Training Da Sky

I always knew that I couldn’t influence da weather but do you know that you can train da Sky? It turns out to be pretty easy too. Who would have known?! Sky has had multiple lessons in an unofficial capacity as soon as our vet gave him a clean bill of health. On one of Sky’s trips, he went to agility training with me. He didn’t have to jump through hoops but he sure did get a lot of attention. Nobody took photos of me. I know, how come????! To even things out, I’m throwing in a photo of my first encounter with agility way back in 2016.

Sky even went shopping and came home with a new leash. Unfortunately, no treats whatsoever. I quadruple checked. Sky also had his first puppy pawty with my CCI buddies to welcome Kirby a new nine-week-and-counting CCI pup. I couldn’t go as I had to pawsonally dogtor Q , you know the second in command at headquarters, back to health. Sometimes you have to set your priorities. Stay out of trouble this weekend, I will try to do the same.

Benji

MP-18 and MP-19

You probably wondered if we’re still alive. I’m happy to report that is still the case. We are just a bit behind in the blogging world. My human got busy with other stuff so blogging was put on the back burner. I know, what could be more important than doggy adventures?!

Rest assured, I haven’t sat still. On April 19, I went to a CCI outing with my assistants-in-training buddies. We encountered lots of wildlife in the big city, seriously that is no joke. Manatees were hanging from trees and dolphins could be seen splashing in front of buildings. So WEIRD! The next day I had some Dogtoring to do at the Homeless and At-Risk Veterans Stand Down event. This is an annual event to help homeless and at-risk veterans. Several people asked if I was up for adoption. WOL, of course not! On Saturday I went to the library to help children read. That was my fifth time. I even had two repeat customers.

Happy wanderings, don’t forget to smile,

Benji

Practice, Practice, Practice

One of my fans asked me what I’ve been up to lately.  Well, besides going to therapy events I’ve been practicing my agility jumps a lot since practice makes pur-fect. One of these days we’re hoping to be ready for a formal agility event. I’m now up to 23 inches. I’m supposed to jump 24. That’s only one more inch to go!

Ms. Zulu would like to practice too but the humans are afraid that she hurts herself. Unfortunately, her response time is not what it was. She seems to be happy to supervise so maybe it’s all for the best. Tonight we plan to join our CCI buddies on an outing. Let’s hope the weatherman is wrong again and the outing won’t be canceled due to rain.

Have a fun-tastic week,

Benji and team

Happy Dayz!

Oh, Happy Dayz; hope you had the same great weekend as I did! It started with a big bang black bear and ended with agility training. Sorry, no photos of the black bear. The humans were too slow. At first, they didn’t understand what I was telling them and by the time they did it was too late to take out their camera. The humans still aren’t fluent in doggie woof. I try to be patient but it is tiresome at times.  The bears must like the persimmons and palmetto fruits around headquarters. I don’t blame the bears as I often have my nose on them too. Unfortunately, the doggie police won’t let me touch them.

On Saturday we went for a loooong car drive to see boats. Don’t ask me why because we already have one sitting idle at headquarters. We could have just as well stared at that one instead of driving all day to see one. I just let ’em be. My dutch human granny tells me that you just have to skip the chapter if you don’t understand it. It seems sound advice.

In the evening I played with my fur-iend Adonis and watched the movie Megan Leavey with my CCI f(ur)iends. The movie is about a military combat dog Rex and his handler Megan. Together they completed more than 100 missions. Rex and his colleagues are amazing; they are my heroes and I hope that all military combat dogs are well-taken care off and get a relaxing retirement as they certainly deserve some serious pampering after all their risky work.

Sunday morning, Ms. Zulu and I had a photo shoot for a calendar at the coast with a professional photographer. We will let you know when it gets printed. To top of the weekend, I had agility training that same evening.   Pfff, I need some rest!

Work hard, play hard,

Benji 

MP-13

Today we turned another Mission Impossible into a Mission Possible. It was the 13th visit so what could go wrong, eh? We went back to the adult care center. This time I was the only Dogtor so I was a busy bee and I don’t even have wings. Everyone was pleased to see us again. We chatted our heads off with the folks for about half an hour when I heard rumbling noises. It was faint at first, well not to me but those with shorter ears seem to be less sensitive to sound; it definitely got louder over time. I looked at M and we both figured that it was time to go home before it would catch up with us. It was good that we did. As soon as I jumped in the car it started raining cats and dogs. Lucky for us, we did not get a visit from that fellow Harvey that caused havoc way west of us. He is a bad, bad, guy from what I’ve heard. Lots of people and animals got themselves into a pickle. Some even died because of Harvey;  so sad. Our thoughts are with everybody in that area. If you would like to help with the animal disaster relief efforts visit https://www.houstonpetset.org/hurricane-harvey-relief-fund/

As we drove away from the adult care center, the sky got brighter the closer we got to headquarters. Maybe the noisy pickles got scared by Ms. Zulu’s Border Collie stare. I don’t blame them, she can be pretty intimidating at times. Maybe barking helps too. I wouldn’t mind taking the lead on that sometime. OK, gotta run. I have a playdate with my CCI friend. After the playdate we will go shopping and meet more CCI friends in the city!

Let the sunshine in,

WOOFFF!

Benji

The Visit

Finally, we are getting to the visit of the prison puppy.  I wasn’t always invited to the outings but I did get to play and hang out with him. A seven-month-old pup can be exhausting and I got tired already after only two days of fun. The pup was here for a week so you can imagine that I had to sleep and sleep after he was gone. I can tell you, those pups can play! I wonder if I played that much when I was a youngin. Hmm, someone nods yes; I just can’t imagine it.

So what did the puppy do when he was at our place? Well, he got to go shopping, he went to a fire station where he met real firefighters, and sniffed out firetrucks and ambulances. I showed him some of my favorite places near the water. Of course, I told him to always keep his feet dry. No dog should ever get wet.

Keep your head cool and your feet dry,

Benji

MP-12

I know, I know, we are way behind on updating you but I had a couple of busy weeks so thought I would chill on my sofa with live television before I got back on track. I’m happy to report that on Wednesday another Mission Impossible became possible. I went to a youth center where I met teenagers who are enrolled in a non-residential counseling program. It was a new place for me so I met lots of new people. I worked the crowd together with one of my colleagues, a Great Pyrenees. He is a great guy literally and figuratively speaking. We learned that he has been in the business for more than 4 years. That’s twice as long as I have been on this planet! The guy was very calm. I guess that’s what happens when you have done this a million times.

The kids at the youth center are a hoot. They wanted to know everything under the sun about me. Their greeting ritual is a bit different from mine as they wanted me to shake their hands over and over again. I got rewarded with treats so it was no problemo. I even put in a couple of spins for good measure. Afterwards, we stopped at a cafe to cool down. It’s hot here, 102 degrees Fahrenheit, so we ordered drinks on the rocks.

Stay cool and have a pawbulous weekend,

Benji

Twelve and more!

Lots has happened these past few weeks, so it’s time for an update. Our CCI visitor is gone with the wind again, more on that subject later. We also celebrated Ms. Zulu’s 12th birthday. That’s a lot of years! We don’t know her exact birthday as she, just like me, was adopted from the shelter but we celebrate it around the beginning of August. And guess what we found in our mailbox yesterday: an email from Belén Soto with photos of the clay figurines of Ms. Zulu and me that she is working on.

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Photo credits: © Belén Soto 2017

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The first draft

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Ms. Zulu

This is based on the modeling work Ms. Zulu and I did last year. Belén said that she will show more photos on her website Arcilla Fuego soon. We are really excited about it and just couldn’t wait any longer to show you so we asked Belén for permission. Aren’t the figurines gorgeous?! You can see that Ms. Zulu and I are waiting for treats. On that note let’s walk to our doggie pantry to see if we can get some yummies in our real tummies.

 

Benji

AWOL

We have a Canine Companion for Independence (CCI) visitor so we will be AWOL for a little while as we will be busy showing him around town. Our visitor is about seven months old and has an out of jail card for seven days.

The little guy who is actually quite a big guy already is a service dog in training and being trained by inmates at a correctional institute for women. He needs some real world experience such as shopping, riding in a car, going to the doctor etc., hence the out of jail card. The women who take care of these puppies are doing a fabulous job so it’s always a joy to have these guys around.

I promise to catch up with you later,
Benji

A Day of Rest

No agility training today.  I have to wait another week. I have only two more sessions left. Next on our list is Advanced Agility Training. In the meantime a photo of me and my CCI Labrador and Golden Retriever buddies showing the wheel in a training session last Thursday. It was sort of the wheel of fortune. I got treats if I performed the commands correctly. The two buddies on my right are full-fledged assistance dogs, the two on the left are in training, hence their yellow vest.  I’m the only Brindle X and therapy dog.  I’m fur-iends with everyone.wheel.jpg

Happy Sunny Day, 

Benji

Gone with the Wind: 2

After the yummies-out-of-the-tummy affair earlier in the week we now seem to be back on track. High Ten to the staff at the ER and my own vet! So finally I can show you more of the stuff we did when Adonis was here. Of course, we had to have a slumber party. We put our lounge beds close together and discovered that with a new friend there is lots to woof about. I was especially curious to find out if puppies interests nowadays are different from the ones I had as a pup. There doesn’t seem to be much to report on that front yet.

I assume my generation is still pretty up to snuff. Like many of my peers, I have attended school and still do. I also have play dates, doggie TV & music, sailing & canoeing outings, agility fun, secret missionseducational toys, as well as pie and ice cream. And now you know we even have slumber parties. This is a bit different from when Ms. Zulu was growing up. Her puppy years are way behind her so it isn’t odd that she can’t remember everything. I do know that she has been around quite a bit; she has told me some unbelievable stories of her outings long gone. Still, Ms. Zulu is pretty sure that she didn’t have slumber parties with doggie music and TV.

We tried to watch Capone’s graduation ceremony on the day it was aired but unfortunately, the link was not working. We checked the link today and now it is up and running. It can be found here. BTW, do you remember Keane? He was the first CCI puppy who stayed at headquarters. He graduated the same day as Capone and you can also see him on TV. Two famous dogs who crossed my path; pretty amazing isn’t it?!

Happy Weekend; be sure to make time for play and slumber parties,

Benji. 

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the wind are my best buddy Capone and my new CCI friend Adonis. We took care of Adonis for only two days but when he left it felt like he was already part of the fur-amily.

Lots happened in the last three days. The evening before Capone had to drive south for his graduation, we had one last playdate. You can find the video of Capone’s graduation here. Adonis stayed with us for two days since both his puppy raisers went with Capone to the graduation ceremony.

Someone at my house, you can guess who, loves taking pictures especially puppy pictures. So there are now a gazillion plus pictures in addition to the ones we already have that have to be sorted. Here is a photo showing Adonis on my red bed. OK, ok, it is Ms. Zulu’s bed too.

Adonis is only 10 weeks old. Just as a comparison there is one photo of me when I was 3 weeks younger than Adonis is now. At that age, I didn’t have a magic cape like Adonis. Remember, I had just escaped been adopted from the shelter. Nonetheless, I had my football and an angel on my chest. Since we didn’t have a photo of me when I was 10 weeks old on the red bed (how come???!!!) we threw in the one that shows me when I went sailing for the second time in my life.

Enjoy your Sunny Day and wishing you smooth sailing this week,

Benji

We are currently unavailable

We are currently unavailable… because we are puppy sitting a CCI puppy! It’s quite a job. There is lots of going for a walk, business # ones and twos, playing, making sure nobody gets into trouble, and what not. Never knew puppy sitting was this busy.  It’s loads of fun but am wondering when I can catch up on my sleep…

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Hi, nice to meet you!

More later, gotta run,

Benji

Sweet Goodbyes

Yesterday was Capone’s Goodbye Party after our bimonthly training session with my CCI and therapy buddies. Our bimonthly training group provides practice and socialization outings for service dogs, therapy dogs, and pups in training to be service dogs or therapy dogs. So far I am the only shelter dog with an unknown pedigree in that group but we are hoping to change that because shelter dogs do rock. *

The party after the training was a blast. Fortunately, we have one more week before we really have to say goodbye to Capone. Since we are best buddies I will get to play with Capone the evening before he travels south where he will start his professional service dog training.

We also welcomed a new CCI in training puppy. Isn’t he adorable? We call him the easter bunny as he arrived Good Friday and is just as fluffy. He is a Golden Retriever. All of the CCI dogs are either a purebred or mix between Labrador and Golden Retriever. Operation Delta Dog has decided to take service dog training to a whole other level and is solving two big problems with one great solution. ODD is helping shelter dogs by adopting them and training them to assist veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Purple Heart Greyhounds is another organization that’s worth mentioning. This organization trains retired racing Greyhounds to become PTSD Service Dogs.

Saying goodbye is hard but it is like Winnie the Pooh said: “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” 

Benji

* Notice that four of the six dogs are wearing a Gentle Leader. This leader is not a muzzle but helps provide stress-free walks.

Dogtors with Borders

As promised, here is the new addition to my uniform. Ms. Zulu assisted me while I posed for the first time with the new scarf. So this time it was Dogtors with Borders. Yes, Ms. Zulu is at least 50% Border Collie as far as we can tell. If you would like to know more about my Dogtors without Borders work then go to my resume page. We updated it recently.
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As you can see Ms. Zulu and I took our job very seriously and we were very focused throughout the photo session. This may or may not have anything to do with the treats in front of us. You be the judge.

OK, gotta run, I have a farewell party to attend to say goodbye to my best buddy Capone and hello to a new CCI friend in training. Yeah, Capone is leaving us in 1.5 weeks to start professional service dog training in South Florida. We will miss him for sure. I (well maybe one of my dedicated assistants) will try to capture some nice photos so you can see Capone one more time and to introduce the new CCI puppy. I’m sure you will get to see more of the newbie because when Capone is traveling to South Florida we get to babysit the new 9-week old pup for four days. That oughta be fun.

And remember, be dedicated and thou shall be rewarded,

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

Mission Impossible: 4 = MP-4

I did it! I commandeered the big box yesterday! I learned that a little help from my friends makes a huge difference. I went with my buddy Capone and a new CCI friend. I think it was their magic capes that made it work. M forgot to bring my magic harness, she even forgot my leash…., but that was quickly resolved as I could borrow one of Capone’s.

We found the big box waaay back in a building. We had to walk through small corridors and a crowd of people to get there. But it worked, I stepped right in, sat down, and then wooshhh we went all the way up from the basement up into the sky. It was a spiffy big box as it hardly made a sound. The pic is a bit blurry; we were going that fast! Proof that warp speed travel is possible.

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Warp speed traveling

Once we were high in the sky, the doors opened on the other side and a deliciously good aroma lured us out of the big box. Lots of people were dining and we were greeted by some very nice people who wanted hugs. And that my friend, I have plenty of.

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My CCI friends

Hugs for all of you too, Benji.

Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day! A big hug and lick smack in the middle for you from us bachelors. From left to right Capone (CCI in training), me (ES & CTD), and Fuse (CCI).

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XOX, 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. 

The Magic Cape

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Reardon and his magic cape

My CCI buddy has left again with his magic cape. I wished he could have left it behind. He seems to have superpowers when he wears his cape. When he stands in front of a store he can go inside while I can’t.* I asked mom if I could have one so I could go shopping with her but she explained to me that superpowers come with super-obligations. Reardon is expected to leave his temporary home for training once he is about a year old. He then has to go through even more training. Eventually, if he completes all his training successfully, he will live with a person who needs assistance with activities of daily living and thereby improve that person’s independence.

When dogs such as Reardon are unable to complete the CCI training they are adopted by one of the families that are on an adoption waiting list. In that case, they may become a therapy dog like me.  I hope Reardon succeeds in whatever his destination is. It would be nice if we could meet again someday in the future.  I also hope that he has always enough time for playing in his busy schedule. Because you just can’t play enough.

* Click here for a comparison of service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs 

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Reardon and I goofing around after school

Benji.