Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘dogs’

Walking and Reading: 3|29|14

 

For the Humans: 

See that quote above. Phew. That’s a biggie. Do you have a hard time asking for help? I do. Watch this.  It’s short but it’ll blow your mind.

I am addicted to taking classes and this one is next on my list. 

And I think we should all be wearing this.

 

For the Dogs:

Lately, I’ve had a few people ask me for resources about medications for fearful and anxious dogs. Here’s a good place to start. 

Vintage photos of dogs on the high seas. Ahoy!

I may have shared this before, but I recently passed this along to some friends and thought, what the heck, let’s make sure everyone has a copy of “Relax on a Mat” from Whole Dog Training.

 

For the Laugh:

I just discovered  a new cartoon to keep me in the laughs. Meet The Rut.

 

And Offline: 

Along with some textbooks and a stack of magazines, I’m enjoying Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson (author of Buddha’s Brain).  It’s brain science and I can still understand it. So bonus.

 

What about you? Books? Classes? What are you learning about these days?

 

 

The Dog Walker’s Guide To Choosing A Dog Walker

The Whole Dog Journal just published a handy article on stuff you should know about hiring a dog walker. Since anyone can call themselves a dog walker (just like anyone can call themselves a dog trainer), you gotta know how to pick a qualified person if you’re going to hire one. WDJ recommends asking smart questions, such as:

  • If your company has multiple employees, who will actually be the person walking my dog?
  • How many dogs do you walk at once? How do you choose which dogs walk with each other?
  • What kind of training do you have to walk multiple dogs at a time?
  • What happens when you can’t make it? What kind of experience do you have with dogs?
  • Where will you go on your walks? Will you be taking my dog to the dog park?

These are all good. Please ask these questions. Since I’m a pro street walker myself, I wanted to share some other tips to help you in your search.

How to find a dog walker: 

You can always start with a search on the interwebz. Companies with multiple employees should have a website. That being said, some of the best, most reliable and skilled dog walkers I know aren’t necessarily advertising their services. So always ask around.

Ask your vet tech, your groomer, your trainer, your local pet store owner, or your rescue and shelter workers for recommendations. Who do they hire for their own dogs? Who are their clients (with dogs that are similar to yours) using?

New Yorker Cartoon By Edward Frascino

New Yorker Cartoon By Edward Frascino

There are some very skilled dog walkers that are flying under the radar, working part-time as vet techs, groomers, and in animal shelters (or in my case, as part time writers), who might be an excellent fit for your dogs.

Go with someone that does this for a living (part or full time), rather than someone who is a student or retiree or a kid that loves dogs.  It’s a huge commitment to show up at someone’s home every single day for months and years. You want a pro – someone who is internally motivated to hold themselves accountable to the job they’ve committed to doing, no matter how cold it is outside.

People often ask me if they should hire a solo dog walking artiste, such as myself, or a larger dog walking service. I wish I could say that one is a more reliable bet than the other. In my experience, there is an equal risk with both that your dog might spend 30 minutes every afternoon wearing a sombrero and busking for change in the park.

So, start with yourself: what kind of relationship do you want and what kind of service does your schedule require? To generalize in a big, big way:

Solo dog walkers are like shopping at a small, locally owned store: highly personal relationships, flexible service, but with individual quirks and varying availability.

Dog walking companies are more like shopping at a large store: increased convenience, more accountability, but with more rules and less personalized service.

Overall, they’re both fine. You just have to pick which works best for you.  And remember: there is little to no oversight in dog walking. The bosses rarely see their employees in action. So ultimately, the person who is walking your dog – whether or not they are self-employed or working for a service – is alone with your dogs almost all of the time.

I’m not trying to scare you. I just want you to understand that this is a weird job. Other than the folks at the dog park or that old Italian lady that’s always peeking out her window trying to catch us letting dogs pee on her curb so she can chase us away with a broom, no one is watching us walk your dogs. So you have to do your homework during the hiring process.

Let’s say you’ve found a few people/companies that look pretty good. Here are some tips for meeting with a potential dog walker:

1. There should be a free consultation at your home, with no obligation to hire the dog walker. This is the meet and greet. With larger companies, sometimes only the boss comes to meet you. Ask that whomever will actually be walking your dog – the primary walker – comes with them too.

2. Watch them interact with your dogs during this initial meeting. Unless your dog is fearful, they should pretty much love the dog walker right away. Dog walkers stink of other dogs and have meat dust leaking out of every pore.  Dogs should react accordingly. And the dog walker? You should see pure joy on their faces. Meeting new dogs is FUN for us.

2a. If your dog is fearful with new people, watch how the dog walker handles this. Are they forcing themselves on your dog, insisting that they interact? Or are they hanging back, sitting on the floor, and calmly talking to you while your dog launches a covert exploration of their coat?

If your dog is uber-shy or has other serious quirks, it’s ok to ask for a second meeting. You’ll probably have to pay for it this time, but it will be helpful to have the dog walker meet your dog with you there again. Then, if you see that a little progress has been made and/or you trust that the dog walker is a good one, go for it. Sometimes shy dogs are less shy when you’re not home. Which leads to…

2b. Remember that dogs are different when you’re not around. I have a friend with three big, loud-ass dogs that go bananas when someone comes to the door. She assumed that when I came to walk them that they would make an insane racket – enough to scare off a dozen intruders. Turns out, all three of her dogs were mute when I walked in the door. So much for her security system.

This kind of thing happens a lot. Your dogs may be bolder or shyer in your presence. Friendly dogs might charge the door, growling and barking, when they are alone in the house and a stranger walks in. Shy dogs might be emboldened to go for a walk with the meat-dusted stranger, now that mom isn’t looking. At some point, if you like the dog walker, you just have to let them show up alone and see what happens.

3. Ask them to go on a walk with you and your dogs. If your dog is cool with it, ask to do this step during the initial meeting. Unless your dog is a robot (or super easy going) then you’ll want to see the dog walker handling them. Have the dog walker put on their harness/collar/leash and go for a short walk together.

If your dog is reactive, you don’t want to skip this part. Anyone can talk a good game, but that doesn’t mean they can stay cool when your reactive dog starts a break dancing competition with the neighbor’s dog. Go for a group walk and see them interact with your dog.

New Yorker Cartoon by Lee Lorenz

New Yorker Cartoon by Lee Lorenz

4. If your dog has medical or behavioral issues, talk about them honestly. You want to know if the dog walker has the skills to work with your dog and they need to be able to make an informed decision. A good dog walker knows their limits. It’s ok for them to tell you they aren’t skilled enough to work with your aggressive dog. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to do. So don’t hide anything from them.

And don’t try to sugarcoat your dog’s issues so they’ll want to work for you. It’s not fair and it’s not safe. If you hire them, they will have to walk into your home – alone – and it can be dangerous if you fail to mention that your 110 pound dog will be loose in the house and has been known to pin strangers to the wall (I still love you Mo!).  This is the time to be honest. Come up with a management plan for future visits, so that the dog walker can enter your home safely with minimal stress for them and your dogs.  For instance, if your dog is fearful, you can plan to leave their harness on, so that the dog walker doesn’t have to touch them too much on the first visit. Or if your dog is a nutter with strangers, you can plan to crate or gate them away from the door. This is a good time to start talking about this stuff.

Also, the more you share, the more you can get a feel for their experience and skill level. Let’s say you tell them your dog is reactive. A dog walker that’s any good will have many follow up questions for you, so that the can better understand what your dog’s triggers are, what walking routes are safest, and what your training plans are, etc. If they say, “Oh, I know how to walk reactive dogs,” but they don’t care to hear about your individual reactive dog’s needs or have any questions, move on.

5. Find out how you’ll know that they were there. I leave a note after every walk. My clients have affectionately dubbed these “The Poop Diaries” and I’m proud to say that after more than ten years of leaving these notes each day for multiple clients, I’ve written the dog walker’s equivalent of War and Peace. But, I’m willing to concede that writing a note takes a minute or two away from your dogs and the average dog walker isn’t as excited as I am about finding a thousand different ways to say, “Your dog made a sizable deposit at the turd bank today.”

Many dog walkers will do cool stuff like get little post-it-sized checklists that are pre-printed, so they can leave you a quick report:

Poop – check

Pee – check

Butt Scritches – check

If they don’t leave notes, ask them how you’ll know they’ve been there each day. This company does all kinds of stuff to prove they’re doing their jobs. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but it’s totally fine to ask for some sort of proof your dog walker showed up.

6. They should have their professional goods on hand to show you. Dog walkers should have liability insurance, references, a detailed service contract, and clear, written policies and rates. No matter who they work for or if they’re self-employed, all dog walkers should have this stuff. Before you hire them, you’ll want to know: what’s their cancellation policy? What are your daily and weekly rates and what forms of payment do you accept? What window of time will you be coming each day? Who pays the vet bills if my dog gets hurt at the dog park? Who will pay my dry cleaning bills if I catch you wearing my evening gowns? This stuff should be in writing.

Then at some point, you’ll have to just cross your heart, lock up grandma’s diamonds, and give them the keys to your house. It’s scary to trust a stranger with your dog and your home. I’m always amazed at how many people have given me the keys to their houses within 30 minutes of meeting me over the years. Quite frankly, it’s an honor to be trusted that way. Good dog walkers understand this and do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and confident in them.

In the end, go with your gut  and choose the person your dogs and you really dig.

In the comments, tell me about your dog walkers. Are they good, bad, weirdos, life-savers? I wanna know. 

p.s. You think you wanna be a dog walker, huh punk? It’s hard and there is epic poop involved. Read all about here. 

Searching For Answers: Lightning Round

Last year I decided to start giving search terms (one of my fave parts of blogging) a little love. You can see those posts here and here. 

Short version: you search for stuff on Google and results pop up. If you click on a blog that came up in the search results, then the writer of the blog will see the search terms you used to find their blog in the “search term results” of their blog’s back end.

I keep meaning to do another post with these nuggets of human gold, but man – life is hectic y’all. So let’s just do a lightning round. Ready, Set, Search!

Search terms you’d think have nothing to do with my blog, but you’d be wrong:



“Dog poops in house after tuba song”

“Men ride river rapid while balancing on log of bamboo

Steve Martin butt cheeks”

Governor peeing on plane”

Bitches be acting like they have rabies”
 

This has nothing to do with dogs. I just want people to start getting my blog when they search "Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson."

This is here because: 1. I want to see if people start getting my blog when they search “Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson.” 2. I want to be on that boat.

Fast answers to your burning searches:



“What kind of fences do dogs like?”: Bacon Flavored. 


“I’d like to put a lock on my wood gate”: Mazel Tov!


“My dog ran off today for 4 hours should I leash him from now on?”: Ayuh.


“Which dog breed has a skinny tongue?”: The Gene Simmons Fox Hound. You weirdo.


“What does it mean when two dogs show up out of nowhere?”: Ghosts! The Apocalypse! Aliens!

 

Let The (Dog) Games Begin!

Remember that time I wrote about Dog Walking Social Groups? Not really? Here you go.

I’m a big fan of these groups for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they provide safe, structured socialization for dogs. Of course, sometimes group walks just aren’t possible. Like right now, it’s 7 degrees out.

That’s right: 7

So maybe you and your groupies (question: what’s a nickname for group members that doesn’t make them sound like they hang out in the back of tour buses?) are looking for something new to try indoors. Or maybe you and your fellow classmates have graduated past basic Reactive Rover type exercises and y’all want to cut loose a little with your new skills.

Enter group games! Games can be a fun way to practice what you’ve learned in class or on group hikes. They keep your dog working around other dogs in a positive and controlled setting. But they’re also pretty silly. Which can be a nice change of pace.

Also, you can pretend you’re Katniss. Only instead of a bow and arrow, you have a treat bag filled with stinky tuna.  Bad. Ass.

Will your dog volunteer as tribute? Mine neither. That's cool.

Will your dog volunteer as tribute? Mine neither.


Wanna try? Here are a few silly games I’ve played (or watched others play) that might be a good fit for your crew:

‘Red Light, Green Light!’

This is my personal favorite. I’ve had a lot of laughs playing this game with leash reactive dogs and their owners.  Here’s how it’s done: Each on-leash dog stands with their person on a start line. An instructor stands (without a dog) at the other end of the room or field with their back to the group.

The objective is to be the first pair to reach the instructor/finish line. Along the way, you’ll be practicing stuff like “look”, “down” and “let’s go”.

The instructor will call out “Green Light” and the teams will walk quickly towards the finish line while engaging their dogs and encouraging loose leash walking.

When the instructor calls out “Red Light” and turns around to face the group, all the dogs must be lying down. Any pair that is caught in motion, not lying down, has to go back to the starting line. This continues until one pair makes it to the finish line and puts their dog in a down stay.

Ring Around the Rosie’

Each on-leash dog stands with their person in a large circle. The instructor (and maybe a few friends) sings the song “Ring Around the Rosie” as the pairs walk around the outside of the circle practicing loose leash walking and eye contact.

When the song ends with the line “they all fall DOWN”, all the dogs must be in a down position. The last dog to lie down is eliminated. Be mindful of space between dogs, so that you don’t run into anyone when that “down!” gets hollered.

Musical Hoops’

Another childhood favorite adapted for dogs, this game is the canine version of Musical Chairs. You’ll need as many hula hoops as there are dogs participating in the game. To give the dogs some space from one another, you can place the hoops as far away from each other as you need and they can be set up in a circle or in a row.

The dogs are on leash with their owners and, as the music plays, the dogs walk around the hoops practicing loose leash walking and eye contact. When the music stops, the dogs are asked to sit or lie down inside the nearest hula hoop. The dogs must have at least two paws inside the hoop. If a dog does not have at least two paws inside the hoop, they’re out. One hoop is then removed and the game continues!

Again, be mindful of the other dogs. Don’t run to the same hoop with nothing but the sweet taste of victory on your lips. Winning isn’t worth a head on in-hoop collision.

Hide and Seek’

If your dog prefers solo time with you, play at home! Ask your dog to sit or lie down and put them in a stay. Hide in another room and then call your dog. Wait for him to find you – try not to laugh and give away your hiding spot! It’s that simple.


Depending on how challenging these activities are for your dogs, you may need to refrain from lots of hollering, high-fiving, and giggle fits. It’ll be helpful to stay calm and cool, so the dogs don’t get too psyched (especially if you’re playing inside). But as time goes on and the dogs settle in, I highly recommend laughing and cutting loose a little. Also, there needs to be an instructor or two (or someone else without a dog), to help troubleshoot/declare the winner.

And remember different games work for different dogs. It’s cool if these aren’t your dog’s thing. Don’t give up on games all together though. Have you tried Nose Works? I haven’t met a dog yet that doesn’t like that one. And it’s the perfect winter-time activity.

But if you do decide to play, games like these can be as challenging as regular training classes and as social as a group walk. Give them a try and may the odds be ever in your dog’s favor!


p.s. If you’ve got a favorite group or solo game that you like to play with your dogs, let us know in the comments, ok?

Animals From History: Interview with Artist Christina Hess

In another lifetime I worked at an Irish bar in Philadelphia called Moriarty’s. The staff back in those days was a pretty awesome bunch. One of them was the artist Christina Hess.

More than a decade later, Christina is the brilliance behind the recently released project Animal From History:

The Fitzgeralds - Copyright Christina Hess - All Rights Reserved

The Fitzgeralds – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved

 

I love this series of illustrations. A lot. Lucky for me (and you) Chris was up for a few questions about her work. Let’s dive in!


Jessica: What was the inspiration behind Animals From History?

Christina: Animals and history always interested me, but this project came together for a few reasons. I painted a white cat (Queen Elhissabeth) for a client who wanted his cat immortalized as a queen. I did some research and felt that a generic queen would not have been as fun to do as someone that actually existed.  So I researched Queen Elisabeth and I found wonderful imagery that I could pull from. It ended up resonating with many people.

Copyright Christina Hess All Rights Reserved

Queen Elhissabeth – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved

 

Another inspiration was our Basset Hound, Roscoe. He was a character and gave me a lot of stories. I often wondered what he would be saying if he were human and I coincided his rumbles with famous quotes or lyrics from songs.

At that point I felt like it would be a really fun project to bring together animals and history to make a world that I could continue working with.


J: Now that I’ve seen William Wallace as a scruffy terrier and Joan of Arc as a dignified German Shepherd, I can’t imagine them as any other kind of dog. How do you choose a particular animal and historical figure pairing? Does the person’s animal alter ego speak to you or vice versa?

C: It’s funny because when I first started this idea I had wild animals involved and had animal/human personalities match up. But then it took a domestic animal turn. I had used Kickstarter.com for funding the project and through that I offered original artwork of people’s pets as their choice of historical figures.

What I found is that people did not associate their pet as a personality because of looks or general attitude – it was all about the individual animal. Sometimes the choice lined up perfectly – like Kiddy Roosevelt. The cat really looked like Teddy Roosevelt!

It really became a community project and I learned so much about people’s pets. For example, the dogs behind Joan of Bark and Henry V are canine siblings in real life. When “Henry” moved in with “Joan” she terrorized him quite a bit.  So their owner and backer thought that two opposing personalities were appropriate for both of her German Shepherds.

Joanof Bark - Copyright Christina Hess - All Rights Reserved

Joan of Bark – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved

 

With the wild animals I wanted to pair the personalities of them with the people. Snow leopards rarely stay together, as The Fitzgeralds did not. Mountain Lions are loners who are ruthless, hence the portrayal as Steve Jobs.


J: Your late dog Roscoe, an adorable Basset Hound, is depicted as Napoleon. What inspired that particular pairing?

C: The obvious short man syndrome applies to his breed a lot. Those Bassets act like big boys, including my Roscoe! He was also very vociferous and had a bit of prissiness to him that reminded me of Napoleon and his pushy personality. He was short, pushy, loud, obnoxious and loved french bread. I’m not kidding…bread was his catnip! He had a big personality, as did Napoleon.

Also, I really wanted him to hide his paw, so it appears he is scratching his own belly.

Copyright Christina Hess - All Rights Reserved

Napoleon Boneapart – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved


J: Is there an animal or a historical figure you’re dying to bring to life next?

C: Many! I’m currently working on a pit bull as Queen Bessie Coleman and have many others on the list. Mary Shelly as a skunk. The Wright Brothers as Kiwi birds. Frank Lloyd Wright as a Greyhound, John Smith and Pocahontas as a deer and wolf. The list goes on…

William Pawllace - Copyright Christina Hess - All RIghts Reserved

William Pawllace – Copyright Christina Hess – All RIghts Reserved


J: Where can we see more Animals From History? Is the Ebook available to purchase?

C: Right now the images are online at ChristinaHess.com and AnimalsFromHistory.com. I also have them for sale in print form and in a 2014 calendar. I had to postpone the eBook, because I’m reworking some of the writing in order for my agent to pitch it to publishers. Hopefully it’ll be out by next year. I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!


I can’t wait for the book – I have no doubt it will be a huge success! Thank you for the interview Chris!

Should I Leash My Dog? [Flowchart]

Ever wonder when it’s ok to let your dog off leash?

Check out this handy flowchart created by the fabulous Jenny Williams. In just a few text bubbles (and with a sense of humor) it’ll help you make a responsible, respectful, safe choice!

Download and print the pdf here to share! Note: this is not available for commercial use. Jenny Williams gets all the props for this one. Please be sure to give her credit when you share it. And check out her site: ShouldILeashMyDog.com for more!

Download and print the pdf to share! Note: this is not available for commercial use. Jenny Williams gets all the props for this one. Please be sure to give her credit and check out her site: ShouldILeashMyDog.com for more!


Hate charts? Here’s the super short version: if there’s a leash law, the answer is “leash your dog.”

And just in case you’re wondering, you are not exempt from leash laws, even if you are*:

• The owner of a Lab
• A board member of an animal shelter
• A middle age white man without a criminal record
• The owner of a friendly dog
• In a parking lot near hiking trails
• A donor to your local humane society

*Yes, these are all real excuses used by real people. To my face.

Listen, let’s save some time: don’t bother with the rationalizing. It’s the law. Just like stop lights, it’s in everyone’s best interests if we obey these laws, rather than justifying why we’re the exception. Can you imagine if we all decided we were the exception to obeying red stop lights because we thought it was a dumb law and we’re better drivers than everyone else?! Crash, Bang, Blam-o.

Leash laws exist to keep all of us safe, including our dogs. They help create public spaces that are safe and welcoming to everyone, including the elderly, children, and the disabled.

There are a lot of us that don’t want to interact with loose dogs or are afraid of them. We rely on leash laws  and purposely choose to visit areas where they exist, with the expectation that dogs will not be loose. When you let your dogs loose in areas with leash laws, you take away our right to choose. Not cool.

Here’s something you may not have considered:

Simply seeing a dog that is not leashed, even when that dog is very well behaved, can cause panic for some people.

While you may know that your dog won’t cause any trouble, the other person is freaking out about what might potentially occur. They’re afraid that without the leash, your dog might suddenly approach them.

Why would they be afraid of my friendly dog? I clearly have him under voice control!

Here’s why: Many of us have had frightening encounters with dogs just seconds after their owners swore to us that their dogs were under control/friendly. We understand that not all dogs are the same, but one bitten, twice shy, you know? It just scares the pants off of us to take a gamble with another dog that may or may not be as well behaved as their owner promises us. It’s not personal.

Plus, there are these reasons people might be afraid of a potential interaction with your dog:

• They have a physical limitation, such as poor balance or lack of mobility.
• They’re senior citizens.
• They’re children.
• They rely on Service Dogs that must not be distracted or harmed.
• They (or their dogs) have been bitten or attacked in the past.
• They own dogs who are injured, sick, or otherwise unable to safely interact with other dogs.
• They have a phobia of dogs. Remember, phobias like the ones lots of us have of spiders, snakes, or of heights, are irrational. But that doesn’t make it less debilitating (this guy died trying to flee a friendly dog).


For these folks, a leash functions as a visual signal, as much as a physical restraint.

The leash says to the concerned party: “Don’t worry. My dog won’t suddenly run over, knock you off your crutches, and eat your baby.” Seeing the leash prevents the internal panic-show from starting. Please have compassion for people and use that leash. You’ll be someone’s hero, without even knowing it!

Beyond those reasons, leash laws exist because we all have different ideas and standards for what constitutes a “well trained, friendly” dog. This simple management tool provides a baseline of safety for all kinds of dogs to be out in public, even if the handler is new to dog training (we were all new at some point!). Leashes are not perfect or foolproof – learn how to use a retractable here and leash etiquette here - but with one you’re covering the bases and being responsible.

With more cars, more people, and more dogs, crammed into less space than ever before, we all need to have our dogs under our full control. Leashes keep dogs safe and out of trouble. Dogs aren’t robots. Even good, well trained dogs make not-so-great choices sometimes. A leash can keep your dog from chasing a ball in front of bus, getting spooked by gunfire and taking off into the woods, accidentally scratching a kid and bringing on a lawsuit, French kissing a porcupine, or chasing a herd of deer across a park and making you a YouTube star.

Look, just because we want you to leash your dog in certain public areas, doesn’t mean we’re scrooges. Lots of us like watching dogs run off leash. The truth is that the perfect complement to areas with leash laws are designated, accessible, and welcoming off-leash areas. This allows everyone to enjoy public recreation with their dogs, in whatever environment – on or off leash – that suits them best. When both on and off leash areas exist, it gives everyone a choice and prevents responsible dog owners who prefer off leash recreation from being unfairly marginalized. If you or someone you know is interested in increasing off-leash areas, please see the following article from Bark Magazine.

In the end, that’s what all of us want: to choose what is best for us and our dogs, to be treated with common courtesy, and to be provided with safe options for recreation in our communities. Also, some of us want free ice cream cones every Friday. But since we can’t get everything we want, we’ll settle for dog owners who obey leash laws.

Be responsible, respectful, safe!

Walking and Reading: 11|8|13

If you have a couple hundred bucks to spare, this vintage Dapper Dandy Dog can be yours!

If you have a couple hundred bucks to spare, this vintage Dapper Dandy Dog can be yours!

 

For the Dogs:

I shared this helpful blog Will You Be Coming Home to Your Dog Tonight? on Facebook earlier this year but: 1. it’s too important to forget, so read it again and 2. there’s an update at the end from medical and emergency personnel that you may have missed the first time around.

A collection of vintage photographs of Man’s Best Friend. I’ll tell you my favorite, if you tell me yours!

 

For the Humans:

This is what a porcupine sounds like when it’s having a snack. You need this right now.

What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life.  I am controlled by dog turds and cat yak.

There are rules to city walking. Get to know the Step-and-Slide and do some urban strolling like a pro.

 

For the Laughs:

Behold! Shittens.

Don’t miss the soulful jingle in the video. Best lyrics ever.

 

And Offline:  I’m reading so many books and magazines and articles right now that I’m not sure which end is up. I just listened to The Great Failure by Natalie Goldberg and if you’re into Buddhists, Jews, New Yorkers, complicated relationships, and writers (I am!) it’s amazing.

Living with a Reactive Dog: Interview with Dog Trainer Sara Reusche

I’m not sure when or how I stumbled on dog trainer Sara Reusche’s blog, Paws Abilities, but I was psyched that I did. For those of you who don’t know her yet, Sara owns Paws Abilities Dog Training in Minnesota and is dual certified as a veterinary technician and professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA). Her posts about living and training dogs are beyond helpful, always compassionate, and so well-written. Not an easy hat-trick to pull off post after post. 

Earlier this year, Sara wrote a handy three part blog series about living, managing, and training a reactive dog. I was relieved: finally, a straightforward starting place for anyone living with a reactive dog. In the first post Sara defines reactivity. You might want to read that now. We’ll wait. Go ahead.

Next up Sara wrote about how to manage your dog’s reactivity and then went over the foundations for training your reactive dog. Go on and read those two if you haven’t already.

OK, all caught up? Let’s head on down to the interview section of this shindig where I bother Sara with all of my questions about reactivity.

sara_layla_trout

Sara with her dogs Layla and Trout


Jessica: There are lots of books out there about training and working with reactive dogs. If someone is new to living with a reactive dog, what’s the first book you recommend that they read?

Sara: Honestly, I would recommend starting with “Don’t Shoot the Dog!” by Karen Pryor. It’s not a book about reactivity, but it does an absolutely wonderful job of covering all of the fundamentals of training.

I also really like Leslie McDevitt’s “Control Unleashed” books. She has two of them, and I would suggest starting with the “Puppy Program” book, because the exercises and information in there are really applicable to any age, not just puppies. The Puppy Program book is organized a little better, so it will be easier for you to find the exercises you need when you want to brush up on them, and the short chapters are a great example of “splitting” down human behaviors to help you feel successful right away.


J: One of the challenges to working with a reactive dog is that it can (sometimes) be a long road without a quick fix. Any thoughts on helping families to set realistic goals for themselves and their dogs?

S: Two things: keep notes and develop a support network.

I rarely have a student who’s excited about note-taking when I first suggest it (although there are a few geeks out there who start talking spreadsheets and charts right away, and I love ‘em!). That said, tracking your dog’s progress can really help to speed up your training progress and get you through those tough days.

By tracking your dog’s progress, you can oftentimes pick up on patterns that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. One of my clients had a dog who was intermittently destructive. Most of the time the dog was just fine when left home alone, but every so often my clients would return to find a disaster zone with shredded paper and chewed-up carpet. When we started to track the dog’s destructiveness, we found that she was destructive every single Wednesday and occasionally on other days. It turns out that she was terrified of the sound of diesel engines (such as the garbage truck), and only got into stuff when trucks came through her neighborhood. We never would have figured this out without notes. Other clients have figured out that their dogs are worse (or better!) for a few days after daycare, don’t like certain “types” of dog (ears sticking up, large dogs, small fluffy dogs, etc.), or react to specific types of clothing. Knowing what sets your dog off can be half the battle!

The other really great thing that notes can do is to give you a pick-me-up when your dog’s having a tough day or week. It can be so helpful to go back and realize that even though your dog reacted five times this week, she used to react 5-10 times every single week, and she’s improved so much. Progress isn’t linear, and dogs have bad days just like we do. Knowing that it’s just a temporary blip and reviewing just how far you’ve come can be immensely helpful.

Besides note-taking, building a support network is huge. Whether it’s a local network or an Internet community, connecting with others who understand can provide you with much-needed support. Our Growl classes oftentimes come to resemble a support group, since everyone cheers for one another’s success. Our students oftentimes develop friendships with one another and many of them have gone on to schedule training dates outside of class where they get together to practice with someone who understands throughout the week. If you don’t have anyone local to partner with, check out some of the wonderful online communities (such as this one and others in the links section of this blog!).

Remember that each dog is an individual, so as long as your dog is making progress you should celebrate her success. She may not make progress as quickly as other dogs and may make progress more quickly than others, and that’s okay. You probably learn things faster than some and slower than others as well. Focus on your own dog’s successes. If your dog isn’t making any progress at all, look back at your notes and touch base with your support group to see how you can tweak your training plan.


J: What’s the one mistake you see reactive dog owners repeatedly doing that makes life harder for them and their dogs?

S: One of the hardest things to do when you’re first starting off is to keep your dog under threshold. Remember that practice makes perfect, so the more your dog “practices” lunging or barking, the better they get at it. Figuring out how to prevent these behaviors by managing your dog or his environment will go a long way towards helping you get on top of his reactivity.

Not only do you not need to put your dog in difficult situations to train him, but doing so will slow down his progress. Start where your dog is successful and work up to the more challenging environments or situations.


J: Reactivity is a really broad label that covers a lot of very different dogs. What works for one dog, may not work for another. Can you speak to the differences in reactivity? How does that impact the approach you take when working with them?

For example: Do you approach working with a very sensitive, fearful dog, the same way as you would a reactive dog that is not sensitive to people or the environment?

S: Great question! Reactivity is definitely not one-size-fits-all, and it’s important to always remember that your dog is an individual. Some dogs are very specifically reactive – perhaps only towards other dogs or to men in hats or people wearing white lab coats – while others react to everything.

This is one situation where I think it’s very useful for us to anthropomorphize a bit. Put yourself in your dog’s paws. If you were your dog, how would you want someone to work with you? If you found the world really overwhelming and were on high alert every time you left the house, would you want someone to make you leave the house every single day and go on a long walk where you saw many scary things, or would you prefer it if that person took you on short little field trips and helped you feel brave a couple times a week? On the other hand, if you just got really excited when you saw specific people and had a hard time containing yourself, how would you like someone to help you learn to control yourself? Be as kind and fair to your dog as you’d want someone to be to you.

There are a lot of different approaches out there to working with reactivity, so educate yourself about them and choose the one that feels right for your dog. You are your dog’s advocate, so it’s always okay to change things up if that will help your dog be successful. If this is all new to you and a little overwhelming, a good trainer can be invaluable.


J: There are a lot of trainers offering classes and sessions for reactive dogs. But they’re not all equally skilled. How can someone determine if a trainer or class is the right fit for their individual dog’s needs?

S: Choosing the right trainer is huge in helping your dog to be successful. Talk to the trainer ahead of time and ask them a little bit about their experience and the methods they use. Ask if you can observe a class or a private training session and make sure you’re comfortable with that trainer’s interactions with dogs and people. The students – both human and canine – should both appear to be having fun and being successful. Look for a trainer who is kind and respects both ends of the leash.

One of the best questions I recommend people ask their potential trainer has to do with education. Good trainers continually work to better ourselves. Ask your trainer about the most recent training book she’s read or training seminar she’s attended. If she’s not committed to ongoing education, look elsewhere. No one knows everything.


Thank you Sara!

For those of you who haven’t already, be sure to stop by Sara’s blog and catch up on all of her posts. She’s an excellent resource for anyone living with dogs (even the ones that aren’t reactive)!

If you’re looking for more resources for living with your reactive dog, check out the Dogs in Need of Space website. Under the tab “Resources for Dog Owners” you’ll find books, articles, group classes, and much more to help you help your dogs.

Team Future Us Challenge

This morning I got a surprise email from someone I know really well. It made me laugh and then my face leaked a little. Even though it was only three sentences long, the email left me feeling cared for and encouraged.

The message ended with:

p.s. you will figure this out!

Who’s writing me such nice emails? Who knows how much time I spend trying to figure it out (“it” being a synonym for my life/my career/the fate of the world/the plot of Homeland)? And that I need to be confident in myself and then learn to let it go?

I’ll tell you who: Me.

Yep, not only do I walk around talking to myself all day, but now I write to myself too.

That’s because I discovered FutureMe.org

future me



It’s the most simple, brilliant idea ever. You write yourself an email and schedule it to be delivered to yourself some time in the future.

You might think it’s dumb to write yourself because you’re soooo smart that you’d never forget what you wrote to yourself in the first place, so duh, who cares if you get an email saying stuff you already knew.

Nope. I completely forgot that I wrote that email. Given, I forget to put on real pants some days, but I’m willing to wager that most people totally forget (the email, not their pants). And more importantly, everyone probably forgets what they actually wrote. The content will be a surprise. Wheee!

Think of how helpful this could be. You could:

  • write yourself monthly emails with your plan and motivations for taking care of yourself.
  • write a letter and schedule it to arrive the morning of a day you anticipate will be challenging. Like the first day of a dog training class you’re afraid of going to with your poopy-pants dog. Or a difficult anniversary.
  • write yourself a caring letter of encouragement, to be read on any random day in the future. You might be surprised at how good it feels to hear kind words, even when they’re your own.
  • write yourself random reminders like: Look Down. Are You Still Wearing Pajama Pants?



I really think this might be a good thing. I want you to do it. So let’s try it together. I’ll call it the Team Future Us Challenge.

This week take a few minutes to write yourselves a letter of encouragement. No beating yourself up. Keep it above the belt. Just write a few sentences to give Future You a boost.

Not sure what to write? Think of some area of your life that you’re struggling with and give yourself a pep talk. For example:

If you have a dog that is experiencing some challenges right now, like they lose their marbles every time a dog farts within 50 miles of your house, you could list a few things that you really love about your dog and a few ways that you’re pretty swell too, such as: Despite the fact that walking my dog is torture some times, I really do love him. He’s a world-class foot warmer, a champion floor cleaner, and an excellent karaoke audience. Also, I should give myself credit for trying so hard and stop comparing myself to everyone around me. I’m doing a really good job. Me and my dog RULE.

Or if your dog is perfect and cooks you brunch on the weekends, maybe you could write about some other aspect of your life where you feel a little less than perfect. Think about what Future You might need to hear. Be kind.

So here’s the Team Future Us Challenge part (that is dangerously close to being Team FU, huh?):

  • This week, write yourself a letter of encouragement.
  • Schedule the email to arrive two months from now on November 30th, 2013. That’s Thanksgiving Day weekend. I bet a lot of us could use a little bit of encouragement around the holidays, right?
  • In two months, we’ll all get an email from Past Us. I’ll post a blog here, so that those of us who want to can check in and celebrate our awesomeness together. Because sometimes peer pressure  a community can help motivate you to do something nice for yourself.



What do you say? Let’s go be nice to ourselves.

See US in two months!

Self-Care Is Not Optional: How Burnout Ended My Career at the Shelter

Four years ago on my birthday I gave my two weeks’ notice at the animal shelter where I worked. Quitting felt like defeat, guilt, and failure, wrapped in a heavy, wet blanket of numbed out exhaustion. But it was still a good birthday present to myself. I needed out.

I knew I was in trouble months earlier when I started crying as I drove into work in the mornings. Towards the end of my time at the shelter, I began to move through the morning routine in a sad trance. Tears would silently roll as I went about filling food bowls, walking dogs out to the yards for their morning bathroom break, and putting meds together.

I was sad. I was really angry. I was exhausted, mentally and physically, down to my core.  And I knew I wasn’t helping the dogs anymore. I was in such bad condition that I knew I wasn’t able to do my job effectively.

I was completely burned out.

So I left. I felt guilty that I was leaving my fellow co-workers behind in the trenches to do the work I couldn’t do anymore. I felt sick at the thought of abandoning the dogs that were still waiting for homes. But I knew I had to go.

It took months to start feeling better. Actually, if I’m being honest, I was so busted that I didn’t feel like myself for more than a year after I quit. No joke.

Fatigue Fatague cartoon

These days I’m still involved in animal sheltering, but from a distance. In addition to dog walking part-time, I do some writing for an animal welfare non-profit. So I’m still in the loop. And in my work I see a lot of advice geared towards shelter and rescue workers instructing them to be more positive, provide better customer service, to be less judgmental, more compassionate, and more understanding when working with the public.

It’s a reminder that in order to help the animals, we must also help people. We can’t hate people if we want to help animals. When I hear this advice I always nod in agreement. It’s the truth.

But a little voice – a voice from four years ago – always pipes up too: Remember, that’s easier said than done. Who is teaching shelter workers the skills they need to stay positive and open-minded with the public? Where is the compassion for underpaid, overworked shelter workers?

Because the truth is, the work is brutal. Caregiving is hard. All helping professionals struggle: nurses, firefighters, social workers, etc.

The nature of the job is a Catch-22. In order to do these kinds of helping jobs, you have to be empathic. But if you’re emphatic to a traumatized population, then you’re exposed to their suffering. The demands for your empathy are constant and often overwhelming, which leads to high residual stress levels. When this isn’t dealt with, it leads directly to Compassion Fatigue (CF). And that impairs your ability to be compassionate, positive, and helpful to the very population you serve.

Side note: there is one critical difference between all the other helping professions and shelter workers. We’re the only ones that sometimes have to kill those we are assigned to care for. As big as that is, let’s put euthanasia aside for the moment, because you don’t have to be a euthanasia tech in order to experience Compassion Fatigue (though it does correlate with high turnover rates). 

What is Compassion Fatigue? It’s exhaustion due to the stress and demand of being empathetic and helpful to those that are suffering. 

And this is what it looks like from the book To Weep For a Stranger, “When caregivers focus on others without practicing authentic, on-going self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions, substance abuse, poor personal hygiene, and emotional outbursts head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary stress known as compassion fatigue.”

Untreated, Compassion Fatigue leads to Burnout. But Burnout is different than Compassion Fatigue.

“Clinicians can experience burnout, but burnout can be experienced by anyone who works too hard, too long, or under too much stress without being exposed to trauma or trauma survivors, as is necessary in a CF assessment. Burnout pertains to the work environment, whereas CF pertains to the emotional involvement of extending empathy to trauma survivors.” From Resilience as a Protective Factor Against Compassion Fatigue in Trauma Therapists.

Once you’re in burnout, you’re not likely coming back. You hate your job at this point. But when you’re dealing with the symptoms of Compassion Fatigue you can, with help, come back from the brink. And, even more importantly, you can protect yourself against Compassion Fatigue through regular self-care and building resiliency.

Sadly self-care doesn’t come naturally to most of us working in shelters and rescues. For me, I knew in theory how to take care of myself, but when the going got really tough I just couldn’t manage to make self-care a priority. I was so tired that all I could do at the end of the day was eat ice cream and watch TV. Many of the people around me at work were also exhausted or numbed out. I think we were all waiting for a break in the relentlessness of our jobs to “catch up” on caring for ourselves. But the break never really comes. I didn’t know how to care for myself in a long distance race with no finish line. Or why it was so important.

The truth is that in order to do this work well – to care for animals and people – you need to be able to care for yourself first. Just having the technical skills to do the job isn’t enough. It’s not enough to know proper sanitation protocols or disease management. Or how to do skilled behavior evaluations. Or know how to handle, socialize, and enrich animals. Or how to speak with potential adopters and counsel them on choosing the right pet.

All of those are skills you need, of course. But you won’t be able to use any of those skills if you’re falling apart. Compassion Fatigue takes away your ability to do good work. Feeling negative emotions and not having the skills to cope with them impairs our ability to connect with other people, think creatively, problem solve, and work well with others.

So all the advice in the world, all the finger wagging, the training seminars, the shaming comments about shelter workers needing to stop saying “I hate people” – none of that is going help them do a better job. Not unless we address Compassion Fatigue and Burnout, since that’s one of the root causes of why they’re not being effective at their jobs.

So why isn’t addressing Compassion Fatigue as important a part of the job training as how to do an evaluation or talk to an adopter? Why isn’t this a priority at every organization?

No one ever said the words “compassion fatigue” to me when I took the job at the shelter. I didn’t understand that what I was initially experiencing wasn’t the same as burnout from a tough job with long hours. It didn’t happen right away, but when symptoms of Compassion Fatigue hit me, I was deeply affected. I felt like no matter how many hours were in a day, I could never give the dogs at the shelter the level of care that I knew they deserved and needed. I worked so hard. But it never felt like enough. No matter how much I did in a day, I rarely felt like I had succeeded. It wore me down.

Of course, there were adoptions. Glorious, wonderful, heart-filling adoptions. I can’t tell you how good it felt to send a dog home with their new family. It was joyous and hopeful and…for me, increasingly scary.

Dogs would come back, returned by the families that had adopted them. That’s part of the job. It was disappointing, but not devastating. But then I encountered a really bad stretch. Dogs that I had personally adopted out were coming back to us abused, neglected, and damaged. Not a lot of dogs. Just a handful. But when you find out that a dog you cared for and sent home with a family that you thought was OK was later found dead or comes back to you 20lbs lighter and covered in scars, it only has to happen a few times to shake you. I started jolting awake at night, sick from nightmares about the dogs that had suffered.

My favorite part of the job – adoptions – felt tainted.

I felt like I couldn’t really trust myself or others. How would I know when a family was lying to my face, as some clearly had? Despite my training and adoption counseling skills, I could never really know if I was sending a dog to an abusive, neglectful home. I had to be ok with that uncertainty, but I felt vulnerable and afraid instead. Which made me feel shut down and negative towards the public.

If you’re reading this now and thinking: You shouldn’t have gotten so hung up on the negative – studies show that the majority of adoptions work out. Or you can’t control everything and wait for the perfect home. Or always keep your eye on the big picture, rather than getting stuck on a small percentage of adoptions gone wrong. You’d be right.

But here’s what I know now, that I didn’t know prior to doing direct care for the dogs:  the map is not the terrain.

You can give people the very best instructions, the most effective techniques, the most cutting edge tools and research – the maps– but they mean almost nothing when you’re dropped into the reality – the terrain – of being a caregiver in an animal shelter.

For example: A map can tell you the elevation of a mountain. But just reading the map while sitting on the couch isn’t the same as what you feel while navigating the terrain. Until you do it, you won’t know exactly when your leg muscles will start spasming as you try to scale that terrain.

The map tells you suggested questions to ask potential adopters. The terrain is filled with the bottled up pain of the dog you just euthanized minutes before meeting a potential adopter, the fear of repeating your past mistakes, and the confusion of being unsure if the person you’re talking to is a good home or not as you try to ask those questions. The map alone isn’t enough to help you get through the terrain.

If we actually want shelter staff to do a better job, to be more compassionate towards the public, to be more effective and to save more lives than we have to do more than give them a really good map filled with “how-to” instructions for how to technically do the job. We have to make self-care a priority so they can stay healthy enough to tackle this complicated emotional terrain.

I’m just going to stop for second to address those of you that are saying to yourself: There are plenty of shelter works that are terrible. They hurt and abuse the animals in their care. They’re hateful to people. They don’t care about lowering euthanasia rates. Shelter workers ARE the problem.

I know that there are some truly awful shelter workers out there. There are also some amazing shelter workers out there that really don’t get bogged down by all the negative stuff and need little help navigating this difficult terrain. They’re the two ends of the spectrum. The really horrible and the really high functioning.

But the average shelter worker is just a regular person that falls somewhere in the middle. They’re trying (and sometimes failing) to do a good job. They love the animals. And they need compassion and resources in order to do a better job. They are exactly the same as the public and adopters in that regard.  If our goal is to help the animals, we have to care for and help people – and that includes people who are shelter workers.

We can’t ask them to do better work without addressing the coping skills they’ll need in order to do a job that can be emotional hell. Let stop for a second and consider what we’re really asking shelter worker to do: We’re asking them to provide constant care for animals in need, some of whom are traumatized. To experience having little control in where those animals ultimately wind up. To feel the fear that things might go badly in an adoption and to let it go. To (sometimes) kill those they’ve cared for. To be vulnerable, to stay open, and to remain positive in the face of what scares and stresses them.

Not an easy terrain to navigate. American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodren, writes in her book The Places that Scare You, “When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently towards what scares us.”

buddha 2

Shelter and rescue workers – just like the rest of us – aren’t Buddhist nuns. But that’s essentially what we’re asking them to be: comfortable being vulnerable in their compassion.  None of us – shelter workers to nuns – can do that without a lot of practice.

So what does help? Recent research shows that Resilience can protect against CF and burnout. Resilience is built through awareness and self-care. Self-care is when we commit to nurturing a life outside of work that can counterbalance the intensity of the job and the inevitable stress that comes along with it. When we take care of ourselves, we build the resilience we need to deal with the negative aspects of our job, as well as building job satisfaction. That helps us to feel positive and allows us to do our jobs better.

Self-care is about finding ways to restore a balance between the negative and the positive by cultivating aspects of our lives that support us when the going gets (and stays) tough. It’s about making a commitment to caring for yourself as deeply and seriously as you care for the animals. Because if you don’t, if you allow yourself to become mentally and physically run down, mired in negativity, sadness, and anger, then you can’t do your job all that well.

If you’re saying to yourself: “I don’t have time for self-care. The animals need me constantly!” I want you listen up:

Research shows that there is a correlation between ethical violations and Compassion Fatigue.  Which means Compassion Fatigue can cause us to cause harm to others.

That means: YOU ARE ETHICALLY OBLIGATED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

When we disregard our own needs in order to keep giving to others it’s not just bad for us, it’s unethical.  So if you think that being a good caretaker means caring until you collapse you are wrong. In order to be a good caretaker, you must take care of yourself so that you can care for others properly. Otherwise, you have the potential to harm those that you are caring for.

Let me say this again: it is UNETHICAL TO NEGLECT SELF CARE. So it’s not indulgent to take care of yourself. It’s not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to commit to self-care. It’s the right thing to do. It’s not optional.

What does self-care even look like? It’s going to be personal for each one of us, but generally self-care and building resiliency looks like: setting boundaries, saying no, working less, exercising, eating well, going to therapy or a support group, cultivating friendships, monitoring our stress levels daily, stretching, journaling, having hobbies, breathing exercises, talking with a trusted friend at work, laughing, having interests outside of animal welfare, sleeping, allowing yourself to feel grief, dancing, meditating, practicing gratitude and positive thinking, and separating our work life from our personal life.

Regularly doing these acts of self-care builds resilience.  People who are resilient are able to bounce back from adversity, stress, and the heartache of getting a dog you loved returned to you abused and broken. It helps you bounce back from euthanizing animals.

Research shows us another key to building resiliency and fighting Compassion Fatigue: experiencing Compassion Satisfaction. All of us who have worked with animals have known Compassion Satisfaction (CS). That’s the joy in our job.

CS happens when you care for an injured animal until they are well again. CS comes from doing a wonderful adoption for a long term resident. CS comes from passing out peanut butter Kongs and listening to a choir of muffled, content slurps. CS is when you help a caring family keep the dog they love by connecting them to affordable resources. CS is what keeps us going, helps us balance out the negative, and see the big picture. But we can’t hold on to the positive aspects of CS without self-care.

If we really want to make progress in animal sheltering, then we have to make teaching and supporting self-care a foundation of our work. Entire organizations can be affected by Compassion Fatigue. And the organization itself can cause stressors for employees that contribute to fatigue and burnout, such as improper management, unclear protocols, lack of training, low pay, being understaffed, etc.

If we want shelter workers to do their best work, organizations and their management have to be aware of these issues and work to help staff and volunteers to identify healthy coping strategies and encourage them to build resiliency. We have to make this non-negotiable and as important as any other part of their training, since neglecting self-care has negative consequences for our work. It has to be a part of the culture of our profession: prioritizing self-care, so we can care for others.

If we want to save more lives, organizations will have to combat the plague of Compassion Fatigue and Burnout that wipes out entire groups of new, enthusiastic, caring, shelter workers before they even have a chance to make a lasting impact for the animals.

As a profession we have to prioritize caring for the caregivers by investing time and resources into this issue. We can’t just expect them to suck it up, stay positive, and do good work. I sure couldn’t. At the end the only way I knew how to help myself was to pick up the pen and write my resignation letter. The day I dropped it off on my mangers desk I knew, even though I felt terrible quitting, it was an act of self-care.



PDF Version for easy printing and sharing available here: Self Care Is Not Optional

Despite being way too long, this blog only scratches the surface. For more concrete resources, please see my interview with Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project Founder Patrica Smith. Visit her website and books for more information, including self-tests you can take to assess yourself.

Compassion Fatigue and Burnout affects professional caregivers of all kinds (as well as those that are caring for loved ones in their personal lives). This includes vet techs, individuals who live with challenging or sick dogs, dog trainers, animal control officers, and volunteers. What I wrote about here applies to all of us who are taking care of animals or people. Self-care is not optional for any of us.

And finally, because this had such an impact on me personally, this summer I became a Certified Compassion Fatigue Educator. I’m not sure what that means for me exactly, but it’s a path I’m happy to walk down (without a map!). If you want to share your experiences with Compassion Fatigue, email me. I’m particularly interested to hear from those of you that made it through the valley of CF and found ways to be resilient in the animal sheltering world. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,590 other followers