Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Measure of Confidence

Day by day Tilly's confidence grows and I have learned that a good measurer of her courage is the volume of submission pee that is coming out of her. Now, I'm no stranger to submission pee-ers. Our Frodo used to dribble on shoes in excitement when he first saw us when we got home and he still has the occasional accident when he's nervous. Tilly though is a whole different story. Tilly didn't just dribble a little pee to show you that she agreed you were the boss, she rolled over on her back and sprayed a fountain of pee on herself. I went through a bevy of baby wipes and doggy diapers the first few days until she she finally stopped rolling on her back.

The next step was that she didn't roll over, but she would full-on pee in fear when approached by a person, even from the side. This waned to a steady dribble, then down to 3 drips, 2 drips....

Well I'm proud to announce that I have picked Tilly up 3 times today without a single dribble! She was still rigid with anxiety, but she didn't pee, so I'm calling it a victory. I think she's learning to show her submission using doggy kisses (much more acceptable to humans) instead of becoming a canine fountain anytime she had to interact with a person. She now gives me kisses whenever I sit down on the deck stairs, sidling up beside me and tucking her head under my arm. Today she even hopped into my lap which almost startled me because it was so unexpected from her.

The other great measuring stick of doggy confidence is the tail. For the first week her little nub of a tail was always tucked down and I was starting to wonder if that was just how hers was situated. Even when she was in her big crate on her own that tail never budged. Then yesterday I watched her little nubbie lift horizontal to the ground as she wandered around sniffing. Her tail worked!! Today was even better! I witnessed a wag. Not wagging, just one little wag, but a wag nonetheless. She still always keeps her tail tucked when she is around me, even when she's giving kisses and trying to jump up, but with all the progress she's making it will only be a matter of time before her tail will be wagging all the time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tilly update

So Tilly went in to be spayed on Thursday and things did not go well. To start with Tilly was pregnant with 3 puppies. I never even guessed that she was pregnant - she just looked a little overweight since she was thick through the waist area. Plus, she was bleeding like she was in heat. I didn't even ask how far along she was because I didn't want to know. Anyhow, that was one discovery when they opened her up. The other discovery was that she had gotten into the puppy's food that morning, without me realizing it and vomitted for quite awhile at the vets.

That alone would have been enough to be irratating to them, but add to it the fact that Tilly went into high fear mode and was biting and charging at anyone who even looked at her before and after the surgery. They gave her a pain shot both to help with her pain and also as a sedative to calm her down so she would rest for awhile. When I picked her up I went in the back and sat on the floor, thinking she would see me and run to me in relief. Nope. She was frozen in place curling her lip and not letting me get within about 2 feet of her. Finally they just gave me a couple of towels which I used to protect my hands from being bitten when I picked her up to take out to the car.

We put the crate in a corner of the living room and everyone steered clear of her until bedtime. After the other dogs were done outside I carried the crate outside and set it on the lawn, talking gently to her the whole time. Then I set a bowl of water on the ground and opened the crate door from where she couldn't see me. Luckily she was thirsty and out she came. I closed the door and she wandered around a bit and peed, which made me ecstatic. Then I squatted down next to her, facing away from her and she let me pet her for a bit. She seemed too weak to walk back across the lawn, so I brought the crate to her and gently lifted her inside. I pet her as she was standing near the front of the crate so she could see that someone's hands in her crate wasn't a bad thing. Whew.

Since then we have been taking regular forays outside, but always carrying her outside and inside in the crate. I want to give her more time to heal before I start getting her to come out of her crate and walk around the house. It's a little frustrating, because it feels like I've lost all the progress that I had made, but the fact that she is letting me pet her and actually seeking me out lets me know that she will bounce back once she's feeling a little better.

Sprocket will be neutered this coming Tuesday and thankfully his surgery and trip to the vet should be much less eventful.

The photo above shows Tilly the day after she came to us, before I had noticed she was "in heat" and she was still running around sans diaper. It shows her "thick waist" from behind.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Classical Canine

We discoved the other day that one of our current foster dogs, Tilly, a puppymill girl who is an emotional wreck, loves Bach's Cello Suites. I had the sliding glass door open so the dogs could run in and out and realized I hadn't seen Tilly around for awhile. I went outside and she was down lying on the patio against the sliding glass door, right next to where my son was practicing cello in the basement. I figured it was just a quirk but as soon as he finished practicing she came inside and hid in her crate. He practiced again about an hour later and back out she went, down to the patio next to where he practiced and stayed there until he was done.

I think she has great taste - I have always found Bach's first cello suite to be one of the most soul-soothing pieces of music that exists, and lord knows that Tilly needs a LOT of soul soothing. In this photo you can see Tilly stretched out for her daily concert. Since he practices 3-4 hours a day, she's getting plenty of music time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Big Boy Ears

Sprocket went to bed with folded ears on the 13th and woke up with his upright, big boy ears the next morning. He held them up all day long, but in the evening the right ear must have gotten tired because it flopped back over, which was very cute. Ah, they grow up so quickly. I love the floppy rattie ears, but most of the dogs never keep them past puppyhood. But the erect ears are so much more expressive, IMO, and I love them too.

Sprocket is growing like a weed and has started playing with Frodo more, which is hilarious to watch. Frodo leans down and lets Sprocket jump around on his head for awhile and then takes his arm and pins Sprocket to the ground. We call this move the "puppy smackdown" and it is one of Frodo's favorites. He's gentle though, and Sprocket just pops back up ready to attack again.

Our other foster Tilly is relieved that Sprocket has discovered wrestling and chasing with Frodo because now he isn't so obsessed with her. No matter how much she snapped at him, he would just come back for more.

The little guy is very healthy. The vet said his worms are gone now, but we just discovered a ringworm fungus spot inside the tip of one of his ears so we've started treating that. The kennel cough that we thought he might have never developed so he's just racing down the road toward adoption. As soon as he's ready to be neutered, I'm sure we'll have a home ready for this incredibly beautiful rat terrier puppy.
In the photo above you can see those big, beautiful ears as Sprocket lays across my lap taking a midday snooze.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tilly and Me: Learning together

Although I've had other timid foster dogs before, none have been so extremely submissive and terrified of people as Tilly is. So as Tilly is having to learn to relax around people, I am learning how to foster a puppymill breeder dog. It is proving to be a challenging road for both of us, but there are little baby successes along the way that keep us going.

Awhile back on the Ratbone Rescue online chat group I remember that someone had asked for some suggestions on how to deal with an extremely submissive dog. Several of the expert foster parents said that when the dog does something submissive, like rolling on their back, don't try to make them relax, instead just ignore them. At the time I thought they were being so harsh. I mean, this is a poor, abused dog! It needs some love! Boy, were they ever right.

The first day I couldn't look across the room at Tilly without her rolling onto her back. Rubbing her belly wasn't helping so the next day I decided to try the tough love approach suggested in chat. I sat on the stairs of the deck outside and Tilly would cautiously approach me (luckily she really wants the love, but it just scares her). I would slowly reach down to pet her back and over she would roll, so I would stop petting her and look the other direction. When I could see that she had righted herself, I would start to pet her again. It only took about two sessions of this and she wasn't rolling over, just creeping along on her belly. I let her do the belly thing for awhile and then today the goal was for her to sit rather than scooch along on her belly when she wanted some love. Today's success is that not only will she sit up while being pet, she will come to me and put her paws up on my knees to let me know she's there.

Like many longtime puppymill breeders, Tilly isn't exactly house trained. Interestingly she lifts her leg to pee and does some marking (although it looks like we have that under control now.) Right now she's finishing up her season, so she has to wear a diaper and three times she pooped in the diaper. To help manage this and to help with the submissive urination we've been taking frequent trips to the backyard. However, today Tilly has started to feel so comfortable and safe in her cushy crate that she refused to leave it. She was using her crate to hide from the world. I figured I'd try to entice her out and when I stuck my hand in she went nuts, snapping and growling. I closed the crate and took a breather to think things over. Then I decided it was time for some more tough love.

Ever so slowly, I tilted the open crate until she was forced to crawl out before she fell out. We went outside for about 30 minutes so both of us could relax and get ready for the next test: for her a test of courage, and for me a test of patience. When we returned to the living room I removed the cushy blankets and dog bed from the crate, locked it and set the bed next to the wall, but in an area were she was forced to see what was going on in the house. After scrambling at the door of the crate awhile she gave up and crawled into her bed, tucking her head under the blanket so she can pretend that I'm not there. That's all I'm going to ask of her today. She's doing her best and needs a breather between each forced step towards courage.

So today's wins: petting without slinking AND she pooped outside AND it wasn't on the deck or patio

Today's issues: growling, snapping and hiding in her crate; our solution - let her have the soft dog bed, but take it out of the crate and place it at the edge of the room.
The photo above was taken last night when Tilly was still getting daytime access to her crate.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why not to buy a puppy from a pet store: Tilly

Tilly is one of our two new fosters and was one of five 6 year old females that were surrendered to a high kill shelter in Texas. Two of the five were adopted in Texas and the other three were pulled by Ratbone when they were listed to be euthanized.

It is pretty obvious that these girls were breeder dogs for a puppymill or backyard breeder. Tilly is terrified of people and will roll onto her back in submission if you even glance in her direction, even from across the room. She will relax when she is held, but it takes her a good 10 minutes before you feel the rigidity leave her body.

Potty breaks are quite a chore, because the wide open space of a fenced back yard is intimidating to her after 6 years in a crate. I stay outside to make sure that the fosters have done their business, however, with Tilly I have to sit on the hammock in the back corner of the yard and watch discreetly. She wanders back and forth from the sliding door (hoping she can find a way back into the house) and the flower beds around the deck. After about 5-10 minutes of thinking that no one is paying attention to her she will finally go. This would be no problem, except we are having a very wet summer and so I have to be out there in my rain jacket, getting soggy and wondering why it is I live in a place where it rains in August.

Today is her first day with the freedom to roam the house independently. For the most part she chooses to lie next to her crate (not in it) and watch what is going on around her. Every once in a while she will skitter nervously around the edges of the room, pushing her bravery to the limits when her curiousity about her new living space gets the best of her.

It will be a long road for this girl before she is fully able to trust people. I think she'll make it though because she is already showing some positive signs (approaching us from behind to sniff ankles.) Tilly is a prime example of why people should not buy dogs from pet stores. If the market for pet store puppies disappeared, then so would the puppymills that supply them. If you know someone who wants a puppy so badly, tell them to call a shelter, look on, or contact a breed rescue organization. There are plenty of dumped puppies out there to choose from. Better yet, sacrifice those few months of puppyhood for a 2 year old or older dog who doesn't have much of a chance to be adopted because they've outgrown that cute puppy look. You'll get to skip the housetraining and teething phase and have the chance to be a hero to a new furry family member.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Introducing: Sprocket

I was doing the breakfast dishes, mindlessly looking out the window, when who should appear in my driveway, but Kathy, my Ratbone state coordinator. I knew she had 5 dogs being flown in from Texas today, but I assumed that since I already had a puppy that I was temporarily watching (Sofie) that I wouldn't get anymore fosters until she went home. Surprise, surprise! She was dropping off our two new fosters and we would just keep the young puppy, Sprocket, quarantined until Sofie went home.

It was a happy surprise though. Sprocket and Tilly are settling in and Frodo is busy letting them know that everything worth chewing on belongs to him. So, crates are being scoured, dogs are getting baths, paperwork is being filled and photos being taken. Busy, busy, busy. At the same time my two nephews were visiting so I had 3 teenage boys here. They were very helpful though, keeping one of the dogs downstairs with them.

Right now I'll tell you a bit about Sprocket. I'll post about Tilly tomorrow, as I still need to get photos of her and I want to hold off on her sad, too common story.

Sprocket came from a shelter in Garland, Texas and with his sister and three other dogs from the shelter, was flown to Sea-Tac airport this morning from Dallas. He's 9 weeks old and cute as a button - full of puppy playfulness. He weighs 2 3/4 pounds right now so he will likely be miniature sized, maybe around 10 pounds? His coat is a blue/gray black color, velvety and beautiful, and his ears which are folded now, will likely be erect in the next few months. The shelter believes him to be rat terrier-chihuahua mix, but we'll see if his snout continues to lengthen as he grows. This boy may be all terrier.
I'm sure that this boy will find a home in no time and as soon as he's old enough to be neutered he'll be heading to his forever home. Either tonight or tomorrow I'll introduce you to Tilly. She has truly been rescued from an awful past and is now starting down the road of learning that the world isn't always a scary place.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Well, it's late and I've already posted to the blog today, but I wanted to upload a photo of the sweet little puppy that Kathy dropped off at my house today. She was fostered up in Everett, WA, but had to come south to the Tacoma area to be spayed. Since the family who is adopting her is down near Tacoma, I am going to puppy sit her until the paperwork is finished and she's ready to go to her forever home.

I believe that Sophie was at the same shelter as our fosters Mango and Pepper(Nutmeg). They all came from Indiana, along with Ajax, who was fostered in Seattle. Sophie is the last to go home because she had to be held until she was old enough to be spayed.

Isn't her coat wild! It looks as if it's in between a brindle and a dalmation. I've never seen anything like it before. To see a few more pics, link to my Flickr photos of her. She is pure sweetness! We had a few time where she snapped at our dog, Frodo, but she was quick to change her attitude with a quick squirt of the spray bottle. She was fine with him when they were loose in the yard. The only time she was snippy was when he tried to move in on her food, and when she was getting loved on and he came up to get in on the petting.

Anyhow, we'll get to love this little 15 week old baby for just a couple days and then she will join her new family. Since Washington has 5 new dogs flying in tomorrow, we will get our two new fosters as soon as Sophie goes home - anywhere from Saturday to Monday. One will be a five year old female tri-colored rat terrier who was dumped with 4 other dogs - likely a breeder dog - and the other will be a tri-color rat terrier-chihuahua puppy with HUGE ears who we want to name "Radar."

Ratbone Rescues is in the News!!

I just wanted to pass on a great story from a California newspaper about a rat terrier that was pulled from a kill shelter in Monterey County, California. It ends up this little guy had a mom and dad who were missing him VERY much.

The story from the Lodi News-Sentinel follows. It was written by Natalie Flynn and the photo is by Brian Feulner.

Monterey County family reunited with their dog in Lodi, which they thought had been euthanized

When Diane Cosentini agreed to foster Jack, a rat terrier from Monterey, she couldn't even imagine what troubles he had faced."All we knew was that he was in a shelter and had been attacked by some wild animal," Cosentini said. But those struggles came to a happy ending when he was reunited with his Monterey County family Wednesday evening in Lodi."I've missed him so much," said owner Pat Thommarson, of San Miguel with tears in her eyes. "He was probably saying to himself, 'I wonder what happened to those people who once took care of me.'"

On June 28, when Catherine Lambert, California state coordinator for Ratbone Rescues, pulled a dog from the Monterey County Animal Shelter, she had no idea the dog had been thought dead for two weeks. Lambert stays in touch with shelters across the state to rescue rat terriers. After pulling Jack from the Monterey shelter, she arranged with Cosentini to provide foster care for the dog. Cosentini is a regular foster volunteer. "I have a hairy house. Sometimes I have three," Cosentini said about being a foster parent.

Shortly after receiving Jack, she posted a profile of him on Ratbone Rescues' Website in preparation for finding him a permanent home. Pat Thommarson, after hearing her dog may have been rescued by an emergency clinic in Salinas, was searching online and found Jack's profile and story. It took a few days, but eventually she was able to contact Cosentini, and they arranged for the Thommarsons to pick Jack up Wednesday evening at his foster home.

It was a welcome relief for Pat and her husband Wendell Thommarson, who had at one point been mourning the death of their pet after they were told by a local animal shelter Jack had been euthanized. Jack's story began on June 15, when he was found by firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, just a short distance from his home in Lockewood. He didn't have any form of identification and was far from the Thommarson's new home, because his family had moved to San Miguel during his absence. The cuts and gouges across his body led firefighters to believe he had been attacked by a wild animal. After making him scrambled eggs, they took Jack from the station to the Monterey County Animal Shelter, where he was treated for multiple wounds, Pat Thommarson said. Firefighters were dispatched to the Indian Fire shortly after dropping Jack off and were not able to follow up with information about where the dog was found and who he may have belonged to.

When the Thommarsons came home, they found one of three dogs missing and another slightly injured. They put fliers up around town, but after about a week they hadn't heard anything in response. So the couple went to the shelter as a last resort. "We just assumed he had been lost because we had gotten no calls. We just figured he was gone," Pat Thommarson said earlier this week. After giving the shelter a description of Jack, she was told there had never been a dog like that at the shelter before and dogs not claimed were euthanized after three days. "I was just dumbfounded that the county only kept them for three days, and they wouldn't even go back and look for him," Pat Thommarson said. But she didn't give up and asked a week later again, only to be told her dog had been euthanized.

The Thommarsons began mourning the loss of their pet, but during a trip to Utah, Pat Thommarson didn't let the possibility of Jack's survival leave her mind." That week I could not get Jack off my mind," Pat Thommarson said. " Then I thought 'I've got to (call).'" After more calls, she was told her dog was alive and well, and living with Cosentini in Lodi. Pat Thommarson was overwhelmed with joy he was safe but hurt after hearing how much pain he had been in." I'm devastated that he went through this, but delighted he survived," Pat Thommarson said. " We've missed him so much."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sweet Sugar

This little girl is as sweet as her name. We aren't fostering her but I wanted to get the word out about her since Ratbone Rescues needs an extra special home for this fragile baby.

Sugar was surrendered to a California shelter because she had a badly broken leg and they wanted her put down to avoid the expensive vet bills of having her leg set and cared for. She was also extremely underweight. Luckily, the shelter decided to see if Ratbone was willing to take her and get her the vet care she needed. Her leg was set and she was flown to an open foster home in Auburn, Washington, where she has slowly been gaining weight and coming out of her shell.

The leg has healed but x-rays show a large lump of calcification around the break site. It isn't causing her any pain and blood flow to her leg is good. However, she's only 14-16 weeks and is a growing girl. Her new family will need to be willing to have their vet watch her leg as she grows to make sure the blood flow isn't cut off. It's most likely that there won't be an issue, but we want to make sure that her new family is willing to take on the responsibility of her care.

As I said, she is a very sweet little gal who loves giving kisses and curling up in any open laps. One look at those sweet little eyes will melt your heart. If you know of anyone who is looking for a new family member be sure to let them know about little Sugar.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Farewell, Gus! See you next month

Gus went to his forever home last night and received a king's welcome. His new water bowl says "top dog" and he most certainly is on top of the world with his new family. As always it was difficult saying goodbye, but seeing how special he'll be treated made it a lot easier. Plus, he's only a couple miles from our house so we'll get a chance to see him sometimes - maybe he'll even visit the "10 am pack" at French Lake Dog park once he's settled into his new routine.

We'll be puppysitting him in about a month so that makes everyone here at "doggy central" extremely happy! Well, except maybe Frodo who is fond of the rare "only dog" moments that he gets. His new family didn't want him to think that he was going to yet another home in a month when they go on a vacation that was planned pre-Gus. He'll visit us for a week and the short transition won't phase him a bit.

So another happy tail! Above you see Gus, checking out his new yard while being held by his mom. She had to pick him up so I could get a picture because he was moving so much that he was just a blur.

We'll be puppysitting someone else's foster puppy for a few days while the paperwork for their forever home is being processed. Soon there should be several dogs coming to Washington from Texas and we'll get our next two fosters. I'll post with photos when the puppy arrives this week.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gus will soon be going home!

Here's a great story for you. A lady who was going in to have a nail fixed at the salon wasn't able to get a parking spot in her usual place and parked in front of the little pet store next door instead. There in the window was a photo of a dog who looked just like her elderly dog who her and her husband had to put down 2 years ago. The pet "boutique" is wonderful with rescue groups and is great about posting the flyers that I bring in about my foster dogs right up front in the window. The lady was looking at our little Gus' flyer.

She talked to the ladies at the pet store and asked about Gus. They said they'd call me while she was next door and get more information. Well, the store is just over a mile from my house so I grabbed Gus and off we went to introduce him. It was love at first sight - of course it was because this little furry guy is sooooooo sweet. We made arrangements for me to bring Gus over to their house that evening and introduce him to her husband.

The placement was everthing I'd hoped for Gus: a retired couple so he'll always have someone around to love on him, no young children (Gus gets startled and frightened if picked up too quickly and might nip), and no big dogs in the house (in his heart Gus believes he is a 100# rotweiler and he likes to challenge large dogs.... and mules - read the last post). He will have a beautiful little fenced yard with squirrels to chase and bushes to pee on, and he'll have people who are dog-nutty (and I mean that as a great compliment) to dote on him. And the best thing? The best thing is that he's less than 2 miles from us so we can visit him and see how he's taking to the good life of being a spoiled only dog.