To Mason’s ex-people

I had the privilege to take care of the nine-month-old Rottweiler/Shepard puppy you gave up to the high-kill shelter in Southern California. He was dubbed “Mason” and transported to Eugene, Oregon, where we fostered him for a week.RhS0BlpOx-AwHOZ1vksEApT34JhxOxv6wIZTK6M682A

Mason had a hacking cough when he came to us. He freely jumped on people, didn’t know any commands. He had no idea of boundaries with other dogs and had a stealthy knack for taking objects and chewing them very quietly. Typical puppy in a big, lanky body. We put him on antibiotics for his hacking, started teaching him where he was not allowed, and we made him sit for everything.

083b6lo2n1TUm3Nc9C5W5xxJf1Tvf4XVh9gPaG8oEOMWhile his puppy antics could be tiresome, Mason showed qualities of a great dog from the beginning. He loved being pet: absolutely loved having his face caressed. He had no problems with us checking his ears and touching his paws, and showed no food aggression during any feed times. On leash, he was calm and alert, and with a pack added, he lowered his head and focused even better. He stayed calm around our kids and slept in his crate without a peep.

There is no way I could or would judge you for bringing a dog to a shelter, because I know there are all sorts of reasons why people do so. We had to rehome one of our dogs years ago when we had no idea what we were doing as dog owners. I still feel guilty for that, but it is done and we will not make the same mistakes again. I wish you knew this:

TBgiF1dqoKoo4EE7hirYuS6IOJn6f0NOkFfRm3vQVBEToday Mason found his forever home, and he couldn’t have gone to a better family. They had lost their lab mix of 11 years to cancer recently, and they were looking for another dog to share their lives with. They’d seen Mason’s picture online and fell in love with him. When I brought Mason to meet them today, I had only good vibes. They were smitten with him from the beginning, and he was so excited to meet them. They have a little boy and girl, and a cat at home. They asked lots of questions to learn as much about him as possible, and they were loving on him the whole time. He was in heaven.

Mason was one of my fosters that I had a harder time saying goodbye to because he was one I’d keep if I had the time to give him. He didn’t look twice when I left because he was gazing lovingly at his new family who was petting him all over. If it has to hurt, then this is the best kind of hurt, because it is tempered by nothing but happiness.

The dog that you brought in was not put down. He’s sporting a colorful new leash and he’s now part of a doting, forever family.

Mickey: Home for the Holidays!

10860926_10203202418517471_5675180874069037207_oYesterday, Mickey left our fostering for his forever home with the family who met him last weekend. The family also is adopting Mickey’s sister, Mindy, who has been in a separate foster home. I wish I could be there to see that reunion.

Mickey has a long way to go in becoming a confident dog, and in his favor is his eagerness to please and to learn. He is such a sweet boy. I hope his rehabilitation actively continues alongside his sister.

This will be our last foster dog for 2014, as the holidays are usually crazy and we’re physically and mentally all over the place. See you in the New Year!

Mickey and the Maybe Home

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Lola and Mickey taking a rest

It’s been two weeks of gradual progress with Mickey. What used to be a panicked backwards retreat when we’d move a chair or laugh loudly has turned into a tentative step back. He no longer climbs all over Lola and Frieda in their dog beds, having been corrected by them quickly and effectively. Initial dog spats lessened as the dogs re-adjusted and after Mickey got snipped and became apparently more acceptable. He’s begun resting alongside Lola, the more submissive of our two furries. I don’t doubt that he misses the bond with his sister, Mindy, who is also in a foster home.

Will sit for food.

Will sit for food. (L to R: Mickey, Lola, Frieda)

On his first walk alongside our toddler’s stroller, he was terrified of the wheels. After several more walks, he now follows carefully behind it, no longer pulling away from it. Mickey’s also learned our routine at feeding time. He knows that meals are not given until he completes a true “sit,” butt fully on the floor. The same goes for being let out to pee and then for regaining entry.

I really appreciate the great tips that fellow bloggers contributed for working with Mickey. We have incorporated using treats as we approach, and we don’t require a sit, especially if he is fearful. On walks, we started putting ourselves physically between him and what frightens him to demonstrate that we are alpha and will handle the potential danger. I loved the idea of bringing him somewhere we could watch joggers go by, as they are still one of his believed monsters, but weather and schedule has not yet allowed this excursion. We make do with our usual three mile walks around the area.

Playtime

Playtime

This past weekend, we took Mickey to a meet and greet. The potential adopters live in the country and have kids and experience with dogs, though no current dogs. They watched Mickey hesitantly, clearly uncertain about his timidness, and I found myself observing with two different perspectives. I respected that as responsible dog owners, the family wanted to find a suitable match for their home life. Every potential dog owner should take an adoption very seriously. However, the foster mom part of me felt defensive, thinking, if you can’t see Mickey’s utter potential and his submissive sweetness without a hint of aggression, if you don’t feel a desire to help him achieve his potential, you are probably not the right family for him. With a dedicated family who is willing to constantly expose him to different environments, he will grow into a confident protector and companion.

The family took a few days to deliberate and decided they’d like to adopt both Mickey and his sister Mindy. They plan to have a fence finished on their property this week before bringing both dogs home. Mickey will be absolutely ecstatic to see his sister again. She was his alpha and comfort zone. My biggest wish for Mickey is that his family actively works with him to continue his progress. He doesn’t need acres to explore. He needs to gain his doggy confidence first, and that will not come without help from his people.

 

Fostering Mickey: Rehabilitating a fearful pup

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Mickey is slowly adjusting to our home and routine. He is the most scared and skittish dog we’ve fostered, and I would appreciate any advice from you dog-savvy fosters and owners regarding how you rehabilitated a fearful animal.

This dog is a submissive lover boy who adores getting pet, especially around his neck and face. He’s loosened up to the point that he’s very excited when someone comes home, and he jumps around in glee, landing in the play position each time. The change happens when people continue to move towards him. He retreats warily with his tail between his legs as though we have bad intent. It’s an even quicker retreat when we are holding something, be it a larger grocery bag or a wallet.

He walks well when surroundings are relatively calm. However, he is most scared when people approach him from behind. We had several runners pass us, and he gets terrified watching them get closer, trying to stretch as far away on leash as possible. My guess is that he’s had people chase him to beat him. His fear is nothing normal, nothing simply puppyish.

My stepsons experimented with running up to our forever furry, Frieda. She stood there with slightly raised doggy brows, looking at them like they were missing some marbles. A dog who has not been abused may show curiosity at someone’s approach, but there shouldn’t be any fear or fearful retreat. Makes me so angry to think that someone abused Mickey. He is as sweet as they come.

We will continue walking him, but I need more ideas for how we can help him at home. I feel like we need to put him in sit and have someone approach him from different sides, earning a treat each time he doesn’t retreat. I don’t know. This is new territory for us. He sits easily for food as opposed to without it, so we might lean heavily on training with treats for awhile.

I worry about him finding the right forever home, because if his new owners decide to coddle him, he will not grow out of his fears on his own. He will simply keep them and be a very insecure dog, and there is no quality of life in that. Worse, if his owners lose patience with him and decide to be more forceful with an already fearful dog, they will exacerbate his issues.

Mickey and the Christmas tree

Mickey and the Christmas tree

The ideal family for Mickey? One who already has years of experience with dogs–his issues need to be addressed by a confident dog owner, not by beginners. He is wonderful around kids and would be happy with other dogs. He needs someone who will actively bring him into different environments, as staying at home or in a yard all the time is not enough to address his fears. He needs continued socialization (don’t they all?).

If you have any advice on how we can continue working with Mickey while we have him, please speak up! And thank you in advance!

Meet Foster #5, Mickey

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We know that he had a sister who stayed back with a foster in SoCal after both were rescued from a high kill shelter. From watching his interaction with my two older dogs, I would guess that he has not had much dog socialization. He will climb on their dog beds while they’re resting and walk over and around them, which will usually earn him a warning growl to mind his space.

Despite the personal boundary issue, he is an inquisitive, quiet boy. Great on leash, but very skittish with passing runners and loud vehicle noises. Otherwise, he walks right alongside and rarely pulls. Have not yet seen his reaction to cats.

He isn’t trained yet with any commands, but it is clear just working on him with “sit” that he is a fast learner and eager to please. He prefers being near people, and would happily make a great (big) lap dog. Last night he was also intrigued with the latest episode of The Walking Dead. None of our fosters have paid the tv the slightest bit of attention until this one.

Mickey is just about the handsomest puppy I have seen to date, and if we didn’t already have two, I’d definitely want to adopt him. He will need lots of walks to help him gain confidence in various environments and he needs, as they all do, a consistent, firm owner who will not so much coddle his fears as help him to grow out of them. I have no doubt that he will make someone an excellent forever furry one day. And on that day, I will have a hard time saying goodbye. 🙂