Janet

Janet


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.

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Update on Sam

Update on Sam

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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.

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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.

Y is for YELLOW RIBBON

Y is for YELLOW RIBBON

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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.

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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?!

A Christmas to forget

A Christmas to forget

This Christmas was everything but contemplative and quiet. On Christmas Eve my parents came over. At first Sam was restless and kept barking, but we knew he would settle down eventually. He did, and everything seemed  fine. 

When my mother stood up from the table to follow me into the kitchen, Sam jumped on her.  She lost her balance and hit a doorframe with her elbow. She will see a doctor about this today, so I know it hurts pretty bad. 

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, or my back, in this case. The straw that had kept piling up since Sam came to live with us. Every time I had to put him in a separate room to keep him from attacking postmen, neighbors, friends or relatives added straw. Every time he kept pulling  on the leash during our walks so my husband and I ended up tense and nervous and I struggled to keep up with the pack (I am using a walker) added straw. Every time he barks wildly at the door or the windows when a car or a neighbor passes the house added straw. Every time he tried to attack bikers or joggers added straw. Right now, I don’t care that Sam is sweet, affectionate and cuddly with us. I don’t care that my husband takes the blame for what happened on Christmas Eve and says he didn’t pay enough attention to Sam. I don’t care everyone says we are Sam’s last chance. It never should have happened and I feel so discouraged and helpless and don’t know what to do.

On Christmas Day, we drove to my sister-in-law, who lives a about 115 km from here. As a christmas present we were told she is seven weeks pregnant. Bummer. We are involuntarily childless, so this announcement reopened many old wounds. A hasty retreat wasn’ t an option, we all had been invited to stay the night. Because of the events of Christmas Eve, I was even more tense and had a close eye on Sam. The guest bed was really hard and uncomfortable, we called it a night at five thirty in the morning and tried to leave the house silently to drive home. The car had other plans, the battery was dead. When we rang the doorbell to get in again, we woke everybody in the house. My husband managed to sleep a few hours after that, my night was over. About nine in the morning, my brother-brother-in-law helped us to jump start our car from his own vehicle and we finally were on our way home.

From today until New Year’s Eve it’s business as usual, my husband has to work. I really hope nothing else happens and my nerves can calm down.