If my father were alive today, he’d be puzzled to see me with my cell phone.  All the years I was growing up, we had a black rotary phone, attached to the wall by a cord.  We never had to replace it with the latest, newest, coolest phone.  It lasted for decades, making and receiving phone calls.  It didn’t take messages or selfies.  It didn’t count steps when you walked.  It wasn’t also a flashlight.  It didn’t translate foreign languages.  And you couldn’t play Solitaire on it, even if you wanted to.

My father would not have been surprised to learn that I still love dogs, because I always did, and he wouldn’t have been surprised to see that a I always have my dog with me.  Though the ADA made that possible long after he died, I spent much of my childhood with my dog, following along behind him as he ran on the beach, watching him following trail the seabirds left in the sand, seeing him fishing around in the small lagoons the ocean formed where there were rocks.  Though no one of any importance thought dogs had any thoughts or feelings all those decades ago, it was clear to me that they, that all animals, did.

 

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I am not a fan of the sort of lists that say which dog is the most intelligent, because dogs were bred to be specialists and judging their smartness means knowing what they were bred to do and how that informs their thinking and their actions, even their personalities.  And I don’t like testing a dog or an ape or an anybody with a test that measures things of interest to another species, like, for instance, obedience trials.

Try this test on your dog.  Think of all the things you do before you leave the house.  Your dog’s list, of course, will be incredibly longer and in addition to your actions, he’s also reading your mind, picking up the pictures you form as you think.  But that’s a whole different blog.  Now do one of the things you do before leaving:  Put on your shoes (if you’re like me, you don’t wear them in the house) or put on sun block, or check to make sure you have your keys, or dog bags, or get your jacket out of the closet, or comb your hair (because who cares what it looks like at home) or shut off the air conditioning and open the windows.  So do one of those things and see how your dog reacts.  How smart is that!

My father was a scientist, but I know if he were here today, I know that if I told him the things I have learned about dogs, I know he would see the truth of what I told him and that he would not need to test my theories.  I know that he would not be surprised that I had wrapped my life around dogs and that I had shared what I knew in books and blogs and seminars and on the phone and in the street and anywhere I could.  And I think he’d be happy, because it would all make sense, better sense, at least, than, say, reading a book on a phone, or doing this with one…

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I lost my dad when I was nineteen. If only my dad were here to see all this, how great that would be.

 

Thank you to all the people who do not stare at me when I am in public.  Thank you for not trying to determine if I am blind, and since I am not, thank you also for not trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me that I need a service dog.

Thank you to all the people who hold the door open for me and Sky, even the ones who say, a little too loud, I am holding the door open for you, because they think I am blind.  I know you are trying to be kind and for that, I thank you.

Thank you for all the people who tell me how beautiful and attentive Sky is but don’t try to pet her and don’t have a conversation with her.

Thanks to all the mothers who tell their children they can’t pet the doggie because she’s a working doggie.  Well done!

Thanks to all the restaurants who welcome service dogs and their partners and seat them appropriately, where the dog can tuck in nicely and not trip the wait staff.

Thank you to all the waiter and waitresses who bring water for a dog on a hot day.

Thank you to all my providers, doctors, dentist, trainer, who understand that I need to have my dog with me even when they can’t see her doing a thing.  Sometimes help comes in at the eye.

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Thank you to all the bus drivers who don’t yell at me for getting on the bus with a service dog and thank you to those cab drivers who stop for me.  As for the drivers that speed away when they see my small, well-behaved service dog, can you say fuck you on the internet?  Yup, you can.

Thanks to my incredible shrink for understanding that all rules are left in the waiting room and that he can pet Sky all he wants to.  And thanks to Sky for understanding that sometimes rules have to be put aside for one reason or another. Intelligent working dogs have the mental flexibility to understand that, in certain circumstances, kindness counts for more than rules.

And thank you all for stopping by.

Years ago, we went to the farm where the sire and dam of the puppy who would be my first Border collie lived and got to photograph them working sheep for Dog Training in Ten Minutes, the book I was working on at the time.  First the sire was sent and moved the sheep around the field as instructed by whistle commands.  When I began to move to where I could get the shot I wanted, the breeder asked me what I was after and signaled the dog to move the sheep in such a way that I could get the shot from where I was.  I was very impressed.

At some point, the sheep got very close to the fence.  In fact, they were pressed up against the fence.  The male, commanded with the whistle to move them, hesitated for just a split second.  The breeder called him off and sent the female, heavy with pups which were due in a week or two.  She ran to the sheep and in a quick, sure move, poked her long nose between the first sheep and the fence, effectively and quickly sending the whole flock back into the field.  It was a graceful move, executed with confidence.  I was pleased to get the shot, a picture of my first Border collie working sheep in utero.

That pup, Flash, plied his trade in New York City,and wherever in the world he went with me, becoming my service dog.  My gamble was that, like the German Shepherd, the Border collie could take his inborn skills and apply them to tasks other than sheepherding.  Luckily for me, that was true and Flash became an outstanding worker, doing the work he was assigned rather than the work he was bred to do.

Flash at The Musee Picasso in Paris.

Flash at The Musee Picasso in Paris.

The other day, walking with my Border collie, Sky, on the totally crowded High Line, the elevated park made from the area where the trains brought produce into the city, I was reminded of the Flash’s mother, moving the sheep off the fence.  I was able, because of Sky’s skill, something passed down to her from her mother and her mother’s mother and all the working collies who came before her, to walk at a good speed despite the fact that the path was jammed with people. Sky took her pointy nose and moved ahead at full speed, inserting it between strolling tourists, the way Flash’s mom had inserted hers between the fence and the sheep. This neatly opened the way for her and for me, at the far end of the leash, to follow.  I always find it interesting to watch a dog work, whether she is using her skills to do the job her breed was designed for, or whether those same skills come in handy for doing something totally different, but equally as useful.

Sky and her sister, May, working sheep, with Denise Wall.

Sky and her sister, May, working sheep, with Denise Wall. And below, looking out the window of our Alaska Airlines flight home.

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Dear Peeps,

Just in case there are any among you who don’t understand why it’s distracting to TALK to a service dog, or just in case you know someone with a high, squeaky voice who likes to do this, or just in case you have a good place to share this post, here goes!

The guide dog leads.  If you watch his face, you can actually see him concentrating on the decisions he needs to make.  Do I lead my person where there’s a curb or where there’s a curb cut?  Do I walk near the building line or more toward the center of the street? Oops, watch that high branch.  Do I go forward when the car has slipped by the red light?  Etc etc

The hearing dog listens for sounds and alerts his person when the doorbell or the phone rings. He listens for honking horns and other signs of danger.  He lives in his ears, alert, waiting to work.

The mobility dog fetches items, opens doors, shuts off lights.  His mind is on the job.  He waits for commands, attentive to his person.

The dog who helps with an invisible disability watches, listens, senses.  He dowses constantly.  Is there pain? Is a seizure coming? Is the blood sugar low?  How’s his heart doing? Is my help needed?

When someone distracts a working service dog with handling or conversation, it interferes with the work the dog has been taught to do, checking the environment for safety, alerting to sounds, fetching a needed item, mitigating pain, alerting an oncoming seizure, etc etc.  A service dog does not need your love. (Ha! A surprise to many!!)  Do not ask a service dog’s name because when his handler says his name and when you repeat it, guess where his attention goes.  Do not get angry at anyone for not letting you pet a service dog.  Or converse with a service dog.  If you wouldn’t talk to the person if not for the presence of the dog, OK, here goes, just shut up.

Do not talk about a person with a service dog.  Unless the dog is a hearing dog, they can hear you talking about them.  Do not talk about them in a foreign language.  Because you never know. And even if they can’t understand your words, because they are in Swahili, they can still see where you are looking, or pointing if you are a total idiot.

What can you do? OMG, what can you do?

You can have a conversation about things other than what the person’s disability is and what the dog’s name is.  It’s lovely when two strangers meet and converse.

You can offer a seat on the bus.  I need to keep my dog on my lap on the bus so she won’t get stepped on and this is difficult to do when I am standing.

You can say, Beautiful dog, in passing, but not ask any questions. Because all dogs are beautiful!

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You can smile.  But not with a squeaky voice.

You can ignore the dog, please, ignore the dog, and do what you would do if the dog weren’t there.  Or you can make believe the dog is a cane or a wheelchair, if that’s easier for you. Because service dogs are considered to be medical equipment. Even though you kiss them a lot more often than you would kiss your cane.

Sometimes, especially if you are adorable and too young to understand what it means that a dog is working, just sometimes, the nice lady will let you pet her pretty dog in, say, the elevator of the Metropolitan Museum.  But in that case, even though you aren’t even two yet, please don’t scream at the top of your lungs when your daddy picks you up because though the doggie is staying on the elevator, it’s time for you to get off – because now the nice lady just can’t make an exception for the next cute little kid who is too young to understand that a dog who looks like any other dog, except for the cape and the intense look of concentration on her face, is, indeed, doing her job and should not be distracted.

OK, OK, but I bet you need to rant sometimes, too, and if you can get me to sit still, I’ll listen to yours.

zoomies

 

Summer Anniversary Sale:

All drawings now $295. Let me know if one calls your name!

I found some wonderful older drawings from my books, vintage, you might say, and I am also putting up some new drawings, a bit larger than the previous ones and never published.  If you wish to give a forever home to one of the drawings, please message me via Facebook and I will let you know if it is available and if so, I will send you my address so that you can send me a check.  Drawing are all pen and ink originals, arrive unframed and are for personal use only (to hang in your home or office and enjoy but not to use for commercial purposes).

Ring the Doorbell (from Dog Tricks)  5 x 7    $335

ring the doorbell

 

 

For those of you who show your dogs, this one’s for you.  No Majors.  5 1/2 x 7  $335

no majors 1

Mighty is the Dog   (from Dog Tricks)  5 x 7   $335

Mighty is the Dog 1

Does this look familiar?  5 1/2 x 8   $335

Does this look familiar?

And here are the unpublished drawings.  Each is 6 x 9 and costs $350.

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dog and cake

 

Grab Some Beer

Scores in Obedience Trials may judge trainability, but not necessarily intelligence.

Once upon a time, I worked with a very special Doberman whose owner wanted him to get a Register of Merit but did not want to do the training himself.  Though I tried to get the owner involved, I failed, and for a time, the dog lived with me so that I could work with him every day without all the driving to and from his owner’s house.  I loved that dog.  And he loved me.  Though he was eight, he learned quickly, enjoyed the training and the games that became his praise for a good lesson.  He even got that part, that working well led to fun and games, games he never got to play at home.

I took him to the obedience classes I was teaching at the local community college and he worked for everyone in the class.  He (finally) learned to play with my female dog despite the fact that she wasn’t a Doberman.  And he slept in my bed.  Had he been up for grabs, I would have grabbed.  He was a fine animal.  And very smart.

Does smart mean he aced the obedience trial with his neglectful owner who barely had the time for me to show him the routine he’d have to do?  Nope.  Smart meant he did not want to work with someone who kenneled him a great deal of the time, who never played with him and who couldn’t be bothered to do any of the training himself.  Smart meant that on a hot day, instead of heeling, coming when called, doing a sit stay, he jumped the low barricade surrounding the ring and found a nice shady spot under a tree – and there he did his down stay.

In order to judge the intelligence of a dog, you have to know what matters to dogs, what work that breed was bred to do, what inborn skills the dog inherited. For all of us, dogs and humans alike, the bottom line is always survival, and while our take on that differs somewhat from that of dogs, not understanding that leads to poor judgment on which dog really is the smartest dog of all – because, as most of you know, it all depends on what matters to the creature being tested.

So unless you understand the character, breed traits and individual personality of a dog whose intelligence you want to assess, don’t toss a towel over the dog’s head and think the faster he gets it off, the smarter he is.  My dog Dexter, finding his head under a towel, would have taken a nap.  My dog Sky, on the other hand, might keep the towel in place because we are a team and I, her teammate, asked her to hang around with a towel on her head.  And so forth.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  I won’t put a towel on your head!

 

I am often told, as I go places with my dog, that Border Collies are the smartest dogs of all. Silly people.  If I wanted to retrieve a downed bird, I’d get a Lab.  If I wanted to save drowning people, I’d get a Newfie.  If I wanted to hunt rabbits, I’d get a Beagle.  And if I wanted the best dog in the world, I’d knock on your door and ask if I could have yours.

 

 

 

 

When she goes to a Memorial Service.  With a heavy heart, I walked into the chapel for my oldest friend’s Memorial Service and looking at the faces of the other people who had arrived early, I told Sky, my service dog, she could kiss and comfort anyone who needed her.  And so she did, understanding the precise meaning of what I had said, she slipped under the hands of one, put her paws on the lap of another, poked here, kissed there, lying down quietly in between.  Some reached out for her.  Some were surprised and then pleased when she elected on her own to offer comfort.  When friends and family spoke, sharing stories about my dear friend, Nini, there was applause as each finished and Sky barked along with the clapping.  Everything she did, including that, seemed appropriate, even kind, including the way she curled herself onto my lap for the long ride home.

I never needed a study to tell me that dogs feel emotions deeply, that they think, make decisions, are capable of kindness.  I’m sure you feel the same way.  I love you, Nini.  I always will.

EPSON MFP image

Yes, yes, yes, of course your dog is the most beautiful dog ever born.  No one would deny it.  But what about the dogs you don’t know, the ones you see in the park, on the sidewalk, in the bank and sometimes on the bus or in a museum?  What makes those dogs beautiful?  What makes strangers make a point of saying so, of stopping and gazing with admiring eyes?  Could be genetics.  Beautiful mom, beautiful dad.  Could be grooming, a shining coat with no tangles.  Could be coat color or even coat length, some people have a dog in their heart that looks like Lassie, after all.  Or it could be, hold your hats, behavior.

No one ever told me my handsome dog Flash was beautiful when he was stressed or overly excited and pulling me down the street.  (Yeah, yeah, we were going too fast for comments, but it was more than that.)

EPSON MFP image

No one ever told anyone with a snarling dog, a cowering dog, a leaping up on people dog, a dog choking against his collar, a dog scarfing up pizza off the sidewalk, a dog whining, a dog snarking, a dog who had an itch when you called him to come, a dog running away when you called him to come, no one every said THAT dog was beautiful.  But the calm dog, the dog walking happily at your side, the dog waiting on her towel at the end of the pool…

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Sky at Chelsea Piers

the dog sitting next to the Picasso until you get the shot you want…

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those are the dogs you will be told are beautiful.  The dog who gazes lovingly into your eyes, the dog who brings back the ball you throw, the dog who doesn’t pull, who has some self control, whose eyes shine with intelligence and humor because he’s got some education under his collar, the dog who’s fit because he’s well exercised, the dog whose coat gleams because he is given wholesome meals, that dog is beautiful.  He needn’t have taken his breed (if he has one) or cost a fortune.  He could be a rescue, a mix, a dog you found in an alley and took home to find him a person of his own and then, as luck would have it, it turned out to be you.  That dog can be beautiful.  And often is.

Dexter

It takes more than love.  It takes education, exercise, respect, a humane outlook, good food, a shared sense of play, time spent together and yes, love, the deep abiding forever kind.

Dog training, you can see it emerge on the first lesson, when the leaping, pulling maniac gets that light in his eyes, Ah, I get it, and his breathing changes and his life changes and the beginning of beautiful has arrived.

Dear Peeps,

Some of you expressed disappointment at not finding a drawing to adopt and just recently, I started to reorganize my office (more on this in a minute) and found a few more drawings to offer for sale.  The office reorganization is because I want to start drawing larger.  And then larger still.  All these drawings were done to size (more or less) for books.  They have all been previously published and some of you will even recognize some of them from the books they were published in.  Two of the drawings even have pasted on corrections (a tiny one on the bull terrier in bed and a large one on angel/devil – but that one is so adorable that even with the paste up and a wrinkle, I thought someone would want it.) As usual, message me on FB to reserve the drawing you want.  I will send you my address.  When I get your check and the address where I should send the drawing, I will send it along for you to frame and hang and love. The watercolor wash is pale – enhanced by the scan but not that dark.  I am keeping the sale price for these since I love you guys and I love that my drawings are now living among you, all over the country.  And I love the notes you send me which make my heart so glad.  So, $310.  All drawings are originals, not prints.  They are all pen and ink with watercolor wash.  Sizes range from 4 x 4 – the terrier sitting, to 5 1/2 by 7 – the dog about to break his piggy bank.  Price includes postage and packing. Each drawing comes with a present.  You can’t get a better deal than this!

 

dogsmoking 2terrier:sit

fetch1swimmingPiggy Bank

 

goldensitbullterrier in bedangel:devil

Friends come to visit and need to whoop up the dogs because that’s how they feel loved.  Look how excited they are to see us!!!  Good for them, bad for the dogs.

Someone who cannot control his young Rottweiler, even with a pinch collar, gets upset and yells at me because I hold up my hand like a stop sign, No, don’t bring your dog into my dog’s face.  Good for no one, this man who should not have gotten a Rottweiler.

People wait until the service dog’s human partner is swimming, in the shower, looking the other way or in the case of someone who is blind, at any old time, and handle the dog.  Or call the dog.  Or crouch in front of the dog, talking like a squeaky toy.  Not good, not good at all.

The thing is, sometimes it’s not about you.  Sometimes it’s about the dog.   So many people forget the dog part of the equation.  They never think, What does the dog need?  What is good for the dog?  What is that dog doing, that dog I want to distract so that it will give me me me some love? Or why on earth is there a dog at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Louvre (for godssake!), this restaurant, my gym, the Post Office?  Why is that dog on the bus?  Nope.  They don’t ask themselves any of those questions.

Sometimes it’s about the baby crying on the plane.  Bad luck that it annoys you, but the baby is in distress.  Sometimes it’s about the man in the wheelchair for whom you have to give up that front seat in the bus, the one that folds up, the one where the chair fits.  Sometimes it’s about the person coming right behind you, you know, the one you let the door slam on instead of holding it.  How much in a rush are you?  Sometimes it’s about the dog, enjoying a walk, sniffing things, feeling the wind in his fur, thinking his own doggy thoughts.  Does he need you to block his path and squeal at him?  Does the working dog need to have his train of thought interrupted?  Does the dog who is happy to greet you at the door need also to leap and bark and be hysterical because you dropped by?

Sometimes, oh, the humanity, it’s not about you.

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