Author Archives: Dizzy

Blog post by Laura M.

She didn't have a name when the puppy and her sister were dumped at a construction site, so the ARLP volunteer who found them in June 2008 named her "Katie." Katie was an adorable little black puppy, and it didn't take her long to be adopted.

Kate's new family renamed her "Lexis." Lexis grew up into a lovely dog. She was sweet with all people, but she particularly loved children. She gravitated toward the little ones like pit bulls to peanut butter. She also loved balls, and would play fetch until she fell over, preferably in some sort of water. Her new family taught her important things like sit and shake and to walk nicely on a leash.

Marnie

But as she got older, Lexis became "aggressive" with other dogs. While she continued to get along well with her family's other dog, she started lunging and barking at other dogs on walks, and her family had difficulty managing her. One day while Lexis and her canine sibling were being walked by a friend of the family, the two of them lunged toward another dog at the same time and pulled their leashes out of the person's hand. The two dogs attacked the other dog, and in the process of separating them, the boy who had been walking the other dog received two punctures - a dog bite.

Animal control was called, and Lexis's family sent her to the impound facility for quarantine. While she was there, her family determined that they were unable to handle Lexis’s issues, so they contacted ARLP as instructed in their adoption contract. They asked us to please find a new home for her.

ARLP doesn't typically take in middle-aged lab mixes with bite histories, but that is what Lexis grew up to be, and we take care of our own. So ARLP’s exceptionally talented intake team went out to animal control to do a temperament evaluation on Lexis in order to better understand what her options would be.

Marnie

Lexis breezed through her temperament eval with grace and aplomb. She seemed to be a biddable, eager-to-please, well-balanced dog who adored both people and food. The animal control officers who worked with her had come to like her. They hadn't had any trouble with her around the other dogs at the impound facility. They felt, and ARLP’s intake team agreed, that Lexis deserved another chance, even if that chance was just a warm bed, a full belly, and a little love before she was euthanized as a compassion case.

Here's where I come in - because, as Tyrion would say, I have a "tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things." And Lexis came to my house a very broken dog.

She wasn't aggressive or overly anxious or behaviorally challenged; she was lost. She would pace around the house, looking out windows, scanning rooms, looking behind furniture for something - or someone - she could not seem to find. I would call her to me, and she would cheerfully come, receive some scritches, and then trot to the door as if to say, "Okay, can I go home now?" I didn't have a way to tell her that she wouldn't be going home again, and it was one of the most heart breaking experiences I've had in nearly fifteen years of rescue.

But there was more broken than just hearts. It took me about a week to realize that there was just something wrong with the way this dog moved. Her back end wasn't put together like my other dogs; she had an odd, short-strided gait in her rear. So we packed her up and went to the vet where she received a tragic diagnosis: severe hip dysplasia.

So now we have a five-year-old, large, black, mixed-breed dog with a bite history and a severe health problem. On paper, from an ethical standpoint, she is unadoptable. But her statistics do not even come close to describing the dog she is.

Marnie

We renamed her Marnie, because that is what she told me her new name would be for this next chapter in her life, and I don't know how to argue with that. She has the softest mouth. She loves, loves, loves to play with balls, even though the vet said that a dog with her hips shouldn't be able to stand steadily, let along run and play - no one told Marnie that her body was broken. She can be left alone in the house and not chew stuff up. Her behavior is normal and predictable. Her whole body lights up with joy at meal times. She is more social, better on a leash, and better behaved than the majority of my own personal dogs.

And Marnie is not dog aggressive. For the first few weeks at my house, Marnie completely ignored my dogs - she wouldn't even look at them. Thanks to the Two Week Staycation, Marnie learned that she did not have to interact with the other dogs if she did not want to. You see, Marnie likes other dogs, but she is worried that they will hurt her. While she can still run and jump and play on her own, having her hips bumped and jostled by other dogs hurts her. So she became defensive toward other dogs. Once she figured out that she could interact with dogs on her own terms, both at home and on walks, Marnie began enjoying interacting with the other dogs, and even solicits play.

Marnie

Marnie in person is a very different dog than Marnie on paper, and her case lies in the hazy grey area between "unadoptable" and "should be euthanized." Is she a good candidate for adoption? Well, no. But it is hard to say, once you meet her in person, that she should be put to sleep for being born black and with bad hips and for behaving like a normal dog during a dog fight.

So ARLP has made the decision to fight for Marnie. Thanks to a grant from the University of Minnesota, she will be having surgery on her hips this month to relieve her pain and get her ready for adoption. Marnie will also attend training classes, go for walks, chase balls, and get to do all the other normal activities that dogs enjoy while she waits for the right family to come along.

Marnie

Interested in following Marnie’s story as she gets ready for surgery and searches for her own home? You’re in luck! Marnie has her very own Facebook page.

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Dear Love of My Life,

Where are you? It's been four years, and I'm still waiting.

Don't get me wrong, I like my foster family an awful lot. I have doggie brothers and sisters, kitties to play with, and even birds! Birds are weird. And my Foster Dad plays tug-o-war with me until his arms are ready to fall off. He lets me up on the furniture, too, even though Foster Mom says it's bad. Foster Mom is nice, too. She taught me “clicker training.” Clicker training is where there's a click, and then I get a treat! Well, I have to do something to get a click, but the click and the treat are the important part. My favorite is cheese. I know lots of ways to get clicked: I can “sit” and “down” and “shake” and “ask nice” and “roll over” and “not-walk-like-a-lunatic.” I even let Foster Mom trim my toe nails so long as there are clicks involved.

So it's not all bad here. But I can't wait to come live with you, Love of My Life. I hope we can go for lots of walks. And car rides. I love car rides, 'specially when I get to meet new people and dogs. Sometimes, I get so excited to meet other dogs that I make a gosh-darn fool of myself, but I promise I'll try to be good if you'll help me. Foster Mom says I have courage for brains, and it must be true because if you're looking for someone to run into burning buildings and rescue small children, I'm your girl. I'd like to have a job to do, like maybe those drug dogs on TV, or even rally or tracking like the other dogs here. (I wonder – do you have dogs already? I'd love to have a real brother or sister.) I might even eat a burglar for you . . . well, probably not because you never know who might have cheese. But I'll try to look really intimidating until the burglar offers me belly scratches, okay? I also like to swim and to jog and to lay in the sun and do nothing at all. Please can you come get me so we can do everything and nothing together?

Faithfully Yours,

Bailee

Photo by Tara Engle Photography

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A few days before Christmas, Santa blessed the Dizzy Herd with a new mouth to feed: a nine week old corgi/ pit bull mix puppy named Allister. He was a wonderful puppy. The first three days in our house, he had only one accident inside. He knew sit, down, shake with either paw, high five, sit pretty, roll over, and too many other endearing tricks to list. He loved people like a pit bull, but respected person space like a corgi. At fourth months, he was a demo dog for the level one obedience class - a class he skipped entirely when he advanced straight to level two. He loved his crate, loved his home, and loved his mama with abandon. Plus he had the biggest ears and cutest spotty nose on the planet.

Please note my use of the past tense.

Today Allister is six months old. He humps things; things like shoes, other dogs' heads, and the air. It's like watching an accordion be amorous. He barks - oh Lord! does he bark! He barks at people, he barks at dogs, he barks when he's frustrated, he barks when he's happy, he barks at tiny air molecules only he can see. But, in a move I can only assume he does purely to confused me, Allister does not bark when people come to the door.  He's gone from playing nicely with the cats to body slamming the cats. He pees. On everything. Including people who pick him up when he's really excited. And his nose isn't even really spotty anymore!

Where did my cute little puppy go, and how much do I have to pay to get him back?

What happened? Well, hormones happened. Just like people, dogs go through puberty: they get lanky and uncoordinated, become sexually aware, and start making no sense at all to us wiser beings. Because puberty is triggered by the pituitary gland in the brain, even dogs who have been spayed or neutered go through some form of mental and physical changes. Depending on the breed, these changes begin somewhere around six months and last up until around two years. During this time, dogs become fertile and capable of creating puppies, although - just like with human teenagers - they shouldn't be allowed to breed at this age due to the physical and mental burden involved. Just because they can make babies doesn't mean they should, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise.

Go into any animal shelter in the nation, and a large portion of the dogs there will be between the ages six months and two years. Why? You guessed it - they're teenagers, with all the accompanying behaviors. Not to mention all the behaviors that were cute as puppies that became less cute when the dog grew up. For example, jumping up and giving kisses was cute when the little lab puppy was the size of a bunny rabbit. It became less cute when the lab grew to be eighty pounds. It was down right ugly when "kiss" got replaced with "hump grandma's leg." And so the little lab puppy became the big lab teenager and landed his butt in doggie jail.

So how do you avoid this all too common outcome? The key to training a teenager is consistency. The rules that applied to puppies (and puppies should have rules - they won't be cute forever!) still apply at six months and at twelve months and at eighteen months. Consistency is important because a teenager's brain is not the same from day to day. What may have looked one way today may look entirely different tomorrow to your dog. Even if it's the same person in the same place with the same command, the dog may have developed new neural pathways in their brain that allows them to see the command with a different perspective. Essentially, it's like having a different dog every day. This is why it's so important for the dog to learn that "no" means "no" and "sit" means "sit" every day, every way, no matter what has changed inside the dog's brain and body that day. Even if you have to speak slowly and use small words.

Piper Ann was a miserable teenager. She turned nine months and her brain melted and oozed out of her ears. She decided that house training was optional and "come" meant "run as fast as you can in the opposite direction." She wasn't being intentionally malicious (all evidence to the contrary); she was just being a teenager. She was at an important stage in her development where she tested her boundaries and needed to learn that "no" means "no" and "sit" means "sit" - no matter how she was feeling that particular day. How did I respond? We went back to basics. I started house training over again with crates and tethers and frequent potty breaks. She no longer got to run off leash, and we went back to work on basic recalls. It may have seemed redundant as I had already taught her these things, but she was a different dog at nine months then she was at four months. As the parents of human teenagers will tell you, you have to repeat yourself a lot when your kids are this age before they understand.

As I work through this phase with Allister, my biggest consolation isn't some great training revelation. It's patience and experience. I know that this, too, shall pass. Today, Piper Ann is a phenomenal dog. She is a certified therapy dog who brings comfort and peace to people from all walks of life. She holds titles in both obedience and rally, and she has a reputation for being an extraordinarily well-behave and stable dog. Even the infamous Maus, who hit the two year mark in November, has become predictable in his old age.

I can see the light at the end of this tunnel wherein Allister becomes a confident, happy, well-trained adult. I know that this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Provided Allister and I don't kill each other first.

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Hi Santa,

Jo here. I'm writing to you because my foster mom says that, "If you don't ask, you can't get upset when you don't receive." But Santa, I'm a simple pup, and I've already gotten so much more than I ever imagined this year. My foster mom says that somewhere out there is a family that will love me more than she does. Can you imagine? Someone who loves me more than my foster mom? They must be really amazing! So maybe you could find them and send them my way? I promise I'd be a really wonderful Christmas present. I'm so small, I'd fit right in a stocking over the fireplace. Then I'd stay nice and warm, too! See how well this would work? But Santa, if you can't find this special family that will love me forever, could you do something else for me?

Could you please, please find a home for Jack?

Actually, we could use a lot of homes. There's a bunch of dogs here at ARLP looking for their forever families, but we also need more foster parents. You might not know, Santa, because I know you're busy with the elves and the snow and everything, but there are a lot of pit bulls living in animal control who will be spending the holidays in cages because there aren't enough foster homes to get them out. Fostering is a lot of fun, because people get to love and play with and snuggle all kinds of great dogs, but they don't have to do things like pay vet bills. Plus there's all the good karma that comes from saving a life! Say, Santa, I bet you and Missus Claus would make great foster parents! I know lots of pitties and rotties that would like to play some reindeer games.

Even if people can't take another dog into their home, ARLP needs other help. We need people to help transport, to take dogs to doggie school, to work on the website, to help with the education program, to help with research projects - gosh, just about anything! If someone has a skill, we'll find something for them to do. Just having an extra set of hands around can be a big help.

Another thing ARLP needs is money. We are entirely funded by the kindness of others - that means the rescue doesn't get any federal or government money. ARLP isn't raising your taxes, no sir! In fact, any money people send us is even tax deductible. But it also means that we rely entirely on donations to keep dogs like me in kibble and vet visits. And Santa, I really like the vets and techs at Blackberry Vet Hospital. They're really nice to me, and always give me lots of treats and snuggles. And ARLP is entirely volunteer run, so 100% of donations goes for the care of the dogs and to the programs we run. Yay!

Of course, these days money is tight, and while there is no donation too small, I understand if folks need to spend money on their kids and rent and groceries, Santa. But maybe you know some people who have new or gently used dog gear they're not using anymore? ARLP always has a need for sturdy collars, leashes, and toys. Food and water bowls, old blankets and bedding, and treats would be much appreciated as well. We need crates, too, Santa. We bullies are hard on our crates - I mangled two of them all by myself before I learned better. The 36 inchers are perfect for dogs my size, although we also have a need for larger, rotti-sized crates and smaller crates for puppies. We'll take wire or plastic crates, new or used - we're not picky! Santa, I bet you know lots of people, so maybe you know someone who has a SUV or a minivan they don't need anymore? It'd be real nice to have a vehicle to transport dogs to vet visits and adoption days. And, y'know, out of Iowa. Lastly, Santa, we could use some winter coats for us dogs. Lady Rachel brought me the biggest jacket we had, and it's about four inches too short for me! And I'm only 40 pounds!

But for the most part, Santa, the folks here make sure I want for nothing. Maybe you could do me a favor, though? I'd really appreciate it. You see, I would not be alive today if it weren't for Rachel and Lara here at ARLP, Tim and Donna at BadRap, Rita the Federal Marshall, and Scott and all the other dedicated people who cared for me at Animal Rescue League of Iowa. They saved me, Santa. If I have a future, it is because of them. The tricks that I will learn, and the minds that I will open, the joy that I will feel and the love that I will give - it is because they were willing to say, "This is a good dog, and we will not let your ignorance take her from the world." Their willingness to fight for me is the reason I am here to fight for others like me. Isn't that incredible, Santa? So I was hoping you might have something extra special to put under their Christmas trees this year. They deserve so much more than the undying gratitude of one little, black, pittie girl.

Thank you so much, Santa, and Merry Christmas.

Love,

Jo

josie

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gift-wrapping

This Friday at the Maple Grove Barnes and Noble, ARLP will be hosting a gift wrapping table from 10:00-2:00. And Guess what? JO WILL BE THERE FROM 10:00-12:00 ! That's right, this is your chance to meet a real bust dog in person. And did I mention that Jo is now officially up for adoption? Come enjoy a good book, support a great cause, and get a little extra Christmas lovin'. You won't be sorry!


jojo

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pitbulldogs

My dogs are pretty well behaved. I can take them out in public, and while they might not always maintain my high standards, they usually exceed those of most people. "I can't believe how well-behaved they are," people tell me. "My dog would be going nuts." I can at least count on my dogs to not embarrass me - even Maus. How is it that I have dogs who behave everywhere we go?

It's simple: I take my dogs everywhere I go.

Too many people, it seems, expect perfection from dogs they don't do anything with. I'd be pretty hyper and distracted on a trip to the pet store as well, if I spent all my time alone in the backyard.

More than that, I like taking my dogs everywhere. I particularly like socializing new dogs, and Jo is no exception. Each dog gives me a new perspective on things I've seen millions of times, common place objects and activities that have lost their magic. Such is the joy of owning a dog, and I feel sorry for people who deny themselves the pleasure.

With a new dog, I start slow. Once Jo got used to the house and all its novelties, it was time to venture off the property. The average suburban neighborhood is boring - that's why people like living there - but Jo pranced around in wide-eyed wonderment as if she'd been given the keys to a fairy kingdom. On one of our daily walks, Jo discovers an inflatable pumpkin - one of those nylon affairs with the little air motor. She drags me over to it, fascinated as I let her sniff her fill. I even hide a few treats under the motor, much to her delight. It's nice to have a dog with an open mind, who wants to see new things and meet new people.

A lot of people never make it to the daily walk: "He pulls," they say. Or, "She's uncontrollable." What a shame to limit your dog because you don't know how to socialize it! Even this early - before we ever leave the house - I'm already teaching Jo how to behave in public. Why do dogs pull? Because it gets them closer to their goal. It's rewarding for dogs to pull. How do you get a dog to stop pulling? You take away the reward. When Jo pulls me toward the inflatable pumpkin, I stop moving forward. When Jo really starts pulling, I start pulling, too - in the opposite direction. Most dogs figure out pretty quickly that in order to reach their goal, they have to stay in control and walk towards it at my pace. Jo still got to see the pumpkin, but she did it on my terms, not hers.

Jo mastered the walk faster than I could have hoped; further proof of her intelligence and sound temperament. It took Maus about six weeks to be functional on our daily walks. Jo did it in four days.

So what's next? Now I start bringing her into public places where she'll interact with other people. My local Chuck&Don's on weekday mornings is perfect for this. Dogs don't generalize well; that is to say, they don't understand that because a certain set of behaviors is expected from them in one place, it will be expected from them in the next place. It's why you'll often hear people say, "But he does so well at home!" So on our first trip to a new place, I always relax my standards a bit and assume that I will have to help the dog behave well, almost as if we were starting over from scratch. Because of this philosophy, I'm rarely disappointed or frustrated by the dog, but am often pleasantly surprised. Jo's first trip to Chuck&Don's is pretty predictable: she tries to raid the open dog food bins, pulls like a demon, and jumps on top of the register counter. And I don't mean she puts her paws up on the counter - she jumped, all four feet from a stand still onto the counter. And she looked pretty pleased with herself about it, too.  I shudder to think how miserably this trip would have gone if we hadn't put all the work into out daily walks. If it's one thing training dogs has shown me, it's that a solid foundation to build upon is critical. Given that we had worked on basic behavior before ever entering the store, the trip wasn't all bad. Jo sat beautifully for every person we saw, and she agreed to leave the bulk treats alone with only a minimal amount of redirection. Our second trip to Chuck&Don's went predictably better. Jo barely pulled, still loved up on the people, and didn't feel the need to prove her athleticism by checking out the cash registers. How'd we manage this? By going slowly, keeping reasonable, consistent expectations, putting in firm foundation training, and having lots of treats to ensure proper behavior.

So what's next for Jo? This week I'm planning a few short, positive trips to Petco to pick out new toys. Petco is similar to Chuck&Don's, but it's bigger, with more new smells and new people. By continuing to take her to new places, I decrease the time she needs to generalize her training into new places. Soon, she'll learn that "sit" means put your butt on the ground no matter where we are or what's around us. Jo's a sharp little thing, and I can credit a lot of the speed at which we're moving to her intelligence. On the other hand,  Piper Ann, who's dumber than people who don't use their turn signals, generalizes to new places in no time flat. Why? Because I've spent the last four years taking her everywhere with me. It's a lot of training, particularly in the beginning. But to have a dog who is well socialized, and that I can count on to behave properly in almost every situation? The work is well worth the reward.

coppit

Being the people pleasers that they are, pit bulls, when solidly trained, are filled with endless potential.

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handsome-jack-024I've had a few people ask me about ARLP's most unusual foster, so I thought I'd write a little bit on how we came to have a cat in a Rottweiler and pit bull rescue.

A couple of months ago, my dad and I were out in the driveway working on my car. We got into a discussion about who would come out on top in a fight: your average pit bull or your average farm bred tomcat. When who should saunter up the drive way but a scrawny, white and grey boy cat.

My dad and I looked at each other and grinned.

Luckily for Jack, better sense won out and I did not feed him to Maus. Instead, I set the kitty up in my garage with an extra litter box, some fresh water, and a much appreciated meal and gave animal control a call. Where they told me in no uncertain terms that if they came and got the cat, he would be put to sleep after five days without ever hitting the adoption room floor. Harsh as it seems, I don't blame them for this policy; they're just telling the way it is. As tight as things are in canine rescue, cat rescue is even worse off. The little buggers breed like rabbits; a single, unfixed pair of cats and their offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in seven years. This is compared to the 4,372 puppies produced by a pair of dogs in the same time frame. Yikes, right? But being who I am, I can't just turn over a perfectly nice cat to death, not when I have the resources to care for him.

Unfortunately, I do not have the resources to care for him right now.

I play it by the book, hoping an owner will appear: I call the local pet stores and vet offices, I get the kitty - now going by the name "Handsome Jack the Garage Cat" - scanned for a microchip, I cruise petfinder and craigslist, and nothing. Which is also not surprising. Only and estimated 2-5% of cats who go missing are ever reunited with their owners. So Jack's stray period flies by, and I am, by law, the owner of five cats.

Ugh.

Luckily for me, Rachel is who she is, and when I called her up asking if she knew of anyone who could help a sister out, she didn't hesitate. We worked out a deal: Jack could enter the ARLP program if I agreed to foster him. So Jack got vetted, neutered, and moved into the house. Which is further proof that it's not what you know, it's who and how good a guilt trip you can give them.

With a little TLC, Jack has blossomed into a wonderful pet. He's not a huge fan of being picked up, but he puts up with it, and he loves to ride around on your shoulder like a parrot. He drinks water out of the tap. He's obsessed with string, and he looooooves his food. The lucky people in Jack's forever home will never have to worry about bugs or mice as he is an avid and excellent hunter. Jack likes people and as with most cats, insists that the people around him give at least occasional homage. But he's not needy. He lets me dress him up, which is cool because not even my own cats will let me do that - if I put clothes on them, they fall over and refuse to move. Not Jack, though! Jack was a pumpkin for Halloween (complete with hat), and he perched on my shoulder and helped pass out candy to all the little monsters. I can't think of a cat more deserving a spot in rescue.

The only thing Jack deserves more is a home of his very own.

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jofriends

Including Jo, I have four bully breed dogs living at my house, all with their own individual quirks and levels of dog tolerance. So as you can imagine, it's in my best interest to make sure introductions are done smoothly and properly for the sake of harmony in the herd and sanity in my brain. Piper Ann the boxer is probably my most easy-going dog, but she's had a few bad encounters and tends to be nervous when meeting other dogs. Not the rip-your-face off kind of nervous, but the hide-behind-mom nervous. Maus is dog selective; mostly, he views dogs the same way he views people - he would be thrilled if they would all drop off the face of the planet. He's the type of dog the two week shut down was invented for. Given the opportunity to get to know strange dogs from a distance first, he warms up eventually and usually can become friends with most dogs. Riley is a bit of a question mark lately. He used to be dog social, but as his joints and his brain tumor get worse, he's become more unpredictable. I've thought about not introducing Jo and Riley at all, but crating and rotating means that I have to spend less time with Riley, and, well, I can't do that to my friend.

And of course, Jo is my wild card. Is she good with other dogs? It's hard to say. She bears the scars of fights, even if she was never in a fighting pit, and she comes from game-bred stock. Things were pretty tense with the cats when Jo first got here, and there were a lot of dominance displays. Let's also not forget her hate/hate relationship with Jack. Jo certainly doesn't put up with any BS from other critters, that's for sure. Jo's also in heat, which adds hormones to the mix.

For Jo's first week here, she and the rest of the herd were completely separated. They saw nothing of each other and were on complete crate and rotate. This was to allow them to get used to each other's scents and sounds, and to allow Jo time to get used to the house before being introduced to a group of dogs that, I admit, can be rather overwhelming. This week we've been relaxing things in preparation for more formal, one-on-one introductions with each of the dogs. Starting Monday, the dogs were allowed to see each other during rotations, and we've advanced to the point we're at today. Jo is crated next to me at the computer, and the other three have the run of the basement. Mostly, my herd ignore Jo, aside from a cursory sniff while checking in with me. Jo feels pretty much the same and occasionally checks them out before resuming her nap.

So things are going pretty well so far, and I decided to run upstairs quick and heed the call of nature. Now, I know you should need leave bully breeds together unattended, but Jo's crated, my three haven't argued about anything in a year or so, I'll be able to hear them the whole time, and I really have to go! So I blitz upstairs quick, and feeling much better, return.

Four dogs greet me at the top of the stairs.

That's right, in the thirty seconds or so it took me to pee, Jo figured out how to escape from her crate.

And then . . .

Nothing happened.

Well, tails and nubbins were wagging, everybody had an hour or so of good bully play, Jo tried to convince Riley and Maus to be her babies's daddies, I tried to convince Riley and Maus they no longer had the required parts, and Piper had a grand time laughing at all of us, I'm sure. Afterward, I took everybody out to potty, passed out some treats, and settled everyone into their crates for dinner. It could have been bad.

But it wasn't.

Which I guess just goes to show you that the best laid plans of mutts and women often go awry.

And then turn out for the best anyway.

Disclaimer: Folks, don't try this at home! Leaving any group of dogs alone unsupervised is dangerous, particularly when those dogs are pit bulls. This incident could have gone veryveryveryveryvery badly for us, and we were veryveryveryveryvery lucky it didn't. Keep in mind that these dogs had been getting to know each other for almost two weeks. Also, just because they get along on day 10 doesn't mean problems won't crop up on day 20 or day 720. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to get this herd of dogs living together peacefully. This isn't a story about the warm glow of heaven; this is a story about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Question: How is Jo, a former fighting pit bull, different from other dogs?

Jo is smaller than I thought she'd be. She has triangular, shar-pei like ears that meet in the middle of her forehead when she's thinking and that can stand straight up when I'm bored. Jo is pudgy, which seems strange until you realize that shelter workers don't have a lot of extra time, but they do usually have extra treats. Her coat color is seal: that is, a black so dark you can see your face in it with chocolate and tarnished silver highlights. She has faint scars on her front legs, and one through her left eyebrow.

When she's nervous, Jo licks her lips.

Jo is a little intense about cats, but she's getting better. Donna, of BadRap fame, pointed out to us that most bust dogs have never seen a cat, and therefore do well with them if introduced properly despite their high drive natures. Jo and Handsome Jack don't like each other at all - both of them are too "pit bull" to back down from the other. But we had a proud moment yesterday when Jack went to smack Jo for being too pushy, and Jo - instead of fighting back - turned to me for direction. I threw her a treat party. In contrast, Jo loves Keagan, my long-haired, red-headed boy. If she had her way, she'd probably spend hours bathing his ears. She's going to get hairballs.

A lot of the past week has been teaching Jo the ins and outs of living in a house. Everything is new to her: she spent twenty minutes today fascinated with the flushing toilet. The tv was another revelation, but personally, I think she just has a crush on Hugh Laurie (because, really, who doesn't?). She is enamored of squeeky toys, adores her kongs, and thinks rawhide chews are the best invention ever. She's not a big fan of her crate, and she loves the backyard. One of her favorite games is running through the piles of leave while I'm trying to rake.

Jo loves people. She even seems to like all the little kids running around the neighborhood, which is great because not even I like all the little kids running around the neighbor hood. Whenever she meets someone new, she huddles up to them and hold very still as if she's afraid the person will change his or her mind and leave. I don't think I've met many dogs as desperate for love as Jo.

She's got a smile to melt hearts.

My parents have a Yorkie that was part of a hoader's collection for the first two years of her life. Katy's a sweet dog (honest!), but she's dumber than a dead fish. I've always wondered if it was because of Katy's personality or because she was never taught how to learn in those first crucial years. So I was worried for Jo. It turns out I worried for nothing, though. Jo's smarter than some people I know, even if she has the attention span of a two year-old on espresso. I'd probably be a little unfocused right now, too, if I'd never seen indoor plumbing before.

Question: How is Jo, a former fighting pit bull, different from other dogs?

Answer: She's not.

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josie1Today, I decided to pick out a collar for my soon-to-be arriving bust dog, Jo. I dumped all 50+ of them on the floor and started digging. Finally, I had it narrowed down to two: a lovely silken black with a gold bamboo and Chinese coin design, or a sky blue collar with cheery sock monkeys.

As I sat there holding these two collars, I started thinking about how surreal this new life would be for Jo. Can you imagine? From a life tied to a 15 foot chain to running free in the grass (well, what's left of it in the yard, anyway). Never again will Jo need to wonder if there's going to be a "next meal." She'll have beds and blankets and couches to sleep on, instead of a tipped over barrel on cold, hard-packed dirt. No more fighting wounds stapled shut in dirty garages. No more fighting pits. No more litters of puppies gone to who knows where.

No more living at the mercy of someone who cares more about dollar signs than suffering.

With blood and pain, Jo has earned true compensation for the damages done to her. And what if I'm not up to the task? What if Maus doesn't like her? What if Jo doesn't like Piper Ann? What if she tries to eat the cats? What if she jumps the fence in the back yard? What if she jumps the fence into the neighbor's backyard because Hoolie, the charming and exuberant black lab, wants to play? What if she kills a squirrel, and eats it, and it gets stuck in her intestine, and her bowel turns necrotic and she dies? What if I'm just not good enough for her?

This is when Maus climbs into my lap, gives me a dirty look, and tries to curl up for a nap. I laugh and kiss his head.

Have I mentioned that Maus can read my mind?

And he's absolutely right. I have a good home and a good life to offer Jo. Two meals a day, a roof over her head, a job to do, and a life that doesn't require she fight for the entertainment of others. I'm not foolish enough to think that there aren't monsters under the bed and demons in the closet for us, but I can give Jo peace. The same peace that I've given Riley and Piper Ann and Maus and dozens of other dogs that have made their way through my home and heart.

I can't think of anything Jo deserves more.

I'll bring the black and gold collar. This little girl has earned a bit of elegance.

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