More Dogs of Destiny!

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 3.56.23 PMIn celebration of my new picture book, Percy, Dog of Destiny, just published last week, I asked you to send me photos of your dogs, with or without some of their favorite toys.

This has been the most fun project. Thank you for your beautiful photos. They make me love dogs even more than I already did.  Enjoy.

IMG_6564

This is Rosie. She started a dog advice column a few years back. One of her most popular posts is about the delicious sunflower seed, notoriously difficult to catch in the wild. Her advice is to lie motionless beneath the bird feeder and be ready to leap when the moment comes. Thanks for the pro tip, Rosie.

17342712_10212246426666804_1417456825480997155_n

Bones are Stella’s favorite toys, and Stella is Cairo’s favorite toy. In their personal opinion? Balls are highly overrated.

17426013_10212246440507150_3357812082893152190_n

Please meet Barkley. He enjoyed playing with many toys in the course of his long and dignified life, but his favorite toy of all was his boy Ian, who is a firm believer in the “shame shared is shame halved” school of coning.

17492862_1290148194398355_2985170748795444823_o

This is Daisy. She has twelve loofah dogs but this one is her favorite. She is tired of defending herself against onlookers who speculate that her loofah dogs are longer than she is. Please. They aren’t.

17504417_10212565440908017_6368919285705853167_o

This is Jo and her favorite pink ball. Jo is in dog heaven now, but she left this photo behind to remind one and all that no one could fly through the front door the way she could. She would also like you to know that she always stuck her landing.

17349939_10210615001425592_5539668797650331837_o

This is Widget, who would like it known that he is a good dog. Most of the time.

17492472_10210615072947380_1086220796814710760_o

This is Widget again. Sometimes he gets a little cold, and that worries him. He has quite a bit on his mind, really. One of the things he wonders about is his humans. Do they know how much he loves them? Do they?

17493225_10210615084347665_5156180705613816206_o

This is Boomer. He’s an Australian shepherd. Boomer will be 14 in May. He spends a fair bit of time these days reflecting. Did you know that in his youth he was a mainstay on the Frisbee Dog circuit? Oh the glory days of yore.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 1.25.20 PM

Meet Aku and Yumi. They are pictured here in their  element of snow and cold. During their time on earth they had the power to hypnotize humans with their unearthly husky beauty and mesmerizing eyes. Please gaze upon this photo with caution.

17434783_1387920971275743_6532589818760095477_o

This is Arthur. He lives on an island and rides the ferry back and forth to the mainland. He also has his own Instagram account and is working at a high-end dog collar start-up. Talented beyond measure, Arthur could be spending his spare time clubbing with supermodels, but he remains humble and sets aside time each morning for meditation and reflection.

17457869_10209003214660476_797774354417980896_n

This is Rafa. He’s an academic dog best known for his work on the famous longitudinal study “Socks vs. Toys.” He will neither confirm nor deny rumors that he engages in rabbit poop eating. @therealrafa: “Enough with the poop innuendoes. Fake news! @mainstreammedia get your mind off turds! SAD!”

IMG_6565This is Callie. She’s in dog heaven now, but in her glory days she excelled at searching out and gobbling down poop of indiscriminate sources. She also had a lovely, elegant habit of lying on the floor with her paws crossed in front of her. Rest in peace, sweet girl.

Dogs of Destiny

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 3.56.23 PMTo celebrate the release of Percy, Dog of Destiny, written by me and illustrated by the wonderful Jennifer K. Mann, I sent out a call for photos of your dogs.

Please meet some of them, with more to come, pictured below in all their glory.

(I did not tell my own dog, Petey, about this blog post, as he would be jealous that I was looking at other dogs.)
17458125_10210256999236236_3535074328764509984_n

This very fine fellow is named Percy, just like the dog in the book. He’s a political activist. We need more public servants of his ilk.

17458091_10154668053647955_336065153422734807_n

This little scragglepuff is Sarah Moochie. She loves hanging out in the ballet studio and chewing up ballet slippers if she can get her paws on one.

17362577_10208796457325305_6558427471304844569_n

This is Piper. This is also Piper’s ball. Do not try to take it away from her, please.

17424703_10208796453485209_763196383978305699_n-2

Meet Mo. He doesn’t really play with toys, but he does love his bone.

17390841_10208967848453603_6948401938032574532_o

This fine fellow is Jackson. He’s a one of a kind Schnauzer-Schipperke mix. Currently retired from his gig as a bookstore greeter and looking to pick up some part-time work if you hear of anything.

17309405_10212363049932104_267766252329667251_n

This is Yoda. She likes bones. Chewing is only one of her many passions, along with barking. She was feeling demure when this photo was taken.

17457779_10211334997743280_4153052977343516038_n

This is Wrigley with his kong. He grew up to be a highly trained American VetDog. He rides in helicopters, wears goggles to protect his eyes from the sun and desert sand overseas, and brings love and comfort to veterans in need. (This is all true! Google him.)

17309221_10211334984062938_3677088791034689337_n

This is Khaki with her squeaky pink dog. She might look slumberish but she’s got her eyes on you, so keep your paws to yourself.

17308711_756486627859606_6984076131410216108_n

This is Miss Chloe. She’s two years old and she’s trained to go into nursing homes and work with folks who suffer from depression, but in her spare time she loves destroying squeaker toys. In the background is one she hasn’t yet found the key to destroy. Don’t give up, Miss Chloe. We’re rooting for you.

17310021_10154968677775435_2313971998677157064_o

This is Charlie, taking a nap with Piglet, his favourite* toy. (*Please note that Charlie spells favourite with a u. That’s because he is Canadian.)

17424604_10154968601455435_9081656803640533684_n

This is the beloved Mr. Pickles with his favourite toy watermelon. Pug sibling Pancake, also pictured, cares not for toys. (Please note that Mr. Pickles, like Charlie above, is also Canadian.)

17434658_10210281900542391_7808531318457867856_o

According to one of their humans, this is Wolf-butt and Bark-face. According to their other human, this is Finn and Daisy. According to both humans, Wolf-butt/Finn and Bark-face/Daisy are each other’s favorite toys.

17492719_10208705351494258_2270926437616792666_o

Blackie relaxing with her Lambie, which she has been known to parade back and forth before guests in an “I know you want this but guess what, you can’t have it” sort of way.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 4.26.49 PM

This is Guinness (he’s an Irish terrier) happily guarding Jello, his favorite toy.

The dedication behind the dedication

I dedicated my brand-neScreen Shot 2017-03-21 at 3.56.23 PMw picture book, Percy, Dog of Destiny, to my dear friend Judy Osborn. Why? Take a look at that handsome dog below. His name is Wrigley, and he’s one of the astonishing American Vet Dogs, trained to provide moral support to our troops and veterans. (See the goggles and weights on Wrigley’s back? That’s part of his training as a helicopter dog. Check out this video if you don’t believe me.) A dog of destiny if ever there was one.


Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1.48.17 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1.47.59 PM

I’ve had the honor of watching Wrigley grow from a tender puppy (last photo below) into the soulful, beautiful dog he is now. Not in person, but through my friend Judy’s photographs. Judy, who is a civil servant by day and a dog whisperer the rest of the time, worked with Wrigley almost every weekend for a year. During the week, Wrigley was loved and trained by Sam, an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, MD., and each weekend, Judy picked him up and took him with her everywhere, so that he would be as used to the enormous outside world as he was to the confines of the prison. 

17426337_10211349921476364_3597668129256316231_n

Q. Judy, what drew you personally to the Vet Dog program?

A. I’ve always loved dogs and I’ve always been interested in how dogs can help all kinds of people — kids learning to read; people recovering in hospitals; veterans dealing with PTSD or physical disabilities; prisoners who need unconditional love; senior citizens who need connection.  I became more conscious of veterans because I live near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and I see veterans in Bethesda who are amputees.

After the recent deaths of three dear friends, I decided life was too short to wait until retirement to do what I loved. I had done some volunteering with Warrior Canine Connection (puppy petting!) but wanted to do something on a regular basis that involved dogs and vets and inmates. America’s Vet Dogs was perfect because the dogs are trained during the week by inmates and the prison was relatively close (in DC terms, anyway – an hour and a half drive). And since my commitment was only on weekends, I didn’t think I would get attached to the dog (ha ha!).

Q. You worked in tandem with an inmate to train Wrigley. What was that like?

A. “My” inmate — Sam — is an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, MD. Sam was the main trainer of Wrigley, who was his first dog, and he worked with Wrigley 24/7. My commitment was at least three weekends a month, two nights each weekend, to practice the commands in the “real” world and to socialize Wrigley, i.e., expose him to all sorts of situations, places, people, noises and smells.  Doorbells!  Garbage trucks!  Leaf blowers!  Construction sites!  People who walk funny!  Skateboarders!  Drunk people!  Clowns!  Squirrels and cats!  Bowling alleys!  Hospitals!  Libraries!  Buses!  Boats!  Subways! I even did things with Wrigley that I failed to do with my own son when he was little (a pontoon boat at a local lake). 

The list they gave us is quite extensive. We had a training book that gave us “field trips” that were appropriate for the age of the dog. Each weekend we were supposed to repeat two field trips we’d done before, and add two new ones. Sam and I made a great team. We gave each other lots of detailed information from week to week, and Sam would work on things that I found Wrigley hadn’t yet mastered in the outside world. 

Q. What was the most rewarding aspect of working with Wrigley?

A. The most rewarding thing is knowing that I helped bring the joy (and boundless energy) of Wrigley to the many veterans he will meet. He will be deployed for a while (though it’s unclear if it’s with the Army, the Air Force, or the Mass National Guard) and he will bring great comfort to our soldiers who are under so much stress. He is then on track to be a “facility dog” who will be assigned to a military base or VA hospital and get to hang out with all the veterans who are there for therapy.

Q. What was the hardest aspect of this work?

A. Saying goodbye.  Worrying about him — knowing that he doesn’t like being in a kennel; wondering how it will be for him overseas; hoping he is with people who love him and treat him well.  I miss his goofiness and his beautiful face.

And it was also tough never getting to meet Sam to talk about our boy together, since the rules prohibit any interaction. Towards the end, we both could really appreciate and understand how far we — and Wrigley — had come. We were able to share that through notes, but it wasn’t the same.  I did get permission to write Sam a goodbye letter.

Q. Do you have insight or advice for the general public with regard to vets and their dogs, or service dogs in general?

A. DO NOT PET THE DOG. Service dogs are working and having a stranger pet the dog (or even talk to the dog) could endanger the handler’s life. It’s best not to even ask to pet the dog since sometimes that can cause stress for the handler.

I did meet some wonderful people who would come up and speak to me. Lots of people wanted to know about the Vet Dog program, lots of people offered a ton of support to us and to him. Children could always pet him provided they asked first and stayed calm; I tried to make these teaching moments. One of the last weekends I met an eight year old boy at the farmer’s market. Wrigley and this little boy just fell in love with each other. So very sweet.

Q. What have your dog experiences in life thus far taught you, either about yourself or about human relationships?

A. People need connection, unconditional love, and acceptance; dogs provide all of the above. Dogs also make you live in the moment — there’s no way I can hurry through my morning to get to work without first rubbing my dog Khaki’s belly. (She goes downstairs first and lies on her back so her belly is the first thing I see when I come downstairs.)  And, as hungry as she is when I come home, she demands — and I give  — a belly rub and cuddle then too. 

For more information about America’s Vet Dogs, or to support the wonderful work they do, please click here.