Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Missouri 5

A few weeks ago, the Animal Guardian Society (TAGS) rescued five small dogs from a puppy mill that was closed down in Missouri. The dogs looked a little worse for wear in their original pictures (see the great Wanted poster Nick Iordanis made, below), but they’re looking so much better now.

Three of the dogs are now ready to be adopted into good homes. Two of them are still struggling to adjust to life outside a cage and will need more time in foster care. I met the Missouri 5 on Saturday and took this video of them (mostly in hopes that my mom might fall for one!):

Wouldn’t you love to give one of these sweethearts a good, loving home after the tough life they’ve had?! (If only I could have four!) These dogs haven’t had it easy. If you would consider adopting one, you might want to first read Nick’s article about adopting a rescued dog.

A Three-Dog Celebration of Spring

Spring has come early to southern Ontario, and on Saturday, although it was foggy and a little drizzly, we decided to make the most of the warmer weather with the dogs. We loaded them into the car, along with water, bowls, and towels, and took them to the TAGS dog park!










Saturday’s dog park visit was our best ever! Dusty always plays nicely with other dogs, so our larger concerns at the park are Cora and Hogan. On Saturday, though, Cora had a great time in the park, running around, occasionally saying hello to other dogs, sniffing, and doing her perimeter checks. And Hogan was an angel! Hogan is leash reactive and shows his fear of other dogs by growling or barking at them. On Saturday, though, he had no qualms with anyone. We were fortunate that the dogs who were there also weren’t interested in picking a fight. Hogan really seemed to enjoy himself, too. And as soon as he saw Andree, the trainer, he clearly remembered her from class because he went right up to her and sat down in front of her, waiting to get a treat! He’s such a cutie (and such a treat monger)!

Welcoming a new dog into the park

At the park, we saw Dexter, Joy, Tiberius and Benjamin (who are both up for adoption and are as adorable as can be), Ty, Auggie and Darwin, Amber, and a whole lot of other dogs, many of whom were there for obedience training. (We had to leave the park for 15 minutes or so while the students practised their recall. Our dogs were too distracting, not to mention distracted by the treats!) We also saw human friends Nick, Andree, Annetta, and Lindsay. It was a whole lot of fun, as you can see in the video below.

We took our cue that it was time to go home from Cora. She enjoys seeing other dogs, but when it gets noisy in the park or so chaotic that she can’t easily find us, her tail goes down and she tries to get away. We were at the park for about an hour this time before she showed signs of having had enough. Once she did, we corralled our dogs, loaded them back into the car, wiped off the worst of the mud, and headed home. It was a great day!



Guest Post: A Rescue Experiment

Nick Iordanis returns with some advice about determining whether adopting a rescue dog is for you (and, really, whether you’re right for just such a dog!). 

My previous two posts have been about finding the right dog for you and why pound dogs are the way they are. I’ve come to realize that I have skipped a crucial step, though: whether or not the rescue dog route is right for you.

As I have said in my previous articles (here and here), rescue dogs are not clean slates—they have a past. Sometimes the shelter or rescue will have a good idea what the dog has been through, but usually volunteers can only guess about the dog’s past life.

Because rescue dogs have an uncertain past, it takes a specific type of person to adopt them. Adopters have to be understanding and, most of all, willing to work with their dog. One question I try to answer for myself when “vetting” prospective adopters is, How committed will they be to this dog?

Tiberius is up for adoption at TAGS. He went out for a home visit, but because he doesn't yet have great manners, he was sent back. Like most dogs, rescues or not, he needs someone with time to devote to his training.

While some rescue dogs will walk into a home and be perfect, others will present some tribulations.

To give you some context, consider this scenario. When a rescue dog comes into your home, it is not much different than having a three-year-old Japanese orphaned earthquake victim living with you.

First and foremost, they have been through a traumatic experience of losing their home and their family (if they had one).

Second, as much as you would like to believe otherwise, neither the dog nor the three-year-old Japanese orphaned earthquake victim speak a word of English.

So when you finish reading this blog post, imagine turning around in your chair to see a three-year-old Japanese orphan staring at you. What would you do?

Would you get upset about him jumping up on your bed?  Would you be mad if he did not come when you called his name in a stern voice?

Of course the answer to these questions is no.  So why feel differently when it is a dog?

Cathy's dog Cora remains very nervous (the raised paw is a sign of wanting to appease), but she's made great progress in a happy home.

It is impossible to understand what some of these dogs have been through. I have spoken to adopters months after their adoption who’ve said, “I picked up the garden hose to water the flowers, and the dog ran into the house whimpering, went into the corner, and urinated.”

An ideal adopter will follow that up with “I am going to have to work on this with her so she understands the garden hose is not going to hurt her.”

A questionable adopter will complain that the dog peed on the floor.

I should add, there are many dogs in rescue programs who have very little “baggage.” Specifically the puppies. The young ones are particularly fearless and have not really learned that bad things can happen to them.

This can be a valuable thought experiment for those of you who may be considering adopting a rescue dog. If it were the Japanese orphan, would you do it?


Cora and the Thundershirt

A couple of months ago, somewhat frustrated by Cora’s backsliding over the fall and early winter, we put Cora on anti-anxiety medication (Clomipramine). Several friends were subtly and kindly critical, mostly offering other suggestions: “Did you try this?” “How about that?”

However, we’ve tried many things to ease Cora’s fears:

  • Rescue Remedy
  • Larch
  • Obedience training (to boost her confidence)
  • Asking guests to ignore her (retraining, as explained in Debbie Jacobs’s Guide to Living with & Training a Fearful Dog)
  • Giving her a place of refuge
  • D.A.P. diffuser
  • D.A.P. collar

Cora in her safe spot

And for weeks before making the call to put Cora on Clomipramine, I searched the Internet for reviews of the Thundershirt, which I had thought might be our next step. People with dogs who are afraid of noises, have travel anxiety, or suffer from separation anxiety offered great feedback on it. Some people with fearful dogs saw sporadic results, but nothing that I read convinced me it was the way to go—not with Cora’s level of anxiety (and the fact that it’s more of a generalized anxiety).

After Cora’s first two weeks on Clomipramine, I wasn’t thrilled with her progress. Yes, we’d noticed some improvement, but it was minimal—and there was no improvement in her fear of strangers. I talked to the vet, who had also noticed her backslide over the previous months, and he agreed a larger dosage might help. He had begun Cora on 10 mg twice per day and increased that to 20 mg twice per day. She’s now been at that dose for five weeks.

Three weeks ago, still not thrilled with Cora’s progress, I decided to invest in the Thundershirt after all. I figured it couldn’t hurt and it might just help.

Doesn't Cora look sleek and sexy in her Thundershirt?

I picked up the Thundershirt on the Saturday of the Family Day long weekend. My aunt and uncle came to visit for the day and evening. Dusty and Hogan, of course, welcomed Uncle Paul and Aunt Carole enthusiastically. Cora hid. For five hours. But then she did come out, and she stayed out. On the Sunday, we had our card-playing friends over. Cora has seen them almost every week for nearly a year, and still she’s nervous about making an appearance. In her Thundershirt, it took her just over an hour to leave her safe spot, sooner than usual. On the Monday, we had our niece and her boyfriend over. Cora’s progress continued: She came out of hiding in less than an hour.

So, I give the Thundershirt some credit. Of course, we’re using it in conjunction with the Clomipramine, so it’s impossible to say how much of its seeming effectiveness has to do with the medication finally kicking in. But we’re continuing to put it on her before potentially stressful situations, and she’s continuing to make appearances when we have guests. It can’t hurt! And every little thing that helps ease her anxiety is a step in the right direction.


Knitted Dog Sweaters Anyone?

These are the sweaters I knit for the Durham Humane Society. Dusty is modelling a high-neck sweater, and Cora is modelling a hoodie.

I recently knit hoodies for Cora, Dusty, and Hogan, as well as a couple of dog sweaters I donated to the Durham Humane Society through Misty Dawson’s photo-shoot fund-raiser (pictured above) and a hoodie for a friend’s Yorkie. Now I’ve decided to offer dog sweaters to order, with proceeds going to the Animal Guardian Society (TAGS), the rescue from which we adopted Cora and Dusty. Below are more pictures of the hoodies I’ve knit. Add a comment if you want one (for dogs 40 lbs and under only—the pattern doesn’t go any bigger than that)!

Jake in his new hoodie

Cora modelling the first hoodie I knit (for DHS).

Hogan in his sweater. His has dark blue trim.

Dusty's hoodie is a special size to accommodate his long back and deep chest.

Cora looks pretty in her new purple hoodie.