Building Bonds is as Easy as a Game of Fetch

Everything in life is like a game of fetch

 

©Dog is GoodI took Henry to the dog park earlier this week.  Momentarily lost in thought, I was watching about 8 different dogs playing fetch with their owners.  Many of the dogs ran repeatedly after the balls being thrown, retrieved them, and trotted happily back to their owners to drop the ball at their feet.  Over and over again, the ball was picked up, “chucked” across the field, and pursued by an exuberant dog.  The dog-human teams seemed so happy and connected.

Conversely, other dog-human teams seemed out of “sync”.  Like the first group, the owners would throw the ball and the dog would happily chase after it.  However, these dogs did not bring the ball back.  They often got distracted by smells, other dogs, or just simply stopped and dropped the ball 20-50 feet away from their owner.  This forced the individual to walk over to pick the ball up to keep it in play.  Initially, the owner eagerly trotted over- happy to be spending quality time with their dog. However, after a while, I noticed the owner slowing down, stopping to check their phone, and/or begin a conversation with some of the other people at the park.  In this scenario, both the owner and the dog lost interest in participating in the game and, while they were both present- they really were not connecting at all.

As I reviewed all of this in my mind, it occurred to me that how we engage with others in our life is much like a game of fetch.

©Dog is GoodWe find personal satisfaction and pleasure in “throwing out the ball” or “giving to others”.  When the ball is returned or gestures acknowledged- it is rewarding, so we continue to engage  “throwing the ball”, thus fostering a stronger  connection and bond with our partner, child, friend, etc….This back and forth element of “tossing out behaviors” continues as long as it is mutually rewarding.

Unfortunately, we often allow the stresses of daily living to get in the way. We either find ourselves too busy to initiate the game, tell our loved ones when they bring us the ball -”we will play later”, or we try to play while multitasking. Over time, our loved ones stop bringing us the ball and our initiation of the game occurs less and less. The game becomes less rewarding and the strength of the connection between the two people seems to wane.’

 

DailyDV_5As I left the park, I made a mental note:

I took this opportunity to apply a very casual observation as general life lesson- throughout every day, we engage and connect with our dogs in ways that are mutually beneficial and rewarding. 

We look directly at them when we speak, we touch them, we play with them, we snuggle with them, we are connected with them.  In return, they reward us with devoted, unconditional love.  It is why the human-dog bond is so strong.

It would be so easy to strengthen the human-human bond by reaching out daily to engage  in a back and forth exchange utilizing conversation/communication, undivided attention, kind gestures, acknowledgement, empathy, compassion, and affection, as our “ball” in the simple game of “fetch”.

National Guide Dog Day

Dogs Do Amazing things. Through wonderful organizations, dedicated workers, and help from thousands of volunteers, countless dogs have been raised and trained to impact, empower, and change the lives of the visually impaired, blind, and deaf-blind individuals forever.October13_2013_Web

In honor of National Guide Dog day, BOLO and I wanted to share a little bit about the humble beginnings of Leader Dogs for the Blind. Now celebrating their 75th anniversary, they have grown in amazing ways to impact thousands of lives all over the world.

“It all started with “$400 and a hatful of ideas.” – Donald P. Schuur.

On April 4, 1939, Lions Leader Dog Foundation (the name change to Leader Dogs for the Blind was to come in 1952) was incorporated as a Michigan nonprofit by Charles A. leader dog-classNutting, Donald P. Schuur and S.A. Dodge, members of the Uptown Lions Club of Detroit. Their motivation to form the organization came from their unsuccessful attempt to pay for a fellow Lion, Dr. Glenn “Doc” Wheeler, to get a guide dog from the only U.S. guide dog organization existing at the time.

In May 1939, the Foundation leased a small farm in Rochester Hills, Michigan on the corner of Rochester and Avon roads to house their new venture. Fifty dollars per month rented a farmhouse for the clients and staff, a barn for the dogs and a garage. The house rented in 1939 would have over 12,000 clients in residence until its demolition in 2003. Dogs were kept in the unheated barn with straw for insulation (unfit by today’s standards).PG - Brian Celusnak at WMU w ARMOR

On October 8, 1939, the first class of the newly incorporated nonprofit graduated. The cost to graduate each client/dog team was $600. Since then, the campus has grown from a small farm with a house, barn and garage to 14 acres containing an administration building, residence building for clients and a kennel facility housing hundreds of dogs in training, a veterinary office, and puppy and breeding areas. To date, the organization has graduated over 14,500 client/dog teams.  The cost to put a Leader Dog through the program now costs $40K!

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Being MOM to 2 and 4 legged kids

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 Families fall into one of 4 categories: You either have more than one child and only 1 dog, only 1 child and multiple dogs, children and no dogs, or dogs and no children.  I fall into the category of having only 1 child and more than 1 dog. Regardless of what category you fall in, being a mom is like nothing else in the entire world.

My daughter, Abby, turned 16 this year.  When people first learn this, their eyes widen and they lean in to ask,” How is that going- you know, having a teenager in the house. Is it as bad as everyone says?” I smile and reply, “Despite my worst nightmares about living with a teen, it has been pretty darn great.me and abs I actually have an awesome teenager living in my house”. I thought about why and analyzed my approach to motherhood and parenting. I discovered that raising my daughter and raising my dogs were surprisingly almost identical. I simply raised Abby like a dog.

 

©Dog is GoodBefore you call child welfare services, I promise I did not crate train her for potty training. However, much like I trained my dogs, I chose to build a relationship with my child based on trust and mutual respect. “Treating her like a dog” to me meant I gave her clear expectations, rewarded good behavior, ignored unwanted behaviors (like whining, etc…), and was consistent just about 100% of the time. I chose not to be a “helicopter parent” (a mom that hovers and does everything for her child). Rather, I allowed Abby opportunities to make her own decisions, develop responsibilities, and to be accountable 100% of the time. The rewards I have reaped as Abby’s mom are immeasurable. I enjoy our open communication, and the great pride I experience as I watch her mature into an independent and self-sufficient young lady.©Dog is Good

 

As a Dog Mom, the rewards are also immeasurable. My life was forever changed (literally) the moment my first puppy entered my life. Initially, I was their teacher- helping them adapt to my world by combining positive training with clear and consistent expectations.

However, it was the dogs who became the real teachers- forcing me at times to reflect on how I am living my life. Living with them inspires me. They inspire me to love more, play more, focus more, and to live in the moment without regret.©Dog is Good

“Love is a Four Legged Word, Caring for You is a Privilege, and I Get to Watch my Heart Run Around In Front of Me…”, are sentiments felt by Dog Mom’s everyday. This May, Dog is Good, will be focused on honoring the often-overlooked segment of motherhood, Dog Moms!dogmom award

We are hosting the first annual #DOGMOM of the Year Award, presented by Petplan Insurance. Starting May 1st, you can enter yourself or another woman that you think exemplifies the BEST of Dog Momhood. Everyone that enters will receive great gifts and offers from the many partners supporting #DOGMOM with us this month. Click here for details.

Priceless Moments

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Today I chose not to write about dogs…but rather the special, unforgettable memories that are created when spending time with family.

Jon and I took some time off this week to travel to Nashville TN, without dogs, where we would spend 5 days with 100 15-18 year old high school show choir students. As we took off at the crack of dawn and settled into our flight, I thought about how important my family is to me and the many reasons why Jon and I chose to start our company, Dog is Good. Our decision to build Dog is Good together stemmed from our motivation to do something we loved, have the ability to design our lives, build a future for our family, and find ways to make a difference in the community around us.abby alexia 2

When we started the business we had 3 dogs and 1 daughter. Six and a half years later we have 1 dog, 1 dog in training to be a Leader Dog (guide dog), and still only one daughter- who is now 16. Despite the long hours and dedication we pour into our business, we made a promise to never miss any of our daughter’s milestones or events that our daughter was involved in. We have kept that promise.

Abby’s show choir (think GLEE) competed on the stage of the Grand Ol Opry in a national show choir competition. Witnessing these amazing kids in both the advanced womens (SoundTRAX) and advanced mixed (SoundFX) groups win grand champion first place titles was indescribable. Seeing the kids pride and joy as they realized the benefits from countless hours of hard work and dedication was one of the most memorable moments for both Jon and I.

family 6The best part of the past several days was being together as a family, spending time with our daughter and her friends, and connecting with other parents. I was reminded that these are the moments in life you just can’t take for granted.

 

…AND we even managed to embarrass our daughter during an outing on the town dancing –  priceless.me and abs

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Pet parents take a new path..

4/1/2014 Chicago, IL

I think we’ve all observed or felt the cultural shift – the humanization of pets and increased spending at the expense of other household priorities. But a new trend is emerging, and it is taking families in a different, if not a disturbing direction.

One family, who requested to remain anonymous, said their lives have changed for the better. When they sent their children to summer camp, they noticed that their own quality of life had improved considerably. They were spending time alone with their 2 Weimaraners and felt relaxed and energized. So they decided to make a permanent change. Now the 2 kids are at boarding school and, though the children may not be happy, mom and dad are. weimar

But another family did the same for a different reason. Their Beagle, Bailey, was suffering from severe allergies with itchy skin and bouts of sneezing. They noted the symptoms subsided when their own children visited their grandparents for weekend trips, and they sprung into action. Now, under the guise of sending their children to a better school district, the Smith kids live with their grandparents and Bailey is a happy, healthy Beagle.

 

grandparentsCarol Smith defended her decision, “The household is a much better place. It’s cleaner and quiet, the toilet seat is down (and dry), I’m not picking up underwear and I don’t have to listen to incessant whining for upgraded iPhones and X-Box, ugh.” She added, “Some people fault us for being self-centered but the fact is, the kids really are at a better school and their grandparents are probably giving them more attention than we ever did. So it IS a win-win, right?”

Similarly, stable relationships are ending over dog-related disputes. Mindy Goldstein always pampered her Yorkie, Bebe. But when it became obvious the dog was receiving more of her attention than her fiance’ of 8 years, Jacob, he gave her an ultimatum – pick one. We actually discovered Jacob on J-Date, the website for Jewish singles, so you know how this story ultimately played out. But Jacob says he is neither bitter nor angry. “I pretty much saw it coming,” he said. “I mean, she talked to that spoiled dog more than she talked to me, she took her everywhere in that ridiculous tote bag, took her to restaurants, clothes shopping, and she cooked for her every day. If she ever made me tuna salad like my mother used to it was like a mini-celebration. I left her last year after Passover.”

Some of the “political class” in the country have gone on record saying this is more evidence of what they call cultural decay – a deterioration of morality in America. But to serious dog lovers it just feels right.

 

Chasing Dreams

dreaming bolo BOLO gives me plenty of opportunity to watch her while she is sleeping. If I am lucky, there are times when I actually catch her dreaming. For those of you who have seen your dogs dream, it’s very entertaining. Watching her dream got me thinking about dreaming…or rather, dreams we have for ourselves. I started to wonder, how many people truly follow their dreams?

 

Remember when you were younger and filled in the blank, “When I grow up, I want to be a ________________”. I started to ponder that statement. Do people  “chase their dreams” and ultimately achieve the highest personal satisfaction in accomplishing everything they sought to do? Do they let those dreams fall to the wayside, or do they stop dreaming all together? I also wondered how and why dreams may change.  bolo sleeping at tradeshow

When I was a young child, I always dreamed of being a teacher. Everything I set out to do in high school and college was designed to ensure I would land the teaching job of my dreams. I did just that, and I spent two years living my dream working directly with, educating, and inspiring high school students.

chase your dreams Once married, new doors of opportunity began to present themselves and new dreams were conjured up that both energized and excited me. The dream that launched me to where I am today began with the adoption of a dalmatian/lab mix puppy. After raising this highly energetic, unruly, mischievous puppy, I discovered I could combine my deep and growing love of dogs with my passion for teaching people. New dreams were formed and I set out to become a professional dog trainer.

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My involvement in the world of dogs opened more doors and created opportunity for my dreams to expand further, ultimately creating the vision for Dog is Good. It seems likely that most people have not one, but actually have several dreams to chase throughout their lifetime. When one is passionate about something, it drives them towards their goals. Dreams become fuel that force us to “Dig Deep” and following those dreams helps us find purpose and meaning.

As BOLO wakes from her slumber and comes alive as the absolute happiest dog I have ever known, I am reminded to never stop chasing dreams and find joy living in the moment. Are you chasing your dreams?  If not, what’s stopping you?

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(inspirational coasters and greeting cards are available) http://www.dogisgood.com/Search/?search=coasters

http://www.dogisgood.com/Search/?search=greeting%20cards

Highlights from Global Pet Expo

photo 1 (2)Global Pet Expo, the pet industry’s “superbowl of pet trade shows” was a particularly exciting show for Dog is Good. The energy level was super high throughout the three day event as people came to see new product launches and thousands of vendors. BOLO was a huge hit as well, attracting numerous people eager to get their “puppy fix”.bolo at booth

There are three things that I always look forward to when representing Dog is Good at these events. First, I love the opportunity to visit with friends we have made in the industry. I am always amazed at the positive energy and mutual support between others who exhibit at the show.

 We were thrilled to be positioned right next to our friends, and supporters of The BOLO Project, Chief Furry Officer (CFO). Last fall, CFO co-owner Terri Garcia kindly donated her services to produce a beautiful and special sterling silver pendant- “A dog can change the way you see the world” to benefit Leader Dogs for the Blind.cfo

 today show_2Lorien Clemens, of PetHub, was a fabulous addition to our Dog is Good booth as she promoted the new Dog is Good digital ID tags powered by Pethub. Her enthusiasm gained us a spot on the Today Show.

Second, I love the chance to connect with all of the stores who have introduced the Dog is Good brand to their customers. It is wonderful to put a face to a name, engage in a more personal conversation, and hear about the successes they are having with the product line in their stores. We have built some wonderful relationships that we truly do cherish.

petedge booth

Third, I absolutely get a kick from the reactions out of people discovering Dog is Good for the first time. It is quite humbling and validating to see their responses and to listen to their comments as they laugh or even cry at the various sentiments in our varied product line.

It was also a real treat to have BOLO with us during the show. It was interesting to see how much she had matured since her last tradeshow back in January. She behaved marvelously.bolo at petedge booth

Doing these trade shows is a lot of work and, honestly, very exhausting. However, we always land back in CA rejuvenated, full of new ideas and more excited.

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HALF WAY THERE

Bolo just turned 7 months and we are approaching the halfway mark.  Much of my day is spent with this sweet dog.  In fact, as I type now, she is sound asleep at my feet.  I often wonder if she feels the same comfort as I do with her puppy head resting on my shoes.

 2014_growingimage_BOLO_webWherever we go, BOLO continues to attract attention.  I thought that might fade after she grew out of her irresistible puppy stage, but she has blossomed into one of the most beautiful Labrador Retrievers most people have ever seen.  Her vest prompts questions as to what type of working dog she will become.  It is evident that she is still in training.  I enjoy the opportunity to explain our relationship with Leader Dogs for the Blind, how we first embarked on The BOLO Project- to train BOLO as a future Leader Dog, and our hopes for raising awareness and funds for this incredible organization.

The question I get asked more than any other is, “How will you be able to give her up?”  The truth of the matter is that it will be very hard.  I constantly remind myself of the conversation I had with the director of philanthropic giving that included a quote he had heard,  “it’s not what you will be giving up…it’s what you will be giving”.  This message was pivotal for me in making the final decision to become a puppy raiser for the organization.

Gila meets Bolo

Gila meets Bolo

It was not hard to fall in love right away with BOLO.  Her incredibly sweet demeanor and willingness to work and learn these past several months make her so special.  I am extremely proud to play a small role in the life-changing impact BOLO will have for someone.  I also realize that it will be hard to initially let her go.  Puppy raisers devote their energies and heartfelt efforts to help these pups achieve the ultimate goal of creating new independence for the visually impaired.  While it is sad to say the initial goodbye, they say it is one of the most rewarding experiences as well.  I anticipate that I will experience similar emotions.

bolo_6monthsCOLLAGE_web It does not matter how much I love BOLO.  There are times when letting go benefits others in a greater capacity than one could ever imagine.  When I do finally return BOLO to embark on the next stage of her journey, I will leave her with the hope she succeeds in what she is destined to do.  As she becomes focused on the serious job that lies ahead,  I also hope she never forgets me, the bond we shared, and her time at Dog is Good.  However, because not all of the puppies make it all the way through the program, there is a chance she could have a career change. If this is determined, BOLO will be welcomed immediately back into our lives.

 

Perfectionism is not an option

young bolo pup

young BOLO pup

 A perfectionist since probably the moment I could walk and talk, I set very high standards for everything I do. Sometimes my approach to things serves me well. I excelled in high school and my extracurricular activities. I graduated with honors from college and I was even selected teacher of the year my first year in the classroom. In business, I strive to be the best in customer service, be the best vendor, be the best employer, be the best business partner…basically be the best at all I do. However, when you work with dogs they sometimes throw a little reality your way….life is not perfect, neither are dogs, and neither am I.

Training BOLO is extremely rewarding and also quite humbling. When I first brought BOLO home, I (of course) set out to be the best trainer possible to prepare this puppy for the extremely important role she will play in the future. The first couple months were a breeze. BOLO learned quickly and responded correctly to everything I asked of her. She behaved masterfully in public and was a joy to take everywhere.

Focused Bolo

Focused BOLO

Fast forward BOLO from young pup to early adolescent and it’s no surprise I am reaching for my box of L’Oreal hair color more frequently than before. There is no room for a “perfectionist” when working through the developmental stage of  puppy adolescence. I look at BOLO each morning with a smile as I wonder “will this be a good day or an exhausting day?”

BOLO is maturing and progressing through expected developmental stages. On most days, she has incredible focused attention, responds to cues immediately, and maintains a calm demeanor in public. Yet, there are those moments when an entirely “different dog” takes over and everything I ask of her seems to fall on deaf ears. Imagine my horror when BOLO was tested for baseline performance on behavior skills she needs to master, and she decided the birds and helicopters in the sky were more interesting than anything I could possibly be asking of her. Sheesh- I’m a trainer, she is supposed to respond perfectly every single time, right??? Not at this stage of the game.

 

BOLO is still a young puppy- about to turn 7 bolo with bowl laying downmonths of age and she reminds me that “perfection” is an awful lot of pressure. Patience, persistence, and consistency are better approaches in striving to meet high standards for both immediate and long term goals. It is all about progress over time and, in the end, all I can do is accept that I give my all to do my best in life, business, and in training BOLO.

working in christy's officeToday BOLO had a  “perfect”- I mean “exceptional”- day and I actually did as well.