Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

Doug's Blog

Bath Time for the Pups

Posted by douggoodman on March 29, 2010 at 6:03 PM Comments comments (0)

The past couple of weeks have been hectic in the "way too much fun" way.  Camping, soccer games, playing ball with my son, visiting a photography exhibit, family bowling, and to cap it all off, watching Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief with my daughter.  That meant that I also needed to do a fare share of work around home.  So I was surprised that amidst all this, I even found time to wash both my dogs.  I did it thanks to my birthday gift from my parents - Booster Bath.


The bathtub on stilts came in a box almost a month ago.  It only took an hour or two to put together (the hardest part was assembling the shower caddy).  I tried it back then, testing it for grooming, and it worked really well.  Granted, I was just brushing hair, but I hoped to get the dogs used to it before I bathed them in it.


Rider in the Bathtub-On-Stilts


The way it works is you get your dog up into the giant plastic bathtub.  It has four anchors to tether to your dog's leash, which keep the dog in one spot.  It comes with a nozzle that you attach to a water hose, which can be used to bathe the dog. 


What attracted me to the product is the tethering.  See, Mojo has issues with his left side.  I've never understood it.  If you try to brush him on the right, he is cool and relaxed.  If you try to brush him on the left, you get nothing but avoidance behaviors.  And don't even try to get his feet!  He is missing one toe in his back left paw.  (Yes, Mojo has walked into a bar and said he was looking for the man who shot his paw.)  Joking aside, I have wondered if something happened when he was a pup, because since the day we brought him home he has been sensitive about his paws.  So naturally a contraption that would help sidestep this behavior catches my eye, and when my parents suggested it, I bit.


Yesterday I tried out the Booster Bath.  My daughter helped me move it out into the backyard, and from that point on, it was just me and the dogs (and a two-year old who wandered around). 


I don't know if you have ever bathed a dog, or if you have ever bathed a dog that did not want a bath.  Let me conjure the image for you:  it's two (or more) soaking wet people, one with his or hand up under the pelvis of the dog, and the other with their hand on a garden hose.  The dog, who is receiving the doggie version of the world's worst hernia check, is ready to bolt at the first chance he can get.  Shampoo is on everyone and everything.  Everybody's back is killing them since the dog cannot grow three feet of leg for this activity.  People are cringing and trying to avoid the dog that is about to shake shampoo, water, and a thousand soggy hairs into everybody's eyes and clothes.  The hair will remain in the clothes for 1 to 2 years. 


This is the image of me using Booster Bath.  One person, a little wet.  I am calm and relaxed because I know my dog cannot escape or run off in the middle of the bath.  I rub the soap into my pup's hair, thoroughly soak it out (as opposed to rushing through the whole thing in an attempt to please end the ordeal now!), and move on to brushing and grooming the dog.  They both got the full treatment.  Pedicure, ears swabbed:  they came out shiny and new. 


Now, I will say this:  the Booster Bath advertisement claims your dog will enjoy the experience.  Half the time Rider was in, she wanted out.  Thankfully she is not too accustomed to jumping out of tall places yet, or I would have had more trouble on my hands.  Mojo, on the other hand, was no different personality-wise.  He clenched up at the bath, and he growled when I tried to cut his toenails (though I got two done).  Like I said, sensitive feet.  But he was more than willing to stay there, and I think he liked all the attention. 


Overall, this is a great product.  It is sturdy and robust, and made grooming much easier for me and my pups.  Keep in mind, it was just me working with the dogs.  Also, I think I finished much faster than normal since the dog is not a constant struggle to escape from Bath-Catraz. 


Why is Moj happy?  He just spent the past two
minutes rolling in the dirt right after I bathed him.


I like trying new things, and I am curious to see how things work.  Some products do, and others are not worth the money/effort.  This one, for the price you pay, I think is worth it.  If my parents had not given it to me a gift, it would have been at the top of the wishlist.


Note:  my parents bought me an extension that connects to the hot and cold water valves in the laundry.  I have not hooked them up, but after giving them the last bath, I think I will.  Warm water will make bathtime much easier for the pups.


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Great product, but commercial is total cheese.

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Dog baths and BTO.  Takin Care of Business.

Captain America's Dog Bath

Posted by douggoodman on December 27, 2009 at 9:48 PM Comments comments (0)

As part of her "treatments," Rider must take a bath with medicated shampoo, and Sunday night was the first bath.  She took to it better than I thought.  She didn't bolt at the first chance.  Rider stayed where she was, though she shivered in fear.  I had to calm her, so I said, "Easy Rider, Easy."  I'm really liking this name...

Hookworms Are Disgusting, Voodoo Update 1

Posted by douggoodman on October 20, 2009 at 9:04 PM Comments comments (0)

For the first four or five days, Voodoo did really well.  She was alert, active, playing.  Then she stopped eating.  I thought it was separation anxiety, which is common in puppies.  She had moved a few hundred miles from her home and was without her parents for the first time in her life.  It didn't seem like a big reach, but she ate her last meal Saturday.  By Sunday, I had decided to take her to the vet as soon as my morning meetings were over.  When I came home, she could barely walk to me.  Uh-oh.  I took her to the closest vet and told them she was constipated and puking.  The vet tech and I were both thinking the same thing:  blockage.  The pup ate something and it was lodged in her intestines.  Well, we got the location right, just not the prognosis.  The doctor called an hour later.  Hookworms.


For anybody who gets squeamish, skip the next few paragraphs.  This gets gross.  Hookworms are a parasite.  They lodge in a dog's lower intestines, using thes gnarly looking teeth to hang on to the intestine.  Unlike some other parasites that actually eat a dog's food, hookworms feast on blood.  They are like leeches of the intestine.  Very gross.


There are two ways a dog gets hookworm.  The first is by sitting on a larva or stepping on it.  Then the larva travels into the dog's intestines, becomes an adult, reproduces, and lays eggs.  The dog defecates the eggs/larva, and that is how the baby nasties get onto the ground for the next dog to step in.  The second way is via the mother.  The little boogers can actually be passed through the milk...


"She could die at any minute."  I'm not trying to overdramatize the situation.  The vet actually said that to me.  Voodoo was severely anemic.  She had white gums, dry hair, and 0 energy.  She was literally being drained of blood till she was dead, like some vampire was eating her from the inside out.  The forward plan was to giver her a blood transfusion to get some blood in her and start worming.  I agreed to it, and they kept her overnight.  The vet told me he did all he could and the only thing left was to cross our fingers and pray. 


I thought on this some, and I was reminded of Where the Red Fern Grows.  In it, a boy gets "puppy love," a.k.a., "dog fever."  He prays for a dog, and he makes every offering a boy can make.  I wanted to make the same prayer, and offer everything I could, whatever it was.  I also remembered that these things happen for a reason, and if the dog and I weren't meant to be, then so be it.  This was out of our hands.


The next morning the vet called me to say that Voodoo had made some progress.  She wasn't defecating as much, she had a little more energy, and she was trying to drink.  He wasn't ready to say she is better, but the outcome looked a little brighter.  I decided to pick her up in the evening and treat her at home.


When I picked her up, she did look better.  A little.  But not much.  I had to agree with everything the vet was saying.  This could go in one of two ways, he said.  Either she will have great improvement over the next few days, or she will keep sliding.  I am hopeful that she will get better.  Voodoo is known for resurrection and transformation.  This pup has something still left in her.

Gorilla Man and the Flying Mojo

Posted by douggoodman on September 3, 2009 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Four Shallow Graves

I have started Mojo on buried work.  Everything I have read or heard indicates that this is the most difficult part of the training for a human remains dog.  It should only be conducted once the pup has shown him/herself very capable at ground, hanging, and hidden searches, which Mojo has done.  Just as a refresher, back in early summer I set up some hidden challenges, which he did very well at.  In fact, the only time he showed any issues was when the time got close to noon and the heat ratcheted up.  At this point, you have a small little cylinder rising into the atmosphere that is very difficult to find. 


The next natural step is buried search.  I buried a collection of baby teeth from various friends' children in a small hole not 6 inches deep.  I then dug three "false graves" in the immediate area, all of this in a square not 10 yards by 10 yards.  If I made this sound too easy, I apologize.  This was killer work.  For starters, the entire area was covered with two inches of stone, which meant I was digging through stone first, clay second.  I forgot how much I hated digging holes, but at least it allowed me to joke about feeling like you dig holes and then fill them back up again.  (It is sad what I will do for a good bad joke.) 


The teeth needed to remain buried for 24 hours to allow the scent to rise up through Houston's black gumbo clay.  It is the thickest dirt I have ever dug in, and I say that as somebody who has dug 20+ holes to rebuild his fence. 


Dog, What Are You Thinking?

The next morning the SAR team got to watch Mojo run around in circles around the search area and eat grass, and from time to time sniff in the grass.  It seemed like he wasn't doing ANYTHING.  Then suddenly Kerplop! the dog fell chest to ground not 6 inches from the buried scent source.  "You gonna reward him?" one of the SAR trainers asked me.  I honestly didn't want to cause I didn't know if he was actually finding the source or if he was just giving up right there.  (I should have known better, btw.)


A little ticked, I packed Mojo up and we continued with other exercises.  Meanwhile, I went back over the procedure of burying the scent, convinced I had dug the grave too deep or not put enough scent material or didn't give it enough time to age.  I did everything as specified, but I forgot about the expected behaviors.  From the Cadaver Dog Handbook:  "The dog may work the pool and set the perimeter...."  Mojo knew what he was doing - I didn't.  Eating the grass?  More like tasting the scent.  Mojo did everything right, especially considering it was his first time working buried.  I am still learning, I guess...


Flying Mojo

I left the buried scent where it was.  Like hell was I going to dig it up every time I trained him.  Besides, this gave him an opportunity to work more aged items, and for all intents and purposes, was more realistic of what to expect from a search.


The last few days, Mojo has been eager to move around the house.  What I mean is, he has acted like a teenager with a new Mustang, who lets a light turn green, then waits so he can floorboard his pony to forty.  Mojo was jumping over ottomans instead of walking around them, and rushing into rooms rather than sauntering in. 


Today I took him back out to the buried teeth and worked him again.  The source had been buried for a month, and the grass had been cut in that time.  I was concerned about the time of day.  It was clear skies and hot, 92 degrees.  Over 90, and the bacteria that makes scent starts to burn up.  So there were definite challenges. 


I took him out there and let him loose.  Over twenty minutes he set up a loose perimeter, and a few times he showed me there was a trail, but there were a lot of distractions, like a neighborhood dog and a group of people hanging outside of their house.  He kept alerting on them.  After twenty minutes I decided to break him.  Frying his brains wouldn't teach him or me anything.  As we came back to the van, he perked up.  He was practically flying the way his heels clicked and the way he held his head so high.  You'd think he had won a dog show or something.  (I didn't tell him he was just a mutt, and not capable of winning a pedigreed dog show.)   He makes this behavior when we finish searches.  He is generally please with himself, and I always egg him on to let him know what a great dog he is.  This time, though, I didn't say anything.  I wasn't derogatory, but I didn't want to praise him.  I didn't want him to think that he could just walk out there, do a few turns, and everyone would be happy.  He had to find the scent. 


Gorilla Man Lets Loose

I waited patiently for Mojo to stand in the back of the van and chill out with the door open.  We had his bowl of water, so I made sure he got some water.  While we waited, I noticed that clouds were moving in over the area.  A cool breeze blew, too.  Mojo started to climb out, so I grabbed the leash and water and set off back to the search area. 


This time, I was much more animated.  I was really trying to keep him revved up and eager.  I was stooping down and rolling the grass with my hands.  I'm sure the guys hanging out at their homes were wondering "why is that strange man acting like a gorilla?"  But I did it to keep Mojo from thinking about the people, the cars, the dogs, or anything else.  Mojo circled around a bit, worked a scent cone, then sniffed right on the source.  I kept encouraging him cause he wanted to back out and verify the scent item.  If it was more gorilla man the pup needed, it was more gorilla man he got!  Then all of a sudden he turned and started digging on the buried source.  I told him "good" in the tone I use when he has found something.  I saw the lightbulb go off above his head, and he dropped on the buried pile.  I rewarded him and praised him and gave him the "good dog" rub.  The good dog rub isn't a pat or a pet.  You start at the shoulders and rub back to the hips.  Mojo loves it, and as for me, Gorilla Man, I was happy to see Mojo take that step forward.


Lessons Learned

Between the breaks, the temperature dropped almost five degrees, and what a difference that made.  The scent item was obviously stronger and made the dog more confident of its location.  The nice breeze helped provide a cone.  For buried searches, I recommend either VERY early in the morning or doing a night search, if you are training the dog in the summer in Houston. 


Encouragement.  New dog trainers fail to emphasize the good job victory dance side of training.  I did it, too.  You are a little embarassed because the people with more experienced dogs aren't doing it as much.  Sure, they will tell you to encourage the animal, but I know I was a little shy to start jumping up and down and acting like an idiot (no comments from the peanut gallery, please).  These self-deprecatign tactics work, though, and the owner who is eager to effulgently praise the dog will have a much better working dog.

Whole Lotta Dogs

Posted by douggoodman on August 23, 2009 at 11:08 AM Comments comments (0)

Back in July I attended the Reliant World Series of Dog Shows, and none of the shepherds I saw there caught my eye.  I was looking for a build suitable for working long hours in the heat and humidity of Houston, not a runway model.  So for my next step, I did the thing that any digital child of the 21st century would do, I searched the Internet.


It is amazing how many breeders you find on the Internet.  Googling "German Sheherd Houston Tx" gives you 131,000 hits.  That's a lot of GSDs!  But this picks up everything from the breeder to the backyard breeder to search engines for pets.  Narrowing these sites to "working dogs" got me down to about 60%, but that's still lots of breeders to search for.  I guess more breeder than I expected consider their pups working dogs.  Stil, the dogs I found really wasn't giving me the dog I was after.  If I did find one, let's face it, I can't afford a dog that is worth several thousand dollars.  That's a whole other tax bracket.  Even if I could afford the GSD, would I want to take the dog to a hurricane-ravaged area and risk injuring the animal after I had sunk all that money into it?  A breeder was feeling less and less the way to go.


Frustrated, I gave up searching.  It was the end of the fiscal year and I had (for the first time in my life) budget meetings to deal with.  They are nasty, and they go on forever, and a lot of budget revision is done between meetings.  Still, there is a bit of an adrenaline rush getting the budget you asked for, and especially when so many jobs are on the wire and people are getting laid off at NASA, anything that wasn't a complete reduction in budget felt like a win.


With the budget mostly done and the construction company's house work almost finished, I got back to searching for a dog.  This time, I went straight to the Great Houston German Shepherd Rescue.  Online, I saw a few females with promise, so I applied for adoption.  This is where it gets scary.  See, you are adopting the animal, not buying it, so the Rescue group wants to make sure you will be a good and responsible dog owner.  So they want to meet the family, see the house, meet Mojo, and come to a decision of whether or not you should own one of their dogs.  I haven't gone through this amount of probing since I had to apply for a Nasa badge, and even they didn't want to talk to anyone but me.  Not that I have anything to hide.  I have a wonderful family and now a beautiful house.  I know we will make a good home for any animal, but once that is put to the test, you get nervous.  I have applied for a dog and hope to hear from the rescue group within a week or two. 

True Texas Breed

Posted by douggoodman on July 30, 2009 at 6:18 PM Comments comments (0)

Now here is an interesting breed from the heart of Texas (as featured in History Channel's "Life After People"):


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Nosy...high prey drive...sounds like a cadaver dog waiting for training (no, I'm still convinced about the German Shepherd)

Torpedo-Headed Dragsters

Posted by douggoodman on July 18, 2009 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I went to the dog show hoping to find a dog, or at least, a breeder.  My search for a new human remains dog has taken me from black-mouth curs to labradors, until I settled on German Shepherds.  Some good people recommended checking out the shepherds at the dog show.  As fate would have it, the SARQuest booth was located between the Labrador Rescue Association on one side, the German Shepherd Club on the other.  Or as my daughter aptly put it, "old dog and new dog."


I was excited to see the dogs.  I had researched the breed, which is not hard to do when your parents are one-time breeders of the dog you are looking into.  They gave me many good insights, from the obvious (looking for a "roached" back, which is where the spine arches like a rainbow) to the harder to discern(looking for the angle in the dog's pasterns, which can affect a GSD's ability to walk long distances).  Overbreeding issues also came up, such as breeding the back hips so low the dog looks like a dragster.  Some of my SAR friends told me to watch the knee angles and leg bone lengths, which can look good in a show dog but will make working the dog difficult over time.


After spending hours absorbing all this info, it was time to sit down at the dog show and put it to test.  I grabbed a seat in the corner so that I could get a good look at the dog's gait.  (Some shepherds overstep the rear paw over the front paw, and others can have a "wiggly butt" as I like to call it.  No, I do not know the proper term for "wiggly butt.")  I spent the the next few hours watching so many GSDs that all my eyes saw were black and tan.  But now I can make the statement that a lot of the dogs I saw were great for the ring, but just aren't what I'm looking for.  I don't need pretty; I need functional.  I spoke to one breeder who asked me what kind of shepherd I was searching for.  I wanted to tell her I was after a good-tempered dog with lots of drive and a love for the smell of dead things, but I knew the answer would be "Great.  But what do you want to SEE?"  So I explained that I am looking for a close-coated short female.  Color is not an issue only an issue if the dog is all-black.  It is too hot in Houston for an all-black dog, IMO.  She thought her dogs would be too large for me, but told me to give her a look anyways. 


The dog show was not a failure.  Sometimes to find what you want, you have to define what you do not want.  I do not want torpedo-headed dragsters.

Lesser Known Working Dogs

Posted by douggoodman on June 20, 2009 at 4:09 PM Comments comments (21)

The Next Dog

Even before Princess died, I talked about "my next dog."   I have eventually settled on German Shepherd, but for a while I was looking into some lesser known working dogs.  Since Princess died from bloat, I was looking at lesser-known dogs because my theory was that with less breeding, there was less risk of genetic problems, which are often found in overbred (popular) dogs.


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Black-Mouths are used to tree raccons and hunt pigs. 

What I liked:  These dogs were bred to track down animals, so the prey drive is strong. 

What I disliked:  Baying dogs.  Think Copper from "The Fox and The Hound."  I didn't know if my neighbors would appreciate the sonorous sounds of my BMC.

Something wicked cool:  This is the dog from Old Yeller. 


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My brother owned a Blue Heeler, and it was a great and loyal dog.  Mojo is half Blue Heeler.

What I liked:  These cattle dogs are the only other dog besides Border Collie that I have seen consistenly excel at sheepherding trials (when I have been to one or seen one on television).  They are smart and curious dogs.

What I disliked:  Blue Heelers have a limit to what they can do and when they will do it.  They take an owner who can keep them interested in the game.  Mojo has this personality quirk.  I'm sure it doesn't affect all blue heelers, but I have seen it enough to think they are for a more advanced owner.

Something wicked cool:  Ancestry from Australia.


I just recently found this one:


Lundehunds are Norwegian working dogs bred to hunt puffins (not to be confused with puffer fish).


Puffer Fish:

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What I liked:  Lundehunds hunt along rocks and craggy shores, which to me makes them ideal for looking for dead bodies in say...a disaster zone area.

What I disliked:  Hair.  It's not horrible, but due to the heat and climate of Houston, I don't know how well the dog would do if tasked to search for bodies in August for hours on end. 

Something wicked cool:  There are sooo many.  Six-toed dog (for handling rocks and puffins).  They are freaks of flexibility, too, which would be great for parties...


There is an irony in my decision to bypass these rarer (at least in America) dog breeds and go with a German Shepherd.  WIth the German Shepherd, there will be the risk of hip displasia.  But to me the most important factor in this decision was to find a proven working dog, and while all these breeds make great working dogs, I grew up around German Shepherds and know a lot about how to train them (from my parents).  In getting a new cadaver dog, I wanted an animal that would take to training quickly and efficiently.  I have already spent 3 years training dogs for cadaver work only to be back at square one.  Hopefully a German Shepherd will be in my future, but first we have to finish house repairs.


Back in Training

Posted by douggoodman on June 19, 2009 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Mojo Returns to SAR Work

Over the past few weeks, I have begun using Mojo for cadaver work again. Mojo returned to his old role enthusiastically. At his return meeting with the SAR team, he bounded out of the minivan and nearly leaped out of his collar in an attempt to jump on all the team members and play with all their dogs, etiquette be damned. Almost immediately, I walked poor Moj back to the van to cool off.


Our relationship has been baby steps since Mojo returned to cadaver work, mostly due to me. Over eighteen months has passed since I last worked Mojo - that's almost as long as my son has been alive - and I did not know how Mojo would react to the lead, the tracking harness - hell, would he even respond to my command to go find dead people?


To Mojo, being back outside doing cadaver work was the ultimate playdate. It was also a reward of sorts. Ever since Princess died, he has been comforting us in his little ways. When my daughter is sad, he sits with her on the picnic table and rests his head on her lap and lets her pet him and cry. Then he will let Andrea and I give him full rub downs. It is a hard job, I know, but somehow Mojo manages. In his way that mutt has done more to help us heal than any paid psychologist could have done for us.


So now it was time for Mojo to come out and show his stuff. The first day I took him out, he almost leaped when I gave him the command to find dead people. Five minutes later, he had uncovered the subject from underneath some lumber. Success! It was all dog treats for the pooch after that result.


I Can't Make This Any Clearer, Human!

This past weekend, however, I was reminded of some of his quirks. First of all, in typical Mojo fashion, he could not begin the search until he had marked his territory and every tree in the park he considered his personal property. Once he got that (mostly) out of his system, he was ready to start business, but I was nervous. This would be a blind test, meaning I had no idea where the scent items were laid. My only guideline was a 54-pound mutt with a missing toe on his right hind leg. It was up to Mojo to tell me where the subject was.


About five to ten minutes into the search, he found the confederate. This was a piece of random Tupperware I pulled from the kitchen pantry and tossed into the search area. It was a decoy to test whether or not he was searching for a scent or a visual object. Mojo sniffed around it, then discarded it as useless to his game. Soon after, his head cut back, and he started swimming up the scent cone. He walked up to the scent item and waited for me to reward him. I refused because he wasn't in the down position (his alert). I didn't want to give him the command. I wanted him to figure this out on his own. So he looked at me with that crazy wild-eyed gaze. He looked at me as if to say "Hey, dummy, it's right here."  When that wasn't good enough, he barked at me. High-pitched. Desperate. He wanted his treat. But that still wasn't good enough for me, so he dropped to all fours, nuzzled the tube hidden under a root, and tried to drag it out. He barked again and put his nose back on it, again saying, "I can't make this any clearer, human. Either take it or leave it, but I want my treat!" I rewarded him.