Collecting Performance Dog Titles is Fun

Author and Truman Blue Awarded Farm Dog Certification

Truman Blue is the “most funnest” dog I have ever had. Training dogs is rewarding on so many levels, the most important being training teaches you and your dog to communicate with each other. The least important is brag rights, but that’s fun too.

The Gestalt theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is exemplified in the relationship between a human and dog. There is power in tricks and skills.

The first trick I remember teaching a dog, I learned from watching Rin-Tin-Tin. I was six years old and taught my basenji-fox terrier mix to attack my merciless older brother. “Get him!” Fortunately, the dog just nipped. I don’t think my parents believed my brother who claimed their adorable six-year-old daughter would or could do such a thing. Suffice to say that my brother no longer teased me when Frankie-dog was with me.

When I was nine, my dachshund and I received a blue ribbon at a “family fair dog show” because he sat more quickly than any other dog. It was the beginning of my interest in performance events.

I entered adulthood looking for ways to better connect with my dogs. I showed in conformation classes, and obedience classes, but they were not the best fit for me. I did put champion and obedience titles on two fox terriers, and four obedience titles on my two Siberian huskies, but wanted something different.

When I trained my first therapy dog, Leala, something clicked. Truman Blue is my third certified therapy dog, and my first crisis response dog. I enjoy serving my community by comforting people with my dogs. If feels right.

I also learned the fun of dog tricks, and teaching with all positive reinforcement. I start out by watching my dogs, observing their natural inclinations. Teaching them to watch and listen to me is rewarding for the dog and the human.

Over the years, AKC changed its face from a purebred dog organization to an organization that supports dogs. Truman Blue is an AKC registered All American (AKA mutt), a Labrador-Bloodhound with a dash of pit, boxer and some middle eastern hound. He is an AKC registered PAL.

We have had loads of fun putting AKC titles on him. He is titled SWN THD CGC FDC TKA, and although it is not AKC recognized, certified crisis response dog. He has also acted in a stage drama. Our next title will be CGCU (Canine Good Citizen – Urban). What those titles show is that we have fun together. We have trained a lot, traveled some, taught each other, and comforted each other. (see below for title explanations)

Although I taught tricks to all my dogs as I journeyed around the sun, I really learned about the dog human connection about five years ago, when Truman became part of my family. I read Kyra Sundance’s “101 Dog Tricks” and read several books about dog’s intelligence levels including Stanley Coren’s “How Dogs Think,” “The Intelligence of Dogs,” and “How to Speak Dog, and Gregory Bern’s “How Dogs Love Us.”

I have always loved dogs but over the years working with my dogs, I have learned how much my dogs love me, especially Truman Blue.

How do you determine what tricks or skills to start teaching to your dog? Watch what they love to do and work with it. What would you teach Bear as his first trick?

Truman Blue titles

  • SWN – Scent Work Novice -means he passed three tests in each of four categories
    • Containers
    • Buried
    • Interior
    • Exterior
  • THD – Therapy Dog (AKC) – means he has visited as a comfort therapy dog at least 50 times
  • CGC – Canine Good Citizen – means he has passed a test that shows he is a good dog around other people and dogs
  • FDC – Farm Dog Certification – means he has passed a test that shows he is a good dog around farm complexities
  • TKA – Trick Dog Advanced – means he has passed the novice, intermediate and advanced level tricks with increased difficulty at each level.
  • Certified Therapy Dog – means he has passed a test that shows he is able and willing to comfort people in controlled settings
  • Certified Crisis Response Dog – means he has passed the training and test that shows he can comfort people in chaotic disaster situations.
Rescue dog

Do Rescue Dogs Have Stress Nightmares?

Do dogs have horrible nightmares? How would they know that a nightmare is not real?

Bear had been making steady progress in acclimating to our home, until yesterday.

It started with breakfast. When Bear came to our home 2 months ago, he hated being crated. I believe dogs should not fear being crated because at some point in their lives, they may have a need to be crated for such as an injury that needs confinement to heal. Bear’s meals were in the crate, so he had learned to associate crate time with good things. My other dogs (and cats) rotate turns for naptime in the open crate. Bear still doesn’t choose to nap in the crate, but he is desensitized enough that he now willingly walks in for meals and patiently waits for me to let him out.

Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, he refused to go in the crate for his breakfast. He ducked away and sniffed at the bowl from the outside. When I finally convinced him to go in, he took a bite, then stood at the door to be let out. I sat next to the bowl, and he finally relaxed to eat.

I wondered if he had a nightmare. Did he dream that we did something hurtful to him? We have not, but his behavior indicates that he was traumatized by someone more than once, most likely when he was a stray. He’s terrified and runs outside at “click” sounds, like the ones made by a lighter. Loud noises don’t bother him, except for the pop like a balloon. He comes wagging his tail when I hold up a leash and stands still to be hooked up, but he shrinks backs and runs if I try to take hold of his collar without a leash in my hand.

Uncharacteristically, yesterday Bear spent most of the day in the yard by himself, not coming in until dark. Usually, he follows the other dogs in and out, adhering to their routine. The other three dogs are bonafide house pets (all former rescues). We frequently encouraged him to come in many times with treats, but when treat time was over, he retreated outside.

He is a typical 10-month-old chewer but has learned that anything in the doggie toy box is okay. He usually frequents that box several times a day, hauling several toys from the box to the middle of the living room. Yesterday, he didn’t touch the toys. When I picked up one of his favorites and held it up to, him he turned and ducked away. We have never hurt him when he chewed the wrong thing. A simple showing him the toy and saying “no” and immediately handing him a dog toy, with a “good dog” praise, has taught him which toys are his without trauma.

The only difference between yesterday and the day before that was, what to me, was a calm night. I can only imagine the pupper saw his new home in a dark dream. One of those dreams where your worst fears come true, but regardless, when you awaken and see you are safe, the fear lingers. My heart aches for him. He is such a sweet and normally happy go lucky dog. I am confident that he will eventually trade bad dreams for good. Until then, his mom’s heart hurts when he does.

I know Truman’s calm and comforting nature will help heal Bear’s doggie soul.

A Siamese cat and a black labrador type dog on plush beds under a table.
Bear and Sealy under the “man-table”
Cozy mystery, dogs, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries, Uncategorized

Truman Blue Double Blue Muffins

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.

“Blue” Filling

  • 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.

dogs, old dogs

Homemade Yummy Dog Medicine Ball Treats

I’m not destitute, but I hate to waste money. Even more than that, I hate to shove pills down my dog’s throat twice a day.

Stormy doesn’t like store-bought pill covers unless I put one pill in each cover. That would mean 6 covers a day and at $10 for 30 covers it would cost me $50 a month to purchase them. My homemade pill covers cost about $2.50 a month.

I can put all the pills into one homemade medicine ball and Stormy begs for her furosemide. Stormy is on the right in the photo expectantly waiting for her treat. (Truman Blue in the middle, and old Leala Bear on the left.)

It takes about 20 minutes to make the medicine balls. The size may need to be adjusted for smaller dogs, but Stormy who weighs 65 pounds can easily swallow a 1″ loaded medicine ball without chewing. The trick is to make the biggest ball the dog will swallow whole. Test several sizes until you find the right one.

Dog Medicine Ball Recipe (pill covers)

1 can smelly loaf dog food, mostly meat (I use American Journey Limited Ingredient Lamb Sweet Potato)

1 2/3 cup oat flour (don’t use wheat, but your dog may prefer other types of flour)

1 1/3 cup almond or pumpkin seed flour (start with 1 cup add more if dough is sticky)

Mix all ingredients with a fork in a bowl until smooth. If it is sticky, add more flour until the dough is still pliable but is not sticky.

Roll into about 60, 1” balls (or the size your dog can swallow whole)

Store 5 days worth of balls in a sealed container in the fridge

Freeze the remaining balls (on a flat pan not touching 1 hour, then into a freezer bag for storage)

Thaw enough balls for 5 days at a time.

Important Hints

When you go to put the meds in, flatten the ball, put the meds on the flattened ball, then reform it into a ball. BUT do not touch the outside of the ball with the fingers that handled the meds.

Before you start using loaded medicine balls, It is best to “trick” the dog by teaching him/her how delicious the balls are with ½ balls with no meds. (They love to be tricked like this.)

At each medication, I sacrifice one ball. I divide it in half, and give my two non-medicated dogs each ½ a ball before I give the loaded ball to the dog that needs the meds. (note the three expectant faces in the first photo). Alternatively, you could give your medicated dog an unloaded half before giving the medicated ball


Sadness to Smiles: Job Description for a Crisis Response Dog

Job Description of a Crisis Response Dog

Reports To: Certified Handler, who may feel weepy, overwhelmed, and tired.

Job Overview: Responsible for raising the spirits of people whose lives have been dramatically changed by devastating circumstances, without saying a word.

-Success is Measured By:

  • The number of sad faces turned to smiles
  • The number of hearts warmed for an instant
  • The number of humans provided with a moment of normalcy


  • Approach hundreds of strangers who may be at the lowest points of their lives
  • Offer a warm furry body to provide comfort through the sense of touch
  • Care about humans with every fiber of your body
  • After comforting people you don’t know, comfort your handler


  • Education & Certification
    • Obedience trained (CGC level)
    • Therapy Dog registered
  • Abilities
    • Ability to ignore food left on the floor, even if it smells really good and you are hungry
    • Ability to maintain composure around forklifts, people yelling, crying babies, boxes falling, inclement weather, big trucks revving engines, sirens, airplanes and other chaotic noises
    • Ability to endure hugs around the neck
    • Ability to endure boredom while handler chit-chats with other humans
  • Skills
    • On all types of footing, walk on a leash without pulling
    • Sit when told
    • Down when told
    • Stay when told

Physical Characteristics

  • Be a dog
Truman Blue at a disaster distribution center. Crisis response dog support staff as well as victims.


Can You Still?

It was the first time since COVID. It’s a catch phrase with a new global understanding. It’s a phrase signifying as humans we collectively went through a change in our universe. We all wonder if we can still do “it”, whatever “it” may be.

Saturday, Truman Blue started back doing therapy visits at the hospital. In the past year and a half, he had done two crisis response visits but no regularly scheduled therapy visits. I wondered if he would still enjoy it, or if during COVID seclusion he decided he wanted to be a homebody and prefer the routine of the backyard to the stresses of meeting new people who had expectations.

As a therapy dog handler, I am very conscientious of my dog’s feelings. I don’t want to be the handler who pushes the dog up to someone, only to keep riveting eye contact with my dog as it endures the caresses of a stranger. I have seen therapy dogs who look to their handler with an expression of “can I walk away now?”. In dog language, they inform the petter that they do not want to be perceived as a threat by repeatedly turn their heads and eyes to the side. The dogs yawn to relieve stress. I don’t want my dog to be stressed by doing therapy visits.  

So, I arrived at the hospital branch, apprehensive. I chose a dual-purpose parking space under a shady tree. When Truman got out of the car, his nose went up and he surveyed the area. After using the tree, he headed straight for the door of the building. That was a good sign.

When the activity director opened the door, Truman pulled forward to say hello and to be petted. Truman was on it. He visited patients, obviously enjoying their caresses. He did his tricks flawlessly. He was on it. He drew smiles from folks who weren’t feeling it when we arrived.

Truman still does it.  

A black, gray and tan hound dog with one blue eye next to a mug with abstract sun design.
Cozy mystery, dogs, Truman Blue Mysteries

Truman Blue as a Work of Art.

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.

Mug by Helene Fielder, Bumblebeepottery.com

Cozy mystery, dogs, Labrador Retriever, Margie Vonn, Mixed breed, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Truman Blue Mystery Book 2 Launching Soon

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.”