October, 2009

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Jingle and the Pussy Cats

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The night we brought Jingle home, we kept her on a leash for the first couple of hours, so the cats could get used to her. Jingle has been around cats, but our cats had never experienced a dog.

Jingle was so disoriented to be in yet another new place. She’d had a long drive. She wasn’t listening. She tugged at the leash and lunged repeatedly toward the cats. 

“No Jingle!” I pulled her back, over and over. The cats hissed. 

Jingle had thus far been a very submissive dog. I’d watched her slink away from an unfriendly cat at 4 Paws.

“Let them work it out,” my gut whispered.

We let her off the leash. She intruded. The cats puffed up, hissed. Her head went down, tail between her legs. This has happened a lot over the last few days.

But last night Riley was sick. She kneeled at the toilet bowl four hours, waiting to throw up. Jingle laid and I sat on the floor beside her. The cats were in and out. The calico stopped to sniff Jingle’s tail, then, her nose. Jingle did not move. The gray cat stood a foot away from her, the closest he’s come. Still as a statue, she let them be.  Was it because Riley was sick? Did she somehow know not to be wild? Not to push it?

Riley stayed home from school today. She’s already feeling much better. 

Jingle is jovially, once again, testing the cats.

So Soft

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Back in 1996, when we were dating, Todd took me to the NY State Fair to see Wynona Judd in concert. Don’t ask. We’ll save Wynona for another day, okay? 

While at the state fair, I fed a real live giraffe. The poor thing was cooped up in a tent, and I put a coin in a giraffe food gumball machine and fed it the pellets that came out. The giraffe leaned waaaay down and touched its lips to my hand, and I’d never in my life felt anything so soft. 

Until now.

Jingle’s muzzle is as soft as a giraffe’s lips.

Sometimes I just sit beside her, holding her jaw in my hand. This kind of softness is insane! It’s addictive!  



The muzzle.

Perhaps now you understand better why I let HT do most of the training at 4 Paws.

I can’t handle this kind of cute.

The Pack Has Spoken

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Today we did a practice run, walking to school with Jingle. I had the leash. Riley had the second leash(a kid’s leash) which attaches to the harness, and Seth held onto the harness handle. Todd walked behind us, because Jingle can’t focus as well on her “heel” with people she loves walking in front of her.

Jingle apparantly has not seen many squirrels in her day. Squirrels probably avoided the grounds at 4 Paws, where there were over a hundred dogs and three cats. She wants to lunge at squirrels. She did it a few times on solo walks first with me and then with Todd. This time when she did it, she had four faces bent over hers, “Nooooooooooo.”  We all said it jingle squirrelat once, with Seth and I holding fast to her muzzle. 

Jingle’s ears flew back, she looked up with her big eyes, “Gulp.”    

I walked her again by myself after dropping the kids back home. There were squirrels. She wanted them, but she looked to me for treats instead.

Her focus on me was almost frantic,

 “Help! I’m dying here! I’m heeling! Give me a treat! I’m trying not to chase that squirrel!”

Good dog!

She got her treats.

She got the message.

Now That’s What I’m Talkin’ About

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Riley worked very hard in an attempt to complete the ten days of school work she missed while we were at 4 Paws training. She finished everything but the advanced reading. Just before we left, Riley was placed in the gifted category at school, testing higher in cognitive ability than the gifted teacher could remember a student ever testing. This means increased work, and work that is unfamiliar to her. She is perfectly capable of doing the work, but it was just horrendous to attempt it in the hotel room when she was tired and out of her element. She finished math, science, social studies, etc. After a couple of tries (and good “meltdown” practice for Jingle) we saved the advanced reading and associated writing assignments for home.  Here she is, working on them at the dining room table yesterday, Jingle by her side. It was morning, and Riley wasn’t tired, and the fussing was kept to a minimum but nobody told Jingle to lie down there. No one gave her a treat. She stayed until Riley finished her work.


Good dog.

Jingle’s Journey

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

jingle graduationYesterday Jingle graduated from 4 Paws for Ability and is now officially a service dog for Riley. Jingle and her sisters were rescued from a shelter in Kentucky, and brought to 4 Paws at just six weeks of age. After being there a short while, she was taken in by a foster family who taught her basic obedience. After that, she was sent to a women’s prison where she received even further training by one of the inmates. Then, it was back to 4 Paws until she met Riley. All that, and Jingle’s just 11 months old!

On graduation day, the two girls who had worked with Jingle in her foster family came to see her. Jingle forgot everything she ever learned. She did the happy Snoopy dance, jumped, and peed a little on her mat. She was so very thrilled to see them. The blur below captures the excitement.  

Jingle foster family

She was clearly well loved. jingle foster family 2

After a minute she settled down, and everyone loved on her. Jingle thought she’d died and gone to heaven. jingle foster family 3

What are the odds a puppy dumped at a shelter in Kentucky would wind up at 4 Paws for Ability in Ohio, be taken in by a loving foster family, spend time in jail, and eventually become a service dog for a little girl with Asperger’s? 

A couple of staff members at 4 Paws were in tears telling Jingle good-bye. She is such a sweet dog.

We are so thankful to everyone who has loved her along the way to Riley.


*If you have a dog that pees a little when it is excited to see people, do not correct them or scold them or you will make it worse. Most dogs outgrow this, but if you punish them they get nervous and the problem will escalate. (Luckily, we have hardwoods and not carpet)!

Day 10

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Today we finish up at 4 Paws for Ability and head back to Cleveland, with Jingle.

So many beautiful families were in our class. So many beautiful dogs.

Here is Jingle with Monty, Sally’s daughter Margaret’s seizure alert dog.

This is Wonder, a mobility assistant dog. He is a Golden Doodle, and is as big as a pony. His little girl is soooo tiny. They are adorable together.

This is Yuki, he’s going home with Zachary who is deaf. Yuki is a Shinook. He is very intense. Very smart. He and Zachary bonded instantly and it was beautiful to see the dog respond to the family’s use of sign language so quickly.

Freeway is one handsome guy. His little girl is nine years old, just like Riley.

Comet and Ryan

Sweet Knobby is going back to California today with his little boy.

Margaret and Monty. How cute are they?

Luke and Clarabel, they live near Cleveland!

Rolo and Daegan

Jared and Juneau, heading back to Long Island.

Kayelynn and Tootsie.

All of the families in our class have been through so much. All of us worked hard to fund raise for our dogs. Today we bring home furry bundles of (well trained) pure love. 

I will never forget  the families and the staff at 4 Paws.

I will never forget the dogs.


Taylor and BoBo (above)

Noah and Jelly Bean

I will never forget all the people who helped us get here.

Thank you so much.


Day 9

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

PIMG0001Today we worked on more obedience and went over many possible scenarios that might play out when we get home, like meeting other dogs (neighbor’s or friend’s). Then, Jeremy the trainer put the fear of God in us about a condition called  gastric torsion, which can happen if a dog gulps down its food too fast and then runs around playing wildly after a meal. What happens is the food sits like a huge heavy lump in the dog’s stomach, and then when they get running around, the stomach can flip, twisting the tubes where the esophagus and the small intestine connect to it, creating gas build up and bloat. Jeremy lost a beloved German Shepherd to the condition and his main reason in scaring us half to death was to drive home the point, “Listen to your intuition if you think something is wrong with your dog.” His vet blew off his concerns.

Hmm….a doctor blowing off a “parent’s” concerns. Sounds vaguely familiar.

Listen to your Inner Guidance. Got it. Absolutely. Will do.

Tomorrow is the big test. If Jingle passes she is officially our service dog and we can take her home! She’ll be at the mall with Todd, (since between the two of us she loves him best) demonstrating all the commands. She’ll be walking through crowded stores, dealing with strangers, navigating the food court, sitting under a table, heeling, sitting, staying down. She’ll be doing the elevator again I’m sure (please don’t pee Jingle or you won’t pass)! Todd has to demonstrate he can handle her well.

Here we have a pic of Jingle sleeping during training, one paw on Todd.

paw on todd

He calls her Jingle-ingle-ling, with a swaggery southern drawl like that song, “I gotta little change in my pocket going jingle-ingle-ling.”  That’s not going to get old.  Did I mention he’s not southern? PIMG0007

Yes, she loves HT, but she knows who her girl is. Any time Riley comes near her the tail goes wild, and today at training Riley crossed the room on her way to the bathroom and Jingle never took her eyes off of her. She watched the bathroom door until Riley came out and watched her again as she walked all the way back to the play area.

So, if all goes well, tomorrow we head home… and Jingle meets the cats. Insert scary music.


Pray for us.PIMG0005

Hotel Nighty Night

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

hotel nighty night

Day 8

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Jingle peed in the elevator! She got so scared, it just kinda happened, even though she had gone potty on the way into the mall. I’ve not spent so much time in a mall since I was a teenager with permed hair working at the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City, NY. I was sixteen, blowing all my money on clothes and hair products. Ah, those were the days.

Wait, where was I? Ah yes, Jingle peed.

Even though she is a well trained dog, there are always going to be situations she is unfamiliar with. She is not a robot. She is a dog, and she has fears and feelings. This is why it is important to get her out as much as possible, in as many situations as we can while we are here, and after we go home. The great thing about Jingle is she’s a quick learner. First time in this particular elevator, she pees. Second time. She was fine. She was scared of a certain set of stairs at the mall too, but we went over them just a couple of times and she did much better.

One dog in our group freaked out over a huge cardboard cut out of a cat. Can you blame him? Ack!  

The thing Jingle hated the most at the mall today was a men’s clothing store called Holister(or something like that). It is dark, with loud music pumping, and headless manikins  all over the place. Jingle held her “heel” command perfectly but was too scared to even take the treats I was offering her. What kind of store opearates in the dark? It is weird Jingle. I agree. Spooky.  

After training today we walked around the mall a little longer with Riley holding the second leash, and Seth holding the handle on her harness. Quite a crew we are becoming.

We’re back at the hotel now, chilling out. The kids are watching Arthur and Jingle is snoozing on her Mutt Matt. The Mutt Matt is Jingle’s “place.” A “place” is a little rug or matt the dog uses when put in a stay type mode. It is the spot she will stay on in class if she goes to school. The “place” command is a stay command. They are allowed to move around, stand, stretch, but they have to keep at least two paws on the matt. Jingle will push it, she will be completely off the matt with just her two hind paws on the outside seam, but she’s technically still on her “place,” so we can’t get on her. If Jingle has been put in a “place” command she has to stay for as long as we tell her, until we give her the “free” command.  It can be minutes or hours. All of the dogs understand “place” and it is  incredible how they stay on those matts, even if someone deliberately drops a treat a few feet away to test them.

It will never cease to amaze me how you can have 13 dogs in one room, all of them behaving. Sorry the image below is so grainy. The battery in our digital camera died (HT is out buying a new one) and we had to use our video camera for pics, but look at these dogs! There are 11 in the shot and two more off camera.  They are not on their “places” but have been given the “down” command while the poodle on the left practices heeling. Jingle is in the middle, head down, a perfect little angel. Good dog!

down practice

Day 7

Monday, October 19th, 2009

I know it makes no sense, but when a staff member at 4 Paws showed me a picture she carries of Jingle on her cell phone, and said, “She’s been one of the staff favorites,” I felt such pride! As if I had something to do with her good looks and winning personality.


Jingle is such a good dog! Today we practiced more obedience, and the “touch” command. When a child is upset/ crying, the dog is taught to touch them on the leg,

“Tap, tap, hello? Look at me kid! Whaddya say we change the subject? Aren’t I cute? Got any treats?”   

We are having to modify the command, because we found out today (thankfully on me) Jingle’s nails are powerful! It’s like she’s digging a rake into your thigh. So, Jingle is only touching Riley’s sneaker for now. We will work on touching the side of her paw, to the side of Riley’s leg, more like a brush with the back of her paw rather than the clawing action she’s got going on now. Jingle is intense. You tell her “touch,” and she wants to do it. With gusto!

“See what a good girl I am? I will really touch like I mean it!”


Yesterday we watched the dogs practice tethering. It was amazing. The tether strap is attached to the child’s belt, or vest, and the dogs lay on the ground and will not budge.  This gives kids with autism so much more freedom out in public. The parents don’t have to constantly hold onto their hands.  Riley doesn’t need tethering, but Todd and I both helped by acting as the kids for the training. We tugged and pulled and those sweet dogs, just did what they were trained to do. Even if they were pulled, they stayed in the down position, being dragged slowly across the floor if need be.  For those autistic kids who are escape artists, it is like lugging a 50-100 pound weight depending on the dog. It really slows them down. All of the dogs have had basic training in tethering but we were fine tuning. Tethering is going to open up the world for these families.  

One last thing. The kids got to see newborn puppies! These beautiful Goldens were born last weekend. It is exhausting, but we are truly having a wonderful time here.  

Gotta run. The moms are getting together at a restaurant tonight while the dads hold the fort. Tomorrow the guys will go out. Gotta go get all gussied up. Ha! Kidding. I have nothing gussy here. I’m not that gussy a gal. Loopy, perhaps, but not gussy. 

Catch you tomorrow!


*Thank you to Sally Gaer for the wonderful photos I lifted from her Facebook page!