Here is a photo from last weekend of Boomer smiling on our bed! He smiles all the time, now. He is doing great and has reached a number of milestones! He has passed the six month age mark, the fifty pound mark and graduated in awesome fashion from his first round of puppy classes!! He is now on week four of “Puppy II” classes and doing fabulously! Everyone wants to know what breed this beautiful dog is! I say I don’t know. Everyone is fascinated and charmed with his big ears. : ) They look like Shepherd ears but I am guessing he also has some cattle dog somewhere in his genetic make up. Thank you for saving him and getting him to us. He is a treasure.
Kathy, thanks so much for the photo and update! I love his look!! He looks a lot like my dog Bella who we also think is some sort of Shepherd/Cattle dog mix. He is a lucky dude to have such dedicated pet owners. It makes me smile to see him so happy. Thanks for giving him such a great life!
We live with killers. Did you know that? Likely all of you reading this are sharing your home and possibly your beds with a known assassin. Even the sweetest among them are lethal and don’t you forget it for a second.
Today I saw first hand, the violence in action. My sweetest of all dogs, Bella is ruthless when her prey drive is in 5th gear. She has been hunting a nest of bunnies in our big yard for a week now. Well, actually, she hunted for a day and then has spent the rest of the week inside. I had hoped that the bunnies would be old enough by now to get away, but I was wrong. I heard the squeaking while I was moving large rocks. I started running while holding a rock, didn’t get far, stopped to drop the rock carefully and ran to her, the whole time yelling at the top of my lungs “LEAVE IT!!!” (which didn’t work, even for me, by the way). I thought I had saved it, it looked unharmed and wiggled in my hand, but then slowly, I saw it’s neck moving strangely and, well, I’ll save you the details. The bunny just slowly died. I stood there for some time, marveling at the beauty that goes so largely unnoticed by us – those velvety ears, the tiny nose, the beautiful fur, the perfect little face. It made me so sad, so very very sad, the waste of it, the loss of such a young life. I walked with it to the edge of the yard and gently slid it to the other side of the fence. Maybe some wild thing will eat a meal today. Maybe the life won’t be lost for nothing.
But then I realized the hypocrisy in me – I nearly rejoice when they kill chipmunks – the critters that ruin my gardens and my morning sleep – why do I have such an arbitrary view on the value of life? And as I turned to walk back to the house, Hermes joined me with a low head, sweeping tail and a smile that said clearly, “wasn’t that COOL? Dude, SO cool!” And I saw Bella in the distance, looking for more. They do what they do without all the stories in mind – they just do what they know to do – chase little furry things that move fast, but not fast enough.
Spring is here and the pups got to play in the BIG kids yard with my dogs, Hermes and Bella and our friend Abby (who is Willow‘s daughter). They had a blast and were tearing around for nearly an hour.
Brandyleft us just over a week ago. It was her time, she told me so in many ways. I could see it in her eyes, her behavior, her abilities, they all said to varying degrees that she was done. I’ll spare you the details of her declining health. She passed quietly in our home, with the kind and gentle assistance of our vet. Euthanizing Brandy at home helped to bring closure for our family and our pack. Bella, Hermes, and Lollie passed her one by one, sniffing her body curiously, knowing she was gone. Kristin and I wept as Ryan asked lots of questions. The vet and his assistant who made the house call were caring, compassionate, respectful, and professional – as they were when we put Sadie down five years prior.
I kept reading and hearing that when it was her time, I would know. And they were all right. The topic had been a frequent one in our home for months, increasingly so in the past several weeks as evidence mounted that Brandy’s time was near. I wavered as I took in the information she presented to me. I really wasn’t sure until I was sure, if that makes sense. But once I knew I didn’t hesitate or look back – it was her time.
I miss her but oddly not as much as anticipated. I guess I had a long time to think about her decline and had come to terms with it gradually. These past months I spent more and more time sitting quietly next to her, gently petting and stroking her head, neck, and back the way she liked. As Brandy aged, she was very reactive to sudden moves or any kind of jostling so I moved slowly and deliberately. She would relax and slowly lick her front paws and occasionally my hand or arm as I pet her. It was in those moments too that I knew she was ready. On her final day I came home from work early to pet her like she likes. She was stoic, guarded, with a long stare that seemingly told me she’s ready. My timing was perfect.
Brandy is gone in body but not of course in memory. I loved this poem authored and read by – of all people - legendary actor Jimmy Stewart on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The poem is called Beau, the name of Stewart’s dog:
The end of the road is nearing for Brandy. I find myself conflicted on deciding when is her time to go – if it should be my decision at all. She could die naturally, but seeing her decline is so hard for me I wonder if it is not kinder to put her down.
I bought Brandy from Animal Kingdom on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago in September 1994 when she was 6 weeks old. She was always a fairly high energy dog who loved to run and jump like most dogs but I will always remember how she seemed to love the wind. On windy days she would stop in her tracks to face the wind, sniffing, blowing her floppy Snoopy years backward. After a short time, she would bolt from that position and run around crazy – sometimes just I circles – as if to celebrate. This is a vivid but now distant memory. She is old now, arthritic, and increasingly losing the muscle needed to remain standing on all fours. Her legs will frequently slide out from under her in all directions just while she is standing or leaning over to drink some water. I’m sure she wishes we had carpeting to assist rather than our wood and tile floors.
Boarding the dogs I once fostered is an interesting thing to do. I get to see what fine specimens my little babies have grown into and I get to see what characteristics from puppyhood are still with them.
Today we are boarding Otis, formerly Willow‘s puppy, Ash.
(Click on the smaller photos to see larger ones…)
A dog as young as Otis young who is that big had better have good manners…and, well, let’s say he is still working on it.
Hermes and Bella, my working dogs who go with me everywhere I can take them are helping me. Notice how Hermes is telling Otis, with his body who is in charge. And Bella, is telling the world (with her barking) what is happening.
After romping in the yard and getting to know one another we took a pack walk. Otis did well and it is clear that his owners are doing a lot of things right. He walks nicely and seems to know his place relative to the walker.
Those who know me often hear me talk about how to walk a dog correctly. I call it a “controlled walk” and here is a great photo illustrating one of my main points…I say, “pretend there is an invisible line coming out of each hip and no dog can cross in front of it.”
Tomorrow Otis leaves but not before another one of his pack mates arrives for her stay at our “doggie boot camp” – Abby, formerly Ginko will join in on the fun tomorrow morning.
Well, I am happy to report that I am not too old to learn a new lesson now and then. This particular lesson involves ticks. I was feeling superior to ticks, having not seen one attached to any of my dogs for years now. Regular use of Frontline Plus completely removed this pest from my life. So I decided to stop the Frontline Plus earlier than usual this year. It had been a cold summer and even though I had been told by many sources that it was a heavy flea and tick year, I had trouble believing it…I hadn’t seen any. We’d had a slight frost so I figured, season’s over, save a month of treatment this year. WELL, bad idea.
Two days ago, I found a tick full of blood on Bella. I immediately treated my three dogs who roam outside on our 3 acres. But I didn’t treat Brandy….she is 15 and only goes out for walkies and to potty. Yesterday there was one on her. Mike pulled that one off and treated her. Then today I pulled 8 more ticks off of Bella, they had implanted themselves already, and two off Hermes. I’m afraid to check Lollie but I will. Yuck. The ones I got today seemed unwell, so the medicine is working. I’m sure we’ll be all clear again by next week but YUCK! I hate ticks.
Moral of this story: Don’t stop your flea and tick preventative until there is a HARD frost, and for myself, I’m waiting for two hard frosts – just to be sure!
Doing rescue work with abandoned dogs is difficult, but those of you who adopt these dogs are the real heroes. It is a long and painful process, acclimating and rehabilitating a dog that has been abandoned, mistreated, or just ignored most of their early life. I have often recieved concerned emails from the families who open their homes to the mama dogs we foster. Their concerns are about the dogs’ strange, unpredictable and odd elimination “rituals.” Other concerns involve the dogs’ fearfulness around children, men, new situations or being left alone. Many rescue dogs take a long time to “warm up” to certain members of their families. Other concerns involve the dog’s distructive behaviors – chewing up wood trim, carpets, chair and table legs, digging holes in drywall. And still other concerns involve aggression toward other dogs or new people.
All these “problem behaviors” are normal dog problems but in a rescue dog they will be weirder. This is difficult to explain, but the behaviors also include hints to what the dogs’ life must have been like prior to being rescued. Take elimination issues for example. In a normal dog, they will poop in the house most of the time near the door …showing they get that they aren’t supposed to potty in the house, but haven’t quite figured out the whole solution. A dog with a “history” will hide their poop in the house, or poop in your bed or pee in their bed, or act really weird about pooping on a leash. One of my recent fosters, Willow, had and still has a strange way of acting on leash as she is about to poop. She circles like crazy, nearly running back and forth and looks practically frantic as she is obviously trying to find a place to poop. She would nearly pull my arm out lunging about. My first impression of her was that she seemed very underinformed (a nice way of saying stupid) about the ways of the world – she didn’t even know how to walk down stairs or how to walk on tile floors! I figured that she must have been tied up on a short leash all her life. Given that, pooping was probably really stressful for her. She likely spent a long time trying to find a place to poop where she wouldn’t be stepping on it and of course probably failed as she was tied up on a short lead. I suspect that this may be the case because when she wasn’t on a leash she pooped more easily and with less running around. But who knows, really? Only she does. But think about it… what if she was tied up on a short leash ALL HER LIFE. What would that do to a dog? I try to imagine what that sort of deprivation, containment, and isolation might do to a dog as I try to help their new families address their behaviors.
It is of course the same with all the problem behaviors that rescued dogs come with. Their problems “hint” at their history. Our rescue, Bella, came to us when she was about 2 and very pregnant. My story about her past was that she was driven off her property by being shot at and before that she was often teased by groups of kids who were around 10 years old. When she came to us she was scared of kids that age and would growl and snap at any kid that came up to her. She was deathly afraid of loud noises, especially gun shots (she would literally flatten herself out on the floor and run for it whenever she heard one). And we discovered a sad piece of her history one night when Mike came home from work. She had always loved Mike, right from the start. Every night he would greet her with his arms outstretched over his head, holding his lunch box and his gym bag and say in a loud voice, “Belly!” and she would squirm with delight and lay on her back at his feet begging for a tummy rub. We don’t usually get a newspaper but one day there was a free copy on the driveway so Mike picked it up on his way in. He entered the house and Bella came running to greet him. He spread his arms wide and said “Belly!” and she took one look at the newspaper in his hand and ran down stairs and hid under the couch. So, add being hit by a newspaper to our story of her history. This happened months after she had come to live with us.