A Dog Who Minds; Or, Mind of the Dog

I give my dogs a lot of credit for the evolution of Jasper. A dog who comes when called is a joy to own and is the priority in early training. All my dogs drop what they are doing, no matter what it is, and come on the double when I call them. This is a feature that allows them a lot of freedom, as I can let them roam off leash in safe areas and know they will come back.


I inherited Jasper when he was three years old. He was my boyfriend’s only dog, a big rescued greasy blob of black mostly Labrador with a stubby tail; probably at least ten lbs overweight, gasping for air under his rolls of blubber and grinning, sniffing and licking my feet, jumping up to scratch my skin with his raspy pads.

He suffered from chronic ear infections, itched his skin constantly, had a bad body odor, and other indications that growled of food allergies. I took him off the corn-based kibble and changed him to a lamb and rice diet. The recovery was miraculous. He almost immediately became more comfortable in his skin, and his ear infections cleared up.

He still stood guard over his food bowl like a fiend, attacking with noisy, slobbering vigor any dog who passed within three feet of it. My pack, accustomed to a relatively peaceful coexistence, were taken aback by this. He didn’t understand that nobody wanted to steal his food, or fight with him.

He lived on a cable tied to a tree, and was ushered into the house where he would climb on the furniture and blow silent, massively pungent wads of sulpheric gas into the room, the stench so foul that you would either have to leave, or usher him right back outside.

He was enormously uncivilized, but his biggest problem was that he would hit the road. No amount of screaming would bring him back. If he got loose, he was gone.

Being mostly Labrador ensured that he would be generous with his home and space, and no danger to my little chihuahua types. Since I had a pack, my boyfriend made a big enclosed fenced yard. So now Jasper ran and played with my two herding dogs, carrying a big collapsing rubber ball around in his mouth most days.

The excess weight came off and he grew strong. I was determined to teach him how to come when called. I would walk him out in the back field with my bag of treats, calling him to me and giving him random snacks. It would work for about ten minutes. Then, his nose would go in the air and he would gallop off. He would return home an hour later, covered in mud or smelling of garbage.

All my training tricks flunked. I refused to use a shock collar or punish him in connection with the behavior. As much as he loved chicken jerky, he loved his freedom more. I could understand that. He had to be walked on a leash. Some days, I admit to not wanting to deal with him and I would leave him behind the fence watching sadly while the pack moved and played around the yard or I taught the horses tricks. This in itself, I am sure, was instilling a notion in his lemon brain.


Not long after meeting him, I discovered that he loves to swim, so I would take him north to Drummond Island every summer. He would still run off, dodging through the woods to be gone for an hour, running deer or black bears. But he was safer in the woods than on a highway in the Lower P.  The joy in his experience was evident. He was part of the family here; not a misfit. On Drummond, he is just another loose dog at camp.

Each dog has their special needs. Ms. Rip, my 12 year old Aussie, is sensitive and is afraid of deep water. Terrible Til the border collie has to keep moving, every day.  The chihuahuas have to be kept safe due to their size.

This is my fourth year of living with Jasper as part of the pack. He is seven years old now and there has been a shift in his behavior. Because of all the time I have spent playing with him, feeding him, talking to him, and treating him just like one of the group, he now behaves more like one of the group. He sits in line with the others, waiting his turn while the treats are doled out. He runs with the other two and jumps into the back of the van. He is a perfect example of how a dog who is happier will make the decision to behave better, in a congenial effort to get along. I haven’t done anything special to fix his running away problem; he just fixed it himself as a result of a more interesting life and good treatment.

There have been other indications too, that Jasper is getting smarter as he interacts more. I take him swimming several times a week in summer. I use two chuck-it toys and two balls, one for him and one for Til. As far as I’m concerned, the balls are interchangeable. But Jasper has decided that his ball is HIS BALL. While I lob them both, if I take Til’s from him and throw it, Jasper will wait until I pick up his ball, and then dive in when I pitch it.

It has been funny watching the two of them work things out between them. Jasper will often try to retrieve both balls, swimming in circles until he gives up and leaves one. Til just hovers to scoop up whatever one he leaves.

Yesterday, even though Til already had a ball, he waited, far out in the water, to make sure Jasper found the second one before they both swam back. Til helps take care of the others.

Jasper is a terrific example of how a dog’s brain kicks in to be a better pet, a result of good treatment and nice language, and the standard established by his well-mannered pack mates. Rules are rules. People who live with dogs understand they respond well to respectful treatment, and will return it in kind. There is no way to teach this detail to someone who wants to train their dog, other than to explain that kindness speaks volumes, and dogs are much more sophisticated than we think.

Now, if he would just decide to stop farting…

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Drummond Island Life at Lumber Camp

Drummond Island in those days was a giant canopy; its soft, muffled ground hidden beneath a cloak of orange needles. The cedar trees were so tall that their tops became crowned with eagle nests. The birds emerged from a mass of sticks, gulping down salmon, filling up with protein and growing at a rate of speed that caused them to spread formidable wings and lift into the air, floating over northern Lake Huron after only weeks out of the egg.

Drummond was a place of trees; trees with trunks like silos. They climbed upward for a hundred years with their twisted limbs joining together, creating a primeval forest of cool, muted green. The woods flourished with ferns and mushrooms and lichens. Woodpeckers and owls roosted in clustering branches. Daylight never glimmered on that forest floor. It would only stream down in columns of light, before fading halfway to earth.

It was the trees that brought them. In the late 1800s, lumber was the gold of the northeast. An enterprising man could build a life for himself very quickly, if he was willing to work hard and hire the help. So the lumbermen came; slowly at first, but as word of Drummond spread, more and more showed up in the land of harsh winters and cool, bright summers.

The second white man to settle on Drummond, George Warren Bailey had lived there for 14 years when his son Frank was born in 1894. The boy was ruddy-faced and hearty, and he grew fast like a young eagle. When he was a teenager, his forearms were bulging like the trunks of the old cedars. He towered over six feet, even at that age. He had a gentleness about him and a quiet nature. But he wrestled nonstop with his younger brother, Clifford, and teased his baby sisters, Nina and Nona, who were not twins, but may as well have been, with their blonde tresses and ribbons and identical cherub looks.

George Warren Bailey was ambitious and did not suffer fools. After his arrival on the island, traveling from Wisconsin with his wife Cornelia and their older children, he set up a lumber camp and started cutting trees. This camp was followed by another, then another, then another until there were seven camps altogether.  In the days before the chain saw, the giant cedars were felled with a cross cut saw, worked in cooperation by two men pushing and pulling, sweating and inching the toothy blade through the robust wood.

Once the giant was felled, then the limbs had to be lopped off and the tree cut up into sections that were short enough to fit on the wagon.

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Frank Bailey driving team.

Frank did all this. He cut trees and lifted the heavy logs, helping roll and stack them in a pile on the wagon. He would tie them down and drive the wagon into camp, where he would unload the trees and prepare them for sawing into planks. Then, he would drive back up the lumber road, into the deep woods to cut more. Frank was big and strong and even then could out-lift and out-work men twice his age.

But he was a growing boy. The days were long at camp in summer, cutting wood until sundown which happened about 9 pm.

One night, at supper, sitting straight up at the table, Frank dozed off. He had only meant to close his eyes for a moment when his mother was setting out a bowl of potatoes. But he was awakened by a hard rapping sound. It was his father, knocking his fist on the table.

“What the hell’s the matter with you, boy? Stay awake and eat your supper! The idea!”

Sitting there, aching from the day’s labor, his father’s harsh criticism struck a chord. There had been so many hours of lifting and pulling. So many hours of wood splinters and sweat. There would be six hours of sleep and then to begin again. It was too much. Frank began to silently cry. Embarrassed, his siblings all watched in horror as the tears slid down his face. The room became very still for a moment.

“Now what the hell – “ George Warren began.

“No you don’t! I won’t have it!” Cornelia rose up and faced her husband. “Can’t you see what is wrong with him? He’s exhausted! He is not spending one more day in that lumber camp this summer! Not one more day! He will stay here on the farm and work with me!”

George Warren, the gruff owner and boss of seven lumber camps, was no match for an angry mother.

Frank looked up at that tough pioneering matriarch who stood firmly over them with her hands on her hips and her blue eyes crackling. He took a deep breath, and nodded to her. A look passed between them and she calmed and sat down. He lifted his fork and started to eat.

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Frank with his brothers. From left: (Future brother-in-law) Louis Fountain, Clifford Bailey, Frank Bailey, and (seated) older brother Blaine Bailey.

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Holistic Healing for Horses

Holistic medicine is considered voodoo by some, but others swear by it. This particular energy healing is backed by Linda Tellington-Jones, who helped design their new horse energy-blanket. This may not surprise anyone as she of course initiated the now-famous Tellington Touch within the equine world.

Despite this stellar endorsement, the company representative Vicki Duggan explained to me that she “hasn’t had a lot of luck with horse people.”

energy healing

“Well,” I said. “Horse folks can be kind of traditional. They can be interested in centurys-old, tried-and-true techniques. But everyone still figures out their own way of doing things. So they may be open to the whole idea once they see how it works.”

Just like the Tellington Touch, this method has wider applications. It is called the Bemer but I’m not supposed to say that. Why not? You have to call it something. Anyway, here is a link to the website: Simplybehealthy.bemergroup.com.

The original treatment was for people, but they have come out with a horse blanket — which is so new it was just released in December. Clifford became acquainted with associate Vicki Duggan at the Novi Equestrian Expo in November, where he had a couple of (pre-horse blanket) treatments — during which he fell asleep — and there was a noticeable change in him afterwards. He felt better. Heck, it’s hard on the joints when you stand around and walk around on cement all weekend. Especially when you are a 26-year-old horse with arthritis.


So today she came out to the farm and put the battery-operated blanket on him for twenty minutes. She also wrapped his knee.

The treatment is reputed to boost performance, help with concentration, and ease pain.

Perhaps the most important thing this treatment does is to increase the blood flow into extremities and other areas that may not be the priority for blood flow.

When you think about increased blood flow, you start to realize the implications. Increased oxygen. Increased immunity. Increased shedding of toxins. And a whole host of other benefits.

Vicki had some astonishing anecdotes about people, athletes who had used this and outperformed themselves.

I told Vicki that one reason the race horse Secretariat was so successful was (besides his magnificent spirit) an enlarged heart. I immediately related that to the benefits of increased blood flow.

I have suffered with pain in my tendons since blowing my Achilles several years ago. My feet have never been the same. When your feet are wrecked, it really inhibits your lifestyle. So I gave the treatment a try and will report back on how it works.

Meanwhile, as I sat in the chair having my back energized, Clifford left his grassy spot to come frisking over like a two year old pony.


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How Going Under Saddle Is Not the Same As Socializing A Puppy

How do you you teach a young horse to stop bucking, kicking and walking backwards every time you get on him?

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I admit there are a lot of things about training horses that I picked up from dog training. Working with a clicker is a big one. Horses respond well to the clicker and it can be used in all kinds of applications. There are a couple of differences in training a horse versus a dog. The first being, watch out for creative stuff. You don’t want to put your body at risk with an animal 500 times stronger than you are.

Which brings me to my point. Kerry 7th Gen, now 6 years old, has run the gauntlet of experiences, all involving the clicker. He has learned a couple of tricks, including how to play fetch. He has been to a couple of horse expos with me and even done a training demo for an audience. He has traveled five hours north to the Upper Peninsula, where he spent 4 months running free on Drummond Island, learning all about the woods and water and what trail riding will eventually be like.

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One would think he would be handling everything with aplomb by now, especially after traveling from Oregon to Michigan at the tender age of 3 years old!

He is a super friendly horse, always the first to greet you in the pasture, and always the first to volunteer to stick his head in the halter, come out and do stuff. He gives kisses freely. He loves people.

The Morgan Horse Pride and Product

He is also a bit of a herd bully. He chases others away from me, from the hay pile, he pins his ears and bites and kicks. He kicks, in fact, when anything upsets him. My older horses, both in their twenties, just submit to him.

Therefore, I was pretty surprised earlier this year when my friend Stayner tried to ride him on the Waterloo Rec Area trails. I thought this horse had confidence. I was so wrong. Beyond that, I have discovered that the little darling is herd sour. He will now not even walk around the back yard with me astride, unless he has the other two horses — especially Trudy — within view.


A couple of days ago, July 1, I decided that I should stop procrastinating and get on the little bugger. My hesitation wasn’t based on fear so much as, I am really too old for this now and I don’t bounce like I used to. I have already fallen off Jr. once. In fact, that was a year ago today. In my experience (Clifford) riding a green horse means falling off — A lot. Twenty five years ago, it didn’t matter. I learned that it was most important to fall free of the horse and “fall good.” I could climb on Clifford, he’d step to the side and I would roll ride off and thud onto the dirt. I fell off that horse almost daily for awhile. I was a terrible rider.

But these days, there is nobody else to cajole into doing it, and it must be done. Let’s face it, a horse you can’t ride is the most destined for the meat factory if anything happens to you. If I get hit by a bus, or gunned down by a drunken sibling, I don’t want Jr. to wind up on anyone’s dinner table. Least of all, my ex husband, who had the gall to tell me he had eaten horse. This was after he moved out, of course.

So I saddled up and climbed aboard and I wasn’t expecting any big incidents. I had ridden him on the trails, with Stayner on Clifford, and he acted just fine. I thought that last time, it was mainly because he didn’t know Stayner. Well, that may have been part of his problem.  Besides, last year I rode him a few times around the property.

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This year, he had regressed into brainlessness. Had I waited too long to get back on? I thought all those 2016 lessons in courage would stick. But I was faced with a lot of the same problems that Stayner was — the horse seemed to know one gear, and that was reverse. Oh, no. Two gears. Reverse, and crow hop.

I had the clicker ready, and a treat bag full of cut up carrots. I wasn’t scared so much as annoyed. I hated the whole experience. I am sure he could tell. But I clicked him for every time he took a step forward. I had to keep turning him in circles, around and around and around. So, that’s what we did, for about a half hour.


Luckily, I had my whip in my hand and I was able to tap him with the verbal cue to “stay”. We had worked on this ad nauseum from the ground. This was mostly to discourage the moving of his feet. I want him to concentrate on keeping his feet still — in trying to end a bad behavior (kicking) you have to replace it with an incompatible behavior (keeping all four feet on the ground). I have used this technique to stop dogs from jumping up, with the same theory. It takes a long time to fix jumping in dogs, which is highly compulsive, and I imagine with a horse, kicking works the same way.

Thanks to having worked so hard on this last year, he is now safe to groom, walk around, and even mount and dismount. He is very good at “stay.”

So because he had this behavior pretty well locked in, I tried it from under saddle, tapping him with the whip instead of my hand. and it worked. He settled into a nice, balanced stand. and I was able to click and treat him for that. I circled him a few more times, and then we just kept stopping. Finally when he calmed down reasonably I was able to get off, ending the lesson on a somewhat satisfactory win-win. BIG sigh of relief!

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That night I went online and looked up herd sour horses. I consulted notes by John Lyons and Josh Lyons, both whom I consider friends, and the best in the way of humane methods. I learned a couple of things that made perfect sense and didn’t conflict with my reward-based training.

First, a herd-sour horse should be made to work harder when the herd’s around.

Second, a horse remembers a lesson, and the next time is easier.

So I took a day off and the following day, yesterday, I decided to go with some ground work first and I put a saddle on him and longed him like a real horse person would. He didn’t mind the longe line. He was completely calm. Besides, Clifford and Trudy were enjoying a meal together right on the other side of the fence. So he walked and trotted, trotted and walked, and then I moved him a little farther away from the fence.

That was when Clifford and Trudy decided to mosey on over into the barn and get out of the sun.

As soon as they were out of sight, he lost his mind. He leaped into the air, and started to run. He ran around, and around, and around me in circles while I held onto that longe line for dear life. He ignored my commands to slow down and just kept on going. So I decided, okay. I snapped the whip and told him go for it.

He ran, and ran, and ran. I just continued spinning, careful not to trip on that longe. HE was working up a sweat, snorting in the 80+ degree heat, and galloping as if his life depended on it.

Finally, after what seemed like about six or eight minutes of this nonsense, he got tired and slowed to a trot. I praised him and stepped forward and then he stopped and looked at me.

So due to this tantrum, he had to do more longing. We did a calm couple of passes at the walk, both directions, with lots of stops, a lot of clicking and treating.

He was fried.

It was time to get on him, and for the first time in my life I sighed and hesitated before climbing aboard. Ugh. I hate this. I am old.

Then I realized, my own thinking is a part of the problem. I had to reassess my thinking. “This is just another clicker session. It’s fine.”

He was standing there waiting as I had taught him, like a little gentleman.

He stepped forward when asked, and we walked into the back yard, and just made some big circles around the yard. He was wobbly, unbalanced. I had a mix of licorice and peppermints in the treat bag and just kept clicking every time he felt relaxed or did what I asked.

At the end, I was able to dismount, and I could feel his relief when I did.

We probably both were thinking the same. One more ride down. 10,000 to go.

All the ground work, all the trail rides (for him, riderless) and all the experiences we in dog training know as “socializing” are not the same for a horse. We call it a learning curve, but it’s more like a jagged line. Hopefully, at this point, we are on the upswing.


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Posted in behavior, clicker training, Clifford, drummond island, empathy, horse, horses, training | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

No I Won’t Back Down: The Medicaid Syndrome

For folks with disabilities, it’s a harrowing time as the GOP holds the ol’ medical insurance globe in their hands and gives it a casual spin. Gotta get this bill passed. It is more important to prove a point — make progress in the new administration — accomplish something — euthanize every single thing President Obama accomplished — and promise to keep working on the resulting crap shoot, than to actually address the real issues: ie, People will die.

A lot of people.

One year ago today, I got to spend two hours with my younger sister. Amanda has Down syndrome. She had to move to Arizona following our Dad’s death in 2013. After a bitter court dispute over her guardianship between two siblings, she was awarded to the much older brother who didn’t know her too well. She went to Arizona to live.

One of his arguments was that she could be placed on his medical insurance. But Amanda already had complete coverage through both medicaid and medicare. So that argument kind of splattered on the road of false professions.

Unfortunately, it might become a reality now.

The reality of Medicaid is wrapped up in human rights. If a disabled person is covered, it renders them less dependent upon the whims of others who want to control them.

Amanda moved in with a past-middle-aged couple who had no clue what they were getting into. They did not know how to talk to her. They did not know her capabilities or what her innuendos meant. They took everything she said literally. {Did you shut the window? Amanda answers, “I think so.” For those of us who know her, this is a non-confrontational way of saying “no.” To them, it means yes. The window is still open. Amanda, who has always been a fundamentally honest person, in fact sometimes too blunt, is labeled as a liar.) Kind of like those ultra religious types who want to pluck out your eye if you lust after the wrong person.

Or something like that.

The result of this gross misunderstanding was to put the smackdown on Amanda. Make sure every move is regulated. Make sure she doesn’t have any ideas. She spent two months in Michigan, in 2016. During that time, she wanted to come and stay with me.

That’s a given. She and I helped our dad through Mom’s death. We clung to each other during this indescribable loss. She was born when I was eight. She was my little baby. We had walked alone through years and miles together, as only sisters can. I bought her school clothes. I would ask her advice sometimes on how to handle people or situations. We went to movies every week. We talked about boys and politics and religion and Dad and Mom and family. We talked about grief and happiness. We talked about what to wear to the cousin’s party. We talked and talked about regular stuff.

When the guardianship dispute happened, we wrote a book about it together. We called it The North Side of Down.

Amanda is 46 years old. She called me up in April and told me she was coming to Michigan and said she wanted to come and spend some time with me. It was a given.

Only, it was not. Now there is a guardian. Amanda was allowed to see me, but only under her Michigan caretaker’s thumb. (Another brother.)

I asked why. Well, the reply came complete with a bible verse, this was his time. “For every thing there is a season.” I would have time with Amanda in the future.

Uhmmm…. When?  Next year?

This did not go down well. I argued about it. I was accused of a temper tantrum. I asked about scheduling, and how this visit was going to happen when Michigan brother lives 3 hours from me. My emails and calls were ignored.

I argued nicely at first, but finally, I started getting mad. I received a self-aggrandizing, degrading note from a lawyer (a cousin) obviously intended to humiliate me, accusing me of all kinds of things like trying to take over the guardianship, and that I may try to kidnap Amanda if I took her anywhere. (!) This was ignoring the fact that in 2015 she had stayed with me and we had even left the Upper Peninsula together, and there had been no mention or thought of kidnapping. Why is this suddenly an issue? … My relationship with Amanda became swept up in a toxic system among jealous siblings with old, old issues who wanted to prove a point.

The cousin-lawyer’s note suggested that I contact the court and file a petition if I wanted to see my sister. So, that’s exactly what I did. What judge in their right mind would refuse this request? On June 21, there was a hearing wherein I had to ask permission to spend time with Amanda! To me the whole thing was utterly ridiculous. But Amanda was not brought to the hearing to speak for herself. She was not allowed to tell the judge about her wishes.

My petition was denied.

On this day last year, June 23, 2016 I was allowed to spend 2 hours at a Big Boy restaurant with my sister. During this time the guardian hovered a few tables away from us.

That was the last time I saw Amanda. She was taken back to Arizona two months later, with a complete disregard for her requests to spend time with me. I can’t even imagine how she felt, getting on that plane.

Since that time I have endured death threats, slander, vicious accusations and more crazy behavior from both this guardian and various other siblings, and a few extended family members. Amanda and I were cut off from even talking by phone for 9 months, wherein I had to file another petition (again denied although this judge confirmed that Amanda has the right to maintain contact with her family via phone) just to get in touch with her.

At this last hearing, Amanda again did not appear and this time the guardian didn’t even bother to show up. He sent a rather smug lawyer in his stead. She told me I had to stop filing petitions and writing blogs about Amanda. But I can keep on, “Doing the Down syndrome thing” if I want to.

That statement pretty much sums up the problem here, doesn’t it?

The questions arise. Have I tried talking to these guardianship people? Have I done this or that? Have I gone to Arizona?

Uhm, no. I do not have tons of extra cash lying around to make plane trips. Which, I am sure, is part of the problem. I lack cash, and a penis. If I had either or both, this would be going a lot better. There is no talking or reasoning with people who are okay with treating Amanda like a house pet.

This guardian is abusive. He is abusing not only Amanda, but he is abusing me too.

Herein lies an as-yet undisclosed problem with jacking Medicaid. How are people like Amanda going to experience any quality of life if they have to depend upon others for healthcare? This even goes for folks who are completely healthy. A disabled person would need a guardian with money. The state laws are already so screwed up. A person with Down syndrome is forced to spend years — YEARS apart from her favorite sister due to a spiteful, crybaby, narcissistic control freak guardian. This is already happening while she has her own coverage.

Why don’t we just make a law where people with disabilities have one more thing taken away?! Oh yeah man.

There I go again, doing the Down syndrome thing.

But it’s okay. I have permission!

Click this link for more information about how to Stop Guardian Abuse. 



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Clifford Paints Drummond Island



They say an artist is not an artist unless he is producing art. Clifford had not painted in about a month, and that was mostly signing books. The heat is setting into lower Michigan and it’s hard to be inspired. Mostly he just wants to stand around in the shade. Who can blame him?

I thought maybe he was getting a little tired of painting abstract watercolors. Artists often feel the need to expand. Maybe he would like to try something more representational. He had done a couple of portraits, including one of David Letterman (a loose interpretation). But how about a landscape? He could start off with something that wouldn’t be too complicated.

We selected a subject matter near and dear to both of us: Drummond Island. I got it started with a basic outline on a sturdy stretched canvas, painting the Saint Mary’s River an intuitive shade of blue. I blocked the shape of Drummond in with green.

Clifford was standing outside under the shade tree, swatting flies. I came out with his sponge, the canvas and acrylic paints in a little dish. I laid the canvas down in the grass so he could get a look at what I had done.

“I know you’ve never been on a plane or in space. So you don’t maybe understand that this is Drummond. But if I tell you it’s Drummond, now you know. And I got the outline done for you, because I know you’re new at this representational art. So I am just gonna let you go ahead and do your thing, okay?” 

I lay the sponge down on the canvas and told him to go ahead. He hesitated and then took a swipe with his nose.

Drummond became decorated with violet, bright red and yellow. I was trying to make a video at the same time, and he just kept bonking the phone with his nose. You could almost hear him. “Put that thing away!”

I realized then that he likes me to get right in there with him. When we do our paintings at the schools, I am always picking up the sponge when he throws it on the floor, or tapping it to encourage him to keep on going.


Jeesh. I always thought of art as more of a solitary type thing.

He stepped on the canvas a couple of times, which fortunately didn’t hurt it. As usual, he got paint all over his nose. When the work was finished I noticed that the purple is reserved for the shores and water line, and the yellow for the village and areas with more traffic. Our spots, Bailey’s Lake, Warner’s Cove, Huron Bay, our heart of hearts, is bright red.

I’m sure it’s all a coincidence.


It’s getting time for us to migrate. In the morning, he hollers at me to let him out in the yard while I water flowers and weed veggies. When it gets hot he moves back into the barn. The other horses stay out in the field. But he doesn’t like the heat.

I often wonder if horses become snowbirds like people do. If so, then mine certainly are. Traveling five hours north every spring, to return in the fall, over 24 years’ time has to just feel like normal life to them now. At least, as normal as life can be, on an island, with a horse who paints.


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Puppy Training: Name Recognition and Coming When Called

Silly Dogs

Molly the Goldendoodle puppy has been with me for ten days now. Over the past several days I have been working on teaching her to come when her name is called.

Coming when called is a progressive thing, taught over a series of stages, and it is very important that it not be combined with any punishment. I also do not approve of having the puppy “sit” or do any extra behaviors when learning to come when called. Tacking on an extra task just makes the behavior a chore, and that is the last thing you want.

Once the “recall” as we in the dog world refer to it, is firmly established, then other things can start to be included. But with a puppy, coming when called is all fun, all a celebration, all good stuff.

In some of these videos you will see me addressing her by name before asking her for a trick, but that is different from calling her in from a distance and then withholding a treat while expecting her to do something else. In each exercise, there is only one behavior required to get the reward.

I made a series of videos to show how the process began a few days ago. Here Molly is first introduced to her name.

Here Molly is learning that her name means something. All I am asking her to do is look at me when I say it. Notice that I only say the name once, and if she ignores me, I wait a good twenty seconds or longer before I call her again.

For this reason, I ask my students not to say their dog’s name for the first week when we start training. Most of them are very surprised when they hear this request. I do it not so much to condition the dog, but to make the owners aware of how many times a day they are saturating the puppy with its name. THIS is why your dog ignores you! We are constantly spewing verbal noise. In order to have a dog come when you call it, you have to use a verbal cue that means something. And the “something” had better be good.

Dogs are really language savvy. They are smart. They probably understand more language than we are aware of. It doesn’t take much for a dog to learn what its name is, but it takes some effort to make it a word that is worth responding to.

Once Molly is responding pretty reliably to these simple attention exercises, I begin to complicate matters by getting other dogs involved. With this exercise, I tag the name on to a simple trick. Every dog gets a turn. This exercise really clues the dog in to his identity. It has a couple of other advantages, too. The puppy learns that other dogs have names, and who’s who. The puppy learns that other dogs get treats too, and just like little kids, you have to be patient and take turns.

Patience at this point is not Molly’s strong suit! This exercise is an excellent one for her. The worse the dog behaves, the more they should practice whatever is stimulating them to be naughty.

Then I up the ante in the  name recognition exercise, by calling her from a short distance when she is distracted.

I dropped a few pieces of food in the grass and then moved away from her.

We ended our lesson on a good note, with a couple of little tricks.

Good girl, Molly.


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My Fight With Technology


Clifford the Movie Star

Clifford the Horse, future movie star.


Filmmaking is not what you think.

For one thing, film is now defunct. I have sat in the basement of the University of Michigan, helping a friend go through reel by reel of old classics, some of them early prints of the original film. Singing In the Rain. It’s a Wonderful Life. The Road to Morocco. We are wiping each frame clean of lethal mold as the reel whirrs and spins and the strip slides obligingly onto another spool, only to be packed away into the can, labeled and shelved for an indefinite era.

Meanwhile, just like Spielberg, Hallstrom, and Ridley Scott, the amateurs are switching to digital media. For the wannabes, sometimes even a phone can improvise a scene, for a piecemealed documentary or indie effort destined for Netflix or even just YouTube.

I am determined not to talk too much about my film. In a situation like this, it can get to be all talk and no action. Plus, I have been collecting footage for years. It started back in 2003. After a while, it gets to be old news. My love letter to a place called Drummond Island. My story about a horse named Clifford. How an equine changes from a sassy, crooked-legged runt to a road warrior who goes into classrooms and helps disabled kids.

And the answer to the greatest mystery: How you prevent a horse from pooping indoors.

So I quietly keep accumulating footage and time passes. I write the treatment, gather the interviews, working with one cinematographer after another. I have hours and hours of footage. Most of it is collected on a single external hard drive.

I am ready to progress into the editing phase. I know how to use the software. The issue is getting a computer that can handle the job. It has to be able to accommodate a really big file. Unfortunately, my work horse laptop has died. I have to find the replacement, but I can only afford a refurb: One that has been used and revamped. I want a Dell, like my old one. It is equipped to handle the editing process. So I get a decent discount through a Groupon offer. My old one was pink. This time I order a purple one. I get it for about a third of what I paid for my old one. I am on Cloud Nine!

The day it arrives is a great day. Finally I can begin the painstaking process of piecing together this culmination of years. I plug the hard drive into the new purple laptop. The computer sends me a signal that not one of the USB ports on this computer is functioning.

What follows is an excruciating series of episodes intended to solve the problem. Well, is there a problem with the hard drive? No. It’s the computer. There isn’t a single USB that this laptop recognizes.

I call Dell. They are sorry, even though Groupon has claimed this computer comes with a warranty, Dell does not honor the warranty because the computer is used.

A friend loans me a computer. Before I purchase the editing software, I try the free trial period offered through the site. When I attempt a sample edit, the computer makes a coughing, dying whirring sound, like the Millenium Falcon when there’s a malfunction in the hyperdrive.

I will spare further details about the various glitches in the series of computers. Suffice it to say that I am now on my fifth laptop in an attempt to begin the edit. This one is making me suspicious because even though it is brand new, it is a cheaper version of a more heavy-duty machine. It currently is not recognizing Word documents unless I load them through a flash drive. At least the USB works.

Time will tell.

It appears that with computers, you get what you pay for. In trying to do a big job, you really shouldn’t skimp on your tools. However, for some of us, there just isn’t a whole lot of choice. So, we do what it takes, knowing that no matter how much time passes, we will prevail.

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Timid Puppy Day 4 – Teaching “Roll Over”


“Roll over” is a great confidence builder for shy puppies as puts them in a vulnerable position for a moment — but nothing bad happens — and they recover on their own steam.

It is very easy to teach using the method of food luring. To begin with, start with the pup in a lying down position and use the food to guide the head backwards. This will throw the body off balance and pull it over on its shoulder. As the pup flops onto her side, continue to guide the head and then reinforce (with praise or a click) when she is on her back. Allow the puppy to right herself, and then treat.

The great thing about roll over is, as with the spin, you only have to train half the behavior and the dog does the rest on her own.

The roll over is easiest to teach when it is always in the same direction. Therefore, the puppy has to be positioned correctly in order to be successful.


Once the behavior is learned, the gesture can be faded to a slight hand cue or verbal cue. While practicing, it is okay to let the puppy have fun and play around. All the excess paw flipping and shenanigans will eventually disappear.

It is worth mentioning, though, that there is some controversy over teaching a dog to roll over, especially among the large breeds. The fear is that it will contribute to bloat or torsion, where the stomach flips. I understand the concern but this has never been my experience. All my dogs learn roll over as a trick and it is one of the first things I teach them. They roll naturally in the yard when on their own anyway.

For more information about puppy training, check out my book, 25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy.

25 Ways



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Bailey’s Boot Camp for Dogs – Timid Puppy – Day 3

puppy puppy

The timid puppy is getting less timid all the time, but the confidence- building exercises continue. At times (like at the farm store yesterday) older dogs can come in handy.

One thing that builds confidence in puppies, especially the toy and miniature breeds (because people tend to coddle and carry them everywhere) is to allow them to walk on their own four feet, and solve problems in their own way.

As example, this puppy did not want to walk up or down the stairs. We fixed this today by allowing my two chihuahuas to show her how it’s done. Here, Jack Johnson provides an example on how to descend. This is the puppy’s third attempt to go down stairs.

Meanwhile, teaching of simple tricks can help the puppy “learn to learn”. Food luring comes in handy for young puppies, as it is the genesis of hand signals. This puppy learns to turn in a simple circle by luring with a treat. The hand acts like a magnet that guides the puppy around.

Eventually, the hand luring is faded into a smaller gesture, and the puppy hopefully has the idea. The food will eventually be faded altogether, and the hand cue can be replaced with a verbal cue.

During these exercises, there will be an increase in focus as the dog watches for the cue. I haven’t been using the clicker because I am having trouble handling the camera and a clicker simultaneously. I am using verbal praise. It really doesn’t matter what I say, since the tone of my voice encourages the pup and she’s getting the food at the end of the behavior.

I will be able to fine-tune this trick with a clicker eventually as it offers a lot more precision for the reinforcement. So I can add perks like having her stay on her hind legs while performing this pirouette, or a sit at the end.


For more info on training puppies, check out my book, 25 Ways to Raise a Great Puppy.

25 Ways

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