Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Helping the ones I love verses helping the ones who need me

Some new kids, 2 adorable one year oldish German Shepherds who are off getting fixed and will be back next week and available for adoption. They seem very friendly, playful, and nice so far.

The black dog is Mongo, he's been at the shelter for months now, I've been working with him since January. He's at the point now where he's better on the leash and after we walk I put my dog in the car and then Mongo tries to hop in my car and when I tell him no and pull him back he lays down and goes limp next to my car as if to say" don't you get it I want to go home with you and I'm not budging" I'm not one to have conversations with dogs as if they were humans, very often but since he's rather a special case I tell him" you're going to have to learn to behave a little bit better and work with me if you're wanting that scenario" I'm not sure if it quite registers with him. I've tried all my training tricks ,assessments as to what his needs may be, but I fall short in that I don't have the time to train him everyday, and with gas at $3.08 a gallon around here I'm not inclined to go rushing off to town unless I have other reasons to go and can work dog walking in. So after ten years of volunteering I'm level headed enough to know that I'm doing the best I can and hope that it makes a difference.

This brown dog is Sophia a sweet Chesapeake Bay Retreiver, my current favorite, easy to walk a joy to be around, always has that happy camper tail wagging when I talk to her and tell her how cute she is.

Sometimes I am torn between helping the adorable dogs that I have an affinity for, which does not necessarily mean that they are the societal standard of cute but just that they speak to me, or helping the dogs that are more difficult and really need work and help. If I have time I try and do both as the more problematic ones will most likely end up being there the longest until they get socialized, trained, and learn to trust people. At times lately after ten years of volunteering I treat myself to working with an easy, happy dog. I've spent many hours with huge untrained dogs half to two thirds of my size in what amounts to a martial arts battle of wills, testing both my physical skill and mental acumen. I do a lot of work with these dogs, but every now and then I just need the reward of a sweet happy dog who's relatively easy to walk to help keep my spirits up and continue to reinforce my desire to help the more difficult cases

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blue/Pascual- post for Jackie

This is my little Blue Heeler who came to us as Blue who is also called Pascual or lately Kiwi as he is an Australian Cattle dog who loves to eat kiwis. He will actually perk up and come running over as if I dropped a steak on the floor if I cut open a kiwi for myself and he stares at me as if to say " I want some" so I give it to him and he eats quite a bit of it. Jackie rescued him out of the Boise animal shelter and then gave him to us in 2000. We just love him to pieces. He's about 11 years old now and doing fine, perfectly healthy but slowing down a bit. He walks with me and the shelter dogs but is usually only good for about half an hour now before I put him back in the car. If we are hiking out in the woods he perks up and will go longer about an hour or hour and a half before he gets sore and favors his shoulder a bit. I probably need to put him back on the glucosamine and chondrontin but am leery as to where all the products are coming from lately and how high the quality is. This is Blue/Pascual out on the beautiful bike path which is part of an extensive bike trail system of about 60 miles. This part is around Lake Coeur d' Alene outside of Coeur d' Alene Idaho, a resort town north of where I live. We like to bike and walk on this beautiful path fairly often in the spring and summer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Healing people training dogs

(The dog in the photo is a dog available for adoption and not the dog referred to in the following story)

There is a woman I walk with from time to time. We take our dogs and go on long nature walks discussing life and business and the state of the world and our families. I noticed that she was having trouble getting her dog to come when she called her. I offered up advice. I said you should use three separate tones of voice with the dog. 1) a friendly, happy talk tone, praising good behavior, 2) a matter of fact,direct, command tone, such as "come"3) a growly tone when you have to say "No" and stop the dog in it's tracks if it's about to run off and get into trouble. It's the growly tone that sort of mimics a mother dog to her pup. Well I told her this advice on three separate occasions and my friend is a very bright woman with advanced degrees and yet she wouldn't try out the advice. Hm, I thought, this is interesting. I'm not one to push advice once I've offered it. My feeling is I offered what I thought might help her and explained the reasoning and need to be consistent with the commands to her. I thought to myself, this is interesting, she heard the advice but for some reason isn't interested in seeing if it would work.I just let the issue go and continued to view the problem silently to myself. Her dog would come to me but I was consistent with it and used the three different tones, so she could see that the advice actually had some effect. One day we were talking about our childhood memories and she explained that there was a lot of anger and yelling in her house, and it was very scary and uncomfortable for her growing up. Bingo, I made the connection. This was the reason why she could not use the growly tone with the dog because it brought up so many bad memories for her and made her feel uncomfortable.We discussed the insight and it registered with her. I asked if it would be okay for me to discuss this in a blog post and she said fine, as I thought it might give insight into the training issues of others. So it's not just dogs we are training but at times we are helping people to remain in the present state and perhaps help heal some past issues. I can't say that the problem is completely resolved but at least there is light shed on the issue, and some understanding . Healing takes time and dog training, depending on the dog and owner can take time as well

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lucky Lilly, Lenny, Wimbleton, and Chewy

These guys were recently adopted. It's rather quiet around here lately, a few puppies, Mongo and a couple of red heeler mixes plus a starved pit bull who seems so sad and sweet. The Chesapeake Bay sisters are getting spayed at the moment. Mongo was incredibly good today and rather puppyish/ mellow in his expressions. Maybe he's finally calming down.Chewy was starting to be a favorite. Many people overlook black dogs but they are often very special. Chewy was mixed with Border collie and Black Labrador Retreiver, There is always something in the border collie nature that speaks to me. He had this uncanny way of snapping out of dog world and morphing into human, or at least dog that understands English or human speak, spirit. I was in his pen with another dog and they were both jumping all over me and trying to grab the leash out of my hands. One was jumping on my back and it was just overall chaos. I looked at Chewy and said very matter of factly "settle" and wouldn't you know he did just that. The light bulb went off in my head- here's one that will key in and listen. I started walking him and realized that he was very keen on learning and cooperating. He would even sit still for photos, or would stand and wait patiently if I would stop briefly for a phone call on the walk. I'm sure whoever adopted him will adore him and get to know how very special he is. Thanks to the community for all the adoptions, and remember, those black dogs can be so incredibly special.(I've had 2 black rescue dogs myself over the years)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Colby (the dog and the Starving Armenian)- a story from my book

(A little background, in case you don't read my other blogs which can be found by clicking on-view my complete profile. I'm the granddaughter of an Armenian immigrant who fled the genocide in Turkey in 1915. During this time the term- Starving Armenian- was used a lot as the people who were not killed fled, often with no food and nothing but the clothes on their backs. Don't ask me what cosmic joke saw fit to allow me, the granddaughter of an Armenian genocide survivor, to end up with anorexia as a way to handle the distressing situations of my life, but so be it.The anorexia was in the past, I'm quite healthy and have been for a long time, it's just part of the overall story)


Colby and I had some karmic business to attend to, not that I always go in for this sort of stuff but often times life stares you in the face and offers you a chance to find resolution. Colby came into the shelter as a stray, and immediately became so disheartened that he stopped eating. As a former anorexic myself, how could I not be moved by such a dog. He spent his days curled up into a tiny ball with his hipbones sticking out, right up next to the gate in an outdoor group kennel. He wanted to make sure that if the door were opened he'd be the first one out. It was as if by lying in that spot he was willfully projecting himself out of there. His other dog mates would romp around with each other or lay up under the leanto, but not Colby. He was finally moved to his own private pen that had an individual doghouse in it, that we had put a blanket in. He'd crawl into the doghouse and sleep there most of the day. The staff was so worried that he'd starve to death on their watch, that they put him on anti-anxiety medication. I started walking him in the hopes that the special attention and exercise might help him to work up an appetite. If ever a dog could convey the persona of a disaffected jazz musician, he was it. He was a real cool cat of a dog. He stood fairly tall for a dog 70lbs. at normal weight, and was just so naturally low key. He'd walk alongside Blue( my dog) and I in a very well mannered disaffected way. He enjoyed being petted and receiving attention and had a lovelorn "I can't imagine why you'd want to bother expending energy on me" sort of look in his eye. We'd walk downtown at a leisurely pace. At times I'd stop to grab a coffee or snack, and tie the dogs up to a post for a few minutes. They would just sit politely waiting for me. Colby had the saddest eyes with the most pained look in them. It was a combination of pain and distance, with a touch of daring to yearn to come back from whatever faraway place he'd escape to. It was as if he wasn't sure whether or not to continue living, and whether engaging again with people, was really worth the trouble. He decided that his living situation at the shelter was intolerable and since he couldn’t escape he stopped eating. I had been in this situation myself years ago and was struck that this animal came to the same conclusion to handle its suffering as I had, but then his circumstances started to change a little with my consistent walks and attention. Perhaps this was truly full circle for me. I could intervene in his life and make a difference, even though in my own life my suffering went unnoticed. He wasn't needy, just dejected. His sadness just made you love him even more. I took to putting him in my car with Blue while I drove around town doing errands, just so he would be less lonely. He didn't always smell so terrific and he was too skinny for me to wash him and let him sit outside in the cold until he dried off, so I just damp towel washed him and put him in my car on a giant horse blanket. Such are the sacrifices one makes for troubled animals with broken hearts. Besides, the car had 100,000. miles on it anyway. I’d take him for long walks of at least an hour or so. He grew fond of us and started to finally regain some of the weight he'd lost and his hipbones became less pronounced. He would visually key in on my car as it pulled into the parking lot and also as it pulled away .He would sing in a low, muted, grumbly, "wu wu wu” at times when he saw me approaching, which was the height of enthusiasm for him. One day, I had him in the front passenger seat of my car while we were traveling to a small artsy town 15 miles away. He was curled up with his head facing me and resting on my emergency brake. He looked up at me with such profound love and tenderness that tears came to my eyes. I would have adopted him then and there but my husband wasn’t as smitten with him as I was. The shelter staff felt sorry for him too, and one of the gals was aching to foster him if he wasn’t adopted soon. We had our yearly benefit luncheon for the shelter at our local community center so I took Colby and my dog Blue over there with me in the car. I had had them in the car previously, but only unattended for twenty minutes at a time, before I returned to check on them. I got carried away at the benefit and found myself talking to a couple of the board members discussing the lengths we go to for our pets. I playfully found myself chiming in with ”yeah I know what you mean, I’ve got this dog who’s on anti-anxiety medication with me in my car” Then I realized they had been in the car for over two hours instead of the usual twenty minutes we were all accustomed to. All of a sudden, I was the one experiencing anxiety. I jokingly quipped “my husbands been wanting a new car anyway, maybe this will be the deciding factor” and I excused myself and went to check on them. I didn’t know what to expect; seat cushions torn up? Stuffing everywhere? When I finally reached the car, Colby was sprawled out on the back seat yawning and stretching, and Blue was in the far back. Not one sign of damage anywhere. Phew! A couple of weeks later Colby was adopted. I ran into the women who had adopted him while they were walking together downtown. She seemed so sweet, kind and gentle: a female complement to his sensitive nature. He came right up to me and I patted him on the head. I was so happy for them both. My little Colby cheese dog, my nickname for him, finally back to health.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

what my book "Tails from the Shelter" is about

I walked both these dogs today, along with Mongo and Lenny. The brown dog is Sophia a new Chesapeake Bay retriever, her sister who is a tad darker is also available for adoption. The black dog is Chewy, he is the one who likes to stand on top of his modernist dog house, he's in the post on the modernist doghouses.


This is basically the query I sent to a publisher. I'm open to any feed back on my query anyone would like to offer. I also sent a sample chapter.This particular publisher didn't pan out. I'm wondering whether I should self publish or continue looking for another publisher.

I started volunteering at our local no kill animal shelter 10 years ago after losing my beloved Labrador retriever. The book I wrote is the book I was looking to read and could not find, when I first started volunteering. I was unable to find information explaining how to work with frightened and disheartened dogs that had been abandoned and traumatized, except for some general information and one particular chapter in the wonderful book, “Beyond Obedience” by April Frost . http://www.aprilfrost.org/book.html This is an authentic telling of the stories of my working with the frightened, abused, neglected and harder to place dogs. The cute, adorable, young and purebred, the small to medium sized, spectacular and unique looking dogs get adopted relatively quickly, the larger, older, impaired, neurotic, average looking and black dogs take longer. My book is the true life story, with some altered identities, of the behind the scenes goings on of my local no kill animal shelter which is located in a small college town surrounded by a rural farming community in North Idaho. The story is also somewhat of a memoir that parallels my story of overcoming eating disorders as it relates to and overlaps with my being drawn to work with abused and neglected dogs. It is a story of triumph, of overcoming through giving, of reaching out to the dogs and helping them through. I have included a variety of stories differing in tone that give a representation of the humor, sadness, success, and both positive and negative outcomes of the dogs and people in my community. Although they are primarily stories of the dogs, they also relate the nature of the human beings that the animals come in contact with so they tell of the positive and negative intersection of animal /human ties. I have also included a lot of observations and training tips for both working with this special subset of dogs and for volunteering at animal shelters in general, as well as a spiritual approach to basic obedience training. I cover the stories of the different dogs I worked with including everything from; frightened, abused, neurotic, handicapped, dogs that were returned multiple times, a dog with anorexia, and heroic dogs that helped the people around them. I spent from 5 to 15 hours a week, volunteering to walk and train and spend time with the dogs. They are the stories of dogs and people on the edge, some turn around, some do not. My book also sheds light on the hard work performed by the dedicated staff and volunteers of our Humane Society, and the difficulties they encounter working in a no kill shelter as well. Inspired by the books of the late Caroline Knapp, particularly, the book, Appetites. I pick up where she left off, delving a little deeper into multi generational family dynamics, healing the self through helping abandoned dogs, performing a community service and helping to reconnect people and dogs while tying together stories over a ten year period in a small semi-rural college town community . The book was written in the spirit of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle www.eckharttolle.com/home/ , living in the moment making observations finding out what the individual dogs needed in a Zen Buddhist spirit of witnessing. I feel that the book has broad appeal on two fronts; 1) telling the stories and giving insight into the dogs adopted from the no kill shelter, many have adopted from shelters. This gives them an idea of what some of the dogs have gone through prior to being adopted. 2) It is my story of finding a positive way of overcoming a dysfunctional family and overcoming eating disorders in a way that helped both me, and the neglected dogs. I see this as a philosophy of efficiency, meeting the many needs, of all involved at once, on both a physical and psychological level. So although the book runs the gamut of emotions all in all it is a positive real life story of overcoming on many levels, by reaching out to help others in a spirit of community service. Raw, deep, humorous, profound, both heartwarming and heart wrenching, this book has it all. Thank you for giving it a chance