Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rescue Dog Update

(Contributed by Lori Whitwam)

For those of you who read my blog from earlier this month, I wanted to let you know how things turned out with our new rescue dog!

I'm happy to report that he came to us the night before Thanksgiving, and everything is working out beautifully! We named him Darwin.

I had a few apprehensive days as I watched to see if he would settle in and get along with our resident dogs. The main potential obstacle was Brody, our 2 1/2 year old Great Pyrenees. Pyrs are by nature more aloof than goldens, and I wondered if their personalities would match, especially since they are so close in age. Darwin barks when he wants to play, and to Brody (from a long line of livestock guardians) that means either a threat or challenge. At first he wasn't sure what to do about it. Darwin, being a golden, is a very sunny and outgoing dog, and I think Brody initially interpreted this as a challenge to his position of authority. It took several days, but Brody finally gave Darwin a chance, and now they play wonderfully. Ozark, my 8 year old Pyr mix, seemed to hold back and wait for Brody to decide how things were going to be. He was pretty nervous, avoiding Darwin's play attempts for fear of starting or getting in the middle of a conflict between the two younger dogs.

Right from the beginning, though, our 14-year-old golden, Sprocket, seemed to recognize "one of his own." The very first night he was playing tug with Darwin (and winning, but he cheats).

Our pack is now 4 dogs strong, and we couldn't be happier! I just spent ten minutes watching the three younger dogs wrestle out in the yard, while old Sprocket napped by the window with me.

If you'd like to see a short clip of the first time Brody and Darwin played, check out .

Holiday Pets

(Contributed by Lori Whitwam)

I end up having this discussion every year. I'm never sure how much good it does, because it's such an emotional decision, and the happy holiday commercials showing a puppy with a big red bow around its neck are everywhere. Still, I have to say it. "Please don't give pets as a holiday gift!"

There are so many reasons not to do this.

Some parents decide the kids are old enough now to have a pet, and it will be a good lesson in responsibility for them to take care of it. The reality is that almost never turns out to be the case. Kids are kids, and unless YOU as the parent are willing to ultimately to care for the pet, don't get one. This applies all year long, not just at the holidays. I once did the intake of a golden retriever into our area rescue group in which the mother sat there with her 9 year old son and told me repeatedly that they were "getting rid" of the dog because the boy didn't take care of it. How do you think that poor little boy felt?

Other people think things like, "Aunt Mary lost her cat this year, and a new kitty would sure put a smile on her face." Selecting a pet for another person is a recipe for disaster. Which pet is the right one for any person is a very personal decision. There is that "this one just feels right to me" factor which cannot be perceived by anyone other than the person looking for a pet. And did you even ask Aunt Mary if she's ready for a new cat? Maybe she's still mourning Mittens, or has decided that maybe she'd rather have a dog or a bird or a fish tank. And can Aunt Mary afford the food, vaccinations, spay/neuter, supplies... and time your gift will need?

Some people get so caught up in the idea of getting a pet for the holidays that they forget about the realities. Puppies cry, bark, chew, pee on the floor, require constant supervision and training. And do you really want to take an 8 week old puppy out in the frigid Minnesota weather to housetrain him? Kittens get on the counters nibbling your Christmas cookies, climb the tree, and try to eat the tinsel.

Impulsive pet-buying decisions have sad consequences. Cute puppies and kittens grow up in just a few months, at which point some people lose interest. No commitment has been made to training, so puppies grow into unruly and badly-behaved dogs. Kittens grow into cats that nobody ever really bonded to. By summer, many of these "special holiday gifts" end up in shelters or rescue groups.

Even if your family has sat down together and made a careful, considered decision that you would like to add a pet to the family, the holiday season is a bad time to do this. Most families are very busy with holiday shopping, decorating, entertaining, visiting, cooking and other related activities. This all takes time away from the care and attention that any new pet (puppy, kitten or adult) requires. Guests coming and going can be extremely stressful to a pet that is trying to adjust to its new home. And don't forget the holiday hazards! Trees full of shiny objects, gifts beneath, food and baked goods, new toys with small bits, and other things that will prove to be tempting dangers for the new addition.

If you sincerely believe a pet is a gift you want to give this year, consider some creative ways to do this. Make a card good for one trip to the local humane society, or get a certificate from a breeder you've found, willing to work with you to select a puppy or kitten sometime in the next month or two. (A good breeder will appreciate your careful planning and willingness to make sure the right pet comes to your family at the right time.) Give a box with a bowl, collar, leash and toy along with the card or certificate. No, it doesn't have the same impact as the puppy or kitten with the pretty bow around its neck. It kind of feels like giving a gift card, doesn't it? But is that one moment of "OH, it's a PUPPY!" worth the sick feeling you will have about the middle of February when you realize what you've really gotten yourself into?

Pets are not video games, toys, jewelry or nice sweaters. They are living, loving creatures who will depend on you for the rest of their lives. Please be sure you are willing to make that commitment before taking the steps to add a pet to your family!

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Rescue Dog

(Contributed by Lori Whitwam)

It appears as if our three-dog pack will expand this week to four. To some people that sounds like a lot. In fact, I've been chastised by members of my own family for having "too many dogs," to which I generally reply with something along the lines of "mind your own business." I tell people that we don't have the hobbies that many families have. We don't own a cabin, a boat, a jet ski, a snowmobile, a motorcycle or an expensive car. We don't spend our money on going out to restaurants frequently, we don't collect antiques, and I couldn't care less about a huge wardrobe or jewelry. We love dogs. They make us happy, and we make them happy. They ground me in the natural world, and watching the pure joy they derive from the simplest experiences reminds me that my own petty problems aren't so awful in the scheme of things.

But, having said all that, I wasn't looking for another dog. Other than when we adopted Brody, a 2-year-old Great Pyrenees, last New Year's Eve, I haven't actively set out to find a dog for our household in 13 years. The right dog always seems to find us at the right time, whether we were aware it was the right time or not.

So there I was last Monday, perusing the Retrieve A Golden of Minnesota website, as I frequently do. While I'm not an active volunteer at this time, I have a 10-year history with the group. I used to serve on the board, was the Placement Coordinator, and originated the website and newsletter. I like to check out the dogs in the system, bookmark ones that catch my eye, and follow their progress through their foster experience to their eventual adoption. But Monday I saw a dog, and the bells went off in my head. I felt the same way I did when I first laid eyes on our Ruxpin, when he was at the clinic where I was working for his neuter. Something told me that this was OUR DOG, and I was right.

I emailed my husband right away, and he replied "NOT FAIR!" But when I got home that night, he still had the dog's page up on the computer. I made some inquiries, got my application reactivated, and before long our information was in the dog's foster-mom's hands and we had an appointment to meet him on Saturday.

Let me tell you a bit about this boy. He is a golden retriever, 3 years old, and had apparently been kept chained in a garage and neglected horribly. He's a short-stature dog, but has a thick bone structure. He should probably weigh about 70-75 pounds, but is barely over 50 pounds. He was terribly matted, so much so that most of his chest and rear end and tail had to be shaved, revealing sores from the knots pulling on his skin and the matted urine and filth. His toenails were nearly an inch long, forcing him to walk on the backs of his feet. He escaped (thankfully!) and was impounded. His "family" declined to claim him, so he was turned over to RAGOM. He's cleaned up now, healing, and is neutered. When we met him on Saturday, you would never guess that this tiny, abused boy had suffered as he did. He has a true golden personality, is sweet, loving and playful, and has managed not to lose his joy in just being alive.

The next step in the adoption process is for him to come to our house one evening this week and meet our three resident dogs. The only one I'm slightly concerned about is Brody, the 2 year old Great Pyrenees. Being a livestock guardian breed, Brody takes protection of his house and yard very seriously, and might not readily accept another dog, particularly a male, into it. But even considering that, Brody is a pretty easy-going dog and has never showed any signs of aggression. We'll manage the introduction carefully, and I'm optimistic that it will go well. If it does, we will go to the foster's home again on Saturday and complete the adoption, and he will officially be a member of the family.

Besides the fact that I immediately predicted a real connection between this dog and my husband (which he needed... he hasn't had his own "special dog" since our Ruxpin died in March), I feel like I can do so much to get this sweet boy back on the road to being a strong, healthy, vital dog again. At our clinic, we promote raw/natural diets, and that will be the first step. I'm sure his skin will improve rapidly with the right diet, some essential fatty acids, and possibly some Standard Process Canine Whole Body Support. We'll assess any other issues he might have, such as if he needs a chiropractic adjustment from many months of being forced to walk in an unnatural posture. Dr. Andrews thinks the physical and emotional trauma he's endured would respond well to some Traditional Chinese Herbs. I plan to take "before and after" pictures of him, to track his progress as he moves closer and closer to true wellness.

I think Ozark, my 8 year old Pyr Mix will likely enjoy having another young dog around to siphon off some of Brody's energy! They love to play, but there are few dogs who can keep up with Brody for long! I have my fingers crossed that he and Brody hit it off, otherwise I will gladly withdraw our application and allow him to be placed in a home that will truly be perfect for him. I know the importance of not "forcing" a dog to fit into a pack. What matters most of all is what is best for the dog, and if that isn't our family, I'll happily watch him be matched with someone who is.

Did I NEED another dog? Nope, and I wasn't looking for one. But this one found me, and I'm sure he needs US. I'm sure we'll find out we needed him, too, in ways we didn't even know.