Trudy arrived here in one of the more difficult circumstances…at least in terms of adjusting to her new life at Misfit Manor. Being both blind and deaf she had so much to get used too…large yard and house…and lots of dogs.
In the house Trudy adjusted really quickly! She memorized the lay out of the house really fast…impressive! She runs around this house like she owns it…and she does not run in to anything (unless I stupidly leave something out of place).
Outside of the house though is a different story…its a big scary world for a pint sized blind and deaf dog. I am perfectly fine if Trudy is happy living her life going no where but Misfit Manor….she can have a full life here. But I also felt like I owed it to her to see if she has a flair for adventure.
I saw on ad on Facebook for a “halo” for blind dogs and thought we have to give this a try. I have been working with Trudy for several days getting her acclimated to her new halo.
I only worked with her when we were outside of the house. I want her to know that putting on her halo means its time for an adventure.
The halo comes in 3 pieces; the harness, the padded wings and the actual halo.
I took time to let her adjust to wearing each piece in small steps.
Step 1 was the harness…would seem easy but I am not sure Trudy has ever had a harness on because she had a bit of fit initially. I put it on and took it off her several times in a row…treating her profusely every time it went on. I did this several times a day for several days…she now could care less if she has a harness on.
Step 2 was the wings (that the halo itself actually attaches too). That was pretty smooth…she really didn’t mind the addition of the wings. They are super light so I am not sure she really noticed them much. I only introduced either piece when we were outside of the house.
Step 3 was the actual halo. I attached the halo to the wings before I put the wings on her. The halo is so light that I highly doubt she knew it was there until it actually functioned for her. I had to bend her halo to make it longer to be a good fit for the longer snout of a dachshund…it came more rounded for a flatter faced dog.
It did not take long for Trudy to figure out that there was a halo there to protect her…initially she barked a lot every time the halo hit something in front of her…but as she ran around the yard…a yard that is full of large toys…other dogs….rock walls and more… she quickly figured out she now had something keeping her from doing a face plant into objects. As I worked with Trudy with her halo I only did it for really short periods of time at first. Trudy very quickly figured out that she can now run safely…she is “hell in a halo” in the yard now.
Trudy’s first walk with her Halo!
Once Trudy was comfortable in the backyard with her halo I started taking her out of the yard. It did not dawn on me until the first try at a walk that Trudy has probably never been walked on leash. She had no clue what to do. I gave her as much slack as I could and let her rip. Typically when Trudy is in unfamiliar territory she is pretty cautious and moves really slow..as you can see in her video she was trotting around like she owned it.
I am super happy with the halo product. It will give sweet Trudy the opportunity to have adventure outside of her familiar territory without fear of getting hurt.
Trudy is such a blessing. I am the luckiest dog mom alive!
There is something about this time of year that fosters an organic ability for me to relax. Relaxing does not typically come naturally for me. But the air is cooler in the morning, the spiders are huge, my spice garden is ready to harvest, and the days are getting noticeably shorter…change is in the air.
This year there seems to be an urgency about getting ready for fall and winter. The squirrels on my property are working at a dervish pace, there are wooly worms everywhere and trees seem to be turning pre-maturely. There was a time when I dreaded fall for what comes after it. I hated the shorter days and without a daily energy boost from the sun all winter I would slip in to some pretty deep winter blues. But I’m in a different season of life and now I look forward to burrowing in for the winter. My work load on the property slows down considerably and I can allow myself more time for art, play, cooking and spiritual pursuits…perhaps even a vacation this year. I can’t wait to have this time to slow down and re-charge. The older I get the more clarity I have into the relevance of the cycles and spirals of all life; the agricultural seasons, the cycle of birth and death and the constant sprials of evolving as an older woman. I find the this latest cycle to be one of the most empowering times in my life.
Each season inspires a specific basket of dominant feelings/emotions in me…in spring its hope…but in fall its gratitude. I love the colors, smells, sounds of fall..they make me feel grounded and quiet. I feel grateful for the income that my businesses have provided all summer. And I feel grateful knowing that an extended period of rest is near on the horizon.
I had not realized how much I resemble a squirrel until I started writing this post…perhaps they are my spirit animals. All summer I feel like a squirrel while I’m hard (but joyfully) at work squirreling away my nuts for the winter. And with the addition of Heloise to my family it seems like I sleep in a literal “nest” every night. She is terribly shy and still won’t stand for being picked up or carried around. Since I can’t convince her to go up to my bedroom at night I’ve been sleeping on an air bed in my den for over two months so she can be with the whole family at night. She, and the other 8 dogs, pile on the airbed with me.
Heloise loves being in the mix; some nights she sleeps right on my belly.
I know she appreciates that we all stay close to her. She tells me often that she “belongs”…that seems to be her word. She is a very happy and playful girl despite her strong boundaries with touching…I am patient and I feel incredibly grateful for the trust she has already shown in me. I posted a video of her playing with Snoopy at the bottom of this post. She is joy.
Me and my fur family live a life where we try for the most part to keep to
ourselves…that is not always possible and there have been some uncomfortable incidents and lingering negative energy on one side of my property at Misfit Manor. I’ve been pulling out my full arsenal of prayers, blessings and tricks to put a stop to it. Today I harvested a variety of sage, rosemary and lavender from my herb garden.
I am steeping them in charged rain water to make a protection spray to keep clear that corner of the property of any lingering nefarious energy and also work with in the house when I don’t want to burn my herbs. The smell of steeping fresh herbs is so earthy and comforting. I posted a cheat sheet on my banishing spray (though if you are interested I would encourage you to really craft your own with ingredients and intention that flows from your heart and intuition).
The Pawty business continues to grow for me. I appreciate everyone who supports my shop. Vet bills on 9 dogs and 2 cats are no joke and my shop is a big source of how I fund it. Petunia continues to get laser therapy several times a week for her back; as well as acupuncture treatments. Millie and Petunia just had dentals…it adds up fast.
Every time I realize that the “pet account” is running low I take a deep breath and trust that what I need will come….and it always does. Every time I hear the Etsy “register ring” sound on my phone I feel a profound sense of gratitude.
Blessings to you and yours as we enter the fall season… may you find gratitude, renewal and peace in this beautiful season.
Bret and I have never been so proud to fail at something!
On 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!
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 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. 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.
As most of you know my husband and I re-located to Kentucky this past summer. We moved to a small town just outside of Lexington. Lexington is the horse capital of the world. You can go for a lovely ride in just about any direction from our home and see amazing horse farms…where the horse barns are nicer than most folks homes (sure nicer than mine). One would think that the guiding principle in the region in regards to the care of horses would permeate the culture and translate in to a high standard of care for all animals…but it doesn’t….not even close.
Bret and I come from a cushy suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota…we are used to seeing dogs living in the home, with safe fenced yards to play in and living generally healthy and fulfilled lifestyles. We had country clubs for dogs..with pools, massage treatments, bed time stories and fresh baked dog cookies. We have been shocked at what we see here for dogs. You really can’t turn down a street here without seeing a dog living outside chained to a tree or staked to the ground. I want to be clear…these dogs are not out on potty breaks…they live on chains…exposed to the elements 24/7. Often they are on very short and very heavy chains. Sometimes it seems as if there is an ongoing contest to see who can have the biggest, heaviest chain on their dog. There are obvious problems with chaining like neck damage, lack of access to shelter, water and food. Often their chains end up flipping over their bowls (if they have them) or they get twisted up and can’t reach their bowls or shelter (if they have them). Dogs who live chained can very easily become anti-social making their plight so much worse and making them a public safety risk. While pit bulls are most often what you see on a chain here it spans the spectrum even to tiny Chihuahuas living staked to the ground outside. What makes it worse is that in very few counties in Kentucky are their laws to protect these dogs and if there are laws there is very little appetite by the authorities to enforce them even if rescue advocates make a huge stink.
This is a photo of Turnip. Turnip became our first foster dog this summer. When I see this picture of him living on that chain; starved and nearly froze to death I am embarrassed to be a human. Turnip is a sweet, gentle and frail little creature and he lived four years of hell like this…he barely survived and frankly I don’t know how he did…what a little fighter. Unfortunately, this is a common picture of how dogs live in Kentucky.
One of the first things I did when I moved here is look up some of the rescue groups in our area to see how we could get involved…at the time not realizing how big a problem chaining was here. I found that there were groups throughout the state focused on easing the suffering of chained dogs. They do things like directly ask owners to surrender…pursue action by the authorities if the dog is in distress and take custody of the dog. My initial attitude was pretty black and white…without question take these dogs away from anyone who would chain them outside. But often, there is no ability to get these dogs away from their humans and even if you can get them away from their humans what do you do next? Where exactly do you go with a dog who has lived outside on a chain for years…who is going to step up to the plate and bring them in to their home? It sounds obvious and easy…but it is not.
One of the groups we got involved with (S.O.A.R.) does a lot of very hard leg work keeping tabs on chained dogs. They respond to reports they get from the public regarding dogs living chained outside. They knock on doors and ask for owner surrender of these dogs. If they can’t get the surrender or legal confiscation, which often they can’t, they do the next best thing…which is help the dog where it is at…they bring straw to keep them warm and even build fenced areas (for free) in their yards if the owners will allow it. I have to admit that I had a hard time with this at first. Why should anyone who treats their dog like this get free stuff?… especially a free fence…just “take the dog away” I thought….I was honestly not sure this was something I could support. It seemed better to work at owner surrender and legal confiscation (stealth confiscation if necessary) rather than leave these animals with someone who would chain them. But the longer I live here and the more I see…the more overwhelming the issue of chained dogs gets and the more I see that in many cases all you can do is help these dogs where they are at…and in some cases it really is the best possible outcome for the dog. If there is one thing that meeting Turnip has made me think long and hard about it is the meaning of compassion. It is easy for me to have compassion for Turnip and every day it seems to grow but I deserve no badge for that; compassion for Turnip is easy and obvious. But if I want to live my life as a compassionate person I have to be compassionate to everyone…even someone who would chain their dog. I have found that is it very possible to do just that.
Several weeks ago my husband and I helped build a fence for two chained dogs (it was my husband’s second fence build). The two dogs we went to help, Buddy and Bear, have lived their lives on heavy chains for 12 years. I didn’t know what to expect when I went to meet these dogs and their human. I was very surprised. Both dogs were incredibly social and very interested in what these strange people were doing in their yard. The dog’s human was incredibly grateful for what we were doing. He was living on a rented farm and S.O.A.R. had to pursue the landlords permission to build a fenced yard for these dogs. S.O.A.R. basically had carte blanche to build whatever they wanted for these dogs. It was 25 degrees the first day we went to set the fence posts (which could never be done without male volunteers). It was cold, damp, and hard work but it was a complete BLAST! We were working for the better part of two days building this fence; the dogs were watching and waiting with anticipation and their human was grateful and I believe as excited as the dogs. I know little to nothing about Buddy and Bear’s human but my take away was that while I couldn’t see eye to eye with him on how these two dogs were living, he loved his dogs (he also had several small dogs that lived in the house with him). It was clear he did not have the financial or physical ability or even the will to put up a fenced yard for the dogs…so S.O.A.R. did it for him. Once I was involved in making this situation better for Buddy and Bear I honestly no longer cared what the human’s circumstances were…it was about the dogs and everyone involved was walking away better off from this fence build. There were no losers here…no resentments, only positive change for two sweet creatures and their human who ALL deserve compassion.
Leading up to the fence build I posted S.O.A.R.‘s pleas for volunteers on my Facebook Page. I followed some of the commentary on Facebook that others posted in response to a plea for volunteers to build this fence. Some of the rhetoric struck a familiar tone…”take the dogs away”, “why give someone like this a free fence”, “this person should be in jail”…and on and on. I have to admit I had similar thoughts before I went to the build. But reality sets in when you see these dogs and their human face to face. I realized that not only is not my place to pass judgment on Bear and Buddy’s human (I should be far more worried about pulling the log out of my own eye)…but the reality was that judgment, anger, opinion, rhetoric…none of those things would help Bear and Buddy…but a fenced yard sure as heck did…and that is what they got. Do you want to see pure joy? Be present when two dogs who have lived twelve years on chains get cut loose in to their own dog yard for the first time (with new dog houses taboot)….trust me when I tell you there is nothing like it. PURE JOY!
So if you want to know what faces of compassion look like…they are pictured below…a group of people…who didn’t know each other but all responded to a call for help…to show up with tools and energy to help build a fence for a couple of dogs and their human…neither of which any of them had ever met. What an amazing day this was!
I certainly don’t have the answers to solving the issue of so many dogs living on chains. But I do know where part of the answer lies…stronger laws to protect dogs from living in distress (laws passed by the politicians who are accountable to us), the public’s will to pressure the authorities to enforce the laws and protect these dogs…but also outreach and dialogue…slowly changing the cultural perception of how dogs deserve to live. It is easy to pass judgment on how someone is treating their dog…it is much harder to have the guts to knock on their door and ask if you can help…but that is the only way to start the conversation and get a better outcome for the dogs. I have a tremendous amount of respect for groups like S.O.A.R. who have the passion and the guts to speak out and change the lives of so many chained dogs. The one thing I know for sure is that meeting Bear and Buddy and their human expanded my heart and my capacity to have compassion and I am grateful for that. My husband and I will be helping with more fence builds in the future!
This is a pastel on velvet paper. I just love working in pastels and despite what many people think, they are a permanent paint. This sweet dog praying in his shelter “cell” with graffiti behind him has a special prayer for anyone looking for a dog. Most of my pastel paintings have a dimension item to them, in this case its wire for the effect of his cage. The poem was written by me.
This painting is on file with the US Copyright Office.
Check out my Art Gallery for other Pet Rescue Art I have done. Many of my paintings and cards are available for purchase at my ETSY shop use the coupon code “NEWCUSTOMER” for 10% off your first purchase. Are you a pet rescue advocate and just love all things pets? Follow my blog for pet news, art and ideas for handmade gifts for the pet and pet lover! I post 1-3 times per week to my blog and daily on Facebook and Pinterest.