Tag Archives: Rescue Dogs

Seize The Day

We recently did something that from the outside probably seemed rather rash to most people. We woke up one day with no immediate plans to get a puppy and the next day we had added a new puppy to our family. While it was sudden and unexpected it was not exactly unplanned. It was less rash from inside our little bubble than it may seem for anyone seeing our updates on social media.

We recently lost our dog Josie. She was an older dog and even before we found out she was sick we had been discussing what life would be like after she was gone. We just knew with the combination of her breed and her age the odds were not good that she would be with us a whole lot longer. We have always lived our lives with dogs as a main focus of our lives. We often let our hearts lead us into situations that maybe a more rational thinking person might not take on. We have fostered and adopted dogs some of whom have been hard cases. We wouldn’t take any of it back for a minute, but it can make life more challenging and lead to sporadic disruptions. We often didn’t have plans for how we wound up with dogs we just did what our hearts urged us to do. After everything we’ve been through, especially all of the recent loss we wanted to have a plan for our lives with dogs.

Josie was a Bernese Mountain Dog, the breed we had fallen in love with. She was out last Bernese Mountain Dog. We knew that we really wanted to have a Bernese Mountain Dog in our lives as much as possible. So we began to think about what made the most sense for us. While we loved adopting older dogs the heartbreak of the very limited amount of time you get to have with them and the huge tears that loss leaves in your heart was just too much for us to go through again right now. We decided that what we really wanted to do was to have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy to raise as our own. A dog that with all good fortune would live a long and healthy life and have many long years to spend with us.

Even when you are a puppy there is still time to stop and smell the flowers.

We began to think about what the process would be to bring a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy into our home from a reputable breeder. We began discussing this with our friends who have experience with the breed itself, people who have gotten their dogs from responsible breeders, and with people who have experience with breeding dogs. It seemed like in the best case scenario it would likely take at least a year before we would have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy in our home after losing Josie. It was not really what we were hoping to learn but it is what we were willing to do to do what we believed was best for dogs. We would have loved to have had a new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy sooner, but we wanted to go through the process that would hopefully lead to a good outcome for us as individuals as well as a good outcome for dogs in general. We were always looking to help dogs in shelters and rescues and were open to that possibility but what are the chances that a happy healthy Bernese Mountain Dog puppy is just going to wind up in a shelter or rescue and be available to us?

The answer to that question is, as it turns out surprisingly high, at least in this one instance. My wife is connected to I don’t even want to know how many shelters and rescues on social media. She is always showing me cute dogs that would love to come live with us, or cute dogs that we should “just go visit”. I have fallen for that trick before. Then surprisingly one Saturday my wife shows me a post on social media. There is a 15 week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy available at a rescue. This dog was not available at just any rescue. This puppy was available from the same rescue where we adopted our girls Josie and Little Kira from. So we knew them and they knew us. It was kind of stunning and a little hard to process.

My wife asked if she should inquire about the puppy. I said yes, inquire about the puppy and find out as many details about him as you can. I was skeptical that a perfectly happy and healthy dog, a puppy especially had just magically landed right in front of our eyes at a rescue. It seemed unlikely. It seemed too good to be true.

Colton found this old Kong Wubba toy we keep outside for the dogs to play with and he loved it.

After a lot of messaging back and forth with the rescue it seemed like the puppy was healthy as far as they could tell. He was neutered and up to date on his shots and ready to be adopted. He was just waiting for someone to come get him. Being familiar with the rescue we knew we could trust their information and they knew they could trust us to provide a good home for this puppy. It really just came down to a matter of logistics. Could we actually make getting a puppy work right now? Could we make arrangements at home that would be good for a new puppy? After a lot of frantic discussion and messaging we thought that we could. Could we actually go to get the puppy? See that is the other trick. The rescue is 6.5 hours away in Ohio. So that is an entire days worth of driving to meet and adopt a dog. That part actually turned out, purely by coincidence to be the easiest part of the equation to solve because it just so happened we learned this information on a Saturday and we had nothing going on, on the next day, Sunday. We could actually just go get him the next day with no problems. The next issue was what would we do when we got him home. We didn’t want to go get a puppy and bring him home just to leave and go to work literally the next day. Fortunately one of the best aspects about my work is that I have a good amount of vacation time and work is pretty flexible in letting me use it. So we decided that if we got the puppy I would take the week off and stay home with the dog to help him get adjusted to his new home. Then what about after I went to work? Thankfully through our frantic messaging we were able to find friends who would be able to help us out watching the puppy during the day. We thought we had everything we could anticipate covered.

So then we just had to decide. Were we ready to get a puppy? Is anyone ever really ready to get a puppy? Were we ready after losing our last dog so recently? I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready in just about every way. Even though I know it is what we ultimately wanted. I generally like to be a little more deliberate about things. This might be the fastest we’ve ever had to make a decision like this. A puppy in a rescue wasn’t going to last and we had to decide.

So, we told the rescue that we are in. We wanted this puppy. We woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to Ohio. After a long drive we arrived at the rescue and reunited with the amazing owner there who allowed us to bring Josie and Kira into our lives. We met this tiny (well not so tiny rally, 35 lbs) puppy that we wanted to bring home. And we met the rest of the permanent residents, the owner’s dogs. It was so nice to be in a house full of dogs. They all wanted to meet these new humans who had arrived, especially the darling puppy. After spending time getting to know the new puppy and talking over everything with the rescue and asking all the questions we could possibly imagine we said our goodbyes and began the long journey back to New York to bring our new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy home. He was amazingly good on the ride home. You would not have even known he was in the car. We got home got home and did meet and greets with the puppy and our current dogs, Mojo and Brynn, which went amazingly well. Then we crashed to sleep.

Monday the real adventure started. Working with the new puppy to get him all settled in and adjusted to his new home and new routines. The plan for me was to get up early at 5 AM just like I would on a regular work day and get the puppy used to starting his day off with us. The biggest goal was to get the dog used to th routine of going out to go to the bathroom at regular intervals as well as getting used to spending some time in his kennel which he would have to get comfortable with at least for a while when we are at work.

Spending a week at home with the sole purpose of taking care of the dogs, particularly the new puppy was a totally new experience for me. It was very different than my normal routine even on days I am off or otherwise on vacation. I think it may have been a more difficult transition for me than it was for the puppy.

Really loves the Wubba.

Monday was a really fun day for the dogs. We spent time letting them get to know each other outside. Brynn really, really wanted to play with the puppy. The pupy wanted to play too but was not entirely sure of what to make of Brynn. Her antics are a bit out there at times. She is loud and constantly in motion when playing. Once Brynn and the puppy got to know each other and knew they wanted to play it was on. Brynn went into full on zoomies mode. She was scampering all over the yard from one end to the other and then in circles around the puppy and Mojo as the puppy tried to make any sense of this game and attempted to follow along with Brynn. The puppy obviously could not keep up with Brynn but seemed to be having fun. Brynn was having more fun than I had seen her have in a while. She loves puppies. After all the fun in the yard Brynn was tuckered out and slept most of the afternoon.

After a day or so we arrived at a decision on a name for the puppy. We decided to name him Colton. My wife came up with that name and I liked it. It was a good name and could also be shortened to Colt. It also reminded me of a park I like in PA, Colton Point State Park.

Then Colton discovered sticks.

So, not only was the new puppy arrival overwhelming for the humans it was hard on the dogs as well. While Brynn loved the dog she was not used to exerting herself at that high level to try to play with a puppy and she ended up with some type of injury and she was content to sit on the couch and didn’t even bother me while I was using treats to work on training with the puppy. So I knew she was not feeling well. Brynn ended up on medications for her injury. Now I was taking care of a brand new puppy and working on training and managing energy and behavior, but I had to take care of an injured dog and make sure the puppy did not accidentally hurt the now injured dog that previously wanted to play and that the puppy continued to want to play with. This was not a contingency I had planned for and was a difficult tight wire to walk. Thankfully Brynn has recovered and is currently feeling much better.

Then Colton discovered big sticks.

With our dogs we try really hard to stick to force free positive reinforcement training in the Karen Pryor style. While we had worked on training with all of our previous dogs at times it had been a while since we had really done much focused training on behaviors our dogs really needed to learn. It was hard to get back into that routine. The treat bags and clickers we retrieved from the cupboard where they have been for a while. I spent most of each day wearing a treat bag and with a clicker in my hand working with not just the puppy but our other dogs as well. Helping Colton to learn and refreshing prior training with our older dogs. They were all so well behaved when it came to training. No fighting over treats or anything. I knew that our other dogs still had quite a firm grasp of training basics like sit etc. at least when at home so I was hoping working with all of them at once that Colton would not only learn from me but would learn from observing the other dog’s behaviors as well. Colton is very food motivated which is very helpful in training. I spent one morning sitting in the living room with him cutting up treats and having him sit and rewarding him with the yummy stinky treats when he did as asked. But what he really wanted was to jump up on the table and gobble up all the treats at once. But he didn’t do it.

Colton has quickly learned sit and is in the process of learning skills like leave it, drop it, and loose leash walking. Being a toothing puppy he really wants to chew just about anything from coffee tables to ay pair of footwear you take off but do not immediately put out of reach. He really likes to chew toys we give him but quickly becomes bored and wants something new to chew on like a hand, foot, or maybe a face. You have to keep a stream of constantly new distractions in front of him.

Colton has been great but our current dogs are a true blessing and really make this possible as they adjust easily and put up with all his nonsense reasonably well.

One reason we decided that while unexpected it was actually a good time of year to get a dog was because it was the time of year being fall going into winter where we would not be particular busy with vacations or other spring and summer adventures. We would have more time to have a new addition to our lives and help him adapt. It would also be cooler outside so it would be easier to have all the dogs outside to play and expend energy than it might be in the heat of the summer. The downside is that it is getting darker and darker earlier and earlier. So It is currently a challenge to get outside and play with the dogs after work because it is essentially dark when we get home.

Also found a ball out in the yard.


Brynn has been remarkably well behaved with the new puppy, especially when outside playing. Brynn loves her toys especially her balls for fetching and chewing. She has a tendency to guard them jealously. However, much to my surprise with this new puppy she has been remarkably patient and willing, however reluctantly, to share her toys at times. I can go outside and throw Brynn’s ball for fetch and she can obviously get to it and retrieve it before the puppy, but then she has to bring it back and put it down for me to throw it again. This is when the puppy strikes. As soon as Brynn puts the ball on the ground Colton rushes over to claim it for himself. Brynn has an expression on her face that clearly signals she disapproves of this, but she allows it. The fact that she even allows the new dog near her toy let alone to take the ball from her, often without even growling or making a noise is huge. We have had to stop playing fetch with her at times around other dogs because she becomes too excited and protective of the ball. Watching the dogs behave appropriately with each other makes me so happy.

Colton has also become very fond of Mojo. I am not sure Mojo knows what to think of him. Brynn is our only dog that in Mojo’s 12 years has ever actually wanted to play with him. Colton loves him. Colton will run right up to him and back at him and bounce around trying to get him to play. Mojo will run and Colton will give chase. Mojo will bob and weave and dodge Colton trying to avoid having to play with him, but never behaves aggressively towards him and sometimes gives in and actually plays with him. Colton also has found the fact that Mojo’s idiosyncrasies require him to wear a leash even when outside in our fenced yard fun. Colton has picked up the end of Mojo’s leash and dragged him across the yard by his leash. Luckily he seems to e mostly over that now.

All kinds of toys in this yard like a Jolly Ball.

One thing I have been trying to do with Colton as a way to help him get exercise and help him get used to walking with me and staying with me is to take him for walks along the inside perimeter of the fenced in yard. He trots right along with me for the most part. If he gets distracted and stops I stop and wait for him and then we resume our walk as soon as he remembers that is what we were doing and runs back over to me.

At this point things are going about as well as one could hope for when adding a new puppy to a house already full of animals. No serious behavior or health problems have presented themselves. Nothing more trying or frustrating than regular puppy behavior, which I mean can be very trying at times, but it is hard to stay mad at this little fluff ball for long. We are so in love with Colton. Even though this is not where we expected to be with dogs in our lives right now we have fully embraced this new journey as you really have to if you are going to bring a puppy into your home and do right by him. I am sure I will be sharing more about him here in the future. If you want to follow along in Colton’s adventures I created an Instagram account for him and you can follow along at colton_rescue_bmd : https://www.instagram.com/colton_rescue_bmd/

Josie’s World

If you told me that my adventure would begin with a 6+ hr drive each way to meet two dogs and possibly, just possibly adopt them if all went well, I would never have believed you. But that was what we did and that is how Josie came into our lives. It was one of the best days of my life.

Josie fit right into our home, our heart, and our lives. It really could not have gone any better. Her story was almost like a fairy tale. She came from a sad situation and thanks to other kind souls who look out for dogs she made it into our lives. She quickly adapted and fit into our lives.

Josie was a bit shy and nervous when she first came into our lives and seemed to rely heavily on her sister Little Kira for cues as to how this new world she found herself in was supposed to work. If Kira was OK with the situation Josie would be ok with the situation. She generally hung back but would eventually relax and fit in. She wasn’t the kind of dog that would go running up to people to befriend them, but she loved people.

Josie quickly found comfort in our lifestyle that focused on taking our dogs with us as much as we could. She began to adapt and become more outgoing. There were even times she would much to our surprise really become interested in meeting new people and just want to go up to people she had never met and solicit attention from them. This is something that she did not do when she first came into our lives.

It is hard to quantify Josie’s personality. She is almost two different dogs. The one constant is that she is always just kind of living life on her own terms. She is the quintessential dog who lives life in the moment in their own world. She might be completely oblivious a lot of the time but that is part of what made her so lovable. Out in public Josie is shy and reserved, but calm. She never made a noise. I cannot recall a single time Josie barked in public. At home she is much more animated. She used to howl like a beagle. She gets excited by the goings on outside the house and the other dogs inside the house and will bark with excitement. Josie was our early morning rise and shine warning machine. When she first came to us she slept in a crate because if she didn’t she would wake up and literally trample us in our beds as soon as she woke up in the morning. As she calmed down living with us she was able to sleep without being in a kennel but she was still alerted strongly to our alarms and as soon as they went off she started running around and barking ready to go outside and start yet another amazing day of life. If we slept in too long she would wake us up with barking and pacing telling us, today is a beautiful day to live life, get up sleepy heads. It we tried to ignore her she would eventually get up in bed and give us a good full body massage walking on us and rolling herself all over us until we decided it was a good day to get up after all. It is crazy how that thing you wish you had been able to train your dog to stop doing is one of the things you miss the most once it is gone. I would give it all up to have that 80 lb dog jump up in bed and roll around on top of me with the reckless abandon she lived life especially when she was at home with us.

Unfortunately we lost Josie’s sister Kira early and we were very concerned how this would affect Josie being as shy as she was. After an initial adjustment period and lots of loving she became more confident even without her sister as her constant companion. She continued to be our companion on our various trips from small things like walks in the park, to visits to local breweries to see friends, to hiking at state parks. She did it all and was always so well mannered and easy going. Having Josie with us was one of the easiest dog experiences ever. She was almost no work at all to be with. She was not the type of dog that you had to constantly tell to stop it or anything like that. She was just completely chill and relaxed, willing to go along with whatever we had in mind with no complaints.

I will never get over the effect that our Berners have on people and Josie was no exception. Despite her very laid back personality and the fact she never went out of her way to get attention from people, people fell in love with her. She was always very welcoming of attention from others. People would approach and ask if they could pet her and we always said yes, but noted that she might not even pay attention to you. She doesn’t even sniff the hands of strangers when offered. She just stands there and does her thing. Sometimes she just seems oblivious to the world around her. But in a way that is what made her the perfect dog for our lifestyle. We liked to do things with our dogs and basically nothing fazed Josie, she just went about her business. Children loved Josie and that seemed to be even more apparent in recent months when we brought her to as many events as we could where she would just be around people we knew and loved and seeing the children at these events always wanting to say hi to Josie and pet her just makes you so happy to se the effect that she has on children.

We love to camp and have taken several of our dogs on camping trips, but we have never taken any of our Berners camping. This year we wanted to try to take Josie for a short camping trip to see how it would go. Then we got the devastating news that she had a mass growing on her spleen and a mass growing in her mouth. We were beside ourselves. We had no idea how much time we would end up having with her. We feared the worst. One of our amazing friends arranged for us to be able to take Josie on a camping trip some where local so we could make sure we got to have this experience with our dog that we wanted to have.

This last month we had with Josie was made even more special by all the time we spent taking her out to do things and many of those memories included time spent with our friends and their families. Our friends and family have always been a great source of support and strength in the toughest times and they continue to be now. Josie will live on with us forever in our hearts.

It was always Josie’s world; we were just living in it.

2 Years Is Not Enough

About two years ago my wife and I did something I never dreamt we would do. Our affinity for shelter and rescue dogs grew over the years. We volunteered at the local shelter. We fostered dogs and cats. We began adopting dogs from our local shelter and volunteering there. We enjoyed helping our local animals. We also fell deeper and deeper in love with Bernese Mountain Dogs. Then our love of shelter dogs and our love of Bernese Mountain Dogs collided when we discovered a bonded pair of Bernese Mountain dogs looking for their furrever home and we fell in love. The only hiccup was these dogs were all the way out in Ohio. What is a person to do?

Kira and Josie Gotcha Day_June 11, 2016_30

You do what your heart tells you to do. We drove at least 12 hours round trip to adopt a bonded pair of Bernese Mountain Dogs. I don’t know if it was fate or meant to be or what, but when the rescue tells you that these two dogs are very shy and probably will take time to warm up to you so be prepared for that and then you get there and these two adorable dogs run right up to you and want nothing more than to snuggle then if nothing else it is a good sign that you made the right decision. This is how Little Kira came into our lives.

Walk N Wag_October 07, 2016_1975

When we take her places and she meets new people they of course want to know her name. When we tell people her name is Little Kira they always look a little in disbelief as if to say “You call this little”. But she became Little Kira because we had previously adopted and adult dog whose name was Kira and our new dog was also well into her adult years and her name was also Kira. We did not want to change either of their names as I’m sure they had become accustomed to responding to those names and the last thing I would want was to create something else for our newest family member to adjust to. So we devised a way to distinguish them from each other and our first and larger Kira became Big Kira and our newest addition became Little Kira despite not being so little herself, but she was little in comparison to big Kira. As Little Kira became more adjust to us and us to her she eventually became affectionately known just as Little and she responded to that as well. I think when you have an 80 to 90 pound dog and her name is little that just endears you to her even more.

Our Dogs_January 05, 2017_27

I think Little Kira was one of the most affectionate and loving dogs we have had, other than our other Bernese Mountain Dog, Buck. She simply adored people. She loved attention. She wanted nothing more than a hand on her back to pet her. She would do whatever it took to get some time with a human. Anywhere we took her she tried to sidle up to strangers to solicit a few strokes on the head or back. She would lean in and just stay there as long as the person was willing to stay in contact with her. She didn’t care if it was me or my wife or a complete stranger. She wanted to make that human connection. There was no stronger an instinct for her than to seek out some human companionship. I don’t know if that comes from being a rescue dog who unfortunately spent too long with very little human contact or if it was just her natural affinity regardless, but it is one of the qualities that made her unforgettable.

C:DCIM108GOPROGOPR4150.GPR

Did a mention that she also had the most adorable eyes. The skin around Little Kira’s eyes was so droopy that her eys almost looked diamond shaped. I would never contend that Little would win any beauty pageants but she had the sweetest most soulful eyes. Her eyes looked like the eyes of a wise elder that had so much knowledge to impart. I’d like to believe that I was able to absorb some of that wisdom she had to share. I hope I currently embody the lessons she had to pass on to us.

C:DCIM108GOPROGOPR4195.GPR

When you adopt an older dog you know you inevitably will not have a long time with that dog. This is especially true with a breed like Bernese Mountain Dogs which do not have a long lifespan on average. Little Kira was around 6 years old when we adopted her. When you adopt an older dog you do it because they deserve to have the last few years they have left be happy and full of joy. One thing is for sure when you adopt a senior dog they give you their best. They know that you came for them. They know that you were their last best hope for the golden years to be bright and for them to have the life they deserve and they will shower you with so much love. You will never regret adopting a senior dog.

 

We were fortunate enough to have her for almost 2 years. Little spent the last few months of her life struggling through cancer. We did everything we thought we could to help her be comfortable. There is no manual for this. You navigate this minefield with your heart and your gut. You do what you feel is right and you do what you think your dog would want for themselves. You try to make decisions without regret and without too much second guessing. Nothing ever feels right but you do your best and in the end you make what you believe to be the most compassionate decision you can. When that life you cherish so much, the life of your faithful companion begins to dip more into suffering than joy, when there is more time spent in pain than in fun, when there is not enough energy to enjoy a day out getting petted by all the humans then you know you have made the decision that must be made. You say goodbye. You spill all the tears. You kiss the nose and say your goodbyes. You promise to never forget.

I’ll miss you sweet Kira but I will never forget you.

 

 

 

20180512_122941-01.jpeg

 

Little Kira_October 23, 2017_43

 

20180516_163207-01.jpeg

Paxton

About 2 years ago we had to say goodbye to our dog Paxton. The whole situation rocked me in a variety of ways. I wrote a piece about him as I have about many of our dogs after losing them. However, I could not bring myself to go back and edit this piece to make sure it conveyed the message I intended. I was too emotional to even re read the words I had wrote. It sat in the abyss waiting to see the light of day. A year after we lost Paxton I wanted to publish the piece I had wrote as a remembrance of him on his anniversary but I could not find the post anywhere. I couldn’t remember where I had stored the writing. It’s part of my curse. Complete lack of organization. I was devastated to not have that writing anymore. As his 2 year anniversary approached I once again began to search for my writing about him and some how I was able to find it. So now around his 2 year remembrance I am posting this unedited piece that I wrote after the incident that preceded us saying goodbye to Paxton.

Our Dogs_July 27, 2015_88
One of my first photos of Paxton

I love dogs. Dogs pretty much run my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sure, having as many as 7 dogs (The number of dogs we have right now and the most we’ve ever had at one time.) all in one house, some ours and some fosters, can be challenging at times. It can be stressful and frustrating but it also has tremendous rewards.

It’s been a long time since my wife and I actually sat down and decided that we wanted to get another dog. Dogs just seem to find us. If you are a dog lover I bet you can relate. Dogs just spontaneously show up in your life and become family.

When you commit to having dogs its a lot like deciding to have children. You make changes to your lifestyle to make sure you can provide for your dogs and give them the life they deserve. This is the case each time you decide to add another dog. You evaluate what you will need to do differently to accommodate this new family member and you do it.

Big Flats Community Park_July 31, 2015_30

Sometimes a new family member may have some special needs. They may have some sort of physical impairment or some sort of psychological condition that requires more than just the normal amount of consideration in ones daily routine. We seem to have been “blessed” with many such dogs in our family.

Sometimes you don’t know you have a special needs dog on your hands when you first bring them into your home (Mojo our husky who we can’t really pet) but at other times you are fully aware of the issues you are taking on (Caspian who had behavior issues).

When we decided to go meet Paxton at the shelter I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t necessarily looking for another dog, but he seemed to be a model citizen with us and our dog we brought along so we brought him home. Once we were home with Paxton we set about learning who he was.

We learned quickly that Paxton had some degree of separation anxiety as he broke out of multiple kennels and had some mild destructive tendencies while we were away. He was very tolerant with our dogs even our two that barked at him incessantly when we had him around. He became best friends with our dog Brynn. All Paxton wanted to do was love us and be loved by us.

Higley Flow State Park_August 27, 2015_32

We tried as hard as we could to show him how much we loved him and he was never short on affection for us. He was never short of kisses and snuggles. He slept with us every night we had him even on a camping trip.

As we worked with Paxton we learned more about his anxieties. He did not like small children, so we made sure to avoid them. He was OK being around large groups of people durring community events but he ddid not like having one or a few people suddenly approaching on a hiking path. Keeping him moving with a “Let’s go.” cue worked wonders for him.

We learned that putting collars on Paxton was something he did not enjoy. Using treats we could lure him into putting his head through a wide open collar and then let go. Then we could tighten it after it was on him. You could see in his body posture that he did not really like to have a person reach over his head or even reach out to his head to be petted. He has a momentary hesitation and tension displayed in his body. His tail stops it constant wriggle and he tenses and cowers down ever so slightly. So approaching him in other ways is always preferable. Occasionally something would spook Paxton and he would become very barky and defensive towards one of us, but he could always be called off and settled down in a short period of time.

Paxton_December 14, 2015_18-2

It can be challenging to learn to treat one dog differnetly than all the other dogs in your home.

Being a dog lover is difficult. You want to help every dog. You try to help every dog you can. And sometimes that leads to mistakes.

We recently brought a new foster dog into our home and we adore her. However, she is an 8 month old puppy and has not yet learned to sleep quietly in her kennel throughout the night. This has resulted in some nights with less than ideal sleep. Our morning routine changed.

This combination of change and sleep deprivation probably contributed to me making a mistake. I fed Paxton as I always do. He knows to go to his kennel to eat and I give him a “wait” cue and he waits while I place his food dish and eats when I release him from his “wait”. He is a pretty fast eater so sometimes I am still in the room with him when he finishes eating and I will give him a quick scratch and pet before I leave the room and go on about the rest of my dog care and work prep morning routine.

For some reason this morning I did something different. I did something I have never done with Paxton. I pretty much broke all the rules of human to dog interaction, especially when interacting with an anxious dog.

Paxton finished eating and jumped up on the bed and sat, waiting to be petted. I walked over to him and stood directly in front of him, towering over him. I placed both my hands on his shoulders. I then proceeded to lean over him to try to give him a kiss on the head. And that last part was too much for Paxton to bear. I invaded his space too much. I put too much pressure on Paxton with my behavior. Paxton responded to `my intrusion into his personal space by biting me in the face.

It happened in a flash. Luckily my wife was right there in bed and responded immediately to put Paxton into his crate and then we left the room.

My wounds required me to see a plastic surgeon to stitch my lip back together in two places, as well as a few other wounds requireing sutures. Thankfully I was not critically injured.

My thoughts turned immediately to Paxton. Once I knew I would be OK Paxton was the only thing I could think about. I do not blame Paxton for what happened. The blame lies solely with the human. I still love Paxton. I did not know where to go from here.

Paxton_April 01, 2016_171

With my stitches I could not allow Paxton to continue to sleep in our bed because he is pretty active and loves to like faces and I couldn’t risk the stitches being compromised or risk infection. Paxton had to be penned up in the furnished basement.

My wife and I debated what to do.

There seemed to be no good option.

Paxton’s behavior seemed normal after the incident. He wanted to interact with me and my wife the same as always. Paxton still trusted me despite there terrible situation I put him in.

Unfortuantely, my interactions with Paxton changed. I saw every tension in him. Every time he hesitated I hesitated. I couldn’t trust him. At least not right now.

The options for Paxton are limited:

1.) Surrender him to a shelter: At a shelter with his bite history and his size and unfortunately his breed, he would not likely be made available for adoption and would probably be euthanized. And maybe that would be the most responsible thing for a shelter to do. And I will not pass off my responsibility to make that decision to the shelter, which will do their job. It is my responsibility to make this decision and my responsibility to be there with Paxton when the time comes.

2.) Surrender him to a sanctuary: The biggest concern if this were an option would be what kind of quality of life would he have there. I am not willing to drop him someplace that I don’t know what their reputation is and how they interact with animals that are there for the long term. I don’t have the resources or contacts to know of any reliable sanctuaries that would be willing to take a dog knowing he is not going to be adopted and care for him for the next 10 years. I am only really familiar with one true sanctuary and that one is literally thousands of miles away.

Paxton_April 01, 2016_280

3.) Keep Paxton and continue to manage his behaviors: While I am not completely opposed to this option it does not seem like the most responsible thing to do. If it were just me I would possibly do it and I am sure my wife would say the same thing, but considering we need to look out for each other’s safety and well being this doesn’t seem realistic. We also have to think about those around us. We do not have a fenced in yard. And while Paxton has never shown any indication that he would run off or run up to people it is always a possibility and people getting hurt trying to retrieve him would be my responsibility.

4.)  Euthanize Paxton: I hate this option. I do not want to do this. It breaks my to even think about this. However, I think this may be the most responsible option. It protects the safety of my wife and the others in our community. It would ensure that Paxton does not end up somewhere that he may spend his life suffering.

Paxton biting me is like letting the genie out of the bottle and you just can’t put it back in.

Do I think Paxton is a danger to bite someone in general, No. Do I think he would bite me again if I did the exact same thing, yes.

Prior to this incident I was never worried about the possibility that Paxton might bite me or anyone for that matter. Now everything has changed. I don’t know if that is fair to me or fair to him but that is the reality.

This one incident just colors everything else that can possibly happen now. The specter of another bite will always be lingering in the back of my mind.

I can’t risk having that happen to someone else. If my dog bit my wife or someone else the way he did me I could never forgive myself.

I just don’t know that there is any other option that makes sense. There are no good options here. There is no happy ending.

Life can be so unfair. I am angry and distraught. The cost of loving a dog is that your heart can be ripped out of you and that can happen in the most unexpected ways.

I love this dog and I know he loves me. I made a stupid mistake and now it will cost him his life.

I know that no mater what we decide to do there will be people out there who see other options and have other opinions about what we should do and that is fine. This is a situation that has no clear cut answer. You just have to consider all the variables and do what you personally judge to be best. Then you have to live with it.

I think this is a decision one has to make with their head and not with their heart. I think that the only responsible thing to do for all involved is to euthanize Paxton. It tears my up inside to say that. It is NOT what I want for him. It is not what he deserves. The main factors that are leading me to make this decision are his general anxieties and anxiety with being handled in certain ways and his occasional defensive barking episodes directed at us. Perhaps the most influential aspect is how the bite itself happened. While I am sure there was postural body language indications that I should have noticed preceding the bite to indicate that I should stop, there was no obvious warning sign that a human no matter how inexperienced would recognize as a clear warning not to proceed with the behavior. There was no growl or bark preceding the bite to warn me. The bite itself was not just a quick defensive nip to stop me so he could escape either. It was something more serious than that which eludes description by me at this time. I think these circumstances are what must guide my decision.

Paxton_April 01, 2016_394

I think to do anything else under these circumstances is to invite disaster.

Perhaps people in different circumstances with different resources, different connections, and different skills might come to a different decision but this is the only one that I can come to in my circumstances.

I will never know if this was the right decision, but it is the decision that I have made and it may haunt me for the rest of my life. My actions that caused this situation will serve as a lesson that I will carry with me forever.

It might be easy for some people reading this account to conclude euthanasia is the obvious answer, but when it is your dog that ends up in this situation it changes everything. You love your dog and your dog loves you and I feel like I have betrayed my dog by creating this situation where this now has to happen.

Paxton has been such a happy, exited, playful, and loving dog. When I think of dogs being euthanized because of a dog bite I think of aggressive, uncontrollable, and unmanageable dogs that pose an obvious and immediate danger to people. I do not see Paxton.

The wounds to my face caused by the bite were serious but they are already healed. They are not the most serious wounds I will carry with me from this. My heart has been wounded and I fear it will never heal.

If anyone else has had to wrestle with a terrible situation like this please feel free to share your story in the comments. I would appreciate the  support and community of others.

Paxton_April 01, 2016_445

Little Kira

Sometimes in life you get some bad news and your are not sure it can get any worse. But then to your dismay it gets even worse. Literally twice as bad as it was before. How do things like this happen?

C:DCIM102GOPROGOPR3773.GPR

Two weeks ago our gentle giant Big Kira was diagnosed with cancer. That hit us like a sucker punch. Totally unexpected. Now we had to take Little Kira to the vet for an ultrasound of her bladder. We had been treating her for what we were hoping was some type of bladder infection for several weeks. However, as the infection persisted despite treatment our vet recommended we take Little Kira to get an ultrasound to see if there was a mass or something else going on with her bladder.

C:DCIM102GOPROGOPR3794.GPR

Little is such a good girl. She was in and out of her ultrasound in no time. Unfortunately, that is where the good news ended. There was definitely a mass in her bladder. It is most likely cancer.

C:DCIM102GOPROGOPR3818.GPR

I called Debby and told her the bad news. She met me in Ithaca and we made a day of it for Little Kira. We had fun exploring Stewart Park. She is such an easy dog that loves everyone. As soon as we arrived at the parka gentleman approached and wanted to say high to Little Kira. She nuzzled him for some head scratches and the kind man remarked about how sweat a dog she was. Little played in the water and saw some new sights.

Little Kira_October 23, 2017_24

After that we headed over to the dog park, which is always an odd experience with her. She is a very good dog but doesn’t care to leave our side much. She doesn’t go play with dogs. She is good with them and says hi in the typical dog way if other dogs approach but she doesn’t seek them out. She will go over to other humans at the dog park to be petted but only if we are near by.

Little Kira_October 23, 2017_56

We sauntered around the park enjoying basically a nice casual off leash walk. Just appreciating the nice day and the time we have with our girl. We just want her to be happy in whatever time she has with us and she is a happy girl. She enjoys life and enjoys being with us.

Little Kira_October 23, 2017_77

After the dog park we went and explored a little more of Alan Treman park along the waterfront. Little whined and signaled it was time to go home. We pilled back into the car and headed for home. In spite of the terrible news we had a good day with our dog and I hope she had a good day with us. I only hope there are not too few of these days left for us.

Little Kira_October 23, 2017_83

A Dog Day Afternoon

Today was a day for the dogs. Up in Ithaca the Ithaca Dog Fest was going on. That means that the Reynolds clan is headed to Ithaca to enjoy some 4 legged companionship. The event did not disappoint.

Ithaca Dog Park_September 23, 2017_93

We took Josie and Little Kira with us on this outing. We had such a good time. There were many dog related vendors there. There were also many different Shelters and Rescue groups there which is always great to see.

Ithaca Dog Park_September 23, 2017_122

Best of all was all the dogs. So many dogs. And there were tons of people who wanted to love on Josie and Little Kira. They did not have any problem getting all of the loving they desired. Crowds of people just waiting to pet them. It is a dogs dream come true. After walking through he event we just went and sat in the shade under a tree. People continued to stop by and share their time with Josie and Kira. They can never get enough. There is always more love to go around.They are such good dogs. The make it easy.

Ithaca Dog Park_September 23, 2017_145

Then after the Dog Fest broke up we headed over to the Ithaca Dog Park to get some off leash time. Dog park for Josie and Kira means time to lounge around. They are so funny. They rarely go much more than 10 feet from us. They just wanted to sprawl out and relax. They aren’t phased by the other dogs. They did actually try to play once, but couldn’t really seem to figure out how that worked. They did love the pools. And apparently they also love picnic tables.

Ithaca Dog Park_September 23, 2017_17

There were also many other cute dogs there. No question about it it was a good day.

Ithaca Dog Park_September 23, 2017_48

 

Ithaca Dog Park_September 23, 2017_38

Babysitting Foster Puppies

When your wife has a huge heart you end up babysitting someone’s five bottle feeding foster puppies so that they can go to a wedding.

So I took advantage of an opportunity to get some adorable photographs. It is hard to take a photo of these tiny puppies that isn’t cute. Adorable subjects make my job easy.