March 28, 2010

Zorro the Graduate??

What could possibly be the icing on the cake today?

That icing was a wonderful update from Zorro's Mom! When we started working with Zorro he was very excitable (for good reason) and he had trouble relaxing. Because of his shelter background and concerns he might have with other dogs Jan has become proficient with rotating dogs in her home.

But Zorro is a changed dog. Over the past few weeks through TTouch, dietary changes and his much loved Thundershirt he is now a calm puppy! The next big hurdle was for him and one of the resident dogs, Buffy to become buddies. Well today was the day.

Here is the email that Jan sent:

I finally decided that Zorro was ready to be really meet with Buffy. Kathy and I have been walking the two of them and there was no aggression from either of them. And Linda has been here working with him(he has really started to mellow)We started out front, I had Zorro on a leash and let Buffy come out. It was love at first sight for Zorro--his little tail was wagging so hard I thought it would fall off. He tried to play with Buffy--who beginning the little Stuck up Princess she is would just stare at him then look away-as though to say "You are soooo far beneath me I have nothing to say to you". He has continued to follow her around the house and back yard in hopes she will give him some sort of recognition (this was the way she was with Teddy when he first arrived) I spent the last 4 hours with the two of them in the same rooms or back yard with each other, no problems. I am the happiest Mom ever, my kids can now be together. It will make my life a lot easier and it will be great for both Buffy & Zorro.

Note the Calming Signal that Buffy is offering to Zorro by turning her head. This is her way of letting him know she means no harm. Buffy is an excellent communicator.

I'm really excited to see that our biggest goals for Zorro have come to pass. He is a wonderful and happy boy. Thank you to Nicole from Just a Dog Rescue for springing him from the shelter and welcoming him into her private rescue. Thank you to Jan for opening her home and providing a safe haven to Zorro while he has undergone his transformation. And finally, thank you to our friend Kathy who is Jan's faithful sidekick and Zorro's Godmother! Together these ladies have made all the difference in a little dog's life.

I think Buffy is trying to get her new buddy to come out and play with her!

March 30 UPDATE

Isn't this latest picture of Zorro and Buffy a wonderful sight? I couldn't be happier for Jan and her pups!

Paws in the Park

Paws in the Park
Escondido Humane Society Fund Raiser

Thanks to all the wonderful folks that sponsored team TouchNpaws we raised $1,300+ for the homeless animals at Escondido Humane Society! How wonderful is that???

TouchNpaws came in 5th place for fund raising. This was made possible by all our generous friends. Thank you, thank you and thank you some more.

You know. Raising the money was fun but the event was incredible. Hundreds and hundreds of people out enjoying a stunning day with their dogs. All the doggies behaved so nicely. I was amazed.

The morning started off with registration and prizes for our efforts. Then Tamilee Webb of "Buns of Steel" took us through what she called a "warm up" and what Steve and I called a "work out".

Tamilee has a sweet 3-legged dog and has the most adorable carrier for her.

There were vendors and snacks everywhere. Not only did I find a new market that has organic produce and vegan foods I want to try I also got a cute top and sundress for the hot Summer that is right around the corner. What more could a girl ask for?

Well a girl could ask for a kiss from an adorable Biker Dog named Chopper!

Then the walk began and it was a constant long line of people and their dogs walking for the homeless animals. Quite an amazing sight.

The start of the walk was marked by this massive balloon arch!

Steve and I walked with our Hairstylist, Erin and her husband Rob....and their beautiful Pitty girl, Tessa.

At one point we had to cross a bridge and Tessa wasn't too happy about that. Fortunately her Dad is a Fireman and had no problem helping getting her to the other side :-)

The day ended with recognition of the top 3 fund raisers and top 3 teams. And a Wet T-Shirt Contest for the dogs...of course!

On your mark.....get set....GO!

Gotta get the wet T-Shirt out of the bucket and get the shirt over the dog's head and their "arms" through and back to the start line to win.

I think we have a winner!

Of course it is impossible for me to be in the company of so many dogs without passing out TTouches to one and all.

And isn't this a pretty sight! These Pittys were so loving and well behaved. A stellar representation of the breed!

March 16, 2010

Iggy has a major breakthrough!

Tonight's session with Iggy was better than I could have ever imagined. One thing we are taught in TTouch is not to hold expectations. Expectations can limit your results.

When I arrived Nicole told me that Anastasia from Relaxing Rex, canine massage, wanted to come by and meet me. I thought the idea was great. My goal for Iggy is for him to become comfortable with a wide range of situations and not just be comfortable with his foster parents....and me. The more things we can introduce him to the better.

While the three of us were in the back yard Iggy would run over and take a treat from me and run away again. This is typical Iggy behavior. The magical thing about Iggy is that when his doggie friends are present he becomes a lot braver. I suggested we bring out Doby and Benny.

As soon as his buddies were with us then Iggy wanted to be in the center of the action too.

Iggy gets very curious what the other dogs are getting that he is not and I use that to my advantage.

We want Iggy to eventually wear a Thundershirt so I had Doby wear one and let Iggy see it was okay.

Another thing we want to do is be able to clicker train Iggy. Strange noises scare him so we have to proceed slowly. A thought came to me to do some clicker with Benny and see what Iggy did. At first he flinched. The next time he watched but didn't finch so bad. It wasn't long before I had taught Iggy the very useful "Touch" request.

Look at Iggy doing a line drive across the yard to touch my hand!

I think he is actually smiling!

What a quick learner Iggy is. :-)

Of course I generalized Touch in various places in the yard. Including under HIS tree.

After Anastasia left and it was just Nicole, Iggy and I he seemed to really relax...for Iggy. He was stressed with a third person there but still he was able to deal with the clicker and learn to Touch.

It was at this point Iggy let his hair down, so to speak, and really enjoyed some good TTouch.

He laid on his side and allowed tummy rubs and let me work on his feet.

Time for some mouth work.

If you calm the tail of an excited dog it calms the dog. Here I'm using the opposite thought. I have a timid dog and if I try to duplicate a happy tail will I get a happy dog?

I think we did get a happy dog. What do you think?

It was at this point some very wise words came to mind.
End the session when you think things are going really well.
It was very difficult for me to leave at this point but I'll be back next Tuesday.

March 15, 2010

Damaged Dogs

Thankfully it didn't rain this weekend. First one in 6 weeks! A break in the rain was what allowed me to work with Iggy on Saturday and get back to the shelter on Sunday.

I've been out of the loop at the shelter for a bit with tending to Marley and because of the rain so I wasn't quite sure which dogs I wanted to work with. Sometimes decisions are made just by reviewing the pictures on the shelter's website and making a list of dogs that could use a better picture.

That is how things went on Sunday. I went armed with a list of dogs that needed their personalities to be reflected a little better on their adoption page.

Two of the dogs I worked with really stood out among the others. Both are females and both have been damaged.


I've posted about Cassadee before and talked about how she is a survivor of distemper but it has left its mark on her body and mind. Cassadee wasn't on my list of dogs to visit because her picture on the website was quite cute. She is sitting there with a big smile looking at the camera. Not a glamor shot but precious none the less.

When I arrived a Lead Volunteer was walking her and she was quite stressed. You see, Cassadee is good with people but does not like other dogs at all. I was asked if I'd like to spend time with her and it was obvious she and I could do some good together.

My visit with the dogs usually includes TTouch, Clicker Training and a Photo Shoot. Cassadee remembered the Touch request I taught her last time. When she was agitated seeing another dog I could redirect her by having her touch my hand...we would move away and then do some more body work.

Unfortunately the shelter is a very difficult place for dogs like Cassadee. There are dogs everywhere and her dislike is strong enough that she has a limited amount of time to pull herself together. I do the best I can but sometimes the odds and time are against me. I hope I see Cassadee again but even if I don't I know that I was able to convey to her that she is a special girl. She has learned basic requests from me and I've seen her mobility improve. Cassadee has had some very nice experiences and happy days. I hope and pray she is successful getting her reactivity under control so she can have many more happy days.


What an amazingly sweet dog Hailey is. She is calm, attentive, affectionate and smart...she is also a bit fearful. I discovered her fear when I took out my camera to photograph her. She went from nuzzling my neck and kissing me to trying to get away as fast as she could. My first though was of Iggy and his fear of the camera.

As I did touches on Hailey I could feel tension release from her body. I saw a large hole in her left ear. The hole looked like a tear that had healed up. This happens sometimes. I didn't think a lot of it.

I was captivated with Hailey's loving spirit.

I found out that Hailey has very good reason to be concerned with new things. Turns out this beautiful and sweet girl had been used as a bait dog for training fighting dogs! My blood boiled as I heard her story.

When Hailey came to the shelter she was chewed to pieces. The wonderful staff at Escondido Humane Society took fantastic care of her and the only physical sign is her over sized pierced ear. She is a quiet girl and didn't react to other dogs that were near by. I don't know if she likes them or not but she would be more than justified to be fearful of them.

Sam is another dog that was used as a bait dog for fighting. He had the same lovely disposition as Hailey. Maybe they are so thankful for positive human interaction. I believe Hailey's story will end up far happier than Sam's did.

There is something about a broken dog that draws me in. I've found the damaged ones have such deep and soulful eyes and they want to trust. Our paths cross so I can help teach them to do just that.

Here are a few of the other dogs I worked with on Sunday.


March 14, 2010

Special Mentor

This post is a special Shout Out to my TTouch Mentor, Cynde Van Vleet.

I've been working with Zorro and Iggy and have made progress but was having trouble advancing them to the next level.

A couple weeks ago Cynde came down to Escondido to visit Zorro and his caretakers with me. Zorro has trouble relaxing.

Cynde suggested we use a Thundershirt on him and it worked like a charm.

Here is a picture of a Thundershirt that was designed by one of our TTouch Practitioners. You can read about them at

Yesterday Cynde came down to an appointment in San Diego with me. This time we went to visit Iggy.

Iggy has serious fear issues and really does not like anything new at all. Pictures of Iggy are few and far between as he really does not appreciate my camera. Because of his deep fear he is a challenge to work with. There is a fine line between pushing him enough for growth and too much which will break the trust we are building.

I enjoyed watching Cynde and the subtle things she did that made Iggy curious. Iggy allowed Cynde to do touches on him for very short periods of time. He really loves the TTouch and will lean his body into you in a very relaxed way.

The plan was to put the Thundershirt on Iggy. Iggy had other plans. We also had the thought that if we did get the shirt on him without causing too much of a fear response it was going to cause one for sure when he heard the sound of the Velcro when it came off!

Cynde worked very patiently with him for about an hour. At one point he had the shirt draped on his back but not secured. He ran away and went to his safe place behind the cabana to process what was happening. He would come out and look at us and run back. Eventually he got it off and stuffed it in the corner and came out victorious!

He is an interesting blend of fear and curiosity. He runs away in fear without even realizing he did it. Then as quickly as he runs away he starts working his way back. You can see he wants to trust and he wants to be with us. He just can't.....yet.

Thanks to Cynde I have some more ideas on how to proceed with him. We have a wonderful Yahoo Group for Practitioners and Students where we can bounce ideas off each other. So many people gave me wonderful suggestions but they are so far removed from what he is able to handle. Having Cynde come and see him for herself got me on the right track.

The damage that has resulted from whatever happened to him while in Michael Vick's "care" and the various moves he went through to make his way to a loving foster home in San Diego was more than this boy could deal with.

Love, patience, kindness and TTouch are teaching Iggy that the world is a good place and there are far more nice people in the world than mean ones!

No one could say it better than Iggy himself (through the help of his Foster Mom, Nicole). On my fund raising page for the Paws in the Park Walk-a-Thon to benefit Escondido Humane Society

Iggy made a donation and left the sweetest note:
"You are changing my world!"
And I have to say that he is also changing mine.

Now if that don't make me sleep well at night, nothing will.

A special Thank You to Cynde for being the best Mentor ever! Always willing to email, talk or come down and help me. Most importantly she shares her special gift with many students just like me!