Crystal joined our family in May of 1998. She was a cute little, ten-year–old Pekingese, in need of a home because her former owner was in poor health and no longer able to give Crystal the care she needed. Paula took her under her wing and introduced her to the rest of our rambunctious pack. Crystal held her own with the others and never failed to amuse us with some of her silly antics. In 2002 Crystals’s health began to decline. She could no longer see well and making her body do what her mind wanted was more and more difficult. During May she chose to spend more and more time in her crate and seemed to have lost her spark. On May 31st, 2002 we took her in for her annual physical and made that very difficult decision to help her across the rainbow bridge to be with her old buddy Beau.
Crystal, we will never forget that big dog attitude in that little body, your ability to steal toys from the other dogs and your Lab like appetite. Most memorable was the way you would fall backward with each bark, as you tried to tell Tikken she had no right to be in the backyard unsupervised. Take care and thanks!
Tyler joined our family on March 20th, 1996, about six months after we purchased Green Acres. His previous guardian was looking to place him in a new home, and we thought he would make a welcome addition to our family. We are not sure how old he was when he came to live with us but suspect that he was at least four. Tyler suddenly developed cancer in August of 2003, and while we kept him comfortable for as long as we could, we decided it was time to help him across the Rainbow Bridge on August 26th.
I have always tested as being “very allergic” to cats, so our initial plan was for Tyler to live in the store, where he could greet clients and serve as the official “mouse patrol.” Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, this did not last long. We quickly learned that Tyler was part retriever and lived by the motto, “If it is edible, eat it now, in mass quantities.” He had no compunction about ripping into the largest, most expensive bag of dog food for a little midnight snack. When this became an every night occurrence, we decided it was not economically viable to have Tyler “protect the food from mice.” As a result, he moved into the house with us; allergies be damned.
At the time, there were five adults in the house (Paula, me, Paula’s mom and my mom and dad) and three dogs (Shed, Gus, and Queen). While Paula and her mom had lived with cats before, it was a first for my parents and me. The three of us did not consider ourselves “cat people.” In fact, I would even go so far as to say that my father disliked cats. Tyler did his best to change that and started with the most unlikely subject, my dad.
Dad’s time with us in Maine was difficult. He was in the hospital and nursing home frequently. To my initial amazement, the pet he almost always asked about was Tyler. I still remember asking the nurses at EMMC if we could bring Tyler in to visit, and how happy dad was to see him. He snuggled up on the bed next to him, and the two of them were content as “two bugs in a rug.” I have no idea how Tyler converted dad, but I am very grateful for it. They were good buddies.
We quickly learned that if we wanted to sleep peacefully, we needed to close and latch our bedroom door. Tyler was banned from the bedroom because of my allergies and his desire to try and sleep on our heads. However, early every morning he would come knocking on the door, wanting breakfast. If the door were not latched, he would eventually get it to open, hop on the bed, and start head butting one of us to let us know he was ready for breakfast.
Tyler still liked visiting in the store, and we would occasionally allow him to do so, under supervision. We noticed how well Tyler did with the dogs, and for a couple of years, he would assist Kate and me with dog training classes. I can still remember the time Tyler sauntered through a room full of dogs, not the least bit threatened. There was a huge Great Dane, and he just sat in front of him, gave him “the look,” much like a General inspecting the troops, and then went on his way.
After my father and Paula’s mom had passed in the fall of 1996, Tyler spent lots of time with my mom. He was a great companion for her and gave mom someone to spend time with when Paula and I were working in the store. When Tyler was not on her lap, he was nearby, watching her.
Almost a year after Tyler joined the family, an 8-week old Golden Retriever puppy named Tikken entered the equation. I do not know exactly how their relationship developed, but it was evident Tikken, and Tyler were fast friends. Whether sharing the love seat in the living room, playing or, enjoying a full body massage, they were frequent companions. I will never forget the time I came up to the house from the kennel and found Tyler lying on the couch as Tikken used her front paws to gently bat at his entire body. As strange as it may sound, they were both enjoying this activity. Up until the end, Tikken was around to give her friend kisses, to play, and to clean him as necessary. Tyler got along well with most dogs and enjoyed spending time with them, usually just relaxing.
Tyler was big on relaxing and felt comfortable enough in our home, co-populated with as many as five dogs, to rest anywhere. The arm of a love seat, the floor, boxes, and bags all made excellent spots for chilling out.
As previously stated, when we moved to Maine I was not a “cat person. I had never felt a connection with a cat the same way that I had with dogs. Somewhere during the past couple of years, I am not sure exactly when that changed, and I realize now that I am a cat person. I enjoy their company, their antics, and the joy they bring.
Over the past several months, Tyler and I developed a ritual. Often, when I was working late at night, he would come down to my office, rub up against my legs once, and then settle down on Tikken’s bed, right behind my desk chair. He might just lie there watching me or drift off into a catnap. Often I would find myself watching him. During his naps, I got to witness first hand how cats dream and the strange noises they can make in their sleep. I guess one of the factors in my discovering I am a cat person was when I found myself missing Tyler’s company on the nights he chose not to join me in the office. My office is a sadder place without his presence.
Tyler Hanson passed into a peaceful sleep on Tuesday, August 26th. I know in my heart he has rejoined my father, Shed, and Crystal and is patiently awaiting the day when we will all be reunited. Tyler, thanks for brightening up our home and helping to teach me about the wonder of cats.
It has been four years since Tikken crossed the Rainbow Bridge. When a furry companion passes, it has been my tradition to write a memorial. I still have not been able to sit down to write and bring closure to Tikken’s story. It is just too hard. What I am doing today is sharing the part of her story that I have already written.
<To be continued>
On, January 15th, 2011, our Golden Retriever Tikken (Mariner Freedom Fighter) celebrated her fourteenth birthday. Over the years many have asked, “Why Tikken?” Some people have thought it is because as a puppy she was like a clock and always “ticking.” There is a deeper story to Tikken’s name and this year through the miracle of Google I was able to learn more about Tikken’s namesake.
Tikken was born on Martin Luther King Day in 1997. Due to her birthdate, Tikken’s breeders, Jon and Kathy Chase of Mariner Kennels, named this litter of pups the “Freedom litter.” They asked that all of us receiving a pup use the word “Freedom” in their AKC registered name. After giving it some thought, I decided on “Mariner Freedom Fighter.” Outside of dogs one of my interests has always been World War Two, especially the resistance movement. Members of the resistance were commonly called “freedom fighters.”
I next had to choose Tikken’s call name and wanted something I could connect to her registered name. An early thought was to call her “Kira,” after Kira Nerys, a character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who was a former member of the Bajoran resistance. I then decided that I wanted to name my pup after a real female resistance fighter. Since I am half-Norwegian and have been particularly interested in the resistance movement in Norway during World War Two, I decided to see if I could identify a Norwegian female resistance fighter to be my inspiration. Not sure where to go I went to an email list for Golden Retriever fans on the internet, and a Norwegian member of the list suggested the name “Tikken.”
This year I finally learned more about my Tikken’s namesake via Google and the translation of a review of the book Tikken Manus by Nora Campbell.
Tikken is named after Norwegian freedom fighter and patriot, “Antiquity” Ida Nikoline Lie Lindebrække, who was nicknamed “Tikken.” During the war, she worked as a secretary at the British legation in Stockholm, Sweden where she was a principal intermediary between the Norwegian resistance in the Company Linge and the British military. For her efforts during the war, Tikken was decorated with King Haakon VII’s Freedom Medal. Tikken later married Max Manus, one of the leaders of Company Linge.
Shed, our 16 year old Border Collie mix, passed away on December 18th, 2002 . She was a marvelous companion to us, our pets, family members and friends for 11 years. We miss her greatly.
We originally adopted Shed as a companion for us and for our 10 month old Cairn Terrier puppy. Gus needed a friend and some “motherly” guidance. We couldn’t have asked for a better mother than Shed. We can still fondly remember sitting in our McFarland living room, watching Shed and Gus tear around the sofa in their nightly version of the “puppy races.”
Shed was one of those dogs who came to us almost perfect. One of her few vices was baked goods. We still laugh about the time we brought home a fresh-baked loaf of oatmeal bread from the bakery, and unaware of Shed’s penchant for baked goods left it on the kitchen counter. When we came home the entire loaf of bread was gone and Shed was a very happy dog, wondering what we had brought home this time. During her last months of life Shed experienced substantial cognitive dysfunction, but her instincts for baked goods remained well intact. All you had to do was to walk into a room with any type of baked good, and she instantly zeroed in on the object of her desire. We firmly believe that like Don and his father, Shed was a “Pastry Pointer.”
Shed’s other vice was her constant kissing. If you gave her the opportunity, she would lick you forever, whether you were human or canine, family member, friend or stranger. It took some getting used to, but she obviously got so much joy from it, we never tried to extinguish the behavior.
We almost lost Shed to autoimmune hemolytic anemia in the fall of 1994, but thanks to the heroic efforts of the Madison Emergency Vet Clinic and the dogged determination of Dr. Dave Warner, formerly of the Arbor Ridge Veterinary Clinic, Shed pulled through and was able to give us her love and companionship for 8 more years. We were often near tears during the 4 months Shed suffered from this devastating disorder. At the times when we could no longer bear to see here submit to the daily blood draws, Dave gave us all the courage to go on. Thank you Dave!
Less than a year after Shed’s recovery, in the fall of 1995, we moved to a new life in Maine as owners of the Green Acres Kennel Shop. Shed made the transition well and was always a favorite of our clients and staff. When she wasn’t in the store itself, she was on the other side of the door to the house, sniffing and snorting under the door. Trying to catch a scent of who was there and what was going on, her nasal contortions were so loud we often had to explain exactly what it was that was behind the door.
Shed was deeply attached to Paula, her surrogate mother. She was like a shadow, always there, always wanting to be a part of every activity. When Paula would go down to the kennel, Shed would lie by the door awaiting her return. If she went somewhere in the car, Shed would remain by the window, watching for Paula’s return, whereupon, Shed would lead all of the dogs in what can only be described as a heartwarming group howl.
In 1996 Shed became a certified Therapy Dog with Therapy Dogs International. We took her and Gus, also a TDI dog, to visit folks at local nursing homes but it quickly became evident that Shed wasn’t enjoying the work. While her visits were limited, she helped me train and evaluate countless other dog/handler teams in my role as an instructor and TDI evaluator. I couldn’t have asked for a better dog for this purpose. Shed, your assistance will be missed greatly.
By the spring of 1997, Shed was in her 10th year and had started to slow down a bit. In March we brought home Tikken, an 8-week old Golden Retriever puppy who became Shed’s pride and joy. We don’t know if Shed had puppies before she was surrendered to the shelter, but based on her care of Gus and Tikken she was a superb mother! Shed and Tikken enjoyed countless romps in our field and Shed’s regular cleaning sessions of “her puppy” continued on until the end. We know Tikken also greatly misses her “mommy”.
We knew Shed’s last days were coming near, and on Tuesday, December 17th, 2002 we made an appointment to help her across the rainbow bridge. It was as if Shed was waiting for us to tell her we could let her go. Early on the morning of December 18th she let out several cries and collapsed. She was not in obvious pain, but was acting as though she were just too tired to get up. Paula spent the night with her on the floor in the family room. Even though too tired to move, she was still very interested in breakfast! When Paula went to work, I spent the morning with Shed until the vet arrived in the early afternoon. Paula came up to the house, we all said our goodbyes and let Shed drift off peacefully to rest. We are confident she is again racing around, has her own pastry shop, and is sniffing and snorting at the rainbow bridge, patiently awaiting the day when we will all be together again.
After Batman had passed in April of 2013, we talked about getting another cat, but Paula indicated she was not ready. That was until a June day in 2014 when she came home with Hanger.
Hanger was 12 years old and in need of a home when Paula found her at the ARK in Cherryfield, ME. She was named Hanger because apparently as a kitten she enjoyed hanging on window screens.
Hanger settled into our home very quickly, extremely tolerant of Muppy’s curiosity about the new addition sitting in Paula’s lap every night. If Paula was in her recliner, the odds were Hanger would be either on her lap or lying on her chest.
In December Hanger was having some issues with one of her ears which ended up being diagnosed as a squamous cell carcinoma in January. The typical surgical intervention, removal of the ear canal, would have been quite traumatic for Hanger so on the advice of Hanger’s veterinarian we elected to explore other options. Working with our homeopathic veterinarian, we saw significant improvement and all of the lesions in Hanger’s ear disappeared very quickly.
Unfortunately by July of 2015 Hanger had become less social, ate less and was losing weight. While additional treatments helped some, she had not eaten for the past few days. At her examination on August 4th, 2014 it was evident that she had a growth inside her nasal cavity which was making it difficult if not impossible to eat. Sadly we decided it was time to help her cross the Rainbow Bridge.
Hanger you were only with us for a short time, but you fit right in and we feel fortunate to have had you as part of our family. Hanger, rest easy and thank you for sharing your life with us.
This morning (13JAN10) as I opened my Outlook calendar I saw a small notation in purple, the color I use to denote birthdays and anniversaries, stating “Trivia Arrives (1975).” It was thirty-five years ago today that I brought home my first dog, a cute little ball of black fluff I would name Trivia and end up calling “Trivy” for short.
I had wanted a dog since I was five. We lived in an apartment most of my childhood and a dog had never been an option. The autumn of my junior year in high school we moved into a house, and that changed. Around my seventeenth birthday, my parents told me I could get a dog but that I would need to be financially responsible for it. They made it clear that it would be my job to feed it and more importantly, especially to my father, it would be me that would pick-up the “dog crap.”
As I look back now, I understand how my parent’s decision could be considered to be less than wise. My dad would be retiring in a year, and my parents most certainly realized that I was at an age when I would not be around as much. They loved to travel and to get a dog now would clearly tie them down. They knew that I planned on going to college and must of suspected that I would not live up to my end of the deal, but they said yes. I am so grateful that they did.
I started my search for my first dog at the Dane County Humane Society, but I could not find the “right dog” for me. I ended up at the Monroe Street Pet Shop in Madison, WI, which unlike most pet shops at the time, sold mixed breed puppies. That was all I could afford and as far as I was concerned a dog was a dog. I had no clear vision of breed or look; I just wanted a dog.
The pet shop had two puppies reported to be from a mother that was a Poodle/Keeshond mix. The clerk joked “They never caught the father.” One of the pups had a Poodle-like coat and was quiet and shy. The other pup, the one I would take home and name Trivia, had wavy hair and was as excited to see me as I was to see her. It was love at first sight. I left the pet shop with Trivia, a collar, a leash, food and water bowls, a couple of toys, a rawhide, and the name of the veterinarian recommended by the pet shop. I was thirty plus dollars poorer but felt like the richest guy on the planet.
Over the next few days, I made sure Trivia had her shots and was spayed. I fed her a veterinarian recommended puppy food, got her licensed, and loved her. However, I certainly didn’t provide her with the level of care and devotion she deserved or what we would expect today.
I made no attempts to train Trivy and at the time had no idea dog training classes even existed. As a result, Trivia was not house trained properly as a puppy. When we moved again a year later, she ended up spending time in the basement or an outside pen when I was not around to prevent accidents in the house. Sadly, as I became more interested in girls and other extracurricular activities, I was around less and less. My mom, as so many mothers do, ended up stepping in and taking care of Trivia, making sure she had food and water, opportunities to go outside and some level of human interaction. I did not exactly abandon Trivia, but she was clearly not the priority she should have been, and as a result spent more time outside or in the basement then she should have.
Like many dogs, Trivia loved the snow. I still remember that first winter when she would dive into a fluffy snow bank and bury her head, then pull it out to shake off the snow. She was a social butterfly in that she never met a person she did not like. When I had friends over or had a party, Trivia always had to be in the middle of it, and my friends always insisted that she be there.
She was afraid of rabbits or at least acted like it. I can still picture the day we walked around a corner of the house and came within three feet of a cottontail. The rabbit just sat there, and Trivia immediately rolled over on her back before the rabbit could strike.
Snakes were a different matter. We found evidence of several snakes she had dispatched in her pen and even one in the basement. When we would take her for walks, we started to notice how Trivia would detect snakes well over 60 feet away. It is fortunate for her we had no venomous snakes where we lived.
Trivia liked toys and was especially fond of an old tennis shoe. My father was more than a bit distressed at her amorous adventures with that shoe, questioning poor Trivia’s sexuality. Strangely Trivia was never a big chewer other than some minor puppy explorations on a kitchen cabinet. She still had her one and only rawhide the day she died, as intact as it was the day I brought her home as a puppy.
Although I had never taught her bite inhibition Trivia was not a voracious play biter, nor did she ever bite anyone. I am proud to say that she never experienced the physical pain of a choke collar or a leash correction, nor was she ever yelled at. I did not teach her to sit; I had no idea how to do that nor could I see a compelling reason why I should teach her to sit.
When Paula and I got married three years later, I was around even less as we moved into our apartment leaving Trivia with my parents. A year and a half later I graduated from college, and we moved into another apartment, even further away, to be close to my new job. Finally, when Trivia was about six and a half years old, we were able to buy our first home. It was a duplex, so we were reunited with Trivia as well as my parents.
We finally got Trivia a crate. When we were away at work, she spent time out in her pen or with my parents. When we were home, she spent time with us and at night slept in her crate. She still loved toys and had a green frog and an old sock that were favorites. She still had the old tennis shoe, but that was kept out in her pen.
It was at this time that we started to call her “Hoover” for the excellent job she did cleaning up the crumbs in the dining room and kitchen. Somehow she also must have overcome her fear of rabbits as we also had two Netherland Dwarfs at the time and she just ignored them. We would take her for walks in the park down near the river and had a great time together.
Life continued, and when Trivia was almost twelve years old, I changed jobs. Once again I was driving over an hour to work, and when Paula started doing the same a year later, we rented a small apartment in Madison. We stayed there during the week while Trivia stayed with my parents at our house. We still got to see her most weekends, and my parents were quite attached to her, but it was also evident that Trivia missed our being around. Sadly, that situation remained until Trivia crossed the rainbow bridge three years later.
Whether due to hybrid vigor or something else Trivia was the epitome of the good of health. She never had a flea collar or flea shampoo, things like FrontLine and Sentinel did not even exist, and in spite of all the time she spent outdoors she never had a flea. She was never ill and never experienced an accident that required an emergency trip to the vet until the last six months of her life.
The decline in Trivia’s health started with bladder control issues and then some trouble getting around. Then one day she tumbled down the stairs, and I thought for sure we had lost her. She was barely breathing and motionless. It was a Sunday, and this was before the days of emergency veterinary hospitals. We finally found a vet that offered 24-hour service and rushed Trivia off to see him. She survived, but it was shortly after that that she was diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome. Paula was working for a veterinarian at the time, and we started Trivia on a course of treatment, but she quietly passed away in her sleep a few days later just a few months shy of what would have been her fifteenth birthday.
I know there are those that insist animals have no souls and therefore that we will not be reunited with them in the afterlife. I do not know what the “afterlife” is, but I am quite confident that Trivia is there and has been watching me and guiding me every day since she crossed the rainbow bridge. She has helped me be a better guardian to the dogs that joined our family after her (Gus, Shed, Queenie, Crystal, Tikken and Dulcie). Every day my experiences with Trivia help me work with others and their dogs. I know Trivia influences me every single day.
Trivia you were small of stature and your name suggests you were unimportant and insignificant, but nothing could be further from the truth. You had a huge heart and a tremendous capacity to give. Thank you for being part of my life then and now.
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of or cat Louise. This morning she was in her basket on the steps in the store, breathing but not conscious. She had been having a more difficult time the past couple of days and due to her age and health issues, we decided to help her across the Rainbow Bridge this morning.
Louise and her sister Thelma joined the Green Acres Kennel Shop family on May 15th, 2001. Louise was probably 2 to 3 years old at the time, and Thelma was about eight months of age. They were barn cats before joining our family, so their exact date of birth is unknown. We had decided we wanted a resident rodent patrol and also thought that clients would enjoy interacting with the cats
in the store. Paula found the two of them on a farm and brought them home to Green Acres. After a short discussion, we named them Louise and Thelma.
Louise liked people and liked being close, to the point of often being underfoot. If there were ever a lap cat, it was Louise. If you sat down on a chair in the store, she would typically be on your lap in seconds. In the first few years, she was with us when we had orientation
sessions for our Basic Manners classes; Louise would often sneak into the training room and move from lap to lap. If she was not on a lap, she’d often be on the retail counter or would find a spot in one of the cubbies under the counter.
Both Louise, and Thelma connected with many clients and all of our staff over the past fifteen years. Due to Louise’s need for medication the past few years for her thyroid and blood pressure, staff had an opportunity to experience her moods quite well. I am quite sure that everyone has his or her own Louise story to tell; however, one of our employees, Kaila Moore decided to share hers in this drawing. Thank you, Kaila, it fits the girls well.
Unlike her sister Thelma, Louise just did not understand dogs. Where Thelma would just quietly walk away from them, Louise would stare, hiss and then run away as fast as she could. One day a dog decided to give chase and Thelma jumped down from the shelf she was sitting on and landed between the dog and Louise, defending her older, but smaller sister.
Many people always thought Louise was a kitten due to her diminutive size. Her tiny head and abbreviated tail always generated curiosity from those seeing her for the first time. As I mentioned, Louise was a barn cat before joining us. Being underfoot amongst cows led to her tail being stepped on and permanently shortened by a cow hoof. Her tail was almost totally healed when she joined us and its shortened length never seemed to bother her.
Louise also loved to sleep and could turn almost any spot into a bed, with or without Thelma.
Also high on Louise’s list of favorite things was food. She was always there at meal time and always ready for more. As she went through periods of becoming plump, she reminded many of us of a feline Buddha, hence her occasional nickname Buddha.
Louise was always there for her little sister Thelma and in the early days, they would play with other often although like most sisters they had their occasional spats. While they each had individual baskets for sleeping, more often than not they would crawl into a basket together even in the middle of a hot, humid summer day. When I checked them last night before going to bed, Louise was snuggled in basket sleeping and Thelma was lying in front of the basket watching over her. Perhaps she knew.
Farewell Louise. You enriched the life of many people, and I cannot think of a single day that you failed to generate many smiles. Please send our love to all of the rest of our pets waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge.
It was a crisp fall day in October of 1999 when I got out of my car to attend a meeting at the Bangor Humane Society. Immediately I noticed one of the staff walking a little black dog that appeared to be a Cairn Terrier. Since Paula and I had been discussing adding a female Cairn to the family, I had to ask about her. It turned out that the diminutive dog was, in fact, a female Cairn who had been brought in as a stray several days ago, and she would be eligible for adoption the following day. The next day I took Paula and the dogs over to meet the little dog, and we decided she was joining our family. Shed, Gus, Tikken, Crystal and Tyler all had a new little sister.
It took us a few days to get to know this new arrival and hence we waited to name her until we got a better idea of her personality. We finally settled on Dulcie because she was so sweet. Dulcie was a very affectionate dog but in true terrier fashion, only on her terms. She loved attention, playing ball, and washing my head; however, she was typically not a lapdog and not one to snuggle for more than a few seconds, although she did occasionally settle in for a close-up with a person, child, dog or cat.
We were aware that animal control had been trying to catch Dulcie for a few weeks, so it was no surprise when we soon discovered she had a urinary tract infection (there’s just something about us, Cairns, and UTI’s – remember Gus?) and was prone to house-training accidents. Although we do not know with 100% certainty, I do believe that she was a pureblooded Cairn, and I have always thought her UTI’s might be why she was apparently abandoned. Like Gus, she had her share of UTI’s, but it was a small price to pay for what she gave us in return
I suspect that before joining our family that Dulcie had lived life as a single dog. Feeding time at the Hanson’s was quite a ritual with four other dogs that were always hungry. Dulcie was originally quite finicky and would only pick at her food, but in a matter of days, she was eating robustly like everyone else. Eventually, she enjoyed a daily apple, just like Tikken, until she got older and then preferred baby carrots. In her later years, Dulcie became extremely vocal at feeding time, and her lack of excitement was an obvious indicator that she was not feeling well.
Dulcie clearly knew no behavioral cues and had no training. I immediately enrolled her in our next scheduled training class, planning on training her just like we teach our students to train their dogs. Even though I am a professional trainer, having the regimentation of a class to attend helps make me do my homework.
Sit is one of the first behaviors we teach in class, starting with a food lure and quickly fading to a hand signal. Well there I was, in the first class, trying to lure Dulcie into a sit, and anytime my hand got anywhere near her head, she would back away as quickly as possible – freeze dried liver or not. It was clear that she was hand shy and that I was going to need to take a different approach.
There are several ways to teach a dog a behavior like sit. I usually start using a food lure. If luring does not work and it is a normal behavior that the dog would do on their own, I just wait. When the dog sits, I click and treat the behavior, thus “capturing” the behavior and building up a reward history. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I have not been blessed with the virtue of patience. I tried watching Dulcie extensively for several days, and the little sweetheart never sat once while I was watching. Clearly, another strategy was in order.
Having completed my first 5-day chicken camp with Marian and Bob Bailey the previous summer, I decided to consider how they would address my training “project” with Dulcie. I knew that I could shape the behavior with successive approximations because I had shaped countless behaviors with other dogs, always by the seat of my pants. This time, I decided to do it like the Bailey’s; with a training plan, collection of data, and adjustment of the plan based on the data.
My first discovery was that I could not start by teaching sit. I ended up adjusting my plan and started by teaching Dulcie to touch the palm of my hand with her nose. I had a near perfect “touch” behavior, on a verbal cue, within 13 sessions. In a short time I also had her sitting on cue as well, and from that point on Dulcie was an avid and apt learner. I am grateful that teaching Dulcie to sit required that I take a data-driven approach because it taught me the value in doing so. It also taught her that training is fun and further strengthened our then still developing bond.
I love teaching people how to train their dogs, but with my dogs, I can be rather lazy if a lack of training is not causing a problem. In that sense, Dulcie was a dream dog in that she was causing no problems, so most of our interactions with her were all about play. Her biggest role in the Green Acres’ training program was as a demo dog for me or some of our instructors in training.
While my original goal was to have Dulcie become a therapy dog like Tikken, as I got to know her better I changed my mind; it did not seem to be a good fit for her. However, Dulcie contributed to many other dogs becoming therapy dogs, either by being the “test” dog in classes or at an actual test.
As a Bangor Humane Society alumnus, Dulcie became our spokes-dog when Green Acres Kennel Shop would assemble a team to walk in the BHS Paws on Parade. More than one advertisement and t-shirt bore her image.
Being quite photogenic, Dulcie was a spokesdog for us on many occasions and was an early fan on Game of Thrones, especially the Stark’s, even before HBO.
In 2001, Dulcie traveled to New Jersey and Intergroom with Paula and Shannan.
Intergroom is a 3-day tradeshow, conference, and competition where Dulcie made her debut as a model in a grooming competition. Shannan placed 3rd in the Rising Star Competition, Handstripping class, with Dulcie. Dulcie was less than thrilled with the crowds, so we honored her request and allowed her to retire gracefully from being a super model.
Like Gus, Dulcie was obsessed fetching tennis balls, but unlike him, she would give it back. If you did not have time to play, she would grab a ball, carry it up to the top of the stairs, toss it down the stairs, chase after it, grab it, run back up the stairs and repeat. She also became an expert at training our staff members walking through my office to stop and toss the ball for her every time they walked through. Eventually, we decided the tennis ball had become an addiction – she was getting too demanding and too worked up – and had to stage an intervention. Dulcie readily learned that playing fetch occasionally was wonderful. I think it was more difficult to “untrain” the staff she had trained so well.
If you look closely at Dulcie’s face, you might think “Sea Otter,” at least Paula and I had that thought more than once. It was certainly reinforced by Dulcie’s habit of lying on her back with a ball in her paws.
Dulcie would occasionally attempt to play with Batman, our cat, but he would always respond with a “hiss” and sometimes a swat. Then there were the times that Batman would try to get Dulcie to play, or he would try to clean her face like he does with Tikken, and she would respond with a growl and bark. If the two of them had ever gotten on the same schedule they might have become great friends, but alas it was not to be; rather they contented themselves to coexist in the same household.
Due to her early housetraining issues with us, we started off with Dulcie sleeping in a crate at night, a place she was obviously very comfortable. Often in the mornings she would get to spend some time in bed with us as we were waking up. If I was still sleeping, one of the first things she felt compelled to do, was to lick my bald head. This became a regular ritual, and sometimes she would climb on the back of the couch to do the same thing. In spite of her frequent over-exuberance, Dulcie also instinctively knew when to restrain herself. I often cite her behavior as an example of how well dogs can read us. There was a day when I had a crushing migraine, the type where any light or sound makes you flinch. I spent the day in bed, and Dulcie was right there at my side, snuggling and not bouncing off my head. I guess she did know how to snuggle; she just had to choose the time.
Two of my favorite photos of Dulcie show her washing me head as I sit on the couch. I had one of them reproduced as a caricature by Jim George of “Draw the Dog.”
In January of 2010, Dulcie was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. This was a frightful prospect for me as my very first dog, Trivia, had developed Cushing’s disease when she was older and only lived a few weeks after the
diagnosis. Thanks to the care and guidance of Dulcie’s veterinarian, Dr. Mark Hanks at Kindred Spirits in Orrington, we were able to enjoy Dulcie for another 20 months.
As time progressed, Dulcie developed some minor cognitive dysfunction (doggie dementia). This started occurring when I was traveling, and Paula would put Dulcie in her crate at bedtime. Within 5 to 30 minutes, she would start barking anxiously. Paula would let her out of the crate, take her downstairs and let her out to go the bathroom and then take her back upstairs. Often she would do the same thing again within a few minutes, eventually settling for the night. Since this was not a regular event, we did not worry about it excessively. Last December and January this barking behavior became much worse, and we saw other signs of cognitive issues such as general confusion and incontinence, Fortunately, Dulcie’s homeopathic veterinarian, Dr. Judy Herman of the Animal Wellness Center, found a remedy that cured this behavior.
Last week Dulcie seemed more out of it than usual and only ate once over three days on the weekend. When we took her in to see Dr. Hanks this morning, he found a mass encircling her intestine and we made the difficult decision to help her across the Rainbow Bridge.
Dulcie, you came into our lives unplanned and endeared us in an instant. You made quick friends of our staff and all who visited our home. You entertained us with your antics and made us laugh, and even made me giggle when you regularly insisted on washing my head. You knew as much about creating a bond between human and animal than any person or animal I have ever met. You truly were a sweet treasure; you will be missed, and I know that you are now happily romping at the Rainbow Bridge.
It was 18 years ago yesterday, the Saturday before Easter, when Paula and I walked into a pet shop at the East Towne Mall in Madison, WI and met Gus for the first time. We had a new home and decided that it was time that we add a dog to our lives. We had been advised against getting a dog from a pet store; however, when we walked in we told ourselves we were “just looking.” Paula’s boss at the time, Dr. Warner, had recommended we consider getting a Cairn Terrier. Since neither of us had seen many Cairn’s we wanted to at least see if the store had one that we could look at.
At 12 weeks of age Gus was already extremely cute, with lots of personality. Food was a major focus even then. Out of all the caged puppies, Gus was the only one with his muzzle buried in his dish eating, while every other puppy was trying to get the attention of the people in the store. We played with Gus in the introduction room and he was very alert and very interactive with us. It was at that point that I started calling him Gus. He just looked and acted like a Gus to me. Gus had helped us reach the conclusion that a Cairn Terrier was the breed for us, but we left him in the store because we did not want to get a pet store puppy.
During the next week we visited two local Cairn breeders and were not impressed with the dogs they had available. One was clearly a puppy mill and the other breeder only had a 5 month old, who was a bit too high strung for our tastes. While she was going to have a litter in June or July, we were impatient and wanted a puppy sooner rather than later.
The following weekend we went to the Humane Society looking for a dog, butjust could not find that special dog for us. We decided to stop by the pet store to see if they had anything new. As we walked back to the puppy cages, we saw him. Gus, was still there, as cute as ever, and on sale! After another visit with him in the introduction room, we were hooked. Gus went home with us on April 6th, 1991.
We wanted to raise Gus properly, so we went home with a crate, the appropriate chew toys, and copies of those “bad” books we no longer recommend. Gus adapted quite well as Paula and I read all we could about how to have a great puppy. He was not terribly brave about new things, he barked at trees and the packages that UPS left on the deck, but did wonderfully with the neighbor children. He loved sitting on our laps and playing with his pink, squeaky, hedgehog. We would roll on the floor laughing when he would really get it squeaking and then stop and sing to it.
Gus’ was an AKC registered puppy, even though he did come from a puppy mill. As such, he we had the option of registering his official AKC name. We came up with Laird Gustav MacMoose, an appropriate sounding name for a dog of Scottish descent.
We recognized the importance of training and enrolled Gus in a puppy kindergarten class with the local kennel club. It was at our very first class that the instructor told me to “alpha roll” Gus because he was trying to be dominant, and that was why he was not paying attention to me. Not knowing any better I followed the instructor’s advice and instantly had a terrified puppy on his back, thrashing about, growling and showing his teeth. It was at that point the instructor told me I must now grab his muzzle firmly and hold that mouth shut. Stupidly following her advice I tried to do precisely that when Gus taught me his first lesson. As I reached to grab his muzzle, Gus quickly and firmly sunk his teeth in the palm of my hand, causing me to immediately let go as I dripped blood all over the floor.
Sadly, our first night in puppy class setback the relationship between Gus and me for some time. We both had to learn to trust one another again and one way we did that was with rousing games of fetch up and down the hallway. Gus loved retrieving tennis balls, and when Paula or I would get home from work he was ready to play. I had a friend who was a member of a tennis club, and they gave us a bag full of tennis balls which we presented to Gus out on the front lawn one afternoon. We dumped all of those balls out on the lawn and he became enraptured with all of the fun spread out before him.
Early on Gus also discovered the joy in stealing. It started with socks and other things from the laundry basket. He would snatch something and then parade up and down in front of us, tail held high, just hoping we would play his game and chase him. When we got smart and started ignoring this behavior, and keeping stuff off the floor, Gus started stealing from unsuspecting visitors. More than once we had a repair person in the house and Gus would come parading past us with a screwdriver, a box of matches or something else he had snagged out of their tool box.
I can still remember Gus’ first thunderstorm. He must have been between 16 and 18 weeks old and was trembling, and acting very afraid. Since I didn’t know better, I sat with him on the kitchen floor, holding him, petting him, and talking to him in soothing tones. We made it through the first storm and after that he was still reactive but no longer trembling. We had one of the few dogs who rather than trying to hide from the storm, wanted to kill it. He would run from one end of the house to the other, barking, trying to find whatever it was that was causing all the ruckus. Gus would do the same if here were outside except he would always be looking at the sky trying to find his quarry. Nothing seemed to resolve his desire to kill the storm, so our move to Maine, where storms are much less frequent, was a blessing. Gus continued to react to thunderstorms until he was treated with acupuncture for his epilepsy when the reactions just stopped. Whether there was a connection or not, we will never know.
Gus never missed a meal or the opportunity to snag something that looked remotely edible. As a puppy he would cache some of his kibble. We lived in a bi-level house, and he would put a piece of kibble in the corner of each stair. He also did the same with rawhides, trying the hide them in the cracks around the cushions in the chairs.
We brought Shed home in the fall of 1991, as a friend for Gus and as help in keeping the little monster in line. The two of them became fast friends and every evening after dinner Paula and I would sit in the living room and watch Gus and Shed romp and chase each other around the sofa. This became to be known as the “Puppy Races.”
We also spent many hours out in our sunroom in McFarland, Shed and Gus by our feet, Gus snagging a cranberry muffin right from my hands. Lap time was also good and Gus liked nothing better than “head nuggies.” What I know about dogs and dog behavior suggests that a dog should hate head nuggies, but Gus couldn’t get enough of them.
The following year we enrolled both Gus and Shed in training classes with Patricia McConnell in Middleton, The classes emphasized training through positive reinforcement and we were all having fun. Paula would work with Shed and I’d work with Gus. We took basic and advanced classes and both dogs did very well. The only exercise where Gus followed his natural instincts rather than my recall cue was when I had to call him through a patch of biscuits scattered all over the floor. He eventually came but not before scarfing up every biscuit.
In the fall of 1995 we moved to Maine, with Gus, Shed, Queenie, Paula’s mom and my mom and dad. Gus seemed to settle in quite well. I enrolled him in many of the Green Acres classes that were being taught by Kate with assistance from me. He eventually became a certified TDI therapy dog.
Gus and I learned another great training lesson in 1996 thanks to our friend Kate. Gus and I were in an Intermediate class which was being taught outside. I was learning to be a trainer and was desperate that he do well. I put him on a stay at one end of our training field, walked to the other end and asked him to come to me. Gus came but he didn’t run enthusiastically, he walked as slowly as he could. After the class Kate took me aside and suggested that I needed to “lighten up.” She suggested I stop the training with Gus and just have some fun with him. That was the last formal training class Gus was in and we spent more time just playing fetch. I did teach him some “silly” tricks later with the clicker and he had a blast. Thanks to Kate and thanks to Gus I started on my path of learning to accept dogs for their unique personalities.
Gus still loved retrieving tennis balls, although due to my mistake in early training he was always a “two ball” dog. You had to show him you were going to throw the ball in your hand before he would give the ball in his mouth. He would have retrieved balls down in the field to the point of exhaustion and actually did so in great pain one day. He just kept going and we had no idea the little guy had broken his toe until a few days later.
On December 23rd, 1997 Gus had his first Grand Mal seizure and we begin our journey learning about epilepsy and how to treat it. If Gus were a human he would have been into extreme sports. He never did anything half way. When he had his bladder stone, it was huge, his epileptic seizures were all to the extreme. They were extreme in duration and grew to be extreme in frequency. At first, each one was frightening to Paula and me, but as we began to understand the disease we also became somewhat desensitized and learned to cope.
When conventional allopathic medicine did not bring Gus the relief we were looking for we began to explore alternatives. Paula went to a veterinary homeopathy seminar and we took Gus to Dr. Tobin for a consult. We continued to explore homeopathy at more seminars, treatments with Dr. Loops, and then treatments with Dr. Herman. We’d see some improvement for awhile, but never to the point where the seizures would stop. We tried acupuncture with Dr. Hanks and actually went about 6 weeks without a seizure. All of us were so optimistic we had Mark install gold beads at the acupuncture points to provide continuous stimulation, but a few weeks later the seizures returned to their quite regular, ten day frequency.
The last year of Gus’ life we also started to see some cognitive dysfunction. He would get confused and wasn’t as playful. He dearly loved to snuggle with Paula and would wake her up sometimes as early as 4AM to go out. She’d let him out and then they’d snuggle on the couch until the rest of us got up.
Gus lived with epilepsy for six years but during his last month his seizures started to get worse. He started to have cluster seizures and need Valium to get them to stop. His cognitive dysfunction was getting worse and more and more he seemed physically exhausted. Sadly I was away on July 10th, when it was clear the time had come. Our vet and friend Dr. Hanks helped Gus over the Rainbow Bridge in our family room, with Paula at his side.
Gus inspired me to start to learn about dog training and his behavioral quirks caused me to delve deeply into the idiosyncrasies of canine behavior. His unusual and frequent health problems were the reasons that Paula and I both started to explore complementary and alternative healthcare, to the benefit of Gus, ourselves and many others. Gus, you played with us, teased us, frustrated us, and loved us. You made us laugh and you made us cry, and taught us countless lessons about dogs, health and life. You enriched and influenced our lives in countless ways. You were “one of a kind” and will be sorely missed and always remembered lovingly. We patiently wait for the day we can all be reunited and once more we can give you the head “nuggies” you so loved. Like Toto to Dorothy, Gus was our companion on the road to our own personal and very wonderful Oz, Green Acres Kennel Shop. Thank you!