Holidays and Therapy

Tiz the season and all that applies. Modern holiday activity seems to center around a bees nest of activities; anything from concerts to shopping, travel, meals, guests. Although it is traditionally "tiz the season" for giving.....we tend to get caught up in our own lives, our own selves.

Lest we forget those who are confined? People in care facilities not only miss their home, they are missing family, friends, every day activities and many are missing their own pets. Can you imagine being alone in a care facility over the holidays? What would it mean to you to have a smiling face escort in a fluffy, happy, calm, affectionate dog for you to snuggle with and provide some polite conversation that doesn't involve what meds your taking? Take time, make time. Share. Give.

More than one animal means choice for all:
Jazz is one of 2 dogs who regularly visit the transitional care center. Both dogs happen to visit the same day though at different times. One patient is a relatively young individual who's recovering from a second major stroke. This gentleman is quite the dog lover, however it's clear that he is far more receptive to Jazz than to the other dog. Why? Possibly because the other dog reminds him of a recently deceased dog he loved. Pet therapy with Jazz is so successful with this gentleman, everyone is quite thankful that he enjoys, responds to and works to pet her. We make extra time for patients like this fellow. It's worth it.

A wee bit on "snuggle": Way back when I mentioned that snuggling with a therapy dog is key to developing a snuggly dog. How true this is! We've had Jazz nearly 18 months now and I have been very snuggly with her. As time has passed she has gained in snuggle strength to the point of now being "very, very snuggly!". She's gotten better at snuggling in general and with other people. Keep the snuggles going!


Nail Trimming with a nail grinder

Most dog owners have experienced the various kinds of nail trimmers readily available for trimming dogs' nails. If you're like me, you've experienced pinched, broken skin from some of these awful things, and most certainly have experienced a nail trimmed too short and the profuse blood that resulted.

Not much fun, is it?

The dog agrees.

Two things led me to using a Dremil tool. One, I have rather arthritic hands, most especially in the thumb joints and I can not squeeze those nail trimmers. Two, therapy dogs encounter all kinds of people, some are elderly and have quite delicate, thin skin. Toenails with sharp edges are simply unacceptable in those circumstances. So, the nail trimmer had to go.

Recently, a new nail trimming device came onto the market promising an easier time of trimming nails, a special guard to protect all involved, and no more quicked nails. Pretty cool, ya? Maybe not. According to animal health professionals, many folks are returning to their vet for nail trimming duties as their dog simply did not accept this new tool, AT ALL.

Here's the scoop folks. You didn't get in the drivers seat of the car for the first time and hit the Indy 500, now did you? Learning new things takes time. Learn incrementally. Small steps..... one step at a time. "Small victories" is what you're after.

Your friendly hardware Dremil tool is precisely the same as a specialized pet nail grinder and the new and improved "Pet-i-cure"..... who's claim to fame is the protective cover. This is good if your dog has a long coat that can easily become entangled in a normal dremil tool.

First, there's the noise. Why would any dog want you to come at their precious feet with a whirring monster, grab hold of their toes and make them vibrate uncomfortably with this loud machine? ........ A first time experience with a dremil tool should be nothing more than turning the dremil on, letting the dog investigate and giving him treats. That's it.

Once the dog is comfortable with the sound of the dremil, touch the dog with the handle end of the machine so that he can feel the vibrations.....praise and give treats. Allow the dog to sniff (safely) if he chooses.

Once the dog accepts the noise and vibration and the tool touching him with ease, begin "some" nail grinding. It's important to note that at this stage getting the nail short enough is NOT the goal. Touching the nail with the grinder successfully IS the goal. Praise and treat. Bonus points if the dog allows you to briefly touch each and every nail.

It's at this stage of learning that you will be doing a lot of nail grooming. If you do these exercises weekly, it's going to take a lot longer for the dog to accept the dremil and by the time you can really grind the nails, they're going to be rather long. At this early stage, you should be sitting down with your dog daily or every other day.

Location, location, location. Pick a quiet area for nail trimming time free of other dogs, kids, typical household activity. I use a bathroom where all the bathing, grooming things are kept. Your own energy is key to this activity as well. You should be calm and light of heart. If you are nervous and on edge, the dog will feel there is something to be frightened of and you're job just got much more difficult. Singing to your dog works well to calm both you and your dog.

With time your dog will come to accept the dremil in fine style. You'll be able to carefully and accurately trim each nail with expert care. Getting to this stage varies by dog, but it's energy well put to good nail/foot health.

So, if you spent hard earned $$ on one of those fancy new Pet-i-Cure nail trimmers, don't loose hope. It's a learning process. Those dogs in their commercials? They've been getting their nails trimmed regularly for years and are very adept to it. Your dog will be too.....in time.


HABIT Informational Meeting

For Jazzie's readers in the East Tennessee region:

HABIT Informational Meeting
Saturday November 1st
Doors open at 11:00 am, program begins at 11:30 and goes till 1:00 pm.
First United Methodist
214 Cedar Street, Sevierville, TN 37862.

HABIT is a nonprofit group of volunteers working together to promote the bond between people and animals. As a program of The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, HABIT sponsors animal-assisted therapy programs for those of all ages in a variety of settings such as nursing and retirement homes, assisted living centers, hospitals, physical rehabilitation centers, and area schools.


For liability purposes, attendance is required before a person can become a HABIT volunteer. Please make every effort to attend this meeting. People are encouraged to attend, even if they are just interested in knowing more about HABIT.

All are welcome. There is no cost to attend this meeting.

Please send me an email if you plan to attend, or contact Ruth Sapp at the HABIT office: 974-5633 so that there will be enough handouts for everyone.

Hope to see lots of faces there!


A Dog Owners Public Service Announcement

"The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center cautions animal owners that xylitol, a sweetener found in certain sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods and other products can potentially cause serious and even life-threatening problems for pets.

“Last year, we managed more than 170 cases involving xylitol-containing products,” says Dana Farbman, CVT and spokesperson for the Center. “This is a significant increase from 2004, when we managed about 70.” Barely halfway into 2006, the Center has already managed about 114 cases. Why the increase? “It’s difficult to say,” Farbman states. “Xylitol products are relatively new to the United States marketplace, so one possibility may be an increase in availability.”

According to Dr. Eric Dunayer, veterinarian and toxicologist for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, dogs ingesting significant amounts of items sweetened with xylitol could develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. “These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately.” Dr. Dunayer also stated that there appears to be a strong link between xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs.

While it was previously thought that only large concentrations of xylitol could result in problems, this appears to no longer be the case. “We seem to be learning new information with each subsequent case we manage,” says Dr. Dunayer. “Our concern used to be mainly with products that contain xylitol as one of the first ingredients. However, we have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener.” He also says that with smaller concentrations of xylitol, the onset of clinical signs could be delayed as much as 12 hours after ingestion. “Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that even if your pet does not develop signs right away, it does not mean that problems won’t develop later on.”

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center strongly urges pet owners to be especially diligent in keeping candy, gum or other foods containing xylitol out of the reach of pets. As with any potentially toxic substance, should accidental exposures occur, it is important to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for immediate assistance. "

Direct quote from the ASPCA
Watch those food hounds!


Smoky Mountain Pet Fair


Sunday September 21st
Pearson Springs Park
Maryville, TN

11:am - 5:pm

Promoting Animal Rescue, Adoption, Spay & Neuter

Fun competitions, prizes, medals
Frisbee toss, hurdles, high jump and a whole lot more:

Rescue groups, face painting, micro-chipping, K9 police dogs, adoptable pets, wildlife rehab, pet therapy, great food, ferrets, vendors, live music, exotic birds, pet photography, rabbits, products & services........ AND "Sparky" the fire dog (with the fire engine!).

Come on out for the fun and meet Jazz and her humans at the HABIT exhibit. Nestle may be there too....but only for the socialization (he's not a HABIT dog....yet). It'll be a howling good time!


Jazz's 5 Minutes of Fame

Jazz was the perfect therapy dog at the HABIT informational meeting. She politely greeted all the folks who approached her and was her usual "lady like" self. Then came her moment to be with me before the entire audience as I shared what the "Ruff Reader" program is all about (reading program in the public schools).

We walked out confidently and with a spring in our step after being introduced. Jazz was especially bouncy. At least she wasn't shy! As I addressed the audience and began to speak, I felt Jazz jump up on my legs and I could tell she wanted to play (!!!!!). I calmed her, and I could feel a blush of embarrassment coming on. I continued speaking to the audience and a giggles began to erupt from the audience. I looked down and there was Jazz, rolling around on the floor, kicking her legs up in the air, playing with her lead and having the best time! Now I was embarrassed! But Jazz was certainly entertaining the crowd and lightening the mood! Her antics continued throughout my talk as I tried to calm her....... I cut my talk short to make an escape and relieve Jazz of what is obviously "her" way of dealing with stress.

She was a hit with the prospective volunteers! I wasn't mortified....but I was quite surprised, only mildly amused and a bit embarrassed by my "wild" therapy dog.



HABIT Informational Meeting

Monday, August 25 , 2008



HABIT will be having their informational meeting at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine in Room A118. This building is located on the right as soon as your turn into the Agriculture Campus on Joe Johnson Drive. Registration will begin at 6:00 PM. There will be signs posted and due to UT parking regulations, please stop at the first HABIT sign and get a parking permit. You may park in the lot to the right of the stop light (Lot 66) behind the vet college.

Come on out and meet Jazz and get introduced to the wonderful world of pet assisted therapy!

Visit their site for more information: http://www.vet.utk.edu/habit/meetings.php

Do not bring your pets to this meeting.

Jazz & her new little brother, Nestle

Welcome Jazz's New Sibling


B. 5-22-08

Chocolate/Rust long hair Mini-Dachshund

Nestle comes from a local breeder by way of Chattanooga where his original owner kept him for two days before surrendering him to the Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee. In spite of a traumatic month in the life of this little fellow, he seems quite at home with us and his new big sister Jazz and extra big brother Elvis both are very comfortable with him.

Welcome home Nestle.


Toy Safety

Dogs are like small children and toys must be evaluated and monitored by us, the responsible humans. Don't forget that dogs can have accidents too! Most can be prevented, some toy related accidents can cause death, or hefty medical bills.

Small "super balls" that children love for their high-bounding feats, are a serious choking hazard to dogs. These balls lodge in the throat of the playful dog, cutting off air supply and death can result in mere minutes.

Thick rawhide chews pose a similar hazard to food gulping dogs, or if large enough peaces are swallowed, can become lodged between the large and small intestine requiring expensive surgery to correct.

Any chew toy that gets small enough to be swallowed can become a choking or obstruction hazard and should be thrown away.

Toys should be checked frequently for damage. Small plastic parts should be removed and thrown away. Squeeky toys can become an enjoyable thing to tear up, at which time the plastic squeeker should be retrieved and thrown away.

Other hazards exist as well. Here, Chai's owner shares his horrific story so that other owners can be aware and take precautions. Thank you Chai, our prayers are with you: http://www.thechaistory.blogspot.com/


A Fond Farewell

MacKenzie Isle of Skye
Border Collie
B: 6-06-1994 - D: 7-23-2008
Aged 14 years
Sleep well old friend

May God hold you in the palm of his loving hands. Your memory will always fill our hearts as we recall the glorious days of your life: The hikes we took, the daily swims off our dock, the agility shows, obedience trials, the therapy visits we made together. Your smile was always there, a spring in your step, a bottomless heart. You always gave your all, right to the end. Thank you, Mac. You taught me so much about life, living, dogs and dog training. You gave me your all. Thank you my friend. You have blessed my life and won't be soon forgotten as you hold a special place within my heart. Always.
All my love, Mum.
Hiking at Hooper Bald

Hangover Lead

At the bald high in the Joyce Kilmer National Forest

At home in 2003 with "the new arrival", Elvis.


Happy, Safe Summer!

Jazz sends a happy "Woof" greeting to all her readers! We hope everyone out there is enjoying their summer with their favorite fur-friend!

Don't forget to care for your dog in the summer as well as yourself:

Dogs sunburn too: If your dog spends a fair amount of time outdoors and has light colored skin, place a dab of sunscreen lotion on the bridge of their nose (where the hair is the most thin and the skin most exposed) and rub it in.

Monthly heartworm preventative is important, just as monthly flea & tick protection are essential during these summer months. But what can you do about the flies? Head to your nearest farm store or Co-op and get a fly spray sold for use on horses. Avoid spraying your dogs face when applying this product. If flies are an issue around your dogs face, apply with a wipe. Some fly sprays may have a sunscreen ingredient as well to help prevent sun bleaching to the dogs coat.

Glass: be vigilant of glass where ever you travel with your dog. Serious cuts can lead to an emergency situation and stitches. Avoid soft shoulders when out jogging as our litter-minded Nation has certainly led to the threat of broken glass at our way sides.

"Crash Kit": I highly recommend traveling with a plastic tackle box stocked with emergency supplies for both human and canine:
Nitrofurizone (stronger and thicker than Neosporin)
Hydrogen Peroxide
Iodine (stronger than Betadyne)
Pain reliever (human only)
Eye drops or saline solution
Vet Wrap (self stick wrapping material avail. from vet. Replace annually)
Syringes (no needles. For irrigating wounds and targeted application of liquid ointments. Large bore ones can be used for liquid oral medications).
Pepto Bismol
Band Aids
Sterile bandages
Tape, scissors, tweezers, wash cloth

I also try to keep on hand a roll of paper towels (1/2 or more used), 1/4 roll of toilet paper, 1-2 small bath towels, plastic grocery bags . When it comes to outings with dogs or kids, it's a virtual guarantee that some of these items will see use.

Have a safe, happy summer & keep your pediatrician and vet phone numbers saved in your contacts list in your cell phone, or tucked in a safe place (wallet).


All in Stitches

All the girls in Jazz's family are sporting the latest in summer fashion.....stitches.

Jazz underwent the common canine surgery, spaying, on July 3rd. Her procedure went very well and her recovery has been relatively easy. Stitches come out at the end of the week (July 11th or so).

For the rest of the girls, it was a bit more traumatic event leading to stitches. July 5th was a lovely day filled with swimming, snacking, fireworks, boating. Towards the close of the night yours truly and daughter opted for a midnight swim. Daughter Sarah made a run along the dock for a dramatic splash which was abruptly interrupted by cries of pain. I came to her rescue and was halted by a similar, painful circumstance. Pain seared through my foot. I looked down to find the bottom portion of a glass beneath my foot. I sat and applied pressure while the rest of the partying gang attended to the injured Sarah. Sarah was carried inside while I made a gimping dash. After some emergency care on Sarah the party atmosphere doused from some bloody reality...off to the ER we went.

As it turns out Sarah and I sustained nearly an identical injury to the big toe on our left foot. Both of us have a large, deep gash across at mid-toe. We don't know at this time how many stitches we each have, but guesses are "10" at the minimum.

Sadly, pet therapy visits are postponed till the Perry girls can again walk without crutches, and Jazz's stitches are removed.


The power of animal touch

This lovely lady is in her late 70's, living at home with a son caring for her. She has moderate dementia and though she can't recall this new additions' name, gender or why he's there, she clearly enjoys his company!

The dog enjoys it too.


Recall (aka; Come when called)

Teaching your dog to “come” (aka: recall) takes an enormous amount of time, work, consistency and lack of opportunity for failure. Don't expect your dog to learn any command overnight, most especially commands where the dog is working remotely. These take time and a gradual, progressive transition from on-lead to off-lead work. I personally don't expect a dog to come reliably (off lead) for 1 to 2 years. What does that mean for you? Don't give your dog opportunities for failure, keep him on a lead the first 6 months to a year gradually graduating to a long line or retractable lead* and only after working well in these controlled circumstances can you progress to being off-lead recalls.

Just like heeling, your home hallway makes an excellent elementary recall training area as there's nowhere else to go but come to you. Lavish praise & treats or toys are essential, whichever is more exciting for your dog. To begin, your dog is on lead (or confined to the hall), and you walk or jog backwards (away from your dog) after calling, “Binky, come!” Your dog should trot towards you. Don't make the mistake of seeing how far your dog will follow, that's not fair. Six feet is plenty. Stop and immediately reward your dog with lavish praise (don't forget the demented Barbie voice to convey your excitement) and a treat or toy (play a bit with him if using a toy). Repeat.

Eventually you can add a “sit” to the recall before releasing and rewarding your dog. This adds a bit of formality and mannerliness. Change up your practice by not adding the sit every time. Dogs get bored if you're too predictable. On occasion, I will turn and run away when the dog is halfway to me from where I left him. Then, upon reaching me, we play vigorously for a moment.

“Cookies in the Kitchen” is a good “middle school” location for practicing the recall with a family member. A person is on either end of the room. One holds the dogs' collar and tosses the toy to the other person who catches it and calls, “Binky, come!” as the dog is released. The dog should come running and play time with the toy should result. Repeat. If linoleum (or any hard slick surface) is an issue for your dog, use a carpeted room (large dogs could really hurt themselves if they slip or fall).

At this phase you will be introducing a sit at the beginning of the recall. You'll be returning to the elementary phase of training as this sit is basically a “stay” as your dog will need to learn to stay put as you walk away. Your dog should be proficient at the sit to begin this phase. Command, “sit”. Quietly reward with a treat (excitement is reserved for the end of an exercise). Calmly command, “stay” or “wait” (“wait” is used when staying is followed by forward movement towards the handler rather than stay, where the hander returns to the dog) Step out and in front of your dog, facing him. Eventually back up one or two steps. Wait a moment, then command “come” and trot backwards and proceed as before. You will gradually increase your backwards steps (1-2 steps per week if practicing daily) before calling the dog, and eventually you'll begin turning and walking away a few steps. Your goal is to eventually command, “stay” turn away from the dog and walk 10 feet or more before turning to face the dog and calling him to you.

Once your dog is coming to you reliably (in the house), move your exercises outside (on-lead); then gradually to more distracting locations (on-lead). If at any time your dog fails to perform, return to a more successful environment and/or way of doing the exercise.

When it comes to reinforcing a command, pay attention to your dogs' learning curve. If your dog begins to show signs of “forgetting” or confusion as you progress, backtrack and return to the basics.

Why have a reliable recall? It may well save your dogs' life or save him from a hazardous situation. Not to mention that it's just plain nice to have a dog come when you tell him to. Such a reliable recall saved one of my dogs from becoming skunked! The dog chose to come rather than continue after the skunk, who was ready and aiming for him. Needless to say the dog was heavily praised and rewarded! Abandoning his basic prey drive was simply remarkable (and rather unexpected!).

What if your dog runs off rather than come to you? If you chase him down and catch him without him coming to you on his own free will, you're allowed to punsh. Growl and be angry with justification. I typically grab an ear and lead him back like a disobedient child (this should be uncomfortable....not torture!). I hold the ear just enough to be in control and cause discomfort. I growl the whole way back to where ever I'm taking the dog. If , on the other hand, your dog decides that coming to you as your chasing him (and probably feeling pretty angry!) is a good idea, you've got to reward him for it. Believe me, I know how difficult this is! Praise is not an option....if he came to you of his own free will after an escape, you gotta be happy about it.


Happy Memorial Day

Jazz with her big brother, Elvis ~ roughly 5X her size.

Don't try this at home kids..... this is two dogs on one flexi-lead. Not a trick for the novice or for dogs who aren't used to working very well together. Jazz & Elvis take two daily walks down our dead-end, very quiet lakeside street. Most of the time Jazz is off-lead entirely. This image was taken early in our walking adventures, before her reliability became evident.

Jazz thinks she's a big dog and is more comfortable with large individuals. Elvis thinks he's a small dog..... so the two get along famously! Sometimes I think Elvis would have more fun at the local Dachshund meetings than Jazz...... although the Doxies might freak!

Happy Memoral Day!


Learning to Snuggle

Some dogs snuggle with anyone. Others learn to snuggle over time and to become comfortable on a somewhat intimate level with strangers. This takes time, patience and tons of conditioning.... which means tons of snuggling. Fortunately, most owners don't mind giving all this extra snuggling to their fur friend!

Jazz tends to be "formal" with strangers. She's friendly, but on a more formal level. Her biggest signal of "friendly greeting" is a low bow with her paws extended towards the person. Petting her paws gently is a way to acknowledge her greeting.

Last week at Transitional Care, we met a lady who was sitting up in her bed. Jazz joined her and the lady relaxed into petting Jazz. To our surprise, Jazz curled up beside her and really snugged!! I asked the lady if she had dogs (thinking she's a "dog person"), she said she had never had dogs but would love one someday. What a gift to have a sensitive, somewhat shy dog totally bond with her.

We ended our visit (at the center) after hitting that high note. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Keep spending daily time "mega snuggling" with your dog.... it works.


THR is a "go"

I finally got the news last week that Jazz is a "go" for a total hip replacement. The only delay is in making sure the surgical hospital has the correct sized "machine" for the procedure. Jazz's x-ray will be sent in so they can take measurements to determine whether they have the correct equipment or need to rent one.

I am planning/hoping Jazz can undergo the surgery around mid-June. By the time she gets beyond the threat if infection, I'll be able to take her swimming to aid in rehabilitating her new hip.


Attention. An Introduction

With our beloved fur-friends there is not only a language barrier, there is also a species barrier. As the superior species, it is our job to reach out and bridge these barriers in order to form a bond with what will become a pet partner and team member. Establishing this connection and bond is not only rewarding for the handler, it is the cornerstone to all the things you'll teach the dog, the foundation to all the experiences you'll share.

In the dog world, eye contact is a dominant gesture. In our world, it is a form of communication and attention. We can teach our dog that eye contact has many meanings coming from a human. This can be taught at any stage of training and at any age. During any snuggle session with your dog, praise any eye contact the dog initiates with a generous amount of love and affection. Looking at you should always be rewarded. This is what I term as “soft eye contact” as your facial expression is soft, relaxed and pleasant, as well as your voice. Your energy calm and inviting.

Jazz showing good, confident attention.


Dogs and Vacuums

I recently answered a question on why dogs never seem to appreciate (or get used to) the dreaded vacuum cleaner. My answer seems to have struck a cord, and I'd like to share it:

Many years ago, I wondered why my dogs never seem to "get it" when it comes to running the vacuum cleaner. Although none of mine have ever attacked it, they never seem to learn to just stay in one spot and let you go about your work. I really wanted to know why this was. I starting observing my dogs when I vacuum, and I swear I've been "doing my time" on this subject while vacuuming for over 10 years, and I think I've got it.

It's obvious that the vacuum is big and it's loud. What's odd to the dog is that and you (the alpha pack member) are following this thing around hypnotically! You're calm as a cucumber following this creature around and it's really weird to your dog. In the pack hierarchy, a subordinate dog follows a more dominant dog (in every sense of the word). You are the dominant member of the pack. So, in this situation you should be acting dominant to this creature (the vacuum), but instead, you're following it around obediently while is screaming and spewing an offensive odor! This whole scenario makes absolutely no sense to your dog. This stinky, screaming creature sits in a closet, ignored, and you take it out and follow it like it's a God every now and then. And, it stinks. And, you don't seem to mind!

Your dog picks a safe place where he can observe this odd behavior of yours. Every time he does this, you eventually come around to where he is and sick this loud & annoying thing on him!


So, the dog moves to a new area, one that still smells right. An area that hasn't been run over by that thing! A *new* safe place where he can continue checking out your odd behavior. And there you come at him again with that vacuum!

This continues throughout the whole house - because he keeps moving to an area where it still "smells right". Sometimes a dog will eventually figure out that the vacuumed carpet is okay and learn to move over to the vacuumed side earlier in the process. But they still have to watch you follow this annoying thing around.......because........It's just too weird!

For the dog who attacks the vacuum, it's very clear to them that if you're not going to be the proper Alpha pack member and attack this thing, protecting everyone from it..... well, he'll be the hero and do it for you. Silly humans.

Now, the whole word knows what I'm thinking about while vacuuming.


Post Surgery

Not Jazz. Me! I had a bicycle accident last August. This was to repair a torn ligament in my left thumb from that accident. I had the surgery on April 1st. So this is "day two". The swelling is down as I'm able to wiggle my thumb a tiny bit, which is all it takes for it to hurt quite a bit!

As painful as it is, it's a welcome "good hurt" instead of the nagging mild ache of something broken and no longer working.

Jazz wasn't pleased with me the day of surgery. The odd odor of my wrapped hand/wrist bothered her. I'm sure it had that "hospital" chemical odor to it, which I would imagine her not liking very much as she really dislikes hand sanitizer. So, she was thrilled to have me come home but wasn't very snuggly. Snif.

Yesterday about mid-day I was sitting at the computer when Jazz came over, sat at my chair, looked up at me and wagged her tail vigorously. She had come around! I invited her into my lap where she lept quickly and threw her body against me. Someone was making up for lost time and it seemed to officially be "snuggle time".

After an afternoon of snuggling on the couch, she seems to have returned to being her old self. I guess that makes me okay! My follow up appointment is on the 10th. I expect the stitches to come out then.



After some discussion with Jazz's vet, she is now taking a series of Adequan injections to help give some relief to her hip pain. We're still in the decision phase of surgery (not yet confirmed if artificial hips come in her size). Jazz has had 3 of the 8 injections thus far.

Adequan belongs to a class of drugs commonly referred to as “Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOAD). It is an FDA approved water based liquid (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) available from and administered by a licensed veterinarian. It is an intramuscular (IM: injection into the muscle) that has been clinically shown to help treat degenerative or traumatic arthritis while giving relief from the pain due to degeneration of the joint and associated inflammation.

Adequan modifies the disease cycle as well as alleviating pain and inflammation. It stimulates the senovial lining while suppressing inflammation, thus nutrients supplied to the articular cartilage is improved. Simultaneously, Adequan blocks the excesses of degrading enzymes from affecting joint lubricant, fluid and cartilage. Adequan does not repair a poorly fitting joint, so it can't cure a hip problem, but it does aid in relieving the pain and slowing further deterioration.

Adequan is a viable option to relieve the stiffness from arthritis or joint disease. It can effectively prolong a pet's life when surgery is not an option due to age, cost considerations, non-candidate, etc.; or, by providing comfort and helping either delay or eliminate the need for surgery in some individuals. Adequan is a better choice over human OTC's (over the counter) as some human pain killers are harmful to your pet. Aspirin and Tylenol will kill your cat, aspirin will cause vomiting in some dogs, and Advil can cause severe stomach ulcers. Never use human OTC's without your vet's recommendation.

Adequan is administered in a series of eight injections over a four week period. Maximum benefits are achieved if the pet receives the full series of injections. Most pet owners begin to notice an improvement within the four week period. 70% of dogs receiving the full series show significant improvement. Lasting effects vary by individual, but I have heard of noted improvement lasting several months or more (anywhere from 6 mos. to 2 years). Brenna (my Rottie) was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at five years after showing symptoms of stiffness, difficulty getting up and refusal to jump. She was not a candidate for surgery so she took Rimadyl the rest of her days and had one full series of the Adequan injections. Before the Adequan, Brenna would whimper and cry out in pain when getting up after a nap as well as off and on during the day. After the Adequan she never again experienced that level of pain. She lived six more years. Of course her hips continued to degenerate and was her death sentence in the end, but that was due to spinal bone spurs pinching the nerves in her rear end which made her incapable of walking, not the hip joint itself.

Hip & Joint treatments should accompany careful monitoring of the dogs diet to avoid obesity which will further stress the body and increase pain/discomfort of affected joints. If your dog is already heavy at the time of diagnosis, assess and adjust his diet and intake accordingly.

Consult your veterinarian before using any other prescription or over the counter medicines including vitamins and supplements. What works for humans does not necessarily provide the same benefits for pets and can (in some cases) prove fatal.


Is Your Dog “Therapy” Material?

Back in the early 1990's I was picking up “Brenna” (an affectionate Rottie) from a boarding kennel when the owner suggested that my dog would make a great therapy dog. I had never heard of such a thing, so I spent some time with her learning about the program and left with a new interest to pursue. You could say that I sort of backed my way into animal assisted therapy (“AAT”) as I had no concept of what it was about and I was fortunate to have a dog that already had a fair amount of training and socialization under her collar. All I knew was that if the shoe were on the other foot....I would want someone to share their dog with me if I were stuck in a medical facility. That has always remained the fire that fuels my dedication to this rewarding field.

When Brenna entered the program it was somewhat of a milestone as “guardian” breeds, such as she, were rare due to perception problems and concern of frightening patients rather than offering comfort. She became an advocate for her breed, of which I was very proud. She loved her job and enjoyed over nine years in the program, retiring two weeks before her death.

Had Brenna not been an accomplished obedience dog, it would have been highly beneficial for me to do some basic training with her. Like a child learning good manners, it's something all dogs should have. With doing AAT, you will represent a valuable program in which your dog should behave well. Training also helps you and your dog learn to tune into one another and work as a team.

Is your dog therapy material? In this section I'll suggest things you can do to test the waters with your dog. Just because your dog is the ideal companion at home, doesn't necessarily guarantee that he'll be ideal in a distracting, public environment. In a section to follow, I'll cover some basic things you can do to socialize and prepare your dog for therapy work.


Take your dog to a public park. Walk the trails among joggers, walkers, kids and other dogs. Your dog should adjust and accept all this input without going nuts, showing fear or aggression.


Your dog should be able to do the basics (sit, walk on a loose lead, stay, down) in a mildly distracting environment.

Play Groups & People

Your dog should be able to adjust to being around other dogs and interact with them well. He should also be open and friendly towards strangers. A good therapy dog will have no aggression issues. Thanks to the Internet and Meetup.com, finding a local play group has never been easier. Play groups are a good way to socialize your dog with other dogs and dog friendly people.


Your dog should travel well without becoming a basket case every time he gets in the car. He should also be able enter a public place exhibiting good manners and behavior. A good therapy dog should not be worn out by the time he gets to his facility nor should he enter a facility acting like a maniac.

A great therapy dog is a well traveled dog, well mannered, used to accepting new things, comfortable, confident and trusting of your judgment. With all that in place, your dog will be a stellar therapy dog. New things your dog will likely be exposed to in a facility are: elevators, wheelchairs, crutches, janitorial equipment, medication carts, medical equipment & alarms, children and many noises just to name the most common. If you've done well to socialize your dog these new things will be tolerated well and it won't take long before your dog is at ease in such environments. Don't expect complete acceptance the first time, for example, dogs I've experienced take several times before being at home with traveling in an elevator.

I have been fortunate in that there is a regional pet therapy organization in my area. You may not be so lucky. In that case, a national organization is the route you'll be taking. Jazz is in the early stages of training for national certification herself. Look over their websites and what's required of you and your dog (see Jazz's Links to the right). Most require that your dog pass the AKC's CGC test. This is why I'll devote so many entries to training. A well rounded, well trained dog should be capable of passing this test easily.

Got a question? Post a comment.


Jazz's Spring Vacation

Jazz & her kids at the SC welcome center
On the steps of Magnolia Plantation; Charleston, SC
This was a lovely place.
We just toured the gardens...
which took several enjoyable hours!

Enjoying a snap dragon and poppy garden outside Magnolia Plantation

Salty dog.... Edisto Beach, SC

I believe this was Jazz's first experience with sand, waves, etc.
She learned to enjoy the warm tide pools.
She loved digging in the sand and a few brief bullistic romps!
Edisto Beach, SC

Below: Sunny and warm on Hunting Island, SC

Hunting Island was our favorite.
We found a private stretch of beach where we let Jazz off-lead.
She loved lounging in the shade near us.
She got to romp with one other small dog, much to her delight!
Above: With Sarah on the steps of a historic home in downtown Savannah, GA
Jazz enjoyed greeting lots of fellow tourists in Savannah
She also learned to perfect being a polite "city dog"

Below: At the summit of "the big mound" at Ocmulgee National Monument near Macon, GA
What a great hike around this monument!
Jazz was carried up and down this huge mound to save her hip.
She had a wonderful time!

In addition to these wonderful locations, Jazz highly recommends:

Reds Ice House

Shem's Creek; Charleston, SC. Amid all the Posh eating establishments this one is retains the flavor of the old Shem Creek eateries prior to Hugo in 1989. Better yet, their food is top shelf and they are a pet friendly restaurant! Jazz gives it two paws up!

Harry's Louisiana Grille
Acworth, GA. In the historic district. Jazz's folks love good Cajun cookin' and were happy to stumble across this great little place. The humans vote it as probably the best eatery ever in terms of organization, professionalism, menu, atmosphere, everything. Jazz says that Henry is a nice fellow and he smells good, too. Well worth visiting if you're ever in the area.

Oh, and she says the bacon from Waffle House is a pretty nice, too!


FHO or THR ?

Last Monday (March 10th) my lovely husband and I took his parents and Jazz on a peaceful hike near Tellico. It was a remarkably lovely day with a clear blue 70 degree sky. Since Jazz had been exhibiting such a reliable recall, I let her do this one off lead in spite of it being her very first hike. I felt confident of her abilities and she did not disappoint me. She was exuberant and energetic, but reliably obedient. She must have walked double the distance (with double the energy!) we humans did!

Tuesday she was tired, but seemed no worse for the wear. This was expected. Thursday night we observed her carrying her right rear leg, not continuously, but regularly. I gave her a thorough feel over and didn't find anything obvious, but I knew that I could not examine her skelatal system with the expert feel of a veterinarian. I would continue to monitor her.

Friday, she held her leg less, but she was still doing it so that by the end of the day, concern got the better of me and I dropped by the vets office. At first exam by an assistant, she discovered a luxated patella. Our dear vet did a thorough exam and in addition to the luxated patella (which seemed to be of no bother to Jazz), she found a rather sore hip. This called for an x-ray.

I saw it immediately on the vets face and the x-ray film. Her left hip is perfect, her right, however, is not properly seated in the socket, swollen and severely arthritic. Jazz is clearly in pain. I was floored. Surgery would be necessary to alleviate her discomfort and allow a long, happy life. She's not even two years old. Jazz will be on remadyl (an anti-inflammatory) till surgery. Although one option was heavily suggested, some research gave me two options:

FHO: (Femoral Head Ostectomy), essentially removing the head of the femur with a small saw, scar tissue forms over the bone end acting as a sort of cushion thus relieving the bone pain and allowing a small dog to return to a normal life. The drawback is a shorter leg and possibly a permanent limp as a result; loss in full range of motion (reduction of say 25%); stiffness; inability to jump, and decreased activity. This is what the vet suggested, but this procedure didn't sit well with me.

THR: (Total Hip Replacement), this is the expensive option as it's done at a veterinary hospital rather than in the vets office. Recovery time is a bit longer; recovery is near 95% with full range of motion (little to no reduction) and return to a full active lifestyle, including jumping. No permanent limp as there's no shortening of the leg.

At first the choice seemed obvious, having been given only one. However, cutting off the femoral head just didn't sit well with me, and thus I thank the Internet for my further education. Confirming my feelings on the FHO, the THR seems to be the surgery of choice given that Jazz is still such a youngster and has many, many good years in which to enjoy this life.... and fully enjoy it, she should!

No decisions have been set, I will speak with the vet at length and I (at this point) predict we will opt for the THR sometime this summer or early fall.

Dare I state the obvious in that my heart is crying for her?

We're on vacation this week. Jazz will have me post pics of her on the beach.


Blessing of the animals

A community event to benefit the Humane Society. Games, contests & prizes, food, fun and your beloved fur friend is welcomed.

HABIT will be there, and so will Jazz & her handlers! Come out to beautiful Maryville and have some fun:

Saturday April 19th
10:00 - 1:00

First United Methodist Church
804 Montvale Station Rd.
Maryville, TN


Bath Time

Jazz is an indoor dog who lives in a smoke & flea free environment. Because she interacts with the public on a regular basis, she gets a weekly bath. Regular bathing removes the buildup of oils from frequent petting as well as any germs that may linger in her fur. It also keeps her smelling fresh and clean. Jazz gets bathed with a mild oatmeal (pet) shampoo to avoid drying out her skin, with a touch of herbal scented (pet) shampoo to leave a light pleasant scent. Perfumed pet products are avoided in consideration of sensitivities.

Jazz stands patiently in the tub while she gets thoroughly shampooed. She shakes on command and gets dried a bit before leaving the tub where she is then thoroughly towel dried. While her nails are soft, they get a careful trim and then are expertly filed with a dremil tool to remove any sharp corners. About once a month the long hairs between the pads of her feet are trimmed. This reduces the risk of chewing gum getting stuck to her feet as well as avoiding tracking mud or water indoors. Next, Jazz gets her teeth cleaned. Finally, she is thoroughly blow dried..... something she greatly enjoys and is a reward for a job well done!


Emergency Transport

I came upon a woman by the roadside who was trying to coax an injured dog into a portable crate without success. By the time I got my vehicle turned around and returned to the scene, the woman had left, the crate left beside the dog and the dog covered with a blanket. The elderly dog still very much alive though obviously suffering either a broken back or pelvis (at the least) and thus completely immobile. Disoriented and very frightened, she was snapping and biting at anyone trying to help her. After some in-depth discussion with other passersby, a nearby resident promised to make calls and have the dog dealt with. I hated to leave the scene, but I had done all I was able to do under the circumstances.

An injured dog, no matter how loyal and sweet, is frightened, in pain, disoriented and prone to snap or bite as a result. This is not to be taken personally, simply taking effective, preventative measures is all that's necessary to prevent further harm to the dog and possibly to yourself. Something as simple as a bandanna will work as a makeshift muzzle in an emergency. Take the bandanna at opposite corners and roll it up to make a long, narrow cloth "rope". Begin at the bridge of the muzzle (top) with the center of the bandanna and wrap it around the dogs' muzzle, meeting at the underside. Cross the two sections over one another then bring them around and tie it off behind the head. The dog will not be able to wriggle out of it, nor open his mouth enough to cause you harm.

To safely move an injured dog you will need at least two people and either a large towel or sturdy blanket (depending on the size of the animal). Lay out the blanket alongside the dog with a fair amount of fabric gathered nearest the animal. Barrel roll the animal onto the blanket with the least amount of movement to the spine and limbs. Have someone at the dogs head to keep him as calm and quiet as possible. Once the dog is on the blanket, the extra fabric you had nearest him before transfer can be unfolded and then the dog is automatically centered on the blanket.

With as many people as necessary to move the dog, lift the blanket and gently move him to a ready and waiting vehicle for transport in a sort-of makeshift "litter" fashion. Someone should attend to the dogs head for providing support, comfort and ensuring the dog doesn't freak out thus causing himself or the handlers injury. He will be frightened. Most areas have at least one veterinarian that will offer emergency hours, or an emergency veterinary clinic dedicated to "after hours" needs. If the owner is not available, or can't afford emergency care, the local shelter may be all you have left. If nothing else, a local vet can euthanize the animal humanely.

Towels, a blanket and bandanna serve many useful purposes. Bandannas can serve as a cold water compress, a makeshift bandage, or for cleaning a wound. Towels are handy for the unexpected wet or muddy dog. An old blanket can protect your vehicles' interior, cushion the dog, warm him in foul weather. I tend to keep these items in my primary vehicle along with some plastic grocery bags for fecal pickup (as well as many other uses, too!).

If the dog is somewhat mobile, a towel can be used as a sling to support the rear end by passing under the abdomen, the handler holding each end. This is far easier on the handlers back than bending over and supporting the rear end without a towel.

I deeply hope this tidbit of emergency care knowledge is something every reader will never, ever need.


Jazz's Handlers

A handler is typically the dogs owner and the guidance and training behind the magic that is a therapy dog. A successful therapy dog begins with natural, suitable traits that are enhanced through many months of dedicated training, socialization and most importantly, a strong bond between the handler and dog, creating a team. The handlers job is to ensure the safety of the dog as well as to help guide it in reaching and enjoying other people.

Jazz's Mom has been a dog owner since the age of 4, sharing a strong bond that has helped her to overcome extreme shyness; a fine example of how the human-animal bond works. She has nearly 20 years of dog training experience in both obedience trials and agility competition. She has taught several obedience classes off and on over the years as well as a few agility classes. Her greatest experience in working with her dogs has been the therapy program which she has been involved with since 1992.

Gianna (“Kat”) has owned many dogs over the years, however only a Rottweiler, Border Collie and a Coonhound (in addition to Jazz) have worked with her in therapy programs. Facilities that she and her canine companions have worked with are: a children's in-patient psychiatric unit; an adult out-patient psychiatric facility; retirement home; surgical unit; two physical therapy units; transitional care; and an elementary school.

The human-animal bond presents particularly rewarding environments for those people visited as touch and acceptance from an animal provides a warm, calming atmosphere which aids in healing the human heart, mind and soul. Kat enjoys sharing her animal and the benefits that a canine companion brings to people in facilities as well as the staff that care for them.

Having a dog that possesses the unique qualities, aptitude and skill for therapy work is a rewarding gift. In her years of animal assisted therapy, Jazz is only the 2nd dog to possess the exceptional qualities for working well in therapy with children. It is a great service to be able to provide a child with positive, safe interaction with a well behaved dog. This gives a child the opportunity to learn to bond and effectively communicate with an animal as well as learning by example about responsible care and ownership of a dog. Working with a therapy dog also encourages a child to develop a sense of selflessness and caring towards others.

Jazz's co-handler is Kat's daughter, Sarah. Sarah is relatively new to participating in animal assisted therapy though she's been interested in the program since an early age and has eagerly awaited being old enough to participate. At 14, she must have an adult accompany her. A great age to experience giving back to the community as well as exploring whether animal assisted therapy is right for her.

Mac the Border Collie keeps vigil over his young leader.


Sunday in the park

Jazz enjoyed a lovely spring day a Springbrook Park. This is her favorite game, the slide! Today was her third trip, ever. She really seems to dig this and wasn't the slightest bit intimidated by the hoards of adoring kids cheering her on.


Why AAT?

Why is AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) so valuable, so rewarding? Simply put, it's because an animal can touch a human in ways that another person can not. An animal can be a bridge from the confines of the deep internal realm of our being. Here are some fine examples:

At the children's psychiatric unit, a girl was admitted who for the first week did not speak. Not a word. Doctors were at a loss as to how to reach her. The dogs arrived on Tuesday and the girl visited with “Hershey”, a rescued Chocolate Lab who was rather scarred from a car accident. He was a gentle soul who enjoyed playing fetch. Upon seeing Hershey, the girl squealed with delight, threw her arms around him and began talking to him and asking the owner/handler questions about his missing leg, eye and ear. After that, doctors were able to reach and treat her. She was talking, thanks to Hershey.

A young man fresh out of a coma was depressed and unwilling to participate in physical therapy. Mac the Border Collie arrived and he worked hard to roll over to pet him. He'd do anything to pet the dog. He worked hard on his physical therapy so he could better visit with the therapy dogs who were his greatest motivation.

Patients lacking the interest to do physical therapy find joy and motivation in a game of fetch, or walking with a therapy dog. Playing or working with the dog provides some relief from the pressure and physical pain sometimes associated with physical movement, replacing it with the joy of interacting with an animal.

Oncology patients find comfort and can better relax in the company of a therapy dog while undergoing treatments.

Alzheimers patients who can be rather unresponsive are often reached through touching an animal. In some individuals, the only time they respond is with an animal or through music.

Patients who are otherwise intimidated, shy or reclusive may respond better and open up more in the company of an animal. Animals provide a sense of safety as they never judge, reject or condemn. Animals provide acceptance and affection regardless of appearance, disability or capability.

Animals relieve feelings of depression and isolation which can come from being in a facility, whether short or long term. People feel a sense anticipation knowing an animal is coming to visit as well as joy from the visit itself. Staff who care for these people also benefit from visiting with the dog as a healthy, happy outlet. Happy staff provide better care.

Children experiencing difficulty with an activity (such as reading or physical therapy), or have difficulty conversing with an adult, find ease, comfort and reward in sharing these tasks with an animal. A therapy dog creates a calming atmosphere for the child as he will lie still for petting. This is very rewarding for the child.

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) provides a valuable service to so many individuals. The animal enjoys it, the handler enjoys it, the people visited enjoy it and facility staff enjoy it. It's a “win-win” situation.

Elvis & William enjoying some snuggle time

Questions? Post a comment.


Brenna & The Boy

I'm a shy person, so sharing my dog with others is a way to bridge this barrier while bringing a sense of joy and connection to everyone involved. Thanks to sharing my dog with others I have experienced some truly golden moments, such as this:

My first facility assignment was a children's in-patient psychiatric unit. Children in this facility were admitted for several weeks and their time with the dogs was a key part of their therapy. Four dogs visited the unit together on Tuesdays, each assuming a different area (on the unit) in which to visit with 3-4 kids over the course of the hour. Before visiting we were given a brief on the children we would be seeing and each child was matched with a dog according to his or her own needs. For example, my placid Rottweiler typically visited with either hyperactive kids because of her calming disposition, or withdrawn kids as she could gently interact with them.

One boy stands out a memorable. He adored “Brenna” so much and always displayed such exceptional behavior that it was difficult (for me) to believe that he had intense anger/destructive issues. The boy worked hard during each week to reach his goals so that he would earn the reward of extra visit time with Brenna. As the weeks (and his treatment progressed) he was spending nearly the full hour with Brenna. Staff and doctors were greatly impressed with his progress and his inspiration: the dog.

One Thursday, I got a call from the unit (which was unheard of). The boy was being discharged that day, and even though this was a very happy day for him, he was saddened that he would not see Brenna again, get a chance to say goodbye nor to give her the gift he had gotten with his own money. The phone call was to ask if I would possibly mind making the trip so they boy could see Brenna one last time. What human could say “no”?

We met in an administrator's office, just off the unit where we wouldn't disturb the other patients. Amid tears and hugs, the boy had his farewell visit with a very receptive Brenna. I was then proudly informed by the doctor just how important my dog had been to his successful treatment. The boy had certainly earned this special visit and I was deeply thanked for making it possible.

The pleasure was all mine.

Brenna with her cat, Beau.

(Brenna: 2/15/90 12/10/2001)

(Beau: 1992 - 2004)



Jazz was born sometime in mid 2006, a Shetland Sheepdog/Dachshund mix, or what we affectionately call “a Shelthund Dacheltie”. She has the slight roman nose and distinctive wrist & ankle joints of the Dachshund along with an elongated top line (back). Her ears, cat-like feet and white markings are hallmarks of the Sheltie and she shares the temperament of both breeds.

Jazz found her forever home on July 25th, 2007 at Gianna Violins, the small acoustic stringed instrument shop owned and operated by her new family. Jazz was a stray, suspected to have been an dumped by previous owners. Condition and health suggested she had been somewhat cared for though no one was looking for her and no one claimed her. A lovely little dog that had simply been thrown away like everyday garbage.

Jazz joins fellow fur-family members: Mac, an elderly Border Collie of 14 years and retired therapy dog. Elvis, an over-sized Treeing Walker Coonhound and current though non-active therapy dog (since their owners' cycling accident and hand injuries). Jazz's favorite “brother” is Jinx, the family cat, a domestic short hair. Being the only “girl” fur-child, she is without a doubt the “pampered princess”.

Jazz began her journey with animal assisted therapy in the autumn of 2007, during her persons' recovery from a cycling accident. No longer able to handle Elvis, attention turned to Jazz for her assistance in this rewarding field. Jazz was still in the learning phase with her family, but she passed all the assessments with relative ease. During the course of that winter (2007-2008) Jazz took over Elvis' assignment at a transitional care facility and gradually added the nearby elementary school to her weekly visits.

This blog is dedicated to Jazz and the journey of animal assisted therapy. Herein will be offered up a creative dish of information on caring for, training and socializing a successful therapy dog.


Questions? Post a comment.