Are Your Walks Meaningful?

I do two types of walks with my dogs. First is “We Must Get From Point A to Point B while ignoring things like trash, other animals, things in a hotel lobby or hall, pedestrians, etc.,” walk. Then there is the “It’s OK To Be A Dog and Sniff” walk. Many of our walks are a combination of the two.  Why do I do this when for decades trainers have pushed teaching walks where dogs are next to you, not sniffing, and being perfect?  Simple, what many dog owners and some trainers think is a good walk or run with their dogs can be frustrating for the dog.



Yeah, this sniff walk ended up becoming a sniff wade (c) West Wind Dog Training

I worked with a dog belonging to a runner. The dog was a high energy, working breed. The owner was giving him more than ample exercise.  However, he could not understand why the dog was developing undesired behaviors especially when on walks.  They had no yard, so the dog had to be walked or run.  The owner’s idea of exercise was a deliberate walk or run with no stopping unless the dog had to potty.  It was fast and deliberate and long.  The dog was never allowed to poke or sniff as dogs need to do.  Several times a week they would run for several miles.  Again, no ability for the dog to be a dog. No ability for the dog to meet certain needs he had as a dog.  There were social and behavioral aspects to walks the dog was not getting.


What do I mean by social and behavioral aspects?  I am not referring to expecting the dog to meet and greet every human and dog he passes.  For me, having a dog who demands to meet and greet everyone without permission is risky. I am talking about allowing a dog to sniff and poke and gather information about his environment.

“Sniff, sniff, sniff. Hmmm, Sparky may be developing a urinary tract infection. Sniffy sniff-sniff… Oh, I do not know that dog smell, he must be new here. Sniff. What did Buster eat for dinner last night?  Ok let’s sniff over here! Wow, a coyote walked past here last night!  Deer! And what’s over here? Whoops, Billy dropped his ice cream here and rats cleaned it up.  Hey human I want to sniff over here now!  I think I smelled the Jacobson’s cat out again!”  Being able to sniff is a way dogs gather information. When we deny dogs this chance we are removing something important for them to do.  Imagine being cut off from an important part of your world.  Imagine no ability to check on what is going on around you.  Dogs need to have sniffing time while on walks.



After a nice walk across the parking lot to the trail, we can allow our dogs to sniff and poke. (c) West Wind Dog Training


Does this mean I allow my dogs to haul me all over on walks while they sniff?  No.  This means I walk them to places where it is OK for them to sniff. I check the area for things that may be a problem like trash. If the area looks good they are told they can go sniff. During sniffing I follow them. After a good sniff they are cued again to return to the walk and we move on to the next sniff.  In some areas I may use a long line, so the dogs can range out but still be leashed to me.

While on walks, make sure your dog has ample time to stop and smell the roses and other things.  He will be happier for it.

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Trigger Stacking – It Adds Up

Your alarm never went off.  You are running late so decide to grab breakfast on the road.  You spill coffee on your new suit.  You get to work and see someone has parked in your reserved spot and the rest of the lot is full.  You have to park at the pay garage two blocks away.  At work, you find the two people working on a project did not complete their parts over the weekend.  The project is due the next day. You work through lunch and stay late to complete their part of the project while your coworkers go out for an extended lunch with a friend and sneak out early.  As you are heading home, your vehicle’s “check engine” light starts to flash.  You get home to see toys scattered all over the drive way and side walk.  Your Home Owners’ Association person greets you with a warning that the toys were left out too long today.  You are at the end of your rope.  Now your child comes dashing, naked, out of the front door.  You scream for her to get back in the house. Your stress level is extremely high and you just lost it.

man person face portrait

Photo by Pixabay on

Normally each of these events would cause stress but you would be able to recover and cope.  What if you did not get a chance to recover from these triggers and they kept, building, stacking, your blood boils and…

This is often called “Trigger Stacking.”  Even if the individual stressors do not elicit (trigger) a reaction, they are still building emotional stress.  Stress is stacking and tolerance levels drop and each stress builds until…  Let’s apply this to a common pet: the cat. (And the same happens to dogs).

You go to the shelter and adopt a new cat.  The cat is supposed to be good with dogs and children.  However, within hours of being home, the cat badly scratches your youngest on the face.   Were you paying attention to what was going on or happening?  What stresses were stacking?  Let’s look at Kitty.

Kitty has gone from a home into a shelter (big stress).  While at the shelter, there were sights, sounds and loads of things she was not used to (lots of stress with no ability to escape the stress in the environment).   You adopt the cat and shove her in a box for a car ride (stress).  At home, you dump her in the middle of the living room where your puppy barks at her (stress).   You older child brings over friends to see the new cat (stress).  They spend the afternoon playing loudly in the house (stress).  Your mother-in-law comes for dinner and fusses all over kitty as the poor thing tries to eat and rest (stress).   Just before bed, your younger child races up to kitty to give a good-night kiss (stress).  Cat hisses and smacks the child, claws extended, in the face.  Next day, stressed kitty is back at the shelter.  Step back and look at all the stress stacked upon the poor animal and it is no wonder kitty scratched the child.

Stress stacking up and triggering a reaction happens to us and our pets.

Learn to understand subtle signs your pet is stressing.  Pets rarely scratch or bite without warning.  Often there are early signals that stress is adding up long before we hear a growl or a hiss. Watch for stressors stacking up and intervene before an undesired response is triggered.


Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, a published author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.

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Tackling The Extra Pounds

This was originally run in a shorter version in Northern Virginia Today


As a dog professional it is not uncommon for my clients to have chunky pets.  It is something I need to address because we use food and such to help develop behaviors we need.  Maybe you have decided your dog is little pudgy – or even obese – and you have decided to address this.  Maybe your veterinarian has brought this to your attention.

According to, obesity is when your dog has 10-15% excess body weight.  For a 10 pound dog this would be an extra 1.5 pounds and 15 lbs for a 100 lb dog. The first place I would begin a weight loss program would be with a vet consult.  Though the vast majority of obesity in pets is a direct result of the owner’s actions, you should still rule out the chance of things like thyroid issues that can affect weight loss. I have a senior, hypothyroid dog.  Foster’s ideal weight should be 16 – 17 lbs.  At his heaviest he was over 20 pounds and at one point pushing 25 – even on LOW rations. Along with seeing other changes and with strict diet failing, I had him checked out.  Yup, thyroid.  Once we got him on medications and made sure the dosage was what he needed, addressing his weight became easier.  Now, thyroid meds are not a magic weight loss potion removing the need for diet and lifestyle changes, but addressing Foster’s thyroid made getting his weight down easier.

Sarah Dog Show MKC

Foster in his chunkier days – this was around the time we learned he had a thyroid issue.

If your dog is fuzzy get under the fur.  A really fluffy dog may look fat when in reality he is OK.  Know your dog’s body type.  Sighthounds are a lean type of dog.  If we were to get enough weight on them to hide all their ribs and hips, they would be FAT. If your dog is a type that is a more stocky built make sure he is truly stocky and not fat.


Foster 01-27 Fast CAT 2 crop

Photo by Wayne Ramsey – Foster at age 10 1/2 and a much healthier weight


Why is being obese bad for your dog?  Obesity can cause or at least increase the risk of various problems including but not limited to:

  • less tolerant to heat
  • less tolerant to exercise – they tire out faster
  • high blood pressure
  • increased risk of diabetes
  • increased risk of lameness
  • increased risk if anesthesia ifneeded
  • skin folds can become irritated
  • difficulty breathing
  • back problems/disk issues
  • various masses and certain cancers
  • it makes an examination harder for your vet to perform

Since the vast majority of pudgy pooches is caused by humans, let’s address food and treats first.

Many foods and treats have extra and “hidden” sugars.  Some foods with extruded, formed bits (different from freeze-dried pieces) may be higher in sugars.  Foods too high in carbohydrates and fat can contribute to obesity.

You think your dog is active do you need a performance diet?  Your active pet dog does not need a performance food.    These foods are formulated for dogs who are hard-working on a regular basis such as sled dogs, dogs regularly training at high activity sports, etc.  Even at that many of these truly active dogs do not need a performance diet. My dogs do several activities and they are not on a performance food. Coconut oil is NOT a medical miracle supplement and yes I have seen people suggest it for pet weight loss. I have seen overweight dogs that were fed diet foods (the dog was free fed and the bowl always filled when it emptied).  I have seen overweight dogs fed homemade food and raw diets.



Even Uhura who does coursing events and will be starting other sports hopefully does not need a performance dog diet.


Portion control is important to weight loss.  The recommended feeding amounts on a bag of food are often way too much.  For example, Foster, a 16 – 17 lbs Shetland Sheepdog, eats a total of 1/4 kibble in the morning (this includes what is scattered or put in a toy).  In the evening he gets 1/8 cup of kibble and 1/3 cup of a rice/veggie/canned mix.  According to many food bags Foster should be getting twice that food amount or more.  Even my younger dogs get far less than the recommendation on the bags.

Portion control includes accounting for training treats, food stuffed toys, edible chews like pig ears, etc.  I have known more than one morbidly obese dog that was eating diet food in carefully measured amounts. The dogs were getting a high amount of treats throughout the day – the owners mistook giving food with giving love. Also owners who forget to account for the food used in training to help reinforce behaviors we need increase the chance of pudgy dogs.  One thing I recommend to my clients is measure out the daily ration and if it is a high enough reinforcing food for behaviors, we can use that as our training rewards.  If not then we cut the food back to account for the food we use in training.

So how do we begin a weight loss program?  As already stated, with a trip to the vet.  Depending on how overweight your dog is will help determine where you begin.

When I am working to get a little chunk of my dogs I begin with portion control and activity.  My dogs are fed two meals a day.  Only part of it comes from bowls (two of my dogs are on medication).  They rest they work for. In the morning they get partial rations.  A little of the kibble is scattered in the yard for them to hunt. Then they get the rest in toys meant to be stuffed with food. Read this for information on toys you can stuff with food. Different food games also helps meet a dog’s mental and behavioral needs.  Read this for more information on playing with food. I cut rations and replace with other foods.  Every night my dogs get a mixture of rice, green beans or peas (sometimes I use squash or pumpkin as a change), canned food and sometimes plain gelatin I mix in with the water or sodium free stock I make the rice with.  Make sure you use plain, unflavored gelatin because other types may have Xylitol which can be deadly to dogs.  A couple of times a week I make this mix and keep it refrigerated in a large container.  I do 2 cups of rice, 1/2-1 bag frozen vegetables, a can of dog food, a packet of gelatin.

I also account for things my dogs get to chew like bones.  When my dogs get natural bones I make sure I remove as much fat as possible  I adjust their meal intake on days they get things that are edible toys. Those nights their meal may only be the rice mixture and a find the kibble game with less kibble used.

A note on find the kibble games – if you have multiple dogs you may have issues with one dog getting more kibble than needed so keep an eye on your dogs. Watch for things like one dog watching where the others go and then forcing them away from the find. Alternatively give each dog a food releasing toy and supervise the activity or put them in separate rooms. 

Increased activity helps with weight loss.  If your pet is morbidly obese discuss an exercise program with your vet. Even if your dog is just a little pudgy, be careful when starting an exercise regiment, pushing too hard, too fast can cause damage.  Look for lower impact exercise options like swimming. Walk on sand or other softer surfaces.  Does your dog fetch?  Throw a ball up a hill (dogs tend to run faster after a ball and return slower – you want the faster run to be up the hill for increased safety).  Hide your dog’s kibble throughout the house and yard.  Use food releasing toys that encourage movement to eat.  Do sniff walks – put your dog on a long line (not a retractable lead) and allow him to roam around you, poke and sniff.

Finally track your pet’s weight loss.  This may mean weekly weight-ins at your vet.  You should not be charged for these if all you are doing is going in and using the scale.

Obesity is a problem with dogs in America.  However it is preventable and reversible.  Please do not take offense if a pet professional mentions your dog’s weight.  It is never nice to hear but for the health of our dogs, maintaining a healthy weight is important.

  • Karen Peak, West Wind Dog Training
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Dog Trainer Google

This is an expanded version of a piece printed in Northern Virginia Today


Early on in my career I was helping moderate a dog information message board.  A woman came to the page wanting a fast and easy way to fix developing aggressions in one of her dogs towards another household dog. The owner complained about the cost of trainers which was why she was seeking internet advice.

Several of us explained why the dog needed to be worked with in person.  Unless we saw the dog, ethically all we could do was outline a management protocol to reduce the risk of incidents while working to locate someone to help her one on one.  That is when another person claiming to be a trainer chimed in and outlined a plan of behavioral action.  This is where trouble started.

The information given was old school and not science-based. The owner was told to put the dog on a long leash and every time she aggressed towards anything, let her run to the end and then yank hard while yelling “NO!”.  The owner was told to harshly show the dog the owner did not like what she was doing and had to stop.  Obviously the dog was stubborn and needed to be shown who called the shots in the house.

We all knew he dog would most likely develop worse behaviors even if there was the illusion of improvement. The dog may stop the outward signs of what the owner called aggression but the dog would still have issues.  What if the dog began associating the other dog with bad things coming and decided to really drive the dog away to keep herself safe? The owner was given articles from behaviorists regarding why certain methods of training worse aggressions. We located several trainers in her area. We prayed she would contact one of them for one on one work.  We even explained why one on one work in the home was vital.

A few months later the dog owner posted back with an update. She followed the free advice.  The worst case happened.  She corrected the dog for snarling at the other dog.  The growling and aggressing towards the other dog in the home stopped.  She assumed her dog was cured and knew not to go after the other dog. She let the dogs off leash together in the yard.  In a heartbeat there was a fight and the “cured” dog killed the other dog. The owner was furious with us for giving her bad advice.  We reminded her that many of us explained what needed to be done for management and we found trainers in her area to assist her.  We explained why what she was told by the other person was dangerous.  She chose to ignore us.

Another reason trainers cannot effectively work without seeing the dog is owners may miss things trainers will observe.  Here are a couple cases I worked with.

During a phone history, a client reported issues when she wanted to walk or play with her younger dog.  He was snarky and snappy during these times. During my initial evaluation I noticed something odd about the dog’s movement. I explained my concerns to the owner and asked her to have him checked before our next session.  The owner said she saw nothing concerning but followed up with her vet.  The vet discovered the dog had a luxating patella.  He was acting up because he was in pain.  Walks and play worsened the discomfort.

I was called regarding increasingly aggressive behavior between a younger dog and an older dog. The owner insisted it was not bad and I could fix it over a phone call. I convinced the owner to let me evaluate the situation in person. This is what I observed. The owner felt the younger dog was getting too rambunctious for the older dog.  The owner began using a shock fence to confine the younger dog to part of the yard.  If the younger dog followed the older dog across the yard, he got a shock.  The younger dog associated the older dog with pain.  He was trying to keep the older dog away. The owner had no idea the shock fence could lead to aggressions so did not tell me about it when I took an initial phone history.

Good trainers know the importance of first-hand evaluation. Even videos limits what we can do.  They show us some of the story but not enough.  Additionally, we cannot observe what you are doing for work if we are not working directly with you.  Yes, when we leave your house, or you leave our classes, we have no control over what you do.  However, during the times we are together we can get and give valuable feedback.

Just like a veterinarian cannot diagnose your pet without an exam and tests, anyone doing animal work ideally needs to see your critter first hand. When you see a problem arising, be responsible and get someone who can help you directly.


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Practice, keep those skills sharp

This was printed in a shorter version Northern Virginia Today and was published in April 2018.

dog holding a newspaper in mouth clipart

I was subbing in a fifth-grade class when a student asked me the time.  I suggested he check the clock above the door. The student informed me he could not read (analog) clocks.  This student has been in the school since Kindergarten.  I know telling time with an analog clock is taught there.  Numerous times I have subbed for teachers and I have taught telling time on analog clocks.  I have used other skills kids knew to show them how to apply it to telling time: half and quarter circles for quarter, half, and three-quarter hours, counting by fives around the face then by ones to get to times like 3:48, etc.  By the time I was done with these lessons I was able to get most students able to correctly complete worksheets and play “Tell the time” games.  I also learned why this student could no longer tell time with an analog clock.

A parent with a child between my two in ages and in the same school system complained to me how upset he was certain things were not being taught anymore. He had a laundry list of things he wanted the schools to teach.  Well my son graduated in 2017 and my daughter is in middle school but taking one high school class in the mornings.  I got my hands on the curriculum (all online) and shared the highlights with him. Based on his grade, this child had already covered many lessons Dad insisted he had not. I talked to my daughter who told me she learned many of the things the father insisted were not being taught in 7th grade.  Since she is two years ahead of peers in math, she said the student would have gotten the lessons in 9th grade.   The father’s kid was in 11h grade. The rest of the topics would be covered the next school year. The more we talked the reason why the child could not do these basic skills that had already been taught became clear.

Let’s look further at the two students and learn just why.

The fifth-grader admitted to not using analog clocks outside class.  He passed the assessments and stopped using those skills.  His parents never had him use analog clocks outside of school.

The father admitted he had no idea what the kid was learning so he was not able to reinforce practical lessons outside of school. He never checked the syllabi for his classes.  He did not go to open house nights and listen to what was being covered that school year.  He did not ask to look at homework, etc.  He had no idea what the kid was learning.

Now, I am not a perfect parent but I know the importance of practicing skills.  I also know the more work I do as a parent the easier it is for the schools.  Therefore, I worked with many lessons even before the kids were in the grades the skills would be taight.  Even in early elementary school we discussed budgets, taxes, how to calculate sales tax, the risks of credit cards, etc.  We practiced cursive writing.  Yes this is not taught to the level it was when I was a kid, but many teachers are trying to address cursive.  If not practiced, the kids will lose these skill.

It has been over 35 years since I played violin, I cannot play it now.  Why?  I lost those skills.  However, I can drive a car though it has been over thirty years since I took driver’s ed.  Why?  I drive almost every day. I am always using these skills.

Now apply this to dogs.

A former client called to complain about his untrained dog. The dog last saw me when he was about 16 weeks old.  It was now five years later. I encourage owners to keep practicing even when the dog appears to know what is expected.  Sadly, once the lessons are over I have no control over what owners practice, or not. When I asked questions, I learned the couple had not practiced leash skills for five years.  The dog forgot all his leash manners. The wife was told to start exercising for her health and decided to walk the now larger, adult dog.  She was pulled over.

Another client was not practicing between sessions and was upset her dog was not improving.  Not only that but she was not doing the needed management of the environment to prevent the dog from performing these behaviors while we worked through them.  There is no way a dog can learn and retain the lessons if we are not doing the work.

A mistake many make is stopping all practice when behaviors have been given a few times with one or two cues.  A few sits the first time cued after a couple of sessions does not mean your dog knows what is expected.  Completing a course of training classes does not mean your dog is trained. This is the time we need to keep working.

Work the behaviors in to your daily routine. Determine how you want the behaviors molded into good manners such as not jumping for greetings. Take your dog to other places for quiet practice. Highly reinforce when the dog gives you the behavior when you did not ask.  Make sure you go back and refresh if you see the beginnings of the behaviors slipping.

My oldest dog is going to be 11 in May of 2018.  Even he gets lessons refreshed every now and then.  Yes, things he has been solid with for years we still brush up.  This is why he has remained solid with these behaviors for years.

The old saying “Practice makes perfect” is inaccurate because nothing is perfect.  However, practice helps keep needed skills in place and improving.  If you do not practice, refresh and apply needed skills to daily life, do not be shocked when the behaviors are not there when you need them.

Karen Peak, West Wind Dog Training.

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Safety During Hunting Seasons

When I first wrote this, deer season was in full swing.  All over along the road side in areas of my county I would see the vehicles of hunters.  Many of us want to walk our dogs in the woods and may go where hunting is allowed.  During hunting seasons I often see stories shared of dogs shot by hunters or caught in leg hold traps. How can we be safer during hunting season?


Always remember safety is a two way street.  Let me make an analogy to cyclists.  No matter how safe car drivers attempt to be, if cyclists are being reckless they can compromise their safety.   It takes a couple seconds for even an alert driver to process and act on a situation.  Depending on road conditions, vehicle weight and speed it can take some distance for a vehicle to stop.  When cyclists run red lights and stop signs, dart into busy traffic, swerve dangerously around cars, cut off vehicles while making left turns, and fail to signal when they are turning, etc., cyclists increase their own risk. Cyclists need to take some responsibility for their safety.  Similarly, when we are out in areas where hunting and trapping is permitted during hunting season we need to work to increase our safety and that of our dogs.

Knowing hunting seasons and permitted hunting locations is the first step.  In Virginia check the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.   Click on “hunting” in the menu bar.  Some county websites also have hunting information specific to them.  Whenever possible it is best to avoid areas where hunting is permitted during hunting season.  Luckily in this region it is pretty easy to find alternative areas to walk. If you still choose to go into areas where hunting is allowed you need to take precautions.  

For readers who are not in Virginia, check your state Department of Fish and Game websites for hunting season information.

Though the majority of hunters try to recognize their target before firing, things may look different depending on environmental conditions.  When it is darker, foggy, lots of dense brush, etc., you and your dog’s appearance may be altered.  Then yes, there is the risk of a few less than responsible hunters.  Hunters who may be new, excited and a bit fast to fire, ones who are overtired or yes, those who may be under the influence of something may not be as aware of what they are firing at. If you go walking in areas where hunting is permitted you and your dog must be highly visible.

There is a reason hunters wear blaze orange, or should: it stands out.  Blaze orange clothing is easy to get.  Many stores carry various blaze orange clothing as does Amazon. Your dogs should be in a blaze orange jacket or at bare minimum a reflective orange collar.  Go all out with the orange!

You may want to let Sparky run loose in the woods.  What dog would not love a good romp amongst the trees, the ability to chase squirrels or bunnies?   It is best to keep your dog on leash during all walks.  There are leash laws in all National parks and Forests as well as in most counties.  Also your dog may be mistaken for animals such as a coyote.  Never hope a hunter will see you far behind your dog.  Do not use long lines or extending leads when walking in hunting areas for the same reason.  Dogs that are ranging out are at risk of being snared in traps.  Yes, many areas still permit their use.

I remember a furious rant by a dog owner whose dog was badly injured by a leg hold trap.  I asked her was she walking in an area where trapping was permitted.  Yes.  Was her dog off leash.  Yes.  So she was allowing her dog to be loose in an area with permitted trapping and she was angry at the trappers.  Her dog’s risk would have been reduced had be been on a six foot lead and/or had the owner chosen to walk in an areas where trapping was not allowed.  It is the owner’s responsibility to know what is allowed, when and where.  This dog owner knew she was letting him run loose in a trapping area during trapping season. Yes, there will always be some hunter or trapper who hunts or traps in areas where it is not allowed.  However, dog owners have the responsibility of knowing what is allowed, where, and when.

As dog owners we are ultimately responsible for the safety of our dogs and the safety of those around us.  If you like to be out in the woods with your dogs, take a few minutes and research different hunting laws and times where you live.


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Prepping for the Real World

We train and socialize and work and do what we can to prepare our dogs for the real world.  The summer Uhura came to live with us my daughter and I abandoned the boys for two nights in Gatlinburg, TN.  We were going to take the dorky Standard Schnauzer pup for some socializing and to see how far she had come. OK and a trip to Ol’ Smokey Distillery, kicking around the mountains, etc., were added to the mix.  We knew what to expect in Gatlinburg – one of our favorite places.  We were pretty confident Uhura was ready for the town. The first evening, good training and manners allowed Uhura access to patio dining and in several businesses.  The next day’s events drove home just why I do what I do and encourage what I do with clients in regards to training and socializing.  


TN 2014 (18)

Summer in Gatlinburg, TN.  Sarah and Uhura on a socializing trip.  (c) West Wind Dog Training


I must add, Sarah was ten at this point.  She had done the majority of the work with Uhura who was 14 weeks old.  She was the one who was taking her through puppy classes.  She was the one getting her ready for shows.  Sarah was the one learning what to do to help her puppy succeed. 

We had spent the morning poking around Pigeon Forge, driving a lovely mountain road outside Gatlinburg, exploring a beautiful park and stream and talking with a retired teacher.  Then we headed downtown.   Now anyone who has been to Gatlinburg knows how busy it can be in the summer.  Uhura and Sarah were doing OK.  I made sure they got time away from the crowds as needed for breaks.  we had plenty of water and snacks.  Many air-conditioned places were dog-friendly too.  But right now we were walking down the main drag.

As we were walking along a congested sidewalk, we saw a younger woman struggling to support an appearing drunk, older woman.  Her cries for help were being ignored.  I handed Sarah the backpack and went to help.  The younger woman and I guided the older woman to the ground.  The younger woman was in distress. The younger woman was beginning to panic.  The older woman was not drunk. I asked if the woman on the ground was diabetic – yes.  She had not eaten or drunk since that morning – it was now after 3pm. She was in diabetic shock which can lead to death. 

I called 911 and began giving what info I knew and directions to where we were in the town.  Luckily a nurse happened by and began taking vitals.  I handed her my phone and she relayed the vitals to dispatch.   During this time, my focus was off Sarah and her puppy.   Realize even young ‘uns learn very well.  If started from birth, raised with positives and exposed to many things … there is a reason we do what we do… there is a reason I prepare my dogs as I do – and my kids…  Well… read on…

The moment I told Sarah I was going to help, she went into action with her puppy.  Sarah took the backpack and Uhura and moved away from the building crowd.  Sarah pulled out treats and made the entire situation a positive experience for Uhura.  Sarah was feeding the pup, talking to her and working to get Uhura to relax.  Sarah hearing what was going on, stepped up to the plate.  She got water, went to the drug store next to us, explained what happened and came out with a pharmacist who understood the medications the woman was on.  Sarah did all this while managing Uhura.  Sarah did all this while keeping Uhura calm.

The crowd was building and people were taking pictures.  The nurse kept the older woman managed while I handled the crowd and waved down the EMTs.  As soon as the EMTs got to the woman, Sarah, Uhura and I went back to being tourists.

That night, Sarah, Uhura and I were still in town. It had been day.  There was a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream staffed by a couple of slightly um, happy hippies. Ice cream seemed like a good dinner. Uhura and Sarah were tired. Sarah went in to order ice cream while I stayed out front with the pup.  Next thing I knew, the guys violated various health codes and brought Uhura inside to hang out. They gave the dorky pup a small bowl of vanilla.  Sarah and I chilled before heading back to the hotel in Knoxville.  

Life brings things we cannot anticipate.  Ten year old child, 14 week old puppy both able to calmly handle a stressing situation many adults of either species could not.  That day it was a woman in a life and death situation, rude tourists crowding for a peek, Mom stepping away to assist, sirens – so stressing.  Then being invited into a place with loads of yummy smells by a couple of happy hippies…

Training, socializing, positive lessons – what else can I say?  You never know when that simple trip will become something more.  When it does, will you and yours have the ability to handle it?  If you start young and right, there is a better chance they will. 


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