My Best Teacher

My Best Teacher









This morning I was interviewed on an online radio program called Pet Radio. I was thrilled to get the invitation about a week ago, stemming from my video of Justice pushing me. It ran for a full hour, talking about how we came together, a bit about my last dog, and dog sports and training. One question that I wish I had had more time to think and ponder was what have I learned from this journey I’m on with Justice. I said the first thing that sprang to mind…patience! Ha ha. Well, that is definitely a biggie. It does go deeper, however….

1512788_10203402046431211_1711430860_nI think the biggest thing I have learned throughout this journey is what Suzanne Clothier often says, that is “SEE THE DOG”. Really be open, and connect with, that being in front of you. Experiences, recipes, theory, preconceived ideas…all take a back seat to that living, breathing, INDIVIDUAL in front of you. I’ve heard friends tell me that they think it’s really cool that I have had such a close, wonderful relationship with a dog before, and I am able to simply love Justice for Who he is. The gifts he brings.

And he is an incredible dog in his own right. Very different, but that’s a great thing. As much as I loved what I had in Borias, and will always miss what presence made him him, I also love seeing Justice develop and grow into who he is. And grateful for the lessons he has to teach.

So. In just a little over one brief year, the lessons have been plenty. I have grown in focus, needing to set forth with a training plan, and set goals, and work towards reaching those goals. In my own self control; I must watch blurting obscenities to bad drivers, and resisting conflict with people, as that goes directly down the leash to him. To be much more proactive, to combat being reactive; teaching him the behaviors I wish for him to display, rather than getting frustrated with the unwanted ones he could display when left to his own devices. Commitment; it was a rough beginning, admittedly. I felt out of my depth. I dug in and worked hard, and learned how to deal with the challenges that were being thrown at me…in a way that was positive or both of us. Our relationship blossomed, and greatly deepened.

I found myself uttering “I miss Borias” less and less…. and “Justice, you are my wonder dog” more and more.

I see the dog. The incredible, bursting with personality and intelligence individual in front of me. And I’m incredibly blessed to have this teacher.

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Pushy Puppy!

PushyPuppy from footprintfilm on Vimeo.

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First Birthday!

First Birthday!

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Wow did this year FLY by! I can’t believe it. Tiny fuzzy boy at the start of the year, big, bombastic teenager as it closes. Yes, adolescence, full steam ahead! For like, the next year (or two?) at least heh. Fun times.

There’s been lots of leaps in maturity, as well as huge regressions. Sometimes from day to day. Hormones. Well. since this is a milestone, I went and bought a cake at Three Dog Bakery, and a little cute gift of a ‘cigar’ throw stick. Appropriate for a milestone birthday. And he thinks he’s such a Mr. Big Boy now. I took him to Balboa Park for some pics, then home for the cake. He’s not always easy to get good photos of, not the cooperative poser for pics that Borias was. Ah, in time…

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They forgot the “E”!! Or, the decorator got distracted??


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Honoring a Memory

Honoring a Memory


Today was the anniversary of the greatest loss of my life. The last day on earth with my heart dog, Borias. I wanted to honor him, and maybe feel his presence, by going to a place he would have absolutely loved. Oddly, near where we lived for 6 years, yet I never knew about it until now! It’s a corporate park, that has a man-made small lake, with a trail around it. Quite a steep hill getting down there, but I figured I could use the workout, when it was time to leave heh. The place was practically empty, other than a guy fishing off a structure, and some mini schnauzers in the distance.

I had a few balls on me, and the chuck-it. Having Googled the place, I read that people let their dogs swim there, bucking the rules just a tad. Justice has been quite leery of going deep in the water, so thought it might be a good opportunity to get him used to it. First off, the schnauzers came across our path, and I sensed they were harmless, albeit cranky. Justice made it obvious that he found snarky dogs very entertaining and amusing, and he made me laugh watching him dart towards one, then leap comically sideways to avoid teeth, with a big grin on his face. Hooligan.



The swimming was a wash. Seems the ‘lake’ had a ledge that was shallow for a ways, then a drop off. No way no how was that pup going off that ledge into the deep water. So, buh-bye balls. Oh well, a donation to future law-breakers. Passing the torch. He did have a blast running after the ball, though, getting nice and tired out. I decided to leave when a couple came in with three loose dogs, and one kept charging us, despite my trying to avoid them. I finally asked them to leash her while I left. I don’t understand people who allow their dogs to do that. There’s going to come a time when Justice won’t have the puppy laissez faire attitude.

Of course, I took lots of pictures. I wish I had documented Borias’ growing up. I have a handful of puppy photos is all. Then that burglary taking a good three years of his life in images from me. This place was a great backdrop! And my guy is just as photogenic as his predecessor I must say.









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Selfish. So selfish. But seriously, I didn’t really know what to expect on how Justice would handle going to Comic-con. I thought I would just do a little, a few panels, wander around, ease into it. Yeah. Well, first of all, the pup is overly stimulated just being downtown. Lots of activity, cars, noise, etc. So add in thousands upon thousands of people, many in weird costumes, and even more traffic, pedicabs, people on the street…whew.

Luckily there wasn’t a lot of panels that I wanted to see, or wanted to badly enough to brave it with him. I first tried the Psych panel. I used to know one of the actors a little bit back when my last dog was young, from my Xena fandom days. It was in Hall H, the biggest of them all, so probably not the best place to start off. Justice was handling the costumed people just fine, didn’t even really notice that, however, I didn’t even think that cheering was going to cause the biggest problem. Of course. It’s screaming. I got part way in, and HE started screaming. Whoops! Exit quickly. People probably wondering what the hell that ungodly noise was. Well so much for that panel.

I used Justice’s rubber ball on a rope as a kind of ‘pacifier’ to let him hold and tug with me while I held it. Not easy navigating, and he was pulling on it like a fiend, being so excited. I had no idea how I was going to get through 3 days of this. In just navigating, he wasn’t doing too bad, all things considered. He just wasn’t coming down in arousal. Even if tired. And omg were there a ton of kids around! More than ever before. Figures.

We got to meet Marina Sirtis, who had helped me the year before, giving autograph money to help with Borias’ eye removal surgery. She’d gotten to know him from previous years, and was in tears learning of his health. Dear woman. I used to see Brent Spiner at the dog park years ago, too. So Marina got some kisses from Justice. After which we did a quick tour of the expo, and ran into the Walking Dead exhibit. He stared at a zombie with the ball in his mouth, and when the zombie growled, he immediately dropped it. LOL.

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On the second day, I was meeting up with my friend who’s a dog trainer and sitter. Since Justice was itchy as hell, I decided to try Benadryl for the added benefit of making him sleepy. I hoped. It was Game of Thrones panel after all. We walked together through the expo for awhile before, and chatted about how he was dealing with this all. Her idea was that he needed some discipline, told to knock this crap off. I even let her help me wrangle him with his leash, and get some negative feedback. Normally I don’t do that. It’s not really fair, when they can’t help it, for one, and for another, not taught the behaviors to do that  will prevent the unwanted behaviors. I guess I wanted to see if it would help. It didn’t. He was just like a young racing colt on oats! Weeee!

Halfway through the GoT panel, he started waking up from his sleepy benadryl effects, and vocalized a little here and there. We got through it, without being a disruption at least. People probably wondered where the Dire Wolf was! Very cool that he looks like one. Between Dexter panel and this, he got used to the cheering, and even handled the loud visual presentations on the screen very well. And I mean loud. The worst was yet to come, though. I’d missed out on seeing Hugh Jackman for his Wolverine panel, but learned he was going to make an appearance at the movie theaters for a private screening and q&a ! It was a cool day, so I had Justice in the car for a couple hours, so he could quietly chill out awhile. But then I had the massive brain fart….

I decided to take him to the q&a, walking him several blocks to get there. I figured it’d be fine, a small theater, smaller crowd. He was nuts. Absolute nuts. Fighting me, sounding like a crazed monkey. Then I’d just get him maybe settled a teeny bit, and two gals came tearing into the theater, and JUMPED OVER him. All over after that. I spent the next half hour wrestling him in frustration, trying to get him to lay down, using all the treats I had. I debated rushing him back to the car- and should have tried. Alas, the one actor I was reveling in the chance to at last meet, came in, glanced at our shadowy figures fighting each other, then disappeared into the theater. (I was hanging back outside the seating area). Damn. I didn’t even really get much of a chance to hear him talk, I was so focused on keeping Justice quiet. Hell, I should’ve just left. So depressing. But again, my own damn fault.

Between this and Pride, it was a real eye opener. I know that I have to do some drastic changes if I want to fix this. And it’s not going to be easy. He needs a break, to spend a significant amount of time in low stimulation. And harder work on his triggers. Especially if there’s to be any hope of his being a Service dog. I feel guilty I did this, though it was educational in a way. I’m hoping by next year, with hard work, and maturity, that he might be able to handle this. If not, that’s ok.

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Yeah, I knew it was a bad idea. I should have kept Justice at home, while I went out to shoot the Pride parade and festivities. Just waaaaaaaay too much stimulation for his ability to deal with that at this point. But, I figured that after this and Comic-con, then I’ll scale way back on taking him out and about with me. But wow. He is overstimulated by loud music, screaming, kids, and fast things on wheels. All of which were in abundance at this event. I’m trying hard to not be depressed at how difficult he is to handle in this regard.

He even wanted to grab at people if they screamed loudly. He didn’t know how to handle it. And when some motorcycle cops went by in the parade, it was a meltdown, and I just started moving with him, to keep him occupied. This helped, but boy was it exhausting, because being in such an aroused state, he pulled on the leash like a madman. I know this isn’t his fault, but I’m not sure what to do about it.  Getting frustrated with him is terribly unfair, when I’m the one who put him in the situation.

We got through it. I didn’t get many photos, however. Too busy wrangling the beast! Someone snapped this great one of us against the pride flag just as it was being taken away. 1044292_598931260138877_1644908687_n

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Be Careful What You Train

Be Careful What You Train

Ah the joys of a very bright puppy. Whether we like it or not, or, more importantly, are conscious of or not, we are training 24 hours a day. Well, ok, I suppose sleeping doesn’t count, but that’s when it’s all gelling in their little brains! With a smart GSD, one can inadvertently teach them things before you even realize that it might bite you in the butt. Justice works great for food in the house, super high value, super eager. I wheel out the door into the yard area, he’s gangbusters grabbing a toy to throw, whirling and jumping.

The yard means play. Food delivery in the yard…. meh.

Play, tugging, throwing the ball is the highest value reward, so that’s great. But I want to be able to switch reinforcers, and not get a look of “Why are you giving me THAT?!”  Worse, he’d rather play than learn stuff, so I’m getting hectic offerings, screaming, and general meltdowns. Still trying to get pivots on the tub, all the way into heel position. I think I’ve begun to bore him with that, but I can’t progress until he gets it fluently. Ahhh, this one is making me really use my brain!


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Going to the ZOO

Going to the ZOO

Took Justice to the zoo today. It’s suuuuch a hoot! Especially given he notices so much in the environment, it must be overload. Smells, sounds…wild children running to and fro. That’s the hardest part. Boy do they excite him. But at least here he has other things to fixate on.
Going by the camels, he put his front feet up on my lap to see better. Eyes bulging, he kept going til he crawled up in it, though he’s gotten a bit too big for that! He was transfixed! And when we went by the lions, he didn’t see them, until the female suddenly rushed him to the fence. Kind of blew his puppy mind! I backed up with him quickly, and he alarm barked, looked at me, back at the lion and just stared and stared. I wondered what was going through his head. Like wow, that is one big ass kitty!


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First Visit to Balboa Park

First Visit to Balboa Park

I have been so eager to take Justice to Balboa Park. It was the most beloved place, along with the beach, for Borias. He knew it by name, and went crazy if I even said it, and whenever we were in Hillcrest, and happened to be aimed towards the park, he would quicken his step and make a beeline there. I loved to take him and hang out with him at that place. I really want Justice to love it as much as he did, and have fun together there.

I ended up having Justice in my lap for much of the walk through the park. He knows “on my lap”, and even asks to get up. He’s still in such a bitey phase, and if he gets overly excited, he tends to start chomping on me. I think he was getting a bit overwhelmed with the activity and the new place. I watch for that, and try not to push it if he shows signs of being overwhelmed. I still get frustrated with his biting, but I know feeding into it is counterproductive, so trying SO hard to stop myself! Patience, I know, he’s just a puppy. Going over the bridge into the park, on my lap the whole way, he really keyed in on bikes and anything fast going by.

Such fun photographing him! And so photogenic and expressive! Of course I had to document this first trip…













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Fuzzy Funny-Face

Fuzzy Funny-Face

Oh my do I love to take photos of Justice! I mean, c’mon, how cute is he? On top of that, he is hilariously expressive. The camera can freeze that so well, and when you look at an image, often see something so easily missed, or flashes by. Frozen, forever. Great memories to look back on. I wish I had more puppy photos of Borias, but alas, only have a handful of low quality ones. I made up for it later, of course, but sure would be nice to have lots more puppy ones.

These were taken the day we had our NoH8 photo shoot. Boy was that fun. Long wait, and he did so good with all the people there, and lots of other dogs, too. Though I’m overprotective as hell, and a few people were a bit lax with how they let their dogs greet strange puppies. A pet peeve of mine. It’s just rude to not ask permission, and let your dog rush up to another. It’s hard not to tense up, and feel a bit anxious- too many dogs are unsafe on leash, and their owners clueless. But things went ok, and the shoot was a hit. Adam Bouska, the originator and photographer for NoH8 seemed quite happy with what he caught. Me in duct tape, Justice with a patch on his vest. I can’t wait to see the pic!

My little supermodel in Little Italy, and hanging with our friend, Kelly. The One Who He Adores. LOL.






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PETicures by Tess

PETicures by Tess




Ah nail trimming. Puppyhood goes by so darn fast, that sometimes things can get neglected, and before you know it, you have a problem that could’ve been prevented. Last time around, nail clipping was a huuuuge ordeal. I couldn’t do it myself, and having another person do it was a big dramatic show of woe is me. Well, this time I want to make sure that doesn’t happen. Enter Tess. She has a great business at the Original Paw Pleasers, doing the nails of all the hip dogs in the hood. And she does a great job!

She squeezed us in between appointments, and gave Justice a really wonderful first experience. She wrapped him up like a puppy burrito, which helps with calming, and her assistant squeezed cream cheese from a packet into his mouth. He thought that was pretty cool. I don’t think he even noticed his nails being cut! Nom nom nom on the cheese. What a good boy. I think Tess is definitely on his short list of very rad people.


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I love to watch dogs play. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had the pleasure of having one that played with other dogs. Borias was just so into me, he could care less about most other dogs on the planet. Puppies need canine buddies, especially well matched playmates, to keep practicing their good dog skills and communication. These two are a match made in heaven. Shug is a young Border Terrier Pug, found wandering the street, and convinced to stay forever with my BFF by yours truly. I love Border Terriers, and boy, what a cutie pie this girlie is! I feel a little guilty that she’s crazy as hell, and is a big challenge for her guardian, but I try to help.

Kelly has a great huge yard for her two dogs, and my crazy puppy and the crazy Border-Pug Beast could tear around to their heart’s delight. Otis, the type-A chihuahua mix had to stay inside, as he’s the fun police. I split my time between laughing my ass off and taking shots of the two playing. Justice is all teeth, of course. He’s an agile little puppy! Runs fast and dodges with great accuracy. When they got winded, they would lay and air bite at each other on their sides.



I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship….





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Growing Before My Very Eyes

Growing Before My Very Eyes


Dang, forgot how amazingly fast puppies grow!  Justice has gotten bolder and much more outgoing…though he still is hesitant to get out of the car. And in. I seem to recall the same with Borias, getting in. Strange puppy thing I guess.

I thought I’d take him to Downtown Disney, as I depressingly spilled liquid on my laptop, and fried it to my horror, so we headed up to the OC to a guy’s repair place recommended by a Facebook friend. Scary scary stuff, with so many images and crap that I hadn’t backed up- yet again! I had my computers stolen several years ago, and same thing. I lost two or so years of my dear Borias’ life in photos because of my stupidity not backing up! Argh.

It was a drizzly day, and not that big of a crowd. Justice was so curious about everything, even saw a couple of ducks hanging out, which really intrigued him. I wondered what he would do if we were to actually go into Disneyland. Probably a bit much for him, I’m sure! He tires easily, so he’s learned “get on my lap?” and loves to ride and see the world from his perch there. Only when things are going by him, his impulse is to grab at them. Clothes on racks, things on shelves, people’s scarves… He’s a wild one! Boy does he noticed everything! So fascinating to watch him take in his world. Walking around is a bit daunting, because he’s so pokey. He’ll plant himself whenever we hit grass or dirt, and just refuse to budge. But in a cute way. Rolling around and making noises. He likes to walk directly behind, and under my chair, too. That’s something Borias also did, and continued to do like times when he was hot. He’d walk in my shadow. Make wheeling a little problematic, however! Ah….patience. This time will be fleeting, keep reminding myself of that.

I’m so exhausted. This is hard work! How cute is this…not going to fit in this spot for long. Fast asleep on the drive back from Disney. My little puppa boy.


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