This Dog is Loved

"You were sick, but now you're well again, and there's work to do."

Archive for the tag “Dog”

And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief.

Elsa is fine and happy. And someone wanted her. Maybe not right away, but someone did. Someone wants ALL shelter pets and quite frankly I have my panties in a bunch here.

I admin a FB for shelter dogs, high lighting the dogs in danger at the shelter in my city I volunteer for. My city shelter who filed paperwork with the Department of Agriculture stating they received 1,960 dogs in 2012. 400 shelter dogs were euthanized, 464 owner requested (which is sometimes slang for “Owner surrender, no legal hold period, killed immediately”), 198 transferred to rescue, 387 adopted. Weird, I went to public school and all but I have a decent grasp on simple math and that leaves 511 dogs unaccounted for. Are we to believe those 511 dogs were strays that were reclaimed? Found magic carpets and rode out of the joint to dog land?

My city shelter, who did a mass slaughter on Monday before Christmas without any warning or pleas for the animals on the euth board. They were not full, just swept through and preemptively killed “a bunch” (kennel staff’s words, not mine) of animals. They did find time to post videos on Facebook of themselves as Christmas elves, so PHEW thankfully they got that covered rather than advertising the several dogs (and uncountable amount of cats) they killed.

The reason my panties are so bunched is beyond just that. It’s the crap every one willingly swallows. This crap is drudged up after I announced this mass euth on said FB page, including a lovely little gal named Salt (who was maybe a year old) that I had personally promised I would not let die. Someone had donated $100 towards her adoption fee (and she was already marked at $25 off, so a total of $125 off $142 regular adoption fee she was.. a $17 dog.) and I let them know she, and another dog they pledged on, had be euthanized. The response?

“That’s unfortunate, however they do have to make room for more dogs that are more likely to be adopted. And from what I understand both Salt and Butters had issues with dog aggression.”

No. No, no, no, no, no. Nope. NO. AHHHHH I don’t even know where to BEGIN with how much that enrages me. First, Salt was barely a year old if that and she was out with a volunteer while I was taking another dog’s photo and I let them meet. They played all over each other. She regressed with other dogs as time went on because surprise, it sucks to be in a tiny box all day while other dogs bark constantly.  I was not aware of Butters’ status with other dogs but HEY GUESS WHAT. They could have lived happily as only dogs! And sometimes, like people, dogs don’t get along with each other. I don’t even know why I am offering any sort of justification here but I’m angry on and on a roll. Are we really so desperate?

Second, to address a big pet peeve of mine, no dog is any more adoptable than any other dog. Rescue, especially in my area, has become this giant shitty ball of choosing to only save “the most adoptable” which means if you are a Pit Bull, a large black dog, elderly, older, not flashy coated, too hyper, whateverwhateverwhatever you are less adoptable than the Shipoo puppies. Since when did “who gets adopted the fastest” equal “better” ? Rescue has become this really creepy business where every one willingly discounts a life because it’s not young, or small, or pretty, or purebred, or because they get the rescue notoriety because BAWW THEY SAVED THAT DOG NO ONE ELSE WOULD SAVE! We tell people to REALLY think before bringing a dog home, then we cap any dog that sits in a shelter for more than a month. Your mileage may vary, but my local shelter never updates their Petfinder or FB. Two dogs on the euth board (but they killed at least 10?) and not a single plea sent out to save them. The internet is an incredibly powerful thing, but nothing? We’ve taken months worth of photos for PetFinder only to see them never go up. It’s a really foreign concept to me that it’s acceptable to kill a dog then pat the shelter employees on the back and say “They’re doing the best they can.” Look, I’m not saying any thing new here, but when I don’t even see minimal effort from a place that has a live release rate in the 50% I’m gonna go ahead and gamble and say that is not the best one could do.

This last week I have, however, had two good rescue experience. The thing that is (and excuse my language) fucking appalling is that I get excited when I actually deal with a rescue that knows what is up and is interested in saving lives. My city is over saturated, if you will, with rescue and somehow we euthanize “400” (I doubt that is the solid number) a year, and even if it was correct that’s 400 too many. The city shelter also only lists 198 dogs as transferred to other facilities which is pretty appalling considering there were 5 rescues in the immediate area. A friend of mine that does every thing she can to rescue dogs offered a local rescue A THOUSAND DOLLARS to take a slightly mangey, blind Pomeranian and they took that money and surprise, the dog was placed nearly immediately. Then she gets in contact with Midwest Small Breed Rescue (donate to those named, if you can) regarding a Chihuahua tucked away in quarantine at animal control with a large growth on his shoulder. By large I mean like.. HEY:

TUMAH

He was not advertised in any manner and quarantine is off limits to the public. He had one week to be reclaimed (if he had an owner and who would know he was there?) then he would die. My friend gets a hold of MSBR and offers the same amount of money for them to save him. They not only say yes, but they refuse her money, especially at that amount, because they don’t want to rip someone off on a surgery not yet performed. I drove little tumor man (now named Merrick) to the rescue founder and she immediately wanted to give us gas money for bringing him to her. All this rescue cared about was that he was safe and treated those of us who were involved along the way with respect. The second rescue is Hairy Houdini Siberian Husky Rescue, who immediately jumped to the plate when three Huskies in mushing collars (a Sibe and two Alaskans) landed in our animal control. They busted ass to find placement and to get crates to me to transport. I’m picking the girls up tomorrow (one of them was reclaimed) and taking them to their foster home. The rescue asked for nothing from me. These things make me feel better about rescue, but they also make me wonder. Why is there such a stark difference between rescue to rescue or shelter to shelter?

I don’t know guys. Blowing off steam here. I just feel like it’s time for someone else to cry in their car in the shelter parking lot, but not because they couldn’t save some dogs.

As an aside, An Act of Dog will be painting the beautiful Butters and adding her to the 5500 memorial. An Act of Dog is  a visual representative of 5,500 “portraits of injustice” of dogs who lost their lives in shelters. Shelter is not a synonym for death.

82709-Butters

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I knew you’d never forgive me.

but I was wrong, and I’m so, so sorry. 

As previously mentioned, my Elsa dog was returned to me this last Saturday. Obviously a lot of feelings were born as a result, relief being the most prominent. I think I was doing the right thing by wanting her to live a rotation free life. For her, and I can admit it was easier for us. I think I was doing the right thing and trying to be selfless because the reason I was so relieved was because I really love and missed this dog. For all intents and purposes, she was my dog and I should have accepted that while different it doesn’t mean our living situation isn’t ideal. If every one is happy, why isn’t it ideal? I digress.

I cannot confirm or deny any thing as I was not physically there, but the circumstances behind her return involved an attack on the adopter’s other dog. I am going to stick the the “facts” as closely as I can, because I will never actually have clear answers, be it what really happened or an answer in which I am satisfied with. The attack resulted in surgery, but the extent of the injuries I am still unclear on- just what they apparently cost in veterinary bills. My initial reaction was that I was very, very sad this happened. Very sad for the injured dog, and very sad for Elsa. The way I know her, something had to REALLY be wrong for her to react aggressively. I know exactly what went wrong with her and Jack McCoy because I made a mistake, but I don’t know what happened here. The story was that while the adopter was out of the country a house sitter was feeding Elsa inside with her, the other dog was outside and eating. I’m supposed to believe that out of no where Elsa suddenly burst out of a dog door she was too frightened to use previously and just attacked. I say that I am supposed to believe this because it’s passed to me third hand and the only witness is not someone I know or will ever speak to, and I’m unaware of their knowledge of dogs. I would consider myself to be above average in regards to understand what I’ve seen when a dog fight happens, but I know that in the heat of things it can be frightening and confusing. It was hypothesized that it was resource guarding, but RGing is a completely foreign thing to old Elsa and the situation itself regarding RGing doesn’t add up. Issues, even ones not previously known, can manifest out of stress. I could only theorize that perhaps her combated barrier issues were reborn under duress of the move and being with a stranger and perhaps seeing/hearing something outside triggered it. I can theorize a lot of things, but I wasn’t there and this is not as I’ve known my dog. I consulted with friends that I trust, and especially trust with dog related things. There was some back and forth over this before I was told a behaviorist would be coming out to observe and then less than a day later the conclusion she just could not be trusted and needed to be sent back.

I reserved some of my issues with this until she was literally in my arms. They begin with the fact that after she was adopted a handful of photos were posted, a question regarding how to teach her to fetch, and that every thing was happy and well. I never heard any thing else about her. In rescue I try to not be an overbearing foster but I was chomping at the bit having received no personal updates about how things were going, and led to believe they were going just swimmingly- until the news of this attack. At that point it still seemed every thing was fine until it wasn’t. This is where the roller coaster truly began. As concisely as possible:

  1. In her very first day, doped up and fresh off the plane, Elsa was given immediately free run of the house and introduced to the resident dog. This gave me a nervous feeling in my gut. 2 months later on the report of the attack I was told she had bitten the resident dog the first week and left a deep puncture wound. I did not hear of this at the time, otherwise I would have likely intervened earlier.
  2. When I raised questions that were not liked, I was told Elsa had been a problem the entire time. She was supposedly a big time resource guarder, leash reactive, and a bully to other animals. That the adopter would have not adopted had she been informed of these things before, and that supposedly (supposedly being a magic word here) a behaviorist had been working with them the whole time. Setting aside the fact that these are not things we experienced and have not experienced since her return, that at no point until it had allgoneverybadwrong I heard nothing of this, nor did any mutual friends to my knowledge, AND such language to imply I withheld any pertinent information, I was extremely relieved she had been returned because if all these things were true and so much so a professional had to get involved I truly question and consider it common sense that you would not leave the country and leave a new, problematic dog with a house sitter and your other dog- a supposed target in some of these issues that had previously been bitten. If any of that is true. If it was I figured I would have been aware from the beginning, or the dozens of other people who have followed Elsa’s life closely over the years.
  3. Elsa was returned to me in a condition I consider unacceptable. I can’t definitively draw conclusions on whether or not it was intentional, but the fact of the matter is she left us at 44 lbs and returned at 37. 7 lbs weight lose, for an already fairly small dog, is drastic. Her coat was so dull she looked chalky. Dandruff and fur fell out with every touch. When I observed her gnawing the life out of her own hip I discovered she was covered in fleas and scabs from subsequent flea bites/scratching herself. I removed a improperly fitted collar to discover her throat bald and a broken, coarse ring of hair around her neck. I could have just chalked this up to a lot of questions that were not going to be answered or proven, until I picked her up in this condition. For reference, the first link has seven pictures: http://imgur.com/1A6GSBa,ULHzI7s,nZnRPEH,TVmwsqN,G8xK0TS,Wg0CHJZ,IOexq7A#0
    http://imgur.com/uoOmTZx
    http://imgur.com/0lLus94
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=879539969799&set=vb.210800172&type=2&theater

For further reference, this is our beautiful gal the day before she left us: https://www.facebook.com/GreenandGrowing/media_set?set=a.853498033049.1073741828.210800172&type=3

Hence why I was not pleased. She also seems to have a urinary tract infection. Willful or otherwise, and regardless of the fact she obviously wasn’t emaciated on death’s door, I do not find any thing about the way she came back to me to be acceptable.

I am openly sharing this because I am willing to admit some sort of fault here. I can’t decide what my fault was, but I do know that I miserably failed this girl. This girl that I saved from death from the “rescue” that miserably failed her before, and however many people were responsible for and subsequently miserably failed her before she landed at the rescue we would meet at. My thought process in just adopting her may still not be right, but I know I can protect her here and not fail her again. I can’t protect her from ALL the things, I’m not a god of sorts, but I hope I can protect her enough that she has a happy ending. I have this tremendous amount of guilt and she’s just laying on a ridiculously giant bed covered in toys and chews.

The worst part, though, is that she just keeps looking at me. Every thing seems the same but something I can’t quite put my finger on is off. I have to chalk this up to adjustment period because it doesn’t feel like before and I hope she can feel right here again. A lot of people (in the spirit of good nature and moving forward) have suggested just that- to brush it off and move forward. In the beginning someone said something that resonated with me: “It’s not any different because the dog is Elsa.”

Yes, it is different because it is Elsa.

I’ll never get the balance right.

Putting an end to this brief saga, today seemed to be the day I connected with all the kind rescue folks in it to help dogs. Lots cross posted this lady and one recommended a place that offered placement. I checked them out and asked around to hear if they were a decent place and every thing checked out. I was briefly happy to have met my goal and now I’m right at the super guilt part of the cycle.

I haven’t the slightest idea why I feel guilty when I find placement for a dog. This dog was only meant to be temporary and it’s been a difficult temporary, so I should be elated someone wants to take her in. She’s really a lovely dog, but I tend to get really frustrated when things are difficult with my dogs. I’m not frustrated with them really, just the fact that it’s difficult with fosters sometimes because my dogs are quite particular about what they can deal with. Jack has a tendency to bully overtly submissive dogs, and this gal is just kindly enough to fall on his bully radar.  She’s a very busy dog, and that kind of energy greatly offends Jonas and he lashes out at this sort of thing. Thankfully my girls are happy to coexist with any dog ever, it’s just dealing with the boys. After Elsa, I just don’t have the heart to deal with a rotation system again. It worked very well with her, but it’s been hard on this lady and it will be good for her to get comfortable somewhere. Every one says “hey, you saved that dog from going to animal control and are now placing her with a rescue, it’s OK.” but the bad feeling still lingers. It’s been an unfair few days to my dogs and I really need not to gamble on dogs I have never met and can’t pre-introduce them over time to mine. As much as it nags at me to not get involved every single time, it’s more important that my dogs come first. I know I rushed into this because I really miss my brown dog. I had no idea how fulfilling she made my life until now but I need to get a grip and help in ways I can help. It’s just harder when people constantly message me about dogs that do need help. I am considering deactivating my facebook for a short time so I can have these melt downs by myself.

That and I am not a rescue. I do not have the means right now to BE a rescue. I have to do what I can without taking personal responsibility for dogs, but that sucks because these dogs are in these situations because no one wanted to take personal responsibility for their own animals. After my experience with the SPCA I just have a constant fear of what will happen to dogs I am not in control of. It scares me to hand this girl over to a rescue and expect them to make the same choices I would for her- and after all no one makes right choices except me! /facetious. I am just one of those foolhardy people who believe that every dog is worth it. Elsa was certainly worth it and NextDog could be another Elsa.

 

I just wanna SAVE ALL THE DOGS, you know?

How to become a pariah in one blog post!

It’s interesting to me that there are so many posts, memes, whatever out there maligning every person who ever takes a dog to the shelter. Not absolving those that truly are jerks, but what’s with all the “You would bring your dog to a shelter to die!?” when often times people really aren’t left with a whole lot of choice? Yes, if you bring your dog to a shelter your dog has a risk of dying. How big that risk is depends on the particular shelter, but let’s entertain for a moment when you’re faced with a dog you have no idea what to do with. Let’s entertain that because of the aforementioned dog I have here right now. Also, let’s not entertain it with the idea that I’m going to bring this dog to a shelter- I don’t do that nor is it the point of this post.

Saturday night I picked up these two dogs. Buster the Golden and Chelsea the Boxer/Pit mix. I’ve admittedly been kind of lost since Elsa was adopted, so when I got a message regarding helping them before the woman holding them took them to the local kill shelter I got involved. I like to help dogs, but generally where I make my first mistake is that silly part where I trust people to tell me a dog is what it is and they’re going to do what they say they’ll do. I was contacted at some point earlier in the week and so I started cross posting and asking for placement for these dogs. Offered transport and any help I could and that was supposed to be that. Needless to say a young Golden Retriever, despite being intact with no medical work up otherwise, was snapped up immediately. I STILL have rescues calling me today to take him. What do you think the odds are placing an older Boxer/Pit mix despite the fact she is spayed, an easy dog, and I’m offering to vaccinate and microchip? APPARENTLY NONE. I firmly stated to the friend of the now deported owner that I had no intentions of taking a dog without rescue backing or a place to go right now and she said if transport could be arranged she would love to take her. The red light is flashing repeatedly in my doofus face but god help me I like dogs and now I was involved. I did not want a 9 year old Pit mix ending up at our animal control, that had posted a week before that they were full to the brim and pleading for rescues to pull dogs with the same old “we will HAVE to euthanize some nice dogs and we don’t want to do that now do we?” so, I said I would hold her until a transport could be arranged. 2-3 weeks tops!

Until of course that woman stopped responding to me after I repeatedly asked for her information so I could put in the transport request. I requested her information 5 times and got bits and pieces before she ultimately decided she didn’t really want this dog and the best course of action was to ignore me now that the dog was here and my problem.

Don’t worry, I am an idiot and paying handsomely. No good deed certainly doesn’t go unpunished. Now I have this dog in my house driving me up the wall with no end in sight. I’m sitting in Elsa’s apartment with her because we have to rotate lest three of my dogs murder her in cold blood. The folks involved insisted she is a very calm older dog that doesn’t do much of any thing. That may be true if every one who happened to spend any time around this dog was blind, deaf, and confined to a small room without the dog. I am accounting for stress of being in a new environment, but she never stops doing stuff. Ever. Shambles is a busy dog, but this dog is a BUSY DOG. She spends every waking moment either bringing me a ball, snuffling every thing, or destroying the ball when I won’t throw it. As a result, we are rotating because that sort of behavior stresses three of mine out and it will result in some shit being thrown down. This dog is clearly not used to the routine of being rotated, so I get to feel bad for confining her every two hours and then feel ultra bad confining my dogs every two hours after that. She’s actually a very lovely dog. Does well with all dogs that are fine with her love of tennis balls and running them urgently through out the house, has nice manners, walks decently enough on a leash, and if we had no other dogs she’d be pretty welcome here and we could figure this stuff out, but I am a stupid ass. We’ll find out, but I’m suspecting that she has Cushing’s as well.

We are not having enjoyable times around here, which leads me back to opening statement. What exactly are folks supposed to do should they find themselves in these situations, with say even their own dogs? A dog that doesn’t fit with no where to go but apparently impending death? I don’t like death. I especially don’t like it for our canine friends, but I can definitely identify with having a dog in your house that turns every thing upside down. By this time tonight I have left messages with 40 different rescues in a three-four hour radius explaining my plight, Some of those messages the same ones that have room for the Golden but I guess he was worth it and this gal ain’t. I’m just musing here, but we really offer little alternative for these sort of situations except drop the dog off and hope for the best or pull all your hair out in the mean time. I do know that I need to make smarter choices on when to get involved and when not to and not every dog in the world is my responsibility, but that just feels yucky too.

I don’t know. All of this just leaves a gross taste in my mouth. I suppose I’ll stay up late with my beer and try to figure out how to be a smarter, better person.

I should have quit, but instead I took care of you.

I said Elsa’s heartworm treatment went easier than her spay appointment, but I just meant the ride there. The treatment itself was unnecessarily nerve wracking.

As I think it is appropriate to do, I informed our vet of her behavioral history and that she is fearful so special precautions have to be taken at this point in time. I thought to say she would not bite since at no point had she shown any propensity to do so, but that’s not really a fair assessment of any dog. Any dog can and just might bite, it depends on what gets them there. I did stress that despite some precarious positions she had been in, so far she had not so much as bared a tooth at me. The snaggle tooth is just kind of always bared.

I’m not sure if I contributed to the paranoia by thinking it is important to disclose behavioral inclinations, but either way paranoia crept into someone on staff and caused undue stress all around. I dropped her off shortly before 7 AM and then headed into work. She received her first shot of Immiticide immediately in the morning and was to stay over night and receive the second shot the following morning. By 11 AM when I checked my phone on my break I already had a frantic voicemail from a vet tech telling me Elsa was so stressed out that it would be best if I just came and got her right then and brought her back for the next shot the next day, give us a call, thanks.

Er.. what? My initial reaction was to go off the rails and get all worked up. My sweet scared lady was super stressed? I’m at work for another 5 hours but I need to somehow go rescue her RIGHT NOW? Then, as often my reactions are timed, rage set in. Wait a minute, this is a vet clinic and they don’t know how to respond to stressed dogs? They want me somehow leave work in the middle of my shift to pick up, drive home, drive back again the following day and then BACK home again a stressy dog that is even more stressed by car rides that is ALSO currently under going serious treatment? Why I oughta. I had a brief rage fest in my car and then called the clinic back.

I’m pretty certain I was a bit snarky in my return call. I can’t with any certainty relay EXACTLY what I said, but I know I started the call with a deep inhale followed by “Yeah.. I got a call..” but I was more than slightly miffed so we’ll have to give me a pass or something. I was immediately put on hold until a vet could answer my questions. Thankfully, the vet was more than slightly miffed at the notion someone suggested I pick up a dog in the middle of HW treatment. In fact, all she requested to know via the phone call made to me was if they could have my permission to sedate Elsa as she was a bit stressed in her kennel. We weren’t entirely certain how that morphed to OHGODPICKTHEDOGUPNOOOOOW and she assured me Elsa was doing little more than running to the back of the kennel and making bird noises (my words there, because that’s what they sound like. Yelling birds) which spooked whoever had to call me. I was also assured that they would never ask an owner to transfer a dog mid treatment. I gave permission to chill her out, every thing went fine, and I picked my lady up the following afternoon.

One of my major complaints about the animal care industry as a whole is the inability to read a dog’s body language. My second complaint would be those in the industry afraid of being bitten/clawed/body fluided on/etc. No one wants any of those things, but they ARE going to happen, so do your best to avoid them and get over it when they do. The biting part though, a lot more of that could be avoided with a little behavioral brush up. Dr. Sophia Yin should be your own personal animal Jesus if you’re involved in the veterinary field, especially her low stress handling techniques: http://drsophiayin.com/

I think we can all agree that it’s easier to get through things if you’re not stressed- human and animal alike. You ARE more likely to cooperate for a physical at the doctor’s office if you’re not afraid, on all fours on a table, ball gagged and in a headlock, yes? Well so is your dog. We have to meet with our vet staff in the middle. On our part it’s important to be forth coming about what your dog’s behavior, and physically work on those things at home. There is no bad age to start working on accepting body handling, but man is it ideal with a puppy. There are even youtubes, people! Youtubes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0xY4K4FTtw

Also a good idea to acclimate your dog to the office itself. Drop in before the appointment days and let them scope out the place. Positive familiarity with the surroundings and staff.

If your dog needs to be muzzled, muzzle your dog. On a whole we’ve been conditioned to fear muzzles and not want to use them. Muzzled dog = that dog bites. In reality, a muzzle is a tool no more frightening than a bike helmet. I don’t want to crack my head open riding down the road, and I don’t want my veterinarian or vet tech bitten if my dog has not reached a point where they can handle necessary actions. DO condition your dog to accept wearing a muzzle. YOUTUBES: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGLKrQaabRI

And most importantly, don’t panic. We have a neat vet with a staff we like, so we keep going back. Your vet staff is capable and good at what they do, and if they aren’t the good news is it’s OK to never go back and find someone who is. You’re in it for your dog and I know lots of neat vets who are too.

Elsa came back from her HW treatment to a 30 day quarantine. Minimal activity, no free running around nonsense, and 30 days of doxycycline. The first week of doxy went down easy and then suddenly she realized she had some choice in the matter of taking the pills. I think the hidden pill progression went from canned food to pill pockets to cheese to hot dogs to smothering them in peanut butter and putting them as far down her throat as possible.

Towards the end of her quarantine she became a bit more cheeky than her pre-HW treatment self. I don’t think dragging out a stinky rolled up carpet to roll on it was what the vet meant by minimal activity:

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I promise you I will learn from my mistakes.

Unfortunately for Elsa, we did not have the good fortune of moving slowly forever. Barring a single bordatella vaccination and a heartworm test (seriously, I should have picked up some handling skills from the SPCA if they were able to give an intranasal vaccine to AND draw blood from feral dog.. snrk.) she had no medical work up and was heart worm positive. She was just coming out of a heat when I brought her home as well. It was imperative we start treatment, but so soon? How? Well, good thing by about a month in this was happening:

Image

Well, that happened shortly after she ate the room she was in. The apartment attached to our house is a wide open basement space, then a living room/kitchen area that has a single bedroom and bathroom. Initially I put her in the bedroom, assuming she would remain weary of me for a long time. Not the case. About a month of hanging out together and we were having some positive, albeit awkward at times, interactions. Like the time she climbed into my lap and immediately regretted it.

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I call that one “Oh god, what have I done?”

She started hollering from the bedroom in the mornings, so we started to prepare the rest of the apartment for her to have free run in but she decided she would choose when she got run of things. We had some repair men over to work on our heater and after a short time one of them came to us and said “Your dog? Is eating the door?” and sure enough she was. We found her with her head and shoulder peeking out through the bottom of a half demolished door.

Now or never, so I went ahead and sent her spay and heartworm treatment appointments. I opted to spay and then treat with Immiticide, I honestly could not tell you if I made the right call here or not. Most familiar with heartworm treatment know your general options are the “fast kill” that is Immiticide, or the “slow kill” that is generally monthly HW preventative and rounds of antibiotics. The latter typically begin regarded as the kinder, gentler treatment. When I brought Elsa home I was determined to do the slow kill method since I figured she would be with us for quite a while, but then it dawned on me that physical treatment would limit her recovery otherwise. Maybe it was better to get her physically well first. Oh, I must have yapped about this and annoyed my internet dog friends to bits over what to do for weeks, so I’ll spare you the same anal thought processing I had then.

Her spay was uneventful. Getting there was interesting. She had never been on lead at this point and completely balked at the idea. She was a gal who liked to know where the exits were and not a fan of being restrained, even by a leash or a kennel. She was surprisingly unmoved by the idea of wearing the cushy fleece lined harness. Every day preceding her appointment she’d wear the harness for a few minutes while being showered with hot dogs. It was so easy, surely nothing could go wrong. And this is how common mistakes are born.

I never tried uh.. practicing with a leash on the harness.

Spay day comes and I suit her up, clip the leash on, and we step outside. We walk around the side of the house and every thing is fine. She stops to pee and then a car pulls onto our street. She turns to run back into the house and the minute she hits the end of the lead panic ensues. I’m not free? I can’t run for safety? Oh shit. I better chew through this tether preventing me from sweet freedom.

Don’t worry. What I lack in common sense I make up for in reflexes. I immediately grabbed the harness loop where the lead was attached and threw the extra slip leads I had around her neck. We sat and chilled out on the ground for a minute before I just opted to carry her to the car- which I should have just done from the beginning instead of trying to cram tons of counter conditioning into a few days AND while forgetting the whole point of the damn thing- successfully taking her to and from the car on the leash. And duh, cars exist, a person could have walked by, a Pterodactyl could have swooped down upon us. Point being, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you write stuff down. What point A is, what you want point B to be, and absolutely every thing that could happen in between. In this incident I end up looking like a dingus- even more so when I tell you I put her on Smalls’ specialty leash that cost a decent chunk of change and she nearly severed it in two points- when in reality she could have gotten away from me and been lost again where the odds of recovering her were extremely slim. Or worse, she could have gotten away from me and been killed.

If you HAVE to move a fearful dog, get that dog in a crate. Even if they don’t love said crate, there is no smarter or safer option. Too often I see transport team stories where dogs are lost in the same manner. In wanting Elsa to be as comfortable as possible I just bypassed a simple safety system. If you have a dog that is OK to be on leash, you might still encounter a Pterodactyl. Double leashes. I also like split ones that connect to two points, preferably one point being a harness and the other point being a martingale, but two slip leads will do just as well. Thankfully she made it to and from her spay appointment without further issue and the journey for her heartworm treatment went much safer and smoother.

My motto is to be prepared as possible, but if you mess up, you mess up. Do your damage control, dwell on it for a while, and don’t ever do it again.

It’s your choice.

I named her Elsa for two reasons. The primary one being that there is a lovely true story called Elsa the Lioness. It’s about a pair of handlers training a lion that was raised in captivity to learn to live in the wild again, and they in fact successfully released her. I thought at the time Elsa’s would be a dog version of that, except backwards. She came from living in the woods. I forgot the part where Elsa the Lioness met her untimely demise but details, details.

Second, I find little old lady names hilarious for dogs. I once knew of a Pit Bull named Louise and that just grabs me right.

Our first few weeks together were quiet. She wasn’t sure of me and I wasn’t sure of her. The SPCA could obviously offer no real background on her because she was in essence just an incubator for the litter of puppies she had. Puppies adopt for $375 and generally go inside of a day or two. Moms are whatever. What she wasn’t was feral. Feral dogs don’t go gently into a crate, then quietly for a car ride, then come directly out of their crate and stretch to smell the people around them. She was, however, quite scared but content enough to lay down on her blankets and stare at me. So that’s what we did. I sat on the other side of the room on my computer and she studied my every move from her safe zone.

This is the most rudimentary and important step for fearful dogs. Whatever they do is their choice and you just stay out of their way. You don’t interact with them, you don’t talk to them, you don’t even put even the seemingly smallest amount of pressure on them by looking at them. It seems counter productive to a person. We want to be proactive, but here proactive kind of equals out to inactive. Forcing yourself on a scared dog can have catastrophic results, but at the very least it’s counter productive to scare the shit out of a dog to teach them.. not to be scared any more.

Essentially for the first few weeks all I was to Elsa was the thing that came in, stayed some time, and left behind food. She had potty pads set out though I didn’t really pretend they would do much of any thing for her. I couldn’t exactly show her how to use them, but ah hell the apartment has concrete floors in most of it and I was keeping her in a smaller area of it while she settled in. She had bed, food, water, and an unwanted house guest every so often. I don’t remember a specific time frame, but it really wasn’t very long before she was laying right next to me. She’d take her time after I came down but eventually would make her way over and lay touching my feet, not taking an eye off me but eating up the treats I threw her way. And then another short amount of time later she was laying touching my feet and going to sleep. Then finally this:

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She was starting to accept the food machine. I want to stress that it’s important just to be the food machine in the beginning. The idea behind letting the dog make their own choices is for them to be able to relax and be able to make their own choices. I needed Elsa to know that every moment is a holiday and every decision she made resulted in a reward. Even smelling my feet meant she got a treat. Food is, after all, a universal language- dog and human alike- and a fearful dog eating in your company is a good conversation.

I’d write more in this entry, but I Just watched Shambles pick up an empty bowl, carry it across the entire living room before pausing behind Jack and ultimately sending it clattering to the floor right behind him. Things are gonna get dicey.

This is the first day of your life.

Lolly Doo and another dog named Jacobi were scheduled to be euthanized the same day in mid-November. Jacobi received her sentence for.. growling at her kennel sometimes. At this point it’s probably important to mention no such temperament tests were done at the rescue, and there was no one on staff or otherwise that was educated or capable. No the one signing the death warrants, and not the ones pulling dogs from shelters. The rules of the SPCA of SW Mich are “We only take the most adoptable dogs” with no real constraints on what adoptable means and to who, but if you didn’t fill those arbitrary requirements you were toast. And so it goes for Lolly Doo and Jacobi.

Except not this time. The only time in my year and a half at the rescue were dogs due to die allowed to be saved. The only time.

If you take a gander at their website http://spcaswmich.org/ they really love the tagline “Rescue, Rehabilitation, and adoption of abandoned pets.” So much so if you click on any link that tagline remains the header. So surely they would not want these two dogs to be euthanized and would allow employees to rehabilitate them, right?

Not really. A coworker and I asked the manager Katie Meskil if we could foster these two dogs and were met with a resounding no. These dogs would NEVER be adoptable. However, we could legally adopt them and sign waivers then we were on our own, or we could accept they were going to die. I think at this point it’s important to mention I had been an employee for less than 3 months and no one knew me from Adam, but I was given the option of adopting a “feral” heartworm positive unaltered dog with no assistance from these masters of rehabilitation in the future.

So I did. Our house has four floors, one of which was an entire apartment attached to the house that we didn’t have any real use for and was separate from the normal day to day with our own personal dogs. I had the space, the means, and the resources so I signed that waiver:

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That hand written waiver with my name misspelled, a mention of a vet with no notes or signature from them (and I would hope a veterinarian professional would not note that heartworm positive dogs are contagious) and that “feral” dog was mine. November 17th, 2011 shortly after 7 PM I placed a large crate just inside her kennel door and gently guided her in, loaded her into the car, and brought her to the first day of the rest of her life.

And for the first few weeks of the rest of her life she sat 10 feet away staring at me just like this:

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Some won, some lost.

It’s been nearly two years now since my early days at the SPCA, and I can’t remember too much of note from the first few months other than Zelda’s death. A Pit named Jay was euthanized in the first couple weeks but I hadn’t worked long enough to believe any thing nefarious had happened. I wasn’t “in” yet so the worst of the worst was unknown to me. Zelda I remember though.

There were a few Chihuahua like dogs brought in from an apparent hoarding situation. 70 some dogs in a house apparently. I only distinctly remember Poe, Link, and Zelda. Poe went into foster shortly after, Link was terrified and uninterested in any thing but his dog friends, and Zelda was completely shut down and terrified out of her mind. I’ve actually never encountered a dog more frightened than she was. She trembled in her kennel and it was advised not to open it because the moment she got opportunity she would run for her life. Her apparent foster home was the same fellow fired over the Parvo deal, and she was reported to be living under the home rather than in it and being rehabilitated. She then went into another foster where running for her life would ultimately end it.

Every day shelter employees at the bottom of the pole are faced with things they can’t do any thing about. You’re placed in these situations that are ultimately out of your hands that sometimes have catastrophic consequences. Zelda was one of those. A foster with young children showed up and I was asked what would be the best situation for a fearful dog. It was not that situation, but when you clean shit you have no decision making power. I stated it would be a bad situation, a very basic run down of LEAVE THE DOG ALONE and to put her in an area that was as far away from any exits as possible. There was another foster family I quite liked interested in taking her and I had talked with them at length about how to help her. I really liked those folks, but they subsequently stopped volunteering. Another good resource run off.

I think it was the very next day it was reported a door was opened, Zelda ran out, and she was hit by a car and killed. There is zero joy in “I told you so” when it costs a dog their life.

What happened to Zelda was (and still is) perplexing to me. Ultimately they failed that dog, but at least a foster was tried? Meanwhile, the scruffy shut down Pitty mix remained over in quarantine while she was no where near on the same scale of fearful as Zelda. She laid passively on her bed, went directly in and outside when her kennel was opened, and didn’t cause trouble for any one. I didn’t often work in the quarantine kennel but as the 5 months she was there went on she was allowing employees to scratch her through the bars. I was interested in this dog, who was known as “mama” and “Lolly doo” (what a stinking awful name) and made a few passing comments to my boyfriend about fostering her. As summer became fall I heard she would be going to a sanctuary and a volunteer was footing the bill for it. It was passed around that she was feral and it was her only option, where Zelda was.. not and OK for foster.

So you can understand why I was really confused when it was announced she was to be euthanized.

An interruption in your regularly scheduled programming.

Not that we’re on a regular schedule or any thing, this is only the third entry and all. I’ve just been sad and aimless the last few days, so I thought I’d tell you about my dogs. I just like them is all, and you should too. You know the roots of Smalls:

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And there’s a face to the name. She’ll be 7 in November and she’s your quintessential good dog. Never met a stranger human or animal but she won’t take any of your shit. If dogs are a reflection of their owners, she’s my mirror counter part. She was the tipping point of this whole dog thing for me so technically if we’re going to point fingers they should lead to the stumpy black dog eating sticks in the backyard.

This handsome old fellow is District Attorney Jack McCoy, though Jack will do just fine:

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He’s been with us a bit over 5 years now and we figure he’s around 9 or 10. He’s a Norwegian Elkhound and we found him in a rural rescue that has quite a lengthy history of bad reports. If you’re rescuing, it’s just as important to research where you rescue as it is what breeder you buy from. There was nothing exceedingly disturbing going on when we adopted Jack, but the rescue workers interactions with the dogs were mechanical and erring on the side of unkind, and most of dogs were kept outside. The winters of Michigan aren’t much to an Elkhound, but I wondered about the other dogs. I took photos when we were touring that accidentally reflected how much poop was every where.

Anyhow, we took Jack home. It was a “you have the cash, you get the dog” exchange and we knew nothing of his temperament other than he was quite content to ignore us and was stoic with other dogs. Lucky pull- because he’s a wonderful dog. Except, you know.. the barking.

And then there was Jonas:

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Or Pootie. Or Poots. Or Squeeps. Or.. oh, you get the idea. Man has a lot of names. Nearly 8 year old Miniature Dachshund and our problem child. Previously, anyway, he leads a quiet, cushy life these days. He’s wedged between my butt and the sofa as we speak. Jonas was adopted shortly after Jack from the same rescue. This experience was less enjoyable than the previous. He was a shut down mill surrender adopted to us unaltered and never once checked in on after we adopted him. For all that rescue knows we bred him left and right after we left. I didn’t, by the way, he was subsequently neutered but there was no reason for him to be adopted out before. Especially not a small desirable purebred even if he’s a little rough around the edges aesthetically speaking. This was our last venture to that rescue. Jonas has had a long road, if not longer than Elsa, and when he emerged from being shut down he was fear aggressive and not exactly a delight to live with. At one point in our relationship I caused a nasty bite to my face and I wonder what would have become of him had we not gotten there to adopt him first. Maybe some dingus that may not have pushed him to bite to begin with, but maybe someone who would have punished him. Either way, 5 years later and we’ve had much happier days together.

Oh sorry. I don’t think you realized quite how full our house is. Onward.

Now this gal. Oh man, this gal. Magpie is the crème de la crèm of dogs:

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Likes include: Hugging, being hugged, and hugging more.

I use that photo because that’s really how Magpie spends her time. One minute you have no idea where she is, the next she is smashing her wrinkly head into your chest, wagging her tail hard enough her entire body and the couch are swaying. She’s a roughly 10 year old squishy mutt that I spied on an online community riddled with mange, secondary infections, and nails so long she couldn’t walk. She was transported to me from southern Illinois and was our first foster failure. After an adoption gone awry. She was adopted by a woman who checked out on paper and in person, and we received updates on her. Even dog sat her for a weekend at one point. Then I received an e-mail from her adopter stating she was pregnant and did not think she could care for a dog- Could I come pick her up? I told her I would be there ASAP, but she said she panicked and did not want to give her up. It’s not always a mistake to trust in other people, but sometimes it is. I let her keep her and offered assistance in whatever way I could at any time. Then a few days later I found Magpie at the local animal control where she had been turned in as a stray. Her adopter denied it was her, but after I picked her up and confronted her with the obvious I never heard from her again. Magpie obviously didn’t deserve this, so she stayed. Throw in the new behavior of aggression towards children while previously in our care she was exposed to children regularly with no issues, it just made the most sense to keep her. And look at that face.

I swear this is the last dog I have.

Shamyams

 

Shambles. Aptly named. Another foster failure who came to us from Ohio as a wee baby. See:

Weebabyyams

 

Obviously he didn’t stay wee for long. Sham is my first foray outside of rescue in a way. He came from an oops litter with a long story that I’m much too lazy to tell this far into this long post. I fostered him for a few short months with little interest (and interest I didn’t approve) and I guess I was a bit guarded in the whole fostering deal because the last run had been awful. Only daddy is unknown, but he comes from working Alaskan Huskies and as I quickly learned that is a lot of dog to take on. Especially when daddy apparently contributed giant genes. Toss in some fairly bad resource guarding and you had a giant, hot mess. So he stayed, and he’ll be 3 this coming November. He’s a giant stubborn mook that loves long hikes, swimming, body slamming, and wanton destruction. Elsa was his best pal in the world. I have to admit he’s frustrating and I love him immensely. You will hear of him frequently because I think without him Elsa would not become the dog she did. His brother Squash’s ma also keeps a blog if you’d like to venture to Mushbaby.com and read about his adventures.

That’s the family. Oh there is this guy too:

Kitty

 

No, I don’t have a cat. Well I kind of have a cat. I guess he’s a foster now but I haven’t been able to place him with a rescue yet. I worked at a now closed dog sanctuary and this fellow came yowling out of the woods at me. Lots of coyotes in the area, so I loaded him up and he’s been residing here for the last month or so. He’s the friendliest, most lovey cat I ever met and I never so much got a single phone call about him. I guess no one was out there missing him, so hopefully I can find him a new home. Much easier said than done, even with the sweetest cats.

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