The sky, too, is feeling the loss of Kinsey

Kinsey’s loss is one that touches the hearts of everyone who knew her.

Kinsey-and-Elmos-for-blogIt is raining out now—the kind of rain that is slow and depressing—not a grand thunderstorm that thrills.  I can only imagine the sky, too, is feeling the loss of Kinsey.

This very clever, almost-nine-year-old Mini Schnauzer was the proud owner of Jill and Linda.  They brought her to me when she was just a four-month-old baby-dog for her puppy class.  Bright and happy to work Kinsey sailed through her classes and found herself becoming a happy working Delta Pet Partner early in her life.  She brought her two humans with her to nursing homes and other spots where she would routinely make people smile as she sat with them for petting, or sat on their laps for a snuggle, or did a few little gag-parlor tricks to make everyone giggle.

When first I mentioned Rally O to Kinsey’s human Jill— Laughing at me Jill said, “There’s just no way.” But, of course, Kinsey would not be daunted by anyone’s doubt—she sailed through her rally exercises and always looked at the distraction toys as if to say, “Who are you kidding, I am so all over that…”  I knew then that the exercises would have to be more difficult and perhaps I needed better distraction toys.  Kinsey pushed us all to be better and better.  She helped shape the lives of her sister Shelby and baby brother Arlo as she guided them on how to live in a human world—Kinsey knew it was all about carrots…

The love that Kinsey gave to and received from her humans was, as so many of us have known from that special dog, epic in its scope.  We all have had a dog (and if you’re lucky more) who moves our hearts profoundly and permanently.  Kinsey was that dog.  Just as Jill and Linda shaped and lured Kinsey’s behaviors for training, Kinsey shaped and lured their hearts for unconditional love.

As I said when Dante passed:

All told, dogs ask very little of us.  They ask us for love, they ask us for patience and understanding, and for our mercy and bravery when their time comes.  And once they’re gone, they part with one final request:  to not let the pain of their loss stop us from someday filling the dog-shaped hole they leave in our lives with another canine soul.

Kinsey will be missed beyond description.

Pinball versus Stick

Pinball takes on his foremost nemesis: a stick in our backyard.

Finally a sunny and comparatively warm day we decided to combine some fun outside for the newest addition to the family, Pinball, along with a chance to test out our newest gadget – a Flip camera.

Pinball was the only member of Callie’s litter – the only boy in the litter – who wasn’t adopted from the shelter right away.  When she died it seemed right to bring him here.  He seems to be liking it – or at least the stick.


A Sweet Short Life Remembered

Far too soon after Dante we’re forced to say goodbye to another furry friend as Callie is taken by the parvo that infected her litter.

Ginny and her pupsCallilily-Baby-Girl’s-Bagel, our first silly-named dog was in this world for only 11 weeks.

She and her six siblings were born to Ginny, a sweet collie/terrier mix whose family sent her packing to a kill shelter when they discovered she was pregnant.  She was on the usual “due to die” lists that circulate between shelters and ARF brought her up from the south to Beacon to have her babies and find them all forever homes.

Ginny was always sweet and soulful with anyone who interacted with her.  She passed her striking eyeliner on to her puppies who were born on November 6, 2010.  I got to see them when they were just hours old and we started working on their bio sensor early neurologic stimulation on day 3.

I’ve always believed that our dogs find a way back to us – I was struck by Ginny’s eyeliner – and couldn’t help but remember that Dante always had similarly striking eyeliner.  I watched her puppies as they grew and we worked with them and one always drew me to her – she was sweet, bright, eager, confident, and had the most beautiful eyeliner.

As they grew we thought it a good idea to give them some home social skills so Lawrence and I brought all seven puppies home for a couple days just before Christmas.  They learned all about the sights, sounds and smells of a home.  I let them explore a little (with massive supervision) and let Porthos and Boo tell me who they wanted to be their new family member.  Porthos and Boo gravitated to Callie and her look-alike sister with shorter fur.  The choice was made.  I had gravitated to Callie, the boys had gravitated to Callie and Lawrence had, too.  We were all in agreement.

Callie happy in the bathtubAll the puppies went back to the shelter for another week before they were ready for adoption and, when I picked them all up again the Thursday before New Year’s Day for some more social skills, something was wrong.  The only boy in the litter was lethargic and then started vomiting and began having diarrhea.

Because none of the girls were sick the vets thought it was an obstruction or some infection unique to him.  We treated him with fluids, antibiotics, and other meds and watched him carefully.  Since Callie was staying with us she was not going back to the shelter that Saturday and because the boy was not well he stayed with us, too.  By Monday all the girls were sick and by Wednesday the vets knew it was Parvo – a hugely contagious and deadly disease.  All the girls including Callie were much sicker than the boy and were in ICU for a week.

When we were told we could bring Callie back home we were thrilled.  She had made it through the worst of it we thought.  Pinball – her brother’s new name – went back to the shelter to find a forever home.  For nine days after she came home to us Callie was perky, eating, playing, kissing, and running through the snow to catch up to Porthos and frolicking between Boo’s feet.  Then she started to slow down a bit and become just a bit clingier on Sunday night.  By Monday night she was not eating much at all and by Tuesday morning her vomiting woke me.  Her poopies were normal but her demeanor was frighteningly lethargic.

I made an appointment with the vet for that afternoon and watched her carefully that morning and saw she would approach the water bowl but sometimes not be able to drink.  She would wobble sometimes and occasionally fall over.  Every now and then her right eye would go in the wrong direction and she could seemingly never get comfortable.  Her exam was fairly normal except for the lethargy and signs that she was struggling to pee every few minutes.  Antibiotics and fluids were prescribed and home we went.

Pinball sleeping on CallieBy just after seven Tuesday night Callie was drooling heavily and Boo was whining and pacing around her pen.  Porthos suddenly started acting strangely, alerting us that she was having a massive seizure.  Rigid post-seizure, we rushed her to the vet who had brought her through her Parvo who was open late and told us to come right in.  She seized a few more times at the vets, went into shock and she was lost to us by nine.

Dogs move into our hearts and homes with light speed.  We can’t remember a time without them once they are rooted into our souls.  And when they are ripped from us so quickly in the midst of such innocence, it is easy to say – “no more.”  But then the meaning of our time with these joyous critters would be lost.

Once again and all too soon we find ourselves heartbroken.  We and the boys will miss Callilily-Baby-Girl’s-Bagel and we will wait to see what to do next.


Butch – maybe not the “other reindeer” but may be a dog dear to your heart…

Butch, a blind dog sheltered at ARF in Beacon, NY, needs your help to find his forever home!

Butch-antlers-for-webOkay so he can’t wear his antlers straight and we couldn’t find a real wrapped up holiday box for him to sit in and he won’t be Santa’s next reindeer, but Butch could be one of the best dogs you’ll ever love.

Butch is almost 2 years old now and the biggest, goofiest guy you will ever want to meet.

He gets along with every other dog he has ever met – even the dogs least likely to like other dogs will get along with Butch.  He walks well on leash, plays nicely in the back yard at ARF (with other dogs or alone) and he is currently learning silly tricks like “sit in a box for fun.”  So you can see here he is all ready to be someone’s holiday dog in his holiday box wearing his holiday antlers.

Butch enjoys nose games – looking for food, toys, or other scents in boxes.  And more than anything else he loves being petted and snuggling up with any person who shows him affection.

For all his wonderful qualities, Butch – like Rudolph – keeps getting overlooked.  Butch has Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a degenerative eye disease that will eventually take his sight completely.  He currently seems to see some shadows in the daylight but has already lost most of his eyesight completely.

Just like Santa thought Rudolph with his red nose could not fly a sleigh too many people think a blind dog just can’t have a happy life. The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists says:  “The exceptional senses of smell and hearing in animals also help pets adapt to vision loss.”  Organizations like and have a host of great tips for living with a dog who is visually impaired and lists of other support organizations online to help folks help each other while living and loving an animal with special needs.  Suggestions like:

  • Teach your dog “new” things to make life even more fun! Try doing “clicker training” that fits in nicely with his/her new skills for* listening* vs. *seeing* and your dog will be very proud of new skills!

Vicky has been doing this with Butch at the shelter – that’s how she got him in the “gift” box and got him to wear the antlers – okay so he can’t see they are not on straight – but you got to give him his props.

Another few tips from are:

  • For eye protection when outdoors where there are low growing shrubs, twigs, etc. , Doggles can protect the eyes.
  • Adding 1 – 2 feet outward of bark chips, mulch or landscape rocks around trees or other dangers in the yard will let your dog feel a texture difference on the ground to warn that something is ahead.

There are loads more suggestions on this and other web sites devoted to dogs with visual impairments – most are pretty simple like the mulch and some are pretty darn fun like the Doggles.

Butch has managed to map the back yard at ARF so he can go out and romp around with other dogs as if he had no issues. He will map your back yard too once he gets used to it.  He walks happily and very well on a leash and loves to go for walks.  Butch will probably never be safe off leash hiking – but he could go hiking on leash and have a blast.

There really is very little he won’t be able to do with you.  While he won’t be able to look into your eyes with devotion you will still know he loves you when he leans up against you and rustles you with his thick soft fur.

I know what it is like to live with a dog who does not see well.  Boo has struggled with his vision issues all his life and they have only gotten worse as he has grown older.  His is a different disorder and has resulted in what seems to be very severe far-sightedness.  He sees the outline of his brother well enough to happily chase him but does not see the door frame well enough to avoid bumping into it unless we guide him outside.  It is a small price to pay for his companionship.  The new stairs in the front have given him some pause lately but he simply reaches out with his front paw to find the height of the new step and then goes slowly to the next one.  We are always right there near him to help if necessary – but the more he can do on his own the safer he will be and the more confident he will be.  Boo has always gone and will continue to go on his visits to see the retired nuns and the kids at the library – I am just careful to guide him through the new environments. No one notices he can’t see well until I point it out to them.

Butch can live a fun, happy, fulfilled life with a human companion who is willing to do just a little more than the usual for him.  Given all that Boo has given us and everyone he visits, I suspect anyone who gives a little extra to Butch will get back ten-fold and then some. Butch is currently living at ARF-Beacon, and is available for adoption.

Three Dogs Training will offer a special discount for either a private lesson or a training course for Butch and his new humans.

Goodbye Dante

Today we say goodbye to our friend and family member Dante. Our hearts are absolutely broken.

Dante-with-stickIt is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our oldest boy, Dante.  Surrounded by myself and Lawrence, his brothers, and friends who came to say goodbye, he died peacefully at home and left the pain of his arthritis, wasting and cancer behind.

He came to us shortly after we got married and he was the first dog that was “ours” together.  We were living in Greenwich Village and it was an unusually warm Spring evening – so warm, in fact, that we decided that it was just too nice for a regular walk for Atticus so we decided to head over to the dog run in Tompkins Square Park.

We were going into the “airlock” gates of the dog run when a young woman came over to us and asked us if we wanted a dog.  Our apartment was too small for the two of us, Atticus, and our two cats, so the idea of a second dog was out of the question.

She, however, was persistent.  Just say hi to Goofy, she pleaded.  (Goofy was the original name she gave to Dante.)  Lawrence was insistent that we didn’t have the room and we wished her luck and walked past the woman, into the dog run, and over to one of the benches to sit down.

At one point while we were watching Atticus play Lawrence stooped down to tie his shoe.  Suddenly a large Shepherd mix bolted out of the group of dogs, bee-lined toward Lawrence, and stopped only to lick his face in a line of slobber that stretched from his chin to his forehead.  This strange dog then turned to Atticus and gave him a play bark that could have set off car alarms before licking me on the face, too, and darting back off into the play group.

We laughed about it, but then the dog kept coming back to us to check in before darting back out to play.  We noticed that Atticus was unusually friendly with our new visitor, which was very unlike him at the time.

After a while, the young woman we met at the entrance came over to us and asked what we thought of Goofy.  She told us that he had been wandering the streets of Brooklyn by a junkyard near to where she lived and had followed her husband home during a jog through the area.

She pleaded with us again to take Goofy as she didn’t have the room for him at her apartment and her own dog didn’t like the new visitor.  I was shocked when it was Lawrence who was talking me into taking him, but he insisted to the woman that it was only going to be for the weekend to give her some time to find a permanent home for him and to give her own dogs a break.

That weekend lasted from April of 1997 to today, as we both couldn’t bring ourselves to send him away by the end of our first weekend together.  The cats couldn’t make heads or tails of their new brother but Atticus was like a puppy again and blossomed by having a second dog in the apartment.  For us, Atticus sealed the deal but the name Goofy would have to go.

It took us a surprisingly long time to come up with a name, but it was Lawrence who came up with Dante.  From the looks of Dante at the time – severely malnourished, caked with dirt, and crawling with worms – it looked like he had been through Hell and back, hence the name.

For all the unpleasantness that Dante suffered before he came to us, we were amazed by just how none of it ever seemed to dampen his outgoing personality.  He seemed to fill whatever room he was in, going from person to person like a seasoned politician, and it quickly became obvious that he was born to be a therapy dog.

If dogs could have vocations, Dante’s was visiting as a therapy dog.  No matter how exhausting the visits were for us, he would always bounce up and down whenever he saw this Delta Society vest – even when it became clear to me he was past his prime.  His spirit was willing but his body had begun to wear out, and when he retired from therapy work he did so with well over 500 visits to his credit.

His senior years were happy and quiet for him, but in the last year the dog that had spent his life helping others needed more and more help from us.  When he was diagnosed with cancer we knew that his story was coming to a close but, being the dog that he was, we also knew that he would not ever leave willingly no matter the pain he was in.

Today we made the decision for him, and our hearts are broken.

All told, dogs ask very little of us.  They ask us for love, they ask us for patience and understanding, and for our mercy and bravery when their time comes.  And once they’re gone, they part with one final request:  to not let the pain of their loss stop us from someday filling the dog-shaped hole they leave in our lives with another canine soul.

Dante was a great friend and a hell of a dog, and while we will certainly honor his final request – for now the three dogs will be two until the time is right.