smiles and that happy voice that makes me wiggle all over.  I recognize now that I’ve built something with her – we have a special bond since we’ve been through those classes.  Oh, don’t get me wrong…I adore the other humans in the household and we’ve been joined by 2 more dogs since then, but my special guardian is like no other.  We visit all kinds of people.  Instead of crying out of frustration, I help people find memories, I help them learn, I help them build physical strength and gain trust.  I am a therapy dog and get to go to work with my guardian often.

I may not have replaced her “Diamond” at first, but I now know that I was really her “diamond in the ruff” and I shine with pride these days for having been therapy for her.  I have taught her that demon dogs can be exorcised if you look for solutions (and provide plenty of exercise).  I, Dino, have restored her faith in dog!