Thursday, November 6, 2014

Everyone Should Adopt A Rsecue Dog / NOBODY Should Adopt A Rescue Dog

A new situation has shined a new light on our Nicki's inner thoughts. Her Dad was away on a business trip that lasted six days. At first she was totally fine. Dad hunts, so he's been away for a day or two before. This was different, and the certainty of her life became less solid. It showed.

When the Hubby is away, I use extra locks. For instance, I put the chain on the outer rear door. Of course the door can still be pulled open a bit, but it jerks to a stop with a loud noise and can't open any wider. Because I'm not used to using that chain that much, I tend to forget that it's hooked when I stumble to the door first thing in the morning. So, with only one eye open and Nicki clipped to her run lead, I pulled the door open. It abruptly stopped with a loud noise. Rather than scrambling away from the door, Nicki dropped to her belly and Marine-crawled her way through an opening that should have been too small for her! It didn't go smoothly. Nicki seemed desperate. She had to push her way through the barely-open door. I couldn't close the door to open it properly, because Nicki was wedged into the opening between the door and the frame. Eventually she squirmed through and ran off to the yard.

On the way back into the house, though, Nicki shoved herself past me and through a door I had only begun to open. Unlike the first time, this door wasn't stuck - but she pushed through anyway. Hmmm.

I forgot to unhook the chain one more time, and the same thing happened. It frightened me. The opening was so small - it looked like she could be hurting herself. Then I recognized this behavior for what it is: door-darting.

Nicki was a bit of a door-darter when she first came to us. Door darting is when a dog pushes past their humans to squeeze through a door as it's being opened. There are a ton of reasons for the behavior. Some dogs think it's a game. Some are over-excited to be outside. Some are actually trying to escape. I think Nicki's motivation is a combination of wanting to go outside in general and, in this instance, escape. The loud, jarring sound the door makes when yanked to a stop at the end of the door chain can be frightening to a reactive dog. Nicki has clearly been frightened in a number of ways - for a number of reasons. And, like many PTSD survivors, one trigger can send everything into reverse. That loud, jarring noise must have been a trigger for Nicki. She was in the area where the loud noise happened, and the only thought in her mind was to escape. Loud noises must have meant something really bad was about to happen, and she wanted no part of it.

So what do we do now? We start re-training against door darting. Nicki must sit with me between her and the door. Nicki must wait until the door is fully open. At each of those points, she gets a treat. Finally, when I give her the ok, she can go through the door. When she has done so, she gets another treat. While waiting for me to fully open the door, though, she cowers. She's uncertain about what's happening and why. I can't explain it to her. All I can do is patiently insist on the behaviors I need to see, and reward them when she complies.

That's why I say everybody/NOBODY should adopt a rescue dog. Having Nicki in our lives has taught me a huge amount about how dogs think and react, and how I must think and react in response. Raising a dog from puppyhood offers little of this insight. The dog grows up learning your languages; spoken, bodily, and otherwise. Little, if any, translation is needed. Every mindful dog lover would benefit from working with a rescued dog. The dogs have so much to teach us, and in so many ways.

Some dog owners, though, never really try to communicate with their dogs. These are the fools screaming "SHUT UP!" and "SIDDOWN!"at their hapless dogs. They haven't bothered to teach the dog anything, and yet they expect to command a behavior. They shouldn't adopt ANY dog - but they never recognize themselves. Instead they have tons of stories about their "stupid dog".

And finally, NOBODY should be able adopt a rescue dog, because in a perfect world, no dog would need rescue.

A Belated Anniversary Post

September 7th was Nicki's first anniversary with us, but we were too busy to write about it! Some people refer to their fur kids' adoption date as their "birthday", especially if they don't really know the real birthday. We don't. And we don't care. Life with Nicki began for us on September 7th, 2013, and no matter what we call it, it's a great day!

Nicki has made so much progress in this first year. We've learned so much about her, and from her. She's learned a great deal from us! This is one sharp little cookie. It always amazes me that she picked up on some things so quickly - almost automatically - without being formally taught. Two quick little hand claps means "time to get off Mom's lap/ Dad's lap/ the couch / the bed/ whatever." A light tap on the haunch means "please stop cleaning yourself so vigorously on the furniture!!" And Mom looking like she's about to sit down means "hurry up and jump before she actually lands!"

Recalls are, well, a work in progress. So is leash pulling. But we're working on those. The usuals (sit, lie down, wait, stay, off, stand) are down pat - but Nicki still needs to be in a cooperative mood. That happens more often these days.

But there are other, deeper, more wonderful signs of change. Nicki now allows most men to approach her, and even to pet her. When she first came to us, she was very fearful of men. The strength of her fearful reaction shocked and saddened me. She wasn't just hesitant; she was terrified. On many occasions, she'd pee submissively in fear. I've learned to stop myself from wondering what men had done to her before. There have been some signs (she's still fearful of loud, sudden noises, anything falling or being dropped in her vicinity, and feet being extended towards her in other than a normal walking step) but I don't really want to know. I can't go back, find these guys, and thrash the bejeezus out of them (although I'd love to) so I try to not allow myself to think about it. The best thing I can do for Nicki is to make her future so good that she eventually forgets her past completely.

Now, when I call to her and say "Nicki! Daddy's home!" she runs to the door to greet him! No more fearful pee, no more cowering. Many mornings, she'll crawl up in bed before the alarm goes off, kissing my husband's nose. And he loves it. He always thanks her for "such sweet kisses".

We go out in public without fear now. Nicki has learned to navigate the aisles at Bass Pro Shop, Runnings, and the new Field and Stream store. We usually spend 15 minutes when we first get in the door being greeted by every kid and dog lover in the place. And in those stores, there are plenty of both. Nicki takes it all in, sitting politely and enjoying the attention. It keeps happening as we move through the stores. She's always calm, stays close to me, and is neither fearful nor aggressive. If you want to know whether your dog is well socialized with people, hit up one of these stores! All will be revealed! And yes, I keep an eye on the kids. No sudden moves, thank them if they ask before petting, caution parents of tiny kids to keep the child in their arms. Nicki is smarter than a lot of parents we've met, that's for sure!

As far as socialization with other dogs, she's much less reactive. She's still not actually dog-friendly, but she no longer bark-warns other dogs for being too close for too long. That's at least partly due to me being more aware of her comfort zones in time and distance for contact. I know to help her keep distance and end the customary "checking of ID" before things get too close for comfort. Every time I get it right - which is most of the time now - Nicki comes away with a positive experience in meeting another dog.

It's amazing what a year of love, patience and consistency can do. That's the whole point of this blog. If you know of someone considering adopting a rescued dog, steer them here. I hope that reading our experiences will help to open a window on the adoption experience. Every situation is different, but some things are universal. Like how much ALL creatures need to be loved. Happy Anniversary, Nicki!

Monday, October 27, 2014

In Which Nicki Rescues Moonlight

Having a rescued dog in your family opens a whole world of information you never thought you needed. You learn things that never even briefly occurred to you before. And then you find application for them all the time! How is it that you never needed this information before, but now it comes into play almost every day? And NOT in direct relation to your own dog? Astounding.

The other day Nicki and I were headed to the Post Office. We go when they close for lunch. The boxes are still available; only the window closes. That way, Nicki can go into the Post Office with me without upsetting anyone.

As we headed down the street, a young woman carrying a child was walking up the street towards us. She kept looking over her shoulder. When she got within speaking distance, she told me that her dog had gotten loose and was somewhere in the neighborhood. Since I was out walking my dog, she asked that I keep an eye out for her dog, named Moonshine. A little black Lab with a bright pink collar. Of course, I agreed. "And if I do find her, where will I find you?" She gave her address - just down the street a bit. Just then, I spotted Moonshine walking through a church parking lot right next to where we stood. The woman called out to her - and Moonshine, recognizing that the game was afoot!, immediately began running off.

That's so common. I once watched a guy chase his off-leash dog around mine and my neighbor's yards for about 10 minutes. It was all a big game to the dog. My Border Collie, who was off leash in our yard but had a terrific recall, immediately forgot everything she knew and began running with the other dog! Terrified, I screamed out her name and fruitlessly commanded her to sit. She didn't even hear me; there was a friend to romp with! Luckily, she dashed right by me at one point and I was able to reach out and grab her in mid run. Yes, I was faster than a Border Collie. Fear is a great motivator. Our BC was not a rescue pup; we'd raised her ourselves. The yard had always been our home, and it was where all her training took place. so she was accustomed to listening to me there - until that day. The owner of the loose dog inexplicably gave up, got back into his car, and drove away, leaving his dog loose in the yards! I put Daisy into the house, grabbed a leash, and came out to try to corral the loose dog, but it, too, was gone.

Nicki, of course, is another story. For her, recalls are a haphazard event, and totally pointless unless she smells treats. Also, since New Spirit 4 Aussies sends home LOTS of excellent information with their adopted pups, I knew that the first year(s) are a dangerous time for rescue dogs. Not having adapted to their new surroundings yet, they are apt to run off. They're not actually running away from their new homes - they just take off because they don't yet have that home "feel".

Anyway, that means that Nicki is never off leash outdoors. It's just not safe for her. Her tie-out is very unobtrusive, and on a long trolley, so she feels fairly unrestricted in the yard. Nonetheless, Nicki used to be a bit of a door darter. If we weren't vigilant, she'd push through a barely-opened door to get outside. It only happened twice when it was scary. In both instances, my panicked call of her name brought her to ground immediately. Then, a few months ago, it kind of happened again. We were getting ready to go outside to hang laundry. With the basket on my hip, I opened the door, and Nicki and I walked out into the yard. In about 5 steps I realized I'd forgotten to clip her tie-out on. I calmly set the basket down, turned around, and patted my leg, calling her to follow me back into the house. She complied as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Wow - what a huge step. Nicki had remained by my side because it was just where she wanted to be, open door or no, tie-out or no.

Back to Moonlight. That's exactly how Moonlight had come to be exploring the nabe. She had door-darted. Nicki and I headed down the street as we had been, which was also in the direction Moonlight had been headed. I kept scanning homes and backyards. Pretty sure some folks thought I was up to something. Then, out of nowhere, Moonlight was at our side, sniffing noses with Nicki. I stopped walking, spoke quietly to her, reached down calmly, and slipped my hand into her collar. All the while, Nicki held her attention. I didn't really need all that training this time - I just needed Nicki. Moonlight didn't come to me; she came to Nicki. In short order, Moonlight's mom headed down the walk towards us, leash in hand. I held on until I was sure she had attached the leash. Then Nicki and I said goodbye to Moonlight and her mom and finished our walk.

Even though I didn't need any of the information I'd gotten about finding and "catching" loose dogs, it's still good to know.  Here's an excellent video to help you understand why your dog may run from you if they get loose. While Kat Albrecht explains this method from the point of view of catching a timid or scared dog, your dog may respond the same way to these behaviors, thinking that you mean to play. That's what Moonlight was doing. She didn't feel threatened; she was playing a game.These calming behaviors can also work to draw in a dog which has entered play mode in less-than-optimal surroundings, giving you the chance to help your dog back into a safer situation.

Nicki Goes Camping!!

Well! With the kitchen renovation STILL in progress, the Hubby decided it would be a good idea to take a break and visit friends. Yes! Awesome idea! Ummm...all of their extended family is also visiting. No Problem! Let's GO! Um.....and they said there might be floor space for us.

Wait - what? Floor space? We're OLD! And...CRABBY! Or at least achy. Hmmm. There's gotta be a solution to this.



Ok - back to Plan A: LET'S GO!

So we pack up the tent (a ginormous circus-y thing left over from the days of the Girl Scout Troop), the air mattress (the REAL double. Air mattress manufacturers do not have the same specs as regular mattress manufacturers. In the camping world, "Double" = single, and "Queen" = just barely the Double you have at home.), the sleeping bags, various and sundry accoutrement, and Nicki's crate.

Yes, crate. You may think that's mean. I used to. I tried "crate training" our beloved Border Collie, Daisy. She HATED the crate. But, as it turned out, maybe not because it was a crate, but because we had an all-metal cage-style crate. Yup - that sounds awful. But for Daisy - the awful part was the metal. I didn't learn that until much later. Daisy was extremely sound sensitive, and anything metal was automatically a no-go. She wouldn't even retrieve a toy that landed on our metal heating grates in the floors. A quick paw swipe and victory would have been hers - but the metal was as much poison to her as a crucifix to a vampire.

But I digress.

When we brought Nicki home from her final foster home, we initially put her into a brand new, very open but not fully metal, crate. Of course, halfway home, I brought her into my lap in the front passenger seat, where she finally relaxed and fell soundly asleep - safe at last.

Our pups know when they're safe with us. Doubly so for our rescued pups.

Still - for the first few weeks, we put Nicki in her crate at night and closed the door. In that way, she had a safe place near us (the crate was in our bedroom) where she could rest and be safe, and we could know that she wasn't scouting the rugs for a midnight pee.... 

Eventually, we'd leave the bedroom door closed, but her crate open. That extended her "den" to our entire bedroom. No peeing in the den. And it also allowed for cuddling in the bed with us - when she finally became comfortable enough with us!! A major coup! Still, even with the crate door bungeed open, Nicki often heads into the crate to take her personal time. It is her space. We respect it.

But - back to camping. Whenever there's a situation in which Nicki might either come under stress or be unsure of appropriateness (like peeing inside the tent), putting her into her crate and closing the door solves all problems. She does not feel restricted. How do I know? Because a dog that has been mistreated lets you know when she's being mistreated - even if it's only in her mind.

We set up camp in our friends' yard, and set up the inside of the tent almost the same as our bedroom at home. Nicki's crate was positioned so she could see us all night, but the door was kept closed to keep the possibility of negatives down.

And with all that set and ready, Nicki had a great time camping! She got to cuddle with us on our "bed" in the mornings, took long walks down the roads, and showed not one inkling of getting into the bay. No swimming for her! There were kids visiting, and Nicki loves kids. Bonus! There were lots of extra people to charm, and charm she did. One friend even told her husband that she wanted to get a Mini Aussie. Of course, I suggested New Spirit 4 Aussies . When people meet Nicki, they're always surprised to learn that she's a rescued dog.

We all got to hang out by the bay, spend hours talking with friends, and just relax. And Nicki got to do something that all dogs want to do, but rarely achieve: she got to spend two entire days outside with us! Dogs often only get to be outside with their people for walks. Or, unfortunately, as Nicki had been with the guy from whom she was rescued, they're tied out all the time - alone. These few days, we all spent as much time outdoors as possible - together.
Well! This is ..... different .....

Staying on the land side, thanks.
So many new things to smell!!

A quiet moment by the bay.

Once you've got one, there's no place like home!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Best Laid Plan

Just an ordinary summer morning. I prepared all the paperwork I needed for the day. Checks, payment stubs, envelopes, stamps. I got the empty returnables ready for a trip to the grocery store. I picked up Nicky’s now-empty water bottle to ready it for refill/refreeze. Even in upstate New York, August is hot. Pups need attentive helpers to get through it unscathed. A frozen water bottle on a gravity drip can be heaven on a hot day.

But today’s not a hot one. It’s within the 40/70 parameters for safety for dogs in cars. Nicki loves to go with me. I’m not so sure she loves car trips – but she does always love to go with me.

So. I load up my arms and hands with all the various objects that need to be moved/shifted/dealt with, and head downstairs. At the kitchen door, Nicki, full of anticipation of a forthcoming trip, decides it’s the perfect time to stop dead under my feet. In trying to not step on her, or to step over her, I can’t actually see her and can’t be sure of what I’m doing. I eventually HAVE to put a foot down somewhere, and – as luck would have it - I step on Nicki. Drat! I’m loud. Not at Nicki – but it doesn’t matter. Loud human voices mean bad things to her. Still, when faced with such a situation, I’m given to loud expressions of stress.

When I regain my footing, I see the cowering. I know what this means. I head for the paper towels, knowing that a urine clean-up lies ahead. Yup – right on cue. The trail follows her cowering movements. Dang.

I get out the Nature’s Miracle and start the process. I call Nicki to let her outside for the rest. She’s cowering at the junction of the bathroom door off the kitchen. I never said a word to her, nor did I direct any energy at all in her direction. Nonetheless, loud voices meant bad things for Nicki – in the past – and there’s not enough “new” past to change that yet.

I let her out, spray the enzymes around, and head down to the basement to put something else away. When I come back up the stairs, the change in light angles allows me to see clearly that she was not merely cowering in this spot: she peed. A lot. There is a righteous pool of urine sitting at the joint of two pieces of my brand new flooring. New kitchen flooring for which I have waited over 20 years. And dog urine is seeping into the seem…..

I mop it up, as I have done with all the rest of it. How can such a small dog have such a huge bladder?? And, again without scolding, I let Nicki back in.

Eventually, I realize that, in her fear, she peed – not only on my floor – but on herself. I have a no-rinse cleaner that I recently got from a hospital visit. I use the cleanser on Nicki and towel her off. She actually seems to appreciate it.

So – The enzymes are at work trying to save my floors. The no-rinse cleaners are at work trying to de-scent my pup. The urine is mopped up – and I hope my floors are ok. At no time did Nicki receive a harsh word or harsh treatment – but the shadows remain.

I almost tripped over my dog – and some @$$hole made it much worse than just a misstep. Poor Nicki expected something far worse than me being momentarily loud and unhappy. And in sheer terror, she urinated on everything, including herself.

Thanks, @$$hole. From both of us. Footnote: you’re not going to win. It’s only coming up on one year with us for Nicki. Eventually, this will stop. I’m going to prove to her that stuff like this doesn’t get her a beat down. Doesn’t get her tied out in a yard and ignored forever. Doesn’t get her abandoned. Doesn’t get her betrayed. I’m going to prove to her that events like this don’t have to happen at all. That humans can sound loud and unhappy without hurting her. That we all figure it out before the end of the day – and that we all get to cuddle in the bed together at nightfall. And all WILL be forgiven.

Because love wins, @$$hole. It just does.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's a busy summer!

There's been a lot going on. In some ways there's not much to tell, and in other ways there's been too much!

After 22 years, we're finally remodeling our kitchen. The last time it was updated was apparently back in the 70s. While it was a much needed project, it has thrown the entire house into a tizzy. There are very few rooms that haven't been pressed into service for storing boxes of stuff. The dining room is now a kind of camp kitchen. The front hall has become a storage annex. The whole place looks like either an episode of Hoarders or Storage Wars.

I was worried that this much disruption would take a toll on Nicki. For a rescue pup, a secure routine that they can depend on is a tremendously reassuring necessity. To our surpise, though, Nicki is just breezing through all the changes! She doesn't really seem to notice any of it! That's been a real relief!

Even though it hasn't taken a toll on Nicki, it sure has taken one on me. This amount of disruption is not something I can handle easily. And - as I should have expected - it's dragging on far longer than I thought it would.

Because of all that, we thought it would be a good idea to take a little break. We decided to visit friends in Massachusetts for the 4th of July weekend. Because they live very close to a beach where the local folks do their own fireworks shows, we thought that taking Nicki with us might be a bad idea. Her reaction to the few pops and whooshes right here at home (from our neighboring amateur arsonists...) told me that a full-on fireworks extravaganza would be too much for her. So, Nicki went to stay with Boomtowne once again. She'd been there before, and she knows many of the staff. They greet her by name! And no, we don't board her that often! Still, she hadn't been boarded for more than a couple days. This time she stayed for four days. And that was a bit of a problem.

When Nicki got home, things seemed ok. She was obviously super happy to see us, but otherwise, all seemed back to the usual. The next day, though, as I tried to get on track with a new computer (my other one decided to enter a coma the day we planned to leave for our little vacation!) I had though Nicki was napping nearby, as she does while I'm working on the computer. I decided to check in on her - as I do - and didn't see her nearby. That's unusual for her, and for Aussies in general. They prefer to stay near their people. Going through a rescue situation intensifies that somewhat. So - where was Nicki? Maybe she'd gone to the door. Might be potty time. So I headed downstairs to let her out - and found that it was already a moot point. There was a little poop. Oh dear. But - as a parent and a pet parent - I noted the texture and moisture of it as I cleaned it up. (Did you just say "eww"? Hey - we moms know our job isn't all glamour!) Looked like our girl hadn't been too regular during her longer stay. Ah well....

That was the only hiccup in the boarding experience this time. Nicki is back to her happy routine again, and I'm back to trying to have a normal kitchen again - but there's still lots of work ahead. Instead of such a long time apart, maybe we'll stick to some prolonged trail walking.

To keep things fun, we still find new things to experience together! Just yesterday, Nicki learned to eat Edamame! And by "learned" I mean just that. She tried to eat  the first couple of beans shell and all. But by the third, she had learned to pop the beans out of the shell and leave it behind! Hmmm - maybe chopsticks next?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Today many of us will be thinking about cookouts and gatherings with friends and family. That's fine, but off message. The point of Memorial Day is to remember those who served our country in the armed forces.

I just learned, through a friend, about a particular service dog who was a hero in WWI! We hear about dogs used in war, but we seldom learn their names or stories. It turns out that this particular pup was also, in a way, a rescue! He had been a stray!

Take a moment to remember our service men and women today. Enjoy your burgers. And read about the hero dog, Sergeant Stubby ! Read a lovely tribute to all MWDs at Dogster!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Walkin' the Dog

You probably have playlists that you like when you're dog walking. Me too. I put one together specifically for that purpose. It's 33 minutes and keeps up a pretty good pace. By the time we get back from a walk to this playlist, Nicki and I both have our tongues hanging out and we're pooped! If you'd like to try our walk on for size, here's the soundtrack!

Baby Blue                              3:37    Badfinger                    Straight Up   
Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat       2:12    Beck   
Catch My Disease                  4:14    Ben Lee                       Awake Is The New Sleep   
The Black Keys - Lonely Boy    3:13    The Black Keys            El Camino       
Bohemian Like You                3:32    The Dandy Warhols    Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia   
Walking in Memphis               4:19    Marc Cohn                   Marc Cohn   
Typical                                  4:12     MuteMath                    Mute Math [Bonus Tracks]   
20th Century Boy                   3:39    T Rex                           Electric Warrior               
Jump                                    4:01     Van Halen                    1984

You can also listen to it here  Listening is so much more effective than just reading song titles. Which is why I tried to embed a player for you. Alas, Blogger apparently doesn't like embedded players. If you can actually see one on this post, and it works, I'm very happy! I can't see it!!

Keep in mind that we live in a town with LOTS of hills, so a good chunk of this is done on an incline.

If you want to take a less athletic approach to a late spring/early summer evening with your pooch, I recommend Real Estate. It makes everything seem so pleasant and happy, which of course, makes it perfect for spending time outdoors with your favourite fur people!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dog of the Day!

Nicki has been chosen as the Dog of the Day for Sunday, May 18th!

How appropriate that our little ray of sunshine is a Sunday DotD!! Go over and take a peek!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dog Dreams

Dogs do dream, of course. Nicki vocalizes in her sleep. Sometimes her noises sound so human that I awake startled and ready to confront a human intruder! She sighs. She groans. She harrumphs! Pointedly!

So it's probably no surprise that I had a dream in which Nicki spoke. Words. In English. Clearly. In my dream, we were very excited about Nicki's speech, not because she spoke, but rather because of her extensive vocabulary. In my dream, dogs spoke. All of them. Quite naturally. Nicki's particular adeptness was what made this event noteworthy. Ah, what a lovely world I dream!

Then, my dream became a bit darker.

In real life, Nicki doesn't like people leaning over either her or me. She will growl, if it's someone with whom she's not very familiar, or she will whine or cry if it's my husband. She doesn't like anyone leaning over my shoulder at the computer, leaning over to kiss me, or leaning over either of us at all. I can stand toe-to-toe with the Hubby for a smootch and there's no problem. I can lean down as he sits in his chair to give a kiss, and she watches, but doesn't react much. We puzzled about this for a bit. I have a theory: most males, when trying to intimidate or threaten, will attempt to appear larger. One way to do that, which people do instinctively, is to lean over or toward the person intended for intimidation. In Nicki's previous life, there must have been a man who used that tactic, most likely toward a female in the household. Probably the same man who inspired Nicki to cower and urinate in fear simply from being in the presence of a male human. Musta been a real sweetheart.

But back to my dream.

In my dream, Nicki was curled up at my side as I lingered in bed with a cup of tea before starting my day. The Hubby was preparing to leave for work. We were enjoying Nicki's patter. Lots of "I love you!" and "I'm a good girl." Then, with coffee cup in hand, the Hubby came over and leaned down for a goodbye kiss. Nicki watched the movement, looked at his hand and said "Weapon?" We stopped and looked at her, remarking to each other that "weapon" was an unexpected word, even for such a sharp linguist as Nicki! She must have taken the coffee cup in his hand for a potential weapon! But Hubby had to get going, so we put the conversation aside as he tried again for a goodbye kiss. Nicki reacted the same way, but inched closer to me and said in a more alarmed and urgent way "WEAPON?!"

And I woke up.

To me, the significance of the dream was clear. That sweetheart of a guy who taught her to fear men so deeply was capable of such things. Not just intimidating a woman, but actually hurting her. Maybe even using a weapon.

We speak passionately about things in this house. When we talk about how angry a person or situation made us, we sound angry. And Nicki looks uncertain, hugging her body to the floor, watching to see if she should flee or leap to my defense. She defends me all the time. Even though the Hubby and I rarely even verbally disagree, she is always in close proximity to me if he is near me. If she's elsewhere and he approaches me, Nicki will appear out of nowhere, at my side, in my lap, at my feet, at the ready.

Nicki has been with us for seven months now. She stopped peeing in submission several months ago, but she clearly still doesn't completely trust the Hubby, even though he is absolutely her indulging "Daddy".  Maybe soon her fears will fade more quickly. Every interaction with men now shows her that the men she knew were not representative.

Maybe in a bit more time, her dreams will be sweeter.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nicki Goes To School

Nicki went to school yesterday! Not obedience school, although she's done that too. This time, Nicki went to visit the kids and staff at our local middle/high school.

I had been talking with one of the TAs at the school one day while we shared lunch monitoring duty. We're both dog lovers, and we got to chatting about our dogs. (Don't worry; we were keeping an eye on the kids too!) She suggested at one point that I bring Nicki to school near the end of the day so she could meet Nicki. Well, that sounded great, but I was skeptical. Could I really just bring my dog to school? So I asked the principal. I got a resounding Yes! "We're dog lovers!" she said. Wow!

So I resolved to bring Nicki in near the end of the following day. I was pretty sure things would go well. Nicki is only reactive with other dogs, and I know enough to watch the kids for behaviors that might trigger unpleasant dog reactions.

That next day, as we busied ourselves along, a number of folks asked me about Nicki and whether I was bringing her in. What a nice feeling it was to be so welcome! As a few folks sat at lunch in a conference room, one called out to me "We're waiting for the dog!" Someone else chimed in in agreement. Okay!

As the day drew to a close, I wrapped up my chores. There were a few, inconsequential tasks left. I was told to leave those and go get Nicki. I didn't have to be told twice!

Nicki came bouncing into the school on her leash and harness. I brought approved treats (so nobody was tempted to share lunches or people-treats) and my camera. As we jogged through the halls, kids called out and smiled. When we got to the middle school office, Nicki was greeted by one of the teachers, our middle school coordinator, Mr. West, and our secretary, Mrs. Maddafferi. So many new friends! Everyone got down on the floor with Nicki! It was wonderful to see. She behaved herself very well. She was a bit hesitant with the gentlemen, as usual. But we have some tremendously kind and understanding folks at our school, and they were gentle and patient with her. Nicki warmed to them. The treats didn't hurt!

Mr. West meets Nicki
Nicki and Mrs. Madafferi
Then we got to have some real fun. We visited Mrs. Pratt's room. She had asked us to stop by. Here, Nicki was in heaven. The kids, her special love, were just enamored of her. They got right down and began petting and talking to Nicki. And Nicki just drank it in, giving back some furry love. This was a particularly sweet moment. Mrs. Pratt is a Special Education teacher. Her students have challenges that make a school day, and sometimes even just a regular day, a bit more difficult. They can feel frustrated, or disappointed, or angry, or left out, or all of the above. While all kids go through that to an extent, challenged students deal with it more often, and to a greater degree. It's tough being a kid with a challenge. And it's tough being a great dog that nobody bothers to understand. Or that gets neglected. Or even worse, abused. But dogs do an amazing thing. They never seem to develop a hole in their hearts, even if they're neglected or abused. They always seem to have more than enough love to share. Especially with people who need to fill a hole of their own. Or even if they just need to be "topped up" to make sure they have a full heart.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Build A Dog's Heart

When Nicki first came to us, she was extremely submissive and fearful. She had been with a neglectful and abusive person prior to rescue.  Although she'd been treated very well by her foster mom, she had to be moved to another foster home just a few days before transport, then she traveled for more than 24 hours to get to us. The end of that journey landed her in another foster home with a lot of other dogs who had also made the journey. The day we went to pick her up was the day she got off the transport that had brought her north from Kentucky. That's a lot for a dog to go through.

We walked with her foster mom and a few other dogs, and Nicki. Just a brief turn up and down a nearby dead end street so Nicki could spend a little time with us before being whisked away yet again. When we had completed our walk and stood in front of the foster home again, Nicki put her front legs up on my leg and wrapped her paws around as if to cling to me. Almost the way a toddler does when they want to be picked up. She went to my hubby and did the same thing.

 Then she came back to me.

And I did what mommas do; I picked her up
During the process of signing the paperwork she wanted to sit on my lap. She's small, but she's big enough that writing with her on my lap doesn't work. So she sat leaning against my leg. On the way home, we put her into her kennel in the back, with the door facing forward so she could see us. About halfway home, we stopped to move her to my lap, where she eventually relaxed and fell asleep.

During the weeks that followed, we got to really finally meet our Nicki. It was wonderful. It was heartbreaking. She couldn't be near my hubby without dropping to her belly and submissively peeing. Every. Single. Time. She rarely looked at us, and looked away if we looked in her direction. She stayed near me, but avoided my hubby. Whenever we approached her, Nicki would roll onto her back and display her belly. Dogs love belly rubs, but this was different. She slept in her crate in our room, even though she was invited to share the bed.

We stopped rubbing her belly when she rolled over. Instead, we'd rub her chest gently while she was sitting up. At first, we had to physically put her into a sitting position to do this. Even then, she always wanted to offer that submissive, vulnerable belly.

After awhile, she didn't roll over so compulsively, so we put belly rubs back into her day. We kept up the chest stroking. We added a caress under the chin and jowls, gently lifting her face. From that spot, I could also rub her ears a bit. She didn't know what to make of ear rubs at first. How was it that those adorable, goofy, fluffy ears never got a rub??

Early walks on leash were completely uneventful. Nicki walked obediently, not knowing what I wanted her to do other than walk. A passerby noted how beautifully she walked on leash and complimented us. Little did he know. Even walks appeared to be foreign to her. She had been tied in a yard. Hey - the dog's already outside. It doesn't need to be walked, right?

After a few months, we were able to give Nicki some really good pats and rubs. Not on the top of the head as people seem to do, but along her body and near her face to get her used to "good touch". She began to lift her face on her own. She began to look into my eyes. She began to open her heart.

Nicki stopped peeing whenever she saw my hubby. She accepted love and attention from him without cowering or rolling over in submission. She sleeps on our bed on and off during the night. She prefers being there with just me, though. Now, when "daddy" comes home, Nicki actually runs to the door to greet him - even if I don't.

Whenever she visits her friends at PetSmart (they always remember us!) and Boom Towne, they remark to me about how much her confidence has improved. She has become much more used to being noticed because it's almost unfailingly positive. 

If you read the previous entry, "A Brief Heart Attack", you know that Nicki is no longer very mannerly on leash. She would yank me down the street if I let her. Doubly so for the sake of chasing a squirrel! And whereas before she would walk with me and do nothing but, she now stops often for sniffing investigations, frequently followed by a little urine marking. The word is out. This is her place. Nicki is home.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Brief Heart Attack

One of the biggest dangers with rescued dogs is their propensity to run away, especially in the early days of their adoption. They don't yet know that they have found a permanent home. They may not have bonded with their family. There are lots of reasons for a rescued dog to want to take off. I don't use the word "escape" because it connotes the idea that they're being held against their will. To an extent, that's true. But in a world dominated by humans, having a human guardian to protect you in that world is a huge positive.

Nicki bucks. There's no other way to describe it. Sometimes when we head out the door, she flips and twirls at the end of the leash. There's no mistaking this. She's not just excited to go out, she wants to throw off the restraint and have a run. The funny thing is, when I take her to an enclosed area so she can run off leash - she doesn't. Not even with my encouragement. She kind of walks around, sniffing, munching grass, but she couldn't be less interested in running.

The first time she bucked at the end of the leash, I knew immediately what was going on and it scared me. She's very agile. Despite her small size, she's also really strong. I knew this could be trouble. Sure enough, she threw her collar at one point. I was sure it was correctly fitted. I was wrong.

I got harnesses for Nicki. I always preferred walking on harness anyway. Using only a collar and leash seemed kind of harsh to me. Sizing is tricky. Nicki is too large for most small harnesses, even when fully extended. She's almost too small for medium harnesses when fully contracted! I reasoned that a fully contracted medium harness would work for her because it went completely around the body and around both front legs. I wasn't exactly wrong, but also wasn't exactly right.

A few days ago, we headed out to run some errands. I turned toward the garage. Nicki had a different idea. She wanted to go for a walk. She bucked - and threw off her harness! She headed straight for the street, the direction which begins our walks. My heart stopped. I immediately dropped everything, including the empty leash, and ran down the driveway after her yelling "Nicki! Come!" I felt helpless. Nicki has no recall. It's been a deep snow winter, and she had been constrained by nature as well as her tie-out. There wasn't much space in which to practice recalls. I figured we'd start working on that again this spring.

But we needed a recall right now. Luckily, Nicki must have sensed the fear in my voice, and did what she had done that time she threw off her collar. She veered up onto the grass of the front yard, dropped down, and let me catch up to her. When I got to her, I scooped her up in my arms, grabbed the leash on the way into the house, and went directly inside.

There, I saw the problem. The harness had pulled loose - more on one side than the other. If you know me, you know I'm too OCD to adjust straps unevenly. Not only does Nicki buck, she pulls on the leash. If she sees a squirrel, the force she exerts is amazing! And no, I haven't practiced loose leash walking as I should. Honestly, as long as she doesn't drag me down the street, I don't mind the pulling. I'm more focussed on giving her a good experience and a break from being indoors. But all that pulling must have loosened the harness straps, and out she popped! I tightened the straps, pushed the sliders up to hold the straps more firmly in place, and tried again.

In the course of all this, I had a bizarrely comforting thought. If Nicki ever does actually run away, she'll wind up going to someone for help. She loves people. Not all men, but women and kids are her friends, and she goes to them without hesitation. I doubt that she'd stay out on her own for long. Of course I'd hope the people she goes to would have her chip scanned and bring her home to me - but knowing how fond she is of human attention is a comforting thought. 

I'm going to be checking that harness every time we go out. I'm going to be developing a recall. I'm going to be working on not pulling on leash. I'm going to thanks my stars that Nicki is still here with me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

1 Step Forward, a Few Sashays to the Side ......

We've been having accidents again.

There's this one spot in the dining room. Luckily, it's a really cheap rug. If we have to, it can get tossed. Still, I'd rather keep the rug.

And we're DEFINITELY keeping the dog.

I used to mention the accidents to her rescuers as part of my general updates, but I stopped. They seemed to be a bit defensive about it. I think I get it. People actually do "give up" pets for such things. And by "give up" I mean abandon. Your pet isn't perfect, so you opt to not cope. That's abandonment. The Rescue (New Spirit 4 Aussies) didn't want me to abandon Nicki like she'd been abandoned before. They should have more faith in themselves. They picked me. I have no intention of letting Nicki, or NS4A down.

The Hubs and I spoke briefly this morning about the situation. The pee is intermittant. Sporadic. Our fur girl doesn't seem to like going outside to actually do her business all the time, but she's all gung-ho about going out to walk or play.

I looked for advice online. She's 3-5 years old, so we're not talking about house training a puppy. Of course, teh Interwebs is full of "advice" on the issue, including rubbing the dog's nose in it and swatting him with a rolled-up newspaper. Seriously?!? Still?!?

I found info on the ASPCA site. Ah - a credible source! And I may have found info that actually applies.

If you've been following Nicki's story, you know that prior to her rescue, Nicki had been left outside tied to a fence for a prolonged time. Long enough that all the spots had been sunburned off her nose. (They're coming back now. And they're adorable!) Since we don't have any real information, there are a few scenarios I can imagine that would lead up to the situation from which Nicki was rescued.

Scene 1: Nicki's cute. Someone got a cute dog, but never bothered to actually house train her. It takes more time and patience than some people anticipate. Add to that, if the dog is left home alone during working hours, there's nobody to continue the training through the day. On top of that, she's small. There is a physical reality about small dogs: small bladders. After coming home to puddles repeatedly, someone might resort to tying the dog out all the time. Obviously, that's not a good choice.

Scene 2: Nicki may not have always live with the household from which she was rescued. From her behavior and manners, I'd guess that at another time in her life, Miss Nicki was someone's pampered pet. Much as she is now. She craves attention, and doesn't like being separated from her people, especially me.

On the last few occasions I had to be away from her briefly, she pulled a silk scarf out of my yoga bag. She did no damage whatsoever. I think she cuddled with it. Another time, she got my leather gloves off the kitchen table. The Hubs found them in her bed. The only marks on them were very light ones from when she carried them to her bed, again, I suspect, to cuddle with my scent. I worked three full days in a row last week. That's unusual. The first day went well with no problems. The second day, we got a poop on the rug. The third day, we got a piddle puddle. So, the net result of all these stories is: Nicki gets separation anxiety. She mostly handles it well, but she does still experience it.

Which brings us back to Scene 2. If the guy who kept her tied out was not her original family, she may have been experiencing separation anxiety. An impatient person might decide the "dumb dog" can't be house trained, and exile them from the house. Although she's one of the least destructive dogs I've ever known, that anxiety has to find an outlet, and for Nicki, that can be "inappropriate" elimination.

I use quotes because there's very little that dogs consider inappropriate!!

So what's the point of writing all this? To encourage newer adopters not to give up. Don't be discouraged. And DOUBLE DOWN. We're going to be going back to basic training. Nicki's pretty good about going to the door when she needs to go out. As long as she can't get to that spot on the rug, she'll wait. So - we're going to make sure that dining room door stays closed. Hopefully at some point we'll be able to leave it open (we have to go through that room to get through the house), but for now, it stays closed.

Another thing we need to alter is our approach to treating appropriate elimination. I realized this morning that we give Nicky a treat every time she does her business outside - but we actually give the treat when she comes IN. I'm going to try staying out in the yard with her and giving the treat outside immediately after elimination.

And - I just realized that I'm writing about accidents AGAIN. Well, it's a genuine problem. And the point of writing this is to encourage adopters to keep on keeping on.

The conversation between the Hubs and myself this morning was short. It consisted of us telling each other that we hoped the accidents would eventually truly stop - but that every morning with Nicki was such a joyfest (The DH's term) that we really don't care that much. Life with Nicki is so much nicer that an excessively clean rug is not a deal-breaker. There will be no "return to sender" on this pup. Absolutely not.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Where Everybody Knows Your (Dog's) Name .....

The weather has been miserable!! Mud mud mud and more mud! Rain yesterday. And this morning, we woke to a fresh, deep coating of .... white cement!! Hardly nice fluffy snow - this stuff sticks to everything and weighs a ton! It's been really hard to take Nicki for a walk without needing a sponge bath afterward.

Yesterday we went for a long walk around Bass Pro. Lots of people don't realize that Bass Pro is very dog-friendly! They even have a dog treat waiting at the turnstiles! And most of the staff wanted to greet Nicki. It makes sense that Bass Pro is pro-pup. After all, many hunters hunt with dogs! There's even a dog section! But no cat section. A-hem. Nuff said! Ever wonder if there are more pet friendly businesses to share with your friend? Check Yelp! Type in "dog friendly" and your location. You can see some suggestions near us here :

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adventures in Potty Training

Nicki is a very complex little creature. She has obviously been through some abuse, and I believe she's also suffered neglect.

That she's been abused is revealed in how she reacts to men. Not universally, but she is often hesitant or even fearful with men. For the first few months with us, Nicki would pee submissively every time she saw my husband. He was unfailingly patient with her, and he wouldn't hurt a fly. Nonetheless, she was clearly intimidated by the man in the house.

Out in the world, her encounters with men ran the gamut. Some got the cowering, submissive pee, others got a happy dog eager to interact with them. I couldn't see any correlation between their appearance or her reaction - so it must have been something else that only animals can detect. I do NOT think that her negative reactions indicated that the males in question were bad or mean. Rather, I think there was something about them that made her think of other males who had been abusive with her.

When Nicki was rescued, she had been left tied outside on a fence for who knows how long. She apparently wasn't brought into the house much. Dogs left outside don't have any reason to restrict the location in which they relieve themselves. They're outside, after all. They pick a spot and do what they must. If that goes on for most of their time, they have no thought not to continue the behavior when brought inside. In a neglect or abuse situation, a dog that eliminates in the house will only be shoved outside again. Nobody learns anything that way, and the dog has no clue why they're being shunned.

Before Nicki got the idea that this is her house, too, there was a lot of elimination in the house. It was frustrating! We never scolded or punished. We cleaned up and forgave. Obviously, though, nobody mops urine out of a rug for the umpteenth time without emitting an "I am NOT happy about this!" vibe. Although we restrained our outward reactions, dogs know us too well to be fooled. Nicki undoubtedly knew we didn't appreciate it.

As luck would have it, just as things began to improve, the weather started to turn cold. This year, the change was pretty abrupt. Nicki, being from the south, hadn't had to cope with a Northern winter before - that we know of. We had several instances in which we let her out to "do business", but she spent only moments out in the cold. Then she'd come back into the warm house, head to the dining room rug, and relieve herself. We had read the signs correctly: she had to go. She was also apparently telling us that, she may go out into the cold if we insisted, but she'd rather use the indoor facilities, thanks. So the problem became how to convince her that there were no "indoor facilities"?

We began keeping the door to the dining room closed. Nicki had no access to that room unless we were physically with her, walking through it to go outside. She was free to run in the rest of the house. Once she understood that this was our shared den, she stopped eliminating indoors - except for that dining room rug. Obviously we thoroughly cleaned the rug using enzymatic products. Still, given a chance, she'd prefer the rug to the freezing yard. Can't say I blame her!

We also continued to watch her very carefully outdoors. As soon as she was done with her mission, we brought her back into the warm house, gave a treat, and praised her for "good business". We're still doing that.

Gradually, we began leaving the dining room door open during the day. Nicki heads to the door for business, and heads through that room, usually without pause. One morning when I slept in, Nicki was particularly keen on going out, and my hubby had left the dining room door open! I raced down the stairs after Nicki, to find her sniffing and circling on the rug. I immediately ran to the back door, calling to her. She followed immediately, went right out, and disaster was averted! Nonetheless, that tells me that it's up to us to continue to put Nicki in situations where success is guaranteed. We need to remain vigilant, continue to reward and praise, and think ahead.

Rescued dogs can have some serious issues and big problems. I don't think this is that much of a problem, actually. It's only been six months. And besides, the weather's turning warmer again. ;-)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ride our Brain Waves

Ride our Brain Waves

Mom's been deadly sick for three days, and Nicki has become bored out of her fluffy gourd. She resorted to pulling tissues out of the full trash pail and tearing them up. I wouldn't really care. I have a vacuum after all, and the tissues are of no value. But - I worry that a dog chewing on the discarded tissues of two diseased hoomans may be getting the bad end of the deal. So - we put a stop to that! I emptied the trash.

I, too, have been bored out of my skull, which has resulted in a couple of not-too-bad ideas.

Do you know what QR codes are? If not, you've seen them around - probably on posters or adverts. They're pretty nifty, because you can encode a LOT of information into them. More than you could in - say - four lines of type on a dog ID tag. Some dog tag makers have clued into that, and they now offer a service by which they will take your information and create a QR code for your dog, then print the QR code on a tag for your dog. The ones I've seen take up quite a bit of space on the tag with unattractive "art" and their own logo (of course!) Long story short: they're not cute.

I've know for quite a while now that there are FREE QR code generators online. They require no registration, no personal information, no nuthin'! And QR codes are, in and of themselves, graphically interesting. Or at least not as repulsive as the commercial QR tags I've seen. So - what if you could create a QR code for your dog, then make a tag with it? And what if you could also, on that same tag, use standard text to include name, address, phone, chip number, etc? You can.

A while back I got a Groupon for dog tags. I kid you not. At the time, Nicki was brand new to our household. I was very aware (thanks to the excellent literature that her rescue organization, New Spirit 4 Aussies, sent home with her!) that a rescued dog in a new home is at heightened risk for becoming a runaway. I'll do another entire post about that, if you'd like. Suffice to say that even rescue is a traumatic experience, and a rescued dog new to your home doesn't yet know that they are finally SAFE. So anyway - I was all over microchips and ID tags and everything to help ensure Nickli's safety. So, given the chance to get cool, design-it-yourself ID tags at a discount, I leapt! PLUS I got to upload my own snowflake design and create a cool winter tag for her. Nicki is a fashion plate. Even when she's rolling in unknown substances......

The company, Dog Tag Art ( offers great, high-quality tags with a graphic of your choice on one side and up to four lines of text on the other side. BUT - you can kind of "game" this process by uploading your dog's personal QR code as the graphic side. You can include health information! (Allergies, medical conditions, meds needed) Alternate phone numbers! Websites AND street addresses. As much as the QR generator will allow. You can even offer a reward for return. On the other side, there's room for standard text with your dog's name, your address, phone, and maybe the pup's chip number.  In case you're wondering, I generated this using  Just scan it with your smart phone for a demonstration. CAUTION: before you print a tag using a QR code - have someone double check it by scanning it with their smart phone. It should present the information you wanted, EXACTLY as you put it in. Here's an example:

My other idea? Most dogs love yogurt. The next time your pup does something good, give them a teaspoon of yogurt. It's different. It's healthy! It doesn't leave crumbs on your rug. It takes more time/effort than a crunch and a gulp. Do you use frozen stuffed Kongs? Don't use fatty peanut butter and spray cheese exclusively. Consider a spoon or two of yogurt, as well. Take it easy with the yogurt, though. A little bit of live culture goes a long way. You don't want Super Yogurt Poops!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Original post : February 25, 2014 A long, long year. And a smile.

Original post : February 25, 2014
A long, long year. And a smile.

A year ago today, my world crashed into despair. Daisy, our almost 15 year-old Border Collie, had been suffering from a mass on her spleen that caused her to gradually decline and weaken. There was no certainty that surgery would save her. As a matter of fact, there was a 2 to 1 possibility that surgery would either do nothing to help her, or that she would never be revived from the surgical table. Those odds were not good enough for my girl. So I took her home. Gave her pain meds. Carried her up and down the stairs. Washed the sneezed blood out of my bedding. And still dreaded the time when it would all stop.

On this day, one year ago, Dr. Karen Smith of Storybook Farm Veterinary Hospital, came out to help us send our Daisy to wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge.

We did all the right things. She was comfortable. She was in familiar surroundings. We were all with her. It didn't matter. My spirit was gone. My soul that lived in this fur child was torn apart.

Dark, dark days followed. I sank in despair. My hubby begged me to look for "another dog". There could be no other dog! How foolish! But I couldn't help but look at all those beautiful, furry faces, asking for a heart. A home.

After several months, I began to seriously think about sharing our lives with another fur kid. I knew I could never replace my spirit dog. Those happen once in a lifetime - IF you're lucky. And I'd been far more than lucky. I'd been blessed.

Mu hubby had literally begged me to please look for another dog. That's how low I'd become. I started looking. And applying. And calling. I was turned down outright or carefully discouraged at many turns.

Then, a lovely face peered at me from the New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue - Heartland pages. I called. I applied. I was accepted! And - we met.

I couldn't believe that this lovely creature was being entrusted to me! This shining, vibrant spirit!

So tonight, I do, still, cry for my lost fur kid. My heart dog. My friend. But when I do, I will be helped through it by my new fur kid. My new friend. My Nicki.

Original post : February 24, 2014 "She must be in Heaven!"

Original post : February 24, 2014
"She must be in Heaven!"

That's what a lovely gentleman said to me one night when I was picking Nicki up from boarding at Boomtowne Canine Campus. We had two seconds to talk while picking up our fur kids, and I always wind up telling Nicki's story. The guy who left her tied to a fence so long that the skin from her nose had peeled away due to sunburn. The guy who left her tied to that fence and moved away. When the gentleman at Boomtowne that evening heard what she'd been through, and saw the love with which she was welcomed after we'd been apart only a few days, that was his remark - said in a soft, wondering voice.

Yesterday, we went for yet another walk, taking advantage of the break in the weather. Nicki eagerly tugged me along at the far end of the leash, hopping over snow banks and trying to jump up into trees after the elusive Squirrel. We ran through snow and plodded through muck, and she seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

I don't have a fenced yard, so Nicki is always leashed or tethered when outside. Sometimes I feel sad about that. She'd clearly love to run after those squirrels! But when I make the effort to take her to an enclosed area where she can run freely - she doesn't. I don't think she's ever had the chance. Just like she doesn't know how to play with toys, she also doesn't know how to run free. That's not only sad, it's dangerous. If she does get a chance to run without a safe area, she won't know how to handle it. She won't know to watch where she's going. She won't know how to find home again. So, we walk on long leashes.

When I tried to adopt a Border Collie after our Daisy's passing, I was turned down flat by most BC rescues because we didn't have a fenced yard. When I applied to Glen Highland Farm to try to adopt, I almost felt guilty! "She must be in heaven!" That TRULY had to apply to Lillie Goodrich's rescued BCs. They had acreage and ponds and other dogs! Adopting them away from that seemed unfair! I needn't have worried. I had no acreage. No other dogs. No fence. No chance. If you look at the stories of the lucky pups who have been adopted from GHF, you see a very similar profile. People with time, money, land, and other dogs. They're perfect.

My problem with that is that it would be like insisting that no family be allowed to adopt a child unless they owned Disneyland. These may be excellent homes - but so many of those dogs have been looking at me from that webpage for an entire year - and they've been there even longer. Not just at GHF - but in other rescues, as well.

But here we are with our Nicki. Apparently, she's being deprived, in some people's minds, by living with our family. No open fields. No other dogs. No livestock. No "safe" fence.

As I said, though, she doesn't seem to know what to do with open space. She doesn't much care for other dogs except in very limited contact. She's indifferent to other animals (except for Squirrels!) And yesterday, walking at the end of her leash, bouncing through the snow with me, I realized that she is more free now than she has been in a long while. Maybe her entire life. Tethered here, with me, she's safe. And loved. And cared for. And, more than before, free. I hope it feels like heaven.

Original post : February 21, 2014 Nicki and I have cabin fever.

Original post : February 21, 2014

Nicki and I have cabin fever. It got into the 40's today, so we went for an hour+ long walk. Nicki has short legs and long fur. Such wet, muddy fur..... — feeling great.

Original post : February 21, 2014 Under the greyest of skies, brilliant light breaks through

Original post : February 21, 2014

Under the greyest of skies, brilliant light breaks through

One of the saddest things about adopting Nicki was the realization that, like many chained dogs, she didn't know how to play. I didn't know that was a common result of chaining dogs until I saw a post by Gordy and Friends about this phenomenon. I had noticed that Nicki didn't seem to know how to play and didn't know what to do with toys, but had no idea that this is one result of prolonged and persistent neglect and abuse.

Nonetheless, I got toys. I had food toys that required interaction, and of course there's always the frozen stuffed Kong! But Nicki's interest in those toys ended with the last bite of food. I tried a "stuffed" toy that used crunchy water bottles to provide chewing satisfaction. After I added training treats to the uncapped bottle inside, it became something of a success. Eventually, Nicki chewed through the toy three times (and the bottles twice), after which the toy was D.O.A.

I tried a Martha Stewart toy that I found on sale. A little plush trash can with crunchy hidden lining, and two stuffed raccoon faces that could be pushed into the trash can through an opening. The idea was for the dog to become curious about the toy and pull the raccoons out of the trash can. Then you shove them back in and the dog pulls them out again. I'd read that a Border Collie has even begun stuffing them back in by herself!

None of that went anywhere with Nicki. She would mouth the trash can a bit, but not for long. Once again I tried putting treats inside the toy to pique her interest. As it turns out, Nicki is small enough to just nuzzle her way past the obstacles of the MS toy and pull out the goodies without molesting any raccoons. Hmmm. So I jammed other toys in with the raccoons! Another soft, fabric covered ball. Still not enough. Added a small rubber squeaky bone. Ah - now we were getting somewhere. I finally jammed a pig's ear into the trash can toy and piled all the other toys in on top of that. She became VERY interested in getting that pig's ear! But rather than pulling out the toys, she started to tear the trash can apart. Luckily, MS uses some quality workmanship. The multiple layers of stitching slowed the toy's demise. It's not dead yet - and that's why I can write this.

I never leave Nicki alone with these types of toys. She can be fairly aggressive in chewing. It wouldn't be safe to let her just have these. But she still showed sporadic interest in the toy, so I kept it around. This morning, I heard a bark from downstairs. Nicki's pretty quiet, so her bark always gets my attention. I went to the top of the stairs - to see her barking at the trash can! She pounced on it! She flung it up in the air, then pounced again! I praised her - but stayed on the stair. I've learned quickly that inserting myself into toy play either ends it immediately or ends it soon after. My involvement sends signals that Nicki can't interpret. "Is Mom happy about this? Does Mom want the toy? Did I make a mistake?" When nobody plays with you, you have no idea how to react. So I stood on the landing, smiling like an idiot, cheering for my kid from the sidelines again. And Nicki continued to play.

There's always hope, isn't there?