In Memory of KaBoom

In Memory of KaBoom

This is a picture of KaBoom and I last July playing beside the flyball mats. She was only four months old here. Little did I realize at the time, or even a week ago for that matter, that she would not be here to debut in July 2013. (Thank you to Dave Strauss for capturing a memory I will treasure forever!)

It is with great sadness that I announce KaBoom died this past Thursday, April 18, just before 1 p.m. at the too young age of 14 months. She had been at the vet for surgery to remove an obstruction in her small intestine. After a week of vet consults, five x-rays, three ultrasounds, a consult to the Atlantic Vet College, one night at my vet, another night in the AVC ICU, we felt we needed to go in and see what was stuck and felt we had her as prepared as possible for surgery. She was perky, well hydrated, and bright that morning. The surgery was textbook with no complications and all the right protocols were used. Moments after the sutures were done, the heart monitor stopped, Sure it was a mistake, the vet reached for her stethoscope. In disbelief, the vet called for help but there was nothing bringing KaBoom back.

Needless to say, the students at Prince Street School are as devastated as I am. My husband and I are completely heartbroken. My flyball club and my flyball community are in disbelief. There were a lot of people invested in this itty bitty girl. Her breeders are as heartbroke as Chris and I are. There have been a lot of tears in the last couple of days.

Even through this all of this, I seek the message- the thing to take away to make me better- and I think I found it this morning. KaBoom’s heart was too full to fit anything else in so it stopped. She left us with many lessons. As I go back and forth between hope and despair, I think about who she was and what she stood for.

KaBoom was about Never Give Up and Try Something Else!! She would not want me to despair- she would have me to as she did, “oh, that didn’t work, hmmmmm, let me try something else”. She stood for resilience so I must be resilient.

KaBoom lived with GUSTO! and threw herself at every thing she did. She gave 100%, ALL THE TIME, whether that was with trying to do flyball jumps to figuring out how to get on top of Rachel’s table (which she easily did). No matter for good (or for bad), she gave her full effort so I need to give my full effort.

KaBoom shared an uncanny ability to “feel” you and give you her calm and empathy. She was able to sit in the quiet with you, without judgement, and help you find your peace so I need to listen more, talk less, and always seek the peace.

She was a great little dog, never to be replaced. In just seven short days, I will be in Summerside to accept her Isle Award. I will be there. She deserved it.

Hope pushes away despair when I remember what she would have done. You may not hear much more about her in my blog as it is very painful, but know that her legacy lives on in all the lives she touched.

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Assembly Freestyle Part Three

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Assembly Freestyle Part Two

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Assembly Freestyle Part One

Only some small snipits but !gives you the idea

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More About Incentives

Kannon Hand

So, again, more apologies for anyone who follows me!! Things got busy, I got behind, then we had vacation, but now I am back! Promise!!

Last time I wrote, I was talking about incentives. We use the dogs for a few incentives throughout the day and week. One that we added a few weeks ago has been very successful. We had a student who was able but not willing to complete math during math class. We set up with his teacher that he would get a check for each successful twenty minute block and had to get three checks for the hour of math. The math would be reduced into three smaller portions we felt he would be willing to do. So far, it has been very successful and works most days!!

This is the same student who was not willing to eat his lunch last year. We set up that, if he ate some of his lunch (the amount was mutually negotiated daily), he would get to do dog training with Kannon every day at 12:30. After that? No problem eating his lunch!! and he became one of Kannon’s main trainers that year.

Because of this success, we decided to add this incentive for another student in a younger grade. Most of the time, the children younger than grade five don’t get regular exposure to the dogs- mainly because the dogs are housed in grades five and six- so we were hoping this would be quite a carrot for this student. He has some parameters around what acceptable behavior is within his class and, if he earns enough checks for positive behavior, he gets to come and train with Kannon three times per cycle.  He has also been very successful so far!

Now I have heard a lot of folks kind of express that children should just do what is asked of them. Again, I say, we don’t always want to do the right behaviors, or the work set in front of us, or a particular task so I really don’t know why we expect that children will, simply because we want them to! Sometimes there has to be an extra perk to getting things done. As we grow up, we get better at providing these for ourselves but we do have to learn how to create and use internal motivators AND we do still have a world full of external motivators!!!

These two students operate on somewhat more delayed gratification than the student I spoke about in the last post. He gets immediate gratification because his reward happens right after he does the desired start up tasks. In this post, the first student does have math right before lunch so he only has to delay his gratification through lunch time, which is a good amount of time for him as a bigger delay may not work well with him. For the younger student, he only gets the reward every other day but he does get a different reward on the opposite days. He also has to delay gratification but for a little longer than the first student. Again, the reward has to be close enough for him to feel like he can get there!

Thanks for either sticking with me or coming back to me!!!

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About Incentives: Will You Please Do What I Ask????

About Incentives: Will You Please Do What I Ask????

Well I have been pretty negligent with my blog posting these days! So sorry to those of you who have been following and waiting for the next entry!
I am glad to be back to it and hope my next few entries will be well worth reading.

Because I have had difficulty trying to sift through the ideas of what to write about, I have gotten myself a Writer’s Notebook. Funny thing is, I have always wanted one! but never really had a use for one before. I have never been, at least in my opinion, much of a writer yet here we are.

Now, About Incentives! Sometimes we are intrinsically motivated to do things. Perhaps you really enjoy a clean house, so you are motivated from within yourself to spend a few hours each week scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets, etc. I happen to love the look of a clean kitchen so cleaning up after supper rarely feels like a chore. Perhaps you love the look of a perfectly, freshly mowed lawn, so you take time to manicure it just so. Luckily, there is a lot in life that brings us enough joy that no one needs to motivate us to do those things.

Then there are other things! The things we don’t like to do, or find more difficult to do, whatever that happens to be! Some of mine are cleaning the floors, mowing the grass, and dusting. We need to really get up a head of steam to get motivated to do some of that. There are some jobs in life, often like the work you do, where although you may feel fulfilled and enjoy it, you would stop doing it if someone stopped delivering your paycheck. External motivators are necessary!

Which brings me to the dogs at our school and incentives. I have often heard an adult (or teacher) lament of a child, “Why won’t he or she just ______”, be that do her homework, pick up his jacket, finish her math, write more than a couple of words during journal time, etc. It IS frustrating when something we think should be so matter of fact is such a sticking point for a child. To find yourself in some sort of a power struggle over something that seems so small to us, such as writing three sentences in a twenty minute writing block, is hard. As the adults in the situation, we have to assume the task is hard for the child, for whatever reason, be it skill level or the ability to comply in that moment. We may not understand it but we do have to find a way to navigate it and a win-win scenario can be the best possible outcome.

Most of the dog training we do at school is about win-win. We want the dog to do a particular behavior, such as sit, before getting a treat. Now, we CAN push the dog physically into the sit and the dog may sit, may even stay sitting, AND MAY even learn to sit on command that way, but it is not really what I would call a win-win. The dog gets physically manipulated into compliance. What we do when we work with the dogs is to think about how we can lay out the task clearly enough, in easy enough chunks, so the dog can be successful, and earn the reward. The reward, usually a treat, tastes good and is motivating, making it more likely the dog will sit again soon.

At Prince Street School, we find it necessary to use a lot of external motivators. By the time we are adults, we have learned how to use a lot of our own strategies to get motivated, stay motivated, and push through hard spots and difficult tasks. Children need to learn that and one way we can help them is to use external motivators. Parents use this all the time when they promise a treat for good behavior, give an allowance for chores, a special present for good grades, etc. Most of the time, we are working on some sort of token economy- you get some sort of a “paycheck” for a particular behavior or set of behaviors.

In this picture, you see one of our students enjoying time with Kannon. Kannon is his paycheck for doing his jobs. We were having difficulty getting this student to do a couple of the most important start-up routines and needed to figure out something for motivation. We met with his mom and his school team and created a list of four things he needed to do and added in a couple of strategies to help maximize success by making some of it easier. I won’t go into more specifics here as it may give away too much and reveal who the student is. IF all four things are done by a particular time deadline in the morning, he gets Kannon all to himself for ten minutes. This picture is of the first day he was successful!!!

Now, do we have to still do several reminders? Yes, but we are patterning new behavior. How often do you rewire your habits in a couple of days? Ever try to change your eating habits? Get in more exercise? It can take us several months to pattern behaviors and the ones we ask children to learn are no different EXCEPT that they have less experience than us with how to be successful at it. We have to help them.

For this student, we decided an immediate reward was necessary for maximum motivation. Instant gratification is one of the strongest rewards you can give- do the behavior and get the reward immediately! I hope you found some food for thought in these musings!?!

Stay tuned for more to come About Incentives!!!

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And the winners are……Kannon and KaBoom!!!

And the winners are......Kannon and KaBoom!!!

It became official on the weekend with this article in The Journal Pioneer. There were 233 nominations and only 8 awards will be presented. Kannon and KaBoom will receive one of those awards.

From the Isleawards website ( : “Our aim is to give the people of PEI a chance to offer their thanks to individuals or groups for the extraordinary things they do, whatever that may be. Our awards have no boundaries – that’s what makes us unique. In everyone’s life there is someone who’s extraordinary,”

Our Prince Street Puppies are being recognized for the work they do at our school with our students; whether it be calming an upset student with pressure or contact, empowering students by having them take leadership roles with the dogs, or as a reward, incentive, or motivator for students to do their best at school.

There will be more to come and I will blog a bit more about this as we get closer to the award ceremony to be held in Summerside in late April.

Here is the link to the CBC Island Morning spot that played earlier this week:—alex-maine/
We are mentioned at the three minute mark.

Very excited!!!

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Proud Day at Prince Street School!!!

Proud Day at Prince Street School!!!

I am thrilled to announce that, our principal, Terry MacIsaac, has been named one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals!! He is the only Island principal selected and one of only 51 selected in all of Canada! (You can read more about the award at

The picture I selected to go with my blog today is of the day that Amanda Joudrey-LeBlanc’s Edge and my KaBoom first came to Prince Street School. This picture is taken in Terry’s office and is of Jo-Anne and Colleen introducing the new pups while Kate holds the already established Kannon. Terry took this all in stride. It is his way!

You may wonder how Terry’s award links to the dogs at school. Well, having the dogs at school helps demonstrate why our principal is THE very best! Terry is a lead from beside type of leader. If you have an idea and can lay out for him how you think it might work and why we should try it, he will be the first to encourage you to go for it! Because he encourages us to creatively problem-solve and think beyond the edges while ensuring we have a learning community respectful of risk-taking, we get to do a lot of pretty innovative stuff at our school. The dogs are just one small example of that! When we went to him and said, Hey! What about dogs? and shared the details of what we hoped could be, we got a green light!

In fact, as part of Terry’s interview with CBC Compass, our local television news program, KaBoom was featured as one of the initiatives he has championed. The link for the program is at:
His segment starts at 18:10.

We are so very lucky to have such an instructional leader!!

One of our parents blogs as well and you can see his entry and comments about the award at

AND this is not Terry’s first award!!! Last year he was awarded the Dr. Samual R. Laycock Educator of the Year Award from the Canadian Home and School Federation.

Yep! Proud Day here at PSS!!!

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Impulsivity- A Discussion

Impulsivity- A Discussion

This is a picture of some of the training we are doing with KaBoom. If you asked the students what we are working on here, they would say something like, “KaBoom needs to learn more impulse control.” and if you asked them to explain this, they would tell you that “She dives right in without thinking”. We are trying to help her do a little more thinking.

If you were to sit and listen (actually we would invite you to join if you were to linger), you would hear us discuss the pros and cons on impulsivity. Some of the students I work with do have some issues with thinking before acting. Some of the students doing this training MIGHT even fall into that category of having “attention issues”!!!

KaBoom is a great study in impulse control. The good parts about her diving right in need to be preserved while we teach her to think before she acts some of the time. If she can stop and think, she can hear our directions and we can work together better as partners BUT, her “dive right in” attitude also helps us do better training because, if she fails, she is not put off- she just tries something else. This would be called resiliency!! This is the conversation we have as we work with KaBoom.

It draws my mind to a particular student. He has trouble keeping many of his thoughts in his head. His thoughts are all very good, on topic, worth listening to, but they also interrupt the learning of those around him- he almost never stops making noise of some sort- so he misses directions. The trick is to teach him how to control some of what he says out loud without stopping the flow of excellent ideas and relevant dialogue.

I think it is interesting for the students to work on this topic with KaBoom. It is most interesting to listen to how they compare the attention of Kannon to that of KaBoom and then ponder why one is better than the other. I listen and interject that, it is possible to have a dog over attend if the training is not done just right. Finding that balance to create a dog with focus, who will check in often, but will try anything and recover well from failure is the goal.

While doing this work, I find new value for impulsivity, which adjusts my perspective and renews my energy for my most resilient students.

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Any Questions??

Any Questions??

I have a running list of topics I would like to write about but am also thinking some of you might like to read about something specific or know more about something I have already talked about. Blogs can be pretty self-serving but I would like mine to be helpful.

If there is anything you want to know about the training and/or methods we are using at school, anything about how the dogs are used as behavior rewards, how they are used for empowerment, about dogs and emotional regulation, stress reduction, how the whole program works, what you might need to get started in your area, etc, I would be happy to tell you about what we have done. As I said in a previous blog, I am NOT a trainer but I have been doing dogs, rescue and rehabilitation, and dog sport for about fifteen years. I won’t give advice but I will tell you what I have found works and will encourage you to take what makes sense and leave the rest behind.

Well, then, any questions???

(and, once again, another shout out and thanks to Dave Strauss! Photo credit goes to him!! This is me playing flyball with my team, Fast n FURious Flyball, with Kannon’s “sister” Kombat at CanAm in Indianapolis in October of 2011)

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