Faith, Trust, & Foster Pups

Helping dogs on the road to forever, forever finding ourselves as we walk that road with them.


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How Is This For You?

As I reflect back on where I was this time last year (physically, emotionally, mentally), I am honest in saying I was not at my best. Since I was in a dry spell of writing here, I just actually took a look at my Facebook wall to remind myself of where I was. On this day in 2012, here’s what was on my mind:

“Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain. We all have sorrow. But, if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.”

So, yeah. I was a bit of a Debbie Downer. But as pragmatic and hopeful a Debbie Downer as I could be, I guess.

I was about to take a few turning points in the months to come. One of those turning points would be where I learned the importance of listening to Balton. Like, really listening. And defending him, so he could learn I had his back and he didn’t need to take situations that scared him into his own hands.

One of the exercises I learned in the months to come was the importance of asking your dog “how is this for you?” 

Suzanne Clothier brings up this all too important question in her seminar on Arousal, Anxiety and Fear in Dogs. In the seminar, Clothier addresses what this question means in the context of training your dog. Crystal Thompson from one of my fave blogs, Reactive Champion, attended a seminar with her in person, and she sums the context of this up pretty well.

“The most important, and perhaps the only, aspect to this question is, “Do you feel safe?” If not, why not? And what can you do to help the dog feel safe?

If they don’t feel safe, then no matter what you’re doing, it’s not humane.”

This time last year, I didn’t have enough knowledge to know to ask that very five word question. Not of myself, not of Balton. But since that time, I have gained knowledge, and now make a point to ask that question regularly. And adjustments need be made if the answer is anything other than a confident “I’m good. Really, and truly, I’m good.” Sometimes that means utilizing tools to feel better about a situation. Sometimes that means leaving the situation altogether, or approaching in a way that makes you feel better.

Applying these lessons to my dog has started to come more naturally. Applying these lessons to myself has been a bit more of a challenge. How often do we really sit and reflect, and ask ourselves “how is this for you?” Safety can be translated for our purposes to physically, emotionally, mentally well. If we are to be humane to our four-legged companions, we must first be humane to ourselves.

We cannot enjoy the pleasant moments of life if fear, stress, anxiety are hanging over us. We cannot be good to others (human or animal) without being good to ourselves. And when we are able to answer well to “how is this for you?” we may (and should) start asking that of others, and knowing how we can help others feel safe. How we can make them feel well.

Treat yourself well. Treat others well. It’s not always easy, but it is important.

To Tidings of comfort and joy this season, and to celebrating the fact that in our moments of pain and sorrow, we know that there’s always tomorrow…

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Some deeper reading on self care and asking your dog “how is this for you” can be found at:

Notes from a Dog Walker: Self Care is Not Optional

Notes from a Dog Walker: Compassion Fatigue

Suzanne Clothier (Relationship Centered Training)

Mutt About Town: Asking the Right Questions

Mutt About Town: Creating new Pathways for Your Dog’s Monkey Mind


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My Kind of Gift Exchange at the Holiday Bloggy Hop

I love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, because of their festive gatherings, sense of togetherness, and the delicious dinners. Oh, and seasonal brews and mulled wines that only come out or make sense during this special time of year.

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O, Christmas Ale! O, Christmas Ale!

What I don’t love as much is the obligatory gift exchanges that come with this season. I love the people involved in them. I love the idea of showing love and sharing a bit of yourself with a holiday token of sorts. And yes, I do love getting new stuff that I wasn’t entirely expecting and don’t entirely feel worthy of. But I find holiday shopping and feeling like “was it enough to show how much I care?” all incredibly stressful.

This month, though, I’m taking part in a different kind of gift exchange – the Pet Blogger’s Gift Exchange hosted by Something Wagging This Way Comes and I Still Want More Puppies.

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I have been paired up with the blogger equivalent of a Secret Santa/Pollyanna. The goal of this gift exchange is to feature the wonderful work of our partner, to give them the gift of telling our readers about their work. So, for what it’s worth, I don’t really love keeping Santa-ship of this gift exchange so secret.

I’m spending time getting to know my gift exchange partner as the Winter Solstice draws near, so I can help give her a gift that she will cherish and appreciate (okay, so gift giving is stressful even when I don’t have to go to the mall). But, this gift is one that gives right back to me, because I get to delight in the lovely and adorable  postings of Christine and her Shih Tzus at Oh My Shih Tzu.

I’m a little overcome by cute fluffiness as I continue my readings, because Oh My Shih Tzu features beautiful photographic moments of Riley, Katie, and Trixie in many settings – outdoor rugged, fashionably styling, and rocking the agility course. Christine also is passionate about animal rescue and positive reinforcement based, force free training, so I can tell already we have lots in common, and I’m looking forward to exchanging some more Oh My Shih Tzu moments in its own special feature!

For now, join me as I revel in the fluffy love and check out Oh My Shih Tzu on their:

There is also still time to join in the Gift Exchange fun! So if you blog and want to join in, you have until December 20 to do it.

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Give the gift of blogger love this holiday season. If you don’t do it for me, do it for Balton the elf and his “pretty please” face.


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Product Review and Giveaway! Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming for Dogs

The holiday season is in full swing. Cards arriving in the mail, beautiful decorations adorning houses (or frightful decorations, depending on who you are…Balton has already had one unpleasant encounter with a reindeer lawn ornament who will now be avoided on his mid-day walk route), and hustling and bustling in preparation for gatherings with families and holiday parties.

As you can imagine, for sensitive dogs like Balton, this can be a rather unpleasant time of year without a little outside assistance and thoughtful management. But even for dogs like Ollie, who tend to roll with it and get excited about having guests over or going to visit his favorite humans, holiday travel has its hardships. He gets incredibly anxious on car rides, so when we are heading out for family gatherings in destinations and crossing 3 state lines to visit our families, we bear witness to a lot of panting and shaking.

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Ollie during our last Christmas road trip. At a glance it could look like holiday excitement, but the panting is actually one of his stress signs from long car rides.

I know we’re not the only ones with four-legged family members who experience seasonal stress. According to Doggone Safe, “the holidays are especially stressful for dogs due to changes in routine and the comings and going of visitors. Many dog bites happen at this time of year.” So, when Pet Naturals of Vermont reached out to me to ask if we’d be willing to review their Calming for Dogs supplements, just in time for the pending holidays, I was pretty excited.

Calming for Dogs is an all natural supplement that helps alleviate stress related behaviors, and can be used daily, or just when your pup needs a little extra help to relax. Calming for Dogs combines L-theanine with a Colostrum Calming Complex to support calming and relaxation without causing drowsiness, and includes thiamine, a B vitamin, to help support calming and cognition in anxious animals, and lecithin to support brain function and manage stress. They have formulas for small dogs, medium/large dogs, extra large dogs, and cats. We tested out the small and medium/large chews for our boys.

We’ve tried a couple other types of calming tabs before, so I was interested to see how Pet Naturals would measure up. The first awesome thing I noticed about the Pet Naturals Calming for Dogs, compared to other calming tabs, is that the Ollie and Balton were actually excited to take them. Any others we’ve tried I have had to mash up and mix in with something delicious, otherwise they would be promptly tasted and spat out. Pet Naturals, on the other hand, were sought after as much as their high value snacks when they had their first taste. Here they are doing tricks to earn one…

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…and here they are chowing down on them:

Deliciousness was definitely a bonus for the boys, but what was more important was testing if Pet Naturals actually calmed the dogs as they said they would. We got to test out on Balton thanks to a visit from my mom, who helped us decorate our home. Ollie, for the record, is a big fan of his grandma, so this wasn’t so much a stress test for him.

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Since Mom only has come over for short visits 4 times in the time Balton has been with us, he hasn’t completely worked up his trust in her. This makes visits incredibly hard for him, since he worries about any human coming over other than us and the dog walker (and that took lots of time). We helped manage the stress of the visit, combined with the moving about of boxes and hanging of decorations, with baby gating in the kitchen, some treats and toys, a chewie, and the extra help of a couple Calming for Dogs. The recommended dose for a Balton-sized dog is two chews, so that is what we gave him. The end result enabled him to settle on his bed while being fully aware of his weekend guest and the holiday happenings.

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Since Ollie’s anxiety is typically isolated to the car, and since our next long trip isn’t planned until Christmas for real testing, I decided to take him on a car trip  to try and simulate (and prepare for) the real thing. His nerves don’t take long to kick in, so we did about an hour in the car with his bed and blanket, but with a Pet Naturals Calming for Dogs about 30 minutes before the trip. Ollie fared much better on his practice car ride than he usually does. No panting, no shaking, no pacing.

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All in all, Pet Naturals Calming for Dogs was loved by both my pups, and while we implemented a few additional strategies for management with helping manage stress (I’ll share a few more stress management tips in the days leading up to Christmas here and through our Facebook), but I was very pleased with the extra help that Calming for Dogs provided for my boys, and am so excited to know these will help us get through our next family road trip home to visit my folks Christmas week.

Pet Naturals also wants my readers (many of whom are experiencing extra holiday stress with their foster dogs or perma-pups) to be able to try out Calming for Dogs. So, they are generously offering a FREE TRIAL of Calming for Dogs to the first 200 blog readers who visit their special offer page (click THIS LINK to get to the page). Freebies around this time of year are an extra holiday bonus, so head on over to get your free sample and see if your dogs have as good an experience as Balton and Ollie.

After the first 200 entries, readers who visit the offer page will receive a coupon for a discount on Calming for Dogs. Having the experience to try Pet Naturals Calming for Dogs has been a great gift to my boys this holiday season. I hope you and your fur babies will get to share that gift with us thanks to the spirit of generous giving and stress reducing that Pet Naturals is paying forward!

*Ollie and Balton send their thanks to Pet Naturals of Vermont for or sending them each a bag of Calming for Dogs to review on behalf of Faith, Trust, and Foster Pups.
** While we did receive a product sample in exchange for the review, the thoughts in this post are our own.