Chix-A-Lot Friday: A Cheery Holiday Fundraiser!

I’ve been so excited about today’s big announcement that I started drafting it in my brains days and days ago. Today, we launch our big holiday fundraiser and giveaway!

Yesterday, we told you all about a stellar non-profit in Austin that provides training scholarship to dogs who need help but whose people can’t afford top-notch training.

You can read all about the Schrodi Fund — and why me and my mama love it so — here. But in short, the Schrodi Fund’s mission, through these scholarships, is to:

-Improve the relationship between owners and their dogs through education.

-Increase quality of life for all dogs, including those with behavior problems.

-Decrease the number of dogs euthanized or relinquished to shelters and rescues for manageable behavior issues.

-Improve the public image of all dogs. More well-behaved dogs in public means less bias against dogs, owners, and certain breeds.

Doesn’t it make you feel all twinkly inside?

Speaking of twinkly, the holiday season is upon us. So to give all our friends the opportunity to participate in their two favorite holiday pastimes (1. helping those who have less; and 2. giving/getting totally rad gifts), we’ve put together a little fundraiser/lottery for the Schrodi Fund. Here’s how it’s gonna work!

My brother Doodlebug and I have asked our very favorite creative pet-loving folks to donate a few goodies for a Holiday Gift Package. Let me tell you: each of the goodies is worth getting excited about on its own, but all together, they really make me go “WOW!” I’ve never seen a prize package so fantastical! Here’s how you earn a chance to win:

  • For every $10 donation, you are eligible for one lottery ticket for the prize package.
  • Multiples of $10 receive that many tickets — so a $100 donation would earn 10 chances to win.
  • The winner will be drawn at random by my mama’s glowing rectangle on Saturday, December 8, and announced early the following week.
  • If you win, you win the whole prize pack, not an individual item.
  • Each of the items would make a GREAT holiday gift for a pet lover in your life, but you are absolutely required entitled to keep some — or all — of the prizes for yourself, naturally!
  • Donations are tax deductible, and you will receive a receipt in the mail. So you can feel quadruple-good about yourself for participating!
  • To donate, click here, select Schrodi Training Program from the drop-down list for “Program Designation,” and enter (or at least include) the word LOTTERY in the “Dedication” field (so we know you want to play).
  • Share with your friends, so they can play too!

Now, on to the really fun part. The prizes! If you win our lottery, your holiday shopping woes are over, because here’s what you get!

1. A one-of-a-kind, handmade, gorgeous, warm sweater from Tiennot Sweaters. You can select the size you want and choose from a selection of colors. Just look how devastatingly handsome I look in my sweaters:

2. Your choice of sturdy, lovely, handmade martingale collar from Sirius Republic, with a matching bowtie or flower — your choice! Our friend Jen is such a genius of creativity and stitchery, she keeps coming up with new and new and new patterns and ideas. Here are my brother and me checking out some merchandise wearing our very own Sirius collars and bowties. But the collars we were looking at are only like one squillionth of the choices you’ll have if you win! Oh, and then below that is my silly ex-foster sister Dora the Explorer, modeling another lovely Sirius collar and a matching flower. Pretty neat, right?

3.  This one is gonna look really great with your favorite dog’s new collar: a custom ID tag from Austin’s very own Sew Olive! Our pal Heidi makes these gems by hand, and there are as many varieties as there are dog personalities. We just love ‘em, and you will too!

4. And finally, last but certainly not least, everybody’s most coveted pet-related gift: a hand-painted custom mini pet portrait from the Pet Shop!  My brother and I think this one would make an especially awesome gift for your most favoritest person on the planet. Who wouldn’t go totally nuts for one of these beautiful custom portraits? Since the holidays are so close, you’ll receive a beautifully packaged gift certificate for an original, custom portrait. Here is my favorite painting of Kim’s — of my brother the Bug — and also one of a cat, just so you remember that she’s not only about us dogs. She has even done rabbits, guinea pigs, and regular pigs! Amazing? Definitely.

The prizes alone are enough to make you want to buy lottery tickets, right?

Remember, for every $10 you donate, you get one ticket for the contest. The more tickets you buy, the better your chances of winning. But more importantly, every dollar you donate will help a dog develop the skills it needs to stay happily and safely in its home. And that’s something to cheer about.

Please donate now! Click here, select Schrodi Training Program from the drop-down list for “Program Designation,” and enter (or at least include) the word LOTTERY in the “Dedication” field.

The contest ends Friday, December 7!

The Schrodi Fund: A Cause for Holiday Cheer

To donate: Click here, select “Schrodi Training Fund” from the dropdown menu, and type the word LOTTERY in the “dedication” field to be entered in our holiday giveaway (now through December 7). For more info on the fundraiser and the holiday prize pack, click here!

* * * * *

Many dog trainers can easily name the dog who made them decide to become a trainer. For most of us, it was a “problem child.”  One who defied the norms. Kept us on our toes. Required that we bust our butts to get him under control. Made us fall in love more deeply than we thought we could. For me, that dog is Chick. For Shari Elkins, that dog was Schrodi.

About Schrodi

From day one, Schrodi was a firecracker. She was Shari’s first dog as an adult, and she never for a moment let Shari let her guard down. Her wild behavior had Shari looking everywhere for a fix. Over time, and at least partly due to a lack of guidance from the right trainer, Schrodi’s behavioral challenges devolved to a worrisome point. Shari often admits that she made her dog aggressive — not purposely, of course. A few years later, Shari met Lee Mannix, a legendary Austin dog trainer. Under Lee’s instruction, Shari and Schrodi learned to trust one another and work together, and Schrodi blossomed and became an exceptional dog. Even now, Shari talks about Schrodi as the best dog she ever had — the dog that made her a dog trainer.

Schrodi died some years ago, but Shari wanted her legacy to live on. And what better remembrance than offering quality rehabilitative training to dog owners who can’t afford it, so that they can train and keep their dogs?

Making Help Affordable

Shari, now the training director at the Canine Center for Training and Behavior, founded the Schrodi Memorial Training Fund in 2008 as a way to commemorate Schrodi’s legacy and help Austin’s dog owners access the training they need regardless of their financial situations. Behavioral issues continue to be the #1 reason that dogs are surrendered to shelters, and especially in a weak economy, the need for affordable training — especially private lessons to address behavioral issues — is great.

Austin is a remarkable community in that many groups offer free or low-cost basic and intermediate obedience classes, including our Doodlebug’s own Love-A-Bull. Programs like these go a long way toward the goal of keeping dogs in homes and grooming responsible dog owners. But for some dogs, a group class just isn’t the solution.

In 2010, Schrodi Fund brought 80 families in to the Canine Center who would otherwise not have been able to afford the help they needed. Of the dogs helped that year, 95 percent remained in their homes. Given the range of behavioral challenges we see through the program, this success rate is astounding.

Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to personally refer two of our blog readers to the Schrodi Fund, and gotten to meet each — and their lovely dogs — in person at the Center for their evaluations and subsequent training.

Shiner’s Story

I first “met” Shiner through this blog when her owner, L, emailed me to ask about the Center’s reactive dog class. She and Shiner were in a class at another training facility where one of the methods of “training” Shiner not to react to other dogs was to jerk the leash so hard that Shiner would — literally — flip over. L had a bad feeling about the class and how things were going, and reached out to me to inquire whether the Center’s methods might be more up her alley. L had originally selected the other class because it was less expensive, and she and her partner needed to make the most of their limited training budget.

About a week later, L, her partner, and Shiner came in for an evaluation. It was clear from the start that Shiner is not your garden variety reactive dog. She is so worried about dogs that even at a distance of 100 feet or more from a stationary dog, she has trouble walking without tripping over herself. She does her best to run away and hide, but if pushed closer than she is comfortable, she reacts. Explosively. Needless to say, her extreme fear poses a challenge to her people when trying to take her for a neighborhood walk. And with a baby on the way, they knew they had to act quickly if they were to safely keep — or rehome — Shiner.

Through Schrodi Fund, Shiner has been in for several private lessons to help her and her moms get in balance, learn to read each other’s body language to better anticipate Shiner’s worries, and implement various techniques to help Shiner relax and better cope with stress. Shiner has also become a regular in “Tutor Days,” which are daycare days where trainers work with the dog in multiple short sessions using a detailed, tailored training plan for that specific dog.

Shiner’s journey is far from over, but her moms now see a path forward. They love Shiner dearly (they even have a theme song for her — Ryan Adams’ “Goodnight Rose.”), and have renewed their commitment to continue working with her for as long as it takes to ensure her happy ending.

An Ounce of Prevention . . .

Not every case is a dramatic one.  A few years back, Schrodi Fund accepted the case of an 85 year old woman who had been gifted an adorable small dog by her family, to keep her company. Unfortunately, the dog turned out to be boisterous and fearful, posing a risk to the owner, who found herself almost being pulled over on neighborhood walks. Living on a fixed income, the woman could not afford to pay for training, even though she didn’t need much. Without an intervention, she would have no choice but to surrender her dog. After four private lessons focused on leash walking and control, the problem was resolved. The woman was able to keep her beloved companion, and the dog was no longer destined for the city shelter.

In my opinion, this is one of the coolest aspects of the program. Rather than only focusing on the dogs whose issues have escalated to a dangerous point, the application review process includes special consideration for those whose concern may be minor — for now. Catching a worry before it becomes a full-blown behavioral issue is so much more efficient and effective than waiting until we’re looking at a dramatic case.

The Nuts and Bolts

Here’s how the program works. Any Austin area resident needing help with their dog who can’t afford full-price training can submit a brief application through the Schrodi Fund website. The review committee looks at the applicant’s stated needs, but also checks for other red flags — early signs of problems that could develop down the road. If the applicant meets the criteria (both merit and need), he is offered a training package  that he can afford — no matter how deep the discount necessary. Everybody pays a copay, but that copay might only be $5 in extreme cases.

So far, no qualified applicant has been denied for lack of funds. But this year, demand is higher than ever. The fund is on track to help more than 90 families in 2012, with no indication of a slowdown in 2013. The need in the community for high-quality, low-cost training — especially private training — isn’t going anywhere. And the fund’s ability to change relationships and save lives is only limited by its exposure in the community — which is growing — and the funds available to support it.

This is where you come in.

Tomorrow we launch this year’s fundraiser / giveaway, which we wrote a little bit about yesterday. So tell your friends and join us tomorrow, when you’ll have an opportunity to donate a few holiday dollars to a great cause while putting your name in a drawing for an amazing prize pack of gifts for the pet-lovers in your life (including you)!

TO DONATE: Click here, select “Schrodi Training Fund” from the dropdown menu, and type the word LOTTERY in the “dedication” field to be entered in our holiday giveaway (now through December 7). For more info on the fundraiser and the holiday prize pack, click here!

Holiday Cheer, Our Style

What’s your favorite part of the holidays? Helping others who have less? Or giving and getting rad gifts?

Be honest. Both, right?

We have two favorite activities of our own here on the blog — fundraisers and giveaways. And this year, we’re rocking two in one. Excited?

Two years ago — our first holiday season blogging — we rolled out our Kibble for Comments fundraiser, in which our then-foster Lollie Wonderdog earned 250 pounds of kibble for our local shelter’s homeless dogs thanks to your participation on the blog.  Has anybody been with us since then?

And last year — though this was before the holiday season — we raised a stupendous $4,130 for the care of Little Zee, our then-foster whose neurological issues and medical complications put her at serious risk for the wrong end of the shelter.

Of course, these made perfect sense. Two years ago, we were pouring our time into shelter dogs, so naturally, shelter dogs should benefit from any funds we could raise. Then last year, our focus shifted, and we opened our home to eight homeless pit bull dogs, including Little Zee. We treated them like our own, so when one needed a small miracle to have a chance at a new life, we did what we had to do and raised the money.

This year, our focus has shifted a little again. In February we adopted Doodlebug, which took us out of the fostering game for a while. I also thre myself whole-heartedly into the fascinating world of dog training. At the beginning of the year, I started working, learning, observing, and just spending time at the best shop in Austin, and it changed everything.

At the Center, we see dogs every day who might have ended up at the shelter if their owners were a little less committed to resolving behavioral challenges — sometimes rather serious ones. How many of you, who volunteer or work at shelters, have seen dogs turned in because they bark, or pee, or nip, or run away? What about the ones who growl, or hide, or have bitten another dog or a person?

Often, there is only a small difference between these dogs and the ones who turn into success stories with their current owners: resources. With a great, experienced, gentle, creative trainer — and the money to pay for her — a dog with serious behavioral challenges can learn how to relax and act safely and appropriately. We all know good training ain’t cheap — especially private lessons. But does this mean that only those with means to pay should have the opportunity to turn around their relationship with their dog?

We think no.

So this year, training is our special cause. And in particular, helping those who are desperately in need of tailored, one-on-one help with their dog to afford the help they need. Tomorrow, we’ll introduce you to a fantastic program in Austin that does just this. And on Friday, we’ll launch our fundraiser and reveal this year’s beautiful prize pack.

Who’s excited??

Doodlebug’s Big Win

Why in the world is Doodlebug so exhausted, so very sleepy, and his mama grinning like a big silly goofus in this photo?

And take a close look at this photo. Does Doodlebug look any different to you? Perhaps a little wiser? A little more accomplished? More elite?

Still haven’t figured it out, eh? How about in this photo — notice anything special about our little Bug?

No, he didn’t just steal a ribbon that says CGC on it — although we wouldn’t put it past him — he actually took the Canine Good Citizen test and passed — with flying colors!

We have been training and practicing for months and months. He graduated from his CGC prep class this summer, after all, and he has been studying hard ever since!

We’re not gonna lie — the hardest test element for the Bug has always been the dog-dog passby. Being in close proximity to a dog he doesn’t already know gets him so excited that he has a hard time not jumping and pulling and vocalizing — none of which are allowed on the test. But he has been working his sweet little buns off, and yesterday his hard work — and mama’s — payed off. He was brilliant!

We came home, and his brother Chick could tell immediately that something was different about his baby brother the Bug. They got down into a huddle, and Chick insisted that Doodlebug tell him all about it. Didn’t you cheat just a little bit? What was your secret to not peeing during the test? But most of all, Chick was proud of his baby bro.

Doodlebug’s favorite part about being an official CGC? He can make his sweet snaggletooth face as much as he wants, and he’ll still have material proof that he’s no dummy!

More info on the Canine Good Citizen Test elements is available here.

To learn how to get trained and tested, click here (nationally) or here in Austin.

Chix-a-Lot Friday: Happy Birthday to me!

Well well friends, this week was my birthday. If you’re feeling bad about not sending me packages of peanut-butter-and-liver cupcakes or baskets of kittens, don’t. You have another chance. My actual birthday (adopt-a-versary) is November 11, but my observed birthday is usually on Thanksgiving! So just send me the kittens then.

This year for my birthday I got a super special Fetching Tag just like my brother’s. Boy oh boy was I excited when it came in the mail! I will show it to you next week, but for now I will just tell you this: it has my name and phone number and a special motto all about me. I love it!

In preparation, why don’t we just take a look at the gifts I’ve gotten in previous years, shall we?

My very first year of having a real birthday, you see, I got a brand new mama, dad, and a home. That was a BIG year! And to top it off, I also got a kitten! The people still insist that Illy did not belong to me officially. I’ll let you be the judge, based on the photographic evidences:

The next year, mom and dad and my aunt Sara the painter got me a painting. I just loved climbing up on the back of the sofa and gazing deeply and intensely into its corners:

The third year, they let me help bake, and gave me whole bunches of frosting to lick clear off the cold metal thingies. That was a sweet year!

And the following year, since I loved the bakings so much, mama let me lick a little icing off the edge of the table after we went for a big birthday swim. Wahoo!

The year after that, mama and dad let me sleep in the bed in a hotel. A simple pleasure, sure, but such a rare one. You can see how much I loved it!

Year six, I got what is — no exaggeration — THE BEST TOY EVER. It’s basically a squeaky squirrel on a fishing pole. You can see how much joy it brings me here:

Then two years ago, mama and dad got me . . . my first foster sister. Um, thanks mom and dad. No offense, but that was the lamest birthday ever!

Luckily they made up for it last year by giving me my most beautiful Paco Collar. Aren’t I the handsomest?

Oh, and I also got a nice tall margarita for that same birthday. Double score!

The Bug and I are off to Galveston next week to visit our grandparents for my birthday Thanksgiving, and I bet there are even more surprises in store there.

Happy Chick’s birthday to everybody!

Guest post: On babies and dogs

We are THRILLED to bring you this guest post from the adopters of our very own former foster sweetheart, Little Zee (now Medivka). If you have  a dog and a baby — or are thinking about kids in the future — you’ll find some great tips here for setting your family up for success. And the darling photos of Medivka and her human sister? Just a sweet little bonus!

“Knowing we were going to have children definitely played a part in chosing a dog to adopt. We didn’t want him or her to be nippy or resource-guarding, or sensitive to strange or loud sounds. Fortunately, we found Little Zee, now Medivka, and felt she would be a good furry sibling to any baby. 

We wanted to get her used to our family and house without her suddenly having to change her habits and expectations when a baby arrived. So that meant not getting used to climbing up on people or couches or beds, which wouldn’t be polite without asking first anyway. As first time dog owners, training was a huge priority for us, and I think immensely helped all of us communicate. The positive reinforcement methods were, well, positive, instead of a “no no no” stressful experience. And we’ve carried the “leave it,” “go to bed,” and “down & stay” to situations around our baby. They are not perfect by any means, and that is purely due to our lack of practice with Medivka in various situations, but for the most part she knows what we expect, and it’s no different from when we started training with her about a year ago.  

What we didn’t anticipate was excitement leading to an undesired interaction between dog and baby. Especially a sweet dog like Medivka. Before we had our baby, we had friends visiting with a less than 1 year old who had already had a positive interaction with our pup. So we all made the mistake of having them say hello to each other as soon as they arrived, and not setting them up for a safe greeting. Medivka was sitting and did her happy/playful paw motion, and our little friend was too low and got a scratch right on her face. It did not break the skin, but on such young skin looked like a gash and was obviously an unpleasant shock for her. We felt very fortunate that our friends had met Medivka before, the scratch was accidenta, l and they also felt the incident was due to a poorly set up situation for dog and child. I felt especially irresponsible for putting both of them in that situation and not thinking ahead about how to set her up for a successful greeting with such a small person. So with that experience in mind…  

We wanted to support the comfort of both Medivka and our Baby, who’s now 6 mos old, so we’ve taken a slow approach to introducing the two of them. I read some information about introducing dogs and babies and followed some, but not all of them. For example, we prepared Medivka for staying out of the baby’s room for now, especially because she is off balance and it’s a small room. She became used to that rule before the baby came home and it wasn’t a sudden negative association w/the baby. I did not, however, carry a doll around in a sling or stroller. Medivka is mostly flexible to new people and things, so I did not see that being an issue. I did give her time to get used to me carrying the Baby K in a sling and was careful not to lean over her with it, but to squat next to her to say hello so she wouldn’t think the baby was falling on her.

The morning before we brought our baby home from the hospital, Dad took a blanket that smelled like the baby for Medivka to smell, as a way to give her a heads up of a new smell to become familiar with. I came in alone to greet Medivka without the baby, so she could comfortably say hello to her Mom in a familiar way. Overall she seemed curious about the new little bundle of human, but did not seem too bothered by her crying, except a few times she came over to see what the heck was going on.  As we all spent more time together, we let Medivka sniff the baby’s feet more to greet her in the morning and I would spend some time petting Medivka with and without the baby. We try to go on “pack walks” most nights, as well as giving Medivka a good greeting and petting throughout the day.

Our approach has continued to be a process of the two of them getting to know each other. We watch Medivka for signs of discomfort when close to the baby, and we model “gentle petting” to the baby while we hold her. We also reward with words or treats when Medivka interacts with baby in positive ways. Right now, Medivka has the advantage of  being able to walk while our little girl can’t yet crawl – she can chose how close she gets to our little shrieker. We plan on teaching Baby K to let Medivka have her do-not-disturb space in her beds so she can take a break.
It is so fun to watch their blossoming relationship! Medivka will frequently come by for a sniff or lick at our girl and carry on her way. Baby K lights up when she sees Medivka. The other morning, as I was making breakfast, Medivka chose to stand right next to the Baby K who was shrieking in a most unpleasant high pitched voice – but in delight at seeing The Dog – in her little activity center. As little hands reached out for Medivka, she sniffed them looking for food, and then laid down next to the loud baby & shaking/bouncing contraption waiting for treats to come from larger hands.  

This past weekend we had the same repeat little visitor friend, who is now walking and talking, and they had a great meet and greet, Medivka generously shared her toys, and was treated with some dropped apples. I noticed she laid down on her own when the little visitor was very close, which I have been rewarding her for doing with Baby K. Medivka also played hostess dog to several costumed kids from 6 mos-4 years who took over her backyard and ran around shrieking. We put her on leash for the bigger crowd of little people, and gave her the job of cow bone chewer with breaks for getting petted and sniffing around.  She did a great job and stayed up late partying until 11pm!”

**Thanks to Medivka’s forever-family for the great write-up and the three photos of Medivka with tiny humans**

Chix-A-Lot Friday: My grand adventure at the Dogtor’s office

On Wednesday my Mama told you that I was going to spend the day at the Dogtor’s office and have them take away my special eye feature. Just as a reminder, here’s what I looked like before my day of adventure. See my special eye feature?

Well, Mama took me to the vet’s office for a playday with my friends — or at least that’s what I thought — and the next thing I remember, I was laying on a dog bed and everything was kinda blurry and swirly and silly. I could hear some people talking to me, but they were obviously speaking Martian, because I couldn’t understand them at all. And then I woke up again a little while later, and one of my nice friends was saying “Chick, your mama’s here!” and I was so happy that I tried to get up, but whoa, that was harder than I expected! So my friend helped me walk out to my mama without bumping myself into any things, and boy was she a sight for sore eyes. Here I am when she picked me up, getting some lovin’ from another one of my friends:

And of course mama had to lift me to get into the car since I was pretty hammered, but when she opened the car door, I was in for a surprise — my Doodlebug had insisted on coming along to pick me up. Ain’t he sweet?

He had to make sure I had somebuddy to rest my conehead on for the car ride home, and boy was I happy to have him.By now you’re probably wondering why I have a bumble bee bandage on my arm and also a cool tough guy set of stitches on my shoulder. And I will tell you why. Mama told the vet that while I was “under” (under what, I wonder??), she should go ahead and look at my little lumps and bumps all over my body and to delete any ones that she didn’t really like. So she found a couple of flea-sized ones and two bigger ones, maybe the size of a squished blueberry. She took ‘em off so I could be good as new! She told mama not to worry and that they were probably no big deal, but that she thought I should have some tough guy scars so the chicks dig me even more.

Anyhow, we got home, and again mama had to lift me out of the car and walk me very slowly into the house, because my buzz had not worn off yet. She let me go out in the yard (I’m not allowed to have any walks for TWO weeks), and I’m not even sure what happened. I think I just sat there like a little sleepsitter the whole time while Doodlebug frolicked about.

As soon as I was feeling clever enough again, I realized that I had a Great Opportunity to milk this for all it’s worth. I managed to get Mama to give me a whole can of tuna fish for dinner and move my most favorite, luxurious, fluffy, yummy, king-sized dog bed right into the dining room so the Bug and I could supervise her making dinner for her and dad. Pretty smart, eh?

My brother was open to my cleverness too, and let himself be used as a cone-rest while I napped peacefully.

So then I ate my tunafish, took my pain pill candy and went to sleep, and — whew! — a good night’s sleep sure did me good. I woke up feeling GREAT! I played with Mama with a toy before she went to work, and after she got home I took a nice long nap in the sun.

Mama even said I was “crazy as ever,” whatever that means. She said it after the Bug and I zanily chased a squirrel across the yard while mama yelled “NO RUNNING!!” But when I came back, she just gave me a big hug and told me what a good boy I am. I guess she’s happy I’m back to my old self!

Thanks everyone for the well-wishes. Just look how well you made me!

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