Monthly Archives: December 2011

Second chances: Milo

It’s not a call you want to get as a rescuer.  I knew what was coming when I heard the vague message on the machine.  “I adopted a dog from you several years ago.  Could you call me as soon as possible?”  I knew from her name which dog she’d adopted and he’d been a wonderful, well-behaved boy but I knew something bad had happened.  Milo was, as best as we could figure, a german shepherd or collie mix that came from a cat shelter that only had outdoor kennels that he escaped from regularly.  In a strange coincidence, the day we returned the family’s phone call happened to be the fifth anniversary of his adoption.

The news was what I had expected.  Milo had bitten his adopted “dad”, an injury that required sutures, when he came toward the dog and demanded that he leave the room. It was not unprovoked, and it was the first time he’d aggressed with them and so they really felt they should give him another chance.  However, they had recently had a baby- unquestionably a stressor that led to the situation- and were unsure what would happen if they kept him.  After the bite, Milo was sent to the boarding kennel he stayed at sometimes, and they called us.  They used wording like “he goes insane” when someone would come to the door, mentioned that he was “extremely protective” of the home and of the woman adopter, and we were worried that the aggression was an issue that had been building up for a while.

Taking this into consideration, I made an appointment at the vet’s office to euthanize Milo, and called the family to make arrangements to pick him up.  I told them that I could not make promises and that it is not usually an option to rehome a dog that has bitten someone and sent them for stitches due to dangerous dog laws and liability issues.  They said they did not want to know what would happen, they would rather keep the idea in mind that Milo would have a happy ending; they did not want to be informed if we were to make a final decision about him.  It was their way also, I believe, of giving me a way to do what they understood I might need to do with less guilt and turmoil.

I drove to their home that Monday, depressed and miserable, setting out for what would have been one of the worst days I’ve had in rescue.  I held my composure as Milo’s “dad” met me at the door with Milo on leash, pulling and struggling to get to me, his body language showing an excited but happy dog, not an aggressive or fearful dog.  After an initial greeting, I knelt so he wouldn’t feel the need to jump on me, and he gave me kisses.  After Milo’s dad signed the return form, he started to show some emotion but soldiered through it.  We loaded Milo and some of his belongings- what had gone with him to the boarding kennel, anyway- into the back of my Forester, and as I drove away, I began to cry.  After what happened with Murphy earlier in the year, I knew I needed to do more for Milo than give up on him for a mistake that was probably human error entirely.  The dog in my vehicle was not giving signals that he was a crazy, dangerous beast.  I took him home in order to give him a chance to mingle with the dogs and cats.

Milo met the dogs with little issue, and showed some interest in the cats but not enough to be a concern.  I called the vet immediately and cancelled the euthanasia appointment and instead made one for a checkup and thyroid test (thyroid disorders can cause temperament imbalances, including aggression in many cases.)  His checkup went well, no thyroid issues, and he was very well behaved for the exam and blood draw and in the crowded waiting room.Milo has been here for five weeks, and we have seen no signs of aggression.  He is a high strung shepherd mix that can be reactive to lots of stimuli, but I believe he had to feel seriously threatened before he decided to bite.  My goals for 2012 is to work with Milo on confidence building, continuing to reduce his reactivity, and earn his Canine Good Citizenship award to prove that dogs can show less than desirable behavior without condemning them for good.

I know it was the right decision to make, though it comes with sacrifices- Milo is now a permanent part of our lives, at least for the duration of HIS life.  I’ve struggled with the very human response of feeling that it is unfair to us AND Milo  to have this dog join our family because of a situation that shouldn’t have happened, or because his adopters were unwilling to work with a behavior consultant or give Milo a chance to adjust to his new life with the newborn baby in the home.  It is inconvenient, and it is stressful having eight dogs under our roof to take care of.  Milo’s reactivity has gotten better already but as a sound-sensitive chronic migraine sufferer it has been incredibly difficult listening to him bark his head off at random things like neighbors in their own driveway and anything larger than a leaf moving down the road in front of the house.  I’ll admit that I selfishly allowed myself to resent this dog for no reason other than we have become stuck together.  In the last two weeks, I have really made an effort to spend one-on-one time with him, working on training with the reactivity (HUGE difference already) and basic manners and obedience to help develop a bond.  It has been easier to accept that he’s a part of our lives and look forward to seeing what kind of potential he has.  I feel guilty for allowing my own emotions to make me upset about having Milo in the house when really, I am relieved that he is doing so well.  He has the opportunity that I couldn’t give Murphy because of his dog aggression.  Though he is treated with the love and compassion that all dogs under our roof deserve and receive, I can’t bring myself to call him “my” dog yet, I simply refer to him as a sanctuary dog for the rescue for now.  It will take some time for that to change, but we’ll get through this together.

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Merry Christmas!

Just some photos for this post as everyone is really busy with the holiday, I know. Enjoy!

The three STAR dogs got pressies and they just loved them:

 

And the sanctuary rats got their cage gussied up and had a lot of fun ripping down their popcorn garland!

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Frawley’s Excellent Adventure

Frawley's shelter picture

When Frawley’s sad face appeared on Facebook on August 4th, I didn’t know what I could do to help him.  The message under his photo gave his location as Florence, Alabama with a note that said: “This is Frawley, a 9 yr old, male setter. He is so sweet and the owner just brought him because he was getting old.” I see lots of emails about animals in southern states daily, but I can rarely do anything special to help them.  With all of my contacts in setter rescue, I thought there was surely someone that could help him.  I started crossposting and trying to find someone with some room.  It became pretty clear that no setter rescue was able to take him in and his time grew shorter. I began asking for a foster home, and declared that if we could find a person willing to foster, I would commit to pulling Frawley. I asked everyone I could for help, which came in the form of a high school friend.  She had never fostered before but had always wanted to, and so she stepped up to help Frawley.

With a foster home lined up, I knew that we were on our way, but there was the issue of finding  a way to get Frawley to Pennsylvania.  Until teleport is an option, there are few options for moving rescue dogs over great distances.  I found, through another rescuer on Facebook, a transport group that does paid trips from Calhoun Georgia up the East Coast every two weeks.  Once they were checked out and lined up, there was only the matter of getting Frawley to Georgia.  Enter Jeff, a pilot who loves dogs and transports for Pilots ‘n Paws.  He happily agreed to help and we set up the flight and transport arrangements.  A shelter volunteer had him vetted so we could get his health certificate and we set up an auction of a watercolor portrait of Frawley to raise some money to help pay the costs that were already adding up.

Frawley's transport heroes- air and ground.

On August 11th, Frawley flew to Calhoun, GA, and was picked up by the family that runs the transport company, and after a sleepover he started a drive that would be twelve hours if it had been straight through but was closer to 24 with the stops that the transporters had to make.  Poor Frawley was so exhausted after the ordeal that he didn’t want to get up once we got home at around three in the morning.  He was every bit the handsome man we expeced. He met my dogs briefly but then went into a crate for the night so he could rest, and the next day he went to the temporary foster home that was to help evaluate him and hold him while we got him to the vet.

On August 16th, we took Frawley to the vet where he showed us how resilient he is.  He spent much of the time there soaking up whatever attention he could get and winning over multiple vets, techs, the girls at the front desk and people in the waiting room.   We put him through the ringer and had bloodwork, multiple parasite tests, even an x ray, and thorough physical exam performed.  He went through it all like a champ and the news was good for the most part, but the x ray was disturbing.  Poor Frawley has been shot with a shotgun and is loaded with birdshot pellets.  It doesn’t affect him at all, it’s just sad as a human to know that someone did this to such a wonderful dog.

Frawley was neutered soon after this first vet visit, and on September fifth went to stay with Laura, a first time foster parent, and her family.  While things were a bit rocky with one of the resident dogs, Frawley was thriving under the loving attention of Laura and her family.  He won over the hearts of people on his neighborhood walks and really learned to enjoy being a house dog for probably the first time in his life.  Unfortunately, no one searching for a new dog seemed to realize how wonderful he truly was, and he sat in our rescue for several months, just waiting, without one single inquiry.

It was on December 5th, right after we planned to take Frawley to a Petco adoption outing that we received an email from a friend that I have worked with and known the entire time I have been working “in” animal rescue.  She wrote with an interesting question: would we somehow be able to help her surprise her sister with a new dog for Christmas?  Her sister had divorced and lost her dog to Cushing’s syndrome in the recent year and she was miserable with the upcoming holiday.  She thought Frawley sounded like a perfect fit, but she realized that I would not agree to allowing her to adopt Frawley to give as a gift.  Normally, there would be no option but since I knew this person, I got her sister’s information and she essentially filled in the application on her sister’s behalf.  I called her landlord and saw her chart myself at the vet’s office, and all looked well.  The next step was to arrange a meeting between dog and sister.  I took Frawley to my friend’s house so she and her mother could meet him, and both felt he was perfect.  They asked the lady of the hour to show up at my friend’s house, and I hid in the kitchen when she arrived.  I was so nervous- we had never done anything like this.  As she walked through the door, my friend gave her a little speech announcing what was going on, and I released Frawley’s collar and sent him into the family room.  He ran to the woman, and when she sat on the floor with him it was clear he was in love.

He rolled on to his back, and that was that.  After an hour or so of cuddling, she knew she wanted to adopt him, and I asked her to wait and to sleep on it (so much for that- she went out that night to buy him things…)  The next day, she asked if Saturday would be a good day for a home visit and adoption.  Every day, she wrote to ask questions, tell me what she had bought for Frawley, and finalize a time for our get-together.

The big day came, and this dog- this scrawny, neglected dog from what was almost certainly a crummy life- dragged his foster mom and her roomie into his new home with a huge smile on his face, and made his rounds.  He peed on the Christmas tree (which elicited a laugh and a shrug), zoomed up and down the hall, and gave hugs to all.  Within fifteen minutes after we’d arrived, my friend showed up, then her mom, and then her husband, for a true welcoming party.  Frawley was so excited that everyone was there just to see him, and went from person to person giving hugs.  We stayed for a while as he got to know his way around the home, the yard, and then found his bed.  This home, that started out as such an iffy concept (a Christmas gift?) turned out to be better than we ever could have hoped.  While he may not have been the dog she would have chosen on her own, he was the RIGHT choice, and he has made his new mom so happy, just in time for the holiday.  His updates are perfect; he has not stopped smiling since he arrived, and I believe that his new mom probably hasn’t, either.

This rescue proved how many people it can take to help a dog, and how many lives that dog can touch along the way.  The people at the shelter, the people that crossposted on Facebook and other sites, the ones that tagged suckers like me (;)), the transporters, donors who helped us fund his vetting, fosters- temporary and long term- who love and care for our animals and provide for their needs without discrimination, those that help us process applications, and the families that provide a lifetime of love to these wonderful creatures.

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