Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Canine Graduates Seek Meaning Too!

by Lorraine May, M.A.

Many of us take our best pals to a variety of classes such as obedience, good manners or how to walk on a leash. Our dogs participate in activities including agility, rally and fly ball. They become service dogs, working dogs and audiences for young readers.

We teach our dogs to sit, weave and retrieve. We reward them for listening attentively and following directions. We enjoy their company and sometimes even depend upon them for our health or our very lives.

I recently enrolled in a Canine Freestyle Dog Dancing class with my 12 pound, 5 year old Rat Terrier. My intention is to spend time with him and have fun. I also like that his intense energy and quick mind are being channeled into an activity at which he seems to be naturally talented. My observation is that he is in complete harmony. Shadow is learning to circle, jump, wiggle and bow on cue. I am considering entering a competition if it suits us as a team.

 We humans tend to focus on our own goals. We seek involvement in these endeavors for a variety of reasons including as a way to spend quality time with our dogs, to mentally stimulate them or to provide adequate exercise. At times the payoff also includes earning a medal, title or certificate. Having a sense of our dog’s goals allows us to avoid the stress that can accompany our activities, particularly those which are evaluated.

Sometimes we lose sight of what has meaning for our dogs at ‘graduation’. Mine have made me aware of the following:

·         To learn how to learn so I can please my human.

·         To communicate my needs.

·         To learn to live well in the human world.

·         To be allowed to follow my natural instincts as much as possible.

·         To experience love, safety, joy and appreciation.






Friday, May 10, 2013

Justice: after three months he's almost kissing me - WHAT!?!

Steady Progress

I cannot tell you how happy I am to continue telling Justice's story filled with so many successes. It seems that after his regressive week, he has moved forward without hesitation. I am thrilled but not surprised!

Justice has great fun in the kitchen now, acknowledging that it is his safe place. I still believe he is young as he loves tearing apart the boxes and towel rolls I donate to play time. He squeaks all of the toys wholeheartedly too. One day I can home to find the 24 cans from a case of cat food spread around the kitchen as if he had been playing hockey. The box was destroyed. How silly of me to set them on the floor in HIS room.

He is also redecorating the kitchen by tearing out the broken floor tiles - thanks, man. Sometimes I can hear him running around and having a great time when I am elsewhere in the house. Often toys and paper and kongs and nylabones are dragged around and left throughout the kitchen. All of this makes me so happy to know he is wildly playing and enjoying himself.

Sometimes he plays so hard that he actually moves his crate around - so funny!

Trusting Me

Around the middle of March, Justice began spending more time out of his crate when I was in the kitchen. He even would look at me from the side of his face if I was talking. He seemed to like my singing too.

He became very interested in the dishwasher. He was on hand to smell and lick as I loaded and unloaded. I allowed this since it brought him physically so close to me. I'm making it clear that he doesn't have to trust me but I want him to want to trust me.

Our morning ritual began to strengthen around the end of March. Instead of being fully in his crate when I entered first thing in the morning, he would be peeking slightly around the corner to see me enter. I reinforced his bravery with treats thrown away from him and of course his breakfast. He was tolerating my hand getting closer when setting down bowls. He also began holding longer eye contact without turning away immediately.

He no longer needs to be in between me and the crate so that he can easily run in. He wanders all over the kitchen when I am in there, often sneaking up to smell my shoes or clothing.

Dog Friends

He is interested in and seems unafraid of the resident dogs. He touches noses and smells them as they go by or stand near his crate. Medications are delivered in dollops of cream cheese so he gets some too. He stays forward as I smoosh some on his crate. We have photos of him licking it off.

I make it a point to demonstrate the trust the other dogs have in me. I always pet them and talk to them when they are in the kitchen. If they are near his crate, I pet them in a way that my hand is close to him. When he smells them, he also smells me.

Justice has not met dogs out of the crate yet. I want it to be a total non-issue when he does. We are getting close.

Augie, a very friendly 7 month old Golden mix came to visit. They had a great time meeting and greeting through the crate. There are some fun pictures of them hanging out.

justice & augie
Justice with his friend Augie!

Puddy, a young black Lab with a traumatic history, came to board in April. He spent most of his time lying in front of Justice's crate. I thought they must be comparing stories and recoveries. Justice seemed very excited to meet Puddy.

JoJo, a 1.5 year old Golden boy, also brought out the best in Justice. They both offered lots of play bows and mirrored movements.

No Aggression

I have not seen any aggression. This tells me that I have honored his space adequately and proceeded slowly enough for him to feel safe. I witness regularly that he prefers withdrawing to the back of the crate when he is worried, which is an excellent choice.


Justice seems to recognize his name and will sometimes look when called. By the end of March he seemed almost happy and relaxed. He seems to associate me with treats and safety. He is less forthcoming with others yet but makes more eye contact while still remaining in his small crate at the rear of the big crate.

For awhile I was concerned about his eyesight. I think it was stress that made them seem like he couldn't focus. Happily, they seem fine and he looks at me with both of them now.

His Neck Wound

The hair has not grown back but it seems to be healed. I still have a dilemma regarding a collar and leash though as I don't want to spook him after all of the progress he has made. I have a comfortable cloth collar/leash that I will begin to have nearby to desensitize him to it.


Justice began sitting next to where I was standing. Then one day he was lying down. He also began to take steps toward me while I was watching.

On April 21st, Justice tap danced in the morning when I entered. He was so excited and happy that he simply danced in place. He was expressing his joy and eager anticipation for what the day might hold for him. I can tell you that I have been touched by him very often but this - well, what better thing could happen?

But each day since then has been a day of celebration with more and more milestones. He touches his nose to my pant leg. He comes forward as I slouch down, asking 'how can I help you, sir?' He reaches his nose toward my hand which lies flat along my leg.


And on May 6th he brought his nose close to my mouth almost in a kiss.

I still allow him to make all of the moves and they are coming faster and more courageous now. We have built a very solid foundation. He knows I 'get' him because I don't ask him to do what he cannot.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

$2500 in matching funds available for Fleet Footed Flash's Medical Fund

$2500 in matching funds is available through a very generous Anonymous Donor who loved Flash very much! Please donate now and your donation is worth twice as much. So far we have raised $878 toward Flash's $3500 medical bill. Flash's full story below....

Buy Now $10

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Or mail a check to Misha May, PO Box 151166, Lakewood, CO 80215-1166.


I picked Flash up from a local shelter when he was just 6 months old. He was with Misha May Foundation Dog Training and Rescue until his kidneys failed and heFlash was mercifully euthanized in his foster's beautiful yard on April 20, 2013. Flash was always super smart and sweet, athletic and anxious. He was never lucky enough to be adopted but we cared for him until his time came because Misha May always believes that with enough time the right person will come along.

We are all devastated by his premature death. Although the exact cause of the kidney failure wasn't determined, it was discovered through x-rays and 3 days of emergency treatments that his kidneys were half the size they should have been. Many conditions were tested for and ruled out. Dr. Shelly Brown at Harmony and Dr. Liz O'Rourke of Animal Urgent Care, both in Arvada, gave him the royal treatment.

Even with their generous discounts as well as the discounted services of a surgical specialist, our bill is $3500. Once again we call upon you, our wonderful supporters, to help us. Please donate what you can toward his bill. I find it hard to ask yet again for donations following your generosity for Buddy and Reina. But as you know, we give each animal the chance they deserve and we hoped that because he seemed healthy and was so young, that he would pull through.

Flash was fortunate to have 2 foster homes which backed each other up. When Imara had to travel, he stayed with Barbi and Antony and their dogs. Flash and resident black Lab Libby were best buds. Flash was surrounded by these friends in his last hours.

When he was 6 months old, Flash's owners did not claim him when animal control called them, having found Flash roaming at-large and having taken him to the shelter. He was able to clear 6' fences and then play keep-away. He was deemed unadoptable by the shelter because this can be a difficult behavior to change and/or live with.

We thought Flash was a Border Collie mix, but we were never sure. We also wondered if he was part Husky because he loved to escape and cover ground. Someone thought he might be a Kelpie because he was intense.

Flash went from a highly anxious, fence jumper to a well-mannered lovable dude with the folks and dogs he knew and loved. I have to believe that he knew he was deeply loved with multiple homes and families. He will be waiting for quite a few of us at the Rainbow Bridge.

By the way, Flash lived with Buddy, the German Shepherd who passed away recently, at my house when they were both my foster dogs. Buddy had also been anxious and a fence jumper. Buddy was very kind to Flash and they were friends. I'm certain Buddy invited him to a fence-jumping championship on Saturday afternoon.