Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Reminders

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve and all the other winter holidays, people have lots of fun.  Sometimes there are parties, presents, and special trees, lights, candles and food, lots of food.  Here are a few ideas on how to make sure dogs (and cats) can be part of your celebrations, and not get hurt or sick. 

Poinsettias and holly can be a problem if a dog or cat takes a bite or a lick.  That can make us vomit or give us a painful sore place on mouths and tongues.  The pine needles that fall off Christmas trees or flower arrangements can also make us sick.  Angie always puts all flowers out of my reach because I have been known to sample them.  And this is also the time of year when little kids make treats for birds, and hang them outside on trees.  I like the one that has peanut butter in the middle and seeds on the outside.  Next door, one of these fell on the ground, and I could smell that peanut butter.  Not a good idea…

Speaking of treats, there are lots of them that can cause problems.  Chocolate is the one most people know about.  I know a dog who ate a whole bag of chocolate chips, and was very sick.  That dog even had seizures.  So don’t leave chocolate around, or nuts.  The best idea is to get your dog a rawhide bone or special treat that is just for dogs.

And remember that your pets can tell if you are upset about something.  So if you are worried about finding the perfect gift, or sad because you miss a person or pet who is no longer here, we know, and our behavior might be different.  The same goes for having lots of people around us.  And finally, please don’t dress me up to look like a reindeer!

I hope we all have a healthy and happy holiday season!

Monday, November 24, 2014


There is a special day for humans that is a time to think about all of the good things that are in their lives.  This day is called Thanksgiving, and it sometimes also means a yummy meal that smells great.  At our house, there is turkey and pumpkin pie.  Angie’s mom bakes the pie and brings it over.  And one time, when I had no manners, I jumped up on the counter and ate half of it.  Oh, wait, I am supposed to tell you what is good in my life, besides the food.
Here is my list.  I would like to say thank you for:
  1. Taking me home from the shelter, and giving me such a great family.
  2. Giving me the chance to have a job that gets me a tug toy.
  3. Texas Task Force 1 and all of my adventures.
  4. Disaster City, the rubble piles, the trains, and the buildings where I find people.
  5. The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team, who come out to make sure all dogs are safe and healthy, every time we are at Disaster City.
  6. All of the dogs who are my friends, especially Sasha and Sprinkles.
Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!  Be sure to take a few minutes to be grateful for all of the blessings in your life, including the ones with fur and 4 legs.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Dog Who Ate Too Much

First of all, this is not about me. I am not that dog…but I think that this story could be about almost any Labrador Retriever out there. We are known to be food hounds. But enough about us. Let me tell you what happened.

A few of us were at Disaster City, including Sasha, Pigeon and Cojo. There were also a couple of young dogs who are just learning how to do their jobs. Angie was hiding for Pigeon, but before Pigeon started to search, his mom called out, “Angie, could you come take a look at my dog?” I was in my kennel in the car when this happened, but I could see what was going on next to Rubble Pile 1. Angie got off the pile, and she felt the dog’s stomach and looked closely at him. I could tell that Pigeon was not moving right, and he was not excited about going on the pile. That is not a good sign.

All at once, Pigeon’s car drove away. As it turned out, he was on his way to see Dr. Z, the vet who takes care of us. I could tell that Angie was worried, and so were the other humans. Here is what happened. There is a machine that can see inside of a dog’s body, and you will not believe what was in Pigeon’s stomach…..6 to 8 cups of dog food that were making his belly stretch out so big that it hurt. That is a lot of food, and it took a long time for it to get out of the dog. Well, you know how dogs go potty.

I bet you are wondering, how did Pigeon get so much food? It turns out that there is one container of food at his house that does not have a twist top. This one has a little latch on it, and he used his mouth to open it, and eat too much! Pigeon is fine now, but he did not eat for a couple of days. Feel better, my friend!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Just in Case

This is the time of year when weather can get bad, like hurricanes and tornadoes. Angie and Kip are always ready, and have extra food, bottled water, flashlights, and lots of other stuff for our family. And I know there is always at least a half tank of gas in the car (that is why we stop for gas after every trip to Disaster City).

I am part of our family, and to everybody reading this, if you have dogs or cats (yes, Oscar is also part of the family), remember that what is best for humans is also best for us. The most important thing I can say to you is: “Do not leave us behind.” If you evacuate, do not think that we will be OK without you. If you go, we go. Find out what shelters and hotels allow pets, because not all of them do. If you decide to travel to a safe place out of town, like a friend’s house, be sure that pets are welcome.

Put together an emergency kit just for us. We need food, water, leashes, bowls, our medicine, first aid supplies, and for cats, a litter box. You know I don’t need that, but Oscar does. Be sure to have ziplock bags so that our food stays dry…and towels that are throw-away. Keep copies of our veterinary records, and please make sure we are wearing identification tags.

Do not put a cat in a crate with a dog, or put a dog in a crate with another dog, or 2 cats in the same cat carrier. Even though we may all be great friends, when the weather changes, or our humans get upset, we might act differently than normal. Have a separate kennel for each of us. That way we will be safe and comfortable.

Please do not wait. We count on you to protect us.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Treats for Me

Today, while Angie was not home (very important part of the story), Chris’ friend came over to our house.  Whenever he visits, the first words he says are, “Can I give Sammie a treat?”  Chris always says, “Yes, but she has to work for anything that she gets.” 

Today was so much fun!  Diego, the friend, opened my kennel, and told me to “sit.”  And then he gave me a treat.  He took me for a walk, and when I waited to cross the street, there was another treat.  On the way home, he told me “down,” and there were more treats.  I NEVER get treats for taking a walk, so this was pretty special.  I could tell that Diego thought I was very smart.  He has a small dog named Jingles who is not as much fun as I am.

When we got home from the walk, Chris told Diego to put me back in my kennel.  Diego said, “Just one more…please?”  That was good news for me because what he meant was, “Can Sammie stay out and get some more treats? Chris said that was OK, and I did whatever I was told, like sitting, lying down, shaking hands, heeling, and using my nose to figure out which hand had the treat.

I think that it is OK once in a while, for somebody to spoil me.  I probably didn’t need all those treats, because I really didn’t do any work like in training. Still, it felt good to have somebody just act like I was a good girl for doing not that much.  Thanks, Diego.  You can come back to our house anytime!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dogs in Dallas

We traveled to Dallas for training, and it was a lot of fun.  This was my first time there.  Sprinkles and I loaded up in the car together, and we could tell it was going to be a long trip.  I thought at first that we were going to Disaster City, but when we were on the road longer, I knew that we were going to a different place.

The first day we went to a rubble pile.  There was a car and a van in the pile, and that made it different.  There were also new people who hid and tugged with me, and I always enjoy that (if they know how to tug, and these people did).  It was a hot day so I drank a lot of water to stay hydrated.

We spent the night in a hotel, and Angie brought chew bones for Sprinkles and me.  First Sprinkles took my bone, then I took Sprinkles’ bone, and we kept on switching bones.  They are more special like that.  We both tried to jump on the beds because we like leaping from one bed to the other one, but that kind of play is not allowed.  We each slept in a soft kennel, and tried to be good dogs.

The next day we went to the biggest pallet pile I have ever seen.  It is hard to tell you how tall it was.  When I looked up, I could not believe I was going to be able to train on it.  The first time Angie told me to “Search,” I ran so fast that I slipped on a slick piece of plastic.  My back legs fell onto the wood, and my front legs were on the plastic, and I was stuck, not able to move.  Angie came over and lifted me up by the fur on my neck, and I was good to go.  The next problem was also fun because I ran up the other side of the pile, and then down to the ground where somebody was hiding.

I really like going to new places to train because it makes me a better search dog.  Thanks, Angie, for the road trip!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crate Break

I stay in a crate in the kitchen while my family is away from home.  It has a soft mat in it, and is very comfortable.  I also sleep there at night.  As soon as Angie, Kip or Chris get home, one of them always opens the door and lets me out.  So imagine my surprise when one day the door just fell off while I was inside!  Nobody was home.  What should I do? What could I do?

Here is what I thought about doing, so many things.  I could jump up on the kitchen counter where there was a loaf of bread, and some coffee in a can…or I could go into the study and lie down on the couch where there are some pillows I could destroy.  Hmmm, and there are Angie’s boots.  I have a weakness for shoes, and they smell so good.  And that is just downstairs.  If I go upstairs, there are beds, not dog beds, human beds, and more pillows.  There are dirty smelly clothes in a basket that I could drag out and chew on the bed.  Oh, and my toothbrush and toothpaste are b

Or I could stay in the kitchen and be a good dog, and not get in trouble.  In the end, that is what I did.  When Angie walked through the door, she asked me, “Sammie, what happened?” Then she checked out all the places where I thought about going.  When she was satisfied that I stayed in the kitchen, she told me what a good dog I was, and gave me a treat.  Since I was so good, maybe she will let me stay out of my kennel while she is gone.  I promise that I will be good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer visits

I thought there was just one kind of school, but there is another called Vacation Bible School.  I visited two of them this summer, and there was a lot of music and singing…but I didn’t hear my name so the songs were not about me.  One time I went up on a stage, and everybody listened while Angie told them about me.  The other time I went to one place, and groups of little kids came to see me, kind of like Career Day.

The other place I visited was where people go to exercise and stay healthy.  There was a big room with a slick wood floor, and a lot of kids were waiting for me.  You might think that a floor like that makes walking easy, but that is not true.  It feels slippery, and when I try to run, my feet kind of go out from under me.  This is a place where people play basketball, so they wear shoes that make it easy for them.

When I went in the room, the kids’ backpacks were all piled up.  I smelled some sandwiches, cookies, chips, and pickles.  Yummm.  But I knew that I could not mess around with those distractions.  Somebody was hiding under soft mats, and I jumped on top of the mats and barked.  And at the end, everybody wanted to pet me.  This always happens.  Some of them ask Angie if I can go home with them, and the answer is always the same, “No!”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Career Day

I did not know the meaning of the word, “career,” but now I know it means the same as “job.”  Angie and I went to a school where there were people talking to students about what kind of jobs they could have when they graduated from high school.  I was the only dog there, and Angie talked about what it was like to work with me.  First, there was this big meeting in front of lots of people, and when it was Angie’s turn to introduce herself, I went with her and hupped on a chair so that everybody could see me.  No big deal, but there was a lot of applause.

Then we visited 8 classrooms, and this took a long time.  At first, I was kind of excited and ready to go, but at the end of the day, I was lying sideways down, really tired from all of the talking and petting.  Angie tried to make it fun for me by taking my toy out of her pack, and showing the students how much I enjoyed tugging.  I never got tired of that part. 

She would move it slowly back and forth, side to side, and my eyes followed it; then she told me, “Get it, Sammie!”  Then we played a good tug game.  She also talked to the students about what I do when I find somebody in the rubble.  She asked them, “Do you think Sammie sends me a text from her cell phone?”  I think some of them thought she was serious, and then she told them how I barked loudly, and I demonstrated my special bark for them.

I was more tired from this day than from a day of training on rubble.  I think it was because I kept thinking I was going to work, since Angie wore her boots and training clothes.  Still, it was important for the students to know what it takes to work with a dog like me, and to think about that as a career, or job, that they might like one day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Warehouse Training

Last weekend, we got in the car, and Angie was in her uniform with all these bags in the back, so I knew that we were off to Disaster City.  I can always tell…only this time I was wrong.  We did drive for a long time, which is the same as when we go to Disaster City, but we stopped at a big building.  I have been there before.  It is where all of the stuff is kept for when we go on a deployment, like to a hurricane or explosion.  So there are boats, trucks, tools, cots, and all kinds of gear…not just for dogs, but for Texas Task Force 1 to use to help people.

Still, I thought we might get to train.  The first direction Angie gave me was, “Kennel,” and there was one already set up.  There was another dog next to me, Cojo, a yellow lab who is my friend.  He was sleeping, but looked up when he smelled me.  And then I waited, and waited, and waited.  Finally, Angie put my leash on my collar, and we took a walk with a lot of other people.  They were all carrying big backpacks.  Cojo was with us, and also Sprinkles and a black lab named Pigeon.  And that is all we did, no training, just that walk.  It was kind of boring.  And then back in our kennels, all 4 dogs.

We spent the night in the warehouse, and I was quiet.  I did have a hard time sleeping because I was not really tired.  After all, I didn’t do much during the day.  The next morning, we went home.  But before we got there, Angie stopped at the park so I could run and play fetch.  I know that not all training is about me, and that sometimes I must practice staying calm and waiting.  I know that, but it doesn’t make it easy.  After all, I am a working dog!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Trip to Arkansas

Let me tell you about the latest deployment, the first one in a really long time.  That is a good thing because it means that nothing bad has happened that would mean people needed my help.  Still, it is what Angie and I train for all the time, and if there is a bad situation, we are there to do whatever we can to make things better.

It was late at night. I was asleep in my kennel, and dreaming of chasing my orange ball, when the lights come on in the kitchen. There are gear bags everywhere, and Kip is taking them to the car.  Even though it is not time for breakfast, Angie puts my food in a bowl, and I eat.  Then we are on our way to College Station, where we stay for a short time and then get on a bus with lots of people, and three other dogs, Sprinkles, Cojo, and a new dog named Jay.  We were on that bus for a really long time.  We stopped once for a break, but the rest of the time I lay on my mat, napping and just resting.

When we arrived in Arkansas, we stayed in a small building with 8 humans and 4 dogs.  I had some trouble sleeping that first night because I had been on the bus all day, and because there was a lot of snoring from the humans.  I also smelled a strange odor because I was sprayed to prevent ticks that could make me very sick.

The next day was better because I was able to play fetch several times during the day.  That helped me relax.  Still, I wanted to train or go to work, but that didn’t happen.  That night I slept better, but there was even more snoring than the night before.  Angie never snores!  She is a quiet sleeper.

We left for home the next day; another long day on the bus.  I was glad to get home and sleep in my quiet kennel, no snoring to bother me.  And I was glad to know that even though we did not work in Arkansas, we were ready to do whatever it took to help other people. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sharing Disaster City

Lots of dogs came to Disaster City for the weekend, and I made some new friends.  We all stayed in our groups, and played for 2 days on all of the cool stuff.  The dogs in my group were George, Noah, Nytro, Duke, Rainy, and Luke. They were all labs like me, except for one dog who looked like Sprinkles. Dogs traveled from California, Ohio, Nebraska, Indiana, and other states because they wanted to come to my favorite place.  And of course, they were not disappointed!

I think that the trains were a favorite, especially when Angie hid in the luggage rack above the seats.  You should have seen those dogs go so fast, too fast, and then turn and dance on their back legs when they caught her scent.  She threw toys down to them, and they were very excited.

There was also a tough problem on Rubble Pile 1.  Two people hid very close to each other, and there was a lot of scent in the same place.  I used my nose very carefully so that I could tell that there were 2 of them, not just one.  This was challenging for all of us.

All dogs were polite, and respected each other.  I did not see any fights or problems.  And the vets were there to check on us every day.  The first day was hot, and the next day was cold, so most of the dogs had a lot more energy.  I was not tired at the end of the weekend, but I did sleep well.

And guess where Angie and I stayed?  We were in a hotel with 2 other people and their dogs, Pigeon and Cojo.  Of course, we all slept in our kennels at night, and did not bother each other.  Well, that is not exactly true.  I tried to get one of Pigeon’s toys, and I went into Cojo’s kennel while he was outside.  I am always curious, and I sure hope we get to see each other again soon. I think all my new friends had a good time at my favorite place!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Visit to Sasha’s House

You are probably thinking that this is about a fun time at my friend’s house, but you would be wrong.  Well, it was a little bit fun, but not what I expected.  Angie and I got out of the car, and I was excited because I was ready to play…or get a massage from the man who is there sometimes.  We walked in the back door, and I heard Sasha barking, but I did not see her. I think she was in her room in the back of the house.  Instead, there were a bunch of small dogs and nobody was playing.

Then this lady came up to me, and she was holding a big camera.  We went outside and Angie told me to sit and stay while the lady took my picture.  It was not easy because I could smell where other dogs had been, and also the horses and cats who stay at Sasha’s.  First I sat in front of some blue flowers, and then in front of a bush, and finally in front of some red flowers that were right by the swimming pool.

That was the worst, because I wanted to jump in the water.  I kept looking at it, and then I looked at Angie when she told me to watch her.  More pictures, and finally Angie threw a toy in the pool.  I jumped high in the air with a big splash and got the toy.  And even though I was having fun, I noticed that the lady with the camera was still taking pictures of me.  That swimming was the best part of the day.

I guess some days are just more fun than others.  Poor Sasha, I hope that she knows I wanted to play, I really did.  Next time….

Monday, March 17, 2014

Two Spoiled Dogs

Angie came home yesterday and she had dog smells on her.  I didn’t recognize the smells...they did not belong to Sprinkles, Sasha, Snap or any of my friends.  Then she told me about the dogs.  Get ready to say, “Are you kidding?”

The two dog she had been to see are Briards, which are big, long-haired dogs that look sort of like a sheep dog.  There is a boy, Olivier, and a girl, Collette.  Their dad asked Angie to check on them while he was out of town.  He gave her a key that was attached to a stuffed Briard toy. (It looked like it would be fun to destroy!)

These dogs get eggs and cheese for breakfast every morning, and cooked ground sirloin with kibble for dinner.  They have a big jar full of red licorice that they get for a snack.  I don’t know of any other dogs who eat that kind of food!

There are no seat belts in their dad’s car because the dogs have chewed them off.  They have a big cushion in the back of the car where there used to be seats.  Now it is more like a big dog bed that takes up all that space.

These dogs jumped on Angie, and their dad told her, “They will settle down.” Still, they are too big to be jumping on people.  Do you think they stay in a kennel during the day?  Or sleep in one?  Oh, no..they run free in the house, and they have done a lot of damage!  They have used the bathroom inside the house, on the curtains, and on the carpet.  They have scratched the paint off of the door because they scratch on it when there is any kind of noise. 

Angie told me, “Sammie, you are such a good girl.  I would never bring these dogs to our house because they have no manners.  Thank you for working hard and making me proud of you.”  I love it when she talks to me like that. The sound of her words and the way she looks at me make me want to be the best dog in the world!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Best Long Down

You probably know that as part of my obedience training, I have to lie down and stay that way, even if there are other dogs around, and even if – and this is the hardest part for me – Angie walks out of sight.  I cannot get up until she tells me that I am “all done.”

Guess what happened after training yesterday?  Sasha, Sprinkles, Snap, and 2 visiting dogs were on a down stay with me.  We were in a line, but our bodies were not touching…6 dogs in all.  Angie walked away, and Sprinkles’ mom walked out in front of us with a bag.  She took out lots of soft toys and put them on the ground in front of us.  I was very excited, and I know that my friends were, too. 

Remember, we were supposed to stay.  Angie walked back in sight, and told me to “stay.”  And then, one by one, each dog was able to choose a toy.  Sprinkles put two in her mouth.  Sasha picked out a toy with a squeaker, and I chose one that makes a crunchy sound because there is an empty water bottle inside.  Snap decided on a monkey with a hat and long legs.

We all walked back to our cars with our toys in our mouths.  No fighting, of course.  It was so much fun!

Sprinkles kept both of her soft toys.  I think mine is the best, because of the crunchy sound, and because when it stops crunching, Angie puts another water bottle inside, and it sounds just like new.

I like this kind of obedience training that ends with a new toy for each dog…but it doesn’t happen often.  That’s what makes it so special.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day Trip

Angie, Chris, Kip, and I took a trip to visit somebody in another city.  I know this sounds strange, but I have not stayed in a house before that was not my own.  Yes, I have been on airplanes, boats, and in hotels, tents, and warehouses, but this was different because there were so many smells and people.

When we arrived, even outside of the front door, I smelled another dog.  His name is Milton, and you can see from the picture that he is not too big.  His mom said that he came from a shelter, just like me.  He was friendly, as long as I did not come near his favorite toy, which is a rubber chicken that squeaks.  I shared his water, and we ate from different bowls.  He always gets rice with his dog food, and I got some, too.

It was very busy at Milton’s house.  Lots of people came to visit, and there was talking, eating, and some loud noises.  At least it sounded loud to me.  When I am home, my family is pretty quiet.  Angie brought my crate inside, but I did not want to go in it.  I kept running up and down the stairs, and sometimes Milton and I went into the backyard.

Finally, everybody left, and Milton and I took a walk around the neighborhood.  There were lots of new smells, and I liked that.  We came to an area where we could run without our leashes, and that felt great.  I stretched my body out long, and ran circles around Milton.  When we came back, I was able to relax enough to go to sleep in my crate.

The next day was the best.  Milton and I went to a trail that was not far from his house, and we explored.  I know he has been there before, but I could tell he was following me when I went to new parts.  Guess what animals we saw?  Three deer, running right in front of us. They were fast!  I needed that exercise, and when it was time to load up in the car to go back home, I took a nap.  I was so happy to get back to my own house, and I was even glad to see Oscar the cat, who we left behind.  I still think the best trips are the ones to Disaster City!