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Check out the Blog Archives to read about our cross country motorcycle road trip from MA to CA this summer. We attended the Annual 2011 National Women On Wheels® Ride-In in San Jose CA. Then we just rode. We traveled over 11,000 motorcycle miles in what ever direction we wanted to go. We visited friends and family, saw the country, met some amazing people. We made memories we'll never forget. These memories are what THIS BLOG is made of! Enjoy them while we make MORE memories worthy of posting here for your enjoyment.

Monday, February 28, 2011

'No' Means 'No'

The FIRST most important rule to teach is the word "NO".  Understanding and respecting that command will keep your dog in touch with you during every other thing you try to teach him. It's important for his safety, his manners and his obedience.

Cooper started learning the word 'no' the first day I had him.  Remember that leash he dragged?  (It's mentioned in the post entitled "A Little White Puppy in his Ever Expanding World".  If you haven't read it, you should go back and read it and then read this post.)  That leash was so valuable in teaching him the word 'no'.  How do you get a puppy to understand that 'no' means to stop doing, thinking or moving?  Well, I'll tell you.  

Cooper and Gabrielle.
He really wants to play but is being told 'No'
This game is NOT fun for Gabrielle.
A dog will indicate what he is thinking by his attention.  If he is about to do something undesirable or dangerous, you'll want to correct him at the 'don't even think about it' stage.  For example: dog sees cat...  thinks chase! indicated by his posture becoming more alert and his attention intently focused.  THIS is when you say, 'no'.  NOT after he has taken off running.  If he doesn't break his concentration, sideways tug on the leash he wears all day every day. "No" in a calm quiet tone. (don't bark a command)  Still not break in concentration? Tug, "no".  Still no result? Tug, "no".  Never get any louder with your voice.  STILL not going to listen?  Well, now you have to pick him up and turn him around.  Don't allow him to look.  Repeat 'no' when he struggles to see.  Remove him or the cat if you have to.  Seldom does it get this bad, but the first few times, you  may have to remove him.  That's ok.  He'll learn the outcome is 'no', and your corrections will become less and less drastic as he begins to learn the lesson.  The point I'm trying to make here is, 'no' means 'no' without exception.  You have to decide what is acceptable and teach that right across the board while NEVER becoming upset with the dog.  NEVER BECOME UPSET. (I wish I could follow that rule better)

 This picture was taken when he left the cat and came to seek approval.
What a good puppy!
 In teaching the dog what is acceptable in his daily life, he will hear the word 'no' multiple times every day.  Teach 'no' in the same way if he's chewing, barking, digging, jumping, begging, won't sit still... everything.  If he's doing something, object to it till he stops or you have to remove him.  Use that leash so you don't have to put your hands on him.  Always gently tug sideways.  Remember, the leash is used as a 'tap on the shoulder'.  Be consistant, he will learn not to do that thing you're objecting to.

As of now, Cooper knows the quiet command of 'no'.  I don't have to yell at him because I never did.  It's a joy to know that I can just say, "No Coop." and he obeys.  He knows I'm talking to him, and he also knows I won't just let it go.  If I say 'no', it's 'no'.  No hard feelings and no debate.  Just as it should be.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Managing Tear Stains

A friend recently asked me about keeping brown tear stains at bay.  I thought this might be the start of another good topic to blog about.

A lot of dogs have reddish brown tear stains running from it's eyes.  You can't stop the tearing, but you can do things to clean the dog's face and make him look better.  It will be a regular maintenance ritual, but with all things, your dog can be taught to enjoy the attention if you make it pleasant.

I don't remember the name of the tear cleaning pads I got from Petco.   What I do remember is that they looked like little mini Noxema pads.  They were wet with a solution that I would use once a day on Cooper's eyes.  The stains didn't go away all at once, but they did become a little lighter each time I cleaned his eyes.  I'm sure the whole stain was finally gone when the old stained hair grew out and the new hair came in.  The new hair was being cleaned daily so as not to become stained also.  It was an ongoing process but never took very long once Cooper accepted the daily preening.

Be patient.  Don't try to scrub it all off if your dog objects.  You may have to train your dog to accept this grooming before you can actually get serious about the stains.  Don't be afraid to give little treats for letting you get close enough to clean his eyes.   He may not even allow you to touch him at first.  Let him smell the pad and treat him.  The next day do it again.  He'll learn to look for the pads and associate it with the treats.  Then you can work on touching him with the pad, then little wiping motions.  Soon you will be cleaning his eyes while he lays his head lazily in your lap until it's TREAT TIME.

Another thing I do is I keep the hair between and around his eyes shorter.  This way the hair isn't poking him in the eyes.  His eyes won't tear as much if they aren't constantly irritated.  With short haired dogs, this isn't an option.  Sorry.

Wrinkly dogs have saggy eyes and the tears tend to just roll out of the eyes and down their faces.  There isn't much you can do about that either.  Just keep wiping the face.  Maybe with dogs that tear a lot you might want to consider wiping his eyes twice a day.

So, once you get the eyes looking good, old stained hair cut away or allowed to grow out and fall out naturally (it can seem to take forever), all you'll have to do is maintain it.  Keep them clean.  If that means using tear cleaning pads every day to maintain, I would do that.  Cooper's eyes don't tear a lot unless his hair is long and poking him.  I keep the hair around his eyes short and we're always picking the tear dirt from the corners of his eyes so it never builds up.  
So in summary, the answer to this problem isn't a quick fix, but to me it's worth having the nice clean face to look at.  

Cooper - 8 or 9 months old.  FINALLY with clean eyes 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cooper's First Ride

By the time Cooper was about 10 weeks old, he had become trusting and adventurous.  He never wanted to be far from the security of Mommy and Daddy, but he was compelled to explore.  His explorations were of the innocent puppy nature, until...

One beautiful, warm winter day in December '06.  It was after Christmas and I was on Christmas Break from school.  Being Well rested and inspired by the warm day, in the high 50s I think, Jesse and I decided we would take the bikes out for a ride.  Cooper had been used to going everywhere with us and this would be our first time leaving him home while we left.  He was following us around in the way he always did (afraid he would miss something), when Jesse and I looked at each other at the same time... thinking the same thing... 'Wanna take Cooper with us?' was about to come out of our mouths in stereo. 

My tank bag was the perfect size.  Cooper had a jacket I had bought him for the cold days since he gets cold easy.  Our cat's harness fit him well even over the jacket.  THIS COULD BE FUN.  I fastened the tank bag so it wouldn't slide around at all, even if he leaned against the side.  We put a towel in the bottom of the bag so Cooper would be cushioned from the bumps.  Jesse put Cooper in the tank bag while I fastened his harness so he had almost no room to move.  He had enough freedom to sit up, lay down and turn around, but not to get outside the bag.  Perfect!  

Cooper had already met the bikes up close and personal before this day.  Jesse rode almost every day, so Cooper was familiar with what took place and how they sounded when they were started.  We stood by him as I started the bike with him on it.  No alarming reaction.  He was fine and gave no indication that he wasn't happy.  SO, I got on the bike too, and we were off!  

Jesse led us out the drive way and down our street.  Cooper calmly looked around and seemed unaffected.  He wasn't excited or scared.  He seemed to be taking it all in stride as he does with everything.  He's used to getting scooped up and brought along everywhere we go.  He never knows what's in store for him.  This was no different.  He did put his nose to the wind a few times when we were going slow.  When we picked up speed, he would duck his head down into the bag to avoid getting the wind in his face.  

It was a nice ride.  Uneventful.  Just another introduction into Cooper's life that we approached with caution so as not to upset him.  Most of the caution we have displayed has been needless, but better to approach it that way than not.  He is a very accepting little dog now and was then too.  He's that way by nature.  We're SO lucky for that.  He will do anything I ask with few exceptions.

We didn't go far.  The ride was fairly short so as not to surpass Cooper's attention span or his level of tolerance.  Ending with success is a MUST with dog training.  He was excited when we parked the bikes again at home.  He recognized where we were.  Until then maybe he didn't realize it was just a ride with no stops or errands to run while we were out.   I think it was then that Cooper felt like that was a fun trip.  

In hind-sight I think we had created a monster that day.   We didn't ride again for the rest of the winter.  Well, Jesse did, but Cooper and I didn't.  As I said, Cooper had known motorcycle activity from about the first day we brought him home.  He was accepting of the noise and the activity that happened around the bikes.   However, after that first ride, we noticed he would look for motorcycles when he heard them.  He would intently look at them when they were near by.  It wasn't crazy awareness, but passive.  Just enough awareness that it was cute to see his interest.  Who could have known then, that Cooper's interest would turn him into this avid biker dog who has ridden and loves riding as much as he does?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Peeing And Pooping On Command

With a dog that is on the go a lot, it's helpful to have a few little extra tricks up your sleeve.  I knew Cooper would be a busy dog.  I could bring some items with us to make life easier, but we also needed a little extra communication skill.  Especially in the 'gotta go potty' area.

When he was potty training, I wanted Cooper to learn the words that matched what he was doing.  I would bring him out on his leash and walk with him for as long as it took.  I would watch him closely and as soon as he took the posture to pee, I would say, "Go pee".  When he started to pee I would say, "Good Boy!"  You have to watch and command just as you are sure he's about to deliver.  Keep in mind, a word with nothing to pair it to has no meaning.  At this point it's important to remember, you aren't giving commands for him to follow.  The commands are only for him to hear the word he is learning at the same time he demonstrates the definition of that word.  You are simply building his vocabulary.  Imagine how many training opportunities you have in one day if every time you take him out you match that word to his action.  The same thing applied for, "Go poop".  The posture he takes for pooping is different, so I could give him the appropriate command for whatever it is he was about to do.  I taught both at the same time since it's easy to see what his delivery will be.  It's not confusing to do both at the same time, though learning to poop on command took a little longer since he only pooped two or three times a day, while he peed almost every hour while he was potty training.  

After a week or two of learning the 'go pee' command you can expect that he knows the word.  I don't remember how long it took for Cooper to get it.  The next thing I did, was to give him the command before he took the posture.  By this point, in training your own dog, you should be able to tell by his behavior if he really has to pee or not.  If you don't think he has to go, don't command. If he surprises you and postures, command and praise.  After a few weeks it should be a command that you expect him to follow sometimes.  Note: It's important not to keep commanding over and over again.  One command per minute should do. Only praise if he delivers.  Don't command until you're in the area where he usually pees.  You don't want him to loose concentration or forget you commanded him by the time you get there.  All you want to do is lengthen the time a little bit between when the command is given and the action.  This way it is actually a command.  Focus on success.  Keep our expectations attainable.  Don't overwhelm the dog or yourself.  You have all the time in the world, don't rush it.  

At four years old (actually he's been able to do this for a couple years), now I can command Cooper like this...     We get off the bike.  I always give Cooper a pee break.  If the area is safe, with him off leash I say,"Cooper, Look..."  he looks at me, I point to where he can go (across a parking lot into the woods for example) and say, "Go pee."  He takes off running to the place I indicated, lifts his leg while still looking at me the whole time.  When his leg comes down, I say, "ok, come on'.   He runs straight back to me and I put his leash on and we're off to do the next thing, what ever it may be.  No time wasted.  He can do it faster alone than if I have to walk him over to go.  It's a great luxury to have that trust in his ability and independence.

Cooper coming back to me from a pee break

One of the nice things about being able to get your dog to pee on command is, if you're in a hurry you don't have to wait for the dog to sniff for 5 minutes before he's ready to go.  Another thing is, a lot of dogs need a certain thing to pee on.  Many dogs won't even pee on a parking lot.  We had an issue one time with Cooper.  He REALLY had to go but there was no tree, bush or acceptable place to pee.  For some reason I don't even remember telephone poles or sign posts.  But I do remember half a dozen blades of grass growing through a crack in the side walk.  I saw that and said, "Cooper, go pee."  He stopped and looked at me as if to say, 'Where?'  I pointed to the grass, and without hesitation, he lifted his leg on the grass and delivered a REALLY LONG STREAM OF PEE.  If he had been human he would have said, "Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!"  I told him what a good boy he was.  I think he knew that was really different and following directions was very helpful.  He seemed happy with himself.  Or maybe he just felt better.  I don't know.  But what I do know is that, peeing on command really helped Cooper that day and a few more times since.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Puppy Boot Camp

After a short honey moon period, Cooper became a very playful ball of energy.  He was having a great time pouncing on everything that moved.  This was when we discovered the tick-tock in his tail.  The harder he wagged, the longer the pause was in his tail.  It was so funny to watch!  We thought he might outgrow it, but he never did.  

He was an energetic little scamp.  We then were finding out that we had cause to object to a few things... like biting.  He would grab everything with those needle sharp teeth.  Not to chew or destroy things.  We were lucky not to have a chewer.  He was more interested in just grabbing things he wanted.  Hands, toys, feet, toys, hair, toys, hands again...  I tried to show him the difference between body parts and toys.  One being ok to 'grab' and the other one HURTS.  

He was a very determined puppy.  He knew what he wanted.  If he was corrected he would grab harder.  When we continued correcting, he would become angry and growl and snarl.  Oh no!  Unacceptable!  We couldn't have that.  Aggressiveness would never do.  Unfortunately, I had NO IDEA what to do.  It hadn't even been a whole month yet and I was already stumped.  It seemed that no matter where I touched this little world-wind, he had TEETH!  

I didn't want to resort to punishment.  I had intended to guide this puppy, not be his drill sergeant.  I continued with my best efforts, to no avail.  Yup, I was stumped.  I knew I was beat when I had a dream that I was battling a fuzzy white alligator.  If that doesn't tell the story of my inner turmoil I don't know what will.

I'm not really sure who turned me on to the Dog Whisperer, but BOY did I ever need that kind of help.  I hadn't been stumped like that while training a dog since my teens with the Llasa Apso who didn't want to pee outside.  I wasn't going to loose this battle, and with the Dog Whisperer I knew I'd win.  Oh, and by the way, Cooper would win too.

I didn't have the National Geographic channel, which was the only place you could watch the Dog Whisperer.  I almost never watch tv, so I wasn't going to buy a bigger cable package just so I could watch one show.  My remedy was to find him on line and watch clips that had been posted.  I found plenty of them on  NationalGeographic.com and on youtube.com.  He wasn't hard to find at all.  So for a whole weekend I watched all the clips I could find.  Since I had grown up with dogs all my life, and usually had three or four at a time, I was very familiar with body language and how they behaved together as a pack.  When I understood that I would have to assume the roll of Pack Leader, I was in business!  I got it!  I understand that in a pack, there HAS TO BE A LEADER.  Dogs understand and live by that kind of pecking order.  Therefore, if you don't assume the leadership roll, he has no choice but to assume the roll himself.  EVEN if he doesn't want to.  

OOOOOO-K!!!!   I am going to tell you something that you may find hard to believe, but I swear it is the honest truth.  When I took on the roll as Alpha Dog (aka Pack Leader) I got results with Cooper in less than ONE MINUTE!  I'm not kidding!  Cooper was in one of his 'grabbing me with his teeth' moods, and I used the technique I had learned and practiced a little on myself.  Cooper stopped short... made eye contact with me... I maintained eye contact.  He started grabbing again, so I did it again.  Cooper stopped again... made eye contact again and sat down.  I maintained eye contact and Cooper laid down.  Laying down is submitting... The game was over!  He got it that I didn't want to play.  With that being accomplished, I could show him that I would play when he was biting toys, but when he bit me the game would end.  WHAT A BREAKTHROUGH!

               I know you want me to tell you what the technique I used 
              was that led to that breakthrough.  If I thought I could do 
              justice by teaching it in words I would.  My best advice is 
              for every dog owner to watch and learn from an amazing 
              dog and people trainer.  Seek out the Dog Whisperer and, 
              don't just watch him - study him.  Do anything it takes to 
              understand first, then USE IT.  You won't be sorry!

So after my amazing breakthrough, Cooper became a willing listener/learner.  He loved to learn new things.  He knew his roll.  It was harder to teach the people in my house than it was to teach him.  I think Jesse and I were really the only two consistent care takers Cooper had.  I had my mother living with me and usually one or two of my kids at a time.  They sometimes would go against his training.  I could usually tell.  Dogs don't keep secrets.  I could tell from his behaviors and his manners what he was allowed to get away with when he was with someone else.

We had learned a lot from each other during that struggle.  Jesse just let me handle it.  Cooper and I fought for the roll of Alpha.  I won the battle and became respected by him as his teacher.  He was willing to follow directions and learn new rules as we went along.  He was a quick learner.  There has always been a stubborn streak in him though.  Even to this day he knows his own mind.  He's a thinker.  You'll find out in a later blog entry how I used his ability to 'think' to our advantage.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Little White Puppy in his Ever Expanding World

Cooper's first month with us was our 'getting acquainted' time.  No real demands were put on any of us.  I was falling in love with this little dog.  Jesse was too.  He had never really lived with a dog.  His dogs were all outdoor dogs when he was growing up.  He lived on a farm and no animals came in the house.  The other Bichon he had lived with was one he and his former fiance Linda had taken in when her mother became too sick to care for her.  She was an older dog and already set in her ways.  Jesse, having never really understood how to live with a dog, had higher expectations of her than she could deliver.  He was correct in saying, they 'didn't get along'.

Cooper was a baby, a clean slate with no bad habits.  He was going to be encouraged in the direction we chose for him.  My expectations for him were high, but not unfair.  I wasn't taking an older dog and expecting to erase all he had learned and make him what I wanted him to be.  There are certain things you need to accept with older dogs and rescues.  You weren't there for his experiences that caused him to know what he knows.  With an older dog you work with them from where they are when they come to you.  This was my reason for wanting a puppy from a loving home, who was still so young that his world wasn't much bigger than his whelping box.

Our first order of business was easy.  We played, loved each other, bonded, learned to trust and POTTY TRAINED!  We actually spent a lot of time in our bed room right on the bed with him when he was a puppy.  It was easier there.  He had no where to hide.  He was afraid to get off the bed, so we knew his every move.  We lived on a soft warm island.  One where he had only us and his toys.  We took him out every hour to pee, but if he peed on the bed (not often) we caught him right away and got him outside.  He learned quickly.  We had been given pee pads, but I don't think they are logical, so we never used them.

One big problem with puppies and small dogs is that they will run and hide if they think they did something wrong.  When I was a teen I got a Llasa Apso puppy.  She was so cute, but IMPOSSIBLE to correct.  She had NO interest in peeing outside.  When I saw her pee on the carpet, I would try to catch her and bring her outside to finish so I could praise her.  We never found that level of success.  I didn't get to praise her very often.  She would scoot as fast as you can imagine and hide under a chair.  When I reached for her she would run out the other side and hide somewhere else.  Dealing with a dog in that manner is frustrating and by the time you get your hands on 'the little mutt' you're so angry that you send the wrong signal.  Not good.  You should never go after a dog in anger.  And when you catch the dog, you should never be angry that he ran.  If you scold after you catch the dog, you've just scolded him for letting you catch him.  A mistake he will avoid better in the future.

With this being my experience from the last time I had a small dog, I set in place a remedy with Cooper that would eliminate the possibility of that scenario becoming an issue.  I simply clipped a light weight, 4' long leash to his collar.  If he did something I didn't want him to do, I could reach for the leash in stead of him.  This was less intrusive, less threatening with no quick startling movements.  I didn't have to raise my voice.   I would just give it a light tug to get his attention and at the same time I would say 'hey', in a tone he would learn to understand was the sound of 'disapproval'.  I didn't want to be one of those people who screamed at their dog.  It doesn't work anyhow.  My tone was light, but when I objected, he knew the difference.  It sounded ever so slightly more stern/deeper than what he was accustomed to.   He eventually learned to understand and accept the guidance willingly even without a tug on the leash.  That leash NEVER came off him in his first year of his training, except for when he went to bed in his crate for the night so he wouldn't get tangled up in it.  

              I think that last paragraph is very important puppy advice 
              during training times.  It's so important not to become 
              frustrated and angry while you train.  Don't chase, scold or 
              yell.  Dogs focus on your energy, not your words.  You can 
              teach them words by consistently using them till they 
              recognize them, but you can't explain your intention.  They 
              learn that from your energy.  Don't train your dog when 
              you're frustrated.

The day Cooper and Andy met!

So Cooper spent his first month, busy and on the go much of the time, dragging his little purple leash.  We were 'socializing him'.  The lesson we focused on was, to be happy to take life as it comes.  A good lesson for people too.  We played and explored together.  He came to work with me (and still does) when I went to my PCA job where I took care of our friend Andy.  He was allowed to be curious and was encouraged not to fear anything.  He was shy.  When he met people he would draw back into my arms.  We were all he knew, so he felt safe with us.  I allowed that for a while, but his world was becoming bigger by the day.  He couldn't be shy for ever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Searched and Searched, But He Found Me First

About four and a half years ago, I had an epiphany.  I was to get a pet (said the forces that guide me) and train it to be a therapy animal. It wasn't my idea.  Like I said, it came to me as if right out of the blue.  I really didn't want to be tied down to a pet.  I reasoned with myself and I argued with myself.  My life was just becoming my own now with my kids being grown and I had left my weekend job I had had for YEARS.  I was free to ride my motorcycle any time I wanted.  Jesse and I could even go away for the whole weekend if that's what we wanted to do.  Jesse is the man who I introduce as my hero - my boyfriend - my husband - my other half.  He agreed with me that we should NOT get an animal.  We were enjoying our freedom at last and that's the way it should be.  Yes, we agree. 

However, the 'guiding forces' would not be dissuaded.  I  started looking for some kind of pet that would be a good therapy animal.  I thought it would be cool to have a therapy monkey.  With a week or two of researching monkeys, I decided not to go that route.  Monkeys are anything but easy to occupy, and a bored monkey is TROUBLE.  A dog would be much easier.  With that decision being clear, I started researching dog breeds.  I've always had dogs, big dogs, and was able to train them fairly well.  I decided I wanted a small, female dog with hair, not fur, so people wouldn't be allergic to her.  She needed to be less than 25 pounds so she could be lifted onto a hospital bed.  At that point I was beginning to have visions of visiting nursing homes.  The thought made me happy and I started looking forward to being able to brighten the day of an elderly patient.

I narrowed my search down to four breeds.   Bichon Frise, Yorkshire Terrier, Coton de Tulear and Poodle were my choices, in no particular order.  I really liked the Bichon for many reasons.  Again, Jesse objected.  He had had a Bichon before and REALLY didn't want another one.  He said they didn't get along.  He wanted a Coton.  I would have loved one too.  Unfortunately the price of the Coton was too high.  I was on a budget.  I had rolled my change to pay for the dog and only had $375 to spend.  It was going to be a challenge.  I wanted a purebred dog to make sure of the 'hair, not fur' part and I wanted the pup to be young.  

With Jesse's opinion being clearly voiced frequently enough that I couldn't forget his preference, I started calling breeders within 200 miles from my home.  The prices were high, and no one had young puppies, they were all 12 weeks and older.  None the less, I continued to call numbers from my list.  I explained to the breeders what I was going to do.  I asked for price breaks.  I told them I was interested in pet quality, not a show dog.  I let them know the dog would be spayed or neutered.  The folks I spoke with were all very friendly and seemed to genuinely wish they could help. I had reached the end of my list and had only come up with one puppy within my price range that I could get without waiting for another litter to be born.  

Resigned and discouraged, I planned a trip to Pennsylvania with my son to look at a 12 week old male puppy from what I suspected to be a puppy mill.  I didn't feel good about it. I was so sick of searching that I would have bought the PA puppy for $350 just to end this daunting search.  We were due to leave Friday afternoon, pick up the puppy Saturday morning and drive home.  We were going to take turns driving straight through.  Crazy, I know.  Well... that trip never happened. 

On Thursday I got a phone call from a man in Rhode Island.  He said he got a call from a friend of his that I must have talked to.  This man had puppies that would be eight weeks old the next week.  They were too expensive, so he dropped the price.  I was on my way to get the PA puppy the next night, so he said I could take his puppy any time I wanted to.  He seemed REALLY eager to place his last puppy with me.  I agreed to go look at the puppy that night.  My son and I drove an hour to RI and found the house easily.  We were greeted by the frisky daddy of the pup we had come to meet.  The man brought the puppy to us and put him in my son's hands.  He felt right when I looked at him.  My son was still holding him when I paid the man $400.  I had no doubt, no thought to the contrary.  It was as natural as can be, like I was paying for a bag of groceries.  I hadn't even held him yet, but I could just tell how right he was.  In my life, when things are right, I can feel it.  Like the next logical step.  That mid December night in 2006, my son drove us home while I held this tiny, white, fluffy little boy in my arms.  I had no way to know it then, but my life was never going to be the same as it had been before that trip to RI.  We were a perfect match.  Who would have guessed, after all my searching, it was him who found me.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Blog Post

I'm Paula and this is my dog Cooper.  We're a team.  
Everyone who meets Cooper is deeply touched by him.  The words "Everyone knows Cooper" are spoken often.  He goes through life making people smile and laugh.  I'm the lucky one who gets to go along for the ride.  I'm his Mommy, his trainer and his story teller.  I have a hundred stories to tell about Cooper that will warm your heart, draw a tear to your eye, cause you to laugh and shake your head in disbelief that a dog can have such a personality.  He truly is a unique and amazing dog. 

 We belong to Women On Wheels®, a national organization for women motorcycle enthusiasts.  I have been a member for eight years.  Cooper is my passenger.  He has ridden 20,000 motorcycle miles in his four years of life.  He's a great rider and he loves the excitement.  He can hardly contain himself when we pull into a parking lot or a meeting place where there are a lot of other bikes.  He announces us with his unmistakable excited barking.  His voice is full of energy and his barks are such that you can't tell where one woof ends and the next one begins.  He sits back on his bum on the back seat of my Gold Wing and makes a clapping motion with his front paws while he barks and barks and barks non-stop until I park the bike and people come to see him.  His curled tail wagging in true 'Cooper style'.  He has a pause in his wag, so his tail makes more of a tick-tock beat than a real wag.  We call it his 'tick-tock-tail'.  I unhook his harness so he can walk freely all over the bike, unconstrained while he visits and socializes.  He knows not to get off the bike until I say it's ok, so no need for a leash while he turns circles and greets all his Aunties and Uncles and Fans.  He is so very well loved by everyone.

Here he is sleeping in my arms after a long day at the end of a big event.  We were at the 24th Annual 2010 Women On Wheels® National Ride-In for three days in Stratton, Vermont.  This was our first Ride-In, but I'm sure it won't be our last!  We had such a great time!  Cooper became known by many of the Women On Wheels® members in attendance who now want him to come to every Ride-In from now on.  We'll see.  I think we have to take it one year at a time.  Our plan is to make it to the 2011 Ride-In that will be held in San Jose, California in July.  I'm not sure yet if we can go by bike or not.  Time constraints could be a factor that will make it impossible. We may have to go by car so we can cover more miles and travel longer days.  Either way, we fully intend to go.  We'll start out with our feet in the water at the Plymouth Rock in Plymouth MA (click - a pic for the scrap book) and when we make it to CA we will put our feet in the water there too (click - there's another one).  Many stories will be told about that. But for now, I can tell endless stories of Cooper's life in his first four years.