All posts by Molly O'Hara

Molly is a freelance writer living in the wilds of Vermont with her wife, daughter, three cats, two guinea pigs, and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, both puppy mill rescues. Callie is a 6-year-old former breeding female, and Charlie is a quickly growing puppy, both of whom she blogs about at callieswag.com. Molly has a regular column in two local newspapers focusing on awesome animals in the area. She has also worked in education, substance abuse prevention, other mental health areas, and with LGBTQ+ youth. Molly is eternally trying to finish her novel which, surprisingly, has nothing to do with animals.

Happy Gotcha-Day Callie-Wag

To the girl who started it all, the one who fit the missing space in our family, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love you.

You are magic. Your presence has changed our family for the better since the day we saw you; first on Petfinder, with your terrified eyes and ridiculous looking picture – you still make yourself look like a fat turtle in some photos – and then, in person, at the rescue. Again you looked scared beyond belief but you rose above your fear to protect your fellow adult rescue, cutting her off to keep her from pacing too close to the wires where she would jump up and cut her feet. That’s who you are. A lover, a protector of other animals from whatever possible abuses you had experienced at the puppy mill where you had been churning babies out for years.

Even in your eyes on the car ride home, I could see the love blooming, despite your understandable myriad of fears.

I can’t fully put into words just how special you are, Callie, instead I have a photo tribute. Happy First Gotcha-Day baby girl!

The ride home from the rescue
Is that love hidden behind the fear? The car ride home.

 

Callie snuggling on couch
Callie learned that kids make the best friends, and cuddle buddies.
Callie running
Callie learned to go for walks, even if it meant she had to run to catch up
Callie walking
She got a little better at walks 😉
That first time you fell asleep on me. ❤️
Callie watching us in the snow
Callie learned what snow was, but questioned why we played in it.

Callie did amazing in her first obedience class.

And then she got to learn what a real vacation was on our Cavalier & Mother’s Day vacation at Wilburton Inn in Manchester, VT.

Our Twitter CavPack book with our dear friends’ faces and silly pictures throughout.
That time we brought home a puppy. You don’t look very happy in this photo, Callie.
Rescue Cavalier's Callie and Charlie snuggle
Serious little brother love happened anyway.

So much so, he taught you to play –

We started having doggie play dates and you found a new best friend.
Although you’ve been a bit sick lately and we’ve even started acupuncture to help, that hasn’t changed everything about you.
Callie's smile
You’re still one of the smiliest girls around 😊
We were bad, we couldn’t resist getting her some kind of treat for her gotcha-day 😉😁
Because this girl gets to experience freedom forever, even the freedom to go past the yard limit and get in trouble (recognize that facial expression anyone 😂)

Mom made her dinner gotcha-day cake, although sitting at the table was a little scary!

Charlie's bowtie
Charlie looked dapper with his first bow-tie

I love you forever Callie Wag. I hope we will be so lucky as to be celebrating your gotcha-day next year when you turn 8.

pic of Callie snuggling
My heart and soul. This dog is magic.

If you want to see another small tribute to Callie, check out this post from the mini version of Callie’s Wag, a new blog on a local website called the DailyUV.

Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month!

It is adopt a Shelter Dog Month! Remember those loving dogs who are waiting for their forever homes ❤️. Ray is one of the best examples of a magical, loving shelter dog. While his owner started out never having had a dog before, he and Ray learned together, eventually supplying enough education and anecdotes for Colin to write a book.

A Dog's Life? (Stories of me and him)

Thank you USA for providing the greater percentage of my Blog Followers and, probably not surprisingly therefore, the greater percentage of my book sales. I thought it would be an appropriate reciprocal gesture to promote your (ASPCA) Adopt-a Shelter-Dog month!

The ASPCA have designated October as Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month which compliments the “Adopt don’t shop” movement very nicely, and no doubt explains the increase in dog adoption related Posts here in the Blogiverse.

Whereas many will argue in favor of buying a dog from a breeder, there are so many benefits to at least checking out your local shelter before making any decision.  One must always consider that a dog in a shelter  is not there by choice, and would no doubt really love all the comforts of a real home just as you and I do.

Adopting from a shelter serves a double benefit because it is not only giving…

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Rescuing Puppy Mill Girls – Charlotte and Felicity

Charlotte was three months old when her mom adopted her. She had gone to the pet store for rabbit food, but,

“[There was an] adoption drive all set up and boy did they have puppies that day – tons. Most were in one big pen, jumping all over each other and yapping.

‘She was sitting by herself in her own crate. I swear she stared me down. When I walked over, she cautiously wagged her tail a little bit and sniffed my fingers. I asked if I could hold her and when I did, she put one paw on each of my shoulders and buried her head in my neck. So I got a puppy that day.”

Charlotte's first day
Charlotte, the day she was adopted

Charlotte was from a puppy mill but was rescued when she was still a young pup. She was with a rescue called Coalition for Animal Rescue and Education (C.A.R.E.) out of Hillsboro Missouri.

She had already been bounced around between homes at only three months old. The first adopters gave Charlotte back and then she had two foster homes before her forever home came along. Her mom noted that it was a while before Charlotte realized she was going to stay.

Charlotte and mom on bench
Charlotte and her mom

As with many puppy mill puppies, Charlotte was often sick. Her mom said “I don’t believe she came from a very healthy mother. Most of a puppy’s immune system comes from their mother’s milk, and she didn’t have much of one at all. We went through a few upper respiratory infections when she was younger, lots of tummy troubles, and then it turned into a slew of eye infections, UTIs, and eventually diabetes when she was five.”

But even diabetes didn’t stop this pair from their exploits. Like many Cavaliers, Charlotte is her mom’s best friend. She’s 9 years old now.

“Charlotte is my nonstop adventure buddy. We have taken road trips all the way from our home in St. Louis to Galveston, TX, Key West Florida, Savannah, GA, northern WI, even NY, and everywhere in between. Most of the time, it’s just her and me on the road trips. Those are my favorite trips. Just me and my dog on an island, or a mountain, or lakeside, and in the car for hours. She loves fancy hotels and acts like a total diva when we stay in one. When we are home, we go to all the local parks, the drive-in movies or movies in the park events, food truck festivals, run in charity 5ks (her in the stroller) for local rescues, she rides on my paddle board while I paddle around local lakes, and we brunch out on dog friendly patios. Things got tricky when she was diagnosed diabetic, but learning to home test has meant that not only are her sugars very well controlled, but I have the freedom for her to live a normal dog life. I just take that meter and some snacks everywhere so that if there is ever a problem, I can detect it and treat it on the spot. 3.5 years diabetic and you would never guess it, she lives a totally normal, dog life, she just gets poked several times a day, which she doesn’t mind. She’s been the best friend I didn’t know I was missing. She is my absolute heart and soul.”

Charlotte on the beach
Charlotte the Beach Dog

Recently, Charlotte and her mom decided that it was time to add to their rescue Cavalier family and they brought home Felicity. Felicity is a 6 yr old former puppy mill breeder who was saved from the auction block by Gateway 4 Paws, in O’Fallom IL.

Felicity on the couch
Felicity arrives home and discovers the couch!

Gateway for Paws attends puppy mill auctions where they sell off various breeder dogs and puppies, and they buy as many as they can to rehabilitate them and get them out of the cycle. And, as is often true for rescues, they spent four times what her adoption fee was to get Felicity out of that auction and fix her up. She got spayed, cleaned up, and had 11 painfully rotten teeth pulled.

Felicity’s new mom said, “9\16\17 is the day she was thrown up on the auction block, listed as a breeder, covered in matted fur, a mouth full of rotten teeth, and her eyes swollen shut from infection. She was only with them for a week. I adopted her on 9\24. She was still recovering from surgery at the time and required meds, and we are still treating the eyes (I’m betting that will be lifelong), but the foster knew what I go through every day with Charlotte’s diabetes, so she knew I was responsible enough to handle it. Special needs pups are right up my alley.

‘When I applied to Gateway 4 Paws, it was actually because they had posted some cavalier puppies for adoption. When the foster called, she told me about Felicity. I knew that this mill mama needed me and deserved to have a happy, spoiled life. I also knew the puppies would have no trouble finding homes, while not too many people want older rescue dogs, especially when she wasn’t exactly a beautiful cavalier in her current state, but I saw it and knew she was gorgeous under years of neglect.”

And she’s right. It can be hard to see the love and beauty under the horrible condition the mills have left the mamas in. But, if you look closely, there is a glimmer in these mamas, a force of light, because they have already spent so much of their lives fighting to live, they are going to fight to love.

I asked Felicity and Charlotte’s mom how much Felicity has changed already, and her emotional response belies the feelings that most of us have, especially when rescuing puppy mill dogs.

“I have never cried so much in my entire life! Every time she learns something new, that it seems all dogs should know all along, like what a treat is, or a warm bed, you can see the utter joy in her eyes. The fact that she is so willing to trust me and wants to make me happy (that cavalier need to please), even after all the crap she has been through just amazes and inspires me. It was slow going at first. She was just terrified and confused. I patiently taught her all I could. I made a point to hold her and cuddle her, even though it made her uncomfortable at first, so she could see that I wasn’t anything to be afraid of. I had to hand feed her the first night, but now she eats like a champ.

‘My friend who has two mill rescues told me to take her everywhere, make people pet her and hold her, so that’s what I’ve done. She’s been to the pet store a couple times, my parents came over, I introduced her to the neighbors (who work in rescue and have three rescue beagles), and then I mustered the courage to take her to the Canine Carnival this weekend, which I was afraid would scare her, but instead she was so happy. She was totally loving it, letting strangers pet her without flinching, sniffing other dogs, she was all about it!

Stroller dogs in pumpkin patch
Charlotte and Felicity in the Pumpkin Patch

‘She still panics and runs from me sometimes, hasn’t slept through the night a few times, and gets a little freaked out in the back yard if the air conditioner kicks on or a noisy car goes by. She’ll learn. I don’t believe she sees well, which probably contributes to her anxiety. My vet said there is significant damage to her eyes from years of neglect, which may or may not reverse. She greets me at the door now when I get home from work, Cavalier tail wag in full effect, so we’re getting there.”

It sounds like it! And what amazing rescue stories 😍

Gotcha day and welcome home
Gotcha Day and Welcome Home all in one!
Snuggling with mom
Charlotte taught Felicity all about snuggling with mom on the couch.

Too many dogs are being killed!

Read this wonderful post on why you should adopt shelter dogs and debunking some of the myths about them.

Learning from Dogs

A plea to choose a shelter dog before other sources!

Of the six dogs that we have here at home only one, Cleo, came to us from a breeder. That was because we specifically wanted a GSD puppy to be a playmate for Pharaoh as he was getting into his final years.

Pharaoh demonstrating his benevolent status with puppy Cleo. April 2012.

The other five are all dogs that we took from rescue shelters or, in the case of Brandy, from a couple that couldn’t handle such a big dog despite him being the most placid and loving dog one could ever come across.

The Care2 blogsite recently published an article that hammered home the reasons why everyone should (nay, must!) consider a shelter dog first.

Please read and share this. For the sake of those thousands of dogs that never have the joy of loving owners in their lives.

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A Little Acupuncture, Callie?

Yesterday Callie went for her first visit to our new holistic vet at Chelsea Animal Hospital. We aren’t going to change our regular vet as we love them but, as I wrote last week in Callie’s Gastro Issues and Acupuncture?, I am trying to eliminate possible causes of her bouts of gastroenteritis and was concerned about her having a high level of stress.

Before I delve into Callie’s appointment, I’ll give you my quick background experience with Eastern medicine. I have rather severe fibromyalgia which causes me a lot of pain. I also used to have an issue where I would get REALLY hot immediately and start pouring sweat. I saw an acupuncturist on and off for a while. Acupuncture cured the heat problem, which hasn’t come back in three years, and it always helps with my pain and anxiety. So, for me, it was not an unusual direction in which to go.

Back to Callie. Since her last bout, she’s been off and on. Some days she seems like her (newer) old self, wrestling with Charlie, asking for attention, exploring the backyard or enjoying walks. Other days, not so much. She’s never off food, but she is a Cavalier after all. We have continued with the boiled beef/pumpkin diet which seems to be producing decent poops (yay!) although I have added treats back in, freeze-dried beef liver and Zukes Wild Rabbit training treats. Those don’t seem to have messed with her system.

The vets at Chelsea Animal Hospital want to spend a long time with you, especially if it is a holistic medicine and/or acupuncture intake, so we were scheduled for a 90-minute appointment.

Everyone there was friendly with Callie but not effusive like at our vets. The particular vet she saw prefers to ignore the dog in the beginning, talking with the owner about the dog, health issues, diet, changes in lifestyle, etc., so the dog has a chance to get used to her. Callie wasn’t so amused about being ignored.

Callie waits vet
Bored. These hoomans are BORING!
Callie sniff vets shoe
Maybe if I sniff her shoe, she’ll pay attention to me?

We talked extensively about her poop. Texture, color, regularity, how often it was soft, all sorts of details. That’s ok though. I have a child; if you don’t yet, you will learn that throughout, and beyond, toddlerhood you will be discussing poop a lot.  Callie’s stool had never been regular, at least not in my memory. When she was strictly on a kibble diet, on kibble mixed with raw, on raw – the only time recently I have seen what I would call an excellent poop was the other day, and she has been on the boiled beef and pumpkin for a while, so something is working there.

After approximately 50 minutes we moved into her physical exam of Callie and then acupuncture. We spoke about the possibility of doing Western diagnostics first, which would be very expensive, or try this method first and immediately move to Western diagnostics if a medical issue crops up.

For those of you who don’t know, in Eastern medicine, diagnosis usually involves things like listening to the heart and lungs, feeling the pulse for specific features, and looking at your tongue. Here’s a good quick explanation of acupuncture and dogs.

After examining her, the vet began the acupuncture. In both videos, you can hear her talking about different aspects of Eastern medical philosophy. Callie is still getting needles put in her so you can see the momentary look of surprise on her face as the vet hit tender places linked to her stomach and her spleen. You can also see the vet feeling for and locating the correct spots on her body for the needles. She tried to go for a kidney spot but it was too tender, and she had to pull it out. Instead, she did some acupressure on that point. Callie ended up with a total of 6 needles.

Callie remained a little nervous for a few more minutes as, if you have experienced it, there’s a weird feeling of energy/electricity bouncing around at first. But she calmed down relatively quickly.

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The vet left us for about 20 minutes so that Callie could relax with the needles in, a standard procedure in acupuncture. This was the period of time that felt SO LONG. I wish they were able to provide human & dog acupuncture at the same time. My body absolutely needs it! Callie did well for about 15 minutes or so, going so far as to fall asleep for a bit, but then she began to get fidgety, we were both relieved to see the vet again.IMG_5266

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Callie did seem to respond well to the first treatment, acting more relaxed and less sore and itchy.

The vet and I also spoke about changes to her diet. Chelsea Animal Hospital as a whole, as well as our particular vet, are big proponents of raw food if possible. I mentioned wanting to get Callie off the boiled beef/pumpkin and back on a Primal Raw, and she had some great thoughts. Basically, in Eastern medicine, Callie seems like she has a damp heat condition and, while you wouldn’t want to put what is considered “warming” foods in her, uncooked foods require her body to use double the heat/energy to consume, and right now that isn’t working for her. Instead, we are going to either lightly steam or bake the raw nuggets and add those to her current food, aiming for a 50/50 blend.

Callie will also start taking some supplements including a digestive enzyme/probiotic, a small amount of bentonite clay, and an herbal mixture intended to help balance her body’s needs. Overall, I think Callie was ok with the visit so we will continue for now.

She did get minorly carsick yesterday, strange for her, but I think it might be a placebo effect of too many vet rides recently and not enough trips to the pet store for treats!

I should hear more from the vet today explaining the herbal mixture that is on its way here (had to be shipped), and I am looking forward to that, but not as much as I am looking forward to seeing a change in Callie. I have hope. And a whole lotta love. First update will be in 2 weeks!

Plus, rumor has it, Gibby misses his girlfriend 😊

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