My blogs are usually filled with my fascination with nature supported by research….a learning experience for me and hopefully you. Today I wish to present an observation.
My husband and I have just returned from three weeks of traveling from Michigan to Savannah, Georgia and back. Beside realizing there is truly a southern charm we also observed life with dogs all along the way. Many of our friends and relatives we planned to visit have dogs I was looking forward to seeing again or meeting. We also interacted with people and dogs unknown to us. To prepared for these visits I baked five dozen apple cinnamon dog biscuits.
Our first stop brought us to old friends and a couple of basset hounds. We used to dog sit this goofy couple. They knew I made dog treats and would be at my door every Saturday morning for a sample. Our human friends were out of state for a wedding. We let ourselves in and received a grand welcome and yes treats were expected. We enjoyed our alone time with our floppy earred friends. A day later we welcomed our friends to their own home and had a delightful time with adults and sweet girls.
Our next stop was to visit a cousin and his family’s new companion…a rescue setter of some sort. His children have grown and are at various stages of successful lives. This sweet dog is now the focus of their love and attention and vice versa.
While visiting my cousin’s home we had the good fortune to have a fabulous breakfast at a french cafe around the corner. I had the greatest lump crab eggs Benedict. I may never taste anything as divine again. At the conclusion of our meal we were asked if we had a dog. With our bill we received an envelope filled with homemade chicken liver dog biscuits. They smelled so good I was tempted to try one. This gift made everyone smile from the waiter to all the customers present. Our canine protector truly welcomed us to the house upon our return.
Our next stop was Gordonsville, VA. Visiting my sisters always involves dogs and biscuits. Sister number 1 has rescued older dogs for years. At present a black and a yellow lab share her home. The three of them make the sweetest love triangle…..they love and care for each other dearly. Upon adoption sister number 1 had her black lab treated and cured of heart worm. The yellow lab is now blind and has cataracts. Recently she notice her eye was bulging. After a day with a canine eye specialist and a
shot in the eye the pressure was relieved and everyone comfortable again. Helping dogs in need is one of her life missions.
Sister number 2 has rescued a very abused red doberman who as a puppy was chained to a dog house on a short tether. The two of them are constant companions. She has worked hard with this dog as he may have suffered brain damage when tossed down the stairs. The damage resulted in a great deal of aggressive behavior which has all but disappeared. This is a very close knit family of two. I love to watch him look at her.
Dog people seem to gravitate toward one another. On our visit I met the first friend my sister number 1 made when she retired to her new home in a new state…an amazing dog lover. Her friend has adopted nine dogs all headed for heaven before she crossed their paths and a chinchilla meant to be snake food. Some of her dogs have special needs and others were considered unadoptable for some reason or another. She has created a loving dog
centered home for them. She has a dog sitter for days she must work and leases a 2 acre field for the dogs to be dogs in. In addition she creates dog clothing and writes children’s books about dogs. This is also a true family… canine and human lives existing because of one another. I must admit it was fun to watch and walk with the dogs in the field, such sweet souls.
Off on our own we had no more dogs to meet or so we thought. We headed to Savannah with all its charms. As we walked through the cities lovely parks dogs and people were walking and sitting on benches (yes dogs), reading newspapers or just enjoying the nature in each park. Curiously when a dog is present strangers are willing to begin a conversation with you, talking about their dog or sharing a smile.
We stopped at the River St. visitors center to ask the number one tourist question, “Where is a public restroom?” As I approached the guide we noticed a dog from the window. We were curious as to the breed making one guess then another. I decided to ask. I opened the door and began a lengthy conversation about this small mixed breed. Four strangers (tour guide from the open window) having a friendly conversation about this little fellow making the day pleasant. We all walked away with smiles.
Further down the street a made for TV movie was being filmed about the Underground Railroad. A perfect setting. An old buggy had been brought in and a small fire burning under one of the brick walkways. The film crew was busy making the area free of twenty first century objects and people but shared the story and scene with us. They were waiting for dark to begin filming. In a large silver truck were cameras, film crew and a beautiful pitbull ready with a smile, a wag of the tail and bright eyes. He was the protector and the object of affection as the staff waited long hours to begin working.
Off to City Market we went. It was here we found an art gallery with original paintings of ‘Pete The Cat’, blue Boston terriers, as well as other fabulous paintings of animals. Outside of the market, sitting on a bench under a tree, was a rather tattered and dirty group of street musicians. They must have played a bit and were now very focused on eating lunch. I noticed a scruffy looking dog sitting behind the bench waiting with his people. Oh no, a dog biscuit store across the way. I asked if I could buy the dog some biscuits and they said I could. Did I have fun choosing all sorts of flavors. Ten dollars later and a donated bottle of water I presented the goods to the fellow in charge. He was very pleased to give the dog a biscuit and said it always made his dog feel better. Dog, man and I were very happy.
Dogs bring out the best in people. Total strangers will have pleasant conversations with one another when a dog is present…no cold stares or bumped shoulders. People will exchange a smile or ask for a physical connection by way of a pet or shake of a paw. What we came to realize is that as a species we need the unconditional love of a dog and vice versa. A dog raises ones quality of life. All the dog wants is to love and be loved whether you are a homeless street musician or successful business woman. I feel humans have the same quest…to be loved and cared for. I miss having a dog very much. With retirement my life has changed as I enjoy the freedom to travel for long periods of time. I am sure however, there will be another dog in my life, the only unknown is, when and how.
My posts have slowed down with the summer weather but that is not saying I haven’t been working. It has not only taken this summer but the two summers prior to arrive to publication…hard work and tremendous learning.
Fiona Finds Her Purpose is a story of survival. Under unlikely circumstances a pair of African wild dog pups come into the world only to be abandoned by their mother. Their zookeeper, determined to keep them from bonding with humans, must find a lactating African wild dog to foster them. There are none to be found, at least not right away. Meanwhile miles away in a kill shelter a black lab abandoned after giving birth to still born puppies, awaits her fate. Will their paths cross? What will the future bring?
Fiona Finds Her Purpose is written for readers age ten to one-hundred- ten. It discusses several issues I am very passionate about: animal rescue, protecting endangered animals with hopes of restating them back to their natural environment, and protecting habitat for the life that is shared there.
Fiona Finds Her Purpose is very loosely based on a real event. I had no personal experience with this event but was fascinated by the idea. In writing Fiona Finds Her Purpose I combined experiences I have had over a life time. I learned of the unconventional feeding program described in the book when visiting a wild cat rescue. Fiona is actually a dog rescued by a friend still showing evidence of having been a mother. The description of the zoo is a bit of all the zoos I have visited over a life time. I learned of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Species Survival Plans when taking a class to be a docent at a nearby zoo. I researched African wild dogs and brought a lifetime of observations of domestic canine behavior to the story. My imagination was in full swing…..this is a true work of fiction.
Fiona Finds Her Purpose can be purchased through Amazon.com.
It is my hopes all will enjoy this heart warming story.
Part of the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan is a two day, full day Ultimate Air Dog Show. For me this is the National Cherry Festival. What could be better than watching dogs do what they absolutely love while eating cherries. This years show was as great as always.
Unlike many dog sports this one is for the dogs, humans are allowed to enjoy if they so wish and believe me they do. As I watched the dogs drag their caretakers to the pool to jump I became curious as to the origin of this sport.
Dock jumping as it is called began in 1997 when the Purina dog food company sponsored the Incredible Dog Challenge. It was an immediate success. ESPN created the Great Outdoor Games in 2000. From there organizations have been popping up all over the United States and United Kingdom. Dock Dogs and Super Retriever Series Super Dock were begun in 2000. Splash Dogs in 2003 and Ultimate Air Dogs in 2005. In 2008 Ultimate Air Dogs partnered with the United Kennel Club. North American Diving Dogs came along in 2014. In the United Kingdom Dash-n- Splash arrived in 2005 and Jetty Dogs in 2007.
Everything a dog loves to do is involved in dock jumping. They love to run, jump, retrieve, swim, be cheered on and please their caretakers. Some dogs teach themselves others require some training. As I watched the dogs approach the pool they were literally dragging their people to the platform….I could just hear them….”Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy it is my turn.” One would think the lawn was ice covered the way the handlers were sliding. The dogs also cheered for each other. I saw a brother jump into the pool from the side when his sister was on her way out of the pool with the bumper…..tail wagging, big grin.
So what do these dogs actually do. There are two different jumps: the Ultimate Air or Distance Jump or the Ultimate Vertical. For the Ultimate Air a toy is thrown and the dog jumps after it. The distance is measured. The Ultimate Vertical requires the dog to grab a bumper hanging 8 feet over the water. Once the dog is successful the bumper is moved two inches forward. The dogs get two tries for each turn. The dogs entered in a particular match and work in a round-robin rotation.
The deck is 35 to 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 2 feet above the water. The body of water or pool is four feet deep. The deck in covered with artificial turf, carpet or a mat for footing. There are two ways the dogs are prepared to jump. They are taken to the end of the dock to check out the situation. The place and send technique places the dog at the far end of the dock and the handler moves to the edge. The toy is thrown and the dog is then sent to fetch it. The chase method can also be used. The dog begins at the far end of the dock, the handler give the command to jump, when the dog gets to the edge of the dock the toy is thrown. Chase is the harder of the two to learn. Once the dog hits the water the measurement is taken from where the tip of the tail enters the water. The world record is 31 feet five inches held by Vhoebe. Check her out.
Ultimate Air Dogs came into being in 2005, its creator Milt Wilcox and his son Brian. In Milt’s other life he was a Detroit Tigers pitcher famous for winning game three in the 1984 World Series. While vacationing on one of Michigan’s many lakes Milt saw the ESPN Great Outdoor Games. Milt’s dog Sparky had been dock jumping all week for fun. Sparky could do this. Milt entered Sparky and his dog took off.
Milt decided to create his own organization with the goal of it being a family sport not a high pressure disciplined sport and that it is. To be an Ultimate Air Dog your dog must be at least six months old and know how to swim. They can be any size, breed or mix. The sport is dog centered. There is no harsh treatment, words or gestures. There are fees to participate but not to observe.
Milt’s Ultimate Air Dogs do 60 shows a year some of which are the National Cherry Festival, United Kennel Club Premier, Aflac Outdoors Games, Dominion Riverrock and the Country Music Association Music Fest.
I focused on a dog named Dexter. Enjoy his pictures.
For more fabulous adventures with dock jumping dogs Google them and be prepared to be amazed.
Anyone who knows a dog knows they are a gift to the world. Dogs play so many roles on this Earth: they are companions, nannies, guides, therapists, to mention a few. To list all the services provided by a dog would be unending. Sometime ago I learned the story of a special dog living a very unusual life of his own creation.
Owney, a homeless Border Terrier lived in Albany, New York. That night in 1888 it was windy, rainy and bone cold. As he traveled the alley Owney spotted a door opened, ever so slightly, with what appeared to be light and warmth on the other side. Not being the shy type he entered the back room of the Albany Post Office and slept among the warm leather mail bags. A postal clerk, Owen adopted the dog who became known as Owney.
The Albany Post Office became Owney’s home. His primary interest were the mailbags, he never left their side and was particular as to who touch them. Railway Mail Service processed a great deal of the mail in those days. Owney rode in the mail wagon as it transferred bags of mail to the station. On one of these trips a mailbag fell off the wagon unnoticed by the postal clerk. Owney jumped off the wagon and laid with the mail bag until it was retrieved by the proper official. It was then Owney became the unofficial mascot of the United States Postal Service.
Oweny’s life became a dog’s dream…he was free to travel by train wherever he wished, when he wished and was able to protect his precious mailbags. He traveled from one end of the country to other. When Owney was on the train there was never a wreck (wrecks were common in those days) and Owney was considered good luck. He often jumped from one mail car to another never quite knowing where he was headed. Owney was often gone for weeks at a time no one really sure where he was.
There was one period of great concern. Owney had been out of touch for a particularly long time. It so happens that he had landed in Canada. The Canadian postmaster was not pleased. He caged Owney and wrote to the Albany Post Office telling them he would be returned upon receipt of $2.50 for dog food. Owney’s bill was paid and he returned to Albany.
The Albany Postal Clerks were concerned for Owney’s safety. They made him a sturdy collar with a tag so he would always come home safely. As Owney traveled people added tags. His collar became so heavy he needed a harness to help carry the weight. Over his life time he collected approximately 372 tags.
Owney became an international star traveling to Mexico, Japan, Alaska, China, Singapore and the Suiz. He was loved by the world. He received approximately 1,017 medals, among them the medal of “Best Traveled Dog” in 1893 and “Globe Trotter” in 1894. It is estimated Owney traveled 143,000 miles.
Sadly, as with all of us the years took their tole on Onwey. At the age of ten he was in fragile health and banned from riding the rails. J.M. Elben ,a postal clerk from the St.Louis office, adopted Owney. Unfortunately they allowed Owney one more trip. It was on this trip Owney fell ill and bit a postal clerk and U.S. Marshall. Owney was shot. There was a public outcry. The Chicago Tribune calling it an execution. June 11, 1897 Owney was put down in Toledo, Ohio.
The postal community could not let Owney go. They had his body preserved and in 1904 put his effigy on display at the St. Louis Worlds Fair. In 1911 Owney was put on display at the Smithsonian Museum where you can still find him along with his collar and a few of his tags. After a 2011 restoration Owney looks better than ever and is said to be one of the most interesting displays. In that same year the United States Postal Service issued a forever stamp honoring Owney.
Share in Owney’s stories through the following websites in addition to the books and videos recalling a very special dog.