I was not being fooled by first impressions. This is about what love and patience can do.
Mamie is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. We were searching for a dog for my grandmother when we first met her. Her original owner had to give her up to a family member to enter a nursing home. The family member already had several pets and younger children. Although she was ensured that Mamie got proper care and visits to the vet.
At less than two years of age, this little pup was turned in because of possessiveness issues and a tendency to bite the children when things were taken from her. Imagine losing your home not once, but twice, only six months apart!
I could sense she was loving and smart, so we took her out of the kennel to interact with her. She was willful. I went to put the leash on her, and she tried to bite me. I was not daunted. This pup was young and malleable. I persevered, petting her as I clipped the leash to her collar. Spending just 30 minutes with her, she bonded to us, being highly affectionate, even demanding of attention. We did not get her that day, but brought my two dogs to meet her to see how they would get along if my grandmother found herself in the future unable to care for her. The result, my grandmother adopted her!
The first thing I did when we got home was to work on her taking the leash. (Mamie is motivated by food, so I had training treats on hand.) I did ten trials, several times throughout the day, giving her a treat after each time putting the leash on her. She was intelligent and had it down after the first couple of sets, but I continued the game to reinforce the lesson. No one had difficulties putting the leash on her after that.
Her second issue involved housetraining. Prior to her original owner entering the nursing home, she was supposedly trained, but at my grandmother's, she was drinking lots of water, leaving large puddles on carpet, hard floors, and door mats. When I would come over, she would get so excited, she would urinate immediately, and twice, she even urinated on me! And no matter what we did, when taken outside, she would not go. We had the vet evaluate her, but he noted no issues with her lab work. (She was grossly overweight, so we wanted to know if she had Cushing's or hypothyroidism.)
After half a year, we were getting discouraged. She was cute and affectionate, but she still had possessiveness issues in addition to the housetraining issues.
Then one day, my grandmother bent over outside her front door to pick up her newspaper and fell onto her face. Bleeding, alone, and unable to get up on her own, my grandmother was hidden from the street by large bushes. Mamie could have run out the door at any moment, choosing to escape to play….but she didn't! Mamie stayed by my grandmother's side and barked until she got someone's attention to help her. The little pup with behavioral issues had suddenly become a hero! This renewed my grandmother's and my resolve to work with her!!
Then my grandmother fell again, with fractures to her pelvis and had to go to in-patient rehab. I knew that she would no longer be able to care for Mamie safely, so I brought her to my house. At first, she and my dogs did not get along too well--Mamie was grumpy with them. Plus, she would still bite if she got ahold of things, like Kleenex tissues, which she was not supposed to have.
Over time, I started to get her housetrained, with my two setting the example. Mamie would go outside if she could see and smell where my female urinated. (Now, she is housetrained, almost completely in terms of urine--we are still working on the poop issues, but we will get there!)
I started reading about tricks to use with possession issues. I found one piece of advice that suggested screaming in pain if the dog nips you--this is how puppies teach each other bite inhibition when playing. I would not recommend anyone try this, but I was willing to risk it. Mamie loves her antlers. I gave one to her, let her chew on it for about a minute, and then, knowing fully she would bite, took it away from her. She did indeed bite me, and I screamed in pain, and for added emphasis, ignored her completely for thirty minutes. (She cannot stand to be ignored!) Never again did she try to bite when I took anything away from her!
Even so, she was still grumpy with my two dogs. I had been taking her on walks to help get her weight down. Then one night, I pushed her a little too far.... The next day, she would not get up even for her food. Thinking she had suffered from heat exhaustion, I took her to the vet. Thankfully, I did her no injury, but the vet thought she had issues with her knees, so he gave her a daily anti-inflammatory, similar to ibuprofen. Only after we started her on it did I realize why she was so grumpy. All this time, my little pup had been in pain! Since then, she has been a completely different little girl. It has also helped with her housetraining--she was apparently drinking so much water due to stress from the pain.Never judge a dog by how he or she acts in a shelter. This little pup that was turned in for "behavioral issues" turned out to be a hero. And with patience and love (and lots of training treats) and a little knowledge, she has become a wonderful friend, playful, affectionate, cuddly, and intelligent!
By Brenda Vanderver (PCPP Founder/President)
This is the saga of Charley, a dog nobody wanted, who came to us gravely injured, malnourished, and without hope . . .
A week or so before Christmas in 2008, on one of my many trips to our shelter, I saw a long-legged, older shepherd mix dog running down the road who was obviously lost or abandoned. I stopped my car, got out and called to him. He stopped and turned toward me, but soon decided I looked untrustworthy, and turned and galloped off the other way. Our shelter is far out in the country and there is not much else around. I went on to the shelter and figured I would look for him again on my way back. It wasn’t long before I headed back the same way, but I saw no sign of him anywhere.
A few days later a co-worker called to tell me about a dog they had seen lying in the field by a stop sign and it seemed to be hurt. I called the Animal Control officer, who went out and looked for it, but didn’t find anything. In the meantime he had also gotten a call from someone else who had seen the dog and wanted to report it. He again went to the spot where it was reported to be but found nothing. He called the man back who had contacted him, and he came over and showed him where the dog was. He had most likely been hit by a car and had a broken leg. The two men got him into the Animal Control officer’s truck and he was taken to the vet.
The vet said his leg was badly broken and he most likely needed surgery. In most cases, the AC officer tells the vet to go ahead and put the dog down, as the county does not have the funding to pay for medical care in cases such as these. I guess this is where Charley’s real luck began. I happened to stop in at the vet’s and he told me he had a dog in the back that the AC officer had brought in and he was getting ready to put him down, so I went back and looked at him. He looked like he knew it was the end of the road for him, his head was hanging low and he didn’t even respond when I spoke to him. I immediately recognized him as the dog I had seen and tried to catch a few days before. I called my friend Kim, another volunteer with PC Pound Puppies, and told her about him. She told me she had also seen him when he was still unhurt and had stopped and tried to lure him to her as well. We decided we wanted to try to save him. The vet took x-rays and determined his left front leg had a compound fracture. He referred us to a clinic an hour away that specializes in surgeries such as this, and made an appointment for Charley. He splinted Charley’s leg and put him on pain meds. His surgery was $2600, which was a fortune for us!
I went back the morning of the surgery and picked Charley up. They laid him on a blanket in the back of my SUV and off we went. Charley had his surgery that day and the clinic kept him a few days while we figured out what to do with him afterward. We knew he would need rehabilitation, including lots of walking, which meant he really needed to be in a foster home. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any foster homes that were willing to take on such a challenge. I sent out a plea to everyone I could think of. I got a response from someone who was willing to give it a try. We picked him up from the clinic, got our instructions, which included crate rest, twice daily walks, gradually increasing time and distance. Unfortunately Charley was uncooperative, broke out of his crate, and destroyed several things trying to get away. He quickly went to another foster home, which also didn’t work out, and he ended up back at the shelter. This was not a good situation for his rehab, as the shelter is unheated, not open to the public, and far out in the country. We gathered our volunteers together to set up a schedule to at least try to get him one daily walk, which wasn’t quite enough, but with our work schedules it was the best we could do. Charley was coming along fairly well, his limp was getting better with each passing day.
Then we had a major ice storm. No one went anywhere for at least two weeks. Electricity was out across our part of the state for a week or more. And you could forget about trying to go for a walk! It was just too dangerous! This was all bad news for Charley, who developed a major limp again from not using his leg.
We were finally able to find another foster home for Charley, this one with a lady who worked from home and would be able to exercise him on a routine basis. He was finally getting the help he needed, and he at last started to recover from his surgery.
We started trying to find a home for Charley, but things weren’t looking good for him. Either he was too old, too big, too hard to manage, too something. We were beginning to think we had saved his life only to force him to subsist in a shelter for the rest of his life. Then out of the blue we got an application on him from Massachusetts of all places! What we read sounded almost too good to be true . . . a lady who rescues one dog at a time, usually an older dog that really needs it, and she and her network of friends take care of the dog for the rest of its life. She lives on the beach and thought Charley seemed like a good fit for her. Everything checked out, and plans were made for Charley’s trip. All the volunteers were so excited for him! Charley wasn’t so sure about it, but he went anyway.
We have gotten continuous updates and pictures from Debbie Todd, Charley’s new owner, ever since. He is living the life of Riley, and always having new adventures. Of course there have been a few hiccups along the way. Charley had a major meltdown a week or so after his arrival, when he saw the van he was picked up in and thought he was being sent back. But the good has far outweighed the bad, he’s getting the best care money can buy, and he’s loved and welcomed by everyone he sees. We volunteers all feel so privileged to have been a part of his journey to a better life!
This exchange was dated 12/23/09, one year from the date Charley came into our lives.
To Debbie Todd from Brenda Vanderver, PC Pound Puppies
I am just so humbled that this former throw-away dog that nobody wanted, that several self proclaimed dog advocates encouraged us to put down and forget about has come so far, and become such a celebrity, as well as a much-loved family member. My wish is for every dog to have what Charley has. I know that's not a possibility, but it makes me want to do whatever I can to try to make that happen. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving Charley the home you have given him, to keep that hope alive in my heart that there are more people like you out there, we just have to find them. Charley is truly one of the luckiest dogs on this earth and you and your friends have to be some of the most saintly people in existence!
Thank you for giving us hope for 2010 and beyond. When someone tries to tell us that a dog is hopeless or there is no one who will ever want that dog, we can say "Let me tell you about Charley . . ."
May you have the merriest of Christmases and a prosperous and Happy New Year!
Brenda Vanderver & the PC Pound Puppies crew
My friend Dick and I read this with tears in our eyes—it is kind of like the gift of the magi, isn’t it? Each has given and received great bounty when it comes to Charley—and each of us thinks of the other party as saintly!
Charley’s impact has spread beyond the joy he brings us—there are elderly people along our walks who cannot have pets who come outside so they can visit with Charley. Dick’s grandson (age 2.5) had nightmares about dogs until he started sitting down and playing with “Grandpa’s Charley.” It seems that wherever Charley goes, he leaves an angelic touch.
Thank you for your fight for pets such as Charley. I am horribly unorganized, but I owe you guys tons of pictures!
Oh, and the surgeon who just removed Charley’s pin left a note for me: “Ms. Todd: This is truly the most delightful dog I have ever met!”
Best wishes and love to you all!
Debbie, Charley’s Human