Tag Archives: dog training

Giant Angel Lands at Girls Ranch



As I close the car door and snap on Micah’s purple Gabriel’s Angels vest, I notice the window blinds separate, revealing big brown eyes and hear, “Micah’s here!  Micah’s here!”   I smile.  Little Sammy bursts through the front door, diapered and bare-footed with his mom on his heels and runs to Micah with his arms outstretched.  Sammy is two years old and has spent over a year seeing Micah every two weeks like clockwork.  He can’t tell time, but his teen mommy says that he has been camping at the window all afternoon, waiting for Micah.  He reaches up and wraps his arms around my 200-pound therapy dog’s giant neck, gives him a huge hug, turns on a dime and runs to the house, announcing that Micah has arrived as only Sammy can.

We have some changes this week!  We visit a group home under protective custody with abused, abandoned and at-risk children.  Normally we have about a dozen teen girls, give or take, a smattering of toddlers and a few infants, not counting the ones waiting to be born.  It’s not all teen moms.  We have had girls from “juvie”, some abused or self-abuse cases and occasionally an abandoned child.  This week one of the children has been released, one has turned 18 and has gone to live with a family member and we see three new faces and a brand new six-pound baby.

I introduce Micah to the new girls as Sammy pats the bag I’m carrying, asking for a brush.  Two of the girls are perched atop the back of the sofa like baby birds, eyes wide, staring at the behemoth that has entered the room.  As I explain the history of the breed, focusing on how the mastiff has protected their families and kept them safe for thousands of years, the girls relax a little.  “Safe” is something they crave. But they are NOT getting down or touching him!  “Keep that big dog away from me!”

Micah is already seeking out the infants who are scattered around the room in their car seats or carriers.  He’s kissing baby toes, and the toddlers are following him with their brushes.  The girls watch in amazement as the toddlers lie on top of the “gentle giant” and run their Matchbox trucks along his brindle stripes. Micah doesn’t move a muscle, even when a one-inch dump truck runs over his head and down his nose.

I pull the treats out and announce that we’re going to play “hide the treat”.  I give each of the girls a treat and have them hide it in their hand…toddlers included.  Micah goes to each child (Sammy FIRST!) and they hold out both fists and let Micah discover which hand contains the treat.  The “baby birds” slide down to the seat of the sofa and hold trembling fists out to “the big giant head”.  I show them by example how to hold their palms flat when he spots the right one.  I stand next to them and give Micah a treat first and coax them to respond.  The hand opens, Micah gently takes the tiny treat, barely brushing their palm with his lips, and they are amazed!  “Miss!  He’s so GENTLE!”  The free hand comes up as I encourage them to touch his satin-soft ear.  “Miss!  He’s so soft!”  Their body language changes and they unwind and slip to the floor as I hand them a brush and they begin their relationship with the biggest Gabriel’s Angel.

They have just overcome two huge barriers that are ingrained in their behavior patterns.  They have overcome fear and they have begun to trust.  Many of these children have lived in fear most of their lives.

I show them how I lay next to Micah on the floor at home, as if he’s a giant teddy bear.   One by one they take their turn cuddling their newfound friend.  One of the girls says, “Miss, I think Micah’s thirsty.  He’s panting.  May I give him some water, Miss?”  I thank her for being empathetic and noticing Micah’s discomfort.  She pours his bottled water into his bowl and she smiles as he tries to take it directly from the bottle.  She gets one of the towels that I carry and gently wipes his face when he’s finished.   I thank her for being so compassionate and loving to Micah.

I remind the children that dogs’ memories are often connected to their sense of smell, and they hold those memories all their lives.  I tell them if Micah sees them somewhere 5 years from now, he will recognize them as family.

Time’s up and Micah gets a hug from each of the children as we leave (each teen making SURE he gets their scent in his nose good and proper).  The mother of the newborn holds tiny infant up to Micah’s face so he will smell and remember her baby.

Once again I load my sleepy fur-baby in the back of my car, slide in next to him and hug him myself.  Good job, Micah!

Copyright 2013 by Mary Watson


Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Angels Have Pawz, Muddy Pawz


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The Biggest Angel

Images of a Gentle Giant

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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Muddy Pawz


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URGENT! Looking for Outdoor Bidet!

Bentley, our 200+ pound English Mastiff has become very fussy and very spoiled, and yes, it’s all our fault. 

He doesn’t like to step in tall grass (tall being over 2” deep).  It tickles his toes.  He doesn’t like to get rain drops on his coat, as if he’ll melt.  He does like brushing and massages, particularly above his tail on top of his butt and if you stop before HE is satisfactorily scratched and massaged, he whips his head around and gives you “the look”.  He seems very content, if not entitled, to have an herbal mint salve rubbed onto his elbows and the pads of his feet.  This is appropriate bi-pedal behavior.

He only likes to fetch RED balls (So much for the color blind theory…), and if they get slightly sun-parched, he spits them out.  If they have grass stuck to them, he spits them out.   If they have dirt on them, he refuses to pick them up at all.  If one of his balls rolls into an inconvenient spot, rather than go get another ball, he throws a tantrum, whining and stomping his feet and relocating the household furnishings.  I retrieved two this morning that rolled under a lasso that was hanging off an antique saddle stand.  Evidently a rope that has at any time touched a cow is evil, foul and nasty, not to mention dangerous!

He does not like walking on wet ground…at ALL.  If we get irrigation, he normally goes to the highest little 2’ square spot in the yard to do his business, appearing much like an Olympic diver in “pike position” with all four giant paws touching.  If it’s raining, he will go outside only if I hold the large golf umbrella over him and walk the yard by his side until the business is complete.

He does not like 2 of his 9 water dishes.  We don’t know why.  He passes over them as if a waiter had spat in his food with…”the look” toward us over his shoulder.  (“How COULD you???”)  Yes, he has a water bar…raised and freshened twice daily.  If he drinks out of one of the nine bowls, he will not drink from that bowl again until it has been rinsed of any drool and refilled.  (Fortunately he has yet to discover Pellegrino or Dasani.)

If a tiny salmon treat isn’t planted in his kibble, he gives you “the look” and stands over his bowl until you by-God go get one.  “Mom!  Dad!  Where is my garnish???  This dish has not been properly plated!  Fire the chef!”  He prefers to eat at 6:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  If not fed at the appropriate time, I swear, he checks his Rolex and once again gives you “the look”.  (It’s very haute British, indignant and, frankly, quite insulting.)

I thought we had seen it all, but this morning the prima donna took the cake.  We just had our winter lawn put in, and before spreading the rye seed, they covered the yard in a combination of mulch and steer manure.  Bentley thinks it’s most disgusting and refuses to step in it.  After pacing and fussing around the edge of our lawn on the cool deck for some time, he located a huge empty copper kettle with brass legs that I once used as a planter next to the stepping stones leading to the back gate.  Placing his delicate toes on the manure-free stepping stones, he perched his big behind over the edge of the kettle and deposited his morning business…into the POT!  Oh. Yes. He. Did.   My husband and I just stared at each other, mouths agape, in total disbelief.  In hindsight (pardon the pun), I rather wonder why we were surprised at all.

  I’m looking for an outdoor bidet…in red.

© 2011 Mary Watson 

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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Muddy Pawz


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My Thanksgiving

I have to admit that over the past few months, I’ve been kind of a whiney-pee-pants.  (That is MY noun, and I’m keeping it.)  This has been a tough summer at Casa de Muddy Pawz, beginning with the loss of our baby/guardian/best friend, Bentley, a 4 1/2 year old English Mastiff.  Both cars broke down, one after the other, the vacuum literally flew into pieces at my feet as I was cleaning and the hose bib in the back yard started squirting me in the eye every time I turned it on, and I even backed over the cat food dishes with my Range Rover and learned the true meaning of “smithereens”.  We had the biggest dust storm in a century right after we had drained and refilled our pool, resulting in the largest water bill in history.  I went through a biopsy and surgery for skin cancer, paying for the sins of my youth as a sun-worshipper.  I talked to the real estate commissioner who informed me that commercial real estate wouldn’t be regaining a pulse until at LEAST 2014 to 2016, i.e. “Your career is toast!”  My unemployment had run out and I couldn’t BUY a job.

Damn…things were looking pretty grim.

Now, some good things happened, too, this summer.  I got a grant and went through Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and graduated from their New Media Academy to gain some street cred and increase my smarts.  After months of research, my husband found THE healthiest puppy on the planet in Indiana and flew him home.  Our female Mastiff, Nala (also known as the Princess or the Honey Badger, depending on her mood…) made a turnaround from her fear of men and became Daddy’s Little Princess, complete with kisses and snuggles.  I even reconnected with a couple of long lost friends and made some new ones.  I even learned the definition of “haboob”!  You know…the good stuff!

Yet it seems like the economy has tanked in the good old USA and now Europe is following suit, right down to rioting in the streets.  (More to come…film at eleven…)  People are robbing banks and homes to feed their families.  There enough are droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods to make you wonder if the whacked-out 2012 End-of-Days people might not just have something.  And of course, we’re all watching our president vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard and charging $35,000 a plate (Let me repeat that…$35 grand per PLATE!)  for his campaign fundraising dinner, while telling us about his plan for turning our economy around.  (Did you kinda choke on that one, too?)  Well he’s going to make those big bad boys that have corporate jets pay more taxes, by golly!  And he’s gonna find jobs for our nation and get America back to work…somehow…by golly!  (Thanks, Pres’…)  I’m choking on both dust and politics.  It’s a political haboob…

We discovered that our new puppy came with an intestinal parasite, but we quickly got that licked, We fixed the cars, got a new vacuum cleaner with a four on the floor and cherry-pak mufflers, got the puppy through obedience school,sprayed down the dust from the house, drive, cars, patio and leafy things, back-washed the pool 46 times, got my stitches out, and I even landed my first paycheck in 2 1/2 years doing some independent contractor work.  Hallelujah!

On 9/11 the puppy developed a rare joint infection, collapsed on the floor, and I found myself once again staring at forty-eleven bottles of pills and a treatment schedule.  My dear husband had been beside himself through this after losing his best friend with fur, another friend at work and putting in 50-hour work weeks to keep the boat afloat.  Walking the puppy into the same clinic where we said farewell to Bentley just four months prior was too much. It tore my heart out to see him walking in circles in that parking lot, wiping away the tears of grief and fear. We were both red-lining both emotionally and physically and trying hard (sometimes unsuccessfully) not to strike out at each other through it all.

Micah, the puppy is back on all fours again, but it seemed to be one hit too many.  Generally I walk through crises and fires with full body armor and do my bleeding, whining, crying and blistering post-crisis when it’s safe to fold the WonderWoman outfit and drop it in a box.  This weekend I dragged around in slow motion, spent a lot of time in bed with the Honey Badger and only got up do pill the puppy and look at that damned treatment schedule again.  I hit the wall, feeling raw.  I lost my flak vest and helmet and I even shed a few tears.

I woke up this morning, and sat on our patio watching the sun break over Camelback Mountain, and something in me just…tipped.  I realized that I was looking across a beautiful, manicured lawn with trees heavy with fruit, past our warm, sparkling pool at one of the most beautiful mountains in the valley.  I had just kissed my husband and sent him on his way to work for a wonderful company where he works alongside a man he respects more than any other.  (…and ya know, my husband is very easy on the eyes, even in his 50’s!)  Our two mastiffs were stretched out in that beautiful golden morning light, washing each other’s faces and the sun felt warm on my skin.

There are families who have lost everything…lots of them.  I was struck by a news report of a man who was recently arrested for robbing a bank to feed his family and asked the officers to please take care of his dog who was still in his car.

I have a warm, cozy little home, we have been cautious enough to live within our means, even when we lost our juicy second income.  We have food in the fridge, health insurance for us and our pets, a roof over our heads, incredible friends, two beautiful dogs and absolutely worthless silly cats.  Best of all, we have each other.  We’ve had each other about 15 years now, and are getting ready to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  I took a fresh look around this morning and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my husband, our home, our animals and our life together.  Life is suddenly looking pretty shiny compared to yesterday.  I took a deep breath and…




Copyright 2011 – Mary Watson

My Thanksgiving – Music and Lyrics by Don Henley, Stan Lynch and Jai Winding

Well a lot of things have happened
Since the last time we spoke
Some of them are funny
Some of them ain’t no joke
And I trust you will forgive me
If I lay it on the line.
I always thought
You were a friend of mine.Sometimes I think about you.
And wonder how you’re doin’ now
And what you’re goin’ throughCause the last time I saw you
We were playin’ with fire
We were loaded with passion
And a burnin’ desire

For every breath
For every day of living
This is my thanksgiving.

Now the trouble with you and me, my friend
Is the trouble with this nation;
Too many blessings,
Too little appreciation.
And I know that kind of notion
Well it just ain’t cool
So send me back to Sunday School.

Because I’m tired of waiting
For a reason to arrive
And it’s too long we’ve been living
These unexamined lies

Cause I ‘ve got great expectations
I’ve got family and friends
I’ve got satisfying work
I’ve got a back that bends

For every breath
For every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving.

And have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks
Things ought to be
With the way things are?Here in this fragmented world,
You know I still believe
In learning how to give love
And how to receive it.
And I would not be among those
Who abuse this privilege.
Sometimes you get the best light
From a burning bridge.And I don’t mind saying that I
Still love it all.
You know I wallowed
In the springtime,
Now I’m welcoming the fall.For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road
That brought me hereFor every breath
For every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving.

For every one
Who helped me start,
And for every thing
That broke my heart

For every breath
For every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving.


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Puppy Classes

English Mastiff Puppy

Bently the Quarterback

We knew that Bentley was going to be the size of a Prius at full growth, so at 4 months of age, we enrolled our English Mastiff puppy at Team Canine, Inc. (The Obi-Wan’s of dog training…)  for the first of many training classes, “Puppy Socialization”.  By the time he was a year old, he was entered into their Canine Good Citizen class, and weighed about 200 pounds.

I arrived at 6:00 on the nose, and about ten other dog-moms and dog-dads were already there with their fur-babies.  They were seated at the south and west perimeters of the room, and when they saw Bentley come in, they grabbed their fur-children to their chests, eyes bulging, as if a 300 pound silverback gorilla had entered the room.  Our trainers, Brad and Jade Jaffe had known Bentley from puppydom and were well aware of his gentle temperment.  Gathering the obvious discomfort of our new classmates, I seated myself on the north wall with Bentley’s Louisville slugger tail wagging…all alone with our spit towel, wondering if we would be forced to leave due to size, spit or the all-powerful Mastiff gas.

Brad stepped to the center of the classroom like a maesto at orchestra and began his welcome speech.  About two minutes into his speech, he picked up the fact that not one eye was directed toward him, but focused on “King Kong o’ the North”.  He stopped in mid-sentence.  He glanced around the room, looked at Bentley and said, “Oooookaaaay….I get it!!  Mary, let me have Bent’.”  I handed the leash to Brad, delighting Bentley to the point that a veritable river was pouring out of his jowls.  (He gets pretty drooley when excited, and he LOVES his Uncle Obi.)  Brad asked Bent’ to sit and, SMACK, one large Mastiff’s behind hit the floor for Obi-Wan in a nanosecond.

Brad proceeded with, “Class, this is Bentley.  Bentley is an English Mastiff, the largest breed on the planet per body mass.  Bentley weighs around 200 pounds now, and has been with us since he was the size of a labrador, and yes, he’s still growing.  He appears in our training dvd, “Dogological”, and shakes paws in three languages.  I’m sure some of you may have been a little intimidated by Bentley’s size and I can see that you’re concerned about the well-being of your own dogs.  I guarantee you, Bentley will neither bite nor swallow you nor ANY of your dogs this evening.  He’s already had two Shih Tzus for breakfast.”  The class burst into laughter (even the owners of a Shih Tzu), the tension in the air was torn asunder, and by the end of class, Bentley had been hugged by every owner and was sniffed and kissed by every one of his classmates.

God bless Obi-Wan.

© Copyright 2011 Mary Watson


Posted by on August 7, 2011 in Muddy Pawz


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Handy Tips for Mastiff Owners

Answers to Standard Mastiff Questions:     

Bentley and Boadie

  • No, I don’t have a saddle.
  • Three cups of dry food twice a day and a couple of Pomeranians.
  • No, I don’t own a front-loader.
  • Yes, they drool.  (Hand subject towel here.)
  • Females about 150-175, Males from 185 – 240.
  • They sleep wherever they please, including on top of their owners.
  • Their job is to protect me.  G’head…take your best shot.
  • They are the largest dog on the planet per body mass.
  • I’ve seen bigger piles from a beagle.
  • If you have to ask, you can’t afford one.

Required Equipment / Abilities:
  • Ability to step over a riding lawnmower and maintain balance (Mastiff-Hammie Stretch) –
  • Large bed plus spare room in the event that they take over –
  • Pet Insurance (We have VPI per our vet’s recommendation, but there are many carriers.) –
  • 60 terry cleaning, shop or hand towels, one to be handed to each guest on arrival  –
  • Full combat body armor, steel-toed boots and helmet (for puppies 10 weeks to a year) –
  • The patience of Job –
  • Explain in advance that your “puppy” weighs 150 pounds before people visit, thus avoiding shock and- awe and a dwindling social circle.-
  • Large vehicle with ramp, steps or hydraulics (Our Range Rover is THE perfect drool-bucket.) –
  • A great positive reinforcement trainer – No alpha/pack mentality egotists.
  • Loving, patient neighbors, family and friends who understand that you’ve gone over to the other side.-
  • Learn to apologize in advance for spit, smashed toes, and humans pinned to walls, doors, etc. due to the “Mastiff-Leaning” procedure.-
  • No less than 1 year of research on the breed PRIOR to obtaining a Mastiff puppy –
  • Ability to hold your breath for up to 3 minutes or until someone removes large furry growth from your chest –
  • Ability to hold your breath up to 4 minutes while running in the event of Mastiff gas in an enclosed area –
  • Do not be alarmed that your furniture may spontaneously become rearranged, overturned or consumed (Citrus spray recommended in convenient locations.) –
  • 7 – 9 large water bowls plus large food bowl on raised stand –
  • 17 giant dog pillows (also an acceptable location for you if bed has indeed been taken over.) –
  • A doggie door large enough to accommodate a  1975 VW Superbeetle –
  • Fenced pool, rescue ramp and flotation vest for accompanied swimming, as many Mastiffs sink like the Titanic –
  • A Halti, Martingale or Gentle Leader. (If you put a spike, shock or choke collar on your dog, we will hunt you down and adorn you in kind…for LIFE.) –
  •  The best vet on the planet –
  • A good chiropractor for yourself –
  • The ability to continue driving safely within your lane with spit dripping off your sunglasses –
  • Indoor and outdoor toy boxes overflowing with appropriate industrial strength toys –
  • The ability to wipe drool from ceiling fans, artwork, furniture, appliances and from inside your best friend’s ear (Commonly referred to as “Spit Patrol”) –
  • Enough love, hugs, kisses, belly scratches and ear-noogies for a lifetime of pure joy with your gentle giant. –
  • A commitment to be there with your dog…from the beginning to the very end, knowing he’s been there for you. –
  • A good camera to capture every moment you possibly can, as they are gone too much, much  too soon.
© Copyright 2011 Mary Watson

Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Muddy Pawz


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