Dancing Angel Part 2

I don’t really know anymore how it happened or exactly how we did it. Maybe some dogs are just meant to dance. The idea was born from watching a video of the dancing dog on “Britain’s got talent”.  I know. It was a silly idea. But thankfully, Angel was into it. And so, we started with the basic “sit” and “lie down” commands.  We did great! I remember thinking, “Now, if we could just teach her to dance”.  Like I said, Angel was really into it and it really didn’t take much to coach her. She just wanted to have fun. Either that, or she just loves watching us do funny stuff, and then copies us. Yeah, it’s okay, you can laugh.

Anyway, treats are very important tools in this process. Actually they are the secrets to success. Angel will dance, turn around, shake hands and lie down, for her treats. Oh, and yes, that is our simple little routine: “dancey-dancey” (which is like swaying to the left and to the right), “turn around” (which is her cue to make a complete turn), shake hands (left and right paws), followed by “lie down”, and the great finale – “roll over”.

Sometimes, when I hear a favorite song, I start to dance to it, and guess what, Angel will get up from where she is lying down and start to follow me as a I dance, so I just let her do the routine. And there we are dancing to our hearts’ content. I can’t begin to describe the joy that such a moment gives me. I don’t even have to give her a treat.  She just wants to dance with her Mommy. And when the dance is done, I just pet her, and hug her, and I praise her, and tell her I love her.  It is so awesome, dancing with my Angel. It is, as they say, “priceless”.

So go ahead and try teaching your doggie to dance. Just try it, play your favorite dancing music and dance. And I am pretty sure, if that dog of yours loves you as much as I think it does, it will try its best to dance along with you.  You might just discover that your dog’s got talent!

In this post, I am sharing a precious video. Here’s my loving husband Scott, dancing with our Angel. I am the videographer.  I hope you like it.

copyright by Karen Galarneau 2013

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My Dancing Angel

You can teach old dogs new tricks. We taught Angel her new tricks only this year (she’s now three years old). I believe she can still learn more tricks in the future. They say that some dogs love to have tasks, they love to help. And just as much, they love to do tricks because they know they get their treats for doing them. I have a feeling that another reason is they can feel their tricks make us happy and they love to please us.

My husband Scott and I taught Angel to dance. I saw a youtube video of the winning dancing dog on the British Got Talent show. That gave me the initial idea to teach Angel how to dance. What we taught her is not a complicated routine. It’s simple really but she has learned it and we have a lot of fun with it. Angel loves to perform and she does it even when we have guests. She is a natural entertainer and we are very proud of her. She used to be shy about it but over time she has found her confidence and her rhythm.

I remember when I was very young, I liked to go to dog shows at the veterinary college. My mom was the pharmacist at the vet college hospital pharmacy and we lived on campus so it was easy to attend these dog shows. I was interested in dogs and wanted to be a veterinarian so my mom really encouraged me to go to these events. This is where I first learned from veterinary students how to teach your dog to sit, lie down, come, roll over, and stay.

There are many books on training dogs and also there are obedience schools that would teach your dog for you. But if you have the time and interest, you can try training your dog yourself. The process will be definitely fun and memorable for both you and your pet. The key is to use one syllable words. Also be sure to teach one trick at a time, keep on it until the dog gets it, before moving on to the next trick. This way the dog doesn’t get confused. You just need to be patient, it will be worth it in the end.

Deciphering Angel’s Dog Talk

I wish I could interpret everything Angel was trying to say to me, every time. But I just don’t have the complete guide to decoding her language just yet. I am not giving up yet though. My very own version of Scooby-Doo never ceases to amaze me with her efforts at speaking people language, or at least communicate with me. I swear I’ve never met a more expressive dog than Angel. And she is not loud at all, just communicative. She hardly ever barks. She is really always quite a good girl, very quiet and well-behaved.

For what it’s worth, here is a short list of my translations :

Licking my hand, and excitedly wagging her tail, after getting up from sleep – She wants to go outside
Licking my hand and excitedly wagging her tail plus soft whimpering sounds – She wants to go outside NOW!
Bringing her leash, or shirt to me – You’re right, she wants me to take her for a walk
Bringing her ball to me – She wants to play fetch
Bringing her stuffed toy to me – She wants to play fetch
Licking my hand as soon as I let her back into the house – She’s grateful that I let her in
Licking my hand as I walk by her when I am cooking or preparing food – She wants to taste what I am cooking
Licking my hand, my toes, or my clothes – She wants some food
Bringing me her empty food bowl – She wants some food
Bringing me her empty water bowl – She wants water
Licking my hand while I am sitting or studying and she has not been sleeping – she wants me to pet her
She lifts her paw to shake my hand – she wants to do her tricks i.e, dancy-dancy, shake hands, lie down and roll over, for treats
She suddenly becomes alert, looks at the direction of the front door, gets up and comes over to me – Daddy’s home
She suddenly becomes alert and looks out the windows and stands behind the front door – strange dog is outside our yard or on our porch

My husband teases me and says I got it backwards. That I should not try so hard as to understand what Angel is trying to tell me. He says what matters is that Angel should understand what I tell her to do. Maybe he’s right. But I just like to solve the puzzle that is Angel code. I figure I’d at least try, after all she tries so hard to understand me.

How about you and your pet? Do you have your own key to your pet’s code?

Copyright Karen Galarneau 2013

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WALKING WITH MY TRUE ANGEL

Do you believe our pets can sense our feelings? I believe Angel has kept me healthy and happy. Since the first time I walked with Angel, it has been quite impossible for me to lie in bed and be sad or depressed. She just wouldn’t let that happen. She would either jump in bed with me, or do something funny like bring me her leash, her toy, her “walking” shirt (a dog t-shirt that says “rescued and loved “ which I have been making a habit of letting her wear when we go for a walk). One time she even brought me one of my running shoes. It just tickled me so.
I remember one time when I had to work on completing a chapter for my dissertation and I thought I just didn’t have the time to walk with Angel that day. And so I tried to be smart and I put up all Angel’s leashes, far away from her reach, so she couldn’t bring them to me. At this time, by the way, my loving husband had also started his project of converting our carpet into hardwood flooring and some of his stuff were on the floor. To my surprise, Angel brought me my husband’s tape measure. She must have thought it was a leash because it had a black lanyard which resembled the black cord on her leashes. I couldn’t stop laughing. I had to call my husband and tell him. I guess you know what happened after: I ended up taking her for a walk when I took a break from studying. I figured she deserved it for all her efforts. I must have thought I was rewarding her by taking her for that walk, but after taking the walk, my mind was so clear and I was able to finish the chapter quickly that I was probably really the one who got rewarded.
My daily walks with Angel have indeed kept me healthy and happy. As you know, sometimes when you are writing your dissertation, self-doubt could rear its ugly head, and if you were not careful, it could rob you of your joy and inspiration. I believe that walking with Angel really helped me through those challenging days until I could finally finish my dissertation. Could our pets really have this positive effect on us? Yes, yes, yes! A friend of mine told me a while ago that her cats were the only reason she got up every day when she was clinically depressed. She had to get up to make the cats’ meals. Now that she is feeling much better, she is so grateful to her pets for her survival. And just yesterday I was reading a touching story about how a Labrador helped a lady from suffering depression after her brother, whom she loved very much, passed away (www.thepetplace.com). This dog did everything it could to get her out of bed including pulling her blanket or the sheets and even barking at her to the point that she would actually get up. The Labrador also helped cheer up another dog, her brother’s dog. It was so touching how this Labrador was able to help the lady and her brother’s dog in dealing with their grief and loss. Maybe you also have heard of other stories of the effect of the love of a pet on people’s lives, maybe you even have your very own story to tell. This human-animal bond can be so strong that it can be a source of healing.
Of course, there are those wonderful physical benefits of exercise that walking with my Angel has given me: a chance to better enjoy sunny days and get Vitamin D, get some fresh air, improve my cardio and overall improve my health. But more than that, I have found that walking gives me energy and focus. The walks also get me out of the house and give me a chance to take a break from house chores or from studying. It is fun for me and I know it is fun for Angel. She loves walking. Sometimes, I bring my Ipod and listen to an audiobook of John C. Maxwell’s “Talent Is Not Enough”. And sometimes I pray while we walk. I praise God and thank Him for His many blessings. I pray for our family and friends especially those who are sick. I pray for special intentions. I pray for our family. I pray for our friends. It is wonderful that in this sense, my pet has been like a true angel: bringing me closer to God.
Sometimes when we walk, I pat Angel gently and she looks happily back at me, with her mouth open as if smiling, her eyes almost winking. As we end our last lap, I say “Good job, Angel, you did three laps today!” I hug her close, just before I let her get in the backseat of the car. It’s time to go back home, after another day of walking with my Angel.

© Karen Galarneau 2013

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Lessons from Angel Part 2 – Understanding My Angel

I have my friend Peggy to thank for getting me started with walking outside for exercise. She had started walking as an exercise towards a healthier lifestyle. One day she posted on Facebook inviting her friends to walk with her. She had been posting that she walked around 5 laps a day. I was interested but I wasn’t sure I could do five laps. I replied to her post and said just that and she said to come on. So I did and I really enjoyed it. That first day I actually did 4 laps. I told my husband I really loved it and would like to do it again. He encouraged me to do it and he suggested that I bring Angel along. I asked Peggy if she would mind if I brought my dog along and she said she would ask the Fire Chief if it was okay. Within the day, she sent me a text that it was okay as long as the dog was on a leash, and that she’d see us the next day.

Angel was so happy that first time I took her walking. I got up early that morning, I had coffee and a small breakfast. I said to Angel, “do you want to go walking with Mommy?” She looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I said “where’s your leash Baby, go get your leash”. She seemed to understand that. She looked around and saw her leash on the floor and she picked it up with her teeth and brought it to me! I was so happy, I patted her, and hugged her and said “good girl, good girl!” as she wagged her tail and her whole butt. We left at around 8:00 am. I put her in the backseat of the car and threw her leash in there, too.

When we got to the park, I introduced Angel to Ms. Peggy and I knew she liked Ms. Peggy. I tried to walk her on my left side so I could walk with Peggy on my right. But Angel preferred to walk in the middle, so she could look at me on her left and watch Ms. Peggy on her right. My sweet pooch Angel, she just was so happy walking that very first day. She smelled the air, and she had her head up, and her mouth open just like she was smiling, you know. And she looked at me, smiling like that, and when my hand brushed next to her, she kissed it. Like saying, “I love you Mommy, thank you for taking me walking”.

So the next day, I was sleeping really well. I was thinking, maybe no walking today. Maybe I sleep in today. Sleep feels so good. Maybe because of the great exercise I had the day before. Then I felt Angel licking my hand off the edge of the bed. I took my hand away, I said, “Go back to sleep, Angel”. Then she was licking my toe that was on the edge of the foot of the bed. I pulled my leg back under the covers, saying “Angel, no, Mommy’s sleeping”. What happened next stunned me, woke me from my slumber, and got me straight up and out of bed. Angel had jumped into the bed with me! As if to say, “if you’re going to sleep all day, I will sleep right here on the bed with you!” She had never done that before. And I just knew that the only way I could get her off the bed was to get out of bed myself, and I was right. As soon as I got up, she got off the bed and followed me. I looked at the clock and sure enough it said 8:00 am. It’s as if Angel knew it was time for walking again. I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I went to make coffee and toast some bread. Suddenly I could feel Angel fussing at my feet. When I turned to look she had her leash in her mouth and she was wagging her tail and almost skipping with excitement. As if to say, “let’s go walking now Mommy, I’m ready.”

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Tomorrow, Part 3 of Lessons from Angel

Lessons from Angel Part 1: Understanding My Angel

One of the consequences of spending time with someone is you get to know them really well. So well that you can learn their body language and understand them better in general. This is easy to explain when we are thinking of our friends, family, or even our spouse. The longer we know someone, lived with someone or been friends with someone, the better we understand them. Well, if we really listen, that is. Don’t you just know when your friend or family member is not okay even though they say they are fine. I have realized that this is also possible with your pets. The longer we spend time with them, the closer our bond, and the better we understand what they are trying to tell us.

I am reminded of the time when I was a young veterinarian, my father used to tell his friends that the veterinarian’s job was more difficult than the medical doctor’s. “We tell the doctors what we feel and where our pain is, but the animals can’t speak, so the veterinarians, they just got to know,” he used to say with a glimmer of pride in his eyes.

It’s true that as veterinarians we are trained on signs and symptoms of illnesses and diagnostic tests that help us determine what ails the animal paient. We also learn about animal behavior and physiology which help us even further to understand and interpret animal behavior.

But just like any other pet owner, I learned Angel’s “language” by spending a lot of time with her day in and day out. For example, i learned that when she suddenly comes up and licks my hand a lot, especially when i am busy like studying or on my computer, it usually means that she needs to go outside. Now when she does that, I ask her “do you want to go outside?” If she does, she would be very excited and wag her tail and start heading towards the door and exits the door as soon as i open it. If she sits down and turns her head away from the door, then she didn’t want to go outside. I look at her food bowl and if it is empty, i go to fill it up and sure enough, she was hungry, and she was trying to get my attention so i would put some food, or water whichever might be the case. It is funny how other times she cannot be more clear when she actually carries her empty food bowl in her mouth and drops it at my feet.

Next, I will tell you about how the funny thing she does when she wants to go for a walk in the morning.

Exercising with My Angel

Everyone needs exercise. Exercise is good for our health. The recommendation is at least thirty minutes three times a week. But if you can, it is better for your health to exercise more often like five days a week or even everyday, and for longer than 30 minutes each time. it would not just be healthy but it would also facilitate weight loss.

Dogs also need exercise. It helps dissipate their energy and minimize anxiety. One day, while i was walking on the treadmill, Angel tried to get up on it as if wanting to walk with me. But the treadmill wasn’t big enough for both of us. I turned the treadmill off and got down. I let her get on the treadmill and when she was on it, i turned it back on. I let her walk on there for a while while i did the dishes. She seemed to like it as long as she could watch me. It wasn’t me who trained her for the treadmill, though, it was Scott my husband who taught her how to walk on the treadmill. He says she used to walk at least 30 minutes on it but with me she only stayed on it for 15 minutes.

Walking is one of the best low impact exercises. It is not too harsh on your feet or on the back. It is great for overall body health as it is good for the heart and other organs. When you can not walk outside, the treadmill is the next best thing. Just turn up your ipod, or the tv , and walk your way to good health. And if you have a dog, let it use the treadmill too. There are actually treadmills made especially for dogs, and it is designed for their size. I think the best gift we could give ourselves everyday is at least thirty minutes of exercise. And the same goes for our pets. If we could help them get their daily exercise, it is a gift not just for them but for ourselves. When they are healthier, we can enjoy their companionship longer.

Angel’s zest for exercise is a constant source of inspiration for me. She just loves getting on the treadmill. We’re so lucky to have such an awesome health buff for our pet.

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Man’s Best Friend

No one can deny the special bond that exists between people and their pets. The dog has been known as man’s best friend precisely because of this human-animal bond. Angel has the kind of mix that makes her look like a red-nosed pitbull. But she has this funny looking set of ears, with one of them cocked and she looks more like Scooby-doo than a pitbull. She’s not as huge as a great dane though, which is what Scooby-doo is supposed to be.

Angel loves me. I can see it in her eyes when she looks at me. I can feel it in her excitement every time I come through the door. In the day time as I go about doing my chores, Angel is right beside me. Up and down the stairs, as I go around the house doing housework, she is with me every step of the way. When I go up to the bedroom to pick up laundry, she trudges up the stairs. Sometimes it cracks me up because it seems like she is mocking me — copying the way i walk up those steps. When I put the laundry in the washer, she finally lies on the floor behind me, and sighs. I don’t blame her, and it makes me chuckle whenever she does it.

The only housework I do that she probably doesn’t like is vaccuuming. It must be the noise. But even then she doesn’t stay that far away. As soon as the vaccuming is done she is back right on my side again. And when I am done with my chores and ready for my nap, she is so excited to lie down on the floor next to the bed, sighing loudly as she plops down to nap herself. As if she is saying, “finally”.

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Maybe I am just biased, but just look at those pretty brown eyes, I’m pretty sure you can see the love shining through.

WALKING WITH MY ANGEL

Do you believe in angels? I do. But the one I am talking about here is a different kind of angel. I have my husband to thank for many things. And maybe one of the best reasons is that he gave me my Angel. She is the most lovable adorable loyal affectionate loving dog I have ever met in my entire life. And did I mention smart? Yup, she is amazingly intelligent.

I first met Angel on Skype. I kid you not. I was out of the country when my husband Scott decided to adopt a scrawny brown dog named Booger. During one of our Skype video calls, he introduced us. As I got to hear about Booger and saw more of Booger on the video calls, I told my husband, she seems such a sweet dog, why don’t we call her Angel instead? So that’s how she became “Angel”. Later on when I got back home, I finally met Angel face to face and she was indeed like an angel, fully deserving of her name. She was no longer scrawny, she’d had more dog food and more loving attention that she was growing into this beautiful but still brown doggie.

It was Scott’s idea to keep Angel as an inside dog, meaning keep her in the house most of the time. At first I was afraid because I was allergic to pet dander. The allergist told me before that I could keep a pet, just not sleep in not same room with it. But we decided that Angel could sleep in our bedroom, just not in our bed. I put a pillow and a blanket on Scott’s side of the room for Angel to sleep on, but every night after we had gone to sleep she would go to my side of the room and sleep there and I would wake up and find her there. Later on, we found that she was going under our bed to sleep. And that is how it is now. When I say “sleeping time, Angel” she would crawl under the bed. And in the morning, when I get up, she crawls out from under the bed and follows me as I lead her to the door to go outside and do her morning constitutional (a nice way of saying she goes outside to pee).

Since I was writing my dissertation this past year and a half, I was a full time graduate student and full time housewife too. Angel turned out to be a great companion for me. Although, she mostly slept and snored while I wrote and studied, I still think she is the best dissertation buddy ever. She was always at my side during those grueling days, and she always made sure I got some sunshine and exercise as she would nudge me to play outside in the backyard with her. She is a natural at playing fetch, nobody ever taught her, but she just knew. And so we enjoyed some play time everyday especially when it was a pretty day, she always seemed to know. It kept me balanced and minimized my stress. That’s my Angel, the playful big brown puppy-like doggy.