Category Archives: Pet Adoption

Rescue, Breeder or Both?

puppy loveThis is a very tough question because I’m personally involved in rescue but my love of dogs and the individual breeds makes me also a prime candidate for a pure bred.  The truth is I have both.  My two pure breeds (a lab and a vizsla) are rescues of a sort as the families that owned them couldn’t deal with or handle them.  So Lesson One is that there are sometimes pure breed dogs available at your rescue.  At Mostly Mutts, we’ve had Shelties, Boxers, Pomeranians, Great Danes, English Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, Miniature Pinschers and the list goes on.

But most of those dogs were not puppies so what do you do when you want to get your pure breed puppy?  Lesson Two is that if you want a pure breed, do your homework and find a reputable breeder.  So today, I’d like to talk about what to look for in a reputable breeder.  In my profession, I see a lot of puppies that are in homes because someone walked by a pet store window and knowing nothing about the breed but spying this little package of puppy goodness, they had to have it.  Getting a puppy is not an impulse buy! Here are the Kritter Keeper’s rules for getting the right puppy for your family.

  1.  Research the breeds and what the right fit is for you and your lifestyle.  If you like to lie on the couch all day then you should not an Australian Shepherd as Aussies like to work all day running around and herding everything!  Maybe look at one of the less active companion breeds like a Chihuahua or Brussels Griffon.  If you are looking for a larger dog, believe it or not Greyhounds are big couch potatoes or something giant like a Great Dane or Mastiff.
  2. Research the breeder.  I would prefer to work with a breeder that is acknowledged by the AKC and fits their standards.  There is a laundry list of things I want from the breeder.
    • Certificate of Health — I want to know that some of the genetic things that a breed is prone to are not in the genes of her line.  For instance, hip dysplasia in a German Shepherd or blindness in a Dalmation.  To know what health risks a breed is known for see #1 on this list.
    • Home visit with at least Mom if not Mom and Dad on site.  I want to make sure I am not supporting puppy mills so I’m going to want to see what environment my puppy is growing up in and I want to check the temperament of Mom and Dad.  I  want to see the puppies before I choose and how they interact with the rest of the litter and the parents.  I also want to make sure that the breeder is providing an interactive experience for the puppies to help them with their cognitive functions.
  3. Understand the genetic lines of the dog — maybe the breeder has more of a show dog line versus a pet dog line.  If you aren’t going to show then perhaps you would be better suited to a pet dog line.

Whether you get your new puppy from a rescue or from a reputable breeder, enjoy all the puppy kisses!

 

Where Have I Been? Eating Ice Cream!

Is the Litt Palace of Puppy Love closed?  Not at all…but things certainly have changed for us.  I’ve taken time out of the blog world to lick my wounds and get back to a manageable mental status after the death of my husband.  I was (and still am) the move forward and ask for forgiveness later person.  He was the guy that researched everything before making a move.  We were a good combo together.  But now I feel like I did when I first moved out of my parents home.

Remember the first time you had that dirty little pleasure of eating ice cream before dinner…or better yet eating ice cream as dinner?  And guess what? There was no one to tell you that is not right.  You were your own boss and you could do whatever you wanted.

I had my share of ice cream for dinner this past year…several puppy fosters of really difficult puppies and finally found their forever homes.  I also adopted a puppy who has become my heart and soul, Bubba.  Bubba is the ice cream, the hot fudge and the cherry on top!img_2601

From a business perspective, you may recall I compromised with my husband and was going to take a job out in Kanab, UT with Best Friends as a trainer in Dogtown.  I was very excited about the opportunity to work for this great organization but I really wanted to open my own training center.  Andy knew me as a great technical consultant (I was an IT consultant for 15 years of our 22-year marriage), but he just couldn’t see me giving up that career to run my own business so our compromise was to work for a few years at a non-profit as a trainer and then open my business with that experience under my belt.

Well, needless to say, I couldn’t leave my framily in GA after his death — I needed all the support I could get living on my own.  So I focused on expanding Kritter Keepers. We now have two great Kritter Keepers in addition to myself – Jessica and Mel.  Angela has joined the team and will be working on marketing and other business-y stuff.  The biggest thing for Kritter Keepers is that we’ve purchased a property and are working to make our dream come true of having a dog sports – oriented training center, doggie daycare and boarding facility.  We are converting a human daycare. Designs have been finalized and we are hoping to start the remodel very soon.  That has to be a banana split for dinner!  It is both the scariest and the most exciting move I’ve made in my career.  I believe in myself and I know that Kritter Keepers Club will be a success!

I also bought a brand-spanking-new, six-miles on the odometer, Chevy Colorado.  This is a two scoops of the fudgiest, most indulgent ice-cream ever.  Andy didn’t think a pick up was practical especially for a girl!  And he hated General Motors because they cancelled our GM reward card when we built our first house — not because we didn’t use and pay promptly but because we had too many credit inquiries (first home buys suck up credit report scores due to the number of inquiries!).  He never forgave and forbid anyone in our family from purchasing GM products.  So this is a first for me and I LOVE my truck.  It is the perfect vehicle to express my personality!

The year has not just been about eating ice cream for dinner.  It’s been emotional and really could have been so easy to fall down that rabbit hole of depression.  I think being a little naughty and rebellious helped me.  When Andy and I used to argue, my favorite thing to fight back with was the “You’re not my father!” battle cry of the rebel-without-a-clue that I am!  So each little step forward, each scoop of ice cream, is not without an internal conversation with Andy. In his own way, I think he would be proud of what I’ve done this year even if he didn’t agree with some of events.

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.

 

Meet some of my new friends…

The first week of my six-week training adventure is almost over.  I’m over the moon with the class and what I’m learning.  I’m an experienced dog handler but there is so much more to the science around dog training.  Plus, what a great advantage we have being on the beautiful campus of St. Hubert’s Animal Sanctuary. We’ve had the pleasure of working with some very cool and interesting dogs here.IMG_0413

Pictured to left is Shamrock, a hound mix who is a happy-go-lucky dude.  Next to him is JR, a black retriever mix.  I’m happy to say that JR was adopted today.  I’d like to think some of the activities we did with him this week helped to get him adopted.  Although we’ve been studying behavior and not really teaching any commands, I think the socialization and attention does help.  That is one of the major reasons shelters need volunteers.  Often the staff is focused on the day-to-day efforts of running a shelter.  You don’t always get to play with dogs and cats and other companion animals when you are worried about cleanliness of the kennels, fiduciary responsibility or building projects!  If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, volunteer.  If you can’t volunteer, donate!

IMG_0408Nami is a beautiful young terrier who came from a fighting ring somewhere down in the south.  New Jersey and many of the other northern states often get imports of dogs from the south. Nami spent a lot of time with the SPCA group who works out of St. Hubert’s getting rehabilitated.  She’s still a little shy around people but she seems to love interacting with other dogs and playing!  Today was day two that she met us and seemed a lot more comfortable around the class then she was yesterday.  Plus we were inside in the training ring rather than outside enjoying the beautiful sunshine like today.  Lot’s of environmental stimulus can affect the way a dog behaves.  Clearly Nami was more at home in the play area outside then in the training ring surrounded by strangers!IMG_0404

This black and white beauty is Lita.  She is a little clown and never failed to make me laugh at her antics!  IMG_0400The handsome seal-colored man is Adonis.  You wouldn’t be able to tell but he’s a senior dog.  What you can tell about him is that he loved playing tug with that toy!!!

This is just a few of the dogs we’ve been working with at St. Hubert’s.  There are great companions like these guys in shelters all over the country and the world.  If you have a place in your home for another companion animal, please consider going to a shelter or rescue!

If dogs could talk…

Have you ever wished your dog could talk or that the collar that Dug the dog wore in the animated movie, Up, was real?  Working with a lot of foster dogs, I often don’t have any clues as to why they act the way they do.  Most often, we see pups who are fearful at first – and who wouldn’t be picked up as a stray or worse, turned in from a nice family home to a barking, awful cacophony of cages.

Going into any shelter, no matter how nice it is, is an assault of the senses for us humans. Can you imagine how a dog feels?  Visually, they now have lots of eyes staring them down.  The stare down is usually a sign of aggression when dogs meet naturally.  A new resident in a shelter is sort of like Sean Penn doing the Dead Man Walking walk to the electric chair.

From an auditory sense, a madly barking shelter is like sticking your head in the Liberty Bell and someone ringing it.  While humans hear 12 Hz to 20 KHz (less as you get older!), dogs have an auditory perception ranging from 40 Hz to 60 kHz.  While their range is about 3X that of a human, they also have 16 different muscles in their ears to help them more precisely locate a sound.

How scared would you be basically going to jail with lots of scary prisoners who were yelling all the time?  The thought actually makes me pee a little so I really empathize when we get a new dog in the program coming into our shelter at Mostly Mutts.

How do I make a foster more comfortable in the Litt Palace of Puppy Love?  For me, the first step is to get a pup to start to trust. Once introduction to the pack is done (always do dog to dog intros on neutral space with no snout to snout contact) I like to take the newbie in a room by ourselves and I lay on the floor.  The new pup is not pressured to do anything. He can smell me, play with me, lay next to me, cautiously wait across the room.  I don’t call them or even acknowledge them as this is about them figuring me out.

I may have a few, super delectable treats in my treat pouch that I will reward them with if they initiate contact. I do all of this on the dog’s comfort level.  For more nervous dogs, it may take a couple of sessions.  It is also very helpful to have a happy and confident dog in your pack who can help a scared one gain some confidence through play, walks together, etc.

I talked to a fellow foster mama this morning (which is what initiated this article) who has a new foster. He’s coming directly from animal control into her home.  He’s very sensitive and still scared after a few days in her home.  Marilyn feel like he wants to trust her — he’s just not there yet.  Everytime she calls him, he cowers.  When she pets him, it takes a while for him to relax.

Since we don’t have Dug the Dog collars yet and we don’t know what these guys have gone through, our only remedy is to wait and let them get used to a loving home. You can’t force a scared dog to become unafraid but through patience and understanding and some very yummy treats you can reward your scaredy dog to confidence!

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.

I’ve got a Bosjin Fieloxer!

I love fostering! Sometimes I’ll only get a dog or puppy overnight until they go to a new foster. Sometimes my fosters live in the IMG_1696Litt Palace of Puppy Love (LPPL) for several months. Then there is Oscar, a young Lab/Pit that came to the LPPL last year right after tax day 2014. I had him for about a week and then due to a family emergency, I had to give him back to the Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue shelter and head up to New York. A month later, I was back in Acworth and Oscar was still in the shelter. He had a few behavioral issues and hadn’t shown well at adoption events.

The day I got home, I called the Mostly Mutts director and told her I was taking Oscar back. I had just left my husband up in New York for who knows how long. I was sad and lonely for him and Oscar was so comforting. He was happy to come back to the LPPL. That was May 2014 and he’s still with me.

Enjoy this video I’ve prepared called Black Dog. I made this last summer after having him for a few months.  He had so many strikes against him – big, black dog that has Pit in him.  But I really thought he had more Boxer in him.

I have Labs and I’ve had Pits and Oscar did not seem like either to me so this fall, I decided to give Oscar a DNA test.  Guess what? No Lab and no Pit in him!  His DNA profile was extremely unusual for a “mixed” breed.  I love genetics and if you’ve followed me for long, I’ve written before about DNA tests.  Bailey, my All-American-Mixed Breed, did not have any specific DNA sets for her parents, grandparents or great grandparents but she did have trace DNA of a Boston Terrier, Belgium Tervuren Shepard and Rottweiler.

Oscar however had a very specific DNA reading for his Great Grandparents and therefore his Grandparents and his parents.  Bottom Line is his Great Grandparents were Boston Terriers, Korean Jindo dogs, Field Spaniels and Boxers.  This means he is 25% of each…a Bosjin Fieloxer!

Oscar - BoBoFielJinFor a black dog up for adoption that has the dreaded “Pit” in his description, this DNA report is very important.  Since we’ve updated his profile, he’s had a lot more interest in him.  I don’t bring him to adoptions every week but he’s been really good when I do.

Knowing his DNA make up makes me understand some of his behaviors and needs.  It helps me to understand what kinds of doggie sports we should focus on and he’s a quick learner too!  At this point, I can’t imagine my life without Oscar but I’m willing to consider all homes.  He needs a place that will challenge him, keep him occupied through training protocols and activities but most of all he needs a place that will love him!

If you are interested in fostering or adopting any of our dogs, please check out our website: www.mostlymutts.org