Author Archives: Lara


Pearls have been a source of fascination for centuries. They have been considered the most magical and feminine of all gems and are the only one created by a living organism. Pearls emanate a certain warmth and glow not found in other gems, due to their unique beginnings.

First and foremost, Pearla's story is a success story. One in which a severely ill dog beat amazing odds to survive.

Pearla was found discarded, emaciated, wounded and starving. But this little dog wanted nothing more than to survive. By sheer strength of will and the endearing fabric of her personality, Pearla forever changed the strangers she encountered. Together they joined in her fight to not only overcome her health issues but to enable her to become an ambassador for her breed.

Here is her story.

Last October (2009) an unsuspecting man found a severely malnourished and banged up pit bull in St. Paul's Frogtown, a part of town not known for its kindness to her breed.  Heavy frost already blanketed the Twin Cities and the nightly temperatures were dipping into the high 20’s to low 40's overnight. Her emaciated frame bore swollen and bleeding puncture wounds about her head and neck. Not able to walk on by, Pearla's  Good Samaritan brought her to an emergency veterinary clinic to have her wounds cleaned and stitched.

The person who found Pearla, while compelled to spend the money to stabilize and make her comfortable, was not in a position to keep her. However, he had a friend. As luck would have it the friend happened to be a veterinarian.

Pearla weighed a mere 32 pounds when she made it to Carver Lake Veterinary Center. That was a full 4 days after being found! Her first stool while in the care of the animal hospital contained a shoe lace-possible evidence that Pearla had been scavenging for anything she could eat to fend off starvation.

Pearla spent the next four months at CLVC, gaining weight, battling ringworm, fighting infections, and regenerating her coat. She also got to go home with Dr. Hunter for sleep overs. She really liked those a lot.

On Feb. 4, 2010, her first negative culture for ringworm came back, and the decision was made for Pearla to move out of the clinic, and into a home. A Rotta Love Plus (ARLP) was contacted and upon our meeting Pearla the decision was quickly made that she was an ideal candidate for our rescue program.

With her body on the mend, she went into foster care on February 13th. So loved was she by her veterinarian caregiver that accompanying her to her new foster home were three sweaters, two t-shirts, a fleece lined reflective coat, indoor bootie socks, and well-used outdoor booties (protection against MN winter snow and ice). She weighed 49lbs.

Pearla's weight transition is the equivalent of a healthy 180lb human, weighing 117lbs.

In foster care, it was time for Pearla to explore the world as a pet, instead of a scavenger or clinic mascot.  Daily walks were hard on her tender feet, but great stimulation for her active little mind. Pearla learned basic leash manners, and started Level One Obedience classes. She learned to potty outside.

It is with great pride that I share Pearla is both a Canine Good Citizen and a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International. All accomplished in just the 2.5 months she has been in foster care.

Pearla's health is still a balancing act. We are all at a loss for her continuing skin problems and intense itching. But she has come so far, overcome some pretty meager odds, and taught us all at ARLP that life is to be cherished and enjoyed to the fullest.

We will do our best to send her out into the world just as physically healthy and vibrant as the impression she has left on all of our hearts.

Special thanks to a very special foster, Paige. What a wonderful gift you have given us in Pearla.


Leadership Basics

A simple guide to regaining your dog's respect in pleasant, non-confrontational ways

by Suzanne Clothier

There are three basic aspects to leadership:

- Control of or undisputed access to resources

- Proactive intervention

- Ability to control, direct or inhibit the behavior of others

Behaving like a leader means that you must demonstrate – to the dog’s satisfaction! – that your behavior is that of a higher status animal. Each dog will have different criteria for what constitutes adequate leadership skills on your part. And his expectations may change considerably as he grows & matures, requiring that you also make shifts in your approach.

Directing, Controlling & Inhibiting Behavior

From the dog’s perspective, only someone they respect has the right to control, direct or inhibit another dog’s behavior. Turned around the other way, this means that if you can’t control, direct or inhibit your dog’s behavior (especially at critical or highly exciting times), your dog is making it quite clear that he does not consider you higher status – in other words, he doesn’t respect you, a clear sign that your leadership is inadequate for that dog (though it may be quite adequate for another dog with a different personality.)

Your dog will grant you precisely the respect you have earned. No more, no less. And he will adjust that constantly. If you begin to act in sloppy ways, he’ll downgrade the respect. Clean up your act, and he’ll respond accordingly. You are not voted leader for life in the world of dogs – you earn the dog's respect daily.

The more intelligent, confident and ambitious the dog, the more likely he is to quickly notice tiny shifts in your behavior on any given day, and to test you and the rules regularly. This is why when changes occur in our lives, which result in changes in our behavior (as simple as being rushed for time to moving, changing jobs, or other bigger life shifts) prompt new behavior from the dog - he's testing to see what the changes mean for him.

Basic training is important to help the dog understand that you can control and direct his behavior, something you will also be teaching him through your resource control actions. But you must earn the respect and the right to control the dog’s behavior. If you do not have control of the dog in non-stressful times – like meals or playing ball or even walking (pulling?) down the street – I guarantee you he’s not going to listen to you when something he thinks important happens (like a cat dashing across your path or a jogger going by or another dog appearing on the street, the person at the door, etc.)

Practice self-control with your dog frequently, as well as basic obedience in every place you can think of, and with you in every possible position. Act like a leader, earn the respect!

Proactive Intervention

Good leaders are watchful, protective and quick to act to defend. When you are with your dog, really be with him, and watching his responses to the world around him. Plan ahead how you will handle situations you know may be troublesome. Be someone he can rely on no matter what. If it helps, think of him as a guest at a party or family gathering who is unsure of what may be the polite or appropriate thing to say or do. If you were helping such a guest, how would you do this? By paying close attention, anticipating situations where help may be needed, and avoiding those situations that he couldn’t handle.

How do you know if your leadership is adequate for any given dog?

If you can control or have access to ANY resource without the dog challenging your right to it AND the dog allows you to control, direct or inhibit his behavior in highly exciting or critical moments (quiet times with just you & the dog do NOT count; controlling the dog when a cat dashes past or someone knocks on the door or when guests comes DO count) AND Your dog trusts that you will step in if necessary to protect him from other dogs or people, and is willing to defer to you on these occasions.

If there are weak points in any of these areas, you may need to make some changes in your leadership style.

One easy, non-confrontational way to gain your dog’s respect is through resource control.

Regaining Resource Control

What Matters To Your Dog? Make a written list of the top 5-10 resources for your dog. This may be food, treats, toys, attention, play, special resting places, walks, car rides, etc. Hopefully you are on the list! Don’t waste your time or the dog’s by trying to control resources that don’t mean much to the dog.

What Can You Ask From Your Dog? Make a list of EVERY behavior your dog knows – whether formal commands or tricks. From this list, you will draw your “request” of one or more behaviors which must be completed promptly, on one quiet command and executed exactly before you will provide the resource. For access to any resource, insist that your dog “give” you something before you provide the resource.

A sit or down is a basic starting point; however, as the dog’s skills allow, make the dog work harder. Put 2 or 3 behaviors together; do not be predictable! Too many folks stay with a simple sit or down, never progressing to much more demanding requests as the dog’s skills allow. Remember how your mom got all excited when you were finally able to write your name? Well, it’s good to remember that these days folks take that for granted and expect much more from you. Asking a truly intelligent dog to merely sit is like asking Bill Gates for $100 – it’s not exactly requiring him to give something meaningful.

Making the request meaningful relative to the dog’s skills will sharpen him up - he must really concentrate and pay attention to you. Ask for any and all skills the dog has, and all the tricks he knows, and mix them up in an unexpected order.

The goal is the dog’s complete attentive cooperation, not a habituated response that requires no thought from the dog.

No Grading on the Curve. Set your baseline for acceptable responses and hold tight. If you want the dog to sit within 2 seconds, then accept NO responses that are slower. Being consistent is an important part of leadership. Smart dogs will push you hard to see if you’ll accept less or slower responses – that’s what got you both into this situation in the first place!

Consistency Counts! Be relentless. Your dog views you as his leader 24 hours a day. He cannot and will not understand your annoying boss, your in-law problems or your IRS woes as the reasons for your inconsistency.

He believes what you say – every time!

Too Bad If the dog offers a wrong or slow response, you can repeat the command, try again, or even gently remind/help him, you can offer verbal praise & encouragement BUT do not provide the desired resource till he gets it absolutely right. If the dog blows you off, quietly turn away and make the resource unavailable.

This may mean putting the food bowl in the refrigerator and walking away for a few minutes before nicely asking again. It may mean walking away from the door you would have opened if the dog had played by the rules. It may mean ending the game of fetch. Try again in a few minutes to see if the dog is more willing to cooperate, but be sure YOU are the one who chooses to start again, not the dog pushing you to it.

Stay Cool No need to be harsh, angry or confrontational. Simply draw a direct line from the dog’s behavior to the consequence – “if you do this, this happens.” For example, you ask the dog to lie down before throwing his ball, and he refuses. Oh well – game is over; you pocket the ball and walk away for a bit (maybe just 5-15 seconds; maybe much longer; all depends on the situation and the dog's behavior.) Take home message for the dog: “If you do not cooperate, I don’t play.”

Earn Your Oscar! When necessary, be dramatic in your responses – acting shocked or deeply disappointed with the wrong response from the dog, sweetly encouraging if he’s almost right, and dramatic in your withdrawal should he really blow it. Often, handlers offer such "mushy" information that the dog has a hard time telling the difference between what's right and what's wrong. Harsh or angry is not necessary; but clearly delighted or disappointed can help the dog figure things out.

Educate The Dog The more your dog knows, the more ways he has to cooperate with you. Polish up his current skills, and keep adding new ones; more & more tricks, for example, gives your dog more ways to be right and earn what he wants. Training is communication, and communication is critical to healthy relationships. Besides, it’s just plain fun!



Foster Mamma Paige and her Charge, Pearla.

Whoever is lucky enough to adopt Pearla will not only get Pearla they will get Pearl a la CGC. Super star foster mom Paige and Pearla have been working really hard on getting that most coveted CGC and tonight it all paid off.

Congratulations to the both of you! I think someone is gonna get some extra long Jolly Ball fun.



Blog post by Josie's mamma Sara N.

Josie will be tested for her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification tonight.  For those of you unfamiliar with the CGC certification, it is basically designed to tell the world that your dog will consistently display basic good-doggy manners while faced with various distractions.

For Jo, the CGC is a stepping stone to achieving the Therapy Dogs International (TDI) certification, which will allow her to participate in various aspects of the thriving ARLP Education Program.  It is also just one more stop on her journey from former Iowa bust dog to Therapy Dog and Pit Bull Ambassadog Extraordinaire.  This is what I believe she was born for; as ARLP president Rachel once said, Josie is “love, tenderness, and compassion personified in the fur.”

However, before she can fulfill this destiny, she – along with her dedicated but novice and slightly neurotic owner, yours truly – will have to pass the test.  And I am nervous.

Conversing with a close friend about the upcoming assessment, I rambled on anxiously about the steps of the test, explaining that while most aspects would be a piece of cake for her, others might pose a challenge (e.g., her tendency to express heartfelt enthusiasm toward approaching strangers, or as Josie calls them, “new BFFs,” in lieu of following my instructions).  As any good friend would, she listened patiently as my imagination ran wild about my potential to be an utter failure as the guardian of this very special dog.  And, as any good friend would, she reassured me.  “Don’t be nervous,” she said, kindly.  “If she doesn’t pass this time, there will be other chances.  It’s just a test!”

Despite her gentle (not to mention admittedly accurate) reassurances, in that moment, “just a test” sounded a bit like the famous poem, “Just a Dog:” “If you, too, think it's ‘just a dog,’ then you probably understand phrases like ‘just a friend,’ ‘just a sunrise,’ or ‘just a promise.’”

Similarly, to me, tonight’s “just a test” is “just a responsibility” that I have to the lovely Josie, who underwent so much suffering at the hands of her previous owners before being handed the lucky ticket out of that world by her Iowa and Minnesota rescuers.

It is “just evidence” to the world that a dog born with the literally deadly combination of bad breed reputation and bust-dog upbringing can be an extraordinary gift to, rather than a burden on, the community.

It is “just gratitude” to everyone who had a hand in Josie’s bright future before I even met her – the Iowa shelter workers and ARLP volunteers and donors whose countless hours, dollars, compassion, and patience brought this amazing companion into my home.  And it is “just respect” for the tears they shed over the many other dogs that they tried to, but ultimately could not, save in the same way.

Finally, it is “just an indication” that I am doing my part, however small, to make sure their efforts will not go to waste.

Josie, of course, has no idea what the meaning of tonight’s test is, aside from another opportunity to prance around in front of a throng of people, ears stacked proudly on top of her head like a crown.  As for me?  I can’t help but feel that it means something more.

Update: Josie did not pass this round but she'll be re-testing on the 19th and trying her hand at the TDI test at the end of the month.

She wants to know when the official "look cute and investigate all interesting surroundings" test is. She says she totally would have passed that one.



Artwork by Abby Cline

Deviant Art is a benefit art show for A Rotta Love Plus.

Over twenty artists, vendors, youth and adult groups' artwork!

Meet some ARLP program dogs, current and past, including Josie, Pearla, Jana and Mo-Bits.

Mingle with ARLP volunteers and dog lovers, experience the artwork, make your mark with the community mural, sample the food, and support ARLP!

Free to attend

Northrup King Building Gallery 332
1500 Jackson Street NE, Mpls., MN 55413

Saturday, April 10, 2010
3:00 pm - 9:00 pm



Hey All. Its me, Zoza. I thought I would give ya’ll an update on my situation. Well, a while back I posted about needing a forever home. Good news, my blog post obviously reached the right people cuz I have been adopted!!

Funny story.

My foster momma helped me to post my plight and get the word out I was looking for my forever family. And we waited and we waited and I tried to be patient… Well one day, my foster momma asked my foster dad, “what if?” I pretended not to be listening and feigned disinterest. On their little conversation went.

Foster momma said, “what if Zoza was adopted? Could we live with that?”

Whoa lady, back up that horse- was my response, what did she want, me to be in limbo for the rest of my life? To always be a foster and never have a forever family? Now that didn’t sound fair. But I sat and listened as they continued to discuss something called pros and cons. Then they talked about the f word. The f word? Whatever that is.

Anyways, this conversation started happening about once a week. Then my two legged foster sister showed up and we played and snuggled. One day she told my foster momma that “Zoza is my dog!” Then the f word got talked about every day. The pros, the cons, blah blah blah. Foster momma talked into her little crazy machine that rings- that’s where her sister lives - and they talked and talked-all the time. Did I mention she likes to talk? Well on this continued.

Then one night, while we were all sitting on the couch relaxing she told me. She told me that I wouldn’t have to look for a forever home anymore- that I was going to be adopted! Now I was excited, this was big, BIG news. But I was a little sad, you see, I really love my foster family, they do fun things with me. Training, walks, fetch (or as I like to call it, throw the ball and chase), snuggles and Foster Momma even makes me homemade puppy treats. I snuggled in close to her as she talked to me and my foster daddy and she said that she would be my Momma and I wouldn’t have to call her foster momma anymore. Cuz they failed and I would be with them forever. WHATEVER! How could keeping me forever possibly be a fail? Silly Momma.

Obviously my blog made my Momma start asking herself, as she says, the hard questions. She says that she could not imagine not having me in her life- yeah, I have that affect on people. She said that I fit in and that I am not only awesome with my two legged sister, but great and gentle and everything they could ask for. So to all you peeps out there wondering, I found my forever home. Lara even came out to make it official and Momma ordered me a new collar and I get a license. How cool is that? It feels real nice to be adopted. So for all you pups out there waiting. Be patient, cuz its worth the wait- promise and once you are in your forever home, man is that a sweet feeling.



Ya, I am a playa’. I love everyone and I will show them!! Now, my foster mom told me that someone called me slutty. She didn’t think that was the right word so she looked up the word slut in the dictionary and the definition is “slovenly woman”, she said that I am a playa’ instead. Must be the boy version.

My foster mom has a cat! Did you know that? This is a big gray ball of fur but sadly enough he won’t play with me, don’t know why he just won’t. Dennis told me about this cat before he left for his forever home, but being the playa’ that I am, I figured he wouldn’t be an issue. He is.

I kinda like it here. I get two squares a day, a game of tug with my foster mom or my foster sister Biloxi and I get treats like crazy. But, I always have to do something for them; she doesn’t just give them to me. I either have to sit or lay down and now my foster mom is trying to get me to look her in the eyes. But hey it’s for food. No biggie. Oh and get this – she makes me WAIT for my dinner!!! She puts the food in the dish and she makes me sit and wait until SHE says it’s okay to eat. What the heck is that all about?

Thursday I got to go to an office. Who cares what it is called; there were people there! I kept hearing words like snuggly and adorable. I think these are good, right? There is this guy named Jim that works there and he said that he didn’t like Pitbulls……CONVERT!!! He couldn’t keep his hands off of me. Must have been the snuggles I gave him. He even took a picture of me. Score!

Wednesday I got to go to the vet. What nice ladies! They gave me treats and I didn’t have to do a thing, just be my very cute playa’ self. I overheard my foster mom telling someone that I got shots (I don’t think this a fun thing) and I didn’t even know it! I probably didn’t notice because one the nice ladies was giving me treats – just giving them to me!!

Oh that kennel thing, let’s chat about that for a minute. Do all foster dogs have to go into this contraption? Just whose idea was this anyway? Okay, so I go in and I get a treat. Big deal, she closes the door and I am stuck there! Then she started putting really stinky treats in my kong, big deal, I eat them and they are gone. Then…………….I am stuck there!!! I tried crying, whining and barking. Nothing works; there I am until she lets me out. Don’t tell anyone, it really isn’t that bad. It has a nice comfy blanket and my kong.

I have one other problem. I L.O.V.E. to snuggle. My foster sister is not a snuggler, she does allow me next to her from time to time, but she isn’t happy about it, it’s like she is doing me a favor. So I take advantage of it when I can, but I have found out that my foster mom is a snuggler. Ahhhh. Maybe this isn’t a problem after all. I have to think about this.

All things considered, life here is good. Thank you ARLP ladies for letting me out of the cage and into this nice home (even if my foster mom does make me wait for my food).

This sums up my first week as a foster dog…..more tails to come!! (get it?)

Albert the Playa’



Waiting for Adoption

By Zoza, aka, Wozie, Zozie, Woza

It’s not bad, being a foster dog that is.  I get 2 squares a day and treats.  I get to go for walks and on adventures to Pet Smart where all the nice ladies dote on me, and pet me and put more treats into my belly.  Its not bad living with my foster parents either.  They love me and cuddle with me and help me learn manners.  They compliment my progress and are patient when I am still learning.

It’s not bad at all.  But there is a rumor out there; I saw it on the ARLP forum.  There are other dogs finding their forever homes.

Now for me, sure a forever home would be nice.  No more temporary people with a temporary home, but hey a temporary home is still a home.  I mean, it’s good for a dog like me, right?

I don’t really feel sorry for myself, like I said I have it pretty cake and all.  But you know I am a very pretty lil pittie who loves, loves, loves people.  I am a happy girl and pretty low maintenance- I know when to go outside and take care of business, if you know what I mean.

Now don’t get me wrong, those ARLP ladies know what they are doing and take in only the Pitt of the litter, (or rott) so we are all awesome pups to adopt, but have you seen me??? I am just an awesome girly and my foster parents think that I deserve the bestest.  Ok, so maybe those dogs that were recently adopted found their “right” home, the perfect match so to speak.  And my foster momma has promised to keep me for as long as it takes, and yeah, I am a little special.  So what if dogs scare me- I am awesome with kids and would love to be YOUR dog.  Do you know anything about pitties; cause let me tell you, I am an exceptional pittie.  Alright, I am being biased here, and in truth, we are all exceptional.  But what does it take to find perfection anyways?  I mean, my forever home has to be out there right?

Oh, and if you are considering adopting me, let me help sway you…

Do you ever come home from work and just wish someone was smiling at you? Well that’s me.

Do you ever wish you had someone to cuddle you and give you sloppy kisses? Me again.

Do you ever wish that someone would love you in spite of the holiday weight you put on? Guess what, I don’t care what you weigh.

How about an exercise partner and motivator? Well then I am your dog.

Got kids who need an awesome playmate- Gosh, that sounds like me too.

Need someone to play dress up with? Have you seen my bio- cuz I have been everything from a bee to a turtle.

Need someone to listen?  I am a great listener, I could listen to you talk all day.

Have a yard and you need someone to run around and act silly with?  Well, I am a pittie and its well known that we are all silly clowns.

All your friends bragging about their two and four legged kids? I can give you lots to brag about- I am not only beautiful, but smart too.

Hey kids, don’t like your veggies?  Shhh...I don’t mind sharing and it will be our little secret.

Puppies not your thing? Great, cuz I am a full grown lady- who can play like a pup at a moments notice.

Live in an apartment, house, townhouse? Perfect cause I am not picky, so long as you have the right insurance then we are A-OK.

Need a lifetime friend?  I will be your life long companion.

Only looking to be a one dog house hold? Great I have enough love that you won’t need another pet, I will love you forever and unconditionally, promise.

Ever feel like something is missing? Me too.  I am looking for you and waiting as patiently as possible, cause my foster momma keeps telling the best things are worth waiting for-so if your looking for me, I am available for adoption and would make your home complete.  My name is Zoza and I am ready to be yours!


I first met Haley in September of 2009. She was one of the 35 dogs seized in Iowa. Iowa was one of the states involved in that big ‘ol crap storm in July of 2009.

In Iowa Haley was my introduction to what was going to be. The first dog of 35 we were going to be evaluating for the US Marshall who would then present our findings to the presiding federal judge.

Haley was lucky. She had Rita, the US Marshall who worked tirelessly to find someone, anyone, qualified to evaluate pit bull temperament. Rita had a plan. She wanted to be in a position to cognitively appeal to the presiding judge on the dogs’ behalf. To Rita, there had to be a place in the world somewhere for some of these dogs.

She was right there was.

There hasn’t been a lot about Haley on our forum or this blog.  Life outside of the shelter was a scary thing. Haley has needed time to adjust. Lucky for her she scored a spot with ARLP treasurer Amy and her dude, disc dogger, Larry. How awesome was that?? Together they have worked to introduce Haley to a world that she would want to be a part of.

As Haley began venturing out of her shell Amy and Larry noticed that Haley was having issues with one of her legs. When some R&R failed to improve the condition they brought her to ARLP’s veterinarian, Dr. Rahimi. X-rays revealed that our sweet little Haley had a luxating patella. This occurs when the groove at the bottom of the femur in which the patella (knee cap) slides up and down, is too shallow.  The knee cap slides from side to side instead of sliding up and down, and jumps out of the groove - or "luxates".   When the joint is luxated, it causes the leg to go lame or limp - not to mention it is very painful.  If left untreated, the groove will wear down and the joint will become arthritic, causing permanent swelling, poor mobility or total lameness.

Last week Haley had surgery to repair the patella. It went well! And we are all hopeful that Haley will make a full recovery. The hardest part now will be keeping her still. For in true pittie fashion, Haley feels she is good to go. And why shouldn’t she? Life is good now. No more dogfighters, no more rotating knee caps, no more scary things.

Here is some video footage of Haley. Haley remains uber camera shy but we will do our best to get photos to document her progress.

As you can imagine, Haley's surgery was expensive. Even though we are only a lil' bitty rescue operating on a shoestring we didn't think twice about whether or not to make this repair. Haley has come too far to start hitting snags now.

If you would like to help A Rotta Love Plus with the cost of the surgery and follow-up care by making a donation, please click on the donate button at the top left of this page.




No this isn't a pit bull, or a Rottweiler for that matter. It is a poodle though. A poodle I am calling Mugs.

Mugs was seized by Animal Humane Society from a Minnesota puppy mill.

The mill dogs have a special place in my heart. And when the call came for help I couldn't say no. After all we have a cat on our available dogs page why not a poodle? Mugs was not at all what I expected he would be. Initially at AHS he shut down, would not be handled and was all whale eye.

I was fully expecting to put some work into Mugs with the hope he would eventually be adoptable. I thought six months was a realistic guess.The moppet was afraid that is for sure but he wanted my attention even though he was afraid, a really good sign. I brought him home and sequestered him in the living room fully prepared for a dog that possibly would want nothing to do with me.  Especially after I bathed him.

Mugs was foul. He was so matted there wasn't an area with single hairs anywhere on his being. His rear end looked like 6 Brillo pads had been smashed and glued onto his back. Into the tub he went. I like to use lavender scented baby soap for the new stinky dogs that come into my home. What better way to wash the stank out?

This is what the bathtub looked like afterward. Those are mattes floating in the water. Keep in mind, Mugs is a 7 lb dog.

Mugs survived the bath. He actually didn't mind it as long as I let him stand with his front paws on the side of the bathtub with his face in my chest. I was smitten immediately.

Once the little bugger dried he looked like this.

Once he was clean and the additional dog was removed from his body it became only too apparent that this was one HAPPY dog! Just a nut box. And, well, I love me some nut boxes. When they say that dogs don't carry baggage there isn't a dog who I have met that serves as a better example of that than Mugs. I wish all puppy mill survivors and rescues could be so lucky.

Mugs is two years old. The first two years of his life were spent in a puppy mill. Right from the git all Mugs has wanted to do was interact with me. He was all about this woman who brought him to this new place, tossed him into a bathtub of water, cut the mattes away from his body and massaged him with lavender soap while whispering sweet nothings into his ear. I guess a little slice of heaven in his frame of reference.

Mugs is curious. He is smart. He is sweet. Which is why dealing with the fact that he will piss and poo at will and doesn't know what stairs are that much more bearable. It is fun working with Mugs because Mugs throws himself into all with gusto. Yes, that includes going outside into the cold and snow to potty even though he doesn't know that outside is the only place potty belongs. Just coz you be little doesn't mean you can't potty outside, right Chi?

Let me tell you it does a body good. Chi, who like Mugs, spent the first two years of his life in a puppy mill, will never be curious. He will never let anyone but me see the quirky happy dog he has become since coming to live with me three years ago. It took Chi almost a week before he would even approach me. He would stare at me from inside his kennel intently. Waiting, ready to run if necessary.

And that is ok. Chi has taught me many valuable lessons, something all dogs can do if we stop long enough to listen.

The world is Mug's oyster. And I feel lucky to be a part of this initial exploration of life beyond kennel bars.

Special thank you to Stacie and Micaela at Central Bark in Eden Prairie for donating their time and grooming services to Mugs.