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July 31, 2009

How far would you go for your dog?

We all love our dogs. Usually that means putting up with any problems they may have either physically or mentally. For every dog their is a "thing" that we as owners must work at managing. Some bark, or get into the garbage, or runaway, some jump up and are so energetic they are hard to control. Some dogs tear up furniture, walls and floors, or dig up the yard. Some even have serious aggression issues with their food, towards people and other dogs. Some aggression issues have been so intense that they have even killed other dogs.

In my house, our dog Oscar, pees in the house. He's not marking, he just doesn't think to ask to go outside when he gets the urge to relieve himself. He'll happily go outside but only when told to. So we manage this by crating him at night and during the day when we are at work. If we go out for an hour or two, we just make sure we let him out and 9 out of 10 times the house is still pee-free when we get home. It's just something we have to deal with. He came to us this way and we must take the bad with the good. There may be some training we could do I'm sure, but it's impossible to catch him in the act. He's very stealthy when it comes down to it!

My point is, I am impressed with how far some people will go when dealing with their dog's problems. My dog's problems are nothing compared to someone with a dog who gets out of the yard, happens upon another dog walking with their owner and a confrontation ensues where the poor innocent dog on his happy walk gets killed. Can you imagine? I love walking my dogs every day but I don't know what I would do if this happened to me.

Let's look at it from the other side. Here is an owner that has a dog with serious aggression problems. They love this dog. He is a gentle, loving animal that played as a puppy, grew up in front of his owners eyes and is as loyal to them as the day is long. This dog has toys and loves to run and jump and play. But for some reason, when he is around other dogs, the owners have to watch their loving dog turn into an uncontrollable monster they don't recognize. So what do they do? They try their best to manage their dog's behaviour, they love their dog and they aren't going to just throw him out like so much garbage because he has issues. They fight for him.

As many of you know, the owner and operator of Poooh Busters is Roland Pearson. Well you may or may not know that he also is an expert dog trainer who runs a company called Canine Correction. I invite to visit his site and you'll see what a wonderful service he provides to people who face the kind of situation as I just described. He helps people who on their last hope at saving their beloved dog's life. Those dogs that seem hopeless, especially after having just killed another dog.

I want to share with you a story of one of Roland's recent training clients. The folks that contacted him were at their wit's end. Their dog had so many issues they were having a hard time managing everything. This dog cam with many challenges:
  • barked at the doorbell,
  • would run away when it time to clip his nails,
  • would jump at and eat any food that even came near the floor,
  • would nervously growl and bark whenever strange noise would occur around the house,
  • wouldn't stay to save his life,
  • leads and pulls his leash when on a walk,
  • excitedly jumps on visitors the come to the home,
  • would shake and quiver when his owner would chew gum
  • and eventually got out, happened across a small dog and inadvertantly killed it

It was very quick and happened in a blink of an eye, a simple grab and shake. I'm sorry to paint such a gruesome picture but I want to make the simple point that every dog has a fighting chance to become a good, respectful and well-behaved dog if we fight for them and give them the chance.

The owner called Roland following the incident, after he found the Canine Correction website and knew Roland could help. He generally wanted to save his dog's life knowing that his dog is not the monster that comes out in him around other dogs. Roland agreed to help him and they together have been working with the dog since mid-July. It has been only two weeks of Roland providing the owner with the know-how and tools to train his dog and recognize him as a pack animal that needs leadership. Now this dog is almost a completely different animal.

As part of the training program, Canine Correction asks the owners to take time and write an email every now and then to update them on their progress. This particular owner writes, "Just wanted to give you an update as to my progress with our homework training. There has been significant changes around the house with less tension, fear, and worrisome which I used to feel. We trained for a couple hours yesterday and a few hours today. Well, today I had the leash on him and later I took it off but he was still following me around the house and sitting next to me and just starring at me like he is waiting for me to tell him what his next move should be. He hasn't barked when the door bell rings, or goes crazy when I chew gum." The client goes on to say, "I've had friends come over and they tell me he is a different dog."

So let's give this tragic story the attention it deserves. An owner who saw potential in his "last chance" dog and didn't give up on him. Instead of giving up, he got Roland's help and in return saved his dog's life.

July 10, 2009

Big Nate ain't so big no more!

Well what can I say? It's been a long road but we're getting there!

Mrs. Big Nate and I decided one year ago this month that it was time to do something about our health...well, our weight to be more specific. More about this in a minute but you might wonder why do I call myself "Big Nate"?

I got the nickname Big Nate from my friend and yours, Roland. He and a few of our co-workers at the time gave me the now infamous nickname, Big Nate when I was tipping the scales around 260 lbs. The name comes from the NFL football player, Nate Newton. I don't follow NFL but apparently this guy is huge. Well, see for yourself, here he is in all his glory! I guess he also is famous for being busted a couple times for possession of large amounts of marijuana. I'm talking like 175 to 213 lbs worth. Looks like Nate Newton does everything big! But just to get the record straight, I got the nickname due to my size and not because of any type of involvement with narcotics.

Anyway, the nickname stuck and I have taken advantage of using it for my alias as writer of this blog, the Poooh Busters newsletter and as webmaster of the Poooh Busters and Canine Correction websites.

But the point of today's blog is to say that I had allowed myself to creep even further up the scales where I reached 284 lbs. I dread to think about where I would have been if my wife and I had not brought Mojo home 4 years ago. We were dedicated in walking him almost every day and I hate to think how much more I would have weighed if we had not been walking the 30 to 60 minutes every night. So for those of us who have dogs, be sure to use them to help you increase your activity levels and healthy lifestyle. They don't mind...really they don't. If fact they need it as much as we do, if not more.

As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I decided to take some serious action towards our goal to lose weight. Mojo was helping to keep us from getting completely out of hand but we needed even more to get us to our goal. We signed up for a boot camp last July and it was the best thing we ever did! It started us on the road to a healthy, active lifestyle that we are still following today. The pic of us here on the right was taken in Mexico a couple a years ago. We were well on our way to becoming the heaviest both us has ever been in our lives! I was wearing XXXL shirts and size 48 to 50 pants. I couldn't do a flight of stairs without getting winded and I pretty much refused to run for my bus. Screw it, I'll catch the next one! Mrs. Nate was into size 22 and was purchasing 3X clothing from stores like Additionelle and Pennington's.

I won't kid you, boot camp was the hardest and most physically challenging thing I ever attempted. The first day we were told to run a kilometre and time how long it takes. Right! A 284 lb, 41 year old man who has never run for anything is now going to attempt a one kilometre run as part of a fitness test. It was the longest 7 minutes, 31 seconds of my life. Well after six weeks at three nights a week, I had lost almost 30 lbs and completed my one kilometre run in five minutes, 50 seconds! After that, we joined the Running Room's Learn-to-Run clinic, where we learned to run properly and at the end of that six weeks, ran a 5 km race. I finished the five k's in just under 39 minutes. After that, we started to sign up for cardio classes, body sculpting classes, step classes, and even dusted off our bikes to go for hour long bike rides. We started eating better and eating less. It just got easier and easier the longer we kept it up.

Of course during this whole time, we were doing our nightly walks with both Mojo and Oscar to add to all the other activities we were doing. So to keep this long story from getting longer, so far we have both lost approx. 70 lbs each. It has taken a year to get here but we made it without having any heart attacks or sustaining any major injuries. We still have a ways to go yet, I would like to lose another 45 lbs to get to the doctor recommended weight of 165 lbs for my height and age. Mrs. Nate has about 30 lbs to go. But we'll get there as we have given in to the process and plan to keep our healthy lifestyle well into our senior years!

It can be done if you really want it bad enough. And your dogs will love you for it! Not to mention your loved ones will be happier knowing you might live just a little bit longer.