Walter- An Angels Story

This is Walter.

Walter 8 x 10 Acrylic

I met Walter at his home in Maryland. A magical place really, owned by an angel.

The house is huge and old, built from stone and slate, a hundred years ago it was a school house.

Outside, it is cold and windy, inside sunny, and bright, The house flows with energy and joy. A grey whirlwind of fur greets us.

Walter in himself, is a small miracle.

Transferred to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah from another shelter, where he was picked up as a stray, Walter was already missing one leg and dragging another.

Being the charmer he is, Walter made it known that he wanted no part of pity, and when his second leg was removed, He was up and about in no time. Walter made a lot of friends at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and it wasn’t long before he was ready to be adopted.

When Melody* saw Walter online, she knew that he would come to live with her. Melody has other animals that are disadvantaged, and had recently lost her canine companion. Melody does not feel sorry or pity her pets, but she is able to offer them the opportunity to live life at its fullest, knowing that some day she will have to make the hard decisions when quality of life has all but vanished and arthritis takes control of Walters two good legs.

But for now Walter and Melody are Angels among us.

It is not for Walter or Melody that I write this,  but because of them.

I write this for my sister, who crossed the rainbow bridge just months after meeting Walter herself.

My sister suffered from alcohol abuse for a good part of her adult life. Liver failure finally took its toll and landed her in the hospital, where she realized the  grave situation that she was in. She rallied, and made a good attempt to get her life back.

Laurie found employment with a pet sitting group and soon was found by Melody, who needed someone to be with Walter on the days when she worked long hours.  Melody and Laurie hit it off and soon Laurie was living in the basement of the old school house with a handful of cats and Walter.

Walter played, and he smiled, He made Laurie smile. Walter made friends with the neighbors dog and they played for hours. Walter and his new friend would run up and down the flights of stairs, back outside and around the house, never letting his disability slow him down.

Walter showed Laurie that you can be happy even if you have suffered. He showed her how to laugh again and  he showed her that you should never give up. Walter showed her Love.

Melody never knew about Laurie’s past, They became fast friends and enjoyed movie nights and girl’s nights out with Melody’s  friends, no one  asked Laurie why she didn’t drink.

No one knows what exactly happened, but Laurie had been hospitalized enough to know that her time was limited and that she did not want to leave this place hooked up in a hospital bed. On the Saturday that I saw her, just before her death, she didn’t feel good, and we encouraged her to get checked out. Sunday she went to a urgent care center where they were unable to prescribe anything due to her health and sent her home.  Monday morning Melody left her in bed. When she returned from work. Laurie was gone.  Walter was with her.

Laurie loved being with Walter and was looking forward to adventures  with Walter and Melody. I hope others get to share the magic of Walter.  Laurie was one month short of 57.

As unintentional as it may seem, I am convinced that the chance meeting of Laurie and Melody,  because of Walter, was no accident, but an intervention by a power greater then all of us to help a damaged soul heal,  and to be at peace, knowing there is Love.

Thank You Melody for giving Walter such a great home where he can show others what it means to live. You are both Blessed, and will forever be in our families heart.


*names have been changed

Puppy Socialization: It’s About More Than Getting Along With the Other Dogs

 guest post by Kevin Brenden of Golden Meadows Retrievers


Puppy Socialization

You may think that socialization training for your new puppy is about getting along with other canines.

In fact, it’s about much more than that.

The world can be a scary place for a puppy and that can lead to some awkward situations. One of the best ways to make life easier for you and your pet is to ensure the puppy training involves exposure to all sorts of things.

In the long run, you make it possible for your pet to feel less defensive and more comfortable around other animals, people, and objects.

When’s the Right Time to Begin the Process?

There’s a definite window of opportunity when it comes to pet socialization. Your new puppy will usually be ready to begin the process around three weeks of age. This golden chance to help mold the behavior patterns of your pet will generally last until around three months of age.

Before you start taking your pup out to socialize with people and other dogs, be sure that they have all of their shots and vaccinations taken care of. Talk to your local vet to find out when your pup should start receiving its vaccinations and when the appropriate age is for your puppy to begin socializing.

Don’t think that if your puppy is already past the three-month mark that all is lost. While you may have missed the age in which the pet is the
most responsive to the
puppy training, there’s still time to help the pet get comfortable with more people, places, and things.

What Sort of Socialization Needs to Occur?

One of the more important aspects of the socialization must focus on getting along with other living things. This means people as well as other animals. Even if you don’t have more pets in the home, think about the pets that live in the neighborhood. Do you want your puppy preparing for battle every time the dog next door approaches the fence between the two properties? Wouldn’t it be better if the two got along and maybe even played by running up and down the fence line together?

Getting used to other people is also important. Untrained puppies are likely to fear people wearing hats, dressed in uniforms, or may even be somewhat leery of anyone of a certain gender. During the training period, exposure to people in different clothing and of different genders is a must. Make sure the meetings take place in an environment the pet considers safe. Instead of seeing the other person as a threat, they are more likely to find relatives, friends, and mail carriers as acceptable humans.

The third aspect of socialization has to do with getting used to things. Puppies can develop aversions to things like water hoses, vacuum cleaners, and even drinking bowls. They may also exhibit a tendency to fear the sound of a shower running, not care to go out when it’s raining, or consider stepping on frost-covered grass to be unacceptable.

The right type of training makes it possible to overcome those fears by helping those objects become familiar. Instead of attacking the vacuum cleaner when it’s in use, the puppy will tend to move out of the way and settle down for a nap in another part of the house.

When your puppy is ready, the dog park makes for a great place to meet other dog owners.  You can also look into pet meet-up groups to help build your pup’s social circle.

Remember that socialization is not just about your pet. You will likely learn a few things about canines that you never knew before. In a sense, both you and your puppy will be subjected to a measure of training. Embrace the chance to learn more about how to incorporate the new puppy into the family and life around the house will be more harmonious for everyone.

How to Avoid Dog Behavior Problems

“We may have gotten a little carried away..”

Adding a new pet to your family is a big decision. Pets bring balance, love, and an escape of sorts from our everyday stresses. Pets also bring us together and manage to teach us an awful lot. All dogs were originally  bred for certain behaviors, (herding dogs herd, sight hounds run fast, etc) so do your research and make sure the breed of dog you are interested in has an activity level that will fit into your lifestyle. Dogs are not predisposed to behavior problems.  Most behavior problems  are due to inconsistent or lack of training from the beginning, and behavior problems are the most common reason dogs are left at pounds.

Puppies (and dogs) are not really that hard to manage if you remind yourself that you are dealing with the mind of a 2 year old and that training is a logical, progressive process that anyone can master with a little patience, humor, some high value treats and a lot of love. Spend the time when your dog is new and you will soon have a loving, well behaved member of your family.

Here are seven basic rules to help you manage the toughest puppy training challenges and ways to incorporate them into your daily activities:

Rule #1 Crate Train your dog.

Dogs are not spiteful. Dogs live in the moment. Chewing up your shoes or shredding the garbage was not done in spite because you left him home alone.  Remember that 2 year old? Well he has got one powerful nose and if the garbage is accessible and something good and smelly was left inside, he is going to want to investigate. If you leave your new dog loose in your house, there is no telling what sort of mischief he may get into. A large new place, like your home, can be a bit overwhelming and even scary for a new dog to be left unattended in.  Crate Training does not mean that your dog should / or will live the rest of his life in a crate. What it does mean, if done correctly, (lots of high value treats) is  your dog will have a place where he can be feel safe and secure until he is mature and confident enough to handle a larger space unattended. Giving your dog a place that he can call his own also can help suppress separation anxiety, and speed along house breaking.  Click  here to learn more on how to crate train your dog.

Rule #2 Practice Redirecting

So your new pup wants to play, but your schedule is keeping you busy and the pup at your feet is getting in your way.  This is  a good time to redirect your pups attention to something that will entertain him, but allow you to get your tasks done. The easiest thing to redirect to is a chew toy. I use nylabones for this purpose, as they are safe (they don’t cause guarding in my multi-dog household) clean and easy. You may need to spend a few minutes interacting with him with the bone.. maybe toss it a few times, let him know how excited you are about this bone and how good it is to chew. You could also get an interactive toy that involves putting dog cookies  or peanut butter inside and let him play with that for a while.  Nylabones do seem drab and unexciting to some dog owners compared to other chew toys that are now on the market, but, they are much safer and healthier  then processed rawhide or animal parts, and will last a lot longer. Read more about the best chews for your pup here.

Rule #3 Draw Boundaries

Lap Dog?

Puppies are cute, But when your 10 pound puppy grows into that 70 pound dog, are you still going to want him sitting on your lap? It is a whole lot easier to train a puppy  correct behaviors from the beginning then it is to try to re-train that half grown dog. Boundaries can and should be established with the beginning of training, besides, once training begins, and the “lightbulb” goes off in your little dogs head that you are communicating and he will get a cookie if he responds correctly, learning will begin in earnest.   So decide from the onset where your boundaries are. Are you going to let your dog on the furniture, or on the bed? Are you going to let him chase the cat or the children? Don’t know how to stop behavior that you don’t want.. Go back and review rule #1 and #2

Rule #4 Socialize your Pup

Everyone wants the perfect dog. One that will be friendly with visitors, yet bark at danger. A dog that will hang with the kids, and be ready to go for a jog. Your perfect dog is within your reach, but it is up to you to mold that “2 year old” into the solid citizen that he needs to become. Socializing your new pup allows him to meet other humans and dogs in new and exciting places. But the biggest benefit to taking your dog out to new places is the “bonding effect”. Your new dog is going through a lot of new experiences, hopefully by this time, he has learned that YOU are “nice”.  He knows you feed him, you let him out, give him cookies, love him and you talk nice to him.  When you are at a new place, You are his comfort, his trust and his safety. By taking him out into the world you have given him a big adventure with his new best friend. The more adventures you have together,  the more confidence he will gain in himself and the more trust he will gain in you.

Not sure where you can take him in your town? Look for farmers markets, dog friendly festivals, and outdoor supply stores. Make sure you are loaded with his favorite high value treats, and his favorite toy. And Please don’t forget to bring your common sense. Make sure your dog has a properly fitted collar (combo collars are good for new dogs) or harness, with proper ID on it, be prepared to clean up after your dog, and remember that not all dogs that you meet will be friendly, so ask the handler before you let your dog run up to any unknown dogs.

Rule #5 Be Consistent

As a perpetual 2 year old your dog is going to have a limited vocabulary, and even though dogs are champions at reading body language and tone, it is important to have  consistent verbals when training. You do not have to use the words that everyone else uses, and you can certainly make your own words for communicating  with your dog.  For example, I use “This Way” while free walking my dogs on their daily walk, it keeps them with me without feeling that they have to be beside me.

One of the absolutely easiest things you can train your dog to do in your house, yard or out on an adventure, on lead or off, and quite possibly the most important thing he will ever learn is a recall.  I carry dog treats with me 95% of the time. This allows me to call my dog and reward him whenever and wherever I can. For a new dog this may be 2 feet away and on a leash.. that is okay, if the dog looks at me and comes for a treat when I say “HERE” he gets a reward.  Always practice this in a enclosed area at the beginning, eventually get someone to hold him while you increase your distance. Practice this often, ALWAYS, ALWAYS reward (eventually this reward will be just a “good dog”)

Rule #6 Create Motivation


Your dog should be exposed to different sorts of toys. Things to Chew, Things to fetch and Things to tug, shake and share. As he grows you will learn what toys are best for him and what toys he responds to. Eventually, you will notice that he may favor a certain toy, Maybe he really loves to fetch a ball, maybe its a frisbee, perhaps he Loves a game of tug with you. This favorite toy can also work for you as a motivational aid. This favorite toy may eventually be substituted instead of treats, and can be used as a reward for training tricks, dog sports, or any thing that you may need to teach your dog for his own safety. Be observant, and notice what toys really excite your dog. Take that toy with you on outings and use it when you need to get your dogs focus back on you or just to help him relax.

Rule #7 Enjoy

New dogs and puppies do not happen very often in our lives, and this new relationship should be looked upon as the special new beginning that it is. Have fun with your dog daily. Smile and laugh at the silly things that your dog does. He will love you with all his heart and You should love him back. Get help if you need it and if you really want to explore all that a new dog has to offer, take him to classes. There you will find others exploring relationships with their dogs, new friends and new dog friends.

I hope I have offered you some clues to make your new dog comfortable and your new position as caretaker enjoyable and full of positive fun. I Love talking dog and would love to hear about a special time in your relationship with your dog.  Please leave me a comment.


Best Dog Beds on a Budget…


There are a lot of advantages to living with pets in our homes, as well as the  physical, emotional and  social  benefits, scientific studies have proven that children who live with pets at a young age are less likely to develop asthma and allergies.

Bailey and Dixie
large dog rug Sometimes all you need is a rug and a good buddy!

And living with multiple pets creates a lot of fun interactions among them, but keeping your multiple pets beds clean can be a major challenge.  In our small house, Dog beds are part of the furniture and line the floor from TV to couch,
one or two of the dogs will have favorite spots, but generally any bed will do. As long as there are enough beds for all, then all is good.

The Secret to Keeping the Beds Clean..

For years I went through lots of pet beds.. one would get soiled and would soak through into the padding of the bed, which resulted in lots of hosing, scrubbing and product application.. Eventually, I ended up with a lot of covers and no interior padding..

Then, my children returned from college with their foam mattress pads and no need for them.

I quickly learned that once cut to size, ( you can double the foam for old or heavy dogs) placed in a large trash bag, and inserted in one of the empty covers, I had a very comfortable, easy to maintain and clean bed that was better and more durable then most high dollar dog beds.

Bandit two beds
Can’t decide? Sleep on both of them!

The cover can easily be washed and  the trash bags can be wiped off or replaced.

And If you are lucky enough to live near a college when the students are moving out, you can get mattress pads before they go into the dumpster, making them super affordable!

So now, when ever I buy a new dog bed, one of the most important things I  look at is the quality of the Zipper and the stitching, as the cover is the part of the bed that is now going to last the longest.

Where do the Cats Sleep…?

Two of my smallest dogs sleep on my bed, but generally my dogs are not allowed on the furniture. Cats on the other hand, well, try to tell them where they are not allowed…

With the exception of the kitchen counter, where I have employed a “scat mat” and a spray bottle, the cats sleep where ever they want. There are plenty of cat beds in places where the dogs can’t get to, but it was always aggravating to have a cat soil a perfectly good dog bed. Be it a hair ball or a sign of defiance against the new kitten… the cats took a lot of blame.

Trash Bag to the Rescue…

Once I started bagging my own dog beds a surprising thing happened… The cats seem to dislike the initial noise that the trash bags make and started staying off of the dog beds. Win Win Win!

So here are some final tips to help you with the now simple task of keeping your dogs beds clean and comfortable;

  • Use heavy duty trash bags or better yet, Leaf bags, you may even want to double them, and tie them closed well.
  • Try to work the air out of the trash bag before putting on the cover .
  • If the foam/bag fits tightly into the cover, the beds are easier to shake out and/or vacuum.
  • Enjoy the cash your not spending on new dog beds, buy your dogs some new toys instead!