Archive for January, 2009

Our Ever Expanding Kitchen

Most people coming to visit us bring their dogs with them. We have a wonderfully doggie-friendly home and welcome furry visitors.
The gathering place in our house when people come to visit is the kitchen. It’s big enough to accommodate the dogs…ours AND the visitors’.
The last two visitors we’ve had, the only two visitors we’ve had since losing more members of our pack, commented on how much bigger the kitchen had gotten since we moved things around and rearranged. We were puzzled for a moment. We hadn’t moved anything around. We didn’t rearrange anything. Not anything inanimate anyway.
We lost dogs – BIG dogs with big presence. Something we’d never thought about was it made our kitchen bigger; at least appear bigger.
I guess we did move things around and rearrange things; those things not being in the kitchen, but in our hearts and day-to-day routines.
It’s still hard for me on our off-lead walks or coming in from outside. On walks, I periodically take head counts to see who’s doing what where. On the way in the house, we take head counts to make sure someone doesn’t accidentally get left sitting on the deck.
With only five for the total count, it still seems to me I forgotten someone somewhere along the trail. Nine is a lot more than five. Even seven is a lot more than five.
It does take a lot less time to feed the dogs; to clean up after them; to clip toenails.
In the grand scheme of things, though, it doesn’t seem like our world (or kitchen) is expanding. It seems like it is shrinking.

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I think I’ve figured out why I’m having such a hard time with Ky’s diagnosis.
I have lots of experience with death. Ky is not the first dog I’ve had to euthanized. He will not be the last. He’s not the first, or even the second, I’ve lost to oesteosarcoma.
There have been losses that have shaken my core. One made me leave the board of a national rescue organization.
This is different.
The grief process with my preceding dogs has been private. I shared my experiences with family, close friends, certain clients – people of MY choosing.
With Ky it’s public.
Ky has been with me for the journey of the last nine years. He’s a big part of the reason we even embarked on the trip or arrived at this destination. He went to training school with me, both of us learning together. He went to Kinaesthetics training with me, both of us bonding our bodies together in ancient rhythm. He’s my Delta Pet Partner Therapy team partner. He’s my business partner. He’s my demo dog.

He’s MINE.

But as a training ambassador, he belongs to everyone.

The puppy owners whose puppies climb on him like a jungle gym in puppy class claim him as their own.

First Aid students who get to practice Snout-to-Tail assessments on him proclaim him theirs.
Students reading to him declare him a friend. The school staff declares him a member of the whole school community.
People see photos of him in the kayak, or sledding or canoeing or see him simply behaving in front of them and fall in love.

So now while the decision is MINE, it affects a whole lot of people. It’s no longer just about me and my comfort and feelings.
I have to consider a whole community. Do I tell the school now while he’s still asymptomatic? Do I wait until he shows a sign? two signs? Can no longer visit? Do I politely brush off frequent inquiries about him?

I want to avoid the poor pity energy that comes from people with news of terminal illness. But I want to be fair to everyone. I know his days are limited. I know each event could be the last which puts a special perspective on it for me. Should I share this with others?

Maybe keeping this information to myself is selfish. I get to enjoy the enlightened day to-day moments knowing they are precious and in a very limited supply. Others don’t.

But this is the way it should be and I should stop struggling with being selfish.

After all, HE IS MINE.

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Around here our lives revolve around wildlife and dogs, literally.
My husband, Mark, is the Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Northwoods Wildlife Center (NWC) in Minocqua, WI. We spend LOTS of hours there taking care of injured and orphaned wildlife. Sometimes it takes times away from our pack. Sometimes members of our pack lie quietly in Mark’s office while we attend to things. Trained dogs have the privilege of going lots of unusual places.
NWC is a non-profit always scrabbling for funding to keep food and medicine in animals’ mouths. Funny thing – wildlife doesn’t carry health or accident insurance.
One of the things we do for fund-raising is an amateur Photo Contest. While the categories are primarily wildlife and nature, a pets category was added. All proceeds benefit the work of the Northwoods Wildlife Center.

• Entry fee is $10 PER photo entry.
• Entry MUST be in a white, cream or beige 11” x 14” mat with 7.5” x 9.5” inner dimension (fitting an 8×10 photo).  We  WILL NOT accept framed pieces, photos without mats, or photos of smaller or larger size. Uniform entries are the only way to ensure fair, unbiased judging.
PHOTOS WILL NOT BE RETURNED. The Northwoods Wildlife Center will not be held responsible for the condition of your photo. Do not send your only copy.
• Each entry must have the following information attached to the back of the photo:

~Entrant’s name, address, phone number & e-mail address
~The Category entrant sees photo best fitting into
~Title for the photo entry
~There can be no identification on the front of your photo. Voting/judging is blind.
~This is an AMATUER photo contest. You must not make more than 25% of your annual income through photography in order to enter this contest.
~The winners of the 2008 Photo Contest will not be able to win in the category in which they won in a previous year.

Entries should be mailed to or dropped off in person:
Northwoods Wildlife Center
Attn: Beth Burns
8683 Blumenstein Rd
Minocqua, WI 54548

We cannot accept electronic entries at this time.

The top five (5) winners in each category will be notified by being mailed a certificate.
Anyone can be sent the winner’s list if a SASE is included with photo entry.
The First Place Winner’s photos in all categories will be shown at NWC throughout 2009.
The winner of the North American Wildlife Category will be NWC’s 2010 Artist of the Year.

2009 Categories
North American Wildlife…..$100.00 first prize
Nature……………………………..$100.00 first prize
Insects/Flowers…………………$50.00 first prize
Pets…………………………………..$50.00 first prize

The Northwoods Wildlife Center reserves the right to re-categorize or deny any photo entry.

Photos must be postmarked by February 1st, 2009 to be eligible for contest.

2009 Photo Gala is February 28th at the Campanile Center for the Arts.

Please e-mail Beth Burns with any questions you have about the contest: babnwc@hotmail.com or see
Northwoods Wildlife Center.

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I sent photos of the dogs sledding (see The F Word) to some friends – mostly friends I would call “dog people”. Many of them participate in dog sports with their dogs.
A person wrote back: “How on earth…. but, then again I forget the relationship you & your dogs have!”
That made me think about a thread fellow professional trainers have been discussing.
The sad fact is the general public doesn’t know what a trained dog looks like. Many people have asked me why my dog is so sad or what is wrong with it because he or she (or all of them) lie quietly and act mannerly when asked.
I’m always amazed at how many people have seen photos of my pack and asked how I managed to get 7 dogs to sit still to have their picture taken. They are shocked when I tell them I just told my dogs to sit; totally surprised it’s even possible without smoke and mirrors.
I often have clients voice their concerns about whether training will break their dog’s spirit.
Huh? Now it’s my turn to be shocked and surprised.
How is it we don’t recognize training or confuse it with sadness or broken spirit? Seriously, I’d like to know what happened.
With dog-owner rights being taking away left and right, we need to find out how public perceptions have gone so awry and set them right again. ASAP.

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