Sunday, December 6, 2009

Darlin’s first picture and Christmas story.

I’m posting this on both blogs because it seems appropriate.

A year ago today I took Darlin’s first picture. If I had taken her picture when I first started feeding her it would have made some people cry. She was so skinny that she looked hunched over with her stomach pulled up inside of her. She didn’t have her winter coat when we met, as a result her hair was thin and closer to her body. I thought she was some kind of hound dog. I was in such a hurry to feed her on schedule that taking her picture never crossed my mind. As soon as darkness fell I would watch the clock until it was time for me to leave the house.

So why Dec. 6th, 2008?

A local breeder had been shut down by the ASPCA. There were about 50 dogs that they had to surrender. The Humane Society took several, some went to rescues, and 16 were transported to a Michigan rescue. The ASPCA asked the breeder to pay for the gas needed to transport the dogs out of state. She said she wouldn’t do it because she didn’t want to give them up. When I heard about the gas, I made the donation because those dogs were not going to be delayed a chance at freedom if I had anything to do with it.

My husband and I met with the breeder’s husband at 8:00 in the morning at a grocery store parking lot. The same one that Darlin’ would be eating at once it turned dark. He was supposed to be bringing three Jack Russell’s going to Russell Rescue in Tennessee. They were not Jack Russell’s, they were Rat Terriers, but that’s okay, Russell Rescue wouldn’t turn them away. I had my camera along so that I could email the pictures to everyone involved in their rescue.

I asked the breeders husband for their names and any information he had. When he handed over the male he called JR, he said that JR had never been used for anything other than making puppies. They were frightened. In fact JR was in the back of the crate when we arrived at rescue and I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had to use the bathroom.

My daughter’s great grandmother (89 yrs at the time) lives in Tennessee so we stopped to visit with her that afternoon. Granny had a stroke in 2007 and moved into an assisted living home. We always take her out to lunch when we visit. It’s usually getting dark by the time we head home so I had Darlin’s food with me so that I could feed her on the way to our house. That day I had my camera too. It was hard getting Darlin’s picture because the camera I used isn’t good for taking pictures at night. Darlin’ was fearful too therefore I kept my distance as she ate over at her tree.

Yesterday we went to visit Granny in a North Alabama Rehab because she broke her hip in November and still isn’t able to walk. Darlin’ had been alone all afternoon and was really missing me. She cries, whines, barks, and gets overly-excited when I come in the door. All of are dogs are excited to see Mom and Dad even though the kids were home, but Darlin’ is different - and special. She usually hides in my room while I’m away. I’m sure she feels abandoned by me when I’m gone.

Last night I stood outside as Darlin’ went potty before bed. She still won’t stay in the yard without me and most times she will not go down unless I do. It was freezing cold and the ground was covered in frost. I wore my oversized coat with the hood over my head and I was still freezing, yet the night reminded me that it wasn’t quite as cold as some of the nights that Darlin’ spent alone outside last winter. As I stood there shivering waiting on the dogs, I was thankful that my mind is at peace this month.

Standing out in the cold last night took me back to last winter and winters past. It was December when my daughter asked what my intentions were concerning Darlin’. That’s when I told my family with tears on my eyes that I only intended to keep Darlin’ alive through winter by feeding her and the rest was in Gods hands. I didn’t want her, I had three dogs already. Besides, she didn’t want me, she wouldn’t come near me.

I knew my family was tiring of me not wanting to go places or do anything that might interfere with feeding Darlin’. I understood what was going on with them; they had to help me too. The questions hurt because it put what I had been doing into perspective. I knew that I was neglecting some of my own responsibilities because of Darlin’. How long was I going to continue with her feeding routine? How long could I keep doing it? I had to drive six miles every night. That’s not very far, but it was inconvenient. I couldn’t abandon her, especially not after three months. I couldn’t skip a feeding, not after establishing a routine. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was capable of feeding her and without me she would be hungry. What if I ever missed a meal, would she wait for me? It was hard enough knowing she was hiding in the cold somewhere. December was an emotional time for me.

It was Dec. 13th when we went to see Trans Siberian Orchestra in concert. The concert started about the same time I would be feeding Darlin’. Afterwards we went to dinner. The concert was wonderful, but Darlin’ weighed heavy on my mind because I would be so late getting to her. We took my husband’s car that night therefore I knew I would have to ask him to stop so that I could buy food on the way home. There was more food than we could eat at dinner. I asked everyone to pass their plates and I scraped everything together in a carryout container for Darlin’. We pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store on our way home when I thought I saw something by her tree. As we got closer she lifted her head and I realized it was Darlin’ lying there napping and waiting for me! She waited over three hours!

It was raining and the wind blew hard for three days the week of Christmas. I knew Darlin’ wouldn’t come out in the rain, but I left her food anyway by putting a bowl out with a stick on top to keep the rain out. I figured if the rain slowed down she would come to eat. At that point I hadn’t seen her for two nights and I was getting worried. The food was gone, but I couldn’t be sure that Darlin’ was the one who ate it. On Christmas Eve we put her food out early so that I wouldn’t have to leave the house later. My husband bought a large basted bone for her as a Christmas gift and we left that too. She didn’t show up.

As we drove home I recalled the year before we were living in Missouri. Our cat Abbey had been bit by something and it tore a large piece of skin off of her that required stitches. Abbey had to go outside, she ran to every door in the house and begged to go out. She loved to lie around on the porch and play with our neighbor’s cat, but they also had one that was mean and attacked her. Going through my photos I found the picture of her wound was taken and emailed to my husband on Dec. 6, 2008. He had transferred and was already working at his new job in Alabama while I stayed in Missouri with the children so they could finish out the first semester at school before we relocated them.

I didn’t know until I wrote this post that Abbeys picture and Darlin’ pictures were taken at the same time a year apart. It seems significant to me because there is so much synchronicity in my life when it comes to animals. I will write more on this subject in the future.

My husband came home for Christmas in 2007. We were sitting in the living room on Christmas Eve when I spotted something that looked like eyes in our tree. It was Abbey lying in the branches! I pulled her out and noticed her stitches broke open and the wound was infected and oozing. We called an emergency vet and drove Abbey over right away. Two Christmas Eves a year apart we were out at night because of an animal.

We gathered around the tree a little earlier than usual last year. The kids open one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. Since it was still early and the house was quite I thought about making a second trip to check on Darlin’. The rain and wind had slowed so my thoughts turned to Darlin’ and whether she might show up. I asked my husband if he would mind if I drove over to check the food to see if Darlin’ was around. He said that he would drive me. It was at that moment when he offered to drive me that I didn’t feel bad about asking. When we arrived the bowls were empty, but the Christmas bone was still there. I had to believe that she had eaten and would come back for her bone later.

This year Darlin’ will spend Christmas next to me on the couch. Her head will be dry, her belly will be full, and this will be the first of many Christmases to come for her in a real home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dog Adoption Interview

I've just completed an interview with Happy Tails Books - Lost Souls Found!
Please stop by and check it out. You'll learn a little more about me too.

While you are there, if you have a rescue or adoption story that you would like to share, Happy Tails accepts stories for publishing!

You can buy Happy Tails - Lost Souls Found! breed specific books as well. A significant portion of sales will go to help dogs in need.

These books would make a great gift for the dog lover you know or for someone that loves dogs, but seems to have everything else. Books last forever, unlike your computer, and they make great coffee table conversation. Once you read these stories, you'll want to share the joy with your friends! In addition to Happy Tails books, the website posts up-to-date information on dogs and animal advocacy news.

I'll be back soon with an update on my Darlin'.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dominant dogs

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I’m not as nervous as I was about allowing the dogs in the same space. That said, I’m still keeping them separated and rotating, but only until my back is better. My back hurt before the fight when I held Sam back. He is strong and it jerked me holding him, but I’ve had low back pain several times in my life so I thought it would heal up within a week. This time around it kept getting worse. Long story short, it was unbearable so I went to the doctor. I have an MRI scheduled next week because it’s been going on a month. As long as my back hurts I’m not willing to snatch a dog up that’s flying across the room or one dominating another which could provoke another fight. I’ll give you a few examples in this post.

She's good with the cats. This is Baby.

Bonnie has found her new bed. Darlin’ will continue to sleep in her dog bed over on my side of the room. Bonnie will no longer sleep with us and will continue to sleep in the crate. I never thought I’d see the day where I said that, but we are sleeping better and it’s better for everyone. There were a few nights when she whimpered and whined in the crate, but she’s been a good girl well over a week now. I mentioned in one post about Bonnie jumping out of bed and growling at Sam as he entered the room. Well, wait until you here this!

Bonnie had only been sleeping in the crate a week when one night she whined like a puppy and it got to the point I couldn't take it. She had been sleeping well in the crate, but that night changed things. I finally asked my husband to put her in bed with us. She laid down by my legs and went to sleep.

At 5:30 am I walked across the house to use the other bathroom because my husband was in our bathroom taking a shower. Too many lights on in there for me half asleep. Darlin' followed me, Sam and Chloe came to me, so I let the three dogs out. I looked and didn't see Bonnie, and Toby won’t get up until I do in the mornings. Darlin’ runs down to pee and comes right back to the door. I go back to bed and notice Bonnie still sleeping.

I walked around the foot of the bed to my side when Darlin' enters the room. Bonnie looks up and goes crazy growling and barking! She acts like an aggressive dog that you see on TV. I grabbed her so she wouldn't jump off and start a fight in the dark. Darlin' runs over to the bed and has her front feet on my husbands side! That scared me, thinking she might jump into the bed at any second. I pulled Bonnie up out of the bed and I'm holding her up kicking and screaming at Darlin'! I know it empowers a dog to hold them above another dog, especially a dog like Bonnie. I really had no choice with Darlin’ alert and ready for action. Darlin’ was following me in the room, eyes dead on Bonnie! I'm yelling at Darlin', No! no telling how many times. No matter which direction I turned Darlin' was in front of me stalking and if I allowed her to get too close I felt like she was going to lunge at Bonnie in my hands! I finally threw our comforter off the bed over Darlin' so I could turn on the light! About that time my husband comes running into the room wet and soapy out of the shower. I was so upset trying to catch my breath I couldn't even speak! He put Bonnie back in her crate and I settled down and went back to sleep. Before I dozed off I thought to myself about buying a crate for Darlin'. Bonnie was the instigator by threatening Darlin’ with her barking and growling. If Bonnie hadn't started that then Darlin' would have gone right back to bed! So, we all sleep better with Bonnie in her crate, Darlin’ won’t be needing one.

The days following weren’t very easy between the two dogs. They could sleep in the same room and eat together in the kitchen, but the aggression was still there, at least for Bonnie. One night after dinner Bonnie started walking around the kitchen. As soon as I said, “They made eye contact” to my husband, he had to snatch Bonnie up and carry her out of the kitchen. Bonnie would also growl outside of my office door. Darlin’ sometimes whimpers when I close the door which didn’t help. It showed weakness and Bonnie was on the other side showing dominance.

One night I was on the couch with Darlin’ beside me. My husband was on the other couch with Bonnie in her dog bed. I watched him stroking Bonnie’s head as her face grew tense staring over at Darlin’. I was thinking (please don’t stroke her) right about the time she turned into a devil and flies off the couch in our direction! I snatched her up and asked my husband to please be more observant, especially when he’s showing affection. Bonnie has been more submissive with me since. She walks in with her tail down, she comes to the towel when I need to dry her from the rain, and she’s listening much better too. When she comes in from outside I tell her to go to her bed and she will immediately. She still likes to take her dog biscuit to her bed so she can threaten whoever walks by, but most times I wait and she knows to eat it if I’m standing there.

Now that Bonnie is getting better and more submissive, I have to keep my eye on Darlin’. She pulled a fast one and surprised me a few days ago. I was letting a couple of dogs out back first thing in the morning. Bonnie was already out in the yard, so I thought Darlin’ would stay inside with me. She doesn’t like to go down to the yard without me. Well Darlin’ slipped past me and ran down the stairs! I thought Bonnie would come running and I’d have a darn fight on my hands so I ran inside and grabbed my little cow bell and took off to the yard. It’s a distracter, a noise maker I came up with to distract them if they were to dominate or provoke one another. Darlin’ runs straight across the yard to Bonnie at the fence! My eyes must have been huge as I ran down and started shaking the bell. Bonnie came walking calmly to me with her tail down and Darlin’ is standing out there with her hackles raised looking right down at Bonnie! I picked Bonnie up and praised her for her behavior, told Darlin’ No!, and motioned for her to get back. The rotating continues until I can handle these too without further injuries to each other or my low back.

I got my first real kisses from Darlin’ on Nov. 1, 2009! She’s very playful in the mornings and she’s always excited when I get dressed and talk to her. She’ll follow me to the bathroom and sometimes sit next to my feet when I’m on the toilet. That’s when I leaned over to her, she leaned her head up and back and licked my nose! I know, now I’m on the toilet kissing dogs! Later that day I leaned down to kiss her and she licked me again. Then one day last week I was sitting at my desk with her lying at my feet and she licked my foot! I’m getting kisses from my girl now!

She will initiate play in the floor with me too! Sometimes she’ll jump up and put her paws on my stomach, then quickly give me a play bow! She is precious and playful, but we still don’t get out enough.

Darlin’ is getting use to the noises in the house too. For the first months that she lived upstairs she would hide and tremble at the sound of the vacuum cleaner. Now she’ll run back and forth in the room and watch me. She used to hide and tremble when I used my blow dryer. Now she’ll go to her bed and lie there calmly as soon as she sees me pull it out from my cabinet. She’s still uncomfortable hearing my sons music or TV, but I think her anxiety comes from the fact that she isn’t comfortable around my family yet. I can drop a spoon and she moves but doesn’t run.

She’s still guarding and territorial. Tonight she growled and barked at my husband as he offered all of the dog’s treats. She ran from one side of the room to the other, but her tail was down low the entire time. She's insecure. He kept calling her to him as he passed out treats on his knees in the kitchen. She finally went to him to get one! She loves her dog biscuits. She barks when my daughter walks in my office, then quickly hides under my desk and gets quiet. Sometimes I shake a pill bottle. I have been shaking a vitamin bottle to teach her to hush, but I was advised not to by a trainer on my Facebook. She said it will make her issue worse. Well, it works where nothing else has. It basically gets her attention so that she will hear me tell her No, or Go. The trainer also said that a fearful stray equals an emotional leader. She was fearful when I got her and she has made phenomenal progress in 8 months. Oh my goodness, eight months today! She may not be comfortable with my family, but she loves her Mommy which is more than I could have hoped for.

I just noticed, look at her tail and how high she's carrying it walking past Sam. That's dominance!

I need to get Darlin’ out of the house more so she won’t be afraid of the leash and go stiff on me. She also needs more exercise because she doesn’t run around the yard much. She’s gaining weight. Her belly fat from having puppies is starting to fill out. Because we have a big yard and dog activities, like Frisbee for Bonnie, we don’t walk them that much. My husband will take them each out for walks over the weekend. This way he gets exercise in and manages the dogs better. He’s thinking about starting to run again so that will be nice for them. I want him to take Darlin’ too. I know the first few times she will freeze like she does with me. But it’s a good way for him to spend time with her and for her to see that he’s a good guy.

See her tummy in this one.

This past week my husband has been fixing the dogs food and taken it to Darlin’ the few times I kept the dogs separated at meal time. So she is learning his scent and to associate it with her resources as well. He’s also learned my routine and how I feed the dogs. I have my quirks and certain dogs get their bowl down first. They also have to sit quiet and calm before it goes down. They eat canned dog food with chicken broth and a little meat on top. Yes, my doing. I started cooking for Darlin’ and never quite stopped. I don’t mind boiling chicken once a week. My sister asked one night what I was cooking for dinner. I told her if my husband didn’t mind boiled chicken thighs that we would be in good shape!

My husband has been watching me more and how I interact with the dogs. I showed him that he could treat the dogs when they come inside by pointing to the floor. They don’t have to be told to sit every time you give them a treat. Most of the time they sit anyway if there is any hesitation on my part whatsoever. Sam and Chloe walk in and sit automatically. And they certainly don’t need to be praised every time they take a treat from your hand. All of the dogs do this including Darlin’.

I need to put Darlin’ in the car and ride around the block. I’d love to take her to my Vet in January for her heartworm test follow-up. If I did those things then I would have tons of work cut out for me in just a couple of months if I expect Darlin’ to be comfortable in those situations. I know she’ll be tense and fearful which is mostly why I haven’t hurried introducing her to new things.

Here Sam was on the ground, Darlin' had been sniffing him.

It’s not easy living with five dogs. They do take a lot of time out of my day and sometimes they take a lot out of me. I really love my dogs. The trainer also asked me why I rescued Darlin’, what was I needing to rescue in myself? I’m still pondering that one. I’m so glad that Darlin’ is here with us and not out in the cold tonight. I know she has helped me be a more patient person and that lesson is ongoing. I know that Darlin’ has helped me learn about and understand the canine world a little better. I have to keep my eye on them, but I learn so much in doing so. The trainer also said that everyone wants to be like Cesar and walk a pack of dogs. Nah, I’ll decline on that one, I don’t like dog hair and vacuuming that much. I never wanted five dogs, but I had to get Darlin’ off the street, for her safety and my sanity. I hear the phrase “It is what it is” isn’t favored by many people. It is what it is, I have five dogs that I’m committed to until they cross the bridge someday. Right now I just want to outlive them all because they are my responsibility and I want to keep it that way. The only thing I want to change right now is for Darlin’ to trust my family and for her and Bonnie to go back to how they behaved before their fight. Sometimes it’s hard to balance everything and maintain structure and routine. While separating the dogs has become part of my routine, it hasn’t been challenging. The rest has been easy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time heals wounds

I’m still watching Bonnie closely after the fight. Darlin’ is feeling her cheerios, but Darlin’ is also still learning to live with dogs. Bonnie was a little hellion over the last week, but I think the negative energy may be subsiding.

Bonnie was growling and barking as though she was about to go into full attack mode when she saw Darlin’. Saturday night we had Bonnie on a leash downstairs on the couch before I came down with Darlin’ following behind me. Bonnie had to be removed from the room a few minutes until we all took our seats. She went nuts after she saw Darlin’.

The last bloody towel to be washed. This was outside, I had two others that were a lot worse. I took Bonnie to the vet and when I came home the paw prints were still wet on the floors - there was that much blood.

A couple of nights ago Bonnie scratched at her kennel at 4 am, so we tried putting her in bed with us. A short time after she jumped out of our bed growling and ran after Sam, who just happened to be walking out of our room. He looked back as though she had lost her mind. I don’t think she knew it was Sam, I think she thought it was Darlin’. She loves Sam. We put her back in her carrier and she went back to sleep.

Yesterday morning my husband let Bonnie out with Sam. The other dogs won’t budge until I get up. Instead of putting Bonnie back in bed with me, he closed the door and left her in the living room. I put her in bed with me after hearing her scratch at the bedroom door and she slept fine. He put her in bed this morning and again she was fine. She was actually on the floor with Darlin’ for a few seconds before I snatched her up to carry her as I let Darlin’ and the other dogs outside. I didn’t want to start my day with dogs turning on each other before they ever left my room.

As of last night, the energy is only slightly better. I’m aware that Bonnie would walk up to Darlin’ holding her head high and might growl or provoke a fight. Based on what I saw Darlin’ do, I’m still on alert. Bonnie is on “Nothing in Life is Free” (they all are) she is sleeping in a crate, and we are still rotating. She knows Mom means business, her tail is down when I talk to her, and she won’t hesitate sitting for any treat. There were times I would take her a dog biscuit, but not now.

They have spent time in the same room resting, but neither has walked around together or brushed against the other. I have to prevent a fight at all costs. Five dogs is more than I can handle alone if a fight were to start. It’s raining today. Once the weather clears this week, one afternoon after my husband comes home, I think we will reintroduce them in the back yard together without the other dogs.

Last night Darlin’ and Toby started to play in my bedroom floor. Chloe (the rambunctious one) came running and barking. It’s just her way. Darlin’ raised her hackles and chased Chloe out growling at her. I saw it and quickly corrected Darlin’ telling her “no” and “sit”. Chloe is not a fighter, but she is expressive. Nevertheless, I’m still learning about Darlin’.

One afternoon before the fight all of the dogs went running and barking towards the back fence. This is the picture I took of Darlin’ as I called her to distract her. For a dog to raise his hackles gives me concern, although it doesn’t always suggest that a dog is going to act out in aggression. I’d rather not find out and distract her.

These were taken seconds apart. Click on photo to enlarge. Hit your back button to return to this blog.

Because of Bonne’s aggressive behavior this weekend, we did not walk them together. Darlin’ is so fearful that it probably wouldn’t have helped anyway. Getting her to walk on a leash is a lesson in patience itself. My husband walked Toby in front of us. In order to keep Darlin’ moving I had to walk fast which meant my husband had to drop behind me. Darlin’ still doesn’t care for my husband so she was more distracted looking back. Something I have noted on our walks. She must have found shelter in street drains because if she sees a drain she pulls as though she would climb in. She doesn’t realize that she wouldn’t fit, but I’m sure she did when she was skinny.

We only walked up the street a couple of blocks. As I tried turning a corner she sat down and wouldn’t budge. A guy stepped outside on his porch and she did not bark, yet she has barked at my family at the same distance. A woman was pushing a baby stroller and commented that Darlin’ was pretty. I told her she was a fearful stray. Darlin’ just sat there stiff and didn’t bark at that woman. So her barking at my family in the house and yard is definitely a territorial issue.

Last night. My husband was sitting on the other sofa. She finally relaxed, as close as she could get to me. This is common behavior for her.

Hopefully I will see this again soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Still adjusting after the dog fight

It’s been five days and we haven’t full recovered. We’ve had to keep the dogs separated to avoid further conflict. It took Bonnie six months to forget about a ball I took from her, no telling how long it will take to forget about the fight with Darlin’. Bonnie has never been in a true dog fight, she usually shows her dominance and the other dogs give in, allowing her the role of alpha female here. She will try and mount Chloe (Eskie) and Chloe won’t tolerate it, but the reactions between the two dogs are enough to make you laugh. Toby sometimes pulls her ears or cheek during rough play. In the seven months Toby’s been here, I only know of two times that Bonnie had enough and Toby ran under the bed after she corrected him. It’s over as fast as it starts.

Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week Darlin sure showed more confidence. So much so that I had to correct her several times as she rushes, nipped, or buffed up to the dogs. The dogs were coming in the house, always in a hurry, when Darlin’ sort of bumped Sam, our blue heeler, in the side and put her head over his neck. That is not appropriate behavior, but thankfully Sam just looked up at me and I praised him for his calm behavior. Darlin’ has calmed down since.

Bonnie has been the most difficult. Given half a chance she would provoke a fight with Darlin’. We have rotated the dogs all week, neither being allowed in the same room unless someone other than myself is in the room next to Bonnie. In addition the dogs must me in a calm state of mind, relaxing in their beds or Darlin’ on the couch and Bonnie on the other couch.

One day I was alone when Bonnie wanted in the house. Darlin’ was in her bed napping. I opened the back door for Bonnie and guided her in to her bed with an umbrella. I don’t have a tennis racket, but I may find one! Bonnie is fast and I feel sure if she growls at Darlin’, based on Darlin’ reaction the other day, Darlin may jump to the occasion and I’ll have another fight on my hands.

The energy changed in the house and Darlin recognized it. I could see it in her face and I was concerned we had a set back this week, but today she seems better. Darlin’ no longer had the freedom to roam the house. I was shutting her in my room when I went to the store and I’ve closed my office door. She has not been shut away so I know she sensed the difference. Wednesday night I took a picture of her on the couch and she had a lot of tension in her face. It hurt me to see her like that. She was also breathing very rapidly the other night which I haven’t seen her do in months.

I have fed them separately because I was afraid of a fight in the kitchen. Not because of food aggression but because the opportunity was there. Last night I allowed them to eat in the kitchen together. Bonnie started walking around so I kept a sharp eye on her. Then she made eye contact with Darlin’ and my husband had to carry her out because she had turned into a viscous little devil.

You can see the holes on the inside of her leg if you click on this image. Click your back button to return to this blog.

We’ve changed the way we sleep. Bonnie has been crated for the first time in her life. We’ve had Bonnie almost three years. My kids don’t think it’s right, but it’s Bonnie that I’m concerned about wanting to challenge Darlin’, not the other way around. Monday night she slept in our bed and the dog bed when I woke to the sound of Darlin’ whimpering at Bonnie and Bonnie was growling. It passed and we went back to sleep. Tuesday night I heard Darlin whimper again and Bonnie was in the bed growling and barking. It took a minute to settle her down, but everyone went back to sleep. Wednesday night changed the way we sleep. I have been nervous, not resting well because I know if Bonnie jumps off the bed provoking a fight in the dark I might not be able to stop it.

Wednesday night at 1:30 am Bonnie woke, growled, barked, and I caught her in the air before her feet hit the floor over on Darlin’s side of the bed. I swung her back over to the center of the bed, holding her down, when I looked back and Darlin’ was on her hind legs, one foot up, and the other on my bed. We put Bonnie out and closed the door. She has never been locked out of our room at night. Once we had enough of her barking we put her in bed and she calmed down. That’s when I decided to clean up a large portable dog carrier and bring it indoors. Bonnie protested about 15 minutes, some of her sounds made me want to laugh because it was more mumbling and grumbling than anything. I knew if I ignored her she would go to sleep and she did.

Last night we crated Bonnie again. As Darlin’ walked in the room to go to her bed, Bonnie saw her and went crazy in that crate like an attack dog. I covered the crate, although it’s mostly plastic, and she settled down right away. We slept well. We will continue to crate her until I feel secure that she won’t threaten Darlin’.

We have a downstairs den so my husband will take Bonnie down with him in the evenings and I’m able to sit on the couch upstairs with Darlin’. This is our usual routine anyway; the only difference is that Bonnie hasn’t been able to leave a room without supervision.

Going back up through the downstairs door as Bonnie goes outside from the upstairs door.

The dogs are not allowed in the yard at the same time so we are rotating Darlin’ and Bonnie when Darlin’ goes out. Bonnie loves the outdoors so she’s happy to stay out longer. Darlin’ has to be with me or she sits at the back door.

This incident has been upsetting for me. It’s raised my level of anxiety and fear, although it’s getting a little better. Emotionally I find it upsetting that I can’t let Darlin’ out with all of the dogs, nor can I trust Bonnie not to provoke Darlin’. I was just at the point where I wanted to leave the back door open more frequently and allow Darlin’ the chance to see that the yard isn’t a bad thing without me. That she would be able to come and go and not have any fear that she couldn’t get back inside. Now when I leave the house I have to put Darlin’ in my room and I’m not sure that I will be comfortable leaving them together for a long time to come.

Bonnie is recovering from her injuries. You wouldn’t know that she was in a fight and had us all worried. She’s been herself every since she woke from the sedative, but her temperament is that of a dog aggressive female Jack Russell right now. When she enters the house her tail is down and she shows submission with me, but I’m sure if Darlin’ were nearby she would go into attack mode.

I’d like to give Bonnie the benefit of the doubt and think that her reactions to Darlin’ may be fear based right now. She has shown some signs of discomfort by licking her lips when Darlin’ is on the couch and she’s over on the other couch in her bed. That said, she’s showing dominance and aggression by barking, growling, and trying to lunge off the bed. Perhaps there is a little of both.

Staring at my neighbors while they were outside singing again yesterday. That woman is nothing but obnoxious. They cause Darlin' anxiety.

Last night. Toby is always by her side.

This morning.

Bonnie on the other couch with a little tension in her face.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We’ve had a dog fight!

And I’m finding it hard to relax today.

A couple of days ago, Laurie, from Three dog blog left some comments and asked if I had concerns about Darlin’ biting. No, I do not have concerns about her biting my family, myself, or other people. I do keep a watchful eye on her with the dogs because she has shown some instability – whining, whimpering, and head and chest held high. Whenever she did that I would correct her to snap her out of it because I didn’t want any of the dogs to feel they had to defend themselves from an unstable dog.

That said, I don’t think anyone could have five dogs and never have a dog fight of some sort. We’ve have had them here, but they didn’t last a minute where the dogs work it out amongst themselves. Animal behaviorists probably wouldn’t consider what has happened fighting, but more one dog correcting another.

I have learned to watch the way they communicate and avoid situations that might trigger aggression or dominance between the dogs. For instance, Bonnie, my Jack Russell, is a dominant female. She used to take her chew to bed and guard it. If Sam, our blue heeler, walked in the room late at night she would growl and jump off the bed letting him know to stay away. He could care less and she usually jumped back in the bed as fast as she jumped out. This sort of behavior leads to fights so I stopped giving them chews that they couldn’t finish or took the chews away before we went to bed. In fact, no one in my home is allowed to give the dogs chew or treats that are not eaten immediately. This way I have more control over any guarding or aggressive behavior that one of the dogs might exhibit. Dinnertime is not a problem, everyone eats in the kitchen, and sometimes one dog will eat what another walks away from. Sometimes they rotate bowls eating a little out of each others bowl. I haven’t had food aggression issues with any of the dogs eating dinner or when giving treats.

Yesterday afternoon I went out back with the dogs just like I do everyday. Darlin’ will not go downstairs without me, although sometimes now early in the morning she will go pee and quickly run back up. If I want her to spend time in the yard then I have to be there. If my neighbor is outside cutting the grass or if she hears unfamiliar noises in the neighborhood she is hesitant to go down even though I escort her.

You should know about my neighbors.

We thought it was strange that when we moved into our home that our neighbor on one side didn’t speak to us. They didn’t wave or welcome us to the neighborhood, nor did they seem friendly. Maybe you have neighbors like this, but I have not. We have lived here two summers now. Our dogs are playful outside and only bark for a minute or two when they hear something unfamiliar. Sometimes they bark and they chase each other around the back yard, but it’s not often, maybe once a week. Usually they will go off when the black Lab two houses up is out barking, but there are dogs that bark in the night and my dogs don’t make a sound. When we’re outside, they walk the yard, go to the bathroom, and a couple will lie at my feet while one paws at the water in the pool. I promise you most times you wouldn’t know I have five dogs. Besides that, they are house dogs so they don’t spend that much time outside.

They have barked when my neighbor is on the other side of the fence. They have a detached garage where he keeps his ladders (he’s a painter) and sometimes he’s banging around and a couple of the dogs will run the fence and bark at the noise coming from the other side. What does my neighbor do? He hits my fence and yells, “Shut up!” What do they do when he hits the fence? They bark more and run the fence line. It’s a privacy fence, they don’t know what’s on the other side.

The steps to our decks face each other so if he’s walking down his deck and my dogs are on my deck, it appears that the neighbor is walking towards the dog. The dogs will bark, but only for a minute, probably just seconds. What does he do? He yells, “Shut up!” Although I was outside with my kids a few days ago so instead of saying “shut up” he said, “hush.” He has issues with dogs, I have issues living near him. I’ll be glad when we move into a home with a little more distance between the houses or to a home where we are not sharing one side of our fence with a neighbor. If my next neighbor likes dog, even better.

This summer a woman started showing up and spending time with their son. The son is 28 years old and has the appearance of down syndrome. He doesn’t work, he is home all day, but I see him outside, or checking the mail. I found out his age when my neighbors were outside and I offered them two large bags of clothes that my son outgrew. The woman was nice as I helped drag the bags to their garage, but her husband gave me a weird look. That was this past Spring.

So now they have a woman in her early 40’s that spends most days at their house. If it’s not raining she and their son will sit out on the back deck all day laughing and singing, sometimes hollering. She wears headphones and sings loud, but because of the headphones she can’t hear herself. Let’s get one thing clear. She cannot sing, not at all, not in no way shape or form.

One night I was standing out back with my dogs waiting for everyone to go potty and they were out there at 10 o’clock at night. The dogs and I were quiet until I called them to go back upstairs. As I was walking up the steps and the dogs were racing to the door, I heard, “We’ll be back tomorrow night.” That’s when I realized she was a trouble maker.

Most days my dogs don’t react to what’s going on because they are used to it now. However Darlin’ becomes fearful and shows some anxiety when they are noisy. She will usually sit by my chair or sit in the yard looking over in their direction. She has to go down because they are out almost everyday when the sun shines.

So what about the dog fight?

Yesterday I went down with the dogs and sat in a lawn chair while that woman was out hollering. She was laughing obnoxiously throwing soda boxes off the deck. I realized later that she was trying to make the city trash can sitting near their garage. Three of my dogs were roaming the yard, Bonnie (my JRT had a rock), and Darlin’ was frozen stiff next to me on the porch watching the neighbors and breathing hard.

I walked over to Bonnie and took her rock because once she’s had it a few minutes she’ll bark at it. Rocks are a new obsession for Bonnie. The day before I bought a mini Kong thinking I could swap the rocks out for the Kong with some peanut butter inside. She wanted her rock back losing interest in the Kong right away. Bonnie thought I had the rock, but I had tossed it in a flower pot. She turned and buffed up to Darlin’ warning her not to get near me with the rock.

Bonnie is alpha dog here. She has looked at Darlin’ several times over the last seven months and Darlin’ looks away. Usually it’s when Darlin’ is whimpering within the pack and the dogs look at her like she’s unstable. This is how they communicate with each other and I’m not one to try and change what works.

Yesterday when Bonnie buffed up to Darlin’ over that rock Darlin’ reacted as though she had been provoked. Within a second they were fighting. When you have more than two dogs you are bound to have other dogs wanting to fight too. This is called misplaced aggression. So Darlin’ and Bonnie were fighting and my Blue Heeler reacted. To keep from having three dogs in a fight I grabbed Sam. He was bucking like a horse. Then the other two dogs ran over to get in on the fight, but I held Sam because he’s the most powerful. I could barely hold him, couldn’t get him in the house, and at one point he slipped his collar so I got him by the scruff by the neck and put his collar back on. Normally Sam will submit by giving me his belly, but not yesterday. I called out to Bonnie and Darlin’, now 25 feet away out in the yard fighting and the other two dogs fighting with them too. I wasn’t worried about my other two (a small JRT and my Eskie) because they are not dominant types. There wasn’t anything I could do. If it had been Darlin’ and Bonnie with no other dogs around, I would have broken the fight up regardless of what the rule books say.

Finally it stopped, although it only lasted a minute or two. Bonnie was on her back, Darlin’ was on top holding her down and the other two dogs came running to me. I managed to get Sam in the downstairs door as Bonnie and Darlin’ walked to me. Bonnie was limping and had a lot of blood on her. As she walked towards me she kept looking over her shoulder. Darlin’ was walking almost beside her looking down at Bonnie. If either of them had turned it would have started all over. Gosh, I was afraid it was about to start again! I picked up Bonnie, did some quick maneuvering and left everyone out back, except Bonnie. I took her inside the house to clean her up and look over her wounds.

Bonnie wanted down; she doesn’t like to be held. So I put her down and watched her walk. There was blood pouring down her legs, but she managed to walk upstairs carrying one front foot up leaving wet bloody paw prints everywhere she stepped. I quickly grabbed a towel and wrapped her in it and grabbed my purse to take her to the vet. I was worried a main vein in her leg was punctured and that her leg was broken. It looked bad and in all my years I have never seen so much blood.

My vet was closed for lunch so I sat with Bonnie in the car and waited four minutes until they unlocked the doors. She was probably more upset about being in the car than she was her injuries because she hates riding in the car. They know me well at my Vet because I have five dogs and because I have had other rescue dogs treated there. Terry, the assistant, took Bonnie from me and said they would call and let me know when to come get her. I was calm, not my strongest characteristic, especially when it comes to one of my dogs. However, Bonnie is ten foot tall and bullet proof like other Jack Russell’s and she is a healthy and robust little dog so emotionally I did pretty good if I say so myself. This is the same dog I was crying over when I had to leave her to be spayed!

What you don't see is the inside of her leg is black from bruising. I noticed when uploading this picture that her back leg below her knee is also bruised.

I examined Darlin and only saw this small spot on her face.

Bonnie is a dominant female, but she is usually very easy going. She is no trouble at all unless she’s found a frog. We have to chase her down for her frogs; she’ll throw herself against the fence as you toss the dead frog over. She plays with all of the dogs, but her and Darlin’ haven’t had much interaction. Bonnie was my biggest concern when I brought Darlin’ home because of her dominance. She would walk up to any dog with her head held high. Bonnie is the kind of dog that as long as you don’t interfere with her frogs or rocks she just ignores you and does what she does best – hunts.

Darlin’s anxiety was already high because of my neighbors. Bonnie had anxiety because I took her rock. If I had it to do over I wouldn’t have tossed the rock in the flower pot, I would have thrown it over the fence. Bonnie would have ran towards the fence and there wouldn’t have been a fight.

The Vet had to sedate Bonnie to clean her wounds. They found a few small puncture wounds, but the worst damage was done to her leg. He said that Bonnie’s leg is punctured front and back, completely bruised, and it will be sore for a while. He thought it might be broken because of the way she held it, but the x-rays showed that it is not. If she doesn’t have enough circulation while it heals then we could be looking at a lifetime issue of the skin dieing off and wound care. He gave her antibiotics, pain medicine, and an anti-inflammatory.

We brought her in the house and put her in her bed on the couch. She jumped right down and wobbled to the back door so I picked her up and carried her to the yard. She went potty (both) and started to wobble walking across the yard. I picked her up and carried her back inside where her favorite person (my daughter’s boyfriend) sat next to her. Sam, our blue heeler, wanted to sniff her, but she growled at him, not wanting anything to do with the dogs. Sam knew and walked away. She rested most of the evening. We decided to put her dog bed in our room so she wouldn’t have to use her leg jumping to get in the bed. She stayed in her bed about 5 minutes then she jumped up in the bed and tucked in behind my legs like she does every night. At some point she jumped down and laid on a blanket under a cabinet in our room. We found that out at 3:30 this morning when we heard a dog whimpering. It was Darlin’! She was in the floor whimpering at Bonnie and Bonnie started to growl. I picked up Bonnie to take her for a drink of water, I knew she must be thirsty. Darlin’ ran down the hall beside me leaning up to sniff Bonnie. Bonnie kept growling and I knew I had a problem on my hands. I put Bonnie back in bed with us and she went back to sleep and Darlin’ eventually went to lie down as well.

Bonnie has made tremendous progress already. She is using both front legs so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about circulation problems. She is going outside and using the steps as always. I've even seen her out digging. She's a tough little dog! However, she does not want to be around Darlin’ so to avoid conflict between the dogs I have kept them separated today.

Darlin’ is showing too much confidence and is not as submissive as she has been around the dogs. This morning I decided to put a leash on her to give me better control just in case I needed it. As soon as I brought the leash she tensed up. Chloe, our Eskie, loves the leash (it means a walk) so she ran over excited to sniff it as I tried to attach it to Darlin’. Darlin’ snapped at Chloe!

So today I have rotated dogs all day. I can’t take the chance of another fight breaking out. Bonnie does not want to be in the same room with Darlin’. I do think it’s partly because Darlin’ is over confident walking up to Bonnie and sniffing her while Bonnie hasn’t forgot what happened yesterday. There is negative energy between them and I will continue to do this as long as I can manage or until I see signs that they can be in the same room together. Darlin’ has spent time with all of the dogs except Bonnie. I let a couple of dogs out, but when it’s time for Darlin’ I make sure Bonnie is in the house. When Bonnie wants in my office, I take Darlin’ to my bedroom. I can’t live this way, but I will this week. I may even feed them in different rooms tonight. I'm unsure. Bonnie is usually the last one in the kitchen and doesn't eat much of her canneed dog food. At this point I want to avoid any triggers that might result in further aggression between them.

Well, I've heard the stories, watched the shows, and read about dog fighting between family pets. I know that I can control most of what might provoke a fight. Now I'm hoping Bonnie will forget what happened so we can live peacefully again. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First bath

Yes, Darlin had her first bath yesterday. I've had her seven months, but by the time I brought her indoors, I'm sure most of the road grime had fallen off of her. I applied Frontline Plus her second week home so I didn't have any concerns about fleas. She has never smelled either. She didn't want to come to me when I called her to the bathroom. Toby had just had a bath so she seemed to understand what was coming. She ran to her bed in the bedroom. I had to carry her and put her in the tub, but she was no worse than any of our dogs. She just stood there not especially happy about it, but she did well. Most dogs shake like crazy when you give them a bath. Not Darlin', she sat in the corner and allowed me to dry her. She only shook once after I allowed her to leave the bathroom.

She was still damp. Her winter coat is starting to come back.

Her barking isn't any better. Some days it's worse than others. Yesterday she started barking and acting territorial when my husband came home so I told her to "Go" pointing by finger and watched as she ran to the bedroom. I didn't close the door. A minute later she came back and was quiet.

I took Chloe to get her hair cut a few days ago. When we came home Darlin' ran up to her and nipped her! I snapped my finger and told her to knock it off and she does, but she continued to show some anxiousness. She did the same thing to our blue heeler (Sam) when he came home from the vet. It's like she didn't like it that I had them with me. She does not like me to leave her.

We went out of town over the weekend and I was gone almost 10 hours. My son tried calling her to go outside, leaving the back door open, but she would not leave my bedroom. I arrived home and called her to go out. After her barking and whimpering at me she ran down and pottied immediately after her feet hit the grass. I don't know how or why a dog that lived on the streets is able to control her bladder (and bowels) the way she can. She wouldn't mess in the house for nothing. Poor thing would go on herself in her bed if it came down to it, but someone would carry her outside first. If I had been away any longer, I would have asked my daughter to carry her outside and put her in the grass.

She's getting big. I'm anxious to see how much she weighs now. I'll have her weighed when the mobile vet checks to see if her heartworms are gone in a few months.

Darlin' gets along with all of the dogs, but Toby is still her favorite playmate.

She still watches the back doors when she's outside, but not nearly as much as she has. There are times I see her acting like one of the pack sniffing the yard without any signs of fear or anxiety.

I bought the book, Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde. I haven't had a chance to read through it yet. I'll let you know if I read anything helpful that applies to a dog like Darlin'. Right now my only concern is getting past her territorial barking and guarding.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fearful submissive dog becomes Territorial

I mentioned in previous posts that Darlin’ had been growling and barking at my family when they entered our home or a room where she and I are. Usually she reacts this way in the kitchen, out in the yard, or sometimes in my office. She is still fearful of my family, but has never shown signs of aggressive behavior.

She has been living upstairs with my family for five months so I had hoped she would be comfortable with everyone by now. Her barking started once she was comfortable walking through the house. Before that she spent so much time in hiding under my desk or in the corner of my bedroom, either in her bed or behind her bed against the wall. No one ever knew she was around.

Her body language has shown me she is becoming territorial. One paw up as though she is stalking her prey. Sometimes running to the corner of the room to get a better look at the one who walked in or who is approaching. Then she’ll run back to my side and bark her head off. Even my husband recognized that she seemed to be protecting me when he walked in the house after work.

Other times she’s caught by surprise while eating dinner with the rest of the dogs and she’ll stop eating and bark. If I don’t stay with her in the kitchen she will not eat. If she gets nervous and stops eating I tell her to eat and she will continue, but the one that caused her to feel threatened has to leave for her to eat. Gee, I just realized I’m standing guard for her!

If we are out back in the yard and anyone walks out on the deck or to the yard she runs to the middle of the yard and barks at them. I tried correcting her with words, “hush, that’s enough, knock it off.” About the only thing that stopped her barking was poking her and giving her the sit command. She would sit, but she was grumbling too. She has hound in her mix so her barks are hollow and loud. I realize I am repeating myself from pervious posts, but this is where we are now.

Some days when my son walks in from school I can’t even hear him say hello. He’s 16 and hasn’t had a lot of patience. Not only do I have to rehabilitate a dog, but I also have to educate my family on canine body language and make sure they don’t make matters worse by their approach or reaction to the situation.

I finally got to the point that I didn’t know what to do about her barking. I have a submissive gentle dog that never made a sound now turning territorial. Before this change in behavior I heard her bark one time, the night I approached the trap with her in it. Even then she only barked once and it stopped.

I wrote canine behaviorists for suggestions. She has recommended I teach her the “Go to” command. I am to designate an area and teach Darlin’ to go by tossing food. Well, this girl isn’t motivated by food, but she does love her chicken and cheese. Since I have four other dogs and considering the layout of our house, this method does pose some problems.

Her second recommendation was to put a short leash on her and as soon as Darlin’ barks to remove her to another room, closing the door behind her and leaving her on time out for 30 seconds. This way she will associate the bark with having to be separated from me. The behaviorist did recognize by my description that Darlin’ is protecting her most valuable resource – me! Also, Darlin’ does not behave this way when left alone with my family. It’s only happening when I’m at home!

I have removed her from the kitchen, but all I have to say is, “Go”. I point my finger and walk to my room and she goes without any problems. Of course she would, she wants to be with me at all times. I shut the door, go back to whatever I’m doing, and allow her a few minutes alone. When I go back for her she’s standing at the door. She does not like to be alone when I’m home. I think this may work for us, but I’ll have to be consistent. I have not been consistent this past week.

She follows me downstairs to the den, lies under the kitchen table at dinner, usually under my chair, and is doing well around my family. The only time this happens is when we are in the kitchen or out in the yard alone. Last night we were outside going potty when my husband walked out and she started barking her head off. I have neighbors that I don’t want upset by my dogs barking so I ask him to go inside. Darlin’ probably thinks she’s done a good job of warding off the enemy!

I think this is our only real issue right now. I do wish I could leave the kitchen when she’s eating, but when she loses her fear of my family this may also correct itself.

She does go downstairs to the yard without me first thing in the morning! That’s one less trip I have to make downstairs. I sit or stand on the deck and watch her in the yard, but at least I can stay upstairs. Other times during the day she won’t go, she’ll stand at the back door waiting for me. This dog has a ten gallon bladder, she can wait 12 hours easily.

We went for our first walk yesterday since the first time I took her out in July when she slipped her collar. I bought her and harness and she’s gained so much weight and filled out I could barely get it on her. I had a harness on her and a leash on her collar which I wrapped around my wrist. It wasn’t the easiest thing to manage having two leashes on a dog. The first walk in July was good, she was nervous, but walked well beside me.

Yesterday she was back and forth, in front of me, beside me, just all over the place and we only walked a few blocks down the street and never turned a corner. As soon as we got next to my neighbors property she froze. When I tried to encourage her to walk she bucked like she did the day she slipped her collar only this time it didn’t work! There is something about that lot that makes her want to bolt to the woods. She may smell water in the creek just beyond their yard, I don’t know. My husband came up behind her thinking she might move forward because he’s not her favorite person, but instead she submitted and rolled over on her back to give him her tummy.

It took a couple of minutes to get her to move forward, then she ran up the steps and sort of cowered in the corner by the door. When I opened the door she ran through and wanted desperately to get to my office. I quickly removed the leashes and harness and she ran under my desk. She was hot, nervous, and drooling as well – mostly nervous. I realize two walks in three months isn’t going to do much to get her comfortable walking on a leash in the neighborhood, but I have had some fear issues myself after almost losing her in July. Now that the weather is cooling off we will try a few times a week.

Regarding her weight: One day shortly after bringing her home she ran from me and hid behind the hot tub. There is a small gap between the hot tub and the house. It took a few minutes to get her close enough to me where I could pull her out. She was still very fearful at the time. Two weeks ago we were outside when my daughter and her boyfriend walked out back. Darlin’ got scared and ran to hide behind the hot tub. The only part of her that fit into the small space was her head! Her shoulders are so broad now she doesn’t fit so we heard a loud thumb when she crashed into the hot tub!

My friend stopped by unexpectedly over the weekend. Friends and family live miles away so the only guest we ever have is my daughter’s boyfriend. Darlin’ has adapted to him as well as she has my own family. Darlin’ barked at my friend when she saw him, but she quieted down right away and ran to my bedroom. While we sat at the kitchen table I noticed she had been running back and forth to the kitchen doorway checking us out there on the table.

Toby, our rough coat Jack Russell, is Darlin’s favorite playmate. She doesn’t seem to know how to initiate play with the others, but she wants to. She’ll sometimes run past them in the yard and whimper. She’s done that for a few months. The dogs just look at her confused when she whimpers. There have been two or three occasions when she got excited and ran circles around the yard. I get pretty excited myself when I see her so happy. Bonnie, our smooth coat Jack Russell, caught on and chased Darlin’, but it didn’t last long. Bonnie likes to be the one leading in a chase. Darlin’ treats Toby like her puppy. She will play wrestle with him, but it always ends in a thorough cleaning. She’ll lick him in every crack and crevice. I have never seen anything like it between two dogs this age. Darlin’ had puppies in her life; perhaps because of Toby’s small size she thinks he’s her puppy. I know it’s social bonding, I just don’t know why she chooses to clean Toby. When I pick him up she will stand on her hind legs and sniff him while he’s in my arms. She gets excited like I have her baby. One day he jumped in my lap while I was at my desk. Darlin’ actually stood and put her front paws on my legs, sniffed Toby, and when I leaned over she licked my face! What a wonderful surprise it was to get a kiss from her!

A few weeks ago when I posted an update I went to to make sure I had the link for Brandon the dog correct. I noticed they had a link for lost pets there. Being a curious type I scanned the lost dogs in our area. There was a dog listed from one and a half years ago with no real description. Since I’ve known Darlin’ a year I decided to send an email and ask if they found the dog. They had not. The lady provided me with the description of her dog and it sounded like my Darlin’. The owner of the lost dog lives in our county, but at least 30 miles away. Dogs show up in the strangest places so the distance didn’t concern me.

I sent her a picture and she wrote back stating that she wasn’t sure if Darlin’ was her dog, and that she needed to look at her dogs pictures to be sure. Not sure?! My heart stopped! She asked if I was keeping Darlin’ and in my reply I told her our story and confirmed that I was going to keep her. She sent me another email, but I was inundated with work at the time so I didn’t have a chance to reply. She did state in her last email that even if Darlin’ was her dog that she wasn’t suggesting I give her back.

I have always wondered about Darlin’s past, how she ended up a stray, and how long she was on her own. It’s probably better for me that I don’t know. And I realized after I wrote the owner of the lost dog that I don’t want to know because I would never want give Darlin’ up. I spoke with my family after the lady said Darlin’ looked like her dog and we agreed that the only way we would let her go was if they confirmed it was her by providing pictures. Darlin’ would have to show us that she was excited to see them and that she loved them. If someone had one of my dogs I would want my dog back no matter how much time had passed. Darlin’ is not her dog, Darlin’ had puppies, her dog had not.

Darlin’s history began the day I saw her running around that grocery store parking lot just over a year ago. She was mine long before then, it was just a matter of time before I found her.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Six month trap-aversary!

Six months ago yesterday, I brought Darlin’ home! During my search about trapping dogs I came upon There I read stories from people who had lost their own dogs and met Lisa and Brandon. Trap-aversary is the term Lisa used when I emailed her asking about the trap that was used to catch Brandon, a rescue dog that had been transported cross country and got lost after running from his new owner. It was his two year trap-aversary that day. You can learn more about Lisa and Brandon here.

Darlin’ is doing well. She’s walking around the house, not afraid to come in the kitchen even when my family is putting away groceries. She’s getting much better around noise such as when I take pots out of the cabinet or drop something, however she shot out of the kitchen like a bullet when I tore some foil off last night. She use to hide when I vacuumed, now she’ll run back and forth from room to room. That shows me she’s more curious.

Darlin’ does not like to be alone. She usually lies under my chair or near me under the table at dinnertime. She follows me wherever I go in the house, including when I go downstairs, she’s right behind me. She lays at my feet when I’m watching a movie in my recliner downstairs. I always cover up with a blanket so many times she’ll crawl under the blanket at my feet or she’ll scoot under the foot rest of my recliner when it’s extended. She sure makes it hard to get up from my chair! Upstairs she’s usually on the couch next to me. When I fix the dogs bowls for dinner, she’ll sit right next to my feet the entire time. Toby will sometimes go over to her bowl and stick his noise in for her gravy; she’ll eat out of the same bowl with him or walk over to his and eat. From a distance her appearance may appear normal, but she’s still fearful – that’s why she’s usually under my chair. She does the same thing outside if I’m sitting with my children. She’ll scoot on her belly under my chair. She seems relatively calm during those times with no heavy breathing or panting from anxiety.

She is very normal during the day. What is normal? I have to ask myself that after watching some dogs with real issues on animal shows recently. Her fear issues are minor now compared to what some people go through with their dogs.

Darlin’ runs through the house, tail up high, alert and playful looking when we are alone. She goes out with the other dogs and it takes very little coaxing to move her from room to room. I say, “Let’s go” and she is at my heels. At night she’ll sometimes go to her bed in my room as I’m turning out the lights! She usually sleeps in her dog bed, but sometimes she’ll sleep under a piece of furniture or stretched out in the floor. She’s so cute now when I pass out treats. Darlin’ is the tallest dog here so sometimes she’ll stretch her head across the other dogs to get their treat. I look at her and tell her to sit and she does. She gets a little excited and forgets her manors, but once I say sit, she’s on that butt. Oh, she usually backs up to sit or she’ll go to the rug in front of the stove where she learned to sit! Like she doesn’t realize she can sit anywhere! She brings me a lot of joy.

She still won’t go down to the yard without me. Yes, she’ll go out with the dogs, but if I don’t follow she’ll stay upstairs. Sometimes I’ll sit down in a chair on the deck and she’ll go down to potty, but she’s fast and comes right back up. If I let her out with the other dogs and I close the door, then she’ll stand at the back door waiting for me. This is something I hope will change soon because these ole’ knees of mine can’t take another six months of running up and down those back steps. I’m hoping as the weather cools off soon and the flies die down that I can leave the back door wide open and it will give her a sense of freedom to come and go. This house means everything to her and she still watches the doors when she’s in the yard.

One day I went shopping and left her home with my husband who was working on his computer. He said she stood up on her hind legs after I walked out and looked through the glass. Then she sat on the rug at the front door looking up as though she was looking out of the glass then entire time until I returned home. She still whimpers, yelps, and whistles through her nose when I come home after leaving her. All of my dogs are excited to see me; sometimes she’s the first dog I meet when I enter the house. She hasn’t done anything destructive, but I do check the door because I’ve heard her scratch after I walked out.

When I leave home and my kids are home with Darlin’ they say she walks back and forth from room to room through the house. That she doesn’t bark or show signs stress. When I am home she behaves differently.

She is very attached to me, too attached at this point. Her demeanor changes when my son walks in from school or when my husband comes in from work. She’s barking now, in the house and outside when my family comes around. She has a loud deep bark too and you can hear the hound in it.

Her head on my leg.

I’m not sure how to correct her barking. It’s so strange because she was so quiet and submissive, however now that she’s not afraid to go where I go in the house, she behaves territorial. Maybe it’s an expression of her anxiety and fear, certainly it’s related to her insecurity. She barks when my family comes in the house and as they approach she’ll bark louder and sometimes low growl. No one has any fear that she will bite. Sometimes they approach her sideways and sit next to her and pet her. She’ll stop barking, but it starts all over when my husband comes home. She’s worse with him. I asked him to walk naturally as though she doesn’t bother him because he was walking slow and guarded which I think may have been more intimidating to her. I’ll sometimes give him cheese to pass out which calms her down, but she still shakes during those times. If he offers her cheese at night when we are sitting on the couch she is calm and doesn’t seem stressed at all. However it could be because she’s sitting right next to me. If my dogs bark when the kids come home (I have two noise barkers) then Darlin’ will jump up and bark too, but she makes sure she’s close to me. If anyone walks outside when we are there, she’ll immediately alert me by barking. I do think it’s territorial and I’ve been reading about how to correct this behavior. I don’t want her barking at my family or guests in the future.

When this started a few weeks ago I would tell her to hush, but she didn’t. I read to remove myself from the situation because she is so attached me. So I would leave the kitchen if it started with her sitting next to my feet while I’m cooking (her favorite place). That didn’t help. I stopped telling her to hush because I didn’t want to condition the behavior, such as I bark, Mom speaks to me. However this last week was so bad that I ended up poking her to get her attention and telling her “enough” or “knock it off”. I ask my husband or kids to ignore her and come on in the kitchen to get what they need. The barking doesn’t last long, but it’s something I have to correct. My next step is to get her to hush and immediately offer her cheese, her favorite treat. That’s going to take some work too because she ignores food when she is nervous or anxious.

Remember the post where I told about Darlin’ slipping her collar when we were out walking? Well, Victoria Stillwell mentioned on one of her shows that the best way to get a dog to come to you is to get them to chase you. I actually did that the night she got loose, I started running for our house, but Darlin’ took off between the houses. Occasionally she’ll give me a play bow in the yard and I play with her, but I have chased her so last week I changed it up. She was in a playful mood and started running in circles around the yard so I ran and she chased me! We did it about three times and it works! That was all I could do before I was out of breath. Why couldn’t I have had 5 dogs when I was in my 20’s or 30’s when I had the energy! Oh well, everything in its own time.

Other than her barking at my family and going outside without me, Darlin is doing exceptionally well. If it takes six more months then so be it. She is a joy to watch when she’s comfortable in her surroundings. It’s been extremely rewarding for me to look at her in a dog bed or standing in the kitchen eating dinner knowing that her life has completely changed for the better. Words cannot express the joy I feel for her and her new life.