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Ruth's dog Atlas

Here is my dog Atlas inside Ken Foster’s new book I’m a Good Dog.

Just saying.

Actually, I know a bunch of the dogs featured in the book, because nearly all the photographs were taken by Karen Morgan, a talented photographer friend who’s been involved with pit bulls for years, and has done a lot of work with clients of ours.

Below is a portrait of Roxy with her owner Wanda. They live right here in the neighborhood and attended See Spot Run’s Basic Skills & Manners class not too long ago.


And here is a portrait of a pit bull named Mila. I mentioned her in an earlier post regarding my choice to forfeit renewal of my CPDT-KA certification. Mila played a central role in that decision, and I never regretted it. She’s posing below with her owner’s father.


© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2012.


We left Wyoming in April with heels dragging and a few souvenirs in tow. I am a big believer in small souvenirs, particularly when one’s nominally cavernous industrial loft space is embarrassingly cluttered. On this occasion, we brought back a pair of antler corkscrews and a handful of raccoon penis bones (long story, vaguely related to how we met).

We also took away some lessons about ourselves and one another.

Of Atlas, I learned that he considers life-size artistic renderings of moose a good deal more concerning than actual moose. I tend to agree with him on that score, for what it’s worth.

And I learned he was not the only really handsome pit bull in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Check out this mug, spotted inside a pickup truck downtown. I really want its name to be something corny like Lightening or Blaze.

Atlas learned that all black Labs are not like his housemate Olive. He learned this on our first morning out, while on a relaxed walk along a deserted bike path, where we were set upon by a Pathologically Friendly And Thick Headed male of unknown provenance. This guy had only two speeds, Sit-on-command and Up-My-Dog’s-Butt. Merely accompanying us along our walk was off the table.  Tried shouting, tried kicking (sorry, humping Atlas isn’t acceptable), tried throwing a stick. Some dogs just can’t take a hint. Eventually, I was able to pawn him off on some local joggers, in order that I might return to our cabin with just my own dog.

About my husband, I learned he is a good bird watcher.

I also learned he has a deep capacity for finding the structural flaws in an otherwise appealing cabin, and that even several glasses of good wine cannot reliably suppress this instinct. To his credit, he was entirely correct, demonstrating that sustainably built is not the same as intelligently built. Too bad, because they were both very comfortable and seductively high design.

Word to the wise: It’s a little bit tacky to use fake support beams as a major design element, especially when they might almost as easily have been used for actual support.

For myself, I learned that forty-plus hours of driving can test the best of relationships, particularly if one forgets to take along any CDs.  And I discovered it is worth scouring truck stop music racks in search of that elusive animal, the album worth listening to. In this case, my efforts were rewarded with Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison.

Mainly, I learned I very likely have the best husband and the best dog ever.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2012.

According to the sign we encountered on our hike through Teton National Park, the park is allowing dogs on leash on a trial basis. They are not allowed off leash or on the off-road trails themselves. But with most of the park’s roads closed to vehicle traffic through April, we were able to enjoy a very nice walk, around seven or eight miles round-trip.

It’s amazing how the landscape changes as one drives across country. God knows why I ever even considered flying. Thank you, major airlines, for banning pit bulls. Otherwise, we might have missed out on this unbelievable scenery.

Time for a photo opportunity.

This is one hell of a dog-inclusive road trip vehicle, by the way. We removed the back seats to make room for the luggage.

Look, critter poop.

And cactus.

I guess we’re not in Chicago anymore.

Approaching Jackson Hole.

We left Chicago a few hours behind schedule on Saturday, but managed to make it to Cheyenne, Wyoming, before bedding down at a really civilized dog-friendly hotel.

I almost balked at the $35 pet fee, until I considered how much I would personally charge to clean up after certain pets I know.

I took a couple pics of my husband posing with my pit bull Atlas at a pit stop in Nebraska. I’m pretty sure I saw a horror movie shot at this location.

Atlas seems fully recovered from his bout of salivary gland infection, but he will not be enjoying any bones on this trip, just to be safe.

Before reaching Jackson Hole on Sunday, we stopped for lunch at Grandma’s Cafe.

Atlas was a little distracted on our brief walk by a handsome pair of Boxers, who were checking us out from behind the fence of the neighboring yard.

I really like the male on the right. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a beefy boxer like that.

At least that’s my best guess, based on what my vet said and also a little online research.

Now the question is, will the infection respond to antibiotics, or is there an impaction that will necessitate the surgical removal of the gland?

I’m hoping the former.

Atlas concurs, especially after looking at these photographs of a five pound chihuahua under the knife (not for the squeamish, I warn you).

For now we wait.

I have a weakness for dogs with ridiculous overbites, probably because the one’s I’ve known, including the female pit bull pictured below, have had awesome personalities.

Not suggesting the “massive overbite” should be an element of any breed standard, but then again, why not?

Would breeding for only half a lower jaw be any more ludicrous than breeding for twice as much skin as necessary, or legs so short that running was an uphill battle, or a head so large that puppies need be delivered via c-section?

After all, there’s a fine line between deformity and fetish.

So, I’ve begun working on the first homework assignment from Silvia Trkman’s long-distance tricks course.

And I suspect Atlas is already pining for the days when all he had to do for his dinner was sit. Poor animal surely thinks I’ve lost my mind. But bless him, he keeps a stiff upper lip.

Just over two months ago, I accepted an invitation to participate in SPARK Chicago’s pilot season of apprenticeships. No, it’s not a reality show. It’s a real life mentoring program, focused on encouraging middle school students in underserved neighborhoods to stay in school.

SPARK matches each student in the program with a professional in his or her chosen field of interest for an eight-week internship of sorts. The student visits the workplace for two hours once-a-week, learning what it actually takes to, say, be a lawyer, or an architect, or, in my case, a dog trainer. I did my best to keep it on the down-low that one doesn’t actually need a college diploma to train a dog, but also stressed the importance of education both generally and specifically, as it relates to training and caring for animals intelligently and running a business.

Over the course of the two-month apprenticeship, teacher and student are expected to work together on a final project for presentation at Discovery Night at the student’s school. Below is the final project that I and dog training apprentice Tatoiniya Alcorn from Dodge Renaissance Academy put together over the weeks she spent learning and assisting at See Spot Run.


My thanks to Mila, the American Bull Terrier who stars in the above video, and to Rue the Rottweiler puppy, who accompanied Tatoiniya on stage at Dodge Renaissance Academy, and helped her demonstrate a little bit of her newly acquired knowledge.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.

Harriet is a female Labradoodle in resident training with us. Unfortunately, I was called away before she and Arson got very playful, but you can tell from this brief footage that Arson has the stuff, I think. He also played successfully yesterday with a scrappy male mini Schnauzer mix.

So Arson stays in the Unlimited Potential column until further notice. Good boy.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.


spot-check: to sample or investigate quickly or at random

My Thought Exactly

"There's facts about dogs, and there's opinions about them. The dogs have the facts, and the humans have the opinions." --J. Allen Boone

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© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruth Crisler and Spot Check with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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