Little Carlito’s Need Brought Together Unlikely Collaborators.

Carlito is a lucky little dog, who shared his luck with the Tanglewood community by bringing them together for a common cause.

The story of “A Dog Named Boo, The Underdog with a Heart of Gold,” very simply put, is about a dog in need, who then turns around to help others. Little Carlito’s story is about a dog whose need brings together some unlikely collaborators – a superstar cellist, a world renowned conductor, a Berkshire’s valedictorian just starting college, and 13,924 concert goes.

I know Carlito and his humans, Mary and David, from the training classes I teach. When they said they’d be missing class to go up to Tanglewood, I thought it was for a holiday. Little did I know David is a highly esteemed conductor who first led the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1968 (shows what I know).

When the four-month-old Havanese puppy ran in fear from a smoke alarm that went off in the house where Mary and David were staying, everyone feared the worst. How could the twelve-pound Carlito avoid cars, coyotes, or getting hopelessly lost in the woods of Tanglewood?

Enter Yo-Yo Ma — for years a good friend and mentee of David Zinman (human of Carlito).

According to ‘The Berkshire Eagle,’ When Yo-Yo Ma appeared on stage after his concert, it was not for an encore, instead the famed cellist sought the help of the Tanglewood audience of 13,924 to find Little Carlito.

Leaflets were printed and stuck under windshield wipers, motorists stopped anyone they saw running, walking, or sitting on a front porch telling everyone to be on the lookout for Carlito.

Grace Ellrodt (the valedictorian) was one of those joggers who was tipped off by a passing driver. Just before dusk, she spotted the little puppy in a busy intersection on Cliffwood Street near Triangle Park in Lenox and returned him to Mary and David Zinman.

Carlito is a lucky little dog, who shared his luck with the Tanglewood community by bringing them together for a common cause.

While this all happened last August, it seemed like the story of a little puppy who brought so many people from so many different walks of life together is just the kind of sentiment for this time of year as we look to turn ourselves over to new hopes and ask ourselves, ‘how can we make 2018 a little better?’

Ask Carlito.




Bye Bye, Boo

On September 10, 2014 the final chapter in Boo’s long, courageous story came to a peaceful close surrounded by his loved ones.

On September 10, 2014 the final chapter of Boo’s story came to a close.

Lisa-and-BooIt is hard to write of something so painful as the loss of a beloved pet but the loss of Boo is not my own and that requires me to share his passing with all the people his spirit has touched. More than ten years of visiting children, seniors, adults with developmental disabilities and others makes it hard to count how many people loved him, but I know it was probably thousands.

Developmentally disabled with poor eyesight and an awkward gait, Boo was a trooper who was always game for a visit with anyone even in later years with his eyesight completely gone and arthritis making his bearing even more ungainly. Having overcome remarkable odds to be a therapy dog, Boo won the hearts of the people who knew him personally and those who read his story in A Dog Named Boo here and around the world. His fan club ranges from Russia, to South America, to Britain and back home. Boo was the clumsy black and white rescue dog who never wanted anything other than to say hello to and be loved by everyone he met (with some great butt scratches along the way) while reaching across physical limitations and political boundaries.

In both life and in death he teaches us that we are all better when we move through our days with patience, persistence and the understanding that perfect is not all it is cracked up to be—because sometimes it is in our imperfections where our greatest strengths lie.

In his work he brought joy to thousands, speech to Marc and Sister Jean, an understanding to my husband and me that we could be a family, and on the morning he left us he brought us one more gift. As our two-year-old son (who still only has only two or three reliable words and has yet to refer to anyone by name) brought all the pepperonis from his pizza-puzzle toy to Boo, who was resting on his big comfy chair, he pointed to Boo and said, “Boo” each time he tried to encourage Boo to eat the wooden pepperoni.

With this final act we knew Boo had made his mark on the little boy he had waited so long to have in his life and his job was done—he could rest without pain for the first time in a long time.

Training with the Three P’s: Patience, Persistence, and Perfect-is-not-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be

Patience, Persistence and accepting that Perfect-is-not-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be are fundamental to enjoyable and good positive reinforcement dog training.

When I first rescued Boo, I had many goals for him. But – because of who he was and what he later showed me – I had to adjust my goals and devise a different approach to training him.

In my book, A Dog Named Boo: How One Dog and One Woman Rescued Each Other – and the Lives They Transformed Along the Way, I detail many of Boo’s limitations, our training hurdles, and the amazing things he did without being perfect.

The concept of successive approximations, which means we have a goal in terms of what we are trying to teach a dog and that we understand that if the dog’s behavior lands anywhere along the path to this goal it is good and worthy of reward, is often only applied to a specific behavior or trick we are teaching.

Anyone who has potty-trained a puppy has used a type of successive approximation.

We get puppies out often so they can make the right pee and poop choices. The puppy’s bladder size and muscle control requires us to lower the bar for them to succeed then we slowly raise the bar to achieve our final goal. By patiently increasing the length of time between persistent outings while accepting and rewarding closer and closer to perfect behavior we succeed.

In short, the Three P’s are the heart of successive approximations.

This is successive approximation on a micro level—one behavior. Boo taught me that Patience, Persistence and Perfect-is-not-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be needed to be applied on the macro level—to the whole dog.

In A Dog Named Boo it is clear that I had to utilize the Three P’s when training Boo on every level. It was a year before he understood to signal us that he had to go out for a pee or poop. Another year-and-a-half was spent teaching him to take treats outside the house and lay down in a public place.

The lessons of Boo are vast in terms of so many elements of human and canine interactions but the biggest training lesson he taught me always comes down to patience, persistence and perfect-is-not-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be.

The Three P’s can apply to dogs who have special needs like Boo, who are reactive, stressed, need remedial socialization, and pretty much any dog who will be destined to work as a service or therapy dog.

Patience refers to starting out with an assessment of the dog as an individual. Who is this dog? What is he telling me? What does she like? What scares him? What motivates her?

These are just a few of the beginning questions for which the answers are not always on the surface and often take exploration. Take your time and let your dog show you who they are. Boo’s physical and cognitive limitations made it difficult for him to answer these questions quickly or at all sometimes.

When he wouldn’t lay down on command I was told to just make him do it without thinking about why he wasn’t doing it. When he was afraid in the truck I was told to just let him work it out on his own. I had to be very patient and slow his training way down, ask what he was telling me and what he needed, then shift things to accommodate Boo so he could learn at his own pace how to lay down, how to love the truck, and how to be a confident dog in so many other areas.

Persistence in Boo’s case was more than just repetition. It did require practice, but Boo showed me it has to be done at the speed and intensity that each different dog can handle—if it takes your dog a year to get where other dogs get in three months then so be it.

We get caught up in so many comparisons of one dog to another, yet one of the greatest gifts you can give your dog is to only compare them to where they started and how far they’ve come.

For Boo to achieve his goal of visiting kids, it was almost two years of outings that slowly worked on his basic skills and treat-taking abilities in public. I had to craft alternative cues that Boo could follow and understand, much like I advise clients whose dogs are visually or hearing impaired. They can and will learn their basics and maybe even more than one might imagine, but it will have a different shape and form from traditional cues and signals.

Letting go of perfect is probably the hardest part of this equation.

Each dog will reach their fullest potential—in other words their personal perfect—once we simply focus on each successive approximation as its own victory.

When I ask Boo for the paw command he swipes his paw in the air as if he is searching for a light switch in the dark. It in no way compares to the perfect easy-going dogs who leisurely reach out and gently place their paw in your hand. But when Boo does it you can see his effort and sense of accomplishment in his simple, wobbly gesture and it brings a smile in spite of the imperfection and probably more so because of it—like everyone cheering for the little engine who could—or in this case the little dog who could.

As canine advocates and guardians, our job is to patiently observe what our dogs tell us then persistently and at their speed craft a training routine that suites them so they can become the best they can be given who they are.

Like Boo, all dogs have potential. Our job is to find it and nurture it.


What do Steve Jobs and Boo have in common?

Just as the paperback of the best-selling A Dog Named Boo is starting to appear, the most unlikely pair ever makes an appearance on the store shelf!

Now that the paperback version of the best-selling A Dog Named Boo is starting to appear on shelves, a friend of ours sent in this photo from their local Target that made me laugh.


It’s quite the juxtaposition, but it made me think about just what do Steve Jobs and Boo have in common?

[unordered_list style=”bullet”]

  • Boo’s certainly no computer tycoon.
  • Boo’s only interaction with an apple has been as the occasional snack treat.
  • Boo is clearly a dog and Jobs—well not so much.
  • They do both have a thoughtful kind of mischievous expression on their book covers.
  • They both have the distinguished salt and pepper thing going on.
  • They are both the subjects of best-selling books.[/unordered_list]

In short, they couldn’t be further from each other’s place in this world yet here they are together on the shelf at Target.

Funny old world!


Lisa and Boo were on the Marie show!

Lisa and Boo went out to California to guest on the Marie show! Here’s the segment they did!

A couple of weeks ago, Boo and I took a trip out to California.

I didn’t talk too much about why I was going – or that I was taking Boo along – but we went out because we were both going to be guests on the Marie show on the Hallmark Channel.

She read A Dog Named Boo and loved the story so much that she had to have us on her show.

Traveling with Boo was difficult and full of challenges, but I think the end result was more than worth it – and Boo looks as cute as a button!