Rat Terrier Rescue Canada (RTRC)

It’s Hogan’s Fourth, Fifth, or Maybe Sixth Birthday–Kind Of!

Today, we celebrate Hogan’s second birthday with us. Since he’s a rescue, we don’t know his real birthday or his real age, but he was guessed to be two or three when we adopted him (although, judging by his energy level, he’s always seemed much older), and we decided, in honour of his Mexican homeland, his birthday would be Cinco de Mayo. (See last year’s celebration here.)

So to celebrate our littlest one’s special day, we went for a very long walk by the beautiful Pickering waterfront, where Hogan encountered many other dogs and yet was on his best behaviour ever. Normally reactive on-leash, Hogan did almost no growling, instead looking up to his dad for treats, the behaviour we’ve been encouraging since we first adopted him and hired an animal behaviourist to help us deal with his reactivity. It’s taken some time, but he’s finally mastered this behaviour!

Hogan thought that since it's his birthday, he should be allowed to drive today.

Hogan thought that since it’s his birthday, he should be allowed to drive today.



We stopped for pictures in a field of dandelions


Of course, the doggies got lots of treats.

And we had to have water breaks, too.

And we had to have water breaks, too.

One last picture of the birthday boy before leaving the lake

One last picture of the birthday boy before leaving the lake

Tired doggies ready to go home for the birthday treat.

Tired doggies ready to go home for the birthday treat.
































Back at home for their afternoon snack, I treated the dogs to tacos (unseasoned beef, cheese, lettuce, and a dab of sour cream inside tiny flour tortilla shells) in exchange for pictures in sombreros. They all really enjoyed this treat (the sombreros, less so)!


Cora was having a particularly tough time waiting to enjoy the birthday treat.

Cora was having a particularly tough time waiting to enjoy the birthday treat.

Whereas curious Dusty opened his taco, sniffed and then ate the bits separately, Hogan opted to put the entire thing in his mouth. Our little Mexican boy knows how it's done!

Whereas curious Dusty opened his taco, sniffed and then ate the bits separately, Hogan opted to put the entire thing in his mouth. Our little Mexican boy knows how it’s done!









And to top off Hogan’s birthday, we will end the day with a family agility lesson this evening! In the meantime, Hogan’s engaging in his favourite afternoon activity—napping.

All in all, I think Hogan is finding today to be the best birthday ever!

At Last, I’m a Volunteer

Dixie is very nervous, much like my Cora. She came to TAGS as a puppy and is now only a year old and hoping for a forever home.

When we first looked at adopting Cora and Dusty in April 2011, I learned a lot about rescue. I knew then that I wanted to help out in some way. But when we first brought two dogs into our home, especially super-timid, scaredy-dog Cora, I had enough on my plate (their training classes, cooking for them, walking them three times a day, trying to convince Cora we weren’t going to beat her, plus, of course, editing full time and teaching part time). And then, we decided to adopt a third dog—in part, to give another rescue a home—and free time was even more at a premium.

Four-year-old Biscotti is up for adoption through TAGS. I know I shouldn’t have favourites, but I can’t help it where she’s concerned!

It took about a year for us to really get a good groove going with the three dogs. We have a fantastic routine that includes two daily walks, scheduled meal and snack times, regular dog park visits for socialization, and occasional training courses. The dogs know what’s expected of them, and for the most part, they cooperate quite well. We often talk about how lucky we are to have three such well-behaved, well-adjusted (relatively speaking in Cora’s case) dogs, but, in reality, there has been a lot of work in getting to where we are.

Josie is a very timid girl rescued from a Missouri puppy mill, where she was used as a breeding dog.

Once we adopted Cora and Dusty, I stayed connected with the rescue, offering editing and writing help on occasion. But it wasn’t until July of this year that I decided I had time to start giving back more fully to the rescue that had saved Cora and Dusty. The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS) is, from what I’ve seen, unique among rescues. Its screening process—like the one we went through to adopt Hogan from Rat Terrier Rescue Canada—is quite involved, and then once a dog is adopted, the owner must attend training classes with the dog (included in the adoption fee, which is actually cheaper than many rescues’ adoption fees). While some people may balk at having to do training courses, it makes perfect sense to make them mandatory—dogs who are trained are much less likely to be surrendered at a later date. A prospective dog parent’s willingness to do the course also assures TAGS volunteers that the adopter is dedicated to spending time with and energy on his or her new family member.

Raggs was part of a family for ten years but was given up because he “got too old.” Now he’s looking for a good home to spend his remaining years in. Sad.

Anyway, in July, in my role as a volunteer, I started showing TAGS dogs at Petsmart. Since then, I’ve spent one Saturday each month with a variety of wonderful adoptable dogs. Some have been surrendered by their owners; some were strays; some came from high-kill shelters in the U.S.; some from overfull Canadian shelters. All are really sweet dogs deserving of a good home, and I feel so privileged to spend time getting to know them and sharing their stories with prospective adopters. Volunteering for TAGS has proven to be a really rewarding experience, and I strongly encourage you dog lovers out there to consider lending a hand at a local shelter or rescue. Even a few hours a month can really make a difference for homeless animals wanting nothing more than to be loved.

In one week, all of these dogs were adopted from TAGS. It was a very happy week! So many dogs still need homes, though.

Guest Post: The Power of an Hour

Julie Valentine was Hogan’s foster mom when we applied to Rat Terrier Rescue Canada to adopt him. She shared a house and a huge treed yard with about six dogs at that time. Selflessly, she’d moved to that house specifically so that she had a good home in which to foster dogs. Before that, she volunteered in other ways on behalf of animals. Here she explains how you can help by offering even just an hour of your time (and your car).

Colorado is one of Julie's current fosters. If you're interested in adopting this beautiful boy, contact Gentle Jake's Coonhound Rescue.

Rescues work to save dogs that would otherwise be euthanized, either because there isn’t enough space to care for them, because they need medical attention, or because their time is simply up. Rescued dogs come from puppy mills, animal shelters, dog pounds, and dog owners who are unable to keep them. I first got into rescue by volunteering to drive dogs around. If you don’t have any room in your home but have lots of space in your dog-friendly car, why not consider giving a dog a ride?

What is a transport?
A transport is a well-orchestrated “bucket brigade,” organized by a transport coordinator, followed by a transport monitor, in which dogs—as many as 20—travel from volunteer-driver to volunteer-driver along a pre-determined route for a day or two until each dog reaches its safe haven. Dogs may join or leave the transport anywhere along the route. Sometimes doggie sleepovers, aka “overnighting” a dog on transport, is also required when a run stops for the night before resuming in the morning.

How does it work?
The transport coordinator posts online for volunteers to drive a certain leg of the journey, about an hour in length. As volunteers sign up, the transport coordinator completes a run sheet, which lists the dogs, their size and age, the sending and receiving organizations, the driving times of each leg, drivers’ names, car descriptions, and cellphone numbers, as well as meeting spots where the dogs will change cars.

What do drivers do on the run?
Once you’ve signed up for a run, charge your cellphone and set up your car with crates, yummy treats, extra leashes and collars, towels and paper towels, water and water bowls, and a map or GPS system. Reread the run sheet, ensuring you know which dogs you’ll be transporting, where they will travel in your car, who you’ll be meeting, and where.

On run day, you will receive updates on your computer as the transport progresses, so you’ll know if the run is early, late, or on time. Plan to arrive before your leg is scheduled to begin. Leave your own dog at home: dogs on transport can be stressed and confused and may not behave as they would in another context.

At the meeting spot, the person with the dogs should do the transfer. It’s unusual, but sometimes a dog will bolt at the first opportunity, so you have to ensure their leashes are secured! Once the dogs have been watered and transferred, ensure the paperwork you’ve received matches the dogs you’re transporting.

Then comes the fun part: knowing you’re doing your part help a homeless dog find a warm bed! Some dogs will whine or bark until they settle into the trip. You can sing, turn on the radio, talk to them, or just drive along.

At the end of your leg, carefully transfer the dogs and their paperwork to the next volunteer. When you get home, check your email: you’ll find stories and pictures of the dogs’ journey from almost certain demise to foster care and, eventually, to a forever home in a loving family like Cathy’s.

How can I become involved?
Transporting is a great way to meet wonderful, compassionate people and oodles of dogs of all shapes and sizes. Drivers are needed both for large coordinated transports as well as for more flexible trips to move single dogs. If you can offer a dog a ride—or if you’re just going somewhere and have room in your car to transport donated items—contact a rescue in your area (such as RTRC, Gentle Jake’s Coonhound Rescue, or TAGS) and let them know you can help. When you see pictures of the dogs happy and loved in their new homes, you’ll be glad you did!

Hogan in Mexico

Earlier this week, I learned that Hogan came to us from the Humane Society of Cozumel Island (via RTRC). Five very kind people responded to my email inquiry about him. Monica Velasco, the person who was the one to take Hogan (Gohan while he was there) in, sent me his full story. And here it is (slightly edited because I can’t help myself):

Boris in his new home in Mexico

“In Cozumel, there are a few homeless people, and I count four of them as my acquaintances. I used to run every morning along the waterfront, and every day around 6 a.m., I would greet four homeless men hanging out in the area near the lighthouse, usually with a visible hangover. We always exchanged a ‘good morning.’ This went on for several years. Every day, I had my four dogs with me, which elicited warm comments from them almost every time. One day I saw a young dog hanging around with them. They said they found him right there by the lighthouse. They told me, ‘Somebody left this puppy here and left money for his food. We found $7 under him!’ It is easy to imagine how the $7 was spent, and I am sure that they still look under lying dogs, just in case they’ll make another such discovery. The dog stayed with these men for several weeks, and although it was not the best of situations, he was okay. I offered help with vaccines and deworming and, of course, neutering would follow. The day we picked him up (for the vaccines?), the men wisely suggested that it was better to find him a good home, which was, of course, my ultimate intention. I would not have guessed, though, that the good home this dog would end up at was mine! His street name was Van Damme; now he is Boris. [Isn’t Boris a beauty?]

“Since then, these men have become dog rescuers of sorts. Every now and then, they will report to me a dog in a bad situation. Sometimes I am able to help, sometimes they don’t remember where they saw the dog (and argue among themselves about it), and sometimes I’m not sure they are not making stories up. But one day in mid-May, one of them walked into my store like he was on a mission. Some days they just want a soda (they well know I will not give them money, which would be spent on alcohol), but this time, the messenger was so excited about what he was going to tell me that he couldn’t even get started. ‘We have…this little—very little—dog that we found. His hair is like wires, and he is very little…and he needs help. We called him Fluffy. Do you want to see him?’


“So off he went and came back a few minutes later with one of his friends carrying a wire-haired, smallish to medium-sized dog. He was very cute, but definitely not fluffy. [I laughed out loud at this!] The man was holding him like a baby, bouncing him so hard, the poor dog might have been dizzy from it! He looked scared and a bit skinny, but otherwise he seemed okay. We took him to the shelter and had him checked out, and he joined the many other dogs waiting for a good home. A staff member (Janice, a vet technician who’d spent a year in Japan) named him Gohan, after a Dragon Ball Z (anime) character. Wire-haired dogs are not very popular here, so we all hoped he would have an opportunity abroad. And happily it worked out!”

Fluffy/Gohan/Hogan the day he was brought into the humane society shelter (May 18, 2011)

So I think Hogan probably flew to Canada on a plane from Cozumel. What an adventure that must’ve been for him! The Cozumel Humane Society is always looking for Americans and Canadians to escort rescued dogs to local rescue organizations who’ve agreed to try to rehome the dogs. It also asks for donations of crates (brought from Canada or the U.S., where they’re much cheaper than they are in Mexico). If you’re planning a winter getaway to Mexico, please visit the Humane Society of Cozumel Island‘s website to see what donations are needed!

Thank you, Monica, Lisa, Janice, Teresa, and Andrea, for sharing with me the story of Gohan! We are so grateful to you and to those four homeless men for rescuing him and helping him find his way home to us. We love him!


How about a Third?

Several people are asking about doggy #3, so I’ll jump forward in time a bit.

Within our first month with Cora and Dusty, I witnessed something that got the wheels turning about getting a third dog. Dusty continued his desperate attempts to get Cora to play. And she still wouldn’t. By this point, we’d seen her run, get into the play position (albeit briefly), and dance around the kitchen at meal times (I’ll blog about all that later and hopefully post a video if I can figure out how to), but Dusty just didn’t interest her. He’s a bit of an aggressive player in that he goes at high speed all the time. We joke that he’s our ADHD dog. But we actually love that about him (except when we can’t get him out of his own little world)!

Anyway, one afternoon, my mom came with me on a walk with the dogs. She had Dusty, and I had Cora. Mom and Dusty were behind a little. Cora and I turned a corner on the trail and met a large black dog. Cora always loves meeting other dogs, but this one was, I guess, special. Cora got into the play position and bounced around trying to encourage the dog to play with her. Of course, since both dogs were on leashes, we couldn’t let them play (although had the other owner not intervened, I wouldn’t have because this was so amazing to me!). Once Dusty arrived on scene, Cora backed off. Hmm, I thought. I wonder if we could find a suitable playmate for Cora. Dusty would play with anyone, so any playmate who worked for Cora would work for him. And Dusty really seemed to miss having playmates.

My husband and I talked about it and then started poking around on Petfinder.com again. We decided that, as much as we loved our hounds, we’d really like to have a terrier again. Enter Hogan.

Hogan (picture sent to us by his foster mom, Julie)

Hogan was rescued by Rat Terrier Rescue Canada (RTRC). His story always interests people, as it did us: (updated December 2011) He came from Cozumel, Mexico, where he’d been found by four homeless men and where he was called “Gohan.” The men took him to the Humane Society of Cozumel. (Side note: If you’re ever vacationing in Cozumel, consider bringing a kennel for the Humane Society.) RTRC saw his picture and decided to save him by bringing him to Canada. Apparently, he generated a lot of interest among potential adopters. We feel so fortunate that we passed the rescue’s stages of application (written application, phone interview, home visit) and in the end were chosen to adopt him. On July 1, Canada Day, we picked him up from his foster mom, Julie.

Hogan is guessed to be around two years old. He’s a wire-haired terrier mix of some sort. We think he may have Cairn terrier in him, so that’s what we’re going with. (Update December 2011: He fits the Australian terrier profile better.) Others have guessed border terrier or Yorkie. Whatever he is, he’s damn lovable! He’s a really affectionate little dog who loves belly rubs but was really shy about “asking” for them when we first got him. When Cora and Dusty came to us for affection, Hogan held back, and sometimes, he still does. He likes to have our full attention rather than one-third of it, so he often waits until the others are napping before he snuggles up to us. He’s got one ear that always wants to stand up and one that always wants to flop sideways and the cutest little curly tail. He’s generally well behaved, but I think if we didn’t exercise him as much as we do, he’d be a trouble maker. A couple of times we’ve caught him chewing something he wasn’t supposed to (chair cushions, rug tassels), but it doesn’t take much to get him to stop. He seems to have learned “no” now. We’re fortunate that he loves his crate, because it will likely be at least a few months before we’ll feel comfortable letting him roam free when we’re not home. He also proved to be very food aggressive when we first adopted him, so we quickly started feeding him in his crate, away from the other dogs. We’re pleased that he’s much less possessive of food now.

We have some issues with Hogan. He’s fearful, just as Cora is, but deals with it in a different way—a terrier way. Whereas Cora cowers away, Hogan growls—mostly at other dogs, but we’ve also seen him snarl a bit at a child (his second day with us). When Hogan first met Cora and Dusty, he growled at them and got a little confrontational with Dusty, but within minutes, the two dogs worked it out and began playing. After a while, Hogan decided he was done playing and led Cora on a walk through the beautiful wooded area at the back of Julie’s yard. It was so cute to see them trot away together. Dusty, meanwhile, happily played with another one of Julie’s foster dogs. We knew Hogan wasn’t going to be necessarily easy (what terrier is?), but nevertheless, we thought, We can make this work.

And for the most part, it has worked. We’ve got some training to do with Hogan still, but he’s definitely a trainable dog. Smart and loyal, he should learn quickly once we put our minds to teaching him. We hired Joan Weston of Who’s Walking Who to help guide us in dealing with his growling. The main task she gave us is to make him feel safe with us, to show him he no longer has to protect himself. And, slowly, we’re making progress.

So from a household of two in April, we became a household of five in July. A happy little family.