Let the Dogs Speak!

I first met Marianne McKiernan when she contacted me to do a story for the news organization she works for in Denver. She is a service dog puppy raiser as well as a reporter and her dog-in-training, Rocket, had a mad crush on Jingle. In addition to training dogs for Canine Companions for Independence, Marianne is an animal intuitive and she has offered her services a couple of times when our pets have been out of sorts.

In her new book, Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training Tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence, Marianne tells the story of four dogs she’s raised and she does it…in the dogs’ voices…thus the title.  Their names are Hudson, Parker, Ross and Mars. I started to read the book, and then Seth hi-jacked it and I didn’t see it again for three weeks. He took it to school for his reading time there, and he read it every night before bed. He really enjoyed learning about each dog’s story and also the personality and idiosyncracies of the many dogs discussed in the book. For instance, one dog is phobic of butter. When his person takes a stick out of the fridge, he gets really scared. We all have our issues, right? One dog liked to use his bone as a skateboard. One dog’s hobbies included rolling in dead snake.

I enjoyed learning more about what goes into the process of raising a service dog. I had an idea, probably a better idea than most, but I didn’t really know the extent of it.  In addition to the extensive work puppy raisers like Marianne and her husband John put in, the dogs at Canine Companions go through a rigorous program with prison inmates as well (Jingle also did this in her program with 4 Paws for Ability). As one of the dogs in the book states, “It takes a village to raise a service dog!”

Let the Dogs Speak! would be a perfect book for anyone who is considering obtaining a service dog. It would be especially soothing and wonderful and exciting to read for anyone who is actively waiting on a service dog. It would also be great reading for anyone who is considering being a puppy raiser for a service dog program. But truly, anyone who loves dogs is sure to get a kick out of it. Every question you ever had about service dogs and their role in society is covered.

You just can’t imagine the dedication and commitment on the part of puppy raisers like Marianne. They take puppy after puppy, love them, work with them, and then let them go, time after time. It takes a special kind of person to make that kind of committment and sacrifice.

On behalf of our family and those like us, we thank you Marianne, and we’re so appreciative for your willingness to do the beautiful work you do.

We are glad you Let the Dogs Speak! and we are so blessed to call you friend.

Marianne is busy raising Jeb, puppy #9, almost 8 months old.  Rocket, #8, is at Advanced Training and he’s a hopeful for a May graduation. Even after all the hard work and love put in, not every dog makes it through the program. It is nerve wracking for Marianne right up until the day of graduation.

Jeb is continuing Marianne’s DogBlog at The Denver Channel.com.

She says she gets more out of CCI than she puts into it, and feels it is a pleasure and a privilege to raise these dogs.

Chewy’s Revenge

Before Seth had Yippee, there was Chewy. Chewy is the Webkin stuffed Chihuahua he carried around and slept with and placed all his wishing-hoping-longing dreams of having a Chihuahua on for years.

Chewy got seriously kicked to the curb (or the bottom of the stuffed animal bin) as soon as Yippee arrived. It was for his own protection, because puppies chew. Yip is now two years old, and for for some reason Chewy has resurfaced this week. Chewy has been “talking” to Yippee through Seth’s voice. It’s not annoying in the least.

Anyway, yesterday..Seth begged me to take a picture of Yippee and Chewy together. My camera was within reach and since I didn’t have to go downstairs to get it, I agreed. I went in, barely looked, snapped the photo. Seth was happy. The end.

It wasn’t until today that I actually looked at the picture.


Is it just me, or…? Never mind. Talk amongst yourselves.

I’m going to quietly tip-toe out of this post.

Josie 12/97-4/12

When we first got married, Todd did the rational thing to buy some time and push back the baby lust I was having. He got me a puppy. At the time we were clueless about pet stores and puppy mills and we wandered into a cute little independent pet store to look at the kittens. We saw a cage and upon first glance thought it was full of guinea pigs, but turns out they were tiny puppies. Peek-a-poos.

I held one and looked hopefully at Todd, not truly expecting a puppy that day, but we were newlyweds and he was in love and he was pretty wrapped. Then I handed her over to him, and she nuzzled his cheek and licked him. We walked out with a little white puff of a thing, I think she was two pounds. I named her Josie.

She was my baby. I loved her and I spoiled her.

Of course, Todd spoiled her too (her dark markings turned to pure white later).

When Riley was born, Josie lost some of her charm. Because I had spoiled her, she was very demanding. She didn’t give a rip that a baby had come on the scene. She didn’t bark, she screeched. REEEEEEEEET! REEEEEEEET! She’d look at you and sneeze her displeasure….all day long. She was a brat. But it was my fault, and I loved her, and life went on.

We moved to the Chicago area. Then we moved to Maryland. And she kept up her screeching.

And then Riley started having a really hard time.

And then we had a new baby.

Riley was screaming. Josie was screeching. The baby required what newborns require.

That dog. Every time I looked at her, she reminded me of how much of a failure I was. I could not keep all the balls in the air. Our family was in crises. I could not give everyone what they needed, least of all a 7 pound Peek-a-poo. There were some days she barely got a pat on the head. But she was part of the family. I couldn’t just give her away.

And then Todd’s dad told us about a woman he worked with, who was about to retire. She was looking for a little lap dog to spoil. And I could not not do it. We gave her away. We gave her to Roseanne.

I cried in the car on the way to her house. I cried in the car on the way home. I felt like a failure. A loser. A person who didn’t deserve a dog. But I knew I did the right thing. I knew she would have a good life. I doubted we’d ever have a dog again.

She was seven when we gave her to Roseanne. She made her transition to doggie heaven on Saturday, a few months shy of her 15th birthday.

I am so grateful to Roseanne and her family. My heart could rest easy all these years, knowing Josie was continuing what she came to this earth to do, be spoiled, and be loved.

Rest in peace Josephine, Dustmop, Peek-a-knees, Reeeeta.

We really did love you.

Our Hot Water Bottle

We are seeing a dog trainer to help get Yippee under control, so he can stop un-training Jingle. One of the assignments was to research what our dog was bred for, to help better understand his temperament and needs(yeah, we probably should have done that before we got him, but whatever).

Seems Chihuahuas were bred to be worshipped. Or at least to carry some sort of mystical spiritual powers. They were buried with their owners in ancient times, and there are pictures of them in hieroglyphics, etc.

They were also bred to be hot water bottles for invalids. They were therapy dogs before therapy dogs were cool.

We’ve spent the better part of this week attempting to teach him “down” to no avail. He is Mr. Alert. “Down” requires relaxation. He only ever does it for snuggling and for sleep. The day Riley and I brought him home to surprise Seth, that puppy stood in a little milk crate, so exhausted his eyes kept closing, resting his chin on the side. He never did give it up and lie down, the whole 1.5 hour ride home. He slept standing up.

He’s not having any part of “down” unless you plan on lying down with him, but he sure is toasty. He’s got the water bottle thing down pat.



Jingle’s tail has seen better days. The week before last at homeschool co-op, she was sitting on her mat, minding her own business, hoping some kid would drop a sandwich at lunch, when all hell broke loose.

Someone walked by, and she wagged her tail happily in response. When she did this, her tail swooped under a radiator, and came back out with a gluey gooey mousetrap, about the size of a car license plate, attached.

Jingle freaked and started spinning in a circle, trying to get away from it. I tried to get the trap off of her, but it was stuck tight. My fingers were getting covered in gooey glue. It was disgusting. So much for lunch.

Thankfully, Melinda had scissors with her (some homeschool moms are so prepared). I had to cut the trap off and in the process cut Jingle’s big fluffy tail, way down. Where she used to have a beautiful fan, she now has a nub.

She’s so embarrassed.

If you see her, be cool. Pretend not to notice.

And to any mice in the big old church building where co-op is held?

You’re welcome.

Yippee’s Photo Shoot

Why yes! My children did watch ET for the first time recently. How did you know?

This is actually the first time Seth has commissioned me to write a blog post. I have not figured out what my fee will be, but he’s gonna pay.

‘Cause I for one, have way more important things to do than sit around taking pictures of Chihuahuas all day. I don’t even like Chihuahuas.

Not even a little.

They’re not even cute.

The boy is lucky his mama has mad editing skilz. Looky here how I got rid of Yippe’s little red eye problem below. Voila!

I think Seth owes me about 100 kisses.

Yippee would only be too happy to deliver them.

Yippity Snip

This is the face of someone who is about to be neutered. We’ve held off, because the thought of complications, the thought of anything happening to this dog… let’s just say Seth lives for him. It would be bad. I know….it’s silly to worry about it. Dogs get neutered every day. Not a big deal.

But recently young Yip lifted his leg at the corner of my bed. My bellow of “NOOOOOOOOOOOO,” stopped him before he peed, but how many other little marks has be left around when we weren’t looking? And…last night I saw him humping Jingle’s arm. She was just lying on the floor, holding it out for him, ever accommodating. He comes up to her shin, but whatever.

He’s a darling dog. A snuggly little guy, who adores his people, and can’t bear to be out of our sight.

Hopefully he’ll still feel the same way about us after the snip snip.

Wish him luck.

Dogs and Kids

Yippee likes to sleep with his nose in Seth’s armpit.

Eventually he comes up for air.

Little Man loves his dog.

And then, we have the girls.

Jingle was over at her BFF’s the other day,(they like to romp together in our neighbor’s big fenced in yard) and when I went to get her, she was nowhere to be found. I knocked on the door, and the neighbor’s dog was inside. Apparantly she’d barked to come in. We don’t know if she wanted to come in because Jingle left, or if Jingle left because her friend went in. Either way, Jingle found a way to escape the fence and she was outta’ there. It’s a tall fence too. We don’t know how she did it.

I stood in the silent yard, attempting to stay calm, thinking, she’s got her tags on, she’s micro-chipped. Also thinking….how am I going to tell that little girl I can’t find her dog?

And that’s the thing about love isn’t it? If you do it, with all your heart, you risk loss. You are suseptable to being hurt.

I made my way down to the end of our neighbor’s driveway, and there was Jingle, sitting politely on our front steps, as if she was just waiting for me to let her in. She’d been “missing” roughly ten minutes. Good dog!

My children will one day lose their beloved pups. Hopefully a long, long long time from now.

But what they’ll learn, is the love…it will have been worth it.

Dogs of Dreamtime

I read Karen Shanley’s beautiful blog for a long time but somehow I’d never read her book. In researching for the class on dogs I’m teaching at the homeschool co-op, I was tickled to come across Dogs of Dreamtime and immediately started to read it.

Karen is a gifted writer, who has a rare combination of practicality while also making space for life’s mysteries. This book was seamless from start to finish. Never was I looking ahead to see how many more pages, never was I bored reading it. The relationships between Karen and the dogs in the book are intense, and complicated. As a reader you are not only on the edge of your seat, you learn a lot. As a writer, I was all…damn…that’s some good editing! I love how this story is put together!

There are people who like dogs, and there are people who are so deeply connected with dogs it’s otherworldly. Karen does a good job explaining herself as one of the latter in this memoir, even as she navigates some tough situations and choices she’s had to make around her dogs.

I absolutely loved Dogs of Dreamtime. My only regret is not having read it sooner!