PX Pet Show

While getting my shopping done on base in early June, I noticed a banner and some signs for the annual PX Pet Show that was to be held on the morning of Saturday, 23 June. This is an annual event that has been running for nearly a decade now, and Ronja and I previously attended two years ago, along with our friend Jess and her pup, Max.

Sadly, even though the event has been going on for nearly a decade, there is no website and no place to information about it online. The first year we competed, we just showed up and went to see what the event was all about. Even completely unprepared, we had a blast. A couple of vendors offered treats and toys, and the military police K-9 unit did two demonstrations, one on locating explosives scent and one on bite work. Competition included largest and smallest dog, best trick, dog-owner look-alike, and best costume. Back then, Ronja and I competed in best trick because we weren’t prepared to do anything else (like best costume), and wound up taking first place.

This year, I tried to find out more information prior to the event – I figure if we’re going to compete, we’ll go all in, regardless of whether we’ll do well in a category or whether we’ll just make fools of ourselves. After unsuccessfully trying to find information online, I resigned myself to calling Customer Service at the PX. Let me tell you, that was an experience. It went something like this:

“Hi, I’m trying to find out some information about the Pet Show.”
“Sure, hang on – I’ll transfer you.”
*transfer music*
“Hi, I’m trying to get some information about the Pet event?”
“Uh … yeah … hang on, I need to transfer you.”
*transfer music*
“Yeah, hi, I’m just calling to get some information about the Pet Show.”
“Can you hang on one sec? I’m at the front register, but I’ll transfer you to someone who knows.”
etc. etc.

I eventually got a voice mail where I left a message and, after not getting a response for a few days, went through the whole phone tree again until I spoke to a real live person who actually had some information. For reference, if anyone finds this post while trying to find information for an upcoming PX Pet Show, the number at the PX to call is customer service at (315) 773-0061, and it’s a good idea to call about a week out since you may get a voice mail or may need to keep trying.

At any rate, I learned that the competition would include “Doggie Field Days”, which are basically different stations you can try out with your dog, such as a hoop jump, ball toss, or slalom run. There’d also be a “Guess How Many Treats In the Jar” contest and a Spin-the-Wheel to win prizes furnished by the event sponsors, which included the local SPCA Shelter, the PX, and various dog food manufacturers. And, lastly, the judged competition where pets and owners would compete in the categories Most Obedient, Best Trick, Best/Funniest Costume, Dog-Owner Look-Alike, and Most Unusual Pet, the latter of which also included two sub-categories, Largest and Smallest Pet.

Armed with this new knowledge, I decided I would enter each category because, well, it’s free and what the heck – might as well go all out. Since this event was held on base, I decided that our costume would be dressing Ronja up in a set of Army PT’s, complete with reflective belt and running shoes. This was easy enough – $5 got me a pair of extra small PT shorts and a small PT T-shirt at the local thrift store, and I took the spare reflective belt I’ve been carrying in my Jeep and made it fit Ronja. It’s a very cute costume for her, especially with her dog boots which do look a lot like “running shoes”. Since I was already being creative, I figured we’d also enter dog-owner look-alike and instead of having the dog look like me, I’d try to look like her – so I wore my PT’s along with my set of ears and my tail. 😀

On Saturday morning, we loaded into the car and headed out to the PX. I’d been told that registration starts at nine and that competition would start at ten, so we made an effort to get there early. It’s generally a good idea to get to any dog events early since that gives the dog a chance to get settled and be less stressed, rather than getting there late just throwing them right into the chaos. (A good idea for all kinds of dog events, by the way!) That would’ve been a good plan had it not been for a rain delay.

Eventually, the sky cleared, the sun came up, and things got going.

People and dogs checked out the activities.

After signing up to compete twice – once because I was second in line and then again because there were separate sign-up sheets for each category that the girl doing the sign-up hadn’t been aware of – I went around to see everything offered. Ronja and I tried out the different games offered in “Doggie Field Days”. She slalomed through parking cones and chased after a yellow squeaky tennis ball. She resolutely refused to jump through a hula hoop. Actually, she kind of looked at me like I’d lost my mind when I asked her to jump through the hoop.

The event mascot, Pokey the Puppy, demonstrated proper technique for getting through the hoop. Right up to the point where he got stuck because his head didn’t fit. Despite Pokey’s hoop prowess, he wasn’t well-received by all of the dogs. Some barked at him. Some spent a lot of time sniffing him. But at least nobody bit him!

We’re gonna need a bigger hoop!

Around 10:30, the competition took off after the judges took their seats and a mat was laid out in the demonstration area. The judges consisted of the Exchange’s general manager and two 10th Mountain Division soldiers. I’m not sure how they got chosen for this detail, but I expect there are worse things you could be detailed for.

“Best Trick” was up first, and people tried to show off the best trick or tricks their pet had learned. One Poodle who was wearing a sports jersey danced on his hind legs and then spun in circles. A Boxer called Major knew how to crawl forward and bark on command. An Irish Wolfhound knew how to bark in his quiet inside voice. Some dogs suffered from a bit of performance anxiety and just refused to do anything at all once they hit the demo area, like this big Mastiff who later competed for Largest Dog (and won).

What’s this “shake” you speak of?

Ronja had her energy up pretty well when we headed up into the demo area and we did a couple of our tricks, like turning in a circle, going around me, going through my legs, rolling over, speaking on command, and playing dead. Our “play dead” needs a lot of work and while she laid down, she refused to flop onto her side, dead. She just went into her “platz” position and looked at me. We finished up with her biting the jute tug and me swinging her by it. That one’s always a hit, whether we do it with a tug or the bite sleeve, and everyone here liked it as well.

Now, remember how I keep saying Pet Show and not Dog Show? That’s because the PX Pet Show is actually open to any type and species of pet and not just dogs, although the majority of people bring dogs. The first year we competed, someone brought a cat that knew how to walk on a leash. This year, two little girls competed with two mice, one white and one black. The latter was named Truffles.

Truffles competed for Best Trick by balancing across a rope, made visually even more interesting by the patriotic props set up by his humans. It was very cute, especially when Truffles stopped halfway across the rope and sort of swung around, trying to regain his balance, his tail moving in big circles to propel him back upward and forward. (The mice also competed for Smallest Pet and Best Costume.)

Truffles’ balancing act.

Next up was the Best Costume category. A lot of dogs had store-bought costumes, such as the little Dachshund mix dressed as Spiderman or the dog below, dressed as a partially-peeled Banana. But a fair number of dogs had creative homemade costumes, too. (I like those better.) There was a black Labrador dressed as a soccer referee, a Husky dressed in a bright orange shirt and black shorts, a Golden Retriever in a white work shirt, and a black Dachshund who wore an Army jacket and beret. Ronja, as mentioned previously, wore Army PT’s. But the best costume, in my opinion, was a Beagle dressed as Underdog, in a properly homemade Underdog costume. (Unlike the movie photo, this Underdog wore a red long-sleeve shirt with an applique U on the front, not a knit shirt. But it was spot on and got lots of applause. From us, anyway!)

I’m not a wiener dog, I’m a banana dog!

Ronja even wore “running shoes”.

After the Best Costume category came the Dog-Owner Look-Alike category, which is a good thing because it meant that I didn’t have to undress Ronja right away (which would have meant re-dressing her again later). I clipped on my ears and tail, which got lots of snickers and applause, and we walked up and looked foolish when it was our turn. There were a lot of, “OMG! The dog even has shoes!” yells for Ronja and a lot of “She’s got a tail!” yells for me.

The last two categories were Most Obedient and Most Unusual, so after getting both Ronja and I changed back to our normal selves, we headed up to compete for Most Obedient. I had her heel up to the judges’ table, then turned in a small circle with her at the heel to the left, then to the right. Then I had her sit and down, and while in a down, I threw her ball up in the air and swung it around her head to demonstrate stay and self control. Then I walked around her in a circle and finished up by standing over her while she was in a down and then have her sit up. She did really well, not just in part because she’d already calmed down for the day and was no longer hyper-hyper for her ball.

This Irish Wolfhound is about to compete for Most Obedient.

The Most Unusual category included both actually unusual pets, as well as the Largest and Smallest Pet. Truffles the mouse competed for smallest and was, by default, the smallest pet there, closely followed by a tiny little Miniature Pinscher puppy whose head was smaller than a tennis ball. The Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiff, a Great Dane Puppy and a big, fluffy Great Pyrenees all competed for largest. The Wolfhounds were tallest, but the Mastiff won the category because he outweighed them by quite a few pounds. The title of Most Unusual went to a Chinese Crested who was the only Crested there and, let’s face it, you don’t often see them, so she was most definitely the most unusual (and possibly the most sunburnt, according to her owner).

The Crested was very uncomfortable in the heat.

After the last competition, the judges tallied the scores and awarded the prizes.

First, Second, and Third place were awarded in the categories Most Obedient, Best Trick, Best Costume, and Dog-Owner Look-Alike, and First places were awarded for Most Unusual, Largest, and Smallest. Ronja and I took First for Most Obedient and Best Trick, and second for Best Costume. We won three PX gift cards that can be used at any AAFES locations – two for $25 each for the First place wins and one for $10 for the Second place win. We also won two large bags of dog food with our First Place awards, which I donated to the SPCA because I know they can always, always use those at the shelter.

Obviously, we had an absolute blast again and with the nice weather, it made the day all the more awesome. I even got Ronja to cool herself off in a kiddie pool, which is unusual for her since she doesn’t like to get into water. She still won’t sit or lay in it, but at least she’ll put her paws into it now without a lot of coaxing. (One of these days, I’ll get her to swim, too!)

After the event wrapped up, we headed over to the dog park so Ronja could run around and relax since she’d been working so hard, and we even got a small order of French fries from Burger King before we headed home as her reward since she loves fries and doesn’t often get them. She certainly deserved them!

Hugs for the good puppeh!

TWDTWD Editorial

The other day, I found myself flipping through the pages of Bark Magazine at my local bookstore when I came across an editorial about Take Your Dog to Work Day, an annual event by Pet Sitters International. I have a bit of a soft spot for this event: not only does it raise awareness of the benefits of dog ownership and dog adoption, but also because our dog was the event’s poster pup in 2007.

On one hand, I was excited to see the event covered in Bark, because they have a lot of readers and an article like this helps spread awareness of the event: which is awesome. Unfortunately, the author of the editorial didn’t have a good time at work with her dog, and therefore suggested to the readers: “let sleeping dogs lie – or, in this case, stay home.”

I always find it disappointing when when people suggest others should leave their dogs at home. In many parts of the United States, we really don’t have a lot of options for things to do with our dogs. We can’t bring them on errands: stores don’t allow them and leaving them in the car is dangerous (and usually illegal). We can’t take them for a romp on the beach and a swim they’re not welcome at most beaches. In many places, we can’t even enjoy the outdoors together because trails and parks no longer allow dogs. In some cities, it’s even illegal to bring a dog to an outdoor event or within 50 feet of a playground!

With these restrictions, it’s not surprising there are more and more dogs that have never been anywhere. The only time they go for a ride in the car is when it’s time for an annual vet checkup. The only time they see another dog is if one crosses their path on a walk around the block. They never get to experience different places, different people, different dogs. Their experience is limited mostly to the home in which they live, perhaps the yard, and a daily walking route (which may vary little).

I’m not saying that’s what happened in the case of this author and her dog, but it’s certainly possible. When dogs aren’t used to experiencing different environments, they won’t be comfortable and the experience will be stressful (or perhaps even scary) for both the dog and owner. And some dogs, too, are just shy, reserved, or nervous by nature – something their owners should be aware of before putting them into this type of situation.

What I’m trying to get at is this: instead of focusing on her uncomfortable experience on Take Your Dog to Work Day, the author may have used it as a starting point to talk about whether or not an individual dog may be better off staying home, how people might socialize and train their dogs so they can participate in this type of event, or even how you might make an anxious dog more comfortable. She could have talked about bringing the dog’s crate to give him a comfortable, safe place to go; or how to recognize calming signals (pdf), such as yawning and licking lips.

I guess what really disappointed me about the editorial wasn’t the author’s experience, but the fact that she would take it to generalize all dog owners should leave their dogs at home. That’s disappointing because you’d think a dog magazine would take a more pro-dog approach: teach people how their dog can participate in such an event, why socialization is important, and why it may not be for every dog. Don’t take one bad experience and say, “nobody should do this.”

Breed Specific Legislation


If you own a large-breed dog, such as a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd, you’ve probably encountered people before while you were out with your dog, who were afraid. Not necessarily of your dog in particular, or even of all dogs in general, but of the particular breed of dog you own.

I know I’ve gotten it. The up-to-no-good teenagers loitering at the corner who’d disperse at the sight of my German Shepherd. The moving guy who asked me if “that is one of those K-9’s,” the guy down the street telling his children not to “approach that big, mean dog,” and the little kid jumping behind mom screaming in terror “OMG! Big doooog!”

I also know that my dog doesn’t deserve those comments. While I would like her to be alert and even wary of strangers, I generally encourage folks to come up and pet her, and many do. Dog people tell me what a beautiful dog she is, and parents are in awe when they see that she will lay down on command to be petted by their children. Kids giggle with glee when she licks their hands or will lay down for them when they tell her “down” (with a little hand-signal help from me in the background, anyway).

But she is still a German Shepherd, and in the eyes of some, that makes her a vicious, dangerous dog who needs to be included in breed-specific legislation. Many insurance companies won’t insure you if you own a German Shepherd – even one who’s still a puppy and has never bitten anyone, not even in play.

Most landlords will not rent to you if you own a German Shepherd, either – they’re included in their list of banned breeds. Ironically, a Labrador Retriever is more likely to bite someone (they account for most dog bites in the United States), and the average cat is more likely to ruin a property’s rental value by peeing on the carpets or sharpening her claws on the wall.

You might say that breed specific legislation doesn’t concern you because you don’t own a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, or a Doberman. Maybe you own a Poodle, a Golden Retriever, or a Jack Russel Terrier – so why worry about it? The reason you should worry about it is that breed specific legislation concerns anyone who owns and loves a dog. You may not have one of the dogs in question, but how would you, as a responsible owner, feel if one day, someone said that your dog was dangerous because of its breed, and that you needed to surrender it to be euthanized within x amount of days.

Here are a couple of further links with additional information that is far more eloquent than anything that I have to say. On top of that, it comes from the dog world: from professional dog trainers and from dog organizations. If you’re going to take anyone’s word this issue, it should be these people’s.

There are many more organizations who oppose Breed-Specific Legislation, but not all of them have their position statements on their website where they can easily be linked. These organizations include working dog clubs, breed clubs, and veterinarians, as well as training and behavior organizations.

Just A Dog


This beautiful poem has been circulating on the Internet for a while, sadly without the author’s name or a source link. If you happen to know who wrote this, would you please let us know so that we may attribute it correctly?

Just A Dog

From time to time, people tell me: “Lighten up, it’s just a dog.”
Or, “That’s a lot of money for just a dog.”
They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent,
Or the costs involved in “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.”
Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,”
But I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,”
And in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog”
Gave me comfort and the reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,”
Then you probably understand phrases like
Just a friend, just a sunrise, or just a promise.
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of
Friendship, trust, and pure, unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience
That makes me a better person.
Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks,
And look longingly to the future.

So for me and those like me, it’s not “just a dog,”
But an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
The fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me
And diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that, someday, they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,”
But the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a person.”
So, next time you hear the phrase “just a dog” …
Just smile. Because they just don’t understand.

Overheard in Class

For a while, we trained at All About Dogs in Virginia, which is the only facility where I’ve trained that used a levels system for classes rather than your standard 8 week obedience course – and it made a lot more sense. Rather than being pushed through an 8 week class without mastering the skills, each of the four levels required that you mastered certain skills before moving on to the next level, but if you ever felt like you need additional practice on a “lower” level skill, you could always drop into one of the lower classes for practice.

Anyway, because of the way the system is set up, it’s not unusual to see people in class you’ve never met before, which was the case for us in today’s Level 3 class. The class was unusually packed with about 10 dogs, and the three trainers and assistants were keeping an eye on everyone. A chair over from us was a new guy I’d never seen before, along with his happy, goofy Golden Retriever. We were practicing sit-stays and were just about ready to move to down-stays.

Just as I gave the command “Platz!, the German word for down, one of the trainers passed between us and the fellow with the Golden, who remarked to her, “How stereotypical – a German Shepherd trained in German.” To which the trainer replied, “Yes, but Abby’s owner actually speaks German.” That shut him up.



Do you use commands in a foreign language? Have you ever gotten weird comments or strange questions about it? We’d love to hear your stories about training in another language – please feel free to post them to the comments!

If you’d like to use German commands (or perhaps another language), this post has a handy list of the five most important commands – sit, down, stay, come, and heel – in four commonly-used foreign languages: German, Dutch, French, and Czech.

Shelters, Rescues, and Honesty

Being involved with dog rescue can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be extremely frustrating.

On the one hand, when each part of the rescue chain works well together, it enables rescues to pull dogs from kill shelters or from bad situations, place them into foster homes, and eventually adopt them into what’s commonly called a “forever home” (the dog’s new owners). This process involves a lot of people: those who monitor the local shelter or let the rescue know about dogs that need help; people who do temperament evaluations and get more information about the dog from the shelter or the current owner: things such as health, bite history, socialization, training, etc.; folks who pick up and transport the dog; the vet staff who sees and treats them; the folks who provide foster homes where the dogs live (and are cared for) in their family environment; and, ultimately, the people who adopt the dog.

On the other hand, when there’s an issue along the rescue chain, the entire undertaking can be difficult and frustrating for everyone involved, though it’s usually the dog who winds up on the losing side. One such road block often happens right at the beginning of the rescue chain: it happens when the shelter or the dog’s current owner is not honest about the dog’s health, bite history, behavior issues, and prior training.

It’s almost understandable why dog owners are often reluctant to be honest about their dog’s issue when giving him up to a rescue or a shelter. If they told the truth – for example, that the dog has now bitten three members of their own family and they just can’t manage his aggressive behavior – then the dog would be likely put to sleep at a kill shelter, and a rescue might refuse to take him into a foster home. (Keep in mind that foster homes are volunteers. They’re everyday people who have their own animals and their own families to consider when they take in a foster pet.) Though understandable, it’s not right – it can put people in danger.

What’s really not understandable, however, is when shelters lie to rescues.

Sadly, that’s something we’ve seen happen first-hand. At the time, Brian and I were involved in many of the different aspects of dog rescue: we did temperament evaluations at the shelter, pulled and transported dogs, fostered dogs, did home visits with potential adopters, and participated in rescue events, from adoption days to reunions. So when we saw a senior German Shepherd show up in one of our local kill shelters, we didn’t waste time to evaluate her and pass her information on to German Shepherd rescue, in hopes that she could either be placed into a foster home or that one of the approved adopters on the rescue’s waiting list might be interested.

When we went to evaluate the dog, shelter staff were very nice and helpful. They allowed us to take her to an outside pen for evaluation and answered the many questions we had. The staff members told us she had been left at a local groomer’s by her prior owner because she was “too expensive.” The owner had left no additional information, so they didn’t know if the dog was current on vaccines, but she had been having diarrhea, tested heartworm negative, and was otherwise in good health. They also made it clear that if nobody pulled her, she would likely be put to sleep on Friday.

After passing the information along to our rescue, the rescue followed up with the shelter separately because some confusion had arisen in regards to who would actually pick the dog up: the shelter thought it would be either Brian or me, but we were both working that morning, so it would be another person from the rescue. It was during this phone call that the shelter staff person they spoke to mentioned how surprised she was any rescue would take a senior dog with such serious health issues.

As it turns out, the staff members who’d been so helpful in answering our questions a few days before, had been lying to us: although they’d told us they didn’t know anything about the dog’s health history, the shelter actually had her entire vet file. Approximately a year earlier, the dog started having diarrhea which became chronic. Although the vet had recommended both an endoscopy and a biopsy to test for cancer and other possible causes, the owner had elected not to treat the dog. After a year of on and off diarrhea, the owner decided to dump the dog at the shelter instead of either seeking treatment or putting the dog to sleep.

This brings me back to the matter of honesty: what the shelter did was, essentially, trying to saddle the rescue with providing the medical testing and treatment this dog needed, or (alternatively) with the cost of her euthanasia, by telling us that there was nothing wrong with her when she was obviously very sick. In a world where rescues have very limited resources that need to be used prudently to help as many dogs as possible, that’s a pretty rotten thing to do. This clearly hurt the working relationship the rescue had with this particular shelter, but at the same time, it also brings up another question: what if someone entirely unaffiliated with a rescue had come simply to adopt this dog. Would they have lied to that person and told them that there’s nothing wrong with the dog? The shelter would have made $40 in adoption fees for the dog, and the new owner would have been saddled with the impending medical bills that the shelter knew the dog would incur.

That’s a pretty rotten thing, if you ask me!


Dog Trivia

A little extra knowledge never hurt anyone … and a little bit of random knowledge about dogs is a fun way to entertain your friends or annoy your loved ones. Check out some of this dog trivia and let us know how many of these you knew before reading them?

We get the word “canine” from the Latin word “canis,” meaning dog.

The term K-9 is a pseudo-acronym for the word canine. Although the term is most commonly used in connection with police and military working dogs, it could accurately be used for any type of dog. K-9 can be written as K9 or K-9. One of the oldest known uses of the terms is from an article in Hallberger’s Illustrated Magazine, talking about Canine Castle (also written as K-Nine Castle and K.9 Castle), Old Bill George’s breeding kennel. In the United States, the term became popular during World War II, when the military working dog program, affectionately nicknamed the “K-9 Corps,” was established.

As of 2012, there were nearly 70 million owned dogs in the United States, according to the ASPCA.

36.5% of all households in the United States had at least one dog. That’s approximately one in every three homes.

40% of pet owners found their animals through word-of-mouth. 29% of pets (cats and dogs) are adopted through shelters and rescues, and 28% of dogs are purchased from breeders, according to the ASPCA.

83% of owned dogs are spayed or neutered.

About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year. However, between 1994 and 2008, dog bites in children declined by 47%. And only 19% of all dog bites that occur require any form of medical attention.

42% of all dog bite injuries happen to children under the age of 14. The one group that is bitten more often than any others are boys between the ages of 5 and 9 years old.

Only 4.5% of all dog bites that occur in the United States are work-related: they happened to people while they were on the job. Unfortunately, the CDC’s data includes all work-related bites in this statistic: mail and package deliver, food delivery, working at a veterinary clinic or animals shelter, and home repair work or installations.

California has more reported dog bites than any other state.

Approximately 30 people are killed by dogs in the United States each year. 68% of them are children who are less than 1 year old, and most of these attacks take place at home (either inside the house or in the yard). Although this sounds like a lot, more people are killed by hot dogs (70 annually) and deer (130 annually) than dog bites. In addition, 83% of fatal dog bites could have been avoided through proper training, management, and supervision of the dogs.

Labrador Retrievers are the most commonly owned dog breed in the United States.

Labrador Retrievers are also the most commonly lost dog breed in the United States.

Approximately 60% of all dogs taken into animal shelters in the United States are euthanized (put to sleep) each year. Most of these are dogs who were surrendered by their owner. 29% of those dogs are surrendered because their owners are moving and “can’t take the dog.”

Out of the 50 states, 29 currently have some form of breed-specific legislation (either bans or restrictions on certain dog breeds) in place