Tag Archives: Newfoundland Dog

10 things we love about Sit Stay Read

About a year ago, I got the chance to sit down with a woman who was the director of a small dog therapy organization on the east coast. She had observed Maisie and I from afar, and when we met she confirmed that Maisie had the temperament for therapy work. She was especially impressed when she saw Maisie’s non-reaction to three small French Bulldogs that lunged at both of us while barking like maniacs. We were both startled, but Maisie stayed right by my side and kept walking as I guided the two of us around them.

She encouraged me to look into smaller groups in addition to the well known large groups. I was interested in working with children. When my kids were in grade school, I enjoyed volunteering in their classrooms. I also used to teach swimming lessons to 3 to 6 year olds at our local YMCA, and I missed being around kids that age. I found a list of therapy dog organizations on the AKC website and noticed Sit Stay Read located in Chicago. After reading about their goal to improve reading and literacy skills for Chicago Public School students, it appeared to be the perfect match for Maisie and me.

I attended two different training sessions to learn more about what we would be doing. When I felt like Maisie was ready, I scheduled her temperament test with their evaluator and was thrilled when she passed. I was required to do three different observations and then I brought Maisie to a school session for our final step. We entered the classroom as one of the dog teams and were observed by the dog team evaluator. She watched us both as we interacted with the students and advised us when we needed it. At the end of the hour, she happily welcomed us to the program!

We just finished our first six week session in one classroom and are in the middle of a session in another classroom. Each week, Maisie is more and more comfortable with the routine and she continues to impress me with her ability to bond with the kids. We will be in new classrooms after spring break and I’m so excited to get to know a new group of kids!

  1. A specific curriculum has been developed for each grade by a Program Advisory Committee that utilizes dog themed books and materials. You can read more about each grade level here.
  2. The first day of each session is dedicated to dog safety. The children learn about how to approach a dog, ask permission, let the dog sniff their hand and where the best place is to pet a dog. They also learn about the signals a dog may send to them. Student volunteers act out dog body language in different situations which is a lot more memorable than simply being told what to watch for.
  3. A program leader is always present to manage the classroom and introduce all of the volunteers. We have a pre-program meeting to go over the readings of the day and also the dog team question. We answer a new question each week that relates to the readings. For example, it might be describing a certain characteristic using rhyming, similes or alliteration. The program leader makes sure everything is running smoothly and jumps in wherever needed. They also read a few of the students’ stories or poems out loud and lead the Sit Stay Read keep reading cheer before we leave.
  4. At the end of each session, each student receives a bound collection of their stories or poems that they can keep as a souvenir.
  5. At the end of the school year, each participating school has a Keep Reading Celebration. The kids get to visit with a dog team one more time and they each receive a Summer Reading Fun Pack. The packs include pencils, erasers, crayons, a design-it-yourself notebook and an assortment of books. In 2017-2018 each student received SIX brand new books for all age groups for themselves and to read to their siblings!
  1. Belly rubs and treats!
  2. The smiles on all of the kids faces when Maisie and I walk in the room and spread out her blanket.
  3. When the kids settle in and relax next to her while they are reading the books and their poems.
  4. She loves wearing her bandana, it means she’s going to see the kids.
  5. She knows when to give a little extra loving to the kids that are completely at ease with her.

If you live in the Chicago area and would like to learn more about volunteering with Sit Stay Read as a dog team or a reading buddy click here.

The case of the missing dryer balls

I feel like I’ve been living in an episode of Scooby Doo.

Recently I started using wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. I’ve been trying to reduce the chemicals in my house and after researching laundry products, dryer balls were mentioned several times as a good alternative. They are also supposed to conserve energy by absorbing some of the moisture and reducing drying time.

I like using my supply of different essential oils to scent the balls before I throw them in with the load. They add a light fragrance and I can change them up depending on my mood.

The annoying part is that they fly around the room when I am pulling items out of the dryer and I have to chase them down to gather them up.

I’m still not sure if I like using them better than dryer sheets, but I’m trying to give them a fair trial.

When my son came home for Christmas break, I mentioned to him that I had made the switch. I asked him to please watch out for them and put them back in the glass storage jar after he had folded the load of towels that had been freshly washed for his bathroom.

That’s the last time I used all six dryer balls.

The next time I went into the laundry room, there were only three dryer balls to be found.

I knew they would disappear when the house filled up with holiday visitors! That’s why I mentioned them to my son before he went upstairs. I was also not surprised when he gave me his very best blank stare (that usually means he thinks my voice sounds like the teacher from Charley Brown) as he patiently waited for me to stop talking.

When I asked him about it, he said he didn’t touch them. He pulled out one towel and the blanket for his bed and left the rest in the dryer. What am I supposed to think? I used to have six balls and now I have three and I am really annoyed.

One ball was wedged between the washer and the wall, so now I have four. I searched around the room, looking through other piles of laundry. I even climbed on top of the washer and dryer to peek behind them and checked under the radiator.

They had vanished into thin air!

I glanced around the room across the hall, thinking maybe they had rolled away. Then I looked in my sons room, not trusting that they weren’t in there somewhere.

Several days later, when they still hadn’t shown up (and somehow I’m back down to three), I gave my best “Mom rant” about how things just seem to disappear when the kids come home and how I know they think I’m a crazy lady harping about dryer balls. I’m sure anyone reading this can just picture the blank expressions that I received along with very subtle mouth twitches as they made every attempt to not laugh in my face.

The only response I got was from my son who said, “Mom, I don’t have them. Ask Winn.”

Ask Winn? What the hell? Aside from the fact that Winn is like Mary Poppins in that she is practically perfect in every way, I couldn’t see how she could have anything to do with the missing balls. Did he think she ate them? (That’s actually not a crazy thought.)

Two weeks later, I was folding a load of laundry and now there are only two balls in the dryer. OMG WHAT IS GOING ON!!!

I can’t blame the children because they’ve both returned to their respective homes and I’m completely frustrated. Once again, I scrambled around the laundry room looking under, over and behind every nook and cranny. I searched every room in the house, under beds, couches, radiators. Then I went into my own room and looked under my bed.

Holy s**t!

There was a sea of balls of all sizes under there!

I grabbed the vacuum wand, sprawled out on the floor on my stomach and started sweeping my arm back and forth. Balls went shooting out from under the bed in all directions.

In addition to a vast assortment of balls of all sizes, there were three dryer balls!

Apparently, I’m the only one who puts the balls back in the glass jar after I’ve used them. Other people (ahem) in my house just leave them in the dryer, with the door open, until a new load is thrown in.

It appears that Winn has discovered this seemingly endless supply of soft, cushy balls. She has a had a grand time flinging them around, mostly in my room. (I guess she’s not as much like Mary Poppins as I would like to think.)

So……I owe my children an apology. (What better way than putting it into a blog post.) I also need to keep the dryer balls out of Winn’s reach.

I’m still looking for one more dryer ball but five balls work way better than just two so I’m happy for the time being.

Our year in pictures

January: Annie, Winn’s first Rally title, fun times in the snow, training and Winn’s Canine Good Citizen title.

February: Snow!! Hearst Castle and indoor swimming.

March: St. Patrick’s Day, a VERY tiring grooming seminar and chasing chickens.

April: Kansas City with Maisie.

May: Newfoundland National Specialty, meeting new friends and attending a water training workshop with our Canadian buddies.

June: celebrating Maisie turning 5 and Winn turning 1 on our newly designated Annual Dog Birthday in honor of Annie, more ribbons for Winn and Therapy Dog training with Maisie.

July: 4th of July and water training with our friends.

August: Lots and lots of training fun and our very first Newfoundland Water Test (we didn’t do very well, but it was a great experience).

September: Studying hard for our final water test, which was our most successful and a great way to end the summer.

October: October baseball and Halloween, Maisie and I began our quest to find all of the murals in town.

November: Thanksgiving, playing in the leaves and frolicking in the first snowfall of the season.

December: The most wonderful time of the year!

so long, 2018!

How is it that the year is over? In some ways it seems like it flew by and in others it feels like it’s been a very long year.

It certainly didn’t start out the way that I had hoped. I had such big plans for Annie. For the first time since we brought her home, she didn’t bark at my son when he came home for Christmas break last year. She had finally accepted him as a safe member of the family and was able to tuck her fear of men away when she saw him. That was huge!

Unfortunately, she developed an illness that she just couldn’t overcome and we had to say goodbye on January 12. Even up until the day before, I was convinced that we could find a way for her to recover. She deserved more time with us but that disease is incurable and I promised her that she would never suffer in our house. It was the hardest decision I have ever made and to be honest, I’m still not over it. It was the right decision for her but I mourn her loss every day.

I think I overcompensated for Annie by working with Winn. We went to a Rally trial right before Christmas and she brought home her first ribbons! After that success, we continued to train in Rally and she earned her Novice title. In May, We traveled to the Newfoundland National where she earned her Rally Intermediate title and more ribbons. In June, I printed up the rules for the Beginner Novice title in competition obedience and entered a trial. She did beautifully in that and earned that title as well!

Once the weather warmed up, I decided to try and train us both for a Newfoundland Water Test and she was a natural. It was much harder than I imagined it would be, but on our final attempt in September, she came as close as she possibly could to earn that title and I was so proud. We didn’t pass the test, but she was able to execute each and every exercise, and we had so much fun working together. She really is an amazing example of a working dog and she loves to learn new things.

Maisie and I had very active year as well. We traveled together to Kansas City in April for a blogging conference and she was so well behaved. We’ve been working for quite a while at trying to become a Therapy Team. At the conference, I met a woman who was a director of a Therapy Dog program and she gave me some great advice on what to look for in a program. She was very impressed with Maisie, especially when she didn’t react and stayed right by my side after she was lunged at by a trio of very loud French Bull Dogs.

I’ve had to put our training on hold several times over the past couple of years, but this fall I was able to finally make some progress with her. I found an organization that seemed like a good match for us and in October she passed their temperament test. I need to do some observation visits on my own and with her before we can be officially certified. Once I get those done, hopefully we can get to work sometime in the next month or two.

The holidays always seem like a whirlwind and this year was no different. I love decorating our house for Christmas and this year I made a wreath to layer over the mirror that hangs above our fireplace. I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out! (I have admired a similar one for the last couple of years but I felt it was too expensive, so I gathered the supplies and made a bigger one at a fraction of the cost.) It was the perfect backdrop for the many silly holiday pictures that Maise and Winn patiently posed for.

As I reflect on the past year, I am pleased to say that we’ve accomplished a lot of the goals that I had for 2018. I admit, I’ve had a harder time writing this year, Annie was previously my inspiration so much of the time. I hope that as 2019 rolls around, I’ll be able to keep the blog going, but most of all, I’m looking forward to more fun times with Maisie and Winn!

It’s test time!

I was so happy after our last practice, it was the first time all summer that we executed everything we attempted perfectly and I felt like we were in the best shape possible for the test.

Later that night I got a phone call with devastating news about a family member and I quickly made a plane reservation on the first flight possible. I had no idea what the future would hold and was slapped once again with the realization that life can change in an instant and we have no control when it does.

I returned home at the end of the week, forever changed and feeling completely out of it. The last thing on my mind was going up to the water test, but then when I thought about it, that was something that made me really happy so I decided to go and I’m so glad I did. When Winn and I are working together I don’t think about anything else and that is exactly what I needed so I packed the car and headed up there and was able to push all of my other emotions out of my mind.

It was such a relief to be somewhere so familiar. Our training partners were there along with several other people who I had gotten to know over the summer. The mood was one of excitement and it was great to be a part of it. This time was different for me because we got to be part of the “main camp” since Winn had finished her heat which also meant that I got to watch and cheer on all of the other entrants.32DCED58-2A85-4E84-9379-D2BBF3983869.jpegThis was a two-day test, we had entered both days and had two chances to make it happen. Saturday morning was incredibly foggy and we were delayed getting started but then it turned out to be a beautiful weekend. Each day was considered its own test but I’ll recap each exercise including both days.

On both days we had several dogs ahead of us before it would be our turn so I took Winn further down the beach to practice heeling and fetching to get her worked up and ready to go. We got a treat bag when we checked in that had dried chicken hearts in it and Winn thought that was about the best thing she had ever had in her life. By the time our number was called, I had her full attention and I was feeling pretty good about our chances for success.

Basic Control has always been something that we’ve done well but on the first day she started veering away from me and I had to alter my path to keep her in the required 4 foot radius. While doing that, I tripped over one of the cones and was sure that we didn’t pass. To my surprise, when I asked the judge she said we passed, but on Sunday we performed it perfectly which made me feel much better.

The Single Retrieve (bumper throw) and Drop Retrieve (life jacket off of the boat) didn’t give us any trouble either day, although Winn did stop for a drink on the first day on her way to her life jacket which almost caused her to time out. She finally got swimming with 5 seconds to spare and my heart going double time.IMG_6014.jpgIMG_6029.jpgOn Saturday, Winn surprised me with Take A Line. She grabbed it from my hand and then turned and started to march out of the ring with it. Fortunately, I was able to grab her and steer her back to the water, but that was a fail.  Our training partners offered to stay late with us and put a long line on her to practice it at the end of the day and I took them up on their offer. They wanted to stay and practice jumping off of the boat with their boy so once everybody was packing up and leaving for the day, the three of us were back in the water and I’m so glad we stayed. Winn tried to do the same thing two more times but with a gentle tug from the line she got right in the water and then seemed to forget about trying to leave the beach. The next 3 attempts went exactly as they should. On Sunday, her Take A Line was perfect and she passed that exercise!205742BA-6A0E-4298-8337-DAF6F90451E0.jpegTow A Boat was next and this was the moment we had been training for. I knew she could do it, I just wasn’t sure that she would do it. On Saturday she came close but the boat drifted in and she dropped the bumper right on the edge of the water. When I tried to get her to pick her bumper back up she just stared at me like I was asking too much. She had worked so hard and when she got the boat up on shore she turned to go say hello to the steward that was in the front of the boat. On Sunday, she took her time going out to the boat. Sometimes she stops to eat seaweed or look at a dead bug, whatever it was I think she forgot what she was doing and she started to come back to shore. I don’t usually use a firm voice with her but I wasn’t messing around when I pointed my arm to the boat and said “Winn, go out” and fortunately she turned back around and went to the boat. She did the most beautiful pull all the way in but at the last second she let the boat drift in and she dropped the bumper on the grass and once again looked at me like “I did it, are we done now?”.  She just stared at me when I tried to get her to pick her bumper up again and then our time was up and the judge blew the whistle. It was the best she had ever done in a test and that was good enough for me. We had come so far, it wasn’t a pass in the judges eyes, but it was to me.D606161B-D347-4F39-971C-84E38609004E.jpegSwim With Handler was our big finish both days. We didn’t get a new Water Dog title this year but we came as close as I could have hoped for. Next year we will reinforce everything we learned this summer and train for the senior test as well. I loved being in the water with Winn and she continues to amaze me with her abilities.IMG_6256

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Saturday’s results, Ivey is a new Water Dog!

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Sunday’s results, Chuck is a new Water Dog!

This winter we will go back to rally and obedience and I’d like to introduce her to draft work. That’s the next thing for us to figure out together and I’ve got a new book to read!

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Winn’s mama Arleen earning her Draft Dog title. photo taken by Mary Broderick