My name is Aimee and this blog features my German Shepherds, past and present. It developed over a year ago when we brought home our puppy Dusty.
Not long after we brought Dusty home, we found out that she had megaesophagus. Mega-e (where the title of this blog came from), is an incurable, idiopathic disease that effects a dog’s esophagus. Dusty’s esophagus was basically like a limp bag, so she wasn’t able to push food down into her stomach the way a normal dog would. That’s why we built her the Bailey chair depicted above, so that gravity would work its miracle and provide her the nourishment she needed. Unfortunately, gravity wasn’t enough in Dusty’s case, and she passed away soon after her diagnosis. She died of aspiration pneumonia, a common side effect of mega-e.
After Dusty passed, I decided that I wanted to keep writing, so my tales turned to our other dog, Smokey, a rescue from the Chester County SPCA.
Smokey was with us from almost the beginning of our life together. My boyfriend, Joe and I rescued him when we first moved in together. He taught us a lot about dogs, love, patience and training. He also taught us about the horrors of the underground world of puppy mills that was lurking right outside our door, because he came from some type of “kennel” operation, and living with him day to day showed us what a dark world that must have been for him. He was our “crossover” dog, and if it weren’t for his behavioral issues, I wouldn’t have found one of my passions – clicker training.
After we lost Dusty, Smokey was pretty lost himself, so we decided to get another puppy, Shelby, who is now a centerpiece of this blog.
Shelby introduced me to another one of my passions – herding. Even better, she introduced me to my current trainer, Carolyn Wilki of Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA, who uses a positive reinforcement approach to train working herding dogs. Shelby was our first, fully clicker trained dog, and she has taught me a lot about timing, patience and what a creative outlook on training can gain you.
Unfortunately, earlier this year, Smokey passed away. After receiving a series of vaccinations, he experienced a severe reaction which triggered IMHA/ITP and aggravated (or caused) a case of lymphoma which took his life just three days after diagnosis. Smokey’s death taught me another hard lesson about dogs and canine health, that there may be such a thing as too much of what you think is a good thing. His death brought me closer to Jan Rasmusen of truth4pets.org, who is battling to inform the public about the dangers of over vaccination, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join her cause, which I participate in to this day, to honor Smokey’s memory.
Three months ago, we decided on another dog, as it was Shelby’s unfortunate turn to be lonely. Though we loved having puppy Shelby, we felt that it was time for another rescue, and because rescues have an easier time placing puppies, and we didn’t want to go through housebreaking again, we opted for an older dog, one that was harder to place because of looks or behavioral issues that we knew we could overcome. So we brought home Panzer (f/k/a Daniel) who we found on Petfinder and adopted from All Shepherd Rescue.
Panzer is our first GSD that didn’t have to be trained to swim, and he’s our most ball crazy dog yet. He’s teaching me a whole new line of training using toys instead of treats, and he came with his own set of quirks to work through. Panzer also introduced me to the dark side of fighting rings, which I have barely even touched on yet, but will most surely do in the future.
In this blog, you’re likely to get a little bit of everything. I touch on canine illnesses, animal welfare issues, over vaccination, but my most frequent topic of discussion is training. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I take the hobby very seriously, and I’m constantly learning about the latest developments in dog behavior and learning theory. I’m an avid clicker trainer, and I rely on the principles of operant conditioning in training my dogs. I do my best to refrain from using any kind of positive punishment, and I don’t ascribe to the theory that I need to dominate my dog to make him behave.
After having two rescues, both of whom came from deplorable situations, I’ve learned that some dogs can’t be and shouldn’t be trained using choke chains, shock collars, rolled up newspaper, aggressive touches, kicks, slaps, or alpha rolls, but that all dogs can be taught using some kind of motivator (food, toys, treats, praise, pets and kind words).
That being said, I’m still learning, and my views on all forms of training are constantly evolving. Dog behavior, like dogs in general, is complex, and there’s always more to know, something I strive to do every day. At the end of the day, this blog is just about sharing what I’m learning and what is working for me. It’s about sharing the tears, the heartache, the laughs, the victories and the magic moments that my dogs bring me everyday and hopefully you’ll share your stories with me as well. Enjoy the blog!