Monday, December 7, 2015

Training Trip to Kansas


Sprinkles and I just got back from a trip to Kansas, and it was at a place called Crisis City.  I know that sounds a lot like Disaster City, but it was not the same.  It was so much fun to travel to a different location where there are all new smells, new rubble piles, and new people to hide and play tug.  We flew on an airplane, and Angie made sure that we did not sit close to each other.  That is because sometimes we get all silly, like if one of us tries to get a belly rub, the other one will do the same thing.  It was not a long flight, and then we drove to our hotel.

The next morning we went to Crisis City, where we worked with a group of other dogs and handlers.  There were dogs from Washington, Indiana, Florida, New York, Virginia, and Colorado.  The weather was cold, and I was so excited.  The first thing I did was run the bases, and that was a good way to start the day so I could get rid of some of my crazy energy.  Then there was a chance to find somebody in the trains, which was fun.  I knew the person was up high, and I stood on my back two legs and barked until the toy dropped down.

The rubble piles were different than the ones at Disaster City because there were cars and buses on them.  That was cool, to find somebody in a rubble pile who was actually upside down in a car.  I was kind of bad, because even though Angie told me to come to her, I had a scent and I jumped on top of the car. I know I should show her more respect.

There was also a “village” of many buildings that were kind of like a maze.  There were lots of ways in and out, and it gave me a chance to work way out of sight of Angie.  I checked several buildings before I found one where a person was hiding. 

All of the dogs did well.  Let me see if I remember their names…Striker, Packer, Trashin, Pinta, and Jesse.  Most of them were Labrador Retrievers like me. There were some good tuggers, and I was tired when I got back to Texas.  But now I am ready to go train again!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tennis Balls in the Air

Did you know that tennis balls are not just for dogs?  I have several of them, and I also have tug toys that are made of the same material as the yellow balls.  Some squeak, some don’t, some have a rope attached, and some are in the shape of a circle.

Today at the park, which is a place that I have been so many times that it is almost embarrassing to tell you it was the first time I noticed 2 people in a place where there was a fence, and a net that went across.  They were using some kind of object to hit tennis balls over the net to each other.

When I saw this, I just stopped outside of the fence, and watched the balls go back and forth across the net.  My head was going from side to side as I kept a close eye on the action.  Finally, when I couldn’t wait, I ran toward where the 2 people were hitting the balls.  As soon as I did, Angie yelled, “Sammie, COME!” 

It turns out that there is a game called “tennis” and it is not a game for dogs.  I think it’s funny that humans and dogs use the same toy, but just for different reasons.

Monday, October 19, 2015

My friend, Sneakers

Did you know that some dogs are a combination of 2 different breeds?  For example, there are dogs who are part poodle and part Labrador. They are called Labradoodles.  And there are others who do not have a name, but you can tell by looking at them that they are a mix of dogs.  It’s kind of like when a peanut butter and jelly sandwich gets smushed together, and you can’t see each as a separate thing, just the way it looks after the smushing.

I know a dog named Sneakers who is part Catahoula and part Bassett Hound.  If you look at a picture of those 2, you will think, wow, that must be a funny looking dog.  Sneakers is very low to the ground with short legs, but her fur has markings like a Catahoula, which is a breed used for hunting.  She is all black and grey except for a white patch on her stomach.  And she does not like people to touch her.

Sneakers and I like to run at the park, but we don’t play together, share toys, or chase each other.  I am usually playing retrieve with somebody, while Sneakers hunts for squirrels.  She walks very slowly, nose to the ground, but when she smells a squirrel, she takes off fast.  The other thing she does is roll around in grass and leaves.  She gets on her back, with her short legs in the air, and when she gets up, her back is covered in grass and leaves. 

Good girl, Sneakers, for being a super squirrel chaser – even though you never catch one!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Basketball Court Training


Are you asking yourself if I am learning a new sport?  Am I going to play for a team that is not Texas Task Force !? No, of course not.  But I did go to a camp for kids where they were all lined up against the side of a basketball court that was inside of a building.  Here is what happened.

Angie and I waited for them to come in, and then she talked about how we work together to help people.  The first thing I noticed was that the floor was not like grass, or rubble, but very smooth and slick.  It was cool inside, but the floor was different.  And when it was time for me to find somebody who was hiding behind a big screen, Angie said, “Search!” and I took off running.  But it was impossible to run fast because my pads would slip on the floor.

When the person played tug with me, I also had a hard time because my pads did not have a good surface to grip.  Still, I held on, and everybody was excited to watch me.  After all, any tugging is fun for me.

At the end, some kids wanted to pet me, but the really little ones did not.  Angie always tells them, “It is ok to pet Sammie, but it is never ok to pet a dog you do not know.  You must always ask first.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Happened?

I am still not sure.  We were on our way to training, and I think we were going to Disaster City, because we got a very early start.  And then, after only a short drive, the car started to move in a strange way, like it was having trouble.  I know cars don’t get hurt, but it was almost like that.  Angie pulled over and even from my kennel, I could tell she was worried.  We did not drive anymore. We waited until this giant truck arrived.  I heard Angie call it a “toe truck.” (Why?  It does not have feet, so how could it have toes?) 

Our car went on this slanted platform on the back of the truck, because we could not drive our car.  It was not safe, and you know how important safety is.  Angie asked the driver if it was OK for me to ride with her in the truck, and the man said yes, as long as I stayed on the floor.  Well, of course, it was just like riding on a bus, or an airplane, but this time it was in a truck that smelled terrible and was very dirty.

When we got to the place where our car would be fixed, we loaded up into another car we could use for a few days.  It did not have room for my kennel, so I curled up on the floor.  When Angie took out the bag with her helmet, I thought, maybe we can still go to Disaster City.  But she called Sasha’s dad, and he said it was going to be such a hot day, that by the time we got there, it would be too late.  This day did not go the way we planned, and I really, really wanted to go to Disaster City.  But I have to remember: Safety first, Sammie!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Vacation

It was not really a vacation, because my family was not with me.  But I did have a good time staying with Anne and all of the other dogs who were there.  I was not showing my best obedience, I know, because Anne told Angie.  That is true, but Anne is not my mom.  I should have behaved in a better way, but I just didn’t.

Here is the funny part.  Angie’s friend, Patti, came to get me and take me home so that when Angie, Chris and Kip returned from their trip, I would be waiting for them.  Patti and I curled up together on the couch and took a nap.  Then Patti gave me dinner, and left the house….and she forgot to put me in my kennel! So when Angie walked in the door, I was right there to meet her.  I could tell that she was not expecting me to be out of my kennel.

She checked all of the places I could have gotten into trouble, and the first place she looked was where my toothbrush and toothpaste are.  She knows that I sometimes sneak into the bathroom, and get those 2 items.  I was such a good dog, and even though I could have caused some trouble, I did not. 

I was too tired from all of the dogs barking and the fireworks keeping me awake while I stayed with Anne, so I just slept while my kennel door was wide open.  I am so glad that my family and I are together again, and that our vacations are finished!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Vacation

Angie and Chris are home a lot during the summer, and I get the feeling they would like for me to stay in my kennel all the time, like I do during the rest of the year.  I don’t think that is fair, so sometimes when they don’t pay enough attention to me, I make low sounds in my throat.  Not growls, more like whining.  And when they go somewhere and don’t take me, I can hear the car pulling up in the driveway, and I start making those same sounds. 

But today, Angie took me with her to get her hair cut, and there was a cool tile floor that felt so good on my stomach.  Some of her hair dropped on my fur, but I didn’t mind.  Her friend, Sebastian, used a towel to get it off.  He is always glad to see me, and sometimes he plays rough with me.

You know, dogs like for everything to stay the same, or at least I do.  I eat, go outside, go to sleep, and wake up every day at pretty much the same time.  But the summer is different, and I know that Chris, Angie and Kip are getting ready to leave me behind for more than one day.  All of their stuff is packed up, and none of mine is included.  This means I am going to a place where there are lots of dogs whose humans need for them to wait while they leave town.  It is ok, but I will sure be glad when my family comes back home!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Not My Favorite Day

We sometimes go to schools or other places to talk about and show people what kind of work we do.  Today it was a school, and I am so tired that I am taking a nap soon.  My eyes are almost closed.  We visited 5 classrooms, and here are some of the things I did.  I showed them how I played tug, and even some of the strong boys tugged with me.  I could tell that they didn’t expect me to be so strong.  I hupped on a couple of chairs, and also demonstrated an emergency down.  And I also searched for students who were hiding under tables or desks.

This kind of day is training in how to be calm, follow directions, and listen to other people talk.  And it is not all about me being on a rubble pile; instead I am in a small room.  I was not on my best behavior, because I wanted to work.  Angie was dressed for training, and it was not the kind that I like.  Sometimes I barked at her when she was talking.  By the end of the day, I just put my head on the floor, and chilled out.  No barking.

Many students wanted to pet me, which was fine.  One girl told Angie that she wanted to take me home, and one boy asked if he could bring me dinner.  Of course, Angie said no to both of them.  She would never let another person take me away from her.  So I guess it was not such a bad day after all!

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Busy Weekend


We spent 2 days at a training exercise for people and dogs.  We rode on a bus to Disaster City, and then with a lot of people and 3 other dogs, we followed directions about what to do.  Here is the strange thing.  All of the people had to wear these white pants and shirts that were on top of their real clothes.  They also wore big rubber boots on top of their real boots, and masks on their faces.  Everybody looked very different, but kind of the same.

I did not get to work very much.  I did a search around the outside of a building, not able to go inside.  Still I was able to smell people in the building, so I barked where my nose told me was the right place, and Angie gave me a toy.  And later that day, we got back on the bus to go to a building to spend the night.  We went back to Disaster City when it was still night time.  Then we got back on the bus to spend the night one more time.

Here is what I know.  Sometimes, the dogs must wait, stay in their kennels, and wait some more.  They might have jobs, but they do not always get to work.  So all of us need to be able to relax, and not get upset.  We all love to search, but we don’t always get what we want!

Monday, May 11, 2015

What’s Going On?

Something is up.  In case of a deployment, I travel with a bag that is just for my stuff, like my food, leashes, toys, bowls, and a mat for my crate.  There must be enough food for 14 days, just in case we are away from home for that long.  Angie took all of the food out of my bag, and replaced it with fresh kibble.  I think she wanted to make sure that there was not old food that could make me sick.

And now, there are all of Angie’s bags, and there are 3 of those, that are spread out around the living room.  I know that it is Kip’s job to load these heavy bags into the car, but right now they are still in the house.  She wants to make sure that there are enough uniforms, socks, and sleeping stuff to last for 14 days, so she has been busy checking each bag.

Oh, wait, I think I know what is going on.  I heard her say something about a training exercise this weekend, where we will practice everything so we will be ready for the real thing.  We will need to have all of our bags with us, and that is why she is making sure we have everything we need.  Hey, as long as I have my food and my toys, I am a happy dog!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kindness


This story is not about kindness to me or by me.  It is about something that Angie did on the way back from the park.  I saw what happened, and I was a part of it in a small way.  She stopped for gas, and I saw this lady walk up to her, and start talking.  The back of the car was open, and I was in my kennel.

I could tell that this lady was sad, and maybe not feeling well.  Her eyes looked strange, she was talking in a worried tone, and she had tears.

Then she walked up to my kennel, and she said, “I miss my dog so much.  I was married for 50 years, and lived in a big house, and my dog died a few months ago, after my husband died.  And now I live all by myself, and today I am not feeling well.”  It turns out that she took some new medicine, and felt like she could not drive home.

Angie asked if she would like a ride home.  I know it is not a good idea to let strangers in the car, but this lady needed somebody to help her.  As soon as she got in the front seat, she started crying, and Angie gave her a tissue and a bottle of water.  It was a short ride to where she lived, and before she went inside, she asked to pet me.  Angie let her, and I felt her tears on my fur. 

It must be hard to be by yourself, with no friends or family to help.  Sometimes a small act of kindness can mean a lot to a person, or an animal. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dogs Take Over Disaster City

Every year there is a weekend where dogs and humans come from all over the United States to train together.  It is always fun to meet new friends and see people, and dogs, that I remember.  This year there were more of them than ever before, and I can tell you that there were many states who sent teams — New York, Florida, New Mexico, California, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri.  Angie and I were part of a group and we worked together the entire weekend.

It is amazing that with so many dogs, there were no problems.  We all stayed in our kennels when we were not working, and when we went to different locations, we were always on lead.  This weekend was about training, not getting to know each other.  Although we kind of did, because we were in kennels that were close together.  My favorite dog was a giant black lab named Pilot, and he was from Florida.  He was young and very energetic.

Sprinkles and I stayed together in a hotel room.  As a special treat, Angie brought us both chew bones.  You should have seen Sprinkles throwing hers in the air and catching it with her mouth.  We both slept great because we worked so hard during the day.  Our favorite part of the weekend was getting to search on the trains, where somebody was hiding up in the space where the luggage is kept…or on the top part of a bed.  We would run fast and then, boom, there was that smell that could only mean one thing, that a person is waiting to play tug!

The part of the weekend that I did not like so much was when the Vet Team decided that I would be the dog whose leg would get bandaged.  This was not because I was hurt, but just to show everybody how to do it the right way.  I had to lay still while this happened.  You know that is hard for me, and then I got up and kind of limped around with 3 legs.  I love my vets, and so it was okay to help them.  It can’t always be all about me!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Responsible Pet Owners’ Month

February is something called “Responsible Pet Owners’ Month.” I know there is a day that is also about love, hearts, mush mush mush, when Kip brings Angie flowers, and they hug. I might add that I am not allowed to nibble on the flowers.  Oh, right, I was talking about the other way the month is special.

Responsibility means a lot to dogs. Here are some ways that Angie is a responsible owner, although I am not a pet, but a working dog with a job. The ways that she takes care of me are:
  1. I get checked by the vet once a year, and all of my vaccinations are up-to-date.
  2. I have a microchip in my neck so that if I ever get lost, there is a machine that can read it and help make sure I get home safely.
  3. Every month, I take medicine to make sure I don’t get heartworms or fleas.
  4. Angie makes sure that I get plenty of exercise…not just training, but running and playing.
  5. Even though some food smells delicious, I get nothing but dog food.  Nothing from the plates of Kip, Angie, and Chris.  I might want it, but by now I know that is not happening.
  6. Angie brushes my fur and my teeth – every day.  I get a bath when I start to smell funky.
  7. When we are outside of the house, Angie makes sure that I am on a lead, so that she can make sure I am safe from cars and other dogs.
  8. There is a soft mat in the kennel where I sleep.  It is washed once a week so it is clean.
  9. I always travel in a kennel that is secure in the car.
Thank you to my family for taking such good care of me.  Oh, and one more thing that is a little bit embarrassing. I am a girl dog, but I had an operation so I cannot have puppies. That was a responsible decision, and I am one lucky dog!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Brrrrrrr, Shiver and Shake


When the weather gets cold, like it is right now, sometimes you hear on the radio or email, “When cold weather occurs, remember to protect people, pets, and plants.”  So what does that mean for dogs?  For sure, it means that they should stay inside, especially when the temperatures are below freezing.  And even though Texas stays warmer than states like New York or Maine, it can get cold here.

Some dogs grow a winter coat, which means that their fur gets thicker and longer to keep them warm.  Some dogs actually wear vests that are designed to help keep them warm when it is cold.  I have a vest that is orange and black, and even if I get wet, the part of my body under the vest stays warm and dry.  I have seen small dogs wear the silliest looking coats, with little hoods, and fleece. 

When we go to training, Angie puts a soft, thick pad in my kennel.  And she makes sure that the cold air does not get to the back of the car.  Some people think that it is okay to leave their dogs in the car while they go someplace, but that is a bad idea.  Cars can be like refrigerators in the winter, holding in the cold and causing animals to freeze to death.

My favorite way of staying warm in the winter is to get in the kennel with Sasha.  That dog has such thick, soft fur, and being close to her helps me stop shivering.  I am one of those dogs who does not have a thick winter coat, so even though I want to keep working, Angie makes sure I don’t get too cold.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Retirement

This is a word that means you no longer get to play at Disaster City, or go on deployments with the rest of the team if other people need help, like when we went to Arkansas last spring after the tornadoes.  This is not something that I am worried about, because I am still a young dog.  But one day it could be my turn to retire.

There have been several dogs who retired, and Cojo was the most recent one.  That dog has been such a good friend, and always ready to train.  We would often sleep in kennels next to each other, and he was a good sleeper, never making noise during the night.  He is one of the dogs whose tail was as long as mine when we met, but later something happened and part of it either fell off or… well, I don’t want to think about what else could have happened to it.  He had the best bark. It was more like a howl, all of these barks close together.

On the last day that Cojo trained at Disaster City, Angie and some other people were sad.  Angie wanted to make sure that she was on the pile for his last search problem.  And when he found the person who was hiding, he got a stuffed rabbit toy that was as big as Oscar, no, even bigger than that cat.  And he ripped it into small pieces, and tore every bit of the soft stuffing out of the rabbit’s body. He shook it from side to side and was having the best time ever. It was everywhere on the pile, so much that his human brought a garbage bag up there so that the stuffing could be cleaned up.  I bet there are still some pieces that are left.

I know Cojo will miss being part of Texas Task Force 1, and I will miss him.  Too bad all dogs cannot stay puppies forever. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

FireFest

This is an event at the fire station where lots of people come to see everything that goes on.  Everybody works to make a demonstration or a contest that will be fun for the visitors, and there are always lots of kids, and even babies.  No pets are allowed.  There are fire trucks all around, a helicopter, small fires that are easy to put out, ladders with firefighters climbing, and this time there was even a dalmation dog walking around.  This is a white dog with black spots that has been known to be a fire truck dog, but I don’t know if the dog really does anything,

I wore my Search vest, and for part of the day, I was the dog who everybody got a chance to pet.  That is the most exhausting part, because it is very loud, and there are so many people.  And some of the kids were holding stuffed animals, which is a big temptation.  Angie told them, “Please put that behind your back or give it to your mom.  Sammie might think it is a toy for her.”  Well, yes, of course that is what I thought.

The best part of the day was when all of the dogs showed what they could do.  Sprinkles demonstrated a bark barrel, where a human was hiding, and after she smelled him and barked, he played tug with her.  Sasha climbed the ladder, walked across the high plank, and went through a tunnel.  And I got to run the bases, which means Angie showed me with her hand a pattern of hup tables to run.  I LOVE running these, and I was so fast, I could feel my tail sticking straight out.  When Angie said, “All done, Sammie,” I raced toward her, and she threw me a toy. 

Thanks to everybody who worked hard to make FireFest a success!