Sunday, August 31, 2014


There's a ton of dust where most of our foster dogs come from and their fur holds onto it like crazy. Add to that the fact that there are loads of ticks in the Central Valley of CA and that means the first stop after a foster dog arrives (after that first night of sleep actually) is the bathtub.

Rothko didn't think this was a load of fun, however he also didn't fight it and was a good sport, even when I made him sit through having a coat conditioner rubbed in after he was shampooed.

Bath time is a great time for a close inspection of a dog, especially when they aren't wiggly. A few things we discovered during this inspection was Rothko has a lot of small scars on his face so was probably on the receiving end in a few dog fights. He has pressure callouses on patches near his front elbows so likely spent most of his time on concrete. The shelter tattooed him when he was neutered so he's got his little green mark down there and his neuter incision is a little red so I sprayed some colloidal silver on it to help it heal up. And then lastly we discovered he has two "high toes". In this case the outside toe on each of his front paws sits up higher than the rest and it looks like the nails on those two haven't been trimmed in awhile so we'll be doing a nail trim on those soon. It's important that the nails on those toes stay trimmed up since they tend to curl back dramatically and can cut into the pad.

Once he was all clean and fancy he promptly proceeded to get his legs all muddied up tearing around in the back yard so he's definitely a normal dog.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rescue Railroad: New Dogs Arriving in PNW Foster Homes

Along with our new foster dog Rothko we also have two other foster dogs who will be arriving in Washington foster homes.

Stu is a 1 year old, 11 pound Rat Terrier and he is ready for FUN! This funny, short little guy loves to zoom around the yard and play with other dogs.

Stu will be fostered in Yakima, Washington.
Ratz is a 7 year old female purebred Rat Terrier who is as sweet as she is pretty. When she was a bit younger Ratz competed in agility and she knows basic dog manners as well as a few tricks! She is housetrained as well, which is always a plus. Sweet Ratz's person passed away and the person's sister found rescue placements for his dogs while she was in California settling his estate. A special thanks to her for making sure Ratz found a safe place to land when most folks take the easy route and take dogs to the shelter.

Ratz will be fostered in Seattle, Washington.

Ratz when she was running agility

Thursday, August 28, 2014

100 Dogs

Besides just being cute and sweet, there's something else that is special about Rothko. He is our family's 100th foster dog!
Rothko - Foster dog #100

We bought our first Rat Terrier, Frodo, from a breeder in December of 2005 and over the next year we fell so in love with the little guy that we considered getting a second Rat Terrier. We weren't sure though so I had the idea of fostering for a Rat Terrier Rescue. I figured then we could have that "2nd dog" but would be saving more than just the one we would save if we adopted a dog. And now here we are, with three Rat Terriers of our own, two foster Rat Terriers and 98 others we have fostered over the last seven years.

My heart dog, Frodo

Initially in 2007 we were fostering for another Rat Terrier organization and our first ten foster dogs were through that group. When New Rattitude formed in August 2008 we changed groups and have been with New Rattitude ever since.

Our first foster dog, Smudge

Weirdly, our first foster dog wasn't even a Rat Terrier. He was a tiny black Chihuahua puppy with a broken leg who we named Smudge. I cried for a whole weekend after he was adopted but decided I could live with the pain of goodbyes if it meant more dogs could be saved. So often people say to me "well, I just wouldn't have the heart to let go of them!" The reality is if you really have a heart, you let them go, knowing that there are hundreds of others waiting for that life saving foster spot. Happily it got much easier to say goodbye the longer we fostered. It wasn't that I loved the foster dogs any less, I just learned how to think of them as someone elses's dog and over time I saw that the families they went to gave them wonderful lives.

Catty, one of our more challenging foster dogs whose adopter has become a close friend

In the past seven years the dogs have taught me so much. I've dealt with just about every physical malady in dogs that I had heard of and some that I had never heard of. I've also dealt with some very gross stuff that only a dog could share with you - dogs eating poop and then puking it up on the carpet an hour later, a dog who left tapeworms in my bed, and every weird wiggly worm that could come out of a dog has graced our doggy septic tank.  

Mama Star and our first (and hopefully last) litter of foster puppies

My understanding of dogs has deepened as well. Whereas I started out thinking of them simply as cute pets, I now appreciate how nuanced their personalities can be and how amazingly complex their language of movement, gestures, and body language is. It fascinates me so much that I now attend many seminars a year to learn how animals learn, how they relate to people and to other dogs, how to help them manage and overcome fear, what makes them tick....

Our 10th foster Tilly was the first highly fearful dog that we fostered. We adopted Tilly and she has made amazing progress over the six years we've had her. She's now 13 years old

They have pushed me to the edge emotionally a few times as well. I've fostered and done behavioral rehabilitation on a few very difficult dogs and of course those are the dogs who taught me the most about both dogs and about myself.

Callista came to us from a shelter in Texas and had been infected with distemper. It was the first time we had to deal with a major disease. Sadly Callista had to be euthanized when the disease moved into her brain. It was one of my most difficult times in fostering. We also had two puppies at the time who caught the disease from her and one pup died and one lived.

It has become a huge part of who I am and is an amazingly fulfilling job and I thank my family for all of their support and help with caring for the dogs. I also thank the volunteers that I work closely with both as fellow foster parents and as a regional rescue coordinator for the Pacific Northwest. Now, onto the next 100!

Our current pack: Tilly, Salinas, Chima and Frodo
If you've ever thought of fostering, New Rattitude is a great organization to work with. They give tons of support, offer stipends for food, pay veterinary medical expenses, cover flea and heartworm preventative and more. To learn more about fostering with New Rattitude go to

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Introducing Rothko!

We will have a new boy arriving soon and we can't wait to meet him! He's kind of a mystery still but we know that he's done well with other dogs in his temporary foster home and that he doesn't get upset when dogs are snarky around him. (Chima, you're in luck!)

Rothko is about 2-3 years old and weighs about 14 pounds. He has calico markings and a docked tail. Once he's up here we should be able to narrow his age range and confirm the weight.

We do know he's a handsome little dude though, as you can see in the two shelter photos we have.

Rothko was named for the American Abstract Expressionist painter, Marc Rothko. Rothko started his career in a more surrealistic style and a focus on mythical creatures. His work became more abstract and minimalistic until his signature "multiform" color block style evolved in the late 1940's through his death in 1970.
Marc Rothko

Entrance to Subway, 1938

Untitled, 1948

No. 61, 1953

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Maile has had a family patiently waiting for her for almost a month now while her vet visits and surgery were all worked out. Now that she's had her surgery she'll be moving to her forever home soon.

Her new family are long time New Rattitude supporters and former adopters. She'll be joining a former New Rattitude foster dog as well as a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon who is about the same age as she is. They are already the best of friends and once she's all healed up I'm sure there will be hours of wrestling matches between those two.
Maile (center) hanging with the pack

There are kids as well and this busy little dog will fit right into this active family. We can't wait to see how great life will be for this former stray.
Rolling around after her knee surgery

Monday, August 25, 2014


Maile is healing fast and today she started using her wrapped leg for balance when she was standing still. Of course she doesn't stand still that often, but that's beside the point.
Maile standing with her leg repaired leg touching the ground

She wants to jump and wrestle and run the stairs but I've got her on leash to make sure she doesn't rip up her knee right after getting it repaired. You can see that she's been working on chewing her way to freedom occasionally.

In the evening she hangs out with the big girls and loves getting time out of her crate. I just have to watch that Chima doesn't walk over the top of her because Chima has a tendency to just walk over whatever and whoever happens to be in her path.

Anyhow, we look forward to seeing little Miss Maile start using that leg more and building up some strength. It was only minimally used for so long that it has very little muscle so she has plenty of PT work in her future.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Boring, boring, BO-ring

Well Maile thinks this whole laying around and doing nothing thing sucks. It's her second day post-surgery and she's feeling a little more like herself, which is to say, feeling ready to play! Alas, play and wrestling is still weeks away for this little gal.

We've been trying to take lots of leashed walks around the back yard, keeping her from jumping off the side of the deck or up onto the rock wall like she wants to. This makes for a pretty boring time, even though she's out of the crate. Today she scared me but then made me laugh when she plopped down on her back and rolled around. I made sure to keep Chima and Salinas at a distance so they didn't try to wrestle. It was tough because they found her wrapped leg flipping around in the air super interesting.

The toughest part of rehabbing a dog after they've had orthopedic surgery is keeping them somewhat sedate. Especially after the first few weeks when they are feeling much better but still need to be kept from jumping or tearing around. It would be horrible for her to have gone through so much to have her knee fixed and then tear it up jumping off the couch. For a 1 1/2 yr old terrier this crate rest is pure torture and Maile will make this whistley cry from her crate to let us know how mean it is that we aren't letting her tear around yet. To help her pass the time she gets bully sticks, frozen Kongs, and a regular rotation of toys. She would give that all up in a heartbeat though for just a quick round of zoomies in the back yard.

She's doing well though. She's the 5th foster dog that I've had who had to have this surgery and she has bounced back remarkably fast.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Healing At Home

Today Maile got to come home from the vet's office and she is now kicking back and relaxed thanks to the pain medication. The surgery went well but for the next few weeks it will be important for her to have her movement controlled somewhat as healing progresses.

She'll have several re-checks at the vet to follow the progress of her healing and will have the wrap removed next week at her re-check appointment.

For now it's just leashed potty breaks and lots of snoozing and chewing on yummy things. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Surgery Day

Maile was dropped off at the vet this morning and will have her knee repaired today. Poor girl has a rough day ahead of her but hopefully this will allow her to start using her right rear leg more. Right now she barely puts weight on it when standing and will lift it up when running.

As many of you know, orthopedic surgery for dogs is costly and even with the substantial rescue discount the vet it giving New Rattitude it will still cost about $900 to repair Maile's knee.

We are fundraising to raise money to pay for this surgery and you can find information on how to donate (as well as info about Maile's story) at

Thanks everyone for your support of this great rescue that makes sure the dogs in their care get the medical attention they need.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pupdate: Stevie Goes Camping!

Remember Ellsworth (now Stephen) from earlier this year? Well he's doing great in his adoptive home and took his first camping trip recently. He did great and had a blast tent camping, hiking and sailing. Good job Stevie. He really liked the camp chair so his mom and dad decided he might need his own on future camping trips since they only have 2.

When they got home he and his brother Sullivan were worn out from such a great adventure!

Stevie stealing his dad's chair

All cozy, snoozing in the tent with his brother Sullivan

Back at home, recuperating from his adventure on the couch

Monday, August 18, 2014

Maile Has Arrived

Maile has moved in for the next couple weeks while she gets her knee fixed and she has proven to be the easy, laid back girl we were told about. While she does love to play and run around, she matches her energy level to the dog she is playing with and listens when the dog wants space. Good girl, Maile!


Introductions were super simple and within the first 10 minutes together Chima and Salinas had decided she was safe and not a dog to worry about.

Salinas checks Maile out

Within a few minutes Maile was old news and their entire focus was on the treat bag.

In fact she's so easy that she has been loose in the house with the other dogs and doing great. Not a single snark from anyone!

She'll head to the vet for radiographs and a surgical consult on Wednesday morning but for the next couple days she can just relax.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Play Nice!

Chima is by far the most playful dog in our family but due to her size and her intensity, she often scares the crap out of the other dogs. It's sad because she wants to play so bad, but typically this is how a play session goes: 1) Chima initiates play. 2) other dog accepts and bitey face/wrestling begins. 3) Chima gets excited and barks intensely in the dog's face pushing them into a corner. 4) Game over.

That scenario plays out for the most part in less than 15 seconds. Often it ends in a fight, me yelling and both dogs freaked out. We have been in this rut for a long time so recently I decided I needed to change things up so that Chima had a chance to be successful and get some play time. Since Serra wants to play with Chima still and hasn't been scarred by Chima's attempts I decided to work with her and Chima this week before she heads to her adoptive home.

Next stop: Lucha libre?!:  El Perro Loco vs La Cobra de Rosa

The problem is that Chima gets overstimulated so quickly that the play turns into a fight. How I started working on this is I let the play get initiated, let each girl get a bitey face move in and then I created a distraction so they back off each other and look at me. They then get that "break" reinforced with treats and/or praise and then when they discover I'm not that interesting they go back to playing. I keep at this, always monitoring play so that I don't give Chima the chance of driving herself into a frenzied barking fit. You can see an example of this in the video below. Slowly but surely the length of play lengthens before I step in and distract the girls into taking a break. And then miraculously over the course of a morning Chima starts to give herself breaks. Better yet, she will even pause when Serra steps back to take a breather and respect Serra's need for a break.

Note the tennis ball fuzz hanging stuck in Chima's mouth

As we have new fosters who are willing and able to play with Chima, we'll keep practicing this. The bad news is that she's practiced the intense level of play for a long time so that's a lot of momentum to overcome. However, the longer we practice successful play with built in breaks, the more she will be reinforced by this type of play. Previously, the play always ended in a pretty overwhelming, way that was no fun. But now she gets reinforced by more play, and lots of praise and occasionally treats when breaks are inserted into the play. That is a lot more fun and worth doing more of. And that is how we will make that behavior worth continuing.

Serra attempts the controversial butt pin

It's easy for us humans to get stuck in a pattern of behavior with our dogs - yelling and reacting to something that frustrates us. But the reality is that the behavior is not going to change if we, as the adult guardian, don't step in and provide some positive guidance to get things on the right track. For Chima and I, all it took to get that change started after a year of frustration was one morning of me consistently paying attention. And the payoff for that is reinforcing to me as well as Chima. Because it sure is tough not to feel happy as I watch her wiggle and flop herself around on the floor, tail wagging madly and Chewbacca sounding noises coming deep from her throat.

And now just for fun, watch how Sal enjoys playing by herself, completely oblivious to the mayhem whirling about her as she focuses on her favorite pasttime: toy destruction.

Just chewing on her ball

Serra and Chima roll closer but Sal is oblivious

They now wrestle over the top of her and she is still unphased

The result of such concentration? Successful tennis ball destruction and a carpet covered with yellow fuzz


After Serra heads home Maile will be arriving this weekend to stay with us for a couple weeks while she gets her knees fixed up. Her knees have pretty bad luxation so she needs surgery to fix that. The surgery carves a deeper groove for the knee cap to sit in and then sews up the ligaments to hold the knee cap in place better. Currently Maile is unable to put much weight on her right leg and we want to fix things up so she can be the active youngster she is without living with constant pain.

The good news is she has an adopter all ready for her once her surgery is complete so we'll just get her fixed up and send her on her way to her new life.

As you can imagine, surgery is expensive and New Rattitude is currently raising money to cover Maile's medical care. We know that she will need at least one knee repaired and the estimate for that with our rescue discount will be $900. We should know next week after radiographs and a surgical consult if she will need the second knee repaired as well. Any amount you can donate towards her surgery will help. To learn more and find the Paypal button for donations you can link to New Rattitude's Canine Clinic page.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Adopted! Serra Has A New Home

Little Serra is a sweet, sweet girl and she found a great home that she'll be heading to this weekend.

She'll live in West Seattle where she'll get plenty of walks and attention. Her new parents know all the dog friendly places in town and plan on taking Serra with them everywhere.

Hanging out with the pack
So have a happy life, sweet Serra! You are a great little girl who brings joy to all who meet you.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Off Button

A lot of times you'll hear me and other Rat Terrier fans talk about Ratties as a terrier with an "off button". That's because while they can be crazy and full of terrier energy if they are getting the exercise they need, they can also just chill out in the house if nothing interesting is happening.

Serra kicking back on the warm deck

Serra is no exception to this rule. While she loves to chase her tennis ball and romp around the yard, if I'm working on the laptop she is typically snoozing at my feet or on the dog bed next to where I work. Even outside she eventually will slow down and rest in the sun.

Resting on the dog bed next to where I was working on my laptop

Certainly, a few of my foster dogs have been missing this "off button". Most of them where either Rat Terrier/Jack Russell mixes or some of them were full Jack Russells. But for the most part Rat Terriers love a mix of energetic fun followed by lazy snoozing in patches of sun. I'm not dissing Jack Russells but I have lots of friends who rescue Jacks and they will be the first to tell you that Rat Terriers are sweeter, calmer versions of their very smart and often delightfully naughty dogs.

Taking a nap between my feet while I work on the laptop at the table

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chima and Serra: Buddies?

Today after just 5 days Chima and Serra were actually playing together this morning! It was just short little 10-20 second wrestling matches but there were probably 5-6 of these interactions over the course of an hour this morning while I drank my coffee and watched. While it's not big news that two dogs might play together, what I want to highlight is how careful management up front can make or break the relationship of two dogs.

About the 3rd or 4th short play time this morning. Chima was getting a tiny bit overwhelmed so came over to play at my feet.

Chima is very wary of new dogs and up front I always limit her exposure to new fosters so she can slowly take them in and realize they aren't a threat to her before I ever let them spend time together without careful supervision to make sure things are staying positive. There have been times when I haven't been as diligent and an early on fight set the tone of how their relationship would be. Chima has a long memory. These time it meant that the entire time the dog was in foster care I had to keep the dogs separated for the most part meaning extra crate time for everyone and a lot of stress overall.

As I watch their interactions, I can see things start to relax between the two dogs and slowly let them have more time together. I won't kid you - up front it's a lot of work and kind of a pain in the butt to have to be so "on" all the time and constantly alert to how the dogs are in that moment. But it will save a ton of heartbreak and work in the long run because first impressions last with dogs. If things go badly in the beginning and interventions don't take place it will set the stage for the way those two dogs' relationship will play out.

I know I'm like a broken record on this topic but over and over we hear from people who have dropped two dogs together without any careful introductions and then are upset - usually with the new dog who is also getting used to new people, new home, new schedule. The dog gets labeled as aggressive, alpha, mean, bad, etc., none of which are true. We need to be diligent to set our dogs up in a way that they will be successful.

Are Chima and Serra best buddies now? Nope. More like tolerant siblings who sometimes play and sometimes argue about things. It's still going to be my job to manage their time together (although not as intensely as I did initially) to make sure things continue along a positive path.

Chima uses her sly, space invader move to get Serra to give up her nylabone chew.

Chima even was able to do her sly move to get Serra's toy this morning. She slowly gets closer to the chewing dog. Sniffs their face, etc., and keeps slowly invading their space until they either tell her off (which Sal will do) or get tired of her and drop the toy to go do something else. This video shows how she succeeded with Serra.  She later tried this with Salinas, to the point of laying her head down on top of Sal's head, and Sal completely ignored her and continued to chew on the toy.

Chima attempts to talk Sal out of a toy. Denied.