Johnnie Cash UPDATE!

I know you all are anxious to hear about how Johnnie is doing in her now home. To put it simply, she’s doing absolutely fabulous! Here are bits and pieces from email updates I’ve been getting from her adopters (yes, they are awesome at keeping me updated!).

Day 1 – 3

“You were not kidding, she is a sleepy dog!  We bought her a dog bed and as soon as we brought it home she knew it was for her.  When we put it on the ground she grabbed it and started “nesting” almost immediately!

If anything she is an angel in the house.  Not too crazy at all, actually very calm.  Whenever she wants to play she grabs a toy out of the toy bin and starts playing with it.  Sometimes she’ll follow us around the condo and is always very interested about what we are doing in the kitchen!  We bought hotdogs, string cheese, plain yogurt and pumpkin to use.  We haven’t used the pumpkin yet.   Today I’m going to make pumpkin and yogurt ice treats to put in her Kong for later.”

Day 7

“We had a very good experience taking her over to the family house yesterday.  We walked her around the block, and then Stella and Max met us around the corner for a group walk.  It went very well and we ended up staying until 10:30!  There were a few moments were she got too excited, but we were able to correct it.  At the end of the night she was sleeping in my lap.  I love her cuddles.

Thank you so much for your continued help and advice.  Yes, it feels like the week has gone so well considering it’s been such a big transition for JC!!!  She is the most loving girl, and we are so ecstatic about her and her wagging butt.”

Day 14

We had quite the busy weekend with my family and JC!  We went to Shenandoah Saturday and took JC to Hazeltop and Rapidan Loop for nice day hike.  She did really well on the hike and we brought extra food and drink for her, too.  It rained a little on us and Johnnie gave us a classic Eeyore face, but as soon as the rain stopped her smile came back!  I attached a picture of us at Rapidan with her (and her stylish backpack!).  T and I decided to buy a year pass to Shenandoah!

Day 20

“Everything with JC is going really well!  Everyone falls in love with her where ever we go, and we keep finding more toys to give her.  We bought an “invincible” squeaky toy and she pretty much destroyed it in 10 or so minutes…

Here are some more pics to brighten your day!  My dad told me she is the most photogenic dog he has ever met!”

And with that, I will share with everyone the photos that literally made my day week month:


I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking right now: couldn’t be more perfect, right? I love her. I love them. I love their little family. I love the happiness. I love the LOVE.

A perfect way to kick off a three-day weekend! Happy almost Memorial Day!

Walking the Line: Johnnie’s Name

If I had a dollar for every time someone gave us a funny look when we told them Johnnie’s name, I’d be able to buy her bully sticks for a whole month. We’ve gotten so good at spitting out “but she’s a girl!” afterwards that it’s basically just a continuation of her name. Most people say it’s cute or clever, but I think they have to warm up to it. For us, she’s Johnnie. She’s the most Johnnie dog ever and no other name would fit her – but we know that for others it’s not like that right away.


To be honest, there’s not a great story behind why we named her Johnnie Cash.  When I knew I was going to bring J (then Angel) home as a foster, Mark and I spent the weekend thinking of a catchy name for her. We were out at a show Saturday night watching one of our favorite bands The 19th Street Band and when they played a Johnny Cash cover I thought too bad she’s not a boy because I really like the name Johnny Cash! But then I remembered my dog crush over at Love & a Six-Foot Leash, Stevie Wonder, and how she was a girl who rocked a (mostly) boy’s name. Mark and I decided to hell with what people might think and decided on Johnny Cash (except we’re spelling it with an ‘ie’ because we like to be complicated :-)).

I like it because it’s unique just like her personality. Johnnie’s not much of a girly girl, so I think this edgier name fits her just perfect.  She might not have a ton of similarities with the real Johnny Cash, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun with the name! Check out this ‘girl in black’ as she rocks the guitar like her namesake.

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05 07Sometimes she even sings!

10To adopt Johnnie Cash the dog, email

A Day Late But No Bunny Ears Short

We know we’re a day late with this, but Johnnie was insistent that we share these photos. Something about the fact that we forced her to wear bunny ears, so we’d better show the world the end result. . . Anyway, what do you think about Johnnie’s attempt to be the Easter Bunny? We think she did pretty well.

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Did anyone else make politely ask their dogs to wear bunny ears this weekend?

07happyeasterTo adopt this Easter Bunny, email

Johnnie’s Happy Snow Dance

We had a surprise snow day on Monday. Well, snow day in the sense that it snowed, not in the “get off work and snuggle under the covers all day” way.  It turns out that Johnnie Cash absolutely L-O-V-E-S the snow. I’m not sure if it’s the crispness of the air or the way the snow feels between her toes or the fact that there’s something to put in her mouth everywhere she looks, but Johnnie absolutely loses it in joyous bunny hops when it snows.

A few weeks ago I probably would have dreaded snow because it would mean that Johnnie would go into hyper over-stimulated mode and lose her marbles at the first sight of it. Monday, however, she was able to play and enjoy it in an extremely healthy and safe way! Thanks to how much we have worked on teaching her how to moderate her own energy levels, Johnnie’s brain seems to be reprogramming itself. She is much more capable of coming down from a burst of crazies to a normal, focused level. We still make a strong effort to never let her get to the point where she is extremely over-stimulated or “stressed up” – so between that and how versed she is getting at refocusing at a moment’s notice, Johnnie has become quite the pro at appropriate play.  Don’t get me wrong, she still has her moments – but they’re much less frequent.

Check out both her joyful, bouncy mode and her adorable, “pose calmly for the camera” mode. . . all in a snow day’s work!

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To adopt Johnnie Cash the snow bunny, email

Sittin’ Pretty

Johnnie and I love to learn tricks together. Yes, we learn them together because she learns the behavior and I learn the best way to convey to her what I want! We often spend ten minutes here and there practicing behaviors and tricks we already know, or learning new ones. My favorite trick I’ve taught Johnnie is “sit pretty!” I just love the way she sits up and stares at me and then bounces her paws around like she’s saying, “Look! I’m doing it!” It might actually be the cutest thing ever.

Thank you to my good friend Virgil Ocampo for capturing this moment when we were at an adoption event last week. I absolutely love this image because it shows how much fun Johnnie and I have learning together.  She trusts me and when we go out in public to events like this, and I set her up for success so she is comfortable and focused enough to show off her tricks. I love this little girl!  Happy Friday, everyone.


To adopt an awesome training partner Johnnie Cash, email

Johnnie the Miss Social

Johnnie’s taught me a lot of things in the past three weeks, but one big lesson I owe her is the realization that having an uber social dog is awesome! Not that Baxter or Otis were extremely shy or fearful, but they could get a little nervous in large social settings – a totally normal reaction for even the most good-natured dogs. Lots of new people can be overwhelming and scary. But not for Johnnie Cash!

I brought her with me to my girlfriend’s house for a dinner party get together this past weekend. When we walked in and saw all the people – about a dozen or so – my friend asked me, “Is it going to be too much for her?” and I was happy to reply, “Nope, she’s going to love it!” Johnnie is truly a social butterfly and loves meeting strangers. She immediately made her rounds to everyone at the party with her full body wag going a million miles a minute. An instant hit with everyone, Johnnie settled right in.

The nice thing about bringing Johnnie around is that she’s the perfect blend of independent yet focused. Unlike some dogs I’ve had in the past, Johnnie is not attached to my hip when we do new things – in fact, she’d probably prefer anyone else’s lap just as much as, if not more than, mine. But despite her love for making friends, I was able to keep her in check all night by always bringing her focus back to me. I had her on leash the whole time since we were eating dinner and because I haven’t gotten the jumping under wraps yet, and that helped me keep her out of everyone’s way. We were constantly practicing sit, down and touch to keep her engaged with me instead of others’ meals.

I was proud of how she calmed down pretty much right after we got there (after her initial exuberant greetings of course) and how she even let me eat my dinner without trying to beg for food the entire time. After dinner Johnnie decided she’d had so much fun socializing that she was ready for bed and immediately snuggled up with a few of us. I must say that tiring your dog out via social events with your friends is pretty awesome!

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To adopt your own social butterfly Johnnie Cash, email

Johnnie’s Jumping: Training the Humans

It’s been three weeks since Johnnie’s come into our home. She has improved on a remarkable amount of behaviors, but still has a ways to go in one category in particular: jumping up on people during greetings.

It is not uncommon for dogs that are easily excitable and/or love people to have a problem with jumping up. Johnnie’s excitement often gets the best of her and she springs her dainty little paws onto your belly in an attempt to show you just how happy she is to see you! While she’s improved significantly over the past three weeks with just management and some redirecting techniques, five months of having the behavior reinforced at the shelter is proving difficult to undo. Our biggest problem? Inconsistent reinforcement.

It’s sort of like those “My dog is friendly!”s you meet out on walks with your reactive dog: when Johnnie meets a new person and before I get a chance to say anything like, “Can you please wait, I’d like to get her to sit first” they’ve ran up to her and she’s already jumped up on them. Her new friend can then be found coo-ing at her, saying, “It’s okay, my dogs do it all the time. She’s sooo cute!” (similar to the below photo, except probably with more bouncing).  This is all fine and dandy, except that now Johnnie has gotten significant attention for jumping up.


There are two issues here, both with one thing in common: it’s the humans who need training. I need to figure out a way to let Johnnie meet new people without practicing her bad behavior of jumping, which means stepping in before she gets the opportunity to jump on them, but without making it seem like she’s not friendly. This is something I will need to get creative with and practice, because I’m not always very direct with people I don’t know – but I need to be an advocate for my dog! The second thing is getting greeters to understand that if she does jump up, don’t reinforce it. This is hard for people to wrap their head around, like I stated above. So many people don’t have a problem with it, especially since she’s so little and adorable, but it leads to an insane amount of inconsistency in her training, making it very difficult to break her of the habit.

So now that J Cash has had three weeks to settle in, it’s time for a four-on-the-floor boot camp to help her with her urge to jump. I am going to try my best to teach her an alternative to bouncing her little front paws off the ground when she meets new people – hopefully finding a way to make it her idea to stay calm during greetings instead of making it something she’s forced into, which might not be as reliable of a long-term solution. I will keep you all updated about how it goes, with the end goal for introductions being something like the below photo.  Stay tuned!


To adopt your very own Johnnie Cash, a dog that you’ll have a lot of fun training together with, email