The Human+Dog Bond.

“Having a dog in my life completes me,” said Pam Stuart. The human+dog bond is one of the most beautiful things to stand back and observe. That’s just what we did while attending several dog agility events, recently, in Florida.

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by Anna Cooke

Of all the things we’ve experienced over the last 12 years of publishing The New Barker, the bond between a dog and human is one of the most beautiful things to stand back and observe.

A few weeks ago, we checked out DACOF, the dog agility competition held at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. The dogs competing were happy to be running, jumping and barking alongside their humans. People cheered each other on and there were a lot of atta boy and good girl praises, no matter the outcome of the agility run. Everyone was smiling, especially the dogs. Could it have been the bacon jerky treats?

Franklin
Marina, owner of ARTPool Gallery in St. Petersburg and her dog Franklin, were at DACOF in Kissimmee. “We closed the store to attend the event with Franklin,” she told us.

Sunday, July 29, 2018, we attended the annual Summer Games for members of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC) in Clearwater. In addition to the fun and camaraderie, the event raised funds for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), surpassing the club’s goal of $1,000. We had an opportunity to speak with some of the members and interact with their dogs.

MacGyver
Big MacGyver – His face can fix anything that’s troubling you.

Big MacGyver was heading outdoors for a potty break, toy securely in mouth, when we first saw him. The French Bulldog+Boston Terrier mix will be two in October. His human, a nurse, has been training with him at USDTC for about a year. Dressed in her uniform, she would be heading to the hospital to work the night shift after attending the Games. “I always take time out for my pup,” she told us.

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Janie_TinyTim
Janie and Tiny Tim. “He helps get me out of the house.”

Tiny Tim has titled in dog tricks, Beginner Novice obedience and Rally Novice. His human Janie has been a member of USDTC since 1981, when the club was located in Dunedin. She loves Afghan Hounds, but after her last Afghan passed three years ago, Janie realized her days running with a bigger dog were limited. But living without a dog was never a consideration. Tiny Tim, a Chinese Crested Powder Puff, came into her life almost three years ago. The career hairdresser told us, “I knew I had to have another dog with hair.” She said that Cresteds and Afghans have similar personalities. “They’re both very independent breeds.” she said. “I’m very proud of Timmy and his accomplishments. Besides, he’s going to keep me young for another 10 years.”

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Sid
Sid has earned the right to sit and observe the action.

Sid is a 15-year-old Schnauzer. The retired service dog has earned the right to be a quiet observer, lounging in his chair while his human competed with another dog. A cyst in his left eye required surgery to remove the whole eye. He now has bladder cancer, and is actually doing remarkably well. “He’s had a wonderful life,” said his human, who adopted him from the SPCA Tampa Bay. “He was just a puppy when I found him at the shelter, about to be put down because he had kennel cough.”

Lately, we’re hearing from quite a few of our readers, informing us of their dog’s passing. That’s the sad reality of having been publishing The New Barker since 2006. Sometimes, the deadlines and workload make the time seem like it’s been never-ending. But, for life with dogs, it’s never long enough.

IMG_9140_RansomBruce and his Newfoundland Ransom are regulars at a lot of dog-friendly events around the Tampa Bay area. The family’s Newfoundlands have been featured in The New Barker several times, over the years. We first met Ransom as a puppy, during a Clearwater Threshers Baseball Bark at the Park. During Sunday’s event, Bruce said, “Thankfully, for many of us, our dogs have been forever immortalized on the pages of The New Barker. I am happy to have saved the magazines over the years and enjoy revisiting them. Always good memories.”

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Callum
Callum, a four-month-old Vizsla.

Callum is Pam Stuart’s puppy. The club’s current president, Pam has been a contributor to The New Barker, writing about her favorite breed, the Vizla. Her contribution about gun dog broke dogs, was one of our most highly-commented-on pieces. She has since lost two of her own Vizslas, Monty, who passed a few years ago, and Pete, just within the last couple of months. She says of Callum, who is four months old. “I had to have another dog. I’ll always have a dog in my life. Dogs complete me.”

Pam_Stuart_Two_Dogs
Pam with Monty and Pete.

Excerpt from Broken Down Angel. Fixing The Spirit of a Broken Dog by Pam Stuart

“That dog is not gun dog broke,” observed George Hickox, a top dog trainer and handler. “That dog is just broken.” Someone yelled to Lonnie Spell, another dog trainer on-site: “Hey, Lonnie, you want that piece of crap?”

“I had to say yes,” Lonnie remembered. “It would have been easier to say no, but sometimes the easy thing is not always the right thing. And saying no would mean that pup was destined to be dumped in an after-hours outdoor run at a kill shelter with all the other dogs. It wasn’t my job to make this guy’s dump at the shelter easier, but taking that dog would be the right thing. It would save a life. And, I knew that dog.” ###

So, about those treats we mentioned before, whether they’re bacon jerky or another secret weapon handlers may use to gain a dog’s full attention. My conclusion, after observing so many dogs over the years, is that they will do anything – anything – for their humans in exchange for warm praise, a gentle touch and especially the simple gesture of companionship. Time spent with dogs is never wasted.

A few other dogs we met during the July 29 Summer Games in Clearwater.

Cruiser
Cruiser, a seven-year-old Sheltie. Crossing his legs is his favorite thing.
Lily
Lily is a Bichon Frise. She’ll steal your heart after she steals the photograph.
Star
Star is a five-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.

Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC)  is an all-breed training facility in Clearwater, Florida. For 50 years has empowered people to become better dog owners through positive training and education. The classes are for every dog, from puppies to seniors; manners to competition. Classes offered include obedience, rally, agility, conformation, tricks and canine freestyle. They also offer therapy dog training for those who want to give back with their dogs to the community.

Dog Training Club of St. Petersburg

Dog Training Club of Tampa

Orlando Dog Training Club

Sarasota Obedience Training Club

Greater Ocala Dog Club

Imperial Polk Obedience Club

K-9 Obedience Club of Jacksonville

Obedience Club of Daytona

Miami Obedience Club

The Greater Gainesville Dog Fanciers Association

Marion-Alachua Dog Training Association

Fort Lauderdale Dog Club

Tallahassee Dog Obedience Club

Ochlockonee River Kennel Club

Dog Obedience Club of Hollywood

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Featuring original stories with award-winning photography in each quarterly publication since 2006 – each cover of The New Barker features an original work of art by a different artist.

I’ve Got Your 6.

The unconditional love of a dog heals the soul, reaching into the heart to cross canyons of loneliness and despair. Military researchers are trying to learn if there’s real science behind that semi-mystical link and whether it can help treat the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

by Anna Cooke

“We had never trained a tripod to be a service dog,” said Mary Peter, CEO and founder of K9 Partners For Patriots. The Brooksville, Florida program is helping veterans win the war against suicide, depression and anxiety through the experience of training their own service dog. The dog Mary was referring to, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, had been pulled from a kill shelter by a Spring Hill rescue group called Furever Friendz Inc. When volunteers picked him up, he was jaundiced with an infection in his right leg and parts of his right shoulder. He looked as if he’d been to hell and back. Once his caregivers nursed him back to health, including treating his infections, he was scheduled for surgery to save his leg. During surgery, the doctor discovered that the injury to the dog’s leg was so severe, amputation would be the best solution.

The happy little guy re-habbed really well, hardly noticing the difference. Furever Friendz Rescue Inc. made him available for adoption. He ended up in a most unusual place.

Lt. Dan, the tripod, pulled from a kill shelter, fostered by a rescue group, adopted by a veteran to be his service dog.

In War, There Are No Unwounded Soldiers. Every veteran has a story. Sometimes, it’s the wounds that are unseen that hurt the most. The conditions of Post Traumatic Stress Disease (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are often invisible to other service members, family and society. Each condition affects mood, thoughts and behavior. Yet, these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The problem is particularly worrisome among female veterans, who saw their suicide rates rise more than 85 percent between 2001 and 2014. Women make up 15 percent of our All Volunteer Force. About one-third of these women will be sexually assaulted during their time in service.

The first step to helping our veterans is to educate them about PTSD and what is going on inside of them. “They need to stop seeing themselves as broken, instead understanding that their brain did exactly what it was supposed to do to keep them safe in combat. They trained for combat; now they need to train to be home,” said Diane Scotland-Coogan, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Leo University. She provides counseling for many veterans with PTSD.

Two major U.S. government studies are investigating the ways that trained service dogs may help veterans with TBI and/or PTSD. The first study is underway at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Participating troops are paired with puppies that they will raise for two years to serve as assistance dogs for other injured veterans.

A second study, conducted by the VA, has taken several years and is almost complete. The focus of the study is to determine if “there are things a dog can do for a veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a service dog for PTSD.” K9 Partners for Patriots is participating in the study.

IMG_8453_TheNewBarkerWe All Have A Destiny. Mike, a retired veteran, has been through many tours of duty, including theatres in Desert Storm and Panama. Daily, he faces the mental, emotional and physical challenges as a result. Like many graduates of the K9 Partners for Patriots program, Mike returns to volunteer his services, wherever needed. His wife Lana volunteers as well. The day we met Mike, he was recovering from knee replacement surgery. Standing next to him was Lt. Dan, the aforementioned tripod Jack Russell Terrier mix. Mike named the dog after the character in the movie Forest Gump. Lt. Dan is now Mike’s service dog. It turns out this burly man with the imposing presence has a soft spot for the feisty little breed.

When Lana first found the three-legged dog on the Furever Friendz Rescue website, she called her husband. “Honey, I’ve found a Jack Russell but, there might be one problem; he only has three legs.” Mike didn’t miss a beat. “Not a problem. Let’s bring him home,” he told her. Once home, the dog instinctively began alerting Mike to oncoming anxiety attacks. Mike’s wife noticed the overall calming effect Lt. Dan had on her husband and wondered if he could be trained to do more as a service dog. Lt. Dan passed the preliminary tests conducted by the trainers at K9 Partners for Patriots. He and Mike were immediately enrolled in the 19-week program.

Lt. Dan was further trained to alert Mike to oncoming anxiety attacks, wake him from nightmares and calm him down in other certain trigger situations. At home, throughout the day and night, Lt. Dan never leaves Mike’s side.

Never Give Up. Never Give In. In the Army for 23 years (1983-2007), Paul had been working at one of the highest security clearance levels. “There was a sense of purpose,” he said. “But once the VA slaps you with a diagnosis, you’re out. And all dignity is lost. Once, we were someone important. Now, we’re forgotten.”

Army veteran Paul and his service dog Hans, a Lemon Dalmatian/Treeing Coonhound mix.

Paul was diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and GWS (Gulf War Syndrome). “I’ve seen quite a bit; lost friends,” he told us. “I was taking so many medications, just to get my head clear.” In 2000, a doctor predicted Paul would be dead in three years. He credits his faith, sense of honor and the medical profession with keeping him alive. “And my two daughters, Caroline and Viktoria. They’ve stuck with me through it all,” he said.

About two years ago, Dr. Mueller, Paul’s clinical psychiatrist with the VA in New Port Richey, handed Paul a piece of paper. It had the phone number for K9 Partners for Patriots. When he called, he was told they would be able to evaluate his dog Moose, a black Labrador Retriever. If his dog passed, they would be trained together over the course of 19 weeks.

“How much is this going to cost me?” he asked. Not a dime, he was told. There had to be a catch. “Nothing is free,” he thought, out loud. “You’re right, Paul. Nothing is free. You’ve already given us a lot. All we need now is your commitment to participate,” he was told.

One in 25 dogs assessed actually makes it into the K9 Partners for Patriots program. “We look for dogs who can sense the adrenaline. Some dogs are repelled by it. Others could care less. We look for a dog who is attuned to it,” said Mary. Moose was 12 years old and it was determined he was too old for the service dog program. The Acquisition Team set out to find the perfect partner for Paul, which usually takes anywhere from two to six weeks.

“We interview the veteran to find out their needs. We also want to see a commitment from the veteran before we spend the time and money to find a dog,” said Mary. “We ask them to spend time at our facility to get used to the environment and meet the other veterans in the program. We invite their families.”

Hans, a two-year-old Lemon Dalmatian Treeing Coonhound mix, was transported from a North Georgia shelter to the K9 Partners for Patriots campus and paired with Paul. During their second night together, Hans pushed his head into Paul to wake him. “It was late and he was just looking at me. I thought he had to go outside. But he didn’t. Then I realized, I was having a flashback, and Hans woke me up and stayed by my side.”

Paul and Hans graduated from the K9 Partners for Patriots program earlier this year. They continue to come to the campus to volunteer wherever they’re needed. “I’ll cut the grass. I figure if I can do something to free up the trainers so they can focus on what they do, then, it’ll help save another vet’s life,” he said.

I’ve Got Your Back. Mary has never been in combat. “But I’ve seen some things that affected me while working in forensics recovery, and I had no one to talk to about it,” she said. She feels a higher power called her into action to help her community. “I cannot change the world, but I can sure help my corner of it,” she told us. The second hardest part of Mary’s job is convincing the medical field that the program is working. “Many of our veterans come into this program as highly medicated, barely functioning individuals,” she said.

In spite of this roadblock put up by some medical practitioners, K9 Partners for Patriots has been recognized by experts as a successful path forward for veterans living with PTSD. “When veterans come to K9 Partners for Patriots, they may not be able to visualize what their life could be because of the symptoms of PTSD. But if they trust the process, they can take control away from the symptoms of PTSD and start to live their lives again,” said Diane Scotland-Coogan, the associate professor at Saint Leo College. She has been working with K9 Partners for Patriots, conducting the double-blind studies that will be presented as a report to the Department of Defense. Continue reading “I’ve Got Your 6.”