Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Heros

I am extremely proud of my rescue dogs. None of them will ever have titles, ribbons or trophies, but they have worked terribly hard to get where they are today.

Lucy used to react to stress by chewing on herself. It started with her left front foot. She chewed it until the hair was gone and the foot got infected. We would get it cleared up and the next time she got upset she would start chewing it again. Then she switched to her hip and tail. One day she chewed the skin right off and was a bloody mess. I put her in a pillowcase, tucked it in around her collar and rushed her to the Vet. We managed to get her healed, but I knew she would go back to the same spot unless I did something to prevent it.

I bought a pair of doggy pants, the kind used for females in heat, and sewed a tail into them. For weeks Lucy walked around wagging her blue denim tail. We got some strange looks and comments when we went out in public, but it prevented her from chewing on the area.

We tried to bolster Lucy's confidence and give her other ways to handle stress. She was on a diet at the time and three times a day she and I would walk the perimeter of the yard. At first we had to go very slowly, but as the weight dropped off, we were able to walk a little faster. Today, Lucy still goes out on her own and walks the perimeter of the yard three times each day. I think it's her way of relaxing. She hasn't chewed on herself in the last four years.

Morgan is terribly shy. When we first got her we tried to take her for rides, but she would tremble and have to stop after just a block to poop and then she always vomited sometime during the ride. It wasn't much fun for her or us. We stopped taking her with us, but when Samba came along, she loved to ride and Morgan wanted to go, too.

Somehow, Morgan taught herself to ride. She still gets nervous when she first gets in, but she doesn't have to stop to poop and she doesn't vomit. She begs to go every time we leave the house and we take her whenever we can. Last week she rode in a boat for the first time and she looked like she enjoyed it. Somehow she conquered her fears to be with us.

Tsar had separation anxiety. He destroyed clothing, furniture, carpets, doors, walls and anything he could find. We chose to combine anxiety medication with obedience training to help him relax and build his confidence. He somehow had to learn to trust that when we left the house, we would return.

We must always use a positive approach with Tsar. Praising him and calling him a good boy will get cooperation. Any negative words and he shuts down.

At first we would just walk outside, shut the door, count to ten and go back in. Then we would walk around the yard and go in a different door. We would drive up the street and walk back. Pretty soon we could leave for an hour and he would be OK. Now we can leave him all day and there is no damage. I think he actually just sleeps while we're gone. Tsar took a chance and learned to trust us.

Monty had the toughest job. He was a victim of violence. At six weeks he wanted no one to touch him. If anyone reached for him, he would grab their hand. He was afraid of loud noise, too. Thunder or fireworks would start him drooling and panting and racing around looking for a way to escape. For several years we treated him with Valium during storms. Then two years ago he learned to go into a closet during storms. He goes in and sits by himself. Last night we had a thunderstorm. For the first time in his life, Monty slept through it.

Monty tries intimidation to keep people away. He is a big, scary looking dog and he will growl and bark to keep strangers at a distance. He has never been aggressive and I somehow doubt he would attack anyone, but we won't put him in that situation. Monty now has five friends, people he trusts and will let touch him. That may not seem like much to you, but for Monty, it's the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.

These dogs, like so many others, have endured neglect and abuse and have worked hard to learn to trust again. In my opinion they are the champions.

Tonight we had class. Lola did a few of the things we asked of her. Her attention span is pretty short. We've been working on 'sit-stay' and I can get about three feet away from her for just a short time. Her 'heel' wasn't too bad in class. We just need to keep plugging away at it.

Fudge did well. His 'heel' is coming along nicely. During his 'sit-stay' and 'down-stay' our instructor would walk around him, stroke him and say "Good-boy". He did pretty well with the distractions until she held a ball in front of him. That was more than he could stand. He broke his 'stay' for that ball.

Here at home I've had a surprise. Noah has suddenly figured out what I want and is doing good 'sits' and downs' with just a voice command and no hand signals. He, Sky, Bailey and Norma Jean are doing well. Tess, however, gets so excited when I praise her for sitting, that she jumps up and starts racing around the room. I'm not sure how I'm going to calm her down enough to go on to 'down'.

After last night's rain, the flowers are opening up.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a fantastic job you have done!
It takes a lot of patience and work to gain the confidence of a frightened and abused dog.
I am so glad that their are people like you in the world who rescue and care for them.
I think there should be ribbons and trophies for your rescue dogs as they have worked so hard to overcome their pasts.

Welcome to DoT.
I love your blog and I am going to add it to my personal blog roll too!