Museum front

Museum front
This is the future site of "The American Working Dog Museum" and its supporting coffee and gift shop, "Toby's Sit & Stay." We will eventually renovate the facade in keeping with historical preservation guidelines.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tomorrow is a red letter day! My husband and I will close on the purchase of an historic downtown building here in Colfax. We have been working for and dreaming of this for many months, and it has finally come to pass. This is not just an ordinary commercial building, but the building in which we will create "The American Working Dog Museum" to honor all the dogs who have served mankind from time immemorial. Since the first wolf curled up at the fire of prehistoric man, dogs have been our constant companions and working partners. Dogs are the most versatile animal ever created. I believe that they can and will learn almost anything we ask of them, and perform that job faithfully until they are no longer able. If we treat them with kindness and respect, they serve us with love and devotion.

I have been soliciting donations and loans of exhibit materials in anticipation of this coming to fruition, and have so far secured the support of the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) and the American Kennel Club (AKC). I am working to find materials representing herding, guarding, police, military, hunting, sledding, carting, acting, therapy, service/medical alert, fire, search & rescue, and other working dogs that deserve to have their stories told.

If you or someone you know might be interested in helping with this project, please follow our progress on Facebook at, and let me know how you may be able to help. I will be posting pictures and comments about our work on the creation of the museum and its supporting shop (and a few notes and photos about our own "working dog" therapy work as well). This is a grassroots project, and our Facebook page reflects that homey atmosphere and casual news reporting style. I hope you will visit us there!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Greg and I have begun taking Toby to the Des Moines Veterans Hospital twice a month. We went through volunteer orientation and the background and health check last summer, but were waiting for a chance to do some physical therapy with the patients there, rather than simply making social visits. A recreational therapist called in January to say that Blue, the Cairn terrier she had been working with, had some back problems and needed to take an extended break from therapy, and she wondered if we would be interested in bringing Toby to work with her. She is a rec therapist, but continues the patients' physical therapy in the evenings, working with therapy dogs to make it more enjoyable.

We have been there three evenings so far, and it has been very interesting. Sometimes the patients walk Toby down the hallway, other times they sit with him and practice manual dexterity exercises. When walking, the patients prove that they can walk farther than usual when they have a dog beside them, and actually enjoy doing it. I have also trained Toby to ride in a wheelchair, and we are hoping we will have a chance to practice this with a patient soon. The staff is anxious to see a dog being pushed in a wheelchair by the person who is usually riding. How often do you see that!?

The manual dexterity exercises so far have included tying and untying Toby's bandana, taking treats out of a zipper bag, and brushing him with the hand on the side of the patient's body affected by stroke. Again, veterans will perform services for Toby that they are reluctant to do as exercises for a therapist alone. A dog is great motivation for getting up, walking, and doing nice things for a fellow creature.

And Toby has been just wonderful in this work. He jumps up on chairs so he can be high enough to be petted, sits on laps and beds, walks between the patient and me (on a double leash, so each of us can hold one), does tricks to amuse the staff and patients, and tries to follow commands from those struggling with speech aphasia. I couldn't ask for a better partner.

We love this work, because we feel that we are actually helping someone to get better. It's so lovely to hear that one of the patients will be going home in a few days, and to know that we have helped them become stronger and more independent. Greg and I are both army veterans, so we get an extra kick out of helping our fellow soldiers. And Toby just loves everyone, no matter what their rank!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Toby Gets Published

I recently wrote an article for interventions magazine, a Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society ) publication. I will copy my submission here. It may be edited for publication, so you'll see the original first. I have changed the names of clients and staff to protect their anonymity.

Toby, my Shetland Sheepdog, and I became Pet Partners in the spring of 2011. He has the natural reserve of the Sheltie, which at first worried me, but I've come to understand that there is a special calling for dogs like Toby. He isn't the kind of boy who runs up to a stranger and begs for attention. Rather, he is a very gentle soul with the gift of calming quiet for those who need comfort and consolation. He is a wonderful R.E.A.D. dog, lying peacefully beside the children who attend our "Pawed Pages" summer reading programs in two local libraries. And he is the picture of tranquility as we minister to residents in care facilities, sitting or lying next to them, offering his paw to shake, or performing tricks for those who need a livelier visit or physical therapy.

In January of 2012 Toby and I made our regular monthly visit to a nursing and rehabilitation center. It had been a normal meet-and-greet type of visit, nothing out of the ordinary. We were just about to leave when we passed by a lounge with several residents in wheelchairs watching TV. 'Nancy,' the Activity Assistant accompanying us, realized that one of the women there was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. "Oh no," Nancy said, "'Ginny' gets like this sometimes, and doesn't stop crying for hours, sometimes all day. We've never been able to stop her; she just has to get it out of her system." The staff is always distressed when she has a day like this, because they can't find a way to help her.

Toby and I had visited with Ginny several times before. She had taken cell phone pictures of herself with Toby on her lap, and always enjoyed spending time with him. Watching Nancy try to comfort her, I had an idea. Ginny's wheelchair had an attached tray table spanning it (for books, drinks, etc.), and I asked Nancy if she could put Toby's towel on the table. I lifted his 20-pound body up onto the narrow table and positioned him in a "down" directly in front of Ginny. He just fit, if he didn't move.

I told her that Toby had celebrated his sixth birthday a few days earlier, and she began singing "happy birthday" to him between sobs. She put out her hands to pet him, and said in a querulous, tear-filled voice, "I...want...kisses." Now, Toby is not a very "licky" dog, and seldom gives kisses to strangers. But he suddenly started licking her hands, and didn't stop until she calmed down and stopped crying. It took less than ten minutes for Ginny to change from total devastation to grins and laughter. It seemed that we had witnessed a small miracle.

We took our leave of a smiling Ginny with a deeper awareness of the human-animal bond, knowing that Toby had made a difference in the quality of her day. Nancy expressed her heartfelt thanks, on the verge of tears herself. We both felt that we had experienced something very profound.

A few days after our visit with Ginny, Toby and I found ourselves in the Monarch Wing of Skiff Hospice in Newton, Iowa. We spent nearly an hour with 'Carl,' a retired engineer. Toby lay next to him in the hospital bed, pressed between Carl's thin body and the side rails, with his muzzle on Carl's chest and his expressive almond eyes gazing into Carl's face. While Carl stroked Toby's soft fur with a frail hand taped with an IV tube, he told us about his career as a WWII navy flier and then as a civilian engineer. We heard the stories of how he met and married his wife, and of his children's and grandchildren's trials and successes.

Carl told us with pleasure of the years he had spent visiting the hospice with his own little dog, Susie, whispering with difficulty as the nasal tube fed him oxygen. We both smiled at the remarkable circle of life: the former hospice animal therapist now being visisted in hospice by another, younger, dog therapy team. It was hard to say goodbye to Carl, as he and Toby seemed to be enjoying their visit so much, but he needed his rest, and so we took our leave.

The next week I made my usual phone call to the hospice volunteer coordinator to ask if she had any patients who might enjoy an animal visit, and learned that Carl had quietly passed away a few days after our visit with him. I later spoke to a hospice nurse, and she told me that Toby's visit had meant a lot to Carl, and that the staff was so glad that he had had an hour of happiness so close to his passing. I didn't know Carl before our visit, but in the short time we spent together with Toby, I felt that we had all become friends. I was reminded yet again how fragile is our time here on earth, and how precious the moments spent with our animal partners and hospice patients truly are.

Moments like these make all the socialization, obedience and Pet Partner training--and the sacrifice of resources and time--worthwhile. I thank God every day for my wonderful animal therapy partners, especially Toby, my sweet, gentle Sheltie.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trooper Goes to Washington

Flashback: Trooper grew up quickly, though there were times I wished he would leave the puppy stage behind sooner rather than later. He continued to harass poor Toby, to the point where Toby now has much less of his mane than he did before. I have started to tell him no when he pulls Toby's ruff, but bad habits -- especially when they're so much fun -- are hard to break. Trooper was finally completely potty trained at eight months. A puppy should be reliable at about six months, but Trooper had an aversion to going outside, perhaps because of the bad weather when he was a tyke. At last I can let him run loose in the house without constant supervision, though he generally stays in the same room with me, snoozing until I move, then following me everywhere. He's even more attentive than Toby, who has shadowed me since he was a puppy, too.

A few highlights from his early puppyhood:

When he was only four months old, he went on two summer vacations with our family. The first was to Washington, D.C. to visit Greg's father. Our other pets went to a sitter's house, but Trooper wasn't yet potty trained, so we decided to take him with us. He was a good traveler, snoozing in his kennel in the back of our van when we drove, and doing his business on command when we stopped for exercise. He loved meeting strangers and taking treats from them. I had bought him his red "Therapy Dog in Training" vest before we left, and this (and my Pet Partner credentials) allowed him access to places where regular pets were not allowed.

We called the administrative office at the Marine Museum at Quantico, and received permission to bring him into the museum with us. He was a real trooper in all the displays, even the room with the loud soundtrack from a Civil War reenactment. He sat calmly and took treats while the cannons and gunfire boomed all around him. When the gentleman who cleared our visit found us among the WWII display, he invited Trooper to come to the adminstrative office to provide some stress relief therapy to the staff there. We were happy to go with him -- another chance to let Trooper ride an elevator -- and play fetch in the office. The man had a silly wind-up toy alligator that intrigued the puppy, and his antics brought some much-needed laughter to the staff.

The Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. Capitol Building granted Trooper permission to take a Capital tour with us, provided by one of Senator Grassley's aides. Trooper behaved himself very well, with the small exception of a few small yips in the gallery of statues, probably in reaction to the cacophony created by the many student groups who were there that day. He went into the Senate gallery with us, and ate a lot of treats to make sure he stayed quiet. He was interested in the goings-on of the Senate floor below us, and I was terrified that he would let out a bark and get us tossed out of the building. When it was time to go into the House gallery, I elected to stay out in the hallway with the guards instead. I'd evaded disaster once, and didn't want to risk it again.

While we waited for my family, we entertained the guards and other visitors. Trooper always collected a crowd wherever we went, and this stop was no exception. One family offered to hold his leash while I went in to be with my family, but I wasn't about to leave him with a stranger, no matter how well meaning. I wouldn't leave my child alone, and I take my responsibility to my animals just as seriously.

I picked Trooper up for the many elevator rides we had to take, to keep him safe from unseeing feet, and tried to keep him out of the other passengers' faces. Some of our fellow riders were amused by his funny face, others didn't understand why he was there and registered either disapproval or confusion. I looked once at our young guide's face, and wasn't sure what his odd expression meant. I asked him if he was allergic to dogs, and he said, "No, I was just thinking that my dog would never do that." He went on to explain that his dog would not hold still while being held in an elevator full of people.

We took our kids -- and Trooper -- to the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum. The guards, rather than telling us we couldn't come in, welcomed Trooper with open arms and gave him treats. While we were there, we sat at a table in the museum's McDonald's restaurant with an oriental family of tourists. The father was very interested in Trooper's breed and animal therapy, and the kids went nuts for a puppy. It was yet another opportunity to spread the word about animal therapy. A few minutes later an Hispanic man and his son walked by us speaking Spanish. I understood very little of what they were saying to each other, but I immediately recognized the name "Lassie" when the father looked at Trooper and spoke to his son. That famous collie has made Shelties recognizable as well. (I could go on and on about how people think Shelties are miniature collies, but that's not why I'm here today.)

A woman employee in the museum wanted to meet Trooper, asking all about him, and I told her we had named him Trooper hoping he could work with veterans when he grows up. She blessed us, and said we had made her day. Leaving the museum later, we discovered there had been a partial change in the guard. One of the guards we had met previously gave us a huge grin, and said "Hi, Trooper! Hey, guys, this is Trooper -- he's a therapy dog!" And Trooper had to meet all the new guards and take treats from them, too.

We took the opportunity while in D.C. to visit the many war memorials and take Trooper's photo with them. We were forced, because of a last minute change in our schedule, to do this on a 90-degree afternoon. Trooper got very hot and tired as we walked around, and I ended up carrying him a lot, traipsing through the shade on the lawn, hoping that no one would tell me to stop stepping over the short chain that was supposed to keep me on the paths. (Whoever decided that all the sidewalks there should be paved in blacktop rather than white concrete ought to be fired! The heat was absolutely radiating from them.) When we got to the reflecting pool at the WWII memorial, I was very tempted to dunk Trooper in it to cool him off, I was that worried about him. Concern about what kind of organisms might be growing in the water stopped me, however, so instead I poured his bottle of drinking water over him, rubbing it into his fur down to the skin, and sat with him in the shade while Greg went to get the car. Trooper was none the worse for it after he cooled down, but I felt badly that he had gotten so hot. He was just a baby, after all!

This vacation was our first with a dog, and we learned a few things about hotels and restaurants along the way. Many more hotels are becoming pet friendly, perhaps because a greying America likes to take their "children" with them when they travel. A few hotels allow pets in free, others charge small (or large) fees, others ask for a deposit that is returned after a check-out inspection for damage. Overall, I think it averaged out to much less than keeping Trooper in a boarding kennel for the same amount of time. Some restaurants let Trooper in with his vest on, even after we explained that they were not legally bound to do so, as he is not a service dog. Some would have liked to let him in, and regretfully told us that their policy forbids it. One let us order ice cream without saying anything, then asked us to leave after we had paid and sat down. One's waittress said he couldn't come inside, but offered us patio seating and brought him a dish of water. Several of their employees found an excuse to come to our table when they heard there was a puppy outside.

We felt it was a successful experience. It was good for Trooper to get away from Toby and learn to depend exclusively on people for his entertainment and contact for a long week. He was already showing signs of not wanting to be touched, and the time away from Toby was very beneficial.

More vacation stories later.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hospice, for Real

I've finally done all the preliminary training and paperwork to be a hospice volunteer. Last week Toby and I went to our first volunteer training meeting, and the coordinator asked us to come to the front of the room and introduce ourselves. She then told the others how excited hospice is to start this program. She and the hospice director had to jump through a few administrative hoops, as they hadn't had an official animal therapy program before, but the way has now been cleared for future visits. I got my required flu shot after the meeting, courtesy of the hospital, which saved me/my insurance company a few bucks. Nice benefit, if you happen to like getting holes poked in your arm. I'm not really complaining. Maybe it will save me a couple of sinus issues this winter.

I was also asked to help edit a draft of their new animal therapy team policy. I feel honored to be the one to help them start the program. It gives me a chance to make sure the standards are kept high enough to ensure the professional conduct of hospice therapy teams. They were adapting a policy used by another hospital, which was geared entirely toward dogs, so I had to make quite a few changes to include other therapy animals. I also changed all the "pet therapy" terms to "animal therapy," explaining that it connoted a higher, more professional level of practice. Anyone can bring a family pet to hospice for a social visit, but only a trained animal therapist can bring a registered therapy animal to a facility and function in the professional manner required to ensure a safe and effective visit. The new policy states that only registered therapy animals will be allowed to make therapy visits, which I believe is a very wise move, both for the benefit of the patient and the liability of the facility.

Today I made my first official visit to the hospice wing, and decided to bring Teddy, my white cat. Unfortunately, only one patient was able to visit with us today. The woman I've visited with twice before, with Toby, appears to have entered the last stages of her stay there. She spends most of her time sleeping, and probably won't be able to visit with us again. I know the day will come when I will make my regular Tuesday morning pilgrimage, and find that her room is occupied by another fleeting soul. Such is the way of hospice, and I must try to accustom myself to it.

The woman who visited with us today is not as lucid as her family would like, but she did brighten up when I put Teddy on the bed beside her. We helped her pet him, moving her hand over his plush fur. She smiled for awhile, made some simple conversation about kittens, then dozed off. That's how patients sometimes signal the end of our visit, and we just quietly pack up and make our exit.

Since we had no other patients to visit, we spent a few minutes in some of the offices in the hospice's nursing station and administrative hallway, bringing a little therapy to those on the front lines. I sometimes think this is just as important as visiting with the patients. Seeing so much sorrow and death has to take a toll on the staff's collective psyche as well. I'm told that some of them -- as well as the volunteers -- occasionally need bereavement counseling when one of their favorite patients dies. It must be difficult to remain objective at times. I'm almost grateful that I'm only there once a week, and don't have time to form a close relationship with any of the patients.

Being in the hospice really makes you take a hard look at your own mortality, and that of your loved ones. I'm lucky that my parents are still fairly young (in their early seventies), but my father did give us a scare when he coded after heart surgery a couple of years ago. Working in hospice brings it home to me how lucky we were that he made a full recovery. I need to do some heavy thinking about my own health, and what I can do to maintain and improve it as I grow older.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Trooper Comes Home

Flashback:  Trooper proved to be a wild boy when we got him home. Suddenly his sister didn't seem so crazy after all. At four pounds, he did his best to dominate 20-pound Toby, chasing him around and play fighting constantly. Trooper always had his mouth full of hair from Toby's tail or mane. At first Toby didn't want anything to do with him, ignoring Trooper when he could and curling his lip in disapproval -- showing what Shetland Sheepdog people call "the Sheltie smile" -- when the puppy attempted to play with him. After a few days, however, Toby began to grab the other end of a rope toy when Trooper brought it to him as enticement to a game, and he soon got in touch with his "inner puppy," as my husband likes to call it. Those were halcyon days for Toby, when Trooper was still too small to inflict any major damage, and he was a fun playmate.

The potty training began immediately. We have a large wire crate that has been used for various pet reasons, including new puppies (Toby, and now Trooper), visiting dogs (Husker, who is another story), and cat isolation when a new kitten or cat came on board, or one of them had a medical condition that needed special care. Trooper was in this crate in our dining room -- we gave up our breakfast counter chairs for the duration -- when he wasn't doing his business or playing under supervision. He didn't like his crate unless he was eating or sleeping in it, but crate training is essential to consistent potty training and household safety. I confess to not always luring him into the crate, but sometimes picking him up and putting him into it, when my kids were demanding my attention and I simply didn't have the time to coax a puppy. This may have led to -- or at least not prevented -- a problem we still have: hand shyness. But more about that later.

It was in the coldest part of our Iowa winter when he came to us, and as soon as I put him outside to go potty he began to shiver uncontrollably. I decided he needed to be trained on weewee pads for the moment. These are plastic-backed sheets of absorbent material, about 18" x 24", treated with a chemical that encourages puppies to relieve themselves. We have a corner spa tub that is seldom used in our downstairs bathroom, just off the kitchen, so I overlapped three pads in the tub and set Trooper down on them when it was time for his business. He learned to use them quickly, and got a treat every time he used them. When he was finished, I asked him to sit, holding the treat just over his head and a bit back, encouraging him to reach his nose back and plunk his bottom down. Worked like a charm, and he learned to sit in only a day or two. It was then I realized just how smart he is, and knew I was in for both a lot of trouble -- a smart puppy, like a child, gets bored quickly and looks for something to do -- and a good deal of satisfaction, once I could channel the intelligence into productive training and work.

I already felt a huge burden to train this puppy correctly from the very first day, so he could become a therapy dog as soon as he was a year old. I constantly second-guessed my actions and attitudes, worrying that I was doing the wrong thing, or pushing him too hard, or not teaching him enough. I learned from a training manual that a puppy's golden window for training is between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks, so I taught him as much as I could during that time period: sit, come, stay, down, shake, high five, speak, and chase your tail. He wasn't always consistent in his response, but he understood the commands. I laid the best foundation I could, with the time I had for training, knowing that you can teach an old dog new tricks, but it's easier when they're puppies eager to fill their empty little heads with good stuff!

[I wish I could access my early puppy pictures, but I'm having some computer problems right now. I will post a photo of Trooper at about three months, where his blaze is not the massive drift of white it was at eight weeks, though still not as narrow as it has become since. I'll post earlier photos as soon as I get a new laptop and download from Carbonite.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Super Duper Trooper!

Flashback: As my husband and I discussed our rapidly growing interest in animal therapy, we realized that if we (he wants to be registered eventually as well) want to be able to serve the greatest number and type of clients, we would have to have another therapy dog -- one who was in love with small children and had a higher energy level for physical therapy work (chasing a ball, etc.). I began my search for an adult dog to rescue, so he would already be settled into adulthood, and we wouldn't have to wait for him to become a year old. became my constant companion, and I contacted many breeders to ask if they had an adult dog that they wanted to retire, or an adolescent that didn't quite live up to their show conformation expectations.

I found several dogs in our local shelter that I thought might work, and the shelter agreed to let me foster them for a couple of weeks to see if they would be suitable for therapy work. One was a wire haired bulldog mix, rather ugly, but with a sweet temperament. I asked my husband to visit the shelter with me to look at him, and Greg pronounced him too ugly to inspire warm feelings in therapy clients. I heard from the staff a couple of weeks later that they had taken him to a family gathering where he started nipping the small children, so we were glad we didn't take him home.

The next local dog was a West Highland Terrier ("Westie") who had been picked up as a stray along with another identical dog. He was nice enough, if a bit strong-willed, but he had a skin condition that I think might have been a flea allergy. Westies are prone to such things, and I just didn't want to take on a health problem that might affect how he looked (and felt) to clients.

The last local dog to come under scrutiny was a lovely little black and white Shih Tsu with a great temperament. I brought my whole family to see him, and my husband and one of the boys were immediately repulsed by his "bulging bug eyes." As much as I wanted to take him, I couldn't fight half the family over him, so he found a forever home elsewhere soon after.

We traveled to several shelters in our extended area to see other dogs that looked good online, but weren't what we wanted once we got there. One lovely Sheltie mix was just too shy for the job. Another American Eskimo was already adopted when we arrived. A Pomeranian didn't seem to take training very well. (He later found a home with a friend here, and has been a wonderful addition to her family.)

Breeders offered us some dogs, but they were either too expensive, too old, or too high of a health risk. Finally Greg and I decided that we should look for another Sheltie, since we had had good luck with Toby, and really liked the breed. We wanted one who wasn't quite as shy as Toby, so I started checking out the breed rescues in the Midwest for an adult who could handle therapy. We really wanted to find a rescue dog. We considered a four-year-old male named Twister, almost traveling to see him, but decided at the last minute that his ingrained habits of spinning in manic circles and urinating on the furniture just weren't going to work for us.

I contacted Linda Kotapish at the Sheltie Shack Rescue in Kansas, but she didn't have any adult dogs at the time that she thought were calm and outgoing enough for therapy. We had several phone and email conversations over the span of a few weeks, and got to know each other a bit as we discussed the problems I was having in finding the right dog. Then suddenly her rescue was blessed with a litter of sable Sheltie puppies. A backyard breeder she knows had had an oops! litter (born December 22) when she thought she was out of the business, and had decided to give them to the shelter rather than trying to find homes for them. The parents were distantly related, which might also have been a consideration. There was always the possibility of genetic issues cropping up.

Linda generally does not let first-time Sheltie Shack adopters take a puppy, and seldom families with children, either, but she said she felt good about us after talking with me, and wanted to offer us a puppy if we wanted to try "starting from scratch" with our second dog. Greg and I talked it over, pros and cons (potty training, unknown personality factors, neutering expenses, etc.), and finally decided to consider it. We got photos of the puppies almost right away, and it was hard not to fall in love with each and every one of them. We thought we wanted a female to neutralize male dominance issues, but the Sheltie people I talked to said that the females tend to be rather bossy, and that two males would probably get along better.

There were only two males in the litter, and one of them -- the one with a beautifully symmetrical face -- was already promised to a friend of the rescue. The remaining male had a face only a mother could love: lopsided mask with a huge amount of white on his face. We were disappointed, and thought maybe we would consider one of his better-marked sisters. Linda agreed we could have the pick of the litter, minus the reserved male, and we decided to go ahead and take one of them, no matter what. We narrowed it down to one of the females with the most outgoing personality, and the little lopsided boy. If we got the girl, she would be "Troika" in honor of our boys' Russian heritage, and the boy would be "Trooper" to celebrate our own service and honor that of our American servicemen. Whichever pup we took would, hopefully, be doing therapy in the VA hospital with us. (The pup's name had to start with "T" to fit in with the rest of our pets, a naming fluke that became a habit.)

We got word in the first week of February that the breeder wanted them out of her house at 7.5 weeks old, so we made plans to travel to Kansas on Valentine's Day weekend. We were invited to stay in Linda's home -- also her rescue HQ -- in the basement apartment of a lovely ranch house on the farm she and her husband share. We arrived on a Friday night, and got to play with the puppies for awhile before putting the kids to bed. We met all of the puppies, but then played with just the two we had decided to choose between. Troika was a little kangaroo, jumping straight up into the air and constantly starting play fights with Trooper. She paid more attention to our dog, Toby (the whole family had to go and get approved by Linda) than she did to people. She also had a domed head (it should be flat), which worried us not only for conformation, but for health reasons. (Her own forever family later reported that she had a few minor seizures as a young puppy, but who knows if the shape of her head had anything to do with it -- Shelties are prone to epilepsy.) She was a very beautiful puppy, but we were concerned about her energy level. We were afraid that Toby would not be able to put up with her harassment. He is a very calm and unassuming dog.

Trooper, on the other hand, was a little less lively, though plenty energetic in his own right. He jumped, but not as often, and was less of a nuisance for Toby. His face was still very white, but we could see the brown had started to close in on the white a bit, as we had learned it would as he grew older. Both pups weighed about four pounds, with Troika just a little heavier than Trooper. I was almost afraid to touch them, they were so small. (One of their sisters weighed only about 2.5 pounds, so we had the monsters of the litter at that point.) Linda put the two of them in a puppy playpen in the basement with us, and we decided to sleep on our decision.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of boys and puppies playing in the next room. We fed them, cleaned up the pen, had some breakfast, and got them out to play again. After awhile, we came to the decision that although Troika had the prettier face, Trooper was better suited to our family, and hopefully for therapy. If we were looking for a funny face that would bring a smile of amusement to therapy recipients, rather than an awed appreciation of the dog's beauty, he was definitely the dog for us. (We briefly considered taking both of them, but reason soon prevailed.)

Linda prepared the adoption paperwork, we paid the fee (more than an ARL, much less than a breeder), and she gave us a gift bag with a ball, tug rope, collar, leash, tag, puppy blanket, document bag, and some food. No AKC papers -- I'd have to apply for an ILP (alternate AKC listing) later. The adoption agreement mandated that he be neutered before he could reach sexual maturity, which we agreed to wholeheartedly. His litter was the perfect example of why dogs should be spayed and neutered. (His mother was eventually spayed before she could have any more "accidents.") All of our pets have been "fixed" as soon as they were old enough, or, in the case of Tinker, as soon as he came into our house.

The boys went outside to meet Linda's miniature horses (one got out, and we had to herd him back in), and we finally said fond goodbyes and started the trip home. Trooper was/is a great traveler, unlike Toby, who suffered from car sickness for the first year of his life. He had nary an accident in his kennel on the return trip, and was great about doing his business when we let him out in the grass. Several hours later we arrived home to start the next chapter of our great therapy puppy adventure: Potty Training.