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Wordless Wednesday #334 – The beauty of Miss Maggie

May 24, 2017 5 comments

Can you smell the lilacs Maggie?

A beauty amongst the lilacs

A pause for beauty

Miss Maggie at that golden hour of the day

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Foster Maggie Update – Filling in the holes of the sponge

August 20, 2015 13 comments
Could they be any cuter? Maggie and Jake #shelties #shetlandsheepdog

Maggie and Jake

One of the things I love most about rehabbing puppy mill dogs is watching them bloom and start to become real dogs. They might never become the dogs they were meant to become, but they get close as time goes on. The difference between puppy mill dogs and other dogs is that they spend a lot of time watching and absorbing everything around them before actually trying it themselves.

They act like little sponges, filling in all the holes left behind by their lack of socialization on early life, and then suddenly, a switch turns on and they start to put all the pieces together and act out the behaviors they have seen in other dogs.

Daisy was like this when I first brought her home. When we would go to the dog park, she wouldn’t interact with the other dogs (and most definitely not with people), but would sit and watch and observe them. She would take in their behaviors and the repercussions. She would watch how they played and drank and interacted with each other. From these observations, she slowly started to fill in the gaping holes in her knowledge of how to be a dog.

I still remember how she would watch her friends, Prince and Princess, drink from a water jug at the park. She watched them for weeks, and then one day, she tried doing it herself. It was clumsy and messy, but she tried. She pulled on her past observations of their movements and mimicked them as she attempted to drink water out of the water jug.

Cupcake has always been an observer too. She’s never had an issue with “speaking dog”, but interacting with humans was something she has always been fearful of, until recently. All those years of watching other dogs approach strangers for treats and a butt scratch has paid off. She is starting to mimic their behaviors. If you had asked me if Cupcake would let strangers pet her two years ago, I would have said NO WAY. But now? She does it more than I ever expected. And, with strangers too! She’ll follow behind them and wait for them to offer her a piece.

This is Maggie on most evenings. She will often sit on the floor beside me and then gently touch her nose to my leg so I will pet her. Although it was unintentional, I have reinforced this by petting her when she does it. I love that she seeks it out. #ma

Maggie’s nose nudges for attention

Maggie is no different. For the past year and a half she has been absorbing tons of information about her environment, dog behavior, and me. It started slowly with just learning the routines and knowing what to do when.

She learned how to put herself to bed at night by opening the kennel door herself. She learned that she gets fed in her kennel and being in it brings good things. She also learned that scritches feel good and now seeks out my touch daily. (I love her little nose nudges for attention.)

But even more recently, Maggie seems to have flipped a switch and decided that she wants to be like the other dogs.

Last Saturday, I updated the Sheltie volunteers (at our Sheltie Meet and Greet) on where Maggie was at in her rehab. I told them that Maggie had “watch me” and “touch” down, she had yet to learn “sit.”  I also told them that she still needed a long line on when she went outside because that was the easiest and quickest way to get her inside.

I guess Maggie felt she had something to prove, because Saturday night I held out a treat and asked for a “sit”  and she sat, several times! In the past , I had worked on sit without the cue word by holding a treat over her nose (like you do in puppy class) but each time it was met with nervous lip-licking and look-aways. It was too much pressure for her. She would back away or shut down. This time she not only sat, but she did it when I said the word! She had put the two things together on her own.

Then, on Sunday and Monday, I thought I would see if she knew the word “down” and asked for a down while also holding a treat near the floor. She did a down too! Not just once, but several times!

Maggie waits for cheese.#fosterdog #puppymilldog

Maggie and her long line

Then yesterday, Maggie’s long line broke in half while I was bring her inside. I groaned because I knew that I might be late for work since I would need to herd her inside. (This has taken me anywhere from 30-45 minutes in the past.) But apparently, Maggie had something else she wanted to show me. She took her usual route around the lilac bush and behind the chairs on the patio, but she went inside all on her own! I was shocked. She has never done that without me herding her in. Holy cow Maggie!

Last night I thought I would see if it was a fluke and let her out into the yard without a long line. Not a fluke. She did the same thing! She went right inside. On her own. And, this morning? She did it again. Could it be we are permanently done with long line? I hope so!

Jasper and his mini-me, Maggie. Waiting for cheese.

Jasper’s mini-me, Maggie

I am so proud of her. Maggie is pulling on all that information she has been collecting for the past year and a half and using it. Her sponge might not be completely full yet, but she definitely has filled a lot of holes. This is the very best part of working with a puppy mill dog. It makes it all worth it. Go Maggie Go!

Minnesota puppy mills: The fight goes on

August 11, 2015 8 comments

puppy mills 1There is one thing they don’t tell you when you get involved in animal welfare advocacy – the victories are short-lived, and perseverance is required to maintain the momentum.

The battle rarely ends with one victory. There are always those opposing forces to deal with, the ones who don’t want you to succeed: factory farms, big Ag, local communities and politicians, and the ones who may not care, the always underfunded and under-motivated government agencies charged with enforcing the change.

You can work hard to close all the loopholes and to ensure that animals are being saved, but one failure along the chain of implementation and suddenly the fight takes a few steps back, or is put right back to the beginning.

Last year, when we passed the Minnesota Dog and Cat Breeder Law, most people thought we had won the fight.  I think it would be more accurate to say we won ONE victory in the war against puppy mills and animal cruelty. Remember those opposing forces? They are always there, looking for ways to slow your roll. Progress is passing a law, but making that progress “stick” takes time, diligence and lots of dedication and follow-up.

As an example, take a look at who the Minnesota Board of Animal Health gave breeder licenses to this year:

  • Debbie Rowell of Country Pride Kennels – Debbie is the Pine River facility that was raided a couple of years ago. 130 dogs were seized in July 2013, including Maggie, my foster dog, and several other Shelties so damaged they will likely be in foster care for life. A Facebook page has been set up to keep an eye on Ms Rowell’s activities. We can’t know for sure, but given her past conviction, I suspect she will be in trouble again some day soon.

  • Wanda Kretzman of Clearwater Kennel, Inc. – This kennel was one of three kennels on the Humane Society of the United State’s (HSUS) Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Wanda’s kennel has had so many violations that the USDA filed an official complaint in March 2015.  She even made the worst list for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in 2013. Her violations go as far back as 1997.  The lovely Wanda has one of the largest puppy mills in the state (with more than 1000 dogs). Needless to say, it is hard to believe she passed an inspection by the MN Board of Animal Health. How does someone with this kind of history pass an inspection by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health? My mind is filled with theories.

  • John & Lyle Renner of Renner’s Kennel – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. USDA inspectors have found numerous injured dogs in their facility, including swollen red skin, eye and dental issues, damaged paws, etc. This kennel is so bad that it has made HSUS’ list numerous times. And yet, they too got a license from the MN Board of Animal Health.

  • Michelle Sonnenberg – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Repeated health and sanitation violations litter Michelle’s dog kenneling history. Sounds like a place you want to get a puppy from doesn’t it? You have to wonder why she refused inspectors into her facility back in April of this year. Maybe she was cleaning things up in anticipation of a visit from the MN Board of Animal Health? Hmmm… maybe so. After all, she somehow was able to get a breeder license from them. Don’t you wonder how?

(Side note: Both Michelle Sonnenberg and Renner’s Kennels sell to the Hunte Corporation which is a broker for Petland stores.)

Eighty plus breeders have received licenses thus far.  They had to submit an application and go through an inspection in order to be licensed.

am3_1403_thumbYou can read what the inspector looks for when inspecting these facilities in the Commercial Dog or Cat Breeder Inspection Guidelines.

You’ve got to wonder how the 4 breeders above passed inspection for  item number 12, which states: “Exercise. All dogs and cats must be provided the opportunity for periodic exercise, either through free choice or through a forced work program, unless exercise is restricted by a licensed veterinarian. (346.39)”

How much you want to bet Wanda Kretzman didn’t pass that part of the inspection? I can’t imagine how she is exercising 1000 dogs, but hey she got a license, she must be exercising them right?

You probably can tell that I am disappointed in the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, but what I am not is surprised. Like I said, we only won the victory, not the battle.

What the opposition doesn’t understand is that time is on our side. More people are getting knowledgeable about puppy mills and how they work. Petlands, and other pets stores like them, are failing (the Petland in Shakopee closed last year and I am hoping the St Paul store isn’t far behind).

And, as more people get educated on what these places are like, they are also taking action. When people realized that Debbie Rowell was back in business, her Yelp profile and Better Business Bureau status took a hit. (If you think Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil, is an aberration, think again.) People are getting involved and when they do, they take action.

So, the fight goes on. The battle is not yet won. More work needs to be done. 

Want to help?

  • Share the information about this and other substandard kennels
  • Educate others that pet store puppies come from these kennels
  • Encourage friends to adopt
  • Contact legislators to support legislation with tougher penalties
  • Educate others about what responsible breeders do and don’t do
  • Volunteer with or donate to Animal Folks MN & share their posts
  • Volunteer with Minnesotans Exposing Petland & share their posts
  • Report substandard breeding kennels to the authorities
  • Do not shop at pet stores that sell animals of any kind
  • Support pet stores that support adoption
  • Contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health: Phone: (651) 296-2942

Foster Maggie: Then and Now

May 6, 2015 11 comments

@animalhumanemn @sfratzke Maggie says "Good luck today!". Hope it is a great walk!I always find it funny how we humans can be so close to something (or someone) and not notice the subtle changes that occur.

We usually notice the big changes over time, but when we are too close to the person or animal or event, the subtle ones get missed.

If you have ever had a puppy you have probably experienced this very thing. Someone comes up and exclaims their disbelief at how much your puppy has grown since they last saw him/her and suddenly you see, as if for the first time, that your puppy has indeed grown several inches. How did you miss it? How did you miss seeing those subtle signs?

I would argue that we only notice the big changes because they are concrete packages of time that tell us time has passed The smaller changes are so subtle and so woven with the other moments of our days that they don’t stand out (i.e., we notice when the puppy can no longer crawl under the coffee table, but not when his back starts to touch the bottom of it).

The other night I was texting with a friend and was telling her about bringing Maggie to a friend’s house. I told her how shocked I was by how well she did.

The little dog who would run from my outstretched hand just a few months ago actually approached two people she had never met and touched them, several times. Even more shocking to me was that she chose to do so all on her own. She even stayed for quite some time so she could get some pets and butt scratches. I was seeing Maggie’s small steps of progress all in one moment and in my eyes, it was as if she took a giant leap!

My friend responded back that she had seen the subtle changes in Maggie too. I was so surprised. She told me that I should look at Maggie’s early pictures, from when she first came to stay with us, and compare them with the ones I have taken of her more recently. She said you can see the subtle differences.

And you know what? She was right! I pulled several photos of Maggie from the early days and compared them to ones I have taken in the past few months. She looks different now. Some of the changes are really subtle, but I see:

  • A less worried look in her eyes
  • She looks like she is less in a “high alert” state now.
  • She often laid closer to Daisy than me in the early days. Now she actually chooses to be near me when she sleeps.
  • Here eyes and body position seem indicating a curiosity that was not there in the early days.

What do you see?

Maggie then
IMG_2121

Scared Maggie in her new foster home

Maggie now
Holding my bone.

Guess she likes Daisy's spot. I told her not to get TOO used to it. 😊

Maggie then
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Maggie now (just a few days ago)
Practiced walking on leash tonight. #Maggie #fosterdog

Maggie then
IMG_2353

Maggie now
Miss Maggie wishes you a happy Saturday! #Sheltie

Maggie then
The aftermath of game night.

Maggie now
Time for bed #Maggie #Daisy

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Maggie then

Maggie - Former Pine River Puppy Mill Dog

Maggie now

I think she wants the leftover hamburger bun.#maggie

Maggie getting some loving at my friend, Cindy’s, house.

Puppy mill dogs as the Sad Story Dog

March 24, 2015 13 comments

puppy mills 1This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here:  BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)

The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.

You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid.  Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.

None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.

Oh yeah, that is the spot. #maggie #SheltieWhen foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?

All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.

As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.

Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.

A foster Maggie update

February 1, 2015 23 comments

It’s been a while since I provided you with a Maggie update. So how is she doing? Take a look!

Maggie is starting to seek out my touch. She often will approach me in the morning so I can pet her (like the picture below). She also is starting to enjoy belly rubs.

Look who came up for a pet! #Maggie #puppymilldog

Maggie stops beside me so she can get a pet or two.

She will do almost anything for cheese. Although we started working on hand targeting and “watch me” using cheese, she can now do them on cue (whether there is cheese available or not). She is also  learning “sit” which is HUGE for her since she can shut down if she feels too pressured (read more on pressure sensitive dogs). She gets rewarded for sitting every time she does it and I mark it by saying “yes”.

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Maggie loves Babybels

Maggie has also learned that she gets “cheese” when she comes inside the house from her potty breaks. I am still leading her in with the long line, but she now does not resist coming in. She also knows the word “wait” (Thanks Debbie Jacobs!) and will come to a complete stop when she hears the word. It makes it easier to grab her long line and lead her inside now.

She is making eye contact more often too. In the past, she would look away, or give me a quick glance and look away, but now she will hold my gaze and seems almost interested in what I am saying to her. Maybe she is thinking I am saying “cheese”?

Cheese please! #Maggie #puppymilldog

Maggie waiting for me to bring her cheese as a reward for coming inside the house.

Maggie loves Daisy. She will sleep next to her whenever Daisy is on the couch, and when she is outside, she will run to Daisy with her tail wagging like crazy. It’s really cute.

Two former puppy mill girls all snug as a bug. #Daisy #Maggie

She loves chewing on small bully sticks or pre-chewed bully sticks. She will wait until Jasper gets up from the one he was chewing and then steals it. Smart girl!

The girls #Maggie #Daisy

In the evenings, Maggie dozes on the couch or on a dog bed, but when it is time for bed she will put herself to bed(in her kennel). As soon as I turn out the lights, she wakes up, jumps down off the couch and goes to her kennel and opens the door and goes inside. She even waits for me to latch it shut.  (I used to leave it open, but she jumps up on my bed and then back down over and over again because she is afraid of the shadows and sounds that come at night.

All pooped out. #Maggie

The one thing I have been waiting for her to do is bark. The only time I hear her bark is when I just arrive home and I am still in the garage. She always stops as soon as I open the door. But on Saturday morning, she heard me playing with Jasper and Cupcake in my bedroom and started barking! That was a first. And today, I swear I heard her bark outside. I suspect her true Sheltie personality is starting to come through. 🙂

Fluffy feet #Maggie

Maggie’s furry feet.

 

Now we just need some extra evening sunlight and warm weather and we can practice walking on a leash!

Foster Dog Maggie’s First Year

December 22, 2014 15 comments

IMG_1963It’s hard to believe, but in a few days Maggie will have been with us one whole year. Puppy mill dogs can take a long time to rehab, so I am not surprised that she is still with me, but I am more surprised at how far she has come… and how far she has to go.  Seeing her progress through pictures is quite encouraging. I had forgotten how much fear was in her eyes in those early days.

Back then, Maggie spent her time hiding from shadows in the daytime (she often hid in my closet or the quietest spot in my bedroom) and sitting next to me or Daisy at night. She was afraid of every sound, every movement and every reflection that came through the bay window. Doorways were scary, The sound of cars driving past the house was unsettling. Barking from neighbor dogs was terrifying.

But over the past few months, Maggie has discovered that she likes being outside, “cheese” is good, and ice cream is even better. She loves watching my dogs do tricks for treats, and solve doggie puzzles, and she has discovered that she wants to play too. She is learning that life in a home can be good and that a being a dog is much more than just living in a box.

It’s been a lot of fun to celebrate the successes. I hope you will enjoy this short video I put together highlighting her progress.

Merry Christmas!

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