Today I am taking another look back to the first year 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 one of the many set backs we faced in those early years.
I think it is a good reminder for those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress is often made in fits and starts. For every step forward, there are two steps back. Understanding this may be easy, but seeing it can be hard. They key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
Daisy rarely has a set back any more, but when she does it is usually a small one, and it is often missed by those who do not know her past. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe Daisy was like this once. I first wrote this back on November 10, 2008, almost one full year after I first adopted Daisy.
I was reminded once again this weekend that despite her progress, Daisy is still a puppy mill dog and as such, will still react to new experiences with fear and uncertainty.
While marveling at her progress this past year, I forgot that the old, fearful and uncertain Daisy still lurks beneath the surface. The “new” Daisy is so much different from the old one. The new Daisy is vibrant, energetic, and curious and much more present than the old one. She interacts with strangers at the dog park, even placing her head on a stranger’s laps for a long pet. She often leaves my side to explore new places and smells. She is even confident walking into a pet store, as long as no one looms over her too much. The ”new” Daisy sometimes makes it easy to forget that I need to go slow and introduce her to new situations with care.
A new toy (a stuffed wiener dog with squeaker sounds in it), a towel draping over her body (to dry off the wet snow melting into her fur), a strange new environment, new people or young kids, new doggie friends – all seemed to cause fear this weekend. System overload? I’m not sure, but it all seemed to start with that small toy and only escalate from there. Her behavior this weekend reminded me of what Daisy was like when I first adopted her.
When I first brought Daisy home, one of the things we had to work on was how to come inside the house. The first step always required getting Daisy to enter the garage, which is the only way to get from the backyard to the house, then we had to go through a series of rituals that would eventually take us from the garage to the house.
Daisy was more likely to enter the garage if she was following Aspen (her doggie guide), but only if I met her specific guidelines, which of course, were only known to her. Direct eye contact, a sudden movement, even holding some unfamiliar object in my hands, would frequently send her skittering away from the garage door and back out into the backyard. Often when this happened, Aspen and I would have to start the whole process over again. This meant going back outside, frequently in the middle of winter, so we could all come in the door again – the correct way. I would enter the garage door first, followed by Aspen, and then Daisy – if I wasn’t too close to the door or looking at her as she entered the garage.
However, this wasn’t the end of the process. Once I had Daisy in the garage, I then had to convince her to enter the house. Wood floors have always been a problem because she is afraid of slipping on their surface – something I hear is quite common with dogs who have not been socialized to live in a home. Unfortunately, the first thing Daisy encountered when she entered the house were wood floors. If Aspen led the way, Daisy would follow, reluctantly. But once again, her entering often depended on where I was standing, whether I was facing her when she came in, or if I was far enough away from the door to allow her to enter in a way that she felt was safe.
More often than not, we played a game of chase in the garage. Daisy would run in circles around the car, sometimes in fear, but often in some sort of pacing pattern (very similar to what you see when a zoo animal is confined to a small enclosure), and I would try to head her off at the pass.
Sometimes, I would go slowly towards her from the opposite direction and attach a leash to her collar and lead her inside, but that only worked if she froze in fear. Not exactly ideal. I always felt awful in those situations because it only seemed reinforce the fear, and it did nothing to help me build trust with Daisy. Other techniques included: opening the car door and letting Daisy jump into the car so I could attach a leash to her collar and lead her inside, using treats to get her to approach me so I could attach the leash, and/or using Aspen to lead her inside.
All of these techniques could be, and often were, thwarted when Daisy pulled her head out of her collar – something she did quite often. In those cases, Daisy would begin to circle the car again and I would need to open the car door so she could jump so I could put her collar back on without her running away. After a while, I started putting on her Easy Walk harness while in the garage. This allowed me to safely lead her inside without her pulling her head out of her collar and it short-circuited the pacing behavior that seemed to border on obsessive compulsive.
Why do I share all of this with you? Because this weekend I was reminded again that while a lot of Daisy’s old behavior seems to have gone away, it is still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to come out again. Put Daisy in a new situation or expose her to a new experience, and you can and should expect that she will revert to the Daisy of old. This past weekend, I actually had to use the leash to lead her back inside the house again – several times. Whatever scared her, caused her to revert back to behavior she hasn’t demonstrated in some time. I guess trust is a hard thing to come by when you’ve been mistreated most of your life.
So, we will begin again, my Daisy and I, slowly building trust through positive reinforcement. And slowly, with patience, we will rebuild her confidence. Together. Daisy’s story continues…. stay tuned.
Maybe this is the case everywhere, but I am often amazed at how wonderful the animal rescue community is in my great state of Minnesota. I have met some amazing people over the past few years, many of them people who have (and continue to) go above and beyond what is expected, just to save an animal in need. But, every once in a while I meet someone who just stands out in the rescue community.
That is exactly how I would describe Chuck Heubach, a man with a very big heart and a desire to help animals in need.
Chuck is the owner and creator of TwinCityDog.com, an artistic online studio specializing in the creation of animal friendly children’s books emphasizing the humane treatment of dogs.
I came across Chuck’s work after a friend (in rescue) shared one of his images on her Facebook page. It was a picture of Franco, a dog that had recently appeared on our local news station after he was abused by some kids in Blaine, MN. It was beautiful work and I was intrigued. I immediately went to investigate who had done it and where I could possibly get some images done of my own dogs. Following the Facebook page, I found many other images and a webpage. And that’s when I met Chuck, the owner of Twin City Dog.
After conversing over email, I found out that Chuck is not only active in several out-of-state Collie rescues, but he is also connected to people I know in Sheltie rescue. In addition, he volunteers his time (and his images) to help dogs who need a little extra help getting adopted. He offers his pictures for free to rescues and shelters with hard to place dogs. .
You will find his images to be unlike anything you have ever seen before. I have shared a few of my favorites below, but I encourage you to take a stroll through his gallery to get a real sense of his talent.
If you are interested in having Chuck do a print of your own pet, just send him an email at Twin City Dog. You can also upload a photo on his website here. There are two pricing options - $50 per image or $30 plus $10 to your favorite shelter in the name of Twin City Dog. Prints are not included, but you do receive a high quality pdf file that you can get printed.
I wrote this post because I love Chuck’s work and because I wanted to recognize him for all the great work he does for dogs.
If you have a moment, please leave a comment and tell him how much you love his work. Thanks!
Here is one he did of Jasper. Isn’t it incredible?
All images are the property of Twin City Dog and used in compliance with Twin City Dog sharing guidelines.
Today, I am joining a blog hop to promote pet adoption. I know most people are focusing on shelter pets, but since I am with Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, I thought I would promote one of our adorable adoptables instead. My thanks to our host, Lisa, over at Dogs N Pawz for putting this together. i love it when we can help to promote a pet up for adoption.
Meet the adorable, smart and funny Mr. Romeo. Is he not handsome?
Romeo is a friendly guy who loves playing in the snow and with other dogs and people. His new favorite thing to do is play doggie games with his foster mom. In fact, Romeo has learned lots of new games and tricks since being in his foster home! I’ve included a video of Romeo below so you can see him in action. Trust me when I say, he puts my dogs to shame.
When Romeo isn’t playing with his new toys or outside with his foster siblings, he’s cuddled up next to you on the couch. He prefers to be close to his human when the day winds down.
If you are interested in a dog that will make life fun, interesting and sweet, contact Minnesota Sheltie Rescue.
Now about that video…
Today I am going to do something a little different and share an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab)“.
I don’t write on her blog much anymore, two blogs just became too much to manage, but I still treasure the words I wrote then because they remind me of how far Daisy has come since she first came to live with me as a foster dog in November 2007. I hope you don’t mind me sharing.
I first wrote this back on October 14, 2008, almost one year after I first adopted Daisy.
I always like to share the story of how my dog Daisy came to live with me.
When I first met Daisy, she was swollen with milk, having just weaned her puppies, and very, very scared. This would be her last litter (one of the many she’s had over the past 4 years).
Daisy, a yellow Labrador Retriever, had been brought to our shelter (the one I volunteer at) by a service organization. They had gotten her from a puppy mill – pregnant and scared. They cared for her during her pregnancy and after the birth of her puppies. Luckily for the puppies, the group had decided to keep them to be trained as service dogs, but for Daisy this was not even a possibility. She was too terrified, and often just curled up into a ball waiting for something awful to happen to her. You see, Daisy was puppy mill breeding dog, everything bad had happened to her up until this point.
When I first met her on that day at the shelter, she was sitting at the back of her kennel – terrified and alone. She cowered in my presence and refused to make eye contact. When I raised my hand to unlock the kennel door, she went straight to the ground, crouching in fear, and froze. It was easy to get the leash on her, but getting her to walk to the door to go outside was a slow process and required slow movements.
I walked her, with much difficulty, around the shelter property. She was so scared that she mostly walked low, slunk to the ground, and would freeze at any sound – or if I made any sudden movements. I avoided talking to her; hoping it would calm her. It didn’t. After a short walk, I sat down on the parking lot curb outside and waited to see what she would do. Her whole body language conveyed fear and distrust – averted eyes, lowered head and body, frozen body posture, and her back kept towards me at all times. She was telling me she did not trust me, and I didn’t blame her at all given her history.
I let her be for a moment as I remained seated and gave her some time to adjust to my presence. She never did. She allowed me to pet her, but I think that was only because she was too scared to move. My heart broke for her. I think I knew then that somehow this dog and I were going to be connected.
I already had a wonderful older dog (Aspen) at home whom I adopted about 7 months previously. Aspen had several health issues and took a lot of time and care, but I knew that I couldn’t leave this dog behind. I was afraid that she would never make it to the adoption floor given her extreme fear and lack of socialization. I also knew that I couldn’t really adopt her. But I knew one thing, somehow I was going to make sure this dog had a fighting chance. “Perhaps I could become her foster mom” I thought, “Maybe I could help her to become an adoptable dog.” It would mean taking on even more responsibility (adding another dog to my life), but I think in that moment I had already decided to give it a try. If ever there was ever a dog that needed a chance it was this extremely fearful Lab. Maybe with a little time and patience, she could be adoptable I thought.
And so, Daisy came to live (as a foster dog) with Aspen and I in November 2007, only a few days before Thanksgiving.
Little did I know how much work, time and patience it would take to make her an adoptable dog. In the end, it didn’t matter because she was my dog. My best friend. Little did I know how much she would come to change me and my life.
What has become one of my favorite events of the year was held this past weekend – the annual Minnesota Sheltie Rescue Reunion. What a day!
Adopted Shelties came from far and wide to spend their Saturday afternoon with us (one group even came down from Fargo, ND!). It was so wonderful to see so many of the Shelties that have been adopted this past year, and in years past. I loved seeing some of the same people I had first met in the adoption process now with their new dogs and looking so happy.
The attendance was amazing this year. Probably one of the largest attendance crowds ever!
The day was chock full of things to do, including Sheltie games where dogs and owners could compete for prizes in the shell game, peanut butter lick off contest, pooch a smooth, egg walk and agility activities. Attendees could also get their professional pictures done, Ask the Trainer a training question, get a massage for their doggie and Speak with an Animal Communicator. There was an auction with some pretty awesome items up for bidding (I nabbed the cutest Sheltie flag on a pole that can be stuck in my garden.) and people could purchase fun games for their pups from Dog Prodigy and homemade jerky treats from Four Paws Gourmet or find out more about Top Dog Country Club, our sponsor for the event.
But the highlight of the day was the Sheltie Parade. So many Shelties took the walk with their new families. It was great to see them so happy. I saw a lot of pride and joy on Saturday as Shelties pranced alongside their owners.
I thought I would share just a few highlights of the day with you. I have to give full credit to my friend Cindy Dahl Smith for the majority of these pictures. I forgot my camera and all I had was my iPhone (all the fuzzy pictures are mine). Thanks Cindy!
Just before Christmas, a friend recommended a book to me. Being a sucker for a good book, I immediately checked it out on Amazon. It didn’t take much for me to know that I needed to add it to my Christmas list. I am so glad I did.
The book is called “As Bright as the Sun” by Cynthia Schlichting, and is about a strong but vulnerable victim of the dog fighting world, Bella.
I can hardly explain some of the emotions I felt as Cynthia wove the tale of Bella’s life, as told from her perspective. Some of the details are true and some of them are based on Cynthia’s imaginings of what happened to Bella prior to coming to live with them. It works. I found myself smiling at times and crying at others as I followed Bella on her treacherous journey. If Cynthia wanted to place the reader in Bella’s shoes, then she did a good job.
The book starts out with Bella as a puppy and follows her as she is kidnapped from her loving family and forced into the dark, cruel and sick world of dog fighting. For years, Bella is used and abused by her captors. She is bred over and over again for her puppies – all forced into the dog fighting ring, and she is also forced to fight. It was during her last fight (more of an assassination than a fight) that Bella faces her worst moment. She is tossed into a ring with a fighting dog with her legs tied together, unable to defend herself. Her captors intended for her to die there. Instead, she survived. So they tossed her into a roadside ditch – pregnant, bleeding, skin and ears ripped up, she lay there in that ditch all but giving up on life until a good samaritan comes along and saves her. A guardian angel was looking over Bella that day and the days to come.
By all odds, Bella ends up at the now infamous Chesterfield County Animal Shelter, where employees shot and killed 22 of their dogs and buried them in a landfill. Thank goodness she was pulled by a rescue before she could suffer that fate. The rescue cares for Bella’s wounded body and soul and shares her story on Facebook, where it is passed on by many.
It is there that Cynthia and her husband, Brian, read Bella’s story and decide they are the ones to give her a new home. What follows is their, and Bella’s, journey to bring her home (to Minnesota) and to give her a chance at a new life. She meets her new doggie siblings, Foster and Jane, and learns what being a dog really is when you live in a home where people love you.
It’s a powerful story and one worth reading
If I had but one wish it would have been that Cynthia had shared more about Bella’s life after she was rescued. For those of us with dogs who have suffered a horrible beginning in life, we want to know how she, and her husband, Brian, helped Bella to assimilate into her new world. But, I think I know why Cynthia chose to focus more of her time and attention on Bella’s story. It’s because Bella’s story is not just a story about Bella, it’s a story about every fighting dog still living in that world. It’s the story of those who try to help these dogs and what really happens in that cruel sadistic world that some consider a sport. If you didn’t know much about dog fighting before, you will after reading Bella’s story. You can even follow the work Cynthia continues to do to bring attention to this issue on her Facebook page.
Reading Bella’s story opened my eyes even more to the horrible world Bella lived in for so many years. She is a symbol for those who have come before her, and all those who will, no doubt, come after her. If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read her story. It’s one worth reading.
Yesterday, I saw a story announcing the opening of a new center dedicated to helping fearful dogs. The center, located in New Jersey, is a project being led by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Now dogs who have lived their whole lives in puppy mills or have come from a hoarding situation or were victims of animal cruelty will have the chance to get help meant just for them.
If you have ever had a fearful dog, one who has had little exposure to the world or has been abused, then you know that rehabilitation takes time. Unfortunately, time is not always an option for them. Many are euthanized because the amount of time and dedication (and money) it takes to work with a fearful or traumatized dog is more than most shelters can give.
This center is a source of hope for these dogs and the people who rescue them. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will take dogs from shelters across the country as well as those that come those animal seizures involving the ASPCA. Their first guests, Malamutes, are coming in from Montana in the next few days. These were the dogs who were seized from a breeder charged with animal cruelty (I wrote about them a couple of months ago).
Dogs who come to the center will stay on average about 6-8 weeks, but they are not putting a strict time limit on their stay. As anyone who has worked with a puppy mill dog knows, sometimes it can takes a year or more before a fearful dog can really function in their new environment. Knowing there is a center, and people, focused on helping these dogs is really encouraging. I hope that what they learn can be used to help more dogs in the future. I suspect Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com could tell them a lot, but I am hoping that more will be learned from their work that can be used by rescuers across the country to help dogs like these, like Daisy and Cupcake.
I’ll be watching to see what they learn. How about you?
A couple of weeks ago a friend posted on her Facebook page that her brain was hurting after attending a Suzanne Clothier seminar. I had to laugh. I could SO relate to what she was feeling. Back in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend two of the three sessions held by Suzanne here in Minnesota.
To say the sessions were mind-blowing would be an understatement. I can still remember driving home after that first session and feeling like the synapses in my brain were going off all at once. I learned more about dogs in those first three hours than I had ever learned before. I’m pretty sure I said “Wow.” at least twenty times during that first night’s drive home.
The second session was just as mind-blowing as the first and included a lot of real life demonstrations using dogs with real issues. It was exciting to be able to pick out some of the behavioral cues being given by the dogs as Suzanne worked with them.
But the highlight of the session (for me) was a video Suzanne showed during her last session. When I say it was a highlight I mean that it gave me that “A-ha” moment, a moment of insight into myself and into dogs.
Suzanne introduced the video by saying that what we were about to see was an initial meeting between a potential adopter ( a man) and a Shepherd/Husky/Lab mix. The man had come in to meet the dog after seeing his picture on the internet. He was certain that this was the dog for him.
We watched the video in silence as the man met the dog outside. Right away, it was evident that the dog had no interest in the man. As they stood on the gravel driveway, the dog made it clear that he wanted distance. He stood at the very end of the leash and put his back to the man (facing out and away from him). When the man tried to pull the dog in closer to him, he resisted and tried to maintain some distance from him.
When the man sat down on the ground, he pulled the dog in towards him and tried to hug him. The dog tolerated it way more than most people would have, but it was clear from his body language that he wanted no part of it. He pulled away, and even when pulled in close, looked uncomfortable and stiff and always faced away from the man. There were also a lot of yawns and lip-licking (signs of stress in a dog).
As I watched the video, I remember being irritated with the man for not recognizing the dog wanted nothing to do with him. Couldn’t he see the dog was resistant to his attention? Couldn’t he see the dog did not want a hug?
I was so caught up in the dog’s behavioral signals that I had failed to notice something else, something that Suzanne later pointed out – the man’s behavior. In every move and action, he was telling us what kind of dog he wanted,. He wanted a dog who was affectionate and wanted to be close to him. Throughout the video, he made every attempt to create this closeness – pulling the dog towards him,, hugging him, holding him, etc.. The only problem was that he was trying to create that closeness with a dog who clearly preferred distance. This was a dog who probably preferred to sleep on the floor across the room from you or maybe at you feet, not a dog who wanted to be hugged.
What I had completely missed throughout the video was the dynamic between the man and the dog. Suzanne called it a mismatch, and she was completely right. It was a mismatch. The guy was a perfectly nice gentleman, and the dog was a perfectly wonderful dog – they just wanted very different things from one another.
As I thought about it even more, I started to realize how similarly matched me and my dogs are to one another. I am not someone who wants constant affection and attention from my dogs, and funny enough, my dogs are not interested in giving it back to me on a constant basis either. That’s not to say that I don’t like to cuddle with my dogs from time to time. I do. It’s just I prefer not to have a dog glued to my side and needing to touch me at every moment of the day. I like that my dogs prefer to sleep on the floor at night. I love that they have some sense of independence from me.
And yet I know, for other dog owners, this would be the exact opposite of what they want. They want that closeness. They want the little dog in their lap at night… and you know what? That’s totally okay. In the end, it’s making sure that the dog you have matches what you want and that what you both have a need for the same things.
So it made me curious… Do you consider yourself someone who wants that closeness with a dog? Or someone who prefers a little independence and distance? Do you consider you and your dog well-matched? If so, why do you think so?
And, have you ever had a dog that was a mismatch for you and how did you know?
The first time I saw Jasper, it was here…
He was in impound with his sister, waiting to be examined by one of our vet techs before being fostered or put up for adoption. I fell in love with his handsome little face right then (I also fell in love with his sister). I practically begged to foster them…just for a little while. But I should have known then, he wouldn’t be leaving. He was home the moment he walked through my door.
The first time I saw Daisy, she was cowering in a kennel much like the one Jasper was in. She was terrified as hell and my heart broke when I saw how she cowered and flinched when people came near her. I knew then that I would foster her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I worried someone inexperienced would adopt her and place her in a situation where she could be further damaged.
But it wasn’t until two weeks later, when I picked her up after being spayed, that I knew that she was mine. Her vulnerability drew me in and captured my heart. She needed me. She needed someone who understood her. There was no way I would give her up to someone who didn’t understand her needs for space, time and patience. She was home.
Cupcake was different. She had already been living in a foster home and was more than likely going to be adopted soon. Besides, I had already had a talk with myself about how I would not be falling in love with her. Two dogs was more than enough thank you. I couldn’t possibly take on another. I was sure she would be moving on to her forever home soon and then I would foster yet another dog in need of help.
But then, one fateful night, she went missing, and I was distraught. I was a complete wreck. I imagined all sorts of awful things happening to her. I worried she would be killed by a coyote or would starve to death or be hit by a car. It wasn’t until she was found and finally started to recognize me again that I started to have an inkling that she would be staying. At that very moment when she recognized me and sighed and leaned into me, I knew. There was no way Cupcake would be leaving my home to go to another. She already was home. She had been all along. I think she knew before I did.
I suspect that most everyone has had that moment, the one where you just KNOW that this dog is “the one.” With each of my dogs it was different. Jasper was love at first sight (he had me at “Hello”). With Daisy it was much more gradual. It started as a strong sense of responsibility towards a dog in need and slowly grew into something much, much more. With Cupcake, it took a traumatic event to make me realize how much I loved her. Like I said, I think she knew she was home before I did.
So what was your moment? When did you KNOW that your dog was “the one?” Was it love at first sight? Or, did it take time to bond? I would love to hear your story.