Tag Archives: re-training

Who Rescues Cavaliers with Special Needs?

On Tuesday I wrote about the importance of last week’s focus on Puppy Awareness Week in the UK and this coming Saturday’s Puppy Mill Awareness Day. If you’d like to read that post, you can here.

My way of bringing awareness is through my writing and my blog. So, today I would like to highlight a couple who built their lives around rescuing older and special needs Cavaliers. I am overwhelmed by their story, not many people can take on the workload and the heartache that they do daily.

Peabody and Jason Johanson didn’t initially start out with the intention of rescuing special needs and elderly dogs, but, as Peabody said, “We just bought a one level house (for the older dogs) with 1/3 of an acre all because of the dogs. We concluded that this is how we were spending the rest of our lives, adopting senior and special needs Spaniels.”

Many people that get into rescue adjust or renovate their homes to fit the dogs’ needs, but it’s not often one gets a chance to purchase a home that happens to fit exactly what is required for their rescues.

Skoshi

It all started with Peabody’s first dog, Skoshi, a Cocker Spaniel rescue. Peabody said, “Her last year with us she developed an allergy to the yeast on her own skin and got MRSP (like MRSA but for dogs) several times because of it. We had to give her daily baths and wrap her in bandages three times a day.

My husband and I both realized that we had the patience to deal with dogs with special needs. When she got cancer, we traded sleeping on the floor with her for months.
We knew she was nearing the end and we started talking about what kind of dog we would want next since we knew we would want a dog right away.”

Peabody and Jason were active fundraisers for Old Dog Haven, an organization that has over 300 senior dogs in their care,

“They are all in final refuge foster homes and pay all medical bills. They find the un-adoptable seniors in the shelters and give them loving homes no matter if that is a year, a month, a week, or a day.”

The couple decided that they would rescue a younger Cavalier from Cavalier Rescue USA and then get an Old Dog Haven foster. But, life had other plans in store for them.

First came Mickey.

Mickey

“The day after our cocker died, Mickey popped up on the website. I just looked at him and knew he was my dog. He was 8 and deaf with two spinal conditions (SM/CM and altano-axil malformation where his C1 overrides his C2) as well as behavior issues. He was fostered by a mutual friend, and we set up to meet him right away.

We were smitten the first time we met and had another meetup and decided to adopt him. We were told he was not a typical Cavalier in that he did not love everyone. His owner, a single female, had passed and his spinal condition was never diagnosed until rescue, so he was in pain his whole life. While he is not the typical Cavalier he does love me, his mama, something fierce and is very much the typical Cavalier to me. Mickey is now 10 1/2 and has MVD as well and is in stage B1 with a grade 2 murmur. ”

Mickey was not comfortable around men, and Jason felt that lack of connection, so the couple contacted Cavalier Rescue USA again.

Then came Holly.

“Four months after getting Mickey, Holly came into our life. She was just turning 8 and was a breeder release, and sadly was in Congestive Heart Failure. They warned us that it would be hard to watch her decline, but we chose to take her anyway. We only had a year with Holly, but she brought such joy to our life. Because of Holly my husband and I decided to focus on taking in Cavaliers with heart issues and Syringomyelia which both she and Mickey suffer from. Holly passed just a month after her 9th birthday of complications from pneumonia due to her heart being too large.”

Next, Daisy.

Daisy

“She came from a woman who bought her from a breeder (breeder release) but couldn’t keep her as she did not have a fenced yard and Daisy was a runner. We didn’t expect to take her as she was only six with no real health issues but we fell in love with her right away. Daisy loves any and all people that she meets, in true Cavalier form. Daisy just turned 8 and knock on wood continues to be healthy.”

And the sweet Crissy.

Crissy

“Crissy was also from Cavalier Rescue USA. She was 10 with MVD. Her owner was going into hospice. She is a total love and the perfect mix of sweet and sass. She is now 11 1/2 and has sadly progressed to a B2 stage with a 4/5 murmur and has started medication. We focus on enjoying each day with her that we have left.”

An English Toy Spaniel Rescue, Georgia.

Georgia

“Georgia came to us from a place called Panda Paws Rescue they are out of southern Washington state. They specialize in special needs breeds of all types. A friend who followed them had tagged me in a post about a couple of English Toy Spaniels they had. One of them had Syringomyelia, and they were looking for someone familiar with the condition. I talked to a friend that also had English Toys’s, and we decided to go for it. Georgia was a breeder release (once they knew she had SM they decided to let her go) and was very well socialized; she fit in immediately.”

And the most recent addition, Tulip.

“This last March the same rescue, Panda Paws raised money and went to a puppy mill auction in Missouri to rescue as many as they could. They had a few English Toy’s, and so I just said that if no one showed interested in the extremely shy ET that we would take her. Tulip had no inquiries and so after she had a month in foster care, where she was spayed, had a dental check, and had stenotic nares surgery, she came to us.
She was beyond shy when we got her. Typical puppy mill dog where she was fine with the other dogs but petrified of the humans.

Tulip

We have had her five months now, and she is making a lot of progress. She will sit on your lap and likes pets but will still run from you when go to pick her up. She does come to us but then runs away, but each day she gets a little more brave. Tulip is our youngest at age 2, and so we hope we have lots of time with her to watch her flourish into a trusting dog.”

Peabody couldn’t be happier with her pack of special needs dogs, and neither could Jason. “Both my husband and I are bleeding hearts, and so we just seem to keep collecting spaniels.”

But that’s ok, Peabody, because we need people like you!

 

 

Rescues that Appear When You Need Them – Winston and Nellie

Sometimes beginning the process of re-training a rescue dog can seem more work than one thinks possible, but the effort put in returns an incredible relationship bond between human and dog.

Yesterday I talked about why I want to highlight rescue dogs and their owners as well as rescue workers this week (if you missed it catch it here) and today I have two different stories to share.

Mom hugging Winston
Winston love with his favorite Aunt June!

Tammy rescued Winston shortly after she lost one of her first two Cavaliers to IMHA or Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. IMHA is not uncommon in Cavaliers, according to Pet Health Network, “With primary IMHA, your dog’s immune system mistakenly produces antibodies that attack its own red blood cells. This is the most common cause of anemia in dogs. With secondary IMHA, the surface of your dog’s red blood cells is modified by an underlying disease process, drug, or toxin.”

IMHA can be fatal and have a fast onset. As Tammy said, “My girl Queenie with IMHA was diagnosed on a Saturday and had 3 blood transfusions when none of these helped her, we decided not to put her through anymore. She was 1 week shy of her 7th birthday. So she lived with it for only about a week to 10 days.”

Fidose of Reality has an excellent post on IMHA

But, as often seems to happen, while Queenie left a hole, another dog needed a home. Tammy said, “I saw where they saved five Cavs from a hoarding situation. So we decided we wanted to rescue one. He was seven and needed a lot of training, never walked up stairs, had people food, played in a yard, or received any pats or attention. He lived his seven years in a cage.”

“We brought Winston to an 8-week training class because he would bark at everyone and try to nip them. He now lets people pat him if we are outside walking. He still barks at people when they come to the house, so we have to put a leash on him and usually keep it on the whole time we have company. There are a few select people he likes to come over, people who have other Cav’s.”

Winston on couch
K.C. and Winston

Many people are grateful for their other Cavaliers showing rescues the way, and Tammy’s K.C. did this for Winston quite a bit. At first, Winston was a little skittish around K.C. but he has come to love other dogs.

Winston still doesn’t fit the mold of the “typical” Cavalier,

 

“He never allows us to touch him much, but now he enjoys being patted and he will sit on my husband for about 5-10 minutes then he gets off.

Winston
Smiling on Dad’s lap

 

He won’t really allow us to hug him or kiss him too much but we do it as much as we can. He does now know commands like sit, stay, down, sometimes come. So he is still a work in progress but he is getting there, we want to give him so much love but he tenses up. He never had pats for seven years of his life so this is still new to him.”

But he shows his love in other ways, “The best thing about my Winston is that he is very loyal to us and I know he is thankful to be in our home. He still has problems with strangers and trusting some people and it has been two years in our home, but he is realizing more and more that no one will ever hurt him again.”

 

Watching our rescue dogs realize that they are safe, home, forever, that has to be one of the best gifts they could give any one in return.

 

There’s a second story I want to tell today, and that’s about Nellie who was rescued by Judith.

Charlie jumping
Charlie Flying

Judith had just lost her first Cavalier, Charlie to Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) at nine and a half years old. He developed a heart murmur at six and was stable until age nine when his condition worsened during his last six months.

Judith said, “My first reaction was, no, I can’t, I’m just too heartbroken.

She said, I understand, but would you just go meet her?

Nellie couch
Nellie at home

And that’s how I got my Nellie. She was hyper, seriously anxious, and barked non-stop for the first 48 hours I had her home, and I wondered, how did I get into this? Nellie was a rescue from a puppy mill, who had been re-homed and then given up to the rescue.

She was two years old, and her foster mom told me she had been hand-shy, overweight and didn’t know how to play when she entered rescue. Nellie and I spent the first year together working on her barking, her anxiety, and her fear of other dogs.

Nellie at flyball
Nellie Flying

 

It’s been 4 years now, and she is super-cuddly and loving, greets all humans with joy, and loves to play tug, flyball, and go on long walks. (She’s still not crazy about other dogs but even this has improved. She’ll grumble but tolerate their existence.)”

All Judith knows about Nellie’s first home after the puppy mill is that, “Nellie was adopted by an older couple, after her first rescue. I was told that they gave her up to Quebec Rescue because they were unable to care for her anymore. I also suspect that they didn’t expect or know how to handle the behavior issues that can come from being rescued originally out of a bad situation.”

But whatever bad situation Nellie was in before, she’s a safe and happy girl now.

Nellie Costume

While neither Judith nor Tammy may have been planning on finding rescues to adopt, these two dogs landed in their laps at just the right time.

 

Healing and Heeling

I’m so proud of Callie. She taught me a valuable lesson last week, and together we informed our obedience instructor of a new piece of information to add to her large knowledge base.

After the dragging required by our instructor last week (when Callie would stop walking… read more here) Callie was totally afraid of the word heel and would pull back immediately if she hit the end of the leash, as if in preparation for being dragged. She was also a little more fearful of me.

So, I started over. First, I rid the word heel from my vocabulary. Then I refused to drag her along as I walked. For the first couple of days, I would stop when she did, give her leash a quick tug, saying, “come on,” or “let’s walk” show her a treat and call her along. Then I moved to pulling her along for two steps, stopping, calling to her and usually she would start walking so she would get a treat.

I did go get a martingale collar and a much lighter leash to which she responded very well.

Finally, on the day before class, I began reintroducing the word “heel” on occasion, interspersed with the other commands I had been giving. She would stop at first but grew more comfortable as we went along.

Tuesday came, and it was time for class. I spoke to the instructor ahead of time. I tried to explain about puppy mill dogs and how they are only ever grabbed by their scruffs, why that might make Callie react the way she does when pulled on the leash. The instructor listened to me, although I am not sure she fully paid attention to what I was trying to tell her until class began.

Beforehand, I had been smart and stopped for some smoked cheese. I broke it up into little bits in my treat bag and mixed it with her regular Zukes treats so those would be coated with cheese too.

We began class with heeling around the room, Callie started with a pause, a little nervous and reactionary after the week before. Who could blame her? But I got out a little cheese. Suddenly, I had a dog who was heeling perfectly around the room. A few pieces of cheese kept her going, but she was passing other dogs who weren’t behaving quite as well. The instructor’s jaw was nearly on the floor.

We worked on heeling turns next. Callie seems to get really frustrated when she doesn’t know what I want from her, so I had to help her a lot with this, keeping her in place while trying to turn, LOL.

We heeled around the room again, stopping to do heeling turns. Callie did great, especially with the cheese as an incentive, but finally, she hit her limit and sat, refusing to move. I recognized that she needed a break, so I just sat in the middle of the floor with her while all the other dogs went around us.

The last thing we did in class was begin work on recall with the instructor holding the leash and us across the room. Not only did Callie do a beautiful sit-stay while I walked across the room from her, but she ran to me with excellent speed and intent.

Callie was the star student last week. Now let’s see if we can keep it up tomorrow. All I know is that learning with Callie is often following along blindly and stumbling our way through each moment.

Jess and I took Callie to the park this weekend. She made a new best friend, the flying turtle! Plus she practiced her obedience work outside with kids around. My brilliant dog 😊.

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Flying turtle!
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Happy Dog!

Guess what else! This morning I got my first semblance of a doggie smile while giving Callie some scratchies 💖 fullsizeoutput_d7f

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