"One of my favourite books and I love this excerpt from it. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. We have it available for purchase in the store and to borrow from our library. I have been thinking about this whole concept a lot lately, and just how much better life would be for dogs if humans took the time to understand them and look at things from their perspective as well"
Imagine you live on a planet where the dominant species is far more intellectually sophisticated than human beings but often keeps humans as companion animals. They are called the Gorns. They communicate with each other via a complex combination of telepathy, eye movements and high-pitched squeaks, all completely unintelligible and unlearnable by humans, whose brains are prepared for verbal language acquisition only. What humans sometimes learn is the meaning of individual sounds by repeated association with things of relevance to them. The Gorns and humans bond strongly but there are many Gorn rules which humans must try to assimilate with limited information and usually high stakes.
You are one of the lucky humans who lives with the Gorns in their dwelling. Many other humans are chained to small cabanas in the yard. They have become so socially starved that they cannot control their emotions when a Gorn goes near them. Because of this behaviour, the Gorns agree that they could never be House-Humans. They are too excitable.
The dwelling you share with your Gorn family is filled with numerous water-filled porcelain bowls, complete with flushers. Everytime you try to urinate in one, though, any nearby Gorn attacks you. You learn to only use the toilet when there are no Gorns present. Sometimes they come home and stuff your head down the toilet for no apparent reason. You hate this and start sucking up to the Gorns when they come home to try to stave this off, but they view this as increasing evidence of your guilt of some unknown act.
You are also punished for watching videos, reading certain books, talking to other human beings, eating pizza or cheesecake, writing letters. These are all considered behavior problems by the Gorns. To avoid going crazy, once again you wait until they are not around to try doing anything you wish to do. While they are around, you sit quietly, staring straight ahead. Because they witness this good behaviour you are so obviously capable of, they attribute to "spite" they video watching and other transgressions which occur when you are along. Obviously you resent being left alone, they figure. You are walked several times a day and left crossword puzzle book to do (you have never used them because you hate crosswords; the Gorns think you're ignoring them out of revenge).
Worst of all, you like them. They are, after all, often nice to you. But when you smile at them, they punish you, likewise for shaking hands. If you apologize, they punish you again. You have not seen another human since you were a small child. When you see one on the street you are curious, excited and sometimes afraid. You really don't know how to act. So, the Gorn you live with keeps you away from other humans. Your social skills never develop.
Finally, you are brought to "training" school. A large part of the training consists of having your air briefly cut off by a metal chain around your neck. They are sure you understand every squeak and telepathic communication they make because sometimes you seem to get it right. You are guessing and hate the training. You feel pretty stressed out a lot of the time. One day, you see a Gorn approaching with the training collar in hand. You have PMS, a sore neck, and you just don't feel up to the baffling coercion about to ensue. You tell them in your sternest voice to please leave you alone and go away. The Gorns are shocked by this unprovoked aggressive behaviour. They thought you had a good temperament.
They put you in one of their vehicles and take you for a drive. You watch the attractive planetary landscape going by and wonder where you are going. The vehicle stops, you are led into a building filled with the smell of human sweat and excrement. Humans are everywhere in small cages. Some are nervous, some depressed, most watch the goings on from their prisons. Your Gorns, with whom you have lived your entire life, hand you over to strangers who drag you to a small room. You are terrified and yell to your Gorn family to help you. They turn and walk out the door of the building. You are held down and given a lethal injection. It is, after all, the humane way to do it.
We should brush our dog's teeth regularly and it can be a bit frustrating for both us and our dogs to start. You will want to ensure that you take the time to positively introduce this so that it can be stress free for both of you. I recommend that you first start by having your dog comfortable while you handle their mouth (you should do this for overall handling, not just their mouths). To do this, follow the below steps:
Once your dog is comfortable with having their mouths handled, you can begin to introduce brushing their teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specific for dogs – you should never use a human product. The toothpaste is flavoured, so that dogs actually enjoy it. Before putting the toothbrush to your dog’s mouth, let them investigate the brush for a minute, allowing them to lick the toothpaste. At this point all you are trying to do is introduce the toothbrush, the toothpaste and the experience itself to your dog.
At first, start to lightly brush a few front teeth and even a couple back teeth. Do this in short sessions, every day to get the dog comfortable with having the toothbrush in their mouth. Stay calm and praise your dog throughout each session. Ensure you do not push the dog to get fussy or irritated – keep each session as short as your dog needs. It is also beneficial for the dog to understand a sit or down to help keep them settled during the session. Once your dog is comfortable with the toothbrush, follow the below steps to brush their teeth:
Good dental care and healthy teeth go a long way in keeping your dog happy and healthy!
Guinniss and I at his birthday Meet n Greet
It started when I noticed him shaking his head and not responding to my voice. I realized he was losing his hearing. And then the walks became harder and I started noticing he was stiff; slow to stand up and quieter in his ways. He was getting old and his time was becoming precious and limited. This amazing dog that was my first dog I got on my own, that had been with me through such a transitional time of my life, that had guided my life, inspired dogma and had taught me so much. I remember the last turn back to the parking lot from one of his favourite walks at Fish Creek. He kept stopping and his leg was dragging. I walked back to the truck slowly with him, tears rolling down my cheeks and began thinking about how this would be his last walk at this spot. I cried because I worried about his pain. I cried because I did not want to think about this next life stage with him. I cried because I wanted him to be with me longer and could not think about walks there without him. I cried because I was not ready and wanted to do more with him. And then I realized that I could do more. I have created a bucket list for myself as I believe that life truly is too short. I have some lifelong goals and then do a yearly bucket list on New Year's Eve instead of resolutions. I do it so that I make sure to experience life and get out and enjoy it. So, why not do this same thing for Guinniss?
Kris and Guinniss on the beach
My partner, Kris, and I immediately fell in love with this idea and how we could make sure each day mattered. We developed a list that outlined a variety of activities, items and places that we knew Guinniss had to experience or ones that we wanted him to experience more of. Our goal was to ensure that we didn't let time fly by as quickly as it does. We all know what this is like; you get caught up in your day to day activities and forget about what really matters. We did not want to forget and we wanted to ensure the focus was Guinniss.
Guinniss amongst all his gifts
What an amazing journey it has been. I feel like I have had some of my greatest moments with Guinniss during his bucket list adventures. It has deepened my appreciation for him and words cannot express how it feels to see his joy during these times. He's been so happy and I feel like he knows we are doing all of this for him and that he is grateful. From the simple times of watching his eyes light up as we prepare him a steak, to documenting some of his items in a photo shoot with Brindleberry Custom Pet Photography, to my favourite time of watching him run down the beach with tears in my eyes from the love that swelled up in my heart (click here to watch a video of his beach running).
Guinniss on his jungle adventure in long grass
It has been hard at times. I found it very emotional and hard to leave our beach vacation in Tofino, knowing that this was likely the last time I would see his paw prints in the sand. We have been going through this list for the past year and a half and officially completed it this past weekend at Guinniss's 13th birthday party. It was an emotional day on a few levels and felt kind of bittersweet to check off his last two items (we had a meet n greet at dogma, got him out again for a steak dinner in the mountains and tracked down some cows). But he is 13 years old and what a privilege to have had him by my side for this long.
At Spray Lakes; one of his long time favourites
What an honour it is to have these animals in our lives and how small of a gesture it is to ensure they get to enjoy their lives to the fullest. It reminds me of this quote, "He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." ~Anonymous
Getting close to some cows
Creating Guinniss's bucket list taught me that we must do more for our dogs at all times. A bucket list shouldn't happen just when they are old, but should be an ongoing part of their lives. They are stuck with whatever we provide them. And a daily walk around the neighbourhood or to a dog park is not enough. Get them out. Let them meet new people. Take them out into nature. Give them time to watch wildlife. Bring them along on your vacations. Take time to just rest beside them and feel them breathe. And for goodness sakes, let them taste some different foods outside of their meals or just the same old treats.
Leading the way
We have begun this with our three other dogs now and know it will grow into some exciting adventures. I initially started the bucket list to honour Guinniss, but it has grown to so much more. In a short time it has touched many lives, inspired other bucket lists and helped encourage others to focus on spending quality time with their pets. Life is too short, but our dogs are here just a small fraction of that time. The quality of their lives depends entirely on us. They come into our lives, support us with everything we do and provide the purest form of unconditional love. A bucket list is just a small way to return some of that love to them. Try it. You won't regret it and I know you will deepen your relationship because of it.
Guinniss's Bucket List:
Thank you Guinniss, for all that you have done. I am ready for the next phase and will value each minute with you. They may be quieter times now, but I know we both feel at peace <3. We will enjoy this final stage together, a we will do whatever we can to keep you happy and comfortable.
Think a bucket list is a great idea and want to capture it in pictures? Holly at Brindleberry Custom Pet Photography has a package for you to do just that! What an incredible treasure and keepsake.
We had recently lost our dog Nicki, who had been a family member for 14 years. I was heart-broken and not having a dog in our lives was making me miserable and apparently, according to family around me, very cranky. It was time to get another dog. During a blizzard I convinced everyone (somehow) we should drive to Petsmart in Beacon Hill to look at the puppies. As it turned out Oops-A-Daisy had not gotten there due to the storm. For some reason I decided we should drive to the Petsmart on MacLeod Trail.
We walked in and there must have been about 10 puppies there. They were all sitting at the front of the cage wagging their tails and jumping – enjoying all the attention they were getting. Then I spotted one little puppy at the back of the cage – all alone – the saddest little puppy I had ever seen. And I know without a doubt that Abby had 'found us and a home'.
Abby was one of ARF's -31 degree litter and was an insecure, and fearful little puppy. We brought her home and I was determined to help her in any way that we could and I started phoning around for information on classes, playtimes, advice from any place I could get it. . .Fortunately for Abby I called dogma and spoke to Megan. We talked about confidence building, fearfulness, the ways that puppies learn, training options , and playclasses. She was so knowledgeable, and understanding I knew that's where we needed to go. She recommended we start with Puppy Playtime.
Our first playtime – yikes – I recall having to carry Abby in and out because she wouldn't even walk in the door and for the first few minutes I'm sure she wanted to dig a hole in the wall to hide. That didn't last long though – I guess both of us felt the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming – that she blossomed. Everyone was so friendly and kind. As I met other dog owners I soon realized that most of them are 'dogma regulars' and as far as I was concerned, that was for good reason. We then and there became regulars at Puppy Playtime and registered for some classes. As we moved through the levels (Puppy Class, Puppy Spirit and a Fear and Reactivity class – which gave us useful tools for understanding) Abby's confidence and mine increased in heaps and bounds. The classes were all so positive, and Megan, Drae and the rest of the staff reiterated time and time again to always set these puppies up for success. That to me was the bottom line. I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many questions I asked the staff – everyone was always so patient and would offer suggestions – 'try this' or you could 'try this'. Abby and I could tell immediately that these were all people who genuinely love dogs – and really what more do you need to know !! We became so confident we even got involved in an Elvis' Hound Dog routine (this was a huge thing for Abby – crowds, strange people) which was a great bonding experience for us and we had a blast. She learned how to weave in that routine – and she proudly displays it every chance she gets! (sometimes when you aren't even expecting it !)...
Abby is a sweet gentle little dog – gaining confidence all the time – we still have some issues that we need to deal with but intend on working through these in upcoming classes and to continue on with our successes. As far as playtime is concerned she now has a 'BFF"- Khali, and will even encourage shy dogs to 'come out of the corner'..'sometimes trying to drag them out by the scruff of the neck'.. (Drae always laughs at that).. I guess we are now dogma Regulars ourselves.
Note from Megan: Watching Sharon and Abby grow together has been such a rewarding experience. To think of scared little Abby when I first met her, to the brave, happy girl you see now is unbelievable. Sharon is a testament to the outcome when you commit and put the time into training and working with your dog – and that this can be incredibly fun for both! All of us at dogma adore her and Abby and are always thrilled when they take part in another class or event. She has taken the time to understand Abby's fears, how to work her through them and all while being so amazingly patient and compassionate. This success story means a great deal to our entire team and we are all so proud of them both! We love having them be an integral part of the 'dogma regulars'! Keep up the good work and we look forward to continued playtimes and dancing in the future :)!!
Having your dog accustomed to being behind a gate (or door, ex-pen, etc.) can be helpful in many situations. It allows the dog a quiet place away from potentially stressful activity and gives you time to remove them when you cannot be fully supervising them. Preparing your dog to feel comfortable when being left alone will prove to be a useful skill throughout their lives. The steps to accustom them to a gate are:
1. Put the gate up somewhere in your house and always have it there to start, so that bringing out the gate does not become a trigger to them that they are going behind it.
2. Occasionally toss treats onto the other side of the gate for your dog to find on their own.
3. Feed the dog's meals on the other side of the gate.
4. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: 'Behind gate'), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out from gate).
5. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going behind the gate for the treat, without actually closing the gate.
6. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.
7. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! Stay upbeat and positive and do not force them behind.
8. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session – stay calm and do not appear frustrated. It was just too much for your dog. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!
9. After dog will go into gate on cue, begin to shut it when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed gate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.
10. Start to get up and walk around, around room, towards the gate.
11. Take one step over the gate, then two, etc.
12. Start to walk around on other side of gate, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.
13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is behind the gate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the gate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.
14. Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps. Do not continually make the time longer – vary this. Keep your sessions short!
15. As your dog begins to use the gate more, ensure you are not only using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the gate with isolation and create a negative association.
16. Always teach your dog that the gate is a positive, safe place for them!