Friday, May 28, 2010

Ohio: Show us your balls


I scored this souvenir - a folder from the Ohio County Dog Warden Association - at an auction held at the recent NACA Conference we attended in Columbus, Ohio last week. Besides its practical function (it's filled with pages of notes now from our visit), it represents a piece of pit bull history to me - not the best history. But history nonetheless. How you feel about this item will probably depend on what you know about the pit bull situation in this state...

Background in case this is new for you: Since 1987, Ohio has been one of the worst places in the country for dogs that look like pit bulls or for the people who love them. State law defines "dogs commonly known as pit bulls" as "dangerous and vicious," based on nothing more than appearance - so they're basically SOL the minute they're born. Most of the shelter directors, dog wardens and their commissioners are quick to blame this law as the key reason they destroy thousands of adoptable dogs across their 88 counties each year. They aren't required by law to ban adoptions, but it tends to be the way most operate. It's easier and no one complains much. It's a situation that makes backyard breeders very happy; pit bull popularity hasn't waned one bit despite attempts to disappear the dogs, and without neutered shelter dogs to supply demand, backyard breeders own the market. As expected, this dysfunction has been solving none of the problems that crop up whenever high numbers of dogs are marginalized, exploited and victimized.

Some smaller glimmers of hope in Ohio: Despite the difficulty of finding homes for dogs that are forced to wear scarlet letters, a few brave shelters do march to the beat of their own drummer and make them available for adoption. We were honored to meet a few of these people at the conference. (See list at bottom of this post)

Even the darkest corners of Ohio have seen some light. One of the most notorious of dog wardens - Tom Skeldon from Lucas County - recently resigned after a long career that included collecting bounty dollars on the backs of doomed pit bulls as part of his infamous legacy. His departure was fueled by public outcry and is opening the door to healthier discussions and hopefully, more humane practices in that county.

Because a select handful of movers and shakers have been starting to rattle the status quo in Ohio, we were anxious to see what we could learn from our visit. We paid our six hundred bucks to set up our booth with our materials and posters and ears wide open, ready to chat, listen and learn. Our laptop flashed images of our dogs and programs to anyone who walked by, on their way to shopping catch poles, shelter software or cremation ovens. National Canine Research Council's booth was right next to us, so there was a lot of lively gab in our corner of the exhibit hall.

We're NACA members and looked forward to greeting old friends. Although, despite the warm welcome we received from so many, we knew it would be hard to avoid some degree of the leprocy factor at this location. I mean, we're a pit bull advocacy group and all, waving our flag in the middle of Ohio ... we weren't exactly expecting group hugs. Some of the Ohio dog wardens either nodded politely from a distance or steered a wide berth around us ... depending on who might be watching. Ohio shelter directors seemed to be split on whether to come in for a detailed chat about pit bull issues, or duck their heads and walk faster ... a few of them believing that the word "liability" ended any conversation before it started. (We disagreed of course, and were grateful for NCRC's hand-out to help us explain why)

Animal Control Officers and kennel workers brought the most love to the topic of pit bulls at this event. Many BEAMED while pulling out cell phones with proud mom photos of pit bulls scooped up in the line of duty. These were rare survivors that they brought home for keeps after refusing to destroy them at work. Dog bless those brave hearts. Their stories were compelling, although we noticed that some whispered as if they had to stay secret. One described the post traumatic stress she still suffers from years of putting trusting pit bulls to sleep. She teared up while she talked about it and compared her experience to the Vietnam war. She agreed with another officer, who only stays at her job because she can't bear the thought of who might take her place. We met two different people who were just sick about having delivered dogs to this hell-hole hoarding situation in Trumbull County, unaware of the nightmare that was going on just beyond the gate.

All weekend long, the first question out of most people's mouths was, "Can you tell us which rescues we can send our pit bulls to?" We heard it over and over. And our response: "Your rescues are too full. The entire animal welfare culture in Ohio needs to change in order to help these dogs."

That's where the conversation usually went sideways. Except for two young women who were heeding the call of the compassionate activist, fingers pointed in all different directions when talk turned to "who?" was responsible for helping the dogs. We searched the room for the magic invisible person that everyone was searching for, but they all looked just like the people we were talking to. Which leads me to the bigger news of the day. A bill now waiting to be reviewed by Ohio's Senate - HB 79 - hoped to forever remove the dangerous/vicious label from pit bulls in state law. No more scarlet letter. Sounds great, but we have some worries...

None of the dog wardens we talked with are willing to publicly support this effort, and according to the Toledo Blade, Tom Skeldon - who is still a member of the Ohio Dog County Dog Warden's Assoc. - was asked to testify in April "on behalf of the association because of his knowledge on the issue, said the current president, Erie County Dog Warden Barb Knapp."

As you can guess, he spoke in opposition of the bill, stating, "The job of dog warden is to protect the public from dogs...I would plead with you, please do not take the only tool that now exists for your police officers, sheriff's deputies, and dog wardens to protect the public from vicious dogs away from us." The House did not heed his request and voted in favor of the bill, moving it onto the Senate for a vote. Despite that encouraging news, there's no room to celebrate and get distracted. There are just so many people in powerful positions that really want this bill to fail.

One of them was a notable speaker at the NACA Conference. An attendee reported that Judge Harland Hale - who presides over all the animal cruelty cases in Franklin County, OH - denounced the bill and echoed Skeldon's same sentiments to a roomful of people who'd gathered to hear him outline ways to build cruelty/abuse cases. And here's where the real problem lies. Forget the speaker ... Did ANYone in the room speak up when Judge Hale promoted killing the bill? Nope. Not one person.

Why? ... Fear of offending? Too shy? Afraid to be the odd man out?

There's a quote in the movie A Prairie Home Companion about midwestern complacency that popped in my head after hearing the report on this workshop's disappointment. "In the midwest, people believe that bad news will go away if no one talks about it." Rocking the boat is considered a faux pas in this part of the country. Don't complain; add a little mayonaisse and even the things that leave a poor taste in your mouth will be easier to swallow. And I'm not beating up on the midwest ...I'm from the midwest. But god help us people, can you find your balls please? The dogs are depending on it.

HB 79 is expected to be shelved while the Senate breaks for summer vacation, which leaves the door wide open for changes, re-writes and backroom lobbying that could render it unrecognizable or worse. Nature loves to remind us that bigger shifts in weather patterns come along with raging, pissed off storms and while we might want change in Ohio, there are many who are threatened by the shift they see happening and are willing to derail it. And if you live in Ohio, please seize the opportunity to help push this boulder up the hill in all your conversations, your blogs, your letters to the editors, phone calls to your Senate members, your actions. Remind everyone that a safe community is a humane community, and that the current breed specific law has been wasting your tax dollars and paralyzing Ohio's ability to deal with reckless dog owners for over twenty years.

Ohioans. Find your Senate members HERE and make sure they know you're counting on them to bump breed discrimination in your state.

In the meantime, I confess, I'm gonna practice some voodoo with my Ohio County Dog Warden Association folder - casting a spell over it, "You will remember the muscley little dog that you hated having to kill, and you will stick your neck out for him now. Yes you will, good person. Because you do have balls and the time to use them is now."

BELOW A list of shelters and counties that do stick their necks out for the dogs. Send them your donations, your good vibes. Please add to this list if you have more.

1. Stark County According to their website, "Stark County Dog Warden, Evert Gibson, has given permission for Pit Bull dogs to be adopted from the Stark County Dog Pound."

2. Capital Area Humane offers a limited number of pit bulls for adoption and supports pit bull advocate Amanda Spires with her tireless work rescuing the breed and helping pit bull owners with training.

3. The Humane Society of Greater Akron has some beautiful pit bull type dogs on their adoptable page.

4. The Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County put their ethics to the test recently and have been working for weeks to save every dog from a hoarding case, breed type be damned. They put so many to shame with their relentless commitment to right action.

5. From a reader: "I was raised in Southeastern Ohio, but live elsewhere now with my pitty puppy. I know for a fact that the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley offers "pit bull" dogs for adoption. They have at least 3 right now on their website listed as such. I'm not sure as to the specific adoption policy regarding pits, but I think it is important to recognize them as well & to encourage them in their efforts through emails, letters of support/education, and donations." AGREED!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the best medicine

A wonderfully detailed report below from Salvador's adopter Jackie Gunby after a particularly busy day doing therapy work. They showed up ready to work in a locked psychiatric ward with a multitude of challenges. It sounds like the just the kind of job for a bulldog like Sal, who's overcome some tough challenges himself.

For privacy reasons, Jackie can't share photos of the clients, but we're very grateful to Inga Sheffield (below) for helping us see Sal "at work" on her father - I.M. Sheffield III - who, we're told, wasn't so sure about his daughter's work with pit bulls until this meeting. The photos tell the rest of the story. Thank you Jackie for sharing this visit with us, and to Salvador for giving us all a dose of your best medicine.


From Jackie: Big Sal was bulletproof last night at a locked psych facility. None of the other 4 teams showed, so the choice was: go it alone or bow out for the night? This visit is to acute care (up to 7-8 people), childrens ward (7-8), then adolescents/teenagers (5-7), then adult population (15-20). That's alot of people to visit, and while Sal is good with children, I notice that they can stress him out a little so I'm trying to limit his exposure to keep visits enjoyable for him.

We had our own personal security detail (Herb, who is a mountain of a man - tall, booming voice, quick smile, wants a Saluki) who thinks Big Sal is the best thing since sliced bread. He and I put our heads together for a workable plan. He knew that all the units were looking forward to some doggy lovin, and he checked in all the units before we moved to the next one to see how many people were there, and to make sure that we were ushered to an area where Sal could work his magic and not be overwhelmed.



Acute Care (deemed a danger to themselves and others) - Five clients. Each wanted attention and petting, and to tell their own pet stories, they worked pretty well together giving each other time to pet and have Sal to themselves. He sat in his own chair very politely for attention, and only glanced briefly at the little cup of ice cream that one of them had. One client wanted to walk him out to their special outdoor enclosure to smell the smells and talk to him privately (I swore I wouldn't listen!) and he was great walking with her.



Children's ward - The best of all possible scenario's for Big Sal: two children and one wanted to take his bath and go to bed - didn't want any interaction. So, the little girl (maybe 10 years old), got to have her own private visit with the pitty-prince. Lots of petting, massaging, snuggling and giggling due to kisses and happy wiggles.

Adolescents - Three mid-teen young women who were having a nice time coloring together when we came in, all instantly hit the floor with squealing and calling him over for hugs and kisses. They did a great job "sharing" him, and we got to talk about responsible dog ownership, why Sal doesn't have cajones, and what they can do to help make sure all dogs are cared for and loved properly. (Side note - we get to talk ALOT about why we got no cajones at Juvenile Hall, it's a staple topic and if I don't bring it up, one of the kids does first thing!)

Adult Care - Our personal security detail ushered us into a side TV room with about seven clients, both men and women. All the ladies hit the floor again for petting, hugs and kisses, The gentlemen were a little more reserved, but melted like puddles when our boy gently climbed each lap to give a big smooch.

Towards the end, one of the ladies was becoming more agitated and was losing focus, but before it could escalate Sal turned to focus on her directly, walked up on her lap (she's sitting on the floor), planted a big smooch on her, then gently walked up her torso til he was face to face with her and put his head on her shoulder for a hug, and gave her some gentle little neck kisses.

She wrapped her arms around him and just hugged him tight. I was watching to make sure she would release him when he was ready, but he stayed there for a goodly amount of time!

She was in heaven and we left her with a big smile on her face and pleased as punch to run to tell the staff what happened, and that she would wait a little while for more medication. She was feeling better.


UPDATE 6/11: Salvador and Jackie just accepted a Hero Award from the Placer SPCA along with her team for the work they do bringing comfort to Kaiser hospital patients. Many congratulations! News

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RAVE: Volunteers who are making a difference, And how you can help.

We're getting to the point where we can say that - for the most part - highly adoptable pit bulls are not dying in our east bay shelters anymore. It took ten years of mind changing and networking and spay/neutering and educating and laying good resources out for adopters - but, we're just about there. We aren't completely out of the woods yet, tho. While the number of sheltered pit bull adoptions has skyrocketed in recent years, the quality of adoption matches varies widely, with some shelter dogs going to very prepared homes and many to not-so-prepared homes - and, everything in between. As a community of dog advocates, we gotta work on that - for sure. I spoke about that in this blog post since it's been one of our ongoing hot buttons.

While we puzzle over ways to influence stronger adoptions, we can begin the next important phase of helping sheltered pit bulls. That is, helping the dogs that were once the easy throw-aways. These are the dogs with workable behavior problems and/or the older dogs that aren't so pretty to look at. Right now - in the east bay - young and/or squishy marshmallow dogs fly out the shelter doors at breakneck speed. We barely look at 'em anymore since they don't need rescue. Isn't that a treat? But the others, man ... that's where our activist bones get a work out.

Care to help us help those dogs that need some fixin' up? Let me tell you what's going on in Berkeley...

Every Saturday, a group of dedicated dog handlers pours into BR's Pit Ed classes toting dogs from Berkeley Animal Care Service's (BACS) kennels. They're showing up to help make the dogs more adoptable. Dogs with bad manners like workable leash reactivity typically die in other shelters due to the difficulty in finding homes that can deal. The solution for Berkeley has been to give them better manners and then match them to supported owners. Simple right? The good news is that it's working. We're routinely amazed at what can be accomplished with a little elbow grease and are proud to be working alongside the volunteers that care so much.

It gets even better when the dogs' adopters start class and find out that their new pet once spazzed like a wild caveman during his early days at shelter... "Not my dog? Really?" Yep. Your lovely dog used to act like a weasel on speed, but this here volunteer helped turn him into a Super Star for you. Take a bow, volunteer -- you deserve it.

If you're looking for a way to make a stunning difference in a dog's life, consider joining the BACS team to help us train the shelter's many pit bulls. The staff will want to give you a brief orientation so you'll know how to get around the shelter, then you'll observe our Pit Ed class to see how we operate. Once you have a handle on things, we'll begin training you to train the dogs.

I have to be honest, this is hard work and it's not for everyone, but if you're the grounded sort who can think on his feet and is eager to absorb new information, it could be one of the most exciting things you do this summer. And if you really like the scene, we'll invite you to get more involved in BR's other projects.

Below are a couple of posts from the BACS Dog Volunteers Blog on their work with the dogs.

1. Mercedes at school. That's DeAnn with Mercedes in the photo, top of this page.

2. Azul working on his grades. Pictured with his handler Joel, right. Both pix snapped by Rob McNicholas (thanks Rob!)

LINK HERE for SIGN UP INFO.
Do it! We'd love to spend part of our weekends with you and the dogs.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ohio: NACA Conference May 21-22. Hope to see you there.


If you're going to be in Columbus, Ohio next week for the big NACA (National Animal Control Assoc.) Conference, we'd love to meet you.

We'll be at Booth #25 and hope to shake hands with some of the people who've been working so hard to bring positive change to the policies that affect the animals in Ohio. Speaking of positive change, we're honored to have a booth right next to the good people of the National Canine Research Council, which should make for a good buzz in our corner of the exhibitor's hall.

We'll have some give-aways from BADRAP and from our sister org, Partners in Shelter Services, especially for those Ohioans who are working to create viable adoption programs for pit bulls in their shelters. Can't wait to meet you and thank you for your tireless work!

Also - make sure and head to the NACA Conference auction. We're toting in some Sports Illustrated 'zines signed by the Vick dogs that you can bid on. Celeb paw-tographs .... Fer sure.

Monday, May 10, 2010

cuts, stings, hives and stink: home care must-haves for summer misadventures

We've barely broken a sweat with the warmer weather, and already our dogs have been majorly skunked, one ripped a toenail bloody and another broke out in hella hives. Yay Summer!

These mini-emergencies all required multiple trips to our doggy medicine cabinet, and now, a trip to the drug store to replenish our supplies. Here's a shopping list of items we keep on hand for dog misadventures, with some advice that might come in handy, for first time dog owners especially....


Hives!

If your dog walks in the room looking like this one day - try not to panic. As horrible as this looks, it's just a bad case of allergy related hives. They're so common in our sensitive breed that they've come to be called "bully bumps" by many.

Our more 'delicate' pit bulls seem to get a bad case at least once a year, especially in the spring when allergens are peaking. If your dog develops hives practically overnight, think of where he rolled, romped or played recently. Out on the freshly cut lawn maybe? .. thru a weedy field at the park? Sally rolled herself alllll over a clump of prickly weeds after being skunked to get herself these attractive bumps. (Sigh. Skunk fun ... another emergency - Remedies below)

The hives usually come along with a flame red belly and feet. Since it looks awful, many people freak out and rush their dog to the vet for an expensive office visit and shot of cortisone. Not really necessary.

What to do? Most longtime pit bull owners keep Benadryl in their cupboards for these special occasions. Benadryl (or, diphenhydramine) is a first-generation antihistamine that can also be a life saver if your dog is stung by an insect.

Our vet advises dosing 1mg per pound of dog every 8 hours until the symptoms are gone. So, a 50-ish pound dog would get 50mg - or, two pink pills. (To be honest, we use three pills for our 55lb girl) While it's considered to be one of the safer over-the-counter remedies for both dogs and people, there are always caveats, so do your research and make sure and buy the pink pills rather than the off-shoot products that Benadryl sells, like kid's formula, etc.

Hot Tip: If you or your dog are stung by a bee, make a paste using the powder inside Benadryl pills with a few drops of water and pack it unto the sting site. Works like a charm to bring immediate relief.

Allergies can make your dog truly miserable, which pushes all our "fix-it-now" buttons. While you wait for the Benedryl to kick in, try giving an Aveeno oatmeal bath to soothe the flaming red belly and paws. Even better if you can follow by rubbing on calendula-based diaper rash cream (find it at your healthfood store). Treat your baby like a baby -- Lots of cooing and "poor doggie" talk helps. Our girl Sally rolls over and falls into a state of snoring bliss when she gets herself some belly rubs with calendula cream. After napping away the rest of the day (Benadryl acts as a mild sedative) she usually wakes up calmer and with happier skin. In the photo above, it took about 12 hours for the hives to disappear.

Be aware that good nutrition is really the best thing you can do to minimize or eliminate your dog's hyper-reaction to allergens. A dog that gets hives all the time is telling you that her immune system is out of wack. To support it, you can shop some of the better kibbles that avoid preservatives and fillers, or - if nothing's working - you may even want to take the plunge and feed raw diet. The raw diet is controversial in some circles, but it's been a life saver in ours. We swear by it.

Skunk Season

These three items are a miracle cure for stink. If your dog gets sprayed, make a mayonnaise-like paste out of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and a little dish soap and work it into his fur as best you can. Let it sit on his coat for a few minutes while you take photos of his sorry, depressed, and very naughty face. We soak our dogs' collars in this solution too, and they've come out just fine with only a slightly musky smell leftover.

Torn Pads and Smaller Cuts

Every self respecting pit bull over-does it at times and ends up with an owie or two on his feet. A vet will charge you crazy-money for first aid care that you can do at home, so make sure and have some vet wrap and antibiotic cream on hand for the basic paw pad cuts you'll be dealing with this summer.

If you keep your dog's wounds clean and covered while they heal, you shouldn't have to load him up with antibiotics - a bad thing for anyone. But do prevent him from licking while it seals. As a rule, the faster you clean the wound and apply the antibiotic cream, the quicker it will heal (that goes for your cuts, too).

Torn toenails can be extremely painful, but if your dog allows it, pull off the broken piece (quickly - it hurts!) or trim it with clippers. Then wash, disinfect and bandage to curb the bleeding and prevent infection. If the nail is up too high near the base and/or neither you or your dog trust your hands, then your vet can help. People with a longtime history with dogs tend to treat broken nails at home, but we know how scary this can be your first time - especially if your dog is a squealie drama queen.

We keep small cotton socks around in addition to vet wrap for those footsie emergencies. To hold everything in place and prevent the inevitable chew-fest, use duct tape. Yep - Duct tape ... a thousand and one uses.

It doesn't hurt to have a plastic cone-of-shame on hand either so you don't have to stand watch over your dog 24/7 those first couple of days after a cut. And of course, don't forget batteries for your camera. Pathetic much, Sally?

The wound will need air to heal completely, so remove the bandage for keeps once it's started to seal. Hopefully we can all keep our little emergencies to a minimum this spring/summer. Best luck to you with yours!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

the Phatman has landed.


After several weeks of travel, our rambling friend Phatman is finally sitting still after his cross country adventures. Lucky Portlanders ... you have a new neighbor.


Phatty's mom Cindy sent this note along with the last of their travel photos. We'll miss getting their roadtrip updates, but how cool that the crew is putting down some roots in Oregon. Welcome home, Cindy, Neil, Phatman and Sasha ... and thanks for letting us come along for part of the ride.
After approximately 7500 miles, 34 states and 24 cities - Phatman is back on the west coast...the Northwest. We're in Portland, OR. The trip back from the East Coast was pretty quick. We had stops in Niagra Falls, Chicago, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and then on to Portland. We met many wonderful people along the way, who without Phatman, we would not have met. He's a people magnet for sure. If I had a $1.00 for every time someone said "Look at that head" I would have a lot of dollars!! We're glad to be back on the west coast and it looks like we'll be staying in Portland for awhile. - Cindy Kemp

Here's a last peek at his photo album, with new pix added: Phatman hopscotches America

Sunday, May 02, 2010

what hurricane? Rally strengthens a softie

We've been smiling big since watching this video of BR-alum Martin and his person Tina Vickrey navigating a Rally course at a recent competition. They both walked that course with the poise and confidence of champions and earned Martin his RN (Rally Novice) title. (EDIT 9/11 - Tina and Martin just earned their first leg towards a CD (Companion Dog Title) - A BIG accomplishment!) I'm going to let Tina tell us about Rally in an interview below, but first I have to goo some more about her boy....

Martin was a Hurricane Katrina survivor. He had the classically tragic story; found barely alive in the 9th ward in the attic of a house that had floated off its foundation, accompanied by a dead german shepherd. He's a really sensitive dog and was shaken to the core after the storms. It took a lot of mind/body healing before he could function like a normal dog again. (This is what the poor kid looked like when we first met him in LA.) Tina has done an amazing job not only making him strong again, but helping him find the kind of confidence that's needed to compete.

And that's the beauty of dog sports - the teamwork and relationship that a handler builds with their dog can bring the biggest of transformations, and in some of most compromised dogs. I can't even tellya how cool it is to see this little dog smiling and performing like a natural-born champ in this situation. Of course, all credit goes to his devoted and determined (and madly-in-love-with-her-dog) human. Check this out ....



Below, Tina fills in the gaps for us on Rally.

DR: What exactly IS Rally?

TV: Rally is a dog sport designed to be less formal and more 'fun' than regular Obedience. Many use it as a stepping stone into that sport, though Rally is, in and of itself, a sport and offers titles.

From the AKC's website:

AKC Rally is the new dog sport that is taking the nation by storm, a successful stepping stone from the AKC Canine Good Citizen® program to the world of obedience or agility. Rally offers both the dogs and handlers an experience that is fun and energizing. The canine team moves at their own pace, very similar to rally-style auto racing. Rally was designed with the traditional pet owner in mind, but it can still be very challenging for those who enjoy higher levels of competition.

A rally course includes 10 to 20 stations, depending on the level. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience. Communication between handler and dog is encouraged and perfect heel position is not required, but there should be a sense of teamwork between the dog and handler. The main objective of rally is to produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs, in a manner that will reflect positively on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.

DR: Why did you decide to pursue Rally with Martin?

TV: I watched a friend of mine (Tiffany Blakeman) compete with her Am Staff, Loki. I was so impressed with their team work and how much fun they seemed to be having together that I wanted to try it. I was lucky that she agreed to mentor us and became our trainer.

DR: Did you get any grief for having a pit bull, or did you find support?

TV: Everyone has been super nice at trials. Our dogs usually get a good response since they look so happy to be working. People appreciate that.

DR: It looks like so much fun. How long have you been training to get to where you are today?

TV: We've been training for almost a year. However, Martin is special since he is such a softie boy and has a lot of environmental stressors. He would get so worried in new places that he would get shut down. He also worries - a LOT - about being 'wrong' so we move pretty slow. He LOVES it when he figures it out, then he is very much, "Hey! Look what I can do!" His confidence in new places and situations has really blossomed since he has behaviors to fall back on that are safe to him and make him feel good. Training has been so much fun and a great bonding experience for both of us.

DR: How can a dog owner tell if their dog is a good candidate for Rally?

TV: Rally is a great sport for almost any dog! With the AKC's new Canine Partners program, even mixed breed dogs or dogs who don't qualify for a PAL registration number can now compete. Trials are pretty crowded with people/dogs, so your dog does need to be able to handle having other dogs around. Novice Rally is on leash, but the next two levels are off leash. I really encourage people to give it a try!

DR: What's next for you guys?

TV: Now that he has his RN title (Rally Novice), we will be moving on to Rally Advanced (off leash, more stations). We have our eye on traditional Obedience in the future, though that requires quite a bit of working away from the handler and doesn't allow you to give feedback to the dog during exercises ... Martin needs to hear what a GOOD BOY he is! lol ... so that may not be his cup of tea. If that turns out to be the case, we will be happy with where we go in Rally, since even to be where he is now is a HUGE accomplishment for such a softie dog.

DR: The meek shall inherit the best dog treats, methinks.

Thank you Tina for raising that bar for all of us.