Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dusty’s New Friend Jake

Shortly after we adopted Cora and Dusty, our friends Len and Nancy got an adorable Yorkie puppy. Jake is a squiggly, affectionate little dog. We brought Cora and Dusty to meet Jake in June when Len and Nancy first brought him home, but neither of our dogs (we didn’t yet have Hogan) knew what to do with such a small dog. Now that Jake is a little bigger (he’s nearly 10 pounds), we had him over for a play date.

Lots of sniffing going on.

For the first 20 minutes or so of the visit, Jake spent a lot of time on his back, letting Dusty get a good whiff of him. He seemed a little nervous at times, though I think his dad was the more nervous one! Hogan mostly veered away from Jake, although he did get close a few times for a sniff. If Jake looked in Hogan’s direction, though, Hogan snarled or barked. Jake learned rather quickly that Dusty would be the fun one.

And sure enough, Dusty and Jake played really well together. Dusty was so much gentler with Jake than he is with Hogan—just as he plays more gently with Cora. Dusty is such a special dog!

Cora eventually came out to see what all the fuss was about, and once Jake set eyes on Cora, he wouldn’t leave her alone. His nose seemed permanently attached to her bum, then her ears, then any part of her he could get close enough to. She actually growled and even barked at him. (That means we’ve now heard Cora bark about four times. That’s how rare her bark is—and also tells how aggravated she got. But it was great that she stood up for herself. After that, we stepped in and rescued her from Jake’s relentless nose.)

Since Dusty had had a pretty eventful day (we’d had professional portraits done by Misty Dawson earlier in the day), after a couple of hours of play, he decided to settle into his bed. Jake wasn’t quite so willing to let him nap though! Dusty was a good sport about it, even giving in and launching himself out of bed (as seen in this hilarious action shot!):

Okay then, let's play!

I caught some of Dusty and Jake’s playtime on video, too:

Guest Post: Finding the Perfect Rescue Dog for You

After we met Cora and Dusty, the first step in the adoption process was a home visit. Nick Iordanis was one of the TAGS volunteers who attended that home visit. As a volunteer, Nick has learned a thing or two about choosing the right dog for you, and he’s agreed to share some of his insights here. Thanks, Nick! ~Cathy

[Disclosure: The following reflects my personal views and not those of any rescue organization.]

Because dogs are living creatures, searching for the perfect one for you is not like shopping for a car or a computer. Looking for a dog to rescue is more akin to dating. You may have to entertain a few different suitors before finding the right one, since picking one out of a crowd because you think they have nice hair (or fur) is almost certainly bound for failure.

For your best chance of success, I suggest looking for a dog that fits your lifestyle. If you enjoy reading books by the fire and are not the least bit outdoorsy, adopting the malamute with boundless energy and nomadic tendencies is most likely going to end in divorce. However, if you are a marathon runner and enjoy socializing with friends, a happy-go-lucky malamute may be the Bonnie to your Clyde.

A perfect example is Rusky, here. This photo was take after a 10km run alongside a bicycle, and he was still bouncing off the walls!

Regular readers of this blog have read about how Cathy and Wes ended up with dogs completely different from what they originally started off looking at. They had a few requirements: dogs who don’t bark too much, smallish dogs, and so on, but, mostly, they were looking for the right “match.”

I attribute the Witloxes’ happiness with their brood to the fact that they were willing to trust the volunteers when we suggested Dusty since we knew he would get along with Cora (as well as Hogan, who wasn’t yet in their plan)—and any other dog, for that matter. If Cathy and Wes had been insistent on the dog they originally went to see, and adopted her, I’m sure they would have been happy, but I doubt they’d be as happy as they are with their current pack. Cathy and Wes did not try to shoe-horn a dog into their lifestyle. This all makes so much sense when I spell it out, but people have many different motives when looking for a dog.

One reason people insist on a specific dog is because they are trying to replace a previous dog. No dog will ever be able to replace another—unless you clone the first one, which I hear is expensive.

Sadie, a basset hound/bulldog mix, for example, is definitely one of a kind (and still looking for her forever home)!

The other reason people shoe-horn is for fashion. Some people fall in love with the idea of a specific (often trendy at the moment) dog, such as a bulldog or a husky. Specific breeds come with certain attributes, and if the owners are not as prepared as they might think to handle those attributes, the honeymoon can end rather quickly. An example would be the person who loves the idea of bulldogs but has never owned a dog before. That dog will quickly take over and run the show—the owner will be sitting on the bulldog’s couch, and not the other way around.

Recently adopted Abby has no qualms about telling anyone what's on her mind, a trait that actually became endearing in her case.

The third type of dog seeker is the one who thinks A golden retriever would fit well in my family but would prefer to “rescue” because of their moral views. Generally speaking, purebreds are hard to find in generic rescue groups because they are often returned to the breeder or to a breed-specific rescue. These shoppers don’t usually get past the website once they discover page upon page of mutts, rather than a direct link to their coveted purebred. These people’s moral views quickly give way to their preferences, and they end up resorting to Kijiji.

Finally, as you search for the perfect rescue dog for you, I would remind you that most rescue groups are run by volunteers. These people give their time because they love dogs. So when you don’t get a call back the next day, or the day after that, don’t leave a scathing message threatening to take your business elsewhere. The truth is, many volunteers help because, among other things, it provides a nice getaway from their job. Once volunteering starts to feel like work, they simply stop participating (which is not any good for anyone).

Dusty, Sadie, and Rusky playing tug-of-war while Bart (still looking for his forever home) looks on.

So, when looking for your rescue dog, speak nicely to the volunteers and most of all, be open-minded, even if you don’t consider yourself a “beagle person” or a “bichon person” or a “Rottweiler person.” Even though your last dog was a Lhasa Apso, the three-year-old Doberman with the loyal demeanour might just become the best friend you’ve ever had.

A New Treatment for Cora

A few months ago, I read Debbie Jacobs’s book A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog. I also started following Roxanne Hawn’s blog Champion of My Heart, about her fearful dog, Lilly. I’ve been reading their blogs as well as others about the various ways to help dogs who suffer from anxiety.

A friend and her puppy, Junebug, came for a visit in December (must blog about that soon!), and although Cora's not nervous with dogs, here you can see how nervous she was because of there being an unfamiliar person nearby. This is how she looks to almost everyone who's met her.

Shortly after adopting Cora and Dusty, I started giving Cora Rescue Remedy to try to calm her fears. It seemed to help her relax into her new situation a bit. I later tried Larch, as well, which is supposed to help improve confidence.  Then, we brought Cora to obedience training, and I think this did give her some confidence, although there were setbacks along the way. We continually try working with her to teach her new things so as to encourage confidence building, but she’s not an easy one to train. She doesn’t catch on very easily, and if we physically try to help her do something, such as roll over on her side (play dead), her tail finds its way between her legs. We tried retraining her, including asking our guests to ignore her, as recommended in Debbie’s book. We’ve had occasional success with this. Some days, she’ll venture out to see us while guests are in the room; other days she’ll hole up in the office (her “safe spot”) for their entire visit. (Over the Christmas holidays, she spent 29 consecutive hours in the office, mostly “on guard,” rather than sleeping, except for when I carried her out for a walk or up to bed.) We eventually tried a D.A.P. diffuser, which did nothing, and then a D.A.P. collar, which initially seemed to work but then didn’t. I read about the Thundershirt, which apparently helps dogs with many kinds of fears, but fear of people isn’t one that it’s had much success with, according to the reviews I read.

When the submissive peeing in the house began a few months ago, I began to consider other measures—measures recommended by both Debbie and Roxanne that have worked for their dogs. I had talked to our vet about putting Cora on anti-anxiety drugs, but he warned that although dogs do better while on the meds, once off them, they revert to their anxious selves. In other words, the drugs aren’t a cure; Cora, once on them, would likely be on them for life. And our vet, whom I trust and who knows we’re choosing holistic routes whenever possible, seemed hesitant to put her on them. So I sidelined the idea for a while. Recently, I read about L-Theanine, a natural supplement that calms anxiety. When I talked to the vet about this option, we got into more discussion about how Cora’s anxieties manifest. He then did a full blood work-up, looking for general health issues but mostly concerned about hypothyroidism.

Perfect Cora!

We got great news from Cora’s bloodwork. It was, in Dr. Steele’s words, “perfect.” He was shocked. Cora has had several blood tests since we got her, and none, before this one, has been perfect. Her thyroid is now well within normal levels (she was borderline before); her WBC count is normal; the traces of ehrlichiosis that showed up before didn’t show up this time (that might have been a different kind of test); her kidneys and liver function—ideal. She was perfect! (I attribute this to her diet and exercise regime.) With this knowledge in hand, Dr. Steele had no bones about putting Cora on this medication. Of course, we’ll continue to watch her and do regular blood tests to ensure her organs remain just as healthy.

I gave Cora her first dose of clomapramine yesterday. This morning, she was her usual nutty morning self. We had a long, fantastic, snowy walk that she didn’t want to see end. And now she’s resting peacefully in a beam of sunlight. All is well…and only sure to get better.


Guest Post: The Adoption of Mulligan

Mulligan and Ashley

This week, I’ve invited a fellow rescue adopter to blog about her adoption experience. Ashley Farrugia, take it away!

mul·li·gan* noun Golf: a shot not counted against the score, permitted in unofficial play to a player whose previous shot was poor. A “re-do.”

In our case, Mulligan is our Labrador retriever who came from Kentucky to The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS), the rescue that Chris and I adopted him from.

I never had a dog growing up. I had always wanted one, but the standard response from my mom and dad when we asked for one was “no.” So, of course, when my boyfriend, Chris, and I bought a house in January of 2011, I started my search for a dog. My good friend since high school Nick Iordanis was a volunteer with TAGS, so I knew my dog would be a TAGS dog.

Chris and I had decided to wait until October to start looking for dogs on the TAGS website. We thought October would be the best time since we both had some vacation time then and we would have settled into the groove of living with each other and our new routines.

However, things did not work out quite as we’d planned.

Mulligan at Petsmart waiting for a family to love him

On May 7, Nick was at the Petsmart in Whitby and sent me a message saying, “I really think you and Chris should come over to Petsmart. There is this new boy Thompson, and he is going to go fast. I think this is the perfect fit for you.”

We trusted Nick, so we got in the car. At Petsmart, Thompson was in his cage looking ever so handsome even though he was a little thin and had some tufts of hair sticking out on the side of his body.

We were smitten! Chris and I found ourselves asking if we could take Thompson for a quick walk just to see what he was like on the leash. He was AWFUL on the leash, but we trusted that with some patience, some guidance, and treats, he would be a great companion when I am running and training for half marathons.

We went ahead with the application and the home visit, and Thompson came to our home for the extended visit on May 20, 2011. He never went back to his foster family.

We came up with the name Mulligan because Chris, an avid golfer, explained to me that a mulligan in golf is a “do-over.” Well, our dog got a second chance, too—he is our favourite do-over!

There were some challenges at first; it wasn’t all fun and games. Mulligan was terrified to go up and down the stairs, had a real issue with men, and did not want to eat dog food. But with a lot of love and encouragement (who knew Chris’s voice could go that high?!), Mulligan grew more confident. Now his favourite spot to nap is on the stairs, and he greets everyone, male or female, with his big lab smile. And as for the food, as much as he would still love to eat people food all the time, he is quite happy with his dog food.

Posing with the Strongbow

Mulligan warms my heart and makes me smile every day with the quirky little things he does. He has learned how to give a high five and knows that when I shake my hair, he needs to shake his coat off (this is VERY handy when we are coming in from a wet walk).

Mulligan is not just a dog anymore—he is a personal trainer, a great listener when I need one, a foot warmer, and another member of the Farrugia–Methe family.



Thanks, Ashley, for sharing your story of Mulligan’s adoption! There’s nothing quite like giving a formerly unwanted dog a second chance at a good life. Mulligan’s definitely living it up now! ~ Cathy

Dog Booties

Over the past couple of weeks, three people have asked me about our dogs’ boots. We were stopped this morning, too, by a man who thought they were the cutest things on Dusty in particular. His enthusiasm about them was kind of funny! We bought Pawz boots, which we put on the dogs either when it’s wet out or when there’s an insane amount of salt on the sidewalks (most of the time) to protect the pads of their feet from both the cold and the salt. With Pawz, we can go for a longer walk on days like today, when the temperatures are fairly mild, but the slush- and snow-covered sidewalks would leave the dogs limping in no time. (We discovered these booties a few years ago and actually used them on Roxie in the house because she had back issues, and we figured the sliding around on our hardwood floors was potentially contributing to them.)

Focus not on those scary eyes of Cora's but on the booties. Cute, huh?

We have found there to be many advantages to Pawz:

  1. If we had one dog, we could probably buy just one 12-pack for an entire winter season. At under $20 for 12, these are probably the cheapest dog boots on the market.
  2. The dogs walk perfectly normally in them (see video below). They don’t pick up their feet extra high or stick their legs out at odd angles, as I remember Roxie doing in other kinds of booties (which, although laugh-inducing for humans, probably really bothers the poor dog!). Here’s a hilarious video I just watched of a dog trying to get around in those other kinds of boots:
  3. As Pawz says on its site, the boots are thin enough that dogs can feel the ground still, making them less likely to feel terribly insecure in them. (This is probably why #2 is the case.)
  4. The rubber prevents some sliding (not all, but some) on the ice, which is important when you have a dog with cruciate ligament issues (like Dusty), and even to help prevent such issues.
  5. We could affordably buy two different sizes for our odd dog with the big front feet and small back ones (Mister Dusty again), rather than having to buy two different sets of four and use just two of each.

I used to put the Pawz on Roxie by myself because she was small enough to support in my lap while I put the booties on from behind her. But with three dogs, all larger than Roxie, it really takes two of us to get 12 paws covered with these things. The dogs generally freeze in place as soon as the boots come out, so to manoeuvre them (the dogs, I mean), two sets of hands are helpful. Saves time too. Between putting coats and boots on all five of us, it takes more than 10 minutes for us to get out of the house. The dogs are patient enough, but we really want to limit the prep time to maximize the walk time!

To prolong the life of the Pawz, we keep a plastic container of baby powder by the door. We dry the outside of the booties, turn them inside out and dry the insides, and then put them in the container. Then, before putting the booties on the dogs, we shake off any excess powder and turn them right-side out again. We’ve had to throw out only one booty so far because it got a hole in it. Not bad.

In this video, which I took at dusk (so it’s a little dark), you can see that the dogs walk pretty normally while wearing their Pawz. They didn’t need their coats since it was above zero. (That’s a sight—I’ll have to get video of that, too.)