Who Trains Who?

Valerie Ormond_and_dog_DiegoI had decided to get a dog because my husband mentioned he wanted a dog. Since he was on a business trip, I decided I would go visit the county pound. That visit resulted in me bringing home the best dog I’ve ever had. I can’t say I own him because it’s more like he owns me.

Sitting in a cage, nose on the cold floor, the dog in front of me was quite the contrast to the surrounding others who were yipping, barking, and craving attention. His sad brown eyes looked up at me, his tail thumped, and he licked his dry lips. Something about this particular dog drew me in.

Dull black coat. Nasty cut across the nose. No excitement. There was nothing about this dog to make him stand out among the two hundred others up for adoption at the Prince George’s County Animal Shelter—nothing except those tired, soulful eyes begging me to give him a chance. I marked him as a possibility on my piece of scrap paper and moved to the next row.

I found an adorable female black Labrador retriever puppy with the enthusiasm of a typical puppy. The attendant brought her out of her cage to the play room, and she jumped and licked and wagged her tail saying “take me home!” I looked at a tawny Chow Chow puppy resembling a living stuffed animal. I realized neither of these dogs would have trouble finding a home. In fact, they both had several applications in on them for their adoption already.

I thought I’d take another look at the lonely, sullen pup. His cage tag read: “Labrador mix, 1 year, stray – Capitol Heights, Md.” I noted the date of his pick-up: 14 days earlier. This wasn’t a no-kill shelter, meaning his days were numbered. He didn’t have a single application in on him. The attendant took us to the play room. The poor dog was so exhausted he laid down, a vast difference from the last puppy. I petted his head. He lifted it, sat up, and put his head in my lap. My decision was easy.

I’d had dogs most of my life, but never a lab; although I had always wanted one, due to their disposition. This new pup was black, scruffy, and seemed eager to please. He came willingly with me to my car and trembled the entire ride home, likely recalling where he ended up at the end of his last vehicle ride. When I stopped, he hesitated, but trusted, and came with me into our house. Once inside, he explored and sniffed, navigated the stairs, inspected the rooms, and plopped on a rug by the back door. He was home.

A visit to the vet confirmed he had kennel cough, treatable with medication and rest. This explained his listlessness. The vet guessed the puppy was closer to six months old than a year, but overall was in good shape. A good bath, grooming, medication, good food, and lots of love were the prescription he needed. Within weeks, I had a happy, healthy new member of the family. My husband was surprised by the new addition, but realized I had made a good choice. We named our dog Diego, after San Diego, California, where the two of us had met.

As Diego matured, his mix looked like he might have some Rottweiler or pit bull in him. If that was the case, I wanted to know. During our vet visit, I had read about dog DNA testing. I ordered the kit, swabbed his cheek, sent off the sample, and waited. It’s not like Diego would go anywhere no matter what he turned out to be, but I’m a curious person.

When we received the results, my husband said, “The card on Diego’s cage should have read laboratory mix instead of Labrador mix.”

Diego’s canine heritage revealed at least five breeds in his background. In the days of designer dogs, there couldn’t be a better mix. Loyal, protective, smart, handsome, silly, and fun. He talks like a miniature schnauzer, protects like an Akita, herds like a Border collie, struts like a Chow Chow, and loves like a Shih Tzu. We chuckled at the Shih Tzu, wondering how our 70-pound puppy had a toy breed in the mix. But it made sense. The Shih Tzu is also known as the little lion, and one of its characteristics is the expressive eyes. We had already nicknamed him Mufasa, from The Lion King, because of the way he rules his yard kingdom. And those eyes….

Diego showed me right away how easily he could be trained. Housebreaking was a snap. We purchased an underground fence system. And when the installer spent a few minutes showing how to train the dog on the system, even he remarked how trainable my puppy was. What I didn’t know at the time was the talent Diego would also have in training me.

My dad used to say, “You do something once with a dog, and it becomes a routine.”

Diego must have heard him. I run in local parks and decided one day to take Diego along with me. I didn’t normally do this for two reasons. First, we live on a few acres, with plenty of room for dog exercise without the limitations of a leash. Second, after getting Diego, we decided he needed company, so we now had three dogs. It seemed unfair to take one dog and not the others, but I can’t handle all three by myself. However, I thought, just this once, I’ll take him along for protection. The last time I’d run in this same park I’d had an uneasy encounter with visitors who were up to no good.

Diego was ecstatic. He got to go for a car ride with head out the window – clearly over the trembling of that first ride. He got to sniff marshes, go for a run, and have his own special time with his human mom. Since we communicate in our own way, I understood how grateful he was, and I was glad I had taken him. I believe he also enjoys what I call the “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” factor, which he displays upon return when our two girl dogs sniff and question where he was. Although I wouldn’t encourage such behavior in children, I do let Diego get away with it. After all, he is the senior dog.

Not that I could stop it if I wanted to.

And so Diego trained me that once I have my running clothes on, I cannot get in my car without him. In the morning, he follows me into the bedroom to see which attire I choose. If it’s work clothes, he takes his position on the porch, still watchful, but not anticipating his run. If I pull out Nike shorts, he turns in circles, speaks like a schnauzer, and hops like a small child, telling me he’s ready to go. I cannot get in my car without him.

Yes, Diego trained me just as easily as I had trained him. “My” run has now become “our” routine. And the other dogs? They get it. My husband and I take the three together about once a month. But the girl dogs seem to understand that if it’s only me, it’s only Diego. Diego has trained them, too.

My mom says dogs never forget who rescued them, and she should know, having rescued her fair share herself. Every day, while the other two dogs bound out of the house to go chase squirrels, hunt moles, or lay in the sun, my Diego stays behind to make sure I am protected. He maintains his station, turns his eyes up, thumps his tail, and licks his lips, as he did on our first meeting. I, in turn, scratch the top of his head and tell him how special he is. We both know how lucky we are that we found, and have, each other, no matter who is training who.

This story first appeared in “More Than Best Friends – An Anthology in Support of Guide Dogs for the Blind,” by Kevin Morris.

 

Maryland is for Horses

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The Maryland state slogan should be “Maryland is for Horses;” it makes much more sense than “Virginia is for Lovers.” It’s not just the history, the legacy, and the facilities, but our fellow citizens’ support. Although I’ve been involved with horses since my first riding lessons at Kettering Stables in the 1960’s and grew up watching horses run at Bowie Race Track, I did not understand the far reaching impact horses had on communities, businesses, individuals, and industries until recently. I’m not an economist, but I can use my own personal example to illustrate how one person’s horse habit can affect the local economy.

As a child, I took horseback riding lessons, which of course also required the purchase of boots and riding clothes. My parents took our family to Bowie Race Track where they spent money to get in, buy programs, bet on races, and buy food and drinks at concession stands. I worked at barns feeding horses and mucking stalls in exchange for more lessons and riding opportunities, an arrangement which still works well to this day for many stables to help them run their businesses. My parents eventually leased a horse for me, which required us to purchase tack, grooming equipment, and more. I even learned a bit about business as a teenager when I would ride my horse over to Allen Pond and collect a small fee for “pony rides” from park patrons.

I didn’t grow out of the horse phase in my adult years, and today my husband and I own three horses we board at Loftmar Stables in Bowie. In fact, the sole reason we bought the house was because it was adjacent to a stable. We pay for monthly board, riding lessons, vet bills, dentist bills, and farrier bills. We purchased a horse trailer at Cox Trailers in Clinton and buy gas to trailer our horses to local trail rides and to horse shows. We pay entry fees at shows and while there support local vendors. We regularly shop at Southern States in Upper Marlboro, Dover Saddlery and Maryland Saddlery in Crofton, and Bowen Farm Supply in Annapolis for equipment and supplies. We frequent Outback Leather in Laurel to have our horse blankets cleaned and repaired.

I continued the family tradition of attending horse races, and we entertain ourselves at Laurel Park, Pimlico, and Rosecroft Raceway and support their concessions. I am Secretary of the Maryland Horse Council and spend money travelling across the state to attend meetings and events. My husband and I are strong supporters of horse rescues and contribute money to help three Maryland horse rescues. I’ve authored two horse books and pay Maryland Sales and Use Tax on sales. I travel to schools and to book signings, and again, support those local economies while there.

The list goes on, but the point is the horse industry touches many segments and individuals in the economy that some might not ordinarily consider. My example is one, and there are an estimated 65,500 horse owners, employees, and volunteers in the state. Think about it the next time you see a horse trailer on the road…Maryland businesses are likely benefitting economically from that cargo. Horses are not just good for people with the horse habit, but for the many people supporting that habit through their local goods and services. Yes, Maryland is for Horses.     

This article was shared with state lawmakers as part of Maryland Horse Industry Day, Feb. 23, 2016, in Annapolis, Md.

“Believing In Horses, Too” Awarded Grant

MHIBThank you to the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) for selecting “Believing In Horses, Too,” for a 2016 grant award! The funds will be used to purchase and donate a copy of “Believing In Horses, Too,” for every Maryland county public library system and Baltimore city. “Believing In Horses, Too,” tells the story of a young girl who worries about her Navy father serving in Afghanistan. She turns to her love of horses to distract her from her problems. Her adventures with horse rescue, show competition, and equine-assisted therapies present her challenges, and she learns about overcoming adversity through friendships and personal growth.

As the author of the book, and the grant, the goal is of the grant is to educate readers about horses. The novel delivers lessons on horsemanship and familiarizes readers with horse-related organizations and informational resources in the Washington, DC, region.

The grant project helps get a horse book on the shelves that is a positive reflection of the horse industry and is accurate in its descriptions of equine rescue, therapeutic, riding and equine assisted activities. I conducted in-depth research and worked with the organizations depicted in the book to ensure the story, while fictional, introduced readers to realistic situations.

Providing the book to a larger population at no cost to them through the library system will inform more people about aspects of the horse industry they may not otherwise be exposed to. Additionally, putting the book in more readers’ hands helps recognize the many hard working volunteers across the state, and might inspire more to become involved.

A full list of recipients including detailed descriptions of each project is available on the Maryland Horse Industry Board’s website.

Thank you, again, MHIB, for helping me share this book with readers across the state!

 

 

Author Pays It Forward for Other Authors

I hope you will stop by and check out my guest author interview on Cheryl Holloway’s Blog – she asks great questions! Besides offering writing tips based on her career as a writer, Cheryl hosts authors from around the world to help them gain exposure. In her words: “On this blog, I ‘Pay it Forward’ to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too ‘Pay It Forward’ to any other author.”

http://www.cherylholloway.net/blog/2015/11/20/guest-author-interview-valerie-ormond/

Cheryl Holloway's Blog

Thank you, Cheryl…and I look forward to “Paying It Forward,” too!

Fifteen Top Tips on Time Management

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If Kevin Kruse was a rock star, I’d already consider myself one of his groupies. But his latest book, “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs,” makes me an even bigger fan. As Kruse points out, time is a commodity we cannot recreate. And, unfortunately, it is a commodity people and institutions want, and think little of taking from us for their own purposes. [Read more…]

Realizing a Life Well-Lived

Valerie Ormond ready to fly off the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72) ,in the ES-3A Shadow , Indian Ocean, 1995

Valerie Ormond ready to fly off the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72) ,in the ES-3A Shadow , Indian Ocean, 1995

I looked out the window and knew if I died that day, I still lived a full life.

It surprised me how calm that thought made me – almost peaceful. After grasping the severity of the situation, my body and brain filled with warm thoughts, and I understood how blessed my short life had been compared with the longer lives of others. I had no regrets.

When assigned as an intelligence officer to a naval aviation squadron, I had the opportunity to earn my passenger flight qualifications. That meant if I needed to, I could fly in the back seat of our squadron’s jets. I attended naval aviation physiology training and didn’t drown, so months later I found myself launched off the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean experiencing a triple flight emergency. With my limited aviation knowledge, I knew from the visible and audible signs that things weren’t looking up. [Read more…]