You n'I Animal Wellness

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Positive Reinforcement Dog Training | Dogs & Cats Problem Behavior Counseling | Aurora Colorado and Surrounding Areas

The Cycle of Lives The Story About Monte The Cat

Category: Cats
Posted: 01/21/2016

Photo Courtesy of Cindi Miller HerlemanLast Friday, my friend, Cindi and I met a gentle, sweet cat, “Monte” at Aurora Animal Shelter where we volunteer. We both fell in love with him; he kept pawing at us to get attention, and his sweet presence made our hearts melt. We spent entire an hour with him, but what we didn’t know was that Monte had an advanced diabetes and they had to euthanize him. Monte was only 12 years old. (Please read Cindi’s blog about Monte, it’s a beautiful tribute to him.)

Many thoughts came to mind after I cried like a baby after I heard this sad and heartbreaking news.

One was about my cat, Kimama, who lived almost 21 years. One day, I noticed him urinating a lot, took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 16 years old. We were so lucky that he actually maintained his blood sugar level somewhat normal by switching his food to diabetic diet food and giving him supplements, and he lived a very good life for the next 5 years.

I wrote several blogs about how important it is to have a good relationship with the veterinarian, and it’s our responsibility to check with the veterinarian to make sure that our fur-kids are physically healthy. I can’t stop thinking about Monte and the idea that he could of had 5 more years if the guardian took him to a physical exam when he started urinating outside of the litter box, so that s/he could prevent and manage his illness before it got so advanced instead of taking him to a shelter.

Just because our furry friend gets older, that doesn’t mean their quality of life is lost; taking care of our furry friend isn’t just about having a good time when they are young and healthy, it also involves providing them a peaceful and quiet senior life until they cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

Monte also reminded me one of one my foster kittens, Fenn. I think I started volunteering as a foster parent around 1994. Fenn was the first kitten I lost since becoming a foster parent volunteer. Fenn was weak and sick for weeks, and it was too late by the time I took him back to the shelter for the veterinarian to check on him. I blamed myself, and kept asking questions that had no answers. Why couldn’t I catch his illness sooner?, What if someone else was fostering him, maybe he could have lived? Could of, could of, what if…what if…

I couldn't go back to the shelter for months after I lost Fenn. I was heartbroken, I was terrified to foster again because I didn’t want to experience such trauma. I cried every day, missed his presence in the house, and apologized for not be able to save him.

One day, my husband sat down next to me and said; “I know it hurts, and I understand that you want to quit fostering, but don’t give up on it because Fenn died. He didn’t die to make you give up on what you believe in.”

“That’s right!” I thought. Fenn didn’t die to make me give up on what I believe in. I can give up on fostering whenever I want. He didn’t have to die to tell me that. Instead, he taught me what I have to do for the next animal when something like this happens to them. He taught me that there would be some days that I would lose another foster animal like the way I lost him. He gave me the strength to move on each and every time I have to go through the loss. Even if it hurts, and even when it breaks my heart, Fenn gave me the strength for me to continue to do the things I believe in.

The first kitten my husband and I fostered after Fenn, was a cute sassy little kitten that needed to be fostered for just a few weeks until she turned 8 weeks old and became adoptable. Instead of staying with us for a few weeks, the little sassy kitten lived with us for the rest of her 7 years. Yes, that’s the little trouble, “Komaru”.

Fenn brought us the joy of living with Komaru; my husband and I were able to foster more than 200 cats and kittens after Fenn’s departure, and I felt Fenn in each and every one of them.

And now, Monte brought Fenn back to me again… I know from bottom of my heart that they do, live, in my heart as long as I live…


Looking Back on 2015 and at 2016 For Team You n I Animal Wellness

Posted: 01/07/2016
At the end of every year, I look through all the photos I took from puppy group classes and private sessions, it makes me realize how much all the students and their dogs mean to me.

Early on in 2015, a little baby Yorkshire terrier named “Missy” came to my puppy socialization class at Parkside Animal Health Center. “Missy” weighed only a few pounds at the time, but she was a fearless puppy, who played with any size dog, always is full of energy, and made everyone smile. They continued on into our “Puppy Unleashed!” class, and then to “Teenage Blues” class.

One day, Missy’s guardian asked me about service dog training. It must be very difficult for Missy’s guardian to share something so personal with me, but after we had a deep conversation, she decided to move on and take more specific training so that Missy can become a service dog for her. I can’t lie, it was a sad moment when I found out that “Team Missy” was no longer coming to my class, but it was also my proud moment at the same time when she told me that she and Missy passed the evaluation test to join the service dog training class. I hope everything that we worked on, from socialization skills to leash manners to just simple basic manners will help “Team Missy” to achieve their new goals.

Team Gracie, Team Sascha, Team Stella, became our “Teenage Blues” core group since they all started “Puppy Unleashed” at the same time, along with Team Roxy & Rio who are continuing their education. A little surprise to the group was when Team Samson returned! What a fun class that was! Team Annie, Team Dean, Team Nigel worked on learning Impulse Control and we sure hope they are still improving their Impulse Control through 2016.

Team Chloe, Team Remi, Team Annabelle, Team Louie, and Team Duke, your journey is just beginning as we head into the New Year. You’ll have a lot of ups and down, but also there’ll be much laughter and fun in your lives.

There are so many teams I met throughout the year, and I wish I could list them all…and all of this couldn’t happen without wonderful support and friendship from Dr. Eisenhauer, Dr. Barrow, Dr.Winton and their great staff at Parkside Animal Health Center.

Our In-Home/Private sessions have had many special cases as well. Team Nala, Team Teddy, Team McKinley, Team Bixby, Team Pippa, Team Maddie, Team Bailey & Harley, Team Bandit & Stella, Team Madison, Team Dante, Team Pegasus, and Team Stella & Willie who showed me great teamwork, Team Charlie, Team Coco & Bella, Team Timber & Style, Team Loki, Team Roku, and Team Dave who showed me love and consistency, Team Yogi-Bear, The K Team-Kia, Koko, and Kizzie, Team Margo, Team Stanley, who showed me patience and dedication, and many, many more… I thank you all for letting me share your journey with your beloved furry kids through training, and look forward to continuing our journey together in 2016.

We also launched “Puppy Unleashed!” and “Basic Obedience for Teenage/Adult Dogs” at Aurora Animal Hospital in later September. Team Dakota, Team Tex, Team Maple and Team Tinker were the first to graduate from these classes. Thank you so much, Dr. Cogswell and wonderful staff at Aurora Animal Hospital for giving me the opportunity to have all the classes, trust in my work and your support!

“You n’ I Animal Wellness” thrives to be a part of the community, and we were able to have at least one workshop a month to help support rescue groups and shelters throughout 2015. Colorado Pug Rescue, Dachshund Rescue, Big Paws Huge Dogs, Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region, Misha May Foundation, and Aurora Animal Shelter are among some of them, and we celebreated great successes in each workshop. We also had our annual reunion at the Furry Scurry and I also ran a 10K for Wild Animal Sanctuary for the first time in 2015! We had another great success with our annual food/toy drive, and this year we donated it to Big Paws Huge Dogs and Aurora Animal Shelter.

To all our wonderful students who became our extended family THANK YOU! From bottom of my heart, for your friendship, trust in our work, and for us to be able to give back to community. Each and every one of you taught me so many wonderful life lessons through training your puppies, and those are treasures in my heart.

We know You n’ I Animal Wellness will continue to grow even more in 2016, and will have more special meetings, and have as many happy reunions as we can. In 2016, we will continue to provide the most current training methods and information, as well as fun things we can do together. We’re planning to have our annual Furry Scurry fundraising walk and reunion as Team You n’ I Animal Wellness, we will keep having fun with contests and give aways on our Facebook Fan Page, and we are also hoping that we can announce some very EXCITING news to you on either March or April 2016, too. So stay tuned, and let’s celebrate 2016 TOGETHER!

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Connecting the Dots Between Your Furry Kids Health and Behavior

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 08/27/2015

Our grumpy cat, Oryo (pronounce as O-re-yo) the dragon is always hungry. Every morning and evening she’ll give me a dirty look if I’m not ready to feed her. Since we feed her raw food, her mealtime is the same time as our dogs; twice a day, and no grazing allowed. This way, I know for sure how much she eats every day and keep her at a healthy weight. (Dr. Barrow, one of my favorite veterinarians at Parkside Animal Health Center, wrote an excellent blog more on healthy weight.)

Not long ago, my husband and I noticed that Oryo hadn’t eaten her meals at all for a few days, this was on Saturday, the day before the forth of July when many veterinarians get busy treating animals with “Holiday injuries/sicknesses” (like, heat stroke, food poisoning, indigested holiday ornaments etc.). We called Parkside to see when they could get Oryo in, they kindly took us in on the same day. Dr. Barrow thoroughly examined her, and thankfully she couldn’t find any serious illness. Dr. Barrow then mentioned to us that Oryo has some decaying teeth that need to be extracted, and it probably was causing her to not want to eat. My original thought was “Oh poor cat, she already had a dental surgery 2 years ago, not again!” But then of course, I want her to feel better, so we made an appointment to go ahead and have the surgery done the following week.

After the surgery, she recovered in no time; although she now only has 12 teeth left, her appetite was back immediately, and my husband and I were happy that she was back to her normal self, the grumpy cat, Oryo the dragon!

But recently, we noticed that she is getting more active, visible and confident. She was so skittish before; she’d get scared if anything moved that made a noise, so she really didn’t want to play with anything. We had to be flat on the floor, look under the bed to say “hello” when we would come home from work because usually that was where she stayed. But now, she started to play with a little piece of paper and/or strings, she’ll some times even come and see me when I’m working in my basement office to get attention. I’m not so fond of this behavior, but she hisses, teases, and challenges our sleepy dogs from the top of the bed/couch, and the funniest thing is that she uses them as an obstacle course for her, and it’s becoming her daily routine. (She zigzags between Midori and Sakura, jumps over them, and/or passes by their noses and/or ears as close as she can while the dogs are sleeping.)

So I thought, hmmm, she must be feeling really good after the surgery, and maybe she needs more environment enrichment. So I grabbed a food dispenser toy and gave it a shot to see if she could figure it out. My husband and I both thought that she wouldn’t even go near it and run away from it. Amazingly, it only took a few trials until she became more confident to use her nose and paws to get treats from the toy. I was so thrilled when she started using the toy! I was so excited; I ended up buying a kitty puzzle from Kriser’s (my favorite pet supplies store) with a bit of doubt that she may not use it at all. But my guess was again, wrong! Ever since she started using her paws and nose to play with the little food dispenser toy, it seems like a little light bulb went off in her head! It took a few days for her to figure the puzzle out, but hey, no problem. She now started drinking water from our pint glass by sticking her paw in and scooping up drips of water and licks her paw. She started playing with a string, and also she finds herself entertained by “shredding papers”; she uses her paws, grabs pieces of paper, chews it, and rips it off! (Some times she eats it, too. Oh boy…)

I am amazed by her transformation from being just a grumpy cat to now the “Happy”-grumpy cat, Oryo the dragon, and you know what? It all started out when she stopped eating her meals; very unusual behavior from a cat who loves and demands her meals every day. If your furry kid starts acting strange, please check with your veterinarian before you “assume” it’s behavioral. Observe how your furry kid normally eats, plays, and interacts with you. Animals can’t tell us when s/he is hurt or in pain, changing their behavior is the only way for them to tell us “something is wrong with me”. Watch your furry kid’s daily routine, their activity, food intake and their personality very carefully every day, and if anything changes, don't ask “Dr. Google” and/or other free advices on the Internet and Social media. The Internet can’t observe and exam your furry kid from inside out like Dr. Barrow can. This is the reason why I always want to rule out any underline medical cause before I work with my clients and their furry kids; and I’m pleased to say that our dragon cat, Oryo the “Happy”- grumpy cat proved it!

Meanwhile, watch this short video of our dragon cat, Oryo having fun playing with her new puzzle toy!


Understanding the 4 Learning Stages for Training Your Dog

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 08/13/2015

Photo courtesy of Maria Chavez
Photo Courtesy of Maria Chavez
One of my hobbies is practicing Muay Thai Kickboxing at my favorite gym. (Muay Thai of Colorado) I have been going to this gym religiously for almost 10 years. I love the challenge my teachers give me at the gym, the sounds of Thai pads when I kick, and the movement of sandbags when I punch. I knew I was out of shape, I knew I’d be sore for the next few days, and I knew I’m getting old and slow, but I decided to get back to the gym last week. Although I haven’t been to the gym for a few years, I saw a few familiar faces and they all smiled and welcomed me back, and I felt at home once we started practicing the techniques.

After I had a great session and sweat my butt off at the gym, I felt great and I was (of course) thinking about “Training” on the way back home. I was thinking how my teachers and partners helped me train at this beautiful art, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and it reminded me how animals learn. (Including humans!)

There are 4 stages of learning in animals, let’s use my experience to help explain.

  1. Acquisition- an animal learns a new behavior
    Example: I learned how to kick- My teacher shows me a technique, and s/he supervises my moves closely.
  2. Fluency- Combination of error and rate (How well an animal can perform the behavior under giving circumstances)
    Example: I can kick in the right position using the right power 6-8 out of 10 times on Thai Pads- When I first started going to the gym, one of the students asked the teacher “How can I get better?” He smiled and replied. “Consistency-If you can kick 1000 times, then kick 5000 times more”. I went to the gym 5 days a week because I wanted to be good at it, and practiced a number of kicks and punches. My teachers no longer have to supervise me so closely when I use the techniques, but s/he will point out a few things for me to get better.
  3. Generalization- How well the behavior has been generalized
    Example: I can kick in the right position using the right power 6-8 out of 10 times in the ring with a sparring partner- When I was allowed to spar in the ring, I realized that I haven’t learned anything when I thought I knew everything. So many thoughts were crossing my mind yet my body wasn’t moving the way I learned! How could this happen to me? I’ve been consistent, and I’ve been practicing it for several years, yet I felt like a deer in a head light! Although I had experiences using the technique on Thai pads, I didn’t have a sparring experience to use the technique I knew. Eventually, I learned how to spar and use the techniques I learned on Thai pads with not only the same sparring partner, but different partners as well.
  4. Management- Remember, behavior is like our body muscle. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!
    Example: I couldn’t kick 10 times on Thai pads without being out of breath after 2 years of absence but I still remembered how to kick. I will be able to kick without being out of breath if I continue to go back to the gym.

Now, getting back to training our dogs. Think this “4 stages of learning” for your dog before you say “My dog is doing this (whatever the unwanted behavior) because s/he is stubborn” or “S/he should know what to do by now”. When you feel like your dog is hitting a plateau or having a set back, stop working with your dog and think for a moment. Did you teach her what you want her to do? (Acquisition) Can your dog “Sit” 8 out of 10 times in the kitchen when you ask her to do? (Fluency) If so, that’s good. How about in different context? Have you asked her to “Sit” in a different room, the back yard, the front yard, or at the stop sign? Dogs cannot generalize well; just because s/he can “Sit” in the kitchen 8 out of 10 times, it doesn’t mean she can do the same in a different room. Perhaps you may raise the bar too high too quickly after your dog acquired a new behavior? (Generalization) Perhaps your dog was able to “Sit” in different context most of time and you don’t ask the behavior so often anymore? (Management)

Living with dogs is like having a homestay student who is trying to learn our culture and language from a different country. We must help each other and learn from each other to develop the skills, just like I had my pad partners, sparring partners, and teachers who are all so patient, and each and every one of them are helping me to achieve the correct position and techniques. Everyone has a different and unique way of learning, and you know what? I keep going back to the gym because my teachers and partners always make me want to learn more and I always have fun there. I’m sure your dog will perform whatever the behavior you want her to do when she is having lots of fun with you while she is learning! So don’t forget to have fun while you train your dog!

Meanwhile, watch this short and cute video of 6 months old Missy who is learning to get on a skateboard with lots of treats, praise (acquisition), and all of us are having fun!!


A Lesson From Life

Posted: 07/09/2015
At the end of May or early June, my husband and I were obsessed about looking out the back yard window. My husband found a little gray bird nest on a tree near by the window, and we were hoping to see some baby birds in the nest. Weeks pasted by, and finally I saw the mom bird flying down to the nest to be greeted a few baby birds peaked their heads out from the nest and asked for their breakfast on one sunny morning. I invited my husband to join and watch them with me. We watched them for a while until the mom bird flew away to find more food. It was so beautiful. The babies were bold and tiny, but they all were celebrating their lives, they were chirping for food, and wanting mom’s attention, it was like them singing; “We’re here, we’re alive! Mom, can you hear us?”

Every morning and evening, it became our routine to check on the bird’s nest. My husband set up his spotting scope so we can watch them closer. We found 4 little baby birds in the nest one day. We saw that the baby birds got some feathers on their heads one day. (It looked just like Mohawk, and it made us smile.) I started noticing the sound of baby birds chirps. My husband and I talked about the bird family every night at the dinner table. We celebrated their new life, new journey, and new adventure.

Since the weather in Colorado this year has been so crazy, we got many rainy days with hail and thunderstorms during the months. One day I was worried about the nest during the thunderstorm and checked on them through the telescope. I saw the mom bird covering the nest with her body and wings, trying to protect her babies. She was soaking wet, but didn't even move an inch. It was mother’s true love, true unconditional love, and it was so beautiful.

The next morning, I heard the baby bird’s strong chirps again. I felt relief that they all made it through the storm. The mom was busy feeding them, and I even saw a few baby birds open their wings. That evening, we had another thunderstorm and the mom bird did the exact same thing. Oh how much I wished I could get an umbrella over her and her nest; I prayed for the ending of the horrible storms that the mom had to fight for her and her babies’ lives.

The next morning, I heard the baby bird’s chirps again, but I only found 3 little birds in the nest. My heart sank. The next few days, we had similar storms every evening. It didn’t take too long for me to find out that only one little baby bird was left in the nest, and I saw some very unusual behavior from the mom bird. Up to that point, she kept herself busy finding food, feeding and protecting the babies. But that morning, she just stood by the nest for a long time while the only baby bird that was left was chirping weakly for food. I imagined the worst-case scenario.

The next morning, I woke up with a very quiet back yard. I looked into the scope several times and hoped that the baby bird was still sleeping, and waiting for the mom bird to come back with breakfast. But she never came back…

Some times Mother Nature teaches us something so valuable in life. It is not a happy “la-la” land to live in this world; it takes so much effort to nurture a new life, and to survive through something we cannot control, like the storms. Some times, a mother needs to make a very difficult decision for the babies, and for herself to survive.

After we stopped watching the bird family at the end of June, a dear friend of mine for 10 plus years came to visit us from California. I was speechless, and tears ran down through my cheeks as soon as I saw her almost 13 year old son. He was already taller than his mom, and he was no longer a young boy-he now is becoming a handsome, young man. I cried with joy for him growing up, and it made me realize how much of diligent effort and unconditional love my friend and her husband have been giving to him.

“LIFE” teaches us how strong, yet how fragile it is. How beautiful, yet how sad it can be. And then it still shows us that love is stronger than death, and I think it is very, very powerful and beautiful…So let’s not waste another moment, hug the one you are sharing your life with, and tell them how much you love them.

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. ~ Thomas Merton


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