Living with a Blind Dog

Apr 07 2010

My beautiful 10-year-old dog, Doc, gradually lost his sight over the course of last year. We can look back now and recognize when his sight started diminishing although when it was happening, we were clueless! I remember being perplexed as to why he was barking so much more. He was my daycare tester dog from the time we opened our doors in July 2004 until March 2009. He evaluated every dog that came into the daycare and was an invaluable asset. His skill at observing and responding appropriately to determine a dog’s intentions and temperament was unparalleled. He could encourage the shy dogs to open up and motivate the hyper dogs to chill out with very little movement or sound on his part. It was beautiful to watch. When he began starting every evaluation with a few barks, I started questioning my dog who had been flawless up to that point. The crowning moment was when one of his very best friends at daycare, a Shih Tzu named Malone, looked up at me and whimpered softly as he sat next to Doc. I realized that Doc unknowingly was sitting on a large portion of Malone’s long tail fur! I encouraged Doc to get up and move and Malone instantly wagged his whole body for me and then ran over to lick Doc’s face as if to say, “I know you didn’t mean it, no harm, no foul my friend!” Prior to that moment, Doc had always been exceedingly careful around the small dogs. Again, I was perplexed. Sadly, I knew I had to retire my beautiful boy from his daycare job. He was heartbroken when he didn’t accompany me everyday to daycare, but he still comes to the daycare occasionally.

We have had to make some adjustments to our life to accommodate his impairment, but much less than I would have thought. I believe it is true that the other senses become heightened when one sense becomes impaired. Doc uses his nose a lot more than he used to and follows the feel of walls and furniture to find his way around. Luckily, we also have a lot of different textures on our floors. We have hardwood flooring with large rugs, ceramic tile, linoleum and carpeting! Almost every room has a different texture for him! If he loses his bearings, he will often circle several times, lie down and start to pant. We have learned that this is our cue to guide him gently by the collar to a familiar rug or dog bed where he can reorient himself.

We have searched for toys that are durable since he really enjoys super-charged chewing (luckily only on his toys!) that also emit sounds! We have found a couple balls that he enjoys chasing after. But, his favorite game is find the treat! Every Easter, the Easter bunny hides eggs for my daughter, Kelsey to find in the front yard. Once we have found those eggs, the family enjoys hiding treats in the living room for Doc and River! We are careful to keep the treats off of surfaces we normally would not want dog noses to occupy! I’m not sure who has more fun on their Easter hunt, Kelsey or the dogs!

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The Puppy Saga Continues…

Jan 11 2007

River is now 5 months old and over 50lbs! Her crate is about a quarter the width of the room she sleeps in! She has not had an accident in the house in over two months and we have been slowly increasing the time she is allowed to play inside with us from 20 mins. to an hour now. We are still battling the loose stool war. We have tried 2 different premium dog foods with no huge improvement. We’ve tried adding rice and cottage cheese (bland diet for sensitive stomachs), adding canned pumpkin (one person suggested it for helping firm up her stool, but then a vet told me it was more likely to soften the stool-who knows), and adding pancreatic digestive enzymes. None of these were the golden antidote although they didn’t seem to make anything worse either. I am considering going back to the food the breeder was originally feeding the puppies and her older dogs. It is difficult to find, probably because it was originally designed specifically for mushing sled dogs! She had a very healthy stool when I picked her up from the breeder, so I am hoping to get her back to that state! Her obedience training is going very well. She sits and waits for: her meals, to be let out of her crate, and to be let in from the backyard. Her calm leash walking is going well, and her leave it command is getting a lot of practice! Her greatest challenge is greeting new people. She eventually warms up to everyone, but she is initially unsure of new people. Even with the 100 new people a week strategy implemented for the first two months she was with us, she is still apprehensive at times. She is exceedingly gentle and calm around Kelsey, which is a very good thing since she is very bouncy around Debra and I. She is learning to bounce keeping her paws either in the air or on the ground. We are looking into tracking training as she appears to like to use her nose a lot and we are also investigating cart pulling as this is what her breed was originally bred to do! I’ll keep you posted!

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Babies and Puppies for the New Year!

Jan 11 2007


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Giving thanks for all those muddy paw prints!

Nov 17 2006

Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart…Possibly because my birthday falls on or near it every year! I also like the idea of thinking back to all the things which make me so thankful. While I am eternally grateful for how fortunate I am, I do tend to zoom through life enjoying each new adventure, but at the same time taking many things for granted, so a time of year where I can slow down and ponder my incredibly wonderful life can be very refreshing.

Family and friends are always at the top of the list, both 2-legged and 4-legged varieties:
The pure joy, daughter, Kelsey brings to my life is beyond words.
Our newest addition to the family, little (or not so little anymore!) puppy, River, makes me smile every time I look at her (even when she’s decided that potted plant makes a great chew toy!).
Because of these two little gems, I have never been so exhausted and drained in all my life (even compared to finals week in undergraduate college or thesis time in graduate school!), but I am also more content, joyous and completely exuberant! Life is truly wonderful!

That being said, I have had several reasons to cry a few tears this year:
Our older dog, Jah, passed away from a stroke in July. He was one of the largest influences in my drastic career change from Visual Effects Supervisor to Dog Trainer. He taught me the ultimate cornerstone of the canine-human relationship: trust and respect. If I was willing to put all my energy into trusting and respecting him, he rewarded me with a truly exceptional bond. He was a very dominant personality, yet this incredibly high prey-driven dog would turn on a dime inches from his intended target at the sound of “Jah, here!”. You have to think you did something right for a dog that prey motivated, to choose you over some squealing tasty rodent!

Our Kelly’s Training Daycare and Boarding family has had some losses as well:
Our dearly beloved Chocolate Lab client, Jake, passed away at the tender age of 3 years old from an unknown disease that several specialists and their personal friend and veterinarian frantically tried to diagnose and treat, but ultimately lost the battle. I’m sure Jake is happily wagging his approval of the new addition, truly scrumptious Chocolate Lab puppy, Duke.
This summer while one of our human clients was in the hospital giving birth to her beautiful baby boy, her Jack Russell mix, Buckley, passed away at home from a possible Botulism poisoning. While we shared their overwhelming sadness for the loss of Buckley, we also were happy to celebrate the birth of their first born, Owen. Everyone misses Buckley including his canine sister, Jodie, but Owen provides so much joy in the household that Buckley’s memory brings smiles instead of tears.
A fairly new member of our Kelly’s Training family, who decided to adopt two related puppies rather than have them separated, lost one of them, 4 months old Vizsla/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, Nessarose, to an unknown illness. Several surgeries and endless probing were not enough to save this poor little canine soul. Her sister, Elphaba, helps her parents cope with the loss by being a typical, beautifully naughty puppy!

We also had some close calls of which we are ever so grateful for the positive outcomes:
One of my very dear friends and client of Kelly’s Training was performing overseas with her band this summer, when her 9 year old German Shepherd mix, Otis, wandered out her front door. As her roommate frantically searched for Otis, I and many of her friends, posted flyers for our lost boy. My friend contacted 2 psychics to help with the search. After a week with no leads, she was ready to hire the services of a woman who will search for your lost dog with her bloodhound when a phone call made everyone sigh with relief. Otis had parked himself in a friendly family’s shady front yard 2 miles away, willing to eat and drink the offerings, but unwilling to allow them to get close for several days. Finally they were able to approach him and read his tag!
Our cherished Bernese Mountain Dog/Australian Shepherd mix client, Mambo, had a very serious close call when he was diagnosed with a rare blood disease after returning from a trip to Miami. He was very sick for several months, but his vet and specialists have given him a clean bill of health and he is back to the rambunctiously wonderful Mambo we all know and love!

So in summary, I am thankful for all my canine and human family and friends who keep my life full of joyous, often muddy, but thoroughly cherished moments!
And (before I get a lovely pile of cat barf on my pillow!) I am also thankful for all the felines in my life!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Introducing our newest addition!

Nov 06 2006

Our new addition to the family is a female Greater Swiss Mountain Dog named River. We picked her up October 12th on her 8 week old birthday.

The breeder’s facility was run out of her home and very clean and all her dogs seemed very friendly and happy. We met River’s mother, father, littermates and a 1 year old male from River’s father. We had always adopted our pets from Rescue organizations or Shelters, so going through a breeder was a new experience for us. Our primary concern was that the breeder be well-established, reputable, professional and be equally invested in her dogs’ physical as well as emotional well-being. We wanted a professional, knowledgable breeder who had her litters in a home environment and had limited breedings (1 or 2/year) so we knew that she could dedicate herself completely to our puppy’s litter.

We researched her line and knew one dog well (he came to Kelly’s Training Doggie Daycare until he and his mom moved to NYC!) from her champion sire (River’s grandfather) . We spoke several times with the breeder over the phone and she was very well educated and always willing to talk extensively about the pros and cons of this breed and her specific line. Once we picked River up, we drove for 2 hours from the breeder to Debra’s parents. Debra held River in her lap in the backseat where River proceeded to pee on her! Luckily we were prepared and laid an extra large wee-wee pad at her feet and River went to sleep for the majority of the trip.

Once we arrived, we implemented the potty training program. We placed an x-pen in their dining room with a crate inside. She was allowed to play in the backyard with Doc and Amber (see photo) if a human could be watching her. As a bonus, if she pooped, she was allowed to come in to their sunroom and play for 20 mins., then let outside to pee, then to the crate for 1-2 hours of nap time. This routinue was repeated religiously until bedtime.

The crate door was closed for naptimes and left open at night where the x-pen kept Doc contained so that she had a warm body to sleep with. Our only accidents occurred when we stretched our 20 mins. indoor playtime or were too slow to wake up in the middle of the night. Once we got back to LA, we visited our vet, who instructed us that River had a bladder infection, so the medication is helping her need to be a little less urgent! She is a pro at puppy push-ups (sit/lie down,sit/lie down,etc.) and is learning the name game and sit -stay in crate with door open until release word is given. Doc absolutely adores her and we often feel like we are cheating when she is having a bout of puppy mania since Doc gets the brunt of her zoomies and alligator chomping! We are constantly swapping out our arms for an appropriate chew toy and implemeting Ouch! for really painful bites!

She is amazingly gentle with Kelsey although we are ever vigilant with their interactions. Her socialization program was started the day after we got her. We went outlet shopping and put River in Kelsey’s stroller (and Kelsey was happy to explore using her new found ability to walk!). Debra’s mom was worried that we wouldn’t be able to enter the shops! Instead, nobody wanted us to leave!! Everyone was doing a double-take at the stroller! Ha, ha! And River was very good at staying in the stroller. We still take her in the stroller down to Tujunga Village, but she has almost outgrown it! Our goal is 100 new people every week. So far so good! We’ll keep you posted!


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Happy Halloween!

Oct 28 2006

Our beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback client, Soul, will be greeting the ghoulies on Halloween thanks to her very talented owner who created this striking resemblance of her! If anyone else has memorable photos of their canine goblins, we would love to share them! Also, here is a fun Halloween animation created by Debra’s website design company, check it out! Check back soon to meet the new puppy, River!

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Biscuit for your thoughts…

Sep 27 2006

Thank you to George’s mom for sending the very first comment to my blog (see comments under “Doc loves everybody”)! We love hearing from our readers so if you have a comment on a specific article or an idea for a new article we would love to hear from you. I want this to be informative and fun for you so let me know your thoughts!
“George” photo by Kelly Moren

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Doc loves everybody at daycare!

Sep 18 2006

Doc enjoys time with all the dogs at daycare. He teaches the dogs appropriate play positions and helps the shy dogs learn that daycare is a safe and fun place to be. Here he is playing with his good friend Malone, a 10 mos. old Shih Tzu, while a newcomer, 5 mos. old Cocker Spaniel, Lucy, watches.

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