Bridge pack

The Pack Coyote activities Dazzle Activities Photo page 1 Photo page 2 photoalbum.html Dog Scout Info At the bridge

A tribute to the family that is waiting for me at the rainbow bridge

Pets bring so much to our lives that when they pass on, it rips out a piece of our heart.  However, that void is filled with some really special memories.  The animals on this page were more than just pets, more than just "animals" they were family and are missed daily.

Tribute to the dog who started it all- may God watch over him till we can run together once again

Midnight was a husky/Border collie cross (we think.) He found our door one evening long ago when he was just a pup, shivering cold with ice clinging to his fur. He was exceptionally smart and loved to pull things while wearing a harness (sleds, wagons, etc.) He also thought he was a horse (probably because of all the time I spent at the barn and the fact that I trained him like a horse.)  He would jump the horse jumps, would lunge in a circle on a long line like a horse and even knew the cues for walk, trot and canter!  Several people who saw me work with him also wanted me to work with their dogs. Thus, a dog trainer was created. Thanks Midnight for all you taught me.


Unk - April 14, 2003. 

Omen was a Russian Blue of unknown birthdate. We guess he was about 13 when he died. His favorite activity was looking out the window and watching the world go by. Sometimes he would sneak out the dog door to eat grass, but he prefered the indoor life. He was a great lap warmer and would keep me company in my office. He is missed daily.

Hunter- a loving, gentle soul

Nov. 27th, 1993 - Nov. 29th, 2007 Hunter was a very special dog.  He was purchased as a puppy from a breeder who imported his parents from England.  We did some showing when he was young and he did well till he somehow broke the cartilage in his ear.  After that, we concentrated on obedience, but I didn't much care for the politics of the show ring.  Hunter was first trained using traditional methods and was considered "stubborn" and "hard headed."  But really the problem was with the method of training and I can't say that I blame him.  Once I found out about clicker training, I had a new dog!  He was willing and responsive and enjoyed training.  His little nub of a tail wagged a mile a minute when we trained!  He learned over 30 different cues, both hand signals and verbal.  He was an excellent therapy dog and absolutely LOVED greeting people and getting attention.  If their hand stopped, he would put his head back under the idle hand :-)  Older people were his favorite and he was just the right height to rest his head comfortably in their lap or on their bed.  I was always amazed (& so were the nurses) that even people who didn't care for dogs would see him and want him to come over.We did a LOT of hiking together and I always felt safe on the trails with him.  I knew he would have died to protect me.  There was at least one tense situation deep in the woods where he definitely saved me from something a stranger had planned, but thought better of it and walked away from us.  He also enjoyed agility, but we just did it for fun and exercise and didn't compete.  His favorite activity (besides getting loved on) was painting!  When I took him to his first Dog Scout camp, I was still VERY new to positive training and Hunter hadn't had any.  For 7 years, he had been taught that his feet must stay on the ground!  And now, I was trying to teach him to USE his paw.  We had to work hard to teach him that it was OK for just this one thing.  When the light bulb went on, you could see the moment of realization!  All the pent-up frustration of not being able to use his paws came out!  He really got "into" his paintings and often growled with delight while creating a masterpiece, little tail nub wagging wildly.Even cancer couldn't get him down.  In 2001 he got a fast growing mast cell tumor in his neck.  It took two surgeries to remove it all and in the short time between the first and second, the tumor had grown again.  The vets had to remove a good deal of tissue and muscle and even a jugular vein to get "clean edges" indicating all of the tumor was removed.  The day after that amazing operation, he came home and picked up a tennis ball on a rope and started shaking it to play!  He had stitches from his chin to his chest, drain tube and all and it never even slowed him down (though I slowed him down for awhile till he could heal!)  The vets did an incredible cosmetic job too!  Unless you really looked carefully at the lay of the hair on his neck, you couldn't tell anything was amiss.  He continued to live an additional wonderful 6 years!Hunter was a very special dog and continues to live on in his undying spirit.  He lives on in the hearts of all the people he touched, including my mother in law who is deathly afraid of dogs, but Hunter is one dog she came to love and would actually pet.  He was so gentle, even as a puppy, that my cats would bully him!  He was many times their size, but they could chase him into a corner and keep him there with just a look.  He had a magical effect on people and always made them smile. His gentle nature was evident from the moment a person met him and he taught me more than I could ever re-pay.  I made a lot of mistakes with his training as I learned, but he was always so amazingly tolerant.  All our other dogs benefited from the training time I spent with him.  He trained them too.  Teaching them proper doggie social skills in a firm but gentle way. And being a good example for them to learn from.  And he taught my husband that dogs are more than just animals that live outside.  He learned about and developed the special bond that only people who work with and care about their canine family members can develop.He reached his 14th birthday in 2007, happy and relatively healthy except for some nerve degeneration in his back.  But two days later, he suffered a stroke and was unable to stand.  Although I knew his body had reached it's end, it was so hard to let him go because his spirit and will to live was so damn strong.  He died peacefully in my arms and lives on in my soul.  Thank-you Hunter, I will never forget you.

Sir Buster

It is with a hole in my heart that I report that on Aug 13th, 2011 Buster took his last breath next to me and my husband on his favorite dog bed in our house. He went quickly and peacefully, on his own terms. There was more than one time in the past couple weeks that I thought he was near the end, but then he would bounce right back and be like nothing had happened. He was a strong spirit right to the end. I wrote the following memorial when I knew his end was near. Thank-you Allison for helping us know Buster's wishes. It really helped us put our minds at ease and I think you were 100% right.
He was born on March 4, 1997 and 14 years ago, Buster came into our lives through a twist of fate that said in no uncertain terms he was meant to be ours. It was back when I only had one dog, my Rottweiler, and my husband was not yet my spouse but was spending more time at my house than his own. He was raised on a farm with only outside "farm dogs" and didn't know how wonderful, loving and personable a dog could be until he met Hunter and spent some time with him. He decided he wanted a dog that loved him as much as Hunter clearly loved me. And although we were reading about various breeds, we both knew he needed more education about dogs and training before we started looking for another dog. He did decide, after much research, that he wanted a Cattle Dog, that he wanted it to be a blue male and that he was going to name him Buster.

Shortly after he declared that, I was on duty as a police officer and got a call for a loose dog on a major road huddled next to the median. I responded and found a scared dog, I think it was a labrador, that was clearly someone's pet but had no tags. I called SPCA to respond, but they had a 3 hour estimated arrival and I already had the dog in the back of my patrol car. So I got permission from my supervisor to go across town to drop the dog off at the shelter where I had never been before.

While I'm in line waiting to turn over the dog, a couple walked in with a (you guessed it) male, blue cattle dog. I didn't think much about it and figured they were probably getting him neutered or something. But I couldn't resist asking. I was told they had a baby on the way and already had 2 small dogs and this one just wasn't working out. I asked what his name was and they said Buster. I knew he was meant to be ours. He was flattening himself to the floor and trying to be invisible, and looked catatonic, but I thought it might just be because he was in the lobby of the SPCA and likely knew his only family was about to give him up. We agreed to meet the next day at a park on the other side of town where it turned out they also lived. I wanted to be sure Hunter would get along with Buster and wanted to see what he was like away from the SPCA environment.

They arrived the next day and had to coax him out of the car where he promptly flattened himself to the ground. Hunter walked up, gave him a sniff and walked off to sniff elsewhere. Buster didn't move. I thought I knew what we were in for and knew this dog would not be my husband's because it was going to take a boat load of training to get him out of his shell. We gave the people a dollar and had them sign him over to us just to make it official and we took him home. I have no doubt he would have been immediately put to sleep if he had stayed at the shelter. They told us they got him at 8 weeks old at a pet store and that they put him in their fenced back yard on a quiet cul-de-sac street and he never left the yard. He was now 8 months old and his entire known world consisted of that one back yard. He never learned that stuff outside that yard wasn't going to eat him or that sometimes thing change suddenly in the environment and it wasn't a signal for the end of the universe or that people and dogs he didn't know weren't going to kill him. Our saving grace, if you can call it that, for our newby training skills was that he never tried to bite. When he got overwhelmed, he laid down and went catatonic.

For the first 6 months, if we got up off the couch, or walked in the room he was in, he bolted out the back dog door. He was more comfortable outside, but it didn't take as long as I expected to get him indoors for the most part. The dog door helped and so did Hunter who Buster seemed to feel safe with (surprizing because he had only known small lap dogs, but Hunter was a gentle soul and had a way with people and dogs that were fearful dispite his 120 lb size). I think it was a year before Buster crawled up on the couch for attention, but for years he still bolted off if he thought we might stand up.

I recall early on thinking I would take him for a walk, but as soon as he stepped out onto the front porch, into the new and unknown world, he was back to a catatonic puddle on the floor. So we spent months just sitting on the porch watching the world go by until he was able to take treats and deal with it all. Eventually we were able to leave the porch and take a walk around the block. During that time, I found that he was much more relaxed in the woods, so that's where he got most of his exerise when we weren't playing in the now familiar back yard.

Buster was the reason I found clicker training, because up to the time he entered our lives, I was not using completely kind methods. But it was pretty clear that since an unhappy glance in his direction caused him to turn into a puddle that the training I had used with Hunter wasn't going to work on him. So I attended a seminar in Chicago presented by two guys from the Shedd Aquarium that opened my eyes to a whole new world of training. It was also where I met Beth Duman and her Dog Scout Anja and found out about DSA. But I was still unclear on much of positive training and it wasn't till I attended Dog Scout camp in 2000 with Hunter that I really experienced the power of positive training and started understanding how it could be applied.

After that, my skills with Buster grew rapidly, I started working at a Dog Daycare and learning loads about canine body language and Buster started making more progress with his socialization (but he wasn't ever able to attend the daycare where I worked). He did get to attend Dog Scout camp twice and on his second visit, he was relaxed enough to be able to play some fetch with a frisbee (his favorite toy) and to paint a lovely painting I still have framed. We went on many long walks in the woods together, Buster always off leash because he was more relaxed that way. If we met anyone on the trail, Buster would trot into the woods, way out around the other person, but always came right back to my side. I found he loved water activities and often took him to a park near our house where he could fetch his frisbee in the shallow reflecting pool, which he would do all day long if I let him. We also went on several kayak trips together and as long as he was able to go for the occasional swim, he enjoyed sunning himself in the kayak and watching the world float by. And once we moved and got a big back yard, countless hours were spent throwing the frisbee for him when we weren't hiking a trail.

When he was 12, he played with a dog he didn't know for the first time at a troop party at our house. I got it on video and nearly cried. During previous parties, he had started by staying in the bedroom and only darting out to pee whenever other people were visiting. But each party he got more and more bold. He started peeking out and watching, then coming out into the living room as long as no one looked at him. Then he started to make short trips outside where everyone was instructed to feed him. He was pretty food motivated, so that helped a great deal. But when he actually engaged in play with a corgi, that was a wonderful memory I'll cherish.

I only wish other people could have seen what he was like when it was just us at home. He was playful and had a wicked sense of humor. He was also masochistic. He would torment Coyote or Dazzle until they bit him and especially when coyote would grab him by the muzzle and hold him, making indentations into the skin, Buster would stand there and wag his tail with a gleam in his eye. Allison did a reading of him a few years ago and agreed that if he were a person, he'd be wearing leather and chains and begging to be whipped. He was also quite cunning. He learned that when Coyote had a bone he wanted, if Buster barked at the front window, Coyote would run over to help him bark and Buster would saunter back and get the bone! That worked until Coyote figured out what Buster was doing and would carry the bone with him and bark with it in his mouth. Buster didn't try that ploy again after that. But he did do other similar things. He loved to play, wrestle and fetch and often walked around with a toy in his mouth. As he got older, he had a knack for laying in a traffic pattern so Coyote, who is nearly blind, would accidently step on him so Buster could "correct" Coyote. But he was never rough about it, I think it was a game he played, exercising what control he still could. He was truely a character to the end.

He taught me SO much about canine behavior, body language and positive training I could never thank him enough. As it has been said, it's not the easy dogs that make you a good trainer, it's the ones with issues. And Buster brought that in spades. But I wouldn't ever trade him for an easy dog. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without him and I wouldn't have been able to help the countless people and dogs I have helped because of what he taught me or forced me to learn. So thank-you Buster from the bottom of my heart. You will be missed deeply and a piece of my heart went with you. I'll remember you fondly. Rest in peace my dear friend and teacher.