Category Archives: dog training

Leroy Found a Home!

leroy smiling

Thank you all for your support, I just wanted to update everyone that Leroy has found a forever home! After posting the blog, we were contacted by a few interested people. Leroy went on some “dates” with potential adopters and they were all really kind people. We felt the best match was with some of my dog walking clients, Abby & Mike, who already have 10-year-old female shepherd mix named Max.

Abby, Mike, Max, & Leroy

Abby, Mike, Max, & Leroy

Abby & Mike live on the 2nd floor of an elevator building in Prospect Heights. I felt they understood the needs and responsibilities an older dog can present. Stairs are an issue for senior dogs, especial large ones that can’t be carried so their living situation is ideal. It is also wonderful that Max who is sometimes anxious will now have a calm companion dog her own age. They can nap & chew on squeaky toys together and enjoy their retirement. Abby & Mike promise to spoil the hell out of both of them.

Our dog Phoebe begging for bagels with Leroy

Our dog Phoebe begging for bagels with Leroy

My husband and I are sad to see Leroy go as he’s become a goofy part of our family but our cat and dog couldn’t be happier to their house and our attention back on them. I’m grateful I’ll still get to walk and visit Leroy since he’s so close by.

If anyone is still interested in adopting a pit mix, I do know a wonderful female named Loretta who is being fostered by a friend of mine. She’s a bit younger and loves to play fetch, snuggle, and is great with other dogs. I’ve posted her info below.

LorettaFlier

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Sweet Found Dog Needs a Good Home!

On Monday 8/4/2014 I took my dog, Phoebe, up to Fort Greene Park for off leash hours around 8:30am. When I arrived at the park, I saw my friend Anna Holmes sitting by a large brindle pit bull mix who was tied by a thin yellow rope to the bench. I asked what was going on and she said she and others had been sitting with him since 6:30am that morning. People brought him water and food and someone went to get an old collar to put on him so the rope wouldn’t hurt his neck. He was panting and nervous but friendly. He had a cough and was pretty dirty, with lots of loose shed hair on his smooth coat. Anna Holmes was calling the no kill shelters to see if they could take him but none opened until 11am. She said she’d take him there in a car service. I didn’t have to start work until 1130 so I offered to take them in my car.

Leroy en route to vet on his first day.

Leroy en route to vet on his first day.

We took him to Sean Casey but they had 30 pit mixes they were trying to adopt out already and couldn’t take him. They scanned him for a microchip but of course he didn’t have one. We took him to the vet to get him checked out and get medicine for his cough. I had to run to work for a while so Anna Holmes stayed with him. She wanted to take him home after but her dog T-bone doesn’t do well with intact male dogs.

photo 2-2

I called my husband to see if the dog could come to our house for a few days until we could figure out what to do with him. If the dog wound up at a kill shelter he would certainly be put down due to his breed, the cough, and the fact that he was probably between 9-10 years old. My husband agreed that we could bring him home temporarily. I called one of my dog walking clients who has large dogs and asked to borrow his crate. He agreed so I ran by to pick it up en route to get Anna Holmes and the dog we were now calling “Leroy.”

panting

Leroy could’ve been scared and aggressive towards me, Anna Holmes, the vet, or any of the people or dogs we’d encountered that morning but he was sweet and goofy with all of us. He was probably nicer than my little terrier Phoebe who sometimes meets strange dogs and people showing her teeth or growling if they are too forward with her.

walking

It’s been a week and a half and Leroy is still at my house. Lots of people volunteered to help out with vet bills but no one could take him to their house. We have a few leads on homes but because of his possible kennel cough we’re waiting to introduce him in case he’s contagious. We plan on getting him neutered as soon as his lungs have healed from the cough and he can handle anesthesia.

leroy napping

Leroy mostly wants to lie around and be with people and dogs. He’s housebroken and loves squeaky toys. In fact we got him a few and now he tries to carry them both around in his mouth, which is ridiculous. He’s a bit dopey, sees his reflection and thinks it’s another dog to say hello to. We did a full senior panel on him at the vet and he’s parasite & heartworm free. His cough is starting to get better and I’m working on training him the basics. He has a lot of calluses on his arms so the vet thought he might have laid on concrete a lot. We gave him a bed but he mostly lies on the floor.

He gets along well with my dog despite her sulking about not being the center of attention. Phoebe occasionally growls at him when he crowds her space and he just walks away apologetically like he can’t help that he’s a big oaf. I actually used him in a training session with a small reactive (barky) dog, and he handled it beautifully. He simply moved away from the dog and turned away so we could work with him. He didn’t get nasty back at all.

toys

I wonder often what his story is, someone must have cared for him at one point because he’s so friendly and he’s a little overweight. Perhaps his owner died and the family or neighbors watching him couldn’t afford to care for him.

We are hoping someone will want to adopt this sweet old timer. He doesn’t need much just a few walks a day and some squeaky toys. He’s so mellow that he’d be an easy dog to care for. We can’t keep him due to our building’s pet policy. Please pass this post along to anyone who might be able to foster or adopt him. Leroy and I greatly appreciate it. Anyone interested in helping please contact me, Susie DeFord at Susie’s Pet Care 718-415-7880 susiespetcare<AT>gmail.com

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Hudson Valley Dog Boarding

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Since November 2012, we’ve been bringing dogs up to our cottage near the Catskills on weekends and occasionally weekdays depending on our availability/ability to get away! Here are some highlights!

3 stooges

Mo, Qwerty, and Phoebe walk by the lake

country

Hike at Falling Waters on the Hudson River Susie with Penny, Zeke, Phoebe

field

Qwerty & Mo enjoying the back yard

goob comet

Comet & Phoebe frolicking

mo & qwerty creek

Mo & Qwerty in the Kaaterskill Creek behind our cottage

pile on

Christmas weekend pile on Susie Phoebe, Oscar, Willis, Sampson

Falling waters hike

Hike at Falling Waters with Zeke, Penny, Phoebe

For more fun photos please check our facebook page!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Upstate

The Brooklyn Mutt Show March 24, 2012

Just in time for Brooklyn’s weirdly early and foggy spring is the Brooklyn Mutt Show at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope! The Brooklyn Mutt show proceeds this year benefit Sean Casey Animal Rescue. On Saturday March 24, Phoebe and I will be there from 11am-6pm selling my book Dogs of Brooklyn and answering dog training questions. Phoebe will likely be entering some of the contests, like Best Ears.

Best Ears, Don't you think?

All proceeds from Dogs of Brooklyn sales at the Brooklyn Mutt Show are going to go to our cat Itty Pity’s cancer treatment. Sadly, after 17 years she was diagnosed with lymphoma and we want to make her as comfortable as possible as she passes into the next world (which ain’t cheap!).

Dennis, Phoebe dog, Phoebe Cat (in perch), and Itty Pity (on table as usual)

A good time will be had by all at the Mutt Show so come on down.

Some recent kind words on Dogs of Brooklyn/ my writing:

Good friend and excellent writer, Melissa Febos and I discuss writing, publishing, and dogs on The Nervous Breakdown.

Awesome editor/ writer Jason Boog interviews me about poetry and self publishing for Galleycat.

One of my clients interview me on poetry, Brooklyn, adolescence, and dogs on Walking the Blog.

More events etc to come! Mark your calendars for Saturday April 7 2012 at 7am-9am. Phoebe and I will be hosting Fido Brooklyn’s Coffee Bark! Come say hello and get free coffee, bagels, and dog treats in Prospect Park by the Picnic House. Hope to see you soon!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Interviews, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

My Life on the P List- Beaten by a 12-year-old at DWAA

I’m starting column to chronicle the d-list antics (humorous rejection) of being a poet and writer out there promoting myself. I’m calling it “My Life on the P List.” P being even further than D-list in the alphabet and miles away from the A-list. P also standing for Poetry, Promotion, Projectile Vomiting. P really can mean anything you like, but basically its my attempt to laugh at all the ridiculous rejection writers face. So read on- my failures are here for your enjoyment!

Several months ago I got a letter in the mail saying I’d been nominated for an award from the Dog Writers Association of America (really!) for my poem “St. Francis of 42nd Street” that appeared in the December 2010 of Dog Fancy Magazine.

February 12, 2012, the same night as the Grammys, I attended the DWAA Awards Banquet. So while Adele was busy getting awards left and right, I was making small talk with the real life cast of Best in Show. Appropriate considering the Westminster Dog Show is happening over the next two days. That’s right Mark Doty, Amy Hempel, John Grogan, and all you other writers who’ve had critical success writing about dogs–Eat Your Heart Out!

I have photos to prove the DWAA actually exists! When I got to the Affina Hotel, that’s right, we got swag bags! And instead of Rolex’s or whatever they give people at the Grammy’s mine was filled with dog friendly ice melt, dog chews, and other dog related products. Try to contain your jealousy!

Swag bag!!!

Wait it gets better! We checked out the writing display (my poem and Dennis’ photo was nowhere to be found)

Writing display

We find a table and wind up sitting next to some breeders. One of which had been a Westminster judge. Being that I’m a hardcore shelter/ rescue dog advocate sitting by breeders was like sleeping with the enemy! They were nice but did talk about judging “good” dogs. It got interesting when one of the older ladies started feeling sick and left to go to the bathroom with no shoes on. We checked on her to make sure she wasn’t having a stroke or something, she was ok but clearly not all there.

Dennis and I managed to eat our chicken dinners and keep our mouths shut about shelter politics.

Dennis and I playing nice

So the award ceremony starts and lots of the nominees and sponsors aren’t there which the presenter comments on saying about the sponsors “That’s okay we still have their money!” Which cracks us up. The awards are these plastic medallions and some cash awards. When they finally get to my category they announce the 4 nominees for poetry. One is at the table next to ours and she’s a fourteen year old girl that has a head band with cat ears on it. The presenter says her poem was published when she was only 12-years-old. They announce the winner and its her! She squeals and runs up to collect her plastic medallion. I stand there stunned that my 33 year old self who’s written for 20 years or more just got beaten by a 12-year-old wearing cat ears. They come over and give me my nominee certificate. I force a smile

My certificate! Almost as good as my MFA dipolma!

The highlight was I noticed Patricia McConnell who is pretty much my dog training idol sitting at the table next to us. So before we left I met her and gave her a copy of DOGS OF BROOKLYN!

Patricia McConnell is touching my book!

I grumbled my way home with Dennis who tried to cheer me up and not laugh at me too much. Its so ridiculous I actually can’t not laugh about it all.

So last week I was interviewed by Melissa Febos in the Rumpus and got mentioned by Poets and Writers,  this week beaten by a 12-year-old. Thankfully, the dogs love me no matter what–Too bad they can’t buy books!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

How a Dog Walker Paid off a 37K Student Loan in 6 Years

Me and the Dogs

At 25 I made the naïve mistake of getting an MFA in Creative Writing at a private college in New York City. I had moved to Brooklyn, NY when I was 22 from Florida after finishing my BA in English at Florida State University. For three years I floundered around in various jobs at a tattoo shop, TV and film, public and private schools, baby sitting, dog walking, selling produce at street fairs etc. You name it I did it. One thing that’s great about New York is that you can always find work, it may not be the work you want but there are plenty of odd jobs. Somehow I paid the meager rent in my sub-basement apartment (that’s right, below ground, one small shoebox window under a sewer grate) and was able to eat. There were night I couldn’t sleep because I was so scared about money and the future, but I had hope because I was in New York and it seemed anything was possible here.

In 2003 I thought it would be a good idea to get an MFA to hone my craft and build a local writing community/ connections. I didn’t want to leave New York so I applied to three schools—two local and one low residency. I only got into one school, so that’s where I went.  There was no thinking about how I’d pay for it. The school helped me apply for and set up a student loan program.  They had no teaching assistantships or scholarships really, though I think I was able to get a yearly 2k scholarship. They didn’t care how I paid back my loans either as long as they got paid.

I hadn’t done any research on schools with funding or really given it much thought at all. I thought when I graduated I’d just sell my novel and pay my student loans with the book advance. Needless to say that didn’t happen and when I graduated in 2005, I had $37,000 to pay back. Not only that but the MFA program was super unsupportive—both the faculty and students. Despite doing well in the program and really trying to connect with people I finished feeling no better off than when I’d started. A few years later when applying to residencies and then PHD programs I couldn’t even get letters of recommendation from most of my former teachers. I had to hit up my undergrad professors who are thankfully lovely generous people who have always been supportive of my work.

In case anyone is unaware, the job market is not pounding down the doors of people with MFA’s—shocking, I know.  After graduating, I worked in publishing production for about 5 minutes. I got a job at McGraw Hill in the building above Madison Square Garden. My parents finally thought I’d made it. I had an office job with benefits and a somewhat decent starting salary. I commuted everyday to the clusterfuck of Penn Station during rush hour. I tried my best at a job I wasn’t properly trained for. I routinely got yelled to the point of tears at for making mistakes though I was really doing my best. The florescent ceiling lights and soviet block architecture had me sitting on the steps of the main library on 34th street eating my lunch with the passed out bums just to be outside of that place. I got laid off 3 months later, had to move out of my apartment, and got dumped. 2005 was a stellar year.

When things fall apart sometimes it’s for the best. Some of the most painful times in my life have lead to the best changes.  I applied for deferment of my student loans. I thought about all of the jobs I’d had so far. The only one I somewhat enjoyed was dog walking. I called up a few dog walkers I knew in the neighborhood and told them I was available for work if they needed help. Luckily one did. I worked for her for a few months then started my own dog walking and pet sitting business full time since I’d always been doing this on the side anyways.

I was so angry at the world and the writing community for not publishing my book or being supportive that I quit writing and just played in punk/noise bands for a few years. Once I was making a little money I started doing minimum payments on my loan though I was really resentful and angry. I felt like the school had taken advantage of my naiveté  by charging all this money for essentially a useless degree. Resentment though is like drinking poison and hoping the other person (or school) will die.

My dog business continued to grow as my bands fell apart, now I was angry at music for the same reasons as the writing community. I even resented dog walking despite loving the dogs, because I felt like I was this super educated person picking up dog shit for a living. The truth was I was afraid it was all I could do and that it wasn’t  “good” enough in my eyes or in the eyes of the world. I started to have problems with my health- chronic ankle pain, a burst appendix that landed me in the hospital for a while, and then getting hit by a car. Thank god I’d started to hire people to work with me at that point with the dogs or I would’ve completely lost my whole business.  I’d also met and started dating a really nice supportive guy around that time which helped me get through it.

Some time on my ass in hospitals and at home helped me be grateful for the things I did have instead of always looking at what I didn’t have. Up till then I’d had my health, a family who loved me, and a job that supported me. I started to realize the least common denominator in all of my problems was me and my thinking. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself for all the things life wasn’t giving me and start being grateful for what I had. As for my job I was clearly in this dog walking profession for a reason and maybe instead of thinking it was beneath me, I’d just try to do the best at it I could. I finally grew up and accepted life on life’s terms and decided to go out there and do the best I could with what I had. This is when things really started to change for me.

I began to learn about dog training and help clients train their dogs to make their relationships and lives easier. I let go of the rock scene. It didn’t really do much for my mental health—it was more of a spiritual vacuum than writing ever had been. I began writing again, working on a book of poems about Brooklyn and the dogs to give a voice to this odd life of mine, and the characters, animal and human, I encountered everyday.  My boyfriend began photographing the dogs to go along with my poems to help me with my book.

I took responsibility for my student loans and began to attack them with everything I had. I paid as much as I could every month instead of paying the minimum and being depressed thinking that I’d never pay them off. The dog walking business fluctuates—some weeks it’s great and some weeks are slow. When I’d have fear about money I’d pay more on my loans, or give an employee a raise, or contribute a little to a charity. I call this daring God to financially take care of me—faith in action. I wanted proof that I’d be taken care of. Initially, I’d do it and sort of cover my eyes afterwards waiting for the ceiling to fall in. It never did. Inevitably, I’d get a new client or business would pick up with training or pet sitting. I learned that instead of holding on so tight to money, if I trusted the universe that there would be more money, there actually was.

The most amazing thing that happened was that one day my parents (who are not rich) called me up and said they wanted to help me. They wanted to give me a yearly contribution of 5K for my student loans. I was really proud and hadn’t asked my parents for money since I’d left Florida and felt weird about it. I told them I’d think about it. After thinking about it I told them I’d take it, but only if I could match it every year. I figured it would be tight but I could try to pay $400 a month or more towards loans. This was in 2008, I think. I still had 30K in loans so I figured if I did this for 3 years I’d be done.

Dogs of Brooklyn cover designed by Claudean Wheeler

In 2010 I finished the poetry book I’d been working on and started submitting it to publishers. I got the same lackluster response as my novel did, though I had some poems published in magazines and even got paid for one by Dog Fancy Magazine. After a year and a half of this I was done. I talked to a friend in publishing about self-publishing and she actually said it was the best way to go these days. I hired a book designer and worked hard with friends to edit it etc. The result, Dogs of Brooklyn, can be bought by clicking here!

I had all these notions that I wouldn’t be accepted by the publishing world if I self-published. Maybe I won’t, but I’ll have something tangible to show for all of my work and that’s all that matters to me right now. I’ve had friends publish with major publishers and barely make any money or get any help with promotion from them—it didn’t solve all their problems in other words. Once again I found I needed to change MY thinking about things. I seem to be the only one limiting my own success with narrow ideas of what success means.

Dennis, Me, our dog Phoebe at Wedding in Prospect Park

This year I also married the supportive, non-punk rock/artist, but wonderful man I’ve dated the past 3 years. I never thought I’d marry someone who works for the government, but I guess two crazy/moody artist types just makes for double the crazy. Again, not who I thought I’d end up with, I had to be open-minded, and am so glad I was. He accepts me, and my crazy animals and is smart, funny, and easy on the eyes.

I sent in my final student loan payment last night. I only had to accept 2 of my parent’s contributions. The rest I paid myself and I’m proud of that. I believe so much is possible if I can just be more open-minded. Sometimes when one door closes or won’t open, you got to take a window.  Next on the agenda, trying to buy an upstate property for dog and Susie sanity, seems impossible but who knows! Happy 2012!!!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

I Hate Being an Adult!

My kitchen table

When I started a dog walking business several years ago, I never expected to someday be a manager with a few employees. I really care about the quality of work we do more than quantity, which has probably hurt me financially but at least I can mostly sleep at night.

As my business grew I also began to have ankle problems from an old broken ankle injury. At 30 I had to start wearing orthotics in my shoes and while that helped somewhat, I started seeing that walking 5-6 hours a day was causing me a lot of chronic pain. I had to take on employees to help out so I wasn’t in constant pain.

Hiring and managing employees has been such a challenge for me. In this business we have peoples pets, which are like their kids and keys to their apartments. They have to trust us and I hold that trust as sacred. So I have to really train and trust employees that I hire which is tough. I’ve probably had an equal amount of good and not so good employees. I’m a pretty nice boss to work with when people care deeply for the dogs and quality of care we provide. I pay my workers more than other dog walking companies do, give raises and bonuses, try to give them time off when they ask, and thank them constantly for a job well done. People don’t realize dog walking is a tough job, we’re out in heat, rain, sleet, and snow for hours at a time running up and down stairs etc. And I really appreciate my loyal and hard working employees.

However, I’ve had to fire three people for either bad judgment, dishonesty, or inconsistency. Firing people is the last thing an employer wants to do. Lord knows I’ve lost jobs in my early 20s and I used to demonize those employers who let me go. Yes some were kinda jerks, but in hindsight I realized I absolutely had a part in things. I tried to show up and do a good job but sometimes when I was doing jobs that I didn’t care about, I’d have a bad attitude. I learned over time what kind of work I cared about and wanted to do, which radically changed my attitude and ultimately led me to start my own business.

Most of our clients are pretty reasonable, but we’ve definitely had a few who have been hard to work with. Not to mention that dogs sometimes have had serious behavior issues. If their owners are willing to work on the behavior with us we’ll usually work with them, but it’s been surprising when owner with dogs—often who are biting—don’t have time or want to deal with trying to fix the behavior. Needless to say I don’t work with those clients long term, it isn’t worth the risk to me, my employees, or the other dogs we care for.

I have enormous compassion for people in management positions. We are ultimately responsible for everything that goes down in a day even if we aren’t the ones doing every bit of the work. It’s a delicate balance when you have to turn over some of the control and trust others to do a good job when it’s your business/baby. There have been nights I’ve lost sleep, had serious heartburn from stress, and bawled my eyes out when I or one of my employee’s made a mistake. We are all human and doing the best we can, mistakes happen I realize. We do our best to amend any mistakes.

Sometimes I think I care too much about work and doing a good job. I recently had to get rid of my Blackberry email because my quality of life was really suffering. I wasn’t present to my family and friends in my down time. I’d often get emails at odd hours of the day and if I saw that the little red light on my phone was blinking of course I’d check it. I realized most of these emails didn’t need to be dealt with immediately. I check my email a few times a day from my laptop, that’s generally adequate. Clients can text or call me if they have an immediate need or emergency.

It’s really tough having your own small business. I cannot call in sick and I am responsible for a lot. However, I don’t think I could trade it and go back to working for someone else. I can mostly make my own rules that I feel okay with. I don’t want to work for places that have rules and regulations I don’t agree with and have to do it anyways.

I think some of it is that I really dislike being an adult sometimes. I know that sounds funny but it’s hard! It’s ironic because I can remember as a kid just wanting to be an adult and get out of my parents house and be on my own. Now that I am though sometimes I wish I could go back. Don’t get me wrong I’ve always paid my bills on time etc. but sometimes I just wish I could be some trophy wife or something and have someone take care of all the daily ins-and-outs for me. Sadly, I’m too fiercely independent for that. I really believe in being self-supporting and not being over dependent on anyone for money.

I guess we all just gotta deal with it. It’s a tough economy for most of us and  I’m grateful to have a job. I give props to all the other managers and grown ups out there. May you have restful nights and settled stomachs!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs