About The Foster Zoo

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We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Topher Training and Therapy Dog Shadowing

Today was a GREAT day for all who were involved.  This morning, Kelly and Linda came over with Amber and Muffin to work on neutral dog practice with me and Topher.  If you remember, the last time we did this Topher did great on the first few passes, but then kind of growled under his breath the last few times.  That is unacceptable and will fail us on the Delta test.  I have some of the greatest dog trainer/therapy dog friends and mentors.  Kris, the lady who has been leading me down great roads all along did some research and talked to Kelly about how Topher behaved on our last practice.  She really researched his breed: the Australian Cattle Dog.  They felt (and I agree) that what happened with Amber and Muffin on our last practice was not a fear/uncertainty type of aggression, but more of a Australian Cattle Dog protecting his owner "back off" kind of aggression.  As I have mentioned before, I am not an incredibly assertive person.  I am a calm, get along with everybody, dislike conflict, soft spoken kind of person.  Topher, of course, knows that and because of that, he feels he has to take charge in situations where other dogs are around.  This training session really was more about training ME, not Topher.  Kris told me I needed to be schizophrenic with Topher.  As soon as he grumbled, I needed to say "ehh, NO" in a deep, mad tone.  As soon as he stops grumbling, I praise him with a "yay, yes, good boy!" in a high pitch tone.  The key here is the tone of my voice, not the words.  Topher is a very sensitive dog.  I knew that this method would work on him because he gets very upset if he does something wrong.  Yesterday, I practiced this with Topher and a non-neutral, "neutral cat", Neo.  It worked perfectly.  Today, during neutral dog meet and greet practice, at about the third handshake, Topher grumbled.  I instantly tightened up on his harness, said "ehh, no" in a deep voice, and Topher was like "holy cow, what did I just do??"  Topher was upset that he upset me, but just as quick as I reprimanded him, I praised him for his good behavior of stopping.  I never once more had an issue.  We walked, did handshakes, and Topher never once made a peep when around the other dog.  He, of course, got lots of hugs, kisses, and praises.  That made Topher's day.  I did discover that Topher does better if I have him sit as soon as we come up on the person and the neutral dog.  I think that it reassures him that I am in control and it keeps his focus on me while I shake the person's hand.  I am very proud of Topher.  He did great!  It was a wonderful training session.

After neutral dog practice, I went with Linda and Kelly to Stafford Hospital to visit with their two therapy dogs, Muffin and Amber.  We visited most of the units, including the ER and ICU.  (I, of course, felt right at home there.  It was nice to get back into my old kind of setting without having the stress of actually working.  I was very happy to be there and have part of my old life back.)  The staff seemed to love the dogs.  The patients we visited loved the dogs.  It filled my heart with joy to see other's smile.  This is most definitely, without a doubt, the best volunteer work I have ever done.  Wes and I were made for this.  I can't wait for the day he gets to orient in the hospital.  (He's already shadowed in the schools, but working in the school and the hospital with the dogs is completely different.)

Thank you, again, Kelly and Linda for taking your time to work with me and Topher.  Thank you for letting me shadow you today.  I will be grinning from ear to ear for several days.  Thank you, Kris, for your advice and for always steering me in the right path.  You guys are the best!  I can't wait for Tanker and Wes, and Topher and I to get our certifications so that we can join you as actual pet partner teams!

Stickers/cards that Amber and Muffin pass out to people they visit. I cannot wait to make stickers and cards for Topher and Tanker!

Muffin is on the left and Amber is on the right. They are GREAT therapy dogs! I loved shadowing them today.

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