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Book Review :: Loyal

First line: “There are dozens of reasons to love dogs, but the paramount reason for my passion emerged while I was writing the prequel to this book, Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life With Dogs.”

Loyal - Brown Dog Solutions

Journalist Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a volunteer in a high-kill animal shelter. Because of her experiences in the shelter she helped found the Deja Foundation, which is devoted to funding the medical care and training costs of dogs rescued from high-kill shelters. This is a true animal lover, and she’s put together Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs, a beautiful book celebrating dogs who contribute to the lives of humans in truly extraordinary ways.

If you’re a pet owner, you know how much your own furry friend(s) add to your existence.  So it won’t surprise you to hear the 38 heartwarming tales Ascher-Walsh has collected in this stunning little book. She found purebreds and mutts, old dogs and young. The common denominator is their pure, unselfish willingness to give of themselves. A Labrador who served in the military, a German Shepard trained as a seeing eye dog for a marathon runner, a German wirehaired pointed adopted from a shelter to improve community relations for a police department, a Spinone Italiano who comforted the children of Newtown following the Sandy Hook massacre. The stories are diverse and fun and inspiring. The full-color photographs in every chapter are top-notch, as you’d expect from a National Geographic publication.

Peppered throughout the book are small call-out sections with special facts or breed background. And the variety of organizations that come to light is astounding. For example, the Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri (PHARM Dog USA) that trains and places service dogs with disabled farmers or Canine CellMates in Atlanta that rescues dogs on the euthanasia list at shelters and matches them with jail inmates to be trained.

Through all of the stories and dogs and individuals, Ascher-Walsh illustrates how the loyalty of dogs can bring out the best in their human friends. Loyal is a perfect book for the bedside table or coffee table. Readers can pick it up for one story at a time, a couple stories or an uplifting hour or two of all the stories. After having read it the first time, I found myself flipping through to look at the pictures again and wanting to re-read the tales as the pictures reminded me of the smiles and warm feelings those words elicited the first time around.

Loyal is an ideal book for any dog lover. It’s a great gift book as well, but if you buy it as a gift, you may very well find parting with it a great challenge.

I’m kicking off the TLC blog tour for Loyal. You can check out the full schedule of bloggers and find out what others are saying about Ascher-Walsh’s tribute to furry heros. You can find purchasing information at the National Geographic site or at Amazon. And as always, below you’ll find the Goodreads link if you want to add it to your reading list.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

Camp Unleashed - photography

Labor Day Dog Camp Vacation

Rufus and my 2016 dog camp trip to Camp Unleashed has come and gone now. *sob* Like last year, it was a deliriously wonderful weekend. There was one tiny blip where I almost let a not-so-nice woman and her not-so-social dog ruin the weekend, but after a little pouting and venting I got it together and decided she wouldn’t prevent us from enjoying our favorite weekend of the year! It also helped tremendously that the instructors and behaviorist and camp staff are just so fabulous.

So here’s a little rundown on what we did this year. Yappy Hour continues to be a favorite of Rufus’, so I make sure I drag my bones out of the bunk each morning and take him to the field to romp with the other dogs. And he earned the nickname of “Yappy Hour Ambassador” because he would run over to greet each new arrival and then speed back to continue playing.

Dog Camp - yappy hour

This year there were sessions on scent-type activities: indoor and outdoor, tracking, finding personal belongings–anyone need to train their dogs to find their car keys? We attended a lecture session on how your dog smells the world, but most of the other classes were 2 activity sessions long, so we opted to go with other classes.

One of those other classes was Parkour for Dogs. Have you seen Parkour for humans? It’s similar. The dogs are trained to jump on, bounce off of, go through or under all kinds of obstacles that occur in the everyday environment. Rufus had no trouble with the jumping ON obstacles. Going through and under took much more enticement.

Dog Camp - Parkour

We also learned…or rather started learning…flyball. This is a relay race with dogs. If you’ve never seen it, the dogs run over four hurdles, pop on a box that discharges a ball. They have to grab the ball and run back over the hurdles. Rufus has the hurdles down from agilities, but we have to work on his interest in the ball. He didn’t want to pick it up and take it back with him. Our instructor, Kathy Nieves show us some ways we can practice and hopefully get Rufus more interested in the ball. The turn on the box is a process too, but he was starting off pretty well. We’ll definitely try more with that in the future.

dog camp - flyball

Another new class we tried this year was Tricks. Rufus does a lot of obedience type things, but I haven’t worked with him much on tricks. So we really enjoyed this class. He learned (or rather relearned) to bow. And we started working on sit pretty. So we’ll practice more with both of these now that we have some idea of how to approach them.

Our must-do-again events included Freestyle for Dogs, of course! Here we started learning to march and “backup.” We’ll be working on those more. We also took several of the regular moves that we already know and combined them, which looked great. I also discovered that before I had only asked Rufus to do weaves when I was walking forward, so when I wanted him to do more of a figure eight weave, he was unsure how to do the back half. We have to practice that some more, too. This really is the highlight of my camp. I’ve so enjoyed learning this. I don’t dance except with my dog.  Jenn Michaelis can work miracles!

We couldn’t miss out on the mindfulness hike. I just love walking through the woods with Rufus, and him being off leash, allowed to explore, sniff, run and just be a dog. All his happy signals are on full power during these walks.

And for me, I had to partake in the photography class again. This year we had a fun dress-up activity coordinated by Chelly Campbell. I thought it was great fun; Rufus might tell you a different story. But the class was in the last session of the day, so Ru was pretty tired and didn’t fight the dress-up too much, and we got some cool pictures.

Dog Camp - photography

Rufus spent time each day in the lake, of course. We still didn’t manage to do a canoe ride, though. We had a chance to attend a fascinating session called “Doglish” on how your dog communicates. Plus, this was a very nice addition this year: my roomies, Kat and Pippa, and I spent time at our cabin chatting, playing a cool domino game called Mexican Train and watching Arrested Development. They had some episodes on the iPad and insisted I had to be introduced to the show. My introverted self appreciated this time very much.

Once again we left exhausted and wonderfully happy! As I’ve said before, I can’t recommend dog camp enough. We save to go; it’s not a cheap getaway, but it’s worth every penny.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed

Camp Unleashed

Those who know me in person or follow me on social media know what a big animal lover I am. And I’m the crazy pet lady, I guess. My two dogs and three cats are my world.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed jennifer forbus - camp unleashed

Last year I took my youngest child to camp. Yes, Rufus and I went to Camp Unleashed in the Berkshires. And it was the highlight of my year–I think Rufus’ too, but I really can’t speak for him. We spent Labor Day weekend living in a cabin at the Becket YMCA camp. We went hiking and swimming, learned to dance (Freestyle) and Rufus to dive (dock diving). We ran agilities and learned canine massage. Well, I learned the massage, Rufus benefited from it. I attended a session on pet photography, one on caring for senior pets (my Nestlé is almost 13), one on pet psychology. And through it all, we met like-minded folks–people who love their dogs the way I do mine. And of course, my social little guy made tons of friends as well.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashedEach morning we started at Yappy Hour where the dogs could run and romp with each other in a big open field. And as the camp name indicates, the dogs are off leash virtually the entire weekend. So they get to be natural dogs.

By the end of each day, Rufus was crashed, happily exhausted from all of his learning and jennifer forbus - camp unleashedplay. And so was I! There were many other activities that we didn’t get to enjoy, simply because there wasn’t time to do everything: canoeing with your dog, barks and crafts, tricks classes, grooming classes, the list of options seemed endless. It was an amazing and wonderful bonding experience for us both, too.

Needless to say, that first experience hooked us. In about two weeks, Rufus and I are headed back to Camp Unleashed for more fun. We can’t wait.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed
One of our favorite activities–hiking!

Of course, Camp Unleashed isn’t for everyone. Dogs have to be able to get along with other dogs (obviously) and have good recall since they’re off leash. For example, I can’t take my Nestlé because she’s unpredictable with other dogs. We stay in a cabin with no electricity and you have to use a washhouse for showers and bathrooms. But they do have a hall with electricity and indoor plumbing if you don’t want to “rough it” quite as much. The cabins are quite cool, though–and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like camping!

jennifer forbus - camp unleashedEven though we were busy all weekend, there was also a sense of serenity at camp and I’m looking so forward to going back. I can’t recommend it highly enough. We attend the camp in the Berkshires and we go during Labor Day Weekend. They offer camp at that same location around Memorial Day weekend, and they also offer camp in October in Georgia at Camp Blueridge (new this year, it use to be in Asheville, NC).

jennifer forbus - camp unleashedI’ll be taking pictures at camp this year again, so I’ll definitely have updates when we return. But I also make sure that my focus during camp is on Rufus. This is our weekend together–something I save for and anticipate all year long–and I want him to have all the fun he possibly can. So stay tuned and I’ll share our fun when we return. If you’re someone with a dog that’s a good fit for camp, think about coming. I can almost guarantee you’ll have a blast. I figure if a non-camping person like me loves camp this much, just imagine what true camping lovers experience!

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed jennifer forbus - camp unleashed

Have a great week, friends!