A Different Sort of Mother’s Love

Mother’s Day has generally always been a tough holiday for me.  All around me I see and hear the sounds of mothers and children having fun-filled celebrations.  The children fuss all over their moms, and the mothers dote on their children.  *Sigh*  Only on a Hallmark Card, or at the very least….someone else’s house, not mine.

My mom and I were never close at all.  We never really shared deep talks or “girly experiences.”  She wasn’t the sort of person I could call up and say, “Let’s go out for lunch.”  It seemed like we had a shallow life together, and I never really felt like we were anything alike.  For most of my life, I tried to distance myself from her.  Visits were something I just “got through,” and I was always glad when I could say, “Gee….look at the time,” and make a graceful exit.

Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I was one of the few kids that I knew who had a mother who worked outside of her home.  My grandmother lived with us, so there was no reason for my mother to stay home and care for us kids.  Grandmother could do that.  So my mom worked.  She taught school.  She taught physical education for many years, and then she switched to a classroom once her district deleted physical education from their elementary school staff.  While I was elementary school, however, my mom was the PE teacher….MY PE teacher. UGH!

As a kid….it was a special level of hell having your mom as the PE teacher….just saying…..

I got teased a lot because my mom was a teacher, and of course, because my mom was a teacher, the other teachers always threatened to rat me out to my mom if I ever misbehaved. I was held to a higher standard in all of my classes because my mom was a teacher, and it was well established that I would be going to college.  In those days, many….if not most of my female classmates married soon after high school, and settled into being wives and mothers.  My mom wasn’t going to have any part of that life for me!  She had my life all planned out in her own mind, and if only I would just cooperate and do everything she wanted me to do!  Even after all of these years, the thought of that makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

When grown ups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I usually answered a teacher or a nurse, because those were typical, traditonally accepted female roles in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  My mother would always say to me, “You can be a doctor or a lawyer too….don’t you ever forget that.”  While it’s a wonderful thing to help a child dream bigger, my mom seemed unable to let me have freedom to choose my own life.  She made it clear that she was pleased when I followed her “accepted” path for my life, and boy did I hear it when she didn’t like what I was doing.  Hence the distance between us.  In my young adult life, I think I tried to deliberately live a life that was my own…much like any other adolescent.

I didn’t have that mom who made Kool-aid and cookies, and cheerfully brought a pitcher out on a tray wearing pearls and high heels when she wanted to give me a snack.  We didn’t have Kool-aid, because Kool-aid was loaded with sugar and it would rot out my teeth. We had milk, and graham crackers, because those choices were nutritious, and we had to go get our own.  Mom didn’t prepare them for us.  I only got Kool-aid when I went to someone else’s house!  If it wasn’t something either nutritious or educational, you wouldn’t find it at my house!

Our field trips were places like the airport watching planes land and take off, and dreaming about where they were going and what the passengers would do at the other end of their flight.  Some of my most favorite outings were going to the park and feeding the ducks day old bread.  I really loved to feed the ducks.  All  summer long, the University of Illinois would run nature films, which were probably fifty cents to watch, so we got to invite the neighbor kids and off we went to see nature films.

And generally, every summer, we hand raised at least one baby bird.  We had cats, and they often caught babies who were just fledging their nests and really struggling to fly.  I loved raising baby birds.  My mom did very well with Robins, but seed eaters often didn’t make it, because we just weren’t sure what to feed them, and they were also so much smaller and more fragile than Robins. When birds of any kind were injured, we often tried to help them heal when we rescued them.

Rugby rescued this little Tufted Titmouse baby that I raised and released in 2012.

Everyone in our small town knew that our family was “the animal family.”  We took in the rejected, injured, sick pets and animals, and nursed them back to health.  Sometimes we found other suitable homes for them, but sometimes we kept them too, if there was no other safe choice for the animal.  We were the only family I knew that had rescued an injured pigeon who lived in a dog crate in our family room.  We named him “Freebee” because someone had given him to us, and he couldn’t be released to the wild because his injured wing made it impossible for him to ever fly again.  At one time, we had two dogs, five cats, a rabbit, a pigeon, a raccoon, a hamster and a gerbil.  Granted, our house was huge, and most of those pets lived in and out of the house, but I was always tripping over some animal as a kid growing up, and I honestly really loved that.

Gus came to us when he was probably 8-12 weeks when his mom had died in a farming accident. He was one who stayed as he couldn’t be released to the wild once he trusted humans. Now it’s illegal to keep a wild animal, but it wasn’t in those days. (This photo is a random raccoon….not Gus)

One of the things I enjoyed doing almost every day when I was really little, was going into town with my mom to pick up my dad from work.  He often got a last minute phone call or a meeting that ran late, so we generally found ourselves waiting for him for a few minutes.  And while we waited, my mom would make up wonderful stories about Lassie.  She always came up with an amazing story of a last minute rescue of a kitten, or that Lassie had saved a family of raccoons from drowning, or found veterinary help for a fox with a broken leg.  Mom’s stories were always imaginative, and always had happy endings, just like the real Lassie television show that I saw every week.

Every kid wanted a big Collie dog just like Lassie when I was little!

I did grow up and go to college, majoring in pre-law, and attaining a Bachelor of Science degree.  But I couldn’t hack the thought of three more years of college, so I never went to law school, much to my mother’s disappointment. She had always wanted to have at least one of us become an attorney, and since I was the youngest, it was up to me! Instead, I became an insurance underwriter, and I showed Pembroke Welsh Corgis on the weekends.

My homebred Felicity winning Best Puppy in Sweepstakes at the North Texas Specialty

As I’ve aged, I have become much more forgiving of my mom, and while I still don’t like many of my experiences with her, at least now I feel like I can understand who she was and why she did many of the things that were so hard for me.  People can’t give what they don’t have, and I finally understand that.  In my own way, I wanted to put my mom in a box that she didn’t want to be in, much as she had done for me.  The boxes wore different labels, but they were boxes all the same, and walls of any kind tend to keep people separated.

I do not think that my mom intended to create a box for me, but it often felt as if she held out various life boxes with this tag on them!

One thing in life led to another, and I’m now a full time professional dog trainer.  My mom died before I settled into this career, but I know that she would have been thrilled to pieces to see me owning my own business and keeping dogs out of shelters, and helping families have wonderful dog experiences like we had with our dog Lady when I was growing up.

She never knew Rugby James, or heard any stories about him.  She would have loved his charming looks, of course…and the fact that he’s very “Collie-ish” in behavior and appearance.  She would have been so impressed with how smart he is and how many tricks he knows, and how quickly he can work puzzles.  She would have enjoyed the fact that he’s a snuggler and would have sat with him and loved stroking his soft speckled fur.

But I think what she would have loved the most, is that he was a little dog without a chance of making it in the world, and I gave him that chance.  I rescued him, and my mom was big on rescuing animals who had nowhere else to go. My mom had a tender heart for anyone, human or animal, who was a little down on their luck and needed a boost to survive in the world.

Rugby’s first night with me. He was honestly scared, but he tried so hard to be happy and excited about another new place.

For so many years, I didn’t want to be anything like my mom, and I tried so hard to throw off anything that made me think of her.  She wasn’t that “warm fuzzy” mom that we all think of when we think of Mother’s Day.  Emotionally, she always seemed a little detached and distant to me. But she introduced me to a world that included a deep love and compassion for all animals….dogs in particular.

So many times growing up, I remember thinking that my mom was never the mom that I would have chosen for myself.  We just don’t get to choose our moms in life.  And when Rugby first came to live with me, I remember thinking so clearly that he just was not the dog that I would have chosen for myself, had I known who he really was.

However, when I think of the big picture of my life, I can see ways that God used my tough, distant, demanding mom to help me make it in a harsh world that doesn’t offer many breaks to us along the way.  For the path that I would have to walk in my life, I needed a mom who taught me to be tougher than my circumstances, and to be an “I can take it girl” when I got hurt or wanted to give up.

In the same sort of way, God has used my broken, wacky little dog to help me heal the hurt, emotional places in my heart that were shattered by others along the way through life.  When I was looking for Rugby, all I had wanted was a little rescue dog.  I wanted to give a sweet little dog a terrific life and a big world full of fun experiences. Instead, I got a broken, emotional dog who really doesn’t want a big world full of adventures.  He wants a small, predictable world to help him feel safe from that big world outside our front door.  Life with him has been a tightrope of helping shape his wacky behavior, and giving him the freedom to be who he is and who he wants to be as well as accepting that he is giving me all that he has to give, and letting that be enough for me.  He’s no disappointment at all, and I love him to the moon and back.

So I guess at the end of the day, God doesn’t always give us what we want, but He does give us what we need, and that’s what I’m celebrating today.  I had the mom that I needed, and my success and who I am is largely due to the millions of small things that she said and did for me throughout my lifetime.  She showed me how to break the molds that others wanted for my career path, and how to be tougher than I ever thought I could be.  She gave me experiences that she never got when she was a girl growing up.  She always wanted the best for me, and she always wanted more for me.  She taught me to push myself forward, and never to settle for complacency.  But more than anything else, what I think I love most, is that I’m so glad that I have her heart of love for animals and especially for dogs….

My wonderful parents





Friday Fun: DIY Holee Roller Dog Puzzle

Spring days and weeks are often loaded with rainy days!  If you have a puppy or higher energy dog, those are days to dread!!  A rainy day, plus a puppy or high energy dog equals misery for an owner and often a day filled with naughtiness!  When our dogs are under-exercised, and when we don’t provide enough mental stimulation for them, it can add up to trouble in living with them!!  Here’s an easy and fun idea for you to help give your dog something to do when you’ve got the rainy day blues!

Many of the dogs that I train have a popular dog toy called a “Holee Roller,” made by JW Pet.  I have to admit that when I first saw these toys years ago, I refused to get one for Rugby!  I saw that the rubber wasn’t all that thick, and the toy was easily flexible, and I made the assumption that Rugby would chew through it in a nanosecond!  But….after seeing so many of them, in so many homes, with dogs who were big chewers, I never saw only a part of a Holee Roller!  They were always intact, and dogs seemed to really like playing with them.

This is a toy that’s probably eight years old…and it’s just about like brand new…except for the dog spit and dirt!

So I broke down, and I found one that was in an appropriate size for Rugby, and I brought it home.  For those of you not familiar with this toy, it looks like a rubber geometrical object used to teach shapes to kids!  It has a sort of waffle pattern, and it’s hollow, and it is a wonderful fetching toy. It’s lightweight, so it goes a good little distance, and it rolls really well.  It’s big enough to be easily seen in the yard or house once it’s thrown.  In Rugby’s younger days, he loved to play fetch for hours at a time, and he did enjoy fetching his Holee Roller toy!  But….it doesn’t make noise, and Rugby is honestly all about toys that make noise!  So….it often sits in the toybox at my house….waiting for a dog to play with it!

At a lesson recently, I saw that a client had taken this same dog toy, but she had stuffed two dental chews inside the webbing in an effort to keep her Boxer puppy entertained!  Her puppy was just fascinated with trying to figure out how to get those chews out from this toy, or how to chew the chews while still inside the toy!  I could see her using all sorts of problem solving skills!  I put my thinking cap on, because I really think that this is a great idea that can be fun for all kinds of dogs!

My regular readers will remember that Rugby has “Bubba teeth” in front!  He had a growth on his gum in front that meant that he lost four of his tiny teeth on the bottom in the front when the growth was surgically removed.  He lost two tiny teeth on top when he aggressively went after one of his beloved piggie toys on the basement floor….and the basement floor won.  He knocked a third tooth loose, and it has reattached itself, but it’s crooked!  So…he has “Bubba teeth” and it’s really goofy and cute all at the same time!  However, not having those tiny teeth limits what he can grab and pull, because there are spaces there and no teeth!  I wasn’t sure that he could grab a dental chew to pull it out of the Holee Roller.  No game is fun if it’s only frustrating to a dog.

So….I put on my thinking cap, and came up with another version that will work for Rugby….and any other dog as well!!  The supplies are simple, and things that you likely already have in your home!  It was fast to put together, and kept Rugby very engaged, so that scores extra points in my world!  There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to make it, so let your own imagination soar and you can create something similar that will also be lots of fun for your own dogs!

Rugby knew that I was making something new for him, and he was very interested and curious about what I was doing!

If you want to make one like mine, here you go!  I started with my Holee Roller, and cut 5 strips of polka dotted fleece fabric into long strips that were  approximately 18″ long by 2″ wide.  I chose fleece because it’s soft and thick, could be easily washed, didn’t fray, and guess what? I already had some on hand, so I didn’t have to go buy anything else!  Really any sort of fabric will work, a bandana or scarf, for example, but you want your fabric choice to fill the puzzle so that the treats don’t easily fall out.

Once I had the strips cut, I rolled up treats in them.  You can use any kind of treat that you like, or even dog food kibble.  You can make your food or treats any size that you like.  I used Wellness Soft Wellbites treats.  They were treats that I had on hand, and I love that they are scored so that they can easily break into much smaller bites.

Once the treats were broken, I rolled about five tiny tidbits per each strip of fabric.  I’m guessing that I used less than one whole treat per strip, so in total, I know that I didn’t use more than four to five whole treats.  You can add additional or fewer treats as you like.  If you want to keep calories down, you can grab a handful of your dog’s kibble from his bowl before you feed him, and use that as the snack for the puzzle.  That won’t add any additional calories to your dog’s diet for the day if you’re watching weight at your house.

Once I had the strips rolled up with treats inside, I stuffed the rolled fabric inside the toy.  I found that with the fleece fabric, and the size of the Holee Roller that I used, three strips really fit fine, and five strips made it very snug inside.  The tighter the fabric, the harder it’s going to be for your dog to pull it out of the toy.  If you want to start with a smaller number of fabric rolls, it can be easier for your dog to learn the puzzle, and then you can add extra strips once your dog has the puzzle figured out.

Once Rugby saw me getting the bag of treats, he was suddenly very interested in what I was doing!  He really loves games and puzzles, and we play them frequently in my house, so he’s always keeping one eye open for some fun!  When I gave the puzzle to Rugby, he was very pleased, and his nose started working overtime!  He wasn’t sure what to do with it.  There were a few corners of the fabric peeking out through the holes, and with Rugby’s “Bubba teeth” I wasn’t sure if he could grab those to pull them out.

Once he had sniffed the puzzle over really well, he started problem solving.  He poked his nose at the puzzle to see what would happen.  When that didn’t produce any treats, he started to roll the puzzle and checked the floor for treats.  By this time, he was a good minute into the puzzle, and I knew that he would frustrate if I didn’t help him along.  So I pulled out a bit of the fabric to make it easier for him by having something that he could really grab.  Once I did that, Rugby quickly figured out how to pull the fabric, and once he found success doing that, he seemed to understand that this was how the puzzle worked.

The first time I worked the puzzle with him, he was engaged for four to seven minutes, and by then, the puzzle was empty.  When I loaded it back up for him, he lost interest after another five minutes or so, and by then, I just don’t think he was all that hungry, since I had played with him just after his breakfast.  He had pulled four of the strips out, but walked away from the last one, and typically, he doesn’t do that! This would be a better game for mid afternoon or before bed, when he is more hungry, and bored.

Just remember, this is a game that is intended to be played with supervision!!  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED!!  Dogs and puppies are naturally curious, and remember that the fabric will smell like treats!  Depending upon what treats you use, oils and crumbs may attach to the fabric, and I can easily see any dog potentially chewing on the fabric once it is out of the puzzle!  Be sure that you are watching your dog, and coaching him when he works!  Interactive puzzle play is a wonderful way to bond and play with your dogs!  Have fun!!





Saturday Snicker: A Rugby Dogger Joke

Rugby James:

I really doesn’t know why the Mama doesn’t let me tell more jokes!  I’m really good at telling them!  I gots great timing, and I doesn’t mess up the punch line…..well mostly I doesn’t mess up the punch line!!

So for your Saturday giggling pleasure, the Mama is letting me tell a really good joke….mostly on account of I just wore her down by bugging her!!  This one is a really good dogger training joke, too, so I fink that helped!!

Question:  What do you call a dogger wif no legs?

Answer:  It really doesn’t matter on account of he’s not gonna come anyhow!!


Enjoy your Saturday and be sure to make room for sum silliness, courtesy of Rugby James!



Product Review: Barkworthies Salmon Skin Twists

I’m a bit particular about the snacks that I feed Rugby.  I don’t personally believe that over-indulging a dog with treats and goodies is healthy for them….physically or mentally or emotionally.  Let’s face it: many of our dogs would just eat themselves into oblivion if they are given a chance…much like me around a cheesecake!  Overindulging a dog with treats and snacks can also create a “spoiled child” attitude, causing some dogs to feel a sense of entitlement making them much more difficult to live with at home.

At my house, Rugby earns his regular treats by doing work, which could be a simple trick or command.  Extra special treats like the Salmon Skin Twists are given after Rugby puts up with a nail trim or bath or brushing….things he normally really doesn’t like.  When I can tie in his cooperation with a really tasty snack reward, I don’t mind indulging him with something that’s very extra special.  His cooperation has earned him something extra special, and believe me….he knows it!!

It’s because I don’t feed a lot of special snacks that I pay close attention to the ones that I do feed!  I’m a big Barkworthies fan!  Their tag line is “Naturally Healthy. Naturally Happy.”  That says a lot about the care that they put into the products that they create for our dogs.  Many of the products that I like best are single ingredient.  That means that there’s only one ingredient in the product.  I know exactly what I’m giving Rugby, and because they keep their treats nice and clean without extras, it makes me feel like I’m giving Rugby something that I would make for him myself if I had the time to do so!  What a great help this is for busy pet parents who care deeply about what treats they are giving to their dogs!

Recently, I was given an opportunity to do a product review of Barkworthies New Salmon Skin Twists, from their gourmet line of chews. I’ve wanted to try a Salmon skin type of treat for a long time, so I was very excited to see how Rugby would like them!  Salmon skin treats are a fairly new thing for dogs, and Rugby really loves Salmon, so I was very happy to give these a try!

Many of these types of extra special chews are huge, and that can present big challenges for me!  First of all, Rugby is only 23 pounds, so he needs a treat sized for a smaller dog.  Many of the treats I’ve seen in my favorite local pet store are big enough for a retriever, and just won’t work for us.  Rugby would be thrilled to get a huge treat, but he has some tummy troubles if he eats too much special food in one sitting. Because he guards resources, once he has something, he’s not giving it up without a fight! So I typically like to find either special snacks that are small enough that he can eat the entire treat in one sitting without getting sick, or I look for larger treats that I can easily cut or break into smaller pieces to accomplish that same goal.

Rugby was very interested in the mail the day that this treat arrived!  He was fascinated with the mailer, so these treats must really carry an interesting smell for dogs.  I didn’t notice anything through the mailer, and I have to say that Rugby’s hopeful look made me smile!  He loves to get mail, and when it smells yummy, he’s even more excited!

The chew came fully wrapped in a plastic shrink wrap.  I didn’t smell anything when I got it out of the mailer, or even when I cut the plastic wrap open.  With fishy treats, one never knows about these things!!  I use Salmon treats for training, and my clients often complain about how “stinky” they are.  Frankly, as a dog trainer, I know that dogs tend to be more crazy about things that have a strong smell, so I often look for treats that are more appealing to them!  I didn’t notice any fishy stink with these treats at all, if that’s a consideration.

Its always a challenge to find a great special treat that can be cut or broken into smaller pieces for Rugby.  The Salmon Skin Twists are 8″ long, so they are too big for one sitting with him to keep him from tummy trouble!  However, the treats broke very easily into “Rugby-sized” pieces, so I was very pleased to see that he can have a good chunk that is 2-3″ long as his snack.  The skin is thin, so even though these chews look thick, they easily break up very nicely.  This would be especially important for my readers who have toy sized small dogs who would not be able to manage all of one of the standard chews in one sitting.

Because of the Salmon, these treats are a bit gooey with the Salmon oil which is inherent with a treat like this.  When I broke the treat off for him, my fingers had a good bit of “coating” of Salmon oil on them.  After I broke and gave Rugby his snack, I found that I needed to wash my hands right away before touching anything else.  This was no trouble at all for me, but if someone wanted to use this as a hiking snack, or snack while out and about,  you’ll want to be sure that you have wet wipes handy!  If you want to break them into smaller pieces ahead of time, or give your dog the entire chew at one time, you won’t find that your fingers are gooey at all.  You can also break the treat easily right within the wrapper, and then open it to give the snack to your dog, so there are easy ways to avoid the goo with a little planning!

The tag on the treat said that when the treat gets wet, there may be some color transfer from the product, so these might not be the treat you’d like to give your pooch when he’s hanging out on white carpeting, or the back seat of your car!  I definitely think that there could be oil or goo transfer to carpet or upholstery if you gave your dog the entire stick at one time.  However, if you break the treat into smaller bits as I did, I don’t think that you’d have any problems with this at all.  This treat was so yummy that Rugby didn’t want to put it down at all, and the size that I had given him was something that he could easily manage to keep in his mouth while munching.

I was honestly surprised at the loud crunching I heard coming from Rugby as he enjoyed his treat.  I did expect some levels of crunch, but these were like potato chip crunching from start to finish!  It really made me smile,  I have to admit!  I think Rugby enjoyed that sound as well, and he sure didn’t waste any time scarfing down his portion in record time!

Barkworthies adds no additives, preservatives or artificial ingredients.  There is nothing artificial in this product!  The single ingredient is “Salmon Skin.”   So this chew is simply dried Salmon skin, and I found that it was crunchy and lightly crisp, which I just wasn’t expecting at all when I took it out of the wrapper!  The country of origin is Australia.  The nutritional breakdown is as follows:

Crude Protein Min 62%, Crude Fiber Min 33.4%, Crude Fat Min 0.2%, Moisture Max 5.8%

These chews are jam-packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for healthy skin and coat!  Rugby has such a unique and gorgeous coat, and I like any kind of food that will keep it looking really great and feeling soft!  The fact that these chews have good essential fats make them heart healthy and that can also boost Rugby’s immunity!  Because they are high protein, they are perfect for active dogs who are on the go.  They easily pack into a bag for hiking trips or a day spent at the lake swimming when you need to give your dog a bit of a calorie boost!

Rugby and I completely agree that Barkworthies has hit another home run with these Salmon Skin Twist chews!  Rugby gives them four paws up!

As always, when your dog is eating any kind of treat or chew, please supervise him to be sure that he’s safe.

Rugby James received one Barkworthies Salmon Skin Twist Chew, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review.  I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.  I only review products that I think my readers will be interested in.