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Introducing Turnip Halverson!

Bret and I have never been so proud to fail at something!

We had a pawty for Turnip’s adoption…hats, cake and bubbly…it was a lovely evening!

howlOn January 3, 2015 Bret and I became official “foster failures”.  We are so proud to introduce Turnip Halverson…he is now part of his forever family.  Turnip has been a joy and also a challenge for our home.  Anyone who knows me… knows I love a challenge… also that I have a knack for falling in love with dogs who need a little extra help figuring life out.

Turnip was so painfully shy when he came here.  It took quite a bit of time and patience to win his trust but eventually we did.   He came here as a foster because he was struggling to make connections with humans at his first foster home.  The day I met him all he did was pace…. back and forth…over and over…the pacing continued here for several days. Even corralling him in and out of the house to potty was a bit of a challenge as he was terrified to walk through door ways with a human present and he didn’t want us to touch him.

Every time I meet a dog I believe I can help in some way I am repeatedly thwarted by the magic influence dogs can have on each other.  After a week or two Turnip adjusted to the most basic elements of life with our pack.  He followed the lead of our dogs (my labs especially) and figured out meal routines, potty routines, sleeping routines and finally that it was safe to approach us.

Anytime Turnip made a new leap …like walking up the stairs for the first time (he was terrified of the stairs) or getting in and out of the car without me having to carry him (he was terrified of the car)…Bret and I would brim with excitement and pride.  Our most recent big excitement has been Turnip’s walks.  Turnip is afraid of everything…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can. Raising his comfort level to walk in the neighborhood has been no small accomplishment.  I attribute most of his success to my labs…who walked flanking Turnip for weeks…up and down the same streets…now a clicker and a few pieces of meat are all that is necessary for Turnip to venture out without the labs and stay relaxed.

Turnip was not neutered when he moved in…he had been too sick to undergo the surgery.  For me, having an intact male in the house was something new…I have always had rescues that came neutered or spayed.  This raised the challenge a bit as Turnip wanted to mark EVERYTHING and he was having trouble (at times) getting a long with our other dogs.  (He was the instigator of several squabbles that ended with me getting bitten.)  I used Simple Solution belly bands for the marking situation…I tried a few brands and this seemed the most comfortable for him and by far the most absorbent.  They are easy enough to wash (though I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the dryer).  After he was neutered I used the umbilical cord technique to potty train him…which only took a few days…we have not had any problems since.  His play style with the other dogs improved significantly after his neuter as well and mom no longer gets bitten!

Sam and Turnip taking a nap.
Sam and Turnip taking a nap.

I used several proven techniques for working with shy dogs to train with Turnip.  I am not a novel dog trainer…I rely on the wisdom of those who have many years of successful experience working with dogs with behavior challenges….Jen Severud (who was my mentor), Emma Parsons, Debbie Jacobs and Patricia McConnell.   I use a clicker for just about everything I work on with Turnip.   One thing that is particularly challenging with fearful dogs is getting them to generalize behavior (perform the same behavior in different settings).  Using a clicker makes the process of generalization go much faster which significantly reduces the dogs stress in new settings.  There are two things you will pretty much always find on me when I am out and about…dog hair all over my clothes (ish) and a clicker hanging from wrist!

I made a meat cake with potato frosting for Turnip's party!
I made a meat cake with potato frosting for Turnip’s party!
I made some invitations to Turnip’s Pawty!

I played a game called “touch” with Turnip…we play it still.  It makes approaching new things a fun game for Turnip instead of a scary experience.  Since Turnip is a very playful dog this has worked wonders.   Another thing I made sure I worked hard at when training with Turnip is always making sure I am setting him up to succeed in his training.  If I am asking my dog to perform a behavior and the dogs is failing…ITS NOT THE DOG!  It is my role as his trainer (and well now his mama) to make sure that he is successful…if he is struggling with his training …I back up and revamp the situation to a scenario in which he can succeed…then work back up the difficulty more slowly.

The night before Turnip’s official adoption Bret and I became resolved to no longer speak of Turnip’s past in our home…this is the last time I will write about it too.  Turnip led a hellish life for years…but that is not what makes him special…what makes him special is his fight…he is a tough dog who first survived neglect and abuse, then a horrible illness and then began fighting his way to learn to lead a normal life with a family.  We won’t be looking at the old pictures…we won’t be recalling how badly he was treated…because it is all upside from here for him.  Turnip’s identity now is one of a playful, energetic and affectionate (and even sometimes naughty) member of our permanent family.

I can’t end this post without calling out my husband.  Turnip is terrified of men…it has been no small exercise in patience for Bret and Turnip to adjust to each other.  It gets better all the time…due entirely to my husband’s huge heart and persistence.  Turnip still won’t go in or out the door for potty if my husband is close by but he does hang out on the couch with him and eats out of Bret’s hands. The fact that my husband fell in love with a dog who still fears him is a testament to his heart.  I don’t have the kind of husband who buys me jewels…but rather one that loves broken creatures and believes in second chances…I am so lucky!


This is a picture of me and Turnip at my desk.  Whenever I sit down to write at my computer Turnip climbs on my lap and falls asleep…sitting up like this…it is so darn cute.  I have figured out how to type with him on my lap…he has become my muse.

The last thing I will say about Turnip…he barks…Turnip was in the rescue process (fostered, hostipalized, etc) for about one year….that whole time no one heard him bark.  Turnip has found his bark…he barks all the time now…I love the sound of him barking…he also howls now…every time the sirens pass our house…it is so cute.

I love the sound of dogs, the smell of dogs  and the chaos that comes with of a house full of dogs…and I love Turnip.

I leave you with this picture of Buster…our other foster dog.  He is also here because he has some behavior challenges…but he is making great progress too. 20150103_203614 The night of the party, with a few exceptions (like leaping on to the table of food) he behaved wonderfully and had a great time…so much so that he was caught dozing off with his party hat on.

Many blessings to you and yours and Rescue On!


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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom…who really trains who?

Pet Rescue…

turnip 1 This is Turnip.  Turnip was rescued from this chain and post in January of 2014 by SOAR, a local rescue group here in Kentucky.    He was grossly underweight.  He had ringworm, hookworm and heart worm.  He also contracted hyptoplasmosis (a fungal infection that forms in the lungs from exposure to bird feces).  The hytoplasmosis nearly killed him…he is still battling it but gets better every day.  Turnip is freightened of everything (especially men). Check out the size of the chain and the collar on him…which by the way collapsed his trachea.  When Turnip was found (in January) he had no shelter, no food and no water…had he been there much longer he probably would not have survived.

turnip 2

Turnip went to his first foster home where he could rest and recover physically.  But he just wasn’t making any progress from a social stand point; he was afraid of everything and everyone.

As fate would have it, Turnip came up in casual conversation at lunch one day with a friend from SOAR.  I thought that my dog training skills might be able to help Turnip come out of his shell.  A few days later he became our first foster dog.  Since his arrival I have felt a heightened and unsettling sense of anger towards people who abuse animals.  Turnip is so gentle and innocent and has suffered greatly by human hands.

As a dog mom I like to think I am important to my rescue dogs development and happiness but the reality is there are serious limitations to what I can do for them.  When Turnip came to our home my own dogs took command of the situation and began doing what dogs do best…being dogs.  They are showing Turnip the ropes…teaching him how to play and to know what is safe and good…with each passing day Turnip is coming a little more out of his shell.  Instead of pacing neurotically in the yard Turnip now runs, jumps and does play bows…his tail is up and wagging just as it should be.   When a loud thunder scares Turnip, instead of running under furniture…he jumps in my lap…not because I am special but because the other dogs do it. Turnip has also become very comfortable with our household routine and is picking up house training and basic commands with very little help from me (so much for being the expert).

Bret and I are earning Turnip’s trust a little more each day…Turnip eats from Bret’s hand and likes to hang on the couch with the family…this is big for a pup who fears men.

turnip night 1Small things, like eye contact are big steps for a fearful dog like Turnip….this weekend Turnip approached and made direct eye contact with our friend David…we are so proud of him.

Turnip has taken to our labs like he has known them all his life.  He follows Sam (our chocolate lab) every where he goes and often when we are on the couch he sits right on Sparky…who doesn’t seem to mind.  He takes no crap from our sassy Lhasa and he is very gentle with little old Kringles (our Pom).  We both think that the Turnip is the sweetest and gentlest creature we have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  When Turnip makes a new step (walking up the steps the first time)…we clap and cheer…we like to think that the 9 of us our Turnip’s Team.turnip night 1 Bret

This is a picture I took of Turnip on a walk at the park by our house…isn’t he handsome? up close face

It never fails that every time my bleeding little heart thinks its time to step up to the plate to “help” another dog it is always the dog who changes my life.  Turnip is figuring life out at his own pace. Sure, I will teach him a few things and help him through some of his fears…but the reality is Turnip has had a much bigger impact on me.  He has reminded me what true goodness is…that it is simple and it is all around us…that trust is earned slowly but is worth more than gold when it is achieved.

From a practical standpoint, this was not the right time for us to take in a foster dog…we just moved to a new state, we are remodeling our house, we have 7 rescues of our own and my husband just started a new job.  But as it turns out Turnip has arrived just when he was suppose to…he had work to do here…he has reminded us both that we need to slow down and enjoy the greatest things life offers us…our loved ones.  We aren’t a conventional family; two humans and house full of rescues…but we are happy one and we take care of each other and as a group we have a lot to offer others…love, patience, enthusiasm and compassion.

20140930_092855Since Turnip has been here we have had several really bad storms…including a hail storm that damaged our cars and home.  The night of the hail storm I was out with Turnip and Lacey in the car (my two dogs who are afraid of storms..ugh).   The hail hitting the car was so loud and hard I thought my windshield was going to shatter.   I couldn’t help but think that night that if SOAR had not rescued Turnip that he probably would have been chained outside in that storm with no shelter from the golf ball sized hail and that he has probably lived through many storms like that, tied to post, in his life.  It made me angry to think about it…really angry…at the dirt bags who treated Turnip so poorly for so long.  But when I got the dogs home safe and sound and we all snuggled up for the night I said a prayer of thankfulness that Turnip had found his way to SOAR and would never experience unkindness or neglect again… my anger toward his abusers went away.  Don’t get me wrong, abuse and neglect of any innocent creature is so very vile…but it is a deep and dark spiritual sickness that only God can heal…my anger will do nothing.   I have my list of people and issues that I pray for each day.  It became obvious that rather than be angry anymore that I should pray for grace to enter the lives of anyone inclined to be unkind to animals…my wish and prayer is that they too can experience God’s grace and someday see what a gift that life with his awesome creatures can be.

I will be involved with pet rescue until my creeky old body gives out…but I can not change the heart of those who are unkind to animals only God can do that and from now on that is my prayer.  What a gift little Turnip has turned out to be..anger is tiring and I have an amazing family (and many more rescues) to put that energy in to.

October is Adopt a Shelter pet month…if you don’t have a rescue pet I hope you will consider it…it will change your life.

Rescue On!


handsome turnip