Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: Dog at the Door (golden retriever, pups, girl, boy, veterinarian parents, mystery)

Dog at the Door, by Ben Baglio (Scholastic, 2002, 152 pages, grades 2-5, ages 7 and up) number 25 in the Animal Ark series of 45

An Unsettling Setting – A Mystery?

Mandy lives with her mom, Dr. Emily, and dad, Dr. Adam, in a house connected to a veterinary clinic, the Animal Ark. A dog appears at their front door (on Halloween night, to boot) and appears very pregnant. Where did she come from? Why did she come here, to their door? Where is her owner?

The Plots

Now we have two possible plots: solve the mystery to find the dog’s owner before the impending “birth day” or help the dog give birth soon - but when - if she will let Mandy and her parents, the vets, help.

Getting ready for the imminent births takes most of the twists and turns of the plot, leaving the solution of the mystery to be revealed rather quickly after the pups have arrived. Along the way, a hint is discovered when the dog shows an interest in eggs and the backyard chickens (no spoiler here!).

Lights! Action! Camera!

The action is fast-paced: in a matter of only a few days, the golden retriever drop-in canine visitor becomes a new, first-time mom who learns her maternal role slowly, thus serving as a lesson in life to Mandy and her best friend, Charles, a year younger neighbor with a dog of his own (whose story was also written by author Ben Baglio).

Both youngsters are likable and realistic yet adult-like (as is usually the case in books for children).

Your youngster will love and learn and want to read the other titles in the Animal Ark series, at least the ones with dogs on the cover! (Some have cat covers.)

Note to parents: one pup is stillborn and another, weak enough to require hand-feeding around the clock, doesn’t make it even after an apparent rally. However, both situations are handled with love and understanding care. The mother pup does finally accept her pups and learns to love and care for them.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: Remembering Vera (pup, Coast Guard, mascot, California)

Remembering Vera, by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster, 2017, 32 pages, $17.99, grades K-3, ages 4-8)

Although the large book size and the full-page illustrations lead one to believe that even beginning readers can read this book, DogEvals feels it needs to be read to young children due to the advanced vocabulary and the sheer number of words per page.

Now that we have that out of the way, Remembering Vera tells the true story of a stray puppy who grew up to save a shipload of humans, not once but twice!

At first having to live on a Coast Guard base in California surreptitiously, after the first heroic deed, the base commander confiscated Vera for his own, and made her an official mascot to spoil with steaks and vacations.

By coincidence, author Patricia Polacco met Vera in 1962 and also five years later at the Oakland SPCA and by a stroke of luck managed to find Vera’s final resting place on base 46 years later.

Vera, what an inspiring pup you were!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Book Review: No (children's picture book)

No, by Claudia Rueda (Groundwood, 2010, 40 pages, $18.95, 2-5 years, pre-school to kindergarten)

Oh, my, now I have four most favorite books to read to my dog. Yes, you heard right – to read to my dog. (But I listen, too.)


No? What kind of a title is that?

The cover gives us a little bear against a snowy sky. Inside, the little bear follows his mama bear. It is fall and Mama is ready to take a long winter’s nap, but little bear is not! Definitely not!

Little bear wants to play. He has some berries stored away and is very strong and loves snow and thinks storms are fun. Until. . . . and when he returns to their den, his words to Mama are priceless (and I’ll be your child will act the same way!)

Another lovely book of few words: the pictures do most of the talking - all 125 of them. But the words may not be needed because the illustrations tell the story.

We simply love this little story!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Book Review: Service Dog Coaching

Service Dog Coaching: A Guide for Pet Dog Trainers, by Veronica Sanchez of Cooperative Paws Service Dog Education (Dogwise, 2019,104 pages, $19.95)

Author Veronica Sanchez reminds me of a professor I had for Plant Genetics in graduate school: every sentence she writes is worthy of being highlighted! Perhaps it is her background in education that is revealed in her calm, positive-reinforcement nature and in the precise and natural organization of Service Dog Coaching.

Sanchez is the go-to person for pet dog trainers who want to become service dog trainers; she created the Service Dog Education program and has presented on the subject for APDT, lAABC, and PPG* as well as for Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Is April too Early to Select the Book of the Year for 2019?

About 10 years ago, the ‘sexy’ topic in dog behavior and training was aggression, followed in time by puppyhood, tricks and genetics, and now service dogs (with therapy dogs and emotional support dogs), perhaps as a result of the increasing need of veterans.

In more than 15 years of reviewing (mostly) dog books, only three times has DogEvals suggested a title be nominated for the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) annual writing competition: Puppy Culture (and all the wonderful Puppy Culture products) which won in 2015, The Teaching Dog (a finalist in 2018) and now, Service Dog Coaching.

From Start to Finish, The Steps

Sanchez compares and contrasts the owner-trained, trainer-coached service dog process to obtaining an SD from an organization (for-profit or non-profit) in terms of cost and time to train (some tasks can’t be hurried), waiting lists, tasks required, etc. She even includes a (two-year) training plan.

All in one easy-to-read book.

Written with the experienced dog trainer in mind, this coaching book is for trainers who use positive reinforcement for the strongest partnership bond and most reliable results. Sanchez includes the reasons for the trainer to fully understand the handler’s condition, and to know local, state, and federal laws, as well as contracts and other paperwork needed.

It is the rare dog, indeed, who has what it takes to become an SD but there are many varied ways in which a dog can assist people with different requirements. However, an SD is not the right solution for everyone. What does one look for in a prospective SD and what if the dog turns out to be “not a good candidate” for public access, for example? Chapter 6 can help.

Public Access

Basically a dog is socialized as a puppy (and the socialization is maintained), passes basic training courses and perhaps the CGC** levels, and is then trained in specific SD tasks and public access (perhaps the most challenging part) as part of a team – all in about a two-year period. Finally, this training is reviewed and maintained as often as needed to keep the team sharp and working in unison.

Generally an SD may be taught targeting, retrieving/fetching,

Ready to go Shopping

Pulling Open the Fridge
and dropping (releasing), and alerting and responding behaviors. Author Sanchez provides very detailed steps for teaching these skills.

Part of a Team, A Partnership
Perfect Partnership
The person and SD trainer are a team: therefore, the trainer must have extensive knowledge of the person’s condition and must work with the other members of the team – from medical personnel to family to employer.

Sanchez has written a delightfully inspiring yet detailed book about the rewarding process of coaching an owner-trainer and their service dog. If such training is not right for you right now, Service Dog Coaching will be ready when you are. In the meantime, reading it will make you a more well-rounded dog trainer – and a better person!

*The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, the Pet Professional Guild
**The AKC’s CGC: American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen levels

That's All, Folks!