June 19th, 2011

Happy Father’s Day!

My father is 97 and I am very blessed to still have him in my life. In spite of failing eyesight and the mobility challenges of old age, he is always eager to visit. Today we will celebrate at our mountain cabin, where he loves the fresh air and being enclosed by the woods. He’s always loved dogs, and as he sits in a rocking chair on the deck, there will no doubt be a spaniel on each side, getting a head rub.  Here, he’s pictured with Alex. I treasure our time together.

May 30th, 2011

Help the Search Dogs as they help tornado victims!

Memorial Day is a day to pause and honor not only our brave soldiers, but also those whose courage, strength, and caring help others. While they’re not “war heroes,” search and rescue dogs play an increasingly important role in saving lives during natural disasters. From earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, to the recent tornadoes in the Midwest, dogs trained by the Search Dog Foundation have been deployed. All of these dogs were themselves rescued from shelters! Their rigorous training is financed entirely by private donations. Help them meet a $100,000 challenge grant by making a donation by June 1, 2011. As of today they are very close to the goal, and every dollar makes a difference.

“The Search Dog Foundation began in Oklahoma City, with Wilma’s deployment to the Federal Building bombing. Since then, we have been deployed 77 times. There are now 76 SDF Search Teams. Of these, 20 are based in “tornado alley”: 9 in Oklahoma, 4 in Nebraska, 4 in Dallas, and 3 in Florida. We have requests coming in from fire departments in other Midwest states, so that when disaster strikes in their region…no one will be left behind.

SDF’s Lead Trainer, Pluis Davern, trained each one of the Oklahoma dogs and handlers, traveling often to Oklahoma to work with the teams in freezing cold and blazing heat. Each handler is like family to her—she knows all of the canines as if they were her own. She sent us her thoughts on the deployment today:

“Watching these once cast-off dogs that with training have become life-saving tools fills me with unmitigated pride and a deep humility for this species that can and does do so much for humankind.”

May 15th, 2011

Baker visits the tailgate market

Comparing prices

As part of his training for our upcoming therapy dog test, Baker is practicing walking calmly through crowds, greeting strangers politely, and ignoring other dogs and distractions. Yesterday, we made an outing to our local tailgate market. This is one of my favorite weekend activities, to shop at the market which due to our wet winter and spring, is abundant with produce and flowers. First, Baker checked out the prices. Next, we bought some orange and purple “million bells” plants and a small pot of yellow petunias, to make a hanging basket, and a head of broccoli. We finished our shopping at our favorite booth, the cupcake lady, where we practiced the “leave it!” command – well, Baker practiced it but I didn’t. By the time we strolled back to the car, my peach-ginger muffin was almost gone! Baker was a very good boy and behaved perfectly in spite of many distractions!

At the cupcake booth

April 18th, 2011

Flower Power benefits Senior Dogs

Looking for an Easter gift? Check out the Flower Power Fundraiser for the Grey Muzzle Organization. This fundraiser offers a wonderful variety of spring and summer flowers at great prices! Proceeds benefit the Grey Muzzle Organization, whose mission is to help senior dogs find a forever home. This fundraiser is available until the end of April. Help them meet their goal and help a senior dog have a Happy Easter!

March 14th, 2011

In memory of Theo the bomb-sniffing spaniel

Theo, a beautiful English Springer Spaniel who was working as a bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan, died recently, suffering a fatal seizure just hours after his soldier companion was killed. Theo was so successful at locating explosives that his tour had been extended. Knowing how devoted Theo and his handler were to each other, the military arranged to send Theo’s ashes back to England along with the soldier’s remains. May they both rest in peace.

Read full article at ABC News.

February 19th, 2011

Save a Spaniel wins national book award!

Congratulations to Cathy Mitchell, whose wonderful book Save a Spaniel was named  best fiction book of 2010 by the Dog Writers Association of America. An engaging tale of rescue written in the dog’s voice, this book is one that makes you stop and wonder, “Is that what my dog is really thinking?”Although fiction, the story is loosely based on the adventures of one of the author’s dogs, a rescued Boykin spaniel. “Star,” the canine narrator of the book, is a purebred Boykin spaniel with a white mark on her chest, an undesirable marking for the breed standard. Star is purchased by a couple as a pet and hunting companion for the husband. Her troubles begin when she proves to be gun-shy. Read the rest of this entry »

February 16th, 2011

Congratulations to Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound

Congratulations to Hickory, the graceful Scottish Deerhound, on winning Best in Show at Westminster! This was the favorite breed of the writer Sir Walter Scott, who wrote about his grief at the loss of his devoted dog, Maida.

“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied that it is in compassion for the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”

I was in New York City this past weekend and caught a few of the dog show festivities. The hotels  surrounding Madison Square Garden are filled with gorgeous dogs, dog vendors, and dog paraphernalia. At night, the Empire State Building is lit in the Westminster colors of purple and gold.  I met several women who were attending Westminster as a “girls’ weekend,” which sounds like great fun. It’s sort of like being in Hollywood for the Oscars.

I attended a benefit party for Angel on a Leash, a pet therapy organization that involves many of the recent Best in Show winners in therapy dog work. Westminster announcer David Frei serves as president of this organization, and in his welcoming remarks he said, “Remember, the real Best in Show dog is the one who greets you at your door.” How true!

January 20th, 2011

A New Job for Pearl – Recommended Book!

A New Job for Pearl is a delightful book created by a group of talented, second grade students in Alamo, California to tell the story of Pearl, a Black Labrador rescued from an animal shelter, who has a new job in search and rescue, thanks to the Search Dog Foundation. This organization works with shelters and rescue groups to identify search dog candidates, who are often the high energy, bounce off the walls type of dog that are hard to place. As the book explains, these dogs need a job! After eight months of training costing approximately $10,000, the dog is placed with a firefighter trained in disaster response, and is deployed to disaster sites worldwide.  For her work in rescuing 12 people trapped in the Haiti earthquake, Pearl was honored as the “Dog of the Year” by the ASPCA. Proceeds from book sales benefit the Search Dog Foundation. Copies can be purchased for $10 at A New Job for Pearl. Congratulations to this enterprising group of students, who not only created an uplifting book, but are helping to save lives of shelter dogs and the people they will eventually rescue.

January 10th, 2011

Baking with Baker

Today we are in the midst of a snow storm, so it’s a good day to bake. As his birthday is this week, Baker wanted to make dog cupcakes. We tried a new cupcake mix for dogs from High Hopes For Pets, a company that donates a percentage of each sale to shelters and rescues, to help homeless pets.

The mix is packaged in a box with fun, colorful graphics of two dogs at a table, looking at a stand of cupcakes. The box contains re-usable silicon baking cups, cupcake mix, frosting mix, and directions. The directions include suggestions for adding peanut butter, banana slices, and other decorations.

The first step is to make the frosting mix by adding a few tablespoons of milk or water, so it has a chance to harden. The frosting is sugar-free and is made from yogurt, egg whites, and natural food coloring.

Next step is to add water or milk to the cake mix.

Then, fill each silicone cup with batter and bake for 10 minutes. Alex and Baker got to lick the whisk, and they loved the batter!

Add the frosting after the cupcakes have cooled for a few minutes. This batch turned out a little crumbly as I think I should have left them in the oven a minute or two longer. They need to be pretty firm to remove them from the silicone cups without crumbling. As I was taking this picture of the finished cupcakes, Alex counter-surfed and cleaned up the crumbs. Alex and Baker give a high five to these dog cupcakes!

January 6th, 2011

My springer angels

Every year, as I open the boxes of holiday decorations, certain ornaments bring back a flood of memories of Christmases past. A few are vintage ornaments in the bright, shiny red, teal, green, or silver of the 1950s, carefully boxed with their wire ornament hooks and passed down by my mother. I see these same ornaments in childhood Christmas photos, with our family dogs Sheba, and later Sherry, posing in front of the tree, looking mortified at wearing a Christmas bow. But the ornaments that always give me pause are those connected to my dogs. Carefully, I open the small white box labeled “dog bone ornaments” and remove the three handcrafted, Milk bone-shaped ornaments with a loop of red yarn for hanging, personalized with Marmaduke, Molly, and Chester’s names, a gift from their groomer. I hold the ornaments in my hand and remember Christmases in Santa Fe, and later in California, with them. Chester was my first springer, a chance encounter at a shelter that over the years showed me the depths of devotion. After Marmaduke and Molly died, I adopted Dixie, an older springer, to keep him company, and then Byron, my first Welsh springer, joined our family. The year that Chester and Dixie died, both of cancer and within weeks of each other, I found these springer angel Christmas tree toppers at a craft fair. The one in the plaid dress represents Dixie; the white-robed angel is Chester. As I set out the Christmas decorations each year, I display them together, in memory and in gratitude for the joy they brought me every day. This week, as I carefully wrap tissue paper around them and store the ornaments for another year, I am comforted by this ritual, these objects that still connect me to my dogs, long gone but not forgotten. What about you? Do you have special ornaments representing your dogs? Or Christmas traditions with your dogs?

December 30th, 2010

Snow Dogs

Baker and Alex watch the snow fall

Yesterday I was telling a friend about my new dog, Baker. She’s been thinking about getting a dog. “But I wouldn’t want to have to walk one in this weather,” she protested, glancing outside at the snow on the ground and the dreary day.

Yes, it is something we humans mind – but the dogs are eager to go outside no matter what. We don’t have a fenced yard, so every time they go out my routine is something like this: Read the rest of this entry »

December 27th, 2010

Happy holidays!

Alex enjoys his Christmas present!

We had a lovely Christmas with 8+ inches of snow. Alex and Baker are enjoying their present, a fake fur throw from FetchDog. I bought it to dress things up for the holidays and to cover a favorite chair which got tattered by Alex’s puppy teeth. Alex and Baker love it! It works as a crate pad too, for long winter naps. What did Santa bring your dog?

December 24th, 2010

A Christmas with Dogs

To all  my readers, thank you for your support and friendship. May you have a peaceful holiday season with your loved ones. Here is one of my favorite dog poems of all time. Enjoy!

A CHRISTMAS WITH DOGS

– Taken from the Internet: Author unknown

It’s the day before Christmas, and all through the house,

the puppies are squeaking an old rubber mouse.

The wreath which had merrily hung on the door

is scattered in pieces all over the floor.

The stockings that hung in neat little rows

now boast a new hole in each of the toes.

The tree was subjected to holiday whims,

and now, although splendid, is missing some limbs.

I catch them and hold them. Be good I insist.

They lick me, then run off to see what they’ve missed.

And now as I watch them, the thought comes to me,

that theirs is the spirit that Christmas should be.

Should children and puppies yet show us the way,

and teach us that joy that should come with this day?

Could they bring the message that’s written above,

and tell us that Christmas is all about love!

December 23rd, 2010

The Best Gift Ever!

Alex (top) and Baker

Since Emily died in February 2009, Alex and I have been a pack of two, and we have become very close. Our daily routines have melded into a comfortable rhythm of walks and play time and quiet time. But for the last 20 years, I have always had at least two dogs, and when one passed away, I found a certain comfort in knowing that their life overlapped with the ones remaining. I got Alex as a puppy in the last year of Emily’s life, and I treasure the photos of them together. I think of all of them as a chain of hearts, each connected to the next. Thus, I have been thinking for some time of getting another dog as a companion for Alex. I thought I would get another English springer, and I checked out the dogs on the Springer Rescue site weekly, if not daily. Occasionally, I checked the Welsh Springer rescue site as well, but Welsh springer rescues are few, as it is one of the rarer breeds in the US, and breeders are extremely careful in placing their puppies with forever homes. But, in even the best of homes circumstances can change, and that is why Baker,  a lovely five year old Welsh springer, was up for adoption in early November. Read the rest of this entry »

November 27th, 2010

Bark it Furward – a fun way to help service dogs!

Here is an easy way to celebrate the holiday season that costs you nothing, but gives back to a wonderful organization, Canine Assistants. All you have to do is comment on this post,  and for each comment, the folks at Milk-Bone will donate $1 to Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization that trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities. For nearly 20 years, Canine Assistants has provided service dogs to the disabled, giving them the chance to live more independently. Bark it Furward takes place from now until January 4, 2010, and there is no limit to the number of times you can comment. During December I will be posting more information on  Canine Assistants and their work, and why it’s important to support them. Keep checking back and thanks for commenting!