Strange as I usually do not get a lot of visitors of the two-legged kind….
My neighbor and his 8 month old puppy, Gus, were standing there when I opened the door. He just been called into work for the day for an emergency. With his wife away, they didn’t want to leave Gus alone for the entire day.
I appreciated the hound-dog look on both faces. Let’s be realistic though – hangouts with a puppy? Yes please.
Gus is a pretty lucky duck dog. He has two wonderful owners who truly appreciate him. They experienced a similar loss to us, with their 3 year old Chocolate lab early last year. They took the time they needed, and then happily brought rescue puppy Gus into their lives last fall. Gus’s feline brother from another mama. “Beau” is featured below. He adores dogs, so much that he ensures to go visit them all in our neighborhood – whether they reciprocate his love or not.
Hang-outs with Gus reminded me why puppies are fantastic – once again.
They inject an air of goofy happiness that never ceases to amaze me. They also help reinforce important life lessons like…
It’s because I was busy with my first boarder – this sweet pea!!
Yep – I said boarder. I’m in the animal biz somewhat “officially” now as a one-dog -at-a-time kennel/boarding facility. I made the waiver and dog info forms, had a lawyer review and we’re here! We have the space, a fenced yard and the time – so why not?
Merit’s an 8 year old Golden Retriever with a heart full of gold (sorry for the age disclosure dear Merit – its just a number anyway!).
We started by having a trial day two weeks ago to see if she got along with my two rescue cats.
Since we’ve opened our home to accepting boarders, I had an overwhelming response. My March and April are almost completely booked up. I do only take one dog at a time as I still work my 9-5. I want to ensure my full attention is on our new friend.
We have a kennel/crate area set up in one room and require a trial day ahead of time to ensure the dog to get along with cats.
As most of you know, we’re not open yet to owning as we’re still healing. This, like dog walking at the Shelter, is a great option with staying connected to furry friends. My Mr. and I agree, it’s amazingly nice to have a pup around again. We’ve agreed that fostering is a good next step for us, at some point 🙂
We’ve taken time this week to reflect on how our Newton would have loved her. Her gentle and loving nature reminded me a lot of him.
Merit’s also won over my Mr. He’s been home off work from Thursday until Monday, and spending most of his time with her. Here’s the evidence he’s found love with another woman 🙂
We’ve had a ton of fun this past week. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, spent more time outside (as naturally Merit prefers two walks a day, with a longer off-leash hike on the weekends) and tons of puppy snuggles. Proving our theory that “fur-therapy” really is the very best kind.
My fiance and I took another visit to the now two week old Bernese Mountain dog puppies. It was his first time returning since we went to meet and discuss a home for our Newton, 3 years prior. We once again were received with face licks, body wiggles and Berner smiles (From the dogs, not the breeder – haha). After an little while chatting with one of the breeders and snuggling with the 2 week old puppies, we went to a friends’ surprise birthday party.
My mind however lingered on the Berners. I know there’s a long wait list for puppies, so when we arrived home we talked. We talked about our readiness, our commitment, our finances, our time, and of course Newton. As you can imagine, I talked the most. What came out of our chat was that we believe we’ll be ready to welcome our arms up after our big three week trip to Europe in July.
While Newton still has my heart, I think I’m able to share what bits are left. Waiting for a bit longer will also give me more time to work on what I need to.
I need some more time just to honor and remember Newton. It may sound strange, but I feel as if I’m giving him a disservice if I stop what I’m doing now. Also, let’s be serious I could not have a new puppy or dog and leave for 3 weeks. Thank you to my Mr. for making me realize this. There is just NO WAY. Even though we’d have fantastic support, I’d constantly be thinking of everything I was missing out on! If it turns out to be a rescue or a puppy, we need to reintroduce consistency. Leaving for 3 – 4 weeks is exactly the opposite!
I also took my Mr. to the SPCA with me yesterday. He met my new buddy Rusty. Rusty is super sweet, but very timid to strangers and anything new. He’s like the 80 year old woman next door that peeks out from behind her curtains, curious about what’s going on but wants his door closed for protection against life. We’ve developed a special relationship – in the dog runs, he runs into my arms full speed and turns last minute and collapses in them. Always giving me face licks in the process. I really need to work with him on the full speed ahead tactic 🙂 We worked with him meeting my Mr. (new people!), going past with his tail high and wagging, and ears up, rewarding him the entire time. He also went to meet my Mr. once free in the training room all by himself, sniffing his leg and hand, allowing my Mr. to even reward a head pat or two. What a good boy!
Then there’s Des. You’ve met Des before, she puts me through my paces every single freaking time. Walking her is a workout. I can’t even try and manage her until she has run out her energy. We take her to a dog run, play “catch the snowball” and run the excitement out of her. Then we get to work on her resource guarding. Des is like the grouchy old man of my little pack that likes HER things. “Silly youngsters”, I can imagine her saying, “Keep your paws off my stuff!”. She has been letting me slowing get closer to her as she holds her tennis ball. Today she looked at me while holding her tennis ball with her tail wagging, I rewarded her with a butt scratch. She dropped the tennis ball at my feet. PROGRESS!!
So we came home and took one more step forward – We filled out the applications for both the SPCA and the breeder. We want to be ready in case we find the right rescue or the right puppy or dog for our family after our trip. We wanted to get started early as I know some people who have been waiting a year or two for one of their Berner puppies. There are a few reasons for this, first of all, they do not churn out puppies like a puppy mill. Secondly, they only breed dogs that pass their pen/hip score clearances and eye exams. This helps weed out early hip/elbow displaysia and the eye/health issues that Berners are prone to. We’re going to fill out another form for the Bernese Rescue Society of Canada after our trip.
I’ve discovered three things throughout this process so far.
1. I never want to be just a single dog family again. Ideally I’d like to welcome our arms in July/August to a new furry friend, then keep our eyes and ears open shortly after for another.
2. Filling out both forms was both exciting and gut wrenching *sigh*.
3. Our retirement plan will be to Foster dogs 🙂 Long term planning at it’s finest, we’ll see – maybe we’ll be ready before!
There was a guilt that I felt about moving on to another dog that I knew would be there, but still did not feel comfortable. Newton will forever be a part of me, this I know. I’ve said this once, but I believed he was the daily food for my soul. Sounds dramatic, but true nonetheless. I am trying to consider this next step a tribute to him. A testament to him, making us better owners and dog lovers. Newt would want us to be happy, living life to it’s fullest as he did. Our lives are the happiest and richest when we have a furry friend by our side. Until July, we’ll keep taking it day by day, week by week, month by month.
I went to the SPCA last night to walk some of my oranges. As I walked through the kennels I noticed a few things, let me tell you first the good news. I immediately saw that two of the dogs I regularly work with had been adopted, with a third pending!
It’s policy that we are not to take the dogs out once the adoption papers have been finalized as they no longer belong to the SPCA. I immediately gave Newton a “high-5” in my head. I locked eyes and gave them each a “great job”. I was so happy for these dogs. Furthermore that someone else had connected with them, saw beyond the orange and yellow sheets explaining their issues (Colors are a way of identifying a dog’s temperament, Green = easiest, yellow = a few issues, Orange = please read all testing & check with manager before handling).
Then I turned the corner and saw Big Ben’s kennel. It was empty. Ben was an interesting case, a 4 year old half husky, half shepherd. One of the prettiest dogs I’ve ever seen. All alert eyes, with a body that was ready to spring into action upon the snap of some fingers. I took my fiance in to meet him once, all he said was “whoa, that’s a pretty dog”. He was a dog who I’ve learned the most from as a volunteer. Ben made me work for everything.
I had a friend that once said,
“The most stubborn and difficult dogs can be the ones you learn the most from”
Ben had never exhibited aggression to humans to my knowledge, however canine, feline or any other furry friend had better watch out. I don’t know why Ben was surrendered, or anything about Ben’s previous life. He was surrendered without a reason given. Ben had a few issues. He responded to uncertainty with “fight” rather then “flight” when presented with other furry friends. Loud noises and surprises frequently made him feel this uncertainty as well.
Walks with Ben made me more alert , I always had to be aware of my surroundings, ensuring his (and others) safety. When handling, grooming or practicing commands/manners, I had to be completely immersed in the process, ensuring I was aware of his level of comfort at all times. I’ve always felt that I was in tune with the body language of a dog, but he brought me to a whole new level.
It’s a sad story that I write about today. Ben did the unforgivable – he bit another volunteer. I think it may have been quite bad. He sadly wrote his own ending and passed over the rainbow bridge yesterday. I know that some of you may be torn about my next comment – I believe that Ben may have been part victim and part aggressor here. I know that might seem strange to say, and not all of you will understand my way of thinking.
Let me elaborate. I know the volunteer he was with, a green volunteer who just wants to be around dogs. I think this wonderful, further that she’s wonderful. Working with the oranges may not be where some volunteers/owners belong. These dogs deserve love yes and attention – but they also need more: consistency, a firm and fair demeanor and most of all an understanding of boundaries. I’m not saying that what he did was ok. I’m saying this may have been avoidable.
Ben, a dog who I’ve worked with for 5 weeks has never even shown a hint of aggression towards me. He greeted all orange volunteers the same, with the wag of a tail, a hand lick and a love for humanity. I also understand he greeted us this way because we had not ever proved him otherwise. I believed that there was a person out there without kids, without other pets that would have understood him and gave him a forever home.
I think the key is understanding a dogs’ body language and respectful handling, Orange dogs can also find their forever homes. It takes time though, and Shelter dogs aren’t always given all the time they need. In an already tense environment, kenneled with other dogs all around (not a great environment for Ben) – Ben needed to be put through the paces, tired prior to handling, easing his tense nerves. Not everyone might understand this, or take the time to read thoroughly through his temperament testing.
Some people wish that their dogs could talk, I believe if we look close enough – we can read them. Listen to what they have to say. A dogs’ body language can tell us all we need to know.
A few links worth looking at go further into this:
Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan explains in this video about compatibility and interpretation. Cesar is waaayyyy above my personal abilities, I think these cases are better left to experts. In the meantime, I’ll be comfy just working on my listening skills.
I found this video quite interesting as well, and more pertinent to Ben’s case. We always want to touch dogs, but not all dogs want to be touched. Check out eileenanddogs.com video on body language and petting here.
Since I was not there, I hate to jump to conclusions. What I do know is this: Ben has never exhibited any signs of aggression with me. I’d like to think that if with a little more understanding and respect for a Ben’s comfort level and needs, this all could have been avoided. Some people may argue that Ben was a ticking time bomb. In this case, I do not agree. I know it’s a controversial topic.
I say this as I have seen the positive, the light. Once he became comfy, he seeked out my hand to rub against his ear, his special spot that he loved being scratched. He made me laugh constantly. Ben had a great sense of humor. The right owner may have come along, they also may not have either. As an SPCA volunteer, you cannot afford to think this way. I like to think that the right home would have worked on this with him, protecting him and others in the process.
In this world of partnerships between human and canine, we have an upperhand. As we can dictate the fate of such dogs. I think it’s a responsibility that we have and should take seriously when handing special dogs, such as Ben. We need to listen to what they have to say.
Another sad side of this is that dogs who have not been given their forever home before passing over the rainbow bridge aren’t given the same respect, grieving, and remembrance of life. I believe they deserve this too, and I know I’m not alone. So today, despite Ben doing the unforgivable, I dedicate this post to him. Ben, thank you for teaching me to be more compassionate, more understanding, more patient and more alert and in tune with your language.
Lastly I leave you all with this…
Dear Ben, when you pass the rainbow bridge I wish for you lots of doggy treats, big fields without leashes to run and explore, incredible adventures, no other dogs or cats and many humans of your choosing to give you head scratches ONLY when YOU want. I choose to simplify this process and remember you only for the positive.
Ben, If my Newton does meet you, know he will be your friend. He will continue teaching you that not all dogs are enemies, I hope he will show you that some can become friends.
I ask you, if you would, fellow dog lovers to take a moment to think of my friend Ben.
It’s been a month without Newton. I had a difficult time this weekend focusing the good times we had- and there were many. As time grew closer and closer to the one month mark, I found myself retreating into sadness. This was not an anniversary to celebrate.
I miss him.
I find myself opening up in baby steps, but unable to make the leap. Maybe I’m rushing this. He’s left such big shoes to fill that I’m not ready to put another dog up the challenge – yet. I’ve discovered that as far as I’ve come, I am still not ready to bring another life into ours. I know I will someday. For now, it’s not fair.
When we are ready, I know I’ll be open to the right rescue or another Bernese from the same reputable breeder that we got Newton from. The reason, friends, that I would go this route again is when Newton fell ill, I relied on my support system. This system housed close friends, family and also Newtons’ breeder.
She’s been there for every single step in his life. In fact, the night before we said goodbye to him, we went to visit her, along with Newton’s brother and sister. It was one of the best decisions we made. Almost like he was waiting to say goodbye to his Berner family, a family he had spent so much time with.
We cried together as Newton greeted all with happiness upon his arrival, knowing it was going to be his last visit. He didn’t let on how bad he most likely felt, until he was home. We’ve been lucky in the fact that when we went away, and were unable to Newton with us, he went and stayed at his original Grandma’s house with his furry brothers and sisters. We were also lucky that our support system included my sister, her fiance and their two dogs, whom I know he also shared a very special bond with.
Since we said goodbye, the breeder(s) have taken it on to find out more about the disease, sending his slides to the leading Pathologist in North America to find how more about his particular form of disease: If early detection is possible, how to save Kidney function earlier, any preventative measures, and scientific trials that may be available should it happen ever again. All of Newton’s littermates are having ultrasounds and urine tests as preventative measures. In conclusion, even after going though everything, I still believe in their breeding program. They will only breed dogs with good hip and elbow scores (reducing chances of early hip/elbow dysplasia), eye and blood work clearances. They are trying to better the breed. As I truly love everything about Bernese Mountain dogs, their sweet temperament most of all – If they can be healthier & longer living then all the better. Our Newton was a lemon that slipped through their program, he was our lemon though, and as one of my friends like to say –
“Although Newton was a lemon, he made the sweetest lemonade”.
This is not to say I do not support rescuing a dog from a shelter. If you read my blog, you know these are the only two types of programs I support. The rescue dogs I work with now are helping me heal in little pieces. I definitely do not consider them a “second choice” as they’re truly wonderful in their own right. Further, I feel like I owe it to them to give one (or many more throughout my lifetime) of them a home one day.
It comes down to a connection and I believe – the timing. If and when I’m ready, if the connection is there, they will hopefully become a part of our family. I’m open to either way. Perhaps both, if the time is right.
There is a guilt that sets in when you start to even think about moving forward, I wasn’t quite as prepared as I had hoped. I don’t want to replace Newton, and that’s kind of what opening ourselves up for another dog feels like. My head wants to move forward, never forgetting but continuing forward momentum. My heart is another matter, still deeply entrenched in the grief of losing him. In short friends – I am still not ready as these two pieces do not align.
I will be ready one day, and I can’t wait to experience life with a dog again. Many parts of our life feels empty without one. Newton however, as many of your dogs are, was much more then “a dog”. He was my companion, my confidant and fellow adventurer. There weren’t many places we went, that he did not follow (or lead in some cases). I felt that I understood what he was “saying” or feeling, with just one look at his face. I knew how he would react before it would happen. I trusted him in most any situation and with any person. In short – he was what some people call a “heart dog“.
“Every now and then, a very special dog comes into your life and changes the way you think about things forever. Sometimes these dogs don’t stay very long. Sometimes they’re not even your dog, but leave footprints on your heart, nevertheless.”
Newton was also our first dog together. Which could be one reason why the bond built so deep. I’m not worried that we won’t love another dog. However, I’m wondering, Is there something different about a first dog that does this to a person? Is this bond possible with every dog you have? Or is it only a small percentage of dogs in a persons’ lifetime that you will have this with?
I like to think, if you’re open to it, the bond will happen building on the first connection. For now, I’m not open – but I’ll get there.
I’ll leave you with something that makes me smile, and think of Newton every time I’ve had many people send me this particular link to this youtube video! I’ll leave you on a happy note. Friends, In case you haven’t seen this one – What’s cuter then this puppy and a lemon ?
There is something about a puppy. You all know what I mean. Instantaneous and infections smiles erupt and spread like wildfire. You NEEEEED to go over, introduce yourself to a complete stranger, and ask if you can pet their pup (or maybe this is just me?). Puppies can turn civilized individuals into excitable freaks. It’s amazing and irreversible.
It’s going to be a longer post today folks, so get comfy. Let me start by telling you about my day.
I walked my new best bud Des at our local SPCA, then took her off leash to a dog run, where she tired me out by teaching me to fetch. What a smarty-pants!
I then treated myself to snuggling these little love bugs again… yah, you’ve met them once or twice already from previous posts.
The thing is, Zorro* (darker ears) had already been taken out today. Freckles* (lighter of the two) had not! Fantastic for Zorro, but unfair for little Freckles. Let’s face it, I was looking for any excuse to hang out with either of them.
I fully endorse adopting a senior or adult dog. In fact, there are tons of amazing perks! Everyone wants a puppy, but with an adult you’ll be much more likely to have: Less destruction (hopefully), a house trained (or again, hopefully) buddy and you’ll probably get more sleep (especially through the night). Lots of the dogs I work with have basic and some pretty spectacular commands down pat, so their basic training is already there!
As most of you are aware by now, we lost our furry best friend Newton last Dec. I started volunteering to share all the wonderful things he taught me. To be honest, this is my own form of grievance therapy. I’d be lost without them, they are helping me heal.I’m telling you people, if you are having a rough day, find a puppy and snuggle. There is nothing quite like what I call “puppy therapy”. While I love all dogs, for me there’s something about a young pup that makes me want to squeal like a kid (most likely frightening the little guy) and have strong urges to snuggle.
So I’ll try and capture the 10 reasons why I think puppies are fantastic & further why some people suck need to do some homework first.
Why puppies rock (In case you didn’t know)
1. Puppy smell. Some human friends prefer the “baby smell”. I think there’s nothing better then puppy smell. Freshly baked bread is a close second
2. Puppy fur. Nuf’ said here.
3. The ability in which they always force smiles, even out of the most grumpiest of people. Look around you next time a puppy is present, It’s almost like seeing the “wave” done at a basketball game, except with pure happiness. Try it out Tommy Lee Jones.
4. They love you unconditionally, immediately.
5. They help you to socialize. It’s how I actually met all my neighbors! Also, if your a single guy, there’s no better chick magnet.
6. They greet everything new, head on and with such abundant joy.
7. The loyalty they have, even at such a young age, is amazing.
8. How unbelievably uncoordinated they are.
9. Puppies can actually better your health – Dr. Oz & Oprah said it best here
10. Lastly, I will leave you with this…
& puppy breath!
People, I totally get why you want a puppy. I am one of them. I fall for their little furry faces everytime. The issue I have is I find a lot of people really do NOT do their homework before making the leap between admiring and owning. This is mostly for you first timers out there.
In the last 2 weeks at the SPCA, I’ve seen 5 puppies adopted (yay!), and then 3 returned a week or so later (boo!) due to multiple reasons.
To these people, I want to say many things, many not appropriate for this blog. The PG version is that I think with a little homework first, you really could have gave whichever furry friend you choose, a forever home.
To further assist in my point, peteducation.com suggests that surrendering a dog after a bond is formed can be a cause of separation anxiety,
“Dogs that have undergone a traumatic separation from a previous owner, such as those relinquished to shelters may have an increased risk. Dogs that have missed out on normal social interaction with people or other animals, especially as puppies, may also be at increased risk. A dog that has never had a prior problem may develop separation anxiety when there is a change in the routine such as an owner’s altered work schedule, or after the household has moved to a new home. Some dogs may develop this separation anxiety as they grow older.”
-Think about what kind of dog you want first: size, age, temperament, breed.
-Think about what you want to do with your dog, will it be a working (therapy, drafting, herding) dog, or will it be a family dog – or both?
-Think about the COSTS associated with a dog, do you have the budget you need?
-Are you willing to make a lifetime commitment, will you want a dog in 10 – 15 or even sometimes 17-18 years?
-Do you have the space for a dog? What kind of space will the dog have? (crate, kennel, dog bed, fenced yard, a safe place for free play)
-Are all members of your family on board?
-Do you have the TIME for a dog? (Another big one to consider – grooming, walks, free play, socialization time, quality time, training time are just a few time commitments to consider). Many people want a socialized, well behaved dog – not many people understand the time it takes to make this happen.
-How are you going to ensure the dog gets the exercise it needs?
-My biggest question for all of you – are you ready to give your pets the good life they deserve?
Once you have most of these questions answered, I still don’t think you’re ready to make the leap to owner. I think you are ready to hang out with an actual dog – dog sit a friends’ dog, visit the SPCA and spend time with the breed/type you think you’re ready for. I’m not talking about an hour, I’m talking a few visits so you can see the responsibility of being a dog owner. Talk with people who have similar types/breeds so you know what to expect.
These visits can also help sort out allergy related issues BEFORE you bring them home.
Choose your adoption preference (a reputable breeder who is trying to better the breed or your local SPCA). Deciding which way to go is your choice. I personally will NEVER purchase from a online breeder (Kijiji) pet sale or a pet store as these are not routes I ever want to support. Sometimes, for a first time dog owner a reputable breeder can help with this “homework” side.
As an SPCA volunteer and former teacher, I strongly urge people to do their homework first! As this..
Quickly turns into this….
Who am I to ask this of you? I’m a dog lover, a former dog owner, a dog sitter, a dog walker and a volunteer at our local SPCA. I genuinely like animals more then most people. I abhor animal suffering and disdain the anti-ethical treatment of them. I have a serious respect for all great dog owners. I do not think there’s such a thing as a bad dog, only bad dog owners. I see dogs being returned on a weekly basis due to the fact that their “owners” did not do their homework first.
I have seen first hand what the right home can do for the right dog. My best friend has adopted two adult dogs that their owners were ready to give up, for multiple reasons. With love and patience, she has turned these two pups who had issues into amazing dogs, she and her boyfriend really do give these two the good life. .
-photo credit: J. Russell
If you are ready and go for it, as we will when we are ready – then do it. Make the leap. My end verdict? Puppies are amazingly cute, but too many people lack the education needed to have them. They fall victim to the cuteness epidemic and make spontaneous purchases.
I think going from zero responsibility to a dog, for kids or adults, is a huge step. You may want to consider a goldfish first…
Thanks for reading/listening to my rant,
*Freckles, Zorro and Des are all available at the monctonspca.ca
The wonderful Amy Burkert who writes the official travel blog for Gopetfriendly.com, has launched this years Third Annual Pet Blogger Challenge.
I didn’t start out this blog to be exclusively about my pets, but due to the sad circumstances of the last few weeks and the ongoing support I’ve found from the dog lovers community, that is what this has turned into. So, in order to get to know some of my fellow pet bloggers I’m going to take the Third Annual Pet Blogger Challenge. We are supposed to post our answers to the questions in the link below tomorrow – so stay tuned. I’m hopeful that some of you will also take part!