About the Dogs


Small tan puppy with black muzzle and tail looking up at camera
Clara on the day she arrived (about 10 weeks old)

In the summer of 2011, several of us in my neighborhood were aware of a homeless dog who had a litter and was raising the pups in a small patch of woods. Some people set out food and water for her, but she was apparently pretty wild. One day in August I was driving down the street and saw a pack of four puppies moving fast. I slowed down and spoke to them and they ran. I thought to myself hastily that there was no way I could help them (they were not even very close to my house), and I admit to a slight sense of relief. I was already running over with three dogs.

About 10 days later, Zani started barking like crazy in the back yard. One of the puppies was by itself down in the side yard between my house and my neighbor’s. I approached her and she hunkered down and growled. I went inside and got baby food. She was in front of my house when I came back out. She carefully evaded me. I put the baby food down and backed off, but she would have nothing to do with it and growled again when I approached her. I turned on my video camera to show my friend that I could not possibly catch the wild puppy. At that moment, Cricket, from inside the house, started barking. The puppy crept up my front walk towards the barking, past me and through the door when I opened it.

Clara in Spring 2012, going on one year old
Clara in 2022 at 11 years old

That is how Clara came into my life. She made friends with my dogs and accepted me within the evening. But I found out the next day that her admitting me into her circle didn’t apply to any other humans, with whom she continued to act like a wild animal. My journey with Clara is one of the reasons I started this blog. She is bold, preternaturally smart, and both the most enthusiastic and consistently joyful dog I’ve ever had. She was 10 weeks old when she arrived. Here is her “introduction” video. The video includes footage of her the moment she crept into my house as a wild puppy.

Now in 2022, she is a mature 11 years old (and I can’t quite believe it!).

Zani, the party girl!

Small black and tan hound wearing an American Flag scarf, lying down and cocking her head
Zani at about 3 years old

Zani passed away in the fall of 2020 from probable lymphoma after lighting up my life for 11 years. In July 2009 I was driving home from my agility class and there was an adorable little hound puppy running down the street. I got out and called to her and she jumped in the car with me. No collar of course. I took her home with me. The next day the vet said she was actually a year old. She passed for a puppy until she went gray.

I put up signs and a couple of days later her owner called (from his address he had probably been passing my signs for a while). He said he was facing foreclosure, he and his daughter were gone most of the time, and Zani spent up to 12 hours a day in a crate or outside in a fence that she could escape through. Her survival prognosis wasn’t good, and I grabbed at the chance to keep her. Zani had a spectacular temperament and loved all people and particularly young children. She was sociable with other dogs. She had a keen mind and some fire to her as well. She kept total track of all reinforcement opportunities around the house, and if there were treats or fun to be had, she was there.

She was marked like a miniature black and tan coonhound and had a slightly wiry coat. I speculate that she is beagle/Jack Russell. She had a sensitive side and got her feelings hurt from time to time, but on the other hand, she was the only one of my dogs to ever sass me back. Zani was a natural agility dog, with “power steering” as my teacher said. She also seemed to shine in a competitive environment, a bonus gift from the agility gods. I am immensely proud that at her first agility trial ever she had three fast, joyful qualifying first place runs. Would have been a title except it was all under one judge. In November 2012 she got her novice jumpers title in AKC and one leg in open jumpers! In November 2013 she finished her standard title and got a leg or two in games. This little girl competed in three agility trials in her life and has 12 blue ribbons to show for it.


Black, brown, and sable mixed breed dog sitting on the grass looking up
Summer at about 1 year old

Summer passed away on August 25, 2017. I still can’t believe it. She succumbed without much warning to hemangiosarcoma, a terrible type of cancer that dogs are vulnerable to.

I got Summer from a small town shelter in 2006, one day before she was to be euthanized. Someone who used to go regularly to the shelter and post pictures of the animals on various e-mail lists took a picture of Summer looking very sad, advertised her as a terrier mix, and said: “She knows she’s in trouble.” Even though I had passed up many other sad and dire cries for help, as most of us have in the dog world, I was absolutely compelled to go get her. I didn’t even think I could set foot in the shelter but I did. I got her out, she turned one quietly happy circle and got into the car with me. Summer was an extremely mixed breed, but you could see German Shepherd Dog in her sable coat, and her temperament was like that of some northern breeds (think Chow-Chow). She was about 10 months old and I sought out training help almost immediately. I was unprepared for her boisterousness, tiffs with my older, smaller dog Cricket, and all the chewing. She showed the typical signs of under-socialization: fear of men, children, any person who was a little different, and novel objects.

Summer became slightly hypothyroid at the age of two and got on medication. She remained reserved, and always needed a big space bubble around her. She had a couple of dear human friends beside me, but the rest of the human race was pretty uninteresting to her. She was reactive, hypervigilant, a bit sound sensitive, and had one episode of dog aggression and a few close calls. I suspect she didn’t feel well a lot of the time. I think it was hard to “be” Summer, but she worked so hard to be good. Despite these difficulties, she became a wonderful dog to work with. So responsive and a joy to train.  We earned titles in obedience, agility, and rally. Her official name was UCD Summer RA NA NAJ TBAD TG2.


Small white, black, and brown terrier with big ears turning towards camera
Cricket Age 6

Cricket passed on May 31, 2013, at approximately 17 years old. I got my dear little dog when she was about six from Ratbone Rescues. My little girl in her last years was deaf, visually impaired, and had Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (doggie dementia). She needed a lot of help, but still had a good quality of life.

In 2006 when I got my next dog Summer and first investigated training, I found out that Cricket at the age of about 10 was a fast and eager learner. We played catch-up for a long time and didn’t get as far as my other dogs, but she insisted on being included and was lots of fun to train. She passed the Canine Good Citizen test, of which I was really proud. After that, we concentrated on behaviors that would be helpful to both of us as she grew older, as shown in this video, Polite Pet Behaviors and Enrichment for a Senior Dog.

Snuggled up in my arm, 2012
Snuggled up in my arm, age 16

She was an extremely tough little dog, having survived at least three attacks by bigger dogs, two of them while under my care. She had the typical rat terrier quality of being “all business” when outside, but close and affectionate indoors with her person. She preferred to have me in her sight at all times when I was home, and after she didn’t see well, generally kept her nose close to my leg. Also true to her breed, she slept with me under the covers as long as her health was robust enough to do so. She was always separated from Summer and Clara, and while she sometimes was in the same area as Zani, was not particularly sociable with her.

RIP Little Cricket. I miss you with all my being.

I hope you can share my enjoyment of these wonderful dogs.

35 thoughts on “About the Dogs

  1. LOVE your blog. Many of my own stories share similarities. I feel the pain of your own beloved dog not loving all others. That is the utmost frustration for me. I’d been following all the vids about Clara and am now thrilled to see her grown up ! I will be watching for more – thanks !!!!!

    1. Jan thank you so much. You are so kind. I love finding out that Clara has another fan. I’m putting up a video soon of her getting petted–at 3 months old and now, 14 months. Nothing like seeing her grow–yet stay the same.

  2. Oh, I love your description of your dogs. Lucky dogs who get their story told. They look so happy, and seeing them and reading your stories makes me just wanna go and meet them.
    I was laughing when I read about your Zani. She sounds — and looks — a lot like my super-lively agility-loving dog Tuhi (a collie x huntaway).

  3. Hi Eileen, I am loving your blog and YouTube videos! I have a dog very much like Summer – fear aggressive towards strangers, dog selective, needs a lot of space from most people and dogs, hyper-vigilant and anxious. I’ve had her 4 years (she is almost 5) and she has come such a long way:) I just did the “petting test” with her – it was awesome but I saw so much appeasement towards me…not sure if that is good or bad but it is a little “pathetic” for lack of a better word. I am not sure if she trusts me fully or not…I’d love to send you the video and have you look at it, if you have the time. Either way, I’ll be catching up on your great work.

    1. Hi Maria and welcome. So glad you like the blog and vids! Sounds like your dear dog is lucky to have you! I am not any kind of expert nor do I have any credentials, but I’ll always look at a video. The best thing of all though would be if you post it to the Facebook group Observation Skills for Training Dogs. They’ll be very nice to you! You can drop me an email using the sidebar on the blog and we can talk about your video if you want. So glad you commented. Your dog does sound a lot like Summer.

    1. Hi Localpcguy, BMCs are cool. When I first took Clara to the vet, that’s what I told them she was. She REALLY looked like one as a puppy, as I guess you saw in the video. It’s possible, although one cur owner locally says she is not quite right. I think she’s not blocky enough. She’s very leggy now. I got a glimpse of her dam once and she looked like a small yellow lab. Whatever Clara is, she’s a cool dog. Thanks for posting.

  4. YAY! I have a dog named after me! LOL My name is Clara 🙂 I think all your dogs are beautiful but I’m biased, Clara may be my favorite 🙂

  5. Hi Eileen, I’m curious how Clara does now with new /strange people, dogs and environments.
    She’s lovely, what an amazing stroke of luck for her to have found you!

    1. Hi Heather,
      Clara’s circle of people is still pretty small, and they are all at different levels of what is cool with her. There are 2-3 people besides me whom she is comfortable handling her extensively. Another 2-3 whom she visits with and takes treats from but is not close friends with. She handles herself really well in semi-public; we can walk by people or stand by a sidewalk as people walk by, but it is tiring for her. She has learned a bunch of things to do to help herself stay calm, and she always keeps in touch with me, but it is still a challenge. She never did get over the hump like we had hoped, where all people are basically cool. She still reacts like a scared wild animal at times. But my trainer friend is brilliant and Clara is improving all the time. We haven’t practiced with dogs very much at all, so mostly avoid that. She LOVES going places. I have to be really careful because she is so happy being out and she’s so waggly that people assume she is very friendly (and she really looks it, until they get too close!). I think she would have been a very gregarious dog, had she not been born and raised in the woods.

      Thanks for asking. I feel lucky to have her. She’s an incredible dog.

  6. I LOVE ZANI!!! I have a dog that looks just like her and shes a little firecracker! Shes a fast dog and loves chasing rabbits around my back yard! When I see Zani I can’t help but see mine in her!

  7. Clara looks so much like our recently departed girl, Bella. We rescued her and had 9 years with her before a brain tumour took her from us. We didnt get to see her as a puppy and weren’t sure of her breeding, so its nice to see the video of Clara as a puppy and imagine that is something like she would have looked. thanks for sharing.

    1. I know the feeling of wishing one knew what one’s dog looked like as a puppy, for sure. Clara is the only puppy I’ve ever had so I wonder about all the others. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing her. Bella was so lucky to have you. I’m sorry for your loss.

  8. Just wanted to say that I really love your blog! I am relatively new to the CC and DS world and definitely have a lot to learn. I have one super reactive beagle (a rescue) and one slightly reactive beagle (we got as a puppy) – and the slightly reactive one looks VERY MUCH like your Zani! So I think you’re right, there’s definitely beagle in Zani. 🙂
    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your posts and putting some CC tips into action.

  9. I have a 6 month old puppy looking exactly like Zani ! That’s so funny, I was wondering what breed he could be and i was thinking beagle x daschund. his name is Ulysse and he is so cute.

  10. Hello Eileen…Love your blog, but I am writing because when I saw a picture of Clara (in the video about signals regarding wanting to be petted) I could have sworn it was my dog Tonka! I live in Austin, TX and adopted Tonka last October 2016 when she was 10 months old. Austin Pets Alive was not able to give me any information about her history, only that she was found in Lampasas, TX. I don’t know where you live, other than the South somewhere, but I am curious if you know much about where Clara came from. I know Clara is about 6 now so not directly related to Tonka, but wouldn’t it be interesting if they have some sort of shared ancestry? Thanks for your time!

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I don’t know much about Clara’s ancestry except that her mother looked like a smallish yellow lab (I only got a glimpse once, so I don’t know if that’s really what she was) and two of her litter were black and rust like Dobermans/Rottweilers and other breeds that are marked like that. I’ll drop you an email and you can send me a picture of Tonka. I’d love to se her!

  11. We use a video you made with Summer and Zani in at a class that I work at and I’ve been trying to find out more about the backstory of them for coming up on a year now! It’s currently 2am and I’m sitting crying my eyes out reading about your little cricket. She just seems like the sweetest possible dog anyone could have and it’s so clear the close and loving relationship you both had together that it’s just breaking my heart. It’s so rare that we get to be blessed with a pal like that, I’m so happy for you that she is yours and you are hers, and will eternally be part of one anothers story.

    1. Brianne, this is one of the sweetest comments I’ve ever gotten. Thank you for caring about my wonderful little dog. Thank you for helping me keep her memory alive in the world. I don’t know what all you read, but here is one of my favorite stories about her: Poop In My Pocket: Life With an Old, Old Dog. Thanks again for your lovely note.

  12. Hi! I stumbled upon your website doing some research and your Zani looks EXACTLY like my pup Callie. We rescued her and they said she is from Alabama. I could not believe the picture when I saw it!

  13. Hi! I LOVE your blog. I found it while researching dog behavior in regards to my own feral pup, Odin. He was found at 5 months, living on his own at the garbage dump in a northern community. He was eventually captured and became a ward of the animal shelter where I volunteer. I immediately fostered him as he was complete shut down. Two months later I adopted him. He has come a long way in the three months I have had him and we are taking it one day at a time. There are new challenges everyday but I am hopeful that I may help him and that he may live a happy and sociable life. I loved reading about your Clara. Thank you for all you do.

  14. My dog was diagnosed with RMSF, she showed the same symptoms your video showed. She has been on doxy for 28 daysbut is still very weak in her hind end. She seems to move better once she gets going but it breaks my heart to see her try to get up, she is only 18 months old. She wants to run and play but if I let her she really really struggles later in the day to get up or even sit. I bring her back to vet tomorrow to try and get a plan together to help make her comfortable….any other advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Oh gosh, Kristen, I’m so sorry your dog is going through this. My Clara was not that young, but still a young adult and it was so hard. I don’t really have any advice—I’m glad you are going to see your vet again. I think my blog post or movie says that Clara ended up having more than one round of doxy, and I don’t think that’s uncommon. I really, really hope your dog gets her strength back. If it helps to know—Clara is now 8 years old and her joints and muscle strength seem fine.

  15. Eileen, thank you for your blog. I actually discovered it about a month ago when my dog was exhibiting behaviors like restlessness one night, pacing, confusion, looking at her back end, and in general, being afraid and crawling on top of us which was very alarming. We took her to the vet that following morning and they said it was likely early on set dementia. We got an MRI done to see if it was either a tumor in the brain (she was drinking a lot more) or if it was indeed dementia. The MRI came back with … absolutely nothing. The neurologist was quite baffled as to what could have changed her behavior so drastically that night, but said it could be so early that the brain still appears quite normal. From there, my dog mostly returns to her normal self with the exception of continuing to look at her back end and readjusting on occasion as if she just couldn’t get comfortable.

    Fast forward a couple of weeks, we get a call out of the blue from the neurologist saying that she had shared the MRI with the radiology department and they believe they see a blood clot and that she has an enlarged lymph node and to come in in the morning for an ultrasound.

    The results were that the blood clot wasn’t a blood clot at all, but likely a large tumor on a blood vessel and that it’s likely hemangiosarcoma.

    It’s been quite the ride so far. It’s only day 3 since she’s been diagnosed. Her oncologist suggested trying to shrink the tumor a bit with chemo before trying to surgically remove it because she’s likely to bleed out due to its location.

    I believe that my girl also had an episodic bleed out which isn’t talked about too much. Unfortunately, it seems as though many experience a sudden collapse, but reading your post about Summer was helpful for me to understand what might’ve been happening that particular evening when this whole thing began.

    Again, I appreciate you sharing your experience with us. It makes this whole thing feel not as lonely despite losing our best friends.

    1. Dear Robin,

      Oh my goodness. I can’t believe that your dog is connected to both of the difficult conditions my dogs have had.

      Hurray for the neurologist for consulting with colleagues and tracking down the tumor. That’s a fantastic veterinary specialist right there.

      Yes, I do think Summer had the episodic bleedouts. Sadly, that explained so much. One time she threw up during one (I think that’s in the blog or the movie).

      Best, best, of luck with your girl. I’m so sorry about the tumor, but I’m glad you know what you are dealing with, instead of going forward assuming she had dementia. Which would have been the case if you hadn’t had such expert care.


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