Monday, August 21, 2017

The Gathering at Sunnybank

Holly and Winter, pose with Terhune and some of the Sunnybank collies

Through the trees and across the green hillside, down to where the blue lake touched the shore, the collies and their families gathered.  They came together to celebrate this wonderful breed, and to remember the Master and the Mistress, and their beloved Sunnybank collies. There was food and laughter, auctions of collie memorabilia, and everywhere you turned, there were collies.

Every August, collie lovers from near and far travel to Sunnybank to spend the weekend together, and the park rings with the joyous sound of happy collies once more.  Sunnybank was the home of Albert Payson Terhune and his wife, Anice.  It was where they bred and raised their Sunnybank collies, the inspiration for most of Terhune's books.  Many years after Bert and Anice passed away the grounds were turned into a park, with the help of some devoted fans.  And now Sunnybank is carefully preserved, along with the gravesites of the famous collies.  In many ways a visit to Sunnybank is like stepping back in time.  Visitors are able to walk the pathways and sit beneath the ancient trees, and imagine the Terhunes and their collies walking and playing along the banks of the "fire blue lake."

It's an experience that every collie lover should get to enjoy at least once.  We've been visiting Sunnybank for years, but it never loses it's magic.  Sitting there, watching the young collie puppies playing, you can see the future of the collie breed.  On Sunday there is a puppy match held, and puppies and older collies can enter in a fun practice competition. There is a parade to celebrate the rescue collies finding their new families, and another to honor the senior collies, whose graying fur just makes them even more endearing.  And the camaraderie helps to inspire people to bid on auction items, to help raise money for the Collie Health Foundation, which funds medical research projects that benefit the future health of the collie breed.

honoring the seniors

So if you love collies, you should try to attend The Gathering, which is held the third weekend of August every year in Wayne, NJ.  Maybe we will see you there!

Winter, resting in the cool, green grass of Sunnybank 
Winter and Holly, two very tired collies, resting after a fun day at Sunnybank

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A collie named Lassie, a place called Sunnybank

Did you have a favorite movie star when you were a child?  I'm not ashamed to admit that most of mine walked on four feet instead of two.  I loved watching old movies on Sunday afternoons, this was back before we had 800 or more television channels to choose from.  On Saturday mornings we watched our favorite cartoons, and the rest of the weekend was spent playing outside with our friends...unless it rained.  On those rainy days I would search through the TV Guide, which came in the Sunday morning paper, and look for a good movie to watch.

On Sundays they often showed old Shirley Temple movies, old Tarzan movies and old Lassie movies.  I loved old movies, but my favorites were always the movies that featured dogs.  So it isn't a surprise that I loved Lassie, especially since I came from a family of collie lovers.  Lassie was smart and heroic, and her loyalty and devotion to her family made her the perfect dog.  This was a dog that matched the truest definition of a best friend.

I discovered a love of reading when I was around 9 years old.  And shortly after that I discovered the books written by Albert Payson Terhune.   His books were fictional stories about his collies, who were also brave, smart, heroic and beautiful, just like Lassie.  So while I didn't grow up with a collie of my own, I always knew I would have one,"someday."  And now I have collies in my life, and they make me happy.  I belong to collie clubs, and we attend collie specialty dog shows, and I have friends who share my passion for this wonderful breed.  Ask any of them why they fell in love with collies, and most of them will tell you it's because of either Lassie or Terhune.  And this coming weekend, many of those friends will be driving to Sunnybank, the home of Albert Payson Terhune, for The Gathering.  It's almost time to gather and celebrate the collie...

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Versatile Collie - Collies as Therapy Dogs

Today we are excited to share our fourth post in our new series, The Versatile Collie.  It's our hope that through these posts more people will come to appreciate the amazing and special collie breed.  Collies are such versatile dogs, they excel at many different activities, including Therapy dog work.  Our last guest blogger, Veronica Sanchez, shared her experience raising and training collies as service dogs.  But not only do collies excel as service dogs assisting people on an individual basis, they also make great Therapy dogs, where they can help larger groups of individuals. While we are still a relatively new Therapy dog team, I thought I would share our experiences as Ryder and I are completing our first year doing therapy dog visits.

A couple winters ago, my mother fell in the snow and broke both of her arms, necessitating a six week stay in a rehab/nursing facility.  To cheer her up, I brought our collie Ryder to visit and work his magic.  He was such a hit, we brought him back a few times, and before long the other patients and residents were calling him into their rooms to visit.  The staff also fell under his charms and when I would show up to visit my mother without him, they would ask me to go get him!  All of which started me thinking about getting Ryder certified as a Therapy dog.  And last summer, while we were at Sunnybank, I finally had him take the test, which he passed.  (You can find the requirements to pass the Therapy Dog test, here)

I had to wait for all his paperwork to go through, but finally in September 2016, he was ready to start doing visits.  I contacted a few local nursing homes, and they all agreed to let him come visit.  But one Nursing home in particular was very enthusiastic, and even asked if they could put him on their weekly schedule!  They do a lot of activities for their residents, and were very happy to have a therapy dog stopping by the Nursing home.  It has been such a wonderful experience, and we can see how positively the residents have responded to Ryder’s visits.  Many of them light up when they see him coming down the hall, and one resident even had her family buy her a bag of dog cookies, so she has them to give to him when he visits.  And some of the staff look forward to his visits too, one particular lady keeps treats in her desk for him as well.

Most of the residents in the Nursing homes grew up watching Lassie in movies and on TV.  And many of the residents had a collie of their own while growing up, so seeing Ryder reminds them of their childhoods.  Last December I planned a movie day, where I had Ryder and two other therapy dogs, visit with the residents and watch an old Lassie movie with them.  It was a big success, judging by the smiles on their faces.  The staff even took pictures of Ryder and the other dogs with the residents, and printed them so the residents could hang them in their rooms.

We recently learned that the AKC, in order to encourage pure bred dog owners to pursue pet assisted therapy work, have made Therapy Dog titles!  Ryder has already earned his THDN title and is now working on earning his THD title.

Therapy Dog Titles
·         AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) Must have completed 10 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog (THD) Must have completed 50 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) Must have completed 100 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX) Must have completed 200 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD)

Doing pet assisted therapy dog work has been a very rewarding experience, and it has so many benefits for the residents.  It can improve a patient’s social interaction and can improve their emotional health, as many are still sad after giving up their pets when they entered the facility.  Therapy dogs can also visit hospitals, hospice facilities, schools, libraries and sites of disasters.  This past Spring, Ryder was invited to Yale University.  The school was holding an event to help the students relax and unwind during their stressful finals, and since Ryder takes part in a research study at Yale on canine cognition, they knew he would be a great addition for all the students missing their own pets back at home.  To learn more about Therapy dog programs click on any of the following links:

Ryder posing for a "selfie" with two Yale students
Thanks for visiting!  You can read the other posts in this series by clicking on the links below:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sunflowers, cows and collies...oh my!

This past Sunday was an unusually beautiful day.  It was sunny but the temperature was only in the 70's.  I didn't want to waste such a perfect day, so we grabbed Scarlett and Abby and drove to Buttonwood farm.  The farm is open to the public, and has acres of Sunflowers, cows and a stand where they sell their own ice cream.  And the best part is that well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome!  Since it's "Flower Friday" and a day to see the beauty around us, we thought we would share our day at the farm with you!

Abby outshines any flower!

A sea of green and gold!

They got their own cup of pumpkin ice cream to share!

Scarlett, hoping for a ride!

The cows were so fascinated by the collies, this one actually kissed Abby.  (she was not impressed!)

Curious cows!

It was a fun day, we really enjoyed exploring all the Sunflower fields.  Next year we will try to get there towards the middle of July, which is the peak of the Sunflower season.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Versatile Collie - How to choose a Service Dog

Today we are excited to share our third post in our new series, The Versatile Collie.  It's our hope that through these guest posts more people will come to appreciate the amazing and special collie breed.  Collies are such versatile dogs, they excel at many different activities, including service dog work.  Our guest blogger is Veronica Sanchez, and she trains dogs to become Therapy dogs and Service dogs.  Her website, Cooperative Paws, has a wealth of information on dog training, therapy dogs and service dogs.  Veronica has three smooth collies, and she has shared her experience raising and training collies as service dogs.  You may recognize one of her collies, Nigel, as he came from our litter last summer.  We are very grateful to Veronica for taking the time to write this for us!     

Collies as Service Dogs

My first collie, Millknock’s Phaser on Stun CD, CGC, I got with the goal of competing in obedience. I had just finished his CD when I started having some difficulty walking. After a difficult two-year period that involved extensive medical testing and hospitalizations, I found myself with a diagnosis of generalized dystonia, a progressive neurological disorder. 

As I adjusted to using a wheelchair and other adaptive equipment, I realized the obedience skills my collie already knew could be expanded for service work. Phaser was a natural fit for service work, he had already been doing therapy work, was confident and happy. I worked with several trainers and trained Phaser to work in a wide range of public situations.

As grooming had become increasingly difficult for me, transitioning to smooths made logical sense. Currently, Cadenza’s Lieutenant Sulu Eau My CGC, holds titles in Rally and works as my service dog. He is beautiful, sensitive and does extensive work demonstrating behaviors to my clients who are also training service dogs. My sweet and mischievious 15 month old Nigel, Marchello’s Up to Eleven is in training for service work as well. 

As a professional pet dog trainer and service dog trainer, I am often asked for information about choosing a breed for service work. I think collies can be a great fit for this role when matched with the right owner and situation. Collies are a good size for mobility work as they can open doors, pick up objects and assist with activities of daily living like dressing. Some collies can perform  brace/balance work as well.

I use a combination of lure reward techniques and clicker training to train my collies.  I always consider what my dog actually wants to do. If I’m working on a behavior that my dog is not enjoying, then we change, I work around it or find a way to make it fun for my collie. In short, as much as my service dog collies help me, I make sure I’m serving them too. 

Thank you Veronica!  You can view some of Veronica's training videos here.

follow-up questions to the post:

1. Who determines when the dog is ready to be a service dog? When is their training complete? 

The trainer determines when the dog is ready to work in public and when training is *mostly* done. Of course all dogs benefit from ongoing training and because many disabilities change over time, some service dogs may need to learn new tasks over time. 

2. Therapy Dogs have to take a test, before they become certified therapy dogs. Does a dog have to take a test to become a service dog? What are the things they test for?

There is no legally required test, I have an assessment I use with my clients, I look for calm and relaxed behavior in various settings, reliable performance of tasks in different situations and that the owner of the dog can assess when the dog needs a break and when the dog is stressed.

3. If they do have to pass a test to become a Service dog, is there just one organization that does the testing? Or is it similar to Therapy Dog testing, where you have many organizations doing the testing/certification? 

Federal law doesn't require certification.Different organizations have different standards. It's a bit of a "Wild West" - I did a webinar on this for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers that is free and goes into detail on the laws:

You can view the previous two guest posts by clicking below:
The Versatile Collie - pulling a sulky
The Versatile Collie - K9 Nose Work

Monday, August 7, 2017

National Lighthouse Day

I can't believe I almost missed this, as I love lighthouses, and so do the collies!  For National Lighthouse Day we decided to share some of our favorite lighthouse pictures...

Hopefully, we will have new lighthouses to share with you this Fall!