work of dogs
We just got this wonderful note and video from Tamandra Michaels, a perfect representative for our slogan, Dog Is My Co-Pilot. She writes:
"I think I tried to share this video I had made of my puppy on your Facebook page, but not sure if was really seen. I just wanted to really share this, as I have your shirt on, and he is so fitting with “dog is my co-pilot.” You blogged about my last Shepherd, who pulled me in my wheelchair, and was a very special guy. I was so devastated to lose him. This current pup has really healed me, and is turning out to be just as special, a very amazing boy! He loves to pull me fast in the chair, but also developed this talent all on his own—and it has to be his idea ha ha. He pushes me with his nose, all over the place. It's just especially cool when I have your shirt on .… It fits my whole philosophy of training, too. Force free, truly a team mate, co-pilot :)"
You can read more about her and this amazing dog, Justice True, on http://journeywithjustice.com
From the Norwegian Association of the Blind
This is a very clever video from the Norwegian Association of the Blind about gaining access for their guide dogs. It's hard to believe that would be in an issue in a socially progressive Scandinavian country, but seems like it is one. So we hope this "Could Have Been Worse" video goes a long way in making it easier for them and their wonderful dogs.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
A program for children with special needs.
For the past 14 years, my Bernese Mountain Dogs and I have been involved in animalassisted therapy activities through Marin Humane Society’s Special Human-Animal Relationships (SHARE) program. Together, we’ve visited senior residential facilities, our local hospital’s critical care unit, reading programs, classrooms for children with special needs and those involved in humane education, programs for at-risk and troubled youth, and Marin Humane Society (MHS) summer camps. My youngest Berner, Charlotte, has been part of the SHARE program for three years. She’s a gentle soul who makes an immediate connection with everyone, especially children, whom she loves.
In April 2012, Rachel Blackman— whose mother, Darlene Blackman, heads the MHS SHARE and Community Service programs—invited five SHARE teams (including Charlotte and me) to participate in a program she developed for her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Inspired by one of her cousins, who is autistic, and her participation in MHS summer camps, she named it Jumping for Joy.
Jumping for Joy focuses on children with autism and learning disabilities and their families. The six-week program, which is offered at no cost to the participants, provides the children with an opportunity to work with trained animal-assisted therapy (AAT) teams on a canine agility course. Before and after the agility-course work, children and dogs spend time together in the “therapy” part of the program, during which each child receives reassurance, nonjudgmental acceptance and unconditional love from the canine teams.
During the first week, the children and their families meet and spend time with the dogs and watch demonstrations of the equipment they will be using. The focus is on simple cues for each station. Weeks two through five are dedicated to helping the children learn to navigate the jumps, tire, tunnel, A-frame and table with the dogs. Each class involves a demonstration, practice on the course and learning a new skill, as well as time spent with the dogs. To assist the children, Rachel prepares laminated cue cards that show a dog on a particular piece of equipment and the single-word cue that should be used. The final session is attended by families and friends and includes demonstrations and practice. Then, each child takes a dog through the complete agility course and receives a special certificate and medal.
The children in the first session were all from the same school and were well known to each of the SHARE teams from our visits to their classroom. It was rewarding to watch the even deeper bond that developed between the children and the dogs throughout the six weeks of the program. The learning styles and attention capabilities of each child guided the manner and method of their instruction. As a result, all were successful; in the photos taken during the classes, their attention and focus on the dogs and equipment are obvious. Even more telling are the smiles and looks of relaxation and enjoyment on their faces. During our earlier classroom visits, one of the boys was usually reluctant to approach Charlotte. We returned to his class after he completed the program, and what a change! He wanted her to sit right next to him as we worked on his math and writing assignments.
The second session brought a mix of students from three different schools, which provided a few new challenges. Rachel was quick to identify each child’s needs and learning style and provided us with guidance on how best to work with them. A white board with a simple class agenda was helpful for one. For another, having a glove to absorb dog slobber made a huge difference. Each child worked with all of the dogs; however, the children were free to choose which dog they wanted to work with on any individual exercise.
When I reflect on the many AAT programs Charlotte and I have participated in, Jumping for Joy is one of my very favorites. It combines the best of everything: children with special needs, dogs who love and respond to children, and opportunities for the children to be successful in learning new and fun skills. And I absolutely love the fact that the program evolved from the dream of a 15-year-old animal lover. The joy on the children’s faces says it all.
If your local animal-assisted therapy organization would like to learn more about starting a Jumping for Joy program, please email Rachel through the Marin Humane Society; send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suleika Jaouad is a 25-year-old woman who has been battling leukemia and chronicling this in a blog, “Life, Interrupted,” for the New York Times. In the most recent installment she introduces her puppy, Oscar. Having been wooed by a therapy dog as she during her first rounds of chemo, she had longed for her own dog. As she writes about the effects of the therapy dog visits:
“For the first time since I had fallen ill, I didn’t feel like I was being treated as if I were made of porcelain. The therapy dog made me feel like a human first, and a cancer patient second.”
She had to wait some time after her bone marrow transplant before the doctors gave her the ok to get a dog, but she finally did. At first little Oscar (a shelter adoptee) was a little more “work” than she had expected—as puppies can be:
“Oscar, unlike my caregivers, doesn’t care that I’m tired, feeling nauseous after my chemotherapy treatments. Every morning between 6 and 7, Oscar scoots over to my side of the bed and begins the process of baptizing me with his tongue until I wake up.”
But it didn’t take long for him to open up new worlds for her and help in her recovery.
“Although I was the one who rescued Oscar from an animal shelter, it has become clear that he’s done most of the rescuing in our relationship. … When we leave my apartment, Oscar bounds ahead of me, tugging at his leash as he guides me toward the dog park. For the first time in a very long time, it’s not the cancer that leads. It’s Oscar.”
Do read her whole column here.
A great story out of the UK about the “Woof to Wash”—a new invention that turns a washing machine into one that can be operated by a dog. It makes it rather simple to train service dogs to help disabled people to do their laundry with it. Dogs unlock the machine using a “pawprint” pad, then they pull a rope to open the door, close it with their noses and then bark to start it going. These dogs can even strip beds and fill laundry baskets, and then load and empty the machine too. Amazing, isn’t it?
Inventor, John Middleton had seen a video from the nonprofit, Support Dogs, showing how a dog can strip a bed and load a washing machine, so he thought that he could go one step further and come up with a “bark-activated” machine itself. So with a team of engineers and with the help of Miele, the home appliance maker, they completed this project in little over two weeks.
Support Dogs has trained service dogs using voice commands and hand signals so they can help their owners fetch post, turn on light switches, open doors, assist in dressing and undressing—and now do a complete laundry cycle
As Rita Howson, its director of operations, hailed the bark-activated washing machine and praised John for coming up with a simplified bespoke machine for their clients.
She said “A normal washing machine can be very challenging so the single programme machine is very helpful.”
We received hundreds of entries to our 2013 Best Places to Work contest from all across the country. We heard from two-person shops and large corporations who are dedicated to dog-friendly workplaces. We were introduced to a resident dog at a Hawaiian dental office who helps soothe jittery patients; we met shop dogs at bakeries (Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC) and a glassblowing studio (Glassybaby in Washington state), a rescue dog/mascot at a distillery (Tito’s Handmade Vodka) in Texas, several technology/internet firms (Advent, The Nerdery) and a handful of manufacturers (Jones Soda, Bissell). While each company had a great story to tell, three entries stood out, earning Bark’s special recognition and a year’s worth of Zuke’s delectable treats.
Midland School, Los Olivos, Calif.
The Midland dogs attend classes, watch soccer games from the sidelines, sleep on library couches and help herd the resident cattle. Dogs even play a role in academic research. Midland’s statistics class conducts an annual mathematical analysis of daily dog wanderings. Students attach GPS units to the collars of several dogs and track their movements around campus over the course of several days.
Dogs are so integral to the culture of Midland School that Headmaster Will Graham’s 2011 graduation speech centered around their importance: “An animal can teach a person to focus on the simple things … the important things … to care for and love something other than ourselves, to pick up a mess that we did not make, and to play. They reassure us, keep us from being restless, help us be practical and grounded, and make us smile.” He named the dogs alongside the graduating seniors when he issued diplomas.
PrintingForLess, Livingston, Mont.
KolbeCo, O’Fallon, Mo.
2014 Best Places to Work Contest kicks off September 1.
News: Guest Posts
Ellie is now nearly eleven years old. She still loves going to work every day and has no plans to retire. “She loves coming to work with me, and just seems to be getting better and better at her job,” says Page Ulrey, a King County Deputy Prosecutor and Ellie’s handler.
Ellie is the first facility dog who was trained specifically for use by a prosecuting attorney’s office, to assist victims of crime during witness interviews and courtroom testimony. I first wrote about Ellie, and Jeeter—the facility dog who helped get the idea going in Seattle, Wash.—in 2007. While Page prosecutes cases involving elder and vulnerable adult abuse, Ellie continues to help with a wide variety of cases within the office. Ellie has been working almost nine years now, and in that time has attended a trial every few months, perhaps as many as forty total. She’s had a huge, beneficial impact on how many victims of crime experience the legal system.
Ellie—and other courthouse dogs like her—had to do some convincing along the way. As in other states where facility dogs have been introduced into criminal courtroom proceedings, defense counsel and/or judges in counties across Washington State have often objected when a facility dog accompanies a victim or witness to the stand for testimony. This is especially true the first few times a facility dog is used. Some cases, after a conviction at the trial court level, are appealed in part on the basis that the dog created a bias in favor of the prosecutor’s witness and case, interfering with the defendant’s right to due process. In Washington, most of those cases ended in the state’s appellate level courts with convictions affirmed and the use of the facility dog approved.
Now, however, the Washington State Supreme Court has weighed in. After an appellate court affirmed a conviction and the use of Ellie to comfort a victim while testifying, the case was appealed again to the state’s highest court. The Washington State Supreme Court issued a decision September 26, 2013—State v. Dye— making it clear that the use of facility dogs in the courtroom should be allowed so long as certain facts are established and precautions are followed.
What makes State v. Dye an especially strong case for the use of facility dogs is that the defendant’s counsel made several common objections to the use of Ellie at trial—preserving the issues for appeal—so that the Supreme Court could address them in detail. The victim in the case, though 56 years old, was a developmentally delayed man who functioned at a mental age of six to twelve years. When interviewed by defense counsel prior to trial, Ellie comforted him. Page, as prosecutor at trial, laid the foundation for using Ellie to assist the victim because he felt anxious about testifying, much like any child would. Ellie accompanied the victim to the witness stand. Not only did defense counsel object to Ellie, saying her presence with the victim was extremely prejudicial to the defendant, but also because the prosecutor on the case was Page—Ellie’s handler—who could possibly signal Ellie in some way. And finally, defense counsel objected on the basis that the defendant and even defense counsel might have allergies to dogs, or be intimidated by the dog.
The Supreme Court said that trial judges may exercise their discretion in allowing a special measure such as a facility dog to accompany vulnerable witnesses. The analysis is the same in situations when child witnesses are allowed to take a doll or teddy bear with them to the witness stand. There should be a showing by the prosecutor that the witness would have difficulty testifying without the special measure. The trial judge can then determine whether the special measure would unduly prejudice the defendant.
The Supreme Court noted that Ellie’s behavior in the courtroom was never disruptive; she never left the witness’s side; and she never made any gesture (growling, lunging) toward the defendant that would cause a jury to consider him dangerous or untrustworthy. And finally, the trial judge instructed the jury to not make any assumptions based on Ellie’s presence.
The allergy objection has been a common one in the early stages of using facility dogs like Ellie in courtrooms. In the Dye case, the judge offered to allow the defendant to prove such an allergy with a note from his doctor, and if proven, make accommodations for him. The defendant never produced such a note and the objection was overruled. The Supreme Court approved this approach.
Both the Washington Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court upheld the trial judge’s decision to allow Ellie to assist the victim while testifying. A concurring opinion to the Supreme Court decision did voice some concerns, however. Justice McCloud felt that because Ellie was such a powerful symbol in the courtroom— “…her mere presence conveyed a deeply reassuring, yet silent, message of comfort, security and support”—that in the interest of fairness to the defendant, the trial judge might consider additional steps, for example allowing a facility dog to accompany the defendant’s key witness to the stand, to balance things out. Defense counsel didn’t seek such balancing steps, so no error occurred at the trial level. Justice McCloud was also concerned that a simple instruction to the jury to not draw any conclusions from Ellie’s presence was insufficient, that it’s well known that jurors often fail to follow a court’s instructions. “[T]he presumption that jurors follow instructions is especially inapplicable where the challenged procedure—here, the presence of the adorable dog Ellie—is a procedure that works only because it provides such powerful symbolism.”
There is still room for novel objections to the use of facility dogs in the courtroom. Those objections will wind their way through the appeals process. It’s all part of how our legal system sorts through these concerns and comes to the best possible solutions. Page isn’t worried. Ellie, and facility dogs in general, have become a common sight in King County’s courtrooms; most of the judges have become quite comfortable with their use. I’m sure that’s the case in many other jurisdictions across the country as well, and will become more common in the future.
As for defendants also having access to facility dogs in the courtroom, as suggested by Justice McCloud? “I think that's fair,” said Page. “Although I don't think the prosecutor's office is under any obligation to supply defense with a dog.”
State v. Dye, No. 87929-0, published September 29, 2013, can be found at:
Courthouse Dogs Foundation (www.courthousedogs.com) - promoting justice with compassion through the use of professionally trained facility dogs to provide emotional support to everyone in the justice system.
For the first report on courtroom dogs by Rebecca Wallick see, or for previous update .
A conversation with Cat Warren, author of the new book, What the Dogs Knows.
In the fall issue of The Bark, I gave a very positive review to Warren’s book, a story of “how she discovered what the canine worldview really is, and how she and her dog, Solo, learned to navigate it.” The following is a conversation with her and interviewer, Whitney Peeling.
Whitney Peeling: On the way to pick up your new German Shepherd puppy, you envisioned obedience rings and calm companionship, but this changed quickly.
You’re a professor, but you also do some rather unusual work outside of the university.
What made you take such a different route with Solo, training him to be a cadaver dog?
Some of your time with Solo is spent with others in the working dog world, including other handlers, trainers, breeders and police units. How have these relationships been important to you?
Death is an inescapable part of your work, and you address it matter-of-factly, yet with great respect. But is it sometimes difficult when your search leads to a body?
A handler and a working dog’s training is ongoing. What are you and Solo working on now?
Working dog training appears to be very much “a man's world.” What was it like for you, starting to train in that world?
As the years go by, it’s less difficult. The handlers and trainers like Solo. I try to be true to who I am: I'm a woman who likes working dogs and likes to train. I don’t want to be a law enforcement dog handler. It’s not a job I could do. And while I have some close professional relationships and real mentors in that world, boundaries are still important. I work hard to stay out of the way during aggression training, to not get in the middle of work conversations. If it’s a regular training and not a seminar, I don’t follow handlers to lunch or dinner break. Their world is unrelentingly 24/7.
Any group—whether it’s K9 handlers, or cops, or college faculty, or AKC confirmation breeders—is going to have its rituals and its special language. It’s going to have people who welcome you in and mentor you, and those who prefer to keep you at a distance, or even eye you with suspicion. I understand all those reactions, and I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve had several great mentors in law enforcement K9. It’s more work, no matter what, to have an outsider around when you are training law enforcement dogs. It can be challenging work, especially if you are doing it right, and really working the handlers and dogs so they are learning new skills. It doesn’t even matter whether that person is from another agency or a volunteer female handler like me. I have the same reaction when someone sits in on a class I’m teaching. I have to think more about what I’m doing.
Now, I have two K9 law enforcement units that I train with regularly. I’m fortunate. They are very different from each other, and I learn different things from each of them. It’s been more than seven years now since I started training regularly with law enforcement teams and watching at seminars. But it always feels new. I still get a thrill from watching the joy of a new handler who realizes for the first time what his dog’s nose can do.
While a nanny cam might be a good idea to keep track of both a child and a caregiver, even better idea might to trust in your dog’s instincts. A couple in Charleston, S.C., learned about this the hard way. It was their dog Killian who alerted them to an abusive nanny they had hired for their young son, Finn.
Benjamin and Hope Jordan did a background check before they hired the babysitter for their 7-month-old son, Finn, last year. So they hired 22-year-old Alexis Khan, who seemed to be an attentive and loving sitter in her first five months at work. But the Jordans were concerned when their trusted calm, family dog, Killian, started acting strangely toward Khan.
“…we started to notice that our dog was very defensive of our son when she would come in the door,” Benjamin Jordan told the local TV WCSC TV’s Live 5. “He was very aggressive towards her and a few times we actually had to physically restrain our dog from going towards her.” Their dog had never reacted this way towards anyone before.
The parents were concerned and suspicious and decided to put an iPhone under the couch to record what was happening while they were at work.
“It started with cussing,” Jordan said. “Then you hear slap noises and his crying changes from a distress cry to a pain cry. I just wanted to reach through the audio tape, go back in time and just grab him up.
“To know that five months I had handed my child to a monster, not knowing what was going on in my house for that day…”
The Jordans called the police and Khan was taken into custody. Last Monday, she pleaded guilty for assault and battery in Charleston County Circuit Court. Khan will spend one to three years in prison and will be placed on a child abuse registry.
“That is fantastic news to us. To know that maybe Finn’s ordeal has possibly saved another child’s life in the future,” Mr. Jordan told Live 5. “Had our dog not alerted us to the trouble, had my wife’s instincts not said we need to make something happen, it could have been Finn that was killed by the babysitter. You never know.”
Don’t you think that this shows that every family with a babysitter also needs a doggy cam? Good work Killian!
A Video Pick of the Week
I was rereading John Pilley’s Chaser, a must-read book about his dog, Chaser, the Border Collie who learned to distinguish over 1000 words. One of the aspects of the book I really enjoyed was his appreciation for Border Collie lore, with a nod to others, like Arthur Allen, the “grandfather of Border Collies,” who wrote the seminal Border Collies in America and went on to “star” in a 1955 Disney movie, Arizona Sheepdog. Pilley mentioned that it’s now available on YouTube, so I just watched it and want to recommend it to every dog lover. It’s my video “pick” of the week!
Granted it is a “staged” Disney film but what Nick and Rock, Allen’s dogs do on this film cannot be directed. It was stunning to see how Nick herds a Navajo child’s pet chipmunk and then goes on to rescue sheep that have fallen into a fast moving river. These are amazing dogs who demonstrate that not only can they problem solve without supervision but they also work cooperatively with each other. This short film is a testament to Allen who has said, “I like a dog that is an individualist; one who thinks for himself and will act without orders.” As the film narrator says, Allen had no doubt that Nick would do his job and bring the sheep back to their flock. That is what they expected he would do and he did it. See it for yourself and let me know what you think.
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