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Leerburg Story Contest | How Your Dog Changed Your Life

Story Contest | How Your Dog Changed Your Life

Leerburg's Dog Story Contest!

How Your Dog Changed Your Life

Enter for a chance to win a $25 Leerburg Gift Certificate!

Do you have great stories about your dog? Now is the time to enter Leerburg's Story Contest. Email your story to Cindy with Story Contest in the subject line. Click here for more information and the current story theme.

We will change the theme periodically.
Stories are in no particular order.

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Featured in the 10.27.09 Newsletter

Hello Cindy,  I would like to tell you how my German Shepherd "Dexius" changed / saved my life.

I was diagnosed with a flesh eating bacteria in 2004, and had surgery to remove the infection, during the surgery the two major muscles in my back were severed. During this time I went through a very deep depression, as I went from being an active Law Enforcement Officer, to not being able to get out of bed. With the help of family I was able to recover physically, but I have had issues off and on fighting depression. 

In March of 2007, I began to have a very bad bout of depression, and was hospitalized. My wife (who I married in 2006) knew I had grown up with dogs and used to help train them when I was a Deputy Sheriff, spoke to my Doctors about whether a dog would help with my depression or not.

In April of 2007, my wife bought me an 8 week old bi-color German Shepherd, as an early birthday present, whom we named Dexius vom Kriegerhund, call name "Dex."  Having had dogs in the past I knew that GSD's needed to be kept both physically and mentally occupied. I began to look into training with Dex, and found the sport of Schutzhund. As I began to learn more about the sport, the more I began to get excited. I just knew that this would give me "something to live for."

Dex has given me that something to live for. Taking care of his needs has forced me to push myself physically, where now I can work full time again, even if it is sitting at a desk all day now. Dex seems to know when I am getting "down," and is somehow able to bring me out of it, even if it is just putting his head on my lap. While we have had our set backs in training, we are pushing forward and are hoping to go for our BH in February.

I truly believe that without Dex, I would no longer be here. 

John

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Hi Cindy,

Misty our German Shepherd Dog changed my life in many ways.

1. She is so full of life, her eyes look as if they light up when she looks a the world around her.

2. She makes people smile.

3. Misty has endless energy.

4. Misty is athletic, she amazes us.

So, as a person, I would say Misty has made me smile more. I am no longer a couch potato. I will never be athletic, but I can sure throw a tennis ball and run the agility course. Misty is my second German Shepherd. Melodie, my first, passed away at 11 years old. Melodie was there for me when my health was very bad. To this day, I know she helped me get through the bad times, but Misty is totally different when you see her. The words live and love are written in her eyes. Misty has taught me to live, get out and enjoy every day.

Nancy

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Chica is a mixed breed shepherd. She turned 3 years old in September. We are her 4th adopted home. It seems that other owners gave up on Chica. The minute I looked at Chica I knew she was the dog for me. I actually felt that God sent her to me. My husband was recently in a critical accident and I felt that Chica's smiling face drew me in. I have discovered a queerness while being with Chica. Even when I take her out in the early morning to go to the bathroom, I look up at the sky and admire the stars. I would not have done this without Chica's presence. When I look under her fur and see the scar on her neck from her abusive past, I take extra care to kiss Chica at night and tell her she is an excellent dog. I guess you could say that Chica comforts me in my time of need and I return the favor to you by treating her with dignity. She has not let me down.

I've attached a picture of Chica's regal pose.

Respectfully,
Denise

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Featured in the 11.2.09 Newsletter

My dog has drastically changed my life!

Well, it all started when I was 10 years old. I decided I really wanted a dog for my birthday. I had never owned a dog in my life, and I was actually scared of most dogs. My mom didn't like dogs, but told me I could get a Yorkie because they are so small, so I started saving my money. I had $100, and the morning of my birthday, we saw "Yorkie mix" puppies for sale in the paper. We went to look at them, and there were only two boys left, one of which was the runt of the litter! He was getting picked on, so being the 10 year old I was, I instantly had to have him.

We brought him to the vet immediately, and my mom made me name him right then. I decided the right name for him would be Charlie.

Starting out the first few years of owning him, I didn't really know what to do at all! We would let him run all over the neighborhood, he growled at us all the time, he barked in his crate, and he attacked other dogs. I decided that I really wanted to learn how to take care of him better, but wasn't sure what to do.

We were at a dog boutique when we saw an ad for a dog show coming up! My sister and I begged my mom to bring us to it! She decided that she would take us, and a week later, we were at a pretty big dog show! There, I met the people from the Muskegon Lakeshore Obedience Training Club. We joined the club and started attending classes, and I began reading up on dogs a lot more! I memorized every breed I could, and everything about them.

I became very involved in training, and began to train Charlie to do competitive obedience. I was doing very well for having taught myself almost everything I knew how to do, and for having no adult help in the training of my dog!

I saw agility on television a while later, and my dad made me an agility course that week. We started training for that as well, and took lessons to help sharpen our skills.

I volunteered to help train all the dogs in the neighborhood! I would do anything just to get experience and learn. I even started grooming and dog sitting for free, so that I could learn those skills as well!

Conformation was the only thing I couldn't do with Charlie, being a mutt, but a lady from the club even let me show her GSP's in the show ring for her, and I showed them to their championships. I tried competing in UKC juniors with Charlie a few times, and always came out at the top of the competition. At one very big show, we were the only mutt in the ring, and I thought to myself "It will be a miracle if we win this." Well, we did! We beat 25 other juniors! I was so excited!

My sister and I continued going to dog shows on our own throughout our teen years. We would drive there and camp out in a tent, and call our parents and tell them we were doing okay. It was awesome having such lenient parents, and I feel like I learned so much without them always hovering over us.

I showed Charlie to his UCD and UAG1 titles (he got them both in his first three shows!), and then something bad happened. My parents got divorced. I could only see my dog every other week, and I could no longer do so many dog shows. I became very depressed and felt like all my hard work had been ripped away from me. I am very thankful I had my dog during this part of my life, otherwise I don't know what may have happened. He was my only friend, and he saved me from committing suicide a few times.

As I became a young adult, I started to get back into the dog stuff. I decided that I really wanted to be a dog trainer, and I had to pursue my goals in order to reach them.

I started reading dog training books again, and became more involved with shows, but not as much as I had been before. There was a long break where I was in college for other degrees, and again dropped my dog training interests.

It was not until now, 2 years later, that I am finally back on track. I'm now working at a dog training facility, pursuing becoming a dog trainer, and studying like a mad woman! I feel I owe it all to Charlie, who is happily retired from the show ring due to being a blind 11 year old dog today. If it weren't for him, and if it weren't for his bad behavior, I would have never gotten into dogs at all, and my passion would be somewhere else.

I'm glad it turned out this way. Dogs complete me. Charlie taught me so much, he is my best friend, and he was the only one to turn to in my darkest hours. I am so very thankful to have him in my life, I feel he really has changed my life into something very grand indeed.

-Karissa

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Featured in the 10.29.09 Newsletter

I was always frumpy growing up and had few friends in high school. Always having loved dogs, at nearly 16 I decided to purchase a GSD puppy. I worked at a pet store cleaning cages and saved every dime. I picked up a newspaper and made an attempt to see a litter of puppies. I had no idea that the puppy I would bring home would change my life forever. I picked out a forward drivey puppy and headed home. Even though she came from a newspaper ad, "Heidi" luckily was well bred. Her sire was all DDR and her mother was West German working and Hungarian. She learned quickly and I soon became obsessed with training. At 16 I was more than just "chubby," I was FAT! In addition to this I was very introverted and generally sat at home on the computer or reading. I was painfully shy and had great difficulty making friends.

Training with her forced me to get outside and exercise, to meet new people and then join a schutzhund club. She was my novice A dog and I made many mistakes, but being that "once in a lifetime" dog she was great despite my errors. She took me to my first BH and our first Schutzhund 1 in the same weekend under Tom Rose (I was 18) and then came the WH and OB2. Having had a horrible experience with an AKC obedience judge, before joining the schutzhund club and finding it more welcoming to us, I decided to go back and try AKC obedience again. This time she obtained her CD in three straight tries (the bad judge was try #1) with placements and high scores, then off to her CDX which again we obtained in 3 or 4 tries with good scores.

When she died she took a part of my heart with her but more than that I found she had changed my life. No longer did I sit in the house all day, I had made many friends on our journey and somewhere along the way I had become both more humble and more confident.... both more outgoing and more willing to listen to those who knew more than I did.... both more independent and more yearning for those who understood that they are more than "just a dog." Even though Heidi Von Horizon died at 3 in a tragic accident she changed my life forever. What started as purchasing a German Shepherd puppy for a pet turned into a lifelong obsession with dogs and training.

I can't imagine that any dog has changed another persons life so completely.

Sincerely,
Kelly
Hedi Von Horizon BH,Sch1, OB2,WH, CD, CDX, CGC (1999-2002)

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Odin Vom Haus Chess was a little puppy about 3 months old. He loved to jump and pounce on me when I sat on the couch. He jumped on my tummy one day and I felt something move. It was a tumor and I had cancer. If he had not jumped on me and moved the tumor, I may not have had symptoms and I might not be here today!

Lori

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Hi Cindy,

Over 5 years ago I started researching a raw diet for our future german shepherd, Baron who is now 5 yrs old. I can't remember what prompted the raw diet, if I saw it on someone's web site, but I started off with the B.A.R.F books and have long since switched to whole prey model.

In the process of researching a raw diet, I also started researching vaccines.  The result of researching a healthier diet and eliminating vaccines, it has made me be more healthy in my choices regarding diet, vaccines and overall medications.

Thanks to our 4 GSDs, two of which are 3 yrs old, were weaned to raw and have never been vaccinated or medicated in anyway, I now also choose the all natural remedies for myself and my husband, I never was pro vaccines for myself anyway, but it reinforced my decision in never getting vaccinated for anything either.  I also research all natural remedies for any ailments for myself and family.

Tina

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Cindy,

This is how Toby changed my life:

My dog Toby, an Australian Cattle Dog/Lab mix is a fun and funky combination of Lab goofiness and ACD intensity; certainly NOT the type I would have chosen.  But, God sent him to me anyway, pushing me out of my comfort zone and into the NOW!  Much of what I discovered, thanks to Toby, I already knew but had failed to embrace as a way of life. Toby changed all that.  This bundle of energy, SMARTS, and attitude in a doggy suit lives in the Joy of Now...

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  Here's my ball!
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  Here's my food!
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  Here are my people!
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  It's today!

Angels can wear doggy suits!

Katherine

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Hi Cindy,

What follows is how my late dog, Stormn, changed my life. She showed me the way to clicker/marker training. Please also see the attached pictures.

Dedicated to Honker Hollows Stormn’ Kisses; the teacher who came with beautiful brown eyes, a warm heart and showed me a better way.

I’ve been training since 1972 and learned all the traditional training methods and I was successful about 80 percent of the time. But there were those dogs that were either very soft or very tough mentally that just didn’t respond well to the training. In fact - something I hate about myself - I was unsuccessful with one of my own dogs using the stern methods I’d learned. For many years that didn’t seem to affect me much since I didn’t know any other way. Then one day Stormn entered my life.

“Do you want her? She's free.”

The answer to that question was to change my life forever.

It started simply enough with my father-in-law telling us about the purebred, papered black lab bitch. From there it got more complicated.

My husband figured we could breed her to our hunting line male and make some money off the pups. Since the son of a friend of the family’s had her in a nearby town we went to look.

Once we got there the story started to unfold. She was one of two black pups in a large litter of yellows and chocolates; she and her black sister were given away just because they were the common black color and not either of the more uncommon colors which commanded a premium price.

The ball flew through the air, landed on the ground and rolled three feet before it stopped. The female black Lab just stood beside me, she didn’t move a muscle, she just stood and looked blankly at the now still ball. There seemed to be no fiber in her entire being that had a clue as to why I’d thrown that ball or that I might be expecting anything from her.

At 10 months old this sweet purebred girl with beautiful brown eyes and a funny ridge of hair on her nose didn’t know a thing. No commands, like come or sit, didn’t know how to get into a car, was afraid of people food, didn’t even know her own name! And now, I believed, didn’t even have any natural retrieving desire. Not that it was her fault, she’d been owned by a long haul truck driver who was home only a few days a month and since his wife didn’t want the pup in her house, the dog had grown up alone in the back yard. I never knew the extent of what did or did not happen to her during that time, but I do know that when she was taken from him, the truck driver had plans to “put a bullet in her head” because she didn’t know the things he expected of her.

The year was 1997 and I’d been training dogs for 25 years and thought I’d turn her around in no time, so I put the choke chain on her and started to train. At the first correction she collapsed like a house of cards.  She lay quivering in abject terror and I knew that I was in trouble. In the past I had trained many dogs for obedience, hunting retrievers and even a drug dog once, and had been paid for it; I was a professional. But this was different, she was to be my dog and in the short two weeks I’d had her, I’d fallen deeply in love. There was no doubt that I’d be keeping her. I had to find a new way.

The training principles I now use are Operant Conditioning, Classical Conditioning, Counter Conditioning and Desensitization: AKA Clicker training. The following will give you a glimpse into why I use it.

A few months before I got Stormn that ‘new way’ had come. In the guise of a year old German Shepherd named Lars. At a seminar I attended in September of 1996 I saw a video of Lars learning how to retrieve. A wonderful dog trainer named Patty Russo was Lars’ teacher. Although Patty was using her voice, she was using a method I came to know as Clicker training.

This simple but deceptively powerful way of teaching soon had Stormn showing just how smart she was.

She became my best friend and partner in my training business helping me to gain many clients: especially those with out of control labs!

Oh, and for retrieving? I’ll let you judge. In two sessions, she learned how to retrieve some of the hardest items for a dog to learn. The first session on teaching her to fetch my large bunch of keys - took just Five minutes, yes, just five minutes. The second session where I taught her how to pick up coins, anything from a half dollar down to a dime, took just Three minutes. And I never had to ‘teach’ her again. In fact I couldn’t use her as a demo dog for teaching the retrieve because she learned each thing I could think of in about a minute and always did it from then on - including when I decided to teach her to pick up a glass bottle.

Unfortunately, in January 2002, she was accidentally let out of our yard while I wasn’t home and while looking for me she traveled nearly a mile away to the main road and was hit and killed by a car.

But Stormn’s legacy lives on. She taught me the amazing power of the Click.

And I hope to teach you the same.

Robin

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Hi Cindy,

I am a trainer and love your website. I refer most of my clients there, especially for the streaming videos and articles.

As a child, my parents would get dogs, then give them away, telling us a story such as, "they are at the vet, they ran away," etc. My mother loved dogs, but my father had little patience. So when I was 16 we tried for the 6th time! My father actually came to the shelter to pick one out with me. We picked "Dobbie" together, a 6 month old female, shepherd x. Sometimes I would catch my father sleeping in his lounger with Dobbie curled up in his lap!!! This one he bonded to. I guess it was the right time.

When I turned 18, back in 1970, I decided to leave home in case he changed his mind and gave her away, too. So without a leash (young and dumb), a backpack, skateboard and boyfriend we set out to hitchhike across country (with the rest of the nomadic hippies).

We arrived in California, hitched up and down the state (sometimes just Dobbie and me), and ended up on a barge in an inlet in British Columbia. Lived there with the boyfriend for a few months. I had to get a job , so I found a waitress gig in Vancouver for during the week, leaving Dobbie with the boyfriend until the weekends. Needless to say, he was not a good caretaker, carousing around with who knows who. He once left her for 24 hrs and came home to find poop on his pillow!!! Served him right. This dog could probably hold it for 23 hrs!

He also allowed her to mate with a Husky and an Irish Setter.

Came back to NY, we lived in his Mother's basement and Dobbie had a litter of 10 pups, half looking like the setter, half more husky.

I moved into Manhattan and lived on the first floor of a brownstone. I used to make my coffee, put on my bathrobe, let Dobbie out and watch her from the vestibule go into the street ("curb your dog"), pee and return to me. My neighbors used to wave and say hello. It became a usual sight.

One night while returning from our beach house, we were stopped for speeding (a little). I let Dobbie out for a pee, and she stumbled out of the car. She had a tumor in her stomach that ruptured that we were unaware of. We took her to the Animal Medical Center Emergency in Manhattan. It was there that we had to say goodbye. It was such a shock. I remember sitting on my bathroom toilet that night and crying into the towels on the towel rack, not being able to catch my breath. It felt like I sat there crying for hours.

I thought I would not get another dog for a long time. 6 weeks later, I took a ride to the ASPCA just to "look". I chose a male small mix and was carrying him around when I stepped into another room with more dogs and saw her! I gasped! It was Dobbie's face on a smaller body. Dobbie's eyes. I wanted a smaller dog living in the city. I took "Ruffian" home and I swear it was Dobbie's spirit. Ruffian turned into the same loyal, intelligent, strong companion that Dobbie was. She joined me for 15 years of a great friendship. She lived with me in that brownstone, following in the same tradition of taking herself out to the curb to pee, walking around the village and Chelsea without a leash, (those days were loose), traveling with me, going through relationships, loving and loved by all. 

I will never forget her, or Dobbie. Their ashes are with me in my office.

I now have Ruffwell (18yrs old female chi/terrier mix), who joined me after Ruffian left, ( Center for Animal Care and Control), Teddy, 12 yr old Pomeranian (found as a stray at 1 yr), and my Spirit, male, Pomeranian who I rescued from a very dysfunctional shelter in Long Island at 10 months old. He is now 4, extremely well adjusted ( a MESS when I found him) and flies with me to visit my mother who has been struck with Alzheimer's, 3-4 times a year in Florida.

After a long career in the restaurant business and liquor sales in Manhattan, I have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity of being able to train dogs for the last 6 years and am very thankful I am able to afford to do that. My mission is to teach families how to live with a balanced pet and NOT have to give them away to the shelter as my parents did so often in my childhood. And I have never gone without the companionship of a dog for my entire adult life and hope I never will.

Thank you for letting me tell that story.

Leslie

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Cindy,

When I was about 16 years old, I was not the ideal pupil or the ideal child. I was involved in some bad situations where $2,000.00 was stolen by my next door neighbor from his uncle. That was back in 1969. Well, I was sent to my brother's house to go to summer school and maybe he could straighten me out. My father was so stressed he was put in the hospital for a couple of weeks and so, it seemed, no one could keep my wild ways tamed (except my brother).

One day, he brought home a German shepherd he found that was tied to a tree. He asked around who the owners were I think it was left there to die or be taken. Anyway, he brought it home and like within a day, we bonded. He was the greatest dog in the world. We walked everywhere and no one dared to come near us. It wasn't the best neighborhood in the city. Anyway, I loved that dog. He would sleep next to me and I was on a couch every night. No matter where I went, the dog was with me. He even jumped the fence one day and followed me to summer school where he waited outside school for me. I know that sounds hard to believe, but it's true. I was sitting next to a window in class, and heard a dog barking and looked out and there he was. The teacher wouldn't let me bring him in, but the dog waited for over an hour and class let out and back to my brother's house we went.

Well, summer is over, and regular school is to begin and I begged and pleaded with my mother to let me keep the dog at home, and absolutely not. I said I would continue to take care of him but, no way, period. My heart sank, and depression set in for a real long time. He was the best pal I ever had.

My brother told me it went to a boy in a wheel chair and he wrote a letter to my brother to give to me and to this day, I've never read it.

Well, my bother's oldest got married this summer, and I asked my sister-in-law if the story they told me was true, and it really was. She says she still has the letter. Maybe she does, but that dog was the best dog I ever had in my life, and I had many dogs since. Every time I see a shepherd, I always think of him. I called him King, and he will always be THE KING.

I have a Doberman now, and she's a rescue, and she is the queen. I can't go anywhere, whereas she wants right next to me. We are great pals, but King is still in my heart and always will be.

Matt

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How do I even begin? 

A little about me first. I have always had  a strange attachment to dogs from the beginning.  I was very unfortunate to lose my parents while I was in my twenties leaving me alone in this world, no relatives at all. I found my comfort in my dogs. Every day coming home and taking walks and training. When I lost my angel dog I needed to fill the void.

An acquaintance had a bumper crop of Dutch Shepherds and got me to get a very smart little girl. Gypsy would not get more than 60 lbs. and would test the limits of my training abilities as well as be a little more socially acceptable. We did herding, tracking, agility,  obedience and fooled around a little with bite work. The latter was not for her unless they invented a bite suit made of tennis ball felt.  But that was ok.

Naturally, I work in the pet industry, and to my surprise a man came in asking if I was the girl with the Dutch Shepherds. I  told him yes and asked if I could help him. He said he had a 6 mo Dutch pup in the car that was going to the pound. He explained that he had been with two Maltese  dogs and just wouldn't stop terrorizing them so he was when given to the parents of the couple that owned the Maltese. Well this nice older couple kept getting jumped on and knocked down sending the woman to the hospital. So back to the breeder who gave him to a woman that had his brother. In one day they both destroyed her house, the breeder wanted nothing to do with him so the next stop was the pound unless I intervened. I figured I could at least train him a little and find him an appropriate home. I looked into his eyes and told him everything was going to be ok and that I understood him and I will never forget the look he gave me. I could almost hear him say "I trust you."

While still thinking I would do my best to find him a home he had a terrible reaction to vaccinations and I was almost thought I would lose him. After 10 days at the vet and a 3,000 bill he was getting a new name and a home at my place forever. He had rewarded me with being a high drive hard dog with no limits in sight as to his abilities. He is a year old now and we are both working hard to enter the world of ring sport. He is a natural and "bites like a seasoned pro." I love telling his story when asked where I got him.

I am seriously entertaining the thought of changing careers and becoming a dog trainer.

His name is Tattoo (after the money I spent that was saved up for a tattoo) and he opened up a whole new world.

What lessons I have learned is that not having a family does not make you alone, don't give up hope when you are told to expect the worse, you may not know what your direction in life is until an obstacle is thrown in your path and in order to reach your full potential you have to be in the right environment.

Thank You,
Susan

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Hi Cindy!

This is not really a story of how my dog has changed my life but how he changes lives.

My husband is the k-9 officer for the small Sheriff's Dept where we live. Our dog's name is Bryx. Bryx is not only a loving family member but my husband's faithful friend and partner. His main job is narcotic detection.

I am passionately against drugs. My brother died several years ago in a drug related crime. I know first hand how lives can be destroyed. I can't go out on the street and fight crime like my husband does. I can't train with the dog, that's also my husband's job. There is something I can do. I take care of Bryx's nutritional needs and help with day to day care. By sending a healthy dog out on the street to find drugs I am contributing. I truly believe that my husband and his k-9 partner through their work are changing/saving lives.

Thank you,
Terrie

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Five years ago, I was falling an average of 4 times a day, and had broken several bones (plus my pride!). Then I received a four footed blessing from Florida Service Dogs. That blessing left me on June 17th, 2009, around 1:00 in the afternoon from a heart attack, leaving behind a much stronger person than I was before she came to me. Patches helped me keep my balance when walking (I have vertigo all the time), picked things up I dropped (bad back) and helped me around the house (chronic fatigue) -- as well as being a big, gentle heart that introduced me to people again.  I had become quite reclusive! Every person that met her, of all ages, loved her quiet spirit that seemed to exude love. Even people that were scared of dogs were able to get over their fear and were able to be near her, even pet her, in spite of her weighing over 100 lbs! She was 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd and 1/2 Great Pyrenees.

She not only helped me, she helped every service animal team in Florida. In 2005, Florida Service Dog teams went to the capital at least once a week to push forward a new service dog law (Fl. Statute 413.08) that brought Florida laws up to and past the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).  Now service animal teams have a bit more power behind them than they ever did before. Patches and the other teams did demonstrations for the House and Senate committees and shook a lot of "paws" in order to get the bill passed. On Friday, June 12th, 2009, Patches went with me to a mitigation between myself and a doctor that wouldn't allow Patches into his exam room. She was teaching people up to the end!   

Just in case any of your readers are wondering what a service dog is the simple definition is they are for any OTHER disability other than blindness (the blind use guide dogs). They help with daily life, mitigating disabilities in many ways. If there is a severe disability that a person has, there is a dog that can be trained to help that person. Some teams are housebound (the animal helps only at home) and some teams are out and about the general public. Some dogs even detect medical problems before they happen -- my sweet Patches did "medical alert" for me. She knew when my peripheral neuropathy was about to cause my legs to go numb... she would stand like a rock in front of me and give me a look which I came to know as her command to have me sit (most people try to get their dogs to sit, but mine told ME to sit!). This was a blessing I didn't expect because medical alert cannot be taught -- the animal just knows it. I had between 5 - 10 minutes to find a place to sit before my legs would be numb and I would fall if that happened. However, in the 5 years and 32 days that Patches was with me, she NEVER ONCE let me fall!

Patches was a "member" of the Red Cross, CERT teams in Duval and Nassau County, SkyWarn, and several HAM radio clubs in North Florida. She even went for an Emergency Management "boot camp" in 2007 at Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Center in Tallahassee for 14 days, becoming somewhat of the class mascot.

I know that I will see her again, because the Bible is clear about God's love for animals and how they are His teachers here on earth for us to behave like or not to behave like.  After all, the ark wasn't full of people, was it? But there is a huge hole in my heart where her paw prints will forever leave their marks! 

She did help me with a "trainee"...a Great Pyrenees named Hannah. Hannah is a wonderful service dog who does medical alert also, but she has hip dysplasia and has been having surgery this year (she just had her first hip done and when it is healed she will have the other done...). I was hoping Patches would help me train another service dog "trainee"...a black lab puppy named Mildred Isabella, who was only 15 weeks old when Patches left us. She sure did love the new pup and played with her until tired then pinned her down for some grooming. I am glad to know that Patches met this new girl in our life, and approved of her! 

As anyone who has had the privilege of being owned by a dog will tell you, it is SO hard to lose one. And anyone that has ever had the privilege of also being a full time partner with a dog will tell you, it is a blessing to have a four footed partner you can count on. 

Patches did much more then just help me walk or pick things up for me. She gave me strength to continue living -- and do it back in public!

Viki

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Hi Cindy -

I think everybody has that one best dog they never forget. I could go on and on about Thunder. I think I expect people to live up to that dog's example - not many do!

Sara

Thunder and fire
By Sara

Probably everyone reading this had that dog as a kid, the best dog ever, the dog that sets the standard all other dogs don’t quite meet. For my family it was Thunder, a GSD my family was lucky enough to have in the 1960s. Thunder had been one of two guard dogs on an estate in central Massachusetts. The owners died and left no provision for the dogs; their vet placed the female but not Thunder. Mom’s friend’s husband who sold chems to the vet said, “I can find a home for that dog,” and brought him home to where Mom was visiting. Thunder looked at Mom and that was it. He came home to a family with four kids.

What a great dog. We know Thunder was all GSD but nothing about his breeding or background. He was *perfectly* well behaved. No matter what we kids did, we could not break his training – and we tried. We could drag him up onto the bed, where he’d lay looking woeful until he heard Mom’s footstep on the stairs; then he’d drag us onto the floor. No way was he going to be on the furniture in front of Mom! We could wall him up in a fort with stacked bricks, then call him and watch him demolish the wall. We could bury him in snow except for his head and shoulders – the petting chamber – and watch the avalanche when he bounded after us. My baby cousin could put his hand into Thunder’s yawning mouth, bounce on his back, and Thunder’s reaction was a look that said, “oh, save me please!” (We did.)

Thunder adored Mom, respected Dad, loved all of us, but he was my pal. I spent my childhood traipsing around the woods and swamp and lake after my big brother, and Thunder was always with us as we built campfires, roasted potatoes, made “spears” from saplings and played mighty-hunter, fished, swam, built rafts. He didn’t much like the rafts. When I was eleven Thunder saved me from being mauled when I was stupid enough to wade into a fight between him and a boxer. I had a green stick and whipped the boxer’s butt with it, when I got the chance. (Did I mention that I was a stupid kid?) The boxer saw me with the stick raised over my head saying, “come on, I’ll kill ya.” (Yah, really, really stupid.) The boxer crouched and snarled and leapt at me. Thunder hit him from the side and got serious about tearing him up, and drove the boxer off.

One day Thunder taught me a huge lesson about loyalty and courage. I was about ten. There was a little woods near our neighborhood, and one summer afternoon there was a woods fire. Thunder and I were with a small crowd in the back yard of a house, watching the firefighters, when a bit of the fire found a pile of tinder and roared up – in my child’s eye it was three feet away and a hundred feet high, and I panicked and bolted.

Next thing I knew, I was panting outside my own house, two and a half big suburban blocks away. I looked around – no Thunder. I called and called – no Thunder. So I high-tailed it back to that backyard.

There was a thick pall of smoke hanging about a foot off the ground, making a fog at my eye level, and of course the wood smoke overrode all other smells. Finally I saw Thunder about 50 feet away, running from person to person, sniffing each one. Looking for me. I called him, and he heard me and came running. It was the only time he ever knocked anyone down.

And I felt this big (pinch your thumb and forefinger together; you get the idea) because though I had panicked and mindlessly run, my dog had not abandoned me.

We only got to have Thunder for five years; we figure he was about nine when we got him. Five short years – not enough, but long enough to set an example and an ideal for the rest of my life. I have three GSDs now; each is a fine dog. Apollo is 13 months old, is like an eleven-year-old boy with size 13 feet, and at this point is mostly potential. Kaja, just over two, may run Thunder’s road. Bonien, now nine and a half, is pretty darned close. But none of them is Thunder.

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Featured in the 11.5.09 Newsletter

I had a chocolate lab named BO – Beth’s Olympian for 10 years before he died from cancer. I can truly say that this dog was my Olympian in every way, not just because I picked him up on my way home from the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Bo had an enormous personality. He had little to no prey drive or retrieving ability but he was a great companion, and to this day I think, my soul mate. For the first 4 years of Bo’s life I was an in an abusive relationship.  It didn’t start off bad, but it progressively got worse. 

Bo was my lifeline when things went bad.  He would come to me, put his head on my leg, touch me with his nose, and nuzzle me to take my mind off of the situation. Whenever I was threatened, it was not a threat to hurt me, but a threat to kill him because my ex knew how much this dog meant to me. Whenever I think of Bo I think of the smile he had on his face when we played together or just chilled on the couch. I remember him barking when he wanted something, he was seriously trying to tell me exactly what he needed, and I think he thought I understood his every bark and tone… which eventually I believe I did. 

During the last few months of my relationship with my ex, things got pretty heated at times. One day I was threatened at gunpoint with a loaded 357 magnum.  At this point in my life I was dejected, humiliated, self-hating and feeling the lowest I have ever felt. When my ex stormed out of the house I picked up the loaded gun and pointed it at my head. It was at the moment when Bo quietly came out of his kennel (his safe place) and stood beside me. He looked at me and pushed me several times with his nose, telling me that I really didn’t want to do what I was thinking. It was at that moment that my life changed. I realized that my dog loved me so unconditionally and completely that I could not do anything to myself and I had to get out of the mess I was in. I had him to live for and my other lab Rip, who is still with me today. 

Bo didn’t just change my life that day; he did on other occasions as well, but none so severely.  Because of this dog, I am a Labrador person. I have three labs now, and would love one day to have my own kennel. Bo, my first true dog that I bought and owned showed me what love and trust and faith was all about.  In the end of his life when he was suffering from brain cancer, I know that he trusted me and had faith that I would take care of him the best I could, and I did, just like he did for me. Beth’s Olympian was a true friend, companion, and Olympian in every way that mattered.

Sincerely,
Beth

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Great subject! At the young age of 64, facing retirement from a corporate buyout, I stumbled upon a local K-9 company that was looking for a part-time handler.

I've had dogs since I was 12, but never working dogs. With lots of training provided by the owner, I now have a GSD explosive detection K9 and a Golden Retriever narcotics detection K9.

The biggest change to my life (and the lives of the senior K9's I have) was daily walks. I've been diabetic for 20+ years and my prior job was designing, implementing, and training law enforcement agencies for the company's database. Needless to say my exercise consisted of "zero" and I was headed for some heart surgery. After a year with these magnificent animals, I walk each of them 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. The change to my health has been remarkable: low, low cholesterol, improved circulation, and a much better outlook on life in general. My doctor is amazed at the changes I've made and the company vet is astounded at the health of the animals from daily walks.

Here is a pic of Blesk, our Slovak GSD at 10 years of age. He is a super explosive detector and has never missed a U.S. Treasury proficiency test in
8 years.

Here is a pic of Boo, our Golden drug dog. He is school friendly, loves people, and finds contraband in a happy-go-lucky manner. Fun to watch for sure!.

Thanks for the great web site, the online reading, and the training DVDs. We have 2 new GSD's from Slovakia and will be using some of the Leerburg training DVDs for obedience.

Richard

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Hi Cindy,

To begin with it is still very hard for me to write about Barron. I miss him so and it has been almost 3 years without him.

To begin our story, my husband who never liked German Shepherds, said I could pick one out for my birthday. I was so excited, but first I asked my boss at work if I did get a dog if I could bring him or her to work with me.

The day I went to pick out my puppy was very easy. There were 12 puppies and as soon as I opened the gate, Barron came and sat down beside me - I had to wait for 3 more weeks before I could bring him home since he was still too young to leave his mom. From the day I picked him up he was by my side 24/7 - we were always together. He learned so fast I could hardly believe it, everything I taught him he picked up on instantly it was almost like he knew what I wanted before I even asked. He tracked, protected, listened, obeyed, cried when I did and always at my side.

One day, 7 years later, I came home from work, went out to feed with him and then our usual routine. Came in the house - he would instantly go find his toy and we would play tag ... he would run around the house with his toy in his mouth and I would try to catch him. After that game was over I fed him he wanted back out side and I proceeded to work on the computer. He came to the window and wanted in so I let him and played with him for a few minutes and told him I needed to finish my work which would take me about 15 more minutes. He laid behind my chair waiting and I finished my work. I turned around and he was - still laying there with his eyes opened looking at me but he was gone. He made no sound whatsoever ... it was devastating for me.

I do not know what happened - he was gone so fast - no signs of anything being wrong. . .

I thank the Lord every day for giving me such a wonderful friend, my best friend Barron. I am so grateful for having him for 7 years and I truly believe that the Lord knew that was the only way and the least painful way he could take him from me. I still miss my best friend Barron . . .

Pat

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It is hard to compete with Karissa's and John's stories and I could tell you how a man in Corbin, KY pretty much saved the lives of my wife and I along with two dogs back in 1972. I will always consider Corbin, KY to be one of the best places in our family history.

I would like to tell you of an experience not with my dog but with one of the top show German Shepherds in Illinois around 1960. Shadow was her name and she was the black and silver that was popular back in those days. I worked for a small town veterinarian that dealt mostly in large animals but we did small animals on the side. We also ran a boarding kennel. Shadow visited us often and I thought she was the most beautiful dog in the world. I was honored to take care of her. However, one evening disaster struck and it turned into one of those awful experiences that you hope you can forget. Well fifty years later I have not forgotten. We had a series of gates getting from the indoor to the outdoor kennels. In addition to the gates there was three doors that you would have to go through to get outside. To this day I am not sure how it really happened but as I was taking Shadow outside a large truck back fired scaring the dog which bolted. As she was bolting one of the doors had been left open by one of the vet's sons and the outside door had a customer coming in and they were not able to get the door closed. Everything lined up for the dog to make it out onto the highway in front to the office and she was immediately hit. With some help we rushed her in and the vet did emergency life saving surgery. Her show days were over and she would always walk with a limp. The vet called the owner that lived some miles away and told him of the accident and what we had done to save the dog.

I figured I would be fired or maybe shot by the owner. It is strange what can pass through a preteen's mind. The following day I had to face the owner. It was my job to inform him of all that happened and declare it all my fault.

I stood before him tears streaming down with knees so weak I could hardly stand. I told the story the best I could and as I told it I waited for the shot to come or at least the yelling that was sure to follow. He said not a word and nothing moved as he listened. I was sure the world had come to and end.

When I finished he looked at me and clearly proved he was a man of compassion as he asked if I had let the dog out on purpose. Of course, I declared I had not. In a voice so soft I could hardly hear he said to me, "We all need to learn to be more careful. Next time double check the doors." With that he took my hand and we went together to visit Shadow. The rest of my punishment if you can call it that is I had to take care of Shadow as she recovered from the surgery.

What a generous man that could have done with me as he choose but instead he understood and helped me over a very difficult time. I was even able to keep my job.

Don

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I was sitting in my recliner one evening, exhausted from  my mood swings and pain. My knee was hurting, I had been told there was nothing they could do for me, I had been told that the pain was all in my head, I was told I will have to learn to live with the pain, I lost my job and lost my career of being an EMT. The thing that I so enjoyed most doing.

So the day had been one of my rough days with my depression getting the best of me.

I remember the TV being on but couldn't tell you what was on the TV as I hadn't been paying any mind to what was actually on the screen.

I happened to look out the door from where I was sitting, and looking in at me was to be my best friend for life.

That's how she came to me. I call her Ghost. She came to me in the most depressed time of my life, when I was down, way down. From that moment on, my life changed again drastically.

This dog that came to me like a Ghost in the night, (that's how I thought of her name), was to change my entire life.  I began to focus on her intently and noticed that her and I had a connection like I have never had with any other dog. We were and remain to be best friends. She knows with just a look or a glance what I am thinking or feeling.  I swear she does.

This Ghost in the night soon became my "Service Dog." She helps me with balance and mobility pulling me along just ever so slightly. We have became a working team, together. We train together, work together, live together, sleep together, and eat together. She is my best friend and has changed my life in so many ways. She is what gets me up in the morning. We go everywhere together. We are a team.

So that's how my best friend has changed my life. Thank you so much Ghost,
Love,
Vic

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Hi Cindy-

I'd love to take a moment of your time and tell you about how my dog changed, no, transformed my life.

I was never allowed to have pets growing up - not a whisker or paw in sight. My parents were really strict and controlling and I was truly miserable for many years. I started going to shrinks and therapists of all kinds when I was 13, and in the years that followed they had me try more antidepressants than I could count on my fingers and toes. Even when I moved out at 18, I was still a mighty train wreck, I felt like something was so wrong with me that it couldn't be fixed with the feeling of freedom that independence provides. 

I moved in with my fiance, Steve, and though my life was better in many ways, it still lacked purpose. Steve was away during the week for work and in addition to my depression and anxiety, a new monster emerged - I became more agoraphobic with each passing week. I can't describe how scared I was of the outside world, I would often stay confined to my house for a week at a time, only venturing out when Steve came home for the weekends and only when I absolutely had to.

I had wanted a dog for as far as I could remember back, and I spent months researching and waiting for the right dog. It was Kuma. From the day he came into my home, I changed so completely that I surprised everyone, even myself. I became a person who could control her emotions and fears, a person responsible not only for herself, but her loyal dog as well. I finally felt like I could be safe outside, I even started to enjoy driving again and got into shape exercising with my dog everyday. I was finally a balanced person. He is my best friend and my charge - I protect him, train him and keep him in optimal health and in return, I get unwavering support and respect, which has made me a complete person.

Thanks,
Mimi

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Featured in the 11.9.09 Newsletter

Hi Cindy!

Attached are my story about my dog Anika, and two pictures. The first picture is a "Before" pic from days before her unexpected diagnosis, when she was emaciated with no energy, and the second is an "After" picture of her doing much better now! I hope we win, but not for my sake, for Anika's. Maybe my story will touch someone else, or maybe someone else can relate. :)

Lesley

How Anika Changed My Life
By: Lesley

One of the best quotes I’ve ever read starts by saying “Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there, to serve some useful purpose, teach you a lesson, or to help you figure out who you are or who you want to become.” I would like to amend that to say “Sometimes a Dog comes into your life…” because my story is about the dog that has changed my life around and taught me two of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn!

I have always known two things: I will show dogs, and I will own a German Shepherd. But I always had to “wait” – wait to move out after graduating high school, wait to live in the dorms just one year because that’s what all freshman do, wait to live in the dorms two more years because we couldn’t afford rent elsewhere, wait until I moved to a house that allowed dogs… so after 22 years of waiting, I got my two wishes in one in June 2008 – a German Shepherd show line puppy named Anika. I knew right away she was going to win every show, because even though I knew next to nothing about showing dogs, I “knew,” with all the optimism and certainty of blind naivety, that she would look just like her champion VA father, because any puppy I bought with such a pedigree and for such a price could only turn out to be the next champion! Of course, as luck would have it, she grew to be the spitting image of her never-going-to-win-a-show mother, but what did I know? I was training her, I joined the South West Diamondback Schaferhunde Club in Tucson (where I discovered she was one of the best dogs there, certainly the best show line), and I had bonded to that dog like I hadn’t bonded to anyone in years. I talked to her, I took her everywhere, I spent at least 5 times as much money on her “essentials” than I did on myself, like a new toy (or three) every week, training equipment for the future (I’m talking years in the future) and a grand total of 17 leashes (no joke). She was MY dog, she was my best friend, she was there for me with a tail wag and lick no matter what, and we were inseparable. I now had a reason to get up every day, I now knew that it didn’t matter that I was jobless and in a school program that I despised, because I had my rock – she would be with me no matter what.

Time passed and she reached 9 months old: We were going to attend and win her first show! I had not experienced this much hope or optimism since I was 14 years old, so having these renewed feelings in my life was like a breath of fresh air, or waking up from a deep sleep. There I was at the show, 22 years old, hyped up and hopeful beyond belief for the first time since Freshman year of high school – and Anika got last place. The look of shock on my face probably could have won a prize. I immediately burst into tears and then proceeded to cry for hours, right there in the middle of the show, surrounded by friends, family, and strangers who did not understand why I was crying, because they all told me I could sell her and try again with a more promising puppy. As if.

Needless to say, I did NOT try again with a new puppy. Just after her disappointing show, I got offered twice the price I paid for her, and I almost slapped the man in the face. This was my DOG, not an item to buy and sell and trade! I remember hugging Anika, ruffling the fur on the nape of her neck, burying my face in her soft coat, and telling her, sure that she could understand, “Don’t listen to what that man said. You’re MY dog, baby girl, and we’ll always have each other.”

Fast forward to September 1, 2009. Anika is now 16 months old, I had showed her again because of my determination (and she got second to last place… this time I held my own and did not cry until I was safely back in the car). My baby had not been eating well for months, and I had bought every kind of food, canned, hard, raw, cooked, human, dog, etc that money can buy, and I would sit on the ground twice a day every day and try to feed her. She would spit out cooked or raw chicken or beef  and walk away from fresh canned food or chicken broth with rice, and she’d only eat one meal every 3-5 days. It broke my heart. But we were still in training, I took her to club every single Wednesday, and often to the distant training practices on Saturdays, and tracking on Sundays. She was excelling beyond belief, and had more energy than I knew what to do with. But she wouldn’t eat. At this point, Anika could be compared to my child (since I do not have children), I would have done anything for her. The vets said “This happens in Shepherds, there’s probably nothing wrong, sometimes they don’t eat.” So I believed them. Until September 1, 2009. All of a sudden, something changed; she couldn’t walk long distances, she couldn’t play fetch for more than four or five throws, and she had lost 5 pounds and her fur was falling out. Now, here went the alarm bells. I took her back to the same vet, who again said “There’s nothing wrong with your dog.” This time I made her do blood work, and then the results came back. My 17 month old puppy, the love of my life, the one who had turned me around from a downcast and hopeless outlook to optimism and a love for life, was in kidney failure.

To make a long story short, I don’t know how long Anika has left to live. The vets told me she could be fine one day, then take a turn for the worse at any time. Anika, who has been teaching me lessons since day one, is now teaching me two of the hardest lessons I’ve never had to learn before: It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, and live each moment to its fullest, because you never know when it may be your last. Every day, I hug her and look in the deep, trusting brown eyes and tell her I love her and I’ll do anything for her, because it’s the least I can do for the dog who saved my life. As I finish this, tears are spilling on the keyboard, and Anika just came over with her ball and dropped it in my lap, wondering what’s wrong with me because she has no idea she’s fatally sick. Today is one of her good days. Regardless of the future or the diagnosis, I will never stop living for the moment and enjoying what I have RIGHT NOW! Thank you Anika, you’re the best friend a girl can have!!

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Featured in the 11.16.09 Newsletter

Nanaw's New Blessing

Epilepsy had come between me and my grandchildren.
By Gayla

Fourth of July, and my sister-in-law was having a cookout. Once I would have looked forward to a gathering like this. Today my husband, David, had to convince me to go.

Since the spring I’d withdrawn little by little from the world. I’d become a prisoner of my epileptic seizures. I never knew when one would sneak up on me and knock me clear off my feet.

I tried different medications, but they only made me zoned out, less in control than ever. Doctors didn’t know what to do for me. How could I keep from injuring myself?

David came up with the idea of my wearing protective gear. “When you get up in the morning, slip these foam pads onto your elbows and knees, and wear this helmet,” he had said as he pulled the equipment out of a sports bag. I was desperate, ready to try anything. David helped me strap on the helmet and stepped back to take a look. “You’re suited up for the game now,” he said.

I had to laugh, catching sight of myself in the mirror. But it was hard to laugh when people stared at me in public, and the pads didn’t stop the convulsions. Seeing other people, especially strangers, became something to fear. At least today I’m with family, I thought. They understand. I’m still the same to them.

“Come say hello to Nanaw,” my daughter said, leading my young grandchildren up to my chair. I reached out my arms for a hug, but the children shrank back, not sure what to make of my strange getup. Who was I kidding? This is no kind of life, I thought as we drove home that day.

Epileptic seizures were nothing new to me. Despite my condition, I got married, raised children, held down a job at the supermarket for 14 years.

One simple blessing made all that possible. A few minutes before every seizure I experienced an “aura,” an unmistakable feeling that told me a seizure was coming on. My mind raced. Sounds, emotions and movements were magnified. I’d let my supervisor know and slip into the ladies room to sit down—safely—until the seizure passed.

Having epilepsy wasn’t easy, but God had given me a means to deal with it. He wanted me to have a full life, and my aura was what allowed it.

Then in May 1999 I had a seizure. No aura had warned me it was coming. I was caught completely off guard and fell where I stood. In the next few falls, I suffered a mild concussion and terrible bruising. Doctors couldn’t tell me why.

It was as if God had taken his gift away and left nothing in its place. Has he forgotten me? I wondered one evening a few weeks after the cookout. I had barely left the house since then. David grew more and more concerned about my isolation.

David turned to me from the desk where he was working at the computer. “I’m going to do some research on the internet,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to help you.”

What could the internet possibly tell me that my doctors couldn’t? “I know all this,” I said as David pulled up yet another page of information on my condition. Then I noticed an icon over in the corner of the screen. “What’s that?” I asked.

“A chat room,” said David. “For people with epilepsy.”

I clicked on the icon. Right away I was in the middle of a conversation between people who were going through things similar to me. David moved aside and I sat at the keyboard. I typed away, sharing my story and listening to the stories of other people. When I looked up, an hour had passed without my even realizing it.

“Looks like you found some new friends,” David said.

It was like finding friends. For the first time since I’d lost my aura, I was talking to people without fear. Everyone in the chat room under-stood my condition, and safe in my chair at the computer I didn’t have to worry about falling down.

Maybe God has given me something in place of my aura, I thought. Chatting on the internet wasn’t the same as being able to go out in the world like I used to, but it gave me a way to talk to people. A way to connect.

I went back to the chat room regularly after that first night. One afternoon in November I entered it to find a woman telling some other people about her seizure-alert dog.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. “You mean a dog can help someone with epilepsy?” I typed.

“Dogs can be trained to roll you on your side when you have a seizure, or bring medicine, or even dial a phone to get help,” she said. “Some dogs can even predict when you’re going to have a seizure before it happens.”

Predict it? She was telling me a dog could replace my aura! “How can I get a dog like that?”

She gave me the name of a trainer. “What you need is a puppy no more than six weeks old,” he said. “Smart, well-socialized, with a gentle disposition. Those are the basics.”

“And the dog will be able to tell me when I’m going to have a seizure?”

“I’m afraid nobody can train a dog to do that,” the trainer said. “In fact, nobody knows how some dogs can tell and some can’t. Some dogs may be able to tell but don’t know how to communicate it. But even if the dog can’t predict a seizure, he can be a lot of help when one occurs.”

I filled in my husband. “Do you want to try it?” he asked.

What I really wanted was a dog that could predict my seizures, but I wasn’t about to turn down a dog that could help me in other ways. I’d lost so much. Any independence I could get back would be an improvement.

I sent a letter out to breeders in Oklahoma explaining what I was looking for and why. Leslie Toney gave me a call. “I have the perfect dog for you,” she said. “A purebred German shepherd, wonderful disposition. When I read your letter I had the strangest feeling you were the person I’ve been waiting for.”

“Waiting for how long? How old is this dog?”

“He’s already six months old,” she said. My heart fell. The trainer had said no older than six weeks. But something told me I had to check this dog out. The trainer agreed to visit Leslie’s kennel. “The dog is very smart and sociable,” he reported. “We can work with him.”

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, David and I drove out to meet my new dog. Just being in the car made me feel more like my old self than I had since I’d lost my aura. I was out in the world, taking charge of my life. Not passively waiting in my safety gear for the next seizure to hit.

At the kennel we were greeted by a strong bundle of black, brown and beige fur with soft, pointy ears and big brown eyes. “Meet Yahoo,” Leslie said as the German shepherd rolled over on his back so I could scratch his belly, as if he’d known me all his life.

“Yahoo, like on the internet,” I laughed.

“That’s what I call him,” she said. “The name on his pedigree is Von Rachell Yahv. It looks like ‘Yahoo,’ but Yahv is Hebrew for ‘God is able.’”

God is able, I repeated to myself. That’s a good sign.

Leslie certainly believed God was at work in Yahoo’s life. She felt so strongly that he was meant to help me she gave the purebred German shepherd to me as a gift! “You don’t know how many other people wanted to buy him, but I never felt the situation was quite right. Not until I found you.”

On the drive home Yahoo sat on the floorboard in the backseat. We had only gotten about 20 miles away when he suddenly sat up, sniffing the air and whining.

“What is it, boy?” I asked.

Yahoo crawled into the front seat, squashing himself into the space at my feet, whining loudly and nibbling at my fingers. “What’s the matter, Yahoo?” I said, stroking his head. “Don’t you like the car?”

Yahoo jumped into my lap.

“Hey!” said David as Yahoo put his big paws on my shoulders. “You’re a little big for that, buddy.”

“He isn’t hurting me,” I said. “I just can’t figure out what’s wrong.”

Not two minutes later I had a seizure. Yahoo sat in my lap, pressing me into the seat. Without any training at all, Yahoo had warned me before I had a seizure. He was a natural.

“And to think I might not have even considered taking Yahoo because of his age,” I said when we got home.

David looked at Yahoo thoughtfully. “Six months old,” he said. “That means he was born in the spring.”

It took me a second to realize what that meant. “He was born just when I lost my aura.” I had felt abandoned when my aura went away. But God had gotten to work that very moment on his new plan.

These days, if there’s a party, you’ll find me at it. I won’t be wearing protective gear. But I will be close by a big, loving German shepherd, the angel God sent into the world just for me.

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As a disabled veteran, I was gradually losing the ability to enjoy the activities I had enjoyed most of my adult life. I could not drive; as not only did I have partial paralysis, but my vision was deteriorating and I had seizures. One day I was a passenger in a friend's car when she decided to stop for a few items from the grocery store. I went into the store with her, but when it became apparent that her "few items" had blossomed to quite a bit more; I decided to return to the vehicle so I could sit. Half way across the parking lot lane separating the store from the parking spaces; my vision cut out. I suddenly could see nothing at all. I could hear traffic rushing toward and past me, but I was totally disoriented to which way the store was, and which way the parking spaces. Nor could I have found my friends car even if I wasn't disoriented, as I hadn't thought to counted spaces.

I stood there sweating and shaking. Then I heard a shopping cart nearing me. I thought the shopper might help me back to the store at least. When I said, "Excuse me?," the woman yelled something in a language I didn't know and hit me with the cart. She backed the cart up and hit me a few more times before rushing off chattering excitedly in her unknown language.

At that moment I determined that I would get an assistance dog to help me and not leave me in such a vulnerable state again. 

I applied to several programs and stated my preference for a GSD. Since I needed a guide dog; no service dog program would take me.  Since my vision was episodic; no guide dog program would take me. So I began looking for a dog I could train myself, as I had experience in dog training. 

I found a young male GSD named Gandalf who had been in training to be a police dog but had been injured. He had lost the full range of one of his front legs so couldn't run very well. But walking in guide dog harness would be fine for him. Gandalf took to the training like he had been born to it. He intuitively understood what I needed, and routinely jumped from step one to step four; or invented his own steps.

Soon after I got him, I had a seizure. When I came back to myself I was lying on the floor with  Gandalf lying beside me, his head on my chest. On a later day, Gandalf started nudging me forcefully. He stared me in the eye after each nudge and whined slightly. This was not how he usually asked to go toilet, but I assumed that was what he wanted.  But he wouldn't go out. In fact he herded me to a recliner and literally pushed me into it. I was about to severely reprimand him, when I began a seizure. On another day while we were out at a cramped office, he alerted me to a seizure. The only place I could find to sit was a folding chair. I would have taken the floor, but there was no space large enough to lie down in. Gandalf reared up and wrapping his front legs around my waist and held me into the chair while I seized.

He was totally reliable in guiding me as well. With his help I could go anywhere in walking distance or near a bus route. He could lead me home when I was disoriented, no matter how for or how many twists and turns. He stopped me from stepping out into traffic that I did not hear. He led me around low overhangs that he could easily have walked under without a thought. And he gave me plenty of warning time when I was going to have a seizure.

He gave me back my independence and my life!

Joy

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After a 7 year bout with Endocarditus I was depressed. To help me thru this Dad suggested it was time for me to get another dog. MyMD at the Sepulveda VA agreed. (I served 6yr Army) Misty my Black Lab (a rescue) died at age 13 yrs due to cancer. She went to work with me everyday 6 days a week for 12 years. I got Louie after a 2 year search for a Bull Mastiff in rescues/ pounds.

Louie is a South African Boerboel 187 lbs x 32 in.  Out of Lions Head Kennels in VA.

On 02 Oct 2008 Louie tried to wake me a couple times around 12:50am I thought he was playing with Charley (my parents white std poodle rescue) his wining - woofs- WOOFS failed to get me up so he grabbed my left forearm and gently but firmly pulled me out of bed and did not let go until we were out of my room. I followed him into my Dads room [Dad appeared to be sleeping normally] where he jumped up on the bed (He never gets on any bed that was the only time) he barked loudly in his face (Dad did not respond) Louie stepped off the bed and laid down in the corner while I checked him and tried unsuccessfully to wake him. I called 911 they were here in six minutes. They found his blood sugar was 32 (normal is 80 - 120) They said he was in diabetic shock going into diabetic coma. The Paramedic said he would have died in his sleep before dawn. Making Louie his Guardian Angel.

Now Our Guardian Angel!!!

Louie is very tuned in to Moms CHF and wakes her at night when he picks up on her cardiac or breathing anomalies. She changes position and tells him I’m ok Louie and they both go back to sleep :o)

Louie has given us more time with Dad. He was 80 years old at the time. Mel & Shirley are looking forward to their 50th wedding anniversary on 16 Apr 2010. 

That is how Louie changed my life!!!

Brian

PS Mel is an Army Veteran who fought in the Korean War, served with Reserve LAPD and retired a Senior VP for B of A Bank Corporation. The thing he has done best is just being Dad to 2 boys.

PSPS Thank you for your excellent training DVDs and very informative web site.

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In 1974, I was in the Air Force and stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas, NV. While there, I became friends with one of the Civil Service workers who bred and showed Collies. Up until this time, I had no knowledge of this world of dogs. My family had owned and loved dogs most of my life, but we were never familiar with breeding or showing. This was my first time a long way from home and I purchased a sable Rough Collie. Since her breeder was a strong advocate of obedience training for all dogs, I took my puppy to obedience classes offered by a local obedience club.  To my surprise, she did rather well. I asked her breeder if she thought I would have any problem putting a Companion Dog title on her.  She said she couldn't think of any reason why not. So we continued our classes until she was ready to go into the ring. I was pleased she scored a respectable 188 and 189 out of 200 points at her first two trials. One more trial and she'd have her title! At the Sierra Nevada Collie Club specialty, she tied for High In Trial with a 192.  While going to many of these trials, when I finished in the obedience ring, I would go and watch the conformation ring. It looked like fun, but my current dog was definitely not a conformation quality dog. Also, I was privileged to have the opportunity to meet Ch. Black Hawk of Kasan, the first Smooth Collie to win the Collie Club of America's National Specialty. He had long since been retired, but his breeder/owner brought him with her just for the ride. He had a charisma about him that made you sit up and take notice. I thought to myself, "Well, if Smooths can be like that!" I spoke to his breeder/owner and asked her to help me find a nice Smooth bitch that I could show and she agreed. I also spoke to my dog's breeder, who was a friend of Hawk's breeder, so I had two people looking for me. Soon after that, I was transferred to the east coast. I kept in contact with the people I had become friends with while also trying to make friends with "dog people" in the east. I joined a local Collie club and soon learned that there was only one other person in the club that was interested in Smooth Collies. She and I hit it off right away.  Her Smooths traced back to Hawk and she was happy to hear that I had the opportunity to meet him.

At a puppy match of a local Collie club, I saw a Rough puppy that I liked that was bred by a member of the club I had joined. After a discussion, we came to terms and the puppy came home with me. Shortly later, I heard from my first dog's breeder saying she had spoken to a friend in Southern California who was expecting a litter. She told me to use her name and ask to be put on her list for a puppy from this breeding, which I did. I was contacted by her saying the breeding didn't take, but that she had an older dog to offer me. She was relocating and trying to reduce the number of dogs she had to move. I consulted with my dog's breeder who had referred me and asked if she was familiar with this particular dog. She gave me an opinion which basically said the offer was a good one. The dog was a tricolor Smooth Collie bitch that had 9 points, both majors towards her championship which meant she was already a proven winner in the conformation ring. I then made arrangements for her to be sent out to me.  Now I had two show quality dogs, one Rough puppy and one Smooth adult, so I was on my way.

That was 30 years ago and I have had many dogs over the years. I have finished many champions, put several obedience titles on many of these dogs, and even ventured into the world of herding in the late 80's, just before the AKC started their herding program.  One of my dogs was Best of Variety at the prestigious Westminster Dog Club show in New York. I also had one of my dogs take Winners Dog/Best of Winners at the Collie Club of America's National Specialty from the 6-9 month Puppy class, which was a total surprise.

So, to make a long story short, my first Collie opened the door to a world that was totally unknown to me and I have never regretted my venturing into this world. My dogs are my kids and mean the world to me. Through them, I have experienced the thrill of bringing a puppy into the world and watching it achieve great things. My first Collie was a loving companion that brightened every day of my life that I had her. Because of her, I was knowledgeable about the obedience training/trialing. Because of her, I became aware of the conformation side of exhibiting and have since done well in both arenas. Had it not been for her, I probably never would have become aware that this world of dogs ever existed. With that in mind, she changed my life forever and I cannot think of my life without being active in conformation, obedience, or herding.

Nancy

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I am a single female and live alone. Until October 2008, I had the love of my life with me. She was a German Shepherd and her name was Lizzie.  We were the best of friends, she was my heart and soul. Her favorite thing to do in the world was to play frisbee. Nothing fancy, just fetch. On her way back with her frisbee she always stopped by the water dish or bucket, swimming pool... whatever was handy, and cleaned it off before she would bring it back to me. Lizzie would run and get that thing until she was ready to drop and then some.
 
Then I found out that she had severe hip dysplasia and severe arthritis. My vet said she was amazed that Lizzie was not crippled yet by the diseases. Within 6 months, she could not take more than 3 steps without falling over and could not get back up. This limited her from going into our back yard as it was not level enough, and I was not strong enough to pick her back up. On October 30, 2008, Lizzie made her journey to Rainbow Bridge. She was in too much pain and discomfort for me to be stingy and keep her with me any longer.
 
I was not going to get another dog. I had two cats and was determined to keep it that way. Three months later I was lonely and simply did not know what to do with myself. The cats had their own things to do, like hunting and sleeping, and were not into spending much time with me. My idle mind went to search online for another dog. First I tried my local GSD rescues, but due to my lack of a fenced yard, I was denied. Then I looked on CraigsList. Within two weeks, I found a gorgeous Long Coated male. I contacted the poster, who told me a great deal about her dogs, of which she was rehoming two of them. The following weekend I went to meet them. There were indeed two male LC's. One was smaller than the other and that is the one I was drawn to. So, Zisso became my boy. He came home with me that same day and we have been inseparable since. I took him to a class at my local petsmart, but did not care for the environment they train in in the stores. I have tried various venues with him since, including Schutzhund, which was not for me. I am not in the greatest shape and it was very hard on me. So, after bringing Zisso home in February of 2009, I started to notice that he was often bored and restless. I was unemployed when I brought him home due my work being seasonal, but it was about to pick up again and my time with him would soon be limited. Zisso had grown up with two brothers and several children. Zisso was 16 months old when I adopted him.
 
A friend suggested that I try to find another dog, one that could keep Zisso company while I was away at work. I wasn't sure at first but I did look into it. It wasn't long before I found a female online, on PetFinder. I contacted the people she was with and went to meet her. Due to the fact that I had not filled out an application for her, the last thing I was expecting was to bring her home that day. She was a very skinny girl. I could see her ribs and hip bones from a distance. She seemed very sweet despite her thin appearance. After visiting with her for an hour, the 'rescue' person that brought her to meet me, said they would "forego" the application, which made me leery. I started to wonder what was really going on with this poor girl. I gave it some thought and in the end, she came home with me that same day just as Zisso had months earlier.
 
We had a tough go of it at first. She had some issues to work on. I was told she was house trained, and crate trained and she was neither, so it was tough. I could not leave her alone without her sounding like she was being beaten. She howled, barked, whined and cried whenever left alone in the crate. She destroyed anything she possibly could if left loose in the house. I finally set up my outdoor chain link kennel. Leaving her out there was much better and she settled right down. It was not long after that when she stopped making messes indoors altogether and for the most part stopped destroying things too. My girl, Nadia, was becoming a good girl with less and less issues. She was also 16 months old when I adopted her!
 
At this time, Zisso had been with me for 9 months, and Nadia has been with us for 5 months. They are the best of friends and do everything alike. They love to run round the yard and play together. We go often for walks at the park, and I play with them daily in the yard as well. I work on OB with them everywhere we go. I am teaching them tricks, like roll over, and am clicker training them. It is such fun to have these two!! Even when they track a ton of mud in the house I am grateful every day for them. Lately we have started herding lessons and they both excel at this! Both do wonderfully with my cats too! Zisso was said to not be cat friendly but I have pictures to prove differently!
 
So, my point to this story is that adopting and rescuing is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life!! Thank you for taking the time to read!!
 
Sincerely
Beverly

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Featured in the 11.12.09 Newsletter

Hello Cindy –

My name is Gabriel. I have just recently become a fan of Leerburg after having my 3 year male Pit bull obedience trained.

After reading the many articles on your site I realized that leaving my boy with a professional trainer for two weeks was a mistake. But I am still grateful as my boy was in severe need of manners and now has them although I made him submit to someone outside his pack. All future training will be by me with the help of your DVDs and vast expertise.

However, the purpose of this email is in response to the story by Lesley and her dog Anika. My heart goes out to her, reading her story brought tears to my eyes as well as I reminisced of my first APBT given to me by a concerned uncle who gave him to me to occupy my time and keep me out of trouble. I was 17 at the time and that was 25 years ago.

When I took Diablo to his first show I was also informed that his pedigree was of quality lines and was even ridiculed a little by more than one knowledgeable breeder for changing the very well known breeders name on his papers to my name (what did I know). Although it was an unsanctioned “fun” show, Diablo placed first (I still have his ribbon and trophy). I spend the next winter with him and his trainer who came over every Saturday and worked with us and showed me what I needed to work him on until the next Saturday.

Back then, weight pulls were just starting out at the Pit bull shows and I started Diablo training for the pulls. Then one day I noticed he was limping a little and that he had a small knot protruding from one of his wrist joints. I though it was from weight pull training. The Vet diagnosed him with Valley Fever and that it had progressed to the point were it was causing painful bone growths in the joints. He also told me that other than keeping him comfortable, he could do nothing, there was no cure, and it had a 100% mortality rate. Sadly (with a little guilt), I kept him till he could no longer stand or walk without crying in pain, he flinched when given the shot, which made me flinch too and I apologized to him repeatedly until he closed his eyes and went to sleep. Oh man, my heart is breaking all over again. To lose your dog, you best friend and companion. You know when you are young like that, and you’re in your awkward years and the only ‘person’ in the world that understands is your dog, to lose him/her is such a blow.

Like Lesley, he taught me so much about life and living. Responsibility, humility, respect, compassion, remorse, enthusiasm, joy and sorrow, all virtues reinforced by a boys bond with his dog.  So here I sit, a 42 year old man crying secretly at his desk thinking of his first dog, how he changed my life and more than ever how much I miss him.

Hang in there Lesley, enjoy every minute with her. You will never forget Anika.

Diablo, I miss you; you were such a good friend.

I’ll see you when I get there.

Gabriel

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Featured in the 11.19.09 Newsletter

Ok, I'll bite :) Thought I would send you my story of Sam. If you see fit to feature Sam's story, we don't need a gift certificate. Please donate $25.00 worth of treats or supplies to the shelter (yet another lesson from Sam).

Thanks!!!

So, here goes....

SAM

I don't recall him being anything super special to look at. He was just your average saddle back GSD. He wasn't even my first dog... being on a farm we always had a bunch of dogs running around. He really didn't have a special or fancy name either- he was just Sam. To me, as a 5 year old, Sam was my world. He was the first dog I really ever bonded with- and I was his person.

Sam came to the farm as a full grown adult. He had been chained up in the city and it was taking its toll on him. I don't know the exact deal that brought him to us, but I suppose it was because my grandfather felt he had to save him. My grandfather was like that.

Whatever the reason, one morning there he was. Until Sam got comfortable, my grandfather said we had to tie him to the Oak tree by the shed. My mother warned me not to get too close because she was convinced he would bite. Quite obviously she didn't know me very well, as I had a tendency to do exactly the opposite that I was told to do (a trait I still have today).

I grabbed a box of cereal and went to sit just outside Sam's rope line. Sam quietly retreated, but I stayed there talking to him and eating my dry cereal. I would occasionally toss him a piece or two. After a few days of this, he no longer retreated and even came forward and ate the cereal - Honeycomb, who could resist??

I visited with Sam each day and eventually he started to get as close as he could to me. He would patiently sit and listen to my silly stories and munch cereal with me. One day, after my mom had gone to town, I went inside his rope line. He licked me until I was completely soaked and made me laugh. We spent the rest of the day in the shade of the Oak tree.

My mom nearly had a stroke when she came home and found me laying with him under the tree. It took some convincing, but she let me unchain Sam. The first thing he did was tuck up his butt and run circles around us. Then he splashed around in the creek for a while. He was certainly a very happy dog!

From that day on, Sam was at my side more often then not. We had many adventures together. He wasn't allowed in the house, but I was able to snap the screen off my window so that he could come in and sleep on my bed at night. I thought I was being so clever, but I found out later that my grandfather knew about it the whole time and convinced my mom to leave us be.

Sam was only with us for 3 years. He began to lose a lot of weight and just couldn't keep it on. He wasn't the same energetic Sam anymore, even a short walk would wear him out. My grandfather took him to the vet and explained to me that Sam had Cancer and would be leaving us.

When Sam got to be too weak to jump through my window anymore, my grandfather allowed me to let him come in the front door so that he could still sleep next to my bed. One night, my grandfather carried Sam into my room and put him on my bed. Sam licked my face until I fell asleep.

My grandfather woke me early the next morning and quietly explained to me that my beloved Sam had died in the night. He gently wrapped Sam in a blanket and carried him to the shed. I followed behind, crying my heart out. He handed me a shovel and we both dug a grave for Sam under the Oak tree he had been tied to his first week with us. When I asked him why he chose that place, my grandfather replied, "because that's where he found you." He was wrong though, that's where we had found each other.

My grandfather explained to me that our animals come into our lives to teach us something and then they move on. He told me that my lesson from Sam was to learn to love and have compassion for animals. He said that someday I would look at my life and I would see the lessons that all my animals have taught me and know that they made me the person I became. He was right. The foundation of who I am is the love and bond that I shared with my Sam.

Those that were truly loved, never really leave us - Helen Keller

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I have a divine female Bull mastiff. She is at my every spoken word... I never have to call her. Her idea of heaven is being at my feet and she would love to be a lap dog but she weighs 125! She does sit on my feet all of the time... so funny. Her name is Miss Priss.

Last spring, I was busy outside and and then I realized that Miss Priss wasn't there. I did call her and call her and she didn't come I was so alarmed because I knew something was wrong. I started walking the property and calling her. We live on the river and there are several  steep banks that go down to gather water that runs into the river. I was up and down these hills, calling her.

Then, I heard the dried leaves rustling and I looked to see what it was. It was my Priss and she was having seizure after seizure

I knew she was going to die.

My husband was with me and he knew we couldn't get her out of that ditch by ourselves because it was so steep. He went and got a blanket and we spread it on the ground. We got Priss on the blanket and we started dragging her up the hill. She would have another seizure and would roll off the blanket, again and again. It took us almost an hour to get her to the top of ditch to our yard. I called my Vet to tell him we were on the way. That is when we realized it was Saturday and he closed at 12 and it was now 2:30.

So, we went ahead to the Vet which was an hour away. We put her in the back of a pickup truck because she was so rigid we couldn't get her in the car. I laid in the back of the truck with her to the doctor. When she wasn't having seizures, she would look so scared, her eyes were really pitiful. I kept holding her and telling her that she would be ok....but, I myself doubted it.

We got her to the Vet, not one of my favorite ones, either. But, all he would say is that he thought she had drank antifreeze. It was April when this happened and we knew we hadn't had any antifreeze where she could get it....but, maybe the neighbors. She was a neighborhood dog when we would go outside. Everyone loved her and kept her treats.

Priss stayed at this Vet until Monday morning at 8 am when they opened. The bill was over $500 and they couldn't tell me anything...

So, after my husband and I talked, we picked her up and took her out  of there....after I paid $500!

By then, my Vet was open and we took her to him. I called him and let him know we were coming... my  Vet was waiting. Priss didn't have any reaction except when she looked at us.

My Vet is a Godly man, literally. He told me he had no medical answers to tell me but he would pray for my dog and go with the Lord's leading.

We put her in a pen and she was stiff and not moving.... except for the seizures.

We stayed with Priss that day for a long time until we figured out that she was asleep. The Doctor had stopped the seizures. and she was so tired. I figured she would go to sleep and simply die. If she had to go, I was so thankful that she wasn't suffering anymore.

We went back everyday and sat in the pen with her and everyday she became  more aware. On the 4th day, we went to see her and the Vet techs were hollering and laughing! Miss Priss had gotten up and walked across the floor.

As it turned out, my sweet, sweet girl had an infection in her central nervous system.

Today, she is active and still loves us almost as  much as we love her! She has a lot of stiffened joints and she walks slowly sometimes, gets up slowly and takes meds for her joints.

The Vet said he had no idea of what the long range affects of this episode would be, but we are just living day by day.

I thank God for my girl Priss. The dedication, love and kindness this girl has given us can never be repeated! I love her much!!!

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My story is about a timid little show dog/ breeder chihuahua named Magic.  I told my husband for two years that I wanted a chihuahua.  One day I took matters into my own hands and looked through the paper for a breeder.

A nice lady said she had a little show dog that she wanted to retire to a good home. She arranged a time for me to come. When I saw him, it was love at first site for me and for him, he just started trembling from head to toe.

He was my best friend. We were inseparable. He followed me every where. He made me smile in a time that I was so depressed and had no direction. Together we worked on 18 different behaviors. I suddenly found that I had a great love for dogs and wanted to be a dog trainer. I got into a school for dog trainers and Magic and I took off. We were getting ready for our first dog obedience competition when tragedy struck. 

My husband and I had pork ribs for dinner. A great night of being with family. We went to bed and it was very hot so we let Magic go sleep under the couch where it was cool. The cat got the bones out of the garbage and by the time I found Magic the next morning he was convulsing. I gave him mouth to mouth in the front yard trying to get him to the car, but he died in our arms.

I was so distraught. But later my friends begged me to keep on working with dogs. Magic would want me to help more dogs and people find the happiness that I we did.

So there is a new chapter to this story. My pastor told me to go get a new dog. I was a little skeptical, then the next morning the phone rang. It was a lady from a local animal rescue place, she said simply, "I've got puppies!" I took that as a sign. I went to her shelter and there was the cutest little mini pin looking dog. I handed him to my husband and went to the puppy room. There were fifteen little puppies that needed a home.

The lady liked how handled the puppies and found out I was learning to work with dogs, so we worked out a deal. I would work with the aggressive dogs for the price of my dog. Now I help her rescue dogs and place them in appropriate families.

When anyone asks me how I got into the dog business, I always tell them it was a little piece of Magic.

Please remind people of the dangers of cooked bones so no one ever has to go through what we had to.

Doreen

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How Butch Changed My Life

The first time my son even came close to a dog was when he was five years old. He was terrified of it. When the dog moved just a little, he jumped. The dog was really just a pup; a pup that was only four weeks old.  When we went on a trip to visit my brother-in-law, who had a dog, my son broke out in hives. My wife and I were sure he had an allergic reaction to the dog. After testing, it was determined that he was not allergic to dogs. His reaction was due to his extreme fear of dogs.

My son is autistic, and he just had this unexplainable fear. When my son turned seven, I decided to purchase a Miniature Pinscher. My wife thought I was crazy, but I knew my son had to get past this phobia. I planned to introduce the pup, Butch,  to my son slowly. Within a few days my son was asking to pet Butch, and in a few weeks they were playing together. In time they became great friends, and my son loved that dog.  He would ask me “Dad do you love Butch?” I would always say. "No, you just like dogs you don't love them."   

As time went on, I saw the bond between my son and Butch grow, and I started to look at Butch differently. One day my son asked me, "Dad do you love Butch?" I said, "Yes I do, after all he is part of the family." Butch died last Christmas Eve after loving us and us loving him for eleven years.

TL

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Hi Cindy,

The following is how my dog has changed my life.

Wow I don't know where to begin. My dog IS my life. I have a Yellow Labrador Retriever who will be 6 years old on December 1st. She is the love of my life. I got her (or should I say she got me) when she was only 7 weeks old. She was picked from a litter of I believe 7 puppies. She was just sitting behind me and as I turned to make sure no one was behind me there she was staring up at me.... our eyes met and that was that. All the other puppies did not exist in my mind. I just said, she is the one. I want her. Something just told me she was special.

Sadie is now a Certified Therapy Dog (with Bright & Beautiful Therapy dogs). She is a Certified Narcotics Detection Dog (thru Travelnmandogs) we train every Sunday. She was doing Dock Jumping and also Agility. Sadie loves to ride my jet ski with me. She is also my registered "Assistance Dog" as in emotional support.

If I did not have Sadie I don't think I would exist... funny one day I won a free physic session and I was told that I am like Sadie's litter mate... if I did not have her I'd be a basket case.

I have never taken a vacation without Sadie. She goes where I go. She understands everything I say. She is one spoiled dog.

I found out that she had some back issues so we stopped the dock jumping and then was told that swimming was good therapy... SO Sadie even got her own pool... she swims just about every day.

I can go on and on about Sadie....she was even featured in a Japanese magazine... She is even sponsored by Canidae Dog food for her working dog talents. I've included a picture of her.

Thank you for reading my story,
Cindy

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I have had numerous dogs throughout my life.  As a young girl, my parents had Cocker Spaniels, first Chief Willie Nillie and then Chief Willie Nillie, II; both known as "Willie." Later, they moved onto Golden Retrievers.  Ann's Interobang of Ivy Hill and Tom's Finest Brandy, "Terry" and "Brandy" respectively.  They were all good dogs and I loved them all.

The dog who stands out above them all, including the three dogs I've had since her, was Kelly. Kelly was a black and tan, German Shepherd. My boss and his wife owned her but were being relocated to Florida from Connecticut. Kelly was already six years old and they didn't feel she would be able to adapt to the heat and humidity of southern Florida. I had to be interviewed, not only by my boss' wife but also by Kelly. She decided upon our first meeting that I was going to be her new owner.

After a small, "white lie" to my husband, Kelly came to live with us. Once my husband had been realized how great a dog she was, I told him we were not just "dog sitting" on a temporary basis but that Kelly was ours to keep. It posed a problem since we rented an apartment where no dogs were allowed. During the time it took to get a new apartment, my husband was allowed to bring Kelly into his office each day. Kelly made friends with everyone in his office, even people who were afraid of large dogs and specifically, German Shepherds. Kelly stayed in my husband's office or occasionally roamed the halls, visiting and checking on the rest of the employees.

With our children, Kelly was our best babysitter. When we got Kelly, our oldest son was in Kindergarten. Before Kelly died, she went through the birth of our twin sons, their crawling and learning how to walk and our older son having friends come and go from the house. We lived in four different homes and neighborhoods and she adapted every time.  Kelly knew the difference between when a friend of my son would come in, sometimes with barely a knock, versus adults who she always stopped at the door and waited for us to say they were welcome. Her patience and gentleness when my twin sons were learning how to crawl and walk and she was arthritic and in pain as a 13-14 year old dog was amazing.  She started to become incontinent one have trouble walking towards the end.  On the day she left this earth, our vet cried with me since he knew what an exceptional dog Kelly was.

Kelly taught me to be patient and to gentle, even if you're in pain, when dealing with people, especially children. She also taught me how to judge people better - if they are childlike they are less likely to do you harm. She also taught me that dogs can interview you for the most important job on earth - being a dog owner - and they are probably right.

Pat

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My dog Sir Gus has changed my life dramatically! I am having a lot of fun with him. I have 6 dogs and when I put them outside I come back into the house and Sir Gus, who is an American Large German Shepherd, is sitting beside the door.

Sir Gus enjoys playing laser with a pin light. Ha!
He is very happy when I turn off the lights and with the other five dogs out of the room I play chase the laser light with Sir Gus! Ha!

I also have taught them all how to find dog biscuits. I started out teaching Sir Gus  to follow his nose. I would hide one biscuit in the room and bring him in and he would find it. Then I began calling the game "Find It."

Now when I have all the dogs outside. From time to time I feel like hiding Biscuits all over my living room and put them under the edge of the throw rug or under a pillow or one the ledge of the coffee table, various places around the room. I then go outside and bring all the dogs to the door and tell then to Go Find It! They all run into the living room and search until they find all the cookies. They have a good time and so do I.

He gives me much pleasure to play with him and he shares with all the dogs. I am at home with illness and can no longer work. He makes me laugh and I get out of bed every day to feed, walk and play with the dogs.

Without Sir Gus I would not laugh as much as I do. The other dogs have learned from him as well. He is my big buddy and so intelligent I expect to find him reading a book one day. He is so smart and I love having him around. I also have agoraphobia (fear of crowds). I take Gus with me and he gives me security to be able to go more places.

All my dogs have there special place in my heart. But Sir Gus is one with exceptional extra personality that he is drawn to me maybe because he knows I need him to keep me going.

I hope you enjoy my story.
Penny

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About a week after his 28th birthday my husband, Todd, had an accident at work. After 10 days and several surgical attempts to save the limb it was decided that amputation of his left arm would be necessary. During the amputation I waited with my mother-in-law at the hospital. By chance, her sister and brother-in-law showed up because his mother was also having surgery that day. I had never met these people before. We all waited together and I shared with them my intention to get a puppy in the near future. Much to my surprise they had recently bred their GSD's and offered me the pick of the litter.

The first months of Todd’s recovery were difficult to say the least. He was in pain, he was angry, he was depressed, he felt useless as a person and he just wanted to die. I came home from work each night to find him in a fog induced by pain killers & beer. He snapped at anything I said or did, making it impossible to have a conversation with him. We had only been married about a year and I didn’t know what was going to happen to us. He had an unlimited supply of pain killers and I wondered if he would ever give them up. I didn’t know if we’d ever go out again either. Todd was sensitive about people looking at him when we were out in public and I had no clue how to rebuild his confidence because I could not control all the strangers who made him feel so uncomfortable.

We got the word on a Saturday morning that 5 week old Chief was being delivered that afternoon. We weren’t ready because we expected to get him at 8 weeks old. Together we went to the feed store to buy the essentials and for the first time in many weeks it felt like we were on the same page. That afternoon Chief was delivered. When Todd’s aunt took him from the truck and placed him in the front yard he immediately peed, pooped, and confidently marked his spot like he knew this was his new turf. We all got a good laugh from this and as I watched my husband smile at the puppy I knew this was right.

Todd now had this bad little puff ball who needed constant supervision and plenty of potty walks during the day while I was at work. As Chief grew their walks got longer. Soon they were going to the forest preserve for long daily walks. Although Todd still had more surgery and subsequently more pain killers during the months that followed Chief’s arrival, I began to notice a change. When I got home from work he was bright and alert. The color had returned to his face and the walks were making him stronger. Best of all Todd was asking for my advice because he had little experience with dogs and I had lived with GSD's my entire life. I told him it was important to socialize the puppy and suddenly we were going out in public again. We took Chief everywhere: parks, the homes of friends & family, even the local carnival in town. He matured into a good looking and friendly dog, who drew a lot of attention. People didn’t notice that Todd was different because they were too busy admiring the dog. It was the perfect way to get Todd out and talking to people again.

Sadly, at 12 ½ years old Chief developed a fast growing tumor and together we made the decision to euthanize him. Chief took me for 1 last walk that night. We spent Chief’s last couple days just staying near him and spoiling him with whatever he wanted. Todd also used this time to dig the grave. The vet came to our home and the procedure was done graveside. We buried our good boy together.

Todd is now approaching his 47th birthday, is successful, well known and well liked in our community. We are approaching our 20th wedding anniversary and currently have a 4 year old GSD who is definitely the beneficiary of everything Chief taught us about dogs. I credit Chief with saving our marriage. Todd credits Chief with saving his life. 

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Hmmmmmm, I though and thought about who has changed my life more, and can’t come up with that, so here’s what I do have………..

I can’t pick just one dog. All of my dogs have changed or affected me in different ways. I have a stand out memory from each one of them. Sammy, shepherd/husky mix, taught me loyalty and courage when she walked me through a group of 10-15 very bad-intentioned teens one night. They parted like the Red Sea, and I got home safe, thanks to her. Max, all white shepherd/husky mix, was my dear friend who stayed with me always when my girls were teens and really didn’t hang out with mom much anymore. He was my skijoring buddy also and showed me sheer will power and perseverance when in the woods one winter day we crossed over a creek we didn’t know was there. The snow was very deep, (we get about 300 inches on average each year) and my ski’s got stuck. He was on top of the rise from the creek and I was down in it. He was connected to my waist. I wasn’t able to unhook him at that point and couldn’t get my feet out of my skis either.  He just put his head down and dug in with his shoulders. He pulled me out. Zeus, Max’s dad, was my bike-riding companion. Just a big, gentle, loving dog who only wanted to be pet and loved! Clem, a shepherd, reminded me daily that we have to enjoy life to the fullest. He was born with degenerative joint disease and no left hip socket. But, every day, he was excited for the short walk that I could take him on. He smiled at me every day I came home from work and wagged his tail so hard his whole body wagged. Alex and Sadie, a shepherd mix and a border collie, are two of my current dogs. They walked all the miles with me through a half -marathon training and were waiting for me when I finished the race. It would have been very boring without them and I probably wouldn’t have completed it. Also together we have run into a wolf, a bear and many a deer. My time with them is always one big adventure.  Last but not least, Harry, my third current dog, who I’ve only had for 2 months, is a yellow lab/golden retriever mix. For right now, all I can say is that even just saying his name makes me grin! Just a big goof, who loves to be loved and is already howling when he hears me pull into the driveway!!  He has given me nothing but pure joy in this short time and our adventures together are only just beginning! Can’t wait to get to them!

Sandy

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Hi there, Ed, Cindy and the gang.

Thought I’d share our story in the hopes that it will help someone, somewhere, in some way.

Awhile back, I had a weak moment and did something I should have known better and let my dominant-leaning bloodhound sleep in my bed when I was down with the flu and needed some company. I awoke and leaned over him to cuddle. I don’t know if I startled him or what, but he bit my face, barely missing my eye.

Twelve stitches and a fear complex later, I didn’t know quite what to do about the situation, and everyone—even (or especially) our vet—had an opinion…the most common advice was to put him down. That may have worked for some, but we didn’t rescue him from a shelter to come to such a bad end, especially since it was my mistake that led to the problem. It takes determination, a lot of time and plain hard work that many people just don’t have or choose not to invest.

I wrote to Ed Frawley and asked him what I should do. Following his advice, I got your Basic Obedience and Dealing with Dominant Dogs DVDs, along with a dominant dog collar, an e-collar and the e-collar training DVD. Though we haven’t turned him into the perfect dog, he’s well-behaved and loving and has only a few bad habits to break.

A few of months ago, we thought bad behavior had literally reared its head when Boomer hit my husband—HARD—in a very delicate part of his anatomy. It still hurt the following day so my husband was examining himself in the shower and discovered that his testicle was hard to the touch. When it felt the same way a week later, we went to the doctor and were told that it was cancer.

A surgery later, my hubby’s hanging in there on surveillance—getting tumor markers, X-rays and scans…he may be cancer-free. We’re praying this is so.

I don’t know if the knock to the groin was purposeful (being a bloodhound, he may have smelled the tumors)…but if Boomer hadn’t hit my husband with that big ol’ noggin’ of his, the cancer may have traveled to his lungs, heart or brain before it was discovered. I thank God for this dog every day, and I thank his emissaries here on earth—he works through human hands, not just toast and statues—who gave me the tools to make him the best hound he can be.

Everyone makes mistakes, whether we’re human or canine—and it is sometimes a long road to rebuild relationships with those we love and to fix what’s broken. We don’t know yet just how much Boomer’s changed our lives. What we do know is that he’s taught us compassion and steadfastness in our love of our dogs…time will tell, but he may well have saved my husband’s life.

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Hi Cindy,

My name is Jacqueline and I have two all black German Shepherds. The five and half year old is named Phantom, and his brother who is a year younger than him from the same parents, is named Sabian. Little did I know that my two boys would change the whole course of my life.

When I was younger I had always had a love for dogs, especially for my Aunt and Uncle's German Shepherd, Jack. I have always called Jack, my first love. They lived next to us when I was growing up. Because of Jack, my favorite breed of dog has been and always will be the German Shepherd.

When I turned 13 years old, my parents paid for me to have some horseback riding lessons for my birthday. That too became a passion and as I grew up, I had a desire to one day own my own riding stable and be a horse trainer. I went to Johnson and Wales University in Providence Rhode Island and earned my Bachelors Degree in Equine Business Management. After graduating, I moved in with a friend of mine, who also lived in Rhode Island, to help her raise her two children after her divorce. Her ex-husband was going to have his black German Shepherd, Ketura put to sleep at the age of 8 years old because he thought she was too old to live. She was not in any pain of any kind and was a very happy dog. Since I was moving in with my friend, I adopted Ketura. During this time, I had also met my boyfriend, who is now my husband, Jim. Jim was always very supportive of my dream of owning and operating my own riding stable, and being a horse trainer. 

Being that Jim works for the United States Secret Service, he lived in California and we dated cross-country for one year. After that time, we decided that I would move to California to live with him. During this time we lived in a town house. Even though Jim was not an animal lover at the time, he agreed to Ketura coming and living with us and accepted the fact that she lived in the house. Living with Ketura, Jim couldn't help, but love her and grow attached to her. Jim and I found a house on horse property in California and got married. Jim and I worked very hard at trying to achieve my dream of having horses, a stable, and for me to be a horse trainer. I also loved having dogs and as time went on, Ketura got older. When Ketura was 12 years old, I realized that I had to have a dog or two in my life. Ketura was growing weaker and knowing her time was limited, I looked long and hard for a good, honest, reputable breeder. I finally found one and that was when Phantom came into our lives at 8 weeks old. 

As I raised Phantom, I realized that I could obedience train him myself. I also had the help of Ketura, who had suddenly managed to rejuvenate herself having this new youngster around. She helped show him how to go potty outside and one day in a single afternoon, she helped me teach him how to play fetch. Keeping in constant contact with the breeder about Phantom's progress and development, she asked me if I would be interested in volunteering with Phantom to do Pet Therapy. We were evaluated and approved and I started volunteering in my spare time.

During this time, I also had my first horse and started teaching horseback riding lessons to five students. My dream of owning a stable, teaching riding lessons, and being a horse trainer was finally just beginning.

As Phantom grew up, I realized that he had become bonded to Ketura. I knew that not only loosing her was going to hurt Phantom deeply, but being without a canine friend was not going to be good for him either. Jim didn't want us to have anymore animals no matter what the reason. I didn't want to make Jim unhappy by bringing home another puppy without his agreement, but Phantom was going to lose his friend very soon. I offered Jim a compromise. Since playing the drums is a hobby of Jim's, I promised Jim that if we got another puppy, we would name the puppy Sabian, after the brand of cymbals for the drums, Sabian cymbals. Sure enough, it worked. I contacted Phantom's breeder and told her we wanted another black male German Shepherd puppy. Sabian came home at 8 weeks old. 

Six months after Sabian came home, Jim and I lost our beloved Ketura to old age. As it turned out I was right about her being to young to die when she was 8 years old. She lived happily with Jim and I for six years and died the day after her 14th birthday. Phantom was sad and depressed about losing his friend and Sabian didn't seem to be affected by it too much since he had bonded more and closer with Phantom. Thanks to Sabian, Phantom was able to pick himself up and be happy again. I guess I was right about that too.

When everything had gotten back into a routine and the riding lessons were still going on, I decided I wanted Sabian to be another Therapy Dog like Phantom. After trying effortlessly to raise and train him that way until he was a year old, I realized that he wasn't happy in that line of work. He was too aloof to people outside of Jim and I and was always ready to protect at any moment. I decided to try him out at personal protection work for two reasons. The first reason was because it was his personality and the second reason was because whenever my husband travels for work, I stay at home.

I took Sabian to someone who called himself a trainer. I didn't know that trainer was very inexperienced at training any kind of dog, never mind a personal protection dog. As luck would have it, I met a different trainer and to this day, he is the only person I will allow to train Sabian. He said that Sabian had really nice obedience training and wanted to know who trained him. I told him I did. He and I worked extensively training Sabian to be a personal protection dog. Sabian and I had to start at the very beginning since the other "trainer" taught him some bad habits. Once we had a solid foundation, we trained Sabian in scenarios like muzzle attacks, two-man-attack, area searches, building searches, car protection, defense on handler, home invasions, biting a hidden sleeve and much, much more. I can honestly say that Sabian will protect me, even if it means losing his own life. I know that it is not just from the training either. I know that it is also because of his unconditional love for me.

During this time, teaching riding lessons was happening less and less for various reasons. Eventually I didn't have any lessons. Since I didn't have any lessons going on, Sabian's trainer asked me if I would help him train other dogs, either of his, or for clients of his by being the handler and he would wear the suit and train the dog on the bite work. I said yes and after only a little bit of time, I started doing it full time. I really loved it and I could tell that training dogs came more naturally to me than training horses. Training with Sabian's trainer, allowed me to really finesse my skills at training dogs as well as gain a lot of knowledge. I also learned that you can always tell who trained a dog by the way a dog performs. Sabian's trainer says that when you train a dog, it is like you are signing your signature on that dog.   

When I decided to train dogs full time, I told my husband. Even though I was changing the whole direction of my life, he was very supportive. While in California, I started my own dog training business and specialized in obedience training. If any of my clients wanted to do any K-9 sport or bite work, I would work with Sabain's trainer to train the dog. 

A year ago, Jim's job transferred him to Texas. After moving here, I started my own dog training business.

Because of having Phantom in my life, I wanted to offer to clients, Therapy Dog evaluations as a free service. I applied and I am an approved Therapy Dog Evaluator. Sabian also has an influence on my business as well because I am able to offer clinics with his trainer. These clinics are for clients that have dogs with aggression issues or clients who might have K-9's. 

Even though, I changed the whole course of my life from horse training to dog training, I still continue to this day to enjoy horseback riding. I have my own horse, whose name is MysteryMoonMan (aka Mystery). I enjoy competing in show jumping events, riding in parades, and trail riding with him as well. I am greatful that I have an education in Equine Business Management as it allows me to resolve various issues that can happen from his regular maintenance to emergencies without having to pay a vet.

Jim and I live on horse property that is two and half acres. Mystery enjoys his huge pasture and his stall in the barn. I enjoy riding Mystery in our huge riding arena. Our dogs enjoy having their own backyard with an in-ground swimming pool. They also enjoy going for their two mile runs and being groomed three days per week. They have always had the luxury of living inside since the day they came home and they still enjoy that luxury to this day. Two to three times per year, they enjoy it when we take them to California, especially Sabian because he gets to train. Sabian also loves it when his trainer comes out here for training visits.   

Photo: I know it is really hard to tell, but Phantom is on my right and Sabian is on my left. Call me crazy or call me a mom, but I can tell by the looks on their faces, who is who.
 
Jacqueline

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Four years ago I was newly divorced with three children (all young teenagers) and was just sort of drifting along. I have a good job with a local contractor and a decent home but no real direction for myself after my children outgrew me. Along comes Codie. He was a lab mix that my sister found during a rainstorm. She asked me to take care of the puppy while she found him a home. Of course my children immediately said "can we keep him?" He had mange so bad that he would lay down and scratch with both back feet at the same time and was very skinny. Six months and several vet bills later he was a bouncy healthy puppy that we believe is a lab/border collie mix. And he was driving everyone crazy, he needed a job!!! One day while driving back from somewhere my son asked why I didn't try search and rescue with him. There was a truck pulling a skiff next to us with "East Coast K9 Search and Rescue" on the side of the boat.

Two months later we attended our first training with them and the rest is history. Codie and I both loved the work! I was learning to train and read my dog. Codie was certified with National Association of Search and Rescue at the age of 2 and became operational (another test) shortly after. He is certified in Air Scenting and is now working on HRD certification. I look forward everyday to working with him and my other dogs, three of which are in some level of training for search and rescue and one agility dog. I am certified with NASAR as SARTECH II and Codie and I are certified as Canine SARTECH III.

Copper, an English coonhound, entered our lives when Codie was about 18 months old. Codie and I were doing demonstrations at an adoption event where I met a young coonhound. He had been turned into the shelter because he was "unmanageble." Now I had to learn a new set of training strategies and the humor of a coonhound. He was totally different than any other dog I had owned. I swore he was a person in dog skin sent to drive me nuts. I love this breed.

Copper certified in trailing with NASAR at the age of two and will soon do his team/operational certification as soon as we work out a few more kinks (he decided trailing boy scouts with hot dogs was more fun that trailing his victim on his first operational test).

I now own another coonhound (redbone), SAR, and a bluetick/cattle dog mix, agility who each challenge me to learn new things on a regular basis because of their differences. Codie started the greatest change in my life and the way I approach life. I don't feel like I am just taking care of someone else all the time (first my husband, then my three children, then a significant other at the end) and working at a mundane job to pay bills. Now I feel that I am contributing a worthwhile service to my area and showing others that "pound puppies" can and do have the ability to become something great. Yes, all seven of my dogs are rescues. I wouldn't go back for anything in the world

Elise

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One of my first dogs was named Harry and he was a mutt. But he was an intelligent and very affectionate dog. As a child, I grew up in a troubled home and found great solace in my canine friend who always listened to me and loved me unconditionally. I had many wonderful experiences with my dog but the one that I treasure the most is how after playing "tag" with Harry, and yes he knew to take turns being "it," we would both be exhausted and needed a rest. I remember laying in the yard during the afternoon with my head on Harry and falling asleep. When I woke, Harry was in the same position with my head laying on his side using him as a pillow while he kept watch. I don't remember how long that nap was but I know it was not short. I loved that dog and will always carry these fond memories with me. I can't imagine ever having to live without a canine companion.

Donna



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