Tala’s Story: Lessons From a Mean Dog (Part One)

This is a long one, so I’ve broken it into two parts. 

Those of us in rescue know – there is always that one dog that opens your eyes and shows you exactly what you’ve been missing. They may appear early on in our rescue days, or they may not surface until we “think” we’re veteran rescue sages, just to show us that we really don’t know as much as we think we do.

To say I’ve fostered a lot of dogs is rather the understatement. I mean, I can’t even remember all the dogs I’ve fostered. That’s most because, as the “boss”, I’ve always felt it was my job to take most of the rescue burden. I also have never felt completely comfortable asking others to foster dogs that I haven’t met and evaluated myself. Anyways – lots of dogs, which means lots of lessons. Each dog is a lesson of their own, as each dog has a different personality and set of needs.

One dog, though, was a step above the rest when it came to being a professor of the fostering art. She was a scrawny little blue merle female Aussie, found stray in Oconee County, South Carolina (better known as Upstate BFE). This little dog weighed 28 pounds, and I could fit my hand around her waist and probably pick her up by her spine if I wanted to. At that point in my rescue career, she was the worst case I had ever seen. She was 9-10 years old, had very obviously been pregnant recently, and had heartworms and every type of intestinal bacteria you could imagine. Her teeth were all broken and/or worn down to nothingness, her legs bowed, and she smelled like a music festival port-a-potty. I named her Tala, which meant “wolf” in Sioux.

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Getting Tala home was the easy part. Being Tala’s foster mom, not so much. She was nervous indoors and paced constantly. Wire crates were out of the question, but she tolerated a plastic one well enough unless she knew she was being ignored. She was a trash-dog and counter-surfed, terrorized my cats if they didn’t stand up for themselves, and was rather overly enthusiastic with puppy managing. Somewhere in the archives I have a video that basically consists of me saying, “Tala, stop tackling the puppy,” over and over again. That being said, she got along fine with my older dogs and fosters.

Tala was sick – probably the sickest dog I’ve ever fostered, even now (with the exception of parvo puppies).  I mentioned her bacterial infections; it is because of Tala that I learned what giardia and coccidia smell like. All over the living room. I’ve never been a weak-stomached person, but I literally had to hold my breath, run in and wipe up a spot, then run back out to breathe or I would have vomited. Tala’s heartworms were also severe, and it took almost eight months to put the four pounds on her little frame that the vet requested before starting the immiticide treatment.

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While Tala’s condition taught me a lot about foster care (she was my first senior and my first heartworm dog), it was her attitude that taught me the most. You see, Tala was not always a very nice dog. In fact, she was quite the nasty bitch when she wanted to be. About a month or two into fostering her, I hated her. I absolutely despised that dog. She was cunning and manipulative, and she was not afraid to use scare tactics to get what she wanted. Her favorite thing to do was to slip out the door between my legs and take off down the street through the neighborhood. I would chase her, and when I finally got close enough she would flop on the ground, belly up in “okay, I submit” position. Naturally, my first reaction was to reach down and grab her by the collar to pull her up and walk her back home. NOPE. That little shit would bite the crap out of me the minute I touched her collar. She waited, goading me into making a mistake. Fortunately, she had no teeth so I was never hurt, but still – nobody likes to be bitten. So, this turned into me standing over her nudging her with my foot when she would belly up, and she would just lay there, four legs stretched out in the air, not moving a damn muscle. I would eventually get a leash around her neck and she would pop up, happy as a lark with herself for playing such a great game of, “Who’s really the boss?” One day, I got so fed up with her I just walked back home and told her to figure her own shit out. Of course, the game was over then, and she rose from the ground and followed me on home with no problem. That was the end of her running off, if I wasn’t going to chase her, then it wasn’t worth it and she needed to find a new game.

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As quick as it is to explain, it really took months for Tala and I to reach our understandings. Meanwhile, I was begging my rescue representative (I was nothing more than a young, green foster at this point) to move her to another foster. I would take anything if someone else would take Tala. I was fed up with her, we didn’t get along, and nobody was happy. My rep said no, however, and told me I needed to stick it through. Old dogs are different, she said, and we just needed time to figure each other out. Tala had been through a lot and needed to learn to trust me. I very reluctantly complied, and kept trucking on with this bat-shit crazy little bitch dog.

Stay tuned for part two…

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Foster Spotlight: Cyrus the Great

This is Cyrus – he is a Great Dane (maybe mix?) around eight years old. He weighs a skinny 100 pounds, but I’m not putting too much more weight on him for the well-being of his joints.

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Cyrus was left at a county shelter in South Carolina. This is one of my favorite shelters to work with – they hate rescues, won’t allow evaluations, and really can’t be bothered to hold any dog past its euthanasia date. I sure hope y’all get my sarcasm.

Anyways, Cyrus’s “family” left him with nothing – not a collar, not a name, not a damn clue anything about him other than they just didn’t want him anymore. So, when his time was up and no other rescue had raised their hand, I did. I’ve mentioned it before, but I really, really can’t stand when people leave old dogs to die in a shelter. When I picked him up from the adoption center, he sat beside me and leaned up against me with that big ol’ body of his, and I could just feel the tension melt out of him.

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Cyrus came with good news and bad news. The good news – he was heartworm negative, and oh so sweet and friendly! Cyrus loves dogs, cats, kids, you name it. He’s pretty awesome. The bad news – Cyrus’s back end doesn’t work too well, and he tends to loose balance and fall a lot. The vet thinks it’s a neurological thing, not a joint issue. On solid ground, Cyrus is perfect, but he has trouble navigating stairs, hardwood floors, and tight spaces.

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Cyrus is, of course, looking for a home. It’s hard to place senior dogs, especially ones like Cy who already come with the signs of aging. Cyrus doesn’t know he’s old, or that he’s “damaged goods”. He just wants a nice bed to sleep on and somebody to lean up against. He loves going on walks – he actually loves running in the back yard, too. He goes pretty fast for an old man.

Cyrus is fully vetted and microchipped.IMG_3323

For information about adopting Cyrus, contact me here!

Protect your dog (yes, you are your dog’s keeper)

One of the first things I tell people when they ask me about pretty much anything concerning dogs is, “Don’t set your dog up for failure.” It’s really a very simple concept. Most of the situations I see/hear about where dogs have done something wrong could have been easily prevented by the owners. The most common instances involve children, and then strangers.

1. Know your dog

You would think this one is a given, but it’s not. I meet so many people who genuinely don’t know shit about their dogs. I’m not talking about breed, age, name, that stuff. I’m talking about what makes your dog tick. What makes them happy, what makes them nervous, or what sets them off. Which situations your dog can or cannot handle.

When socializing my dogs, especially my rehab dogs, I do push them out of their comfort zones. I do it very gently, very slowly, and I know the moment my dog is officially “done” and needs to go home. I also know when my dog is acting like an asshole and needs a time out.

For your dog’s sake and the sake of the people around you, know what your dog can or cannot handle before throwing them in the fire. It will end better for everyone concerned.

2. Know canine body languageC--Users-Melissa-Desktop-fearposterpic-resized-600

I mentioned this in my dog park rant; it’s all about the body language (insert The Little Mermaid Ursula’s voice, please)! This goes along with #1. It’s really not that hard to understand basic body language; just go watch a few YouTube videos and read some informational articles, and you can at least skimp by. I’m not asking you to be a behaviorist; I’m just asking you to not be an idiot.

Knowing your dog’s body language will allow you to remove it from situations that could be dangerous for the dog or for humans/other dogs around it. Signs of stress, fear, or anger will occur before a dog reacts negatively. When I’m out and about with my dogs, I know every move and sound they make, and what those actions mean. That knowledge has ended a lot of skirmishes before they even started. Dogs are complicated creatures, but they’re not that complicated, if you as the owner will just not be too dense to figure it out.

3. Don’t be afraid/embarrassed to take precautions

I think this is one a lot of dog owners struggle with. Let’s say you’re out in public, and a stranger asks if their child can pet your dog. You can say no, and you probably should! It may make you look like an asshole, but at least you’re the asshole who’s not being sued because your dog bit a child. Also, if you don’t know for absolute 100% certain that your dog friggin’ loves children, please just say no. And if you do say yes, go back up to #1-2 and refresh your memory.IMG_3961

I took a foster dog to the clinic to be spayed, and upon turning her over to the vet tech, I told the tech that if they for any reason thought the dog might fear-bite, just go ahead and muzzle her. The tech looked at me like I was the meanest dog owner ever, but I would rather the dog spend the afternoon in a muzzle than bite a tech. It doesn’t make you a bad owner, and it doesn’t mean you have a terrible dog; it just means you’re using your brain in a situation you might not be able to predict the outcome in.

There was a situation recently in NC where a foster dog with a known bite history was taken out for a “socialization outing” with the foster/trainer and another individual. That outing ended with a bite to the face and a dead dog, shot by a police officer. I won’t voice my opinion on whether the dog should have been out in public or not, but I will assert that had that dog been in a basket muzzle, he would probably be alive today. Play it safe – dogs are too powerful to gamble with anyone’s safety.

4. Protect your dog

Why do you need to protect your dog? Because if you don’t protect them, they’re going to protect themselves. More often than not, when a dog protects itself, it’s going to be euthanized.  There’s been an email floating around about an eight year old Aussie whose owners are throwing out on the curb – why? The dog bit a child, when the child pushed on her bad hip. This dog lashed out in fear and in pain, and I’m not saying that’s okay, but I am saying that those owners failed that poor dog. They didn’t protect her. Eight years old, had been with the family her whole life and probably would have laid her life down to protect them, but they didn’t protect her from the child and now they want her gone. (They also apparently did a really shitty job of protecting their child, by the way.)

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Protect your dog from children, protect it from strangers, and protect it from other animals. It’s not cute and it’s not funny to let your toddler crawl all over your dog and pull their ears. Your dog is not going to “get over it” if you throw it into a dog park with a bunch of big, rowdy dogs that scare the crap out of it. If a stranger walks up and puts its hands in your dogs face, ruffles its ears, and slaps it on the ribs, it’s your job to say, “Hey bud, that’s not okay.” Don’t allow people to disrespect your dog.

Dogs can’t talk, and they can’t make decisions for themselves. I’m sure they would if they could, but they just can’t. It’s your responsibility as the owner to be their voice and their safety net. There are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners.

What you didn’t know about rescue (but really need to)

IMG_1803 As a sort of follow-up to last week’s post that got a lot of people all hot n’ bothered, I figured I would stir up some discussion on what exactly is the purpose of rescue. This post applies to most dog rescues; I fully understand that there are indeed rescue groups who do take it upon themselves to fill the niches provided below. Those groups are few and far between, however.

Dog owners tend to have a lot of misconceptions about rescue groups and animal control, and what their job is in society. Spoiler alert: it’s not to fix your problems.

1. We’re not rehabilitators

So you got a dog, and now that dog is causing you trouble. It’s snapping at company, herding/nipping your kids, tearing up the house, whatever… The likely reason is that you didn’t train it right, didn’t do your research, got a dog from a crappy breeder, or all of the above. Maybe you genuinely did everything right, and it’s just the dog. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter, because either way it’s not our job to fix your basket case. Don’t email me saying, “He deserves better,” or “She’s a wonderful dog, she just needs a farm,” or the like. You’re right, the dog probably does deserve better, but why do you think I’m going to risk getting my hand bitten off, or my dogs attacked, or my drywall eaten? Take some personal responsibility, change your methods, get a trainer, or, if the dog is a serious threat, do the right thing and have the poor thing humanely euthanized yourself.

2. We’re not your rehoming shortcut

By that I mean, if you decide your dog needs a home, do it yourself. It’s really not our job. We will gladly list your dog as a referral, share, spread the word, direct adopters your way, etc. We are constantly inundated with dogs from animal shelters that will DIE if they don’t have foster space. You took on the responsibility of owning that dog – take the responsibility of finding it a home if it needs it. And if your dog has some issue that keeps you from doing this, see #1.

(While I’m on this topic – it’s also not your local animal control facility’s job to find your unwanted dog a home. Animal control exists to hold and place strays, and protect the public from dangerous animals. If you surrender your dog to animal control, they will kill it in 24 hours.)

3. We’re not in the “business” of rescue

Those of us who are doing rescue ethically are not making any money off this venture. In fact, we’re probably losing money. Dogs are expensive, and we don’t exactly get the cream of the crop as far as health goes. So, no thank-you, we are not interested in you “donating” your dog to our organization (unless, of course, you want to “donate” a litter of purebred, vetted puppies). Our dogs are not “for sale,” they’re for adoption, and we have plenty, thank you very much.

4. We’re not your safety net

You didn’t spay your dog, and now you have eight wiggling bundles of joy in your bathroom (or your backyard, depending on what caliber of person you are). Guess what! That’s your problem, not ours. You’re the dum-dum who broke the number one rule of dog ownership.

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Zelda and Mako were “accidents” – Zelda was born in the shelter and Mako is deaf, so his breeder dumped him.

Similarly (this goes out to you backyard-breeder asshats) – we’re not here to take the puppies you can’t sell. We’re definitely not here to take your inbred, handicapped puppies that were born because you were either too stupid to know better or too greedy to care. If you want me to take your unwanted puppies, you better as hell sign an agreement to have that bitch spayed, or give me her as well. I will not encourage or enable your breeding habits.

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5. We’re not retirement communities

If you send me an email, and it says, basically, “Our dog is 12 years old, and we love her very much, but we just don’t have the time to give her what she needs,” I will pull out my voodoo doll and stick a dozen pins in your eyes. You are the lowest of the low. Tell me, please, what you think we’re going to do with your poor old dog.

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Cyrus is eight – ancient for a Great Dane.

I’m not sure what la-la land you live in, but there aren’t exactly lines out the door for senior dogs. You’re going to honestly sit and tell me that that dog is such a burden on your life that you can’t handle the last few months, maybe a year or so, of its life? I’ll tell you what – I’d hate to be your parents. Mom’s too old to be bothered with, just leave her in the bed to fester. Seriously, you disgust me.

 

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Bruce’s owner gave him up because she was dying.

Okay, I’m sure you’re asking by this point, so what the hell are we here for? That’s very simple, my friend. We’re here for the homeless, for the abused, and for the sick. Our job is to take dogs from shelters that don’t deserve to spend the last week of their lives in a loud, smelly, scary concrete prison cell. The dogs that can be rehomed with families that genuinely appreciate their presence.  The dogs that have never known love in their entire lives – only fear, hate, and abuse. We’re also here to help the people who love, cherish, and want their animals but life just won’t let them. For example, the elderly lady who’s being moved to assisted living, or the single man or woman who lost their job and can barely feed themselves, much less a four legged companion. Doesn’t your plight of “just don’t have time” or “we have a new baby” sound pretty pathetic next to all of that?

Dogs – all pets, actually – are lifetime commitments. You are their lives; you are all they care about and all they have. Stop shirking responsibility, and don’t try to rely on third parties to do all the heavy lifting for you. You thought you were good enough for that dog in the first place, now prove it.

Dear Breeders: Stop. Just stop.

Seriously – if you can’t do it right, just don’t do it at all. This is definitely a stab piece against dog breeders, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking. I’m not here to condemn dog breeders or spout the “adopt don’t shop” religion. The few good, responsible breeders that exist have my full support and respect. Of my five dogs, two were purchased from breeders, and I will most certainly buy from breeders again. I like knowing my dogs’ bloodlines, and I will pay the money for a dog with health clearances. There are plenty of reasons to get a puppy from a breeder (though there are also plenty of reasons not to, as well).

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Rugby (he’s so frigging handsome, isn’t he?)
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Delaney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what am I bitching about here? The breeders who don’t do their jobs. The breeders who just take their deposits and hand puppies off to the first people who write them a check. The breeders who don’t take their dogs back when the homes don’t work out. Here’s the bottom line: if you choose to bring a living being (in this case, a puppy) into this world, you better as hell make sure that animal goes to the right home. I don’t give a shit, frankly, if you have the most beautiful, healthy, conformation-perfect, whatever litters in the world – if you don’t make sure that puppy is going to a home that knows what they’re doing, you suck. You suck and you need to just stop.

I’m the director of a small, hard-working rescue in the South that focuses on Australian Shepherds and other herding breeds. We get a lot – a lot – of dogs. We pull from shelters, as well as take in owner surrenders. In the month of March, our organization received fifteen forms from owners wishing to surrender their dogs. Of these fifteen, seven were for purebred Aussies purchased from breeders. All seven dogs were under three years old. Let me spell this out for those who may not see what I’m getting at – every single one of these dogs was shopped for, purchased, and sent home, and then was tossed to the side when they started acting like, gasp!, Aussies.

Back to my rescue for a hot second. We have an adoption process, and it super-duper sucks. I mean, we put people through the ringer. We make them fill out a long-ass application, we ask lots of personal questions, then we call their veterinarians, their neighbors, even their coworkers, and we ask them even more personal questions. If after all that we still think they’re pretty cool, we send a volunteer out to snoop around their house! All just to adopt one damn homeless dog.

So here’s my question: if a rescue, comprised of a bunch of weird dog-ladies who have jobs and families and very little spare time, can manage to care enough about some unwanted reject-dogs to make sure that the people who are adopting them aren’t losers, why can’t a breeder? I mean, these dogs are born in your homes; you raise them! You probably raised their parents. You’re putting blood, sweat, maybe tears, and a lot of Clorox into the puppy endeavor. So why aren’t you being more careful as to where your puppies are going?

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Kara – I bet she cost a pretty penny as a puppy. Too bad she ended up on the highway pregnant, starving, and parasite-ridden.

I don’t want to hear the excuses, because you can’t give me one that justifies your actions, or rather, your lack thereof. It’s too time-consuming? Too invasive? You’ll never place puppies? Guess what – you don’t have to breed those puppies in the first place. You really don’t.

Yeah, this is another typical rescue-fanatic “down with the dog breeders” rant. We’re crazy, and we make your lives as breeders such a bigger pain in the ass than you really would like us to. But wait! Who is it that gets to fix the mistakes you make? Oh yeah, that’s me. Yep – your dog comes to my house. Your gorgeous, pedigreed, neurotic, aggressive, bat-shit-crazy dog with no training and no socialization comes to live in my spare bedroom until I can get it to a point where it can be a member of society again. Do you know how it feels to look at an eight month old dog and wonder at what point you need to make “that” decision (you know, the one that involves a needle)?

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Howie – SUCH a handsome Aussie boy. What a shame he had to been born blind and deaf because somebody didn’t know what they were doing (or didn’t care).

Maybe you’re a great breeder, or even a great dog trainer. Maybe your dogs are the image of perfection mentally and physically. None of that matters, however, if you’re breeding puppies and sending them to people who don’t know what they’re doing. You’re putting hand grenades in the laps of toddlers. And ultimately, when that bomb goes off, you’re just as much to blame. Good dogs and good breeds are being ruined because they’re ending up in the wrong hands.

So stop – stop cutting corners, and stop passing the buck. Breeding is more than good bloodlines, it’s more than Best of Breed, and it’s more than getting a merit badge by your name. If you’re going to call yourself a dog breeder, do it right and take complete responsibility for the dogs you bring into this world, not just for the first eight weeks of their lives.

A Dog Park Rant (the first of many, I’m sure)

I love the dog park. I love it for many reasons, most notably the fact that it provides me with a safe, secure venue to exercise and socialize my dogs. It also gives me a way to really understand how my foster dogs interact with strange people and dogs, what type of play they prefer, and which dogs they gravitate towards or avoid. Of course, I don’t leave straight from the shelter and head to the dog park, but after a dog has been tested and proven with my own pack, I’ll venture out.

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Fenrir, child-eater.

 

Since I got Fen, my ten month old Doberman foster pup, I’ve become a bit of a regular at the local free dog park. It’s a mile and a half from my house; I can walk, run, or drive there. I try and go after class whenever possible – usually I take Fen, sometimes one of the Boykins, or another trustworthy foster. Last night, I took Stream along as well.  Both boys were well behaved, and we went home tired. Mission accomplished.

So here we go – five for today.

1. Don’t bring a child to the dog park.

I’m really not sure why I even have to say this. Who in their right mind thinks a dog park is a good place for a small child? You are literally bringing a prey item into a pack of dogs. Anything more than two dogs is a pack, and dogs operate on pack mentality. They are running around, chasing, snapping, barking, wrestling – doing what dogs do. Then you bring a small child into the fold, that runs and squeals, and get mad at me because my dog chases the child? Look, I know my dog is mouthy, I know he’s big, and I know he jumps up when he gets excited. That’s why I took him to a dog park. Not a playground.

2. Don’t get upset when they play rough

Dogs will be dogs. They all have their different methods of play; some like to be chased, some like to do the chasing, some like play ball, some like to bark incessantly in other dogs’ face, some like to play fight. It’s instinct – play behavior in animals is practice for real life. If you can’t handle watching Buddy get all slobbery and growly with another dog, then go home. Most recently, the bitchiest violator of this rule also violated #1. Because my big, vicious, child-eating Doberman puppy chased the boxer who would not stop barking in his face.

3. Understand basic dog behavior and body language

This ties in with #2. If you can’t recognize the difference in angry growl and play growl, I don’t trust you and I don’t want you around. Why? Because you are either super sensitive, or super dangerous. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the dangerous part. Your dog is running around mounting other dogs, hackles raised, and you say, “Oh he’s just playing.” Nope, he’s being a dick, and he’s trying to start a fight. Fix it.

4. Know how to break up a dog fight

Fortunately for me, there’s only been a handful of fights while I’ve been at my park, and I broke up most of them because typically I’m closest and I’m actually watching the cues that led up to the fight in the first place. Also, I’m the crazy dog lady, so I don’t hesitate. But if dog fights freak you out and all you can do is squeal and cry, you need to stay home. Fights happen, they suck, but these are dogs we’re talking about. Your lack of self control and confidence as an owner only feeds into the issue.

5. Don’t be a dick

Probably the most important one here. I swear, last night some frattastic asshole came in with the cutest little golden retriever puppy. We’ll ignore for now that the puppy was probably too young to be there in the first place. Dude walks up, and the dogs rush the gate, so the puppy naturally hesitates nervously. What does he do? Shoves his puppy through the gate and says, “Don’t be a little wimp.” This guy continued to just radiate douchery the rest of the time, laughing when his puppy got picked on by the other dogs, the like. I wanted to punch him. Whether you’re being a tool to your own dog, or to someone else’s dog, or to another owner, doesn’t matter. Don’t be a dick.

Meet the Ladies (using “ladies” very loosely here…)

I have never really been a female dog kind of person – probably because, let’s be honest, I’m enough bitch for one household. My boy dogs have always filled my emotional needs as pseudo-boyfriends and best friends, and even in my human life I typically avoid members of the same sex. As someone who has had predominately male friends since I was in the sixth grade, I typically don’t have the patience for normal girlish antics (this is not always the case – I do require some level of “girl-talk” and shopping in my life, just not the normal level expected from most females).

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Somehow, despite all of this, I have managed to acquire three female dogs, affectionately referred to as “the girls”.  For the most part, these three are treated as a single unit, except the times that I single Delaney or Cady out for time away from Kara – Cady especially, because it’s nothing short of torture to subject a dog of her mental capacity to tolerating Boykins 24/7.  [I should note that this is only for Columbia activities. Activities that take place out of town where it is impractical to take all four dogs, they are separated into “Alpha Team” and “Bravo Team. Alpha Team includes the Aussies, and Bravo the Boykins. This works out well considering the nature of the two breeds and what each breed considers to be more entertaining than the other – the Aussies don’t exactly appreciate swimming days, and the Boykins could care less about a trip to the mountains.]

IMG_3006Delaney, despite my typical disdain for female dogs, was purposefully purchased from a Boykin Spaniel breeder in Kershaw, South Carolina. I had a male dog, and opposite gender pairings are the easiest to manange. She was, like Rugby, four months old and a remnant of a litter taking too long to sell. Unlike Rugby, however, there was not so much the instant bond with Delaney, and frankly I preferred the outgoing nature of one of her sisters. However, I am somewhat of a snob when it comes to a proportional dog, and Delaney was the only one of the puppies whose legs matched the length of her body. Boykins have a tendency to be quite squat in stature, and I am not a fan. So, I put my deposit down for the long-legged puppy, and returned two weeks later to bring her home. Delaney is a special girl.  It’s no secret that she is named after my favorite bar at that time, and she was purchased more to fill a void than because I truly needed a second dog. Not to say I got a second dog frivolously – I had thought it through, Rugby did enjoy having a friend around and would become quite sad when his foster siblings were adopted, and I knew and loved the Boykin breed well. The void-filling was simply the final deciding factor, and the last in a series of steps to declare my independence from an emotional trap that need not be discussed in further detail.

Delaney is a princess. A very special, very silly princess. I don’t keep her groomed very tidily, so her curls are unruly, her pigtail-like ears long, her feet display tufts of brown fur, and her “alfalfa sprout” makes her look not much different than a Who. Delaney decided early on that she was not made for sleeping on floors, and demanded a bed of her own, though she really prefers human furniture. Once we taught her to swim, she was always in the water, and she loves the game of fetch just as much as any good retriever (though she’s not OCD like her sister about it). She doesn’t always like to bring it back, however, especially if her sister is in the game. She is also a cheater, and will stay in the outfield waiting for the ball while the others in the game sit obediently by our sides while we throw. Delaney hates children, and if she’s in trouble she will begins to flail wildly to avoid being held or caught. She’s the type of dog that discipline has no affect on, as it just upsets her and makes her forget everything. There’s little reason to discipline her now though. She will be four years old on Valentine’s Day, and the only thing she really does “bad” is her tendency to bolt when guns are fired. Oh, and she crunches tennis balls.

Cady is my old girl. I love her, so very much. I saw a posting on Facebook one day about a pregnant Aussie in rural Georgia who had very little time left. She had belonged to a hoarder, and when that person died, it was up to animal control to go collect the animals. I’m not sure how many there were, I don’t really want to know. I just know that most of them never made it out.  It was Cady’s puppies that saved her, because this animal control unit actually had a heart, and knew that even if Cady was too unsocialized to be helped, her puppies need not suffer the same fate. We arranged a flight from Georgia to Columbia for Cady, and I picked her up in January (2012). On Valentine’s Day, Cady gave birth to nine beautiful black tricolor puppies (and chewed through some drywall and a door before doing so). We raised and placed the puppies, and for the next year I fostered Cady, trying my hardest to place her with anyone I thought could love a dumpy little dog that lived under the bed. We called her the troll, because she really only ever came out from under the bed to use the bathroom and rip up the carpet and eat the blinds when we forgot to crate her before leaving. Cady did find one adopter, and I sent her off in August to live with a woman who was quite hell-bent on taking home a dog. On the 30th day of a 30-day money-back contract, the woman called me and said she was bringing Cady back, because Cady wasn’t cuddly enough. I am still firmly of the opinion that Cady never intended to be owned by anyone but me, as she nearly pranced back into the house, stub of a tail wagging, and she was even happy to see my boyfriend who she previously thought was a terrible monster. It was January of 2013 still before I signed the papers for Cady, and only because I was resigning from the rescue she was listed through and would not allow them to take her away from me. That night, Cady lay beside me on the couch and put her head in my lap; I think I cried.IMG_2209

Cady is my poster child for recovery. When I got her, she was nearly untouchable. She was never aggressive, but always terrified. Men and strangers were murderers in her eyes. However, I refused to allow her to be consumed by her fear. I took her everywhere, and made her deal with houseguests. I never allowed anyone to violate her space, I simply removed her escape routes and made her deal with it. I am sure than many trainers would chastise my methods, but today, two years later, Cady politely requests attention from male strangers. She loads up in a car readily, she has wonderful recall, and she even has a sit-stay about 70% of the time. I can still see uneasiness on her face sometimes, but I also see bravery and resilience. She broke through her own barriers and became the dog she should have been allowed to be from the start.

Finally, there is Kara.  While Cady is the poster child for recovery, Kara might possibly be the poster child for why you shouldn’t do drugs while pregnant, or deprive a puppy of oxygen. Maybe that’s what happened? Maybe she took just a little too long to get out of the birth canal? That’s right, let’s not blame it on Kara or on whoever raised her, let’s just call it chance and plain bad luck.IMG_3057

Well, we can blame something on her owner. We can blame the fact that she ended up on I-95, starved, covered in ticks, heartworm positive and very pregnant on them. She was seen on the side of the interstate for two weeks before a kind woman caught her. I never wanted Kara, and I demanded that she be moved to a new foster home within 24 hours. I was too overwhelmed, had too many foster dogs already.  Some days, I kick myself for not sticking fervently to that demand. Alas, Kara never did leave my home. She had eight little bitty purebred Boykin puppies who all found wonderful homes, and after all of Kara’s treatment, I kept her, too. Kara is pure athlete, a hunting machine with a spot-on nose and the tenacity to take on the biggest of bears, if said bear had whatever she was supposed to be retrieving. She screams in delight at the thought of running through fields and cackles like a hyena when she is angry. Daily, I find myself sighing in exasperation at her. She eats Q-tips out of my bathroom trash, breaks out of every crate that isn’t zip-tied, pees in her crate, pisses off every one of her dog siblings, barks in her crate all night long, and is the single most obsessive IMG_3094dog I have ever met. I love her, I really do. I love her. I love her. She’ll get better one day…

The stories about Kara are nearly endless, and for the sake of this extremely long post, I’ll save them for individual postings to keep you all laughing as time goes by. She’s a funny dog, for sure, especially when you’re not the one cleaning up her mess or paying her vet bills. She teaches me weekly the blessings of patience and understanding. I’m not saying I really need those lessons, but she thinks I do, so I’ll accept them with open arms and remind myself that violence is never the answer.

That’s all for today, aren’t you glad? Until!

An Introduction (to my dog)

I’m not going to introduce myself; talking about myself is not one of my favorite pastimes, and I suppose if I keep this up long enough, you’ll catch hints here and there about where I’m from and the experiences I’ve had.

Instead, I’m going to introduce the four-legged creatures in my life. In reality, they are the ones who make me who I am; they are basically an extension of my personality. They’re also the most important things in my life. I suppose my family and friends should be, but in the same manner that one’s children become the most important things in their lives, my dogs and cats are mine. I am solely responsible for their well-being, their happiness, and therefore it is their priority that molds the course of my day to day. And I’m completely okay with that; this life isn’t for everyone, but it’s for me. Plus, getting me to talk about much else is a feat in itself.

The first on our list is Rugby. He’s the first on every one of my lists, and may always be. The ridiculously irritating emotional side of me will come out just writing this; this dog is the best friend I have ever had. He is my “heart dog”. When I was seventeen years old, my first Aussie, Digger, was hit by a car and killed. I don’t know if I’ll ever not blame myself for this, and I know I will never forget the feeling when I came home that night from work with the dog bed I had just spent my paycheck on, asking where he was. I cried for days. That summer I went to live for a bit with my father in Oregon. My dad (I’ll try to act like an adult and refrain from calling him “Daddy” for the purposes of this blog) is the one who introduced me to Aussies way back when. I was holding up okay as far as being dog-less went, but one say after hiking we stopped to buy cherries from a roadside stand, and I saw a little head pop up over a low wall. I knew that face; it was an Aussie puppy. I could have very well pup-napped the little thing, but instead I just cuddled it and held back the urge to cry. That night I started looking for puppies in the area. I found two breeders, and set my mind on one in Gearhart. I wanted a blue merle, and I wanted an eight week old. Digger had been a red tricolor, and I got him at six months old, so I wanted something different. There was one other breeder about an hour away, but they only had a four month old red tricolor. I immediately decided against that puppy and started making arrangements with the Gearhart breeder. However, one day we decided to go hiking at Saddle Mountain, which happened to be right by the “other” breeder. My dad convinced me we should stop by and just check them out – what could it hurt? We had time to kill anyways.

532271_10150896606687467_1420456990_nRugby was being housed alone in a stall. All of his siblings had been purchased long ago when they were little and squishy. Rugby was goofy, lanky already, with a silly face. They let him out of the stall and I knelt down to say hello. His paws went to my shoulders, and he tucked his muzzle up under my chin and just stood there, hugging me. It was all I could do to not cry in front of the whole barn of people. Needless to say, I had my puppy. We brought him home the next week, and I took him everywhere with me until it was time to fly back to South Carolina. He actually had to stay behind for another two weeks until my stepmother flew out, because my plane wasn’t outfitted for live cargo.

Since then, Rugby has been my constant companion. He is the world’s most amazing dog, and I promise I’m not biased. He’s beautiful, funny, talkative, athletic, friendly, cuddly, naughty, short-tempered, stubborn, adventurous, and too smart for his own good. Remember how I said dogs are an extension of their people? See, you’re getting to know me already. He adores all people, especially my family and friends. I take him to restaurants and bars, and my friends are happier to see him then they are me, I think. He does this terribly obnoxious squealing thing when he’s excited to see someone, and jumps up, spins his body around and falls into their arms, because he knows he’s notallowed to put his paws on people. He despises puppies and takes other dogs’ actions way too seriously. He won’t start a fight, but good luck getting him to quit one. He fights dirty, too, because he knows that the other dog will bite his neck, which happens to be protected by a massive mane, so while they do that he grabs a leg and thrashes. It’s quite ugly.

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 He tolerates my boyfriends, but essentially uses them for attention and play, until he’s ready to cuddle with mom. Then he steps on their faces while he jumps to see me. He is protective in what I call the “Lassie” way, as opposed to the “Cujo” way. I don’t know that he would ever bite a person, no matter what they were doing to me or him, but he will sink his teeth into my shirt and drag me across a room to remove me from a situation. He hates livestock, dirt bikes, and trampolines. He loves hiking and camping.

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Rugby will be seven years old in a week. I see the white hairs coming in on his face and it fills me with sadness. I need him to live forever. Where will I ever find another friend like him?

I realize now how long this has gotten. I’ve got to go; there’s a temporary foster coming in from Fayetteville shortly. I’ll write about the girls later. I promise I won’t just write about the dogs – but I will write mostly about them, so be prepared.

Until then!