Broken …

Tess

Unknown to most of my readers, I took in two puppy mill survivors who were adopted by a family from a local  shelter (“local” being a relative term here in the West).  Unfortunately, the family was in a serious automobile collision necessitating emergency back surgery.  Because of this … and the fact they lived in a second story apartment … they were no longer able to care for the dogs and get them in/outside.

Unlike our first mill survivors (MaeMae and McKenzie) who came to us at less than two-years of age, Andy (5) and Tess (6) had spent many years in the mill.  They both bolt from their crates when the door is opened, like it’s on fire.  To my knowledge, the only time Tess was handled (if one can even use that term) was when the miller reached into her cage, grabbing whatever body part he/she could to pull her out and then remove her puppies.  Given that’s the only contact Tess had with humans, her behavior was like a wild, cornered animal.  If one managed to get her picked up (and in the process sustaining long scratch wounds from her nails), she emotionally shut down.  Her fear of handling by humans so great that she defecates on the spot, physically shutting down as her heart races and her eyes lose focus.

Separation from other dogs causes anxiety as well.  She’s climbed a 24-inch exercise pen, a 30-inch exercise pen and a 27-inch baby gate.  Contained in a crate, she managed to break a lower canine chewing at the door.  Any anxiety causes her to soil her crate.  Short of putting her in a 2×3 or 3×3-foot pen with a secure lid on it, there is no other way to contain her.  Certainly that’s doable but then she’d be removed from the other dogs as space is an issue.  Putting her in with one of my dogs doesn’t work because they get upset with her behavior.

That someone could do this to a dog — solely for for profit — just infuriates me.  And it greatly saddens me because Tess could have been a sweet dog given even the littlest bit of handling and socialization.

When I first became involved in rescue, my mentor shared the following:  “Some dogs are so damaged they can’t be fixed … some dogs are so badly damaged they shouldn’t be fixed.”  After several consultations with my vet (who does rescue herself), a trainer, use of an anti-anxiety drug and a course of Rescue Remedy, we came to the conclusion that her psyche is so damaged she will never accept handling.  Her fear is so great that she is miserable, living on the fringes and scurrying away from humans.  I also had to accept the fact that if I … an experienced rescuer and dog owner of some 28+ years … could not handle/manage her behaviors, then she was not, by any definition of the word, adoptable.

I have cried over no less than seven dogs on the euthansia table in my lifetime.  Some my beloved, long-time companions; others, badly-damaged fosters, victims of circumstance or greed.  It never gets any easier even when we know it is the right thing.  Godspeed Tess … I hope you can, at last, find the joy that eluded you here on earth.

The next time you see a cute puppy in a pet store, remember Tess.  Remember what was done to her, all in the name of profit.  Remember that she wanted to be a good dog but didn’t have even the basic skills to interact with humans.  Remember that there are thousands and thousands more like her, living in misery in the mills.  So broken that they can’t be fixed by anyone.  Remember.

Andy is one of the lucky ones … he’s making weekly progress, is learning to interact with humans and to play with his canine housemates.  My deep thanks to John and Neil who said “yes” and took on the challenge.

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

Pure bred vs. well bred …

What exactly does that mean … “pure bred versus well bred”?  In my many years of involvement with rescue, I’ve had countless “pure bred” Apsos with “papers.”  Papers being a document saying the dog was registered with the AKC (or any of the other questionable registries which have sprung up to circumvent AKC’s DNA requirements).  However, having “papers” in hand does not mean the dogs in question were “well bred.”  “Well bred” meaning they had the qualities and characteristics that make an Apso “an Apso” … a dog possessing breed type.  “Well bred” meaning the breeder strived to produce a dog that could, on any given day, survive at altitude in its native homeland of Tibet (this link contains an excellent article on what makes a Lhasa Apso).  “Well bred” meaning the breeder could document at least five generations of dogs and the health of those dogs.  Dogs whose pedigrees reflect a multitude of champion relatives — not just one or two champions in five generations.  Dogs whose breeders stand behind what they produce for the life of the dog.

Next question is  … where does one find a well-bred dog?  Certainly not from a pet store as supplied by the puppy mills.  Or a “backyard” breeder  (“BYB”) who has thrown a couple of dogs together for a quick profit.  Despite the broad brush used by the animal rights movement to paint all breeders, the majority of show (hobby) breeders strive to produce sound, healthy dogs.  Hobby breeders cannot keep every dog they breed and maintain a breeding line — much like rescue can’t keep every dog that arrives in foster care.  These breeders often have retired champions, young adult show prospects that didn’t turn out as well as anticipated, or pet-quality puppies available for placement … well-bred dogs that need homes of their own.  And for much less than what you’d pay for a puppy produced in the mills and sold by a pet store. 

Always an advocate for rescue, I also believe in providing prospective families with options other than the petstore or BYBs.  A sad fact is 100% of my rescues have come from either pet stores or backyard breeders.  So even though one is obtaining a “rescue,” they were produced for profit with little thought given to their health and breed type. 

Remind your family and friends what breeding does: Every kitten or puppy born is a death sentence to a shelter cat or dog waiting to be adopted.

As a responsible owner and long-time rescue volunteer … I take an exception to the above statement. If not for the responsible, ethical breeders, good representations of my chosen breed would have vanished into the mists of the Himalayan mountains decades upon decades ago. It is only through the work of quality breeders that the Lhasa Apso has survived a forced flight into Nepal, Bhutan and India as well several genetic bottle necks and the invasion of the Chinese into Tibet.  
 
I have more than done my part when it comes to rescue. However, it is not by any of my actions that there are dogs and cats in shelters. Now, I am supposed to give up the breed I love … and have worked tirelessly for … because someone else was irresponsible?  That *all* breeding is bad and my only option is to accept what is coming out of the mills?  That my only choice is an ill-bred dog with a myriad of health problems?   Seriously??  Perhaps if the statement had made mention of “puppy mills,” it would go a bit further in educating the public.
 
Following is listing of well-bred dogs looking for homes of their own.  While these dogs are located in the western half of the US (or Canada), they can be flown to a new home.  In many instances, dogs can travel to other areas with exhibitors headed to shows.  Depending on location, a road trip may be in order.  Don’t like the full coat?  No problem … Apsos can also be kept clipped in a “wash-n-wear” version.  
 
Vinnie:  retired champion, on the larger size, about six-years old.  Very loving dog; great with adults, never been around children; teens would be okay.  Needy in that he wants to be right with you on the couch, etc.  Would need to be neutered.  Located in New Mexico.
 
Zach:  retired champion, almost two-years old.  Still in full coat.  Quite loving and a lap dog; enjoys sitting in the recliner with my husband and will do so for hours.  A real people dog.  Needs a home where he is an only dog or could live with a female dog.  Located in Wisconsin.
 
Big Boy —  He was 1 year on Aug. 30.  I gave him a haircut yesterday; he has a wonderful coat. His markings aren’t as red as his brothers.  I don’t think that he will be hard to housetrain as it was going good until I got sick. The brother didn’t have any accidents. He is very playful, gets along good with other dogs and kids. He is very sweet!!!  Located in Minnesota.
 
Oreo and Ready — retired champions (4-5 years old).  Fully housetrained, would be spayed/neutered prior to placement.  Oreo is very outgoing, wags her tail at everyone, never met a stranger.  Ready is more of a “got-to-get-to-know-you” type; probably do best in a home with no other males.  Located in Utah.
 
Gracie — red/white parti-color female, 10-weeks old.  Dew claws removed, dewormed, tattooed (ID), vet checked, first vaccs.  She loves to have attention and is very playful. She loves toys and actively plays with her brothers. She loves people and has had lots of interaction as she was born and raised in my family room. Located in British Columbia
 
If interested in any of these dogs, please contact me directly at:  ApsoRescue@aol.com.  Serious inquiries only … the breeders of these dogs are looking for owners that will commit for the life of the Apso.
 

Her name …

Mae-Mae
Mae-Mae

… is Mae-Mae.  And she’s a puppy mill survivor from Missouri.  Despite her lack of socialization and handling, she’s an unbelievably sweet little dog.  Living in a puppy mill, she has no household skills and is unfamiliar with even the most basic of sounds.  Like the telephone or the dishwasher.

She had her rescue exam this morning.  The vet’s office was a bit chaotic with ill-behaved and/or loud dogs.  Mae-Mae just sat there, taking it all in.  More than one person commented on how calm she was.  Pretty amazing considering what she’s *not* been exposed to in the past.  As suspected, she has a pretty severe infection in both ears.  They will need to be flushed out while she’s under anesthesia to extract a broken canine tooth.  The spay sutures will be removed as well. 

Image041More to follow on this little one as we update her progress in foster care … and her new life outside the confines of a wire cage and endless breeding.

Update  22 July— I can tell she’s feeling better now that the ear meds are beginning to work.  With the amount of black goo that was coming out during the daily cleanings, I’m pretty certain she was in quite a bit of pain from the infection.

Mae-Mae is already crate trained and sleeps the night through.  She gets along with the resident critters, dogs and cat alike.  She has good canine social skills and respects the corrections that Ali and Frankers issue, modifying her behavior appropriately.  She loves to run in the grass/yard — something she’s never had an opportunity to do before. 

At the moment, we’re trying to impress upon her that the plastic airline crate in the bedroom is the same as the wire crate in the front room.  I’d like her to sleep with the rest of the pack; however, her digging at the door when placed in the airline crate doesn’t work for sleepy humans (makes hubby really grumpy).  Baby steps … she spent a little time there this morning while I was getting ready for work.  Both times when she started to dig and get all twitterpated, a quick “ehh, ehh, no!” stopped the behavior.  She’s a quick study …

Angels …

angel statue… come in many forms.  For one little dog, her angel came in the guise of a cross-country trucker.  This particular angel has a name.  “Tom” to be exact.  He’s based in Colorado and makes regular runs to/from the East coast — which means a lot if you’re trying to coordinate getting a dog from back east transported to Colorado.  While one can find many a transport in the mid-west and eastern states, same can not be said of Colorado.  Having Tom out there and willing to go the extra mile to get a dog where it needs to be is a blessing.  His motto … “If it fits, it gits!”

Our deepest thanks to Tom for providing this service!

Seniors in the twilight …

animated-hourglassThere’s a reason why we don’t normally take senior dogs into rescue.  Actually several reasons.  Most folks looking to adopt a dog are not in the market for an older companion as they’d like to spend more  than just a year or two (or even less) with their new best friend.  Many times, the old dogs arrive with serious behavioral and/or medical problems.  Rescue has a term for these dogs … “forever fosters.”  “Forever” because they usually end up spending the rest of their lives in foster care.  The problem with that scenario is spacing  and funding.  Available space is at a premium — at least for us — and having a forever foster takes up a spot that could be used for a younger, more adoptable dog.  Funding is always an issue so taking care of an elderly dog becomes problematic.

For me, the seniors are particularly difficult.  It usually starts with a phone call and a voice on the other end saying, “I need to get rid of my dog.”  The vocalization “get rid of” is distasteful as it brings to mind a worn out item or a piece of trash that needs to be disposed of.  Often times it is an elderly dog that outlived its usefulness for whatever reason.  No matter how many times I review the applications on my waiting list, I don’t have someone looking for an old, sick dog.  These poor dogs that have given their life to their family only to be turned out when their need was greatest.  It then falls to me to tell them that we have no one interested in an elderly dog.  And that if they take it to the shelter, he or she will spend its last days — frightened and confused — before dying at the hands of strangers.  Far better for them to take it to the vet and make that last journey in the arms of loved ones.  Despite having “the speech” memorized, there are still times when my voice breaks, the emotion spilling over.   One of the first things my rescue mentor taught was that we can’t save them all.  I truly know that with my heart … however, it doesn’t make it any easier some days.  Harder yet is having to put down a rescue for medical or behavioral issues.  Even though it’s not one of my dogs, it still hurts.  Rescue isn’t supposed to end that way.

Having said all that … we find ourselves with a senior in rescue.  A stray, he was pulled from the Larimer Humane Society.  We know little of his story other than the fact he’s been long neglected — whether in his former “home” or because he was on his own for an extended period of time.  We also know he is the product of a puppy mill because his microchip was traced to the Hunte Corporation — a known broker of puppies produced in the mills of misery and sold in pet stores.  His coat was matted to the skin and urine soaked resulting in a complete shave-down at the shelter.  Nothing more pitiful than a buck-naked Apso.

Our rescue exam revealed he has had a long-standing eye infection.  Thankfully, he does not have KCS or “dry eye” as it’s commonly known.  His age is estimated to be 8- to 10-years old … not all that old for an Apso but which still puts him in the “senior” category.  He does have arthritis on the right front/rear; however, he’s responding quite well to the Rimadyl, even trying to play with the resident foster home dogs.  Some high-powered supplements are on the way and we’re hopeful he’ll get good relief from those as well. 

Despite how rough his recent days/years have been, this dog is exceptional.  He greets everyone as a long-lost friend.  If you are familiar with Apsos, you know that’s not always the case.  When I picked him up at the pound, he came out of the kennel — head and tail up — and offered himself in greeting.  Those old soul eyes saying “I’m yours … take me with you.”  And then he buried his head in my hands, taking whatever comfort he could find in the moment, however brief.  As is our tradition, we’ve given him a Tibetan name.  Kalsang (pronounced “Kehl-sang”) and meaning “good fortune.” 

Perhaps it will be Kalsang’s good fortune to find a forever home in the twilight of his years … a home that understands that the love of an old dog is, indeed, a special gift.