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?

Original post : February 14, 2014 Like peeling an onion

Original post : February 14, 2014

Like peeling an onion

Peeling an onion takes time. It's a bit tricky. It can be delicate. What's underneath is much softer. And sometimes, it makes you cry.

Today Nicki went to sniff at the recycling bin, as she does. She tries to get at the yogurt containers, etc. I moved my foot between her and the bin. Not at her in the least bit, but just to block her from getting closer. She immediately dropped to the floor and turned her belly up in extreme submission.

So, I guess, he kicked her, too.

My heart broke again. She's so small. She's so overwhelmingly sweet and cute that kids yelled to us from a car window in the parking lot at Petco. "I like your dog!!" And some jackhole kicked her. Kicked her enough that she was immediately frightened again.

But then, she did that wonderful thing that she does for me: she made it all better. After I'd loved her and reassured her, I let her out on her lead to go into the yard. She stood there just gorgeous in the blinding sun against the fresh snow. And then .....

She dove into the snow and began some very enthusiastic rolling. And I laughed. This Southern Belle adores rolling in the snow. And eating the snow. And bounding through it, chest high no matter. She'd walk for hours, if her paws didn't freeze. And now that I made those boots for her, I give in to the cold before she does!

I can see deeper and deeper into the heart of this gorgeous creature. The mean man lost another round.

Original post : February 6, 2014 One just to be silly

Original post : February 6, 2014

One just to be silly

Nicki is always on top of current trends, both in fashion and culture! ;-P Seriously, though, these are the boots I made to protect those little paws from ice, impacted snow & salt, and this is the vest she got from the extra material. So fashen!

Original post : February 5, 2014 It's a process.

Original post : February 5, 2014

It's a process.

Nicki has made huge strides since she came to live with us. There are still monsters in her closet, though, and every now and then, they reach out to try to grab her. I call her my PTSD dog, and that's not an exaggeration.

The other day, Nicki was sitting at the top of the stairs. My hubby came up the stairs part way, lowered himself to lay on the stairs so his head would be at Nicki's level, and attempted to give her a gentle greeting. Then the bogeyman bit her. We have no idea why, but she suddenly leaped up, spun around, lay back down, cowered, and cried the entire time. In the process, she banged my hubby's forehead with her teeth, leaving a little mark that bled slightly. It absolutely was not a bite.

So what was all that? What set her off? What frightened her so? She saw her Dad coming up the stairs, laying near her, reaching out. None of it was a surprise. And yet, she was clearly terrified of something. The crying and whining were proof of that. What past shadow so overtook a moment of affection?

So we keep trying to reassure her. The shadows will stay in the past. There's nothing here but love and tenderness. It's ok to stop being afraid.

It's only been 5 months. After who knows how long she endured rejection, neglect, and apparently outright abuse - 5 months is the wink of an eye.

Original post : January 15, 2014 An old friend

Original post : January 15, 2014

An old friend of ours is facing that terrible decision - when to say goodbye. Her aged little pup has been fighting to hang on for several months now, but she has again stopped eating and drinking. She is weak, and agitated. Although my friend doesn't believe the pup is in pain, she's clearly not a happy pooch.

Nor will she be again.

My friend is on that dreadful roller coaster that I rode almost a year ago with Daisy, our almost-15-year-old Border Collie. She, too, stopped eating and drinking. After three days of attempting to hand-feed, begging her to eat or drink, and driving myself to despair, we went to the vet. A mass on the spleen, and only a 33% chance of a truly good outcome. So we opted for pain relief and days at home, together. At first, the pain meds renewed her energy and appetite. We had our girl back! I convinced myself that if I could just help her get stronger, she could recover. Then she would collapse, or vomit, or stagger, or all three and more. She would be down for days as I worried and fussed. She could undoubtedly sense my desperation. Did any of my ministrations make her feel better? I doubt it. She was too worried about me to care.

I was clearly upset by what was happening to her, so she did everything I wanted of her. She took her meds, ate a bit, drank a bit, cuddled.... and all, I'm sure, to try to make *me* feel better. Of course, she couldn't possibly make me feel better, because I eventually had to admit that I saw her trajectory clearly.

Dogs clearly recognize death. We've seen the heart wrenching photos and videos of dogs mourning their friends, both animal and human. Dogs may even recognize when they, themselves are dying. But it would take a tremendous leap of intellect to know that their own death means that there will not be kibble for them tomorrow morning. Or snuggles. Or walks. *We* know that, so we hang on. I don't think dogs extrapolate that far, and so - they hang on for us rather than for one more walk. They don't anticipate the end of their happy lives, and so they hang on for us - when in truth, they have no fear of letting go. They hang on because of *our* fear - not their own.

I wish my friend and her dog an easy passing and peace in the aftermath. Maybe it might help her to think that Nutmeg fully expects to wake beside her again, just like always.

Original post : January 2, 2014 Still things to learn

Original post : January 2, 2014

Still things to learn

Once again, we were at PetSmart last night. Once again, we met another pup with his person, both friendly. Once again, Nicki wanted to go over and initiate the ID sniffing party that is a dog's greeting. It always seems to go so well. Then, subtly, things change. I'm getting better at sensing Nicki's tension. I wish I knew what it is. Maybe the other dog's friendliness becomes a bit too assertive? Maybe it goes on a bit too long? In the wink of an eye, we go from tail sniffing to a bark and a jump back away from the other dog. It's never aggressive; Nicki is always in retreat. I'm sure the bark is meant to warn the other dog off. But why?

I've seen the yellow ribbon idea; attach a yellow ribbon to the dog's leash to warn other dogs that your dog is not friendly. But Nicki IS friendly - mostly to other humans. She starts out friendly with other dogs, too. Until that moment. It's clear that nobody bothered to socialize her. That, her adorable appearance, and the fact that she had obviously had at least one litter makes me very uncomfortable. She was abandoned in some guy's yard - but had she been meant to be a breeder for a backyard mill? I hate to think it...

So for now, no yellow ribbon. I don't want to "warn away" people and children, because she loves them completely. She's still fearful of some men, but that takes the form of avoidance - never aggression. She loves women, and REALLY loves kids! No yellow ribbon. I have to learn to trust it when I read her body language, and shorten the encounter before it can become unpleasant. Can I do it? Just before the bark last night, I had said "Nicki - be nice!" which of course means nothing to her. What it really means is that I'm learning my dog - and learning how to help her navigate this new world.

Original post : December 30, 2013 My dog snores.

Original post : December 30, 2013
My dog snores.

More specifically, my dog snores while sleeping on her back, belly open, in the crook of my arm, with her head on my shoulder.

I'm so grateful to be able to make her feel so safe and loved. Every time a rescued animal sheds their fear, the good guys win.

Original post : December 26, 2013 Bed head for Boxing Day

Original post : December 26, 2013

Bed head for Boxing Day
We have been lounging in bed so we have some recovery time after all the holiday hubub. Miss Nicki fell asleep on my lap during the Dr. Who Christmas Special last night. She desperately wanted us to go to bed last night, wouldn't go without us, and wouldn't settle until I cradled her in my arms and gave non-stop belly rubs.

Our little girl has been overwhelmed by shifts and changes for almost a full week. Even the quieter days have not been our norm. For a rescue pup, that boring consistency is comforting. Knowing how your day will go; that you'll get breakfast, dinner, maybe a few treats, a walk if it's not too cold for your paws, cuddles, belly rubs, some playing .... Knowing that nobody will scream at you, hit you, starve you, or leave you at the mercy of the weather or other animals; all of that is easily shaken if it's early days.

I've referred to Nicki as our PTSD pup. Once any creature has gone through tough times, it leaves a shadow. On the good days, the shadow gets pushed far back - but it's still there. If things get to be unnerving, a little down time goes a long way. We all find comfort in consistency.

Original post : December 24, 2013 Still learning to believe

Original post : December 24, 2013

Still learning to believe

While away for a wedding, Nicki boarded with Boom Towne for a few days. I packed meals that included dental treats and pig ears besides her actual kibble. I also packed two stuffed, frozen Kongs to keep things fun and interesting! When we arrived to take all of us home again, Nicki was super happy to see us. The staff told us how much better she was with all of them this time. She was no longer fearful or overly submissive with them! Hooray! Our work in building Nicki's confidence is working!

At about 3:00 am Nicki got up and started her "roll on Mom's face to wake her up" routine. We were so pooped and sooo asleep. She seemed to calm down almost right away, so we went back to sleep. Bad idea. We woke to two piles of poo. Darn! Our girl was trying to tell us! Even though she did well at boarding, there's still stress on an animal when they're not with their pack. Especially a rescue - who hasn't had a lot of certainty in her life. We get so used to how much progress Nicki is making that we tend to forget that all that progress still doesn't outweigh her past negative experiences.

New experiences are stressful, too. I made the arguable "mistake" of scheduling a grooming appointment for Nicki the day after she got home from boarding. Once again, our groomer told me how much improvement she could see in Nicki. Although it was the first time Nicki had been professionally groomed, I had taken her in to meet the groomer and have her nails trimmed so she could have a chance to meet the groomer without going through the entire process! So all was well, no? Not exactly. Nicki was determined to go right into the house when we got home from grooming. "No potty stops, thanks. I want my crate!" She seemed fine - not traumatized or upset at all. And yet, later when I called her to go out for "business", she didn't come. Not a good sign. Oh dear - a puddle on the rug. Too much stress for one small pup.

I need to remember that my tough little cookie has had some rough experiences. She's certainly a survivor - but she doesn't need to be "tested". We gotta slow this roll and make certain that she has plenty of down time when introduced to stressful situations. Lots of love and reassurance, of course, but TIME. Time; the great healer.

Original post : December 19, 2013 New smells, new games!

Original post : December 19, 2013

New smells, new games!

The past two days have been warmer, making walks around the neighborhood safe for Nicki's tender paws again. Yesterday, Nicki discovered that tiny red squirrels apparently sometimes tunnel into the snow at the bases of tree trunks! Great news! She can stick her nose amazingly far into those tunnels in pursuit of the ever evasive squirrel!

Yesterday also revealed something more rare: deer tracks in the back yard. Apparently two deer came through, foraging. This morning, it appeared they'd brought their friends. Five sets of tracks were clearly visible - and the scent was a lot stronger. It got Nicki's attention. This morning's newest game was "Roll In The Snowy Deer Tracks!" Oh sure, enjoy the fact that these deer are clearly mocking Daddy's empty freezer!! Well, why not. Somebody may as well get some good of it!

Original post : December 10, 2013 Early Days

Original post : December 10, 2013

Early Days

Don't worry, I'm not going to keep letting Nicki do all the talking here! That would be a bit too "precious". Part of the point of starting this page was to share Nicki's story and experiences in order to give a window into what happens after you bring a rescued dog home. Of course it's different for everyone, but we're sharing Nicki's story.

When Nicki first came to us she was extremely submissive. LOTS of submissive urination. Lots of paper towels and Febreeze. Because we can't explain what's going on, being rescued can actually be pretty stressful for a dog (or any animal). They may be coming out of abuse or neglect, but they don't know where they're going. Or why. They're leaving familiarity and heading into the unknown.

We don't really get to meet our new family members until we've had some time with them. Gradually, their stories reveal themselves a bit. The window opens a little wider, and we can see who and what they have come to fear. That sounds sad, but it's actually a tool that shows us how to help them heal. This is a story from the first few weeks of Nicki's new life with us:

Something happened with Nicki that I thought was very telling. We went to my yoga studio to meet my teacher, who is a HUGE animal lover. While there, another student came in. A gentleman of slight build with long, grey hair tied back in a pony tail. I've met him before. He is very mild mannered and kind. I'm certain Nicki was not actually responding to him. Nonetheless, when she saw him, she got an amazing look on her face as though she was thinking "No! Not here! It can't be!" and she slowly backed all the way up the stairs, keeping her eyes on the gentleman the entire time. He had not attempted to approach Nicki. He had not even acknowledged her or looked at her as he was busy speaking with our teacher. Nonetheless, she was obviously terrified of him. I picked her up and held her in my arms so we could walk out of the building without her getting any more upset. There was no submissive behavior or urination - just backing away.... Wow. I had hoped the jerk that had her had "merely" neglected her. Guess not.

In other (GOOD) news, Nicki now greets my husband when he comes home with lots of wiggling and wagging, but the urination has almost completely stopped. She has also regained her house-training completely. On nicer days, she'd rather sit out in the yard on her tie-out because I obviously do not have my priorities straight and don't spend enough time napping in the sun!

Original post November 6, 2013 Another Nicki update

Original post November 6, 2013

Another Nicki update for everyone! Since this little girl gets super excited to go out, we thought it would be best to get microchipped immediately. So, on her very first well-pup visit (the day after she got here!) she got her chip. Good thing, too! This little lady is a bit of a door darter! She has stopped my heart twice! Luckily, her reaction to a loud voice is to flatten herself on the earth and not move. No worries - I wasn't yelling at her; just calling her name in fear. I'm sure she knew I was not really upset with her (I wasn't) and did what we all do: pulled over when she heard the siren!

We have been through level one obedience training - and have found more challenges. It's not that this smarty pants doesn't understand - it's that she wants a vote on the issue! I've adopted a suffragette! We will continue to patiently work on recalls, which are not debatable. She's so funny. Perfect student in class, rebellious teen at home! Always with a sweet temperament, but our Nicki simply doesn't see the need to do as asked at all times. Patience and consistency will win.

Every now and then we get tired of walking around the neighborhood, so we take to the trails. It was 60+ degrees today - in November! So we took full advantage and hit the Auburn Trail. It's one of our favourite walks outside the neighborhood. I love it because it's so darn pretty. Nicki loves it because of the one thing she loves about ALL walks: the possibility of hunting SQUIRRELS! Don't worry - I never let her get close enough for either creature to come to harm. But you should see this little gymnast! She will do an actual, mid-air flip at the end of the lead to try to get at the squirrel! She tries to climb trees! And when all else fails, she cries and barks at them. It's so cute! She must get so frustrated with me for never letting her get the squirrel.

We've had two baths fairly successfully. Blow driers, however, are instruments of the devil! A good pig's ear usually helps her feel better afterward. She has not begun sleeping in bed with us, even though she's been invited. Nicki likes her space. She knows she's welcome - and the timing is up to her. She usually sleeps in her crate with the door open. We try to keep to a schedule, and the consistency seems to be both comforting and boring to her! That makes sense, actually. We're getting to know each other more with each day, and our bond is clearly strengthening. I think we'll both be happy with this arrangement! What do you think? I'll let Nicki's face tell her side:


Original post : An introduction 2013

Original post : An introduction 2013

I'm a 3 - 4 year old miniature Australian Shepherd. I'm also a Rescue Dog! My Mom likes keeping my rescuers updated on my progress, and she likes telling people about me. One of my rescuers suggested that my Mom start a blog for me so she can help me tell my story and share news about my fuzzy life! Seems like the natural thing to do. After all, I *am* a star!

My beginnings are a mystery. Somebody abandoned me. I mean really - look at this face! ABANDONED ME! The story goes like this: I was kept by a man who didn't let me into the house. I was tied to a fence in his yard all the time. Eventually, his neighbors got in touch with a friend of theirs who works with New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue - Heartland A wonderful woman in Kentucky offered to come help me if the man would agree to give me up. She had his neighbors ask him if he'd let me go, and he agreed. The rescuer couldn't come to get me for a few days, so I had to wait. When she got there, she found me still tied to the fence. But something was very wrong. The house was empty, and the man was gone. He had left me tied there with no way to help myself! This wonderful lady scooped me up and took me into her home. She and her rescue friends took me to a vet to be sure I didn't need any medical help, and to make certain that there wouldn't be any additional puppies coming into the world. I'd already had puppies before! She helped me rest and heal, but I wondered what would become of me.

About this same time, my Mom was really, really sad. She had a wonderful Border Collie friend named Daisy. Daisy and Mom had a really nice life together. It was so nice, that Daisy stayed with Mom for a really long time. She became very old. Eventually, she went to Rainbow Bridge to rest and wait for Mom. Mom was so sad without Daisy, that she started applying to Border Collie rescue groups in hopes of adopting another friend. She spent many months filling out applications, making phone calls, and doing research. Only two of the rescue groups were willing to let her adopt! The others all said she couldn't adopt a Border Collie because her yard wasn't fenced! The groups that said "yes" didn't have dogs available for her. She was getting nowhere.

One day, my family-to-be went to the New York State Fair. There, they met a young lady with a miniature Australian Shepherd, and my Mom had an idea; maybe it's time to look elsewhere for another dog friend. She started looking online and found New Spirit 4 Aussies, and then she found me!

Mom filled out another application, but this time she heard back almost right away. She talked for a long time on the phone with one of the rescuers, and they decided right then and there that Mom would give me a great home! They were so right!! Mom was so grateful that somebody was willing to look beyond the fenced yard and into her heart! I'm grateful too! You should see the treats I get! Mom and Daddy really like to fuss over me and play with me. It's so nice to cuddle on the bed with them, and go for long walks with Mom. Getting rescued is AWESOME!

If anyone you know is talking about adding a dog to their family, please ask them to consider adopting a rescue dog. You could be the best thing that ever happened in some lucky dog's life - and they'll really thank you for it!