Tag Archive for: off the leash

Diane and Joe Ponzo have been rescuing medically-challenged seniors and hospice dogs since July 13, 1990. After rescuing their first pug angel, Tiger Joe, they decided to turn their passion into an organization called Canine Angels for Heaven on August 1, 2017. “We realized way back in 1990 that there were not enough people that wanted to take in medically challenged and hospice dogs,” says Diane. “People were just letting them go to die by themselves. Everyone wanted the puppies or younger dogs, but no one wanted the seniors, medically challenged seniors or hospice dogs.” Thus, their passion to help this group of dogs was born.

What is Pet Hospice? It is caring for an end of life Canine Angel. For example, a dog is diagnosed with cancer, his/her family does not want to watch them decline, so they call us and relinquish their dog to us. We give this Canine Angel the best love, family and all necessary medical care. This Canine Angel will be with us until they go to heaven. They will die with dignity, love and support from us; never ever alone!

Canine Hospice entails giving all of the above, including all the medical care they need. We work with a couple of wonderful vets who help us out with this. Hospice Care means being with them 24/7, it means giving them all the attention they need, all the paw holding they need and all the fun they can handle. It means road trips, picnics, special dinners, meeting people, going for stroller rides, swimming and more. It means giving them their medicine on time, giving them love and giving them the time they need to deal with their illness; it means being with them until the end and never leaving them. Hospice means being up at night and being sleep-deprived when an Angel is not feeling well; it means rocking them in the rocking chair until they fall asleep; it means being with them at their best and at their worst.

What are the costs? Costs are expensive. When a Canine Angel comes into our care, they go right to the vet to get checked out. We need to know exactly what is wrong and how we can give them the best life and best ending possible. A general vet visit can cost anywhere from $100.00 to thousands of dollars depending on the problem. We ask questions like: Do they need surgery? Do they need a dental? Generally, they need medicine and that is expensive at any pharmacy. Sometimes the vet carries medications, and sometimes we have to get it at the general pharmacy. These Canine Angels will be on their medications until the very end. They all go to the vet for their medication checks, cancer checks, heart checks or whatever their illness is. They all get checked out according to the vet’s recommendations.

What types of pets qualify for hospice? Cancer, Congestive Heart Failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Tumors, Kidney Failure, Liver Failure, Degenerative Disc Disease, Blind, Deaf, and anything else that we might come across. We also take in medically challenged pets such as ones with missing limbs or those who are not able to walk properly due to injury or disease.

Scooter-Roo came into our hospice because he was born with no front legs. This means he is medically challenged and a senior. When his human mama died, his family of 10 years did not want him. Scooter-Roo made the trip from Texas to come live with us. Daisy May, a 1-year-old little terrier mix came into our home on March 6, 2019. She came to us because she was supposed to die. She was beaten, abused, suffering from malnutrition and was dehydrated. It was one of the worst cases of abuse Chicago Animal Control had seen in years. On March 2, 2019, she was treated in the emergency room and stayed there until we received the call we could take her home. When we took over her care, they thought because of her malnutrition, she was going to have organ failure and die. If she did survive, she certainly would never walk. Well, with lots of love, rehabilitation and care from us and two of our wonderful volunteers, mother/daughter team Savanna and Melissa Volck, Daisy May survived. She can now walk, run, bark and have fun. Because she was beaten so badly on her head, she will always have short-term memory loss and vision loss, but that does not stop this fighter. She made a miraculous recovery and was adopted by the family who volunteers with us and who was instrumental in her recovery.

We have taken in medically challenged and hospice senior dogs from as far away as Kuwait. We have a medically challenged dog from Kuwait named Flately. He was brought to the meat market in Kuwait, and his angel was there to save him. They then called us and a few weeks later Flately was brought to the United States to receive proper medical care for degenerative disc disease.

What to expect… Most vets will tell the human parents their dog has a terminal condition or their dog has a problem that incurable or insolvable. Sometimes the human parents will tell the vet they are unable or unwilling to deal with it, and when the vet tells them their options, one option is to give them our card or call us. Sometimes the people will go home and think about things and then call us. Most rescues know about us and will also call us.

How many Angels can be cared for at one time? My husband, Joe, works from home. He is gone four to five hours per week. I work for a local hospital system and work four days per week. We can take care of several Canine Angels. We have a couple of great volunteers that help us. They love the Canine Angels and care for them, so we can do things that need to get done around the house. They rock and love these Canine Angels as if they were their very own. Without our wonderful volunteers, this task would be more difficult, but they help us ensure our Canine Angels are never alone.

Can previous owners visit their dogs? Once a Canine Angel is relinquished into our care, most people cannot drop off their dog fast enough and never look back. Most do not care and 99.5 percent NEVER want to know what is happening again. A couple of times, a request has come through for updates. We will update previous owners for a while just so the previous owner knows our new Canine Angel is adjusting well.

We have a large fenced-in area for the dogs with a tent that has a heater in it. The Canine Angels can go potty in this heated tent when it is cold, snowy or there is nasty weather. It heats up to about 75 degrees. We have a therapy pool in our basement that is 88 degrees. Each dog has his or her own life jacket and, if needed, a head rest. We do go in the pool with them.

There were and still are so many senior dogs, medically challenged dogs and hospice dogs that are alone in shelters. They are alone and dying by themselves with no one to love them or care for them. They sit there when people come looking for their new younger dog. The poor dog is sad, lonely and feels unloved and sometimes unworthy of love.

What we do is a 24/7 labor of love. We do not go on vacations. If we go out, it might be for a couple of hours, but then we need to get back home because the angels need us. We do not want to miss medicine times, insulin times for diabetic dogs or therapy times.

Helping Spines of All Kinds

Dr. Morgan moved to Wisconsin and started her business in June 2018. She has been happily helping four-legged patients and their two-legged humans ever since. Her passion for chiropractic grew alongside her journey an obtaining her Doctorate of Chiropractic from Sherman College of Chiropractic in South Carolina, then onto Texas for postgraduate training. Today, McCaskill services “spines of all kinds,” as she likes to say and works in and around the Kiel area.

Describe Your Patients?
The majority of the patients I see are horses, dogs and humans. However, I see many other animal species for chiropractic care such as cats and cows. It is my opinion that anything with a spine can benefit from chiropractic care. My post graduate education in animal chiropractic mostly focused on horses and dogs, but I was given the tools to be able to study any animal’s spine to be able to provide them with care.

Some of my favorite patients to care for are horse and rider teams. Both see the benefit of chiropractic for their athletic performance and in their day to day lives. I cannot tell you how many times growing up riding horses that I heard “your horse is your mirror image.” When I started working with horse and rider pairs and seeing the same compensation patterns, it gave this phrase a whole new meaning to me. Horses are truly amazing in the way they adapt to our shortcomings as riders so that they can still perform their jobs, and rarely do they complain about it until it becomes a major issue. There are many riders that are now under my care for chiropractic because they would see improvement for the first few rides following adjustment, but then their horse would revert back to the same issue (such as not being able to pick up the correct lead, being grumpy when getting tacked up, head tossing, etc.). When I asked the rider the last time they had chiropractic care, they would often answer never. I will almost always find a pelvic imbalance, which can lead to uneven leg length and an unbalanced rider. After an adjustment to restore balance in the rider as well as the horse, those chiropractic adjustments start holding better and longer.

Is horse chiropractic different?
The basics of chiropractic care for horses is the same as for humans or smaller pets. The ultimate goal of chiropractic is to remove restrictions and misalignments found in the spine. Both human and animal spines house our nervous system, which consists of our brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves that branch from the spinal cord and supply the rest of the body. If there are misalignments in our spine, it results in pressure on the nervous system and a breakdown of communication in the body. We call these subluxations. Depending on where there is a dysfunction in communication, you can see different manifestations. Some common ones are fatigue, muscle weakness, decreased motion and pain. Chiropractic care addresses subluxations by using a gentle adjustment to restore the body’s ability to function optimally, communicate and heal from within.

A typical equine chiropractic appointment with me starts with an analysis of posture and gait, which tells me a lot about how the horse is functioning. Following this, I perform an assessment of the nervous system by checking certain reflexes. Then I go through every joint, checking motion and muscle tone of the surrounding tissue. Using all of this information, I know when and where to apply a chiropractic adjustment. I think it is very important to educate the owner as I adjust and show them the differences before and after an adjustment. Horses are big animals (I have some that I cannot even see over their withers without my adjusting bale!), so a typical appointment lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour. Canine chiropractic appointments have a similar flow, but they typically last about 30 minutes.

What are the benefits?
There are many wonderful benefits of chiropractic care!
Increases joint range of motion • Increases energy • Reduces inflammation
Increases circulation • Relaxes tight muscles • Reduces pain
Stimulates the nervous system, which can improve organ function
Reduces adhesions in joints

How long is recovery from an injury?
Healing is a process and varies from case to case. The same injury in one horse may take a month to recover, whereas it can take another 3 months for another. That recovery time depends a lot on the commitment and diligence of the owner to keep up with chiropractic care, at-home exercises and if we are doing other treatments in conjunction with chiropractic.

One of my patients is a 21-year-old Arabian cross Cob gelding named Monty. Monty was referred for a chiropractic evaluation by his primary veterinarian due to deficits in the function of his nervous system. Specifically, Monty was having trouble walking and did not seem to know where his feet were. His veterinarian thought he may have another underlying neurologic issue but suggested that chiropractic may help him heal and could be started while they waited for test results. At his first visit, Monty was very unstable, could barely walk and looked as though his legs were about to give out from under his body. When I performed testing on his nervous system, most of the reflexes were not present, and the ones that Monty had were not normal. I only adjusted his neck and pelvis at the first visit and let his body adapt to those changes. By his second visit one week later, the test results had come back from the vet, showing no signs of an underlying condition, so we decided the best course of action was chiropractic. Monty had his spine checked for subluxations once a week for 6 weeks. Each week we saw improvement in his posture, gait and reflexes.

The improvement was slow at first, but as time went on, we began to see more improvement at each visit. At his week 6 appointment, I saw enough improvement in Monty’s ability to hold his adjustments that we extended appointments. His gait had improved on the straightaways, though he still had difficulty with tight turns, and his reflexes were all present and normal. Monty was even doing some short trot bursts out in pasture, though his trotting was by no means a normal gait. Just before his appointment with me on week 8, Monty’s vet came back out for a check-up, and had trouble catching him because he was running around out in the pasture! Monty has stayed under chiropractic care for maintenance care. Time between appointments has increased as he has been able to hold his adjustments better—now I am seeing him every other month. His owner has also been diligent about incorporating exercises into his daily routine to help his body heal and hold adjustments. Now Monty is out in pasture playing with his pasture mate, a mini donkey named Poncho, and you would never know that 6 months ago he could hardly walk.

To find out more about chiropractic care, check out BackCountry Animal Chiropractic’s website backcountryanimalchiropractic.com or follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

And in a Flash…It Just Happened

Owner and founder of Copper Arrow Photography, Aubray Vande Corput has been smitten by horses since she was a little girl. She knew that becoming a veterinarian was not her calling but also needed to find a niche in the world of horses. In 2018, she choose to combine her love of photography with her love of horses. “Something just clicked. I immediately loved it. I could foresee this being my business, and something that I would be proud to build on and grow,” says Corput.

Why Horses?
It all started at a fair. You know those pony rides where the children can ride the miniature horses? My parents made the mistake of letting me ride the pony. It also didn’t help that my cousin was taking riding lessons and that the barn was less than a mile from my house. So it began. I was 5 years old when I started taking riding lessons. I remember wanting to learn how to ride, and my trainer would take the whole lesson to teach me the parts on a saddle, or how to tack a horse up, or simply feeding, grooming and caring for horses. As a child, I was so impatient because all I wanted to do was get on the back of the horse and ride. But it taught me what owning a horse really entailed. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop me from wanting my own horse.

When I was 9, that dream became a reality. I was the proud owner of a very large, very young, paint gelding named Flash. Sadly, he tried to buck me off every chance he had. I learned how to have a good seat, so I am grateful for his ability to teach me that! He found a perfect new owner who was more experienced than I was, and that led me to my “heart horse” as the horse world calls it. She was a short, chestnut mare with an attitude. But I loved that mare with every bit of my heart. After 7 wonderful years, old age got the best of her, and I lost my best friend. My heart was broken. I had a few snapshots that my mom had taken and a couple from our shows together. But after she was gone, I didn’t have much left of our memories together. I saved her halter, I still have it to this day, along with her stall plaque. But, as technology changed and grew, the digital photos I had of her were lost. Once I started high school, I took up photography and I loved it. (Turns out my great-grandpa was also a photographer. I didn’t learn that until later in life.) But photography was set aside when I graduated. At the time, I never thought it was an option for me. But the second time around, it took off, and I don’t plan on putting it down anytime soon.

Horses Only? What Makes Photographing Horses Unique?
No. I also specialize in high school senior portraits. High school seniors seem to go hand in hand with their horses. They are such big parts of our lives and how we are shaped over the years. They really define us. If you meet a true horse girl, you will know almost immediately how much she loves horses. To include horses in your senior pictures helps tell the story of who you are as a person, and it helps tell this chapter in your life.

Photographing horses is unique because you have to know horses. You have to know what is flattering on a horse and what isn’t. You have to look for certain expressions; They can be so minor, but an owner is going to be able to pick out how their horse was feeling in that exact moment. Beyond knowing what to look for, you need to be able to safely work with the horse to achieve the right expressions and poses. You have to make sure the horse isn’t getting stressed out. Working with horses for over 20 years has given me the insight and experience to accomplish successful photoshoots.

Do You Travel?
I am always up for travel! I am based in Green Bay, Wis., but I will travel anywhere. I will be in Florida this March photographing many hunter/jumpers down in Wellington. I also have plans to be in Texas this summer to photograph reiners and cow horses. In late summer, I will be in Pennsylvania for some lovely East Coast portrait sessions.

What is the best shoot you’ve done?
Oh, this is a tough one. I can’t pick a best ONE. I have things I love about each and every session. There are aspects of every session that make it wonderful. I try to take the positives from every session and remember why I loved that aspect of it, and what made it so wonderful and so forth. That can range from the client’s story, or maybe it was a beautiful backdrop, or maybe it was just the laughter shared.

I can’t say I have had a “worst” session. I don’t know that I can say I have had even a “bad” session. If ever there is a negative aspect from a session, I analyze why that was. I try to learn from it to prevent it from happening again or to help me handle tough situations. I strive to give each and every client a fairytale session with the best experience possible.

Anything else you would like to add? People can view my website at copperarrowphotography.com or visit me on Facebook and Instagram.

CBD: It may not be water, but it could just be the next best thing for your body…

As a professional pet sitter and business owner, Karen Eckert, founder of My Organic Hound, has been exploring the world of cannabidiol (CBD) products and their effects on pets. She is now so passionate about using them that she feels inclined to share some of her amazing results with us. “Animals have always been a part of my life since I was a little girl. I always wanted to do something for the animals and advocate for them,” says Karen.

So is this just a fad, or has CBD now become a must-have product for future pet parents? Let’s find out.

Q. How did you become involved with CBD? And why is it now a passion?

A. I was introduced to CBD products by a friend who was asked to be a rep for a company. I wondered if and how it would work for animals, so I started researching CBD and the benefits it had for people. I found that humans and pets have the same endocannabinoid system, which means the benefits of CBD would help the pets just the same. CBD is good for all dogs, especially if they have joint and muscle pain, anxiety, and much more. CBD is completely safe and it will not get your pet high. It works as a pain reducer and gets rid of inflammation faster than some prescription drugs but without the side effects.

This notion of a product that could benefit animals and be both safe and healing made me curious. Therefore, I decided I was going to see if my clients would want to try the oil on their pets and give me their feedback. So here we are.

Q. What results have you seen?

A. From my experience and many testimonials, CBD products, although anecdotal for pets, eases their anxiety and helps with digestion and inflammation with muscle and joint issues. Furthermore, it has helped dogs with shortness of breath from heart disease sleep better. I have seen cancer tumors shrink on a dog’s belly, along with control seizures, and help cats with chronic respiratory infections. Just as determining the right dosage for adults, CBD dosing for dogs depends on a number of factors. Some are more sensitive than others and need smaller doses for the same effect.

For that reason, people should start with a minimum dose and work their way up until they see results. Consuming more CBD than a body needs may be less effective, so it’s worth taking the time to find the right dosage. If a dog is already taking medications, I suggest talking to the vet first. Taking the oil an hour before or after the medication is recommended.

Q. What is your goal with CBD?

A. My goal for selling the CBD for pets is to have them experience the healing benefits without a medication. CBD does not have any side effects, nor is it addictive. For the last three years, I was selling CBD products for pets at many rescue vendor events throughout the state. The first two years of selling CBD products, people were uneducated on the benefits of CBD and did not approach my booth. Within this last year though, I’ve had people who are now faithful users of CBD for their pets come up to me and tell me their stories about why they give it to their animals.

As I continued to hear the many positive stories from people, I decided I wanted to get this to as many people and their pets as possible. I am now working with a local company, WI Hemp Scientific, inorder to get as many rescues as possible involved with using CBD. WI Hemp Scientific grows hemp right here in Wisconsin and each batch is 3rd party lab tested for pesticides, solvents, metals and molds to ensure a safe effective product. Our primary purpose is to make it affordable, so that it may benefit the rescues and benefit the animals who are transitioning from rescue life into a new home.

Q. Anything else to add?

A. Rescues can buy these products at wholesale price and sell them at their rescue or to people who adopt from them.

I believe these products will help ease the transition for pets. Rescues pour their heart and soul into keeping their rescues going by fundraising, donations, etc. With being able to purchase the oil at a reasonable price, the rescue benefits as well as the pet! Most pets in rescue come from horrible situations, and they are scared and unsure of their surroundings. CBD can help make the pet’s life calmer and not so traumatic.

When people keep their pets on CBD (which is a supplement), they will continue to see benefits for their pets. Consistency is key for well being. WI Hemp Scientific is the only hemp grown company in the state who wants to support rescues and animals as much as I do. And for that reason, I want the price to be affordable so people will be able to purchase it.

My goal is to help them all!

Who is the woman behind Lost & Hound?

Britney Kruesel is the girl behind Lost & Hound! I have two dogs, Bella, a 3lb Chihuahua and Milo, an always hungry Beagle. Aside from helping other rescue dogs, my dogs were truly the inspiration behind the brand. I work full time for the Wisconsin Humane Society as the youth programs specialist, coordinating programs designed to increase empathy toward animals and impact children and their community in a positive way. After a full days work at the shelter, I come home, take my dogs for a walk, make dinner and then spend another 4-6 hours cultivating new ideas for Lost & Hound, fulfilling orders and making updates to my website, www.lostandhoundmke.com. I usually fall asleep with my laptop on my lap!

How much time do you devote to volunteering?

Before I began working full time at an animal rescue, I volunteered as part of an internship at the Coulee Region Humane Society in Onalaska, socializing dogs and assisting with the pet therapy and youth programs. I have fostered a handful of dogs as well as helped assist families in finding their perfect match. In 2016, Milo and I became a registered pet therapy team through Health Heelers/Pet Partners as a way for us to strengthen our bond, but also as a way for him to share his sweet old soul with those who may benefit from the therapeutic companionship of a dog. Milo and I are lucky enough to spend a couple evenings a month volunteering at memory loss facilities and other youth programs around the city.

How many dogs have received toys to help them transition?

Just under 1,000 and counting (thanks to our loyal customers!).

What’s new?

I’m always looking for new patterns for our bandanas and bow ties. I am also looking into the possibility of a new style leash, collar, additional toys, as well as fun new human goods for those who don’t have a pet but would like to support Lost & Hound’s mission.

We have a few events lined up. Barktoberfest, Fromm Fest and Brady Street Pet Parade to mention a few. We hope to see you there!

If you had to sum up your photography/art in one word … what would it be?


Anything else you would like to share?

Our Lost & Hound bandanas can also currently be found in three Milwaukee stores, LOCALmke, MilwaukeeHome and URSA, with additional partnerships brewing as we speak.

Follow along for more updates and announcements on Instagram or Facebook: @lostandhoundmke!

I started in rescue in 2000 when I adopted my first rescue dog. At the time, rescue organizations were far and few between! I spent the next 8 years helping to re-home Golden Retrievers. The later part of that was spent doing transports. That is when we realized that the rural shelters were having a hard time adopting out anything other than a purebred dog. The connections made during the years in rescue helped get BRATS off the ground. We had connections with almost all of the shelters in Wisconsin, many of the rescues and with local breeders. My husband and I have 2 dogs that we transported but ended up staying with us. One is a Boxer Mix and the other is a Pitbull.

What is BRATS?
BRATS is a Wisconsin-based animal rescue transport service. We started this in 2008 to help rural Wisconsin shelters get their animals to areas of the state where they had a better chance at adoption.

At the time their kill rates were high. The big thing holding them back was a reliable transportation system to move animals around. Fast forward 10 years and most of these same shelters are now finding themselves in a position to bring IN animals.

Do you help more than just dogs?
We learned early on that it wasn’t just dogs that needed to be transferred. There were cats, birds, small animals, rabbits, reptiles and occasional farm animals. Wisconsin has a rescues for all of these so we adjusted our business model to include all of them.

What programs do you have?
1. We have our ambulance service to pick up sick and wounded animals at the shelters to get them to Spay Me in Madison. That led to our work with UW Vet School in Madison. We also run a chuck wagon service that moves food and supplies between shelters. So nice to see everyone sharing!

2. During the busy times of the year we help MADACC get their animals to Wisconsin Humane Society’s Spay/Neuter Clinic.

3. BRATS has worked with breeders in Wisconsin since the beginning. We move their retired breeder dogs to rescues and shelters that know how to work with them. Some are seniors, but most of them are in the 2-8 year range. We would prefer to see them living out their lives as pampered pets vs never knowing a loving family. Most find homes in a few weeks. Some take longer to adjust. Occasionally breeders will call with puppies that have gotten too old to sell. We work with breeders of big dogs like Golden Retrievers and Golden Doodles to the cute little fluffy dogs. They all deserve a home, and we do our best to make sure they get that.

4. Two years ago we started our Wisconsin Junior Heroes For Animals to recognize kids making a difference in the lives of animals. That is what BRATS does right now. It will be interesting to see what we look like in 5 years as we are always adjusting to what our partners need. Junior Heroes are nominated by shelters, rescue groups, family members or friends. Some of these kids have overcome some pretty substantial hardships in their lives but find a way to help animals. One young lady raised funds for vests for police service dogs. Some of them help bottle feed kitties and puppies. Some spend a lot of time at their local shelter reading to animals and helping in ways only kids can. There is a BRATS youth volunteer this year that reads to the animals on the transports to help them de-stress. We want to recognize these wonderful kids and their good deeds. It really helps to keep them motivated. Kids who are kind to animals are generally kind to humans!

How can the public help?
The public can help by spaying/neutering and microchipping their animals and keeping them safe so they don’t end up in shelters.

BRATS does not charge for our services. There are no paid positions. Everyone pays for their own vehicles and their own expenses. Many of the people that drive during the week are retired or on some type of fixed income. A gas card helps them tremendously.

BRATS is pretty complex for an all- volunteer organization nobody outside of rescue knows about. We prefer to have the spotlight on our shelter/rescue partners who are doing the heavy lifting.

Regardless of your past, you are still a Rockstar—or at least that is the mantra of Judith Fischer, dog trainer and owner of Agility Possibilities, LLC. Fischer went from showing and titling several breeds to finding her true life’s purpose in agility training. She has lived and breathed dogs for 45 years and upon rescuing a Bloodhound girl named Sarah, Fischer was able to develop a fondness for special needs training.

“Sarah Louise opened my eyes and heart to working with dogs with special needs. While we recently lost our Sarah … it was through watching her reconnect with life and enjoy being with other dogs and people that I am now able to better teach others how their dogs best learn regardless of what their past held,” Fischer emphasizes.

How do you train a dog with special needs?

All our training classes are designed with the dogs best interest in mind. I incorporate fun obstacles so every dog or owner, despite limited ability, is still able to take to the course and enjoy learning together.

Agility as a competition sport is awesome to watch! Often we watch these dogs, muttering under our breath, ‘my dog, or I, could never do that!’ Yet, all dogs can train and benefit from the sport of agility. The challenge is not if our special needs dogs can navigate the obstacles but how we are going to train them to do so. In training with handicaps, ours or theirs, we need to focus on what we can do, rather than what we can’t. Sometimes the criteria we deem as insurmountable needn’t even be part of the equation. Dogs are very resilient and receptive to trying and learning new things. They aren’t worried about what others will think or say they just go about enjoying life and trying to get the most out of each day. We could learn A LOT from our canine counterparts.

All dogs’ first language is scent; depending on their breed-inherent traits, they may carry a double major in scent (as my Hounds did) or be more visually acute. Perhaps they were originally bred to work following hand cues or subtle body cues. All this comes into play when training dogs. A special needs dog may just have a shorter list from which to choose. That just means you both have less to learn! Less is more. Less distraction or involvement can equal greater attention and focus to the task at hand (or paw). I have seen and worked with deaf dogs that blow the others away on course since they are not distracted by sounds, having been taught to follow visual cues. I have also worked with blind dogs that did extremely well in having specific scents to direct or redirect during training. I see these as all positive training behaviors not just for agility but in life. In working with how we each learn best, together we receive greater results in establishing a bond built on trust, respect and love.


Agility is an all-encompassing training medium for dogs and their owners that exercises the mind and body. It teaches or helps redirect the dog’s impulse control while being off leash. I have worked with many a dog that is more receptive to learning basic obedience or manners skills if they get to burn off some pent up frustration by going over a jump or racing through a tunnel as part of training.

A few of my students refer to agility class as ‘fun school.’ I like that! Most dogs already know how to run and jump. Incorporating what you and your dog enjoy doing together at home in a structured class format is a great way to work on their social skills. Many owners have made great human friendships as well and attending class is a great social outing for them. Through my decades of working with people training their dogs, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from those with what we call handicaps. In treating them with the respect they deserve, at times modifying my approach or setup, I have found through acceptance, there are no real handicaps, just obstacles we all encounter and have to learn from.

Why do you do it?

In agility training, we are able to release our inner puppy—enjoy life and laugh at ourselves since our dogs do humble us. We learn to connect with others not based on social status but through our common interest—dogs. I love being able to provide safe, fun, educational and recreational training for dogs and owners. I enjoy watching owners learn from their dogs and work towards a mutually beneficial goal. That’s what it is all about to me: watching dogs teach their owners that while life presents many challenges, they can be overcome by working and learning together.