This title almost seems as oxymoronic as “Coming Together In Politics,” but hear me out… or don’t. It’s a free country. One thing that has created greater divisiveness in our country in this past year is the use of labels. She’s a MAGA; he’s a snowlake; my uncle’s a sheep; my boss is a total Trumper; our nanny is anti-vax; etc… you get the picture. However, one lesson that stuck with me in a big way is you can’t compartmentalize someone because of a belief. For instance, I was scrolling through a conservative friend’s post on Facebook a few months back where the OP stated that the virus would disappear after November 4th, 2020 (I wish). One woman who commented on the thread posted an article about how masks, social distancing, staying home, and washing hands were all directly against the Bible. The post contained a bunch of biblical references highlighting each aspect of the argument. It honestly was one of the most extreme pieces I’ve read in all of 2020. I clicked on this lady’s profile… unsure why… maybe to see where she lived? I kid you not; she had a “Black Lives Matter” frame on her profile picture. I actually picked the phone up to call a friend because it seemed so ironic. This was in no means brought up to imply that religious Americans would automatically be considered racist in their thinking nor does it mean someone who isn’t supportive of the BLM movement is racist. I mentioned it because normally someone who is anti wearing a mask and also believes the virus is a hoax more aligned with the “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” sector.
One size doesn’t fit all. And the same is true in the dog world. For the sake of clarity, rather than just looking at dog owners, let’s look at dog trainers. This is mainly because it’s a smaller sample size and labels like Aussie person, agility fanatic, hard core rescuer, hunter, etc. will only get us so far for my intentions of this blogpost. A dog trainer is no longer just a dog trainer in the same way that a plumber not only was but still is a plumber. Now you’re either purely positive or balanced or LIMA or NePoPo or TWC or One Mind Dog certified or KP certified and so on. And for the purposes of this article, let’s consider a dog trainer someone who can work with dogs as a full-time job (doesn’t rely on another source of income) and grosses at least 50K per year. So why are the labels above an important qualification? And honestly, if you say, “Because ‘x’ is the only method works,” you are incorrect. Positive training and balanced training are both effective methods to train a dog when done correctly. And results speak for themselves. You shouldn’t have to put another trainer or training method down to promote your own training style or company.
Now let’s talk science. This global pandemic has ironically made the same subject we all studied in school some sort of buzz word. Recently, I have asked a few balanced trainers I respect why there aren’t more scientific studies on balanced training. While I’ve gotten mixed reviews on people’s reasoning, it seems abundantly clear from my discussions that ecollar, bark collar, pinch collar, and invisible fence companies are doing just fine without any studies supporting their methods. Furthermore, even if a flood of studies came out condoning and/or supporting using aversive tools in dog training, most trainers don’t use them because of ethics. IMHO, most people who believe the term LIMA to be too extreme of a view would not then turn around and begin using an aversive tool regardless of what science said.
My issue is the judgement, the nastiness, the hate, and yes, again… the divisiveness. I am unique in my position in the dog world. I am no doubt a member of the “younger generation,” but I’ve been actively involved in the dog world for almost 3 decades. A lot has changed since then, which has been interesting (as well as terrifying at times). What has been even more fascinating for me is the dog world meeting politics, especially this past year. Yesterday in a progressive agility group someone asked about breed preferences and how different breeds’ owners relate to political stances. In a dog group designed for racial inclusivity, Clicker Expo was mentioned a few months back. A BIPOC dog owner commented that she not only felt underrepresented at the event but also inadvertently attacked for her balanced training methods. So… when we begin to go out of our way to include people of other races in dog sports should we also clarify the tools they choose in training? Where do you draw the line ethically? I want this puppy’s genetics, but the breeder is a huge Trump supporter. Does that hinder your decision? This family paid me $3,000 for a Bootcamp at my facility but had a Times Square size “BYEDON” sign in their yard when I went to pick up the dog. Do you refund them and not take the dog for training because you think the Biden/Harris ticket is the worst thing that ever happened to America? Politics aside, if an AKC World Team member uses a bark collar on his or her personal dogs, should they no longer be allowed on the team? Would you no longer take an online class from him or her?
If the above hypotheticals seem ridiculous to you, you haven’t been paying attention. There are MANY people who are currently unable to contact an owner of one of their dog’s littermates that passed away because they are no longer Facebook friends with them because of political viewpoints. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have everyone’s email address, phone number, or physical address any longer. I suppose you could reach out through Messenger to send your condolences; however, that seems potentially awkward to me if your message pops up in a spam folder, which leads you into explaining how you chose not to just merely unfollow but actually unfriend that person.
I personally don’t want the dog world to turn into Facebook versus MeWe or Parler. Some of those dog people I knew from 25 years ago live in red states and their blood runs deep red. Who cares? They are still Americans. They are still dog lovers. Just remember… dogs, too, are political. Dogs themselves aren’t political of course, which could officially be labeled Reason #897 to love them, but issues involving them often are. And when something is political, 99.5% of the time, money is involved. These big name schools are making 7-8 figure incomes off students and certifications. A large majority of the animal rights legislation being presented in regards to breeding and training equipment come from very liberally-minded groups. Just remember, it’s a well known fact, that politics and money can make things messy.
We have SERIOUS issues going on in the dog world. Overpopulated rescues, more dogs on medication than ever before, unethical breeding, obesity, genetic diseases within breeds, Doodles with literally five breeds mixed into them… I could go on for days. Why does the small sector of dog trainers who train differently than you do automatically shoot to the top of your grievance list? It seems all anyone does on the internet is fight. Everyone has a hard and fast rule about why they are right and then the angry and laughing emojis start flying, and normally someone’s feelings get hurt and the unfriending commences. Lol… rereading that last sentence makes us sound worse than middle school students. I literally was watching a news conference a few weeks back about an assault that happened in my home town. I honestly couldn’t even tell you the details of what was being reported by the police because everyone was bickering below in the live feed about gun control and Trump’s America and COVID and a myriad of other topics. In that moment I realized, I have not read one comment about the actual victim! Like, WTAF, humanity?
Dog trainers and their own beliefs about methodologies and politics are not cut and dry. I know MANY balanced trainers who are hardcore Democrats. I know CPDTs who are staunch Trump supporters. Stop acting woke. Stop acting superior. No matter what you believe, we are all people who love dogs. As dog trainers- at least 85-90% of them in my opinion- we are people who love dogs who want to help other dogs and their humans. Doesn’t that in fact put us on the same team? And if you are reading this as a dog owner, please stop judging trainers when you are not putting yourself in their shoes just because you heard or read something. And as a dog trainers, if you don’t currently train at least 50 dogs a year to reliably walk on a loose leash, stay on a bed for at least 30-45 minutes with distraction, and rest quietly in a crate any time day or night, please reserve judgement as well. And that goes for people on both sides of the fence about methodology.
If someone else chooses a training tool you don’t agree with, how does that affect you or your dog? This goes back to an ethical argument. It’s your choice how you want to train your own dog. Just like many people believe abortion and gun ownership should be an individual choices. The bottom line without getting too philosophical is you shouldn’t need to put other people down to build yourself up. The proof is in the pudding. Life is hard enough. Just be kind no matter where you fall as the pendulum swings. I would like to see healthy dogs in forever homes with content owners who can expect some realistic expectations out of an adult dog (i.e., walking down the street in an orderly fashion, being able to live loose in the house if and when the family wants, hiking off leash in the woods, and a dog that can be handled at the vet to name a few). And, FYI, in case you’re still unclear, those accomplishments aren’t dependent on any specific list of training tools.
2021 is almost here. Be the guy with the firehose instead of the girl with the match. =)
Think that social media is really heating up these days? That in fact some people truly have zero filter behind a keyboard? That Facebook/Instagram/TikTok/Twitter/news may even be toxic, causing more harm than good? Y’all haven’t been in the dog world the past decade online, have ya? I will admit though, beyond the regularly scheduled programming of dog and dog training drama, we are becoming a nation of nasty.
What does the title mean? Before you go blow up someone’s Facebook post, ask yourself your intent. These are hard times. If you say they aren’t, how proud do you really have to be? What are you trying to prove? Be hopeful, yes. Call a stranger you never met before a curse word over the internet… no. Are you confident on the issues you’re speaking on? Have you actually trained thousands of dogs yourself? Are you being polite? Would you want your parent to read your response on that thread… your child? Are you proud of what you said?
Stay in your own lane.
And the second half, when I say muzzle, I don’t mean mask. I’m happy the president is wearing one now, but I smile at everyone I pass in public under my mask whether they are wearing one or not. Do you see how some of these employees are being treated who are required to ask customers to wear a mask? Did you see the video of the woman spraying mace on a couple and their food for eating outdoors without masks? What is going on? By muzzle, I mean control yourself.
And why muzzle these poor abused racing dogs? Because they have drive. Because they could go off on each other at a moment’s notice. But they are wearing muzzles so they can safely play the game they want to play… the game they need to play. Where is your muzzle? And why aren’t you wearing it? Another reason these dogs wear muzzles is because they have thin skin. It’s a well known fact that Whippet and Greyhound skin is basically as strong as a high grade paper stock at Staples. Which brings up an even better point, if you yourself have thin skin, it’s even more important to wear your muzzle around others who could potentially have even thinner skin than you!
Am I saying be silent? No! So many dog people are careful about not saying something online because of too much backlash. So many dog people say way too much online. Why are strangers asking other dog owners how they could even be friends with a balanced trainer? Sexist remarks were recently made at a dock diving event. Racist remarks often pop up on various threads. There is a difference between freedom of speech and polite and productive conversation.
And in that same vein… scrolling by works too. Or asking a thoughtful question but then don’t turn that into a pissing match. Do I unfollow people, YES! Do I unfriend people, not often. Do I delete threads and comments when they get heated, no. Do I post disclaimers like, “If you bring up xyz, your comment will immediately be deleted,” never. Similarly, if we never speak, please don’t write me to let me know that one of our mutual Facebook friends said something or did something and suggest I unfriend them. I don’t have to support what that person did, but I can make my own choices for my own friends list. Tunnel vision works great for these dogs pictured above in this moment; tunnel vision isn’t going to help us progress as a nation. Observe what other people are saying. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a trainer? Observe behavior?
Social media can also be amazing! You can connect from afar with friends and family. Sometimes you get an awesome recommendation for a show (cough… Suits). I personally love clicking on a hot topic post and watching someone express themselves eloquently rather than meanly. I have even written a few people on Facebook to thank them for their consistent controlled candor. Sometimes you scroll past something funny… or inspiring. Sometimes you find something you can truly connect with. But, ask yourself, are you connecting with angry or sarcastic (or insert your own feeling here)? Or are you being intentional?
We have drivey dogs. I would bet if they all lived in the same house with another family, some of them might have to be muzzled. There are a select few dog savvy folks who could manage our pack, but a large majority of these so called competent trainers seem to be most confident behind their keyboards. When someone gets judgmental on Facebook about dog training, I would love to have a few stats next to their name. One interesting stat would be, how many dogs have you trained- not just personal dogs but you actually held that dog’s leash and assisted in its training? Another one could be, how many aggressive dogs have you trained or rehabilitated? These are baiting questions, so I rarely ask them, but why did you specifically feel the need to unnecessarily step in here? We own a Malinois titled in French Ring, Border Collies that are tightly spun, difficult rescues, and we have a 13-year-old Pomeranian who absolutely runs the show. She keeps me on my toes more than I ever realized a 3 pound dog was capable, and she was actually just featured on our podcast yesterday with a live animal communication reading with Joan Ranquet if you want to check her out!
Our dogs are a lot. But they are wonderful. They are quiet. They can settle. They listen. They are incredible workers. They are sweet. They complete us. Is your house quiet? Are your dogs social? Can you groom each of your dogs yourself? Do you trust your dogs off leash? Can your dogs walk on a loose leash on flat collars only? Do they settle in crates? Do they settle on beds? Can they stay on their beds when guests come? Can they sleep in the bed? Can they go a day without exercise and not be on the verge of a complete breakdown? I’m not saying that you have to check every box here or that this necessarily is the best comprehensive list to work from… but think before you type speak.
Some of this may sound sharp. Some of this needs to be said. Life is too short. Why are you unnecessarily criticizing that dog’s structure publicly? One of my Facebook friends posted the other day she is literally changing breeds because of the drama in her current breed. There are people who critique world class movie trainers. Why? Because of the fallout of showing the public something? I’d like to see footage of the last time a random stranger ruined its puppy’s hips because they trained it to jump rope too young. If you don’t agree with something for your own dogs, fine… move on! If you often find yourself only using the angry or laughing emoji (more sarcastically than literally), maybe ask yourself why. How are you contributing? How are you feeling? Are you making someone else feel bad in the process? Are you really just being an ass? And if your response is, “Who cares… Trump is an ass!” How are you any better?
Stay in your own lane. Wear your muzzle. Don’t be an ass. And try to repeat. And then, if you’re going for extra credit, be grateful. All this change you preach about starts with you- in relation to dog training and the world. I’m going to close with this passage below that we read before morning meditation today:
This Brief Lifetime
“How are we going to spend this brief lifetime? Are we going to strengthen our well-perfected ability to struggle against uncertainty, or are we going to train in letting go? Are we going to hold on stubbornly to ‘I’m like this and you’re like that?’ Or are we going to move beyond that narrow mind? Could we start to train as a warrior, aspiring to reconnect with the natural flexibility of our being and to help others do the same? If we start to move in this direction, limiting possibilities will begin to open up.”
It’s hard to find a common ground these days among dog owners. Whether you are an R+ trainer, a canine officer, a Furmom, a rescue volunteer, a Bully breed advocate, etc., where do we come together anymore? Can we just start at least at the fact that you consider yourself a dog person? That definition meaning you like dogs and likely the best part of your day is coming home and hanging out with your dog? That you love your dog?
I’ve been around the dog world for over 30 years. And Scott has known a culture of dogs for another 20 years before that. The answer when he was young used to be that if the dog growled at the kid, he got thrown outside for the night. When I was growing up, everybody went to obedience class with a choke chain and leash and the AKC CD exercises were the entire class. I just found a test sheet that reminded me of this from an old memory box the other day. How have things changed SO DRASTICALLY in the past decade alone? We can’t blame Trump for this one!
Where did the trend start? Inbred Doodles? Puppy mills? Purely positive? Medication? The billion dollar pet industry? I don’t think there’s necessarily one culprit nor does it really matter how we ended up where we did, but where do we go from here? In the dog world, we are SO QUICK to cut each other down. Why? Why are we NEVER on the same team anymore? We judge… genetics, owners, trainers, behaviorists, competitors, tools, protocols. And yet most of those casting judgement have very little control of their own dogs in a public setting.
When it comes to referring to positive trainers, people will often use the phrase, “They are drinking the kool-aid.” What about the owners who aren’t even training at all- who literally have the kool-aid pack and pitcher of water on the counter and don’t even ever mix the two together much less drink it? There’s a big difference between a dog owner whose dog pulls her down the street and a dog owner who pushes her dog in a stroller. And there’s an even bigger difference between the first two groups and the dogs that walk nicely down the street not bothering others trained in either camp. But that dog is few and far between these days.
Kendall Jenner gets berated for having a pinch collar on her dog and yet there are other dogs attacking humans everyday on the street. Strangers. Runners. Dogs that were muzzled but still out of control and broke free. If you aren’t training pet dogs in this day and age on a regular basis, you have zero business commenting on aggression issues or anxiety issues. Dogs, like kids, need structure. Structure comes from quiet time, from handling, from criteria, and from limiting movement for starters. Without structure, dogs unravel.
We ALL need to do better. To respect each other more. I’m frankly embarrassed sometimes by how volatile and ugly we can get as so called dog people. Again, aren’t we on the same team… the team that likes dogs and being around dogs- at least our own dogs? How can we respectfully bring light to some of these topics? How can we educate? Not just bitch, point fingers, and engage in name calling on Facebook threads like a bunch of kids on the playground.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar acceptance speech really resonated with a lot of people. He said, “And I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room because we share the same love, the love of [dogs] and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life... And I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other.”
Everyone is an expert and no one wants guidance. Why? We blame vets for medicating everything that walks in the door. Did the owner want to train? Why would a breeder sell a puppy to an owner who is unwilling to train that dog? Did the owner potentially try training and it made zero difference? Should that dog not have left rescue in the first place? Why are breeders and rescues mandating how dogs should be handled in their new homes? What other option besides medication do vets have nowadays? Hell, almost 20% of humans are on some sort of mood altering drug!
Let’s start with some easy ones. We want healthy dogs in society. That’s on the breeders. We want safe dogs adopted into homes. That’s on the rescues. We want dogs to be more well behaved in society. That’s on the trainers. We want to better educate dog owners. That’s on the influencers. We all need to step up our game. We have to find a common ground. That common ground should be our love of dogs. And our love of dogs should include keeping them safe and having control over them at least to some extent.
I’m not trying to make this a why can’t we be friends post, but maybe think twice before going on the attack next time. How are we contributing to the greater good by automatically segmenting ourselves? Labeling others? Why does it matter how someone else trains their dog? Why do we seem to care more about dogs than we do about people? Maybe don’t let your sarcastic undertone be your first response next time you’re triggered. Maybe focus on action rather than words. Try to contribute in some way. We certainly can discuss some of these issues more productively. I’m afraid to see what dog ownership will look like in another decade at the rate we’re going. It’s changing so drastically so quickly. And not for the better.
When I was a little girl, I grew up in a house with this puppy. She grew up with me and she eventually had my heart puppy. Also, admittedly, below is the likely the most swimming I’ve ever done in my life.
As Tootsie’s puppies grew up, I taught them to go up and down our back stairs from their litter box room to the outside world. Then, eventually, I timed them as they did the stairs and kept records of their times. Later on, at that same house, with that same puppy, I played vet in the basement with dogs. And as most of you know, I began to train dogs there, which led me to where I am in my career today.
Bammer tied me to that house. To that life. To that me. She will be gone exactly one month tomorrow. It has undoubtedly been the hardest month of my life. She was euthanized 15 weeks to the day of Sarge. I honestly haven’t been able to even talk about it. I haven’t been able to grieve Sarge. I haven’t been able to process the shock of Bammer. Those dogs. They tie it all together. They truly complete the puzzle. Where do I go from here?
I graduated from high school with this crew. Bammer was the one of the originals. She was the little one of that group. Bammer slept on the side of my head for at least a decade- right side; it was always the right side.
When I was in college at University of Michigan, I toured around the country performing with dogs during my summer. Bammer was there with me every mile. Bammer closed shows!
After I met the love of my life and moved to Massachusetts and got my first Border Collie of my adult life, Bammer was there. Bammer was the princess then.
Before we moved to Maine, in our house in Massachusetts, with my now pregnant first adult Border Collie also with my adult heart dog and of course my Pants Pie. Bammer was there. Bammer ran the show there.
If I was there, Bammer was there. And now she’s not. We were permanent residents of 5 states together. Illinois. Michigan. Colorado. Massachusetts. And now Maine. I’m so glad she made it to Maine with me. With us. (That secretly was one of my goals.) Bammer set the tone here.
Dogs are funny. They seem to know to hang in until they know we will be okay. I found this to be true with Sarge too. Bammer briefly shared her life with my best friend from college, Kate. Frankly, Bam liked Kate more than me. Kate’s youngest son has been struggling with a serious health issue that was recently resolved, and, luckily, he continues to thrive. Kate seemed okay.
Bammer stretched over an even longer time period with my best friend from high school, Brit. It is because of her, we named her Bammer. Bammer was the last of our original crew combined. Brit is now in love with this amazing person whom Scott and I love dearly, owns one of my dog’s puppies, and has recently had some amazing career path changes come her way. Britty seemed okay.
<<Also, admittedly (again), this was the most hiking Bammer has ever done in her entire life despite the scene that the above two pictures paint. Or maybe these were at least 2 of 6 hikes.>>
And then, there was Scott. My love. My everything. Bam’s favorite. And Bam was his favorite. Bam wasn’t a people person. Unless you knew her, you wouldn’t get it. But she loved Scott. Similar to how she loved Kate but more. Scott was amazing. And enlightened. And happy. And productive. And floating. And meditating. And tapping. And so many other good things. Scott seemed okay.
Below is Bam 1 month before she left us in Salisbury, MA and Bam a few days before she transitioned in Eliot, ME. Both times with her person.
But what about me? Am I okay? I’m blessed. Bam was 18 years old. We shared eighteen years together. Sarge was 13 years old. He was with us for thirteen of those eighteen years. These dogs led me to a life that is better than I ever could have imagined. With a husband who is more than I ever wanted. Learning more about training than I ever even could have fathomed existed.
My life is easier without the old dogs. I have no one to constantly care for anymore. Feeding is easier. Grooming is easier. Life is easier in many ways. But what I WOULDN’T GIVE TO CARE FOR ONE OR BOTHOF THEM AGAIN! Just for one night! Just in one dream! Just in one lifetime!
Sometimes I resent our current dogs. They aren’t them. My rocks. My core. But I had lunch with an old student and good friend yesterday who reminded me to be grateful for what I have now. And that may seem obvious to most of you. But with dogs… dogs like these. It’s hard to not miss them. To miss that.
I am grateful for what I have. And who I have. And for what’s to come! But I just wanted to give you a friendly reminder to be grateful for what you have as well. Even if it’s a difficult puppy. Even if it’s an intolerable rescue. Even if it’s an old dog that pees every damn day! Be grateful for what you have now. Because you will be $%*&ing eternally grateful for what was.
Gratitude is important. Mindfulness is important. This month is a good reminder of that. I hope my dark days can lighten yours. Mine slowly get brighter by the day mostly because of the gratitude for what I have. = )
Recently a young couple came into our facility with a high-energy hound mix. The dog was rescued in Tennessee and driven up to New England. This is their first dog, and they want to provide him with the best care possible.
Every morning around 6AM, one of them gets up early and takes the dog for a sunrise run. The morning run helps to quell the dog’s barking when they leave for work. Later in the morning, a dog walker comes and takes the dog out of a small mudroom for a 30 minute walk.
At 3PM, another dog professional comes to the house and takes the dog for a pack walk in a wooded area, which the company claims is important for socialization. When the owners return home from work at 6PM, the dog is still rearing to go. The running shoes come back out, and the dog goes for another three to five mile jog.
This routine seemed to calm the dog and worked for them for a few months, but now the dog is having more difficulty settling down at night. They shared how the dog violently protested his crate from the very beginning and sleeps in bed with them instead. Recently, the dog has begun waking up at 2AM and begins pacing.
This behavior made the couple concerned that the dog may need to go out to pee, so one of them takes the dog outside. After a quick potty, the dog then wants to play. Now the couple is utterly exhausted. They are trying their absolute best to be good first time dog owners but feel that they should be doing more for the dog. However, there simply isn’t enough time in the day!
After working with the dog described above, it became very obvious that this couple was dealing with a rescue that was exhibiting anxiety. Exercise alone will do little to remedy this problem. You cannot outrun crazy! At best, you will create a highly fit canine athlete that will only be able to recover quicker and in fact begin to demand more from you.
Giving the dog up was simply not an option for them. This couple is committed to saving the dog from a shelter and possible euthanasia. So, how much exercise does a young healthy dog need? The answer is not nearly as much as one might think. Thirty minutes a day of rigorous exercise like chasing a ball or going for a run is plenty for most dogs. And if you can’t do that every single day, you are not a terrible dog owner!
Dogs sleep quite a bit! In a recent article, it was mentioned that many adult dogs sleep during half of our waking hours. A mentally stable adult dog will live in a state of rest until activated to engage from their environment. This goes for working breeds as well. Hunting dogs, herders, and working dogs will rest until it’s time to work. They are extreme in their working state, but when they are not working, they act similar to any other pet dog. And yes, the dogs that are bred for extremes will be more difficult to live with, but these extremes are on the outer fringe of the norm. Additionally, people who get involved with these types of dogs typically have a passion for fostering that type of working relationship with their dog(s).
The reasons that dogs develop anxiety vary greatly. There is a huge difference between situational anxiety and a chronic disorder of the mind. However, fortunately, both can be helped! The road to recovery can be long, but the alternative is not an option for many. The owner must follow strict protocols, potentially for the entire life of the dog. A healthy diet, exercise, mental stimulation, and a structured lifestyle will go a long way in rehabilitating even the most difficult of cases.
There are also various drugs prescribed by veterinarians and behaviorists for dogs suffering from anxiety. If your dog is currently on medications and you have seen a night and day improvement, we would love to hear your story. We simply have not seen much, if any, success with the medications. We have been working with anxious dogs for years. It’s no picnic, but we have lived it and have seen the positive results through training and behavior modification over and over again.
If you can personally resonate with any aspect of this couple’s story or if you are interested in learning more about this trending topic, SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE WEBINAR. We will be going live next Thursday, August 29th at 7PM EST to more deeply explore anxiety in dogs and provide you with some solutions to immediately begin helping your dog to become more calm. Look forward to seeing you there!
My wife and I are lying in bed; it’s 6:30am. It’s the first morning that our old dog Sarge (a 13yr old Belgian Malinois) is not in bed with us. Every morning for the past few months, my wife, Jess, would check on Sarge around 5am, listening for him to drink water or begin to stir. Then she would quickly encourage him with “C’mon Boy!” and spring to her feet to help him. After taking him to pee, Sarge would get his old dog pills and spend the next hour sleeping between us. Getting up onto the bed went from a hop up to using steps to a ramp to my wife picking up a 75 pound Malinois and putting him on the bed. We clung to small rituals as though they would hold off the inevitable. We wanted our old dog to feel as though life was ok even if he needed a little help here and there. His strength and proprioception were slipping away, but his spirit and attitude were strong.
Sarge was diagnosed with an aortic tumor 11 months ago. It was found through an ultrasound when we were trying to figure out why his liver was close to failing. At that time, Sarge was 12 years old. We were told by our western vet that there weren’t a lot of options. We decided to treat Sarge holistically. I would urge any skeptics of TCVM or even energy healing to consider this perspective. Alternative therapies work similarly to western medicine when it comes to terminal conditions. Some are cured, others see noticeable results, and some see no benefit. I recently had a doctor tell me this, and it helped me understand and better accept alternative treatments. Up to this point in my life, my perception of many things was very black and white. It works or it’s bullshit. If it’s fake then these ‘doctors’ are quacks; they are just taking people’s money, selling herbs and hope to desperate people.
I can tell you as a side note that my mom passed away from cancer a few years ago, and she went the conventional route for treatment. After many chemotherapy treatments, steroids, weeks of dialysis, and hundreds of doctor visits, she didn’t get cured. My mom responded to the treatments, and they did prolong her life. But, her ‘end of life’ stage was brutal, and I’d never put one of my dogs through that hell. We all will be faced with hard choices when we commit to caring for a dog. There are difficult emotional decisions that will need to be made along the way as well as various ethical and financial responsibilities. Regardless of the type of medicine you choose, the days will come when we all need to be there for our old dogs.
When Sarge began having trouble with pain, we tried CBD. It didn’t show any measurable results. We decided to make the leap to using cannabis oil that contained THC as well as CBD. We made it ourselves at home and began giving him tiny doses. It helped a great deal. He slept better and the muscles in his shoulders stopped twitching. It was really impressive. We started giving him the oil twice a day. It was well worth the expense and hassle of making it. Over the past year we also did acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, acupressure, laser therapy, underwater treadmill, biking, walking, swimming, Tong Ren healing, and many other treatments on a regular basis. It was a whirlwind of appointments with more good days than bad. We also spoiled the old boy rotten. He got more pizza crust and Puppuccinos than I’m comfortable admitting. In the end, we would not have changed a thing. We were determined to focus on quality of life. Sarge had a great life!
His younger years were spent with his mom traveling the country doing canine entertainment at state fairs and halftime shows at sporting events. He could jump over a 58” hurdle! He was more athletic than many Malinois that I have seen, but more importantly, he was a sweet dog. I found that unusual for a Malinois. I had raised and trained several before I met Sarge. None were as social or as outgoing as he was. My dogs were always hard, edgy, and a bit dangerous to be honest. Thankfully, he wound up with my wife. They were really the perfect pair. She understood his nature and his needs. He protected her while she pumped gas alone at truck stops across the country.
Now all the rituals and routines have come to an abrupt end. Yesterday
Sarge woke up and had a good drink of water. He seemed to be on yet another upswing. But later in the morning, he lost all feeling in his back legs. He likely threw a blood clot, but it doesn’t matter why. The time had come for us to make that final trip. Now he’s gone. There is an emptiness. We had to pick up all his soiled bedding. The place where he slept for the past year is now just open floor. My heart is broken. I miss him so much. But I am a better person because of that dog. He brought out the best in me as a person. I will never forget the love he gave us. I needed a dog like Sarge in my life. He taught me how to be a kinder person and to accept real feelings of love, empathy, and compassion. Thanks, Sarge, for coming into my life and sharing so many beautiful moments. You have touched my life deeply, and I am forever changed. Thank you also to all the vets, practitioners, and friends for your constant and heartfelt support throughout his journey.
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