Educating Morgan

Last week I took Morgan to visit my alma mater, the University of San Francisco. It was a little shocking when I realized that it’s been 35 years since I graduated. It made me think about the importance of my education and the opportunities it opened for me as the first member of my South Boston working class family to graduate from college.

As I took photos of Morgan on campus with my old graduation cap atop his head I also thought about how important it was to train him, as well. As many of you know Morgan was turned into a dog shelter in South Central Los Angeles when he was just one year old. He was my first rescue and was in rough shape – undernourished and untrained, with no social skills. I could feel his rib cage when I first picked him up and put him in the back of the truck. I had no idea what I was getting into.

I had raised my previous Goldens, Nicholas and Willy, from puppyhood and their training was uneventful and fun. But with Morgan it was completely different. Within the first week with Morgan he bit me twice when feeding him. It was a real wakeup call that I needed help. This was definitely not going to be as easy as my first two dogs.  Since Morgan had no training as a puppy he had the social skills of an immature dog in an adult size body. First Morgan had to unlearn his bad habits of barking at every dog that walked by and also trusting that not only would he be fed at a regular time but that there would always be ample food for him.

But this was just the beginning. He also needed to bond to me. He had to constantly be leashed or he would just run off aimlessly. We found the perfect class sponsored by the Palm Springs Kennel Club. The instructor was a no-nonsense ex-cop who had trained police canines.  The drills were rigorous but I could see Morgan improving week to week as the lessons took effect. I know he liked them too because every week he would jump into the passenger seat of my truck afterwards and look over at me with a big grin on his face.  l’ll never forget the night he put his paw on my shoulder as we were driving home. After every class when we pulled into the driveway he would dash inside to the kitchen and await his dinner.

Morgan and I needed to repeat the course three times until he finally passed the obedience test. I was so proud on that graduation day when my boy was presented with an official score card declaring that he had earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen Certificate. (Posted below)

Morgan sends congratulations to all two and four-legged June grads.

Crinkle Crinkle Crinkle in the Kitchen Kitchen Kitchen

I can’t tell you how many times I have tiptoed into the kitchen to get myself a snack without Morgan knowing. If Morgan is in a sound sleep I can usually get the fridge door open, select some goody for myself and make it to the kitchen counter unnoticed.  But no matter how quiet I try to be something gives my covert operation away. Whether it’s a bag of potato chips, a box of chocolate chip cookies, or a package of Swiss cheese, the slightest crinkle sound gets his attention. Even when Morgan is sound asleep on the cool bathroom floor, way in the back of the house, lo and behold there he is, suddenly appearing by the kitchen, manifesting himself out of thin air and staring intently at whatever I have in my hand.

Morgan gives me one of three looks. The first is the stern look on his face as though he knows I was sneaking something on him. Have you ever seen those commercials where the parents are caught sneaking some ice cream or cereal on their kids? The parents squirm and get all uncomfortable trying to explain away the infraction. That’s how I feel. I too get defensive and tell him that he has just eaten an hour ago.  Or that he can’t have chocolate or sugar or whatever Dad probably shouldn’t be eating anyway. The second look is the sad face. This one kills me but I’ve steeled myself against giving in to this masquerade. The hardest look for me to say “No” to is when he has on his sweetest smile. He closes his eyes ever so slightly and looks at me like I’m the best dad in the whole wide world. A dad who would never sneak a treat on his best friend. That’s the one that cuts right through me. I immediately reach up to the top of the fridge where his treats are stored in the red fire hydrant cookie jar and get one of his Trader Joe’s peanut butter biscuits or one of his liver krisps from Bones n Scones, the neighborhood natural Dog Bakery and suddenly all is well again in Morgan’s home.

How far away can your dog hear the crinkle crinkle crinkle from the kitchen kitchen kitchen?

Biscuit Fire Hydrant

My Dogs Love My Mother More Than Me

Everyone knows that there is no love greater than the love a mother has for her child. All of us can relate to this credo because we all have such incredible love for our canines and felines. However, let’s be honest, the relationship between parents and their children can have their ups and downs. But the relationship between my parents and my Goldens has been steady and loving from the moment they met Nicholas, my first Golden, continuing through my life with Willy and now with our rescued Morgan. Even after telling her all about Morgan’s shenanigans and difficult behavioral issues, the first thing my mother said to me when she met Morgan was, “What do you mean? He’s a love.” WillyGrandParents

Nicholas with Mom          Whenever I bring my dogs back east to visit my family, which has been nearly once a year, I have to make sure that they don’t gain too much weight. My mother routinely cooks up treats for them and spoils them like she does her grandkids. It’s amazing how quickly my devoted companions forget about me when I am staying at the homestead.  They follow my Mother around like baby ducks hoping for a morsel of her freshly sliced prosciutto or a piece of her scrumptious Braciole, an Italian delicacy made with flank steak.    It’s as though I don’t even exist.  If she’s at the stove making her chicken cutlets it’s impossible to get them to leave the house for their walk.  I can’t tell you how long I have spent explaining to my Mother that they should only be eating their Fromm’s low calorie Salmon a la Veg for canines. She nods her head and agrees…Of course, I’m sure as soon as I leave the house who knows how many of her famous meatballs they have devoured.  But I know that if there was ever food filled with love it’s my Mother’s cooking.

This Mother’s Day Morgan wishes all of our animal friends bellies full of love and to all Mothers a Happy Golden Sunshine Mother’s Day.

Woolly Morgan or Clean Cut Morgan?

It’s spring time in the desert.  The prickly pears are blooming. The temperature has been unseasonably high. We’ve already hit a hundred once. I’m being forced to make a big decision that I don’t usually make until June.  Should I give Morgan his summer cut early?

I never clipped my dog’s fur before I moved to the desert. It was only after becoming friends with a fellow Golden Dad who clipped his dog that I was convinced to try it. Harley looked younger, seemed cooler and loved all the attention being doted on him.  I decided to give Willy the “Harley Cut.” He loved it for all the same reasons that Harley loved it and I loved it, too. Less hair. Easier to brush. Easier to get the sand and salt off him. Easier to get the stickers off him and any ticks he might have picked up. Then I made the decision to keep the Harley Cut year round for Willy.

Since Morgan was a rescue I changed my approach. He traditionally gets the Harley Cut in June. Since we didn’t have him as a puppy and see his fur grow out I wanted to admire him all woolly. Morgan has beautiful Farrah Faucet fur. All different shades of gold. I just thought he deserved to be handsome after all he’d been through. But with the heat coming on so soon this year I’m thinking of having him clipped earlier. Say this weekend.

Check out the photos below and then tell Morgan which you prefer – Woolly Morgan or Clean Cut Morgan?

Does Your Dog Talk In Their Sleep?

In our home, the last thing we do in the evening is turn on the dishwasher. Eventually, Morgan learned that when the dishwasher door closed we headed to the bedroom. Now he races ahead of us. It’s so sweet.

Of course we let him up on the bed for a while. It’s cozy and we just love having him with us. But as Morgan relaxes he seems to spread out in all directions and our Queen Size bed isn’t big enough for three big bodies. Is there any doubt that we adjust? Then as Morgan falls deeper into sleep he often starts making noises. There’s these little trilling growls, followed by a high pitched yelps and then sometime even barks.

My other dogs did this too. But when we first got Morgan he didn’t make these sounds and I think it was because he wasn’t really home yet. Maybe he wasn’t falling into a deep sleep. I remember the first night when he made noises. It startled me, and I slid down and ran my hand along his head to make sure he was all right. He was. Now he does it on a regular basis. Sometimes he even moves his legs, like he’s running. I’ve heard some people call these moments, nightmares, but that’s not how I interpret them. I think he’s having a wonderful dream about swimming after the ducks on the Russian River or at Craigville Beach on Cape Cod. Or, maybe he’s playing with his best friend Cody. Or picking up a scent while hiking on a trail. It’s endearing and I wait for it. When he does it, I know everything is fine and Morgan is in a deep calm sleep and that we can sleep now, knowing he’s okay.

Many of us with pets are already aware of the kinds of things that scientists are just discovering. You know, things like animal emotions and language. Now there are actually studies coming out of respected places like MIT that prove that dogs and cats do indeed dream. In the scientific community, animals are often thought of as reflex machines, operating by instinct alone. But this view is slowly starting to change, and new information about dreaming in animals is unearthing.

I found this article by Maryann Mott, HealthDay from a USA Today Paw Prints post from 2010, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-06-29-dogs-cats-dream_N.htm

My favorite line from her article is where she quoted Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who said that one of his heroes, Charles Darwin, “basically claimed if you can prove that an animal dreams, then, in effect, you can prove that’s consciousness. Because after all, what is a dream other than a conscious image?”

Isn’t it wonderful when Science catches up with pet owners? Share what noises your fur babies make when they’re sleeping.

 

Out with the old…

It was Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who first penned, “Ring out the oldring in the new” in a poem called Ring Out, Wild Bells in 1850. Since then there have been many variations. One common contemporary saying is “Out with the old. In with the new.”

Like most people, my family and I have several New Year’s traditions besides making resolutions. Taking a hike with the dog on the first day of the year is one of my favorite. And to go along with the title of this blog, cleaning out my closet of clothes that I no longer wear and bringing them down to Revivals, the local second hand shop, is another tradition.

In preparation for this New Year, I sat Morgan down the day after Christmas, when all the packages had been opened and all the guest had left, and I told him about all the dogs down at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter who don’t have a warm home like he has, nor family and friends to love them and take care of them, like he has.

I told him that he had a lot of toys that he never played with and that now he had even more than before. Morgan got a serious look on his face and then without even the slightest pause, he gathered up all his old toys and put them in a basket. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this and he nudged my arm with his nose. So we got into the car and drove down to the shelter. He told me he didn’t want to go in with me, that he preferred to wait outside. I couldn’t blame him, it breaks my heart going in there. At the Palm Springs shelter, most of the dogs are Pit Bulls. I hate seeing them there in the kennels, staring out, hoping for a miracle. The volunteers were grateful and said they’d be put to good use. When I came back out, Morgan had his old smiley face on. I think he knew he was helping his cousins. I thought the occasion called for a good hike along the Las Palmas Wash where Morgan gets to run free.

Morgan and I wish everyone a happy healthy New Year!   Share with us some of your New Year’s traditions.

MorganShelterToys

The Christmas Wrap

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse. The stockings were hung on the mantel with care. My little Golden, named St. Nicholas, was asleep under the chair.

As I wrapped his first squeaky toy in red tissue and then meticulously covered it with Scooby Doo wrapping paper, I made sure to tape all the edges in a neat manner. Topping it off with a bright red bow, I couldn’t believe how much anticipatory glee I felt about giving it to him on his first Christmas Morn’.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, the red bow was torn off within 5 seconds and tossed into the sky.  30 seconds later the dog-themed paper was shredded into little pieces and scattered on the floor like new-fallen snow.

His eyes how they twinkled, his head was so small. His ears hung low and shook as he tore, the finely wrapped paper all over the floor.  I laughed at the sight in spite of myself.

That was a long time ago and though I always buy my doggies several presents, I now leave the majority of their gift-getting to their grandparents and uncles and aunts. I’m not as naïve to think that my dog’s Christmas toys will last more than a few minutes. There are no longer bows on top. No Scooby Doo wrapping. Now with poor Morgan, I’ve become the ultimate Scrooge, his gifts this year have been wrapped in old newspaper.

Holiday Dog Gift Survey

I found this chart and wanted to share it. Let us know which group you belong to.

Morgan and I say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all and to all a good night.

Dad’s Thanksgiving Gratitude Blog

Thanksgiving had been on my mind since Morgan and I drove by the town of Plymouth on our way to Nana and Grampy’s Cape Cod house. Last year Morgan got to write the Thanksgiving blog so this year it’s Dad’s turn. Click here to see Morgan’s blog: http://rescuedbygoldens.com/2013/11/morgans-thanksgiving-gratitude-list/

I’m very grateful for my family, my partner and my country. But I want to focus on my gratitude for Morgan. It’s obvious from all the pictures I take of him that I adore him.  I felt the same way about my first two dogs, as well. But I’ve been trying to decide what it is that makes him unique from them.

Many of you are aware that Morgan was a rescue, and a damaged one at that. But from the get-go I knew he had a lot of love in him despite his problematic behavior. You can read the story about the first night we brought him home on the Rescued by Goldens web site:  http://rescuedbygoldens.com/chapter/  We nicknamed him our little Terror-Dactyl and referred to him as a Jekyll and Hyde.

Thankfully, life with Morgan is now calmer. Often people comment about his smile. It fills me with wonder at how a creature who has had such a rough start can have such a joyous beam on his face all the time. I’m so grateful that I get to see that smile every day. Morgan what’s your secret? Can you teach Dad how to do it? Especially when driving in traffic?

Because of Morgan’s fear of other dogs, we learned that the best time to get him out and exercised was early in the morning when no other dogs were around. Now, it’s part of our everyday routine.  Whether we’re on Cape Cod or in San Francisco or home in Palm Springs we’re out the door before sunrise. So we get to see the morning beauty of Craigville Beach on Cape Cod or dawn at Ocean Beach in San Francisco when no one else is there. Even this morning in Palm Springs, to witness the crimson red glow on the San Jacinto Mountains before the noise of the leaf blowers – What a gift! I wouldn’t have this without Morgan. I have to admit that some mornings I just don’t want to get out of bed at that hour. I resist until I see his sweet face looking up at me with those bright brown eyes and goofy grin.

There’s a lot of discussion about ways to get a dog. Either from a breeder or a rescue group. Morgan has offered me the chance to rescue an animal. He’s my first rescue and I am grateful to him. Morgan has also given me the opportunity to thank the Golden Retriever breed for rescuing me. My way of saying thank you to man and woman’s best friend.

Please share what you are grateful for at this Thanksgiving holiday time.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

When my Dad moved from Sonoma County down to Palm Springs eleven years ago, he did so with the intention of always leaving during the brutal summer months. The plan was to travel either to San Francisco or to his parents’ Cape Cod house. Since I joined the family we’ve continued this tradition and this year just as the temperature broke into the 100’s we headed north for San Francisco on June 18th.

Usually on our journey North we stop in Santa Barbara to visit one of my best friends, Skyler the Basenji. But this year, poor Skyler got into a nasty dog fight and it was decided Skyler needed some rest before having a houseguest. I was sad for my friend Skyler and not being able to see him.

But the next day we arrived at our loft a few blocks from the bay. Right away my Dad took me to Crissy Field dog beach and I dove into the water and I felt like I was home. This year we didn’t go to Ocean Beach too often because of the Velella velalla – a small blueish jellyfish-like ocean animal that washed up, covering the entire shoreline. I couldn’t resist scoffing them up and my Dad was worried that I might get sick. I missed the beach but I couldn’t help myself, they were so delicious.

Every day we did something different. Sometimes we went to Golden Gate Park or for a long walk along the waterfront. One night we even went to ATT Park where the Giants play. We were able to sit in the infield and listen to a simulcast of the opera, La Rigattoni, or something like that.

My favorite part about visiting the city is leaving and going to Golden Retriever heaven – the Russian River, where I got to chase the ducks. I’m talkin’ lots of ducks and swim in the river twice a day. I got to meet a new friend, Rocky the Golden puppy. Rocky and I weren’t able to play this year as he’s still too small to horse around with big dogs like me. But boy was he adorable. I can’t wait for us two to play in the river next year. Of course, the highlight of the summer for everyone is my birthday bash on August 16th, when I get lots of cards, toys and treats. (See picture.)

Our two months in the Bay Area went by too fast and before I knew we were packing up and returning to Palm Springs. Usually this means the end of summer vacation. But this year, my Dad and I got on a plane and when we got off there was Nana and Grampy and I knew where we were. We spent a few days at their city house and it was good to see all my cousins, but I knew where I wanted to be and before too long we were swimming every morning at Craigville Beach on Cape Cod. I couldn’t believe my luck.

One day, Nana, Grampy, Dad and me all took a big ferry over to Martha’s Vineyard. It was so exciting to be on a big boat. You know that famous presidential dogs summer at The Vineyard. Then my Dad went to New York to see some people about this book he’s writing about me, of course. As soon as he got back we were at the beach again every morning. This time when we returned to the beach most of the people had gone away and nature returned. It was like somehow all the sea creatures knew. We explored from one end of the beach to the other. I got to chase the seagulls but I never caught one. Twice I saw the beach covered with hundreds of tiny sand crabs. I wanted to devour them but my Dad pulled me away. Seals were popping their heads up and we finally saw a blue heron.

We spent the last few days of our visit back at Nana’s city house where we walked every afternoon around Wollaston Beach. I enjoyed spending quality time with nana and it was an emotional moment when we said good-bye.

Finally we boarded the plane to come back to Palm Springs and can you believe that there were 5 dogs on the plane! I’ve never seen so many canines on a flight before. Luckily they were all lap dogs and didn’t bother me.  Now Dad and I are home. The weather has cooled down and we’re back to our old routine. I know I’ll be dreamin’ about my best summer vacation ever for a long time.

Labor Day: Let’s Honor Working Dogs, Too

Back in the 90’s, I began to have serious sinus infections that punctured my ears drums and soon I lost most of my hearing. At that time I was living alone in a house in a forest of Redwood trees above the Russian River.  If the phone rang I couldn’t hear it. If someone came to the door I didn’t know it. But soon Nicholas, my first Golden, would come sit by my side. At first I thought he was coming for a head rub but then I realized every time he sat next to me and nudged me there was someone at the door.

With the loss of hearing, taking my daily walk around the hill in my neighborhood became dangerous as cars came up from behind me without my knowing it. I learned to watch Nicholas more closely. When his ears would go back I knew something was there. Night time, alone in the house, began to frighten me. Not only could I not hear but in the dark I couldn’t see as well. Some nights my paranoia took hold and I would imagine hearing noises outside the house. But then I learned to trust Nicholas’ attention and he was always right.

My second Golden, Willy, who I got when Nicholas was 13, caught on quickly and soon assumed Nicholas’ duties. I’ve always wondered if perhaps Nicholas trained him.

Then, a friend highly knowledgeable in disability laws suggested that I make Willy’s job official. So with a doctor’s letter, I got Willy tagged as an assistance dog from the County animal control. Now I could take him anywhere: in restaurants and shops, on planes and buses. It changed my life for the better. Some readers may remember the story when Willy saved my house from burning down. Here’s a link to that story in case you missed it: https://www.thedodo.com/community/rescuedbygoldens/willy-saves-our-home-from-burn-402047651.html

Now there’s Morgan, my rescue. Although it took some time to reverse his inappropriate behavior, we trained diligently for nearly two years and now he, too, looks out for me. He comes and gets me when someone is at the door or the smoke alarm goes off. He warns me about cars, even pulling me away from them.

Labor Day is a day to honor workers. I want to honor all of our canine working companions. Please share a story about how your dogs have served you or your family. Happy Labor Day Weekend.