ACE Free Work, Ducky & Me

*ACE stands for Animal Centred Education, and is a program conceived and built from the ground up by a British gal by the name of Sarah Fischer.

To greatly simplify and shorten a long and complicated story, Sarah has been doing free work with many different animals for several years in an attempt to find reasons for their unwanted behavior, including reactivity and/or sensitivity to many things, people, and other animals. She also uses Tellington TTouch body work to introduce handling but ACE includes Free Work and detailed observations which give clues to a dog’s sensitivities. 

I first learned  about ACE and Free Work from my friend, Janet Finlay, who owns and operates Canine Confidence Academy in the U.K. and provides online learning as well as person-to-person workshops (up until the pandemic shutdown and will start again as mitigation makes it possible). I’ve taken several of Janet’s online courses over the years since we adopted Ducky, including the current (ongoing) one – Your End of the Lead 2.0 (an updated version of her original course by the same name) – to help me deal with Ducky’s reactivity. The courses also include private communities/forums where those of us taking the course can share our videos and stories without fear of judgment and form valuable alliances with other guardians of reactive dogs.

In some ways, Free Work for dogs is similar to beginner nose work; but instead of hiding treats, you put them in full view of the dog. Generally, we use a variety of surfaces, enrichment toys, etcetera, as the “course” layout so that the dog gets sensory information through its feet, nose, eyes, ears, etc.  Once the course is set up, you invite the dog to explore it.

If possible, video the session (so you can watch later to pick up on those things you might miss) while the dog is exploring and getting the treats and observe her/his movement and posture, noting things that they like, nervous system responses, preferences (with respect to the direction they move in, objects they interact with, etc). Don’t include items in the course that you know are concerning to the dog, or remove an item if the dog appears to be wary of it. And, importantly, observe without any expectations as to the outcome.  (Believe me, that last part takes some practice!)

The great thing about Free Work is that you don’t have to buy any special equipment – you can use whatever items you already own. And you can lay out just one or two items, or four or five, with enough room for the dog to move freely around them. (If your dog is super sensitive or tentative to her/his environment, it’s probably better to start with only one or two items so as not to overwhelm them.)

For Ducky, I needed a space where I could give her the freedom of eating her breakfast away from the main source of her anxiety – her “Daddy”. And, because she was so anxious at times that she wouldn’t eat out of her regular food bowl, I got out some different lickimats that I’ve purchased over the last couple of years. At first I just laid out the lickimats on the floor of my “office”. Then I experimented with different heights – like a 12-pack of toilet paper, an overturned Amazon box, and an agility cone (with the lickimat bowl inverted over it). Over the last several months, this has become Ducky’s preferred way to eat her breakfast. 

The ACE Free Work not only gave me a way to relieve Ducky’s morning anxieties enough for her to eat; but it also gave me a learning opportunity. While observing her movement around the room via the videos I posted, several of my course mates (and Janet) started picking up on clues that she had some definite areas of bodily discomfort. When those clues were pointed out to me – in addition to the clues I was picking up on myself – I saw something that greatly concerned me: that Ducky might have cruciate disease in her left hind leg. As you know from an earlier post, that didn’t turn out to be the case; but she does have dysplasia in her left hip and we now have options for relieving and managing the pain.

So, with all that said, if you’re interested in learning more about ACE Free Work, I suggest checking out Sarah Fisher’s website: http://www.tilleyfarm.org.uk.  There is a private group on Facebook, as well, called “ACE Connections” that you can ask to join.

Happy 8th Gotcha Day Ducky!!

It’s hard to believe you’ve been with us for eight years! I remember that first day like it was yesterday.

Ducky on Adoption Day

You were so darn cute! Even though you were – as Dr. Steve named you a week later – a “little wild child”, you had stolen our hearts that weekend we fostered you.

Callie and – especially – Shadow didn’t know what to make of you. You had turned their calm, quiet lives upside down and inside out that weekend. And it took them a few days to figure out you were here to stay this time.

You drove us all to distraction at times. As far as Shadow was concerned, your first day at A Dog’s Day Out was the best birthday present I could ever have given her. 🤣 You came home too tired to be a pest.

After Daycare

Fast forward less than three years, and you helped Shadow, Daddy, and me through our grief over losing Callie to the lymphoma. And three and a half years later, you helped us through saying goodbye to Shadow as she reunited with Callie.

You were thrilled to have a friend again when we added Radar to our little family. He became your best friend and brother almost overnight. You two had a blast together every day.

Losing Radar to the heartworm disease just a few days after his third month with us had begun was devastating. All three of us were in a fog of disbelief, of confusion, and of heartache. I still get leaky-eyed sometimes when I think of our Golden Angel Boy. But you came to our rescue again. You helped us lift that fog.

These last several months you’ve been dealing with those hind-end issues. You poor girl. You are so stoical. Thanks to the Your End of the Lead course (YEL 2.0) that I’ve been taking – especially the community of likeminded folks who helped me pick up on your clues – I was able to realize you needed veterinary attention. Dr. Steve, Dr. Simpson, and the entire staff at Sunrise Animal Hospital has been wonderful – no surprise! – in their care of you and teamwork with me to get you feeling better. Your issues have decreased substantially and continue to improve daily.

A few months ago, I wrote a post where I called you my little earth angel. And that proves to be true every minute of every day. I don’t know what I would do without you, Ducky. I don’t want to know. You – like your sisters before you – have become my canine soulmate. I (and Daddy) love you to the ends of the universe and back.

Our Sweet Baby Girl

So, here’s to you Miss Ducky! My sometime wild child and always loving baby girl. ❤️🐾❤️🐾❤️🐾

Happy 8th Birthday Ducky!!!

Today is my baby girl’s birthday. My earth angel. My rock.

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl! Daddy and I – and your guardian angel sisters and brother – love you completely and unconditionally.

We’ll have to delay your birthday walk at the park until tomorrow. But you don’t care which day we go as long as we do go.

We’re joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop because Ducky is at the top of our “grateful for” list.

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My Sweet Earth Angel

That’s exactly what Ducky is to me. An Earth Angel. She has seen me through the loss of her two older sisters and her slightly younger brother.

She’s a happy, sweet girl most of the time. And a sassy, loving girl all of the time.

She misses having a playmate; but there’s no doubt she thrives on being the center of our attention.

Ducky owns a huge piece of my heart. She’s my baby girl, my little sweetie, my sassy-pants, my little stinker, my “Ducky Doodle Demon Dog” and lord-only-knows how many other nicknames.

I love this little girl wholeheartedly and unconditionally. And I thank God every day for letting me be her “HuMom”. ❤️❤️❤️

Seven Years and Counting

Oh, Ducky! Seven years ago today I found your name (and photo) on the shelter’s super urgent list in the morning, and by 1 PM you were officially a member of our little family.

Seven years ago today, my life – and your Daddy’s, Callie’s, and Shadow’s lives – changed forever. I had no way of knowing then what it would be like raising a shelter pup. I started thinking you’d be better off with a different family; but then you spent a day at doggie daycare and your demeanor improved so much that I couldn’t give up on you.

Callie helped me so much with you. So did Maria and the other girls at A Dog’s Day Out. Daycare was great for you. It taught you how to get along with other dogs, helped you spend all that turbo-charged energy, and gave you some socialization time, too. And it gave Callie and Shadow a needed break from your rowdy puppy playfulness. As well as the quiet time together and with me that they cherished, that I cherished.

You were a little stinker. Always wanting to leave Shadow out of your fun with Callie. But Callie didn’t let you.

And that awful morning when we had to say goodbye to Callie. You gave her puppy kisses that said “I love you, sis.” And your attitude toward Shadow started to improve. Callie had taught you well.

You had your spats with Shadow over the next 3-1/2 years, but you always made up with her. And when I was at Uncle Doug’s house last year, you were a good girl for Daddy. Then, when Shadow got sick in February, you watched over her for me, along with Callie. You were always right there, keeping her company whenever we had to go out. And you looked for her that weekend when she was at the hospital. And that horrible Monday when we said goodbye to Shadow, you “protected” her in the exam room. And you kissed her, as you had Callie.

You’ve been my and Daddy’s rock since Shadow reunited with Callie. I don’t know what we would have done without you, especially those first few weeks. I know you’re fine on your own in the house when Daddy and I have to leave you for a time; but I miss you from the minute we leave to the minute we get home. If I could, I would take you every place I go, just so you wouldn’t have to be alone in the house. But, then you’re not really alone during those times. Callie and Shadow are here with you, in spirit, watching over you for me.

Ducky, you are definitely one of a kind! You exasperate me, you push my patience to its limits, and you make me question my sanity at times. BUT you are sweet, loving, fun, silly, challenging, and precious all wrapped up in one 30-pound package. And every day I thank God I adopted you from the shelter that warm September afternoon seven years ago!

Ducky’s Natural Curiosity

Ducky is a trip. I love this dog. I love her silly goofiness, her boundless energy – even though it makes me feel exhausted at times – her curiosity about everything under the sun, moon and stars, just everything about her. Even her occasional exasperating reactions to people and noises.

Her natural curiosity, though, tends to get her into trouble with the bumblebees that have made their nests in several holes in our backyard. (I can’t remember a summer when the bees have been so prolific in the back yard. I wish they would go back to the front yard and stay there!) I do my best to get her to stay away from those holes; but I can’t watch her 24/7. She just seems drawn to those holes at times.

Well, early yesterday evening, she got into trouble again; but I didn’t realize it. I didn’t see any bees bothering her, didn’t see her anxiously snapping the air around her, or any of the other telltale signs. But when we came inside after her post-dinner yard time, she started in with the reverse sneezing and the obsessive carpet licking, and then wanted to go back outside where she ate more grass than a goat. After she got rid of that mess, she continued the obsessive carpet licking and that’s when it dawned on me.  Darn bees! I got out a Benadryl tablet, wrapped it in a piece of peanut butter-flavored pill pocket, and gave it to her. Within minutes, the reverse sneezing and the carpet licking stopped. Literally within minutes. Maybe the pill pocket soothed her throat? I don’t know. I can’t think of another logical reason. Surely the Benadryl didn’t start working THAT fast. (Note to self: next time Ducky starts the obsessive carpet licking, don’t wait. Just give her a Benadryl.)

This morning, my crazy-goofy girl was her calmer, happy self again. And again I had to steer her away from the one bees’-nest hole a few feet away from the oak tree. I brought her inside and gave her some breakfast, and when she finished it we went back outside. After running after a squirrel or two, and running the fence with her little buddy next door (a sweet little senior Shih-tzu girl), she decided to lay down in the grass and relax. Do you want to guess where she finally ended up after trying out several unsuitable spots in the shade? Yup. Right in between two of the four nest holes between the carport and the smaller utility building. Just to be on the safe side, I brought her back inside the house.

Ducky’s curiosity presents me with a conundrum. I don’t want her stung again, obviously. At the same time, I don’t want to harm the bees. The environment – all of nature – needs the bees to do what bees do (when they’re not being bothered by a crazy dog). I’ve tried training her to avoid the nest holes, but that curiosity of hers is her own worst enemy at times. I could block the nest holes, but the bees would just make new ones elsewhere in the yard. At least I know where they are right now. So for now, I’ll just make sure I have plenty of Benadryl in the house. And I’ll hope that next spring/summer, the bees will go back to making their nests out in the front yard instead.

 

Just Catching Up

Hi Everyone! We’ve been busy around here between Ducky and the bees, doctor appointments, and a ten-day visit from my brother.

I’ve been focusing on Ducky’s behavior – specifically her reactions to hubby – for quite some time now with help from my friend, Janet Finlay, who owns the Canine Confidence Academy (based in the UK). Janet’s website provides so many resources and courses for guardians of reactive dogs that I haven’t had a chance to peruse them all even after more than a few years as a member. I had actually signed up for and started her original course – Your End of the Lead – several years ago and it really helped me help Ducky; but as happens from time to time, life got in the way and I had to switch some priorities around for a while.

Janet has also written a book, Your End of the Lead, which is a condensed version of her original course by the same name, with some additional newer material as well. It’s well worth the read, in my opinion, and is available on Amazon, Dogwise, and another site I can’t remember at the moment. And there are also some closed Facebook groups and a forum you can join once you become a member of the club.

Just so y’all know – Janet is NOT paying me to review her website or book. I’m sharing the information with you because I believe in Janet’s approach to training/working with reactive dogs and helping the humans who live with and love them. I believe in them because using her approach has helped me to help Ducky.  (I don’t have any affiliate relationships with Amazon or Dogwise, or the third publisher, either, so I’ll make absolutely no money by promoting anything.)

Ducky is still somewhat reactive to strangers – especially here at home – but she was much more relaxed during my brother’s last visit than she has ever been.

Anyway, this past weekend found us reflecting on two anniversaries – Saturday (the 24th) was Callie’s 4th anniversary in Heaven; and Sunday (the 25th) was Shadow’s half-year anniversary being reunited with Callie. It was tough on me, emotionally; but I am thankful that my Golden Girls blessed hubby and me (and Ducky, too!) with so much unconditional love and so many wonderful memories. I’m also thankful that I was able to share their lives with you all for so many years. And, the reflection made me realize that I truly am ready to add another Golden Retriever to our family. We recently submitted an adoption application to our local breed rescue group, so please start sending us some really good vibes to help us get approved.

Well, that about sums up our lives for the past several weeks. Ducky’s doing great – watching a squirrel on the trunk of the oak tree at this moment – and enjoying life. She loves having all our attention; but she misses her sisters/favorite playmates.

Play with me, Mom! I want attention!

 

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Not-So-Lucky Ducky

Well, it’s Sunday again; and the beginning of a brand-new week. And time for a new post about #thisdog who keeps us on our toes constantly.

Remember on Friday last when I wrote about the charmed life that Ducky leads? As a reminder, you can read that post here.

Well, she wasn’t so lucky yesterday. As is our normal routine, after Ducky had her breakfast, she and I came out to the yard for a while. After we’d been out here for about an hour, I noticed she was making faces 🤪 and pawing at her nose. She looked like a pup who had just sampled a spoonful of vinegar. And then she started hacking – like she had something caught in her throat – so I opened her mouth but couldn’t see anything.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the hacking was what the vet world calls a “reverse sneeze”.

Anyway, it was time for me to get our roast started for dinner, so I brought Ducky inside and put hubby in charge of watching her. She seemed okay, so I took care of a few other things and went to check on her myself. And she started hacking again. So, I decided to take her to the emergency vet to see what was going on. She obviously wasn’t feeling up to par.

We got to the emergency vet, checked in, and I put Ducky in my lap. I turned her to face me and that’s when I saw it. Her upper left lip was swollen to where it was drooping over the lower lip even while she was panting. So I tied her leash to the bench and walked over to the receptionist to tell her what I’d just discovered. I went back to get Ducky so I could put her on the scale.

The receptionist and I put 2 and 2 together and decided Miss Ducky was having an allergic reaction to something. So one of the techs brought her to the back, the vet gave her a shot of Benadryl, and then they put her in one of the kennels so they could observe her for a little while. And I kept busy texting with two of my friends.

About half an hour later, the same tech came out to get me and we walked back to one of the exam rooms. We talked about what had been going on the last couple of days with this crazy dog. Then the vet brought Ducky into the room. In her attempts to make the itch go away, she had rubbed a small spot on her nose raw. And she had pooped in the kennel, so it was time to let her be with me. I noticed the swelling on her lip had gone down considerably already.

The vet, tech, and I talked a little bit and decided that Ducky had probably air snapped at a bee 🐝 buzzing near her earlier in the day and got stung in the lip in the process. Ouchie!!

While the tech printed out the discharge instructions back in the treatment area, Ducky and I waited in the exam room. I could tell Ducky was already starting to feel better: she started whining and pawing at the door. “Let’s go home, Mom! I wanna get outta here!”

She slept on the couch most of the rest of the afternoon and evening and went right back to sleep in her crate at bedtime. 😴

She awoke this morning, “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” as usual, and in full-on, turbo-charged mode. Ready to beg hubby for some of his cinnamon roll.

I wonder if this will be one of those life’s lessons learned for Ducky? I hope so!! If not, I at least have more Benadryl in the house now to treat her with. My crazy, lovable, challenging dog! I don’t know about her sometimes, but I love her to the moon and back! ❤️❤️

Lucky Ducky

A few weeks ago I shared a story about Ducky’s curiosity when it comes to bees and other “critters” in our backyard. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Well, this morning, while we were enjoying the fresh air – and, I, my first cup of coffee – I noticed Ducky rubbing her snout in the grass by the narrow end of the driveway.

I walked over to investigate and guess what I found?

Only, when I first found him, he was resting in the dirt next to that blade of grass. Right where Ducky had been rubbing her snout! (I didn’t have my phone with me when I first went to investigate.)

This crazy dog of mine had been rubbing her snout on the bee!! My crazy, lucky dog! I don’t know how she managed to not get stung! She’s staying away from him now, just chilling out not far from my chair, with her favorite toy.

Thanks to our friends The LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday blog hop. Please visit them and other blogs through the links below!

This is a Blog Hop!

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