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January 29th, 2007

He's AKC Official

Well, he did it!  I still can't believe it but he did pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.  There are ten items on the test and the dog has to be able to do, or not do them as the case may be.  The test items span being petted by a stranger to appropriate grooming and civilized behavior: http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/training_testing.cfm 
The CGC test is a precursor to other American Kennel Club (AKC) activities, such as obedience and agility training.

In this case it's the first step to training Max to be my service dog.  He continues to go with me to work each day and is a pro at picking things up.  He can retrieve pens, pencils, large gripper clips, keys, balled up paper and other items typically found in my office.  Not bad for a dog who doesn't like things in his mouth!

One thing he absolutely hates in his mouth is wood.  I've even offered him fresh, warm chicken to take my walking stick and he'll have none of it.  Since Sam died, I've had no helper to retrieve my sticks when I drop them so my independence has been curtailed, a problem.  

I started small, encouraging him to pick up a dowell and graduated to a wooden spoon.  All good, but Max still would have nothing to do with my sticks.  One day, when my memories of Sam were particularly acute and I was missing him fiercely, I got angry.  I yelled at Max, "Why can't you be more like Sam!"

Now those of you with families of 'good' and 'problem' children will probably forgive me.  You can also probably predict Max' reaction.  That's right, he Shut Down completely.  And Max doesn't even understand English.  Imagine how our kids, who do, feel.

Well seeing this happen to my woolly boy made me feel awful.  I immediately began to play "Toys Attack" with him.  (His soft toys suddenly come alive and start attacking him- his favorite game so far.  Of course he always wins and has a good chew on the unfortunate plaything.) 

He cheered up immediately and without being asked, took my walking stick in his mouth and held it.  Since that is exactly the behavior I'm training for, I praised him like a woman possessed by a happy genie!  It didn't matter to me that I hadn't asked for it.

Today, he still doesn't like to hold my sticks but he'll do it for much less incentive.

Here's a picture of Max' well-earned CGC certificate.  The gallery contains an updated pic of Max wearing his new blue CGC ID tag.  (To get to the Gallery, Click on User Info under my picture to the left and then on Pictures.)  Thanks to Sha, CGC examiner, trainer and all around wonderful lady:

Be Well,


December 23rd, 2006

Tis the season...

I'm back.  Many of you have been emailing me to ask about Max' progress in training and as much as I'm grieving Sam's loss, Max remains part of our family and we love him so much.  

I have good news and not so good news to report.  The great news is that Max continues to be the same people and other dog-loving goofball he always was.  His trainer extraordinaire, Laurie King
http://www.trainingwithloveforcanines.com/ reports that he exibits no fear even with the unfamiliar, posesses a calm disposition and has the makings of an excellent service dog.  

The not so good news is that at the moment, Max' retrieval skills leave a bit to be desired.  He's picking up pens pretty consistently (something I routinely drop) but will NOT pick up any kind of dowell, cane or walking stick.  Keys are also a problem, so Laurie attached a leather fob to the keychain and is practicing with that.  I've suggested rubbing the stick she's using with chicken fat.  Mad Max is a sucker for anything fowl.

Peter and I visited Max for his first birthday at the beginning of December and he was every bit of the breath of fresh air I needed.  He's no cuddler but I noticed that he checked in with me every ten minutes or so and was gratified to see that he knows who his service mommy is.  Laurie solved his grazing or not- eating problem by crating him during mealtimes.  Although not fat, he's definitely a happy boy and loves being a part of the chez King pack.  

So Max is doing fine and although we'll miss him this Christmas, I know he's where he needs to be and is being very well cared for.  Eternal gratitude to Laurie and Sha for everything they're doing.

Also, my thoughts are with you who have lost loved ones.  It doesn't matter whether the loss occurred last week, last year or more than twenty years ago.  Or who you lost.   Loss is still loss.  If this experience has taught me anything it's that the power of Love is greater than that of Loss.  Although the loss will never leave me, neither will the love and I take comfort in that.  I hope you can too.

Wishing you the very best for a happy and warm season, whatever holidays you celebrate.  And to an even better year in 2007.  Be well.


November 25th, 2006

(no subject)

I think this is going to be my last entry in this blog.  Back in April, I introduced you to Sam, the canine love of my life.   I had to euthanize him yesterday after a short but very painful battle with two different types of cancer, both of which most likely spread from their points of origin.  Saying that it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do is definitely a cliche, but it is regrettably oh so true.  

So I have nothing more to say about service, or any other type of dog.  Thanks to everyone who loves and cares for dogs, especially the wonderful staff at Sam's oncologist, the Angel Care Center:
http://www.cvsangelcare.com/.  Thanks also to everyone who loves and supports our family in this awful time. 

September 29th, 2006

Foxtails and Crating dogs

I am beyond angry.  Someone who shall not be named, who is distantly related to me, has threatened to call the authorities and report what she believes is animal cruelty to Sam and Max.

We recently relocated from Arizona to Southern California.  Since finding several foxtails (
http://www.placervillevet.com/foxtails.htm) embedded in Max' chest, I have regularly kept both dogs together in an extra large crate for their safety while I'm at work.  This woman decided she has the right to call animal control because the dogs were touching.  Never mind that Max routinely sleeps on top of Sam or that, as she acknowledged, they have plenty of room in the crate to turn around and change position at will.

Fortunately, my dogwalker from Vicki's Pampered Petcare  (
http://www.vickispamperedpetcare.com/) used to work for animal control and explained the process to me in detail.  So although I have nothing to worry about regarding confiscation and possible euthanasia of my dogs, I can't help but continue to be really upset.

On the upside, Max is eating again and still growing like a weed.  Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions and encouragement.  It looks like finding and removing the foxtails did the trick.  Thanks also to Peter, husband turned amateur vet, for painstakingly removing Max' puss clumped hair-strand by strand to uncover the plant material.

July 26th, 2006

I know, I know but this is serious. Max isn’t eating much, only about one bowl of food a day. My worst nightmare is that he has Valley Fever: http://phoenix.about.com/cs/health/a/valleyfever01.htm Yes, dogs can get it and I’m told that it can be fatal. Worse still, there’s no widely accepted treatment for dogs except prolonged isolation. So I have a problem, a big one.

I’ve raised the bowl, lowered it, added water and real meat. I’ve even held the bowl in my lap, talking to him softly and loudly. I’ve played music and talk radio for him. I’ve even pretended to eat the food myself, had Sam eat it to set up some healthy competition, and nothing. Nothing works! He just sniffs the bowl, looks at me funny and lies down at my feet.

But his nose is cold, his skin is bump-free and he’s as frisky as ever. He’s still chewing everything and will occasionally eat out of my hand. So in the midst of worrying, fretting and leaving frantic voicemail messages for his vet, I have to laugh.

I wrote this silly little poem to share some of what he seems to be thinking with you. I’m sure he misses group play and his doggy friends but while there’s a doubt, I’m not going to take chances with anyone’s health.

Enjoy. More is coming soon. If anyone has ideas, please feel free to share here. Your input and support would be appreciated.

I Will Not Eat

My name is Max and I Will Not Eat!

My name is Max and I’m all legs and feet.

So I’m tall but that’s not all:

My name is Max and I’m a ball.

I will not Eat from my bowl.

I will not Eat from a hole.

I will not Eat in the City,

Or even if the food looks pretty.

My brother Sam cleans the plate.

Not a crumb in sight, no time to wait.

Time to run, play and plan.

But I am Max, not Sam I am.

Coat curly and black

With training I am right on track

I can sit, stay, come and go

But I Will Not Eat, even if you beg me so

Don’t give me Beef. I won’t eat Chicken,

Even if it’s finger-lickin’

Really there isn’t much I will eat,

Unless, of course, you give me a Treat



Coach Michelle
Finding Ability in disability

June 23rd, 2006

Other irritating behaviors?

I was thinking about my last entry this morning and wondering: Anyone out there want to share some of their dog(s)' problem behaviors?? 

I know I'm not alone in this by any means and perhaps if we all put our heads together, we can come up with solutions.  Just a thought...

June 22nd, 2006

Max chews everything and I do mean everything.  He’s a puppy.  I get that but I can’t help but wonder when this oral phase will end.  I don’t mind replacing flip flops, socks, coasters, make-up brushes, couch and other types of innards etc…  But I’m scared that one day he’ll grab on to something that will hurt him.  I don’t leave anything on the floor, given my lack of balance and tendency to trip. But Max is very tall and can reach most things he wants just by lifting his head. 

 So his command for this week is “Leave It!” meaning “Leave it Alone Now and Forever!  It’s fun and very simple to teach. 

  • Take a treat, or part of one that you can conceal, show it to him and cover it up. 
  • Say “Leave It”.  He’ll try to get it from you but make very sure he can’t.
  • When he stops trying and looks up at you:  Immediately give praise by telling him he did what you wanted.  (I use Yes! or Good (Command- in this case: Leave It)
  • Follow that up with a tangible reward.  Like Sam, Max loves food.  Toys and playtime with you are other alternatives.  Use whatever motivates your dog.
BUT NEVER give him what’s concealed as his reward for doing a Leave It.  If you do, your dog will get the message that he can eventually have what he wants if he waits long enough.  So, the “And Forever" part of the message gets lost.       


Practice patiently.  He’ll get it eventually.                       

So what did Max earn and eat?  Diplomas.  He ate at mine from law school and earned one from Beginning Puppy I class.  I’m proud and mad at the same time.  Oh yeah, he needs another puppy cut because it’s over 110º F here.  Thank God we’re moving soon!          



May 19th, 2006



There are many things I love about Sam. Two of my favorite are that he’s absolutely fearless and that he would rather be with me than do just about anything else, except eat. I can understand that I love to eat too, especially anything chocolate. Not good for dogs, so don’t even think about it no matter how much they beg. Trust me, they’ll love you anyway and you won’t be cleaning up vomit, or calling the pet mortician, at 4am.

Anyway, back to fearlessness. Sam’s fearlessness means I can take him anywhere and do anything. He’s gone kayaking in Mission Bay and on most of my domestic adventures in the past six years. He loves people and I’m told is an excellent babe magnet. So I have pictures of him in places I’ve never been. Kinda like my own personal Travelocity gnome…

I’m no dog psychologist but I think the other side of his fearlessness is the desire to dominate all other canines, especially larger and younger ones. So far, that hasn’t been a problem with my Max, who is still small and puppyish. However, it was a problem at our recent play date with Big Max, Suzie Q (both Goldens) and Ripper, the cat. Big Max and crew belong to my friends Bill and Roberta. I was flummoxed when Sam shed his service dog demeanor proceeding to attempt to mount Big Max all afternoon.

Lest you think this was the behavior of a frustrated dog because he’s been fixed all these years, consider that he pretty much left Suzie, the female, alone. Suzie is smaller than him and I think he wanted to get the big fish on his own turf. Mixed metaphors aside, it was dominance. Sam wanted to prove he was King, even though the castle wasn’t his. Normal behavior? Again, I’m no psychologist but that’s what I’m told. Embarrassing, yes definitely.

Even though Mad Max seemed to have no idea what was going on, he definitely wanted to play with the big boys and to get in on the fun. Here he is, on top of it all!

For more pictures of us all, go to the servicedogs’ public gallery by clicking on the User Info link under my avatar

Climb the Mountain.  Enjoy the Journey and Savor the View!

Max is King

April 19th, 2006

Introducing Max

This is a space to discuss and enthuse over our service dogs. Sam is my current service dog and he's really ready to retire. So meet Max- Mad Max or Maxotainment:

Max is a Back Porch Labradoodle and has the best breeders in the universe, Jacque and Dave (http://www.backporchlabradoodles.com/index.htm). We picked him up in Pasadena California after Dave drove hundreds of miles to meet us. The very next day, Max began Puppy Kindergarten which he recently passed with flying colors. He'll be five months old as of May 1, 2006 and already has five or six commands under his belt, or should I say, collar. He's the star of his new obedience class and he keeps us laughing out loud with his many antics. He'll do just about anything for a taste of banana or a chance to run around.

Even though Max is very calm, especially for a puppy, I had some trouble with pulling. With his vet's ok, I introduced him to a gentle leader at about four months old. The gentle leader corrects Max automatically when he tugs on leash. Even though it wraps around his nose, he can eat and drink without obstruction. It enables me to walk with him at heel, without fear of being unbalanced and falling over.

Like Sam, Max seems to dislike baths. Without his full coat, he shrinks to half his size and looks downright miserable.  He's about two feet tall and thirty-five pounds.  Big Puppy.  His feet are huge, so I expect he'll get bigger.
But no whining.  No jumping out of the tub or on me. So far so good.

I'll update the service dogs journal as often as I can. In the meantime, feel free to post your thoughts and stories related to these wonderful creatures here. For resources on disability, please check out my website at: http://www.allaccesscoaching.com

Here's to the achievement of true interdependence!

Coach Michelle
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