Callie, Cavitude, and Obedience Class

Oh, Callie. There were a couple of stressful events in her life last week.

Last Monday an excellent traveling groomer came to our house to give Callie her first groom since the one she got when she left the puppy mill – aside from a few terrible hack jobs by me on her feet and ears.

I chose to have a groomer come here rather than take her to one because I could only imagine the stress she would experience. The groomer, Dirk, was fantastic. He spent about 15 minutes on the floor with her first, just talking to her and letting her sniff him, his equipment, etc.

When I put her on the table, she didn’t freak out or try to get away, that’s not Callie’s m.o. anyway. She sat, stoically, or stood, depending on what he needed, for a long time. I never left the room, he and I chatted the whole time – either to each other or to her – and she took it in stride for a while. Then she decided she was done.

When Callie is done, she is DONE. She sits and won’t move. You can pick her up, but she won’t move her body out of the sitting position. You can offer her all the treats in the world, she’ll eat them, but she sure won’t change her mind.

Dirk, having worked with animals for years in different settings, recognized this immediately. He tried a couple of his own tricks and when they didn’t work either, “we” decided the grooming was over.

He did a fantastic first job on Callie. I was impressed with his ability to recognize what was too hard for her and stay away from it. Did she end up with the full cut she needed? Not quite, but he listened to her instead which was far more important to me. And she looks great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The attitude she gives when she is done with something – that’s Cavitude. Cavaliers are sweet, loving, easy-going dogs who are relatively well-behaved and usually easy to train, except every now and then a little ‘tude sneaks in, and you get Cavitude.

Previously, Callie has decided that she is DONE when I am in the middle of a store, like the pet store, and will sit down and refuse to move. Public Displays of Cavitude. The easiest solution for me is to pick her up and move her to wherever I need her to be, but now that has gotten me into a lot of trouble.

Tuesday, Callie and I had our first obedience class. Given that I am relatively dog experienced and that she is a rescue, I wanted to give her time to let down and bond before we moved into classes. We’ve done home training up until this point.

Callie knows to sit and wait to be released for her food. She’s working on stay, come, down, and still, her biggest fear – going down flights of stairs.

I tried to remind myself of how good she is, how she follows me, etc., as I went into class, and I started to feel pretty confident. Shoulda just smeared dog poop on my face right then. #Cavitude.

After being given some time to investigate, we started with heeling around the room. Apparently, Callie thought the floor was so much more exciting than walking with me that she continued to stop every few feet.

I got in trouble for letting my dog teach me to stop whenever she wanted. So the trainer made me keep walking when Callie stopped, as in drag her. Nobody could believe just how stubborn Callie was being about walking, refusing to get up. My treats weren’t tasty enough, though thankfully we located some cheese which helped the situation immensely.

The whole time I was there I felt embarrassed about my skills as a dog trainer but, afterward, I wondered whether she was really right. Whether it was just stubbornness. While she’s correct to an extent and I can’t just let Callie stop me whenever she wants, I also think it’s detrimental to continue to drag her if she continues to refuse. And it goes against all my positive training methods.

I don’t think this woman understands the mindset of puppy mill rescues – if it gets scary, most dogs will run away or bite or do something whereas for many puppy mill rescues, specifically, if something gets scary, their first instinct is to hunker down and not move. I forgot that too, knowing Callie as I do.

How much of Callie’s refusal to walk part of the time – we did get her walking – was caused by her stubborn personality I have come to know, and how much was caused by her natural fear reaction? I don’t know. But I think the instructor and I are going to have a talk about how I am going to get Callie prepared for the “heeling” part of the obedience class. Without being stopped every 3 feet or dragging her.

By the way, Vermont played an April Fool’s joke this year. It was super funny:

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Nothing Like Normal

I came across a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel listed for adoption the other day. He’s not in a Cavalier specific rescue, but a good one nonetheless. I don’t want to point out too many details.

I could have this all wrong. I don’t know this dog at all, I haven’t spoken with his foster mother or the rescue, all I know is what I read, and it broke my heart. Not only for the dog but also because the lengthy description kept describing this adult puppy mill rescue as nothing like a “normal” Cavalier.

I guess I don’t know “normal” then because my puppy mill rescue has a lot of the same behaviors.

She’s not a big cuddler. She likes to be near you but, for instance, right now she is at the far end of the couch, away from me.

She hates to be picked up, carried, or held in a restraining way. The best thing we ever did for her was getting dog stairs for the couch and the bed. She loves the stairs so much that when my wife tripped over them and broke a piece, Callie had to wait a day for us to fix them and she was depressed all day long. She wasn’t even that excited about treats. That’s right, a Cavalier so depressed she didn’t care about food. Freedom is better.

She shakes and runs if touched from behind, even just brushed accidently. Nobody can reach for her head to pet her at first, always her sides so she can see your hands at all times.

She grumbles all the time, licks her lips, wiggles her nose, and makes this sound that I will do my best to spell phonetically – bhuumph – when she is annoyed or wants something or unknown reasons. She makes the sound so frequently that my daughter started calling her “Bhuuphy” which, of course, turned into “Bhuuphy” the Vampire Slayer.

I am being somewhat facetious here.

These points are all equivalent to ones in the adoption ad. Callie was terrified of everything (working on it), she is still “nothing like a normal Cavalier” apparently, but it’s hard to see that because she’s my Cavalier.

I know she’s not ever going to be the type of dog who runs to the door to greet me, who climbs into my lap or feels totally safe all the time, but she’s here, and I am doing the best I can with my normal.

My point is that most puppy mill rescues exhibit a lot of these same behaviors. A lot of puppy mill rescues are “not normal” for their breed. When I went to meet Callie, there were a couple of Bichon/Poodle mixes from a puppy mill, and they were wholly different than dogs of that breed mix I have met before.

The puppy mill is what makes the dog “not normal,” but to repeatedly point that out is detrimental to the adoption of puppy mill dogs everywhere. I didn’t rescue a Cavalier to get “normal,” I rescued a Cavalier because it mattered to me.

I don’t want individuals adopting puppy mill rescues without understanding the specific issues that come with the dogs, but I also don’t want people walking away just because that rescue dog came from a puppy mill.

I don’t accept the distinction of “normal” and “not normal.” I don’t accept the idea that just because a puppy mill rescue might act differently than dogs of their breed raised from puppies in a home, they are NOT like their breed at all. And, you know what, half the description of the dog sounded just like a Cavalier to me.

Shaking Those Rescue Dog Doubts

I don’t usually respond to the daily prompts, but I was inspired by today’s, “doubt.”

Rescuing a dog isn’t easy. Rescuing a dog who is middle-aged and doesn’t have a clue about the outside world has presented its own set of difficulties.

And the doubt that comes with the experience can be painful.

  • Doubt that you understand their needs at the moment
  • Doubt that you are giving them enough attention or enough space
  • Doubt that they will ever communicate with you
  • Doubt that they will ever play with a toy
  • Doubt that they will show affection towards you
  • Doubt that they might ever come running to the door to greet you
  • Doubt that they may ever fully be house-trained
  • Doubt that you are feeding the right food
  • Doubt that you are doing everything right
  • Doubt that you will be able to guide them past things that cause the dog fear and help them grow.

In those moments of doubt, I try and remember how far we have come.

Callie's ride home from the rescue.
Callie’s ride home from the rescue.
Callie's first day at home
Callie’s first day at home
Callie met her new best friend!
Callie met her new best friend!
Callie started having adventures :)
Callie started having adventures 🙂
Callie learned to use pet steps!
Callie learned to use pet steps!
Callie played Santa
Callie played Santa
She learned what snow was, but questioned why we played in it.
She learned what snow was, but questioned why we played in it.

 

 

 

 

She's started to love walks.
She’s started to love walks.

AND – she’s learning to be silly 🙂

I still have plenty of doubts. All the time. But if I remember the good moments during the frustrating ones, it helps to know we are still moving forward.

Doubt

The Power Of Choice

This post is so beautiful, perfect, and wonderfully written, I had to share.

Dog and Dojo

Lately Rico has been meandering even more on our walks. So much so, hopeful buzzards keep an eye on us.

Rico taking a break during a walk

Yesterday something hit me that probably explained his slowing speed; I forgot Rico’s birthday last month. Ok, not that, but the fact he turned nine. Or nine-ish. Rescued dogs’ ages are only good guesses. Whiskey, for example, is also nine years-old according to her adoption contract. Four according to the vet. So birthdays are more about celebrating another year of happiness for us.

We didn’t celebrate Rico, though. Instead, I’ve been aggravated at his putzing along. I’ve dreaded walks. Avoided them, even.

One day in the too-near future, however, Rico won’t be lagging behind us like a prisoner of war and I’ll regret being vexed. If I ever get over the heartbreak, I mean. 

 Rico and I on an outing

I try so hard to stay present with all of my pets. It…

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Tucker – Our Other Puppy

Before we adopted Callie, we had another puppy named Tucker.

I’m about to admit a lot of stuff that I am not proud of, but I think this is a post that is important to share. We talk about getting the right dog, we talk about the dogs that end up in rescues, we write about the dogs we have and the ones we have rescued. But it is difficult for a dog owner, one that cares so deeply about animals, one that rescued her own puppy mill mama and is working hard to introduce her to everything, to retrain her, to admit that they once out-dogged themselves. But it happens. And in our instance, we got lucky.

I should back up to the beginning.

We decided to get a dog, and I had lived with several different bully breeds/mixes and loved them dearly. I previously had a lab too. I was watching Petfinder all the time, but I also did something stupid, I went on Craiglist pets and found an adorable “pit/lab” mix who was 12 wks old. The owners were getting rid of him because he was already too much for them.

It was instant love, and off we went to meet him/get him. img_0142 img_0144 img_0166

 

 

 

 

He’s pretty darn adorable, right?

 

 

 

 

 

Life with Tucker started out fantastic. He was fun, sweet, easy to train. He loved to play in the most entertaining ways. He stole the bottom of the cat tower…

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As Tuck grew, he began to get wild. Puppy wild of course, but intensely so. I became friends with a woman named Erin who has a southern rescue boxer mix named Eos, a tiny chihuahua, and a huge field with a river running alongside it.

We met about 3 days a week and walked in that area where Tucker could run off leash baby-tuck-and-eosand swim in the warmer months. Even after an hour or so of that, he was still wound up.

 

There were several factors my wife and I didn’t consider when we chose a dog. I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, she works full-time and is more of a cat person than a dog one, although she loves dogs. My fibro began to get worse as the added stress of having Tucker grew, and I kept trying to convince myself that everything was all right. Nobody was really happy. The cats hated him, Tuck wasn’t happy, we were stressed, it was hard.

We began to notice something else, too. When we got Tuck, he had these adorable speckles on his nose. One day my wife looked down at him and said to me, “Where did his speckles go? His nose is just black!” img_0384

I took one long look at his face and said, “No, his speckles have just moved back as he has grown.” Along with his snout. He still had a bully head, but not a lab face, and I realized he had to be part Border Collie. That explained the obnoxious herding behavior. It also helped explain the strong reactivity combined with this anxious need to not react badly. Particularly in a dog that was probably an accidental mix.

Erin – the owner of Eos – and I became very close friends, and she began to fall in love with Tucker. Her whole family did, really.

Jess and I struggled with the reality of life with Tucker, but also what it might do to our daughter if we couldn’t keep him. We also agreed that we were committed to Tucker, no matter what he would never end up in a rescue.

Slowly, over the course of a month or so, Erin and her husband, along with Jess and I began to seriously talk about giving Tucker to them. It started as a joke one day. Erin loves animals and always talks about wanting to run a sanctuary, or perhaps doggie daycare. We joked that Tuck should stay with them half the week and with us the other. Not really that funny, but it was our reality at the time.

Finally, we all agreed that it really would be best if Tucker went to live with them. He would be 5 minutes away from us, we would see him all the time, and he would get to run in the field with another big dog several times a day.

It hurt to admit that I couldn’t do it. That I had out-dogged myself. I failed.

Tucker, however, ended up where he needed to be. His dad is his favorite person on earth, his best friend, he still has two kids to play with, and when I come over, and someone says, “Mommy,” if I’m sitting down, he will still climb in my lap. Tuck loves all three mommies. Like any good bully breed – he has a neverending supply of heart.

Photo credit- Erin Yunger
Photo credit- Erin Yunger
Smiley Boy - Photo credit - Erin Yunger
Smiley Boy – Photo credit – Erin Yunger

 

Biggest stick EVER! - Photo credit - Erin Yunger
Biggest stick EVER! – Photo credit – Erin Yunger

 

 

He’s a much happier dog now.

We would have kept trying, but it would not have been great for anyone. As much as it hurts to admit, I out-dogged myself, and the best thing I ever did for Tucker was give him away.

It took our family almost a year to be ready to even talk about another dog.

 

 

So, one very long post later, I have admitted some things I am definitely not proud of, but are part of a discussion that needs to happen. Even those of us who know a lot about dogs, who have a lot of experience and think they know what they are doing, can get way in over their heads. At least I did.

Stories from the life of a rescued puppy mill mama and the second rescue, a puppy Charlie, who arrived seven months later. Dedicated to other stories about rescues as well, particularly those from puppy mills.

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