Monday, November 30, 2009

Potty Training... {and training... and training}

So my adorable fluffball, otherwise known as Bella, accompanied us on our three hour rainy day trip from Mesa to Thatcher today. We had an important birthday party because one of our little boys turned four. We now have a three-year-old, a four-year-old, and two five-year-olds. Yup, that's a total of four children. Add in the three pups (we haven't introduced you to Chloe, our border collie yet), the oversized cat, the Russian tortoises, the fish and the crab, and we have a full, interesting and entertaining clan.

Bella is a fantastic companion in the car (once you convince her that she is not allowed to ride co-pilot, that is). Jonas, the birthday boy, was thrilled to have Bella attend his celebration. Bella enjoyed the cold weather and got a bone as a treat for her car ride, which she proudly carried into the house, to have bogarted by her pup siblings. And Bella got to socialize at the park, which is an important part of her training.

After a very enjoyable day out, we walked back in the front door and.... Bella promptly peed on the floor in the entry. Chloe came to us potty trained, and Pivot was fully trained in about three weeks. A simple combination of crate training and bells on the back door for the dogs to alert us to their needs led to success with Pivot. Pivot uses the bells to let us know he needs to go. Bella, however, had a different purpose in mind for the bells, and uses them to let us know when she is thirsty. So she can go outside and drink. And later come inside to pee.

So here I ask you to share some potty training tips that have worked for you and your own pups.

Friday, November 27, 2009

{Healing} Paws

It's not very often in life that we get a firm affirmation that we are on the right track, that what we are doing is what we were meant to do. Most of the time we just have that feeling, or that faith. Some of us just move forward off of a hope and a prayer. But this week, we received that affirmation that what we have planned for our lives, and for our pups, is exactly what we are intended to be doing.

As part of the puppies' training, we take them to lots of different places to help socialize them and get them accustomed to being in many different environments while still being expected to follow their commands.

Pivot is farther along in his training, and Kevin is able to take him to work with him about once a week. This weeks' trip to work resulted in a life changing opportunity for Pivot and one of Kevin's customers. A woman started to walk into his shop and exited when she saw Pivot was inside. Pivot is a fairly mellow dog. In fact, his name came from his habit of "pivoting" on his bottom to turn around because it was easier than getting all the way up. It is his mere size that intimidates others.

This woman was headed into the mechanics' bathroom- if she would brave going into that bathroom rather than be in the same building as Pivot, you know her fear of dogs was very real! Kevin asked what was wrong, and she explained that she had been mauled by a dog a long 25 years ago. But to her, the fear was real, and the memory raw as she took off her sunglasses to show her scars.

Kevin assured her he would move Pivot so she could safely use the restroom. In doing so, she witnessed Pivot's obedient and calm demeanor, how he followed Kevin's commands to come when he was told, and to lay down calmly. Then a conversation ensued about Pivot's training and our hopes for he and Bella to become certified therapy dogs. This must have comforted the woman a great deal, because she asked if she could meet him.

At first, she reached out a single trembling finger and touched his ear. Just a quick and short contact, as fear and determination both surfaced. I can't tell you what happened next, though I presume it had something to do with Pivot's puppy dog eyes and wrinkly grin, because before long, the woman sat on the floor and let Pivot snuggle his head into her lap, and she sat petting him for quite some time.

It was the first time she had gone within arms' distance of a dog in two and a half decades. This experience, which proved to be just as therapeutic for us as it was for her, ended with a kiss. She allowed Pivot to "give her love," on the same face that had been mauled by a different dog all those years ago. And the two of them showed us that this is truly our destiny.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fulfilling Dreams

Let us introduce ourselves. We are Pivot and Bella, and our people have dreamed about having us for a long, long time. We are both young puppies, who love to play, explore, follow our people everywhere they go, and invade the most personal of spaces. Here are a few things you should know about us: we are LARGE, as well we should be. After all, we are a great dane and a saint bernard. Our people made the mistake of trying to "free feed" us, and we ate a 40 pound bag of dog chow in about five days. Our people realized that was anything but free and decided to put us on a feeding schedule, measuring our food out according to weight. Speaking of weight, we weigh 57 pounds (for Pivot) and 34 pounds (for Bella) at a mere three months old. We love stuffed animals and things that crinkle, we really like electrical cords, we love chasing our smallest people around (we're so glad that our big people have four small people for us to play with, because play we do!), and we love the oversized chair that our people bought (they must have known we would need a large chair- aren't they sweet?!).

Our owners have told us that we are going to be therapy dogs. We aren't sure yet what that means, but right now it means we have to practice sitting and staying a lot, and we get treats when we do. We're so young that we get easily distracted, though, and our people have to have a lot of patience with us. We've heard our people consulting with puppy trainers, and we will start formal training after the holidays.

When we are certified, we would like to go visit children in hospitals and other facilities. Please check in, because we will be sharing our misadventures in training, in our explorations, in our interactions with people, and in our growth and development.