Category Archives: Dogs of the past

Adding to Your Family Dynamic

As an adoption counselor and a dog trainer I sometimes see the opposite ends of the family choosing a new companion animal for their family.  Back in the olden days (when I had to walk five miles in a snow storm, up hill to get to school) pets were sold exclusively at pet stores or Woolworth’s (small pets) or just found them wandering around with no collar.  There were some rescues out there but a lot of euthanasia of strays and unwanted puppies and kittens. If there was an animal shelter, it was often just a euphemism for being put to sleep.

Or you went to a breeder to get a specific dog.  It didn’t matter if that was the breed best suited to your family and your lifestyle – you paid your money and got your dog.  If you liked the look, bought into the Lassie phenomenon that dogs behaved because they wanted to please their people or because Biffy down the street had a poodle, you got a dog.  If they chewed on your furniture, didn’t automagically become house broken or just didn’t match your lifestyle in the first place, dogs (and cats) were disposable and no one would blink an eye if you took them to the animal control.

Growing up, I had a plethora of dogs – some acquired from breeders and some rescued.  My first memory is of our Collie, Blaze.  He was my protector, nanny and nap bed.  We also had a sheepdog named Penny whom we acquired for free from a breeder because she was diabetic and they couldn’t sell her. Our black Belgium Groenendaal named Rico Petrocelli came to our home via an aunt who impulse-purchased him from the window at the pet store. And then there was Princess, a schnauzer who just appeared one day. Some of them stayed their entire lives with us and some were disappeared into the night to live

pickright pet

NOTE: this works for other species!

a fabulous life on the farm because it wasn’t really fair to them to have to take a walk on a leash (and I’m pretty sure that farm wasn’t on this dimensional plain!).

 

In today’s world, that way of thinking should become a relic of the past.  Before you get that Australian Sheepdog, figure out first, is that the right dog for your family. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is your REAL activity level…not the one you aspire to but in reality, what activities would you be able to incorporate your dog into that you are already doing every day.  Do you run, hike or even stroll the neighborhood?
  2. Do you need a dog to assist you? Does your dog have a job – does he need to heard sheep or wake up a hearing impaired child?
  3. What size do you want the dog to be?  Should it fit through a cat door or take up a king sized bed?
  4. What type of coat should the dog have?  Are you a clean freak that wears a lot of black?  I don’t recommend a Great Pyrenees for you!
  5. What kind of personality are you looking for?  If a trip to the dog park on a daily basis is on your agenda then you want to find a dog that is confident and social with another dogs and enjoys that kind of interaction.

    Pick right pet

    What? You’re leaving me again?

  6. What is your lifestyle?  Is everyone out of the house for 8-10 hours a day and then scheduled with something every hour until it is time to go to bed?  Maybe fish would be a good alternative for you!  My gentle and loving Phoebe came from a situation where a family wanted a new puppy, decided on a lab and because of how busy this family was, she was chained in the yard all day and then crated all night long with little interaction with the owners.  She was about nine-months old when she came to live at the LPPL and is one of the best dogs I’ve had.  But I knew what I was getting into with the breed, her needs both physical and mental.

Notice, not one of the questions above had anything to do with the cuteness factor.  Dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, all give us the same chemical reaction as a baby does.  It’s incredibly hard to not go with the cuteness factor but at the end of the day, if you do this exercise before getting a new companion animal, your chances of successful guardianship increases dramatically!

So what if you are less worried about the breed and really want to focus on rescues?  Good news on that front! Paws Like Me is the match.com for companion animals!  Once you fill out the profile, Paws Like Me then applies a pet matching logarithm based on the following personality quadrants:

Energy

Energy measures physical as well as mental energy. A dog with high energy tends to be very motivated and active. A dog with low energy prefers the lazy life and won’t go out of his way to keep himself entertained.

Confidence

Confidence measures the dog’s level of security. A dog with high confidence will confront new situations and people with no hesitation. A dog with low confidence will need more guidance and reassurance in their daily life.

Focus

Focus measures a dog’s ability to concentrate on a given task. A high focus dog is not easily distracted and is well suited for advanced training. A low focus dog is spontaneous in play and easily distracted.

Independence

Independence measures a dog’s level of affection. A very independent dog is happy with minimal physical contact; a glance or kind word makes him happy. A dog with low independence thrives on petting, giving kisses, and being in contact with someone as frequently as possible.

Paws Like Us then pulls results from local rescue and online resources and matches you with a potential companion.

A few weeks ago, we had a great couple come to us ready to adopt their first dog together. You could tell they were going to be great doggy parents!  One half of the couple gravitates toward one of our gentle giants, Ranger, while the other half fell in love with a mini, Lenny.  This was a huge decision for them and you could see the gravity of them wanting to make the right choice.

I sent them home with no one and asked them to fill out the Paws Like Me application.  As much as we loved them and wanted them to adopt from Mostly Mutts, perhaps there was another companion out there better suited for them.  Yesterday, they came back and adopted Lenny.  He was their #1 match!  I can’t wait to see the updates.

 

Rescue Trauma…Rescue Drama

I love my work with my rescue, Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue and Adoption, and all the foster dogs that come through the Litt Palace of Puppy Love.  Sometimes, though, we get a repeat visitor because a Foster To Adopt (FTA) doesn’t work out but I want to tell you a story about a magical little rat terrier mix named Flop.

I'm all ears, says Flop when you talk to him

I’m all ears, says Flop when you talk to him

There is a great group of volunteers called the Friends of Cobb County Animal Shelter (FCCAS). Where I live in the Northwest suburbs of Atlanta, all of the county owned and run shelters are kill-shelters.  Mostly Mutts primary reason for existence is to pull animals from these shelters, fix them up (we get a lot of older or sick dogs) and get them ready for adoption and organizations like FCCAS help to get the word out about the residents of the shelter and help around the shelter with dog walking and socialization.  They had posted a picture of this funny little dog with big ears and a patch of toffee-colored fur on his side in the shape of a heart.  As soon as I saw his picture, I knew Mostly Mutts had to pull this dog out of the shelter and before I could even make the suggestion, a note went out to the volunteers looking for fosters for some of our newly pulled pups.  Flop was among them.

Oscar, our long-term foster, was suffering a heartbreak.  He had fallen in love with a Chipperke (Chihuahua/Schipperke mix) named Jazz (I’ll write another story of their love affair later).  Jazzypants, as I was fond of calling her, found a new wonderful home and left the Litt Palace of Puppy Love.  Oscar was so sad so I was looking for a new playmate for him so Flop came home with us one day after an adoption event.

Very soon after coming to the Litt Palace of Puppy Love, I noticed a rather obsessive/compulsive trait about Mr. Flop.  He became like a creepy, stalker boyfriend and would never leave my side.  If we sat in the big chair, he would lay across the back with his snout entrenched in my hair and snurffle my scalp. He was obsessed with my hair and scalp and would take every opportunity to smell my hair!  It was a little creepy so he became the foster known as Creepy Stalker Boyfriend (CSBF).

The first night CSBF stayed at the LPPL I awoke with the odd sensation that I was being watched and when I peeked one eye open, there was his little face staring at me as he rested his head on the same pillow on which I was resting my head! The title of CSBF really matched this dude!

Flop was adopted a few weeks after coming to the LPPL by a single lady and her two children. She immediately sent pictures, changed his name to Jimbo (to me exudes CSBF qualities to me!) and we thought it was a good adoption.  A few days into the adoption, she sends an email saying she’s having some behavior issues with him and since I was his foster and I am a trainer, Mostly Mutts forwarded the email to me.  I responded back and made some suggestions to her.  A couple of weeks later, she sent me a very strange email that she had to return Flop. My response was to give her the phone number to the Executive Director and ask her to cal.  We never heard back from her so we assumed she had worked out her issues.

Then the other night I could not sleep and I was looking at Facebook.  I saw a post from the Friends of Cobb County again and amazingly they had a little a picture of a little rat terrier mix boy with a heart on his side. Flop_ccacCould Flop have a brother?  Surely it couldn’t be him…he was just adopted out!  This dog was an owner turn in and his name was Buster not Jimbo.  Well, just to be sure we checked Buster’s microchip.  It WAS my CSBF!

So Flop is back at the LPPL for a little bit…he met a family today that might be a good fit for him with a little boy to call his own.  Once a Mostly Mutt…always a Mostly Mutt.  We take care of our own.

Retro Wednesday — Rex the Bank Robbing Dog

ma_winthrop01

Drawing of the town of Winthrop, Massachusetts

I was born in the small town of Winthrop outside of Boston in 1964.  For those of you doing math, yes that makes me 48 (well 49 in December).  The role of a dog in the family was very different back then.  Although we always had dogs growing up, our dogs were treated differently then I treat my companions animals today.  It was not frowned upon to have an “outside” dog or a dog tethered to a giant chain.

We had such a dog.  He was a Sheperd/Collie mix named Rex.  I remember getting him as a puppy.  He was an inside dog until he had one too many accidents in the house.  I remember him gnawing on our arms and playing rough with us.  But the thing I remember most about Rex was that he was a great escape artist.  Even though he was chained to a big tree in our yard, Rex would somehow manage to get loose.

The first time the Winthrop police officer brought Rex home in the back of his police car, my dad and he stood in the driveway gabbing away.  Evidently they knew each other pretty well.  I was pretty young so I don’t remember all the details but I think maybe a Budweiser was offered and a cigarette or two smoked.  I remember hearing deep belly laughs about that darned dog and his ability to get out of the heavy chain.

The second time the police officer brought Rex home, no beer was offered.  There was no laughing at that darned dog. There was a stern “Jim, I’m gonna have to fine you the next time…” lecture and that darned dog turned into the damned dog!

The third time was not happy.  A ticket and fine was issued.  A lot of talk about rehoming or worse yet taking him to the dog pound with us kids crying and begging to keep him. We won out.

Then Rex escaped again.  This time, however, he went downtown and held up the First National Bank.  He wouldn’t let anyone come out of the bank and he wouldn’t let anyone go into the bank.  Our family was famous for having the crazy dog who held up the bank.

Rex found a new home with my uncle out in the country (western Massachusetts) and we got to see him every time we visited him. Rex lived a long and happy, off leash and unchained.

Tell me about your dogs of the past!