Archive for the ‘Dog Bonding’ Category

Sad News After All These Years

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018
I have some really sad news to share with you. My love Callie Golden Retriever left us early in the morning of Sunday, April 1, 2018. Barbara and I took her to the animal emergency hospital Saturday night, because she was very lethargic. She was conscious and able to walk, but clearly stressed. The doctors found that she was bleeding internally, but they were unable to find the source of the bleeding to stop it. It turned out that a tumor had popped in her liver; there was nothing that could be done. I started this blog in 2006 to talk about my book My Doggie Says: Messages from Jamie. This book was about my efforts to understand the communications of Jamie Golden Retriever, our beloved pet from 1994 until 2006.  I knew there were times when she was trying to tell me something, if only I could decipher her communication.  The book is a collection of photographs and fun interpretations of her messages. When Jamie left us December, 2006, I didn’t think I could ever have such a #dogbonding relationship.  (BTW, I initiated the “dogbonding” hashtag in about 2008.)  But then Callie came along and proved me wrong. One of the endorsements for My Doggie Says was written by Dr. Christine Omoto, Jamie’s vet. She said, “Everyone is going to want a dog like Jamie. But it will be another spirit, another life, another joy.” Her message could not have been more prophetic about. Callie.   Callie was indeed another spirit, another life, another joy.  She brought incredible joy to our family every minute of every day but in many ways very different from Jamie. Callie quickly became a great communicator.  I really believe that the “dog interpretation” skills I learned from Jamie reinforced Callie’s attempts to communicate.  And we both continued to improve, which led to a warm and beautiful relationship between us. We watched Callie grow as a tiny puppy from a few days after her birth until she was eight weeks old and ready to move to her new home.  Her breeder had marked all the puppies with colored markers so we could tell them apart.  Callie was “Green Girl.”  She was pretty tiny, but she quickly learned how to take care of herself around her siblings. The day Callie arrived at our home in March, 2007, she saw an under-inflated rubber “soccer” ball in our backyard.   She ran to the other side of it and looked up at me as if to say, “OK, Fred, show me what you've got”. And she trapped the ball under her tiny tummy. This photo was in one of my first blogs about Callie. Here is another early photo of Callie the soccer player:   Believe it or not, every evening that we were at our home—for the last 11 years and one month—weather permitting, Callie came to my office at home and invited me to play soccer.  If I was busy, she would wait patiently until I got up from my desk.  Then we would walk together into my bedroom and Callie would watch while I changed into my soccer shoes.  Then we proceeded to the back yard.  Callie looked back every few steps to make sure I was following.  Then, when we got to the ball, she looked back over her shoulder to make sure I picked it up. At first, she just trapped the ball under her tummy like she did in the photo above.  But as she grew, she started to “bonk” the ball off her nose.  Her “bonks” made a loud noise and sent the ball flying. Here’s a wonderful video of Callie playing soccer: At the end of every soccer match, Callie would trap the ball under her tummy in a “keep away” move.  And then we would do four right and left “high fives.” On the last day of her life, Callie came to get me to play soccer.  But she only had enough energy for one “bonk.”  I could tell something was very wrong, but I didn’t know yet what it was. Like most golden retrievers, Callie had a great disposition.  She was very easy going, mellow and calm.  But beyond that, she was the most outgoing and social dog I’ve ever been around.  She loved to meet people and dogs.  Almost every person who saw her knew that she would be friendly and asked to pet her.  She was extremely extroverted with other dogs—large and small.  She was very submissive and never provoked an angry response in the other dog.  Even with small dogs, she would get low to the ground and try to keep her head below the other dog’s head so the smaller dog would not be intimidated.  She had lots of dog and people friends in our neighborhood, and she and Barbara saw many of them daily on their morning exercise walk.  She was always a hit when we walked in Lake Arrowhead village.  All the kids wanted to pet her. We met many wonderful and friendly people and dogs because of Callie. Callie had a never-ending list of amazing qualities.  She proved again that dogs love routine and ritual.  They like activities to be repetitive and predictable.  Here are some of the “rituals” that made her so much a part of our family:
  • Callie was an initiator; she often invited us to participate in an activity, and she was always finding ways to entertain herself.
  • Every evening, most mornings, and some night times, Callie presented herself beside our bed for “scratches,” which started with her head and ears and often turned into a full body massage.
  • Callie often “snorted” as if she wished she could make sounds like a human. One time, after she lost a close golden retriever friend, she sat down in my office with her paw on my leg and snorted for about 10 minutes, as if to share her grief with me.
  • Every morning, Callie greeted me by sitting down and asking for a nose-to-nose snuggle and “good morning” snorting conversation.
  • Every morning, Callie shared a tiny corner of my fiber cookie.
  • Every morning, Callie and Barbara went for a jog or a walk in our neighborhood. As part of their outing, they always sat on one of the big boulders in a landscaped area at the end of our street.  And then on the way home they shared a moment on a bench at the nearby golf course which honors a friend of mine.
  • She loved to hop into my car to go for errands, including picking up a takeaway bowl of soup for lunch at a nearby market.
  • The best thing about soup for lunch was getting to share the oyster crackers and lick the bowl after.
  • As if she learned from her agility champion parents, Callie would “tightrope” walk on every curb she could find; including some very narrow ones.
  • On their morning walk, Callie and Barbara often visited with as many as a dozen people and dog friends.
  • Callie loved to hike at Lake Arrowhead; it was another place to meet people and dogs.
  • When it was time to wind down in the evening, Callie would walk to our bedroom to retrieve one of her soft furry toys. Then she would “gum it” like a pacifier.
  • At Lake Arrowhead she loved to be on the outdoor decks; she learned to ask politely to be let outdoors and then to be let back indoors if the door was closed.
  • Every trip to Lake Arrowhead, Callie walked down the steep hillside of our property to help me set up my game camera. Then, on our last day, she went back with me to see if we captured any images of coyotes, bears, or bobcats (which we occasionally did).
  • Late every afternoon, Callie came to my office at home at invited me to go outside and play soccer; she had a specific look that only meant, “Hey, Fred, t’s time to play soccer.”
  • She could be incredibly persistent about starting our soccer or her morning walk. For our soccer game, she would wait patiently in my office or in the yard for over an hour, if necessary.
  • A few times when Callie and I walked outside for our soccer match, I forgot to pick up the ball. Callie always looked back over her shoulder to make sure I brought it along.
  • Callie had water bowls in several parts of the house. If any of them was low on water, she would find Barbara or me and ask politely for a top-up.
  • Callie loved to go for boat rides at Lake Arrowhead and she loved it when I fished. When I caught a bass, sometimes she would walk over and give it a lick before I threw it back.
  • Her favorite place to sit in the boat was at the very front of the box. If I was riding in the stern, she would come to get me and invite me to sit with her in the bow facing the wind.
  • Every morning, Callie shared a bowl of cereal with me in my office. She would get a bran flake or two, and then she would lick the yogurt from my bowl when I was finished.
  • At the end of every soccer game, we did “high fives.” Callie would sit down and reach way up with her left paw, then her right, then her left, and then her right.  Each high five was rewarded with a small puppy treat.
If you read My Doggie Says, you know that Jamie loved to jump off our boat dock at Lake Arrowhead and retrieve her floating Frisbee.  Well, Callie learned to swim when she was just a few months old, and she loved retrieving the Frisbee every bit as much as Jamie.  I have photos of both swimming toward shore with the Frisbee, and it’s hard to tell the difference between Jamie and Callie. In an incredible bit of timing, our neighborhood magazine, Valmonte Life, featured Barbara and me and Callie on its cover for March, 2018.  The photographer captured some wonderful images of Callie, including the one on the cover, which was clearly chosen because Callie looked great and not because of me. One of my favorite hobbies is photography, and I probably have thousands of images of Callie.  Part of my grieving therapy will be to create a Callie memory book. On this blog and on Twitter or Facebook, when I learned that someone had lost a pet, I always recommended that they visit the Pet Loss list of poems:  http://www.petloss.com/poems/poems.htm  It has a wonderful collection of poems about pets and the pain of losing them.  I always suggested that people read Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “Dinah In Heaven.”  Now, I guess I need to recommend that to myself.  I will read it again. I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  I’ve been focused on my work and on writing a new book about high tech startup companies: The Fundable Startup: How Disruptive Companies Attract Capital.  It was published on February 6, 2018, by SelectBooks.  https://amzn.to/2q8fjdd  If you’re interested in startups, check it out. I will probably continue to focus primarily on my high-tech life, but it’s been salving to look back at this blog.  Especially some of the early posts about the wonderful Callie.  It’s been a lovely trip down memory lane, and I will revisit it more often. There is probably another golden retriever in my future, but not right away.    

How Smart Are Dogs — Really?

Friday, March 22nd, 2013
One of the themes of the "My Doggie Says..." show has been "the intelligence of dogs."  One guest, for example, was Stanley Coren, author of "The Intelligence of Dogs."  But I've always found these conversations a little unsettling. Here's the interview with Stanley.   The scientists keep saying, "Dogs really aren't very smart."  I wonder, though, if they are applying the right measures.  Obviously, dogs can't take an IQ test -- which deals with language.  But they sure do some clever things.  I have a difficult time believing that Callie Golden Retriever has the same intelligence level (whatever that means) as a two-year-old child. Well, Brian Hare and Dognition to the rescue.  For the past two weeks, Barbara and I have been spending a few minutes every evening running Callie through a battery of tests developed my Dognition.  Here's how Dognition describes the tests: "You begin the Dognition Experience by playing a series of science-based games that will reveal your dog’s unique abilities. This knowledge is the first step in creating an even stronger connection with your dog — a connection that can help you be the best owner you can be for your furry friend." So far, we haven't received any results on Callie's testing, but the games have been fun, and we're looking forward to seeing the first results.  Stay tuned!

Hero Dog Awards 2012

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
The 2012, Hero Dog Awards were presented on November 8, 2012, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Los Angeles.  This is always a very inspirational program. Here's a summary from dogtipper.com. Here's a three-minute audio clip from the "Dog Appreciation Lessons" CD, in which Michael Hingson describes that fateful day in New York City, on September 11, 2011.   Here's my interview from last year with Michael Hingson, whose dog, Roselle, won the 2011, Hero Dog Award for leading Michael and some other people out of the World Trade Center on September 11,k 2001:    

Why Do Dogs Sniff Before and After Peeing?

Friday, November 16th, 2012
When I wrote "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie," I was curious about why Jamie did so much sniffing before peeing.  Was she looking for something?  Was she looking for the absence of something?  Well, there are several on-line articles that answer this question.  Mostly, they are sniffing for other dogs' "marks," so they can "mark over them."  That is, so they can claim the territory for themselves. This probably explains why Jamie would also sniff her way all the way to the end of someone's yard before peeing.  Presumably, because there were no other marks to "mark over." Here is one set of answers. A related question is, "Why do dogs sniff their own urine?"  I've always wondering if they were doing some kind of medical "self-diagnosis," or something like that.  Well, maybe not far off.  Here's an article titled, "Why Does My Dog Smell Its Urine."

Was My Dog Really Smart Enough to Figure that Out?

Friday, November 9th, 2012
If you read this blog, you know that Callie and I have a daily soccer match -- at her invitation.  It's a ritual we've followed since Callie was eight weeks old.  So for over five years, we've been doing our daily soccer game.  I kick the ball in the air, and Callie "bonks" it off her nose. You also know that we have our little ups and downs.  Some days, Callie really gets into the game, and other days, she just stares blankly as the ball whistles over her head.  I'm never quite sure what to expect. You also know that I think dogs are really smart -- much smarter than even our scientists give them credit for.  They read our body language better than we read theirs --  most of the time. You also know that I have all kinds of little tricks for getting Callie into the game.  Sometimes it takes us a while to get started, so I have to encourage her and try to persuade her to start the game.  She's always enthusiastic when we run outside, but sometimes it takes a few dozen kicks on my part before Callie gets going. Well, last night, at soccer time, it was raining fairly hard.  My first reaction was to skip soccer for the day.  But Callie kept begging me to play.  Finally, I gave in and opened the door to the back yard.  But I said to Callie, "Look, it's raining pretty hard; the yard is getting muddy; so we need to get started right away and just play for about five minutes." Imagine my surprise when Callie followed my instructions to a tee.  She "bonked" the first kick and worked her golden retriever butt off for five minutes.  Then we did our ceremonial "high five" and got inside out of the rain. Unbelievable.  What was she responding to?  Was it what I said (really, out loud)?  Did she pick up on my body language somehow?  Whatever it was, it was the first time she's ever jumped right into the game and then stayed with it for five minutes without interruption. We were both a little wet when we finished, but it was worth it.

Thinking About Renting a Dog? Check with Barley, Labrador Retriever and Rent-A-Dog: Podcast

Monday, October 29th, 2012
Can you imagine being a dog with more than one home to go to every week?  Well,  I interviewed Barley, a Labrador Retriever and Rent-A-Dog, to find out what it's like for him.  Here's a short sample from Barley.   And here's the full interview:  

I Am So Attached to this Dog!

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
This photo was taken on a recent fishing trip at Lake Arrowhead.  Callie loves to go fishing.  Actually, she loves just about everything at Lake Arrowhead, but she's really in her element on our boat, cruising from fishing spot to fishing spot, sniffing my bass before I release them back into the lake, and roaming around the boat without her leash. She's a terrific fishing buddy.  She obviously loves being on the boat and letting her coat blow in the wind as we cruise around the lake.  She starts to get excited when she sees my fishing rod bend down from the weight of a fish.  She watches attentively while I net a fish and remove the hook.  (I release all the bass I catch.)  And she usually takes a sniff, or a lick, at my catch before I put it back in the lake. I've had a lot of dogs, and, as you know, I wrote a book about Jamie Golden Retriever ("My Doggie Says...: Messages from Jamie"), but I've never had a dog that participates as much as Callie.  She's part of the team, and she knows what she's supposed to do every step of the way.  When we first get on our boat, Callie is on her leash -- so she won't dive into the lake and do one of her other favorite things -- go for a swim.  But once she's on the boat, the leash comes off.  It was easy to train her to stay inside the boat.  All it took was a couple of corrections when she started to climb up on the bow or the stern.  Now she roams freely on the boat, and she's obviously proud to have so much freedom. Some dogs would just be a "bump on a log."  They might just go along for the ride, but not Callie.  She interacts and participates every step of the way.  She asks for fresh water if her water bowl is low.  She looks for a comfortable place to sit -- or lie -- sometimes in the sun, sometimes in the shade.  On a hot summer day, she will ask me to put up the bimini top, so she'll have some shade to lie in.  When we leave one fishing spot for another, she looks for a place to sit beside me.  Sometimes, she'll wait to climb up on the seat until I move a fishing rod or boat line out of the way.  Always interacting, and always extremely polite. If you follow this blog, you know  that Callie and I play soccer every day.  Here's what that looks like. [Youtube= This has been an incredible bonding process.  Callie's focus "comes and goes" during our soccer matches.  So I've had to learn how to adapt to, and "manage", her focus and attention span.  Sometimes, Callie gets off to a hot start and then loses interest.  Sometimes, she has a difficult time getting started.  I've learned a few tricks about keeping her interest level up.  If she gets completely distracted (by eating grass, for example) it usually works to "stop" the game (literally, put the ball away) and then "start" it again. We've gone through a couple of periods (a few days, perhaps) when Callie just didn't seem very interested in playing soccer.  One thing I've noticed this summer, though, is that usually after a few days at Lake Arrowhead, she attacks the soccer game with more vigor than ever.  She'll play for ten minutes without letup, answering my every kick with a "noser" -- a "bonk" off her Golden Retriever nose. As I try to tune into her energy levels, I've discovered that her "focus" sometimes reflects mine.  If I'm distracted and thinking about some work issue, Callie seems to lose interest.  If I work hard at staying "in the present" and staying focused on the game, she gets more "into it."  It's almost as if she is training me to stay focused and "in the moment."  Is Callie my Zen-Dog Person Trainer? My relationship with Callie goes far beyond fishing and soccer.  Callie is the most socially interactive dog I've ever been around.  She has several doggie boyfriends in the neighborhood, and, when she sees them coming, she gets very excited -- wagging her tail and rushing to say "hello."  But it's not every dog; she's selective. Callie is the same with people.  If she sees a people friend, she either rushes to say "hi," or she sits and waits for the person to catch up.   When she's walking near, or on, the nearby golf course, Callie is always looking for greens keeper Jeff -- or his red golf cart.  Jeff is probably Callie's favorite person outside our family.  Because Callie is so friendly, I have made a lot of new friends -- both dog friends and people friends. One of the most endearing things that Callie does is to sit down beside me and "ask" me to scratch her throat and neck.  This can happen when I'm working in my office, watching TV, or sleeping soundly at 2:00 in the morning.  It doesn't matter; I'm always glad to accommodate her request.  The message seems to be, "Just checking to make sure everything's OK." This kind of #dogbonding has a spiritual and philosophical side to it.  It sure feels like Callie is helping me grow in a lot of different ways.

Callie Golden Retriever: “You leave my man alone!”

Monday, September 10th, 2012
Callie Golden Retriever (in the foreground of the photo) is the most social dog I've ever known.  She has countless doggie and people friends.  But that doesn't mean she's friends with everyone.  She's selective.  And she has a few favorites.  In this photo, she's visiting with her Lake Arrowhead neighbors, Reilly, Ruckus, and Rowdy. But yesterday, she did something that just blew me away.  In our home neighborhood, Callie has two special "boyfriends," Sampson, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and Lucky, a Golden Doodle.  We were walking with Cousin Maggie Golden Retriever (my daughter's dog), and joy-of-joys, for Callie, along walks her special friend Sampson.  Maggie is very friendly, too, but when Maggie tried to say "hello" to Sampson, Callie pushed herself in between Maggie and Sampson.  She wasn't going to let Maggie get anywhere near her "man."  Where's the camera when I need it? Don't dogs do the most amazing things sometimes? Have you seen dogs act like this before?  If so, please comment.

Video of Callie Dock Jumping and Retrieving Her Water Frisbee

Friday, June 22nd, 2012
Like Jamie, Callie Golden Retriever loves dock jumping and swimming at Lake Arrowhead.  She has her own routine, which is great, because it keeps her safe from boat traffic on the lake.  First, she runs to the end of the boat dock.  Sometimes, she waits for someone to throw her Frisbee in the lake, but sometimes she just jumps in, knowing that the Firsbee will soon follow. Once the Frisbee is in the water, she swims to it, retrieves it, and swims to shore.  Fortunately, she has some very convenient stone steps for climbing out of the water and back to the dock.  She shakes off all that water -- on anyone who's close -- picks up the Frisbee, and heads out for another lap.   She would keep dock jumping and swimming all day, if we let her. It's a great #dogbonding activity, because getting it all set up involves some real teamwork. Here's what it looks like:

What is #dogbonding?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
Some of my Twitter and F/B followers have seen a few conversations about #dogbonding.  What is #dogbonding?  What does it mean? A lot of the authors and dog trainers I have interviewed on the "My Doggie Says..." show share a view that I have about dog ownership and dog training.  Specifically, that the real joy of "owning" a dog is in building a very close, warm, communicative, and interactive relationship with it.  I put "owning" in parentheses, because the whole idea of "owning" a dog is actually the antithesis of #dogbonding.  The ideal dog-human relationship is not one of "ownership."  It's one of "intimate relationship." #dogbonding is very different from some traditional dog training, in which the emphasis is on "obedience."  Again, there's more to being in a great relationship with a dog than compelling it to obey your commands.  This is where #dogbonding and some of the popular TV dog trainers depart. One premise of many of the popularized TV dog trainers is that we need to be in an "alpha" relationship with our "best friend."  Many studies have shown that this is not true, and many leading edge dog trainers are putting more emphasis on "positive training" and on creating a positive relationship with your pet. An essential ingredient of any relationship is "communication."  The point of the book, "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie," is that it is possible to develop your skills at "interpreting" your pet's behavioral messages.  Does your dog ever do something you don't quite understand?  I call these "scratch-your-head" moments.  You scratch your head and try to figure out, "Why did my dog do that?  What is it trying to tell me?"  Through a collection of eighty-five color photographs, "My Doggie Says..." gives examples of behaviors, what they meant in the case of Jamie, and how I was able -- with some detective work -- to "decode" Jamie's messages. Join us on Twitter at @mydoggiesays and contribute to the #dogbonding conversation.  What does it mean to you?