Welcome to my blog! I'm a professional dog trainer. I train dogs in the homes of my clients, at their convenience. So...I spend a lot of time driving, thinking, and praying. These are my musings, put down on electronic paper. Pull up a comfy chair, get something refreshing to drink, a snack if you like, and enjoy the journey...

Sunday, April 10, 2011


A few months ago, I did an evaluation of Chaco...a very aggressive Aussie/Hound mix. He's as cute as he knows how to be! He's as spotted as a Dalmatian, and has the ticking of an Australian Cattle Dog, but his head looks like a Blue Tick Coonhound through and through, having shorter Beagle-type ears. He's all white, and spotted, with black ticking throughout his body, and both of his ears are brown and black, marbled together. His eyes are not hard, but they're not soft either. He's a seriously scared, anxious, stressed three year old dog!!

His owners are terrific! They foster dogs for a local rescue organization, so they have several "roomers" at any given time. They generally keep a dog for 2-3 months to help act as a segway between the dog's previous situation and his new home. Foster parents often do some measure of rehabilitation, both physical and mental for these dogs. Many rescue dogs are damaged goods in some form or fashion. One of their current Basset Hounds, Louie, is probably 10 years or older and was seriously starved...almost to death, when he came to live at their house. He weighed only 30 pounds as an adult, when the standard weight for an adult Basset Hound is 60 pounds or more. What a loving, sweet guy he is despite horrible, abusive previous owners.

Chaco was found tied to a tree by a rope when he was rescued. That's an absolute recipe for creating an aggressive dog. Dog + Tie Out = Aggressive Dog. Chaco came to them as a foster, but has just never left. His owners have huge hearts and are trying to rehabilitate him. Believe it or not, but he's a wonderful family dog, as are many aggressive dogs. His owners have two young children who can lie on the dog and hug on him, etc., and he eats up the attention and loves them right back. However, if you're a stranger, and you're at the front door or fence, you're asking for a bad bite! At this point in time, he has four bad bites to his name, with puncture wounds and bruising. That demonstrates a very very confident biter, so he's not afraid to use his pearly whites when he's stressed. And unlike a dog whose bark is worse than his bite, this dog doesn't bark...he just bites! He charges at his target and sinks in his teeth with very little warning. No good. A 45 pound biting dog is no fun to live with, and certainly NO fun to train!

When Chaco saw me, he was on leash, and well away from the door. He did a little barking, some vocalizing, and stared at me until his owner was able to break his focus--several moments. We chatted at the door for a bit, and Chaco relaxed a tad, feeling safe enough to look away from me, and relax his body a bit. I tossed him some treats to measure his stress levels, and at first he wasn't impressed with my offerings. He picked one up, mouthed it, and spit it back out. But, in a short time, he changed his opinion, and decided I wasn't worth passing up a yummy snack. He took all of the treats I offered, and became curious about who I was. He ventured toward me to sniff a bit, even at a safe distance, which was all very nice, relaxed behavior, and actually, a good first meeting for a seriously aggressive dog.

As the evaluation went on, I learned that when he had been rescued, his collar was embedded in his neck, so his previous owners didn't care or didn't notice that he had outgrown his collar. That's horrible, tough abuse for a dog who certainly doesn't understand why he hurts or why the people in his world are mean to him for no apparent reason.

He's currently in a really wonderful home, which is pretty stable, except for the dogs coming and going, which probably does stress him out a bit. His owners want to see his behavior change or he may have to be euthanized, as he is a serious liability for them considering the current level of his aggression.

While I was completing my questionnaire, a neighbor came out into their driveway across the street, maybe 25 yards away. Chaco woke up from his nap, sat up, and began to vocalize as full hackles came up from his neck all the way to his tail as a demonstration of his anxiety about the "interloper" who was too close for comfort! And that was at 25 yards away, while he was safely inside a house!! That's some serious fear of people!

His owners have opted to try training him in an effort to save him, so I will have other posts about his progress. Looking at Louie, lying on the other side of the table from Chaco, it's really amazing how two dogs who had seriously abusive pasts are now two completely different dogs in how they are coping with life. Louie has found it within himself to trust humans again, and he's loving and kind, offering me his belly to rub, which clearly made Chaco nervous. Chaco's way of coping with humans is to bite them...although he has bonded very, very nicely to his current owners. Trying to help aggressive, damaged dogs trust again is a hard, hard way to go, and I'm honestly not very hopeful that we'll see a lot of positive change with this dog. He's three years old, has a strong history of bad bites, and is highly reactive, even from quite a distance. These are the cases that humble me and send me to my knees to ask God how to reach these dogs to pull out the sweet dogs buried by years of abuse. This story will definitely be continued...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Leadership Matters: Step One

Every day, I meet with wonderful dogs and their owners. Truthfully, I'm not generally called to be involved in their lives until the dog's behavior has reached critical mass, and the owner is overwhelmed with the "naughty doggie" syndrome of day in and day out with a dog who is a problem. The problem is often not really the dog, but the leadership that the owner has provided. To a dog, leadership is everything. Everything. Nothing else in a dog's world is going to be more important, except maybe food and water. I see so many owners who mean well, and buy toy after toy, fancy leashes and matching collars, expensive plush dog beds, filtered water, etc., all as a way of spoiling their dogs into loving and respecting them. Some folks treat their dogs like glorified dolls, dressing them up and fussing over them like they are the center of the universe...and therein lies the problem. Dogs are not and should not be the center of anyone's universe. I love my little widget, Rugby, like crazy, but he's a dog, and I want him to know that. To some people, I suppose, that sounds unloving, but believe me, it's a very, very loving attitude. Rugby was created to be a dog. Everything about him is a dog. He thinks like a dog. He reasons like a dog. He acts like a dog. He looks and smells like a dog...especially after he's been out in the rain! If I don't treat him like a dog, I deny him the right to be who he is, and I think that's disrespectful and unloving to him. I also strip him of a key element that creates security for him, and that's my leadership. Any time I elevate my dog to a status that he's not entitled to, I'm causing him to feel less secure in his world. I confuse him, and put him in a position where he has to lead whether or not he really wants to, simply because in a dog's mind, someone has to wear those shoes or the pack might not survive. All dogs are hard-wired for survival in a pack, no matter if that dog is a Chihuahua or a Great Dane. Dogs are pack animals, and they think and reason, according to membership as a pack animal. Don't all of us just want to be loved for who we are? Isn't it frustrating to be around folks who just don't understand how we tick and what we're made of? Don't we avoid people who try to make us into who they want us to be rather than accept us as we are and who we are? The best times I have are being around people who know and understand my history and who I am and who just let me be. It's exhausting to be with folks who are constantly trying to change us, and you know, I think we secretly resent them for that. It's a really great expression of love to just accept anyone for who they are, as they are, and not who we want them to be. We all want freedom to grow and change and develop, and dogs are no different in that. The first step in being a great leader to our dogs is just by letting them be dogs and accepting and respecting them as such. That's a very high expression of love and care in my book, and our dogs will love and respect us for that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rugby the Teacher

One of my clients needed to go out of town, and I decided that I'd dogsit his puppy to help him out. That way, I could offer some additional training, and also to introduce the puppy to Rugby. The puppy, whom I'll call Fido, has had little to no socialization to other dogs, and Rugby hasn't had a good, young playmate for a while. Fido is a middle of the road puppy, not terribly dominant or submissive, which is really the best personality mix for the average owner! He was adopted very young, at 6.5 weeks, which means that he had very little pack interaction with his other littermates. This can often lead to more behavioral issues that are persisstent and no fun. In Fido's case, he learned no bite inhibition, and he's a nasty nipper! Add to that equasion, the fact that he's teething, so he's become a chewing machine on top of being a little nipper! He jumps and nips at hands, legs, butts, pants, jackets, etc. both in play and to get attention. (Needless to say, his owner is less than impressed with this naughty behavior!) He weighs a bit more than Rugby, and is much more solid, but size-wise, for now, they're pretty well matched to one another!

We spent the first hour, outside in the freezing cold, trying to get Rugby to stop bouncing off the end of the leash, to stop barking and charging and to calm down enough to be able to meet the baby! Fido, on the other hand, thought Rugby was a complete lunatic, and well, you know, with the behavior Rugby was exhibiting, we couldn't have agreed more with that assessment!! Rugby has crazy leash aggression, but he often will do better with a young puppy in the mix. Not that day. So, we separated the dogs, brought everyone in, and decided to try that a little later, when it was warmer, and maybe when Rugby would be a little more tired. Thank God for a two story home! Fido got the basement, and Rugby got the main floor, which worked out quite nicely. Even though Rugby heard Fido in the basement, he didn't seem to really care, which was surprising, because if Lindsay's cats yowl, Rugby comes apart at the seams...but that's a different blog. Rugby had opportunities to sniff the puppy in his crate, and didn't seem to mind him one bit. Of course, he was off leash, and the puppy was confined, which will make a huge difference. However, the fact that both dogs were sniffing nicely through the crate was very promising after the ugly encounter outside!
So, a couple of days went by, and quite by accident, Rugby snuck downstairs, just as I was getting the puppy leashed to go out. So, for a moment, I froze, because I just envisioned the worst possible scenerio happening. The puppy looked a little like, "Oh my goodness! It's that maniac dog come to eat me again!" Rugby, on the other hand, trotted up to Fido, and was all wags and relaxed and happy to meet him. Go figure. So, we took the two dogs out for some play, and sat back to oversee and watch. Fido wanted to wander around the yard, and Rugby spent a great deal of time barking, nipping and herding him right back to the door. Any time Fido got very far away from the door into "Rugby's yard," Rugby would charge him back, barking, nipping and herding him. The puppy finally just laid down on the doormat and refused to try. At that point, Rugby went on about his merry little way, ripping up and down the full length of the yard, absolutely as happy as he could possibly be. The little guy is in his element when he runs, and he's a thing of beauty to watch!

After a little romping outside, and when I was simply too cold to tolerate anything more, we brought the boys inside. The inside activity and noise level increased immediately. Rugby is just a loud dog to begin with. He's a barky, exciteable boy, and when there's a second dog in the mix, it's nonstop barking, snarking and play growling. Fido was clearly a little nervous, because he had never been in this part of the house, and he knew he was on Rugby's home turf!! He also doesn't get a lot of house privileges in his own home, so he was like a country bumpkin at the county fair for the first time! We encouraged both of the boys to play nicely, and they really didn't do badly at all, right from the very beginning. Fido was happily exploring the nice assortment of new toys, and Rugby was busy trying to communicate his dominance.

I absolutely love watching Rugby with puppies. He is nothing short of amazing. For all of his neurotic behaviors in general, he really is absolutely amazingly wonderful with teaching puppies how to be dogs. He is incredibly patient. He snarks and barks, and growls, even pinning a puppy to the floor when necessary, but all in the most gentle of ways. As I said, Fido is a very feisty puppy, who thinks his solution to everything is to bite or nip his way out of it. When any dog takes that approach to Rugby, I'm going to go on record as saying, "Rugby don't play that." He really doesn't appreciate a puppy's rough play biting in any form or fashion. He doesn't like ANY dog to think that they can show ANY kind of dominant behavior with him. No paws at his face, no chin over his back, no paw on or over his back, and for God's sake...PLEASE don't ANY dog think that they can mount him!! So the first day was a lot of Rugby correcting Fido for all of those types of infractions. Keep in mind, that much of Rugby's school is teaching that he IS the dominant dog! Initially, I correct all of that, because Rugby also needs to know from me, that I'm the dominant one, and I'll decide if he's allowed to mount or dominate anyone else in the house--dog or human! As time went on, the two settled into some very nice interaction, blowing up with snarking from time to time when Fido would forget Rugby's house rules.

Out in the yard, Rugby continued to herd Fido, and rolled him silly when Fido would try to run the yard with Rugs. As we got into day two of the dogs together, the herding behavior stopped, and Rugby would allow Fido to wander his yard. Occasionally, Rugby would plow into the poor puppy and send him rolling, and the puppy would quickly get up, shake it all off and come back for more. As awful as it looked to us, Fido was really loving the rough play, and Rugby was carefully teaching him his place in the pack.

There was one interesting behavior we consistently saw Rugby do over and over and over, often as he was being corrected for trying to mount the puppy. We noticed that Rugby continued to lay full body all along the top of Fido, pinning him completely to the floor. Then Rugby would gently mouth Fido's face, ears, legs, neck, etc., play growling all the while. These little episodes were short duration--a minute or less, probably. But they happened over, and over and over for the entire time that Fido was here. Each time, Rugby would look up at me to make sure he was allowed to do this behavior, which was actually really cute, because it was so gentle. It occurred to me after a while, that Rugby was teaching Fido how to play bite gently. Fido spent a good amount of his play time nipping and snapping at Rugby, connecting with an ear now and then, and quickly being put in his place. Rugby has no hesitation to get all up in another dog's business if he thinks that's what's needed to express his opinion. However, even while Fido was being so rough in his play, Rugby, on the other hand, was gently teaching Fido that biting gently was allowed in play, as long as it was G-E-N-T-L-E...something this puppy simply has never learned to do!

By the final day, both dogs were running the full length of the yard together, and they were starting to play tug-of-war with the leash and toys. There was far less snarking sounds and far more quiet play growling going on. Both boys clearly loved being together, and really came full circle in terms of working through their respective issues to get along together well. After we took Fido home, Rugby was a little forlorn for the next couple of days, looking high and low for the puppy, thinking that we had hidden him. Fortunately, Fido lives very close to us, and his dad has agreed to allow regular play dates for the dogs, so I'm sure this story will be continued.
Dogs are just far smarter than we ever give them credit. As neurotic as Rugby is, he knows what he needs to do to parent a puppy, and he's a delight to watch and to own!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harley & Jasmine, Week 2

Wednesday was training day with Harley and Jasmine, two adorable little Yorkshire Terrier puppies I started last week. It was pouring rain all day, and naturally, they weren't very happy with the understanding that they weren't going to get indoor plumbing to go potty!! Harley wouldn't go this morning, despite several opportunities, and his momma said that the little guy held it all day long and then raced to the door when she got home! Two snaps up for that little guy!! Woo to the hoo!

So today, the minute I walked in the door, all bets were off with any hope of calm puppies! They were both knocking one another down to see who could get to me first. This is one of the best things about my work day. Every time I see one of my students, they are beside themselves to greet me. What a different world we'd have if everyone got greeted that way by others--especially those who really love us!

Within 5 minutes or so, however, they both settled down and were ready to focus and earn some yummy fish cookies. The training treats that I use are 100% fish. 85% is of salmon, and 15% is of fish meal. So, they're fish cookies, but truthfully, I call them "crack" for dogs! I can get a dog to do almost anything I need to have them do for a fish cookie, and I love giving them a reward that makes them go crazy! Harley has a calm enough personality and is such a little lover, that he really appreciates getting some good loving. Don't get me wrong; he won't turn down a treat, but he really, really likes to get some physical attention for his work. Jasmine, however, is barely holding herself together and can sit still long enough for a cookie. A hand reaching to love her up is more than she can manage well! Anything more than a cookie, and all bets are off! Time and again, she's wiggled herself up and she's jumping and being silly with her focus wide open on everything except the task at hand! Gradually, she's learning how to calm herself, but it's just going to take time for her to catch on and grow up. She calmed much quicker this week than last, and could focus longer today. She was also willing to sidle right next to me today, rather than keep her little terrier independence. She was good and hungry by the time I arrived, and dogs learn rather quickly that I pay my dogs well, when they work hard for me. She was clearly saying, "Miss Sally, I like the way that you roll!" It's the fish cookies, I'm telling you!! Crack for dogs!

Today, I taught them to lie down, a command that many dogs don't enjoy. It's the command that will cause many dogs to bite the handler, so I'm always extra careful when I teach this one. True to form, Harley took a lot longer to learn the command, but once he got it, he had it and was doing it easily and calmly. He would gently lie down and look up with the sweetest little expectant eyes...ahhhh....they melt my heart!! Jazzy quietly waited for her turn, taking good notes watching him work, and was doing the command quickly! By the end of our training session both of them were able to lie down and stay, side by side while I gave treats to them both, one after the other. It amazed me that they were able to down and stay and not try to push the other one out of the way for the cookie reward. Not only were they incredible distractions for each other, but the focus they gave me was really, really good! Great progress in just one week!

Their owner said that when the full family was there for Thanksgiving, the other family members remarked about how much calmer the puppies were! Woo to the hoo!! That's the kind of feedback any trainer wants after only one week of training!! It just proves to me once again, how much dogs really do want to please their owners, if only they can understand what it is we want them to do! It really comes down to our learning how to speak "dog" so that we can really communicate with our pooches in meaningful ways!

I'm so very proud of the puppies' owner. She's doing an amazing job with them in a short amount of time. She works a job full time, has a son in high school, and comes home to train her two dogs for a total of an hour every night! The proof is when I ask the dogs for a review of the previous week's work, and they give me exactly what I want. I told this owner that she's going to have her hands full learning how to manage and train such completely different personalities! She's going to be a much better trainer/handler as a result, because most owners only have to focus on one dog and learn how they tick. She's sooo relaxed on the leash, and low key with her pups, and they are responding so very well to her leadership!
So, after two weeks, they're doing nicely, and I couldn't be more pleased with them or their sweet mama if I tried!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harley and Jasmine

So Wednesday, I started training two new little Yorkshire Terrier puppies. Harley is 9 months old, and Jasmine is 4 months old. They are as cute as they know how to be, and if Jazzy wagged her little puppy tail any harder, it would fall off for sure! She is completely enthusiastic about life, and as busy as any toddler!! Harley is the more calm puppy, more of a lover than a busybody, and he definitely wants all of the attention, all of the time!!

I really, really love watching owners see their dogs begin to learn how to learn. Most of my training is "show and tell" where I work with the dogs, showing the owner what to do, and telling them how to do it. Often, my first lesson begins with just letting the dog figure out how to earn a treat. Usually, they are all over the place with excitement, jumping up on me, pulling on the leash, sniffing, being silly, etc. Once dogs cue into me, however, they are all focus and offer the behavior I want in a very, very short time. I do all of this without putting a hand of correction on the leash or speaking a word of command to them. Owners just marvel at how quickly their dogs figure things out, and for owners with really, really naughty dogs, they often feel a tremendous sense of relief that their dog can and will learn how to behave!! For me, the fun is in watching not only the dogs learn, but the joy of seeing their owners watching their dogs! It's similar to parents who have chosen the perfect Christmas gift and they are watching their child unwrap it!

Harley was much more calm to start, but he was the one who took longer to figure things out. When he got his treat, he was all over wiggly with excitement, and wanted to kiss to say thank you! And then we'd start the process all over, because his attention and focus was all over the place again. But what a little dear he is! He decided that it made sense to stay close to me, because he liked getting some treats and praise from mel!! He will probably take a little longer to learn the commands, because he's not as focused, and he didn't seem to grasp that I wanted him to continue with a specific behavior. Over time, that may change, as he figures out that that words have meanings, and can focus long enough to learn them! Dogs like Harley often take a bit longer at the front end of their training, but once they learn a specific command or behavior, they're often more than willing to offer it up, because they like the attention that results from compliance.

Jazzy, was definitely more interesting to watch! She was almost hyper with excitement and busy-ness in her surrounding environment, exploring as far as the leash would allow. However, she caught on to what I wanted almost immediately, but she stayed at a distance, to keep her independence. To start with, I had to really lean or take a step toward her to give her a treat. Where Harley was willing to stay close to me, Jasmine looked at me with savvy eyes that said, "This is some kind of trick, right?" She offered me the behavior I wanted much more consistently, and much more quickly than her big brother, her little tail going crazy the whole time. She was also willing to accept some praise without losing her focus, which is amazing given her little personality! She's going to be the one who will catch on more quickly to the commands, but she's also the one who will be much more independent, having a "make me" attitude. She was happy to get some treats and loving, but she wasn't initially willing to get very close to me to get them. Some of that may be that she doesn't trust me yet, but it's more likely because she's a terrier and wants to maintain her level of "terrier decorum" by accepting treats and pets from a distance as a show of her independence. After all, she could lose her "Terrier Club Card" for complete and shameless compliance to what I want from her, right?
Many people see Yorkies and think that they are really cute little lap dogs. They seem to forget that the second half of their name is TERRIER!! They may indeed be cute, darling little dogs, but they are also feisty, independent little terriers who know what they want and just how to get it! I know that I'm really going to enjoy training them, watching them learn and grow and helping to shape those sweet little personalities into dogs who will be furry friends for life!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal in the Heart of a Dog

I love my job. I really love working with dogs and their families, shaping behavior on both sides of the equation so that there's a great outcome at the end of a training program. The toughest dogs to train are the ones that are the most gratifying when their behavior turns a corner and they're going in the right direction.
What always amazes me, is the hope that lies in the heart of a dog. Every day, your dog hopes you'll play with him. Every day, your dog hopes you'll give him a little special treat or snack. It doesn't have to be a "day's ration of food-sized snack", mind you, but a little nibble that makes him feel special. When you leave, every day, he hopes you'll come home--soon. And every time you come home, he hopes you're as happy to see him as he is to see you. Every day, your dog hopes for a special outing, a walk, some special play with his favorite toy, or a play date with one of his friends. Many dogs love to go for a ride in the car, even if it's just to mail a letter and come home. It's the hope that they have in their hearts: please take me with you!
Most dogs' worlds consist of the four walls of their house and their fenced back yard. That's pretty much it. Judging from the human obesity issues in our culture, our dogs don't get enough physical exercise. Most dogs love a good walk or some serious play for an extended period of time. They love to run, to jump to romp. They love exploring, experiencing new things and new challenges. Many owners are just plain lazy. They don't know that training their dogs can be so much fun, and they don't know what to train or how to do it, so the dog doesn't get to go anywhere because his behavior is so awful. Many owners don't teach their dogs, so the dog doesn't get any meaningful interaction with their owners. Many owners will play a little fetch, as long as the dog brings back the ball and dutifully drops it...like a robot dog. And if it's too hot or cold out for the owners, forget the play, no matter what the dog wants.
My job allows me to change all of that for the dog and the family. I get to teach families how to interact with their dogs in meaningful ways. When the dog's behaviors come around in a positive way, people naturally want to interact with their dogs more. They want to have them in the house, take them places, play with them. It's always a special treat for me when I see a dog who has been relegated to live in the back yard before training, turn into a member of the family who is invited to live in the house with his peeps. That's a dog who will stay out of a shelter, and who will defend his family if necessary. I love helping people see how much their dog enjoys learning, and pointing out how you can actually see the dog learn and problem solve for himself.
And when you think about it, dogs have such simple hopes: a snack, a ride, a game of fetch, some meaningful loving, snuggles, their favorite toys...maybe we should take a lesson from our dogs and and learn to hope for small things every day...our next meal, a car that runs, no matter how old it is, a special snack now and then, some laughs and play every day, a simple squeaky toy, hugs from those we love...what are you hoping for after reading this?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What's in a Name?

The other day, as I was driving, I started thinking about all of the various names of dogs that I've trained. I just really enjoy knowing why or how someone comes up with the name they give their dog. I've trained many with "people names," like Sam, Glen, Jeff, Henry, Annie, Sadie, Katie, Abbey, Mia, etc. And I've trained dogs with typical "dog" names, "Tiny" for a Mastiff, "Sandy" for a caramel colored dog, "Blackie" for a black dog, "Baby" for any spoiled dog, etc. There are the "cute" names folks give their dogs, "Gizmo," "Murphy," "Cupcake," "Banjo," etc. And there are names for places or locations, like "London," "Raleigh," "Dakota," "Winston," etc. The names that always intrigue me most are the ones that are unique to the dog or owner, like "Eggo," or "Sheet Rock," "Zubin," etc. I always have to ask about the story behind those names!

Sometimes, if the dog had a previous home, those owners just keep the name the dog already knows. That makes sense, and it sure simplifies things for everyone involved, including the dog! In my case, with my own dog, that just wasn't happening! My current dog, "Rugby," was a rescue. His name at the shelter was "Tank." I'll bet when you hear that name, you're getting a mental picture of a big, broad, really solid looking dog, right? Well...Rugby is a 19 pound widget, and that's dripping wet! He's hardly a "Tank" and we just couldn't keep that name for the poor little guy. I was going to name him "Turbo," because he's just a bundle of energy, and sort of bounces and blazes his way through life. Think of a whirlwind, and you're picturing "Rugby," all 19 pounds of him! However, my daughter just couldn't stand the name "Turbo" and set about finding a better name for him. Just so we're clear on this, Lindsay's idea of "better name" translates to: "name that Lindsay likes/wants!" I was open to new ideas, as long as it was something I liked and fit the dog as well. So, long story short, she found "Rugby" and it is a name that fits him well. He's like a little guy who plays football through life with no protective gear. He's rough and tumble, and goes all out when he approaches almost any situation. Just ask the birds and bunnies who live in our yard! I'm pretty sure they all call him "Rugby, the Scary Chaser" or "Rugby, the Barking Annoyance." On the other hand, isn't it all about perspective? I think "Rugby" sees himself as "Rugby, the Brave," or "Rugby, the Fierce," or "Rugby, the Great Protector,"...you get the idea. He just has no idea he's a 19 pound widget. He thinks he's an 800 pound gorilla whose main objective in life is to chase anything that moves, most often with a lot of barking involved.

It made me wonder about that perspective, and the attitude that comes along with it. If we all saw ourselves the way that Rugby sees himself, there's just not much in life we'd shrink away from trying. We'd press forward with excitement, enthusiasm, confidence, and maybe some excited barking too...just to pave the way for us and let the world know we were coming. How many times do we shy away from doing something we'd really like to do...all out of our fear over who we think we are, or who others say we are, instead of who we should know that we are. Sometimes, I think if I'm honest with myself, I'm more afraid of succeeding than I am of failing. So, I try to face fears on a regular basis, just to push myself where I'd rather not go. It's good to stretch ourselves beyond our self-made safety nets. And anytime I forget this...on a daily basis, Rugby goes wildly chasing a bunny or bird, barking his confidence the entire way...just to remind me of who I need to be too!!