Each dog that comes to Misfit Manor teaches me something new. Rosie’s role is to teach me all about how to feed a dog that has difficulty eating.
Rosie has been with me for almost two months and she has a complex set of issues surrounding eating so I have had to learn fast. Rosie often gags and chokes when she eats. I figured out pretty quickly that she needs to eat sitting up (she also has no ability to bark). She has some sort of partial paralysis/neuromuscular issue with her mouth and throat.
Rosie also has difficulty masticating her food (chewing). I feed her very small bites of food…one at a time. I don’t give her anything that would be really difficult to chew. I also push her food back on her tongue slightly so she can chew it with her back teeth.
She also gets very tired during eating. Sometimes she is just a few bites into her meal and she is exhausted….her jaw muscles just seem to stop cooperating. She will try to eat but the food just falls out the side of her mouth.
Sometimes Rosie just seems to get bored with eating and refuses to pay attention to me or the food. She will actually bury her head in her booster seat to intentionally ignore me and her dinner.
She is also INSANELY PICKY. A dish she seemingly loved for breakfast…a few hours later she spits right back at me.
I love a challenge…especially when it comes in the form of such a sweet and beautiful dog. I have pulled everything I have out of my dog mom bag of tricks. Here are some of the ways I am handling getting enough calories in Rosie every day…
I feed her sitting up in a high chair and I hand feed her small bites of food one at a time. It’s time consuming…but it works. The gagging on food rarely happens and I can be certain just exactly what she is eating (rather than assuming she ate it but one of the other dogs actually ate it).
I feed her 4-5 several small meals per day. Because she seems to fatigue so fast from eating the small meals seem to work better. My goal is to get at least a cup of food in her each day (not including treats).
I add vitamins. Twice a day I crush a multi-vitamin into a spoonful of peanut butter. (I use PetMD multi-vitamins). Most days she is really enthusiastic about the peanut butter. When she is not cooperating I gently open her mouth and put the peanut butter on the roof of her mouth with my finger.
I added Lixotinic (an iron and B12 supplement) to raise her energy and appetite. While it took a few days so see an impact from the Lixotinic it has had a very noticeable impact on her appetite.
I break the dog mom rules. I am fairly militant about what my dogs eat. I cook their food from scratch…organic, fresh and homemade. With Rosie I have had to let that go sometimes. Rosie gets sick of food fairly quickly. There have been some days when I have cooked her three different meals before I could find something she would eat. If the only thing I can get her to eat is Macaroni & Cheese (true story)…then for that day I will concede and let her eat that.
I warm her food up. For some reason Rosie likes her food slightly warm.
I trick her! Rosie is always interested in what I am eating when I sit down at the kitchen table. On days when she is refusing to eat her meals. I let it go for awhile. I later pull her food out…warm it up and then sit down at my kitchen table and pretend I am eating it. She comes over to see what I have and I pretend I am giving her table scraps. What she refused to eat 1 hour ago…she is now gobbling down. I will also start giving some of her food to my other dogs if she is being difficult. That usually perks her interest in her food.
I couldn’t adore Rosie more than I do. I am learning a lot about working with a difficult eater. Rosie is very young (about 1 year old) so I am determined to work at finding the best solutions as this will be a lifelong struggle for her. If you have any dog mom magic tricks for getting difficult dogs to eat…please share!
Check out my Pinterest Page for loads of fun dog ideas (crafts, recipes, pawties, etc)!
“The Rescuer” wrote an article about my husband and me. Its written by a rescue here in Central Kentucky called Paws 4 the Cause. They are a humble group who fights really hard on the front lines of Kentucky’s rural communities that are very poor and have little to no resources for helping animals. I am very flattered to have been highlighted by them.
Nancy Halverson and her husband, Bret have a household filled with love. In 2000 they adopted their very first rescue, a lab mix named Sparky. The Halversons wanted a companion for the dog they had already purchased and made the life-changing decision to adopt.
Before finding his furever home, Sparky had been adopted out numerous times and brought back to the shelter for his unruly behavior. Deemed unadoptable, he was scheduled to be euthanized. Lucky for him, in came Nancy. Through love and patience Sparky went from an uncountable, destructive animal to a loyal loving companion to Nancy for 15 years.
Since adopting Sparky, the Halversons have continued to provide a loving home for animals deemed undesirable. Whether from a physical disability, or behavioral problems, the Halversons have found a place in their heart and their home—which they call “Misfit Manor”–for many animals.
Over the years they have fostered 9 dogs and cats, and adopted many more. Currently 8 dogs reside at Misfit Manor permanently. Snoopy, the newest resident recently had one of his legs amputated due to abuse he suffered before being rescued by the Halversons. He has been doing quite well in his recovery, and is sure to lead a full and happy life on three legs. Nancy says, “We tend to gravitate towards dogs that will have a harder time getting adopted. We don’t see age or handicap as a barrier to a full life. We don’t feel sorry for them. Rather, we fall in love with them (usually instantly). It’s just who we are.”
Behavioral problems are a big reason many pets get deemed unadoptable. Many people do not want to dedicate the work and time that goes in to rehabilitating these animals. The Halversons don’t shy away from such challenges. Lacey was a small dog with a big attitude. “We have three dogs currently in our home that came here with significant behavior issues; one was surrendered for chronically biting her people. The day I met her (she’s a little thing) she did a 3 foot vertical leap and bit my nose (hard). I seriously lost count of how many times she bit me the first few months she lived with us. But she was out of options so we adopted her.”
Besides the work that goes into owning a special needs pet, there is another reason people tend to avoid them. Loss. When you first get a puppy, loosing them someday is usually the furthest thing from your mind. However, dealing with loss is often a consideration when adopting a senior pet. Most of us can be a little selfish, thinking of the heartache we will have to face and will avoid it. Not the Halversons. For them, it’s all about the dogs. They make sure all of their animals have a full and happy life—for however long that may be. By taking it day by day, they don’t take one minute for granted. Even still, it is never easy to loose a pet.
“Our goal as pet parents is to give each one of them the fullest life possible and that may not be traditional with their health challenges, but we make it work.
I’m that “crazy lady” that shows up at the park with a stroller full of senior/handicap dogs.”
Recently Nancy lost her beloved Luna, a chihuahua mix she carried everywhere with her. Luna had a very hard life before finding her way to Nancy for her final eighteen months. Not only had her age caught up with her, but her little body was broken from years of abuse. Despite all of the set-backs, Nancy gave Luna the best months of her life. For those of us that had the pleasure of meeting Luna, she no doubt made a lasting impression on your heart—and especially Nancy’s.
“But to be honest….physical difficulties in dogs are really not an issue for us or for the dogs. Dogs cope with aging and disability quite gracefully. People may perceive them as having challenges but these dogs make fabulous pets. I wish more people could see this.”
The eventual loss of a pet is unfortunately something that all pet owners will have to face someday. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. For Nancy, she takes refuge in art. She creates hand-made pet condolence cards, and other pet-themed cards encouraging adoption. I think we can all learn a lot from the Halversons. They do not let heartache stop them. In fact, in only seems to make their hearts even bigger. Rescuing and rehabilitating dogs with a death-sentence is extremely rewarding for people like the Halversons. They get the satisfaction of saving lives and these lucky animals get a lifetime of love.
Click on the above photos to see Nancy’s Etsy page.
Click the link below to go to Nancy’s website.
In case you haven’t heard, we are having a raffle for an ultra-rare bottle of bourbon–one of only 100 ever made. This bottle of 1980 O.F.C. donated by Buffalo Trace is estimated to be valued at $10,000!
We still have a few raffle tickets available for this ultra-rare bottle of bourbon. Don’t miss out!
We will be co-hosting an event with Willie’s Locally Known on February 22nd. This will be your last chance to buy a ticket before we announce the lucky winner that night!
Canines of the Month
These two were captured living on their own out in the wilderness right
before Winter set in. Butch (the big one) is the younger protector and
Sundance (the little one) is a natural cuddle bug. They have looked out
for each other for a long time, and suspect they are related somehow.
Butch is larger and playful, the easier of the two and a typical Jack
Russell in many ways, without all the yappiness. Sundance will require
time, but with a little nurturing will become a forever bed bug. Once he
bonds, it’s forever. He just needs to feel safe first.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out Lexington’s newest hot spot for food, drinks, and live music, here’s your chance! Willie’s Locally Known has partnered with P4tC to host a special event–and the only event where you’ll be able to buy your O.F.C. raffle tickets. Wednesday, February 22nd from 5-9pm Willie’s will be offering a special course-menu deal and bourbon-based mixed drink created by their expert staff especially for P4tC! A portion of these specials will be directly donated to our organization. The Cerny Brothers will be playing great tunes too! Come enjoy incredible food, drinks, and live music. We’ll also be set up with our P4tC merchandise, and of course be selling O.F.C. raffle tickets and announcing the big winner that night!
Felines of the Month
This is a brother and sister team that need a home–together. They are in foster care right now.
The foster says they love each other so much that she can’t bear the idea of them going to separate homes. Both are litter trained and very well-behaved, despite being rambunctious 5-month-olds.
They have been fully vetted and spayed/neutered.
These two need to go to home together, as they are sure to be playmates for life!
These types of kennels are essential to running our rescue, but the price tag is a little hefty for an individual to bear. Group fundraisers can be great team-builders, and the results benefit a great cause! Organize your group or business to do a fundraiser of your design. Be creative and have fun! For every $600 your group donates, we will purchase one of these heavy-duty kennels and name it after your business or group.
The first day I picked up Snoopy from our local Humane Society, despite his broken leg, he seemed a typical rambunctious and happy puppy….until I loaded him in my car. He began to howl (like really loud), squirm and was clearly very agitated. If he wasn’t harnessed in a car seat it would have been chaos. He calmed back down when we got out of the car. I ended up taking him to the vet within a few hours as it was pretty clear he was having pain issues. When we got back in the car…it was the same howling and anxiety all over again…which then recurred every time we got in the car throughout his several week ordeal (broken leg that was eventually amputated). It was clear that he was associating riding in the car with bad things…who could blame him with all he has been through in his short little life. Years ago I adopted a two year lab (Sparky) who had extreme anxiety in the car…it made life a lot more complicated and it took years to work him through the anxiety. No chance I was going to let this happen with Snoopy.
So this week we started working on changing his car ride association…I wanted to make a car ride mean something good for him. We spent a few days just walking out to the car a few times per day and I gave him bits of ham treats when we got to the car and said “car ride” (we never got in the car). Then we graduated to actually getting in the car, with ham treats and “car ride” but getting out immediately. Then we graduated to taking really short car rides, with ham treats and “car ride” being repeated the whole time.
Today…I took Snoopy out on his first big errand run…we left the ham behind. He was a different dog in the car. He sat quietly in his car seat…no howling…no squirming. He did great sitting politely and greeting new people at Lowe’s…he went to the skin clinic and charmed pretty ladies and he went out for his first puppuccino. I couldn’t be more proud of him.
It has been a really long time since I have had a puppy in the house. I know how crucial their first few months are in terms of proper socialization and Snoopy’s most impressionable months were spent getting his leg horribly broken, dying under anesthesia once (waking up blind for awhile) and finally having to heal from a successful amputation of the leg. He has some social “catch up” to do but he is doing great.
I am always amazed at how trusting dogs who have been through hell are. Snoopy has every reason to be cautious of people but Snoopy gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (unless they are pushing a shopping cart…need to work on that). His wagging tail and charming personality are like a balm in a harsh world. The world needs more Snoopy.
If you are looking for pet rescue themed artwork or handmade pet sympathy cards please check out my ETSY shop!
A few days ago I was out walking with Turnip…I had a very sweet “ah ha” moment when I realized that Turnip was walking like a normal dog and has been for a long time…I think I have taken his progress for granted…relaxed…tail up…sniffing…no fear. He has changed so much, albeit gradually, that when I paused to think about it…the change in him….seems like magic…it makes me smile. It got me thinking about how much both Buster and Turnip have changed since we met them last year.
Bret and I have always had a soft heart for the creatures that have some challenges…maybe we can both relate. Turnip was challenged by pretty much everything…door ways…stairs…men…blowing leaves…noises…when I started walking him I had to lure him with ham while he slithered on his belly a bit further down the driveway each day. We used to have leave the room to get him to go in and out the door for potty breaks. There was a time when he would not let anyone but me near him…now he will take food from the hands of strangers and a select few can pet him.
Buster was a different type of special…he was bred to work…to guard…he just needed to find his rhythm (and some boundaries) for a successful family life. He found them. But in hindsight he has changed dramatically…Buster lived at a kennel when I first started working with him..I was uncomfortable letting him near my own dogs. Now he is a ladies man…all of our fosters fall in love with him and any human that visits is his new best friend. Don’t get me wrong…Buster is not a dog to trifle with…but he figured out where he fits here and he does everything with enthusiasm.
Watching Buster and Turnip change has been rewarding…Bret and I are deeply invested in both of them…we work hard with our dogs that need extra help…these two have taken an extraordinary amount of our time. Our investment in them seems so much larger since we took in the girls this year (Lucy, Luna & Maddie). The girls are so laid back and well adjusted…they were an immediate and effortless fit here. The contrast between the boys and the girls made me think more about investing time in relationships general…do I afford people the same “space and grace” that I am more than happy to give the dogs? Do any of us? Do I work as hard at relationships with difficult humans as I did with Buster and Turnip? I had a wicked determination with Buster…giving up was not an option. What if I had that same determination with people?
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile…my conclusion is that I need to re-frame how I choose to interact with humans. If I could get away with it I would interact with people very little…its not that I don’t “like” people…I’m just an introvert…I prefer to be a lone…I have fun when I am alone…if I don’t get enough time alone than I am not myself. If I have been around a lot of people for an extended amount of time (even though I enjoy it) I will be exhausted. I am comfortable with being an introvert and I make sure to protect the boundaries I need to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy. But its possible I have been using my introversion as an excuse to not extend more grace to people in general. I think about the most basic things I afforded to Buster and Turnip while they figured things out…it was space (to figure things out at their own pace) and grace (remaining consistently caring no matter what kind of shenanigans were going on). I suppose those are the same two things most would say they would afford their children. But do we afford them to adults? Buster and Turnip had tremendous baggage…they were not young puppies to shape and socialize…they were emotionally banged up…as most adult humans are…as I am. If you looked at either of these dogs on the outside…they looked like handsome, healthy adult dogs…not so on the inside….as is the case with most adults…myself included. What would happen if I worked harder at seeing Buster and Turnip in everyone?
There is a dog person saying, you’ve heard it….”the more people I get to know the more I like dogs”…its kind of a funny saying…and often it can be true. But it also flies in the face of the essence of “dogness”…the very glory of a dog is its unconditional love and tolerance for humans. If there is no human for them to love…than there is no “dogness”. The intrinsic nature of a dog is rooted in its relationship to us. We rob dogs of their wonder if we don’t afford humans the same space, grace and effort that the dog’s give us. Perhaps the main reason dogs are here for us to reflect them…to reflect their “dogness” in to our own relationships…I want more “dogness” in my own essence…
I had a good time having this contest and I hope all who made guesses had fun too! Bret picked the winning names from the correct guesses out of hat for me (I know…not very scientific but I am just a rescue mom).
The winners are:
First Prize: ($25 Electronic Gift Card to my ETSY shop): Elizabeth Waterbury
Second Prize: (Cat Rescue Art Print): Gail Clement
Third Prize: (3 pack of Pet Sympathy Cards): Crista Becker
Our favorite breed is, and always will be, “rescued”. But Buster was a bit of puzzle from a behavior stand point and learning about his breed has been really helpful. He has been, by far, the most challenging dog I have worked with. Once I learned about his breed I gained a much greater appreciation for his personality and made changes to how I work with him…and frankly grew to admire his personality rather than feel the need to re-shape it.
Make no bones about it…a Mountain Cur is not a good choice for a family dog…nor is a suburban environment a good choice for this breed. This breed needs an avid hunter with a lot of property for this dog to roam. We have figured out how to make it work…let Buster be who he is meant to be and teach him alternate behaviors to reign in some of his exuberance. I LOVE working with Buster. Once we figured out what breed Buster was we could see much of his behavior for what it was…characteristic of his breed…not problematic…perception can be everything. I started networking with other folks like me who unknowingly ended up with a Mountain Cur and had made the commitment to make a successful life for them. I have learned a lot.
A Mountain Cur is a dog with a novel history…this region probably would not have been settled with out these dogs. They are nothing to be trifled with and are bred to work and protect. They are wicked smart and athletic. They are also fiercely loyal and incredibly affectionate. We are honored to have Buster as part of our family.
Several weeks ago I got a call from the local humane society that there were two female Chihuahuas at the shelter that needed a foster home. Bret and I had recently fostered two other Chihuahuas and had a great time with both of them (both found new homes quite quickly). When I arrived at the shelter to get them…the shelter was full…loud and chaotic…stressed out dogs barking. The shelter staff took me to a kennel at the very end…it looked empty. She lifted the large dog bed up and there I saw the two little girls huddled together; shaking and hiding under the bed. She moved fast and put them in a carrier. I left fast. I hate being in the shelter. I had barely gotten a look at either dog.
When I arrived at home with the dogs Bret met me in the yard and we opened the carrier and let them out. The younger dog came out first; timid but she looked like a young and healthy dog. Then Luna came out. She had a really bad limp, a permanently crumpled up ear, a hunched back, a few really rotten and smelly teeth and a clearly broken tail. We were INSTANTLY in love with her.
We kept the normal routine of fostering for a few weeks…figuring we had to at least give a fair shake to her chance at adoption. But we quickly failed miserably…we made Luna ours forever.
We know nothing of Luna’s history nor why she ended up at the shelter. She has an agreeable personality as long as there is not a lot of commotion around her and she is perfectly potty trained. I suspect someone loved her a lot and somewhere along the way something tragic happened to cause her injuries…but who knows.
We took her for a wellness check right after we adopted her. The vet believes she is around 12 years old…he confirmed all the old injuries we suspected and pulled out her last little snaggle tooth. (She is totally toothless now). Luna is deaf and has cataracts dimming her vision. She has an amazing attitude.
I am of the belief that each dog has come in to our lives exactly when they are supposed to. I don’t pretend to know why some steal our hearts and others don’t…but Luna was love at first sight. Despite her obvious physical issues…Luna has great enthusiasm. She is curious, adventurous (to a fault), always up for a car ride…and wants to hang out with me wherever I am. She is also accepting…of the other animals, of bed time in her crate and of living with joy despite her obvious challenges. We love her spirit…her excitement. When we arrive home after being gone for even a short while Luna comes to life…jumping up and down, squealing and rolling on her back with her legs in the air. All dogs get excited…but when they show joy in the face of the physical challenges that Luna has…with such enthusiasm…it melts our hearts.
Luna can walk around fine on her own but she has a pretty bad limp and clearly has pain in her right leg (a broken leg that did not heal properly). I added her to my routine of wagon riding with Kringles at the park. The two are great wagon mates…they truly seem to enjoy each other’s mellow company. Luna barks at all the big dogs walking by…so funny. Luna stands in the front of the wagon the whole walk….wind blowing in her hair…the chance for her to cruise around and sight see without having to use her own broken body to get around…it is really something to see. The daily wagon rides with her and Kringles are always the highlight of my day.
I no longer feel the need to justify why I feel the way I do about certain things…I used to…but maybe I am finally old enough to trust my instincts. For some odd reason…when I met Luna I was able to feel Sparky again. I love all my dogs…but caring for Sparky as he aged was such an honor…I loved every minute of it…it was the only time that I felt I was giving back anywhere near the love he had given me. Luna brings back that sense of satisfaction and purpose…and I love it. I hope we have Luna with us for many years…but I am also realistic about how long her life with us will be. For now…what a joy to have the honor of being part of her life.
We also adopted her shelter mate…Lucy…while they weren’t bonded to a point that they couldn’t be adopted separately…as you can see in this picture…we did not want to break them apart. I don’t know if they are related…perhaps Luna is Lucy’s mother. Lucy is less than 2 years old. I will write about Lucy soon…she is wild and a complete delight! She is Bret’s dog…through and through.
Life at Misfit Manor has been busy…our first vacation rental property is doing well…Bret can work from home now and on Friday we are closing on three more rental units….very exciting (and scarey). In the meantime…we continue our daily routine in our little slice of heaven that we call Misfit Manor…just a bunch of connected souls on the great and messy journey we call life.
Just to be clear…our favorite breed of dog is “rescued”. We took Buster in to our home because he had some…let’s call them “quirks” that needed to be worked out. We fell in love with him quirks and all. Buster is a super handsome boy…from day one people were asking us what kind of dog he was…not just because he is handsome but because (when he wants them to be) his manners can be stunning. But Bret and I would shrug and say we rescued him and have no clue what kind of dog he is. By total chance Bret stumbled on to the property of someone (Eastern Kentucky) who had a whole yard full of Busters…I mean identical…identical down to one very specific characteristic. Turns out this person was a breeder of this certain type of dog…we showed him our Buster and told him what Buster’s personality was like…it appears we had a match. Everything about Buster now makes a lot more sense! We then did a DNA test on Buster to follow up.
So I thought why not have some fun with this and run a contest to let people guess at Buster’s breed? I am even going to give out prizes!!! The prizes are pictured below. There are several more pictures of Buster pictured below. I will be giving out hints on my Facebook Page each week.
You can enter as many (different) guesses as you want. The contest will run for four weeks. All of the correct guesses will be collected and the three winners will be chosen at random from the correct guesses. I will contact all the winners via email and ship them their prizes. I will announce the results on my Facebook Page as well.
The three prizes are: a $25.oo electronic gift card to my shop, an 8×10 cat rescue print and a 3 pack of my handmade pet sympathy cards.
If you are a lover of all things pet and pet rescue please follow my blog. I blog weekly about life and art with a house full of rescued pets. I also have a Facebook Page where I post several times a week. And I have a Pinterest Page where I have boards on every topic you could think of for pets. If you are looking for a pet rescue art or pet sympathy cards please check out The Rescue Mama ETSY shop!
Our home in Kentucky is the first home that Bret and I chose and purchased together. It is the first place that is truly “ours”. We decided last summer that we wanted to give it a fitting name but wanted to ponder it for awhile. This summer we officially decided on “Misfit Manor”. Our home in Georgetown has a bit of history…well, its old, so I guess it has to have some history. We found a book that had some stories on our home. It has been a home to a town doctor, it was a boarding house (believe it or not our home had 13 bathrooms in it at one point…crazy)…its been a home to some lovely families…and well to some total weirdos too (wait… maybe we are the weirdos). But no matter its history…and even with its crooked doors and sagging floors…it is our little slice of heaven and now it has a name. I made this wreath for our back door while Granny Sandy was here. I still need to add the cats to the
wreath. We are going to make a small plaque for our front door too.
So why such a campy name as Misfit Manor? Well, frankly…we are a couple of misfits. Bret and I are (finally) fairly self-aware individuals…purified by dances with dangerous “isms” at different points in
our lives…but grateful for how our lives have been shaped by the mistakes and rough journeys of the past. Little about either of our adult lives has been “traditional”. But hindsight can be a funny thing…Bret and I both agree that now that we know where our bumpy paths have landed us (together with our creatures)…that we would go back and walk the same rocky path a thousand times over to get here again.
We are also a home filled with off beat creatures (besides Bret and I)…a once chronic biter (our Lacey), a hyperactive and reactive little freight train (our Buster), an afraid of his own shadow JRT (Turnip) and a feral cat (Zilla)…and several more quirky creatures. You would think it would be chaos…but what makes it special is that when all of us misfits get together…somehow it all works. I believe its grace. Bret and I…and the animals…are more whole together than we are when we are separate. I know that I am only fully me when I am with all of them. I wish this sort of peace and “foundness” for everyone…
Have you ever taken a boring, even downright ugly painting or photo and changed it out with a beautiful frame and suddenly that same item will seem so much different…its the same but you see it completely new… it is now more than it first was? Somewhere along the journey I came to terms with this simple truth; that often the biggest change we need to make isn’t ourselves nor is there fault in something or someone else that pushes us out of our comfort zone…but instead the problem is how we frame ourselves and each other in our thoughts…framed properly someone odd or ordinary, or even difficult… suddenly becomes quite beautiful. For some reason I have a knack for all things misfit…I rescue misfit pieces of china at flea markets and set a summer table that turns out lovely…I love rescuing misfit furniture…Cottage Paint works wonders…we even bought a misfit house…and we have a bunch of misfit animals…”misfit” seems to be where I fit…I see them with sparkle not dim. Thoughtfully re-framed each misfit is something beautiful…its not about change…if that makes sense.
This week Bret and I picked up a couple of new foster dogs…one of them…we named her Luna…has seen better days. This dog is so pathetic looking that Bret and I instantly fell in love with her. Whatever happened to her…we assume she was either hit by a car or attacked by a larger animal…her deformed little body to us is just a little bundle of courage and joy. I am sure Luna will find a permanent family…she is a heart breaker…but if she doesn’t she will always fit in here.
I am most comfortable…in our realm of the misfits. Others may see us as quirky or weird…that is ok…each of us needs to be our kind of wonderful…and here at Misfit Manor everyone has the chance to be something beautiful…
Every Father’s Day I write a blog post about my husband. He’s the Daddy in our household…and we love celebrating him. Bret and I are not an ordinary family. We wanted to be one of those ordinary families but life just didn’t turn out that way for us. What did “turn out” for us was a steady stream of homeless animals showing up at our door. Our life with animals works for us and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe it takes time for each of us to realize and come to terms with what we were made for…and I believe we were all made for something special….some special journey. Bret and I were made for our life with animals. We are not fully ourselves without them.
Whenever I go to pick out a Father’s Day card for my husband…I get a little emotional. I am no dummy. I am perfectly aware that most men would never tolerate neither the volume of animals I have brought home…nor the degree of the challenges I have brought home. I am very well aware of how extraordinarily patient and compassionate my husband is.
When Bret and I first got married I brought home a feral cat..today we call him Catzilla. When this cat first moved in to our home none of us could get anywhere near Zilla…we had to drug this cat to get him to our vet. To keep our other animals safe we kept Catzilla in a separate room in our house…but not just any room…a bedroom that we made in to an “extreme cattery” for Zilla…it was so darn cool. Not only did Bret not scoff at the money we spent to build Zilla a cattery but he doubled down by making time to work with Zilla and win his trust (which anyone with feral cats knows this is a long-term commitment). Today Zilla lives in the house roaming happily with all of us.
Shortly after Zilla moved in I brought home our Lhasa..Lacey Mae. A few days after she moved in with us she tore up the side of Bret’s face…badly…not just bite wounds but enough damage to give him a black eye. He forgave her instantly, dug his heels in and remained committed to her. He saw her potential and today she is the love of our lives…and she is definitely daddy’s girl.
Some time after Lacey moved in with us my Rottweiler, Hercules, was diagnosed with cancer…it was a long and difficult ordeal which included a leg amputation. Since Hercules could no longer go on walks with the rest of the pack and I was not strong enough to carry Hercules, Bret took over giving him some special time each day. Bret would carry him to the car…drive him to the park…carry him to a grassy area and they would hang out and wrestle around…they would people watch…then the pair would go to Dairy Queen and split a cheeseburger. Every single day they did this…until Hercules died. Hercules wasn’t even Bret’s dog…he was mine before we married. In fact, Bret had to work very hard to get Hercules to like him. When we were first married Hercules wouldn’t even let Bret get in bed at night. Hercules would give in eventually, of course, but Bret got very little space in the bed. Bret loved him in a way no other person could.
It goes on…Kringles came when we already had four dogs…Kringles had no where to go and was in very poor health. Bret was happy to have him and Kringles took to him right away. Turnip…wanted nothing to do with Bret for so long when he first moved in…Bret won him over anyway. Buster…was like having a freight train move in the house…Bret loved Buster instantly.
I am no fool. I know what I have in Bret and I am grateful for him everyday. When Bret and I first met…I was finishing up a master’s degree at a Baptist seminary and Bret was an enthusiastic seeker at an Evangelical church. Two years after we were married…we were confirmed into and remarried in the Catholic church…an odd journey, I know, but a well thought out one. One of the many things that called us to the Catholic church was the Catholic understanding of the sacraments….the concept of marriage as a sacrament was very meaningful to us. Today we understand marriage as a sacrament more fully than ever…marriage has rubbed the “spiritual” edges off of both of us. Our life together has changed us and our time together is by far the most “grace-filled” time of our life. I believe that together we see more clearly…if that makes sense. And together we walk a path…albeit a non-traditional one…towards our Maker. We are blessed and grateful for each day with each other and our pets.
While my Bret isn’t the traditional version of a dad…in this household he means the world to a whole pack of very special creatures. Happy Father’s Day Bret!
Happy Father’s Day to all the dog dads and Rescue On!
The power of our choices and the lives of animals…
I start out each morning with a cup of coffee and the Wall Street Journal…no wait…back up…after I have pottied, fed and hugged each of my pets…I start my day with coffee and the Wall Street Journal. One particular article in this week’s journal made my jaw drop… Walmart is beginning to pressure its meat and egg suppliers to reduce their use of anti-biotics and offer more humane conditions for livestock. All I could think of was…”holy shit…our choices really can matter”. Let’s be brutally honest…what moves a corporate behemoth like Walmart to make a change like this is consumer demand…demand for humane and healthy products. Our choices as individuals drive important change. I am not naive…change takes time… and Walmart’s new guidelines aren’t mandatory…but it sure will make cruelty free suppliers more competitively advantaged and sets a much better trajectory for animals than we were on. Sometimes…a new law or regulation won’t cut it…people living lives of compassion in this case made a change…our choices are so much more powerful than any law. Kindness to animals brings out the best in all of us!
This is nothing to scoff at. Walmart is the largest retailer….at $288 Billion in sales last year…they call the shots for meat and egg suppliers. Nearly 50% of Walmart sales are groceries…like Walmart or not…we need them to move the needle towards humane treatment of our food supply. Case in point…the article cited that “overall egg sales are flat, but sales of more expensive eggs that tout “cage free” or similar attributes are booming.” How awesome is that? Bret and I won’t buy anything but cage free eggs…I thought this was a small and insignificant choice (well not so insignificant to the grocery bill). But clearly the collective choices of consumers to purchase a humane product does matter.
When we lived in Minnesota we would take a lot of motorcycle rides in the country…passing many chicken, turkey and pork farms…the sight of some of these farms made us sick…especially the turkey farms…animals packed in so tight they couldn’t move…and the noise they made…it was like cries of terror. We vowed to start buying free range and grass fed or just go without. I am pleasantly surprised to see meaningful choices really can make such a difference…If you are one of the folks who made the cruelty free choice…God Bless You…it made a difference…if you aren’t there yet…won’t you think about it? So this brings me the fate of companion animals…why can’t our choices make it better for them? We are an abundant nation who loves animals…caring for and spoiling our animals has become a $60 Billion dollar industry. Yet millions of homeless animals die in shelters each year…5 per minute! What does it take for our choices to increase the demand for rescue animals so high that it pushes the shelters nearly out of business? It shouldn’t be complicated…almost 3 million cats and dogs die in shelters every year…yet 17 million families get a new pet each year…this should be an easy problem to solve…but it lingers…and each year more suffer and die.
What do we have to do to make clearing out the shelter the fashionable thing to do? How do we create a “Rescue-ista culture?” Why do we have a hush, hush culture about how many animals die in the shelter…why is their so much resistance to change…to asking the community to be involved in solving the problem. In most cases…I don’t believe people know that shelters, on average, are killing 50% of the animals…in some areas of the county…that number is significantly worse. I don’t have the answers…its a heartfelt question.
Do you talk to everyone you can about rescue? I do…especially anyone considering adding a pet. I am not a self-righteous rag about it…I just make a heartfelt plea to encourage people to choose rescue…I give the staggering facts…how many die each minute…shelters are full of pure bred dogs…they are full of puppies…you can find any type of dog you want through rescue and no…a shelter pet is not damaged goods!
I don’t know what the specific magic beans are to save more lives…but I know what the over-arching theme is…a community that cares…that cares how the animals are treated. How the animals fare in our communities is one (of many) benchmarks by which we can measure the spiritual health of our communities. I wonder how we make rescue fashionable? If things as ridiculous as mullets and bell bottoms can be fashionable than why isn’t pet rescue? I wonder how we make pet rescue part of our spiritual journey? I don’t have the answers…but I am sure looking for them.
If you are in to all things pet rescue…like pet art…like to spoil your pets…well by all means…follow our blog (we post 1-2 X’s per week) or our Facebook Page!
Warning: Dogs can die in hot cars! There is something we can do about it.
Given I have five dogs…I do a lot of walking. My dogs and I walk through our adorable little town (Georgetown, KY) every day…sometimes twice a day. Summer has barely had its start here and already we are seeing dogs left in hot cars…NOT OK. In fact it really pisses me off! I can’t walk by a dog in a hot car. While I am not the type to go directly to smashing out a car window…I would if I had to. I am the one though who doesn’t hesitate to call the the police…and no cracking the window an inch is not good enough…I will still call the police and let them smash the window!
Two weeks ago we (well me…my dogs just witnessed) had a verbal altercation with an older couple who stopped me to ask what the parking time limit was in our town…because they were going to go have lunch and leave their dog in the car. I couldn’t believe they were looking me straight in the face with that idiotic statement. I suggested to them the names of several restaurants in town that had patio seating that welcomed dogs. They weren’t interested. I dug in my heels and told them if they leave the dog in the car I am calling the police. (It was an 80 degree day). They called me a dirty name and told me to mind my own business…I didn’t mind my own business and stood my ground until they drove away. It blew me away that an elderly couple could be so boorish and irresponsible.
That same day I was browsing my Facebook feed and saw this poster from the Animal Legal Defense Fund…with a statement encouraging people to download the sign and hang it. I thought…we need these signs in downtown Georgetown…then I thought…well…perhaps I am supposed to be the one to go hang them. So I did.
I downloaded their art file…sent it to the local print shop for printing…and Lacey Mae and I hit the road. We started going door to door to the business of Georgetown asking them to hang this sign in their shop window. We have gone to over 20 business so far…all but one was more than happy to hang the sign. When we ran out of our first 20 signs the local print shop made a whole bag of them for us for free! We will be back out next week and will keep going until we get as many businesses as we can to hang our sign. It is already abundantly clear on our Main Street (given all the obvious signs in business windows) that we are a town that is not ok with knuckleheads leaving a dog in a hot car. Hopefully it will both make careless people think twice before trapping their dog in a car oven and also encourage citizens to speak out and call the police if necessary for a trapped dog.
There is a saying that goes something like this…whenever we say “someone should do something about that”…that someone might be ourselves. Lacey and I had a lot of fun going door to door in town…she behaved like an angel in every business we went to (she didn’t pee on a single carpet!!!!). We met a lot of great folks…and found out that they all want to see dogs safe…and when asked…they are willing to help out.
I have been taking pictures of every shop that hangs our sign and posting them on our Facebook Page. If you want to do something like this in your town the copy for this poster is available for download at this link on the Animal Legal Defense Fund website. It was a lot easier than I thought to approach business owners with my sign…in fact the response was overwhelmingly positive.
My life as a reactive dog…from chaos to a full life!
Last fall my husband and I met a sweet and charming dog named Buster. NOT! Last fall my husband and I met an out of control, hyper and highly reactive dog named Buster.
Buster was picked up as a “stray” on a country road when he was a puppy. He was adopted out to a family who four years later returned him with no explanation. What Buster’s life was like during those years with that family…I have no idea…if only dogs could talk. But I can safely say he was never taught any basic training skills and was very poorly socialized. After his “family” dumped him he was put in a kennel. Try to imagine, if you can, being dumped by your family and going immediately to a loud and unfamiliar kennel. How do you think an animal should react to that? Buster’s stay at the kennel was short…they wanted him out and labeled him aggressive. I think
we can safely assume Buster thought life dumped at a kennel sucked canal water. Buster went in to a foster home with a nice man who put forth a valiant effort to work with Buster. He tried exercising him…he took him for dog training…but Buster was more than he (or most people) would sign up for. Buster flunked his dog training class badly as he could not control himself around the other dogs. The trainer recommended Prozac.
I was asked to meet Buster and do an initial evaluation of him for training. It’s not easy to describe what I saw with Buster when I first met him. He was like a child with severe attention deficit disorder. So frustrated and bursting with energy that his whole little body seemed to rattle. He didn’t seem to be able to decide what he should focus on. He couldn’t relax. He didn’t know whether to bark, snap, jump, play, growl…it was truly heart breaking. His barrier aggression was off the charts. He was re-direct biting (biting his handler out of frustration at the sight of other dogs). This was not something I wanted to sign on for. Seriously…who wants to get bit by a dog? But Buster was low on options and I decided to take him on regardless.
I think its fair to say up front that I believe there is a significant difference between a reactive dog that can be worked with through training and cases of dogs with full blown aggression. It is heart breaking to encounter dogs with serious aggression issues and it is also far beyond my skill level as a trainer. I was fairly certain that Buster was not a case of full blown aggression because I witnessed Buster interact with a few dogs at the kennel that he had had a neutral introduction to. It was like watching a pack of humping, jumping and wrestling out of control lunatics…but it was nothing like the aggressive behavior he displayed in the presence of unfamiliar dogs and behind barriers. Buster also lived with a very senior dog in his first foster home. While he was a bit of a jerk to that dog he never showed aggression toward that dog. I also want to be clear that Buster had many great qualities from the start as most reactive dogs do. He was playful (albeit playful in a very obnoxious fashion) and also incredibly affectionate to some humans. I knew Buster was going to need a lot of work but I also knew there was a lot of hope.
I started working with Buster last November. I recommended moving him from his foster home to a new kennel as the backyard environment at the foster home (major barrier aggression problems with neighbor dogs) was reinforcing a really bad behavior pattern for Buster. Every other day, for several weeks, I drove to the kennel Buster was staying at (about 30 minutes away). I picked Buster up and brought him back to my house where I bonded, exercised and trained him for the afternoon and then drove him back to kennel. Over that first month I slowly introduced Buster to our pack of dogs. Eventually we fostered Buster and a few months later we adopted him.
Every time I take on a new dog I am always taken by surprise at how much I learn from them. The dogs are truly the experts on behavior and the closer I pay attention to them and what their body language and reactions are telling me the faster we can work towards solutions. Buster had a lot to teach me…perhaps more than any dog I have worked with.
Like so many reactive dogs…Buster is really easy to love. Seriously…one look at his goofy smiles in all these pictures and you can’t help but be in love with him. He is playful, energetic, enthusiastic, funny and he loves to snuggle and give affection to his humans. You should see him suck up to women who come to our home…huge flirt….HUGE. It was really easy for us to get attached to him. However, in the presence of unfamiliar dogs he was completely out of control. Out of control being defined as incessant and loud screech barking, growling, lunging, pulling, hackles up, lips curled and redirected biting of his handler. I lost count of how many times Buster bit me the first few weeks I worked with him. Buster’s play style with other dogs was horrible; he was obnoxious…lots of humping and he was unable to follow any commands around other dogs. Also problematic was that he had absolutely no leash manners…he was a mad dog pulling his human where he wanted to go. I am not a very big woman…he could have easily taken me to the ground. Leash manners had to be a priority for working with Buster.
In a nutshell my goal was to get a very strong (and strong-willed) dog with ZERO leash manners, a desperate need for exercise, major barrier aggression and a very high level of reactivity to unfamiliar dogs transformed to a state of mind where he could live a full life. While we still have plenty of work to do…Buster is living a full life now. He is a handful…he always will be…but he is worth every moment that we have invested in him.
Most of the people we consider friends are dog people but some are not. Bret and I laugh when we have guests over and they meet Buster for the first time. They usually comment that he is a bit of a spaz…Buster has an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm…most dog lovers can appreciate him as he is. Non-dog lovers…not so much. His grandma threatens to give him her Lorazopam…we laugh…if only they knew how far he has come. We love our little spaz and nothing makes us happier than to see him live a full life.
I am going to share how Buster went from “out of control” to “living a full life” in a series of blog posts over the next few months. I am not a novel trainer…meaning I am a total copy cat…plain and simple. I follow the advice and techniques of trainers much more experienced and knowledgeable than I am. I will tell you what we did and point you to in-depth resources from the experts I trust and give them full credit for the methods we used. I am simply sharing the techniques that worked for me and Buster in hopes that it can help others.
I know how frustrating it is to love a reactive dog. Buster is not my first rodeo with a reactive dog. Ten years ago I went to the trouble of getting certified to train dogs because I had an out of control Rottweiler that I loved dearly. I wanted to see him live a full life but couldn’t find trainers who were willing to work with him (can’t say I blame them). My only option seemed to learn to train him myself. I know all to well the diligence and hard work involved with working with a reactive dog. Pet parents who go the distance to give a reactive dog a full life…are very dedicated and special folks in my opinion. I hope Buster and I can be a resource by talking through our experiences and pointing you towards the experts and methods we looked to in our journey to build a better life for Buster.
Following is the summary of the series of upcoming posts I am planning:
1) Building Trust…beginning work with a reactive dog.
Getting Buster to work hard for me didn’t come instantly..in fact it was quite a bit of time and work on my part. I had to become the most interesting and fun thing in the world to Buster. Our first training sessions were, from a dogs perspective, all fun and games for him and work for me (and of course lots of affection) but they were crucial to laying the foundation to train and work.
2) Breed characteristics…why they can matter.
Breed matters when training any dog. In Buster’s case, once we figured out what breed he actually was it unlocked the door to understanding his behavior and played a significant role in how I worked with Buster. Once I understood his breed (which is one that I had never heard of) I understood his behavior and planned exercise and training methods that suited him better.
3) Basics and generalization for a reactive dog.
All dogs will fare much better if their training includes a lot of generalization. For reactive dogs I train a few really key commands before I start working in public places. For a reactive dog, particularly Buster, generalization of commands is crucial…it is how we use commands to navigate his most stressful situations. For us generalization meant not just changing the scene of our training but very gradually increasing the distractions and stress level. It also meant that I, as his handler, had to pay close attention to his stress signals…always avoiding pushing him to the point of failure. This was a long and patient process with Buster…but it worked.
4) Solving the circular problem…How do you safely exercise a reactive dog with zero leash manners?
A reactive and very energetic dog needs exercise…duh…but that is not easy to do though with a dog that has zero leash manners and melts down around unfamiliar dogs. I will walk through how I taught Buster leash manners (his leash manners are incredible now) and what training methods we used to prepare to go out for walks and not have melt downs. Exercising a reactive dog takes a level of attention and focus on the part of the handler that is more intense than what is required with a well adjusted dog. My role as Buster’s handler is to be alert to everything around us and never to put him in a situation he can’t handle. It also means having a rock solid plan for what we will do when something unexpected happens (i.e. loose dogs charging at us).
5) Can dogs learn a better play style?
Buster was such a jerk around other dogs (this is with dogs that he is familiar with)…and I mean a real jerk. I wondered if it was possible to work on a better play style…was it trainable? Buster’s play style has improved dramatically and I will write about what we did to work on that.
6) Ending reactive behavior before its starts.
Buster, like most reactive dogs, can get really worked up at doors and windows. We worked hard at finding a balance between harnessing his natural breed instinct to guard his home/family and our desire to keep Buster from having a melt down every time someone walked passed our house.
I hope you find this upcoming series helpful. If you love all things pet and pet rescue please follow my blog. I blog weekly about different pet topics and daily on my facebook page and pinterest page.
I have been having a burst of creativity and inspiration to make some new pet sympathy cards…I am sure it is has everything to do with losing Sparky. Funny thing grief is…we never “get over it”…at least I don’t believe we do. We just learn to live with it…and over time living with it makes it an important part of who we are as spiritual beings. Funny thing too…grief can happen in such flashes…I was at Hobby Lobby, buying some card making supplies, when I felt inspired to buy a wind chime for our backyard…to hang in honor of Sparky. At first I just felt moved as I was picking one out…almost a bitter sense of comfort in the memory of him and for doing something in his name…and then a moment of guilt came over me because I realized that it was the first time I had thought about him that day. Grief is weird.
I believe we are all put here to play a special part…to be involved in a spiritual enterprise that rubs the rough edges off us as we grow…for me it is pet rescue. I make no apologies for my pets playing such a large role in my life…not to friends…not to family…it is who I am…take me or leave me as I am. I was made for taking care of them.
Sparky rubbed a lot of rough edges off of me…it was patience and persistence that he taught me for sure…but more important and especially later in his life it was that every day he reminded me to never waste an opportunity to have a little enjoyment. I had six dogs when he was still alive and I am a bit of nut about exercising my dogs…which takes a lot of time in my day and a lot of my energy. Sparky was SOOOOOOOOO slow the last year of his life and he had a bit of doggy dementia…so often we would walk back and forth down the same street…he would get confused about which direction we were walking…I always just went with it. But I had to walk him separate from the other dogs and even a very short walk took an enormous amount of time (sometimes I would even bring a book). But dammit…I was gong to make sure he had his time…he loved his walks and it was one thing I could give him…I new that one day he wouldn’t be there…if today was by chance the last day…it was going to be one he enjoyed. I find a lot of comfort today in my patience and persistence for him and his walks. It has made me a better person.
I am one of those oddly wired people that needs to create to be whole. I lose time when I am creating…whoooda thunk it would be pet sympathy cards that I enjoy to make…but that is how it just turned out….so I go with it. If I can be a small part of bringing a tiny bit of comfort to someone grieving a pet…I am glad to do it. I write my own greetings for my cards…they are not poetic…just genuine thoughts from someone who knows a little something about grieving a pet.
If you ever need a pet sympathy card, keep me in mind…they are available at my ETSY shop…I take great pride in making them and in my customer service in regards to them.
Love your pets today…and everyday…you are their whole world.
Please follow my blog if you are interested in seeing more of my work and hearing more of my opining about all things pet. I post 1-2 times/week on my blog and daily on my Facebook Page.
What makes you smile…my dogs make me smile. Every dog has that one thing that just makes them crazy with happiness…a game of fetch…a special treat or toy…for our Lacey…its Harley Davidson motorcycles. She is our little biker dog…when she hears the bike fire up she tries to crawl up my legs to get in to her harness…
Taking Lacey for motorcycle rides was born out of Bret and I trying to figure out activities for her that would satisfy her crazy side…Lacey is a fun dog but she is a mischief maker and has little to no fear of heights (she will leap off of anything), no fear of other animals (of any kind)…pretty much no fear of anything that most dogs would shy away from…she likes a challenge and adventure.
When we met Lacey she had been surrendered because she was a “chronic biter”. She definitely sharpened her choppers on us a few times. In fact, the day I met her she leaped at my face and bit me in the nose…hard. Most people would pass on such a dog…but Lacey was out of options…she had no where to go. The day she put a few holes in my nose she also met my other dogs; which back then was my two labs and my Rottweiler. Despite being a fraction of their size she instantly took to them and was running with the pack like she belonged with them her whole life. She was also taking their cues…when they backed her down…she heeded them…I saw hope for her in that. We have never looked back from the day we met her…Lacey came home with us and very quickly figured out new patterns of behavior (that didn’t include biting people). Lacey is not the type of dog that will cooperate with typical training methods…she wants nothing to do with. When I try using my clicker, treats and typical methods…she literally turns her back to me. She is above my style of training. So I had to use the approach of “capturing” behavior. The first few months that Lacey lived with us she would only get rewards…food, pets, snuggles when she was calm…when she acted up I instantly removed from what pleased her (just removing my interaction and presence from her worked magic). To teach her to sit, down, stay, etc…I had to “capture” those behaviors and reward them as she naturally performed them…she caught on fairly quickly without have to “subject” herself to being trained. While capturing is a slower road to train a dog it is certainly effective.
Today, Lacey is the love of our life…she is the dog we take with us every where …the dog (well one of the dogs) that sleeps in the middle and definitely the apple of her daddy’s eye.
The bike is tuned up…the weather is warming up and Lacey is saddled up…she was truly Born to Ride! We are looking forward to a summer of riding fun…discovering new things in Kentucky with our little biker dog!
I am working on new sketches of Lacey in her tough girl gear…she has a lot to say and its time to put it to canvas…she is going to be my newest Pawffiti artist.
Early Saturday morning my Sparky crossed over to the other side of life.
Sparky came to live with me in 2001…the vet thought he was about 2-3 years old when I met him. Sparky had a good long life. Prior to living with me he had been picked up as a stray and taken to the Humane Society. The Humane Society in Waukesha, WI had adopted him out several times to families and each time the families returned him because of his wild ways. The Humane Society handed me the paperwork from the families that returned him…they described a wild and out of control dog who destroyed things, soiled the house and ran away any chance he could get…rather than get turned off by those reports…it made me want to cry…I was naive…but I wanted to give him a chance. My only other dog at the time, Hercules, loved Sparky when they met and I let that be my guide. While I didn’t believe this then…I know now that every animal that comes in to my life…arrives exactly when it is supposed to…
When I met Sparky he was feral…he had no interest in attention or affection from me at all…and no clue how to adjust to living indoors with a family…he was not house trained…he would freak out and destroy amazing amounts of my things if he was left alone in the house…simple things like getting him in the car were an enormous challenge…but in spite of his wild ways we stuck together anyway…we had a connection and understanding that there were reasons we were together and together we were going to make sense of the world. Slowly over the years Sparky came to appreciate indoor living and family life. This picture of us taken together was taken about four years after Sparky came to live me…we both look so young here…I discovered on this day that despite his rambunctious nature Sparky loved to pose for the camera…I am thinking he new just just how handsome he was.
At a very dark time in my life…Sparky began to completely shed his wild ways and became the most affectionate and loyal companion a girl could ask for…when I needed him the most he stepped up to the plate. He was a constant and quiet companion who would hike with me for hours on end and was friendly and gentle to everyone he met. He turned out to be a true gentleman. Sparky also loved to party…he was always up for a good time with friends (k9 and human).
Eventually, Sparky was the dog that went through dog training certification school with me. He rocked it at school…my mentor marveled out how focused he was and how easy he was to train (so did I frankly).
In his old age, when his body began to fail him…it was my privilege to step up to the plate and take care of him. There is something bittersweet about an older pet…their honest dependence on their human at that stage of life gives us a chance to truly give back to them…Sparky never seemed to carry any sense of self doubt or frustration when his legs wouldn’t hold him up…or when he was confused about which direction we take on our walks…he just looked at me and expected me to give him a lift or point out the right direction…I felt so honored to be trusted and I loved every minute of caring for Sparky. I loved holding him in my arms when he took his last breaths.
Sparky wasn’t just a great companion for me. My cats loved him…he never minded them crawling on him, kneading him, or sleeping curled up at his belly. He can be credited for helping other dogs. His patience and tolerance with our naughty Lhasa was remarkable. He had a gift for helping dogs that are struggling with behavior (most recently Buster & Turnip) figure out how to live happily with humans and other dogs. Sparky’s calming presence was like magic for other dogs…or perhaps a better word for it is grace.
There is unique solidarity among pet parents once we have experienced making this final but most important decision for a pet. There are few other times in life when I have to suck it up and be selfless in such a painful way…for the sake of another’s suffering…it is an odd sense of strength that I rarely feel at any other time. There is a saying…that goes something like this…”if you love…it will hurt…and it is worth it.” I knew this time was coming with Sparky…not just because his health was failing but because he was entering my dreams more and more. I could feel him saying good bye to me.
Sparky passed with dignity…as they say “he went out with his boots on”. I am grateful for every minute that I could call him mine…and I look forward to seeing him again someday on the other side. For now though…my heart is broken as it is hard to imagine the days without his sweet presence beside me.
This winter seems to be flying by….already Valentines Day! We have been so busy between the dogs and cats…our perpetual house project and trying to enjoy our new life in Kentucky.
We are almost through our first winter in Kentucky…we LOVED IT….we have had several days in January with temps in the 50’s and we have had a lot more sunshine than we were used to with Minnesota winters. My husband has even had his motorcycle out in both January and February.
We have had our hands full with our expanding family since we moved to Kentucky…Turnip continues to make great strides…he has started following Bret around the house in the evenings…a nice change from his days of running from men. He had his first visit with our regular vet…he hated it but behaved like a true gentlemen…he wore his new hoodie to his appointment…
I have been busy in my studio with both new paintings and with learning the process of getting prints made of my paintings…I have several prints available at my ETSY shop now….my prints of my Vera painting came in this week…they turned out fabulous. I finished this Rescue Dog on a Motorcycle painting this week…I envision many versions of this painting in the future.
Buster continues to make great progress in his training…while his energy level and enthusiasm for everything is quite remarkable…he is also a lovey and snuggley boy…he has become a pleasure to take on walks and manages himself much better (not perfect but better) in the presence of unfamiliar dogs. Working with Buster is something I plan to write about a lot in 2015….Buster is not my first rodeo with a reactive dog…we have learned a lot and I am hoping it can be helpful for other parents with dogs who need just a bit more help managing stress
Whenever Valentines Day comes around I am reminded of all the reasons why I love my husband….and there are many, many things about him that are lovable…but it is the love he has for our pets that melts my heart. I am not married to a man who will buy me jewels…I am married to a man who comes home with pet strollers for our Pomeranian who can’t go on walks anymore…who sits up with our pets all night when they are sick…who never tires of playing with them when they are rambunctious….I am blessed with husband who was made for caring for all these animals…
I hope you and your sweeties (two legged and four legged) have a wonderful Valentines Day…