Thursday, August 5, 2010

So it's been a very long time since my last post, and a lot has happened with Millie. She finally got spayed in June which was a big relief. Poor Millie had something wrong with her uterus and was perpetually in heat! No wonder she was so anxious!
For the last month Millie has been in Vermont boarding and training with Kevin Behan while I've been travelling for work. On the whole, Millie is a much more confident and happy dog since I met her in January, but she is sometimes unpredictable. Some days she barks incessantly at guests, some days not at all. Some days she will lunge at a passerby or running child, and others she will let strangers put their face in hers and pet her. Every time a stranger leans towards her, I'm crossing my fingers! lol. So I thought it would be really good for Millie to spend time with Kevin Behan, who Lee Charles Kelley learned from, as well as take a lovely break from the New York City heat.
Earlier this week I went up to visit Millie and see Kevin and it was a wonderful experience. I had missed her a lot!
Seeing Millie out there in a forest reminded me that she is a dog, an animal...  All too often as owners we think of our dogs as people or try and relate to them on our level, but there is so much more enjoyment to be had just seeing them as an animal, as pure nature, and connecting with them on their level. Seeing her in her element actually made me understand what she is feeling and what she needs, as well as making me feel connected with my inner animal too!
And Kevin is so great with her and such a wonderful teacher. It's like music watching him interact with Millie and try to coax her to let go of all that anger/fear.
She certainly seems a much happier dog. She is softening up, looks a little less like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and has lost some of the excess weight she was carrying too. But she's still holding on to that bite of hers. No matter how much she is pushed (not physically!) , she still won't grab a toy and pull it lol. She is a tough cookie for sure. I think she's on the cusp though, and Kevin showed me some exercises he has been doing with her which I'm going to get going on when she gets back on Monday. It's certainly a much longer process than I ever imagined but I feel I understand much better now what Millie is feeling and what she needs from me to help her iron out those kinks.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Here is Millie in her 'down stay' which she is so good at! She learns so fast, I'm constantly bursting with pride! She has also learned "speak" and "touch" but I am having no joy in getting her to tug or play outside still.
I thought maybe getting her around other dogs might bring this playfulness out, so over the last couple of weeks I've been taking her to the dog run every day to try and slowly introduce her to other dogs and to socialise her. I still only put her in there though when I see the dogs are in a calm mood, but now we spend at least 45 minutes a day there and her confidence has really grown. She's not as nervous about dogs sniffing her, and will approach dogs tail wagging and even give chase some times. But she doesn't play yet, and she absolutely will not let them mount her. If a dog tries to, Millie lets out a very scary growl and snarl (similar to the one she gave the vet when he tried to lift her tail a few weeks back).
But plans for socialisation are now on hold. Poor little Millie went into heat this week - the second time in two months.. Her hormones are not in good shape.
I took her to see a different vet yesterday who is female and works above a pet store so I thought the new environment might set a different mood for Millie and we'd talked before on the phone about how Millie reacted in the vets last time so the vet said she would only just stroke Millie and see if she could feel anything. Despite me and the vet being very calm and positive about the whole situation, Millie sensed something was awry unfortunately and it took only a touch by the vet on her upper back for her to turn around and attempt to nip. That's very unlike Millie who lets complete strangers stroke her when we go walking.
These vet trips are getting increasingly worse, and I am worried about how she will react when it's time to get her spayed, and with these hormonal problems, I'm going to get her spayed in six weeks.... if only I could find a vet's surgery that I could hire to take her to every day up to then to desensitize her in the meantime!! I'm going to ask around..

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I'm saving a post on Millie's progress for later this week when hopefully I can get some nice photos of her outside - maybe with other doggies! But the weather has been so gloomy lately it has been hard. 
I have just changed my blog url to as I finally am getting it together to have my cards and website designed for my "eventual" doggie holistic business,, where I hope to combine healing massages and natural dog training. Can't wait for it to be up and running - although I have a steep learning curve ahead of me still on both services..
So I thought instead I would blog today about something a little bit different. I've been studying canine massage therapy (albeit at a very slow pace!), but yesterday had the opportunity to attend a workshop in New York with UK animal healer, Margrit Coates, pictured on the left.
Call it destiny, but when massaging Millie over the last seven weeks, I've noticed that the area between her shoulder blades and on her shoulder blades burns very hot and when my hands are laid on that area my palms burn and tingle.
I thought perhaps this was a chakra but traditional research discards such a theory. But last week I came across an article in the Daily News of all places that said Margrit Coates was coming to town and that she is recognised as having discovered an eighth major chakra in dogs - the brachial chakra - which is.... on the shoulder blades! According to Coates, this chakra links humans to animals. So I thought I could not miss the opportunity to hear her speak.
To cut a long story short, it was a truly eye-opening workshop where we, the attendees, worked with the kind and very down-to-earth Coates on seven different dogs - all with different issues be those emotional or physical, and we were able to feel first hand how animal chakras feel when they are blocked - for me, this sensation is a burning and tingling on the hands.
If this all sounds a little fruity, listen further! Coates was healing a shitzu called Gibby when she said Gibby wanted us to know that an Edith needed some healing. No one knew an Edith, so I raised my hand and said I had fostered a pug called Edith not so long ago but that she was fit and well as far as I knew. Keen to share the story with Tim, her adopter, I emailed him after the session to tell him.
"Funny you say that," said Tim. Last week apparently Edith developed a problem in one of her hips and was finding it increasingly hard to climb the stairs..
So I'm now a complete fan of Margrit Coates, and am thrilled that I now have some guidance on how I can help Millie through her chakras. I can't wait for another workshop. For non-believers, then at least there is the pleasure of listening to someone who is so lovingly devoted to helping and healing animals. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Here she is! My dream dog, Millie back when it was snowy and not a sweltering 70 degrees like today (sweltering for Millie with all that fur. Personally I am happy Spring is here!) So it's been over a week now of trying to Millie to tug outside, and there has been some success! On our two long walks of the day we end up in a ball park where I get her to jump up and push at me to get her food (this was a challenge I will talk about later!) and then I run round to try and encourage her to chase me and a tug rope. The first day I tried this I dribbled a soccer ball around with her on a long leash beside me to see if being in a group chase mode might encourage her to tug, and it did! she tugged on her leash for a little while. So the next day I left the soccer ball at home and took a tug rope doing some pushing again, some running around and each time at the end she looks to the lead to tug and I replace it with the rope and we tug a little.
It's still slow going. She'll tug reasonably hard for about five minutes now and then she feels uncomfortable or is distracted so I leave it there. The last two days I've been practising getting her in a down stay where I back away about 20 feet and then get her to run to me and jump up for food and push with me again which she loves! I am almost bowled over by her jumping at me and the longer her stay, the more she seems excited to then look for the tug toy.
Why the fixation on the tugging outside I suppose one might ask. It's a natural dog training theory that maintains that tugging outside (and always letting Millie win!) gets her to express a lot of the energy that's balled up inside her in fear. It's a good way of her getting it out in a safe environment, and hopefully she learns that I am the one who helps her get this energy out. The aim is to get her tugging really hard for up to 15 minutes and enjoying every minute. It's not a replacement for exercise. We walk three hours a day, although I must admit I know I should be jogging with her. She's young and could do with higher impact exercise. Ah. I might have to suck it up and get jogging.
It is frustrating sometimes the slow progress with Millie. Today she pulled all over the place on her lead, barked at every movement outside the front door, and paced the apartment anxiously - three things that seemed to have subsided lately. But it is also easy to forget just how far she has come. I was reminded today when a man on the street called her to him, ruffled her cheeks and buried his head in his face to kiss her. When she arrived seven or so weeks ago, she would have barked immediately at him, jumped frantically around on her leash to escape with tail between her legs and then pulled me round the block. She may have even nipped him if he had got too close. Today, however, she wagged her tail, jumped up at him, and then, when his face moved in, jumped away, tail between her legs, but then recovered immediately and was calm. Similarly some neighbours were in the lobby yesterday and she ran out and jumped up then and wanted to follow them. Only three weeks ago she was barking at people in the lobby. So there is progress even though some days it seems there isn't.
So this week, all I want to do with Millie is much of the same. Patience is key. I'm going to add a few distractions to the downstay and try and increase the distance that I am away from her.
We're also going to try and work on dog socialisation! This I really need to not push her on as she has a lot of fear there. While she wags her tail around dogs, if they go to sniff her backside her hair goes up and she growls a little. I've started taking her to the dog run for five minutes at a time when there are only a handful of very calm dogs in there. In Tompkins Square Park that really is only five minutes a day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


So it's been a crazy few months and while no postings (tsk tsk), there have been foster dogs! First up was Jake, a mini-pin who came just for one night but managed to poop nine times in my living room over that night! Next up was Toto, a 6-year old shitzu. Toto was the cutest little dog ever. He would jump up at your knees with big puppy eyes, yelping sweetly to be petted. But pity the fool who fell for his charms, as Toto would have your fingers off if a hand came anywhere near his head. After four days of lassooing him with a leash to go out, Toto went back to Kansas (well, PoshPet's Linda), as Linda it seems is the only one Toto trusts. 
From a hand-biting shitzu to an ankle-biting pug.. Edith was next up. Here she is in the photo. A very fun and sweet 2-year old pug who loved to attack ankles in the evening time, and who sadly had terrible separation anxiety. She found her forever home with Tim from Harlem, and reports back are that she has calmed tremendously and has a new streamline physique.
Realising that small dogs are no easier than large dogs, I succumbed to foster a shepherd mix called Millie six weeks ago. At 18 months, Millie was found as a stray in Brooklyn, about 15 pounds underweight, and terrified of her own shadow. And..maybe it was the moon, maybe it was the relief of a large dog back in my home; maybe it was the way she howls cutely when a fire truck passes.. but I decided that foster number 17 I couldn't be without, and so adopted her! 
I am hoping the fostering will continue. It saddens me to think I can't do any more for the rescue group. I have tried one foster since adopting Millie. A terrier called Magic came and stayed, and while Millie was quite excited by having a new friend, Magic was not so thrilled. After passing 48 hours pulling Magic's teeth out of Millie, I decided my girl needed a break and the Magic was gone. 
Before I take on another foster dog, I realised I want to spend some time on Millie's issues. And yes, she has plenty! She barks at people on the street - often without a trigger. She is all over the place on a leash. She must sniff every single bike, lamp post, patch of grass, bin. She must pee at least 30 times on a walk. She barks at guests - the entire length of their stay unless she has a bone to chew on. She has no idea I exist when we enter an empty dog run - empty because a) she's been in heat, and b) she twice tried to jump out of the dog run when a boisterous dog approached her. She also nipped the vet's assistant yesterday. 
Challenging, yes? But a terror, she is not. She's a big mush who wants to have her tummy rubbed, play tug with her toy (indoors only), learn new tricks, and be loved by everyone. Already in just six weeks she has significantly improved. I can, for example, now take a bone from her without a growl. She can now go to the pet store without barking at the owner. She now meets dogs on the street and the hair on her back does not go up, but instead the tail wags. She doesn't always bark at workmen, and not all night at guests.
Over the next few months I'm hoping to be blogging on her progress as I try to build her confidence and calm that unpredictableness. This week's challenge: getting Millie to chase a toy or tug a toy outside. If I can get her to do this, it will give her something to focus on outside, and will make her focus more on me, and should get out some of that pent-up energy that's throwing her off-balance.