Let’s face it. Rescues often get a bad rap from people looking to adopt. People find their restrictions limiting, their paperwork daunting and their process somewhat convoluted and exhausting. I get it. Everyone wants to meet a dog and be able to adopt it right away. Waiting is hard.
I also get the frustration people often have with some rescues, who are so rigid in their adoption qualifications that nobody could possibly live up to their standards. In some cases, I believe this to be valid, but not in all. There are good reasons for some of the strict adoption qualifications rescues have in place. For instance, Shelties tend to be a much higher flight risk than many other breeds, so in most cases (not all) a fenced yard is a must for our rescue.
I recently participated in a discussion where people shared the restrictions some rescues had for qualifying adopters. As people shared their experiences, it suddenly occurred to me that almost everyone in the group was looking from the outside in. They had never had to make the difficult decision to place a dog with someone. It set my mind to thinking. Was there a way to let people play at being a rescue and share their own insight into how they would run things if they were adopting the dog out to someone? Hmmmm…. Maybe.
This is my attempt to let you, the adopter/potential, play at being the rescue. What follows is a description of the dog, it’s known history, and a series of choices you get to make as head of the rescue in selecting the dog’s new owner. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Jenny is a stray that was rescued from a kill shelter. She is shy, nervous, and frightened of men. When she came into your rescue, she had mange and had to be treated before she could be adopted out. She also had to be spayed and vaccinated to ensure she would not get sick or get other dogs sick. She has been living in a foster home for the past two months and is now ready to find her forever home.
Keep Jenny in mind as you think about what you would do if you were a rescue.
As head of the rescue, you have a specific process that you like to follow when matching a dog with a potential adopter. These process includes the following (pick all that you would include in your process):
As the head of the rescue, you also have a certain set of criteria you use to weed out potential adopters who are not a good match for a dog in your rescue group. People you would automatically weed out of the adoption process include those who…
Three potential adopters have made it through your process and all three are interested in Jenny. Which one would you choose for her?
So what did you think? Was the process easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a dog body language post. I love doing them, not only for me (because I learn just as much as you from them), but also because I think they are a great way to remind us all that watching is not the same as seeing, REALLY SEEING. Dogs are communicating with us nearly all the time, we just don’t always see it.
I asked my friend Julie if I could share this video she made of a stray dog that she was assessing for a rescue group. I thought it was a great example of dog body language.
Like all my past posts on dog body language, I ask you to focus on the behavior displayed and less on your interpretation what Jane is feeling.
Focus on the specifics of her behavior. Where are her feet? Her head? Her tail? What movements does Jane make? What facial movements does she make? How is her body turned? All of these things mean something, but it takes seeing them first. As always, I have listed my own observations and interpretation below. (You’ll first see Jane about 50 seconds into the video.)
Due to length of the video, I chose to observe the first 3 minutes and 14 seconds of the video and the last-minute and 10 seconds. Feel free to watch the whole video, and Jane’s body language with the other dog in the video, and share your observations.
Did I miss anything? Feel free to share.
My observations of Jane:
In first 3 seconds of the video…
- Head is down
- Ducks down and away from Julie as leans towards her
- Tail is tucked
First 3 minutes and 14 seconds
- Ears move to back of head
- Tail is tucked
- Head is lower than shoulders
- Turns head towards Julie as she pets her head and then away again
- Stiff body
- Back legs are back behind her body (instead of under)
- Glances at Julie as she speaks to her
- Looks immediately away when Julie pats her legs with her hands
- Head is down
- Mouth is drawn tight
- Moves front of body away from lady
- Jane glances furtively around – at Julie and possibly someone else in the room
- Ears move alternately between perked to back on her head
- Moves body further away, as far as the leash will go
- Lip lick as Julie runs hand along top of back and rump
- Looks back at Julie when she says “treat” and then does a lip lick
- When Julie stands up and moves forward to get a treat, Jane takes a step forward with her
- Jane watches the hand with treat
- Ears are back
- She sits as far away as possible after being requested to sit 2 times
- Stands and takes treat
- Chews treat at a distance from Julie
- Tail is tucked
- Leans forward at “Good girl”
- Julie says “Come here” and pats legs
- Jane turns heads towards her butt then stops and turns head back towards Julie
- Moves a step forward and closer to Julie
- Julie pets her head and neck
- she lowers head and lip licks several times
- Jane looks away a couple of times
- Ears at back of head
- Looks at something in the room or towards a sound
- Tail a little less tucked
- Turns head towards Julie for only a second and swings other way towards window
- Ears move between forward and perked to back on her head
- Turns head towards Julie when she says something and leans back slightly when she pets her head
- Tail is tucked
- Body appears stiff
- Leans back and away as Julie lifts her lip flaps
- Body appears smaller and tighter
- Lip lick
- Head is lower and even with shoulders
- Lip lick
- Head lowers further
- Jane glances up at Julie from a lowered position
- Her head twists sideways and up and back with snout facing ceiling
- Her head turns sideways
- Ears are way back on her head
- Tail is tucked under tightly
- Body is stiff and tight
- Head stays turned to the side and away from Julie as she pets the side of her face
- Head turns away from window and Julie and moves further away from her hand
- Lip lick
- Nervous glance at woman and then away towards window
- She is led forward
- Glances nervously at woman and away
- Ears on back of her head as Julie touches her leg and lifts her foot
- Glances quickly at Julie
- Tail is tightly tucked
- Mouth is tightly drawn
- Glances at Julie a few times
- Lip lick as Julie stands
- Turns head towards her rump as Julie touches her there
- Blinks several times
- Ears back on head
- Lip licks
- Pulls away as woman leans over her body and lifts her opposite foot
- Lip lick
- Tucks body in tighter
- When Julie moves away to sit down, Jane turns head all the way back towards her back-end
- Moves head and body sideways to Julie
- Turns head back towards Julie and moves it closer to her
- Julie stands and Jane lip licks and appears to pant
- Stops and turns head towards back-end as Julie scratches and pats her butt
- Turns body completely away and around
Last minute and 10 seconds
- Jane is now at the furthest distance from Julie as the leash will allow
- She looks towards the door
- Ears are perked and forward
- She turns back towards Julie when called
- She turns her body towards Julie and then away as she circles around and back
- There is a sound and Jane turns towards it
- Her body appears taller and head is up
- Ears are forward
- Tails is wagging
- Body looks more relaxed
- She turns back toward Julie readily and then looks back at the noises off camera
- Tail wags
- Turns back towards Julie and lip licks as she scratches her butt
- Tail wags quick and low
- A couple of lip licks
- Body appears to be more relaxed
- Head is further away than back-end, but body appears relaxed
- Turns back towards Julie as she pats and scratches her butt
- Loose body
- Turns back towards Julie and nudges her
- Tail wagging
- Engaged, tail wagging
- Ears perked, looks towards door and noises off camera
- Body and head are taller and appear more relaxed
- Appears more engaged with Julie and looks back to her often
My summation: The lip licks, tucked tail and creation of distance at the beginning of the video are all signs that Jane is nervous and uncomfortable. She tries to put as much distance as she can from Julie. She is not comfortable being touched, but is very tolerant of it, even though she is extremely uncomfortable. She tries to disengage, but she is not fearful enough to be shut down since she is able to take a treat. I thought she was an extremely tolerant dog, especially when Julie touched her feet and legs. At the end of the video, Jane is much more relaxed and engaged. She seems to enjoy the butt scratches much more at the end of the video than she did at the beginning. Her body appears to be much more relaxed and loose. She turns readily towards Julie and is intrigued by her environment. She even appears to turn back for more butt scratches.
Jane seems to be a very nice dog. I am so glad she made it into a no-kill shelter. I hope she finds her new home soon.
In a Suzanne Clothier seminar I attended last year, she shared a video of the first meeting between a man and a dog he wanted to adopt. She asked us to watch the dog’s body language as the man interacted with him.
It was pretty clear throughout the video that the dog was uncomfortable with the man’s interactions with him. The dog wanted more space, the man wanted less. The dog was happy to sit at his feet, the man wanted him to sit right next to him. The dog wasn’t into hugs, the man wanted to snuggle and hug away.
It was evident that the needs of dog and man did not match. They were incompatible. But, as Suzanne shared later, the man was still set on getting the dog. He couldn’t see that they weren’t a match because he had already fallen in love with the dog’s picture. He had already envisioned his life with this dog. It never occurred to him that the dog in the picture might not be a match for him or his lifestyle.
Fortunately, Suzanne and staff were eventually able to convince him not to adopt the dog, but from what she said, not without some serious convincing.
I experienced something similar recently.
Like the situation I mentioned above, the potential adopter (a great candidate!) had fallen in love with the dog she had seen in a picture. In her mind, she had saw them going on walks and visiting friends. She wanted a dog that would cuddle and be silly and play with her.
What she wanted a normal, well-socialized dog.
Unfortunately, she had fallen in love with a picture of a former puppy mill dog. This was a dog who had never been on a walk on a leash before, who still had to be caught or herded inside the house, a dog that was a huge flight risk and not likely to socialize with strangers very easily. Definitely a mis-match.
It took some convincing, but eventually the adopter was able to see that the life she had envisioned with this dog would not be the life she would get. Changing the image of what she had in her head with a more realistic one allowed her to see that it was not a match. Reluctantly, she made the decision not to adopt that particular dog. A good decision in my opinion. Shortly after this she did find the “right” dog, a dog who was a much better match and I hear that both are very happy together.
I share these stories because I think there is a lesson here for all of us. The lesson is not to stop taking adorable pictures of adoptable dogs. (I am all for taking better pictures of dogs to help get them adopted – the cuter, the better in my book.) It is a reminder that a picture is only the first step. It is a way to get you interested in a dog. It is not, however, a good indication of how the dog will fit into your family or your lifestyle. Understanding the dog’s personality and preferences are just as important as understanding your own.
Yes. Fall in love with that picture, but then spend the time getting to know the dog and find out whether the dog’s personality and preferences really match your own. Is the dog too active for your lifestyle? Or are they not active enough? Does the dog prefer to cuddle with you or not? And, is that okay with you? Does a dog like other dogs or does he prefer to be an only? If adopters and rescuers spent more time asking themselves and their adopters these questions, I think the chances of a good match would increase. After all, isn’t the goal here to save a dog and help a human?
Politicians and local city governments often have two things in common – an inability to live in truth and a thin skin.
Okay, maybe I’m making a sweeping generalization by saying that but sometimes I have to wonder. Who are they protecting? And, who do they think they are fooling?
For over a year, I have watched as dogs in the care of Minneapolis Care and Control (MACC) were posted on the Friends of Minneapolis Care and Control (Friends of MACC)page. These dogs, many on death row because they were labeled a pit bull or bully breed of some sort, were shared in attempt to find them a home or so a rescue could take them in until they could be adopted. Many dogs were saved because of this page especially the pit bulls and bully breeds (since MACC doesn’t allow them to be adopted out directly from their facility). I watched as people networked to save animals on this page. I cheered when a rescue stepped up to save one of the death row dogs, who was not facing death for behavioral issues, but simply because it “looked” like a pit bull.
But now it seems that MACC has decided that the Friends of Minneapolis Care and Control Facebook page just wasn’t cutting it. They needed a better avenue to showcase their dogs – their very own website.
Hmmm.. let’s take a look at their website, shall we?
The website pictures are of a wonderful quality aren’t they? The information so helpful. It’s amazing that the Facebook page succeeded when a such a wonderful website could do so much more.
Yes. I can SEE how much better the website is when compared with the Friends of MACC Facebook page.
MACC also has a much better option for social media sharing (rather than the one created by Friends of MACC). Oh yes, it’s the city’s own general Facebook page.
They aren’t likely to get lost in all the other city business being posted on that page are they? So much better than the Friends of MACC page. Don’t you think?
C’mon. Who do they think they are fooling?
Let’s be honest, neither the website nor using the city’s Facebook page are great options for the dogs and cats at MACC. Neither does a great job at promoting the animals in their care or in making their animals look more appealing to a potential adopter.
Most shelters and rescues know that it’s how a pet is promoted and featured that helps them get adopted. Good pictures and a little history on the dog or cat can make a huge difference in finding them a new home.
“Each year, millions of pets die for the simple reason that they do not have a home,” says Jennifer Whaley of Fetch Portraits. “Good pictures go a long way to help save the lives of these pets and move them out of high kill shelters or out of no kill shelters, which opens up space for more pets. Good technology, photos and networking will go a long way to change the statistics.”
MACC’s new policy doesn’t do any of these things.
The Friends of MACC Facebook page not only promoted the animals that needed saving in a way that made people want to help and take action, but they also acknowledged the passing of those who didn’t make it. And, they did so honorably.
MACC’s decision to stop the postings on the Friends of MACC Facebook page is really more about saving face, protecting their image, and hiding the fact that yes, they do in fact kill animals. Period. It’s not about the animals, it’s about them. It’s not about saving lives, it’s about saving their image.
I’m just not sure that’s even possible now.
There are two sayings that I love because I think they pack a powerful message. The first comes from radio host, Ian Punett:
“Hypocrisy waits silently for us all.”
The second is one I have heard said in a variety of ways, but essentially it boils down to this:
Live in your truth, whatever that may be.
Here is my message to MACC:
If you are killing dogs and don’t like that people are upset, then stop doing it. If your policy is to kill dogs and you don’t plan to stop or change that policy, then own it. It is your truth, whether you like it or not.
If you REALLY cared for the dogs and cats you take in, you would allow them to be shared on the Friends of MACC Facebook page because (as anyone in rescue can tell you) it works. Their pictures and more detailed information gets dogs into foster homes and eventually, into their forever homes.
To claim that your website can do a better job or that posting them on the city’s main Facebook page will be a better option for these pets is a lie. Don’t punish the dogs by removing them from Facebook and…
Live in your truth or change it.
When I first considered offering to foster for Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, I wrote a blog post about it. In the post, I included a picture of one of their available dogs cuddled up and sleeping with a stuffed toy.
The dog in the picture was Lady, now known as Cupcake. My Cupcake.
I couldn’t possibly have known then that the dog I would end up fostering would be the very same one in the picture. Nor could I have known that the dog I ended up fostering would get lost, then found, and then adopted – by me. I also couldn’t have known that meeting Cupcake would lead me to become an advocate for lost dogs or for Shelties in need or that so many other people would become advocates for other lost dogs because of her.
We often hear people talk about those special people in our lives who make a difference in how we see ourselves or who cause us to change directions in our life. But, how often do we think about the dog that has changed our lives in ways we never expected?
I can think of many examples of people in my life whose life was changed after meeting their dogs – like my friend Edie, who adopted her first dog, Frankie, and ended up writing a book and starting a blog to write about her experiences with him. Or the the lost dog I read about recently who had been adopted so he could be a companion to a woman with cancer and ended up being a comfort and lifeline for the husband when she died. Or my friend Debbie, who adopted a fearful dog named Sunny and ended up writing a book and a blog to help other owners of fearful dogs.
Dogs enter our lives in mysterious ways and sometimes they impact it in ways we never expect. Cupcake certainly did that for me. Has a dog changed your life in some way? If so, how?
A Facebook follower recently wrote something on my page that resonated with me:
“I am at the point of wondering why some people want a dog. They don’t want to care for it, they don’t want to train it, they don’t want to exercise it, they want it to be perfect without any work.”
(Yeah. I have to admit, I wonder that too sometimes.)
The comment was in response to a post I had shared about a thirteen year old dog who had ended up at a shelter after the owners had some semblance of sanity and decided that dumping the poor dog in the woods was probably a cruel thing to do to him, this being the dog they had “loved” for thirteen years, and decided to drop him off at the shelter instead.
Shortly after sharing this story my friend, Julie, shared a picture of her new foster dog. She came from Arkansas after her new owners, who obtained her from a Craigslist poster, discovered she was pregnant (at 8 months old) and dropped her off at a high-kill shelter. Thank goodness she was seen by a local Minnesota rescue and saved. She will have her babies in the comfort of a loving home with someone who will love her and care for her until that forever home comes along.
How can someone get a dog they so clearly wanted only to dump it at a shelter later? And, how does someone love a dog for thirteen years and then consider dumping it in the woods instead of caring for him for the rest of his life?
Have we truly become the ultimate in disposable societies? I didn’t use to think so. I used to think it was just matter of someone thinking it was “just a dog” or that we just needed to educate people better on how to train their pets so they would want to keep them.
But then, I came across this story and I started to wonder. Maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe we truly are a society incapable of making a commitment and doing the hard work needed to make a difference. Maybe we just like the “idea” of having a dog or a child, but not the reality of what comes next – caring for them, teaching them and loving them.
Maybe we truly are a lazy, self-involved, disposable society.
It is certainly starting to seem so.
Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy first came to live with me. Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old at the time I adopted her. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her Inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.
I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward. The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
This post is from March 12, 2009, two years after Daisy first came to live with me.
It suddenly occurred to me today how far my little Daisy has come over the past 14 months.
As I was letting her inside this afternoon and we headed back into the house, I looked at her and patted her on the head. And, then she did something that made me smile – she looked at me and wagged her tail.
That’s when I realized that Daisy had been wagging her tail for a while now.
How did I ever miss that monumental moment when she first wagged her tail at me? When did it happen? How did I miss it? And, come to think of it…When did Daisy stop circling the car every time she came inside? When did I stop circling the car with her so I could hook a leash to her collar and lead her inside? So much progress and yet it passed by in the blink of an eye.
It’s amazing what a little tail wag can do to brighten your mood!
When I first got Daisy her tail was always tucked under her butt to signal her fear and uncertainty. This remained the case for many months afterwards. Everything was so new to her and people were not something she had a lot of confidence in, especially women. So, a tucked tail was completely understandable.
But eventually, over time her tail did come out and it would rest along the back of her legs, not tucked under like before. The tail wagging came much, much later. It may have been when she began to understand that when I asked her “Are you hungry?” food was soon to follow. Or, it may have been she realized that riding in the car usually meant she was going to the dog park to see her friends or hang out with family. Or, maybe, just maybe, it was when she realized that she was safe and that her new mom loved her a great deal.
It makes me realize how much I have waited for this moment; when Daisy would wag her tail just because she was happy. Forget rainbows, just give me another Daisy day like today!
Daisy and Jasper from 2009
Yesterday I read a painfully poignant post by Phyllis DeGioia about her dog, Dodger and her decision to put him down due to his aggression (“Euthanizing Aggressive Dogs: Sometimes It’s the Best Choice“). Her words were not only powerful because they came from her own experience, but also because they so clearly articulated the conflicting emotions and guilt one feels when faced with euthanizing a dog due to aggression.
Societally, it is so much more acceptable to euthanize a dog for old age or illness than it is for a dog with behavioral issues. And yet, many a pet owner has had to face making this type of decision. I admire Phyllis for her courage in writing about her decision to euthanize Dodger.
In 2011, I wrote about a dog park friend who had to make this difficult decision after her cream-colored Golden Retriever showed serious signs of aggression at just 11 months old. After trying to resolve the issues herself, then seeking out a trainer, and finally taking Sally to a veterinarian animal behaviorist at the University of Minnesota, she was faced with two options, constantly supervise and manage Sally around her two young children or put her to sleep. The veterinarian made it very clear that Sally’s aggression was not something that would ever get better. It was not her or her husband’s fault. There was simply something wrong with her wiring. And so, she made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. I cried with her as she walked with Sally one last time around the dog park. It was a heartbreaking a decision, but I supported her.
Sometimes something just goes wrong with a dog. He is born with genetically bad wiring or is mentally ill or has suffered so much from abuse, that euthanizing him is almost a kindness rather than a cruelty.
I feel for the pet parent who has ever had to make this type of decision. It’s never an easy one. There is so much guilt, shame and fear. Guilt because you feel like there was something more you could have done or that you somehow failed your dog. Shame that others will think you a bad pet owner. Fear at what might have happened if you hadn’t made such a difficult decision.
I used to be one of those people who thought every dog could be saved, but my experience as a shelter volunteer has taught me otherwise. Probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was to recommend a dog I loved, one I had worked with for weeks, be put to sleep. His aggression had reached such a level that even I, the one who loved him most, became afraid of him.
Phyllis’ own words from her experience with Dodger summed up exactly my last experience with him – “Being attacked by someone you love is a visceral slam to your gut. For a short while, rational thought is gone. It happens so quickly. Your body shakes, and your heart pounds as the instinctive fight-or-flight response is set off.” My recommendation to euthanize him was not an easy one, but I don’t doubt my decision to do so. Sometimes, the most difficult decision is the right one.
Reading Phyllis’ piece made me think of one I had recently read on Patricia McConnell’s blog titled, “Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down.” Although Patricia’s post was addressing the guilt we all feel as pet owners when we have to say goodbye to beloved pets, I think these words were particularly applicable to those who must make the difficult decision to put an aggressive or damaged dog down.
“It is easier to believe that we are always responsible (‘if only I had done/not done this one thing….’) than it is to accept this painful truth: We are not in control of the world. Stuff happens. Bad stuff. As brilliant and responsible and hard-working and control-freaky that we are, sometimes, bad stuff just happens. Good people die when they shouldn’t. Gorgeous dogs brimming with health, except for that tumor or those crappy kidneys, die long before their time. Dogs who are otherwise healthy but are a severe health risk to others end up being put down. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it hurts like hell. But please please, if you’ve moved heaven and earth to save a dog and haven’t been able to… just remember: Stuff happens. We can’t control everything. (Difficult words to dog trainers I know. . . Aren’t we all control freaks to some extent?) You didn’t fail. You tried as hard as you could. It’s okay.” (“Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down“, by Patricia McConnell, The Other End of the Leash)
If you have ever had to euthanize a pet for reasons other than illness or old age, I feel for you. You carry a burden that is more difficult to bear than most. It’s hard enough to euthanize a pet when they are ill and you know that you are easing their pain, but harder still to do so when it involves dog aggression or mental illness. Shame and guilt might be feelings you have, but they have no place here.
Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes doing everything you can to save a dog is just not enough. You did your best. You did not fail.
Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy came to live with me. Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.
I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward, there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward. The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
This post is from October 28, 2008, almost a year after Daisy first came to live with me.
If you have been lucky enough to adopt a second-hand dog, then you know the wondering that often accompanies their entrance into our lives. You wonder…Was my dog loved in his former home? What was my dog’s former owner like? Does she cower because she was abused? Was he treated well before he came to me? Where did he learn that quirky behavior?
For me, I never had any doubt that my last dog, Aspen, was loved by her former owners. She was such a loving and affectionate dog that I KNEW she had been loved and cared for during her early years. She displayed none of the typical behaviors (cowering, shaking, running in fear, etc.) that would indicate abuse or mistreatment. In fact, I was pretty sure that the decision to give her up was probably not an easy one. She was 9 years old, had medical issues, and likely cost her former owners a good amount of money. However, I did wonder why they surrendered her saying she kept jumping the fence when I knew that her nine-year old debilitated hips could never have allowed her to do so. Were they hoping to avoid giving her a death sentence by stating the truth? Did they surrender her because the medical issues just became too much? Or, as is often the case with an older and sick dog, did they surrender her to avoid having to make the decision to put her to sleep?
With Daisy, I often wonder a whole host of different questions:
- How bad were her former living conditions?
- Where did all the scars on her body – the spots where no fur grows – come from? Were they caused by another dog? Or, were they caused by the puppy mill owner himself/herself?
- Was the puppy mill owner a woman? Is that why she is so comfortable approaching men – even ones she does not know? Is that why she is so tentative with women vs. men?
- Did she live outside? Is that why her ears have scars? Did the flies bite them?
- Does she like little dogs so much because they remind her of her puppies?
- Why did the owner feel the need to tattoo a number in her ear (201)? Were all the dogs that lived at the puppy mill tattooed too?
- Why was she surrendered to the service organization at age 4? How did she come to escape her personal hell?I know that I will never have the answers I seek, nor am I sure that I truly want to know all that Daisy has been through, but part of me still wonders. When I am rubbing her belly, something she has only recently let me do, I see those scars and try to imagine what it must have been like for her. Disturbing thoughts I know, but when you love a dog as much as I love Daisy, you think that knowing what happened in the past will help you to erase those memories from her mind. The truth is that I can only start from here. Today. Now.What I do today can only have an impact her the future, not her past. I choose to give Daisy everything she never had the chance to have before – love, kindness, the chance to run free in the woods, to experience new smells and new friends, and, yes, to have the occasional ice cream cone.Living in the NOW with Daisy means forgetting about her past and focusing on being with her in the present (and in the future). Being present with her. Spending quality time with her – on her terms, and loving her. Could a dog want for anything more?
Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.
I think it is a good reminder for those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward, there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward. The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
Sometimes another dog can help the unsocialized dog to feel more comfortable. Aspen helped Daisy understand that humans could be kind and trustworthy and Jasper taught Daisy how to have fun.
This post is from May 19, 2009, a year and a half after Daisy first came to live with me.
It’s been ages since I’ve posted an update on Daisy
The reason for the big space in time between blog posts? A combination of things, including: a growing pet sitting/dog walking business, Daisy’s continued progress, and the addition of a new member to our family, Jasper – Daisy’s new friend. I wanted to wait to update all of you until after I had the chance to inform all of my clients’ parents about Jasper, especially since many clients often stay in my home.
I have known for some time that Daisy does better when she is living with another dog. I even had a friend (Thank you Carolyn!) ask me why I hadn’t gotten another dog yet, since I know that Daisy would do better having another dog in the house (she also rehabilitates puppy mill dogs and knows how another dog can help in their rehabilitation).
I have resisted adding another member to our family for a multitude of reasons…it was nice to have Daisy to myself, I was starting a new business and didn’t want to take on another mouth to feed, the right dog hadn’t come along, and I didn’t want to lose clients (especially those who board dogs at my house) because I had adopted another dog. But then, “the Shelties” came along… Yep. The beginning of the end to my arguments against adopting another dog.
So who is Jasper and how did he come to stay with us? Both questions can probably be best answered by linking you to a previous blog post on my other blog, No Dog About It, called “Animals His First Priority? You be the Judge.”
What I can tell you is that Jasper is a precocious, active, playful and smart little 10-month old Sheltie. He and his sister, Jasmine, came to stay with me in March, after a lady bought them from a pet store (to rescue them from some pretty deplorable conditions). They fostered with me for about two weeks to get some socialization and to learn how to live in a home. They were then to be returned to the shelter I volunteer at so they could be adopted into their new homes.
Jasmine passed her assessment with flying colors and was adopted immediately. Unfortunately, Jasper could not be properly assessed because he was too shy to eat in front of anyone (we couldn’t tell if he would be a resource guarder when it came to food).
Rather than leave him at the shelter until they could determine what to do next, I offered to take him back home to foster him again. Well, as you might have guessed, he never left. I just couldn’t stand to part with him. Not to mention that Daisy absolutely adored him. I didn’t have the heart to take him away from her; I did that once before with a Dalmatian that I fostered (Pixel) and she was heartbroken.
So, here we are. A bigger and much more livelier family!
Daisy’s transformation has been amazing. It’s like she has found her inner lab, her confidence and her playful side all at once. Jasper’s positive affect on her has been even more than I ever expected. Daisy no longer stays close behind me, nose touching my pants leg, when we go to the dog park. She now runs through the woods (with Jasper by her side) almost all of the time. She’s also not as nervous when other dogs join the group. She eagerly goes to greet them. This might have something to do with the fact that Jasper is such a social butterfly, but whatever the reason, she is happier and more confident. I kid you not when I say that she has a constant smile on her face!
What’s amazing to me is that she even seems to enjoy the fact that he nips at her ears in excitement when they first go outside in the morning. It’s like she sees Jasper as her puppy and is happy just to have him there with her. She even goes to check on him when a dog barks at him or when he takes a tumble. It’s been an amazing transformation. I’ll have to include some video soon showing how they act at the dog park. It always brings a smile to my face!
I know that most dog experts say that the first 6 months of a dog’s life are the most formative, but I think Daisy and Jasper are proving that you can grow and learn beyond those formative years. Jasper spent the first 7 months of his life living in a pet store window, and yet, here he is, the most well-adjusted, friendly, and playful pup you could ever meet. Perhaps, there is something more to our dogs than meets the eye. Maybe we should take a second look. And, maybe love is the answer.
Welcome Jasper. Daisy and I are glad to have you here!