Learn more about Hopee who was featured in the Spring 2015 Smiling Dog section of The Bark.
This is one of my dogs, Hopee.
She was rescued from Hurricane Katrina by Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, six months after the hurricane hit.
Almost five years later, a friend and I volunteered at Best Friends for a week. She was the first dog I walked on the trails. I could not believe she had not been adopted in all that time. She was very shy, so it had been hard for her to meet people. She certainly didn't belong in a sanctuary, though.
I spent a lot of time with her that week and when I returned home, I applied for her. I had to drive back to Utah for three of my dogs to meet her and I got to take her on some outings, and about a month later they put her on a plane in Las Vegas, and I picked her up in St. Louis that evening.
We think she is about 14 now and she has never given me a minute of trouble and has come out of her shell quite a bit. She has a thyroid condition, is on phenobarbytol for seizures that started about two years ago (she's been seizure-free ever since) and was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
She is so special to me!
How The World's Worst Dog Became Our Shelter's Best Teacher
Eddie was not a particularly magnanimous little dog. While he was sweet and loving with people he knew, he was a snarling, snapping nightmare with children and other dogs. As he weighed less than ten pounds, it was a manageable situation but who would want to manage it? Making matters worse, he was a tan Chihuahua in an area up to its ears in tan Chihuahuas. If shelters in other states suffer from an overabundance of wonderful large black dogs, California has a Chihuahua overpopulation issue reminiscent of the “Tribble” episode of Star Trek.
After having Eddie in our care for two years we were at a total loss for how to find him a home. Facebook posts, adoption ads, offering free training - nothing worked. Stymied, our Adoptions, Behavior and Marketing teams sat down to a situation room conference and came up with a drastic idea: complete honesty. We wrote a no holds bar blog about why you probably didn’t want to adopt Eddie, crafted a satirical press release noting the same, produced a couple jarring videos, and made some memes to distribute through various marketing channels.
It went completely viral. Our phone lines jammed and the media turned out in force to talk about little Eddie. America embraced Eddie. To say this was a huge learning experience for us at Humane Society Silicon Valley would be an understatement. After two weeks of near bedlam, Eddie was comfortably ensconced in a new home and our staff was older - and much wiser - than we used to be. Three big lessons stuck out from our crash course in unconventional marketing.
1) Everyone owns an Eddie. As the Eddie blog scampered it’s way around the internet on fleet little paws, we heard a resounding chorus of one sentence: “He’s just like my dog!”. While we may strive for perfection in ourselves, people are unfailingly willing to embrace imperfection in their companion animals. As a society, our love of the dogs we share our lives with far outweighs our need for control and order. While statistics have always borne out the fact that the reason dogs wind up in shelters has more to do with changes in the owners lifestyle, Eddie’s raging popularity - and the surfeit of people that stepped up to meet him - showed us anecdotally that we accept our dogs, warts and all.
2) Inform, don’t restrict. In deciding to go the route of radical honesty, we also decided to trust as well. Too often shelters deal with difficult animals by restricting the adopters - no kids, adult only, experienced homes. By doing that, we drastically cut down the number of options for animals already at a disadvantage for finding homes. We also forget a vital fact: most of us didn’t come to dog ownership as experts. None of us were born conversant in the lingo of behavior theory and versed in positive reinforcement training. It was a relationship with a dog that encouraged us to seek out information - to learn and grow. Even the most expert pet professionals usually came to their career through the very simple act of loving an animal. By frankly presenting Eddie’s problems and removing his restrictions, we allowed for the possibility of that transformative relationship, allowed his potential adopters to make an informed decision about what they were capable of. And they did.
3) You don’t need to write a horror story to make people care. Noticeably absent from all of the media we did about Eddie was one simple thing: his rather unremarkable history. Eddie wasn’t a victim of abuse or neglect - he was simply an under socialized dog who got loose and was a bit too much for his owners to handle. Too often in shelter marketing, we make the mistake of thinking that we need to return to the same narrative of good versus evil. If there’s one thing we learned from Eddie the Terrible, it’s that people are more complex - and their hearts are larger than we anticipated.
Eddie forced us to reevaluate how we approach more challenging animals that enter our doors and how we interact with potential adopters.
And perhaps these are lessons that can save more lives.
Oxytocin improves dog performance
A new study in the journal Animal Cognition that reports that oxytocin increases canine responses to human social cues adds to the large number of known effects of this chemical. The more that oxytocin is studied, the more influential it seem to be.
All the articles that refer to oxytocin as “the love hormone” are simplifying to the point of distortion. Sure, levels of this chemical rise in the early stages of romantic love, but that’s just a small part of its role in our lives. Oxytocin is a biologically occurring molecule made of a short chain of nine amino acid acids that has strong effects on the body and on social behavior. Ever since a study roughly 20 years ago showed that it played a key role in the choice of a lifelong mate in the famously monogamous prairie vole, a series of studies have shown its key role in a number of species in trust and social interactions, including bonding. New human parents of babies show a rise in oxytocin, for example.
On the other hand, the moms out there experience other effects of oxytocin related to parenting, and those aren’t all so sweet and glorious. The same chemical that helps us love our babies also helps our babies enter the world and thrive in it. That’s because oxytocin is important for the production of contractions during childbirth and also for lactation to feed our infants.
>To make matters more complicated, oxytocin can make memories of negative social interactions more intense. So, again, “the love hormone” is really not a fair and complete way to describe its social function. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it focuses our attention on social information and gives us the ability to understand it at a deeper level. The recent study. “Oxytocin enhances the appropriate use of human social cues by the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) in an object choice task ” supports this view of this powerful biochemical.
The researchers who conducted this study investigated the effects of oxytocin on canine performance in an object choice test (OCT). In an OCT, a person gives a non-verbal, social cue to a dog to indicate the location of a piece of hidden food. Based on the dog’s response, it is possible to learn what cues are meaningful to dogs and which ones they can correctly interpret. Two common cues in OCT studies are pointing and gazing in the direction of the food. In this study, dogs and their guardians came to the test center twice, 5 to 15 days apart for a set of 40 OCT trials, 20 for each cue—gazing or pointing. On one visit, the dog was given an intranasal dose of oxytocin prior to the study and on the other visit, an intranasal saline control was given. The order of these two treatments varied between dogs.
The dogs who were given oxytocin first performed better in their first session than those dogs given saline during the first visit to the testing center. Effects were not as obvious in the trials involving gazing. In gazing trials, the dogs given oxytocin performed no better than if they guessed randomly where the food was hidden, while the dogs given saline first did even worse. Since previous studies have suggested that dogs actively choose to avoid locations that humans have gazed at, this research suggests the possibility that oxytocin counteracts that negative interpretation by dogs, and that they simply guess.
vious OCT studies, dogs have shown no improvement over time. Since learning occurred no matter which treatment dogs received first, it does not appear as though the oxytocin was responsible.
Maybe it’s the science geek in me who has always been fascinated by social behavior, but I’m just as thrilled with the idea of oxytocin as “the social information enhancer and clarifier chemical” as I ever was by the term “the love hormone.”
A directory of dog-friendly companies
The following businesses understand the value of working in the company of dogs— whether it’s writing code, blowing glass or saving the environment … work is just better with a dog by your side. We’ve gathered together the most comprehensive list of dog- friendly workplaces in America, both large and small, covering 30 states. We salute these companies for working and playing hard, and valuing a belly-rub and as much as a balance sheet. (If you know a dog-friendly company we’ve missed, please add it in the comments)
Company: 3five, Inc.
Company: Advent Software
Company: archer>malmo, inc.
Company: Assembly of Dog
Company: Average Joes Entertainment
Company: Ben & Jerry's
Company: Big Communications
Company: Big Foot Media
Company: Big Spaceship
Company: BISSELL Homecare, Inc.
Company: Boa Technology
Company: Bomber Industries
Company: Bravo! Vail
Company: Bulkley West
Company: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners
Company: Camp Bow Wow of Bridgewater
Company: Canine Detection and Inspection Services
Company: Cape Art Tiles
Company: Carnation Corners
Company: CattleDog Publishing
Company: Century Box
Company: Certified Wildlife Friendly
Company: Chehalem Wines
Company: Chuck Latham Associates
Company: Clif Bar & Company
Company: Country Walkers
Company: Cram Crew
Company: Culver Brand Design
Company: Dean Insurance Agency
Company: Delphic Digital
Company: Diamond Creek Pet Retreat & The Canine Sports Center
Company: Dogster/SAY Media
Company: Flathead Spay & Neuter Task Force
Company: Fluent City
Company: Found Animals
Company: Frenchie Winery
Company: Giraffe Marketing
Company: Glassy Baby
Company: Grassroots solutions, inc
Company: Harbors Home Health & Hospice
Company: Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
Company: Helen's Salon
Company: Humane Society of the United States
Company: Hydro Flask
Company: Integrated Benefit Consultants
Company: Intent Media
Company: Jaime Ellsworth Studio
Company: Jersey Printing Associates
Company: Joliet Slammers
Company: Jones Soda
Company: JVST USA LLC.
Company: K9 Country Club & Training Academy
Company: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.
Company: Kiosked Ltd
Company: Larson Family Winery
Company: Law Offices of Daniel F. Brookman
Company: Le Chateau Pet Resort
Company: LeashLocket, Ltd./AEI
Company: Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Company: Madison House Assisted Living Residence
Company: Marcus Thomas LLC
Company: Martinez Animal Hospital
Company: Midland School
Company: Milton M. Muraski DDS Inc.
Company: Ministry of Supply
Company: Momofuku Milk Bar
Company: Morristown Deli
Company: Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory
Company: Natural Habitat Adventures
Company: Nebo Agency
Company: Neff Associates
Company: Now What
Company: O.H.S.O. Eatery & nanoBrewery
Company: ODEL PLC
Company: Ogden Contract Interiors, Inc.
Company: Onestop Internet
Company: OverGo Studio
Company: Page One Web Solutions
Company: Palantir Technologies
Company: Paula's Choice
Company: Peskind Law Firm
Company: Pet Sitters International (PSI)
Company: Peterson Milla Hooks Advertising
Company: Procter & Gamble
Company: Qualey Granite & Quartz
Company: Radio Systems Corporation
Company: RE/MAX Results So Co
Company: Replacements, Ltd.
Company: Road Rebel Entertainment Touring Logistics
Company: RSA FILMS
Company: Sam Simon Foundation
Company: Service Dog Project
Company: Scream Agency
Company: Small Dog Electronics
Company: Small Girls PR
Company: Sports Basement
Company: Springbox Digital Partners
Company: StackMob, Inc.
Company: Summit Contractors Group
Company: SUP ATX
Company: Swift Collective
Company: Synapse Product Development
Company: Tassel Depot
Company: The Clymb
Company: The Glenn Group
Company: The Golden Paw
Company: The Honest Kitchen
Company: The Nerdery
Company: The Squires Group, Inc.
Company: The Watering Bowl
Company: Tito's Handmade Vodka
Company: Tomlinson's Feed & Pets
Company: Treats Unleashed
Company: Vaughn building
Company: Vision 360 Design
Company: WAKA Kickball & Social Sports
Company: Wasabi Rabbit
Company: Wild Goose Chase, Inc.
Company: Winchester House
Company: Wolf Conservation Center
Company: Working Dogs for Conservation
Company: Wyatt Technology Corporation
The great escape
The moment I looked out my window and saw the dog running down the street, I had a pretty good idea what had happened. He was dripping wet, which narrowed down the possibilities considerably, as it is too cold for standing water, but the suds all over him were the real give away. This was a dog who had escaped mid-bath and was running all over the neighborhood.
I understand that many dogs don’t like baths, and I’m sympathetic to a point. I really feel for them, and I certainly urge people to be gentle and kind as they bathe their dogs. I also recommend that a dog be bathed no more often than necessary. For many dogs that is almost never or just a few times a year, while for dogs with high grooming needs it may be every 4-6 weeks. Still, it’s my personal view that into each life, some rain must fall. Sometimes a dog needs to be cleaned up, whether it’s for routine hygiene or because he rolled in something foul, and that’s just the way it is
Rather than his psychological state, my more immediate concern about this dog was that temperatures would be dropping near zero overnight, and it’s not safe for a soaked dog to be roaming outside in such conditions. I rushed to get treats, a towel and a leash in the hopes that I could lure the dog to me, bring him inside to warm up and find out who was missing one half-clean dog.
By the time I made it outside, the dog was out of sight. I walked half a block hoping to catch sight of him again, and I saw that a neighbor was holding the dog. I rushed over to lend my leash and towel to the cause. After feeling relief for the dog, I looked at the man with concern. The man was wet and a little sudsy, his pants and shirt were torn, and his knees plus one elbow were badly scraped. He had made a diving grab at the dog, which was successful, but not smooth. I was impressed. Having spent a year working as a dog groomer, I know how hard it is to hold onto a wet soapy dog, and I’ve never had to “make a tackle in the open field” as they say in football.
Neither of us knew who the dog’s guardian was, but as we were heading to my house to warm the dog up, a very damp, slightly soapy and tearful woman came running around the corner, screamed “Shadow!” took the dog in her arms, and hugged him so hard I thought for sure he would have preferred the bath to the embrace. She told us that Shadow had jumped out of the sink right as her kids were coming home, and he had bolted through the open door. Luckily, it had only take her about 10 minutes to find him.
Few guardians’ lives have been free of adventures in dog bathing, though it’s rare for a dog to flee to the great outdoors. It’s typical to have dogs jump out of the tub, shake all over the living room, and rub their bodies along every bed and couch in the house, though some dogs simply try to hide.
Has your dog ever escaped during a bath?
Enjoying the snow with our pets can be fun, but dangerous.
As an avid snowboarder, there's nothing that I would love more than to share my favorite winter hobby with my dogs. I'm captivated by ski patrol canines that help rescue people trapped in avalanches and dogs that run alongside people cruising down in the backcountry. But the sharp edges on skis and snowboards that let us carve into icy slopes also make it potentially dangerous for our four legged companions.
Avid backcountry skiers Don and Polly Triplat regularly take their dogs Scarlet and Brodie with them in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Normally they're careful to separate the dogs from the ski party as each person tears down the mountain, but accidents can happen in a split second.
Earlier this month the couple was skiing with friends, when Scarlet darted in front of a friend just as he was starting his descent. Scarlet managed to get caught in his ski causing a tumble that left the skier unharmed but left the poor pup with a deep gash in her front leg. The wound was so serious that it sliced through her skin, muscle, and artery to the bone, resulting in an injury that could result in fatal blood loss.
Fortunately the Triplats are trained in wilderness first aid and were able to calmly assess the situation and make a plan of action. Don quickly clamped Scarlet's artery to the bone and created a tourniquet with gauze and duct tape to stop the bleeding. Then Don carried Scarlet on his shoulders as he descended the mountain, while friends helped. One skied ahead to break trail, creating an easier path, and another raced ahead to reposition their car to the nearest place they could reach the road.
Since the accident, the Triplats have stopped taking their dogs on backcountry downhill trips and have opted for including them on tamer cross country skiing excursions. They were fortunate to have the training necessary for a successful outcome, but the couple wants to warn other skiers to be aware that taking a dog skiing is a big responsibility.
This story makes me think of the rescue of Missy in Colorado. It shows how important it is to be prepared for an emergency when taking your dog into the backcountry, whether it's skiing, hiking, or boating. Always bring first aid supplies (and know how to use them!) and have a plan for how to carry your dog to safety (when hiking, I always bring a backpack large enough to carry my dog if necessary).
Do you ski or snowboard with your pups?
Sandra Roth and Lizzy with a showstopping performance
Dog-dancing is taken to its heights and none display this better than Sandra Roth and Lizzy at The Open European Championships in Heelwork to Music and Freestyle 2014, held in Stuttgart, Germany. “There are no compulsory movements or elements, so each team can present their individual strengths and skills,” reads Dogdance International’s preamble. “No other dog sport offers that much flexibility to ... adapt each performance to the capabilities and needs of each team member (dog as well as human).”
Sandra Roth is a ballet and jazz dancer with a passion for dogs, so moving into dog-dancing was a natural for her and turned out to be the perfect sport. As for Lizzy, her dancing companion, Roth writes in her profile that “Lizzy has been learning tricks and freestyle moves since she was a puppy. But we’ve had many problems and she was not an easy dog. So our main focus for the first 3 years was on her social behaviour and not on dog sports.”
Roth continues that Lizzy “gets more and more confident and our relationship has improved a lot. She is also starting to enjoy the attention by the audience.”
And Roth adds that, “Other than dancing we also do some obedience training, we do Treibball, scent work, lunging, dog scootering and whatever is fun for both of us.”
Don’t you agree that their performance takes your breath away? And by the time Lizzy is doing her front-leg-crossover, I couldn’t stop the tears, this was oh so lovely.
Home décor meets canine functionality
I’ve already put considerable thought in to why the dog is so often under the table even when nobody is there, eating and dropping food by mistake. I suppose it was natural that I would next contemplate why the dog bed is NOT under there. As long as the dog will be resting beneath the table, why not make it as comfortable for him as possible?
There’s the added bonus of having the dog bed out of the way. Beds are wonderful items, but they take up so much floor space, especially if they are for big dogs. They usually have dog fur so they match the rest of our furnishings, but they are less intrinsically stylish and not always as attractive. It was natural that appreciating the design advantages of putting the dog bed under the table led to further consideration of aesthetics.
I generally just try to stay in our color scheme and let the dog beds fall where they may, meaning that I put them where they work for dogs. Since my focus is always on dog behavior, I still stand by this guideline as hugely important. That’s why I like dog beds to be where dogs will not be stepped over, where the temperature suits them and not right by windows that cause them to be vigilant instead of relaxed. Depending on the dog, a bed that is out of the way, allowing true peace and quiet, may be best or one that is right in the middle of the action may make more sense. Ideally, dogs have choices with their resting spots so they can be off by themselves or not as the mood strikes them.
It turns out that I am way behind the curve when it comes to decorating my home with an eye for style while incorporating dog beds. There are so many ways to make them part of the furnishings, whether it is under a table, in an old television or as part of a storage area. I’m definitely impressed by the creative ways to avoid allowing dog beds to detract from a home’s beauty. Function and the dog’s happiness are most important to me and always will be, but I’m newly inspired to work within that framework while making the dog beds more appealing to humans. And to think, I recently thought myself clever just for putting a dog bed out of the way under the dining room table!
How does your dog’s bed fit into the design of your home?
Organizations specialize in helping people and reversing stigma.
Pit Bull lovers are constantly battling the breed's negative reputation. It can be heartbreaking to see someone cross the street to avoid your pup or usher their kids away at the park, but it happens every day to bully breeds. Every friendly, well socialized Pit Bull is an advocate for the breed, but it can be slow to shift mainstream perception.
Two organizations are on a mission to change that stigma by recruiting rescue Pit Bulls to help people. The Animal Farm Foundation's Assistance Dog Training Program in New York trains shelter Pit Bulls to push wheelchairs or help people regain their mobility and avoid falls. It's believed to be the only American training school that exclusively trains shelter Pit Bulls to be service dogs.
Another group in Chicago, Pits for Patriots, trains rescued Pit Bulls as comfort, therapy, and support dogs for veterans, police officers, and firefighters. The organization's co-founder, Kelly Yearwood, says that veterans and first responders identify with bully breeds because they've both seen a lot of trauma.
For former Marine, Joe Bonfiglio, his Pit Bull service dog, Zen, has been a life saver. Joe was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Afghanistan and struggled to get his life back to normal. Now he can hang out with friends, shop at the mall, and has even started to take classes at a local college.
Not everyone agrees that Pit Bulls should be trained as service dogs, but if the right evaluation and training protocols are in place, it seems like a win-win. Pit Bulls make up the overwhelming majority of my local animal shelter, so this is a great way to give them a loving home and a purpose.
Some tax laws benefit guardians
It can be psychologically damaging to keep track of how much we spend on our dogs. There’s something to be said for just acknowledging that the dogs create a problem area in the budget and moving on. I realize this goes against what every financial planner says, but it’s hard to put a price on our mental well-being.
On the other hand, with possible tax deductions available from the IRS for dogs, it may be worthwhile to face the music and log those expenses. It can take a lot of money to care for dogs, so it makes sense to try to figure out if some of those expenses are deductible.
The bad news is that even though most guardians consider their dogs to be family members, they are NOT deductible as dependents. The good news is that there are still ways that you may be able to write off some canine expenses. If your dog qualifies as a medical, business or hobby expense, there may be tax benefits for you. The costs associated with moving your dog when you relocate for a new job may be written off. Fostering pets from qualified organizations also allows you to deduct certain expenses.
It’s worth checking with a tax professional, and saving the receipts, just in case. For heaven’s sake, though, don’t add them up unless it’s necessary in order to file your taxes!
Study shows that dogs can discriminate between our expressions.
I don't think that we need a study to know our pups can tell when we're happy or sad, but it's still fun to see formal research explore our dogs' abilities and inner thinking. With all of the canine cognition labs cropping up at colleges around the world, there's been a lot of research showing that dogs can read human emotions. However a new study coming out of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna claims to represent the first solid evidence that an animal other than humans can discriminate between emotional expressions in another species.
In this study, the researchers set up an experiment that they believed could only be solved by applying knowledge of human emotional expressions to unfamiliar pictures. The dogs were trained to discriminate between images of the same person making either a happy or angry face. In each case, the canine participants were only shown the upper or lower half of the face. After training on 15 picture pairs, the dogs' abilities were tested in four situations where they were shown (1) new faces (but the same half as in the training), (2) the other half of the faces used in training, (3) the other half of the new faces, and (4) the left half of the faces used in the training.
They found that the dogs were able to select the correct facial expression more often than would be expected by random chance in every case. Not only could the dogs learn to identify facial expressions, but they were able to transfer their learnings to people they'd never seen before.
Interestingly the researchers also discovered that it was harder to get the dogs to associate a reward with an angry face, suggesting that prior experience had taught them to stay away from a person that looks mad. From my own experience, dogs learn this very quickly!
Next, the scientists hope to study how dogs express emotions and how those emotions are influenced by people.
Home is where the dogs are in new Coldwell Banker spot
There are few things better than coming home and being greeted with the wagging tails and the unbridled joy our dogs exude. These moments are gloriously featured in a new commercial titled “Home’s Best Friend” the made its debut during ABC’s airing of The 87th Academy Awards on February 22.
The 30-second ad spot is produced by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and features 16 rescued dogs discovered on Adopt-a-Pet.com. To help more dogs find a forever home, Coldwell Banker is announcing the “Homes for Dogs Project.” By teaming up with Adopt-a-Pet.com, the largest nonprofit pet adoption website in North America, the campaign aims to find homes for 20,000 dogs in 2015.
“Our previous spots have showcased the joy of coming home, so this year it made sense to portray who’s on the other side of the door,” said Sean Blankenship, chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “With more than 43 million U.S. households having dogs, there is no question that our pets go hand-in-hand with our love of home. The ‘Homes for Dogs Project’ takes this a step further, allowing our affiliated companies to join us in helping adoptable dogs find homes.”
It’s an admirable goal, and a good example of how some corporations are partnering with humane organizations to brand their values and philanthropy. “Dog love” also resonates with consumers, and this effective commercial captures the delight that many of us experience every time we walk through the door.
The annual Oscar airing has become a popular launching pad for commercials trying to capture a more sophisticated crowd as opposed to the populist viewership of the Super Bowl. Advertisers often choose to debut their more thoughtful and cinematic spots during the Oscar telecast. For Coldwell Banker, they are hoping that the most memorial clip you saw at Hollywood's big awards broadcast was be their new commercial.
The scruffy little stray peered warily at me from under her filthy, matted curls. She looked to be a poodle mix of maybe 15 pounds and animal control had been getting calls about her for a month or so. I called softly to her but she tucked her tail and trotted away. I spent the next several weeks trying every trick in the book to capture the little dog but she was too shy to approach and too clever to be cornered or trapped. She slept under old cars behind the meat company and roamed the nearby car dealerships daily.
Finally after several weeks of trying different baits in the trap I was thrilled to find her safely confined. Back at the shelter she was terrified and trying to bite but I was able to wrap her in a blanket and get her vaccinated and scanned. To my surprise she had a microchip. There was no phone number so the next day I went to the home and met with her former owner. A pleasant man, whom I will call Marco, he stated that he loved his dog but had too many dogs and still had 4 of her puppies from a previous litter of 8.
It’s my job to help and educate rather than judge whenever possible and Marco needed help. He showed me the 4 puppies. There were two males and two females and he told me that he was trying to separate them because the boys were trying to have “the sex” with the girls and he didn’t want any more puppies. It’s important to remember that Marco was doing the best he could with the education and information he had. Other than a bad limp on one of the female puppies, they looked healthy and well cared for. They had enough to eat and a cozy bed in a shed.
Still, the dogs were reproducing at random and I knew it wouldn’t be long before there would be more puppies and I was worried about the limp on the female puppy. Also my preference is always that dogs live in the home as part of the family. We chatted a few more minutes and Marco decided to surrender the original stray mama and her two female puppies and I gave him information on getting the males neutered.
I took the little scared stray and the two puppies home to foster until they could be adopted. I named the mama Ava and she warmed up in no time, crawling tentatively across the floor and into my lap after a few moments. I bathed her filthy coat and trimmed the mats and scheduled her to be spayed as soon as she was more comfortable being handled. I had the two puppies, Charlotte and Cookie spayed (Cookie was in season), vaccinated and treated for worms and fleas. I also Cookie seen for her leg and X-rays showed a partially healed fracture that was crooked and needed surgery.
One evening about a week after I caught her, Ava lay blissfully relaxed on my lap. I was absently stroking her belly when I felt movement under my hand. Two days later I woke up to a single puppy nursing happily in the bed with Ava.
Cookie had her surgery and was adopted by one of the wonderful vets who took care of her. Charlotte went home with a friend of mine and will have the best of everything. Mama Ava and her puppy Bruno will stay in foster care with me until Bruno is weaned. Then they will be spayed and neutered and adopted out.
It’s funny how catching one little stray resulted in four dogs having a better life. I can’t help but think what good timing it all was. Little Bruno might have grown up under a car as a feral stray, if he even survived. The two female pups would have become pregnant and produced more puppies in the back yard. And little Cookies broken leg might never have been fixed, leaving her with a lifetime of pain.
I think Ava and little Bruno, snuggled up in a warm bed in my living room would agree.
Are older dogs less willing to be interrupted?
“This way,” I said in that sing-song voice that tells the dogs in my life that I am about to get moving and that they should join me. It’s not a cue for a specific behavior, and it’s certainly not a command. It just means, “I am going to be moving, so you should pay attention to the direction I go.” When an off-leash dog hears it, I expect them to take note of me so they can follow me when they are ready to go.
Marley has always been agreeable about this, but this past weekend, he really had his nose to the ground and was slower to follow than usual. It didn’t bother me, though. We were in a safe place, I like him to have his freedom and I figured the warm weather was making smells extra distracting.
Then I walked him a couple of mornings later on leash around the neighborhood in sub-freezing temperatures and he did not budge when I gave him a typical, “Marley, let’s keep going.” This is also not a cue or a command but generally encourages him to keep it moving. Because I was cold and ready to go home, I really noticed that he did not want to interrupt his sniffing. I gave some serious thought to what is going on, and I think some of it is just a common age-related behavior.
Marley is at least six and perhaps a few years older than that, and I think he’s an older gentleman now who wants to do what he wants to do, rather than stop and do what I want him to do. Sure, the smells might be extra enticing, but I’m beginning to think he’s just more willing to assert his own desires rather than act as biddable as he has in the past.
He’s about the most agreeable dog I’ve ever known, and in no way stubborn as a major personality trait. I simply think he’s secure in himself and sometimes acts on his strong opinions, which include not wanting to stop doing something he’s enjoying just because I’ve suggested it. I’ve noticed this with other dogs over the years, too, and wondered about it.
I’m a big fan of letting dogs in their golden years have a little more leeway about doing what they want, and I try not to interrupt their sniffing or snoozing any more than necessary. Marley is far from being old, but he does seem to be channeling his inner middle-aged-fellow-who-wants-what-he-wants and is less willing to be influenced by anyone, including me. In my mind, I hear him saying things like, “In a minute,” or “Hold on a sec.”
His behavior does not reflect any sort of training issue. He’s still as responsive to cues as ever and will respond well to any that he knows, whether it’s something basic like “Sit” or “Come” or tricks like “Sit Pretty” and “High Five.” It’s just that he is not as quick to follow if I’m merely suggesting that I would like to move on. I love that he is smart enough to distinguish between cues that he’s supposed to respond to and mere indications of what I’m going to do. If I need him to come away from something, I can use his recall, and he’ll do it, but he used to act almost as if I had given the cue “Come” when I said, “This way.”
Has your dog become less likely to interrupt what he’s doing and respond to you as he’s gotten older?
Iowa pup treks to Mercy Medical Center in search of her mom.
Nancy Franck had been in recovery post-surgery at Mercy Medical Center when she got the surprise of her hospital stay. When Nancy left home in Cedar Rapid, Iowa, she had to leave behind her beloved Schnauzers, Sissy and Barney. About two weeks into her hospital stay, Nancy's husband, Dale, noticed that Sissy was missing. He frantically searched for the 11 year old dog everywhere, but couldn't find her. About four hours later he got a call from hospital security with Sissy.
A surveillance camera in the hospital lobby caught the determined pup entering through automatic doors and wandering around. Sissy ended up being successful in her mission to see Nancy. When Dale's daughter came to pick her up, the hospital allowed Sissy to have a surprise visit.
Although the Francks only live 20 blocks from Mercy Medical Center, but the've never walked there before with Sissy. However, Nancy and Sissy have always had a special bond, with Sissy “choosing” Nancy when they firtst met eleven years ago. The then eight week old puppy came right up to Nancy, pawed at her leg, and then fell asleep on her shoulder.
Over a decade later, I can't think of a better way to be cheered up at the hospital!
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