Thursday, December 19, 2013

Think About a Puppy for Christmas (And then say no)

A cute puppy – I know that it sounds like a great idea, but let me tell you that it is not usually the best gift.  First, with all of the excitement of trees, ornaments, gifts, family, food, and holiday fun, there is a lot going on.  It could be very tough on a young dog to come into a place where there was so much happening.  The lights, the people talking, and maybe even another dog is already there.  And the person who is on the receiving end of the gift of the pup may not want, or understand, what is involved… a lot of care for a long time.

Second, people sometimes forget that this cute ball of fur with big eyes will get bigger, and there is money that needs to be spent for food, medicine, and lots of other reasons.  It is sad but true that many of these “Christmas Puppies” end up in shelters because the humans were not prepared for the responsibility of caring for a pet.

If you are thinking about bringing home a new pet, please wait until the holidays are over and things quiet down.  Then, if you still decide to get a puppy or even a kitten, then you will be able to give that newest family member all of the love and attention that it deserves.

I hope that you and your dogs, cats, birds, and every other kind of animal in your life have a happy and peaceful holiday season and a wonderful 2014.  Thank you for reading about my adventures, and letting me know what you think. Woof and love!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Busiest Day

Let me tell you about the latest fun at Disaster City.  There was a lot going on.  First, the vets took blood from our bodies, just a little bit with a needle.  It doesn’t hurt at all.  Then they took our temperature, not fun, but I am used to that by now.  They were writing a lot of stuff down, but I was ready to get to training.  Little did I know what would happen.

Here are all the places that I went in Disaster City in just one morning!  Rubble 1, Rubble 2, the trains, agility, the barrels that were all spread out (with a person in one and distractions in the others), the hup tables, an area where I took a walk with Angie, and the strip mall.  Can you believe it?  After I finished at each place, a vet took my temperature, and I rested for a few minutes.  I also got cool water sprayed on my pads and stomach. Did you know that cooling my pads is one of the best ways to make me feel better when it is hot?

By the end of the morning, I was so tired.  It was very hot, and the sun was shining.  I was not as fast at the end as I was at the beginning, but I never stopped working. The vets took some more blood from my body at the end. Angie kept telling me what a good girl I was.  I was ready to go in my kennel, and let the other dogs work in the afternoon. 

We did all this to help the vets find out what it was like for dogs to work for a long time, not just a short search on a pile, and then a long wait until it was our turn again.  We never waited around, but worked for 4 hours.  After all the dogs get to do this, the vets will be able to use what they learned to improve our performance….so that we can all do our jobs better.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dogs in Boats

I thought that going up in the air all the way to the top of a building was fun, but not as good as what happened yesterday at Disaster City.  We trained on the rubble piles and then took a break.  I looked out of my crate, and we were right by the lake.  No rubble piles are near the lake, so I knew something was up.  And then Angie took out something like a vest, and tightened it around my body.  It is called a PFD, or Personal Flotation Device, which helps me float when I am in the water.  Hey, I love to swim, and I don’t sink so I am not sure why I needed it.  Oh, now I remember.  Sometimes dogs get so tired that they need help staying upright in the water.

There were 2 boats, and a driver for each one, and then 2 dogs and their humans got in the boat.  I watched them go on a ride around the lake, come back to the shore, and then the dogs got out, and the boat went back out.  They swam back to the boat when called.  I must admit that I was barking and shaking with excitement, I wanted it to be my turn.  You should have seen Sasha.  When she was called to swim to the boat, she did not want to get in; she kept swimming too far away for her dad to pick her up and put her in the boat.  Go, Sasha, go, I thought.

Then it was my turn.  Angie and I got in the boat with another dog and her dad.  Zoom, we went fast, and I put my head out to feel the water in my face.  I wanted to jump in, but I stayed.  Another boat came side by side, and we walked across to get in that one.  The most fun was when I waited on the shore while Angie went back out in the water.  She called, “Sammie, come!” I jumped in the lake, and swam fast to the boat.  I could have kept going, but she used the handle on the PFD to pull me into the boat with her.  I helped by putting my paws on the side.

I love the rubble, but this was fun in a different way.  I hope we can do it again, especially since it was a great way to cool off.  And now if I ever need to ride in a boat to help somebody, I will know just what to do!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Way Up in the Air

Remember when I told you that I have always wanted to go in a helicopter?  Well, I was able to do something else that was a lot of fun, and just a little bit scary.  When we were at Disaster City last weekend, after we trained on the rubble piles in the morning, we did what is called lifting and lowering.  Here is what happened.
Two of my friends, who know a lot about ropes and rescuing people, set up an exercise on the side of a building. First, I stepped into a jacket kind of thing, one leg in each hole.  Then Angie fastened it tight so I could not fall.  Then she put on a harness with ropes attached to it, and attached my jacket to some ropes. I heard somebody say, “Lift Sammie up just a little,” and all at once my paws were off the ground and my whole body was, too!  I didn’t have time to be scared, because right away, Angie was lifted up, and I was close to her, my head next to hers.
And then the fun started.  Up, up, up we went, until we reached the top of the building.  My heart was beating fast, because I have never done anything like this before.  I licked Angie’s face to tell her I was doing just fine.  When we got to the top, Angie made sure that I did not hit the side of the building, and she used her hands and boots to keep me safe.  We stayed in our harnesses, and then it was time to lower us to the ground.  Slowly, we made it all the way back down.  Angie took off my jacket, and her harness, and we watched some other dogs go up to the top of the building.  They all looked funny, with their 4 legs just sticking out in the air.  I must have looked just like that.
You may wonder why we did this.  In a disaster, there could be a time when we could not walk to our search area.  We might need to use a system like this one to get to the place where we need to look for people.  Now I will know what to expect if that ever happens.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Be Ready, Just In Case…..

You should see Angie's truck.  There is everything I could ever need in there, just in case...extra leashes, collars, toys, treats, water, bowls, dog shampoo, towels and a collapsible kennel. It is important to be prepared, because if something happened, like a hurricane, there might not be time to get everything together.  Here are some good ideas about getting ready, just in case.....

Pet Emergency Supply Kit

  1. Pet Identification (collar and tags and/or microchip number).  Be sure to keep your pet’s information updated with your current phone number, cell phone number, and address. 
  2. Current photo of your pet in case you are separated.
  3. First aid supplies. 
  4. Three day supply of cat or dog food in a waterproof container.  Be sure to replace food frequently to maintain its freshness.
  5. Three day supply of bottled water.  For a small dog or cat (< 20 lbs), you would need ½ gallon.  For a larger dog (60 lbs), you would need 1 ½ gallons.  Additional water may be needed if you live in a hot climate.
  6. Leashes and/or carriers.
  7. Waste clean-up supplies (litterbox, litter, plastic bags).
  8. Keep medications in a central location for easy retrieval.  Keep a copy of your pet’s medical records/vaccination history in a waterproof container.
  9. Contact list with your veterinarian’s information, as well as pet-friendly shelters or hotels in case you need to leave your location and evacuate.
  10. Display a pet rescue decal on your front door to let first responders know there is a dog or cat in the home.
Thanks to Alexis Willingham, DVM, at Prosper Trail Animal Hospital for these great preparedness tips!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pet Safety Tips

I get so excited when it is time for training, or even a game of retrieve, that I don't stop and take care of myself.  That's Angie's job.  Here are some ways that she makes sure I stay safe.  Thanks to my friend, Alexis Willingham, DVM, for sharing these important tips.

Identifying Your Pet:
  Be sure your pet is wearing a collar with identification tags or has a microchip should they get lost.  Update identification tags and microchip information any time there is a change in your contact information such as phone number or address.   Having your pet microchipped is the only way to permanently identify your pet as collars and tags can fall off or be removed.

Keeping Cool:  Always make sure your pet has access to fresh water and plenty of shade.  If a heat advisory is announced, it is best to keep pets indoors.  Take walks in the early morning or late evening when it is cooler, and avoid hot pavement which can burn dog’s paws.

Warning Signs of Heatstroke:  Heatstroke can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment.  Warning signs to watch for include excessive panting, drooling, bright red gums, weakness, balance problems, lethargy, labored breathing, and even seizures.  If you see any of these signs, take your pet immediately to your veterinarian.

Seeing the Sites by Car:  Never leave your pet in the car alone no matter how quickly you think you will return.  Vehicles can heat to over 100 degrees in mere minutes!  Always secure your pet in the car with a harness, seat belt, or carrier to protect themselves and other passengers.

Going by Plane:  Confirm with your airline that you are flying with your pet, the carrier size and dimensions allowed, and if a USDA health certificate is required.  If you are concerned your pet may be stressed or scared by travel, talk with your veterinarian about what options are available to decrease anxiety.

Staying Current on Exams and Vaccinations:  Physical exams allow you to be proactive versus reactive in your pet’s health by detecting conditions early.  Keeping your pets current on vaccinations, protects them from infectious and often fatal diseases.  Make sure your pet is ready for summer travel by discussing your pet’s lifestyle and history with your veterinarian.

Protecting Against Pests:  Warm temperatures mean fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other biting insects are on the prowl.  Consult your veterinarian on the best preventatives for your area and your pet’s lifestyle.

Swimming Safety:  Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and even the best swimmers can get in to trouble sometimes.  Always watch your pet around the pool, beach, or lake.

Avoiding Poisons:  Keep pets away from fertilizers and insecticides and always store chemicals out of their reach.  Remember certain foods are toxic to pets, so keep pets away from the picnic basket.

Preparing for Emergencies:  Summertime can bring severe weather in the form of hurricanes, wildfires, and thunderstorms.  Be prepared by keeping an emergency supply kit readily available.  Know how to contact your veterinarian quickly and where the closest pet emergency clinic is located. 

Thanks to Dr. Willingham at Prosper Trail Animal Hospital

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My New Tooth

All dogs have 2 sets of teeth.  There are “puppy teeth” which are tiny, and they fall out after a while, making room for the big teeth, which are not supposed to fall out.  They are strong, and can be used to chew food, hold on to tug toys, and in some dogs, bite bad guys.

I cracked one of my big teeth a few weeks ago.  Angie didn’t see what I was doing, because she was on the rubble pile with Snap and his dad.  Sometimes I just go crazy when I hear other dogs working, and even though it is wrong, I bite the side of my wire crate. This time, when I did that, part of my tooth fell off, and it kind of stuck in my throat.  So when it was my turn to work, I was kind of coughing, and the tooth hurt, so I did not really want to tug. 

Angie said, “Sammie, I don’t know what is wrong with you, but I don’t think you feel good.”  She was right.

A few days later, I went to the dentist for dogs, and right away she could tell that I had a tooth that was in bad shape.  And I ended up having something called a “root canal.”  I’m not sure what that means, but I know that the tooth feels better now. 

I had to eat soft food for 5 days, and here is the worst part:  NO TUGGING!!  That is because the tooth has to get a cover put on it, to make it strong again, and that cover will not be here for a week.  I can still go to training, and search, and I can still have my toy, but it is not as much fun.  I know that soon I will have my tooth covered and strong. 

Oh, and one more thing.  I don’t have a wire crate anymore; instead I have one with plastic sides that are not very easy to bite.  Sorry, Angie…I will try to be more careful with my teeth.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Eyes and Teeth

I have told you before about all the vets (doctors for dogs) who help me stay healthy.  Now there are two more to add to that list.  I don’t think Angie sees as many doctors as I do.  It is a good thing that these people are nice.

There is a vet who takes care of my eyes.  There are always lots of dogs and some cats when I visit him, which is just once a year for a check-up.  Some of the dogs only have one eye.  I don’t know what happened to the other one.  Maybe it is like the dogs with a short tail.  The eye just fell out.

Anyway, I go into a small, dark room, and Dr. S puts some drops in my eyes, and then he uses a special tool to look into them.  It does not hurt, and he always gives me treats.  It does not take very long, and it is close to home.
A few days ago, I went for the first time to a vet who takes care of teeth.  She is called a dentist, and I was there for a long time.  Her name is Dr. M, and she is really excited about teeth of all kinds of animals.  She told Angie that she might get to work on the teeth of a tiger who lives at the zoo. Yikes! I would not get near the mouth of an animal so big.  Dr. M opened my mouth and checked my teeth, and then she talked to Angie.

Here is where I feel a little embarrassed because I have done some things that are not healthy.  Before I came to live with Angie, I ate bones and other hard stuff that was not good for my teeth. And when I was in the shelter, sometimes I would chew on the walls of the kennel, and that is also bad for teeth. So now I have a tooth that is cracked, which means that part of it is gone.  It could get infected, so Angie decided that the dentist could make it better. I am not sure what will happen.

I thought that brushing my teeth every day was enough.  This just shows me that there is a lot that goes into having teeth that are in good shape.  I am glad that Angie takes such good care of me!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Left Behind

I am not a happy dog.  Listen to what happened today.  It may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it is.  Angie got dressed this morning in blue jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, not her uniform, except for her boots and gloves.  So right away, I know something is up.  And I think, well, maybe we are going to training at a place where she wears different clothes.  Cool.  But then, she feeds me breakfast and walks out the door.  WITHOUT ME!

I stay in my crate, I sleep, I wait for her to come home.  Her friend, Patti, the one who fed me sausage and popcorn at the beach, came to check on me and give me my dinner.  So it is late in the day.  I like Patti better when she gives me special treats, but this time, she just took me for a walk and put my normal food in my bowl.

Finally, it is starting to get dark outside, and Angie walks in the door.  Right away, I can smell that she has been hanging out with Sasha and Snap’s dad, and I am suspicious.  But I do not smell any dogs on her.  Where has she been?  What is going on?

She acts like she is happy, and then she shows me a picture.  All this time, she has been playing on a helicopter.  It turns out that just like people hide in the rubble for me to find, the helicopter rescue guys need people to pretend like they are in trouble.  She was in a bus, and the helicopter guys rescued her, and put her close to them in a basket or harness, and took her in the air to a safe place.

I am glad that she was able to, I think the word is, “volunteer” to help them.  But here is the thing…I would love, love, love to ride in a helicopter.  I have been on one that was standing still on the ground, and I still remember all the noise, and the strong wind blowing.  But it would be different to be inside the helicopter.  I think I would like that, to be in the air, off the ground, tucked in close to Angie.  Okay, thanks for listening to me whine.  I am over it now, and I hear we are going to Disaster City this weekend, so I am a happy dog now!

Monday, June 24, 2013


I know that not every day can be fun, or special; we cannot train all the time, and some days are just kind of boring.  Nothing much happens, and I am in my crate most of the day.  Today is one of those days, with one break early in the morning.  Even that was not about me, it was about helping one of Angie’s friends with her young dog, a German Shepherd named Harley.

Harley gets very nervous when there is a change in her world.  Even a paper bag blowing across the grass makes her bark.  She barks when somebody rides by on a bicycle, or a car drives into the parking lot.  I can hear her when she and her mom get to the park to meet us.  We have been working with her almost every week, because one of her biggest problems is being around other dogs.  We do not run or play, instead we are both on our leashes.  Harley and I walk past each other, then turn around and walk the other way.  This is so she can learn that other dogs are not a big deal, and that if she watches her mom, good things happen, like she gets these treats that are steak or turkey, the real stuff.
I know that it is important to help other dogs.  After all, I learned a lot from being around some great search dogs.  And I stay very calm around Harley.  Sometimes I know she is staring at me, and today I think she really wanted to play.  Maybe one of these days we will be able to get closer to each other, but right now, we keep our distance in the parking lot where we practice.

And right now, there are 3 dogs in crates in MY kitchen because today must be all about helping others.  This has happened once before.  I know they are just visitors and that Angie is taking them to the vet.  She will meet their mom there, and they will go home with her.  Still, it just doesn’t feel right to have them here.

Do I sound selfish?  I think so.  I need to remember that life is not always about me.  It is also about being a good friend to dogs and humans. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Even Search Dogs have Homework

You probably think that my whole life is about searching, playing on rubble piles, getting to tug with the people I find, and having so much fun at training.  I know it sounds that way, but it is not like that all the time. There is this word, “obedience,” and another word, “control,” that are important. Here is what they mean…I must follow directions, do what I am told, and not just be in business for myself.

Here are some examples of how these words apply to my everyday life.  Instead of running like a crazy dog when it is time to go outside, or load up in the car, I must “heel” or walk on Angie’s left side, slowly.  Even if I am so hungry and really want to get my dinner, if Angie tells me, “Sammie, down, stay,” I have to do that.  She puts my food in the bowl, and I must wait to eat until she tells me, “get it.”

It can be especially hard for me to be under control when we are at Disaster City at the dog playground where there is a tunnel, a teeter-totter, and my all-time favorite, a ladder.  Just the other day, I got in trouble because I was told to walk the teeter-totter.  Well, the ladder was so close, and I love to climb it and walk across the high plank.  I know it was wrong, but I jumped off the teeter-totter and ran to the ladder.  By the time Angie called me back, I was all the way to the top.

She did not let me walk down the ladder.  Instead, she came over to the ladder and lifted me off, and of course, made me heel over to the teeter-totter. I did it this time, and then she let me go climb.  Times like these are very tough for me.  I am the same way about the tunnel.  I want to go through it, and turn around and go back the way I came.  It is almost as much fun as the ladder.

Here is something else we practice at home.  Angie tells me, “down” and “stay” and then she leaves me all by myself, and I cannot move.  Well, I can move my head or tail just a little, but I cannot get up.  And when she comes back, I must wait until she tells me “sit” to move.  Sometimes we practice this with Sprinkles, Sasha, and Snap.  Even if a squirrel runs by, we must stay in a line.

All of this is so I stay safe, and do a good job as Angie’s partner.  Still, it is really hard work!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A day at the beach

Guess where I went?  Galveston! And believe it or not, I have never seen the ocean before or walked on a beach.  Angie and I stayed at a house with some of her friends, and there was a porch that looked out over the water.  I could walk down the steps whenever I wanted, and it was so much fun.  Next door, there were 2 German Shepherds, but we did not meet.

We got there late in the afternoon, and Kip fixed dinner for all of us.  One of Angie’s friends, Patti, kept sneaking food to me.  She gave me some chicken, part of a tortilla, and even popcorn!  I NEVER get that kind of food at home, and it was delicious.  I could feel my teeth chattering every time Patti reached down to give me something, I was so excited.  By the time we went to sleep, I was one happy dog.

The next morning, Angie and I walked out on the beach.  I took a red squeaky ball in my mouth.  I could not figure out all the water, and the waves.  I put my paws in the shallow part, where the ocean met the sand.  It was too cold for me to even think about swimming.  There were lots of new smells.  Running in the sand was weird, and every time I fetched the red ball, sand got in my mouth.  Still, it was fun.

When we got back to the house, Patti was eating breakfast, and of course, I remembered from the night before that she gave me food.  So I sat down and stared at her.  It didn’t take long before she gave me some pieces of apple and banana, and the best…sausage!  Patti told Angie that we were on vacation, and it was just fine just this one time, for me to be treated in a special way.  I agree!

Now we are home, and I am eating my usual dry dog food, and everything is the same as always.  No beach, no water, no treats from Patti.  But that’s okay.  I know that if we go back to Galveston, there will be delicious food coming my way, as long as Patti is there.  Thanks for a great time!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Hungriest Dog

Angie had a dog named Shade, before I came to live with her.  Shade was a small, black lab, and she was 3 years old when Angie rescued her from a shelter.  She had lived for a long time on the street – a stray dog who probably ate from trash cans, dumpsters, and anything that she found lying on the streets.  Even though she was fed in the shelter, and when she came to Angie’s house, she always acted like she was afraid she would never eat again.

Shade was a search dog, not on rubble, but in parks, woods, and other places where people could get lost.  Just like me, she would bark when she found somebody.  Guess what her reward was?  Food, and a toy.  She liked both, and if Angie gave her just one, she wanted the other.  So first she got food (and she did not care what kind of food it was), and then a big orange bumper that she liked to retrieve.

When Angie was training Shade, she had to tell her many times to “leave it’” because that dog would put anything in her mouth…empty bags of chips, left-over chicken bones, and even small animals like rats. One time during training, Shade had a tail dangling from her mouth when she found the person who was hiding. That is disgusting!

Angie tells a story about how one Thanksgiving while nobody was looking, Shade took an entire mincemeat pie off the counter and ate it.  Another time, when she went to visit one of Angie’s friends, she ate a plate of lemon bars.  And another time, when she should have been waiting her turn to meet a trainer, she ate half of a chocolate cake and several donuts.  You can see that dog would eat anything!

The most dangerous thing happened when Shade was staying with one of Angie’s friends.  She found some medicine at the bottom of a backpack, chewed the bottle, and swallowed all of the medicine.  She was so sick that she almost needed an operation.  Angie’s friend felt terrible that this happened.  She thought the backpack was empty. Remember, keep all medicine away from pets. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Doctors for Dogs

I was thinking about all the doctors (they are called veterinarians, “vets” for short) who take such good care of me and my friends.  Sometimes I see the same person, but not always.  Today I went to the biggest place, where there are many vets, and some people who are learning how to be vets when they finish school.  Angie and I drove to College Station, like we do once a year.  Today I got 2 shots, a spray in my nose, and some blood taken by a tiny needle.  And don’t feel sorry for me.  The whole time there were needles, Angie was feeding me Easy Cheese that was spread on a spoon.  So I wasn’t feeling any pain!

My regular vet at home is Dr. P.  I love going to see him.  He always calls me “kiddo.”  And he lives very close to me.  He is also the vet for Sprinkles and sometimes for Sasha.  One time during a search, Sasha cut her foot really bad, and Dr. P waited for her to get to his office so he could make sure she would get stitched up.  I think he is my favorite vet.

Then there are the vets who come to training at Disaster City.  They are the ones who check my temperature after I finish working, and sometimes when it is very hot, they put water in my body through a needle in my skin.  It does not hurt at all, and I feel better afterwards.  There are always students with them who are learning to take care of dogs.  I saw one of them yesterday in College Station, and she remembered me.

And there is a place called an “Emergency Clinic” that is open all day and all night. This is where dogs go who are hurt or sick, and their regular vet is closed. Like that time when a snake bit me, it was Saturday afternoon, and Dr. P’s office was closed.  As soon as Angie told them I was bitten by a snake, the vet saw me REALLY fast.  Or if a dog gets hit by a car, or is bleeding, those dogs get seen right away.  Oh, and cats can go there, too.  My mom’s friend, Carrie, has a 4-month-old puppy, and she went there on a Sunday because her leg was hurt, and Carrie was worried about her.

There are Emergency Clinics in every city.  It is important to know where the closest one is so that you can get there quickly if something happens late at night or on a weekend or even on a holiday.  And if Angie goes on a trip without me, she always tells whoever is taking care of me where the Emergency Clinic is located.  I hope you never need one, but just in case……

Monday, March 11, 2013


There are several cats in my life, even though I only live with one of them, Oscar. He is the one who was at my house when I first got here from the shelter.  And he is still around.  Here is what I do not like about Oscar:

1. He gets to go inside and outside whenever he wants.  Sometimes he stays outside all night.  I only get to go outside when Angie, Kip or Chris take me.
2. Oscar does not ever wear a leash. 
3. This is disgusting.  Sometimes, he comes home with a tail or feather of some small animal or bird hanging out of his mouth.  I would NEVER do that.
4. His claws are sharp, and if he decides to jump on me, even if it is just to play, those claws hurt.

Now here is what I like about Oscar:
1. He does not get to come to training with Angie and me.

There are 2 other cats that live close to our house.  They are GIANT cats.  One is named Cameo, a white cat.  The other is named Oreo, a black and white cat.  Sometimes, when Angie takes me for a walk, Cameo scares me.  He hides under a car, or a bush and then hisses at me.  And Oreo likes to stare down at me from way up high in a tree. 

Both of these cats are brave.  When Angie opens the car door, they have jumped in the front seat.  There is a sign in the window of the house where they live.  It says:  “Warning: this house is protected by attack cats.” Now that is pretty scary!