Cone of shame

Cone of shame


When I think “Everything is going well, now I can finally blog about everything that’s on my mind”, something happens. In this case our Sam.

It began last week when his vasculitis started to act up, although we had treated it as usual with the prescribed ointment. Sam’s left ear bled a lot. The only way to get this under control (according to the vet) is to tie the ear to the head with a bandage for a few days so Sam doesn’t scratch it and the wound can heal. Sounds simple, but of course he tries (and often succeeds) to get the bandage off and everything has to be re-done again and again 🙄.

On Sunday morning, I let the dogs in the garden when the neighbor’s dog jumped over the fence and attacked Sam. Sam was at a disadvantage, because I had him on the leash. I wasn’t able to stop the two dogs from biting another, yelling and kicking didn’t help. It was pure chaos. It only took the neighbor’s daughter a few seconds to come over and help us by pulling away her dog, but it surely seemed longer to me. But the two of us somehow were able to end the fight. I was surprised about myself, though. While this drama was unfolding, I was calm and wasn’t afraid for myself. I just wanted to protect Sam, because it was very clear the other dog wouldn’t let him go. Dropping the leash and running away never crossed my mind. Luckily Janet wasn’t bitten, she wasn’t on a leash and just ran away into the house.

After that we noticed Sam had two bite wounds on both his upper hind legs. So we brought him to the veterinary emergency service. The lesions are not very deep and not very big, but they had to be stapled and Sam is on pain meds and antibiotics for a week. The first days he was very quiet and tired. Things have been better since yesterday evening, so I think the meds are doing their job. If everything goes according to plan, the staples will be removed on Monday. Until then we will stay in care-for-furbaby-mode. We try to let him go without the cone as much as possible, so he can eat, drink and groom. But of course this also gives him the oppotunity to lick his wounds, and we don’t want that. We have to keep a close eye on him when he is without the cone.

We talked to the neighbors, and everyone agreed that may not happen again. The neighbor’s pet liability insurance will cover our vet bills (which will be about € 400 in total).  Now we hope the wounds will continue to heal and that this was the last time something like this happened.




Janet is the one in our pack who sometimes is a little bit neglected. Jackie is a Diva, and Sam gets lots of attention due to his behavior.

 She is not young anymore, approximately ten years old, and she likes a quiet environment. She looks for a place where she is out of the trouble, but can hear anything what’s going on.

 When I check on her, I am met with a soulful gaze, and when I talk to her, she wags her tail. Of course it makes things easier for us that she is so easy to handle. We take care that she has quality time with us, when everything is about her. 

She seems to be happy here, and we hope we will have many more happy hours with her.

Update on Sam

Update on Sam


It has been a while that I mentioned Sam. This is because making progress takes lots of time for him. But progress DOES happen, and this is what matters.

For a long time, it was a real challenge to take Sam on a walk with other dogs. We had to use a muzzle, and he nearly panicked when other dogs came near him – or even worse – wanted contact with him: Then he yowled, growled or bit.

Every Sunday the shelter organizes a walk. My husband participates with Sam an Janet. Janet is very easy going with other dogs. She is not dominant, but she is always friendly and very clear about what she wants or doesn’t want. What makes her a good teacher for Sam, who grew up without contact to other dogs in a killing station.

On these Sunday walks mostly the same dogs and humans are there. So Sam noticed finally, that nobody wanted to harm him. He calmed down, and we didn’t need the muzzle any longer. Last week all humans agreed to let the dogs play together without a leash on a meadow. And the miracle happened: Sam behaved as if he had done this all the time. He very kindly asked other dogs to play with him, and ran around absolutely carefree. One dog tried to make eye contact with him, he just ignored it.

We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

There is still a lot to do, so it is nice when progress is made, and this was a big step!

And when he looks at me like on the picture above, I think we will reach a lot more with him in the future.



Pet trade fairs now and then

Pet trade fairs now and then

I went to a cat exhibition thirty years ago. Even though I was a child back then, I could see that the animals didn’t feel well. The cages just were piled up, and the cats had nowhere to hide. Many animals were restless and stressed.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect today.

But as you can see on the pictures above, times have changed. Every cage offered places to hide. Every cage had privacy protection left and right. Every cage provided water and food. Most cats did what they would have done anyway: Lie around and sleep.

We also took a look at the dog exhibition, were the pedigree dogs were graded. Most of the dogs were relaxed. Many of them had their own cage with them, where they could feel safe.

The visitors were allowed to bring their dogs along. We left our dogs at home, because we thought it could push Sam too hard. But the most dog owners had been right about their four legged companions, and many dogs were cool. There were designated dog toilet areas and vets.

All in all my impression today was, that the animals are treated better today than years ago. If that is correct, it’s a step in the right direction.




My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.

In the picture above is Sam’s yellow ribbon, not very tidy, but well worn 🙂 . A yellow ribbon or bandana on a dog is a sign that this dog needs space. The dog can be in training, and every distraction would complicate the learning process. The dog can be old and therefore easily be overwhelmed. The dog can be recovering from illness or surgery and just not be in the mood to play. There can be many reasons to ask for space. More information about the idea behind this can be found here: Yellow Dog.

In Sam’s case, he still is very unpredictible. On some days he tolerates other people, dogs, joggers and bikers well, on others he just can’t stand them, barks and would try to chase them away. Even though we are very careful and attentive, we don’t take any chances, and more space makes the situation easier to handle for us humans and Sam.

In my opinion it’s a good idea if everybody can recognize a struggling dog from a distance. Pedestrians know that it wouldn’t be a good idea to pet this dog, and other dog owners are given enough time to put their dogs on the leash, so the meeting doesn’t escalate. Win-win for everyone, I would say.

So, the next time you see a dog wearing yellow, think of the possibility that this dog isn’t just a fashion victim, but that it maybe needs space.






Hard times for Sam (and for us)

Hard times for Sam (and for us)

Some former shelter animals quickly adapt to their new, secure enviroment, others need more time. While Janet belongs to the first group and is calm and relaxed, Sam still gets stressed easily. When he feels overwhelmed, he just reacts without looking at his humans for guidance. He reacts very strongly to everything that happens in front of our house, or on the street. We live in a cul-de-sac, relatively quiet. But even here the newspapers and mail are delievered every morning, the garbage truck drives through the street, people go by our house, and so on. If we don’t stop him, Sam runs to the nearest window or the front door and keeps barking until everything is quiet again. This kind of territorial behavior made his former new family bring him back to the shelter, and it is really nerve wracking.

It was very important for us to get to the real root of this problem, which is not disobedience, but naked fear. This rules out punishing him, because this would make him feel even worse and add to his anxiety. His breed may add to his behavior, Sam definitely is a herding dog mix (the head of the shelter guessed he is part belgian shepherd, or Malinois). Unfortunately, fear is more difficult to treat than disobedience, and it will probably never go away completely.

At first we tried a collar that exudes pheremones, but to no avail. But we can influence his behavior.

  • We have to react as quickly as possible, so Sam doesn’t get worked up.
  • Tell him “No!” in a calm way and block him from window or door, to show him that the humans are in charge and his behavior is not appreciated.
  • Order him to sit or lay down, and insist on him doing so.
  • Praising him when he calms down.
  • Staying near him until the situation is over.
  • Praising him again.
  • Going on with life.

We know from experience this helps and things settle down quickly. But we have to stick with it, and it is not always possible. When I am alone and have to go to the door to get a parcel, I can’t correct Sam’s behavior at the same time. The same applies for the times the dogs are without human supervision (we installed a camera to watch them, and Sam barks and runs to the door/window when we are not there, too).

Since last week, the roofs of two houses across the street are repaired. This means nonstop stress for Sam, and paying continuous attention for me. He has calmed down though, and even plays fetching ball with me. But we are still far from chilling. It doesn’t keep us from loving our “little man”, of course. Who can resist this hangdog look?!

Happy 3rd Gotcha Day, Janet!

Happy 3rd Gotcha Day, Janet!

We took Janet to the vet yesterday for her yearly check-up. She has been living with us for three years now. Her vaccination record kind of tells her story: No entry for the first years of her life, it starts with 2013 in Romania. In this first year, several treatments for ticks and worms are mentioned, maybe she was in a bad shape back then. A part of her tongue is missing, the bone near hear yaw is dented – she must have endured hard times.

But – and this is what admire most in her – she knows she is in a better place now, and that the bad times are over. When we entered the waiting room yesterday, she happily wagged her tail. She is convinced of the fact that her humans do not willingly bring her into a bad situation. What happened years ago, is irrelevant today. I really can learn from that when bad scenes from the past repeat in my head again and again.

At the beginning, it took her some time to fully understand that we treat her well. I still am surprised how much she trusts us now. Even more so because we know, that she didn’t tolerate humans near her when she came to the shelter. She was about five years old when she met us, and she completely changed her opinion about humans. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Think again! I wish I could do the same, I am very bad at replacing former, bad memories with new, positive ones.

People tend to judge a book by its cover, and they often are afraid of Janet because of her black fur. But she is very friendly and relaxed and rarely growls or barks. She is so happy most of the time, maybe because she is so positive and expects nothing bad to happen. I have to take my hat off to her in this regard and just can try to learn from her.

Who says “It’s just an animal!” is not aware of the fact that they can teach us so much about life. I am very thankful that our furbabies constantly remind me to stay in the present without constantly worrying about the past or the future. I have to admit I am a very slow learner, but they don’t give up on me and show me every day how it’s done correctly. For that, I can’t thank them enough.