Priceless Moments

gil and jon 6

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

abby blake 4

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?

chaseyourdreams_web

(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.

 

Love

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

Katharine Hepburn

 

SashaKisses_webFebruary is the month that places great emphasis on the emotion of LOVE. One day every year is set aside for all of us to profess our love to those around us. I always wonder, why only one day? How would our relationships be different if we expressed, not only our deep love, but also appreciation, admiration, joy, and excitement towards those we love EVERY DAY. I love my husband, I love my daughter, and I love my friends. But the emotion of love generated when I think of my dogs is different. It is extraordinarily different. The interesting thing about loving a dog is that everything about the relationship is pure and unconditional. There is no judgment, no “over-thinking”, no anger, and no disappointment. What is interesting about this relationship is that neither human nor dog are looking to receive anything. We both are in giving mode all the time and by the sheer act of giving, we receive so much.

 

When I taught group dog training lessons, I always asked people to describe how their Henry_Gila_Dogvergnugen3dogs greeted them. I wanted to know details on how their dogs behaved in their presence and, in turn, how that made them feel. Everyone agreed that the emotions generated simply by being in the presence of their dog created a wonderful calm and great joy in them. They also agreed that these emotions and feelings were generated simply because of what the dog was giving them unconditionally: companionship, attentiveness. The mere presence of their dog created the sense of being needed, and a sense of feeling important and special.

 

DD_12_9Without asking for a thing (except maybe a treat now and then) our dogs teach us about compassion, loyalty, patience, kindness, caring, and unconditional love. A relationship with a dog is unlike any other relationship- but could you imagine the impact on our spouses, children, parents, or friends if we greeted them with the same enthusiasm of a dog? Can you imagine what a positive difference it would make if we just listened and focused completely on those we love as they speak? Can you imagine how our relationships and connections would improve if we truly loved unconditionally and made our family and friends feel special and important every single day?

 

As Valentines Day approaches, stop running around to find the perfect gift, best chocolates, gorgeous roses, or sexy lingerie, and just start treating those you love as your dog treats you…. If you do it everyday rather than reserve it for just one day a year, my guess is you will build extraordinary relationships and will find yourself incredibly happy all year long. DV_10_10

BOLO’s Travel Adventure

BOLO and Beke going through security

BOLO and Beke going through security

BOLO and I had a wonderful adventure in Orlando Florida. Our journey there was her first experience travelling by air. She was fabulous, sleeping all but 1 hour on the plane.  BOLO was definitely more relaxed than I was upon landing as I was most concerned about getting her out the door to a grassy area once we disembarked. Despite being prepared with all my “clean up” materials, I did not want to experience  a full on “potty accident” in the middle of the airport.  Thankfully, BOLO waited to relieve herself until we were out the door.

getting groceries and settling in at hotel

getting groceries and settling in at hotel

Like a “kid” visiting a new hotel, BOLO was excited to arrive at the Homewood Suites and settled in quite nicely. She helped us collect our groceries- providing entertainment for a lot of foreign tourists.  She was a very good girl.

 

BOLO provided “moral support” as we set up our trade show booth at the North American Veterinary Conference and then joined us for dinner at a fabulous restaurant.   During our week at the conference, BOLO was a huge hit.

bolo working hard during booth set up and making sure everyone gets their "puppy fix"

bolo working hard during booth set up and making sure everyone gets their “puppy fix”

 Of course all the vets and vet techs had to come by our booth to say hello and get their “doggie fix”.  Having BOLO there helped us in our efforts to raise awareness and funds for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  BOLO got plenty of practice working as she walked through the exhibit hall and sat for countless polite greetings.  It was wonderful to see how well mannered she was and how well adjusted she was to responding to commands amid all the distractions.

 

On our last day there, we decided to take BOLO to downtown Disney.  She was a model dog, taking in all the sites and distractions and, by the end of the day, was completely tuckered out and ready to board the plane for our return home to California.

.photo 1bolodisneybolo on the boatbolo and winnie the pooh

As I always say, the best part of my travel is my first 2 minutes home.  We kept BOLO outside for a few minutes so I could go in and visit with Henry by myself.  Like me, BOLO could not wait to greet her little friend.  The exuberant greeting was quite memorable as BOLO was delighted but the look on Henry’s face was priceless as he looked up to me as if to say, “really?  you had to bring her back?”

henry

If you have a dog, it’s likely you have “DV”

Dogvergnügen (“DV”),   I can’t live without it

©Dog is GoodI’ve always said “I cannot live without my dog.”  Many of you would likely agree.  There is a peace and calm that occurs when I am with dogs…a sometimes surreal, comforting feeling of joy.  This feeling is addictive and infectious.  We call it Dogvergnügen and formally define it as “the unique joy you feel in the presence of dog”.

You can get Dogvergnügen the moment you wake up, or walk through your front door.  You can “catch it”  everywhere you go.  The onset of Dogvergnugen can begin with a belly rub, ear scratch, basic petting -and in rare cases- simply eye contact.

  Be careful, Dogvergnugen is highly contagious and can be caught just about anywhere.photo(61)

 Symptoms include:

  • positive behavioral changes

  • improved fitness due to an increase in long walks

  • rushes of affection

  • weakness for wet noses

  • lower blood pressure due to calming influences

  • welling up of eyes when watching movies involving dogs

  • uncontrollable crying while watching ASPCA commercials

  • loss of appetite – when food is left where it can be ‘accessed’

  • slight fatigue due to non-stop rounds of fetch

  • minor discomfort due to loss of bed or sofa area

  • difficulty sleeping due to snoring and/or paws in your back

  • longing brought on by prolonged separation

 If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these symptoms, you’ve got Dogvergnügen… so just enjoy.  I’ve been living with it for years.Carol and Elvis Presley

Tell us: How you would describe your personal Dogvergnugen?


Stay tuned this year for the 2nd annual Dogvergnugen photo contest- a pictorial showcase highlighting the dog-human bond.