I want to post the story of Wonder. This story has traveled around the U S and a few foreign countries. It is a story of one of twenty-five dogs rescued from a dog-fight ring. It is a story that both broke my heart and enlarged my soul. Two of these pictures are me taking Wonder outside. He hardly knew what to do on the grass because his life had been in a cage or a fight-ring. He never knew what play is or what a toy was for.

 WONDER 3       WONDER 2

One day I wanted to take Wonder to a place very quiet. I thought he could rest and Wonder_April_LGrelax away from the din. This picture is of Wonder with me in a hallway. He rested his head on my neck. We were like this for about 45 minutes. When I got up my shirt was covered with blood and puss oozing from the many unhealed wounds on his head, He is VERY dog aggressive. A dog was walked within a couple of feet of us, he looked at the dog, and laid his head back on my neck. Wonder died the afternoon of this picture.

injured-pit-bull-wonder             WONDER

When the story of Wonder hit the papers and the net a man called me, deeply touched by the story. He asked if he could claim the ashes and have the urn made. This is a solid oak box. “In Remembrance of Wonder” is routed on the top. It is a keepsake.

I will here share with you the story of WONDER. This is the INTRODUCTION and First Chapter to the book I am writing about this marvelous dog.






Have you ever experienced a kairos moment? A kairos moment is an ancient Greek word meaning “a moment in time” in which something special happens. Kairos time has a qualitative nature that is experienced, but cannot be fully explained. It is an experience that, in some way, changes the person. It seems that time as we know it is suspended and one is absorbed in something of the divine. A kairos experience is not a common occurrence, nor is it a natural experience. Kairos is a supernatural experience and therefore, to fully explain what took place, is beyond human words and understanding. Often, when one tries to explain the experience, it can become lost in words.

Now this story is about a man and a dog brought together in a Kairos moment. The man was no one special, an unknown. The dog was not a Rin Tin Tin or a Lassie which saved lives and received awards and loved by a whole generation. The human mind would think, “If, if God cared about an animal it would not be this animal.” The Bible states that God cares about the Sparrow that falls from the sky. There is an account of George Fox, who, as a boy, threw a rock and killed a bird. He began to weep because he knew he had killed something of the divine. However animals differ from humans they are yet God’s creation. St. Francis of Assisi taught that all of life is sacred.

This story is about a man unknown and a worthless dog, brought together in the wonderment of a kairos moment, a moment in which God bound together the heart of a man with the heart of a dog, and gave this dog meaning, worth, and value. This dog was a part of what was before, and now is a part of what came after. His story helps us understand how something bad can transition into something good. I want to tell the story about an underdog that became a “wonderdog,” and, from him, some lessons we can draw.

in something of the divine. A kairos experience is not a common occurrence, nor is it a natural experience. Kairos is a supernatural experience and therefore, to fully explain what took place, is beyond human words and understanding. Often, when one tries to explain the experience, it can become lost in words.

Now this story is about a man and a dog brought together in a Kairos moment. The man was no one special, an unknown. The dog was not a Rin Tin Tin or a Lassie which saved lives and received awards and loved by a whole generation. The human mind would think, “If, if God cared about an animal it would not be this animal.” The Bible states that God cares about the Sparrow that falls from the sky. There is an account of George Fox, who, as a boy, threw a rock and killed a bird. He began to weep because he knew he had killed something of the divine. However animals differ from humans they are yet God’s creation. St. Francis of Assisi taught that all of life is sacred.

This story is about a man unknown and a worthless dog, brought together in the wonderment of a kairos moment, a moment in which God bound together the heart of a man with the heart of a dog, and gave this dog meaning, worth, and value. This dog was a part of what was before, and now is a part of what came after. His story helps us understand how something bad can transition into something good. I want to tell the story about an underdog that became a “wonderdog,” and, from him, some lessons we can draw.

    Chapter I


The police were called with a complaint of a barking dog. When the police arrived they realized this was more than a dog barking, they walked right into a dog – fighting ring. What the police found was horrific. Twenty-five pit bull terrier type dogs were stuffed in cages in a trailer, a garage, and chained in a fenced in area. There was no heat, electricity, or air conditioning. The dogs ranged in ages of six months to five years. Two of the dogs were shipped in from the Dominican Republic. All of the dogs required medical attention; a few of the dogs were severely scared and bleeding from open wounds. One dog suffered from flexural deformity, walked like a seal, and was used as a bait dog. The overwhelming malady suffered by these dogs was extreme fear. Different dogs tried to find corners in which to hide. They cowered in their cages, shaking uncontrollably. Their ribs exposed, they were starving, and yet eating made them sick.

The police called in the director of Animal Control, and helped in rescuing these dogs by relocating to the city shelter. This process was further traumatizing for each of these animals. The fear and the uncertainty for these dogs were horrible. Each animal was given a number by which they would be referred. None of these dogs had a name or an identity. Gratefully our Mayor, and Director of the shelter, considered euthanasia a last resort. Aside from the legal needs, the director of the shelter where the dogs were housed wanted to know if these dogs could be rehabilitated and possibly be placed in homes. The following day I was contacted and asked if I would evaluate these dogs. I was unprepared for what I would see.

The first dog I saw was the dog used for baiting. I’ll talk about this in another chapter. The first words out of my mouth were, “Oh, my God.” Suffering with Carpal flexural deformity, this beautiful female walked like a seal. This little dog was so frightened I was concerned her heart would fail. To properly evaluate these dogs I would have to wait for, at least, three days for their chemistry to settle in their new environment. In the meantime I wanted to meet each dog and make cursory notes.

I began my rounds with the only puppy among these twenty five dogs. This coal black puppy was about ten weeks old. She was jumping, barking, and stealing the hearts of all the workers. She was refreshing to observe in the midst of so much sadness. She was saved from a life of abuse and suffering and would go on to have a life of love and affection. Not going through a travelogue of all the dogs, you will understand that tears became a silent communication of heartache, and I am convinced that each dog understood. Each dog had a number to which we referred. Number 5 had an eye injury, several scars, and stayed at the back of its cage, shivering in fear. Number 11 invited human contact. This beautiful brown and white male needed assurance that he would be okay. His face was covered with scars and a large portion of his lip was gone.

 Number 19 was in the perhaps in the worst physical condition of all. His face and body were covered with about 100 scars. There were at least 30 open wounds on his face. His head was swollen and worsening by the hour. There he stood, hugging the back of his cage, his bleeding head down, avoiding eye contact. It was as if he didn’t see me, I was not there. Yet, it was as if I could hear this dog communicating to me, “Please help me.”

When I talk about Number 19 I will be accused of anthropomorphizing. Anthropomorphizing is the practice of attaching human behavior and thinking to an animal. Some pet owners will say, “When I come home and see my trash can turned over, my dog cowers with guilt.” Many of these feelings we attach to our pet are just too sophisticated for the animal brain. This “guilt” is fear because the owner has scolded or rolled up the newspaper the last time this happened. However, dogs do process information much the same way as humans. Just when someone says, “That is way beyond a dog’s ability,” a dog somewhere, will surprise us. We have not yet fully tapped into the capabilities of these wonderful animals. But they are animals. They are not humans in a furry body. We can attach human qualities to our dog that does no harm. But we, also, can attach human qualities to our dog that will harm it emotionally, and create unnecessary stress and behavioral issues.

That being realized, back to Number 19. When I approached his cage there was a totally different energy, I would describe what I felt as something spiritual. Was it in his eyes, my heart, or in both? Whatever it was, or wherever it was from, the energy was distinct.  But there was such a barrier of fear, as though something evil had been experienced by this dog. This dog knew something of the dark, sadistic side of life. It was a side of life that life was never created to know.

Why Number 19 gripped me so, is not fully understood. As I stood in front of his cage, there was something happening that God wanted to do, both in my heart and this dog’s life. It was something beyond me. It would be this dog that would change my heart, the heart of thousands, and would put the abuser of these dogs in prison. But more importantly, THIS dog with no name would get a name. THIS dog would touch the lives of thousands all across our country. It was as if God wanted to put a face, a value to all of these unfortunate dogs. THIS dog, which was a part of what was before, would now be a part of what comes after. But for now, this dog with no name has no identity, any value or worth. NOT YET!



. What do each of these dogs have in common? FUN! Look at the resourcefulness of these pets. Take in that wonderful smile. Is that not face to die for? What do you think the owner of each of these dogs have in common? FRUSTRATION!

Let’s talk about


When I was in college (I mention that, otherwise no one could guess) I had a wonderful German Shepherd named, Little Boy. He was anything but little, but he was everything wonderful. Our house on campus was so small that we had to keep him outside, which just killed me. The problem was not with me, but with my wife. I guess she had good reason. One day we were having a very special dinner, roast. Understand, meat for us was a rarity. With three children and no money, meat was just unaffordable. We ate a lot of mac/cheese, eggs/beans, soups, but more seldom than seldom, meat. We were like Pavlov’s dog with that roast on the table. Remember the Christmas Story? The turkey on the table? The dogs? Yep, that is what happened. I had let Little Boy out of his fenced area. Linda was in the kitchen rustling around, I was in another room (we didn’t have that many). I heard a yell and “#*&@ Littler Boy.” I ran from the other room (our rooms were not very large), and all I saw was a butt and tail exiting the back door. The meat was gone, Linda was upset, and Little Boy was banished, exiled to his fence, and we had potatoes and carrots for dinner.

If you are laughing about this, it is not because this is funny (it is now) but yours is a sympathetic laugh. Nearly all who read this has had a similar event. Some of you have called me, pulling your hair and mumbling things unrepeatable. And your poor dog! In these situations I have to calm the owner and rescue the dog. When the owner is telling me the kitchen misbehaviors of Fido, I quietly laugh. The descriptions are like the Marmaduke cartoons. I sometimes jest with the owner and say, “That is so much like a dog.”

My daughter’s dogs are the King and Prince of Counter Surfing. Cooper is a Flat Coated Retriever and Oliver is a Black Lab. Sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, steak, crackers, bread, hot dogs, a chocolate cake (whole cake), all gone. These dogs are no respecters of food. Cooper had extensive training as he went through my behaviorism program with me. Attaching a rope on the door handle,  I taught Cooper to open the refrigerator. Linda was baking bread. We have a towel on the oven door handle. Thinking nothing about it we went about working in the house. When we came to the kitchen the bread pan was on the floor and half of the loaf of bread was gone. That ornery Cooper, seeing a towel on the oven handle, opened the door and found a warm treasure that met the delight of his palate. Now don’t tell me dogs do not generalize. I rescued Cooper to a car ride so Linda could calm down.

Let me brag about my dogs. Nekayah is a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard, and Dexter is a Great Pyrenees. Both have had service dog training and Nekayah serves us as a Service Dog. They have had extensive training. We can leave a plate of grilled hamburgers on the table, grilled steaks on the counter, or food on the patio table. Neither of our dogs will touch. They may take a few whiffs,

But I have never had either of them “steal” anything with one of us there or none of us there. This is because Nekayah, Dexter and I had a very specific conversation and they cooperated with me in proper training to overcome these temptations. When Cooper is here Nekayah and Dexter go to another room. They’re not about to let Cooper get them in trouble. He is on his own.

Besides “#@$&!$#” what can one do to stop this aggravating behavior from one’s pet? Or, is there anything that works? There are so many powerful odors. If we are preparing stew, we smell stew. Fido layers the odors. He smells meat, potatoes, and carrots. So the first thing we need to realize is that these are powerful temptations for Fido. Understanding this will help us to keep our expectations reasonable. When you cook, do you not take a taste? Don’t expect more from your dog than you can expect of yourself.

Here are a couple of things you can avoid in the kitchen with your dog.

  1. Do not yell, scold, or punish Fido. He is acting naturally and believes your cooking and baking are as good as you hope others will think. Some will have a water spray bottle handy to spray Fido in the face if he comes close to the counters.
  2. Do not hit Fido. Don’t slap his nose. You do not want Fido to fear you.
  3. Do not push Fido away or down. This reinforces his behavior and turns into a game.Jumping up on the counter is self-reinforcing and you do not want to make it “really” fun.
  4. Do not get an air horn, marble can, or a shock collar. Do not purchase shock pads, tack strips, or double sided duct tape.
  5. One source advised you come up with different “booby-traps.” This same source suggested “aversion therapy” for Fido. Now, I was a therapist in a past career. I can only imagine what “aversive therapy is and it doesn’t sound therapeutic.

It is in Fido’s genes to scavenge. Also, if Fido has found food there before then he will check it out again. That being true then we are complicit in his behavior. On our side, counter surfing can be dangerous. Fido may get scalded. He may break a plate and get glass shards in his paw. He may get a pill or other objects that can be lethal.

Okay, that’s enough of the don’ts. Let’s talk about resolutions to the unwanted behavior of counter surfing. Are you ready for this? The onus is on you. If you do not want Fido jumping up on the counter, you have to help him. You cannot expect Fido to just “know.”  The first step you must take is to remove the temptation. No, I don’t mean you need to tear the counters out. I mean you must manage the temptation. Keep the counters clean. Move things to the back of the counter. Place a cake in the oven or microwave, or refrigerator. Have a bread box. Keep the lower cupboards closed. Keep the lid on the trash can. Take the chicken bones OUT to the trash can outside. The bones smell good, but can splinter, so why temp by having the throwaway in the house trash? The point is, good management helps to set Fido up for success. Booby traps help set Fido up for failure.

The real place to start with Fido is when he is a puppy. The moment we take ownership of Fido, his training begins. The real problem with counter surfing is Fido’s jumping. We who own pets must teach Fido what we do not want very early, by teaching him what we do want, what is allowed. Because he is so cute owners allow the little guy to get away with behaviors as a puppy, thinking he will grow out of them. He won’t. By doing this the owner is doing a bait and switch which leaves Fido very confused which causes other unnecessary issues. My personal opinion is that every puppy should be crate trained. The crate should be the best and the safest place in the house. Fido can be taught to go to his crate on cue, or to go to his crate when you are working in the kitchen.

If you dog is adolescent or older and you are just wanting to stop this unwanted behavior, you can. Some are afraid because their dog has been allowed to counter surf Fido is too old or the behavior is too ingrained to be changed. That is not true. Age does not matter. How long it has gone on does not matter. Unless a dog is mentally or physically impaired, with Clicker or Marker training, Fido can be taught any new behavior. If you do not understand Clicker Training, please find my article titled, WHEN? WHY? – CLICKER TRAINING. You will find this article under the Education or Training tabs. Reading that article will help you understand all of my philosophy and methods of training.

So MANAGEMENT is the first step in curbing counter surfing. Training is step two. You may ask, “What do I train?” I’m glad you asked.

You can train, “FOUR ON THE FLOOR.” This is primarily a jumping issue. Now, if you have a Great Dane then the issue is his height and “Four on the Floor” is not the only alternative. Four on the Floor is easy to capture. Any time Fido puts his paws on a chair, jumps up on you, have your clicker. When he drops his paws on the floor, click and treat Fido. Act like you are working on the counter tops, or you may have work that needs done. Fido will show interest and may put his paws on the counter. Totally ignore that behavior. Have your clicker ready and when Fido puts his paws on the floor (watch him closely) when his paws touch the floor, click and treat Fido. Timing is important. Click when Fido’s paws touch the floor. If you are late with the click and Fido turns his head, he may think that is what you are marking. You can give Fido one treat, or you can give him two or three. Fido will think, “Wow, when my paws are on the floor it is better than being on the counter.” Ignore the behavior you do not want, reinforce the behavior you do want.


This is a great alternative. You can use Fido’s crate, or you can lace a pad on the floor. With your clicker and treats ready capture Fido’s going to the mat. You will not use words until you get the behavior, but when you do, you can use “place” or “mat.” The way you begin is to stand near the mat and when Fido even looks at it, you click and treat. This is all by successive approximation. Any interaction with the mat elicits a click and treat. Remember, one click and treat 1, 2, or 3 treats. Some people have misunderstood the clicker and click a couple of times. It is just one click, then treat.

When Fido is going to the mat reliably, then you can begin introducing the cue. Let’s use “place.” As Fido steps on the mat say, “Place,” click and treat. Keep backing your cue up so when Fido is a few feet away, you say, “Place,” Fido goes to the mat, click and treat. To help you reset Fido, you can toss the treat a few feet away from the mat, and then you can re-cue him. You can teach him to lay on the mat and then, when you ask him to “go to your place,” Fido will go to the mat and lay down. Now you can begin adding duration and distractions.

You can use a mat because it is easier to move around. You can have it near or in the kitchen so Fido can watch what you are doing. You can have a Gong toy filled with good things, and let him enjoy that. This tends to be a little more mobile than a crate.

Some people do not want Fido in the kitchen at all. That is easy. Teach Fido where he can be. You can teach him to not go closer than the tack strip in the door way, or the carpet edge. He will put his paws just over the edge, but this is also a great alternative. You can teach Fido to stay until released.

Here is where you succeed or fail. CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY! Every person in the home, including children, must be on the same page. If it appears Fido is just not getting it, I will guarantee it is because he is getting conflicting messages. Inconsistency is the sure way to set Fido up for failure. Guess who will be blamed? That’s correct. Fido. So involve everyone in the training. You will have to instruct visitors. If a family member comes to visit and wants to drop a piece of cheese for Fido, tell her “No.” CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY!

Fido may have a relapse every now and then. Do not scold, just get the clicker out and do a refresher course. In time it will be natural for Fido to go to his place when you begin messing in the kitchen. You will turn to cue him to his “place,” to discover he is already there. You may want him near you and just sit near you while you work in the kitchen. Either way you have him with “Four on the Floor,” or lying in his “place.” The counter surfing problem is resolved. You are happier, Fido is happier, and it was achieved without yelling, or “#*&%@%.” The watershed to this is that you now have a deeper relationship with Fido. He knows you are pleased and you know he is happy.

WOW! What a great outcome




 Several years past I attended a basic training course for my dog. Actually it was I who needed training but that is for another articles. In the class the leader brought out this little plastic box that made the sound of a cricket. She told us it was a CLICKER, and that with this we would train our dog. I was skeptical. I mean, after all, how manly is that thing? I wanted to stand tall and erect, chest out, and with a baritone voice give commands and everyone is wowed by my control of my dog. I was not impressed with the use of this tool.

 The problem was, this thing called a CLICKER was not well explained. The science of CLICKER training was never referred to. I thought this to be another silly fad. Without proper introduction and demonstration one cannot understand the proper use and the effectiveness of the CLICK to which the animal, for this article, the dog, in just a few minutes, comes to love. When I take the CLICKER out of a drawer or my pocket my dogs come, sit, and wait with anticipation of what is to come. If all I’m doing is moving the CLICKER the disappointment is evident on their faces, “Aaww,” and they go someplace and lie down. I want to explain that CLICKER training is not a fad, but is solidly couched in science, and its effectiveness seen in results.

 “CLICKER TRAINING” can be a confusing term. Not all trainers who use a CLICKER are “CLICKER TRAINERS.” Not all trainers who use a CLICKER are positive trainers. Not all “positive trainers” are always “positive.” A bona fide CLICKER TRAININER is a Force-Free Trainer. A trainer that does not manipulate, coerce, or force the dog to do something. One who believes punishment is not needed because punishment, 1. Shuts the dog down, 2. Destroys the trust of the dog in the trainer. There are other watershed problems with using punishment in training an animal, but I will not go into those. Just think about a teacher who punishes the children and your child doesn’t want to go to school anymore, perhaps gets sick before the bus arrives, and you will be able to fill in the sentences I am leaving out.

 Personally, I prefer using the term “Marker Training.” We also refer to the CLICKER as an Event Marker. The event is the wanted behavior offered by the dog, the CLICK marks the event of that behavior being offered. “Marker Training” explains what I do when I use a CLICKER in my training. Marker Training and CLICKER TRAINING can also be confusing for this reason, not all CLICKER TRAINERS do not always use that little box that clicks. We “Marker Trainers,” to mark a desired behavior may use the CLICKER, we may use a tongue click, we may use a retractable pen for a softer click, we may use a whistle, and we may use a word, or we may use all of these depending on what is working best. Important to remember is that CLICKER TRAINING or Marker Training is a psychology, a technology, and a philosophy of training.

 It would be helpful to have a working knowledge of both classical conditioning and operant conditioning. The reason this would be helpful is so one, in selecting a trainer, will have an understanding of a trainer’s terminology. Traditional trainers often use the language of a Marker trainer, but not the practice. CLICKER TRAINERS not only use the terminology, but we apply the principles of operant conditioning in all we do. It is more than a “method,” it is a way, It is not what we use, but who we are.

 When I “mark” a behavior, usually with a CLICKER, I am marking a behavior in time. For the dog it is like a snapshot of the behavior he (I don’t like the word “it,” so I will use “he” generically), performed. The CLICK is a green light, it is a loud, “yes” that the dog understands. Following the CLICK his behavior is reinforced, which “pays” him for the behavior. Now the behavior is most likely to be repeated.

 The CLICK is always followed by a reinforcement. The dog must pair the CLICK with a reward. The reward is usually food, but not necessarily. Sometimes it is a toy, a moment of play, it could be praise. But always CLICK, reinforcement. To pair the CLICK with the reward is to have your dog in front of you and you CLICK and treat ten times a couple times a day for two or three days. The evidence your dog is getting it is when you CLICK and he jerks his head. He may run to you so have a treat ready for him. Now you are ready to use the CLICKER for training.

 Here are three term terms remember. First, the CLICKER is a “secondary reinforcer.” When the dog hears the CLICK, that in itself is a reinforcer, but something must follow that. Second, this is where the treat or reward comes in. The treat is a “primary reinforcer.” It is the “wage” for the work just performed by the dog. Three, a bridge. The CLICK serves as a bridge in that you have a few seconds to give the reward. Because the reward in now solidly paired with the CLICK the time for delivery is not thought of, by the dog, a delay. He is not going to lose his connection between the CLICK and his behavior. This is better understood when you think of the trainer of dolphins. The trainer blows a whistle to mark the behavior the dolphin just correctly performed, but it takes the dolphin a couple of seconds for him to swim to the trainer to get his fish as a reinforcer.

 I won’t go into how the CLICK, as a secondary reinforcer, goes through is processed through the amygdala to the cortex and locks in the behavior as it is reinforced. When the dog has that down, he never forgets it. When that behavior is under stimulus control you can put the CLICKER and treats in the drawer until you are going to train another behavior. My point is that the CLICK is not just a meaningless noise paired with a reward. The process is psychologically sound and the results predictable. This is why I love what I do because the dog enjoys the training, I enjoy training, and as partners we succeed together. It is a new day when the dog realizes we are communicating in a meaningful way, and that he is the one making that thing CLICK.

 So here are the steps:

  1. We capture the dog sitting,
  2. CLICK the behavior (the sit),
  3. Deliver a reward/treat to the dog,
  4. Perhaps toss the treat two feet away,
  5. When the dog returns, he should sit again,
  6. If he doesn’t, wait until he does, he will figure it out,
  7. CLICK when he sits,
  8. Repeat the steps.

 Notice, I am not using a word yet. I am not saying “sit.” I want to get the behavior first and as the dog understands what we are doing. When the dog is returning and sitting, on his own, eight to ten times in a minute, then it is time to introduce the word (cue), “sit.” The key is, as the dog is sitting and committed to the sit, say the cue, “sit,” then when his butt touches the floor, CLICK and reward. Again you can toss the treat a couple of feet away which will reset him. He returns, begins his sit, give cue “sit,” CLICK, reward.

 You see, in Marker training we want to get the behavior, then use a word to pair with the behavior. We are cooperating together. No force, no coercion, no punishment. In traditional training the trainer tell the dog “sit,” which the dog has no clue what is being asked or told. Then the trainer jerks up on a choke chain or prong collar, pushes down on the dog’s butt, forcing it to “sit.” So the dog is punished twice. 1. The choke chain is jerked up (remember, a choke chain does what it is called), 2. The dog’s but is pushed down. The dog stiffens his hind legs in reflex, but is forced to sit. Actually there is another, 3. The trainer says, “siiutt” in a deep, gruff voice, which is threatening to the dog. The dog is punished for what he doesn’t know or understand. He now hates training sessions because, for him, they are punishment sessions. At some point a person, perhaps a child, will place a hand on the dog’s hips, and the dog may turn and snap at or bite. Then guess what? The dog is labeled aggressive, is rehomed or worse yet, euthanized.

 The trainer should not be doing all the work. This is not magic, it is not secret, like a recipe. As a trainer want to teach you, the owner, what I do, then you don’t need me to continue training behaviors and/or tricks. Training should be fun for you and the dog. If it isn’t fun, if you and/or your dog do not enjoy what is going on, STOP IT! If you are frustrated, DON’T START! If you are angry with someone, DON’T TRAIN! Your dog knows your mood and will act accordingly.

 The training of a behavior culminates, hopefully, in “Stimulus Control.” Stimulus Control. Using the “sit” example, “sit” is the cue that prompts the behavior. When I say or sign “sit” I don’t want the dog to lie down, or spin, or spin then sit. When I want to test the clarity and effectiveness of the cue I have chosen, here is what I look for.

  1. When I give the verbal or visual cue, the stimulus, (sit) the dog sits.
  2. (In a training session) The dog does not sit in the absence of being cued to do so.
  3. The dog does not sit if I give another cue like, spin or stand.
  4. The dog does not lie down or spin when I give the cue to sit.

 This does not mean the dog cannot sit at will during the day. I am talking about being in a training session or a competition. This is how you establish the dogs understand of the word or the signal given to elicit that particular behavior.

 This is all accomplished with that little box that clicks. With the CLICKER we capture the behavior, we then add a word or a signal to pair with that behavior, then refine the dogs understanding of that word or signal, and generalize that cued behavior in other environments.

 Remember, when a behavior is established, you can put the CLICKER and treats away until you want to teach another behavior. You will still reward and reinforce behaviors when your dog responds to a cue. You do this periodically because you love your dog and show appreciation for doing what you ask. If a behavior weakens it may mean you are not clear or you have allowed something else to be attached to your cue. You may get the CLICKER and treats out to reestablish that particular cue. If you punish the dog for not offering the behavior right away when cued, then you may poison the cue and need to change the cue for that behavior.

 For trainers who may read this, I am aware I did not get into the dynamics of classical or operant conditioning. I did not get into the six aspects of Fluency as related to Stimulus Control. I did not explain that a person can have two cues for one behavior, but cannot have two behaviors expected with one cue. My interest here is the science and practice of Marker training, also referred to as CLICKER TRAINING. If one feels I left something out, did not emphasize something strongly enough, did not address the objections to, or misunderstandings of, or did not draw comparisons between Force-Free and Traditional training, I understand. My intent was not to write a comparative study of CLICKER TRAINING. It is intended to be an expose’ of CLICKER TRAINING proper.

 If one has an understanding of my psychology, philosophy, and method of training an animal one can understand better other articles I write. This Force-Free approach is not an option for me, it is me. It is not up for debate. The proofs are in the results. I train in home pets, I train Service Dogs, and I work to modify very aggressive dogs. My methods are the same. I cannot, will not train aggression in a dog. There is no place for choke chains, prong collars, or shock collars in working with an animal. I collect these control and tortuous products from owners who were told, These work.”

 The dogs we CLICKER TRAINERS work with, love us. I tell clients, “If your dog does not act this way with a trainer, get rid of the trainer” We laugh together at that, but I also am serious. Only trust your pet with someone who will treat him with respect, dignity, and kindness.


Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, TOBY’S HELPER


Sunday, April, 28, 2013

 Today was an amazing day with Nekayah. First I recognized how God works in closing a door to open another to guide us where He wants us to be, then He shows us what to do. Let me explain.

 One of the headlights on my car burned out. Linda wanted me to replace it today and not wait until Monday. Her concern was that if I was to be called out after dark it could be dangerous. Linda never advises me on car repairs. She hates having to sit at a garage while the car is being repaired. Going home from church we stopped at Wal-Mart and they told me it would be a half hour before they could get me in. Not wanting to make her wait, and wanting to have Nekayah with me, we went home. Nekayah and I could come back later in the afternoon. Now, I wanted to walk Nekayah at the Mall. I could take the car there and while the head light is being replaced I could walk the Mall. I called the Sears Auto Center and they told me they did not have the bulb I needed. That door closed. I decided, after all, to go to Wal-Mart as they had the bulb needed for my car. This door was opened.

Now, to reveal why God put it in Linda’s head to get the light fixed today (which I thought strange) and how He was apparently leading me to Wal-Mart. When we arrived, the service man told me it would be about a half hour, so now I could walk Nekayah until I was notified the car was done.

Walking through the store I came upon a very saddening scene. There on the floor, in the middle of a main isle, laid a boy of about ten years old. This boy, whose name I later learned was Toby, was screaming, crying, hitting and biting his mother. Her mother was sitting and crying, bewildered and embarrassed. Nothing she was attempting was working. It was a heart wrenching scene. The boy was obviously autistic and was in a completely different world. She could not pick him up and had exhausted both herself and her options.

I asked the mother, “My dog is both a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog. Can I help you?” Now, I have seen Nekayah work miracles before and had confidence she could again in this mother’s exigency. “You can try,” she replied through tears and with uncertainty. I led Nekayah over to this precious boy, locked in his own prison. Nekayah sat and scooted up to him as is her practice to not startle or step on. She began to move her head toward the boy who was still fighting his mother. The boy swung his arm wildly and hit Nekayah on the side of the head. Nekayah did not react. As she has done before she just turned her head away and the mother began apologizing profusely. I told the distraught mother, “No, no! Don’t worry. Nekayah is trained for this.” The boy must have realized he hit Nekayah and paused his struggling long enough for Nekayah to reach over and lick his face. Instantly the boy stopped struggling and smiled. Nekayah continued to lick his face and now the boy was giggling. While Nekayah and the boy became lost in each other, I asked the mother where she needed to take the boy. She told me she needed to get him to the car. “Okay,” I told her. What is your son’s name?” “Toby,” she said.

Now turning my attention to Toby I said, “Toby, Nekayah loves to walk with boys. Would you like to take her leash and walk her?” “You mean I can,” Toby said with surprise. “You have to get up from the floor, and you can have full control of her leash.” Immediately Toby rose, took Nekayah’s lead, and the four of us began walking. Toby now had a big smile on his face because he was walking the dog all alone. He was proud of himself.  He even noticed Nekayah had a smile. “She likes me,” Toby said. The front doors were a ways off and I was concerned Toby would not be able to stay focused. A lady was going out the door right in front of us. She dropped a bag and the door monitor called her back. I thought, “NO, NO! You can’t block my exit or Toby is going to lose it!” I navigated right through them, telling Toby about Nekayah. Toby didn’t realize anything amiss and we made it outside. A miracle, Toby was staying focused.

The next hurdle was navigating the parking lot. The mother told me the car was way over by the other entrance and half way down the parking line. Again, I was filled with anxiety, not thinking Toby could stay focused. Again I asked the Lord to give Toby focus. As Toby walked Nekayah he would turn to his mother and hit her or try to bite her. I knew something had to interrupt this behavior or we would lose Toby’s focus on Nekayah. While attending to Toby I quietly suggested, “Mom, why don’t you come to my left side to walk?” She did and now Toby had complete focus on what he and Nekayah were doing. Toby asked, “Will Nekayah run?” “Tell her to run, and run,” I said. Toby did and they took off. I was afraid with our being in traffic, Toby could get hurt, so I told Nekayah, “Slooow.” and she slowed Toby to a walk. Toby still had his smile. That was a good sign. We needed to turn “right.” I said, “Nekayah, turn right.” She did and Toby followed right along. We needed to turn “left.” I said, “Nekayah, turn left.” She did and Toby followed right along, still focused on Nekayah’s walking, not realizing she was leading him to his car. Nekayah led Toby directly to their car.

Now my concern was, “if we get to the car, will that set Toby off again if he doesn’t want to get in?” So, just as his mother opened the back door, I said, “Toby, if you will get in your seat and let your mom buckle your seat belt, Nekayah will get in and give you a kiss goodbye.” Toby, still smiling said, “Okay.” And without a second thought and the door now opened, Toby jumped in and his mother fastened his seat belt. I asked Nekayah to kiss Toby goodbye. Nekayah placed her paws up on the seat’s edge, reached toward Toby’s face and gave him a big lick. Toby laughed, we shut the door, and I said, “I was glad to serve you.” The mother’s eyes now dry, face less stressed, in complete amazement, gave me a hug.   Her hug expressed her appreciation without words.

God closed one door to open another to lead me to where I was needed. He placed me and Nekayah at the right place at just the right time. The funny thing is, it wasn’t me God wanted to use. It was a DOG who could do what no person could have done. This is why we say, “God created everything, except the dog. He already had one.”

Now I wonder, “How will this adventure end?” God used Nekayah to set in motion something in Toby’s and his mother’s life that will not end with Nekayah’s getting Toby, safely, to and in his car and his mother, with a grateful heart, driving away. I will probably not know fully what God was doing, but I do know this was a God directed encounter and God smiled.

Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, THE PROTECTOR


Nekayah just never ceases to amaze us. Just when we think she has reached the circumference of her training she demonstrates she has more beyond. I have studied, researched and self-educated so I could be very particular in training Nekayah for her service as a hearing-impaired assistance dog. Linda is deaf and I thought, “What a wonderful gift to provide Linda a dog that could assist her in her impairment. Nekayah’s serious training began at three months and when I reached my limit I contacted Kevin Knartzer of, Tails Up Paws Down, Indianapolis, IN. For several months Kevin worked with us, giving us the foundations for teaching Nekayah specialized alerts. Some of Nekayah’s alerts are for different sounds in the house. An especially helpful alert is the phone. When the phone rings Nekayah finds Linda and nudges her in a certain way that says, “Linda, the phone is ringing.” When we are in a restaurant Nekayah alerts when our table is approached. When we are out Nekayah alerts when someone is approaching Linda from behind. Somehow Nekayah can differentiate between a passerby or someone approaching Linda. If Linda drops something, Nekayah picks it up and gives it to her.

Nekayah is also trained in assisting Linda up inclines or stairs. She knows just the right pressure to pull without causing a stumble.

There are many times that Nekayah surprises us with her understanding of our needs. An example of her assisting with inclines took place at my brother’s farm just a few weeks past. I was helping my brother cut trees, carrying the debris down a steep hill about fifteen yards and throwing it on a fire, and climbing back to the top. After an hour of this, this old man was getting tired. My legs had a hard time putting one foot ahead of the other. Nekayah was playing and having a great time. About every half hour she would come to me as if to check in, then off she would go again. This time she seemed to sense my tiredness. When I turned to go up the hill she came beside me and nudged me with her head. I understood her perfectly. She was saying, “Take my collar, I’ll pull you.” That is exactly what she did for the next half hour. She would follow me down the hill, wait, I’d throw my debris on the fire and she’d pull me back up the hill. When I was done off she went to play.

Well, today she surprised us again. We were at the mall. We wanted to get her out to enjoy some new surroundings, smells, and activity. When we approach the lane of traffic, entering or exiting, she normally sits before we cross. Usually the cross traffic stops and Linda proceeds. This time there was no traffic to the right or left but there was a car directly in front of Linda and it began to pull forward right at Linda. Nekayah saw the car and quickly jumped between Linda and the car, placing her body sideways. It was as if she was pushing Linda out of way to take the impact herself. We had no idea that Nekayah would think to do that. The people in the car couldn’t believe what they saw. It just seems that Nekayah understands she is an assistance dog and her job is to take care of Linda in whatever form that means. Nekayah has an uncanny way of filling in the blanks of her job description. When we put Nekayah in the car Linda loved and hugged her with tears. Nekayah’s reaction to it all was like, “What’s the big deal.”

Nekayah has had lots of training and we are most grateful for the time and expertise of Kevin and a few others. But there has to be something there to work with. Nekayah has that something and she is a natural as both an assistance dog and a certified therapy dog. More than all that she has partnered herself to us and so often just anticipates our needs. She has found her place and purpose in life and we are thankful they are with us.



A nursing home called me and asked if I would bring Nekayah who is both TDI (Therapy Dog International) and Hearing-Impaired Service Dog certified. It seemed there were two residents especially they wanted her to see. One was a gentleman, paralyzed and blind, with feeling in only his arms and head. I’ll call him, “Jack” and he is only about 50 years old. “Jack” was not responding well to therapy and seemed deeply depressed. The other resident was a lady, depressed and not interacting.

Nekayah went in to see “Jack.” Being able to hear, the nurse told him he had a very special visitor, that the visitor was furry. “Jack” did not respond. I can’t get into Nekayah’s head (don’t we wish we could), but she looked at him as if she was assessing. She put her feet gently on the bed (sensitive to the person’s body) raising herself up and continued to gaze at “Jack.” As if she said, “now I understand” she gently laid her head in the his motionless hand as if she knew that was where his feeling was. She lifted her head and licked his hand and again cradled her head in his hand. She then moved her head to lay it in his shoulder as she usually gives hugs. She snuggled her head in his neck and licked his ear as if she thought, “I know how to get him to respond.” Suddenly “Jack” moved his lips slightly. The nurse quietly said, “look.” Those around “Jack’s” bed stood motionless as “Jack lifted his right hand, to touch Nekayah. He then raised his left hand to bring it across his body touching her now with both hands. Nekayah, sensing his response, began licking “Jack’s” face as his head turned back and forth as if he were reveling in her licks. His mouth moved into a huge smile showing all his teeth. “Jack’s” blinded eyes seemed to sparkle as his mouth smile morphed into a full facial smile. Nekayah seemed to know what was happening and she would move from hugs to licks fluidly. She was now laying somewhat across “Jack’s” chest. I looked up and the nurse and family stood with tears running down the cheeks, remarking, “I just can’t believe it.” as we just let “Jack” and Nekayah enjoy themselves. Nekayah will go back and visit “Jack” and we hope this is a break through for “Jack’s” responding to therapy.

Then I took Nekayah to see one of the sweetest elderly ladies. At first she said she didn’t want to see Nekayah. She just turned her head away. The nurse ( I think she understood operant conditioning) said, “just look at her. The lady, let’s call here “June,” looked at Nekayah. She responded by saying, “what a pretty dog.”

“Would you like to see her?” asked the nurse. “June” held out her hand slowly as if she were asking Nekayah if SHE would like to see her. Nekayah sauntered over to June and laid her head in her lap and lifted her eyes upward without moving her head. “June” carefully touched Nekayah and began stroking her neck. Then, as I usually do, I placed a treat in “June’s” hand (Nekayah only knows “good” hands). “June” understood and opened her hand to Nekayah who promptly took the treat and proceeded to lick “June’s” hand. “June” just came alive. Her whole face broke into a smile as she repeatedly exclaimed, “She touched me! She touched me! Oh, bless you, she touched me.” And looking at me “June said, “I could just kiss you, she touched me.” Both the nurse and I now have tears in our eyes. I told Nekayah to kiss “June” and Nekayah gently raised herself to “June’s” face and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek, and the whole response of “June’s” was repeated. We also hope this was a break through for “June’s” successful therapy.

Do therapy dogs make a difference? You bet they do!



Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, THE FEAR-BREAKER


Fears are hard to overcome. Florence came to the Rehabilitation Center several months past. I knew Florence was a new resident and I also took note that when Nekayah and I walked down the hallway Florence stayed to one side, never taking her eyes off of Nekayah. In fact, the first time Florence saw Nekayah she was wide-eyed with fear. When I visited her roommate, Norma, I would ask Florence, “Would you like to see Nekayah?” I would receive a fearful, “No.” Now, these patients have enough to deal with. After all they are seniors. They have had to leave their homes. They are separated from their families. Many of them feel rejected, neglected, often abandoned. It is not my place to foist Nekayah on any patient. I know those who want to interact and those who do not. I always want to respect their wishes and do not take it personally.

On this Monday I took Nekayah in to see Norma. Florence kept her back to Nekayah, avoiding eye contact. As I prepared to leave the room I had Nekayah sit in a place out of Florence’s sight. I sat on the bed by Florence and said, “Florence, you are really afraid of dogs, aren’t you.” “Oh yes,” she said in a quiet voice. “Can I ask you why?” She proceeded to tell me of her longtime fear of dogs. Her fear centered around a pitbull that threatened her life. I listened to her story and told her I understood and if what happened to her happened to me I would have a very difficult time overcoming the fear she felt. I then explained to her how Nekayah is trained both as a service dog and a therapy dog. I told her about some of the people Nekayah has helped. I ask her if I could call Nekayah to sit in front of me, but away from her. Florence gave me that permission. Nekayah , slowly, came into our view and sat in front of me. We talked about Nekayah’s size, her spots and her ice blue eyes. Florence said, “She is a very pretty dog.” Nekayah did not look at Florence and moved a little closer to me and put her head in my lap. “If you want to overcome your fear Nekayah is a perfect dog for you to get to know.” Florence would now look more often at Nekayah. I pointed to a spot between Florence and me. Nekayah moved and laid her head on the edge of the bed. Now Florence was feeling closed in and I didn’t want to push the envelope. I was surprised when Florence took a giant step and asked, “Will she bite me if I touch her?” I assured her that would not happen. I told Florence, “You just sit there and I will have Nekayah sit in front of you and she will just lay her head in your lap. Okay?” With a deep breath, Florence said, “Okay.” Nekayah did just as I said. Nekayah did not move and I assure you, Florence did not move. With great hesitation, fear and trembling, I saw Florence’s hand make a very slow, uncertain movement toward Nekayah. I cannot adequately describe the challenge this was for Florence. She touched Nekayah’s head and instantly pulled her hand back. Nekayah has not moved. She reached out to touch Nekayah again. Still Nekayah has not moved. This time Florence put her hand on Nekayah’s head and slid it back to her neck. “She’s a nice dog,” Florence said.

“I’ll be back next Monday, would you like me to bring Nekayah to see you?” “I’d like that very much.”

So for Florence she is stepping out of her fear. Nekayah is helping Florence to feel comfortable with a dog. It is a big step, but I am glad Florence is willing to take it.



 Saturday, May 25, 2013I needed to go to Walmart. I needed to fill a prescription for Linda, and get some meat products to prepare some dog treats. As usual I took Nekayah with me. Well, the pharmacy was closed so I could at least get the needed meat products. Nekayah and I meandered through the store, we went to the meat section and taking my time selected the items I would need. As I headed for the check-out I noticed an aged lady sitting on her walker. Her face was looked fatigued and frightened. Her husband was trying to comfort her. Both were in their eighties.

I parked my shopping cart, placed Nekayah in a down, and approached the couple. “Are you in need of some assistance?” I asked. The gentleman told me his wife suffers with claustrophobia. He said the store, being exceptionally busy, put her in a state of anxiety. I tried to talk to her but she was nearly catatonic. She was in an acute state of anxiety. I asked the husband if she liked dogs. He said they love dogs. I told him Nekayah is not only a service dog, but also a certified therapy dog. If he didn’t mind I thought Nekayah could help. With his permission I called Nekayah to me. As Nekayah knows to do, she sat about a foot in front of the lady and scooted forward. Nekayah is very careful not to step on the feet of the person she is tending to. Now up to the lady Nekayah placed her chin in her lap and looked upward. The lady did not react. Nekayah then nudged her hand and again placed her head in the lady’s lap. The lady looked down and her face expressed surprise as if she was unaware of Nekayah’s presence. Her response was, “Ohh,” and her hand moved across her lap to touch Nekayah’s head. When she touched Nekayah her face seemed to relax. Nekayah reached to lick her hand which she allowed. She began to pet Nekayah with both hands and she was now focused and talking to Nekayah. I stood and watched this lady’s anxiety fade away. She was able to calm down and look around with a sense of confidence. The lady was returning to her normal self, began asking me questions about Nekayah, and her breathing returned to normal.

Having recovered I asked if Nekayah and I could walk her to the car. The lady said there were a few more things they needed to get. I checked out, but before I would leave I needed to go back and check on this lady one more time. I found her and her husband and when she saw me her face became one big smile. I asked if everything was okay and she assured me she was now alright. Again she petted Nekayah and talked to her, then told me, “Thank you.” I could tell this was a different lady than the one Nekayah assisted a few minutes past.

Again, God knew where Nekayah was needed and directed us to this needy lady. A dog filled with love and compassion, knowing how to apply these to persons in need, again worked healing to one in distress. God uses Nekayah to do what a human, with all their possible training, cannot do.

Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, THE COUNSELOR


While visiting a rehab center Nekayah and I visited “Bob.” “Bob had been in the VA hospital in another city for about three weeks. I had missed him on my visits and had some concern for him. Well, “Bob” returned and when we walked into the room he started to get up as he said, “Oh, there’s that sweetheart. I’ve missed her so much.” I told him not to get up that Nekayah would come to him. “Bob” is a diabetic and is in this facility because he cannot be home alone. He had lost his desire to live and care for his diabetic issues. “Bob” is about 75, is smart, and a poet and painter, but tends to be reclusive and deeply depressed.

I asked him how he was doing and he said in a cracking voice, “Not very good.” His lower lip began to quiver. With concern I asked, “Bob” what’s the matter. Sensing something, Nekayah scooted up to the bed and placed her snout on the bed and stared at “Bob.” “Bob” looked at the concerned face of Nekayah and his eyes filled with tears as he said again, “Ohhh you sweetheart.” Nekayah had studied long enough. She looked as if to assess how much room there was on the bed. Determining there was room for her she jumped up on the bed, laid along side “Bob” and placed her head across his neck. “Bob” wrapped his arms around her as if physical contact had been lacking for a long time. Nekayah never moved or pulled her head out of his grip. “Bob” released his hold and Nekayah reached up and began licking his bearded face profusely. “Bob” is now laughing because no matter which way he moved his face Nekayah kept licking as if this was a game. Yet, tears of sadness were on his cheeks. Perhaps this is what Nekayah noticed and was trying to calm “Bob.”

“I wish I had someone to love me like you do, you sweetheart,” “Bob” said. Then as if I was not in the room “Bob” began to tell Nekayah how difficult he was to live with and how, after 50 years of marriage his wife left him and two of his sons wanted nothing to do with him. He told Nekayah that his other son is a lawyer and how close they are and that this son takes care of all his affairs. “I felt so worthless this morning and asked God to send me something that would tell me I am worth loving, and here you are laying close to me, not because your master told you to, but because you wanted to. “Bob poured his heart out to Nekayah who laid close beside him with her head on his chest, looking upward at him as he talked, and every now and then giving him and big kiss, first on one cheek, then the other. For about fifteen minutes “Bob” and Nekayah had a conversation in their own respective ways. There was no doubt that this was their time.

I then sat down beside “Bob,” Nekayah still lying beside him between us. “Bob” and I talked for about ½ hour. Nekayah stayed right where she was and from time to time would move her head across “Bob’s” chest, then over his neck, then on his shoulder, then a gentle lick, all of which seemed to be punctuations in our conversation.

I left “Bob” to go visit some other patients and when I left I passed the offices near the front doors. I caught something of interest just to my right. There sat “Bob” in one of the offices with one of the staff talking and laughing. I think God responded to “Bob’s” prayer and sent something that would tell him he is worth loving. Linda and I visited him a week later and he was still on top of his depression and he told Linda he attributed his improvement to that day with Nekayah because she listened to and loved him.

Now, I’m writing this March 16, 2009. “Bob is completely out of his depression, writes and publishes poetry, is writing a book, and every day “could not be better.” I am told he is never depressed, and counsels other patients who are having struggles. He tells me that in many ways these last eight months are the best months of his 80 years. He continues to see Nekayah every Monday. He and Nekayah have a little ritual all their own. He lays on the bed, Nekayah jumps up, lies across his chest and they have their own conversation intermingled with lots of kisses.



It was a Monday afternoon that I received the phone call. “Jim, a lady in our congregation died. Pastor is out of state, would you step in for him.?” Ours is a large congregation and as I am usually busy with our deaf ministry, I did not personally know Karen. I made the proper contacts and learned Karen had two children, a son and daughter from another state. I knew this had to be hard for them as their relationships in Muncie were few. They certainly did not know me, and they were being asked to trust their mother’s funeral service to a stranger. I knew that was a lot for them to deal with in the process of their mother’s sudden, unexpected death. I had to find a way to alleviate them of that unneeded stress. It was my responsibility to get with the children to familiarize myself with them and their mother. I made contact and we planned to meet at a local restaurant.

I knew full well the difficulty for all involved. I had to walk into a deeply sensitive life’s situation and talk about some very personal issues with no personal relationship with any involved. This would be awkward. In our meeting together how they saw me in the first few minutes would determine if they would or would not confide in me and talk about their mother. If I would bring hope and healing to them I had to earn that right with our first handshake. How would I do that?

Thinking about the importance of that lunchtime, I glanced at Nekayah lying in front of the fireplace. What if I would take Nekayah to the restaurant with me? As a service dog, I could, but it was her therapy training and relatability that I needed. Nekayah has an uncanny ability to do two things. First, break the ice; second, put others at ease. When Nekayah knows she is working she exudes calmness and affirmation. As odd as it would seem, I took Nekayah to the lunch meeting to discuss a funeral.

I arrived early and waited inside the doors. Nekayah sat at her heal position. A young man and woman entered, and it was obvious they were looking for someone. I stepped forward, and Nekayah followed, again sitting at my side. “Brian and Angie?” “Yes, are you Mr. Turner?” “Yes, I am.” “And who is this?”  With that they knelt in front of Nekayah. I released her and it was as though she knew their hearts were heavy. In a polite, calm and affectionate manner she licked their hands, and as they knelt with her she laid her head in one lap, then the other. As they talked to her she would slowly raise her head to give them gentle licks on their cheeks.

I watched it happen just as I had hoped. In those couple of moments the ice was broken, Brian and Angie felt loved and accepted, and that was transferred to me. Our lunch lasted for 1 1/2 hours and we talked about their mother’s family, life and faith. We laughed and cried together. During our lunch Nekayah laid quietly and politely as usual. The last ten minutes of our lunchtime was a time of interaction with Nekayah. A therapy dog at heart, she is a wonderful ambassador of affection and comfort.

From our conversation and with my information I went home to prepare for the funeral the following morning. This would be a difficult funeral as their mother, only 54, died unexpectedly. That morning the people gathered, the message of hope delivered, the prayers prayed, and I believe healing was begun. For me all was complete. But I discovered something was missing for Brian and Angie. It was at the closing of the service that I then realized how important Nekayah was to the grieving process in the loss of this young mother. Both Brian and Angie came to me and said, “Where is Nekayah? We had hoped you would bring her with you for the service for our mother.” WOW! What an incredible compliment to Nekayah. I thought it best not to take a dog to a funeral. But that was my thinking. It was in error. Brian and Angie would have found further comfort in seeing Nekayah lay beside me during the service. They saw Nekayah and me as one. I then wished I had taken her with me. Her lying beside me would have aided me in delivering a message of hope. Nekayah had briefly touched their lives, entered their sorrow and joined them in their journey toward healing.

Nekayah knows how to lick our tears, lay her head in our lap and somehow we know we are loved, and life will be okay.