Saturday, July 15, 2017

Memories of Rebel by Kimberly Becker


"Left with memories of Sunshine in your fur, squirrels on roofs, your head on my pillow as I pet you to sleep."

I would like to thank Kimberly for being my guest writer this month. I was for fortunate enough to have her share her story of Rebel. She also allowed me to honor Rebel  by making pieces fashioned from photos of his paw print his markings . His ashes were lovingly fused inside. Below is a beautiful tribute honoring him with love.

I am the definition of a crazy cat lady.  I keep cat food in my car- just in case, I'm HORRIBLY allergic and up until recently I had one. He was my I-love-you-enough-to-put-up-with-all-the-sneezing-hives-watering-eyes-and-runny-nose baby. He slept in my bed and was a total blanket and pillow hog, he'd often greet me at the door, and give kisses when I asked (usually).  He was my baby, and I've found it difficult to explain to people that haven't loved a pet this way the gaping hole he's left behind.

Kimberly says, "That was the mattress I slept on the majority of the 7 months he was sick.  I got up, and he immediately moved to that spot.  I used the towels because I'm allergic, so I could swap them easily since that was a common thing. (when he wasn't laying just perfectly in the middle of the bed/on all the blankets.) "
I named him Rebel and it was a name well deserved. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted -even if it was an inconvenience.  So he was a typical cat.  But even though that was the name on his collar, to me he was Boo.  As a kitten he wasn't very coordinated, often running into walls chasing after things. And I, being a "new mother" was constantly checking him for boo-boos.
Kimberly says, "After him being there a while I realized I had beef jerky in there. He was a very nosy little guy, run by his nose/always following scents."


When we found out he was sick with CKD I became that fawning mother again. I was fortunate that my job was only a 5 minute drive from where he was (he lived with my parents) and I was able to spend my lunch breaks with him.  My once a week sleep over visits turned into a blow up mattress on the floor that I slept in every night, just to be near him.  I spent most of my free time with him covering him in blankets, making sure he ate, giving him IV fluids, everything I could to make him comfortable.  And in those following months he was. He was himself. He was happy.  It wasn’t until his last week that he really seemed ill.
Rebel and Kimberly

I often find myself thinking of that week, remembering the ache in my chest as he got worse. He had always been an indoor only cat, due to an inability to be vaccinated. But I found a pet stroller and was able to take him for a walk around the neighborhood. (Like I said, crazy cat lady)  I like to think he really enjoyed it because staring out windows was one of his favorite things to do.  We found out the next day we had to let him go.  I was so grateful I was able to take him out that once, wishing there had been more.  I remember that morning he wouldn’t eat so we offered him chicken.  He started to purr as he ate a few pieces.  We always joked he’d be on his death bed but still come running for chicken and when the vet told us his blood oxygen level was so low he didn’t know how he was still alive we knew that was true.  That was the hardest day of my life. Hearing him cry as they brought him in the room I forgot to breathe and I didn’t think I’d ever stop crying.  All I thought about is what more I could have done. When you love this much, nothing short of everything seems enough.

Time has helped. Knowing he’s no longer in pain or afraid of trips to the vet, and the wonderful jewelry Jodi made me have also made it a little easier.    Sometimes I watch videos of him to remember before he got sick.   I remember the quirky things he did, like leaving fly heads -just the heads- on my pillow. Which I hope was because he loved me and wasn’t a warning. Or the time he rubbed his butt from the litter box down the hall and in a huge circle in my sisters room leaving a poop streak the entire way. He loved carrots and shoes, you had to hide them or you'd come back to them covered in cat hair and drool.  He’d come running if you said “chicken” and we had to start locking up the trash because he’d find leftovers.  He once broke a small rock carving I had in his likeness and ate half of it.  He was so weird and I loved him for it.  I live with the grief his death has caused but he was and is such a light in my life.
Rebel with his shoe

Rebel has always been odd and well deserving of his name. We quickly learned of his affinity towards stinky shoes, especially those that had been around dirt, and root vegetables - specifically carrots. He loved to roll, rub, hug, anything to transfer the scent to himself. He often left carrots with his white cheeks turned orange. Which made it such a surprise when we discovered he also loved dryer softener sheets. One morning while cleaning what I thought was a hairball, I noticed it was not hair, but solid... a used dryer sheet that he had eaten. We quickly learned to immediately dispose of them to prevent them from sitting in laundry he could reach. Because what cat doesn't love to lay in freshly cleaned anything?  But Rebel being a rebel, found his way  to an unused one and unbeknownst to us, he ate it. He got very sick, very quickly.  I remember sitting in the vets office, covered in his purely ammonia pee, crying to my father. "Use my college fund and savings account, I don’t care. We have to save him." The emergency vet wanted $3000 to keep him 3 days, on an IV full of meds to clean out his system and hydrate him. When we brought him home he slept the majority of the next two days, in his bed that we moved to the bathroom to be near his litter box. We were told to watch him, and bring him back if his condition worsened. Even after my mother told me not to I stayed on that bathroom floor laying next to him those two days. Not knowing what to do, I sang just one verse of "You are My Sunshine" on repeat. It became our song. Anytime he didn't feel well I'd sing it, begging my sunshine to get better. I sang it those 2 days and often in his final months. And he returned the favor, any time I was sick he would lay with me until I was better. That is why I chose the metal piece with "my sunshine," because he was my sunshine.  I chose the amber to match his coloring, and the triangle shape to represent his ear.  He would often walk over and rub the back of his ear against my face, giving me "kisses." So the shape, color, and writing that make up the beautiful pendant Jodi made me all represent something that reminds me of him.
Paw print stone made from a close up of this photo of Rebel's paw



Friday, June 30, 2017

Listening to the Animals, an entry dedicated to our friend Murphy

Our neighbor and friend Murphy

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I have used this quote in past but this is on of my very favorite ones worth  being ‎re quoting.

What is anthropomorphism?
The definition  reads : the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.

Some people think this is absurd and that animals are things that do not feel like we do. Great scientists such as Jane Goodall and Marc Beckoff have proven otherwise. I also agree with one of my heroes, Ms. Goodall that animals do feel and love as humans do. Actually I believe they actually have larger hearts than most humans and love unconditionally.  I enjoy watching their antics and quite honestly can say I hear what there voices may sound like in my head. I can also imagine word bubbles popping up over their head and what might be in those bubbles.

My kitty Raven has a french accent. Black Lab Grandpuppy Cash, sounds like Goofy from Disney. My buddy Odin has the voice and demeanor of Winnie the Pooh. He does nothing fast and is just content looking for another smackeral of honey or whatever he can get his paws on. Golden retriever neighbor and buddy Murphy has the voice of Foghorn Leghorn.
I wanted to have all these voices in place in your imagination before I proceed with my story.
Cash Odin and Raven 


Happily Cash has sleepovers with us quite often. Not too long ago she stayed for the weekend and we went for a walk in the woods. In the past Odin and I would come across a grouse that flies straight up and can certainly startle. Odin could care less, just like Pooh, being in no in particular hurry. On this day with Cash present  a grouse popped up and I could instantly hear Cash's word bubble say in her Goofy voice, "Did ya see that, did ya... did ya? Odin did ya seeeeeeee that? (her retriever instincts kickin in) Odin that was the coolest thing I have ever seen." Odin got a little pep in his step and you could hear him say in the most excited Pooh voice he could muster, "Oh bother, I'll be a little excited with ya Cash."

Raven and Cash's relationship could best be described as Raven 'tolerates' Cash. Cash just wants to please and be eternally happy, hoping Raven will throw her a crumb. When we returned home that day, Raven was waiting at the door, giving Odin the normal sniff of ears and feet and saying in her French accent.  "Ju may pass Odin." Cash giving Raven a good three feet comfort space tried to get in the door but Raven had to take her one intimidating step forward, with her eyes glinting knocking un confrontational Cash back almost in a somersault. Flouncing her imaginary french tu tu hopped to the couch word bubble popping up saying "You is ze stupid." as she curls up to sleep.

Cash wants to be buddies so very badly, waits till she is fast asleep. In slow motion one, quietly one inch at a time puts one paw up, then another, until finally her whole body is on the couch, word bubble saying,  "You like me, c'mon ,(one paw)  you like me, please like me.(the next paw)" Raven slyly opens one eye "In-grade" Cash barely moves slow mo curls in a tight ball, and as she falls blissfully asleep one last word bubble, "you love me."
Cash hoping for a morsel of love from Raven


Aren't they just so sweet and fascinating to watch?

When we go for walks or paddle boat rides , we happily run into our neighbor Murphy. When walking Murphy will run up to me in the Foghorn Leghorn voice you can hear Murphy's word bubble loud and clear, "Well well boy, Hi Odin Hi Odin, Jodi, you got a treat? How bout another treat , and another and another. "As he happily shoves his whole  nose into my treat bag circling us tail waggin. When he is in the house or one the dock when we paddle, Odin and Murph call out greetings of joy to one another. There is no hesitance with Murphy he is just happy and joyfully full of exuberance swimming and strutting his tail feathers with pride.

In the past I have mentioned Odin is the best of dogs but has some fears. He would rather just go off to his own honey tree and be left alone when scary things, especially when children come his way. I believe it is always best to NOT set your dog up for failure when you know a situation is just too much for them. When six year old step grandson comes to visit Odin has to go to the bedroom behind a baby gate. Raven does NOT like the fast movement and hides on her own. On the other hand when twenty year old step grandson comes Odin AND Raven are overjoyed, he is one of their favorite humans. I have one of those gates that will keep Odin in but holes big enough for gate for Raven to chose to be in or out. Even though it is best for Odin to be in there, you can see his word bubble silently pleading," PLEASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSE let me out, please." Raven on the other hand says, "Thank you for ze gate" as she saunters through swishing her tail, "Ha ha you silly little human child, I will not allow my velvet fur coat to be ruffled by ze dirty paws." She  waits until the very second the youngest's head hits the pillow, peaks her head around the door and pops out from behind the gate looking for the slow moving one that knows how to honor such royalty. When the coast is clear Odin is let out and also goes in search of his buddy knowing he will get loving and a smacekeral of some kind of honey goodness.

Odin and Raven snuggling safely behind the baby gate 


These stories lighten my heart and I hope they do yours. I wanted to bring some humor to this month's story because the story has a bittersweet end.

Recently looking out onto my beautiful lake,  I saw my handsome Murphy and his  moms on the boat sweetly gliding along and it made me smile. Shortly after I received a message that said, Did you see Murphy? We wanted to take him on one last ride because that is what he loved to do. My heart broke in two. It was time for Murphy to go to the rainbow bridge the next day and his Moms wanted his last day to be perfection of all his favorite things.

With a saddened heart but also a toast to a celebration of beautiful life I want to dedicate this article  with love in memory of sweet joyful Golden Boy Murphy. May you fish,swim, run, and fly on golden wings until we all meet again.
A tribute to Murphy

I have included a wonderful story by Murphy's mom

For saying "no, we can't handle a puppy 2 weeks from our daughter's wedding", to his 1st couple months laced with health problems, we quickly came to love our Murphy boy.  In spite of him shredding every toy of Maude's he got a hold of, eating sticks non-stop & wandering off occasionally, he was a good boy.  He always treated Maude with the utmost respect. Always staying back until she got the treats first, let her eat before him, even choose her place to lay.  After Maude passed 4 years ago, he has been nothing but the best Golden boy!  New babies entering his later life, he has never snarled at one.  He would fish for hours, or play fetch with a stick, and then chew up the stick at the end of play.  He couldn't stand anyone to swim without him, and always had to be in the lead.  We made him learn to climb the ladder on the pontoon boat after several 'excited' overboard leaps after fish, turtles or bobbers,,,  folks were amused & amazed seeing this!  I'll miss my trips into the kitchen with you close behind, sharing my toast & sandwich crusts with you, & always the last bite of whatever I had.  Murphy has been sick since December.  After several vet & specialist visits his sinus tumor grew tremendously these past 3 weeks, closing one eye completely & moving to his lower jaw.  The laborious breathing that he is suffering thru would have only gotten worse with the upcoming heat & humidity.  Last night, with our boat still on the driveway to be cleaned, neighbor Bev offered her boat for one last cruise around the lake.  He had so much pep in his step getting to the lake!  We cruised past all his favorite spots that he would normally cry & tremble to have us stop the boat so he could swim.  Turtle Bay, the Sand Bar, the Eagles 🦅 Nest.  No excitement, as if he knew whats going on.  We got rained on, but continued on, last glances at the Eagles, like it was all part of a plan,,, 

He touched the hearts of many.  Neighbors Bev & Jodi both stopped by to give him his last love. 

We'll miss you, our Murphy boy.  You AND Maude have shown us what wonderful furbabies Golden Retrievers are.  You'll live on in our hearts ♥️ forever,,,

Friday, June 23, 2017

A true hero making a difference

Ashley and Wade Marr's dog Skye
Photo Credit Kim Perry


A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.~ Christopher Reeve

Ashley Perry turned thirteen years old this May. For such a young girl, she has given back with her whole heart, more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. She has a huge heart for people and animals.


Ashley has had 20 surgeries and every three weeks has to go into the hospital for the day to receive IVIG infusions that have side affects that resemble chemo. She has a very rare disease called Turners Syndrome that only affects 1/2000 young women.

Ashley and Wade Marrs
Photo credit Kim Perry

Overcoming obstacles like this and giving back as much as she does has made Ashley a true hero in my eyes. She is someone to admire that I believe is a wonderful role model. I am apparently not the only one that has recognized the greatness in this young lady. Wade Marrs, an Iditarod musher, I also admire, has also seen and admires her courage. Wade lives in a cabin with no running water or electricity. His life is loving and caring for his dogs. He works very hard to accomplish his goal. He has said that Ashley inspires him in his chosen fight. Wade inspires Ashley in her fight that she has no choice in.

The two have formed a bond. Ashley met Wade through Providence Children's Hospital, who contacted Ashley. A  sled ride was donated for Opening Ceremonies. It was donated to the hospital from a Pediatrician they lovingly refer to as Dr. Greg. Ashley rode with Wade in Iditarod Ceremonial Start in 2013. Once that was over his "commitment" was done. However, according to Kim Perry, Ashley's mom, "Wade truly has a heart of gold." He started asking the Perry family to his kennel to mush and then also invited Ashley to the Musher's banquet and the friendship grew. Ashley told me, "Wade is amazing, like a brother" to her and her two sisters and brother.

Wade is now racing to promote Turner's syndrome awareness. He has invited other girls from Alaska out to his kennel for rides and to socialize with each other so they know they are not alone.
Ashley and Wade
photo credit Kim Perry


This is one of Ashley's projects is to help others with Turner's syndrome know that they are not alone. They need to be able to support each other. She also wants the kids in the hospital to be able to forget they are sick for awhile. She works hard to get visitors to come to the hospital to bring joy. She has had Wade (of course) visit with fellow Iditarod Musher Aily Zirkle, country stars Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood and more. Ashley is always on the hunt for more volunteers. She has contacted her local mayor and is installing blessing boxes in her town. She is now reading to dogs in shelters.

Not too long ago, I wrote about getting a program started locally to do this. Reading to dogs in shelters allows children to spend time with the dogs in a loving, innocent non judging manner. This helps a very scared dog or anti-social dog become more adoptable and less likely to be returned. For children, especially those struggling with reading, one of the biggest challenges of learning to read is the embarrassment and fear of making mistakes. One of the most accepting, non-judgmental creatures in the world are dogs. Young students who read out loud to dogs improved their reading skills by 12 percent.

Life got busy, and I hadn't quite done it yet. Ashley's determination and spirit inspired me to get moving faster. I decided a girl with that much determination was the role model I wanted for this program. The program is to be called the "Ashley Perry Shelter Reading Program." I feel Ashley will be a beautiful inspiration for those struggling to achieve greatness. This program will take place at Muskegon Humane Society located in Muskegon, MI.

I hope Ashley inspires you, as she has so many. If you live locally, and would like to be a volunteer for the reading program, or get your child involved, please contact me via facebook or cani7lupus@aol.com. For Ashley I would also like to share this information to get the word out. Please feel free to contact me if any of these apply to you. I will get the information to the Perry family. She would love more cheer brought to her hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. Ashley wants others to know just because you have Turners Syndrome it doesn't mean that it  defines who you are. It's just a part of you.  The more sponsors for her dear friend Wade, the better. Ashley has told me he has done so much to bring awareness to Turners syndrome and joy to her family, she would like to help return the favor.
Ashley in her first sled dog race
Photo credit Kim Perry


This would be great advertising for Dog related business to be involved with the Iditarod. If you don't live locally, we both would love if you would be interested in getting a sister shelter program going in your area. I would love to get the information and assist you with that. One by one we can ALL collectively make a pawsitive difference.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Meaning Behind the Journey Iditarod 2017

Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination~ Drake

Wade Marrs and Ashley Perry photo credit Kim Perry
The journey of the Iditarod (and the other sled dog racing such as the Yukon Quest, is not solely about who the winner is. Nome is the destination however, I believe the journey is one with nature and of the heart, a true bond, mutual respect and partnership with your dog. I believe each musher races for a different reason.

In the forty fifth Iditarod, 2017, there were 20-38 inches of snow on the section of the race  from Nenana to Manley on the Historic old mail route. Starting temperatures were minus  thirty degrees below zero. This is the most snow they have seen for the race in twenty four years.

Dallas Seavy, Jeff King, and Martin Buser were hoping for their 5th win. Only one other Musher has achieved this great feat, Rick Swenson won his fifth in 1991.

This year Dallas Seavey designed a jet black custom sled. He even kept this secret from his dad, who is also a musher in the Iditarod Race. The sled had capabilities to carry more dogs comfortably allowing them to rest. He would not even allow an interview to be aired about it until the day before the Iditarod. This way, no one could duplicate his idea. Even without the secret sled, Dallas' dad, Mitch Seavey, beat him to finish line this year breaking the Iditarod record for time.  When he crossed the burled arches, Mitch, put his partners first. He would not even speak to a news crew about winning, until his dogs were loved on and given a snack. A good musher knows who he owes his/her success to.

The sportscasters that travel check point to check point talked about how happy and tail wagging the champions' dogs looked. Dallas came in second just five minutes before Nicolas Petit. With a one thousand mile race only five minutes apart is pretty exciting to watch on the GPS online.

Can you imagine actually racing across the tundra, how exhilarating that must be? These dogs LOVE to do this and you can see the joy it brings them. Dallas (last year's winner) talked a lot about not pushing his dogs too hard to catch up, once his dad had a good lead on him. He admirably states, "I don't want to do something stupid and lose the trust of my dogs."  I see that again and again. In this sport TRUST AND ETHICS FIRST.

Nicholas Petit, third place winner, chatted at a checkpoint and so eloquently stated, "Winning shouldn't be the priority,it should be the dogs, your personal interaction with them and what you can accomplish with a year of training." Nicholas obviously accomplished much bonding and success!

It is fun to watch the excitement, but to me the stories behind the adventure, is what the Iditarod is all about. The camaraderie, the checkpoint interviews, the love and care of the dogs and the reasons each musher embarks on their journey is what this race is all about.

The Iditarod is a learning experience for schools around the world. Schools can teach the Iditarod as a curriculum. The Iditarod Insider has a program for teachers.  I have two friends that have done this. The students get so excited to learn. I have visited these classrooms and  have never seen kids so engaged. The Teacher on the trail takes that one step further. According to the Insider. Teacher on the trail,"is a unique opportunity for one selected educator each year, to enter into a one year agreement to teach beyond the traditional classroom walls via Internet and to be involved in a project that reaches students around the world," The Teacher On The Trail gets to travel check point to checkpoint, experience and report back first hand what the adventure was all about.

This year's teacher, Annie Kelly, reintegrates the camaraderie she experienced and said "she has never seen so many crockpots in her life as the community provides."

 Hugh Neff, who owns and operates Laughing Eyes Kennel came in second on the Yukon Quest this year.  This is another musher that has ethics that are admirable. He can be seen wearing the "Cat in the Hat's" tall striped hat. He promotes literacy and achieving your dream to our youth. He carries a book every year on the Iditarod and donates it to a library when it is over.

When talking about his dogs Hugh says, "Lotta people look at them as dogs; I look at them as children. We shared a lot together, half the time we are talking about old times on the trail." When he talks about his so called opponents he proudly states, " We're family here." "We are competing against each other, but we are all friends. We all appreciate what we're all doing here. That's the beauty of it." "We are running to prove the greatness of our dogs. I just like having fun with my babies." I just bought his book and can not wait to read about his adventures as told by some of his dogs.

As many of us know from watching the interviews before, after and during the race, these courageous mushers are in the race primarily for the journey.  Twenty year old Laura Neese, lives in Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When traveling with her dogs, she sleeps with the dogs and not in the cabins. When asked at a checkpoint interview, "How do you keep your emotions in check and stay on top of your game?" Laura replied with a huge contagious grin, "Pretty much remember I am doing the Iditarod, It's pretty awesome! How can you not be happy?"
Another musher, Rick Castillo talks about a zen moment with the dogs "when they all become one."  I can just feel in my heart what their words portray!

Paige Drobny and Cody Strathe own and operate Squid Acres Kennel close to Fairbanks, Alaska. Paige came in fourth place this year in the Yukon Quest. Every time I see either one of them in an interview or checkpoint, it is about the pure LOVE of the dogs the adventure and joy in their eyes. They enjoy and savor every minute.

Cody was interviewed this year laying on his sled on the Yukon River with a dog on his chest in the sun. He was right with the world just as happy as could be. In Manly, Cody talks about his ride the night before. He tells of how "Running in the moonlight's been really beautiful , did some runs last night with the headlamp off, where you can see sixteen dog's shadows dancing in front of you, that's pretty amazing."

Jessie Royer, who finished this year's Iditarod in fifth place, with all 16 of her dogs, spoke of the same moon saying, "There is nothing better than 16 dogs and the moon out." Finishing with all 16 dogs happy and healthy is something to be proud of.

Ah, that moon must have been a sight! Wade Marrs, who one of my favorite mushers, smiles and talks about it being his favorite part; “When the moon comes out a little brighter" and when he can shut his headlamp off for an 80 mile run is his favorite part.  Wade came in 6th this year but at one point I thought he may win. His team was strong, fast and of course well taken care of. He was the first to reach Ruby and won the "Spirit of Alaska Award." In my eyes he is always a winner!!!

Wade has raced for Turners Syndrome Awareness in honor of his friend, Ashley Perry.  Wade seems to help her overcome obstacles with her rare disorder. She is a true  hero and one of Wade's biggest fans. They encourage each other to do their best and are both heroes in my eyes! See more of this heartwarming story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQSM53G25Io                                                                                                                                                          My next piece will be about Ashley and include an amazing program that will be a tribute to her courage and determination. Keep posted for great things in the works.

Another one of my very favorite musher's is four time Iditarod winner, Martin Buser. He came in 32nd this year, with the happiest of smiles looking for his love, his "wifey." With a grin he shouted, “What a great race, what an awesome race!"

Last year Martin's son Nikolai was in a tragic auto accident that was very traumatic. Thankfully he recovered, but it was a very long road for the family.  This year Martin's dog picked up some kind of virus on the trail. True to what Martin teaches children in schools on "the humanitarian care of animals and the spirit of the Iditarod," he let his dogs rest and get better before he went on.

For him, this year's race had a different meaning. Once crossing the burled arches Martin says, "This was a fantastically frustrating race, but it ends a four year streak of finishing with more questions than answers. This year I found a bunch of answers out on the trail. So that is what is satisfying about this trip around. I think I solved about four years of mystery in my team and in my life and in my relationships and all different things that need to be rectified." He also talked about the outcome of the race, "It's never the dog's fault. Of course they can live up to my expectations if I do it right."  In an earlier interview, Martin talked about keeping a positive attitude. I, personally, working with dog obedience, find this to be true beyond measure. He also so wisely states, "We are such mirrors of our dogs, and vice versa." "So I try to be up and on my game if I can, and then the dogs will mimic that."

Aily Zirkle is an honest, loving, amazing musher that I have always admired. Aily has come so close to wining so many times and she always races with such style and ethics. She loves her dogs and you can feel it. This race she was destined to do great and alas things happen. Her dogs picked up a virus similar to Martin's and Aily also did what any honorable musher would do and let her dogs rest to recover. At a checkpoint interview she was keeping positive and up beat. Her emotions got the best of her though and she laughed as she got choked up saying, "Let's finish this race on a positive note. I like my team, I wouldn't trade them for the world".  She finished with a smile and her dogs trust still in tact from being well taken care of and loved.

There are so many stories, so many great dogs and so many mushers. I can't mention each personally, but want to congratulate each one. Whether it is to howl at the moon, become one with nature, push yourself to your personal best, fight your own demons, support a great cause, be a role model for our youth or just enjoy another journey living life to the fullest each mushers has their reasons. As far as this author can see, each musher shows amazing camaraderie, ethics, care and love beyond measure for their canine partners out on the trail. I admire and commend each one of them for their determination, for getting out there, and for making the journey

Friday, March 24, 2017

Where ever you may roam may you always find your way home


"You've always had the power." ~Glinda the good witch from the Wizard of Oz

In my opinion, these are five very powerful words with a profound meaning.  This phrase is not just about having the power to go home. My belief is the slippers Dorothy wears represent the power we have within ourselves. We create our own heart's desire and do not rely on some other person or material object to do it for us. When our heart is truly happy, we are happy with whom we have become as a person. It allows us to share that happiness and have healthier relationships with others.

I believe when you rely on others for that happiness you can become disappointed because no one is perfect. We will ultimately be let down in one way or another. However, if we set our own standards, it is up to us to find the proper tools to achieve them.

Often we look to others to provide us with the answers we seek, instead of looking in our own heart, where the answers ultimately lie.  After her adventures in Oz, Dorthy says “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. If it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

However if you have that happiness and "power" of being truly happy, I feel you can love more. Your relationships hold more value. Your friendships and relationships will not BE your happiness. You will find more happiness within them. If you don't count on others to be your everything, and you have your own talents, interests and live with purpose, you can appreciate others for who they are instead of being reliant on them.

I believe animals are born with that happiness or should I say inner knowledge on how to love unconditionally and just be content with just "being." They don't dwell. When they love, they love with their whole heart. They do not waste their time wanting more or searching for more meaningless material things. They do not need the toy with all the bells and whistles to give them self worth. They are just content to be in the moment and share love and joy.

We have all heard accounts of animals getting lost and miraculously finding their way home over long distances to reconnect with their heart's contentment. I especially believe dogs have a sixth sense, more like a calling and a feeling that directs them. To hear these accounts in movies is one thing, but to actually hear of this from someone you know gives you goosebumps and  leaves me in awe.

A neighbor friend of mine told me of one such account I wanted to share with you. Years ago, when he was camping with his family in Gull Lake, Kalamazoo they brought their white Spaniel named Fluffy. While camping there was a terrible storm and Fluffy ran away. The family searched for Fluffy and could not find him. Sadly they had to return to their home in Barota, MI.  They were heartbroken. Miraculously and happily, two weeks later, Fluffy showed up home seventy five miles from where he was lost. He was exhausted and had bleeding paws, but otherwise healthy and overjoyed to return to her hearts desire.
It is always good to strive for greatness. However my hope is that people learn to quit hoping to find happiness "somewhere over the rainbow" and look in our hearts desire within.

In life if we stay true to our beliefs and to our heart, we won't need those ruby slippers to help us find our way home. We will always be home in our heart, wherever we may roam.

Author's note: I heard the story of Fluffy from my neighbor, Jerry Gast, years ago. After this article was written, days before I sent it in, I found out he recently passed away. I was so sad to hear this. I want to dedicate this article to his memory. I will miss his stories he told, his smile and wave as he shouted out , "Hey Paddles”, because Odin and I often paddle boat together.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

It's a beautiful day



Happy Grandpuppy Cash on a walk 


Cheery-O
If you smile, the day will be alright
If you think good thoughts you'll be happy
And everything will work out right
So don't let a frown turn you sour,
Don't let bad thoughts make you blue
Always remember to think positively
For how you feel is up to you
~author unknown?

 You may ask yourself, Why is there a ? at the end of that quote...
To answer your question, I received it in my Christmas card from my dear cousins this year. It was written in my Aunt Marianne's writing. My cousins (they are her children) claim she used to copy verses down and had hundreds of them.
Aunt Marianne 


They told me most likely she is not the author. I searched for this online and cannot find it, so in my mind she is the author ... because this is how she lived her 90+ years on this earth. She lived them with zest and joy.

She was one of my hero's. No matter what the day looked like when she saw you, she would ALWAYS say, "Wow, it's a beautiful day." That was her philosophy in life. She lived with joy, grace and beauty, not wasting a second. She once told me she jogged in front of the microwave to make the best use of her time while waiting. She always made you feel special and had the biggest smile. I miss and admire my Aunt Marianne and strive to live like she did. She made the most of everyday, not wasting it ,but making it beautiful.
Aunt Marianne , always a joy

Recently I met a very sweet and kind woman, Denise, who shared some beautiful stories with me about her dad, Clyde Arthur Hedges, "Art". She told me about how he and his wife "subscribed to 'furry philosophy” and lived in the moment with his German Shepherds and Irish Setters. Art, his wife Zella, and their dogs, lived in the Northern Michigan woods and would ski, walk and swim together, living life to the fullest.
Art and Dutchess

Each day Art and his shepherd Dutchess would walk together through the apple orchard. Dutchess loved to munch on fallen apples. One afternoon they came home from their walk and Art had an apple he found. He said to his daughters, "Look girls, here is the perfect apple, the colors are beautiful." He did a watercolor of it, finding perfection in simple beauty. Art loved the rainbow bridge philosophy. When someone was parted from him, he was quoted as saying, "Just remember a farewell is only the beginning of another hello."
The apple watercolor

These two special souls, who now have angel wings, lived life to the fullest, into their 90's. I believe their positive outlooks deserved to be admired and shared.

It seems to me our furry friends try to share this philosophy with us on a daily basis. I think of my grandpuppy Cash, who just visited. She is a big, sweet, goofy lab mix. When asked a simple, "Cash do you want to go outside? She leapt straight up, all four feet in the air, and ran to the door with such exuberance you would have thought she won the doggie lotto. When I took her into the woods for a hike, a simple everyday walk made her so happy. I could not get a photo of her with all four feet on the ground at one time, most of them looked like she was doing hand stands. Every little thing seemed to make her jump for joy. I am certain if she could talk she would be shouting Aunt Marianne's, "Wow, it's a beautiful day!"

Recently Odin and I have been working on Nosework games, where the dog learns to identify a particular scent such as birch.  One game we play involves two empty Altoids containers and some treats. When I bring those little metal tins out, Odin looks like a child about to open a birthday present. He is so happy with something so simple and to play a game with me (and of course get treats). He looks forward to something as simple as sitting on the floor with something that is usually just discarded as trash. He gets happy feet as soon as I pull out the bag with the tins inside.
Odin says, "Mom I am ready to play a game"

I believe if we can hold this Furry Philosophy of finding beauty in simplicity, from our furry friends,  and wise souls such as Aunt Marianne and Art Clay, in our heart, we will start each day with a smile.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Scout's Story by Lisa Gendhar


A few months ago, I wrote about the group, Paula Smith, from Dog Blessed and I formed called "Camp Kylee".  It offers an affordable opportunity to train with like minded people and dogs. We want people to understand their dog is not bad, just because it is reactive to others.

This group helps to give owners the proper tools to live happily with their reactive dog, and not set them up for failure. There are many activities you can enjoy with your reactive dog that can help strengthen your bond.

I love to hear success stories of such bonding. It proves that just because your dog is reactive, doesn't mean that you should give up on them. This story of "Scout" by Lisa Gendhar, touched my heart and I felt compelled to share her story
Thank you Lisa for sharing your TEAM success!

Scout's story by Lisa Gendhar
Scout's Story Hi my name is Lisa and I have reactive German Shepherd Dog named Scout.
I adopted Scout from our local animal control shelter in January 2009. They estimated that he was about 11 months old at that time.
I spent some time with Scout at the shelter getting to know a little about him. I have 2 other dogs and 6 cats. I wanted to be sure he would fit into our pack. Scout seemed like a "normal" dog. Nothing unusual stood out about him. He let me pet him, pull on his tail and touch his paws. He seemed a little confused about where he was and why but other than that nothing unusual.
Shortly after Scout came to live with us (me and my pack), I discovered he had severe separation anxiety. He broke out of and dissembled three wire crates. Once out of the crate he proceeded to tear up any of my clothing that he could get to, knock things off the counter and break dishes. Thankfully he never hurt any of the cats.
I consulted a veterinarian who suggested we put him on medication for the anxiety and recommended a certain type of crate. I immediately went out and purchased the crate he recommended. I am very happy to say that was the perfect crate for Scout. He still has that crate and he has never been able to break out of it.
The medication approach didn't work out so well. The medication that the Vet put Scout on changed his personality. It did help with the anxiety but Scout had that glassy eye drugged up look. I also I didn't like how it changed his personality. Although Scout is a little high strung and at times very anxious, I still liked his quirky personality. I decided to pursue behavioral training instead. Scout responded very nicely and seemed to be adjusting really well.
Up to this point, Scout never showed any aggression or dislike toward other dogs. He got along great with other two dogs. My daughter stayed with me for about a year after college. She had two dogs and they all got along very well.
One day, I decided to take my dogs to a dog park. It was a nice day. I just wanted them to be able to run. All my dogs were doing very well.But while were there, I noticed a Black Lab chasing a little Jack Russell Terrier. The JRT did 2 not look like he was having fun at all. I looked around for the owners but there was really no one watching them. I decided that I didn't like that Lab's behavior so I gathered up all my dogs. I put Scout on leash and we headed toward the gate to leave. All of the sudden, what seemed like out of nowhere, that Lab came flying up behind us and circled around me to meet Scout face to face. The dog tried to bite Scout and Scout bit back. It was the most horrible day in my life. In that split second, all the trust I had built with Scout up to that point was completely destroyed.
Scout was a different dog after that. He was never the same. I would try to take him for a walk and he would constantly be looking over his shoulder in fear that another dog was coming up behind us. He became very reactive toward other dogs and would act like he would attack them if they even looked like they were coming toward him. It was very heartbreaking. I suddenly had this dog that I couldn't do anything with anymore.
I decided to have Scout temperament tested to determine if he had become aggressive. I was concerned that I would have to have him put down because I really couldn't trust him anymore either. The trainer said he had fear aggression. He was reacting out of fear and he didn't trust me. That was a very painful thing to hear... that my dog no longer trusted me to protect him because of that moment in the dog park.
I started on a journey to earn his trust again. I began learning about reactive and fearful dogs, how they view the world, other dogs and other humans. I started learning about different ways our dogs tell they are uncomfortable with a situation and how to diffuse that or how to work through it. I started doing different training exercises with Scout. But it seem like for every one step forward we fell twenty steps backwards.
 There were many times I felt like maybe Scout would be better off with someone who was more knowledgeable about this type of dog than I was or more equip to deal with him. I felt like I had failed him.
 In my journey to rebuild trust with Scout, I felt like he needed a job. I felt like he needed something to build his confidence level and give him a purpose. However, being a reactive dog, there were not many options available to us. He 3 couldn't be in a ring with another dog without losing his mind so Rally, obedience and agility were out of the question.
Then one day, a friend of mine, told me about nosework. She had just become a certified instructor. She thought nosework would be a fantastic sport for Scout. She said he didn't have to be around other dogs to do this sport and that it would help build his confidence. I was pretty skeptical but I checked into it.

In 2012, we began our nosework journey. We still had to be around other dogs in class. That was unavoidable at times. But it was manageable. Whenever I have the opportunity to work with Scout around other dogs or people, I embrace that as long as I know he is comfortable. If he starts getting anxious, I just move him to his safe place (which is typically his crate).
Over time, I started noticing changes in Scout. We started bonding. He started asking for affection from me again. He started giving me his attention and started focusing on me more.
Scout LOVES nosework. I feel it has brought us back together. I feel like it has really given him purpose, a job, something fun to focus on and something he knows he does really well.
 When I decided that I wanted to start competing in nosework with Scout, there were many people that told me Scout had no business competing in nosework because he is a reactive dog. They felt he was untrustworthy. They felt he couldn't handle the stress of a trial. There are still people in the UKC world that tell me Scout should not be doing nosework with UKC because he is a reactive dog. I am not really the kind of person to be telling "you can't do that" because that just inspires me to prove them wrong.
Scout is now 8 years old. He holds 5 NACSW (National Association of Canine Scent Work) Titles. One of our biggest accomplishments in 2016 is earning our NW3 Title on our first try. It took some of my nosework friends 2 or 3 tries to earn their NW3. I am extremely proud of the team that we have become. Scout also hold 12 UKC Nosework Titles and we continue to work toward our Elite Title.
Reactive dogs are a challenge. For every one step forward, you could have twenty steps backward. It can very frustrating. I still have to be careful and aware 4 of my surroundings when I am out with Scout. I have to know what is going on all around me at all times when I am out with him.
Will Scout ever NOT be a reactive dog? Probably not. Does that mean he is hopeless? Definitely not!
I have to know what he can tolerate and what he can't tolerate. I think that is the biggest key to understanding our reactive dogs. We have to get out of that mindset that our reactive dogs are handicapped. They aren't. They are just wired different and we have the awesome challenge of getting to know them on their level and helping them navigate this scary world and find their niche. Having a reactive dog is not a curse, nor is it the end of the world. Just ask Scout!!

To learn more about nose work contact Dog Blessed, at 616 430-0297 for an upcoming seminar in the Muskegon area, on January 26, 2017 or Lisa Gendhar 269-873-2976 in the Kalamazoo area.

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