Hoku lands in the pokey.

Hoku was pulled over and taken into custody for “not being able to see over the steering wheel and driving like a maniac.” Allegedly, he took his mother’s SUV out for a spin and  to pick up his friend, Ranger, while mother, Kathy Lam, was on vacation. No word yet from Lam as to whether or not she gave Hoku permission to do so.

Hoku contends that this was just a kangaroo court and he doesn’t like kangaroos…for obvious reasons. Ranger’s mum is unaware that he was missing at any time during the day or evening, however, she does admit to having an inability to remember much of anything in general. Investigations continue.


Mommy Soup

Good ol’ Ranger boy took a trip to the vet the other day and had a full blood panel test. The results came back, but were different than I expected: Ranger has protein in his urine.

Vet recommendation: Feed Ranger a diet with less protein per serving.

Hmm…he’s only 5 years old. What is all this about anyhow? So, I took 5 dog health and holistic type dog books out of mine and my friends’ collective libraries and set out to read.

Ranger rarely drinks water. Uh oh. Bad news for kidneys. It is possible that at his young-ish age he is experiencing a decline in his kidney function to where he needs less protein, but could it have to do with water consumption as well?

Also, one of the treatments for failing kidneys is to give a subcutaneous fluid injection (a needle is inserted just under the skin and fluids are pumped in). Expensive at the vet (or scary for me to do my self), and not fun for the dog.

So, being the fussy dog mommy that I enjoy being to my guy, I decided to experiment with water. And what about his existing food? It’s still food, right? I have two large bags of a very high quality dog food (Acana Pacifica, to be specific), It has lots of other great ingredients that I would have a hard time assembling twice a day, day after day. So Mommy Soup was born. And, he loves it!

Slurp! Slurp! Slurp! All that good water getting inside of him. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him pee as much as he is.

I’m taking Ranger back in for a complete urinalysis next week, so I will provide an update to see if anything has changed or improved, but I have to think this is a step in the right direction.

Mommy Soup Recipe

Now, I tried putting his kibble in my soup batch the first time and cooking it all together, but then I couldn’t tell exactly how much protein/kibble he was actually getting.

New concept: Keep a big batch of good tasting, healthy water in the refrigerator. At feeding time, measure out a little less kibble than he normally gets (used to be 1/2C, am now reducing it to 1/3C and checking to see if he complains about being hungry. So far, so good.) I toss his kibbles into a pan, add a lot of the liquid to make a decent sized bowl of soup. (1 1/2C maybe? I’ll measure sometime. I just eyeball it, you can experiment with what you think the right amount would be for your dog). I warm it for just a few seconds so that the kibble expands and absorbs some water too. He loves lukewarm food so much more than cold. It’s amazing the difference it makes for a lot of dogs.

Soup Ingredients:
*Bottled water (don’t want the kidneys to have to try to eliminate any toxins–I get mine from a local water store)
* Meat (so far, I’ve used chicken and some salmon skin, might try duck next)
* Asparagus (I read this was healthy for kidney functioning)
* Parsley (same with parsley)
* Kale (just seems like it’s good for everything)
* Carrots (why not?)
* Rice (just happened to have some on hand–he likes it)

Note: No onions! No salt!

Organic vegetables: Yes

How much meat? I don’t know. Enough to flavor the water. I used a package (about 1lb. of *organic* boneless chicken thighs from Costco – again, want my mixture as clean as possible so that his kidneys aren’t fighting to filter pesticides, hormones, etc.) to about 6C of water. I like it to e very, very watery. I accidentally made a batch that turned into being more of a chili texture and he didn’t like it at all.

1. Cook meat in the water slowly. (Don’t boil it to death, just cook it and let all the juices come out).
2. Dice all of the vegetables together in a food processor. (I had to do this because my dog will not eat a vegetable if he detects it in its natural form. (I’ll post a picture and you’ll get the idea!)
3. Once the meat is cooked, I toss in the vegetables and let it simmer awhile in the meat juice.
4. If using rice, cook it on the side and add it to the cooked meat/vegetable mix.
5. I’m not sure how much protein is in salmon skin, so I have been removing the skin from the water and tossing it even though I know he loves these as a treat. I’ll play it safe for now until I get his next test results back. I do pick out the cooked chicken pieces and chop them up small and put some back into the soup. I freeze the rest to be used as treats for training.

If you have any great additions or variations…or if there is something I am seriously overlooking, do let me know in the comments. I’m just really pleased to see him drinking in this water and I think it seems overall like a pretty healthy (or at least neutral) way of doing so.


What Ranger thinks of vegetables!! It’s like he had an outright tantrum.

Training vs. Beauty

By now you may have heard about the $1M dog. If I remember correctly, it was a dog that won a championship at a major show. I want to say it was a Chow. And I think it was purchased by someone in China. I should get off my duff and look up the exact details, but it isn’t really the point I want to make. I remember the first thing I thought when the story first hit the news and my non-dog fanatic friends exclaimed, “WOW! Did you hear that?” My response was, “It still needs to be trained. Without that, it’s worth about $1.” At least to me.

And what do I mean by trained? First and foremost, I want a temperamentally sound animal. That is, I want one that has been nicely socialized…even if I were in the market for a ‘protection dog.’ Especially if I were in the market for a protection dog. Having a dog that is ‘in their right mind’ is what I would want…more on that in an upcoming article that I am working on that I think a lot of you will be excited to read. I have a surprise guest interview I’ve been working on for a couple of months. Can’t wait to finish this!

Beyond this, it is truly amazing how much cache a dog can have with training. You can have a beauty of a dog who is so untrained as to be a nuisance (or one that is temperamentally very unsound) next to one with a whamo of a hairdo and no impressive pedigree. I’ll take the latter and turn it into the dog that everybody wants in pretty short order. Having grooming skills just allows me to top off the good manners and tricks, etc. with some pizazz. Truly amazing.

Were I simply to groom a dog into a very lovely coiffed showpiece, I AM likely to to get it adopted more quickly than being a matted mess, however, without the training, I am also likely to see the dog returned. Not good. Not good at all.

Here’s a real life example:

I inherited a sweet, fat, untrained Chi/Min Pin mix from my elderly father (the dog was a gift -another blog post for another day). He had no idea how to raise a puppy. She became, as my mother put it, the Helen Keller of dogs. She would run amok, scream at my father until he fed her from his plate. She defecated and urinated all over the 4-level house and furniture, had horrid separation anxiety, and would methodically chew up pieces of the furniture. Dad kept her on a tan harness and a purple leash and took her to the dog park a couple of times a day.

Meanwhile, my brother (also my father’s neighbor at the time) purchased a very expensive pet store Yorkie (yes, the dreaded pet store, sick variety). They paid an ungodly amount for her, spent gobs in grooming so that she would look just so (I lived in another state at the time) and gave her lots of bling, expensive carrying totes, fancy treats, dog condo…the works. She was a fashion item and substitute baby for his wife. (Don’t worry, they don’t know I have a blog. Yet. ha!)

The dog had never been socialized with outside people or dogs other than mine. She was never house trained (and at 10 years old, she still isn’t). She bit people she didn’t know and has recently started biting and drawing blood even from them. We live too far apart for me to work with her personally.

I trained the ‘boring’ tan dog (who they wouldn’t allow in their house due to “allergies”) to do all sorts of things and her status went through the roof. Decided to bling my new dog up a little as a reward for weight loss and doing a million good manners and cool tricks (to include pooping into a bag when I would open it and earning her CGC. Nice trick!) This dog was also exceptional with people and especially with children–a true behavioral find.

I splurged on a pink, italian leather with Swarovsky crystals harness and leash set, pink leather running shoes, and a set of Doggles glasses for the frying pan hot Palm Springs daytime streets. People literally stopped to take photos and video the day I bought her stuff (~$200+ worth).

Next thing you know, I got her involved with therapy dog and service dog work. This dog had adoption offers. You name it. The name Chi Chi became “Can she come over to visit? I love her!” Even my brother and wife forgot about their boycott of this dog and their allergies and would use full animation to exclaim, “Of course Chi Chi can come in!” (I was also became entrusted to care for their Yorkie. Later, I became the convenient daycare provider so they wouldn’t come home to a soiled home while running errands. Uh huh, you know how it goes.)

Unfortunately, Chi Chi is gone now, but I have had many moments filled with sobs after sweet encounters with people who were enchanted by a dog who would give them the attention that society often does not.

One encounter was especially memorable. We were riding the bus (she as my service dog for seizures). A mentally and physically disabled man was riding in his group. He had a crooked smile and shakiness to his body. He very politely leaned forward and asked, “May I pet your dog?” I was more than happy to say, “I think she would really like that. Please do.” He acted as though the Queen of England had invited him to lunch.

He stretched one single, shaky finger toward her. In response, she moved her head toward his hand and let her ears go very wide with gentleness and her big doe eyes. I have never seen someone take so much care in petting. As he pet, his mouth grew into the most incredibly wide smile. I could tell that her response to him made him feel important and loved. I tried not to let anyone see, but tears were squeezing out the sides of my eyes. Only after we de-boarded the bus at our stop did I allow myself to openly cry. I put myself in his position. His day is likely filled with routine. Society may or may not really “see” him (or want to) because of his disabilities, his abnormal appearance and physical limitations. This dog went far out of her way to see and accept him. How would you feel? I know it would make my day, at least! It would be an almost spiritual experience.

So, yes, after years of grooming, I am able to style a dog to make it stand out and get noticed. But, I am more proud of the knowledge, motivation, and ability to create a dog that is safe, fun, and makes others feel good. I am proud that people want the mixed breed that does amazing things. Sure, his coat looks great because he’s cute without my hand in it. The only question I am asked is “Where did you find such a smart dog?” The Humane Society. He was an accidental litter mix of anybody’s guess.

Sure he’s smart. They all are. I went far, far out of my way to teach him as many good social skills as possible. He’s more behaviorally challenged than Chi Chi, but he has home offers. He makes people laugh. He has short hair, so bathing is about the only thing I can do to maintain his pretty looks. But, yes, that training pushes an average dogs’ status far beyond what looks alone can do.

There are a lot of pretty dogs of every single breed sitting (or dying) in shelters. That’s what is wonderful about training–it is a controllable element. Beauty is a gift that is, to some degree, out of our hands.

Training truly levels the playing field.

Body Language. You have to see this.

Today is a lesson about the importance of understanding dog body language. Watch the video once, then watch it again. Stop the video frequently. Observe.

I’ll add my comments as well as some from trainers from my Facebook groups. More comments are welcome.

  • Initial shake as the person entered the room. Referred to as “Calming Signals.”
  • Tempting even for me, but the first thing she does is lean over the dog.
  • She immediately starts invading his body and it becomes more still. She pets over the top of his head and all the way down his back. His expression changes and the tail drops.
  • Famous last words from bystander, “I’m a good boy. There’s nothing wrong with me.” If she’s doing an evaluation, this is supposed to be a careful test scenario, not one where you say the good words in hopes that it will make it so. Does that make sense?
  • The tech is rubbing the dog fast and furious. This was my comment on Facebook. “One thing beyond body language that I noticed b/c of my own dog. I don’t think my dog enjoys being rubbed fast, furious, and continuously like that. Not with the head, not with the ears. I was cringing. He will lean into a person, even come back for more, and roll on his back even if someone is doing that, but I see the difference in his face. If someone is petting more slowly and carefully, he has a big smiley smile on. The other kind of petting gives him a similar kind of expression on his face. If annoyed, however, my dog is more likely to try to escape at all costs.”
  • Stiffened body.
  • The obvious growl and barking that is dismissed as just “talking.”
  • I would have to watch again, but I thought I was seeing a pretty hard stare when he was barking at her.
  • Fast, hard eye blinking. When my dog is being pet in the way he likes, his eyes will blink very slowly and start to doze.
  • Back starts to hunch into a curve.
  • I caught what looked like a nervous lip lick – it happened subtly and very quickly.

This dog reminded me enough of my own that I decided to recruit my neighbors for a quick little contrast film. Ranger’s body language could be interpreted ambiguously to some extent. I happen to know that he loves these neighbors and seeks them out every day.

The body is quite similar (my dog is a’ leaner’ and he also tends to hold his tail funny even when he’s emotionally all right). At one point, I instructed my younger neighbor to pet Ranger a little more vigorously. Ranger never seems to particularly enjoy this type of petting; especially his ears, top of head, and neck area but he’s not a high risk for people he knows and likes. You’ll probably see a difference between the two dogs in this regard. Ranger is tolerant but does want to leave and shake it off.

Ranger also tends to greet people he doesn’t know with a very mild version of what the dog in the first video did…with caution. He reaches forward and wants to smell and wants someone just to offer their hand–preferably palm up and under his chin. He doesn’t want fast movements. Once this greeting takes place (especially if I am around to mediate it and provide reassurance), he will loosen up very quickly.

Children used to be out of the question. He would get really riled up and bark non-stop. After having worked with him a lot, they are just about invisible to him now. He runs around them, usually doesn’t bark, and has the very few and exceptional children that he actually seeks attention from. I would never, ever let a child approach him on their own to place him in a position where he cannot escape and they aren’t retreating or respecting his body language. That is a setup for a fail.

Here are some other things I noticed–you can add your own:

  • Ranger turns his back to “Sissy” to sit down. Some people see this as a sign that a dog is ignoring them. I usually think that Ranger trusts the person enough to do this. He doesn’t feel a need to keep an eye on the person.
  • He has a happy waddle when he wants to have affection.
  • His mouth drops open when he’s enjoying affection.
  • Ranger has plenty of options and lots of space. We have to take the leash a couple of times because a small dog appeared in the yard next door but otherwise he is free to come/go. In the previous film, I see a dog that has few options. It is indoors in a tight setting and someone is encroaching into his personal space.
  • Because I’m filming, I’m adding a little bit of weirdness by standing so close with an iPad. Also, it probably affects my helpers a little because I think that Sissy normally sits on the porch to pet Ranger and pets him more slowly. Wanted to show a little closer face-to-face proximity and the easiness that is always very clear between them, but I think you can tell (even though he might have liked to go see the dog next door). He seeks her out.
  • Not shown here also is Ranger’s usual preference of flopping himself onto his side for chest and stomach petting. This could probably be interpreted a couple of ways – seeking more affection or insecurity. I’ve seen him do this with a child a couple of times and I don’t necessarily find it to be a clear indicator that he’s comfortable. The difference seems to be that if he likes it and a person stops, he starts pawing at them for more. Not so when it’s a child and I’m pretty sure he’s just trying to be polite. At least I am quite sure that my dog really does want to escape if pushed. He is not seeking to fight to make it stop.

And, here’s a photo of one of his favorite people, Kathy. Notice that he voluntarily hops into a chair to be near her. He leans into her. He pretty much isn’t satisfied until he feels an arm around him and then he displays that enormous smile.

 Photo Jun 22, 12 58 51 PM

Obviously, another major difference is that Ranger is not in some kind of survival mode of being in a shelter where his levels of Cortisol are elevated and he’s being pushed into fight or flight mode. Extra caution is really needed in that type of situation. In fact, I’m not entirely sure how Ranger would act in the exact, same situation. It would make me very sad to imagine him being pushed to reacting like this when he is very much a people loving dog.

Stay safe out there.