Considerations for the City Dog: Breeders v. Rescue

Another blurb from Considerations for the City Dog.
This chapter, more than any other, is likely going to draw the most controversy, but this is what we are seeing in cities. Something needs to be done. So much so that NPR's Morning Edition was talking about the rescue issue that I'm writing about in the book. I'm really happy more attention is put on the subject, but until something is done on both sides of the coin, it's rather useless. 

There are significant issues with both breeders and rescue groups as a whole. Breeders must do a better job of breeding out diseases and personality flaws when breeding for family life, instead of breeding to a standard that encourages excessive deformities in many of our dog breeds. The AKC and breed groups can consult with reputable veterinarians to ensure the dogs that are being promoted as “healthy” are actually healthy specimens. Better yet, ethical veterinarians could judge the breed rings to prevent dogs like overweight Labradors, German shepherds with knocking knees, or Pekingeses who can’t walk without overheating from winning the trophy designating “best bred dog." Potential owners need to know that just because a dog is registered with the AKC, that the dog might not be a healthy specimen. Just because I register my car does not make me a safe driver.
On the other hand, shelters need to do a better job of conducting honest behavioral and physical evaluations in addition to breed classifications on every dog to ensure that when a dog is placed, it’s going to be a successful placement. Rescue groups must deny truck adoptions at gas stations to get around state loopholes which are placing near-feral dogs in homes that are not suitable for these sensitive pups, many of which are failing in the cities in which they are placed.
Regardless, it’s up to you to do your homework. There are great breeders and great shelters but you just have to know what you’re looking for.

Let’s do this....

 Chapter 2: Breeder v. Rescue
 Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA


Richard Juang, Attorney for...Dogs?

Well, not quite. But sort of. 

My dear friend Richard has been a long-time supporter of Muttstuff.
Perhaps the longest. 
He also happens to be a lawyer. 

He really rallied with  me last year during the Rocco case, and has always had a place in his very large heart for people who want to help animals and their humans.

The people who work with animals need a place to work with animals (like a rental unit). They need insurance. They need bonding. They need, for all intents and purposes, a lawyer who doesn't suck. I will say that I'm very lucky to know several awesome lawyers, but none are doing quite what Richard is seeking to do. 

When Richard said he was going to start exploring using his trade for good (including LGBT issues, non-profit and animal related industries) I couldn't have been happier or more proud. 

This is directly from Richard: 

"I'm able to provide nonprofits and small business with what I'm calling an organizational counsel package. Basically, I can provide many of the services of an in-house, on-staff attorney, without the overhead costs of having a full-time attorney on payroll.  

The Organizational Counsel Service can be found here:
A routine package could, for example, include all of the following:
Legal compliance review and oversight of putting fixes in place;
Review and application for relevant business licenses if needed;
Contract review and drafting;
Review of insurance coverage (no sane business person wants to read a 200 page insurance coverage contract!);
Review of compliance with employment laws;
Provision of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training to staff and management;
Providing internal investigations, as needed.

 As you know, I have a special love of animals and animal-related groups and businesses and so I am happy to discuss a wide range of options that fit small organizations' budgets."

Before he passed, Richard's dog 'Pepper' would stay up late at night reviewing on Yelp.
He was a very special, happy, social, easy going Shiba Inu who loved everyone.
He and Richard were a great team, and very similar in these regards. 

If you are a business owner who works in the animal industry, happen to be in the Boston area and would like to see what options are available to you, go to the website, call him directly 617-861-1401 or email rmjuang@juanglaw.com. Alternatively, you can touch base with me and I'll get you in touch directly.

I can't be more supportive of this! 



Dog Trainer Emergency Kit

Today, I raided the dog's emergency kit to splint what I now suspect is a broken toe (or at the very least, a really, really badly sprained situation in the "This Little Piggy Had None" toe).

In this emergency kit was splinting equipment, tape, soft wrap, gauze, Neosporin, and un-expired peroxide. 

None of these things existed in our human emergency kit.



Santa Paws at Charlestown Durty Harry's THIS SUNDAY

I'm a fan of getting in the Christmas spirit and receiving holiday cards with dogs on them. I also prefer if my money also goes to a good cause.

Luckily, my friends at Durty Harry's feel the same way. They are hosting their (I believe) 4th annual Santa Paws. If you haven't heard of it before, let me tell you that it's the bees knees.

A photographer takes your dog's photo with Santa. For a $10.00 donation, you get your photo to use as a Christmas card, or blast everyone on Facebook with how cute Fluffy is on Santa's lap.You spread the holiday spirit, while all of the money from the event goes to Audrey's Rescue Angels. 

Additionally, I'll be there selling my Little Dog Long Lines, Little Dog Leashes, and Off-Leash Leashes, with a portion of the proceeds going back to support responsible rescue groups in time for the holiday season. Even if you're not quite ready for the holidays, feel free to swing by and say howdy!



Excerpt: "Considerations For The City Dog: Chapter 7"

Hi Guys!

I've been working on a book since the Rocco Case in Somerville last November, which is why I've been M.I.A. on this blog for so long. I wanted to do something to prevent that from ever happening again.

Will this book change every single person's habits with dogs in the city? No. But this book is designed to be a companion piece to training. It won't teach you how to get your dog to sit, come or stop rolling in gross stuff. It will get you to think about the things urban dogs go through on a daily basis when they live in a city, professionals you need in your corner (what is a "behaviorist vs. trainer"), and how to find reliable resources in your community. Many of the chapters are expanded versions of past blog posts.

Yes, this is a more global book, in that all dogs and owners can benefit from Considerations, but it pays particular attention to the dogs in our urban centers, where they are coming from, what our students are seeing, and what vets/behaviorists/trainers/other dog owners are seeing in our back (concrete) yard.

Here is a blurb from Chapter 7 (He's Friendly!)

Yes, I really wanted a dog who loved other dogs. I envisioned a life of going to the dog park, and off-leash hiking. I wanted to take her to doggy daycare and drop her off to play with other dog friends while I traveled - but that’s not the dog that I ended up with. I couldn’t make her love other dogs no more than my parents could make me love spiders, but I was able to get her to tolerate living around other dogs with very particular parameters. One of those parameters was that she was afforded just a little bit of space that wasn’t infringed upon by other dogs. Even friendly ones. Sadie wasn’t, and isn’t, the only dog in the city that has an owner working incredibly hard to give just a little bit of space. It’s really hard for dog owners, dog lovers, to say “no, please, stay away!” I find that this is one of the more challenging parts to owning a dog who needs space in a city of friendly dogs. People think they did something wrong because their dog is different and their dog needs space unlike the other dogs in the fields, parks, and hiking trails. People hate to say “no- stay away” because as much as the dog needs space, these are dog-loving people who love other dog-loving people. It’s hard to turn your back on your “tribe”.

I found the only thing that worked to give Sadie her personal-space-bubble was to stand my ground, and firmly state “Not Friendly!” to every oncoming dog owner. I used to feel terrible for saying it- like I was proclaiming on a mountain top that I had a bad dog, which I emphatically did not. Once I realized that Sadie wasn’t alone, and that she was a wonderful dog who happened to need a little space, like thousands of dogs in the Metro-Boston region, I stopped feeling guilty. Wavering, or saying “she’s sort of friendly but doesn’t like black dogs, or men with hats….” doesn’t work because if there is any wiggle room, well-intentioned dog owners will take it upon themselves to suggest that their dog is the exception to the rule. To be fair, I live in Boston and subtlety is not a Boston thing. However, the most important factor to her safety was that she was given 8’ of space (the length of her leash plus my arm), and that I remained her advocate, always.

 Considerations for the City Dog, Chapter 7: "He's Friendly"


The Consummate Teacher Gives One Final Lesson

I have too many friends in the veterinary industry to NOT share this link and PSA in the light of Dr. Sophia Yin's passing on Monday. 

The team at VetGirl had re-posted (for free) a recent webinar on suicide in the veterinarian industry after a few high profile recent suicides in the profession and I beg everyone who is in this industry to watch it.

When we go to the doctor we might be referred to a specialist, a surgeon, or other field of medicine. If you are a vet, the chances are you do it all. It's a high stress job where you are a dentist, a family physician, a nurse practitioner, a surgeon, a puppy doctor, and you help others navigate the toughest of decisions regarding pets. You also get peed on and vomited on, often. 
Dr Yin, in addition to this, was also a TRUE behaviorist. Consider this: If you need a behaviorist, things are usually not going so well. You don't see a behaviorist for "sit" and "give paw". You see a behaviorist when dogs are biting people, or are shut down from fear (and other tough emotional issues). 

Actual, certified Behaviorists, like Dr. Yin, are board certified through the Diplomates of American Veterinary Behaviorists. There are many "behaviorists" who are not actually behaviorists, but they use that title which is reserved for PhD's in the field of veterinarian behavior sciences, which is unfortunate. Dr. Yin was, in my estimation, the best of the best, and my favorite go-to website to help my students here in Boston. She touched the lives of thousands of dogs that she didn't even know by helping people like little old me with free resources for tough cases. She has helped thousands of dogs through every veterinary technician or veterinarian who has implemented her low-stress handling techniques

She did it all. And now she's gone.

We screamed it from mountain tops when Robin Williams died. We shouldn't stop screaming. There are people who need help, or need to know that help is out there. I'm familiar with Samaritans in MA (http://samaritanshope.org/) but there is also the national hot-line http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Do your part, and if you see signs of depression, or feel that someone is at the end of their rope, make sure they have the resources to be successful in the same way she made sure that dog owners had the resources they needed to be successful. Even with her tragic death, I'd like to think she can still serve as the consummate teacher and help at least one person recognize that they are worth it, that they have resources, and that people really care (even if they don't say it often enough.)



Thank You For All You Have Done. We'll Do Our Best To Take It From Here.

I posted this today on the NEDTC Facebook page. 

It's with a heavy heart that we report the great Dr. Sophia Yin has passed away, "suddenly and unexpectedly". 

I use her website and posters more than any other resource for students with dogs who have a bite history, or kids who need help with the family dog. I use her videos almost exclusively when dealing with leash reactive dogs, including my own.

I remember having the quickest of chats with her at IAABC when I was pregnant with Aislyn, and then I watched her speak. She engaged the entire room with hands-on examples, and made us all partner-up. She got an entire room of mostly strangers, 300 people, to work together and solve problems.

She "got" people and dogs in a way more people need to understand both species. I was looking forward to her coming to talk to the NEDTC community, our local vets, our local trainers and our local students next year, and though that takes a backseat to everything else, it's still so sad that she isn't here, and won't be coming specifically here to help this group of people in the way that she's been helping communities all over the world. It's so sad that she won't be helping people and their dogs anymore, not just selfishly in Cambridge, but everywhere. She was great at her job, she loved her job, she loved dogs, she loved people, and she has left a huge hole in the heart of the dog-community.

I'm so shocked ----- I can't believe it or imagine what her family, colleagues, patients, and friends are dealing with right now. She was a light for dog trainers and veterinarians as well as the positive reinforcement movement - and I can only imagine what she was like in real-life, and the hole she's leaving those individuals with.

What we can do is carry that torch on. Treat all animals and people with honesty and compassion. Use her posters to illustrate good interactions and bad interactions to educate handlers what each looks like from the dogs perspective. We can make an effort to learn low-stress handling techniques (something she was famous for in her veterinary clinic). We can advocate for good relationships between all people and their pets, and lead by her example that we don't need harsh devices to accomplish trust.

I don't want to say Rest In Peace, because that seems so final. I think instead, I'll say "Thank you for all you have done. We'll do our best take it from here."



Saying Goodbye To My Friend, Sadie-Jane

I'm almost done writing a book about the ethical considerations of dog ownership, especially considerations for urban dogs. The last chapter is called "Saying Goodbye" and it covers some questions that people need to ask themselves if saying goodbye is the right answer for their particular dog. Sadie was put down last Wednesday. I can't not be honest about what happened, and I felt it might be a good addition to the Saying Goodbye chapter since I'm sure other people have had to face these questions, too. I've since added it and resent to editor Ken. This wasn't exactly the preview chapter I was hoping to send via blog, but here it is. A eulogy to my faithful co-pilot, Editor-In-Chief, and buddy.
Sadie-Jane Dogg, CGC (Approximately 12/28/2003 - 8/27/2014)

In the process of sending this book to the editor, my beloved companion and faithful friend of nearly 12 years was put to sleep on the same weekend, one year later, as our greyhound. One year, two dogs, the same holiday weekend seems a bit unfair, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The house is remarkably quiet, even with a toddler running through it because our dogs are no longer a part of the household. 

The cats, however, seem much happier.

For Zeppy, the decision was clear. He had bone cancer and he was in pain. For Sadie, the right thing was much less clear for so long, which made the decision much more difficult in some ways, and much easier in others.
When dogs age, functions start to decline. Cognitively our dogs may be different than when they were younger. As Sadie aged, she became like the quintessential crotchety old lady on the front steps. If she had a shotgun (and thumbs), she would yell at everyone to get off of her lawn. When she was working at New England Dog Training Club with our intern Carl, or walking with the family, she was happy. When she was playing disc, she was happy but clearly very, very sore. When she couldn't do those things over the summer due to heat and her old-lady body, she declined behaviorally, cognitively, and physically.
There comes a point when the behavior modification medication might not work anymore and it’s kinder to say goodbye. Yes, we could have upped her medication, but to what degree of her happiness? She was miserable not being able to work and run for more than 3 minutes before coming up lame or just exhaustion. That’s a terrible reason to put down a friend. When her cognition started to fade and she sometimes didn't know what a ball was, or barked in the corner at night for no discernible reason, they were just goofy quirks for an older dog who still had a lot of life left. 
When she got up suddenly to play with my daughter, knocked her down and bit her, the decision was made for us. I'd like to think it was a combination of a cognitive slip and acute pain from getting up too quickly, and thinking Aislyn caused sharp pain to her joints - but we don't know for sure. It was then that we knew it was time to say goodbye before anyone got more seriously hurt. It was then that we knew Sadie had enough, and maybe she was trying to tell us she was done all along.
We could have kept her managed in the kitchen as long as the baby was awake, but to relegate Sadie, the most human social dog I’ve ever known, to the kitchen would have been torture for her, and for me. We could have upped her medication so she’d sleep and cope, but after 12 years, she deserved more than that. Like Zeppelin, we could have kept her alive, but it wouldn't be fair to our dog, and since our toddler was at risk of further injury....it was a no brainer for me, though regrettable that the incident even happened.
I had a couple people ask if I could have re-homed her. If she were a 3 year old dog and loved everything about life, and could go to a great home in the country to play ball all day, then yes. When the dog in question is almost at the end of her statistical natural life, who is clearly a dog who is bonded to one family, is on expensive behavior modification medication, has tumors on her back, blown out knees, vision problems, and arthritis in joints I didn't even know dogs had; when that dog is dog aggressive, is cognitively failing, and is starting to aggress in ways that are atypical for the particular dog, then I would say the answer is clearly no. Some people might still say yes, re-home her. I couldn't do that to her, I couldn't put that cost and management burden on another family, and if I’m being 100% honest, I couldn't cope with her living out her days with someone else.  
I have met with families and have had to say “you should send this dog back to the shelter because he’s aggressive to kids. This wouldn't be an issue, except that you have kids in and out of this house all day long. This is a mismatch, let’s give you and your family a better shot of having a true companion while giving this dog a shot of finding a home better suited for him.” These tend to be younger dogs who still have a shot at a good life, but will not likely cut it in the city, or with a particular family. In 10 years, I have had to tell 3 people “I think the humane thing to do is euthanize your dog” for various reasons, but it's something that I take very seriously. 
It’s not easy, but if I had a student in my situation, passing the buck to have someone else put Sadie to sleep in the near-future would not have been fair to the other family, and I would have been worried sick that she was not being treated with dignity, compassion, and fairness in her aging years. The buck with Sadie stopped with me, her owner, her partner, her love. I owed her that much.
Had we lived in the country with a field and didn't have a kid, then she may have made it another 2 years or more. If Aislyn came along 2-3 years earlier,  Sadie might have felt better and they may have been buddies for the rest of Sadie’s life. Was her life full with us in the city? I can’t ask her, but I would like to think so. It  was harder in many ways to live in the city with a Border collie, with this particular Border collie but I had to think outside of the box, which made things more interesting for both of us and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
The dogs we get when we’re younger change and evolve, just like we do. I’m not the same person I was at 22 when I got her out of a shelter (which I’m sure my husband is thankful for), and she wasn't the same dog I picked out of the Franklin County Animal Shelter, though we were fundamentally similar to those two creatures who met on opposing sides of a metal cage. She sat in a crawlspace of my Chevy S10, just 4 months into our relationship, when we moved from Ohio to Maine, and shortly after, from Maine to Boston. She was always in the passengers seat of my little S10, and when I got a more appropriate vehicle, one that didn't beg people to ask me to help them move every weekend, she moved to the back seat where things were safer for her. But, she was always there. My copilot. My buddy.
Our journey was long, spirited, enjoyable, and I am ever thankful for all that came out of my life with her. She didn't get me hired by a dog trainer on-the-spot in 2004, but she did need an activity, which got me involved in canine disc, where that dog trainer happened to see me working with future disc dogs. He liked the cut of my jib, so I was hired as a dog trainer, even though I really didn't have any qualifications.  I worked hard to earn my certification and to work in this industry that I love so much. Sadie didn't make my relationship with Brian, but she was cute and smart enough to get his attention. I had to do the rest. I didn't get into dog training to get into behavior work, but the deck of cards fell that way when I found myself in the same shoes that many of my now students find themselves, which means that I know what they are feeling, and the ethics of keeping dogs who need an around the clock management plan.


Rest in Peace, my dear friend Sadie. I knew I’d have to write this someday, but that didn’t mean that I ever wanted to. I’m so, so, so sorry for so many things (the prong collars, the busy city life that you couldn’t quite adjust to, and not listening because I’m a dumb human who didn’t get dog body language despite being around dogs my whole life). Part of me wishes that I stayed in the country with you instead of moving to Boston, but I don’t think either of us would have been at our happiest, and look at what we both would have missed out on. City life was a struggle for us both. We managed, but I still wish I could have done more for you, pup. I wish I knew more at the beginning, and wish that I could have given you a yard to hang out in at the end.
The day before you passed away, I thought to myself on what turned out to be our final walk "We've finally done it. Loose leash, past other dogs, baby behind us with daddy - we're finally there. We got this far, we got this." I'm glad we had that.
A few people said: “You were such a great team”. I couldn't have said it better. You were joy in motion, and I thank you for spending your time with me and choosing me as your person. I promise to take everything I learned with you, write a book (here it is!) and really listen to what all of our future dogs tell us. I promise to be honest with my students about what their dogs need, and to do so compassionately, ethically, and honestly. 
I promise to never forget you. You were my longest relationship so far, and I thank you for every, single minute of that time.
For the record, Sadie, more people had said they missed you, they loved you, or they were sorry of your passing then the birth of Aislyn or my wedding. You really, really, truly were one of a fucking kind, and I knew it.


The last photo my husband took of Sadie, 2 weeks before she died. It was taken on film, not digitally. Before her death, it became my favorite photo of her. The way the light hit her, made her glow ethereally. She looked happier and younger than she did in any point in her last year with us.

It now has much more meaning.

RIP Sadie-Jane Dogg


Dear Rescue Groups and Shelters:

Dear Rescue Groups and Shelters who don't behavior assess, and truck dogs in from The South:
I know you mean well. I really, really know you mean well. These dogs would be likely euthanized if not sent north. I get it. However, every time you send a semi-feral dog ill-suited to the city and that dog ends up in Boston, Cambridge, NY, Portland, Somerville, and other congested areas, a fairy looses it's wings.
Every time you send a dog who should not be around children to a family with kids, someone gets hurt: either the family gets heartbroken when they have to re-home it or put it on drugs just so it can get through the day, or a kid gets bit.
Behavior assessment isn't the end all, but something needs to happen. You can start by not trucking sick and behaviorally unsound dogs into the state and giving them to well intending people who just want a family pet. Bring us your dogs that can survive in the city- legitimately survive in the city. I know they exist. I've met them. But the dogs who can't make it in the city should maybe NOT GO TO THE CITY, and you need to be honest about that.
I have to serve by a code of ethics as part of my certification, and many rescue groups do as well. Then, there are the ones who just need to get dogs out, and put them wherever. When it doesn't work out, those groups are unable to help an emotionally invested family, and that's totally, completely, absolutely unethical. A dog isn't saved because it's not in the shelter - a dog is saved when it can thrive and cope. Some of the "placements" and "matching" that is done is absolutely not in the interest of saving the dog. They are holding on by a thread, and these owners are trying their best. Sometimes that isn't good enough, and in many cases, that's back on you.
Every dog trainer and behavior specialist who has to tell a family with kids two weeks after getting the dog that it is not suited to be in the city, can't be around kids, needs meds, and a lot more work than was ever expected, or that their beloved pet needs to be rehomed because it can't cut it in the city even with all the training and management in the world.
PS - Let's work together and figure this out.
PPS: There are GREAT rescues who can totally ignore this.

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA


Pet Palooza,Assembly Square August 2-3

Hey everyone! SomDog is throwing the biggest family friendly / pet friendly party in town just in time for the apex of summer!

 On August 2-3rd, we'll have PET Palooza, featuring the Dock Dogs competing over two days at Assembly Square, right on the Mystic River! They have a 25,000 gallon pool. Bring a bathing suit as they do have a "splash zone" where you will get soaked if you are anywhere in that range. There will also be seating this year because the pool is in the new Amphitheater on the Mystic River, so don't worry about getting wet if you don't want to!

 Additionally, there will be Agility demonstrations all day on Saturday, August 2nd (run by two of the best friends of MuttStuff, Leah Tremble and Donna Culbert).

I'll be helping out on Sunday, August 3rd with Robin Moxley and Beantown Disc Dogs run the first leg of the Cricket Classic - a USDDN format toss and fetch competition where anyone can register (find Beantown Disc Dogs on Facebook for the registration!). It's a free event and we encourage anyone who wants to try to come out and play! We'll also run Freestyle demonstrations after each round so you can watch these dogs really fly, jump and catch discs as part of a routine set to music!

There will be vendors, opportunity auctions, and of course (the best for last!). If you bring a new leash or collar to be donated to the Somerville Animal Control (for pets to wear as they are adopted out of the kennels), than you can get a ticket towards an opportunity drawing worth $200.00+ (free homemade leash, a free class at Cooperative Dog, a discount on a pet portrait, 2 competition style canine discs, tennis balls, and 2 bags of beer biscuits -treats made out of beer grains from home-brew! There are no hops in this treat, so it's safe for Fido, and delicious! These are always a huge hit). You get to help dogs and cats in need, and we get to give you beer....for your dog.

Come out, have fun, and if you see me in my "Toss, Fetch, Repeat" shirt, come say hi! I'll be running Ollie, a Boston Terrier in the Disc demonstrations on Sunday, but will be around with the family on Saturday. I'd love to see you!

Happy Summer!