The Resilient Canine …

… is never more evident than when dealing with puppy mill dogs.  Typically, they have never been socialized to humans or handled by humans and are not familiar with the sounds and routine of a normal household.  Some never get over trauma of living in abject conditions.  These are the dogs that, upon release, are so shut down they move through the rest of their lives with very little interaction with their surroundings.  The canine spark we have come to hold so dear is simply gone.

Rewind four weeks’ past.  I’m contacted by the local humane society about dogs from a BYB (backyard breeder) bordering on being a puppy mill on the eastern plains of Colorado.  Dogs are being surrendered as forced by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.  Y’all have seen the TV shows where animal control goes in and removes dogs in horrid, horrid conditions.  Our scenario is basically the same only without the film crew on hand.  I agree to take on a two-year old female, knowing full well this will not be the typical foster.

During the hand-off, I am completely appalled by the condition of this dog.  She has huge mats throughout her coat … mats that have been there for more than quite a while.  I’m concerned about whatever else might be under the matting, i.e., open sores (severe matting can literally pull skin off the dog) and parasites.  She has a cherry eye on the right that, gauging from the size and inflammation, is also long standing and, most likely, infected.  She is filthy dirty and reeks of urine.  And she is so scared of being handled that her body is board stiff, front paws splaying wide and outward at any movement I make while holding her.

In less than twelve hours of her arrival in rescue, she is being shaved down and given a much-needed bath immediately after which she undergoes a spay, surgery to tack down the cherry eye and her ears flushed in the first  step to start dealing with the ear infection present.  She tests negative for heartworms (thankfully) and has a microchip implanted while under anesthesia.  A very big day for a very little dog.  For the next two weeks, we keep her quiet in an Elizabethan collar … actually, a large blue floral donut that brings to mind images of a frilled lizard.

As we move slow and speak softly, she starts to respond to us and her surroundings.  She’s canine savvy, interacting with Frank and Dante appropriately.  My heart swells when I get to see her run on grass for the first time in her life … her joy is unbridled, her feet swift.  Then there are the mill survivors … those dogs who embrace fully their new-found freedom and the world around them.  Meet McKenzie.  A survivor.

While she may start away at sudden movement or noise, she recovers quickly and engages with the household.  She is curious about everything!  She sleeps quietly in her crate at night.  She’s also learning not to whine or howl when we’re not in her line of sight.  She’s discovered chew bones and squeaky toys … and how to jump up in the middle of the bed!  I won’t say that she’s house trained; however, she does potty appropriately when taken outside and she’s clean in her crate.  She didn’t have any accidents here but I tend to watch the new arrivals a little more closely and get them out more often.  A quick study, I have no doubt that she’ll pick up the housetraining easily.  You’ll note her coloring … she is what as known as a “red-white parti color.”  On the small side, she weighs 12.5 pounds.

McKenzie is available for adoption.  Her ideal home would be a single woman, a retired or semi-retired couple with or without another small dog in residence.  Or a young couple with no plans for children.  If interested, please visit our website for more information or contact me directly:  ApsoRescue@aol.com

Under a Wolf Moon …

Wolf Moon

… the boys arrived on one of the last days of January.  January 30th to be exact.  “The boys” being Dawa and Jasper, 8-month old Apso pups from Morrison, Colorado and surrendered to rescue.  Because an immediate name change was in order — they were originally named “Barack” and “Obama” — I chose a Tibetan name for the foster who was to stay at our house.  During one of the first night potty runs, a brilliant Wolf Moon bathed the yard in a soft white glow.  Dawa, meaning “moon.”  It also described his little moon-pie face.  Dawa.  It fit.  And he quickly picked up the new moniker.  Much quicker than the housetraining, actually.  Like his brother, Jasper followed the same path … quick with the name but a bit slow on the housetraining.

A challenge from the minute they arrived, they tested our mettle as rescuers, dog owners and amateur groomers.  The first hurdle was getting them bathed and clipped despite their urine-soaked and feces-matted coats.  Next was integrating them into our household with other animals, family members and a set routine which included crating as part of the housetraining process.  Having never been crated before, each dog voiced his displeasure at being confined.  Loud voices … loud barking voices … loud barking voices that went on for what seemed an eternity to everyone else in the household.  Even Dante chimed in a time or two as if to say, “Knock it off … it’s my nappy time!!”  After several weeks, they both figured out that barking didn’t bring the desired results — release from the crate — and would quiet down after just a few minutes.  Finally!  Conversely, they both took to the crate at night and slept the whole night through (much to everyone’s relief).

Comparing notes on the brothers we found that Dawa was the more social of the two, easily meeting strangers.  A gentle pup, he was very content just to hang out with a toy or chew bone or roll around one of the many beds in the house.  The exception was if Frankers was up for a good morning romp, then there was a low level of chaos rumbling through.  Even I had to laugh when Dawa managed to coax the old grand dame, Ali, into playing with him.  In spite of my best efforts, I was not able to get a photo of Dawa and Frankers when they were in the recliner.  I’d come around the corner and up would pop Frankers’ head, quickly followed by Dawa’s, just to the side.  Yin and yang, ebony and ivory … and not a photo one.

Dawa was fascinated with the cat and would follow him around until the cat (Boogins) got tired of it and removed himself from the immediate area.  Boogins is pretty dog-savvy, having been raised with the breed from the time he arrived as an 8-week old kitten.  His reaction to the various fosters … or lack thereof … pretty much guarantees he’s only an object of simple curiosity.  Can’t chase a cat that won’t run, which makes him a very boring playmate.  The boys’ interaction with the cat was pretty typical of all the fosters.  Despite never having seen or been around a cat before, they all manage to get along fine.  Or at least with little concern on our part … if the cat’s not squeakin’, it’s not a problem!

Jasper was more reserved with strangers.  He especially didn’t like young, quick-moving children or loud teenagers.  He was, however, much more sharp with the training than Dawa.  Jasper and the other dogs in his household (Anne, a beautiful Border Collie, and Jackson, an Apso adopted from us) finally figured out how to play together without a brawl breaking out.  Jasper has been staying with us the past five days and the first thing I noticed was he’s much more energetic than Dawa.  Hubby calls him “spastic” but he (hubby) isn’t exactly a puppy person.  Give him an old, sedate dog and he’s perfectly happy.

Surprising to everyone was the fact we had few applications on them despite a PetFinder listing and local exposure through the newspaper.  Puppies are generally a rarity in rescue and even more so in this breed … which usually means they’re a hot commodity and are placed quickly.  That was not the case with these two which is probably just as well since it allowed us more time to work on their training issues (explaining this to our spouses after 10 weeks was a bit of a hard sell).  Not 100% reliable with housetraining but getting pretty darn close.  Not bad for two pups who had never been housetrained when they arrived in rescue.

The house is quiet tonight, having settled into its old routine.  It never ceases to amaze me how the dynamics change during the time a foster is present … be it the dogs or hubby.  Dawa was placed with a family in Longmont the end of March, giving us a couple weeks off.  Late this afternoon, I saw Jasper off to Littleton with his new family.  Gems in the rough, I have no doubt these boys will shine with a little polish in their new homes.

To Crate …

… or not to crate, that is the question!  And one frequently discussed when it comes to housetraining issues or adding a new dog to a household.  Many folks view them as “cruel” but — when used properly — they can be your best friend’s best friend.  Seriously. 

Dogs are hardwired with an instinct to “den.”  In the wild, a den (often dug underground) is a safe place … one used for sleeping, raising their young, and protection.  That instinct can be shaped to an owner’s benefit and, at the same time, provide the dog with an area they can call their own.

The canine is an innately clean creature and will generally avoid soiling in the place where it sleeps.  A crate, used in conjunction with a consistent housetraining program, teaches the young dog — or an adult — what is and what isn’t appropriate toileting.  Use of a crate also allows the owner to monitor the dog’s progress more closely and make adjustments accordingly. 

Another aspect of crate training that is often overlooked is the safe haven it provides for the dog.  They view it as their own personal den — a safe place — where they can go to nap or remove themselves from situations which make them uncomfortable such as a very active house, holiday gatherings, small children, thunderstorms, etc.  A crate-trained dog also undergoes less stress at the vet’s office or the groomer.  What’s the first thing the vet or groomer does when you leave your dog there … put them in a crate!  A dog comfortable with a crate will usually settle down quickly.  One that’s not familiar with a crate undergoes a much higher level of stress and anxiety in an already stressful situation. 

Nap time!

A crate-trained dog is easier to travel with as well as being safer in a vehicle.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories recounted of a person traveling with dogs loose in the vehicle.  An accident occurs and the dogs are: (1) killed outright from being thrown around the vehicle or ejected from the vehicle; (2) they get loose and run off, never to be seen again, or (3) shot by the highway patrol because they’ve become a danger to other traffic on the roadway when they can’t be caught.  My dogs settle down and sleep in their crates when traveling, making me a better driver as I’m not distracted by them.  Once you arrive at your destination, a crate can be used to keep them comfortable in the hotel room … their home away from home, if you will.

I didn’t use to believe in crates.  Indeed, my first Apso never saw the inside of one and slept with me nightly.  It wasn’t until she was gone that I realized how disrupted my sleep was — I no longer woke up many times during the night to see where she was before turning over or moving in bed.  Ali arrived as a crate-trained adult with the instructions to give crating a try.  Okay, easy enough to set up a crate (or three) in our bedroom.  We’ve never looked back and all dogs, whether mine or a foster, are crate trained.  Indeed, my dogs will put themselves to bed (crate) at night on their own and I often find them napping in them during the day.  Nor is it unusual to find the resident feline curled up in a crate, sleeping.  Ali has a “nite-nite” routine … she’ll run around the house looking for just the “right” toy.  Once found, she comes to the doorway of the front room and stands there, looking at us with the toy in her mouth.  We’ll wave and say “nite-nite” and off to crate she goes, putting herself to bed.

The other night, after staying up late and watching a movie, I was closing crate doors and neglected to shut Franker’s door.  The only reason I know that is because finally, at around 6:00 a.m., he jumped up on the foot of the bed and snuggled in.  His choice was to sleep in his crate rather than our bed the majority of the night.  Ali flat refuses to sleep on our bed despite coaxing on our part.  The lights go out and she’s off the bed, headed for her crate.  That’s her bed … no bones about it!   If the boys get too rambunctious in their play, she goes to her crate removing herself from the chaos.

I also crate my dogs when I’m not at home for longer than an hour or two.  I don’t have to worry if Ali is eating something inappropriate … the boys haven’t injured themselves or broke something with their boisterous wrestling … and the foster dog hasn’t toileted inappropriately.

Kennel up!

The little red dog …

The little red dog ... Mae-Mae
The little red dog ... Mae-Mae

… is an absolute joy.  And the resilience and adaptability of the canine never ceases to amaze me.  Mae-Mae — our little puppy mill survivor — has been here five weeks now.  Other than watching her a little more closely to monitor her house training, you’d think she’s been here forever.  Nothing short of astounding as she lived her entire life in a puppy mill.  Many of the mill dogs are fearful, having had little human contact, and their adjustment can take months or even years.  Some never get over the trauma.

Mae-Mae sleeps through the night in her crate.  She toilets appropriately having decided the grass is more “user friendly” than the concrete or stone patios.  She knows what “outside, go potty” means .. and will do exactly that … walk outside into the grass and go potty.  She dances for her food bowl and will take a treat from my hand.  She delights in being petted and will seek out this attention.  She is comfortable being picked up as she no longer splays her front legs out, stiff as a board and as wide as they’ll spread.  My Apsos are not lap dogs per se; however Mae-Mae definitely is and a favorite evening pasttime entails curling up next to me on the couch.  She probably thinks she’s died and gone to heaven.  In her five weeks here, she’s taught herself — with little input from me — to walk nicely on a leash.

Her greatest joy, I believe, is having the freedom to run in the yard.  Zoom, zoom … there she goes with a happy grin on her face.  Sometimes she just sits and suns herself, contented to soak up the warming rays.  I would surmise that her former surroundings were rather dark and dismal.

Sugar doesn’t come any sweeter than this little red dog …

Snakes ‘n Snails …

Frankers gardening ...
Frankers out for a morning stroll ...

… and puppy dog tails!  Or, more to the point, why one should consider adding a male dog instead of insisting on a female.

Growing up in a pet-friendly family in the late ’50s, the mindset was you always wanted a female because the males “marked.”  I’m sure they did as neutering, training and responsible pet-ownership (including not allowing the dogs to run the neighborhood at large) were not the norm.  Vaccinations were not widespread and distemper claimed many a pet.  What a difference 50+ years has made in companion animal care!

“Marking” is the act of releasing small amounts of urine to claim an area as their own.  Both males and females will engage in this territorial behavior; however, it’s with intact males that it generally becomes more noticeable … and especially when they bring this behavior into the home.  Basically, they’re saying “this is mine and I’m willing to fight for it.”  And when one considers the focus of an intact male dog — food, fighting and, ummm, well, fornicating — they generally don’t make good pets for the average owner.  Take away the last two parts to that equation … fighting and fornicating … by neutering and you have a dog that’s focused on you.  One that’s not climbing over the fence at the first whiff of a female in heat.  One that’s totally content being your velcro dog, following you from room to room.  Some females will do that as well, but the males are just … sweeter.  And, let’s face it.  They don’t call ’em “bitches” for nothing.  Their job, if you will, is to raise the pups and at all costs. 

Many of the male dogs arriving in rescue are intact and with little or no housetraining.  First order is business is an immediate neuter.  During the recovery period, they’re enrolled in Housetraining 101.  We also utilize a tether (a 4-6 foot leash) and belly bands if the dog arriving was previously neutered.  Why belly bands?  For several reasons — (1) you know exactly if they are “getting” the concept of housetraining (the incontinence pad in the band is either dry or wet), (2) it protects your furnishings during the training period, and (3) many dogs do not like the wet feel and that’s a deterent in and of itself.  The tether is used as a means of supervision (he’s right there with you) and as a means of issuing a correction (short, sharp jerk of the tether and a verbal command “no mark!”).  With consistency, patience and clear guidance on what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, most males quickly adapt to toileting outside. 

Another “tool” for training is the crate.  Dogs are innately clean creatures who will not usually soil their eating and sleeping areas.  That hardwired behavior can be used to your benefit when housetraining by confining them to a crate when unable to supervise and giving them ample opportunity to toilet in a designated area (with lots of immediate praise/treats for appropriate behavior).

Regarding the belly bands at the link provided above … I find the adjustable bands are much more comfortable for the boys.  Just the shape alone is more form fitting and allows for greater freedom of movement.  One of the straps is adjustable so it can be used on dogs close to the same size in diameter (for multiple male househoulds).  I also find the buckle easier/quicker to use on dogs with longer hair.  Velcro and longer hair do not mix.  The only “issue” with using belly bands:  one must remember to remove them prior to sending the dog outside to potty!

So, if you’re seriously thinking about adding an Apso to your household, don’t rule out a male based on gender alone.  They truly are delightful little creatures who easily adapt with consistent training and the right tools … and will become your best buddy in the process.