Elvis earns THDA title

Elvis’ advanced therapy title

With well over 100 therapy visits, Elvis earned his Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) title this week, spending it by conducting therapy visits and attending the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School.

Elvis enjoys visiting the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School

It’s been a busy week for the big guy, beginning on April 21 with therapy visits to the Idaho State Veterans Home. He and Glory, the VA Home’s live-in Emotional Support dog, or PTSD dog, renewed their acquaintance. Following our visit, I took Elvis for a walk around the Portneuf Wellness Complex where he enjoyed watching the ducks.

My presentations put Elvis to sleep

On Monday, we were invited back to the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School to give several classes a presentation on Spinone and therapy dogs. We both enjoy giving the presentations and when Elvis wasn’t sleeping, he was having interacting with the students.

Elvis models his THDA patch before going out on therapy vists

His work week ended Friday April 28 with therapy visits to the hospital’s rehab center and an assisted living center. One of the residents told us how much Elvis’ monthly visits mean to them and even though there are a variety of activities each day, it’s not the same as the companionship of a dog.

Elvis checks out the ducks following our visit to the VA home

Goose burgers

bacon and goose ready for the food processor

I finally found a goose recipe that was not only edible, but down right tasty… which is good since I got about 8 lbs of burger from the two geese that I shot last hunting season.

relish, garlic powder, salt and pepper

Surprisingly, I stuck pretty close to the original recipe which can be found on the Ducks Unlimited web site; the ingredients are listed below, along with my substitutions in parenthesis.

eggs, tomatoes and onions added to the burger

Preparing the goose began last December by freezing the meat in a marinade of olive oil (vegetable oil can be used), salt, pepper, and thinly sliced onions. This is an old hand-me-down recipe which takes away a lot of the gamey flavor.

Italian bread crumbs added to the burger

For an even mix, I added the bacon to the goose meat which I ran through the food processor along with the garlic powder, relish, pepper, and salt. I then mixed in the eggs, tomatoes and onions (which you couldn’t really call diced), and finally the bread crumbs. After that it was making and freezing the patties.

goose burgers ready to freeze

Since the burger contains raw bacon, I cooked it well-done and my only condiment was a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Add pork and beans, and dang if it wasn’t a good dinner!

goose burger drizzled with balsamic vinegar

2–3 skinless goose breast fillets, cut into one-inch pieces
1/4 pound smoked bacon, diced (1/3 lb)
1 cup canned diced tomato, drained (1 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon garlic powder (1 1/2 tablespoon)
1/4 yellow onion, minced (1/2 yellow onion)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (3 sweet pickles)
1 egg (2 eggs)
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs (2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/3 teaspoon table salt) (2/3 teaspoon)

Training never ends

Training can’t begin soon enough for the guys but it’s going to be a little while before they actually get on some birds, considering spring projects and my nesting pigeons. So to satisfy their need to get out, I let them roam the pasture while I do yard work.

Take Mia for example.

This past Friday, they spent about an hour hunting the pasture before getting bored and returning to lounge around on the lawn. While everyone else went to sleep, Mia returned to the pasture where she found and retrieved a young Robin that was learning to fly. Yup, she was clearly proud of herself.

The young bird was largely unharmed attesting to her soft mouth, but in catching it, Mia had mangled one wing beyond repair. After praising her for doing such a great job of search, retrieve, and delivering to hand, I dispatched the young bird.

So even though we’re not doing any training at the moment, the guys are staying engaged whether it’s searching the pasture for birds, or retrieving them when they’re found.

Baked Pheasant

Baked Pheasant

I’m not sure what brought Earnest Hemmingway to mind, but he once wrote of Pheasant hunting here in Idaho and having bagged a few Pheasants, he and his hunting party took them to a café that cooked the birds for them. I always picture them eating baked Pheasants, so that’s what I did with the one that I got last fall, and it turned out delicious.

First I coated it with mayonnaise and then breaded it with a mixture of flour and Emeril’s Original Essence seasoning. I baked it at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, then brushed it with butter and baked it about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

The Pheasant was tender and juicy, and with a salad thrown in, made a great dinner.

Elvis meets Glory

The following blog has been updated with a couple of corrections.

Elvis met Glory this past Friday during his visit to the Idaho State Veteran’s Home. This was Glory’s second month as a staff member, following months of training as an Emotional Support Dog.

Elvis meets Glory in the activities room

She’s a beautiful white 11-month old Labradoodle who is still adjusting to life in a care facility with many distractions and many people. Glory has met a number of small dogs but Elvis is by far the largest dog she’s met, and was intimidated by him. However Elvis being his calm, cool, collected self gave her space and she did better after a walk through the halls with him.

Glory not sure what to think of Elvis

The VA home had been researching the benefits of Emotional Support Dogs prior to getting Glory, and she was selected partly because being a Labradoodle, residents who are allergic to dogs wouldn’t be affected by her fur. We will still continue our therapy visits but Glory, being at the VA Home every day, can provide much more therapy than our short monthly visits.

Sparrow in a gun barrel

Glory has already had a big impact on residents suffering from PTSD, their anxieties and stress are greatly reduced while spending time with her. And as Glory spends more time with Elvis, she should become more comfortable being around other large dogs.

Training before hunting

I don’t know who came up with the idea of hunting with a leashed dog, but I’ve run into several hunters who have done just that. The black Lab I rescued this year was wearing an expensive camo leash which tells me that’s what her owner must have been doing, and perhaps being gun shy, she bolted when the shooting began.

Dangers of a leashed pup.
Simply walking through brush, on uneven terrain with a loaded gun poses a risk, and people are accidentally shot every year. Add an excited pup who is straining at the leash and it’s downright dangerous for you, the dog, and anyone else in shotgun range.

Can you shoot?
Say you get far enough into your hunt to actually flush a bird, how does one shoot while holding a leashed dog? The only option is to drop the leash and then chase down pup who, suddenly free, has either given chase to the bird or run the other way. Any pup that needs to be on a leash is certainly not going to be steady-to-wing-and-shot.

What does it do to future training?
Whether their range is being limited by a leash or e-collar, pup is being trained to hunt underfoot. Unless that’s all the hunter wants out of their dog, they’ll have to later correct problems with range and quartering. Someone who starts their dog out this way likely doesn’t know enough about training to be able to correct those problems.

No shortcuts to training.
There are no shortcuts to training, if that’s the intent of hunting with a leashed dog. The only real shortcut is to get it right the first time and that means understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, understanding your dog, and understanding the training methodology you choose.