One thing that can be difficult about having a fearful dog is finding someone to watch them who understands their unique needs. Not everyone who works in the pet industry is experienced with or understands how to work with a shy dog. As a dog owner, my biggest fear is that they will somehow damage my dog’s progress without knowing it or somehow lose them because they did not understand their high flight risk.
It’s one of the reasons that most of my vacations these days are “stay-cations” and not big trips to exotic and exciting places. It’s the reason I don’t go to blogging conferences or go to visit some of my blogging friends. I can’t just leave my dogs at a boarding facility or with any pet sitter I hire for those few events when I need to be away. I can’t just trust that someone will keep them safe or that they will know to be gentle and quiet and kind around Daisy. I have to be very cautious about who I trust with my dogs because the progress they have made could easily be damaged with one bad interaction. And in Cupcake’s case, one bad decision could lead to her becoming lost again. I just can’t risk it.
But, last week I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I had committed to helping out at the sheep herding trials (something I very much wanted to do) without understanding the extended time commitment involved. I would need to be at the trial (almost an hour away from home) from 7 AM to 5 PM. That was a problem. How could I leave the dogs for that long? Who could I trust to let my dogs out if I decided to go? Who could I trust not to “accidentally” let them out of the yard or the front door? Who would understand that Daisy is sensitive to movement and sound and that Cupcake is not trusting of many people? Who could I trust to let them out and not put them in harms way?
In the past, I’ve relied on family or just committed to a half day so I could still get home to let my dogs out or just chosen not to go at all. But, this was one time I didn’t want to opt out. This was something I had been looking forward to doing for several weeks. So the question was… Who could I trust?
I started with a friend who is active in the Lost Dog community because I knew she would be extra cautious about keeping gates closed and ensuring she came into the house in a way that would prevent a dog escaping, but I quickly realized that my dogs might be scared by her presence, having only met her a few times.
Luckily, I have a friend that not only knows my dogs, but understands some of the issues my dogs have when it comes to strangers. She is also someone who helped in Cupcake’s search, so I knew I could trust her to keep the dogs safe too. And, as it turns out, Kellie was the perfect choice. Yes, Cupcake barked at her the whole time (unless she was petting her). Yes, Jasper tried to hump her (something he never does), and yes, Daisy was a little difficult to get inside the house (she has problems with entrances and exits), but in the end it all worked out. Kellie was able to safely care for my dogs, and I felt better knowing she was the one doing it. I was (am) so grateful she was available to help me out.
But, going through this experience made me realize how limited I am in my ability to do certain things. It also made me realize that having a fearful or shy dog should not limit one’s ability to enjoy some time without them. I can’t always forgo events just because I have fearful dogs. I need to find an alternative that work for both them and me. What if I was hurt or unable to come home? Who would care for them then? What would I do if that happened?
Clearly, I need a plan for handling future events like these. I would love to hear what other owners of fearful dogs do when they want to go on vacation or need to spend the day or weekend away. What do you do? How do make sure your dogs are safe while you are away?
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 with dogs like Daisy. It just takes time and patience. Often it happens 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 need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
This post is from April 11, 2009, a little over two years from the date she first came home with me.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated anyone on Daisy’s progress. Partly because it’s been a little busy around here (we’ve had a lot of visitors staying with us), but also because Daisy seems to have made a tremendous leap in her progression towards finding her “inner lab”. To be honest, I couldn’t be more proud of her.
It’s like a light switch has come on. Although I know it has taken a lot of work, time and patience, it seems as if Daisy has suddenly gained confidence overnight. Oh, she still has her moments when she is unsure and overwhelmed, but all in all, she seems to have turned a corner. Even my friends at the dog park have noticed her new confidence. She absolutely loves to have her friend Brutus chase her through the woods at the dog park. She can fly like wind when she’s running through the woods. I am always amazed at her dexterity and her ability to quickly change course or find a way through the thick brush. I would never have guess she could be so nimble!
It makes me laugh sometimes to watch her pretend that she doesn’t see Brutus sneaking up on her, and then just when he’s about to pounce (and yes, a 120 lb. Rottweiler can pounce!), she’s off like a flash! She flies through the woods, her tail up and a smile on her face. What happened to the dog that stuck closely to my side or just behind me, so close that her nose often touched the back of my leg? She’s still there, on those occasions when she does not feel safe, but she is more often than not off exploring with her friends or running through the woods. And when she does stick closely to my side, it’s different. I don’t see the fear that I used to see. She’s more confident. More sure of herself.
Just last week, our friend, Lynn (Sasha’s dad) commented on how she is now able to comfortably approach men and women now. She used to be more cautious and unsure when she approached a woman or when they approached her. But, so many of her friends have moms that she has learned to be less fearful around women. It’s so great to see.
Daisy is also confident enough to sit with her group of friends waiting for a treat from her friend, Henry’s mom, Ann-Marie. Last summer, whenever her Bob, another dog park regular, would distribute treats she would back away and only approach cautiously when the other dogs let her in. Not anymore! She’s right there waiting for her share. A Lab never turns down free food!
I think the last thing that has changed is our morning and evening rituals.
Daisy has always preferred to sleep in her kennel because she feels safe there (and because Nick doesn’t terrorize her there). In the past, morning rituals consisted of me getting up and letting Daisy outside and then getting our breakfasts ready. That was until Mya (a pet sitting client) came to stay with us. Daisy was watching when Mya started sleeping on my bed with me at night. She noticed that Mya got belly rub from me every morning before we got out of bed. The wheels in her head started turning and soon she was thinking she wanted a bit of that attention for herself. So now, every morning before she goes outside, she jumps onto my bed, lays down and stretches her body out so I can give her a belly rub. We spend a little quality time together just me rubbing her belly and giving her kisses. She loves it, and so do I.
In the evening, her belly rub time is a bit longer. Sometimes it even includes a little doggie massage. She absolutely loves her doggie massages! It’s our quiet time together and I get to tell her I love her. I think she likes that too.
When she first met Daisy, my vet told me that she would probably be the best dog I’ve ever had. To be honest, I seriously doubted her statement at the time. I had already had some pretty awesome dogs I my life. But now, I think she may be right. Daisy is so very special. She’s courageous, well-behaved, gentle, loving, and smart. She doesn’t bark and she gets long with every dog she meets. Who wouldn’t want a dog like that?
I found out earlier this week that one of my very first pet sitting clients, Maggie, had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Even though Maggie was an older dog, it still hit me pretty hard. Maggie was one of those dogs who just seemed like she would live forever. She had a zest for life like no other dog I have ever met. She lived life with gusto.
Jasper loved her. Daisy loved her. And, I loved her. So did her family. It was hard not to love Maggie. She made me smile whenever she stayed with me. I used to laugh when her mom would say Maggie was starting to slow down. That was never the case when Maggie stayed at Casa del Mel. She saw her stay as a vacation and she made sure she made the most of it too. I smile now just thinking of how much fun she had here. She was a bright light in every day.
So instead of being sad that she is gone, I thought I would celebrate Maggie’s life, and her love of life, by sharing a few pictures of her during her stay here.
We will miss you Maggie. More than you know.
It’s Black and White Sunday. This week I thought I would do something a little different and share a picture of one of my former clients, Marley. She is the most adorable little dog. As you can see, she had gotten into some mud this day.
Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.
Have you ever felt the stress that comes with introducing a new dog into the family? Reading my friend Amanda’s post the other day, “Post-Puppum Anxiety Disorder“, brought back so many memories for me.
As I read about Amanda’s nervousness and stress in adding two additional dogs into her home and her life, I couldn’t help but feel all the same feelings I had when I adopted my first dog, Indy. I fell in love with Indy the moment I met her. She literally was surrendered one day and adopted by me the next. At the shelter, I have been so certain she was the dog for me. But when I got her home I started to worry. What if she turned out not to be a good fit? What did I REALLY know about her anyways? Indy was so nervous that first night (understandably so), that I started to have second thoughts. Maybe I had made a mistake.
Thankfully, Indy adjusted and so did I. The more we learned about each other, the more we just clicked.We learned to trust one another. Indy turned out to be one of the best, most well-behaved dogs I had ever met, a discovery I never would have made if I hadn’t given her, and me, the time to get to know one another. She was quite a special dog. I have never regretted adopting her.
As I have added more rescue dogs into my life, I have learned that being comfortable with being uncomfortable is a part of the process when one fosters or adopts a new dog. Being nervous and having second thoughts are normal. It’s working past those fears and emotions, and being dedicated to working with your new and existing dog, that makes all the difference. Time can also make a big difference too. It takes time for everyone to get used to each others’ personalities and to adjust to the new routine. If you can get past those first few days (and sometimes weeks) the rewards can be great.
This is not to say that sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it doesn’t. But knowing this, and being willing to make every attempt to work through it first, can bring about a surprising results.
I’d like to say that over time I have gotten past the butterflies in my stomach, the sinking feeling that maybe I’ve made a mistake, or the worry that I might somehow neglect one dog when doling out the love and attention, but I haven’t. Not once. Even when I boarded dogs as a part of my pet sitting business, I felt all the same nerves as I had when I fostered and/or adopted each of my dogs. It comes with the territory.
Fostering or adopting a dog is such a rewarding experience, but having the confidence to do so and to work through those initial worries and fears is the key. Trust yourself enough to know that change can be good. In fact, it can be life changing – for both you and your rescue dog.
I posted this on my Facebook page, but thought it worth sharing here as well – Fostering: Drive in the slow lane for dog/dog intros. I thought this post on the Bad Rap blog provided some great tips and ideas on introducing a new dog into your family. Granted, the foster parents had a more challenging situation than most adopters, but still some great ideas.
Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. ~ ~ George Washington (1732 – 1799)
Like so many other dog lovers out there, tomorrow night I will be watching a TV show that features dogs, the big city (New York) and a “dog guru”. However, unlike many of my dog loving friends, I cannot say that I will be watching it with a completely uncritical eye.
That is not to say that I am looking for something to criticize. I’m really not. But two things I saw on the first episode left me wondering what else I would see and whether I could like a show that does some good while possibly doing some harm.
Justin is a comedian and a passionate animal advocate who has done a lot to help rescued animals, including:
- Rescuing two pitbulls named Chiquita and Pacino and giving them a loving home.
- Volunteering at animal shelters
- Donating money to no-kill shelters and volunteer-based animal rescues by hosting an annual comedy show (that he created) to raise money for homeless animals. It’s called Funny for Fido and features some well-known comedians.
In the first episode, Justin seemed to correctly diagnose some of his client’s issues – separation anxiety, dog aggression and a doggie weight issue. He was honest and up front with each owner about the issue and what would be needed from them to fix it.
But there were subtle things that were said or done that worried me.
- In the case of the owner who had an aggressive dog (in her office) – a model who had volunteered to help with the dog aggression issue by bringing in her own dog, was allowed to bring her dog within biting distance of the other, resulting in a bite.
- In the case of 9-year-old Allie, and her Bernese Mountain dog, Rosie, Justin taught the girl to push against the chest of her dog in a forceful manner and say “leave it” so the dog would learn to not eat food unless given the okay. Later the girl is interviewed by herself and the thing she said she learned was to push the dog in the chest and say “leave it”.
When it comes to dog trainers and doctors I am of one school of mind “do no harm.” That includes both humans and their pets.
In both cases mentioned above, harm was done . One was in the form of physical harm – to the model’s dog, and the other was in the form of bad advice that could lead to potential harm to Allie, or someone else, down the road.
In the case of the model’s dog, the owner’s own self-denial about her dog’s aggression, and the fact that the dog had a history of biting other dogs and people in the office, should have been enough information to know that this situation needed to be managed much more effectively than it was. I could never see Victoria Stilwell letting an aggressive dog close enough to another dog to allow that dog to be bit. Could you?
In the case of Allie and Rosie, Justin’s advice for Allie to shove her dog Rosie in the chest was just bad advice. Coming on the heels of National Bite Prevention week, this seemed like the worst possible advice one could give a child (or adult). The possibility of Rosie biting Allie may have been low in her case, but what if she were to try this with another dog? Would that other dog be so accommodating? And, what if she were to teach her friends what she learned and one of them got bitten? Children are the most likely to get bitten by a dog and Justin just shared a training method that has the potential to harm a child – whether Allie herself, a friend or some child who was watching it that night. Not good.
Maybe it’s the fault of the producer who is looking to make an interesting show that has a bit of drama, or maybe it was the editing that things went wrong or maybe Justin just wasn’t thinking about the repercussions in that particular situation. Who knows? But, what I do know is that when it involves dogs and kids one must be cautious and one must always keep in mind to “do no harm”.
I will be watching Dogs in the City on Wednesday night, but it will be with a much more critical eye than before. My hope is that a guy like Justin, who does so much good for animals, will continue to help owners and their pets while doing no harm. That is my hope. I hope he, and the show, can deliver
Will you watch?
Reading Kristine’s post (“Wordless Wednesday – Fence Friend”) yesterday on her blog, Rescued Insanity,brought back so many memories from my days as a pet sitter and all the dogs I got to know as I walked my client’s dogs in their neighborhoods.
In the morning, there were the two Yellow Labs that used to run with their owner – we would wave “Hi” as he jogged by and once in a while I would greet the if I arrived as he and they were leaving for their morning run.
In the afternoon, there was the black Lab mix who lived behind a brown picket fence and who would whine for us to come and greet her when we walked by. We always did and I often would sneak her a kibble or two. She was such sweet dog.
In the same neighborhood as the black Lab, was a Husky that loved to run along the fence with Marley (one of my clients) and sometimes, when she was feeling particularly frisky, she would hide behind the corner of her deck until we had gone almost the whole way past her house, then she would bolt and race to the fence to try and scare us. It never did, but it often made me laugh to watch her. She loved kibble too.
In my friend, Henry’s, neighborhood, there was a sweet girl named Blondie. She was a yellow Lab like my Daisy, and just like Daisy, the sweetest thing you could ever meet. She would often sit in her garage or in her driveway while her Dad worked on his car and then would wander out to greet us as we walked by.
The little guy across from Henry also used to run over to greet us if his owner was outside with him. He loved all the attention I gave him, even though he got more than plenty at home, and most certainly was happy to take a piece of kibble from me.
But, perhaps my most favorite was a Husky/Yellow Lab mix that I got to know pretty well. Annie was a sweet older gal who loved laying in the sun and napping most of the time. The only exception was when the kids were returning from school or when I would walk by with my clients, Marley and Bailey. Then she would “chuff “and sometimes bark, to let me and the kids know that we had to stop by and say hello, and you know what? We always did. She loved the attention she received from all of us.
Over time, I got to know this dog’s owner as well. A nice older gentleman, named Frank. We would often wave “Hi” and stop to chit-chat for a minute before I moved on with the girls. Annie was the love of his life and over time I fell in love with her too. There wasn’t a day we didn’t stop to greet her and give her a piece of kibble or two. She came to expect us and would wait by the fence for us as she watched us come up the street.
Then one day, she wasn’t there to greet us. I thought maybe it was too cold and she was inside laying on a nice warm rug, but the next day she wasn’t there either. A week later, I ran into Frank and he told me the news. Annie had gotten ill and had died. How sad. She had become my friend over that year and a half that I had come to know her. Frank and I both shed a tear over his girl as we talked, but it was hard. We both were grieving her loss. I still think of her and smile today. Like Kristine’s dog friend, she was my fence friend too.
It’s been a year since I left my pet sitting business, mostly for monetary reasons, but I still miss it. I don’t just miss the dogs and cats I cared for every day (I miss then a lot!), but I also miss the ones I didn’t care for but got to know along the way.
My fence friends.
I know I do. Sometimes I wish for the days of old; when I was oblivious to all the worries and concerns that I face as a pet owner today.
Back then, I knew so much less about dogs, animal rescue, puppy mills, dog shows, dangerous pet foods, tainted dog treats, lost dogs, etc. The world seemed so much less complex.
I could toss my dog a milk bone and not worry about whether it was from China or would make my dog fat. I could watch a dog show in total ignorance and just revel in the beauty of the various breeds without judgement about whether the dog was able to breathe or had a life span of six years. I could look in a pet store window and just laugh at the cute little puppy inside without thinking about where the puppy came from and what kind of conditions its parents lived in.
It’s so much easier today to become overwhelmed and weary by all that goes on behind the scenes. There is SO MUCH information out there nowadays. Of course, the benefit is that you can just about choose any interest and focus solely upon it, but always, just around the edges, lingering just outside your peripheral vision, is that other stuff. The stuff you don’t want to think about. The stuff you don’t want to know. The stuff you would rather ignore.
I know that educating people about puppy mills does make a difference – even if it only prevents one more puppy mill puppy from being sold or motivates one person to take action to close them down. I also know that sharing information about a dangerous pet product can make a difference, especially for that one person who might have lost their best friend if not for that blog post or status update to warn them. And, I know that sharing that one picture of a lost dog may be the one “share” that makes the all the difference to that lost dog and their owner.
But every once in a while, just for a second or two, I really DO wish for the less complex days of old.