A New Seed

Well, apparently new seeds were growing last year.  I would like to introduce my new little brother Luke Skywalker de Louisiana a.k.a. SKY. I gave him the Codename 0012.img_9999b

Ain’t he something else?! His shelter name was Luke, we added Skywalker. SKY was moved from an overcrowded Louisiana shelter that was not suited for puppies to North Florida. Hence his last name. He is roughly 5 months old and our vet said that he was probably a mix between a Border Collie and Springer Spaniel.  SKY has aspirations to become a Jedi Master. When my former agility trainer saw his photo she said, “The Force is strong in this one”. So maybe he’s on his way.

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To be honest, I am hoping he can join me on my super-secret missions sometime in the future. With a name like SKY, he should be able to fly, don’t you think? That should come in handy on our Mission Impossibles.

SKY started his tactical training last Friday at headquarters. He has to wait at least a couple of months before he can start any offsite agility training but for now, he can start with the basics at headquarters. It’s a lot of chewing on a bone and sometimes there is a bone of contention but I’ve shown that it can be done. Anyhowls, in the meantime, SKY can prepare for his S.T.A.R. exam. More on all this prep work at a later time. For now, this puppy needs some rest.

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Signing off,

Dg. B, a.k.a. 0011
Commander in Chief
Headquarters

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I almost forgot to tell you about another successful mission I fulfilled at the library just before the holidays started. It must have been Mission Possible (MP) 22+ (we may have forgotten to post a couple of missions).

This time, four boys, three girls, and one teacher R.E.A.D. to me. Parents are always there too so there wasn’t a dull moment. I seem to have more repeat customers these days.  The teacher has read to me several times in hopes of starting the R.E.A.D. program at her school. For some reason, there is some resistance at her school. Can’t figure that one out; who would not want a real Dogtor at school?! Anyhowls, the nice teacher read to me from a nice book with lots of large pictures. I love those. This time we read a book about Christmas. I was a tad bit distracted as we had moved to another office. This is the third one. A new office means new sounds and distractions to get used to. Even though it’s a small library I can guarantee you that there is lots going on even on a Saturday. I guess everybody wanted to get books for the holidays.

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Hope you’re ready for a new year,
sit tight, we’re counting down,
Benji

Yahooo!!!

Today is National Dog Day in the U.S. So, get out your best stuff and honor all pets! Or volunteer at a local shelter… or…. if you have space for another fur-iend you can adopt one like me or my sister! What we did on National Dog Day? M volunteered at the local library and enrolled us in the R.E.A.D. program. I told M that I’m not able to read yet. She said that didn’t matter as long as I know how to listen attentively. Come to think of it, I haven’t been to a library either. Let’s hope it doesn’t have any weird doors that take you to a whole nother dimension. I wonder how many treats I will get out of this gig. What Ms. Zulu and I did today? We ran around in circles and had fun doing it!

Enjoy,

Benji

Cool Hot Summer Fun: 7

As you know, I love agility training. However, sometimes it’s raining or just too hot to do any agility training outside. That’s when the Ultra-Movable-Agility aka UMA set comes in handy. What you need? One human and one chair. You could even use a table. Really that’s all. How? Here it comes:

1. Under
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Instructions: put the human on a chair, look at one or both leg(s) and think “extend”. Crawl under the leg(s). Done! It’s that easy. The same can be done with a chair and even a table. So you really don’t need the human but I think that it is way more fun with one. They are also good for yummies in the tummy.

2. Over 
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Instructions: put the human on a chair, look at the leg(s) and think “extend”. Jump over the leg(s). Again, the same can be done with a chair or table. Whatever takes your fancy.

3. Up
armsc.jpgInstructions: Put the human in a stand. Make sure you grab a sturdy human and not a wobbly one. Pick an arm. Look at it and think “extend”. Jump up on said arm. This can also be done with a chair or even kitchen counter. Personally, I like the latter the best but I can’t even take a peek before the doggie police starts to bark.

Sorry for the not so clear illustration here. We experienced some technical difficulties. Something to do with not having enough arm to take the photograph. At least you can see how careful I’m about not digging any of my nails in the arm. After all, it’s very important to be gentle with your agility equipment. Sometimes I am “up in arms” too. That’s when I jump up high on my human and she wraps her arms around me. Oh, and before I forget, always get official approval with stamps and an inifinite number of carbon copies for any of these exercises. Especially if you want to be(come) a therapy dog.

Have fun,

Benji

Cool Hot Summer Fun: 1

It’s getting really hot again here in Florida. It can get so hot that we can barely think when we are walking or exercising outside. I know it’s a good excuse to get out of obedience training… Of course, us canines still have to be exercised outdoors so we are always thinking of cool things that we can do without getting a heat stroke. And I’m not kidding here, heat strokes are a potential problem in the summer, see Pet MD.

We will try to think of 10+ things to stay cool this summer. Feel free to add your own ideas. Hey, we could even make a guest post out of it. The first one in the series has to do with???? Yes, you guessed it right, something EDIBLE: a cool snack for whenever the need is high. How cool is that?!

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Testing: Take 1

So what is a cool snack? Frozen veggies are one example. Just cut some carrots or other edible veggies and throw them uncooked in the freezer. Now that summer is in full swing, I will start taking them on my secret missions. Why? Well, for several reasons: 1) It doesn’t leave a mess on floors and human parts like some doggie treats do; 2) especially carrots always seem to be available in the fridge; 3) it’s dirt cheap (this should be listed as number one as this seems important to headquarters, not sure why because my treat account keeps growing); 4) it’s super easy to make, and I know this because I always supervise the cutting process to ensure that nothing gets wasted; 5) it’s literally and figuratively speaking a cool snack; 6) it’s crunchy; and, 7) Ms. Zulu and I love ’em and that should obviously be the most important reason!

Of course, we had to test the frozen treats before I can take them on an actual mission. Both Ms. Zulu and I happily volunteered. I am sad to report that the first take was successful, so no other experiments are to be expected. On another note, I was able to convince M that we should also take some of our fruit filled ice cubes* with us in the field. The cubes can sit in a cooler in the car while I’m busy so that I have a refreshing snack afterward. I’m hoping the ice cubes need more testing.

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Stay cool this summer, don’t forget to bring plenty of fresh water with plain ice cubes wherever you go, and please tell everyone not to leave any pets unattended in the car for any period of time,

Benji

* Fill an icecube tray with some edible stuff such as a bit of peanut butter, banana, or blueberries. Pour water on the goodies, let it freeze, and voila you got doggie ice cream. Again, always make sure you only use fruits and veggies that are safe for your pet to eat. 

MP-7

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I’m ready, are you?

Wow, what a day. After a walk and putting on my Dogtor uniform we went to a local college in town to do some dogtoring. It’s finals week so I was asked together with two of my furry Dogtor colleagues to show up at the student’s library to do some destressing. When we walked in we first had to go through a metal detector. It’s good that I left my S-SD device at home otherwise the guard would have confiscated it. But I have to say, the guard was a very nice lady who greeted me enthusiastically with open arms. Inside the library, there were rows and rows of tables with students who tried to study. I guess we were a bit of a distraction as lots of heads turned when we walked in.

Finally, way back in the building, we were able to sit down and students who needed some destressing could sit with us. Lots of hands touched me and supposedly I touched many hearts. I did what I call reversed Reiki. While the hands touched me, I gave the students positive energy so that they would be able to relax and focus better on their studies. They said it worked. I am sure showing them my tricks helped too. The destress event leader even had to do some crowd control. At some point, students had to wait for almost 15 minutes before they could touch me.

Many students remarked that I was a handsome looking one and wanted to take a picture of me. I’m glad their cameras didn’t flash otherwise I would have lost my eyesight. When we were done and tried to walk towards the door, we didn’t make much progress at first because there were more people who wanted my reversed Reiki touch. I felt like a celebrity. I think my scarf makes me look like one.

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Back in the car

Stay cool and have a relaxing afternoon,
Benji

Training with a Purpose

petsmartToday I got together with my CCI buddies. There was no time for play but we got to practice tons of stuff at Petsmart and Home Depot. Lots of maneuvering around garden items, toys,  FOOD!, and other distracting savory objects. We even had to crawl underneath tables and lie down in tight corners. It’s like agility training to me, and that I do love.  The reason why we practice this is because CCI dogs have to be able to make themselves as small as possible so that they can travel on an airplane with their person or accompany them into a restaurant.

Afterward, there was lots of socialization with people who wanted to know more about us and the difference between assistant and therapy dogs.  And then there were people who needed some loving for one reason or another. An elderly man approached us and said he had recently lost his longtime dog-buddy due to an injury. He seemed to want a listening ear and some consolation. I’m good at both, so we stayed with him for a bit. Another person wanted to pet me since she misses having a dog at home. Because of her husband’s preferences, they settled on cats. She loves all animals, she said and wouldn’t mind a house full of them. Now that’s my kind of woman.

I met three cute looking tuxedo cats too. They are up for adoption at Petsmart and fostered by a nice young lady. We forgot to take a picture of the kitties but they looked a bit like the ones M and Q took care of gazillion years ago. They were just older; 1.5 years instead of 2 months. I liked them and M almost took them home. I think M wouldn’t mind a house full of animals either.

Sunnydays are my favorite days, that’s when I will be going to agility training again. Wishing you a sunnyday tomorrow with lots of sunshine. Stay safe and I will try to do the same,

Benji

Busy, Busy, Busy…

So far I have had a busy week. I guess no rest for the wicked! Besides my regular tactical training, I had my first official agility training on Sunday. I’ve been at different sites to test out some equipment before, but last Sunday was my first organized training as a real Dogtor.

There were all kinds of equipment varying from what they call an A-frame to elaborate tunnels and jumps. The seesaw was a different kind of animal. It’s a strange device. It felt like walking the plank, for real. If you ask me, I honestly believe that somebody needs more carpentry training. You would think that they would know by now how to fabricate a steady boardwalk. Oh well, I guess we just have to make do. Luckily there was excellent food on the premises, so life was good after all. At the end of the session my belly was full and while my chauffeur drove me back to headquarters, I was able to get some well-deserved rest.

In order to be able to train more intensively, we also started building our own track at headquarters. It will look a lot more like what I am likely to encounter in the field. Hopefully, the installer has some decent carpentry skills. M supervises the effort so we should be good. It’s all hush, hush right now, so we don’t have photos yet. More on that later. First I need to rest some more so that I can show up in good shape for the next training session.

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Waving Magic

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Me, pondering…

M(om) wants me to wave my magic tail. Apparently, all kinds of dirt is being stirred up in the human world. So much even, that we hardly watch the news anymore. While I really love to help stir up dirt, I am not sure if I can help unstir it. M assured me that since I have acquired the title Dogtor Who (thanks Q) and am in the possession of a magic blue harness and red bow tie, anything is possible. Hmmm…, if anything is possible I should be able to get yummies out of this too. I have to ponder this over. After all, Doctor Who needs a whole episode to unscrew the world.  Maybe I can get some help from Ms. Zulu. She is very wise. Yes, that is what I will do. I will ask Ms. Zulu’s help; she can be my assistant. But first a nap.

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Mission Impossible: 1

We are preparing for my first secret mission in the field: Code Name MI-1. The mission is planned for next week. That means that we had to 1) go out in the field, 2) scope the area, 3) do a test run, and 4) debrief.

I am happy to report that we were able to successfully scope the area (no we can’t show you the real site as I would have to k.ll-u). The test run had to be done off-site for various obvious reasons. Since we had to get some paint we thought we would go to the Home Depot, a home improvement store, and kill two birds with one stone. Yes, that is a figure of speech;  we don’t really kill birds here either. After all, we are now dogtors! We talked with a lot of people at the test run site. Everybody seems to be interested in what I am doing these days.

Understandably, nerves are running a bit high at this point but the results of the test run during the debrief showed us that we are in tip-top shape. Just keep your paws, fingers, or other digits crossed for a successful mission next week and we should be good to go. Double-O-Eleven (a.k.a. Benji).

Communication is a tricky business

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Reardon and I philosophizing

Since I came to live with my forever family, mom has shown a renewed interest in interspecies’ communication. It all kick-started with the book “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? ”  We, a.k.a. the ZAB team, truly thank our dear friend in Groningen, the Netherlands for this book! The book is a New York Times Bestseller and written by Professor Frans de Waal. He is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist who works at Emory University in Atlanta. Frans’ research shows that animals are a lot smarter than what most people give them credit for. WOOOFFF, high paws for Frans!

We also saw an interesting National Geographic documentary on dog training research. OK I admit, I lost interest as soon as I discovered I couldn’t play with any of the dogs in the video. I did see one of the experiments that showed how dogs empathize with human emotions. We love what they said about a Staffordshire Bull Terrier that was one of the most emphatic dogs in the experiment: “we should never judge a book or a breed by its cover”. We totally agree! Most shelter dogs in our part of the world are part Pit Bull Terrier and that is the reason why some people hesitate to get a dog from the shelter. While most of us do come with a history, it doesn’t mean that we cannot be great companions! Education (yes, one important component is educating the humans) and working with excellent dog trainers are key. But the same holds true for any dog that is adopted from a breeder. Of course, stay away from puppy mills. We don’t want to support those awful practices.

During our puppy and animal therapy training, we were introduced to two phawbulous dog trainers: Patricia McConnell and Emily Larlham. We thoroughly enjoyed the book “The Puppy Primer” written by Patricia and Brenda Scidmore and have signed up to receive Patricia’s next book “The education of Will”. I especially love what Patricia’s blog tells humans to do when us doggies do something naughty:  take one newspaper (no doggies, don’t shred this one yet), roll it up and say bad, bad, bad, boy/ girl… then hit yourself (yes people, you read that right, that’s you) in the head for not paying attention to what your dog was doing! Emily posts a lot of “Kikopup” videos on youtube that are educational. Here are two of the videos we recently saw; there are lots more:

1. What not to do to your best friend: 

2. How to be …: 

After some philosophizing with Reardon (many high paws for your input my friend), I have to conclude that communication between species is a tricky business and most humans haven’t mastered our dog language yet. So for now, humans can show us doggies what they want by following these steps:
1. Interrupt the unwanted behavior. No bullying and yelling here! Say something NICE and in an upbeat voice to distract us … such as ‘hey puppy’.
2. Redirect and ask for good behavior. For example, ask us to sit. Again be polite!
3. And this last step is very, and I repeat VERY important: give us TREATS when we sit nicely or do whatever you like us to do! Remember we are people pleasers and you can use this to your advantage. Just saying…

People don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get the above steps right immediately. After all, nobody is purrfect (I learned that word from Andy and Dougy). Although I have to say that the newspaper idea mentioned above has a lot of potential… Anyways, us doggies love your patience and TLC while we are learning your language and you don’t have a clue about ours yet. Oh oh, wait…, Ms. Zulu whispers into my ear… She notes that there is a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding between humans as well and that seems to cause a lot of terror and destruction. So, you don’t need us for the destruction side of it after all. Too bad, I always love a good chew. Maybe we can help you fight the terror then, hey?? Word is getting around that I’m good with puppy kisses and I’ve heard that love conquers all.

On a final note, I would like to point out with my paws high up in the air, and this is not in surrender but in celebration, that there is hope for the future. Recently, we spoke with Linda Saraco, an animal communicator who follows my blog. She is an animal communicator on a whole different level that is fascinating. While there is still a lot more digging to do on interspecies communication and humans have barely scratched the surface, it seems that we are making progress. Just thinking out loud here but maybe you should let us help with the scratching and digging more. Us canines are renowned experts in the field of archeology a.k.a. digging. Our feline friends can help with the scratching, I am sure. Anyhowls,  we hope that once people learn more about other species it advances animal rights. And remember, communication is a two-way street, so start barking and howling like you mean it!

High paws for always trying your best,

Benji.

General Disclaimer: While mom tries her best to interpret my woofings and put these in writing, some parts may get lost in the translation. 

Routine

After returning from my holiday almost two weeks ago, I am slowly adjusting to my pre-holiday routine. I went to doggy play in town last week, but yesterday I had my first playdate of the year at my house. It was a blast. I invited two CCI dogs. My best fur-iend Capone and a new little guy called Reardon.  R. is about 7 months old and a funny one. The good news is that he will stay at my house next week for three days because the CCI puppy socializer he is staying with at the moment has to go out of town.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend Fiona, could not make it to my playdate; she had other obligations. She is like me, quite the social butterfly, so it is not always easy to align our schedules. We emailed each other and hope to catch up soon too in real doggy style. You might not remember, but just like Capone, Fiona and I go way back. We were basically still in the crib when we met.

We played for more than three hours so you can imagine that I was tired and hungry towards the end.  I kept walking to the kitchen, but mom didn’t understand until dinnertime what I was saying. Sometimes you really have to spell things out to her. I am still teaching her the basics of doggie language. My dialect is slightly different from Ms. Zulu’s and that seems to throw off mom a bit. The other problem is that former trainers have said some untrue stuff about us dogs in the past. Researchers are just starting to catch up. You can read some good stuff about dog behavior on Patrica Mc. Connell’s website.  Oh, I see that the sun is starting to come out after lots of rain yesterday, so I am going for a walk. Stay dry,

Benji

Chew Therapy

Mom has been sad for a couple of days now. Not sure what happened, but it seems to have something to do with an election of some sorts. Since I have been cleared to work as a therapy animal I thought I would make myself useful. So I gave her extra hugs and my favorite toy to chew on. It worked; I made her smile. Hope I can make you smile too, love, Benji.  

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Ducks in a Row

What’s up you ask? Well, I should report that I haven’t been on a super-secret-mission yet after I passed the exam last week. As you can imagine I am eager to flash my badge; you know, the one with Therapy Animal on it! I practiced flashing it many times already. I think I am fluent now so I got all my ducks in a row [as you can witness here; and yes, I now have two Duckys!].

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So the waiting is on mom to finish her part. At least she passed the criminal check (Sooo glad to know that I am not living with a criminal; after all moving is not my favorite hobby) and she finished the medical screening and paperwork. Now, all that is left are the shadow visits. I can’t go with her then, so I have to trust that she will be alright without me. Since there are no treats in sight and dinner is still far out, I think I will catch up on my sleep for now. Maybe you should do the same. 

Happy dreams,    

Benji