Save a Pet On Give To Lincoln Day



Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is looking forward to the annual city-wide event; Give to Lincoln Day. This day-long interactive fundraiser is a quick and easy way to support amazing local causes like LAA’s pet food bank and low-cost spay/neuter program. Your donation has a direct impact on the number of homeless animals in our area and beyond!

From 12am to 11:59pm on Thursday, May 26th, make your tax deductible donation to LAA online at givetolincoln. or in-person during regular business hours at the Lincoln Community Foundation, 215 Centennial Mall South. All funds raised for LAA on Give to Lincoln Day are eligible for a proportional share of a $300,000 match pool from the Lincoln Community Foundation.

With all the press around Give to Lincoln Day, we know that it will be hard to miss the event: but if you are worried—just follow LAA on Facebook! We’ll keep you in the know on Give to Lincoln Day and all our upcoming fundraisers.

This May 26th, we hope you will join us in addressing the root causes of animal homelessness in our area. Whether it’s to provide food and supplies for companion animals in need, or to combat overpopulation through spaying and neutering, even the smallest donation makes a difference in the life of an animal.


Guest Post: Obedience, friend or foe?

By Marcy Stewart

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Start your puppy off right.  Training should begin in puppyhood and will always be something you do throughout the dog’s life. Here are some tips for creating obedience as a lifelong habit:

  • Start with a good kindergarten puppy class that is aimed at teaching your puppy to learn from you. Make sure the class teaches the basic commands, such as loose leash walking, sit, leave it and come to name a few.  
  • A puppy play group can be used along with a puppy kindergarten class, but not as the sole means for socialization and training.   
  • As the pup moves from young puppyhood into adolescence (around 8 months of age), your young dog may have a working knowledge of basic commands and your expectations. The dog will need consistent rules and eventually an understanding of the consequences to breaking those rules. This does not mean you become ugly, or angry. It means you remain firm, and consistent. There will be times when the young dog will need reminding of how to act in a particular situation. Take this opportunity to remind the dog that what they are doing is unacceptable.  But don’t get caught reacting to unwanted behaviors. Instead, teach the dog what you want him to do and build on your successes.
  • Timing is key, you need to immediately respond to the inappropriate behavior to be able to show the dog, nope that is not what you should do, but do this instead.   

Continue obedience training throughout his life. Incorporate training activities in your daily routine: waits at doorways, gets in the car when invited, feed them after they sit, comes when called etc. Once the basics are mastered teach them new advanced commands to stimulate his mind. Dogs have to do in 18-22 months what it takes human beings 18-20 years to do: they have to grow up. A human child’s education begins at an early age, and they may attend school for 13 years and many continue their education for another 4 plus years in college or trade school.  Even as adults we may need additional training on new tasks that come up at work, getting a new phone, etc. Let’s create those opportunities for our dogs as well. One 6-week-obedience course or a few private lessons aren’t going to fix everything; although, it will lay down a great foundation. We will not be able to introduce all of life’s challenges or experiences in one 6 week course.  You must continue using what you have learned and strive to learn more. Give your dog the opportunity to succeed and teach him right from wrong.

Dogs do not learn about us by watching other dogs.  They do not learn through osmosis or some other form of divine intervention.  Dogs do not know how to act unless they are taught what is right or wrong. The moment the pup is born it is being trained or taught by their mother about how to be a dog, but the training necessary to life in a household with us must come from us.  The question is then, who should train a dog?  Simple answer, everyone that owns a dog should train their dog.  Each dog you own has their own personality and will not be the same dog as you had as a child or your last dog, the dog that just seemed to know what was right or wrong.  Suffice to say someone had to show the dog what was right and wrong or provided that training.  

Training is a joy for the dog and their owners.  It is a language you create between the two of you.  The language you are creating is one of cooperation, consistency, reward and praise.  Nothing about training a dog should be dominant or prohibitive.  We are showing them the way to a more successful life like we show our children the way to adulthood.   

Since we want the best for our dogs we should take the time to find a qualified instructor who can show us the best way to start bridging the language barrier between us and our dog.  We would want to make sure the trainer we choose demonstrates with their dog what we want our dog to look like or be able to demonstrate.  If the trainer’s dog does not sit when told the first time we should ask ourselves how effective of a trainer are they? Also take the time to monitor classes they offer and watch them interact with other people and their dog.  Get and call references of people they have worked with before.  Take the time to find the right trainer and training method that is right for you and your dog.  The dog will only succeed if you give them the right opportunities.   

Training a dog increases the bond we have with them by earning the dog’s respect.  The dog sees us as their leader if they have respect for us which is different than the dog having love or affection for us. Love and respect is a part of our relationship with our dog but love is different than respect.  Love is not earned but giving to us freely.  Respect must be earned. Our dogs will love us even though we do not have their respect.  A dog and their owner have love by their personal attachment to each other.  

Respect, on the other hand, is earned by teaching the puppy/ young dog self control and we are their leader.  Dogs live by a social structure of rank or hierarchy.  Our dogs need a clear leader and social hierarchy. The basic principle of the game follow the leader is a great example of how dogs live.  If the dog leads and you follow they are in the leadership role. If we do not take the role of the leader they will become unruly, ill-mannered dogs.  Gaining the leadership role should be carried out in a consistent non bullying way.  The leader should be silent, confident and in control.  Gaining a dog’s trust and respect requires rules and compliance with basic training commands, such as sit, down, stay, come. The dog will grant you only the respect you have earned so if you are in the follower role there will be no respect given to you.   Dogs should earn everything he gets, if we give in to every whim of the dog they will never learn to respect us and will become bossy.

We are not voted the leader for life, you earn the respect daily.  If you are lax in your leadership role the dog will easily climb right into the role and downgrade his respect for you.  This is a daily dialogue you will have with your dog.  The way you react to this dialogue will help shape your relationship with your dog.  Demonstrate the leadership role with your dog often and in every place you can think of and possible locations.  Act like a leader, earn the respect your dog desires.    

Basic obedience training is the most important aspect of raising a dog; they are happier and require fewer restrictions.  By training our dogs we are allowing them more freedom.  Freedom for dogs directly corresponds with their ability to exist harmoniously in the human environment Training a dog ensures a reliable dog that you are able to trust to be well mannered in a variety of situations.  They will respect your belongings and not tear up shoes, counter surf, potty in the house, etc.  They can be more reliable around children, tolerate people and other dogs, and walk without dragging their owner down the street.  Dogs given these tools based on basic obedience will be able to go with their owners on errands, trips, etc.  A dog without these tools may experience stress in these situations.  

Training your dog basic commands may very well save your dog’s life.  If your dog gets out of the yard they can easily be called back to you by using the basic ‘come’ command and avoid tragedy.  If the dog is untrustworthy and reactive around children biting of the children will occur and may result of the dog being put down. The #1 reason dogs get abandoned at shelters or turned in to rescue is due to a lack of training, and the behavior problems that result

Training a dog is a necessary step to owning a companion dog and takes time and patience.  There are many debates about the best method or approach, although I won’t get into that here. Suffice to say that one important aspect of training dogs is to be consistent.  Training that starts in puppyhood should be direct, simple, and fun with lots of rewards and praise. As the dog matures, we begin to ask a bit more from the dog in terms of impulse control and prompt responses to learned commands. This doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable, but our dogs benefit when we make clear distinctions of our expectations of our rules, as well as giving the dog a clear understanding of what will happen if they break a rule.  We cannot change what our rules are to suit our mood.  Negative emotions like anger or frustration should never come into play when training, always be calm and positive.  Never, ever train your dog when you are angry.

Clear and consistent rules will make training successful.  How can you be clear and consistent, by only saying the command once.  As the dog is learning the command we have to help them know what the command means so this is when we are teaching the behavior.  While we are teaching there should be no negative corrections at this point we should be guiding the dog.  Once the dog knows the command ‘sit’ if the dog does not sit the first time it is told to sit a correction needs to be made immediately.  By doing this you are being consistent and tells the dog your expectation of the command.  If you chant the command you are only undermining your training and leadership and giving the dog a confusing message.

It is a feature of their personality that dogs don’t generalize well. So training and teaching will have to occur in varied locations. Training our dogs should take place everywhere and anywhere.  We should look for opportunities to train.  A dog needs to learn to deal with unexpected as well as expected stimuli.  Since dogs do not generalize very well our biggest mistake as owners is when we do not teach our dog that they can listen to our commands in the presence of challenging distractions.  

When our dog barks or lunges at a person riding by on a bike this is a learning opportunity.  We just learned that this distraction is a challenge for this dog.  Once we see this behavior in our dog we need to teach our dog that he can endure the stress or challenge by backing the dog up and reducing the stress on the dog.   As we teach the dog that he can withstand the challenge at a distance from the distraction we slowly close the distance between the distraction and our dog.  Our goal is to eventually have our dog be able to walk calmly next to the distraction without them reacting to the distraction.  By teaching that the dog can withstand a challenge by following our lead we are teaching them life skills to help them become well adjusted dogs.  There are so many things a dog will come in contact during his lifetime, a person in a wheelchair, children running, elevators, automatic doors, these are just a few of the distractions or challenges that become training opportunities.  As we approach these new environments with our dog we take the time to show the dog how to respond to our commands in the presence of new things.  This is a continuous conversation we have with our dogs, the opportunities are endless.  

So why train a dog? Because training a dog to be a responsible, trustworthy member of the family is the first and best means to empty out shelters, and take active, positive progressive steps to make sure they don’t fill up again.

Giving Tuesday is an extra special day for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors!

This year, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has a lot of things to be thankful for!

Our biggest news: We have officially completed 2,000 spay/neuter procedures! This is a remarkable feat for our group – and we have a lot of people to thank for helping us get this far! Our programs are only possible because we have a team of dedicated volunteers and a community of supporters. But we can’t stop now – it has never been more important to spread the message: The most effective way to reduce the number of homeless animals in our community is to encourage everyone to spay/neuter their pets.

In recognition of this milestone, one of our supporters has generously agreed to match all #givingtuesday donations, up to $500 dollars – dollar for dollar. This is your chance to Double Your Donation!

All you have to do is donate from our website at: anytime between now and 12:01 AM on December 2nd.

You can also mail your #givingtuesday donation to:

Lincoln Animal Ambassadors
P.O. Box 67072
Lincoln, NE 68506.

You may be able to make your donation go even further – Many companies are taking advantage of the spirit of the holidays and the #givingtuesday campaign and have some kind of donation matching program. Just ask your HR department if they have a matching program for charitable donations.

We are a registered 501(c)3, so all donations are tax deductible.

Have you heard of #givingtuesday?

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.

Keeping Pets Safe during Firework Season


Whether you are hosting your own fireworks display this weekend or just sitting back to enjoy a show, your pet likely does not share your enthusiasm for all the festivities. All the noise created from 4th of July celebrations can have a traumatic effect on your pet and can potentially lead to a dangerous situation. More pets are lost over the 4th of July holiday than any other time of year. Don’t let your pet become a statistic. Keep them safe by following these simple steps.
  • Give your pet the opportunity to exercise early in the day before the fireworks start.
  • Keep your pet inside and don’t forget to close your doors and windows. A frightened dog could bolt through a screen door or could easily push out the screen on a window.
  • Designate a comfortable area, possibly in an interior room of your home, for your pet to escape the noise. Play music or turn on a TV to help drown out the fireworks.
  • Check your fence for any openings or loose boards your pet could slip through.
  • Do not let pets outside unless on a leash or within an securely fenced yard. Even within a fence it may be best to keep a pet on a leash as a scared dog may leap over a fence.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with current identification tags to help reunite you and your pet in case they do get lost. Consider microchipping your pet for more permanent identification.

Purify Indoor Air with Pet Friendly Plants

Alexandra Hart

Spring time, often synonymous with deep cleaning the house, is the season we can let the outdoor breeze circulate our indoor living spaces.  The air feels fresh, clean, and pure.  We have the luxury of turning off the heat without having to run the air conditioning.  Unfortunately, even with that added fresh air flow, we are still constantly battling indoor toxins that can have serious effects on the way we feel.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency the average American spends 90 percent of their lives indoors.  Between work, home and other various establishments, indoor air is what we breathe in the most.  On the one hand, our indoor spaces protect us from the outdoor elements, allowing us to eat, sleep, and work comfortably no matter what the season.  However this protection also traps in endless amounts of dangerous chemicals, making indoor air five to ten times more polluted than the exterior.

Formaldehyde: Found in carpets, draperies, upholstery, glues, paint, stains etc.

Benzene: Found in plastics, synthetic fibers, tobacco smoke, pesticides, etc.

Trichloroethylene: Found in paint removers, rug cleaning solution, adhesives, etc.

Xylene and Toluene: Found in computer screens, printers, stains, varnishes etc.

The good news is plants help to clean up our indoor environments.  Better yet, some plants have been identified as improving indoor air quality better than others.  In 1989, NASA began to study the affect plants have on air quality. After exposing plants to high levels of chemicals, it was found that certain houseplants were able to remove 87 percent of these air borne toxins within a 24 hour period. NASA recommends at least one plant per 100 square feet of interior space.

Plants can help to create a healthy living space for you, your family and your pets.  In addition to purifying the air, they have a tendency to complete a room, bringing in an added sense of elegance while making it appear more lavish. They make wonderful gifts and research shows that plants can improve mood, health, and sleep cycles.  However those who have pets beware.  Only a few of the top air purifying plants are safe for animals, and those with animals know how tempting a leafy green plant can be for Mr. Chewy.  If you do choose to keep any of the more toxic plants in your home, make certain they are out of reach of your furry friends.

For more information:


The following is a list of the top purifying house plants which ARE safe for cats and dogs:

  • Bamboo Palm:  The Bamboo palm also referred to as the Lucky Palm is at the top of the list for filtering out benzene and trichloroethylene. The palm thrives in well-lit areas but will also grow in low lighting conditions making it very easy to maintain and care for.
  • Lady Palm: Tall and dramatic, the lady palm is great for filtering out formaldehyde and ammonia.  It strives in bright, indirect sunlight and will grow easily creating beautiful fan like leaf structures.
  • Spider Plant:  One of the first plants studied for its ability to rid harsh chemicals from indoor air, the spider plant removes formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.  This easy to grow house plant can tolerate a wide range of temperatures making it very popular to cultivate.
  • Boston Fern:  The beautiful Boston fern is great for filling in indoor space with its lush and full bodied branches.  Caring for this plant does require specific attention to humidity levels, but it can be easily maintained with proper watering and misting.  The house plant helps remove formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.
  • Phalaenopsis Orchids: Also known as the moth orchid, this stunning flowering plant adds vibrant color to any space while removing dangerous toxins such as xylene and toluene from the air.  Requiring a bright location and weekly watering, this plant is very easy to care for and will provide months of longevity.   
  • Gerbera Daisy: Having trouble sleeping?  Place a pot of the beautiful colored flowers next to your bed.  Increasing Oxygen in your sleep space helps people get better rest. Because the flowers are unlike most other plants and absorb toxins as they release oxygen at night, versus the normal daytime cycle, they have been said to provide relief to people who experience sleeping disorders.
  • Dwarf Date Palm: One of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, the dwarf date palm will remove high amounts of formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. Fill your brightest rooms with the trees as they thrive in well-lit environments.  The palm trees make excellent indoor plants and are very easy to maintain.
  • Lily Turf:  Often used in outdoor landscaping, the lily turf can also be grown indoors.  Helpful in removing excess ammonia from the air, the lily turf plant produces fragrant blooms and can do well in almost any amount of light. It grows best in loose, rich soil and once established is a sturdy plant resistant to drought.




Afraid? Of Dogs?

Charli Saltzman

I had an interesting experience walking with Joba to the mailroom. It was a very warm day, the warmest it had been that month. As Joba and I neared the room, a small child began to scream. I didn’t know if she was right in front of the mail room or beside it, but all of the sudden, her mother began asking me to “get away” because her daughter was afraid of my dog. She kept saying: “Get away! Get away!” Unsure of what to do, I stepped aside into the grass to try and get out of their way. I had no desire to cause some sort of scene, so I waited there a few seconds. When it seemed like mother and daughter were gone, I went into the mail room.

The fear of dogs is not uncommon. Many children and even adults fear dogs. So, as a blind individual who uses a guide dog on a daily basis, what can I do to prevent terrifying those with dog phobias? I mean, I can’t just avoid walking. I have a right to be out and about just as much as they do, but what can I do. First of all, if possible, I can educate them. Unfortunately for this mother and little girl, I couldn’t stop her to talk to her about how friendly and gentle Joba is. The thought of someone being afraid of such a sweet and affectionate teddy bear is shocking. And, if I would have had the opportunity, I would have taken his harness off and let both mother and daughter pet him. Of course, I’m not a psychologist that knows how to handle phobias. I only have minimal information on the topic and only a small amount of behavioral knowledge. And, with the mother freaking out at me, there wasn’t much I could do but step aside. If someone with a fear of dogs is able and willing to listen, I would be happy to talk to them about guide dogs. However, what I do know is that people with an intense fear of dogs will most likely want to run in the other direction. So, if I get the chance, I will educate them about guide dogs. If not, I will understand where they are coming from.

Okay, let’s be honest. I don’t understand why anyone would be afraid of a dog, but that’s only because I adore dogs. However, after taking an intercultural communication class, I have a better understanding for those from other countries who despise dogs. First of all, in countries such as Burma, Africa, and Iraq, dogs are wild, known as feral canines. These dogs are not domesticated and will bark at people or even attack. This is one reason why we shouldn’t go around saying that everyone from the Middle East hates dogs. But, it makes sense for those who live in Iraq to be disgusted by them because those wild dogs are probably mangy mutts that are not friendly. Of course, fearing dogs does not only have to do with culture.

When I see someone who is afraid of dogs, I always ask myself, were they attacked by a dog? Some adults who fear dogs today were attacked or bitten by dogs as a child. Considering this possibility helps me see things from a different point of view. I’ve been bitten by a dog before, and let me tell you, it hurts. I’ve also been scratched in the eye by an overly hyper dog that never stopped spinning around in circles. Didn’t feel good either. Because I had established my love of dogs before that, those incidents didn’t really traumatize me. However, for someone whose first experience with a dog was a bad one, then yes, it makes sense for them to be afraid. While many are afraid of dogs, some of these people who have been afraid of dogs actually become very good guide dog owners.

Yes, it’s true. There are guide dog owners who were terrified of dogs. Why they decided to get a dog at that point, I don’t quite understand. Maybe they felt they needed it. Either way, it did take some work to get these people used to their new dogs. Instructors told us about people who would panic because the dog licked them or even breathed on them. But with training, these folks were able to bond with their new dogs. This shows that the fear of dogs can be overcome. I’d love to be a part in helping someone overcome their fear of dogs and realize the companionship and unconditional love a well-adjusted and well-behaved dog can bring to a person and a family.



2015 Cruelty-Free Must Haves

Alexandra Hart

Many years ago the term animal testing was brought to my attention. My first thought of a test being done on an animal was simply a furry creature being washed with shampoo to see how soft it turned out. I don’t remember giving it much thought, but I vaguely recollect thinking something along those lines. When I was introduced to the harsh reality of animal testing, I immediately decided to make a lifestyle change and vowed to discontinue any behavior that could possibly be threatening to the lives of animals. This meant finding new options.

The first step I took was to check out all of my favorite personal care products. To my surprise nearly every brand in my bathroom cabinet DID use animal testing. At first the thought of wiping out each one seemed daunting. But after a little research I slowly replaced every item. Now when I look at the mindfully selected merchandise which has taken each ones place, I feel a true sense of satisfaction. I made sensible purchases, products that had been thoroughly checked into, and as a bonus, it steered me away from needless impulse buying.

Many companies are making intelligent choices also, for instance, deciding to use new approaches when it comes to product safety. Countless alternatives, including predictive strategies are being utilized to develop new animal friendly cosmetics and personal care goods. Buyers are demanding cruelty free products and companies are taking notice. These brands are becoming more and more available in department stores, boutiques, grocery stores and drug stores making it easier than ever before to by cruelty free.

The best way to be certain that the product you are buying was not tested on animals, is to look for the leaping bunny symbol. The leaping bunny is the global, cruelty free standard used to provide assurance that the company you are buying from does not use animal testing. The easiest place to find products with the leaping bunny are at organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods, however just because a product does not have the leaping bunny does not mean that it doesn’t fit the bill. Animal friendly brands can be found easily, it just takes a little knowledge and a dedication to the well-being of animals.

Voting with your dollar will continue to aid in the evolution of humane product development. Perhaps someday very soon the United States will follow in the footsteps of The European Union, Norway, Israel and India by banning cosmetics tested on animals. Our personal choices will have a large impact on this type of legislation and continue to shape the industry as we know it.

Here are a few of my favorite products which come from certified ‘no animal testing’ brands.

  1. TAN TOWEL BRAND Tan Towels:  With more than one million people being diagnosed with some form of skin cancer each year, a great sunless tanner is essential.  These single use towels are fantastic for giving you a natural streak free tan instantly.  Pick up a single tan towel or a pack of 10 at your local Sephora or Beauty First stores.
  2. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo:  Using tea tree, peppermint and lavender extracts the Tea Tree Special Shampoo and Conditioner not only invigorate the senses but are great for dry and flakey scalp. Aside from creating great products, Paul Mitchell has paved the way for the cruelty free industry becoming the first company to publicly oppose animal testing in 1989.
  3. NYX COSMETICS BB Cream:  One of the most popular new trends in the cosmetic industry, BB creams are a skin care and cosmetic hybrid wrapped into one. The result is smoother and brighter skin as it moisturizes and provides coverage simultaneously.  The NYX brand is a professional makeup at a reasonable price and can be found at your local Ulta beauty store.
  4.  THE HONEST COMPANY Toothpaste:  The Honest Company, known for their non-toxic sustainable products is committed to putting corporate social responsibility at their forefront.   Along with numerous other natural personal care products, their toothpaste brightens, fights plaque, and builds tooth enamel without the added questionable chemicals.
  5. TRADER JOE’S BRAND Laundry Detergent:  Getting rave reviews time and time again, the Trader Joes brand laundry detergent is effective and cost efficient.  With the cost being about $8 for a gallon container and customer reviews proving that it is excellent in removing tough stains and keeping colors bright, Trader Joes laundry detergent takes the cake for animal friendly natural detergents.
  6. THE BODY SHOP Olive Shower Gel:  A Body Shop best seller, the lather rich Olive shower gel has a light clean scent which moisturizes as it cleanses.  The brand, often recognized for their delightful scents and their animal friendly approach, continues to work with Cruelty Free International in support of a global ban on animal testing in cosmetics.
  7. Avalon Organics Vitamin C Vitality Facial Serum:  According to the Dr. Oz show, applying vitamin C topically can be 20% more effective than taking it orally and helps to combat and reverse signs of aging.  The Avalon Organics treatment serum helps to reactivate cellular renewal and targets sagging, lines and hyperpigmentation.  This serum contains Vitamin C along with the important active ingredients recommended by the nation’s top plastic surgeons to drop a decade off your face without surgical procedures.
  8. JASON Apricot Scrubble Facial Wash:  Scrub away impurities and brighten skin with this gentle apricot exfoliator.  Mild enough to use daily, this cleanser will wash away dead skin and leave skin soft and glowing.  JASON, a name which means healer in Greek, stays true to a strict code of honor.  This includes using safe, gentle and effective ingredients which are never tested on animals.
  9. Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Hand Soap:  Coming in a plethora of unique scents from Geranium to Basil, Mrs. Meyers hand soap, can  be found at most Targets and is made of natural ingredients and essential oils. This earth friendly brand provides cleaning products as well as hand and body soaps which are all cruelty free and not tested on animals.


Dogs in Hotel Rooms

Charli Saltzman

Wow, my mind must really be on summer. I guess it’s because of this lovely warm weather. Anyway, now that I’ve talked a little bit about family vacations, I remember I had mentioned leaving my guide dogs behind sometimes because the environment might not be a good place for them. I think this might be one misconception. People believe that guide dogs go everywhere with the owner, but this isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to things like the waterpark or swimming. So, when I go on vacation, I have left my dog in the hotel room.

Sometimes I wonder, is my dog safe in a hotel room by himself? You hear all the time about stolen dogs. On a Seeing Eye graduates email list, one of the topics we have been discussing is dog theft. People are stealing dogs for dog breeding or fighting. No matter what it is, these thieves are only out for the money. I guess I’m a little paranoid about that sort of thing and always very protective of my dogs. It is true that these things happen all the time. However, I’ve never ran into any trouble. Another concern I have is, will it stress my dog out too much if I leave him in a new place all by himself?

Maybe a few of you have dogs that become very anxious when you leave them. One way you can tell if a dog is anxious is if, when you get home, and the things in your house are destroyed. I worried about this with my dogs in a new place. I wondered if they would destroy things in the room, if they would bother the housekeeping staff if they came in, or how they would react when they realized they would be there for a while. Thankfully, I have always had laid-back dogs. I believe, when I let Errol loose in the room by himself, he was fine and didn’t do anything. However, when I left Joba by himself, I turned on my music at a soft volume and kept him in his crate. In fact, if you ever take your dogs on vacation with you, this is what I would recommend. Bring some sort of crate along. Here are some reasons why you might want to bring a kennel or something to contain your dog while you are away.

First, as I mentioned before, dogs can have separation anxiety. If you are in a hotel room, you don’t want to leave your dog alone if you know he or she will not be okay. The last thing you want is for your dog to rip up the hotel room. Keeping your dog in a kennel can prevent some of this. One reason is because, if you bring a familiar item such as your dog’s favorite bed or crate, your dog will automatically feel more at home and less anxious. Also, another thing to consider when leaving your dog in a hotel room is how your dog reacts to strangers.

If you have a dog who is overly friendly with strangers, this could possibly get on the nerves of housekeeping staff that may not like dogs. This is when a crate is recommended. Also, if you have a dog who is aggressive towards house guests, requiring you to put him or her somewhere else in order to keep from someone getting bit, a crate is required. I unfortunately didn’t have a crate when I had Errol, but if I would have, I would have kept him in their when we were gone. Honestly, for your dog’s safety and the safety of everyone else, crating your dog is crucial when leaving him or her behind in a new area. Even if you think you know your dog very well, you shouldn’t take that chance.

It’s fun to be able to take your furry friend with you on vacations. After all, they are a part of our family. Just keep these safety tips in mind next time you go on a trip and decide to take that precious bundle of joy with you. Most of all, whatever you do, have fun.


Family Vacations

Charli Saltzman

Summer is fabulous. It’s a time for swimming, sports, walking in the late evening, and sitting outside on the porch listening to the night insects and crickets as they sing their good night songs. And, summer is also a wonderful time to go on a family vacation. My family and I love going on vacations together, and one of our favorite places to go is Branson, Missouri. If we cannot think of anywhere else to go, we all agree that Branson has the things we love. These things usually include go-carts, fun Southern Gospel Shows, and one of the best water parks to attend. Because my family and I have gone to Branson for many years, both Errol and Joba have had the privilege of attending family vacations with me. Now I will remind you that I never had both dogs on a trip at the same time. Errol was gone before I got Joba. I just wanted to clarify that so as you are reading this, you do not get confused and think I was using two guide dogs at the same time. Even though my guide dogs are strictly my dogs, we all consider them a member of the family. Taking this into consideration, my dogs usually go everywhere with us. However, they usually do not go to the waterpark, mostly because I wouldn’t have a place to leave either of them. One of us would have had to stay with my guide dog, and that just takes away from the family part of it. We wouldn’t be able to go all together on the huge family slide that is our Branson tradition. I don’t think my dogs would have been too happy riding those slides. Actually, I’m not even sure they would forgive me, and dogs are very forgiving. Anyway, aside from the waterpark, both dogs have gone everywhere else with us, and they have enjoyed it. I feel that having my guide dog with me on vacation can allow me to walk independently, following my family through bustling shops, sidewalks, and theaters. Being able to have them with me is a privilege.

Another one of our favorite things to do is go to a little ice cream shop to eat huge, delicious chocolate ice cream cones. One night, Dad had given me and my sister ice cream cones, and Mom and Dad went in to get something. So, it was just me, my sister, and Errol. Errol, of course, was looking up at me with puppy eyes because he wanted ice cream. Just then, an older couple approached us, and we began a conversation about my dog. Well, I wasn’t paying attention, and my ice cream was melting everywhere because, for one thing, we were sitting outside in the warm, evening summer air. Needless to say, when we finally finished talking about how wonderful labs are, my mom and dad came outside, looked at me, and laughed. I had ice cream covering my lips and nose, and it was continuing to drip down. To this day, I claim it is not my fault. I was distracted.

One thing I always seem to notice is the wonderful way both of my dogs worked so well in unfamiliar territories. They would always pay attention, assisting me in getting from point a to point b. Not only were they fabulous travelers, but both of them did really well in the long car ride. Of course, we would have to stop so my guide dog could relieve himself and walk around a bit, but they usually slept most of the trip. One particular time, we were heading to Pennsylvania for my cousin’s wedding. We had the idea to let Errol have one of his toys to chew on. This toy was a rubber ball. We had Errol in the way back on his bed, so I threw the ball back there for him. Later, when we looked, half of the ball was gone. The next few days while we were in Pennsylvania, Errol threw up that ball. It wasn’t very pleasant. So, note to self, don’t let your guide dog chew nonstop on a rubber ball. Unpleasant consequences will most likely occur.

But what about Joba? Did we have any funny moments with him? So far, there are not any that come to mind. However, the first summer I had him home, we traveled back to Pennsylvania to see my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Joba was still a new dog, so I was worried that the trip might stress him out. We had a wonderful bond, but our partnership was not as strong then as it is now. This is basically because a partnership like this can take a long time to completely develop. I was thinking about this as we were getting ready to go, but like Errol, he was very good at traveling. After spending a few days with my aunt and uncle, we went to New Jersey to spend a couple days on the beach of Ocean City. Now this was a new experience. The last time I had been at the ocean was when I was 15, and I didn’t have my dog yet. I wondered if Joba would like the beach. This is one of the best memories I have, walking through the sand, Joba sort of hopping along, trying to figure out how to guide me. Once in a while, we could hear a slight, vocal protest coming from Joba. You must know that Joba does not like to get his feet dirty. However, when we went back the next day, Joba seemed excited to be on the beach. The only downside to having him there was that our whole family couldn’t go into the water together because I couldn’t just leave Joba alone. Usually when we go to the ocean, we all go out into the water and jump the waves. As we heard the wave come crashing in, we would prepare ourselves and then jump as it flooded over our feet and began to rise above our heads depending on the size of the wave, lifting our heads so as not to get sand and salt water in our eyes and mouth. Don’t know if you’ve ever tasted ocean salt water, but it’s not very pleasant to swallow. Anyway, because we had the dog, we couldn’t all go out together. Sometimes, two of us would go out into the water, and the other two would stay with the dog. Either way, we had fun, and Joba enjoyed basking in the sun. I’m not sure what he would have done in the water, but I guess I’m not really familiar enough with the ocean to bring him out in the water with us. We weren’t always out there very deep, but Joba, even though he is supposed to be a water dog, hates water.

As my sister and I get older and both of us are either beginning careers or finishing school, it is becoming harder to plan these fun family vacations. I sure hope we will be able to travel somewhere some time again. It would be fun to see what memories we might make altogether, me, my family, and my guide dog. Family vacations are the best, aren’t they?

Do Guide Dogs Understand the Danger of Cars?

Charli Saltzman

Traffic checks. Probably one of the most nerve-wracking tests done at Seeing Eye. Let me explain the purpose of them. The dog must learn to stop immediately if a car cuts in front of its owner. So, for these traffic checks, the guide dog and the new owner are walking passed a driveway or parking lot, and a car comes and cuts right in front of them. Usually, one of those cars with extremely silent engines, is the car that those traffic checkers use. I am posing the question: do guide dogs understand the danger of cars? The answer to this question is no. So, if not, how does a dog know to stop when a car is in front of the blind person?

A guide dog is trained to check for that. Again, I don’t know what exactly goes into the training of these dogs when they are training to be guide dogs, but I assume that instructor and dog practice this a lot. This is just my interpretation on how the training process for this traffic training might occur. An instructor will be walking with the dog in training when a person drives out in front of the instructor and dog. Well, the dog is most likely not going to stop on his own the first time, so the instructor has to jerk back on the leash and tell the dog to sit. After doing this countless times, the dog becomes conditioned to that stimulus. The dog is most likely thinking, my instructor always stops me when that thing on wheels gets close, so maybe I should just start stopping automatically. If a dog is unsuccessful at realizing that he needs to stop when that car cuts in front of him, most likely that dog will not pass training. At least, I hope not.

Sometimes people ask instructors if their dog will transfer this information when out of harness. For example, if a guide dog gets loose and escapes into the road, will he stop for the moving vehicles? Probably not. The dog associates that stopping in front of moving traffic as part of work because it always happens when the harness is on. To go along with the topic of traffic, do you know that guide dogs are actually supposed to disobey their owner in certain situations? It’s true. Let’s say it is a very windy day. Joba and I are standing at a street corner, and I say: “Joba, forward.” But he does not move. I say it again, but he stays put. I may even say it a third time. Still, Joba doesn’t move. If I was always on top of my game when working Joba I would remember to put my foot in front of me to see if there is anything out of the ordinary that Joba is unsure of how to get around. If not, I can ask him to go forward again, and maybe he will listen. This is called intelligent disobedience. When a guide dog knows that his or her owner is in danger if he or she listens to the owner’s command, it refuses to listen in order to keep the guide dog safe. Often times on those windy days, it is hard to hear cars drive by, and I am thankful, first of all, to never have experienced such a close call. However, I’m also glad that Joba has this training of intelligent disobedience to disobey me when I’m attempting to put us both at risk. What a good dog.

So, hopefully, when you see a guide dog team, you won’t just assume that guide dogs tell the owner when it is safe to cross. However, a guide dog will in fact do everything it can to keep the blind person safe. So no, guide dogs do not understand the danger of cars, but they understand that watching for cars is a part of protecting their master and keeping the teamwork going steady.