A Day To Remember

Monday morning walks can be a challenge, and today was no exception. Sasha was on high alert right from the start, with barks aplenty at anything and everything that moved. The incessant wind gusts didn’t help, either; this is one dog who does not appreciate leaves and dust swirling around her face.  She was already worked up and fussy when we turned a corner and saw a group of young boys playing ball far down the street and several men visiting on the opposite sidewalk.  Males of all ages, unfortunately, seem to be a trigger for Sasha, and she’s quick to voice her disapproval.  The usual “leave it” and “let’s go” and “walk on” didn’t work at all, and she looked set to bark her way down the block–and it’s a long block. That’s when inspiration struck.

Training Time! I’ve no idea why it never occurred to me to run a mini-training session in the neighborhood, but today was the day. It was wonderful to see her snap to attention when she realized what we were doing. We worked through the different positions to include both the right-side sit from front center and the left heel from front center and the “circle round me” heel to end in a sit on my left. There’s a limit to what I can do without dropping the leash, but I got creative with a few rounds of sit-stay, down-stay, and having her in a down while I walked around her and stepped over her to re-position myself.  Sasha loved it. The generous dispensing of treats helped, of course, but this girl loves to be mentally challenged.

After that little session, Sasha walked on, clearly pleased with her performance. She didn’t bark or even alert on the people as we went by, which is something of a minor miracle. (Hey, she’s a Sheltie. She talks. To everybody.)  The people, however, certainly noticed her! One of the adults gave us a thumbs-up and a big grin as we went by.

 

Training Time is typically on the 30-foot long line at the park, when we work on the long down-stay, recall, and down on command. Smart Sheltie that she is, she knows the long line means play time and training, and she’s always ready for fun! And then there’s indoor Training Time, which goes back to our first days together when we realized that loud noises scared her and the sound of the coffee bean grinder sent her scrambling to hide. It took a long time, but now the sound of the coffee supplies coming out has her quivering with joyous anticipation, because she knows that it’s time to go through the paces and earn a treat. We’ve progressed to practice off-leash heeling in the house as part of Coffee Time Treats, with Buddy The Wonder Cat perched on a tall stool watching the action. Today’s session, though, is the first outside in the neighborhood while walking with the standard 6-foot leather leash.  Now that I’ve seen how excited she became at the idea of a walk-time work session, we’ll be doing this again, and often.

 

The BEST news, though, came thirty minutes later. We’d walked around the neighborhood and were approaching the local park when I saw an (always) off-leash dog and owner headed our way. I told Sasha “Cross” (I’ve taught her to pause on the sidewalk until she hears that command) and off we went, angling away from the unleashed dog.  Sasha stayed focused on me and (of course) the treat in my hand. We actually passed within 20 feet of the dog without so much as a mumble, grumble, or growl. Now, it’s possible Sasha never saw the dog, although that’s highly unlikely, as she’s prone to alert on movement two blocks away. Whatever the reason, she stayed focused on me and walked calmly forward until I gave her a well-deserved reward in the form of a bigger-than-usual treat.

We may never reach the point when Sasha is able to calmly walk past any dog without reacting, but today was a shining example of what’s possible. For that, I’m grateful.

Books for Dog Lovers

Exciting news: a group of authors have come together to share fiction and non-fiction books that dog lovers are sure to enjoy–and you can find them all in one place! This is the brain-child of veterinarian and author Rachele Baker, and she’s generously given us a dedicated page on her own website called “Books For Dog Lovers” that will display the books featured each month. As you’ll see below, some titles are free or on sale for a limited time.

The books featured on our page will change each month to keep it exciting for our readers. so be sure to bookmark the page. You can meet all the authors here.  In addition to my own Kindle edition (on sale through the end of December),  here are books with special pricing in November:

7 Simple Ways To Keep Your Dog Healthy Sneak Preview FREE
Turkeys, Tuxes, and Tabbies (Zoe Donovan Mystery Book 10) ON SALE for 99 cents November 15-21
Christmas Crazy (Zoe Donovan Mystery Book 3) ON SALE for 99 cents November 22-28
A Promise of Home (Hometown Harbor Series Book 3)ON SALE for 99 cents November 24-30, 2017
Pre-Meditated Murder (A Downward Dog Mystery) AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER with a publication date of January 8, 2018

Here’s an illustration of the books included in our November promotion. Go here for details and clickable links: 

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With end-of-year celebrations soon upon us, I’d like to thank all of you for your continuing support and interest in my own writing. And most importantly, thanks for letting me share the adventures of Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat with you! The cat lovers among you will be pleased to know Buddy makes his appearance in Dangerous Deeds and Sasha seems destined to join the cast a bit later in the series. Stay tuned, and happy reading!

“Staycation” Canine Style

“Is your dog stressed?” © paddingtonpups.com.au

Does your own sweet dog turn into a Dogzilla when suffering from excess stimulation? Is the heat turning your routine activities into a stress test and making both of you miserable? Maybe it’s time to give yourselves a break and relax. I’m talking about a staycation for you and your pooch.

When the outside world gets too much, maybe it’s time to make the most of “at home” training and play time. You’ll hear lots of experts (and others who like to think they’re experts) insist you must walk your dog daily or you are a Bad Person. While I absolutely agree that dogs need regular activity, I’m not convinced that translates to activities in sensory-saturated environments, or forcing your dog to endure hot sidewalks that can blister their paws.

Instead, indulge yourselves in short sessions at varied intervals. Schedule outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day. And when the heat’s too much, there are plenty of activities to help your dog chill out while keeping physically and mentally exercised. Here are a few of my personal favorites to keep Sasha mentally alert and happy, and reduce stress all round.

Work For It! Give your dog a chore in exchange for treats, meals, and (most important) time with you!  My own Sasha shows off her sit and wait skills before breakfast and dinner, and works through down-stay, come, stop (a hard one!) followed by another down then come and heel to finish around to my left where she sits for her well-deserved reward of a special yummy treat.  Treats are also on the menu when she jogs down the drive with me to the mailbox and we go through basic drills, mixed up to reduce her habit of anticipating what I want next. We practice fast and slow heeling and turnabouts while patrolling the back yard for dog waste, as well.

Find it! Treat balls which require dexterity and persistence to release tasty tidbits are a big hit, too. I’d thought that would be a great activity to keep Sasha mentally engaged and moving about while I worked, but she added a layer of fun all her own by rolling the ball under furniture or behind doors, and then asking me to retrieve it. And being a Sheltie, her “ask” tends to be loud so I stay close to cut off the bark fest before it gets out of hand. Since that means I play most of the treat game with her, we get plenty of bonding time and everyone’s happy.

We also play the “Find it!” game with Buddy the Wonder Cat as our target. This tends to be the most fun when we’re in the yard and Buddy can run behind shrubs and crouch beneath the branches of the old forsythia. Inside, I rely on hiding Sock Monkey or her stuffed duck and sending her in search of her toys.

Hide-and-Seek. This works best with at least two humans participating. One of us puts Sasha is a sit-stay while the other hides out of sight and then the one hiding calls her by name or the person next to Sasha tells her to go search and “Find it!” This is a great backyard activity too! If you’d like to try this one at home, check out this link for a quick and easy how-to. Great game for kids, too!

Rally-O, Home Edition. Take communication between handler and dog to a higher level with Rally Obedience, commonly known as Rally-O. If you’re interested in getting involved with AKC events, go to http://www.akc.org/events/rally/resources/ for more information. And if competition doesn’t interest you, everyone can enjoy what I call the “home edition.” You can create your own “course” by choosing from a collection of skills, from basic to more advanced.  (See a list of the rally skills with images and descriptions here.) So far, Sasha and I have mastered the basics and are moving on to spirals, drop on recall, and the 270° right turn and the 270° left turn–which sounds easier than it is, at least for my uncoordinated feet!

Whether you want to compete or just enjoy some exercise and time with your dog, a “staycation” can be a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and physically well exercised without ever leaving home!

Celebrate!

Sasha is officially three years old today!

When we registered Sasha with the AKC via their Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, we opted to rely on the veterinarian’s estimate of her age because the details of her life before she came to us are largely unknown. We chose July 4th for her “official” birthday and she’s now formally recognized as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha.

We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a bit of a double play on that last word. We included Summer because she has a warm sunny spirit. And I wanted her call name included because she came to us with that, so including Sasha gave us a bridge between her past and present.

The PAL program is intended for purebred dogs of AKC-recognized breeds who, for various reasons, had not been registered with the organization. Registration means that Sasha is eligible to participate in AKC events such as Agility and Rally Obedience which both promote performance skills and opportunities for handlers and dogs to work as a team. If you’re interested in the PAL program, you can find eligibility details here. And if you’d like to learn more about AKC’s Reunite (a lost pet recovery program) and microchipping, click here.

Sasha enjoyed a smidgen of feta cheese with her morning meal and will munch on cucumber (a BIG favorite) at dinner time. We’ll round out the day’s celebration with backyard frolics and be safely indoors long before fireworks boom across the county again. Happy birthday, sweet dog!

 

 

The Big Bang: Tips for the 4th

Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat will be celebrating the Fourth of July indoors with plenty of sound camouflage in the form of music, movies, and one particularly loud standing fan that’s reminiscent of a C-130 in flight. The freezer is well stocked with ice cubes (Buddy likes to bat them across the kitchen tiles when he’s not pushing them around in his water bowl) and the fridge has low-fat cheese and cucumbers for Sasha’s snacking pleasure. Add in treat balls stuffed with special yummies and these two will be able to tune out the scary sound of fireworks.

Here are a few reminders about pet safety on the 4th:

Whatever and wherever you celebrate, here’s wishing you a safe and happy holiday!

Sizzling Summertime

Summer is officially underway! With temps on the rise, I make sure Sasha and I finish our 2-mile walk before the sun gets too high above the treetops. Even so, days with high humidity tend to leave both of us guzzling water along the way and taking breaks in the shade.  The photo at left was taken at 8 a.m. on a day when the temp was in the low 70s but the humidity was over 90%, leaving Sasha to make a beeline for her favorite row of junipers at the local park. Down-stay appears to be her default comfort position no matter where we are, and the lure of dew-soaked grass usually proves irresistible on warm mornings.

Whether you live in an urban environment or the quiet countryside, there are some basic ways we can all keep our pets safe in the heat. I’ve included my personal “must know, must do” strategies in this post, and will likely add more as the summer wears on. Have ideas of your own to share? Add your own suggestions and resource links in the comments section!

Use the 7-second rule. Asphalt, concrete, and brick–all commonly found in sidewalks, streets, and patios–quickly absorb and retain heat, making it dangerous for your pet’s paws. Test the heat by pressing your palm (or bare foot) against the pavement. If you cannot hold it for more than 7 seconds without discomfort, it’s too hot for paws! You could invest in booties or special paw wax, or just walk in the coolest part of the day. Whenever possible, stay off pavement by walking on the grass.

Never leave your pet in the car. Even if your vehicle has an efficient air conditioning system, remember that it’s almost always warmer toward the back of the vehicle. I drive a small SUV and even with the rear seats down and sunshades on the tinted rear windows, Sasha could easily overheat. If we absolutely have to travel during the heat of the day, I use the travel crate with mesh on three sides and position it so Sasha can enjoy the cool air streaming from the vents. A full water dish and a battery-operated fan help keep her comfortable, too.

Watch out for health hazards. Ticks, fleas, bee stings, snake bites, poisons, heat stress–any and all of these can turn a carefree summer outing into a bad situation without warning. You can lower some of the risk by keeping your dog on regular flea and tick prevention, removing potentially poisonous materials from your yard, keeping fresh water readily available, providing cool shelter, and maintaining a basic first-aid kit for dogs. You can buy a pre-packaged kit or put one together yourself. The website Irresistible Pets has a great article complete with a list of all the essentials you should consider when compiling a kit for your own pets.

Heat may be the most significant of all summertime hazards. Whether your pet is at home, in the car, or vacationing with you, know the signs of heatstroke and have a plan in place to deal with heat-related stress. Here’s a terrific infographic from Murdoch University’s Pets in Summer Series that’s definitely worth bookmarking for future reference. Click to enlarge image.

 Have a favorite keep-cool strategy to share? Add a comment to this post. Happy Summer!

Celebrate!

Over the years, it’s been my pleasure to promote other authors and share news about their work. Today I’m delighted to join in the launch day celebration of Fur Boys, the sixth book in the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries. In addition to enjoying this great series, I love the author’s bio blurb: C. A. Newsome is an author and painter living in Cincinnati with a former street urchin named Shadda and a one-eyed swamp monster named Gypsy. She and her furry children can be found most mornings at the Mount Airy Dog Park.

Here’s a Q&A with the author, plus “buy” links at the end. Happy reading!

What’s the premise behind the series?

The series is based on my mornings at the Mount Airy Dog Park in Cincinnati, where people who would otherwise have little to do with each other bond over poop bags because they show up at the same time every day.

My quirky gang of sleuths includes starving artist Lia Anderson, New Age woo-woo queen Bailey, gun-toting right-winger Terry, his uber-liberal roommate Steve, and Jim, a retired engineer. While Lia is in her thirties, her partners in crime are in their fifties and beyond. Lia has a love interest, hunky good guy, Detective Peter Dourson.

What role do dogs play in your books?

If you own dogs, you know that you have to consider them at every turn, just as you do children. They have distinct personalities and needs. My dogs are real dogs. You can’t just stuff them in the closet with the Dyson when it’s time to catch a killer.

Dogs bring my characters together and often are intrinsic to plots. They sometimes assist with investigations. Not in a “Lassie the dog sleuth” way, but in a “my dog ate the evidence” way. Canine characters provide entertainment and moral support, and the dog/human relationships provide a counterpoint to the human/human relationships.

Tell us about Lia.

Lia Anderson is my leading lady. She’s a struggling painter who takes on a wide variety of commissions to make ends meet. I wanted someone relatable, so she starts the series clueless about investigating crimes or handling violent confrontations and suffering from a serious case of denial.

Lia’s background has made her distrustful of intimacy and family ties mean little to her. She’s had to rely on herself all her life and feels more secure with casual relationships while she loses herself in her art. The first Lia Anderson Mystery brings this issue into focus with the introduction of Peter Dourson, for whom home and family are core values. Lia has a rational approach to relationships that often mystifies Peter. The series follows Lia and Peter’s evolution as their relationship grows.

Tell us about Peter.

Peter is a low-key, everyday hero who tries to do the right thing. When I created him, I asked myself, “What is the most amazing thing a guy can do?” For me, it’s listening to the needs of the woman in his life and being willing to meet her on her terms. What makes Peter extraordinary is his willingness to step away from his inbred and very traditional ideas about relationships in order to be with Lia.

What’s exciting about Fur Boys?

The murder of a music school diva results in high drama, played out on a big stage. We get to see much of the story through Peter’s eyes, and the types of observations he makes as a detective. It was great fun, working out how Peter would respond when he and Lia stumble onto a live crime scene. I also loved creating the suspects and all their entanglements.

Fur Boys

When starving artist Lia Anderson stumbles upon a dead diva, it’s no walk in the dog park.

Meet Buddy, Dasher, and Rory, three adoring fur boys often in the care of Hannah, the ever-efficient admin at Hopewell Music Academy, site of Lia’s latest mural commission. Hannah can juggle anything the academy tosses at her, except the Machiavellian voice professor who owns the fur boys and whose demoralizing and career-crushing ways are the dark underbelly of the prestigious academy.

When the professor is murdered, it’s impossible to find someone who doesn‘t want him dead. Good thing it’s not Peter’s case, not since the Cincinnati Police Department created a centralized unit to handle homicides. But a mysterious informant is determined to involve him. With Peter hamstrung by departmental politics, it’s time for Lia and the dog park gang step in.

Read more about the author and the series on C.A. Newsome’s website. To purchase, follow these links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Kobo

Carol and Gypsy

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Happy reading!