She’s ten weeks old with a zest for exploration.  I’m in my 70’s and my speed limit is about ½ mph.  She has puppy ADHD. I have focus and know my boundaries.

My yard boundaries are currently delineated by Invisible Fence which has served me and my dogs well over the past 13 years. 

But now there’s Leia, a puppy who is starting to widen her chosen territory and turning a deaf ear to my calls.  After all, what lies in the area of the vast unknown?  Other dogs?  Food?  Friendly people?  Downed birdhouses with a mysterious scent?  Strange noises that need to be investigated?  Wood piles to climb? 

The issue now is safe containment. 

When I called Invisible Fence, they advised me that they would not be able initiate fence training with Leia until she is four to five months old. 

Two facts:  1. Leia will be in the next county by then  2.  I am no longer able to run through the neighborhood after an errant puppy. 

Reality is staring me in the face; at my age it is time for me to install a physical fence . . . sooner than later.  So I’ve started my search for reputable fence companies in the area, asking for recommendations, and reading customer reviews.  Once I’ve isolated 2-3 companies, then I will contact them for estimates and advice on the best type of fencing for my needs. 

Readers? Your recommendations for quality fence companies in the Bucks County, PA area are welcomed!


My animals have humbled me often, and I’ve learned to listen.

Leia is a smart puppy, and she learns quickly. She has learned to sit, lie down, and is starting to recognize her name. She is still learning that jumping on me and chewing on my hands is unacceptable. She has learned that I will not put her food down until she sits and waits.

But housebreaking has presented some challenges. The first three days she was home, she did not have an accident in her crate or in the house, only because I was extra vigilant and got her into the yard regularly.

Then, boom, she finally had an accident in the family room. Fortunately, I caught her in the act, reprimanded her with a loud NO, and quickly got her outside to finish peeing. I was able to catch her in the act two more times, and she was great for five days. Success! I thought.

Then she urinated in her crate and again in the family room. I was upset and frustrated; I honestly thought she was making progress! Humble Pie!

This made me realize that my training needed to have more clarity. Leia needed to understand that when she felt the urge to toilet that she should go to the door. I knew I needed to devise a plan and set Leia up to fail.

I gave her free range in the family room with access to water, toys, and chew items.  It worked.

She squatted, and I quickly made it clear it was unacceptable and got her into the yard and praised her for relieving herself outside. I allowed free range in the family room to continue with intense play and chewing. Then she started to make a beeline for the corner where she had peed before. I said NO! and redirected her to the door and into the yard. 

I allowed her a long drink of water and continued to give her freedom to play and chew. Eventually I saw her stop, hesitate, and then she made a beeline for the door. I was ready and let her out into the yard immediately, praising her effusively. 

She took the initiative to head to the door one more time, to toilet in the yard. I then gave her a high value treat and put her into her crate to chill.  It was like a switch had been turned on.

This whole scenario took about an hour and a half. I was worn out from the vigilant observation, acting quickly, and redirecting her appropriately.

The real test will be tomorrow, I thought.

This morning, after she finished her breakfast, I gave her free range again, knowing that she would soon need to pee.  I gave her a sheep horn to chew to hasten the process. I only had to wait about 10 minutes when I saw her stop. I could see her brain working, and she opted to head to the door! Hooray!

She went out and toileted to much praise from me.

So, Humble Pie works sometimes.  One just needs to recognize the mistake and have the fortitude to figure out how to produce the desired results or affect appropriate change. This reinforcement will continue until I can reliably state that she is housebroken.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when training animals is the lack of consistency and appropriate redirection. Punishing Leia for leaving a puddle in the family room or peeing in her crate after the incident would have not been understood at all. Discipline AFTER the misbehavior has been done is inappropriate, ineffective, and sometimes cruel. It can lead to mistrust and fear; that is something we totally want to avoid when we train. 

Humble Pie can be quite delicious!


“Look at Leia’s tail,” I said to Wendi.  “It looks like she has a cowlick or a curl.” 

“That’s called a twizzle,” Wendi told me.

The Labrador breed standard cites: One of the characteristics of the Labrador is the otter tail. It does resemble a real otter’s tail and is also thick at the base and wrapped with hair. A Labrador’s tail should not reach below the hock. The hair on the tail should be tightly wrapped and not loose or fluffy like a setter’s. When Labradors are out of coat, the tail may look skinny and thin. Ideally, the shape of the tail should resemble a carrot. It is fine to have a twizzle.

I’ve grown to love Leia’s little twizzle. It gives her a bit of style and pizzazz. I can’t wait to see what it looks like as she matures.

And while we’re on the subject of tails, I’ve noticed that I am not yet honored with those vigorous wags so characteristic of the Labrador breed. I only get a gentle wave. So now I am wondering what I must do to deserve a REAL wag like Leia gives total strangers she meets on the street?? That’s my current challenge. 

For some reason it brings John Donne’s lines of poetry to mind. “For whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Instead, it seems it should be, “For whom the tail wags; it wags for thee. . . but not for me.”

CORRECTION: I do not advocate fake news!

This is a REAL twizzle. The other photo is a wave/curl in her coat.


Heidi came to Blue Haven (my home) in March of 2012. I had no idea I was getting a puppy! I’d just returned home about two weeks before from a trip to Belize. I’d always entertained the idea of getting a second dog but hadn’t made any active plans.

Heidi at 10 weeks

I learned she was for sale on March 16th and was asked if I would come and photograph her. When I saw her, I was immediately drawn to her.  I expressed my interest in purchasing her and brought her home the next day, St. Patrick’s Day, at the age of ten weeks.

St. Patrick’s Day 2012 – homecoming!

Heidi was very easy to housebreak and train. She was the first puppy in her KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training) class to get her S.T.A.R. puppy certificate.  On the last day of KPT class, the instructor suggested I do the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test with her.  Several dogs were coming to be tested, so I thought, why not!  It would be fun. I never expected her to pass at the age of five months, but she did.  She performed confidently and eagerly along with the older dogs that were being evaluated. 

age 5 months, after passing her CGC

When Heidi turned 14 months, she passed her therapy dog test.  She then started doing therapy dog work at the local public library and in school classrooms.  As a therapy dog she is very interactive with the kids.  She is one of those dogs that will snuggle close and put her head on a child’s lap. I haven’t observed in her the degree of intuitive work that Hannah did, but Heidi is much loved by her kids and teachers. She definitely brightens-up the classroom when she walks in with her tail wagging furiously. 

Therapy dog work: comforting a student

Heidi is a very biddable dog.  She is “usually” quick to respond unless she decides to manipulate me for extra treats. (“I’m NOT coming unless you have a tasty treat!”) But mostly, she is very eager to comply.  She is a wonderful off-leash hiking dog  because she doesn’t wander far and comes when she is called.  The only drawback is her inclination to eat disgusting stuff she finds – a typical Labrador trait. 

One of the most amazing things about her is that she is a self-motivated service dog.  I never trained her, but this seems to be where her intuition kicks in – with me!  Hannah would never bark when someone came to the door, no matter how hard we tried to teach her.  Obviously, most dogs DO bark when they hear a knock, but Heidi barks and sometimes will come to get me. If she needs to go out to toilet, she will come and get me wherever I am in the house and gives me “the look.” Heidi also figured out how to get my attention if I’m sleeping; she will nudge me or bump the bed to wake me. 

“the look!”

Probably the most amazing story occurred in the middle of the night not too long ago when I was suddenly awakened by my bed being bumped.  My dogs sleep in my bedroom at night, but on their own beds.  The bumping was persistent, so I finally turned on the light to find Heidi in a high degree of stress.  She was panting and running to the bedroom door, so I quickly got up.  She RAN downstairs to the front door, and I let her out where she had an explosive bowel movement.  I was amazed that she knew how to awaken me and that she made the supreme effort to not relieve herself in my bedroom. 

After Hannah died, Heidi suddenly became the only dog in the house.  It definitely affected her. The stress caused her to have gastric upset for a month afterwards.  She would look for Hannah.  She had never, in her life, been the only dog; she and Hannah were bonded deeply.

Hannah on left and Heidi (they were half sisters)

Heidi turned eight on January 8th, so I told her she was getting a puppy for her birthday. Actually, I never get another dog for the dog I currently have. A puppy is always welcomed into my home for me because I love a canine presence; in my book, there’s something special about having two dogs.  

Leia arrived on January 10th, and Heidi wasn’t sure what to make of her at first.  Heidi immediately set strong boundaries in the house and was a bit more lenient in the yard. As the days pass, I see that Heidi is accepting Leia more and more but also maintaining firm canine rules.

Just this morning Leia grabbed the sleeve of my jacket, and I was unable to get her to release. Heidi ran up to us and disciplined Leia so that she released her hold on my jacket.  I was amazed that Heidi had the intuition that she needed to intercede. 

I am looking forward to the day when Leia is ready to take walks with Heidi and me. The yard is getting just a little too small. 

In retrospect, I have a whole new appreciation for Heidi. When Hannah was alive, the dynamics were different. When Heidi became the only dog, it only reaffirmed how special she is. And now that she is a “teacher” to Leia, she is also teaching me.  This is the beauty of having animals. They are our greatest teachers. We need to be less quick to react to canine behavior with human emotions and LISTEN to them. When we take the time to listen and understand, we become better as humans.

one of my favorite portraits of Heidi

Henry Beston’s famous quote hangs on a wall in my home, and it is a daily reminder of my responsibility as a custodian of my animals.

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod


I have outdoor toys and indoor toys for the dogs. Generally, I pick up the outdoor toys at the end of the day and put them on my porch.

Yesterday, I missed picking up two of the toys. One was a jolly ball with a rope and the other was a Chuckit ball with a nylon loop attached. 

This morning when the dogs and I went outside, I dumped the outdoor toys for them and realized that the jolly ball and Chuckit were both missing.  They were nowhere in the yard. 

Hummmmm, what a mystery!

I walked the entire yard looking for them thinking that perhaps Heidi or Leia had dropped them near a shrub or behind a tree. 


Finally, my attention was drawn to the neighbor’s yard, and there they were, about 75 feet away!  I walked over to retrieve them wondering how the heck they got there?!

Now, I know there was no way that Leia used “the force” to transport them. It must have been a night thief.

What kind of thief would want a jolly ball or Chuckit, let alone both toys?

  • Fox?
  • Cat?
  • Deer?
  • Raccoon or Possum?
  • Coyote?
  • Another dog?
  • A neighbor who likes to pull pranks?

The handle on the Chuckit had been pulled out of the ball, and the end was chewed to pieces.

So, who or what is the night thief?

I have my own thoughts.

What do YOU think!


Last week Leia had two out of town visitors, Sharon and Tom.

Leia at 8 weeks with Sharon & Tom

Sharon and Deb have been friends since they were pre-schoolers when they lived next door to each other in an apartment building in Shippensburg, PA. 

Sharon presented to both Leia and Heidi a container of homemade, organic, cheese-flavored dog treats which she had freshly baked just for them. Needless to say, both gave 4 paws up for the treats and very quickly labeled them HIGH VALUE!! (Deb even tasted them and said, “YUMMY!”)

High value treats are treats that dogs rank at the top of their food list. They smell great and are very enticing. I can’t speak to flavor, because usually they are gulped without much chewing and taking time to savor the taste.  They are made from foods that a dog craves and that are worth more than anything that could be distracting it, squirrels and the neighbor’s cat included. The most popular high value treats usually include peanut butter (no xylitol!), cheese, chicken, and liver. 

Naturally, Leia wanted to save her high value treats, so Deb took her to the bank where she met with Donna and Michelle.  Lots of cuddling occurred, but the bank tellers advised Leia that she should invest her high value treats with a high interest rate instead of taking out a safe deposit box to store them. With the interest rate, her high value treats would increase in amount!

Leia with Donna and Michelle
(Michelle is a former student of Deb’s!)

Not only was the bank visit a safe socialization stop for an 8-week old puppy, but Leia did a bit of therapy dog work as well. Michelle had just lost her father, and a good long cuddle with Leia made her feel better.

In fact, when Leia and I left the bank, Michelle called out, “Thanks for brightening my day!”


Leia at 9 weeks

STEPS:  Lots of fun to go up, but very scary to come down.

CAR: I don’t mind the car, but I’d rather ride on the back seat instead of in the crate.

TOYS:  There’s a long purple squeaky toy that’s really cool, but anything Heidi has is even better!

CHEW:  I think my favorite is the Icelandic sheep horn.

CRATE:  It’s mine! All mine!!

YARD:  I love to torment Heidi and get her to play. It’s a big world out there, and I want to explore! But I love leaves the most!

COLLAR:  Deb got me a brand new collar.  It’s so colorful and pretty and makes me feel important.

LEASH:  A leash is a leash is a leash . . . Heidi says it’s a part of a dog’s life.

WORDS: Deb and other people make noises.  I’m starting to learn what some of them mean like sit, come, lie down, and NO! 

HURRY UP:  I hear that word A LOT when I’m toileting.  I’ll just take my good old time!

BARKING/YIPPING:  Heidi has a loud, deep bark.  And there are 2 dogs several houses up that talk to me. I want to meet them someday! I “talk” a lot, but no one pays attention to me except Deb.

FOOD:  I LOVE my meals.  I eat in my crate so Heidi doesn’t try to steal my food. 

FLAG:  That flag is a bit frightening, the way it whips around in the wind.  I don’t think I like it.

GLASS: I can see Heidi through the glass of the front door, but I can’t reach her!?? I can also see another little puppy that looks like me. 

SURFACES: WOW! There are so many funny feelings under my paws. Deb has names for them: grass, wood chips, carpet, jute door mat, concrete, macadam, tile, fleece, dirt, hardwood floor.