Thursday, June 26, 2014


Yesterday Norman passed his Therapy Dog test! Our evaluator and head of the program was super nice. She seemed to really enjoy Norman and was very proud after he passed, telling everyone who stopped to pet him about his accomplishment. She seemed genuinely impressed every time he reacted to each test item exactly as she described he should.

To start things off, he rolled over in hopes of a belly rub, of course not knowing us humans had something more serious in mind for the morning. Once we got him right side up, he dolled out kisses in reaction to almost every thing she did. Luckily Norman's kisses are not neurotic and rapid-fire but more slow, methodical and endearing.

When she surprised him by pinching his butt he turned around and licked the air, hoping her hand would come meet his tongue. When she grabbed his cheeks and stared him in the eyes he licked her face. When she squeezed him around the neck he tried to reach around to lick her, getting the air again instead. When she pulled out a hair he licked her hand. When she brushed him he licked her arm. When she rubbed him with a cane, he licked the cane. When she pinched him between the toes he licked her hand. When she approached him with the walker he licked it and then licked her hand. When she held him off the ground, he reached up and licked her face. When she dropped a metal can on the ground he went over to lick it. When she opened the umbrella in his face he stepped back, then walked up to it and licked it. And so on...

We did the test in a parking lot so the evaluator was able to enlist strangers throughout to see how he was with new people. He received pets on the head from of a couple big work men, licked the hand of an old lady who walked by with a cane, sat in the lap of another lady and licked the faces of couple giggly kids.

And he took it upon himself to lie down and stare off into the breeze any time we talked for more than a couple minutes. The hardest part was probably leave it because the evaluator used dog toys instead of food. We've practiced a lot with food so he's got that down but those new(used) toys looked oh so sniffable. He had his eyes on them but didn't try to touch them and that was good enough. Good news is I don't think there will be too many of those on our visits.

The last test item was to walk by 2 different dogs and ignore them while we shook hands. He did seem pretty eager to meet them when he saw them(he even tilted his head at the little one) but he listened to a sit and watch and then walked by like a gentleman.

In the end, the evaluator checked off Unconditionally Accepted which means that he is accepted to the program with no further training or restrictions needed! She also said he is the first Pit Bull in their program and she was very excited because she knows how sweet they are.

I actually think Kaya could have passed the test because she has a very solid temperament, great obedience and loves attention from strangers but I know she is way too ADD and energetic to actually be a good Therapy she'll remain my own personal Therapy Dog;)

He also needed a vet evaluation and I was actually able to get him in later that afternoon. She had to check out his health, rate his disposition and acceptance of being handled. I was a bit worried when a dog across the hall started barking and shrieking, while at the same time another dog started yelping and throwing himself at the other side of a door joining our rooms. Norman put his ears back, looked around and whined a bit but forgot all about it when presented with a treat:) Norman actually finds the vet's office more exciting than almost anywhere else with all the smells and attention(perhaps on par with the pet store) but he left a good impression and passed that test as well.

I was so proud and excited that I ran straight to Whole Foods and bought him a steak and some raw bones to enjoy later (of course Kaya got her share too). I can't wait to go on our first visit!

Would your dog be more like a Kaya or a Norman...or something else?

Related Posts:
Norman's 1st Therapy Visit!
Norman: The Heart Stealer 
Norman's Therapy Mission
Norman: The Perfect Advocate
Norman's Adoption Story

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Yesterday I re-posted an old entry about my early hopes for Norman to be a Therapy Dog and I announced that he is finally taking his certification test this week! Here are a few more examples of why I think he's got what it takes...

In yesterday's post I described Norman's ability to take the chaos of the Pet Expo in stride when he was just a little puppy and we actually went back a year later. This time Norman was not so much a pudgy puppy but a strapping young lad which meant he got a little less lovin' but was cool and collected nonetheless. We watched a CGC demonstration and just as the speaker was talking about how a dog should properly greet someone, she glanced out in the crowd and said, "There, just like that dog." I looked behind me but then realized she was pointing at Norman, who was sitting politely by my feet as a photographer knelt down to pet him. This guy had his undivided attention while Motlie was growly wrestling with a new friend a couple feet away.

Since going to our first Pet Expo, I've brought Norman to many busy events, places and festivals. He's been to the San Francisco Pride Parade, a Dia De Los Muertes Festival, Hollywood Boulevard on New Year's Eve, America's Cup Boat Race in San Francisco, 4th of July Fireworks, Rodeo Drive, Peaks & Paws Dogs Festival, Menlo Horse Show and plenty of others.

I also take Norman shopping with me all the time, from tiny fancy boutiques and gift shops to Nordstrom and Macy's. He goes to Home Depot, H&M and Target with me often. He's also been to Old Navy, Staples, Best Buy, American Apparel, the AT&T store, the Apple store, Urban Outfitters, Sur La Table, record stores and many others. We even hit up Versace, Chanel and Louis Vuitton when we visited Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where he was surrounded by a steady stream of excited tourists. Have they never seen a dog before? Norman is a dream to shop with. Any time I stand somewhere longer than 2 minutes he lies down and waits endlessly. I often drop the leash and browse the immediate area, leaving him to rest. I know he's silently scanning the room for potential new friends but he doesn't bother those that ignore him.

Hangin' with my dad at All Saints in Beverly Hills.

Norman also has a way of worming his way into people's hearts who didn't necessarily want it or expect it to happen. Even my own parents thought I was nuts for bringing home a new puppy when Kaya was a puppy herself...until they met him. After 2 days, they were ready to sneak him into their suitcase.

My mom's first visit with her new "grandpuppy."

Last month my cousin came for a visit and he had never met my dogs before. He was resistant to their affection, telling me he was not a dog person. He would gently push them away and tell them to leave him alone at every interaction. Ironically, he said he was a cat person but Gina wanted nothing to do with him. On his third and final night of the visit, I walked into the living room to find him lying on the couch with Norman lying on top of him. My cousin was stroking Norman's head and talking to him quietly. He then told me, "If I do ever get a dog, I want him to be just like Norman."

I didn't get a photo of them together but you get the picture...

After my nephew was born, my sister-in-law stated that she would never let her son near a pit bull. I was disappointed, knowing how cute and special it would be to see him enjoy Kaya and Norman. She had even met them before, spending 2 vacations with them and she seemed to really enjoy them. So when we brought Norman to L.A. to join them on their trip, I was concerned that I would have to keep Norman from the baby the whole time. Norman has been around children and babies. I've watched him lie still perfectly still as squealy toddlers approach him and then run away at the last second...repeatedly. Other times, when we are out hiking we run into groups of camp kids and girl scouts. If given the opportunity, Norman will plant himself in the middle of them, hoping as many tiny hands as possible will give him a belly rub or ear scratch.

An evening cuddle with my brother & sister-in-law on a pre-baby visit.

However, on our first day in L.A., my brother brought the baby into our hotel room and plonked him on the floor right next to Norman. Norman sniffed and kissed the baby, prompting him to giggle and reach out for Norman's tongue. When my sister-in-law entered the room, I held my breath but she smiled and that was it. The next day she was holding my baby nephew and dipping him down to Norman's face, resulting in a lick to the face every time, all 3 were enjoying the game. And by the end of the trip, she was begging my brother to get a "Norman" of their own.

Not to mention the fact that my parents did not even want any of the dogs coming to L.A. and since they were driving and paying for the hotel, I more or less had to abide. Though when I said to them, "When you say no dogs, you mean just Norman, right?" "Of course," they replied. And it turned out to be easier having him along than any of us thought it would be. He had no concerns over staying in hotel rooms, he was quiet as a mouse and was happy to shlep along on all of our many meals, shopping trips and sight seeing missions. Upon checkout, the hotel employee even said he was the calmest, most easy-going dog they have ever had stay there.

My favorite recent Norman story and perhaps the one most closely related to therapy work is about a family friend of ours, a very sweet older gentleman who is battling cancer. He's become thin, weak and tired from the treatment but he was able to come to the house for a couple hours with his wife a few weeks ago. We all went to sit down in the living room and he sat on the couch next to a napping Norman. My mom told him he could sit on the other (dog free) couch but he insisted that he wanted to sit next to Norman. Norman had never met our friend before but within a minute he had shifted his way over to our friend and laid his big noggin' on his lap. For the next hour Norman drifted between slumber and looking up at our friend as he stroked his head, face and ears, until they had to leave.

Then the other day my mom reported to me that he hasn't stopped talking about Norman since their visit and how much he appreciated their time together. He has a little dog of his own that he loves but he said there was something about the stillness of Norman and the eagerness of a dog of his size to be so close that was so comforting to him. He said he can't wait for another Norman visit.

I see how Norman brightens people's day, whether they are friends and family or total strangers. And I see how much joy he gets out of it too. He is sometimes so calm when we are out that he seems kind of mopey but I know it's all worth it to him if just one person stops to say hello. He perks up, his tail wags, his eyes light up and with any luck, he gets the chance to deliver some kisses. He has an amazing way of matching people's energy level as well so he knows just when he should rest his big head in someone's hands or when he should show them the full butt wiggle. He knows when a little kid needs him to stay still or when they want their whole face covered with his tongue. He's got big chocolate eyes that he'll lock onto yours and he's got all the time in the world, just to sit by your side.

Does your dog have Therapy Dog aspirations?

Related Posts:
Norman is Now a Certified Therapy Dog!

Norman: The Perfect Advocate
Norman's Trip to Southern California

Monday, June 23, 2014


I am the queen of procrastination and for that reason, it has taken me way too long to get Norman certified as a Therapy Dog which is something I've always wanted to do with a dog. I've known he would be good at it since day one. He didn't need any time to mature or learn the basics. He may not be book smart but he has a truly special way with people and has great intuition when it comes to people's needs. I wrote this post over 2 years ago, just a couple months after I got Norman and he's still every bit as lovable and easy going. So I am incredibly excited that Norman is getting tested this week!

A few months ago, just a couple days after I brought Norman home, I was walking him and Kaya to the park when we came across a woman and her baby. The baby looked as if he had just begun learning to walk. She asked if the baby could pet the dogs. I knew Kaya was too excitable and was likely to knock the little one over so I said the baby could pet Norman. I held Kaya on my other side and allowed Norman to go closer to the baby. He walked a few steps towards the baby and then, without being asked or even any tension on the leash, Norman sat down as the baby made his wobbly steps towards him. As the baby reached out to pet his nose, he lost his balance and more or less smacked Norman on top of the nose. Norman sat there…like a statue. Not a single muscle moved, apart from his tongue, which he reached out of his mouth and licked the baby's little hand. I almost died...I'm not a huge fan of babies, but I thought it was one of the sweetest things I had ever seen. This is when it first dawned on me that Norman would make a great Therapy Dog!

I used to have to walk him with a harness because he was so slow, I did not want to pull on his neck to keep him moving.

Then when I only had him for 2 weeks, I took Norman to the Bay Area Pet Expo. You couldn't ask for more distractions for a young pup. There were thousands of people there, half of them with dogs of all shapes and sizes. There were kids, strollers and wheelchairs. People and dogs were dressed up in crazy costumes. There were loudspeakers and music and activities. There was cheering, clapping and yelling with wall to wall people inside. And Norman loved every minute of it. People would run across the room to kneel down and cuddle him. There were little kids to kiss and other dogs to sniff. But there was nothing frantic or excitable about Norman's demeanor, he just moseyed along, happily wagging his tail. 

After a while inside we went to see what was happening outside. We followed the sounds of many ferociously barking dogs to find a Schutzhund(protection dog) demonstration. We walked right up to the front and watched as the dogs threatened, ran and attacked the "predator." The area was surrounded by spectator and participating dogs, lunging at the ends of their leashes with excitement and angst. We were surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes barking as loud as their vocal cords would allow. And then I looked down to find my puppy passed out on his side, basking in the sunlight with his head resting awkwardly on a stranger's foot…he had not a care in the world.

One of my favorite things about Norman is that he is not a jumpy dog. His biggest show of excitement is swaying his whole hind end from side to side in a true pit bull wiggle dance. He has yet to even look like he might try to jump on me or anyone else. Even when I try to get him to reach for a toy, his jumping efforts turn into awkward flailing limbs and him falling to the floor in a heap where he remains for a while.

Anyways, back at the Pet Expo…the first person we came across had a booth and offered Norman a treat. She assured him it was okay to jump up on the table because she couldn't reach him. She showed him the treat and encouraged him to try for it but he sat there with 4 paws firmly planted on the floor. I said, "Sorry, but he won't even try." Later on we met a group of people selling a product to train dogs not to jump up on people. It was basically a short leash with a flat bit of plastic attached to the end which you are meant to stand on to keep your dog grounded. I was humoring the saleswoman's explanation but was trying to explain that my puppy doesn't jump. She declared that he would need it when he got older. Her co-worker greeted Norman and said, "I don't think this dog's ever going to need it." She seemed surprised and deflated at his honest comment and then asked me to think of it when I get my next dog…I did not even mention Kaya.

The professional photographer for the event took his photo.

She made a bunch of barking and meowing noises to get his attention, it was only slightly interested.

When we're at the park Kaya and Norman have very different agendas. Kaya is usually running around as fast as she can, running up to every person and dog and leaving just as fast or she is trying to figure out how to get all of the tennis balls in her possession at once. Norman, on the other hand, can almost without a doubt be found sitting at someone's feet, staring lovingly into their eyes, enjoying pets and giving his world class slow-motion kisses. Which leads to him rolling(falling) onto his back for belly rubs and going full stretch in the middle of a busy park. I sometimes have to go over and pick him up and place him back on his feet to re-motivate him.

Norman's favorite cuddle move is to come over to you and collapse his front end so that he basically falls onto you and then his hind end goes too:) He has helped some people on a small scale. Like once he was allowed into a fancy clothing store with my mom and I. He did his belly rub move for the saleswomen and one of them said it was her birthday and he made her day! Several other times he has been greeted by people out on walks and they have said that they really needed a good cuddle like that.

And I do believe that I am not just thinking of him being suited for therapy work because I love him and he's my puppy, I would never dream of it for Kaya. Even though she is so sweet and loving, she would never have the patience or attention span for it. I have had several people suggest to me that I should get Norman certified, but others have assumed reasons for his calm demeanor, saying he must be tired or he is just a puppy and will grow up to be different. Nope...that's just him.

Yes, Norman has bagged a few training commands since I wrote this post but the rest remains the same. He's also accumulated many more heartwarming stories. He still has yet to even try and jump on someone. He was even an accidental CGC demo dog at the following year's Pet Expo. He's been to parades, festivals, fireworks and Hollywood Boulevard and still, nothing bothers him. Oh...and he still makes a beeline past all the dogs at the park to greet their owners first:)

Related Posts:
Norman is Now a Certified Therapy Dog!

Norman: The Perfect Advocate
Norman: The Heart Stealer
Norman's Adoption Story 
Batman Rescues Norman!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Kaya, Norman, Gina and Zoey pretty much stick to the same trend every morning. I almost always wake up to Kaya sleeping on her back, half under the covers, propped up against me with her head on the pillow next to mine.

And she usually stays there for a while longer after I get up.

Norman likes to get up and mosey upstairs to lie in the sunlight that floods the living room. He seems to know the exact time to bother getting out of bed so that the sunlight will be in the perfect spot.

He always looks rather pleased with himself when I come over to say good morning to him. His tail starts thumbing, he stretches a lot, yawns and expresses his need for a belly rub.

But there are also mornings where he stays in bed with us no matter how sunny it is upstairs.

And sometimes he is just too lazy and cozy to even come to bed at night, so he spends the whole night on the couch and that's where I find him in the morning, in the exact same position I left him in.

Still, his tail starts thumping when I come over to say good morning, he stretches and licks me but he doesn't get up for another hour or so.

Zoey, on the other hand, has a disdain for heat so she prefers to go outside and soak in the coolness of the hard ground...away from any direct sunlight. I guess it feels as good to her as sunbathing does to Kaya and Norman.

Actually, this would be Zoey's ideal morning...

But that's not going to happen again any time soon. Sorry Zoey.

Like any good feline, Gina's routine starts around dawn. Cat experts would say that she is active during these hours because it's prime hunting time, but luckily she always comes home empty handed(mouthed?). Her morning continues from there...asking to go out, asking to come in, out again, in again about every hour. Once I do get up there is a lot of meowing, stretching, eating, exploring, purring and kneading while I'm trying to make my morning coffee and say hello to Norman.

Around this time, Kaya gets up to sunbathe as well.

The spot on the back cushions of the couch is obviously the prime location in our house. Kaya stays there 'til she is panting like crazy and then she flops to the floor, only to return to the spot again shortly after.

Not much changes here from winter to summer but on raining mornings in the winter(it does not rain here in the summer) everyone would be content to snooze away in the comfort of the bed. They usually wouldn't get up 'til I'd bribe them with breakfast. Even if I didn't feed them until the afternoon!

Do you see the Kaya-shaped lump in this picture?

Those rainy mornings are now behind us until at least November so our morning routine is here to stay. Do your pets have morning habits that they stick to?

Related Posts:
Sleeping In
Norman's Silly Habit
Norman's Love Affair