Monday, December 9, 2013

Guest Writer Series: The Hardest Decision

From time to time, we like to give our readers the opportunity to share their stories -- funny, reminiscent, and even hard-learned lessons. Today, we bring you a true story that is both heart-wrenching and a reminder that we truly can't save them all. 


I think it's time I share my story about the dog I should not have "saved."

I had over 10 years experience working with dogs. I knew better, but I took on a dog I should not have taken on. One of our volunteers who did so much for us and has such a big heart sent me an email about a dog that was confiscated in a cruelty case. The email included the police photos from the case. He was so pathetic, skin and bones, literally some of the most depressing photos I've ever seen. His condition was absolutely deplorable and at the time, he was just a small puppy. The dog had to stay at the shelter during the investigation which took some time, but after the case was over, he was adopted by a very nice couple. They were the ones reaching out to rescue people. The email said their neighborhood had decided the dog was a threat and needed to go. I wish I could find the email to copy and paste, but I knew right away that they were leaving out something. There were holes in the story and it was obvious.

Our volunteer said she felt compelled to drive down and rescue this dog 100+ miles away and wanted to know if we could take him into our rescue. I told her no, that I did not think it was a good idea and that I only take in dogs I can evaluate in person first. Against my advice, she decided to go and get the dog and keep him at her home until she could find a home for him. On her way home she called me and I could tell she knew she made a mistake. She said he was terrified and her gut told her his previous family wasn't telling her everything about him. She had never seen a dog so fearful, but he did seem to love and be comfortable with the people surrendering him. She decided she couldn't just leave him there and that she could fix him with love and training. Over the next few days, I started getting frantic emails about his red flag behavior and her husband wanted the dog out of their house. She was desperate and didn't know what to do. I tried offering advice and tips, but then he attacked her dog and that was the final straw for the husband. She called me devastated saying she had no idea what to do. Against my gut and best judgment, I caved and told her to bring him to my house.

She arrived and the dog was the most pitiful, terrified being I'd ever laid my eyes on. He was shaking so intensely out of fear. His tail was as tucked as far as it could possibly be, with his body arched. He immediately ran into a crate that was open and refused to come out. Again, my gut was saying don't take in this dog, but I felt bad for the volunteer and I thought my experience would allow me to "fix" this poor dog. She left and now started the process of gaining this dog's trust. I sat outside of his crate and talked to him for hours. He wanted nothing to do with me, but then one of my dogs came and laid beside his crate and then started licking him the crate bars. Finally, he perked up a little. Then my dog came and sat in my lap as if to show him "It's okay, you can trust her."  I was finally able to get a leash on him but he was still absolutely terrified, jumping at every movement and sound. I knew this was going to be a long road.

With lots of positive reinforcement, he slowly, slowly started to come around, I mean it took weeks. The volunteer who had brought him to us would come over and visit him and bring him treats. She was so impressed with his progress. I admit, it felt good to be the person that could "fix" an un-fixable dog. As soon as I started to think he could be a normal dog, he became obsessed with me. I left him for 5 minutes to get a glass of water and he literally dug through a solid wood door. His face and paws were bloody with splinters. At that moment, I knew he would never be a stable dog, but instead of doing what was right I decided to still try and play the hero and continue to try and "fix" this dog. He decided he didn't want to leave my side, putting him in his crate at night was becoming more and more difficult, but I chalked it up as separation anxiety.

One night I went to put him in his crate. My husband had already gone to bed for the night and he is the heaviest sleeper ever. I led the dog to the crate and he got in, but then turned around and for a split second he looked at me and I knew something horrible was about to happen. I could see the desperation in his eyes. He went for me full on, I had just enough time to put my hands in front of my face. He grabbed one of my hands and thrashed it around. I was knocked to the ground and now was trying to fight him off with my hands and feet. Blood was flying everywhere, my blood. I tried to scream, but my voice wouldn't work. It was absolutely terrifying.

I'm sure it was minutes, but it felt like an eternity and then all of a sudden our senior dog jumped on him. He immediately redirected on to her. She was no match for him and now her blood was everywhere. I finally found my voice and started screaming. I tried desperately to pull him off, but by that time my hands were swollen and useless. My husband didn't hear my screams, I decided I had to leave the fight and run to the bedroom to wake him up. At that point, I think I went into shock because it's all a blur.

My husband tried to get me to go to the hospital, but I refused. Our dog had retreated to her crate and we could not get her to come out so we could assess her injuries. The room where everything had gone down in was covered in blood. It was on the ceiling, on the walls, all over the floors. There were trails of drips of blood throughout the house from where I had gone to get my husband and where our dog had walked to the other room to her crate after my husband finally got the foster dog into his crate. It looked like a crime scene. I had to throw away the clothes I was wearing, the sheets on the bed where I laid afterwards. The pain was surreal. I needed stitches, antibiotics, a prescription strength anti-inflammatory, and I'm sure a lot more, but I was too terrified to go the hospital. I didn't want to deal with the emotional pain that I had failed this dog and my dog. I bandaged my wounds myself. My hand is permanently scarred.

My husband finally had to get wire cutters and cut open our dog's crate so we could get her to the emergency vet. I called our volunteer and broke down in tears describing what had happened. She and her husband met us at the vet. Thousands of dollars later and they still weren't sure if our dog would survive. We even said our goodbyes just in case she didn't make it through the night. The volunteer graciously paid part of her bill. After a week of 24 hour vet care she was able to come home but still needed constant care. They weren't sure if she'd be able to use her back legs again, but with lots of care and time, she made a full recovery and lived another 2 years.

After the fight, besides going to the vet, I laid in bed crying and depressed. I was trying to take everything in and figure out what the next step was and how this experience had changed my life. I decided to call my closest rescue friends. The first was our vet and she said the foster dog needed to be euthanized immediately. The next was my friend that's been in rescue for over a decade. She agreed the dog needed to be euthanized. I agreed and realized not only did he need to be euthanized, but it should have been done a long time ago, even before he arrived at my home which was the 5th place he had been rehomed to. I am to blame for taking on a dog I knew was unstable, but I think blame also needs to go on to those that wanted to pass on the burden.

I was confident in my decision to have him euthanized and made the appointment. My rescue friend agreed to go with me. I called the volunteer and I could tell she was hesitant about him being euthanized, but left the decision up to me. Later that night, I found out she had contacted another rescue to see what they would do in this situation. They told her once they rescue a dog, that dog was with them forever, that they did not euthanize for behavior reasons or give up on a dog. Hearing this stung. I started questioning my decision and called the rescue she had contacted. They were sympathetic about the situation, but offered another option and suggested the dog be sent to a "sanctuary" particularly Sanctuary Animal Refuge run by Palena Dorsey. I decided to look into that place and didn't like what I saw, I also didn't like the idea of this dog living his life out in a cage. (Thank God I didn't send him there because a short time later that place was shut down.) Despite everything, I still loved the dog, even if I was terrified of him. I knew that I loved him enough to finally give him peace through humane euthanasia. Even though everyone was not happy with my decision, I decided I owed it to this dog. He had lived in a loving home for several months and those would be his last memories. He got to leave this world in the arms of someone who loved him, my arms.

I learned so many lessons from this experience; it really was life changing. I had worked in an open intake shelter before and knew you couldn't save them all, but I think up until this incident, I thought you could "fix" them all. The truth is not every dog can become a loving, trusted companion. Some dogs have a past they just cannot get over, some are just born unstable. I think those of us in rescue that have learned this incredibly hard lesson need to be open about it. It's one of those topics we don't like to discuss and feel ashamed if we've been through it. I also believe some people in rescue just won't get it until they've experienced it and I hope they never do. It's also important to realize as a rescue, you are responsible for the dogs you put out into the community. People expect to get a dog from a rescue that's been evaluated and observed, more so than a dog they would get from a shelter. As a rescue, you have a responsibility to not put an unstable dog into a home, even a foster home.

On the flip side, people who no longer want their dog because it's aggressive or unstable really need to ask themselves "what kind of person is going to be willing to take in a dog with those kind of issues?" Especially considering how many stable dogs that don't have temperament issues are euthanized every day. Also, not only are you putting other people in danger by rehoming a dog like this, but I think it's also selfish to pass the burden on.

I knew when I first read the email about this dog that his former owners were holding back information. I honestly think they knew how serious his issues were, but they wanted to pass him on so they could pat themselves on the back for sending him to someone that could "fix" him.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hidden Dangers: Part I

Dear Diary,

Today I decided to jump on the bandwagon of cross-posting and virtual rescue. I started a page and featured dogs that needed homes. I didn't know much about them, so I postulated their pasts..."dumped by their family," "unwanted by their family," "used as a bait dog," and so on. I claimed they were from a high kill shelter, because people don't want to know that animals die in shelters. I called them "urgent" and "deathrow dogs." I tagged as many people as I could in the photos and encouraged others to do the same. No one wants to see a dog die, right? Anywhere is better than the shelter, right? Of course! I can't wait to see how everything turns out...


I ask for donations to pay for the "pull fee," because rescues can't pay for that kind of stuff. I mean, I know a lot of rescues that don't even get dogs fixed until they get an adoption fee paid. They just don't have that kind of money laying around, you know? Some people think that rescues should have a money base before getting started, but that doesn't make sense. The sooner you jump in, the more dogs you can save!

Sometimes, the dogs get adopted before I can get them pulled. I can't pull them myself, but I can use another rescue's license to get them out. We try to find a foster home, but half the time they end up at my house. I have some that are dog selective, so they all have to stay in crates a lot. We started Chip In accounts to pay for their vetting, but really we're just trying to make ends meet and pay for the dogs' food right now.

Sometimes, dogs will already be in rescue, but we leave the "urgent" tags to get more sponsorship money in. Once people think dogs are safe, they quit being so quick to give money. We have some friends that have a boarding facility, but we still owe them a lot of money. Some of our dogs have been there for months...maybe longer. It's so good that they're out of the shelter, though! They could be dead!

We did have one dog that got to the point that he did nothing but pace his cage. If you tried to go near him, he'd try to bite you. We tried to adopt him out, but the family said he snapped at their little kid. We had to finally take him to animal control to be put down because he bit one of our volunteers. The shelter he was in before we got him obviously warped his mind pretty bad.


We have some people that are posting bad stuff about us. They say we don't take care of our dogs right and that we are accepting donations under false pretenses. They say that we're mean to shelter staff, but we all know shelter staff suck. They're the reason dogs die. Those people are saying that we're part of the problem, that we're causing people to make impulse decisions on dogs. Yeah, we don't really know where a lot of our dogs end up, but we know they're safe. They're out of the shelter, so they're not going to die. Sure, I heard about that rescue that had all of those dogs starving on chains, but it's not like any of ours went there.

We get a lot of dogs of all kinds...well, we pick what we pull, but puppies go so fast! I swear we can pull them Friday and adopt them out before Monday, sometimes all over the place!

We have some awesome rescues and foster that take the dogs we pull when we already have too many. Some of them have 50+ dogs in their care! They rock! Yeah, they can't feed them the best of food and they're asking for donations a lot, but who can blame them? They're keeping those dogs out of the shelter!


Did you see anything wrong with the snippet above? You should have seen a lot wrong with it. People all over the place are doing exactly what was chronicled here - assisting in the negative marketing world of death row dogs, urgent pleas, and begging for funds. That's not real rescue.

Real rescues:

  • Have their own financial backing secure BEFORE embarking on the rescue journey.
  • Perform home/reference checks.
  • Make it their priority to match animals to adopters.
  • Have the best interest of the animal in mind at all times.
  • Always have a solid plan before taking on an animal.
  • Provide thorough medical care and obey the law about quarantines.
  • Keep thorough and accurate records on all animals, including their details and that of their adopters/fosters.
  • Don't play the hero. When faced with trouble (unforeseen medical emergencies, etc), responsible rescues network with one another and with the public to get the help they need. 
You can read more about what it means to be a  responsible rescue here

Don't fall prey to the animal hoarders, abusers, or plain irresponsible people claiming the title "rescue." Donate your time and money to the rescues you can vouch for and to the shelters. There are so many fake rescues popping up over the country, as well as licensed ones that no dog should ever go to. Just because a rescue holds a license from the Dept. of Agriculture doesn't make it okay. In the state of Georgia, you submit a fee (pocket change) and go through a scanty inspection and you're a rescue. Mail in your renewal each year and you're golden to continue. That's horrible rescue oversight!!

We owe it to the animals to be more vigilant about where we send them and who we support.!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Growing Up

It's amazing that it's been two years already that I've been writing on this blog. It's even more amazing that I still have readers!! :) Sometimes, I read other blogs and I think about how well put together and interesting they are. I'd love to put that kind of effort into my blog...but let's face it - it's really just a window for my thoughts.

When we got Otto (and subsequently Axle), I was thrown into a whole new world - the world of the "pit bull." I felt the need to prove a point, prove my dogs were these wonderful, friendly, totally harmless dogs that anyone could play with or pet. I felt the need to make therapy dogs out of them, to train them and teach them great tricks to impress the public. I thought the public hated my dogs, that I needed to prove "them" wrong. You can imagine how disappointed I was in myself as an owner and even in my dogs for quite some time.
Behave already!!
After choosing to euthanize Otto due to his unstable personality and ever-increasing level of aggression, I felt like a total failure as an owner and an advocate. You can read the comments on my Dogster article about him here: Quite a few people also thought I had failed him, and that I should have just confined him somewhere or gone to every behavior expert until he was cured or deemed hopeless.
Axle said he never lost faith in me.
We had adopted another dog in the meantime who went into seizure never to come out, then another later who nearly killed Axle. I was seriously thinking all the bad luck in the world had come down on my head in one fell swoop. Things turned around when we found Remi, who has recently been featured on Kevin's catalog and blog. I also began to find a lot more satisfaction in my dogs once I accepted them for who and what they are.
Ok, so Remi isn't perfect.

I don't have therapy dogs. I definitely don't have perfect dogs, but I have dogs that are perfect for me and perfect for each other. What more could I want?

In my adventures with my dogs, the cats, and in advocacy in general, I've learned the most important thing is to be a responsible owner...and enjoy your dogs. Don't try to prove anyone right or wrong about your dogs. You know them best, and after all, you're the one that has to live with them!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

From Bad Dog to Good, and Vice Versa

You've heard the phrase, "It's all in how you raise them." While there may be some truth buried beneath the connotations of that overused phrase, the real truth is that all dogs are the result of a combination of nature and nurture.

Example 1:
A dog with poor genetics (reference: Otto), a "bad" dog, raised in a good home with good food and a good owner is STILL a "bad" dog.

Example 2:
A dog raised in a bad home with a bad owner (reference: Johnny Justice of the Vick dogs) given a good home and a good owner is a good dog. Had he stayed with Vick, he would have been a "bad" dog.

Example 3:
A dog raised in an environment where she was fed and given shelter, but the owners didn't want to put the effort into training a puppy. Give the right home (one with patience, at least!!), she became a "good dog." (reference: Remi)

Our dogs' behavior is based on a complex combination of genetics and environment. Watch this video shared by PBAM:

See how the dog lived? He had an uninvolved owner who was neglectful, at best. Given the right environment, the dog blossomed.

Using the phrase, "It's all in how you raise them" is misleading and lowers the chances for dogs with poor or unknown pasts to get a second chance on life and love. Unless a dog is mentally screwed up (back to those genetics), giving them a chance will prove to be the best thing that ever happened to you...AND the dog!!

Something to think about....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Please Excuse My American Pit Bull Terrier

Please excuse my dog. He's neutered, and he won't be making any puppies. He's handsome, true, but he's not breeding material. A little heavier and a little taller than standard and sports a diluted coat color and a gay tail, any responsible breeder would tell you he's "pet only" material.

Forgive my dog, he's perfect to me, but he's not going to be perfect for you. He's not shy about letting you know if he likes you or not, and he's sure to despise you if he thinks you'd ever hurt me. If he likes you, he's sure to give you unwanted kisses. He doesn't want to walk on a leash for you if I'm around, and he's not likely to let you in the house if I'm not home. 

Pardon my dog, he's not fond of other dogs. He doesn't want to be your dog's play mate, and he doesn't want to have doggie play dates. He doesn't care if your dog is "friendly," he wants you to keep him at a distance. Thanks. 

Kindly disregard my dog, he's not a meat head or a thick dog. He's lean and fast and not likely to impress anyone with his size. He doesn't look tough and he doesn't look like the majority think a "Pit Bull" should look. 

Please turn a blind eye to my dog, he has a high prey drive and isn't fond of squirrels or your cat in his yard. He really doesn't like your off-leash dog roaming through his yard, either. 

Please just overlook my dog, he's in love with a Boykin Spaniel and two cats and our family. He's a couch potato at times, yet bursting with raw energy and power. He wants to catch, not fetch, and he's afraid of plastic bags.

So just ignore my dog. He doesn't fit the typical "Pit Bull" advocate mold, he's not what's in high demand on the BYB circuit, and he's too plain for the big leagues. He's just a good ol' boy - family dog, die-hard wannabe catch dog, and loyal protector. 

If yours doesn't isn't like mine, that's okay, I'll just excuse your dog for being himself. 

"All I can be is me."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Off-Leash Dogs Drive Me Nuts

I like taking the dogs for a walk through our neighborhood. It's still too hot to do our winter routine of 4-5 miles, but the past two months of rain has cooled it off enough for a mile walk in the late evening...until the mosquitoes come back, that is. You'd think the biggest risks in walking through a rural neighborhood would be oncoming traffic (careless drivers) and watching out for bikers/pedestrians. If only! The biggest threat in my neighborhood is a slew of off-leash dogs.
Hey, off-leash dog owner, get your dog!!

In case this is the first post of mine you've read (shame on you, catch up!), I have two dogs - Axle and Remi. Axle is very protective of me, and he's leash reactive to other dogs. There's the occasional dog that he takes to (usually Lab-a-likes), but most of them are a threat in his eyes. He'll bow up, snarl and strain at the leash. For some reason, the loose dogs in my neighborhood treat this display as an open invitation to play. 

What part of "I'm going to bite the sh*t out of you!" sounds like "Let's play!"?????

Are they stupid???

I'd like for your dog not to have a booboo, so please, keep them in your own yard.

Apparently so. If I'm lucky (or unlucky), they're followed by a frazzled owner, haplessly crying out for their sweet nookums munchkins to return to the safety of their own yard. Sometimes, they also display confusion and/or anger that I am practically screaming at their dog to "GO HOME," "GO AWAY," or "LEAVE IT." By golly, people, I'm trying to save your dog's cute face. Of course, if Axle ever did take a chunk out of one of those imps, he'd be the one on trial. 

Our human always tries to be responsible!

How is that fair? My dogs are vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and on a leash. When they are outside, they were in a fence. I get that not everyone can afford a fence, but there's other options. You can keep your dog indoors and take them outside on a leash. You could set up a trolley/cable run if you had to, although I'm not very fond of tie-outs. You could also kennel them when you can't supervise them. Either way, letting a dog run loose through your yard and the neighborhood is hazardous - to your dog and to others.

This rant brought to you by the Pomeranian that nearly got ran over, the brindle mixed breed that bit Remi's leg and nearly got himself bitten, and the big black dog with her miniature cohort that scared Remi so bad I had to carry (yes, CARRY) her home while I kept a tight grip on Axle. 

Have you had any run-ins with off-leash dogs? Discuss!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Feeling Burned Out

I guess it should come as no surprise that volunteers often get burned out. I am no exception. I've been volunteering at my local shelter for going on two years, and I've had to take a break. Between keeping up with my other obligations and working overtime at work, I just haven't felt like dealing with the sweat and the smells at the shelter.

I used to help out at adoption events, which I loved. Seeing people bond with the shelter dogs was very rewarding, especially when I got to see them go home. Since those events have been put on hold, it's just the same, day in and day out. The smell, the heat, the crowded shelter, and the constant influx of animals while more and more are being produced by irresponsibly owned pets gets to be too much.

I see why the turnover rate for workers is high. It's often more depressing the anything else.

So what can be changed? Do we all just keep on keeping on and hope for the best? Fake it 'til you make it?

Honestly, that really is what you have to do. Real change takes time, and there's no doubt you'll feel overwhelmed along the way. Nothing wrong with taking  break in the meantime!!

I'm going to try to go in today and catch up on cat photos. It'd be great if I could find the charger for my batteries, but I'll make do...

Keep calm and volunteer on.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Ethics...Rescuing the Sick

When I was younger, my mom always taught me that it wasn't "can you do it," it's "should you do it." Therein lies one of life's greatest philosophies, repeated in our small country kitchen time and time again. I'll be writing a series on ethics. You may not agree with everything I have so say, but I would appreciate you taking the time to read each post, think about it, then give me your honest feedback.

Facebook can be a wonderful tool. It's also the breeding ground for those annoying people called "cross-posters." I'm sure the idea was bred from good intentions, but let's face it, those are the people we either hide or delete altogether. To really get a dog attention, you should post dogs in the area of your friends/followers, and try not to do it too often, or you will be deleted/hidden and all of your efforts become null and void. Secondly, don't tag every animal lover you know in the photo. If you've talked to someone about the dog, it's polite to tag them with a "Hey ____, here's that dog I was telling you about" and leave it at that. When you constantly tag someone, it busies up their news feed and that of their friends, so again, your message is likely to be deleted or hidden.

Now that I'm done with my soapbox on cross-posting, let's get to why I brought up Facebook (and cross-posters).

From all of the posts I see daily in my news feed, I often see pleas for dogs in rescues or shelters that need money for medical care. The dogs have broken limbs, severe mange, eyes hanging out of their sockets, you name it. People are pleading for the dog to be taken out of the shelter. Rescues are pleading for money to cover the medical bills the dog will certainly accrue... It all seems like a horrible cycle.

Here's my question: How many perfectly healthy dogs died because that rescue took in that one pity case and spent all of those funds getting it well?

It's not "can the dog be rescued," it's "should the dog be rescued."

Yes, a dog with severe mange or with their eyeball hanging out can be fixed up and saved. I'm sure quite a few of you have wonderful dogs that were saved in situations like this. They also make for wonderful publicity. The question isn't "can they be saved," it's "should they be saved."

Now before you go into a rant calling me a heartless witch, think about it. How many more dogs could you afford to save if you didn't save the one dog that had lots of issues? Quite a few.

In my opinion, it doesn't make sense to rescue a dog you know will take a lot of time and resources and let a much healthier dog die in its stead. I know they tug at your heart. You want to save them all, but the rescue community really can't afford that right now.

We need to prioritize. Enough of the supposedly "healthy" dogs pop up with unforeseen problems without knowingly adding to your financial burden.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 13, 2013


I'm pretty convinced Twitter is evil, but it's an inevitable evil. Thanks to Instagram, Facebook, and other integrated social networking sites, you cannot avoid hash tags. #Ever. If you have something you really want people to see, you can't just post it and expect it to go viral like Boom (the cute Staffordshire Bull Terrier owned by Working Terriers), the dog that posed with Easter bunnies. No, instead you have to accent your entire sentence with hash tags. For example, #cute #dogs won't #getnoticed without the proper #hashtag. Annoying, isn't it? Well, I've dodged the bullet as long as I possibly can.

With being an author for Dogster/Catster and my own blogs, it's hard to build an audience when you're obstinately avoiding modern technology, aka the Twitter. I've had plenty of things "tweeted," but I have no clue what they say. So I gave in and reactivated my Twitter account. I've updated it, so it no longer sports a picture of my 19 year old self with a shaggy hair cut. I've added details about myself. I think I'll even make a tweet. Or tweet a twit. Or twit a tweet. Whatever.

So if you're all modern and stuff, feel free to follow me or like me or whatever you do when you pretty much stalk someone on Twitter. I'll try to stalk you back, or at least keep up with your hash tags and @'s and what-have-yous. I added a link, but for those of you that are Twitter savvy, I'm just me, meghanlodge...or rather @meghanlodge!!

Now back to my fat screen TV and my computer with a mouse that still has a ball. :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Changing Hearts

Being a volunteer at my local shelter, I get to meet lots of dogs and cats from all sorts of backgrounds. Most of the time, no one knows anything about the animal except what they can see - color and size. The shelter I volunteer for has a very high intake rate. Dogs and cats are pouring in every day. They take photos of them on intake, but they don't always have the time to get the animal to look at the camera, and they may not be able to take the animal out of the cage for a photo at that time. That's where I come in.

By the time dogs make it on to the adoption floor, they've been at the shelter for a little while...long enough to learn when feeding time is and the normal routines of the shelter. They've been walked on leashes and handled daily for a while, and are much easier to photograph at that least in comparison to Day 1. I don't always get good photos of them, case in point the photos in this blog post!! That aside, I try to get the shots I can in hopes of increasing their chances of adoption.
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of the company of another volunteer. She was a big help in distracting the dogs so I could get some shots in. When I first got there, she had already spent all morning with one dog, a little puppy. I let her know that we needed to spread the love out - that all the dogs need a chance to come out, or at least as many as possible. She said she liked smaller dogs better, because the big dogs scared her. I told her we would have to change that! She said she would be okay with it if I walked them...and we didn't bring out any pit bulls. She had heard that pit bulls would "turn" and bite. Well, that's outdated info, now isn't it?! After a full afternoon of small dogs, big dogs, and everything in between, I brought out one of my favorite dogs, Deago. His coloring is different, but he reminds me a lot of Axle, including his love of giving hugs. I didn't tell her his breed. After she had played with him and commented on how cute (and skinny :/ ) that he was, I asked her if she was afraid of him, since he was a big dog. She said no. I asked if she was sure, and she said she was, that he was sweet. So I told her that he was a pit bull. She was amazed! I then showed her pictures of Axle and the rest of the fur family. Before she left, she said she had decided that pit bulls weren't "so bad after all." :) See below for a cute pittie smile.
Sometimes, all it takes to change a heart is a little time, a little patience, and a lot of understanding.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Axle is not a Breed Ambassador...and I am not Ashamed

Axle and Remi on a play date.
A few months ago, some new neighbors moved in down the street. They're dog lovers, too. They walk their dog at least twice a day, from what I've seen. You can imagine how excited I was to see fellow dog walkers move into the neighborhood! When we first moved here, everyone looked at me like I was crazy for walking our dogs. Now they look at two families like they're crazy!! I've been wanting to stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood, but time has not been in my favor. Today, as chance would have it, I was walking Remi and Axle by their house when the woman came out of the yard with their dog. Axle immediately went on the defensive, and I quickly let the woman know to keep her distance. She and I were trying to have a get-to-know-each-other conversation over the barking of our dog. I walk Axle and Remi on one leash, a connector joining their harnesses. While Axle hopped around barking, Remi was tugging in the opposite direction. The stimulation was too much for Axle, and he turned on Remi. He didn't hurt her, but it looked (and sounded) nasty as he growled and snarled at her. It scared Remi and embarrassed me.
Axle and Fry napping.

In the meantime, the woman's husband came up and asked if I needed any help. Axle quickly positioned himself between us and issued a low warning growl. I apologized, but the man seemed very understanding. He said that he had no problem with a dog being protective of his owner. We talked a bit more, then I walked the dogs home.

I was really embarrassed, to say the least. Axle had made quite a butt of himself in front of strangers, and he's a pit bull. He's supposed to be a breed ambassador, right? He's supposed to disprove stereotypes. And there he was, an anti-social growling mess.

The more I thought about it, though, the less bad and the less embarrassed I felt. This is because I thought about what all Axle has been through during his two short years - A LOT!!  It's all documented throughout the blog, but here it is in a nutshell:

Axle lived with Otto for a year. Axle was only 4 or 5 months old when the fights started. We thought it was because they weren't neutered yet, but neutering didn't change things. We tried training, crate-and-rotate, you name it. We found out the hard way that Otto was the problem - he was unstable and human/dog aggressive to such a degree that we couldn't leave the house without a muzzle on him and a very strong, very secure leash. Axle learned from Otto that it didn't matter what he did, he would be attacked. We thought things would get better with Bobob (shelter dog), and they did...until Axle woke me up one morning because Bobob was having seizures. Bobob never woke up. :(

Axle and Spudet
In the meantime, we had moved to our current house and Axle had completed training. Walking through the neighborhood unveiled a new set of problems - loose dogs. There is no leash law in the county I live in. One particular house had a group of 8 dogs that would charge us, barking and snapping. One of them bit me in December of 2010. Axle was also bitten on a later date.

After Bobob, we adopted Spudet. Things seemed to finally be working in our favor. Axle and Spuds got along beautifully...until the day she tried to kill him. He still has pink, hairless scars on his legs where she tore his flesh. Everywhere else (neck, ears, face, chest, thighs) has grown white hair over the scars.

Axle and Remi
He had a buddy down the road who would come out for a friendly doggy "hello" when we'd go walking, but his family had a baby. After the baby was born, the dog's attitude shifted. When we would walk by, his hair would stand on end and he would growl. If he was contained in his yard, it wouldn't be so bad. One day, Axle's former buddy bit him on the nose. I guess Axle really liked him, because he didn't bite back.

All of those things are enough to make any normally play-doh-like dog at least a little bit dog reactive, but that's not all Axle has been through!

From L to R: Leela, Remi, Fry, and Axle
For months (not sure exactly how long), someone was breaking into our house and stealing medication. I don't know exactly how long they did it or what all they went through before they found what they wanted to take, but I do know it took a toll on Axle. The thief was subtle, at least in the beginning, and was using a key, so we had no idea what was going on for quite some time. In the meantime, Axle was having to witness a stranger coming into HIS house, and he couldn't do a thing about it. Small wonder he had broken two welds on his crate trying to get out!! (Axle and Remi are currently on a trial being free range in the house.)

Me and my lover boy!
All things considered, I think Axle is a jam-up dog. He and Remi get along great, he does wonderfully with the cats, and he's learning not to overwhelm guests with his affection.

There's really no reason Axle should have to be so perfectly behaved. Look at everything he's been through! I do the responsible thing - I let other dog owners know that Axle is a Dog In Need Of Space, and we avoid dog parks.

Am I wrong for thinking this? Thoughts?

PS New neighbors, if you ever read this, you seem like really nice folks and your dog is cute and all, but I don't see any play dates in our future!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Home Improvement

We caused a bit of a stir in the neighborhood this past weekend. Actually, we kinda gave the whole town something to talk about when we drove from Pavo, through Thomasville, and then into the outskirts of Cairo with a building (yes, a building) on the back of a tow truck. Now, this isn't just any old building. It's my childhood playhouse. It has almost 20 years of history!!

When I was 3 years old, my parents built a "storage shed." Of course, I helped! I spent two days hammering on one nail!! That Christmas, my dad carried me out. I was wearing teal footie pajamas and a red cowboy hat. I thought maybe I had a present hidden inside, but surprise, surprise, the present WAS the building!! It was my very own playhouse, an 8x8 wood building with a porch and shingled roof. I was really uptown!! My two cousins and me played for years in that playhouse.

In '98, was moved to the pasture and used as my horse barn. In '00, it got moved around to the backyard and fencing was attached to it so it could be used as part of a chicken pen. By this time, I was calling it my "clubhouse." In '03, I put up a poster in it that I had bought at the Scholastic book fair. It was a poster of two Cavalier Spaniel puppies with bubbly purple letters that read, "Puppy Love." I was so proud of that poster! It stayed in my room for a year after I bought it ('02), then was moved to the clubhouse once I got "too grown up" for it in my room.

In '04, my dad wired it for electricity and installed a light. I had plug-in outlets for lamps, fans, or even a TV. That year, one of my BFFs came to spend the night. I think she was the only one that thought it'd actually be cool to camp out in it!! We ate junk food and watched the Omen movies and Interview with a Vampire. We had to go back in the house to go to the bathroom - which meant a 30 yard dash in the pitch black of the country night. Don't forget, the little house was still part of the chicken pen, with the back wall having a roost mounted on it. If you've never been around chickens, suffice to say they are never quiet!!

In '05, the playhouse served as my music room while I taught myself to play violin. I know that saved my parents' ears!! I got my learner's license in '05, so the building was soon retired to the status of storage building.

Six years later, my husband and I bought our first house. Unfortunately, there was no room for all of our yard tools and other things that belong in a garage or storage shed. A year after we moved in, we still didn't have anywhere to put our things, and it was getting old seeing my front porch full of, well, junk.

My parents, loving and helpful as always, suggested we come and get the old playhouse and they would build themselves a new storage building. That's what landed us following my husband's coworker through town, the tow truck loaded up with my childhood playhouse. One of the little boys that lives behind our house told his family we were building a tree house. He later told them he rode his bike down to see us and we told him we were going to park our cars in it. So cute!! Everyone had to take a peek at the playhouse making it to its new home.

Like my parents, I like to take care of my things. They always taught me that, if you take care of them right, things can last a lifetime. The old playhouse will turn 20 this December. She's due a wood treatment, but otherwise in great shape. I'm hoping she lasts another 20 years, long enough for our possible future children to enjoy. (By then, we'll have a shop and garage for storage.) Axle and Remi are very happy to have more room in their bedroom, too!! :)

Dog Tags

A recent conversation has sparked an alarming issue: Axle isn't wearing any tags. Neither is Remi. My name is Meghan, and I'm a terrible pet parent. :(

I just gave Axle and Remi new collars on Axle's birthday. Remi's old one has her rabies tag, and one of Axle's many other collars has his. Axle is due a new ID tag since his is worn beyond legibility. Both Axle and Remi are micro-chipped, but a tag could get them home way faster, especially since some people (believe it or not) don't know to have the dog scanned.

Here's the problem. Axle has four different collars he routinely wears, and a few that he occasionally wears...not to mention the fact that I buy him a couple new ones a year. The obvious solution is the use a device to attach the tags to whatever collar Axle (or Remi) is wearing. I tried the tagnabbit ( Axle had broken it before the day was over. He'll also remove Remi's tags if not properly secured.

Next, I tried a screw-hook-thing. He got it undone. I really don't know how he did it, but he did. The only thing I have found that he cannot undo is the tradition 's' hooks that come with rabies tags. I have to put them on with pliers, and they're a beast to get off. That means I'm on the hunt for something new to attach tags with. It needs to be durable and Axle-proof. I haven't tried many products because I'm worried they won't work and I'll have wasted my money, so that's where you all come in.

What do you use to attach your dog's tags? Below, I've listed some of the items I'm considering. Any input is greatly appreciated!!