Archive for the ‘Callie’ Category

Callie Does Soccer “Nosers” — Video

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Callie Golden Retriever first “invited” me to play soccer when she arrived at my home at age eight-weeks old.  She spotted an under-inflated practice soccer ball in the back yard and ran to it.  Frankly, I’m not sure why the ball was there or where it came from; it’s part of Callie’s mystery, I guess.  But Callie ran to the other side of the ball, scrunched down behind it, looked me right in the eye, and said, “OK, Fred, show me what you’ve got.”  I gave the ball a kick and Callie ran and trapped it under her tummy.  She was such a tiny puppy that she could hardly get all four feet to touch the ground.  Here’s what she looked like:

Almost every day since then, for over three and a half years, Callie and I have played soccer.  She’s graduated to doing “nosers.”  If she was a person, you’d call it a “header,” but when you’re a Golden Retriever, your nose gets in the way, so it’s a “noser.”  Here’s a recent demonstration of Callie’s “noser” technique:

httpv:// Callie Show off Her Soccer “Nosers”

An Exercise in Learning "Dog Talk"

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

At 2:00 in the morning, Callie Golden Retriever walked to the side of my bed and sat facing me. She “snorted.” I don’t know how else to describe the sound she makes. It’s not a bark, or a “wuuf,” or a growl. It’s just a “snort.” Usually, she uses a “snort” to get my attention.

Sometimes, Callie walks right to the edge of the bed and sits down in a place where I can reach her neck to give it a vigorous “puppy scratch.” And sometimes she sits down a few feet away facing the door. This means, “I gotta go pee!” But this was different. She was facing me, but too far away for a “puppy scratch.”

So, what’s she trying to say? Running out of options, I guessed maybe she wanted to go out. So I dragged myself out of bed and walked to the kitchen door that leads out to Callie’s side yard — her place to pee and, maybe, chase a racoon or possum. Got it. Right?

Wrong! She didn’t walk to the door. Instead, she sat down in the middle of the kitchen. Not close enough to the puppy treat bowl to be asking for a puppy treat. Just in the middle of the kitchen. Then I noticed that her food bowl was on the sink and that it still contained a few bites of dinner.

That stinker! She remembered, at 2:00 in the morning, that there was still a little dinner in her bowl, and she was asking me, very politely, to serve it to her.

I’m sorry, Mr. Research Scientist, but when was the last time a 2 1/2 year old kid did something like that? I swear; dogs are smarter than we think!

Sometimes, to understand what your dog is saying, you have to go through all the possibilities and be real creative about trying to understand what they are thinking. On the other hand, “food” is probably the answer more often than not.

As If I Needed Ten More Reasons To Love and Appreciate Callie Golden Retriever. New Reason No. 1

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

You can tell from this blog that I really love Callie Golden Retriever – and that I am very bonded to her. We have a terrific two-way, give-and-take person-dog relationship. My favorite activity with Callie is our daily soccer game – because it’s her creation, from the first day she arrived at my house, at age eight weeks.

But our daily soccer game is just a small part of our relationship. Another important part of our dog-person relationship is my ever-increasing “appreciation” for dogs in general, and for Callie in particular. Dogs continue to amaze me. I know, I know, the scientists say they have the intelligence of a two-year-old kid. But there’s something more going on with dogs.

Maybe it’s all the cute things they do to endear us to them. Maybe it’s their complete honesty and openness of their dog personalities and dog nature – the way they reveal their dogginess to us every day. Maybe they have figured out how to get a reaction out of us. Or maybe they take “cute pills” when we’re not looking.

Anyway, visiting Lake Arrowhead with Callie is always a special treat. She loves being outdoors, having lots of new smells to check out, going on long walks, and swimming in the lake. On our most recent visit, Callie did ten special things that made me appreciate her even more. So I decided to write them as a serial adventure in “Dog Appreciation.”

If you’ve ever wondered how we arrived at “Dog Appreciation Lessons” as the title of our first CD, now you know. These are the kinds of fun stories that make up the CD – and our fascination with “dog appreciation.”

So here’s installment No. 1 of “As If I Needed Ten More Reasons To Love And Appreciate Callie Golden Retriever.”

One of our extended walk/jogs at Lake Arrowhead takes us past the UCLA Conference Center and two tennis courts that are separated from the road by a twenty-foot high row of bushes. In the past, I have found an occasional tennis ball tucked away between the bushes and the tennis court fence.

Realizing from whence these tennis balls were magically appearing, Callie started, some months ago, to search the bushes herself. She would run along the edge of the bushes with her eyes firmly fixed on the area behind the bushes, where an errant tennis ball might be hiding. She has found three or four tennis balls this way – and they become her treasure for the day. She carries them home and stays close to them until bedtime – and sometimes after.

Well, this last visit, Callie amazed us by taking the tennis ball search to a higher level. She climbed behind the bushes whenever she could. She pushed right through the opening between two of the bushes and walked along the gap between the tennis court and the bushes. Unfortunately, this time, she did not get rewarded with a ball, but we were amazed at her creativity and persistence.

It won’t be long until she finds a tennis ball this way.

I don’t know if this qualifies as “smart” or not, but it’s certainly clever and creative behavior. And another one of those little endearing “dog appreciation” moments for me.

Watch this space for nine more “Reasons.”

What You Should Know About Your Dog’s Whiskers

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

A few weeks ago, I got chastised for not trimming Callie’s whiskers. Not being a groomer or an expert on doggie physiology, I thought I would do a little research project about dog’s whiskers. Here’s what I learned.

A dog’s whiskers — which are both on the side of its muzzle and above its eyebrows — serve several purposes. When a dog is outdoors, its whiskers tell it which direction the wind is blowing — which tells it which directions ever-important smells will be coming from. Also, if there are large objects nearby, that deflect the wind direction, a dog can detect the object with its whiskers. Finally, if a dog chases an animal into an enclosure — or if it tries to retrieve an object from an enclosure — its whiskers help it to know how large the enclosure is and whether there is room for its muzzle, or even its head.

So removing — or substantially trimming — a dogs whiskers is almost the same as removing a portion of its sense of smell. It deprives the dog of one of its natural ways of getting around in the world. Just because we humans don’t have such a developed sense of smell or whiskers to tell us when we’re climbing into too small a hole, is not a reason to assume that dogs don’t need their whiskers.

So, my friends, thanks for the advice, but Callie’s keeping her whiskers. They are an important part of being a dog.

By the way, if you’ve already trimmed your dogs whiskers, they will grow back, but, in the meantime, don’t toss your dog’s toys into a confined space. Just kidding; he or she will probably find the toy, but it won’t have the help of it’s whiskers.

Here’s a good article on

This post on leans toward not trimming a dog’s whiskers, but it also gives the other side of the story.

This closeup photo of Callie shows her whiskers, if you look closely. Don’t know about you, but I’m for preserving a dog’s “dogginess” or dog nature.

Callie Golden Retriever: A Watercolor Painting by Paul Kim

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Our friend Paul Kim, an accomplished and ever-working-and-improving artist, painted this picture of Callie. We’re thrilled with the result and hope you enjoy!

Did Callie Dump "Stinky" for "Reindeer?"

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Callie’s long-time security object has been “Stinky” — the remaining portion of which is the front end of a stuffed doggie. Callie has loved Stinky for almost all of her three years. Every evening, she would lie down before bedtime and “gum” Stinky, as if to “wind down” from a busy doggie day. It’s been an amazing dog behavior to observe — and the message is always, “OK, time to relax, everyone.” Here’s a photo, from the old days, of Callie with “Stinky.”

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But the unthinkable seems to be happening: Callie seems to have dumped Stinky in favor of “Reindeer,” a small stuffed toy reindeer with green antlers and a red scarf around his (her?) neck. We’ve been keeping track of Stinky for a few weeks, and Callie doesn’t seem to have any interest any more. But she will roam all over the house looking for Reindeer.

What is Callie thinking? I love to try to understand what’s going on in a dog’s mind. But this is pretty puzzling. For all these months, Callie was devoted to Stinky. And now all she cares about is Reindeer? What changed? How does a dog think about these things? Are we humans capable of figuring out dog behavior and the messages it sends?

Sometimes. But, it seems, not always. How can I bond with my dog, if I can’t figure it out?

Listening to Callie Golden Retriever

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Saturday morning, a week ago, I was getting ready to go watch the Northern Trust golf tournament, which was being held at Riviera Country Club, near Los Angeles. I took Callie out for a short walk. My plan was to walk down the left “wing” of the driveway and walk to Callie’s favorite street corner.

But as soon as we left the house, Callie pulled me toward the right “wing” of the driveway. It was one of those “what is my dog telling me?” moments. I’ve learned that, when Callie does slightly unexpected things like that, there’s usually a reason — a “doggie method” to her “doggie madness.”

So I was happy to let Callie lead the way, and we went toward the right wing of the driveway. Then, I realized what Callie was doing. Barbara often takes Callie out that door in the morning, and the first thing they do is to pick up the morning paper. Sure enough, there was the morning paper, lying on the right side of the driveway. Callie knew exactly what she was doing. I just had to be smart enough to figure it out — as is often the case with doggie communication. Dogs use ail the tools at their disposal in order to communicate — including which direction they are looking, which direction they are walking, and — sometimes — which direction they are tugging on their leash.

Try figuring out what your dog is telling you. You will get better at understanding dog behavior, and your dog bond will get stronger.

Callie Does Soccer Nosers: Photos

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Callie talked me into playing soccer with her when she was eight weeks old. In this photo, she’s a few weeks older, but not many. As you can see, she’s not much bigger than the soccer ball — which is only about 2/3 inflated. I would kick the ball, and Callie would race across the yard to trap it under her tummy.

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As Callie has grown, her soccer skills have improved. She still invites (begs!) me to play soccer at least once a day — and sometimes more. She still races across the yard and traps the ball. Sometimes, she puts one of her front paws on the ball and poses, as if to say, “I am the conquering hero!” The other difference, now that she’s older, is that she does “nosers.” If she were a person, you’d call it a “header,” but Callie’s nose gets in the way of her forehead, so it’s a “noser.” Here are a few photos of Callie doing nosers.

Callie Noser 1

It’s amazing to see the ball literally “pop” off her nose. It makes a loud sound, because the ball in under-inflated. I try not to overdo it, because I wouldn’t want Callie to hurt her nose. It was never a problem until about ten days ago. I kicked the ball high for Callie to do a noser, and she jumped up, but turned her head away from the ball. After she did a few of these, I decided her nose needed some rest. Fortunately, it rained so hard in Southern California that we couldn’t play soccer for a few days, anyway. After things dried out, we tried a few gentle nosers, and, sure enough, we’re back in business.

Callie Nosers 4

To fully appreciate a “noser,” you have to hear one; we’ll get some noser video up on this blog in a few days.

The thing I love most about my soccer games with Callie is that it’s her thing. I love playing with her, but it was her invitation originally, and she still invites me to play every day! What better form of dogbonding?

The “Dog Appreciation Lessons” CD, eighteen “best of the best of” clips from the “My Doggie Says…” radio talk show (KFNX 1100 in Phoenix) is up now on CD Baby. Click on this link to see it.

Callie, The Sock Stealing Dog, Strikes Again

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

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Barbara The Marathon Runner got some new running socks for Christmas, and she put them in a tidy little pile with some other presents. And then, magically, they disappeared.

Well, we’ve learned where to look when socks disappear — in Callie’s crate! Sure enough, that’s exactly where they were.

I love Callie’s attitude about her crate. She’s the first dog I’ve crate-trained, so I wasn’t sure what to expect after we met the basic goal of house-training her. That accomplished, Callie uses her crate a lot — voluntarily. Most of the time, the door is open, so she’s free to come and go. Sometimes, she’s fed in her crate, but not always. Her water dish, always full of fresh water, is in her crate. Frequently, she sleeps in her crate for part of the night, but not always; it’s her choice.

Maybe more important, many of her toys “live” in the crate. Callie doesn’t always put them there; sometimes we do. But many times during a day, Callie walks into her crate, selects a toy, and carries it in her mouth to another part of the house. It’s fun to try to figure out why she chooses a particular toy. In the case of “Stinky,” her stuffed doggie security object, it’s obvious. She retrieves Stinky every night before bedtime, so she can suck on it and “wind down.”

So maybe it’s not surprising that, when Callie finds a wayward pair of socks, they end up in her crate. I think it’s cool that she feels some sense of ownership toward her crate. She probably thinks “a dog’s crate is its castle,” so that it should be off-limits to humans. And we generally respect that, except when it comes to missing running socks.

Dogbonding: How to create a stronger bond with your dog

Monday, December 21st, 2009

“Dogbonding” is a process of building a close relationship with your dog.

If you would like to have a closer relationship with your dog, you will want to remember some of the pointers in this article.

Much of dog training is about obedience – getting your dog to pee outside, not chew the furniture, come when called, etc. This kind of training is obviously important. You might save your dog’s life by getting it to “come” away from the path of a speeding car.

To achieve the full potential of your relationship with your dog, though, you need to get past obedience training and into activities where there is true interaction – give and take at your pet’s level.

Every day, Callie, my Golden Retriever, and I play soccer together. When Callie arrived at our house as an eight-week-old puppy, she squatted down behind an old soccer ball. She looked me in the eye as if to say, “OK, Fred, show me what you’ve got!” Since then, we have played soccer almost every day. My kicking has improved, and Callie has advanced from trapping the ball under her tummy to leaping in the air to do “nosers” – Callie’s version of a “header.” We interact in the same way that you would if you were practicing soccer with another person.

The essential ingredient of my soccer experience with Callie is that it was her idea – her invitation. And every day, it’s Callie who invites me — rather, “begs me” — to go outside and play soccer. She finds me in the house, makes eye contact, and turns to run outside. Then she stops and looks back to see if I am following her. If I am not cooperating, she lopes back to my side and starts again with the eye contact.

As a concession to “alpha” theory, I initiate the game by bringing the soccer ball out of its storage place, and I finish the game by putting the ball back where it belongs. But the game itself is an equal give-and-take between Callie and me.

This is where “dog-bonding” can come into conflict with some modern theories of dog training. Proponents of “all alpha all the time,” for example, put the emphasis on the owner being “top dog.” These people admonish dog owners “never to play tug-of-war with their pet.”

But tug-of-war can be a great give-and-take game to play with your dog – provided that (to make the “alpha” folks happy) it isn’t taken to the point that the dog’s behavior becomes aggressive. Next time your dog brings you a toy, or some other object, take it in your hand, but don’t wrench it away from your dog. See what it wants to do. And then try letting the dog decide the game. If it wants to play “give and take,” let it. If it wants to play “tug-of-war,” let it – without allowing your dog to become aggressive. You might find that your dog wants to play “let’s just both hold this for a while.” It seems to give them lots of satisfaction.

There is definitely a place for “alpha.” It’s just overdone sometimes. When Callie was a puppy and jumping up on our three and five-year-old granddaughters, we asked dog trainer Brian Lee for help. In two hours time, Brian worked magic with Callie, and part of the solution was not letting her sleep on our bed. This was subtle, but it seemed to reinforce some family hierarchy in Callie’s mind.

Some of my other favorite dog-bonding moments are:

• Callie’s daily “good morning” ritual. When she sees that I am awake, she walks to my side of the bed, drapes her nose on the edge of the bed, and “snorts” (literally) until I scratch her neck for a while. It’s a very special dog-bonding way to start the day.

• Our morning jog is always a shared adventure. Callie does a good job of “heeling,” but sometimes she asks politely if she can greet a friend – sometimes a favorite doggie friend, sometimes a favorite people friend.

• During the day, when I am working in my office, Callie is always close. Several times a day, she walks into my office, puts a paw on my knee, and asks for a little attention. Sometimes, she snorts, which is her way of getting my attention. Sometimes it’s a very short snort, but sometimes she continues to snort, as if she is trying to mimic human conversation. It’s very charming.

And it’s not just about dog-bonding with me. Callie has a great relationship with one of her favorite people friends, Jeff, a greens-keeper at the nearby golf club. Callie absolutely adores Jeff. Sometimes, Jeff endears himself to Callie by presenting her with a tennis ball, but Callie would love Jeff even if there were no tennis balls. If he can afford the time, Jeff gets out of his golf cart and gives Callie a nice scratch on her chest.

Ted Kerasote, author of “Merle’s Door,” and a guest on my talk show, suggests letting your dog “read the news” on your morning walk. He says, “I spend ten or fifteen minutes reading the news every morning; why not let Merle do the same thing?” By “reading the news” Ted means letting your dog have plenty of time to sniff around your neighborhood. That’s a dog’s way of knowing what’s been happening in its world. Try it; your dog will love you for it!

Another guest on the “My Doggie Says…” talk show, Kyra Sundance, has published several books about how to teach your dog tricks. Teaching your dog tricks is an excellent way to spend some quality time with your dog – and improve your relationship. You and your dog learn together, and your dog will appreciate the time you spend with it – and the attention it gets from you.

Invent your own forms of dogbonding. The important thing is to share experiences with your dog; to do things that it enjoys doing. It will be grateful to you for spending the time, and you will find your doggie relationship moving to a higher level.