Routines, Mistakes, and Steps Backward

This blog isn’t just about the positive experiences Callie or I have, but also about the negative ones, and the mistakes I make.

Over Thanksgiving, Callie did fantastic with some jumping around, first spending the night with us at my wife’s parents and the next night at mine. She was exhausted afterward from all the high energy activity, but happy. However, we learned that my brother-in-law on my wife’s side is allergic to dogs.

My mom and Callie
My mom and Callie

So for Christmas, we decided that Callie would spend the night with us at my parents on Christmas Eve and then she would stay again, without us but with my daughter and Nana (my mom) whom she adores.

My mom also has a rescue, Angie. A is young, about 2.5 now. My mom has had her for about a year and a half, and she has become fairly well adjusted. A is also a HIGH energy dog, very different than Callie and it took C a few visits to get used to Angie, but now they do well together.

Anyway, the point is we decided she would be ok spending the night without us at my parent’s house because it is a place she is relatively comfortable. Christmas morning was fun, even Callie had a blast. Then we took off midday.

When we picked her up Monday morning, around 11 am, we walked in the house, and my daughter was holding Callie in a position she knows she is not allowed. Callie gets uncomfortable and scared when G moves her too much, particularly when she keeps her upright like most dogs hate. Callie looked relieved to see us and desperate to be removed from my daughter’s arms.

My exhausted mother had run out of energy correcting G regarding Callie, understandably, as G was taking advantage of breaking every comfort and respect rule we had set in place.

Callie also spent the entire time on the couch because my mother was worried that Callie might pee. Callie occasionally has had accidents there, so it’s a fair concern, especially considering that she doesn’t want Angie to start peeing in the house. My mom felt like she was stuck.

We disengaged Callie from my daughter’s arms, assured her she would see C again on Thursday, ran a few errands and came home.

It doesn’t take much to throw any dog’s routine off, but for a rescue dog, especially a recently rescued one, those habits are critical.

Goal: Reclaim the Couch and Rest.
Goal: Reclaim the Couch and Rest.

My wife and I were both floored to discover that Callie had reverted to being incredibly fearful of being reached out to from above, to having her neck touched first, and to being picked up by us when she would ask to get on the couch. The sofa being the one place she seemed to want to be most, sleeping between us.

She didn’t lose her newly learned skill of sitting or waiting, she hasn’t stopped responding when she called to; but we broke her trust, she’s reverted back to her initial fears, and I think it’s because we weren’t there at night more than anything else.

I haven’t left Callie alone for extended periods of time. She hasn’t been without me for more than a few hours yet. Part of that is purposeful, Callie is intended as a potential therapy dog, particularly for myself, and part is situational. I work from home and don’t go many places for hours.

Right now, as we’ve only had her for two months, I feel a bit like an idiot. I’m not surprised that she is reacting this way. At the same time, I worry that in the future she still won’t be able to be without us.

My parents are my planned go-to dog sitters, and maybe it would have been better if my daughter hadn’t been there exhausting Callie, or maybe Callie is going to struggle with going back to her fears.

I’m stuck for the moment on this issue.

A Little Bit of History, Part 2


gertie-in-color-copyWhen I was 8, my parents adopted an ex-breeder Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Gertrude, who was also 8 years old. The age was important to me as it felt like we grew up together. She was from another home and had been socialized, so she was much more relaxed than Callie.


Gertie, as we called her, was my best friend in the world. She was a little girl’s dream dog.

Gertie would let me dress her up in doll clothes and carry her everywhere. She was happy to have the attention and willing to do anything that didn’t involve exercise (she was a bit overweight.)

My father had built a beautiful doll bed that matched mine. She insisted that my parents tucked her in every night when they did so with me. As soon as they left the room, she would get up out of bed and sleep in front of the door, but that didn’t change the routine.








The bed’s still around, in my daughter’s room at her grandparent’s house, so Callie just HAD to test it out 🙂

When my wife and I started to talk about getting a dog again, she said she wanted to stay small and fluffy. We also wanted to rescue and were ok with a mix. We talked about Papillons, Pomeranians (apparently stuck in the P’s for a little while) before I mentioned Cavaliers. I felt stupid not to have thought of them before.

Before Callie, I had applied to a rescue and was in the process of potentially adopting a Cavalier mix, but when she was cat-tested it was evident she wasn’t the dog for us. Super disappointment on my end.

And then, one day, I searched again in Petfinder and Callie popped up. I wasn’t sure about her at first. Gertie had been a Blenheim, the red and white coloring, and the other Cavalier CVCR had rescued was a Blenheim too. Plus, Callie had serious WOAH eyes in her picture. We could see the whites of her eyes the whole way around. The other dog looked more relaxed to me. But, my wife felt a connection with Callie, she loved her “wooly-bear eyebrows,” serious expression and her beautiful coloring. I really wish I had saved a copy of that picture!

The woman we spoke with at the rescue described “Shannon,” the other dog, as more outgoing, apt to settle in faster, more relaxed and Callie as reserved, a little more hesitant, loving but unsure.

So off we went. Me, doubtful that she would be the right one, my wife less so, but still ready to walk away. And then we met her. Sure, she was terrified in that environment. She hadn’t yet made it to a foster home. She would barely come near us, but when my wife finally managed to coax Callie into letting J pick her up and hold her in her lap, it was over. Callie started to relax a little bit, not much, but a little bit, and we decided we needed her as much as she needed us.

Isn’t that the truth.


One of my favorite things that Callie loves to do is put my daughter to sleep.

My daughter is 7.5 yrs old, close to the age I was when my parents adopted Gertie, and absolutely in LOVE with Callie.

So both get tucked into bed after stories and my daughter talks or sings to Callie until she falls asleep. I call Callie “Nana” now, as in Peter Pan. Wonderful, beautiful dog 🙂

It’s funny, one of the main reasons we got a dog is because I do better with an anti-anxiety trained pet around. I had been hoping that Callie might be a trained as a therapy dog for me and, in the future, for others. Now it looks like any therapy work she will do will be with children and working with her will be my therapy. 🙂

A Little Bit of History, Part 1

I’ve had several inquires as to how I found Callie on Cavalier rescues are harder to find, and copious amounts of people apply for the available dogs as soon as they pop up. I’m not kidding either when I say copious.

It was a lucky combination of two things – my incessant search for a Cavalier (I’ll get to the why of that in Part 2) and an incredible rescue Champlain Valley Canine Rescue. CVCR has developed a particular relationship with a few Amish puppy mill owners in Holmes County, Ohio which allows them to pull dogs directly from the mills when the owners are “done with them.”

Tammy, the Executive Director of CVCR, makes two trips a year to pick up several dogs and this fall she brought back Callie or “Debbie” as it was. The day she was posted, I searched and found her. ❤

After bringing Callie home and beginning to work with her, I grew curious about how the rescue relationship worked. When we adopted Callie, we got a sound bite of a story. It didn’t seem to matter much then – until I got the idea to write about Callie. As soon as I wanted to write about her, I wanted to know everything I could about her. And not just her, but the rescue too.

The first thing you have to recognize, whether you understand or accept it, is that the Amish do not believe animals have a soul. They are taught from birth that animals were put on this earth for man to use as they see fit.

The second is that some puppy mills ride just above the line and keep their facilities “inspectable.” It’s the laws that have to change.

Tammy started going out to the puppy mill dog auctions about 10 years ago when she was with Green Mountain Pug Rescue. She went both with groups and alone and always bought as many dogs as she could take back. After a few years, some people decided that they could just send their dogs to her/them instead of the dog auction.

She liked the idea of running her own rescue and started CVCR. Tammy receives calls all year long about dogs who need to be pulled from the mills. She almost always pays a “freedom price,” an offer of something to keep the dog alive until she can get to them.

Things that get dogs pulled from puppy mills:

  • Hitting age 5 or 6 and being basically used up as a breeding female
  • Hitting age 2 without getting pregnant
  • Not being sold as a puppy

It’s worst, I think, for the older puppies. The ones around 1. They tend to come out of the mills the most shell-shocked and overwhelmed. Callie, on the other hand, is freaked out by other stuff too but has also dealt with life for some years, so she takes it in stride.

Callie is from an unusual puppy mill. Not that it was particularly nice or anything special, but the owner cared about breeding for conformation, health, etc. He has for a long time. We ended up with a middle-aged Cavalier who doesn’t have a heart murmur or other major health issues. That’s rare, especially when talking about a puppy mill dog. CVCR pulls a lot of dogs, particularly Cavaliers, from that mill.

Like many rescues, CVCR then relies on foster homes for the dogs. There is a quarantine space for when the dogs first arrive, before they get vetted and, hopefully, sent right out to a home. Some don’t make it to foster homes right away. Callie had no roost yet, though the other Cavalier that also came back on that trip was housed. We had a choice to make that morning – visit Callie, i.e. “Debbie,” at the rescue, or go visit “Shannon” at her foster home. I’d say we made the right selection – although, truth be told, if we had enough money at the time, we probably would have adopted both girls. We are suckers like that.

“It’s not a perfect system,” Tammy said, “it’s merely a stop-gap measure to get them into homes that love them.”

No, it’s not a perfect system, but if we strive for perfection would anything ever get done?





The Lives They’ve Lived Before



Callie the Couch Dog

It is the little things that impress-frustrate-embolden me when I am with Callie. Just now I spent 15 minutes convincing her that a. the stool I brought in from the kitchen was not evil, and b. that she could possibly climb on it to get up on the couch.

“Why?” You might wonder.

Two reasons again – 1. because she can’t seem to jump up on the couch and is scared of being picked up, yet she wants to be up here all the time, and 2. because she has a lot of trouble transferring skills.

She didn’t get up on the couch, but she got her front paws up on the stool and considered how she might get from there to the sofa. But, then she got overwhelmed and stepped back down. I’m proud of her. Front paws on something new in 15 minutes is pretty impressive.

It’s different than when you are working with a puppy. A rescue, especially one who has never seen the outside world, sees everything with far more trepidation than your average puppy. They’ve already lived lives.

Callie came to us from a puppy mill. She was there for the last five years and hasn’t known anything but the inside of a cage, puppies, and the experience of being shoved in another cage for mating. Did I mention she doesn’t like to be picked up? It’s mostly because it freaks her out if anybody touches her rear end. ‘Nuff said.

callie-playingWatching her fear drives my desire to find solutions for Callie to experience the world in a much more positive way without too many accommodations. That was her life she lived then, I’m responsible for the life she lives from her on out.



One cat definitely doesn’t mind that Callie takes the couch!

Pippin the Cat-Dog



WOAH eyes, Cats, and Spilt Kibble

I wish I had saved a copy of her Petfinder photo. Her eyes were bugging out of her head (not that Cavaliers’ are known for having buggy eyes or anything), but you could see the whites the whole way around. She looked terrified.

She still gets that look sometimes; I call it her “WOAH eyes,” when something is overwhelming or momentarily frightening her.callieday1

The amazing thing about Callie is that while she seems scared, most of the time she is just hesitant until she has taken in the new situation. After that, she’s pretty mellow about whatever is new. I can usually tell when she’s scared and remove her from those settings.
Oh my, the cats, though.

When poor, un-cat tested Callie came home to find three cats who, while mostly having pleasant experiences with dogs in recent months, were oh so not amused. All three took turns puffing up sideways and hissing at her. It turns out, our cats are bigger than Callie, at least height wise. Scared the, shall we say, poop right out of her.

For days she tried to sniff them only when they weren’t paying attention, and all three realized she was scared of them. While the female cat couldn’t give a damn, the two males decided to mess with her. Our biggest scaredy-cat and the largest cat would come by when I was petting her and drape his tail back and forth across her face.

And the fact that I brought her to bed during my nap time was the biggest offense of all. There was a fair amount of staring from the cats before they slowly decided to take over the bed again, much to Callie’s anguish.callieandgigiwatchtv

I’m rather certain it was 90% WOAH eyes and 10% calm eyes that first week, the gentle eyes came when my daughter arrived and Callie cuddled with her. Aren’t you supposed to be MY therapy dog?

Ok, several weeks into having Callie, is it acceptable for me to admit that neither of us can keep from laughing when she has a spectacular reaction to something tiny brushing her backside? As in breakfast this morning. Oh, Callie. Jess brought her bowl of food into the living room. Callie prefers her breakfast together while we drink our coffee. I entered the room and went to get something from behind her; my pant leg must have touched her slightly. Suddenly, all four legs went in different directions, and half her breakfast spilled. I was given a very insulted look until Jess and I, on hands and knees, picked up the spilled kibble and put it back in her bowl while she continued to eat.

Wait, did I just say we paused drinking morning coffee to pick up spilled kibble for our dog? Not enough coffee in us to make smart decisions that early. That and Callie still fails to understand the concept of finding food on the floor. What dog forgets to check the floor after the first time they discover it?

Stories from the life of a rescued puppy mill mama and sometimes, her cats. Dedicated to rescues other stories about rescues as well, particularly those from puppy mills.

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