One of my puppies is retiring after 10 years as a service dog. She was a joy to foster and train. Together we learned the incredible power of positive reinforcement and it changed my life as a trainer. She was also one of Wally’s babies so that made her extra special to me. Her partner Sam loved and cared for her as I would have myself. I could not have asked for a better partner for her. So proud of you Ebony!!!
McMullin snuggling in the kennel
My beautiful, gentle old man Wally. He is almost 16 years old now. Over those years he has shared our home with more foster puppies and four-legged family members than I can count. Without exception, each one has gone to him to cuddle and seek comfort. He has always obliged. For an intact male he is truly amazing!!!!
Just a few more pictures to tug at your heart strings:
We have a short term addition to our fur family. This is McMullin and he is one of the puppies that were donated to Hope Heels to train as a service dog. He is an 8 week old smooth Collie. He will be staying with us until he has a puppy raiser family to go to. He’s only been in the house for a few hours but he seems to have settled in just fine.
To say we are blessed to have our beautiful Golden Boy at the ripe old age of 15 is an understatement. Not only is he still with us but the quality of his life is really good. He is my “heart” dog. I love all of my fur kids but he and I have this very special bond that I just can’t put into words. I can’t imagine life without him….
Wally’s favourite treat are Timbits. Traditionally he gets one for each year. Once he got into double digits I started cutting them in half. Today I cut two ends off of each one and left the slice in the centre for the other dogs. It didn’t take him long to polish off 15 ends.
Ready and waiting
Here we go….
Nothin’ left but a pile of drool
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Once again this year Tango and Hope co-hosted their annual birthday party. Susan baked special dog friendly cups cakes smothered in “icing”. Both Tango and Hope had their eyes focused on the same cup cake but when they got the go ahead to start eating, they quickly figure out which one was theirs.
As you can see by Tilly’s chin and her ear (in the picture below)…….everyone thoroughly enjoyed their treat.
Hope, Wally, Bentley, Tango, Trixie and little Tilly
The Alberta weather gods have smiled upon us this December. Today it is +5 and sunny with just a hint of snow on the ground…..compared to last year’s arctic freeze with record snowfall. The gang spent the day at Patty’s with all our dogs in tow. We had a wonderful walk around her acreage and then it was back to the house for a delicious lunch prepared by Susan. What a perfect way to spend Xmas eve…..much better than fighting our way through crowds at the mall. It always amazes me that we can have so many dogs together in the house (some even intact) and they all get along.
Tonight we are going to a Christmas concert at Susan’s church. Hope is going to be a part of the Christmas story along with some farm animals. I’m sure she is going to be the ‘star’!
Today is Ebony’s 4th birthday. She and her partner Sam have formed an amazing working team. It was wonderful to hear how much she assists him at work and in his day to day life. It was always so hard to say goodbye to a foster puppy but it was especially hard to say goodbye to Ebony. We had an incredible bond. She was so easy to train and she loved to work and please me.
I always worried about my foster puppies’ future. You hope they are going to be teamed up with someone who will love them and much as you do. Well I certainly don’t have to worry about Ebony’s life. She lives in the most beautiful home (my dream home), on a large acreage with a lake to swim in. She’s got a puppy housemate named Bear that she can play with when she is not working. Sam and his family obviously love her very much and my heart is at peace when I see them together.
Here’s a picture of my handsome boy Wally (Ebony’s Dad) with Sam and Ebony. Look at that amazing view in the background. You will notice that Wally managed to find the one pile of donkey poop on the property. My boy has never met a pile of poop that he didn’t want to roll in. Stinky or not, I still love him.
We spent another wonderful day at Patty’s acreage with all the dogs. It was great to walk the property without trudging through thigh deep snow…..but…..the damn mosquitos were crazy. I’ve never seen so many in my life. We had to bathe our entire bodies in deep woods off to keep from getting eaten alive. There were so many that you could hear a loud hum. The City is saying that we are experiencing the worst mosquito infestation ever in recorded history. The annoying part is that this variety is out in full force during the hottest part of the day. Poor Hope got so many bites on her pretty, black face that she was all swollen and itchy. She must have an allergy to them.
Even with all the skeeters we had a wonderful time. Tilly got to meet a horse up close and personal…..I think the horse enjoyed it more than she did.
Wally managed to roll in everything stinky and disgusting that he could find. His beautiful golden coat took on a greenish patina from all the poop he ground into it. We left the big dogs outside in the dog run so that they could dry off. Tango managed to squish her fat head through the gate and got herself stuck. Thank goodness my “mommy” instincts kicked in and I decided that I needed to check on the kids so we were able to free her before any damage was done. It took two baths to get the green tinge and disgusting smell out of Wally’s coat.
Today we had the pleasure of celebrating both Hope and Tango’s birthday. Hope turned 3 yesterday and Tango is 7 today. Don’t they look marvellous for their age!
We spent the day at Patty’s acreage and we all had a wonderful time. It was a surprisingly mild February day for Alberta. We had lovely home made pizza for lunch and then the whole gang went on a walk around Patty’s acreage. I got to wear Patty’s snow shoes to try and keep from falling through the deep snow. I had a few good wipeouts and Don and Patty had to hold my hands on the steep downhill parts but I survived! Tango scraped the underside of one of her dew claws. Good thing that Patty is a Vet and she was able to put her skills to good use and put some blue vet wrap on our drama queen’s boo-boo.
After our walk the two legged party goers enjoyed Patty’s delicious rhubarb crisp and the 4 legged ones enjoyed a special birthday cake homemade by Susan.
Here are a few more pictures from our wonderful day.
My ‘kids’ know that when I am having yogurt, they always get to lick the empty cup. They especially like it when a large container is ready for their pre-wash cycle. They all try to shove their muzzles into the bowl at the same time and they often end up with yogurt face.
Well we finally had a nice weekend without tons of new snow or freezing temperatures. We celebrated by meeting out at Patty’s house with all of the dogs (Wally, Tango, Tilly, Hope and Bentley). The gang went for a walk in the waist deep snow desperately trying to keep to the narrow track for fear of getting stuck in the deep stuff. At some points the snow was so deep that the dogs looked like they were dog paddling in water to keep from sinking into the snow. Of course Wally found a pile of horse/cow poop to roll in and all the dogs had their fare share of “meadow muffins” to eat. The wind was incredible but at least it was a couple of degrees above zero so it wasn’t bad.
Our dogs have a really bad case of cabin fever. With the Xmas holidays and generally freezing cold weather, Tango and Don haven’t been out doing any training and it has been too miserable to take the dogs for a good off-leash run. Poor Wally has had to put up with Tango jumping on him and using him as her personal chew toy and energy release. Well all that changed on New Year’s day. We met Susan and the gang for a good romp in the snow. As you can see by the video there are a lot of smiling faces (puppy and human alike) and wagging tails. We even managed to coax little Tilly up the giant snow mound.
Although I don’t agree with some of the things that Cesar Millan does, I believe that he is definitely on target when he talks about how he “rehabilitates dogs and trains people” and how dogs live in the now and move forward. I’ve written about Hope before. She was a puppy that my friend Susan and I co-fostered. When she came to live with us, she had 2 previous foster homes that were not ideal for her. She was covered in stress dandruff, had continuous eye and ear infections and she was very anxious and vocal. In fact, the day I picked her up she put her mouth on my arm and began squeezing it with increasing pressure until she left visible teeth marks. It was like she was saying I don’t want to do this but I don’t know what else to do to relieve the tension that I am feeling. At that moment I knew that she was coming home with me. I couldn’t leave her to suffer another day. We weren’t sure if we could help her but we were willing to try. In just a few weeks, her skin condition improved dramatically and we could see the beginnings of a very beautiful, gentle personality emerging. Six or seven months later she was healthy enough to be moved on to her wonderful adult foster home with Patty. Eventually Hope’s entire litter was rejected by the guide/service dog school and Susan was given the opportunity to adopt her and give her a forever home. I cannot think of a better place to be if I was a dog. Under Susan’s loving care, Hope has blossomed into an amazing, gentle soul. Patty and I still get our regular dose of “Hope love” when she comes to our houses for sleep overs and puppy-sitting.
Susan has two active, energetic grand daughters and a 6 month old kitten. Hope puts up with all the activity and excitement and shows no sign of stress or anxiety. Susan shared these wonderful pictures of Hope, Copper (kitten), Petra and Gwen playing together and thoroughly enjoying each others company. The girls just love crawling into Hope’s kennel and Copper likes to hang out on top. It just brings tears of joy to see how Hope is living in the present and not letting her past affect her future. We two-legged creatures could learn a lot from our four-legged friends.
We have Hope with us for a short visit and sleep over. We just love it when we get the opportunity to spend some time with one of our former foster ‘kids’. Everyone two and four legged enjoys the visit. I was up bright and early his morning and took them all for a walk and then we came back and had breakfast. Sleeping beauty, aka Don, was still sound asleep so we all ran upstairs and jumped on the bed to try and wake him up. As you can tell by the picture Don is a very skilled sleeper. Even with 4 dogs in bed nothing interferes with his beauty rest…..well maybe there is a little hint of a smile on his lips.
We took our kids and our house guest Hope for a free run. The grass was so tall that in places all I could see was the tip of Wally’s tail curled up high over his back. Forget about finding Tilly….it was impossible. She had a great time running through the grass and chasing after her much bigger buddies. I captured this cute video of everyone just being a dog and having fun….not to mention running into my camera. Check out Tilly’s giant ears flapping like wings as she runs.
I can’t believe that it has been 3 years since the E-litter was born. I can remember it like it was just last week. They were the 3rd litter that Wally sired. We had the pleasure of fostering Ebony for almost 14 months. She was so smart and so willing to please that she was just a joy to train. Here is a video of Ebony at 8 weeks old. In her first week with us she learned her name, come, sit, down, recall and she already had the beginnings of a pretty good retrieve with a set of keys.
By the time she was 5 months old she was able to turn on a light switch, pick up and carry items (even something as small as a dime), open drawers and cabinets and her retrieve was outstanding.
I have been thinking about her a lot lately and put together this presentation to send to her partner Sam on Ebony’s 3rd birthday.
On the weekend we brought our ‘kids’ over to Susan’s house and they had a fun play date with Hope. She was so excited to see them that she was doing laps in the backyard. For a puppy who had several homes and a bit of a rough start in life…..she is doing so well. She is quite the flirt and she just loves men. As soon as Don sat on the swing she was right up there beside him. Susan says she never jumps up there normally. Here is a short video of all the ‘kids’ together.
We’ve had Hope as our houseguest for the last 2 nights. She was one of our foster puppies in 2008-2009 so she is well known to Wally and Tango. She loved playing with little Tilly but she was a little rough……I guess she has never had any experience playing with a small puppy. Everyone survived and a good time was had by all. Hope was very good a remembering the house rule for only going potty in the restricted zone but she either completely forgot or ignored the rule of no swimming in the pond. Thank goodness we hadn’t moved the fish outside yet.
We went for an off-leash run with Susan, David and Hope this past weekend. There were so many gopher holes in the field it was like walking an obstacle course. I was concerned that one of the dogs would hurt themselves and possibly break a leg while they were running around and playing. Wally, who is not normally a high prey drive dog, was fascinated with some of the holes and began digging in them. I got a good group picture at the end. You can see how tired the dogs are with their giant pink tongues hanging out while they were panting profusely.
This afternoon we attended a graduation ceremony for guide, autism and service dogs. There were a total of nine graduates. The dogs were from 3 different litters, C, E and F. When I looked out over the group I realized that all 9 of the dogs were Wally’s puppies (he has sired 51 in total). It was wonderful to see how his genes have been passed on and how successful they have become. The E-Litter is the first litter that has had all puppies make it through the training program and be successfully matched with a partner.
Back: Everest, Enzo, Eddie, Finn, Chase, Chloe, Ebony
Front: Elliot, Cessco
Sam and Ebony
One of today’s graduates held a very special place in our heart. Ebony was our foster puppy from 2007-2008. She and I learned operant conditioning (clicker training) together. She was amazing. I got her at 7 weeks old and in her first week with us she learned her name, sit, down, come and she could retrieve a set of keys. By the time she was 5 months old she could retrieve or carry anything, take off my socks and help me undress, empty the washer and dryer , and turn on the light switch. At 5-1/2 months old she flew with me, in the passenger cabin, to California to attend Clicker Expo.
There was nothing that Ebony couldn’t learn how to do and she loved to work. Just before she left us, I taught her how to paint. I would hand her the brush and she would make strokes on the canvas. Many of her original pieces of artwork were sold at a charity auction. I presented her partner Sam with a framed print of one of Ebony’s best works of art. She painted it during the summer of 2008 when the Beijing Summer Olympic were on TV….to me, it has a real oriental feel to it
Ebony with her paint brush
Another one of our previous foster puppies, Charly and her partner Larry, came to today’s graduation ceremony. Charly graduated a few years ago. We were lucky enough to be able to get a picture of Ebony and Charly together with their partners.
Larry & Charly with Sam & Ebony