Thursday, April 28, 2011


Four Friends

A few weeks ago, my friend Else brought two of her dogs, Archie and Tess, over to play with Jessie. Jessie wasn't interested in playing with them, but to my delight and total surprise, Charley and Sadie were.

Charley and Sadie know Archie and Tess very well - we see them a lot, and have walked with them often, so they are no strangers to each other. Archie is a senior, about the same age as Charley (13/14). Tess is a youngster - a couple of years old, I think (Else??). Both are active, playful dogs, where my two are not. Even as a young dog, Charley was never a playful pooch.

But to my surprise, they played - especially Charley and Tess!

Charley and Tess

Aaack, you scare me!

Everybody listen up!

Get yer foot outta mah eye!

I can too whip yer butt!

Archie and Tess

Sadie and Tess

That was exhausting!

Charley's old joints were a little the worse for wear the next day, but with the help of a pain pill and a day's rest, she is once again ready for a with like minded social dogs -- like her friend Riley and soon-to-be-friend Taleah who will be visiting us next week with their humans Deb and Sharon. And 17 year old Sam, who will be coming to stay with us for a month shortly after that while his humans go overseas to welcome the birth of their new grandchild.

And, no doubt, with Archie and Tess, when their mama is over her cold and feeling well enough to come down for a glass of wine and an hour of chat while the dogs engage in canine capers in my backyard.

It's good to have friends.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today You Bought A Dog

Today you bought a dog.
A puppy, a cutie, a little white ball.
You found him on the internet, in the online classifieds.

Today you bought a dog.
You asked for my help just a couple of weeks ago.
You gave me your criteria and I talked to rescue friends.
I checked the websites of good rescues and found some possibilities.
You didn’t go to meet them.
Instead you bought a puppy.

Today you bought a dog
From someone who contributes to the problem
Of pet overpopulation and animal homelessness.
A backyard breeder, maybe a puppy mill.

How do I know the breeder is irresponsible?
Because good breeders have waiting lists for their pups.
Good breeders don’t sell through Craigslist or Used Wherever.
Good breeders do reference checks and have long discussions with potential homes before deciding among all the applicants which lucky families will get their puppies, and which puppy is best suited for which home.
It is a process which takes weeks.

Good breeders, when you google their phone number, don’t have several different breeds advertised in several different cities. Nor do they keep changing the birthdate of their puppies as they lower the price. The wonderful people who sold you your puppy did this. Google the number.

Today you bought a dog.
From someone who bears part of the responsibility for the thousands of dogs in BC shelters tonight,
From someone who bears part of the responsibility for the thousands of homeless dogs who will be euthanized in Canada this month, for the tens of thousands who will die in North America.
But they don’t care.
They just keep pumping out the puppies and selling them for profit,
While others die alone.

Did you know that there are well over 150 rescue groups in BC?
Did you know that there are thousands of homeless dogs, big, small, young, old, even puppies, looking for homes in BC today?
Do you care that dogs are dying because you couldn’t wait, so you bought a puppy from someone who is part of the problem instead of part of the solution?

Do you care that YOU are now part of the problem?

No. If you did, you wouldn’t have done it.

You know who you are.

Don’t bother to call me to share your ‘good’ news. I won’t be celebrating with you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cats haz their uses. By Sadie.

Dey makes good pillows!

Luv, Sadie.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Luck, Jessie; Farewell, Buck

Today, I drove Jessie back down island where she will go back to the home of one of the directors of Broken Promises Rescue, where she stayed briefly when she first came into care. After a full discussion of her behaviours of the past few days, we decided that it is in everyone's best interest (and most especially in Jessie's best interest) for her to be in a place where she can be better assessed as her personality continues to reveal itself. There, the rescue has a relationship with their vet in case medications would be useful, familiarity with trainers and behaviourists, access to people who do T-Touch, and other resources to ensure that she can be given the best assessment and help available to make her adoption-ready.

I shall miss the muppet, but I also support the rescue's decision fully and I wish Jessie all the best.

Just as I was leaving to take Jessie back, I learned that my kind and generous neighbour, Buck, passed away yesterday. Buck was a retired senior, somewhere between my age and my mother's, who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Buck was a good friend and neighbour to me - from the day I arrived here, he welcomed me and we had many enjoyable conversations and shared much laughter over the back fence. In summer he often greeted me with hands full of warm tomatoes or young zucchini for my table, and he loved both dogs and birds as much as I do. He was a skilled craftsman whose hobby was making intricate wooden plaques, fun garden ornaments, birdhouses, and other treasures, many of which adorn his home and yard. He was a good man, and I was fortunate to have known him.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Enigma


As Jessie's personality unfolds, she is proving to be somewhat of an enigma. She is, without a doubt, the smartest dog I have ever known (uh-oh, better cover Sadie and Charley's eyes when I write that!), an incredibly quick learner with an excellent recall of what is expected of her.

But as she comes out of her shell, she also shows more and more fear. She is the most timid dog I have ever known. We need to pay a visit to Oz to seek out some courage from the Wizard.

The hum of the exhaust fan on the pub a block away, the noise of a truck unloading at the grocery store the next road over, a child's voice shrieking in excitement two doors up, visiting dogs barking behind the fence across the lane - these are certainly a few of her least favourite things. She trembles. She shakes. She cowers and quakes. Her tail is tucked in so tight you can't see it. The noise, foster mama, stop the noise! Unleashed in the fenced yard she paces madly and constantly between me and the back door; leashed to my side, she pulls me right over in her attempt to bolt from everyday sounds.

Even in the house, outside noises send her racing back and forth down the hallway. Unexpected movements by visitors produce loud barking and a two-step "I'm gonna get you, oh no I'm not" reaction. Yet when visitors are still, she is the first of thre three dogs to lean against them and lift her happy muppet face or huge fluffy paws in an attempt to coerce some pats from them.

When all is quiet, completely quiet, she is amazing. She has quickly learned to fetch a frisbee, sit and wait at each door, stop in the mudroom and lift each paw for wiping (this is soooo cute - I just call 'Muddy Paws' as she enters the house and she plonks her bottom down and lifts her paws - and doesn't move until I've wiped them!!!).

When it is completely quiet in the house or yard, she heels on leash perfectly. She has learned to stop barking, on command - one "Enough!" and she quits trying to scare away the innocent pedestrian walking down the street. When I say "crate" she runs right in; when she needs out she runs to the door and rings the poochie bells hanging there. She figured out the I-cube (a toy in which balls are stuffed for the dog to pull out) in about two minutes flat. I show her what I want just twice, and she has it.

Unless..... unless there is a noise outside. Any noise. The slightest noise. And then she doesn't hear. She doesn't sit. She doesn't fetch. She doesn't heel. She doesn't stop. She doesn't even glance at the wonderful, yummy, smelly, highly prized liver treat in my hand in front of her nose.

The only thing in her world is fear.

And that is the challenge we face.

It is a challenge beyond my level of competency. Broken Promises Rescue, for whom I am fostering, will be working with me to figure out a plan for Jessie, a solution that works for all of us. That is what a good rescue does. That is their job. Mine, for now, is to keep her safe.

Three dogs in a row

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Walk Wiv Me! by Jessie

I'z going on mah walk. Wanna come along?

Here we are at the seawalk:

Smell that salt air!

Der's lots of interestin' smells!

And there's sunlight on those logs down there:

I likes to sit and watch the water:

Let's go all the way along the path today:

Lookit all this sand! I think I'm gonna be a Beach Babe!

There's lots of flowers too:

Gotta head home now. More flowers at the top of the stairs:

I like dis one!

And lots of trees in bloom on the road home:

Here's we are, back at my gate. Let's do it again tomorrow!

Luv, Jessie

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BREAKTHROUGH! (Well, maybe!)

I swear there is a little switch in a puppy's brain that sometimes gets stuck in the 'off' position and then for no apparent reason **click*** gets flipped on.

That happened yesterday with Jessie. We headed out in the morning on our 'gotta get over your fear of the leash/cars/new smells walk around the neighbourhood - which at last attempt was a twenty minute struggle for both of us around a half block (using a back lane). She didn't want to go. She lay down and pretended to be dead when I put on her harness and leashes.

She cowered at the back yard gate.

She slunk down the side of the house and passed the cars.

She was not a happy camper.

No, I won't 'watch' you!

Then - ZOMG! - she suddenly began trotting along nicely. Right by my side. Head up, tail up. No pulling or weaving or trembling. Just a nice, brisk, happy trot.

Oh! this isn't so bad!

We reached the end of the block, where we have been turning right to return via the back lane, and she wanted to turn left. So we did.

And she trotted right down to the park. And on to the seawalk. Over the metal grid, and along the boards above the sand and sea.

And down to the beach. Where we met some friends and their dogs and chatted for a while. Then she and I sat on a rock under the edge of the wharf and took a few photographs.

Then we returned via the looooong flight of steps, with open spaces and metal grids. No hesitation.

Through a new (to her)neighbourhood and back on home.

And she was happy and proud of herself.

Later in the day, I tried taking her out again, and the switch was back in the 'off position' so that even passing a parked car in front of my neighbour's house was a challenge for her. It didn't help that a bus came down the crossroad (albeit a half block away) shortly after that and totally terrifed her. She was determined to bolt back in the direction we came. I put her into a sit - she has an excellent 'sit'! - waited for it to pass and we continued. She never stopped trembling and yanking and trying to bolt, however, so at the park we sat on a bench for a while and then I walked her home. Once we got back to our block, she eased up and more or less walked nicely back to the house. We shall see how she does today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Juggling Jessie

Just as Jessie settles into our routine and finds her place in the household (primarily in my office, where I spend a lot of time and where I first set up her crate), we shuffle things around a bit. My sister is here for a week's visit, so that meant converting the office to a bedroom, moving the computer and Jessie's crate to other locations.

Jessie's not sure what to make of this. I moved the crate into my bedroom, Jessie's toys into the living room, and pulled out the futon into a bed. Then I went to the washroom and came out a couple of minutes later to discover Jessie had been very busy - carrying each and every toy back into the office!

Later that evening, I was working at my computer (now in the living room) when I realized Jessie was no longer at my feet. I went in search of her. She guessed it....back in the office. And though she had never jumped up on a bed or a couch in this house before, there she was, sound asleep on the bed:

But she is adjusting. She won't willingly go into the crate in my bedroom, but once in she sleeps just fine. Her toys are back in the living room, though she often carries them outside instead. She took a liking to my sister right away, though if I leave the house without them she spends the time running to the back door, ringing the poochie bells to try to get my sister to let her out! Silly girl!

In other Jessie news, she continues to make progress. We have been gradually exposing her to the neighbourhood - a few hundred feet at a time. She is fine with ground she has covered before, very anxious as we cover new ground. Yesterday, she made it to the end of the block, down a half block to a back lane, up the back lane, and home. She did try to bolt when a truck braked at the stop sign with a squeal, and cringed and trembled when a roofer banged a hammer repeatedly, but she is trembling less when we meet the neighbours and will sit calmly while I chat with them.

I take her out on two leashes, a martingale and a harness. The leash attached to the martingale is clipped around my waist - it is the safety line. The harness is a 'no pull' harness as her on-leash skills are very weak. Unfortunately, even a no-pull harness doesn't help a great deal with a dog who doesn't have the sense of marching forward rather than weaving all over. Even more unfortunately, I am so not skilled at teaching a dog to walk on leash - back and hip problems make it very difficult and painful for me, so this is likely an area that will not improve much at all. It also limits where I will be able to take her - the trip around the block yesterday nearly did me in. Potential adopters are going to have to be prepared to leash-train her themselves.

We have not yet attempted to overcome her fear of riding in a car, though she now walks past my van quite comfortably. I do have a strategy in mind to desensitize her to the van. With the van in the driveway alongside the front yard, and the van sliding door open, Jessie and I will spend some time weeding the front flower bed (Jessie leashed to me). We'll begin at the far side and gradually move closer to the van. When I take a break, I'll sit just inside the van, on the floor where the sliding door opens. Jessie, being leashed to me, will be able to sit on the ground if she wants. Gradually I'll move further into the van until she has to jump up in order to stay with me. Over a series of days, we'll spend time just sitting in there, before beginning a series of very, very short trips around the block in the vehicle. Of course, each successful step will be rewarded with lots of fun, games and treats. She is a dog who loves attention!

Jessie is now solid on her potty training - she paces for a moment in the house then runs to the back door and rings the bell. She also often enjoys a game of fetch in the back yard, and is fairly good at bringing the ball or flying squirrel (a frisbee type toy) back to me. She is excellent about stopping inside the mudroom and sitting to wait for me to wipe her paws. While she does bark loudly at anyone who dares to walk down our street, she is quiet on command (unlike certain big black dogs named Sadie!). She occasionally initiates play with Charley (That's a whole 'nother post!), and although she often chases and corners the cat, she never hurts her and will stop on command.

Oh crap!

Is there an escape hatch on this thing?

My sister is also doing well with training - with the help of the signs I have stuck on the doors to the house, she has consistently remembered that Jessie must be crated or on leash before anyone enters or exits the house, and I don't even have to reward her with treats. Having obedient house guests certainly makes juggling Jessie a lot easier! Thanks Big Sis!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What is a puppy?

A puppy is a certain type of dog. Not necessarily a baby dog. Some bearded collies are apparently still puppies at a year and a half. I know labs who have been puppies until they are at least eight or nine. If puppyhood is not an age in a dog’s life, what is it? What defines a puppy?

A puppy grabs your boot and races out the door with it, causing you to run around the very damp yard in stocking feet trying to get it back at six-thirty in the morning.

A puppy doesn’t walk anywhere – she pounces and leaps. If she is on leash, she pulls – and not in a straight line. She zigs. She zags. She turns around. She twists the leash around the walker’s legs and then heads back the way she came.

A puppy likes to carry stuff around in her mouth. Toys. Shoes. Balls. Underwear. Cats. If she can catch them.

A puppy obsesses over a cat hiding under a sheet or on top of a fridge or behind a cupboard. She will watch the cat (or the spot where the cat is hiding) for hours. It is the only time the puppy is both wide awake and completely still.

A puppy gets bored easily. A toy holds her attention for thirty minutes max before it is discarded forever and the search is on for something new.

A puppy is all wiggles and bounce and flounce and excitement. A human who returns from a two minute trip to the bathroom is greeted just as enthusiastically as one who has been gone from the house for several hours.

A puppy greets strangers and other dogs with tail up and cheerful smile – except when you want her to, in which case she will refuse to have anything to do with them.

I'z not playin' wiv them!!!

A puppy can steal a loaf of bread from the back of the kitchen counter, but cannot pick up a ball lying right at her feet.

A puppy takes indoor toys outdoors and brings outdoor toys indoors and will bring both to you the moment you sit down with a cup of coffee.

Play wiv me, please!

A puppy has big floppy double-jointed paws that are capable of absorbing three gallons of mud each. The puppy is very skilled at then wiping or spraying said mud all over the walls, freezer, floor, cupboards and, of course, the human’s best going-to-the-theatre clothes.

A puppy has much more energy than the human with whom she lives.

But when she finally flakes out and goes to sleep, a puppy is the sweetest animal on earth.

(This post is especially written for Broken Promises Rescue, who knows I don’t foster puppies. If Jessie were sleeping, I would show you how sweet she is. But she's still obsessing over the cat.)

(Sorry for the spacing problems, yet again. Is anyone else with a blogger account having this problem???)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Magical Moments, Beautiful World

While the weather still seems unseasonably cold and wet, the longer hours of daylight and the occasional bursts of sunshine have brought forth the green leaves and brilliant blossoms.

The animals, too are glad of winter’s departure. Within the space of just ten minutes, on this morning’s short drive to the SPCA, I saw so many affirmations of the beauty of life.

I saw a doe emerge from the trees and bound across the road in front of me to enter the brush on the other side.

I saw a heron preening and cleaning his beautiful blue grey feathers in the middle of a verdant field.

I saw an eagle, its white head brilliant in the sun, soar above the treetops in the clear blue sky.

I saw a sleek black cat stalking its prey in a field of short gold stubble, its sinewy body stretching, moving with such fluidity, eyes never leaving its target.

And I saw an old man, hair greyed and body stooped, walking with an equally old black lab along a railway track in a picturesque valley.

Later in the day, walking the block or two to the beach with Charley and Sadie, the pleasure continues – colourful red currant bushes in bloom, yellow daffodils nodding their heads in the breeze at the ferry terminal, flowers and birds and greenery everywhere I look.

The young man who cuts my grass shows up and splashes his way around my soggy yard, trimming the edges and mowing what he can. The smell of newly cut grass fills the air. No fabric softener or air freshner or incense stick can ever come close to capturing the wonderful fragrance of a new mown lawn.

And I sink my face into the soft, soft fur of this muppet-like foster puppy (for she really is still very much a puppy) who today took her first brave steps onto the driveway without so much as a quiver, eager to meet the young man with the noisy lawn mower. And then walked right past the car, on loose leash with head high, to return to the house. What amazing progress for such a scared little girl.

Makes me glad to be alive. Makes me glad to live where I do. Makes me glad to do what I do.

The Drama Queen and the Matriarch

I was sitting at my computer when I sensed a commotion and glanced down to see this: No, she wasn't sleeping - she was tossing herself around with great dramatic flair, trying to get my attention. Why, you ask? Because of this: A closer look: Charley, the matriarch of the household, has seized the newcomer's crate and claimed it for herself. Charley has her own, much larger, crate.... and a raised bed, and a big round bed, and a rubbermaid bed, and two extra-large rectangular cushions - none of which either of the other dogs ever use. But she has to squeeze herself into Jessie's crate, just when Jessie has finally decided the wire crate is a very acceptable and comfortable place to hang out. And I distinctly heard Charley mutter something about 'darn youth today, think they can just take over the world, no respect for their elders....'