Therapy dogs, like humans, evolve over the course of their lifetime.   Some dogs excel at therapy later in life as they mellow while others excel at a young age and possibly grow out of it as they age.  Some dogs are in it for life while others, not so much.   It's okay to experience change in your therapy dog and allow him or her the space to take a break from it ~ whether that be for a while, or forever.   There is more to life than simply being a therapy dog. That's not to say that therapy can be tossed aside so easily, but as a dedicated human, one must be open to the possibility of this happening with their beloved companion. 

Jazz's last assignment was with a classroom of developmentally delayed elementary students; an absolute favorite demographic of mine to work with.  Jazz enjoyed it at first, but some of these children can be heavy handed, space invading, frightening things to some animals.  After a few months of weekly visits, Jazz had had enough and I had to give her space and stop making visits.  I'm thrilled to say that I became a therapy monitor for that school, helping settle in Jazz's replacements in the classroom.  I get the joy of an occasional visit to the class, observing the new dog and volunteer without having to involve or expose Jazz.

As a certified TTouch practitioner, Jazz has enjoyed regular TTouch sessions at home and over time has evolved into quite the affection slut.   As I heal from a devastating accident from last summer, I can once again entertain thoughts of returning Jazz to therapy when I feel we're both ready.   For Jazz's comfort, young children will not be her venue.   She began therapy visits at a transitional care unit with mostly mature patients whom she really enjoyed.  My shyness was the real issue....but having been a patient trapped in a room, isolated and desperate for company.... I believe I can move past my own issues and cross that bridge to bring companionship and a joyful distraction to a patients' days.  I know what it feels like ~now~.

On a personal note, Jazz turned 6 in October 2012.  Happy sweet birthday, beautiful girl.


Jazz's big car ride

Jazz has issues with riding in the car. It could have something to do with being dumped as a puppy. But no matter, the point is, she has issues with riding in the car. After 3 of her 4 years living with us she has gotten okay with the back seat. Really. Eager to get in, happy to be along for the ride and quite comfortable. In the back seat.

I recently traveled 6 hours by car to a week long TTouch training workshop and I took Jazz and Nestle with me. Along with a LOT of stuff. TTouch practitioners have a rather large tool kit from which to work from and I drive a rather small, compact car. So, to make the week at the workshop more comfortable, I chose to take Elvis's old dog crate. It's roomy for "the babies" to share, sturdy, and offers a surface for all my stuff that's up from doggie range. Cool. Getting in the car is another matter, though. So, I ended up with it folded, on edge between the front and back seats. A barrier, but it worked great, otherwise.

On the way out to this workshop I arranged it so that Jazz had her coveted backseat complete with blankets. She did okay, but the constant rattling of the crate clearly stressed her for six long hours. Separated, I could do nothing to help her.

On the way home a week later, I made Jazz's spot in the front seat. This is a place that she does not like to ride and she reacts to it by shaking violently and hyperventilating. But at least I could TTouch her and give her calming signals and she'd be away from the rattling crate.

It turned out I had the crate better padded for the ride home and it never made a noise. Thank goodness! Jazz had enough to deal with. For the first hour she sat frozen and shaking while I sent her calming signals: yawning, slow eye blinks, licking. Not the best exercise while trying to stay alert and drive! But it worked along with gentle TTouches and she settled down and eventually closed her eyes. Then came the heavy mist. Just enough to make the windshield wipers squeal and the "splashy noise" from the tires. Jazz was in outer space again. Not only was she stuck in the scary front seat but now she was stuck in the front seat with all these horrid noises! So, we spent another hour and a half going through calming signals (did I mention I had a nearly full day of TTouch seminar before driving for 6 hours?) and TTouches when it was safe to take a hand from the wheel. By this time we were in the challenging portion of I-40 through the Smoky Mountains. Stunning drive by daylight, but it demands attention after dark and in the rain. Jazz was not pleased but working hard at self calming and she did relax a tad. I was drinking tea, with caffeine.

I'm so glad to say that our final 90 minutes were dry, calm interstate and Jazz was thankful! She calmed completely and at last, fell asleep. By contrast, her little buddy Nestle had slept soundly nearly the entire way. By the time we arrived home Jazz was calm and quiet about getting out.

My greatest and most joyous surprise was the next day when after hesitating to come to the car at all, she chose to come running up the walk and hop in the car ..... into the front seat. I had had both the front and rear door opened for her. She stayed in the front seat, happy and smiling alll the way to our shop (3 miles).

She chose the front seat.

You can read more about TTouch from my blog.


Health Care

Since I'm running two blogs, I know lines can be blurred and I sure don't want to post the same thing in both places. I'm forgetful, but redundancy is something I try to avoid.

Over at the East Tennessee TTouch blog are a couple of interesting articles on the health care of your canine companion. One focuses on dry dog foods, the other on tooth cleaning.

I invite readers to check out both blogs from time to time as they are complementary.

May the song of spring be marking time in your world...


Elvis Casserole

Elvis is Jazz's big brother in every sense of the word; out weighing her by 107 pounds and 3 years her senior.

Elvis was diagnosed diabetic some time back, which facilitated radical changes for the old boy. The vet recommended Science Diet's diabetic kibble. Obediently following direction we wrestled with an ever increasing blood sugar! Finally I read the ingredient label. The second major ingredient is corn meal?! Corn is a carbohydrate. I explained this to the vet who said the corn was added for fiber. Fiber.

I switched Elvis back to his former food. Taste of the Wild, High Planes' second ingredient is sweet potato. Now potatoes are carbohydrates too, but complex rather than simple. Sweet potato is more a more complex carb than its white counterpart making it an excellent complex carb for those watching their blood sugar. For adding the all necessary fiber, I added generic frozen vegetables in what evolved into "Elvis Casserole":
We begin with a $5 bag of chicken leg quarters. There's about 10 thighs in there. Great for BBQ, too. But for cheep dog food, this is the ticket.

Get a few dollars worth of frozen vegies. For high fiber I like broccoli cuts, green beans, lima beans, and carrots. Here's what we're using this time.

Here's 4-5 chicken thighs in a large pressure cooker. It was freezer cleaning day and we came across some freezer burned meats to add.
I add the frozen vegetables on top of the meat so that they retain their shape & fiber qualities. This is both small bags shown earlier.

Then, I add water to reduce any chance of burning and to produce a nice gravy with the casserole.
On goes the lid. I turn the heat on high till it's fully pressurized, then I let a batch this size simmer for 2 to 3 hours. A half size amount for 1 1/2 hour.
The bones retain their shape, but they're fully cooked and will fall apart easily. After allowing the casserole to cool, I break up the bones as I spoon the casserole into a storage container.
The bones provide valuable marrow and the bone itself will gently clean teeth.

Here's the casserole in it's storage container. Store in refrigerator.
Here's an Elvis portion of his casserole on top of his kibble. Jazz & Nestle also enjoy a proportion size of the casserole. Health and coat condition have been quite favorable for all.

Thank you to the kind Gianna Violin's customer who gave me the idea!


Pet Therapy & TTouch

The two go together like peas and carrots. TTouches as well as pet assisted therapy are both used in patient situations to aid in the healing process. TTouches benefit the animal as well as human, both giver and receiver, as does pet assisted therapy.

TTouches can be beneficial to the therapy animal as well. A balanced animal, emotionally and physically, has an easier task of connecting with a patient. TTouches prior to a visit can center the dog, energize him, or calm him. Whatever is helpful to that individual animal. The animals' handler (the volunteer) can feel benefit from a few self applied TTouches as well.

TTouches post therapy visits can help remove any unwanted energies collected through patient interaction and help restore the animal to balance and equilibrium. "Unwanted" energies? Yes. Illness, emotions, injuries are all stored in the body physically. While touching the therapy animal will improve the patients' energies and their spirits, the "toxic" energy may inadvertently be picked up by the animal. This may explain why some therapy animals seek refuge, sleep, or seem "low energy" after visits. Their body is processing a lot of stuff that can be sped up through a moments' TTouch.

This is true for the handler as well. If a volunteer/handler has ever left a therapy session feeling sad or simply "drained", some TTouches once settled in the car will help lighten the mood considerably and speed recovery time.


Jazz's Holiday

Jazz's family took her to the Florida coast for Christmas. This was a first with her little brother, Nestle; but Jazz's second time to the quiet beaches. Jazz stayed in a little cottage on Cape San Blas; called Whispering Pines. They like doggies there and the beds were soft (compared to hotel beds - where Jazz preferred the floor!).
Here's Jazz taking a break from some beach romping to pose with her Mom.

Nestle found a dead Horseshoe crab!

"Must investigate, but no touchie! "

Jazz, Nestle & Kat on Cape San Blas.

Pretty lady enjoying the beach.

Happy Holidays



Little Jazzie has had a busy September! She hasn't gotten into her newly assigned classroom for pet therapy this school year (as yet) .... red tape can take so long. In the mean time Jazzie has been gracious enough to assist me in my two-year training to becoming a Telling Touch practitioner. Even the well behaved lady that Jazz is, she has benefited from the experience; physically, emotionally and behaviorally.

This is Jazz and Nestle at our TTACT (Tellington Touch Animal Companion Training) session two weeks ago. Sound asleep, but clearly demonstrating Jazz's left leg resting at a steep upward angle. Because she sleeps like this naturally, Nestle's nose is probably providing some gentle support to this unnatural body position. She's since been receiving regular Ttouches to the area and now rests with legs comfortably on the floor, rather than poking up like a broomstick.

Here's my two "golden girls" Jazz and daughter, Sarah, at an annual pet blessing in Oak Ridge, TN this afternoon. They won the "look alike" contest, the large pet-themed tin containing treats, toys and goodies. Lovely girls!

Separate Ttouch blog



Nail trimming

Experience speaks that the chore of nail trimming is a weekly job, on average. Health care is an important part of caring for a fur-friend and the nails are no less important than the daily meal. If allowed to grow out too long the proper alignment of the body is thrown out of line, from the fingers & toes, up the legs and effecting the back. Elongated nails can damage floors, furniture, and tear & bruise skin.

A contented relaxed dog for nail trimming doesn't happen overnight. It can happen progressively quickly with just a few minutes of practice every few days until the nails are where they need to be, or they need to rest for a week because they're as short as they can safely go (close to the quick).

Your tool of choice is a cordless Dremel, an electric sanding tool, sort of like a nail file set on "super grind". It's quick and easy to use, it doesn't leave any sharp edges on the nail, it doesn't cause physical discomfort to you or the dog, and is extremely difficult to trim the nail too short; the dog simply won't let you. All that's required is a calm, content dog and that begins with a calm, content you.

Breath. Breath deep and through the heart area. Relax with your dog in an area that's comfortable for both of you and well lit. Let your dog "meet" the Dremel ("the grinder"). You are the calm, you're driving this train.... gently. Turn it on, away from the dog but where he can see it. Talk to him, keep breathing, use your free hand to gently pet him like a gentle massage.

Once your dog is calm with the grinder running, continue to do so while handling his feet. If your dog refuses to have his feet touched, held, manipulated, .... you'll be checking back in a few days to get special instruction.

It's completely normal for a dog to jerk, jump or pull away at the first contact of the Dremel on a toenail. It feels freaky! Breath. Calm. Some dogs may need gentle constraint, but continue to lavish love, good energy, gentle massage, calming voice. YOU, the human, knows this process is painless, gentle and kind and it's you who needs to convey this to another species.

If that's as far as you get the first time, that's just fine. That's a huge positive step for your pup. Be grateful for this huge leap of trust and faith that your dog has made. Drop it for a day or two.
If your dog will let you continue, just make a brief grind on as many nails as he'll let you and call it a raving success. The goal is accept, no to conquer; to teach, not destroy.

Don't expect to get those nails down to size the first few sessions and be sure to leave a couple days in between sessions so the nail can adjust and the muscle memory can do its magic. It may take a couple of months before the whole exercise is acceptable to your dog, and that's just fine. You, the human, are learning, too. In no time you'll both be nail grinding experts.

Personally, I almost always forget to have my reading glasses on hand and can't see the details for the job to my liking. Since I choose to do the nail grinding exercise after the weekly bath and dogs are wet, escaping to get those glasses isn't really an option. There's a solution that works wonderfully. Your fingers of the non-grinding hand hold and steady the toenail. Feel the nail as you work and learn how that nail feels when it's trimmed correctly. This also helps catch any missed sharp spots as you're not relying on just your eyes.

Ttouch Update
Touch therapy blog entries can now be followed at: katsdogs2002.blogspot.com
Jazz's therapy dog blog remains just that... therapy oriented.


Sweltering Summer

Jazz, "keeping it cool" on the family couch

July 1st our 25 year old (or older!) air conditioner finally decided it had had enough of this life and gasped it's last breath. No biggie, we thought. We'll just price out a replacement. August 1st rolled around and having discovered that replacement AC units cost nearly as much as a NEW CAR.... we put in a window unit to ease our discomfort during this transitional period, which just happened to be one of the hottest summers on record!

School began August 2nd and quickly thoughts of pet therapy came to mind. Jazz visited with my son's 5th grade class last year. This year finds our boy in middle school. To our joy and anticipation, the same middle schools' special needs class is looking for pet assisted therapy. My heart sings! When I began with pet assisted therapy back in the early 1990's, my first facility was an in-patient psychiatric unit at Children's Hospital. I LOVED IT! Sadly, heath care changed, parents could no longer afford the high out-of-pocket expense for the psyche unit and it eventually closed. .....Since my son is a "special needs" kid, though Jazz wouldn't visit *his* class specifically, we would be nearby and *could* drop in.... this delights him and all adults involved in his well being.

Jazz continues to enjoy her regular Ttouch sessions which have expanded into learning to swim. Although Jazz has yet to go in the water on her own, she accepts her new life vest and being in the water fully aided by yours truly with no trembling nor freezing up. A huge step in progress! Considering few of our dogs have learned to swim "at home", being that our lake access has no shallows for doggies, it' 5' at the sea wall, this is a major hurdle for Jazz. I have also been going gentle Ttouchs around her eyes, lips, ears, nose and cheeks which has helped ease the emotional scars from possibly being hit in the head as a puppy. Her eyes are more even and balanced and will open equally now. Such a gentle soul is she, that it is nice to see her blossoming and becoming more content within her own skin. I am eager to see how her pet assisted therapy goes after such a beneficial summer break.

Fleas and ticks have been horrid this summer. Jazz switched to "Comfortis" for her critter control and happily it has worked flawlessly! No muss, no fuss but oh-so pricey! Well worth the expense for service animals as there's no monthly "oil slick" on the shoulders and no lag period just before the next monthly dose, nor the "no bath" phase surrounding dose time.

Jazz Sez: Remember humans: Doggies sunburn, too. Lighter skin under thin hair will burn (think of those pink noses). Human sunscreen carefully applied to the muzzle area works great. For the rest of the body, look for a livestock (equine) spray that contains sunscreen, it'll also keep dark coats from sun bleaching. Most livestock sunscreen sprays are a combo sun/bug spray.... this is a plus.

Doggies get poison ivy, too. They'll either carry the oil home on their coat to share with their humans... or where the hair is thin (tummy) they'll develop a slight rash. Benedryl ointment helps relieve the itch, but it sure is messy on a dog! I prefer to bathe an allergy sufferer in good old fashioned lye soap. Lye soap was a medical product before it became a general purpose skin cleanser. Use it for bug bites, poison ivy, etc. You're skin will say, "Aaaahhhh". Keep some Jewelweed salve around too, for those fresh bug bites that drive you crazy. ... Find it all from our friends at The Soap Shed.


Expanding our Universe

And a new journey begins. There comes a time only once in a great while when a dog inspires a human and the human travels forward down a new path as a result of this fine dog. My dominant, ill tempered, 117 pound Doberman inspired me to learn dog training and I then become a dog trainer. My first “obedient” dog inspired me to compete in obedience trials. My second well educated dog inspired me to teach and compete in agility. Jazz has inspired me to delve deeper.

I first heard of this special sort of “calming touch” in the early 1990's when I was actively competing in the local dog shows and teaching classes here and there. I was comfortably embedded within the local “dog community”. This was during the embryonic stage of what has become The Internet, where education is only a few clicks away. No one seemed to know anything about this magical "touch" and no one seemed to believe that radical change could come from touch. It faded away over time to the back of my mind, rising again 15 years later thanks to the living breathing world encyclopedia, The Internet.

I found it.

I found Ttouch.

I never do anything quickly, it seems, when it comes to big things. I meditated on this quite a bit, once I had discovered it last summer (2009). I read a lot of the background, theory, and application of this method from its earliest inception. It made sense. It made complete sense. I meditated some more. Then, I began trying it a bit and to my complete shock and delight, it seemed to be working precisely as described! “Holy cow, I've got something going on here. I've got to explore this thing further.”

I committed myself to a one day workshop with the founder, Linda. What better way to get a feel for this practice by getting a hands-on from the one who truly lives and breaths it. Nestle was my dog of choice for the workshop as he has more challenging issues than the dear lady Jazz.

The workshop was a "slam dunk" for me and an amazing experience with Mr. Nestle. I've committed myself to become a small animal Ttouch practitioner. Over the coming months both little dogs will share going through the training. I begin the first seminar in the fall.

Undoubtedly, the workshop with Mrs. Tellington-Jones was a magical experience helping cement a basis for successfully practicing Ttouch. Nestle indeed experienced a change which continues to blossom with continued Ttouch sessions. Jazz has come to politely demand her regular sessions and is beginning to learn to swim, the heat is quite the inspiration to get wet!

Amazing experience thus far.