I published Stalled, the third book in the Truman Blue, Cozy Mystery Series. Publishing is always mixed blessing. This book is a success for a fledgling Cozy writer. I am well into the next book, Staked Out.
The sorrow was that I unhooked a virtual leash for Leala trot over the rainbow bridge. She was 14 years old. Leala was my first therapy dog. We started together in 2009. She was a stray, terrified of people, but gave them a second chance. She ended up as a premiere therapy dog. She is now in the “memory kennel” with the rest of her buddies.
Last month, while gardening, I picked up a shovel and Bear ran. It broke my heart. This month I noticed a huge change in his guardedness. I think he has adopted us. I credit Truman for a good portion of Bear’s trusting turnaround. Truman is top dog, and Bear finds comfort in his friendly and confidnet leadership.
Bear led a complicated life before he came to our house. He loves to come up from behind walk between my legs as I walk. He happily stands perfectly still while I put on his harness and leash. He loves to have his face held and rubbed. He loves car rides. He was house broken. He came with those trusting traits. Someone loved him. Then somehow, he became a stray.
Did his owner die from Covid? He is a fence jumper. Maybe he aggravated a neighbor to the point he was “relocated”.
He came to us with many fears. If you took hold of his collar quickly, he turned his head gaping his mouth, even putting it his mouth on an arm. He never bit. He was just very defensive. The click of a pen sent him running out of the house. Touching his legs terrified him.
We had him three weeks when he decided to start jumping our fence. He would run up and down a busy highway. I have no idea how he avoided being hit. We spent a bundle on a electric fence (feels like a 9-volt battery on the tongue) and raising the height of our 1-acre dog yard fence. Bear doesn’t try to escape anymore, not because of the fence, but because he doesn’t like to go too far away from us.
In another year, this dog will be one of those heart dogs, I can tell. He is respectful. He is obedient without formal training. He loves to touch and be touched. He often has a paw touching or is leaning against us or one of our other critters. He is one of us.
Truman Blue has a new little brother, Bear. Like all the other critter’s in Truman’s household, Bear is a rescue. Adopted from the local shelter, Bear is a “Labradog”, mostly Labrador and maybe something else thrown in. Or maybe not, it’s hard to tell. Do I see a DNA test in Bear’s future?
Why Bear? A year ago, Truman’s adopted mom, 14-year-old Labrador Sunny, trotted over the Rainbow Bridge. The Hu-Man missed having a busy, affectionate dog. For several months, the family tried to find a special Labrador who needed a home. The dog had to get along with cats, and other dogs, and had to be happy being fenced in an acre yard.
Bear had been in the local non-kill shelter for nearly two months. Being a sensitive pupper, he was stressed by the raucous atmosphere filled with barking pits and pit mixes. Bear sat at the back of his sparkling clean kennel run, head hung, stress panting. But he came right up to say hello when Truman’s Hu-mom called him. He wanted to be petted.
Bear has been Truman’s little brother for 10 days and still has some minor adjusting to do. He is happy to be the Hu-man’s special dog because the Hu-man pets Bear, and throws toys for Bear to chase. Truman loves to run and play with Bear. Bear is mostly respectful when he plays but when he’s not, Truman only needs to woof in Bear’s face, and Bear gets the message. Truman is boss-dog.
Yesterday, Bear, Truman, Hu-mom & Hu-man, went on their first family outing to a plant nursery, and then the pet store. Bear did great for any 9-month old pupper. His worst offense was tugging on the leash a little. After the breezy atmosphere of the plant nursery, the sensory overload of pet store was a little overwhelming, and Bear stress panted a little. The family didn’t stay long. At the checkout counter, Truman showed Bear how to put his paws on the counter to get a treat. Bear is learning quickly.
How such a sweet dog as Bear ended up as a stray, is a mystery. The question is, will Bear make and appearance as Truman’s buddy in a future Truman Blue Mystery?
Scent work (AKA nose work) is a fun, easy game to play with your dog. You probably have the items needed, right there in your home. You can do this inside or outside. We do both.
What you Need Besides a Dog (I bet this works with cats too)
Something smelly (something you have at your house OR what needed for AKC training)
Around the house (make sure the odor isn’t offensive to you dog)
Baking flavor extract (example – mint extract)
Strong smelling spice (example – cloves)
AKC Scent Work
Birch essential oil – first level
Anise essential oil – second level (Pimpinella anisum – NOT star anise Illicium verum)
Something cottonish if you are using oils (consider the dog might eat the scented piece, so make it small enough to pass through)
100% cotton ball (cut in half or quarters)
100% cotton swab (with paper stems cut in half)
small scrap of cotton cloth (1″ square)
A SCENT container that fits inside the glass storage container (odor free)
used pill bottle (I drill 5 largish holes in the tops)
any small container (the lid will need to be open, or have holes drilled into it)
A glass container with a tight lid for storing the scent container (odor free)
For each step, the scent container must be open at top, or have holes in it, and contain scented a cotton ball, swab, or scrap.
Scent the cotton with 3-5 drops of scent (around once a week). (Less as dog progresses) OR put a tablespoon of spice in the container
Think of a word to use to send the dog after the scent container, a word such as “search” “find” “buscar” chercher” “stinky”. It doesn’t make any difference what word you use as long as it doesn’t sound like another command the dog knows.
MAKE IT FUN!!
Treats must be provided within 1 1/2 seconds of the dog finding the container.
Do not move to next step until the first one is solid. (The first few steps may be learned quickly but do them each at least 5 times) Go back to previous step whenever necessary.
(I have three dogs. I was only training Truman. After Truman was at Step 5, I allowed the other two to accompany him and everyone got treats. A second dog learned how to do this by watching)
DO NOT punish or scold your dog! This is for FUN! Be a cheerleader and encourager.
MAKE IT FUN!
Step 1: Let the dog sniff the container, give the treat when the dog puts its nose on the container out of curiosity. You can start using your “word command”.
Step 2: Making the dog wait, place container on floor with a treat on top. Say “search” (or find, or whatever you want) and let the dog get the treat. Encourage the dog with words. This is supposed to be fun.
Step 3: Keep moving the container with the treat on top farther away from you and send the dog to search. (Most dogs seem to find containers on the ground more easily. Start there.)
Step 4: With the dog watching, hide the container/treat behind something. Send the dog to search. It is fine to use the same or nearby places repeatedly in the beginning. Use a different hiding place in each room. The scent may linger in a spot and confuse the dog.
Step 5: Take the dog out of the room. Hide the container/with a treat in a “regular” hiding place. Bring the dog in and send it to search.
Step 6: Take the dog out of the room. Hide the container/NO treat. Bring the dog in and send it to search. When the dog finds the container give treat AT the location of the container. You can drop it next to the container if you want. (In competitions, the dog must ALERT the owner, but if you are just playing, don’t worry about that.)
Step 7: Complicate the playing by moving the container to high and low positions. Hide under pillows, etc with a route where the scent can escape. Always reward with a treat as quickly as you can (within 1 1/2 seconds).
Truman Blue Double Blue Muffins are super easy and to die for if you like blueberry muffins. If you add the blue cheese filling, they are to double die for.
Blueberry Muffin Recipe
1 cup flour (I use gluten free, but it’s your choice)
1 cup frozen mini blueberries (Available in grocery stores. As a kid, we called them huckleberries when we picked them at the forest edge).
1/3 heaping cup coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 melted butter (vegan option coconut oil)
1/4 cup yogurt (or some kinda plant or animal milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg (vegans know how to sub!)
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl ad stir until completely blended. In another bowl, melt the butter, add the yogurt, vanilla, and egg, and stir until completely blended. Mix together well, the dry stuff, wet stuff and blueberries. Put globs into silicon muffin cups, filling about 1/2 full. (You will make about 16 mini muffins)
Cook in air fryer at 360 degrees for 10 minutes. Let them cool a bit so you don’t burn your mouth. If you slather with butter, or fill with the ingredients below you will be in heaven.
2 oz cream cheese slightly warmed so it spreads easily
blue cheese to taste
Split the muffin, spread with the soft cream cheese, and add as much blue cheese crumbles and you want. You can probably mix the cream cheese and blue cheese, but I like the uneven bites, some thick some sprinkles of blue cheese.
Creating is the synthesis of a person’s life to that point. I do artwork. I even earned a college degree in art. I love taking raw materials and molding them. In that light, teachers, parents, friends, significant others, and more are all artists.
It struck me today that Truman Blue is my current work of art. Yes, he is an adorable pupper, but more than that I have molded him into a masterpiece of a dog. Okay, I know that sounds egotistic, but the truth is Truman would be very different if he was a feral dog, or if he had ended up on a chain in someone’s backyard. The bigger truth is that artwork is only as good as the raw materials. Truman is incredibly good raw materials. If Michelangelo had a small piece of gray stone and left it unshaped, or used a sledge hammer to flatten into bits, then it would have been trashed long ago.
Creating a beautiful or meaningful emotional or physical space around yourself, doesn’t require you to be a musician, sculptor, writer, etc. It requires sensitivity to another. Creativity is molding by using the best rapport “between”. Not manipulating, but working with. The art of art is understanding and interconnection.
Celebrating can be disastrous. There’s the prep, the expense, and the stress of performance. Since it was sunny and 62 degrees, Truman and I went on a walk about on our few acres. I didn’t even put on a bra, and Truman didn’t even put on a harness. We celebrated the day, just as it was.
Truman ran, following what delighted his nose. When we walk, he keeps an eye on me most of the time. Occasionally his quarter-bloodhound DNA has him so engrossed in following his nose, I tease him by hiding. A few seconds later, when his one-third-Labrador DNA reminds him of his need to be with his mom, he starts casting his nose for my scent. It never takes more than a couple of seconds before he catches the scent of my trail and heads toward my hiding place. His less than 10% middle-eastern-hound DNA kicks into high speed, and he finds me.
Truman romped while I surveyed my micro-kingdom. Truman followed his nose and I followed my eyes, evaluating the state of living off the land. Waiting for the chance to spice up a salad, mint surrounds my still green blueberries and figs. I snapped off a few green daylily buds and snacked on them. I love eating off the bush. We stopped by one of the beehives, the girls were just waking up and sunned themselves on the deck before they took flight. The pear trees planted in January were too you ng to bloom this year, but might produce some Bartletts next year.
Truman and I have approximately the same level of engagement curiosity. That means we like to do things together that are fun, but don’t drain too much energy and are not too risky.
So what does that mean for a dog who is a quarter bloodhound and a third Labrador? You guessed it, nose work. Using instincts, Truman can find his tug toy in a three acre pasture. He doesn’t need to be trained to use his nose, because he sees with it. The problem in doing structured nose work activities, is that we need to learn learn to read each signals so we can work together as a team.
Once again, my relationship with my dog reminds me of my marriage. I appreciate my dog’s skills and abilities (my husband’s too). In order to accomplish a task with the ultimate sum being more than the parts, we need to communicate compassionately and clearly, taking into consideration and using our different perspectives of the world.
Margie, Truman and their friends head to the beach for a vacation, but Margie doesn’t want to go. Will vindicating a wrongly accused person make the vacation more fun?
Margie and Truman discover that not all the residents of Dexitine Beach, an affluent Gulf of Mexico beach town, are as upstanding as the town leaders would like visitors to believe. Dexitine is downright pleasant on the outside but some of the pillars of the community are a bit shaky.
Join Margie and Truman Blue as they negotiate the perils of a summer “vacation.”
The first book in the series is now available digitally for free from August 15 through August 19, 2020. Enjoy reading about the real life dog Truman Blue who is fictionalized Cozy Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries. Is fun, with a splash of education! Click here to order.