Have you ever chased a dog after it almost got run over? If you’ve caught it, and then thought to yourself, “maybe I CAN have another dog”, or “how will my pack react to a new dog at home?”, then you should read on. Bella is a sweet female Basenji mix who didn’t always have it good. She was found in the streets of Bal Harbour, slashed face, hookworms, and running from everyone and everything. After struggling for hours to get her, Susana, in true private investigation mode, was determined to find her owners. She called on everyone from city officials to fisherman. She put signs and ads up all over the neighborhood and internet. She took her to the Humane Society and checked with other rescue organizations and after exhausting all options she made an agreement with a local pet resort for temporary housing of Bella.
After her experience with Bella, Susana said to me, “She taught me real dog things. The Chis just wanna shop and sip cappuccino, but Bella’s different. It took Susana over a month to properly introduce Bella to her 3 dogs. Baccarat, the eldest in Susana’s pack, had the most trouble. Susana did everything from Google searches to basic obedience and socialization classes. She read lots of books and learned in depth about Basenjis. “Learning about Bella’s breed helped me understand her behavior and how best to create situations where she could exercise her natural instincts”. Hmm, I thought, maybe instead of chasing after that retriever when he picks up things with his mouth, why not teach him to “give it”? Retrievers are very mouthy. And I know from experience, mine is always looking for something to put in his mouth. His new thing now, is he greets me with anything in his mouth. I can picture him as the key slides into the key-hole, perking up and thinking “must retrieve her something, STAT! Remote control. DONE”. Well, at least we’ve stopped the jumping. I hold my hand out, ask him to “give it” and he proudly, feeling like he’s a superstar, complies and proceeds to find something else he can bring me.
Check out these photos of how Susana’s made Bella a superstar at what she does.
Several months ago, I got an email from an old friend who isn’t even a dog person, and when I say she isn’t a dog person, I mean, she really isn’t a dog person. Nonetheless, you know you have a supportive friend when she makes it a point to forward dog related stuff to you, even when it’s sometimes easier to mass select and delete. Turns out that Reg was not just forwarding any dog related event; Miami-Dade County was kicking off a pilot program where dogs would be allowed on Haulover Beach, the stretch of unincorporated Dade County beach in between Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles. HOLY! WHAT? Did she know how long I had been talking about how it’s no fair that Broward County has TWO dog beaches and how Broward County is so much more dog-friendly and how when Rocco was a puppy and needed more exercise than I could keep up with, I’d have to sneak into the beach down the street before sunset. Yes. That’s right, SNEAK into the beach before SUNSET! All this, so we could steal 15 minutes of beach time and my swimmer, runner, fetcher and candidate for all active things would get his exercise and spend his days happy.
I was so excited, I sent happy-grams to Commissioner Sally Heyman and we attended the doggie beach as much as we could, setting up facebook and meetup events to try to get as many people out there as possible. After all, since this was a pilot program, I felt that we needed to get as many dogs out there to show the county that people really like this idea and to have a positive influence on the probably that it would become a permanent thing.
End of the summer came and although, the beach continues to be open to dogs every Wednesday, from 3pm-6pm, I recently received notice from Miami Dade County Parks and Recreation Department informing me that the dog beach would be permanently open to dogs!! YEEHAW!!! How awesome is that?!? So the official press release is out and I’m happy to announce that October 30th at 10:00AM Miami Dade County Parks and Recreation Department will have the official kick-off, ribbon cutting, history making event for Miami Dade County’s first official dog beach. It’s going to be a big deal! Be sure to stop by Tower 3 in the beautiful Haulover Beach for the start of what promises to be a wonderful outlet for all responsible dog owners and well behaved doggies that enjoy the beach, swimming or otherwise eating sand. Also stay tuned to our meetup.com site http://www.meetup.com/Roccos-Pack-Out-n-About-Meetup-Group/ and our facebook page www.facebook.com/roccospack for scheduled pack outings to the beach and other fun events.
It was a beautiful sunny morning and I, naturally, gravitated toward the beautiful black lab. Later on when we were in the park, his handler said to me, “he’s a service dog, I’m visually impaired”. At that very moment, my interest in this beauty shifted to admiration. Robbie’s life had completely changed when she was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome. A disease which in her case, causes her to gradually lose her vision and hearing. She wasn’t sure she wanted a service dog. She had dogs throughout her life, but at this point in the game, she wasn’t sure she could handle the long term commitment and responsibility…then she met Spike and everything changed. “Bonding was instant”, says Robbie “trust was a bit harder”. Nonetheless, she knew to go with the flow of whatever led her to Southeastern Guide Dogs, a school based out of Palmetto, Florida that trains and provides the visually impaired with guide dogs. “I couldn’t believe it when I received the call notifying me that I had been selected, they provided the guide dog, equipment, single-room lodging, all meals, outings, instruction for 26 days and post-graduation support completely free of cost”. If that’s not impressive enough, Southeastern Guide Dogs is a non-profit organization fully supported by private donations. Most of the staff at the school are volunteers that truly believe in the cause.
Match-making is a detailed, thoughtful process that begins with a representative actually conducting a home visit. They look at the area where the person lives taking into account whether it’s a rural or urban location. Lifestyle of the person is also a consideration, so that an active or sedentary person may be placed with the appropriate dog. Additionally, trainers assess the person’s pace, pull and pressure in order to match them up with a dog that will be fitting. According to Jennifer Bement, Public Relations Specialist at Southeastern Guide Dogs, trainers make perfect match-ups about 85% of the times on the first attempt, with only 10-15% of the times where a change in dog is required.
One of the things I was most impressed with is that Southeastern Guide Dogs not only has this amazing program of placing dogs with visually impaired people, but also they have programs for Veterans and children. The Canine Connections program is specifically designed for visually impaired children ages 10-17 and the Paws for Patriots Program places guide dogs with blinded soldiers. Some dogs are even trained to show empathy to help mitigate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and some will hug veterans on command when they are having a flashback or an anxiety attack. I was so touched when I heard about this and about Robbie and Spike’s story that I had to get in touch with Southeastern Guide Dogs and spread the word about all the wonderful things they are doing to help those in need. Please look them up at www.guidedogs.org and if you are so inclined, make a donation to benefit their cause. Also stay tuned for fundraising events here in our local area and hats off to these wonderful dogs that make such a difference in our lives.
For this week’s weekly review Rocco’s Pack is at the Waterways Dog Park. Beautifully maintained by the city of Aventura, this dog park definitely gets two “paws up” from Rocco’s Pack. There’s a lovely walking path around the perimeter of the park, so you can go there and actually get some exercise too. There’s tons of shaded areas, benches and picnic tables with the center of the park being under a big canopy. There’s two water stations for the pooches and a hose, so if the doggies get too hot, you can hose them off. The people are friendly and attentive to their dogs. The best thing about this park, unlike other nearby dog parks is that the city does a great job with maintenance. So there’s no muddy areas and it’s regularly re-sodded whenever it’s needed. Also various times during the day you’ll find park staff around willing to help or answer any questions you may have. Kudos to the city of Aventura!!
A VID (very important dog) and frequent visitor of the Aventura Park
So as you may know, Rocco’s loose-leash walking video received some recognition from APDT earlier this year for National Train Your Dog Month. Although I was very flattered, I wanted to share the credit with a very special dog person, canine interpreter, rescue advocate and all around good person, who helped turn Rocco into a Canine Good Citizen. Specializing in socializing shy and rescue dogs, trainer, AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator and owner of Rollover Rover Dog Training, Nadine Litterman. “A lot of the dogs that come here are rescue dogs, that’s why they need to be socialized. They’ve never known anything outside a cage”, says Nadine. When asked to share a little bit about her theory for dog training, the word reasonable was key. Not only are Nadine’s prices reasonable, but also “training needs to be tailored so that it’s reasonable for the dog, and the expectations of the owner must also be reasonable”. Hmm, reasonable, makes sense…but what does that really mean? She explained that there are important factors such as age, temperament, breed, upbringing and background that should always be taken into account before creating expectations. Ah, I thought, just like people, some of us excel at some things and others at other things. How unreasonable would it be if our parents expected and demanded that we all be marathon runners or Olympic swimmers, without taking into account our strengths, weaknesses, upbringing, knowledge, etc? “Too often owners place unreasonable expectations on their dogs when they really should be focusing on ensuring their dogs are 100% social by showing good behavior toward people and other dogs”. Another very important part of Nadine’s philosophy is walking your dog. People need to walk their dog, even if the dog weighs .25 ounces, okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. “You can’t keep your dog inside all the time and expect it to be good when it goes out and you can’t expect your dog to be well-behaved when you haven’t given it enough experiences for it to know what’s appropriate”. This all makes so much sense, but then again that’s why Nadine’s a canine interpreter, it takes people like her to speak on behalf of our dogs for us to listen. Here are some other tips from Nadine:
Don’t handicap your dog. Let your dog figure things out for him/herself. It’ll make him/her confident.
Dogs bark to communicate and they only do so when they have something important to say, or when they want you to do something. Listen to them. Yelling only makes them think that you’re barking with them. And yelling their name can sometimes cause them to block their name out; which is a bad thing if you want him to come when called.
Be careful not to project human feelings onto your dog.
Having a backyard can be a double-edge sword. While it’s nice for your dog to have the space to run around, it won’t give your dog the necessary exposure. It’s still important for your dog to get his daily walks and have experiences outside your home and backyard.
Cool, huh? Want to learn more? Stop by Rollover Rovers at 1933 NE 164th Street in North Miami Beach or call her at 954-531-8421. Nadine conducts private and group lessons and free small dog socialization on Wednesdays at 10:00 AM and 5:30 PM. She’s also an activist against animal cruelty and an avid dog rescuer, always looking for foster homes. So if you have some extra love for a doggie who’s had none, she wants you!
Nadine can train and then test your dog for AKC’s Canine Good Citizen